Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Tag: Laptop

Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 Review

Posted by Andrew at 2:50 AM on October 31, 2013

Wireless mice are commonplace these days but many only work with their own brand wireless transceiver, which restricts their use to devices equipped with USB ports. Less common are Bluetooth-based mice which have the potential to work with any Bluetooth-equipped unit, including Android and iOS tablets, potentially making them much more useful. On review here is one such mouse, the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000. Snappy name, but let’s take a look.

The 5000 is fairly typical of notebook mice being smaller than a typical desktop mouse at only 9 cm long and about 5.5 cm wide. People with large hands may find the mouse is too small but for occasional use with a tablet or notebook, it’s fine. I certainly wouldn’t want it as my main mouse as I can’t really rest my hand on it, but this is all subjective and some people may find it perfect.

image

Looks-wise, it’s not a Microsoft Arc or a Logitech Ultrathin, but it’s not entirely unattractive. This is the version with silvery-white buttons and dark gray body; there is a version with these colours reversed too. The silver matched my Samsung Chromebook rather nicely but the colour does vary with the light.

Two Duracell AA batteries power the 5000, which are supplied in the packaging and Duracell’s make a welcome change from the generic AAs that usually accompany remote controls and other battery-powered accessories. There’s an on/off switch on the bottom to conserve power when not in use. I’ve been using the mouse for about a week and I’ve yet to replace the batteries.

To pair the mouse, there’s a second button on the underside that needs to be pressed for a few seconds to put the mouse into a pairing mode. After that, the mouse should appear in the device list of whatever computer is to connect to the mouse. I successfully paired with an Android tablet, a Windows 8 tablet and a Chromebook. I imagine that it will work with iPads and other iOS devices but I didn’t have one at hand to test.

image

In use, the 5000 works pretty much like any mouse. It’s an optical mouse with a laser motion tracker so resistance will depend entirely on the surface in use. There are four buttons: left, right, middle and “back”, which is next to the main left button and can pressed by your thumb to take your web browser back a page – you can see it in the top picture. Great if you are right-handed, but a waste of time if you are left-handed. The scroll wheel has a bit of stiffness to it but I like that as it prevents accidental scrolling.

Overall, the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 is a good mouse but not a great mouse. It’s nothing special but there’s nothing wrong with it either (except for the back button only being useful to right-handed users) . The 5000 is available from all good retailers for around £25.

Disclaimer: this was a personal purchase.

New Chromebooks

Posted by Andrew at 4:51 PM on September 12, 2013

Chrome logoYesterday on the Chrome blog, Google announced that new Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, HP and Toshiba were on their way. Arriving in the next few months the new Chromebooks are based on Intel’s Haswell chips rather than the current ARM processors and the chip’s low power consumption will double the battery life.

Chromebook 14These new Chromebooks are (roughly) the third iteration of the laptops and it’s great to see new entrants, Asus and Toshiba, joining the party. HP’s new Chromebook 14 will be out before the holiday season, cost $300 and come in a range of colours. Although Acer will be bringing out a new model as well, there’s no news on whether Samsung will be refreshing its line-up. The eye-wateringly expensive Pixel seems to remain the only touch-screen model in the range but that could change as details emerge on the new models.

Google quotes that in the sub-$300 computer segment, Chromebooks have taken a little less than a quarter of the market and around 5,000 US schools have also provided Chromebooks to students. For a product that’s just 2 years old, it’s pretty impressive.

I’m looking forward to the new models as I’m currently using a Samsung Chromebook to write this article and I’m bought into a web and cloud-centric view, especially for people who actually want to get stuff done wherever they are. Neat, low-cost, instant-on devices with a keyboard make Chromebooks very handy to have around. More apps are appearing, particularly business ones and if you haven’t considered a Chromebook in the past, you might want to consider one.

Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro Review

Posted by Andrew at 8:54 AM on August 7, 2013

The Samsung ATIV Series 7 Smart PC Pro is a Windows 8 hybrid: a touchscreen tablet that that slots into a keyboard, converting the tablet into a laptop. Sounds like a great idea but how well does it work in practice? Let’s get it out the box first – apologies for some of these photos, there was a bit too much reflection in the office.

