Hardware – gHacks Technology News http://www.ghacks.net The independent technology news blog Sun, 26 Mar 2017 09:43:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 Nvidia GeForce Drivers for Windows 378.49 released http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/24/nvidia-geforce-drivers-378-49-released/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/24/nvidia-geforce-drivers-378-49-released/#comments Tue, 24 Jan 2017 15:04:59 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129799 Nvidia has just released new GeForce Drivers for supported Windows operating systems that introduces game ready support for Resident Evil 7 among other things. Nvidia GeForce Drivers 378.49 is a WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) game ready driver for Windows that is available as a manual driver download, and through Nvidia's GeForce Experience software. The […]

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Nvidia has just released new GeForce Drivers for supported Windows operating systems that introduces game ready support for Resident Evil 7 among other things.

Nvidia GeForce Drivers 378.49 is a WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) game ready driver for Windows that is available as a manual driver download, and through Nvidia's GeForce Experience software.

The new driver version for Nvidia video cards brings Game Ready support for the following three games: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Conan Exiles, and For Honor.

Game Ready Drivers are designed to configure supported games automatically for the best gaming experience. This can be useful to gamers who don't want to be bothered changing various game quality settings manually, but it happens that choices are not optimal for a PC's hardware.

Nvidia GeForce Drivers 378.49

nvidia geforce drivers 378.49

Game Ready Drivers are for now available as a separate download, and through the GeForce Experience software. Nvidia announced some time ago that this won't be the case forever. The company plans to make Game Ready Drivers only available through GeForce Experinece updates -- which requires registration to be of any use -- and no longer as separate downloads.

Separate driver downloads will still be offered, but they will be updated less frequently.

As always, it is recommended to select custom installation during setup as this is the only way to prevent drivers and features from being installed on the machine that you don't require.

It depends on your setup if that is the case. If you don't make use of 3D for instance, you may want to disable the 3D drivers that come with the driver package.

Check this guide on disabling Nvidia services that get installed regardless of choice that you make during setup.

Last but not least, you may want to disable Nvidia Tracking on top of all that.

Fixed Issues in Nvidia GeForce Drivers 378.49

Besides delivering three Game Ready drivers for new games, issues were fixed in version 378.49.

  • [GeForce TITAN X][Just Cause 3] Random flashes occur in the game.
  • [GeForce GTX 1080][Wargames: Red Dragon]: The system reboots after switching to
    full-screen mode while playing the game.
  • [GeForce GTX1080]: Random TDR/black screens occur when running GPU-intensive
    Direct X applications after updating to Windows 10 Anniversary Update.
  • [GeForce GTX 1070][Alienware Graphics Amplifier] The graphics card is not detected
    upon installing the driver.
  • [GeForce GTX 1070][Battlefield 1] Rain puddles appear dark.
  • [GeForce GTX 1060] A superfluous audio end point entry appears in the Windows
    Sound Devices panel after resuming from hibernate mode.
  • Assassins Creed - Syndicate shows intermittent flickering black or white patches on
    game character faces.
  • [SLI][Battlefield 1]: Texture flickering occurs in the game with SLI enabled.
  • [Hitman pro][DirectX 12] Flickering corruption appears in the game if the multi-GPU
    option is enabled from the in-game settings.
  • [Folding @ Home] Work unit errors occur.
  • [Diablo 3 DirectX 11] SLI profile needed.

Open Issues in Nvidia GeForce Drivers for Windows 378.49

A number of open issues are present as well. Make sure you go through them before updating to the new driver version:

Windows 10:

  • [Surround][DirectX 11 apps] Only red and blue colors are visible when playing videos
    at resolutions >= 1080P on one surround monitor.
  • [GM204, Tom Clancy's The Division Survival DLC] Game crashes pointing to
    ntdll.dll when changed to full-screen and to windowed full-screen.
  • [GM204, ShadowPlay] For Honor silently crashes if intro video is skipped and instant
    replay is on.
  • [SLI] [GeForce GTX 970M] Level loading hangs in Gears of War 4.
  • [367.77, WDDM 2.1] Driver install/overinstall requires reboot.
  • [SLI, GP104] Installer prompts for reboot during express overinstall of 372.69 driver on
    372.54.
  • [GM204] Quantum Break window either remains blank or freezes in game scene in
    windowed mode.
  • Surround Display icon disappears after rotate mode set to portrait.
  • [SLI] Street Fighter V performance drop (pause and play) observed when the game is
    played at 4K resolution with SLI enabled.
  • [Luxmark 3.0] Display driver stopped responding while running benchmark LuxBall
    HDR (Simple Bechmark:217K triangles).
  • [347.09, GM204] Blank screen observed on an ASUS Tiled display when system resumes from shutdown or hibernation with Fast boot option enabled from BIOS.

Windows 8.1

  • [3DVision] While a stereoscopic 3D video with stereoscopic 3D enabled is played, the
    monitor refresh rate switches to 60 Hz after changing the resolution using the
    Windows control panel.
  • [Video, Notebook] The NVIDIA Control Panel video color settings have no effect on
    YouTube flash video playback within Internet Explorer 10.

Windows 7

  • [GeForce GTX 1080] Battlefield 1 hangs when campaign loaded with Fast Sync
    enabled from the NVIDIA Control Panel.
  • [SLI] Street Fighter V performance drop (pause and play) observed when the game is
    played at 4K resolution with SLI enabled.
  •  [3DVision] While a stereoscopic 3D video with stereoscopic 3D enabled is played, the
    monitor refresh rate switches to 60 Hz after changing the resolution using the
    Windows control panel.

You can download the latest Nvidia drivers from the official Nvidia website.

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Of Apple and Windows: Gartner’s OS forecast is useless http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/09/apple-windows-gartners-os-forecast/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/09/apple-windows-gartners-os-forecast/#comments Mon, 09 Jan 2017 14:23:07 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=128855 You have probably read about Gartner's latest forecast already which sees Apple shipping more combined devices than Microsoft / Windows in the year 2017 and the following years. If you have not, you can read about the prediction on the Computerworld website. Basically, what Gartner forecasts is that Apple will ship more iOS and OSX […]

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You have probably read about Gartner's latest forecast already which sees Apple shipping more combined devices than Microsoft / Windows in the year 2017 and the following years.

If you have not, you can read about the prediction on the Computerworld website. Basically, what Gartner forecasts is that Apple will ship more iOS and OSX devices in total than Windows devices in the years 2017, 2018 and 2019.

If you take the 2016 figures, which Gartner provides, you see Windows in second position with about 260 million devices shipped. Apple shipped only 248 million devices in total in the year and came in third. The statistic is dominated by Google Android which shipped on the majority of devices in 2016. To make this clearer, the 260 million Windows devices are 11% of the market.

Windows devices dropped in comparison to 2015, and so did Apple devices in 2016. Gartner forecasts that Apple will see a strong year 2017 with device shipments picking up again, while Windows shipments won't see much change in the coming years.

by Computerworld with Gartner data

The statistic is problematic for a number of reasons. First, it takes PC, 2-in-1, tablet and phone shipments and adds them all up together. This ensures that you get the biggest number possible, but it does not really tell you anything about how well an operating system does or will do.

If you would just look at individual device types, you'd see that the bulk of Apple's shipments falls into the iPhone category. For Windows, that is a dead category more or less.

The situation changes if you take PCs on the other hand. Apple is not doing really well in that category, while the bulk of Windows devices fall into that group.

Windows is doing well in the PC category first and foremost, and it is dominating it. Apple is obviously doing better than Windows in the mobile phone category as Windows is a no-show there.

Second, even if you ignore this issue, you may notice that the "total devices shipped" figure does not tell you anything about how well a company is doing. Apple is making more money from devices that it ships than Microsoft or other companies shipping Windows products.

Apple has been quite conservative when it comes to innovation and releasing products, and if the company does not change that, or change other metrics such as price, then I cannot see it recover from a decline in sales.

For Microsoft, there are also some uncertainties. First, what about Windows Phone? Will Microsoft release the rumored Surface Phone in 2017 to the public? I cannot see it capture much market share initially, unless it is really innovative or offers great value for its price.

Then, what about Windows 10? Microsoft's push to Windows 10 will continue obviously, but the company has yet to show how this will benefit the company financially. With 10% of Windows customers still on Windows XP, an operating system that Microsoft stopped supporting three years ago, it is clear that Microsoft will have a hard time convincing Windows 7 users to upgrade to Windows 10.

Why? Because Windows 7 is probably as popular as Windows XP, and it is supported for another three years.

Lastly, the figures may not take into account the enthusiast market. PC users can build their own devices from scratch. While there are not any information on how big that part of the market is, it is probably something that one should not forget.

Closing Words

The forecast does not tell us much. It tells us that Gartner believes that Apple will ship more devices than all companies shipping Windows devices because Apple will recover from declining sales while Microsoft won't. That's the extend of the forecast.

I predict that Android device shipments will overshadow the combined Windows and Apple shipments, but that too does not tell us much that we don't know already either.

In the end, it does not really matter if Apple beats Windows or vice versa. Apple is doing well, even though it seems to be in decline, and Microsoft is also doing well.

Now You: What's your take on these stats?

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Nvidia 375.86 driver issues http://www.ghacks.net/2016/11/17/nvidia-375-86-driver-issues/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/11/17/nvidia-375-86-driver-issues/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 08:30:16 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=126252 The last couple of weeks have not been good to Nvidia. The company released a new driver with the version 375.57 in late October that caused major issues especially on Windows 10 devices. This issue got patched relatively quickly though. It appears that Nvidia's latest driver, version 375.86 is also causing issues for users who […]

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The last couple of weeks have not been good to Nvidia. The company released a new driver with the version 375.57 in late October that caused major issues especially on Windows 10 devices. This issue got patched relatively quickly though.

It appears that Nvidia's latest driver, version 375.86 is also causing issues for users who have updated  it on their systems since release.

The company releases new so-called Game Ready drivers regularly for major PC game releases that optimize the graphics adapter for highly popular games.

Nvidia's Game Ready WHQL display driver version 375.86 ships with optimizations for the popular games Battlefield 1, Civilization VI, Steep: Open Beta and Tom Clancy's The Division Survival DLC.

While that sounds great, especially if you own one of these games and want the best experience, you may want to wait before you install the latest driver.

nvidia driver 375.86

Reports on the official feedback thread reveal a number of serious issues that users may experience when they update to the latest Nvidia driver:

  • Noticeable flickers in games, especially in Battlefield 1 but also in others such as Call of Duty Infinity Warfare.
  • Huge performance issues caused by the driver memory being locked to 810 MHz on some systems.

These issues are not limited to the listed games. Especially the performance issue is problematic as it affects all games on the system and not just the handful that the driver optimizes . Users are reporting very low frame rates in games that ran fine before installation of the driver because of memory speed lock. The performance issue may also affect other processes that rely on the video card.

Users who experience these issues should remove the Nvidia driver from the system and install the previous one instead. Doing so does away with the issues. It is recommended to wait for a new driver release, and monitor feedback before installing it.

Nvidia has released two problematic drivers in less than a month. If you needed another reason not to install drivers when they are released, this could be it. It may make sense to block automatic driver updates on your Windows PC to prevent drivers from being updated automatically on the system.

In fact, if you don't use Geforce Experience, you may want to uninstall the component completely and download and install drivers manually instead once you have made sure that they are not causing issues.

Now Read: How to turn off Nvidia Telemetry

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Microsoft’s Surface Dial http://www.ghacks.net/2016/10/27/microsoft-surface-dial/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/10/27/microsoft-surface-dial/#comments Thu, 27 Oct 2016 04:59:06 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=125780 Microsoft did showcase several new pieces of hardware on yesterday's event including the company's first desktop PC Surface Studio and an accompanying Surface Dial. Surface Dial, which looks like a Hockey puck, is a standalone device that is included in Surface Studio preorders for a limited time, and also available for purchase on the Microsoft […]

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Microsoft did showcase several new pieces of hardware on yesterday's event including the company's first desktop PC Surface Studio and an accompanying Surface Dial.

Surface Dial, which looks like a Hockey puck, is a standalone device that is included in Surface Studio preorders for a limited time, and also available for purchase on the Microsoft Store website for $99.

It is compatible with Surface Studio, and the previously released Surface Book and Surface 4 according to Microsoft. Since it is using Bluetooth for communication, it is in theory compatible with any device supporting it.

Surface Dial is powered by two AAA batteries which should last for a year according to Microsoft if the dial is used for four hours per day.

Surface Dial

surface dial

The Surface Studio has been designed with support for the Surface Dial from the ground up. This means that you can place it on the screen to access its functionality. On other devices, Microsoft only mentioned Surface Book and Surface 4, the dial needs to be placed next to the device for off-screen functionality.

Considering that both devices are designed for mobile use and don't ship with large dimensions, it is understandable that Microsoft went down that route.

The main idea behind Surface Dial is to provide users with a device for their "other hand" that they may use to trigger certain functionality.

Microsoft showcased how designers could use it to zoom in our out, change colors, or use other functionality without using the mouse or touch to access those functions on the screen.

As far as features are concerned, Microsoft lists the following on the Store website:

  1. Press and hold: for menu.
  2. Rotate: freely/continuously.
  3. Click: activates a switch.
  4. Dynamic feedback: tactile feedback in custom increments.
  5. On-screen detection: Only for Surface Studio.

A list of apps is provided on top of that which support the Surface Dial. It comes as no surprise that you find quite a few graphics programs on the list including the "new" Paint but also apps like Windows Maps, Spotify, OneNote, or Groove Music.

Not all apps listed are Store applications. Microsoft lists the Win32 version of Office under apps for instance so that it is at least in theory possible that programs like Photoshop will support the Surface Dial as well at one point.

Support differs from app to app. While you do get some interesting functionality in Paint for instance, the functionality may be limited to controlling the volume in others.

Here is the full Surface Studio promo video that showcases the Surface Dial in some parts:

Closing Words

The Surface Dial won't help me with my writing, or improve any other tasks that I do on a computer. I may not be the typical Windows user, but it appears that the Dial has been designed specifically for designers and maybe photographers as well.

I'd have to try it to say how comfortable it is when you are using it for an extended period of time, especially when placed on the screen and not next to it.

The dial loses some functionality however when off-screen and it will be interesting to see how and if this is reflected on the screen. For instance, Microsoft showcased the color palette that appeared when the dial was placed on the screen. Will that palette appear on the screen as well if the Surface Dial is placed next to it? Or how -- and will it? -- work?

Now You: What's your take on the Surface Dial?

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HP releases printer firmware to undo non-HP ink cartridge blocking http://www.ghacks.net/2016/10/13/hp-releases-printer-firmware-to-undo-non-hp-ink-cartridge-blocking/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/10/13/hp-releases-printer-firmware-to-undo-non-hp-ink-cartridge-blocking/#comments Thu, 13 Oct 2016 10:36:29 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=125504 HP angered many of its customers in September 2016 when a previously released firmware update for company printers would block non-HP ink cartridges from working. HP designed the update to come into effect on September 13, 2016; shortly thereafter, users reported issues with ink cartridges on Internet forums and sites. The issues were widespread and […]

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HP angered many of its customers in September 2016 when a previously released firmware update for company printers would block non-HP ink cartridges from working.

HP designed the update to come into effect on September 13, 2016; shortly thereafter, users reported issues with ink cartridges on Internet forums and sites.

The issues were widespread and large media companies and organizations like the BBC reported on the issue.

HP published a non-apology weeks later in which it announced that it was working on a firmware update to undo the change. It started that the firmware update would be made available in October but did not provide an exact date.

The time has come, as firmware updates are now available for HP printers. I cannot confirm that they are available for all affected printers as there is no list of all printers affected by the issue initially. Firmware updates were however available for all HP printers that I tested.

hp new printer firmware

If one of your HP printers was affected by the old firmware update, and the resulting blocking of non-HP ink cartridges, you may do the following to restore that functionality again:

  1. Visit the HP Customer Support site for software and driver downloads. You are redirected to a locale automatically depending on the device's IP address.
  2. The easiest option is to enter the HP printer model number, e.g. HP Officejet Pro 8610 e, in the form.
  3. The site returns a list of matching products, or the actual product depending on whether the search term resulted in multiple hits or just one.
  4. Scroll down to the firmware section on the page and expand it. You should see a new firmware release on October 12, 2016.
  5. Click on the download link next to it. You are asked whether you want to use the HP Download and Install Assistant, or download only. Download only is just fine, as the firmware is provided as an executable file that you can run to install it on the affected HP printer.

Once installed, non-HP printer ink cartridges should be recognized again so that they can be used once again. Repeat the process for other HP printers that you use.

Closing Words

It is probably a good idea to block the automatic installation of new HP printer firmware versions to avoid similar issues in the future. HP did not apologize for causing those issues, and did not state that it won't release firmware updates in the future that would -- once again -- block non-HP ink cartridges on HP printers.

Check out our original article for instructions on how to block firmware updates on HP printers. You can still download firmware manually if released to install it on the printer should it offer new features or improvements.

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Western Digital launches SSD products http://www.ghacks.net/2016/10/12/western-digital-launches-ssd-products/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/10/12/western-digital-launches-ssd-products/#comments Wed, 12 Oct 2016 04:33:43 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=125479 Western Digital launched two new Solid State Drives (SSD) product lines under the WD brand yesterday of which one is already available for purchase. WD Blue and WD Green Solid State Drives are the company's first WD-branded SATA SSDs. The flash memory comes from SanDisk, the world's third-largest manufacturer of flash memory which Western Digital […]

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Western Digital launched two new Solid State Drives (SSD) product lines under the WD brand yesterday of which one is already available for purchase.

WD Blue and WD Green Solid State Drives are the company's first WD-branded SATA SSDs. The flash memory comes from SanDisk, the world's third-largest manufacturer of flash memory which Western Digital acquired earlier this year.

The main distinction between WD Blue and Green is the following one: WD Blue is designed for professional use, WD Green for regular use.

