Category Archives: Hardware

Fasetto Link Packs in the Features



Fasetto LinkNormally a wireless NAS unit wouldn’t merit a second look, with plenty of choice from big OEMs like Seagate to small crowd-funded efforts. But when this wireless NAS unit is the size of a matchbox, holds 2 TB and weighs 4oz, it’s definitely worth another viewing. Marlo and Nick examine this miniature marvel with Luke Malpass from Fasetto.

The Fasetto Link is a small waterproof cuboid just 48 mm by 23 mm, yet holds a 2 TB SSD along with 802.11ac wireless connectivity. Able to connect to 20 devices at the same time, it can stream to seven of them at once. It has a write speed of up to 1.5 Gb/s so it’s entirely feasible to have multiple wireless action cameras recording simultaneously to the Link. If that’s not enough, it uses Qi wireless charging to recharge in less than an hour.

Now this doesn’t come cheap – the 2 TB version US$1,449 but the price does fall with the capacity and a 256 GB version is only $349. The Link will be available in Q4 2016.

Marlo Anderson rounds up the latest technology news at The Tech Ranch and Nick DiMeo is a video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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360Fly Virtual Reality Camera at 2016 CES



360FlyScott Ertz interviews Andy Peacock, head of content for 360Fly. The 360Fly is a 360 degree high definition action camera shaped like a ball.

The 360Fly cameras democratize the creation of virtual reality content for virtual reality viewers such as Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR virtual reality viewer.

There are now two versions of the 360Fly, the already available standard HD version that sells for $399.00, and the new 4K version that sells for $499.00. The 4K version should be available by the beginning of Summer.

A couple of helmet manufacturers are also coming out with models that allow the 360Fly cameras to be securely integrated into their helmets. The helmets should also be available by the beginning of Summer.

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Computers Re-thought



Ergonomics plays a large role in how appealing and useful we find electronic devices, thus ergonomics ends up affecting out behavior more than we realize.Lenovo C40

Like many people back in the 1990’s I was heavily into building my own computers, typically using the ever-popular tower case to house things in. The basic machine included a tower, a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. We figured out ways of placing the various elements to make using these machines as comfortable as possible, and this basic configuration is still dominant today in most offices.

Over the years, especially early on, I was able to sell many of my old cast-off machines when I would get new equipment. By the time the 2000’s came, computers had saturated the market and older machines weren’t as easily gotten rid of. So, thus began somewhat of a psychological barrier to remain on the upgrade path.

Also at some point I felt that performance had gotten good enough that it really wasn’t as necessary to continually change out the hardware. I ended up keeping machines longer, and they sort of morphed into appliances. I bought a few Macs and they are all still hanging around, including two Mac Minis. Mac Minis, though they are small, still follow the same familiar tower-monitor-keyboard-mouse paradigm.

My recent purchase of a Surface Pro 3 256 did something I didn’t think was possible. It got me excited over the possibilities of an all-in-one touch form factor running Windows 10.

As a result, I’ve been looking at all-in-one desktop touch computers from companies such as HP, Dell, Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Samsung. I developed a bit of a feel for features versus price in the current all-in-one market.

For $449 dollars at my local Office Depot store, I ended up buying a Lenovo C40 series machine with an AMD processor, 8 gigs of RAM expandable to 16, Windows 10 preinstalled, 3 USB 2.0’s, 2 USB 3.0’s, 2 HDMI’s out, a 1920 x 1080 21.5” inch capacitive touch display, integrated CD/DVD writer, Bluetooth 4.0, SD card reader, wired USB keyboard, wired USB mouse, and a one terabyte hard drive. The display machine set up in the store also passed my cursory performance tests, which include how fast menus snap open, as well as how quickly the machine can reboot.

