Since I had bought my Dell XPS 13 9300 laptop computer, I had found that the charger that Dell supplied with that laptop was able to charge my Samsung Galaxy S8 Android phone quickly. It is in addition to this charger being an external power supply for use with this laptop when it’s away from my desktop and the Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt dock used as the hub there. This is thanks to both devices implementing the USB-C connection and USB Power Delivery specification.
But if you are using a gaming laptop, you will have found that you have to use a highly-powerful power supply to charge that computer up or run it from the mains. Dell had used some sort of proprietary kludge to allow some of their high-performance business computers to work with their WD-19 series of USB-C and Thunderbolt docks.
and docks similar to this Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt 3 dock will support that class of computer in a “single-cord” manner independent of whoever manufactures the host computer product.
Now the USB Implementers Forum have revised the USB-C Cables and Connectors standard to version 2.1. This creates an “Extended Power Range” class of cables and power supplies which has been scoped in to the USB Power Delivery specification. It allows the delivery of 48 volts at 5 amps but is required to support 50 volts at 5 amps at the most.
Effectively this is to extend the power supply capability for a USB Power Delivery setup to 240 watts and will apply to all USB and Thunderbolt standards that implement the same physical and electrical connection.
What kind of benefit will this achieve? It will be about high-performance computers like gaming laptops benefiting from a “single-pipe” connection that also supplies the power these computers need. It will also open up the market for cheaper higher-powered power supplies that can serve these computers no matter the power-source kind (AC mains power, DC automotive power or battery packs). This will be facilitated more with the use of GaN power electronics in these power supplies which will allow for highly-compact designs.
Some also see the idea of the USB Extended Power Range cables being able to power computing peripherals like 4K monitors or inkjet printers. In the case of 4K monitors, it may be about reducing the number of power outlets needed to power a multi-screen computing setup where some of the screens work at that resolution.
Could this also open up an extra feature for gaming-ready 4K TVs?
But I also see the idea of home-entertainment equipment like 4K gaming-ready TVs or home-theatre receivers being equipped with USB-C sockets that support PD to the Extended Range level along with DisplayPort alt connectivity.
Here, this would come in to its own where one cable powers a gaming laptop while running video and audio from that laptop to the TV’s screen or, in the case of home-theatre equipment, a connected TV or projector. The benefit here would be a “quick-to-connect, quick-to-disconnect” setup when it comes to using that big-screen TV in the main lounge area for playing games.
At least the USB Extended Power Range addition to the USB-C Cable and Connectors specification will underscore the idea of making sure that the USB Type-C is the universal multipurpose connector for today’s tech life.
For that matter, I had bought the Dell XPS 13 9300 laptop and the WD-19TB Thunderbolt dock at a discount from Dell thanks to my reviewing of some of their computer equipment on this site.
In North America, the NFL Super Bowl is the penultimate final match for American “Gridiron” football. This also has the half-time entertainment with some big-time stars performing but it is also seen by the TV stations as the most valuable TV show there. It is thanks to many people watching it wherever they can on their TVs and this same football show ends up as a showcase of the best TV commercials that Americans have seen.
Most years I have highlighted and commented on consumer-technology ads that have appeared in this advertising showcase, incase you were overseas or were at a Super Bowl viewing party but missed that ad while reaching for that chicken wing or dipping those chips in that special dip. For example I had cited an ad for Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller with its focus on inclusive gaming.
This year, Logitech had joined the Super Bowl advertising showcase with an ad highlighting their current computer-peripheral product range in a creative context. Logitech is one of those brands I value due to their consistent use of Bluetooth as a wireless-connection option for all of their wireless input devices rather than just the dongle-based wireless approach. As well, the development of Darkfield technology has impressed me due to the ability to use suitably-equipped optical mice on glass surfaces.
Logitech had made so much money during 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus plague. This is due to them selling computer peripherals like mice like the MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse I have reviewed, keyboards and Webcams for us to equip our home offices with. For example, a lot of these devices would have been used to build out a desktop workspace for that laptop as mentioned in this HomeNetworking01.info article. Some of the pundits were evens saying that Logitech could even produce and run a Super Bowl ad on the back of their profits of these sales.
The Super Bowl ad carved out a message about determination in the face of what may be perceived as logic. This may be due to Lil Nas X (Wikipedia article) and his life including coming out as gay and hitting out against homophobia in hip-hop music, or fusing country-and-western music with elements of the hip-hop style especially rapping.
The vision in the ad underscored the use of a wide range of Logitech input devices like mice, styluses and keyboards with differing computing devices for creative purposes. There wasn’t any highlighting of certain products within their latest product lineup but it was about showing the whole lineup working together.
It is showing a distinctive direction for tech-focused advertising where the technology is for use by everybody no matter who they are, along with the idea of running these campaigns during key sports events where everyone would be watching.
As part of a gradual upgrade to a new workspace centred around my new Dell XPS 13 laptop, I have decided to buy a Logitech MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse. This is a very small portable mouse that is pitched for laptop use while on the road.
This mouse connects to the host computer via a USB-A “Unifying” receiver dongle. But it can connect to a Bluetooth-capable host, presenting itself as a Bluetooth human-interface device, which is the method I have preferred. This means that if your computer is equipped for Bluetooth like most laptops, all-in-ones and some low-profile desktops are, you don’t need to worry about using or losing a USB receiver dongle. That is infact a feature I look for with wireless mice and keyboards for that reason.
Low profile mouse
The setup routine for the Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse was very quick especially when I was wanting to use it via Bluetooth. Here, this was about pressing a button underneath the mouse to make it discoverable then having your Bluetooth host device “find” a new device in the form of this mouse, whereupon you select that device using the host device’s user interface.
Button underneath to select which host device the mouse works with or instigate Bluetooth pairing
Windows 10 even led me to download the Logitech companion software that provides extra functionality for the mouse. This software even showed me the features of this mouse and what I can set it up for including working across two different computers.