WD Blue drives are already available, while WD Green drives will become available later this quarter.

Side note: Western Digital launched consumer Solid State Drives back in 2010 under the SiliconEdge brand.

WD Blue SSD

western digitial ssd

WD Blue Solid State Drives are offered as 2.5" and M.2 modules with capacities of 250 Gigabyte to 1 Terabyte.

The two larger models, 1TB and 500GB offer identical performance specifications. They connect via SATA III 6 GB/s interfaces, and offer up to 545MB/s read and 525 MB/s write speeds. The random read (IOPS) is up to 100k, the random write (IOPS) uz to 80k.

The 250 Gigabyte model is slightly slower with 540 MB/s read, 500 MB/s write, 97K random read and 79K random write performance.

The drives differ significantly when it comes to endurance. Endurance determines the total amount of data that can be written on the devices.

The 1TB WD Blue model offers 400 Terabytes of writes, the 500 Gigabyte model 200 Terabytes, and the 250 Gigabyte model 100 Terabytes.

For comparison's sake: Samsung's EVO 850 Pro offers 150 TB on the 128GB, 256GB and 512GB models, and 300 TB on the 1TB and 2TB models.

The 250 GB 2.5" WD Blue SSD retails for $79, the 500 GB model for $139.99, and the 1TB model for $299.99. The M.2 versions for $89.99, $159.99 and $319.99 respectively.

This falls in line with Samsung's EVO 850 which costs about the same for the same amount of storage.

WD Green SSD

WD Green Solid State drives come with capacities of 120GB and 240, and as 2.5" or M.2 modules.

Sequential read speed is up to 540MB/s on both drives, write speed on the 240GB model up to 465 MB/s, on the 120GB model up to 430 MB/s.

The random read speed is up to 37k IOPS, the random write speed up to 68K IOPS on the 240GB drive, and up to 65K IOPS on the 120GB drive.

Endurance-wise, the 240GB model is good for 80TB of total data, the 120GB for 40TB. Pricing has not been announced yet for WD Green SSDs.

Closing Words

Third-party benchmark tests are not available yet. You may want to wait with the purchase until those become available.

It is unclear yet if Western Digital will create a WD Black SSD in the future as well. WD Black drives are designed for performance.

Now You: SSD or platter-based hard drive, which do you prefer?

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HP firmware update blocks non-HP ink cartridges http://www.ghacks.net/2016/09/18/hp-firmware-update-blocks-non-hp-ink-cartridges/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/09/18/hp-firmware-update-blocks-non-hp-ink-cartridges/#comments Sun, 18 Sep 2016 16:15:29 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=124916 HP released a firmware update on March 12, 2016 for several of the company's Officejet printers that renders non-HP ink cartridges useless. HP customers began to complain about the issue on September 13, 2016 on various online forums, the official HP forum, and on community sites like Reddit. All reported that a HP Officejet printer […]

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HP released a firmware update on March 12, 2016 for several of the company's Officejet printers that renders non-HP ink cartridges useless.

HP customers began to complain about the issue on September 13, 2016 on various online forums, the official HP forum, and on community sites like Reddit.

All reported that a HP Officejet printer blocked non-HP ink cartridges from working, and that the device displayed one of the following messages to the user:

Cartridge Problem.

The following ink cartridges appears to be missing or damages.

Replace the ink cartridges to resume printing.

Cartridge Problem.

Until cartridges are replaced, make sure the printer is turned on to avoid damage to the printer.

One or more cartridges are missing or damaged.

The ink cartridge listed above is an older generation ink cartridge that does not work in your printer. It can still be used with some older printer models.

If you do not own an older printer model and your ink cartridge is a genuine HP cartridge, contract HP support for more information.

It appears that HP programmed the firmware update that it released in March to block non-HP ink cartridges from working starting September 13, 2016.

The printers affected by the firmware upgrade are HP Officejet Pro 8610, HP Officejet Pro 8615, HP Officejet Pro 8620, HP Officejet Pro 8625, HP Officejet Pro 8630, and HP Officejet Pro 6230 ePrinter, HP Officejet Pro 6830 e-All-in-One Printer, HP Officejet Pro 6835 e-All-in-One Printer, HP Officejet 6812 e-All-in-One Printer, HP Officejet 6815 e-All-in-One Printer  according to Inkjet 411. There is obviously a chance that other models are affected as well.

hp printer update

HP customers affected by the issue cannot do much about it it appears. The printer won't accept non-HP ink cartridges anymore unless they are specifically designed for the new firmware.

Inkjet 411 for instance asks customers to return all cartridges that stopped working to get them replaced with cartridges that work on devices running the new firmware.

HP customers who don't want to experience an issue like this again in the future may want to disable firmware updates for their printer.

hp software update

The easiest option to do so is to wait for the next HP Update prompt to appear.

  1. Select Settings on the prompt.
  2. On the HP Update Settings page, switch to never under "check for software updates on the web".

Also, whenever a HP Update prompt is displayed, select cancel to block the download and installation of the update.

Closing Words

Most printer manufacturers sell printers at a considerably low price and make profits largely from printer ink cartridges. Some printers are cheaper than a full battery of new cartridges.

While that is not the case for HP's OfficeJet Pro product line, replacing color and black cartridges comes close to 50% of the price paid for the printer (it is about $90 when bought from HP officially.

It is true for Home printers like the HP Officejet 6815 e-All-in-One Printer which retails on Amazon for $64.99 currently. Replacing all cartridges costs more than $70 if you select high yield Black ink, or more than $56 if you don't.

Now You: are you affected by the firmware update?

Update: HP announced today that it will release a firmware update that will remove what the company calls a security feature from its printers. Basically, what it does is remove the restriction so that third-party ink cartridges are accepted by the printer again.

The company plans to release the firmware update in about two weeks, and will announce it on the HP forum when it is ready.

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Seagate unveils 10TB Consumer Hard Drive portfolio http://www.ghacks.net/2016/07/19/seagate-10tb-consumer-hard-drive/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/07/19/seagate-10tb-consumer-hard-drive/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 19:05:29 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=123316 Seagate unveiled today a new portfolio of 10 Terabyte hard drives for the consumer market that push storage capacities to new heights. The 10 Terabyte drives Seagate Barracuda Pro, Seagate IronWolf and Seagate SkyHawk are designed for desktop, NAS and surveillance system use. Dubbed the first consumer 10 Terabyte drives, drives with a capacity of […]

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Seagate unveiled today a new portfolio of 10 Terabyte hard drives for the consumer market that push storage capacities to new heights.

The 10 Terabyte drives Seagate Barracuda Pro, Seagate IronWolf and Seagate SkyHawk are designed for desktop, NAS and surveillance system use.

Dubbed the first consumer 10 Terabyte drives, drives with a capacity of 10 Terabyte have been available for some time in the Enterprise sector.  Drives like the Ultrastar HE10 or Seagate's Enterprise Capacity series offer 10TB capacity for a premium price, and while aimed at the Enterprise market, could also be bought by consumers.

The 10TB Barracuda Pro hard drive is not your typical large storage low performance drive. It offers a maximum sustained transfer rate of 220 MB/s, 256 Megabyte cache, and spins at 7200rpm. Seagate notes that the combination of performance and storage makes it perfect for gaming and professional use that require high performance drives.

seagate 10tb

It is rather interesting that Seagate uses a conventional system for storage and not Helium-sealed technology which many of the Enterprise solutions use at the moment.

Seagate notes that the new Barracuda Pro 10TB drive is power efficient despite it being a 7200rpm drive that uses a platter-design for storage. The drive consumes as little as 4.5 watts during idle and 6.8 watts during seek. Power consumption is nearly identical for the other two 10TB drives Seagate unveiled today.

IronWolf designed for NAS and Seahawk designed for surveillance are the two other drive families that make up the new 10TB portfolio of hard drives. If you compare specs, you will notice some differences. The Barracuda Pro drive offers slightly faster "max sustained data transfer" rates, a higher workload rate limit, but fewer load/unload cycles.

IronWolf is built with drive balance, and is the first in its class of drives to have rotational vibration (RV) sensors to mitigate vibration in multi-drive systems, RAID optimization for best performance with error recovery control, and advance power management providing power savings in NAS

SkyHawk drives use rotational vibration sensors to help minimize read/write errors, and can support the razor sharp vision of 64 cameras, more than any other drive on the market. Ideal for modern, hi-resolution systems running 24/7, SkyHawk drives also come with a data recovery services option for additional peace of mind

The Barracuda Pro 10TB drive features a five-year warranty period which is the same as Seagate's Enterprise drives. The lower priced Skyhawk and Ironwolf drives a two-year shorter warranty period of three-years.

The Seagate Barracuda Pro 10TB hard drive has a list price of $534.99, the IronWolf one of $469.99 and the Skyhawk a list price of $459.99. This equates to a per-Gigabyte price of $0.053, $0.046 and $0.045.

To put this into perspective: The 10TB Enterprise drives that are already available are available for $610 and more currently, and 8TB drives with 7200ropm start at around $400.

Comparable Solid State Drives are not available right now. The highest capacity offered by SSDs is 4TB currently and those devices come at a premium price of $1500 and more right now.

Specs are yet to be confirmed through independent tests.

Now You: How much storage do you have at your disposal currently?

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The Z is an innovative computer mouse http://www.ghacks.net/2016/07/06/the-z-innovate-computer-mouse/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/07/06/the-z-innovate-computer-mouse/#comments Wed, 06 Jul 2016 11:31:32 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=122988 The Z is a mouse created by Swiftpoint that aims to revolutionize how mice works by introducing new features that benefit all users. When it comes to the mouse input device, not much has changed in the past decade or so. Manufacturers moved away from using a ball to power movement to other techniques, specialized […]

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The Z is a mouse created by Swiftpoint that aims to revolutionize how mice works by introducing new features that benefit all users.

When it comes to the mouse input device, not much has changed in the past decade or so. Manufacturers moved away from using a ball to power movement to other techniques, specialized devices came with dozens or more buttons, and DPI started to become important as well.

Apart from that, you still click on buttons to perform actions and that is about it for the majority of mice out there.

Some manufacturers tried to add more features to their products. Logitech's MX Master mouse enables you to control up to three devices at the same time for instance. Microsoft released a its Arc Touch mouse back in 2011 which brought a new design to the table.

For real innovation, you have to look elsewhere. KeyMouse, as crazy as it looks, did so by combining mouse and keyboard.

The Z

the z

The Z looks like a gamer mouse on first glance with all its buttons and thingies attached to it.  Its developer calls the mouse the most advanced gaming mouse ever. While it is too early to verify the claim -- the mouse is not available yet -- it could very well be considering what it offers on top of the usual mouse functionality.

First of all, it supports pivot, tilt and roll, something that you don't find in any other mouse currently. Apart from that, its buttons support tactile feedback so that you may map different actions to the button depending on how hard you click.

Examples? If you like to play shooters, you may use a mouse button to use a scope. You may then use the scroll wheel or buttons to zoom in, and another button to hold breath.

Deep Clicks using tactile feedback

deep click

With The Z, all actions can be mapped to the same mouse button. Right-click a bit to use the scope, click a bit deeper to zoom in, and even deeper to hold the breath for the perfect shot.

Another gaming example: perform a normal attack with a regular click, and a heavy or special attack with a deep click.

While gaming is one focus of the mouse, its deep click functionality offers new options for power users and regular users alike.

Since you can map different actions to same mouse button and use them using force, you may do the following in Word: double-click to select a word, press the mouse button a bit harder to select the paragraph, and a bit harder than that to select the entire document. Or map copy and paste to the same mouse button. Or set different brush thicknesses in Photoshop.

Tilt and Pivot

tilt

Tilt and pivot are two new features that The Z supports. Tilt allows you to change the tilt angle of the mouse to perform actions on the screen.

In a shooter, you may use it to lean left or right, and in a document, to pan. Pivot supports allows you to look left and right in shooters while moving forward, or use in-air gestures by lifting the mouse slightly in the air.

Panning, zooming and rotation is easily done with The /

The Z specs

As far as specs are concerned, here are the most important ones:

Features Details
Optical Sensor 200-12,000 DPI, 5G
On-board Memory Button mappings and settings
Polling 1000hz
Dedicated buttons 17
Main click, trigger and finger tip buttons 6
Fast access fingertip button actions 50
Pivot and Tilt gestures
In-air 6-axis movement
Analogue Force buttons 4 buttons
Deep click buttons 4 buttons
Tactile feedback yes, configrable on/off
OLED Screen

The Z Kickstarter video

Closing Words

The Z is funded already with 36 days to go before the project ends on Kickstarter. One downside of such an innovative feature-rich mouse is price. You can grab a The Z mouse currently for $149 as an early bird special on Kickstarter which is $80 off the MSRP according to the developer.

While pricey when compared to regular mice, it is not uncommon for gaming mice to be very expensive as well.  A quick check on Newegg returned several mice that cost $200 or more.

Build quality and the longevity of parts are other factors that cannot be determined at this point in time.

Still, The Z looks like an excellent computer mouse with innovative features that may find their way into other mice as well in the future.

Now You:What's your take on The Z?

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A cloud-connected Keyboard? No Thanks http://www.ghacks.net/2016/07/04/a-cloud-connected-keyboard/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/07/04/a-cloud-connected-keyboard/#comments Mon, 04 Jul 2016 06:23:37 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=122938 The Das Keyboard 5Q is a cloud-connected computer keyboard that is designed as a notification device as much as it is a keyboard. Das Keyboard is one of the most popular mechanical keyboard brands. I have one (with characters printed on the keys), and love it. You can read my review of Das Keyboard Model […]

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The Das Keyboard 5Q is a cloud-connected computer keyboard that is designed as a notification device as much as it is a keyboard.

Das Keyboard is one of the most popular mechanical keyboard brands. I have one (with characters printed on the keys), and love it. You can read my review of Das Keyboard Model S here. I bought the keyboard back in 2012 and have been using it ever since.

Das Keyboard 5Q is a different kind of keyboard even though it shares characteristics with previous keyboard models.

First, it is pushed on Kickstarter, and the campaign seems to be going well. The project sits at $275k already which is $175k more than the required amount of $100k.

Second, and probably more important, it is cloud-connected and capable of displaying notifications by changing key colors on the keyboard.

Das Keyboard 5Q

das keyboard 5q

So what is the Das Keyboard 5Q exactly, and how does it differ from traditional keyboards?

Das Keyboard 5Q is a cloud-connected, open API RGB mechanical keyboard that allows each key to be color-controlled over the Internet.

Basically, what it does is act as another means of receiving notifications from the Internet. Each RGB LED can be color-controlled remotely to highlight information to the user sitting in front of the keyboard.

The notification system is powered by [Q]app, a desktop program that is connected to the cloud. The cloud part of the service taps into the first party service [Q]cloud and third-party services like IFTTT or Zapier.

You can map keys to notifications, and there is virtually no limit to what you can do. Push email notifications to the E-key, highlight the build status of projects on the B-key, or use the auction tracker to get notifications when you are outbid.

My Take

I have to admit that I'm not the target audience for the keyboard. I prefer to work without being interrupted by notifications, and imagine that a (blinking) mess of colors on the keyboard would be quite distracting.

My main issue with the new keyboard is that it is of little use to me, and likely to the bulk of desktop users out there.

While it may be less distracting to get some notifications on the keyboard instead of a phone or desktop notifications, it might even be more distracting once you start adding more than a handful.

If you configure a lot of notifications for use with the keyboard, you may end up with a blinking nightmare that prevents you from working effectively.

I imagine there is an option to flip the notification system off completely, but could not find the information on the Kickstarter page. The only information provided is that you can use the keyboard without cloud connection to use it as a regular keyboard.

I also could not find information about privacy and security. Cloud-services may open up the gate for attacks or at least privacy issues.

Also, you run the [Q]app on the desktop all the time as it powers the functionality, and it remains to be seen how secure and effective it really is.

Ultimately, I cannot see this being much more efficient than using desktop notifications for important notifications, or even checking your phone occasionally.

While I'm not entirely sure if possible, what I like about it is that it allows me to map different colors to different keys on the keyboard.

Closing Words

The Das Keyboard 5Q project is funded already which indicates that there is demand for such a keyboard. It certainly has a wow-factor associated with it. I'd buy one probably if it came without cloud-connection as I can see uses for displaying keys in different colors.

Now You: What's your take on a cloud-connected keyboard?

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Upgrading PC components http://www.ghacks.net/2016/06/01/upgrade-pc-components/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/06/01/upgrade-pc-components/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 05:55:09 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=122042 One of the biggest advantages of desktop PCs is that these systems are open enough to allow you to replace components. While you may be able to replace some components, a hard drive for instance, in laptops or devices created by companies like Apple or Google, usually, you are very restricted in what you can […]

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One of the biggest advantages of desktop PCs is that these systems are open enough to allow you to replace components.

While you may be able to replace some components, a hard drive for instance, in laptops or devices created by companies like Apple or Google, usually, you are very restricted in what you can do with them when it comes to updates.

This openness has two core benefits: you can replace faulty or failing components to keep the PC live and kicking without having to send it in, or upgrade components to make it faster or more suitable for running modern programs.

Upgrading PC components

installed hardware

There are some downsides to upgrading PC components on your own. While not overly technical, it requires that you open the PC, unplug some cables, remove a component or two, to put new components in.

The biggest issue in my opinion is compatibility. This is true especially for components like the processor, memory or the power supply unit.

First thing you may want to do is list the current hardware of your PC. You can use programs like HwInfo32 or Speccy for that for instance.

The motherboard make and model is of special importance, as it will reveal to you limits in regards to PC components supported by it.

You need to look it up online or consult the motherboard manual if you still have it to find out about the maximum RAM it supports or which processors you can install on the device.

Also, if you bought an OEM PC from a company like Dell, HP or Lenovo, you should contact them about upgrades as they may have locked down certain components to only allow (their) custom components.

