Product Review Archive

Product Review–Brother DCP-J552DW multifunction inkjet printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother DCP-J552DW multifunction inkjet printer which is part of Brother’s newer budget-focused series of home / SOHO-positioned multifunction printers and “fax-machine replacements”

Most of the printers in this series have auto-duplex printing and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity . The top-most models in this series offer an automatic-document feeder and, in some cases, Ethernet connectivity while the flagship fax-equipped model can support NFC-based printing for your Android-based mobile devices.

Brother DCP-J552DW multifunction printer

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
600dpi ID copy
Optimised book copy, other special copy features
multi-purpose tray 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless
Auto-duplex

Prices

Printer

The machine’s standard price AUD$129

Inks and Toners

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$29.95 300 AUD$42.79 600
Cyan AUD$16.95 300 AUD$28.16 600
Magenta AUD$16.95 16300 AUD$28.16 600
Yellow AUD$16.95 300 AUD$28.16 600

Officeworks does sell a pack which has each of the colours as a high-capacity cartridge for AUD$78.31.along with a pack that has all of the cartridges plus a supply of “snapshot” paper for AUD$126.

The printer itself

Initial setup and functionality notes

Like most of the Brother inkjet printers, the DCP-J552DW is easy to set up. You may find this confusing at first when you receive a brand-new machine that your starter supply of ink cartridges are taped in a bag above the paper tray and effectively in the printerrather than strewn in the box.

Brother DCP-J552DW multifunction printer ink cartridges

Ink cartridges loaded in the front

These inks are able to be installed quickly through the use of a front-loading compartment. But it takes five to ten minutes for the Brother printer to effectively get itself ready when have just installed the ink cartridges and is due to the nature of the piezoelectric inkjet system.

Like the Brother DCP-J925DW, this printer uses an A4 paper tray which also has a mezzanine tray for loading a small supply of “snapshot-size” inkjet paper for printing out copies of your digital photos.

As for integration with the network, you are able to use the printer’s touchscreen to enter your network’s parameters or start a WPS setup routine. Like an incresing number of network-capable consumer multifunction printers, the Brother DCP-J552DW uses Wi-Fi wireless connectivity only.

Walk-up functions – can be started from printer’s control surface

There is the usual collection of “walk-up” functions available on this printer and, for that matter, this printer does them the right way. Herem the user interface is through a touchscreen which offers a highly-flexible level of functionality. There is even the ability to set up “preset tasks” for common scanning and copying scenarios such as double-sided copy or ID copy.

For copying, there is a lid that you can pull up by its sides in order to improve the quality of copies made from bound materials. Very often, this is a job that is often performed to make recipes, music pieces and similar work available in a portable manner or to avoid losing or damaging the cookbook or music book when you are using it.

Businesses also appreciate the ability to use ID copy which works well without needing to reposition the card in another location on the glass platen. It could work best if you had the card in a vertical position on the glass rather than the horizontal position.

Printing from Web services

Like the previously reviewed Brother MFC-J410DW landscape-printing multifunction printer, this unit supports the ability to print from Web services. Here, you use the Brother Web Connect page to link your printer with Dropbox, Facebook and co to print resources on these sites. This is actually the formation of Brother establishing a Web app platform with scan-to-email and outline copy / scan functionality.

In my opinion, who knows whether Brother will link all of their device classes i.e. these printers, the label printers and their craft equipment especially the high-end embroidery machines with this app platform.

Computer functions

The driver’s setup routine for the Brother DCP-J552DW leaves a lot to be desired because it doesn’t automatically detect the printer quickly. Here it required me to enter in the printer’s IP address or Node name, these details which I was able to find on the printer’s control panel display under Settings – Wi-Fi. Other than that, the driver and other software worked properly when I had it in place.

The supplied software does appear easy to use in a similar vein to what is typically offiered with this class of printer. There is even a “pop-up” help function so you can seek further help with the printer. Of course, this software doesn’t place unneccessary visual or performance load on the computer by running unnecessary print monitors.

Print quality

The Brother DCP-J552DW printer turned out the print jobs pretty slowly and dwelled for a few seconds after slightly retracting the paper when printing both sides of a document in a similar vein to previous Canon printers that I have reviewed.

I have run a test concerning the printer’s auto-duplex abilities and there is no unwanted shift going on with the paper when it is printing on both sides. This makes it work well for turning out luggage tags and other documents that implement odd page sizes. As well, it covered the whole sheet of paper when printing a document on both sides.

For document printing, the Brother DCP-J552DW works well, yielding sharp text but doesn’t yield the strong sharp colours. But phtot printing tends to come up with reduced contrast and definition along with less of the colour saturation compared to some of the other consumer multifunctions that I have tested. It is more like a lower-tier office multifunction printer.

I have done a few scanning jobs using the Brother DCP-J552DW and have noticed these observations. Firstly, if you are scanning a document, the on-device user interface allows for multi-page PDF scans by asking the user if they want to scan another page after the printer has scanned the current page. If they touch “Yes” on the screen, the printer will prompt them to load the next page and start scanning. For accuracy, the printer performed as expected for an average multifunction device for both the photos and the business documents.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

For connectivity, I would like to see Brother implement HomePlug AV2 in their SOHO printers as an alternative network technology, or resist the temptation to eschew the Ethernet socket on these printers because Wi-Fi wireless networking doesn’t always work out due to the nature of the radio technology. Similarly, Brother could move towards support for 5GHz Wi-Fi technology as this band opens up as an uncluttered home-network Wi-Fi band.

Like with most of the multifunction printers, I would like to see these printers have increased onboard memory to cache print jobs to avoid waiting on host computers or networks for the data. This can allow for quicker printing and support heavy print runs more easily.

To improve on useability, the Brother DCP-J552DW and its peers could benefit from contrasted page marking on the edge of the scanning platen, especially the “reference corner” of the platen. This is so you can easily know where to position documents for scanning.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I am finding that the Brother DCP-J552DW and the MFC-J470DW fax-capable peer fit in well as a budget or entry-level printer that could fit in well in the home as a cost-effective solution for a common printer for that household. This is although I am seeing this machines trying to snap at the heels of HP’s Photosmart series of multifunction printers like the Photosmart 5520 with the 4-cartridge print mechanisms.

Here, it would perform well as a regular document machine rather than a photo-printing machine and, due to the use of individual ink cartridges for each colour, could be the cost-effective printer that you can still afford to run.

