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01 09 VOL 16

THE REGION’S FAVOURITE PC & CONSUMER TECHNOLOGY GUIDE An ITP Technology Publication OCTOBER 2011

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JANUARY 2011 SEPTEMBER 2011

LCD MONITOR FEATURE: IS THE GROUPTEST DESKTOP PC TOP DEAD? 35 WEBSITES SOLID STATE NEED DRIVE FOR SPEED GROUPTEST HOT PURSUIT NETBOOK GAME GROUPTEST REVIEW MIXED DUNGEON MARTIAL SIEGEARTS 3 GAME GAME REVIEW REVIEW

SMART ALECKS

HOT SHOTS

We test 12 of the latest smartphones on the market

Six point and shoot cameras get grilled by the team

Brace yourself for the fastest, most potent PC ever

REVIEWS

GAME REVIEWS Deus Ex: HR, Gears of War 3 and more reviewed inside... 600MB O 600MB OF FF FREE REE S SOFTWARE OFTWARE

Packed with Packed with games, gaam mess,, productivity productivity apps, apps, utilities utilities and and much, much, much much more... more...

Aviiq Charging Station D-Link HD Media router Linksys X2000 router MSI CX640 desktop replacement notebook and many more products reviewed this month...


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CONTENTS 1

CONTENTS WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST

12 FEATURE

12

12 DREAM MACHINE 2011 Every year Windows Middle East constructs a killer machine after going through a long and grueling component selection process and this year is no different. Dream Machine 2011 packs the fastest, most potent components under the sun and, as always, we’re running a competition to give away this beast to one very lucky reader. Flip over to find out what makes Dream Machine 2011 tick and to find out how you can win this brilliant machine.

DREAM MACHINE 2011

48 GROUPTEST 48 SMART ALECKS With the right smartphone in hand the digital world is literally at your fingertips. With one of these highly advanced handsets you can stay in touch via traditional voice or text messaging or interact with friends and family via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, grab photographs, create mini movies and even edit documents. In this grouptest WINDOWs looks at 12 of the latest smartphones and gives you on the low down on each. Zoom over to find out which is for you.

62 HOT SHOTS

48 SMART ALECKS

62

HOT SHOTS

Point and shoot digital cameras will let you grab photographs whenever and wherever you want. These compact cameras have been optimised so that you can whip them out, point, and then grab whatever subject interests you. They are ideal then for users interested in capturing their memories but aren’t interested in learning the ins and outs of photography, as one would have to when using a pricier DSLR camera. In this competitive grouptest we looks at six of the latest point and shoot models so flip over to find out how they performed.

WIN FANTASTIC TECH PRIZES 105


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2 CONTENTS 6

NEWS

6 7

APPLE MAY ADD USB 3.0 MICROSOFT TO LAUNCH QUAD-CORE TABLETS RETAILERS FLOCK TO GITEX SHOPPER

8

75

71 HOT KIT REVIEWS 74 75 77 77 78

AVIIQ CHARGING STATION MSI CX640 NOTEBOOK RAZER BLACKWIDOW ULTIMATE KEYBOARD SONY VPL - SX125 WESTERN DIGITAL MAC DRIVE

80 BUYER'S GUIDE THE BIGGEST TECH REFERENCE GUIDE 81 81 82 82 83 83 84 84 85 85

COMPONENTS DESKTOPS DIGITAL IMAGING HANDHELDS MONITORS NOTEBOOKS PERIPHERALS PRINTERS SOFTWARE STORAGE

87 GAME ON 87 92 96

NEWS DEUS EX: HR GEARS OF WAR III

105 REGULARS 105 COMPETITIONS 110 CD CONTENTS 112 LOGGING OFF

77

77

78


Experience your tomorrow at

GITEX 2011

Be part of a smarter, more connected world Visit us at GITEX, 9-13 October 2011 and discover how next-generation technology and world-class innovation will change the face of business, entertainment and connectivity. Be on the look out for all the great business and consumer offers waiting for you at our stand.

www.etisalat.ae/gitex


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4 REGULARS

Editor’s letter An ITP Technology Publication

LOGGING ON Visit WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST online and read this content and much more at www.itp.net

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

IT'S DREAM TIME This month’s issue of Windows Middle East was all about dreams for me thanks to two features in particular. Our yearly Dream Machine feature (read it on page 12) sees the team and I dreaming up the most potent PC possible and then, after a few arguments, a lot of fluid and a healthy amount of sleep, sourcing the parts we dreamed up, so we could turn Dream Machine 2011 into a reality. This year’s Dream Machine is easily our best yet. With a processor that will happily run 24/7 at 4.44GHz, a massive amount of system memory, an insanely potent graphics card along with numerous other components that comprise Dream Machine 2011, there’s absolutely nothing that will stand in this machine’s way. So, if you’re dreaming about gaming at resolutions such as 2,560 x 1,600 pixels or creating your own home-made HD video productions, you should read the feature to find out what makes Dream Machine 2011 tick. You also stand a chance to win this beast of a machine. The second feature that provoked my subconscious was the massive smartphone grouptest, which you can find on page 48. The team and I looked at no less than 12 smartphones and while there was literally something for everyone, I couldn’t help but wander off and dream up my own, ideal phone. First and foremost my dream smartphone would offer no less than one day of battery life, even if you used the smartphone’s most battery-intensive features such as WiFi or 720p video capture. My dream phone would also have to offer a potent processor and GPU, so that I could watch 1080p Full HD videos without having to resort to converting the original content into a format that’s phone friendly. My dream smartphone would also have to offer a high quality 4-inch IPS-based capacitive screen with a resolution of at least 1,024 x 768 pixels. The screen would also have to offer a maximum brightness specification of no less than 800nits, so that its display would be easily visible even in the brightest most harsh Dubai sunlight. The phone would also have to be, for all intents and purposes, virtually indestructible: drop-proof, water-proof and temperatureproof. My dream device would therefore have to offer a frame and body that would not only protect the internal components from damage but would also be able to walk away from accidents without suffering those annoying scratches and scuff marks. I’d also want my smartphone to have full near field communications (NFC) support, so that I could use it to interact with smart objects and to make purchases using electronic money. If you’ve got any thoughts on your dream smartphone or your very own dream PC, do drop me a line.

Registered at Dubai Media City PO Box 500024, Dubai, UAE Tel: 0097 1 (0)4 444 3000 Fax: 0097 1 (0)4 444 3030 Web: www.itp.com Offices in Dubai & London ITP Technology Publishing CEO Walid Akawi Managing Director Neil Davies Managing Director Karam Awad General Manager Peter Conmy Publishing Director Natasha Pendleton EDITORIAL Group Editor Mark Sutton Tel: +971 4 444 3225 e-mail: mark.sutton@itp.com Editor Jason Saundalkar Tel: +971 4 444 3635 e-mail: jason.saundalkar@itp.com Deputy Editor Clayton Vallabhan Tel: +971 4 444 3682 e-mail: clayton.vallabhan@itp.com ADVERTISING Publishing Director Natasha Pendleton Tel: +971 4 444 3193 e-mail: natasha.pendleton@itp.com Advertising Manager Alie Jaber Tel: +971 4 444 3196 e-mail: alie.jaber@itp.com Advertising Manager Kausar Syed Tel: +971 4 444 3361 e-mail: kausar.syed@itp.com STUDIO Senior Designer Michel Al Asmar PHOTOGRAPHY Chief Photographer Jovana Obradovic Senior Photographer Efraim Evidor Staff Photographers Isidora Bojovic, Rajesh Raghav, Ruel Pableo, Lyubov Galushko, George Dipin, Mosh Lafuente, Murrindie Frew, Shruti Jagdeesh, Verko Ignjatovic PRODUCTION & DISTRIBUTION Group Production & Distribution Director Kyle Smith Deputy Production Manager Basel Al Kassem Managing Picture Editor Patrick Littlejohn Image Editor Emmalyan Robles Distribution Manager Karima Ashwell Distribution Executive Nada Al Alami CIRCULATION Head of Circulation & Database Gaurav Gulati MARKETING Head of Marketing Daniel Fewtrell Marketing Manager Annie Chinoy ITP DIGITAL Assitant Editor Georgina Enzer Tel: +971 4 444 3723 e-mail: georgina.enzer@itp.com Digital Publishing Director Ahmad Bashour Tel: +971 4 444 3549 e-mail: ahmad.bashour@itp.com Group Sales Manager ITP.net Vedrana Jovanovic Tel: +971 4 444 3569 e-mail: vedrana.jovanovic@itp.com Internet Development Manager Mohammed Affan Content Manager Asad Azizi Web Advertising Manager Meghna Jalnawalla Creative Director Craig Willers ITP GROUP Chairman Andrew Neil Managing Director Robert Serafin Finance Director Toby Jay Spencer-Davies Board of Directors K M Jamieson, Mike Bayman, Walid Akawi, Neil Davies, Rob Corder, Mary Serafin Circulation Customer Service Tel: +971 4 444 3672 Printed by United Printing Press . Controlled Distribution by Blue Truck Subscribe online at www.itp.com/subscriptions Certain images in this issue are available for purchase. Please contact itp images@itp.com for further details www.itpimages.com The publishers regret that they cannot accept liability for error or omissions contained in this publication, however caused. The opinions and views contained in this publication are not necessarily those of the publishers. Readers are advised to seek specialist advice before acting on information contained in this publication which is provided for general use and may not be appropriate for the reader's particular circumstances. The ownership of trademarks is acknowledged. No part of this publication or any part of the contents thereof may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without the permission of the publishers in writing. An exemption is hereby granted for extracts used for the purpose of fair review.

Jason Saundalkar Jason.saundalkar@itp.com Published by and © 2011 ITP Technology Publishing, a division of the ITP Publishing Group Ltd. Registered in the B.V.I. under Company Number 1402846.


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6 NEWS

NEWS CONTROLLING THE BEAST

INVALUABLE INTELLIGENCE

LOCKING OUT INTRUDERS

Al Batha CIO Saji Oommen on the challenges of IT management

How to avoid failure when rolling out business intelligence at your

Saudi Arabia’s KACST bolsters its defences with new IT system An ITP Technology Publication | Licensed by Dubai Media City BAHRAIN BD1.5 | EGYPT LE15 | JORDAN JD2 KSA SR15 | KUWAIT KD1.5 | OMAN OR1.5 QATAR QR1.5 | UAE DHS15 | UK £5 | USA $8

APPLE MAY ADD USB3.0 TO PRODUCTS

          

SEPTEMBER 2010 | VOL.23 ISSUE 9

NEW DAWN

How Cisco is banking on a fresh wave of investment to drive its business in the Gulf

SEPTEMBER 2010

Critical analysis for telecommunications executives

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Beyond borders

WAITING FOR VIDEO

Why satellite operators are investing heavily in MEA

Why video conferencing has failed to take o

Slow progress Growth continues to elude Yemen’s fractured telco sector

Leaseback learnings

VANISHING CLOUD

How to get sale and leaseback agreements right ďŹ rst time

Muneer Farooqui, CEO, Warid Pakistan

The truth behind the failure of EMC’s Atmos

TRUST ISSUES

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Was the Blackberry safe in the first place?

Thee Abu u Dhabii-oowned teelco explainss the rationaale beehind d its strateg gy in Pakkistaan

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STRATEGIC THINKING Talking tactics with executives from Adobe, ATS, MTC and Toshiba (14)

THE REGIONâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S FAVOURITE PC & CONSUMER TECHNOLOGY GUIDE An ITP Technology Publication OCTOBER 2010

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An ITP Technology Publication

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OCTOBER 2010

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REVIEWS:

GAME REVIEWS Blur, Crackdown 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

Adobe Creative Suite 5 HP Pavilion dm4 notebook Asus ARES graphics card ECS Black Series GTX 460 and more tested...

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Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs once claimed that customers didn't care about USB3.0 support and thus none of Apple's products to date feature the highspeed connectivity interface. Apple chose to fit its latest machines with Intel's â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;LightPeak' interface instead. Now though it appears that Apple is considering bringing USB3.0 connectivity to its products. Website VR-Zone writes, "A lot of people have been disappointed over Apple's lack of interest in the USB3.0 standard but thanks to a little bird, VR-Zone has heard that the company is still looking at USB3.0 as a potential feature to add on future products. As to when and how this might happen is not something we know, but from our understanding it'll happen before Intel integrates USB3.0 support into its chipsets." Intel is expected to add USB3.0 support to its forthcoming Ivy Bridge CPU series, which is scheduled for launch in 2012. Taking VR-Zone's source into account, this could mean that Apple may add USB3.0 support to its products before the end of this year. While Intel's LightPeak technology can deliver bidirectional data transmission rates of up to 20Gbits/sec compared to USB3.0's 5Gbits/sec, the connection cables for the former can cost a staggering US $50 a piece. A USB3.0 connection cable however retails for as little as $5. USB3.0 also far overshadows LightPeak in terms of peripheral support. The former interface is used by thousands of external hard drives, flash drives, external optical drives and many other peripherals on the market.


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MICROSOFT TO LAUNCH QUAD-CORE TABLETS SAMSUNG WILL “NEVER” BUY WEBOS Before HP announced in August that it was killing off its webOS platform, former President and CEO Leo Apotheker said his company might license webOS to other handset makers. Research in Motion (RIM) and Samsung were two companies that HP was said to be targeting. Samsung has now rejected adopting webOS entirely. Choi Gee Sung, CEO, Samsung has said his company will "never" consider it. Sung explained that Samsung would remain focused on Google Android and its own in-house operating system, Bada. Bada was recently added to three new Samsung handhelds, the Wave 3, Wave M and Wave Y. Industry research houses such as IDC speculated that Samsung may want to boost its software assets by purchasing webOS, after HP said it may license webOS to other phone manufacturers. Current rumors peg social networking site Facebook and handheld manufacturer HTC as potential adopters of webOS. Thus far neither company has confirmed or denied the claims. Since webOS lacks the large base of apps and games offered by competing mobile operating systems (OS) such as Android and iOS, Windows Middle East reckons that HP will struggle to find potential adopters.

Microsoft is in the process of building a quad core processor-powered tablet which will release alongside the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system. Claims state that Windows 8 can handle a wide range of computer hardware, all the way from PC's to tablets to smartphones. It will also work with ARM and Intel architecture systems along with touch and conventional display solutions. Microsoft Research is touted to soon hand out prototypes, even if the tablet is not commercially available for a while. Apparently the idea is that it will keep Windows developers loyal, while also showing OEMs and partners that Microsoft too will be a tablet player. The Windows tablets are said to have an eight-hour battery life, will feature 10-inch HD screens and 1080p Full HD playback. The first tablets that will arrive on the scene will run Windows 7 but will also be Windows 8 ready. Nvidia, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and ST-Ericcson have all said that they will come out with quad-core chips by the end of this year.

AMD has announced that it has begun revenue shipments of processors based on the long awaited ‘Bulldozer' x86 architecture. "This is a monumental moment for the industry as this first ‘Bulldozer' core represents the beginning of unprecedented performance scaling for x86 CPUs," said Rick Bergman, Senior Vice President and General Manager, AMD Products Group. "The flexible new ‘Bulldozer' architecture will give Web and datacenter customers the scalability they need to handle emerging cloud and virtualisation workloads." The new x86 processors, codenamed ‘Interlagos', offer 16 cores and are compatible with existing AMD Opteron 6100 Series platforms and infrastructure. Production of Interlagos chips began in August and AMD says that many of the initial shipments will end up in large custom supercomputer installations. AMD also says that Interlagos chips will be available in partner systems in the fourth quarter of this year. Chips based on the Bulldozer architecture will also be released for the consumer market though AMD has made no official comment on a release date. Consumer Bulldozer processors will be compatible with existing AM3+ platforms and are likely to offer between four and eight cores initially. These processors are currently known by the codename ‘Zambezi'. Bulldozer chips are currently produced using AMD's 32nm chip fabrication process.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

AMD SHIPS FIRST BULLDOZER PROCESSORS


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8 SHOPPER NEWS

RETAILERS FLOCK TO SHOPPER Technology retailers and well-known consumer brands are looking to tap into the UAE’s billion-dollar consumer electronics market at this year’s GITEX Shopper. Analysts have estimated that the UAE’s consumer electronics market is worth approximately US $3.4 billion. Visitors to GITEX Shopper, organised by the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), can expect bundled deals, competitions and launches of the latest technology products, according to the Dubai World Trade Centre. “Technology facilitates a fast-paced modern lifestyle, enabling us to connect and communicate easily, work more efficiently and enjoy every convenience the latest innovations bring to our day-to-day lives. Connecting consumers with the world-class consumer IT and electronics brands for an eight day retail extravaganza, GITEX Shopper is the perfect destination to discover the latest products to improve your leisure time, home, workplace or school,” says Trixee Loh, Senior Vice President, DWTC. Some of the world’s top brands have confirmed their presence including Canon, Dell, HP, HTC, Intel, JVC, Lenovo, Nakamichi, Panasonic, Blackberry, Samsung, SanDisk and Western Digital. Shopper is the largest consumer IT and electronics show in the Middle East and takes place in October from the 8th to the 15th at the Airport Expo Dubai.

NIKAI TO SHOW EVO HANDHELD Nikai will use GITEX Shopper 2011 to promote its new tablet device , known as the EVO. The company says its new touchscreen multimedia device is inspired by the idea of evolution. Nikai says that consumers can use the EVO to ‘surf, chat, watch films, store music, save pictures, read books, download apps, play games, plan your day, set alarms and reminders and run your life while on the move’. The tablet will be available for purchase in two sizes; 7-inch and 8-inch. It features a 1GHz processor, 512MB of system RAM and 4GB of storage which is expandable to 32GB via SD card. The EVO tablet can be had in black and light grey in both metallic and matte finishes. The tablet runs Google’s Android 2.2 operating system.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

JACKY’S PLANS TO USE SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOLS GITEX Shopper 2011 will see retailer Jacky’s Electronics making yet another appearance. The retailer says the show is a focal point to roll out promotional strategies and plans to take advantage of social networking tools to update visitors on the best deals. “We will be ‘tweeting’ live updates throughout the exhibition as prices and offers are likely to change, so the best place to find out about the very best offers will be to follow Jacky’s Electronics on Twitter or by checking our extremely popular Facebook page regularly,” explains Ashish Panjabi, COO of Jacky’s Electronics. Panjabi says his company has remained the top retailer in terms of sales revenue from 2007 till date. He believes that Shopper gives Jacky’s an important stage to showcase its products and services to thousands of new customers who could become loyal customers in the long term. “We owe our success to the intensive training programme we have for our sales staff, as it gives them proficiency in demonstrating product features and provide better service to Jacky’s loyal customers. Our stands will be placed with greater visibility and better accessibility to customers as our aim is not only to sell but also to educate visitors on the latest technologies in the market. We are also rolling out innovative promotions and special discounts on most product categories and we are optimistic that we will exceed our sales target and repeat our success last year by combining our competitive pricing and innovative promotions strategy,” says Panjabi. Jacky’s is expecting intense competition amongst tablet brands at Shopper and plans to retail items such as digital cameras, smartphones, gaming devices, TVs and MP3 players.


Because you can never have too much

performance.

WD® high-performance hard drives put you ahead of the Our ultra-fast internal hard drives can certainly handle the demands of today’s fast-paced graphic-intensive PC games. WD Caviar ® Black™ offers PC enthusiasts cutting-edge performance, 7200 RPM spin speeds and best-in-class benchmarks. For gamers on the go, WD Scorpio ® Black™ mobile drives deliver 7200 RPM performance critical for high-end gaming—without compromising battery life—in a smaller 2.5-inch form factor. And for the ultimate in gaming performance, there’s the 10,000 RPM WD VelociRaptor ®, the fastest SATA hard drive on the planet.

Western Digital, WD, WD Caviar, WD Scorpio, WD VelociRaptor, the WD logo, and Put Your Life On It are registered trademarks; WD Caviar Black and WD Scorpio Black are trademarks of Western Digital Technologies, Inc. in the U.S. and other countries. Other marks may be mentioned herein that belong to other companies. ©2010 Western Digital Technologies, Inc. All rights reserved. 2078-771091-A00 Aug 2010


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10 SHOPPER NEWS

EMAX RETURNS TO SHOPPER Demonstrating its commitment to shoppers in the Middle East, Emax is once again participating at GITEX Shopper this year. The company says that its success at Shopper 2010 prompted a return that will be ‘bigger and stronger with an aim to provide customers a wide variety of consumer electronics at unbelievably low prices.’ Emax has been at the show for four consecutive years and says that it has become a strategic partner of GITEX Shopper. “GITEX Shopper has always been a great way to reach consumers belonging to diverse demographic groups. This year, Emax is set to bring to customers great deals on electronics, including those that have just recently arrived in the market,” says Neelesh Bhatnagar, CEO of Emax. The company claims its pavilion will be one of the biggest areas at the exhibition. Bhatnagar continues, “Emax represents more than 300 brands, with over 100,000 products across 20 plus categories. We have also been named a UAE Superbrand this year. Living up to expectations, we have decided to occupy a larger area at the show and will be featuring unbeatable offers on photography, audio, IT, mobiles, accessories and video, among many more.” The company claims it is the fastest growing electronics retail chain in the Middle East, and an integral part of the US $3.2-billion Landmark Group - the retail chain that also owns other popular retail concepts such as Baby Shop, Shoe-mart, Home Centre, Splash and Lifestyle. The electronics retail giant is planning to open more stores this year, and the company feels its participation at GITEX Shopper is a significant part of its brand awareness and ambitious expansion plans.

BOSE TO DEMO AURAL PRODUCTS Bose is making its inaugural appearance at GITEX Shopper this year. The company plans to showcase its wide range of world-renowned audio entertainment products. One of the products visible at the company’s stand will be a 2.1 home theatre system. Bose says this system will redefine what you might come to accept from a 2.1 speaker system. The company is also advising visitors to experience its SoundDock Portable Digital Music System, which it says is the perfect companion for an Apple iPod, and a convenient portable device. The dock is powered by a lithium-ion battery and is said to provide users with a battery life of close to eight hours. Bose also says it has designed its dock to deliver ‘spacious sound’ from a small system. Bose will also be showcasing its 2.0 speaker offering at Shopper. The firm says that it is the spirit of innovation which drives it to create new concepts and develop new products. Its approach to designing speakers and music systems is based on the belief that audio products exist to provide music for everyone, everywhere. Bose UAE Trading LLC is a subsidiary of Bose US and caters to the MEA market.

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GLASS SPEAKERS TO STUN BUYERS Greensound Technology plans to use Shopper as the platform to promote its wide range of innovative and specially engineered glass speakers. The company’s range of satellite speakers and subwoofers have never been shown off in the Middle East region. The company, which is based in Irvine, California, is confident about its products and says its speakers are, ‘Designed to project 360-degrees true sound through glass. Not only are they beautiful to look at but they are also wireless. In fact, Greensound Technology’s entire product line is built using the latest digital wireless technology. No more speaker wires! These speakers are new and just being made available worldwide’.


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SHOPPER NEWS 11

VIRGIN SET FOR SHOPPER Virgin Megastore is celebrating 10 years of business in the Middle East and will participate at GITEX Shopper for the first time this year. “Virgin Megastore has had requests from customers in the UAE and the region for years. This year, we wanted to be there for our loyal and knowledgeable customers who are looking for the product exclusivity, selection and knowledge they normally experience in-store,” explains Nisreen Shocair, President, Virgin Megastores MENA. The company will be promoting multimedia products and a range of accessories. There will also be music and movies on hand. The firm says it wants to make GITEX Shopper a female and child friendly destination by bringing in specific gifts and gadgets. Shocair continues, “Customers visiting us will find the best and newest in electronics, multimedia, gadgets and accessories, including our exclusive product range within these categories. Customers will also enjoy exclusive offers that will run only during the show.” Virgin presently runs 13 stores across the GCC and Levant regions.

JUMBO AIMS TO CONNECT WITH REGIONAL BUYERS Jumbo Electronics will once again show its support for GITEX Shopper by having a presence at the consumer exhibition. Jumbo has been present at Shopper since its inception. The retail titan plans to use this year’s shopping bonanza to not only increase its sales but to connect with the region's consumers. Deepak Khetrapal, CEO, Jumbo Electronics says, “GITEX Shopper is an extremely important event for us because it give us the opportunity to connect with customers and is also a great indicator for which products are in demand. Along with deals for some great value offers, we also look forward to launching new products at the event”. According to a company spokesperson, Jumbo recorded double digit percent increases in sales at Shopper last year. It intends to outperform that this year and feels that the hottest products at Shopper 2011 will be laptops and tablets. Khetrapal continues, “Though sales are important to us, GITEX Shopper also gives us the opportunity to reach out to consumers beyond our existing stores. We will have a number of exciting activities at this year’s event that will help visitors interact better with the Jumbo brand.” Jumbo presently has over 35 stores across the United Arab Emirates and Oman and is currently looking to increase its presence in countries such as Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. The company also has regional expansion plans to grow beyond retail in areas such as IT solutions, expanding on consumer appliances through its Supra brand, and leveraging its distribution capabilities.

With its participation at GITEX Shopper 2011 electronics retailer Sharaf DG will mark its third consecutive year of attendance at the electronics extravaganza. The company has aggressive expansion plans and is looking forward to capturing the interest of customers at Shopper with a host of exclusive offers across categories such as consumer electronics, home entertainment, IT, telecom, home appliances, GPS and much more. Nilesh Khalkho, CEO of Sharaf DG says, “GITEX Shopper, the biggest consumer electronics and IT bazaar in the region, is a good platform for any retailer to target and connect with customers and Sharaf DG will be no different. Being a frontrunner in innovation Sharaf DG will continue to uphold and improve upon its strategy to engage customers through innovative, jaw dropping campaigns that will win customer hearts and minds and, at the same time, give that extra something to each and every one of them!” The UAE-based retailer says that huge demand for new and popular gadgets in the market and the launch of innovative concepts, mainly in IT, followed by telecom categories are something that all retailers look forward to during the week long technology fest. The Middle East retailer also feels that customer expectations are high from Sharaf DG and the brand says it is ready to meet the challenge through engaging activities that will leave customers wanting more. Promotions at GITEX Shopper will see consumers rewarded with travel, dining, electronic and entertainment packages. Sharaf DG also plans to give away instant prizes through raffles, scratch coupons and on every purchase above AED 500.

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SHARAF DG DEVICES PRODUCT BARRAGE


2011

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Every year Windows Middle East constructs a killer machine after going through a long and grueling selection process and this year is no different. Dream Machine 2011 packs the fastest, most potent components under the sun and, as always, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re running a competition to give away this beast to one very lucky reader. Flip over to find out what makes Dream Machine 2011 tick and to find out how you can win this awesome machine.


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POTENT PROCESSOR

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The LGA1366 socket is still the

The first step in the long road towards Dream Machine CPU interface of choice used by Intel’s fastest and most 2011 was finding an appropriately mental processor. expensive processors. Given that all of our Dream Machines to date have been Intel-powered rigs we were rather hoping that AMD would get on with it and unleash its consumer-aimed Bulldozer processors, so we’d actually have some oldfashioned competition in the processor segment. At the same time we considered the newer Sandy Bridge LGA 1155 platform also from Intel since Sandy Bridge processors - such as the Core i7-2600K - have proved quite potent performance-wise. These new processors have also proved incredibly overclockable, with the vast majority of the chips being able to run at 4GHz without any serious prodding. Certain chips have even touched 4.5GHz with just a bit of extra coaxing. Since Bulldozer chips for the mass market are still nowhere in sight however and because the six-core LGA 1366 processors are still the fastest options on the block when it comes to seriously multi-threaded software, we ultimately decided on Intel’s most extreme chip of the moment, the super quick Core i7 990X Extreme Edition. If ever someone were to release a pack of Top Trump cards with the focus being processors, you’d feel supremely confident if your next card contained the vital stats of the Core i7 990X. The processor offers six processing cores and thanks to HyperThreading technology, it can tackle 12 unique threads simultaneously. Each processing core runs at a frequency of 3.46GHz, each core has 64KB of L1 and 256KB of L2 cache, and all of the cores have access to a gargantuan 12MB of L3 cache. The CPU can automatically overclock itself to 3.73GHz too. The Core i7 990X is produced using With a little bit of manipulation we Intel’s established were able to squeeze out an impressive and completely stable overclocked 32nm chip frequency of 4.4GHz. fabrication process and thanks to its efficient architecture this processor isn’t as big of a power hog as you think. Its maximum TDP is of 130-Watts matches its slower counterpart the Core i7 980X (used in Dream Machine 2010) and is also the same as the older still quad-core 3.33GHz Core i7 975. That’s progress! Thanks to the mature manufacturing process our Core i7 990X proved quite overclockable as well. After tinkering with voltages and multipliers we finally pushed our already swift processor from its standard 3.47GHz to 4.4GHz – an improvement of nearly 1GHz.


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MARVELOUS MOTHERBOARD We take motherboards very seriously at Windows Middle East because lets face it, it is the most vital component in any machine, be it an entry-level app rig or an all out screamer like Dream Machine 2011. Given that we decided to use Intel’s super fast Core i7 990X Extreme Edition processor, having to use a LGA1366 motherboard was a given. This in-turn meant that the chipset was also set in stone, as the venerable Intel X58 (Dream Machine 2010’s motherboard also featured an Intel X58 motherboard) core-logic chipset is still the company’s current high-end chipset for the LGA1366 platform. This chipset will only be replaced (likely by the Intel X79) once Intel launches its new LGA2011 platform, which is designed for the Sandy Bridge-E processors.

