Once regarded as an upstart as it offered graphics software at prices well below the accepted standards of the day, Serif is now an established software developer with a range of offerings such as this next title.
While you could easily spend several hundred pounds on a product for creating drawings and artwork (no names, no pack drill), there are more economically priced offerings available for the discerning user. One such title is DrawPlus from Serif. The latest version of this software is now up to X6, that’s 16 to you and me.
This is a three in one device as it scans copies and prints. Scanning can be done without any intervention once you start the wizard, at the other extreme I have never seen so many choices for copying should you wish to use them.
The Epson Expressions Photo XP-750 measures 38x32x12cm, at printing time you will need another 13cm in front of the unit to deliver the printed page face up on the automatically extending paper output tray. The touchscreen TFT also extends out to horizontal but that is within the extension of the paper output tray.
First a game that most will know from paper versions Wordsearch, here a version on themes. Second something intended for those of an age group that I represent the over 55s and this has a serious theme of what you can immediately remember.
This is a rather nice board game for two to four players, stated to be age 8 upwards. It is based on those found in puzzle books, here however no pen or pencil is required. Wordsearch as in the puzzle book version is normally a single player game. Here it is for two, three or four and often the younger players find the words quicker.
There are more smartphones currently taking up space on retailers shelves than you could shake a stick at. Many of the more high profile units tend to fall in the expensive category but that is not to say that the budget sector has been ignored by the various manufacturers (Apple apart).
A recent addition to the more affordable smartphone offerings is the ZTE Blade III model which combines a pleasant appearance with some useful features at a price that should not make you wince as you consider the hit on your budget. With dimensions of 120.3 x 63.5 x 10.
I have previously reviewed several offering from Orbitsound. However unless my memory is failing this is the first with a sub-woofer and is certainly a first for a wirelessly connected sub-woofer, the main unit can be connected several ways.
Recently I attended an event devoted to Bluetooth. Perhaps it should have been called an event for iPhone and iPad. Anyhow of the few companies present who had items available that did not require an ‘i’ device this was the only one who has so far come through on their promise to send an item or items for review. Orbitsound have two new models the M9 and the M12, both should be available by the time you read this review.
In the past I have looked at a number of Doro products of which the greatest majority were handset designed specifically for the older generation. These handsets, whether of the candy bar, slider or clamshell variety, feature an easy to use interface combined with large style buttons with a useful emergency facility.
The Doro experience has now migrated to the world of tablets and desktops. Doro has developed an application, suitably entitled Doro Experience, for use on the Android family of devices and the Windows desktop. My review is based on the Android version of this software, Currently the Doro Experience app for Android is available for downloading from Doro’s website and Google Play.
Fancy joining the FBI? You get the opportunity in this next title as you return to your home town to investigate a series of murders.
Classified as a Hidden Object Adventure game, Mystery Valley casts you in the role of Elizabeth Dark, an FBI agent who suffered from horrific nightmares as a young child. These nightmares continued until she left her home town which had the unusual name of Mystery Valley.
This is a wireless (Bluetooth) speaker system that can also import via 3.5 jack and i device dock. Pioneer is one of the better names in audio and the 30 watts output may convert you to this unit. So have they shrunk size to compete in this competitive area?
Pioneer XW-BTS3 bluetooth speaker measures 33x10x16cm, the last figure is without anything in the iPod device dock. My unit was white but they also do it in more standard black. Bluetooth is the main selling point here; it was easy to link to a range of devices. You can also use the ‘i’ device dock which of course will also charge your device while in place provided you keep the power lead connected to it.
Having recently finished running the rule over the PIXMA MX395, it was almost a case of de je vu as I unpacked the latest unit to arrive from Canon, The new unit is the PIXMA MX525 and, like the earlier model, is a multifunction device offering the user print, copy, scan and Fax capabilities. The PIXMA MX525 was extremely similar in appearance with its rounded corner plinth top and reflecting black coating. Even the dimensions of 358 x 200 x 455mm (D x H x W) were similar. However there are some cosmetic and functional differences that become evidence over time.
This one-box unit follows the usual arrangement of the inkjet printer with accompanying input/output paper trays supporting an A4 flatbed scanner that is topped off with an ADF (Automatic Document Feed). Tucked away out-of-sight at the rear of the box are connections for mains power, USB, telephone line, external device such as a telephone or answering machine, and wired LAN. A second USB option is at the front when you need to access material stored on a camera or flash stick.
This is new camera from Samsung. Its a digital offering verging on what some call a Bridge unit. This is a full HD video unit with still images up to 12.4MP. It can take 4:3, 16:9 and 1:1. It has a flip out viewfinder like a lot of camcorders.
The Samsung EX2F 'Smart' camera measures 12x6x4.5cm, the last figure the width can increase by 2.5cm when fully zoomed in. The weight of the unit is 309grams. Looking the rear of the unit the left side has only a neck strap anchor point, the other anchor is on the right side that also has a flip door behind which are sockets for mini HDMI and USB. The front has the Schneider zoom lens 52-172mm (about 3.3 times zoom).
