Printer sales in UK distribution increase

October 30th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

Printer sales in UK distribution have increased by five per cent during Q3 2014, according to Context.

Overall unit sales of printer hardware returned to a positive year-on-year growth with an increase of three per cent in Q3 2014 in Western European distribution.

Laser MFPs and the increasing distribution sales of Inkjet MFPs helped to drive the growth of printer hardware distribution sales within Western Europe.

Zivile Brazdziunaite, imaging market analyst at Context, said: “Looking at vendors performance, HP, Brother and Lexmark recorded double-digit year-on-year unit sales growth across Western European distribution in Q3 2014.

“HP registered strong year-on-year distribution sales performance of 24 per cent in the Inkjet MFP category and seven per cent in the Laser MFP category in Q3 2014.”

Meanwhile, Brother saw sales increase by 28 per cent while Lexmark’s sales grew by 24 per cent in both the Laser MFP and Laser SFP categories.

This news comes after analyst CCS Insight reported sales within the global 3D printer market are expected to double by the end of 2014.


Apple iMac with Retina 5K display review

October 30th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

There’s no such thing as perfection, but last year’s giant-sized iMac came close. Pairing gorgeous design with potent performance, Apple’s all-in-one accommodated a heady array of hardware in a slimmer chassis than most 27in monitors. Now it’s gone 11 million pixels better.

The result has to be seen to be believed. We’ve never complained about the lack of pixels on any 27in, 2,560 x 1,440 monitor, so squeezing in four times that number makes for jaw-dropping images. Initially, it appears as if OS X Yosemite’s every icon has been laser-etched into the glass.
With new and old iMacs side by side, the difference is plain as day. Given a suitably high-quality photograph, every wrinkle, fold and texture is laid bare. Peer closer, and the 5,120 x 2,880-pixel resolution allows more detail to reveal itself; with last year’s model, pixels swiftly square into view. The new 5K display’s pixel density of 218ppi might not sound incredibly high compared to today’s tablets and smartphones, but that’s 38% higher than even a 28in 4K monitor – it’s not until you view the screen from closer than 16 inches away that even the very best eyes would be able to discern individual pixels.

Nor is it extra pixels for the sake of it: quality has improved quite dramatically. Brightness is boosted to an eye-searing 446cd/m2, brighter than many LCD TVs, let alone PC monitors, and contrast has been bumped up from the previous model’s 904:1 to 1,197:1. Despite all this, colour accuracy hasn’t suffered a jot: we measured the display as covering 99.5% of the sRGB colour gamut, while the average Delta E of 1.8 proves that the new 5K panel is just as well balanced as its predecessor.

Apple iMac 5K review: hardware & performance

Elsewhere, the changes are less dramatic but just as welcome. The base model gets a quad-core 3.5GHz Core i5-4690 CPU, 100MHz quicker than last year’s Core i5-4670, and it joins forces with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB Fusion Drive. You can upgrade to a 4GHz Core i7 CPU and 32GB of RAM, and swap the Fusion Drive for 1TB of SSD-based storage. The sky, or rather your wallet, is the limit.
Even the base specification whipped through our benchmarks, with an excellent Overall score of 0.9. That’s a little lower than last year’s model, but we’d point the finger of blame at those 11 million extra pixels on the display. In the Media Encoding and Multitasking elements of our benchmarks, the new iMac’s faster CPU narrowly gives it the edge; in the Responsiveness section, it’s 25% slower. Running our benchmarks under Windows also highlighted another thing to bear in mind: installations in Boot Camp only support screens with a maximum 4K resolution.

The pixel-packed display deserves a powerful GPU, and Apple has dumped Nvidia in favour of a 2GB AMD Radeon R9 M290X GPU. Again, it’s a change for the better. In our Crysis benchmark run at Full HD resolution and Very High quality settings, we saw an average frame rate of 63fps – 10% quicker than the previous model. Bump up the resolution to 2,560 x 1,440, and there’s power enough to keep Crysis running at a smooth average of 39fps. 5K gaming is beyond the M290X’s grasp, however, with an average of 10fps. If gaming or GPU-compute performance is critical, upgrade to AMD’s faster Radeon M295X chip for £200.