I am enjoying the all-in-one form factor even more than I thought I would. A large portion of the enjoyment surprisingly comes from the ergonomics afforded by the all-in-one form itself. This particular Lenovo model on its stand sits about 4 inches above the surface of the desk. This gets it up high enough that it becomes easier to look at. Also, the USB ports on the side are extremely handy – no fumbling around on the floor behind a machine to try to plug in a USB memory key or SD card – the USB 3.0 ports and SD card reader are conveniently located along the left side of the machine as you are facing it thus placing the ports right where in my case plenty of light falls on them making using them a snap.

Another aspect is that it is easy to bring the entire machine forward far enough that I can encourage myself to keep good posture as opposed to realizing that I’ve unconsciously hunched over into an uncomfortable position.

As noted above the memory can be boosted to 16 gigabytes and the hard drive is also accessible. Rudimentary instructions are included on how the machine comes apart to get at these items.

Despite the fact that the machine is quick and responsive even with video editing, certain processor-intensive tasks such as video rendering are not as fast as the performance one would get out of an Intel i5 or i7. The slow video rendering is likely exposing one of the key weaknesses of the AMD A6-7310 processor. Nonetheless, for basic everyday tasks this model is snappy enough.

The all-in-one touchscreen computer does seem to be catching on with consumers. Windows 10 is the right operating system at the right time. Millions of people have grown quite comfortable with the touchscreen experience and an entire new generation of kids that were born after the advent of the modern capacitive touchscreen are simply expecting it.


MSI Launches Prestige Series Laptops For Ultimate Style & Productivity



MSI-PE-Series-600x464
Computer hardware manufacturer MSI Computer Corp. has launched their Prestige Series of laptops that feature the best in technology and design, making them a great solution for creative professionals and multimedia enthusiasts.

The Prestige Series features MSI’s True Color Technology, which calibrates and correct display color based on the screen’s color temperature, visible color range, and grey level stage. The panels seamlessly match the standard sRGB color range to display incredibly accurate and crisp images.

“The Prestige Series laptops offer the truest colors available and ensures the images you see are accurately reflected in a camera, computer, tablet, mobile phone, TV or printer,” says Andy Tung, president of MSI Pan America.

MSI-PE-Series-2The Prestige Series lineup features 6 different color profiles to maximize the user experience for a variety of different scenarios: sRGB default mode for o
timum graphics, Gamer mode to increase brightness, Designer mode for increased clarity and crisper lines, Anti-Blue mode to reduce pesky blue light emission, Movie mode with optimized contrast for clearer graphics, and Office mode to reduce eye strain after long periods of use.

The True Color Technicolor LCD screens (which come in 15-inch and 17-inch versions) also include anti-glare protection, wide-angle viewing technology, and 1920 x 1080 resolution.

MSI’s Prestige Series laptops run Windows 8.1 and boast high-quality internals as well, including Intel’s Core i7 processor, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 950M GPU, Killer Gaming Network, Dynaudio sound with Nahimic Audio Enhancer, MSI’s Audio Boost, and support for up to 3 monitors simultaneously at 4K resolution with Mini DisplayPort and HDMI connectivity.

The Prestige Series laptops start at $1199 for the 15-inch models and $1299 for the 17-inch models. For more information, visit MSI’s website.


Digital Curmudgeon



EEEPC-SSDThere’s a dirty little secret about computer performance that is hiding within plain sight. A solid state drive (SSD) will take almost any machine manufactured within the past five to ten years and give it a massive performance boost.

I have an Asus 1000HE EEEPC Netbook from four or five years ago. It came with a 160 gigabyte 5900 RPM conventional spinning hard drive. With the conventional hard drive, the computer was painfully slow to boot up and to use. It would take the better part of 10 minutes to completely boot up and become usable.

I installed a 120 gigabyte Crucial M500 SSD drive into it and restored the operating system (Windows XP SP3) from the original system DVD that came with the machine. After installing the software I will be using with the machine, including Adobe Audition 1.5 and MS Office XP, it completely boots up and is 100% usable within 30 seconds! Programs load immediately and windows snap to attention.

