& Pretty Buying your first tablet
Great Gadgets & Gizmos!
How to Listen Online
What is a Megapixel?
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• Genuine Windows® 7 Professional 64-bit • Intel® Core™ i5-2520M Processor 2.50 GHz with Turbo Boost • 4GB Ram / 750GB HDD • AMD Radeon™ HD 6470M 512MB Graphics • 13.3" HD Display with LED Backlight
• Genuine Windows® 7 Professional 64-bit • Intel® Core™ i7-2620M Processor 2.70 GHz with Turbo Boost • 4GB Ram / 640GB HDD • AMD Radeon™ HD 6470M 512MB Graphics• • 13.3" HD Display with LED Backlight
• Genuine Windows® 7 Professional 64-bit • Intel® Core™ i7-2640M Processor 2.80 GHz with Turbo Boost • 4GB Ram / 640GB HDD • AMD Radeon™ HD 6470M 1GB Graphics • 15.5" Full HD Display (1920 x 1080), LED Backlight
• Genuine Windows® 7 Professional 64-bit • Intel® Core™ i7-2620M Processor 2.70 GHz with Turbo Boost • 8GB Ram / 256GB SSD • AMD Radeon™ HD 6630M 1GB Graphics • 13.3" HD Display with LED Backlight
SRP: R10 999
SRP: R12 999
SRP: R13 999
SRP: R19 999
VPC-SA28 • Genuine Windows® 7 Professional 64-bit • Intel® Core™ i7-2620M Processor 2.70 GHz with Turbo Boost • 8GB Ram / 256GB SSD • AMD Radeon™ HD 6630M 1GB Graphics • 13.3" HD Display with LED Backlight • EMBEDDED 3G • Blu Ray Reader, DVD Reader & Writer SRP: R25 999
Tablet Buying Advice The five pre-purchase questions you need to ask
Please Insert Disc Your back to basics guide to optical storage
The Best of CES Ultrabooks, motion-controlled TV and more
Web radio How to stream music content with your Internet connection
History Lesson When phones were used for making callsâ€Ś
What is aâ€Ś? The making of a megapixel
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f you’re old enough to remember inserting floppy disc after floppy disc, or the days when mobile phones were used for making calls and nothing else, then you’ll understand, and appreciate, how different today’s tech is. Every machine is multifunctional and seems to do it all. So how do you pick a tablet that works for you? Or find a suitable storage device? The Connect magazine team has the answers. In our March issue, Deon du Plessis will help you ask the necessary questions before buying a tablet (page 10), while Christo van Gemert looks at streaming music off the Internet. What happened to music libraries, you ask? With faster and more reliable Internet connectivity options on offer, this is the right time to learn how to take advantage of the rich content the Web has to offer. In this issue, you’ll also find our roundup of the ultra-sleek, ultra-light and ultra-portable Ultrabook (page 45), as well a helpful, back-to-basics guide on all things to do with optical storage (page 14). Is Blu-ray here to stay? Sony’s new handheld, the PlayStation Vita, is finally here! With 2 touchscreens (one of which is OLED) and in-built social networking apps, Vita is a truly amazing portable gaming console. It also has a lot of launch titles, which is why we’ve selected the best – have a look on page 60. Connect is the only technology magazine that speaks your language – enjoy the read! Tiana Cline EDITOR
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in the news...
All-in-one anti-virus Kaspersky Labs, known for its anti-virus products, has announced an all-in-one solution designed to work across all platforms. Fittingly, it’s called Kaspersky-ONE, and is compatible with Windows, Mac, Android and certain smartphone platforms. The all-encompassing security suite includes anti-virus protection, device tracking (for mobile phones), a firewall, and malware protection. Kaspersky-ONE is available with several licences in a single box, so all your devices can be protected with a single purchase. For instance, a package with 3 licences can be spread across your Android tablet, a smartphone, and a Windows or Mac computer, or simply just 3 Windows computers. > Pricing for Kaspersky-ONE is set at R765 for a 5-licence bundle.
Canon’s annual refresh
Swiss Army Storage Those knife guys at Victorinox sure like to dabble in tech, now and then. A few years ago, we had the Swiss army knife with a 128MB USB flash drive built in. Now, they’ve gone and outdone themselves with something that has 8 000 times as much storage: a 1-terabyte USB flash drive, built into a multipurpose knife. Fortunately, it is still contained in a compact, folding package, and models will be available in red or black. Those are the only 2 colour choices you have, despite a steep price tag. At the unveiling in January, Victorinox hinted at a $3 000 asking price, and when converted to rands, that will buy you many terabytes of portable and desktop storage. You just don’t get to brag about those hard drives, though.
App of the month: WeatherSA Who would have thought that the South African Weather Bureau has its own smartphone app – a very, very handy one, at that. Simply called WeatherSA (available for iPhone; BlackBerry and Android coming soon), the app aims to offer more information than just what the temperature is and whether or not there are clouds. It has precise location data, so you can add your exact suburb, rather than just the nearest city. Weather forecasts are then broken down into morning, noon and night, with an activity schedule providing tips on the best time to go for a jog, tan, or similar. For high-risk summer days, it’ll even recommend you stay indoors. For those who live in areas with extreme weather or flood risks, the app can issue push warnings, alerting users to the fact that they could be in for a hard time. This is far better than any built-in weather app! > WeatherSA is available in the iTunes App Store right now, for free.
6 | connect | March 2012
Japanese camera expert Canon has announced a range of products for 2012, spanning entry-level snappers, high-end shooters, lenses, and even photo printers. The new models include an Ixus 510 HS, boasting a 12 x optical zoom and 10-megapixel sensor; the Powershot SX260 HS and SX 240HS, which both have a 20 x optical zoom mated to a 12.1-megapixel sensor; and the built-for-underwater adventure Powershot D20 – a 12-megapixel camera that can be taken to depths of 10m, or 40m with the optional extra-waterproof case. The flagship in the new announcements was the Powershot G1X, a professional-level compact camera with DSLR-like image quality. It has a 14-megapixel sensor that’s 80% as large (physically) as the sensors used in DSLR cameras, and all of that is enhanced by the DIGIC 5 processor, for speedy snapping, and HS system, for excellent lowlight performance. The 4 x optical zoom might seem modest, but has some of the best technology used in Canon’s professional SLR lenses, making it a proper pro-photo powerhouse.
techno jargon // by Deon Du PLessis
This month, we bring you a long list of abbreviations popular on Internet discussion forums, in online chat rooms and also in SMSspeak. Armed with these, you’ll be able to decipher your kids’/nieces’/ nephews’ online communications, and maybe even impress your 20-year-old boss. As always, YMMV.
8 | connect | March 2012
New With Tags
As Much as I Recall
May the Force Be With You
Bye Bye For Now
On the Other Hand
Mistell (mistaken chat message, please disregard)
In Before the Lock!
Be Back Later
Best friends, forever!
Away from Keyboard
Not in My Back Yard
Be back soon
Friend Of A Friend
BTHOM Beats the Hell Out of Me
Well, I’ll be a Monkey’s Uncle!
SGTM Sounds Good to Me!
Be That As It May
The Powers that Be
I have a question
Oh, Really? (usually said with sarcasm)
Talk To You Later
Roll On Floor Laughing My A** Off
I have a comment
Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
Got to Go
As A Matter Of Fact
I See What You Mean
IIRC If I Recall Correctly...
JMHO Just My Humble Opinion
AFAIK As Far as I Know
IDK I Don’t Know
IMHO In My Humble Opinion
OP The Original Poster (who started this discussion thread)
Along The Same Line
Keep It Simple, Stupid
One of a Kind
Are We Having Fun Yet?
Laughing Out Loud
WRT With Respect To
On a Totally Unrelated Subject
PMFJI Pardon Me for Jumping In
My Eyes Glaze Over
At Your Own Risk
Rolling On the Floor Laughing
Not Safe for Workplace viewing (a warning about potentially offensive content)
Be Back in a Bit
Bye For Now
Mind Your Own Business
So Far, So Good
Your Mileage May Vary
Back At Keyboard
www.connectmag.co.za | 9
tablet buying advice //by deon du plessis
10 | connect | March 2012
The tablet is the hottest new consumer device around and the market is currently jam-packed with these little beauties, and deciding which one to buy is becoming a serious challenge. That’s why we put together this buying advice feature, to help you ask the questions that will help you determine which one, of the many options, will suit you best.
Android or iOS? The most important question you need to answer is which operating system you would like on your tablet. There are only 2 real choices: Google’s opensource Android OS, and Apple’s iOS, so you need to decide whether you want an iPad, or one of the many Android tablets that are available. There are a few others to choose from, but none so pervasive as these two. Here is a quick rundown of each:
iOS (and the iPad) You can’t have iOS without an iPad, as Apple doesn’t license the OS out for use on other devices. Fortunately, the iPad is a particularly well-made device, arguably one of the nicest on the planet, and iOS works beautifully on it. Amazing touch sensitivity, an incredible user experience and an App Store filled with all manner of useful, fun and interesting applications/games are yours if you choose iOS. iPads also have the best range of accessories, as anyone browsing the accessory section of any electronics store will have noticed. The latest version, iOS 5, brings with it a host of improvements and new features, not the least of which is iCloud support, a service that lets Apple customers synchronise their media and documents across multiple devices using Internet-based storage. Excellent Twitter integration and a new feature called Newsstand that makes it easy to buy newspapers and magazines round out the new features. It’s not all rosy, though. iPads are only available in one size, users are tied into using iTunes (a notoriously difficult program to get the hang of) and their screens aren’t as high-resolution as some Android tablets (an issue rumoured to be addressed with the release of the iPad 3 later this year).
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tablet buying advice What screen size do you need? Smaller screens mean less weight and bulk, and thus make for an easier-to-transport tablet that can slip easily into a pocket or handbag. They don’t offer the most immersive Web-browsing, video-watching or e-mailing experience, however, and are better for very light on-the-go tasks like reading or Tweeting. Bigger tablets offer the best all-round experience, as they give you plenty of space for Web-surfing and editing documents. Typing on them doesn’t feel as cramped, and games and videos look simply amazing on them. Since there are so many sleeves and cases available, and tablets are becoming increasingly slimmer, protecting and carrying them around isn’t as annoying as you might imagine. While 7” tablets definitely have their place, we encourage you to go for tablets with bigger screens as they’re far more versatile and offer an incomparable user experience.
Windows and BlackBerry Tablets BlackBerry’s new Playbook tablet was released last year, and while some BB fans loved it, it failed to gain mass appeal as it had to be paired with a BlackBerry smartphone in order to have Internet access and the ability to send e-mails. As such, its appeal was limited. A few tablets are sold that use Windows 7, but these tend to have shorter battery lives than non-Windows tablets and their relative expense make them appealing only in very specific industries. Touchscreen input – vital to the tablet computer experience – is also not their strong point.
12 | connect | March 2012
Android evolved from a mobile phone operating system into one that supports tablet-specific needs, like high-resolution displays and the ability to multitask efficiently. One of its benefits is its availability on many different hardware platforms, some of which differ quite significantly from one another. Some Android tablets have single-core processors and 512MB of RAM, whereas others ship with dual-core processors and 1GB of RAM or more, for example. Lenovo’s Thinkpad tablet stands out even further from the crowd as it can be navigated using a pen, something not all Android tablets support. The point is, each manufacturer can choose what to include and what to take out when they release an Androidbased tablet. This gives the Android shopper far more choice when it comes to the hardware, capabilities and even size of their desired tablet. The downside is that performance levels are not guaranteed as it relies heavily on the hardware present, so some Android tablets might actually not respond as well to user input as others. Hardware-wise, dual-core processors clocked at 1GHz or faster generally provide a good foundation for decent performance. The faster the processor and the more RAM a tablet has, the better it should perform. Lastly, the Android interface can seem complicated for new users, even with the greatly-improved Honeycomb release (version 3.0). Google is hinting that the interface should see some streamlining in version 4.0, the “Ice Cream Sandwich” release.
How much do you want to pay? With so many models to choose from, you can spend as little as R3 000 on a tablet. That would be a small 7” model with underpowered hardware, of course, because the much larger, faster and more desirable 10” models can easily cost anywhere from R4 500 to R9 000. Tablets with 64GB of storage are the most expensive, so if you have a big music collection that needs to travel with you, expect to pay a premium for the privilege. Of course, if you’re an Apple aficionado, you can always get a relatively cheap 16GB model for R4 500 and store your music files on iCloud and simply stream them to the iPad when you’re close to a Wi-Fi network.
Pricing guide Huawei Ideos Tablet 16GB: R2 999 Apple iPad 16GB/32GB/64GB: R4 499/R4 999/R5 999 Acer Iconia A500 32GB: R5 999 Motorola Xoom 32GB: R7 999 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.0: R8 999
3G, Wi-Fi, or both? Having 3G capabilities built into your tablet means you’ll never be out of touch, always online and always available. However, 3G is more expensive than the standard Wi-Fi connectivity that most tablets come with, and you need to decide if you’re going to be using the tablet anywhere there isn’t a wireless network present. Although 3G is nice to have, it’s not essential, particularly if you’ll seldom use the tablet outdoors or in remote areas. Also keep in mind that 3G data is not cheap, and tablets can easily gobble up data even with only moderate use.
Did you know? According to well-respected research firm Gartner, tablet sales in 2011 totalled around 63 million individual units sold, with that number predicted to reach over 320 million sales per year by 2015.