What you see here are the only ports that Gigabyte’s X58A-OC offers for rear I/O. We’re fans of the minimalist approach.

Six DDR3 DIMM slots mean you can cram in loads of highperformance DDR3 memory.

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With the platform and chipset decided on, we only had to look closely at potential candidates in terms of features (such as USB3.0 support), expansion options and overclocking abilities. After examining several seriously potent contenders we finally gave the nod to Gigabyte’s supremely capable X58A-OC. This ATX motherboard is loaded to the hilt with features, so much so that it would be easier to list what the board doesn’t have rather than what it does have. So what does it not have you ask? Well, it only offers a single Gigabit Ethernet port and there’s no optical audio output port and that’s about it. What it does have is a dual BIOS system geared for overclocking, it offers USB3.0 and 6Gbps Serial ATA support, it sports an onboard voltage measurement module that you can use to monitor how much juice your components are getting, it offers physical overclocking buttons on its PCB, it can drive up to 1500-watts of juice to the CPU socket, it has seriously capable 50A ‘Chokes’ and has more than enough fan headers, so you can connect almost every fan in even a case like the massive Obsidian 800D directly to the motherboard. The board, as you’d expect also offers 4-way CrossFire X support and 3-way Nvidia SLI support. Despite its massive feature set, super-sized heatsinks, loads of memory and PCI-E expansion slots, buttons and other PCB space hogs, the motherboard sports a clean and functional layout. This board then is, for all intents and purposes, perfect.

The X58A-OC sports four fulllength PCI-E slots, which means you can get busy with triple- and quadgraphic card setups without any hassles. There’s even a single legacy PCI slot (just in case).


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MEMORY MAGIC When the team sat down to discuss memory the first question that needed addressing was how much we wanted to endow Dream Machine 2011 with. 6GB is what Dream Each individual DDR3 module is capped with a heatsink, which helps the cooling Machine 2010 was equipped with and that is a healthy fan to better cool the module. amount for most home users, even today. One reason we opted for 6GB last year was because the high density memory kits we looked at were not as performance focused as we’d have hoped. This year however, things were noticeably different. There were a plethora of high density 12GB kits that offered tight memory timings and high frequency operation. Combined with the fact that we wanted Dream Machine 2011 to be comprehensively better than Dream Machine 2010, we ultimately decided on a 12GB kit from none other than Corsair. The Dominator-GT CMT12GX3M3A2000C9 memory kit packs three 4GB DDR3 modules that are rated to run at a staggering 2,000MHz with aggressive memory timings of 9-10-9-27. The best part is these modules will happily run 24/7 at this frequency and timings while demanding just 1.65-volts of juice. The memory modules, as you’d expect, boast Intel XMP Performance Profiles, are guaranteed to work on any Intel triple channel platform (such as the X58) and include DHX+ heatspreaders, which includes a small red heatsink atop each module. Cooling performance is further improved if you choose to use the supplied active cooling system. Essentially it’s a sort of assembly that allows you to mount two 40mm cooling fans a few millimeters above the memory modules. Given that Dream Machine 2011 features one seriously fast processor and The memory kit equally as impressive subsystems, we wanted includes three 4GB the memory modules to provide ample bandwidth. DDR3 modules and a cooling system with Hitting the motherboard’s BIOS we immediately setup two 40mm cooling fans. the attractively designed Corsair modules to draw 1.65volts, while adjusting the memory frequency Some assembly is to 2GHz. We also setup the memory timings to run at Corsair’s required before recommended 9-10-9-27. The modules ran slightly warm to the you can mount the cooler but it’s touch without the active cooling system but fitting the Airflow Fan a fairly assembly, made the modules feel almost cool. straightforward process that takes Running at the aforementioned settings Dream Machine 2011 about two proved 100% rock solid. We never encountered any odd crashes, minutes of time. freezes or random reboots even after hours of grueling stress-testing. This is a testament to the Corsair Dominator-GT modules' amazing capabilities and reliability.


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Dream Machine 2011 would have to offer nothing less than kick-ass performance in the visual department. That was the only criteria we had in mind when it came to selecting a graphics card for this awesome machine. This of course immediately sent the team into a frenzied debate about single GPU versus multi-GPU. While we’ve traditionally been The Zotac features three DVI staunch proponents of single GPU systems that ports as well as a miniDisplayPort connector, which produce p means you can easily setup a solid results time after time, in the same way that sol massive multi-monitor system. Zotac even supplies a DVI to racing drivers prefer the predictable power delivery of a rac HDMI cable so you can connect Zotac’s GeForce GTX 590 is the naturally aspirated engine, the sheer performance nat Dream Machine 2011 to your bigmost potent single card, dualscreen TV if you fancy. offered by today’s single card, dual-processor graphics off GPU solution we’ve ever tested. No matter what game you throw cards is undeniable. car at it you can be assured a silky2011 saw two serious 2 smooth performance. It’s time to play indeed. dual-GPU single card dua solutions unleashed on the sol market; AMD’s Radeon HD ma 6990 and Nvidia’s GeForce 699 GTX GT 590. Since we only needed one for our rig we ne naturally did what anyone na with access to both cards, wi a Lab and tons of benchmarking software would do; b we asked for both and pit them against each other. Both graphics solutions blew our socks off with their benchmarking numbers but ultimately Nvidia’s stupid-fast offering came out on top. As a result, we then set about tracking down the fastest GTX 590 card we could get our hands on and eventually happened upon Zotac’s insane GeForce GTX 590 offering. Each of the card’s Nvidia GPUs ticks along at 607MHz, each has access to 1,536MB of GDDR5 memory that runs at 3,414MHz via a 768bit-interface that’s split between two GPUs. The card, as you’d expect, is fully DirectX 11 compliant and supports Shader Model 4.2 instructions and when it came to our benchmarks, it was utterly mind-blowing. As fast as the card was in our standard testing rig, when paired with Dream Machine 2011’s even faster Core i7 990X CPU, performance figures improved across the board by healthy margins. So regardless of whether you While Zotac’s GeForce GTX 590 game at an extremely high resolution such as 2,560 x 1,600 pixels or ‘just’ at graphics card is a monster-sized Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), Dream Machine 2011 can handle it all. card, the sheer size of the Corsair chassis we used for The best part is that because Zotac’s GeForce GTX 590 graphics card and Dream Machine 2011 means Dream Machine 2011’s motherboard both support Nvidia SLI technology, you you’ll never have to worry about other components and cables can simply add another identical card at your leisure for even more potent getting in the way. performance. The only reason we didn't opt for it now is because the results when using quad GPUs are still far from concrete or appealing.

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GRAPHICS EXTRAORDINAIRE


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COOL CAT Selecting the right cooler for Dream Machine 2011 was critical because we wanted our overclocked Core i7 990X CPU to run 100% stable 24/7 but at the same time, we didn’t want a cooler that was so noisy, you could hear it from a mile away. With these criteria in mind we tested a number of highperformance heatsinks and while we came across a few good options that tempted us, we were intrigued by a closed loop liquid cooling system from none other than Corsair. Giving this a closer look we knew we found our cooling solution. The H100, as we mentioned earlier, is a closed loop system and as such doesn’t require any maintenance or coolant top ups at all. The system ships ready-to-use so all that’s needed is for you to install the radiator and cooling fans, mount the block and connect the cables. While what we just said hardly sounds time The cooling block consuming, in reality, the process is simpler still. has to be mounted The H100 features a Installing the full system in Dream Machine 2011’s using a easy-to-use large radiator that can accommodate mounting system. chassis took less than five minutes though this is The top of the block two 120mm cooling also features a fan fans. Corsair ships also thanks to the chassis that we used. (Find out controller button two 120mm fans as about the chassis on page 22 .) with three different part of the kit. speed settings. The waterblock features four fan power output ports as well as a fan controller with three selectable speeds. This is a nice move on Corsair’s part as you can easily regulate control of your chassis’ cooling fans without having to invest in another fan controller. Given that the H100 ships with two large 120mm fans and given the efficiency of the cooling system we ran the fans at their lowest setting and recorded idle and full load CPU temperatures of just 41- and 49-degrees Celsius.

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POWER ON While a power supply (PSU) may not have the same prestige as a processor, motherboard or GPU, it is a highly critical piece of the PC puzzle. This is because every component within any PC requires a sufficient, clean and stable stream of juice from the PSU in order to function properly. An overloaded power supply, besides being inefficient, will be unable to provide components with the necessary wattage and, in the long run, this could easily result in a highly unstable machine or, worse still, dead components. Since Dream Machine 2011 features high performance components with a healthy appetite for power, we needed a capable and reliable unit and Corsair’s potent Professional Series Gold AX1200 PSU fit the bill perfectly. The AX1200 can deliver a massive 1,200-Watts of juice, which is more than sufficient for our Dream Machine. The reality is even with the performance components within this Like most modern power supplies the machine, the AX1200 is running at less than AX1200 features a half of its mighty full load capacity. This is a modular cable design, which good thing because PSUs are more efficient allows you to Even if your connect cables as under lower load levels which also means machine features a and when required. multi-GPU setup that the PSU runs cooler and is more efficient. Corsair Having a modular and loads of storage power supply such states that at 50% load the AX1200 is 90% efficient drives the AX1200 as this is the key to has the power which is almost unheard of. It’s no wonder this PSU is having a cleanly output, and cables, built PC. 80 Plus Gold certified. to power each and every one of them. The PSU features a full modular cable design too, which makes it very easy to build a machine around. At the same time the AX1200 features a large but slow spinning 140mm fan, which does a fantastic job of keeping the PSU’s various components cool and stable. Corsair is so confident about this PSU that if you were to buy it, the company offers a massive seven year warranty period. Now that’s called standing behind your product.


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While we still have a soft spot for fast spindle hard drives that offers humongous storage capacities, there’s simply no way these drives can compete with current generation solid state drives (SSDs). Every SSD drive we’ve tested this year has offered triple digit read and write speeds and, in long term testing, has proven much more reliable than older SSDs. There were several SSD models that had our performance-sense tingling because they were either fast when tackling random read/write operations or were swift in sequential read/write performance. In the real world however you’re likely to encounter a mix of both sequential and random read/write operations so, obviously, the only SSD drive that would satisfy us would have to offer great performance across the board. With that criteria in mind we immediately eliminated a number of the front runners and were eventually faced with only Corsair has Corsair’s painstakingly styled lightning-quick even the underside of this SSD with an Force GT SSD attractive brushed storage drive. black finish. This contrasts nicely We opted for the with the otherwise 120GB variant so mostly red drive. we’d have enough space for the operating system, drivers, critical applications and games of the moment. For Before we could get everything else we the SSD drive into our decided on using a second full tower ATX chassis we first had to fit it spindle-based hard drive, into the supplied 2.5since it made no sense to inch to 3.5-inch converter bay. waste the Corsair’s precious capacity and lightning-quick performance on regular data. The Force GT is nothing short of a data transfer specialist. In our highly intensive AS SSD benchmark this awesome drive managed sequential read and write figures of 202.31MB/sec and 159.67MB/sec. Moving to the more important random read and write test, the drive impressed yet again with storming numbers of 20.05MB/sec and 55.21MB/sec in the 4K test and figures of 27.19MB/sec and 88.74MB/sec in the 64K read/write tests. Even in PCMark Vantage’s intensive HDD test suite the Corsair’s final result of 38,604 is astonishing – it is the highest score we’ve ever seen from a single solid state drive to date. Corsair’s Force GT even ships with a very useful With the drive in its converter cage we 3.5-inch adapter, which you can place the 2.5-inch SSD were able to easily fit itself into. Considering Dream Machine 2011’s chassis it into our chassis’ 3.5inch removable bay. doesn’t offer a dedicated 2.5-inch bay (most of the cases on the market lack this drive bay size) this was a very useful extra.

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SWIFT STORAGE


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CAPACITY IS KING While Dream Machine 2011 is equipped with a super-fast solid state drive (SSD) that dramatically reduces boot times, as well as load times when dealing with apps and games, there’s no way we could equip it with just 120GB of capacity and be happy. Just the operating system and a selection of our favourite apps and games would easily use up a chunk of the space. This of course means that we needed to add more capacity to the machine. Unfortunately while SSDs have increased in performance they still lag far behind standard hard drives when it comes to capacity. The largest SSD we could get our hands on - short of asking for a custom-built SSD which would cost enough to bankrupt a country - is 512GB and while that’s a decent amount of space, it’s still far from enough for a machine such as While the Serial ATA connector on this 2TB Caviar this. Opting for multiple SSD drives just to store movies, music and Black drive looks identical to the port of the other such digital content also seemed quite a waste as you don’t Caviar Black drive we used last year, this new model supports the newer 6Gbps Serial ATA need scorching read/write performance to deal with content like interface. While the increased bandwidth won’t that. As a result we turned to the tried and tested hard disk drive make a difference in single drive setups, RAID arrays with several drives will surely benefit from and after considering several offerings, we decided on Western the added bandwidth headroom. Digital’s 2TB Caviar Black once again. (We used Western Digital’s Caviar Black series in Dream Machine 2010 as well.) The Black’s 2TB of capacity is more than enough to hold hundreds of thousands of photographs, music, videos and anything else you fancy holding on to. At the same time the Black drive is far from a slow performer. It packs a 7,200rpm spindle motor, 64MB of cache memory which combined with the 6Gbps Serial ATA interface

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

We fitted our 2TB Caviar Black drive into one of the four 3.5-inch drive cages offered by the Corsair Obsidian 800D chassis. Thanks to some forward thinking on Corsair’s part, you never have to manually attach the Serial ATA power connector and data cable to a drive directly. Very clever.

means the Black offers extremely potent read and write speeds of The inside of the Obsidian 800D features a PCB with data connection points for each of the Serial 116.1MB/sec and 110.5MB/sec respectively in our HD Tach Pro ATA drive cages, as well as a single power input. 4.50 benchmark. The other side of this PCB connects directly to the drives so you never have to deal with cabling, Beyond its scintillating performance Western Digital’s 7,200rpm once you setup the Obsidian for the first time. offering is also a very refined operator. Packed into one of Dream Machine 2011’s many removable 3.5-inch bays, the drive could barely be heard even when heavy seek operations were underway. Hard drives with 7,200rpm spindle motors (or faster) are notorious for heat generation but, once again, Western Digital has worked wonders here because the drive was only slightly warm to the touch after hours of constant use. It really is one of the best drives money can buy.


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SUPER SCREEN The screen is the first and perhaps most vital interface that we use to interact with our PC on a daily basis. It is therefore as important as the GPU that’s connected to it. Given that Dream Machine 2011 shines in terms of its internal components we needed a screen that could produce crisp, sharp visuals, vibrant colours and given the slowly increasing amount of 3D content, we wanted a screen with 3D capabilities as well. After looking at several different models from a variety of manufacturers we found ourselves most intrigued with LG’s new Cinema 3D Monitor D2342P. Being an LG monitor the screen is tastefully finished and minimalistic in its design. There’s one fairly large power button and five other buttons, which allow you to navigate the on

screen display (OSD). The LG’s also a very capable display that offers 23-inches of screen real estate and a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. The LED screen is rated at a brightness of 250cd/m2 and offers a contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1. Top specs indeed and when we hooked up the screen via DVI connection to our Zotac GeForce GTX 590 GPU it didn’t disappoint at all. Colours were ultra vibrant, text was razor sharp and there’s so much contrast on offer that even minor details in dark or bright scenes were visible to the naked eye. While we’ve tested a lot of 3D displays this year, most of them haven’t been up to our expectations. The 3D effects were either lacking in depth, were not really believable or just gave us a headache with their active shutter glasses. The LG’s 3D capabilities however are sublime. Whenever we threw 3D content at the screen we were simply blown away by how much depth we were able to perceive and how realistic it all looked. The screen’s already strong visual capabilities help even more here because the visuals really look like they’re jumping off the screen into the space in front of you. The D2342P offers three different input options; D-Sub, DVI and HDMI, which means you can connect this capable The screen offers D-Sub, DVI and HDMI input ports, which means you can connect up to three source devices simultaneously. There’s also screen to multiple output sources. More importantly an audio output port so if you have the screen hooked up via HDMI because the screen offers a HDMI port, you can view to a console or even to a PC, you can pump audio out of the screen to external speakers. HDCP protected Full HD and HD content from your PC or Blu-ray player.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

A lot of the new screens on the market today feature buttons that are either touch-based or face down. This is far from intuitive, which is why we really appreciate the simple, forwardingfacing buttons offered by the LG D2342P.


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COLOSSAL CASE Given that Dream Machine 2011 is comprised of some of the best and fastest components on the market today, common sense dictated that the chassis we use be equally as special. We therefore spent several days looking at various models from hundreds of different manufacturers in an effort to find one that satisfied our criteria of great looks, mammoth cooling capabilities, tool-free design and ample room for existing components and future upgrades. After our exhaustive search we eventually settled on Corsairs simply sublime Obsidian 800D full tower and when the monster case reached the WinLab, we were immediately impressed. The chassis features a matte black finish and an aluminium face plate up front. This case will even allow you to show off your components thank to a large size window. The Obsidian 800D is a marvel for system builders because Corsair has gone to extreme lengths in terms of paying attention to detail. There are no thumb screws to undo when The Obsidian 800D is huge on the inside. There’s you want access to plenty of room for the insides of the case components and Corsair has included loads of for instance, you cutaways to make cable simply have to push on a button located on the rear of routing a cinch. the case and then simply pull away the panel. The chassis is also unbelievably spacious and with clever cutaways placed in key areas, you’ll be able to route cables out of sight The four bays can be used for hard drives and therefore put together a clean looking machine. The best bit is that the and SSDs. Thanks to some in-genius Obsidian is a monster on the cooling front. Corsair developed the chassis with thinking you don’t have to worry about manually connecting cables to these drives three whenever you remove or replace them. isolated cooling zones; the main compartment for the motherboard The two circular buttons visible on the left and right sides are the release buttons for and other components, the power supply area the sides. Simply push in and the side of and, last but not least, the SATA bays. This the chassis can be peeled away. Also visible beneath the mesh are pipe approach prevents heat buildup in itself but given provisions for water cooling systems. that the chassis has three 140mm fans as standard, you can be sure that your components will never feel the heat. The 800D can also be fitted with additional 120mm fans (up to three) or you can use this same space to fit a triple fan 120mm radiator, if you want to seriously chill your CPU or GPU.


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THE RIGHT KEYS The humble keyboard is one of three vital interfaces between you and your machine. Taking this into account and given the fact that Dream Machine 2011 will likely have you hooked for hours, we wanted a keyboard that was just as spectacular. Beyond outright features (including game-specific tricks) we looked for a keyboard that was resilient and comfortable to use over long periods of time. At the end of our search we ultimately picked Razer’s brilliant BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Edition. Like the standard BlackWidow model (reviewed on page 77 of this issue), the Stealth Edition The BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Edition has a USB port and ports for is a mechanical keyboard. As such it is able to deliver crisp and responsive your headphones and microphone so you’ll never have to reach for performance coupled with great tactile feedback. The best part is that while this your case again. BlackWidow offers all the benefits of a mechanical keyboard, each keystroke is significantly more silenced when compared to its standard counterpart and indeed all other mechanical keyboards. This BlackWidow is also packed to the brim with game friendly features such as adjustable key brightness, a dedicated game mode which disables keys such as the ‘Windows key’ and even five macro keys. Thanks to its design you won’t even need to use the peripheral’s feet as the keyboard is already fairly elevated. You even get a USB port along with a headphones output and a stereo input jack. It’s the perfect fit for Dream Machine 2011.

The mouse is yet another important link between man and machine and given how brilliant our keyboard choice is, it was vital to pair it with a superlative mouse. While a fair few mice tempted us with their sculpted features, high-resolution tracking engines and myriad of buttons, none could compare to the utterly mesmerizing Razer Naga. Using the supplied software you can assign functions or macros to the The Naga is like no other mouse we’ve ever come across before; Naga’s numerous buttons. The 12 it has been designed to help serious MMO gamers get on with it you see here are best used in massively multiplayer online games with ease but don’t be fooled into thinking such as World of Warcraft. that those 17 buttons (yes it has 17 buttons) can only be used in MMO titles, you can just as easily assign them or assign macros to them for other games too. Beyond its gaming tricks there’s a solid 5,600dpi laser tracking engine, it features superb feet that enables it to literally glide across surfaces and it can be used as a wired or wireless device. Apart from the drool-worthy features and specs we mentioned above, the Naga is also one of the most comfortable mice we’ve ever laid our battered palms on; even after hours of World of Warcraft we never felt a thing. Another awesome touch is the fact that the mouse cycles through a variety of colours from one moment to another. It’s a fitting rodent for a machine of this caliber.

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JUST MOUSING AROUND


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NOW HEAR THIS Nothing provides the isolation to focus on whatever you want like a good pair of headphones. It’s precisely for this reason that we wanted a quality set of cans for Dream Machine 2011, rather than opt for a fullyfledged surround system. We’re not fans of the cable clutter associated with surround systems either and given that modern headphones can provide serious immersion, we thought it a wise move. Of all the headphones we’ve tried this year only two really impressed us but given that we wanted a headphones set with a distinct gaming edge, the choice between the two became obvious. The Chimaera 5.1 from Razer is simply the most competent gaming headset we’ve ever had the pleasure of testing. Even before you hear the Chimaera for the first time, just seeing the headphones and its dock will immediately ram home the fact that something special awaits. The headphones are wireless of course and as you’d expect a microphone is also present via a pull down arm. The headphones communicate with the dock via a 5.8GHz frequency, which protects the headset from almost all interference that may arise from household items such as cordless phones and other such wireless devices. These buttons will allow you Setting up the headphones and dock up is a piece to switch between sources, switch between playback of cake and, if you’re keen on hooking up more than modes and, of course, turn on or turn off the power. our source device, you’ll find the Chimaera very accommodating. It boasts RCA, optical and 3.5mm input ports. The best part is the headset is also compatible with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console so, if you need to, you can connect these headphones in a flash. The headphones themselves are well designed and sufficiently padded, which makes them extremely comfortable to wear for hours at a stretch. We’re sure you’ll never find yourself in a position where you have to stop gaming or pause a movie because your ears felt like they were The Razer’s cans are comfortable to wear for hours and hours. Razer has going to explode. even placed useful buttons on the cans itself that allow you to control volume levels and much more. The headset produces serious audio too and so can serve as a replacement for a surround sound system. There's a decent amount of bass on offer and despite being headphones, the Razer can create serious space and depth that makes you question whether there’s more than just two speakers at work. The Chimaera 5.1 ships with a great looking stand that acts as a charging dock (when the headphones are placed on it) and as a transmitter.


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THE OPERATING SYSTEM Microsoft’s successor to the much maligned Vista has been with us since 2009 and has proven to be one of the best operating systems (OS) the company has ever released. Given that its successor, Windows 8 (read about it below), will only be with us in the first half of 2012, it was a given that Windows 7 would be our choice for Dream Machine 2011. More precisely, we opted for the fully featured Windows 7 Ultimate edition. Windows 7 is available as a 32bit and 64bit release, the major difference being that the latter is able to take advantage of more than 3.5GB of memory. Given that Dream Machine 2011 packs a colossal 12GB of useable memory the choice was obvious; we needed the 64bit version. Given the specifications of Dream Machine 2011, installing Windows 7 took less than 15 minutes after which we installed the necessary drivers, applications, games and benchmarks. If you undertake building Dream Machine 2011 for yourself remember that when you’re buying the OS, make sure that the copy you get includes Service Pack 1. This way you won’t have to spend hours downloading a huge but important update and then spend yet more time installing it separately.

The forthcoming version of the Windows operating system will be known as Windows 8 and it is said to offer a host of new features. Primarily though, the new OS intends to change a user’s mindset about the Windows operating system and introduce an OS that’s been created to be different. The ‘Metro’ interface (pictured below) has mainly been designed for touchscreen devices but works just as well with desktops and laptops according to reports. Metro is said to offer quick and easy application porting from mobile to desktop environments and the new OS is also expected to have its own app store. Users will of course have control over downloading the apps that they want and wish to use. The guys at Microsoft have also banished the erstwhile ‘Start’ menu, that first appeared with Windows 95. Metro will instead have a ‘Charms menu’ which is like the Start menu except you won’t need to access it from the corner of your screen, and will be accessible everywhere. It is said to be more like a set of tiles that can be navigated. Additionally, Windows 8 will have ‘Reset’ and ‘Refresh’ features. Reset will allow a user to restore Windows 8 to its factory settings, erasing all documents, programs and other data. Refresh will perform a similar function, except it will keep your documents intact. This eliminates the need for frequent formats. Perhaps the most interesting feature that Windows 8 will offer is its ‘Quick Boot’ feature. The OS can, apparently, boot in eight seconds flat!

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THE FUTURE


26

ALL TOGETHER Feast your eyes on Dream Machine 2011. Looks great doesn’t it? This year’s monster machine is comprised of some truly spectacular parts: 4.4GHz Intel Core i7 990X Extreme Edition processor Gigabyte GA-X58A-OC LGA1366 motherboard 12GB Corsair Dominator-GT DDR3 memory Zotac GeForce GTX 590 GPU with 3GB of GDDR5 memory Corsair H100 liquid cooling system 120GB Corsair Force GT SSD drive 2TB Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive Corsair Obsidian 800D full tower chassis Corsair Professional Series Gold AX1200 Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Edition keyboard Razer Naga mouse LG Cinema 3D D2342P LED monitor Razer Chimaera 5.1 headphones Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit

W DREIAN MACH M INE 2 0 11! Iff you want to w kille

in assoc r machine a thiis iat n acces ed periphe d its s ra 105 fo ories turn t ls and o pag r all th e e de how t o ente tails on r t comp etition he .

Thanks to these mighty components Dream Machine 2011 can easily tackle any application or game you throw at it. Check out the small table below for some real world proof to feast your eyes on.

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BENCHMARK

SCORE

PCMark Vantage suite

23,852

PCMark Vantage Memories suite

14,397

PCMark Vantage TV and Movies suite

7,991

PCMark Vantage Gaming suite

24,257

PCMark Vantage Music suite

25,338

PCMark Vantage Communications suite

24,358

PCMark Vantage Productivity suite

28,090

PCMark Vantage HDD Test suite

41,132

Heaven v2.0

96.4fps

Tom Clancy H.A.W.X

219fps

World in Conflict

130fps

Startup time

56 seconds

Shutdown time

7 seconds

Dream Machine 2011’s benchmark results prove it is significantly faster than its predecessor and much, much faster than every other prebuilt PC we’ve tested this year. There simply is no other machine on the market that offers such a potent mix of application and gaming performance. Its DirectX 11 performance in our Heaven v2.0 benchmark is particularly impressive because the result was achieved with all of the intensive details turned up to high, while the benchmark (along with all the other gaming tests) was run at a stratospheric resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixiels.

THANKS VERY MUCH! Windows Middle East approaches companies directly or through their PR representatives and partners with requests for parts for the Dream Machine project and this year is no different. Without the help of the following companies (and their representatives) Dream Machine 2011 would still be a dream. With that, we’d like to say a very warm thank you to: Corsair, Intel, Gigabyte, Microsoft, LG, Razer, Western Digital, and Zotac, along with their partners and PR reps.


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28 FEATURE

Top 30 products

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

TOP 35 TECH PRODUCTS Each month Windows Middle East receives dozens of products and after subjecting each to our stringent testing regime, only a few prove themselves worthy of our highly coveted awards. Here Windows looks at the top 35 products across 11 categories we’ve come across this year, all of which will be available for purchase at Gitex Shopper 2011. So, if you need some killer gear and you’ve got some cash to spend, read on...


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Each month Windows Middle East receives dozens of products and after subjecting each to our stringent testing regime, only a few prove themselves worthy of our highly coveted awards. Here, Windows looks at the top 30 products across 11 categories this year, all of which will be available for purchase at Gitex Shopper 2011. If you need some killer gear and youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got some cash to spend, read on...

FEATURE 29

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Top 30 products


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30 FEATURE

Top 30 products

You’ll find 12 very special products in this category so whether you need a new processor, GPU or even chassis, you’ll find something here to suit your needs and budget.

AMD PHENOM II X6 1100T BLACK EDITION PRICE $270 AMD has traditionally priced its CPUs with value in mind and with the six-core Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition (BE), it's the same story. Whereas AMD's top-end chip costs a mere US $270, Intel’s top-end six core CPU, the Core i7 990X Extreme Edition, sells for a dizzying $999. The 1100T Black Edition is similar to older Phenoms in terms of architecture and design; it is built using a 45nm process, sports a ‘Turbo Core’ frequency and uses the AM3 CPU socket. The 1100T has its six cores clocked at 3.3GHz each and with Turbo Core engaged, the CPU runs at 3.7GHz. We first ran our Cinebench 10 multi-CPU test and wound up with a result of 18,894 and a time of 46 seconds. On the flip side, Intel’s 980X required just 31 seconds and scored 27,691. Moving to our POY Ray benchmark the 1100T took 15 minutes and 51 seconds to complete the benchmark, whereas the 980X got the job done in 10 minutes and 25 seconds. Moving to gaming the Phenom II lagged behind again but as with the previous results, the Black Edition is far from slow. The CPU managed a Street Fighter IV framerate of 243.28fps running at 1,024 x 768 pixels with all the details set to high. The 980X in comparison produced a figure of 398.67fps. While the 980X is the faster chip it’s worth remembering that you can buy three 1100T Black Edition AMD CPUs for less than the cost of a single Core i7 980X.

VERDICT: THE 1100T BE REPRESENTS GREAT VALUE, IT OFFERS STRONG PERFORMANCE FOR A BARGAIN PRICE TAG.

