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FEATURES 10 Life in the Fast Lane How to choose a broadband Internet connection
14 Connecting your Xbox 360 to the Net We take your game online
16 3-Step Photo Management Get your images primed and ready for print
18 Get Better Search Results Ever wondered how Google works? Top tips for effective searching
20 Buying the Right Printer Ink? Paper? Pixel? We make it simple
22 Changing a printer cartridge Get your inkjet up and running
24 Become an E-mail Genius 10 tips for more effective communication
2 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
REGULARS 04 06 08 68 70 72
Editorâ€™s Letter Technology Preview Trouble-free Technobabble Tamsin the Tech Tannie Subscribe and Win Disconnect
REVIEWS Top 5 PCs, Laptops, Notebooks GPS Printers Routers Monitors Home media Cameras Cell phones Software
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PUBLISHER Brett Haggard PU firstname.lastname@example.org (011) 783-7886 EDITOR Tiana Alswang email@example.com CONTRIBUTING CONT Johann Barnard EDITOR firstname.lastname@example.org
TECHNOLOGY Deon du Plessis EDITOR email@example.com
ART DIRECTION Infiltrate Media www.infiltratemedia.co.za
CONTRIBUTORS Edward-John Bottomley Peter Dawoud Tamsin Mackay Shereen Suckerman Adam Oxford Craig Ritchie
SUBSCRIPTIONS firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING Dorothy Haggard email@example.com CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect is a joint venture between Hypertext Media Communications and Incredible Connection
GETTING CONNECTED, STAYING CONNECTED
FREE MOBILE GAMES! Electronic Arts is giving all Connect readers a chance to game on the go. Try out EA’s best cellphone games, all you need to do is SMS Demo to 388EA. GAME DEMOS INCLUDE: • • • • • • • • • •
EURO 2008 FIFA09 Puzzle Bobble Trivial Pursuit Boom Blox Monopoly H&N World Edition Need for Speed Undercover SimCity Metropolis Spore Tetris
elcome to the first issue of Connect, the IT monthly technology magazine that speaks your language. What do we mean by that? Well, instead of overloading you with techno-babble and overcomplicated acronym-heavy computer jargon, we’re going to make it simple. After all, not all of us are technically proficient and even if you are, there’s a good chance that knowhow doesn’t cover every facet of living a digital life. From laptops to printing, image management to home entertainment, Connect covers every domain, every month, to enhance your tech savvy in simple steps with helpful workshops. In this issue, for example, we’re talking about the Internet. Being connected is great, but which option do you pick in the plethora of broadband abundance out there? 3G? iBurst? Neotel? It didn’t seem that easy – until we explained it for you. Back to the net, Google and searching for the information you need couldn’t be less complicated as we take you, step-by-step, through the search process and what you should be typing into the search box to achieve the results you need. When picking a printer for the home or office, there really are many specifications to keep in mind and once you’ve made your selection, we’ll help you maintain
4 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
your printer by teaching you to replace the printer cartridge. Video games are no longer an activity for couch potatoes – in fact, they’ve moved far beyond video! Anyone who owns a Nintendo Wii will know about exhausting sessions of virtual tennis, baseball or boxing. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console can easily be turned into a home media centre but it can also connect to the Internet – this is something which will only enhance your gaming experience and in this issue, we take you through the four simple steps to do it. Connect is all about choosing the right product for your needs and abilities, be it a laptop, printer, music player or software package. Game and game-related accessories are also reviewed in their own section so you’ll be able to find the perfect title to play, no matter which platform you own - PC, console or handheld. Our resident tech tannie, Tamsin, will also be able to assist on any IT-related queries, those niggling nuances you’ve always wanted to know. And for those wishing to quickly beef up on their jargon, we’ll bust a few beauties every month. To borrow a quote from American entrepreneur Linda Chandler, “learn fast, fail fast, correct fast and connect fast!” It’s time to get connected. Enjoy the issue, Tiana
TAMSIN MACKAY Tamsin Mackay finds all forms of technology extremely fascinating. She brings an eclectic mix of humour, madness and IT expertise to the Connect team, along with restraints and a personalised straight jacket. She has a rather nice portfolio of publications behind her including; PC Format, PC Gamer, Windows Vista Magazine and SFX magazine. She welcomes your technology questions with open arms and only asks that you be as specific as possible so she can help you.
JOHANN BARNARD Johann Barnard brings a mix of editorial and photographic skills to the Connect team and has scattered his handiwork in a seen and unseen manner throughout the publication. His 20-year career in journalism has followed the same below-the-radar trend, although the Internet, groupies and various intelligence agencies are doing their utmost to change this.
Special Preview// ACER ASPIRE TIMLINE SERIES
DREAM MACHINE Acer’s new range of notebooks look great, give enough battery life for a full workday and don’t compromise on performance or features. Brett Haggard went to New York for the launch…
t a lavish launch event held in New York last month, Acer lifted the wraps on a new range of notebooks that are less than 2.5cm thick, weigh between 1.6kg and 2.4kg and have an astounding 8 to
10 hour battery-life. The most remarkable thing about the aptly named Aspire Timeline range is that Acer hasn’t had to compromise on functionality or usability – all of the additional battery life offered by the new notebook range stems from superior power management technologies and more efficient cooling. And those enhancements are implemented uniformly across the range’s three form factors, namely 13.3-inch, 14-inch and 15.6-inch models. In many ways, it’s almost too good to be true. Power to the people Because Acer chose to improve power management on its new notebook range instead of opting for less powerful components, it has managed to maintain the performance level more demanding users expect from their mobile computers. The new units have sufficient number-crunching capability to handle a full range of modern computing 6 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
tasks and make use of Intel’s newest notebook processor range, namely Centrino 2, in either an ultra low-voltage two-core or ultra low-voltage single core configuration. The inclusion of Intel’s GS45 graphics chipset furthermore means that although the new ‘Timeline’ series won’t be the best gaming machine, it’s more than capable of handling anything an office productivity suite, multimedia application and web browser can throw at it. With the ability to accommodate up to 8GB of DDR3 memory – the fastest commercially available memory standard in existence today – the Timeline range has plenty of headroom for upgrading performance.
NETBOOK SCREEN SIZE DOES MATTER Follow the success it achieved with its original AspireOne netbook up with something new, Acer has announced the imminent arrival of an 11.6inch version of the popular mobile mini-computer, giving just over an inch and a half of extra screen real estate to those that need ultra-portability. While the 1.6-inch upgrade in screen size might sound miniscule, by increasing the form factor only slightly, the new machine is able to access a higher screen resolution, something that users of the original AspireOne range have been crying out for. The new netbook also adds shrinking girth to the mix, sporting a thickness of only 2.5cm. It also gains a larger hard disk (160GB) and maintains all of the wireless LAN, Bluetooth and integrated 3G goodness the predecessor to this range saw towards the end of last year. Like the Timeline, Acer’s new flagship notebook, the new AspireOne will include support for trackpad gestures, making system navigation easier and more intuitive, as well as the ability to operate without wallpower for up to 8 hours.
NETBOOK MEETS DESKTOP AND GAMING CONSOLE Other standard refinements include up to 320GB of conventional hard disk storage or for buyers looking to conserve as much power as possible while gleaning extra performance, an 80GB solid-state disk (SSD) option. Since SSDs use a similar technology to the USB thumb-drives that have become so prolific of late, they’re capable of speeds eight times that of conventional hard disks and consume a fraction of the power. Looks good More than a set of great performers, the notebooks in the Timeline range draw on the design prowess of renowned motorcar designers Pininfarina. And the results are clearly visible – besides adding a beautiful, stylish look to the range, the brushedaluminium shell the machines are encased in is both one of the most durable and one of the most lightweight options available to manufacturers today. While the looks speak for themselves, on the weight front however the 13.3-inch model comes in at a meager 1.6kg, while the largest form factor unit in the range, namely the 15.6-inch tips the scales at a miniscule 2.4kg. Feels good The superior design ethic flows through to how the devices feel in hand too. Using a new technique borrowed from the jetengine industry, the Timeline design team has managed to make the top and bottom surfaces of the notebooks sport a temperature that’s five degrees Celsius lower than a human hand even whilst in operation. ‘Laminar Wall Jet’ technology passes a cool air pocket along the insides of the top and bottom surfaces of the notebook chassis – it’s both an extremely effective and power-conscious cooling mechanism. The results are nothing short of astounding.
Another major design change on the Timeline series brings it in-line with the one company that’s considered a leader in computer aesthetics, namely Apple. Like Apple’s revolutionary multi-touch technology, the touch pad on the Timeline series now features gestures – aptly called ‘multi-gesture’ functionality. A simple circular finger-swirl motion lets the user scroll up or down web pages, documents or playlists, while pinching lets them zoom in and out of the applications they use the most. Additionally, swiping two fingers horizontally lets users flick through photos, web pages, documents or media albums. Fully featured, at the right price While the package looks pretty attractive thus far, Acer has also included a ton of ‘out of the ordinary’ features that add those final must-have touches. The Timeline range inherits the high-definition CineCrystal LED backlit display introduced with its Aspire Gemstone Blue notebooks this time last year. Two other features it gains from Acer’s previous generation flagship include an HDMI-out port, making it possible for users to play high-definition media on a high-definition television and the Crystal Eye webcam, which delivers awesome results. The visual features are also strongly complemented by Dolby Sound Room audio, which simulates 5.1channel surround sound from the unit’s integrated stereo speakers. This effect even extends to headphones plugged into the unit’s audio-out port, kicking the experience of viewing movies, music and games on the road up a level. Rounding the Timeline’s features out nicely, the entire range supports all of the current wireless LAN standards, including the Draft-N standard that extends range and performance to a new level, not to mention an integrated 3G module that together with an 8-hour battery life transforms these notebooks into the ultimate on-the-road companions.
In the roughly 18 months netbooks – those super-thin, light and miniscule mobile computers – have been available, they’ve taken the world by storm. So to cater for users that require a little extra performance but aren’t necessarily predisposed to being mobile, Acer has released a product it calls the AspireRevo – a desktop version of its AspireOne range of netbooks that’s been seriously beefed up on the graphics front. The new desktop version of the Netbook platform has been aptly named a Nettop. The improvement in graphics performance stems from the inclusion of NVidia’s ION graphics processor in the AspireRevo’s component mix. Acer claims the little Nettop is ten times more powerful than any other small form factor PC on the graphics front. The extra horsepower, Acer says is sufficient for the Revo to be used as a media-centre computer with support for high-definition video playback (in a 1080p resolution) or a gaming PC that’s quite capable of playing DirectX10 games. Other refinements will include a good size hard disk or solid-state drive (for extra performance) and up to 4GB of DDR2 memory.
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techno jargon// BY DEON DU PLESSIS
3G 3G is the name for the Third Generation cellular networking technology that is responsible for high speed data access via cellular networks. HSDPA High Speed Downlink Packet Access is what it stands for. It is an evolution of 3G technology, offering higher network access speeds of up to 14mbps, hence the extra half-a-G. ADSL Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line is what it stands for. What it actually is, is the technology behind an internet service provider’s ability to deliver high-speed data over your copper telephone line. Broadband This is the broad term for a high-speed connection to the Internet. It refers to a wide band signal that carries information and the greater the width of the band (“bandwidth”), the greater the amount of information that can be carried.
TROUBLE-FREE TECHNOBABBLE A jargon-busting glossary to understand IT speak
8 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
MBPS In networking terms, this always refers to megabits (mb) per second and not megabytes (MB) per second. One byte equals eight bits and one megabit is therefore only 125 000 bytes. If you have a 4 megabit connection to the Internet, for example, you will have a maximum theoretical download speed of only 500 000 bytes per second. Since 1 000 bytes is a kilobyte (KB), this explains why you download at 500KB/s on a 4 megabit line.
KBPS This means kilobytes per second, and refers to the speed at which data can be downloaded (the “data rate”). The abbreviation of kilobytes is always expressed as “KB”. Kilobits per second, like the rating of a dial-up modem, are written as “kbps”. Ethernet This is the name of the most widely installed local area networking (LAN) technology on the planet. Named after the concept of the “ether”, it consists of standards and technologies that allow for the networking of data. LAN The acronym stands for “local area network”. As the name suggests, a LAN is a network that is local to a room or a building. WAN A WAN is a wide area network, which can encompass many smaller LANs that are spread out over a large geographic area. VOIP Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) means voice data that comes in via the same delivery mechanism as your Internet data; an example of a VOIP program is Skype, which allows users to talk to one another using microphones and web cameras. Primary benefits of VOIP solutions are cost reductions for businesses as no separate phone systems are necessary, and call costs are largely reduced.
WI-FI This slang-sounding term is the universally adopted name for short-range wireless network access. It’s a portmanteau of “wireless” and the popular term Hi-Fi that has been used to indicate “high fidelity” sound equipment. The implication here is “high fidelity wireless”, which sounds rather cool as well as denoting reliability and performance. Router Routers route data packets from their points of origin to their destinations. They are an essential part of any network; they essentially direct traffic so that data doesn’t bottleneck anywhere and slow the overall speed of the network down. Modem A modem receives an audio tone (an analogue signal) that it then decodes (demodulates) in order to receive the digital information that has been encoded into the signal. It then encodes its own digital information into the analogue signal (modulates) in order to send data on. The word “modem” is just a combination of “modulate” and “demodulate”. Coverage area This is the area that is covered by a wireless signal. For most South Africans this applies to the areas of the country that are covered by cellular signal and the radio MFP Multi-Function Printer. This is a printer that has printing, copying, scanning and faxing capabilities built-in. These are generally good for office prints and copies, but dedicated inkjet or laser printers are always a better bet when it comes to making your documents look their best.
Cost per page the amount of money that each printed page will cost you in the long-term. It takes into account cartridge yield and paper cost. USB Universal Serial Bus The most common method for attaching devices to your computer. It uses “Plug and Play” technology to allow for easy installations, and is extremely easy, very fast and as universal as its name suggests, having been a standard feature on PCs and notebooks since the late nineties. Laser Printing The art of fusing a powdery substance called “toner” to paper to form text and images. Media Extender A device that extends the media capabilities of your PC. Your Xbox 360 gaming console qualifies as one, as it can stream music and movies from your Media Player-equipped PC. Any device that can play movies and music over a network, either by outputting it directly or by using your home entertainment equipment qualifies. HDMI High Definition Multimedia Interface. This is the standard for high definition media connections and comes standard on all modern multimedia equipment. Its primary advantage is that it can carry both the audio and video signal from your HD sources to HDTVs and sufficiently advanced amplifiers using just one cable.
If you are one of the thousands of people taking notes in meetings, at school, in the boardroom and you’re faced with the arduous task of typing those notes up afterwards, rest easy for help is at hand. The IntelliPen is a highly accurate note transcription device that clips to the top of your page and tracks the movements of the included pen. The end result is a virtual note stored on the unit’s flash memory, which can then be easily downloaded to your computer using the included software. Not only will you have a virtual copy of your physical notes in your own handwriting, but you can also convert them into computer text, which can then be imported into your favourite word processing program and saved as a regular document. The accuracy of the IntelliPen is remarkable. Neat handwriting is easier to convert and results in a higher degree of accuracy, but even horrible scribbles are, for the most part, captured correctly. To be fair, you can hardly blame the conversion software for misreading text that human readers would not recognise. Even if your handwriting deteriorates as you write more and more and inaccuracies creep in, captured text is very easy to edit with the included software, meaning much less time spent transcribing notes than if you did everything manually. Capture school notes, boardroom minutes and even your own signature for use in e-mail footers with the IntelliPen easily and with very little fuss or technical knowledge required.
internet connection//BY DEON DU PLESSIS
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE How to choose a broadband Internet connection
Internet access at home is an essential part of modern living. There are many ways of connecting to the Internet, and since each of them has benefits and drawbacks, choosing the right connection for your needs can be a little daunting.
10 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
Thankfully, ssis Deon du Ple n through has just bee . He took this process different a look at the siderations n o c d n a s n optio ind when to bear in m r the searching fo thatâ€™s connection . right for you
Option 1: Hard lines - ADSL
Choosing an ISP
An always-on connection to the Internet that is delivered via your telephone line, ADSL offers connection speeds from 384kbps (about eight times faster than dial-up) right up to 4Mbps (ten times faster than 384kbps ADSL). Apart from being more than sufficient for average home use – surfing the Internet, downloading e-mail and enjoying streamed media like video and audio – it’s also ideal for demanding users, like gamers. This is because the latency (the time it takes for a packet of data to leave your PC, reach its destination and return to you) is very low by comparison to other connections. While the overall cost of ADSL can be higher than other connectivity methods, primarily because you need a standard phone line in order to be eligible for it, not to mention a separate ADSL line and an account from an Internet Service Provider, it is by far the best Internet connection for home users. The best part is, you can still talk to your friends on the phone, while you surf.
Need to know MONTHLY COST Line Rental from Telkom – R108 ADSL connection – ranges between R133 and R540 ADSL Account – Average cost is R60 per Gigabyte of data SPEEDS 384kbps, 512kbps and 4Mbps HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS ADSL router – R400 to R2000 ADVANTAGES:
Always-on Fast Low latencies Fixed cost Networkable DISADVANTAGES:
You need a Telkom phone line No mobility outside of your home Requires expensive hardware
Connect s recommend rnet ADSL for home Inte stco s connectivity. It’ effective, fast, and highly reliable.
Internet Service Providers offer many packages structured to suit your data needs and your pocket. When choosing one that’s right for you, you should consider: • How fast you need to download data? • How much bandwidth you will need? • Is low latency important to your usage model? • Do you pay for bandwidth up front or as you go? • Do you need mobility? Did you know?
The Seacom high-capacity data cable that connects the east coast of Africa to the rest of the world will be completed in June 2009. It has the potential to lower the cost of Internet access in South Africa considerably, so we recommend you avoid signing up for any 24 month contracts before then, as new and more enticing offers are a very real possibility.
Option 2: Fixed and Mobile – iBurst This form of wireless Internet connectivity is delivered via antennae over licensed radio frequency spectrum. It is typically slower than ADSL, but on the upside is rather portable, so you can take your wireless modem with you wherever coverage permits. As long as you stay within the coverage area of your service provider, you will be connected. Because of the pure physics involved with wireless connectivity, latencies tend to be higher than ADSL. That means it’s not the ideal solution for online gaming or other tasks that require lightning quick response time. This is a popular option for many home users, however, since no phone line is needed and there are no additional monthly costs other than your subscription fee to the ISP of your choice. There are strong disadvantages, though, like the price of the wireless modem required and the fact that your surrounding geography and weather conditions can impact on your connection’s signal strength and speed.
Need to know MONTHLY COST R89 (1 GB) to R1249 (10 GB) depending on the package you select. The up-front modem cost can be mitigated by signing up for a 24-month contract. SPEEDS Expect anywhere up to 1Mbps HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS Wireless Modem – R2439 and up
Connect s recommend Consulting your ISP to before signing up l na sig determine the ur yo at strength premises.
Always-on Mobile Internet within coverage area No land-line required ISP cost is total cost DISADVANTAGES:
Expensive to set up Mobility limited to coverage area Signal is affected by poor weather and geography Speeds are not very high WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 11
Option 3: Support the newcomer – Neotel Neotel is the newest player in the South African telecoms arena and it’s shaking things up by offering very competitive telephone and data services. The company delivers wireless communications as the primary way of connecting users to its network. The advantages of this include that no land line is needed and you can expect delivery of a telephone handset, with both voice and data services, within 48 hours of an order being successfully processed. Speeds are similar to that of iBurst and are dependent on the number
Option 4: Roaming the airwaves 3G/HSDPA 3G and HSPDA are the two most popular and mobile forms of Internet access available in South Africa today. Coverage is determined by local cellular networks that already cover the vast majority of the country and 12 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
of people using Neotel’s services in your area, as well as your surrounding geography and weather conditions. The best offering from Neotel in the home data space is a package called NeoConnect Lite, which offers a peak speed of 153.5kbps with an average data rate of between 50 and 100kbps. It also includes unlimited Internet data usage as well as various telephony services for a fixed fee of R469 per month. High-speed online gaming or other bandwidth intensive tasks aren’t recommended with this connection, however. A big brother option from this vendor, name NeoFlex data is designed for more bandwidth-hungry users and offers the same benefits and drawbacks in terms of coverage as its sibling. NeoFlex is however a data only service at the moment. The solution consists of an all-inone WiFi router and 4-port Ethernet switch that is capable of pulling data down off the Internet at 3.1Mbps and pushing it up at 1.8Mbps, but Neotel says it’s more realistic for users to expect downlink speeds of between 450 and 900kbps and upstream speeds of 300-700kbps. 5GB, 10GB and 15GB data options are available for R499, R699 and R899 respectively.
since everyone has a cell phone today, it’s super accessible. HSDPA is extremely fast, offering a maximum theoretical speed of 7.2Mbps for downloads – almost double the fastest ADSL connection currently on offer from Telkom. 3G on the other hand is much slower at 348kbps, but it’s still a great way of staying connected to e-mail and the web. The only snag is the casual data rates charged (about R2/MB), but many providers offer bundle rates that bring the per-megabyte cost of data down to very reasonable levels. 3G and HSDPA are best suited to mobile Internet users, or people who don’t own land lines. This connection can be used for gaming, but it is not quite as good as ADSL, latency-wise.
Need to know MONTHLY COST R299 for NeoConnect Lite’s 2GB data option, R469 for unlimited data R499 for NeoFlex’s 5GB option R699 for NeoFlex’s 10GB option R899 for NeoFlex’s 15GB option SPEEDS NeoConnect Lite - 153.5kbps (peak), averaging between 50 and 100kbps NeoFlex Data - 3.1Mbps down (peak) and 1.8Mbps up (peak). Averages between 450 and 900kbps downstream and 300 to 700kbps downstream. HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS Neotel hardware, which requires an up-front payment or factoring in over a contract period.