I use this machine as a handy backup machine to an older SSD-equipped white plastic Macbook. The Asus Netbook doesn’t take up much room when I’m traveling. I realize that XP is no longer being supported by Microsoft, but I want to hang on to the perfectly functional older software such as Adobe Audition 1.5 that really has no modern equivalent that I like nearly as well. I am not browsing or doing email with this machine, so it should be perfectly safe to continue to use well into the future.

The move to mobile has caused me to shift away from relying much on traditional computers. During the last year I have used my computers only to record podcasts with. Email and browsing are handled exclusively on mobile devices.

In recent years I’ve grown increasingly annoyed by the constant upgrade cycle drumbeat. It seems there is always some fix or some new supposedly “must have” version of virtually every piece of hardware and software. Why upgrade? “Better performance” and/or “better security” are almost always the answers that are either given or implied. Often I find that NOT to be the case.

Operating system updates end up destroying existing software and hardware compatabilities. Sometimes software that won’t work on a new version of an operating system is never updated or replaced, and the functionality is simply lost.

So, if you have an older machine, including both Windows and Mac, depending on what you are using it for, if you want to hold on to perfectly functional older hardware and software, installing an SSD into an older machine can give it an incredible performance boost that will blow away any brand new machine that is not equipped with an SSD drive. Also, SSD prices contine to go down. A 120 gigabyte Crucial M500 drive now sells for about $72 dollars on Amazon, making it one amazing inexpensive upgrade that offers the absolute most bang possible for the buck!


Devolo Develops for 4K



Devolo LogoDevolo today announced their new dLAN 1200+, the fastest Powerline networking adaptor in their range with Gigabit-class data transmission. The latest adaptors double the speed of the dLAN 650 by using a combination of Devolo range+ technology, the newest generation of Powerline chips and MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology, offering a maximum of 1200 Mb/s. This is ideal for anyone wanting to stream 4K video but doesn’t have a network point close to their UltraHD TV.

Devolo dLAN 1200+ Powerline Adaptors

With the Powerline adaptors on all the time, Devolo has kept the power consumption low. When in use, the dLAN 1200+ uses a maximum of 4.2 W, and if the connected device, e.g. TV, is switched off, the adapter automatically goes into standby mode, using just 0.7 W. If security is a concern, users can also activate 128-bit AES encryption to avoid any unauthorised access to the network.

As can be seen from the pictures, the dLAN 1200+ is equipped with a gigabit Ethernet connection and an integrated electrical socket with mains filter.  It’s fully compatible with all previous dLAN models, though the maximum speed will be limited by the slowest adaptor.

The adapters can be purchased as a starter kit for setting up a home network or as individual adapters to extend an existing network. The starter kit is priced at GB£119.99, while the single adapter costs GB£64.99. Devolo will be officially unveiling this new range of products at the IFA Conference in Berlin from 5th-10th September.

Hmm, these might be my next upgrade – hopefully they’ll be available before Christmas.


Kingston DataTraveler microDuo Review



Kingston Technology LogoThe Kingston DataTraveler microDuo is a solution to the problem many smartphone and tablet owners face when you have a pile of important files on your USB flash drive that really need to be on your device: your flash drive has a normal USB plug and your Android tablet has microUSB socket. Big into small isn’t going to go, and the USB to microUSB cable you have isn’t going to work as it’s plug to plug.

Kingston DataTraveler microDuo

Into this niche steps the Kingston DT microDuo. It’s a flash drive that has a USB plug on one end and a microUSB plug on the other. If you are using it with your PC, use the normal USB end; if you want to use it with your smartphone or tablet, flip the cap off and plug it in. It’s simple and brilliant.

Kingston DataTraveler microDuo Closed

As you’ll see from the pictures, the microDuo is pretty small – it’s under 3 cm long and isn’t much wider than the USB plug itself. A small lanyard is supplier to attach the microDuo to a keyring.

