Rabu, 16 Februari 2011

ASUS U41JF-A1 Full Review

The ASUS U41JF is a thin-and-light 14-inch notebook with powerful Nvidia graphics and excellent battery life. Combine that with a good Intel Core i3 processor and a price tag of less than $900. What’s not to like? Keep reading to find out.

Our ASUS U41JF-A1 review unit has the following specifications:

  • 14-inch 720p (1366x768) glossy panel with LED backlighting
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Intel Core i3-380M dual-core processor (2.53GHz, 3MB L3, 4.8GT/s QPI, 35W TDP)
  • Intel HM55 chipset
  • Switchable graphics via Nvidia Optimus technology:
  • Nvidia GeForce GT 425M w/ 1GB DDR3 memory
  • Integrated Intel HD graphics
  • 4GB DDR3-1066 dual-channel RAM (2x 2GB)
  • 500GB 5400RPM Western Digital hard drive (WD5000BEVT)
  • Atheros AR9285 802.11n wireless LAN
  • 2-year global limited warranty with 1 year accidental damage coverage
  • 8-cell battery (14.4V, 5800mAh, 85Wh)
  • Weight: 4.8 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 13.5 x 10 x 1.1 inches
  • MSRP: $849

The U41JF-A1 has respectable specifications for the money, especially considering all this is packed into a 14-inch laptop that measures just 1.1 inches thin. The Nvidia GT 425M graphics card is more than powerful enough to run the latest games. The two-year warranty coverage is notable and it includes one year of accidental damage protection; similar coverage is extra on competing notebooks.

Build and Design
The ASUS U41JF's silver and black chassis is unlikely to turn heads though it still looks good in its own right. The silver brushed aluminum lid is especially attractive and feels cool to the touch. As mentioned earlier, the chassis is just 1.1” thin; the lid is one of the thinnest I have seen on a notebook in any size range. The U41JF feels a bit heavier than expected due to its large 8-cell battery; it came in at 4.8 lbs. on my digital scale.

Something I like about the U41JF's appearance is the relative lack of LED status lights; there is just the power button on the top right and four small lights below the touchpad buttons. However, the power button is too bright in a dark room (as is the light on the power adapter). On a related note, the U41JF lacks physical buttons; volume up and down buttons would have been appreciated.

Aside from the aluminum-backed lid, the rest of the U41JC is constructed of plastic. ASUS made the unfortunate decision to use black glossy plastic for the screen surround and keyboard area. Dust and fingerprints show up no matter what; keeping this notebook clean is a challenge. Durability is not one of the U41JF's fortes either; despite my careful use of a microfiber cloth, fine scratches appeared in the glossy plastic surface.

The U41JF has below average build quality for a notebook in this price range; it is apparent some compromises were made in order to make it this thin. The chassis suffers from an abnormal amount of flex; for example, pressing down on the surfaces around the keyboard with even slightly more than normal pressure makes the entire chassis bend inward. The chassis is also easy to twist by grabbing the front two corners, which is not good; the chassis should be a lot stiffer to prevent any motion transferring to the circuit boards inside. Circuit boards that are allowed to bend have a higher risk of failure in the long term.

Fit and finish is inconsistent. The silver plastics used in the palm rest seem to be of better quality than the black glossy plastic. Tapping on the surface of the notebook with my fingernail produced cheap sounds and some rattling noises depending on where I tapped.

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Sabtu, 12 Februari 2011

Acer Aspire 1830T Timeline X

If you want a netbook because of the convenient size and amazing battery life but need better multitasking and video performance than what a cheap netbook offers then the Acer Aspire 1830T might be the perfect notebook for you. Keep reading to see what this $900 ultraportable offers.

Our Acer Aspire 1830T-68U118 feastures the following specifications:

  • Intel Core i7 680UM processor (1.46GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
  • 11.6-inch 1366x768 HD display with LED backlighting
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • 4GB DDR3 memory
  • 500GB 5400rpm HDD
  • Intel HD integrated graphics
  • Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n wireless
  • Bluetooth 3.0 (Foxconn BCM92046)
  • 6-cell Li-ion battery
  • Dimensions: 11.22 (w) x 8.03 (d) x1.01-1.10 (h) inches
  • Weight: 3.09 pounds
  • MSRP: $899.99

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Selasa, 08 Februari 2011

Toshiba's Satellite M645-4055: For the Mainstream Gamer

If you're looking for a mainstream, all-purpose laptop with above-average gaming capabilities, the 6-pound Toshiba Satellite M645-S4055 is a worthy, albeit pricey, contender for your computing dollars. It has top-notch input ergonomics, snappy performance, excellent sound, some nice usability flourishes, and a reasonable size for travel. It retails for about $1049 (as of August 27, 2010), but you can sometimes find it online for just under $1000.

