HP SlateBook 10 x2 ReviewHP dipped its toes into the Android-tablet market a few months ago with the debut of the solid-enough but largely unremarkable Slate 7, a compact Android tablet. (We classify tablets with screens of 7 to 8 inches as “compacts,” versus “full-size” models with displays 8.9 inches or larger.) While certainly not a bad tablet for the price, the HP Slate 7 was more notable for what it lacked than for what it delivered. It didn’t have GPS functionality or a gyroscope, and its screen was lackluster and low-resolution. On its second Android-tablet offering, though, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based electronics giant has hit the ground running. The $479.99-list SlateBook 10 x2 looks to have a lot more vim and vroom out of the box, starting with its processor chip.

HP SlateBook 10 x2 DetachedThis full-size (10.1-inch) HP tablet represents a much bolder, head-long plunge into the Android fray. With its Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, it delivers record-breaking Android performance, plus a high-resolution screen, a decent keyboard dock, and several highly useful productivity apps. Also bold are some of the design decisions HP has made, such as the placements of the power button, volume toggle, and speakers. (We’ll discuss these and a few other key design features on the next page.)

More questionable, though, is the choice of screen. Despite building in a display with a more-than-adequate 1,920×1,200 native resolution, HP left the SlateBook 10 x2 out in the cold with a screen that’s too dim compared with the displays on several recent competing Android slates, such asToshiba’s Excite Pro and Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z.  We found that even when cranked up, the screen rendered dark scenes in movies with too little detail, making certain parts tough to see. (Black portions, especially, were a little cloudy or muddy-looking.) It’s not that the screen is unacceptable; it’s just not as eye-catching as competing ones. We’ll talk more about the display in the Features & Apps section a little later on.

HP SlateBook 10 x2 Front View

While that display foible is a major one—a tablet is essentially one big screen, after all—it doesn’t change the fact that the SlateBook 10 x2 turned in the fastest scores we’ve seen to date for an Android tablet on nearly all of our benchmark tests. It also endured a respectably long time on our demanding battery-rundown test, and the keyboard docking station—a good one for the price—houses a second battery that, when the tablet is docked, extends the unplugged runtime by about another five hours.

As you can see, this slate has a lot going for it. The screen is disappointing, but not so much that we consider it a deal breaker—unless, that is, your primary concern is watching movies. If so, we suggest you get a look at this tablet before you buy, to make sure you can live with the dim display panel.

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Samsung ATIV Tab 7 Review and RatingsWe’ve seen so many twists in the convertible tablet market lately—literally and figuratively speaking, thanks to machines that bend, twist, and fold in every direction—that we find it a little refreshing when something a bit more straightforward and conventional, such as Samsung’s ATIV Tab 7, comes along. Then again, who would have believed just a couple of years ago that we’d be calling the ability to snap a laptop-grade tablet onto a keyboard docking station, essentially converting it to a fully functional laptop, “conventional?”

By “conventional,” we mean that this slate/keyboard hybrid device doesn’t break-dance, do screen backflips, or turn itself into a pretzel, like the Lenovo Yoga 11 or Dell XPS 12. Instead, when attached, its two parts mimic a laptop, and, when separated, you can use the screen portion as a tablet. The ATIV Tab 7 we tested is Samsung’s $1,199-list challenger to Microsoft’s comparably priced and closely configured Windows 8 tablet, the Surface Pro. (The screen on the Surface Pro is an inch smaller on the diagonal, at 10.6 inches.) Almost identical on the outside to its 11.6-inch, Atom-powered Samsung sibling (the $799-list ATIV Smart PC that the Korean electronics giant released earlier this year), this new ATIV tablet is quite different inside and is priced as a premium slate. Like its Atom brother, though, it just doesn’t look all that premium on the outside. It’s a bit too plasticky-feeling for our liking. But once we got past that, we discovered a lot more to this slate than initially meets the eye.

Samsung ATIV Tab 7 Clamshell ModeOn the internal-component side of things, the ATIV Tab 7 runs on the same Intel Core i5 processor found not only in the Surface Pro but in several other competing hybrids, such as Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga  and Toshiba’s Satellite U925T-S2120. Because of that, it performed nearly identically to the Surface Pro and many of its competitors.

