Category: Product Review

Product Review–Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook (Kaby Lake version)

Introduction

Previously I have seen a lot of coverage and given some space to the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook especially in response to it being seen by the computing press as a value-priced ultraportable computer that “ticks the boxes” as far as consumer expectations are concerned. Also I had reviewed the first iteration of the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook and now I have a chance to take this latest iteration for a test drive and to review it on HomeNetworking01.info.

I am reviewing one of the premium variants that has an Intel Core i7 CPU and a 13” touchscreen display with a 3200×1800 resolution. But there is a value-priced variant available with the Intel i5 CPU and has a Full HD non-touchscreen display.

Price
– this configuration
AUD$2499
Market Positioning Consumer ultraportable
Form Factor Clamshell laptop
Processor Intel Core i7-7500U CPU
cheaper option:
Intel Core i5-7200U CPU
RAM 8 GB
Secondary storage 256 GB SSD SD card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated graphics
better option:
Intel Iris Graphics 640 integrated graphics
Can support eGPU modules
Screen 13” widescreen touch display (3200×1800)
cheaper option:
13” widescreen display (Full HD)
LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD audio
Audio Improvements Sound tuning options
Network Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2
Bluetooth 4.1
Connectivity USB and Thunderbolt 3 1 x Thunderbolt 3 with Power Delivery
2 x USB 3.0 – 1 with Sleep and Charge
Video DisplayPort via USB-C
Audio 3.5mm input-output jack
Operating System in supplied configuration Windows 10 Home

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

The review sample of the Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook has a rose-gold finish on the outside and this was able to maintain a new look even though it has been taken around. The monitor has a narrow bezel that allows for a larger display in a small housing. Being a slimline computer, it may appear to to users as being flimsy but is very well built.

As for the keyboard, it has a surround around it that has a rubber-like texture but conveys some form of robustness about it. But this may look a bit too dirty over time and acquire an oily look.

A question that always rises regarding laptop use is whether the computer can keep its cool whether with ordinary tasks or with advanced tasks like video playback or game playing. The Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake didn’t become too hot when it was used for ordinary word-processing or Web surfing. Even to watch video-on-demand content that was being streamed didn’t cause the computer to overheat. This is primarily because of the way this ultraportable computer has been engineered so as to avoid heat buildup and the metal housing with its heat-dissipation characteristic has an important part to play..

Dell has underscored the narrow-bezel look for this Ultrabook’s screen, as being something that can lead towards a relatively-small 13″ ultraportable computer. But there were issues raised regarding the positioning of the Webcam below the screen due to this design. It can be worked further by preserving a larger margin above the screen primarily for use with a Webcam and the branding.while the narrow bezel is preserved for the vertical edges of the screen.

Even the power charger that comes with the Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook is so small that it doesn’t occupy much space in your bag. Here, the lightweight design makes this computer more suitable to carrying around in most shoulder bags or satchels.

User Interface

The keyboard has a shallow feel thanks to the slimline design but it has that same key spacing that allows for comfortable touch typing. It is an illuminated keyboard that only lights up while you are actually typing, thus saving on battery power.

The trackpad didn’t come across as being “hair-trigger” in any way and you didn’t have to fear the pointer moving around while you were typing. The touchscreen is also very responsive and works as expected.

Audio / Video

I have used the Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook to watch some video-on-demand content and it had streamed the content smoothly without any stuttering. As well the visuals had come across with the proper amount of response.

There is the Waves MaxxAudio sound-optimisation software that comes with the Dell laptops like this one but it doesn’t really allow for a full sound through the integral speakers – this can cause the unit to play music with a sound quality not dissimilar to a small portable radio. This will still be a problem with most of these ultraportable laptops due to the small size that they have. If you expect to have better audio performance from any content you play through this computer, you will still need to use headphones, external speakers or a better sound system.

Connectivity, Storage And Expansion

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook left-hand-side connections - Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, USB 3.0 and headset jack

Left-hand-side connections – Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, USB 3.0 and headset jack

The Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook is the first computer to come my way that is equipped with a USB-C / Thunderbolt-3 port. Here, I would like to be able to try this out bout don’t have any hardware to try it with. It facilitates data transfer at USB-C (USB 3.1) or Thunderbolt 3 speeds, support for the external graphics modules along with USB Power Delivery for both an inbound and outbound context. The same port is capable of working in DisplayPort alt mode to connect this computer to external displays via a suitable adaptor.

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultraook - Right had side - USB 3.0 port and SDHC card reader

Right had side – USB 3.0 port and SDHC card reader

Dell infact sells for AUD$60 an optional highly-portable expansion module for computers equipped with this port that has a comprehensive set of connectors. These are in the form of a USB 3.0 socket, VGA socket for the old data projector, HDMI socket for up-to-date displays and a Gigabit Ethernet socket for Ethernet or HomePlug AV network segments and connects to the XPS 13’s USB-C socket using a short captive cable.

All variants of the Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake laptop have a 256Gb solid-state drive which would suit most needs for a secondary computer without the user worrying about storage space or deleting many files. You may find that you have to use an external USB hard disk if you are expecting to use it as your only computer and pack a lot of data on the computer.

Dell has also provided an SDHC card reader at last for those of us who have the good digital cameras or camcorders. This was a feature that was omitted from the first iteration of the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook. This came in handy when I took a “teaser picture” of this computer at the QT Melbourne hotel to put up on this site’s Facebook page to announce the upcoming review.

Network and modem

The review sample had come with all the latest drivers on board and was able to work as expected. Yet, like most ultraportables, you may not get good Wi-Fi reception at the fringe of your Wi-Fi segment’s coverage when you deal with a baseline router. This is something that I would be seeing the likes of Intel and co working on to make these computers perform properly with the typical Wi-Fi network, especially if an access point or router is being pushed “to the end”.

Battery Life

I have been able to run this computer for most of the day without the need to run it on the charger. This involved me using it for a mixture of regular computing tasks as well as setting the power-saving options so as not to “go to sleep” when I close the lid at the end of a usage session.

Even to watch an hour of streaming video didn’t put much impact on the XPS 13 Kaby Lake’s battery runtime. This is showing that with these ultraportables, there is an emphasis on the long battery runtime

Other Usage Notes

Most of the people whom I have shown the Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook to were impressed by the slim design that this unit has. It is although a lot of the people don’t see many people using Windows-based ultraportable clamshell laptops these days.

Another feature that impressed some other people like one of the men from the Melbourne Men’s Shed was the use of a touchscreen which is not common in a traditional clamshell-style laptop computer, let alone an Ultrabook-style ultraportable computer. It is something I have observed whenever other clamshell-style laptops equipped with touchscreens came in to my possession for review purposes especially after Windows 8 came on the scene.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

There hasn’t been much that I could require Dell to work on as part of developing the XPS 13 series of ultraportable laptops. Here, this model range had underscored the fact that it “ticked the boxes” for a product of its class. This is although they have recently offered this series also in a convertible form as a way to appeal to that market.

Personally, I would like to see Dell offer one of the XPS 13 clamshell-style Ultrabooks with a Full-HD (1920×1080) touchscreen as either a subsequent low-tier or step-up configuration centred around the “value” model of the Intel Core i family of mobile CPUs like the i5. But they may preserve this screen for the top-shelf configurations. As well, an emphasis can be drawn to the “graphics upgrade path” offered by Thunderbolt 3 when marketing this or subsequent generations and refining these generations.

They could also work towards offering a business-class ultraportable derivative of the XPS 13 with the security and manageability features that business users would like to have. This could be simply offered under a Vostro or Latitude name and underscored with the fact that it is based on the XPS 13 that answered most people’s needs.

Conclusion

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook rear view

Rear view

I would recommend that the Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook serve as either a secondary travel computer, a “work-home” laptop computer that you use to do the same work both in the office and at home or something you regularly take between your main office and your “secondary office” cafe or bar when you prefer to hear the trendy music and the sound of that barista making the coffees rather than the sound of office workers engaging you in gossip while you work on that special document. You may find that offloading the bulk of your data to somewhere else such as to a USB hard disk, NAS or online storage may work well for your needs if you expect to run it as your sole computer.

Most users who run it in these contexts could get by with the baseline variant with the Intel Core i5 processor and Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated graphics powering a Full HD non-touch display, along with 8Gb RAM and 256Gb solid-state storage for this kind of use. Here, Dell are offering this suggested baseline configuration for AUD$1699.

As well, I would recommend the purchase of Dell’s USB-C expansion module or a similarly-specced device if you are finding that you are likely to hook this up to a variety of equipment like external displays or Ethernet networks. This also includes if you have an intention to run the XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook as part of a workspace setup with a large screen or better keyboard.

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Product Review–Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction colour inkjet printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction colour inkjet printer which is part of Brother’s newest generation of colour business inkjet printers that follows on from the MFC-J5720DW that I previously reviewed.

There is a cheaper model in this lineup, known as the MFC-J5330DW that has a single A4/A3 tray, a paper bypass feed that only handles one sheet, doesn’t come with the single-pass duplex scan, and has a smaller user-interface screen But this printer uses the same high-capacity ink cartridges and is able to print to A3 using that same landscape-printing technique.

