Monday, 28 November 2011

Thermaltake Meka G-Unit Review

Thermaltake Meka G-Unit Keyboard.

We’ve gone gaming mad this past week with a bunch of gaming gear being reviewed and this week seems to fair no less! Today I got my hands on a TteSports Meka G-Unit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. I must say this will be my first real test run at a mechanical keyboard so it has a fair bit to prove to someone who’s used to good ol’ fashioned keyboards.

Let’s take a look at what Thermaltake claims it can do!

·         Tt. Breakaway Gold-Plated USB Connection Cable (2 Meters in Length)
·         Audio/Microphone Jacks Onboard
·         7 Easy Access Multimedia Keys
·         60 Macro Keys across 3 Profiles
·         Tt Game Mode Option (Disables Windows Key)
·         Authentic Cherry Black Mechanical Key Switches
·         Selective Backlighting
·         Cable Management Slots Located on the Bottom of the Keyboard
·         64KB Onboard Memory
·         1000 Hz Polling Rate Limit
·         Detachable Wrist Rest for Maximum Comfort
·         50 Million Keystroke Lifespan
·         2 Onboard USB Hubs
·         USB to PS2 Adapter included Body dimensions (LxWxH): 430x160x40mm



That’s a fair bit of stuff for a keyboard, but what a keyboard it is! Packaging was in true Thermaltake spirit, sticking with their red and charcoal black colour scheme. The TteSports logo, which looks like a dragon (correct me if I’m wrong on that) is also prominent throughout the design of both, the packaging and the unit itself. Within the packaging you’ll find the keyboard itself, a velour bag with the gold plated and braided USB cable, a Velcro bag for the keyboard and a detachable wrist rest.
The unit is extremely solid piece of engineering. It is the heaviest keyboard I have ever found, and can easily be used as a Melee weapon at your local LAN (Centre Com does not condone violence with a keyboard). It’s about 3kg, for a keyboard, that’s as heavy as most monitors. Be warned, once you plant the keyboard on your desk, that’s it, takes such an effort to move it again. It sits ridiculously firm on the desk which is handy when gaming as you wouldn’t want the keyboard moving around.

The front of the keyboard has USB inputs to connect it to your computer along with 2x extra USB inputs that give you quick access to USB ports, and audio input and outputs. The audio inputs I must say lose a decent amount of quality. As an audiophile I wasn’t impressed with the output and I think Thermaltake could have designed the keyboard without them.

The layout of the keyboard is quite conventional with the addition of 12 Macro keys on the left hand side, profile switches are located above the ESC key, and on the right hand side you have additional volume control keys and media player functions. Important gaming keys have illuminated letters. Keys like W, A, S, D, Space, Arrow Keys, Num Lock and when pressed, Caps Lock, all have their own lighting effect. The lights are bright enough to be noticed in the daylight and strong enough in the dark to provide a solid key light. Overall it works very well and is designed for gamers.

Let’s talk mechanical now. As this is my first time using a mechanical keyboard I think I can give it a good unbiased opinion. First things first, mechanical keyboards are loud. Well not loud, but louder than your normal keyboards when pressing keys. The space bar especially seems to have a decent switch on it being the noisiest. Using the keyboard however was something really unusual, it’s like the transition from ball mouse to laser mouses. You know how it works, you know how to use it, but it feels like something completely different. The responsiveness while typing this review up was quite incredible. At times I would just touch the key and notice I’ve finished spelling the word correctly. It picks up key presses very well. However, this isn’t a keyboard to be typing long essays on. It just looks too cool and funky to be seen under the sweaty palms of a university student trying to push out a 2000 word essay the night before it’s due. It would look way cooler in the hand of a hardcore gamer that looks forward to the weekend so they can enjoy a good 72hours of gaming!
 
Which leads to gaming on the keyboard.  Using the keyboard on MW3 was quite comfortable and fun. I could easily reach all keys and shortcuts, and if you’re really into your gaming, you can program the macro keys to the left to do simple commands. Keys were very responsive and didn’t lag at all and I loved being able to just touch a key to action it. Unlike other keyboards I didn’t have to slam the key down as hard as possible to activate it. It was just smooth and controlling the player was just easy as can be.

The software which comes with the keyboard could have used a better UI. It screams Thermaltake branding but it looks very cluttered and chunky. A more streamlined and simply UI would have been more beneficial. The software allows you to pretty much change whatever you need on your keyboard and assign your macro's.
 
Overall, for what you pay for, you get an unbelievably well-built keyboard that is solid from every key through to the guts of the keyboard. Gamers will joy to the gaming functions and appreciate the attention to gamers Thermaltake have put in. 