What should you upgrade?

While you can, in theory, upgrade all components of the PC, it makes sense to upgrade components that offer the greatest return.

Additionally, you may prefer easy to replace components over components that require some expertise.

Easy to upgrade

The following upgrades are easily done as you will only need to plug in or out a couple of cables or components.

Memory

Memory is a core candidate for upgrades. Not only is it relatively cheap, you can grab 16GB of memory for less than $60, it is also easy to replace and upgrades will be highly beneficial in many circumstances.

If your PC has less than 4 Gigabyte of RAM currently, or if you are running memory intensive operations regularly, then it will benefit from a RAM upgrade significantly.

The jump from less than 4 Gigabytes of RAM to four or more is noticeable on day to day operations, while memory intensive processes such as games or video editing do better the more RAM the PC has.

Note: Before buying memory, you need to make sure that the motherboard supports it. Also, most of the time, it is easier to purchase all new RAM instead of adding RAM modules to existing ones unless they have the same specs and are from the same manufacturer.

Hard Drive

Replacing a hard drive with a faster one, or adding a new hard drive to the PC may be beneficial as well. This is the case especially if the main drive is still a platter-based drive and not a Solid State Drive.

The operating system will boot a lot faster with a SSD and programs too will open and load faster if you use one.

Solid State Drives with 250 Gigabyte of storage are available for less than $80 for instance.

If you have enough connectors for an additional drive, it may make sense to add the Solid State Drive to the PC instead of replacing the old hard drive with it.

Still, it is necessary to install an operating system on the new drive, and you may want to consider cloning the old hard drive for that.

Note: Most Solid State Drives use SATA III connections nowadays. They are backwards compatible, but if you want to get the most out of the drive, it is beneficial if the PC supports SATA III as well.

Video Card

Replacing an onboard video card or an older card with a new one can be very beneficial, especially for gaming, video editing, and other activities that make use of the video card.

It makes little sense for office PCs on the other hand.

While it is relatively easy to plug in a new video card, you need to be aware of the following:

  1. You need to make sure that the width and length of the new card is not an issue (that it fits into the desktop case).
  2. You need to make sure that the power supply unit is powerful enough and has the right connectors for the new card.

Note: while it may be tempting to put the meanest video card out there in your PC, a far better solution is to select one that is slightly less powerful but more power and cost efficient. The two breakthrough cards you may want to look at are Nvidia's GTX 1070 and AMD's Radeon RX 480. From what I could gather, Nvidia's card is faster than AMD's card, but it costs nearly twice as much.

Fans

With the exception of the CPU fan, it is easy enough to replace or add fans to the system. This is helpful if you notice overheating issues when using the PC.

One additional fan, or a better one, may make the difference between a PC that is powering down frequently because of overheating, and one that does not do so.

All PC cases support fans to a degree but you need to make sure that there is still a fan slot available and that the fan fits in that slot (same goes for upgrading an existing fan).

Hard to upgrade

The following components are difficult to upgrade, especially if you have never done something like this before.

Processor

The central processing unit (CPU) is probably the most important component of a PC. Which processors you can replace the existing one with depends on the motherboard.

Consult the manual to find out about compatibility, and make sure you check for BIOS / UEFI upgrades as well to see if they exist and may add support for new processor types.

You will face four core issues when it comes to processor upgrades.

  1. Comparing the performance of the old CPU with the new.
  2. Making sure that the new CPU is compatible.
  3. Replacing the old CPU with the new one.
  4. Adding the CPU fan to the new processor.

Sometimes, you may not only need to purchase a new CPU but also a new CPU fan that goes along with it if the old one is not powerful enough to keep the new processor under the temperature threshold.

Motherboard

The motherboard is probably the most difficult component to replace in a computer. Since everything is connected to it in one way or another, replacing it means lots of work.

You need to make sure that all components are compatible with the new motherboard, that it fits in the case, and that it offers enough connectors and cables to connect all components.

Usually, it makes sense to upgrade the motherboard if you want to upgrade other components as well that require a new one.

One of the better ways to ensure compatibility is to purchase bundles that include the motherboard, a cpu, fans and RAM.

Closing Words

Upgrading PC components may extend the life of a PC almost indefinitely. It is usually cheaper than buying a new PC.

If you don't feel comfortable making the upgrades yourself, you may ask a local computer shop for assistance in that. This works especially well if you have bought the components there as well.

I would suggest however to avoid handing over the PC with the hard drive attached to it unless it is encrypted. Also, make sure you create a system backup just in case.

Now You: Have you upgraded PC components in the past?

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OEM Updaters put PCs at risk http://www.ghacks.net/2016/05/31/oem-updaters-put-pcs-at-risk/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/05/31/oem-updaters-put-pcs-at-risk/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 15:57:04 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=122032 A study by Duo Security, Inc suggests that OEM Updaters, programs designed by PC manufacturers to update vendor-specific software, do more harm than good as they put PCs at risk. Prebuild desktop computers, laptops and tablets ship with a set of added applications and programs more often than not. Commonly referred to as crapware, these […]

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A study by Duo Security, Inc suggests that OEM Updaters, programs designed by PC manufacturers to update vendor-specific software, do more harm than good as they put PCs at risk.

Prebuild desktop computers, laptops and tablets ship with a set of added applications and programs more often than not. Commonly referred to as crapware, these programs add little value to the system and are often comprised of trial versions, shortcuts, and programs created by the manufacturer of the device.

Manufactures add these in part to make money but also to push their software applications on the devices.

The past has shown that the added content may not only be a nuisance to users but also put the computer at risk.

Duo Security's analysis of update programs by OEMs hammers that point home further. The company concluded that every updater that it analyzed had at least one vulnerability that allowed remote code execution to completely compromise the machine.

The company looked at devices from Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo and found a total of 12 vulnerabilities across all update programs. It looked primarily at man in the middle attacks and remote attack surfaces.

The core issues found were the following ones:

  • All devices shipped at least with one preinstalled updater that is vulnerable to attacks.
  • These programs often failed to make use of TLS, update integrity validations, or authenticity validations of update manifest contents.
  • Some vendors make use of multiple programs to update software, with some often being more secure than others.
  • Exploiting the vulnerabilities is trivial according to the researchers.

All vendors, with the exception of Dell, transferred manifest files over HTTP. Furthermore Acer and Asus don't transfer files over HTTPS at all while Dell and HP did. Lenovo was the only company in the test that had one program use no HTTPS connections at all, and another that supported HTTPS and used it.

Not using HTTPS for transfers is bad practice for obvious reasons. Since most manufacturers use HTTP when transferring manifest files -- used to inform the system of updates -- it is easy enough for attackers to manipulate those files. This in turn makes integrity checks useless as it is impossible to verify the integrity of files or updates if the authenticity of the manifest file cannot be verified.

The full research paper, Out-of-Box Exploitation of OEM Updaters, is available here.

Mitigation of issues

The main issue for users is that there is little that they can do to mitigate the issues found in these update programs short of removing these (and other vendor components) from the device.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Create a full system backup.
  2. Uninstall software programs that shipped with the PC that were added by the manufacturer of the device unless you know that you require it.
  3. Most of the time, those are not needed to operate the system. Programs like Decrap or Decrapifier may help somewhat, but they usually don't remove vendor software.

If you are about to buy a PC and don't want to build it yourself, try grabbing a Microsoft Signature Edition which ship without bloatware.

Closing Words

Security issues caused by manufacturers of PCs, laptops and other computing devices are a recurring scheme, and it seems unlikely that the situation will get better in the near future.

Now You: Is vendor-specific software still running on your devices?

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My Surface Pro 4 Experience so far http://www.ghacks.net/2016/02/18/my-surface-pro-4-experience-so-far/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/02/18/my-surface-pro-4-experience-so-far/#comments Thu, 18 Feb 2016 07:00:53 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=119117 I made the decision to buy a Surface Pro 4 shortly after Microsoft revealed the new machine. I always liked the idea behind the machine especially since much of the hardware and the operating system came from a single company which reminded me a lot of Apple devices. While not all of the hardware comes […]

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I made the decision to buy a Surface Pro 4 shortly after Microsoft revealed the new machine. I always liked the idea behind the machine especially since much of the hardware and the operating system came from a single company which reminded me a lot of Apple devices.

While not all of the hardware comes from Microsoft, the processor is powered by Intel for instance, my hope was that the device would benefit from this.

The main reason why I bought a Surface 4 was that I was going on a trip to Asia in early 2016 and needed a new portable device that would allow me to work from there.

So, my main requirements were that the machine was not too heavy, that the screen was good, that I could attach a keyboard to it that would not slow me down, and that battery life would get me through a day without recharging.

The Surface Pro 4 that I bought

You can select one of the available five default Surface Pro 4 devices on Microsoft's Store, or a custom option that is not available in all countries.

I picked one of the cheaper models, powered by an Intel Core i5 processor (i5-6300U) and 4 Gigabyte of RAM as I had no plans to run taxing applications on the device.

The jump to the 8GB Ram 256 Gigabyte hard drive model cost $300 more at that time. More RAM and storage would have been nice, but since I needed the device only for writing, research, some Netflix watching and light Internet browsing, it was not really something that I needed desperately.

Apart from the device itself, I selected a Surface Pro 4 Type Cover to go along with it which added another $129.99 to the purchase price.

All in all, I paid a bit more than $1000 for the Surface Pro 4.

My Surface Pro 4 Experience

surface pro 4

I did not use the device much at home before the planned trip to Asia. What I did though was set it up for the trip which included the following steps:

  1. Download and install all updates available for the device.
  2. Configure privacy related settings on the device running Windows 10.
  3. Install software like Firefox, Chrome, QuiteRSS, Thunderbird, KeePass and a dozen other programs.
  4. Install security software like EMET, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro and Bitdefender Free.
  5. Migrate email accounts, data from WinSCP and other applications to the device and test them to make sure everything was working fine.

I used the Surface Pro 4 almost exclusively the last two days before the journey as I wanted to make sure that I had everything that I needed set up correctly on the device.

Positive experience

The Surface Pro 4 is a lightweight device even if you attach a Type Cover 4 to it. While it is probably not the lightest device around there, barely anyone should have troubles lugging it around for a day.

The Type Cover acts as a protective shield if you keep it attached to the device which is quite nice as well as it protects the screen from damage when attached to it.

Battery life is quite good, at least when compared to my previous laptops. With the right power settings, I was able to get a full day's worth of work out of the device without recharging it.

This is however not the case if you happen to watch videos or play games on the device as battery drains quickly in this case.

The device charges quickly, great for a quick recharge at the airport or coffee shop.

The Type Cover 4 is an excellent keyboard for a mobile device. While it is not on-pair with a solid mechanical keyboard that I use on my desktop computer (Das Keyboard review), it worked surprisingly well for the most part.

The layout of the keyboard needs some getting used to time though as keys are not always where you'd expect them. There is no numpad for instance, the arrow keys are beneath the Shift key on the right-side, and the Print, Pos and End keys have been added to the top key row.

The Surface Pro 4 shines when it comes to the display it ships with. It runs at a 2736 x 1824 resolution, and is incredibly crisp and sharp.

The not-so-good experience

Probably the biggest disappointment is the pen that Microsoft ships with the device. I had high hopes for the pen hoping that it would allow me to write on the screen like I would on paper.

The main issue that I have with it is that there is still a noticeable delay when you are using the pen. While I only ran writing tests, I imagine the same is true if you want to use the pen for drawing or other activities.

The experience is simply not there yet, and I rarely use the pen on the device especially since you cannot use it to scroll inside windows.

That's another issue I have with it. While you can use it to scroll using the scrollbar of a window, you cannot use it to scroll inside the window directly. You have to use your finger to do that which works just fine.

Another issue that I ran in occasionally was that the Surface sometimes did not detect the Type Cover during log on. It would launch the on-screen keyboard despite the fact that the Type Cover was connected to the device.

Typing on the keyboard did not work, and I had to use the on-screen keyboard to log on to the system. The keyboard worked again afterwards though which made this a puzzling issue.

Microsoft ships the Surface Pro 4 with only one USB 3.0 port. This may not be a problem for all users, but if you plan to connect multiple USB devices to the Surface, you need to purchase an USB hub to do that.

I could not connect my smartphone, the external hard drive that I bought, a computer mouse, and my photo camera to the Surface 4 Pro at the same time because of it (I did not buy a hub).

It is manageable, but far from comfortable. To transfer photos from my camera to the external drive, I had to first connect the camera to the Surface, transfer the photos to it, then connect the external hard drive to transfer the photos from the Surface to the drive. Last but not least, I had to delete the photos on the Surface.

I had to disconnect the mouse from the device as well to connect any of the other devices to it.

The price of the Type Cover keyboard is steep. At $130, it costs nearly as much as a professional mechanical keyboard but does not deliver the same value in my opinion. It is still recommended to get a keyboard if you plan to do any writing on the device.

Closing Words

Microsoft improved its Surface line with every iteration, and the Surface Pro 4 is no exception to that rule.

It is a very good device that still has a couple of issues that the company needs to address in future versions, or correct through firmware updates.

Would I buy it again? Yes, I would.

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Find out if your PC is Oculus Rift ready http://www.ghacks.net/2016/01/06/find-out-if-your-pc-is-oculus-rift-ready/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/01/06/find-out-if-your-pc-is-oculus-rift-ready/#comments Wed, 06 Jan 2016 17:41:14 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=118216 Oculus Rift, a VR solution, is now available for preorder for $599 on the official company website (pricing is €699 plus shipping for Euro countries, and £499 Pound). The VR solution ships with two games and an Xbox One controller instead of the promised Oculus Touch controllers which will be made available at a later […]

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Oculus Rift, a VR solution, is now available for preorder for $599 on the official company website (pricing is €699 plus shipping for Euro countries, and £499 Pound).

The VR solution ships with two games and an Xbox One controller instead of the promised Oculus Touch controllers which will be made available at a later point in time.

Virtual Reality is the next big thing, at least if you believe the hype train that has been in full swing for a while and several companies are working on getting their VR products ready for the market.

Preorders are only available for people from select countries (you can switch the country during checkout which reveals the correct price but cannot seem to preorder if you are living in a country not listed by the shop), and it is interesting to note that the price has been revealed today as well.

Included in the bundle are the headset, sensor, Oculus Remote, cables, the Xbox One Controller and the two games EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky's Tale. The estimated shipping data is May 2016, and there is a limit of one order per customer.

Compatibility Check

Oculus has released a compatibility check program for Windows that interested users can run on their systems to make sure the PC is compatible with the Rift. The program is linked directly from the shop page linked above.

oculus rift compatibility

The program checks the PC's graphics card, processor, memory, operating system and USB connectivity, and reports its findings after a short scan.

A result (your PC is not yes ready for Rift, or your PC is ready for Rift) is provided, as are options to display detailed information about each item tested.

Here is the recommended specification:

  • Video Card: At the very least an NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290 graphics card.
  • Processor: An Intel i5-4590 or greater cpu.
  • Memory: At least 8 Gigabyte of RAM.
  • Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video out.
  • USB Ports: 3 USB 3.0 ports plus 1 USB 2.0 port
  • OS: Windows 7 SP1 64-bit or newer

Oculus has a solution for systems that don't meed the requirements: an "order PC" link is provided that opens a page on the Oculus website advertising Oculus-ready PCs.

The three PC systems listed on the PC start at $949 or $999 respectively, and only two of them are currently available while one is listed as "coming soon".

Closing Words

While I would really like to give this a try someday, it seems quite expensive right now for what it offers even if your PC meets the requirements. If your PC does not meet the requirements, you may very well add the same amount to updating it or even more, depending on the age of the machine.

It is unlikely that the Rift will become a mass market product considering its price, at least not in the near future.

As usual, it is a product for enthusiasts who don't mind spending money on cutting edge technology.

Now You: What's your take on the price?

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Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book differences http://www.ghacks.net/2015/10/06/microsoft-surface-pro-4-and-surface-book-differences/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/10/06/microsoft-surface-pro-4-and-surface-book-differences/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 16:54:22 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=116509 Microsoft announced several new devices on its Windows 10 Devices event including a new version of the popular Surface Pro line called Surface Pro 4 and the company's first laptop Surface Book. If you have followed the announcement, or maybe just heard about the two devices, you are probably wondering how these two differ and […]

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Microsoft announced several new devices on its Windows 10 Devices event including a new version of the popular Surface Pro line called Surface Pro 4 and the company's first laptop Surface Book.

If you have followed the announcement, or maybe just heard about the two devices, you are probably wondering how these two differ and which one to pick if you want to buy a Microsoft computer running Windows 10.

The main issue here is that Microsoft has not revealed all information yet about either of the devices. While Microsoft revealed some information, other critical information have yet to be named by the company.

surface booksurface pro 4

This article concentrates on what Microsoft has revealed so far. We will update it once additional information are revealed by Microsoft (this should be soon considering that pre-orders start tomorrow).

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Microsoft Surface Book
Processor Intel Core M3, Intel Core i5 and i7 Intel Core i5 and i7 Skylake
Memory from 4GB to 16GB from 8GB to 16GB
Storage from 128GB to 1TB from 128GB to 512GB SSD
Graphics  Intel HD graphics (m3), Intel HD graphics 520 (i5), Intel Iris graphics (i7) Intel HD graphic or NVIDIA GeForce graphics
Screen 12.3" 2763x1824 267ppi touch 13.5" 3000x2000 267ppi touch
Dimensions 11.50 x 7.93 x .33 in (292.10 x 201.42 x 8.45 mm) Laptop: 9.14 x 12.30 x 0.51- 0.90 in ( 232.1 x 312.3 x 13 -22.8 mm)
Clipboard: 8.67 x 12.30 x 0.30 in (220.2 x 312.3 x 7.7 mm)
Weight 766g (m3), 786g (i5/i7) 1576
Wireless 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible
Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
Ports 1 USB 3.0 2 USB 3.0
microSD card reader Full-size SD card reader
Surface Connect Surface Connect
Headset jack Headset jack
Mini DisplayPort Mini DisplayPort
Media 5.0MP front-facing camera 5.0MP front-facing camera
8.0mp rear-facing camera 8.0mp rear-facing camera
Stereo microphones Dual microphones, front and rear facing
Stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby audio
Sensors Ambient light, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer Ambient light, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer
Battery up to 9 hours video playback up to 12 hours video playback
Ships with Surface Pen Surface Pen
Misc Old Keyboards work, interchangeable pen tips, magnetic pen storage, Surface Pro 4 Type Cover available for $129.99 Glass multi-touch trackpad, zero drain when laptop closed, backlit keys
Price Starting at $899 up to $2699 Starting at $1499 up to $2699

As you can see, the devices are quite similar in many aspects. Core differences include the screen size, battery, graphics and that the Surface Book ships with a keyboard attached to it.