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer

Print Scan Copy Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour 2 x A3 USB 2.0
Piezoelectric Ink-Jet 1200×2400 dpi resolution (platen) ID Copy
Book Copy
100 sheet A3 Ethernet
Wi-Fi
Own-access-point Wi-Fi
Auto-Duplex Single-Pass Auto-Duplex ADF IPv6 capability
Document Send/Receive
Real-Time Super-G3 Colour Fax via phone
Email-based T.37 IP Fax
Scan-to-email
Print-from-email
TIFF-FAX
JPG
PDF
Walk-up Printing USB – PictBridge PDF
JPG
TIFF
Mobile Printing Apple AirPrint
Google CloudPrint
Windows Mobile printing
MoPria support
Brother iPrint&Scan native app
Online Services Print From Scan To
Dropbox
OneDrive
Box.com
Facebook
Evernote
Flickr
SMB NAS
Dropbox
OneDrive
Box.com
Multiple Users for Online Services Yes
“Own Account” Guest Access for Online Services No

 

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$369

Inks and Toners

Standard High Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$46.45 550 AUD$68.95 3000
Cyan AUD$30.50 550 AUD$44.95 1500
Magenta AUD$30.50 550 AUD$44.95 1500
Yellow AUD$30.50 550 AUD$44.95 1500

The printer itself

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer control panel

Control panel with touchscreen and traditional keyboard

Unlike the Brother MFC-J5720DW, the Brother MFC-J5730 doesn’t convey the sleek looks that make printers of this class attractive. Here, the unit is styled in a more conventional approach that is very similar to Brother’s laser multifunction printers with the control panel keyboard that you use for entering numbers very similar to most other office-grade printers. This may be more user-friendly for those of us who are confused with touch-panel keyboards that light up on an “as-required” basis.

Connectivity and Setup

The printer can connect directly to your computer via a USB cable. But it can connect to your home or small business network using Ethernet or Wi-Fi wireless that supports most connection setups. It can even create its own Wi-Fi access point which just exists for printing and scanning, but I personally would like to see the ability to be its own access point to “extend” coverage of a wireless network with this feature able to be disabled by management IT along with supporting “business” access point requirements. The network functionality is future-proof in that it supports IPv6 addressing, a real requirement as we run out of public IPv4 network addresses.

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer detailed function display

Black-on-white detailed function display

Like all of the recent Brother inkjet printer generations, the cables for the USB or Ethernet connections is snaked in under the scanner rather than being connected to a socket on the back of the printer. The same holds true for the phone and line connections that you would need to use if this machine is being used as a fax.

The setup experience is very similar to the previous Brother printers but this is improved thanks to the larger LCD display that the printer is equipped with. Some of you may find that the black-on-white display which is implemented in this generation of printers  may be a bit awkward to use when working the menus.

Paper Handling

The Brother MFC-J5730DW implements the same paper-feed options as its predecessor model that is: to use two paper drawers up front as well as a bypass feed slot on the back of the printer capable of handling many sheets of paper. These drawers can be extended out so you can load A3 or Ledger paper in the machine, but they leave the paper exposed, which can cause it to attract dust, thus leading to unreliable operation. Here, Brother could answer this problem by integrating a larger slide-out flap in each of these trays which comes out whenever you load the tray with larger paper sizes.

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer output tray

Output shelf separate from the upper paper tray

Printed documents end up on a separate output shelf rather than one that is integrated in one of the paper drawers. This makes the job of topping up the paper supply in that drawer easier because you are not having to extend or collapse the output shelf.

The ability for the Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer to print to A3 or Ledger paper from either the bypass feed or any of the paper trays. This has been due to Brother implementing the “landscape” paper feed for the standard document sizes. This means that the print head works along the long edge of the paper and has allowed for documents to be printed very quickly while allowing for a relatively-compact printer design.

The scanner’s automatic document feeder doesn’t share that same compact look as the previous generation of A4 business inkjet printers that Brother issued. Here, it looks like the automatic document feeder installed on Brother’s “full-A3” inkjet multifunction printers or their laser/LED-based multifunction printers. The other missing feature for this model is that the glass platen for manual scanning is still only able to handle A4 or Letter document sizes, where I would prefer these units to have a Legal-sized glass platen for documents that are on Legal or foolscap paper sizes.

The automatic document feeder in this model implements single-pass duplex scanning but the paper path is still the “U-shaped” path which can be of concern when you are dealing with brittle paper like thin letter-writing paper. Here, it is a design limitation associated with scanners that are required to support manual and sheet-fed scanning, but could be improved upon by supporting a “two-way” feed setup.

Like with the previous models, the scanner lid on the Brother MFC-J5730DW can be pulled up at the rear so you can scan or copy thicker documents but I would like to see this improved upon by allowing you to lay the multipurpose feed tray flat so you can easily position thicker originals further up the back.

Walk-up functions

The Brother MFC-J5730DW only supports USB-connected media like USB thumbdrives or SD card readers for local data storage. This can be a limitation if you deal frequently with digital photos, where I would like to see it support PictBridge “direct-from-camera” printing or printing from SD and CompactFlash cards.

You also have the Brother MFC-J5730DW able to work as a capable up-to-date colour fax machine with T.37-compliant email-based Internet fax functionality.

This includes the fact that Brother MFC-J5730DW offers a “fax-to-cloud” feature for standard faxes where incoming documents can be forwarded to a folder on an online storage service as soon as they arrive. This offers an Internet-based “fax-vault” functionality so that the machine isn’t printing out every fax that comes in, making it easy for others who have access to your office like contract cleaners or night-shift workers to be snooping on your confidential incoming faxes when you are not there. This is also in conjunction to being able to have faxes forwarded to a fax number or email address or sent to your regular Windows computer, functions that Brother had offered for handling incoming faxes.

Speaking of cloud services, Brother offers access to the common online services for scanning and printing. This means that you could print a photo from Facebook, a document from Dropbox or scan a document to OneDrive for you to work with on your laptop.  The cloud services also include the ability to print notepaper, graph paper, music manuscript paper and similar form documents, a feature that competing printer vendors have been offering for a while. But these documents can be improved upon such as simply providing the music paper without any clef markings so you could write manuscript for different instruments and ensembles.

Computer functions

At the moment, Brother still supplies model-specific drivers for their printers rather than offering a monolithic driver that can cover a product range. This applies to the desktop operating systems although they offer a single piece of software for the mobile operating systems. A single piece of software that covers one or more product ranges could make it easier for those of us who standardise on a particular manufacturer’s devices to set a computer up for newer printers.

But these drivers installed properly on my Windows 10 computer without throwing any error messages. They also provide the same “at-a-glance” dashboard that Brother uses for their printers. The print jobs had come through properly and reliably as would be expected.

The scan software that Brother provides hasn’t been improved upon for a long time and could be worked on, especially in the context of “editing” multiple-page scans. Here, it could support the ability to do things like re-scanning a single page so as to correct scanning mistakes like skewed pages or “splitting” a scan job to two or more documents. The latter situation may be of benefit if you are using the machine’s automatic document feeder to expedite the scanning of multiple documents and would earn its keep with the Brother MFC-J5730 and other machines equipped with a single-pass duplex scanner.

I have used this printer with my Android phone and it worked properly when I wanted it to print out an email attachment. This was using the Brother-supplied Android Print Services plug-in for the Android platform, but the printer can work with Mopria-compliant print-service plug-ins.

Print / scan speed and quality

Like most inkjet printers, the Brother took a similar amount of time to get going with the first page of the print job.

Pigment-based inks and pipe-based ink-distribution are part of this generation of Brother inkjet printers

But I have focused the print-quality tests in a way to show up the print quality offered by the new pigment-based ink setup that Brother implemented in this generation of inkjet printers compared to the previous generation machines. Here, this generation of business inkjet printers integrates the pipe-based ink-flow system, piezo-based printhead design and the pigment-based ink chemistry in to equipment designed to offer value for money at a price most people and businesses can consider.

As well, I have allowed for a firmware update to take place to assess the print quality for these newer machines.

The Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction printer was able to turn out regular office documents very clearly and there wasn’t much difference in the quality of these standard print jobs.

But when it comes to presentation-grade printing, be it a poster to put up on that noticeboard, a presentation handout to give to your attendees or a photo to put in your album, this is where the real tests show up. This also applies to those of us who use these printers to turn out inkjet proofs of documents we intend to have printed by someone else before we engage the printing service to have them printed.

You may have to use the “vivid” setting in the printer driver to make sure that presentation-grade work doesn’t look dull, as I have tried with a noticeboard “tear-off” poster to promote this Website.

But I have compared output quality for photo printing against the MFC-J5720DW which represents Brother’s previous generation of printers. Here, the photos came across with slightly more saturated with flesh tones coming across slightly more red compared to the previous model. This is a very similar look to what comes across with magazines or with most TV broadcasts where there is that stronger colour effect.

What is happening is that Brother is pushing their business inkjet printers towards the same standard as the HP OfficeJet 8600a which was a printer of this class that was known for sharp vibrant presentation-grade image quality.

