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buyer’s

guide June 2011

Tak me, e i’m

Fre e

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07

Lenovo IdeaCentre B300

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10

Alienware M17x

see page

18

Sony Vaio VPC-CB15

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Ava ila I ncr b l e at Co n e d i b l e n ec S oo t i o n n!


June 2011

T

here has never been a time in human history where choice in all things has been so prevalent. The world of technology is particularly choicerich, offering consumers of all walks of life the opportunity to get their hands on the products that suit both their lifestyles and their budgets. It is our pleasure to bring you our first Buyer’s Guide that deals with all manner of computers, from notebooks to netbooks and desktops to at least one server. We have laid bare over 45 products for you to examine and choose between. There are products for all performance and usage requirements on show in this guide, and we’ll take you through each one and point out which are best-suited to various customer needs. Whether you’re a business person who needs a powerful notebook or a student interested in a laptop to do research and write assignments on, there is something here for you. Even gamers looking for a notebook that can compete with a full-blown desktop when it comes to games and entertainment are catered for – check out the awesomeness of the Alienware M17x and Dell XPS 17 on page 10! There is something for everyone in this guide, and we hope it proves useful the next time you’re shopping for a desktop, notebook or netbook computer. Choice is definitely on your side.

Features 02 14

Choosing a Notebook

ALL-IN-ONES

06 07

10

Alienware M17x Alienware M14x Dell XPS 17 3D Lenovo IdeaPad Y560P

11

Samsung Series 9 Sony Vaio VPC-F137 Sony Vaio VPC-F217

Giga-whatchamacallit?

Product reviews Acer AZ3731 Acer AZ5710 Acer AZ5763 Dell Inspiron 2310 Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 Lenovo IdeaCentre B300

BUSINESS NOTEBOOKS

08

Sony Vaio VPC-SB18 Dell Vostro V3500 Dell Vostro V3300

09

Lenovo ThinkPad T420i Lenovo ThinkPad T420 Lenovo ThinkPad T420s

NOTEBOOKS (continued)

SELECT NOTEBOOKS

NOTEBOOKS

12

Dell Inspiron 15 (N5010) HP Pavilion G-series HP 620

16

Acer 5700-series Notebooks Lenovo IdeaPad G570 Lenovo IdeaPad G560

17

Lenovo IdeaPad G550 Samsung R540 Core i3 Samsung RV-510 T3500

18

Samsung RV-511 P6100 Sony Vaio VPC-EB44 Sony Vaio VPC-CB15

The Incredible Connection Team

PUBLISHER Brett Haggard - brett@hypertext.co.za EDITOR Tiana Cline - tiana@hypertext.co.za TECHNOLOGY EDITOR Deon du Plessis - deon@hypertext.co.za

Published for and on behalf of Incredible Connection by Hypertext Media Communications (011) 023 8001 info@hypertext.co.za

19

Lenovo IdeaPad Z570 Samsung RF-510 Core i7 Dell Inspiron 5110

20

Dell XPS 15 HP Pavilion DV6 Series HP Pavilion DV7 Series

DESKTOP PCS

22

Dell Vostro 230 Dell Vostro 460 Dell Inspiron 580

23

Dell Inspiron 560 Dell PowerEdge T110 Server Acer Aspire M1900

NETBOOKS

24

Acer Happy 2 Dell Inspiron Mini 10 (1018) Samsung N150 Sony Vaio VPC-YB15


BUYING ADVICE

Knowing what to look for helps tremendously when buying a notebook. Our basic guide will take you through some handy pointers.

Choosing a NotEBook 2 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011


BUYING ADVICE

Processor power

For the best overall performance, Intel processors can’t be beat. Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors represent the current crop of Intel processors and they are impressively powerful. Even the entry-level processors, the Core i3s, are more than good enough to power a small business notebook, plus the whole range has been designed to work hard while consuming a conservative amount of power which results in better battery performance (i.e. longer time between recharges). • Core i3: For simple day-to-day workloads (e-mail, document creation, web browsing) • Core i5: For more demanding tasks like running complicated business applications • Core i7: For ultimate performance and enough power for any task

Understand your Operating System

If you want a notebook that has all the features needed to work happily in an office environment, then you should pick one that runs Windows 7 Professional, as this operating system offers the most appropriate set of features for any corporate environment. You can easily join your work’s domain, run virtual machines, access remote application servers using Remote Desktop and enjoy all the security features needed to keep your work data safe. Notebooks for home and office use should choose Windows 7 Home Premium, as it only differs in terms of some of the high-end business features offered in Professional, for example the absence of Domain-based networking. Netbooks are basic notebooks, really, and work just fine with the most basic version of Windows 7, Windows which is Windows 7 Starter. If you are used to working on an Apple machine which runs OS X, then make sure the programs you would want to use are compatible with your notebook’s operating system of choice. If you’re considering installing games, for example, many aren’t compatible with the Mac format.

L

aptops, desktops, notebooks, netbooks, tablets – there is a lot to ponder when picking a personal computer. You could have a large monitor and a powerful processor, or something more mobile that’s easier to packup-and-go. You might stick to the most secure option, or choose something that you can use to watch your favourite series in bed. To a large extent, the right notebook for you will depend on how you use a computer, and how you see yourself using it in future. But when it comes to down to it, a notebook is a necessity. Buying a new one can be a bit intimidating, but with our hardware guide under your belt it should be a little bit easier to make the choice that’s right for you. www.incredible.co.za | 3


BUYING ADVICE

Easy Upgrade

If you find you need more memory once you’ve made your purchase, don’t stress – it’s actually quite easy to upgrade a notebook’s RAM. Take it to a service centre, purchase however much memory you need, and they can install it on the spot. Just bear in mind that most notebooks only have two memory slots, and if both are already occupied you won’t be able to add, you’ll need to start again with two brand new and largercapacity memory chips, which will leave you with old memory that you may have to sell or give away.

Storage is simple… sort of

The magic of memory

Entry-level notebooks with 32-bit operating systems should have no less than 3GB of memory (also called RAM). Notebooks with 1 and 2GB of memory are okay for entry-level users, but that conservative amount of memory will hamper general day-to-day performance. While Windows 7 works faster with less RAM when compared to Windows Vista, it will also use as much RAM as your machine can throw at it, with commensurate performance benefits. Lots of memory allows Windows and programs to run faster during general use, and multiple programs to be open at once without the notebook falling over. The best possible configuration is a notebook with a 64-bit version of Windows 7 and 6GB of RAM or more, but for work purposes 3GB is perfectly sufficient for everyday use

A notebook’s hard drive is not a big priority as storage can always be expanded later with external drives. The most basic option these days is 250GB of storage, and that’s more than enough for business purposes or storing all your personal media. The nice thing about living in the 21st century is that technology moves pretty quickly. Consumers are no longer limited to power-hungry spindle-based hard drives, thanks to the advent of what is known as the “solid-state drive”, or SSD. As the name suggests, SSDs are storage devices that have no moving parts. Basically, an SSD is just a really big microchip that retains data. The benefits include much faster data transfers, resulting in a far more responsive operating system and really quick boot times. Notebooks that use SSDs also don’t use as much power, and therefore last longer on a single battery charge. Notebooks that have regular spindle-based drives with spinning platters and moving parts are far less energy-efficient. The only drawback of SSDs at the moment is price. While logically it makes sense to ditch spindlebased drives completely, SSDs are very expensive, and can’t offer the same amount of storage space as their old-fashioned counterparts. To put it in perspective, a 40GB SSD costs around R1500, whereas a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive will set you back about R1300. For R200 less, you get 960GB more. For many consumers, the cost of SSDs far outweighs the benefits, and manufacturers know this, which is why there aren’t many notebooks on the market with SSDs.

Ports, plugs and extra accessories

All modern notebooks have, at the very least, integrated 802.11b/g wireless networking, an Ethernet port, Bluetooth and USB ports. They differ in their video signal outputs (HDMI, DVI and VGA are the options), the number of USB ports, whether they have a Blu-ray or DVD rewritable optical drive and the kind of card readers they use. You may also want to think about any accessories that you’ll need as well as what is available, such as a spare charger so you have one at home and one in the office. Protective cases are also highly recommended to protect your notebook against bumps and scratches, and it’s very useful to carry a wireless mouse with you at all times. Touchpads are nice, but there really is no beating a mouse for the fine control needed in everyday computing. 4 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011


BUYING ADVICE

What (and not) to buy The following hardware is only recommended if you’re on a serious budget. You may save money initially, but you’ll pay later in frustration, torn-out hair and general irritation due to the inferior performance or reduced features these components offer: • Processors: Intel Celeron, AMD Athlon64 • RAM: Only 1GB. Accept 2GB as an absolute minimum. • Operating System: Windows 7 Starter for a notebook (it’s okay for a netbook) We know that any notebook with at least the following specifications will serve you well in the long run, regardless of what you need it for: • Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit • 3GB of RAM • A 250GB hard drive • LED-backlit screen @ 1366 x 768 • Core i3 processor

• • • • •

802.11b/g/n Wireless Networking 10/100/100 (also called Gigabit) Ethernet Port Writeable DVD drive At least 2 USB ports 3-in-1 Card Reader

Hardware that is nice to have in a notebook, but is not absolutely essential, includes the following: • AMD Radeon or nVidia GeForce dedicated graphics – essential for gaming • A FireWire port for a fast connection to digital cameras • USB 3.0 ports for ultra-fast data transfers • A 9-cell battery for battery life of 5+ hours • Fingerprint scanner for extra security • HDMI output (to connect up to projectors and HDTVs)

What about netbooks?

