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01 09 VOL 16

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

PICK A BOOK We put six netbooks through their paces

SPEED FREAKS

DESKTOP DEATH

We examine six of the latest solid state drives on the market

Is the humble desktop PC going the way of the dodo? We investigate

GAME REVIEWS Brink, Cars 2 and Dungeon Siege 3 reviewed inside...

REVIEWS HP Envy 17 3D laptop Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 LG Cinema 3D LED TV RIM BlackBerry Bold 9900 smartphone and many more reviewed this month... DHS15 • SR15 • LE12 • JD2 • KD1.5 • QR15 • LL7,000

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CONTENTS 1

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

www.itp.net

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

PICK A BOOK We put six netbooks through their paces

SPEED FREAKS

DESKTOP DEATH

We examine six of the latest solid state drives on the market

Is the humble desktop PC going the way of the dodo? We investigate

CONTENTS WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST

REVIEWS

GAME REVIEWS Brink, Cars 2 and Dungeon Siege 3 reviewed inside... 600MB OF FREE SOFTWARE

HP Envy 17 3D laptop Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 LG Cinema 3D LED TV RIM BlackBerry Bold 9900 smartphone and many more reviewed this month... DHS15 ‡65‡/(‡-'‡.'‡45‡//

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

12 FEATURE

12

12 IS THE DESKTOP DONE?

HAS THE DESKTOP PC HAD IT'S DAY

The existence of the desktop PC could be at stake due to the growing popularity of mobile computing devices such as notebooks, tablets and even smartphones. The popularity of cloud services are also threatening the future of the desktop, as these services make it possible for mobile devices to tackle content and applications that were once only the domain of the desktop PC. Does the humble desktop PC have a future? We investigate.

17 GROUPTEST 17 SPEED FREAKS Solid state drives (SSDs) rely on extremely fast NAND Flash memory to store data and so are completely devoid of moving parts. As a result these drives offer incredible read and write performance and, at the same time, are also impervious to sudden shocks and jolts. These drives can also be quite expensive, which means buying the right one is essential. Here, WINDOWS tests six of the latest SSDs on the market so if you’re looking to boost your system’s overall performance, read on‌

24 CHOOSE YOUR BOOK

17 SPEED FREAKS

24

CHOOSE YOUR BOOK

Netbooks have been on the market for a fair few years now and thanks to their aggressive pricing, compact size, low weight, decent battery life and reasonable performance, they are still in demand. As a result manufacturers offer multiple netbook models, which can make choosing one for your specific needs quite difficult. Don't fret however because in this grouptest, WINDOWS looks at six of the latest netbooks on the market and gives you all the details, so you can make an informed purchase. Flip over to find out which is for you...

WIN FANTASTIC TECH PRIZES

60


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2 CONTENTS 6

NEWS

6 7

GOOGLE GRABS MOTOROLA HP TO DROP MOBILITY BUSINESS PRODUCTS WINDOWS 8 TO HAVE APPLICATION STORE

8

36

33 HOT KIT REVIEWS 35 36 37 38 39 40

AVIRA PREMIUM SECURITY HP ENVY 17 3D 17-2000EE LENOVO IDEAPAD TABLET K1 LG 42LW5700 CINEMA 3D TV RIM BLACKBERRY 9900 SAMSUNG GALAXY SII

42 BUYER'S GUIDE THE BIGGEST TECH REFERENCE GUIDE 43 43 44 44 45 45 46 46 47 47

COMPONENTS DESKTOPS DIGITAL IMAGING HANDHELDS MONITORS NOTEBOOKS PERIPHERALS PRINTERS SOFTWARE STORAGE

48 GAME ON 48 54 56

NEWS CARS 2 DUNGEON SEIGE III

60 REGULARS 60

COMPETITIONS

62 64

CD CONTENTS LOGGING OFF

37

38

39


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Contact us at: Brother International (Gulf) FZE: P.O.Box 16851, Jebel Ali, Dubai, U.A.E., Phone: 971-4-8835878, Fax: 971-4-8837931, E-mail: bicgulf@brother.ae; UAE: Jumbo Electronics (Dubai 3367999), Saudi Arabia: Al Maktaba Stores (Jeddah 6620890), Canar Office Systems (Al Khobar 8984928), Bahrain: Ashraf Brothers W.L.L. (Manama 7520230), Qatar: Video Home & Electronics Centre (Doha 4410060), Kuwait: Arabian Business Machines Co. (Safat 2445373), Oman: Bishara Establishment (Muscat 24700224).


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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 SEPTEMBER 2011

LOOKING BACK Last month was a big one for anyone connected to the technology industry. Though the month started off like any other for me, by the time my monthly salary rolled in, I was completely blown away. The headlines were colossal; HP announced it was putting its webOS operating system (OS) into hibernation and discontinuing production of its only recently introduced Touchpad tablet and smartphones. The firm also announced that it may sell or spin-off its personal systems group (PSG), which is responsible for the company’s desktops, notebooks, servers, workstations, mobile devices and more. That’s right, HP, who is as well established for its computers as it is its printers, could soon exit the personal computer market. Just a few days earlier, software titan Google announced its acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings. Motorola Mobility is the division of Motorola that is responsible for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Should this acquisition be approved by all the relevant parties, it will mark Google’s transition from a software only company into one that also dabbles in hardware. Moving forward, on August 24 Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced his resignation saying, “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come”. I should note that whereas the other two big news announcements I mentioned above were business-related, it’s more than likely that Mr. Jobs had to step down owing to his ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer. Beyond these announcements, another important but completely overshadowed event came and went last month. On August 25 the Linux OS turned 20 years old. Winding back the clocks 10 years, Linux had tons of momentum and was literally the talk of industry. Unfortunately its momentum and its once famous penguin brand mascot, all but disappeared following the tumble of the software market and the dot-com bust. While Linux failed to grab a sizeable share of the desktop market, it quietly became a success in other sectors, such as the the mobile one - though you’d never know it. You see the Linux framework is alive and kicking right before your very eyes. Google’s Android OS has elements of Linux in it and so does HP’s webOS. You’ll also find Linux elements in smart TVs, smart refrigerators, ATM machines, GPS systems and even car entertainment systems. The Linux community is alive and well too and with an ever growing list of contributors to the software’s kernel, it’s likely that Linux will continue to flourish in the shadows. August was a big month. Just remember that four tech-related events took place, not three. Jason Saundalkar Jason.saundalkar@itp.com

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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

GOOGLE GRABS MOTOROLA Google entered into a definitive

          

SEPTEMBER 2010 | VOL.23 ISSUE 9

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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

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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 Pak kistaan

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

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agreement to purchase Motorola Mobility Holdings last month. Google will acquire Motorola Mobility for a total of about US $12.5 billion or $40 per share in cash, a hefty premium of 63% to the closing price of Motorola Mobility shares recorded on Friday, August 12, 2011. "Motorola Mobility's total commitment to Android has created a natural fit for our two companies. Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers. I look forward to welcoming â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Motorolansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; to our family of Googlers," said Larry Page, CEO of Google. The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies. Google hopes that with the purchase of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, it will be able to supercharge the Android ecosystem and enhance competition in mobile computing. "We expect that this combination will enable us to break new ground for the Android ecosystem. However, our vision for Android is unchanged and Google remains firmly committed to Android as an open platform and a vibrant open source community. We will continue to work with all of our valued Android partners to develop and distribute innovative Android-powered devices," said Andy Rubin, Senior Vice President of Mobile at Google. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business and Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. "This transaction offers significant value for Motorola Mobility's stockholders and provides compelling new opportunities for our employees, customers, and partners around the world. We have shared a productive partnership with Google to advance the Android platform, and now through this combination we will be able to do even more to innovate and deliver outstanding mobility solutions across our mobile devices and home businesses," said Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola Mobility. The transaction is expected to close at the end of 2011 or early 2012 after regulatory approvals in the US, the European Union and other jurisdictions, and the approval of Motorola Mobility's stockholders.


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NEWS 7

HP TO DROP MOBILITY BUSINESS HP is to axe its mobility unit which is responsible for tablets and smartphones. The firm is also thinking about selling its PSG business unit so it can focus on software and services. The vendor confirmed that it is to close its webOS business, despite paying $1.2bn to buy Palm just over one year ago. The company is also purchasing UK software company Autonomy for US $11.7bn. HP launched the Touchpad in July of this year. However, the device failed to gain traction amongst enterprises and consumers, and was met with mixed reviews by critics. The move to focus on software and services had been on the cards ever since the company announced the hiring of former SAP chief executive Leo Apotheker in September 2010. HP had previously quashed rumours that Apotheker had been planning to refocus the company away from its traditional hardware business, towards software and services. The move is reminiscent of IBM's decision to leave the hardware business back in 2004, albeit one that is far more rapid. HP's shares responded negatively to the news last month, falling 6% by the end of trading. They had shed a further 4% in after-hour trading.

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APPLE COULD BE COURTING SHARP LCDS Apple could be planning to shift the manufacture of its LCDs for the iPhone and iPad from Samsung to Sharp LCDs, according to a report from Reuters. Apple's relationship with Samsung is on the rocks following rumours pointing to the company doctoring pictures of the new Galaxy Tab in a current court case. This could result in Apple seeking out parts elsewhere, with Japan being a likely alternative. Sharp currently has a deal with Apple to manufacture power efficient screens for the sixth generation iPhone according to Reuter's sources. Sharp revealed earlier this year that it planned to switch production from larger displays to smaller screens for smartphones and tablets. The price for Sharp panels is currently higher than Samsung and this may signal a price hike for Apple smartphones and tablet devices.

Sony is joining the digital reader bandwagon and launching a e-reader platform on its PSP handheld console, the company announced at Gamescom in Germany last month. The digital reader platform will first launch in the US and key areas in Europe including the UK this December.The first part of the e-reader service, called 'Digital Comics', will allow gamers to download scores of both new and classic comics from the PlayStation Store to the console, via Wi-Fi connection. Sony has so far made deals with comic giants such as Marvel, the publisher of Star Trek and Transformers comics IDW Publishing and iVerse Media. Sony said that they will also include indie comic titles and underground publications going forward. "The intuitive Autoflow feature allows you to zoom in and move from frame to frame on each digital page, mimicking the way your eyes would move across a print page from left to right. It's straightforward and simple to use, and thanks to PSP's high contrast LCD screen, your comics will be looking better than ever, as the stunning graphics leap out from the screen," said the Sony press release. Pricing details have not yet been released for the new reader service and no other content has been mentioned. Sony also announced that the PSP handheld will be available in two new colours from November; Turquoise Green and Blossom Pink.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

SONY TO LAUNCH DIGITAL READER SERVICE


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8 NEWS

WINDOWS 8 TO HAVE APP STORE The latest blog post on Microsoft’s ‘Building Windows 8’ blog shows that Microsoft’s forthcoming operating system (OS) will have an application store. Steven Sinofsky, President of Microsoft’s Windows Live Division introduced the core team of engineers who are working on the OS and posted a list of the features and improvements that Windows 8 will bring. One of the teams introduced was an app store team and while listing improvements and additions to Windows 8, one of the items highlighted was an ‘App Store’. This is the first time that Microsoft has publically talked about support for an application store in its next OS. Microsoft is developing Windows 8 to run on personal computers, media center PCs, tablets and even servers. The new interface, which is said to feature full touch support, is designed for 16:9 screens and requires that display screens have a minimum resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels for the full visual experience. Users with lower resolution screens will be forced to use the traditional Windows desktop rather than the enhanced new interface. The blog is viewable at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/.

SAMSUNG LAUNCHES PM830 SSD FAMILY

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

Samsung has launched a new range of Serial ATA 3.0 compliant solid state drives (SSDs) known as the PM830. The SSD range is designed for notebooks and can be had with capacities ranging from 128GB to 512GB. “Samsung’s new line up of advanced SSDs will raise the performance bar to the next level for ultra-slim notebooks and tablets and accelerate growth of the market for high-performance SSDs,” said Wanhoon Hong, Executive Vice President, Memory Sales & Marketing, Device Solutions, Samsung Electronics. “The industry is expected to quickly embrace Serial ATA 6Gb/s SSDs, which also will help increase market interest in 256GB and higher densities significantly." The SSD range is said to offer up to 500MB/sec read rates and sequential write speeds of up to 350MB/sec. The PM830 SSDs features 20nm 32GB MLC NAND memory chips. The SSD drives will also be equipped with 256-bit AES encryption. The drive is already shipping to OEM customers with full retail availability expected to follow shortly.

APPLE TO BRING MAGSAFE CHARGERS TO IOS DEVICES Apple has applied for a patent that will see MagSafe power cables, identical to the one used for the company's Macbook line, come to the iPhone and iPad. The MagSafe charger has saved many Macbooks from sudden death. The mechanics are simple; the charging head of the cable is magnetically attached to the charging port on a Macbook. If someone trips over the charger, the MagSafe adapter disengages the charging head from the port, as the sudden tug is enough to allow the power head to come out but not enough to drag the Macbook along with it. Apple has now trademarked the technology with the US Patent Office in order to transfer MagSafe and give iPhone and iPad users some peace of mind. The website PatentlyApple.com says regarding a proposed charger for the iPad, "In one particular embodiment the connector may be a power connector like the MagSafe".


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10 NEWS

FIREFOX 6 RELEASED

Mozilla has released a new version of its popular Firefox browser. Firefox 6 does not have a significantly different look and feel from the previous version but Mozilla says it has been designed to offer better security and has fixed a number of bugs. The new version includes site-specific permissions, so that more advanced users can tweak controls such as acceptance of cookies, location sharing, pop-ups, and password and data storage, to allow trusted sites more functionality without having to open up permissions to all sites. Other improvements include faster tab groups; enhanced site identity block to make it easier for users to tell if they are viewing a legitimate site' and enhanced Firefox Sync to synchronise favourites and settings between desktop and mobile browser versions. The update fixes ten bugs from the previous version of the popular web browser. Mozilla also released a new version of the browser for the Google Android platform.