By Sahin Selvi
sahin.s@centrecom.com.au

The benchmark results may differ from user to user depending on what background software you are running and versions of benchmark software. These results aren’t portrayed to be seen as exact performance figures but merely as a rough estimate on the performance of the machine. These results are in no way bias to any company or person and are here to provide the end user in depth details and to provide extra assistance of potential purchases. All information on this page is subject to copyright. Please do not copy any parts of this article.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Gigabyte, Razer & Steelseries Gaming Mouse Reviews

Gaming Gear!

Hope you guys like your gaming gear because today I have more reviews dedicated to some funky gaming gear from the biggest brands like Gigabyte, SteelSeries & Razer.


Let’s take a quick look over its main features,

Interface: USB
Tracking system: Twin-eye Laser
Resolution: 100 ~ 6500dpi ( Hardware: up to 5600dpi)
Onboard memory: 32KB
Maximum acceleration: 50g
Maximum speed: 150 inches/ second
Cable Length: 1.8m nylon braided / Gold-plated USB connector to mini USB
Dimension: (L)134.3*(W)72.7*(H)42.7 mm
Weight: 148g with battery; 110g without battery
Accessory: Charging dock, Li-ion battery*2, USB to mini USB cable*2, Driver CD, Quick guide, Spare feet pad 


The mouse looks like something ET bought down with him on an un-Hollywoodized visit. It’s got sharp corners with lines cutting into parts, different materials on different sections and a DPI control panel that looks like a launch pad for a space ship (explains the ET thing). Basically, it looks funky.
The packaging it comes in is no less fancy. If the mouse is something ET bought down, the packaging would be the ship. It comes in unconventional cylinder tubing that breaks off into 2 parts. The mouse itself sits on the top section in a cheaply made plastic mould (the ships seating). The bottom section contains all the accessories which come in one tight zip up bag which contain 2 USB Cables, a docking station and a backup rechargeable Li-ion battery. Very appealing set of accessories.

The mouse itself is quite large and people who like to grip their mouse may find it uncomfortable as the middle is quite sharp and sticks up. Claw users like me will find it very comfortable to use. The rear end of the unit has the battery pack which is replaceable, with a simple click on the bottom, the battery just pops out. Gigabyte has rated the battery to last up to 50 hours of use before a charge is needed, with which the 2nd battery pack, makes for 100 hours of gaming. Enough for any hardcore dedicated gamer. The spare battery back can be placed into the docking station to recharge. The station is also a cradle and charging mount for the mouse itself. However when you place the mouse onto the cradle, it does feel quite wobbly and doesn’t sit in entirely snug. The cradle must be connected to your PC via one of the supplied cables. Another extra feature is the ability to plug the USB cable straight into the front of the mouse as well. It locks in for secure wired usability. All the buttons are programmable to suite your needs as well.

Using the mouse was interesting, at times the cursor would just start moving by itself without me having to move the mouse, which is a bit annoying and disappointing. The side of the mouse where extra buttons are have a plastic lining to it, which feels ridiculously cheap. While gaming, I just could not get used to this mouse, there’s just something about it that makes it not up there with other mice which are cheaper than the M8600.

Overall, I think Gigabyte put a lot of effort into the fancy packaging, filling it with accessories and features but lost focus when it came to how the mouse actually worked and felt. I want to love this mouse, but for the time being I can only like it.




Next up I have the SteelSeries Sensei Pro Grade Laser Mouse
http://www.centrecom.com.au/catalog/62150mssensei-steelseries-sensei-p-53951.html?sort=2a

Let me just start off by saying, it looks like one of those old-school ball mouses except this has shiny top with lights and screens over it and it feels 1000 times better. It’s as simple as a gaming mouse can be but with the Engine software (which you need to download separately) it lets you tweak and personalise the mouse till your heart’s content. The rear end of the mouse has an illuminated Steel Series logo which can be customized within the Engine software. The scroll wheel is also illuminated and can be changed. In front of the scroll wheel we have a simple button which allows you to change DPI settings on the fly. On the underneath of the unit, there is a small LCD screen (yes, it has a LCD screen under it) which can be customized to display what you like. The top shell part of the mouse does leave smudge marks and it looks like the perfect material that welcomes scratches. It’s so shiny and has blurry reflections all over, scratching this would be inevitable. It’s also not so friendly with sweaty palms.

The mouse has two buttons on each side and has a symmetrical design which is useful for our left handed friends out there. People who like to grip their mouse I think will find this unit welcoming, it is nicely and evenly shaped and rounded which allows your palm to comfortably sit over it.
Using it felt quite nice, I got used to it very quickly and movements became very natural. The two buttons on the right hand side of the unit did bother me though. I kept accidently clicking on the buttons because it is perfectly positioned where my ring finger rests. I guess that’s one of the downsides when you have a mouse that is symmetrical and is accustomed to both handed users. Gaming was very comfortable and easy to use. The programmable buttons made it easy to shorten a lot of keystrokes.

