The Kensington Orbit Optical Trackball with Scroll Wheel is, rather surprisingly, one of only a few trackballs with a built in scroll wheel / scroll ring. Most other, if not, all other, trackballs simply do not give you the ability to scroll through web pages and documents. The Logitech Marble Mouse (£24), which is (was?) my personal favourite has 2 additional buttons that allow you to go forwards and backwards through web pages, and others have more buttons, but a scroll wheel? No* (It comes from a time when mice didn’t always feature scroll wheels, and it seems to have taken a long time for trackballs to have caught onto the idea!). Thus when I saw the Kensington for sale at Best Buy UK, for £21, and cheaper than the internet, I simply had to try it. (* Yes, I realise others have scroll wheels, but I’m not a fan of thumb controlled trackballs, nor expensive trackballs)
I’ve had the Dell Streak for a couple of weeks now so the review is not an unboxing.
Here is how it looks:
I’ve read a lot about the Streak online and it tends to be the same everywhere. Those who’ve never seen it don’t get it, those who see it like it, those who own it are always being asked about it.
For a phone it’s big, almost comedy size, but despite the ability to make calls on it the Streak is sold as a tablet. The interface is set up in landscape mode and you can buy a data-only tariff. I bought it outright and got a 30 day rolling data contract. Other options are available, including 18/24 month deals or SIM free from Dell. Keep reading below…
The Toshiba Portege R500 – a couple of years ago – before the netbook world took off – the ultra compact Toshiba Portege R500 was a premium £1600+ laptop – it features a 1.2ghz (or 1.33ghz) core 2 duo processor, built in DVDRW, 12.1″ screen, wireless, 2gb ram, 160gb hd, and even the option of solid state hard drive, before these even were heard of. So it was a fully featured mini laptop rather than a stripped down large netbook. And what’s even more important, and relevant today, is that it is available for around £300 second hand on ebay, which is the price you will pay for a new mid-range netbook. But instead of minimal features, memory, and built to a budget price and build quality you get a premium ultra compact laptop, with premium features.
However, is it any good? Or would you be better off with a “modern” netbook with low power and efficiency built in? Or perhaps even a small laptop with a 12 or 13 inch screen? Continue reading below to find out…
Samsung T220 22-inch Widescreen LCD TFT Monitor, 2ms Response Time, Rose Black, 20000:1 Contrast Ratio DVI / VGA
Why buy one? (or two) It’s one of the cheapest 22″ TFT monitors available with both DVI and VGA (most of the cheaper ones only have VGA) – and you want DVI for the highest picture quality possible. It doesn’t have HDMI input or speakers – but you’ll probably need to spend another £30 or £40 if you want these features (see the Samsung SyncMaster 2494HS or newer for these features).
It’s got 84 reviews on Amazon UK, with an overall score of 4.5 / 5, even by Amazon standards – that’s pretty high! There’s more reviews on Ebuyer.com where the overall score is 5/5! Plus it’s only £129 from Amazon UK inc vat and free postage!
Specs and Features:
Ports: VGA / DVI / Power
Touch buttons: 1 for power only
Real buttons: Yes, on the side: Menu, Brightness, Up / Down, Source, Auto
Power light: Red (fades in and out heartbeat style when in power saving)
Warranty: 3 year warranty as standard
Panel: TN TFT Active Matrix, Dot Pitch / Pixel Pitch: 0.282 mm
Image Brightness 300 cd/m2
Image Contrast Ratio 20000:1 (dynamic)
Response Time 2 ms
Power AC 120/230 V ( 50/60 Hz )
Power Consumption Operational 45 Watt
Environmental Standards EPA Energy Star , EPEAT Silver
Display Positions Adjustments Tilt
Low Power Consumption (0.3W Power Off, Energy Saving Mode)
Contrast Ratio: DC 20,000:1(1000:1)(Typ.)
