Tag Archives: notebook

Venturer EliteWin S 11KT Review



Venturer LogoLess than a year after launching their first foray into the market, the team at Venturer have given their 2-in-1 Windows notebooks a quick refresh and adding an “S” into the product name. Consequently, on review here is the EliteWin S 11KT, the big brother to the BravoWin S 10KR, and these new editions are priced at an additional GB£50 over the original models. Let’s take a look and see if the new ones are worth the extra cash.

(The picture makes the keyboard look bigger than it is – it’s the same size as the screen..)

As before, there’s not much between the BravoWin S and EliteWin S models other than the size of the screens, which are 10″ 1280×800 and 11.6″ 1366×768 respectively. Both are IPS screens and at 11.6″, it’s a big tablet. The good news is that the bigger screen of the EliteWin S brings the benefits of a larger keyboard, which was my main gripe about the BravoWin when I reviewed the previous model. This time round, the bigger keyboard suits me much better, so it’s a good first impression.

As a hybrid, the EliteWin S comes in two pieces, namely the screen and the keyboard, which come together by slotting the screen into a hinge on the keyboard. The overall dimensions are roughly 30 cm by 19 cm (at the hinge) by 2.7 cm when closed up with a bit of an air gap between the keyboard and screen, though it tapers towards the front. The tablet itself is 11 mm thick. The screen can be positioned both facing into the keyboard or turned round for alternative viewing positions.

Opening the EliteWin as a notebook, the hinge rotates downwards to raise the rear of the keyboard up for a slight slope. Two rubber pieces on the hinge protect the desk surface and while the keys on the keyboard are quite small, they do travel nicely. There’s a small button-less touchpad at the front too where double tapping on the left and right side of the touchpad simulates the mouse buttons. It takes a little getting used to without any feedback.

The styling is much improved with the this iteration. Corners are rounded off and there’s a certain Surface-esque trapezoidal shape to the tablet section. Additionally, the flat surfaces are covered in a soft-touch exterior which is surprising in the first instance, but is much grippier than the usual metal or plastic. Coloured in gunmetal grey, the tablet looks much better, though the underside of the keyboard could do with a bit more styling and a matching finish.

Looking over the ports, there’s a microphone hole, HDMI mini, micro SD slot, DC power in, micro USB port, 3.5mm earphone, power on/off button, USB 2 port and Windows button. The EliteWin S can be charged both via the micro USB and the DC power in, with a PSU supplied in the box. On the back of the tablet, there’s volume up / down controls and camera. There are still no USB ports on the keyboard.

In terms of build quality, it appears to have improved. The keyboard and keyboard hinge seem quite sturdy, as before. The tablet itself is plastic although with the soft touch cover and gunmetal colour, it gives a good impression of being metal. It’s pretty sturdy too though it will flex if you force it. Though it’s not the best small keyboard I’ve ever used, it’s certainly very usable and I typed much of this article using the keyboard.

As before, the 11.6″ 1366×768 IPS screen is perfectly acceptable though it does continue to suffer a little from backlight bleeding around some of the edges. It’s most noticeable when the notebook is booting and the screen is black. It’s not something I’d worry about in day-to-day use, though. In terms of touch, I found the screen responsive and at times, I ended up using the touchscreen more than the touchpad.

Specwise, the processor is an Intel Atom Z3735F quad-core clocked at 1.3 GHz (boosts to 1.8 GHz) with 2 GB RAM and 32 GB (28 GB reported) of storage. A 64 GB microSD card is included in the box as there’s only around 16 GB of space free on the C: drive. Windows 10 Home is installed, though it’s only the 32bit version despite the 64-bit processor. There’s 11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth too.

Performance is perfectly adequate for what you might call undemanding tasks – surfing the web, watching YouTube, playing Cut The Rope – and you can have a few apps open before switching apps slows it down. Obviously this depends on the apps you are using and the EliteWin S is no Surface Pro 4, so adjust expectations accordingly. Regardless, I found it very usable. Battery life is rated at 8 hours and I got over six hours one day without completely exhausting the battery. However, it is possible to burn through the battery much quicker if you are streaming video.

The 2 MP cameras are a bit disappointing (tablet cameras usually are) but in an improvement over the BravoWin, all the cameras actually worked with the standard Camera app. Cortana interaction is much improved too and she was able to hear me clearly, also unlike the previous BravoWin.

Although I’m comfortable with Windows 10 as a PC operating system, I still struggle with it as a tablet OS. The tablet mode does help and the EliteWin S did detect the removal of the keyboard and pushed tablet mode for my approval, which was handy. The duality of Windows 10 is hardly the fault of the EliteWin, but it does make supporting the 2-in-1 nature of the device that little bit harder.