It also supports three-host operation so you can use it with three different host devices, no matter the platform. This will please those of us who run two or more computers or similar devices and want to use a mouse with them. A button underneath the mouse exists to select between the three different host devices you have set it up to work with.
Able to work on a glass table thanks to Logitech’s Darkfield tracking technology
This MX Anywhere mouse uses Logitech’s Darkfield optical technology which allows the mouse to work with glass surfaces like . That is compared to most optical-mouse technologies where they don’t work reliably with glass surfaces, be they having a glass top across an opaque material under that surface or them having a glass pane as the table or desk top. I have tested it with a glass coffee table which just has a glass top and have found that it works when I move it on the glass surface.
It is a very shallow compact mouse which fits under an adult’s palm easily. This also means that it can be stowed in your laptop bag or briefcase without taking up much room, making it more travel-friendly.
Scroll wheel and switch to select detented or smooth operation
The mouse’s scroll wheel has the feel of a Swiss watch’s crown and can provide a smooth feel or a detented “click-click-click” feel. This can be determined you you pressing a “mode shift” button on top of the mouse near the scroll wheel. There are also two buttons for horizontal scrolling or other functions you determine using the Logitech companion app.
USB-C socket to charge your Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse
The Logitech MX Anywhere mouse is powered by internal rechargeable batteries which means you don’t have to worry about buying many AA or AAA Duracells to keep it going. Here, you connect the mouse to a USB charger via its USB-C socket and it comes with a USB-A to USB-C cable for this purpose if you use existing USB chargers.
Here, I have found that I could get a few days of significant use out of the mouse before I needed to charge it up again. Then it takes just a few hours to charge it up. You may find that charging your mouse for the duration of, say, a lunch break may be good enough to get it back in order for the rest of your workday.
Limitations and points of improvement
I would like to see Logitech and others who offer input devices like the MX Anywhere mouse that are charged via USB to take this connection further. If the peripheral uses a USB-C socket, it could support full Power-Delivery compliance to allow for quick charging.
As well, the USB connection could permit wired operation so, in the case of this mouse, it can work as an ordinary wired mouse. That arrangement may be seen as being relevant where wireless operation of input devices is not really desired such as in aircraft or with secure workstations where use of wireless devices isn’t desired. It can also simply be a way to keep the mouse useful to you if the battery dies out while you are working.
If you are travelling with the Logitech MX Anywhere mouse, it is a good idea to make sure it is properly turned off using the slide switch when you have it packed in your laptop luggage. You then turn the Bluetooth mouse on when you intend to use it.
This avoids the risk of the battery depleting suddenly while you are travelling and you having to end up charging it before you intend to use it.
The small size and the use of Darkfield glass-compatible tracking technology makes the Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse a highly-capable laptop mouse. Here, you are not worried about what kind of surface you will end up resting that laptop on and using this mouse with when you head out and about.
Increasingly, a significant number of laptop-computer users set up a desktop-based workspace to use their computer at. With this arrangement, they equip the workspace with a full-sized keyboard and mouse alongside a large screen, with the computing power taking place inside the portable computer.
Why a desktop workspace for your laptop computer
The establishment of a desktop workspace for your portable computer is primarily about creating an ergonomic environment with full-sized input devices and larger screens that can stand long work sessions.
Some users may find this more important with ultraportable computers that use a smaller keyboard or omit things like numeric keypads. Similarly, you may find that a full-sized mouse may have work better for you than just relying on the computer’s trackpad.
Increasingly this arrangement appeals to the idea of running two screens thus creating a larger visual workspace. In most cases, this can be achieved through the use of a desktop monitor along with the laptop’s own display with them both set up to be a single display.
The laptop still is portable for use in the lounge during winter
Here you don’t lose the flexibility associated with using a laptop computer thanks to its portability. For example, your computing arrangements can suit the seasons at home if you have a good outdoor space that you use when it’s warm or you have a solid-fuel fire or a heater which conveys the look of a fire that you use when it’s cold. Or you can use a café or similar location as your “secondary office” when you want to work away from distraction. But you then are able to head back to your primary workspace where you want to benefit from what it offers.
Where is it relevant
A fully-equipped desktop workspace for your laptop computer is relevant to one or more areas you place a significant amount of your working time at. For a work-home laptop, this could be at your desk at the office you work at as well as your home office if you maintain this space. It will also have a strong appeal to those of us who run small businesses or community organisations with a physical shopfront but do a significant amount of the “homework” associated with running the organisation at home.
It also appeals to the “hot-desk” concept where different users end up using the same workspace but want to bring their computer, therefore their data, to that workspace. This is a significant trend that is being encouraged in new-style workplaces who are moving towards practices like telecommuting. But it also appeals to situations where, for example, members of your family want to use a fully-equipped workspace to do a significant project.
Similarly you can create multiple desktop workspaces with this kind of setup at different locations. I mentioned this earlier in the context of a “work-home” laptop taken between your workplace / business premises and your home.
But this can also extend to a secondary residence like a holiday or seasonal home, whereupon you can establish a similar desktop workspace to use with your laptop computer at that location. Or this could be about a similar workspace set up in a study for your older children to use while completing their assignments and projects on their laptops.
Here, you may end up “pushing down” older equipment that has mileage left in it to this secondary workspace as you buy newer better equipment for your primary workspace. Examples of this would be to upgrade to a more capable USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 dock or a better monitor while your existing USB-C dock or monitor ends up at the secondary residence.
Most of the equipment will be similar to what you would equip a standard desktop computer with but you may have to be particular about the connectivity issue concerning your laptop computer.
Full size mice can earn their keep here at your primary workspace
You will need to equip your desktop workspace with a full-sized keyboard and a full-sized mouse or other input device. Here, make sure you choose the keyboard or input device you are comfortable with. Be aware that if you find that the travel-sized mouse can suit your needs equally for continual use as a full-size mouse, so be it.