Resolution: 1680×1050 (WSXGA+)
Response Time: 2ms (GTG)
Viewing Angle (Horizontal/Vertical): 170˚/160˚ (CR>10)
Dead pixels? No. Check yours with DeadPixelBuddy, but you do get a very nice screen cleaning cloth with the monitor.
Screen finish: Matte – this means very low reflection, and even on bright days the screen is bright and easily viewable.
Quality: Crisp – pixels are very crisp, sharp, clear. Colour appears to be very good, bright colourful, not TOO bright, not luminous. Black appears to be good. Will check colour performance more fully when I calibrate the monitor. After calibration – there was little difference – the pre-calibrated image was perhaps a little too bright, with a slightly magenta / blue cast.
Looks: Did I mention it looks AWESOME? Has a very stylish glass effect surround – that’s perhaps a bit too reflective – but looks very cool.
Tilting base. The screens a bit wobbly – not sure why? It’s like the metal plate doesn’t clip in properly into the monitor. Seems a shame that this is not more sturdy.
Energy saving – the labelling on the monitor is quite subtle and barely noticeable in dim lighting. The monitor comes with all needed cables: power, VGA, and DVI.
Back – things it says on the box: “Samsung Design that performs, 20000:1 Dynamic Contrast, Vivid Moving Picture. 2ms Fast Response Time. 0.3W softPower OFF, lowest Stand by Power.” and “SyncMaster T220 22″ Wide TFT – LCD Monitor, Up to 1680 x 1050 (WSXGA+) Windows Vista Premium Certification”
Neat cable cover clips onto the back. Really there is very little to dislike about this monitor – maybe speakers would be nice to have – but it would add to the price, and you get better sound quality from headphones or dedicated speakers anyway. It’s a great monitor, at a great price. Highly Recommended!
Video Playback looks great
All cables included
Screen cleaning cloth included – nice unexpected bonus
Very good colour
Very good image quality
Looks very good / stylish
Good viewing angle
No dead pixels
Only £129 from Amazon UK inc vat and free postage!
View larger pictures and photos of the Samsung SyncMaster T220 in the Gallery
Samsung SyncMaster T220 (Left) next to Samsung SyncMaster 2494HS (Right):
What is it? Roxio Easy VHS to DVD available for £39 from Amazon UK, lets you “Create DVD movies from your VHS tapes and Hi8 or V8 home videos” or alternatively it lets you “Transfer video tape formats to your PC or DVD” – you don’t have to put them on DVD if you don’t want to, you can put them on your PC first and edit them or re-arrange them first.
What does it need? USB2 socket, video inputs: Composite video (RCA) and S-Video (mini-DIN), audio inputs: stereo audio (RCA x 2).
In the box you’ll find: a USB dongle, a USB extension cable, USB audio / s-video / composite lead, software CD rom (with cd key), instruction manual, and warning card telling you to plug to dongle in first before installing the software.
PC minimum requirements: Windows Vista / XP with 1ghz CPU, 512mb ram, DX9 gfx card, sound card, DVD-rom drive, 2gb free HD space for install, Windows media player 10 or higher, CD writer for VCD, SVCD and DVD writer for DVD, IE7, one available USB2 socket.
Install: 15 minutes to install. Seems to go very slowly and seems like it’s crashed during the install – patience is a virtue as they say.
Problems: Plugging in the USB dongle AFTER installing the software CD will cause problems. The USB dongle should be plugged in BEFORE installing the software. If you do it the wrong way round and the computer says “Driver not found”, then go to http://www.roxio.com/go/videousb and download the usb dongle driver – installing this should fix it.
Another potential problem you may get is the “Signal protected” error message even though the signal is not copy-protected. There is a fix for this from roxio available here (although so far I have not had to use this).
And some more problems I left the capture running, came back to find the video out of line, unplugging the usb dongle and reconnecting crashed the PC completely and it rebooted. Later I recaptured some more video went to close Roxio Media Import, and it crashed.