ASUS S MAXIMUS IV EXTREME PRICE $419 Asus has a huge selection of LGA 1155 motherboards with the Maximus IV Extreme standing as the king of its P67 range. It’s no surprise then that at US $419 the Maximus is one of the more expensive LGA 1155 boards on the market today. One look at the Maximus IV Extreme’s PCB will tell you that this board means business however. There’s a chunky heatpipe cooling system for the Northbridge as well as the CPU's voltage regulators. Being a high-end board the Asus offers 3-way AMD and Nvidia multi-GPU capabilities thanks to its chipset and four PCI-E x16 slots. These slots can run in a 3-way configuration with one slot running at x8 speed and two running at x16 speed. The board also, expectedly, packs rear and front-panel ready USB3.0 ports, two 3Gbps eSATA headers, four 3Gbps SATA ports and four 6Gbps SATA ports. The Maximus IV is also littered with fan headers – you get no less than eight. Running our benchmarks on the Maximus IV Extreme we were impressed with the numbers it produced. Its Cinebench 10 Multi-CPU core figure of 26,001 is one of the highest figures we’ve recorded, whereas its DivX and Lame encode numbers were also incredibly potent. The board is also quite a screamer in terms of gaming performance as it outclassed a number of other LGA 1155 boards in our benchmarks. Our only real issue with this Asus offering is that it’s an extended ATX board and thus will require a new and expensive case that can handle its immense size.

VERDICT: IF YOU’VE GOT AN EXTENDED ATX CAPABLE CHASSIS, THE MAXIMUS IV EXTREME OFFERS UNBEATABLE PERFORMANCE AND FEATURES.

ASUS S GTX 580 P/2DIS/1536MD5

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PRICE $750 Asus makes three different graphics cards powered by Nvidia’s potent GeForce GTX 580 GPU and the Matrix GTX580 P/2DIS/1536MD5 is the biggest and maddest of the company's 580 lot. The Matrix is fitted with a massive cooling system which means you’ll have to sacrifice three rear expansion slots to fit it. You’ll also have to make sure that you can physically fit the card into your case, as it is one of the longest GPUs we’ve ever tested. While the Matrix looks similar to its GTX 570 counterpart, studying the card closer will reveal some seriously cool overclocking tools. The card has dedicated overclocking controls on the edge of its PCB, close to the two PCI-E power ports. There’s also a fan control button that, when pressed, instantly spools the two cooling fans to maximum speed. This is useful for when you’re pushing seriously high GPU and memory frequencies. There are even dedicated measurement points that let you see exactly how much voltage your card’s various bits are drawing. Last but not least, Asus has also included a ‘Safe mode’ button on the rear of the card, so you can instantly reset the card to its standard frequency.

VERDICT: WHILE THE MATRIX CARRIES A STRATOSPHERIC PRICE TAG, IT IS ONE OF THE MADDEST AND MOST POTENT GRAPHICS CARDS WE’VE EVER TESTED.


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FEATURE 31

COOLERMASTER HAF X PRICE $218 Coolermaster's HAF X has been on the market for some time but despite this, it hasn’t been eclipsed in terms of features and expansion. With dimensions of 230 x 599 x 550mm the HAF X is a huge chassis. Thanks to its immense size however this monster can accommodate even over-sized XL-ATX motherboards such as Gigabyte’s X58A-UD9. Beyond its flexible motherboard support the HAF X is impeccable when it comes to cooling capabilities. By default it comes with one 230mm forward intake, one top mounted 200mm exhaust (you can fit a second 200m fan too), one side 200mm fan, one rear 140mm fan and there’s an optional VGA fan duct and VGA fan holder. The duct can be kitted out with a single 120mm fan whereas the fan holder can accept an 80mm fan. Since most of the Coolermaster's fans are massive in size they spin at low speeds and yet move massive amounts of air, which makes the HAF X the coolest and most silent case we’ve tried this year. So regardless of what rig you’re planning to build this Coolermaster monster has you covered. Another unique feature is the chassis’ two front-mounted USB3.0 ports – very few cases on the market today offer USB3.0 forward connectivity.

VERDICT: WHILE SOMEWHAT EXPENSIVE THE HAF X OFFERS EXCEPTIONAL COOLING, SUPERB FLEXIBILITY IN TERMS OF WHAT YOU CAN FIT AND IS BUILT LIKE A PANZER TANK.

FOXCONN P67A-S PRICE $140 Whereas the Quantum Force Rattler is Foxconn’s best P67 offering the P67A-S is designed for the mainstream market. As a result at US $140 it is one of the least expensive P67 boards we’ve ever tested. Compared to some of the pricier motherboards the P67A-S boasts a spartan layout. Its PCB has acres of uncluttered space but don’t be fooled, this board still packs a punch. On the feature front you get support for two-way multi-GPU setups and there’s USB3.0 and 6Gbps Serial ATA ports as well. The Foxconn also, oddly, boasts a single IDE header so if you’re upgrading your system and you’ve got a couple of legacy IDE drives that you want to bring to your Sandy Bridge machine, the Foxconn has you covered. The one issue we have with the P67A-S is that the two 6Gbps Serial ATA ports have been setup as vertical ports. Since the ports are close to the second PCI-E x16 slot, fitting a full length GPU may obstruct access to these ports. Running the board through our slew of benchmarks we found that while it set no performance records, it’s still quite swift. Its gaming numbers of 6,999 and 448fps in our Final Fantasy XIV and Street Fighter IV benchmarks for instance are only slightly slower than the number produced by the Asus Maximus IV Extreme and Gigabyte Z68-UD7-B3.

VERDICT: IF YOU’RE BUILDING A SANDY BRIDGE SYSTEM ON A BUDGET THE FOXCONN P67A-S IS PERFECT. IT’S A WELL BALANCED AND POTENT OFFERING.

FRAC CTAL DESIGN DEFINE R3 The Define R3 was the first chassis we tested from Fractal Design. It can be had with a range of different power supplies or purchased standalone for US $136. Our sample features the Fractal Design Newton R2 1000W, 80 Plus PSU and retails for a reasonable $381. The chassis can be had in a variety of colours though ours sported the very classy ‘Black Pearl’ finish. The medium tower can accept ATX, micro ATX and mini ITX boards and thanks to its clever internal design, you can fit even the largest GPU on the market. Studying the case, it’s obvious the Define R3 is designed for high-performance cooling and silent operation. Our case featured one forward 120mm intake, one bottom 140mm intake, one side 140mm intake, two 140mm roof exhausts and one rear 120mm exhaust. These fans can be hooked up to your motherboard or you can hook them up to the supplied three-channel fan controller. Since the fans are large in size they spin at very low speeds anyway and thus provide ample cooling with minimal noise. To help reduce noise levels the Define R3 ships with factory fitted sound dampening material on its left and right side panels. Thanks to this the high-end Core i7-based test PC we built into the R3 was whisper quiet.

VERDICT: THE R3 IS IDEAL FOR BUILDING A HIGH-END RIG AROUND THANKS TO ITS AMPLE SPACE AND SUPERB COOLING SYSTEM.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

PRICE $381


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32 FEATURE

Top 30 products

GIGA ABYTE GV-R6970OC2-2GD PRICE $489 Five cards comprise Gigabyte’s Radeon HD 6970 portfolio with the GV-R6970OC2-2GD falling under Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable VGA series. Running the card through our benchmarks, the card impressed us with its strong DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 numbers. The Gigabyte managed Heaven v2.0 figures of 87.9fps, 66.0fps and 58.4fps at 1,024 x 768, 1,680 x 1,050 and 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, which means it's one seriously swift GPU. The GV-R6970OC2-2GD was also swift in our H.A.W.X and World in Conflict tests. The reason the Gigabyte offers such potent performance is because it packs AMD’s Radeon HD 6970 GPU. In AMD’s GPU line the 6970 is second only to the dual-GPU Radeon HD 6990. The card, like other Radeon HD 6970 offerings, is quite large from end-to-end, so it’s worth studying your chassis before you buy it so you can make sure it will actually fit. Like most high-end cards the Gigabyte requires two rear expansion slots. It also needs two PCI-E power cables be connected so it can draw enough juice from your powersupply. The card features a massive heatsink that’s made of aluminium and copper, and sitting on top of this are no less than three cooling fans. While the fans have a small diameter and are shallow (in terms of overall depth), they spin at low speeds, which meant we never heard them throughout testing.

VERDICT: A WELL BUILT RADEON HD 6970 GRAPHICS CARD. THE GIGABYTE OFFERS SERIOUS DIRECTX 11 PUNCH AND A MIGHTY BUT SILENT COOLING SYSTEM.

GIGA ABYTE SUMO 5112 PRICE $158

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Whereas Japanese Sumo wrestlers are some of the largest athletes in the world, Gigabyte’s Sumo 5112 isn’t the largest chassis we’ve encountered. The Sumo is a fairly attractive chassis thanks to its elegantly designed door and black paint job. The door sports an integrated LED light that by default is red. However, Gigabyte also supplies a blue LED as part of the package, so depending on your preference you can customise the case accordingly. The door sports a nifty optical disc storage compartment too. We thought this was a simple but nifty addition that will enable you to keep a rescue disk in a convenient location. Accessing the Sumo’s internals is a tools-free affair thanks to thumbscrews and on the inside there’s plenty of room to work. And while the Sumo doesn’t offer as much internal space as the Coolermaster HAF X, you won’t struggle to get a large ATX board into this chassis. There are also provisions for water-cooling and an armada of drive bays. The case also sports three 120mm fans. By default the forward fan is setup as an intake whereas the rear two fans are setup to exhaust air. The Sumo’s side panel, like the door, is also customisable in that you can either fit a clear acrylic window to show off your components, or if you’re more concerned with cooling, use a ventilated steel mesh plate instead.

VERDICT: A WELL-SORTED CHASSIS THAT CAN BE CUSTOMISED TO SUIT YOUR NEEDS. IT ALSO OFFERS ENOUGH SPACE AND COOLING FOR HIGH-END MACHINES.


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FEATURE 33

IN NTEL CORE I7 – 2600K PRICE $317 Though Intel has been reigning supreme for the last few years, the chipmaker is maintaining an aggressive launch schedule. The latest microarchitecture is known as Sandy Bridge and it is the successor to the older Nehalem-based ‘Core i’ series. As a result of its new microarchitecture and features Sandy Bridge chips have different CPU socket pin counts compared to its predecessors. At the time of going to press Intel has only released processors that use the LGA1155 CPU socket (replacing LGA1156). At standard 3.4GHz the Core i7-2600K blew us away with its amazing results. In our Cinebench 10 multi-CPU test it managed a figure of 26,560. In comparison the older six-core Gulftown Intel Core i7 980X 3.33GHz Extreme Edition CPU managed a result of 25,519. Moving to our multimedia tests, the Core i7-2600K managed to complete our Lame music encode in one minute and 34 seconds whereas the 980X required two minutes to get the job done. Moving to gaming the Core i7-2600K managed figures of 7,110 and 56.2fps in Final Fantasy XIV and Lost Planet 2 respectively. The Core i7 980X on the other hand was slower in Final Fantasy with a score of 7,085 though slightly faster in Lost Planet 2, managing 77.3fps.

VERDICT: THE INTEL CORE I7-2600K CPU IS A SUPER FAST PERFORMER WHICH THANKS TO ITS UNLOCKED MULTIPLIER CAN ALSO BE OVERCLOCKED LIKE A MONSTER.

PALIT T GEFORCE GTX 560 TI SONIC PRICE $329

VERDICT: PALIT’S PRE-OVERCLOCKED MONSTER PROVIDES AMPLE MAINSTREAM DIRECTX 11 PERFORMANCE.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Mainstream users aim to spend about US $250 on a new GPU and given that Nvidia’s only offering in this segment for the last several months has been the GTX 460, AMD has had the market to itself with its Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 GPUs. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti is designed for the mainstream market and priced as $339, Palit’s Sonic offering is already great value as it is a pre-overclocked card. So whereas a standard GeForce GTX 560 Ti card’s GPU, shaders and memory run at 822MHz, 1,644MHz and 4,008MHz respectively, our Palit’s internals ran at 900MHz, 1,800MHz and 4,200MHz. Thanks to the pumped up frequencies the Palit proved a monster. It returned results of 78.6fps, 54.1fps and 46.5fps in our DirectX 11 Heaven v2.0 benchmark at 1,024 x 768, 1,600 x 1,680 x 1,050 and 1,920 x 1,200 pixels. XFX’s Radeon HD 6870 HD-687A-ZN by comparison trailed with figures of 56.7fps, 39.0fps and 34.6fps. If you’re looking for mainstream grunt Palit’s GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic packs some serious DirectX 11 gaming punch.


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34 FEATURE

Top 30 products

SAPP PHIRE HD 6950 FLEX 2GB GDDR5 PRICE $310 Unlike most GPU manufacturers that produce cards with GPUs from AMD and Nvidia, Sapphire only manufactures AMD Radeon line cards. The HD 6950 Flex is appropriately named thanks to its flexibility when it comes to multi-monitor setups. Whereas most graphics cards require that the third monitor in a three-screen Eyefinity set-up be connected via DisplayPort, the HD 6950 Flex 2GB GDDR5 card can use three DVI monitors (two directly via DVI and the third via the supplied HDMI to DVI adapter). This saves you from buying an expensive DisplayPort adapter or even a screen that sports a DisplayPort port. The Flex features a Radeon HD 6950 GPU that ticks along at 800MHz, while the card’s 2GB of GDDR5 memory is clocked at 5GHz. This then isn’t a preoverclocked card but rather one that follows AMD’s reference specs. Running our benchmarks revealed the card to be a strong performer. In our DirectX 11 Heaven v2.0 test the card managed 1,024 x 768, 1,680 x 1,050 and 1,920 x 1,200 results of 78.0fps, 57.2fps and 50.5fps respectively. These are seriously quick results when compared to other 6950 offerings.

VERDICT: THE FLEX OFFERS COMPETITIVE PERFORMANCE FIGURES, A SILENT COOLER AND A VERY USEFUL EYEFINITY TWEAK. AT $310 IT OFFERS GREAT VALUE-FOR-MONEY TOO.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

ZOTA AC GEFORCE GTX 560 MULTIVIEW PRICE $230 Zotac says its GeForce GTX 560 Multiview card is designed to help you enter the world of triple-monitor computing. The card uniquely enables you to run three independent displays from its HDMI outputs combined with dual-link DVI or DisplayPort output. Putting Zotac’s claims to the test we were pleased to find that the GeForce GTX 560 Multiview worked as advertised. We were able to connect three different displays using a number of different port options. The Zotac ships with two HDMI ports, one DisplayPort and two DVI ports, so regardless of what connectors your screens use, you should have no problem getting them to play ball. Zotac’s GeForce GTX 560 Multiview is also a featherweight in terms of dimensions - it will fit into all medium tower casings and most micro-ATX offerings without any problems. The card itself sports an attractive cooling system but, unfortunately, in testing it quite frequently spun up to full speed and so was fairly audible. The card’s core and memory tick along at 820MHz and 4,008MHz and when it came to benchmarks, it scored 69.3fps, 46.4fps and 40.0fps in our Heaven v2.0 tests. While these aren’t eye-opening figures, every game was butter smooth since the card managed framerates above 30fps.

VERDICT: AN AGGRESSIVELY PRICED GTX 560 POWERED GRAPHICS CARD THAT OFFERS EXCELLENT MULTI-MONITOR POSSIBILITIES AND DECENT PERFORMANCE.


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FEATURE 35

DESKTOPS While we received a number of interesting desktop machines over the course of this year, only one managed to grab our highly coveted Editor’s Choice award.

ZOTAC ZBOX BLU-R RAY AD03 PLUS PRICE $539 Zotac knows how to build some awesome small formfactor (SFF) machines. This became clear after we tested a few of the companies various MAG and ZBOX machines and the ZBOX Blu-ray AD03 Plus on test here is another shining example of clever thinking and solid engineering. The AD03 Plus is possibly the best looking SFF machine we’ve ever looked at. It’s unbelievably slim and is elegantly finished in silver and black. And when you power on the machine the now familiar coloured circle (blue in this case) makes an appearance once again. Despite its compact formfactor the AD03 Plus is surprisingly silent even after hours of use. Though there is an active cooling system it was completely inaudible even in a quiet room. The only time the machine can be heard is when the optical drive is in use but it’s far from loud or obnoxious. While the ZBOX features a compact frame it can still be upgraded. All you need to do is unscrew the underside of the machine and you gain access to the internals. By default the AD03 Plus ships with 2GB of DDR3 RAM and a 250GB hard drive. Owing to the compact design of the machine, Zotac has once again used SO-DIMM memory and a 2.5-inch hard drive. The machine’s motherboard features two DDR3 memory slots and since Zotac has used a single 2GB module, you can fit another module should you feel the urge to upgrade. The storage drive too can be swapped for a larger model or, if you want a quicker overall machine, a SSD drive. Given the choice we’d fit the AD03 Plus with 4GB of memory and a SSD while relying on an external hard drive for storage. Like HP’s dm1 the Zotac packs an AMD E-350 dual-core processor. The chip features an integrated Radeon HD 6310 GPU. In terms of performance the machine produced PCMark Vantage figures of 2,240, 1,680, 1,616, 1,943, 2,555, 2,263, 1,454 and 2,581 in our PCMark, Memories, TV & Movies, Gaming, Music, Communications, Productivity and HDD test suites. These figures are on par with those that the dm1 produced. And, like the dm1, the AD03 Plus struggled with games owing to its integrated GPU. All of the games we tried at 1,680 x 1,050 pixels returned sub 30fps framerates but given the positioning and price of the machine, this isn’t a concern. Day-to-day the machine offers enough grunt for basic tasks. Thanks to its Bluray/DVD combo drive and Radeon 6310 GPU the AD03 Plus can be used as a Full HD player. Zotac supplies Cyberlink’s BD Solutions package and using this to watch 1080p movies, the AD03 was superb. We never noticed dropped frames, stuttering or out of sync audio. Given its price, the AD03 is less expensive yet better than some of the set-top Blu-ray solutions on the market today. You get PC functionality too.

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VERDICT: THE AD03 PLUS IS THE BEST ZBOX YET. IT’S BEAUTIFULLY DESIGNED, OFFERS DECENT APPLICATION PERFORMANCE, IS A COMPETENT BLU-RAY PLAYER AND IS VERY WELL PRICED.


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DIGITAL IMAGING While point and shoot cameras suffice in most cases, you’ll be able to frame the best photographs with a digital SLR and some photography know-how. Here you’ll find the two best SLRs we tested this year.

NIKON D7000 PRICE $1,989 When the D7000 was launched it stood between the enthusiast-aimed D300S and the higher-end D90. Nikon’s cameras have always boasted excellent build quality and the D7000 is no different. A magnesium alloy has been used to create the camera’s body and thanks to this, it feels like a tank in hand. While the magnesium alloy ensures the body of the D7000 is a reasonable weight, our test sample felt quite substantial because of the added weight of the supplied Nikon DX 18-105mm lens. Thankfully, the camera is easy to handle thanks to its tight dimensions and contoured rubber grip. Whereas most of the cameras on the market today have a lot of their controls located to the right of the LCD screen, the D7000 has most of its buttons and controls to the left of the screen. At the same time the D7000’s mode-selector wheel is located to the left of the flash, whereas most other cameras have this to the right of the flash. Using the Nikon for a week we were amazed with its overall image quality. No matter the scene and settings we tried, the D7000 produced high quality photos. Images shot with low ISO settings were packed with detail and were only slightly soft in terms of image crispness. On the flip side of the coin, shots at high ISO settings were detailed and surprisingly free from noise.

VERDICT: THE NIKON D7000 IS A TOP-NOTCH ENTHUSIAST-AIMED SLR. IT OFFERS GREAT OVERALL IMAGE QUALITY AND IS BUILT LIKE A TANK.

CANON EO OS 1100D

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PRICE $654 Whereas the EOS 600D sits at the top of Canon’s entry-level SLR range, the 1100D is designed to tempt users to upgrade from point-and-shoots. As a result it costs a mere US $654. The EOS looks and feels its price when studied closely however. The body is created using plastic and thus looks and feels quite basic. The lack of rubber grips and the plastic mode wheel also ram home the camera's budget nature. Due to the camera's compact (for a SLR) size the 1100D is more suitable for those with smaller hands. Users with larger hands may struggle to comfortably hold on to this Canon camera when shooting. One issue we had with the design of the 1100D is that its battery bay and memory card slot share one compartment, which is located on the underside of the camera. If you plan to use a tripod this could pose a problem because if you need to replace your memory card, you’ll have to dismount the camera to gain access to the card slot. When it came to grabbing photos we found the camera competent. Colours on photos appeared natural and when shooting at different ISO settings the camera never let us down. The best results were, expectedly, at lower ISO settings where there was no sign of noise and decent detail. That said photos were slightly soft in terms of overall crispness.

VERDICT: ALTHOUGH THE EOS 1100D LOOKS AND FEELS ITS BUDGET PRICE TAG, IT IS A CAPABLE SLR THAT OFFERS GREAT PHOTOGRAPHIC RESULTS.


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HANDHELDS The right handheld will help you stay connected no matter where you are and while Windows tested several great devices earlier in the year, the following two made the strongest possible cases.

BLACKBERRY BOLD 9900 PRICE $780 The new Bold sports similar looks to its predecessors though there are some nice new additions that make the phone look a little more up-to-date. The frame of the phone is surrounded by a steel strip for instance and this contrasts nicely with the otherwise mostly black body. The rear of the smartphone is, unfortunately, a fingerprint magnet but does look good thanks to a carbon-fibre-inspired design. This rear end also offers a good deal of grip and so is less likely to slip out of your hand when you aren’t paying attention. The phone exudes solidity too and thus should stand up to rough use, and time. As you’d expect the Bold 9900’s biggest selling point is its keyboard which just makes typing messages and e-mails a stressfree and precise affair. Since this Bold is also equipped with the new BlackBerry 7 operating system and has a 2.8-inch screen that’s touch-sensitive, the Bold 9900 is unbelievably intuitive to use. And while we initially thought we’d never use the touchscreen for anything, we found that we were using the keyboard and touchscreen in-tandem within a couple of hours. The Bold’s screen, like other BlackBerry devices, is quite balanced in that it returns fairly potent visuals and, doesn't wash out even in very bright sunlight. Given the Bold’s fast processor and memory allow you to make quick, uninterrupted progress we feel confident in saying the Bold 9900 is easily the fastest phone to get comfortable with on the market today. Battery life, which has long been RIM’s Achilles Heel, is still an issue though. The phone needed a charge after 25 hours of mixed use which involved a good deal of standby, making two hours worth of voice calls, browsing the web for an hour using the WiFi connection and grabbing about 10 minutes worth of HD video.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S II PRICE $708

VERDICT: THE GALAXY S II IS THE ANDROID SMARTPHONE OF THE MOMENT. IT’S BETTER THAN ITS PREDECESSOR IN EVERY WAY AND IS A STRONG ALTERNATIVE TO THE IPHONE 4.

VERDICT: THE BOLD 9900 IS NOT ONLY THE BEST BLACKBERRY DEVICE WE’VE EVER TESTED BUT IT’S ALSO THE BEST QWERTY-BASED SMARTPHONE ON THE MARKET TODAY.

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When we reviewed the original Galaxy S in our September 2010 smartphone grouptest, it impressed us so much that we awarded it our Best Performance prize. As a result we had high expectations of its successor. Out of the box it’s apparent the new Galaxy is bigger; checking the specs we found that whereas the original measures 122.4 x 64.2mm, the Galaxy S II measures 125.3 x 66.1mm. The slightly larger size wasn’t a problem for us, as far as holding the phone was concerned but users with smaller hands may find it difficult to hang onto this handheld. Although the Galaxy has grown on some fronts it has also shrunk on others - while its predecessor was far from flabby width-wise - measuring 9.9mm - the new smartphone measures an astonishing 8.5mm. In comparison Apple’s superb iPhone 4 measures 9.3mm thick. Weighing 116g the Samsung is also one of the lightest high-end smartphones we’ve tested. Despite its thin design and scarce weight, the Samsung is a heavy-hitter as far as performance is concerned. Over our two week long test period we were constantly blown away by how responsive the Galaxy S II was. Regardless of the number of apps we had open simultaneously, we never experienced any lag and launching even the most demanding apps and games never stressed the phone. This amazing performance is thanks to the Galaxy’s fast 1.2GHz dual-core processor and potent 1GB of memory. As intoxicating as the performance is, it’s the gorgeous 4.27inch AMOLED Plus touchscreen that seals the deal. It managed to punch out the most vibrant colours we’ve ever seen on a smartphone and even managed to deliver deep blacks. The screen is also bright enough to overcome direct sunlight, so you can work even when you’re out and about. The screen, as expected, is also super responsive, which coupled with the fast CPU and gobs of memory made for a pleasant user experience.


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MONITORS Whether you’re planning to buy a fully-fledged 3D TV or you’re just looking for a new LCD screen to connect your desktop machine to, this section has you covered.

SAMSUNG SYNCMASTER FX2490HD PRICE $476 Studying the SyncMaster we couldn’t help but notice its attractive looks and finish. The screen itself is finished in what Samsung calls ‘ToC Mystic Brown Cabinet’ and the chrome four-prong stand just accentuates its looks. The stand also provides a super stable base for the screen. Exposing the screen to our battery of visual tests we found ourselves quite impressed. The screen blew us away right from the off with its extremely wide viewing angles; looking at the screen from 90-degrees both vertically and horizontally, we noticed absolutely no loss of brightness or contrast. The FX2490HD then is perfect as a TV or LCD, as people don’t have to be sat directly in front of it for the best viewing experience. The LCD is Full HD ready and when we fed it our 1080p video streams it blew us away. Colours were natural yet vibrant with blacks appearing deep and uniform. As the screen sports a 5ms response rate, it handled fast moving content with ease whether it was The Fast and the Furious or a frenzied NFS Hot Pursuit race. The Samsung also produced razor sharp text and graphics, so you can work on it for hours without eyestrain.

VERDICT: THE LED-BASED SYNCMASTER FX2490HD IS A FLEXIBLE SCREEN THAT EXCELS AT BOTH WORK AND PLAY. IT IS REASONABLY PRICED AS WELL.

ACER S243HL PRICE $326 The Acer S243HL offers 24-inches of screen space and can be yours for US $326, which makes it great value when you consider the cost of other 24-inch screens. The Acer sports an interesting L-shaped base and because of its weight, the monitor is able to sit on your desk with serious stability. The base also features space-age-esque buttons which you can use to control the OSD. Hooking the screen up to our test rig via HDMI, we found ourselves impressed with its performance. The combination of its 24-inches of screen space and native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 means that it offers serious screen real estate. The high resolution also meant the Acer returned a sharp rendition of the Windows desktop and every other application and game that ran at the screen's native resolution. With a brightness rating of 250cd/m2 the S243HL proved bright and while colours were vibrant, there weren’t unnatural. The screen’s viewing angles were also wide on both the horizontal and vertical fronts.

VERDICT: AN AGGRESSIVELY PRICED LCD SCREEN THAT’S SUPREMELY CAPABLE IN THE VISUAL DEPARTMENT.

LG 42LW5700 CINEMA 3D LED TV

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PRICE $1,335 The 42LW5700 Cinema 3D LED TV is one of LG’s latest Full HD screens and, like Samsung’s LED Series 7000 Smart TV, the LG is an Internet-enabled TV that can tackle 3D content. The LG’s polarised 3D glasses are much simpler and less bulky than the Samsung’s offerings, as well as every other set of 3D glasses we’ve come across. The best part is because the 3D glasses LG uses are polarised they never gave anyone headaches over our testing period. This is in stark contrast to the active shutter glasses that Samsung supplied with its TV; after a few hours of watching a 3D movie on that TV, we felt the onset of a headache. The reason most people get headaches is because of the flicker that is associated with displaying 3D content but with LG’s 42LW5700, we’re happy to report that we noticed almost no flicker. Comfort aside the Cinema 3D LED TV is a superstar that’s able to create great depth and thoroughly immersive 3D experiences. Watching the 3D-enabled Blu-ray copy of Avatar we were completely blown away by what we were seeing on screen. We noticed incredible depth and when we switched to other movies, we were just as impressed. The LG is also able to maintain 3D visuals even when you aren’t sitting directly in front of it and, it also allows you a good deal of freedom in terms of how far you have to be from the screen for 3D effects. Beyond 3D the screen is impeccable as far as colour delivery, brightness and contrast are concerned. With the TruMotion engine working its magic, motion content moved so smoothly on-screen that it seemed like something was wrong. This is more so the case if you’re coming off an older LCD screen.

VERDICT: THE 42LW5700 IS THE FIRST 3D SCREEN THAT WE’D CONSIDER OWNING. IT’S ABLE TO CREATE FANTASTIC 3D EXPERIENCES, DOESN’T INDUCE HEADACHES, IS AGGRESSIVELY PRICED AND SHIPS WITH FOUR 3D GLASSES.


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FEATURE 39

NOTEBOOKS This selection of notebooks and netbooks will allow you to work even when you’re on the go. We’ve got one machine for every sort of budget.