.It would be better value to run this printer primarily on the Brother LC-133 series of high-capacity cartridges to gain better value out of it. Even buying a multi-pack may also come across as being worth it so you keep an extra cartridge on hand for each colour to avoid problems that can easily happen with piezoelectric inkjet printing mechanisms.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Brother TD-2020 Thermal Label / Receipt Printer

Introduction

Previously, I had drawn attention to Brother’s new TD-2000 Series of business label printers which, unlike the QL series, were able to work as receipt printers, This is brought about by the fact that this unit prints on the outside of the thermal paper roll. Now I have the chance to review a member of the series in the form of the TD-2020.

This model, which costs AUD$399, is the direct-attached variant of the series which connects to the host computer via USB while there are the networkable variants in this series in the form of the TD-2120N and The TD-2130N which can be connected to a network via Ethernet.

Brother TD-2020 label / receipt printer

The unit itself

The Brother TD-2020 prints on the outside of the label roll thus making it suitable as a receipt printer. When I tested this unit, it was easy to set up, just by installing the driver off the CD or, as I prefer so that the machine works on the latest drivers, downloading the driver from Brother’s website and installing that driver. Then it was simply plug and play by plugging it in to the USB port.

Brother TD-2020 label receipt printer paper path

Simple fuss-free paper path which makes the printer easy to load

As far as the host software is concerned, this machine can work with the ESC/P formatting codes which are being used with most point-of-sale applications. Personally I would also like to see these models implement USB POS class drivers for this kind of printer so as to work with embedded devices and systems as well as provide simple “swap-out” installation for most computer-based POS systems.

For labels, the printer uses Brother’s RD thermal label stock which is available as either continuous or die-cut form. But you can use receipt paper tape of the same width that is used for payment terminals when you are turning out receipts or vouchers. Here, it works best with the larger rolls rather than the smaller rolls that you may use with something like a card payment terminal or printing calculator.

Idiot-proof operation here!

Brother TD-2020 label receipt printer - drop and close loading

Drop and close loading – not much to go wrong here

As for loading of labels or receipt paper, the Brother TD-2020 is simple to load due to the use of a clamshell design where you pull the tape out and close the lid to feed the tape through, There isn’t the need to thread the tape behind any rollers to have it ready to print. It worked as expected when I set a Notepad test document to the printer turning it out very quickly.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother TD-2020’s paper feed button could be larger due to the common practice in cafes and bars to use this to supply writing paper to a customer for them to exchange contact details with others. Similarly, Brother could repeat this design in a wider form for the wider paper tapes used in competing POS receipt printers.

Personally, I would like the printer to implement the USB HID-POS device class and other device classes associated with receipt / voucher printers so you don’t have to have device-specific drivers on your point-of-sale, gaming, interactive TV or similar application.

Brother could work towards a variant that is a two-roll design that can allow one machine to turn out labels and receipts which can earn its keep with pharmacy, travel and similar applications where an item has to be labelled and a customer needs a receipt as well.

Conclusion

Brother TD-2020 label receipt printerThe Brother TD-2020 label / receipt printer can earn its keep in businesses where the likelihood of turning out receipts or labels is very strong. Here, it could work as a POS receipt printer but serve as a label printer, or serve as a labeller for items like medicines but come in to play as a backup receipt printer.

Similarly, I would see the TD-2020 label / receipt printer as an easy-to-load receipt printer or labeller for environments where you have many different users such as a small business or volunteer organisation with many different employees or voluntters coming through the organisation/ This is because the way you load the tape in to the printer is effectively a simple “drop-and-close” operation. which means that there is very little that can go wrong with this system due to low risk of loading mistakes.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Pure Jongo S3 wireless speaker

Introduction

I am reviewing the Pure Jongo S3 wireless speaker which, like the rest of the Pure Jongo system, works with a Wi-Fi network as a synchronous multi-speaker setup or one-to-one as a Bluetooth speaker. This speaker also is intended for portable use by the inclusion of a “ChargePAK” battery pack which allows you to take this speaker out and about.

Pure Jongo S3 wireless speaker

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$369

Accessories and Options:

Replacement colour grilles: AUD$29

Form Factor

Single-piece wireless speaker

Functions

Internet audio Internet radio and online music via Pure Connect
Network Media DLNA network audio

 Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x 3.5mm stereo / RCA-socket pair / DIN socket
Digital Audio Input Bluetooth A2DP wireless connection
Network
Wi-Fi Wireless 802.11g/n WPS
Bluetooth A2DP

Speakers

Output Power 4 x 2.5 watt for treble,
10 watts for bass
Stereo
Speaker Layout 2.1 speaker layout in single cabinet 4 x 3/4” tweeters, 1 x 3.5” mid-bass driver

The unit itself

Pure Jongo S3 wireless speaker rear view of Pure Jongo S3 with LCD screen and Audio button

Rear view of Pure Jongo S3 with LCD screen and Audio button

The Pure Jongo S3 is set up in a similar manner to the rest of the Jongo range. This implements the “own access point plus Web page” method where you submit your network’s details to a Web page hosted by the device itself. As well, it can support one-touch setup with another Pure Jongo speaker or a WPS-capable Wi-Fi network.

There is the ability for these speakers to pair up with the Bluetooth devices. As well, the Pure Connect app works with the Internet radio function and the ability to set up synchronous multiple-speaker play. This requires you to use the “P” icon on the app to determine which speakers are to have the content.

Being a small speaker, the Jongo S3 performs well more so on the high frequencies but loses on the bass response. It is loud enough for personal or close listening and implements indoor / outdoor sound-optimisation settings. Two of these settings have an arrangement for all-round listening so you don’t have to worry about facing the listening area. Here, these settings could be available through the Web interface as well as the local “Audio” button on the back of the speaker.

The S3 did pick up from the Wi-Fi home network very well even at the fringes of that network and streamed content properly and smoothly from the Internet radio station. Here. I even ran this as part of a multi-speaker setup that I had set up with the T6 and it gave that synchronous sound experience as expected for a broadcast or speakers connected by wire to the same source even with an Internet radio station.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Like the rest of the Jongo ecosystem, Pure could integrate Spotify Connect and similar online services in to their app and could make the speakers work with the Apple Airplay system as a way to have all bases covered. The Connect app could also support discovery of DLNA audio content hosted on other DLNA servers on the same network so you don’t necessarily have to have the content sitting on your mobile device.

