Monday, 3 December 2012

Acer Aspire S7

Acer have been pretty active lately with the release of Windows 8 and the niche Ultrabook market. The S7 looks to stand out from the crowd with a slick design and luxury features that make it a head turner.
  • Processor: Intel® Core™ i7-3517U 1.9GHz Processor (4M Cache, up to 3.00 GHz)
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3-1333 Memory (1 x 4GB)
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Optical Drive: No
  • Wireless LAN: 3rd WiFi 2x2 AGN+
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: HD
  • Battery: 4-cell (up to 6 hours)
  • Card Reader: 2-in-1
  • Operating System: Windows 8
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000 (UMA)
  • Display: 13.3" HD + Touch
  • Weight (KG): 1.3
  • Dimension (W x D x H): 323.3 x 223.5 x 11.9

Packs quite the punch ey? Well it should because at $1900 you’re going to be expecting some serious grunt from this machine. It does however feature a few extra specials like a cleaning cloth for the display and a matching wireless mouse (with batteries!). The packaging itself is also quite elegant with crafted individual boxes slipping into their own aligned spaces with bits of material to pull each one up. Premium product packaging for a premium product makes sense doesn’t it?
Let’s start but looking at the design. Its high glossy white, it’s thin and expectantly lightweight. Opening the lid truly reveals the exquisiteness of the slick design. Simplicity is key here and Acer has pulled it off very well. There’s very little marketing stuff going on around the keyboard with an Intel Core i7 sticker, the model of the laptop, Dolby theatre text and unnecessarily 
‘Professionally Tuned’ on the right hand side. Seriously Acer, get rid of it and the Dolby text (the Dolby text is also plastered next to the speakers on the BOTTOM of the unit). Not many people care about things like that. Many people are well aware of the quality of audio they are to expect coming out of a 13” Ultrabook. Annoyingly Acer has once again opted to put the Power button on the side of the unit which adds this tiny extrusion to what is otherwise a slick looking machine.
The rest of the unit is just as slick and continues the simple design throughout the unit. The display is probably one of the biggest selling points on this unit.

 Featuring a 13.3” Full HD Touch Display. There is a downside however. With a 13.3” display, the Full-HD resolution can make things appear pretty small on the screen which can cause a few annoying issues for people who have not so good eyes and people who have a chunky pointy finger (it is a touch screen after all). The quality and performance of the screen however is pretty much the best I have seen on a laptop. The colour saturation, black reproduction and overall contrast of the display make your high definition photos and videos just stand out that ever so better. It truly is a magnificent display.

The performance of the laptop is equally impressive. With a 128GB SSD which actually appears to be 2x 64GB’s in some sort of RAID setup (I’m assuming either RAID1 or a proprietary RAID-like setup similar to MSI). It does however seem to have worked. With SSD benchmarks providing average score of 350MB/s and 740MB/s Write and Read respectively. Those read speeds are absolutely astonishing and is one of the most important part of an SSD, not the Write speeds. Booting up the unit from a cold start comes in around 5-7 seconds which is a definite eye turner for all those mobile workers.

Unlike other Acer Ultrabooks I’ve tested this unit did not seem to have any issue with playing back Full-HD MKV content. A few others caused lag and stuttering throughout the vide whereas the S7 powered through with no issues and managed to do an entire 90 minute feature film on battery with plenty of time remaining. In fact the S7 managed to give me 4hrs of battery life including the 90 minutes of watching a movie full screen and about another 90 minutes watching YouTube videos and other Flash related content (Flash media is generally CPU intensive and great on draining batteries).

Gaming is a miss with this laptop and so it should be as it isn’t designed to be used as a mobile gamer. This laptop is a high performance machine for people who need the power on the move.

Its thin, its lightweight and features a full HD display ideal for professionals on the go. If you need a superfast laptop with good internals this could be for you. With a relatively hefty price tag, it is aimed at the higher end users.


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Acer Timeline Ultra M5

This is the Acer Timeline Ultra M5 and thanks to Acer I get to have a closer look at it and see what it’s like. Not only am I looking at the machine, but I also get to play around with Windows 8.

Let’s first take a look at what this M5 packs under its hood.

Intel® Core™ i7-3517U
6GB DDR3 Memory
500GB Hard Drive
nVidia GT 640M
15.6” LED LCD HD Display
2-in-1 Card Reader
1x USB2 port, 2x USB3 ports
Ethernet Port
HDMI Output

All this packed into a relative light thin and lightweight unit. The casing of the laptop is made out of plastic so a lot of the light weight does factor from that. It is classified as an Ultrabook although at 15.6” screen size it feels a little too big to called one. I prefer to see it as a ultraportable laptop than an Ultrabook.
Looking at the unit with the lid closed we see a pretty slick looking laptop. You’ll find the card reader and the DVD drive on either side of the unit with all the ports on the back which is one of the downsides of the unit. It is pretty unpractical to reach behind the laptop to plug in USB devices. It also concerns me to see them at the back considering the fan exhausts are located at the rear and all of the hot air gets pushed out next to the USB ports. What I would like to have seen is the DVD drive be gone with and the full array of ports to replace it. DVD drives are becoming less and less used these days with almost every bit of content available for digital purchasing and downloading.