These can be either wired or wireless with the former requiring a USB Type-A port on the computer for each wired device. Or the latter can be wireless, either using a transceiver dongle that plugs in to the computer’s USB Type-A port or Bluetooth which uses the laptop’s Bluetooth interface.
Some of the wireless “desktop sets” which consist of a keyboard and mouse in one package may allow one transceiver dongle to work with both the keyboard and mouse. But with Bluetooth you don’t need to deal with transceiver dongles because you are using the computer’s Bluetooth interface.
LG’s 32″ 4K monitor with HDR10 – larger monitors like these are relevant for the desktop workspace
If you have a 2-in-1, especially of the convertible type, you may find that having it set up in the “viewer” or “tent” mode will allow you to have a screen without its keyboard or trackpad being active. You may have to make sure Windows 10 is operating in “desktop” mode if you are using the external keyboard and input device.
As well, a good-quality display monitor with the screen size you are comfortable with and resolution that suits your needs can work well as your main or secondary display. The secondary display can come in to its own by providing an increased screen size and you may find that you have to use a laptop stand or bracket that suits your computer in order to prop your computer up to screen level.
If the monitor has its own speakers and connects to the setup via HDMI or DisplayPort including USB-C DisplayPort alt, you will need to have the default sound device being the laptop’s graphics-infrastructure display-audio device. Preferably in this case, the monitor should have an external audio output if you want to use headphones or a better sound setup with it.
Having a 2-in-1 like this Dell Inspiron set up in viewer mode like this and using it with a keyboard and mouse may be a starting point for an enhanced workspace
Most operating systems will have the ability to have the screens work as either a copy of each other or as though they are one large display. It is in addition to setting up your computer to only use the external monitor as its display rather than its internal one. In this case, you may want to have the screens work as one large display if you value the increased desktop real estate or simply use your large monitor as your working display at your main workspace.
You can even go about having both screens as one large display but use the laptop’s built-in screen to “park aside” windows that you aren’t working with while you have the larger screen for what you are currently focusing on. That would be effective for those of us who use a 12”-14″ ultraportable as part of this setup.
This Creative Labs Stage Air soundbar and similar desktop speakers could provide the sound for your desktop workspace
This can be satisfied through the use of desktop speakers, including a desktop soundbar like what Creative Labs offers. Or that old amplifier or receiver connected to a pair of bookshelf speakers can do the trick. In the same way, that 1980s-era “ghetto blaster” that has a selectable line input can answer the same need.
The speakers or amplifier can be connected to your laptop’s or monitor’s headphone or line-out jack or you may want to use an outboard sound module for this purpose. You may find that that the dock you use to provide one-cable connectivity to your laptop will have a built-in sound module that has very similar functionality to a USB sound module.
But the standalone sound modules are more likely to have better audio connectivity or audio reproduction electronics. Here, this may be of benefit for those of you who have a home-office “den” that is equipped with high-quality audio equipment or you are using turntables or tape decks to salvage legacy media to digital form.
Such a setup may work well if you want better sound at your primary workspace and don’t want to rely on the laptop’s tinny built-in loudspeakers there. This would be important if you listen to music, watch videos or play games using that workspace.
These portable USB hard disks are seen as a way to expand storage capacity for your workspace
You can also get by with using a USB hard disk or solid-state-storage device not just as a data-backup device but to offload data that you won’t be needing to keep on your laptop’s own storage subsystem. This will be of importance with those computers that use a small SSD as their onboard storage. On the other hand, a network-attached storage could serve the same purpose as a data-backup or offload storage device. This is more important if you want to keep multimedia data available to your home network.
If you deal with optical disks like DVDs or Blu-Rays, you may find that a USB optical drive compatible with the disks you deal with may work well for this setup. This is more so if you are using the disks primarily at your desk, perhaps primarily to archive data; or simply want to play CDs, DVDs or Blu-Rays through your computer including ripping them to the computer’s storage subsystem. The same goes for other legacy removeable media like floppy disks or ZIP disks whereupon you use USB-connected drives for gaining access to data stored there.
A USB optical drive can come in handy here if you use CDs, DVDs or similar discs at all.
Some of you may find that keeping a highly-portable USB hard-disk / SSD and/or optical drive may answer your needs if you are intending to use them on the road. This may be about moving photos you take with your camera off your laptop or watching a DVD or Blu-Ray during the long-haul flight. In the case of secondary residences or similar premises, you may prefer to take the highly-portable USB storage device with you when you leave so your backup or offload data stored there is safe with you.
You may find that if you have an Ethernet connection near your workspace, you may want to connect your laptop to the network and Internet via Ethernet rather than Wi-Fi wireless. In most cases, this will allow high-throughput low-latency network and Internet connection and you may come across this if you have located your router in that workspace, wired your home for Ethernet or your business has wired Ethernet infrastructure.
This situation is answered through the use of a USB-based Ethernet network adaptor that plugs in to your computer’s Ethernet ports. But a lot of well-bred USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 docks have this function built in to them. Let’s not forget that you may find that your laptop has its own Ethernet port especially if it is a mainstream business or gaming unit.
Connecting many devices
The question that will come up frequently is how do I connect the many devices to my computer especially if it has fewer ports. Usually this would be about connecting and disconnecting many cables as you bring your computer to this workspace
Hubs and docks
To simplify this process, you may find that a USB hub or dock (expansion module) may come in to its own here.
A typical USB hub
A hub will have a number of USB ports for use with USB peripherals while a dock will have a range of different connections and interface circuitry for different devices. You may find that your monitor may have some of this functionality built in to it and this can be a real boon because you don’t have to deal with a separate box. It will be more so if you are dealing with a USB-C monitor.
Here, you connect all of your peripherals that would be normally connected to your computer to this device. Then you have a cable that connects the hub or dock to your computer to expose all those peripherals to it and its operating system. Previously these used a USB 3 Type-A connector but most of them now use a USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 connector due to the high data throughput and, in some cases, power-supply functionality that they offer.
A USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 dock like this Dell WD19TB dock is relevant for this kind of workspace
If your computer supports USB Type C or Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, these devices come in to their own with a DisplayPort “pass-through” monitor connection. In a significant number of cases, you will find that the hub or dock comes with a power supply and works to USB Power Delivery specifications. This will mean that you will be able to keep your laptop’s power supply in your laptop bag rather than always bringing it out when you want to work at home. With the power capacity, I would look for something that is at least 45 watts in order to cover most computers’ needs.
On the other hand, if your computer doesn’t have a USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 connection, you will have to connect your external monitor directly to the computer’s display socket. Some of the USB 3.0 docks will have a display connection of some sort and this will be facilitated through the DisplayLink standard which “pipes” the video output from your computer’s graphics infrastructure via the USB 3.0 output to the display connection. This setup may appeal for a secondary-display application where display latency isn’t an issue.
The rule with these devices is to make sure you are purchasing one that suits your current needs. As well, if you do choose to upgrade an existing hub or dock you can “push” your existing hub or dock in to service for another workspace that you use less regularly. Or if the hub or dock is small and light enough, it could be something you could stuff in your laptop bag to connect up other peripherals when on the road.
Some of you may use a laptop stand or bracket as part of your desktop workspace. Here, your computer will either clip in to the bracket or rest on this stand, typically to have the laptop’s display at the same height as your main computer monitor.
Here, make sure that the laptop stand or bracket is sturdy and can continue to do its job for a long time. It is also worth making sure that the stand is adjustable so that the top of the computer’s screen is at the same height as the top of the monitor’s screen.
Moving from desktop to laptop?
Some of you may be building out that desktop workspace for your laptop computer as part of moving from desktop to laptop computing.
Here, you can retain most, if not all of your desktop computer’s peripherals and connect them to your new laptop computer, whether directly or via a hub or dock. As well, an independent computer store or electronics store may offer self-powered USB disk-drive enclosures that fit most standard-sized internal-mount hard disks or optical drives used in desktop computers. This will mean that you can move hard drives, SSDs or optical drives out of you desktop computer’s case to these enclosures so you can continue using them, something that can be done with a screwdriver.
Lenovo even had this idea in mind with their BoostStation external graphics module which connects to the host computer via Thunderbolt 3. Here, this unit didn’t just have room for a graphics card but also had the ability for you to install a hard disk or SSD like the one you have removed from your old desktop computer.
Similarly, you will have to remove the hard disks or solid-state storage device that are in your desktop computer from that computer before you send it off for e-waste recycling. This is to preserve your privacy and the confidentiality of your data. Again, if you needed to, that computer store may have a USB disk-drive enclosure or a USB hard-disk docking station so you can get at any of your data on the hard disk or SSD.
This approach is worth taking if you find that your desktop setup’s peripherals have a significant amount of mileage left in them or you use certain peripherals that fit your needs exactly.
Once you build out one or more desktop workspaces for your laptop computer, you are then able to have the best of both worlds – comfortable ergonomic computing at your desk and portable computing with your laptop.
Samsung is launching two computer-monitor models that have Smart TV capabilities. It is similar to the likes of LG offering some computer monitors with integrated broadcast-TV tuners.
Good enough for that personal space where you work and live in
This class of computer monitor addresses use cases where one would put one of these monitors to service not just with their computer for work or advanced gaming but also for ordinary entertainment purposes. The classic examples of this use case include a bedroom or den that serves as one’s office and personal space; or a person who moves in to a small apartment or bungalow where one large room serves as their living room, dining room and office. It also includes university students who live on campus in a student-accommodation facility like a dorm or residence hall or workers who live in employer-provided accommodation facilities as part of their job.
I did some previous coverage on this topic in an article about having a TV serve as a computer monitor or using a computer monitor as a TV and nowadays some TV manufacturers are offering large-screen TV models that are optimised for computer games with the video electronics equivalent to what is offered in a current-spec gaming monitor. This is due to a realisation that one could be bringing that Windows-based gaming rig or that current-spec games console in to the living room to play games on the big screen TV.
But the Samsung M7 (32” 4K UHD) and M5 (27” or 32” Full HD) monitors have Samsung’s Tizen-OS-based Smart Hub smart-TV platform. These include access to apps for locally-popular video-on-demand entertainment services delivered through that platform. Both sets connect to your home network via Wi-FI 5 technology and they support peripheral connectivity via Bluetooth 4.2 or USB. The Wi-Fi functionality even goes further to work with Wi-Fi-based mirroring technologies and allows the monitor to be part of your DLNA Home Media Network. As well you can stream audio and video from supported Apple devices using the AirPlay 2 protocol.
There is even support for Samsung’s Wireless DeX capability where your Samsung Galaxy S8 or newer Android phone uses the TV as a desktop-style interface. Add to this a virtual-machine which works with Microsoft Office so you can work with Office-based documents stored in the cloud.
The monitors have a remote control so you can manage the smart-TV interface in a “lean-back” manner. This even has the ability to work with the Samsung Bixby voice assistant thanks to a microphone integrated in the remote control. As well, they have two HDMI inputs that support HDR10 and HDMI-CEC. That means you have room to connect your computer and another video peripheral like a set-top box or games console. The M7 model also has USB-C with 65W Power Delivery, Display Port alt connectivity and USB-hub functionality to boot.
A question that will come up is whether the monitors will have an integrated broadcast-TV tuner of any sort. As far as I know, they don’t have that kind of feature although the initial models are being launched in to Canada, the USA and China. But this may be a feature considered of importance for customers in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. This is because these countries place significant importance on access to free-to-air TV especially from their national public-service broadcasters.