ATIV Smart PC Pro Box

ATIV Pro PC tablet

The ATIV Smart PC is a big tablet. This is not unsurprising as it comes with an 11.6″ screen but here’s what it looks like next to a Motorola Xoom 2 which has a 10.1″ screen. And the extra size translates into weight. The Smart PC is 888g without the keyboard and it nearly doubles when the keyboard is added. For comparison, the Xoom 2 is 599g and Series 3 Chromebook is 1.1 kg.

Smart PC Pro v Xoom 2

The Smart PC has a good selection of ports and controls around the outside of the tablet. Most of the ports have small covers, which while maintaining the tablet’s sleek lines, become a bit of pain when it comes to plugging stuff in and out. On the left, there’s the volume rocker and and a mini HDMI socket. Along the top, there’s a headphone jack, on/off button, rotation lock button, USB 3 port and microSD slot. The right-hand side is bare except for the stylus silo at the bottom. Yes, the tablet supports Samsung’s S Pen and it’s pretty nifty. Finally, the bottom edge has the keyboard dock connector and the DC-in socket. To round the peripherals out, the Smart PC has cameras on both the front and back of the tablet, stereo speakers and last, the Windows button.

IMG_20130806_123013

Dropping the tablet into the keyboard dock is easy – it just slots in – and there’s a central eject button on the hinge for when you want to detach the two. The keyboard comes with the two further USB ports, but I don’t think they’re USB 3 as they’re not coloured blue.

ATIV Smart PC Pro Hinge

Together, the tablet and the keyboard ought to be a smooth, cool looking unit but the presentation is let down by various conformity declarations for the FCC, CE and others. Of course, Intel and Microsoft have to get their stickers on too and while those can be peeled off, the declarations are etched onto the case itself. The overall presentation of the device when closed up is unattractive and a disappointment. Honestly, it looks like the back of a desktop monitor.

Smart PC Pro Back

On the plus side, the hinge mechanism is positive and sturdy. When open, the keyboard is tilted at a very slight angle which makes it more comfortable to use. Keyboard is good and the touchpad is one of the newer button-less kind, which I found easy to use.

IMG_20130806_123358

Running Windows 8, the ATIV Smart PC is smooth as it should be, being powered by a 1.7 GHz Core i5 processor paired with an SSD. Animations are slick, the Live Tiles look great and apps are generally snappy. Regrettably Windows 8 is still the confused merger of a desktop and tablet OS but that’s hardly the Samsung’s fault so we’ll not hold that against it. What is surprisingly good is the S Pen, Samsung’s active stylus.

The S Pen stylus is a stubby affair reminiscent of a short ballpoint pen but the unflattering looks belie its usefulness. Simply, it makes “desktop” Windows 8 useful on a tablet as it provides the accurate pointing and clicking that would otherwise be delivered by a mouse. Without the S Pen, legacy Windows apps are at best, hit-or-miss, and at worst, a exercise in total frustration. The S Pen changes that completely. Further, Samsung have bundled their S Note app which takes full advantage of the S Pen, letting the user write notes and sketch on different pad designs. It’s a bit like a really colourful (skeumorphic?) version of Evernote. Handwriting recognition converts scrawls into text and the accuracy is pretty good. I was impressed.

Pricewise, the version with a 128 GB SSD and 3G connectivity costs nearly £1200. Dropping the 3G and the SSD to 64 GB will knock £200 off, as will losing the keyboard, setting the entry level model at about £800 (prices from Amazon.co.uk). Ultimately, the ATIV Smart PC Pro is an expensive and heavy tablet that will only appeal to those who absolutely need full Windows 8-compatibility. Anyone else will buy an iPad or Android tablet for about half the price. The S Pen is cool, but it’s not enough.

[Disclosure: The ATIV Smart PC Pro was not supplied by Samsung for review.]