SAMSUNG RELEASES NEW GALAXY PHONE

Samsung released the latest Galaxy smartphone, the Galaxy R last month, which features a 4.19-inch screen, a Nvidia Tegra 2 mobile super chip and Googleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Android Gingerbread operating system (OS). The Nvidia Tegra 2 chip is the first mobile processor with a dual-core CPU and the Galaxy R also features a GeForce GPU for fast web browsing. It also offers hardware-accelerated Adobe Flash Player support, full HD video playback and consolequality gaming. Users can access Tegra-optimised games through the Tegra Zone app on the Android Market. "Samsung's newest super phone shows off Tegra's multimedia power, and is a great example of what consumers expect from one of the world's top phone makers," said Michael Rayfield, General Manager of NVIDIA's Mobile Business. The phone packs 720p HD video capture and 1080p Full HD playback, a built-in memory of 8GB and support for 32GB microSD memory cards. The Galaxy R is already available in Sweden, and is coming to other regions including the Middle East in the coming months.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

ANONYMOUS HACKS SYRIAN GOVERNMENT WEBSITE Well-known hacker group Anonymous broke into the Syrian Ministry of Defence's website, mod.gov.sy, last month and left a screen with a mock up of the Syrian flag with the Anonymous logo of a faceless man in the middle, in place of normal website content. A message to the Syrian people from Anonymous was posted in English and Arabic on the screen, the message read: "To the Syrian people: The world stands with you against the brutal regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Know that time and history are on your side - tyrants use violence because they have nothing else, and the more violent they are, the more fragile they become. We salute your determination to be non-violent in the face of the regime's brutality, and admire your willingness to pursue justice, not mere revenge. All tyrants will fall, and thanks to your bravery Bashar Al-Assad is next. To the Syrian military: You are responsible for protecting the Syrian people, and anyone who orders you to kill women, children, and the elderly deserves to be tried for treason. No outside enemy could do as much damage to Syria as Bashar Al-Assad has done. Defend your country - rise up against the regime!" The top of the page became a stream of YouTube links to videos of Syrian soldiers defecting and images of destruction in various Syrian cities. The hack took place shortly after the Syrian army attacked rebel-held Deir al-Zour.


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COMMENT 11

VIEWS

WHAT IS HP THINKING?

HP’s plan to sell off its personal systems group (PSG) unit looks ill-judged reckons ITP.net’s Mark Sutton. Tablet may be the talk of the town, but it's still a small fraction of the overall PC market when compared to desktops and notebooks. One issue pointed out by IDC is HP PSG had been performing well in enterprise sales, as enterprises pick up the refresh cycle. But those enterprise buyers won't want to commit to HP's products if the future of PSG is up in the air, they demand stability from their suppliers. There was also no mention of HP's lucrative printing business, the IPG unit. One of the selling points of HP is that it does it all, from print to servers and services. If PSG goes, then HP becomes a company that does enterprise hardware, software and services, with a nice sideline in printer cartridges - why stay in one part of the low-end hardware business but not another? Will focusing on software

and services also mean the end for HP's IPG division? Apotheker's announcement to me seems to be an ill thought out reaction to please the investors and the markets, without much work behind it to plan a future for PSG. It potentially marks the sad loss of a reputable brand from the PC market. IBM made a bold strategic move in selling off its PC business back in 2004, and HP has been slowly building up its services and software offerings, but it is not at the same level as IBM was, and the loss of PSG is going to take a big chunk out of HP's revenue. And if HP doesn't end up selling PSG, then what the hell was Apotheker thinking? This looks more like badly-planned pandering to the technology market rather than a solid strategic gambit on HP's part.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

H

P's announcement that it is considering getting rid of its PC business has left more than a few people asking ‘what on earth is the company, and recently appointed CEO Leo Apotheker in particular, thinking?' During a third quarter analyst call, Apotheker, who has been at the helm at HP for less than a year, said that the company was considering spinning off or selling its PC business, the PSG unit. It was a fairly woolly comment, with no indication if the company had any hard and fast plans as to what it will do with PSG, potential buyers and so on. Instead Apotheker effectively doomed the business to a slow death. The other part of the announcement, that HP is to bin its Touchpad tablet after less than one month of sales, is somewhat more understandable but no less flakey, in my opinion. Tablet and the WebOS phones were beginning to look like a bit of a white elephant, and a distraction to the core PC business - but to get out of tablet, which is a segment with a lot more potential to be realised yet, after such a short time, seems like the actions of a company that is struggling to find its way. The PC market is weaker than ever, and undoubtedly moving towards commoditisation but I don't believe that HP PSG was performing so badly that it had to go. PSG was responsible for 31% of HP's total revenues in most recent quarterly results, shipments were up in Q2, and HP is still the market leader, with 18% of the worldwide PC market in Q2.


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12 FEATURE

Is the desktop obsolete?

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

HAS THE DESKTOP PC HAD ITS DAY? The very existence of the humble desktop PC could be at stake due to the ever growing popularity of mobile computing devices and the continuously increasing interest in cloud-based services. Does the desktop PC have a future or will it be banished to the history books in the next couple of years? WINDOWS investigates...


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Is the desktop obsolete?

The humble desktop computer has been with us for decades. The 1970s saw computers shrink enough to fit onto table- and desk-tops whereas in years gone by, they would need a room of their own. The first fully programmable desktop machine came from the sophisticated - for its time - 9800 series from HP. The HP 830A offered a built-in printer and was programmable in the BASIC (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) programming language. As the years rolled on computers became increasingly more sophisticated, and smaller. In the early to mid 80s computers such as the Apple II series and IBM Personal Computer were increasingly adopted in businesses and homes, though the latter was a luxury that most people couldn’t afford until the late 80s and early 90s.

THE BOOM YEARS

FEATURE 13

THE EARLY YEARS The HP 9830A (pictured) was one of the most powerful models in the company’s 9800 series of calculators. Though it could be used completely as a calculator, the 9830A was also a computer that could be programmed in BASIC and could be had with options such as terminal emulation and a hard disk drive. The two hard drive offers available at the time packed 2.4MB and 4.8MB of space and retailed for US $10,945 and $12,995 respectively. Options such as a plotter and Terminal Emulator went for about $485 each. The machine itself retailed for approximately $5,975.

The mid 80s were packed with a number of interesting developments that helped spur on the adoption of the personal computer in both homes and businesses. 32-bit CPUs were introduced and allowed users to run complex multi-user operating systems, which meant that a desktop computer could easily service small offices and even some medium-sized businesses. Another major innovation at the time was the introduction of the graphics user interface (GUI). This visual interface allowed users to interact with their machines by clicking on icons and by using techniques such as dragging and dropping to accomplish tasks. Prior to this, computer users were forced to work with somewhat complicated command line operating systems such as Microsoft’s DOS (Disk Operating System). This OS needed users to type in specific commands with somewhat complex modifiers to get specific jobs done. The 90s were some of the best years for the desktop machine in terms of growth and acceptance. Desktop machines continued shrinking in size, became more potent and, perhaps most importantly, became cheaper to TODAY’S DESKTOP own. Operating systems such as Micrsoft’s Windows and Apple’s System MONSTERS and Mac OS offerings continued to make it easier for people to interact with their machines and, with the explosion of the Internet, the desktop Modern desktop machines can be quite stylish and depending on how much money you spend on PC transitioned from expensive luxury, into a must have tool for every yours, it can pack serious punch and open up the world of high-end apps and games to you. home and business. While more and more desktop PCs were being shifted with each year, the growth began to slow towards the end of the first decade of the 2000s. A number of factors contributed to this sudden decline.

Today there are many threats to the desktop PC, some more threatening than others. In both the home and business segments the emergence of tablets as well as powerful and feature-rich notebooks have been given as reasons for the decline of desktop PCs. “It all depends on which market you look at. Certainly a threat to desktops will be people’s uptake of tablet or other mobile devices or how rapidly cloud based technology is developed and adopted,” explains Mark Prosser, Product Marketing Manager, Mobility Products, Acer Computer Middle East. “Desktops and laptops will be under pressure if other areas were to see explosive growth and become readily available.”

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

THE THREATS


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14 FEATURE

Is the desktop obsolete?

When Apple unleashed its first generation iPad on the world in April 2010 it ignited a previously very niche market filled with notebooks that could double as tablets. Eyeing the explosive success of the iPad, other manufacturers were quick to chase down this new cash cow by introducing their very own tablets in the following months. While none of the clone devices managed to emulate the outright success of the iPad, many believe the damage to the desktop market was significant. “Laptops and tablets are the biggest threat as these provide great mobility, the major weakness of desktop PCs. Hundreds of thousands of tablets and smartphones and the available applications on those platforms will change the way we work,” says Green Lin, NB Channel Marketing, Micro-Star International (MSI). One of the possible reasons tablets have grabbed consumer interest is because tablets are considered ‘cool’. Tablets boast sleek proportions, offer users a brilliant content consuming experience and are infinitely more portable than desktops and even laptops. As a result users flock to grab these devices rather than investing in a desktop PC. Tablets also make sense for users with light computing needs because this group of users is generally only interested in A DESKTOP ALTERNATIVE? browsing the web, checking e-mail, doing a bit of social networking and watching the odd video or listening to the latest Apple’s amazing iPad took the world by storm when it was launched in April 2010. It quickly won fans in the months following its launch and greatest tunes. These are because it could do 80% of the things most consumers used their all tasks that tablets can desktop machines for. At the same time, it was a far sleeker proposition that you could travel with. undertake albeit at a higher cost than a basic desktop PC.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

GET IN THE ‘CLOUD’ Cloud services are also highlighted as a threat to the existence of desktop PCs because these services reduce the need to have fast processors and loads of storage on local machines. As a result notebooks, tablets and even mobile phones can, for example, display HD movie content, something that was previously unthinkable because you’d need a large amount of storage to store the content and then, have a powerful processor or GPU to decode and display it. While cloud services are gaining traction and offer a lot of value to consumers, there are a number of issues that are limiting people’s reliance on services hosted in the cloud. “Barriers to cloud computing include the cost of connection, the types of devices, the ease of engaging the eco-system, whether or not the eco-system is open to me in this part of the world, am I able to readily buy products, as well as what services and applications are on offer,” says Prosser. Acer reckons that the consumer will ultimately have to decide on what eco system COPY CATS works and until a decision is made, the desktop PC will continue to have a place in homes and offices. “There is still a lot of indecision in the industry as to which eco With the explosive success of the iPad many manufacturers system is the right one; certainly we believe that there will be multiple ecosystems. scrambled to jump onto the Ultimately, the consumer will decide which service, cloud based system/eco system is tablet bandwagon. The 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab was one of best for them, but until you really see a mainstream ease of use, I don’t see them being the first copy cat devices. It a threat to desktops," Prosser continues. was launched in September 2010 and experienced a fairly While many see notebooks, tablets, smartphones and cloud services as threats to solid degree of success. the desktop PC, Lenovo reckons that these devices have merely created a new market for themselves, alongside the desktop. “Desktop PCs are as much a focus for innovation at Lenovo as our range of ThinkPad and IdeaPad, and the new family of tablets that we recently introduced. It would be a mistake to think that people are selecting a single computing device, when in fact developments such as cloud computing encourage users to own a range of equipment and have the luxury of choosing the best device for the job,” explains Jack Lee, Vice President Lenovo Group and General Manager of Lenovo Middle East and Africa. “If you are in a coffee shop you might want to access a document, video or the Internet from your tablet device, whereas in the office you can use your desktop PC and at home you might choose a laptop. Cloud enables much more freedom for users, for example the ThinkPad tablet that we have recently introduced has software that allows users to sync files to their notebook or desktop PC, which is a great option for meetings and new business pitches. Lenovo has made a conscious decision to offer a range of formfactors, designs, specifications and prices to cater to the different needs of users.”


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16 FEATURE

Is the desktop obsolete?

While many believe the road ahead for the desktop computer is shrouded in uncertainty the Windows team is confident that the desktop will simply evolve, rather than go extinct. Acer believes the desktop PC will evolve as well, Prosser says, “Desktops are and will continue to evolve from the current formfactor; it will be smarter, smaller and more integrated to the home environment. Today, it may be a device that sits on the floor or in a study but certainly it’s an integral part of the home. Functionality and overall cost of ownership still makes the desktop a viable option in terms of the price to performance ratio and certainly we will see them being and becoming more user friendly”.

MAKING THE CASE FOR DESKTOPS Lenovo also shares the belief that the desktop PC is here to say. MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE “We have tremendous momentum in the PC space and I firmly believe that there is plenty of room for profitable growth, Don’t let the looks fool you, Apple’s iMac is essentially a desktop innovation and long-term success in the PC industry if you have PC hiding behind a unique formfactor. Behind the gorgeous screen lurks components you’d find in every other desktop PC on the the right strategy, great products and strong global execution. market. The iMac is said to frequently be one of the driving forces behind worldwide desktop sales. Lenovo has proven this with outstanding results over the past two years, and another strong performance in its first quarter. In our first quarter, announced on August 17, Lenovo grew faster than any of the top five PC manufacturers for the seventh consecutive quarter. We sold a record 10 million units and achieved record share. We see growth continuing in the commercial space, emerging markets and China," comments Lee. Despite the performance offered by today’s notebooks, tablets and smartphones, you can only really experience cutting edge gaming on a desktop machine. A high-end desktop can run games at resolutions as high as 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, which is something game consoles and all of the devices we listed earlier cannot do. Beyond capabilities, hardcore gamers also prefer the sheer flexibility offered by a keyboard and mouse versus touchscreens, motion sensing controllers and even the standard game controllers offered by current gaming consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A desktop is also the only way to go when it comes to tackling specialist applications like photo- and video-editing. Even the fastest laptop today will pale in comparison to a fully specified desktop PC and when you’re dealing with demanding content creation applications, performance is king since time in this field really is money. Tablets and notebooks are also quite limited in terms of storage capacity, so until cloud services and cheaper, faster Internet services are available around the world, the desktop will hold an edge over mobile, connected devices.

