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Review: 27″ Thunderbolt Display

15 Aug

Recently Apple revealed a new display called the ‘Thunderbolt Display” this of course reffering to the Thunderbolt port found on the  back of the monitor. There are a pluthora of features and to be quite frank at a glance the display is an iMac without some basic internals but in this article we take a more indef look into it’s purpose on our desk.

 The first feature of the Thunderbolt Display is of course the Thunderbolt I/O port itself. This is a great feature to have especially built into a monitor, it gives the monitor just soo much more purpose but sadly as we talked about in previous articles until some real incorporation of Thunderbolt I/O in consumer products comes, this is nothing more than an added but useless bonus.
 The next feature about the Thunderbolt Display is in my opinion the most exciting one. I’ve always been a fan of the iMac and frankly that’s because of how neat it is. With enough effort the iMac is almost cable free, the only cable that comes out of the iMac is the one cable that is required to power the iMac itself. Everything else is wireless and boy does it look stunning when there’s only one wire coming out of your desk. This exact feautre in the iMac is also the prime reason why I am not fond of Macbook setups. There are always too many wires, one for charging, one for the mouse, one for the keyboard and etc. Fortunately Apple is reducing the wire mess by releasing all of their peripherals as wireless models and now the wire mess is reducing but even then there are still way to many wires like charging etc. that come out of the Macbook but now if you have a Macbook you can both connect to your display and charge your Macbook using using only one wire, the Thunderbolt Display comes with a wire that has two ends, one that goes in the MagSafe Port and one that goes into the Display Port then these two connections join together and connect as one wire into your display and  then one wire comes out of your monitor to an outlet where the electricity from that outlet charges your laptop while powering the monitor. The fact that there is one less cable makes me so much happier. The rest of the input devices and peripherals are all wireless and the wire footprint is almost the same as the iMac which is to mine and I am sure many others pleasure! I really want to give Apple a pat on the back because these wireless peripherals and technologies that reduce wire mess are really making me happy. Another great thing about this is that when at work you can just leave your charger at home or in your bag and when leaving for home you don’t need to unplug it again just lift your Macbook slide into your bag and your done.
This display’s perhaps most noticable feature is the 27″ viewing area. This size is quite larger than many display’s on the market as other displays makers ususally stop manufacturing displays after 24″. The best thing about this display is that is powered by Light Emiting Diode technology (LED) and this time it’s true backlight LED not just side lit LED so the display is super bright and although you may not use it it brightness power to it’s full extent it is definitely a nice feature to have.
If you are big on sharing the screen then you maybe in luck, Apple quotes that the Thunderbolt Display has a 178° viewing angle. This is achieved by Apple’s well known display technology called IPS (in-plane-switching).
The Thunderbolt Display comes with it’s own pair of built-in speakers. This is great if you are looking to stay wire-free and but if you are looking for some serious sound you are probaly better off buying a separate set as these wont really do the job for you but if your casual music listener like I am then your probably okay with the speakers in the Display as they are actually not bad at all from what I was expecting.
I’ve switched to and from a couple displays in my lifetime and the one killer feautre I have always wanted was to have a built in Webcam and Microphone, fortunately the Thunderbolt Display delivers this and the quality is actually quite good, I was expecting something of laptop quality but, the sound from the microphone was crisp and without echos like on a laptop and although I felt the lighting could have been handeled better the Webcam was actually very nice and I was surprisingly impressed by how well it worked, I definitely think I would use it for more than just Facetime, perhaps to record a video or maybe even use it as the main camera in a live stream.
A helpful feature of the Thunderbolt Display is the built-in ambient lighting sensor, it measures the light in the room and adjusts the monitor’s brightness for the lighting condition. This is great because usually I have many different light sources in my room and I find myself often changing the settings to suit the lighting condition.
I have not too much of a need for this feature but in some of my situations it can still prove useful, this feature is the motion hinge. With the hinge you can easily change the  angle of the monitor from  -5 to 25 degrees. Although again I may not need it its definitely a feature I could very well see myself using.
Below are some advanced specifications of the display:

27-inch (diagonal viewable image size) thin film transistor (TFT) active-matrix liquid crystal display (LCD) with in-plane switching (IPS)