Where will you get your apps, books, music, movies and games? Apple and Google each have their own “digital marketplaces” where you can buy all kinds of digital content for tablets and smartphones. They are not created equal, however, and finding out which you like before committing to any particular tablet might help make up your mind. If you’re already an Apple fan and have an existing iTunes account, an iPad might hold the most appeal. All you’d need to do to fill the tablet with content is sign into iTunes with your Apple ID and buy whatever you want. If you’re happy with that process and like what the Apple Store has to offer, then it’s an easy choice – iPad for the win. South African Apple Store users are severely limited in their choice of content, however, as not all the music, video, applications, games, books and magazines available to US users can be purchased using a South African Apple ID. This is due to the rights restrictions that prevent distribution of certain media in certain territories, and unfortunately South Africa is often one of the blocked territories. Google’s Marketplace, on the other hand, has a huge selection of stuff regardless of the territory from which it is accessed. It’s not necessarily the same content that’s available in the Apple Store, but there are certainly plenty of games, applications, books and movies that can be purchased through the Android Marketplace with relatively little fuss. No music store yet, though – that is apparently “on its way”.
What are you waiting for? Once you have the answers to these questions, you’re well-equipped for your tablet-shopping experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, have a good idea of what it is you want before you even start out, and you’re sure to find the tablet that will do what you need and fit in with your performance expectations and technical knowledge.
www.connectmag.co.za | 13
back to basics //by christo van gemert
Even though we’re seeing more and more computers without optical drives, we’re not quite rid of discs yet. Whether we’re using them to install software, watch movies, or back up data, DVD and Blu-ray drives are going to be around for a while yet.
14 | connect | MARCH 2012
Please Insert I
t seems not that long ago that a CD writer drive for a computer would cost more than R2 000. Now, it’s possible to buy a DVD writer for less than R200 – and a blank disc is just R10. With hard drive prices in the doldrums, at least until the middle of this year, according to industry predictions, we can once again look to DVD, and even Blu-ray, for affordable and very reliable backups.
External options If you use an ultrabook or a netbook, both of which are likely to ship without an internal optical drive, there are several options available. Apple offers an external, USBpowered Superdrive (DVD writer) for the Macbook Air, while Samsung, Sony and LG all offer generic external USB drives for notebook users. These external drives are available as both DVD writers or Blu-ray writers.
Drive dynamics Optical drives, so named because they use lasers and light to read the data stored on the discs, are currently available in 2 formats: DVD and Blu-ray. DVD drives are affordable and accessible, and chances are that if your computer has a DVD drive, it’ll also be able to create (or write) DVDs. A few years ago, there was a little disagreement between industry partners about which format DVD drives should use when writing discs, but modern drives will support all formats. As a bonus, DVD writers also read and write CDs. The other type of optical drive is a Blu-ray drive. These are still fairly expensive, so expect to pay closer to R1 500 for a range-topping Blu-ray writer. It’s also possible to get a Blu-ray drive that only reads Blu-ray discs, but most of those sold will still read/write DVDs and CDs. Blu-ray discs hold more information, which is one of the reasons to invest in such a drive. Another reason to get one is to watch Blu-ray movies on your computer. If you’re building a computer to use as a home theatre, a Blu-ray drive will be a great addition.
www.connectmag.co.za | 15
back to basics
Blu-ray discs are expensive compared to other high-capacity storage options, but offer an excellent solution for those who need to back up large amounts of data. A single-layer Blu-ray disc can store 25GB, while dual-layer discs store 50GB. It’s possible to get up to 4-layer discs, for 100GB of storage, but those are exorbitantly pricey. A pack of five 50GB discs will set you back around R600. Blank Blu-ray discs aren’t for everybody: unless you have massive amounts of important data, a few DVDs will suffice. There’s the inconvenience of spreading your data over a few discs, but at a lower cost. For the time being, Blu-ray is better as a specialist backup option, but also remains a great video disc format.
Discs deciphered The type of optical drive you choose should depend on what your intended use is. As mentioned, a Blu-ray drive can be great for playing back Blu-ray films, as well as DVDs and regular CDs. It will be difficult to find a regular (not writing) DVD drive, but a DVD writer will play back and burn to both DVDs and CDs, but not Blu-ray discs. Discs can have specific uses, too. It might be laughable to think of a reason to buy a blank CD, which can only hold up to 800MB of data (for reference: a cheap USB stick has 1GB of rewriteable storage), but most cars only have stereo systems that will play CDs, not DVDs. If you wish to create your own music CDs, a high-quality blank disc is recommended. There are even specific brands for music discs, which prevent any incompatibilities. Next up is the blank DVD. These are great for backing up decent amounts of data, since a DVD can hold between 4.3GB (single-layer disc) and 8.5GB (dual-layer disc). If you went on holiday and took a lot of photos, a DVD would be a great means to back them up and archive them. Similarly, video footage also takes up a lot of space and that makes a DVD great for backup – or even creating a DVD video disc that will play in a regular DVD or Blu-ray player that’s attached to your TV.
16 | connect | MARCH 2012
My discs are on fire! The process of writing data to a CD, DVD or Blu-ray is colloquially known as “burning a disc”. This comes from the process used to write to the disc, which involves a laser heating up the chemicals on a disc, and then writing the data. Blank discs are treated with a photosensitive dye that changes colour when the write laser crosses it, usually to record information sent by the operating system. A bad-quality optical disc can have this dye discolour over time which leads to data corruption, so it’s advisable to always purchase highquality, name-brand optical discs.
network. Unleash your network. devices. Unleash your devices.
consumer electronics //by tiana Cline
Review Not everything that happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas. And with over 150 000 people arriving to see the next big thing in technology, the Consumer Electronic Showcase (CES) held in Nevada’s Sin City was bigger than ever. Connect magazine’s Tiana Cline was there...
Ultra-portable, ultra-fast With over 20 new Ultrabooks showcased at CES 2012, Intel’s new computing category was really the star of the show. Setting a new standard for slim, light and portable design that doesn’t compromise on performance or security, Intel is once again redefining personal computing.
ACER ASPIRE S5 Claiming to be the world’s thinnest Ultrabook, the Aspire S5 measures just 15mm at its thickest point. It also features Acer Green Instant On, which is said to bring the notebook back from sleep mode in less than 1.5 seconds. Then there’s Acer Always Connect, which promises to quickly reconnect you with any online services you were logged into when your computer went to sleep – you can also wake up the S5 using your smartphone.
18 | connect | March 2012
DELL XPS 13 No longer selling netbooks, Dell’s powerful XPS 13 is an Ultrabook that uniquely features a 13” display in a compact 12” body. The XPS 13 runs on Windows 7 and features Intel Core i3 processors. It’s the first Ultrabook on the market with Intel Smart Connect technology, which keeps content updated when around a wireless connection. The device’s hardware also sports some noteworthy features, including a display made of Gorilla Glass and a body built from CNC aluminium; so in addition to it feeling lighter in weight, it feels cooler on the lap.
LG SUPER ULTRABOOK SERIES The Z330 and the Z430 offer powerful performance and sleek design unseen in other Ultrabooks – LG’s Super Speed Boot technology enables rapid booting, roughly 3 times faster than other 13” notebooks on the market. Powered by a second generation Intel Core i7 processor, the Z330 requires less than 10 seconds to complete booting, while it requires a mere 2 seconds to recover from stand-by mode.
HP SPECTRE A bit bulkier than the other Ultrabooks announced at CES, the Spectre is still an impressive piece of hardware, with a beautiful HD Radiance Display and in-built Beats Audio system. It’s powered by a Core i5 or i7 processor, has a backlit keyboard and a power-saving proximity sensor that only lights it up when someone’s using it. The most interesting feature of the Spectre is NFC (near-field communication) – transferring items from your smartphone to your PC is as simple as tapping the phone onto the Spectre and the URL showing up in the laptop’s browser.
LENOVO IDEAPAD YOGA Lenovo‘s new IdeaPad YOGA is being marketed as a 4-in-1 device. The chameleon-like computer can switch from a laptop to a tablet in 3 positions: flat, easel-like for touchscreen-based working, and a propped-up position. Open up the laptop to see the full-size notebook with keyboard and leather palm rest. Fold it at the hinges to create a 13” touchscreen tablet. Lenovo’s customisable YOGA Ultrabook operates on Windows 8 and should offer up to 8 hours of battery life. Read more about Ultrabooks in our review round-up on page 45.
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Mobile inspiration Nokia’s new range of Lumia smartphones (running Windows Phone 7.5 Mango) stole the show at CES. Locally, we can expect to see both the Nokia Lumia 800 and the more affordable Nokia Lumia 710 sometime this year. Nokia Drive and Nokia Music (with MixRadio, a free, global, mobile musicstreaming application that delivers hundreds of music channels) will also be functional in South Africa. CES attendees got to see the Lenovo K800, the first smartphone based on Intel technology. Running Android, this phone features a lowpower Intel Atom processor and Hyper-Threading Technology. Motorola and Intel are also working together (exclusively for the Chinese market), which means we’ll see the first Intel-powered Motorola smartphone this year. Tired of all the bells and whistles? Emporia launched a range of simplified phones that is perfectly suited for kids and designed with the elderly in mind. The EmporiaCLICK, for example, makes communicating easy with high-powered vibration motors and a flashing LED light whenever a call is coming in.
20 | connect | March 2012
Inspired by Microsoft’s Kinect “hands-free” controller for the Xbox 360 gaming console, gesture and voice controls were seen across a number of devices at CES. Samsung’s built-in camera in the top-of-theline Smart TV sets “recognises movement in the foreground and two unidirectional array microphones recognise voice at an incredibly accurate rate. Noise-cancellation technology helps separate any background noise from the user’s commands.” You can also talk to your LG Cinema 3D Smart TV using a new Magic Remote. Besides voice recognition, the controller has also been upgraded with a scroll wheel, gesture sensing, and a 2D-to-3D conversion button. Toshiba’s new Qosmio laptop is the only gestureaware computer presently available. Seen at CES, software loaded on the laptop lets you control Microsoft programs like PowerPoint and the Windows Media Player with just a wave of the hand. Using a webcam built into the screen, the computer can distinguish 3 gestures: a raised palm, a moving fist, or a thumb flick… from up to 10 feet away.
Celebrity showcase In among the businessmen, technology analysts and press, Hollywood stars, sports legends, music icons and entertainers all attended CES to see and represent products that are shaping consumer technology. This year’s event attracted the likes of actress Eliza Dushku (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff series Angel) as well as television personality and fitness guru Jillian Michaels. Rapper 50 Cent was there signing autographs, while Grammy-nominated pop megastar Justin Bieber unveiled TOSY Robotics’ innovative entertainment robot. Will.I.Am talked about his Intel Ultrabook Project. Other big names included Dennis Rodman (NBA Hall of Fame player), LL COOL J, Kelly Clarkson, comedian Wayne Brady and Alistair Overeem, three-time World Champion Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
All about OLED With 3D TV out of the picture, it was OLED’s time to shine. Bigger, thinner and with better viewing angles, LG’s 55EM9800 is the first 55” OLED TV, and promises the superb, all-round performance of OLED (absolute black levels, ultra-fast panel and excellent viewing angles) in an ultra-thin panel. Samsung followed suit with a 55” Super OLED TV, a masterpiece produced from a single pane of glass using Samsung’s Super OLED technology to deliver the ultimate in picture quality and thinness.
Take a tablet Tablets remain the technology du jour, with a number of manufacturers attempting to take on the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab. While there were standout devices at CES, like the Toshiba Excite X10, a 10.1” tablet that distinguishes itself as the only model that can be called both the thinnest and lightest, it was Razer’s Project Fiona, a Windows 8 tablet with dual controllers for PC gaming, that garnered the most attention. Unlike other tablets designed for general use and casual gaming, Project Fiona is a tablet concept designed to play current PC games, with an intuitive control setup for on-the-go gaming. Powered by Intel Core i7, Project Fiona is more akin to a fully functioning PC, a form factor and platform highly familiar to everybody. Instead of the casual and mobile-only games that run on other tablets, Razer has developed an all-new hybrid user interface scheme for Project Fiona, allowing it to run PC games right out of the box. Looking for the right tablet? Turn to our buying advice feature on page 10.
www.connectmag.co.za | 21
more music //by Christo van Gemert
The basics of...
22 | connect | March 2012
With faster, more reliable Internet connections, we can finally start taking advantage of the rich content the Web has to offer. One of those offerings is Web radio, and here’s what you need to know for getting your groove on.
e’ve come a long way from the days of dial-up Internet, when we had to count the minutes we spent online. ADSL and 3G Internet connections don’t care about how much time you spend online – your usage is based on the amount of data you transfer. Fortunately, streaming songs from any of the online services offering streaming music is not very bandwidth-intensive. It’ll still eat into your data allowance, but at only 60MB for an hour’s listening, that’s a relatively small price to pay for enjoying exactly the kind of music you like.
Get up to speed The speed of your Internet connection isn’t a particularly important factor if you want to listen to some Web radio while browsing. The absolute minimum required for an uninterrupted listening experience is a connection of 192Kbps, and the slowest ADSL line offered by Telkom is double that speed: 394Kbps. Just bear in mind that streaming music might take up half that, and your regular browsing will be a bit slower, or the music might stutter a bit when you load up a page that has large images. The faster your connection, the lower the chance of any interruptions in your listening.
Quick tip If you’re unsure how fast your Internet connection is, visit www.speedtest.net, and select a speed test server closest to you. The resulting figure will be quoted in either Mbps (megabits per second) or Kbps (kilobits per second). As long as it’s higher than 200Kbps (or 0.2Mbps), streaming music will play just fine.
www.connectmag.co.za | 23
Bandwidth considerations Any information you pull from the Internet is viewed as a download. Whether you’re downloading a large file, or viewing photos on Facebook, all of that is data being downloaded to your computer. Similarly, Web radio requires your computer to transfer a stream of music from a server on the Internet, and this can eat into your data allowance, or bandwidth cap. Although 60MB per hour is the figure we quoted earlier, there are services that might use more than that – up to 100MB per hour. Ensure that your data bundle is large enough to accommodate constant listening. A 5GB cap on an ADSL line would only allow for 85 hours of constant listening, so using a service for an hour or two each day will use about half of your monthly allowance. Fortunately, data bundles are becoming cheaper, so enjoying your favourite music for free shouldn’t be a huge outlay.