Overall, though it’s a solid performing mouse, there are a few design flaws which can be blamed on the mid 1990’s design of the unit but I think many users will be happy with it.



For $53, you don’t get much of a mouse to be honest. When Razer labelled it with ‘Back to the Basics’, they really weren’t kidding. 2 buttons and a scroll wheel, that’s all you get. Unpacking it was quite ordinary and is as simple as plugging it in and you got yourself a Razer mouse. The rear end of the mouse has an illuminated Razer logo in blue…. Not sure why they didn’t make it green considering their logo is branded as green. On the bottom of the unit you’ll find two switches, one for polling rate switch from 125Hz to 1000Hz (quite a big jump there) and one for DPI with options 450, 1800 and 3500. The mouse is suitable for those who like to claw their mouse and is perfectly suited for left handed users as there are no extra features to the unit.

The scroll wheel is quite heavy to use and isn’t as smooth as what I would like it to be. Gaming however was quite comfortable and fun to use with. Was very responsive and all of the 3 buttons seem to have worked very well. My palm sits nicely on the unit and sweaty palms don’t seem to be an issue as the glossy shell just deflects it all.

Overall though, for the price tag the mouse doesn’t offer enough features or functionality. It looks and feels good but lacks in performance and though it did well with gaming, I can’t picture somebody using a mouse solely for gaming.

sahin.s@centrecom.com.au

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Thermaltake Gaming Gear!

Thermaltake Gaming Gear
Gaming Mice & Pad Combo’s
TteSports by Thermaltake Dasher Mini Mouse pad – Promotional item only!

Features    
                  
Today I have a special treat for you all. I have for reviewing today 2 mouse pads and a gaming mouse, all thanks to Thermaltake! The three products we have on hand are:

Black Gaming Mouse
DPI : 400/800/2000/4000
USB data format : 16 bits
Max Acceleration : 50G
Max Speed : 90IPS
Report rate : 500 reports per second
Tuning Weight : Yes (4.5gx5)
On the move DPI : Yes/4 levels (400/800/2000/4000)
Buttons (Left / Right) : 5 million clicks
Cable length : 1.8 m braided
Feet material : Teflon
USB connector : Gold-plated

Ladon Gaming Mouse pad
Durable surface: for long term gaming session
Solid sewing edge: prevents peeling or warping problem
Unique sensor reflection: high content of micro fibre with superior density gives excellent control
Sturdy non-slip design: unique pattern creates effective gaming precision
Gaming profiles optimize: optimal surface for any type of mouse and is specifically geared for RTS and MMOPRG gamers
Dimension (LxWxH): 360x300x3mm
Ultra-Thin Fiber and Nature Rubber Base, ensuring Mouse Pad Stays in Place.
Ideal for MMORPG Game Genre’s Demands in PrĂ©cised Control and Movement.
Perfect Match with Tt eSPORTS AZURUES or AZURUES Mini mouse.

Dasher Mini Mouse pad
Size 235mm x 190mm x 3mm
Material: Cloth weave & natural rubber

Let’s start off with the Dasher Mini. As its name would suggest.. It is quite mini. However, let’s not forget some things come better in smaller packages. This pad is a sample product of the full sized dasher. The small size is beneficial for those looking at a mouse pad to use in confined places. If you have a small desk, then a mini mouse pad would be quite useful for you. The pad comes in a little thin book like fold out piece of cardboard which in all honesty, is one of those things where I would love to keep the packaging because it’s just so frigging cool.  It is totally travel-friendly. If your one who attends LAN events or move your computer around, simply pop the pad back into its sleeve and chuck it in your LAN bag with all your other goodies! The stiffness of the packaging will help keep your pad snug and safe.
Though its small, I didn’t find myself falling off the edges, even with my mid-range mouse sensitivity, the size was enough for movements across dual monitors quite comfortably. The pad’s adhesive underneath was quite good and kept the pad nicely planted on my desk without any movements or the corners curling up.
The pad itself feels real good. Mouse movements on it are very smooth regardless of it being a $10 quality mouse or a $100 gaming mice, this makes your mice, feel good!
During gameplay the mouse pad was very responsive, I didn’t get any speed issues or discomfort by the size of it, it all seemed to work quite well.


Next up, we have the much bigger and more badass brother of the Dasher Mini, the Ladon Gaming Mouse Pad. First things first, this is a big ass mouse pad. You’re going to need an ultimate uber-desk to use this thing. It’s a big and thick mouse pad to ordinary standards. The unique material of the mouse pad makes it thicker than your normal pads which sit almost flat along your desk. Once you have one of these, everybody is going to notice the massive pad under your mice. A feature I did however like about this mouse pad, was the solid sewing around the edges. This helps prevent the curling problem sometimes come across by moving your hand over the edges or the mice falling off the edge. I can brush my hand comfortable over the pad and my fingers just smoothly roll over the pad with no curling what so ever.
 