PACKARD BELL DOT S PRICE $326 When we unpacked Packard Bell’s Dot S, we were quick to dismiss its appeal owing to its dull lavender finish. We’ve tested a number of other netbooks that feature striking colours that make people stand up and take notice. Studying the machine closer however revealed its star qualities. Component-wise it features a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N570 CPU, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, Intel’s HD Graphics adapter, a 10.1-inch LCD screen and a 500GB hard disk drive. While most of these parts can also be found on other netbooks, the Packard Bell packs a bigger hard drive. Considering the Dot S retails for an aggressive end user price of US $326 it offers excellent value. Moving to performance the Dot S performed as expected; it managed competitive numbers across the board. When it came to everyday usability the only complaint we had was with the trackpad’s single button; it’s a bit too stiff and has a fairly wide central dead space, which made it fiddly to use. Tipping the scales at 1.148kg the Packard Bell is a light machine and while its battery life of four hours and 31 minutes isn’t mind blowing, it’s far from limited.

VERDICT: BLAND FINISH ASIDE, THIS LIGHTWEIGHT NETBOOK OFFERS COMPETITIVE PERFORMANCE, A MASSIVE HARD DRIVE AND ATTRACTIVE PRICING.

HP MINI 210-3020SE PRICE $408 Modern netbooks sport unique colours but the Mini 210-3020se blows them all away with its look-at-me turquoise finish. It was always the centre of attention wherever we took it. Weighing 1.364kg the Mini 210 is heavy for a netbook but with a battery time of four hours and 47 minutes the HP outlasted netbooks from Acer, Packard Bell and Lenovo, making it a dependable travel companion. Coming to performance the Mini 210-3020se impressed us yet again. Running our intensive PCMark Vantage suite on the machine it returned strong benchmark numbers that made the HP much faster than competing netbooks. This is impressive when you consider that most of the netbooks on the market today feature the same core components. The HP Mini is also a pleasant machine to work with on a daily basis thanks to its textured and responsive trackpad, solid keyboard and vibrant LCD screen. The latter also boasts incredibly wide viewing angles; brightness and contrast loss aren’t an issue even when looking at the screen from an extreme 90-degrees angle.

VERDICT: THE MINI 210 PACKS POTENT PERFORMANCE, STRONG BATTERY LIFE AND SPORTS THE SORT OF LOOKS THAT CAN STOP PEOPLE DEAD IN THEIR TRACKS.

HP PAVILION DV6-6090EE The Pavilion dv6-6090ee comes from HP’s Home Notebook range and is the first Sandy Bridge-based desktop replacement we’ve received from the technology titan. Weighing in at 2.65kg the Pavilion is a desktop replacement machine for certain; it’s a notebook that you’ll want to avoid lugging around, unless you have a wheeled travel bag. The handsome HP is also just a bit too heavy to have on your lap for more than 30 minutes at a stretch. Working on the Pavilion dv6 is a pleasing experience however, thanks to its competent keyboard, trackpad and LCD screen. The keyboard is perhaps the most solid we’ve seen from HP to date - it exhibits minimal amounts of flex when pressed. The notebook’s large size has allowed HP to fit a full QWERTY keyboard with keys that are well spaced. This means that anyone, regardless of hand size, can work on this machine with precision. The trackpad too works beautifully and feels premium under finger. Its large tracking area also means that we didn’t have to adjust sensitivity to be productive. The HP is something of a rocket thanks to its fast core components. The 2GHz Sandy Bridge processor, 8GB of DDR3 memory and quick 1TB hard drive made quick work of our PCMark Vantage benchmarks. We noted results of 7,842, 4,445, 5,496, 5,398, 7,368, 7,205, 6,560 and 3,567 in our PCMark suite, Memories, TV & Movies, Gaming, Music, Communications, Productivity and HDD tests. These results are the highest we’ve ever recorded and in the real world the dv6 is blazingly quick. The Pavilion’s a strong gaming machine as well; it produced framerates of 93fps and 32fps in our Street Fighter IV and World in Conflict tests at 1,366 x 768 pixels.

VERDICT: THE DV6 HAS IT ALL; GREAT LOOKS, TOP NOTCH PERFORMANCE AND A SENSIBLE PRICE TAG.

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PRICE $1,253


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FEATURE 41

While Windo Windows received hundreds of peripherals in the last several months only two really stood out. Check them out below.

ROCCAT KONE+ PRICE $136 PRIC Whe it comes to gaming peripherals we normally think of brands When such as Logitech and Razer. With devices like the Kone+ however, we rreckon lesser known Roccat will quickly make a name for itself. The Kone+ is quite possibly the most competent and com comprehensive gaming mouse we've ever tried. O Out of the box the Kone+ is striking because of its sculpted desi design but also because it's quite a large mouse. It easily dwarfs ever everything we've seen from Razer and Logitech but thanks to its clev clever design, it seemed to fit every hand we threw at it. T The mouse weighs 126g which makes it one of the heaviest rode rodents we've tested. Given the Roccat's already substantial weig weight we thought the weight system, which allows you to add four additional 5g weights, was a little overkill. T The mouse is covered in buttons and Roccat has placed each of them perfectly, which made getting comfortable with the Kone+ a quic quick, natural process. The buttons feel sturdy and so should be able to take hours of gaming use. The scroll wheel, which can also tilt to the left or right, has just the right amount of resistance so you can make quick and precise mot motions when the action is intense. The variable rate tracking eng engine is also a gem that worked beautifully on every surface we tried it on.

VERDICT: THE KONE+ IS A SUPERB PERIPHERAL VE THAT THA OFFERS LOADS OF FEATURES AND A PRECISE TRACKING ENGINE. TRA

SENNHEISER HD 800 Sennheiser says its HD 800 headphones are ‘Crafted for Perfection’ and so comprise serious hardware which contributes to a high retail price of US $1,416. Don’t be put off though because as far as the Windows team is concerned, they are currently the best headphones money can buy. Thanks to the high-quality headband and large earcups this Sennheiser set can be worn for hours regardless of the size of your head and ears - we never once had to take them off because our ears were sore. Feeding the HD 800 headphones a variety of music, movies and games, we were dumbfounded by the audio being pumped into our ears. The only way to understand the quality of audio being pumped out by these headphones is to listen to them in person at the Dubai Audio Centre. What these headphones do is make you feel like you’re part of whatever you’re listening to; when watching the T-Rex make its first appearance in the original Jurassic Park, we felt as though we were in the car with Tim & Lex. Likewise, when we shifted to music and were listening to ‘Come Away with Me’ by Norah Jones, it felt like the singer was giving us a personal rendition of her hit song. Unbelievable.

VERDICT: THE SENNHEISER HD 800 HEADPHONES ARE THE BEST CANS THE WINDOWS TEAM HAS EVER TESTED.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

PRICE $1,416


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PRINTERS A multifunction device that offers print, scan and copying abilities is an indispensable tool in the home and office. Here you’ll find the two best devices we tested earlier in the year.

CANON PIX XMA MG6140 PRICE $231 In Canon’s Pixma lineup the MG6140 presently stands second to only the MG8140. The Pixma features an all black exterior but there’s much more to the MFD’s exterior than meets the eye; when you power up the MFD parts of the black surface reveal themselves to be touch-sensitive buttons. The Canon sports a colour LCD too and using the touch-sensitive interface you can accomplish everything from PC-free photo printing to copying. The menu system is logically setup and natural to use so getting the Pixma to work is simple. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Canon’s initial setup. When we plugged in the MFD for the first time the Pixma announced that it would take five minutes for its setup process. However, by the time the inkjet finished its cleaning cycle and alignment tests we clocked nearly 10 minutes. Beyond this initial setup process though, the MG6140 proved a super-fast worker. It completed our 20-page print test in monochrome and colour managing print speeds of 9.3ppm and 6.5ppm. These figures were the second highest among the inkjet MFDs we tested earlier in the year. Tackling our more intensive six-page text and graphics PDF test the printer managed a speed of 3.5ppm. Brilliant!

VERDICT: WITH SIX INK TANKS, A SLICK USER INTERFACE AND SUPERB OVERALL PRINT QUALITY, THE PIXMA MG6140 IS A BRILLIANT BUY THAT WON’T HURT YOUR BANK BALANCE EITHER.

OKI MC361 1DN N

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PRICE $940 OKI’s MC361dn is a relatively expensive MFD owing to its laserbased colour print engine. It is designed for business buyers and after putting it to the test we were thoroughly impressed. Putting the OKI through its paces the MC361dn excelled with sky-high test results. Feeding the device our intensive six page text and graphics PDF document the OKI got the job done in a matter of seconds managing a speed of 12.8ppm – the highest figure we recorded in our February grouptest. The machine also managed to spit out the first page of the same documents in 12- and 14-seconds in monochrome and colour respectively. Moving to our 20-page text document the OKI produced incredible results again, it managed print speeds of 21ppm and 18.1ppm in monochrome and colour. While the monochrome figure was the second highest in the grouptest (falling behind the Canon i-SENSYS MF4570dn by a miniscule margin), the OKI’s colour figure is the fastest. In terms of copying the machine blew every other MFD out of the water in the round-up once again; it completed our monochrome and colour copy test is just 10- and 19-seconds. Like other OKI devices we’ve tested the MC361dn is very easy to setup. And with a fast 533MHz processor and a massive 256MB of onboard memory, the OKI can also handle large print jobs without choking.

VERDICT: THE MC361DN IS THE OBVIOUS CHOICE IF YOU HAVE DEMANDING PRINT NEEDS AND REQUIRE A FAST AND CAPABLE COLOUR PRINTER.


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SOFTWARE Running a PC or notebook without a security suite is suicide regardless of whether you use the Internet or not. There are many a threat that can infiltrate your machine via optical media or USB stick so it’s also wise to invest in some decent protection. Here we detail the two best security suites you can buy today.

NORTON INTERNET SECURITY 2011 PRICE $42 Norton Internet Security 2011 is the latest fully-fledged security suite from Symantec and in its latest guise; it has become considerably more refined and less intrusive than its predecessors. The software boasts advanced features such as reputation based security, System Insight 2.0, Download Insight 2.0, SONAR 3 and the Norton Bootable Recovery tool. If an alarm in your head is yelling 'bloat' you can rest easy as Norton has managed to somehow pack all these features into a package that installs in a little under 40 seconds and runs much faster than its predecessor in every way. The reputation based security feature measures your system’s security profile against the 58 million strong database, as part of Norton Community Watch. It assesses the state of the user’s download behaviour and identifies the origin of files in a bid to defend against potentially dangerous downloads. System Insight and Download Insight work in tandem to deliver two-pronged protection. The former runs a scan on current PC activity and apps running on the computer and alerts the user should it find that a particular application is draining system resources, thus allowing for a correction toward a more balanced mode of usage. The latter is a real time scan that verifies and checks any downloads before it is allowed to run on your PC. SONAR 3 is perhaps this reviewer’s favourite feature as it provides in Norton’s terms ‘zero-day’ protection against new and emerging threats that are specifically designed to evade general security features. SONAR 3 is designed to identify suspicious software based on its behaviour and makes a decision on behalf of the user so as not to waste even a second when confirming a new threat.

VERDICT: NORTON INTERNET SECURITY 2011 IS A WELL DESIGNED PACKAGE THAT OFFERS SUPERB PROTECTION FROM A VARIETY OF ONLINE AND LOCAL THREATS. IT ALSO OPERATES WITH ALMOST NO IMPACT ON SYSTEM PERFORMANCE, WHICH IS AN ADDED BONUS.

KASPERSKY INTERNET SECURITY 2011

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PRICE $40 In the last three years Kaspersky's Internet Security has become the suite of choice for many users around the world. With Internet Security 2011, it’s easy to see why. At its core the suite is flawless in that its antivirus scanner is fast, efficient and ever watchful. The scanner recognised and quarantined infected files on our hard drive, blocked infected files from being downloaded from the Internet and, in a matter of seconds, recognised our USB stick was infected and blocked the virus from doing any damage to our test PC. KIS 2011 boasts a number of new features including ‘System Watcher’. This is a Heuristics scanner that allows the suite to monitor all activity on a PC whilst tracking, recording and analysing any suspicious behaviour. If a threat is detected System Watcher allows you to roll back any action that may have caused your machine to become unstable. The latest version of KIS 2011 also offers superb parental controls that allow you to manage children’s activities on the web and on the machine itself. It also has powerful antiphishing protection and packs its own virtual keyboard to help protect your digital identity while banking online. As before Kaspersky’s interface is easy to understand whether you’re a novice or an advanced user. In addition to the dashboard, there’s also a desktop widget that can be used to access features.

VERDICT: KIS 2011 IS EASY-TO-USE, RELATIVELY LIGHT ON SYSTEM RESOURCES AND IS PACKED WITH ACCURATE AND USEFUL SECURITY FEATURES.


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FEATURE 45

STORAGE While storage devices aren’t as glamorous as processors or GPUs they are the backbone of the computing world. Every piece of data needs to be stored somewhere and that’s where these drives come in. Here you’ll find the best drives we've encountered in 2011.

WD CAVIAR GREEN 3TB PRICE $261 The WD30EZRSDTL Caviar Green hard drive is one of Western Digital’s latest and boasts a phenomenal 3TB of storage capacity. To use the Caviar’s capacity however your machine will have to tick the following prerequisites; it needs to have a 64-bit operating system, it should support GPT (GUID Partition Table) partitions rather than standard MBR (Master Boot Record) and, last but not least, your motherboard will need to have a UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). UEFI is the successor to the aging BIOS system. If your PC lacks any of these components however you can still use the Caviar Green by purchasing a specific host bus adapter (HBA) such as Highpoint’s RocketRaid 62x. Thankfully, if you buy the Caviar Green as a retail boxed drive, Western Digital provides a HBA that allows you to use the drive in even older machines. Fitting the Green drive to our test rig we were able to configure and format the drive into a single 3TB bootable partition. Putting it through its paces we were blown away by its tremendous figures. In our HD Tune Pro read and write tests, the drive managed average speeds of 91MB/sec and 90MB/sec. These are exceptionally high figures for a drive that isn’t fitted with a 7,200rpm or 10,000rpm spindle motor. The awesome performance is thanks to the drive's high density storage platters.

VERDICT: A TOP-NOTCH DRIVE THAT BOASTS SUPERLATIVE PERFORMANCE AND AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF STORAGE CAPACITY.

INTEL 510 SERIES 250GB PRICE $584 Intel's 510 Series of SSD drives consist of just two models; 120GB and 250GB. Intel claims that this 250GB drive offers maximum read and write speeds of 500MB/sec and 315MB/ sec, whereas the 120GB drive is said to offer 450MB/sec and 210MB/sec. Put to the test our 250GB test sample managed AS SSD sequential read and write figures of 219.04MB/sec and 198.98MB/sec, which made it a little slower than its 120GB counterpart. When it came to the more intensive random 4K and 64K read and write tests the drive was, again, a little slower than the 120GB drive, managing read and write figures of 17.39MB/sec, 35.29MB/sec, 19.06MB/sec and 43.32MB/sec respectively. Retailing for US $584 the 250GB Intel 510 Series drive is an expensive offering however when you look at its cost per gigabyte, the 510 Series is actually a steal because it costs just $2.34 per gigabyte. If you're looking for the best bang for your buck this is the SSD option for you.

VERDICT: PACKING DECENT PERFORMANCE AND A KILLER COST PER GIGABYTE OF JUST $2.34, THE 250GB 510 SERIES DRIVE IS DEFINITELY WORTH CONSIDERING.

CORSAIR FORCE SERIES GT 120GB The Force Series GT SSDs are the crème dela crème of Corsair’s fairly well stocked SSD line. We're happy to report that when we put the Force GT to the test, it simply blew past every other SSD we’ve ever tested in terms of overall performance. Its PCMark Vantage HDD score of 38,604 is miles ahead of other drives and when you look at individual numbers, the Corsair becomes even more impressive. Its app and game load figures of 153.08MB/sec and 192.81MB/sec are, again, way ahead of all the other SSD offerings we've tested this year. Even in the real world the Corsair's performance shines through. We noticed our test machine booting into Windows considerably quicker and when it came to everyday tasks like compressing files, opening our massive Outlook Inbox and more, the Force Series GT just tore through it all with minimal wait times. With a retail price of US $297 or $2.48 per gigabyte the Corsair is reasonably priced (for a SSD), especially when you consider the performance that it offers.

VERDICT: IF YOU WANT SUPERB STORAGE PERFORMANCE, CORSAIR'S FORCE SERIES GT HAS YOUR NAME ON IT. IT IS THE FASTEST SSD WE'VE EVER TESTED.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

PRICE $297


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46 FEATURE

Top 30 products

TABLETS Three amazing tablets wowed us earlier in the year, so if you’re in the market for your very first tablet or are looking to replace your first generation purchase, you’ll find some brilliant options here.

ASUS EEE PAD TRANSFORMER TF101 PRICE $735 Asus’ Eee Pad Transformer TF101 is unique because it is one of the only tablets on the market to ship with a docking station. Asus says the dock allows you to ‘transform’ the tablet into a fully-fledged netbook. We’re pleased to report that with the tablet docked, the Transformer is actually a useable netbook. The dock’s keyboard is great to use and rather than using a QWERTY keyboard, Asus has replaced the function keys with hotkeys that enable you to scoot around Honeycomb with ease. The dock includes an additional battery too so you can extend the battery life to a total of 16 hours. In testing we found the Asus, when docked, gave a battery life of 14 hours. The Asus is also one of the better looking tablets we’ve tested and we absolutely adored its screen. It simply refused to retain fingerprints or smudges and generated fantastic visuals. As a result the Transformer was able to deliver the best overall user experience outside of Apple’s popular iPad and iPad 2.

VERDICT: THE TRANSFORMER IS AN INNOVATIVE DEVICE THAT’S A REAL PLEASURE TO USE OWING TO ITS FLAWLESS IPS-BASED LCD.

DELL STREAK PRICE $817 The Streak is Dell’s version of a widescreen tablet device. Like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab the Dell is based on Google’s Android operating system. The Streak is an elegant device that resembles an oversized smartphone. Dell intends that the device be used in landscape mode and this is obvious because the symbols for the three touch sensitive buttons only make sense when you look at them in landscape. The tablet features a 5-inch capacitive LCD screen that runs at a native resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. The capacitive screen is multi-touch compatible and using it to type e-mails and messages proved quick and easy, provided you use it in landscape. The device itself is quite slick in terms of overall performance. There’s almost no wait time when you summon applications and move from screento-screen, so frustration never crept into our experience. The Streak features two cameras; one 5-megapixel camera with a LED flash and one forward facing camera, which will allow you to make 3G video calls. The camera proved adequate in most scenarios; it returned print worthy photos and thanks to its flash, we were able to grab decent photos even in poor light.

VERDICT: THE STREAK IS AN AMAZING GADGET THAT OFFERS THE FUNCTIONALITY OF A SMARTPHONE WITH ALMOST ALL THE EVERYDAY USABILITY OF A FULL-SIZED TABLET.

RIM BLACKBERRY PLAYBOOK

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

PRICE $572 The PlayBook is RIM's first tablet whereas firms such as Apple and Samsung have already released second generation devices. Given that RIM is best known for its smartphones which are geared more for business use, we were surprised by the PlayBook's entertainment capabilities. The tablet’s speakers produced the loudest and clearest audio we’ve ever heard from a tablet, which made watching movies a treat. The LCD screen is also brilliant in terms of the visuals it creates. Colours look like they're ready to jump right off the screen and there's an undeniable sharpness to everything you see - the PlayBook's screen is easily one of the best we've seen to date. The tablet also sports strong rear and front facing cameras, both of which worked exceptionally well. The PlayBook offers considerable business functionality too, though this depends on whether or not you already have a BlackBerry smartphone, as you have to tether the two together to reap the business benefits. When we tried tethering the two devices together we found it a quick and painless process and this holds true even when the two are disconnected and reconnected abruptly.

VERDICT: THE PLAYBOOK IS A CAPABLE TABLET WHOSE FUNCTIONALITY AND USEFULNESS WILL ONLY INCREASE AS MORE APPS AND GAMES BECOME AVAILABLE.


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48 GROUPTEST

Smartphones

SMART ALECKS WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

With the right smartphone in hand the digital world is literally at your fingertips. With one of these highly advanced handsets you can stay in touch via traditional voice or text messaging or interact with friends and family via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, grab photographs, create mini movies and even edit documents. In this grouptest WINDOWs looks at 12 of the latest smartphones and gives you on the low down on each. Flip over to find out which is for you.


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GROUPTEST 49

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Smartphones


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50 GROUPTEST

Smartphones

ACER LIQUID MINI E310

An attractively priced but imbalanced smartphone PRICE $299 WEB www.acer.ae

PRICE $462 WEB www.acer.ae

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hile Acer is known for its wide range of desktop and notebook machines the company also has a decent selection of smartphones. The Mini E310 on test here is part of the Liquid line and is designed with budget buyers in mind. Carrying a retail price of US $299 this Acer handheld is the least expensive model in this round-up. Studying the phone closely you can see how Acer has kept the price down; the phone ships with a 600MHz processor, is packed with only 512MB of RAM and in hand, it feels like a budget offering with a heavily plastic shell. It doesn’t feel badly put together when you have it in your hand in that it doesn't flex or squeak but it doesn't feel great either. In terms of usability the Acer’s processor and

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

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ACER LIQUID MT

Good on paper but lacking in real life

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memory are sufficient to provide enough fluidity when you’re exploring Android 2.2 but when it comes to apps and games, things go downhill. The more intensive apps and games take quite a bit of time to load and even when they load, you’ll have to deal with waits every now and then – when progressing from one level to another in a game for instance. The Acer's LCD screen is also somewhat basic in that it only runs at a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels and thus makes most images look blocky. Since the LCD isn’t very bright either, looking at photos and videos is far from engaging. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT The Mini 310 is a good option for cash-strapped budget buyers looking to get into the world of Android smartphones.

cer says its Liquid mt is ‘designed to fit perfectly into your life’ and points out that it offers the full Android experience, is social networking ready and packs a unique Acer interface. Like the less expensive Liquid Mini E310 (left) this Acer smartphone relies on the older Android 2.2 OS but despite its substantially higher price tag, it lacked get-up and go even when it came to basic navigation. This was the case when we used Acer’s customdesigned ‘Breeze’ Android skin or when we disabled it and used Froyo’s own default skin. Since the phone packs an 800MHz processor this was a somewhat surprising find. We ultimately chocked the sluggish performance up to the Acer’s limited – considering its price – 512MB of memory. Like the BlackBerry Bold

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9900 and a number of other smartphones featured in this grouptest, battery life isn’t one of the Liquid mt’s strong points. Using the smartphone to make a few voice calls, send messages, watch a YouTube video and grab a couple of pictures, its battery life, by the end of the day, went down from full to quarter. So unless you want to run out of charge completely before lunch the following day, you’ll have to charge the Liquid every night. Another issue that doesn’t help the Liquid mt’s case is the fact that it just looks like a bigger version of the much less expensive Liquid Mini E310 smartphone. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT The Liquid mt is hard to recommend considering its far from fluid performance, basic looks and high retail price.


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Smartphones

HTC CHA CHA

GROUPTEST 51

HTC EVO 3D

Is this your social networking device?

Novel features but do they work in the real world?

PRICE $354 WEB www.htc.com

PRICE $790 WEB www.htc.com

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result the HTC is a dream to work with when it comes to social networking, text messages and e-mails. The ChaCha’s LCD sports touch capabilities and while it generally works well in tandem with the keyboard, it isn’t perfect. The screen is setup to run in landscape mode and while the visuals it produces are sharp, there’s not a lot of screen real estate given that you only have 2.6-inches to work with. Thus, content looks squashed and when it comes to webpages that haven't been optimised for mobile use or even applications like TweetDeck, you’ll find yourself wishing for more space. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT The QWERTY keyboard, price and overall functionality make the ChaCha a very appealing device despite its small LCD screen.

he Evo 3D is a highend HTC smartphone and retails for an end user price of US $790 – the second highest here. Like LG’s Optimus 3D (also reviewed here) this HTC handheld sports a camera that can capture 3D photographs. The Evo’s camera comprises two 5-megapixel image sensors, though if you switch to 2D capture, only the left sensor (the sensor closer to the headphones port) is used. Both image sensors are capable units that can produce shots that are relatively free from noise. Images captured in 3D are captured at a resolution of 2-megapixels and can be saved in either MPO or JPS formats but the problem is that the HTC’s large 4.3-inch screen doesn’t make capturing shots easy. The 3D you see on screen is very variable depending on how far the screen is from

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your eyes and there’s loads of flicker. The latter ensured we had a splitting headache. Another issue is the screen gets washed out in bright sunlight, so shooting is nearly impossible. That said, when we were able to capture 3D images we were reasonably impressed with the level of depth. With a fast processor and large screen we didn’t have massive hopes for the phone’s battery life and indeed, with mixed use the phone’s battery lasted for barely a day. Using the 3D camera aggressively makes matters worse still, we saw battery life fall from 100% to 40% within the span of two hours. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT While the HTC offers quick performance and 3D capabilities, its weak LCD performance and limited battery life can't be ignored.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

TC released the ChaCha alongside the HTC Salsa. Both smartphones were designed with social networking in mind and thus have a dedicated Facebook button but whereas the Salsa offers a touchscreen only, the ChaCha sports a touchscreen as well as a QWERTY keyboard. Out of the box the ChaCha resembles something you’d see from a company such as Nokia, rather than HTC - we can’t remember the last time we saw a HTC smartphone with a keyboard. The QWERTY keyboard is terrific on every front; the keys are responsive and offer great tactile feedback and thanks to a decent amount of space surrounding each key, precision is not a problem regardless of how big or small your fingers are. As a

✪✪✪✪✪


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52 GROUPTEST

Smartphones

LG OPTIMUS 3D

LG OPTIMUS BLACK

Can this 3D gadget justify its price?

An assuming but smooth operator

PRICE $816 WEB www.lg.com/ae

PRICE $490 WEB www.lg.com/ae

✪✪✪✪✪

e’re fans of LG’s Cinema 3D LCD screens so when LG announced its glasses-free Optimus 3D smartphone, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. With dimensions of 68.8 x 128 x 11.9mm LG’s Optimus 3D is the largest smartphone here. But despite its substantial bulk the 168g LG is not as heavy as HTC’s Evo 3D or Nokia’s E7. That said, handling the LG can still be quite a task owing to its dimensions; one handed use while typing for instance proved challenging when using the phone as it’s meant to, in portrait. Using two hands to hold the phone in landscape and touch-type with both thumbs is an easier process, as a result of the large 4.3-inch LCD screen and therefore large on-screen keyboard. In terms of 3D capabilities the Optimus 3D is a

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

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capable device. Its two 5-megapixel image sensors are able to grab decent 3D photographs and movies with very perceivable depth. And unlike HTC’s Evo 3D the LG’s large screen also managed to produce 3D effects without giving us crippling headaches. The 3D was also more stable and free from flicker. Given its substantial screen size and dual-core processor, battery life is quite limited on the Optimus 3D. We had to charge the phone at the end of each day, after average use but using the 3D camera extensively saw much less than a day’s worth of battery life. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT This high-end smartphone offers serious 3D punch but it’s far from a battery life king or a suavelooking superstar.

hey say that looks can be deceiving and indeed LG’s Optimus Black doesn’t grab you by the neck the first time you lay eyes on it. Spend some time with it however and you’ll realise it’s something of a star. The smartphone is spartan design-wise in that its completely black and sports just a precious few buttons located on three of its four borders. The front of the device is dominated by a 4-inch LCD and beneath it, all you have are four capacitive buttons. Measuring just 9.2mm thick the Optimus Black is slimmer than 11 of the 12 smartphones in this test – only Samsung’s Galaxy S II is thinner at 8.49mm thick. While the Black’s physical attributes are impressive we were more enthralled by its screen. The LG is equipped with an IPS screen that runs at a native

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resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. The visuals, while not as potent as what you’d find on Apple’s iPhone 4 or Motorla’s Atrix (also reviewed here), are a cut above most smartphones in this roundup in terms of colour vibrancy and viewing angles. The brilliant visuals combined with a fast processor and ample memory make using the Black a pleasant experience day after day. The LCD also scores points for its super high brightness; running the screen at maximum brightness (700nits) the LG’s brilliant display just wasn’t phased by even very bright sunlight. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT Forgettable looks aside the Optimus Black packs serious hardware, as well as a price tag that’s very reasonable.


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Smartphones

MOTOROLA ATRIX

Possibly the world’s most flexible smartphone PRICE $654 WEB www.motorola.com

Is the E6 a proper business solution?

✪✪✪✪✪

You’ll never find yourself waiting around for more than a few seconds no matter what you’re doing, which makes using the Motorola a very pleasant experience. The smartphone delivers the final knockout punch with its exceptional LCD. Measuring 4-inches its reasonably large but since it runs at a resolution of 960 x 540 pixels, your eyes are in for a visual feast. If you don’t mind spending extra cash the Atrix can be turned into a netbook when it is paired with a dock known as the ‘Lapdock’. The dock offers a laptop-sized keyboard and an 11.5-inch display along with an additional battery. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT Thanks to its solid hardware, great design and useful extra features the Atrix is easily one of the best Android smartphones money can buy.

ike all the phones from Nokia's ‘E’ series, the handsome E6 is designed for business buyers. From a design standpoint the E6 looks similar to the older E71 but there is a crucial difference; whereas the E71 only offered a QWERTY keyboard for interaction, the E6 sports a 2.46-inch capacitive colour touchscreen as well. The E6 then is quite similar to the HTC ChaCha and RIM’s BlackBerry Bold 9900. Thanks to this dual interface approach using the E6 is a smooth and intuitive affair. Like the E7 (also reviewed in this grouptest) the E6 runs Symbian and coupled with the 680MHz CPU and 256MB of memory, the E6 is a quick phone when it comes to most tasks. Unfortunately, when you shift into extras such as apps, that’s when the E6 begins to stutter.