Connect s recommend
re signing Contact Neotel befo termine any contracts to de in your the signal strength home.
High and unlimited data packages No land-line required Telephony services included on NeoConnect for monthly charge Fixed monthly charge for data Take your kit with you DISADVANTAGES:
Reception is not always strong even in officially covered areas Reception is affected by poor weather Internet speeds are not as high as other options
Need to know MONTHLY COST In-contract data bundles range from 250MB for approximately R160 to 10 Gigs for about R2 100. The lowest per-megabyte cost is around 20c, meaning R200-odd for a Gigabyte (yikes). SPEEDS 384kbps (3G), 7.2Mbps (HSDPA) HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS 3G/HSDPA Modem, included in 24-month data contracts. R2000+ otherwise.
Highly mobile Internet access
High data charges
Even higher out-of-bundle permegabyte charges Reception is only as effective as it is for cell phones
connecting your xbox//BY DEON DU PLESSIS
A console not connected to the Internet is only half a console. Deon du Plessis walks you through the steps required to get your Xbox 360 online in order to take full advantage of what Xbox Live has to offer.
CONNECTING YOUR TO
ost people think the Xbox 360 was designed to do nothing more than game. While that’s largely true, in the four years the device has been available it’s evolved into a more than capable media extender, a method for getting news and reviews on upcoming games and content and a way for people to communicate and extend their entertainment experience to the on-line realm. To achieve all of those goals however, it needs to be connected to the Internet – with a home broadband connection and a wired or wireless network, you could be enjoying all of what it has to offer in a couple of minutes’ setup time. Wired-up Depending on the kind of broadband router you have in your home, you’re either going to want to connect the 360 over a conventional Ethernet network cable, or rush
14 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
out and buy a wireless adapter, should reducing messy cabling be a priority. A wired connection to your router is by far the easiest route to go, but it leaves ugly cable clutter in its wake. Its primary advantage is that it’s fast and secure, and no security settings are required. All you have to do is plug your console into your router. The router should do the rest – you should be assigned an address on your home network automatically and once that has been picked up, you can start taking advantage of the online services offered by Xbox Live, Microsoft’s on-line service for Xbox 360 users. Cut the cables Wireless connections, while neater are a little trickier – they require security settings to be entered into your console’s network configuration before addresses are handed out (your wireless network is secure, right?). This process can lead to some frustrating moments, but if you follow these steps, you should be fine.
REQUIRED: ADSL router Network cable UK postal code (from a friend) OPTIONAL: XBOX 360 Network Adapter
Step 1 Connect your wireless LAN adapter before you turn on your console. Instructions should be provided in the pack, but if they weren’t simply plug the USB cable on the end of the adapter into the port on the back and clip it into place. Now, boot up the console.
Step 2 If you’ve bought a game in the past six months and had your dashboard automatically updated, you should boot directly into the NXE (New Xbox Experience) interface.
Navigate your way to My Xbox and scroll across to System Settings (it will be the last tab to the right).
We recommend you hook up a USB keyboard to your Xbox in order to enter the key, as it can be a painful process to enter 26 individual ASCII characters using the Xbox interface.
Wait a minute or so, and you’ll notice your IP address, subnet mask, default gateway and DNS server settings change from zeroes to numbers, usually in the 192.168.1.x range, depending on how your home network is set up.
Step 3 Now, you can connect to Xbox Live.
To do this, however, you’ll need to create an Xbox Live ID – a rather laborious process. Stick with us though - you’re almost there…. You should be automatically guided through this process the moment you attempt a connection to Xbox Live. Because there’s no support for this locally though, you’re going to need to bend the truth a little i.e. entering a UK postal code at the end of your address in South Africa. Since nearly every family has at least 20 close-friend immigrants living on the rainy island, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to get your hands on one of these. Once you’ve entered these details, validate your e-mail address by clicking on the link the service sent to the e-mail address you specified in sign-up and you’re done!
Step 4 Select Network Settings.
Keep Wireless Mode highlighted and press the A (green) button on your controller;
After signing into Xbox Live for the first time, you’ll no doubt wonder why you hadn’t done this earlier.
The online service provides you with access to content updates, downloads from the Xbox Live Marketplace, and if you opt to pay for a Gold account (each Xbox comes standard with a Silver account that grants limited access to Live) you can get your hands on exclusive game demos, movies and full multiplayer gaming. Now where’s that local Xbox Live support guys? Connecting your PS3 to the net is just as simple, Deon will take a look at this in the next issue of Connect – ed.
You will notice, as we did, that without Live access, the Xbox is a crippled console. Attached to the Internet, the dashboard comes alive with colour and content, and truly opens up the world of possibility Microsoft likely envisioned when launching the X360 back in 2005.
you will be prompted to enter your wireless network’s security key
WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 15
photo management//BY JOHANN BARNARD
Download and manage your photos
IN 3 EASY STEPS So you’ve taken some photos using your new digital camera or cellphone – now what? Johann Barnard gives you the guidance you need to file, tag and prime them for print….
16 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
ne of the greatest benefits and pleasures of the digital age is the ease with which photography has become accessible to everyone. Whether you have a high-end digital SLR camera made by big-name brands such as Nikon or Canon or simply enjoy taking photos on your cellphone, digital technology has opened up a world of possibilities and endless options. In this guide, we walk you through some basics of photo management; everything from downloading, to saving and sorting your photos on a basic Windows system. The obvious place to start is to copy your photos from your device onto your computer. While the steps to download your photos will be the same no matter what kind of camera you use, the way the camera or memory card connects to your computer will differ.
PROPRIETARY INTERFACE: Some camera and phone manufacturers provide a programme that helps to manage the downloading of photos onto a computer. For the purposes of this guide, we will rather be using the set of in-built Windows tools to download and manage your photos. DIRECT CONNECTION: It is possible to download photos directly from your camera or phone using the USB cable supplied with the device. The one disadvantage with this method is that it will drain the battery life your device quicker than normal. MEMORY CARD SLOT: The easiest, and quickest, way to download your photos is to insert the memory card into a card reader, or into card slots that most of today’s computers have as standard.
STEP 1 Once you have attached your camera or inserted the memory card, Windows brings up the ‘Auto Play’ window. Select the ‘Import Pictures’ option. • At this point you can select the ‘Always do this for pictures’ tick-box in this window if you would like Windows to automatically import photos whenever you insert a memory card or attach a camera to your computer.
STEP 2 Windows will now open another small window in which you can ‘tag’ the photos being imported. Tags are terms you use to identify sets of photos of the same subject, for example, ‘Family’. • After the first set of imports, you will find that a drop-down menu of previously-used tags will be available in this window. This speeds up the process if you use common tags on a regular basis as you can simply select the desired tag from the list. • You can also set more than one tag per photo – separate the tag terms with a comma. • You can set the options for all your future imports by clicking on ‘Options’ in the import window. Here you can set where your photos will be saved and how folders and files will be named. Set these options to a format that suits you. • Click the ‘Import’ button once you have finished tagging the photos.
STEP 3 Once the import is completed, Windows Picture Gallery will open with a window showing your recent import. • The photos will appear in the ‘thumbnail’ view, whereby the photos will appear in a grid display. You can change this view by clicking on the the drop-down menu next to the ‘Search’ bar in the top right corner. • On the left side of this window you will see the list of tags, the dates of imports by year and month, as well as the star ratings for your photos. By clicking on these options, you will see pictures related to these criteria. • You can set the star rating for your photos by clicking on the stars that appear next to each photo in the thumbnail view. You can also insert a caption for the photos in this view by simply clicking on the ‘Add Caption’ option under the star rating. • Now that you have imported and tagged your photos, its time to edit them. • Windows Picture Gallery has basic editing functions that allow you to make adjustment to the photos. We will run through these settings and features in the next edition of Connect. WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 17
ANATOMY OF A SEARCH
How does Google help you find what you’re looking for? To give you the best search results, Google maintains an index of the billions of pages of content on the web. Here’s what happens in that fraction of a second after you type a few words into the Google search box.
18 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
Here are some nifty modifiers to type in your Google search box to refine your searches and get the best results.
WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 19
buying a printer//BY DEON DU PLESSIS
are you likely to print using your new device? Once you’ve established what you need a printer for, it’s time to go shopping.
BUYING THE RIGHT
With so many options available, buying a printer can be a daunting task. Deon du Plessis strips away the complexity and offers you a straight-on look at the realities of home printing technologies and their associated costs.
rinters come in all shapes and sizes, use different printing methods and consumables, and ultimately are better suited to certain tasks than they are to others. The key to buying the right printer lies in asking yourself a series of questions about your usage patterns. Is price your only consideration? Are you more concerned with quality? Do you print more photos than documents? Are you looking for a temporary solution, or something that you’ll use in the long term? And lastly, how many pages
The lowdown on photo printers • Can read directly from digital cameras and memory cards • Photo quality is excellent • Some have built-in LCD screens • Special photo inks can be expensive • Very slow printing 20 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
Canon PIXMA iP4500
HP Deskjet 3940
Which is right for you? Consumer printer technology comes in three flavours, inkjet printers, which have the cheapest up-front purchase price, monochrome lasers, which are well-priced and print black only, and colour lasers, which are a little more expensive than their monochrome cousins, but have fullcolour capabilities. The retail price of inkjet printers is the lowest of the three, but their cartridges tend to be rather more expensive than toner cartridges if you break the cost of the consumable down into the number of pages it can print and arrive at a cost per page. By contrast, laser printers are more expensive from an up-front purchase perspective, but much cheaper to run. While their consumables can be expensive if one looks at their raw cost, you’ll see just how much cheaper these printers are in the long run than inkjets if you consider the number of pages you’re likely to get out of a single toner cartridge and distil that down to a cost per page. Judging Capabilities Looking beyond costs, these three technologies are vastly different when it comes to capability. Where inkjets (as their name suggests) use ink and as such often require pages to dry before you can handle them, laser printers lay a coloured powder called toner down on pages and bond it to the paper using a fuser – that means pages can be handled the moment they exit the printer. The added convenience that comes with a laser printer does, however, mean some functionality is sacrificed. In fact, while laser printers are great at laying down crisp, clear type and pictures on plain bond paper, they’re not great at printing photos or anything on a custom paper stock. So depending on what you’re going to be printing, a laser printer while cheaper to run in the long term, might quite simply not cut it.
HP Photosmart 2575
The lowdown on inkjets • Cheap to buy • More expensive to run • Great for light home use • Good for photo printing • Slow printing
THINGS TO BE AWARE OF: Cost-per-page calculations will tell you how much money you’re likely to spend on a printer in the long run. Colour printing is achieved by the mixing of four primary colours (CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black), and some inkjet printers only have two cartridges, colour and black. Since the colour cartridge contains Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, if one of them runs out you’ll have to replace the entire cartridge even though it’s not entirely empty. Be on the look-out for inkjet printers that package each
colour separately. This is the ideal configuration, as when one colour runs out, you replace just that colour. Cartridges are rated by their page yield, which is printed on their packaging. Always check this before making your purchase, as a printer whose features and price appear wonderful may let you down with a poor percartridge yield. Most manufacturers produce “high yield” printer cartridges that are more expensive than the normal ones, but may offer better value over time.
That’s why inkjet printers are generally a great choice for light home use. If you print the odd greeting card and put together a few documents each month and you like to brighten them up with a splash of colour, an entry-level colour inkjet printer is what you’re looking for. Goedkoop is duur koop Inkjets are inexpensive to buy, but their consumables are more expensive and can add up over time. You need to decide whether a cheap purchase now, but with more money spent over time is practical for your needs. People who take a lot of pictures and want to print their digital masterpieces at home need to get a printer specifically designed for photos, or one that simply says ‘photo printing’ somewhere on the box – many of today’s vanilla inkjets are designed for printing photos too. Photo printers often come with memory card readers and USB slots so that you can
Page coverage is the percentage of a page’s total surface that is covered in ink. It is used in yield calculations.
A cartridge’s “yield” value is the number of pages that can be reliably printed before cartridge replacement becomes necessary.
print directly from your digital camera and memory cards. Some even come with built-in LCD screens on which you can do some basic editing before printing. Photo printers work best on photo paper, meaning the quality and clarity of your prints will be noticeably better if you use the media recommended for your printer. Special needs The only concerns are that photo paper costs considerably more than regular A4 paper and generally you’ll need a set of specific cartridges filled with ‘photo ink’ in order to get the best results. Interestingly enough though, photo printers work out cheaper per print than using a conventional photo lab – and the end results are even more beautiful. If you don’t need to print anything in colour, but you print a large number of text-heavy documents at home, then you’re definitely looking for a monochrome laser printer. High Yield Laser cartridges deliver a very high yield (usually thousands of pages), the print is smudge-proof and of extremely high quality, as well as much faster than inkjet printers on average. So, while laser printers are more expensive and their toner cartridges cost more than inkjet printers do, in the long term they save you money thanks to their efficiency and the high yield of the average toner cartridge. Colour me impressed Colour laser printers are the crème de la crème of printers, and while they will undoubtedly cost you more at the till point, they’re the cheapest way to print in colour in the long run when you consider their overall running costs. Their all-round versatility is the best of all printer technologies, as they can handle both black and white and colour prints beautifully. The only drawback is that they’re not able to print photographs to the same quality as even entry-level photo printers can.
Always check the pages-perminute (ppm) rating - usually printed on the printer’s box to see how fast the printer is.
A “cost per page” calculation can be made based on the costs of cartridges and paper. This is in addition to the up-front price you’ve already paid.
Canon Pixma IP1800
The lowdown on Lasers • More expensive to buy than inkjets • Expensive consumables, but at the same time, they offer the highest yield • Cheapest form of printing available to consumers • Clear, crisp text and picture printing • Colour and monochrome options • Not for photos • Fast printing
Canon ImageClass MF4150 Mono Laser
HP Colour Laserjet 2550n
Lexmark C782N WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 21
IT support 101//BY BRETT HAGGARD
CHANGING A PRINTER CARTRIDGE Photo printers are a ton of fun… That is of course until the ink runs out.
nd when you’re printing family photos, children’s projects and that lastminute draft of the very important business proposal you’ve been working on all week, the ink disappears quicker than self respect on the Jerry Springer Show. 22 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
Replacing an ink cartridge is about more than ducking off to your local Incredible Connection, picking up a new one and heading home. There’s careful protocol to be adhered to in changing printer consumables, and with so many different brands, models and kinds of consumables available, navigating the plethora of choices you’re presented with in-store is a nightmare. You need backup… and a plan of action. Thankfully, our expert advice is here to assist.
Step 1: Know your target The first thing anyone needs to do in close quarters combat is to know what they’re up against. And similarly, when you’re looking to replace a printer’s consumables, you should familiarize yourself with the make and model you’re dealing with. Find the printer’s model number, usually printed or etched onto a bezel located on the front of the device. If the credentials you’re looking for aren’t there, you might have to resort to looking underneath the unit for the product label found on every piece of technology.
Find the number and record it somewhere accessible – like in a notepad. If you like, you can write down some of the larger numbers on the cartridge itself. At this point it’s also valuable to consult the software your printer shipped with – it should be able to give you an indication of what the ink levels in all four of your cartridges look like. Obviously you should replace the empty ones. If the others are however looking a little on the low side, it might be worthwhile considering replacing those too.
Step 2: Go shopping With your trusty notepad in one hand and your wallet in the other, it’s time to hit the shops. You’re looking for an area (generally, somewhere towards the back of the store) that looks like it’s been wallpapered with printer consumables packages. In fact, upon arriving there you’ll appreciate us telling you to write your printer’s details down. Consumables aisles generally have guidebooks hanging from the shelves that contain a table of printer numbers and their
corresponding consumables. Your job is to locate the model number that matches your device and find that cartridge on the shelf. Seek help from a shop assistant if you’re really struggling to find what you’re looking for. Now, head over the tills and pay for your consumables. It’s important to note that today’s printers tend to have separate print heads and ink cartridges – try to replace your print heads every second time you replace your cartridges.
“In some older printers, you might have to lift the entire front cover and wait a couple of seconds for it to centre the cartridges”
Step 4: Installing the new cartridges On opening the box of the new consumable, you’ll see the cartridge valve either covered with some tape, or protected with a plastic placeholder. You’re going to want to shake the cartridge six or so times to mix the ink with these protection tapes or placeholders still installed. Then remove them, align them with the consumables slot and install them – pretty much in the reverse order to how they came out. Since this is a little different depending on the brand of printer, consulting the helpful, step-by-step leaflet that came inside the consumables box is advisable. If you’re replacing a print head, a similar protocol is followed. Once again, it’s good to consult the instructions for extra reference.
Step 3: Removing the empties Here comes the challenging part. Locate the door on the front or side of your printer that houses your printer cartridges. Lift the door and you should get a good view of the cartridges underneath. In some older printers, you might have to lift the entire front cover and wait a couple of seconds for it to centre the cartridges i.e. place them in a position where they’re easy to get to and replace. Generally, there’s a little sticker on the inside of the toner bay’s door, or a leaflet inserted in the
consumables’ case instructing you on how you should go about removing a cartridge. On older models, you’re going to have to tilt the cartridge forward until it clicks out of place. On newer models, it’s a case of pressing a lever, or simply pulling the cartridge from the socket.
Step 5: Ready to rock All that remains is to close the lids and press the ‘on-line’ or ‘Yes’ button on the printer – it’s generally the one with the tick on it and green in colour. Your printer should detect the presence of a new cartridge and begin making some whirring or clicking sounds – this is quite normal.
All that remains is to test the results. Depending on the make and model, it might require a test page or alignment page to be printed. If your printer allows for this feature (usually found in the accompanying software it shipped with), it’s a good idea anyway.
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send better e-mail//BY SHEREEN SUCKERMAN
BECOME AN E-MAIL
10 tips for more effective online communication 01
Spice up your mail with custom stationery
• Although most people use black text on a plain white background, stationery (a customisable selection of colour and picture combinations) can spice up your e-mails. • Choose from the selection of preset stationery available or create your own. • Use the ‘Stationery Picker’ option under the ‘Mail Format’ tab in the ‘Tools>Options…’ menu of the main Outlook window. • Take your pick from a large selection of designs available online using the ‘Get More Stationery’ button in the custom window. A quick note: this functionality will either entertain or annoy your friends and colleagues.
Type up a draft and choose your words more carefully
• Drafts are a great way of preparing e-mails with the intention of sending them at a later stage. This allows you to jot down thoughts while they are still fresh in your mind and gives you the opportunity to revisit your mail and re-edit it before you click “send”. • In order to save your current e-mail all you need to do is close the window and respond yes to the prompt to save. Handy tip: saving a draft will not only protect you from the frustration of losing an important e-mail, but also give you time to think and double check your words before you hit the send button. 24 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
Using Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express
Outlook and Outlook Express are two of the most commonly used e-mail applications available today. But few people take the time to master them and get them to sing. Here’s a collection of handy tips for new and veteran e-mail users.
E-mail etiquette mistakes
Shortenings: R instead of are, for example, ‘How RU?’ instead of ‘How are you?’ Numerals such as 4 instead of For and Gr8 and C U L8R instead of Great and See you later; Lingo: Complicated technical jargon that will be lost on the recipient; Colloquialisms: Mate, Homey, Luv, Bru, Lekker etc.
Prevent a faux-pas with better e-mail etiquette
• Sending e-mail is not the same as sending an SMS. • In the business world, e-mail has taken on a legal status and should be treated with the appropriate grammatical style. • You should avoid using condensed words, jargon and colloquialisms when you are not familiar with the recipient. Outlook uses the Word Editor to compose e-mails so there is no excuse for misspelling. • Even with increased data transfer rates, Internet usage is still limited by download caps. It’s important consider the size of the attachments. • While it may not be easy to limit the size of spreadsheets or presentations, Outlook offers the ability to resize picture files (jpgs, bmp, etc.) from their now near standard 3MB per file, down to more manageable sizes. An entire e-mail, packed full of image attachments, can be less than 2MB. How to: Resizing your image attachments is as easy as selecting the photos you require from the Windows File Explorer, right clicking on the selection and choosing the ‘Send To>Mail Recipient’ option. This will launch the Outlook prompt to either send the original or resize, which will prepare a new e-mail with the resized attachments.
Put your inbox on a diet with mail archiving
• Archiving your e-mails will help unclutter your inbox by moving older, less frequently referenced e-mails to a new location on the hard-drive or server. This will help speed up the functionality of your inbox and make for easier searching of more recent, relevant e-mails. • It’s really simple – e-mails can be archived by selecting ‘Archive…’ from the file menu in the main Outlook Window. From this options box you can choose to either archive a single folder such as your Inbox or Sent Items, or all of the folders in your mailbox. • The functionality also exists in Auto Archive and this can be found under the ‘Other’ tab in the ‘Tools>Options…’ menu of the main Outlook window.
Show spam, junk and viruses the door
• Keeping your inbox spam-free is a matter of being wary of who you give your e-mail address to and thinking twice before you open an e-mail containing an attachment. Also, don’t forward chainmail. • When an e-mail looks suspicious or is from a sender you don’t recognise, it’s best to mark it as junk. You should periodically have a quick look through your Spam/Junk folder to make sure that any legitimate e-mail hasn’t been incorrectly classified and move to this folder. • If that’s the case, simply select it and click on the ‘Not Junk’ button in the Standard Toolbar to move the mail back to the Inbox and agree to ‘Add the Sender to the Safe Senders List’.
