Ever heard the phrase, “Do one thing, and do it well?” Hitachi surely has. The company took that advice, considered it, threw it out the window, and released an external backup drive bundled with a media suite that does many things—some of them potentially interesting, but none of them particularly well. The Hitachi LifeStudio Plus is an external backup drive with an interesting dock, a cool companion USB key, and a clunky, awkward integrated software suite.
The hardware itself is attractive, in a retro, family-friendly sort of way. It consists of a black (or white) docking station that holds a removable 2.5-inch external drive (in tasteful grey and light blue, graphite, or white), and a 4GB USB flash drive. The removable hard drive slots onto a mini-USB connector, but the flash drive connects magnetically. When connected, the drive automatically syncs with a folder or folders of your choice. Ideally. In practice, it’s very good at syncing files from your computer to the flash drive, but it doesn’t work the other way. Despite checking the requisite boxes on the settings menu, the so-called “MyKey” refused to copy files from the flash drive to the folder it was allegedly synched to, which makes the whole thing much less useful than it should be.
We’ve seen our share of miniature PCs over the years. They generally get smaller, more power-efficient, and quieter—but they never seem to get faster.
Take eMachine’s ER1402 machine, for example. This unique-looking, pedestal-mounted machine is the epitome of the original “nettop” concept: a low-power PC designed almost exclusively to browse the web. And that’s about all you can do with its single-core, low-clock chip.
OCZ Technology is on a roll. While most consumer SSD manufacturers are content to just slap the latest controller and some NAND into a 2.5-inch enclosure and call it a day, OCZ has been pumping out innovative products, from top-of-the-heap SATA SSDs to the blistering-fast (and stylish) USB 3.0 Enyo drive. Now it has introduced the RevoDrive, a PCI-E SSD in capacities from 50GB to 480GB. Though it’s not the first PCI Express SSD (Fusion-io’s been making enterprise-level PCI-E SLC devices for years), it is the first bootable consumer PCI-E SSD. OCZ claims the RevoDrive can hit up to 540MB/s reads and 450MB/s writes, which sounds like nonsense. But is it?
In honor of the 25 years Toshiba has been making laptops—starting with the T1100 in 1985—Toshiba is dubbing its new R700 an “anniversary” system. The laptop is the newest addition to Toshiba’s venerable Portégé line of business ultraportables. It follows on the heels of last year’s R600, which received a 9/Kick Ass in our August 2009 issue, and the R500 before that.
But the R700 differs from those two models in some pretty significant ways—Toshiba says this represents a new direction that will be mimicked in all of its laptops going forward. For one thing, the R700 isn’t as wafer-thin as the R500/600, although it still sports a very slim profile at just a tad over one inch thick, and weighs a mere three pounds. The chassis is reinforced with an internal honeycomb design and features a magnesium-alloy top with an attractive anodized black finish. Even when held by one corner, the laptop feels sturdy and rigid.
As one of the few players in the all-in-one liquid-cooling market—which marks the midpoint between air-coolers and custom water-cooling loops—CoolIT’s coolers have to compete with Corsair’s Asetek collaborations as well as both other categories of coolers. CoolIT’s Eco A.L.C. cooler (reviewed June 2010) performed to within a few degrees Celsius of our champion air- and liquid-coolers, but its single fan was noisy and it didn’t significantly outpace our category leaders. The CoolIT Vantage A.L.C. has all the features of the Eco but adds an LED screen and a wireless receiver that will tie in with CoolIT’s upcoming Maestro control software. Can it match the performance of our category leader, the Corsair H70 (reviewed October 2010)?
The Vantage A.L.C. uses the same mounting system as the Eco—a three-position Intel Socket 775/1156/1366 bracket with backplates for each, plus an AMD bracket. The radiator is the same, though CoolIT uses a spacer to add a fan’s-width of space between the radiator and rear of the case, allowing for less turbulent airflow. The spacer is easily replaced with another 12cm fan if you want a two-fan configuration.
You’ve been getting by with the cheapie router you bought two years ago, so why should you upgrade now? In a word: Performance. And features. Oh, sorry. That’s two words. We looked at a host of budget offerings in our last router roundup (February 2010) and didn’t find much to get excited about. This time, we asked seven manufacturers to send us the best consumer routers in their stables regardless of price tags.
In most cases, that meant a simultaneous dual-band router capable of running 802.11n wireless networks using the typical 2.4GHz frequency band and the less-crowded 5GHz band, plus a guest network that isolates its clients from your primary LAN. In all cases, it meant a router with an integrated four-port gigabit switch and at least one USB port for sharing a printer or a storage device over the network (some have two USB ports to support both functions). In an interesting twist, however, no one submitted a product using a three-stream wireless chipset promising raw throughput of 450Mb/s.
What’s the best way to transfer files from one computer to another? You can use a USB thumb drive or an Internet service like Dropbox, but a network connection is almost always the most efficient choice. You might think that both computers need access to a common network to use network sharing, but that’s not actually the case. Thanks to ad-hoc networking (a built-in feature in Windows) any two Wi-Fi-enabled laptops can shares files and play games as though they were on a LAN.
Setting up an ad-hoc connection in Windows Vista or 7 is a surprisingly simple affair. We’ll show you how.
Prior to StarCraft II’s release, there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over Blizzard’s decision to split StarCraft II across three games. “Why pay full price for a third of a game?” was the not-unreasonable question. Fortunately, after playing a lot of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, we can tell you that this is emphatically not a third of a game. In fact, it’s the most polished, full-featured single- and multiplayer RTS we’ve ever played.
The action in the single-player game takes place across 29 missions, all but four of which see you leading space cowboy Jim Rayner’s band of mercenaries into combat. Though you’re limited largely to the Terran race, StarCraft II’s incredibly polished level design makes every mission feel like a completely different experience, from a zombie invasion to a mission where you must build up a force while on the move, always keeping one step ahead of a steadily advancing firestorm.
With all the recent hubbub about Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s PlayStation Move, you’d be excused for thinking that motion control is some new phenomenon. In reality, it’s a technology that’s been around on the PC for years. Head tracking allows you to control your PC with your head. Mostly used in sim games, head tracking lets you move and tilt your head to control where your character looks. There are, of course, some excellent commercial head-tracking systems available, but it’s possible (thanks to free software called FreeTrack) to build your own head tracker with just a webcam and a few dollars worth of electrical supplies. We’ll show you how.