  • Resolution:2560 by 1440 pixels
  • Colors (maximum):16.7 million
  • Aspect ratio:16:9
    • Viewing angle:178° horizontal; 178° vertical
    • Brightness:375 cd/m2
    • Contrast ratio:1000:1
    • Response time: 12 ms
  • Cables

    • Built-in Thunderbolt cable
    • Built-in Universal MagSafe cable (up to 85W)

    Peripheral connections

    • Three powered USB 2.0 ports
    • FireWire 800 port
    • Gigabit Ethernet port
    • Thunderbolt port
    • Kensington security slot
  • In the Box
    • Apple Thunderbolt Display
    • AC power cord
    • Printed documentation
After experiencing and evaluating all the features of the Thunderbolt Display I believe it is a feature packed, quality display. It has many upsides to it and this display is an improvement both price and feature wise over the last  Cinema display. The Thunderbolt Display is great for many but unfortunately the price may not suit the average user.  The Thunderbolt Display is $999 coming in at what I think most people wouldn’t shell out for a display, if the price was at least $599 or something similar I would consider the display but the price is far to expensive unless of course your job is to create and design applications or something. I also feel it may not suit PC users as there are no VGA, DVI or HDMI input’s found on the display. For $999 the display is very nice and is feature packed but without basics like VGA, DVI and HDMI it’s not worth the money and even if the display had those ports I would estimate the display has to be priced around $620 for me to justify the purchase. Unless of course like I mentioned before, your job requires you to have such a high quality display in order for accuracy in quality. I really believe that Apple should ramp up more basic inputs into the display and make it more Mac and PC friendly, I also think Apple should lower the price of the display because at $999 and I know I keep saying this but truly it’s almost impossible to justify the purchase. I can’t recommend it to the general consumer audience but if you need this display for quality and accuracy in your work then go for it, because it’s HUGE and chalk full of awesomeness.

Logitech X-540 5.1 Speakers Review

5 Aug

Are you on a tight budget but want a great set of surround sound speakers? If you are, then Logitech has a great product for you! The Logitech X-540 5.1 surround sound system is a great sounding set that won’t break the bank. These speakers deliver phenomenal sound even though they only use 2” drivers in each satellite and a 5.25” subwoofer that pack a punch without using too much power, using only 75 watts RMS. They use the good old analog connections that are clearly indicated in green for the front left and front right channels, black for the rear left and rear right channels, and orange for the centre channel and subwoofer. At the back of the subwoofer is a power cable, a wired remote, and 5 RCA connections for each satellite. Each channel is colour labeled to their corresponding connector. The length of each cable is decent, but extensions may be required depending on your setup. Logitech has implemented Frequency Directed Drivers ² (FDD²) which is a key feature in the 2 drivers in each of the 5 satellites which comes to a total of 10 drivers not including the subwoofer. FDD² is used to help with your position in the surround setup. You don’t need to be absolutely centred in order to hear the sounds in the proper place which is similar to how 3D is used in movie theatres where everyone can see the image in 3D as they intended in any seat. With all of that said, let’s get on to the review.

I’ve owned these speakers for 10 months now and they sound as great as when I purchased them brand new, out of the box. They’re great for gaming, watching movies and of course listening to music. When they’re used for gaming, you can hear those guys coming up behind you on your favourite FPS or when you’re immersed in those cut scenes that make you feel like you’re in the game. I enjoy playing a game of Call of Duty once in a while and when I do that with these speakers, they have definitely helped me defeat the enemies without using a headset that can be uncomfortable after prolonged use. A lot of headsets are only stereo and use digital processing that isn’t true surround, but some higher end headsets have enough drivers in them that are dedicated for each channel. Although that may save a lot of space, it will likely cost more than the X-540s that also allow you to feel the explosions.

Watching movies using these speakers will allow you to enjoy an experience similar to a theatre depending on the rest of your setup of course. These speakers really show off their capabilities especially while watching an action packed movie such as the quite recent Transformers: Dark of the Moon when Optimus Prime fights his way through the Decepticons.