The line between netbooks and notebooks is becoming increasingly blurred. If you see a product with an 11” or smaller screen, has an Intel Atom or Intel Celeron processor, 1 or 2GB of memory and a hard drive that’s around 250GB in capacity, chances are you’re looking at a netbook. Our recommendations for good netbook hardware include: • Intel Atom N550 processor • 2GB RAM • 250GB Hard Drive • 2 USB 2.0 Ports • Wireless b/g/n networking

Conclusion

• VGA-out (to connect an external monitor) • Windows 7 Starter

If you know what to look for, buying a notebook is easy. Today’s market includes products from Sony, Dell, HP, Acer, Lenovo and Samsung, so there are a lot of top brands to choose from, and depending on what you need the notebook for, it’s a matter of weighing up your options. By getting to know exactly what you want as well as what is out there, you’ll easily come out with the portable PC you need. www.incredible.co.za | 5


all-in-ones

Acer Aspire AZ3731 All-in-One

Acer Aspire AZ5710 All-in-One

Acer Aspire AZ5763 All-in-One

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All-in-one desktops are the next big thing, and a few manufacturers have already cottoned on to that. Apple’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed – but Acer wants to outdo the fruity company. It’s attempted to do that with the inclusion of full HD touch screen displays for its all-in-one machines. The AZ3731 has a modest Pentium dual core processor, but 4GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive complement it nicely. Wireless networking features, which is very convenient, and it is peppered with USB ports: six of them feature, along with a VGA output, HDMI port and memory card reader. It also has 512MB of dedicated video memory, so you can even use it to play the odd game. This is well-specced desktop machine, great for everyday computing tasks, and then some.

The Acer AZ5710 is a bigger, more capable version of the 3731. It also has a full HD touch screen, but this one is 23” in size, compared to the 21.5” display on its smaller brother. It’s got a faster Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and graphics are powered by an nVidia GeForce GT240, with 1GB of dedicated graphics memory. Also present on the 5710 is a host of USB ports, HDMI video output, memory card reader and audio ports (for headphones and the like). Wireless networking, Bluetooth and a DVD drive round off the package, while Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit makes sure everything keeps running smoothly. The larger display and graphics processor in the 5710 make it ideal for general entertainment and gaming, so it might just be what you need.

The range-topping Acer all-in-one is the AZ5763, boasting a 23”, full high-definition 3D screen with Acer’s new “Multi-Gesture/Air control” technology that means you control the PC with hand movements, not touch. To make sure that the 3D graphics work during both games and Blu-ray movies, it has a 1GB GeForce GT 435M. And there will be 3D Blu-ray viewing, since this comes as standard with a Blu-ray drive. Regular processing power comes from a secondgeneration Intel Core i5 2400S, paired up with 4GB of RAM. It also boasts Ethernet and 802.11b/g/n wireless networking capabilities, while ports and connectors are present in full force. Eight USB ports, an HDMI connector and a memory card reader are just some of what you’ll have at your disposal. To make sure things run smoothly, it comes installed with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Pentium Dual Core E5800 3.2 GHz RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 1TB Display: 21.5” touch screen, 1920 x 1080 Graphics: Dedicated graphics 512MB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet Optical drive: SuperMulti DVD drive Ports: 6x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, memory card reader, audio output and audio input Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Warranty: 1 year collect, repair and return

OVERALL SCORE

6 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i5-760  2.8GHz RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 1TB Display: 23” touch screen, 1920 x 1080 Graphics: nVidia GeForce GT240 1GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet Optical drive: SuperMulti DVD Drive Ports: 6x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, memory card reader, audio input and audio output Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Warranty: 1 year collect, repair and return

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i5-2400S 3.1GHz RAM: 4GB DDR3 Hard drive: 1TB Display: 23” 3D Multi Gesture Control, @ 1920 x 1080 Graphics: nVidia GeForce GT 435M 1GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet Optical drive: Blu-ray drive Ports: 8x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, memory card reader, audio output and audio input Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium Warranty: 1 year collect, repair and return

OVERALL SCORE


all-in-ones

Dell Inspiron 2310 All-in-One

Lenovo IdeaCentre A700

Lenovo IdeaCentre B300

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Dell’s no stranger to all-in-one desktop units, and the Inspiron 2310 is a great home-use desktop, with no fancy frills to drive up its price. At the heart of this all-in-one is an Intel Core i3-380, and the 2310 ships with 4GB of RAM. Permanent storage is taken care of by a 1TB hard drive, which is a fantastic amount. The main act is, of course, its 23” full high-definition touch screen. That high resolution means you’ll have plenty space for icons on your desktop or for photo editing and web browsing. Obviously, HD also means movies. As expected, it has both wired and wireless networking, along with six USB ports, a memory card reader, audio connectors and more.

Lenovo’s flagship A700 all-in-one takes no prisoners. Intel’s Core i5-480M takes care of the processing, which complements the system’s 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard drive quite nicely. It also has a dedicated video card with 1GB of video memory. All of this is packed into the all-in-one body, housing the 23” full high-definition display. The high-definition display is complemented by a JBL sound system. Everything is running on Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition, which also has Windows Media Center software included – perfect for turning this into a media powerhouse, when not gaming, browsing the web or doing a bit of work. Networking and connectivity are what we’ve come to expect: Ethernet and 802.11b/g/n wireless, with a host of USB ports, video outputs and connectors to keep your peripherals happy.

The B300 is a lot more sedate than the A700, offering an experience more suited to the average home user than gamers and digital entertainment fiends. This is indicated by its smaller 20” screen, but the B300 makes up for this somewhat as that screen is also fully touch-sensitive. It lets users control Windows 7 – a very touch-friendly operating system – with only their fingers, which is a novel experience at first, but which quickly becomes second nature. While multimedia isn’t the B300’s strongest point, it’s still more than capable of playing back DVD movies, watching 720p and standard-def. video files. It’s also very useful as a general-purpose home computer, able to surf the net over a wireless or wired network thanks to N-class Wi-Fi and 10/100 Ethernet connections, get projects and assignments done and other day-to-day tasks. It even comes with 512MB of dedicated graphics memory that will allow for basic light gaming. As such, the IdeaCentre B300 is a great out-of-the-ordinary home PC that’s fun to use and useful on a daily basis.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i3-380 2.4GHz – double check speed RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 1TB Display: 23” touch screen, 1920 x 1080 Graphics: Intel integrated graphics Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet Optical drive: DVD SuperMulti Drive Ports: 6x USB 2.0, memory card reader, audio output and audio input Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Warranty: 3 year on-site

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i5-480M 2.66GHz RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 500GB Display: 23” LED Full HD @ 1920 x 1080 touchscreen Graphics: 1GB Dedicated Graphics Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet Optical drive: DVD SuperMulti Drive Ports: FireWire, eSata, 5 x USB 3.0, HDMI in/out, Component in, S/PDIF out, multi-in-one card reader Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Warranty: 1 Year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E5800 3.2GHz RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 500GB Display: 20” (1600 x 900) Touch Graphics: 512MB Dedicated Graphics Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet Optical drive: DVD Super Multi drive Ports: 6 x USB 2.0, memory card reader Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: 10.5kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

www.incredible.co.za | 7


business notebooks

Sony Vaio VPC-SB18

Dell Vostro V3500

Dell Vostro 3300

Dell Vostro 3700

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This would be the perfect all-round business notebook if it were not for the lack of a Full HD display. That aside, Sony’s excellent Vaio SPCSB18 notebook is a brilliant piece of kit, able to handle any task a busy business person may throw at it, be it editing videos and pictures, compiling reports or putting together a massive, computation-intensive spreadsheet. It’s also sensitive to the requirements of a long business day, offering SPEED and STAMINA modes that can be chosen according to whether graphics or extended battery life are required. Wired and wireless connectivity options let you connect wherever you might be (provided there is a network, of course), and the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port makes extremely fast file transfers between the notebook and compatible USB 3.0 devices a reality. Windows 7 Professional provides all the corporate security and networking functionality needed from a business notebook, and 500GB of space is more than enough to store applications and work data. As a day-to-day business notebook, Sony’s Vaio VPC-SB18 offers a lot of bang for your buck.