The pad sits quite well on the table, very sturdy and steady. It’s called the ‘speed edition’ for a reason, it’s super-fast. My mouse just glides over the pad with ease and is very responsive. Gaming was quite fun on this mouse pad, it took a few headshots (receiving end) for me to get used to the smoothness and speed of the mouse pad. The size of the pad I found to be quite welcoming when it comes to gaming. Not sure why but the knowledge of having a massive pad to play gives my game character a good ego boost in-game.

Last but not least, we have the Black Gaming Mouse. This mouse was on the WCG’s 2010 Official Hardware list of products and proudly displays the sticker on the front of box. Opening it up, the mouse sits in a perfectly moulded plastic housing. Underneath the multiple layers of plastic we have the user’s manual, which is one of the thickest manual I have seen, and it’s for a mouse. Not sure about others, but I have never found myself to read the manual of a mouse, I just want to plug it in and fiddle around with it and find the features of the mice by luck. Within the packaging you also get a mouse pocket, which is fantastic, again for people who regularly LAN, put your mouse in the zip pocket and keep it safe and secure!

The design of the mouse is nice and smooth, my hand fits nicely over the mice and all buttons are very comfortable to use. The mouse will favour those who use their mice in a claw manner. The scroll wheel is clear plastic around the sides which help radiate the red light from underneath it, it feels very strong and responds very well to scrolls and even clicks. Up behind the wheel we have sensitivity controls which let your instantly control the DPI of the mouse. The level of the mice’s sensitivity shows up on three illuminated bars running along the left hand side of the mouse, although you do have to look almost directly over it to actually see the lights. At the rear end of the mouse there is the Tt logo which contains the same red light throughout the entire unit. Now the cool bit, the light brightens and darkens randomly and it looks awesome! Very cool bit of extra feature.
 
Beneath the mouse we have a little housing that holds the 4.5g weights. If you like lighter mice just take out to your desired level and put the excess weights in the pocket! The thumb side of the mouse has an extra button and has a patch of bumpy rubber for those times your thumb needs a good grip! The mouse is designed more for right handed users, with the thumb rubber pad and button on the one side only. Though left hand users may find it comfortable, the awkward positioning of the button may cause issues.

Overall the 3 items I had a look today offer gamers good options for mice and mouse pads. Thermaltake’s signature black and red designs make it look like a nice complete set on your desk, get a keyboard and complete the look. I’ve always been one who is quite fond of Thermaltake with myself owning a fair few of their products and it’s good to see even in different product areas, they’ve been able to keep up their consistency in the look and feel of Thermaltake.
These Thermaltake products offer great performance at very competitive pricing.

sahin.s@centrecom.com.au


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Asus All-In-One ET2410IUTS-B011C Review

Asus All-In-One ET2410IUTS-B011C
All in one feature packed desktop!
http://www.centrecom.com.au/catalog/et2410iuts-b011c-asus-et2410iuts-b011c-p-54104.html?sort=2a 

Features

Today we have something special straight from ASUS. I’ll be looking at their all-in-one desktop computer. Today’s model is the base Core i3 priced at $1199; they go up to a Core i5 priced at $1599 with BluRay drives. Bit disappointing to see no Core i7 in one of these units. Would have been interesting to see how much power they could have put into one of these.
So, let’s take a look at what we have to play with today.

Model: ET2410IUTS-B011C
OS:
Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
CPU:
Intel® 2nd Gen Core™ i3-2100
Memory: 4GB DDR3 1333MHz
Hard Drive(s): 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6GB/s
Optical Drive(s):
Super Multi DVD R/W
Networking:
Gigabit Ethernet
Graphics:
Intel Graphics 3000
Display:
23.6” Multi-Touch LCD-LED (1920x1080)
Audio:
Stereo Speakers (2x3w)
Coms:
802.11b/g/n
Inputs:
3x USB2.0, 2x USB3.0, HDMI-in, e-SATA, 1x Microphone, 3-in-1 Card Reader
Outputs:
1x Headphone Out, HDMI-out
Webcam: 1.3m

Taking it out of the box was a bit of a struggle, I must admit the box almost had me beat. Once you open the box you need to pull up the unit to take it out, problem is, it’s pretty much stuck on to the lower foam, so you need to put a bit of strength in your pull to take it out.
The unit comes with a bunch of built in ASUS programs that help add a bit more interactivity with the touch screen. Some of the apps include a nice little paint program which kids would love, however I wouldn’t be a big fan of letting my kids keep fingering my brand new touch screen computer, but each to their own I guess. The programs surprisingly, can be a bit time consuming but it provides good several hours of fun.