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Opening the Ovi Store app in itself takes about 22 seconds and the apps and games that we downloaded took much the same time or a noticeably longer time to appear on screen. Despite being a businessfocused device the E6 sports an 8-megapixel image sensor too. Like some other Nokia devices we’ve tested the E6’s sensor is hooked up to a fixed focus lens and this, unfortunately, is the camera’s other Achilles heel. Since there’s no auto focus most of the images we took appeared slightly blurry, as even minute hand movements affected the photo's sharpness. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT Though the E6 is well-priced and looks great, its camera is flawed and overall performance isn’t quite what it should be.

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NOKIA E6 PRICE $353 WEB www.nokia.ae

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otorola refers to its Atrix as ‘The world’s most powerful smartphone’ and while we think that’s a bit of a stretch, there’s plenty on offer to grab your attention. In terms of design and aesthetics the Atrix is a handsome, if somewhat common looker. Build quality is bulletproof while the back cover feels great in hand and sports an interesting carbon fiber finish. The only design element that bothers us has to do with the position and orientation of the power/ lock button. The button is, firstly, slanted and because it’s positioned on the back of the smartphone, rather than on the border, it always required a slight feel around to find where it is and never felt natural to press. With its fast 1GHz dual core processor and 1GB of RAM the Atrix is a hotrod.

GROUPTEST 53


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54 GROUPTEST

Smartphones

NOKIA E7

RIM BLACKBERRY BOLD 9900

Is the E7 a true Communicator?

The QWERTY smartphone of the moment

PRICE $531 WEB www.nokia.ae

PRICE $708 WEB www.blackberry.com

✪✪✪✪✪

he E7 is Nokia’s current high-end business device and it sits just above the N8, which is the firm’s high-end, media-optimised handheld. The E7 then is essentially the current Communicator. As far as aesthetics are concerned the E7 does no wrong. While the phone is far from the most expensive device on test here, it is easily the best looking. It feels great in hand too with its well-finished, contoured body and spot-on weight of 179g. And as with most Nokia devices the E7 also feels like it’s virtually indestructible. While we were worried about dropping every smartphone in this grouptest, the E7 feels so solid and well built that we felt that even if we did drop it, absolutely nothing would happen. Accessing the E7’s keyboard is a bit of a hassle however. The keyboard is

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

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hidden beneath the 4-inch LCD but even after using the phone for weeks, we were never able to comfortably access the keyboard without looking like we weren’t struggling. The keyboard is also a hassle to use because the top row of keys sits too close to the edge of the LCD. As a result thumb typing while holding the phone with both hands is a bit uncomfortable. Another stumbling block is Symbian, which when compared to Android, Bada and iOS is downright archaic and out of date. That said, the E7 is a fast operator and managed to last for three days on a single charge. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT While the E7 packs some decent hardware and is built like a tank, its OS is just too much of a stumbling block in today’s world.

hen we first reviewed RIM’s BlackBery Bold 9900 in our September issue we said it was the best BlackBerry ever. This month we reckon it’s easily one of the best smartphones on the market, period. BlackBerry OS 7 is a massive step up from its predecessors and coupled with the Bold’s fast CPU, 2.8-inch touchscreen and full QWERTY keyboard, it is the easiest phone to use on a day-to-day basis. Typing text messages, e-mails, Tweets etc is a quick and precise process thanks to the phone’s reasonably large and responsive keys. With the 9900’s keyboard RIM has managed to find the perfect balance of resistance and softness, so the keys feel premium but don’t require that you make a serious effort to press them. The LCD screen is without

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flaw as well. It doesn't get washed out in bright light and thanks to its 640 x 480 pixel resolution, images, video and text are sharp and generally look great. The screen is super responsive as well and this combined with the fact that the OS responds to touch input makes the Bold a great device to interact with. Battery life is the only issue with this BlackBerry device. While the phone has a reasonably large battery, using the BlackBerry Messenger app intermittently and making an average amount of phone calls, will see the battery almost completely flat by the end of the day. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT The Bold 9900 is the best smartphone we’ve seen all year; it looks great, feels premium and is a great phone to use everyday.


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Smartphones

RIM BLACKBERRY TORCH 9860

GROUPTEST 55

SAMSUNG GALAXY S II

A strong stab at the full touchscreen market

One of the most potent smartphones you can buy

PRICE $599 WEB www.blackberry.com

PRICE $708 WEB www.samsung.com/ae

he BlackBerry Torch 9860 is RIM’s first attempt at a fullyfledged touchscreen smartphone. Does it make a strong case for itself? The Torch packs a 3.7-inch touchscreen, which runs at a native resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. The screen, in terms of physical size, is the largest RIM has ever fitted to one of its phones and combined with the decent resolution, superb brightness and vibrant colours, makes the Torch feel very polished. The smartphone feels quite premium in hand too, thanks in part to its weight of 136g – the Torch feels just right when you hold it. The screen size and resolution ensure there’s plenty of space for the interface to appear on and when it comes to apps, games and web pages, there’s more than enough space on offer to work

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freely with. The screen is great to work on as well, when it comes to typing though when it’s in portrait stance, the on-screen keyboard is a bit to cramped for our liking. We managed far better typing speeds and accuracy when we held the smartphone in landscape and had slightly more spaced out virtual keys. Battery life is, unfortunately, still an area that RIM has yet to improve on. While we didn’t overly stress the Torch 9860 with excessive WiFi or camera use, we found that we had to charge the handset after a day of use, or risk it running completely flat by lunch time the next day. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT BlackBerry’s fully-fledged touchscreen smartphone is a great little device with just a few niggles holding back its potential.

his is not the first time we’ve crossed paths with Samsung’s recently released Galaxy S II smartphone. We first looked at this handheld in our previous issue and thought it was a top-notch device. Is that still the case in this company? In a word, yes. The Galaxy S II starts off on the right foot with its premium looks. The phone while sporting a relatively large frame measures just 8.49mm thick, which makes it the slimmest smartphone in this grouptest. The Samsung’s screen is also one of the best in the business. With 4.3-inches of real estate and a native resolution of 480 x 800 pixels the screen bangs out super-sized and superdetailed visuals that could only be described as eyecandy. The phone’s fast 1.2GHz dual-core processor offers brilliant performance

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too; load times are for the most part non-existent and in terms of zipping around the OS, the phone is lightning-quick. If you like to grab photos the Samsung has you covered on that front as well thanks to its high-resolution 8-megapixel rear-facing camera. The photos we grabbed were packed with detail, the colours were spot-on and, thanks to the included flash, you can capture pictures even when there isn’t sufficient light. The only issue with this smartphone is that, when you really get intense with your usage, you can burn through battery life in less than a day. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT A responsive, well-designed and feature-packed smartphone that suffers only because of its limited battery life.

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56 GROUPTEST

Smartphones

SMARTPHONES

ACER

ACER

HTC

Liquid Mini E310

Liquid mt

ChaCha

Price

$299

$462

$354

Web

www.acer.ae

www.acer.ae

www.htc.com

Android 2.2

Android 2.2

Android 2.3

Processor

ARM II 600 MHz

Qualcomm 800MHz

800MHz

Memory / Storage

512MB + 512MB

512MB + 512MB

512MB + 512MB

Up to 32GB micro-SD

Up to 32GB micro-SD

Up to 32GB micro-SD

3.2-inch

3.6-inch

2.6-inch

320 x 480 pixels

480 x 800 pixels

480 x 320 pixels

802.11b/g support

Y

Y

Y

3G support

N

Y

Y

Infrared

N

N

N

Bluetooth 2.1

Bluetooth 2.1

Bluetooth 3.0

Keyboard

N

N

Y

Keypad

N

N

N

Touchscreen

Y

Y

Y

Cradle

N

N

N

Rear camera

5-megapixels

5-megapixels

5-megapixels

Front camera

N

N

VGA

GPS support

Y

Y

Y

MP3 playback

Y

Y

Y

Push e-mail

Y

Y

Y

57.5 x 110.4 x 37mm

63 x 115 x 13mm

64.6 x 114.4 x 10.7mm

PC Interface

USB

USB

USB

Weight

108g

136g

124g

One-year

One-year

One-year

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Features

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Value

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Overall

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MANUFACTURER Product Name

MAIN SPECIFICATIONS Operating system

Expansion slots Screen size Screen resolution CONNECTIVITY

Bluetooth FEATURES

OTHER

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Dimensions (WxHxD)

Warranty SCORES

Performance


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GROUPTEST 57

Smartphones

SMARTPHONES

MANUFACTURER

HTC

LG

LG

Product Name

Evo 3D

Optimus 3D

Optimus Black

Price

$790

$816

$490

Web

www.htc.com

www.lg.com/ae

www.lg.com/ae

Android 2.3

Android 2.2

Android 2.2

1.2GHz dual core

Dual core ARM Cortex A9 1GHz

Cortex A8 1GHz

1GB + 1GB

512MB + 8GB

512MB + 1GB

Up to 32GB micro-SD

Up to 32GB micro-SD

Up to 32GB micro-SD

4.3-inch

4.3-inch

4.0-inch

540 x 960 pixels

480 x 800 pixels

480 x 800 pixels

Y

Y

Y

MAIN SPECIFICATIONS Operating system Processor Memory / Storage Expansion slots Screen size Screen resolution CONNECTIVITY 802.11b/g support 3G support

Y

Y

Y

Infrared

N

N

N

Bluetooth 3.0

Bluetooth 2.1

Bluetooth 2.1

Keyboard

N

N

N

Keypad

N

N

N

Touchscreen

Y

Y

Y

Cradle

N

N

N

Rear camera

Two 5-megapixel sensors

Two 5-megapixel sensors

5-megapixels

Front camera

1.3-megapixels

1.3-megapixels

2-megapixels

GPS support

Y

Y

Y

MP3 playback

Y

Y

Y

Push e-mail

Y

Y

Y

65 x 126 x 12.05mm

68.8 x 128 x 11.9mm

64 x 122 x 9.2mm

PC Interface

USB

USB

USB

Weight

170g

168g

114g

One-year

One-year

One-year

Performance

----

----

----

Features

----

----

-----

Value

----

----

----

Overall

----

----

----

Bluetooth FEATURES

Dimensions (WxHxD)

Warranty SCORES

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

OTHER


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58 GROUPTEST

Smartphones

SMARTPHONES

MOTOROLA

NOKIA

NOKIA

Product Name

Atrix

E6

E7

Price

$654

$353

$531

Web

www.motorola.com

www.nokia.ae

www.nokia.ae

Android 2.2

Symbian Anna

Symbian Anna

1GHz Dual Core

680MHz

ARM II 680MHz

1GB + 16GB

256MB + 8GB

256MB + 16GB

Up to 32GB micro-SD

Up to 32GB micro-SD

Up to 32GB micro-SD

4.0-inch

2.46-inch

4.0-inch

960 x 540 pixels

640 x 480 pixels

640 x 360 pixels

802.11b/g support

Y

Y

Y

3G support

Y

Y

Y

Infrared

N

N

N

Bluetooth 2.1

Bluetooth 3.0

Bluetooth 3.0

Keyboard

N

Y

Y

Keypad

N

N

N

Touchscreen

Y

Y

Y

MANUFACTURER

MAIN SPECIFICATIONS Operating system Processor Memory / Storage Expansion slots Screen size Screen resolution CONNECTIVITY

Bluetooth FEATURES

Cradle

N

N

N

Rear camera

5-megapixels

8-megapixels

8-megapixels

Front camera

VGA

0.3-megapixels

0.3-megapixels

GPS support

Y

Y

Y

MP3 playback

Y

Y

Y

Push e-mail

Y

Y

Y

63.5 x 117.7 x 10.95mm

59 x 115.5 x 10.5mm

62.4 x 123.7 x 13.6mm

PC Interface

USB

USB

USB

Weight

134g

132g

179g

One-year

One-year

One-year

----

---

----

-----

---

----

Value

----

----

----

Overall

----

---

----

OTHER

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Dimensions (WxHxD)

Warranty SCORES

Performance Features


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GROUPTEST 59

Smartphones

SMARTPHONES

RIM

RIM

SAMSUNG

BlackBerry Bold 9900

BlackBerry Torch 9860

Galaxy S II

Price

$708

$599

$708

Web

www.blackberry.com

www.blackberry.com

www.samsung.com/ae

Operating system

BlackBerry OS 7

BlackBerry OS 7

Android 2.3

Processor

QC 8655 1.2GHz

QC 8655 1.2GHz

1.2 GHz Samsung Exynos dual-core

Memory / Storage

768MB + 8GB eMMC

768MB + 4GB eMMC

1GB + 16GB

Expansion slots

Up to 32GB micro-SD

Up to 32GB micro-SD

Up to 32GB micro-SD

2.8-inch

3.7-inch

4.3-inch

640 x 480 pixels

800 x 480 pixels

480 x 800 pixels

802.11b/g support

Y

Y

Y

3G support

Y

Y

Y

Infrared

N

N

N

Bluetooth 2.1

Bluetooth 2.1

Bluetooth 3.0

Keyboard

Y

N

N

Keypad

N

N

N

Touchscreen

Y

Y

Y

Cradle

N

N

N

Rear camera

5-megapixels

5-megapixels

8-megapixels

Front camera

N

N

2-megapixels

GPS support

Y

Y

Y

MP3 playback

Y

Y

Y

Push e-mail

Y

Y

Y

66 x 115 x 10.5mm

62 x 120 x 11.5mm

66.1 x 125.3 x 8.49mm

PC Interface

USB

USB

USB

Weight

130g

136g

116g

One-year

One-year

One-year

Performance

-----

----

----

Features

-----

----

-----

Value

----

----

----

Overall

-----

----

----

MANUFACTURER Product Name

MAIN SPECIFICATIONS

Screen size Screen resolution CONNECTIVITY

Bluetooth FEATURES

Dimensions (WxHxD)

Warranty SCORES

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

OTHER


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60 GROUPTEST

Smartphones

EDITOR'S CHOICE RIM BLACKBERRY BOLD 9900

electing a Best Performance winner proved a complicated task because there were some very competent candidates to choose from. Motorola’s Atrix, RIM’s BlackBerry Bold 9900 and Samsung’s Galaxy S II were all favourites to win but ultimately RIM’s fantastic BlackBerry Bold 9900 walked away with the prize. Perhaps the biggest reason the Bold walked away victorious is because rather than offering either a touchscreen or keyboard driven interface, the Bold’s hybrid touchscreen and

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

S

keyboard approach made it the most usable device in this round-up. Everyone who got hold of the 9900 said that it felt the most natural to use because while you could rely on a keyboard for texting or updating your Facebook profile, you can reach out and touch options that you’d otherwise have to rely on arrow keys for. The Bold is also a stylish device and appears appropriately premium. Our only complaint relates to its battery life but this is far from a crippling block - all you need to do is charge it every night.

HTC CHA CHA

he criteria for deciding on a smartphone worthy of our Value prize was extensive; we wanted our winner to pack great looks, reasonably strong hardware, deliver a solid user experience and carry an end user price of less than US $400. Even with this criteria we were left with no less than three potential winners but ultimately HTC’s ChaCha delivered the goods. Like the Bold 9900 and Nokia E6, the ChaCha is something of a hybrid that offers a QWERTY keyboard as well as a touchscreen. In

T

this grouptest we found that smartphones we liked the best were, more often than not, these hybrids because they offer the best of both worlds and just let you use whatever you're comfortable with, depending on what you’re doing. Carrying a retail price of $354 the HTC is aggressively priced given that it packs decent hardware and is an Android 2.3-powered device. The ChaCha’s Facebookspecific functionality while not spectacular is handy and we’re sure is something that hardcore social networking users will appreciate.

HOW WE TESTED Each smartphone in this grouptest was tested in turn on a subjective basis; we simply used each device for a period of two weeks - as if it were our own - and then compared and contrasted notes. This enabled us to compare each phone in terms of performance, features, usability and, of course, price. Performance, features and usability went almost hand-in-hand in most cases, as we looked at how fast a phone responded to commands and, equally, how useable it was in terms of its design and interface. At the same time we also examined features such as GPS support and WiFi to find out whether these were actually useable features or merely text decoration on a specification sheet. If a phone offered strong performance and a good selection of features for what we thought was a fair price, it walked away with a high value score. If however we found a phone had average features but was still quite expensive, we gave it a lower value score.


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19 D E A 3 User Pack for

ANTIVIRUS | ANTISPYWARE | FIREWALL | ANTISPAM | PARENTAL CONTROL Visit us at GITEX 2011 - Hall 1 : F1-1

Call: +971 4 375 4052


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62 GROUPTEST

Point and shoot cameras

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

HOT SHOTS Point and shoot cameras will let you grab photographs whenever and wherever you want with little or no hassle. These cameras have been optimised so you can just whip them out, point and then grab whatever subject interests you. They are ideal then for users interested in capturing their memories but arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t interested in learning the ins and outs of photography, as one would have to when using a pricier SLR camera. Here WINDOWS looks at six of the latest point and shoot digital models so read on to find out how they performedâ&#x20AC;Ś


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GROUPTEST 63

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Point and shoot cameras


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64 GROUPTEST

Point and shoot cameras

CANON POWERSHOT SX 150 IS

Retro looks but modern features

PRICE $272 WEB www.canon-emirates.ae

PRICE $1,361 WEB www.finepix-x100.com

✪✪✪✪✪

he Powershot SX 150 IS is the successor to the SX130 IS and priced at US $272 it is the least expensive camera on trial here. Like the Samsung and Olympus models, this Powershot lacks a viewfinder, which means you have to rely on the LCD screen to frame your photos. Given that the Canon’s LCD doesn’t wash out, even in bright sunlight, this isn’t a worry. You don’t have to be a professional to get the most out of the SX 150 IS thanks to its automatic shoot modes and on-camera picture-grabbing tutorials, which conveniently appear when you select the ‘Easy’ setting. If you’re an experienced photographer, the Canon also boasts a full manual mode, so you can take complete control of your photos. Before we even began

T

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

FUJIFILM FINEPIX X100

A photo-fantastic value-buy

✪✪✪✪✪

taking photos the Powershot grabbed our attention owing to its red exterior – the SX 150 is easily the most attractive camera in this test but weighing 304g, it is also the third heaviest model here. The photographs regardless of what we shot - produced by the Powershot were brilliant in terms of colour vibrancy yet at the same time, looked quite natural and matched the real world look of the original subject. The camera offers 12x optical zoom, which combined with the image stabiliser system means you don’t have to have steady-as-a-rock hands for decent ranged-photos. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT The SX 150 is a stylish point and shoot camera that produces brilliant photos and is very attractively priced.

ujifilm’s FinePix X100 was first shown off at the Photokina 2010 exhibition with the company claiming this camera was ‘Developed without compromise’. The first thing that hits you about the X100 is its retro design and far from sleek dimensions. The size combined with a weight of 450g makes the camera a bit of a handful but the good news is that the FinePix is packed with superb tricks. The camera, while being classed as a point and shoot, actually sports a APS-C sensor, which is normally found in SLR cameras aimed at professionals and advanced amateurs. Thanks to this the X100 blew most of the other cameras away in terms of image quality. Photographs shot at even high ISO settings were detailed and free from

F

noise. On the opposite side of the spectrum pictures shot at low ISO were also flawless and colourful. The only issue is the Fujifilm isn’t what you’d call a fast or flexible worker. After you’ve shot an image in RAW mode the camera can take a noticeable amount of time to write the image data to media and while it’s doing this, it prevents you from adjusting settings such as ISO. The Fujifilm's autofocus system is also somewhat slow to work with and doesn’t always pickup on what you want to focus on, which means you can end up with blurred photos. Not ideal given the high price. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT If the X100’s high retail price, niggles and considerable bulk and weight don’t bother you, this camera is ideal for those after superb photos.


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Point and shoot cameras

OLYMPUS SZ-30MR

OLYMPUS TOUGH TG-810

Your distant photography partner

One tough cracker

PRICE $544 WEB www.olympus-me.com

PRICE $544 WEB www.olympus-me.com

✪✪✪✪✪

O

✪✪✪✪✪

uncoordinated. The menu system, like its identically priced cousin (right), is dated but functional. That said there aren’t as many manual mode options as we’d have liked. In terms of photo quality the SZ-30MR was a reasonable performer. We noticed that certain bright colours had just a bit too much bloom and there was a bit too much noise correction on most photos, which reduced overall detail. The camera’s autofocus mechanism is also somewhat noisy and makes a sort of odd noise that sounds very similar to a Geiger counter when it detects radiation. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT A handsome point and shoot model that’s easy enough to travel with and offers decent photo quality for the most part.

s you might have guessed from the Olympus’ telling name, it is designed to survive rugged use. Out of the box this is obvious; the camera exudes toughness from every angle, even when you take a closer look at perhaps its weakest point, its LCD. Even the process you have to go through to get to the battery and memory slot makes you feel that this camera is bulletproof. Olympus says the camera is water-proof (10m), shockproof (2m), crush-proof (100kg) and freeze-proof (-10C). While we didn’t perform a drop test the camera proved itself competent in terms of Olympus’ other claims. It survived being dropped into a swimming pool, worked after being shoved into a freezer with no problems with its viewfinder and lens and was ready for action

A

even after Windows Editor Jason Saundalkar sat on it (Jason weighs 83kg). The camera's interface is dated in terms of looks when compared to the other models participating here but it is still functional. The buttons however may prove to be an annoyance for those with large hands. On the photo front the Tough TG-810 produced great photos with natural colours. We noticed only minor over saturation of colours on one occasion and images are printacceptable even at an ISO setting of 400. On-screen, noise only becomes a stumbling block at the maximum 1600 ISO setting. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT If you’re the clumsy type or you need a point and shoot because you work in rugged conditions, there’s no better option.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

lympus says its SZ-30MR is ‘The ultimate travel companion’. Is there truth to this claim? Weighing just 226g the Olympus gets off to a good start, as it is the third lightest camera on trial here. The SZ-30MR also sports surprisingly compact dimensions considering its 24x zoom capabilities, which means you can stuff it into trouser and jacket pockets, as well as purses without much difficulty. The only issue here is that the camera relies on a lithiumion rechargeable battery. Had it been able to use ‘AA’ batteries like Canon’s Powershot SX 150 IS, it would have been even more flexible on trips. The SZ-30MR looks handsome and is easy to handle thanks to its sculpted body - this is not a camera you’re likely to drop unless you’re seriously

GROUPTEST 65


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Point and shoot cameras

PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-FZ150

SAMSUNG ST700

A point and shoot that needs to go on a diet

Loads of features, iffy execution

PRICE $517 WEB www.panasonic.ae

PRICE $408 WEB www.samsung.com/ae

✪✪✪✪✪

P

✪✪✪✪✪

detail-sapping noise and noise-correction. The photos were also sharp and colours while not as vibrant as those produced by Canon’s Powershot SX 150 IS (also reviewed in this grouptest) were still quite eye-catching on-screen and accurate to the original subject. The only real issue with the DMC-FZ150 is that it’s a bit of a chore to work with. While the interface and controls are intuitive to use and logically laid out, the camera itself is rather bulky for a point and shoot. Weighing 534g it is also quite heavy – it weighs more than the two Olympus cameras reviewed in this grouptest combined. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT Given its capabilities the Panasonic is reasonably priced but considering its size and weight, it may be difficult to live with on the go.

n its site Samsung says you can ‘Put yourself in the right frame with the dual LCD display ST700’. Putting the camera through its paces we agree with Samsung’s statement. The second LCD (positioned on the camera’s front) makes framing pictures a breeze, when you’re shooting photos of yourself or grabbing photos when you’re in a group. If you want a camera for nights out and other such events the ST700 fits the bill. The Samsung is packed with loads of other nifty options too. It boasts a ‘Smart Auto’ setting for instance that automatically sets up the camera for the best shots, depending on what you’re aiming at. The ST700 can do this with movies as well, thanks to its ‘Smart Movie’ option. There are other options that make life easier too; unlike

O

most of the cameras here the Samsung boasts a builtin image editor that allows you to modify brightness, contrast, apply filters, correct red-eye and more. While a loaded camera the Samsung's touchscreen and interface retard usability. Applying options requires that you make a pronounced stab at the LCD and because there are so many icons for individual features, you’ve got to swipe across the screen to get to where you need to go. As a result the Samsung feels like a smartphone but the biggest problem is that the screen washes out in bright light, which makes using it impossible. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT While the ST700 is a capable camera that can output decent photos, its touchscreen interface and high price detract from its appeal.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

anasonic refers to its Lumix DMC-FZ150 as a ‘High speed hunter’ on its website. Putting this Lumix to the test, it stood up to those claims. The autofocus system is incredibly quick and accurate and when shooting using ‘RAW’ mode, the camera managed to produce shots within a second. Only after we shot about 10 photos in RAW did the camera’s speed reduce to about two and a half seconds per shot - this is an incredible performance. The Panasonic is also capable of 12fps Burst Shooting and while it can’t quite match a pricier SLR it is still quite impressive. Beyond outright speed the camera’s photographs were also quite decent. Shooting in environments with poor ambient lighting with a fast ISO speed produced great photos that were relatively free from

GROUPTEST 67


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68 GROUPTEST

Point and shoot cameras

DIGITAL CAMERAS

MANUFACTURER

CANON

FUJIFILM

OLYMPUS

Powershot SX 150 IS

FinePix X100

SZ-30MR

Price

$272

$1,361

$544

Web

www.canon-emirates.ae

www.finepix-x100.com

www.olympus-me.com

Image Sensor

14.1-megapixels

12.3-megapixels

16.8-megapixels

Sensor Size

1/2.3 type CCD

23.6mm × 15.8mm CMOS

1/2.3-inch CMOS

Optical Zoom

12x

Manual

24x (wide)

Face Detection

Y

N

Y

Viewfinder

N

Y

N

LCD screen

Y

Y

Y

Touchscreen

N

N

N

Self timer

Y

Y

Y

Video capture

Y

Y

Y

Sound capture

Y

Y

Y

Onboard memory

N

20MB

59MB

SD\SDHC\SDXC

SD\SDHC\SDXC

SD\SDHC\SDXC

Y

Y

Y

304g

450g

226g

Y

Y

Y

One-year

One-year

One-year

----

----

----

Features

-----

----

----

Value

-----

---

----

Overall

-----

----

----

Product

MAIN SPECIFICATIONS

FEATURES

Memory slots PictBridge

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Weight OTHERS

Tripod Mount Warranty SCORES

Performance


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Point and shoot cameras

GROUPTEST 69

DIGITAL CAMERAS

MANUFACTURER

OLYMPUS

PANASONIC

SAMSUNG

Product

Tough TG-810

Lumix DMC-FZ150

ST700

Price

$544

$517

$408

Web

www.olympus-me.com

www.panasonic.ae

www.samsung.com/ae

Image Sensor

14.5-megapixels

12.8-megapixels

16.4-megapixels

Sensor Size

1/2.3-inch CCD

1/2.3-inch CMOS

1/2.33-inch CCD

Optical Zoom

5x (wide)

24x

5X

Face Detection

Y

Y

Y

Viewfinder

N

Y

N

LCD screen

Y

Y

Y

Touchscreen

N

N

Y

Self timer

Y

Y

Y

Video capture

Y

Y

Y

Sound capture

Y

Y

Y

19.5MB

70MB

9.7MB

SD\SDHC\SDXC

SD\SDHC\SDXC

MicroSD\MicroSDHC

Y

Y

Y

220g

534g

134g

Y

Y

Y

One-year

One-year

One-year

Performance

-----

----

----

Features

-----

----

-----

Value

----

----

---

Overall

-----

----

----

MAIN SPECIFICATIONS

Onboard memory Memory slots PictBridge Weight OTHERS

Tripod Mount Warranty SCORES

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

FEATURES


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70 GROUPTEST

Point and shoot cameras

EDITOR'S CHOICE OLYMPUS TOUGH TG-810

fter considering each camera at length the team finally decided that the Olympus Tough TG-810 was our Best Performance winner. The Olympus is such an attractive camera because, for starters, you don’t have to baby it. If you work in rugged environments or you’re clumsy, don't worry, the Olympus just isn’t phased by most things.

A

The TG-810 is also feature rich; the camera will automatically switch to shooting in its underwater mode when its immersed. The photographs are also brilliant; photos shot with ISO settings between 80 and 400 are clean enough that they can be printed though, with a little touch up, you can just as easily print photos that have been shot at ISO 800.

CANON SX150 IS

electing a camera worthy of our Best Value prize was an easy task because not only was Canon’s Powershot SX 150 IS the least expensive model, it also produced the second best photographs here. The Powershot is a slick operator right from the getgo. The camera boots in a second and is ready to shoot after another. The

S

interface and controls are intuitive and logically placed so getting comfortable is a piece of cake. Overall photo quality is great too and the 12x zoom lens is also unbeatable when it comes to capturing subjects at range. This is thanks in part to the built-in image stabilisation systems, which ensure you wind-up with focused shots even if you have unsteady hands.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

HOW WE TESTED Each of the six cameras in this grouptest was tested in a subjective manner, since there aren’t any benchmarks or scores that could effectively distinguish one camera from another in the real world. We tested each camera in turn for a week to gauge the quality of their photographs, how easy they were to use, what features they offered and, last but not least, examined how well they were built. To get an accurate idea of a camera’s photo quality we took a number of shots at different times of the day while using the various shoot modes on offer (including using the camera in full manual mode where possible). In manual mode we paid close attention to how much noise was visible on photos when we shot at low, medium and high ISO speeds. Cameras that produced photos without much visible noise were graded higher than cameras whose photos showed noticeable noise. We looked at whether colours were natural and matched the original subject too. We also paid close attention to how usable a camera was over our test period. A camera that offered an easy to handle body, featured logically placed controls and an intuitive interface walked away with positively influenced performance scores. (It’s pointless if a camera can take great photos but is impossibly difficult to use.)