Opening the lid reveals more of the simple elegance that makes this laptop stand out. It is all the same material inside and out, it doesn’t have a dozen stickers on the wrist rest area that makes it look like a children’s book and it has one of the best looking backlit illuminations I’ve seen since the Macbook Pro’s. The display area is fantastic as it has a black border behind the actual glass area and around the physical display. This is an underrated feature as a solid black or white colour around displays is proven to improve the contrast of the screen from its surroundings, making anything you watch or do appear that little bit extra visually compelling. 

Performance of the laptop was equally impressive. Booting up the unit came in at around 6-7 seconds thanks to the 20GB Cache SSD that acts like your standard memory but instead caches the important files that help it boot up and awake from sleep almost instantly. The keyboard is great to type on and feels very soft and quiet. The track pad although is one of the better ones I’ve used is pretty large and leaves no room for your wrist to rest on.

I ran a few benchmarking tests to see how the i7 and GT 640M are going to be perform and it did remarkably well.

Score 703
Avg. FPS: 27.9



Pretty decent scores to say the least and with gaming benchmark scores like that is can easily be said that this laptop can used by a moderate and casual gamer. However be careful with temps as the plastic casing has terrible heat dissipation properties and the base of the unit can get hot. A laptop like this coupled with a decent laptop cooler (Thermaltake Massive23) would be a match made in heaven.

If you’re a non-gamer, don’t stress as this laptop has plenty of juice for the office worker and business professional. With a decent battery lasting well above standard laptops, portability and performance capabilities of this laptop make it a great option for on-the-go business. The full sized 15.6” display with sharp and crisp colours means you can present all your work on something other than some of those smaller laptops with screens less than 14 inches.

That’s the laptop, now I want to quickly go over Windows 8 for a bit. In the office here it was a bit of a mixed reaction. It was either you didn’t like it at all, or you didn’t mind it at all. For me it was the first. I felt the whole replacement of the Start menu was completely unnecessary. The Start menu is now a bunch of tiles of your favourite apps. What ticked me off the most was the requirement to sign up to a Microsoft account to use things like the Calender! I’m sorry but that it is completely bonkers and beyond stupid. It takes an extra step or two to do basic things and the overall feel of it is no longer like using Windows. If users struggled to learn Windows 7 and earlier operating systems, they are going to loath Windows 8. It seems like Microsoft changed everything just because they had no other plan or idea on what to do with the Windows operating system. It also looks a bit lazy to see that they have created one operating system to work on multiple platforms like Mobile and tablets. Windows 8 just did not cut it for me and I will definitely not be making the switch to it.

The laptop on the other hand is fantastic! Its fast, its slick, its portable and it looks good doing it! Acer really has surprised me with this one and it is good to see! More information will be released as soon as it is ready for public release. So if you’re looking for a laptop upgrade, you may want to wait for this release.


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Samsung Slate PC Review

The Samsung Slate PC. Is it a tablet? Is it a desktop or is it a laptop, well I’m going to find out and see just what can be made of such a product. Powered by Windows 7 the Slate PC should be an interesting item to review.
As always, let’s take a look at what’s under the tiny hood of one of these units, and with this, it’s a fairly large list!

· OS: Genuine Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
· Processor: Intel Core i5 Processor 2467M (1.60 GHz, 2.30 GHz Turbo, 3 MB L3 Cache)
· Memory: 4GB (DDR3)
· Display: 11.6" HD LED Display (1366 x 768), with Gorilla Glass & Wacom Digitizer
· Graphic Processor: Intel HD Graphics 3000
· Speaker: 1.6W Stereo Speaker (0.8W x 2)
· Integrated Camera: 2.0mp Web Camera
· HDD: 64GB (SSD)
· Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n (up to 300Mbps, WiDi Support)
· Bluetooth: Bluetooth 3.0
· HDMI: Yes (Micro HDMI)
· Internal Mic: Yes
· USB: 1 x USB 2.0
· Multi Card Slot: Micro SD
· X-Dock Port: Yes
· Keyboard Type: Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard (Aluminium, 81Key) Slate PC Dock Cradle (LAN, HDMI, 1x USB2.0, Headphone Jack, DC-in)

Loaded up with Windows 7 this device is marketed as being a Slate PC which is kind of a place in between regular desktops and tablets. With the dock and keyboard it becomes a touch PC and on its own it becomes the tablet.
Don’t be fooled though, the tablet isn’t what you’d normally be used to in regards to tablets. At 11.6” it is fairly large compared with others and fairly pricey coming in at $1349 at time of writing this review.