Mobile business people in need of a fast, reliable, high-quality notebook that satisfies both performance and budget requirements should take a closer look at the Vostro V3500. Not only is it pleasantly fast (thanks, Intel Core i5-460m), but it’s ruggedly reliable and has the necessary connectivity to keep busy people connected. This 15.6” notebook is big enough that users won’t feel cramped while using it and lightweight enough not to be a burden on long business trips. Dell also offers an optional 9-cell battery, which will suit customers that tend to go a long time between visits to premises with available wall sockets. As looks and durability can sometimes be as important as performance, Dell has paid special attention to the V3500’s design, giving it an understated yet attractive aluminium case that is as hard as it is stylish. If it’s reliability, attractive looks, big business features and really good performance you need, Dell’s Vostro V3500 business notebook is an excellent investment.

The Vostro 3700 from Dell represents the pinnacle of Dell business notebooks. Its no-nonsense design includes everything an impatient business person will need to keep their business humming along smoothly, while not going so overboard as to strain the IT budget. With its Core i7 processor and 4GB of RAM, the Vostro 3700 truly qualifies as a “desktop replacement”. Add to that nVidia’s GeForce GT330m graphics chipset and it’s even possible to play a game or two on the Vostro 3700. The point is, you can chuck out that expensive desktop machine and replace it with a portable, yet just-as-powerful notebook computer. The 17.3” LED-backlit screen is a pleasure to work on, as it provides more space for spreadsheets, documents and e-mail applications. While it is a bit bulky compared to other notebooks, the power on offer more than makes up for it. For no-nonsense business computing that’s efficient, powerful and impressive, Dell’s Vostro 3700 is one of the best notebooks available.

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Intel Core i5-460m QuadCore 2.53GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 500GB Display: 15.6” WLED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: nVidia GeForce GT310m 512MB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical Drive: DVD double-layer recordable drive Ports: HDMI, VGA, 3 x USB 2.0, 1 x Combo USB 2.0/eSata, Express Card Slot, 8-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Weight: From 2.31kg Warranty: 3 year local on-site

Just because you’re shopping for a notebook for small business use doesn’t mean you need to go without big-business features. Dell understands this, and has packed the Vostro 3300 with just the right components that deliver great performance without breaking the bank. While Intel’s Core i3 processors are the least powerful of the Core i-series, the i3-370m in the Vostro 3300 is still more than capable of keeping up with business needs. 3GB of memory is just right for the 32-bit operating system the notebook ships with, and 320GB of space is a nice balance between too little and too much. It’s the design of the 3300 that will command the most attention, though. The 13.3” LED display makes for a stylishly compact chassis, and Dell has used clever engineering to ensure it is only 28mm at its thickest point. An aluminium shell encases the notebook, giving it an undeniable air of sophistication. For sophisticated, understated looks and performance that’s more than sufficient for small business computing, look no further than Dell’s Vostro 3300 notebook.

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Intel Core i7-720m QuadCore 1.6GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 500GB Display: 17.3” WLED @ 1600 x 900 Graphics: nVidia GeForce GT330m 1GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical Drive: DVD double-layer recordable drive Ports: FireWire, HDMI, VGA, 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x Combo USB 2.0/eSata, Express Card Slot, 8-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Weight: From 2.7kg Warranty: 3 year local on-site

Processor: Intel Core i7-2620M DualCore 2.7GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 500GB Display: 13.3” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: AMD Radeon Mobility HD6470M 512MB and Intel HD Graphics 3000 Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical Drive: DVD double-layer recordable drive Ports: HDMI, VGA, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, 2-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Weight: From 1.72kg Warranty: 1 year collect, repair, return

OVERALL SCORE

8 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011

SPECIFICATIONS

OVERALL SCORE

Processor: Intel Core i3-370m Dual-Core 2.4GHz RAM: 3GB Hard Drive: 320GB Display: 13.3” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel GMA HD Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical Drive: DVD double-layer recordable drive Ports: VGA, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Combo USB 2.0/eSata, Express Card Slot, 5-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 32-bit Weight: From 1.81kg Warranty: 3 year local on-site

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS

OVERALL SCORE


business notebooks

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 i7

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 i5

Lenovo ThinkPad T420s

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Lenovo’s Core i7-powered T420 business notebook is a great place to start when looking for a notebook with business-friendly looks and lots of power. Because its hardware is aimed more at demanding professional users, it’s a little costlier than other models, but it definitely provides excellent value for businesses users interested in a performance notebook. With Intel’s Core i7-2620M processor and 4GB of memory, expect impressive all-round performance. This is the notebook to get for employees whose dayto-day work involves complicated applications, massive spreadsheets or any activity that demands good system performance. The Core i7 processor ensures minimal waiting, and this coupled with 4GB of RAM means excellent general responsiveness in Windows. 14” notebooks represent a nice balance between size and portability, so carrying this notebook from meeting to meeting or on a plane won’t hurt anyone’s shoulder. Windows Home Premium 64-bit will make full use of the system’s 4GB of RAM, and the T420 is future-proof should a RAM upgrade ever become necessary.

For a T420 ThinkPad with a little more under its hood, consider this model. It boasts a faster Core i5 processor that’s clocked at 2.66GHz, Windows 7 Professional 64-bit (a more business-friendly operating system) and a dedicated Intel HD graphics chip that is more than capable of handling today’s HD needs. It has 4GB of RAM that is upgradable to a maximum of 8GB if extra Windows performance is needed, but even as-is it’s more than sufficient for most tasks. The hard drive in this model is only 320GB, but it’s not likely to ever be completely filled by work-related data. Even if that happens, storage can be extended with an external USB drive. As a business notebook, the T420 is a decent mid-range product that will satisfy the performance and batterylife requirements of travelling executives, and it is ready for even the most demanding of business applications.

Business users will be very happy with this attractive and slim T420 notebook. It has a powerful Core i5 processor, 2GB of system RAM and a decent – if not generous – 320GB hard drive. At 1600 x 900, the 14” LED-backlit screen on the T420s looks a little sharper than competing screens that run at only 1366 x 768, which also gives you more screen real estate for viewing things like complicated spreadsheets, presentations and a full calendar This notebook’s nVidia graphics chipset features Optimus technology, which dynamically allocates performance when you need it, and lowers performance levels (thus conserving battery power) when you don’t. It’s also powerful enough to display razor-sharp and silky-smooth 720p video content as well as regular Windows applications and some 3D games. The slimline T420s is a notebook for discerning business users. Its slim build does mean a price increase over the similarly-specced T420, but there is no question that it has the advantage in the looks department. It’s also powerful enough to serve demanding business needs, making it a good all-round business notebook.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i7-2620M 2.66GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 500GB Display: 14” LED @ 1600 x 900 Graphics: nVidia Dedicated Graphics 1GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical Drive: DVD SuperMulti Ports: FireWire, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Combo USB 2.0/eSata, Express Card Slot with 5-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Weight: From 2.4kg Warranty: 3 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i5-2410M 2.66GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 320GB Display: 14.1” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel HD Graphics Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, modem, Bluetooth Optical Drive: DVD SuperMulti Ports: FireWire, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Combo USB 2.0/eSata, Express Card Slot with l54-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Weight: From 2.4kg Warranty: 3 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i5-2520M 2.5GHz RAM: 2GB Hard Drive: 320GB Display: 14” LED @ 1600 x 900 Graphics: nVidia N12P-NSI 1GB Optimus Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical Drive: DVD recordable multi-burner Ports: FireWire, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Combo USB 2.0/eSata, Express Card Slot with memory card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Weight: From 2.4kg Warranty: 3 year

OVERALL SCORE

www.incredible.co.za | 9


select notebooks

Alienware M17x (Stealth Black)

Alienware M17x (Stealth Black) High Spec

Dell XPS 17 3D

Lenovo Y560P

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Dell’s high-end XPS 17 laptop is also available in a 3D version, as featured here. This is one of the very few laptops with a 3D display that can run at full HD resolutions. It’s powered by a GeForce GT 555M graphics chip, sporting 3GB of its very own memory. That means the 8GB of RAM is for all the regular stuff, running in Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition. Processing power comes from an Intel Core i7 quad-core chip – one of the new, second-generation chips that launched earlier this year. It won’t step toe-to-toe with a dedicated gaming machine like the Alienware, but it’ll definitely run games with ease. And that 3D display is a real trump card. Everywhere else it’s business as expected: USB 3.0 ports, HDMI outputs, Bluetooth, fast wireless and a memory card reader. The perfect entertainment all-rounder.

Lenovo might not be a brand most people associated with highperformance laptops – its ThinkPad range is usually very business-focused – but the Y560P is a different kettle of fish. This one comes with an Intel Core i7 processor and 4GB of memory. It also has an nVidia graphics chip with 1GB of dedicated graphics memory that can handle gaming and other 3D activities, or even just watching high definition movies on its HD-capable 15” display. Like the other high-end notebooks here, the Y560P runs on a 64-bit version of Windows, in this case the Home Premium edition. Wireless networking, HDMI output, a memory card reader, Bluetooth and a 750GB hard drive round off a very good entertainment laptop.