Samsung UK Chromebook Offer

Posted by Andrew at 8:01 AM on August 6, 2013

Samsung LogoJust a quickie….Samsung UK have an offer on at the moment that if you buy one of their Chromebooks during August, you can claim a free smartphone. Don’t get too excited as the phone is only a Galaxy Mini but it’s better than nothing and you can always flog it on ebay. There are further goodies if you buy a 3G Chromebook.

Pay attention to the small print as you have to wait 14 days from the date of purchase before you can apply for the phone.

Vivick’s Latest Gadgets

Posted by Andrew at 6:31 PM on February 26, 2013

Vivick HeadphonesCanadian firm Vivick produce a wide range of gadgets, covering everything from iPhone cases, laptop accessories and AV gear. Andy and Scott look at three of the latest products.

On show from Vivick is anLED desk lamp speaker that can be driven via Bluetooth but wouldn’t look out of place on the set of a 70s sci-fi movie. Continuing the theme, they had a Bluetooth headset which looked a bit more up-to-date but I can’t comment on the sound quality. Finally, they showed off a combo-laptop / USB rechargeable battery which had some really good design ideas. It seems to be a brand new product as it doesn’t yet feature on their website, but if you are a battery hogging traveller, keep an eye out for it.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and Scott Ertz of F5 Live for the TechPodcast Network, who should be commended for keeping the interview going.

Support our coverage sponsors:
Dropcam.com watch life High-Def streaming of your home or anywhere today!
Gazelle - Sell your Gadgets for Cash
25% off your order @ Godaddy.com: Promo Code go25off5
50% off new hosting plans with a free domain! Promo Code: 50host7
50% off 1st year of Business Website Builder & free domain Promo Code: 50wsb7
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today

Apple Keyboard Overlays from KB Covers

Posted by Andrew at 6:14 PM on February 24, 2013

KB Cover Keyboard OverlayKB Covers produce lightweight and flexible keyboard overlays for Apple Macs to help make people more productive with complex software applications or type in foreign languages. Andy and Scott find out what’s happening with KB Covers from Bruce Franklin.

KB Covers produces overlays for Apple Macintosh desktop and laptop computers, covering both current and older models. Generally there are three kinds of overlays: those for protection or decoration, for foreign languages and for advanced application use, where keyboard shortcuts are key to being proficient in the app. Each year, KB Covers comes out with additional overlays for extra languages and new applications, often at the suggestion of customers.

The overlays are available on-line from around $20.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and Scott Ertz of F5 Live for the TechPodcast Network.

Support our coverage sponsors:
Dropcam.com watch life High-Def streaming of your home or anywhere today!
Gazelle - Sell your Gadgets for Cash
25% off your order @ Godaddy.com: Promo Code go25off5
50% off new hosting plans with a free domain! Promo Code: 50host7
50% off 1st year of Business Website Builder & free domain Promo Code: 50wsb7
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today

The Notebook that Doubles as a Tablet

Posted by JenThorpe at 4:07 PM on January 6, 2013

HP Envy X2What’s better, a tablet, or a notebook? The answer to that question often is based upon what tasks you need to preform. Typically, a notebook is better if you want to type a blog or write a paper. A tablet, with it’s touch screen, is better if you want to play certain games.

What if you want to do some work but also want to play some games? What if you are traveling and can carry a laptop or a tablet, (but don’t want to juggle both)? You are going to have to make a decision between them.

Or, you could bring the HP ENVY x2 with you. Hewlett-Packard has created a handy device that can function as both a laptop and a tablet. It’s twice the fun! Use it as a laptop, or slide the tablet off of it and take just that part with you. The price starts at $849.99.