As I come to the end of the review, readers might be thinking that this review is very similar to the review I did before…and you’d be right because there’s very little difference between the generations. Cosmetically, the EliteWin S is much improved over the previous generation, so while S might stand for Speed with Apple, S equates to Style with Venturer. So….

Question 1: is it worth an extra GB£50 for the newer model? Probably. The S model looks better, seems to be a bit more robust, has a soft touch finish and it comes with a 64GB microSD card.

Question 2: Is the EliteWin S the best buy at GB£249? Harder to answer. There are definitely some competitors out there, even in the 2-in-1 space, and if you aren’t concerned about a detachable keyboard, there are a couple of options at the price point.

In terms of personal peeves, there’s not much to complain about. It’s a bit chunky, the rear of the keyboard could be styled better and an extra USB port would be handy.

The EliteWin S 11KT is available from Amazon for GB£249 and the BravoWin S 10KR is at IdealWorld for GB£189.

Thanks to Venturer for the loan of the EliteWin S and there’s an unboxing video below.


Venturer BravoWin Hybrid Notebook Review



Venturer LogoMicrosoft and small Windows devices are in a difficult space. There’s no doubt that for serious work, a full desktop or laptop is needed, whether based on an Apple or Microsoft OS. When it comes to tablets and phones, Windows is away in the distance behind iOS and Android.

Into this place comes the Venturer 2-in-1 Mini Windows Notebooks, consisting of the BravoWin 10KT at GB£149 and the EliteWin 11KT at £199. These are hybrid devices, capable of switching between tablet and notebook mode by detaching the keyboard. The main difference between the two models is the screen size (10.1″ 1280×800 v. 11.6″ 1366×768) and here we have the little brother, the BravoWin. I’d never heard of Venturer before but they’re a Hong Kong-based outfit so let’s take a look.

BravoWin Tablet

As a hybrid, the BravoWin comes in two pieces, namely the screen and the keyboard, which come together by slotting the screen into a hinge on the keyboard. The overall dimensions are roughly 26.6 cm by 16.8 cm by 2.4 cm when closed up with a bit of an air gap between the keyboard and screen, though it tapers towards the front. The tablet itself is 1 cm thick.

Opening the BravoWin as a notebook, the hinge rotates downwards to raise the rear of the keyboard up for a slight slope. A soft felt pad along the hinge protects the surface and while the keys on the keyboard are quite small, they do travel nicely. There’s a small button-less touchpad at the front too where double tapping on the left and right side of the keyboard simulates the mouse buttons.

BravoWin Hybrid Tablet

While beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, the BravoWin is no looker. It’s two tone plastic, part dark gray, part silver with buttons, speaker grilles and ports all over the place. Well, not quite everywhere; most are located on one end of the tablet. There’s an HDMI mini, micro SD slot, DC power in, micro USB port, 3.5mm earphone, power on/off button, USB 2 port and Windows button. The BravoWin can be charged both via the micro USB and the DC power in, with a PSU supplied in the box. On the back of the tablet, there’s volume up / down controls and reset button. There’s nothing on the keyboard which is a pity as an extra USB port or two would have been handy.

Edge of BravoWin

In terms of build quality, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The keyboard and keyboard hinge seem quite sturdy. The tablet itself is plastic and it creaks a little in use. It’s not flimsy but it’s not tremendously reassuring either. Having said that, the promotional material extols the BravoWin’s drop resistance, claiming that it’ll survive a drop from 1.2 m. I didn’t test this…..

BravoWin Hinge

The 10.1″ 1280×800 screen is perfectly acceptable and possibly quite a bit better than some I’ve seen recently. It does suffer a little from backlight bleeding around some of the edges, but it’s most noticeable around the hinge when the notebook is booting and the screen is black. It’s not something I’d worry about in day-to-day use, though. In terms of touch, I found the screen responsive and at times, I ended up using the touchscreen more than the touchpad.

The processor is an Intel Atom Z3735F quad-core clocked at 1.3 GHz (boosts to 1.8 GHz) with 2 GB RAM and 32 GB (28 GB reported) of storage and there’s around 16 GB of space free so the micro SD slot is going to come in useful – it will take cards up to 64 GB. Windows 10 Home is installed, though it’s only the 32bit version despite the 64-bit processor. There’s 11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth too.

Performance is perfectly adequate for what you might call undemanding tasks – surfing the web, watching YouTube, playing Cut The Rope – and you can have a few apps open before switching apps slows it down. Obviously this depends on the apps you are using and the BravoWin is no Surface Pro 4, so adjust expectations accordingly. Regardless, I found it very usable. Battery life is rated at 8 hours and I got over six hours one day without completely exhausting the battery.