On the other hand, the DLNA ability that they offer may work hand in glove with broadcast-LAN boxes and PVRs that support this standard. Or Samsung could build SAT>IP client support in to these monitors where they are targeted to British and European markets at least. This is due to this standard being supported for satellite broadcast-LAN devices and, in some cases, terrestrial and cable TV within those markets.
But what I do see of Samsung’s effort with the M7 and M5 monitors is that they are maintaining interest in the market niche where a computer monitor is expected also to serve as a TV for entertainment purposes. This market niche can be further supported through having a wide range of these types of monitors including some game-ready variants and units that can work well with multi-display setups.
In the average business context, Thunderbolt 3 is seen primarily as a powerful “connection pipe” for port-replication docks. The external-graphics-module benefit isn’t considered an advantage in this use case unless the user is doing multimedia editing, computer programming or number-crunching workloads involving large data sets.
But in 2018, Lenovo issued to the US market and some other markets their Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock (model: G0A10170UL) that has external-graphics-module functionality as well as port-replication dock functionality which includes RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. This uses a soldered-in NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics processor and 4Gb display memory, with this GPU considered as the economy model in NVIDIA’s desktop-class dedicated graphics processor lineup.at the time of release.
The Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock is not just seen as being fit for a desktop workspace but also being fit for travel. This is due to its relatively small size compared to the typical “card-cage” external graphics module. It is because the device has the same size and weight as the typical business-class port-replicator dock with the power supply unit being of a similar size to those that accompany this class of product.
The article mentioned that, at the time of review, there were issues with software bugs including not cooperating with onboard dedicated graphics setups in some laptops. Usually this will have been rectified through firmware, BIOS and driver updates that should have taken place by now.
But, like a lot of small external graphics modules that have soldered-in graphics silicon, the capability may be enough to give your laptop a bit of extra “pep” for some non-demanding graphics-based tasks. This may be about lightweight photo and video editing or people who aren’t really “core” gamers.
The Windows Central article also raised the prospect of number-crunching activities with large data sets. But the problem that shows up here is that regular office productivity software, especially spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel, doesn’t offer the ability to take advantage of high-performance computing setups like discrete graphics processors.
It is also another example where Lenovo thought outside the box when it came to offering external graphics modules. Here, the Lenovo Legion BoostStation “card-cage” external graphics module didn’t just come with the space to install a graphics card, but it also came with space to install a 2/5” or 3.5” SATA-connected hard disk or solid-state drive. This is compared to a lot of “card-cage” types that only have capacity to install a graphics card and can woo those of us moving away from desktops to laptops.
By seeing the idea of external-graphics-module products pitched towards everyday business users and their cost-conscious IT departments, it could legitimise this product class towards mainstream computer users. But further work needs to take place to see a wider range of business-class eGPU docks with differing peripheral-connection and graphics-silicon options, including whatever offers mid-tier multimedia-creation abilities, and to see multiple vendors offer these docks to the market.
Mainstreaming these external-graphics-module devices can also make them appeal to user classes who don’t necessarily have the disposable income to spend on high-performance computing. This is due to downward pressure on these devices’ prices and can be facilitated by Intel becoming a third force when it comes to performance-level graphics silicon.
I am reviewing the Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer that uses USB-C or Bluetooth host-device connectivity to print out labels using Brother’s TZe family of label tapes. This means it doesn’t use your home network for this purpose, rather it uses local peripheral connectivity approaches.
The Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer
The Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer is similar to the PT-P710BT label printer that I have previously reviewed. Here, these devices work on an USB power or a user-replaceable battery pack installed within the unit. They talk to the host computing device via a USB or Bluetooth connection working in a similar vein to a direct-connected printer.
They are dependent on Brother’s P-Touch software for regular Windows or Mac computers or the iPrint&Label for iOS and Android mobile-platform devices. As well, the use Brother’s TZe cartridge-based direct-thermal tape platform.
This can use the 36mm TZe label tapes that are wider
But the similarities stop here. The PT-P910BT which is finished in white is capable of working with TZe label cartridges that use 36mm-wide tape in addition to the narrower label tapes. That is compared to the PT-P710BT using label tapes with a maximum width of 24mm. Even if it appears to be thicker to accommodate wider tape, the Brother PT-P910BT label printer can be laid flat or be stood upright.
Uses a USB-C socket for data connectivity or power charging
The PT-P710BT label printer used a USB micro-B port as the equipment-side connection. But the PT-P910BT label printer implements the USB-C port as the equipment-side connector and is furnished with a USB-C to USB-A cable so you can connect it to regular computers or USB chargers using the traditional USB-A fitting.
Here, it has become the first Brother label printer that I have had for review that uses a USB-C connection for charging or wired connection to host computing devices.
Setting the Brother PT-P910BT label printer up with a mobile-platform device was simple. Here, you held down the power switch until the light flashed to make the printer discoverable by the mobile device, then you had to use iOS or Android to pair the printer to your smartphone or tablet.
This can connect directly to your USB-C-equipped Android smartphone using a USB-C cable. You have to select USB as the connection type on iPrint&Scan in this case.
After that, I had to make sure that Brother’s iPrint&Label Android software was downloaded from Google’s Play Store and installed on my Android smartphone. I also tried connecting the Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer to my Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus Android smartphone using a USB-C to USB-C cable and used the same iPrint&Label app to make a label using this connection. This was feasible once I tapped on the device name and then selected USB as the connection type to use within the same app.
For your Windows computer, you had to download then install the Brother P-Touch software, with an installation step having you connect the printer to your computer via USB. The Bluetooth setup process became awkward at some point because the Brother software invoked Windows and failed to discover even when the printer was in Bluetooth-discovery mode and the computer could “hunt” for Bluetooth devices.
Once set up, the Brother PT-P910BT Bluetooth label printer was able to turn out labels very quickly and clearly. It
But it still works as a Bluetooth labeller
didn’t matter whether were working with the P-Touch Editor on Windows or iPrint&Label on Android.