One of the biggest things in this unit would be the touch screen. Straight up I can tell you it is very responsive and manages multi-touch gestures very well. It definitely adds a unique experience browsing through windows explorer simply by touching on what I want, however I can see it to be an effort to keep it up. After all, it is a desktop computer, so it will be sitting on your desk (or mounted on a wall if you like with the VESA mounts (not included)) so it means your arm will be constantly raised for you to use this computer by touch. Unless you’re the Hulk, keeping your arm in a suspended state can be ridiculously tiring and I couldn’t do it for longer than 20-30 minutes.
With touchscreens comes the worry of finger prints and smudges, and you'd be right to worry. It does retain prints and smudges however it doesn't keep as much on it as one would think, and doesn't become noticeable till you turn the screen off.

Design

Once I took it out though, it was pretty. I’ve usually been the one who is skeptical about all-in-one designs from companies other than Apple, and though the iMac is definitely up in top spot for its uniform design, this ASUS unit I must say sits up within top 5.

The screens border and backing is a nice mix of polished and matte black, with the speaker area and base in silver. The speakers grill reaches from end to end and is plastered with branding stickers on the left hand side. Not sure what they were thinking with that one. I mean, it looks so sexy, why ruin it with a bunch of unsexy stickers?

The base is one solid piece of hardware. I’m not sure what it is made of, but it is solid to the bone and weighs as much as the entire unit, but it does a good job keeping the screen grounded and no little bump or knock will tip this bad boy over.

On the back of the unit, we have 3x USB2.0 ports, 2x HDMI (1 in, 1 out), Ethernet port and VGA Output. The input can be a very handy feature. If you have a PS3, plug the HDMI into the unit and switch between the inputs and turn your computer into a screen for your PS3. Same goes for any other device with HDMI. This could be very useful features for people who want to watch something on a portable device on the big screen, quickly.

The keyboard and mouse are small and petite and come in a shiny plastic black material. Looks very clean and elegant and are wireless! I did however ask myself why the wireless devices have their own dongle which you need to plug in to the unit, meaning, at the back you have 2x USB2.0 ports and not 3. Not sure as to why they couldn’t just build the wireless dongle, into the unit? Both pieces are quite comfortable to use, however the mouse is quite small.

Overall though, this is a fantastic piece of design. It looks fantastic and would complement any home or office. For small businesses and office workers, this could be a machine you are looking for. The simplicity of it will save you space and power consumption.

Performance

The unit was quite quick to boot up and restart, coming in around the 45sec mark.
The display of the unit is gorgeous.  Full HD playback on the unit produced vibrant colours and rich blacks. At no point were the blotchy marks or pixilation.
The sound on the unit features “Sonic Master” and “DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC™” which simply means, it puts out good sound! Watching HD content, the audio was crisp and clear. From explosions to speech, everything was clearly audible.

The unit features in integrated Intel Graphics 3000 chip for its graphic processing. This means the unit is not suitable for high end gamers. Mid-range casual gamers however might find the unit to be quite pleasant overall.

Our Cinebench software gave us the following test results:

CPU: 2.96pts
OpenGL: 6fps
The CPU performed remarkably well. Easily out scoring 2nd Gen Laptop processors of the same speed. The graphics however is let down by the Intel Graphics 3000.  

Our PCMark07 benchmark gave a result of 2561 PCMarks. 

Conclusion

This is probably the perfect unit for the family computer. If you need something for the kids to do their homework on, to pay some bills, watch movies, listen to music, then I would highly recommend considering one of these. Its simplicity would be a big attraction to most as you do not have to worry about plugging this into that to work. What I would like to see from ASUS though, is beefed up versions of these units. Give us a unit with 2nd Gen Core i7, fill it with memory and a dedicated graphics card, and you could find yourself the perfect desktop machine.

A BIG plus to this machine is its 2 year on-site pickup and return warranty! A big advantage to have in an all-in-one pc!

sahin.s@centrecom.com.au

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Lenovo Y560P (4397M2M) Laptop Review


Features       
               
Today I have my hands on a Lenovo Y560P. This 2nd Gen Core i7 laptop is quite beefy in the specs department and sits very competitively in the market, priced at $899. Before I get into it, let’s take a look at what’s under its hood:

Model: Y560P (4397M2M)
OS:
Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
CPU:
Intel® Core™ i7-2630QM (2GHz Quad Core)
Memory: 8GB DDR3 (1066MHz)
Hard Drive(s):
750GB 5400RPM
Optical Drive(s):
Super Multi DVD R/W
Networking:
Gigabit Ethernet
Graphics:
ATI Capilano XT 6570M 1GB DDR3
Display:
15.6” HD LED Glossy (1366x768 Resolution)
Audio:
JBL Stereo Speakers
Coms:
802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth
Inputs:
3x USB2.0,  1x Microphone, SD/MMC Card Reader, eSATA
Outputs:
1x Headphone Out, 1x VGA
Battery: 6 Cell

Quite decent looking machine! Opening the box I was equally impressed! Accessories and power cables come in its own white box with pockets for each item. I was quite impressed with it. While other manufacturers tend to stick with cardboard moulds to hold the laptop inside the box, Lenovo have gone one better and made it foam! Maybe I’m getting a little too excited over foam, but it sure does add a bit more unique feeling to it, it’s as if your opening a brand new 60” television, except it’s a 15.6” laptop.

The laptop comes with a one key recovery placed on top of the power button. Even though it’s quite small, I could imagine little kids coming and pressing it repeatedly. However, if you did want to restore your unit, the One Key feature provides a very simple and effective solution. Its menus are also easy to understand, so even new computer users can easily restore their laptops without external support.


The track pad feels solid and nice. It is quite smooth and responsive and supports multi-finger gestures.

Above the keyboard there’s some sort of track which I figured out to be shortcuts to simple things. Running your finger along the extruded lines you get a menu come up with different applications linked to the progress of your finger on the bar. Swiping your finger across the length of the bar locks up your screen in a unique zipper fashion. Quite impressive but will it be a popular feature to use? Not so sure.

Design

The laptop looks fantastic. The screen lid has a brushed look but feels smooth as can be. Opening the lid I was exposed to its shiny casing, matte keys and larger than normal laptop speaker. Besides the left hand side of the Keyboard you have your power button and recovery ley slightly above it. On the opposite side there are handy volume control buttons (Up, Down, Mute). This can be quite useful and I found myself pretty fond of the buttons and used it regularly. I think, having simple volume buttons directly on the unit itself is a big feature to have. Using a laptop is more hands on, so you want to be able to do simple things, with your hands!  Even brightness controls would be quite handy feature to have.

 
The keyboard is quite easy and comfortable to use. All the keys have inner bevels which let your fingers sit in nicely with each keystroke. The keys are tightly packed in together so you won’t have y our fingers clipping the corners of others, although they do have tiny gaps in between them which for crumbs is the perfect hideout place.

The notebook is your standard 15.6” Screen sized laptop, although due to the keyboard being so tightly packed in together, the extra space on either side of it makes it feel a bit larger than normal. It weighed in at 2.7Kg, might be a bit of a workout for some people, but it is quite normal for a unit of its specs.

The inputs and outputs on the unit are all placed wisely and conveniently. You have you VGA, HDMI, Network, 2x USB and audio jacks on the left hand side of the unit, on the right hand side you have your power plug, a DVD drive, eSATA port and your 3rd USB port. On the front bevel you’ll find a SD card slot, with a dummy SD card sitting in the slot to give the unit a nice unified design and protect the slot from dust and other small annoyances. I found this to be a pleasant layout. I didn’t have any power cable issues like the previous laptop I reviewed, there no interferences or distractions. It was all quite easy to use. 




Performance

Packed into the unit is a 2nd Generation Core i7-2630QM running at 2GHz and massive 8GB of memory. This combination is pretty good on paper. The fast quad-core processor with large RAM puts this laptop up to be quite the performer in power hungry applications.
Booting the unit came in at 45s, which is a fantastic result. I do think though with a bit of tinkering could bring that down even more.

The display of the unit is very sharp and clear. Playing back 1080p MKV files, the videos looked crisp and very well coloured. The unit had no issues scrubbing and 10GB video files.
Sound is fantastic. The stereo JBL speakers put out a decent sound which is very handy. Majority of laptops will make your ears bleed when listening to music, but the Y560P seems to do quite the opposite and is very pleasant experience. Watching the 1080p videos, the sound was amazing. I could put up the volume with no discomfort what so ever.

Photoshop on the unit ran like a breeze. The powerful CPU coupled with plenty of memory is very useful for multimedia applications and users.

My 700MB test file opened within 20secs and was comfortable to work throughout. File saving was no issues as it took roughly the same time to save it. For a laptop with a slower hard drive, it performed fantastically, and as a Multimedia Designer, I found it to be surprising and welcoming.

Call of Duty Black Ops
The game played absolutely flawlessly. Throughout the gaming I experienced no lag. I was averaging 43fps which is more than acceptable for smooth gameplay.