They could work on a wireless subwoofer or bass-rich speaker that works with the synchronous multi-speaker setup as a wireless 1.1 or 2.1 speaker setup for a bass-rich multiple-speaker arrangement in a similar vein to what Sonos has done.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Pure Jongo S3 speakers more as a small wireless portable speaker that can cover a personal listening area or as something you can use with a smartphone when you out with a group of friends.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Pure Jongo T6 Wireless Speaker

Introduction

I am reviewing the Pure Jongo T6 wireless speaker which is a tabletop wireless speaker capable of operating in an open-frame DLNA-based Wi-Fi network or as a Bluetooth speaker. It can be used as part of a pair of stereo speakers with another T6 or as part of a Jongo multi-speaker setup with music from a DLNA media server, Internet radio stream or content on a smartphone.

There are two smaller varieties of this speaker known as the T2 and T4 which have smaller drivers but the same abilities in positioning and the kind of content available to them. These also are part of the Pure Jongo multi-speaker setup which delivers synchronous audio to multiple speakers using a Wi-Fi network.

Pure Jongo T6 wireless speaker

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$599

Accessories

Coloured replacement grilles: AUD$35

Form Factor

Single-piece Wireless Speaker System

Functions

Internet audio Internet radio and online music via Pure Connect
Network Media DLNA network audio

 

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x 3.5mm stereo jack
Digital Audio Input Bluetooth A2DP wireless connection
Network
Wi-Fi Wireless 802.11g/n WPS
Bluetooth A2DP

Speakers

Output Power 50 watts RMS per channel Stereo
Speaker Layout 2 speakers 2 x 5” full-range speakers

The unit itself

The Pure Jongo T6 is a large speaker system that is directly powered from the AC supply rather than using a wall-wart power adaptor. This unit uses an integrated stereo amplifier which drives two 5” full-range speakers. It can be positioned on its side to work as a mono speaker and can be part of a stereo pair with the sound streamed from the same network.

As for powering the speaker from AC power, the Jongo T6 uses an integrated AC power supply like most boom-boxes. Here, it came with the typical “portable-radio” AC cord rather than one of those “wall-warts” that can be annoying when using power boards or even double power outlets.

Like most of the wireless speakers that are currently on offer, the Pure Jongo T6 implements the “own access point plus Web page” for integrating with a Wi-Fi segment that doesn’t implement WPS one-touch setup. This page also allows you to determine vertical or horizontal placement which affects how the speaker will sound. Of course, you can subsequently manage the Jongo speaker from your smartphone using the Pure Connect app.

Pure Jongo T6 wireless speaker side view

Side view with main controls

If you are using the Pure Connect app, you have to look for the distinct P logo which shows that the app has detected the existence of Jongo speakers on the network so you can stream the Internet radio and on-device content through your speaker. Of course, this speaker works hand in glove with other third-party DLNA control-point software making it be part of the DLNA Home Media Network.

There is of course the Bluetooth ability where the speaker can be simply paired to your phone when it is turned on and this device didn’t take long to pair up to my Samsung Android phone as a Bluetooth endpoint. Then it was able to yield smooth streaming performance from the smartphone.

The Jongo T6 does yield a powerful sound that has a good tight bass but there isn’t at times much of the treble response. The Pure Connect app offers a treble and bass control but I assessed it based on the tone controls being kept flat.

As for performance on the home network, it works well in most locations when it comes to picking up the Wi-Fi signal and is reliable with streaming content sent to it using DLNA. It can recover quickly from jitter with Internet radio but, like a lot of these devices, “gives up the ghost” too easily if the connection is congested rather than retrying if it loses touch with the host server.

Pure Jongo T6 wireless speaker rear view with Wi-Fi button

Rear view with Wi-Fi button

I set up a Jongo multi-speaker arrangement with this speaker and the S3, running the Heart London Internet-radio stream through this setup using the Pure Connect app and both the speakers were working in sync with each other. The speakers responded to my settings on the Pure Connect app after just under a second.

I have run this speaker with my smartphone as a Bluetooth A2DP media device and it was responsive when it came to paring and connecting up with the phone. This echoed the same behaviour that the demonstrator Jongo T6 came through with at the Australian Audio & AV Show 2013.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

I would like to see the Pure Jongo range of products equipped with a “Bluetooth / Wi-Fi” switch which forces them to work either as a Wi-Fi device that is part of the home network or as a Bluetooth speaker. This can work well with “walk-up” usage where someone may play content from their mobile device or laptop on an ad-hoc basis.

Similarly, this range of products could work with the Pure mobile-platform app to implement a Wi-Fi Direct or “own-AP” setup with a smartphone or tablet associated with a 3G service for Internet radio and other Internet services when they are used away from a small network or to set up a multi-speaker arrangement away from a small network. But this can be mitigated through the use of the Bluetooth connection between the mobile device and the speaker for 1-to-1 audio streaming.

Pure could also port their Connect app to the Windows 8 and Macintosh OS X platforms to make it relevant to the increasing number of small notebooks and tablets that run these regular-computing operating systems.

As for the T6, it could be improved through Pure offering a “higher-tier” model that has the tweeter speakers to bring out the best for higher frequencies. The app could also offer a loudness function to allow it to sound at its best at softer volumes.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Pure Jongo T6 by itself as a wireless speaker fit for filling a kitchen or other medium-size area with music or competing in a noisy environment in a similar vein to a larger portable radio.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Pure Jongo A2 Network Audio Adaptor

Introduction

I am reviewing the Pure Jongo A2 Wi-Fi / Bluetooth audio adaptor which connects to one’s favourite stereo system or a pair of active speakers to play content from a computer, network or mobile device. This is achieved through Wi-Fi DLNA technology or through Bluetooth A2DP technology.

It is part of the Pure Jongo ecosystem which has integral support for synchronous playback of network-hosted sources over the same network and is managed via a Pure Connect mobile-platform app for iOS and Android.

Pure Jongo A2 network media adaptor

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$199

Accessories

Decorative collars (lime green, mango, burnt orange, white): $29

Form Factor

Adaptor for existing audio and AV systems

Functions

Internet audio Internet radio via Pure Connect,
Network Media DLNA network audio client

 Connections

Input Count as for a device
Digital Audio Input Bluetooth A2DP wireless link
Output Count as for a device
Audio line output
(tape level – connect to a tape deck or from device to amplifier)
1 x RCA socket pair
Digital Audio Output SP/DIF via 1 x RCA coaxial socket  and Toslink optical socket
Network
Wi-Fi Wireless 802.11g/n WPS
Bluetooth A2DP

 The unit itself

The unit is slightly bigger than a 500g (“pound”) block of butter and is shaped like a triangle with curved sides. There is the ability to style it your way using optional decorative collars available from Pure, but this size also makes you want to take it with you to hook up to any sound system at any location.