In addition, also like on the Surface Pro, Samsung has thrown in a stylus—but not just any stylus. The ATIV Tab 7 takes advantage of the company’s highly successful Galaxy Note Android devices’ S Pen technology, which, as you’ll see in the next section, provides several helpful ways to increase productivity. S Pen just may be the best stylus technology available for tablets; we find it well surpasses the implementation of the pen on the Surface Pro.

Samsung ATIV Tab 7 and KeyboardDespite its somewhat ho-hum appearance, we liked this slate once we got it under the tips of our fingers and stylus. Though the high-resolution (1,920×1,080) screen, at 11.6 inches, was somewhat tight for manipulating some aspects of Windows with our fingers, the S Pen picked up the slack there. And the screen displayed our test videos and photographs gorgeously, while a pair of great-sounding front-facing speakers played our music and movie soundtracks better than most other tablets or even laptops. We’ll take all-around performance over sexy-looking any day.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read complete review at Computer Shopper.

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NeatDesk Angle ViewIt seems that no matter how hard we work towards digitizing our lives, we all wind up with at least a few drawers or shoeboxes full of bits of paper. You know what we mean—those grocery-store receipts, teller slips, and business cards that we toss off to the side with a promise to ourselves thatthis will be the month we’ll deal with them. The months pass, and you never quite find the time to type the business-card info into Outlook, or get those receipts entered into Quicken. Meanwhile, more months go by, the stack gets bigger, and the task gets ever more daunting.

Alas, wouldn’t life be so much easier if we all had a personal assistant to take care of mundane tasks like these for us, entering and organizing all these pieces of paper? Well, a Philadelphia-based firm, The Neat Company, has for some years now advertised a product that it says will do just that. (If you’ve spent any time watching cable TV in recent years, you’ve likely seen Neat’s infomercials.) The $399.95-list NeatDesk Desktop Scanner + Digital Filing System is designed to take all those business cards, receipts, and other miscellaneous scraps of paper and catalog them in a searchable database.

The full name of the NeatDesk system is definitely a mouthful, but it describes the product’s base functionality—a scanner and a digital filing software suite—reasonably well. If anything, it actually undersells it a bit. The NeatDesk software, now NeatDesk version 5, is far more than a mere document-cataloging system. In fact, depending on what you scan and how you organize it, NeatDesk splinters off into several different directions. From your business cards, for example, it creates a contacts database and functions as an address book. From your scanned receipts, you can flag tax deductions or generate expense reports.

Those two possibilities just scratch the surface. You can, for instance, sync NeatDesk with Outlook (or Address Book on a Mac), Quicken, or QuickBooks, and when you use the software with The Neat Company’s NeatCloud and NeatVerify online services, it takes on yet another level of functionality. Our point? What might look like a simple solution for scanning and organizing receipts, business cards, and paper detritus turned out to be one of the most ambitious…well, we’re not sure whatexactly to call it.

NeatDesk ScanningWhat we can say, though, is that the NeatDesk does a lot of different things, and some of them reasonably well. We suspect, though, that most folks will buy NeatDesk for the main function Neat advertises: to scan and organize receipts and business cards. And as you’ll see in the “Setup & Performance” section a little later in this review, the product struggles a bit in providing this base functionality.

What the NeatDesk software does do well, though, is sync the contact information gleaned from scanning business cards with Outlook and Address Book. And it does a good job of exporting receipt data for use in other programs, such as Excel, Quicken, QuickBooks, and TurboTax. That said, the question then becomes, is the process of scanning, reviewing, and exporting the data more efficient, in terms of accuracy and time management, than simply typing in the data manually?

Then, too, there’s the price. The NeatDesk kit comes at a hefty $399.99 price tag, which hasn’t budged in the years we’ve seen the NeatDesk ads on TV. Considering that many basic all-in-one printers for under $200 have decent sheetfed scanners built in, $400 seems like a lot for a simple scanner and cataloging software. (Neat also offers a sister product, NeatReceipts, a $179.99-direct version that’s a sheetfed “bar”-type scanner.)