Microsoft points out the main difference between the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 on the company's store website. It describes the Surface Book as the "most powerful Surface laptop to handle any task" and the Surface Pro 4 as the "perfect balance of size and power for working on the go".

This does not make a whole lot of sense though considering that the Surface Book weights less and has better battery life than the Surface Pro 4.

The Surface Pro 4 on the other hand offers up to 1TB of storage which the Surface Book does not as its limit is 512 GB of storage.

As far as price is concerned, the Surface Book starts at $1499 while the Surface Pro 4 at $899. The maximum is interesting though as you will end up paying more for a maxed out Surface Pro 4 if you add a Surface Pro 4 Type Cover to the device. This sets you back $2699 for the Surface Pro 4 and $129.99 for the type cover opposed to $2699 for a maxed out Surface Book.

Both Surface devices are already available on Microsoft's Store website in the US.

Now You: What's your take on those two devices and which would you pick?

The Surface Book promo video

The Surface Pro 4 promo video

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iPad Pro, Google Pixel C, Microsoft Surface: which should you get? http://www.ghacks.net/2015/09/30/ipad-pro-google-pixel-c-microsoft-surface-which-should-you-get/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/09/30/ipad-pro-google-pixel-c-microsoft-surface-which-should-you-get/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 15:55:32 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=116354 Google revealed the Pixel C Chromebook yesterday and Apple the iPad Pro earlier this month. Both devices are designed to add productivity features to tablets running Android and iOS, for instance by offering first-party keyboards that you can attach to the device. Microsoft has yet to reveal the new iteration of its Surface line but […]

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Google revealed the Pixel C Chromebook yesterday and Apple the iPad Pro earlier this month. Both devices are designed to add productivity features to tablets running Android and iOS, for instance by offering first-party keyboards that you can attach to the device.

Microsoft has yet to reveal the new iteration of its Surface line but is expected to do just that before year's end.

If you are looking for a new productivity device currently, you are probably wondering which of these three devices -- if any -- you should get. You may also be interested in core differences and hardware specs.

Not all the specs of Apple's iPad Pro and Google's Pixel C have been revealed yet. What we know so far is this:

Apple iPad Pro Google Pixel C Microsoft Surface 3
Operating System iOS 9 Android 6.0 Windows 10
Chip A9X Nvidia Tegra 3 Atom x7-Z8700
RAM 4 GB 3GB 2-4GB
Display 12.9" 10.2" 10.8"
Resolution 2732x2048 2560x1800 1920x1280
ppi 264 308 213
Storage min 32GB 32GB 64GB
Storage max 256GB 64GB 512GB
expandable Storage none none microSD and USB 3.0
Starting price $799 $499 $499
Max price $1,079 $599 $699
Keyboard $169 $149 $129.99
Pen $99 not available included

Update: Both Apple and Microsoft have announced or released new products. You find information about Apple's new iPad Pro 9.7, and Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book below.

Apple iPad Pro 9.7
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Microsoft Surface Book
Operating System iOS 9 Windows 10 Windows 10
Chip A9X Intel Core m3, i5, i7 Intel Core i5, i7
RAM unknown 4GB-16GB 8GB-16GB
Display 9.7" 12.3" 13.5"
Resolution 2048x1536 2736x1824 3000x2000
ppi 264 267 267
Storage min 32GB 128GB 128GB
Storage max 256GB 1TB 1TB
expandable Storage none yes yes
Starting price $599 $899 $1499
Max price $1,029 $2699 $3199
Keyboard $169 $129, $159 with fingerprint reader included
Pen $99 included included

The first difference that becomes obvious right away is that all six devices use different operating systems that depend on which company manufactured them. The operating system is often a deciding factor considering that you may have used a certain system before and want to keep using programs or features that it offers.

It is clear as well that Apple and Google have created tablets while Microsoft hybrids that work as a tablet but also as a laptop replacement as it runs a full copy of Windows which means that you can run all Windows desktop programs on the Surface that are compatible with Windows 10.

If you select Apple's or Google's device, you will have access to apps available in the company's store and web applications.

surface

Storage

Apple's and Google's tablet start both with 32 Gigabyte of storage space while Microsoft starts the Surface Pro 3 with 64 Gigabyte and the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book with 128GB instead. Google customers can upgrade storage for a price to 64 Gigabyte but that is about it. Considering that the device does not offer expendable storage options, it may be a deal breaker for some.

Apple's iPad Pro is maxed out at 256 Gigabyte with no option to extend the storage further, Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 offers a capacity of up to 512 Gigabyte while both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book a maximum capacity of 1 Terabyte. In addition to offering larger storage options, both allow you to add external hard drives and microSD cards on top of that to add more storage.

Accessories and Price

Google's Pixel C and Microsoft's Surface start at $499 while Apple's iPad Pro at $799. The new Apple iPad Pro 9.7 starts at $599, the Surface Pro 4 at $899, and the Surface Book at $1499.

This means that you can add the keyboard to the Pixel C or Surface Pro 3 and still pay less than you would for Apple's tablet without one.

All three companies have created keyboards for their devices. Microsoft's offering is the cheapest at $129.99 followed by Google's for $149 and Apple's for $169.

Both Apple and Microsoft offer pen accessories for their tablets. Apple charges $99 for the pen and Microsoft $49 but the Pen is included out of the box on Microsoft devices.

Microsoft is the only company of the three currently that is offering extra accessories. The company offers a dock to transform the Surface into a workstation, a wireless display adapter to connect it to big-screen HDTV and monitors, and a USB 3.0 Ethernet adapter.

Which is right for you?

The question cannot be answered easily as it depends on what you need the device for. You can be productive with all three devices up to a point but both Apple's and Google's offering are clearly lacking when it comes to business-level software support.

For instance, you cannot create Android apps easily, comfortably (or at all) on Apple's and Google's device while you can create apps for all three operating systems on Microsoft's Surface.

Microsoft's device is also the only one that can run desktop programs such as Photoshop or Steam.

Now You: Would you pick one of the three devices? If so which and why?

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Google’s Nexus 5X and 6P pricing outside the US is ridiculous http://www.ghacks.net/2015/09/30/googles-nexus-5x-and-6p-pricing-outside-the-us-is-ridiculous/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/09/30/googles-nexus-5x-and-6p-pricing-outside-the-us-is-ridiculous/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 07:30:22 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=116333 As a European, I'm used to paying more for devices, software, subscriptions and other digital goods. If you compare the pricing, it appears that most company's simply replace $ with €/£ when it comes to offering goods in the European Union. Europe is not alone when it comes to ridiculous pricing. Australia, Japan, Brazil and […]

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As a European, I'm used to paying more for devices, software, subscriptions and other digital goods. If you compare the pricing, it appears that most company's simply replace $ with €/£ when it comes to offering goods in the European Union.

Europe is not alone when it comes to ridiculous pricing. Australia, Japan, Brazil and people from other countries around the globe experience the same issues.

Google announced the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P officially yesterday. I had my eyes set on the Nexus 5X even though it's hardware specs were not overly good and its screen was larger than 5".

The announcement of both devices was uneventful for the most part. Google made it clear that users from the US, UK, Ireland and Japan can pre-order both devices right now while it is being made available in other regions later.

nexus-6

If you check the pre-order pricing of both devices, you will notice a big jump between the US price and the price in the UK, Ireland and Japan.

Device US Ireland € to $ Difference
Nexus 5X 16GB $379 € 479 $538 $159
Nexus 5X 32GB $429 € 529 $594 $165
Nexus 6P 32GB $499 € 649 $729 $230
Nexus 6P 64GB $549 € 699 $786 $237
Nexus 6P 128GB $649 € 799 $898 $249

I could not get the price for all devices in Pound unfortunately but the base price suggests that the pricing is a bit better than the price in Euro but not by much. The base price for the Nexus 5X in the UK is £339, the base price for the Nexus 6P is £449. That's $514 for the Nexus 5X when converted and $680 for the Nexus 6P.

Part of the difference may be explained by the US sales tax that gets added to the price while it is included in the price in most countries.

Still, a difference between $159 to $249 for devices starting at $379 is quite a jump. The higher price puts the Nexus line of phones in direct competition with higher priced phones in Europe, for instance Samsung's Galaxy S6 which starts at €528 with 32GB of storage space, the Motorola Moto X Style with 32GB starting at €499 or the LG G4 with 32GB starting at €420.

If you compare specs and pricing, then you may come to the conclusion that there are better deals out there for the same or even a lower price.

Now You: What's your take on the price of Google's new Nexus line of phones?

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Fix Creative Speakers stop playing audio out of the blue http://www.ghacks.net/2015/09/25/fix-creative-speakers-stop-playing-audio-out-of-the-blue/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/09/25/fix-creative-speakers-stop-playing-audio-out-of-the-blue/#comments Fri, 25 Sep 2015 16:03:45 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=116208 For the past ten years or so I have used headphones to listen to audio and do other audio-related things on PCs. Recently, I bought a pair of audio speakers from Creative instead as I found headphones to be a nuisance at times. Among the many reasons where battery issues of my (second) Logitech G930 […]

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For the past ten years or so I have used headphones to listen to audio and do other audio-related things on PCs.

Recently, I bought a pair of audio speakers from Creative instead as I found headphones to be a nuisance at times. Among the many reasons where battery issues of my (second) Logitech G930 wireless headset and the fact that I did not want to buy another one of those devices only to have them stop working after a couple of months because of it.

The installation of the speakers went smoothly and they really added to the playback experience as I did not have to wear headphones to listen to audio anymore.

While that was great, I noticed an issue shortly after I installed them on a system running Windows 10. The speakers would suddenly stop playing audio. It felt random and happened while I was watching a video on YouTube or locally for instance, and also when I played music on the system using AIMP3.

fix creative speakers standby no sound

The LED of the speaker would go out and I had to manually push the power button again to turn the speaker back on again.

My first thought was that the speakers were defective but that was apparently not the case. After researching the issue I found out that the issue affects speakers sold in the European Union only.

Creative has a Knowledgebase article up that describes what is happening:

In keeping with ErP (Energy-related Products) regulations, your Creative speaker will go into Standby mode if it doesn’t detect audio input (via aux-in/line-in) after a specific amount of time. This speaker uses a fixed threshold input level to enable auto power management feature. This means if you greatly lower the volume on your mp3 player or smart device, your speaker might interpret this as silence and go into Standby mode. This is by no means a product defect but a design intent in keeping with ErP regulations.

ERP is a European directive that applies to energy-related products that are sold in significant number per year in the European Union and have a significant environmental impact as well as potential for improvement.

Fixing the issue

The fix is as easy as it gets. All you need to do is increase the volume of the audio on the device you are using to higher levels (as high as possible without getting distortions). You would then use the volume controls on the speakers to turn down the volume again to level the volume of the audio to previous levels.

This does mean however that you need to use the volume controls on the speaker each time you want to modify the volume of the audio as you should not touch the device's volume controls anymore afterwards.

It is by far no perfect solution but the only one available besides buying speakers that don't fall under ErP regulations.

You may want to experiment with volume settings until you get it right, for instance by turning down the volume on the device gradually until you hit the sweet spot (no standby mode of the speakers).

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Samsung releases new fix and firmware update for SSD 840 Evo drives http://www.ghacks.net/2015/04/24/samsung-releases-new-fix-and-firmware-update-for-ssd-840-evo-drives/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/04/24/samsung-releases-new-fix-and-firmware-update-for-ssd-840-evo-drives/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:30:09 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=112862 If you own a Samsung SSD 840 Evo drive and noticed that write performance went considerably down after some time, you may want to download an updated tool and install a new firmware from Samsung that according to the company should resolve the issue. The company's Samsung Magician Software was updated to version 4.6 recently. […]

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If you own a Samsung SSD 840 Evo drive and noticed that write performance went considerably down after some time, you may want to download an updated tool and install a new firmware from Samsung that according to the company should resolve the issue.

The company's Samsung Magician Software was updated to version 4.6 recently. The software, offered on Samsung's official support website, is provided for Windows at the time of writing.

Before you head over to start the download note that there is a catch: the download is limited currently. It is unclear why Samsung decided to limit downloads until April 27, 2015 but if you try to download it right now you will get an apologetic message stating that the download is currently not available.

Good news is that third-party sites such as Major Geeks are hosting the same version so that you can download Samsung's Magician Software 4.6 from those sites instead.

Another issue that you may encounter currently when running the software is that the new firmware is not detected by it.

The new firmware EXT0CB6Q includes a periodic refresh feature which should resolve the slow performance issue.

samsung magician

The performance issue affects old data on Samsung 840 Evo Solid State Drives. The company released a patch half a year ago that seemed to fix the issue at first but did not in the long run as performance drops crept back in after a while.

The patch back then moved files around on the device to resolve performance issues. The new patch seems to do that regularly while the drive is idle to make sure that old data performance stays on a high level.

It needs to be noted that this only works if the drives are powered on regularly and not if they are not powered on for longer periods of time.

The updates are not yet available for Linux or Mac systems.

Samsung users who cannot download and use the software or don't get support for their drives (it appears Samsung 840 Basic users don't) may want to check out Disk Fresh, a free program that moves data around on devices without affecting it. It should have the same effect as Samsung's solution.

To test whether your drive is affected download and run HD Tach. The program, unlike other benchmarks, tests the performance using existing data on the drive which reveals the issue. Other benchmarks write new data to the disk for tests which does not.

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Logitech’s MX Master mouse: control up to three devices http://www.ghacks.net/2015/03/25/logitechs-mx-master-mouse-can-control-up-to-three-devices/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/03/25/logitechs-mx-master-mouse-can-control-up-to-three-devices/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 07:00:48 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=111915 Functionality-wise, computer mice have not changed this much in recent time. Apart from different button layouts and programmable buttons, there has not been much change at all in this area. Logitech's MX Master Wireless Mouse changes that. It ships with a unique feature that allows you to control up to three devices that you have […]

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Functionality-wise, computer mice have not changed this much in recent time. Apart from different button layouts and programmable buttons, there has not been much change at all in this area.

Logitech's MX Master Wireless Mouse changes that. It ships with a unique feature that allows you to control up to three devices that you have paired the mouse with.

Controlling several systems with a single mouse can be quite useful, especially so if you work with multiple devices regularly.

I run two systems side by side for example and programs like ShareMouse or Mouse Without Borders allow me to use one mouse on both of them. Even better, it is possible to copy data between all connected devices.

Logitech's solution is different in two key aspects. First, it requires that you switch between devices using a hardware switch that has been placed at the bottom of the device. While that is certainly fine for occasional switching, it seems impracticable if you need to switch regularly (and quickly) between devices.

The second difference is that control is all you get as you cannot copy data between devices using the mouse. That does not have to be an issue depending on how you use the devices but if you need to transfer clipboard data or files at times, this may not work for you.

logitech mx master

 

The mouse supports two connection options: Logitech Unifying which allows you to connect up to six Logitech devices to the system and Bluetooth Smart technology. The latter allows you to control the three devices. There are requirements for it to work though.

First, the mouse needs to be in range of each system that you want to control. Second, only Bluetooth Smart computers are supported.

Additional features

While connectivity to up to three devices is certainly the main feature of the mouse, it is not the only one that is worth of note.

The wireless mouse uses a rechargeable battery that can be charged for a day's use in just four minutes according to Logitech. Charging time may vary depending on how the system and mouse are used. The four minute figure is based on six hours of office use.

If you work longer hours or use the mouse more often than office workers, then you may need to charge it longer for it to work all day long.

A full charge lasts up to 40 days according to Logitech which it bases on six hours of office work as well.

As far as buttons are concerned, the mouse ships with five of them. The mouse wheel is speed-adaptive and switches automatically between scrolling modes depending on how fast you spin the wheel.

Last but not least, a thumb wheel has been added by Logitech allowing you to scroll horizontally or use other operations using it such as flipping pages or switching applications.

The mouse will be made available next month for $99.99.

Closing Words

The option that allows you to control up to three devices using the same mouse sounds interesting on paper. I cannot see it being used that much on the other hand due to the way you switch between devices.

While it may make sense if you use the mouse on different stations in an office, I cannot see the advantage of this over using mice connected to these devices.

Considering that you cannot transfer data between devices, it is less practicable than using software for that purpose provided that all devices you want to control are connected to the same computer network.

Now You: Which mouse are you using and why?

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Want Office365? Get a HP Stream 7 and $25 store credit on top of it http://www.ghacks.net/2015/02/16/want-office365-get-a-hp-stream-7-and-25-store-credit-on-top-of-it/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/02/16/want-office365-get-a-hp-stream-7-and-25-store-credit-on-top-of-it/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 07:48:09 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=110327 If you plan to subscribe to Microsoft's online service Office365 Personal in the near future, you know that you have to pay $6.99 for a subscription per month or $69.99 per year to do so when you sign up directly on the Microsoft Store website. Cheaper deals are available if you look beyond the official […]

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If you plan to subscribe to Microsoft's online service Office365 Personal in the near future, you know that you have to pay $6.99 for a subscription per month or $69.99 per year to do so when you sign up directly on the Microsoft Store website.