As for scanning and copying, the Brother MFC-J5730DW had yielded a clear sharp image for the documents that were scanned. But it needed to be configured for the standard A4 paper size when you set up the scan software for working with most office documents if you are in Europe, Asia, Oceania and other areas where these sizes are normally used. This was because it was set up by default for the US Letter paper size, normally used in North America.

Brother hasn’t yet rectified a problem that I find with copying or scanning from the glass platen. This is where the document edge is clipped by a few millimetres and can affect jobs where you deal with documents are printed “to the edge” like credit and ID cards or news clippings, but you want to align the document against the platen’s edge to avoid skewing.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

Brother could equip this printer with a Legal-size scan platen rather than the standard A4 / Letter platen. Here, it could cater towards situations where you are dealing with documents written on Legal-size or foolscap-size notepads which can be a reality when you are digitally archiving very old material. As well, they could support “to-the-edge” scanning so that documents that are placed against the edge of the glass aren’t clipped.

Brother could make better use of the network connection on these printers so people can benefit from these connections especially where there is on-premises network-storage options available to that network. This is more so for small businesses and community organisations who may prefer to use a small desktop network-attached-storage system or file server in addition or in lieu of an online service for this purpose.

For example, they could provide a walk-up print option that allows you to print documents that exist in a folder shared via your network or an Internet location using SMB, FTP or HTTP protocols using the machine’s LCD control panel. This feature could allow an organisation to create a “document library” or “stationery library” shared using an on-site server or NAS that has documents or pro-forma stationery which can be printed as required. This idea can extend to public Websites or organisation-specific intranet sites that host a collection of “download-to-print” resources.

These “print from network” setups could be configured through the printer’s Web-based admin dashboard or through the printer’s control panel. There could be the ability to remember resource-specific passwords for network shares or Web pages that are protected with passwords or require the user to supply them each time they print documents from these resources while allowing for SSL encryption where applicable. Here, it avoids the need just to rely on Dropbox & co to provide these resources.

To the same extent, the Brother “MFC-series” fax-capable multifunction printers could use a network-shared folder to hold incoming or outgoing faxes for later printing or sending. Here, this can capitalise on the idea of a “fax-vault” used to assure confidentiality when it comes to inbound documents, or to allow an organisation who does a lot of overseas business to hold the overseas faxes to be delivered to the partners according to their “local morning” time.

Similarly, Brother could support PictBridge camera-based digital printing for their business printers. This is where you can print pictures from your digital camera using a suitably-equipped printer just by connecting the camera to that printer and using the camera’s control surface to print the pictures. Such a feature can come in very handy if you need to turn out “proof-quality” prints of the photos you had taken in order to show them to others.

Brother can also use some of the neat-looking design aspects from the previous generation of business inkjet multifunction printers along with the new print-engine design to develop a range of consumer-focused A4/Photo inkjet multifunction printers that use the same consumables as these business printers. Here, these machines could be positioned as a secondary printer for the home network or as an entry-level printer for one’s home-computing setup.

Similarly, they could offer a single-function A3/Ledger printer based on these printer designs to allow people to add large-sheet printing to their document-handling needs without having to replace their existing A4 multifunction that has served them well.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

Brother has just about achieved its goal in yielding a business inkjet printer that can excel with presentation printing as well as regular office-document printing tasks. This was more important for me where the goal was to see something answer HP’s well-known OfficeJet 8600 series of business inkjet printers when it comes to this task. As well, I placed importance on this feature with these printers due to the fact that the Brother MFC-J5730DW and its peers can print on A3 or Ledger paper, a size that yields very strongly with presentation-grade printing jobs.

What the printer manufacturers need to do is to keep themselves interested in maintaining their business inkjet printer lineup as something that is about high-quality presentation-grade printing especially on A3 paper as well as turning out ordinary office documents. It can encourage everyone else in the small-business desktop printer game to compete against each other when it comes to presentation-level output quality as well as their equipment’s functionality. What it can lead to is companies like HP, Brother, Epson, Canon and others to keep a viable product class for machines that can satisfy small-businesses’ and community organisations’ small-run printing needs without losing the quality aspect.

Here, I would recommend the use of the Brother MFC-J5730DW as an all-round small-run workhorse printer for a home office or other small office. This is more so if you expect to doe a significant amount of A3 printing such as to place posters on that noticeboard. You may be able to get away with saving money and buying the cheaper MFC-J5330DW if you rarely do A3 print jobs or don’t place value on double-sided scanning.

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Product Review–Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming high-performance laptop

Introduction

I am reviewing the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop which is a gaming-optimised variant of their 15-7000 Series laptops which are considered as the top of their mainstream consumer laptop range. These traditional-style laptops are pitched towards students and other users who like the traditional clamshell look rather than a 2-in-1 computer because they are more likely to ask for the power and capacity that these units offer without going “full pelt” towards an aggressively-styled gaming model.

The Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming range of laptops are positioned in a similar manner to the “sports sedans / sports saloons” or “hot hatches” that most vehicle builders were inserting in to their popular passenger-car lineups for a long time to maintain appeal to younger drivers. But these vehicles were optimised for power, being powered by some powerful engines and equipped with gearboxes suitable for competitive driving. Such vehicles would exhibit some sporty detail work inside and out and tended to carry model-name suffixes that conveyed “GT” or “Sport” driving.

I am reviewing the premium variant that comes with the Intel Core i7 processor, 16Gb RAM and secondary storage in the form of a 128Gb solid-state drive and 1Tb hard disk. There is a cheaper “value-priced” variant that comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8Gb RAM and only a 1Tb hard disk as its secondary storage.

They underscore the high performance by offering a larger amount of system RAM for the processor class that what a typical laptop would offer for the processor class such as an Intel i7 CPU machine being kitted out with 8Gb RAM or an i5 or i3 CPU being matched with 4Gb RAM. As well, these computers are equipped with a discrete-graphics chipset known to offer very high performance for a mobile-class chipset.

Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop

Price
– this configuration
AUD$1499
Market Positioning Gaming laptop
Form Factor Clamshell laptop
Processor Intel Core i7-6700HQ 6th Generation
cheaper option:
Intel Core i5-6300HQ 6th Generation
RAM 16 GB
cheaper option:
8Gb
Secondary storage 128 GB SSD + 1 TB hard disk
cheaper option:
1 TB hard disk
SD card slot
Display Subsystem NVIDIA GeForce GTX960M graphics
– 4Gb display RAM and Optimus automatic switchingIntel HD 530 integrated graphics
Screen 15” widescreen display (1920×1080 Full HD) LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD audio
Audio Improvements Waves by MaxxAudio Pro sound tuning 2 speakers + 1 bass driver
Network Wi-Fi 802.11ac dual-band single-stream
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth BT 4.2 Smart Ready
Connectivity USB and Thunderbolt 3 3 x USB 3.0 (1 with Sleep and Charge)
Video HDMI 2.0
Audio 3.5mm input-output jack
Operating System in supplied configuration Windows 10 Home

Where a computer of the same screen size and in the same product range is offered with different variations in its configuration, I highlight the options that the review unit has in boldface text and list the variations available for the computer under the review unit’s specifications, As well, I write whether the alternate specifications are cheaper options or come at a more expensive premium compared to what I am dealing with.

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop rear vents

Rear vents to improve cooling for a high-performance computer

The Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming comes across as a relatively-heavy machine, with the extra venting on the back of the unit similar to the air scoops integrated in to the above-mentioned performance-tuned passenger cars. The venting is primarily to allow the machine to stay relatively cool even when playing advanced games, and also underscores that it is optimised for performance. But there is still a chance of heat build-up taking place and this can be felt from underneath the laptop.

The outside of the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming is finished with a feel not dissimilar to rubber. This coveys that rugged look that is also about durability. But the finish has a disadvantage where it can easily look dirty and harbour stains associated with real portable use.

Another symbol of this computer’s durable construction is the use of a single thick hinge pin for the lid.  This makes the computer feel less flimsy to use when you open and close it.

User Interface

There is a hard tactile feedback that the keyboard exhibits which conveys that it can work with a lot of data entry or game control activity. There is still that chiclet keyboard design with a similar feel across the keyboard which can make things awkward if you value touch-typing or similar tactile-driven operation.

Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming - WASD keys for gaming

Highlighted W, A, S. D keys for gaming

For gamers, the “W”, “A”, “S” and “D” keys are highlighted so you can easily control your game using those keys. This is more so for games where these keys actually are used to control the current game character while you use other keys for other control purposes like swapping the weapon or tool your character uses or changing the current game character. If you want to use the traditional function keys, you have to use the Fn key all the time but it could be made easier to add a dedicated “Fn lock” button to allow switching between traditional function keys or the media keys for the top row.

The multi-touch trackpad is highly responsive and works as expected. This is without it being too “hair-trigger”. Most gamers may find that a gaming-optimised USB or Bluetooth mouse or trackball may do the job better for navigating around the field of play.

Audio / Video

I played a video clip hosted on Facebook using the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop and had found that the sound had come through clearly and with some “punch” in the hass. giving a fuller sound to voices as well as treating the music properly. The sound level would he strong enough for personal listening thou, and this is brought on thanks to the Waves MaxxAudio sound tuning.