The other benefit is that it’s much faster than using wireless file transfers. Dropping a couple of GB of movies or music onto a tablet via 11n still takes minutes but copying over from the memory stick only takes seconds. Of course, you can play the media directly from the flash drive which is handy if your tablet is short on memory too.

In practice, the microDuo works as advertised – I was able to copy files onto the flash drive from my PC and then either copy or use directly from the microDuo to my tablet. What more can I say?

Kingston DataTraveler microDuo OpenHowever, there is a caveat with this solution and that’s the smartphone or tablet must support OTG (On The Go) where the port can act as a USB embedded host. Many recent devices support OTG, including the HTC One Max, Nexus 10 and Nexus 5, and even then sometimes additional software is required. There’s a list of OTG-supporting devices here and an online search will usually reveal other people’s experiences with your device.

The DT microDuo comes in a range of capacities (and RRP prices).

  • 8GB – £3.85
  • 16GB – £6.22
  • 32GB – £11.65
  • 64GB – £TBC

Those prices are competitive against standard flash drives – there’s only a pound or two in it – so if you are looking for a new flash drive and you have an Android device with OTG, it’s a “no brainer”, as they say.

Thanks to Kingston for the Data Traveler microDuo flash drive provided for review.


G-Technology G-RAID Mini Review



External USB 3 hard drives are pretty common these days and GNC has reviewed several models in the past. However, this is the first portable RAID unit that I’ve had on my desk. On show here is the G-Technology G-RAID mini and with a pair of 2.5″ drives, the G-RAID mini offers a choice of RAID 0 or RAID 1 in a very attractive silvery metal case.  Let’s take a look.

G-RAID mini Shadow

The G-RAID mini comes in the usual blue and white G-Technology packaging and in the box is the unit itself, a power supply, a travel case, a Firewire 400-to-800 cable, a Firewire 800 cable  and a USB3 cable. The travel case isn’t anything to write home about but it’s good to have the full range of cables. The G-RAID mini weighs in at just under a 1 kg so it’s pretty hefty but this an all metal case – there’s no cheap plastic here. It’s also surprisingly small at only 149 x 83 x 38 mm, as you’ll see from the ruler below. Overall, it’s a solid, well-built unit.

G-RAID mini Front

Looking over the unit, round the back are a USB 3 port, two Firewire 800 ports and the DC in jack. On the underside, there’s a cooling fan and on the front, there’s white LED in the G-Technology logo, which flashes with disk access. There’s a hidden “drive failure” LED which goes red if a drive dies, but you’ll see the LED flicker when the mini powers up. The G-RAID mini needs supplementary power from the PSU when connected up via USB, but it’s not need when the Firewire ports are used.

G-RAID mini Rear

RAID ConfigThe G-RAID mini can be configured either as RAID 0 with both drives contributing to one large logical volume or else as RAID 1 with the drives mirroring each other. There’s a simple configuration tool that let’s you chose which it’s going to be. Changing the RAID level completely erases the drive so it’s best to decide early what configuration you want.

The utility is available for Windows and Mac, but once the G-RAID mini is setup, it works as any device that understands USB storage, e.g. Linux boxes or Chromebooks.

So that’s the basics out the way. What’s the performance like? I ran through my usual selection of tests with hdparm, dd and bonnie++ in both RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations. Remember, while these tests are indicative of performance, they are for my setup only.

RAID 0 USB 3 USB 2 FW 400
hdparm (read)  155 MB/s  33 MB/s 39 MB/s
dd (write)  178 MB/s  37 MB/s 22 MB/s
bonnie++ (write)  173 MB/s  37 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (read)  171 MB/s  49 MB/s 55 MB/s

 

RAID 1 USB 3 USB 2 FW 400
hdparm (read) 126 MB/s 32 MB/s 39 MB/s
dd (write) 117 MB/s 38 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (write) 114 MB/s 37 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (read) 154 MB/s 51 MB/s 53 MB/s

In either configuration, the G-RAID mini is fast, especially when connected up via USB 3 in RAID 0. Looking at the data, it’s clear that at USB2 and Firewire 400 speeds, there’s no performance difference between RAID 0 and RAID 1. Simplistically the data connection rate is the limiting factor.