Cheaper deals are available if you look beyond the official Microsoft Store. Students may find one on Amazon where a 4-year Microsoft Office 365 University subscription is offered for $79.95

Amazon and other retailers may also offer Home, the bigger Office 365 subscription, for a discount. It is available for $10 per month or $100 per year on Microsoft's own store.

The main difference between the two subscription models is that Home allows you to install Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs, 5 tablets and 5 phones while Personal is restricted to 1 PC or Mac and 1 tablet and phone.

Anyway, the HP Stream 7 Signature Edition Tablet has been on offer in the Microsoft Store for some time now at a retail price of $99. With it comes an Office 365 Personal subscription for a year.

hp stream 7The price of the tablet has dropped recently in store to $79 which may make it interesting to users who plan to subscribe to Office 365 Personal (and also to users who want the tablet of course).

Microsoft adds on top of that a $25 Windows Store Gift card and free shipping. The tablet runs Windows 8.1 and is equipped with an Intel Atom processor (1.33 GHz), 1 Gigabyte of RAM and 32 Gigabyte of internal storage space.

The device has a 7-inch IPS display that runs on a 1280x800 native resolution. It has a 2MP rear-facing camera and a 0.3MP front-facing camera, supports microSD cards and 802.11n Wi-Fi with Miracast as well as Bluetooth.

The Signature Edition, in case you are wondering, refers to the device shipping without junk or trialware.

It should be clear that this is not a fast device by any stretch of the imagination and that it is limited in regards to what you can do with it.

If you check out reviews of the Stream 7, for instance the extensive Anandtech review of it, you will notice that most reviewers think of it as a good device. Most criticize the low battery live of the device and the headphone quality but that it provides a good experience at the price point.

Here is a video review of the device that reveals more about it:

The deal seems to be limited to the US Microsoft Store for now. I checked the German store quickly and the price of the device was still at €99 without Windows Store credit at that time.

It is a good deal if you want to subscribe to Office 365 Personal anyway or want a Windows tablet.

Now You: How cheap do you think Windows Tablets will get in the future?

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Why I won’t buy a smart TV anytime soon http://www.ghacks.net/2015/02/13/why-i-wont-buy-a-smart-tv-anytime-soon/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/02/13/why-i-wont-buy-a-smart-tv-anytime-soon/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 08:18:27 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=110218 About 18 months ago, I expressed my opinion on smartwatches and why I would not buy one in the near future. Today, I'd like to share my opinion on so-called smart TVs as well. So what is a Smart TV? It is a device that combines traditional broadcasting features with interactive features and apps that […]

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About 18 months ago, I expressed my opinion on smartwatches and why I would not buy one in the near future. Today, I'd like to share my opinion on so-called smart TVs as well.

So what is a Smart TV? It is a device that combines traditional broadcasting features with interactive features and apps that for may require an Internet connection to work.

Basic examples of these features are integration of streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Video, Internet browsing or voice control.

Depending on the TV that you are buying, it may be packed with these features and may feature its own app store to install more, or offer only a small selection of them.

The basic idea behind Smart TVs is not necessarily a bad one: provide watchers with additional features that may be useful to them.

If you like to watch Netflix on the big telly in your living room, Smart TVs make it relatively easy to set this up. There are other means to achieve the same goal, use a set top box or game console for instance, or your own media server.

While it is debatable if Internet browsing is really necessary, at least some of the features provided by  Smart TVs are helpful to some watchers.

The manufacturing industry on the other hand seems to have taken the wrong exit away from what customers want towards something that most customers would not want if only they knew about it.

Samsung came under fire in the past week twice for instance. First, it became known that the company's voice control feature transmits data to third-party servers on the Internet. This needs to be done as TVs are not capable of interpreting voice commands locally but has the side-effect that everything you say, and not only commands, get transmitted.

Smart TV

It is easy enough not to use the feature, for instance by not connecting your TV to the network or by disabling voice control.

The second blunder is more serious than the first. A Reddit user noticed that his Television, he assumed it was Plex at first but later conceded that this was not caused by Plex, displayed a Pepsi ad when he was half-way through a movie.

Samsung confirmed two days ago that its smart TVs were (erroneously) inserting video ads into TV and movies played through third-party apps.

Even though this may have been an error in the programming of the feature, something like this should never have happened in the first place.

While Samsung has been picked on lately, it should be clear that this is not an issue that is only affecting Samsung televisions.

If your TV supports voice control, chance is high that it too transfers the data to a third-party server on the Internet to process it.

So what is the solution?

You could get a plain television instead if you need a new television, one without interactive features.

While it becomes increasingly difficult to buy a non-smart TV in retail locations especially when it comes to TVs with state of the art features such as 4k support, it is still possible and will remain so in the foreseeable future.

You could also disconnect smart TVs from the network so that most functionality does not become available in first place. But that is only a viable solution if you don't want to use any of it that requires a network connection.

If you like to watch Netflix, then you need a network connection for example.

The real issue however is that the Smart TV concept is not entirely a bad one. If done right, it improves the viewing experience directly or adds functionality to it that does so that you get more out of it.

The reality is different however. Most smart TV interfaces are slow and cluttered with features that barely anyone ever needs.

And if you add the manufacturer's desire to make money from sold TVs by displaying ads or collecting user data, you will realize that you are giving up a lot for the smart TV features that you really require.

While most watchers may be able to live with that, I cannot. I want to be in full control of devices that I own and if a device does not offer that, I won't buy or use it.

It is probably only a matter of time before the first ad-blocker for TVs designed to block Smart TV ads is created.

Now You: Do you own a Smart TV or want one? What's your take on this?

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Add SD Storage to mobile phones without card slot with ExoDrive Case http://www.ghacks.net/2015/01/19/add-sd-storage-to-mobile-phones-without-card-slot-with-exodrive-case/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/01/19/add-sd-storage-to-mobile-phones-without-card-slot-with-exodrive-case/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 08:49:10 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=109190 Many modern day phones come without SD card slot which means that you are stuck with the phone's internal storage. While 8 or 16 Gigabyte may look like much on paper, it may not last a day depending on how you are using your phone. If you like to add music or videos to it […]

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Many modern day phones come without SD card slot which means that you are stuck with the phone's internal storage.

While 8 or 16 Gigabyte may look like much on paper, it may not last a day depending on how you are using your phone.

If you like to add music or videos to it for example, or take lots of HD photos, then you may realize that additional storage space may be beneficial, especially since some storage is automatically taken away by the operating system and pre-installed apps.

My Moto G has 8 Gigabyte of storage for instance, enough to put a couple of audiobooks on it, take some photos and install a couple of apps. Since it does not support SD cards, I cannot add more storage to it which in turn means that I have to delete contents on it regularly to make room for new content.

ExoDrive Cases offers one solution. It is a case that adds a microSD card to your phone so that you can add storage to it after all.

The developer of the case, Bhadrajee Dahanayake, is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for funding.

exodrive case

The case ships with a SD to USB adapter that works through USB On The Go. It features a USB port that you can charge the phone through and connect to other devices so that you won't lose any functionality in this regard or need to remove the case before you can do so.

While it is definitely interesting for people who use phones without microSD card expansion ports, it can also be used on phones that support expansion ports to improve storage capacities further.

When you connect the device to a computer, both the device's internal storage and SD storage are recognized by it automatically.

Since phones come in different sizes and shapes, only the following mobile phones are supported currently:

  • Motorola Moto G and X
  • HTC One (M7) and (M8)
  • Google Nexus 5 and 6
  • LG G2
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5
  • OnePlus One

If the Kickstarter raises more than $100,000 AUD (roughly $82,000 USD) , support for Apple iPhone's will also be available (iPhone 5 and 6).

The developer plans to release cases for additional phones after a successful campaign on Kickstarter.

As far as pricing is concerned, you can get one drive for a supported phone for $25 AUD currently which is a limited offer or two cases for $60 AUD which is also limited. The regular price is $45 AUD for a case in either black, grey or white.

Note that you need a compatible storage card as the drive does not ship with one. I backed the case and asked the developer to provide additional information about supported cards and capacities. Will update once I get more information.

The main advantage of the solution that I see is that you get the extra storage without losing any functionality in the process.

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KeyMouse, a keyboard-mouse hybrid for both hands seeks funding on Kickstarter http://www.ghacks.net/2015/01/09/keymouse-a-keyboard-mouse-hybrid-for-both-hands-seeks-funding-on-kickstarter/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/01/09/keymouse-a-keyboard-mouse-hybrid-for-both-hands-seeks-funding-on-kickstarter/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 17:29:32 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=108878 If you think about how computer systems are controlled, mouse and keyboard probably come to mind first before touch and voice commands. It is rather interesting that little progress has been made in improving mouse or keyboard usage. While some progress has been made, for instance by using lasers, not much has changed in terms […]

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If you think about how computer systems are controlled, mouse and keyboard probably come to mind first before touch and voice commands.

It is rather interesting that little progress has been made in improving mouse or keyboard usage. While some progress has been made, for instance by using lasers, not much has changed in terms of how the peripherals are designed.

Attempts have been made in the past to change that slightly, ergonomic keyboards come to mind, but nothing was as drastic as what the makers of KeyMouse plan to offer.

It reminds me somewhat of the Combimouse even though that used only one part of the keyboard as a mouse.

When you look at KeyMouse for the first time, you will notice that it looks like an ergonomic keyboard that has been cut in half.

The main idea behind KeyMouse is to eliminate the need to move a hand away from the keyboard to control the mouse.

keymouse

This is done by combining both devices so that you can control the mouse and keyboard without moving your hands away from a device.

KeyMouse, at least the initial version the makers seek funding for on Kickstarter, features a full qwerty keyboard with all functions keys included.

Each device has mouse functionality built-in which you can switch off at the bottom if you only want one hand to control mouse movement for example. Since both work identical, it makes no difference if you are a left-handed or right-handed user.

KeyMouse ships with control software that offers button and key customizations. You can map functions or commands to buttons which get executed when you activate them.

The main keys are aligned at the top and split in half with each device featuring half the keys of a full querty keyboard. The function keys on the other hand have been moved to the side of the keyboard from the top, likely because it would be difficult to reach them if they were located above the regular keys.

Mouse buttons are attached to the area right behind the keyboard keys. You find four buttons and the mouse wheel attached to the palm rest on each device.

One interesting feature of the device is that the palm rest can be detached from the device and exchanged for a smaller or larger variant to accommodate different hand sizes.

When you look closer you will notice that there is no numpad area on either device. You can change some keys on the right device to number keys by selecting the NumShift key on the left.

The same is true for the arrow keys which you can also activate in similar fashion.

The current version uses Bluetooth to connect to computer systems. It is completely wireless and batteries will last about six months with average use according to the makers.

Here is the presentation video of the device:

I imagine that it would take quite some getting used to time before you can use the KeyMouse as fast as your standard mouse and keyboard combination.

While I would like to give it a try, I think that $249 for a set is quite expensive especially if you don't know if it will improve how you work on a computer.

If you are at this year's CES, you may be able to get your hands on the device.

What's your take on this?

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Seagate to launch affordable 8TB Archive consumer Hard Drive http://www.ghacks.net/2014/12/14/seagate-to-launch-affordable-8tb-archive-consumer-hard-drive/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/12/14/seagate-to-launch-affordable-8tb-archive-consumer-hard-drive/#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2014 09:44:13 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=107974 Seagate's new 8 Terabyte Archive HDD hard drive will launch in January 2015. Storage is one of the few things where regular platter-based drives beat Solid State Drives in. Not only do these hard drives offer storage capacities at the higher end that SSDs don't offer yet, they are also much cheaper when you compare […]

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Seagate's new 8 Terabyte Archive HDD hard drive will launch in January 2015.

Storage is one of the few things where regular platter-based drives beat Solid State Drives in. Not only do these hard drives offer storage capacities at the higher end that SSDs don't offer yet, they are also much cheaper when you compare the price per Gigabyte or price per Terabyte.

There are only a couple of hard drive makers left, most notable Seagate and Western Digital (which owns HGST as well) that produce platter-based drives and it comes down to selecting a drive or drives from one of the two companies.

If you purchase a hard drive right now, storage options go up to 6 Terabyte both internally and externally. The Western Digital Red 6 TB NAS drive ships with a capacity of 6 Terabyte for example and so does the Seagate's Desktop HDD 6TB.

If you require more storage than that, you still have options. Depending on your requirements, you can set up a RAID environment for example, install multiple hard drives individually, or use network-attached storage.

Both companies announced new drives with improved storage recently. Western Digital unveiled the world's first 10TB Helium-filled hard drive for example (which is not available yet). Seagate on the other hand announced a consumer drive with a maximum capacity of 8 Terabyte.

seagate-8tbWestern Digital's high-end HGST Ultrastar He8 drive with 8 Terabyte of storage has been out for a while  but it is priced for the Enterprise market at around $1000.

Seagate's new 8TB ARchive drive, which the company plans to make available in January 2015 to the general public, is more affordable as several sites have reported that it will be available for $260 when it launches.This is less than Seagate is currently asking for its 6TB Archive HDD drive and would put the drive at about 3 cent per Gigabyte.

The linked Amazon store page for the drive lists a pack of 20 Seagate 8TB drives for the price of $5336 which comes down to a unit price of $266.8 per drive.

The device has been designed for  reliability and not performance according to Seagate which the average data rate of 150 MB/s confirms. This is a side-effect of Shingled Magnetic Recording, a new technology that sacrifices performance for areal density.

 

Storage requirements differ from user to user obviously. While some are perfectly fine with a 64 Gigabyte or 128 Gigabyte Solid State Drive and nothing else, others put their whole movie collection, regular backups or other large files on drives and require lots of storage because of this.

The low price of Seagate's new 8 Terabyte hard drive will appeal to computer users. I'd wait until first tests arrive before I'd pick one up though, but that is just me.

Now You: How much storage do you have?

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Amazon Fire TV Stick vs. Google Chromecast vs Fire TV Box http://www.ghacks.net/2014/10/27/amazon-fire-tv-stick-vs-google-chromecast-vs-fire-tv-box/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/10/27/amazon-fire-tv-stick-vs-google-chromecast-vs-fire-tv-box/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:48:10 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=106872 Amazon announced the Fire TV Stick today. It is on first glance similar to Google's Chromecast and other streaming sticks and solutions. You connect the stick to your TV's HDMI port and to the Internet to watch all kinds of clips, shows and movies as well as apps and games on the television. It costs […]

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Amazon announced the Fire TV Stick today. It is on first glance similar to Google's Chromecast and other streaming sticks and solutions.

You connect the stick to your TV's HDMI port and to the Internet to watch all kinds of clips, shows and movies as well as apps and games on the television.

It costs $39 on Amazon but is available for $19 for Amazon Prime members in the next 48 hours. At the time of writing, it is only available in the US and not in other countries.

You are probably wondering how it compares to Google's Chromecast. Here is a list of the most important differences and features:

Feature Amazon Fire TV Stick Google Chromecast
Price $39 $35
Processor Dual-core Single-core
Memory 1 Gigabyte 512 Megabyte
Storage 8 Gigabyte 2 Gigabyte
Remote yes (basic included) no
Wi-Fi Dual-band/Dual antenna Single-band
Dolby Digital Plus cert. yes no
Voice search yes (free: app, paid: voice remote) no
Navigation Native Requires app
Game Controller yes no
Miracast support yes no
Plex support yes yes
Streaming Services Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Pandora, PBS Kids, WatchESPN, Bloomberg TV, Crackle, Twitch Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Pandora, PBS Kids, WatchESPN, Crackle, Twitch, HBO Go
Misc Captive portal Internet support announced

The hardware that Amazon built into the device is more powerful which should benefit the device's snappiness and speed.

The Fire TV Stick ships with a basic remote which supports all features but voice search out of the box. Voice search is available in form of an app that you can download on your smartphone or as special voice remote control that can be purchased separately and is identical to the remote that Amazon's Fire TV box uses.

feature hero

Amazon's stick ships with a native interface which you can control using the remote or an app, while Google's Chromecast requires that you use an app either on a mobile device or a PC to do the same.

There is also the question how it compares to Amazon's Fire TV box.  Amazon promises that the stick offers the same experience than the Fire TV box and while that may be the case for streaming contents, it is not entirely true.

The core differences between Fire TV and Fire TV stick are the following ones:

Feature Amazon Fire TV Stick Amazon Fire TV
Price $39 $99
Processor Dual-core Quad-core
Memory 1 Gigabyte 2 Gigabyte
Ethernet port no yes
Voice Remote optional ($29.99) included
Optical audio out no yes
Gaming casual games high performance games

The Fire TV box is more powerful hardware-wise thanks to its quad-core processor and 2 Gigabyte of memory.

It ships with an Ethernet port in addition to Wi-Fi support and optical audio out for home theater connections.

So, if you want to connect the streaming solution to an Ethernet cable, require optical audio out or want to run the latest and greatest (available) games on the device, you may want to consider getting the Fire TV as the Fire TV Stick does not support those features.

If you are all about streaming media, the Fire TV Stick may be all you require though. Currently, it appears to be the better deal when compared to Chromecast.

Now You: Are you using a streaming solution or plan to buy one in the near future? If so which and why?

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Wearables are the next big thing. Here are my thoughts on that http://www.ghacks.net/2014/07/03/wearables-next-big-thing-thoughts/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/07/03/wearables-next-big-thing-thoughts/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 07:24:06 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=104799 With smartphones and tablets reaching saturation points in many countries, it is time to hop on to the next big thing. Most companies are betting big on so-called wearables which can be divided into two main groups currently: smartwatches and bands. Bands or fitness bands are not necessarily a new thing. Companies like Nike, Polar […]

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With smartphones and tablets reaching saturation points in many countries, it is time to hop on to the next big thing. Most companies are betting big on so-called wearables which can be divided into two main groups currently: smartwatches and bands.