When you can’t watch movies, or want to listen to music while doing something else you can do that knowing that you have a great set of speakers with powerful bass. They aren’t really meant for your apartment especially if your flooring isnt very sound proof because when I crank the bass up, the people under me come complaining. Even though I can’t turn it up too loud without the neighbours complaining, I can still turn it up to an enjoyable listening level while keeping the neighbours happy. Grab these if you can even if they aren’t on sale because they are well worth every penny, from the excellent sound, to the convenience of having a remote that even has bass controls and a headphone output which mutes the speakers when you plug some in for private listening unless you have the money to use these speakers as an audio extension.

Thermaltake V4 Black Edition Review

5 Aug

Looking for a great looking case that doesn’t cost too much? Thermaltake offers their V series and we’ll be looking at the V4 Black Edition which has a lot to offer at a low price. Out of the box, it includes one 120mm blue LED fan, a small bag of screws, an intruction manual, and of course the case itself. The exterior is entirely black with a dust filtered, mesh front panel that allow great air flow. The front panel also features four 5.25” drive bays, two 3.5” drive bays with one taken up by two USB 2.0 ports, microphone in and audio out. Last but not least, there are a power and reset switch with the hard drive activity LED on the left and the power LED on the right. On the left side panel, there is a small window to see your CPU cooler and a vent for another 120mm fan. That side panel is held in place by two thumbscrews while the other side panel doesn’t have anything and is held in place by two regular screws. The best part about this case has to be the full black interior, hence the name “Black Edition”. This case has a bottom mounted power supply which I’m not used to because my previous case had a top mounted power supply instead. CPU cooler installation is very easy if you need to place a retention plate at the back of the motherboard because of a conveniently placed hole in the motherboard tray. There are two more places to put 120mm fans on the top, one in the front, and one at the bottom.One of the best features in this case is the tool-less design drive bays that allow you to just slide in your drive and lock it in place. The non tool-less bays probably won’t be used anyway, so there isn’t a need to worry about not having enough tool-less bays. There’s also a place at the bottom of the case where you can place your 2.5” drives such as SSDs and laptop drives if you so desire. Cable management is decent, but not great because there isn’t too much clearance between the edge of the motherboard tray where it curls in and the right side panel to hide cables when you close it, so be wary of that. Other then that, cable management can be accomplished fairly easily around the drive bays. There is enough clearance to install fairly large video cards, but not the higher end cards such as the HD 6970 or the GTX 580. Although that is what you are limited to, you probably wouldn’t look for a case like this if you are dishing out the cash to purchase a video card of such calibre.

This is a desirable case for a gamer that doesn’t need a huge case, but one that can fit all of their hardware that can be cooled more than adequately while maintaining a stylish look. At a price of only $39.99 depending on where you can find it, it’s almost a steal with such features that you wouldn’t even find on pricier cases.

Review: 2011 Mac Mini

28 Jul

Sleek aluminum design. Easy access to memory. A built-in power supply.
The new Mac mini makes the most of every square inch.

In sync with Apple’s release of OS X Lion comes a refresh of the Mac Mini line. The 2011 refresh had bold moves and powerful upgrades, read more to uncover additional details.

One of the biggest down fall’s with the previous Mac Mini is that although it wasnt meant to be a pro macine it didn’t   offer basic features, like being able to access the inside. Now with the new Mac Mini there is an easily removable  cover  that you can use to install new memory, perhaps a larger harddrive and there seems to be a way even to access  the Wifi chip if that is an important factor for you. May I add that even if its only the Mac Minis inside the inside of the machine still looks swell and just looks great. Unfortunatly other than basic access to parts there is no other real benefit to having the panel and although it would have been nice to had more acess to the inside it isnt really neccesary in the Mac Mini.

One of the main features I love about Apple products are the clean simple and functional designs at without a doubt Apple has incorporated that in the new Mac Mini and although it’s small upgrade in time you’ll be thankful it was there to start with. This feature is the built in powersupply and because the Mac Mini has one you will only see one cord coming out of the Mac and this quite nice with all the Apple wireless peripherals the only wires you’ll see are the wires to the monitor and electricity outlet which in the world of a clean freak is a dream come true. Again Apple nails the small touches.