Here’s a quick look at the specs:

* 1.80 GHz Dual Core Intel Atom Processor Z27g0
* Windows 8 Operating system
* The tablet is 8.12” in height and 11.93” in width.
* The closed notebook is 0.66 – 0.76” in depth.
* The entire device weighs 3.11 lbs
* 11.6” HD Diagonal BrightView LED-backlit IPS Display
* Up to 64 GB storage
* Beats Audio with Dual Speakers
* Front-facing HP TrueVision webcam with integrated digital microphone.
* 8.0 MP rear-facing camera
* Intel Graphics Accelerator
* Starts at 2 GB RAM
* Bluetooth
* Ports: HDMI, Audio/Microphone, and two that are USB 2.0
* Full size keyboard
* Trackpad
* HP Touch Display
* 19 hours of battery life
* Separate battery in each device

Image by Hewlett-Packard

THD N2-A Laptop Runs Android ICS, Priced at $149

Posted by Alan at 10:22 AM on June 8, 2012

The term “Smartbook” has been kicking around the tech industry for some time now, but has never really taken a hold.  That probably won’t change, but one company, THD, is taking another crack at it.  Sure, it’s not likely to catch on, but it won’t be because they haven’t put together a beautiful peice of hardware.

Unveiled at the recent Computex show, the THD N2-A looks a lot like a MacBook Air, but it runs android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.  As for hardware specs, the 13 inch screen has a 1366×768 resolution, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, a full keyboard, a trackpad, and 802.11 b/g/n WiFi.  Unfortunately this isn’t a Google certified Android device, which means it lacks features like Gmail, Google Play Store, and Maps.

The notebook will retail for a very competitive $149, but at the moment is only available to retailers, so if you can’t wait then you will need to pony up about $74,000 for a lot of 500 devices.

Android Book

Sticker Munch Make Logos Fun at The Gadget Show

Posted by Andrew at 4:01 PM on April 19, 2012

Geek booksNovelty sticker company Sticker Munch launched at last week’s The Gadget Show Live and I was able to grab an interview with MD and founder, Sufian Hassan. Sticker Munch offer a range of novelty stickers that put the fun back into technology by incorporating the logo as part of the design or by trading on the geekiness of it all.

The stickers themselves are high quality vinyl decals and can be stuck to almost anything, from laptops to books, skateboards to vehicles. Some of the decals will be for particular models or devices, e.g. iPad, especially when the logo is integral to the design, but others can be stuck anywhere!

Prices range from an astonishingly low 50p up to £10.

 

Buffalo AirStation N450 USB Adapter

Posted by Andrew at 1:41 AM on March 14, 2012

The Buffalo AirStation N450 USB adapter (aka WLI-UC-G450) is a 2.4 GHz 11n wireless adapter capable of a theoretical 450 Mb/s using a 3×3 antenna array. Sweet.

Buffalo N450 USB adaptor

If you are used to small wireless adaptors and tiny memory sticks, then the N450 will be a bit of surprise. It’s a pretty chunky number at a little under 9.5 cm long, including the USB jack. The otherwise plain, but shiny, exterior has a single blue LED to advertise activity.

Buffalo N450 USB Adapter

Setting up the N450 was a doddle. Insert CD, follow the prompts, reboot, insert N450, job done. On my laptop, the adaptor appeared as Wireless Network Connection 2. In order to use the N450, I found that it was necessary to disable the internal wireless card otherwise it seemed to take priority over the N450. (On my laptop there’s a switch for that, otherwise right-click on the icon and choose Disable.)

Network Adapters

Initially, the laptop couldn’t see my 11n wireless network, but it could see a different 11g network. I’d had this problem before so I knew what was up. The 11n network uses channel 13 as the frequencies there are clear from interference in my neighbourhood, whereas I have the 11g network down on channel 1. Unfortunately, some Wi-fi devices only recognise channels 1-11 as these are the channels allowed in the US, and it appears that the N450 is one of them.

Once I’d pushed my 11n network down into channel 11, everything went swimmingly. Regrettably I wasn’t able to test out the full 450 Mb/s connection as my access point only supported 300 Mb/s, but it was pretty quick regardless. Even then you never get the full 300 Mb/s but I regularly saw data transfer figures around 80 Mb/s, which I think is about right. Your mileage may vary, of course, and you’d probably get over 100 Mb/s data transfers connecting at 450 Mb/s.

The high data transfer rates will make the N450 of interest to those wanting to stream HD movies over a LAN to a laptop for viewing, but the adaptor needs to be paired with a suitably fast router or access point to get the maximum speed.

Available on-line for around £30. Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the adaptor.