Streaming services Once you have your line and data bundle sorted, it’s time to find some services that offer free radio and music streaming. Local radio stations are high on the list: 5FM, Highveld, 702, Classic FM and others all have streaming services on their respective Websites. Navigate to the site of your favourite radio station and simply click play. The best thing about this is that international radio stations offer similar services. From Japan, to the UK, to the USA, you’ll be able to find a regional radio station that streams its entire broadcast online – a great way to expose yourself to new music. There are also dedicated music-streaming services, but thanks to archaic copyright laws all over the world, very, very few of them are available in South Africa. Services like Spotify and Pandora remain offlimits for now. There is one exception, though. Last.fm (www.last.fm) is a social network for music where your listening habits are tracked, and users can then compare their music preferences to discover new artists. Last.fm offers a radio service that costs only $3 (about R25) a month, for unlimited streaming (ISP data restrictions still apply) and, most importantly, it works for South African users.
Quick tip Tired of local stations on your computer? Simply search online for “Web radio”, or “streaming radio”, and you’ll be given many options, including lists of overseas radio stations that offer free online broadcasts of their content.
24 | connect | March 2012
Quick tip If you don’t want to limit your listening, consider switching to uncapped ADSL access. Many Internet service providers offer affordable packages for 384Kbps and 1Mbit ADSL lines, for between R350 a month and R600 a month (excluding voice line rental from Telkom).
flashback //by christo van gemert
. . . e h t f o y r o t is h The
The humble cellular phone started out as a simple means of making phone calls while out and about. Now, a cellphone can be used to run an entire business: from checking e-mail, to having video conferences on the Internet. 1996 Nokia releases the first phone in its Communicator line, the Nokia 9000. It is a large device that flips open to reveal a QWERTY keyboard and extrawide LCD screen. It has a 24MHz AMD 386 processor – the same technology used in computers from the early ‘90s.
t’s fitting that the first-ever smartphone was developed by the company that gave us the first standard for the home computer: IBM. But modern smartphones aren’t about the hardware; they’re about the platform and the software, and one of the biggest players – Google – is a company that’s only 13 years old.
1998 Nokia’s Communicator line gets an update. The 9110 is a lot lighter and slightly smaller than its predecessor, and it now boasts a 33MHz processor based on 486 architecture.
1997 1992 IBM previews the IBM Simon, a collaboration between the computer giant and US network BellSouth (part of AT&T). Designed to combine all the features of a mobile phone, pager, PDA and fax machine, it features calendar, address book, calculator, world clock, notepad, and e-mail functions. It also boasts a touchscreen, with an optional stylus.
26 | connect | March 2012
Swedish company Ericsson coins the term “smartphone” when showing off a concept phone, the GS88. It becomes the first mobile device to be officially called a smartphone.
2007 – 2010 Apple releases the iPhone, with very limited smartphone features. The iPhone’s software is upgraded to include requests from users, with slow and steady progress adding features most consider essential in a smartphone. A year after the iPhone’s release, Apple opens the iTunes App Store.
2002 The first Palm-powered smartphones hit the market, in the form of Handspring’s Treo. The first BlackBerry smartphones also go on sale. Sony Ericsson’s P800 smartphone, successor to the R380, hits the market.
Microsoft scraps its old Windows Mobile platform and focuses efforts on an all-new Windows Phone platform, known in its first iteration as Windows Phone 7.
Google releases Android in 2008, with the first phone running this new mobile operating system being the HTC Dream.
2000 Ericsson releases the R380 smartphone, running the Symbian operating system. It has a black and white touchscreen, partially covered by a flap that houses the number pad. The first phones running the Microsoft Pocket PC operating system start surfacing.
2004 Nokia releases the Communicator 9500 – the last of the original 9000-series Communicator devices. Windows Mobile phones are starting to gain attention, with devices from many manufacturers coming to market.
Nokia updates the Communicator again – the 9210 gets a special mobile-only processor using ARM architecture, along with more memory. Its screen gets upgraded to colour and the operating system switches over to Symbian.
The Present Many hardware manufacturers offer smartphones, but there are 4 major platforms: BlackBerry OS, Apple iOS, Google Android, and Windows Phone. Each platform has its own app store (or app stores), which allow the phones to be customised with the features users want. Smartphones are now smarter than ever before.
www.connectmag.co.za | 27
what is it? //by Christo van gemert
What is a...
If you’ve ever wondered what megapixels are, and why they’re important, then this month’s explanatory guide is just what you need.
28 | connect | MARCH 2012
megapixel is one million pixels, and a pixel is a single picture element. See that? Picture element. The easiest way to explain what a pixel is, which then helps understand megapixels, is to take a square Lego block. Now imagine that the Lego block is a single pixel. If you want a megapixel, you’ll need one million Lego blocks. If you take those one million blocks and stick them on a white wall, arranging the colours so that they form a mural, you will have created a one-megapixel (or MegaLego) picture. Up close you will still see those individual blocks, or pixels. Move further away, however, and the shift in perspective will change the perceived size of the pixels. Now they are smaller, and the picture becomes clearer. It’s the same thing you’ll see if you look at Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait, which he painted using pointillism. Up close you’ll see all the dots and small strokes he used, but take a few steps back and it forms a brilliant picture.
Optical illusion Digital cameras record photos using something called an image sensor. This is a special kind of microchip that is sensitive to light, just like the film in an older camera. When the shutter opens, the image sensor is exposed to the scene and the light is recorded on to millions of little photo sites. If you have a 10-megapixel camera, there are approximately 10 million photo sites. A 16-megapixel camera has 16 million photo sites. Imagine those photo sites as the Lego block in the example above. Sixteen million Lego blocks will take up a lot of space, but you’ll also have more detail in your mural. Except in this case, the photo sites are very, very small. And there are 16 million of them, arranged on your screen to form a picture. The more megapixels your camera records, the more information that photo has: but you only need about 10 or 12 megapixels to print a photo onto an A4 page. Any more than that, and you’re just going to take up space on your hard drive without ever realising the benefits of 16 or 20 megapixels.
product reviews // by Deon Du PLessis & Christo van Gemert
THE YEAR OF THE ULTRABOOK
he Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas, Nevada, every year, has come and gone, and it brought with it interesting signs of things to come. Clearly, by the sheer volume of Ultrabooks on display, 2012 is going to be “The Year of the Ultrabook”, and that’s a very good thing given just how slim, sleek and powerful they are. If you’re in the market for a notebook, perhaps consider waiting for more Ultrabooks to hit the local market before you buy – they are truly that powerful and versatile. My colleague Christo van Gemert received 3 Ultrabooks this month, which he pit against one another in an Ultrabook showdown that starts on page 45. The winner may surprise you! I got my hands on a number of cool products, too, including a Solidata Solid State Drive that I used to see just how much faster it is than a regular hard drive. Boy, was I impressed: those things sure do fly! Enjoy the reviews! Deon
While we make every effort to ensure pricing is accurate before we go to print, sometimes through circumstances we have no control over, the prices in Connect may differ from those you’ll see on store shelves. In all cases, shelf pricing takes precedence. 30 | connect | March 2012
32 34 36 38 40 42 43 45 52 54 56 58
First Look – Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 First Look – HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One Nokia Lumia 800 Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2 Solidata X8 LE 120GB SSD Norton 360 6.0 Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch Tablet
Ultrabook Roundup Hama PC Gaming Headset SanDisk Mobile Ultra MicroSDHC Card With Adapter Typing Instructor Platinum iPad 2 Accessories
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product FIRST LOOK
AR.Drone 2.0 NEED TO KNOW • Remote-controlled flying quadracopter • Control it with a smartphone over Wi-Fi • New, improved design and HD camera Estimated Street Price: R2 999.95
When we got to play with the AR.Drone last year, we were very impressed. It was a remote-controlled quadracopter that we used an iPhone to control – and it was awesome. It was rather large and made quite a bit of noise when it flew, and only had a flight time of about 15 minutes, but we loved it anyway because it was just so cool being able to make it move through the air by angling the iPhone forward, backward, left and right. A year or so after the original AR.Drone launched in 2010, the company behind it (Parrot) released an app allowing Android-based smartphones and tablets to control the device as well, which caused a veritable explosion in the size of the AR.Drone’s potential audience. Paris-based Parrot has spent the past 2 years refining the original design, resulting in AR.Drone version 2.0, a new model that improves on the original in several ways. And that’s a very good thing, because one thing we experienced 32 | connect | March 2012
with version 1.0 was the way it was almost impossible not to crash the AR.Drone into things while trying to get the hang of its controls, not a good thing for a device that was actually quite fragile. While version 2.0 cannot guarantee that beginner pilots won’t do that, Parrot’s designers have recreated the foam hull that surrounds the AR.Drone using a newer, tougher foam composite material, making it far more resilient than before. No longer will a single unplanned meeting with a wall end the life of the AR.Drone. At CES 2012, Parrot’s people were so confident in the new protective foam hull that they rammed it directly into a wall at full speed, with no damaging results. Parrot’s people have also made the rest of the quadracopter out of stronger, damage-resistant material that’s similar to that used in car bumpers and, amazingly, it still weighs about the same as the original. Like the previous version, AR.Drone 2.0’s hull can be completely removed for outdoor use but that still leaves the propellers unprotected, and vulnerable to damage caused by contact with environmental hazards. Even more important than its newer, tougher body materials is the new camera Parrot has given the AR.Drone. One of the coolest features of the original AR.Drone was the fact that it had a built-in camera that broadcast what it was seeing back to the tablet or smartphone being used to control
it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a particularly good camera, and its imagery was pretty low-quality. Not only that, but it was difficult to copy any videos it recorded onto a computer without using third-party software. Happily, these problems are no longer present in the new version. The new AR.Drone has a camera that captures 720p videos, and Parrot has built more intuitive camera controls into its software. It’s now also possible to save recorded videos directly to the smartphone/tablet controlling the quadracopter for easier sharing, viewing and copying to other devices. The app that runs on the smartphone or tablet being used to control the AR.Drone has been given a significant overhaul. Pilots can see the speed, altitude and direction the Drone is currently flying at on the app, and upload the video shot by the AR.Drone immediately to online sharing sites like YouTube. They can even find other AR.Drone owners in the immediate area, and view their uploaded videos. All of this would be useless fluff if the new AR.Drone flew exactly the same as the old one, and preliminary reports indicate that, no, it doesn’t – it’s a lot better. The guys at Parrot have added 2 new sensors that enhance the way it flies: a “3D magnetometer” and a pressure sensor. The pressure sensor helps to keep the Drone as stable at 5m as it is at 1m, and the magnetometer adds awareness of its position relative to the controller
as well as a way to measure direction, speed and altitude. With a control mode called “Absolute Flight”, the Drone orients itself relative to the position of the controller and not the onboard camera, as before, making flying it a lot easier for beginner pilots and veterans alike. As it’s controlled over N-class Wi-Fi, the range is, in theory, around 300m. We’re unable to test this, so the actual real-world range may be a lot less. Even if the range is limited to around 100m or so, that’s still a lot of room to play in, so we’re not too worried. Another hazy feature is battery life. It is not confirmed at this point, so we don’t know if the new model will last longer than the 15 minutes of its predecessor before needing a recharge, but we’re hopeful it will. The AR.Drone 2.0 is expected to ship sometime in Q2 2012, and as it’s priced the same as the original overseas, we’re hoping SA retail will follow suit and keep it at R2 999. The original AR.Drone proved to be one of the most exciting tech toys in recent memory, and we really can’t wait to see the improved model in action for ourselves. Excitement potential
• 720p HD camera @ 30fps • H254 video encoding • JPEG photos • Travel modes (Crane, Pan, Slide) • 1 GHz 32 but ARM Cortex A8 CPU • 800 MHz video DSP • 1GB DDR2 RAM • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n • 3-axis gyroscope 2 000 degree/second • 3-axis Accelerometer +/50mg precision • 3-axis magnetometer 6 degree precision • Pressure sensor +/- 10Pa precision • Ultrasound sensors for ground altitude measurement • 60fps vertical QVGA camera for ground speed measurement
www.connectmag.co.za | 33
product FIRST LOOK
HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One • All-in-one functions: Print, copy, scan, fax, Web • Multitasking supported: Yes • Print speed, laser comparable, black: Up to 20 ppm • Print speed, laser comparable, colour: Up to 16 ppm • Print speed black (draft, letter): Up to 35 ppm • Print speed colour (draft, letter): Up to 35 ppm • Print speed, black (normal quality mode): Up to 20 ppm • Print speed, colour (normal quality mode): Up to 16 ppm • First page out (black): As fast as 13 sec • First page out (colour): As fast as 14 sec • Monthly duty cycle: Up to 25 000 pages • Recommended monthly print volume: 250 to 1 250 pages • Print technology: HP Thermal Inkjet • Print resolution, black: Up to 1 200 x 600 dpi • Print resolution, colour: Up to 4 800 x 1 200 optimised dpi on HP Advanced Photo paper, 1 200 x 1 200 input dpi
34 | connect | March 2012
HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One NEED TO KNOW • HP’s new does-everything office printer • Print, scan, fax and copy • Wireless and Web-connected • Big touch-sensitive LCD screen • Prints from e-mail Expected Availability: Q2 2012 – R3 599.95 (Selected Stores)
After many years of service as HP’s premium printer for small to medium offices, the OfficeJet Pro 8500 is finally being retired, and replaced by the all-new, all-singing, all-dancing OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One. Here is a brief description of all the capabilities you can look forward to when this printer hits store shelves later this year: It can handle borderless prints, for things like marketing materials that have to be absolutely perfect and fill every inch of space on the page. Its cost per page is significantly lower than even that of notoriouslyaffordable laser printers, with the added benefit of colour printing. There is a beautiful – and fairly large – LCD touchscreen that responds quickly to touch input. It also allows access to all the printer’s functions, including HP’s famous Web Apps, a collection of applications hosted on the HP cloud that let you print maps, download and print fun themed colouring-in projects for kids, and a whole lot more. It’s here that you’ll access the contents of flash drives and memory cards, and do some light editing before printing them, without using a PC at any step of the process. Instead of one or the other, HP has chosen to include both wired and wireless networking options in the new 8600, so you can connect to your home or office network using an Ethernet cable, or over Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is by far the best way to do it, as it allows you to place the printer anywhere your home or office has wireless network coverage, and frees you from
the danger of tripping over cables and bringing the whole thing crashing to the ground. HP’s now-famous ability to print from anywhere, a technology the company calls “ePrint”, is also present on the 8600 as indicated by its “e-All-in-one” designation. This means if you have a device that can send an e-mail, like a smartphone, tablet, netbook, notebook or desktop PC, that’s all you need to print to the 8600. Basically, from anywhere you have internet access, even if it’s on the other side of the world, you can print to your 8600. There is also an automatic duplexer that enables 2-sided prints without needing to manually feed paper through the printer twice. For its final trick, the 8600 has a flatbed scanner with an automatic document feeder that lets you scan up to 50 documents at a time, in sizes up to A4. It looks to be quite a large, thick printer, so expect to make some space for it in your office or home. It’s also reportedly quite heavy, at just over 12kg. With so much going for it, the OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus looks to be a very capable office machine.