We’re somewhat conflicted about the viability of NeatDesk. While the scanning didn’t work as smoothly and consistently as we thought it should considering the price, we can envision scenarios with stacks of receipts and business cards where it would certainly be a huge timesaver. Is it worth $400, and will it work for you? As we see it, the answer depends mostly on the amount of data—how many receipts and business cards—you need to enter, and what you plan to do with the data afterwards.

See full review at Computer Shopper.

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Toshiba Excite Pro VerticalToshiba’s Excite line of tablets has scored consistently high in our reviews over the last year. The Excite 10 we looked at in 2012, for example, was a highly impressive, premium-quality slate. Fully encased in metal, it was slim and light, with a wide range of expansion options, and it supported full-size SDXC memory cards, which allowed you to increase its storage capacity by up to 128GB. (We found this last unique feature particularly impressive.) Both it, and the company’s ultra-premium Excite 10 LE, came just shy of receiving our Editors’ Choice nod—primarily because both slates were priced a bit too high.

That’s our primary concern with the Japanese electronic giant’s latest full-size (10.1-inch) Android tablet, the $499.99-list Excite Pro—it costs a little too much. In addition, Toshiba has done away with a few of the features we found so attractive on last year’s model, such as the all-aluminum chassis and support for full-size, high-capacity SD cards.

This is not to say that we weren’t impressed with this new Excite. It is, after all, more than a year later, and nowadays we’re not quite as smitten with all-metal cases and massive storage capacity. What compels us more in a tablet is an ultra-high-resolution screen, a generous complement of system RAM, a super-fast processor, or great-sounding speakers. In mid-2013, media-consumption powerhouses such Google’s Nexus 7 (2013) and Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z are winning the day, and, from that perspective, the Excite Pro holds its own.

The biggest news here is that this new Excite was the first Android slate out of the gate that we tested to run on Nvidia’s new Tegra 4 CPU. (That’s barring the rather different, only tangentially tablet-related Nvidia Shield gaming device.) As you’ll see in the Performance section later on in this review, compared to its predecessor, the new Tegra delivered significant performance boosts across the board on most of our benchmark tests. However, unlike last year, when the Tegra 3 stood out as the only quad-core processor, the Tegra 4 is meeting with some stiff competition from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro, which we’ve seen so far in Sony’s highly impressive Xperia Tablet Z and Google’s recent refresh of the Nexus 7.

The only area where this year’s Excite fell behind last year’s was battery life. Considering the Excite Pro’s high-resolution 2,560×1,600 screen, though, it held up fairly well, and the screen itself displayed our test videos and photographs impressively. When you combine the high-res screen with its pair of excellent-sounding Harman/Kardon speakers, you get an excellent slate for watching movies.

Toshiba Excite ProAlas, nothing is perfect, though, and where the Excite Pro fell short was, in our opinion, important. During game play and watching videos for more than a few minutes, the tablet itself and the power brick got excessively hot—so hot, in fact, that it became uncomfortable to hold onto or rest in our lap.

At no time did it seem hot enough to damage the device, but the excessive heat did, when coupled with the Excite Pro’s premium price tag, cost it our Editors’ Choice nod. At $500, a tablet should be near perfect. As you’ll see as you read on, the Excite Pro faltered in a few other areas, which, depending on how (and for what) you use your tablet, may or may not matter to you. Overall, though, mostly we liked this slate and would have no problem giving it a resounding recommendation were it a little cheaper and cooler.

See entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Google Chromecast verticalWhile watching the press event late last month announcing Google’s Chromecast, a new gadget for streaming content from mobile devices to HDTVs, we knew it was going to be big, but we had no idea it would be this big. Nobody, not even the folks at Google, imagined that, within less than an hour after the announcement, Chromecasts would be on back order by more than a week. Or that the day after Google unveiled the device, people were paying as much as three times the suggested retail price of $35 on eBay. Or that, also a day after Chromecast’s debut, Google’s withdrawing a bonus offer for three free months of Netflix would have no effect on the sales stampede.

What’s all this tumult about? After all, aren’t there already several solutions out there, such as HDMI, Intel’s Wireless Display (WiDi), and Miracast, for pushing content from smartphones, tablets, and laptops to televisions? Well, yes there are, but Google’s little dongle offers several advantages over other technologies—starting with its exceptionally low price, which we suspect had a lot to do with it selling out in the first hour.