The printer can work with two Bluetooth-connected host devices concurrently but you will need to wait until it has finished printing before you can submit your label job from the other device.
The single light can be very confusing when it comes to knowing whether the unit is on an active Bluetooth connection or not, or if there is enough power in the battery. There is a second light near the USB socket to indicate whether it is charging or not. Personally, I would like to see a steady blue light glow during a Bluetooth connection and flash while it is in discoverable (pairing) mode as a way to make Bluetooth setup easier.
Limitations and Points of improvement
The Windows driver software needs to adopt a simplified setup approach that is agnostic of whether the device is connected to the host computer via USB or Bluetooth. It could allow you to install all the software then begin the Bluetooth pair-up process using the Find New Device option in Windows 10’s Settings menu.
As well, it will also be of concern for those of us who switch between USB wired and Bluetooth wireless connectivity on a whim. This may be to allow a user who forgot to charge the Brother P-Touch Bluetooth label printer up before doing a labelling run to connect to the host computer via USB for that job with that computer powering the labeller. This is even though the user uses Bluetooth as a preferred connection for their setup.
Brother could also set a good example for USB-C peripheral devices like labellers by fully implementing USB Power Delivery for charging or powering these devices. This could allow for fast-charging using ordinary USB PD hardware, like what is being expected for Android phones.
Conclusion – Is it a tool or toy?
This is an example of Brother offering an incremental update for a P-Touch labelling product and offering it as an updated variant that works with the largest of the TZe tape sizes. Again, this Brother PT-P910BT labeller comes across as a tool especially when you are wanting to do any labelling “on the go” while you are using
It is more about taking an incremental approach to improving and updating products rather than taking a radical new design approach. But the Brother PT-P910BT underscores the idea of using your smartphone or tablet and its Bluetooth connectivity or USB connectivity in the case of recent Android USB-C-equipped smartphones to turn out labels.
Previously Windows provided operating-system-level support for handling multiple graphics processors. This is due to the reality of many mainstream laptops being equipped with a discrete graphics processor along with the integrated graphics chipset, providing the ability for users to switch between high-performance or power efficiency depending on whether the computer is on AC power or batteries.
.. so users can choose whether an app uses the onboard discrete graphics processor or a desktop graphics card installed in an external graphics module like this Akitio Node unit
This was achieved either at hardware or graphics-chipset level with special software like NVIDIA Optimus achieving this goal. Then Microsoft recently added this functionality to Windows to allow you to determine whether an application chooses the higher-performance or power-efficient graphics processor.
But in an upcoming feature upgrade, Microsoft will allow fine-tuned control over which graphics chipset applications use. The function is in testing through their Windows Insider beta-testing program.
It will cater towards users who run more than two discrete graphics processors on their system such as a gaming rig with two graphics cards or a laptop / all-in-one / low-profile desktop that has a discrete GPU and Thunderbolt 3 and is connected to an external graphics module. This kind of configuration is primarily offered on Intel-powered premium consumer and business clamshell laptops with a screen size of 15” or more as well as most of the Intel-powered performance-focused laptops.
Here, the users can specify which graphics processor is the one for high-performance computing or can specify that a particular application uses a particular graphics processor.
It is also being driven by the rise of USB4 and Thunderbolt 4, where there will be an effort to make these high-performance USB-C-based peripheral-connection ports ubiquitous and affordable. This could then open up the path for laptops and low-profile / all-in-one desktops to have these ports with their presence being sold on the ability to upgrade the computer’s graphics with an external graphics module.
In the case of a laptop equipped with a discrete GPU and Thunderbolt 3, users may find that the onboard discrete GPU is really a “mobile-grade” type that is intended to be power-efficient but doesn’t perform as good as a desktop graphics card. Here, they would install a desktop graphics card in to a “card-cage” external graphics module and connect it to the computer for better graphics performance.
This may work as a way to allow the use of “fit-for-purpose” graphics processors like a mobile-workstation GPU for a CAD program alongside a gaming-grade GPU for a game. Or a user could run a video-editing program specifically with a graphics processor that is good at rendering the video content while they have another graphics processor available for other tasks.
Personally, I would also like to see Windows offer the ability for users to create an order of preference for high-performance graphics processors either for default high-performance use or for a particular application’s needs. This would come in to its own for graphics-card reviewers who are comparing against their “daily-driver” graphics card, or people who are moving a Thunderbolt-3-equipped laptop between multiple external graphics modules.
Similarly, the control over multiple-graphics-processor setups that Windows is to offer could also evolve towards “task-specific” GPU use. Here, it could be about focusing a graphics chipset towards batch calculation workloads rather than display-focused workloads. This is because people involved with video-editing, media transcoding, statistics, cryptocurrency or similar tasks may prefer to use the kind of chipset that is a “number-cruncher” for those tasks rather than one that excels at interactive computing.
At least Microsoft is working towards answering the needs of power users who deal with two or more graphics processors as part of their personal-computing lives.
This week, Apple used its WWDC software developers’ conference to announce that the Macintosh regular-computer platform will move away from Intel’s silicon to their own ARM-based silicon. This is to bring that computing platform in to line with their iOS/iPadOS mobile computing platform, their tVOS Apple TV set-top platform and their Watch platform that uses Apple’s own silicon.
Here, this silicon will use the ARM RISC instruction-set microarchitecture rather than the x86/x64 architecture used with Intel silicon. But Apple is no stranger to moving the Macintosh computing platform between microarchitectures.
Initially this platform used Motorola 680×0/PowerPC silicon which used a Motorola RISC instruction set microarchitecture. This platform initially had more chops compared to Intel’s x86 platform especially when it came to graphics and multimedia. Then, when Apple realised that Intel offered cost-effective microprocessors using the x86-64 microarchitecture and had the same kind of multimedia prowess as the Motorola processors, they moved the Macintosh platform to the Intel silicon.