The display could handle most video playing tasks, even fast-paced action, in a very smooth manner. The only problem I had with running video from Windows 10 Universal Windows apps is that I couldn’t push this infrastructure to use the higher-performance NVIDIA chipset over the integrated graphics to give it a real test.

Connectivity, Storage And Expansion

Left hand side connections – Power, USB 3 with PowerShare “plug and charge”, SD card reader

There are three USB 3.0 sockets with one that is capable of being enabled for “Powershare” sleep-and-charge functionality. This is where the Dell laptop can supply power to charge gadgets connected to that port, identified with a lightning bolt, while it is switched off and on its own batteries.

Let’s not forget that the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop has the ability to be connected to an HDMI display as its external display.

The premium version of the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop comes with a 128Gb solid-state drive and a 1Tb hard disk while the cheaper variant comes just with a 1Tb hard disk. This storage capacity is being maintained by Dell for most of their 15” mainstream laptops with the view of allowing these to serve well as a portable option for one’s main or sole computing device. Although, the computer doesn’t have much data beyond what is initially supplied with it, the hard disk and the solid-state drive came out as being very quick.

Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop - Right-hand side connections - audio jack, 2 x USB 3.0, HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet port

Right-hand side connections – audio jack, 2 x USB 3.0, HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet port

These fixed-storage devices are augmented with just an SDXC card slot for camera cards and the like. It is symptomatic of a trend regarding newer portable computer equipment where this kind of equipment doesn’t come with an optical drive of any sort. It is thanks to software being delivered using download services like Steam. Still I would recommend the purchase of a USB 3.0 external Blu-Ray burner as an essential accessory for this computer, whether to make an optical-disc backup / archive of your data, deliver some of your data on an optical-disc form to others or view collectable video content on this computer.

The Wi-Fi network works as expected with it being able to pick up properly even at the fringe of an existing Wi-Fi network. At the moment, I haven’t had to install any new drivers to make sure that the network works properly. Like most 15” mainstream laptops, this computer has a Gigabit Ethernet connection that you can use with Ethernet or HomePlug AV2 networks.

Battery Life

You may expect that a gaming laptop may be more thirsty when it comes to battery power but this would happen only when running demanding software thanks to the use of NVIDIA Optimus technology using the appropriate GPU setup for the job. It is  in conjunction with the illuminated keyboard lighting up when you are actually using it while the system is on battery power.

One key limitation with this computer’s battery is that the user can’t replace it themselves. It can be of concern if you intend to keep this computer going for a long time but have to deal with a battery that is at the end of its useful life. Similarly, this situation precludes Dell from offering a higher-capacity battery pack as an aftermarket option for those of us who want that high-performance gaming or video-editing ability away from power.

Other Usage Notes

The Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop can be seen to be too large but the red detailing can be seen by some as giving it that “cute” appeal. I had used it at a Docklands cafe that is opposite a marina and the staff reckoned that it could have some appeal to people who spend a long time on those boats in the marina.

Another man who is in charge of a “Men’s Shed” community support organisation for men has liked the rubberised housing that this computer has when I presented it to him. Here, he remarked that it conveyed a highly-durable feel about the computer.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

Dell could improve on the Inspiron 15 Gaming high-performance laptop range by providing at least one Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C connection and optimising it for use with external graphics docks. Here, gamers could choose to use the “card-cage” graphics docks to implement the high-performance desktop graphics cards which are most likely to offer more performance than mobile graphics chipsets. Similarly, those of us using a gaming-grade laptop as an entry to mobile-workstation territory, like engineering students or people dabbling with video editing or animation could use a “card-cage” graphics dock with a workstation-grade graphics card to give the CAD or animation program that expected level of performance.

“Gaming” series computers could be equipped with user-replaceable batteries to allow for a long usage life that reflects their premium prices. It can also allow Dell and others to offer higher-capacity batteries as an option during the model’s lifetime.

Conclusion

I would see the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming high-performance laptop being suited as a sole or main computing device for consumers and students who place value on a portable computer that is all about performance. This idea of portability may be about a computer you can stow away quickly and easily when not in use, or those of us who live a nomadic life and want something that can be easily transported.

Here, I would recommend the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptops as being fit for gaming but without the aggressive look, or for people starting out a hobby or small-time business effort with photo, video or animation work but don’t necessarily want to go the Apple path. Students who are studying courses that deal with advanced graphics like animation or engineering may consider it as a starting point for this kind of work.

The high-performance variant with the Intel i7 CPU, 16Gb RAM and 128Gb SSD would be the answer for those of us who want to work the computer hard like advanced gamers, video / photo editors, animators and the like. On the other hand, the lower-tier variant with the Intel i5 processor may be good for those of us who want the taste of high performance computing.

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Product Review–Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset

Introduction

I am reviewing the Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset which is a USB-connected gaming headset designed by SteelSeries on behalf of Dell.

This is a practice that a lot of manufacturers, distributors and retailers in the computing and consumer-electronics game have been involved in where they ask someone else to design and make the product to be sold under the client’s name. Infact, most of the Japanese consumer-electronics names had engaged in the practice themselves, either making “white-label” products for other companies to sell under their own labels or being the companies who called on others to design and build products.

One of the ways you would know that this headset was a SteelSeries design was the speaker cloth on the earcups had the label “Acoustics by SteelSeries” written on it. As well, I had a look through the product documentation and it required me to install the SteelSeries Engine software to be installed on my computer so I could gain more control over the headset.

Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset

Price

RRP: AUD$99 / US$49.99 / GBP£66.76

Shop Now – US / Australia / UK and Europe

Headset Type

Headphone Assembly Traditional over-the-ear
Driver Positioning Circum-aural (covers the ear completely)
Driver Enclosure applies to circum-aural or supra-aural designs
Closed back
Primary sound path Digital
Microphone position Microphone integrated in left earcup

Functionality

Pitched for Gaming
Active Noise Cancellation No
Remote Control Mic Mute

Connectivity

Connection for main operation Wired
Wired path USB Audio via Type-A
Supplementary adaptors None

The headset itself

Dell AE2 Performance USB HeadsetThe Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset is designed like most circum-aural headsets and implements the USB bus as its way of connecting to host devices. As to appeal to the gaming community, each earcup has a glowing white ring which illuminates when you have the headphones plugged in to your computer. But, as I have said later on in the review, you can determine whether this glowing occurs or not or what colour is used thanks to a configuration program called SteelSeries Engine.

I have done most of the reviewing of this headset without using the SteelSeries Engine control software, which would represent requirements where you can’t or don’t want to add extra software to your computer to gain more out of these headphones.

Connectivity and Functionality

Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset - USB plug

How the Dell AE2 headset connects to your computer

The Dell AE2 Performance Headset connects to USB-equipped computing devices using its USB Type-A connector and presents itself to them as a USB Audio input and output device. Windows 10 was able to even identify this headset as headphones and give this device priority over existing default audio devices like integrated speakers in a monitor or laptop. The headset has a maximum rated power draw of 150mA which means it shouldn’t place much demand on your laptop’s battery power as well as being able to work comfortably on a four-port bus-powered USB hub being used by input devices.

I had tried using this headset with my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Android smartphone by connecting it to the phone via a USB OTG cable. Here, it would work as a USB Audio device but I had found that this functionality didn’t extend to communications tasks like using the phone. Here, I would communicate with the caller via the smartphone’s speaker and microphone rather than through the Dell USB headset. The USB-based audio device as a mobile-phone accessory is becoming a reality thanks to USB Type-C connectivity and manufacturers doing away with the 3.5mm audio jack on their phones.

SteelSeries Engine 3 configuration screen for Dell AE3 Performance USB headset

SteelSeries Engine 3 configuration screen – graphic equaliser, DTS surround sound, etc

You can run the SteelSeries Engine 3 software on your Windows or Macintosh computer, which effectively allows you to gain more control over the headset. This program offers a DTS Headphone 7.1 surround decoder for headphone applications, a five-band graphic equaliser, a microphone-optimisation program along with the ability to control the lights on the earcups. You could even have the lighting change colour based on games events which works for some games thanks to API hooks that SteelSeries have published for game studios to use.

This program works properly as advertised and you don’t need to have it running all the time you use the headphones, which can be a boon for those of us who use laptops while on battery power.

Comfort

Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset - SteelSeries motif

SteelSeries design highlighted in earcups

These headphones are very comfortable to wear for a significant amount of time thanks to the circum-aural design and the fact that your ears are not touching anything hard. As well, they don’t feel sticky after that long time of use because of assuring some airflow around the foam surrounds.

Sound Quality

The Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset is able to handle music in a similar manner to most circum-aural headphones by being able to put up some good bass response. It was also able to work well with the vocals and other instruments but you may experience a bit of reduction of higher frequencies – it is not really something with hi-fi credentials for listening to detailed music.

Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset - glowing ring on earcups

Glowing ring on earcups

I have also tried these headphones with some video content in the form of watching an Inspector Morse episode (Sins Of The Fathers) from a DVD using my desktop computer. Here, the dialogue came across very clearly and I was able to hear the sound effects distinctly with the added bass response doing some justice to certain effects like the rumbling heard in the brewery that was part of the story. There were a few brewery scenes in that same show which represented a sound presentation not dissimilar from what would be expected from a lot of action-based computer games with people traipsing around the factory, the rumbling of machinery and the music score, with the Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset handling them very well.