Access your e-mail from anywhere in the world by signing up for a free web-based e-mail account, such as Google Mail, Yahoo or Hotmail. With web-based mail becoming increasingly popular these days amongst students, sole-traders and travelers, accounts now offer large mail storage space, customisable interfaces, access to live text and video chat, and many other useful functions. You can even set up your web mailbox as a POP server to receive your mail through Outlook. This is a great way to keep work and private e-mail separate.
Handy tip: Your virus protection software should protect you from most malicious viruses, but if you suspect your computer has been infected, you should run a full system scan and, failing that contact a qualified technician.
Keep your mail private with multiple mailboxes
• Keeping your mail separate from other family members using the same machine is easy. • In Outlook Express you can create a new identity from the File menu and input your mailbox settings to send and receive mail in your own inbox, then simply switch back to another identity when you’re done. • In Microsoft Outlook you can create a new Outlook Data File under the File menu and then create a New E-mail Account under the Tools menu.
Cut through the clutter with mail filters and rules
• Rather than distributing mail yourself to subfolders, you can have Outlook perform this function for you. • Select the ‘Rules and Alerts’ option under the ‘Tools’ menu in the main Outlook Window, select ‘New Rule’ and follow the self explanatory instruction in the Rules Wizard
Find it easily using search tools
• Instead of hunting ‘that’ e-mail down, you can search for items using the ‘Find’ button on the Standard Toolbar at the top of the main Outlook Window. • Selecting this option reveals a search bar where you can input the name of the person who sent the mail, the subject or any other info you remember that will help narrow down the search. • You can be more specific still, by selecting the ‘Advanced Find’ under the ‘Options’ button to the right of the search bar. • If you simply want to filter your search, you can use sort your mail in Groups by using the ‘Show in Groups’ option under the ‘View>Arrange By’ menu or simply click on each column header (From, Subject, Received, Size, etc) to sort alphanumerically by that detail.
Protect your contacts by backing up your address book
• In the same way that you should regularly back up your cell phone contacts in the unlikely event that it is lost or stolen, you should back up you Outlook Address Book. • PCs are notoriously unpredictable, and a hard drive failure could spring a nasty surprise on you at any given time. • From the mail Outlook Window select the Import and Export option from the File menu. • Using the Wizard select ‘Export to a file’, then ‘Comma Separated Values (Windows)’ and select Contacts from the folder list, give it a descriptive name you will be able to identify it by, select Next, then Finish and it will save it to your My Documents folder on your hard drive. Handy tip: It is a good idea mail yourself, or include in your standard data backup.
Personalise/automate responses with signatures and Out of Office replies
• Save yourself the hassle of signing off each and every e-mail with all of your details by creating a custom signature, which will appear in the body of each new message. • Create a new signature under the ‘Mail Format’ tab of the ‘Tools>Options’ menu. Select the ‘Signatures’ button, then select ‘New’, give your signature a name, select ‘Next’ and then compose a personalised signature in the editor. • List all your contact details. You can use various fonts and colours and even insert an image. • When you’re out of the office on annual leave or for a significant period when you are unable to respond to e-mails, it is courteous to let people know. Outlook’s ‘Out of Office Assistant’ will automatically send your customisable response to any incoming mail. • This feature is only available when using Outlook with Exchange Server, mostly used in office environments and is not accessible when using POP mail. • The ‘Out of Office Assistant’ can be found under the ‘Tools’ menu, select the ‘I am currently Out of the Office’ option, enter your message and select OK to activate it. • It’s a good idea to have someone test it for you to make sure it’s working • Keep your message brief, notifying people of the dates you are away and list an alternative contact person.
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product reviews // BY DEON DU PLESSIS
NO MORE WORRIES! REVIEWS Top 5 PCs, Laptops, Notebooks PPrinters RRouters GPS Mo Monitors Home media Ca Cameras p Cell phones So Software
28 34 42 46 48 50 52 54 58 60
Hello, and welcome to Connect’s reviews section, where we do our best to help you understand technology and gizmos better so you can get the most out of these useful, but sometimes confusing tools.
e’ve done away with overly-technical jargon and analysis to bring you practical information you can actually use. And believe me, technology is a wonderful thing if you can wrap your head around it. Wrapping your head around it can sometimes be the problem, though. With all the technical specifications, acronyms and techno-specific words being bandied about like everyone should understand them, it can be a little difficult to find out if the product you’re interested in is actually wellsuited to your needs. If you’re not sure, you might even justwalk away, without your technology problem solved. Or, even more frustrating, you might buy the wrong piece of tech completely! So what we try to achieve with the reviews section is to give you the bottom line – to cut through the
specifications and techno-babble to give you the lowdown on why it is important and how all this wonderful technology can add value to your life. The point is to show you what 10 megapixels actually means for you, or what the features of a phone mean in daily use, or what benefits ADSL Internet access has over HSDPA or 3G as an example. We hope to demystify all the hidden meanings found in everyday applications and gadgets to bring you up to speed on the fascinating world of technology. Armed with that information, you can make better purchases and, in turn, get more value out of the money you spend. Ifthere’s something you want more info about, email me at reviews@ connect.co.za. I believe strongly in feedback of both the positive and negative varieties; working with your suggestions, I know the reviews section will be the handiest, most helpful guide to the plethora of gadgets, computers, software and more out there. An informed buyer is a happy buyer. You can quote me on that. ☺ Until next month… Cheers! Deon du Plessis
This looks pretty sweet.
EPISODE 1: THE JOURNEY BEGINS.
I really like the way it looks! Very clean. Modern. Is this going to cost me an arm and a leg boet?
Of course not!
This is part of HP’s new Compaq series. It’s a really high quality and performing notebook at a decent price that everybody can afford! Good for students and families, very simple, functional and easy to use… What else? We’re talking Windows Vista, Media Center, built-in antivirus… excellent value. Sounds good… “Wow, I thought t that this n notebook w would have cost us a c fortune! It f looks so l p pricy!
Worth every cent, it’s simple, functional and easy to use!
EVERYTHING YOU NEED, NOTHING YOU DON'T www.compaq.co.za
External Drive: Verbatim 1TB One thousand megabytes of storage space awaits you in Verbatim’s latest external drive offering. Fill it up, we dare you!
HP TouchSmart IQ520 Desktop PC NEED TO KNOW • Accepts touches as input • Sleek, slim body profile • Powerful entertainment PC R19 999.95 THE HP TouchSmart IQ520 is a very attractive, all-in-one desktop PC reminiscent of Apple’s iMac that has obviously been designed to be looked at and touched. It allows you to use your finger for all manner of tasks that were previously the sole domain of your mouse; you can use finger presses and drags on the screen to engage in regular Windows Vista activities like double clicking, accessing menus, dragging and dropping files from one location to another as well as drawing freehand in MS Paint. A 22-inch widescreen BrightView LCD does the display duties, and a wireless keyboard and mouse take care of any non-touch input you care to engage in. There is even a clever downward-pointing light that illuminates the keyboard for those times you’re typing in darkness, and when you set it up you’ll see just how attractive its design really us. The best part is that its sleek, compact design means it takes up very little space on your desktop. HP has included its own TouchSmart software that presents a unique, smartly-animated interface designed to help you take full advantage of the touch screen’s functionality. Manage your music albums in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Apple’s Cover Flow approach; albums are arranged from left to right in a virtual stack, and finger swipes move them around, letting you make your selection and adding all included tracks to your playlist. You can leave hand (finger)-written notes for housemates, play music and videos and even arrange and edit your photograph collection (and more) with your fingers. HP has chosen to outfit the IQ520 with Intel’s Core 2 Duo T6400, a nippy but not extremely fast CPU. This is complemented by a generous helping of system RAM, and together, the combination keeps Windows Vista fast and responsive. Storage is taken care of with a 320GB drive; this is not massive, and we think you’ll fill it up rather quickly. We advise you to seriously consider plugging in an 28 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
external hard drive to supplement your existing storage – when it comes to an entertainment-centric PC, there is no such thing as too much space. The only problem with the IQ520’s 22-inch screen is its maximum resolution of 1680 x 1050, which essentially limits your Blu-ray movie-watching to 720p. This is not a deal-breaker by any means as 720p movies look a lot better than DVD anyway, it’s just not “the best” HD solution. HP’s touch software is not perfect, either, responding to touches only most of the time, and so it took a bit of practice to get the hang of things. Vista’s response to touches was better, so the issue seems to be with HP’s software and not the touch technology. Regular updates will hopefully improve the suite’s responsiveness as time goes by. Best-suited to entertainment purposes but also able to fill a dual role as a home productivity PC, the HP TouchSmart IQ520 is a beautiful, aestheticallypleasing touch screen PC that is fun to operate.
Speakers: Logitech Z-2300 Logitech’s Z-2300 speakers offer fantastic sound quality with a beautiful and stylish build.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • • • •
Touch Screen interaction Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit 4GB System RAM 320GB Hard Drive Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz T6400 Processor NVIDIA 9300G/9600G Graphics Wireless keyboard and mouse PROS
• Fun-to-use touch screen • Powerful hardware • Appealing looks
• HP’s software could be more responsive • 22-inch screen hampers true HD viewing • Accurate touching takes some practice
Router: Linksys by Cisco Ultra Range Plus Wireless-N Broadband Router Boasting a very impressive range, the Ultra Range Plus Wireless-N Broadband Router will ensure you have exceptional wireless connectivity both inside and outside your home. fantastic sound quality with a beautiful and stylish build.
Apple iPod Shuffle 4GB NEED TO KNOW • It’s an Apple product • It’s ridiculously tiny • VoiceOver announces song info R1 099.95 APPLE fans rejoice – the fourth-generation iPod Nano has landed, and it’s definitely worthy of the Apple name. And it’s not only because of the new looks, either. While the looks certainly do play a part, it’s the click-based remote control interface the Apple geniuses have designed and the overall sound quality that have us admitting that maybe, just maybe, Apple really does know something about clever, unique and functional design that nobody else does. The new Shuffle measures about half the height of a 4th-generation iPod Nano and less than half its breadth, with a polished metal finish that once again confirms Apple’s grasp of sleek and appealing design principles. It is also available in other colours, from Apple’s trademark white to orange, yellow, red, blue and green. Holding it in your hand, you’ll be surprised at just how small it really is while still retaining Apple’s trademark slick looks. That being said, tiny doesn’t mean awkward to use. Getting music onto the new Shuffle is as much fun as it has always been, thanks to iTunes. Once you’ve used the included strange-looking USB cable that plugs into the 3.5mm headphone jack to hook it up to your PC or Mac, the Shuffle will be detected and you can choose the songs you’d like to load it with, which with 4GB of storage means around 1000 songs. Doing so will require an updated version of iTunes, which thankfully the Shuffle comes with; wait a few minutes while your songs are transferred, and you’re ready to go. Now, plug in the accompanying headphones and use the remote that has been integrated into the headset to play your music. One click for play, another one for pause, double-click to skip the current track and three clicks to play the previous song. It’s as easy and intuitive a control scheme as Apple has ever come up with, and one worthy of our respect. Our only concern has been that other headphones can’t be used with the Shuffle, as the remote cannot detach or accommodate other headsets, which is a little annoying since the included headphones are Apple’s standard set, which are still as uncomfortable as they have always been. By far the most interesting feature of the new Shuffle is its new “VoiceOver” ability, which verbalises what track or playlist is playing in perfect English when you hold the click button down for a second or so. This makes it easy to find out track information, and manage your playlists without the need for a screen, and its performance was flawless in the time it was in our office for testing. So, the new Shuffle looks and sounds amazing, the control scheme is ingenious and it announces your tracks on request, making it easy to navigate without a screen. Once again, Apple’s genius shines through; we just wish they’d let us use our own headphones by making the remote detachable.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • Can store approximately 1000 songs • It’s absurdly petite • Click-based remote
SANSA CLIP 4GB SILVER Not quite as stylish as the iPod Shuffle, the Sansa Clip is a competent MP3 player nonetheless. Get up to 1000 songs on this tiny player for less than a Shuffle.
• It’s nonsensically miniscule • VoiceOver track verbalisation • Excellent sound quality • Very strong clip
• Controls on headset limit non-Apple headphone use • Still tied to iTunes
JNC SSFM 240BK 4GB Smaller than both the Clip and the Shuffle, JNC’s SSFM MP3 player can still store a lot of music, and costs significantly less than either of the other two. Perfect for mobile music on a budget! WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 29
product reviews RELATED PRODUCTS CANON EOS 1000D SONY A200 FUJI FINEPIX S2000 HD
Nikon Coolpix P90 NEED TO KNOW • 24x optical zoom • Time lapse photo capture • Variable angle, reflection-resistant LCD screen • Burst shooting mode Selected Stores - R5 999.95 NIKON’S Coolpix P90 is an improvement in almost every way on its predecessor, the unsurprisingly named P80. Putting the P80’s paltry 18x optical zoom to shame comes the P90’s 24x optical zoom, a veritable monster for a non D-SLR camera. Since bigger is apparently better, the P90 also sports an upgraded reflection-resistant three-inch articulated LCD screen, to help you see what you’re doing when you’re outdoors. The impressive specs don’t stop there. The P90 also has a very serious 12.1 megapixel sensor, able to deliver extremely high-resolution photographs that scale magnificently, which goes beautifully with a lens that can go from 26mm wide to 624mm telephoto (which for a non D-SLR, semi-compact camera is quite a feat). The camera can even take close-up shots with a minimum distance of 1cm from its subject. Add all this to a high ISO sensitivity rating of up to 6 400, and it becomes apparent that the P90 can take some pretty impressive pictures. Built into the camera’s controls are dials that let you choose modes that further refine your shooting, with settings that help reduce blur, identify smiling faces and even blinking eyes to avoid those awful eyes-half-closed pictures that populate so many photo collections. Face priority auto focusing, a feature Nikon introduced in 2005, does just what the name suggests – it identifies and focuses in on facial features, ensuring that subjects’ faces are kept in sharp focus, which ultimately leads to exceptional headshots. Burst shooting is one of the P90’s most mentionable features, as it allows you to take a 45-shot burst at a maximum 15fps, perfect for 30 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
capturing still images at sporting events or other movement-intensive scenes. It does this by buffering images before and after the shutter is pressed, leading to better chances of capturing once-in-a-lifetime events that require a fast trigger finger. Also included is a time-lapse feature, which can be set to take pictures at user-selectable intervals. All of this doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if the overall image quality stinks, however, and this is where the P90 loses a few points. Image quality turns out to be a bit of a mixed bag, as under optimal conditions the P90 takes fantastic photos, but in less than ideal situations, image noise is noticeable and there appears to be a bit of an issue with colour fringing as well. The result, then, is a point and shoot camera that is suitable for the beginner photographer, but which may not be up to the standards of a more seasoned shutterbug.
Integral Ultima Pro SDHC 8GB Expand your camera’s internal memory with this handy Secure Digital High Capacity memory card.
Paint Shop Pro X2 X2’s impressive feature-list and intuitive interface gives you professional photo editing capabilities at a fraction of the cost of Photoshop.
• 24x Zoom • 47MB internal storage • SD, SDHC cards supported • 15fps Burst Shooting mode • Built-in Flash • USB 2.0 Connectivity PROS
• Excellent zoom • Great build quality • Good colour rendition • Burst shooting
• Noticeable image noise • Colour fringing can be bad • No hotshoe connection limits flash expandability
Bag: Voyager Pro 2788 SLR BLK Protect your valuable camera with this sturdy, pocket-filled camera bag.
Vivienne Tam Mini 1000 Notebook PC NEED TO KNOW • Signature Vivienne Tam design • Small size • Powerful • Feature-rich R8 499.95 RENOWNED New York fashion designer Vivienne Tam has teamed up with HP to lend her personal ‘China Chic’ style to a compact but powerful mini notebook PC. Very small and weighing in at just over a kilogram, HP’s Mini 1000 Vivienne Tam Special Edition is covered in Tam’s distinctive peony design, giving the tiny notebook a distinctly oriental look and feel. The peony is the national flower of China symbolising prosperity, good fortune and happiness. Tough times may mean that practicality and price count more then design when considering a new portable PC, but even with Vivienne Tam’s Mini 1000’s attractive styling this really is a practical all-in-one notebook. For those interested in acquiring the whole package, HP has also brought out a matching peony-imprinted wireless, ultra-mobile Vivienne Tam mouse. Looking inside, the components pack just enough punch to comfortably handle the common tasks that the Mini 1000 was designed for. Surfing the Internet, composing e-mail, writing blogs and myriad other small tasks can be done on the go thanks to the integrated wireless access, and although it only supports an earlier, less speedy wireless protocol (802.11b/g), it is more than fast enough for casual use at the coffee shop or airport lounge. Oddly, the Mini 1000 is supplied with Windows XP installed, which is a more stable and less battery-hungry operating system, but one that is infinitely less attractive than Windows Vista. It just seems strange that a notebook selling itself on looks would eschew the prettier operating system. This is definitely a product for the fashion-conscious, tech chic consumers who recognise that their notebook is more than a necessity – it’s also something that complements their overall aesthetics. Without a doubt, the Mini 1000’s stylish design, which includes a large keyboard for easy typing, combined with its suave inner workings make it just powerful enough to comfortably use on the go. Nice touches include a built-in HP webcam
and microphone for chatting face-to-face when on Skype or snapping a quick digital image … before transferring the image, or other files for that matter, using the integrated SD and Multimedia card reader. Vivienne Tam’s Mini 1000 notebook PC is adept at keeping you connected while you’re on the go while simultaneously complementing your looks. There’s no doubt that this is a fun purchase, but in these tough economic times perhaps fun isn’t as important as functional and cost-effective. If you’ve got cash to burn or you simply have to have your gadgets match your outfit, by all means get one, but honestly there are cheaper alternatives that can perform just as well if not better, even if they don’t match your shoes while doing so.
VT Wireless Mouse Sporting the same gorgeous designs, this wireless mouse will even further complement your fabulous ensemble.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 10.1” Screen • 60GB Internal Drive • Windows XP SP3 • 2-in-1 card reader • Lightweight (1,02kg)
• Highly fashionable looks • Lightweight • Powerful enough for everyday use • Accessories
• Not practical for every user • Expensive for a mini notebook • Windows XP, not Vista
HP Mini Mobile Drive for Mini Notebooks This tiny flash drive has been designed specifically to fit seamlessly into the Mini 1000.
ASUS EEE PC1000 SERIES The EEE PC was the first netbook ever. Its most modern incarnation has more storage, a faster processor and a bigger screen for an even better mobile experience.
ACER ASPIRE ONE 3G BLACK Acer’s latest efforts at capturing the hearts of netbook enthusiasts includes an integrated 3G modem and a fast Atom processor.
Headphones: HP Bluetooth Pendant Pair these with any Bluetoothenabled audio device and play your music across the air waves!
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IntelliPen Digital Pen & USB Flash Drive NEED TO KNOW • Transcription of hand-written notes to PC • Good accuracy • Easy to use R1 799.95
INTELLIPEN WIRED DIGITAL PEN & MOUSE Requires much more patience to use and is slightly less accurate. Handy for digital signatures and freehand drawing. 32 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
IT seems that intelligent note-taking systems are gaining in popularity if the rate at which they are appearing on store shelves is anything to go by. The latest one to cross our desks is simply labelled “IntelliPen”, and thus far, the name seems justified. Instead of a unit that interfaces with a PC directly, the IntelliPen consists of a wireless receiver that clips atop an A4 page and a “smart” pen with a crystal embedded just above the nib. The receiver then tracks the pen as it writes, stores the resultant “note” in its flash memory, which can then be downloaded to a computer via USB. The appeal of such a system is obvious to anyone that has written reams of notes by hand. The IntelliPen allows you to create thousands of notes which can be copied onto your computer in their original state via .PDF files, or converted to text for easy editing in popular word processing programs. The trick to obtaining a high degree of accuracy lies in keeping your handwriting as legible as possible, as well as keeping your fingers far away from the crystal that surrounds the pen’s nib while you write. Even when our handwriting samples headed into “schoolteacher’s horror” territory as anyone’s writing does after a while, accuracy didn’t drop by a big enough margin for the IntelliPen to lose significant points. Doctors, however, should probably lower their expectations considerably. The notes you create can be viewed and coverted using the included software. While the whole process is a bit drawn out, once you’ve
converted your handwritten notes to computer text for the first time and marvelled at the accuracy (if of course you met the unit half way and wrote legibly), you’ll realise just how handy the Intellipen can be. While certainly not what anyone would call “cheap”, the IntelliPen’s functionality and accuracy has proven to be so good in our practical tests that it gets a wholehearted endorsement and a well-deserved four-star rating from all of us here at Connect, to drive the point we’re making even further home, this review was written entirely by hand and captured to computer using the IntelliPen with only minimal editing required to get it into a printable condition - definitely something to write home about.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 24x Zoom • 47MB internal storage • SD, SDHC cards supported • 15fps Burst Shooting mode • Built-in Flash • USB 2.0 Connectivity PROS
• Very easy setup • High degree of accuracy • Stores thousands of hand-written notes • Can be used as a flash drive too
• Pen needs to be held in a specific way • Separate processes for text viewing and conversion • Conversion accuracy tied to legibility
product reviews PERFECT COMPANION
Belkin Providence Street Laptop case + Keypad In addition to protecting your notebook with this sturdy case, you get a handy keypad!