Pure Jongo A2 network audio adaptor connections

This adaptor has digital (coaxial and optical) and analogue audio outputs to suit all consumer audio equipment

For connectivity, the Pure Jongo A2 covers all bases as far as consumer audio and AV equipment is concerned.  Here, you have a pair of RCA connections to provide a line-level audio connection to any vacant auxiliary or tape input on your sound system. If you are using a digital-analogue converter, a home-theatre receiver or a digital amplifier, you can connect this network audio adaptor to this digital inputs on that component using the coaxial (RCA) or optical (Toslink) connections. This lets you use the better digital-analogue signal path offered by these devices as well as obviating the risk of electrical noise in the signal that can come about with longer RCA-cord analogue connections.

When it comes to the home network, you have the ability to connect to an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi wireless segment. This supports WPS push-button setup or you use the “own access point and Web interface” for integrating this device in to your existing small network.

The Jongo plays properly as a DLNA MediaRenderer device where it can reliably accept a run of audio content that it is directed to play via the home network. I had this playing a run of albums through the household stereo system by “finding” the files on my WD My Book World Edition NAS using Twonky Mobile on my Samsung Android phone and using that app to have it play the tracks.

The Pure Connect app provides the multiple-speaker functionality for content held on your device as well as Internet-radio content hosted through the Pure Internet-radio directory service.

As a Bluetooth A2DP endpoint, the Jongo A2 had played its part very well with my Samsung Note 2 smartphone by running the content streamed to it very smoothly even though the phone was two metres from it.

Other comments

If you do want to make sure that this device works at its best, yielding a clean sound from your existing stereo system, make sure that the Bluetooth output volume for your Bluetooth-capable phone is at 75%. Similarly, bypassing any tone controls on your media player software and adjusting the tone on your stereo equipment’s control surface keeps the setup sounding at its best without the risk of sound that is too much like that pub jukebox.

If you are using a UPnP AV / DLNA media controller or Pure’s Connect app to manage this device, make sure that the output volume is no more than 75%-80%. Personally, I use the volume control on the stereo system to adjust the volume to how I want it to sound at a particular moment.

A teenager who lives with us was very impressed by the fact that the Pure Jongo A2 had “all bases covered” and was not being tied to an Apple-only ideal when it came to audio-equipment connectivity.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

As we see the arrival of other services like Pandora and Spotify, the Pure Jongo system could offer app-level connectivity to these services. This can also be augmented by the use of software for Windows 8.1 and Macintosh OS X so that small notebooks, tablets and similar computers based on these regular-computer operating systems can play along with the Jongo ecosystem.

The Pure Jongo A2 could offer integral Apple AirPlay support for those of us who want all wireless-connectivity bases covered in one box. Similarly, Pure could offer a variant of this device that has the ability to stream audio content from another sound system into the Jongo speakers that are on the network, which could please those of you who work with vinyl or other legacy formats or who want to stream the output of a PA system used by a band, MC, DJ or similar user to other Jongo speakers.

As for network abilities, it could benefit from dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity and / or Ethernet connectivity to avoid the problems that are becoming associated with a crowded 2.4GHz band. The Ethernet functionality could come in to its own due to the fact that it would be used with equipment that is normally kept in one place.

Conclusion

I would see the Pure Jongo A2 as a tool to provide an “open-frame” bridge between your smartphone, tablet or laptop with Bluetooth or your DLNA Home Media Network using Wi-Fi. You also can add Internet radio to this mix using the Pure Connect app’s access to Pure’s Internet-radio directory. Even if you do have an Apple AirPort Express in place for AirPlay connectivity, you are able to effectively have “all bases covered” with this device.

The digital connectivity effectively lets you use the better digital conversion circuitry in your home theatre receiver or digital amplifier in a way that the Apple AirPort Express and a lot of other similarly-priced devices don’t..

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Denon UrbanRaver AH-C100 in-ear headset

Introduction

I am reviewing the Denon UrbanRaver AH-C100 in-ear stereo headset which is the cheaper in-ear model of the UrbanRaver series of bass-enriched headsets. These are intended to appeal to people who value the in-ear style of headphones or like their portability compared to a pair of over-the-head headphones.

Denon UrbanRaver AH-C100 in-ear headset

Price

RRP: AUD$109

Type

Headphone Assembly Earphones
Driver Positioning Intra-aural (in the ear)
Microphone Position In-line
Connectivity
Headset 3.5mm four-conductor plug
Adaptors Nil

The headset itself

Connectivity

The Denon UrbanRaver AH-C100 headset works as expected with most devices no matter whether they have the headphone jack or the full headset jack.

Comfort

Earpieces for the Denon UrbanRaver AH-C100 headset

Earpieces for the Denon UrbanRaver headset

This may be a subjective remark but the Denon Urban Raver AH-C100 can be difficult to wear especially if the headset ear-adaptors that come with it don’t suit your ear canals. Once in place, they don’t cause any fatiguing even for a long journey.

Sound

Like a lot of in-ear headsets and earphones, the quality of the sound for the Denon Urban Raver AH-C100 headset is totally dependent on the earbuds fitting in your ear properly with the supplied ear-caps in place. I even tried using these earphones without the ear-caps in place as if you were to use them like earplugs but I didn’t get the full desireable response from them.

There is the tight bass response that is identifiable with the UrbanRaver headphone lineup but you still hear the “rest of the music” in the songs such as the vocals and melody-bearing or harmony-bearing instruments.

As for non-music content, there is the clear dialogue, and the tight presentation of sound effects coming out of the headphones which makes them work appropriately for private viewing of videos or private gameplay.

I have taken a call using the headset and can hear the correspondent’s voice clearly and they could hear me clearly.

Noise reduction and handling in noisy environments

I have used these headphones during a train journey from Ballarat to Melbourne using a Vline “Vlocity” diesel railcar train. These have a similar engine noise level to most transit buses or coaches as heard from inside the cabin. Here, I was able to hear the music material from my Samsung phone at a reasonable volume without the engine noise competing with the sound.

Motorcyclists who are most likely to buy headsets like this due to them being able to be worn in conjunction with their helmet may appreciate the noise reduction because they can hear what’s going on around them but not as much the noise from the machine under them.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

There could be further work done on making the Denon UrbanRaver AH-C100 headset fit for most people especially if it could serve also as an “earplug” headset for colder climates.

As well, like with most of the headsets I had reviewed, a break-out plug and/or USB communications audio module would be nice to have to make these headsets work well with online gaming environments. This is more so with “gaming-rig” PCs or console audio adaptors that aren’t likely to have the four-conductor jack.