• Beautiful and responsive LCD screen • All the print functions a modern home/office could need • Even prints borderless material • Both wired and wireless connectivity options
• Very large and heavy
t e a m i l t U e h T n o i n a p m o C l e v a r T
Nokia Lumia 800 NEED TO KNOW • Nokia’s flagship Windows Phone in South Africa • Modelled on the N9 chassis • Lots of added value • Available in cyan, magenta, black or white From R6 999.95 (prepaid)
Nokia is the world leader when it comes to mobile phone shipments. Unfortunately, a mobile phone leader does not a smartphone leader make, and in the small, but lucrative, part of the market where the interesting phones live, Nokia’s once dominant position has slipped into near insignificance. From a lack of innovation, to an overly arrogant attitude and even just plain bad business management, the market’s theories on Nokia’s decline are endless... and largely irrelevant. It became clear 2 years ago that Nokia needed to pull some rabbits out of hats. 36 | connect | March 2012
Two of those proverbial rabbits were the generally conservative company appointing a new, American CEO, and deciding to ‘bet the farm’ on Microsoft’s Windows Phone. So far, those decisions are paying off. The fruits of Nokia’s first Windows Phone labours – The Lumia 710 and 800 – were announced in London in September last year and have just arrived in South Africa. And by most accounts, they’ve been worth waiting for. We focused our attention on the flagship model and were well impressed. The Lumia 800 borrows a great deal of its look and feel from the N9, which was released to much fanfare and design acclaim during the middle of last year. The moment you power on the smartphone and begin using it, however, all resemblance to the N9 fades away. Where the N9 was the first (and last) phone to make use of Nokia’s and Intel’s Linux-based joint venture operating system called Meego, the Lumia 800 is all about Windows Phone 7.5 Mango.
products Nokia has managed to get Microsoft’s signature ‘flipping tiles’ interface down pat, and delivers a smoother experience than we’ve ever experienced on any Windows Phone to date. Nokia has also managed to stamp its own individuality on Microsoft’s operating system, loading the familiar ‘Nokia tune’ and ‘SMS tone’ onto the phone as alert sounds. More importantly, however, Nokia has loaded some exclusive applications on the Lumia 800 that increase the value of the package by somewhere between R1 000 and R1 500. Those applications are, in no order of importance, Contacts Transfer, Nokia Drive and Nokia Music. Contacts Transfer, as its name suggests, allows you to get your contacts from pretty much any mobile phone designed in the past decade. From what we can gather, the application, quite innovatively, pulls all of the address book details across from the legacy phone in much the same way a Bluetooth handsfree kit does. The upshot is there’s no need for specialised software that supports one or another phone. Sometimes industry standards are the way to go. Nokia Drive is a full-blown, turn-by-turn navigation solution. As has always been the case with Nokia’s navigation apps, Nokia Drive is an absolute pleasure to use. It’s intuitive, responsive and comprehensive – factors that stem directly from Nokia’s ownership of Navteq, one of the biggest players in the raw mapping data space. Generally speaking, a navigation application will set you back anywhere between R750 and R1 000. The only problem is, there aren’t any available for Windows Phone yet. This makes Nokia rather unique and sought-after – at least for the moment. To round out the added value, Nokia has thrown in its online music store, Nokia Music, to the mix of features on the Lumia 800. As is the case with most online music stores today, Nokia Music allows users to buy tracks digitally and download them, without any form of copy-protection or digital rights management, onto their computer or a wide variety of
digital devices. The Nokia Music application built into the Lumia 800 allows for this to take place right on the handset. It also allows registered users to stream and download predefined music mixes for free, or build their own mixes online for streamingonly purposes. And considering all of this is wrapped up in a piece of hardware that’s as solid as Nokia’s finest, contains an 8MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics, and features 16GB of flash storage for music, videos and applications, it’s a great first effort. All in all, if you look at the value of the total bundle, there’s nothing that comes close. All that remains now is to see how the market responds to Windows Phone. Here at Connect, we bet reactions will be positive. Noteworthy Specs: • 3.7” AMOLED touchscreen • 1.4GHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor • 16GB flash storage • Quad band 2G/3G radio • 14.4Mbps/5.76Mbps peak down/upload speed • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth • 8MP camera with a Carl Zeiss lens
• Most feature-rich Windows Phone to date • Tons of added value, like Nokia Drive and Nokia Music • Legendary Nokia build quality • 24-month warranty
• No front-facing camera • Windows Phone is new, so limited application variety in-store
Nokia Lumia 710
The smaller sibling in Nokia’s Windows Phone range is nearly identical to the 800, differing only in exterior design, screen size and screen type. It still has a beefy processor and all of the added value, so it’s a great option.
Samsung Omnia 7
Samsung’s Windows phone is upgradable to 7.5 Mango and, until the arrival of the Nokias, was one of the best handsets available for the Microsoft platform. Word is that it’s due for replacement soon, however.
www.connectmag.co.za | 37
Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2 Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1TB External USB 3.0 Hard Drive To expand the ReadyNAS’ storage capabilities further, all you need to do is plug this drive into one of the 2 USB 3.0 ports on the back.
Verbatim 8GB Memory Stick If you’d like to back up the contents of this memory stick, all you have to do is plug it into the front-mounted USB 2.0 port on the ReadNAS and it will happen automatically.
Belkin Play Max Modem Router A Gigabit network is required to enable the ReadyNAS to perform at its best. This one from Belkin does it all – ADSL and wireless networking, and it has 4 x Gigabit Ethernet ports for ultra-fast wired connectivity.
38 | connect | March 2012
NEED TO KNOW • Network storage device with space for 2 hard drives • Fast Gigabit network connection • Hard drives sold separately R2 599.95
As more and more people create their own home networks, storage and file-sharing are becoming increasingly important. Some routers have USB ports on them that allow for the centralised sharing of a single portable hard drive, but it’s far better to have a more robust solution, like a physical “Network Attached Storage” (NAS) device that contains multiple hard drives. That’s exactly what Netgear has created with its ReadyNAS Duo v2 product. It’s a hard drive enclosure that attaches directly to a home network using a Gigabit wired connection, with space for 2 hard drives. It can be set up in various configurations that emphasise speed or data protection, and it’s been designed with the home user in mind as its software is very slick and easy to use. Setting up the device proved to be a little tricky, though, as the drive we used wasn’t brand-new and had data on it, something that required some legwork to get around. Getting the ReadyNAS to recognise it required that we read the product’s manuals closely and make use of Netgear’s extensive support Website. Only after some trial and error and a strangely convoluted process of resetting the device to its factory defaults and initiating a reinstallation of the ReadyNAS’ operating system, were we good to go. Total beginners may wish to enlist the aid of a technical friend when setting it up for the first time. Once it was up, we used its software to launch the user-friendly browser-based interface. We were asked to create a new administrator account, and to provide an e-mail address where all alerts could be sent. You can only create new network shares using the interface, as it’s not possible to use the NAS as you would any other networked drive by using Windows Explorer and the device’s network address. On the bright side, the interface works well enough. Things you can do with the ReadyNAS Duo v2: create backups that run automatically at the specified time; use the device as your own personal storage “cloud” that’s accessible over the Internet through the use of a downloadable app; set up individual user accounts for family members and restrict what each can do; automatically pull all contents from a USB
hard drive to pre-determined folders and extend the storage capabilities of the ReadyNAS by attaching additional drives using the 2 USB 3.0 ports located on the rear of the device. You can even set it up to stream any videos you might have on it to devices like an Xbox 360 and a PlayStation 3 through its support of the DLNA media-sharing standard. This is in addition to the main use most home users will put it to: storing files that can be shared among all the PCs on the home network. When connected to a Gigabit network, it’s possible to achieve read speeds of around 100MB/s and write speeds of between 30MB/s and 40MB/s, which is easily fast enough for home use. By using 2 drives with the ReadyNAS Duo v2, you create a backup drive for your data, which means that if one of them fails, your data is still safe. It’s a little complex for beginners, but there is a lot of online support available from Netgear, making the learning process a little easier. Netgear’s ReadyNAS Duo v2 is a competent network storage device with plenty of useful features and decent performance that is perfect for a home network that needs centralised storage. NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 2-bay storage • Marvell single-core processor • 256MB DDR3 RAM • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet port • 1 x front-mounted USB 2.0 port • 2 x rear-mounted USB 3.0 ports • X-RAID2 (Proprietary Netgear RAID technology)
• 2 x USB 3.0 ports expand storage possibilities even further • Fast transfer speeds on a Gigabit network • Automated backups, photo sharing, remote control • Excellent online support
• Hard drives not included • Setup can be a bit tricky • Shares can only be added using the Web interface
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Subject to availability, prices and specifications are correct at date of publication and may change without notice. Dell, the Dell logo, Inspiron are trademarks of Dell Inc. Microsoft, Windows, Windows 7 and the Windows 7 logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. Celeron, Celeron Inside, Core Inside, Intel, Intel Logo, Intel Atom, Intel Atom Inside, Intel Core, Intel Inside, Intel Inside Logo, Intel vPro, Itanium, Itanium Inside, Pentium, Pentium Inside, vPro Inside, Xeon, and Xeon Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries. For more information about the Intel processor feature rating, please refer to www.intel.com/go/rating. Dell disclaims proprietary interest in the trademarks or trade names of other entities used to refer to them or their products. Copyright 2009 Dell Inc. All rights reserved. Dell Computers (PTY) Ltd. P.O. Box 71170, Bryanston, 2021, South Africa. E&OE
Solidata X8 LE 120GB SSD NEED TO KNOW • 120GB Solid State Hard Drive (SSD) • Theoretical read/write speeds of 550MB/s and 500MB/s • SATA 3 interface R2 499.95
SSDs are exciting because they’re much faster than regular hard drives. This is because they have no moving parts, and are, instead, made up of a lot of memory chips packed into a hard drive enclosure. A regular hard drive has spinning platters, and an arm that has to be directed to wherever the data is physically located on the drive. This takes time to happen. Regular drives have the advantage of offering more storage for your cash, but they simply can’t keep up with SSDs in everyday performance. When our Solidata review unit arrived at the office, we were very excited to put it through its paces, to see what it could do. Solidata is very quick to point out, in big writing on the X8 LE’s packaging, just how fast it is. Data transfer speed is measured in megabytes per second (MB/s), and when you see drives advertising read 40 | connect | March 2012
and write speeds of upwards of 500MB/s, it’s hard not to be impressed. What we discovered, however, is that these speeds are achieved only under very specific circumstances. So while technically true, we found that doing everyday things like moving files around the drive, or across drives, did not result in transfer speeds of 500MB/s and more. To be clear here, “read” means copying data that’s already on the drive to somewhere else; “write” means copying data to the drive from another location. Read speeds are always faster than write speeds. First, we fired up an application that tests just how fast the drive can read and write data. It can be a tricky thing to establish, but the software is smart – it tests how fast it can read and write data sequentially (as in, blocks of data located in the same immediate area on the drive), it tests random reads and writes from areas all over the drive, using different sizes of data chunks and a variable queue depth. Modern drives support a technology called “Native Command Queuing”, which means several chunks of data can be queued up to be processed at the same time, speeding up overall processing times. The results of this test were interesting. The X8 LE managed a read
Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM 3.5” SATAIII Hard Drive
Seagate’s reliable Barracuda range of hard drives might not be glamourous or particularly fast, but they do store a lot of information. This one works in desktop PCs.
speed of 211MB/s and a write speed of 96MB/s, faster than those of a regular 3.5” 7200RPM SATA-II drive that only achieved 88MB/s and 83MB/s respectively. As the user experience of “hard drive performance” relies more on read speed than write speed, the difference is significant. The real question, though, is how does the drive perform on a day-today basis? We performed a simple test to help determine what the transfer speeds are like when doing something most people will do – copying files across drives. We chose a directory containing 14.8GB of data, and proceeded to copy it to the Solidata drive from a regular 7200RPM SATA-II drive, then from the Solidata back to that drive, then from the Solidata to the Solidata. Our results were interesting: The fastest speed we achieved was 67MB/s, and that was from the Solidata SSD to the Solidata SSD. The copy took 221 seconds. The same data, copied from the SATA-II drive to the same SATA-II drive, took almost 3 times longer, averaging only 22.2MB/s. The speed advantage here is clear – by choosing a Solidata X8 LE SSD, you can expect 2.5 times the performance of a regular drive. Why is this important? Because when using your computer, loading anything – be it a game or an application – is often the slowest part of the experience, and with a faster SSD in your machine, that is no longer the case. You’ll do a lot less waiting – games and applications will load faster, data will copy quicker and if you use an SSD as your primary operating system drive, your PC will even boot up faster. Of course, there’s a catch, and that’s capacity. Choosing a slower hard drive is a much cheaper option: a 1TB 2.5” 7200RPM drive, for example, will cost you around R1 500. That’s 8 times the storage capacity of this Solidata SSD, which will cost you R1 000 more. What the question boils down to, then, is not whether an SSD is faster than a normal hard drive, because it is, but whether or not that speed is worth the price premium you’ll pay and the lack of storage capacity you’ll get for your money.