I had placed a call using Skype to someone I know and they had noticed that I was able to come across very clearly with the headset while I was able to hear them very clearly. The Dell AE2 headset can earn its keep as a communications headset for VoIP softphones and similar online calling platforms, especially if they implement high-quality voice codecs.

Noise Reduction and handling of noisy environments

The Dell AE2 headset offers a significant amount of noise reduction which can be a boon for those of us who are commuting or working in a noisy office. It may not be as effective as active noise cancellation but can suit most of us in these environments.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

One of the problems that will need to be answered with these USB headsets is for all mobile operating systems to treat them as headsets when they are connected to mobile devices.

Another desirable feature would be to have a hardware switch on the headset that turns the lighting on and off so you can be able to reduce your laptop’s battery drain when you run them and avoid the need to run a configuration program to achieve this goal. As well, headsets of this kind could benefit from a volume control on the earcups that controls the host system’s volume using the standard USB protocols.

Similarly, Dell and SteelSeries could implement a USB Type-C detachable connection so that they can be provided with a detachable cable allowing them to last longer by allowing you to replace damaged cables. This would also cater towards the newer USB Type-C direction as more of the computers come with this connection.

Conclusion

Personally, I would position the Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset more as suitable as a general-purpose computer headset for applications where you want to hear your computer software’s audio privately but are not expecting to pay attention to how music comes across through them. This is rather than just as something for chatting during games or hearing games effects privately and intensely.

The Dell AE2 Performance USB Headset also represents a newer trend for headphone construction where there is emphasis on “digital to the earpiece”, which can open up many points of innovation like optimised sound or active noise cancellation. The USB connectivity allows for this to work for wired-headset setups including allowing the host device to actually power the headset.

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Product Review–Brother P-Touch P900W label printer

I am reviewing the Brother PT-P900W Wi-Fi-capable label printer which is the latest in the range of labellers based on Brother’s P-Touch thermal-print labelling system. This uses the same “drop-in” label-tape cassettes as the rest of the P-Touch labellers such as the TZe-261 wide white tape that came with this machine.

There is a premium variant called the PT-P950NW which implements extra connectivity options. These come in the form of integrated Ethernet connectivity so you don’t need to use a Wi-Fi link to use it as a network label printer, USB host connectivity to work with USB-connected barcode scanners and similar devices along with the ability to work with an optional Bluetooth interface that only works with Bluetooth barcode scanners.

Users can also purchase a rechargeable battery pack if they want to run it on battery power and this charges with the supplied AC adaptor. As well, you can also purchase a serial adaptor to work with input devices like scales or barcode scanners that implement traditional serial connections.

But the piece de resistance that Brother puts forward is a touch-panel kit with LCD display that allows the machine to be purposed as a task-specific label writer. This includes the ability to work with pre-defined label templates or where you may have to enter numeric data.

This unit is part of Brother’s P-Touch thermal labelling system which uses TZ-series label cassettes and came with the TZe-261 label cassette which had a wide writing space.Brother P-Touch PT-P900W label printer

 

Recommended Retail Prices

The Brother P-Touch label printers

PT-P900W
– Wi-Fi, USB to computer, serial connection
RRP: AUD$699
PT-P950NW
– Ethernet, Wi-Fi, USB to computer, USB host, serial connection, optional Bluetooth
RRP: AUD$899

Optional accessories

Serial Adaptor
– connect to scales or barcode scanner with RS232C (DB9) connection
AUD$29.00
Bluetooth Interface for PT-P950NW
– connect to Bluetooth-capable barcode scanner
AUD$149.00
Rechargeable Battery Base AUD$99.00
Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery AUD$199.00
Touch Panel for PT-P950NW
– converts to standalone solution-specific label writer
AUD$199.00

The label printer itself

How you load the Brother P-Touch PT-P900W label printer

How you load the Brother P-Touch PT-P900W label printer

The Brother PT-P900 family of printers has a similar look to Brother’s latest business inkjet printers like the MFC-J5720DW inkjet multifunction thanks to the black housing with the rounded edges and flat top reminiscent of some 1950s-era home appliances. But it is easy to load and unload thanks to a lid that opens to reveal where the label cassette is.

Previously, I ran the Brother PT-P900W as a printer connected to my computer and it has worked as expected with the software installing properly after I had downloaded it from Brother’s Website. It also was a chance for all the P-Touch Editor software that was on my computer to be updated, which would represent a situation if you have one or more other P-Touch labellers that are customarily hooked up to your computer or on your network.

The Brother PT-P900W implements a highly-sophisticated network functionality for its Wi-Fi network. Here, it can work with 802.11g/n networks but needs you to set it up for a network that doesn’t implement WPS-based “push-to-setup” connectivity on its router or access point – thankfully most “Mi-Fi” portable Wi-FI routers can answer this call if you are setting up a mobile wireless network.

This unit can also be set up to work with WPA2-Enterprise wireless-network segments found in larger businesses where there is individual user-based login to the network. But you may have to upload EAP-TLS certificates to the device from a regular computer. As well, it is future-proof in that it supports IPv6 in a dual-stack form.

Brother PT-P900W label printer connected to Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Android smartphone

This smartphone is connected to the Brother PT-P900W label printer via the home network while the label printer is being its own access point

I set the Brother P-Touch PT-P900W label printer with my home network’s Wi-Fi segment and it worked properly, both with my phone connected to the home network and to the unit’s own Wireless Direct access point.

The supplied Brother P-Touch Windows software is very flexible when it comes to printing needs and it can allow you to “gang” multiple Brother PT-P900W / PT-P950NW label printers with the same labelling tape for “round-robin” multiple-machine printing jobs. This can help with dealing with intense jobs like a stocktake or large delivery for example.

As expected for devices based on the Brother P-Touch system, the output quality was very crisp and I had found that the TZe-261 label tape that came with the review unit could answer most labelling needs. This is more so if you, for example, make use of two lines for your labels.

Other people’s opinions

Brother PT-P900W label printer turning out a label

Brother PT-P900W label printer turning out a label

I brought the Brother P-Touch P900W label printer out to the church I worship God at in order to demonstrate it to a friend there who works as an electrician and obtain his opinion on this device. I used it along with my smartphone to turn out a label and he noticed that the machine turned out the label which he wanted to use on one of the mixing desk’s faders very quickly and clearly. It didn’t take long for the Brother labeller and my smartphone to set up together and I was able to have the label turned out very quickly.

But he noticed that this machine looked a bit bulky and mentioned to me that he wouldn’t find it suitable for regular portable “on-the-go” use. He reckoned that it would work well for office-based applications and occasional transportable use.

Limitations and Points for Improvement

Personally, I would like to see a manual override between Wireless Direct and Wi-Fi infrastructure operating modes, which can come in handy if you want the unit to start quickly or to deal with difficult situations.

Similarly, I would like to allow for mobile-based app-driven Wi-Fi setup similar to a lot of Wi-Fi-based wireless speakers and similar devices are set up. This is where you can have the opportunity to select Wireless Direct, connect your mobile device to the label writer’s Wireless Direct network, and use a mobile app to upload your infrastructure wireless-network segment’s parameters to the printer.

The WPS “push-to-setup” functionality could also be extended to client-device setup so you can enrol your “open-frame” mobile device to the Brother labeller’s Wireless Direct network at the touch of a button.

The baseline unit in this family could implement a USB Type A socket for barcode labellers and other data-input devices that use USB because this connection standard is being seen as the way to connect peripheral devices. This could be extended to having the machines recognise the standard USB keyboard or, in the case of the Bluetooth interface, Bluetooth keyboards as an input device so they can quickly be purposed as a label writer

Conclusion

Personally, I would see the Brother P-Touch PT-P900W and PT-950NW label printers not as being for use on the road but as a tool for office-based workflow labelling with a regular computer or mobile device such as a smartphone, especially where the mobile device is likely to be used frequently as an input tool. Examples of this could be inventory control for the “reserves” at the back of a shop; or in a kitchen to keep control of foodstuffs and their expiry dates.

This is whereas the Brother P-Touch PT-E550WVP handheld heavy-duty label writer can earn its keep in the back of a tradesman’s van for on-site labelling.

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Product Review – Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner

Previously, I reviewed the Brother PDS-6000 sheet-fed document scanner which scans both sides of a document at once very quickly. This model connects directly to a host computer and would work with most document-management software. Now Brother have released the ADS-2800W which is a network-capable sheet-fed document scanner that allows you to direct a scanning job to a computer or a file server / NAS, and this is the machine that I am reviewing now.

RRP AUD$899

There are some more expensive variants of this network document scanner that can scan at higher speeds but I am reviewing the entry-level model.

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner

Scan Scan to Connection
Sheet-fed

600 dpi

Single-pass Auto-duplex

USB Mass-Storage

CIFS/FTP/HTTP network storage

Online Services

SMTP E-mail

USB 3.0

Ethernet

802.11g/n Wi-Fi

The scanner itself

Setup

Brother ADS-2800W document scanner document path

Single-pass document scan, easy to service if anything goes wrong

Brother have avoided the tendency to create a separate setup regime for the ADS-2800W network document scanner, which will be a bonus if you have stuck with this brand for your multifunction printer. Here, the software interface both at the scanner and at the computer are very similar and you can even use the ControlCenter 4 software to process your documents.