Conclusion

The Denon UrbanRaver AH-C100 headset comes across as a compact in-ear headset that you can stow away but need to make sure it fits properly every time you wear it for best bass response.

Here, they can come in handy for cyclists and motorcyclists who value using a headset in conjunction with their favourite helmet as they ride their bike on longer distances or want to keep on touch through that bike ride.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Sony VAIO Fit 15E mainstream laptop computer (Model: SVF1521JCG Series)

Introduction

I am reviewing the Sony VAIO Fit 15E laptop computer which is Sony’s latest take of the VAIO E series of mainstream laptop computers. This is where these computers come with the 15” screen and extra secondary storage, in some cases an optical drive of some sort.

Sony offers a variant with an Intel i7 processor and 8Gb of RAM as the deluxe option but that is all that they offer to make it worthwhile whereas I would like to see a few more features like a higher-resolution display offered as a more convincing upsell for most people.

Sony VAIO Fit 15e on dining table

Price
– this configuration
RRP AUD$999
Form factor Regular laptop
Processor Intel i5 processor extra cost
Intel i7 processor
RAM 4Gb
extra cost: 8Gb
shared with graphics
Secondary storage 750Gb hard disk,
variants available
DVD burner, SDHC card drive
Display Subsystem NVIDIA GeFORCE GT740M + Intel HD 4000 Graphics (NVIDIA Optimus automatic switch) 1Gb display memory
Screen 15” widescreen
(1366×768) touchscreen, variants
LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Audio Improvements All audio tuning available
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Connectivity USB USB 3.0 x 2 (1 with Sleep and Charge), USB 2.0 x 2
High-speed connections eSATA, Thunderbolt, etc
Video HDMI
Audio 3.5mm stereo  output jack, 3.5mm stereo input jack, digital audio output via HDMI
Sensors Touchscreen Yes
NFC Yes
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: Graphics:
Advanced Graphics:

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

IMG_1166The VAIO Fit 15e series comes as a regular clamshell laptop computer but has a touchscreen like the previously-reviewed HP Envy4 Touchsmart Ultrabook. The action associated with this computer is very durable.

As I opened with, this laptop is equipped with a DVD burner which raises mainstream laptop credentials while satisfying realities with software, especially games, that are still delivered on optical disc.

There is a reduced chance of heat build-up with the computer having ventilation slots on the underneath as well as the sides. This makes the laptop more comfortable to use on your lap as well as less likelihood of the performance suffering due to heat stress.

This model is available in black, pink or white with the white variant, which I am reviewing, appeals to those of us who want to personalise it more.

User Interface

The Sony VAIO Fit 15e’s keyboard is a chiclet-style keyboard but is commensurate to touch-typing thus making it comfortable to use for a laptop keyboard. This along with the numeric keypad ticks the boxes when it comes to a highly practical keyboard surface for a mainstream laptop.

The trackpad sometimes acts in a jumpy manner when you are typing but could benefit from a hardware switch to turn off trackpad.

Sony VAIN Fit 15e laptop - optical drive

Equipped with an optical drive for burning or playing CDs and DVDs

There is an NFC reader on the palm rest and it worked properly with my Samsung Galaxy Note II Android mobile phone. But its implementation in the laptop would take off if there were some quality Windows 8 applications or Android / Windows 8 app ecosystems that took advantage of it.

The touchscreen also comes across as being very accurate and responsive, making it suitable for coarse navigation.

Audio and Video

The VAIO Fit 15e’s graphics system is based around a NVIDIA discrete chipset and Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. NVIDIA even implements the Optimus function which switches over between these graphics subsystems when the goal is battery economy or graphics performance.

There is the glossy screen which bedevils most consumer-grade laptop computers and requires them to be very bright when used outdoors. This can frustrate users when it comes to battery runtime.

Sony VAIO Fit 15e laptop right-hand-side view with optical drive and two USB 2.0 connectors

Right-hand-side view with optical drive and two USB 2.0 connectors

Sony have implemented a 2.1 speaker arrangement which has a separate bass driver that provides some “kick” in the sound. This can be a bonus when you can only use the integrated speakers for portability but headphones or external equipment for better sound.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

This laptop has 4 of the USB connectors with two being a USB 3.0 type for external storage. As for video display connectivity, you only have an HDMI socket which rules out older and cheaper data projectors for a larger screen. There are separate audio input and audio output jacks on the left for connecting headphones or a microphone.

Sony VAIO FIt 15e laptop Left-hand-side view - Ethernet societ, HDMI output socket, 2 USB 3.0 sockets and 3.5mm stereo audio input and output jacks

Left-hand-side view – Ethernet societ, HDMI output socket, 2 USB 3.0 sockets and 3.5mm stereo audio input and output jacks

Network connectivity comes in the form of a Gigabit Ethernet socket for wired network segments as well as support for 802.11g/n 2.4GHz wireless network segments. As well, there is Bluetooth connectivity up to the 4.0 Smart Ready standard which supports low-power use.

Across the VAIO Fit 15e platform, the secondary-storage options are the same with 750Gb on the hard disk and a DVD burner which still is relevant in this day and age. This is relevant for activities like cost-effective data sharing or if your comfort zone for music, video and PC games is still the “bricks-and-mortar” shop. As well, the SD card slot is located on the front of the laptop at the centre.

Battery life

The VAIO Fit 15e’s battery performed properly for day-to-day regular use. This was augmented by a properly-implemented sleep functionality allowing me to use the laptop over two days without needing to charge it.

For playing a DVD, the VAIO could make it through the feature movie and end up with 10% of remaining battery runtime. This is something I would expect for most of the consumer mainstream laptops and may limit them for long-term portable multimedia and gaming activities.

Other usage notes

I took this laptop with me to Ballarat when I was seeing a close friend of mine for the weekend and this friend was impressed with the fact that the computer was equipped with a touchscreen that worked tightly with the Windows 8 user experience. Like most people, he hasn’t come across a mainstream 15” consumer or small-business laptop that was equipped with a touchscreen. He was also impressed with the build quality of this machine and described it as being a good quality substitute for most mainstream laptops like the ThinkPad.

He even mentioned to me that the touchscreen interface will be very desireable due to the fact that most of us use smartphones and tablets with the touchscreen interface.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Sony could equip the higher-end variant of the VAIO Fit 15E with more options than just the more powerful processor and increased RAM in order to make for a convincing upsell option. Here, they could offer a BD-ROM / DVD burner as the optical drive, a 1080p Full HD display and / or dual-band Wi-Fi networking and / or a higher-capacity hard-disk for secondary storage.