Bands or fitness bands are not necessarily a new thing. Companies like Nike, Polar or Fitbit have created products that you can purchase right now. I'd like to call them first generation products.

Most have in common that they track your steps, pulse or heart rate, and maybe offer some advanced features such as estimates on how many calories you have burned or support for additional activities such as swimming or cycling.

Smartwatches on the other hand are comparable to digital assistants. While they do keep track of time, they add other features to it that come in the form of apps or native features. This often includes a tie-in with a phone that is powering the information on the device to display new notifications or media controls.

Companies like Google, Microsoft or Samsung will all launch products this year that fall into the wearable category. Google updated Google Play Services for instance recently to give developers tools at hand that make it easier to create apps for Android wearables.

Microsoft will release a fitness-band this year and while we do not know much about it let alone have official confirmation of it, it is likely that it will work similar to Samsung Gear.

samsung gear wearable

My thoughts

I cannot really see myself wearing a smartwatch, and the main reason for that is that I do not really see use for it. Since you do need a phone on you as well to power much of it, would not it be easier to just use the phone in first place for whatever you are doing?

Now, there may be situations where you cannot do that. If you are cycling at a fast pace, you may have enough time to look on the watch but not enough time to get the phone out.

The same may be true while you are in class, running, or doing other things that don't let you pause what you are doing easily.

I have other issues with smartwatches. It seems that either the screen is small, which makes them look normal on your wrist, or really big, which looks out of place. A small screen cannot display the same amount of information as a large screen though.

Then there is battery life to be considered. Would you want to charge your watch every day because it lasts just that long?

I have a slightly different opinion to fitness bands. If you are active, they can improve that activity provided it is supported. They can keep track of your progress, and you can use them to make sure that your heart rate is well within the limits of what you are trying to achieve.

Second generation fitness bands may require a phone, especially if they come with some functionality usually found only in smartwatches.

This can be a problem as well, since most companies limit that to their own products. Samsung wants you to use a Samsung phone for instance, and Google as well as Apple will have the same requirements.

It is interesting to note that Microsoft won't, at least not for its upcoming fitness band that it plans to release in the last quarter of 2014.

Checklist

  1. Make sure the device is compatible with your smartphone brand. Ideally, it is compatible with different mobile operating systems so that switching to a different one does not render it useless.
  2. Battery life is important. If the battery lasts only for eight hours of use, it is not really something that you want unless you have access to a charger at all times and don't mind using it often.
  3. Functionality. Make sure you write down your requirements and must haves before you buy a smartwatch or fitness band.
  4. Screen size. Screens come in different shapes and sizes which not only impact the size of the watch or band, but also its readability and information it can display.
  5. Convenience. How convenient is the device. Is the strap comfortable to wear over prolonged period of times? Can you replace it with something more convenient?
  6. Synchronization. It is best if the device syncs data automatically as you do not have to remember to do so manually all the time. Imagine having to plug it in to a computer using a USB cord just for that every day.
  7. Looks. Some devices look better than others. While I'm all for functionality over looks, it is ideal if you like the design and functionality, and do not have to compromise on one or the other.

Resources

  1. The Wirecutter - The Best Fitness Trackers - extensive review of seven fitness trackers including the Misfit Shine, Basis B1, Fitbit Flex, Nike+ Fuelband and Withings Pulse.
  2. The Wirecutter - The Best Smartwatch - comparison of swartwatches that are currently available.

Now you: what's your take on wearables? Have you bought a device already or plan to do so?

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The limitations of Google’s Chromecast device http://www.ghacks.net/2014/06/12/limitations-googles-chromecast-device/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/06/12/limitations-googles-chromecast-device/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:25:35 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=104227 I have to admit that I was curious when I first heard about Chromecast and how some people used the device to play Internet or local videos stored on the computer on a television. While I do not watch a lot of TV, I do watch the occasional YouTube video or TV show on the […]

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I have to admit that I was curious when I first heard about Chromecast and how some people used the device to play Internet or local videos stored on the computer on a television.

While I do not watch a lot of TV, I do watch the occasional YouTube video or TV show on the PC. That's fine most of the time but there are situations where I which I could stream videos from my PC or the Internet directly to the television instead.

When I was ill with the flu for instance, I could not watch Internet TV because I had no Chromecast or comparable device at the time which meant that I had to rely on German TV (bad bad bad) and discs.

I decided to get a Chromecast and it finally arrived. The device costs less than 40€ which I think is acceptable even if it turned out that it does not support all the features that I would like it to support.

Setup itself was a breeze. I connected the Chromecast to a HDMI port of the television, downloaded the official Chromecast application for Android and used it to configure the device.

chromecast

It was up in no time and I could play the first YouTube video on the television just to make sure that everything worked out fine.

While that worked fine, I quickly noticed several limitations of the device:

  • My initial idea was to use it to stream from my desktop PC to my television. That's however not possible as my desktop PC does not support Wi-Fi. While I could add a Wi-Fi card or adapter to it, it feels like too much work just for the sake of streaming the occasional movie or video to the TV. Update: Streaming from a device without Wi-Fi works, but only if you have set up the Chromecast once using a wireless device, e.g. your Android phone, and if the Chromecast and the PC are connected to the same router and use the same subnet. You need this extension for Chrome.
  • I can use my laptop for the streaming though and this works, but it means that I have to copy the video files to the laptop if I want to play a local copy. Using the laptop does have advantages though, especially if PC and television are not in the same room as you can manage both devices in the same room then.
  • As far as local video playback is concerned, support is limited, at least when you use the Chrome browser to stream the contents. There are apps such as BubbleUPnP that improve that but the good ones are not free usually and if they are free, they come with ads. There is also Videostream for Google Chromecast that you can install to play additional media types.
  • There is no option to interact with the videos on the television directly. You always need to use another device to do so. This also means that the Chromecast on its own does not do anything.
  • Chromecast requires its own power source, it does not get power from HDMI.

As far as good things are concerned:

  • My Motorola Moto G Android phone can stream most videos without any issues to the Chromecast.
  • Support for major video and audio sites are provided in form of applications. There are apps for Netflix, YouTube, Hulu as well as several generic apps that allow you to stream more or less any type of video to your TV. Many apps are however limited to certain regions only, with a strong concentration on the USA.
  • You can plug the Chromecast into audio receives that support HDMI.

For the price, it is a fine device even though its use -- in my case -- is somewhat limited right now. Still, I can use it for many different purposes and while it lacks some that I wish it would support, you cannot really do much wrong when it comes to the device considering the price it is offered for.

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The Surface Pro 3 is not an iPad competitor http://www.ghacks.net/2014/05/21/surface-pro-3-ipad-competitor/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/05/21/surface-pro-3-ipad-competitor/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 07:11:24 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=103085 So Microsoft revealed the third generation Surface Pro 3 yesterday. Many sites have already live blogged about it or at least published hands-on reviews about it, which is why I do not want to rehash all of those information. But, to make a point, it is important to know more about it, so, here is […]

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So Microsoft revealed the third generation Surface Pro 3 yesterday. Many sites have already live blogged about it or at least published hands-on reviews about it, which is why I do not want to rehash all of those information.

But, to make a point, it is important to know more about it, so, here is a short paragraph or two about what it has to offer.

The Surface Pro 3 has a 12-inch high-def multi-touch screen with a resolution of 2160x1440. It is powered by a 4th generation Intel Core i3 or higher processor, at least 64 Gigabyte of storage and 4 Gigabyte of Ram. The device weights 800 grams and ships with Windows 8.1 Pro.

You can check out the full specs of the device on Microsoft's website. The price starts at $799 for an Intel i3 device with 64 Gigabyte of storage. That's not a lot, especially when it comes to storage. The 128 GB device with an Intel i5 is available for $999, the 256 GB model with Intel i5 for $1299 and the top of the line 512 GB storage model with Intel i7 for $1949.

Unlike the Surface (without Pro), it is running a full Windows operating system which means that you can run desktop applications on the device.

It seems fairly common that the Surface Pro 3 is compared to Apple's iPad. While that may make sense on first glance, it does not when you start to think about it.

surface pro 3

The iPad, regardless which model you are using for the comparison, is a multi-touch device designed primarily for consumption. Sure, you can write texts on the device, connect a keyboard to it to improve that experience, but for the most part, it is used to consumption rather than creation.

The Surface Pro 3 offers that as well, don't get me wrong. Since it runs Windows 8.1 Pro, you can install Windows Store apps on the device to do the very same thing. But it is also much more than that.

Since you can run all legacy Windows programs on it, it is also a laptop, and that is where the similarities to Apple's iPad end.

I can run Firefox, Sandboxie, WinSCP or Thunderbird on the Surface Pro, while I cannot run Mac apps on the iPad.

If you want to compare Surface to iPad, you need to compare the devices running Windows RT. The Surface Pro has more to offer and there is currently no Apple product available that you can compare it with.

While the Macbook Air (or Pro) compares fine to the "laptop-part" of the Surface, it falls short when it comes to touch-screen support among other things.

The Surface Pro 3 may be the ideal device if you want or require laptop and tablet functionality, and either want to upgrade your existing devices or buy a new device for that purpose.

There are uncertainties though. Microsoft does not list the graphics card -- onboard I assume -- of the Surface 3 Pro on the specs page linked above. Another area that requires benchmarking is the device's battery life. Microsoft states that it is good for up to 9 hours of web browsing.

And it is without doubt that Windows Store is not as attractive as the iOS or Android store when it comes to tablet use. While you will find many popular apps here, the quality and quantity is not there yet. But since you can run desktop apps, it is mitigated somewhat in my opinion.

If you ask me, I think that the price is a bit on the high side, especially when it comes to storage capabilities. A Core i3 with 64 Gigabyte of storage of which 36 Gigabyte are available for the user -- actually less as filling the hard drive to the brim may deteriorate performance -- is not enough for most use cases. It may work if you use the device lightly and don't install large store apps or programs on it, and make sure you clean the hard drive regularly to free space on it, but it won't be enough for most users.

Still, I'm pretty sure that the Surface Pro 3 will do better sales-wise than its predecessors. What's your take on the device? Top or flop?

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How to replace the laptop hard drive with a faster one http://www.ghacks.net/2014/03/12/replace-laptop-hard-drive-faster-one/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/03/12/replace-laptop-hard-drive-faster-one/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:18:30 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=100374 I was in desperate need of a new laptop, one that I could use for work when I was away from home. After reading lots of online reviews, I decided to get a Thinkpad E145. The laptop was offered in different configurations, and I decided to pick the one that shipped only with FreeDOS installed. […]

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I was in desperate need of a new laptop, one that I could use for work when I was away from home. After reading lots of online reviews, I decided to get a Thinkpad E145.

The laptop was offered in different configurations, and I decided to pick the one that shipped only with FreeDOS installed. It cost me about €320 which I think is cheap for what it has to offer.

Anyway, the reviewers were impressed by the device's battery run time and even its performance, and the only complaint that most had was that the hard drive the device shipped with was slowing the system down considerable.

The 500 GB 5400rpm hard drive the laptop ships with was not going to cut it, and I decided to buy a fast Solid State Drive instead.

My choice was a 120 GB Samsung EVO 840 SSD for about €70. While it offers less space than the internal hard drive the laptop ships with, it eliminates the performance bottleneck.

In addition to that, it is also reducing the noise of the device as Solid State Drives do not emit noise.

I have received the laptop and the Solid State Drive today, and would like to provide you with an easy to follow guide that highlights how I replaced the old hard drive of the laptop with the new one.

Note: This should work on most laptops out there, not only on the E145. It is important that you select a drive that is compatible with the device, and that fits it as well. Usually, all you need to make sure of is that you pick a 2.5" drive also know as laptop hard drives.

Before you do, consult a representative of the manufacturer of the device to find out if doing so voids the warranty.

What you need

What you do

I suggest you work on a table with proper lighting and space. The screws are tiny and lost easily.

Take the laptop and turn it on its back. You find three main screws on the opposite side of where the battery is inserted.

thinkpad e145

I have used an No.0 screwdriver to remove the three screws that hold the plate on the back in place. You do not need to apply force for that. Once they don't hold the plate anymore, you can carefully remove it by pulling it from the location of the screws up towards you.

The original hard drive is attached to the laptop with two additional screws. You can use the very same screwdriver to remove them as well.

internal laptop hard drive

Once done, push the drive carefully to the right site so that it is no longer attached to the connector.

Remove it from the laptop, and replace it with the hard drive that you want to use instead.

Make sure the connectors of the drive face up, and push it gently into the direction of the connectors until it is firmly connected.

replace laptop drive

You can remove the cage from the old hard drive and add it to the new one, so that you can increase its stability with the help of the cage and the two screws.

Once done, put the back cover back on by sliding it in place at the bottom of the laptop and applying a bit of pressure.

Last step is to use the screwdriver one last time to close the back plate again and you are done.

What Next?

You do need to install an operating system on the drive obviously, which would be the next step. The laptop that I bought does not have an optical drive, which means that you will have to put the installation files on an USB flash drive or stick to install the operating system on it.

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Archival Disc with 300 GB capacity to launch in 2015 http://www.ghacks.net/2014/03/10/archival-disc-300-gb-capacity-launch-2015/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/03/10/archival-disc-300-gb-capacity-launch-2015/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 09:56:22 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=100300 Current optical disc formats are less than ideal for archiving or backup purposes due to space constraints. It is often not possible to back up your root partition to a single disc, and while it is possible to span the archive on multiple discs, it not only is inconvenient but also increases the chance of […]

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Current optical disc formats are less than ideal for archiving or backup purposes due to space constraints.

It is often not possible to back up your root partition to a single disc, and while it is possible to span the archive on multiple discs, it not only is inconvenient but also increases the chance of data failure.

Internal or external hard drives on the other hand offer Terabytes of space, which usually is enough to back up whatever you want to archive.

The problem here is that the method works fine for sporadic backups, but when you need to back up regularly, you will either have to buy lots of drives, or delete old backups regularly to make space for newer ones.

Business-specific archiving solutions such as tapes or cartridges offer high storage options (in the Terabyte range per cartridge) but come at a price.

Archival Disc Format

archival-disc

Sony and Panasonic announced the Archival Disc format officially today. The next-generation optical disc format will launch in the summer of 2015 with a capacity of 300 Gigabyte.

Both companies plan to increase that size to 500 Gigabyte and 1 Terabyte in the future.

Blu-Ray Discs support a disc size of up to 128 GB, which means that the first iteration of the Archival Disc format increases that by nearly a factor of three.

The Archival Disc specification confirms that the new format uses a double-sided disc technology with three layers per side and a data bit length of 79.5 nanometers and a track pitch of 0.225 micrometers.

archival-disc-format

Sony and Panasonic emphasize that the new format has been specifically designed for "the market for long-term digital data storage". What the press release fails to address are the benefits of the new format in comparison to existing solutions.

For example, while we know the storage size of the optical discs, we do not know how long they will last, how fast the recording speed or read speed is, or how much recordable discs and writers will cost.

No information are provided whether the new standard supports re-writeable discs as well. The key specification lists write-once as the disc type only.

The new format competes against a number of solutions. First against existing local backup solutions such as tapes, cartridges or external drives, but also against growing remote backup services.

Sony and Panasonic target the professional market with the new format first and foremost according to the press release.

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Tokyoflash Japan Watches are stylish masterpieces http://www.ghacks.net/2014/02/26/tokyoflash-japan-watches-stylish-masterpieces/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/02/26/tokyoflash-japan-watches-stylish-masterpieces/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 20:06:59 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=99618 Watches serve two main purposes. They tell the time and date, and sometimes display other information, and also express your personal style and taste. If you are a geek, or someone who likes techie things, then you have probably heard about Tokyoflash Japan and the watches the company manufactures before. All Tokyoflash watches have in […]

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Watches serve two main purposes. They tell the time and date, and sometimes display other information, and also express your personal style and taste.

If you are a geek, or someone who likes techie things, then you have probably heard about Tokyoflash Japan and the watches the company manufactures before.

All Tokyoflash watches have in common that they tell the time in unique ways. Instead of using conventional ways to display the time, these watches use a variety of unique ways to do so.

Often, that means to sit back for a moment and look at the watch to figure it out. That should not keep you from buying one of those watches though, considering that you get excellent instructions with each watch so that you know exactly how it works.

Tokyoflash Japan sent me two watches, the Kisai Uzumaki Analog Watch and the Kisai Polygoon Wood watch, for testing. Both watches came well protected in stylish packaging.

The Uzumaki

The Uzumaki, which translates to whirlpool, is a limited edition analog watch that displays a spiraling vortex displaying hours in the outer ring and minutes in the inner ring, while the hand indicates the seconds.

Once you know that, it is easy to tell the time as you just have to check where the solid color -- blue in this case -- ends in the outer and inner ring to do so.

The body of the watch is made of durable stainless steel strap which comes in a reasonable size. If your wrist is small, you may have to remove some links so that it fits your wrist perfectly. It is not a light watch by any means with its 140 grams, but if you are used to stainless steel watches, that won't come as a surprise to you.

The custom acrylic lens features concentric circles that descend from the edge of the case into the center to highlight the whirlpool theme of the watch.

You set the time just like any other analog watch. Just pull the crown out and turn it in either direction to change the time. When the time is set, push the crown back in and you are all set.

Another feature of this watch is that you can illuminate the display by pressing the button of the watch. This is a cool looking effect, especially at night or in dark places.

The Uzumaki is available in three different color schemes: black and blue, silver and blue, or silver and green. Black and silver refer to the band and casing, while blue and green to the inner and outer ring colors.

What I like

  • Stylish design
  • Backlight looks great when it is dark.
  • Durable.
  • Not too difficult to tell the time.

What's missing

  • It has no date function.

The Polygon Wood LCD Watch

This watch is special for a number of reasons. First, its case is made of dark sandalwood, something that you do not see very often when it comes to watches.