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Reviews

HOT KIT 71

74 PRODUCT OF THE MONTH

Awarded to outstanding Awarded to the most products that have excelled in outstanding product we've both value and performance. encountered during the month.

CONTENTS 74

Aviiq Portable Charging Station dock

74

D-Link HD Media Router 1000 router

75

Linksys X2000 Wireless N ADSL2+ Modem router

75

MSI CX640 notebook

77

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard

77

Sony VPL-SX125 short throw projector

78

Trend Micro Smart SurďŹ ng for Mac

78

WD My Passport for Mac

75

77 WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Reviews


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72 HOT KIT

Reviews

HOTKIT

WINLABS

TESTING EXPLAINED performance when dealing with old and new game titles. As H.A.W.X and World in Conflict are playable games, they are real world tests and so give a more accurate view of a GPU's performance. While Heaven v2.0 is a sort of synthetic test, it is still very accurate in terms of reporting on a GPU's performance. Each graphics card is tested at three different test resolutions; 1024 x 768 pixels, 1600 x 1200 pixels and, finally, 1920 x 1200 pixels. All of the games are run on the maximum settings with the exception of full screen anti-aliasing, which we leave at 4x setting. Then, depending on the price and positioning of the graphics card, performance scores are awarded based on how well, or not, it has performed at a specific resolution. For example, low end or entry level graphics cards are graded mostly on their performance at 1024 x 768 pixels whereas expensive, ultra-high-end cards are graded based on their high resolution figures.

HARD DISK TESTING

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST is the definitive Buyers’ Guide for PC and consumer electronics products in the region. We strenuously test products in our dedicated Dubai WinLab in order to highlight the very best models for our readers. Here we explain just how we test new kit in order to offer truly authoritative and objective recommendations, helping us keep WINDOWS the region’s most relevant technology magazine.

CPU TESTING

GRAPHIC CARD TESTING

Testing processors is a time consuming process because there are a number of different tests, each of which thoroughly stresses a CPU. Depending on the CPU that has to be tested, we construct a testbed using a compatible motherboard. Common components that we test all CPUs with are 6GB of DDR3 memory, a Zotac GeForce GTX 480 AMP! Edtion GPU and a Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1Tbyte hard drive. All benchmarks are run at 1024 x 768 pixels and we employ the following benchmark tests; Cinebench 10.5, PCMark 2005 CPU and memory tests, 3DMark 2003 and 2005 CPU tests and POV-Ray to test raw processing performance. To test multimedia performance, we run a Lame 3.97 WAV to MP3 encode test, a TMPGENC video encode, MPEG to DivX conversion test in addition to running F.E.A.R and World in Conflict. With the exception of POV-Ray and all the encode tests, higher numbers mean a faster processor and thus a higher performance score.

Our graphics card testbed comprises an Intel Core i7 940 quad-core processor that runs at 2.93GHz, a Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD4 motherboard, 6GB of Kingston HyperX DDR3 memory, Western Digital’s 300GB Raptor X SATA hard drive and a 750-watt PC Power and Cooling power supply. All of these components are housed in Thermaltake’s Armour+ chassis and we use the 64-bit edition of Microsoft’s Windows 7 as the machine's operating system. To test a graphics card, we fit the card to this PC and connect it to our Viewsonic VX2835wm 28-inch LCD screen. The screen offers a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels, which means it allows us to test graphics cards at all the major resolutions. To test graphics cards, we use three specific benchmarks; Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X, Heaven v2.0 and World in Conflict. Both HA.W.X and World in Conflict use DirectX 10 rendering technology, whilst the Heaven benchmark uses DirectX 11. This enables us to gauge a graphics card’s

To test hard drives, we use our graphics card testbed. The drive in question is hooked up to the motherboard’s Serial ATA II controller (or USB or Firewire port if it’s an external hard drive) and tested using a combination of real world and synthetic benchmark tests. For internal hard drives, we rely on a copy test to ascertain real world performance. The test folder is stored on a SSD drive, ensuring that this drive won’t bottleneck the drive being tested and, to gauge write performance, we time how long it takes for the 4GB folder to be transferred from the SSD drive to the test drive. To test read performance, we do the opposite and time how long it takes for the test drive to transfer the data to the SSD drive. Lower times in both cases equate to better performance. Next we call into action HD Tune Pro, a synthetic benchmark. This tests a drive in terms of its access time, average read and write performance, burst speed and CPU utilisation. In terms of access time and CPU use, lower numbers are better. With external drives we use the same real world read/write test methodology but instead of using a 4GB folder only, we also test the drive with a single 238MB test file. Again, lower times are better.

OTHER PRODUCTS Products such as MP3 players, PMPs, mobile phone etc are tested for a period of one or two weeks. During this time we use the products as someone who purchased it would and this helps us gauge performance, features and value for money. In most cases the brunt of the testing is subjective and the testing always focuses on real world usefulness.


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PORTABLE CHARGING STATION

74 HOT KIT

AVIIQ PORTABLE

CHARGING STATION Great for gadget freaks PRICE $87 WEB www.aviiq.com

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MEDIA ROUTER

PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Reviews

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SPECIFICATIONS Zip-up nylon bag, three USB 2.0 charging ports, one data/charge capable USB

D-LINK HD MEDIA

ROUTER 1000

Range isn’t this router’s best feature PRICE $136 WEB www.dlink.com

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PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS Wireless-N technology, one Gigabit WAN port, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, one SD-card

viiq’s Portable Charging Station is designed to help you charge multiple devices and handle the cable madness with ease. The hub has a 3+1 USB charging block setup, which can be used to charge four USB powered devices at the same time. This includes devices such as your smartphone, MP3 player, tablet and maybe even a digital camera. The fourth port can also transfer data to your PC. All you have to do is connect your device to the hub and connect the retractable USB cable at the top of the hub to your computer. Hooking our smartphone up to this port the Portable Charging Station worked as advertised; our BlackBerry

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port, retractable PC USB connection port, integrated travel charger with 15-Watts capacity, 336g.

Bold 9900 handheld charged while we siphoned off a few images we captured earlier in the day. We only wondered why Aviiq didn’t setup every port to allow data transfer capabilities. The device is definitely a space saver and is incredibly useful because you don’t need an entire extension box solely to charge all your various gadgets. Since everything is connected via USB you don’t even have to look for multiple adapters for different charging heads for all your different devices. The adapter can provide 15-Watts of charging power which is more than sufficient to charge all the connected devices fairly quickly. It is also great to travel with owing to its compact, zip-up bag style design. VERDICT A handy travel companion that will let you charge and sync your gadgets with relative ease.

-Link’s HD Media Router 1000 (DIR657) is designed for users who don’t need modem functionality for Internet access (Etisalat eLife for example) and are interested in being able to share their web access, HD content and play games anywhere in their homes. Retailing for US $136 the DIR-657 is expensive when you consider that Linksys’ X2000 (reviewed on page 75) offers a built-in ADSL2+ modem and features 802.11n WiFi support and yet retails for just $122. Like the Linksys the D-Link HD Media Router is easy to setup. Connecting a CAT 5 cable from the router’s WAN port to our Etisalat eLife breakout box, the router was

immediately able to share the Internet connection and using DHCP, we were up and running within five minutes. In terms of range the router proved disappointing in that it wasn’t able to cover our two-bedroom apartment. There were areas where the connection quality was poor which meant that we couldn’t browse the Internet or see our other notebook. In areas where the router managed to connect, it performed better than Linksys’ X2000, as it completed our 1.2GB file transfer in under 40 seconds. We were also able to stream a 720p clip from one machine to another without framerate issues though the router wasn’t fast enough to do the same for Full HD content.

memory slot, USB2.0 compliant, WPS Push button, D-Link Green Technology, 342g, oneyear warranty.

VERDICT While the DIR-657 offers enough performance for HD streaming, it struggles when it comes to range.

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LINKSYS X2000

WIRELESS-N ADSL2+ MODEM ROUTER Sleek and seriously capable PRICE $122 WEB http://home.cisco.com

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DESKTOP REPLACEMENT

PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS ADSL2+ modem, Wireless-N technology, 2.4GHz band, two internal antennas, three

MSI CX640 A reasonable offering given its price PRICE $762 CONTACT +9714 339 8614 WEB www.msi.com.tw

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PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-2410M, Intel HM65 core-logic chipset, 4GB DDR3 memory,

he Linksys X2000 is intended to be a one-stop solution for those that require an ADSL modem and a router with wired and wireless capabilities and a firewall. Since the X2000 features a modem, as well as router capabilities, it is priced reasonably well and out of the box, it certainly looks its asking price. The router sports a matte finish and has only one button that’s visible on its top façade. The main power button, as with most networking devices on the market, is located at the rear of the device. As expected setting up the Linksys was a piece of cake; we were able to get our Internet connection setup and create a wireless network with password

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10/100Mbps Ethernet ports, Cisco Connect installation CD, one Ethernet cable, one ADSL cable, one-year warranty.

he blurb on MSI’s site for the CX640 says: Never Compromise. Your journey to an all-new world of laptop computers starts here. Does the CX640 deliver? From a performance standpoint we’d have to say not quite. While the machine offers potent app performance thanks to its 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M processor and 4GB of memory, games are beyond the machine’s reach. Running our DirectX 10 World in Conflict test the machine managed a framerate of only 20fps - 10fps below the 30fps smooth mark. Moving to our DirectX 9-based Street Fighter IV benchmark however, the machine

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Nvidia GeForce GT 520M, 15.6-inch LCD screen, 500GB hard drive, Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit, 2.6kg, one-year warranty.

HOT KIT 75 protection in under 10 minutes. The router’s intuitive and cleanly laid out interface definitely made a difference here. In terms of range the X2000 impressed us with its capabilities, as our test notebooks were constantly able to stay in connection with the router with at least four bar signal strength anywhere in our twobedroom test apartment. Our previous MIMO router in comparison struggled to push its WiFi signal to every part of the apartment, which meant we had more than a few dead spots. The attractive X2000 was no slouch in terms of transfer performance either; we were able to transfer a large 1.2GB file from one machine to the other in under 50 seconds. VERDICT The X2000 is an attractively priced all-in-one for users looking to network their homes.

churned out a framerate of 52fps at the LCD’s native 1,366 x 768 pixels. MSI’s CX640 is a fairly stylish machine though being a desktop replacement it is bulky and heavy, weighing 2.6kg. From a physical standpoint then the MSI isn’t ideal to travel with. That said, the machine offers reasonable battery life given its core components; it managed to stay alive for two hours and four minutes. On a daily basis the MSI is a fairly pleasant machine to work on. Although the keyboard demonstrates a bit of flex, it’s responsive and quiet. The trackpad feels great under finger too and has just the right amount of texture to help you make precise movements. VERDICT Considering its retail price and healthy performance, the CX640 is a sensible buy for cash strapped users.

WINDOWS MIDDL MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

WIRELESS ADSL2+ ROUTER

Reviews


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RAZER

BLACKWIDOW ULTIMATE Is this the ultimate gaming keyboard? PRICE $144 CONTACT +9714 355 5582 WEB www.razerzone.com

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SHORT THROW PROJECTOR

PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS USB interface, mechanical keys with 50g actuation force, backlit keys, 1ms response

SONY VPL-SX125 Perfect for all your short-throw needs PRICE $950 CONTACT +9714 391 8400 WEB http://pro.sony.eu/mea

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PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS 3LCD engine, native resolution 1,024 x 768 pixels, 50- to 100-inch screen size, manual

azer is famous for its gaming gear and the BlackWidow Ultimate is one of the company’s latest high-end keyboards that's designed for demanding gamers. The BlackWidow features a mechanical design and sports ‘Cherry’ keys that, when pressed, produce a distinctive, and some-mightsay annoying, clunk-click sound that mechanical keyboards are notorious for. As a result you won’t be able to game with this keyboard into the early hours of the morning, if you share your room with another occupant. The keys are backlit however so you can game in a darkened room without any issues. Each individual key and indeed the whole keyboard

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time, programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording, multimedia controls, oneyear warranty.

ony’s VPL-SX125 is designed for use in educational and corporate open plan offices and given its impressive performance, we’ve no doubt it will excel. The first thing that hit us about the VPL-SX125 is the brightness it offers. When we first connected the compact projector to our test machine we were impressed with how bright the projections were on our wall. This was despite there being bright ambient light. We were even more impressed when we snooped around the onboard menu system and found that the lamp was running in ‘Standard’ mode (2,100 ANSI Lumens), rather than ‘High’ (2,500 Lumens). Opting for

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focus, 2,100 ANSI Lumens brightness (standard), 3,800:1 contrast ratio, lamp life 3000H (high brightness), three-year warranty.

HOT KIT 77 feels incredibly sturdy and thanks to its wedge shape, you won’t have to rely on pull-out feet to angle it. This is useful considering most pull-out feet will eventually fail after dealing with repeated shocks from hottempered gamers. The Razer offers macro keys, includes a dedicated gaming mode (which disables the Windows and Menu keys) and also offers media controls. The software for recording macros is a cinch to use so even the complex macros we recorded worked like a charm each and every time. Since you can also save up to ten profiles which contain key layouts and more, you’ll never have to worry about redoing your specific settings. VERDICT A pricey but competent gaming keyboard that's built like a tank and packs tons of features.

the latter setting, projections became noticeably brighter. This setting is likely overkill for most scenarios. It’s also not worth the lamp life loss because if you run the lamp in standard, Sony says the lamp is good for 4,500 hours but going to the high setting, you’ll get only 3,000 hours. The projector’s visuals at its native 1,024 x 768 pixels were crisp and clear. This made reading text in presentations, in Word documents or on our desktop a cinch. The VPLSX125 does a decent job with video as well; colours are natural and thanks to a contrast ratio of 3,800:1 the visuals were reasonably detailed even when dark visuals appeared on-screen. VERDICT The VPL-SX125 is an ideal candidate for open plan offices and educational institutes.

WINDOWS MIDDL MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

GAMING KEYBOARD

Reviews


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SECURITY SOFTWARE

78 HOT KIT

TREND MICRO

SMART SURFING

Serious security for Mac web surfers PRICE $50 CONTACT +9714 375 4604 WEB www.trendmicro.com

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EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE

PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Reviews

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SPECIFICATIONS Apple Mac with PowerPC (G4 or G5) or Intel Core processor, 512MB of system

WD MY PASSPORT

FOR MAC

Form and functionality in one PRICE $100 CONTACT +9714 881 3234 WEB www.wdc.com

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PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS 500GB formatted storage capacity, USB2.0 host interface, black colour, WD SmartWare

mart Surfing for Mac is designed for web security and offers protection from malicious instant messages, e-mail links that can lead you to dangerous sites, manage online activity and protect you from viruses, worms and Trojans. The installation was quick and painless, with the whole process taking about three minutes on our MacBook Air. Surprisingly Smart Surfing even includes an uninstall program (most Macs require that you just drag the software’s icon to the Trash). The software can be updated via the web, as you’d expect, and over our week long test period each update took between 30 seconds to two minutes. Smart Surfing sports a clean interface and

everything the software does has been compressed into a select few options. Using the default security settings the software worked diligently and protected our Mac machine from more than a few sites - this was after we deliberately clicked on links we knew were leading us to dangerous websites. The software’s antivirus component is somewhat overzealous however and misdiagnosed a few files we had on our machine. It’s not the quickest scanner in the world either, though it doesn’t negatively impact system performance. Unfortunately, Smart Surfing doesn’t offer cleaning capabilities when it come across an infected file - you’ll have to delete it altogether which isn’t ideal.

memory, 400MB of local hard disk space, Internet connection for updates, Mac OS X 10.4/10.5/10.6/10.7 compatible.

VERDICT While quite capable, Smart Surfing isn't a comprehensive security solution on its own.

ince even the latest Mac machines lack USB3.0 support and given the high-cost of cables compatible with Intel’s Thunderbolt interface (available already on Macs), USB2.0 will continue to be the interface of choice for the next few years. Unlike other Mac storage products we’ve tested, this My Passport is designed exclusively for Mac use. Connecting the drive to our Windows 7 desktop, the machine was unable to detect and initialise the drive. Hooking the drive up to our Macbook Air though, an icon appeared on the OS X desktop instantly. The drive even offered to interface with Mac OS’ Time Machine. The supplied WD

SmartWare software can also be used to backup your important files. Retailing for US $100 and offering 500GB of storage capacity, the My Passport costs just $0.2 per gigabyte. This is a competitive price on its own but given that the drive supports 256-bit password protection and encryption, there’s plenty of extra value on offer. Running our transfer tests on the My Passport for Mac, it performed as expected, given its USB2.0 interface. Copying our 1.2GB test file from Mac to the drive took 37 seconds, whereas copying from drive to Mac took 33 seconds. Both figures are competitive with other USB2.0 drives we’ve tested recently.

software, Automatic Backup support, 256-bit Password protection and hardware encryption, two-year warranty.

VERDICT The My Passport for Mac is a quick, feature-rich and stylish storage companion for your Mac.

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Acer recommends Windows® 7.

PC or Tablet? Choose both. Life is full of choices: work or play, home or away, touch or type, accept or ignore. Why choose and get just half the experience? • Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium • 10.1” LED-backlit LCD display (1280x800) • 2GB DDR3 RAM, 32GB SSD • Dual 1.3 MP webcam with AV recording • WI-FI & Bluetooth 3.0 • Optional full size Keyboard Docking station • Simple social networking with Acer SocialJogger • Complete your new PC. Buy Microsoft® Office 2010

Complete your PC

Windows® 7. Your PC, simplified

Discover the new Iconia Tab W500 at your nearest computer superstore. Acer and the Acer logo are registered trademarks of Acer Incorporated. Copyright 2011 Acer Inc. All rights reserved. Microsoft, Windows and the Windows logo are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others. Specifications subject to change without notice. Pictures are intended simply to illustrate the product.


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80 BUYERS GUIDE

BUYERSGUIDE HOW TO USE THE GUIDE The Buyer’s Guide is a fully comprehensive guide to the best products that WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST has reviewed, and is intended to act as an effective resource for buyers of such products in the Middle East market. The Buyer's Guide is updated with new products each month, and out of date products removed.

Each of our ten product categories contains ten recommended product buys. For each product we’ve included vendor (or local distributor) contact details, our Windows Middle East overall rating, our verdict on the product and details of which issue we reviewed it in (alternatively you can find all our product reviews - in full - on www.itp.net). Each of the products shown scored either 4/5 or 5/5 in its respective review, so instead of listing products in score order we have arranaged these by price, with the most expensive at the top of the page. This makes it quick and easy for you to find the product you can best afford. We also offer advice on how to go about buying products within each particular product category. This gives you, the reader, the ability to make a better-informed judgment about what kit is suitable for your needs.

RATINGS EXPLAINED Awarded to outstanding products that have excelled in both value and performance.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Awarded to products that offer you the most bang for your buck.

Awarded to products that offer impressive amounts of power and speed.

81 81 82 82 83 83 84 84 85 85

COMPONENTS DESKTOPS DIGITAL IMAGING HANDHELDS MONITORS NOTEBOOKS PERIPHERALS PRINTERS SOFTWARE STORAGE

AWARDS are basically presented to products for their outstanding performance and value. A Performance or Value winner must have received five stars in that particular category. An Editor’s Choice award goes to outstanding products that have excelled in both value and performance.

FEATURES: What value-added features are included? Do they benefit the user? Are they innovative? PERFORMANCE: Does the product perform well? Is it quick? EASE OF USE: How user-friendly is the interface? Does it require expertise? VALUE FOR MONEY: Does the price represent a fair return on performance? DESIGN: Is the product well designed? Are buttons easy-to-access? Are ports and connections well-placed?

EXCELLENT VERY GOOD GOOD AVERAGE POOR

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BUYERS GUIDE 81 Components Fractal Design Define R3 Medium tower ATX case

$381

RATING +++++ WEB www.fractal-design.com REVIEWED March 2011

$750

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

Fractal Design’s amazing R3 is ideal for building a high-end rig with, thanks to its ample internal space and superb cooling setup.

Asus GTX 580 P/2DIS/1536MD5 PCI-E graphics card While the Matrix carries an incredibly steep retail price, it is one of the maddest and most potent graphics cards we’ve ever tested.

Intel Core i7-2600K LGA1155 quad-core processor

$317

The Intel Core i7-2600K CPU is a super fast performer which thanks to its unlocked multiplier can also be overclocked like a monster.

AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition Socket AM3 processor

$270

AMD’s Phenom II X6 1100T represents great value-for-money. It offers strong performance for a bargain price tag.

Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Multiview PCI-E graphics card

$230

An aggressively priced GTX 560 powered graphics card that offers excellent multi-monitor possibilities and decent performance.

+9714 299 3873 www.asus.com August 2011

+9714 440 4300 www.intel.com April 2011

+9714 427 2626 www.amd.com March 2011

+9714 886 3300 www.zotac.com August 2011

Desktops $8,175

Yoyotech’s PC has oddles of character and packs some serious performance under its distinctive hood. The only real issue is its price tag.

Leeno mini PC I73461SV Small formfactor PC

$1,145

The compact Leeno packs potent application punch thanks to its Sandy Bridge Core i7-2600K CPU, 6GB of memory and SSD drive. It’s well-priced too.

Zotac ZBOX Blu-ray AD03 Plus Small formfactor PC

$539

An extremely well built small formfactor rig that looks great and offers fully-fledged Blu-ray playback. It’s also inexpensive at $539.

Sky Electronics Expeditor EXP - X980/6/80SSD/1TB/480X2/RV2 High-end gaming PC

$4,688

If you want butter smooth gaming framerates and wait-free application performance the Expeditor is the rig for you. It’s also very reasonably priced considering its high-spec components.

Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 Barebones PC The ZBOX HD-ID11 is an impressive mini PC barebones that can be turned into a competent rig with the addition of the right components.

$209

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 800 344357 WEB www.yoyotech.co.uk REVIEWED June 2010 RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

+9662 614 1454 www.leeno.ca June 2011

+9714 886 3330 www.zotac.com June 2011

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 266 3774 WEB www.skyelectronics.com REVIEWED July 2010 RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++ +9714 355 5520 www.zotac.com September 2010

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Yoyotech FI7EPOWER MK3 High-end gaming PC


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82 BUYERS GUIDE Digital imaging RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 391 8400 WEB www.sony-mea.com REVIEWED January 2010

Sony Bravia VPL-VW85 Full HD projector

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 391 5050 WEB www.canon-me.com REVIEWED June 2010

Canon Legria HFM306 Full HD camcorder

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 217 0700 WEB http://ae.nikon-asia.com REVIEWED May 2011

Nikon D7000 Mid-range digital SLR camera

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 353 6074 WEB www.canon-me.com REVIEWED May 2011

Canon EOS 1100D Entry-level digital SLR camera

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 391 5050 WEB www.canon-me.com REVIEWED December 2010

Canon IXUS 1000HS Digital cameras

$7,357

While the Sony isn’t exactly cheap at US $7,357 it actually offers a cost-effective solution if you’re looking for a way to go Full HD with a massive screen size.

$817

The Legria HFM306 offers high quality capture performance and ease-of-use. The only thing it lacks is a long life battery.

$1,989

Nikon’s D7000 is a fantastic picture grabber. It feels great in hand, captures brilliant shots when used by skilled photographers and has a number of useful extras.

$654

While the EOS 1100D feels like a budget digital SLR in hand in terms of its build, it offers excellent image quality and an easy-to-use interface.

$408

The IXUS 1000HS is a decent point-and-shoot that can produce great photographs in the hands of amateurs and skilled photographers alike.

Handhelds RATING +++++ WEB www.blackberry.com REVIEWED September 2010

BlackBerry Bold 2 9700 Business smartphone

RATING +++++ WEB www.garminasus.com REVIEWED June 2010

Garmin-Asus Nuvifone M10 Touchscreen smartphone

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

RATING WEB REVIEWED

+++++ www.ivio.com June 2011

+++++

RATING WEB REVIEWED

www.samsung.com September 2010

RATING WEB REVIEWED

www.motorola.com September 2010

+++++

$626

While the Bold won’t blow you away with its user interface, it is still a great smartphone with loads of features for an attractive price.

$700

The Nuvifone M10 boasts sharp, if unoriginal looks and some very useful GPS features. Great for on the go users.

Ivio Icon DE38 Touchscreen smartphone

$150

Given its dual SIM capabilities and reasonably stacked feature list, the ICON DE38 offers strong value-formoney. While not without its flaws these issues aren’t deal breakers.

Samsung Galaxy S Touchscreen smartphone

$735

The Galaxy S is a fantastic smartphone that’s fun and easy-to-use. The experience it delivers beats even Apple’s iPhone 3GS.

Motorola Milestone Touchscreen smartphone The Milestone is, quite literally, a solid phone with decent features. It just feels a little dated compared to other Android devices.

$681


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BUYERS GUIDE 83 Monitors LG 42LW5700 Cinema 3D LED TV 42-inch LED LCD

$1,335

The 42LW5700 is the first 3D screen that we’d consider owning. It’s able to create fantastic 3D experiences, doesn’t induce headaches and is aggressively priced and ships with four 3D glasses.

Samsung LED Series 7000 Smart TV 55-inch LCD TV

$3,542

While the UA55D7000LR isn’t perfect, its flaws are far from being deal breakers. It’s still a great screen that can generate super-sized visuals.

AOC Vita T2442E 24-inch widescreen LCD/TV

$180

The Flatron W2261V offers killer visuals, an elegant and attractive design and won’t necessarily break the bank. A great buy.

LG Flatron IPS 236 23-inch widescreen LCD

+++++ +9714 800 54 www.lg.com/ae September 2011

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 364 8600 WEB www.samsung.com/ae REVIEWED August 2011 RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++ +971 050 600 4017 www.aoc.com June 2011

$381

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

$326

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

This Flatron screen offers great visuals thanks to its superb IPS panel and LED backlight.

Acer S243HL 24-inch widescreen LCD

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

An aggressively priced LCD screen that’s supremely capable in the visual department. An exceptional value-buy.

+9714 393 6247 www.lg.com/ae July 2011

+9714 805 6000 www.acer.com January 2011

Notebooks $572

The PlayBook is a capable tablet whose functionality and usefulness will only increase as more apps and games become available.

HP Mini 210-3020SE Netbook

$408

The Mini 210 packs potent performance, strong battery life and sports the sort of looks that can stop people dead in their tracks.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Tablet

$735

The Eee Pad Transformer is an innovative device that’s a real pleasure to use owing to its flawless IPS-based LCD screen.

HP Pavilion DV6-6090ee High-end desktop replacement

$1,253

HP’s new Pavilion DV6-6090ee is the full package; it offers great looks, top notch performance and a sensible price tag.

Packard Bell DOT S Netbook Bland finish aside, this lightweight netbook offers competitive performance, a massive hard drive and attractive pricing.

$326

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 800 29466 WEB www.blackberry.com REVIEWED July 2011 RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++ +9714 391 6000 www.hp.com/me September 2011

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

+9714 299 3873 www.asus.com July 2011

+9714 391 6000 www.hp.com/me August 2011

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 805 6320 WEB www.packardbell.ae REVIEWED September 2011

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet


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84 BUYERS GUIDE Peripherals RATING WEB REVIEWED RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

Sansa Fuze +++++ Sandisk Media player

www.sandisk.com October 2010

The Fuze packs mighty punch despite its low cost and compact size. It’s usable, sports loads of functions and features a memory expansion slot.

+++++ Imation LINK A / V Extender +9714 881 8008 www.imation.com February 2011

$190

Audio video extender

A competent device that allows you to broadcast HD content to your TV or monitor without the use of cables.

+++++ Roccat Kone+ +9714 358 8506 www.roccat.org July 2011

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 343 1441 WEB www.sennheiser.com REVIEWED May 2011 RATING WEB REVIEWED

$70

$136

Gaming mouse Roccat’s Kone+ is a superb peripheral that offers loads of game-friendly features and an extremely responsive and precise tracking engine.

Sennheiser HD 800 High-end headphones

$1,416

The Sennheiser HD 800 headphones are the best set of cans the Windows team has ever had the pleasure of listening to.

+++++ Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 www.logitech.com August 2011

$199

Solar-powered keyboard The K750 is a green peripheral that just works but considering its stee asking price, it’s not a keyboard for the masses.

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Printers RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

+9714 883 5878 www.brother.ae May 2010

+9714 204 5810 www.okime.ae September 2010

+9714 391 6000 www.hp.com September 2010

+9714 204 5810 www.okime.ae February 2011

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 391 5050 WEB www.canon-me.com REVIEWED February 2011

Brother HL-3070CW LED colour printer

$360

Lively performance, compact dimensions and flexible connectivity make the HL-3070CW a worthwhile buy.

OKI B411dn Monochrome laser printer

$360

OKI’s B411dn is ideal for small businesses thanks to its super quick print performance and wide array of standard features.

HP P1102w Monochrome laser printer

$323

The P1102w is well priced, is reasonably quick and sports built-in WiFi connectivity as standard. A solid buy for a SOHO or small business.

OKI MC361DN LED colour printer

$940

The MC361dn is the obvious choice if you have demanding print needs and require a fast and capable colour printer.

Canon PIXMA MG6140 Inkjet colour MFD With six ink tanks, a slick user interface and superb overall print quality, the Pixma MG6140 is a brilliant buy that won’t hurt your bank balance.