Our argument here is that yes, the speed bump is worth the cash. Extra storage can always be added on at a later stage, either with the purchase of an additional internal hard drive if you’re using a desktop PC or an external one if you use a notebook. Performance should be everyone’s number-one priority when shopping for computers and an SSD is a good, if expensive, way to get it. This Solidata drive really impressed. It’s fast, small, and does what we had hoped it would – it sped up our test system’s data-processing capabilities significantly. It’s admittedly quite pricey, especially in this economic climate, so it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But for those brave enough to take the plunge, it’s a brilliant addition to any desktop or notebook system. NOTEWORTHY SPECS • Controller: SandForce SF2281 • Size: 2.5” • Interface: SATA-III (6Gbps) • Max Sequential R/W speed: 560/520MBps • Max Random R/W IOPS: 40000/60000 • Capacity: 120GB • Warranty: 2 years • Typical Application: Mini Server, High-End Notebook, Performance Desktop Pros
• No moving parts mean quiet operation • Faster than traditional hard drives • Speeds up data-intensive applications
• Lower capacity than normal hard drives • Quite pricey
Seagate Momentus 500GB 2.5” Hard Drive
Sometimes, extra storage capacity is worth the performance hit. Seagate has an excellent range of notebook hard drives that will get the job done.
Apple MacBook Pro For significantly better performance and improvements in battery life, replace the MacBook Pro’s hard drive with a 120GB SSD and see the difference for yourself.
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Norton 360 v6 AVG Premium Security 2012
The fight against identity theft is kicked up a notch with Premium Security 2012, a security app that does more than just protect – it actively scours the Internet for misuse of your identity.
Norton Internet Security 2012
NIS2K12 is Symantec’s best Norton security suite yet, offering everything you need while not slowing down your system at all.
PURE is Kaspersky’s effort to bring you a home-userfriendly security package that does it all.
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NEED TO KNOW • Protects up to 3 PCs • 2GB of online storage included • Tune-up utility keeps PCs running fast R899.95
When Symantec, the people behind Norton security software, decided to make their consumer products fast, use fewer resources and be incredibly easy to use, they finally hit on a strategy that appealed to average users. That has continued, and even improved over the last few years. Today, we’re finally at the point where installing a Norton-branded security product no longer strikes fear into the hearts of home users. Norton 360 continues this trend, as it installed in just over 2 minutes on our Core i3 notebook with its 4GB of RAM and a regular, non-SSD hard drive. After a 21MB update, we were asked to reboot. After the reboot, a scan was requested before the software considered the system to be “safe”. The scan took about 5 minutes, which wasn’t bad at all, and once it was done, the software was happy. On double-clicking the tray icon, the main screen opens. Four main categories greet you here: PC Security, Identity, Backup and PC Tuneup. When clicked, each one has several further options to choose from, and everything is neatly presented and nicely explained. If you want to delve deeper, it’s possible to browse the program’s settings and tweak things to your own preferences, but it’s also okay to just leave everything as it is; Norton’s default settings provide excellent protection. Norton 360 protects against the same threats Norton Internet Security does, so viruses, malware, spam, URL hijacking, etc. won’t bother you. Norton’s ever-reliable firewall has been tweaked to offer even more robust protection against hackers and evil Websites that try to install things without your knowledge. Norton Insight is also available to check downloaded files – or any file on your hard drive, for that matter – for a reputation for wrong-doing. It’s a very comprehensive set of protection tools, and it works superbly, without impacting on system performance. That is important – security software must be effective, yet not turn your PC into an electricity-guzzling paperweight. New additions to 360 include 2GB of free online storage for your important files, and a set of tools designed to keep the PC performing.
These are not all that useful, however. 2GB of online storage is barely enough to store anything useful, but, of course, it’s really just there to entice you to sign up for more, at an annual cost ranging from $30 (R234) for 5GB, to $70 (R546) for 50GB. South Africans probably won’t get much use out of it as we struggle with bandwidth issues, and services like these don’t make a lot of sense as a result. The PC performance tools are a good idea, but they are little more than an automatic way to remove temporary Internet files, clear out old registry entries and defragment the hard drive. Still, for a similar amount of cash to what NIS 2012 costs, you can get Norton 360. It protects to the same degree, and has a couple of extra features that some might find useful. You also get licences for up to 3 PCs, at an effective cost of R300 each, which isn’t much at all for such excellent protection. NOTEWORTHY Features • Norton Insight • PC Tuneup • Automated backup facility • 2GB of free online storage • Norton Safe Web Social Media Scanner • Proactive Performance Alerts • Parental controls management • Online recovery and restore • Norton Safe Web • SONAR 3 Behavioural Protection •Free 24/7 support (with registration) Pros
• Does not impact negatively on system performance • Excellent protection, even at default levels • Streamlined and user-friendly interface
• Online storage is not very useful • Tuneup tools don’t do much • Installation can take longer than the 1 minute promised
Apple Magic Mouse
Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch Tablet NEED TO KNOW • Tablet for freehand drawing • Accepts pen and touch input • Recognises handwriting, converts to text R1 299.95 (Selected Stores)
Artists, designers and other creative people rightfully lament the awful lack of control offered by a mouse. Pens are much better when it comes to drawing and adding fine touches to images. Wacom, a company known for its excellent peripherals, has answered some prayers by coming up with a tablet and pen combo that lets artists draw freehand and finetune images. Having just written that intro paragraph using the stylus and the tablet, we’re also going to add “and can be used to input handwritten text into Microsoft Word, which is then converted into the appropriate digital text and added to a document”. It wasn’t an easy process, however. Using only the stylus and tablet, that intro took about 30 minutes of writing, editing, correcting and formatting to get right. What you really want to be doing with it is drawing, because that’s something the Bamboo tablet is fantastic at. We were surprised at just how effective it was at allowing us to unleash our creativity on a blank MS Paint page, even with our right hand resting on the tablet. Because it uses a special stylus to pick up input, the Bamboo tablet is able to ignore all other touches it senses, only responding to the tip of the stylus. That makes resting your hand on the stylus while you sketch not only possible, but an ideal way to use the product. This is once everything is set up, though. Getting to the point where you’re ready to use the tablet is, unfortunately, not as simple. In this day and age, it’s amazing to encounter an install CD that does nothing but connect to the Internet to download the latest version of the product’s software. Not only that, but once this excruciating process was complete, the “updated” software then decided it needed an update too. Once that was done and the tablet’s application suite finally launched, each of the “included” applications wanted to download itself from the Internet! Why all of these couldn’t be included on the install CD, and the updates made optional, is a mystery. Happily, once the aggravation of the install process was over, the tablet worked beautifully. The bundled applications range from a very detailed
tutorial that shows you everything you need to know about the tablet, to games that let you practise with the stylus, to art programs and other neat little additions that will quickly have you working the stylus like it’s an extension of your hand. The tablet itself is a long, flat piece of fairly thick plastic with a clearly demarcated area for stylus-based input. It responds to finger touches as well if the stylus isn’t in close proximity, and could be used as a trackpad in a pinch. It attaches to a PC or Mac using a USB cable, and works with any drawing software. The level of control it offers is superb, and artistic types will easily get their money’s worth out of the Bamboo tablet in the first hour of use. It’s a well-made product that just works and, ignoring the annoying setup process, it’s easily one of the best we’ve seen in a while.
It might not offer as fine control over the mouse cursor as the Bamboo Pen & Touch Tablet does, but Apple’s Magic Mouse has other touchrelated tricks up its sleeve that make it the perfect peripheral for any Mac user’s everyday mousing needs.
NOTEWORTHY Features • 2 sensors for pen and multi-touch input • Support of multi-touch gestures to scroll, zoom, rotate and more • Pressure-sensitive pen tip and eraser for natural feel • Battery-free and ergonomic pen with 2 buttons • Improved resolution for high accuracy • Paper-like tablet surface with 16:10 aspect ratio • Reversible tablet design for left- or right-handed use • 4 customisable ExpressKeys for quick function access • Attached pen holder for convenient storage • Easy USB connection • Interactive tutorial to make the most of Bamboo
• Enables freehand drawing and handwriting recognition on a PC or Mac • Excellent and detailed tutorial • Works extremely well once set up
• Setup process is rather aggravating • Handwriting recognition only available in limited languages • Writing by hand in MS Word is a convoluted process
Apple iMac 27” Designers need as much room to be brilliant as possible, and one of the best ways to give them that is with Apple’s excellent 27” iMac. Another is to get them a Bamboo Pen & Touch Tablet.
Adobe PhotoShop CS5 Touching up images or creating them from scratch professionally requires a superb image-editing suite. PhotoShop is the best of these available today.
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Slim “Ultrabooks” is this year’s thinnest big buzzword! To help you get a handle on what’s available right now, we have a small selection of the thinnest portable machines from Lenovo, Acer and Asus – with more to come, as we’ll explain.
By Christo van Gemert
Intel established the Ultrabook standard in the wake of Apple’s huge success with the Macbook Air. The chipmaker wanted more laptop manufacturers to focus on developing super-slim, ultra-compact notebooks that would offer all the performance of a larger machine, with the small footprint brought about by netbooks. In the last 12 months, we’ve seen a few arrivals, with the most notable Macbook Air contender being the Samsung Series 9. HP, Dell, Acer and Asus all have Ultrabook plans, but adoption of the new platform is proving difficult in some cases. Intel is strict about what qualifies as an Ultrabook, with factors such as weight, thickness, and competitive pricing all playing a role. Our roundup features 3 current machines, but we’re also throwing in some information about upcoming models, along with a full explanation of the Ultrabook standard, and where Apple’s Air fits into the picture. The coming year is going to see most laptops go on a diet, and this is just the start of the revolution.
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Acer Aspire S3 Design
If you’re looking for something stylish and sleek, the Aspire S3 is not it. Yes, there’s the brushed aluminium lid, which hides a chiclet keyboard and trackpad, but that’s about it. The rest of the machine is made of plastic (the sturdy kind, fortunately), and the metallic grey finish is a bit bland. There’s an audio port along the left edge, an SD card reader on the right side, while the USB, HDMI and power connectors are all on the rear edge. Performance
While Ultrabooks aren’t aimed at the high-performance computing set (so not for those people who need to control satellites or edit video all day long), they’re still supposed to be able to handle everyday tasks, and then some. This is, after all, Intel’s baby – and Intel has a lot of experience when it comes to making speedy processors. The dual-core Core i5 chip in the S3 performs well, but being paired to a “regular” hard drive is what kills it. Traditional hard drives have spinning platters and are nowhere near as fast as an SSD drive, which consists just of microchips. And microchips are the lightspeed spaceships of the storage world, while platter drives are scooters. The 320GB hard drive in the S3 hamstrings its performance greatly, as you’re always left waiting for things to load. There is a 20GB SSD in the machine, which Windows loads from, and that does mean certain things are speedier than expected. Still, it’s no dedicated SSD, as the real-world performance shows. Graphics are powered by the processor’s onboard Intel HD3000 graphics. You’ll get by 46 | connect | March 2012
playing older games, but newer ones won’t really blow your socks off. But HD video plays perfectly. Battery life clocked in at about 4h10m – not amazing, when compared to the others here that can get up to 5 hours on a charge. Usability
The S3 is a comfortable machine to use. The ports along the back are a change from what we’re seeing on other machines, all of which have their ports along the edges. The chiclet keyboard is great to type on, with our only problem being the tiny arrow keys. The trackpad is average – something bigger, with a glass surface, would be much nicer. R9 999 Pros
• Good value • Dolby Home Theatre sound • Comfortable keyboard
• Slow hard drive • Average battery life
Asus Zenbook UX21 Design
Asus knows what it’s all about: packaging and appearance. Like Apple, Asus has taken the “sell a pretty product” approach with the Zenbook – and it works. Spun metal surfaces are used throughout the machine, and there’s not a single bit of plastic in the chassis. Even the compact charger has hints of Apple design, and the packaging for the Zenbook includes a sleeve in which to carry the machine. It looks and feels good, and that’s pretty important when it comes to presenting a quality product. Performance
Despite being the only 11” machine we could get for this roundup, the Zenbook blew away its peers on 2 fronts: graphics and transfer speed. Even though it has the same Intel Core i5 processor used by the Acer Aspire S3, it performed better in the graphics benchmarks. In fact, this diminutive little machine even outperformed the Core i7 chip in the Lenovo U300s, and we can only put it down to proper optimisation of the platform. The 128GB SSD in this might seem limiting to some people, but the truth is that you rarely need to carry more than 80GB of data with you all the time. It’s an easy sacrifice to make when you look at the numbers, too. The SSD in this machine transferred data at up to 450MB/s, while the Lenovo (also with an SSD) only managed 150MB/s. Battery life on the Zenbook is only 4h30m, but that’s great going for an 11” machine. If you’re frugal and set everything to powersaving mode, it’s possible to squeeze out another 40 minutes or so.