DESKTOP FLEXIBILITY Desktops are also infinitely more flexible in terms of expansion and upgrades. While a notebook will let you upgrade its RAM and hard drive, tablets are a buy and forget option that offers no Looks great doesn’t it? While notebooks are stylish, portable and, thanks to the rapid rate of component advancement, upgradeability at all. A desktop PC however can be upgraded with a fairly potent, these machines can only be upgraded in terms faster processor, will generally accept more RAM than a notebook of their memory and hard drive capacity. If you want a faster CPU or a bigger screen you’ll have to dispose of the whole can, can be paired with a variety of display devices and most machine and opt for a newer one. A desktop isn’t as limiting. machines can be repaired on the spot. “The desktop PC will be with us for quite a while, especially for some specific groups such as the commercial market, for the clone market, for people who love DIY, for enthusiasts who love to modify hardware and challenge the current limitation of PCs,” comments Lin. Businesses are also unlikely to adopt mobile devices exclusively because of the security risks involved. These devices and their data could be damaged, lost or even stolen once it leaves the confines of the office. As a productivity device tablets are also ill-equipped to take on desktops and notebooks because of their touchscreen designs. The on-screen keyboard can occupy a sizeable amount of screen real estate and, at the same time, banging away on hard plastic or glass will take a toll on your fingers quickly. While you can add a keyboard to boost your productivity and save your fingers, this is far from an ideal scenario since you’ll have to carry the keyboard as a separate accessory. The desktop computer then is far from extinct and given that it is still the least expensive entry point to owing a fullyfledged computing device, Windows is confident the humble desktop isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

UPGRADE ME NOT


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Solid state drives

GROUPTEST 17

SPEED FREAKS

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

Solid state drives (SSDs) rely on extremely fast NAND Flash memory to store data and so are completely devoid of moving parts. As a result these drives offer incredibly-high read and write performance and, at the same time, these drives are also impervious to sudden shocks and jolts. Here, WINDOWS tests six of the latest SSDs on the market so if you’re looking to boost your system’s overall performance, read on…


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18 GROUPTEST

Solid state drives

CORSAIR FORCE SERIES GT 120GB

A force to be reckoned with PRICE $297 CONTACT +7495 508 1011 WEB www.corsair.com

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A

PRICE $313 CONTACT +9714 886 5090 WEB www.goodram.com

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lthough Corsair earned its reputation as the go to company for high performance and reliable products via its range of memory modules, it has diversified its product range and now offers USB sticks, cases, power supplies and more. The Force Series GT SSDs are the crème dela crème of its SSD line. We're happy to report that when we put the Force GT to the test, it simply blew past every other SSD drive on test here in terms of overall performance. Its PCMark Vantage HDD score of 38,604 is miles ahead of every other drive and when you look at individual numbers, the Corsair becomes even more impressive. Its app and game load speeds of 153.08MB/sec and 192.81MB/sec are, again, way ahead of all the other SSD offerings.

GOODRAM SSD PRO 128GB

Dated but still potent

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 Force Series GT is reasonably priced (for a SSD), especially when you consider the performance that the drive offers. Patriot's 120GB Wildfire SSD (also reviewed here) is more expensive at $3.08 per gigabyte. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ 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.

oland-based GOODRAM offers two different series of SSDs; the SSD GOODRAM Pro and the SSD GOODRAM Play series. The former is designed for users with strict performance demands and offers claimed read and write speeds of up to 220MB/sec and 180MB/sec respectively versus 180MB/ sec and 50MB/sec offered by the Play series. Out of the box the SSD drive sports an industrial look because it is almost completely devoid of colour and packs a aluminium shell. Within the drive lurks MLC Toshiba NAND flash and, like most of the other drives here, this SSD packs TRIM support. TRIM eliminates performance and drive degradation, which plagued first generation SSDs. The SSD Pro 128GB drive managed reasonable numbers in our AS SSD

P

benchmark test. The drive managed sequential read and write speeds of 217.46MB/sec and 180.44MB/sec, which made it faster than almost every other drive in this grouptest. Unfortunately when it came to the smaller, more random 4K and 64K read and write tests, it struggled to keep pace with the other drives here. This SSD isn't the best then if you're after lightning quick real world app and game performance though, with its high sequential read and write figures, it's ideal for those interested in content creation such as video editing, where large blocks of data are the norm. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT If you work with large images or videos, this SSD is ideal but less so if you care about lightning quick everyday performance.


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Solid state drives

GOODRAM SSD PRO 256GB

INTEL 510 SERIES 120GB

Don't let the high price fool you

Balanced but not quite brilliant

PRICE $612 CONTACT +9714 886 5090 WEB www.goodram.com

PRICE $284 CONTACT +9714 440 4300 WEB www.intel.com

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little dated compared to the other SSDs on offer; whereas every other drive here is Serial ATA III 6Gbps compliant, the two SSD Pro drives are only Serial ATA II 3Gbps compliant. That said the extra bandwidth is only going to come into play if you use multiple SSD drives in a RAID array and have serious throughput needs. In terms of performance the SSD Pro 256GB drive performed like its counterpart did, which means it's great for dealing with large chunks of data but not as quick, when dealing with small random read and write operations, such as when you're playing games for example. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT With its strong linear performance and aggressive pricing, there's no better drive on test here for content creators.

hen Intel first released its speedy X25-M series SSD drives, it immediately drew the attention of enthusiasts and overclockers. The 510 Series, while not direct successors, are the company's latest SSDs. The 120GB drive, like every other SSD drive in this test, features a 2.5-inch formfactor and underneath the rather bland exterior sits Intel's 34nm multi-level-cell (MLC) NAND flash memory. 6Gbps Serial ATA III support stands as a testament to the drive's recent introduction. Putting this 510 Series drive to the test it managed decent performance numbers in terms of both sequential and random read and write performance. In our AS SSD benchmark the drive managed sequential read and write speeds of 221.39MB/sec and 184.04MB/sec - the highest

W

figures here. Moving to the 4K and 64K random read and write tests, the drive lost a little bit of steam and fell behind some of the contenders here though it is far from slow. Given that the drive also retails for $2.37 per gigabyte it offers decent value when you consider it's covered by a three-year warranty. The only issue we have with the 510 Series drive is with its mean time between failure (MTBF) rating of 1,200,000 hours. Every other SSD offering here packs a higher MTBF, which means the 120GB 510 Series drive could potentially fail sooner than all the other drives here. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT While long term reliability is a question mark, the 120GB 510 Series is a fast and well-priced SSD for any type of user.

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hen it comes to storage devices a high retail price doesn't always translate into an expensive drive and GOODRAM's SSD Pro 256GB drive proved this in spades. Priced at US $612 GOODRAM's 256GB SSD Pro drive carries the highest sticker price in this test but, doing a little bit of basic math reveals that the drive is actually quite a value star. Each of the SSD Pro's individual gigabytes costs a mere $2.39 (calculated by dividing price over capacity), which means that you're actually getting quite a few gigabytes for your cash. The only drives that offered a slightly lower cost per gigabyte were the two Intel 510 series drives at $2.37 per gigabyte for the 120GB model and $2.34 for the 250GB model. Like its 128GB cousin the SSD Pro 256GB drive is a

GROUPTEST 19


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20 GROUPTEST

Solid state drives

INTEL 510 SERIES 250GB

Exotic performance at an exotic price

PRICE $584 CONTACT +9714 440 4300 WEB www.intel.com

PRICE $369 CONTACT +8862 822 80333 WEB www.patriotmemory.com

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ntel's 510 Series consists of just two drives, 120GB (reviewed on page 19) and 250GB on test here. Like its counterpart the 250GB drive offers decent overall performance, though given that Intel claims higher maximum read and write speeds of 500MB/sec and 315MB/sec on this 250GB drive to the 120GB drive's figures of 450MB/ sec and 210MB/sec, we were ever so slightly disappointed with the former's performance. It 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,

I

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PATRIOT WILDFIRE 120GB

Packs plenty of value

✪✪✪✪✪

19.06MB/sec and 43.32MB/ sec respectively. With a retail price of US $584 the 250GB Intel 510 Series drive is the second most expensive offering in this test. However, when you look at its cost per gigabyte, the 510 Series is actually a steal asking for a mere $2.34 per gigabyte the lowest figure in this round-up. If you're looking for the best bang for your buck this is the SSD option for you. Like its smaller, less expensive sibling this drive is also covered by a threeyear warranty, though it too has a lower than average (in this test) MTBF of 1,200,000 hours. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT Packing decent performance and a killer cost per gigabyte of just $2.34, the 250GB 510 Series drive is definitely worth considering.

atriot offers a wide range of SSDs which includes drives that use the older Serial ATA II interface, as well as the newer Serial ATA III interface. That said the firm's Serial ATA III line currently consists of only two different ranges; the Wildfire and the Pyro. On the other hand the firm's Serial ATA II line comprises four different SSD ranges. The Wildfire line is available in three different capacities - 120GB, 240GB and 480GB and each of the drives offers TRIM support, makes use of the highperformance Sandforce SF-2200 series of SSD processors and is paired with Toshiba 32nm NAND flash memory. Putting the 120GB drive through its paces we came away quite impressed. Its PCMark Vantage HDD overall score of 35,374 was the second highest in this

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test. Moving to AS SSD the drive managed the second highest AS SSD sequential read speed at 167.69MB/ sec, while its 205.21MB/ sec sequential write performance was faster than the Corsair Force Series GT drive, which is also reviewed in this grouptest on page 18. The only problem is with a capacity of 120GB and a price tag of US $369 the Patriot is the most expensive SSD drive here. It asks a staggering $3.08 per gigabyte. That said, the drive is covered by a three-year warranty so you have a degree of long term peace of mind. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT While the Patriot Wildfire SSD packs serious performance its high asking price makes it a hard pill to swallow.


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Solid state drives

GROUPTEST 21

SOLID STATE DRIVES

CORSAIR

GOODRAM

GOODRAM

Force Series GT 120GB

SSD PRO 128GB

SSD PRO 256GB

$297

$313

$612

Tel

+7495 508 1011

+9714 886 5090

+9714 886 5090

Web

www.corsair.com

www.goodram.com

www.goodram.com

Desktop / notebook

Desktop

Desktop

Desktop

Form factor

2.5-inch

2.5-inch

2.5-inch

Capacity

120GB

128GB

256GB

Interface type

SATA III

SATA II

SATA II

Interface speed

6Gb/s

3Gb/s

3Gb/s

Claimed read speed

Up to 555MB/s

Up to 220MB/s

Up to 220MB/s

Claimed write speed

Up to 515MB/s

Up to 180MB/s

Up to 180MB/s

78g

52g

80g

Three-year

Two-year

Two-year

$2.48

$2.45

$2.39

2,000,000 hours

2,000,000 hours

2,000,000 hours

0 to 70-degrees Celsius

0 to 70-degrees Celsius

0 to 70-degrees Celsius

38,604

21,425

21,292

Heaven v2.0 load test

153.08MB/sec

95.23MB/sec

94.29MB/sec

PCMark Vantage HDD test

192.81MB/sec

160.9MB/sec

164.3MB/sec

AS SSD Seq read

202.31MB/sec

217.46MB/sec

215.54MB/sec

AS SSD Seq write

159.67MB/sec

180.44MB/sec

181.12MB/sec

AS SSD 4K read

20.05MB/sec

18.25MB/sec

18.29MB/sec

AS SSD 4k write

55.21MB/sec

38.30MB/sec

39.23MB/sec

AS SSD 4K-64KThrd read

27.19MB/sec

19.48MB/sec

19.90MB/sec

AS SSD 4K-64KThrd write

88.74MB/sec

15.72MB/sec

16.02MB/sec

-----

----

----

Features

----

----

----

Value

----

----

----

Overall

----

----

----

MANUFACTURER Product Price

MAIN SPECIFICATIONS

Weight Warranty OTHER INFORMATION

Cost per gigabyte MTBF Operating temperature tolerances

Adobe Photoshop CS5.1 load test

SCORES

Performance

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

BENCHMARK TESTS


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22 GROUPTEST

Solid state drives

SOLID STATE DRIVES

INTEL

INTEL

PATRIOT

510 Series 120GB

510 Series 250 GB

Wildfire 120GB

$284

$584

$369

Tel

+9714 440 4300

+9714 440 4300

+8862 822 80333

Web

www.intel.com

www.intel.com

www.patriotmemory.com

Desktop / notebook

Desktop

Desktop

Desktop

Form factor

2.5-inch

2.5-inch

2.5-inch

Capacity

120GB

250 GB

120GB

Interface type

SATA III

SATA III

SATA III

Interface speed

6Gb/s

6Gb/s

6Gb/s

Claimed read speed

Up to 450MB/s

Up to 500 MB/s

Up to 555MB/s

Claimed write speed

Up to 210MB/s

Up to 315 MB/s

Up to 520MB/s

80g

80g

78g

Three-year

Three-year

Three-year

$2.37

$2.34

$3.08

1,200,000 hours

1,200,000 hours

1,500,000 hours

0 to 70-degrees Celsius

0 to 70-degrees Celsius

0 to 70-degrees Celsius

23,820

23,342

35,374

Heaven v2.0 load test

69.87MB/sec

68.94MB/sec

115.69MB/sec

PCMark Vantage HDD test

105.05MB/sec

101.74MB/sec

167.69MB/sec

AS SSD Seq read

221.39MB/sec

219.04MB/sec

205.21MB/sec

AS SSD Seq write

184.04MB/sec

198.98MB/sec

191.50MB/sec

AS SSD 4K read

18.47MB/sec

17.39MB/sec

18.18MB/sec

AS SSD 4k write

37.26MB/sec

35.29MB/sec

54.82MB/sec

AS SSD 4K-64KThrd read

20.34MB/sec

19.06MB/sec

23.64MB/sec

AS SSD 4K-64KThrd write

46.35MB/sec

43.32MB/sec

87.52MB/sec

Performance

----

----

----

Features

----

----

----

Value

----

-----

---

Overall

----

----

----

MANUFACTURER Product Price

MAIN SPECIFICATIONS

Weight Warranty OTHER INFORMATION

Cost per gigabyte MTBF Operating temperature tolerances BENCHMARK TESTS

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

Adobe Photoshop CS5.1 load test

SCORES


www.itp.net/grouptests

Solid state drives

GROUPTEST 23

EDITOR'S CHOICE CORSAIR FORCE SERIES

INTEL 510 SERIES 250GB

GT 120GB

icking a drive worthy of this highly coveted award was a trying process because we wanted a drive that was fast universally. Most of the SSDs here are able to return mind boggling sequential read and write speed figures, which make them great for certain applications but not all of them are able to produce staggering random read and write figures. This latter aspect is important because it is more indicative of how a SSD will perform in the