But Apple had to take initiatives to bring the MacOS and Mac application software over to this platform. This required them to supply software development tools to the software-development community to allow programs that they write to be compiled for both Motorola and Intel instruction sets. They also furnished an instruction-set translator or “cross-compiler” called Rosetta to Mac users who had Intel-based Macs so they can run extant software that was written for Motorola silicon.
For a few years, this caused some awkwardness with Mac users, especially those who were early adopters, due to either the availability of software natively compiled for Intel silicon. Or they were finding that their existing Motorola-native software was running too slowly on their Intel-based computers thanks to the Rosetta instruction-set-translation software working between their program and the computer’s silicon.
Apple will be repeating this process in a very similar way to the initial Intel transition by the provision of software-development tools that build for Intel i86-64 based silicon and their own ARM-RISC based silicon. As well they will issue Rosetta2 which does the same job as the original Rosetta but translate i86-64 CISC machine instructions to the ARM RISC instruction set that their own silicon uses. Rosetta2 will be part of the next major version of MacOS which will be known as Big Sur.
The question that will be raised amongst developers and users of high-resource-load software like games or engineering software is what impact this conversion will have on that level of software. Typically most games are issued for the main games consoles and Windows-driven Intel-architecture PCs over Macs or tvOS-based Apple TV set-top devices, with software ports for these platforms coming later on in the software’s evolution.
There is an expectation that the Rosetta2 “cross-compiler” software could work this kind of software properly to a point that it can satisfactorily perform on a computer using integrated graphics infrastructure and working at Full HD resolution. Then there will be the issue of making sure it works with a Mac that uses discrete graphics infrastructure and higher display resolutions, thus giving the MacOS platform some “gaming chops”.
I see the rise of ARM RISC silicon in the tradition regular computing world and having it exist alongside classic Intel-based silicon in this computing space like what is happening with Apple and Microsoft as a challenge for computer software development. It is although some work has taken place within the UNIX / Linux space to facilitate the development of software for multiple computer types thus leading to this space bringing forth the open-source and shared-source software movements. This is more so with Microsoft where there is an expectation to have Intel-based silicon and ARM-based silicon exist alongside each other for the life of a common desktop computing platform, with each silicon type serving particular use cases.
I am reviewing the Brother DSMobile DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner which is a highly-portable pure-play document scanner pitched towards the mobile office.
This battery-powered mobile scanner can scan to a regular computer via a USB connection or via a Wi-Fi link , whether you are using the one it creates or an existing small or home Wi-Fi network. As well, you can use it to scan documents to your iOS or Android mobile device using a Wi-Fi link, either one it creates or an extant small network.
As well, you can use it offline to scan documents to a removable microSD card so you can then download them as files to your computer at a later stage. In this case, you can remove the card and install it in your computer’s SD card reader to get at your documents or while you have the scanner connected to your regular computer you see that SD card as a removable storage device with all your scanned documents.
Photo – Insert high-resolution photo of product INLINE
600dpi x 600dpi
Recommended Retail Price: AUD$299
The scanner itself
Two scan heads allow the Brother DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner to scan both sides of a page simultaneously/ The clamshell design makes it easy to remove jammed paper.
The Brother DSMobile DS-940DW Wi-Fi mobile scanner is powered from an internal rechargeable battery or an external USB-based power supply which you have to provide. That could be through your computer, a USB charger or a USB powerbank. But the same USB power supply also charges the battery whether you are running the scanner or not.
Connectivity and Setup
The Brother DS-940DW mobile scanner has an easy-to-find slider switch on the right-hand side that selects between SD card operation, direct USB connection and Wi-Fi network connection. This makes it easier for the user to switch between the mode appropriate to their scanning needs, be it to scan to their laptop via USB or to their mobile device via Wi-Fi or simply to scan to the installed SD card.
You connect the scanner to the host computer or a power supply using a USB 3.0 or USB-C cable with a USB 3.0 microB plug on it
If you intend to use the Brother DS-940DW scanner with your regular computer via USB, you connect it to the host computer using a USB 3.0 cable supplied with the scanner.
microSD card slot for offline scanning to microSD cards
In this case, if you did use the scanner offline and scanned documents to an SD card installed within the machine, the SD card will be presented to your computer’s operating system as another logical storage volume. This is similar to what happens when you are using a USB memory stick or an SD card reader.
Wi-Fi network connection
It is easy to change between WI-Fi, dirrect or offline scanning at the flick of a switch
The scanner can be connected to the computer via a USB cable or via a Wi-Fi network, whether one that it creates or an existing small network. But setting it up to work with an existing Wi-Fi network requires you to work it as its own Wi-Fi access point then log in to a specified Web page which has a “Wireless Setup Wizard” to associate it with the existing network. You can use WPS-based push-button or PIN setup if your access point or router supports these methods. For this function, there is a hardware button located on the side of the scanner near the operation mode switch.
I am identifying the issue of having this mobile scanner on an existing small Wi-Fi network due to the idea of setting up these mobile devices as part of a mobile network where there are more than two devices to be on that network. It is in addition to having this same device work as part of your home or small-business network.
Control panel with buttons to start scanning, determine whether to scan in colour or black and white or scan both sides of the page. Another button allows you to determine whether the scanned results are to be a JPEG image file or a PDF document file
When the Brother DSMobile DS-940DW mobile scanner is connected to the host computer via USB, it exposes a Mass Storage device class for the internal microSD card reader. This is in conjunction to vendor-specific devices that depend on the host computer running a Brother-supplied driver and scan-monitor software.
There is a default arrangement that if you enable Wi-Fi mode on the scanner, it will check for previously-configured networks before it goes to own-access-point mode which is indicated by a steady Wi-Fi light. Successful connection to a previously-configured network is simply identified by a steady Wi-Fi light after a bit of flashing.