Perhaps the only limiting factor here is that this is an 11” machine, and some people might want something with a larger display. It has the same resolution as the 13” models, which, in turn, have the same resolution as most 15” regular laptops, so the physical size (rather than virtual desktop space) is the concern here. Usability
Annoyingly, the Zenbook’s default power settings mean it won’t power up when you open the lid; it requires the power button to be pushed. The silky-smooth trackpad feels great under your fingers, but is annoyingly sensitive in Windows, even after fine-tuning. The keyboard remains remarkably usable, for an 11” machine, but it is also blighted by tiny arrow keys, and similarly small function keys. R11 999 Pros
• Fantastic design • Includes VGA and Ethernet adapters in box • Excellent performance
• Slightly cramped keyboard • Trackpad sensitivity
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Lenovo U300s Design
Lenovo’s design choice on the U300s is strange: where almost every other Ultrabook, and the Macbook Air, features a tapering design, this has a regular “block” design”. It’s not thick, heavy or bulky, though. And the smooth metal surfaces give it a far more stately appeal than the glitz and glamour of the brushed aluminium crowd. Side by side, the Lenovo definitely stands out as the most handsome machine in this lineup.
Like every machine on test here, the U300s also lacks a backlit keyboard, but it does have the honour of being the only machine with a lovely glass trackpad. Windows doesn’t quite play nicely with the multitouch sensitivity, so you’re still best off using only a single finger to point and click. The keyboard on the Lenovo is the best we’ve used. Keys are well-spaced and perfectly sized. A special mention goes out to the function (F1 – F12) keys along the top, which are programmed to control volume and brightness by default, rather than requiring the Fn key to be held in.
With a Core i7 processor under the hood, this has the most promise. In most tasks, it’s slightly faster than the wickedly quick Asus, but loses out slightly on the graphics front. Even then, it still has a battery life in excess of 5 hours (on a single charge). Lenovo does quote an “up to 8-hours” figure, but things change when it comes to turning on wireless, browsing the Internet and watching movies. Like all the machines on test here, it has 4GB of RAM, and this is just the right amount. More memory might yield slighly better overall responsiveness, but that comes with a price tag. Disk speeds were slightly disappointing, especially compared to the Asus. The Lenovo uses a different type of SSD, presumably for cost reasons, and it’s a lot slower than the model used in the Asus. Still, at 256GB, it’s twice the capacity, and this may come as a relief to those who have a hard time limiting themselves to the amount of data they store on their machines. 48 | connect | March 2012
R15 999 Pros
• Lots of storage • Elegant design • Fantastic keyboard
• Pricey • Trackpad sensitivity is wonky
While the selection on these pages isn’t complete, it does show where things need improving. Battery life is top priority. PC makers and chip companies are striving to hit the magical 8-hour mark – a full business day on a single charge. While some Ultrabooks claim that number, in actual use, it’s less. These are lightweight machines designed for everyday use in the office, classroom or at home. Ideally there is still a larger desktop PC to do the heavy hitting like video-editing, file-serving, or backups – a home server, in essence. Ultrabooks are fully-featured machines that give you all the speed and power while you’re out and about, with just enough ports to plug in your portable devices, and instant, hassle-free access to your data. This is why SSDs are the next thing on the agenda: a fast hard drive is what makes the Ultrabook experience so special. You’ll never realise you’re on a compact machine with a low-voltage processor. The Asus Zenbook is the most impressive here. At 11”, it is the most compact, and the slightly lower battery life is a worthwhile tradeoff. It has excellent performance, and sits at a price point that makes it competitive with the Macbook Air. The Lenovo is good, but pricey, and the Acer is limited by its slower hard drive, although it does offer good value.
or ’s E dit ice Cho
Acer Aspire S3
Asus Zenbook UX21
• Display 13.3” • Resolution 1 366 x 768 • Processor Intel Core i5 2467M • RAM 4GB • Storage 320GB hard drive + 20GB SSD • Networking 802.11n, Bluetooth • Ports 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI, audio output, SD card reader • Battery life 4h30m with browsing and video • Operating system Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
• Display 11.6” • Resolution 1 366 x 768 • Processor Intel Core i5 2467M • RAM 4GB • Storage 128GB SSD • Networking 802.11n, Bluetooth, USB Ethernet adapter • Ports 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3, Displayport, Mini HDMI, audio output • Battery life 4h30m with browsing and video • Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
• Display 13.3” • Resolution 1 366 x 768 • Processor Intel Core i7 2677M • RAM 4GB • Storage 256GB SSD • Networking 802.11n, Bluetooth • Ports 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, HDMI • Battery life 5h with browsing and video • Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
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Coming attractions The selection of Ultrabooks we have here isn’t complete, by any means. Time constraints, print deadlines and product announcements don’t always play well together, but the ones we’ve tested are currently available. Over the coming months, we’ll see an influx of new machines from a number of manufacturers. The Ultrabook gravy train is charging full steam ahead, and as more manufacturers adopt the technology, users will get the benefit of compact and lightweight machines that don’t sacrifice processing power or battery life. Noticeable by its absence in our roundup is the Samsung Series 9, the first serious threat to the Apple Macbook Air. At the
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time of writing, we were unable to source a current unit because the second generation Series 9 is making its way towards our shores – an April shelf date is expected. The new model will have both 13” and 15” variants – the latter being a first in this segment – and all the newest processing goodness from Intel. Also unavailable, due to supply line delays, are the HP Folio and the Dell XPS 13. Both of these are due to hit local shelves in the coming weeks. The Dell will have a 13” display, 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM and 8 hours of battery life, while the HP Folio shares the same specs, but has an hour more stamina – although this does come with a slight weight penalty. Finally, there’s the successor to one of the models we’ve got on test here, the Acer Aspire S5 (replacing the Acer Aspire S3) – which Acer claims is the thinnest Ultrabook in the world (15mm at its thickest point). It’ll feature instant-on, keeping it ready for action within 1.5s of opening the lid, along with USB 3 ports, a Thunderbolt port, and an even slicker design. It’s slated to arrive around the second quarter of this year.
> Why not the Macbook Air? The most obvious question is: “Why haven’t you featured a Macbook Air in your Ultrabook roundup?” The answer is simple: it’s not an Ultrabook. Apple might have pioneered this form factor with its first Macbook Air (which famously fit inside a manila envelope), but the Ultrabook standard is an Intel trademark, and even though both versions of the Macbook Air meet the requirements and can run Windows, they aren’t Ultrabooks. It’s a simple case of semantics – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider one of the Apple machines if you want something slim and speedy.
> The Ultrabook standard Intel’s guidelines for Ultrabooks call for “reduced size, reduced weight, and extended battery life without compromising performance”. Any Ultrabook will use a low-power Intel processor with integrated graphics, while solid-state drives are encouraged for faster access times. The type of chassis (body) used for an Ultrabook should be able to accommodate a large, integrated battery, for excellent battery life (between 5 and 8 hours). Weight should ideally be under 1.4kg, while thickness should be a maximum of 21mm. These are just the standards for now, and Intel has different phases for Ultrabook development, including shifts to its newer technologies as they become available. As more and more manufacturers offer Ultrabooks, Intel can afford to invest more money in the low-power technologies that power them, and we’ll end up with cheaper Ultrabooks that last even longer on a single charge.
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Battlefield 3 Explosions, gunshots and the roar of aircraft overhead are made even more intense with Hama’s Shikaar gaming headset. Co-ordinate squad tactics with in-game voicechat and show your enemies who’s boss!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 An epic single-player story and insane multiplayer gameplay are the hallmarks of the Call of Duty series, and MW3 brings you plenty of both! Prepare to have your mind blown by Infinity Ward’s latest masterpiece.
Logitech G700 Wireless Gaming Mouse Great games demand great peripherals, and this wireless mouse from Logitech is one of the best. Immediate, lag-free response and comfortable ergonomics make it a musthave for any serious gamer.
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Hama “Shikaar” PC Gaming Headset NEED TO KNOW • Aimed at PC gamers • Detachable microphone • 2.5m cable, 3.5mm jacks, in-line controls R399.95
In an audio world populated by wireless headsets, USB cables and built-in sound cards, Hama’s Shikaar gaming headset is delightfully oldschool. There is no USB connection or tiny sound card built into the in-line controls, there’s just good, old-fashioned quality, a detachable, bendy microphone and a pretty decent listening experience on offer. For just shy of R400, that’s not bad at all. This over-ear headset is exactly what the average PC gamer needs – it’s sturdy, hugs the head quite snugly, and its roomy earcups are covered in a soft, fake-leather material that make them extremely comfortable to wear for hours on end. A padded cushion prevents the headband from pressing against the top of your head, and the extra-long 2.5m cable provides plenty of freedom to move around or position yourself far from the PC you’re listening to. On the looks front, the Shikaar headset does not look like “just another pair of headphones” thanks to some interesting designs on the earcups. It also has a detachable microphone that lets you make use of voice-chat facilities when gaming online with friends, or chatting over Skype, Google Talk or any of the hundreds of other voice chat clients. An in-line control dongle houses a volume wheel and an On/Off switch that mutes and unmutes the microphone. When you’re not taking to friends, the microphone can be detached and stored somewhere safe until you need it next, leaving you free to listen to music, watch movies and play games without it waving about. Plugging it in only requires you to find the green audio-out port and the pink microphone port on your motherboard or sound card; slide the 3.5mm colour-coded jacks in, and you’re good to go. Now, when it comes to sound, this is a pretty good headset. By that we don’t mean amazing, and anyone who even remotely thinks of themselves as a “discerning listener” will probably pick the Shikaar’s sound apart. But for the kind of person they are aimed at, namely gamers, they do an admirable job. Gunshots and explosions sound pleasantly punchy, dialogue is clear and
not completely overpowered by background noise and music of all genres sounds great. We did notice a bit too much emphasis on bass and treble that was a tad too high-pitched at times, though. Mid-range sounds, those that make up the bulk of what you hear when you listen to anything, were nicely balanced, producing a pleasant overall listening experience with only the occasional dip into “could be better” territory. But honestly, we’re just being fussy here – the sound on offer is very good, probably far better than the average gamer even needs. We were a bit concerned about the soft material that covers the earphone cushions – it feels as if it might disintegrate over time and leave its tattered remains on and around your ears (we’ve seen it happen before on other headphones using a similar material). For now, though, it adds comfort to the Shikaar’s already-comfortable earphone cushions, and is a pleasant feature. If we were in the market for an affordable, nice-looking set of headphones, we’d definitely choose this pair. It’s not too expensive, it sounds very good for a gaming headset, and it’s very comfortable. What else is needed, really? NOTEWORTHY FEATURES • Overhead design • Earpieces that completely surround your ears • In-line volume and mute controls • 2.5m cable with 3.5mm audio and microphone jacks • High-quality, removable and flexible microphone • Single-sided cable • Adjustable headband for different head sizes
• Really good sound for the price • Extra-long cable • Good bass reproduction and volume • Very snug fit, comfortable for hours on end
• Soft fake-leather earphone cushion material feels flimsy • High-range sounds are sometimes quite screechy
Integral Universal Memory Card Reader
If you’re using a desktop computer, you’ll need an SD card reader to make full use of the Mobile Ultra card. This one from Integral works over USB.
SanDisk Mobile Ultra 8GB MicroSDHC Card and Adapter NEED TO KNOW • Memory card for cellphones and cameras • Comes with an SD card adapter for easy reading • 8GB of storage capacity R499.95
Samsung Galaxy S II This amazing smartphone has 16GB of internal storage, with the option to use MicroSD cards to expand that even further.
Sony Cybershot DSC-T110 Compact Camera This little beauty captures 16MP images and shoots videos in Full HD, both of which require lots of storage. It accepts SD cards, so this 8GB model and adapter are perfect for it.
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Carrying around a lot of music files on a cellphone is a common practice among tech-savvy consumers, as is ownership of cameras capable of taking extremely high-resolution photos and HD video. Hi-res image and video files can be quite large, and having enough storage space for your needs is therefore rather important. Some devices have built-in storage, while others use memory cards. A combination of built-in and card-based storage works the best, as the amount of data your device can store is only limited by the maximum capacity of the kind of memory card it uses. SanDisk has a wide range of memory cards, available in various capacities. The one we received for review is an 8GB MicroSD card that fits into gadgets like cellphones and cameras. SanDisk claims it is capable of supporting data transfer speeds of up to 30MB/s. Now, 8GB is a good amount of storage, occupying the “price to capacity” sweet spot that offers enough storage for the average consumer while not costing a lot. As a bonus, SanDisk has also included an adapter card, shaped to fit a standard SD card reader that can be used to make transferring data to and from the 8GB card an easy process. The notebook we used to test the card is not a massively powerful machine – it has an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and a spindlebased hard drive that spins at 5 400RPM. We plugged the MicroSD card into the adapter, fitted it into the test machine’s card reader, and copied a 4GB file to it. Before we could do that, we had to format the card to a file system capable of copying a file that large. Interestingly, the card is formatted with an older file system out the box (FAT32), as this is compatible with the widest range of operating systems, even though it is actually quite limited in its capabilities (it cannot store files larger than 2GB, for example). After a quick format
to NTFS, we began the copy. Initial write speeds were impressive at just over 60MB/s, but as time went on, that speed dropped quite a bit. After a minute or so, we achieved 18MB/s, and by the time it finished copying, that had dropped even further to 9MB/s. This isn’t really a big problem, though: 9MB/s as a minimum write speed is easily fast enough for everyday use. It’s also fast enough to save photos to your phone or camera quickly, without needing to wait too long before being able to take another. The real win here, though, is the adapter card that comes with it. Being able to plug the tiny MicroSD card into the adapter and then into an SD card reader slot on a notebook or PC makes getting files onto and off the 8GB card really easy. It beats connecting the phone or camera to your computer using a USB cable and installing software so that it’s recognised. This isn’t a revolutionary product, but it’s certainly fast enough to be useful. The addition of the adapter makes it even more useful, and thus very easy to recommend. NOTEWORTHY SPECS • Record more in Full HD with enabled Class 6 video recording capability • Transfer more files with faster transfer speeds up to 30MB/sec • Easily transfer files to and from your PC with the included SD adapter • Organise and transfer your photos, videos and music with included SanDisk Media Manager software • Also available in 4GB, 16GB, and 32GB capacities Pros
• Fast enough to record HD movie files and hi-res photos • Adapter makes copying data to and from it very simple • Good capacity and price
• SD card reader required to make use of adapter • Does not sustain high-speed data transfers
Samsung recommends Windows® 7.
