Archive for the ‘PC Hardware’ Category

Dell quietly rolls out 1340 and 1640 laptops

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Anyone waiting, and waiting for Dell to get their act together on incorporating new technology into laptops can stop waiting. Dell has covertly added the Studio XPS 1340 and Studio XPS 1640 to their line-up. The leather accented cover is going to keep me from getting one, but if you’re into that sort of thing, go for it. Never before seen in Dell laptop options include Nvidia 9xxx graphics options and more.

These notebooks do not seem to be linked on Dell.com (or at least they buried it, in an attempt to sell last years technology.) Hopefully with them failing steadily behind HP in the PC laptop segment (due to HPs amazing price, performance, and style) they will continue to release new versions of their laptops in less than a year this time. I’ll however stick with my XPS 1530 for a little longer, and see what shakes out of Dell and HP in the coming months.

-Drew

Microsoft Explorer Mouse – Wireless Nirvana

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

If you’re like me, (old fashioned and stubborn) you like things wired. You would rather climb into a fiberglass filled attic to run Cat-5 than use wireless Internet (in your bathroom). Recently, with the purchase of my new HP HDX 18t laptop I decided to revisit wireless mice. A technology I have had a long and sometimes sordid affair with over the past 4-5 years.

I’ll admit, even though I am somewhat of a wire-hugger, I am also an early adopter. I had the first Dell Jukebox (and Axim), tend to wait in lines for new video game consoles, and always install the new version of Windows the day it is released. (Tradition, right?) I have gone through several Wireless mice, in both the ‘Mouse/Keyboard bundle’ and the Mouse only variety. In my quest for Wireless Nirvana, something about each different revision just bugged me, that is until now.

Microsoft has done almost everything right with this rendition of the Microsoft Explorer Wireless Mouse. From the sleek (and don’t forget ergonomic, but lets face it, you buy it because its sexy) design to its amazing accuracy and response. I am having a hard time finding anything bad to say about this mouse.

explorer

As you can see above, this is one sexy beast. (and yes, it does glow blue.) It is clear that Microsoft has spent as much time on the design as they did on the functionality (something they have been dinged for not doing in the past).

About that technology, the blue glow is not just a gimmick. Microsoft’s new Bluetrack technology mixes optical and laser tracking technology  to deliver the best of both worlds (and just try to find a surface it won’t track on). The 2.4GHz wireless transmission system has also been refined. When I tried other Bluetooth (and even other 2.4GHz wireless input devices) I found that they couldn’t achieve any degree of accuracy from distances as short as 3-4 ft even though the rated maximum is 30 ft. With the Microsoft Explorer I have achieved accuracy at 10 ft. (Which makes this a good mouse even for home theater purposes).

Keep in mind also that my home has a fairly evil amount of wireless ‘crap’ surrounding it. I live in a condo and if I had to guess I would say every single person on the block has a wireless router pumping out tons of 2.4GHz (and likely 5.8GHz) crap all over my living space. Not to mention that I myself have a wireless LAN as well as several other wireless systems in my home.

Some other cool things about the mouse are that the USB transmitter fits neatly on the bottom of the mouse. Its re-chargeable and has a ridiculously long battery life (charge it overnight, use it for a week). It has handy thumb buttons in all the right places. It feels great in your hand and glides very well across surfaces (the sofa included). Plus it glows blue (what else do you need?)

The Microsoft Explorer Wireless Mouse delivers style, build quality, tremendous tracking, long battery life, and superior wireless technology with a price  and performance that beats most specialty ‘gaming’ mice. If you are in the market for a new wireless mouse, I would look no further.

-Drew

HP HDX 18t – A great gift idea

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I will be the first to admit, I was biased against HP. After years of seeing the ‘droning’ masses flock to brick and mortar retailers to plunk down their hard earned dough for machines that (in the past) offered sub-par performance and were loaded with freeware I became jaded. However if the HP HDX 18t is any indication, they have stepped up their game in a big way.

Recently, I needed a new desktop replacement laptop for general use. I have always been a huge supporter of Dell’s products but they have essentially been selling the same laptops for the last 13-14 months with no real advance in technology or design. Being somewhat of a ‘snob’ in that area I went looking for alternatives. Low and behold I stumbled upon the HP HDX 18t.

At first glance this machine is indeed a monster. It is made instantly apparent that HP didn’t really expect anyone to carry this beast around with them on a day-to-day basis, but what it lacks in mobility, it makes up for in performance and value.

The HDX 18t sports all of the latest and greatest technology. The base model includes (standard, no less) the Intel Centrino 2 P8400, an amazing 18.4" display (more on this later), 2GB of RAM (although at the time of writing there was a free upgrade to 3GB), a 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT, and a blue-ray drive (HDMI Output too!) all for $1399 (before any coupons/discounts). This is a tremendous value, other manufacturers (if they have something similar, ahem Dell) charge anywhere between $1700 – $2000 for the same hardware.

If the 18" screen doesn’t sound familiar to you there is a reason. Up until recently computer LCD displays were fashioned in the 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the standard LCD 16:9. What this meant to you was that the LCD glass manufacturers couldn’t cut as many screens out of the same plate of glass. The benefits of the industry standard 16:9 format are two fold. First, by sharing the same aspect ratio as other LCD displays (HDTVs) Blu-ray, movies streamed from the Internet, and DVDs can be displayed in their full screen glory. Second, since the glass in an LCD is arguably the most expensive part, being able to get more of these screens for less money will in the long run save you money.

Another very nice and often overlooked benefit of a notebook this large is the full-sized keyboard (with number pad!) no worrying about trying to use function keys here. The styling on this machine is also very impressive, with a illuminated HP logo adoring the case and a brushed metal design. On the bottom of the notebook you will find a subwoofer (yes! a subwoofer) which actually does a pretty good job if you’re using the system for gaming or watching movies. Overall the machine feels very well built and solid.

Performance wise, this machine has been able to tackle anything I have thrown at it including World of Warcraft (in its highest resolution), Spiderman 3 in Blu-Ray and day to day surfing/computing tasks. HP pulled out all of the stops for this system and if this is any indication of what is to come in the future from them, I could be an HP customer for life.

The only somewhat negative thing I found is that the trackpad is a little ‘slippery’ I noticed that I had to be aware of what my fingers were doing when trying to use it and it wasn’t always intuitive. Most people who have a desktop replacement will immediately plug a USB wireless mouse such as the outstanding new Microsoft Explorer which I highly recommend for any notebook user.

Out of my current stable (Dell XPS m1530, Dell Inspiron 1420, HP HDX 18t) of notebooks I must say that this HP is the most pleasant to use. It is clear that the designers took their time and listened to the feedback from their customers.

In conclusion I highly recommend the HP HDX 18t, leave all reservations about past experience with HP products in the wind. This is a new HP and I look forward to seeing what is next from HP.

-Drew