These could allow Sony to create three variants with the same screen size and pitched at the same market as car builders like Ford and Holden have done with their popular family-car ranges. This is the laptop that serves primarily as the main household computer for Web browsing, games, running one’s “startup” small business and other activities.

As well, the NFC sensor could be duplicated on the back of the computer to cater for Sony’s NFC Easy Connect equipment-pairing ability.

Conclusion

ISony VAIO Fit 15e laptop rear view would position the Sony VAIO Fit 15e series of laptops as an all-round mainstream “dining-table” laptop for most households. Similarly it would work well as a small-business work-home laptop or as something that suits travellers who work from a particular location at their destination such as their friend’s house, a hotel room or ship’s cabin.

Here, Sony’s multimedia prowess would come in to its own when you want to dabble with photos, movies or music on the road.. The only sore point here may be the price being offered for this model but it is worth looking for the good deals on this unit.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock

Introduction

I am reviewing the Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock which is the first item issued as a tribute to Marantz’s 60th anniversary as a major force in hi-fi sound. The name came about from the first product issued under this brand which was an amplifier which was about top-notch record reproduction and mono hi-fi sound.

Here, we are talking about one of a few top-shelf speaker docks or network-enabled single-piece audio systems that are all about top-notch sound reproduction/

 

Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock

Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock

 

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$1650

Form Factor

One-piece music system with integrated speakers (stereo speakers).

Functions

Internet audio Internet radio via vTuner,
Network Media DLNA network audio client with Renderer remote-play function, AirPlay remote-play function
Stored Memory USB port (Mass-Storage)
Apple iPod support 30-pin dock, USB connection,

 

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x RCA-socket pair

Speakers

Output Power Bi-amplified
25 watts per channel (tweeters)
50 wats per channel (woofers – bridged (BTL) amplifers)
Stereo
Speaker Layout 1 speaker system per channel Per channel
2.6” midrange / tweeter
4.3” woofer

Network

Wireless 802.11g/n with WPS setup
Wired Ethernet

The unit itself

Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock control panel detail

Control panel detail – press on the Marantz logo to reveal the 30-pin dock for legacy iPods and iPhones

The Marantz Audio Consolette has been designed as a high-grade hi-fi system with a timber back panel that is effectively curved amongst other symbols of elegance.

There are the elements of style that are very consistent with some of the high-end Marantz amplifiers, tuners and receivers over the years, such as a large thumbwheel for tuning and a porthole style presentation for power / tuning-aid meters found on these components.

Here this is reflected with a large thumbwheel that serves as a volume control or selection control as well as a “porthole” display for showing the unit’s operational status including the current time.

Marantz Audio Consolette rear view with wooden back

Rear view with wooden back

There are six power amplifiers integrated in this unit (3 per channel) and these are arranged in a combination of a bi-amplified and a bridged setup. For each channel, one 25 watt amplifier looks after the middle and high frequencies while a pair of 25-watt amplifiers bridged to work as a 50-watt amplifier handle the bass frequencies. This makes sure that this unit can provide a clean and meaty sound as well as not “running out of steam” when it is taken to higher volume levels.

Setup and connectivity experience

The Marantz Audio Consolette follows the trend for most network-based audio equipment when it comes to network setup. Here. the device becomes its own access point and Web server during the setup phase to obtain Wi-Fi network parameters for non-WPS networks and you have to associate a smartphone, tablet or laptop that is equipped with Wi-FI to this access point and open a Web page hosted on the device’s Web server to determine your Wi-Fi network’s credentials.

Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock external equipment connections

External connections – RCA connections for other hi-fi components as well as Ethernet connection and network setup buttons

You can also connect this unit to an Ethernet network and the line-in connections for existing hi-fi components are infact gold-plated RCA sockets rather than the typical 3.5mm mini phone jack.

Pushing on the Marantz logo bar under the speakers yields a 30-pin dock for Apple iPhone and iPod devices that are suitable equipped such as the iPod Classics, the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 3GS. You may have to buy a Lightning-Connector adaptor to use this connection with newer iPhones or iPads.

Useability

Marantz Audio Consolette remote control

Remote control

It can work with most third-party DLNA control point programs for music playback from network resources. This comes in handy when a control point program excels in certain tasks like playing from a mobile phone’s music collection or an online music service.

If you are using the Internet radio function, you would need to use Marantz Consolette app to find the stations you are after but can use this to allocate them to the presets that you can use to directly access them on the remote control.

There is the large thumbwheel on the front of the unit for adjusting volume or selecting options and sources. But you can also operate this unit with its supplied infra-red remote control for source selection, track navigation and other basic tasks. Here, the remote control has that metallic feel that is all about quality equipment.

Sound quality and network prowess

The Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock does sound very clear with most sources and yields a very tight bassline that doesn’t dominate even with the latest dance tracks, which I had observed with a few of the Hed Kandi dance tracks.

I was able to get this speaker dock to 80%-90% of the volume level before it started to clip and sound awful, which shows that the amplifier array including the BTL-bridged power amplifiers makes for a very powerful system. This would make the Consolette be able to fill larger rooms like dining rooms or small lounge areas with good-sounding music and could satisfy party needs or even challenge the Sonos as a music system for that small café or bar.

As far as the home network was concerned, the the Marantz Audio Consolette worked well even on the “edge” of the Wi-Fi network segment, staying associated with the the Wi-Fi segment. When it cam to streaming Internet content like the Internet-radio channels, it kept the stream going and didn’t “give out” even in worse conditions.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Personally, I would see this system equipped with Bluetooth A2DP wireless audio for environments which don’t represent the typical small network such as business networks or resorts that implement Wi-Fi hotspots which require Web-based login.

As well, the Marantz Audio Consolette could benefit from access to Spotify and related services from Android and other devices or simply from the unit’s control surface.

To satisfy the newer network trends, this could benefit from dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi networking as we see a move away from the crowded 2.4GHz band for the small Wi-Fi wireless network. The RCA connections can be complemented with a 3.5mm stereo jack for walk-up connection of smartphones, laptops and similar devices.

Similarly, Marantz could also provide the ability to operate Internet-radio and DLNA media player functionality using either the controls on the unit or the remote control rather than you using a smartphone app to perform these tasks easily.

Conclusion

I would position the Marantz Audio Consolette for a person who wants a single-piece speaker dock / Internet radio for an iOS device or for a small network that has DLNA-based media sources but places high value on the sound quality.