BravoWin Back

The 2 MP cameras are a bit disappointing (tablet cameras usually are) and I couldn’t get the front-facing camera to work in the standard Camera app – the app kept crashing. It did work fine in Skype so it’s not a hardware problem in itself. Cortana wasn’t very happy with the microphone either, complaining about low volume. The microphone is positioned on the end of the tablet along with the ports and wasn’t very good at picking up sound unless you were quite close to the mic.

My biggest problem though was with the keyboard and touchpad, and while this sounds like a break-up letter, the problem was me. I’m a man with big hands and I really did not get on with this keyboard. Technically it worked fine but I was constantly pressing the wrong keys, hitting the touchpad when I didn’t mean to and so on. Probably a better choice for children or people with smaller hands than mine.

The BravoWin is the first tablet I’ve used with Windows 10 and it’s certainly much better than its OS predecessors. I still get frustrated at the hybrid nature of Windows 10 at times, with it seemly unable to decide whether it’s a desktop or tablet operating system. Still, this is hardly the fault of the BravoWin so we’ll move on.

Coming to the end of the review, it’s difficult to place the Venturer BravoWin in the marketplace. It’s competing both against Windows laptops and notebooks, and against Android and Apple tablets. It’s not easy to pigeonhole the BravoWin and identify the best use cases, though the obvious ones are people who need Windows on a device strong enough to throw in a bag without worrying. Sounds like a student to me.

Let’s state this plainly: the BravoWin is a cheap small robust hybrid notebook running Microsoft Windows 10. If that’s what you need and you don’t have much cash, then take a look as it fits the bill nicely. People with large hands might want to check out the bigger EliteWin.

Both the BravoWin and the EliteWin are available from Amazon and other good retailers with an RRP of GB£149 and £199 respectively.

Thanks to Venturer for the loan of the BravoWin and if you like the wallpaper, check out Smashing Magazine’s monthly selection.


Toast Custom Wood Smartphone Covers at 2016 CES



ToastScott Ertz interviews Matias Brecher, founder of Toast, a manufacturer of wood and leather covers for mobile tech devices.

From the toastmade.com website, customers can order and customize a wide variety of custom wood and leather covers for their smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles at affordable prices. Customers can provide their own graphics to be etched into the cases. The price for the plain wooden Note 4 case at left starts at $34.00. Custom graphics and text can add from $5.00 to $10.00 to the price.

The base price for a wooden top cover for a MacBook starts at $59.00. Add a bottom wooden cover for $30.00.

Walnut is the most popular type of wood customers pick.

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Booq Cobra Laptop Briefcase Review



booq LogoOn review here is the Booq Cobra Laptop Briefcase, a lightweight and high-spec laptop bag. Unlike some of the other Booq bags that I’ve reviewed here for GNC, it’s in the more traditional style for those circumstances where a rucksack looks a little bit too casual. Designed for laptops with screens up to 16″, it’s made with ballistic nylon complimented by lower leather trim, meaning it looks good but is durable too. As you’ll see from the pictures, the YKK zips are mostly on show in bright steel, though the main laptop compartment has a covered waterproof zip.

Booq Cobra Side

Booq Cobra with Laptop

Opening it up, the Cobra has plenty of room inside, with five main compartments for gear. Starting from one side…

  1. Booq Cobra InnerZipped pocket with Booq’s corporate copper-coloured inner, suitable for an A5 size notepad or tablet.
  2. Open pocket with soft jersey inner. Additional easy access pockets within suitable for purse, wallet, mobile phone, MP3 player or tablet. Useful when on the go but gear may fall out.
  3. Big zipped pocket with copper inner. Further internal pockets for A4 notepad and bigger devices, perhaps external hard drive, PSU or even lunchboxes. Couple of pen pockets and a keyring too. Handily, the zip on this goes at least three quarters of the way down the side of the Cobra, so it opens wide. Not sure you’d quite get a change of clothes in here but it’s close.
  4. Big hidden waterproof zipped pocket, with soft padded lining. The is obviously intended for the main device and it comfortably took a big Toshiba Satellite Pro.
  5. Simple open pocket with copper inner, big enough for a magazine or A4 notepad.

There’s padding and protection between the compartments, so gear is going to be looked after wherever it is.

Booq’s copper-coloured inner may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s much easier to find stuff in the depths of the pockets. To some extent the pictures don’t do the colour justice – it’s better in real life, as they say.