$231


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BUYERS GUIDE 85 Software Dr.Web Security Space Pro Security suite

$27

A competent security suite that’s best suited for advanced users who won’t miss interface eye-candy and loads of help.

Eset Smart Security Security suite

$69

While Smart Security lacks a very strong anti-spyware component it is very easy-to-use, packs a decent scan engine and a tough firewall.

Norton Internet Security 2011 Security suite

+++++ www.adaox.com March 2010

RATING +++++ WEB www.symantec.com REVIEWED February 2011

$40

RATING +++++ WEB www.kaspersky.com REVIEWED March 2011

$43

RATING WEB REVIEWED

Kaspersky’s latest security suite is easy-to-use, relatively light on system resources and is packed with accurate and useful security features.

Iolo System Mechanic 10 Utility software

RATING WEB REVIEWED

+++++ www.drweb.com March 2011

$42

NIS 2011 is a well designed package that offers superb protection from a variety of online and local threats. It also operates with almost no impact on system performance. An added bonus.

Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 Security suite

RATING WEB REVIEWED

Iolo’s System Mechanic 10 is a competent utility that can, in most cases, revitalise your rig. The software is very easy-to-use and doesn’t require any real expertise.

+++++ www.iolo.com Holiday Special

Storage $79

Swift performance and a large amount of storage capacity make this Class 10 card ideal for HD content creators and photographers.

Hitachi XL Desk 1000 External hard drive

$80

RATING +++++ CONTACT +9714 507 8888 WEB www.hitachigst.com REVIEWED October 2010

$584

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

The XL Desk 1000 offers 1TB of storage capacity, a three-year warranty and backup software for an unbelievable price. It’s a steal.

Intel 250GB SSD 510 Series SSD drive Packing decent performance and a killer cost per gigabyte of just US $2.34, the 250GB 510 Series drive is definitely worth considering.

Corsair Force Series GT 120GB SSD drive

$297

If you want superb storage performance, Corsair’s Force Series GT has your name on it. It is the fastest SSD we’ve ever tested.

Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB 3.5-inch SATA hard disk A top-notch 3.5-inch drive that boasts superlative performance and an enormous amount of storage capacity for a fair price.

RATING +++++ WEB www.patriotmemory.com REVIEWED June 2011

$261

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+9714 440 4300 www.intel.com September 2011

+7495 508 1011 www.corsair.com September 2011

+++++ +9714 881 3234 www.wdc.com February 2011

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Patriot 32GB LX Pro SDHC Class 10 Class 10 memory card


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News

GAME ON 87

GAME ON NEWS MODERN WARFARE 3 THEMED XBOX OUT IN NOVEMBER

GAME ON FOR ABBA

SONY REVEALS FUTURISTIC 3D HEADGEAR

Game developer Ubisoft has created a new video game based on the music and performances of Swedish pop band ABBA called ABBA You Can Dance. The game was developed for the Nintendo Wii by Ubisoft Paris and will be released worldwide in November. ABBA You Can Dance features 25 ABBA songs, including all of the group's biggest hits, such as Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia, Take a Chance on Me and Waterloo. The game also features choreographed routines and environments inspired by the group's music videos and live performances. "In the video game market, Ubisoft is the dancing king," said Geoffroy Sardin, EMEA Chief Marketing and Sales Officer at Ubisoft. "With ABBA You Can Dance, players can dance, they can jive, and they can have the time of their lives, all thanks to ABBA's music and Ubisoft's latest entertaining dance video game title." With ABBA You Can Dance, two players can sing along to lyrics that appear on-screen, while up to four players can simultaneously perform the band's various dance moves. The mini-musical mode lets players act out the key roles in a love story based on some of the group's classic songs. ABBA You Can Dance also features original video clips and stories about the group.

Sony has debuted a new 3D visor, designed for gamers and film fans who like to watch and play alone. The new personal 3D device will set buyers back by US $811 and is made up of all-in-one goggles and earphones. It is equipped with a newly-developed diagonal 18.0mm High Definition OLED panel (1280 x 720 pixels), designed to achieve HD picture quality that makes full use of the OLED display's high contrast, color reproducibility, and fast response. The device adopts the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Dual Panel 3D Method' which consists of separate panels for the left and right eye in order to display independent HD picture quality to each eye for 3D viewing. The device features a wide horizontal viewing angle of 45 degrees by incorporating an optical lens that is designed to suppress a number of unwanted elements such as aberration and distortion. Viewers will also be able to enjoy powerful acoustics equivalent to a 5.1-channel audio system through the built-in headphones. The HMZ, which stands for "head mounted display", is due to go on sale in Japan on 11th November, and may be released in the US and Europe in time for Christmas. According to Sony, the device gives an immersive viewing experience, as if the user is in the best seat in the cinema. The machine is designed to connect to Blu-ray disc players and game machines, but is not recommended for people younger than 15.

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A new limited edition Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Xbox 360 console will be released in November, along with the launch of the actual game. The pack consists of an Xbox 360 320GB console, which is decorated with a motif from the upcoming first person shooter, and two wireless controllers along with a copy of Modern Warfare 3. Like all themed Xbox consoles, the Modern Warfare 3 console will feature custom sounds when powering on and off, and when the disc tray is ejected. The console pack is expected to retail for US $400 and will include one month of Xbox Live Gold membership and some exclusive items for Xbox Live avatars. There is also a Modern Warfare themed Bluetooth wireless headset that will be sold separately for $70. Extra controllers can also be bought at $60 per controller. All accessories will come with codes for exclusive downloads. The Modern Warfare 3 console will be hitting stores in the EMEA market on November 8.


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88 GAME ON

News

KINECT STAR WARS DELAYED WOLFENSTEIN 3D PULLED FROM CERTAIN APP STORES Wolfenstein 3D Classic - a remake of the original Wolfenstein 3D - on the Apple iOS platform has been pulled from Apple's App Store in certain countries. "The iOS App Stores in Switzerland and Austria just lost Wolfenstein Classic due to the offensive swastikas," wrote John Carmack, Technical Director, id Software, following the post up with a frowning emoticon on social site Twitter. The original Wolfenstein 3D was released by id Software in 1992 for DOS and is generally regarded as the game that helped popularise the first person shooter (FPS) genre. Like the PC original, Wolfenstein 3D Classic is a firstperson shooter that has players rampaging through a Nazi stronghold decorated with an abundance of swastikas. This is not the first time the game's imagery has caused problems. The 1994 Super Nintendo port of Wolfenstein 3D was modified and had some of the potentially offensive content replaced.

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SERIOUS SAM 3 SET FOR OCTOBER RELEASE

News from Microsoft suggests that Kinect Star Wars will now probably hit shelves in 2012. Microsoft told OXM that the game has yet to reach its potential The Limited Edition Star Wars Xbox 360 console will also be pushed forward to coincide with the game's launch. "Microsoft and LucasArts have elected to move the launch of Kinect Star Wars beyond holiday 2011 to ensure the full potential of this title is realized," a spokesperson said. "This move applies to both the Kinect Star Wars stand-alone game and the Kinect Star Wars Limited Edition Console. We will communicate additional timing information at a later date." The Kinect platform has a lot riding on the Star Wars title and it certainly is good that LucasArts and Microsoft are taking their time to get it right. "Early code of the game has been marked by problems with lag and gesture recognition which could have proved fatal had they appeared in the finished game," said a report on the OXM website.

Game developer Croteam and publisher Devolver Digital have announced that Serious Sam 3: BFE will release on the PC platform on October 18. Serious Sam 3 is the prequel to Serious Sam: The First Encounter and takes place in 22nd century Egypt. The game sees the return of adversaries like the Headless Kamikaze and Gnaar, as well as new opponents such as the Scrapjack and Khnum. Croteam has also added a number of new gameplay features to the forthcoming game with the protagonist Sam receiving a range of new melee moves. The game also offers cooperative play that allows as many as 16 players to

game simultaneously. Serious Sam 3: BFE will be available for purchase via retail and digital distribution. The game will also be sold as a Deluxe Edition, which is expected to carry a retail price of US $50. The standard game is said to command a price tag of $40. The Deluxe Edition will feature a digital art book, new multiplayer skins, a scope for the Devastator weapon and users will also be allowed to download the two original Serious Sam games. The game will also be released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 though no announcement was made regarding the launch date on those gaming platforms.


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News

GAME ON 89

The Witcher series of role playing games (RPG) will become a trilogy. Polish game development studio CD Projekt RED confirmed that a third Witcher game is on the way. Jan BartKowicz confirmed the trilogy when questioned about the cliffhanger endings in The Witcher 2 while speaking to German community site The-Witcher.de. "That's a good question. Well, I think the problem that some people have is the overall impression. The first part could just as easily be a stand-alone, while the second part being part of a planned trilogy, logically, had a very open end. Consider this example, for comparison, to films like Pirates of the Caribbean, where the first part had a self-contained story, the latter is unchangeable, but then you think, it should be a trilogy. So people have a problem then. The end of The Witcher 2 is the beginning of much larger events," BartKowicz said. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was released on May 17 of this year and met with critical acclaim. The game was released for the PC and Xbox 360 gaming platforms only. A release date, as well as a working title for the forthcoming game is yet to be revealed.

THE WITCHER 3 CONFIRMED

GAMES CONSOLE MARKET NOT DEAD SAYS IDC The worldwide games console market is set to rebound in 2012 according to IDC. The analyst company said that despite some predictions that the market is in terminal decline, the sector is set for a return to growth based on new platform releases and rising console penetration and spending in select developing economies. The IDC study Worldwide Game and Interactive Entertainment Console Hardware and Software 2011 -2015 Forecast, notes that the overall economic climate has impacted on consoles, and there has been weak spending overall in the US this summer, but that sales of consoles and software discs is expected to show a CAGR of 3.6% between 2010 and 2015, when the market will reach $39.7 billion. In developing economies the market will grow twice as fast as in developed markets. "Total console hardware and disc-based software revenues are on track to slide a few percent in 2011

compared to 2010," says Lewis Ward, Research Manager, Consumer Markets: Gaming, at IDC. "But prognostications that consoles have peaked as a product category are premature. I expect that the launch of the Wii U, a revamped interactive entertainment console from Microsoft in the 2014 timeframe, and the arrival of Sony's 'PS4' circa 2015 along with more than a few exclusive, innovative games - will help drive a new wave of console-centric spending in the next several years." The overall household install base of gaming consoles will decline by about 1% by 2015, with around 257m active consoles, or 12.7% of households. IDC attributes this drop to the rise of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;casual' gaming on tablets, phones and social network sites. IDC also expects Sony's Playstation 3 platform, which is already five years old, to repeat the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;long tail' of it's predecessor console, the PS2, by having the largest active install base of any console by 2015. The PS2, the best selling console of all time, with 153 million units shipped, has shown surprising longevity, with console and games still available today, 11 years after it launched.

European game developer and publisher Ubisoft will be releasing six new titles designed for Sony's PlayStation Vita. The games are designed to take full advantage of the features and hardware offered by the Vita handheld. The six games are Asphalt, Assassin's Creed, Dungeon Hunter Alliance, Lumines, Michael Jackson Experience and Rayman Origins. "With its processing power, dual tactile screens and cameras, PlayStation Vita allows creators like Ubisoft new and unique opportunities to develop innovative games," explained Yves Guillemot, Chief Executive Officer of Ubisoft. "We've got a strong and varied line-up that will offer fun and immersion to all audiences of the PS Vita." The Vita is the successor to the PlayStation Portable handheld. The Vita features a 4 core ARM Cortex-A9 core processor and a 4 core SGX543MP4+ graphics processing unit, as well as LiveArea as its main user interface, which succeeds the XrossMediaBar.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

UBISOFT ANNOUNCES SIX NEW PLAYSTATION VITA GAMES


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90 GAME ON

News

DIRT 3 CODES LEAKED Due to a security breach close to 1.7-million promotional keys for Codemasters' Dirt 3 have been leaked. As a result of missing .htaccess on a website responsible for managing the keys, savvy users were able to log in to the site and freely access files containing the Dirt 3 keys. This is a directory level configuration file commonly used for restricting access to certain directories on the server. If a site does not have .htaccess, anyone can gain access to directories stored on the server and access the information stored within them. AMD uses these keys to unlock Dirt 3 downloads performed via Steam. As a result, just copying a key into the relevant text box will allow a user to unlock the full game, if that key hasn't been used before. However, if someone does find a link to the missing keys it wouldn't be wise to try them as AMD could ask Steam to deactivate all those codes and Steam in turn would ban any accounts that have used these codes. AMD has temporarily taken down the section of its site that it uses for Dirt 3 key dispersion.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

GLOSSY XBOX 360 TO BE AXED Microsoft will phase out the glossy finish on all new Xbox 360 consoles. It is said that the company will only offer the matte finish consoles as seen on the current Xbox 360 4GB model. Larry Hryb, Head of Programming, Xbox Live said that the company is in the process of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;actively transitioning' to the new finish. Hryb also posted on his blog that contrary to rumours, gamers will not be able to choose between the glossy or matte finishes on Xbox 360 consoles for the holiday season. The glossy finish Xbox 360 gaming console has been slammed by some gamers and critics as being prone to scratches, fingerprint marks and smudges. Hryb continued, "We are actively transitioning all our Xbox 360 consoles to a matte finish. The consoles will start to arrive in stores over the coming weeks, so if you really love the idea of a glossy console don't wait much longer to get one." However there is a glimmer of hope for gamers that like the shiny finish. Even though it may not be available in the plain black finish, Hryb said that the company isn't going to completely eradicate a glossy finish in the future and that it may still be offered on Limited Edition consoles. "Of course, we still may offer a gloss finish on Limited Edition consoles like the Gears of War 3 console but if you have your eye on a standard glossy black console you don't have much time left," said Hryb.

PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2012 TO OFFER ARABIC SUPPORT Game distributor LS2-Pluto (Pluto) has launched Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 2012. This is the eleventh version of the game, and the first to be localised with Arabic support. The inclusion of Arabic support is expected to further the game's popularity in the Middle East. The demo will also support Arabic and will roll out for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360 and PC. Naji Robehmed, Director of Gaming Business, Pluto said, "The localisation of Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 into Arabic highlights KONAMI & Pluto's commitment to gamers in the Middle East and furthermore, the importance of the region to the industry's gaming developers. Regional players are sure to be impressed with their gaming experience both as a result of Arabic localisation and the enhancement of several key features." Jon Murphy, European PES Team Leader for Konami Digital Entertainment GmbH, speaking on some of the enhancements said, "Teammate control is something we have been working on for a while now, and we are delighted that it will make its debut in PES 2012. We have been working to create a control system that truly lets the player do whatever they like on field, and the ability to manually control a second player while simultaneously running with the ball opens all kinds of attacking options." The game will feature a training mode which consists of dribbling tests and challenges that ask you to hit a series of targets and a variety of shooting tasks. The game is said to have been aesthetically improved and the overall movements of the players are said to be more fluid with more life-like animations. Localising games with proper Arabic support is a growing trend in the gaming industry. EA Sports' forthcoming FIFA '12 will also support Arabic out of the box.


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Sage Peachtree 2012 is easier than ever.

New enhanced Features - Business Intelligence - Management Reports - Dashboards - an easy to use integrated learning guide


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92 GAME ON

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

XBOX

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hen we previewed Deus Ex: Human Revolution in our August issue, we were quite impressed with what we saw, given our limited time with early game code. We're happy to report that after playing the final version of the game, Human Revolution is worthy of sporting the famous Deus Ex name. Like its predecessors Human Revolution allows you to modify your character with various upgrades and augmentations. Some of these upgrades automatically become available but given that a number of the cooler augmentations cost money and 'Praxis points' to unlock, you'll only get close to completely upgrading Adam Jensen - the protagonist - later in the game. Depending on which augmentation you equip your character with, you'll be able to play the game differently; if you choose to go with the social augmentation for example, you'll have a better idea of what conversation choices will work best when you're talking to other characters in the game. There are a fair few augmentations to choose from and because you can buy them in any order, you can go back and replay the game and find that it completely changes the way you play each particular mission or side quest. While having different augmentations will help you get the job done in different ways, you can also accomplish objectives via dialog with characters, stealth or even with force. Early on in the game for instance, one of the side quests has you trying to diffuse a situation with a Sarif employee who asks you

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Price: $73 Controller: Xbox 360 controller Best Bit: You can get through each of Deus Ex’ missions and side quests in so many different ways. Out of the box thinking definitely works here. Verdict: Whether you’re an existing fan or are climbing into the intriguing world of Deus Ex for the first time, you’re in for an absolute treat. This gem of a game offers tons of replay value.

to recover incriminating footage from another Sarif employee. Here, you can assault the other employee and take it by force, use an augmentation (if you have it) or complete the job he gives you before he hands over the footage you need. It goes without saying then that Human Revolution makes you feel as though you’re playing a very open-ended game. Deus Ex also does a fantastic job in terms of its environments. Walking around the virtual city of Detroit, there are tons of elements that make you believe that the city has real history and real substance; when you're exploring individual buildings, you'll find that apartments are littered with items to look at such as chat logs on computers, ebooks and much more. People on the streets can also be overheard talking about various issues and developments, all of which help to completely immerse you in the game's world. Depending on the difficulty setting you choose Human Revolution can be quite challenging. Enemies are extremely smart and coordinated and can flush you out of cover in a variety of ways. They’re also fairly precise with their projectile weapons so while you can opt to take on missions with a frontal assault, you’ll be better off employing stealth and using your various augmentations where possible. Fire fights while tough are also quite a lot of fun thanks to the game’s solid cover and shooting mechanics - there’s just nothing annoying that


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Deus Ex: Human Revolution

GAME ON 93

The cover system works well in Deus Ex and if you run out of talent in the stealth department, you’ll need to rely on it heavily. Your foes are crack shots and employ clever tactics

Takedowns are brutal and interesting to watch. It’s also one of the few times in the game that you’ll actually get to see a lot of blood

There’s futuristic tech strewn across the game world. Keep your eyes open and you’ll find handy personal secretaries that contain passwords and other useful info

You’ll be able to talk to a lot of characters in Human Revolution. Purchasing the right augmentations can even help you steer conversations the way you want them to go

Deus Ex looks great on a Full HD screen though facial animation isn’t one of the game’s strongest selling points

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Nothing to complain about when it comes to the shooting mechanics. While you can opt for a full frontal assault, it’s quite difficult to survive massive firefights, especially on harder difficulty settings

gets in the way of these stands offs. Presentation-wise this is a very strong game. The look of characters and environments is brilliant and everything just fits together perfectly. We never saw anything that looked out of place in our jaunt through the game. There’s also killer sound effects and decent voice acting though facial animation is somewhat of a weak point. While Human Revolution is an interesting and engaging game that's worthy of the Deus Ex name, it does have a few minor flaws. One of the more annoying issues has to do with your interaction with objects in the game; most of the time we noticed that unless we were in precisely the right position, the dialog box that pops up to give you interactive options wouldn't show up at all. As a result we had to fiddle around with our position until the box actually did show up. Not ideal. There's also a surprising lack of gore in the game. While cutscenes and take down moves show a fair degree of blood, when you actually gun down enemies with your weapons, there's actually no blood visible on the floor or on objects like walls. Human Revolution also makes you wait quite a bit when it’s loading the next part of the game, as well as when you load and reload save games. If you want a wait-free experience and you have a reasonably fast gaming PC at your disposal, we highly suggest opting for the PC version of this brilliant game.


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N 94 GAME ON

Driver: San Francisco

river: San Francisco has been in development for approximately five years and while games that have lengthy gestation periods turn out, more often than not, to be duds, we’re happy to report that San Francisco is the best (and most quirky) Driver title to date. San Francisco follows on from Driv3r, which was released back in 2004.The new game kicks off six months after the events of Driv3r and explains that undercover cop John Tanner and his nemesis Charles Jericho both survived the shootout in Istanbul. Jericho is finally on the road to justice but of course things inevitably go wrong and the job of apprehending Jericho once again falls to Tanner. San Francisco is a far different game compared to its predecessors; this game offers a new feature known as ‘Shift’, which allows Tanner to hop from vehicle to vehicle, though he never physically gets out of the car he’s in. The reason he can now do this is explained within the game’s storyline and while we thought it was an interesting gameplay device, we reckon it might be a bit too farfetched for some gamers to take seriously. Using his new abilities Tanner can partake in a variety of missions around the city and as you complete these, you’ll be able to accept missions that pertain to the main storyline. Given the number of missions on offer and the diversity of what you have to do, completing the game can easily take well over nine hours. The missions are diverse for the most part but by the time you get to the end of the game, you’ll find things becoming slightly repetitive. Driver: San Francisco is the first game in the series to offer fully licensed vehicles. Some XBOX 120 vehicles are featured from manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Dodge, Ford, Pagani and others. You aren’t stuck with just cars either; the game offers buggies, pickups Price: $73 and various other vehicles. The best part Controller: Xbox 360 controller is that each of these vehicles looks Best Bit: Loads of licensed vehicles on brilliant within the game world - when offer and you’ll see them all on the you finally have enough ‘Willpower’ for streets of the virtual city. a proper supercar, you’ll be amazed by Verdict: Driver: San Francisco offers an interesting if somewhat implausible just how good it looks, gleaming in single-player campaign, addictive the San Francisco sunlight. There’s a multiplayer and polished visuals. It’s a fairly decent sound track associated great addition to the series. with each car too; drive a V8 car and you’ll know it thanks to its loud and rich engine note. Similarly the first time you have an accident you’ll

D

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San Francisco is the first game to offer fully licensed vehicles. There are some 120 vehicles on offer including this beautiful Mustang


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Driver: San Francisco has you playing the part of John Tanner and he’s got to track down Charles Jericho once again

Playing as Tanner you can ‘Shift’ from one vehicle to the other and play side missions until a plot mission becomes available

The game’s multiplayer is worth the price of admission on its own. There are a variety of modes to choose from with ‘Tag’ being our favourite

Looks good doesn’t it? While the virtual world isn’t very detailed the vehicles themselves look fantastic. If you’re a car person you’ll love this game

While Driver doesn’t offer flat out driving realism each car has unique handling characteristics, so it feels like each car you hop into is actually different from the other

cringe at what you see because Driver: San Francisco boasts some great damage modeling. Depending on the collision, body panels will deform and fall off, while lights and your windscreen will shatter realistically. The associated crunch and noise of bending metal and shattered glass adds to the effect so trust us, the first time this happens, you’ll feel just as lousy as you would if this happened to your shiny new ride in the real world. As impressive as the cars looked in the game, we were more taken with the unique driving characteristics of the vehicles. While Driver: San Francisco is, unsurprisingly, tuned to let you have fun rather than provide outright realism, each vehicle has fairly distinct and identifiable driving traits. Drive a Ford GT for example and you’ll be blown away by its straight-line speed but show it some corners and everything goes wrong in a hurry. Likewise, you’ll be able to zip in between heavy traffic with a Fiat 500 but

GAME ON 95

forget about trying to chase down someone, if they happen to be in a muscle car. Driver is also a great game to pass time with because you can simply get into a car and drive around the game world with nary a care in the world. The virtual representation of San Francisco is massive with some 335km of road to explore. A number of iconic landmarks have been meticulously crafted into the game too so there’s plenty to see - you can easily kill hours just by exploring the city and performing the odd stunt or two when the opportunity presents itself. Beyond the single-player experience Driver offers plenty of fun thanks to its online and local, split-screen multiplayer modes. This is another first for the series and in total there are some 19 game modes to choose from. The mode we found the most fun is called ‘Tag’ and it’s exactly like what it sounds - you simply have to tag or hit another player’s vehicle in the game world, thus transforming that player into ‘it’. We’ve had hours of fun with this mode but if it isn’t to your liking, you’ll definitely find one of the other modes worth your time. Our runner up for the most fun was ‘Trail Blazer’. Being a Ubisoft title Driver: San Francisco has excellent production values. The on-screen visuals are quite impressive in terms of the look of the cars and the city of San Francisco. That said, while the game’s engine is able to churn out the visuals at a fairly constant pace when playing the single-player missions, we noticed it struggling when it came to the split-screen multiplayer modes. On more than a few occasions the framerate dropped fairly noticeably which made it a bit difficult to play properly.

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Driver: San Francisco


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96 GAME ON

Gears of War 3

XBOX

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alo and Halo 2 helped Microsoft put the original Xbox on the radar of gamers around the world. Those games were the ‘killer app’ of that console and while Microsoft could have just opted for another Halo game to launch its new (at the time) Xbox 360, the company - thankfully - opted to commission the superb Gears of War series with developer Epic Games.

The original game and its sequel were both top notch titles that the Windows team adores (and still plays to this day), so ever since Gears of War 2 hit the market in 2008, we’ve been patiently twiddling our collective thumbs waiting for Epic Games to unleash the followup. The good news is Gears of War 3 is finally here and, like its predecessors, this game can only be described as epic. Gears of War 3 is the final game in the current story arc and picks up a year and a half after the events of Gear of War 2. While the COG managed to deal a serious blow to the Locust, things haven’t improved much for the humans of Sera; the Imulsion infected Lam Lambent emerged and began another campaign of destruction against the remnants of humanity. As a result the seemingly indestructible and totally cool Marcus Fenix indestruct and his squad still have plenty to deal with. Going from the original Gears of War to Goin Gears of War 2, it was blatantly obvious that E Epic Games pulled no punches in terms of dialing up the action. Within an ho hour of playing Gears 2 you’d cross paths with massive Corpsers and deadly Brumaks – enemies that were dead barely present in the original Gears of War. G Gears of War 3 follows the same formula; within the first 30 minutes of formu play you’ll come up against a massive

enemy that you only encountered as a boss Price: $73 once you got to the Controller: Xbox 360 controller end of Gears of War Best Bit: Intense, mind-bending, non-stop action in the game’s 2. In fact many of the single/cooperative campaign. A humongous bosses proper Gear's experience. you encountered in the Verdict: Gears of War 3 is the most past two games appear action-packed, fun and exciting routinely as foes you game we’ve ever played on the have to take down Xbox 360 platform to date. This at random. game outshines its predecessors These foes aren’t the and every other third person same enemies you’re shooter in the console landscape used to dealing with today. Do NOT miss this game. either - some of them have been upgraded to deliver ever more damage. The Lambent Berserker for instance leaves trails of deadly Imulsion behind as it charges you. Similarly, enemy Lambent don’t just die in a pile when you pump them full of lead but rather explode with enough force to do damage to anyone in close proximity. Some of the Lambent even have ‘second winds’ that makes them just a little more dangerous when they come after you all over again. In terms of overall length Gears of War 3’s campaign offers almost the same playtime as its predecessors. However, given what we said above, it’s a much more challenging experience this time around and despite the developers going after some seriously ambitious gameplay targets, the single-player campaign shines. Even if you don’t care about multiplayer or replay value at all, there’s more than enough spine-tingling action, terrifying new enemies, badass weaponry and jaw dropping moments to warrant a purchase. Gears of War 3 includes a cooperative campaign mode once again but this time around, the game allows you and three of your friends to play simultaneously (four in total). This is a serious selling

The gang’s all here. With Gears of War 3 you’ll be able to play as Marcus Fenix and other Gears at various points in the game


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Gears of War 3

GAME ON 97

point because while playing the original Gears of War and its sequel with just one other friend was a superb experience, playing the campaign with three friends is pure gaming nirvana – we simply haven’t been able to put down the controller. Moving over to the game’s multiplayer component Gears of War 3 gets even better. ‘Horde 2.0’ offers far more strategic play than its predecessors and allows you to earn cash, build defenses and take advantage of player and equipment upgrades. Horde 2.0 also includes boss enemies that appear with every 10th wave, which makes for some serious adrenaline-pumping action. After the brutal but thoroughly enjoyable singleplayer campaign, Horde 2.0 is easily the next most awesome aspect of Gears of War 3. The new ‘Beast’ mode is a hoot too; it allows you to play as Locust creatures and your objective here is, of course, to tear the COG soldiers to pieces. The game starts you off as weaker creatures such as Wretches and Tickers but after you’ve earned a few Tokens, you’ll be able to appear as more fearsome units such as Berserkers. Like its predecessors Gears of War 3 is a well sorted game in n terms of playability and presentation. The controls work brilliantly, the cover over system is flawless and the shooting mechanics are perfect. There’s just nothing othing that we’d change in the latest Gears game. Visually, despite the fact ctt that Gears 3 still relies on Unreal Engine 3.5, it still looks brilliant when hen compared to other shooters on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 0 platforms. There’s more than enough detail on game characters, s, the game world’s various environments look great and there’s plenty of diversity in terms of what you see on screen. The aural component won’t let you down either; the voice acting for the main characters is spot-on once again since the original cast responsible for the first and second games also lend end their talents here. New characters are also voiced well with celebrities elebrities such as Ice-T and Claudia Black lending their voices to bring life e to characters Griffin and Samantha respectively.