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real world and small read and write operations take place more often than large sequential transfers. After considering all the results however we finally zeroed in on Corsair’s magnificent 120GB Force Series GT SSD. The drive managed to demonstrate a balanced performance in terms of both sequential and random read and write performance, which simply means it will be a swift drive no matter what you do with your desktop or notebook.

hen we had to decide on a Value award winner for this grouptest we considered a number of factors starting with a SSD’s price tag. However, rather than just looking at the final retail price in a vacuum, we actually examined a drive’s cost per gigabyte as this is a more accurate figure when it comes to judging value. Besides offering strong value-for-money we wanted the SSD to also offer reasonable performance because

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there’s no point in buying an inexpensive drive if it doesn’t offer decent performance as well. After studying how each drive faired in respect to the criteria we mentioned above, we had no doubt about giving our Value prize to Intel’s amazing 510 Series 250GB SSD. With a cost per gigabyte of just $2.34 the Intel drive was off to a flying start in terms of delivering value. If you study its benchmark figures, you’ll also see that it delivers decent performance too.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

HOW WE TESTED Each of the SSDs on test here was connected to our test rig which comprises an Intel Core i7 940 processor, a Gigabyte X58A-UD9 motherboard, 6GB of Corsair DDR3 memory running at 1,333MHz, an AMD Radeon HD 3850 GPU and a 1500-watt Thermaltake ToughPower PSU. The machine was running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate. Each drive was connected to one of the machine’s 6Gbps Serial ATA port in turn and benchmarked using PCMark Vantage (the HDD test suite only) and the SSD-specific benchmark test AS SSD. Both benchmarks are synthetic tests though PCMark Vantage obtains its results based on real world simulations. The app and game load scores are in MB/sec, which means that higher numbers are better. The same goes for the overall score – a higher number indicates a faster drive. Moving to AS SSD, this benchmark performs tests that show a SSD’s performance when dealing with sequential reading and writing, as well as when tackling random reading and writing operations. Both results are important though SSDs that managed higher random figures would be faster in the real world and thus wound up with higher performance scores in this grouptest.


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24 GROUPTEST

Netbooks

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

CHOOSE YOUR BOOK Netbooks have been on the market for a fair few years and thanks to their aggressive pricing, compact size, low weight, decent battery life and reasonable performance, they are still in demand. As a result manufacturers offer multiple models, which can make choosing one quite difficult. Here, WINDOWS looks at six of the latest netbooks on the market and gives you all the details, so you can make an informed purchase. Flip over to find out which is for you...


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GROUPTEST 25

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

Netbooks


www.itp.net/grouptests

26 GROUPTEST

Netbooks

ACER ASPIRE ONE HAPPY 2

Battery life is its thing

PRICE $326 CONTACT ++9714 800 4711 WEB www.acer.ae

PRICE $408 CONTACT +9714 299 3873 WEB http://ae.asus.com/en/

✪✪✪✪✪

f its Aspire One Happy netbooks Acer says ‘Sweet, scented, sharp or fresh, no matter how you like your world, the Aspire One Happy lets you paint it the way you want it’. Our test sample featured a white and yellow finish, which Acer refers to as ‘Banana Cream’ and given that the other netbooks here sport a unique colour, the Aspire One Happy had no trouble fitting in. Compared to some of the other Acer netbooks we’ve come across the Happy 2 only features Windows 7 Home Starter rather than a dual-boot option with Android filling in as the other operating system (OS). Beneath the colourful exterior the Acer is a somewhat imbalanced machine. With a weight of just 1.036kg the Acer is the lightest netbook in this

O

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

ASUS EEE PC 1215P

An imbalanced travel companion

✪✪✪✪✪

grouptest but despite this fact, it’s far from ideal to travel with because it only sports a 3-cell battery as standard. So, when we ran our intensive battery benchmark the machine managed a battery time of just two hours and one minute. Given that Packard Bell’s Dot S is priced identically but yet offers a 6-cell battery, the Aspire One Happy 2 seems unnecessarily expensive. When it came to application performance however the netbook was a little more competitive. It even managed to swing the fastest boot time, taking just 50 seconds to load Windows 7 Home Starter. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT While the Acer offer reasonable performance, its price and limited battery life mean you’ll get more bangs for your buck elsewhere.

sus is confident about its netbook products and says you can ‘Go anywhere in style with the Eee PC 1215P Seashell’. Giving the 1215P a thorough look we’re inclined to agree with Asus’ statement because this Eee PC is quite stylish. The superb burgundy and glossy black finish make the Asus a sharp looker and we’re happy to report that the machine’s black surfaces are resistant to smudges. The keyboard exhibits a little flex when pressed, though the trackpad works flawlessly. Its combination left/right button works brilliantly too with very little dead space in the center. The 12.1-inch LCD screen is the largest in this grouptest and it too is a decent performer. It offers wide viewing angles, can summon up incredibly vibrant colours, though it

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isn’t able to generate deep blacks – there’s a fairly obvious gray tinge that was visible to most people. The screen also packs the highest resolution in this test at 1,366 x 768 pixels, which means it offers the greatest amount of screen real estate to work with. As a consequence of its larger size however the 1215P is heavy, weighing 1.488kg – the heaviest in this round-up. That said this netbook is far from heavy and offering an incredible five hours and 54 minutes of battery life, you’ll be able to work long after you’ve left your home or office. It offers decent application punch too. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT Thanks to its large LCD screen and long-lasting battery, this netbook is ideal for those interested in being productive on-the-go.


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Netbooks

ASUS EEE PC 1015PW

HP MINI 210-3020SE

Built for the road

A mighty mini

PRICE $367 CONTACT +9714 299 3873 WEB http://ae.asus.com/en

PRICE $408 CONTACT +9714 391 6000 WEB www.hp.com/me

✪✪✪✪✪

A

✪✪✪✪✪

other machines here owing to its Atom N570 processor, 2GB of memory and Intel HD graphics adapter. The only netbook that managed to distinguish itself with slightly better performance across the board was HP’s Mini 210. Like its slightly heavier counterpart, the 1015PW is built well and offers a manual switch that allows you to turn on or turn off the webcam as well. While this may seem like an odd addition, given that your PC could be taken over by a hacker or Trojan via the web, this switch is the only way to make 100% certain that no one is spying on you when you don’t know it. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT The 1015PW boasts striking looks, is well built, offers serious battery life and retails for a very reasonable price.

ach netbook here has a unique colour but the Mini 210-3020se blows them all away with its turquoise finish. Thanks to the HP's interesting colour it was the center of attention wherever we took it; everyone wanted to take a closer look at it. Weighing 1.364kg the Mini 210 is one of the slightly heavier netbooks on test here however, it’s far from too heavy to travel with. With a battery time of four hours and 47 minutes the HP outlasted the Acer, Packard Bell and Lenovo machines too, which makes it a solid travel companion. Coming to performance the Mini 210-3020se impressed us yet again. Running our intensive PCMark Vantage suite on the machine it returned benchmark numbers of 1,876, 513, 735, 2,384, 1,607, 1,736, and 3,227 in

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the PCMark, Memories, Gaming, Music, Communication and Productivity tests. With these scores the HP outran many of the other netbooks. This is impressive when you consider that most of the netbooks sport 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. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT The Mini 210 packs potent performance, strong battery life and sports the sort of looks that can stop people dead in their tracks.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

sus says its Eee PC 1015PW ‘makes waves in style’ and given its purple finish and seashell-textured lid, the 1015PW had no trouble drawing attention to itself. Asus describes the colour as ‘Purple Rain’. The 1015PW is ready for travel out of the box. Running our intensive Imtec Battery Mark benchmark the machine out lasted all of the other netbooks with the exception of its bigger, more expensive brother, the Asus Eee PC 1215P. That said, the 1015PW has its own trump card in weight because whereas the Eee PC 1215P weighs 1.488kg, the former weighs just 1.294kg. If you want a light, long-lasting machine the 1015PW is the machine for you. Moving to application performance the 1015PW returned similar results when compared to the

GROUPTEST 27


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28 GROUPTEST

Netbooks

LENOVO IDEAPAD S100

Don’t judge this netbook by its cover

PRICE $299 CONTACT +9714 429 4300 WEB www.lenovo.com

PRICE $326 CONTACT +9714 805 6320 WEB www.packardbell.ae

✪✪✪✪✪

enovo says its IdeaPad S series netbooks are ‘thin, light, affordable and a breeze to use’. Priced at US $299 the IdeaPad S100 is the least expensive netbook in this test and so is a very affordable proposition. However, despite its aggressive price tag you’ll never have to worry about looking like you settled for less because the S100 sports a premium finish. Finished in a rich, royal-blue, the Lenovo looks like it costs a lot more than it actually does. The machine is well built as well, there’s only a minimal amount of flex when you’re banging away on the responsive, contrastblack keyboard. The trackpad is flawless and offers precise tracking and is unique in that the left and right buttons are integrated as a part of the trackpad. The LCD screen too is a

L

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

PACKARD BELL DOT S

Is the S100 the king of value?

✪✪✪✪✪

quality unit that manages vibrant colours, solid contrast and offers wide horizontal viewing angles. If you plan to be sat around your netbook with friends or colleagues, Lenovo's S100 is ideal. The only area where the S100 loses steam to the competition is in terms of overall performance. With scores of 1,280, 432, 591, 1,855, 1,073, 885 and 3,214 the Lenovo fell behind most of the netbooks here. This is because whereas all the other models pack the Atom N570 processor, the less expensive S100 features the Atom N455 and just 1GB of DDR2 memory rather than 2GB. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT Although the S100 lacks grunt and isn’t exactly a star in terms of battery life, it’s worth looking into owning to its value price tag.

hen we unpacked Packard Bell’s Dot S, we were quick to dismiss its stylistic-appeal owing to its dull lavender finish. All the other netbooks feature rich, 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 10.1inch LCD screen and a 500GB hard disk drive. While most of these parts can also be found on the other netbooks, the Packard Bell packs the biggest hard drive by far. Considering the Dot S retails for an end user price of US $326 – the second lowest here - it offers excellent value. Moving to performance the Dot S performed as expected. It managed

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competitive numbers across the board while managing the second fastest boottime. 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 also the second lightest machine here and while its battery life of four hours and 31 minutes isn’t mind blowing, it’s far from limiting. The Packard Bell, in fact, outlasted the identically priced Acer netbook and the slightly cheaper Lenovo machine. PERFORMANCE ✪✪✪✪✪ FEATURES ✪✪✪✪✪ VALUE FOR MONEY ✪✪✪✪✪ VERDICT Bland finish aside, this lightweight netbook offers competitive performance, a massive hard drive and attractive pricing.