Compaq Presario CQ61-110ei NEED TO KNOW: • Excellent value for money • Designed for the small business user • Comprehensive software bundle • Excellent crash protection and recovery features R5 999.95 WHERE HP’s consumer-notebook range, namely the Pavilion does an excellent job of addressing the consumer that absolutely has to have every feature bundled into a futuristic and shiny package, Compaq’s new Presario range of notebooks is proof that there’s place for mobile computers that deliver the same level of functionality in a more understated, contemporary package. And that’s the primary reason it’s the perfect option for small business users, or those that have shunned the corporate grind and prefer working from the comfort of their home. This particular Presario comes kitted out with a single Gigabyte of RAM and an Intel Celeron processor, putting it squarely in the specification and price range of a more value-conscious buyer. Intel’s Celeron processors are not as powerful as their Core 2 Duo siblings, but they consume less power and ensure longer battery life in a bit of a trade-off. These are sufficiently powerful specifications with which to run Windows Vista Home Basic; each of these configurations can accommodate a maximum of 8GB of memory and as standard ship with between 1GB and 2GB, depending on the exact model selected. Users should however opt for the 2GB option, as is the level at which windows Vista can comfortably cope with running multiple applications simultaneously and flipping between them as and when the user needs. The machine’s 15.6 diagonal high-definition screen also offers more than enough screen real-estate for multitasking (using more than one application at the same time) and with a resolution of 1366 x 768 can easily enable users to tile one window alongside another and keep an eye on more than one piece of work at a time.
Labtec Laptop Keyboard
The lighter side of owning a notebook computer is also catered for, with the entry-level Intel Graphics Media Accelerator, Webcam, LightScribe DVD writer 5-in-1 digital media reader ensuring the Presario is a capable reader, player and creator of multimedia. Users can also rely on the 160GB hard disk to ensure there’s more than ample storage space for work and play. The hard disk also doubles as a recovery mechanism, allowing users to quickly and easily restore the computer to its original factory state, complete with all applications and drivers, should it be required. Because this has been known to happen from time to time, especially when Windows is the centre of one’s universe, it’s recommended that users also employ an external hard disk or the included DVD-Writer for making regular backups of critical data. When it comes to connectivity, HP has you covered with all the most popular technologies integrated into the CQ61. An entry-level Ethernet port takes care of wired communications, allowing you to connect yourself to any wired network, and an 802.11b and g (the two most popular wireless networking standards in use today) wireless networking adapter will let you connect at your favourite coffee shop or workplace. Overall, the Presario range is a welcome addition to HP’s line-up and a strong show of the company’s commitment to the growing SMB sector in our country. Great value for money and well appointed, it’s sure to be a firm favourite in the coming months.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • • •
Intel Celeron 900 Processor 1GB of RAM 160GB hard disk 15.6-inch screen DVD writer Windows Home Basic
Expand your mobile typing abilities with this slim laptop keyboard from Labtec.
Logitech DiNovo laptop keyboard For the ultimate in mobile style, functionality and feel, the DiNovo laptop keyboard cannot be beat. PROS • Built on a solid hardware platform • Software includes a trial version of MS Office and Symantec antivirus • Recovery partition makes factory restores a breeze CONS • Only 3 x USB ports • It’s 3kg weight can be imposing • Windows Vista Home Premium can be limiting OVERALL RATING
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Acer emachines Notebooks
NEED TO KNOW • Budget Notebooks • Good quality • New to SA R5 999.95 ACER’S recent acquisition of US manufacturer Gateway is great news for South African consumers as the vendor’s line up of low-cost laptops and desktops will be available locally for the first time. Acer has introduced two models in this exciting range that caters to the needs of entry- and mid-level users. The high-end G-series is yet to hit our shores. The entry-level D series is perfect for people on the move who are interested in a useful, but not hugely powerful notebook. While not quite a netbook, its functionality is largely the same, with only hard drive space and processing power placing it firmly in the notebook realm. This means that spreadsheet use, light photo editing and perhaps the odd non-3D game will be possible in addition to the more pedestrian web-surfing and e-mail sending; just don’t expect stellar performance. The mid-level E-series is where emachines start to get interesting, with the e525 being a nicely-rounded piece of kit that offers performance that will meet the needs of most users. The more than sufficient 160GB hard drive space will accommodate all the movies and music you need to keep yourself entertained while on the road, while the powerful, yet energy-efficient Intel Celeron M processor means battery life is not sacrificed in the pursuit of mobility. Although its 15.6-inch screen is big enough for you
e725 to feel unrestricted, the surface seemed quite reflective in bright conditions; the finish does go well with the highly polished bezel, so perhaps it’s a theme. If you’ve used other Acer laptop products and liked their screens, know that the emachines screens are very similar to those. The e525 comes with Windows Vista Home Basic installed, with the 2GB of system RAM more than enough to keep Vista happy and the system performance snappy. If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced laptop that has surprisingly alluring looks, and whose insides are powerful enough to power your mobile experience without feeling like you’re on a slow boat to China, you’d do well to check out the e525.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • Intel Celeron M 900 @ 2.2gHz • 2GB DDR2-667 RAM • 160GB Hard Drive • 802.11b/g WLAN support • CrystalEye Integrated Webcam • Windows Vista Basic • 15.4” WXGA 1280 x 800 Display PROS
• Value-packed • Energy-efficient processor • Plenty of RAM
• Screen is a bit glossy • 802.11b/g WLAN only • Could be faster
Both laptops come with only 802.11b/g wireless network support. While built-in (which is good), the range and reliability of b and g wireless network connections are not as good as n. They will still get you connected, of course, just be sure to stay close to your wireless router as the signal degrades the further away you move. In practical terms, this simply means that the further away you are from your router, the more likely the signal is to drop and leave you stranded.
Protect your notebook and look good while doing it with Built’s extensive range of laptop sleeves to suit laptops of all sizes.
34 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
THE Acer e725 is the bigger brother of the e525, although it’s difficult to discern that from looking at the machines side-by-side as they have identical bodies. The e725 is, however, a much more powerful unit, boasting a much beefier processor and a bigger hard drive. Intel’s Pentium Dual Core T4200 processor, clocked at 2.0GHz, provides the grunt that far outperforms the Celeron M chips. If your budget allows, dual core Pentium chips are by far the best way to go, offering the best mobile performance, although this does come at the expense of overall power efficiency. As the e725 has the same chassis as the e525, its screen has the same reflective glossiness. Windows Vista Home Premium is the operating system of choice, but as with the e525, the e725 has enough RAM to feed Vista’s hunger for resources.
Both laptops are supplied with a very useful software package that includes CD and DVD authoring tools, Adobe Reader, a DVD playback suite, Norton Internet Security and Microsoft Works 8.5 for light office productivity. These are both value laptops, so don’t expect them to perform like premium-priced performance notebooks, but even so they both still offer excellent value for someone looking for their first notebook and a taste of mobility.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • Intel Pentium Dual Core T4200 @ 2.0gHz • 2GB DDR2-667 RAM • 250GB Hard Drive • 802.11b/g WLAN support • CrystalEye Integrated Webcam • Windows Vista Premium • 15.4” WXGA 1280 x 800 Display
• Plenty of processing power • More than enough memory • Serious storage space
• Screen glossiness detracts slightly • 802.11b/g WLAN only
Targus Micro Hub Plugging in USB devices can be a pain, especially when your notebook runs out of USB ports. This handy travel hub gives you support for another 4 USB devices, so go wild!
Defcon Combination Cable Lock Make sure your laptop stays where you left it by securing it with this strong combination lock. Don’t forget your code!
Built laptop sleeve
Linksys Wireless-G Range Extender Alternatively, grab a Linksys Wireless-G Range Extender and expand the coverage area of your wireless 802.11b/g network.
HP Pavilion DV6-1120ei Notebook NEED TO KNOW • Entertainment-centric notebook • WXGA Resolution R10 999.95 HP’S Pavilion line of notebooks has a long and decorated history, and the latest versions are nothing short of spectacular. The 1120ei is an entertainment behemoth, with a large and clear 15.6” high definition screen, a beautiful finish and more space and power than you’ll know what to do with. Weighing in at over 3kgs, the 1120ei is not a lightweight laptop, but it has to be heavy to contain the components that’ll have you blazing your way through virtually any task while still keeping battery life respectable. The 1120ei is preconfigured with a whopping 4GB of system RAM, which even Windows Vista Home Premium can’t complain about and a nice, big 250GB hard drive for all the media you will undoubtedly want to take with you wherever you go. Topping it all off is an Intel T4200 processor clocked at 2GHz; while not jaw-droppingly fast, it is certainly fast enough to keep your notebook chewing through applications and movies, aided by the impressive amount of system RAM. In fact, we have to say that the amount of RAM in use here appears to go further towards making Vista’s operation quick and responsive than the processor alone. Together, the RAM and processor form a formidable performance partnership. The 1120ei looks gorgeous, to put it bluntly. Its high-def BrightView screen, which supports widescreen resolutions of up to 1366 x 768, is glossy but not too reflective, and displays very deep blacks, intense whites and vibrant colours. HP has done a tremendous job on the screen, especially handy when you’re going to be watching a lot of movies on your notebook. Even the onboard sound system is worth noting; so much so, in fact, that you’ll be tempted to watch movies without headphones – Altec Lansing, a company well-known for the quality of their audio equipment, provides the
sound on the DV6 and the speakers take up a full inch and a bit of the laptop’s keyboard area, encased in a shiny metal grid. Sound quality, while no way a threat to add-on speaker systems, is very good, although the bass reproduction was a little weak. Even so, it offers a far richer sound experience than notebooks are known to deliver, a definite plus. The onboard graphics can even handle games, although not at their highest graphical settings – a compromise has to be made somewhere to keep games smooth. Still, 3D gaming on a notebook at respectable speeds is a remarkable feat. This is a fantastic, entertainment-centric notebook that can pretty much do it all. A six-cell lithium-ion battery keeps you mobile for longer than standard four-cell batteries can, and its power and versatility mean you’ll enjoy every minute you spend staring into its sexy screen.
Netgear Wireless-B USB Adapter 54mbps not fast enough for you? Pick up a Netgear Wireless-N USB adapter and rock your network connection at much more respectable speeds of 200mbps and beyond. Wireless-N router required.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • • • • •
Intel Core 2 Duo T4200 processor (2.0GHz) 15.4-inch WXGA display (1366 x 768) ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 video card 4GB DDR2-800 RAM (2x 2GB) 250GB 5400RPM hard drive 802.11b/g wireless + Bluetooth Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit High-capacity 6-cell Lithium-ion battery PROS
• 4GB of system RAM • Able to play games • Sexy looks, rich sound
• A bit heavy • Only b/g wireless network support • Bass reproduction is a bit weak
Huawei K3520 3G USB Modem For on-the-go access to the Internet, you’ll need a dedicated 3G modem. Huawei’s K3520 modem connects easily via USB, and is very small and thus very easily portable. Available on Vodacom data contracts, or for outright purchase. WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 35
product reviews PERFECT COMPANION
Logitech MX 5500 Revolution Keyboard and Mouse set Logitech’s premium keyboard and mouse set is sure to feel fantastic in your hands while giving you more flexibility and agility with integrated shortcut keys.
Acer eMachine EL1700 NEED TO KNOW • Entry to mid-level capable desktop • Good value for money offering • Choice of three ‘tiered’ models • Worthwhile software bundle R3 999.95
• Great value for money ‘starter’ or basic home PC. • Three models means you can choose your performance level
• Ceiling in terms of upgradability. While it will take extra hard disks and memory, processor changes can be challenging.
Aidata Notebook Numeric Cable Lock Lock down your desktop or laptop with this sturdy and secure numeric cable lock so it doesn’t grow legs when you leave your desk to go for a quick coffee.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS: • Choice of Intel Celeron/Pentium 4 processors • Up to 4GB of memory • 320GB Hard disk • DVD writer with LabelFlash • Windows Vista Home Premium
ACER EMACHINES EME525/EME725 NOTEBOOKS Need a mobile option? Take a look at the new mobile offerings from Acer in the eMachine range on page 34.
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a trial version of Microsoft Office Home, Student Edition 2007 and Norton AntiVirus 2009. Full versions of Microsoft Works 9.0, Adobe Acrobat Reader, FlashPlayer, CyberLink Power2Go and Labelprint, NTI CD and DVD maker Gold and the Google Toolbar are preloaded. eMachines’ Big Fix and Recovery Centre are two other vital additions, making for easy problem resolution and recovery, should a disaster strike. For users who require a bit more processing power, the EL1700 is available in higher performance models that run on faster Pentium 4 processors, with extended RAM.
Belkin Wireless G Desktop Card Avoid messy networking cabling while still easily connecting your desktop to the Internet. Designed for the Windows family of operating systems, this is the perfect entry-level wireless networking card.
ACER X193H, X203H OR X223H LCD MONITORS Stick with the Acer brand and check out three of its newer, good value-for-money LCD monitors on page 45.
the front of the eMachine’s bezel and effortlessly transfer content to and fro. Of course, one can also use the included DVD drive to ‘rip’ or extract music or video from an optical disk, such as a CD or DVD. Since the optical drive can also write a variety of disk formats (including all CD and DVD varietals) and furthermore burn a label into the top of the disk using a technology called ‘Labelflash’, backing up media and other important content, is a snap. Moving onto added value, the software bundle provided with the EL1700 is designed to give users increased choice and that vital try-before-you-buy capability. The EL1700 is generally available with Windows Vista Home Premium, but versions with Ubuntu Linux are available on request. While the Ubuntu version offers tons of free to use software downloads (that requires an Internet connection), the Windows Vista version ships with
WHILE the new eMachine EL1700 range from Acer is most definitely not designed for the PC enthusiast, it is by no means a computer range designed with only the entry-level user in mind. Addressing the needs of price conscious buyers who are looking for a good all-rounder first, the entry-level EL1700 comes with an Intel Celeron processor and 1GB of DDR2 memory. This means it’s perfectly suited to tasks such as web browsing, e-mail and basic Word or Excel usage. Its embedded NVidia graphics card also means it can be used to crunch through current entry-level games, or top-end titles from a couple of years ago without taking too much of a beating. The 320GB hard disk means there’s tons of storage space available for digital music, photographs and digital video, which incidentally the EL1700 is more than competent at playing back. When it comes to getting media onto the EL1700, nothing could be simpler. The three USB 2.0 ports means users can easily connect a digital camera, their iPod or an external hard disc to the EL1700 and synchronise content in a flash. The EL1700 also comes with a multi-in-one card reader that allows users to insert a wide variety of digital media cards directly into a slot on
iWork 09 Apple’s office productivity suite is a great alternative to Microsoft Office for Mac and perfect for those users that are already engrossed in the Apple ecosystem. Pages (word processor), Numbers (spreadsheet) and Keynote (presentations) have all been beefed up for better compatibility with Office. With every release iWork is becoming more of a contender.
Microsoft Office:mac 2009 Use your Mac for work and laugh at how colleagues and clients wont even realize you’re not on Windows. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage (Outlook for Mac) offer everything the PC versions do and more. A wonderful step in the right direction from Microsoft.
Apple iMac NEED TO KNOW: • Same sexy, all-in-one design • Miniscule footprint and desk real-estate required • New components result in performance boosts • iLife 09 included iMac MB417 – R14 999.95 iMac MB418 – R19 999.95 only in 25 stores iMac MB419 – R23 999.95 THE hottest-looking range of desktop computers in the world has just gotten a well-deserved upgrade. Instead of tinkering with the already perfect aesthetics of this range however, Apple has chosen to leave well enough alone and instead targeted these machines’ innards. And it’s a wise move, since specifications-wise the iMac range was losing ground to more cost-effective PCs with more bang in the processor and graphics departments. The addition of Intel’s new range of 6MB-cache equipped Core 2 Duo processors and a choice of either NVidia 120/130 or ATI Radeon 4850/4870 graphics to the iMac’s component mix sees healthy performance boosts, but ones that rather importantly, don’t require significantly more power or cooling. These are important aspects of the upgrade to consider, since an increase in power requirements or more importantly the need for more efficient cooling would have seen Apple saddled with the task of substantially reengineering the iMac’s internal layout, and in all likelihood the external structure too.
The two other important influencers in the buying decision - memory capacity and storage capabilities - have also taken a jump. All of the iMac models now ship with a baseline of 2GB of memory and can be expanded from there to accommodate up to 8GB of memory. On the storage capacity front, standard hard disk size goes up to 320GB and options that allow for a model with 500GB or 1TB (a thousand GB) of storage to be ordered exist. The easiest way to upgrade your machine’s hard disk capacity is via the purchase of external hard disks however. The iMacs retain their six USB 2.0 ports (2 on the wired keyboard, 4 on the box), and get a shiny new Firewire 800 port to replace the older and slower Firewire 400 ports of previous versions. While there is a range of converters available that can see you connecting a FireWire 400 device to the new FireWire 800 port, it’s important to know this up-front and cater for it in your budget, since these accessories can be expensive. A nice bonus is of course the inclusion of iLife ‘09 in the mix of new software shipped with the iMac. At a retail value of R1200, this package is a truly awesome leap in functionality. The upgrades to processor, graphics, memory and storage see the iMac regaining the vital attention it’s lost of late. It’s a good “value for money” option, aesthetically superior to any other desktop computer in the world and with the latest set of component upgrades still a very competent multimedia, Internet and gaming machine, not to mention a whizz at producing documents.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS: • Intel Core 2 Duo (with 6MB cache) • 2GB of memory • NVidia GT 120/130 or ATI Radeon 4850/4870 graphics • 320GB, 500GB or 1TB of storage • Integrated widescreen hi-def LCD • Choice of 20-inch and 24-inch LCD form factors PROS • Best looking Mac ever • Comes bundled with iLife 09 • Runs Mac OS X and Windows CONS • All-in-one design makes upgrading everything except storage and memory impossible. OVERALL RATING
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product reviews RELATED PRODUCTS
GARMIN NUVI 200W If Garmin GPS devices are more to your taste, check out the widescreen Nuvi 200W that offers a slightly wider screen for a bigger view of your surroundings.
TomTom GO 720 NEED TO KNOW • 4.3” High Quality screen • Latest map guarantee • Many useful and fun extras • Regular, free map upgrades R3 799.95 TOMTOM’S GO 720 GPS navigation system is one of the easiest gadgets we’ve ever used. Opening the box is about the most difficult thing to do – the rest is almost literally child’s play. Once everything was unpacked and unwrapped, without even looking at the instructions (which were, when we checked later, rather comprehensive) it was very easy to determine what was necessary. Plug charger into USB? Check. Plug GPS into USB charger cradle? Check. Insert CD into DVD-ROM drive? Check. Follow automatic prompts to install and run software? Check. Automatically update device with the latest maps once connected to the Internet? Check. And that was that. By following only a few steps, the GPS was ready to rock, aside from a first-time two-hour charging period which TomTom recommends before you set out anywhere. Once charged, it was easily set up on my car’s windshield, and within only a few seconds of being turned on, it had picked up a strong signal from the GPS satellite network, and was ready to roll. Choosing destinations is incredibly simple; by just touching the incredibly responsive colour touchscreen, the 720 opens its menu system which is also massively easy to follow (as long as you can read). Thanks to a comprehensive, detailed mapping system and a clever interface, entering destinations is a simple process. Once selected, all you have to do is drive. Driving with a GPS can be somewhat distracting, but once you’ve used it for a few hours the screen will no longer pose such an attraction for your gaze, and the voiced instructions will become a part of the car’s familiar cabin noise. The 720 offers a few voices to choose from, English and American male and 38 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
female voices out the box, but TomTom also offers many others to download, including voices in other languages and accents. You can even record your own voice giving instructions, if you’re so inclined. Instructions are clear and concise, and the accuracy of the mapping system, thanks to a community feature that allows TomTom users to make corrections to incorrect mapping data using a built-in map editor, is phenomenal. It has plenty of options, too, from an FM transmitter for broadcasting instructions through your car’s radio, a Bluetooth hands-free option for your phone, as well as things like numbers for roadside assistance and directions to nearby points of interest, like petrol stations. It will also optionally warn you if you’re exceeding the speed limit, notify you of “safety cameras” if you download the feature, and tell you when it’s time to take a break. With a battery life of five hours off a single charge and a handy car-charger included in the kit, the GO 720 is likely to seldom be out of commission. This is truly an easy to use, highly accurate and responsive device; if you’ve never considered a GPS before, this is a fantastic option, and one which comes highly recommended.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • •
4.3-inch Colour touch screen English and American voices SD cards supported USB charging PROS
• Accurate mapping • Fantastically user-friendly • Responsive touch screen •Downloadable additions
• Not so pocket-friendly • Car charging seemed slow
NOKIA 6110 NAVIGATOR For an all-in-one phone and GPS experience, Nokia’s 6110 comes highly recommended with detailed local maps.
BLACKBERRY BOLD Boldly navigate your way around local roads with Blackberry’s latest opus, featuring up-to-date maps and optional third-party software enhancements.
Paper: HP Photo Paper For the best results, pick up some Advanced HP Photo Paper to bring colours to life and create pictures that will last for years.