Apple iMac 5K review: expansion & connectivity

The iMac doesn’t offer the expansion potential of a desktop PC, but there’s enough connectivity for all but the most inveterate upgradeaholics. There are four USB 3 ports, an SD card reader and a Gigabit Ethernet socket, plus 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4. We’re also pleased to see that Apple has upgraded the two Thunderbolt ports to Thunderbolt 2 speeds – this provides plenty of scope for adding high-speed storage and professional-class hardware. There are four SODIMM slots, too, accessible from a panel hidden behind the stand at the rear. The one major loss is Target Display Mode: where previous models permitted the connection of a secondary Mac laptop or desktop via mini-DisplayPort or Thunderbolt cables, the iMac 5K doesn’t support external video inputs.
Apple iMac 5K review: verdict

The new iMac commands a daunting premium, but given the pedigree of the components and hardware inside, it’s actually quite reasonably priced; Dell’s forthcoming 5K 27in monitor, for instance, is set to retail for around £1,500. For photography enthusiasts, graphics professionals and designers looking for a relatively compact, potent and colour-accurate all-in-one, there isn’t a more attractive package for the money.


HP’s new Sprout desktop PC slices, dices and takes 3D scans

October 30th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

Picture, if you will, an all-in-one desktop, with a 23-inch monitor. It looks a bit like an iMac. Now, add a horizontal touchscreen to the base of the device, where you might otherwise put a keyboard. To top it all off, stick a 3D scanner in a unit that hangs over the computer’s monitor, centered over a touchscreen.

That’s Sprout, HP’s new all-in-one PC. It’s a bit…unconventional.

HP is calling it a part of its new “blended reality” push, which is designed to combine computers and 3D printers into one big creation ecosystem. Thanks to the 3D scanning unit, Sprout users will be able to take a physical object and turn it into digital bits. The touchscreen will allow people to manipulate objects, draw, and perform other tasks that aren’t as well-suited to a keyboard and mouse. Here’s a video that shows it off:

It’s all tied together by a new “Workspace” experience that’s built on top of Windows 8.1. The interface has been given Microsoft’s blessing, which is the first time that the Redmond-based company has officially approved of a third party building on top of its OS, according to a report by ZDNet. HP has already partnered with a handful of app developers including Crayola and Martha Stewart to create software that takes advantage of the new hardware capabilities.

On the technical side, the Sprout features a 3.2 GHz Intel Core i7-4790S processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 1TB solid state drive. The computer has both an Intel HD Graphics 4600 integrated GPU as well as a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 745A, which sports 2 GB of VRAM.

That combines with HP’s new push into the 3D printing market. The company also revealed today that it will be producing its own line of object-creation machines for consumer use, though they’re not here yet. People who want to put Sprout together with a HP-branded Multi-Jet Fusion printer will have to wait, since that hardware won’t be ready until 2016.

Sprout is shipping this month, but isn’t cheap: people who want to pick one up will pay $1899 for the privilege of owning a taste of HP’s 3D scanning future.

Overall, this seems ambitious, in a so-crazy-it-just-might-work kind of way. It’s clear that the company thinks it’s the future of computing, but this is HP, which brought Minority Report-esque controls to PCs and watched as consumers collectively yawned. There’s no question that Sprout’s features are cool. But will anybody want one?


HP’s Sprout is a double touchscreen PC that makes the virtual feel far more real

October 30th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

With HP’s new Sprout, we’ve literally gone back to the drawing board as far as what a computer can do. Yes, there’s a high-end all-in-one PC at the core of the $1900 device, announced Wednesday at an event in New York. But HP extends the Sprout’s capabilities by adding powerful imaging and touch technology.

In a truly innovative stroke, the Sprout includes a second “display” that’s actually a touch-enabled surface called a Touch Mat. Think of it as a virtual sketchpad: Using your finger, you can select an image from the main display, flick it down to the Touch Mat, and manipulate it with your hands—no mouse or keyboard required. It’s a daring bid to reinvent how we use computers, built by a company that’s trying to reinvent itself as well.