www.itp.net/grouptests

GROUPTEST 29

Netbooks

NETBOOKS

ACER

ASUS

ASUS

Aspire One Happy 2

Eee PC 1215P

Eee PC 1015PW

$326

$408

$367

+9714 800 4711

+9714 299 3873

+9714 299 3873

www.acer.ae

http://ae.asus.com/en/

http://ae.asus.com/en/

Intel Atom N570 - 1.66GHz

Intel Atom N570 - 1.66GHz

Intel Atom N570 - 1.66GHz

Chipset

Intel Atom Host Bridge / NM10

Intel Atom Host Bridge / NM10

Intel Atom Host Bridge / NM10

Memory

2GB DDR2

2GB DDR2

2GB DDR2

Intel HD Graphics

Intel HD Graphics

Intel HD Graphics

10.1-inch

12.1-inch

10.1-inch

1024 x 600 pixels

1366 x 768 pixels

1024 x 600 pixels

Hard Drive

320GB

320GB

320 GB

USB Ports

3

3

3

Firewire Ports

None

None

None

eSATA

None

None

None

Windows 7 Home Starter - 32 bit

Windows 7 Home Starter - 32 bit

Windows 7 Home Starter - 32 bit

Weight

1.036Kg

1.488Kg

1.294Kg

Warranty

One-year

One-year

One-year

1,657

1,821

1,824

PCMark Memories

510

505

510

PCMark TV & Movies

N/A

N/A

N/A

PCMark Gaming

727

724

728

PCMark Music

2,282

2,405

2,346

PCMark Communication

1,346

1,534

1,488

PCMark Productivity

1,411

1,490

1,735

PCMark HDD

3,134

3,177

3,124

Startup Time

50 secs

60 secs

56 secs

Shutdown Time

28 secs

16 secs

14 secs

2 hrs 1 minute

5 hours 54 minutes

5 hours 40 minutes

---

----

----

----

-----

----

Value

---

----

----

Overall

---

----

----

MANUFACTURER Product Price Tel Web MAIN SPECIFICATIONS

Processor

Graphics Card LCD Size Native Resolution

Operating System

PCMark Vantage Suite

Battery Time SCORES

Performance Features

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

BENCHMARK TESTS


www.itp.net/grouptests

30 GROUPTEST

Netbooks

NETBOOKS

HP

LENOVO

PACKARD BELL

Mini 210-3020se

IdeaPad S100

Dot S

$408

$299

$326

+9714 391 6000

+9714 429 4300

+9714 805 6320

www.hp.com

www.lenovo.com

www.packardbell.ae

Intel Atom N570 - 1.66GHz

Intel Atom N455 - 1.66GHz

Intel Atom N570 - 1.66GHz

Chipset

Intel Atom Host Bridge / NM10

Intel Atom Host Bridge / NM10

Intel Atom Host Bridge / NM10

Memory

2GB DDR2

1GB DDR2

2GB DDR2

Intel HD Graphics

Intel HD Graphics

Intel HD Graphics

10.1-inch

10.1-inch

10.1-inch

1024 x 600 pixels

1024 x 600 pixels

1024 x 600 pixels

Hard Drive

320 GB

250GB

500GB

USB Ports

3

3

3

Firewire Ports

None

None

None

eSATA

None

None

None

Windows 7 Home Starter - 32 bit

Windows 7 Home Starter - 32 bit

Windows 7 Home Starter - 32 bit

Weight

1.364Kg

1.152Kg

1.148Kg

Warranty

One-Year

One-Year

One-Year

1,876

1,280

1,775

PCMark Memories

513

432

506

PCMark TV & Movies

N/A

N/A

N/A

PCMark Gaming

735

591

746

PCMark Music

2,384

1,855

2,413

PCMark Communication

1,607

1,073

1,556

PCMark Productivity

1,736

885

1,611

PCMark HDD

3,227

3,214

3,485

Startup Time

81 secs

70 secs

55 secs

Shutdown Time

16 secs

25 secs

16 secs

4 hrs 47 mins

4 hrs 27 mins

4 hrs 31 mins

-----

---

----

Features

----

----

----

Value

----

----

-----

Overall

----

----

----

MANUFACTURER Product Price Tel Web MAIN SPECIFICATIONS

Processor

Graphics Card LCD Size Native Resolution

Operating System

BENCHMARK TESTS

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

PCMark Vantage Suite

Battery Time SCORES

Performance


www.itp.net/grouptests

Netbooks

GROUPTEST 31

EDITOR'S CHOICE HP MINI 210-3020SE

ince most of the netbooks that we received for the grouptest offered more or less the same core components, the team initially thought they were in for a tough time when it was time to pick a Best Performance winner. Given that users who buy these netbooks will likely want to use them on-thego, we also had to make sure that our Performance winner wasn’t obese and offered decent battery life. Considering all the factors

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above, we ultimately settled on HP’s superb Mini 2103020se machine thanks to its overall performance. While the differences in scores weren’t massive between the machines, the HP was simply the fastest on the whole. With a weight of 1.364kg and a battery time of four hours and 47 minutes the Mini is also a decent travel partner that won’t give you a body ache and won’t leave you wishing for a wall socket, soon after you leave your home or office.

PACKARD BELL DOT S

hoosing a winner for our Best Value prize took some serious consideration because there were a number of contenders to choose from. Lenovo’s IdeaPad S100 drew our gaze initially because at US $299 it is the least expensive machine on test here. It is also the third lightest machine and offers decent battery life too. The Asus Eee PC 1015PW and Acer Aspire One also warranted consideration given their

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price, competitive core components and, in the Asus’ case, unbeatable battery life. In the end however we decided Packard Bell’s Dot S offered the most value-for-money. Priced at $326 it is the second most inexpensive machine here, while offering the same core components as its competitors. The Packard Bell also sports the biggest hard drive and thanks to its 1.148kg weight and battery time of four hours and 31 minutes, it’s a great machine to travel with.

Each netbook in this grouptest was tested in turn for a period of four days. Testing was both objective and subjective. In terms of the subjective testing we looked at build quality, how easy a machine was to live with on the road and how usable it was in general. In terms of the objective tests, we once again turned to our PCMark Vantage benchmark suite. PCMark Vantage tests machines thoroughly and then spits out numbers that help determine a machine’s overall performance, as well as how well it will do in certain scenarios such as when dealing with content creation. In all of the individual tests higher numbers are better and denote a fast machine. Aside from PCMark Vantage we timed each machine’s startup and shutdown time and here lower numbers are better. Finally, we called also upon our intensive Imtec Battery Mark battery benchmark to determine how long a machine’s battery could last and here, higher numbers are better. We also looked at each machine in terms of the value it presented. Machine’s that offered decent specifications, were built well and offered great travel usability and yet retailed for what we thought was a fair price walked away with stronger value scores.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

HOW WE TESTED


You slide, it scans.

Scan Books and Magazines, Anywhere, Without Computer! Supports Arabic

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www.irislink.com/iriscanbook


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Reviews

HOT KIT 33

37 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 35

Avira Premium Security suite

36

HP Envy 17 3D 17-2000ee

37

Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1

38

LG 42LW5700 Cinema 3D LED TV

39

RIM BlackBerry Bold 9900

40

Samsung Galaxy S II

38

39 WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

Reviews


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34 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 SEPTEMBER 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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HOT KIT 35

AVIRA PREMIUM SECURITY SUITE Effective yet archaic PRICE $27 WEB www.avira.com

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vira says over 100 million people use its products. That’s a decent number so when the company sent us its security suite for review, we were keen to give it a look. Avira Premium Security Suite is the best suite that Avira offers. It has a number of different features designed to give you peace of mind while browsing the web, banking online or even when checking e-mails that may have malicious content. Some of the features include AntiVir which immobilises all kinds of viruses, AntiAd/ Spyware, which eliminates adware and spyware, AntiRootkit, which detects hidden rootkits and QuickRemoval, which allows the removal of all malicious content with a single click. Other specific tools designed for protection when you’re browsing the web and when you’re working on e-mail are the reliable WebGuard and MailGuard. A firewall is also included as part of the package and proved quite able at blocking unwanted intrusions. For users with kids, Premium Security Suite also offers parental controls. Antibot meanwhile helped ensure that no bots penetrated our system. The suite even offers a function called

A

GenericRepair that attempts to repair damage done by malware. Perhaps the most important features are AntiVirProActiv and AHeADTechnology. AntiVirProActiv detects unknown viruses and malware via the way it behaves on your computer. It can also then transmit details of this unknown threat back to Avira, and help the community benefit from this information. AHeADTechnology on the other hand relies on standard Heuristics technology to detect unknown threats. Coming to the user interface, without mincing words, it is dull, boxy and archaic. This is certainly not a security suite for novice computer users, as it looks too intimidating. It gets progressively more unappealing as you navigate different features in the suite, and there is a common dullness that permeates the entire setup. Had the interface looked cleaner, more welcoming and more up-to-date, we’re sure more users would flock to the Avira camp in no time. The software is, expectedly, capable of updating itself without any user intervention though you can also tell it when to perform a manual update.

Over our test period we noticed the software updated itself at least once every day. There’s noticeable lag when comprehensive system scans are underway, so if you’re doing something intensive, it’s best to let the scan complete or set it to run when you don’t require the machine. At the same time the suite doesn’t really need a powerful machine, so if you’ve got an older desktop or notebook, Premium Security is a good choice.

PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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REQUIREMENTS AMD or Intel 200MHz processor or faster, 512MB of system memory, 40MB hard disk space, CD/DVD optical drive for installation, Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7 compatible, Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or higher, Windows administration rights for the installation, Internet access for updates. PROS Efficient against most malware, regular updates via the Internet, comprehensive security features. CONS User interface is far from modern or welcoming, updates require reboots on occasion. VERDICT While Avira is a little rough around the edges, it is actually quite a comprehensive security suite that can defend your desktop or notebook from a multitude of threats.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

INTERNET SECURITY SUITE

Reviews


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DESKTOP REPLACEMENT NOTEBOOK

36 HOT KIT

HP ENVY 17 3D 17-2000EE Will this notebook make your friends envious? PRICE TBC CONTACT +9714 391 6000 WEB www.hp.com/me

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P’s Envy 17 3D is a desktop replacement machine that packs 3D capabilities and is based on Intel's Sandy Bridge platform. Out of the box the Envy 17 3D certainly looks expensive; the machine is finished in a tasteful mix of gray and silver and almost every surface, save for the area surrounding the keyboard, has an interesting design made up of tiny shapes. Up close the shapes look like individual, scattered art but seen from far, they make up larger, more interesting patterns and shapes. Being a desktop replacement the Envy 17 is massive in terms of dimensions and equally, tips the scales at nearly 3kg. If these proportions don’t put you off considering traveling with the machine, the battery life certainly will. In our intensive Imtec Battery Mark benchmark the machine managed to stay alive for just 59 minutes and 46 seconds when running in the ‘High Performance’ power profile. You’ll likely get about two hours of life in the real world given that most software won’t require 100% of the CPU’s attention. Thanks to the machine’s large size however, the HP sports a full-size QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard

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WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

Reviews

sports backlit keys, which is useful for working in low light conditions but, compared to the Pavilion dv6-6090ee machine that we reviewed last month, this keyboard exhibits a good deal of flex when keys are pressed. Flex aside the keyboard is comfortable to use and the same can be said for the machine’s relatively large trackpad. As is obvious from its rather telling name, this Envy machine sports 3D capabilities and as such, a single set of 3D glasses ship with it. Like most 3D glasses we’ve tried to date the Envy 17 3D’s glasses are quite chunky but thankfully were reasonably comfortable to wear. Due to its bright and large 17.3inch LCD screen the Envy managed a fairly immersive and believable 3D experience with a reasonable amount of depth. Expectedly, the best results are experienced from straight-on so if you’re planning to have your friends over to watch a 3D movie, anyone who isn’t sitting as close to centre as possible, isn’t going to see a great deal of depth. In terms of performance the Envy 17 3D returned decent application numbers thanks to its strong hardware; the machine managed PCMark Vantage

scores of 6,648, 3,634, 4,585, 6,196, 7,003, 5,887, 6,320 and 3,414 in the PCMark, Memories, TV and Movies, Gaming, Music, Communications, Productivity and HDD test suites. Moving to gaming the Envy struggled managing figures of just 48.66fps and 12fps in our Street Fighter IV and World in Conflict benchmarks when running in high detail at the LCD’s native 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. If you’re a gamer then you’re better off with the Pavilion dv6 rather than this Envy machine.

PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS Quad-core 2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM processor, Intel HM67 core-logic chipset, 8GB DDR3 memory, Mobile Intel HD graphics, AMD Radeon HD 6850M GPU with 1GB of dedicated memory, two 1TB hard drives, Blu-ray combo drive, 17.3-inch widescreen display, native resolution 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 3D glasses, one USB3.0 port, two USB2.0 ports, one eSata/USB2.0 combo port, two-year warranty. PROS Application workhorse, manages to create immersive 3D experiences, comfortable to work on. CONS Extremely large and heavy, not a gaming machine. VERDICT Given its positioning its disappointing that the Envy lacks gaming grunt. If gaming isn’t a concern however, you’ll find the Envy 17 a capable app machine and an immersive 3D entertainer.


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HOT KIT 37

TABLET

Reviews

LENOVO IDEAPAD TABLET K1 Apps and games aplenty PRICE $599 CONTACT +9714 429 4300 WEB www.lenovo.com

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L

issue with, was with the rear of the tablet. Made from plastic, the shell exhibited noticeable flex when pressed and made the K1 feel less premium. Priced at US $599 and offering 32GB of storage capacity the Tablet K1 is reasonably priced when you consider its capacity, 10.1-inch LCD screen and its use of Honeycomb 3.1. In our grouptest only two tablets were cheaper; the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and the Packard Bell Liberty Tab both of which offered the slightly older Android 3.0 OS. With a weight of 750g the Lenovo is also slightly lighter than the Acer and Packard Bell offerings. The 10.1-inch LCD runs at a native resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels and returns striking visuals. Visuals are crisp, sharp and rich in terms of colour vibrancy and thanks to the 16:10 aspect ratio, watching movies is a border-free affair. The LCD screen is responsive to quick pokes and swipes, so using the device is a frustration-free experience. The tablet’s Nvidia Tegra T20 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of DDR2 memory also contribute to the great user experience, as we never experienced any lag. The Ideapad is also packed with

surprising number of apps and games as standard. You get apps such as Lenovo Social Touch, Norton Mobile Security and many more. In terms of games the K1 features Need for Speed: Shift, Angry Birds and others so without spending any additional cash, there’s plenty to do with this tablet as soon as it’s out of the box. Given that apps and games can retail for between $1 to as much as $15, the inclusion of these apps and games makes the Lenovo a great value purchase.

PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS Nvidia Tegra T20 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB DDR2 memory, 10.1-inch LCD screen, native resolution 1,280 x 800 pixels, 16:10 aspect ratio, 32GB storage capacity, 5-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 802.11b/g/n WiFi adapter, Bluetooth, microSD memory card expansion slot, mini-HDMI and docking port, 750g, Android 3.1 operating system, one-year warranty. PROS Loads of apps and games preloaded, reasonably priced, delivers a decent user experience. CONS Rear cover cheapens the K1’s otherwise premium look and feel, home button isn’t placed well. VERDICT Since the K1 offers loads of software, is a Honeycomb device and sports potent hardware, it’s a great value buy that delivers a smooth experience.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

enovo refers to its IdeaPad Tablet K1 as the ‘anything, anywhere, anytime DO Machine’ and is targeting mainstream consumers with this Honeycomb offering. Out of the box the K1 looks much like Apple’s first generation iPad; there’s a black border that flanks the device’s LCD screen and the entire tablet is surrounded by a silver frame. Like some of the tablets we reviewed in our July grouptest, the K1 is designed primarily to be used in landscape. A 2-megapixel front facing camera sits just above the top border of the LCD screen, whereas a useful home button sits on the right border of the screen. The position of this button struck us as odd because given the device’s landscape setup, it would have made more sense for the button to be located directly opposite the webcam. The K1’s volume controls, screen orientation lock switch and power button are located on the left border of the device and, thankfully, within a few hours of using the device, we were naturally reaching for the buttons when we needed them. Aside from changing the position of the home button, the only other design aspect we had an


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42-INCH LED 3D TV

38 HOT KIT

LG 42LW5700 CINEMA 3D LED TV A proper 3D entertainer PRICE $1,335 CONTACT +9714 800 54 WEB www.lg.com/ae

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he 42LW5700 Cinema 3D LED TV is one of LG’s latest Full HD screens and, like Samsung’s LED Series 7000 Smart TV (reviewed last month), the LG is an Internetenabled TV that can tackle 3D content. Priced at US $1,335 this 42-inch LCD screen is aggressively priced. When you get everything out of the box, you’re in for a pleasant surprise again because unlike most 3D TVs on sale today (including the Samsung screen), the LG ships with four pairs of 3D glasses. As a result you needn’t have to worry about investing in additional glasses for your immediate family. 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

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Reviews

content but with LG’s 42LW5700, we’re happy to report that we noticed almost no flicker at all. 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 to get the 3D effects. The LG, like Samsung’s TV, is also able to convert 2D content to 3D quite well, so if you already own a number of your favourite movies on DVD or Blu-ray, you won’t have to buy new 3D copies to get a decent experience. 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. We were slightly disappointed that our screen shipped with a standard remote control rather than the Magic Motion remote, which functions in the same way as Nintendo’s Wii controller – you simply move the controller to move the on-screen cursor. That said we were able to use the LG’s Internet features without too many problems though typing in text is massively annoying, as was the case with Samsung’s Smart TV.

PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS 42-inch screen, native resolution 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, Full HD support, 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 120Hz refresh rate, 2.4ms response time, 16:9 aspect ratio, two 10W speakers, MP3/JPEG/DivX/Video file format support, four HDMI input ports, two USB2.0 ports, component input, LAN input, LED backlight, 27.8kg, two-year warranty. PROS Attractive price, brilliant 3D capabilities, four sets of 3D glasses, glasses don’t induce headaches, thin bezel. CONS Using the remote to generate text is annoying, not all TVs ship with Magic Motion controller. 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 and is aggressively priced and ships with four 3D glasses.


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HOT KIT 39

RIM BLACKBERRY BOLD 9900 The best BlackBerry ever PRICE $708 WEB www.blackberry.com

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esearch in Motion is sailing through troubled waters at the moment but if smartphones like the Bold 9900 are what we can now expect from the company, we reckon the Canadian firm will be with us for years to come. The latest Bold is without a doubt the best QWERTYbased smartphone on the market today. The new Bold sports similar looks to its predecessors though there are some 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 of the device. The rear of the smartphone is, unfortunately, a fingerprint magnet but does look good thanks to a carbon-fiberinspired 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. With dimensions of 115 x 66 x 10.5mm (H x W x D) the Bold 9900 is shorter in height and thinner in width compared to Samsung’s Galaxy S II (also reviewed in this issue). However, as the Bold measures 10.5mm thick it

R

is noticeably thicker than the Samsung. Compared to the older Bold 9780 however, the new Bold is taller, wider and heavier but thinner at 10.5mm versus 14mm. Overall though there’s nothing to complain about in the aesthetics department with this new BlackBerry device. As you’d expect the Bold 9900’s biggest selling point is its keyboard which just makes typing messages and e-mails a stress-free 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 touchsensitive, the Bold 9900 is unbelievably intuitive to use. 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 of receiving the phone. 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. This smartphone really is what the first generation Torch should have been when it was released. 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.

PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS Single-core 1.2GHz QC 8655 processor, 768MB of RAM, 2.8-inch LCD screen, native resolution 640 x 480 pixels, 24-bit display, 5-megapixel rear facing camera, 720p HD recording, 802.11b/g/n WiFi adapter, Bluetooth, integrated GPS, 35-key backlit keyboard, optical trackpad, 8GB eMMC memory card, up to 32GB memory via uSD card, 130g, one-year warranty. PROS Unbelievably easy to get comfortable with, slick performer, fantastic keyboard, decent touchscreen. CONS Battery life is still quite limited. 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. Highly recommended.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

SMARTPHONE

Reviews


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SMARTPHONE

40 HOT KIT

SAMSUNG GALAXY S II Samsung scores another homerun PRICE $708 CONTACT +9714 339 9607 WEB www.samsung.com/ae

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hen 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. Another slight issue is that, as before, the Galaxy S II doesn’t offer much grip on its rear-end so, again, you’ll have to be careful when handling the smartphone or else it could slip out of your hands. 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

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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 smartphone. 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 4.27-inch 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. Despite the large LCD screen and fast processor the Samsung is also

surprisingly resilient when it comes to battery life. On a full charge the phone lasted for a day and a half before needing to be recharged. This is impressive when you consider we were using the phone’s WiFi connection, multitasking between several apps and had about two hours of talk time. The only change we’d make to this smartphone is to add a notification light because as it is now, the only way you’d know if you missed a call or SMS would be to check the phone yourself.

PERFORMANCE FEATURES VALUE FOR MONEY

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SPECIFICATIONS 1.2GHz Exynos 4210 processor, 1GB RAM, 4.27-inch AMOLED Plus touchscreen display, native resolution 800 x 480 pixels, 16GB storage capacity, microSD memory card upgrade slot, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth, USB2.0, 8-megapixel rear facing camera with flash, 2-megapixel front facing camera, 8.49mm thick, 116g, A-GPS support, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), one-year warranty. PROS Fantastic AMOLED screen, monster performance, long lasting battery. CONS Could use a notification light, might be too big for some hands. 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.


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42 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 SEPTEMBER 2011

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

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

43 43 44 44 45 45 46 46 47 47

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 43 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

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Yoyotech FI7EPOWER MK3 High-end gaming PC


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44 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

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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 45 Monitors Samsung SyncMaster FX2490HD 24-inch LED LCD

$476

The LED-based SyncMaster FX2490HD is a flexible screen that excels at both work and play. It is reasonably priced as well.

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

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 +9714 364 8600 WEB www.samsung.com/ae REVIEWED January 2011

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

+9714 393 6247 www.lge.com 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 Pavilion DM1-3113se Netbook

$545

If you buy the dm1 expecting a capable notebook you’re in for a disappointment. If you buy this as a high-end netbook however, there’s little else that offers this much punch at this price point.

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.

Dell Streak Tablet PC The Streak is an amazing gadget that offers the functionality of a smartphone with almost all the everyday usability of a full-sized tablet.

$817

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

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

RATING CONTACT WEB REVIEWED

+++++

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

+++++ +9714 391 1860 www.dell.com January 2011

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BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet


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46 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 47 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

+++++

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

The 250GB 510 Series drive is a fast and large SSD but you’ll need to cough up a lot of cash for the privilege of owning one.

Western Digital VelociRaptor WD6000HLHX 3.5-inch SATA hard disk

$329

The latest update to Western Digital’s VelociRaptor range brings higher storage capacities and better performance. It is the fastest Serial ATA spindle-based drive you can buy.

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

+9714 440 4300 www.intel.com June 2011

+9714 881 3234 www.wdc.com July 2010

+9714 881 3234 www.wdc.com February 2011

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

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


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48 GAME ON

News

GAME ON NEWS DIABLO III WILL ONLY BE PLAYABLE ONLINE Diablo III was announced in mid-2008 and few details have emerged since then. However, details have now emerged suggesting that Battle.net and Auction House features have made it impossible to play the game offline. Executive Vice-President of Game Design at Blizzard, Rob Pardo said there are several changes that have been made to Diablo's multiplayer system, and that Diablo III would keep gamers connected at all times. A few of the new features include a persistent friend's list, persistent characters that are stored server-side, persistent party system, crossgame chat via the RealID system, dynamic drop-in/drop-out for co-op, player vs. player, a large item collection that can be shared between 10 of your characters and the Banner system which allows players to display their gaming skills through achievements earned, victories and other stats tracked. Pardo acknowledged that the online-only requirement may anger customers who do not have an Internet connection, or a slow line, however he said the new features will outweigh the negatives. Pardo added, "I want to play Diablo III on my laptop in a plane, but, well, there are other games to play for times like that." Auction House will also have a new feature whereby players will be able to sell Daiblo III loot for real money instead of in-game gold. The players can choose to take part in anonymous transactions, where they can buy gems, armour, weapons and other items, and if a seller chooses to opt for cash payment instead of virtual gold, Blizzard will charge them a listing fee and a fixed transaction fee. The money obtained can be put into the seller's e-balance at Blizzard, to buy more games, or else sent to a payment processor to cash out. There has been no announcement of any set date for Diablo III's release. The game will however be available for both the PC and Mac platforms.

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LOTR: WAR IN THE NORTH TO LAUNCH IN NOVEMBER November is the month The Lord of the Rings: War in the North will release around the world. The game will be available on the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 gaming platforms. The game will feature three playable protagonists; a man, elf and a dwarf. Each protagonist offers distinct advantages and disadvantages; Eradan is a male human ranger that offers a fast fighting style. He is also said to be an excellent archer. Fandriel is a female Elf who specialises in magic techniques. She also has a sword and staff for close quarters, can shoot magic bolts as a ranged attack, and has the ability to use both offensive and defensive magic techniques. Farin is the male dwarf of the party. He is heavily armoured and strongest at close quarters. While he also packs long range axe throwing abilities, his strength lies in melee combat. War in the North is a role playing game (RPG) and is being developed by Snowblind Studios. The title is said to feature stronger graphic violence than previous Lord of the Rings games and, as such, is expected to receive an â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;M' rating from the ESRB. The game will also be available for purchase as a Collector's Edition, which features a behind-the-scenes look at the game's development, a specially crafted art book, digital download content and other extras.


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News

GAME ON 49

ZYNGA PRE-PAID CARDS OFFICIALLY ON SALE IN MEA DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION RELEASED Middle East players of popular social media games from developer Zynga will soon be able to make payments in-game with the official introduction of pre-paid cards to the region. Zynga, which is behind games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars on platforms including Facebook, MySpace and mobile devices, has done a deal with Amman-based Gate2Play to distribute Zynga Game Cards in sixteen countries in the Middle East and Africa. Zynga games attract over 230 million players per month. The game cards, which will be available as pre-paid cards and virtual e-PINS, allow players to pay for virtual goods in Zynga games. The cards are available in low value amounts, $2, $5 and $10, and are seen as a more convenient way to pay that credit card. Gate2Play, an end-to-end payment and value-added services platform, intends to sell the cards through convenience stores, specialist games retailers and telcos in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the UAE, and Yemen. Muhannad Ebwini, Chief Executive of firm Gate2Play commented: "The pace at which the Middle East's social gaming community is growing represents a significant opportunity for both Gate2Play and Zynga."

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is now available in the Middle East and at European and PAL retailers, according to entertainment product publisher Square Enix. Human Revolution is the third instalment in the action role playing series, which introduced gamers to highly open-ended, hybrid gameplay. The game is currently available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC and Steam platforms. "With the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Eidos-Montreal has reached a huge milestone in the development and delivery of our first game," said Stephane D'Astous, General Manager of Eidos-Montreal. "We could not be more proud of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and are incredibly excited for gamers to finally be able to experience this captivating story and unique, unparalleled gameplay." Deus Ex: Human Revolution is designed to offer players multiple different ways to play the game, and players can choose how to accomplish each mission using combat, hacking, stealth or social mode to fit their playing style. The game take place in 2027- a time of great innovation in neuroprosthetics but also a time of chaos, conspiracy and a new social divide. Gamers play as Adam Jensen, a man cybernetically augmented against his will, who finds himself in the middle of a mysterious, global plot to which he holds the key.

A DLC for the recently released Duke Nukem Forever has been announced. The â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Hail to the Icons Parody Pack' will be available on the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 later this year. Gearbox says the DLC will poke fun at other shooters on the market such as Doom, Call of Duty and Team Fortress 2. The company also says that gamers who pre-ordered Duke and redeemed their First Access Codes will get the pack for free but that other gamers will have to pay for it. The DLC includes three new modes; Freeze Tag, Hot Potato and Hail to the King. Freeze Tag allows gamers to cooperate so that they can freeze and shatter opponents in succession for point streaks and combos. Hot Potato on the other hand looks at how long each player can hold onto â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;the babe' the longest while the last mode, Hail to the King, offers free-for-all Duke-style combat. The Hail to the Icons Parody Pack also features four new maps; Call of Duke, Sandbox, Inferno and 2Forts1Bridge. Each map also features a weapon unique to each. Duke Nukem Forever was released on June 14 in North America. In July 2011 Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of publishers 2K Games, announced that game sales were half of what they expected.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

DUKE NUKEM DLC ANNOUNCED


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50 GAME ON

News

EA'S ANDREW WILSON FORESEES END OF GAME STORES EA Sports' Vice President Andrew Wilson says that buying video games in shops will soon be a thing of the past, as more and more people opt for digital downloads. "There will come a day where I think that people will stop going into Game and GameStop. And I use those purely as examples of retail. It's important for retailers and us to understand what the consumer wants in the future." Last month Electronic Arts stepped closer to digital prospects by buying casual gaming giant PopCap Games in a deal worth over $1 billion. Prior to this, Electronic Arts also nabbed social gaming's Playfish and mobile content publisher Chillingo. Wilson added, "The reality is what we're doing, which is very uncomfortable, is putting the control in the hands of the consumer and letting them decide how they want to play. And when you do that it makes us all just a little bit nervous because as humans, in our DNA, we like to have control. Giving control to anyone - our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our kids - is scary. It's going to be a fun time." EA has already introduced the second generation of its digital distribution shop for PC games, called Origin. With the console market, the company charges gamers who have bought second-hand games to play online or to enable additional content.

