Lightroom is tailored for photographers who often don’t need or want the robust image-manipulation tools offered by the pricier Photoshop. From its outset, Lightroom presented photographers with a logical, clean workflow that facilitated photo improvements rather than alterations.
Lightroom 2 added 64-bit support and some refinements—welcome, certainly, but the second version didn’t seem like much more than an incremental update. Lightroom 3, on the other hand, adds a couple of killer features—lens correction and improved noise reduction, namely—that really boost its worth.
When AVG’s Anti-Virus Free Edition 9.0 didn’t make the cut of our AV roundup in May, a football stadium full of readers let us know of the injustice. We’re not really surprised by this, considering that AVG was once the hands-down favorite among free virus scanners. At one time heralded for both its excellent detection rate and small footprint, AVG has since fallen out of favor somewhat, partly because of its perceived bloat, but also because competitors’ AV products have stepped up their game. So where does that leave AVG today?
After 9.5 versions of Photoshop (Windows wasn’t supported until PS 2.5) it’s easy to become jaded about Adobe’s stalwart photo editor. Fortunately, Photoshop CS5 gives us something to get worked up about all over again.
Packing more than 250 new features, Photoshop CS5 is an amazing upgrade capable of performing a wide range of tasks we’ve never seen before, while simultaneously simplifying the trademark tasks we’ve come to know and love.
A Guide to Maximum PC Verdicts Have you ever wondered what separates a “6” verdict from a “7;” or questioned why a product earned a “9,” but was denied our revered Kick Ass award? Here’s the reasoning behind our editorial verdicts.
When we ran our annual antivirus roundup in the May 2010 issue, many of you wrote in asking why we didn’t include Product X or Product Y. Fair question, so here’s the deal: We could have filled an entire issue reviewing just AV products, but that would have grown old by about page 32. Rather than do that, we’re devoting space each month to cover apps that didn’t make the cut, and CA Internet Security Suite is first up to bat.
After we installed CA ISS, it quickly became apparent that power users are not the target demographic. CA took a wrecking ball to last year’s version and completely redesigned the UI in an attempt to “eliminate the technobabble that makes PC security difficult to understand and control,” but in doing so, it made it needlessly tedious to poke around under the hood. The main interface consists of four index card–shaped menus that you can cycle through like a tie rack. Sounds easy enough, but if you want to set up a scan schedule, for example, you’ll need to bring up the My Computer card, click the Update Settings link, highlight the Threat Settings tab, and then scroll to the bottom. You’ll fumble around like this until you get accustomed to the interface, and when you do, you’ll discover there’s not a whole lot to play with. Strike one.
There remains a legion of XP users who regard Redmond’s nearly decade-old OS as the holy grail of operating systems. And before Windows 7 emerged, we would have agreed, but what XP loyalists seem to forget is just how susceptible to Internet threats their beloved OS was in the early days. Sure, it came with a built-in firewall, but before the second Service Pack, it wasn’t turned on by default, and it was never able to monitor outbound traffic.
Enter Comodo, a company that built a following among enthusiasts for its excellent firewall. A lot has changed since then (including much better firewall integration in Windows), and it would be a mistake to peg Comodo as a one-trick pony. Comodo’s full-fledged security suite is more of an anti-malware stallion, and if overall scan speed were the Kentucky Derby, this would be the thoroughbred to bet on.
Panda shredded every threat we threw at it with the ferocity of, well, anything but a panda bear. Spyware, Trojans, potentially unwanted programs (PUPs)—you name it, Panda pounced on it like a hungry dog that had been thrown a meaty bone.
This particular Panda can also be a little bit needy. By default, Panda alerts you to every activity under the sun, even benign attempts by your home network to connect to your PC. Over time, the pop-ups settle down considerably, and for the ones of a more serious nature—like those alerting you to a real threat or virus attack—Panda makes it easy to adjust both the transparency and longevity of the pop-ups. Still, we wish Panda would take more initiative and not bother us with so many alerts.
Ever been blindsided by what you thought was love at first sight, but turned out to be just another pretty face? Eventually you find yourself at a crossroads having to decide whether to break things off, or stick around for the fast ride and ignore the flaws.
Such is the position BitDefender puts you in, and you’ll ultimately have to make the same decision. Right off the bat we encountered a couple red flags of things to come, including a somewhat lengthy install time requiring a restart, and mandatory registration in order to activate the license.
Once we got past the initial awkwardness, BitDefender proceeded to sweep us off our feet by tailoring itself to our needs. BitDefender’s configuration wizard asks you to select from four different layouts based on what type of user you are, including Typical, Parent, Gamer, or Custom. Should you later change your mind, you can rerun the wizard with a click of the mouse.
Trend Micro should come with a warning label that reads, “Caution: May be hazardous to your system’s boot time, overall performance, and system security. Use at your own risk.”
Instead, Trend Micro promises “the most comprehensive, easy-to-use protection for your personal data,” which just isn’t true. We have so many complaints its tough to decide where to begin, so let’s start with system performance.
Trend Micro added more than half a minute to our test bed’s boot time—long enough for some PC components to become obsolete. It also turned in the lowest PCMark score, although there were other products with scores nearly as bad.
When McAfee told us it completely re-engineered its security suite from top to bottom, we agreed to include it in this roundup knowing full well we had probably been duped like the guy who drives off the used-car lot without a warranty. We were wrong.
To our eyes, this is a completely revamped McAfee. MIS 2010 rolls off the lot with a much-improved UI over previous versions, and manages to balance ease of use with a high level of customization. For those who care to do so, McAfee makes it easy to dig deeper into each of the main menu’s modules, but you’ll never feel lost or overwhelmed.
Underneath the hood sits a more performance-oriented engine than what you would expect from a McAfee product. Where last year’s version felt like a dilapidated Pinto, the 2010 model has all the makings of a sporty sedan. To reduce the time it takes to scan a system, McAfee caches files and puts together a white list of files it can safely skip. Depending on how clogged your hard drive is, McAfee claims this can result in up to eight-times-faster scans (we saw a 50 percent improvement).