With Windows 7 loaded onto the device users will find it pretty easy to get used to. It acts like any other laptop or desktop you have, simply load it up and install all your programs as you normally would. It definitely adds a completely different perspective to how you use your computer. Being able to touch the apps you have gotten used to over the use with a mouse definitely refreshes your computing experience. On the subject of touching, the display is pretty decent in terms of touch sensitivity however I did notice at times it wasn’t precise as other tablets I’ve used. This is where the stylus comes into play. Touching is fun and all but sometimes when you need quick work done, the stylus is the way to go.
Performance wise the unit is relatively fast. With a Core i5 and a 64GB SSD the unit boots in under 10 seconds and is very responsive with program usage. One of the let downs is video performance. With only the on board graphics processor I found the unit stuttering and lagging while playing a full-HD MKV file. This was a bit concerning as this tablet really is like a multimedia device to hook up to a larger TV or device and for it to slightly under perform with the simplest of tasks like video playback, is a bit concerning.

The unit gets recharged while sitting in its dock which also features additional IO’s like an Ethernet port, HDMI and a USB port. The unit does look strikingly elegant sitting in the dock and would suit almost any study room or modern living space. Just take it off its dock and you’ll have yourself a tablet running Windows 7!

As I mentioned earlier, graphical power isn’t the greatest in this unit so gaming performance won’t be too hot shot. It has enough power to run some basic games like Diablo III or even Counter Strike, just be informed that FPS gaming and touch screens don’t work at all.

The Samsung Series 7 Slate PC is a feature packed hi-tech piece of equipment. My problem with it is that it has a very niche market. It’s not a tablet and it’s not a laptop which makes it sit awkwardly in between two market leaders. The issue is that it is loaded with Windows 7, which can complicate things. You see with a tablet, it’s pretty easy to just download apps, and they’re ready to go, with this you need to manually install everything like you would with a normal computer. When you’re on the go and on the run, downloading apps seems much easier than installing software. 

If you’re a businessman or businesswomen constantly on the go and need a device to present to clients and aren’t happy with tablet offerings and the unsupported program on tablets, then this is what you could need.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Getac V100 Review

Found in 1989, Getac is the third largest computing group in Taiwan. Specializing in rugged computing Getac has set the standards on rugged computing. Today I’ll be taking a look at their most popular model, the fully rugged convertible notebook that is the V100.

Let’s take a quick look over the fact sheet from Getac!

“The Getac V100 Fully Rugged Notebook transforms with one quick rotation to a Rugged Tablet PC.

Designed with the real-world in mind, the V100 is equipped with multi-touch solution for professions without taking off the gloves under critical environments.

Getac V100 is both MIL-STD-810G certified and IP65 certified, composing a magnesium alloy case, a shock-protected HDD, vibration and drop resistance, and sealed I/O caps and doors to prevent damage from solid particles and moisture.

With an Ultra Low Voltage Intel® Core™ i5 vPro™ Processor, the V100 boasts a quiet fan-less design and the power you need for various sophisticated applications

The V100 features a 10.4” LCD display. A full-sized 83-key keyboard is included with an option to upgrade to a backlit rubber keyboard. The V100 is great for field applications by it’s integrated 2M pixels webcam and GPS receiver.

The V100 provides comprehensive connectivity options including Bluetooth, WLAN and WWAN, and the advanced TPM security to safeguard important data”

Though it says the V100 features an Intel Core i5 processor, the one we have on hand is the actual Core i7 model, so don’t worry too much, you can get fully beefed version of the V100.

Let’s take a look at ruggedness and some of the standards these laptops require and meet to get the highest ratings they can.

Ruggedness is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing mobile solutions, which is why Getac ensures that its fully-rugged units operate even when dropped onto concrete, or used in harsh environmental conditions such as heat and cold, dust and rain. The rigorous testing that these units go through ensures that our clients are provided with products that meet the highest standards of ruggedness and reliability. Getac employs MIL-STD 810G to test its products. This standard, set by the US military, is the most widely used international standard.

MIL-STD 810G covers a broad range of tests used to measure equipment reliability:

High Temperature: MIL-STD 810G Method 501.5

This test procedure determines a computer’s operating performance during exposure to high temperature conditions. The operational test differs from the storage test in that the computer is evaluated while conditioned to elevated temperatures determined to be applicable to, or resulting from, exposure in its operational configuration.

Low Temperature: MIL-STD 810G Method 502.5

This test determines the performance of the computer during exposure to low temperature conditions. The operational test differs from the storage test in that the computer is evaluated under cold conditions determined to be applicable to, or resulting from, exposure in its operational configuration.

Temperature Shock: MIL-STD 810G Method 503.5

Temperature shock tests determine if an item can withstand sudden changes in the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere without experiencing physical damage or deterioration in performance.

The two objectives of the temperature shock test are set to determine whether the test item can still a) be safely operated, and b) satisfy its performance requirements, after being exposed to sudden changes in temperature of the surrounding atmosphere.

Rain: MIL-STD 810G Method 506.5

Rain Resistance tests are performed to determine the resistance to rain and wind-driven rain.

Drop: MIL-STD 810G Method 516.6

Free fall drop tests (shock) are performed to ensure that equipment can withstand relatively infrequent, non-repetitive shocks or transient vibrations encountered during handling, transportation, and normal service.

The standard requires 26 drops from 1.2 m (4 ft) onto plywood, using up to 5 units.