HP OfficeJet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One NEED TO KNOW • Competent print, copy, scan and fax • Wireless LAN capable • 50% cheaper to run than many laser printers • Designed for up to 10 users TBC HP has hit another ball out of the park with the release of this all-inwonder, bringing the four most used office automation tasks together in a device that is cheap to operate, convenient to use and with built-inwireless easy (and neat) to set-up and maintain. The newest development is undoubtedly the multi-function device’s (MFD) Wireless LAN capability that supports the 802.11g standard and can accommodate simultaneous use from up to 10 users in a company workgroup. Apart from adding wireless to the mix, HP has also done extensive work on the device’s print engine, resulting in it being able to deliver printouts at a speed of 15 black and 11 colour pages per minute (ppm). It’s not just in the performance stakes that HP has made headway with the 8500 Pro however. The company claims that the cost per page of this all in one is 50% lower than the majority of comparable laser all-in-ones available and that power consumption is likewise, 50% down on a comparable laser unit. Add to that, the device’s built in duplex printing capability (printing on both sides of a page) and it’s clear that HP had the user’s pocket and the environment’s health in view when it designed the 8500 Pro. While it’s not something HP lays claim to, we also believe this MFD is its easiest to use yet. Unlike many all-in-one devices that offer the functionality users require, but tend to be difficult to operate, HP’s use of 40 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
a touch-screen makes operating this device a pleasure. The intuitive interface makes scanning, faxing and copying as easy as clicking the correct option on the touch-screen and following instructions. Accessing configuration options and maintenance tasks is just as simple. And then of course, there’s the built in card reader, which means printing photos taken on a digital camera is as simple as unplugging the memory module from the camera, plugging it into the MFD and pressing print on the touch-screen. And with support for the various versions of Windows in play today as well as Mac OS X, the 8500 Pro is a very polished product that’s an absolute must have for all SMB and small workgroup environments.
Camera: Kodak Easyshare Digital Camera For simple point and shoot photography that delivers crisp, clean images, consider a Kodak Easyshare C1013.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • Prints at 15ppm black • Prints at 11ppm colour • Copies at 35cpm (colour, draft) • Support for 802.11g wireless LAN • 1200 x 1200 dots per inch print quality in black • 4800 x 1200 dots per inch print quality in colour PROS
• Four devices in one • Fats performance • Convenient Wireless LAN printing • 50% cheaper to run than most comparable lasers
• Large footprint • 35 page paper capacity (default)
Router: Belkin Wireless-N router To make the most of this printer, you’re going to need a wireless network. Belkin’s Wireless N router will fit the bill nicely while delivering excellent performance for your printing needs.
Samsung CLP-315 NEED TO KNOW • QUIET OPERATION • COLOUR LASER PRINTING • WIRELESS R1 699.95 COLOUR laser printing for this kind of price has been, until recently, almost unheard of. Samsung’s CLP-315 brings not only colour laser printing, but wireless networking abilities too, all packaged up in a very attractive pianoblack chassis that won’t look out of place in either an office or a home study. On top of that, its operation is hardly louder than a whisper, and it is rated to print over 24,000 black pages and 6,000 colour pages before its drum kit needs replacing. With all that making the CLP-315 a very attractive buy, it does need to be said that it’s not the world’s fastest colour laser printer. 4 pages per minute in colour are all you can expect, and while the printer tries hard to make up for this by offering 17 black pages per minute, the overall print quality, while acceptable, is not exceptional. It is still more than good enough for office documentation and the printing of documents that make use of text and images, but its colour printing is no match for a similarly-priced photo printer. Its toner cartridges are separate, enabling the replacement of the individual colours as they run out, and they are easily accessed by folding the front cover down. They will need to be removed to gain access to the printer drum and the waste toner disposal unit. It is also recommended you not forget to empty the waste unit every 5 000 prints, which can be a bit tricky to remember. One of the CLP-315’s more attractive features is its built-in wireless b/g support. The setup process is a bit arduous, however, which can potentially leave inexperienced users scratching their heads as they figure out that they should first hook the printer up to a router using a cable, print the
configuration page, and then open the printer’s user interface via a web browser using the information supplied on the configuration page. Once done, however, the web interface can be used to configure the CLP-315 with your wireless network’s settings, and once done, it can be physically disconnected from the wired network, using only its wireless components to maintain connectivity. The unit’s software monitors toner levels and diagnostics, and the driver itself lets you tweak each print to your satisfaction with things like watermarks and overlays. The paper tray is a little small, though, holding only 150 pages to accommodate the CLP-315’s compact design. This is fine for light office use, but if you share the printer over the network, replacing paper several times a day could cause some teeth-gnashing. While it has a few areas that could bear improvements, for the price there is hardly a better recommendation for colour laser printing than Samsung’s CLP-315.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 4PPM COLOUR, 17PPM BLACK • USB • 802.11B/G CONNECTIVITY • WEB INTERFACE PROS
Wireless b/g Connectivity Lightweight and compact design Individual Toner Cartridges
Wireless configuration is tricky Print speed could be faster Paper drawer limited to 150 sheets
HP CP1215 COLOUR LASER PRINTER Looking for an alternative in a similar price range? Give HP’s CP1215 Colour LaserJet a look, with its compact design and sleek looks complementing very competent colour laser printing capabilities. WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 41
Canon PIXMA IP4600 NEED TO KNOW
• Dedicated photo printer • Glossy looks • Frill-free R1 399.95
CANONSCAN LIDE 200 Easily capture physical photographs and documents and save them to your PC using this speedy, high resolution scanner.
HP PHOTOSMART 626 This tiny photo printer puts out brilliant pictures, and also has an integrated LCD screen for on-the-fly editing before you hit print. 42 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
CANON’S PIXMA IP4600 is the updated replacement of their previous generation PIXMA IP4500, a speedy photo printer that earned itself a reputation for quality output at decent speeds. The IP4600 addresses the only real issue raised by the IP4500: price. To do that, though, Canon has had to compromise on its overall speed, but that isn’t a train smash by any means, as the IP4600 still puts out excellent-quality photos to rival those of the average in-store kiosk, and those are more than worth waiting for. The IP4600 uses five separate ink cartridges, three for colour and two for black. The separate blacks are for different media types: a dye-based ink for printing on standard A4 paper and a pigment-based black for photo prints. This helps save ink in the long run, which is great for your pocket. Print speed and the lack of an integrated LCD screen with which to perform basic photo edits is the IP4600’s only real weakness. Running through a suite of office applications, it took almost four minutes longer in total to print the same amount of documents as its predecessor, a speed drop of around 33%, but the price of the printer more than makes up for this shortcoming, especially when one takes into consideration the overall quality of its photo prints. It should also be noted that the real-world speeds versus the official specifications are rather different. With no included LCD, there is no way to preview each picture, but then this is a budget photo printer. Luckily, Canon makes up for this with an Auto Photo Fix feature that enhances pictures and reduces red-eye quite effectively. The reason behind the purchase, printing photographs, is by far what the IP4600 does best. Sure, you may wait longer for your photos
to come out than with its predecessor, but the quality is superb. Colours are realistically life-like and images are sharp with plenty of detail in both light and dark areas of our pictures. As a bonus, the IP4600 handles everyday printing of text documents as well as documents consisting of coloured text and graphics well, too, and can even print on CDs thanks to a handy CD/DVD carrier tray. In keeping with the modern trend of producing stylish products, Canon has clad the IP4600 in shiny piano-black plastic that covers most of its body, which looks fantastic but tends to attract fingerprints like a bent policeman attracts bribes. Its edges have also been somewhat rounded to create a smooth-looking printer, comfortable in both home and office surroundings. The IP4600 is an excellent photo printer: it doesn’t cost the earth and produces excellent results. While not an all-purpose office printer, it will still manage a decent job at general documents, but we recommend you buy a printer dedicated to that purpose instead if you print in volume.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • Speed: Black: 26ppm • Colour: 21ppm • Resolution: Black: 600 x 600 dpi • Colour: 9600 x 2400 dpi • Dimensions: 432mm (W) x 297mm (D) x 152mm (H) PROS
• Affordable and sexy • Excellent photo quality • Handles general documents too
• Slower print speed than the IP4500 • No integrated LCD screen • Rated speeds not a real-world reflection
42 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
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Belkin 802.11n USB Wireless Adapter Ensure your PC is making the most of the high-bandwidth 802.11n wireless protocol with this handy USB adapter.
Belkin N Wireless Router NEED TO KNOW
Belkin N+ Wireless ADSL Router NEED TO KNOW • Excellent wireless range • Easy to set up • Helpful manual • Intuitive interface R2 999.95 WHAT you’re looking for when you go router shopping is a unit that not only has all the features you could ever want (even if you won’t use them all), but one which can maintain a wireless signal even when there are obstacles between it and your Wi-Fi enabled laptop or desktop PC. There is nothing quite like getting home and hooking up your new router only to find that the PC on the far end of the house has very little reception and a connection that drops occasionally thanks to a weak wireless signal. Belkin’s N+ ADSL router, then, is exactly what you need to ensure all PCs throughout your house receive decent wireless signal for all the high speed internet browsing and file sharing you’re going to be doing. Making use of the highly efficient 802.11n wireless protocol, the N+ has a very impressive range of over 400 feet. A long way in itself, this means that even with signal-interfering obstacles like walls in the way, you’re sure to get good reception. Still, try to position the N+ far away from microwaves or thick walls, as this will reduce the router’s efficacy. Using its incredibly easy to use setup disk
and printed instructions, you can be up and running within five minutes of installing everything. Belkin’s interface is very intuitive, but a web interface is also available for more experienced users, making it handy for newcomers and veterans alike. Security options include WEP and WPA encryption. The router stands quite tall but the base is sturdy, and there is a really cool set of lights that illuminates based on the amount of traffic currently going through the router so you can see when traffic peaks. Not essential, but still nice to have. Easy to set up and use, nice to look at and with a powerful range, this is definitely a product to consider when it comes time to upgrade to ADSL, or replace your existing home router.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 802.11DRAFT-N WIRELESS • 4 ETHERNET PORTS PROS
• Long wireless range • Easy setup • Sleek looks • Pretty lights • Security
• Great price • Straightforward setup • Great manual • Intuitive interface R2 699.95
Belkin FASTCAT5e 10m Ethernet Cable
THE N+ has a smaller brother, the aptly named Belkin N Wireless Router. A slightly less feature-rich model, the N is a budget router for people who don’t want or need massive wireless coverage throughout their homes and who really just need a reliable ADSL router that they don’t plan on straying too far from. The security options present on the N are basic (there is no WPA encryption support), so if enterprise-grade security is not a concern, the N will do just fine. Belkin has really put a lot of effort into their out of the box experience, as the N also boasts a similarly-convenient setup, complete with numbered cables, a detailed and helpful instruction manual and even a step-by-step install wizard that connected us perfectly without a hitch. This is definitely a great buy for someone who is interested in setting up their own ADSL router and cutting Telkom (and their charges) out of the ADSL setup process, as it is incredibly straightforward. These two options cater beautifully to big and small homes and offices alike, and are both a great place to start for people looking at ADSL router options with wireless access.
Extend your router’s reach with this awesome CAT 5e cable from Belkin.
Packard Bell 640GB USB External Drive Boost your network storage with an extra 640GB of space.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 802.11draft-n Wireless • 4 Ethernet Ports Netgear Wireless N Router
• Budget-priced • Easy to set up
• No DHCP reservations • No automatic channel selection • Limited security options
Smart wizards and automatic hardware updates help keep the Netgear Wireless N router easy to use and always upgraded.
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product reviews PERFECT COMPANION
Labtec Spin 85 Speakers These small speakers are great companions for devices like portable music players, and hook up easily to desktop and notebook PCs.
Acer K10 Travel Projector REASONS TO BUY • Compact • Travels well • Long lamp life • Bargain! R5 999.95 ACER’S most recently-released projector, the K10, is the company’s firstever pico projector, meaning it’s very small. Designed to be highly portable, the K10 is essentially a travel projector that is perfect for business trips consisting of many meetings and presentations. Being tiny has its drawbacks, however, as the accompanying power supply weighs more than projector itself. This is only a problem if you don’t own an Acer laptop as the company has designed the projector to be powered by its own laptops, which is a thoughtful feature for the brandconscious buyer. The second most remarkable aspect of the K10 after its small size is its LED projection technology that all but eliminates the need to change the lamp. Rated at a staggering 20 000 hours, the LED lamp won’t need changing for a long time, putting other projectors to shame with their expensive lamp replacements after only 3 000 or so hours of use. The downside of the use of LED technology is that the K10 struggles to project a clear, vivid image in rooms that are anything less than completely black, which is due to a brightness rating of only 100 ANSI Lumens. The upside is that the K10’s start-up time is fast and overall power consumption is extremely low. The K10 projects at a native resolution (the resolution at which overall 44 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
image quality will be best) of 898 x 600 pixels, but this can be scaled up to 1280 x 1024 for 4:3 video sources, and even supports widescreen projection at 1440 x 900. One other drawback as a result of Acer chasing size over performance is that the K10 doesn’t support audio. If you want your media-rich presentations to have their full impact, then you’ll need external speakers hooked up to your laptop. This isn’t a major drawback as projector sound isn’t much to write home about anyway, although some buyers may lament its absence here. We recommend the K10 for mobile people tired of carrying around bulky projectors, as long as you are willing to sacrifice a little bit of image quality in exchange, and you have no pressing need for audio support.
Tripod Screen 145 x 110cm For those times you run out of wall, or projecting onto a wall is not an option, whip out this portable beauty and impress your business associates.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • •
LED Lamp technology 100 ANSI Lumens 4:9 and 16:9 aspect ratio support 0,55kg PROS
• Very compact design • 20 000 hour lamp life • Fast startup time • Lightweight
• Lacks brightness • Resolution a bit low • No audio
EPSON EMP X-52 PROJECTOR This stylish projector sports a high brightness rating of 2000 ANSI Lumens, a native resolution of 1024 x 768 and audio capabilities. It’s slightly bigger and heavier than the K10.
Acer X193H PERFECT COMPANION
NEED TO KNOW • Cost effective LCD • Good resolution and response rate • Large screen real estate • Low power consumption R1 499.95 LCDS have become the defacto standard in computer displays. They take up far less real estate on users’ desks, consume less power than their conventional CRT cousins and, most notably, are far easier on the eyes. Because they’re also generally manufactured with a wide-screen 16:9 aspect ratio, they’re great for viewing movies (which are generally filmed for this format) in full-screen glory, or from a work perspective, gaining access to extra on-screen workspace. In fact, the 16:9 aspect ratio means users who work in more than one application at a time have enough on-screen real estate to place two windows side-by-side and maintain the ability to focus and interact with both applications comfortably. However, the most significant development in the monitor game over the past couple of years has been the significant reduction in price. And Acer’s X193H is a perfect example of this trend in action. Slim, sleek and offering 18.5-inches of physical display space (roughly the same as what the old 21-inch CRT monitors used to offer), it’s both a pleasure to setup and use. Its large-format screen is backed by a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels and a refresh rate of 75 Hertz, which means it’s easy on the eyes while at the same offering a crisp, rich picture that’s a pleasure to stare at for long periods of time. And thanks to something Acer calls ‘adaptive contrast management’ the display is able to maintain an unusually high contrast ratio (10 000:1) while keeping its power consumption to a minimum. While on the topic of power consumption, the monitor uses a meagre 17W of electricity when fully operational and a ridiculous 0.87W when in standby mode. This makes it one of the most power efficient monitors in its class and well-deserving of its energy star rating. Adding to the monitor’s versatility, it boasts with a response time of less than 5ms, which means it’s more than capable of playing back high definition video and quick-changing graphics, such as some of the more recent and
rather demanding computer games, without any discernible image tear-up or corruption. It’s high contrast ratio and solid resolution also make it well-suited to the display of static images, meaning it’s a more than acceptable display for tasks like photo retouching, browsing the Internet, sending e-mail and of course, ploughing through Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. For users who demand a little more screen real-estate, a 20-inch and 23-inch version of this monitor are also available. Both of these come with the same set of refinements and technologies, making them strong offerings to consider in their class.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 18.5-inch display size • 1366 x 768 pixels • 5ms response time • 10 000:1 contrast ration • 17W power consumption
• Cost effective • Sleek, but not flashy design • Wide range of video input modes • High resolution and contrast ratio
• Not as much of a head turner as other models • Lacks higher-end options like a webcam, USB ports and built-in speakers
Belkin DVI to HDMI Cable Use this to connect your Acer monitor to home entertainment devices, such as a PS3, Blu-Ray DVD player or Xbox 360 and immerse yourself in high definition video.
ACER X233H The 23-inch unit in the Acer X-range. Gains eDisplay and eColour management.
ACER X203H The X193H’s 20-inch cousin with built-in eColour management.
USB Hub Targus 7-Port USB hub with Audio Slide this under your monitor and boost your PC or notebook’s USB connectivity by 7-devices. It even supports power over USB, to a maximum of 3 devices.
Cleaning kit: Aidata LCD cleaning kit You’ve spent the money on a beautiful display, now do what you can to look after it. This kit is specifically designed to keep your monitor in top shape.
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product reviews PERFECT COMPANION
Logitech Z5500 Speakers No home cinema experience is complete without decent sound; Logitech’s top-of-therange Z5500 speakers are sure to blow you away, and provide exceptional audio for any home media centre setup.
Iomega ScreenPlay HD NEED TO KNOW • Replaces a media centre PC • Takes up very little space • Looks great R2 699.95
IOMEGA SCREENPLAY TV LINK Small and compact, the Screenplay TV link lets you play media from any USB disk on your TV with very little mess or fuss.
IOMEGA’S ScreenPlay HD 500GB is a compact, Windows-only media playback device that does most of the things a Media Centre PC is meant to. It stores movies, music and photos on its internal hard drive and plays them back over your home entertainment equipment, and it does so quite well. For less than the cost of a Media Centre PC, the ScreenPlay HD 500GB can sit on your home network and act either as a storage device for other networked gadgets to pull media off of or an all-inclusive media player. With 500GB to play with, you can store a great deal of photos, music and movies, and a remote means you don’t even have to move much to operate it. One of the most impressive additions to the Screenplay’s specification list is the inclusion of an HDMI connector, which minimises cable clutter by outputting both video and audio over a single cable. In terms of other video outputs, the ScreenPlay HD comes with component and composite connections. Video recording is made possible by a composite input, and a variety of sources are catered for, from camcorders to cameras, and audio output is handled by S/PDIF and coaxial digital connections. A single USB port means additional storage via an external hard drive or flash drive, and it also supports wireless LAN capabilities via a USB Wi-Fi dongle. We don’t recommend using a wireless connection to stream content, however, as they don’t supply the required bandwidth to keep anything but music playing without skipping. In practice, the ScreenPlay HD’s interface was a little clunky to use. Navigating using the remote was not as intuitive as it could have been, and the design oversight of having to navigate through your playlist from the beginning when a song or movie ends rather than having your place saved was a little annoying. With any luck,
Iomega’s recent acquisition by EMC Software will lead to future media players having a nicer-looking interface and a more intuitive remote control system. Hopefully they can also address the issue of remote button presses not registering every time. Still, once we grew accustomed to the interface, the Screenplay HD did a decent job. It connected to the network, streamed movies from network locations, upscaled DivX movies to 720p, although it didn’t recognise all HD movie formats, which was a little disappointing. Without a doubt, it’s a great-looking unit, and will not look out of place next to other home entertainment equipment, and it does an excellent job of compacting the space requirements for a home media centre. There are a few issues that need addressing, but for the price you’re paying, they are worth overlooking.
Belkin Wireless-N Router Streaming music and movies to your media centre takes a lot of bandwidth; avoid skipping entirely by networking your home with a powerful wireless-N router like this one on page 43.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • •
500GB SATA-II Hard Drive HDMI output Wi-Fi capable via USB dongle Remote Control PROS Small & sexy Networkable Tons of space CONS Interface needs polishing Remote button design and response could be better Not all HD movie formats recognised OVERALL RATING
Belkin Wireless-N USB Adapter Receiving data is as important as sending it; make sure your media centre is kitted out with one of these babies for the fastest wireless network experience available.
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product reviews RELATED PRODUCTS
Samsung ES10 Camera NEED TO KNOW • Perfect for amateurs • Point and shoot simplicity • Great picture-taking R7 999.95 SAMSUNG’S new ES10 digital camera is aimed at beginner photographers, or for people who like to point and shoot and not think too much about their camera’s settings while still taking good photos. With its 8.1 megapixel sensor, it can capture high-resolution images, while a number of built-in tricks make sure that photos are professionally captured without you having to wade through a manual or taking a photography course. Nobody likes blurry, red-eyed subjects, which makes the ES10’s ability to automatically reduce the chance of red eyes appearing in the first place such a pleasure. If you don’t set it to do that, you can always do some light editing afterwards on the camera itself to get rid of any remaining redness before printing photos or saving them to your computer. The convenience doesn’t stop there, either: Samsung has included multiple “scene modes” that employ automatic settings according to whatever you’re trying to photograph. These range from Beauty Shot mode, which can detect and compensate for blemishes and marks even before you’ve pressed the shutter button, to modes specifically designed to take the best possible pictures of children, self portraits and landscape scenes, with different modes for morning and evening shots. The camera’s menus are easily set up, so it won’t take long for even the most novice photographer to grow accustomed to finding and choosing the most appropriate mode for their shots. Light sensitivity is also automatically compensated for, up to an ISO rating of 1600. Many higher-end cameras may have higher light sensitivity capabilities, but this level is enough so that even photos shot in low-light conditions will still be usable. This level combines perfectly with Samsung’s advanced Digital Image Stabiliser feature, however, to make sure your photos come out unblurred, even in low-light 48 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
situations. This is exactly the kind of feature beginner photographers will find handy as they don’t have to set everything manually before they can take a good photo. While the 8.1MP image sensor may sound inferior compared to other cameras boasting 12 megapixel sensors and larger, it’s not. With this camera, you will be able to take high resolution photos that are big enough to be blown up to poster size without losing clarity. So, for the odd snap around the house, on holiday or at a party, it’s more than enough to capture scenes in magnificent detail. Images are stored on SD Cards and can be transferred easily to a PC using a USB cable and the included software. This is a fantastically easy camera to use, and it’s an ideal starting point for a beginner photographer, or as a gift to family or friends who are known to enjoy taking the odd snap here and there and who don’t necessarily like fiddling with a million settings to get their photos “just right”.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • •
8.1MP Image Sensor Digital Image Stabilizer 3x Optical Zoom SDHC Memory Card Storage Various Scene Modes PROS
• Easy to use • Point and shoot with good results • Beauty Shot mode reduces blemishes • Face recognition • Available in multiple colours • 640x480 Video clips at 30fps
• Not a professional camera
CANON POWERSHOT A1100 Face detection, red-eye reduction and image stabilisation are all present and accounted for here. Consider the Powershot A1100 if you’re looking for a camera with similar features to the Samsung ES10, but with a 12 megapixel image sensor for that extra detail, and a Smart Auto Mode that accurately chooses the most appropriate settings for your scene.