MICROSOFT SUED OVER KINECT

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

Ohio-based Impulse Technology is suing software-giant Microsoft over alleged infringement on its patents with regards to the Kinect motion sensor. The company has filed the lawsuit in a federal court in Delaware and has accused Microsoft and other game makers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and THQ of violating patents it holds. These violations are mainly related to tracking and assessing movement skills in multidimensional spaces. Impulse technology says that the Kinect gaming accessory has violated seven of its patents issued from the year 2001 to last year, and Microsoft was apparently notified about these infringements in March. Microsoft has declined to comment on these specific charges but has said it always tries to make sure that its products don't violate the rights of patent holders. Kevin Kutz, Director of Public Affairs at Microsoft commented, "While we can't comment about this specific case, Microsoft invests heavily in protecting its intellectual property rights and has hundreds of pending and issued patents covering Kinect".


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News

GAME ON 51

ELECTRONIC ARTS TO ACQUIRE POPCAP GAMES Electronic Arts Inc. has announced that it will acquire PopCap Games. PopCap Games develops games for mobile phones, tablets, PCs and social networking sites. "We picked EA because they have recast their culture around making great digital games," said David Roberts, CEO of PopCap. "By working with EA, we'll scale our games and services to deliver more social, mobile, casual fun to an even bigger, global audience." PopCap Games has a number of blockbuster titles under its belt including Plants vs. Zombies, Bejeweled and Zuma. The company claims that over 150 million games have been installed and played around the world on platforms such as the Apple iPhone and iPad, as well as on social sites such as Facebook. "EA and PopCap are a compelling combination," said EA CEO John Riccitiello. "PopCap's great studio talent and powerful IP add to EA's momentum and accelerate our drive towards a $1 billion digital business. EA's global studio and publishing network will help PopCap rapidly expand their business to more digital devices, more countries, and more channels."

NINTENDO WILL MAKE A LOSS ON EVERY 3DS SOLD Nintendo's price reduction of its 3DS consoles, from $249.99 to $169.99, will negatively affect its revenue. The price cut will mean that the gaming giant will make a loss on each unit sold. According to Bloomberg's Japanese division, Nintendo's price cut for the console will mean it is taking a hit. Microsoft and Sony are said to also accept losses on the Xbox, PS3 and other consoles, however because of game licensing they can afford to book a loss on the hardware, as they make profits from the software. This was something that Nintendo generally didn't believe in; the gaming giant's approach was always to make a profit on the hardware, as well as the software. This paid off for them with the release of the Wii and the subsequent profits it made. Nintendo's decision to reduce the price of its 3DS does mean that the company is taking a risk, but the new price point encourages users to buy the console.

Publisher 2K Games has announced that its first person action horror title, The Darkness II, will be delayed. The game was originally scheduled for launch in October of this year but 2K Games has now revealed that it will launch the title on February 7 in North America. The international release meanwhile has been scheduled for February 10. The Darkness II is the direct sequel to 2007's The Darkness, which was developed by Starbreeze Studios. The new game is being developed by Digital Extremes and takes place two years after the events of the first game. The game will be playable on the PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360 and Wii U gaming platforms. The Darkness and its forthcoming sequel are based on the supernatural horror comic book series created by Top Cow Productions.

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THE DARKNESS II DELAYED


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School/College student groups: AED 10/student per entry between 11am-2pm (except Friday) Minimum 50 students per group. This needs to be organised in advance before the show starts by emailing shopper@dwtc.com or rajesh.panicker@dwtc.com Avoid the traffic and use the Rashidiya Metro Station with free shuttle buses to and from the venue. Organised by:

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Brink

ritish game development company Splash Damage and publisher Bethesda Softworks are the companies behind Brink but while we’ve seen their names attached to great games in the past, this is a title that struggles to find its way. Brink is based in a once-utopian city known as The Ark, which floats above the waters of a now flooded planet Earth. The game tells the story of two factions; Resistance and Security. You can play as either faction in Brink though the overall objectives are somewhat different in that one faction is trying to flee the Ark, whereas the other is trying to create order and return it to its former glory via any means necessary. This creates a bit of tension and so the two factions frequently collide in battle. Before you choose which side to play, Brink asks you to customise your character and weapon load-out and while there are initially only a few options to work with, you later get sucked into hours of customisation when you’ve unlocked some of the other goodies. You can, initially, also choose what body style you want and what class of combatant - Soldier, Medic, Engineer and Operative - you want to play as, and depending on your

GAME ON 53

B

The lacking in-game visuals are a disappointment when you consider the game generates some great looking cutscenes Depending on the class you choose to play as, you can contribute to battles in different ways. Building MG Nests as an Engineer is a great way to defend a vital position for example

PS3

✪✪✪✪✪ Price: $73 Controller: PlayStation 3 controller Best Bit: You can spend hours and hours customising your character and weapons in Brink. Verdict: While Brink offers an ambitious and interesting gameplay concept a number of annoying flaws get in the way and ultimately make this game less fun than it could have been.

when they really should. The weapons just don’t sound as loud and as brash as they should. Given enough time and patience, you can have fun with Brink however, especially if you opt for the online multiplayer mode. Unfortunately when we played online, we found ourselves in a hopeless situation, as even a little bit of lag makes the game impossible to play competitively. This isn’t a massive surprise considering the movement and shooting mechanics aren’t great even when you’re playing a local game on your console. WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

choices here, you can contribute to battles in varying ways. As a Medic you can look after your allies for example or, if you want to provide support, you can choose to be an Engineer and build nests at critical points across the map. When it comes to gameplay however Brink struggles to make a compelling argument for itself. For starters its controls are a bit vague which makes moving and aiming difficult. At the same time the shooting mechanics themselves aren’t what they should be, which makes taking down enemies quite annoying; you can empty clip after clip and find yourself either missing or simply unable to take down enemies for whatever reason. This is quite a shame as the objective-based setup of Brink creates a real sense of urgency and tension when you play. The game’s visuals don’t make playing easy either. When you’re running around the battlefield there’s a considerable degree of blur and, if you look closely, the visuals in general just aren’t that great. This is a bit of a shame given the Brink won’t win any awards for its visuals. It looks dated and the motion blur is just too damaging to gameplay game manages to produce some great looking cutscenes. On the audio front Brink offers reasonably fast paced music though the sound effects won’t blow you away


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54 GAME ON

ames that are tied to movies have traditionally been awful so when we received a copy of Cars 2 for review, we approached it cautiously. That said there was a glimmer of hope in our minds because game developer Avalanche Software and publisher Disney Interactive Studios have previously delivered a thoroughly enjoyable title in Toy Story 3: The Video Game. The game makes the assumption that you’ve seen the Cars 2 movie and, as a result, there’s a wafer-thin storyline on offer. The game simply gives you a little bit of training on how to become a C.H.R.O.M.E agent by completing simulations and challenges and then quickly

G

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST JULY 2011

Unlike Mario Kart, Cars 2 gives you real weapons to use but, as a result of it positioning towards families and young gamers, there’s nothing scandalous

Cars 2

turns into a fun little kart racing game. It’s safe to say that this game comes within striking distance of being as much fun as the legendary Mario Kart. You can play Cars 2 on your own and although this isn’t the best way to have XBOX the most fun with this game, you won’t find yourself complaining. There are plenty of tracks to race on, there are a Price: $68 solid selection of weapons and you can Controller: Xbox 360 perform a variety of cool looking tricks Best Bit: Cars 2 stays true to its movie roots in terms of animation; playing this to help build up your turbo boost meter. game is like watching another Cars movie. The tricks are genuinely fun to watch Verdict: Ignore the age rating on this on-screen; you can drive backwards, game, Cars 2 is a title that everyone can perform spins and flips, drive on two thoroughly enjoy for hours and hours. wheels and much more. Performing tricks will take a bit of practice but, if players and because you’re racing with you wish, you can skip them altogether real life opponents the stakes and thus and rely on your driving skills only. the fun is so much more intense and The game’s controls work well and thanks to spot on kart-racing mechanics palatable. It’s just a shame then that Cars 2 doesn’t offer online play. This you’ll be able to have hours of fun. is a feature that most racers offer as Tricks as we said earlier take time to standard today. master but you won’t find yourself On the presentation front Cars 2 getting frustrated with this game. The doesn’t put a foot wrong. The visuals only change we’d make would be to are solid and the animation, when it add a map system that shows your comes to car movement is spot-on. position on the track. As it is right Like the movie you’ll be able to see now, the game only makes you aware cars lift their tires while turning and of what position you’re in at present you’ll see body work deform as they but doesn’t tell you how close your talk and express emotions. opponents are or how far you are away Cars 2 is also strong on the audio from them. front with most of the voice actors As fun as Cars 2 is when from the movie lending their voices you’re playing alone, you’ll to the cars here. The only voice actors have an absolute blast who don’t return are Owen Wilson as when you’re playing one Lightning McQueen and Michael Caine of the game’s many local as Finn McMissile. multiplayer modes. You Cars 2 will deliver can game hours and hours with up to four of fun, it’s easily one of the best karting games we’ve ever played

The in-game animation is a real treat to watch, it’s like watching another Cars movie


Monday 10th October 2011, Armani Hotel, Dubai, UAE

RECOGNISING EXCELLENCE IN ENTERPRISE COMPUTING Have your achievements acknowledged at the 7th annual ACN Arab Technology Awards 2011

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56 GAME ON

Dungeon Siege 3

XBOX

✪✪✪✪✪

Price: $73 Controller: Xbox 360 controller Best Bit: You’ll come across some serious eye-candy in Dungeon Siege 3. It’s worth playing the game just to see all of the game's environments. Verdict: The transition from PC to console has stripped Dungeon Siege 3 of some of its past greatness. That said this is still an action RPG game worth trying at least once.

C gamers with an interest in action role-playing games have exclusively been able to enjoy the Dungeon Siege series of games, as they were only released on the PC gaming platform. With Dungeon Siege 3 however developer Obsidian Entertainment and publisher Square Enix have brought the game to the masses by releasing the game on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms as well. Dungeon Siege 3 takes place roughly 150 years after the events of Dungeon Siege and has players returning to the now familiar Kingdom of Ehb. Players can choose to play as one of four playable characters; Lucas Montbarron, Anjali, Reinhart Manx and Katarina. Once you begin playing you’re given a brief tutorial on how to play and, before you know it, you’ll be playing through the game’s main storyline. This was our biggest niggle with the game because while Dungeon Siege 3 has a fairly decent story with solid pacing, it’s all over way too quickly. Despite not attempting a mad dash for the finish line and doing a fair bit of exploring, we were able to complete the

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

P

game in no more than 15 hours. When you consider that the older Dungeon Siege 2 could take as long as 45 hours to complete, the sequel immediately feels less of a game than its predecessor. Unfortunately, if you’re a hardcore RPG fan you’ll find yourself getting bored rather quickly with Dungeon Siege 3. This problem is that while the game’s basic mechanics are fairly solid and aren’t too fiddly to use, there’s very little character and ability development on offer; you’ll very quickly be able to level up your character and then having nothing else to do but hack and slash. This is far from ideal given that games like Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 2 can have you fiddling with your character’s various traits and abilities right up to the very end of the game. Being a RPG game there are plenty of items on offer and while this will encourage you to explore the world around you in greater depth, it’s a shame that the non playable characters have barely any depth. As a result you never really care about what happens to them. Playing the game on your own is also a somewhat limited experience because whereas its predecessor allowed you to have parties of up to four characters, this time around, you can only have a maximum of two. As you’d expect you can play through Dungeon Siege 3’s campaign with a friend using the game’s cooperative multiplayer mode. This is infinitely more enjoyable than going through the game on your own purely because you don’t have to rely on the sometimes completely useless AI to get you out of trouble.


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Dungeon Siege 3

GAME ON 57

When the action gets intense you’ll see some awesome visuals onscreen. The graphics here can easily singe your eyeballs

While Dungeon Siege 3 is a relatively challenging game it just isn’t very long. You’ll be done before you know it

There’s very little background behind the characters, which means you have little reason to care about them

Playing this game with a friend is a far better choice to relying on the at times incompetent AI

As is the case with the rest of the game in general, Dungeon Siege 3 is somewhat unbalanced on the visual front as well. The characters, be they the ones you choose to play as or the ones you encounter through the game, aren’t dripping with detail and this is obvious whenever you’re given a close-up view. That said, when you equip your characters with some of the advanced armour and other knickknacks you happen across during your journey, you won’t be able to do anything but admire just how cool your character ends up looking. One area the game really excels in is with the look of some of its environments. While you will, of course, come across a few dark, desolate areas such as old mines, more often than not, we found ourselves staring in wonder at some of the colourful and superbly illuminated areas. Dungeon Siege 3 uses lighting brilliantly to give real personality to crypts, dungeons and other such environments. At the same time, the camera can be quite a pain in that it can do completely the wrong thing at the wrong time and leave you reaching for your save game. On more than a few occasions in tight spaces the in-game camera decided to zoom in too much on our character, which meant we could only see our character’s head, rather than the group of foes we were trying to vanquish at that exact same moment. Audio is a mixed bag as well because while there’s decent ambient music on offer and fairly interesting and unique sound effects, the voice acting is average at best. This combined with the rather stiffly animated characters mean you’ll find it hard to really connect with the characters you play or come across. They seem just a bit too robotic and soulless.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

Character animation and detail isn’t one of Dungeon Siege 3’s strong points; the textures just aren’t of a very high resolution on most characters