The Mac Mini has now been updated to be significantly more funtional with a plutora of new ports, including a new Thunderbolt port as well as an SD card reader in the back, the headphone port also doubles as a microphone and speaker port. There is also the much needed addition of an HDMI port which I though should have been standard a long time ago seing as how the Mac Mini is often used as a media center. There is also a vent that allow air to go through. One thing I have never been fond of in the design of the Mac Mini is the location of the power button being in the back it’s really inconvient and although it’s was placed in that specific spot because of design reasons I really do wish that Apple could find a way to incorporate an on button at the front perhaps the on button could be the light sensor in the front, when you put your hands in front of the light it could turn on, similar to the touch sensitive button’s on older PS3s.

 

Take a closer look at the front of the Mac Mini…. Notice anything different? That’s right, there’s no opticial disk drive. This is a blod move coming from Apple but I have a feeling it’s a good one. With software avaible online along with digital media access in seconds for heaps lower than physical discs, digital is the future. This move is a bold design statement but with no real use for the superdrive there’s no real reason to have it and with updated preformance the Mac Mini can download and install the drivers for your new printer faster than you can take the software disc out of its case.  In any case if having an CD drive is important to you then Apple does offer an optional external “Super Drive“.

The Mac Mini is and for a long time has been a very effecient machine and for a long time the packaging has been minimal and so has the computer’s power consumption it’s self and now with the new Mac Mini on idle it consumer 13 watts less then when it’s on so for those who work of the computer this is deffenately affecient enough to save you a couple bucks on the monthly bill.

The new Intel core i5 come standard in the Mac Mini the lower end is clocked at 2.3ghz and there is another option for a core i5 clocked at 2.5ghz. If you feel your require even more power Apple’s top end Mac Mini houses at 2.7ghz intel core i7. This is phenomanal the pricepoint of a Mac Mini and may I mention that there are computers much bigger than the Mac Mini that dont even come close to specing it. Below are some benchmarks that compare how much faster the Mac Mini really is in comparasion to it’s predeccors.  I think it is also important to mention that these benchmarks are those of the Baseline Mac Mini.

Mac Mini processor preformance

CiniBenchMultiprocessor render | 2.1x

Modo3D render | 2.0x
 
MathematicaMathematicaMark8 | 1.8x
 
ApertureCommon application tasks | 1.8x

The 2.5ghz Mac Mini offers the ATI Radeon HD graphics processor with 256mb GDDR5 memory. This while not being superb is quite decent for a computer with such small form factor. I should also mention that with higher models come even more acceptable specs for graphics but if your a mainstream user than the 2.3ghz baseline Mac Mini offers the Intel HD graphics processor which for regular tasks and light gaming is more than enough.  Below we have some results of the Mac Mini`s speed imporvement over it`s last generation.

Mac Mini Graphics Performance

Portal | 2.0x
 
Portal 2 | 1.9x
 
Half-Life 2: Episode Two | 1.8x
 
StarCraft II | 1.6x

Apple has a long history of keeping peripharls such the mouse and keyboard wireless saving the desk mess this is acomplished via bluetooth and in Apple history there has been a long use of bluetooth. With the new Mac Mini you are assured an even more powerful bluetooth receiever for all your bluetooth peripherals. Another addition is wireless internet and although this is expected from Apple it`s a nice feautre to have in a desktop machine.

For the better or for the worse Apple minimalises on extra`s. With the Mac Mini all you get is the computer itself. This can be as I mentioned a good or bad thing depending on your situation.

Harddrive cutomizability has always been a plus about Apple and with the release of the new Mac Mini come`s some new hardrive options. The Mac mini comes with a 500GB hard drive or an optional 750GB hard drive. This is perfect for you to pack in your photo libraries, movies, music, files, and more. Choose the 256GB solid-state drive for your 2.5GHz Mac mini, and it will be even more responsive, boot up even faster, and launch applications in no time.

The coolest part of all of this is the fact that the Mac Mini is ready for you to let the lion lose right out of the box and by this I mean that the new Mac Mini out of the box comes with OS X Lion, which is an added bonus.

The Mac Mini is a great machine and starting at only $599 it`s definately afforable and it is defienately comparable to the PC on the market becuase of the starting price alone. It offer`s bold design changes and great preformance upgrades. I should also mention that the clean design especially with the power cord is a great bonus for many users. Unfortunately despite it`s pricetag I cant really warrant an upgrade unless you are a regular computer user who works directly of the computer. On the contrary it`s still remains a vaible option if you are looking for a begginer Mac and it`s great for Mainstream users looking to do everyday tasks.