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner Wi-Fi connectivity

Wi-Fi connectivity

It was simple to connect this scanner to the home network although I used the Ethernet connection which is what I would prefer for normally-sessile devices. Here, it can be connected to a Wi-Fi wireless network segment or a wired Ethernet network segment (which also works with a HomePlug network segment) with the former network type working properly if nearer the wireless router. Personally, I would recommend that you use the wired network (Ethernet or HomePlug) at your home or office as I would recommend for sessile equipment.

Walk-up and mobile operation

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner - Web services

It scans directly to Dropbox

There is the ability to use a Web-based interface to set the Brother ADS-2800W network scanner to be able to scan to a computer, file server or NAS without the need to run a scan monitor on that computer. Here, the unit deposits the files to a known directory on the destination device in a predetermined form. As well, it can be set up to “scan and send” where it can send a document via SMTP-based email.

It also exploits the Brother Web Connect infrastructure to allow you to enrol it with Evernote, OneDrive, Dropbox, Facebook and other online services so you can use them as a destination for your scanned documents. You can also scan documents and images to your mobile device as long as you run the Brother iPrint&Scan mobile app, which is how I scanned some snapshots to be destined to Dropbox. An improvement I would like to have would be to see the scanned picture appear on the scanner’s screen so you can have the picture or document the correct way up.

Computer-based operation

The fact that this scanner makes use of Brother’s ControlCenter 4 software and uses the same scan monitor if you are running a Brother MFC alongside it means that you are not having to install extra software on your computer. When I ran the CD to install the drivers because I had issues with the Website, the installer detected the existence of the driver software associated with Brother printers and effectively updated the scan monitor to work with this scanner.

I even had the software set up so that blank pages were skipped even though the Brother scanner scanned both sides of the document when I was handling regular documents. This allowed for a single-side document to be worked on yet be ready to scan double-sided documents when dealing with “print-sign-scan-send” documents.

Scanning results

The Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner, like its stablemate the PDS-6000 implements a straight-through document feed which makes the scanning job quick but is kind to the documents because there is no curved path involved.

A job that I have been putting the Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner to over the past week is to scan a collection of snapshots due to the passing of someone whom I knew well. Here, I had set the Brother scanner to scan at the normal-for-35mm-snapshots “10x15cm” size with a resolution of 600dpi and fed the minilab prints in vertically. The document scanner had turned out the high-quality images while it was able to handle small batches of prints at a time like as though I was handling a multiple-page document. But I would like to see a “photo-optimised” scanning profile that copes with the glossy snapshots and works at a high resolution. As well, there could be the ability to determine whether a photo has a landscape or portrait orientation.

I had found that a bit of dust had ruined a scan of a photo and it was a cinch to remove that bit of dust from the scan head simply by opening up the scanner so I can see the scan heads. Then I was able to blow off the dust from the scan heads.

When I scanned a regular “print-sign-scan-send” document, the Brother ADS-2800W scanner made light work of this job and turned out the right number of pages based on what was marked. This avoided the creation of a 2-page PDF for a document that was written on one side only.

Limitations and points of improvement

A feature that would benefit the Brother sheet-fed document scanners, especially the network-capable units, would be to have functionality that gains the best out of photo scanning. This could be in the form of a “photo-optimised” high-resolution scan mode for scanning snapshots and / or a transparent-media scan mode with negative conversion for scanning film strips such as negatives.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Brother ADS-2800W network sheet-fed document scanner as a network-focused high-speed document-scanning solution especially if you want a high-speed dedicated-purpose scanner that can work independent of a regular computer.

For example, this could work well if you destine documents to the like of Evernote or Dropbox or to a NAS. Similarly, if you are wanting to get that hard copy document to be able to be viewed on something like an iPad, the Brother ADS-2800W and its peers can do the job properly.

But these devices would earn their keep if you scan many documents rather than the occasional few documents that have few pages and I would see it perform well with most businesses including tax agents who scan the receipts that are part of their clients’ “shoeboxes”.

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Product Review–Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother PJ-773 PocketJet wireless mobile thermal printer which is a highly-compact wireless-network-capable mobile printer. It is also the first mobile printer that I have reviewed that can work with a Wi-Fi network rather than having to be connected to the host computer for it to work. There wasn’t even a need for me to install or plug in a network adaptor for this functionality to come about.

This mobile printer implements direct-thermal printing technology that was initially used by fax machines to turn out incoming faxes. But Brother has rebuilt their faith in this technology for on-the-road transactional printing by using thermal-printing paper that is better than those rolls of thermal paper used with those fax machines.

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer

Print Paper Trays Connection
B/W A4 single-sheet USB 3.0
Direct Thermal A4 paper roll with roll attachment 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless
IPv6

Prices

Printer

The machine’s standard price: AUD$879

Optional Extras:

DC car charger (cigar lighter): AUD$49.00

DC car charger (direct wire): AUD$49.00

Carry Case and roll holder – rugged design: AUD$99.00

Rubber carry case: – rugged design: AUD$39.00

Vinyl carry pouch: AUD$19.00

Car mount with roll holder: AUD$199

Paper Guide – cut sheets: AUD$69

Paper Guide – paper rolls: AUD$69.00

Thermal paper

Standard A4 thermal paper (100 sheets): AUD$19

20-year A4 thermal paper (100 sheets): AUD$24

A4 perforated thermal roll (100 pages per roll, 6 rolls): AUD$89

A4 thermal roll (15m per roll, 6 rolls): AUD$99

The printer itself

Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer printing

Brother PJ-773 turning out a document – the printing side is on the back of the paper

The Brother PJ-773 Pocket-Jet wireless mobile thermal printer is based on direct-thermal printing technology which was first implemented in a mobile-printing scenario by Pentax when they released the PocketJet mobile printer in the early 1990s as laptops were becoming more common. Here, this printer used the typical fax paper which was ubiquitous then as its printing medium while being a compact printing device.

But Brother had purchased Pentax’s printing assets including the PocketJet thermal-printing technology in 2008 and started to use their branding in 2009on the PJ-5 series of these printers. Then they started to apply their innovations when they manufactured the PJ-6 series of these printers.

Here, this printer is slightly wider than the narrow edge of an A4 or Letter sheet of paper but as thick as a bar of Toblerone chocolate. This means that you could easily stash it in your laptop bag without it taking up much room.

Setup

Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer right hand side connections

USB and power sockets on the right side of the printer

The Brother PJ-773 printer is capable of operating on a lithium-ion battery pack or on an external power supply which would be the supplied AC adaptor. But you can purchase through Brother one of two DC adaptors that allow you to use it in your vehicle – one that plugs in to the vehicle’s cigar-lighter socket and one that is capable of being directly wired to the vehicle’s electrical-accessories wiring.

I have set up the Brother PJ-773 thermal mobile printer with my regular Windows computer and used software that was downloaded from Brother’s Website rather than the CD-supplied software. This software worked properly first time and found the printer over the USB connection.

Wi-Fi setup

Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile thermal printer printing mechanism

Very small print mechanism due to thermal printing technology

The Brother PJ-773 printer is capable of being set up to work with a Wi-Fi network. This means that it can either work as its own Wi-Fi access point or it can be part of a small Wi-Fi network or a large enterprise-grade Wi-Fi network. It also is future-proof where you can use the printer with an IPv6 network which is becoming the way to go.

You have to configure it for your network by connecting it to a regular Windows or Macintosh computer via USB and running the USB Device Settings Tool program. The only exception is if you are connecting the printer to a Wi-Fi router or access point that uses WPS “push-to-connect” setup where you hold down the Wi-Fi button on the printer for 5 seconds to instigate this setup routine at the printer.

This also applies if you wish to switch your Brother PJ-773 printer between using an existing Wi-Fi network or creating its own Wi-Fi network. Here, you have to determine whether to use “Wireless Direct” for the printer to be its own access point or “Infrastructure” for it to be a part of an existing network.

Printing

Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer alongside Windows test printout that it printed

Slightly smaller than the A4 printed page that it turns out

The Brother PJ-773 had worked properly with Windows 10 and with Android using both the Mopria printing abilities and the Brother iPront&Scan printing app. The latter situation may not work properly if you are using the Wireless Direct printing setup because the Android iPront&Scan software is dependent on an Internet connection for rasterising the documents for printing.

If you want to see the document come out more sharply, you may have to increase the density settings in the driver or app to see something darker.

I completed a document-copy test involving a multifunction printer to see how documents would turn out when copied using one of these printers. This included whether the thermal paper used for this printer would misfeed through an automatic document feeder which is common with multifunction printers offered to the business market. The reason I performed thsi test is because one could copy or scan a “print-and-sign” document as part of their workflow, such as to scan an invoice or repair quote for tax or insurance purposes; and is being underscored by the common “print, sign, scan, email” workflow underscored with the Internet and email.