CANON POWERSHOT A480 Canon’s DICIG III image processor powers the A480’s ability to focus on faces, reduce shakiness and ensure colours and lighting are adjusted so that every shot is optimised. A 10 megapixel image sensor means big, detailed photos, and its highly compact body (25% smaller than its predecessor, the A470) will fit snugly in pockets and handbags.
Fujifilm Finepix A150 NEED TO KNOW • It’s technophobe-friendly • Easy-to-use controls • Value packed R1 399.95 FUJIFILM’S Finepix A150 is another entry-level, compact camera that does its best to offer consumers a good operating experience while delivering great photos. As a compact, it’s a budget camera, and offers features best-suited to novice users, so think children, grandparents or anyone in your life who isn’t particularly tech-savvy. That’s not to say it can’t deliver the goods, though. Fuji’s A150 has a plethora of features built in that help shutterbugs take decent photos without having to study a technical manual for a week before setting out. The menu system is incredibly easy to use, and the camera’s chassis is lightweight and compact so it travels easily. A bright three-inch LCD screen for easy photo viewing rounds out the list of impressive physical attributes. The usual suspects are all accounted for here too, from image stabilisation to face recognition to automatic red-eye reduction and scene selection, all of which are becoming de-facto standards for entry-level cameras, and without which a modern compact camera just cannot claim to deliver value and perfor-
mance. Picture stabilisation iss the feature that will automatically adjust light ht sensitivity and shutter speed to suit picture-taking -taking conditions, and the scene selectionn feature further reduces any mental effort required quired to get your pictures just right. It’s 10 megapixel image sensor will provide you with clear, high resolution photographs,s, and the 3x optical zoom coupled with the 5.7x digital zoom will deliver a combined ombined zoom of 17.1x. While this sounds impressive and looks great on paper,r this doesn’t necessarily mean the zoom will blow you away in real-world applications, but it’s still a nice addition that means you can get a little closer to your subjects; just don’t expect to see pores on subjects only a few feet away. Fujifilm has delivered another great entry-level camera that won’t hurt your pocket and that still performs admirably. With a high level of simplicity built in to its operation, this is an ideal camera for for technophobes and amateur photographers alike.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 10 megapixel image sensor • Face recognition (up to 6 subjects) • Automatic red-eye reduction • Image stabilisation
Fujifilm Finepix Z33WP
PROS • Well-priced • Simple to use • Slim design CONS • Entry-level shooter • Only 20MB of onboard storage OVERALL RATING
NEED TO KNOW • It’s waterproof! • It’s tiny • It can take underwater videos! R2 999.95
• Waterproof to 3m • Compact build • Colourful options • 10MP image sensor
• 3m isn’t very deep
FUJIFILM’S Finepix Z33WP is not just another entry-level camera. By far its most interesting and noteworthy claim to fame is the fact that it operates equally underwater at up to 3 metres as it does on dry land. It’s also a very small camera, and Fuji claims it’s actually the smallest underwater camera yet. Based on its size, we can well believe it – it measures a paltry 92 x 59.6 x 20.6 mm and weighs a ridiculous 110g without memory card or batteries. The best part is that while you’re underwater, you’re going to be taking very good pictures thanks to the 10 megapixel image sensor and 3x zoom. The measure of desirability for waterproof cameras is no longer merely that the unit can go underwater, but how deep and for how long, and the Z33WP delivers on both fronts. You’re not going to be deep-sea diving with it, but for snorkelling, pool parties and the occasional drop in the pool, it’s perfect. While you can opt for a bland, boring black finish, the Z33WP is also available in a variety of bright, vivid colours better suited to keeping it visible underwater. Plus, it’s just more fun having a brightly-coloured gadget – think of all the attention you’ll get on the beach. For a waterproof point-and-shoot camera, you’d be hard pressed to find something that offers more value than the XZ33WP. It’s shiny, it’s tiny and it gets the job done, even underwater.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 10MP Sensor • 3x Optical Zoom • Waterproof to a depth of 3m
Battery chargers Energizer Value Charger (AA and AAA) Recharge your AA and AAA batteries with Energizer’s nicely-priced Value Charger.
Photo Frame: Composition 10.4” PF10251A Show off your digital photo collection with this stylish electronic photo frame that boasts over 10 inches of screen space.
WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 49
Nikon Coolpix L100 NEED TO KNOW • Sports Shooting • Automatic scene adjustments • Easy to use
Canon 450D Pro Kit Bundle
NEED TO KNOW FOR quality photography on a budget, you can’t go far wrong with Nikon’s new Coolpix L100 camera. Usually, buying on a budget means you have to give up cool (and usually expensive) features, but that is simply not true with the L100. Nikon has made sure the L100 can still take clear, high-speed action shots thanks to its 13 frames-per-second sports shooting mode even though it’s not a highpriced camera, but be sure you set the photo quality to medium or low to capture the best image. Its 15x Nikkor lens, the equivalent of a 420mm lens for a 35mm camera, along with its generous 10 megapixel image sensor means you can zoom in from a long way off and still capture detailed pictures. Getting up close and personal is similarly easy, as the L100 can also take pictures of subjects from as close as 1cm in great detail using the “macro” mode. In practice, though, its auto focus lost the plot a little and those close shots didn’t come out as well as expected. Optimal shooting appears to start from little more than half a metre or so away from the camera. Nikon’s Image Sensor Shift VR stabilisation adds that extra little punch as it takes care of camera
50 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
shake, so say goodbye to blurry pictures. It also offers a 28mm wide-angle shooting mode for those dreamy landscape pictures, and its distortion control makes sure those come out perfectly flat and not warped like you’re shooting through a fish-eye lens. This is a lovely entry-level camera that doesn’t skimp on features like the face-detecting, light-adjusting features found on other beginner cameras. Novice shutterbugs would do well to give it a shot.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 15x Zoom • 10 megapixel image sensor • 13fps sports shooting mode • Image Sensor Shift VR • 28mm wide-angle shooting PROS • Great wide-angle shots • Excellent zoom • Action shots • Distortion control for wide-angle pictures CONS • Action shots best at lower quality • Macro shots tricky to pull off OVERALL RATING
• Excellent build quality • Lightweight • 12MP sensor • Lens kits for image stabilisation R13 999.95 CANON’S 450D is a replacement of the older 400D, and offers a few improvements over its predecessor. Sporting a 12.2 megapixel image sensor, a full 2 megapixels up from the 400D, the 450D can truly boast ultra-high resolution photography to capture virtually all possible detail in any given scene. The most immediately noticeable change in the body itself is the new 3-inch LCD screen that has caused a bit of a reshuffle of the button layout on the 450D. By no means a bad thing, the button reshuffle has resulted in a rather intuitive handling experience, with often-used buttons within very easy reach. While slightly bigger than the older 400D, the 450D is also a bit lighter. A completely new addition is Canon’s Live View, a feature that hints at a point and shoot experience similar to compact cameras by previewing your shot on the LCD screen. In practice, however, Live View’s use is limited, firstly due to it being hidden in the depths of what is otherwise an easy to use menu system, and secondly by the fact that the Live Auto Focus mode, essential to accurate shots while using Live View is quite slow, taking over three seconds to focus. On the other hand, the 450D’s features are well-suited to more experienced photographers, with options to control aperture settings and shutter speed, either semiautomatically or completely manually. ISO sensitivity, which determines a camera sensor’s sensitivity to light, is rated at only 1600 which is surprisingly low for an otherwise feature-rich camera, but despite this the 450D still takes beautiful photos even in low-light situations.
Which is the point, really. The 450D performs excellently, taking detailed, well-balanced photographs. There are eight image quality modes to choose from as well as the usual red-eye reduction and face detection technologies built in which ensure that whatever pictures you’re taking, are great ones. The Pro Kit includes two additional kit lenses for even more options. Image stabilisation with the 450D is achieved via the lenses as opposed to the body as offered by other cameras, which is a bit limiting as the quality of the automatic adjustments necessary for picture-perfect shooting are dependent on which lens is currently fitted. The advantage is that the effects of anti-shake can be seen through the viewfinder. First-time buyers should give some thought to more simple cameras, as the 450D is aimed more at intermediate to advanced users. It offers plenty of controls, but these may intimidate novice users looking for a more simplified point and shoot experience.
NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 12.2 Megapixel Image Sensor • SD/SDHC memory cards • ISO 1600
PROS • Fast shooting speed • Excellent image quality • Lots of controls • Easy menu system CONS • Point and shoot experience limited • Lens-based image stabilisation OVERALL RATING
BitDefender Internet Security 2009 provides advanced proactive protection against viruses,spyware,phishing attacks and identity theft, while keeping your Internet-connected family safe without slowing down their PC's Antivirus Anti-phishing IM Total security solutions for your P.C
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cellphone reviews//BY CRAIG RITCHIE LG KP500
R1 099.95 THIS is a very basic, no frills entry-level phone – which by today’s standards means it has an MP3 player, FM radio, Micro-SD slot for extra music storage, as well as a built-in camera. The M620 is lightweight and has a stable slider which protects the touchpad when not in use – a proven design feature which feels well suited to this phone. The buttons are solid and give a satisfying amount of feedback with every push, meaning you’ll almost never accidently press something you didn’t mean to. Like the rest of the M620, its music player is very basic and can not be accessed while operating the phone – which means no listening to music while typing out text messages. Similarly, the camera has a pinhole-sized lens and, with its extremely low resolution, feels like it belongs on a phone from five years ago. Our biggest gripe is with the screen, though. It has very poor visibility in direct sunlight, making the phone unsuitable for anyone who spends most of their days outdoors. In short, the M620 is a simple, inexpensive, no bells-and-whistles handset for people who want just that – an affordable yet durable mobile phone, and would be a much more decent piece of kit if it weren’t so let down by a low quality screen. PROS • Very affordable barebones unit • Solid, durable design CONS • Very poor camera quality • Screen almost useless in direct sunlight • Can’t use phone while playing music OVERALL RATING
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Nicknamed the ‘Cookie’, this handset is being billed as the world’s first entry-level touchscreen driven phone. As has become standard with touchscreen devices, navigation is intuitive and particularly easy once you get the hang of scrolling and selecting with your thumb or forefinger. What is more, the fully customisable widgets and favourites menu mean that you’ll be able to access any of the phone’s numerous features in as little as two taps of the screen. One thing to note is that the KP500 does feel a little lightweight compared to most of its competitor’s touchscreen models, but this is a matter of personal taste: some will prefer this lighter phone, while others would prefer a sturdier and more solid-feeling handset. As part of its smorgasbord of features (e-mail, web browser, document viewer, games, media player with up to 16gb of storage, painting and photo editing, plus much more) the phone boasts a great 3.15 megapixel camera, with composition made easier thanks to the large and clear 7.6cm screen. We also liked the ability to shoot video at 12 frames per second – nothing mind blowing, but still very satisfactory for a compact handheld device. While it may be cheaper than many other touchscreen phones, the KP500 is still more than double the price of a basic handset such as the Samsung M620 and as such will only really be of value to those who will make use of its extensive range of features. All in all, a great phone – if you’re going to take advantage of all that it offers.
Tiny USB Bluetooth Adapter This tiny adapter only sticks out 8mm from your computer when plugged in, cleverly granting Bluetoothless laptops and PCs Bluetooth capabilities for that extra functional oomph.
Nokia 5000 R1 399.95 The Nokia 5000 is a compact device which fits snugly in the palm of your hand, with the only immediately noticeable drawback being that the buttons might not suit those with larger fingers. It has a smooth and aesthetically pleasing body, sporting an attractively coloured backplate which should appeal to those who believe a phone should be more than purely functional. It also has a respectable build quality, achieving a lightweight design without sacrificing durability. The 240x320 pixel screen is bright and clear, and the display’s colours are rich and satisfying.
• Abundant features • Large, bright and clear screen • Potential for 16GB of storage
• Pricey • Video capture could be better
Supertooth Bluetooth Hands-free Kit Free up your hands for driving with this handy Bluetooth device that clips to your car visor and pairs with your phone. Answer with a spoken command and reject callers at the top of your lungs!
The menu system, icon layout and colour schemes can all be customised to suit one’s individual preferences, and we were especially impressed by how intuitive the default interface is: you won’t be searching for deeply hidden options or obscure settings menus with this one. This handset offers a great assortment of features and connectivity options, with built-in voice recorder, FM radio, 1.3 megapixel camera, e-mail client, web browser, Bluetooth capabilities, and more. The largest drawback, however, is that it has a paltry 12mb of internal storage and no memory card option. Ultimately, this renders the phone useless as a portable media playing device as it can only store three or four songs at any one time - fine if you don’t also mind carrying around an MP3 player. The Nokia 5000 is a very reasonably priced handset which is both stylish and feature-rich, and it will have a lot of appeal to those not looking for a phone which also doubles as a portable media player. PROS
• Excellent screen • Attractive design • Feature rich
• Only 12mb of storage • Small buttons on keypad
THE first thing that stands out about the N78 is the handy navigation button instead of the normal up/down arrow keys that were the norm on so many older models. Scrolling through menus and options is a breeze, and getting the hang of it takes no time at all. The 6cm screen is sharp and the colours are rich and vibrant, with excellent clarity both indoors and in direct sunlight. Another standout feature of the N78 is the built-in FM transmitter: set up a playlist, turn on the FM transmitter and tune your car radio to the right frequency and you’ll be listening to your tracks on your car’s sound system. Coupled with the excellent media interface, standard 3.5mm headphone jack and the 76mb of internal memory (plus a microSD slot for extra storage), the N78 functions brilliantly as a portable music player. As is standard in most models, the EDGE, 3G and of course GPRS support mean you can be online wherever you get cell phone reception. The built in web browser is excellent and the ease
of scrolling around via a miniature representation of the full web page adds a degree of functionality that far exceeded our expectations. Other key features include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Nokia Maps 2.0, built in GPS capabilities and a camera with acceptable but not outstanding photo and video quality. The only real letdown is the alphanumeric keypad, with tiny buttons that will prove difficult for some users. In summary, a great handset but we advise potential buyers to test the keypad before purchase.
HTC Touch Pro R8 899.95
• Excellent media player with FM transmitter • Navigation is a breeze • Great screen
• Disappointing camera given that it has a Carl Zeiss lens • Alphanumeric keypad designed for elves
Samsung M3200 THE M3200 is billed first and foremost a music playing phone, and delivers brilliantly from the outset. The audio options are on par with what the best MP3 players offer, and the standard 3.5mm headphone jack is a welcome departure from the proprietary speaker jacks of the past. It would have been great if this model also had a built in FM transmitter, but that in no way detracts from the overall value of the device. It is, of course, a capable communications handset with built in e-mail client, web browser, decent calendar and organiser, plus the bonus of having a wide selection of downloadable games. Note, however, that it does not support Wi-Fi or 3G, and the browser is nothing special. We were also disappointed by the lack of a flash and the fact that the camera does not have autofocus, but were still pleased with results of photographs taken outdoors. Video capture is not all that great, but nevertheless acceptable. One can’t help but
wonder, however, how much better the phone would be with a flash and a higher resolution camera – 2 megapixels simply doesn’t cut it these days. Still, Samsung is targeting music lovers with this one, which is fair enough. With its outstanding music player and sleek and sturdy metallic design, this is an excellent handset for those whose primary focus is music. It might not satisfy those who require a demanding communications tool, but it is highly recommended as an alternative to an MP3 player.
NOW this is a handset that puts communications and connectivity first, offering a design that is utterly bursting with features. It has 7.2mbps HSDPA support, Wi-Fi, a 7.1cm touchscreen display with handwriting recognition, full QWERTY keyboard, GPS capabilities, media player, Pocket Office with support for Word, Excel, PDFs etc, Email, instant messaging, time travel, oxygen mask and toaster (okay, maybe not the last three, but you get the idea). Not just a beauty within, the HTC Touch Pro also boasts a slick and attractive exterior, and the slide-out QWERTY keyboard adds functionality without compromising style at all. The front panel is minimalist indeed, sporting only a direction pad and the most essential buttons. The USB port and stylus are handily tucked away at the bottom of the handset, and the 3.2 megapixel camera with LED flash highlights an otherwise bare rear panel. The screen is a standout, with full VGA resolution and great image quality. There were times when readability became an issue when in direct sunlight, but it was still better than many other models’outdoor performance. Also, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack would have been great, but that’s hardly going to be a deal-breaker for those interested in this phone. All in all, the HTC Touch Pro is a feature-rich communications device that gives us a hint of where mobile phones are headed. The added entertainment features, decent camera and great video playback round it off beautifully. Highly recommended. PROS
• Pretty much every feature you could hope for • Excellent for communications and productivity • Decent entertainment options
• Noticeably heavier and thicker than the average phone • Screen could fare better outdoors
PROS • Outstanding full-featured music player • Up to 8GB of storage with microSD • Very satisfying exterior design CONS • Disappointing photo and video quality • No Wi-Fi or 3G support OVERALL RATING
Nano Mobile Charger Keep this tiny mobile charger with you for those times your phone runs out of juice and you’re far away from a handy wall socket; each charge stores enough electricity to charge your phone three times over!
SECURITY TIP #1 BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP Don’t forget to back your data up. There are many options available today, ranging from writeable DVDs to external hard drives to online backup solutions, which will become even more viable once local bandwidth prices come down. You may think it’s a pain, but when you have your first data crash (and it’s definitely a “when”, not an “if”) you will be very happy you took the time to copy your sensitive data somewhere safe. There’s nothing quite like losing the last ten years’ worth of photos, e-mails, music and documents to bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened computer user.
PROS • Fast to install and use • Unobtrusive firewall • Low resource usage • For new and advanced users CONS • Installation issue with AVG • Can seem a little complicated OVERALL RATING
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Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 NEED TO KNOW • 97.1% malware detection rate • Low rate of false positives • Firewall protection • Anti-spam, anti-phishing • Parental Controls • Intrusion Detection • ProActive Defense R429.95 FAST and lightweight, Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 (KIS2K9) is a capable defender of your PC against all manner of nastiness that lurks on the Web. Kaspersky Labs complete re-wrote the antivirus engine for this edition to make it more efficient, earning them an Advanced+ certification from the respected Austrian AV-Comparatives Lab for their antivirus component. What this means to you, is that KIS2K9 is not only fantastic at catching viruses before they get to your computer, but it avoids wrongly identifying (and locking down) legitimate programs from doing what they are supposed to do. In the latest AV-Comparatives report, KIS2K9 caught 97.1% of all samples tested, and incorrectly identified only 14 “clean” files in the test set as malware. The good news for you, the consumer, is that Kaspersky Antivirus is only one component of the larger Kaspersky Internet Suite. Throw in an effective firewall, e-mail monitoring, anti-phishing prevention and a whole lot of security wizards – automated processes that ask you various questions to set up your initial security settings in various categories – and you have a pretty comprehensive security package that is sure to keep you safe online. The trend with security products these days is to make them easy to install, easier to use, and for them to use less system resources than in years gone by, and in this KIS2K9 largely succeeds. Its main interface component features separate screens for the various categories, all easily laid out and with easy to understand options that you can dig further into if you so choose. In terms of layout, design and access to the more complex settings, KIS2K9 scores highly for both beginners and the more advanced user. Everyday operation is very smooth, with times for on-access scans very low and therefore unnoticeable. The firewall is largely intelligent enough to know what is expected of it and doesn’t prompt every few minutes for your approval for its activities, so you can set it up and pretty much
forget about it while still remaining effectively protected. Kaspersky’s ProActive Defense feature enables a virtual keyboard that effectively foils key-loggers (programs that monitor keyboard presses for sensitive information) and prevents hidden drivers from installing. Intrusion protection ensures nobody can hack in to your PC from outside without considerable muscle and know-how. The only real hassles we had came when installing the program; apparently it doesn’t like AVG version 8, and refuses to install if it detects even traces of the program. A quick registry edit later and we were a-foraway, but that’s hardly something the average user can be expected to know. Other than that, it was a sub-five-minute process, especially with the Express option selected. The Custom installation is very tech-heavy and is recommended only for more advanced users, but both options leave you more than adequately protected. For R429.95, this is awesome protection. It’s fast, installs quickly and has all the tweakable options you could ever want while also offering you a largely configuration-free installation option that will still protect you effectively. Add in that it includes protection for up to three PCs, and that’s a fantastic bargain.