Granted, you can connect your mobile device to an HDTV with an HDMI cable for less than $35, but this solution is fraught with inconveniences—even if your device has an HDMI-out port, and many don’t. If yours doesn’t, you’re stuck shopping around for an adapter, which raises the expense and frustration factors. But even so, cost isn’t really the drawback to HDMI cabling.

As with any wired solution, when you tether your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to your television with an HDMI cable, your movement is restricted by the length of the cable, not to mention that mobile devices in general are much more cumbersome to use with wires dangling off them. Then, too, there are those situations where your sofa is located 15 or 20 feet across the room from your TV. Sure, sufficiently long HDMI cables are available, but hardly elegant.

Yep. A wireless solution is much more practical. And there are some good ones, such as Miracast, which runs over the Wi-Fi Direct protocol. However, unless your device comes Miracast-enabled, you’re out of luck. Only recently, on products such as Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 and 8.0 and Asus’ MeMO Pad HD 7, have we begun to see support for the Miracast standard. Furthermore, even fewer TVs support Miracast, meaning that, even if your mobile device can broadcast the Miracast signal, you’ll still need a $50-or-so adapter for your television.

Furthermore, when you use Miracast (and similar broadcast technologies) to push data from your smartphone or tablet to your television, you can’t use the mobile device for anything else—not without stopping the broadcast, anyway. As you’ll see in the How it Works section a little later in this review, Google has found a way around that limitation with Chromecast.

Google Chromecast box

Perhaps that is what makes this little dongle such a hit? Or perhaps it’s that Chromecast works with any operating system, mobile or otherwise. In any case, we’ve been testing Chromecast on several different mobile devices for the last three weeks or so, and overall, we’re impressed—it’s well worth the $35 price tag, and innovative and clever enough to deserve our Editors’ Choice nod.

That said, nothing’s perfect. Currently, for instance, Chromecast supports only a handful of apps, such as Netflix, YouTube, and a few others, and during our testing, we discovered a few quirks, but nothing we couldn’t live with. What impressed most was the little gadget’s potential.

See entire review at Computer Shopper.

 

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Vizio CA27T-B1 profileIt’s been almost a year now since Vizio, a Southern California electronics firm far better known for its extensive line of HDTVs than computers, introduced its first 27-inch all-in-one PC, the CA27-A1. And while we had a few quibbles about it, considering that this was the company’s first big-screen desktop, it wasn’t a half-bad machine.

Still, with the imminent release of the first truly touchable version of Windows—Windows 8—only about a month away, we were a bit perplexed as to why the Vizio all-in-one (AIO) didn’t include a touch screen. And the plasticky-feeling wireless keyboard and touch pad were less than impressive, too.

Mostly, though, last year’s Vizio had a lot going for it—it performed well and it had a big, bright, and beautiful screen and better-than-average sound system, all in a pleasingly high-tech, elegant design. Overall, we called it a decent value, even after budgeting $50 for a wireless keyboard and mouse to replace the Vizio keyboard and touch pad.

Enter this year’s $1,549-list Vizio CA27T-B1, the company’s latest big-screen all-in-one desktop. This Vizio is, of course, a touch-screen PC, which gets it past our biggest concern about last year’s model. It has the same stylish black-on-silver design that, despite an entire year having gone by, still looks high-tech and modern. And, thanks to its Intel Core i7 processor and 8GB of system RAM, it’s a strong performer.

Unfortunately, Vizio chose to include the same underwhelming, cheap-feeling keyboard and touch pad we groused about last year, and while the stand on which the 27-inch monitor is mounted looks good, it’s a lot less conducive to touch-screen gesturing than designs originally engineered with finger manipulation in mind, such as, say, Acer’s Aspire 7600U and several other competitors. As you’ll see in the Design section on the next page, we discovered that the monitor mount has far too much play in it, causing it to wobble when you use the touch screen.

Furthermore, since it relies on Intel’s integrated graphics solution rather than a discrete graphics processing unit (GPU), it comes up short for high-end multimedia creation, and it can’t run the most resource-intensive games. Yet another concern we have is that, with the advent of Intel’s fourth-generation Core (a.k.a. “Haswell”) processors, this system’s Core i7-3630QM chip comes out of the gate a generation behind.