Here,  I used the previously-reviewed Brother MFC-J5720DW business multi-function inkjet printer to perform these tests and printed the document using default settings for the PJ-773 and copied it using the default settings for the MFC-J5720DW. The thermal-paper original passed through the automatic document feeder on the multifunction without any problems while I found that a standard text document could copy properly on default settings. With some documents, you may have to increase the copy density on the MFC or copier if they come out a bit pale.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer could benefit from improvements as far as Wi-Fi setup is concerned.

Firstly, it could benefit from a hardware switch on the printer itself that allows you to select between Infrastructure or Wireless-Direct operation so you can have it work with an existing wireless network or as its own network without having to go through the rigmarole of connecting it to a regular computer via USB and running a configuration app to perform this switchover.

As well, it could support a “wireless repeater” mode like some mobile NAS units such as the WD MyPassport Wireless mobile NAS so you can have access to an Internet-supporting Wi-Fi network and the printer’s access point network at the same time. For setup in Wireless Direct mode, the Brother PJ-773 could implement WPS-PBC “push-to-connect” as a way of establishing a connection between it and a Windows or Android client device.

Brother could improve on the Pocket Jet direct-thermal printing platform by supporting duplex printing with suitable double-sided paper. This can appeal to applications where you need to turn out a 2-page document without needing to feed through two sheets of paper.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I find that the Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer earns its keep with basic “on-the-road” transactional printing from both regular computers and mobile devices. This is more so if you are turning out a receipt, invoice or similar document which only covers up to two A4 or letter pages. You may have to use the paper-roll kit of you expect to torn out a document with many pages at a time.

For best results, I would recommend thay you run the printer with the image density setting on 6 or 8. Here, you can have documents that last a long time and can be copied easily on most multi-function printers without any need to configure them. You could use the premium “20-year” paper to turn out legal-requirement documents such as safety and compliance certificates associated with installation work, or for tax invoices in those jurisdictions where you have to keep tax documents for over five years.

Similarly, it may be worth bargaining in the cut-sheet paper guide if you expect to use your Brother PJ-773 to frequently print multi-page documents. Buying the ruggedised carry case with integrated roll-paper holder may make for a practical no-fuss “ready-to-print” option for your briefcase.

On the other hand, you may have to use a Canon or HP mobile inkjet printer if you are expecting to turn out many pages at a time and place emphasis on on-demand colour or greyscale printing such as printing of photos, or you value a choice of media for “on-the-road” applications.

Therefore I would consider the Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer as a tool for tradesmen and other mobile workers to have in their mobile office.

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Product Review–Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 detachable tablet

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 which is the first “2-in-1” computer I have experienced  that is pitched at the business user, especially where business-level security is considered important.

There is a “stripped-down” variant that has only 4Gb RAM and 128Gb on the solid-state storage, which may be considered as a starting point when you are bargaining for these tablet computers.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 connected to Wi-Fi hotspot at Bean Counter Cafe

Price
– this configuration
RRP
Form factor Detachable tablet
Processor Intel Core M 5Y71 processor
RAM 8Gb RAM
cheaper option:
4Gb RAM
shared with graphics
Secondary storage 256Gb SSD
cheaper option:
128Gb SSD
microSD card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD 5300 integrated graphics
Screen 11” widescreen touch display
(Full HD)
LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Audio Improvements Dolby Home Theater tuning
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n/ac
Ethernet
Bluetooth 4.0
Modems LTE wireless broadband (optional)
Connectivity USB USB 3.0 on tablet
USB 2.0 on standard keyboard
High-speed connections eSATA, Thunderbolt, etc
Video micorHDMI
Audio 3.5mm input-output jack
Authentication and Security Fingerprint reader, TPM
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8.1 Purchased systems will come with Windows 10 delivered or as a user install
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: Graphics:
Advanced Graphics:
Insert variants with relative price shifts

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 as a tablet

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 – as a tablet

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 is based on a “detachable tablet” form factor where the tablet docks in to a keyboard base. Unlike other detachable tablets, the tablet computer isn’t mechanically retained in the keyboard dock this wouldn’t be suitable for working on your lap. Rather this arrangement would be limited to working on a table or desk when you type up documents.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 didn’t overheat even when I was viewing a run of YouTube videos. This means that it shows a heat-handling behaviour that is expected of a mobile-platform tablet like the iPad or the Galaxy Tab S.

User Interface

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 detachable keyboard

Detachable keyboard with gully to rest Lenovo ThinkPad Helix tablet in.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 has its keyboard and trackpad on a separate unit that detaches from the tablet. Here, the keyboard was responsive and showed signs of a high-quality unit. It may feel a bit cramped for those of us who touch-type.

As for the trackpad, this behaved properly and wasn’t “hair-trigger”. There wasn’t the ability to turn on or off the trackpad but it may not be an issue for you.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 detachable tablet

Rear of tablet with fingerprint reader – consistently accurate with the fingerprint scanning

As required for a business computer, the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 is equipped with a fingerprint reader on the back of the tablet. I would suspect that there would be problems with this fingerprint reader’s accuracy because it could be easily damaged in transit or if the Helix was laid on a dirty table. But I didn’t come across problems with its accuracy which was very consistent. Even working the fingerprint reader with a finger that has remnants of a sandwich dressing did not phase this device and its accuracy.

Audio and Video

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 as a laptop computer

I used the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 for the Skype video interview which I did with Matthew Hare from Gigaclear and this tablet performed excellently through the interview. Later on, I used the tablet to view some older episodes of a show I once liked which were available on YouTube.

The video display came up as being very smooth and sharp for video playback and similar applications. However, I wouldn’t consider this as being suitable for advanced video-editing work.

The sound came through loud and clear for the video content when I used the internal speakers but these would just come in handy for spoken content listened to closely by a few. Here, I would still use good headphones or speakers if you want to enjoy most audio or video content.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

There is a full-size USB socket on the keyboard so you can connect a USB peripheral like a mouse or trackball. Personally I would like to also see this replaced with a USB 3.0 socket so you can use USB memory keys with this computer at the best speed.

The tablet has a microSD card slot so you can move data off to your smartphone or use it as backup storage. This is also augmented with a microHDMI socket for you to use when connecting to a larger display.

The review unit came with a mobile-broadband modem but I didn’t have a spare SIM to test this modem’s performance with. As well it came with 256Gb solid-state storage but there is a cheaper variant with 128Gb storage which may be of use if you primarily store your data elsewhere.

I noticed that for reliable operation especially with fringe-area operation or where some legacy 802.11g access points are used, you need to download the latest drivers for the Lenovo’s Wi-Fi network adaptor. This is something you can do using Windows Update.

Battery life

Most activities didn’t place heavy demands on the battery thus it could be realistic to assume that you can get at least a workday out of this unit without needing to plug it in to AC power.

Other usage notes

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 on church pulpit

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 earns its keep on that pulpit or lectern

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 had performed properly with Skype when I did the video conference with Matthew Hare from Gigaclear especially as this had put the Wi-Fi network adaptor along with the system’s computing power and audio-video functionality to the test.

I had shown this computer to other people in the various communities that I deal with and they remarked that it is beyond the norm for the laptops and tablets they are used to using or seeing in action. One café owner in a popular shopping centre reckoned that it conveys the look of business compared to most of the consumer-based portable computing devices he has seen.

Although the review sample of the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 came with Windows 8.1, if you buy one of these units, it will be delivered to you with Windows 10 installed.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

There are some features that I would like to see happen for the ThinkPad Helix lineup.

One would be to have a standard SD card slot that could be part of the keyboard at least. Here, it would benefit those of us who download photos from digital cameras especially where the cameras use high-speed standard SD cards for their storage.

Similarly, Lenovo could improve the mechanical attachment of the keyboard unit to allow proper laptop operation. One way this can be facilitated would be to have a kickstand or other mechanism that clips the tablet to the keyboard.

A variant that has the 8Gb RAM and the 256Gb SSD storage but without the business-level security requirements could be positioned for those of us who place emphasis on a durable tablet or 2-in-1.

Conclusion

I would position the Lenovo  business-focused tablet / subnotebook especially where content consumption like Web browsing or reading of online content; or use as a “pad” is expected to be an increasing part of the user’s computing life. It will also serve as a similarly-sized viable alternative to an iPad or Android tablet as a “speaker’s companion” or “preacher’s companion” tablet.

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Product Review- JBL Synchros E30 headphones

Introduction

JBL is best known over a long time for loudspeaker systems, especially PA/commercial-audio and hi-fi speakers. Examples of these speakers include the JBL hi-fi speakers that were designed the same way as in-studio monitor speakers and known for their tight bass response; and the JBL EON speakers which were one of the first active-design PA / sound-reinforcement speakers to use biamplification in that class of speaker.

But as for headphones, they haven’t been known much for this product class. This is because brands like AKG, Audio Technica and Sennheiser have dominated this product class when it comes to good hi-fi or monitor-grade headphones.

Now I am reviewing the JBL Synchros E30 headphones which are positioned more or less as “all-round” stereo headphones for personal-audio applications. These are a headset with an in-line microphone designed for use with your smartphone or tablet or as headphones for use with your MP3 player or laptop.