Using the software The program starts with a friendly wizard with the following options: Capture video, plug and burn, digitize lps and tapes, burn audio cds, burn mp3 cds, capture audio from soundcard. You can also select additional menus from the left – the one I’ve been using is the Video – Movies menu. The program comes with a software manager that will let you know when any critical or important updates are available.
Capturing video using Roxio Media Import – Capture settings – You have various options – DV 720×576 (AVI), DVD HQ (720×576, MPEG2 8mbps), DVD SP (352×576, MPEG2 4mbps), DVD LP (352×288, MPEG1, 1.7mbps), VCD (352×288, MPEG1, 1.12mbps) – none of them say “VHS-PAL” which you would think would be the most suitable option so that you are using the most accurate and efficient capture method. This would also enable the most efficient use of hard drive space. Why encode it as DVD quality or higher?
Making DVDs: After capturing the video you can: Edit the video using Roxio VideoWave and / or then turn it into a DVD using Roxio MyDVD. This is fairly straightforward, however, as soon as you start a new project in MyDVD, it automatically adds hideous buttons, background pictures, and music, and then everytime you add a video file to it, it uses the same horrible buttons, similar to “WordArt”. Changing it is thankfully quite straightforward – and results can turn out quit well (as can be seen above). After it re-encodes the video to fit the DVD, and writes it to the DVD, you can then use “Create labels” to create the DVD label, and print out a Lightscribe label.
Additional features / thoughts The dongle also lets you capture audio “LPs and Audio Tapes” according to the box. (Although your sound card probably already lets you do this, but I guess it’s a nice marketing sticker they can put on the box). You may already have S-video on your graphics card, which may have let you capture VHS / video without having to buy this dongle, assuming you have the right card / cable and software.
Overall: Roxio Easy VHS to DVD does what it says on the box, assuming you can get past the potentially numerous problems, or assuming you don’t have as many problems as me! Reviews on Amazon UK are mixed with some people having success, others much less. The price, at £39, is reasonable, with other solutions (Magix Rescue Your Videotapes also comes with a USB dongle) priced almost identically. It’s difficult to come to a succinct conclusion, it worked for me, but the number of problems myself and many others have faced make it difficult to recommend. I tested this with a high performance PC (Quad core, 4gb ram, 500gb hard drive etc), running Windows XP SP2, and would have expected slightly better performance.
What is it? A full HD 16:9 1920 X 1080 (aka 1080p) 24″ TFT computer monitor with DVI / VGA and HDMI inputs and built in speakers for £195 including VAT from ebuyer.com. It’s sold as a 24″ monitor, but it’s actually 23.6 inches.
Is it any good? Yes – image quality is good with crisp clear pixels, and calibration using a Spyder 3 Pro (shown above in the first photo) made a slight change (making the image warmer, and slightly darker). It’s got a matte screen so there is minimal reflections from lights etc.
Why choose this over other monitors? I personally chose this one because I wanted 1080p for a PS3 using HDMI, plus the speakers are rated at a MASSIVE 😉 6w (2x 3w) – whereas some other similar (Iiyama) monitors deliver even less power from their speakers – the monitor has an audio jack in (for sound from the PC) plus a speaker / headphone socket (all the ports are at the back). Plus this was one of the cheapest TFT monitors with HDMI input.
Design / Looks: The black plastic casing is almost entirely matt – apart from a loop that runs all the way around the monitor including along the bottom where the touch sensitive “buttons” are. The speaker location is a little bit poor in that they point directly down, so in order to get the sound to your ears you’d really need to mount some deflectors or something to bounce the sound towards you, although saying that, I don’t know where else they could have mounted them without making the monitor appear more bulky.
Positives? Value for money, ability to take 3 inputs (including HMDI blu-ray, ps3, or xbox360), good screen. 5ms response and 50,000:1 dynamic contrast according to the specs. Comes with VGA / DVI and audio cables but no HDMI cable.