Horde 2.0 offers incredible playability; the new boss waves certainly keep you busy even though you now have access to new gear and upgrades

Epic Games has upped the action in the latest Gears of War game to insane levels. Bosses in past games are a regular occurrence in Gears 3

The new Beast mode allows you to play as the Locust and as you score kills and thus Tokens, you’ll be able to spawn as bigger and tougher units

WINDOWS WIN WI W IIN ND DOW DO OW O WS M MIDDLE ID IIDD DD D DL LE EE EAS EA EAST AS A ST OCTOBER OC O CTO TTOB OB O BEERR 220 201 2011 0 1

While you’ll get the chance to tangle with the Locust in Gears 3, it’s the Lambent that will keep you on your toes through most of the game


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98 GAME ON

Resistance 3

eveloper Insomniac Games was the guiding light behind Resistance: Fall of Man and its sequel, Resistance 2, and both games were strong productions on the whole. As a result when Resistance 3 was first announced, we were quite confident that it would be a decent addition to the popular series, given that Insomniac Games was once again sitting in the developer chair. We’re happy to report that our faith was not misplaced. Resistance 3 picks up four years after the events of Resistance 2 and gamers now take on the role of Sentinel Joseph Capelli. Capelli was present in the previous game and long time Resistance fans will remember him as the man who was forced to take down the previous PS3 protagonist, Nathan Hale. Since the ending events of Price: $73 Resistance 2 Controller: PlayStation 3 controller or the situation PlayStation Move. hasn’t improved Best Bit: The pace of action makes Resistance 3 a thoroughly enjoyable for mankind; the shooter from start to finish. game explains Verdict: A great addition to an already that almost 90% successful series. We’re absolutely of the Earth’s chuffed that the cooperative campaign is back in play once again.

D

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✪✪✪✪✪

population is either dead or turned into Chimera and it appears that the Chimera are now slowly terraforming the planet using massive satellites. The game opens with Capelli living with his wife and child among resistance fighters until, of course, things go completely lop-sided and he’s forced back to the front lines of the battle with the Chimera. Unlike its predecessor Resistance 3 kicks into highgear almost immediately. Within the first 10 minutes of play you’ll come face-to-face with hordes of enemy soldiers and a mini-boss after which, you’re given barely a couple of minutes to catch your breath before the next disaster strikes. This game forces you to constantly stay on your toes as you’ll be fending off enemy soldiers, setting up ambushes or trying to hunt down objectives. As a result, while Resistance 3 is a reasonably long game, the fast-paced action makes it seems like it’s all over way too soon. You won’t find yourself longing for more however because, from start to finish, Resistance 3 is a thoroughly satisfying game. As a first person shooter the game does not disappoint; there are loads of weapons on offer, tons of baddies to blow away and the controls are very responsive. While we think that the game could have been a bit better with some sort of cover system, it still works well the way it is now. Our only complaint is that the enemy AI is fairly basic when compared to other current shooters. At most you’ll see foes taking cover and trying to take you out from a distance but more often than not, you just need to flank to get the better of them. The larger enemies are tougher to beat of course but with a little patience, you can easily win the day. One element that Resistance: Fall of Man offered but its sequel - Resistance 2 lacked was cooperative campaign play. We were genuinely annoyed with this given that the cooperative campaign was the only aspect of Fall of Man that remained


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Resistance 3

GAME ON 99

The Chimera you face in the game vary from small to gigantic. The beast you see here is far from the largest Chimera you’ll come across in the game

While Capelli was a military man in Resistance 2, he’s since been dishonourably discharged for killing Hale and now has a family

The appropriately named ‘Goliath’ is a massive enemy Chimera unit and one that can’t be taken down by most of the weapons in the game

The game will throw a constant stream of Chimera at you. These guys are particularly hard to kill owing to their movement style

with us years after we played it. Thankfully, Insomniac Games has brought cooperative play back to the mix with Resistance 3 and, as before, it’s an absolute hoot. Playing with a friend we were thoroughly satisfied with the non-stop action on offer. Even the lack of any real team-play elements – you can only heal each other when you get gunned down and open the odd door or two – did nothing to diminish the playability of the cooperative mode. Playing on the medium difficulty setting, the campaign offered approximately eight hours of play, which is quite reasonable. The only issue we had with this game mode then was that when you play in split-screen on a local console, the quality of graphics decreases noticeably. You also get less than half a screen of visibility per player, which is a bit disappointing. None of these issues arise of course if you’re playing the game cooperatively using the free-

While we fully recommend playing the cooperative campaign, you’ll get the best visual experience when you’re playing alone

to-use PlayStation Network. While visual quality is reduced when you’re playing local split-screen games, when you’re playing solo, Resistance 3 looks quite brilliant. As before the game perfectly creates impressive environments that convey the desolation of decades of fighting. You’ll see run down towns and cities, dilapidated structures, unmanaged plant life overrunning infrastructure and so much more. The environments on offer are also diverse in that they change from fairly bright outdoor scenarios to downright eerie, dark ones accented by enemies groaning and growling in the distance. The game offers some decent voice acting with the monologue from the perspective of Capelli helping to carry the game forward in between the insanity of action scenes. There's fairly well-matched music to help you along as well.

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There’s never a dull moment in Resistance 3. From the time you start the game you’ll have to mow down hordes of Chimera


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GAME ON 101

Bodycount

odycount is a first-person-shooter developed by Codemasters and Guildford Studio, the same team that developed the successful 2006 game, Black. The story focuses on Jackson - a former American soldier - who is recruited by an organisation called ‘The Network’, which has a reputation for being able to solve conflicts even when organisations such as the UN fail. The storyline and premise are basic at best; they're only there as a reason to get thrown head-first into fire fights. Perhaps the most interesting element Bodycount offers is its semi destructible environments. Most things in the game will disintegrate if you throw enough of firepower at them and besides being cool to watch, this opens up tactical options from time-to-time. You can also just have fun by doing simple things like shooting through doors, if you know enemies are behind them or, if you have the right weapon, you can even shoot through walls, killing everyone on the other side. The latter is hugely fun and satisfying. As trigger happy as Bodycount seems, it encourages you to opt for

B

XBOX

✪✪✪✪✪ Price: $59 Controller: Xbox 360 controller Best Bit: The semi destructible environments make it possible to kill enemies in unique and interesting ways. Verdict: While Bodycount is fun for the first few hours, the basic AI and lacking storyline will eventually take a toll on the experience.

carefully placed shots and offers skill points that show up as a multiplier on the screen. Headshots, accurate grenade throws and a flurry of precise kills will ensure that a multiplier continues to increase. Careless firing however will automatically bring the multiplier back to zero. It also ensures you finish with a bad rank at the end of the current mission. By killing foes you earn the right to call in heavier firepower such as air-strikes, which do some serious damage to the environment and anyone standing in and around ground zero. The game features a cover system which works reasonably well; you can lean around corners or slowly poke your head above cover, which allows you to aim down your sight and score a skilled kill. However, given the fact that the enemy artificial intelligence (AI) is quite basic, you won’t have to worry about flushing enemies out of cover. Foes rarely cover themselves so you have ample time to take them down. The same is true even on higher difficulty settings and even as you progress through the game, you just have a higher number of baddies to deal with.

Action fans will find Bodycount right up their alley; there are 10 weapons in all and the explosions along with the semi destructible environments add to the carnage

The enemy AI is surprisingly basic in this game. Even on the harder difficulty settings you should be able to get through the game without too much trouble

In isolation Bodycount’s graphics are quite reasonable but compared to other FPS games like Crysis 2, there’s a huge difference in overall visual quality

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Like the much older Black, Bodycount doesn’t have much of a story but manages to throw hordes of baddies at you. Ultimately they’re just an excuse to use your various firearms


EXPERT SPEAK 103

SECURITY IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST MICROSOFT For many years, the principal focus for IT security teams in most organisations has been Microsoft - protecting the majority operating system (Windows) against the torrent of malicious code and the activity of cybercriminals. In recent years, not only has Microsoft raised its game in security but a wide array of new devices has also become popular in the workplace. Many of these new platforms, like Apple's popular Mac OS X or a myriad of new smartphone operating systems such as iOS and Google’s Android, have slipped into mainstream business use - frequently termed as 'consumerisation'. The downside here is that most users of these new platforms often don’t think about security in the way the traditional PC or laptop user would. The common view is that security issues largely affect PCs but that other devices are safe - a view that has been reinforced by many years of relatively threat free operation. This

however is not due to these platforms being eminently secure, but rather due to a lack of attention from the bad guys out in cyberspace. Unfortunately, over the last 18 months the threat has diversified and users are being left exposed. We are now seeing a significant increase in malicious code and attacks targeted at Mac users. The volume of malware targeting the Mac may be very small in comparison to the PC but it is just as effective at stealing data and scamming users for cash. Combine this with an unsuspecting user and you have a recipe for disaster.

IS MY M MAC AC NATURALLY MORE SECURE THAN A PC? For some, using a Mac gives a sense of immunity - after all the operating system is more secure than a PC – isn’t it? Whilst Mac OS X does have some great security features (I’m a particular fan of the UNIX foundations which give it an elegant permissions system, installer process and the

need to authenticate for certain key attributes even if an ‘administrator’) it certainly is not immune to attack. Indeed, in some areas Mac OS X is perhaps less secure than the ubiquitous Windows operating system. For one, Apple can be much less aggressive about patching security vulnerabilities than Microsoft (these days), leaving its users exposed for significant periods of time to threats. Take, for example, the recent Diginotar debacle. Diginotar was manipulated into issuing certificates for sites like Gmail, the CIA and Experian. These bad certificates left users’ passwords and sensitive information open to abuse when they thought it was encrypted. The Diginotar certificates that were issued for these sites were known to be bad for well over a week before Apple issued the command to have them removed. This left Mac users unnecessarily exposed, significantly after other vendors had taken action to protect their users.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

James Lyne, Director of Technology Strategy, Sophos warns that you should worry about security beyond the popular Windows operating system platform.


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104 EXPERT SPEAK

for popular legitimate search terms. In December 2010 there were over 100,000 individual variants of FakeAV targeted at the PC. Whilst there are far less for the Mac you can see from the images (left) that this FakeAV product has had significant investment in the user interface and experience - it has all the shiny finishing of a Mac product loaded with an intuitive workflow that will make you feel right at home, as it steals your money and data. FakeAV campaigns can be very convincing, often offering a user technical support (sometimes with a telephone number where you can speak directly to your scammers).

TOP TIPS TO KEEP YOUR MAC MACHINE SECURE

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

Since the bad guys out there will continue to find new and innovative ways to steal your data and hard earned money, it’s definitely worth your while to take some serious security precautions on your beloved Mac machine. Here are some tips to help you along:

WHAT ABOUT MALWARE FOR THE MAC? Fake anti-virus (pictured above) is one example of malicious code now affecting Mac users. Fake Anti-Virus is spread all over the Internet, using black search engine optimisation, a technique that the bad guys use to get their bad pages or code showing up

• Update your security policy and training to cover platforms like Mac OS X. • Make sure that you (and even friends & family) understand that just because they aren’t using a standard desktop PC, it doesn’t make them immune to attacks. • Make sure you are running anti-virus software on your system, even if it is a Mac. Home users can download a free copy of Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac from http://www.sophos. com to keep themselves safe online.

Businesses can get protection for over 30 platforms from Sophos. • Make sure you apply the latest application and operating system updates to your system in a timely fashion. There are often critical security fixes hidden in the fine print with these updates. • Set a strong password on your system and disable automatic login. You can find top tips on how to set a good password at http://nakedsecurity. sophos.com/2010/02/03/choosestrong-password. • Encrypt your Mac to make sure that if you lose it people won’t be able to access your sensitive data. You can use the FileFault application on the Mac for free, or if you need business grade protection you can use a full disk encryption product. • There are lots of browsers available on Mac OS X including Safari, Chrome and Firefox. Cybercriminals today target lots of different browsers, so make sure you have configured your browser to update and apply the latest security fixes quickly. • Check that you have enabled the Mac OS X firewall. Depending on the version of the operating system it may or may not be enabled by default. This firewall will prevent bad guys connecting to you and exploiting services while you are, for example, connected to free wireless networks when you’re in a public place such as a coffee shop or airport. For more free tips on managing the switchover, go to: http://www.sophos.com/ en-us/security-news-trends/security-trends/ why-switch-to-ipv6.aspx


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Competitions

REGULARS 105

COMPETITIONS… As always the Windows team has worked to ensure you have the chance to win some killer, high-tech kit. For your chance to win, just follow the instructions below...

A SUPERCHARGED SCREAMER DREAM MACHINE 2011 It’s that time of the year again faithful readers. Windows Middle East has once again built a stupid fast machine that can only be classified as a Dream Machine and, as always, we’re giving you the chance to win it. Read on to find out how... Putting together a Dream Machine is incredibly difficult because while there are hundreds of thousands of components on the market, only a select few are worthy of a machine labelled as a Dream Machine. As before we juggled a number of different configuration ideas and finally ended up with the following killer specification list: an Intel Core i7 990X Extreme Edition processor, a Gigabyte GA-X58A-OC motherboard, 12GB of Corsair DominatorGT DDR3 memory, a Zotac GeForce GTX 590 graphics card with 3GB of GDDR5 memory, a 120GB Corsair Force GT SSD drive, a 2TB Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive, a Corsair H100 CPU cooler, a Corsair Obsidian 800D full tower chassis, a Corsair AX1200 (1200-Watt) power supply, a Razer Black Widow Ultimate Stealth Edition keyboard, a Razer Naga Epic mouse, a Razer Chimera 5.1 headphone set, a 23-inch LG D2342P Cinema 3D display and, last but not least, Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. Thanks to these killer components, Dream Machine 2011 is a speed demon. It soundly thrashed every other desktop PC we tested this year and was, unsurprisingly, faster than Dream Machine 2010 across the board. It is, in short, a screamer. To win this insanely powerful machine visit our website on www.itp.net/competitions and answer us this simple question: Which is the region’s favourite PC & Consumer Technology Guide?

a) Windows Middle East b) PC Magazine c) PC World

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

A DR EAM PC


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106 REGULARS

Competitions

GOLD ,G GOLDOLD,

GO FOR GOLD

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

KASPERSKY SECURITY PRODUCTS All that glitters is Gold this GITEX Shopper, courtesy of our friends at Al Hosani Computer LLC and Kaspersky Lab Middle East. The week of Gold bar surprises will start on October 8 and will run to October 15. During this time anyone who purchases Kaspersky Antivirus 2012 or Kaspersky Internet Security 2012 will qualify for a chance to win a limited edition of seven gold bars, worth nearly AED 30,000 each. Kaspersky Antivirus 2012 and Internet Security 2012 are your best defense against viruses, Trojans, botnets and other malicious malware. The Internet is quickly becoming a breeding ground for hackers and criminals who want to steal your personal identity, bank account and credit card details. Phishing attacks are on the rise and more and more people fall victim to these dangerous scams every day. Kaspersky combines real-time protection from the cloud with powerful security technologies installed on your PC to ensure you get a faster and more effective response to today’s complex and ever-evolving threats. It has a URL and file advisor, which detects threats even before a webpage or file is opened. These along with a myriad of other security features like an excellent firewall, effective heuristics scanning and ability to roll back changes made by malware make Kaspersky Antivirus and Internet Security excellent allies in the fight against Internet and IT related security threats. Al Hosani Computer LLC will be at stand EL 2-2 at GITEX Shopper offering customers its latest products along with an opportunity to enter the draw. Visitors at the stall can also walk away with Kaspersky branded T-shirts, caps and other cool souvenirs. Kaspersky products can also be purchased from all participating retails stores including Carrefour, CompuMe, Emax, Geant, HyperPanda, Jacky’s, Jumbo and Sharaf DG. For your chance to take part in the competition all you have to do is register the purchased product’s activation scratch card on ITP.net, the leading Middle East technology website, part of the ITP Publishing Group. ITP will hold a draw every day for the seven days of GITEX Shopper to select a lucky winner of Kaspersky Lab’s Limited Edition Gold bar.


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Competitions

REGULARS 107

MONSTER GRAPHICS CARD ASUS MATRIX GTX 580 P/2DIS/1536MD5 Windows Middle East is partnering with the great guys at Asus to give one lucky reader the chance to win the superb Matrix GTX580 P/2DIS/1536MD5. This monster graphics card is every hardcore gamer’s fantasy. The card proved itself to be the maddest of the lot in our August GPU grouptest. However, its larger than life potential is portrayed when you first set eyes on the card, which needs a reasonably accommodating ATX chassis and no less than three rear expansion slots. The Matrix GTX580 packs 1.5GB GDDR5 memory, which is clocked at 4,008MHz while the GTX 580 GPU core runs at 816MHz. The GPU features 512 stream processors and is fabricated using Nvidia’s 40nm manufacturing process. As you’d expect there’s serious interface options on offer as well; you get one HDMI port, one DisplayPort and two DVI ports. The Matrix GTX580 packs some awesome overclocking tools as well. You’ll find dedicated controls on the edge of its PCB and a skim around the card will also reveal a fan control button that, when pressed, will instantly spool the two cooling fans to maximum speed. This is useful when you’re pushing seriously high GPU and memory frequencies. Thanks to this excellent cooling system the Asus Matrix GTX 580 can blast through even the most ferocious games without ever batting an eyelid. The Matrix can even show you how much voltage the different bits of your card are drawing thanks to dedicated measurement points. The engineers at Asus also made sure to include a ‘Safe mode’ button with this monster, just incase overclockers go overboard. This can be used to instantly reset the card to its normal working frequency thereby preventing you from ending up in an endless loop. For your chance to win this superb graphics card from Asus, simply point your browser to www.itp.net/ competitions and answer this simple question: What is the GPU frequency of the Asus Matrix GTX580?

GRA ND GPU

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

a) 725MHz b) 800MHz c) 816MHz


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108 REGULARS

Competitions

MALWARE BUSTER TREND MICRO TITANIUM MAXIMUM SECURITY 2012 Securing your machine before you join a wireless network or surf the web is critical because, without protection, you're just asking for trouble. A cybercriminal can easily get to your data or hijack your online identity if you don't have any protection. It's a good thing then that the fantastic guys at Trend Micro want to hook up 12 lucky readers with a copy of their latest and greatest security suite, which is aptly known as Titanium Maximum Security 2012. Trend Micro has been in the computer security business since 1988, and in this time it has gathered a wealth of information and expertise on how to tackle modern computer threats. Today, it is one of the most reliable vendors in the IT security industry. The companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new Titanium Maximum Security 2012 is a testament to this. The security suite uses cloud based technology to proactively stop threats before they even reach your computer. The program also claims to use half the disk space and memory of other popular security software on the market. Titanium Maximum Security incorporates features for added security while using social networking sites. The software can tell you exactly which links are safe and which are malicious on sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. There is also a new fake antivirus cleaner and an improved antivirus and antispyware module. System Tuner is also included and improves PC performance by cleaning up temporary files, registries and thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s even a start-up SU manager, which recovers disk space and SECUPER RITY allows Windows to run more efficiently. The system tuner can also clear your browser history and cookies. Titanium Maximum Security also provides protection for up to three smartphones and is compatible with Android, iOS, Symbian and Windows based devices. Another great feature of Titanium Maximum Security is the Secure Erase File Shredder and an absolutely awesome SafeSync account, which allows you to store up to 10GB of data securely and share and access it from anywhere, anytime on any web-enabled device. Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012 is all you will ever need and more.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

To win a copy of Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security, point your browser to www.itp.net/competitions and answer this simple question: What

is the storage capacity of the Trend Micro SafeSync account that comes bundled with Titanium Maximum Protection? a) 1GB b) 10GB c) 100GB


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Competitions

REGULARS 109

BLACK BLAZER WESTERN DIGITAL CAVIAR BLACK 2TB Western Digital has once again teamed up with Windows Middle East to give loyal readers a chance to win the gift of storage. This time we have one massive 2TB Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive up for grabs. The latest Caviar Black drives are equipped with a 7,200rpm spindle motor, a 6Gb/sec SATA interface and 64MB of cache to ensure you get blinding fast performance for data transfers, gaming, videos and content creation. These drives then are built for maximum performance and power computing. Besides their seriously fast performance, Black drives are designed for long term reliability and feature dual processors to ensure that every bottleneck is taken care of. And despite the superb performance on offer, Western Digital’s fastest 7,200rpm drive runs silently and doesn’t run very hot either. It’s the perfect drive and it’s no wonder we also used this drive in our Dream Machine 2011 feature (check out the feature on page 12).

A MA S DRIV SIVE E

For a chance to win an insanely fast Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB drive get your sights fixed to www.itp.net/competitions and answer this simple question: What is the spindle speed of the Western

Digital Caviar Black 2TB drives? a) 5,400 rpm b) 7,200 rpm c) 10,000 rpm

PORTABLE POWERHOUSE IMATION APOLLO M250

For a chance to win this massive portable hard drive point your browser to www.itp.net/competitions and answer this question: What

is the physical size of the portable drive? a) 3.5-inch b) 1.5-inch c) 2.5-inch

POR STO TABLE RAG E

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

If you’ve got serious storage woes this is the competition for you. Windows Middle East and Imation have teamed up to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a massive 1TB portable hard drive from Imation’s Apollo line. The Apollo M250 uses a 2.5-inch portable hard drive that offers 1TB of capacity and does not need any external power source, as it is fully USB2.0 powered. Beyond its enormous storage capacity the drive looks amazing with its sleek aluminium finish and Imation even supplies a storage case for when you want to hit the road. The M250 boasts an ultra-slim design too, so it isn’t going to get in your way when you want to travel light. The Apollo isn’t all about raw storage either, the drive also features Arcsoft’s TotalMedia Backup, which will help you to backup and restore your precious data with ease. This really is a complete solution for computer users.


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110 REGULARS

CD contents

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

OUR PICK OF WINDOWS CD

ELEMENT BROWSER

HALALSCAPE

DARKWAVE STUDIO

MIND GENIUS

This app offers a unique web experience by stocking all the websites you look at in shelves. You can rearrange them into any order you please and all pages offer a live-preview. It features sophisticated technology from the ElemenKit platform and is joined by special features from the Mozilla foundation. All-in-all this is a very simple browser that doesn't need massive amounts of resources.

This is a halal browser that blocks any websites that contain gambling and adult content, thus making your web surfing experience completely safe, and halal. It can seamlessly integrate itself with popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, Dogpile and MSN. Should the browser detect that a website may be inappropriate, it automatically stops the webpage from loading.

This is an open source digital audio/modular virtual studio created to run on Windows. It offers a fantastic built-in sequence editor to arrange and mix patterns along with certain DarkPlug machines. The app supports third party VST effects and VSTi instruments to make music. It also features a Pattern editor which allows notes to be dragged over a sequence. An incredibly rich app for serious editors.

This application can help an individual or company move any ideas from their minds and onto software. This can then be illustrated as a flowchart, which will allow for clearer understanding and better decision making. Mind Genius can be used for business as well as academic situations; Project management, information mapping, presentations and problem solving. A highly useful tool.


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REGULARS 111

CD contents

T PI OP CK

HOW TO USE THE CD BROWSER Place your CD in your PC’s CD-ROM drive. If you have disabled autoplay, double-click ‘CDBrowser’ on the CD instead. When CD Browser starts, six buttons will appear listing software categories. Click a category and the software titles will appear in the left window. Simply choose which title you wish to view and click its name. Program details will appear along with three buttons: Install runs the installation program, Website takes you to the vendor’s site, and Screen displays a larger image of the software in action. In the middle of the window is also an option to change the CD browser’s skin.

CD 175: AWESOME SOFTWARE

TREND MICRO TITANIUM 2012

INTERNET

Titanium 2012 is an easy-to-use security suite that promises to keep your computer safe and your mind at ease. The suite offers protection against malware and all forms of viruses, Trojans, rootkits and botnets to name a few. The software can even call upon cloud technology to make sure your computer is protected, as soon as a threat is uncovered anywhere in the world. Even if you’re dealing with an unknown threat the software’s heuristics engine is accurate and so is very capable of identifying phishing websites and dangerous e-mails, so you don’t have to worry about your online identity being stolen. The application doesn't steal vital system resources either so you don't have to worry about your PC grinding to a halt when it's working in the background. The application includes a very useful Fake AV cleaner which detects and cleans malware based on its system level signature. This is far more accurate than a file level signature. The Proactive Botnet Protection feature meanwhile uses Network Content Inspection Technology (NCIT) to detect known botnets and other network threats.

ELEMENT BROWSER HALALSCAPE

GAMES CARS COOL POOL 3D 8 BALL

MULTIMEDIA ESSENTIAL FILES

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GAMES Cars Cool Pool 3D 8 Ball

If you love Pixar’s successful Cars movies, you sure are going to have a lot of fun playing this game. While the demo limits you to playing as Lightning McQueen and lets you play with just one track, you can still have loads of motoring fun. Playing as Lightning McQueen you can explore the town of Radiator Springs and Ornament Valley, as you collect Bolts and gain bonus points. There is adventure style gameplay in the full game which will see you interacting with the locals and, if you get into the mood for some crazy driving, then maybe you can race for Chick Hicks’ title. The game was developed by Beenox and offers animated graphics that make it look like an authentic Cars movie. The sound effects, music and voice-overs too are top notch so you really can have fun with this amazing title. Its almost as good as the legendary Mario Kart.

ATI Radeon HD 6xxx series (Windows 7 32-bit) drivers nVidia GeForce 500 series (Windows 7 32-bit) e Runtim Java Microsoft ActiveSync 4.5

Trend Micro Titanium s, Trojans and other malic tion against malware, viruse er, It provides effective protec has a new Fake AV clean PC. It uses cloud technology, Trend Micro can code that could harm your tive PE virus protection. Proac and tion time Protec t real its Proactive Botne or writing e-mails and you’re browsing online in save your identity when threats. While being heavy protected against the latest updates ensure you’re bog down your system. won’t and rces resou armour it is light on system www.itp.net

ation October 2011 An ITP Technology Public

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Windows Middle East free CD, which contains programs and applications, is provided as a free service to readers of Windows Middle East magazine for personal use. You may not rent, lease, assign, re-sell or otherwise transfer the rights to anyone for any product contained on this CD. The contents of the CD-ROM are provided as is, and although every effort has been taken to ensure the disk and contents are virus and defect free, Windows Middle East, nor The Information & Technology Publishing Co. Ltd., accept liability for any loss or damage resulting from the use of this CD-ROM or the programs on it. We recommend that you make a back-up of all your data before installing any of the software on this CD. Windows Magazine does not provide technical support for this CD-ROM or the programs on it. If your CD-ROM is physically defective, please return it to Reader Services, P.O. Box. 500024, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, so we may issue a replacement.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

CARS

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IUM 2012 CRO TITAN for your PC. TREND MI and best security suite 2012 is Trend Micro’s latest ious

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LOGGINGOFF SPACE LITTERING – THE NEXT FRONTIER

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST OCTOBER 2011

The amount of debris in space has now reached a ‘tipping point’ according to a study conducted by the United States. The study titled, Limiting Future Collision Risk to Spacecraft: An Assessment of NASA's Meteoroid and Orbital Debris Programs, brought to light the fact that there are thousands of pieces of space junk travelling around the Earth at speeds of up to 26,164 km/h. This junk poses a serious risk to spaceships and approximately 1,000 operative commercial, military and civilian satellites orbiting the Earth. “The current space environment is growing increasingly hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts," said Donald Kessler, former Head of NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office. The report further stated that, ‘the problem of space debris is similar to a host of other environmental problems and public concerns characterised by possibly significant differences between the short- and long-run damage accruing to society ... damage related to atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, storage of nuclear waste and longlived pharmaceutical residue in underground aquifers. Each has small short-run effects but, if left unaddressed, will have much larger impacts on society in the future.’ There have been two major incidents that have increased the amount of debris in space; the first was China’s destruction of one of its non-operational weather satellites via an anti-satellite missile test that was openly condemned by the world community. A second was caused by a working Iridium satellite that collided with a non-operational Russian satellite. The rest of the debris consists of out-of-use satellites and spent rockets.

ROBOT WEDS COUPLE

SOCIAL NETWORKING COULD GET YOU 30 YEARS IN THE CAN

Last month we reported that a computer married a couple in the US. Now, a young couple from Japan have had their wedding officiated by a robot. Tomohiro Shibato and Satoko Inoue opted to be married by a robot named i-Fairy. Yes, you read that right. The robot asked the groom to "please lift the bride's veil' as the newlyweds kissed in front of 50 guests. The couple work in the robotics field and fell in love with each other due to their passion for robots. Hence they thought it only natural that a robot should join them in holy matrimony. "It's true that robots are what caused us to first begin going out, and as suggested by my wife, we decided that we wanted to try this sort of wedding," Shibato said. "I always felt that robots would become more integrated into people's lives. This cute robot is part of my company, I decided that I would love to have it at my ceremony," added bride Inoue. While the ceremony took place in technology-crazy Tokyo, Japan, we aren't sure if robots are legally allowed to marry people in the first place.

Gilberto Martinez Vera, a 48-year old ex-school teacher who lives in Veracruz, Mexico, and Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola, an ex government official have been accused of terrorism. The reason being that both individuals posted false information on Twitter about kidnappings and shootouts that apparently didn’t happen. On August 25, Martinez Vera posted a tweet that claimed five children were kidnapped from a school in Veracruz. "I can confirm this, at the Jorge Arroyo school in the Carranza district, five children have been taken away by an armed group," said Martinez Vera's tweet. "Total psychosis in the area." He added that he got this information from his sister-in-law whose children attended the school. Bravo Pagola used her Twitter and Facebook account to re-tweet the incident and added that a helicopter had open fire at another school in the area. President Felipe Calderon said their actions were acts of terrorism and could face 30 years of prison. "How can they do this to me, for re-tweeting a message?," said Claribel Guevara, Bravo Pagola's defence lawyer, who was quoting her client. "I mean, it's 140 characters. It's not logical." “The lack of safety creates an atmosphere of mistrust in which rumours that circulate on social networks are part of people's efforts to protect themselves, since there is very little trustworthy information," Amnesty International wrote in a statement. We at Windows personally believe that 30 years for a Tweet, even one such as this, is taking things a step too far.


Windows Middle East - Oct2011  

Windows Middle East - Vol. October 2011 - ITP Technology

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