Introducing the new Samsung Series 9 Notebook. Cast from aviation alloy and powered by a 2nd generation Intel® Core™ i5 Processor, it’s the latest innovation in fast computing performance. At only 16mm, its ultra thin, lightweight streamlined arc design make it more than just a notebook. It’s a true reflection of strength and sophistication. What defines you? TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Intel® Core™ i5 Processor 2537M (1.4GHz, 3MB) • Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium (64bit) Operating System 4GB (DDR3) System Memory • 13.3” SuperBrightPlus© Anti-Reflective HD LED Display • 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD) Up to 7 Hours Battery Life** • Weighs only 1.31kg
www.samsung.com/notebook Copyright© 2011 SAMSUNG Electronics Co, Ltd. Screen images are simulated. Intel, the Intel logo, Intel Core and Core Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. ** Battery life based on Battery Mark test scores that will vary based on configuration. SAM_SERIES9_7374_CT_F
FIND OUT MORE
Typing Instructor Platinum NEED TO KNOW Microsoft Laser Desktop 6000 If you’re going to spend a lot of time typing, it’s best to get a comfortable keyboard that won’t strain your wrists.
Logitech K800 If you fancy your keyboards a bit more high-tech, the K800 has adjustable backlighting, curved keys and a proximity sensor.
Apple Wireless Keyboard Apple’s Mac-specific wireless keyboards are a great upgrade, especially if you’re still stuck using a wired version.
56 | connect | March 2012
• Mac and PC versions • English and Spanish lessons • Beginner to experienced typists R399.95
When it comes to typing, the old saying “practice makes perfect” couldn’t be more true. While you start out with the proven hunt and peck technique, a few weeks of consistent practice will see you teaching yourself proper finger placement – or so you think, because bad habits can emerge, too. Becoming an adept typist is an important part of the computing experience. If you spend a lot of time using Internet forums, social networks, word processors, instant messaging and other text-reliant services, speedy typing skills are a necessity. Typing Instructor Platinum is the kind of software that helps on both fronts. Whether you’re fairly experienced or just starting out, it has the necessary exercises and tests that’ll drill good typing habits into your fingers, while giving you goals to work towards. You can set speed and accuracy goals, and your progress in the minigames is determined by those numbers. Sadly, the interface is a bit of a hodgepodge. The instructions proudly boast about the 3 themes available in the software: time travel, world travel, and photos safari. Each of these is meant to make the software more entertaining, but switching between them makes no differences to the lessons, aside from adding an annoying themed soundtrack. The software also doesn’t run full-screen, and when maximised, it just adds black borders. The typing lessons stick to the “repetition and practice” school of learning. Sentences are random and tell no story, with some throwing in
complex numbers to help practise the use of the number keys. In the first few lessons, there are on-screen cues for which fingers are meant to be placed on which keys, but these animations make no allowance for the fact that you might not have a keyboard laid out as per the on-screen depiction. Added to that, some words are spelled using American English, even though the box says it’s a UK version. Even the formatting of certain things is set in the American way (numbers in the thousands separated using commas, equations with no spaces, etc.). Aside from the formatting, layout, and software interface, this is one of the quickest ways to get your typing skills up to scratch – or just to keep practising and gaining some speed, if you already know what you’re doing. It’ll save a lot of time compared to attending typing lessons or using an instructional book. System Requirements • Processor: Pentium 4 or newer • Operating system: Windows 2000 or newer; Mac OS X 10.4 or newer • Hard drive space: 580MB • Resolution: 800 x 600 or higher • Other: Sound card, mouse, CD/DVD ROM
• Tracks progress • Affordable • Dual versions
• Confusing interface and progression • No keyboard customisation • Some US-English words
Accessorise! Apple’s iPad 2 is amazing on its own, but even better with the right accessories. We take a look at some of the most popular iPad accessories on sale today. Skullcandy TiTan Earbuds Category: Headphones Price: R399.95
Apple Digital AV Adapter (HDMI) Category: Display Adapter Price: R399.95
Would you like to see what is happening on your iPad 2’s screen and share all the cool things it can do on a big-screen TV with a roomful of people? Apple’s Digital AV Adapter allows you to do just that, and all you need to do is plug it in and plug an HDMI cable from your big TV into the other end. The on-screen image corresponds exactly to what’s happening on the iPad 2, with absolutely zero lag. You can even rotate the iPad, and watch the screen change on your TV too! Now you can share videos and presentations and run educational software, simply by connecting your iPad up to a big-screen TV. And that’s it – it’s a completely driver-less, configuration-free solution, and the only actual skill required is the knowledge of how to insert plugs into their corresponding holes.
58 | connect | March 2012
Listening to music and videos stored on an iPad is an essential part of owning one, but it’s not always desirable to use the iPad’s speakers to do that, especially when on a plane or somewhere where you’re surrounded by people who may not appreciate this intrusion into their privacy. Earphones are the solution, and these ones from popular brand Skullcandy are just the ticket. They’re definitely not for fussy listeners, however, as they favour bass and high treble over a balanced audio experience, but that makes them perfect for listening to Hip Hop, dance and R&B music. They also offer excellent isolation and are extremely comfortable, which is what you need for long listening sessions.
XtremeMac InCharge Duo Docking Station Category: Docking Station Price: R599.95
Separate cables for charging iPads, iPhones and iPods can be a bit much to manage, especially when it comes to recharging. Fortunately, XtremeMac has developed a dual docking station that supports multiple Apple devices, including an iPad, which means cable management becomes less of a burden. The InCharge Duo even allows a single cable to go from the docking station to a Mac, for use in syncing docked devices with iTunes. A removable adapter converts the rear dock to one that supports the iPad, so you can happily charge an iPhone and an iPad at the same time while using minimal space on a desk or bedside table. For your convenience, there are 2 LED indicators that show when the devices are fully charged.
Griffin Powerjolt Plus Car Charger for iPad Category: Car Charger Price: R399.95
Capdase Flip Jacket for iPad 2 Category: Protective Cover Price: 599.95
Mobile charging comes in handy when you’re on the road and your gadgets start running out of juice. Griffin’s PowerJolt Plus Car Charger can help, as it lets you charge your iPad or iPhone by plugging into a car’s cigarette lighter. It provides the 10W of charging power needed by an iPad to recharge, and fast recharging for iPods and iPhones. The PowerJolt Plus doesn’t hog the cigarette lighter either – it has its own 12V outlet built into the main plug, making it possible to plug in a second car charger and recharge other devices at the same time.
This soft yet durable protective cover has been designed to fit an iPad 2, without covering any essential bits like the camera, charging port and volume controls. The iPad 2 fits snugly into a rubberised backing, and when the case is opened, it can be set in various configurations to create a tilt that suits whatever activity you have in mind. Choose a steeper angle for watching videos or playing games, or a shallow angle that makes typing more comfortable. The Flip Jacket has a magnetic clasp that keeps it securely closed at all times, and even wakes the iPad when opened and sleeps it when closed.
Adonit Jot Pro Stylus
TrekStore i.Gear agent Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad 2
Category: Stylus Price: R399.95 (Megastores Only)
Adonit’s Jot Pro Stylus is easily one of the best accessories for iPad users who love to sketch and create notes from handwriting on their tablet. It’s a weighty pen-like device that uses a unique nib made up of a tiny ball attached to a rotatable, clear plastic disc. This disc is wide enough for the iPad to recognise as touch input, and the point of the stylus is thin enough that you can see what you’re writing or drawing, just like you can with a pen on a piece of paper. The Jot Pro has a magnet embedded in its body that lets you attach it to the iPad when it’s not in use, an action that puts the iPad to sleep at the same time. Creative people will love the Jot Pro’s heavy feel and the freedom it grants them to create as they wish on their iPads.
XtremeMac Tuffshield Matte Screen Protector for iPad 2 Category: Screen Protector Price: R249.95
Price: R999.95 German accessories company TrekStore has brought out a Bluetooth keyboard that has been designed to work with the iPad 2. It not only pairs wirelessly over Bluetooth, but has an aluminium rim that allows it to clip onto the front of the iPad 2, forming a protective case. A stand can be found at the top of the keyboard that supports the iPad 2 in landscape position, allowing for a netbook-like viewing, typing and interacting experience. Its aluminium build is a little flimsy, and the rim interferes somewhat with hand placement when typing, but this only becomes a problem after extended periods of typing.
Protecting the iPad’s screen is vital to its longevity. So is being able to see the screen clearly in bright light, if you’re the kind of person who uses the iPad outdoors or in very bright rooms. The Tuffshield is Mac accessories company XtremeMac’s answer to both of these problems – it uses static to cling to the iPad 2’s screen, and its matte finish ensures the screen remains visible under bright lighting conditions. It’s made from cutting-edge materials that protect screens from scratches and dust without causing any image distortion, and each one comes with its own microfiber cleaning cloth that can be used both on the iPad’s screen and the Tuffshield film itself. It can attract dust on its own, but cleans very easily.
www.connectmag.co.za | 59
on-the-go gaming //By Tiana cline
VivaVita! Sony’s new PlayStation handheld is finally here – Connect picks the games to play!
layStation Vita (PSV) is Sony’s new handheld entertainment system. Boasting the biggest and best launch title line-up across the history of the PlayStation platforms, PSV not only has the most popular franchises in gaming coming to it, it also has
new, fun titles that take advantage of the portable’s unique way of gaming. With two touchscreens (front and back), an impressive OLED display and dual analogue sticks, whether you buy the Wi-Fi or the 3G version of PSV, you’ll be doing a lot of on-the-go gaming on your own or with friends.
F1 2011 You’ve played Codemasters’ racer on almost every console, and now it’s on PSV. Over and above the normal game options, there’s a challenge mode that’s perfect for on-thego racing. You can also customise your experience: change the race distance, tune your car, pick aids and select tyre, fuel and weather options. Multiplayer modes include an exclusive 2-on-2 co-operative career mode, as well as the ability to race wheel-to-wheel in a 4-player Grand Prix.
For some light-hearted fun on the green, Everybody’s Golf is both sporty and spirited. With quirky characters, costumes and collectible items, on the PSV you’ll find impressive courses and gameplay controls that make clever use of the device’s touchscreens and 6-axis motion sensors. There’s also a new swing system (drive, chip and putt your way to the hole), as well as a shotby-shot or live online multiplayer mode.
Don’t think your favourite footie game has been scaled down because it’s on the PSV! Expect 8 different game modes, touchscreen shooting and passing in HD, over 500 licensed clubs and authentic stadiums from around the world. You can get into the 15-season career mode as a manager or player (make yourself the next soccer star!), or experience what it’s like to be a goalkeeper.
60 | connect | March 2012
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Rayman Origins A port of the beautifully designed PlayStation 3 platformer, Rayman Origins is a 2D side-scrolling game to note. Each of the 60-plus levels is vibrant and filled with hidden paths, collectable lums, relics and secrets. You’ll unlock classic characters (there’s 100 in total, all playable) and be challenged with epic boss fights. Using PSV’s Near feature, you’ll also be able to share your best times and other unlockable gifts online.
Lumines: Electric Symphony The best-selling Japanese puzzler is back with more music, levels and modes. Along with the traditional journey gameplay, there’s the new duel mode – a multiplayer puzzle battle – and specifically designed “beat the clock” stopwatch stages. With stunning HD graphics and backed by big names in the electronic music industry (The Chemical Brothers and Kaskade), this addictive, block-dropping puzzle action game is sure to keep you on your toes. www.connectmag.co.za | 61
Uncharted: Golden Abyss Uncover the dark secret behind the 400-year-old massacre of a Spanish expedition as Nathan Drake follows the murderous trail of an ancient sect. As expected, Uncharted is pure actionadventure gameplay backed by a great storyline, but now you can control the game using the PSV’s exciting interface: touch enemies for melee attacks, move the console around when sniping to find targets, or tilt it to give Drake a bit more stamina in his swing.
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If you’re keen on a high-speed racer for PSV, Ridge Racer from Namco Bandai has it all – upgradeable cars, visually immersive environments and a daring, customised drifting system. Going back to 1993, this classic arcade game has been updated for Vita, with cool multiplayer features like the ability to join the Planetary League and race against other international players in real-time, or by exchanging “ghosts” using the PSV’s Near feature.
Pursued across the galaxy, the Little Deviants are here, and it’s up to you to save them. A pick-up-and-play launch title for the PSV, Little Deviants has 30 unique levels, each of which has its own gameplay mechanics that perfectly show off the different features of Sony’s shiny new handheld. Rolling, squeezing, whacking, singing, bouncing, flying – this is mini-game mayhem like you’ve never seen before. Play solo, or with up to 8 friends in a pass-around party mode.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 If there’s one genre that works well on a mobile console, it’s a button-mashing brawler. Already popular on next-gen consoles, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 gives you on-the-go fighting with a massive 50-character roster, extra PSV touchscreen moves and the beloved Heroes and Heralds mode – it’s really the complete package. Not only can you share DLC with your PS3 in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, you can also use the PSV as a neat touchscreen controller. 62 | connect | March 2012
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THE WORLD IS IN PLAY.