JBL also offers the Synchros E40BT headset which is a Bluetooth wireless variant of this on-ear headset which may be handy for those of you who value wireless connectivity with your smartphone, tablet or laptop computer.

JBL Synchros E30 headphones

Price

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$129.95

Type

Headphone Assembly Traditional over-the-head
Driver Positioning Supra-aural (on the ear)
Driver Enclosure Closed Back
Microphone Position In-line – detachable cable
Source Device Connectivity
Headset 3.5mm four-conductor plug
Adaptors None

The headset itself

Connectivity

JBL Synchros E30 headphones - detachable cable

Detachable cable

Like an increasing number of headphones that are coming on the market, the JBL Synchros E30 is equipped with a detachable headset cable which has an integrated microphone. This will most likely be wired for CTIA (Apple) applications and may not operate properly with OMTP applications.

The advantage of this is that you can repair or replace the cord if it breaks which is something that can easily happen with personal-audio headphones as you use them a lot. As well, you could have one or more headset cords made up for different applications very easily, something that can be done if you or someone you know is handy with a soldering iron.

Comfort

JBL Synchros E30 headphones - earcups

Hinge-style anchor for earcups

The hinge design that JBL uses for the Synchros E30 headphones makes it easier to store the headphones flat but it can take a while to get the headphones to fit properly on your head for best sound response.

The “over-the-ear” earcups have a vinyl ring that doesn’t absorb sweat but is very confusing where headphones that have a similar ring encourage you to have this wrap around your ear.

Once these headphones are adjusted properly, you can wear them for a long time without them being too uncomfortable.

Sound

The JBL Synchros E30 headset has the kind of efficience that you would expect for headphones that are to be used with battery-powered equipment. This means that they can sound loud therefore you may be able to run them on lower volumes to save on battery power.

Music

The JBL Synchros E30 does well on the bass response by being able to “reach down there” but it needs the use of equalisation at the source if you want to bring this out. This may be achieved by implementing a “bass-boost” function or a player that uses tone controls or a graphic equaliser. The high frequencies are still there and come out clear.

Video and games

I have watched some video content with these headphones and the dialogue does come through clearly. The effects may not have the punch unless there is some form of equalisation along the way.

I also tried these headphones with an iPhone that a kid was using to play a motor-racing game and noticed that the sound effects associated with that game came across very sharply. But as I have said with music, there still needs to be some equalisation to bring out the bass which is important for some sound effects like motor-vehicle noise or gunfight.

Communications

I have made and taken a few phone calls and the caller’s voice had come across intelligible and clear. The frequency range that these headphones offer could also make them suitable for HD Voice applications like Skype, Viber and VoLTE so you can hear your callers better.

Noise reduction and handling in noisy environments

I have used these headphones up the back of a transit bus and found that the JBL Synchros E30 headphones do reduce the ambient noise from the bus’s engine somewhat. As well, you can still hear the program content if you run the volume hard on your portable device.

Conclusion

I would recommend that one buys the JBL Synchros E30 as a baseline “all-round” headset for most users whether they listen to music, watch video content, play computer games or use them for online communications. This comes across more where users place emphasis on durability with such features as a detachable cord or a strong hinge design along with a sound that can come across as being “authentic”.

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Product Review–Brother DCP-J562DW Inkjet Multifunction Printer

Introduction

I am reviewing Brother’s DCP-J562DW network multifunction printer which is their latest in their lineup of compact entry-level multifunction printers.

This printer is the  successor to the previously-reviewed Brother DCP-J552DW printer and uses the same inks as the MFC-J5720DW and other Brother printers released this year. There is a fax-equipped variant in the form of the MFC-J680DW which can serve well as a replacement for that old thermal-transfer fax machine that you use at home.

Photo – Insert high-resolution photo of product INLINE

Brother DCP-J562DW multifunction printer positioning image

 

Print Scan Copy Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour / B/W 1 x A4
1 x 4×6” photo
USB 2.0
Piezoelectric Ink-jet Resolution ID copy
Optimised book copy
Manual Bypass 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless
Auto-duplex multi-purpose tray Others out of box or option
List IPv6 for all machines that can work on an IPv6 network

Prices

Printer

DCP-J562DW: AUD$129

MFC-J680DW (fax-equipped): AUD$159

Inks and Toners

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black  AUD$33.95 300  AUD$46.45 550
Cyan  AUD$19.45 300  AUD$30.50 550
Magenta  AUD$19.45 300  AUD$30.50 550
Yellow  AUD$19.45 300  AUD$30.50 550

 

The printer itself

At first glance, the Brother DCP-J562DW appears to be a compact printer and I even found that it is slightly deeper than an A4 page positioned vertically and has a footprint that is slightly smaller than an A3 page. This would place it in a similar league to the original HP Envy printers when it comes to how much bench space it would occupy.

Connectivity

The Brother DCP-J562DW printer can connect directly to your computer via USB or to your home network via Wi-Fi wireless. Like most of Brother’s inkjet printers, the USB cable is snaked around to a port within the printer rather than an ordinary USB port on the back. I was so amazed about how reliable it is when handling the wireless connection especially if it is placed at the fringe of your home network’s Wi-Fi coverage.

Paper handling

The Brother DCP-J562DW uses the traditional paper-feed arrangement rather than the newer landscape paper feed. There is also a bypass slot for you to put gloss paper in the back of the printer but this requires you to use one sheet at a time.

It is also worth knowing that there is a mezzanine drawer in the paper cassette so you can load a small stack of 4”x6” snapshot paper or index cards. This is pitched more at householders that want to print out snapshots from their phones or digital cameras,

Walk-up functions

The control panel clicks to the chosen operating angle yet can be folded back without you needing to operate a latch to do so. This makes for a simplified operation experience that suits most users, especially older users who may find operating these latches difficult.

I have copied a few documents including some pages from books and this printer has turned them out relatively accurately. Like most scanners, it still has a problem with newsprint by causing the “other side” of the newsprint and other thin paper to come through in the copy. The lid is hinged in such a way as to allow you to copy bound documents easily without these documents slipping or the document’s binding being damaged.

It can be difficult to gain access to the “advanced copy” functions because you have to select the functions under the “Options” menu. Here, the printer could implement one-touch access to some of these functions like what is achieved with some of the models that are higher up in the range.

There is also the ability to print from or scan to a memory card courtesy of a memory-card slot located on the left of the display behind a flap.

As for online services, the Brother DCP-J562DW supports mobile and online service in a similar manner to what the rest of Brother’s network-capable printers offer. This includes print from and scan to the popular online services, Apple AirPrint, Google; and these services can allow multiple-user enrollment as I have previously mentioned with similar products

Computer functions

Normally, when I review a printer, I try to download the software from the manufacturer’s Website. This is to obtain the latest code and also to find out how well it installs if you are loading it on to a computer that isn’t equipped with an optical drive. Here, I needed to use the supplied CD because the downloadable software came through with file-inconsistency errors for the compressed “file of files”. An alternative way to go about this would be for the installation software to be kept on the printer and for users to download it via a machine-hosted Web page for network setups or a USB Mass-Storage Device for local-connection setups.

Once I had got the driver software in to my computer, the user interface was very consistent and similar with other Brother printers. The ControlCenter scan application could benefit from a few tweaks such as being able to split and merge documents and could even support “poster-style” scanning.

Print speed and quality

The Brother DCP-J562DW turns out sharp printouts as expected for a typical home inkjet printer and the printout speed is similar for that kind of product.

The photo quality is very similar to the Brother MFC-J5720DW stablemate which uses the same print engine, with the proper contrast, brightness and definition. But the colour saturation was reduced and the skin tones in the group photograph came across more natural rather than being redder. This is a situation that I still find Brother working hard at where HP, Canon and Epson are “running ahead” with printers that are pitched for “photo-grade” printing, especially when these brands use extra colours like “photo black” or “grey” along with the standard colours.

The improvements that Brother had done with keeping a stable Wi-Fi connection have allowed this printer to turn out larger print runs even though it is on the edge of a wireless home network.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

This printer has Wi-Fi as its only connection to the network which is a trend affecting low-end personal/home multifunction printers and their network connectivity. But I would like to still see an Ethernet connection, even as a user-installable aftermarket option, or integrated HomePlug AV500 / AV2 powerline network functionality so as to cater for difficult setups.

Personally, I would like to have all the Brother inkjet printers that are based on a particular engine or design and use a particular ink-cartridge range use all of the ink cartridge sizes that are in that range. This can reduce the need for you to think of particular cartridge sizes for particular printers especially if you purchase machines using that design.

Another feature I would like to see implemented across the board would be the landscape printing because this can lead towards a highly-compact printer that turns out the documents quickly.

Similarly, Brother could take a few cues from what HP had done with the Envy printers and the high-end Photosmart printers to design equipment that excels at aesthetics especially if they want to target such equipment for use in the main household living areas like the kitchen or family room.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would recommend the Brother DCP-J562DW inkjet multifunction printer or the MFC-J680DW fax-equipped variant as an option to seriously consider for a light-duty home printer.

One key application I would definitely place it for is a secondary printer to keep in the kitchen, the upstairs study or the bungalow (granny flat); or a machine that you give to your oldest child when they approach their senior secondary school or college years.

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