If you are setting the Brother DS-940DW mobile scanner to work with your regular computer, you would need to install the drivers from the Brother support Website for this machine to work. You will also be supplied with the Brother iPront&Scan software which can do most of the essential scanning tasks.
Brother throws in complementary software like a business-card scanning app so you can scan your pile of customers’ or business partners’ business cards in to a contact-management database. This is software you can install when you download the driver and software package or install at a later date.
Mobile users will need to install the Brother iPrint&Scan app from their mobile platform’s app store. Here, they will need to use this simple software to scan the documents in to their device and “take them further” as they see fit.
Scanning a standard A4 or letter document page
The Brother DSMobile DS-940DW can only handle one page at at time but can scan both sides of that page at once. The double-sided scanning approach is similar to some of Brother’s multifunction printers that use single-pass duplex scanning.
When you scan a document, you need to make sure that the black paper guide is lined up against the original document’s edge before you start the scanning process. Here, you are making sure that the document isn’t skewing or likely to jam.
To deal with paper jams, you press the front of the scanner above the document-feed slot in order to expose the scanning heads to remove the misfed original. Here, the “clamshell approach” makes it easier to rectify any paper jams.
Ready to scan an ID card of standard “credit-card” thickness and with embossing – it can.
The Brother DS-940DW was able to scan ID cards, even those with embossed characters properly. I would see this as being important where users have to scan them to prove a customer’s identity during an “on-the-road” transaction.
The Brother DS-940DW has a built-in SDHC-compliant microSD card drive so you can scan documents offline to a microSD card. This is presented to the host computer as a standard USB Mass Storage Device and you use your operating system’s file manager to get at your scanned files which exist on that SD card.
I wouldn’t really expect this to work properly with the idea of showing your scanned photos through a smart TV or similar device that has its own USB port. It is because most of these dedicated-purpose devices don’t do a good job at handling multiple-function devices connected to their USB ports thanks to their firmware not supporting USB hubs as a device class.
I have used the scanner with the Brother iPrint&Scan software and found that it is competent as a basic scanning package whether to store the scan to your computer’s file system or to an online storage service.
At the moment, the Brother iPrint&Scan desktop scanning software works on a “pull-scan” approach where you have to start the scanning job from the software rather than a “push-scan” approach pressing the machine’s START/STOP button to initiate the scan job. This is due to the scan monitor software associated with the machine and providing this functionality not installing properly. I have addressed this issue previously on this site due to various scan-monitor programs taking time to respond properly when you start a scan job on the printer or scanner, with the idea of operating systems undertaking this role.
The Brother DSMobile DS-940DW network mobile scanner works with the Brother iPrint&Scan mobile app available on both the Apple and Google app stores. Here, it worked properly where you can simply save the scan to your mobile device or share it with other apps that handle the supported file types using the “share to” shortcut that iOS and Android provide.
Scan speed and quality
The machine can scan the pages you feed through it quickly and yields a high-quality reproduction of these pages. I had tried it with an ordinary A4 document, a snapshot photo, two till receipts and two ID cards and this was proven for each of them. With the photo, there wasn’t any difference with the colour saturation that was yielded.
If you are scanning till receipts with the scanner, it is a good idea to set the machine or your scanning software to scan the receipt single-sided. This will avoid problems with reverse-side text that may “come through” during the scan which may be a problem with receipts coming from devices that are loaded with “branded” paper that has advertising material printed on the back.
Limitations And Points Of Improvement
A key issue that I found with the Brother DS-940DW mobile scanner was a poor user experience when I enrolled it with an existing Wi-Fi home network from my smartphone. This could be improved upon through having a native mobile platform app for configuring this scanner’s network connectivity. It can include the ability to transfer a network’s connection details that are stored in your mobile device to the scanner as part of configuring that device.
For those of us who use a regular computer and the scanner’s Web user experience for configuring it to work with an existing Wi-Fi network, that user experience could be improved with an indicator that highlights successful connection to that network. As well, a hardware switch could be used to toggle between the scanner’s own network and an existing network, which may come in handy for troubleshooting or if you don’t want to use an existing network that you set up the scanner for.
It could also benefit from the full set of USB 3.1 specifications including the Type-C connection and USB Power Delivery for quick charging. Most likely I would see Brother offer this connection in a newer portable printing devices as the USB Type-C connection becomes the norm for portable computer equipment.
I also see the Brother DSMobile DS-940DW network mobile scanner being an ideal device to implement Mopria Scan driver-free scanning technology (Mopria Alliance press release PDF) which is currently implemented as an app for Android devices.
As well, it could support a transparency-scanning mode that capitalises on the single-pass auto-duplex scan method. Here, one of the scanning heads could simply be a white backlight while the other simply reads the image on the film. This would come in to its own with a wide range of applications like photographers with their negatives and slides, the medical profession with their film-based X-rays or businesses who have archived documents using microfilm and similar technologies.
Conclusion and Placement Notes
I do see the Brother DSMobile DS-940DW network mobile scanner as an agile highly portable pure-play document scanner that can answer many different needs. Here, it works well with anyone whose office is the driver’s seat of a car or the back of a van and can even answer the requirements to use mobile-platform devices as one’s primary workplace technology.
It is easy to consider a mobile scanner, especially a network-capable machine, to be a toy but I do see the Brother DSMobile DS-940DW mobile scanner as a tool. This is more so for mobile workers who need to scan receipts for work transactions incurred while travelling or to scan documents such as work authorisations and customer ID at the customer’s premises.
The fact that you can switch between scanning to an SD card, a USB-connected host or a Wi-Fi-connected host using a hardware switch makes the job of selecting the right mode for the job easier. For example, a mobile professional could switch the scanner over to “scan-to-card” mode and scan the fuel receipt to an SD card installed in the unit and serving as a “digital receipt shoebox”. Then they scan that work authorisation that their customer had signed when they visited and use the Wi-Fi link with their iPad running an email app to send the signed authorisation to their office.
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