Going from thought to experience
HP calls the Sprout an “immersive computing platform.”

“We got this notion of going from thought to experience,” says Eric Monsef, HP’s vice president of Immersive Systems. “What kind of experience could I get with two screens and touch?”

The second screen—on the surface below the 23-inch, 10-point touch display of the PC portion of the Sprout—is the Touch Mat. It’s a 20-inch, 20-point touch surface that looks like a huge mousepad. Older folks might liken it to a desk blotter.

The touch technology is embedded beneath the mat’s surface. That surface, Monsef says, was designed in partnership with 3M to be extremely durable: “It’s scratch-resistant and cleanable, even permanent markers.”

The other innovation on the Sprout is the Illuminator, a set of imaging technologies built into an arm that extends over the top of the PC display. It incorporates a 14.6-megapixel digital camera, a DLP projector, and Intel’s RealSense 3D camera. The RealSense camera lets the Illuminator take scans of objects that look more three-dimensional than a conventionally scanned image.

Brad Short, a Distinguished Technologist with HP, showed me how all these parts worked together. “To the PC,” Short says, “the Touch Mat is a second monitor with touch.” HP even bundles an Adonit Jot Pro stylus to use with the Touch Mat (a standard keyboard and mouse also come with the Sprout).

Short booted the Sprout, and it went straight to Workspace, an HP interface that overlays the Windows 8.1 interface. (Short told me that HP had to cajole Microsoft into allowing a direct boot to something other than Windows’ own Start screen.) The Sprout will launch with a few third-party apps. The company is releasing an SDK Wednesday, and hopes app developers will find new ways to take advantage of Sprout’s capabilities.

For now, we had fun scanning and manipulating images. The Touch Mat is the Sprout’s scanning platen, and the Illuminator is the overhead scanner, in a form factor similar to what I saw in 2011 on HP’s TopShot LaserJet Pro M275. That product’s overhead scanner and scanning surface create 3D-like images that can be printed or saved as image files.

Short told me that the TopShot product and Sprout were developed in parallel, but they’re not closely related: “Same philosophy, different solution and experience,” he says.

Having seen both, I can confirm the fundamental differences in approach. The TopShot’s overhead camera takes multiple shots to create its 3D-like image. The Sprout, using Intel’s RealSense camera, projects different line patterns over the object (it’s mesmerizing to watch) and reconstructs what HP calls a “3D snapshot” based on the pixels the camera sees.

Short scanned a few small objects and showed me how you could take, say, an everyday award certificate and scan it, then scan a real prize ribbon or even a flower, and put all those images together to customize the certificate.

The scanned images appeared in the Workspace on the PC’s display. Short used a quick, completely intuitive motion that HP (and any human being) calls “flicking” to move images with his finger from the display to the Touch Mat. Once there, he cropped, resized, and moved images to customize the certificate. Workspace will collect images from the Web or imported files, not just scans.

HP also showed me how the Sprout can be used as a collaboration tool. Short set up an image on his Sprout’s Touch Mat, while colleagues set up a free app called MyRoom on an HP Android tablet and an adjacent Sprout demo unit. As Short manipulated the image and wrote on his Touch Mat, his colleagues could see what he was doing on their devices. They could also see images of each other, as you would in a traditional conferencing app. “We see Sprout as something to bring people together in an immersive way,” said Short.

The Sprout does things no other PC does. That could make it a game-changer—or it could trap the Sprout in a niche. But HP’s Monsef says the company is committed to developing the Sprout concept over the long haul. “This is just one product. We have a vision,” Monsef promised.

HP is taking a careful approach to launching the Sprout. It plans to seed a few hundred Sprouts to beta users—“makers, techies, educators” is how Monsef described them—so HP can “listen and learn.” It’s taking preorders for the Sprout’s ship date of November 9, and it also plans to set up HP-staffed, in-store Sprout shops in 50 Best Buy stores and 30 Microsoft stores nationwide.