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS XP:
Intel Pentium 300 MHz or higher (or equivalent) 256 MB available RAM Vista: Intel Pentium 800 MHz 32 bit (x86) / 64 bit (x64) or higher (or equivalent) 512 MB available RAM • 50 MB free space on the hard drive • CD-ROM • Mouse • Internet connection • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or higher
SECURITY TIP #2 SCHEDULE FULL SYSTEM SCANS
Norton Internet Security 2009 NEED TO KNOW • 98.7% malware detection rate • Small resource footprint • Protection for up to 3 PCs PRICE: R999.95 SYMANTEC has been listening to its customer base quite closely for the past few years, and has therefore concentrated on reducing the “resource footprint” of its security products. By most accounts, the company has succeeded in making it feel less intrusive while still performing the necessary tasks in the background to keep your computer safe. We’re happy to say that Norton Internet Security 2009 (NIS2009) is possibly the leanest Symantec product to ever come down the pike. It runs faster than ever before, installs in under five minutes without requiring a reboot, uses fewer system resources and even has features that reflect just how Symantec has adapted its approach to software design. This keeps you safe, keeps your system fast and responsive, and ensures you’re protected from current and possibly future cyber attacks. The best indication of Symantec’s new thinking about its software is a feature called “Insight” that confers known applications and files “trusted” status, meaning it won’t scan and re-scan them unless something has changed. This means much faster scanning times, there are tangible results that back the claim up. “Idle Time Scan” has also been implemented and is active by default; NIS2009 detects when your computer is not in use and runs scans in that period of inactivity. Laptops, however, need to be on AC power. The interface has also been updated to reflect a more sophisticated look. It is extremely clean and easy to identify what to click to get a scan going or even manually start the update procedure. NIS2009 even
includes a resource usage meter, reflecting overall CPU usage alongside the security application’s share. Clearly this is an effort on their part to make a statement to quell their critics. Gone too is our least favourite update engine ever, the horrible LiveUpdate feature that Symantec has been so fond of thrusting upon its customers since time immemorial. While the process still has the same name, it’s not the clunky LiveUpdate of old and is instead a nifty little feature that silently checks for new definitions every few minutes. Interestingly, there are often updates waiting, even if it checked only a few minutes ago. NIS2009 offers customers a comprehensive protection suite that includes antivirus, a firewall, and identity protection measures through to intrusion protection, antispyware, e-mail scanning, and more. Other good news is that a single copy can be installed on three home PCs, which is a boon for the security conscious home user. Interestingly, online backup is missing, and is only available at extra cost. This is by far one of the best Symantec products to launch, and Connect highly recommends you consider it when evaluating which protection suite is right for you. At R999 it’s a little on the steep side, but it covers up to 3 PCs and the security and performance you get are superb.
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS • • • • • • •
Windows XP SP3/Windows Vista SP1 (all versions) 300mHz Processor 256MB RAM 200MB Available Hard Drive Space DVD-ROM drive Internet Connection Web browser
Once you’ve installed your security software, it is highly recommended that you run a full system scan at least once. Firstly, this gives the software the opportunity to identify files that are safe, which then allows it to only re-scan those if their structure changes between scans. This, in turn, speeds up subsequent scans. Full system scans are known to be the most resource-intensive aspect to any security software, and having them run when you’re trying to work or play games can be annoying; we therefore recommend that you schedule them for times you know the computer will be on, without you in front of it. 3am is a good place to start, as by the time you wake up, the scan should be finished (unless you have billions of files, in which case perhaps scheduling a 12am start is a better option). This means leaving your notebook or PC on all night, but with modern power-saving methodologies built into all respectable operating systems, this won’t eat too much extra power or hurt your hardware in the long run. The uninstallation of any previous Symantec security products is highly recommended, as is running the removal tool that’s available on the official Symantec website before installing NIS2009. There have been reports of installation issues cropping up if this is not done. PROS • Fast scans • 5 minute installation • Good protection CONS • Potential installation complications • Online backup only available as an add-on service OVERALL RATING
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SECURITY TIP #3 LET COMMON SENSE PREVAIL Use common sense – just because you have a security package installed doesn’t mean you can forget about doing the right thing. Don’t click on unknown e-mails or surf dodgy websites, and under no circumstances should you give out your credit card number online unless you’re 100% positive that the site you’re using is secured (indicated by the “HTTPS”, S for Secure in your website address bar). Luckily, most security products do a good job of identifying whether the site you’re on is legit or not, but it still pays to be proactive. While this may be a bit of a dead horse, we still recommend that you avoid downloading or running strange files that arrive either via e-mail or as random downloads off fishy websites – even with today’s protection, some files still make it into your inbox. “When in doubt, don’t” is a great way to approach whether or not you should be doing something online. Help is always at hand, either through the community forums associated with your security product, or through friends or relatives who may have more experience dealing with online security than you do. PROS • Artemis real-time protection • Excellent detection rate, low false positives • Great performance CONS • Installation hiccups • Artemis protection requires a working Internet connection • McAfee Virtual Technician virtually useless OVERALL RATING
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McAfee Total Protection 2009 NEED TO KNOW • 99.1% Detection Rate • Near-instant Active Protection • Protects up to 3 PCs R799.95 MCAFEE’S version of an all-inclusive Internet protection package is a rather unique piece of software. Not only does it offer to, well, totally protect you from the vast majority of Internet nasties, but it does so using its impressive resources, even claiming to deliver near-instantaneous updates to real-time threats. This is thanks to their Active Protection scheme (code-named “Artemis”), a massive malware database living “in the cloud”, a term used to describe services hosted on a company’s servers but which is available via the Internet. McAfee’s installation started off rather interestingly: two options were presented by the installshield wizard, one to install off the CD that came in the box, and the other to install by downloading the very latest edition of the program off the Internet, thereby keeping us 100% up-to-date with the absolutely latest version. On a fat 4mb ADSL connection, the 90MB download was completed in under ten minutes; expect the same download to take up to 45 minutes on a 384k ADSL line. When installed (more on that in a bit), you are protected with a firewall, anti-spam, anti-virus, anti-phishing in the form of website verification, anti-spyware, as well as local data backup options. The program’s interface is clean, with easily identifiable options and notifications telling you whether you’re protected, and what you can do to fix any problems. McAfee’s virus detection rate is superb, rated by independent testing group AV-Comparatives.org at 99.1% due to the proactive, “in-the-cloud” Artemis component, a massive malware database located on McAfee’s servers. If a PC is attacked by a virus the local database has no record of, it sends the attack’s details to Artemis, which then formulates a response and downloads it to the PC almost instantaneously. The effectiveness of the idea is reflected in the near-perfect detection rate. False positives, another AV-Comparatives measure of a security package’s performance, was only one file lower than Kaspersky at 13, and the combined results earned McAfee’s antivirus component an Advanced+ rating. From an average user’s perspective, installing McAfee Total Protection 2009 can be a bit of a hit-and-miss depending on how your computer is set up prior to setup. While the installation process is in theory quite simple, the automatic download of the latest version failed on me without giving a reason, leaving several components not installed despite being a part of the package. Installing from the CD worked, but then the program refused to update itself properly and crashed a number of times. Luckily I was not privy
to an installation failure based on the presence of other security software as has been reported online. I eventually got it installed (no thanks to the McAfee Virtual Technician program, which couldn’t detect my installation) and all components up to date, however the process was a little more complex than I think most people should have to go through. Overall system performance with McAfee installed was very good, and scans completed quickly, so it has at least something in its favour. McAfee Total Protection 2009 has a great deal of effective protective features, but it is a far cry from a quickly-installed, fire-and-forget solution. Get it if you absolutely have to have the best malware detection rates and a near-instant response to new threats, just be prepared for a few program-side quirks.
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS • • • • • • • • •
Windows 2000 with SP4 or higher Windows XP with SP1 or higher Windows Vista with SP1 or higher 800 x 600 or higher resolution 128 MB RAM 75 MB of available free drive space Internet connection Internet Explorer 6.0 or later Optional: Mozilla Firefox 1.5 or later
BitDefender Internet Security 2009 NEED TO KNOW • 98.0% malware detection rate • Hands-on security software • Protection for up to 3 PCs R429.95 INTERNET security is something everyone needs in these modern times of cyber crime, identity theft and the need to protect yourself from attack. Consumers, who don’t necessarily know everything about security software, need a package that can offer them peace of mind while not bothering them too much with the nitty-gritty of what is actually going on in the background. On this score, BitDefender comes in somewhere in the middle – while offering robust and effective security, it’s a little chattier than some of its competitors. This is both a good and a bad thing, depending on the kind of buyer you are. If you like to have a hands-on experience when it comes to your computer’s Internet security, the many tweaks and settings and notifications available to you through BitDefender’s interface will suit you perfectly; if, on the other hand, you want a fire-and-forget security program that only alerts you when absolutely necessary, you may want to shop around a bit more. That said, the kind of protection BitDefender offers is very good, and affordable. Its signature-based detection is particularly good, meaning viruses and malware can’t use clever techniques to fool the program into allowing them to run, as they get detected and dealt with even when “under cover”. Anti-spam protection is excellent, although you are required to set filters based on mails you’ve sent and received in order for it to work properly. A wizard walks you through adding your address to your “Friends” list, which the anti-spam engine then uses to train itself into accurately identifying problematic mails. This was particularly effective, as over time the anti-spam engine managed to train itself further to become
even better, however e-mail downloads did slow down noticeably. The firewall in BitDefender Internet Security 2009 is simply fantastic, creating rules for known applications as they request Internet access automatically and completely blocking external attacks. A firewall is a particularly important part of any security product, and here BitDefender has done extremely well in terms of its effectiveness. Another brownie point, BitDefender’s “File vault” lets you back files up to an encrypted location on your hard drive for protection against accidental deletion and unauthorised access. Online backup is only available with BitDefender Total Security 2009. Our only gripes about this version is the program isn’t the quickest when it comes to scans, and we noticed a slight slowdown when surfing the web and receiving e-mails. This package will appeal more to seasoned web surfers as it has a great deal of depth; plenty of protection, lots of options, but it does need a bit of attention to operate to its full potential, which may turn some off.
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (32/64 bit) or higher • 800 MHz or higher processor • 256 MB of RAM Memory (1GB recommended) • 170 MB available hard disk space (200 recommended) Windows Vista (32/64 bit) and Windows Vista SP1 • 800 MHz or higher processor • 512 MB of RAM Memory (1 GB recommended) • 170 MB available hard disk space (200 recommended) Windows Home Server • 800 MHz or higher processor • 512 MB of RAM Memory (1 GB recommended) • 170 MB available hard disk space (200 recommended)
SECURITY TIP #4 SUBSCRIPTION RENEWAL Don’t forget to renew your subscription online. It’s generally cheaper than buying boxed editions, although you may want to keep an eye on the Rand/Dollar exchange rate to make the most cost-effective decision. Your security program will always remind you how much time remains on your current subscription, but many people have a tendency to only worry once it’s too late, and being unprotected, even for a few days, can be dangerous to your data’s health and the integrity of your operating system. Your security software is only as good as its last update, and without regular updates, you may as well not be protected at all. PROS • Fantastic firewall • Plenty of settings to tweak • Very effective anti-spam and antivirus • Excellent overall security CONS • Not a fire and forget solution • Filters slow mail downloads • Doesn’t just run silently in the background OVERALL RATING
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game reviews//BY TIANA ALSWANG
Play against a friend or a Metallica great
Use The Gibson controller or XXXX Worl Tour’s drumset
Difficulty levels are adaptable
“I think Guitar Hero is a great gateway drug to real music. If you’re got the music bug, nothing’s gonna stop you.” - James Hetfield
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GUITAR HERO: METALLICA >>CONSIDER THIS<<
NEED TO KNOW
WITH 24 MILLION COPIES OF GUITAR HERO GAMES SOLD WORLDWIDE GENERATING OVER 1.6 BILLION DOLLARS THE FRANCHISE IS, TODAY, EVEN BIGGER THAN THE SIMS
•Transform into metal legends Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo •Follow the path of Metallica in either single instrument or band career game modes •An all-new ‘Expert+’ difficulty level gives gamers access to the double bass drum note track •Themed Battle Mode attacks •Tons of bonuses throughout the game including unlockable venues, commentary and behind the scenes footage
NOTHING says your music game franchise has officially “made it” quite like some of the biggest bands of all time endorsing it and insisting on bringing out their own, branded version. The trend started with Aerosmith, who got their own version of Guitar Hero in mid-2008, and continues with arguably the biggest heavy metal band ever, Metallica, collaborating with Activision to bring fans a Guitar Hero game dedicated to the band. With that much backing, Guitar Hero: Metallica promises to be one of the biggest game releases we’ve seen. With 24 million copies of Guitar Hero games sold worldwide so far, generating over 1.6 billion dollars at retail, the Guitar Hero franchise is, today, even bigger than The Sims. Featuring 28 Metallica tracks and 21 songs by guest artists handpicked by the Metallica crew, Guitar Hero: Metallica offers metal fans the opportunity to play not only some of the band’s most awesome songs, but also the tunes that have inspired them over the years. Players can rock their lead and rhythm guitars; bang their drums and even man the mic while they jam alongside or against Metallica stars James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo. According to the game’s producer, Alan Flores, Guitar Hero: Metallica is more difficult than previous Guitar Hero games and has been designed to challenge hardcore players, of which there are plenty – check out the YouTube videos of young kids getting 97% accuracy on Through The Fire And The Flames. Metallica fans got a taste of what Guitar Hero: Metallica is going to play like when Metallica’s Death Magnetic album became fully-downloadable on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Guitar Hero: World Tour. Now, accurate band member models, new sound stages, equipment and motion-captured moshing will accompany the music for the full Metallica experience. Get ready to rock when Guitar Hero: Metallica hits local stores.
GUITAR HERO: WORLD TOUR Guitar Hero World Tour transformed music gaming by expanding the signature guitar gameplay into a cooperative band experience. Advanced wireless instruments ñ a redesigned guitar, authentic electronic drum kit and mic ñ and online and offline gameplay modes including online Band Career and 8-player Battle of the Bands that introduced online, head-to-head competition between two full bands for the first time.
>> COMING SOON<<
GUITAR HERO: GREATEST HITS Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits will feature favorites from previous entries such as Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock all updated for full band play no matter whether you have all the instruments or just the original Gibsonshaped controller.
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ANIMAL CROSSING: WILD WORLD
AT first glance, Animal Crossing may not look like much – your character moves to a small town and you’re immediately in debt for a new house and now are set on completing tasks for the local shop owner. What appear as mundane tasks immediately turn into addictive gameplay as you make the town your own. From fishing to fashion design, capturing insects to digging up fossils, there’s a lot to do – this is a game that will keep you busy for ANIMAL CROSSING: LET’S GO TO THE CITY On the Nintendo Wii, Animal Crossing gives players even more opportunities to enjoy the charming gameplay. Features include the ability to take a bus to a new urban city, and having up to four people living and working together to build the perfect town.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: PHANTOM HOURGLASS
NEED TO KNOW • Use the stylus to control Link, swing the sword or fly a boomerang • Store the map on the top screen for easy reference or make notes
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months. The game runs on real time, in other words if you play at midnight, expect the shops to be closed, the stars to be out and Pelly at the post office to not be as accommodating as she would during the day. Different seasons change the environment. With new characters moving to town, its also a matter of maintaining friendships through conversations and letter writing – if you don’t play for a day or two, they’ll notice you haven’t been around. A friend may even move because they feel uncared for – although the overall gameplay is stress-free, you’ll feel an obligation to come back everyday. There’s also a good chance that by not playing you’ll miss a fishing tournament or an art fair, little details that continually spice up gameplay. Online, using wireless, you’ll be able to visit other living, breathing villages. Colourful and fun, you’ll be hooked R549.95 on this family-friendly game.
SEGA MEGA DRIVE ULTIMATE COLLECTION
NEED TO KNOW >GET THIS<
NEED TO KNOW • The sequel to the GameCube game • Up to 3 friends can hang out in the same village through wireless LAN or over Wi-Fi • Touch screen makes item management and navigation easy • Days and seasons pass in real time
EXPECT 15-IN-ONE GAMING BUNDLE Get the most out your DS with this accessory pack from Exspect that contains everything you’ll ever need to store, protect and charge your handheld. Key items include a storage case, earbuds, a wrist strap, a spare stylus and a car charger.
PHANTOM Hourglass is the newest iteration of the highly successful Zelda series. The game puts you in the shoes of Link, a diminutive green-clad hero tasked with saving the princess Zelda after she’s kidnapped by a ghost pirate ship. Story-wise, it’s a charming tale that uses the various touchscreen features of the DS; you sail around the world, throwing boomerangs, igniting bombs and generally running around solving puzzles in a cheerful, cartoon world. Link is charged with finding different sea charts that enable him to explore different areas of the world. The player controls Link on the bottom screen, running (or sailing) around the world, while the top screen serves as a map. Enemies are dispatched with a quick slashing movement across the screen. Naturally, more complex moves are required for more damaging attacks. But it’s the puzzles that are Zelda’s strong suit – few games manage to deliver a challenge without sacrificing the “a-ha!” moments, which Zelda has in spades. It’s a puzzle-solving game at heart, despite its action trappings. If you’re looking for one game to make your DS worthwhile, to induce hand-cramps and sleepless nights, to frustrate and delight you in equal measure, Phantom Hourglass is it. R549.95
• Over 40 classic games enhanced for high-definition, next-gen play • Games include Sonic the Hedgehog, Columns, Alien Storm, Ecco the Dolphin, Space Harrier, and Streets of Rage
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: TWILIGHT PRINCESS Link travels to the Twilight Realm, transforming into a wolf to scour the land with the help of a mysterious girl named Midna. Besides his trusty sword and shield, Link will use his bow and arrows, and fight while on horseback and other items.
EVER wanted to relive the days of Sonic, Alex Kidd and Golden Axe? When gaming was less of an art and more immediate satisfaction? For nostalgic gameplay at its best, SEGA has put together a complete collection of titles that were originally available for the 16-bit console on one next-gen disc. Perfect for those old-school gamers, SEGA re-rendered titles now give players the ability to save and continue later –which wasn’t possible on the Mega Drive – meaning you’ll get to see even more of your favourite oldie as you progress. This is especially useful in lengthy RPGs like the Phantasy Star series. Of course, these classics that were developed in the 90s will look pixilated when enlarged on a big screen. Extras include trivia as well as unlockable videos. All in all, the collection is something worth owning. While newer gamers will enjoy more recent titles, SEGA is offering an older market a nifty, pixilated trip down memory lane. R699.95
FAST FACT With over 29 million units sold, the MegaDrive is Sega’s most successful console
gaming reviews//BY TIANA ALSWANG AND PETER DAWOUD
RESIDENT EVIL 5
NEED TO KNOW • The sequel to one of the highest-rated videogames in history • 2 player co-op online gameplay Set in the Kijuju, a unique African environment
RESIDENT Evil 5, Capcom’s well-known Zombie horror, follows original series protagonist Chris Redfield and his new partner, Sheva Alomar, as they investigate a possible bioterrorist threat for the newly formed Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance in the African country of Kijuju. The immediate story is gripping and keeps the action moving forward without becoming overwhelming for series newcomers, yet has plenty of back story to keep series veterans happy. The gameplay has been copy-pasted direct from Resident Evil 4. The same stand and shoot mechanic returns as well as the quick-time events. The biggest drawcard this time round is the integration of seamless co-operative play. The entire game can be played with a friend either over the Internet or locally, and considering how brain dead your AI partner is, it’s the only way to truly enjoy the game. The visuals are as stunning as one has come to expect from Capcom games, with outstanding detail and beautiful lighting and new environments. There’s an arsenal of weapon choices including knives, pistols, machine guns and sniper rifles to take on the speed and intelligence that comes with enemy challenges. Overall, Resident Evil 5 is an outstanding game. If you played its predecessor, you’ll inevitably find the game easy, but there’s lots of fun to be had in this exceptional game. R799.95
Left 4 Dead A modern-day survivalhorror ñ four Survivors find themselves in an epic struggle against hordes of swarming zombies and terrifying Boss Infected mutants. Co-op zombie gaming at its best.
NEED TO KNOW
Dead Rising 2 The Capcom sequel takes the zombie-killing, nextgen fun to Fortune City, a gambling paradise filled with new in-game objects that can all be used as deadly weapons to stave off the zombie assault.
GRAND THEFT AUTO: CHINATOWN WARS
NEED TO KNOW • Rockstar’s first GTA on the DS • Over 15+ hours of portable gameplay • Extra fun with the stylus
GTA IV’s unflinching depiction of gritty urban life coupled with a surprisingly complex story and multi-dimensional protagonist makes this open-ended sandbox game set amidst the chaos of a bustling modern city a true interactive masterpiece.
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Grand Theft Auto 4
smooth and effective. You’ll still be stealing cars, driving all over the city and avoiding cops. Although the cutscenes aren’t voice-acted, the story is engrossing as it takes Huang Lee, the main protagonist of the game, all over the map (the DS doubles as a GPS, PDA and radio!) on his mission to deliver his family heirloom, the Yu Jian, to his uncle. The main story is approximately 15 hours long, but there are endless side missions and a plethora of online fun such as sharing your statistics with friends or downloading new missions. Chinatown Wars offers a complete GTA experience, a must-play for the DS. R449.95
The Godfather 2 Now that you’re the Don of NY, you can finally grow your family through extorting businesses, monopolising illegal crime rings and defeating new familiesÖ all in an effort to be the most powerful mob family.
• Enhanced enemy AI and weapons • A gripping tale of suspense, action and horror
IT only took four years, but the new F.E.A.R is finally here. The sequel picks off literally seconds after the first game ended, with creepy psychic girl Alma destroying a city in a white-hot nuclear blast. F.E.A.R’s claim to fame, apart from being scary, is the ability to slow down time. Intense firefights can be slowed to a crawl, allowing you to rack up headshot after headshot. In a twist for the shooter genre F.E.A.R 2 actually features a decent, if convoluted, storyline. The developers have made good on their promise to mix up the boring office environments in favour of more dramatic setting (such as a collapsing city). F.E.A.R 2 is aided by its lovely graphics and haunting sounds, which contribute to a real sense of dread when exploring the environments. Muzzles flash, ash drifts and ghosts flicker. It’s not a game for the faint of heart or slow of trigger. Fans of the genre should be able to jump right in and newcomers will find a surprisingly accommodating host. Also: you get to pilot a giant mechanised robot and blow enemies to smithereens. What more could you want? F.E.A.R is back. Be afraid. Be very afraid. R399.95
Silent Hill: Homecoming Alex Shepherd returns to his hometown to investigate the sudden disappearance of his brother. Besides facing external horrors, he is struggling with his own torment. Confront the evil that has taken hold of his own flesh and blood.