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0GHz RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 750GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: nVidia 1GB dedicated Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet Optical drive: DVD Super Multi drive Ports: 3x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, memory card reader, audio input and audio output Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: 2.7kg Warranty: 1 year

Gaming and Entertainment

Gaming and Entertainment

ABOUT

ABOUT

Alienware is one of the most respected gaming brands in the world. This is a company that doesn’t just sell a machine that runs games very well – it sells an experience and elite membership to a group of people who love having high-end hardware. The M17x is hardcore. It ships with 8GB of RAM - more than most desktop computers have – and an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor. AMD’s Radeon HD5870 graphics card also shows that it means business. This card can run games at their highest settings without flinching, even with demanding features like anti-aliasing, tessellation and high dynamic range lighting enabled. All of this amazing gaming performance is packed into a chassis that looks as mean as it performs, making the M17x a highly desirable and highly visible beast of a gaming machine.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0GHz RAM: 8GB Hard drive: 750GB Display: 17.3” LED @ 1920 x 1080 Graphics: AMD Radeon HD5870 1GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: DVD SuperMulti drive Ports: 2x USB 2.0 ports, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x audio out, 1x audio input, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, 1x memory card reader Operating system: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Weight: From 4.3kg Warranty: 4 years

OVERALL SCORE

10 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011

At first glance this might look like the same model of Alienware laptop, but look closely. It varies oh so slightly, in all the places that matter. It’s still an Intel Core i7, but it gets a 200MHz speed bump on all four cores, plus a whopping 16GB of RAM. Hard drive space has also been bumped. In fact, it has two 750GB hard drives for a grand total storage of 1.5TB. These two drives can also be configured in RAID, for a speed boost. It has an nVidia graphics card with 1.5GB of dedicated video memory, along with Bluetooth, wireless and Ethernet for network connectivity. The other big difference is a Blu-ray combo drive that’s great for playing back Blu-ray movies and can also write DVDs or CDs. The most notable difference, however, is that this notebook comes with a 3D-capable screen that supports 3D gaming and 3D movies. Any game that supports nVidia’s 3D Vision technology will play seamlessly on this notebook, and the experience is almost literally mind-blowing.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i7-2720QM 2.2GHz RAM: 16GB Hard drive: 1.5TB hard disk (2 x 750GB) Display: 17.3” 3D-capable LED @ 1920 x 1080 Graphics: nVidia GeForce GTX460M 1.5GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: Blu-ray Combo drive Ports: 2x USB 2.0 ports, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x audio out, 1x audio input, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, 1x memory card reader Operating system: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Weight: From 4.3kg Warranty: 4 year

OVERALL SCORE

Processor: Intel Core i7-2720QM 2.2GHz RAM: 8GB Hard drive: 1.2TB Display: 17.3” 3D-capable LED, 1920 x 1080 Graphics: nVidia GeForce GT 555M 3GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: Blu-ray combo drive Ports: 2x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, 1x HDMI, 1x memory card reader, audio input and audio output Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: 3.45kg Warranty: 4 year on-site

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS

OVERALL SCORE


select notebooks

Samsung Series 9

Sony Vaio VPC-F137

Sony Vaio F217

CATEGORY

CATEGORY

CATEGORY

Business

Gaming and Entertainment

Gaming and Entertainment

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ABOUT

ABOUT

Samsung is taking the fight right to Apple, with its Series 9 laptop. This is meant to go up against the Apple MacBook Air, one of the thinnest laptops in the world. To give it an edge over the Air, Samsung gave the Series 9 a Core i5 processor, and it comes with 4GB of RAM as standard (where it’s an option for the MacBook Air). The 13” display runs at 1366 x 768, and it’s powered by Intel’s new HD Graphics 3000, built into the Core i5 processor. The series 9 bests the MacBook Air by having a built-in DVD drive, and it comes standard with a 128GB solid-state drive for fast, silent performance. Also present is a pair of USB ports, an HDMI port, microSD memory card slot and audio ports – all in a laptop that weighs in at just 1.3kg. Fantastic!

Sony’s no stranger to high-performance machines and high-definition displays. So with the Vaio F137 it’s combined those two things and added a bit of extra spice. The Vaio comes with a 16” display that runs at full HD resolutions, so your Blu-ray movies will look fantastic. Even better: the Blu-ray drive is standard equipment. Processing power comes from a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, and it’s joined by a GeForce GT 435M to do all the graphics work. Memory is a whopping 8GB, and permanent storage is a 750GB hard drive. Everything about the F137 screams “sexy” and “performance” – just the way we’ve come to expect from Sony products.

SPECIFICATIONS

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Intel Core i5-2537M 1.4GHz RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 128GB solid-state drive Display: 13.3”, 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000 Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: DVD Super Multi drive Ports: 2x USB 2.0, HDMI, microSD slot, audio input and audio output Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: 1.3kg Warranty: 1 year

Processor: Intel Core i7 740QM RAM: 8GB Hard drive: 750GB Display: 16.4” LED @ 1920 x 1080 Graphics: nVidia GeForce GT 435M 1GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: Blu-ray drive with DVD writer Ports: 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, 1x VGA, 1x HDMI, memory card reader, audio input and audio output Operating system: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit Weight: 3.2kg Warranty: 1 year

This is the F137’s bigger brother: it has a faster graphics chip, a faster processor and a faster hard drive. It’s safe to say that this is, well, faster. Don’t be fooled by the smaller hard drive. It may only be 640GB in this model, but it runs at 7200RPM – the same speed that desktop hard drives run at. It’s got the same 16” display capable of full HD resolutions, and the Blu-ray drive is standard fitment on the F217 as well. It’s also ready for 3D content, so 3D Blu-ray movies or games that support nVidia’s 3D Vision technology will play beautifully on this notebook. It’s one of the few laptops on the market that has no USB 2.0 ports. Instead, there’s a trio of USB 3.0 ports. Don’t worry, though, they are backwards compatible with the older connectors. Rounding things off is a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit edition, making Sony’s excellent F217 exactly the kind of notebook to look at when you need your hardware to do a little bit of everything, very well.

OVERALL SCORE

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i7 2820QM RAM: 8GB Hard drive: 640GB at 7200RPM Display: 16.4” 3D-capable @ 1920 x 1080 Graphics: nVidia GeForce GT 540M 1GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: Blu-ray drive with DVD writer Ports: 3x USB 3.0, 1x VGA, 1x HDMI, memory card reader, audio input and audio output Operating system: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit Weight: 3.2kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

www.incredible.co.za | 11


notebooks

Dell Inspiron 15 (N5010) CATEGORY Home and Student

ABOUT The Inspiron 5010 is an excellent value choice, offering modern hardware without compromising performance and price. Intel’s Core i5 processors are the ideal compromise between price and performance, as they offer excellent processing power at a price that won’t make anyone blush. This affordability makes it attractive for IT departments on a budget, and its excellent performance makes it quite versatile in modern applications and thus an excellent basis for a fast, responsive system. Equipped with four gigs of RAM, it’ll be more than capable of running Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Skype and most other everyday applications fast enough that users won’t spend much time at all waiting for tasks to complete. Connectivity is taken care of with three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA output for an external display, audio connectors and even a multi-format memory card reader – perfect for digital cameras. At the price, you’re getting a really capable everyday notebook.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i5-460M 2.53GHz RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 500GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366x768 Graphics: Intel GMA integrated graphics Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: DVD writer Ports: 3x USB 2.0, VGA output, memory card reader, audio input and audio output Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: From 2.75kg Warranty: 3 year

OVERALL SCORE

12 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011

HP Pavilion G62 B51si

HP 620

CATEGORY

CATEGORY

Home and student

Home and Student

ABOUT

ABOUT

HP also has a budget line of Pavilion notebooks. In this case, it’s the G62 B51si doing duty as an affordable, home-use laptop. The specifications are pretty good, with a lot of storage, and a nice amount of RAM, making the G62 better than your average budget notebook. An Intel Core i3 processor does most of the heavy lifting, and the 4GB of RAM will be more than ample for everyday web browsing or e-mailing. Windows 7 Home Premium comes installed on the 500GB hard drive, and it’s the 64-bit edition, so you can upgrade the RAM beyond 4GB and know that Windows will recognise all of it. Connectivity offers all the essentials: USB 2.0 ports, a VGA connector for an external monitor, HDMI for a digital display (or HDTV), and audio connectors.