Crysis 2
Though it was still playable, the cut scenes suffered a bit and were occasionally laggy. The gameplay itself was more than playable though and though it did struggle a bit during heavy action scenes, overall, this laptop produced pretty impressive results. With a bit of graphic tweaking, I’d imagine most gamers would be able to improve its performance. Our Crysis 2 averaged 27fps


Our Cinebench software gave us the following test results:
CPU: 4.83pts
OpenGL: 33.81pts

The CPU performs more than double the amount of an i3 processor which is quite big difference. It was only .17pts slower than a desktop Intel i7 860 CPU.
OpenGL on the other handed absolutely creamed all other previous tests and blitzes its competitors.

Our PCMark07 benchmark gave a result of 2189 PCMarks.
Our 3DMark11 benchmark produced a result of P1217 3DMarks.

Temperatures were very impressive for the unit. Though it produced pretty warm results, at no time was the heat radiating through the keyboard area, so I felt no discomfort in using the unit. This could be due to the fact it has vents scattered all over the bottom of the unit, and quite powerful exhaust on its left hand side. So if you are intending to use this laptop on your lap, while performing CPU heavy tasks like 3D simulations and gaming, you’ll probably end up cooking your legs quite regularly, not only that, but using a laptop while its warm, and sitting on a bed or something that smothers the exhausts, can shorten the lifespan of your unit and cause damage. So, get a laptop cooler, or use it on a flat desk!


The unit was on the loud side a bit. During idling it was very comfortable and barely audible, but as soon as anything heavy begun, you really could hear the unit working up its fans. 

Conclusion


This is a brilliant unit overall. It has powerful features, gorgeous display and an amazing sound system. If you’re after a desktop replacement, this could be one to have a look into. It offers power at an unbelievable price. There are really no bad points that come directly to mind with this unit, it hasn’t let me down with whatever I’ve chosen to do with it. Even with gaming, it managed to perform remarkably well.  I used it for an entire day and was very happy to have it on my desk.

sahin.s@centrecom.com.au

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

ASUS X54L-SX013V Laptop Review


Features

2nd for today is an Asus X54L series laptop! This is a slightly watered down version of the K53. With less memory and hard drive, this offers an even cheaper everyday laptop with greater versatility

Priced at $649, some might question if the difference in memory and drive space is actually worth the $50 difference, or is there something secret about this laptop were about to find out? Before we begin, let’s take a look at it guts:

Model: X54L-SX013V
OS:
Windows 7 Home Premium
CPU:
Intel® Core™ i3-2310M (2.1GHz)
Memory: 2GB DDR3 (1333MHz)
Hard Drive(s):
500GB 5400RPM
Optical Drive(s):
Super Multi DVD R/W
Networking:
Gigabit Ethernet
Graphics:
Intel HD Graphics 3000
Display:
15.6” HD LED Backlight (1366x768 Resolution)
Audio:
Altec Lansing Speakers
Coms:
802.11b/g/n
Inputs:
1x USB2.0, 1x USB3.0,  1x Microphone, SD/MMC Card Reader
Outputs:
1x Headphone Out, 1x VGA
Battery: 4 Cell5200mAH 37Whrs

Pretty average specs.
The factory restore feature on this unit is exactly identical to the previous ASUS review. The lack of extra memory however did cause it to take a little bit longer to complete.

The track pad itself has a feature called “Palm Proof Technology” which prevents mouse movement and accidental clicks with your palm while typing over keys that sit above the pad. And guess what? It works amazingly! I have always had the problem when typing my palms would accidently brush over the track pad and I’d inadvertently clicked away or cancelled a whole heap of work, well this laptop will help prevent errors like this!

Design

Unpacking the box was like deja-vu. It was only a few hours beforehand did I unpack a K53, so unpacking the X54 seemed like I was repeating the process. Exactly the same packaging for both units. However the manuals for this unit, instead of having its own pocket within the laptops cover, was placed on top of the actual unit and covered up.



The unit itself looks a bit blander. The lid and keyboard surroundings are simple charcoal black matte plastic, and as simple as it is, I fell in love with it. It feels so much better than the other shiny laptops, and leaves absolutely no marks or prints anywhere on the unit! On the left side of the unit you have the exhaust, a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port, Ethernet and VGA output. And that’s all you get. Total of two USB ports; however one of them is a 3.0 port. Not exactly sure why they put USB3.0 on a lower end machine and left it out on the higher end. Marketing strategy maybe? On the front you’ll find the audio input and output, which I think is a wise place to put such ports and of course the memory card reader, which is placed in a slighter better position than the awkward K53.