Vizio CA27T-B1 above

That said, the CA27T-B1 is, after all, a mid-range desktop aimed at families and students, and priced well under $2,000 (even marked down, at this mid-August 2013 writing, from $1,549 to $1,439 on Vizio.com). We can’t really expect to see discrete graphics and a “Haswell” CPU in such a moderately priced machine.

With that in mind, we found a lot to like about this all-in-one. During our battery of benchmark tests, for example, it held up well compared to several more costly competing models. The screen, a true HD (1,920×1,080) panel, looks great and responds well to finger input. The Vizio’s 2.1 surround system delivers better-than-average sound and, combined with its bright and colorful screen, makes this AIO a good choice for media consumption, especially watching movies. We like it as a home-office and family PC.

See entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Introduction to HTML5We’re happy to announce commencement of a new six-week HTML5 course at eClasses.org, starting September 16, 2013.

In this course we’ll look at HTML5 from a task-oriented perspective, by learning not only the HTML code for specific tasks, such as, say, formatting text, creating simple shapes or form fields, and so on, but also how to apply CSS3 and JavaScript to create real-world Web objects, Web pages, and Web sites. We’ll spend less time on terms and theory and more time on how to design. When you finish this class, you’ll have the core knowledge required for advancing on to using HTML5 to create special effects, sophisticated animations and interactivity, Web forms that configure themselves based on user input, and Web applications that actually do things, rather than just sit there and look pretty.

Here’s the course syllabus:

Week 1: Introduction to HTML5

  • What is HTML5?
  • What are Cascading Style Sheets?
  • What is JavaScript?
  • Anatomy of an HTML Page
  • Metadata
  • A Good Body
  • Bring it All Together
Week 2: HTML5 Sections, Containers, Boxes, and Shapes
  • HTML5’s Built-In Sections
  • Adapting to Display Size and Device Type
  • Creating Custom Containers
  • Decorative Boxes and Shapes
  • CCS3 and HTML5′s Built-In Containers
  • Custom CSS3 Fills and Gradients
Week 3: HTML5 and Text
  • HTML’s Built-In Paragraph Selectors
  • Inline, Internal and External Styles
  • Creating Custom Paragraph Styles
  • HTML5’s Multicolumn Text Boxes
  • CSS3 Text Special Effects
  • Downloadable Fonts
Week 4: Working with Images, Digital Video, and other Embeds
  • Graphics on the Web – Overview
  • Graphics and Device Screen Sizes
  • Embedding Images with HTML5
  • Formatting images with CSS3
  • Digital Video on the Web
  • Display Size, Frame Rate and Bandwidth
  • Embedding Digital Video in HTML5
  • Embedding YouTube Videos in HTML5
  • Embedding Google Maps and Other Web Apps
Week 5: Interactivity with HTML5
  • What is Interactivity?
  • Simple Text Hyperlinks
  • HTML5 Buttons
  • Inter-Page Navigation with Anchors
  • Text List Menus
  • Button Menus
  • Drop-Down Menus
  • Other Types of Interactivity
Week 6: HTML5 Forms
  • What You Can do with HTML Forms
  • Text Form Fields
  • Drop-Down Menus and Other Forms Lists
  • Radio Buttons
  • Check Boxes
  • Radio and Check Box Arrays
  • Calendars, Sliders, Selectors and Other HTML5 Form Elements
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Introduction to ExcelOne of the very first personal computer (PC) applications was the spreadsheet, and one of the first spreadsheet creation and editing programs was Microsoft Excel. Nowadays, Excel comes preinstalled on nearly every new Windows machine—PC, tablet, and smartphone—which constitutes about 90 percent of today’s computing device market, and a huge majority of businesses use Excel in one capacity or another.

Increase you viability in the workforce, learn to use Excel. Upon completion of this course, you will understand the basics (and more) of creating spreadsheets, as well as several advanced data manipulation concepts—to prepare you for using Excel in today’s business environment, which will in turn make you a much more valuable employee (or perspective employee).