The baby HP laptop is simply called the 620, but there’s no simplicity in its specifications. It has an Intel Celeron dual core processor, which will happily cope with e-mail, Office, web browsing, listening to music and a whole lot more. It won’t run games that well, but that’s not what you’re going to buy this for. Get it for general use at home or for carrying around the campus at college or university. It’s relatively lightweight as far as 15” laptops go, and has all the basics to get the job done, including a DVD writer, webcam, HDMI port and even a multi format memory card reader. The 620 is a good choice if you’re not fussed about watching high definition movies, and believe that gaming should be limited to your Xbox or PlayStation.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i3-350 2.26GHz RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 500GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Integrated graphics Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: SuperMulti DVD writer Ports: 3x USB 2.0, 1x VGA, 1x HDMI, audio input and audio output, card reader Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: 2.55kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Celeron Dual Core T3500 2.1GHz RAM: 2GB Hard drive: 320GB Display: 15.6” LED @1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel GMA Integrated graphics Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: DVD writer Ports: 3x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, SD card slot, audio output and audio input Operating system: Windows 7 Home Basic Weight: 2.4kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE


back to basics

– By Christo van Gemert

Sit down, relax, and learn about the magic behind those megabytes in your computer.

14 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011

I

t can, no doubt, be confusing when you read the specifications for a computer and see two figures listed: memory and hard drive space. While both are measured using the same metric, and both are used for storage, they have distinct functions. They’re not related, though: the amount of hard drive (HDD) space is not tied to the amount of memory (or RAM) in a computer.


back to basics Have a byte RAM and hard drive space are measured in bytes. The first computers were equipped with mere kilobytes of memory and storage. Kilo is derived from the Greek term for 1 000, so a kilobyte is 1 000 bytes (or thereabouts – more on that later). A megabyte is 1 million bytes, and a gigabyte is 1 billion bytes. After giga, we get tera, then peta.

A computer’s hard drive is like a big filing cabinet. When you save a file, it gets written to the disk. This is the same as filing away a document or storing a photo in a shoebox. It can get put away and kept safely. Of course, computers have very complex, and efficient, file systems, which means searching for that information is a lot faster than rifling through some drawers or boxes, but in the grand scheme, a hard drive is still the slowest component in a computer. Fortunately, storing massive amounts of information is easy. Hard drives are made up of magnetic platters and tiny heads to read the information on those platters. The average two-page Word document is about 35 kilobytes in size, which means around 28 documents fit in 1MB of space. But nowadays, hard drives are measured in gigabytes, and the smallest hard drive you can buy has a capacity of 250GB – that is 250 000 megabytes. Obviously you don’t need that many Word documents, but our computers are used for playing music, movies and games, too. A high-quality MP3 music file takes up roughly 1.5MB for each minute of audio. Video files vary dramatically in size, but a compressed, standard-definition film can take up 700MB of space, while a straight DVD copy will be around 5GB in size. High-definition films can be 10GB to 20GB in size. Video games can be anywhere between 200MB and 15GB, when installed. Suddenly, 250GB of hard drive space doesn’t seem that significant. Thankfully, storage is cheap – a 1-terabyte hard drive costs less than R800.

Gigs on the go

Portable storage is one product category that has seen significant growth in the last few years. It has become very cheap to manufacture hard drives, and putting them in external closures is the next step towards data freedom. Sometimes these external hard drives are big and bulky, and require a separate power cable. These are the desktop external drives, and can be had in capacities of up to 4 or 8 terabytes, in special multiple-drive enclosures. Ultra-portable drives are available in capacities of up to 1TB, and are powered by your computer’s USB port. That’s a lot of space for backups, music, movies and other archived data.

MegacHart! The abbreviations are simple: kilobyte (KB), megabyte (MB), gigabyte (GB), but how much of each equals the other? Simple! • 1MB = 1 024 kilobytes • 1GB = 1 024 megabytes • 1TB = 1 024 gigabytes Wondering where the extra 24 comes from? It’s a result of the binary number system that computers use, which counts in multiples of 2. To get as close to 1000 as possible requires the multiplication of 2 to the power of 10, and 2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2 is 1024.

RAM, which stands for Random Access Memory, is the normal operating space required by a computer for calculations and work. Think of it as the notepad you have on your desk. This can be used to write down a phone number or recipe, take notes, etc. It’s short-term memory. And when you switch off your computer – or if the power fails – that memory loses the information stored in it. However, just like you file away a piece of paper, you can save something in RAM to the hard drive. With that analogy in mind, think of the practical advantages of having many notepads around the house. One in the kitchen, one in the study, another in the TV room and a fourth in the bedroom: all of this equates to a lot of temporary space where stuff can be written down. It helps you remember things a lot easier. Computers are the same. A computer with 1GB of RAM will perform less optimally than a computer with 4GB of RAM. If a computer has very little memory, it will sometimes use the hard drive to temporarily store some of that information. It slows down your computer when it has to wait for the hard drive to fetch information and load it back into RAM. For this very reason, a RAM upgrade is often considered the best performance increase for your money – especially when a 2GB or 4GB upgrade can cost between R300 and R600. www.incredible.co.za | 15


NOTEBOOKS

Acer Aspire AS5742

Lenovo IdeaPad G570

Lenovo IdeaPad G560

CATEGORY

CATEGORY

CATEGORY

Office, Home, Student

Office, Home, Student

Office, Home, Student

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ABOUT

ABOUT

Acer’s Aspire AS5742 is a respectable entry-level notebook that’s suited to basic tasks like webbrowsing, document creation and e-mail. Its Core i3 processor won’t break any speed records, but it’s more than capable of handling day-to-day tasks. That makes it a good choice for students, home users and office workers whose budgets ultimately determine their buying decision. Even though this is an entry-level system, it’s still got enough processing power to elevate it above other budget notebooks that run Intel’s Celeron or Pentium chips. Plus it has 4GB of RAM, which goes a long way to making the overall Windows experience a smooth one. The rest of the hardware is what you’d expect to get on a modern laptop, so N-class wireless networking, an Ethernet port for connection to a wired network, USB ports, VGA and HDMI outputs. Its integrated Intel graphics chipset does 2D quite well but it will battle a bit when displaying 3D content. If what you’re looking for is a step above an entry-level notebook but you’re not willing to commit to going the full “mid-range” hog, Acer’s Aspire AS5742 is a great choice.

Lenovo’s G570 is another entry-level notebook that’s powered by solid hardware, delivering a very good experience to users whose needs are more general. Small business owners will get a lot of value out of the G570, especially if it’s kitted out with an Intel Core i3 processor and the maximum 4GB of RAM, as this will enable pretty good overall performance. The LED-backlit 15.6” display not only looks good, it reduces battery usage too. Use it to watch movies and show off presentations with confidence. Intel’s GMA HD graphics chipset won’t blow the roof off of 3D games, but for tasks like presentations, spreadsheets, projects and e-mail, it performs just fine. It also helps the system to conserve battery power. Storage is no problem with a 500GB drive, and if more is needed the eSATA port can help expand your options. If you’re looking for a general-purpose notebook the G570 will satisfy your needs.

This entry-level notebook is well suited to customers on a budget, or parents looking for a basic notebook intended for varsity or school work. Intel’s Pentium P6200 processor isn’t the quickest, and only 2GB of system RAM will mean a slightly longer wait when performing tasks. For the asking price, what you’re getting is a budgetminded portable computer that’s faster than a netbook, comes with a bigger screen and more storage plus it has a DVD drive. These are all advantages over netbooks, making it a worthwhile investment if budget constraints mean a choice between this notebook a small netbook. This is a notebook for day-to-day tasks like e-mail, browsing the Internet, creating documents and maybe watching the occasional DVD. It’s by no means spectacularly-configured, but it will certainly get the job done if all you really need is something basic to work on.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 320GB GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel GMA integrated graphics Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi wireless, Ethernet Optical drive: DVD SuperMulti drive Ports: 2 or 3 USB 2.0 ports, card reader, VGA, HDMI ports on select models Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium Weight: From 2.6kg Warranty: 1 year collect, repair, return

OVERALL SCORE

16 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i3-2310 2.1GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 500GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel GMA HD Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet Optical Drive: DVD writer Ports: HDMI, 3 x USB 2.0, 1x combo USB/eSATA port, memory card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Home Basic Weight: From Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Pentium P6200 2.13GHz RAM: 2GB Hard Drive: 320GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel HD Graphics with shared system memory Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet Optical Drive: DVD reader/writer Ports: HDMI, VGA, 3 x USB 2.0, 5-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Home Basic Weight: From 2.7kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE


NOTEBOOKS

Lenovo IdeaPad G550

Samsung R540 (i3)

Samsung RV-510 T3500

CATEGORY

CATEGORY

CATEGORY

Office, Home, Student

Office, Home, Student

Office, Home, Student

ABOUT

ABOUT

ABOUT

Another entry-level notebook from Lenovo, the G550 is an even more budget-friendly device than the G560 as it runs with an Intel Celeron processor. Even though it’s a dual-core processor, which means two separate processors and in theory double the processing power of a single core, Celeron chips are still awfully slow, especially in today’s world of relatively inexpensive Core i-series processors. For the end-user, that means a lot of waiting for basic tasks like opening Windows Explorer or loading applications like Outlook or even Internet Explorer. Still, the overall experience will be better than that of a netbook computer as it also has a DVD drive, which means the G550 is more versatile than most netbooks available today. The G550 therefore has a place in today’s market, but just bear in mind that its low price does come at a bit of a performance cost.