But, that pales when it comes to the display of time. It is actually not difficult at all to tell the time once you get the hang out of it. Hours are shown in the outer ring by where the two small triangles meet. Minutes on the other hand use the inner triangle to highlight minutes in groups of ten, and digits that are shown in the center of the watch that you add to it.

If you take the example on the photo above, you will come to the conclusion that it is 8:50.

That's not all of the functionality the watch offers. It displays the date as well, features an alarm timer, and backlighting.

It is a lightweight watch at 45 gram, especially if you compare it to the Uzumaki watch which weights more than three times as much.

According to Tokyoflash, it is a unisex watch for men and women

What I like

  • The dark sandal wood case is ultra-stylish, and the leather band the watch ships with adds to that.
  • It tells the time, data, features an alarm timer, and backlighting.

What's missing

  • Nothing

Both watches cost around €100, a reasonable price considering that you get quality watches in return for that money.

Closing Words

It is clear that Tokyoflash watches are not for anyone. But if you happen to be a geek, or someone who likes unique interesting things, then this is definitely an area that you may want to explore further.

You find dozens of watches on the manufacturer's website, and while it comes down to personal taste which you like, you can be sure that they are all unique in their own special way.

Giveaway

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a watch from Tokyoflash's inventory. The winner can pick any watch that is available on the manufacturer's homepage, and it will be shipped free of charge to the winner's location.

Tell us what you like or don't like about those watches, or post your favorite watch.

The winner is Nebulus. Comments are closed.

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4 Technology Certainties for 2014 that will rock the computing world http://www.ghacks.net/2013/12/02/4-technology-certainties-2014-will-rock-computing-world/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/12/02/4-technology-certainties-2014-will-rock-computing-world/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 17:05:59 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=96468 2014 will be an interesting year from a technology perspective. Not only will it be the year of exciting that exciting new technologies are introduced to the public, it is also the year in which many computer users need to make a decision with far-reaching consequences. Please feel free to leave comments below the article […]

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2014 will be an interesting year from a technology perspective.

Not only will it be the year of exciting that exciting new technologies are introduced to the public, it is also the year in which many computer users need to make a decision with far-reaching consequences.

Please feel free to leave comments below the article to post your opinion on this. I'd also like to hear your predictions or certainties for 2014.

Here are 4 technology certainties for 2014 that will change things around a lot.

1. The Death of Windows XP

You did not see that one coming, right? Windows XP is still used by millions every day, and while the operating system has lost usage share percentages, it is still the second most-used Windows operating system. It trails Windows 7 which has established itself as the major desktop operating system ever since it was published in 2009.

Microsoft's most recent operating system Windows 8 on the other hand is placed third, but there is a huge gap between the system and Windows XP or Windows 7.

Windows XP will no longer be supported come April 2014. What this means is that Microsoft won't produce security patches for the operating system anymore.

The consequence here is that Windows XP systems will be vulnerable to newly discovered vulnerabilities, and while there may be mitigating factors, like security software, it is generally not recommended to run the system after that date.

Windows XP users can update to Windows 7 or Windows 8 to keep on using Windows, and many may do so as it is the easiest choice.

Others may decide to switch to Linux or another free operating system, or keep on using Windows XP regardless of the security impact that decision has.

SMR Hard Drives breaking the 1 TB per platter barrier

Hard drive capacities are currently maxed out at 4 Terabyte per hard drive. This is mainly caused by the 1 TB per platter barrier that is in effect since about 2010.

Seagate has been working on a new technology called Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) which breaks the limit for the first time.

Instead of aligning data tracks next to each other, SMR overlaps them which increases the capacity by 25%.

The company plans to make SMR hard drives available to the public in 2014, starting with 5 TB hard drives. The company has pledged to release 20 TB disks in 2020 using the technology, and while it looks good on paper, prototype reviews have shown that random write and read performance have not been at current levels yet.

DDR4 SDRAM

ddr4-memory

DDR4 SDRAM will enter the computing world in early 2014. According to manufacturers like Crucial, DDR4 memory technology will boost performance and other factors in several ways.

The new memory technology uses less power -- up to 20% less -- than current DDR3 memory, and is up to 2x faster than DDR3 at the same time.

DDR3, which was introduced in 2007 has been the standard ever since, and it is likely that DDR4 will replace it from 2014 onwards.

The new technology requires new motherboards, which means that most computer users will come into contact with it when they buy new systems, build a new system, or update existing systems with a new motherboard and other parts.

Samsung V-Nand

samsung-v-nand

Samsung's V-Nand technology for Flash Memory will increase the capacities of Flash Memory significantly. The company has been mass producing V-Nand based SSD for some time now, but products will hit the general consumer market in 2014.

Samsung claims that V-Nand achieves twice the density of current generation memory products, and that it will improve performance by up to 20% and consume 40% less power at the same time. According to Tom's Hardware, their V-Nand flash technology offers 35,000 program erase cycles instead of the 2000 to 3000 in current products.

If you want to read up on what is known about V-Nand visit Anandtech which offers a great overview of the technology.

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How to find out how much RAM your motherboard supports http://www.ghacks.net/2013/11/21/find-much-ram-motherboard-supports/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/11/21/find-much-ram-motherboard-supports/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 09:08:02 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=96087 One of the reasons why PC sales have slumped, at least in my opinion, is the fact that many users do not see the need to upgrade their systems as often as before. Back in the days, upgrading the processor from a 486 to a Pentium, or a Pentium to a Pentium II, was a […]

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One of the reasons why PC sales have slumped, at least in my opinion, is the fact that many users do not see the need to upgrade their systems as often as before.

Back in the days, upgrading the processor from a 486 to a Pentium, or a Pentium to a Pentium II, was a huge deal, as were upgrades to system RAM (128 Megabyte for the win), or the video card.

Today, upgrades do not yield those high performance gains anymore. Sure, it is nice if you install a new video card to get even more frame rates out of games you play, or a faster processor to convert those media files faster, but all in all, the gains are not as noticeable as before unless you are updating a very old system.

The mobile sector is currently were PCs were a decade ago. Innovation is fast and advancements in processing power, battery life and other technologies justify a faster upgrade cycle. This too will eventually slow down.

Back to PCs.

RAM is not expensive anymore, with 4 Gigabytes of RAM available for about $40 right now, 8 Gigabytes for $80, and 16 Gigabytes starting at $150.

Performance will jump if you have less than 4 Gigabytes in your PC while you won't notice such a visual jump in performance if you already have 4 or 8 Gigabytes and want to upgrade them to even more RAM. It may be worth it nevertheless, for instance if you do a lot of real-time work on the PC, or work with huge files all the time.

Motherboard information

motherboard model

If you are like me, you do not know the model of the motherboard that has been built into your PC. I did assemble the PC myself, but it was some time ago and my memory is not the best anymore.

If you know the model, skip this step. If you do not know it, we need to find it out exactly as it will reveal to us what the motherboard supports.

Some motherboards may not support more RAM than is already installed, while others may limit the maximum memory or types that you can install, which you need to know before you head out and buy too much of it.

You can use Speccy or any other system information program to display the model of the Motherboard.

In my case -- the screenshot above -- it is a Gigabyte P55-USB3 motherboard.

Finding out how much RAM your PC supports

Now that we know the motherboard model, we can use it to look up information. What we need to know are the specs in regards to memory.

To be precise, how much RAM the motherboard supports and which types of RAM it supports.

You have two options for that:

1. Search for the model number

This is my preferred choice. I type the maker of the motherboard and the model of it in a search engine of choice. This should display the support page for that model on the manufacturer's website, where all relevant information about it are displayed.

To take my Gigabyte example: I landed on this page and had to click on Specification to find out about the memory specification of that motherboard.

  1. 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory (Note 1)
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
  4. Support for non-ECC memory modules
  5. Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules

It told me that the board was supporting a maximum of 16 Gigabytes of DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800 MHz RAM.

2. Crucial

crucial memory advisor

If you cannot find such a page for the motherboard that you own, you may want to try Crucial's suggestion tool instead.

Tip: You can also run the memory suggestion tool on your Windows PC

You need to enter the manufacturer, product line and model of the motherboard in a form on the main Crucial website to receive recommendations for memory, Solid State Drives and internal hard drives on the next page.

What may be interesting here -- besides the recommendation -- is the list of specs on the left. It displays the supported memory types, maximum memory and slots available to you, so that you end up with the same information that the manual search yielded.

You do not have to make a purchase here on the site though, as it makes sense to compare prices before you make any buying decision.

Now Read: Should you buy PC hardware locally or on the Internet?

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Things to consider before heading out and buying a notebook http://www.ghacks.net/2013/11/14/things-consider-heading-buying-notebook/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/11/14/things-consider-heading-buying-notebook/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:56:14 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=95926 My mother needs a notebook, and I promised to get her one for Christmas. Since this is her first mobile computer -- she only used desktop PCs until now -- I had to make sure that I have covered all the bases before I made a buying decision. This guide looks at the things that […]

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via

via XKCD

My mother needs a notebook, and I promised to get her one for Christmas. Since this is her first mobile computer -- she only used desktop PCs until now -- I had to make sure that I have covered all the bases before I made a buying decision.

This guide looks at the things that I needed to know, and others that I could decide on my own.

I made the decision to take her to a nearby electronics store to test some of the devices there, as it is usually better to see something with your own eyes than having it described to you only.

The list below is divided into two parts: first usability related features, and second technical features. I'm not including the look and feel in this guide.

Please also note that I'm not making a lot of suggestions here either way. I'm not favoring a particular brand over the other, a cpu that you should get, or anything else.

What you find below are things that you need to be certain about before you buy a laptop. Some may be obvious, others not so much.

A resource guide is available after both sections that you can use to read reviews, look up and compare models, and make educated decisions.

My suggestion would be to write down what you want to do with the device first, and then go through the list below to pinpoint what you really need.

Usability

There are lots of things to consider in this regard, and I'd like to address the most important ones only here:

1. Screen size

Laptops come in many different screen sizes, from 10" to 18" and even less or more if you look long enough. Screen size is important for a variety of reasons. First, you need to be able to read properly what is going on. If you select a size that is too small, you may run into issues or slow yourself down because things are not as readable as they should be.

If you pick a larger screen size, you automatically increase the weight of the device and may also impact its battery life.

2. Keyboard

Depending on how you work with the computer, you may want a full qwerty keyboard with numeric pad, or a smaller keyboard instead where select keys are missing.

Smaller devices have smaller keyboards usually, which often means that the keys that they offer are smaller as well.

It boils down to how you use a computer. If you ignore the numeric keypad and the arrow keys for the most part, then there is nothing wrong with picking a smaller sized keyboard.

3. Weight

Weight can make a big difference. Do you want to chuck 3.5 kilograms of laptop around with you while you are on holiday or on a business trip, or do you prefer the lighter variants that are below the 2 kilogram mark?

A difference of 1 or 2 kilograms does not look like much, but it can make a big difference throughout the day.

Technical details

This includes what features you want the notebook to have and the components that power it.

1. Optical drives

Do you need an optical drive? My mother wants one to play DVD movies and music CDs. Most ultrabooks don't come with one, and while it is possible to buy an external drive, it is not really suitable for mobility.

2. Processor and video card

Depending on what you want to do with the device, you may need a powerful process and video card, only a powerful processor, or neither.

While it is always great to have a powerful CPU on board, it may not make such a big difference if all you do is check emails, browse the Internet, and write documents.

If you want to view HD contents, or run a game or two on the device, then you may want to consider getting a better processor and a more powerful video card for those purposes.

So, if you can pick a laptop with an Intel Haswell cpu, that is a good thing as it improves a lot of things including the devices battery live.

If you are into gaming, you should pick up a notebook with an Nvidia or AMD graphics card, e.g. a NVIDIA Geforce GTX 780M.

3. Storage and RAM

One cannot have enough memory. The lower limit should be 4 Gigabytes of RAM, which should be enough for most cases. If you game, or do a lot of real-time editing, you may want to add more RAM to the notebook if possible.

Storage is usually available in abundance. Depending on what you want to do, you may want at least 500 Gigabytes of hard drive storage, especially if you plan to play high-end games or like to have large collections of videos, photos or other media on the device.

If you do not, you may fare better with a fast 128 GB or 256 GB Solid State Drive.

4. Touch

Many notebooks, especially those with Windows 8, ship with a touch screen. It adds another control option to the device. Instead of using the keyboard or mouse, you can now use fingers to control what is going on.

While that may sound like a nice idea, it depends on how you work with the notebook on how practical that is.

5. Other components

You may have other requirements that are important to you. Maybe you want Bluetooth 4.0 support, a microphone jack, support for a docking station or a detachable screen.

6. Ports

What do you want to connect your computer up to? E.g., Do you do presentations that require connecting your computer to a projector with a VGA connection? Do you want to link your computer to an HDMI connection on your TV? Yes, there are adapters for such things, but it's always nice not to have to fool with them.

7. Screen resolutions

Screen resolution is no longer tied to the screen size like it was in earlier days. You can now get small sized devices that offer a high screen resolution.

The bare minimum that I'd go for is 1024x768, but if you can get more, take it.

Resources

While there are sites out there that review certain laptops, I have found two retail sites to be really good for getting opinions on select models.

1. Amazon

Amazon is the obvious choice. While the laptops there may not always be the cheapest, popular ones get a lot of user reviews. My suggestion would be to read those reviews, especially the good and bad ones, to get a solid understanding of a device's advantages and disadvantages.

You may find devices here with thousands of reviews that can help you tremendously in your decision making process.

 2. Newegg

Newegg is a popular shop, and while the comment counts on the site may not come close to those on Amazon, they may provide you with reviews that are often more technical in nature.

Plus, the site is a lot easier to navigate as you can use the sidebar to narrow down the listing.

3. Test Freaks

The website accumulates reviews from other sites. This makes it ideal for research, as you find out how it was rated on Amazon, CNET, Best Buy, and other sites. It is a price comparison engine as well, so that you can check out the cheapest offers on the site.

While I would do some research of my own on this before I make a buying decision, it can provide you with a good baseline for that.

Closing Words

Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments and I'll add it asap. Lets make this the best guide ever.

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What you need to know about Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD) http://www.ghacks.net/2013/11/04/need-know-solid-state-hybrid-drives-sshd/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/11/04/need-know-solid-state-hybrid-drives-sshd/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2013 08:00:23 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=95585 Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD) are a combination of a Solid State Drive (SSD) and a platter-based drive (HDD). The main idea here is to combine the speed of the SSD technology with the storage space of the HDD, so that you are getting the best of both worlds. The main question here is obviously […]

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Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD) are a combination of a Solid State Drive (SSD) and a platter-based drive (HDD). The main idea here is to combine the speed of the SSD technology with the storage space of the HDD, so that you are getting the best of both worlds.

The main question here is obviously when using SSHD drives makes sense, and what you need to take into consideration before you buy a drive for your system.

While SSD prices have dropped significantly in the past, the Gigabyte to Dollar ratio is still everything but good, especially when compared to conventional hard drives.

Samsung's excellent 840 EVO Series with 250 Gigabytes is for instance available for $165.99 currently on Amazon, while Seagate's Barracuda 3 TB HDD for $118.55. If storage would be your only criteria, you would make a much better bargain buying Seagate's drive.

A hybrid drive that combines an 8 Gigabyte SSD with 1 Terabyte of HDD storage on the other hand is available for about $100. While you get less platter-based storage and less Flash memory storage, you get to use them both in a single drive.

Most SSHD solutions on the market combine 64 Gigabyte SSD technology with 512 GB or more HDD storage and 8 GB of Flash Drive cache.

Solid State Hybrid Drives FAQ

solid state hybrid drive

The following FAQ looks at common questions that you may have in regards to hybrid drives. While I can't promise that it will answer all of your questions, it is likely that it addresses main concerns and issues.

If there is something left out, let me know in the comments.

Are SSHDs as silent as SSDs?

Since hybrid drives are a combination of different drive types, that is not the case. While the SSD-part is still as silent as it gets, the platter-based part of the SSHD is however as noisy as other platter-based hard drives.

If you want a silent system, SSHDs are not an option.

What about mobility?

If you drop a laptop with a SSD inside, you can be sure that this won't impact the drive or the data on it (provided that you do not throw it off the Empire State Building). Impacts may however render conventional hard drives unusable as they are not as shock-resistant as SSDs.

The same is true for hybrid drives.

How fast are SSHDs?

Most Solid State Drives are way faster than conventional hard drives. Hybrid Drives on the other hand are not. Depending on the model, you may notice improvements when you are launching applications, booting the system, or performing other read operations.

You will however notice that write operations do not really benefit from the SSD cache, and that data needs to be on the SSD-part of the drive to benefit from faster access times and loading times.

Companies like Seagate have developed algorithms like Adaptive Memory Technology to determine which files benefit the most from being cached on the Solid State Drive.

Since most hybrid drives come with 8 Gigabytes of cache currently, it is fair to say that data will be frequently shifted around and replaced on the drive, and that it is unlikely that you will get all your important data cached by it permanently.

Note: To see improvements in regards to operating system boot times, you need to have booted the OS at least once before that kicks in. So, first boot will be comparable to HDD load times, but consecutive boot times will be between HDD and SSD boot performances.

All in all it is fair to say that you will see improvements over conventional HDDs, but not as much as if you would be using a Solid State Drive.

Generally speaking, if you want the biggest (noticeable) performance increase, the SSD is the way to go. If that is not an option for whatever reason, SSHDs may be an option as they speed up some operations on the system.

What are the benefits of SSHDs?

Besides what has already been mentioned in the article, SSHDs offer other benefits over other single-drive or multi-drive solutions.

One being that they are easier to install. Since you only have to handle one drive, you can't really do a lot of things wrong during installation of it or setup of the operating system. In a multi-drive system, you need to make sure to install the operating system on the correct (faster) drive for example, while there is no such obligation in regards to hybrid drives as they are accessed as single-drives.

Should you buy a SSHD?