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TECH TALK 59

DON’T DISCOUNT HARD DRIVES

Solid state drives (SSDs for short) have been around for much longer than you think. The origin of these drives dates back to the 1950s, though flash-based SSDs similar to the drives we have on the market today only hit the market in 1995. A company called M-Systems was the first to introduce these drives and unlike previous volatile DRAM-based SSDs, M-Systems’ offering did not require batteries to maintain the data stored within memory. Since that time SSDs have slowly worked their way into a variety of computing devices such as desktops, notebooks and tablets due to the fact that they offer high read/write performance, consume less power and aren’t as susceptible to sudden jolts and shocks. Gamers have in particular taken to SSDs because their high reading and writing performance enables reduced game and level load times. And, in-general, these drives also make the machine respond faster on a day-today basis. Unfortunately, while SSDs do offer serious performance, there are a number of drawbacks that make them far from an ideal replacement to hard drives. While SSDs don’t have any

moving parts and are therefore not susceptible to sudden shocks and jolts, don’t be fooled into thinking that these drives will never ever fail. The reality is quite the contrary I’m afraid. I’ve been using SSDs in my home machine since 2007 and I’m sad to say that I’ve had a fair few problems over the years. In fact whereas other core components such as my machine’s processor, memory, motherboard and even my standard hard drive (for photos etc) has stood up to the test of time, I’ve actually gone through three different SSDs in the same time. The problems I experienced with each SSD were unrelated but the common point was that all three of them became unusable and had to be replaced. The problem is that SSDs are still quite finicky and can be corrupted or crashed by seemingly harmless everyday tasks. On one occasion a power cut completely nuked all the data on my SSD, while I was gaming on the machine at the time. In contrast, I’ve not had a single hard drive fail on me in the last six years of my computing life. I’ve replaced hard drives only when I thought they were too slow or too small. Issues aside you also have to consider that although SSDs are now

much less expensive than they were in years gone by, they’re still insanely expensive compared to hard drives. Approximately US $249 will buy you a super fast 10,000rpm Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drive (which I now use) with 600GB of storage capacity. For the same money I wouldn’t be able to walk out of a store with any of the six SSDs reviewed in the grouptest this month (page 18). To walk out with a SSD in hand I’d have to spend a minimum of $284 and that would buy me a drive with only 120GB of storage capacity, which would quickly be filled up by my games and OS. You see while the VelociRaptor, which is also a somewhat expensive hard drive, costs just $0.41 per gigabyte, the 120GB Intel 510 Series SSD costs a staggering $2.37 per gigabyte. Sure the SSD is faster but the price to performance ratio is way off. Modern hard drives are also fairly silent beasts that go about their business making only a fraction of the noise that their predecessors did. That said, SSD drives are completely quiet and also consume less power than hard drives. These two factors boys and girls are the only positives about SSDs that don’t have a ‘but’ statement following shortly after.

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

While solid state drives (SSDs) are grabbing headlines and the hearts and minds of gamers thanks to their amazing performance, you should still consider hard drives today. Windows Editor Jason Saundalkar explains why…


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Competitions

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...

WIN A BLACKBERRY

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

BLACKBERRY CURVE 9300 We're once again partnering with our friends at Blackberry and as a result, we've got two awesome 9300 smartphones to give away this issue. The 9300 has just the right kind of stuff to handle e-mails and other work on the go but what masquerades as a strictly business smartphone, turns into a different monster with apps to hook you up to all your favourite social media and chat clients. You can download Google Chat and MSN Messenger for example, but for friends who have a Blackberry, using the preloaded BBM client is highly recommended. It is simply the easiest messenger service on offer and the best way to stay in touch with all your BlackBerry buddies across the world. The media player on the 9300 works well and there are buttons atop the smartphone, so you can listen to your tracks on the go and play, pause, rewind, forward or mute without ever going into the interface. The Curve 9300 is equipped with a 624MHz processor, 256MB of RAM and 256MB of flash memory. If you think you need more, you can upgrade the phone via micro-SD card. You can also get snappy with the Curve's 2-megapixel rear facing camera, which has a fixed focus and supports video recording too. The screen offers a 320 x 240 pixel display and delivers the goods whether you’re watching a video or just navigating the phone’s intuitive interface. You can navigate the interface via the optical trackpad, which has now become a mainstay on all Blackberry devices. This Blackberry also has 3G data support for faster data transfer speeds, which ultimately makes your Internet experience lightning quick. Typing too is a cinch with the phone’s 35-key backlit keyboard and for users who are already used to the Curve series of Blackberry smartphones, the same individual key keyboard design is present. For a chance to win yourself the amazing Blackberry Curve 9300, point your browser to www.itp. net/competitions and answer this no brainer:

What is the frequency of the BlackBerry Curve 9300’s processor? a) 600 MHz b) 624 MHz c) 625 MHz

CO CUR OL VES


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REGULARS 61

CARS, CARS, CARS CARS 2 If you’re a fan of Pixar’s Cars 2 animated movie, this competition is for you. Our fantastic friends at LS2 Pluto have donated four copies of Cars 2 to give away to our loyal readers. So, if you want to play as one of the cool and quirky car characters from Pixar’s latest masterpiece, read on. The game starts off by training you as a C.H.R.O.M.E. (Command Headquarters for Recon Operations & Motorized Espionage) agent by putting you through racing simulations and other ther driving assignments. Once you’re past these you can jump straight into action. Like the legendary Mario Kart, it won’t be long before you realise that Cars 2 is a super kart racing bonanza that offers loads of fun. And thanks to its local multiplayer support, you’ll be able to enjoy this game with family and friends. You can use weapons such as machine-guns and rocket launchers to win races though you can also perform tricks like flips, spins, driving on two wheels and driving backwards to build up your boost meter. You can even force opponents off the track and blow CAR them to smithereens in the game's arena mode. For a chance to win a copy of Cars 2 simply point your browser to www.itp.net/competitions and answer this teaser: What is the full form of

KART ING

C.H.R.O.M.E.? a) Can Help Roadside Operations Middle East b) Cars Have Rooms Oxidise Metal Efficiently c) Command Headquarters for Recon Operations & Motorized Espionage

SUPER DRIVE WESTERN DIGITAL VELOCIRAPTOR

For a chance to win this speed demon of a hard drive, point your browser to www.itp.net/competitions and answer this question: How much cache does the

600GB WD Velociraptor have? a) 6 MB b) 16MB c) 32 MB

A RA PID DRIV E

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs while a level in your favourite FPS game loads or the dreaded hour glass cursor sits on your screen for what seems like an eternity, this is the competition for you. This issue we we’ve teamed up with the guys from Western Digital and the result is that you can walk away with an insanely fast 10,000rpm VelociRaptor hard drive. The VelociRaptor is a speed demon thanks to its 10,000rpm spindle speed and because it has 32MB of cache memory, you’ll find this drive ripping through load times in a flash. When Windows Middle East tested the 600GB VelociRaptor, it managed an average read speed of 136.2MB/sec in our HDTach 3 benchmark and a random access speed of 7.0ms. Those are some pretty impressive numbers. Despite its insane speed the VelociRaptor is silent and offers more storage capacity than almost every other SSD drive on the market.


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CD contents

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

OUR PICK OF WINDOWS CD

RADIOSURE

ADMIX DJ

AIDA64 EXTREME EDITION

MY PHOTO CALENDARS

This app gives users access to over 12,000 online radio stations and even has a recording feature so you can record your favourite shows and songs. Most stations will give you information about the name of the show and what song is playing, thereby quickly allowing you to switch to other channels. Searching for a station too was a breeze and we were quite amazed by the clarity and sound quality on offer.

You'll be burning the floors with music with this app's seamless track mixing. A start-up DJ can learn a lot from the software however the app doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do a very good job at duplicating real DJ decks. This software is mainly for someone who likes the idea of dabbling with mixes and wants to try their hand at amateur DJing. It detects the beats per minute (BPM) of tracks and allows genre mixing too.

A great diagnostic utility that combines benchmarking as well. AIDA64 is useful mainly for hardware enthusiasts, overclockers and people who like to custom build their PCs. There are a lot of features to assist in overclocking, stress testing, hardware diagnosis and monitoring. AIDA 64 can assess the performance of your computer's processor, memory and disk drives too though it lacks a graphics card monitoring utility.

This amazing utility allows you to create your own calendars with customisable images, text, dates and languages. It is the only software you will ever need to create your very own masterpiece and print calendars for friends, family and clients. You can also choose when you want the calendar to start, and there are various layouts, so you can create desktop calendars or poster size ones.


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REGULARS 63

CD contents

T PI OP CK FIREFOX 5 Firefox 5 is a fast web browser that boasts a very clean and minimalistic look. It is also the first version of Firefox to be released under Mozilla’s new rapid-release cycle. In short this means we’ll be seeing newer iterations of Firefox every quarter, instead of the previous 1-2 years. Firefox 5 now features several updates that concentrate on the new add-on SDK feature, which allows programmers to build extensions from HTML, CSS and JavaScript, as opposed to the ageing XUL file format. Firefox 5 now also supports CSS animations which can allow the browser to handle more dynamic content with ease. The interface hasn’t changed much since Firefox 4, although the ‘Do not Track’ box is now in the Options menu under Privacy. This version is said to be the most stable form of Firefox but for developers to explore there are many more options, like Firefox beta, Firefox Aurora and the updated-nightly Firefox Minefield. With flavours for every appetite no wonder Firefox still is one of the best web browsers available.

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 174: AWESOME SOFTWARE INTERNET

GAMES

FREE YOUTUBE DOWNLOADER FIREFOX 5

BLOODRAYNE 2

ESSENTIAL FILES

MULTIMEDIA ADMIX DJ RADIOSURE

UTILITIES AIDA 64 EXTREME SYSTEM CLEANER

ATI RADEON HD 6XXX SERIES DRIVERS (WINDOWS 7 32-BIT) NVIDIA GEFORCE 500 SERIES DRIVERS (WINDOWS 7 32-BIT) JAVA RUNTIME MICROSOFT ACTIVESYNC 4.5

PRODUCTIVITY MY PHOTO CALENDARS PERSONAL BRAIN

INTERNET

r Free YouTube Downloade Firefox 5

MULTIMEDIA Admix DJ RadioSure

UTILITIES AIDA 64 Extreme System Cleaner

PRODUCTIVITY My Photo Calendars Personal Brain

GAMES BloodRayne 2

ES ESSENTIAL FILdriver s

This is the sequel to one of the most popular vampire games ever released. It offers third-person action-adventure gameplay but doesn’t pick up where its predecessor left off. Rather, BloodRayne 2 takes place between 60 to 70 years later, in a contemporary 2000s setting. As Rayne you’ll have to hunt down and slay a group known as the Cult of Kagan. The Cult has developed a mysterious substance that makes them impervious to the sun’s rays, which allows them to surface during the day and twist nature with the ultimate goal being to create a new era of vampiric supremacy. As Rayne you'll have to hack and slash your way through the game, picking up new tools and upgrades as you go along.

My Photo Calen even clients. Every uted to friends, family, or calendars that can be distrib dates and languages. Date le including images, text, misab custo calendar is dar calen of a ing for that professional text or pictures too, allow thing boxes can be filled with but should you need some al holidays to choose from nation the 36 are start to There you s feel. am allow added to the list. The progr print compatible with unlisted, it can be easily is and re, requi you week or day that calendar on any month, sizes. many U.S. and E.U. page

www.itp.net ation September 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 SEPTEMBER 2011

BLOODRAYNE 2

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

NDARS mised photo OTO CALE MY PH allows users to create custo dars is a versatile app that element

174


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64 REGULARS

Logging off

LOGGINGOFF PRISONER POSTS BAIL BY EXPLOITING GLITCH IN PRISON PHONE SYSTEM

WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST SEPTEMBER 2011

A glitch in a jail’s phone system allowed Larry Stone to make some money and post his own bail. Stone was imprisoned at the Lake County Jail in Florida for property crime charges since April of this year. His bail was set at US $1,200. It was in early July that Stone noticed the phone system was accidently refunding double the cost of the call, if the call didn’t go through. Stone, excited by his finding, started placing international calls and hanging up before anyone answered. After 77 incomplete calls he managed to rake in over $1,250.69, which was enough to pay his bail as well as keep some pocket change. The problem is before he left prison, he explained his method to a few inmates and they too used it to cash in. The news spread like wildfire and after a reported 256 prisoners fooled the system, officials started catching on. "The jail's IT department noticed an unusual amount of phone calls being placed, all of which were incomplete," jail spokesman Lt. John Herrell told ABC News. "When we found out about it, we were shocked. We're not really sure how the word spread but it was definitely going around and people were jumping on the bandwagon." The company that handles the prison's phone transactions was informed of the glitch and it was patched immediately. As for Stone, when he learned that the police were looking out for him once again, he turned himself in. He now faces additional charges including grand theft and scheming with the intent to defraud.

IPHONE SURVIVES SKYDIVE

COMPUTER MARRIES COUPLE

Jarrod McKinney decided to go skydiving with his iPhone placed in a Velcro strapped pocket. Unfortunately for him the pocket was not fastened enough and the phone slipped out at 13,500 feet. Once McKinney landed, he used the “Find my iPhone” app on his iPad and was able to track the phone on the rooftop of a factory building. The screen was completely shattered, and while most people would put good money on saying there’s no way the phone could survive, a friend called the phone for a gag and it rang. The cracked glass did make it difficult to answer but apparently McKinney can use the phone with a Bluetooth headset just fine. McKinley plans on repairing the screen and using the same device. For a phone that has been under constant scrutiny for its glass covered back being too fragile, this comes as a testament to its durability.

A couple who met on an online forum have sealed their love in hardware matrimony via a computer, ‘Reverend Bit’. What may seem like an unorthodox choice for their nuptials, Miguel Hanson and Diana Wesley thought was wholly appropriate, as they exchanged their vows in Hanson’s house. Hanson, a web developer, created his own computer program to act as the Reverend during the wedding. The couple stood before Reverend Bit while a digitised voice ran through the marriage script. Hilarious as it may seem, we’re sure the couple were rather solemn during ‘bits’ of the ceremony. Reverend Bit’s pre-programmed script went something like this, "If anyone here has anything to say that might change their minds or has any objections, they do not want to hear it and I will not recognise your objections since Miguel has programmed me to only recognise his commands." Hanson controlled various parts of the nuptials via a wireless mouse that he held for the duration of the ceremony. There were 30 guests that witnessed the spectacle, and even though the couple will have to go to City Hall for their legal wedding, this is the one that will go in the wedding album.


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