Samsung is a relatively new player in the SA notebook market, and it’s offerings like this one that are likely to gain favour with local consumers. The R540 is a mid-range notebook with just enough power to make office users happy, and more than enough to satisfy the general needs of students and home users. Intel’s Core i3-380M processor is sufficiently beefy that the Windows experience will be fast, helped along by 3GB of system RAM. 500GB of storage is plenty, even for movie and music fans, and the LED-backlit screen is bright and shows off rich colours which makes watching movies a pleasure. An HDMI output can connect the R540 to an HDTV or projector, making it a useful business tool. Its networking options are somewhat modest, offering only G-class Wi-Fi and 100mbit Ethernet, but this is only a problem in large offices with wireless networks or for people that transfer a lot of information over a wired network connection. It’s not much of a gaming notebook, though, as Intel’s dedicated graphics are competent for general use but not great for 3D games. Overall this is a competent notebook that’s suited to home users and students, and it can even hold its own in a small office environment.

Samsung is hitting the budget notebook market at a run with this Intel Celeron-powered machine. Entry-level is the name of the game here, as accompanying the Celeron T3500 processor are 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. This places the RV-510 just above a netbook in terms of raw processing power and storage, and is thus a good choice when a netbook is just a bit too small, and slightly more power and storage is needed. Like the R540, the RV-510 doesn’t have a Gigabit Ethernet port so file transfers won’t be very fast over a wired network connection. It makes up for this with N-class wireless connectivity, which means plenty of range and speed when connected to a wireless home or office network. When looking for a budget notebook, the extra touches Samsung has added to the RV-510 places it in a category above many others. The RV-510 offers a very respectable entry-level experience, and is recommended for students, basic office workers and home users.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Celeron T3500 Dual Core 2.0GHz RAM: 2GB Hard Drive: 320GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel HD Graphics with shared system memory Networking: 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet Optical Drive: DVD writer Ports: FireWire, 2 x USB 2.0, 3-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Starter Edition Weight: From 5.5kgs Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i3-380M 2.53GHz RAM: 3GB Hard Drive: 500GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel GMA HD Dedicated Graphics Networking: Wi-Fi b/g, 10/100 Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical Drive: Super Multi Dual-Layer Drive Ports: HDMI, 3 x USB 2.0, 3-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium Weight: From 2.4kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Celeron T3500 2.13GHz RAM: 2GB Hard Drive: 320GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Integrated Shared Graphics Memory Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet Optical Drive: Super Multi Dual Layer DVD recorder Ports: 3 x USB 2.0, 4-in-1 card reader, HDMI, VGA Operating System: Windows 7 Home Basic Weight: From 2.5kgs Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

www.incredible.co.za | 17


notebooks

Samsung RV-511 P6100

Sony Vaio VPC-EB44

Sony Vaio VPC-CB15

CATEGORY

CATEGORY

CATEGORY

Office, Home, Student

Office, Home, Student

Office, Home, Entertainment

ABOUT

ABOUT

ABOUT

The RV-511 notebook is all about a mix of style, durability and performance. It’s for people-about-town who like to take their notebooks to coffee shops for some quiet web-browsing or book-writing, and who like to look good while doing so. Not only has it been designed with style in mind, but Samsung has packed it with hardware mindful of budget constraints. While technically-speaking the RV511’s hardware can be considered entry-level, it’s still far better than anything a netbook can offer. It boasts a dual-core Intel Pentium processor, 2GB of memory and a nice, big 500GB hard drive, and is thus easily capable of powering the average user’s needs. The LED-backlit screen looks good even in bright light, can display 720p movie content, and is the perfect compromise in terms of size. Wireless and wired network hardware provide good connectivity options, making the RV-511 easy to set up and work or browse anywhere a non-cellular network exists. If it’s style you’re after, with performance a secondary priority, Samsung’s RV-511 is a great choice as an “everyday” notebook.

This mid-range notebook is an excellent buy, as it boasts a decent Core i3 processor, a good amount of hard drive space and a graphics card that’s even good enough for light gaming. It’s not as powerful as a performance notebook and it lacks the storage of some mid-range models, but it offers a very competent overall package that is certainly worth a closer look. In the EB44, Sony doesn’t skimp on networking features – included is an N-class wireless networking card and a Gigabit Ethernet port. An Express Card slot is also present, which can be used to plug in external devices like FireWire cards, solid state hard drives, soundcards and more. An HDMI output is included for connecting the EB44 up to a compatible projector or external HDTV, which is very useful in a business environment. This notebook is excellent for office workers, students and anyone that likes to work from home. It looks good, is beautifully engineered, and it’s fast enough for most everyday tasks as well as some light gaming.

Sony’s Vaio VPC-CB15 notebooks are coloured to suit the needs of the many, from bright green, orange and pink, to the mode sedate (and business-friendly) black. Its hardware is somewhat more serious, and it includes two graphics chipsets that can be switched between on the fly. Sony calls these “SPEED” and “STAMINA” modes, and the choice of which to use is placed squarely in the user’s hands. If you’re on the move and need more battery and less graphical oomph, choose STAMINA mode. If you’re about to fire up a game of Black Ops, then SPEED is what you need. 4GB of memory and a fast Core i5 processor provide general computing power, which makes for a very pleasant Windows experience. An HDMI output and a beautiful LED-backlit, Full HD screen mean the CB15 is ready for proper 1080p video content, either on its own screen or an HDTV. It’s just a pity there is no Blu-ray drive option. For a mid-range notebook that’s a cut above the rest, Sony’s VPC-EB44 is an excellent choice.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Pentium Dual-Core P6100, 2.0 GHz RAM: 2GB Hard Drive: 500GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel GMA HD Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical Drive: Super Multi Dual Layer DVD Writer Ports: VGA, 3 x USB 2.0, 4-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Home Basic Weight: From 2.4kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

18 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i3-380M 2.53GHz RAM: 3GB Hard Drive: 320GB Display: 15.5” @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: AMD Mobility Radeon HD5470 512MB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet Optical Drive: DVD SuperMulti Drive Ports: VGA, HDMI, 3 x USB 2.0, 1 x Combo USB 2.0/ eSata, 3-in-1 card reader, Express Card/34 slot Operating System: Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit Weight: From 2.7kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i5 -2410 2.3GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 500GB Display: 15.5” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: AMD Mobility Radeon HD6630M 1GB and Intel HD Graphics 3000 Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical Drive: DVD-RW Super Multi Writer Ports: HDMI, 3 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, 3-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: From 2.45kg Warranty: 2 year collect, repair, return

OVERALL SCORE


notebooks

Lenovo IdeaPad Z570

Samsung RF-510 Core i7

Dell Inspiron N5110

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Office, Entertainment

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The Z570 is a bit of an all-star, offering performance that will please office workers, managers and even gamers. This is thanks to Intel’s Core i5-2410M processor, a generous helping of RAM (4GB) and Integrated graphics courtesy of Intel. As such it’s a workhorse notebook, designed to provide great work-related performance without straining the battery too much. It can also handle 720p video content in case a break is needed, but gaming is best left to other notebooks with dedicated graphics chipsets. The usual connectivity options are here, so N-class Wireless and a Gigabit Ethernet port. For good performance, attractive brushed-metal looks and even a few entertainment options, the Z570 is a worthy contender for your hardware budget.

Samsung has modified many of the basic components that went into the RV-510, and created the kind of notebook that power users will enjoy and called it the RF-510. The most important changes include an Intel Core i7-720m at the heart of the machine, and nVidia’s powerful GT-330m mobile graphics chipset with a whole gigabyte of dedicated video memory. The implications of these is much faster Windows and application performance, and a notebook that can even play games. Not those 2D, find-the-hidden-object ones either – we’re talking Black Ops and even Crysis. Other improvements include Gigabit networking, really fast USB 3.0 ports and 4GB of system RAM. This notebook can satisfy most people’s needs, with the only omissions being a Blu-ray drive and a Full HD screen. As such, it’s a good all-rounder, and will make office workers, students and even gamers happy campers.

Dell’s N5110 – also sold as the 15R – is a real all-round performer. The 15.6” display delivers crystal clear 720P-quality HD video, and graphics are courtesy of nVidia’s GeForce GT525M with 1GB of dedicated video memory – excellent for graphics heavy work, such as gaming or decoding HD movie files. The N5110 comes installed with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition, for ultimate performance. 64-bit also means support for more than 4GB of RAM if you ever feel the need to upgrade. Connectivity and networking are well sorted, too. It has 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi built in, along with SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports and HDMI video outputs. Should style be your thing, the 5110 has interchangeable lids by SWITCH design. Various colour options are available, so your laptop can even suit your mood or outfit.