Here, the Audio Consolette could come in to its own with the trend for downsizing to the many city apartments or simply for use as something that can earn its place on the dining-room sideboard as a secondary music system.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Denon Urban Raver AH-D320 headset

Introduction

I am reviewing the Denon Urban Raver AH-D320 headset which is a circum-aural headset that can be used with smartphones or as a pair of regular headphones with other audio equipment. These headphones are pitched for most popular music such as dance music by having a strong bass response that can accent the bass line and rhythm.

Denon UrbanRaver AH-D320 headset

Price

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$199

Type

Headphone Assembly Traditional over-the-head
Driver Positioning Circum-aural (over the ear with sound-containing foam wall)
Driver Enclosure Closed Back
Microphone Position Integrated in one of the earpiece assemblies
Connectivity
Headset Detachable cord with 3.5mm 4-conductor phone plug at each end
Adaptors 6.5mm stereo phone plug adaptor

The headset itself

The Denon Urban Raver AH-D320 headset is a well-built unit with a circum-aural solid-back earpiece design thus allowing for the strong bass response. They are available either with blue highlights or red highlights.

Connectivity

Denon UrbanRaver AH-D320 headset detachable cable

Detachable cable on this headset makes for something that will last a long time

A feature that I admire with the Denon Urban Raver AH-D320 headset is the use of a detachable cord which is able to be unplugged from the headset itself. This allows for a user to replace the cord with another one should the cord is damaged which is something that commonly happens with many headphones and earphones, often having the user write off a pair of headphones when this happens.

The fact that the microphone and controls are integrated in one of the earpieces rather than an inline pod or a boom attached to the headset, and the headset uses a single-sided connection as well means that a simple four-conductor cable with a 3.5mm four-conductor plug at each end can be bought or made up easily should something happen to the cable. It also does away with the need for a boom which can be easily broken off through regular use.

This headset worked with my Sansung Galaxy Note II phone as a proper smartphone headset. The limitation here with Android phones is that the only remote control ability is the multifunction button functionality for starting and stopping music or answering / ending calls.

It also works properly as a pair of regular headphones with most devices that use the 3.5mm stereo headphone jack or a 6.5mm stereo-headphone jack adaptor.

 

Deono UrbanRaver headphones - smartphone control knob and microphone

Where the mocrophone and smartphone-control knob is on these headphones

As for durability, these headphones look to me as though they could last a long time. This is through the absence of any earcup supports that could easily break after a fair bit of use and the wiring that exists to pass the sound to the other earcup isn’t just a wire integrated in the headband. Instead there is the use of metal strips that are pat of the headband’s design when you adjust the headphones for your head that does the job.

Comfort

The Denon Urban Raver AH-D320 headset felt tight but didn’t feel very “sticky” even for long journeys. As well, I hadn’t noticed the headband very much because of the use of an appropriate amount of padding. Here, you could wear these “cans” for a significant amount of time without them becoming uncomfortable.

Sound

The Denon Urban Raver AH-D320 headset is very efficient in that you don’t need to turn the volume up to have the sound come through clearly. This is a bonus for headsets that are pitched for portable equipment like smartphones and tablets because if you don’t need to turn the equipment up loud to gain that ideal sound, you are saving on battery runtime. As well, there is a chance for the headset to sound its best without requiring the device’s amplifier to clip.

The music comes across with a lot more bite across the frequencies thus being able to sound clear and without any colouring which could cause fatigue.

I have noticed the very tight bass response but these headphones can sound muddled on some tracks where there is a lot of competition in the bass end such as a bass-guitar along with drums. The other instruments do come across clearly even though there is the preference for the bass response on this headset.

I made a phone call using this headset and the caller’s voice had come across very clearly and they were able to hear and understand me through the headset’s microphone. As well, the headset’s microphone worked properly with Google Voice by being able to pass through what I said clearly to the Android smartphone.

As for use in noisy environments, the Denon Urban Raver AH-D320s worked well by providing some noise reduction. I had used them in the CBD (downtown area) of Melbourne and noticed some reduction in the city noise but was able to hear essential noises that alert me to vehicle presence.

As well, I had noticed a distinct noise reduction when I was using them while sitting up the back of a regular transit bus through a long journey. Here, I was able to hear the program content from my phone even as the bus was at cruising speed and had noticed less of the engine noise. This would improve on their suitability for people who ride on diesel trains or buses where there is the increased noise during travel.

Other Usage Notes

I let some friends who are in to funk, soul, 70s-era American disco and related music try the Denon Urban Raver AH-D320 headphones with their Samsung phones which were full with this music. They tried it with Daft Punk’s northen-summer party anthem of 2013 “Get Lucky” and Stevie Wonder’s classic “Jammin’” and were very impressed with the way these headphones came across with these numbers. One of them who used to be a DJ in the disco heyday of the 70s found that these headphones had a better response to the $1000 cans he used in those days.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Denon could provide a microphone-headphone breakout cable and/or a USB communications-audio module as optional accessories for their headsets. These accessories would please gamers who use them as communications headsets for their favourite online games.

They, like other headset manufacturers could provide an inline switch on the cable for switching between Apple or OMTP headset wiring to provide maximum compatibility with smartphones or other communications devices that use either wiring.

Another point of improvement, which could lead to a model variation, would be to offer a Bluetooth wireless variant. Here, they can offer the wireless link that a lot of us crave for our mobile devices.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Denon Urban Raver AH-D320 headset as a cost-effective decent headset that does justice to most popular music. Here, these headphones could come in to play as a step-up from that pair of cheaper headphones that you use with your smartphone or media player or could work as a pair of DJ “cue” headphones.

They would also be a good gift idea for something to give someone who is in to rock, soul, dance or similar popular music and a group of people who pitch in together for these headphones, like a couple or family, can ease the burden when it comes to purchasing these as a gift.

Statement Of Benefit

After realising that there was a friend of mine loves his rock music wery much, I have purchased a set of these headphones close to Christmas to give to him as a gift. I was able to purchase the set for AUD$99 off the recommended retail price effectively from the distributor’s warehouse door.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider convertible tablet (Model: SVT11215CGB)

Introduction

I am reviewing the Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet computer which is a Windows 8 tablet computer that has a keyboard that slides from under the screen if you lift the back of the screen up.

There is a more expensive variant which has a faster processor and more capacity on the solid-state drive compared to the model I am reviewing.