I don’t know whether the Sprout will take root (sorry!). But I do know that its invitation to create using our hands merges the virtual and the real in a way that could make computing easier, and perhaps even inspiring.


How to protect your business hardware

October 29th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

According to a Freedom of Information request made by ViaSat, over 180,000 digital devices were reported to the police as lost or stolen last year. Last year also saw Glasgow City Council fined £150,000 (around US$250,000, AU$270,000) for losing 74 unencrypted laptops that contained the bank details of 6,000 people.

With more sensitive information now being stored on portable digital devices, it is essential that all possible measures are always taken to protect them from theft.

“How an organisation can fail to notice that 74 unencrypted laptops have gone missing beggars belief,” said Ken Macdonald, the ICO assistant commissioner for Scotland. “The fact that these laptops have never been recovered, and no record was made of the information stored on them, means that we will probably never know the true extent of this breach, or how many people’s details have been compromised.”

What’s more, your business also has a responsibility to protect the data stored on these devices, as part of the Data Protection Act, which states:

“Where the information held on a laptop or other portable device could be used to cause an individual damage or distress, in particular where it contains financial or medical information, they should be encrypted.”

Protect and find

Taking care of data protection is of course only one part of a robust IT protection policy. Clearly, for any business, the loss of sensitive data is a major concern. The good news is that your enterprise isn’t powerless to act. There are a number of ways that all of today’s digital technologies can be protected from theft:

Visible deterrents

Often a simple warning that the device is traceable is all that is needed to prevent a theft. One method is to use a tamperproof sticker linking the serial number of the device to a database. Immobilise offers a cost effective method to protect any kind of IT equipment from theft.

Invisible deterrents

Physical tags are all well and good, but what if you could secretly protect your digital devices without any outward sign? It has been possible for several years to forensically tag any devices with a special liquid. Companies including Retainaguard and SmartWater offer an ingenious way to invisibly tag objects with unique codes.

Physical protection

There are a number of solutions on the market that can offer a level of physical protection. It must be remembered, however, that they are a deterrent and not a guarantee of avoiding theft. One of the best known is the Kensington Lock which offers a method of tethering your notebook PC to a desk or other secure object. Secure cases are also available for tablet PCs.

If you have a MacBook with Retina display, you can’t use standard locks, as these notebook are too slim. The solution is to use a secure case such as the one from Maclocks.

Non-Apple users could consider STOP-Lock to protect their notebook PC.

Users of the Mac Mini can also physically protect their computer by encasing it in a robust enclosure that is tethered to a desk. And if you are lucky enough to own a Mac Pro, this too can be protected by adding a bracket to the machine that enables it to be secured to a desktop.

While a great deal of today’s digital equipment is used outside of the relative security of an office environment, it is still possible to protect your business’ devices. Trust has an alarm system that can be attached to most digital devices, as can the Kensington Proximo. And ChargerLeash offers a charging cable with a built in alarm.


Thermaltake Introduces New Versa H34 and H35 PC Cases

October 27th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

Thermaltake, an industry leader in computer chassis, thermal solutions, and power supply units, is pleased to introduce the new Thermaltake Versa H34 and H35 mid-tower chassis, specifically designed for gamers and home-computer builders. With a modular drive rack design, both the Versa H34 and H35 have enough space for high-end hardware and expansion. Ample ventilation options, a cleanable dust filter, and a perforated mesh bezel help to keep the entire system cool and dust-free. The Versa H34 and H35 also deliver advanced liquid cooling solutions and stress-free cable management to customize users’ computer or gaming systems.

Other Details:
Built for Gamers: To ensure a smooth gaming experience and prolong the life of components, the Versa H34 and H35 incorporate perforated panels, built-in removable dust filters, and a raised foot-stand to allow clean air intake and rapid heat dissipation. The transparent side window draws attention to the chassis’s inner workings.

Modular Design:Innovative “2+3” 5.25” and 3.5” modular drive design with tool-free drive tray installation enables flexibility when setting up storage solutions, maximizes internal space, and minimizes hassles.