If you are looking for additonal information about the new Mac Mini look no further than Apple`s website.

Review: 2011 Macbook Air

27 Jul

In harmony with Apple’s launch of OS X Lion Apple has released a revision to it’s Macbook Air line. It’s core focus with this revision was to create a more powerful Macbook Air while keeping the same design and making the price tag more affordable for mainstream consumers.

Design

The new Macbook Air is created based on Apple’s trademark unibody design as was the last one, the only exception with the new revised design is a little peep hole at the top of the case. This is for the FaceTime camera and Apple report’s that it’s smaller than the one inside of the iPhone and most probably it’s going to be around the same quality as the FaceTime camera inside the iPhone as well, and let me be clear that is NOT a compliment.

The new visual attraction of the Macbook Air apart from itself I would say is the signature illuminated keyboard, this is perfect for typing on a plane during the night and reading your favorite websites before you head to the sack. Of course it can be perfect for many other situations as well because with a built-in ambient lighting sensor it adjusts the brightness of the keyboard so it’s not a nuisance during the day when you really don’t require the back light and may I mention the sensor might become a useful tool when your looking to save some battery life.

Speaking of battery life because of smaller components inside the Macbook Air it is reported that the Macbook Air will give you around 5-7hrs of battery life which is phenomenal especially when paired with the seamless design of the Macbook Air itself. This is great for students, travelers, and in general people who frequently travel from destination to destination and need to be connected with their computers.  It can also be perfect for the average consumer who isn’t power hungry and is only looking for a light design and excellent battery life coupled with a whole plethora of features both hardware wise and software wise.

The overall exterior of the notebook itself is beautiful, its seamless design is great to hold and use, may I mention as well that its weight is unnoticeable at 2.38 pounds for the 11-inch  model and 2.96 pounds for  the 13-inch model.  It also houses the trademark Multi-Touch track pad in order to take full advantage of OS X Lion.

Performance

 Both the 11 and 13 inch models house the core i5 and core i7  processors. The clock speeds of these processors start at 1.8ghz and don’t go much higher. For the better or for the worse Apple took priority to battery life and the result is a processor clocked at comparatively low speeds in order to conserve battery life.

Fortunately Apple’s iconic  Thunderbolt i/o port saves the day with it’s incorporation in the Macbook Air. This is a great feature but unfortunately the truth is it’s really not going to be much use to you as there is no real incorporation of Thunderbolt in products just yet.

 In certain markets flash storage is becoming more and more popular and frankly it was expected that Apple’s Macbook Air would also have it. I must say though I am amazed by the flash store and the ability to put the Macbook Air on standby for 30 days and may I mention the ever so conveient instant bootup and application loading times.

Features

Apple is widely known for their detailed displays and the Macbook Air is no exception, the display measures a mere 4.86  millimeters (0.19 inch) thick and still the display I have to honestly say is great for reading websites, watching movies and creating documents.

The speakers are also quite decent the sound quality is not equivalent to that of an external speaker set but for being an ultra-thin notebook it’s quite good.

  Bluetooth and Wifi connectivity have for the  longest time been a big part of Apple’s design so it’s only logical that the MacBook Air features 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 technology.

The coolest part of the new Macbook Air is that it comes with a roaring Lion that is of course Mac OS X Lion. Honestly the Macbook Air 2011 model seems like a decent upgrade to the series although you may not spot that many differences in an in-def comparison for some people the new slight improvements on features and performance can warrant an upgrade and for the comparatively cheap starting price of $999 the features I mentioned coupled with the price can be all the reason to invest in the new Macbook Air and honestly if I had the opportunity I would definitely invest in one as well due to the portable form factor yet productive design.

If you are looking for additional details on the new Macbook Air click here.

Note: It is worth mentioning that this new Macbook Air is a replacement for the white plastic Macbook so if you are in general looking for a new starting Macbook the Macbook Air is your option . Also for those that need access to a CD Drive Apple sells a seperate accesory called the “Super Drive” that connects to the Macbook Air via USB.