CHINATOWN Wars is the first GTA to appear on Nintendo’s DS console. This portable version of open world insanity is just as accessible and enjoyable as it’s predecessors. Designed from the ground up, the handheld’s gameplay has not been watered down one bit. In true GTA style, players are taken back to the gang-ridden streets of Liberty City with extra, touchscreen fun only the DS can handle (think hot-wiring a car or tattooing a person using the stylus). There are other new elements in the game over and above the missions, one being an exciting simulated drug trade model built-into the gameplay. Medical management at its best. Even on the DS double screens, the 3D graphics are rendered incredibly well with realistic physics that make the GTA translation
F.E.A.R 2: PROJECT ORIGIN
CONSIDER >>THIS<< Halo Wars
EMPIRE TOTAL WAR
A strategy game based on the legendary Halo universe. In the campaign mode, players command soldiers, Warthogs, Scorpions and more against the Covenant, an alien coalition threatening to obliterate mankind.
NEED TO KNOW • 3D naval combat • Real time battles • Improved systems for Trade, Diplomacy and Espionage with agents
THE successful Total War series has already explored the Middle Ages, Ancient Rome and medieval Japan. Now players get a chance to ready their muskets, hoist sails and charge into the 18th century ñ an age of drama, gunpowder, exploration and powdery wigs. For a strategy game, Empire looks absolutely lovely, with detailed battlefields and realistic looking combat. Smoke wafts over the battlefield as cannons shudder in the distance. Combat on the rolling seas is equally impressive. Empire isn’t for the impatient however. It’s a game that requires perseverance and the ability to micromanage. A war isn’t won in a single battle, after all. An empire is made through diplomacy, through trade,
through cities and logistics, politics, religion and, finally, through war. Empire focuses on everything that made the Great Powers what they were. Combat isn’t as easy as other games make it out to be either. This isn’t a case of building up the most tanks and rushing the enemy. Combat in Empire relies heavily on formations, position and weather. Featuring giant battles, absorbing gameplay and an incredibly deep tactical system, Empire is one of the best strategy games of the year ñ but only if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to it. R399.95
Command and Conquer Red Alert 3 As bestselling RTS, C&C RA3 blends over-the-top humor with fast, fun gameplay. PS3 users can now enjoy the fully cooperative campaigns as well as 5 new multiplayer maps!
STREET FIGHTER IV
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
NEED TO KNOW • Stunning 3D characters and environments • New special moves including Focus attacks, Super Combos, and the revengedfueled Ultra Combo system • New brawlers: female super-spy Crimson Viper, wrestler El Fuerte and martial artist Abel
simple to get into for such a complex game ñ it starts with punches, kicks and grapples, but soon moves onto more powerful moves that require charging. Street Fighter looks amazing and its characters move gracefully through various quirky fighting arenas. But most importantly, the game wants you to have fun. Newcomers will easily be able to pull off spectacular-looking moves and finish the game without having to master the intricate combat. But if you’re after a tournament-level fighter, SFIV will keep you entertained till the next one comes around ñ about a decade. R799.95
Only in this game do Scorpion, Sub-Zero (and other Mortal Kombat warriors) battle DC Universe’s Batman, Superman and the like. With 3 fighting systems, dynamic multitiered environments and a double-sided single player mode. Fight over.
Tekken 6 Number 6 in the acclaimed beat-em-up series (for next-gen consoles) promises jaw-dropping HD graphics and the largest (customisable) character roster in Tekken gaming history.
NEED TO KNOW • Intense and authentic aerial combat • The first air combat game set in a Tom Clancy universe • Solo campaign features 4 -player, jump-in co-op mode
H.A.W.X is the newest entry in mega-author Tom Clancy’s ever-expanding franchise. Instead of infiltrating Vegas casinos with a tight-knit group of professional soldiers, you’re an ace pilot tasked with stopping an evil corporation from taking over the world (with the help of a tight-knit group of professional pilots). The story isn’t the game’s strong suit, but it isn’t much of a bother either when all you really want to do is get in the cockpit of that sleek F-22 fighter jet and scream through the skies. Developed by Ubisoft Romania, H.A.W.X is a mostly standard jet fighter geared towards the more casual player. H.A.W.X follows in the jet stream of Blazing Angels by being particularly focused on dogfighting. Its notable feature is the Enhanced Reality System (ERS) that creates a series of interlocking hoops for you to fly through when you’re having trouble taking out a particularly annoying rival. Flying through the hoops is guaranteed to bring you right on their tail for a oneshot kill. The feature can likewise be used to dodge incoming missiles when you’re frantically scraping the treetops to escape enemy fighter. It’s not the best jetfighter game out there, but it’s certainly one of the slickest. If you’re looking for lovingly detailed planes, a decent storyline and the chance to fly an F-22, H.A.W.X is your game. R799.95
Battlestations Pacific This is the Pacific War ñ two massive single-player campaigns, epic sagas, one based on the historical US campaign, the other a possible Japanese operation. It’s about reliving WWII flight and naval warfare. Twice the size of the original, the sequel includes 28 major battles, 100 units, 5 new multiplayer modesÖ.
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THE king is back. Few games have such a place in gamer’s hearts than the Street Fighter series. The second game in the series is still remembered fondly by older gamers everywhere. The third game is still being played in tournaments throughout the world. Now, ten years after we last had a taste, Street Fighter has returned. And what a comeback. From the opening sequence to your first halting matches, it’s clear that this is the Street Fighter we know and love, but updated for the 21st century and appearing in glorious 3D. Street Fighter is a brawler. Players control one of a colourful array of fighters (such as the mask-wearing Vega or the superspy Rose) and are tasked with simply outfighting their rival. The combat is refreshingly
TOM CLANCY’S H.A.W.X
RACE PRO NEED TO KNOW • Cars range from 200 to over 1000 horse power • Championships include WTCC, Formula 3000 and Formula BMW • GT cars from manufacturers including Aston Martin and Saleen
NEED TO KNOW
• A new look and feel to the city • Hall of Meat to track your broken bones • Create-A-Skater: Make your skater truly your own
BEFORE the kickflips and crazy ramp airs begin, Skate 2 wants you to remember that physics hurts. Seriously. A large portion of the game, and an excellent means to supplement your income from downhill skateboarding, is by hurting your on-screen avatar as much as possible, in as many ways as possible and in excruciating detail (the game cheerfully obliges by showing your spine-crumbling crash in slow-motion and at the best possible angle). So a large part of Skate 2 consists of hurting yourself as much as you can. The rest is quite pleasant actually. Skate 2 tasks you to take an ex-convict to the heights of the professional skateboarding arena. It’s set apart by an open-world infrastructure and some startlingly accurate skateboarding. Think of Grand Theft Auto: Now throw aside all the guns and the brooding and the high-speed car chases. Insert some very laid-back skateboarders and retain the ability to pick your own way through the game by traversing a city. That’s Skate 2. The game’s greatest trick is in its mechanics. Skateboarding isn’t easy. It’s tricky. It requires musclememory and it requires dedication. This isn’t a game in which you’ll be performing awesome ramps and grinds by the end of your first hour. It’s a game that blends perfectionism with escapism. Skate 2 is difficult, but it rewards with a real sense of accomplishment. R699.95
STORMRISE THE first 3D real-time strategy game, Stormrise is the epic battle between the Echelon and the Sai. Complicated gameplay layers and non-traditional strategy result in a tough learning curveÖ. R799.95
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On the Wii, EA’s version of the loved (but tough) Skate is about making spots your own by moving objects like ramps, rails, and benches to fit your individual skating style. The game has numerous multiplayer challenges to prove your skateboarding prowess.
IN the world of videogame racing, casual gamers flock towards the Need for Speed and Midnight Club franchises, with their urban cool, detailed car-modding and actual storylines. Serious petrolheads gather around GTR and Project Gotham Racing with their detailed physics, perfectly modeled cars and emphasis on perfectionism. Race Pro is an accomplished introduction to the more serious side of racing. When you’re done choosing the exact colour of chassis for your Porsche, you might consider actually being taught how to race. Luckily, Race Pro doesn’t take itself too seriously. It wants you to race, rather than accelerate blindly into walls. As such, it has a more forgiving approach than its more adult cousins. The game has a knack for easing you into the world of simulation racing. At first, newcomers might seem disorientated when applying arcade skills to cars, which respond to actual physics, but it’s not long before you’re entering the semi-professional leagues and get behind the wheel of a Formula BMW. If you’re looking for a game that places more emphasis on paint schemes and street cool than on engine size and handling, Race Pro might not be for you. But if you’re looking for a great introduction to the big leagues, it might be exactly what you need. R699.95
>>CONSIDER THIS<< Virtua Tennis 2009
SBK 09 Superbike World Championship
Take on the world’s top tennis players in some of the most realistic courts yet. From Nadal to FedererÖ you could also play as Sharapova (against Williams, Venus that is) and recreate some classic court battles. Besides the traditional singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches, this year’s Virtua Tennis 2009 also has the official Davis Cup license.
For the ultimate experience of the SBK competition, expect all the tracks, teams and riders to feel the adrenaline rush of real motorbike competition. There are 5 gameplay modes designed for solo biking: Quick race, Training, Race Weekend, Championship and Challenges.
MYSIMS PARTY A great Sims title for younger gamers. Dozens of minigames that can be played in themed groups or individuallyÖ. R599.95
FUEL Multi-terrain racing and featuring the biggest racing environment ever created ñ this is what FUEL boasts. That and a 5000 square mile, no-boundaries playfield (deep snow, open wilderness, arid river-beds) for the best go-anywhere racing experience.
GREY’S ANATOMY AIMED at fans of the TV series who know the difference between McDreamy and McSteamy and are keen to do a little bit of surgery, flirting and socializing at Seattle Grace. R229.95
18 L V
PROFESSOR KAGEYAMA’S MATHS TRAINING
NEED TO KNOW • 3 new exercises every time you advance to the next level • Win medals based on top times
WHAT can be more fun than using a video game system for math excercises? Many things ... but if you’re struggling with the subject at school, or you’re trying to brush up on your forgotten multiplication tables, Math’s Training does the job, without seeming too, well, mathematical. Nintendo is known for making everyday training fun, like exercising with the Wii Fit or Brain Training on the Nintendo DS. Math’s Training is the newest entry in the series, and a very successful one. The game requires no more than a few minutes a day, with training exercises for basic math. The slow pace of advancement also ensures that you won’t forget what you’ve learned. Math’s Training tests your addition, subtraction, multiplication and division skills. The game includes ìProfessor Kageyama’s Hundred Cell Calculation Methodî, where you are challenged to complete a series of 100 sums in a set amount of time. Kageyama’s system is quite popular in Japanese schools. It may not seem like an automatic choice when shopping for games but, if you’re trying to improve your mathematics skills, why not try and make it fun? R449.95
Sight Training It’s time to test your eye age with Sight Training, another self-improvement title from Nintendo. Using the same tried and tested formula of basic exercises used to determine your eye age and how healthy your eyes muscles are. Using the DS you exercise different uses of your eyes, including eye movement, peripheral vision, and hand eye co-ordination.
NEED FOR SPEED: SHIFT WILL Shift be the best NFS yet? Focusing on the racing experience, Shift’s new development team promises to make every rev, break and crash as realistic as possible.
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NEED TO KNOW • Dynamic visuals, new questions and question types • Earn extra points by guessing whether your friends know the answer in the playing Facts & Friends mode • Track your best categories over time with your custom profile
HOW well do you know your trivia? Originally created in 1979 by a Canadian sports editor who couldn’t find his complete Scrabble set, Trivial Pursuit has been pushing players to answer general knowledge and popular culture questions ever since. EA’s console version takes all of this to the virtual sphere with thousands of questions offered over six categories. Online, players can also boost their library buy purchasing knowledge packs. The simple set up means you can play alone, against or with some friends. There are three modes: Classic, Facts and Friends and Clear the Board. Although Classic is exactly what one would expect, the interface is slick with neat animations to enhance the casual gaming experience.
JUST CAUSE 2 SET in the Asian islands of Panau, Just Cause 2 has a new and improved air, land and sea stunt system. Expect to leap out of a plane, skydive 10 000 feet down into a tropical jungle, tear across an arid desert in a dune buggy or climb your way up a snowy mountain in a 4x4.
THE SIMS 3 EA’S star simulation finally lets PC fans ñ and there are 100 million worldwide for now ñ take a walk out their virtual homes ... character customisation has never looked this good.
Facts and Friends mixes everything allowing a multiplayer (but not online) game that will find you all playing with the same piece, taking away your friend’s wedges and ultimately getting all the points. Often when playing a trivia title, countryspecific questions can be problematic. Luckily, EA had some foresight on this matter allowing each game to be adjusted to the player’s country. The best part of a video game version of Trivial Pursuit? There’s no clean up! It’s a must-have title for stayin, game night fanatics. R599.95
GHOSTBUSTERS: THE VIDEO GAME WHO you gonna call? Due on the 25th anniversary of the cult film, both Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd recapture the vacuum-sucking humour of what was ghost-busting fun.
Drowned phones, blinking printer lights and mouse problems solved! If you have questions, gripes, IT pains or just seek some solace, e-mail Tamsin, the tech tannie at techtannie@ connect.co.za. She might just send you a koeksister or milktart recipe to ease the pain.
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Letter of the month: Q:
Aaargh, I dropped my cell into the loo and it’s got my life on it! Can I fix it? My friend told me that I should put it into a bag of rice – is this an urban myth? Sad Sasha, Randburg
I am assuming you’ve already whipped your phone out the water, but just in case you’ve been staring at it since you emailed me, I suggest you get it out of there as fast as possible. If you can’t get to it within 20 seconds get the battery out of there first. Electricity and water are like a braai and winter – just not lekker together – so if you cut the power you have a better chance of saving your phone. Haul your SIM card out at the same time – you may be able to save some data, especially if it’s GSM. Pat the SIM dry and leave it. Once you’ve rescued your phone, shake it and use a towel to pat it dry. Paper towels are a valid choice but be careful of soggy bits of tissue catching in the more, how shall I say, intimate parts. Then remove all the covers and extras so you expose as much phone flesh as Beau Brummel on a Sunday
stroll. Don’t use a hair dryer or anything that could blow the damp deeper inside – use your vacuum cleaner to suck out the moisture. Hold the vacuum nozzle over each open area for as long as 15-20 minutes, but keep a little distance to avoid the build up of static electricity. Now you can leave your phone in a bag of uncooked rice overnight, if you absolutely have to.… Personally the only thing I drop into my rice is coriander for that extra flavour - I don’t see why I should waste a good bag of rice in the recession. I prefer using a desiccant instead. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, they’re those lekker, toxic sachet efforts you get with your shoes and handbags. Bung a couple of those in a bag with your phone and check on it in the morning. If you see humidity or moisture then repeat the steps above. Wait at least one day after all this before you test your phone. If it refuses to work with the battery, try it with the charger as you may need a new battery. If this fails take it to the manufacturer and make sure you tell them what you did. They’ll figure it out anyway.
I just bought a new mouse in the R1000 price range, but it won’t work on my glass table. What am I doing wrong? Frikkie can’t click, Boskburg
Now that’s a fabulous question! I forked out on a simply divine mouse complete with Swarovski crystals just the other day. It went perfectly with my diamante desk and pen holder. But I digress…Yes, I too discovered that my sparkly darling was refusing to tackle the gorgeous
silver shimmer mousepad I’d bought (it’s all about colour co-ordination, doll). And here’s why… If you lift your lovely you’ll discover a red (or blue) light shining from her base. This means that she is an optical mouse and, while they are really good at working on most surfaces, they will always struggle with a reflective or shiny surface, or any surface with too much detail. Your best bet is to use a plain black mousepad or the surface of your desk. They really are fascinating creatures, computer mice. From their old trackball days (when you had to clean out all sorts of gunk and they often ended up dying quite easily) to these optical babies that use a tiny camera to take up to 1,500 pictures per second. They use digital image processing technology to translate these pictures into the position of your cursor on the screen, transforming the movement of your hand into digital signals that your computer can use. Amazing. Now if only I had the space to tell you all about laser mice…
Optical zoom! Digital Zoom! I just don’t get it. Which one do I need when I buy a digital camera? Mish Shutterfish, Benoni
Oooh, there’s nothing better than taking photos is there! Especially when you can zoom in and catch your neighbour stealing your daffodils. But there’s nothing worse when they come out as these blurry nagmerries because your camera is crappy. So here’s how it works. Digital zoom takes the part of the image you want brought closer and then it digitally enlarges it, not a real zoom at all. The quality of your image is irreversibly lost using this technique because it’s really the same as manually enlarging an image over and over again using image-editing software. Each time you bring that part of the picture closer it loses quality. Now optical zoom lenses are like the rush at an Edgars sale – they literally move you closer to the object you want. So, the higher the optical zoom rating on your camera, the further away you can be to take your photo while still getting a really crisp shot. What you really need to be asking is what your megapixel rating should be on your optical zoom camera! In short, it depends. If you like to play around with image-editing software to create funky effects and so on, then you should look at a higher megapixel rating because you can always use the software to zoom in. However, if you prefer to just shoot and print, then go for a higher optical zoom rating because then the quality will have to be in the zoom itself. Sorted.
“Optical zoom lenses literally move you closer to the object you want. The higher the optical zoom rating on your camera, the further away you can be to take your photo.”
The red light on my printer won’t stop flashing. How do I make it stop? Lulu going loco, Sandton
First of all you could have at least told me which printer this was. I mean, seriously, have you SEEN how many different models there are out there. For all I know yours is powered by free-range chickens from China and the red light’s warning you of impending flock death. But, because I’m that kind of person, I’ll try and help you anyway. You’ll need to do a couple of checks. Start off by seeing if any paper is jammed in your printer. You should have two or three ways of opening it up to look inside. Whatever you do, don’t stick your fingers in there unless you’ve turned off the power. At best you’ll get a free perm, at worst you’ll still be there until someone reports a funny smell. If you do find a paper jam, try and remove it slowly. If it is stuck deeply within the unit you can try following the manual instructions on how to release the rollers but if that is a bit more than you’re prepared to take on then send it in to be repaired by the manufacturer. Your other option is that you have run out of ink. Take a look at your more recent printouts – if they’re blurry or faded then that’s your culprit. If these two steps fail then the only other option I can offer you is to turn off your PC and printer for a good 20 minutes and then go back and try again. If this doesn’t work then you should take it to the manufacturer. Some problems are too delicate for untrained hands.
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disconnect//BY ADAM OXFORD
s the great French surrealist Marcel Duchamp cried when he pencilled a moustache on the Mona Lisa, there’s always room for improvement. As much as I respect, admire and covet all things PC-related, there are so many everyday problems that trip us up and spoil the enjoyment that it’s hard not to believe they’re a deliberate joke placed by the manufacturers. There are loads of ways technology can outfox us, but one of my biggest bugbears is the one that begins when you open a new computer’s box. With the possible except of that tar substitute they spread on the roads at election time, there is no material on the whole planet more loathsome than polystyrene. It’s a horrific abuse of the world’s precious resources, and it’s the lazy man’s packing material – there’s no excuse for it. Cheap, messy, impossible to recycle or even dispose
New computer problems can start before you even pull one
OUT OF ITS BOX
72 | CONNECT | MAY 2009
of it doesn’t biograde, and usually ends up blown into the ocean, doomed to float for all eternity. More pertinently, put it within 50km of children or pets, and it’s more dangerous than plutonium. They just love to stick or sniff the stuff into anywhere it really doesn’t belong. There’s a special place in hell for the man who turned this perfectly ordinary spaceship insulation material into an environmental disaster area. PCs, monitors and printers come packed in tons of the mildly carcinogenic stuff. It’s like a free punch in the face with every purchase. The last monitor I unpacked, for example, was entombed in tons of lumpy white polystyrene. It looked like the gnarly faeces of a giant hyena. Some devilish draughtsman had laser cut it with pinpoint accuracy to be, well, just a bit too small for the actual size of the screen, but a bit too big for the box it was in. How do they do that? I mean, have you ever tried to put a piece of polystyrene back in its box? It never fits. Do they grow the stuff around the equipment its protecting like some horrific alien cocoon? Back to my monitor and, failing to find any obvious nook to grab hold of, I tried to coax it gently out one corner at a time. It is, of course, designed to meet such efforts with a Newtonian reaction, matching force with equal and opposite force. Somehow it managed to lodge one of the flaps in the bottom of the box under its extruded edges. Though I’m not proud to admit it, it didn’t take long for me to get angry. I pulled harder. How was I supposed to know about the explosive charge hidden in the left hand corner? Half of the entire mass of polystyrene tore off in my hand, showering the room in lethal particles of plastic. For something designed for safety, it has the characteristics of a cluster bomb. To make things worse, each of the tiny breakaway bubbles can defy the laws of physics. They are propelled away from the nose of an approaching vacuum cleaner, always in the direction of a child’s nose or ears. As my monitor vanished further under a spray of the deadly dust, the red mist fell. I grabbed the bottom of the box, flipped it over, gave it a shake and... bang! My new screen would have been smashed to pieces. If it weren’t for the polystyrene keeping it safe. Good job that was there, huh?
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Published on Jan 25, 2010
Published on Jan 25, 2010