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet

Price
– this configuration
RRP  AUD$1499
Form factor Slider convertible tablet
Processor Intel Core i5-3317U CPU extra cost
Intel i7-3517U CPU
RAM 4 Gb
Extra cost: 8Gb
shared with graphics
Secondary storage 128 Gb solid-state drive,
extra cost: 256 Gb solid-state drive
SDXC card / MemoryStick reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics
Screen 11” widescreen (Full HD) LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Audio Improvements Dolby Home Theater, Sony S-Master headphone amplifier
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Connectivity USB 2 x USB 3.0
Video HDMI, VGA
Audio 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
Authentication and Security Fingerprint readers, TPM
Sensors Touchscreen, NFC, accelerometer, gyro, digital compass
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8 extra cost:
Windows 8 Pro
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: Graphics:
Advanced Graphics:
Insert variants with relative price shifts

The computer itsel

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet computerThe Sony VAIO Duo 11 is a beautifully-designed slider convertible computer where the keyboard pulls up from under the touchscreen which also appears at an angle. It could have an identifying mark to guide users to lift the top upwards to slide out the keyboard because it can be confusing for first-timers to lift the bottom of the screen to pull out the keyboard.

The slider mechanism worked very smoothly even though I was dealing with a well-used demo / review-sample unit. As for a lightweight highly-portable computer, the VAIO had ticked the boxes for something that is able to be taken around and about be having a small footprint even when used as a keyboard as well as being lightweight enough to stow in a shoulder bag.

There was very little heat buildup when I watched video material on this computer due to the use of strategically-placed vents on the back of the tablet.

User Interface

The Sony VAIO Duo 11’s illuminated keyboard is large enough to comfortably touch-type on. This is of importance when you are using this unit to do something like live-blog or take notes for a significant amount of time.

But the keyboard area works as a trackpad along with a joystick in the middle of the keyboard. This doesn’t do a good job for fine navigation and a Bluetooth mouse would be an essential accessory for content creation.

The touchscreen does its job properly for coarse navigation and even works well with food-coated fingers that would be expected when you are using this unit in a Wi-Fi-hotspot cafe. Here, it is very responsive and accurate.

As for supplementary controls, the VAIO could also benefit from always-accessible controls for sound volume and “airplane mode”.

Audio and Video

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet - Right-hand-side view - 2 USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port

Right-hand-side view – 2 USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port

The Intel HD video display subsystem was very smooth and responsive for both regular desktop content and video content. The high-resolution setup can be a problem for desktop applications unless you configure the text display to magnify the text by 150% or zoom in oh the copy that you are typing.

As for the screen, it is very glossy but it is bright so you can see the content easily. The sound will be typical for a laptop and excels well for voice and sound effects. Headphones or external audio equipment would be of benefit for better sound quality.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet computer left-hand-side view - VGA port, memory card slots (SDXC and MemoryStick), audio output jack

Left-hand-side view – VGA port, memory card slots (SDXC and MemoryStick), audio output jack

The Sony VAIO Duo 11 has the full video complement for the old economy projector or the new HDTV by offering a VGA connector and an HDMI connector for either of these devices.

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet -Rear view - Power connection and clothespeg-style Ethernet connectio

Rear view – Power connection and clothespeg-style Ethernet connection

There are 2 USB 3.0 ports which would be enough for a USB memory key, USB wireless-broadband modem or a mobile printer. The VAIO also has a clothespeg-style Ethernet port like what the HP Envy 4 computers use, thus allowing you to connect it to wired network segments. As for Wi-Fi networks, there is the full dual-band 802.11a/g/n complement which makes this computer so adept to any current network. This level of connectivity would please not just those involved with troubleshooting home or business networks but anyone who valuse connectivity to any Internet-bearing computer network without the need to carry accessories with them. As for Bluetooth, the hardware is ready for Bluetooth 4.0 Smart devices – if wireless keyboards and mice exploit this technology, they could run for a long time on a pair of AA batteries.

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet -Clothespeg-style Ethernet connector for wired networks

Clothespeg-style Ethernet connector for wired networks

The solid-state hard disk has the appropriate capacity for secondary-computer use and has that instant responsiveness expected for this class of secondary storage. This is complemented with a slot for SD cards or Sony’s MemoryStick cards which comes in to its own when you want to “take the film out” of your digital camera or camcorder to gain access to your images or video.

Battery life

For day-to-day regular use, the Sony VAIO Duo 11 sips power but video streaming does place a demand on the battery. This was observed with half the battery available at the end of a 1-hour TV serial streamed down from SBS On-Demand via a Wi-Fi network.

Like with some of the smaller VAIO laptops, Sony offers an external battery pack as an accessory if you are finding that you want to run this on batteries for a very long time especially with video streaming or previewing.

Other usage notes

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet - rear viewThe slider-convertible design that the Sony VAIO Duo 11 has is the feature that impresses most bystanders in a similar manner to a sports car’s pop-up headlights or the way a convertible’s rag-top retracts at the push of a button.

One person who lives with me and uses an HP netbook as a secondary travel computer was impressed by the size of this computer and the way the keyboard comes out for regular typing. A cafe owner in trendy Brunswick Street, Fitzroy was also impressed with the way this computer changes from a tablet to a notebook computer when I was talking with him about it. This is although he sees a lot of people using Apple MacBook computers at his cafe-bar which has a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Sony VAIO Duo 11 could benefit from the use of a thumbstick as the main fine-navigation tool rather than a keyboard-wide touchpad.

As well, a sleeve could be supplied as a standard accessory to protect the screen from scratches as it is taken around in your bag. Windows 8 could also benefit from an option to implement a same text pitch across all resolutions on small screens so as to improve readability in Desktop mode.

The NFC sensor could also be duplicated on the front of the computer or on the keyboard edge as well as on the rear of the computer so you can transfer Web links easily between an Android phone and this device.

Conclusion

I would recommend this computer as a portable secondary computer for those of us who want to create content. Here, it would come in to its own with email, taking notes and similar activities. As well, those of us who like working at the “second-office” cafes, lounges and bars, or do a lot of travel would value this computer and its peers even though we use a larger computer like a desktop or larger laptop as the main computer.

Here, the Sony VAIO Duo 11, Dell XPS 12 or the HP Envy x2 would become more the “open-frame” touch-enabled answer to a MacBook Air 11-inch as far as a small notebook is concerned and is a sign of a very crowded market for this class of computer. They can also become a challenge to the 10″ tablets when it becomes desireable to have the full content-creation functionality without the need to carry extra accessories. I would consider this if you value less fiddling with “swivel-head” mechanisms or detachable keyboards and always want to have a simplified single-piece device that can serves as a tablet or a notebook computer.

Send to Kindle