The first a set of Bluetooth headphones that allow you movement without wires. The second a device to turn almost any audio system into one that is wireless. So you choose if either or both these devices have a place in your life.
A set of on ear headphones that can be Bluetooth or connected via a standard 3.5mm audio cable which is supplied. The headphones come in a zip all around hard sided case which is oval at 19x15x7cm and considering the headphones are full size this is quite small. The secret is that they fold in at the point of expansion, click back to open and you have up to 3cm of enlargement on each arm. The earpads are leather as the middle 16cm of the headband.
Sometimes follow-up products arrive quickly but in this case there was a gap of years between my look at speakers from the same family.
About three years ago I took a look at a product that had been developed by XMI PTE, a technology driven company that was based in Singapore. The product in question was a small, capsule-shaped speaker that went under the title of X-Mini™ MAX II. If memory serves me correct, I was reasonably impressed with the build quality and general performance of this speaker which could link to various audio devices via a standard audio lead with a 3.5mm jack plug.
The first is a remote control that can replace several units, even those that the dog has tried to chew because you them more attention. The second a book called Vintage Tomorrows to help us all see the possible future of technology.
This is a universal remote control that can replace up to four devices. The second line of buttons on the control suggests, TV, PVR, DVD and extra which could be a gaming device like an X-Box an Audio system or anything else. It has 45 keys but it is not at all crowded and for those who like to watch in subdued lighting the control is backlit. It is 20.5x5.5x2cm, these are maximum figures and in the central waisted area its only 4cm wide. You need two ‘AAA’ batteries.
Even with Bluetooth allowing personal data to be transmitted over the airwaves between devices, business cards continue to be the main method used by many when supplying others with their personal details. The problem then exists of what to do with this information apart, of course, from forgetting about it and leaving the cards in your pocket thus increasing the risk that they could become mixed up with your own cards. Rather than take the time and effort to type in the information into a contact database yourself, you could let technology take the strain by using a dedicated business card scanner.
Recently arrived from that hotbed of Belgium scanning technology is the IRISCard Anywhere 5 product. Released under the tag line of You scan, it organises, this product consists of a portable, cordless card scanner and contact management software for either the Windows or Mac platform.
A watery grave returns the mummified corpse of an evil pirate who immediately gets up to his old tricks in the Hidden Object Adventure game.
Available from Avanquest’s GSP catalogue is the Collector’s Edition version of Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart. Along with the main game, which is classified as a Hidden Object Adventure title, you get a bonus chapter, wallpaper, concept art, music soundtrack and a Strategy Guide. Apart from the Strategy Guide, which is available immediately, the other bonus elements are only accessible when you have completed the main game.
Finally months after its release I receive a small touch notebook designed for Windows 8. While the 11inch screen may be a little small for some the touch features work well as you will naturally sit with the screen well within reach.
It is 30x20x1.5cm, it weights 1416grams. The 1.5cm thickness is maximum as at the front and back it is only 1cm thick. The viewable screen is 26x14.5cm giving the notional diagonal imperial measurement of 11.6inches but it is shiny, so shiny that you could shave in it when off and so in bright daylight you will struggle to use it effectively. The screen shows 1366x768 pixels. There is an 82 key keyboard, the alpha and numeric keys are full width but only 1.
It has been quite a while since I last had the opportunity to check out the performance of a device from Seagate. That over-long interval has now been brought to an end with the arrival of the companys Wireless Plus product. This offering promises to provide the user with the means of accessing their media data when on the move. As its title suggests, this product is based on Seagate developed wireless technology.
This is the big brother of Motorola RAZRi sometimes called the XT890. Everything about it is larger the screen, the overall size and of course the weight, even the operating system is one point later than on the RAZRi.
It is 13x7x1cm and it weights 147grams. The viewable screen is 10.3x5.8cm.Notional diagonal imperial measurement of 4.7inches. The screen display is 720x1280pixels. While most people tend to leave their phone on I still tend to turn it off on occasions, booting is 28 seconds and shutdown is 4 seconds. The on/off button on the right side has a serrated edge so you can feel it’s the right button even in the dark. Below this is the volume up and down rocker. The top has 3.
Powerline communications is a convenient technology where data is transmitted around the house or office over the mains wiring. It provides an alternative to wireless or long Ethernet cables. Tp-Links TL-PA551 adapters are HomePlug AV compliant, are plug-and-play, and are claimed to have a range of up to 300 metres, and provide speeds of up to 500Mbps and so should meet the majority of needs.
Each adapter is 5 x 2.5 inches wide, is black in colour with a white face, and the Ethernet connection is at the bottom. Hence, these adapters cannot be used with mains sockets which are very close to the floor or worktop. A pass-through mains socket on the face of the adapter obviates the need for an additional mains socket. Where one wants to connect additional items, such as a printer or scanner, a multi-way mains extension lead can be plugged into this socket.
Over the years I have been asked quite often what e-mail clients can read the Outlook Express files. This now becomes more pressing as Windows XP support ends very soon. Here is one item that reads these and other file formats, and, if you have one or two mail accounts then its FREE.
Bluetooth has been around now for a good number of years but it is only recently that this technology has become the preferred option for transferring data between various devices.