However, with USB3 bonnie shows that write speeds fall by a third in the RAID 1 configuration, with reading affected by only a 10% fall. This is not unexpected as extra work is required to write the data in a mirror setup. Regardless, it’s still 3 times faster than USB2.

In summary, the G-RAID mini is an ideal companion for power users with the latest ultrabooks or MacBook Pros where performance is matched to good looks. It’s not cheap with an on-line price of around £275 for the 2 TB version but the protection against single drive failure will be important to those with high profile or travelling roles where having the data available is crucial. The G-RAID mini is an attractive and well-built unit with great performance and it will appeal to both those who need either high-performance or protection against drive failure.


Kanex Multi-Sync Keyboard



kanexlogo
Todd chats with Tracy from Kanex at CES Digital Experience about their new Multi-Sync Keyboard for Apple devices.

Although touch is great way of interacting with tablets and smartphones, it really doesn’t replace a keyboard when it comes to large amounts of text entry. In response, many manufacturers have come out with add-on keyboards that typically connect to the tablet via Bluetooth. These are generally useful devices but usually it’s one keyboard-one device and often there’s already a keyboard on the desk for the PC, so the desk simply gets more cluttered.

Kanex’s solution the Multi-Sync Keyboard which allows 3 Bluetooth and 1 USB connection to be maintained at any one time – Mac, iPhone and iPad. The user can then switch between connections, entering text into just one device at a time but being able to connect to up to 4 devices. Brilliant! Currently, it’s only available for Apple devices, but future versions should support PCs.

On-sale now for US$69.95 at www.kanexlive.com.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Roccat Woos Gamers at CES



Roccat LogoHardware outfit Roccat Studios are dropping a whole bunch of new toys at CES  for the hardcore gamer, including headphones, mice and keyboards. Known for their signature Kone gaming mouse, the new products look the business.

First up are two additions to the Roccat range of mice. On the left, there’s the new Kone XTD Optical which has a 6,400 dpi optical sensor. If my maths is right, that means you can move the mouse just 4 micrometers and the movement will be picked up. That’s tiny – a piece of paper is about 90 micrometers thick. On the right, it’s the Kone Pure Military, coming in three different designs – Desert Strike, Naval Storm and Camo Charge. I like the look of these! The Pure Military “only” has a 5,000 dpi optical sensor. Both mice have Roccat’s tracking and distance control unit (TDCU) for more precise gaming and greater accuracy.

Kone XTD Optical Mouse      Kone Pure Military Mouse

 

Next are two additions to the Ryos keyboard range, the TKL and TKL Pro. Both are compact keyboards without the numeric keypad and the Pro version comes with per-key illumination and effects such as “breathing” and four different switch colours. As you’d expect from any serious gaming keyboard, keys can easily be programmed with macros and there are three additional programmable thumbster keys below the space bar.

Ryos TKL Keyboard

Finally, two new Kave XTD headsets have been announced – the 5.1 Analog and the Stereo. The 5.1 Analog is the successor to the original Kave 5.1 and is made for gamers who already have a 5.1 soundcard, with both audio jacks and USB connectors to power up the in-cable remote and LED lighting. Weight has been reduced by 25% while improving comfort and build quality.

The XTD Stereo has same design and build, with a pair of driver units giving rich gaming stereo sound. The noise-cancelling microphone can be removed when not required and the mute LED can silence the microphone at inappropriate moments.

Kave XTD Headset

 

Prices were not disclosed at time of announcement, but you can learn more at Roccat’s showroom in the Venetian Hotel during CES 2014.