Stress-free Cable Management: A wide cable routing gap for easy cable management and hiding cables behind the motherboard tray facilitates building and tinkering (upgrades), reduces wire entanglement, and provides better airflow and dust management. Additionally, water tube holes with rubber grommets are used to support external liquid cooling systems.

Optimized Ventilation: Both models are equipped with two 120mm turbo fans, which spin up to 1000RPM, capable of drawing in fresh air and extracting hot air. For gamers with extreme ventilation needs, 120mm and 140mm pre-mounted holes can support up to eight fans in total.

Complete System on the Go:Users can build a complete high-end solution, supporting up to a 360mm radiator liquid cooling system along with a long graphic card. The Versa H34 and H35 protect users’ hardware and increase the CPU’s overclocking potential. Most importantly, outstanding cooling efficiency is delivered throughout the entire case.

Thermaltake releases exclusive “Tt LCS Certified”
Tt LCS Certified is a Thermaltake exclusive certification applied only to products that pass the design standards of hardcore enthusiasts. The Tt LCS certification was created so that power users can know which chassis has been tested to be most compatible with extreme liquid cooling configurations to ensure the best performance, features, and fit. Thermaltake’s Versa H34, H35 chassis and Core series of chassis—comprising Core V71, Core V51, Core V1 and Core V31—is Tt LCS Certified, meaning DIY PC enthusiasts can rest assured of optimal performance.


Samsung laptop takes a page out of Apple’s (Mac) book

October 27th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

For a long time, Apple has dominated the design-minded laptop sphere. When you think resale value, a solid chassis and polish — you think MacBook. However, Samsung caught wise to the appeal of great design.

Enter the Samsung ATIV Book 9 (2014 Edition) ($1,499 MSRP): a well-oiled machine without all the rough edges that typically define a laptop in this price bracket.

If you’re OK not having a battery-killing processor or a super-high capacity hard drive, this laptop is worth a look. If design doesn’t really matter to you, and you need horsepower — look elsewhere.

Though Windows laptops typically eschew high design for the best specs, Samsung has taken a page out of Apple’s (Mac) book and given their ATIV Book some extra polish. Built with a metal chassis and designed to cram everything you need into a tight space, this laptop has a lot of goodies in an attractive, yet durable, package.

Laptops that have a 15.6-inch screen like the ATIV Book 9 aren’t generally very portable, but this one is an exception. Because it’s only 14.74 x 9.84 inches and only 0.63 inches thick, this computer is a little more forgiving with messenger bags. But don’t let that svelte package fool you — the ATIV Book 9 is hefty, weighing in at 4.4 pounds.

On the plus side, a 128GB solid-state drive means you can start up and shut down almost as fast as you’d normally put a computer to sleep, and read/write speeds are lightning fast. And if you take a break from spreadsheets and documents, the screen is good enough to display a decent picture on its 1080p LCD.

For all its polish, there are some obvious shortcomings. First up is the cost — it’s quite expensive for a computer that has a lower-end processor. A Core i5 will be a bit better for battery life, but you won’t be getting top-of-the-line performance out of this laptop.

The ATIV Book 9′s screen looks great, even if its spec sheet isn’t that impressive. The biggest frustration with using this laptop during the day or in-flight is the reflectivity. It’s understandable that capacitive touch-screens are often terrible when it comes to dispelling glare, but this laptop has extreme issues in this regard.

Because it uses a big battery and a somewhat underpowered processor, we were able to drain the power in just less than five hours. Keep in mind, however, that we put that power cell through the wringer in our tests, so that result is actually quite good in comparison to many other models.

Perhaps the best thing about this computer is its overall design. Much like the MacBook Air, this laptop crams a considerable amount of computer into a small space — all the while making sure its exterior is similarly well-polished.

However, it’s not exactly a top-of-the-line model, and most options out there offer more for less money. To wit, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 can give you the exact same specs in a hybrid model for $400 less, the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro offers top-of-the-line hardware for $200 less, and the 13-inch MacBook Air with better specs (and battery life) is also $200 less than the ATIV Book 9 2014 Edition.


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