SPECIFICATIONS

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Intel Core i7-720m 1.6GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 640GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: nVidia GT-330m with 1GB Dedicated Video Memory Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical Drive: DVD recordable multi-burner Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 4-in-1 card reader, HDMI, VGA Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: From 2.59kgs Warranty: 1 year

Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0GHz RAM: 4GB Hard drive: 640GB Display: 15.6”, 1366 x 768 Graphics: nVidia GeForce GT525M 1GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: DVD writer Ports: 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, HDMI, audio in and audio out, memory card reader Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: 2.65kg Warranty: 3 year on-site

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i5-2410M 2.3GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 500GB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel HD 3000 Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet Optical Drive: DVD recordable dual-layer Ports: VGA, 3 x USB 2.0, 1 x Combo USB 2.0/eSata, memory card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: From 2.6kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

OVERALL SCORE

OVERALL SCORE

www.incredible.co.za | 19


notebooks

Dell XPS 15

HP Pavilion DV6-6077ei

HP Pavilion DV7-6076ei

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Entertainment and Gaming

Entertainment and Gaming

Entertainment and Gaming

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XPS is Dell’s performance line, and if you look closely at this notebook, you’ll see that reflected in its specs. Powering this monster machine is a Core i7 processor, a stonking great whack of RAM (6GB) and an nVidia graphics chip with a seriously impressive 2GB of video memory. If you’re not yet convinced that this notebook is built for entertainment, check out the optical drive – a Blu-ray/ DVD writer combo that grants you access to the world of HD movies. All of this translates into a notebook that’s a worthy desktop replacement, as it can do anything a highperformance desktop can without being tethered to a power outlet. Play games, watch movies and surf the Internet to your heart’s content, and even get some work done if you’re so inclined. It’s not the most portable solution as all that awesome hardware has to go somewhere, and the screen could be bigger (if you want to be fussy, that is). Even so, Dell’s XPS 15 is an excellent overall gaming and entertainment notebook that can pretty much do it all, and do it well.

HP’s flagship 15” laptop, the DV6, is kitted out with some healthy specs. Eight gigabytes of memory, paired to a beefy Intel’s Core i7 processor means some serious computational grunt. Graphics are taken care of by a Radeon 6770M, which drives a 15.6” display that can show images in 720P high definition. Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit comes installed on the 6077ei’s 1TB drive –which offers ample storage for movies, games and other forms of entertainment, which this laptop will be ideal for. This DV6 is also fully networked, with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi wireless, Ethernet and even Bluetooth connectivity options. The latter can be especially handy for connecting to phones for transferring files, or using Bluetooth keyboards and mice. Two USB 3.0 ports are present alongside two USB 2.0 ports, giving this DV6 plenty of options when it comes to connecting USB storage devices. The new USB 3.0 standard is a lot faster than USB 2.0, and when compatible devices are attached to USB 3.0 ports, the performance difference is significant. We have to say, this is a fantastic performance notebook from HP, and the inclusion of a thumping Beats by Dr Dre Audio sound system is just the cherry on an already-delicious bit of kit.

Where the DV6 is the 15” entertainment laptop from HP, the DV7 boasts a 17.3” display – and with all that extra space, there’s more room for awesome processing power. This DV7 comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, and 6GB of memory. The 17” display has a resolution of 1600 x 900, and the graphics chip sending it images is an AMD Radeon 6770M, one of the quicker mobile graphics chips you can get. It’s great for gaming, and will decode high definition video without breaking a sweat. The included hard drive is a single 1TB drive, and if you’re feeling flush the option exists to get another terabyte drive for a total of 2TB. That’s an optional extra and will have to be ordered specially, but it may be worth it – 2TB of storage in a notebook is just insane! The DV7 also boasts two USB 3.0 ports, along with the regular audio and video connectors. Everything is powered by Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition. This is a serious powerhouse for all your entertainment needs, made all the better by the generous 17.3” screen.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i7-2630M 2.0GHz RAM: 6GB Hard drive: 640GB Display: 15.6” @ 1920 x 1080 Graphics: nVidia GeForce 540M 2GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: Blu-ray combo drive Ports: 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, HDMI, audio input and audio output Operating system: Up to Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: 2.7kg Warranty: 4 years on-site

OVERALL SCORE

20 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0GHz RAM: 8GB Hard drive: 1TB Display: 15.6” LED @ 1600 x 900 Graphics: AMD Radeon 6770M 1GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: Blu-ray combo drive Ports: 2x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI, memory card reader Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: 2.9kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0GHz RAM: 6GB Hard drive: 1TB Display: 17.3” LED @ 1600 x 900 Graphics: AMD Radeon 6770M 1GB Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth Optical drive: DVD writer Ports: 2x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, 1x VGA, 2x headphone out, audio input Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Weight: 3.5kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE


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desktop pcs

Dell Vostro V230MT Desktop

Dell Vostro DT460 Desktop

Dell Inspiron DT580 Desktop

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Business Desktop

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Budget constraints mean it’s essential to squeeze out every bit of value out of your IT budget, and Dell has taken cognisance of that fact by offering the Vostro 230 range of business desktop PCs. This one, the V230DT, comes with a dual-core Pentium processor, 2GB of system memory and a conservative 320GB hard drive, all of which offer immediate savings at the cost of only a modicum of performance. This is the desktop to go for when shopping for desktop PCs that are going to be handling day-to-day activities. If you have an office of 10 to cater for, every Rand saved helps your bottom line. Choosing a Vostro 230 desktop is a great way to give staff the computational power they need while also keeping your IT expenditure at a manageable level. The ability to upgrade the processor, memory and hard drive at a later stage provides a good measure of future-proofing. Your Vostro desktop can easily grow with you as your business needs evolve with only minimal expenditure needed.

Housed in compact mini tower chassis, Vostro 460 desktops are pleasant to look at, while hiding enterprise-class hardware that can be configured for all manner of workloads. If you need a basic machine to act as a secretary’s PC or a high-end workstation meant to handle a designer’s CAD software, it’s possible thanks to support for Intel’s Core i-series processors. This particular Vostro 460 has a decent Core i5 chip that can easily handle any business task. Core i5 processors currently represent the best balance between performance and cost, and are powerful enough that they are worth the additional investment over a Core i3 chip. Windows 7 loves RAM, and the 4GB that this Vostro 460 desktop has is fantastic for memory-intensive applications like video and photo editing, and provides excellent general responsiveness within the Windows 7 environment. Out-the-box support for multiple monitors means access to the excellent productivity that multiscreen computing enables. Best of all Vostro 460 desktop PCs are fully upgradeable, so you can buy now and add on extra hardware later should your requirements change.

Home computing is more affordable than ever before, and now you can get a desktop PC that offers you everything you need from a home computer, and nothing you don’t. Dell’s Inspiron 580 comes configured with an Intel Core i3-550 processor 4GB of DDR3 RAM and storage space of 750GB. The 580 is more than capable of handling the kind of home applications most families run, be it e-mailing friends and family, surfing the Web, listening to music or watching movies. The initial configuration isn’t very conducive to playing games at their highest settings as it only has an nVidia GeForce 310M graphics chipset, but the advantage of desktop PCs is that they are completely upgradeable. The 580 can therefore be upgraded with a discrete graphics card like AMD’s excellent Radeon HD6870 if better gaming performance becomes a must-have feature. The Inspiron 580 is well-suited to families interested in a powerful home PC that is affordable, reliable and expandable to meet future needs.

SPECIFICATIONS Form Factor: Mini Tower Processor: Pentium Dual Core E6700 3.1GHz RAM: 2GB Hard Drive: 320GB Monitor: None Graphics: Intel GMA X4500 Networking: 10/100Ethernet Optical Drive: DVD Writer Ports: VGA, 8 x USB 2.0 Expansion Slots: 1x PCIe, 1x PCIe x16, 3 x 3.5” bays, 2 x 5.25” bays Operating System: Windows 7 Professional Power Supply: 300W Warranty: 3 year on-site

OVERALL SCORE

22 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011

SPECIFICATIONS Form Factor: Mini Tower Processor: Intel Core i5-2400 3.3GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 500GB Monitor: None Graphics: Intel GMA X2000 Networking: 10/100 Ethernet Optical Drive: DVD Writer Ports: HDMI, VGA, S/PDIF, eSATA, 8 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0, optional 19-in-1 card reader Expansion Slots: 3x PCIe, 1x PCIe x16, 3 x 3.5” bays, 2 x 5.25” bays Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Power Supply: 350W Warranty: 3 year on-site

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Form Factor: Mini Tower Processor: Intel Core i3-550 3.2GHz RAM: 4GB Hard Drive: 750GB Monitor: None Graphics: nVidia GeForce G310 512MB Networking: 10/100 Ethernet, optional 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi Optical Drive: DVD SuperMulti Ports: HDMI, VGA, 6 x USB 2.0, 19-in-1 card reader Expansion Slots: 1x PCIe x16, 1x PCIe x1, PCI x1, 2 x 3.25” bays, 2 x 5.25” bays Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Power Supply: 300W Warranty: 3 year

OVERALL SCORE


desktop pcs

Dell Inspiron DT560 Desktop

Dell Inspiron T110 Server

Acer Aspire AM1900 Desktop

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Small Business Server

Personal Computer for General Home Use

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This little desktop is one of Dell’s more “fun” outings. It’s a mid-range desktop computer intended for home use, so it’s good for basic activities like web surfing, e-mail, document creation, photo and video viewing etc. The aforementioned “fun” is communicated by the range of five colours (including black) it’s available in. The Core 2 Duo processor indicates that this is more of a starter PC for families just getting going with this whole “digital age” thing than a powerhouse, but even so the processor will provide respectable everyday performance. Throw in a RAM upgrade and an even better computing experience awaits. All that’s missing to make it a proper all-rounder is a discrete graphics card for games, which can be added at a later stage as the 560 comes with an empty PCIe x16 slot. The 560 is a pretty clever buy – while it’s not going to win prizes for performance, it’s at least fast enough for the kind of use it’s intended for, plus it’s upgradeable and therefore future-proof.