There are situations where your computer may benefit from a SSHD. This is a great option if you only have space for one hard drive and need both speed and capacity. So, replacing your notebook's slow 512 GB platter-based hard drive with a 1 TB hybrid drive will be very beneficial to the overall performance of the system. It is also a solid option if you are on a budget.

On desktop PCs, it usually makes more sense to buy a SSD drive and a storage drive that is platter-based provided that you have enough cash for that option. While that is the most expensive option available, it ensures that you get maximum performance and enough storage at the same time.

Depending on how you use your computer, you may find a 64 GB SSD sufficient. I personally would pick at least a 128 GB drive, especially if you are using Windows. You can get Samsung's 840 EVO 120 GB drive for about $100 currently for example, and pay another $100 for a 2 or 3 TB drive.

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Why I decided to quit being an early adopter (for the most part) http://www.ghacks.net/2013/10/23/decided-quit-early-adopter-part/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/10/23/decided-quit-early-adopter-part/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 19:13:41 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=95337 Having something in hands or using something before everyone else has been a strong urge for me for the better part of my life. It did not really matter what it was: games, programs, gadgets, computer systems, game consoles or smartphones. If it was new and promised to be better than the old thing, I […]

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via XKCD

via XKCD

Having something in hands or using something before everyone else has been a strong urge for me for the better part of my life. It did not really matter what it was: games, programs, gadgets, computer systems, game consoles or smartphones. If it was new and promised to be better than the old thing, I had to get my hands on it as soon as it was available.

When a new game console or game came out that I wanted to play, I pre-ordered them so that I could get it on the day of release, or sometimes even earlier than that. The disappointment came later when I noticed that only a handful of new games were released for the systems in the first six to twelve months after launch.

In regards to apps and programs, I started to use beta versions or even earlier builds to be among the first to test it.

In the past one or two years though I started to change my attitude towards this and quit being an early adopter for the most part. I was not able to make a full 180 on this though, but that can be fully attributed to running a technology news site and the requirements to test and run new software and sometimes hardware for it.

So why did I make that change? There are actually several reasons why I stopped being an early adopter.

1. Hype vs. Reality

Marketing plays a huge role in the computing and gaming world, especially if something promises to introduce a new feature that sounds really good to you, but also if it promises better performance or other benefits in comparison to the last generation.

Hype plays a big part in the technology world, with many technology sites praising hardware that they did not even had a chance to test on their own. It is the same in the gaming world. If there is a new game, a sequel to a popular title for example, it is almost certain that hype is building around it.

There is nothing wrong with hype, but since early adopters do not have time to wait for thorough test results and reviews, it is usually a blind purchase that they make.

The main question here is if that new feature or gadget that is being hyped is really worth the price you pay for being an early adopter.

Do you really need to get your hands on Google Glass, Samsung's new smartwatch or the latest blockbuster game the day they come out?

2. Functionality / Issues / Maturity

First generation products have often issues that later generation products do not have anymore because they have been fixed. This is true for games, apps, gadgets and hardware. Patches may resolve issues in games that early adopters may experience (that may reduce the fun and enjoyment of the game), second generation hardware may be faster, run more stable or use less power than first generation hardware.

Firmware updates may improve functionality of hardware products, and updates to game consoles may also improve them in different ways.

While that is not always the case, you are often better of buying products when they have matured. That does not mean that you have to wait years to get your hands on a product, but recent issues with games such as Diablo 3 or Sim City have shown that it may be in your best interest to do so.

There is another issue that you need to take into consideration: compatibility and standards.

If you thought that HD-DVD would be the winning format in the HD-format battle, then you bet on the losing horse. This turned your expensive equipment into something that has no longer any use. The same is true for other formats and products, say VHS vs. Beta Max, wireless charging standards, ports, H.264 vs. WebM, Plasma vs. LCD TVs.

It is usually better to wait until a standard format or technology has emerged, unless you really need a product right at that time or are certain that it will win.

3. Price

You pay the full price if you purchase a product the day it comes out. Prices drop over time, so that you may be able to purchase the product for less after a short period of waiting time.

Hardware prices do not drop that much, but they will often when the next generation of a device comes out. The manufacturer wants to sell the remaining stock of the old device which you may get for good value.

The same is true for many games, which may drop in price months after release, especially on PC.

You pay a premium for the privilege of using the product early.

4. Need

Before I make any purchase nowadays I ask myself if I really need the product. Do I need to upgrade from my Note 2 to Note 3, the PC that I bought in 2012 to a new one that is slightly faster, or the Nintendo Wii to the WiiU?

What would I do with a smartwatch or Google Glass, how would it benefit me? While there is a novelty factor, it is often the only argument that speaks for a purchase, while everything else speaks against it.

Another example: Do I really need Fifa 2013 when I have Fifa 2012, or the next Call of Duty or Battlefield title if I played the last one? Do I need Windows 8 when I run Windows 7?

When I'm uncertain, I create a list with pros and cons and base my decision to buy a product -- or not -- on that list.

Arguments for being an early adopter

There are arguments for being an early adopter which I would like to mention as well. Sometimes, being an early adopter provides you a say in the future development of a product. If you find bugs and report them, or notify the company about a feature that is missing, it may be implemented and released via an update (or a next generation version).

Another pro argument is that having the device enables you to test it, write about it and get accustomed to it. You can become an expert here before everyone else which can be very useful, especially if you are a journalist or make your living in a related field.

Sometimes, hardware revisions may introduce slower components or missing features. The Playstation 3's emulation for instance for PS2 games changed from hardware to software along the way, and was not that good in the beginning.

Closing Words

While I still have the urge to get a product as early as possible, these days it is usually only because I want to write about it here on this site, and not for personal use. I sometimes cannot withstand the urge though, especially when it comes to games that my friends want to play and that I'm interested in as well.

As far as hardware goes, I'm pretty conservative here. I get a new mobile phone every 2 years when my contract renews, but that is about it.

What about you? Are you an early adopter? Did you ever regret buying something early?

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Why I consider buying a Surface Pro 2 when it comes out http://www.ghacks.net/2013/09/23/consider-buying-surface-pro-2-comes/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/09/23/consider-buying-surface-pro-2-comes/#comments Mon, 23 Sep 2013 16:07:48 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=94619 Microsoft has announced a refresh of the company's Surface series today. The Surface 2 is the successor of the Surface RT device running Windows RT, and the Surface Pro 2 the successor of the Surface Pro. I do not want to talk a lot about the Surface 2, but some things need to be addressed. […]

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Microsoft has announced a refresh of the company's Surface series today. The Surface 2 is the successor of the Surface RT device running Windows RT, and the Surface Pro 2 the successor of the Surface Pro.

I do not want to talk a lot about the Surface 2, but some things need to be addressed. It features a faster processor, longer battery life, a better camera, an updated screen and the new kickstand that all Surface 2 devices ship with. It starts at $449 and is of no interest to me, as it is running Windows RT.

Windows RT, for those of you who have not come in contact with Windows 8 yet, is that crippled version of the operating system that runs only apps and no legacy desktop software. So, if you want desktop software to run, you cannot really use it at all.

It may have its appeal for an audience that likes to get a tablet device that they can also do light Office editing and such with. The Surface 2 may be ideal for them as it ships with Microsoft Office RT included.

The Surface Pro 2

surface 2 pro

All major changes are under the hood or come in form of accessories. I liked the original Surface Pro but decided against it in the end because of the device's battery life. It was just too weak and would not take you through a whole work day without recharging.

The Surface Pro 2 comes with Intel's new Haswell chip that is less power hungry than the Surface Pro's processor. The new chip, and improvements to drivers and firmware have improved battery life of the device significantly. Sources suggest it can be anywhere from 60% to 75% more than what the original Surface Pro offered, but we have to wait until first independent benchmarks are posted before we know exactly how much better the battery life is.

There is one accessory that Microsoft introduced today that makes the Surface Pro 2 a great choice: The Docking Station for Surface Pro - it works with the old and new generation - provides you with better options to work with the device on a desk. Just dock it in and you can use keyboard and mouse that you connect via the docking station. It features a Mini DisplayPort video output, three USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet port, and 3.5mm audio in and out.

surface pro docking station

It will come out in early 2014 unfortunately and not earlier than that.

Power Cover is the second new accessory for Surface.  It offers the same typing experience as the Type Cover but includes an extra battery to get the most out of the device when you are using it in a mobile environment.

Surface accessory compatibility list

  1. Type Cover: all Surface devices.
  2. Touch Cover: all Surface devices.
  3. Type Cover 2: all Surface devices.
  4. Touch Cover 2: all Surface devices.
  5. Power Cover: compatible with Surface 2, Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2.
  6. Wireless Adapter for Type Cover: all Surface devices.
  7. Docking station: compatible with Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2.
  8. Car Charger: with all devices.

Surface pricing

  1. Surface 2 starts at $449
  2. Surface Pro 2 starts at $899
  3. Wireless Adapter: $59.99
  4. Touch Cover 2: $119.99
  5. Type Cover 2: $129.99
  6. Power Cover: unknown
  7. Docking Station: unknown

The pricing appears to have not been changed at all. Both Surface 2 devices start at the same price their successors were offered for, and the updated covers are also sold for the same price. It is interesting to note that the Surface Pro and the Touch Cover are currently on sale on the official website. You save $100 when you buy the Surface Pro, and another $40 when you buy the Touch Cover.

The new Surface video

Closing Words

Surface Pro 2 is not a cheap device. It starts at $899 and while you do get a great piece of hardware, it is not really that great in terms of internal storage. It starts at 64 Gigabyte which is not suitable for anything but light work on the system. If you consider that 20 or so Gigabytes are used for Windows 8 Pro, you end up with about 40 Gigabyte of storage for your programs and files. That's two cutting edge games, considering that you should leave 10% of the Solid State Drive free at all times.

Hard drive upgrades are available, up to 512 Gigabyte of space. This comes at a cost though, and it will likely not be cheap to upgrade. If the old Surface Pro is anything to go buy, the upgrade to 128 Gigabyte will cost another $100, and doubling that again may cost another $100. Add to that the Type Cover that you desperately need and you are quickly reaching the $1500 mark.

Is it worth that much money? I will definitely wait for benchmarks and first reviews to pop up on the Internet before I make a buying decision.

What about you? Are you interested in the Surface refresh at all?

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Should you buy computer hardware locally or on the Internet? http://www.ghacks.net/2013/09/16/buy-computer-hardware-locally-internet/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/09/16/buy-computer-hardware-locally-internet/#comments Mon, 16 Sep 2013 08:45:10 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=94403 Back in the pre-Internet days, you had two options in regards to buying computer hardware. You could head out to a local store and see what was on offer there, or use mail order. Many shops advertised in magazines so that you knew about price and what was on offer before you went there. The […]

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Back in the pre-Internet days, you had two options in regards to buying computer hardware. You could head out to a local store and see what was on offer there, or use mail order. Many shops advertised in magazines so that you knew about price and what was on offer before you went there.

The rise of the Internet made things more comfortable. Not only could you browse multiple stores -regional or not - in rapid succession, you could also browse foreign country stores or use price comparison engines to get the best price on a piece of hardware that you were interested in.

If you ever wanted to get something that was not available in your country, say the latest Japanese video game system, a modchip, or a specific video card or processor, now was the time to get those things delivered to your doorstep without having to rely on back channels to do so.

Today computer users have two options: buy local or on the Internet. So which is better and which should you choose? This cannot be answered this easily as factors need to be considered, including:

  • The type of hardware.
  • Your experience with computer systems.
  • How fast you need the hardware.
  • If price plays a role.
reviews

via XKCD

Local stores

Most local hardware shops have a website that you can use to check out their offers before you head out. It is usually also possible to call them to find out if an item is available or needs to be ordered first before it becomes available again.

You may not get the best deal when you compare the price with what is offered by Internet shops, but it is usually not that far off. It is still recommended to compare prices and maybe try to broker a deal by pointing out that you could order on the Internet for less.

Local shops have other advantages. First, if the item is available, you can get it right away. If you order online, you may have to wait a day or two, or even longer, before you get the package.

Second, you often get better support. If you are inexperienced, you may have troubles adding the new shiny Solid State Drive, video card or processor to your system, or may have questions about compatibility in first place.

While you may not get those answers in most chain stores, you will certainly find experienced shop owners in smaller stores that can help you with that. Many stores offer to add the new hardware to your system for a price which may be an option if you do not want to do it by yourself. That is also one of the advantages they have over Internet stores.

You can also still use the Internet for research, say to find out what other customers say about the item.

Pro

  1. Tech support is usually better, and pre-sales questions can be answered right away.
  2. If an item is available, you get it the same day.
  3. May offer extra services such as adding bought hardware to an existing system.
  4. May spot compatibility issues and tell you about them.
  5. If you need to return a device, you may get a replacement right away.
  6. Once you are a customer, it is often possible to call them for tech support, especially if it is related to a device you bought in the store.

Con

  1. Prices usually higher as on the Internet.
  2. You have to go to the store.
  3. Expertise may vary highly.

Internet stores

Internet stores are just like mailorder stores, only faster and easier to search and navigate. It is usually the case that you get better deals on the Internet than you get locally.

You can use price comparison engines to find the best price or the most trusted online store out there to buy your hardware at.

The second advantage over shopping locally is that you do not need to go out and buy the hardware. That's not a big advantage if the local store is right across the street, but if it is not, you may prefer delivery to your doorstep, especially if the hardware you want to buy is heavy and you do not have suitable means of transport.

Pro

  1. Price is usually cheaper, which means that you will save money when you are ordering online.
  2. You do not have to leave your home or carry the items to it.

Con

  1. Support is either non-existent or not trained well, which means that you have to go elsewhere, support forums for example, to get your answers which in turn may mean that you have to wait longer before you can purchase the hardware (as you are waiting for answers).
  2. Returning an item is often less convenient.
  3. You do not get items on the same day, unless you pay extra for express delivery.

Closing Words

When I look at my buying habits, I have to admit that I buy on the Internet usually. I tend to get better prices there and do not need any special support for the devices I buy.

There are exceptions to the rule though. If I need something urgently, say a new keyboard or mouse because mine broke, I usually hop to the next local store and buy them from there. While they may be more expensive, it provides me with a replacement on the same day.

Generally speaking: if you need tech support then your best bet is to shop locally. If that does not matter, you may prefer to buy on the Internet as you get better prices there.

What about you? Do you buy computer hardware online or locally?

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Why I won’t be buying a Smartwatch anytime soon http://www.ghacks.net/2013/08/31/wont-buying-smartwatch-anytime-soon/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/08/31/wont-buying-smartwatch-anytime-soon/#comments Sat, 31 Aug 2013 09:08:35 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=93880 Now that tablets have been established to the mainstream, companies like Apple, Samsung or Google are already working on the next big thing: smartwatches. When I hear smartwatch I immediately think about the TV show Knight Rider and how Michael Knight communicated with his Car using a watch in the 80s. Smartwatches are like smartphones, […]

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Now that tablets have been established to the mainstream, companies like Apple, Samsung or Google are already working on the next big thing: smartwatches. When I hear smartwatch I immediately think about the TV show Knight Rider and how Michael Knight communicated with his Car using a watch in the 80s.

Smartwatches are like smartphones, only smaller in size and wearable on the wrist just like any other watch. The prototypes that leaked all around on the Internet suggest that they are considerable larger than regular watches, likely because of the screen size that has to be adequate for users to read what is displayed on it.

A question that needs to come to mind is why you would want a smartwatch if you have already a smartphone with you at all times - or nearly, at the very least.

I can think of a couple of activities where this may make sense. If you like to jog and listen to music at the same time, you may prefer to use the lighter watch that you can wear more comfortably than the bulkier smartphone. The same goes for activities where you can't use a smartphone at all, say swimming. If smartphones are waterproof, you could use them for these activities as well, for instance to record the distance.

photo watchfaces 3

Pebble smartwatch

Last but not least, you may also be able to use smartphone and smartwatch in conjunction with each other. If you get a call, you may look at the watch to see who is calling for example without having to go through your bag or pockets to take out your phone.

Why I'm not interested in smartwatches

knight rider watchSmartwatches may make life easier for some uses. Controlling your music via your watch may save you a couple of seconds each time you do so, and seeing the caller ID or SMS right on the watch without having to get out your phone first may save you even more time.

I do not consider this essential or need to have though. Yes, it is nice if you can control music playback easier, or see how fast and far you have gone on your cycling trip in real-time, but those information are also readily available on your smartphone. You may not have access to it at all times though, but is there really a need for that?

The only thing that I really like about those watches is that they are waterproof to a degree. You can use the Pebble to swim for instance which can be useful to keep track of your progress in this regard.

There is something else that you need to consider. While watches run on battery traditionally, smartwatches require more power. The developers of the Pebble claim it will run for seven or more days, while Samsung's soon to be revealed Galaxy Gear smartwatch may only last for ten hours. This may not even get you through a whole work day or a day of trekking or other outdoor activities.

To sum it up:

  1. Smartwatches are bulky. Depending on how big your arms are, they may look out of place on the arm.
  2. Battery issues are a serious concern. One needs to wait for real-life independent tests though to find out how long these watches will last.
  3. Functionality-wise, there is not a lot that these watches bring to the table that smartphones do not. This includes being water-proof which can be interesting, and a faster way of accessing information and basic control over music that is more comfortable.

Closing Words

holographicI do not need a smartwatch, not right now anyway. Once they get to holographic displays, I may be interested but that is probably not going to happen in the next couple of years.

Smartwatches, just like phones and tablets, will evolve in the coming years. The first waves may be bulky, do not provide a lot of functionality, or run out of battery quickly, but technology will improve over time and third or fourth generation smartwatches may have a larger appeal than first generation watches have right now to me.

I may be biased towards watches in general, as I have not used one for the last ten years or so except on special occasions.

I'd like to know what you think about smartwatches. Are you interested in getting one as soon as they become available? If you do, please explain what you plan to use the watch for. Maybe I have overlooked something that may make those watches interesting to me after all.

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