Leading the way in the rise in popularity of Bluetooth technology are the various speaker units that have been designed to enhance the audio output from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets that are becoming our constant companions. No sooner do I finish checking out one such Bluetooth speaker device than another arrives hard on its heels to take over the task of delivering the audio output from my various mobile devices.
HP first delivered an Envy in the period when they sent nothing out for review, this then is a much later version and is the first to make its way into my office to be given the once over, it may even please the all-seeing lounge police!
The first thing you notice is that the scanner lid is made of clear glass and the whole unit is sleek and very fashionable. It is 42x31x12cm when closed. However that is with the display panel closed and this will automatically open to 45degrees when powered on and this adds around 5cm to the overall depth. The reason that the last figure is ‘around’ is that you decide exactly the angle you want for perfect viewing.
If you are a gamer, one of the hard core brigade, then you will appreciate the need for the appropriate tools that have been specifically developed to fulfil certain tasks. You need to purchase or build the system box with high-end components such as the motherboard and graphics cards and boost its performance with a gaming keyboard and mouse. You might also want to complete the line-up with a gaming headset. One such product is the Sound Blaster TACTIC 3D RAGE unit.
Developed by Creative, the Sound Blaster TACTIC 3D RAGE has been designed specifically with gamers in mind, although that should not preclude others from sampling its performance. This headset breaks what I thought was a rule for gaming peripherals. Rather than a tethered device, which is meant to give a faster performance, this TACTIC 3D RAGE offering is a wireless headset that comes with a USB receiver already paired to work with the headset.
As part of the latest batch of games to arrive from Focus Multimedia is that one that continues the adventures of a young journalist in search of her husband.
In the follow up to Green Hills Sanatorium, Haunted Halls: Fears from Childhood returns you to the role of a young journalist who continues in her quest to rescue her beloved Tim from the hands of the villainous Doctor Blackmore. Following his fortunate escape at the end of the previous title, Blackmore flees through a portal to a strange world with the captured Tim. You follow in close pursuit in this Hidden Object Adventure game.
This is the current latest version of Microsoft Office, it has a very new and somewhat sinister edge to it in that it is now a item that comes with a licence to allow its use for 12 months after that you need to pay to keep using it.
The latest Canon printer to arrive in my work space belongs to the companys small office/home range.
As part of its latest refresh of small office / home range of units, Canon has released its PIXMA MX395 model. This is a multifunction device that provides print, scan, copy and FAX capabilities with a built-in ADF (Automatic Document Feed) feature. While this is a fairly standard combination of features, this particular model does lack one aspect that has been a regular feature of the other Canon models I have looked at recently.
This is another large flat panel, and, what a unit this is. Not only is it big at 27inches but it also can display a lot more that that seen on most other panels as the maximum resolution is 2560x1440 and not the glass ceiling of 1920x1080.
It is 64x39x1cm the latter at the edges; it does become 2cm thick further in. The stand is circular at 25cm and2.5cm thick. The arm that connects it to the panel can collapse to 6cm or raise to 16cm and the movement is so smooth. Almost all monitors and panels I have ever reviewed have a dumb stand meaning that its purpose is simply to support the panel. Here while the connection method is still into the back of the panel the base has a USB hub.
Although an ordinary flat-bed scanner handles individual documents and photos without any difficulty, there are problems when one needs to scan pages in a book or any other bound material. This is because the spine prevents the pages being held flat on the scanners platen and so you get a very distorted portion of the image. With its OpticBook 3800, Plustek has produced an effective solution to this problem in a machine which does not take up too much desk space and is ideal for the serious student, library or SoHo worker.
It is black and silver in colour and is roughly 11 x 18 x 4inches high. With its large Cancel, Colour, Grayscale and B&W buttons it has a business-like appearance. Unlike normal flat-bed scanners, where the edge of the glass platen is an inch or more from the edge of the machine, this is very much reduced in the OptiBook where the platen, together with the scanner head, extends to within about 0.25 inch of the edge of the machine.
Here I am looking at two full size headphones. First a set from Creative primarily designed for gamers but also great for other uses. Second a name most known for quality in Formula One Ferrari and marketed by Logic 3.
Most gamers refuse a wireless headset on the basis that the supposed latency gives them a disadvantage. Not so with this offering as people who use it have even been accused of cheating as they can hear things with more direction early enough to move away, so it is possible for a wireless headset to even give you an advantage. My interest however is not the 16 hours of use between charges but simply the fact that a volume level once set can be held.
As its title indicates, Letters from Nowhere 2 is a follow up to the original Letters from Nowhere. In this second offering you continue in the role of Audrey who is still searching for her missing husband Patrick. As I missed out on the first episode, I have no idea how that game ended but I believe the style of game play remains fairly similar in this follow-up offering.
Available on Avanquest’s GSP game label, Letters from Nowhere 2 is a Hidden Object game that spreads itself over 11 episodes. From the game’s opening menu, you can create your profile and make adjustments to the volume level for both the background music and various sound effects. This set of options also includes Help information for the game which you can check out. There is no choice of difficulty level when playing this game.