The Inspiron T110 represents Dell’s efforts to make servers affordable for small businesses everywhere. If you think “servers” and it’s automatically followed by “$$$”, you’ll be pleased to know that you can deploy one of these beauties in your small business for a lot less than you’d think. The benefits of doing so are centralised administration of network security, data storage and sharing, and it enables backups to take place from one location only. It also reduces the data sprawl caused by employees running individual PCs and saving critical business data to their computers in places you as the owner don’t have easy access to. A centralised server, if properly secured, can also be insurance against theft, as the theft of one or multiple client computers won’t mean that business data is lost along with them. This requires users to be allocated their own slice of storage on the server, of course, but it’s one of the best reasons to get a server so not doing so isn’t really an option. The only downside is that it will also increase the amount of administration needed on a day-to-day basis, but once you learn the basics (consulting an IT pro is recommended), it’ll be quite easy.

Acer’s M1900 is the kind of home PC that is great for any 21st-century family getting into technology for the first time. It’s even good as a replacement of whatever you’re currently using, as not only is it pretty fast right out the gate, but it’s upgradeable to meet any future needs you may have, like high-resolution gaming. Intel’s dual-core Pentiums were great processors back in the day but in today’s world of Core i-series chips, they’re definitely relegated to the “value” segment of the market. This means a great bargain for shoppers, with performance that lags somewhat behind that of more modern processors. It’s still a good choice if price is a major consideration, and it will perform far better than a Celeron chip so it’s definitely a worthwhile purchase. Even though this is definitely an entry-level PC for home use, it offers quite a bit for the asking price, especially as it includes an 18” LCD monitor. For households that may need more performance, an inexpensive RAM upgrade and a dedicated graphics card would go a long way to enhancing its usefulness.

SPECIFICATIONS Form Factor: Mini Tower Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E5800 2.93GHz RAM: 2GB Hard Drive: 500GB Monitor: None Graphics: Intel X4500 GMA Integrated Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet i Optical Drive: DVD SuperMulti Ports: HDMI, VGA, 6 x USB 2.0, optional 19-in-1 card reader Expansion Slots: 1x PCIe x16, 1x PCIe x1, 2 x 3.25” bays, 2 x 5.25” bays Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium Power Supply: 300W Warranty: 3 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Xeon X3440 2.53GHz RAM: 4GB Storage: 500GB Monitor: None Graphics: Matrox G200eW w/8mb memory Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet Optical Drive: DVD Writer Expansion Slots: 4 x PCIe G2, 4 x 3.25” bays, 2 x 5.25” bays Operating System: No OS pre-installed, but Windows Small Business Server 2011 is an optional extra Power Supply: 305W Warranty: 3 year on-site

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Pentium Dual Core E5800 3.2GHz RAM: 2GB Storage: 320GB Monitor: 18.5” LCD Monitor Included Graphics: –Integrated graphics Networking: 10/100Ethernet Optical Drive: SuperMulti DVD Expansion Slots: 1x PCIe x16, 2 x PCI Operating System: Windows 7 Home Basic Power Supply: 350W Warranty: 1 Year collect, repair, return

OVERALL SCORE

www.incredible.co.za | 23


netbooks

Acer Aspire One Happy

Dell Inspiron Mini 10 (1018) Netbook

Samsung N150

Sony Vaio VPC-YB15

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General-purpose Netbook

General-purpose Netbook

General-purpose Netbook

High-end Netbook

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Acer’s Aspire One Happy netbooks were among the first to hit the market after the Asus EEE PC initiated the netbook craze. Acer did some homework, and came up with a product that was appealing both visually and on the hardware front. Happy netbooks use Intel’s energyefficient Atom processors, a single GB of memory and Windows 7 Starter Edition to provide the user with a platform from which to blog, surf the Internet, chat with friends and other casual activities when they’re out and about. Performance won’t blow anyone away, but the Happy is easily powerful enough for basic day-to-day use. As a casual computer that’s portable, the Happy provides a solid foundation for people to use when they’re away from their main computers. They’re ideal for coffee-shop usage, for having an impromptu chat with friends online, checking e-mail and basic web-browsing. Plus, they’re nice and compact (and thus carry easily) and come in a range of attractive colours.

Dell’s signature style has had its way with the Inspiron Mini 10 (1018). The 1018 is a compact and lightweight sophisticated-looking netbook that makes an excellent travel companion and business tool. Stay in touch using the built-in G-class Wi-Fi connection, get up to 7 hours of battery life when using the optional 6-cell battery, and look at photos and even watch non-HD movie files on the 10.1” LED-backlit screen. A generous 320GB hard drive is also more than enough storage for your mobile computing needs. The Mini 10 (1018) is a very capable netbook, and while it doesn’t bring anything truly new to the table, it’s got its own sense of style and pretty solid performance to boot that make it worth a closer look.

The N150 is a budget netbook aimed at getting mobile computing into as many hands as possible. It’s a fairly standard netbook, with specifications not all that different to those of a year ago, but it does offer two things that some other products don’t. It’s very lightweight, weighing in at barely over a kilogram, and it’s been given a very stylish look and feel that gives it appeal that transcends its largely unremarkable hardware. Standard connectivity options are here, as are 3 USB ports, so it’s easy to connect the N150 to networks and other devices. There is 250GB of storage for photos and music, which is plenty for every-now-and-then usage. As it’s available in several colours (black, red, pink, blue, Bermuda Blue and Black Matte), there is an N150 for everyone.

Sony Vaio YB15 netbook is bigger than most at 11.6”, boasts a notebook screen resolution and comes with a very respectable 320GB worth of storage. Sony has gone with 2GB of RAM, which provides an extra performance boost so often needed in netbook products. Graphics are handled by Intel’s HD chipset, and while it’s not going to be playing 3D games very well, it’s certainly more powerful than some Intel graphics chipsets seen in other netbook products. The AMD CPU is also good, and while it’s not as fast as Intel’s highend Atom processors like the new Atom N550, it holds its own nicely. Unusually, there is a Gigabit Ethernet port in the YB15 in addition to the usual N-class Wi-Fi, handy for connecting to a wired network. 3 USB ports are also present, a good number for a netbook. If you’re looking for a good, all-round netbook, be sure to check out Sony’s excellent Vaio VPC-YB15.

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Atom N450B 1.66GHz RAM: 1GB Hard Drive: 250GB Display: 10.1” LED @ 1024 x 600 Graphics: Intel GMA 3150 with 64MB dedicated memory Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi Optical Drive: None Ports: VGA, 3 x USB 2.0, Multi-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Starter Edition Weight: From 1.25kg Warranty: 1 year collect, repair, return

OVERALL SCORE

24 | HARDWARE BuyER’s guiDE | JuNE 2011

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Atom N455 1.66GHz RAM: 2GB Hard Drive: 320GB Display: 10.1” LED @ 1024 x 600 Graphics: Intel NM10 Networking: 802.11b/g Wi-Fi Optical Drive: None Ports: VGA, 2 x USB 2.0, 3-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Starter Edition Weight: From 1.2kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz RAM: 1GB Hard Drive: 250GB Display: 10.1” LED @ 1024 x 600 Graphics: Intel GMA 3150 Networking: 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi Optical Drive: None Ports: VGA, 3 x USB 2.0, 3-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Starter Edition Weight: From 1.04kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE

SPECIFICATIONS Processor: AMD Zacate Dual-core E350 1.6GHz RAM: 2GB Hard Drive: 320GB Display: 11.6” LED @ 1366 x 768 Graphics: Intel HD Graphics Networking: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Ethernet Optical Drive: None Ports: VGA, 3 x USB 2.0, 3-in-1 card reader Operating System: Windows 7 Starter Edition Weight: From 1.46kg Warranty: 1 year

OVERALL SCORE


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IC Hardware iBuyer's Guide - June 2011  

IC Hardware iBuyer's Guide - June 2011

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