Booq Cobra CarryFor carriage, the Cobra’s well covered. To start with, there’s the two handles which are comfortable without being overly broad, and attach to the bag with seatbelt-style webbing. The handles fold back into the bag when not needed, keeping the bag neat. Then there’s an over-the-shoulder strap, made from similar webbing with a large shoulder pad and metal clasps at each end. And finally there’s a webbing loop that can be passed over the handle of a trolley suitcase to sit the Cobra on top.

Even better, the Cobra has a flat bottom, so the bag stays upright when put down (mostly!).

As with all Booq bags, the Cobra is tagged with a Terralinq serial number, which is Booq’s “lost and found” service, giving a much greater chance of being reunited with lost gear. Let’s hope you never need to use it.

At US$295, GB£210 or 295€, the Booq Cobra isn’t an impulse purchase so I imagine the briefcase will be protecting some high-end gear. The Cobra seems a quality product – well finished, no lose threads, metal fixtures – and it’s perfect for cossetting a MacBook Pro or gaming laptop while travelling. Available on-line (US, UK, Europe) and other good retailers.

Thanks to Booq for the review Cobra.


Leuchtturm1917 v Moleskine Notebooks



For all today’s gadgets, there’s a great deal still to be said for pen and paper. It’s cheap, reliable and you don’t need to worry about the battery life. Setting those practicalities aside, I find great pleasure in a beautiful notebook and a fine fountain pen, though my handwriting still leaves much to be desired. I’m not a alone in this pleasure with a resurgence in paper notebooks and the legendary Moleskine has pushed to the fore. Is it the best? Here we have two lined notebooks, one from Leuchtturm1917  and the other from Moleskine – let’s take a look and find out.

Leuchtturm1917 and Moleskine Notebooks

Both Moleskine and Leuchtturm draw on their heritage. Moleskine’s dates back into the early 20th Century name-checking Picasso, van Gogh and Hemingway. Although originally French, it died out in the 1980s, only to be resurrected in the late 90s by an Italian publisher. On the other hand, Leuchtturm goes back to 1917 (hence Leuchtturm1917) with roots in Hamburg, Germany and a reputation for stamp collecting albums, which continues today. These stories are laid out by both companies in small cream folded inserts that accompany each book. The message is clear; you aren’t buying only a notebook, you are continuing the traditions of culture, history and travel.

Physically both notebooks are very similar but there are subtle and useful differences. I’d call them medium or A5-sized notebooks though strictly the Moleskine isn’t wide enough for A5. Both are 21 cm tall with hardcovers but the Moleskine is only 13 cm compared with the the Leuchtturm‘s 14.5 cm. Each has an elastic enclosure band, page marker and an expandable pocket inside the back cover. They also come in wide range of colours and pair well with 7″ tablets, such as the Nexus 7.

Leuchtturm1917 Moleskine

Opening the notebooks shows that both have lined pages with the same line spacing, but with the Moleskine, that’s about it. Although both have an Owner page at the front, the Leuchtturm goes further with three Contents pages and each page is numbered for easy reference. In addition, there are eight perforated pages towards the back that can be removed, along with some stickers to assist with archiving once the notebook is full. The Leuchtturm1917 is for those who want to be organised! “Datum / Date” is printed at the top of each page too, which may put people off but suits me fine.

Ink BleedBoth notebooks have lovely paper which is a joy to write on with pencil and ballpoint. However, the Moleskine has a problem with pen ink bleeding from one side to the other, particularly with black ink, which makes the Leuchtturm a better choice for fountain pen writers.

Overall, both the Moleskine and the Leuchtturm are stylish notebooks with a great feel both in the hand and under the pen. For me as a fountain pen owner, the Leuchtterm wins out by default, but the contents pages and page numbering make it my choice for those reasons too. Pencil owners and people looking for something a little neater may prefer the Moleskine. Whichever you choose, you’ll never go back.

Available from all good stationery retailers, the Leuchtturm1917 retails for around GB£13 with the Moleskine for a few pounds less.


MSI has Two New Ultra-Portable Gaming Notebooks



MSI SteelSeries keyboardMSI has announced two new thin and light notebooks that are designed for serious gamers. They are the GS60 Ghost and the GS70 Stealth gaming notebooks. Each comes in either a 17-inch or a 15-inch model. Both are part of MSI’s GS Series.

The GS60 Ghost is the lightest 15-inch notebook to hit the market. It is the first gaming notebook to use Mg-Li alloy in its design. Both the GS60 Ghost and the GS70 Stealth use NVIDIA GeForce BTX 860M/870M Graphics. They come with 4th Gen Intel Core i7 processor.