Any negatives? Quite a thick border around the screen compared to most Dell TFTs. The speakers seems adequate at best – poor for listening to music and probably not loud enough to be used in a living room. The touch sensitive buttons are practially invisible in low light – and difficult to use as there is no feedback when compared to normal buttons. Fairly small viewing angle. It would be nice if black was a little blacker – there is a tiny amount of backlight bleed. Base is a little small.
Overall: This is one of the cheapest 24″ TFT 1080p monitors available with speakers and HDMI built in. Not only that, but it offers excellent image quality, with zero dead / hot pixels. If you want a 16:9 aspect ratio then this would make an excellent choice.
Update Nov 09: looks like the Samsung 2494HS is getting rarer to find (discontinued? / replaced by newer model?) – so you might want to look at the ASUS 24″ VH242H Wide Gaming LCD TFT Monitor (5ms, Full HD, HDMI, Black).
£31 from Amazon UK – this provides Nero 9 + Nero BackItUp 4 plus a trial of Nero Home 4. It comes in a big box containing the usual size DVD case – so isn’t especially environmentally friendly when it comes to the packaging.
Installation attempt 1 failed at 2% with Nero installer crashing, and a reboot was required. (Although it did manage to install a Lightscribe control panel that now lives in the taskbar).
Installation attempt 2 was successful using the typical installation settings (although it appears you need to perform a custom install to get all the Movie templates – which are useful if you use Nero Vision). This seemed a little slow – taking around 20 minutes on my PC which has 2 500GB hard drives, a Quad Core processor, and 4GB of ram, so I dread to think how slow it would be on older machines! Installation did not require a restart of the PC at the end of installation, which was an unexpected bonus.
The installation put two icons on the desktop – one of them a Lightscribe icon – the other a Nero StartSmart icon, it also put the Nero and Lightscribe icons in the taskbar (the Lightscribe icon can be easily removed). Opening StartSmart gave me a wizard making it easy to choose what I wanted to do, and I was quickly and quite easily able to burn an audio CD from MP3s on my hard drive, and anyone familiar with StartSmart should be familiar with the way Nero 9 works. I also had no problems making a DVD from files on my hard drive – Nero Vision worked well and let me arrange the menu, and then Lightscribe let me print the disc label. Overall, apart from the slow install and initial glitches which seem to have been caused by me not restarting my PC, Nero 9 seems fine and does the job well. I installed this on Windows XP SP2. (from joshwaller.co.uk)
The Vostro 1510 from Dell.com/uk – £316 including VAT and Postage (with £50 off, plus a further 10% off). It’s very dark in colour, and not very shiney from this angle. After the faulty advent I think I’ve finally got a bargain of a laptop to replace the Inspiron 1300.
The laptop scores well in Vista, although is let down slightly by the graphics, and 3D graphics scores. Aero is supported, but scores would be higher if a dedicated graphics card was chosen. The Vista experience scores are: CPU: 4.8, RAM: 4.8, GFX: 3.5, 3D GFX: 3.5, HD: 5.1 – giving an overall score of 3.5.
The Dell Vostro 1510 features a 1.8ghz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 250GB HD (WD), Vista Home Premium, DVDRW (slot loading TEAC), 15.4″ widescreen, SD/MMC/MS/Pro memory card reader, 4 USB ports, WIFI (plus physical on/off switch), Firewire, a shiney sparkly black lid, a catchless closing mechanism (magnets? weighted shut?), a nice blue circuit board with easy access to the CPU and memory.
Some pros and cons, starting with the pros:
+ EXCELLENT price!
+ Good screen, clear, bright
+ Good sound (quite loud for a budget laptop)
+ Little installed software (Google gadgets, toolbar easily removed)
+ Very easy to access memory, CPU etc
+ Quiet – very little fan noise (as far as I can tell)
+ Plays Spore
– \backslash key is next to the forward slash key on the right!
– Mouse buttons are too deep – it’s like pressing a key (I prefer a firmer click)
– Drivers out of date according to Windows update.
– lacks a scroll wheel (some games require this)
originally posted Sep 2008 (on another site)