The keyboard is probably NOT one of the most comfortable keyboards I have used. Although it does stay as cool and quiet as the K53, the keys are slightly raised and don’t have its own mould for it to sit in. This can be a bit more annoying, as I found my fingers clipping the edges of neighbouring keys. If you have fingers like mini breadsticks, then you’d probably get away with it, but any chunk on those fingers and you could find yourself backspacing a number of times to fix your typos. It also encourages any food bits that might fall on it to really get in there and become a pain to get out, so if you tend to eat a bit of food in front of your laptop, might want to be careful in front of this unit as you may collect enough food in their to feed a family of laptop key animals.


The notebook is your standard 15.6” Screen sized laptop, weighing in at 2.6Kgs it’s also not the lightest. The power adapter on the laptop is probably one of the most annoying things I have come across in a laptop. It is positioned on the left hand side of the unit, and it has a 90 degree plug. Also, the cable sits in front of the exhaust, with all hot air coming out of the unit, blowing right onto the power cable. Not exactly the wisest thing to do. I’m sure not all users would be comfortable with their laptops power cable heating up constantly. Unless you plug your cable in on an awkward angle, this could potentially be hazardous in the future. Felt like deja-vu? That’s because you may have read the exact paragraph in my previous review. Same problem on two models. How many more will I come across?

As I went to plug it in, I noticed the power end of the cable, to be ridiculously short and I had the AC unit on the floor because the cables length did not reach the top of the table. This could be a bit frustrating for those who plug it in and walk away to a lengthy distance to use their laptops.
Overall, I actually love the look and feel of this laptop, sure, the keys are a bit annoying, but it just feels so fricken awesome! It also feels slightly smaller and more compact than the K53 which makes it a better option for using it on the move.

Performance

Featuring the same Core i3 processor as the K53 I suspect it to perform similar. It does however have 2GB less memory to work with, which may be problematic for memory heavy software.
Booting the unit came in at 80s, which is a significant increase from a machine using the exact same processor. I think the lack of extra memory can be hold accountable for the difference.
The display of the unit is much better than the K53. It is much more comfortable to view and images like photos from a DSLR look very nice, HD Video clips also produced a good contrast between colours. Blacks and Whites were comfortable and not blotchy.

Sound on the X54L is relatively good. Although you’re not going to get boom box equivalent sound coming out of the speakers, it still manages to provide comfortable listening levels

We installed Photoshop CS5 64bit to test out how simple editing will run. Installation took only 8 minutes which is fairly good result, yet slightly longer than the K53. Launching Photoshop was also very responsive, coming in around the 20sec mark. Again, this is where the extra memory would help. It took me just a few seconds to open up 5-10mb files which are promising as these are the average sizes most users will be working with; however opening a 700mb file took roughly 90s. Slightly more than what I was hoping for. After half an hour or so working with the 700mb file, things did get quite sluggish and unresponsive. It was taking longer and longer to perform simple tasks, and this laptop, just wasn’t up to it.

Having the same CPU as the K53, the X54L performed identically when it comes to simple software like Office, Excel and Outlook. Though it’s an i3 processor, it’s more than capable of handling majority of everyday user’s needs. I am becoming fonder of this i3 processor for the everyday user, as it costs less, produces less heat and consumes less power. It seems like an ideal specification to choose if you’re after all the above.

Our Cinebench software gave us the following test results:

CPU: 2.01pts
OpenGL: 7.71ps

The CPU in this unit performed .02pts better than the K53. Being such a small amount, overall, it will perform no different from each other. The on board Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor however demonstrated why this is not a very good graphical machine, giving half the frame rate of the K53.

Our PCMark07 benchmark gave a result of 1862 PCMarks. 

That’s roughly 300 marks higher than the K53. Although it struggled with any of the gaming side of things averaging 11.09FPS, it absolutely creamed the Video Playback and transcoding sections almost doubling the results of the K53. This is a remarkable outcome for a unit that has less memory and graphical power. It seems as though the Built-In Visuals with the Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor helps in doing simple graphical tasks, but struggles on the heavy end of things.

As this is not a gaming unit, and also being able to roughly predict the score I decided to skip over the 3DMark tests.

Temperatures were interesting with this unit. The hard drive itself barely flinched between idling and being under full load. At no point did the drive reach above 36 degrees. This is a fantastic outcome for such a unit. The unit itself as a whole, and not just the palm areas also remained unbelievably cool, even when the CPU was peaking at 70 degrees. I’m not sure where all that heat is going, but it’s good to know it’s actually going somewhere and not burning up the desk or my legs. I am somewhat bedazzled as to where this heat is actually going.


Conclusion

This unit has a similar target market of those for the K53. Like its successor, it is not aimed at heavy end users that require more power for multimedia applications and gaming. However, for the price this is an unbelievable machine. It has done more than just impressed me but given me hope for the lower end user market. It is good to see manufacturers can still produce machines that don’t have all the beef and oomph yet can still put out a wow factor.

sahin.s@centrecom.com.au