For sound, these gaming notebooks use Sound Blaster Cinema, Dynaudio speakers and MSI Audio Boost technology. They are able to output to 4K displays and can connect to multiple independent monitors simultaneously using the Matrix Multi-Monitor Display.

Both the GS60 Ghost and the GS70 Stealth have the SteelSeries full-color backlight keyboard with Anti-Ghosting capabilities. They have the SteelSeries Engine which allows gamers the ability to personalize their playing style with over a billion customization options.

You won’t have to worry about these gaming notebooks getting too loud or too hot. They have two ultra-slim fans and a better and more intelligent air flow design that works with ultra-slim builds. Both the fan and temperature control performance have been improved, resulting in faster reduction of temperature and less noise. MSIs GS70 Stealth and GS60 Ghost are available at $1,699.99.


gDoc Binder



gDoc Binder gDoc Binder is the electronic version of the traditional physical binder. It has the three rings, tabs and sections just like a regular binder. gDoc Binder is a great way to organize a project. Each binder can be secured with a password and has 256AES encryption. You can store text and images in the notebook. They hope to add the ability to store audio and video files in the future.

The gDoc Binders is a Windows only application, but you can easily share the content to an iPad. You can print, copy,  share a page, a whole section or an entire notebook easily. What makes these binders great is that they help you organize information in an easily searchable and shareable format. Right now gDoc Binders is looking for users for their beta program, however they expect to sell a set of ten binders for $10.00. More information is available at the gDoc website

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net, and Daniel J. Lewis of the The Noodle.mx Network and the Audacity to Podcast

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Samsung Series 9 Notebooks



If you are in the market for a new notebook computer then you may want to check out the latest offerings from Samsung with their Series 9 version, which was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just recently.  Samsung calls it the world’s thinnest laptop, which is saying something given the MacBook Air and all of the new UltraBooks that were unveiled at CES.

The new Samsung Series 9 will come in both 13 inch and 15 inch versions.  The new laptops are extremely thin and light and sport all-aluminum bodies.  In addition, the Series 9 has a back-lit keyboard, a 128 GB or 256 GB SSD, an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, and a high-resolution 1600 x 900 screen.  The Samsung Series 9 notebooks should be available sometime this spring for an as-yet-undisclosed price.  You can get a look at the 15″ version in the video posted below.

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

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The HP Envy 14 Spectre



HP logoLast week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas computer maker HP unveiled the Envy 14 Spectre, a new 14 inch laptop with some fairly impressive specs behind it.  It comes with either a Core i5 or Core i7 processor, an option for a 128 GB or 256 GB SSD, 4 or 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, Mini DisplayPort, HD webcam, Gorilla Glass inside and out, and USB 3.0.  Users also get a choice of Windows 7 Home Premium, Ultimate or Professional, but you will have to go with the 64-bit version, as this new notebook doesn’t come in a 32-bit version.  HP claims a nine hour battery life, but perhaps the nicest touch is the keyboard, which has individual LED’s behind each key to make them easily visible in low, or even no, light conditions.

Although I haven’t seen the HP Envy 14 Spectre referred to as an “Ultrabook” that’s the first word that comes to mind when I see it.  The sleek, thin design and the lack of an optical drive all point to that category, which was the hot meme at CES 2012.  There is more to this notebook than just the specs I listed above, but you will need to watch the video below to get all of the details.  The Envy 14 Spectre will start at an MSRP of $1399.  You can also visit HP for more info.

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

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Vivick Anti-Theft Backpack Debuts at CES



Vivick LogoThe theft of mobile electronic devices has become increasingly attractive as the value of gadgets rises and the economy falls. A particularly easy way to steal is to simply open likely-looking backpacks and rucksacks while they’re being worn and remove the gadgetry without the owner noticing. Sometimes the pack can be unzipped quietly, other times it’s cut open with a knife or scissors. A skilled thief can do this while someone is walking along but more commonly it happens on trains and buses.

To defend against this thievery, Canadian firm Vivick will debut their new line of anti-theft backpacks at CES in January, comprising three bags constructed from an anti-slash military-grade gauge nylon with a combination lock built into the zipper tab. Each model is designed to look good while being sturdy and durable, and the carry straps are also strengthened.

Rifling through my satchel this morning, I found a laptop, a tablet, an MP3 player and a somewhat old smartphone (Palm Treo Pro). Even with this last item, the total value of the technology exceeds £1000 (or $1500), so this isn’t a purely theoretical risk.

Vivick is known for its professional electronic designs, having worked for Apple, Sony, Samsung and Dell to create accessories for their own product lines. Vivick has also worked with Aston Martin and Ferrari on interior automotive accessories. Based on these credentials, I’ll be very interested to see what they come up with at CES.