Wherever you are, the world is now your playground. WiFi, 3G, innovative social gaming, 5” OLED touchscreen, and dual analog sticks give you portable gaming like never before.
Only on PlayStation® Vita.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
NEED TO KNOW
• Japanese role-playing game • An open-ended world and time-based combat • Cinematic cutscenes and soundtrack
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
NEED TO KNOW
• Action RPG set in an expansive, living game world • Story by famous fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore • Designed by Ken Ralston, lead designer of Oblivion
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim Arguably the best-ever open-world RPG, Skyrim is absolutely massive in scope, offering many hours of exploring, questing, levelling and loot-collecting.
64 | connect | March 2012
option of determining exactly who you want to be by choosing which skills to improve as you level up. Combat in Reckoning is what you’ll spend most of your time doing, and it’s an amazingly responsive, fluid system that lets you fight however you like, be it with magic, stealth, huge swords or even a combination of the 3. If you like open-world role-playing games, have always thought RPG combat could be much better and you love stylish, beautiful graphics, you should really give Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning a try. R349.95
Consider >> This <<
Get >> This <<
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a sprawling action RPG set in a meticulously-crafted fantasy universe. It plays like the love child of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game and a single-player fantasy fighting game, and it’s amazing. The world is big and colourful, and stuffed with so many quests to do and monsters to fight that it can easily take over 200 hours to see it all. You play as a character who died in a great battle but who was revived by a mysterious artefact called the Well of Souls. An odd side-effect of the revival was that you became “fateless”, which essentially stripped you of all abilities. You now have the
Prepare to die – a lot! Dark Souls is one of the most unforgiving action RPGs ever made, but is also immensely satisfying when you get everything “just right”.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is set several years after Cocoon is saved and Lightning disappears. Enter Noel, the last remaining human from 700 years in the future, who wants to change his fate. After a chance meeting with Lightning, he rescues her sister Serah from monsters, and their quest begins. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a big game – the cutscenes are long and cinematic, the graphics are crisp and the soundtrack is something to note. You’ll find yourself hopping through time using gates, visiting the same location (sometimes in a different universe) and hunting down monsters. The combat is time-based – you’ll control one character and have to wait your turn to line up moves that fill up your action gauge, depending on what your character is capable of. There is also the less tactical, auto-battle option for those who like to button-mash. Side quests, puzzles and complete customisation make this a substantial sequel to FFXIII. Fans will not be disappointed. R599.95
>>Consider this<< The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Link’s latest Wii adventure offers intense sword combat, engaging puzzles and a beautiful, stylised look.
Girls with technology on the brain 24/7
Grand Slam Tennis 2
NEED TO KNOW
The Darkness II
• Play through all 4 Grand Slam tournaments and Wimbledon • More than 20 of the greatest tennis stars • PlayStation Move support
NEED TO KNOW
• Mature first-person shooter • 4-player coop and side missions • Brutal combat, colourful environments experience points for creative kills. Are you brave enough to embrace the Darkness? R599.95
Never mind the battle for good – Jackie Estacado is a protagonist you do not want to mess with. He has an evil force inside of him – the Darkness of the title – that reanimates when his mob empire is attacked. The Darkness II is an impressive, story-driven, first-person shooter that’s as bloody and dark as it gets, only slightly softened by the comic-book art style. In the first game, Jackie was figuring out his power, but now, he is an unstoppable force of destruction. Be warned, the over-the-top combat is brutal – you’ll even get more
Max Payne 3 From a vengeful, leather jacket-wearing detective roaming the alleys of New York, to a broken, shaven-headed man out for justice, this is Max Payne 3.
Impressive combat animation, detailed character design and ever-changing battle arenas – Soul Calibur V has everything a gamer would want from the fighting genre; there’s even a (short) story mode. Looking at the gameplay, the combat is a weaponbased 3D fighting system with complex combos. (And yes, Ezio from Assassin’s Creed is a playable character in the game!) With a few single-player modes and some unique character customisation options, it’s the multiplayer gameplay that will keep you coming back for more. Soul Calibur V may not be the most innovative fighting game out there, but it’s fun to play with friends. R599.95
Djokovic versus Murray, Williams versus Williams – have you ever wanted to change the outcome of the French or US Open? Now you can relive those memorable Grand Slam moments or battle it out online. EA certainly knows how to do sport games, with Grand Slam Tennis 2 offering the thrill of Wimbledon (exclusive to the game) and a 10-year career mode. Tennis’ greatest stars have been captured right down to their signature swings and emotional reactions. While both platforms will get to experience the most realistic racquet control yet – think precise forehands, backhands and volleys – there’s added Move support for PlayStation gamers. Ace! R599.95
>>Coming soon<< Tiger Woods 13 Now you can relive Tiger Woods’ most memorable golf accomplishments as he rises from child prodigy to golfing legend.
>>Get this<< >>Consider this<<
Soul Calibur V
NEED TO KNOW
• Over 28 characters • 8 game modes • Design your own fighter 66 | connect | March 2012
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom With 48 characters, a refined combat system and new modes, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 continues the fighting game legacy.
Kinect Sports Season 2 Try out 6 new sports – golf, darts, baseball, skiing, American football and tennis – all using Microsoft’s revolutionary Kinect controller.
She beats the bugs with a coded stick and attacks THE KEYBOARD like it’s made for smashing. Yeah, Tech Tannie gets your problems sorted…
issue of the month: Q:
I recently hurt my hand in an accident and I can’t type fast. It’s practically killing me to inch so slowly through my documents. Is there any technology that can help me at all? Painful in PE
If you have questions, gripes or just seek some solace, e-mail Tamsin, our friendly tech tannie at firstname.lastname@example.org 68 | connect | MARCH 2012
Oh yes, yes, yes! There is a solution and it’s one I used myself just last year when I had an argument with some stairs (and lost). Easier to use than a lollipop, the Windows Voice Recognition system built into Windows 7 and Windows Vista is your saviour. It’s one piece of Microsoft kit that gets my hearty thumbs-up. It isn’t perfect, but comes pretty close and is really easy to use. You can use voice commands to dictate notes, control the Internet, flip through pages and programs, manage your desktop, and much more. This control isn’t instantaneous, and you have to train the computer to recognise your voice and its particular inflections. Once that’s done, it will soon be almost perfect. While you’re working with the voice-recognition tools, be sure to position the microphone at least 3cm away from your mouth, especially if you are using a headset, and to speak slowly and clearly. You will need a microphone (obviously) and your PC and the Windows OS. Go to Start>>Control Panel>> All Control Panel Items>>Ease of Access Center>>Use the computer without a mouse or keyboard. Then go to ‘Avoid using the mouse and keyboard’ and click on Speech Recognition. Now you need only follow the steps outlined by the clever software, and exercise some patience in training up the PC to recognise your voice. Soon, you’ll be able to dictate documents and read pages and all sorts of things with just your voice. And you’ll give your poor wrist a break.
What are your two favourite free programs? Curious in Cape Town
Oooh, hemel, my very own stalker. I was SO excited to get this e-mail, let me tell you. Not only can I gush about my new favourites this year, but I can gloat over my rising fame (not!). My 2 absolute MUST-own pieces of software this year have to be Evernote and Dropbox. Evernote is this seriously easy free software that syncs up with every single device you own. It’s genius. You can enter a Web snippet (yes, it grabs Web pages with one click) and view it on your Android or iOS device, PC, laptop, etc. It’s great for sharing shopping lists with husbands and keeping track of appointments. Next up is the very well-known Dropbox. This has never slipped off my radar and I’m thrilled to see that it seems to be making a comeback. It offers lots of space, and is brilliant for people who have to commute or work from home. Both these apps have all the right features – for free.
I’d like to buy a new keyboard because mine is really dirty. Can you recommend any? Keyboard in Krugersdorp
So wait, let me get this straight. Instead of cleaning your keyboard so you can keep on using it, you are going to add to the trash smothering our planet by throwing a perfectly serviceable piece of kit away? No. Uh, uh. Not on my watch. Instead of advising you on the ins and outs of keyboard purchasing, I am going to tell you how to clean the one you have. Get yourself some compressed air, a newspaper, cotton buds, a soft cloth, dishwashing liquid or antibacterial cleaning liquid, a screwdriver and a digital camera. If you have an oldfashioned mechanical keyboard, go and buy a new one as cleaning that is almost as insane as dancing on a piece of string on the N1 in rush hour. Now, unplug your keyboard, hold it over the newspaper and shake all the loose debris out. Use the compressed air between the keys and then shake it again. Use the brush accessory on your vacuum cleaner to suck up extra dirt and really get stuff out of there. Make a diluted solution of your antibacterial liquid (I use 5 parts water to 1 part liquid), dip your cloth in, wring it out until it’s damp and wipe the keys thoroughly. Don’t get water
between the keys and don’t use ANY chemical cleaning products. Once your keys are clean, dry them with a soft cloth. If you still feel grossed out by your keyboard, you can go for a moerse deep clean. To do this, take a photograph of the keyboard (this will be your assembly guide later) and then use a screwdriver to gently lift up each key. Don’t twang, jerk or jam the screwdriver; just softly ping each key off. I would recommend avoiding the larger keys, like the spacebar, as they are a nagmerrie to reinsert. Now spray the compressed air to loosen ingrained dirt but aim it away from the larger keys that are still in place. Dip cotton swabs into the solution and carefully clean around the edges and corners of the board and keys. Use isopropyl alcohol VERY sparingly to clean difficult stains in difficult areas using the cotton swabs. Then, using the digital photo you took earlier, snap each key back into position and make sure it moves easily. Reattach the keyboard to your PC and test the keys. Remember, this is only a guide and I won’t be held responsible for any damage [insert lawyer speak here]. Now go and clean your keyboard and become one with your inner geek.
www.connectmag.co.za | 69
Subscribe now and you could win Solidata X8 LE 120GB SSD worth R2 500.00! Why would you choose SSD when getting more memory for your PC? “SSDs are exciting because they’re much faster than regular hard drives. This is because they have no moving parts, and are, instead, made up of a lot of memory chips packed into a hard drive enclosure. A regular hard drive has spinning platters, and an arm that has to be directed to wherever the data is physically located on the drive. Regular drives have the advantage of offering more storage for your cash, but they simply can’t keep up with SSDs in everyday performance.” Deon Du Plessis, Connect Reviews Editor
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disconnect //By adam oxford
Hand gestures Not waving, but controlling...
ill we still be using a keyboard and mouse in 2013? Probably. But what about in 2014 or beyond? As computers continue to morph away from being primarily desktop devices used to type stuff on, the traditional methods of controlling them are also changing. More slowly, perhaps, but with the launch of Microsoft’s motion-sensitive Kinect for Windows this month and the even more futuristic voice recognition of Apple’s Siri, it’s looking that time may finally be drawing to a close for the keyboard. Ever stopped to look at your keyboard and wondered how it ended up like that? The classic QWERTY layout for typists has been surprisingly robust, considering its complete irrelevance to today’s world. Originally designed in 1874 as a way of separating the most used keys on a mechanical typewriter so the levers wouldn’t jam. There have, of course, been many attempts to improve on QWERTY. The most famous, perhaps, is the Dvorak layout, which is physically identical to a standard keyboard but rearranges the letters into a pattern that the creator – Dr August Dvorak – claimed was quicker to type on. Ergonomically-shaped keyboards remain niche, too, as do all manner of other bizarre controllers that have appeared over the years. That’s why I argue that the biggest contribution Apple’s iPhone had on computing wasn’t the App Store or the chunky bigscreen design. Contrary to popular belief, there were plenty of smartphones that had higher-resolution screens, better processors and access to more programs before the iPhone came along. What the iPhone – and later the iPad – did do, however, was introduce multi-touch technology. Suddenly, stabbing away with one finger or calling up a virtual keyboard wasn’t the most convenient way to get stuff done on your phone. Two-fingered gestures of the polite kind were king, and the habit of generations was finally broken. It took nearly 150 years to wean us off buttons. In the space of just 5 more, we’re presented with an almost overwhelming number of options for future programs. Apple’s Siri is a virtual assistant, which means you no longer need to click on a calendar, but merely need to ask the phone to make an appointment for you. And it can do much more besides. It’s an open secret that Google is working to adapt its Voice Search technology, which arguably has better voice recognition than Siri, into something similar. The next big thing, though, is to take those gestures you’re
72 | connect | March 2012
already familiar with from the world of tablets and phones and turn them into generic controls for all manner of computers. Microsoft’s Kinect has proved itself uncannily reliable when it comes to tracking the movement of hands, fingers, faces and toes across the living room. The new version of the sensor is designed to sit by your PC monitor, and opens up the possibility that it might be easier to control Windows 8 by waving your hand in front of your face than reaching for the mouse. We live in exciting times, no doubt. The idea of walking into an open plan office and seeing everyone wildly gesticulating to their computer screens, rather than quietly manipulating a cursor with a mouse, is vaguely terrifying, though – not to mention distracting if there’s someone sitting opposite you. The real battleground, however, isn’t for the PC; it’s for your TV. Through Xbox 360, Google TV and the rumoured Apple iTV, it’s looking like all 3 of the major players in computing will have products available that will offer voice and gesture control of your entire home entertainment set-up from the comfort of your couch – making the lost remote down the back of the settee a thing of the past. That’s worth putting your hands up in the air for, isn’t it?
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