The M645-S4055, along with most of Toshiba's other M645 configurations, uses Intel's Core i5 450M CPU. An nVidia GeForce GT 330M GPU with 1GB of dedicated GDDR3 memory is the source of its gaming prowess, as well as the reason the S4055 is the priciest of the company's M645 configurations.

The least-expensive configuration, the M645-S4045 model, opts for the cheaper Intel Core i5 350M CPU. All the M645 configurations, including the S4055, come standard with 4GB of DDR3 memory, a 500GB hard drive, and the same bright, crisp, 14-inch, 1366-by-768-pixel display.

The array of ports on the M645-S4055 is roughly the current industry standard: two dedicated USB 2.0 ports, gigabit ethernet (wireless is 802.11n), VGA, HDMI, and a combination eSATA/USB 2.0 port. That last port is always-on, so you can use it to charge a cell phone or another gadget without leaving the laptop powered on. You'll also find an SD Card/Memory Stick reader and a slot-fed DVD burner--a rare bird this side of a MacBook.

If you like your keyboards quiet, you'll like the one on the Satellite M645-S4055. It's a semi-Chiclet design with good tactile feedback but a slightly muffled sound. Although I like clicks, I was still able to establish a nice typing rhythm with this unit. The keyboard is backlit, which can be handy in dim lighting situations; but depending on where you are in relation to the unit, the light bleeding from underneath the keys can be distracting. If you don't like the effect, pressing Fn-Z toggles it off and on (unfortunately, the machine offers no dimming, which might have been equally useful). The touchpad is responsive, and the buttons are nicely placed; on our test machine, however, the left button developed a squeak after only a modicum of use.

Toshiba touts the M645-S4055's audio quality, and thanks to the Dolby Advanced Sound and Harman/Kardon speakers, its sound is indeed well above average. The highs are crisp and clear, and turning on the SRS WOW effect in Windows Media Player creates an unusually spacious sound field that is especially noticeable in movies. Alas, while it offers decent lower midrange punch, the M645-S4055 is lacking in resonant low bass tones--as is just about every laptop on the market, with the exception of Toshiba's own Qosmio series.

As for video, a 14-inch display is on the small side for today's market, but it provides plenty of usable brightness and it fits the system nicely. The GeForce GT 330M GPU helped all our videos, including full 1080p items, play as smoothly as we could wish. The Webcam is low-res and nothing to write home about.

The M645-S4055's battery life, at 3 hours and 27 minutes, is quite good for a laptop that turned in a WorldBench 6 performance score of 104. As mentioned above, the machine also proved a capable gaming system, with Unreal Tournament frame rates in the range of 80 to 90 frames per second in medium detail, and in the 60s in high detail.

Though the M645-S4055 turned in good WorldBench 6 numbers, the unit feels sluggish until the Windows 7 Home Premium OS has been up and running for a minute or so. That happens largely because Windows 7 shows its desktop before it finishes loading everything--and Toshiba is one of those vendors that make sure it has plenty to load. We saw a whopping 14 Toshiba-branded apps loading at boot time. Some are necessary or useful, such as the hard-drive shock protection and online backup programs, but more merely duplicate existing Windows functionality. Eliminating some of these, as well as dumping useless third-party boot apps, with msconfig.exe added a lot of pep to the M645-S4055's step.

The Toshiba Satellite M645-S4055 is the beefiest of the M645 series; and if you like to play games occasionally, it's worth the extra bucks. It does just about everything proficiently and is small enough to travel well.

Samsung Series 8 UN55C8000: An Outstanding HDTV

The Samsung UN55C8000 delivers excellent video and audio, plus a ton of well-designed Internet and media player features--for a hefty fee.

Samsung again advances to the head of the class with the 55-inch model in its Series 8 line of LED-backlit 1080p LCD TVs. The ultrathin, sleek-looking Samsung UN55C8000 delivers terrific images, solid audio, great support for multimedia playback, and superb connected-TV features. It also supports 3D content, a feature that is likely to become increasingly important in the next few years.

Samsung again advances to the head of the class with theSeries 8 line of LED-backlit 1080p LCD TVs. The ultrathin, sleek-looking Samsung C8000 series delivers terrific images, solid audio, great support for multimedia playback, and superb connected-TV features. It also supports 3D content, a feature that is likely to become increasingly important in the next few years.