Here’s the syllabus:

Week 1: Introducing Microsoft Excel

  • Using Excel 2013 Locally or Excel 365 in the Cloud
  • The Almighty Spreadsheet
  • Working with Workbooks
  • Working with Multiple Windows & Views
  • Anatomy of a Spreadsheet – Cells, Columns, & Rows
  • Types of Data Excel Supports
  • Entering Data
  • Data Entering Shortcuts
  • Importing Data
  • Moving, Inserting, & Replacing Data
Week 2: Formatting Spreadsheets
  • Displaying Data Effectively
  • Design, Layout, & Format
  • Freeze Panes & Other Neat Tricks
  • Using Predefined Designs & Templates
  • Headers and Labels
  • Borders and Shading
  • Formatting Columns
  • Formatting Rows
  • Formatting Cells
  • Wrap & Merge
  • Reformatting Worksheets
Week 3: Manipulating Data
  • Manipulating Data in Excel – An Overview
  • Sorting Data
  • Data Validation & Consolidation
  • Working with Formulas
  • What-If Analysis
  • Error Checking
  • Automating with Macros
Week 4: Displaying Data Visually
  • Charting Data – An Overview
  • Using the Right Chart or Graph for Your Data
  • Charting Your Data
  • Titles, Legends, Labels, & So On
  • Reformatting Your Charts
  • Deploying Your Data & Charts in Word
  • Deploying Your Data & Charts in PowerPoint
  • Data & Charts in Portable Electronic Documents
  • Inserting Images & Shapes
  • Review Mode & Comments
  • Working with Your Team in the Cloud
  • Printing Your Workbooks
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Google Nexus 7 (2013) Review and RatingsIn 2012, with the release of the Google Nexus 7 by Asus, Google literally redefined the compact-tablet market—erased the slate, you might say. It did that not by delivering anything truly ground-breaking, but instead by offering a premium-quality slate at an entry-level price. Nothing about the 2012 Nexus 7 was particularly new, apart from it being the first tablet at the time to run the incremental 4.1 (a.k.a. “Jelly Bean”) version of Android. But it was the first slate you could get for under $200 that wasn’t plagued by quality-sapping, cost-cutting compromises.

For starters, the 2012 Nexus 7 was the only budget-friendly tablet near its price built around Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad-core processor. And, unlike most other entry-level slates at the time, Google (and the actual hardware manufacturer, Asus) didn’t compromise on screen or build quality. The display rivaled those we’d seen on tablets that cost $100 to $200 more, and its light, attractive chassis felt sturdy, well-balanced, and, well,expensive, in our hands. On the whole, it was a great tablet at a great price, resetting the standard for the entire market for compact tablets.

Google Nexus 7 (2013) OPener ShotHere we are a year later, and Google has introduced the next generation of the Nexus 7, which goes under the same name; we’ve dubbed it the “Google Nexus 7 (2013).” The new Nexus starts at a $229 list price (for a model with 16GB of onboard storage), and it’s manufactured by Asus, like its 2012 predecessor. This time, though, not only has Google delivered a great product at a decent price (albeit one with a starting price $30 higher than the 2012 model’s), but this time the new Nexus doesbring a number of firsts to Android mini-tablets.

Google Nexus 7 (2013) AngledIt is, for example, the first 7-incher to come with a super-high-resolution, true-HD screen (with a native resolution of 1,920×1,200, or 1,080p), and it supports wireless charging. (We’ll discuss both of these features in detail in the Features & Apps section, a little later in this review.) It’s thinner and lighter than last year’s iteration, too, making it the leanest 7-inch slate we’ve tested to date. And it’s the first slate to run on Android 4.3. Version 4.3 may be an incremental update to the operating system, but early returns suggest that here it delivers significant performance boosts, especially in graphics processing.

In addition to all these exciting new changes, the Google Nexus (2013) is one great-looking, great-feeling tablet. As with last year’s model, our only real complaint is that this new model doesn’t let you increase its storage capacity. You’re stuck with either the 16GB that comes in the $229 version, or the 32GB in the $269 model (the one we’re reviewing here). Apparently, this lack of an SD slot didn’t dissuade many tablet buyers, though—if the sales of last year’s Nexus 7 and the stalwart Apple iPad Mini are any indication.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, we really liked this tablet—so much so that our recommendation is simple: If you’re looking for a compact slate that doesn’t have to be an iPad, and your budget has any kind of flex at all, buy this one.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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