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November, 2011

Will smartphones kill off compact cameras?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

iPhone 4S photo

The renowned American portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz, recently whipped out her iPhone 4S on a US chat show and proclaimed that the device was “the compact camera of choice”. Is this the Steve Jobs distortion field at work from beyond the grave or has the iPhone really cracked point and shoot?

To be fair, Leibovitz’s comments were more about extolling the multitude of virtues that the iPhone 4S brings and less about its camera. “It’s so accessible and easy… It’s a pencil, it’s a pen, it’s a notebook,” she claimed, suggesting that the value of the device lay not only in its ability to take very passable pictures, but also that the use, manipulation, uploading and storage of those photos was now a very compelling package.

High praise indeed! But what would it mean for the compact camera market? Are people happy with passable camera phone images or do they still want the little extra that the purpose-built compact camera brings?


Black Friday tech deals in the UK

Friday, November 25th, 2011


Like Halloween and the NFL, Black Friday is the latest American import that the British love to moan about, but secretly actually quite like. And with good reason — tech retailers are offering some fantastic deals, whether you’re shopping for Christmas gifts or yourself.

Here’ are a few of the best deals. Drop a line in the comments if you’ve seen any other discounts worth sharing.


Dell’s misleading graphics card buying advice

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Dell should be commended for going out of its way to help novice PC buyers, but its entry for choosing a graphics card — accessible by clicking the “Help me choose” link when customising various Optiplex models — contains a glaring and potentially expensive error, as spotted by Reddit users.

While the text is basic, it’s accurate enough for beginners. Instead, it’s the image that contains a dangerous chunk of misinformation.


The monitor on the left, labelled as a PC that uses a “standard graphics card”, is displaying a Windows desktop that’s washed out and blurry. The seemingly identical Dell TFT on the right, powered by a “high-end graphics card”, is showing the same desktop – but this time it’s much sharper and more vivid. They’re both outputting at the same resolution. (more…)

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Posted in: Rant


RAW vs JPEG: it’s not a decision for life

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011


I’m fed up of reading the bunkum that is written in articles about whether you should shoot in RAW or JPEG on your digital camera. Thousands of column inches have been devoted to the pros and cons. I hope you read all those articles because I won’t be wasting my time repeating them here.

The long and the short of it is that RAW vs JPEG is a choice, not a war. Too many people feel the need to draw a conclusion as to which format they have finally settled on, and then blindly shoot in that format going forward.

I recently lent a camera to a young aspiring photographer at my cricket club and forgot to switch the capture to JPEG from RAW. She spent the afternoon taking images of the batsmen and then handed me back the camera. I was distraught to find that all 600+ images had been taken in RAW.

Toshiba’s Ultrabook: any port in a storm?

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

On my way in to the office this morning, I saw an advert for the Toshiba Z830 Ultrabook. It was, pretty much, just a photo of the device. Evidently Toshiba reckons that, in this case, seeing is believing, and it’s certainly a striking image. Here’s the picture, as helpfully reproduced on the Toshiba website:


The small amount of text accompanying the picture emphasises the care that’s gone into the design. In particular, it mentions that, despite its thinness, the Z830 has “all the ports you’ll need.”

Looking a little more closely at the picture, however, I’m not quite so certain that’s true:


So, that’s all the ports you’ll need… so long as you can fit your Kensington lock into a round socket – and cram your USB devices into a card slot.

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Posted in: Hardware


Nvidia and ARM forced to bail out battery makers

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Nvidia Tegra 3

ARM and Nvidia are major mobile players, so it pays to listen when the firms announce new technologies. The latest developments from both serve up an interesting similarity with regards to how these companies are tackling one of the biggest annoyances of the modern smartphone: inefficient batteries.

ARM’s recent announcement, big.LITTLE, pairs one of its high-end Cortex A15 MPCore chips alongside an entry-level Cortex A7, which consumes much less power. It’s designed to seamlessly takes over when a device is tackling low-intensity tasks, so the power-sucking A15 is reserved for intensive games and apps.

Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chipset, meanwhile, uses a near-identical approach: the four cores on the main chip can be turned on and off to tackle everything from basic web browsing to high-end games but, if the phone’s in standby mode or you’re running low-power apps, those four cores will shut down, with processing power provided by a “Companion Core”. It’s based on the same Cortex A9 used by the main Tegra 3 chip but, crucially, it runs at 500MHz instead of 1.4GHz. (more…)

How bad is superfast broadband uptake?

Friday, November 11th, 2011

BT Infinity

We’ve been waiting for years for true “superfast” fibre-optic broadband, but now it’s here it seems few people actually want it. At least, that’s the impression given by Ofcom chief Ed Richards’ comments earlier this week, when he said superfast (24Mbits/sec+) broadband uptake was “still low” and largely confined to families with teenage children.

How low is “low”? We asked BT for its latest fibre figures. More than six million premises now have access to BT’s fibre lines, but only 300,000 customers have actually signed up for the service. That’s a less than impressive sounding conversion rate of 5%.

It’s even less impressive when you consider that BT Infinity fibre costs no more than the company’s most expensive ADSL package, and that the company admits to “really going for it” in terms of marketing fibre to customers. People are being offered an effectively free speed upgrade and many seemingly don’t want it.


Tech City: are there really 600 new tech firms?

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Tech City Map

The Prime Minister has said Tech City is well and truly established in East London, with the Government claiming 400 new tech firms have set up in the so-called Silicon Roundabout area since last year, bringing the total to 600.

Now that would indeed be an accomplishment, if it were true. However, the new Tech City Map – launched to mark the one-year anniversary of the plan — doesn’t support that claim.


Steve Jobs’ last laugh: good riddance to Flash?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Steve Jobs laughing

Steve Jobs isn’t here to enjoy his triumph, but this week’s announcement that Adobe has stopped developing the mobile version of the Flash player would undoubtedly have delighted him. The title of yesterday’s Guardian story says it all: “Adobe kills mobile Flash, giving Steve Jobs the last laugh”. The first comment is even starker: “Flash – good riddance!”

So why has Adobe taken the decision? Is this really the end of the road for Flash? And is it really good news?


How many photos/documents do you print?

Friday, November 4th, 2011

printer intro

We need your help for a forthcoming PC Pro Labs report.

To help us calculate the true running costs of the 16 inkjet printers we’ll have on test in issue 208, we need you to tell us how often you print photos and documents. Please note: we’re asking specifically for your printer output on home inkjet printers, not lasers nor office machines.

The survey will genuinely take ten seconds to answer, using the embedded form below. Your help is much appreciated.


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Posted in: Hardware







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