All this goodness doesn't come cheap, however, since it's suggested retail price makes the C8000 one of the more expensive HDTVs lines. You can certainly findgood sets for a lot less these days. But if your wallet can take the hit, the C8000 series will repay you by delivering pretty much the best of everything you can get in a current high-end HDTV.

In our juried image-quality tests, the C8000 series achieved some of the highest scores we've ever seen--across the board and for all content types. Judges were especially blown away by the set's contrast, brightness, and color: Written comments included praise such as "great color," "beautiful detail," and "awesome." We did observe some small motion artifacts in the Blu-ray Disc clips for The Dark Knight, and some slight shadows in a panning test betrayed the set's use of edge-lit LED technology; but whatever secret sauce Samsung used to deal with the common problem of uneven lighting that afflicts edge-lit panels worked so well that the C8000 series outperformed sets using pricier full-array LEDs (which also tend to make sets thicker).

Overall, the C8000 handled motion exceptionally smoothly, as we'd expect from an LCD TV with a 240Hz refresh rate. It also aced our tests for jaggies and video resolution, underscoring how brilliantly the C8000 series handles image quality. It does this without gobbling up very much energy, too. In our tests, the 55-inch model averaged one of the lowest energy consumption rates we've recorded for a set of comparable size.

But there's plenty more to like, starting with the C8000's super-skinny profile. To keep the set so slim, Samsung introduced some unusual design elements, including adapter cables for connecting a coaxial cable (for an antenna or cable TV) and an ethernet cable (to connect the set to your home network). The coaxial adapter cable was especially helpful, eliminating the contortions required to reach the conventional coaxial port in some sets, let alone those required to hold the cable steady while screwing it in. The end of the adapter cable slid onto its input on the set in a matter of seconds.

Aside from the aforementioned ethernet and coax inputs, the C8000 series has a fairly standard set of inputs and outputs: four HDMI (all in the back of the unit); one component; one composite; one PC input (D-Sub); PC and DVi audio inputs; and optical digital and headphone outputs. The set also has two USB ports, so you can use one to add a Wi-Fi adapter (an extra-cost networking option) and the other ro accommodate a flash drive containing media you wish to play back.

The Series 8 remote looks as cool as the set, with an unusual touch-sensitive, brushed-metal surface, but it's not very user-friendly. For instance, there's a button to turn on lighting for the remote, but the lighting was difficult to see--and the touch-sensitive surface doesn't provide the tactile cues you get from more-traditional buttons. Still, in a well-lit room you should have no difficulty finding the keys you need: The remote makes switching inputs, accessing content, and running Internet apps a breeze, with dedicated buttons for these functions. Meanwhile, a Tools button affords easy access to frequently used settings.

Samsung's on-screen menus haven't changed much in the Series 8: They're still among the best looking and most intuitive we've seen. A standard first-time use wizard gets you up and running fairly quickly, and initiates the usual channel scan if needed.

Samsung packages a wide array of Internet content for its customers, including most major commercial streaming-media services and numerous social media sites, plus assorted news, sports, and games--and even Skype (you'll need a Webcam with a mic to handle video calls, though). You must download some of these items (the games, for example) as Samsung Apps, and you must pay for some of them (in addition to maintaining whatever accounts the media services require). Be prepared to invest a fair amount of time into setting things up, especially in the case of services such as Netflix and YouTube, which have log-in and activation requirements that are somewhat cumbersome to complete when you use the remote's numeric keypad for data entry.

One nice feature of the set is its ability to store log-in credentials for multiple services in profiles for different users in a single household. To get to your Facebook, YouTube, or other account, simply log in to your profile on the set.

Samsung also offers a very polished media player, with support for streaming media from DLNA-compliant media servers on your home network as well as for content from a USB flash drive. The player can handle numerous media formats, and it offers advanced features for sorting content and displaying slideshows. The set also supports picture-in-picture for different inputs, so you can keep an eye on a sportscast while watching a Blu-ray movie, for example.

The simulated surround-sound audio from the set's two 15-watt speakers was surprisingly robust for such a thin device, though the absence of a subwoofer made for somewhat anemic bass tones. Still, the set produced a pleasing audio soundtrack for Phantom of the Opera on Blu-ray Disc.

Samsung provides a serviceable setup sheet and a 67-page printed manual (bound together with French and Spanish versions), both of which are available for download online. The Website also has an downloadable setup guide for Skype. The manual explores the set's many functions in depth, but would have benefited from more illustrations.

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