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View from the Labs

The wireless network that’s faster than a hard disk

Friday, January 10th, 2014

AsusA few years back, someone bestowed a rather appropriate name on the PC Pro Labs wireless network. That name was “ihatewireless” — and given the trials and tribulations we’ve had testing wireless routers over the years it’s hardly surprising that the name has stuck.

Five years on, it may finally be time to ring the changes. With the advent of proper full-speed 802.11ac wireless, that moniker may finally need to be replaced: “whoosh”, “whizzbang” or “cripesthatsquick” might be more appropriate.

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Were we unfair on Microsoft Security Essentials?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

white blank book brochure

If you’ve read the latest issue of PC Pro, you’ll have seen one of the conclusions of our latest round-up of security suites: Microsoft Security Essentials isn’t doing a great job of protecting against current malware threats, especially not brand new “zero-day” ones.

Microsoft isn’t happy about this conclusion, and it’s published a blog post challenging the research carried out by AV-Test.org to which we refer in our Labs.

The post doesn’t seek to claim that the test results are actually incorrect. It accepts that Security Essentials (and its business-oriented Forefront Endpoint Protection package, which uses the same engine) failed to protect against 28 out of 100 genuine zero-day attacks, as well as 9% of a huge collection of recent malware, representing almost 20,000 missed samples.

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The Linux Labs – how it was done

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

PC Pro Linux LabsEarlier this year we launched an appeal. We wanted you to help us with our Linux Labs. We didn’t want you to answer a few multiple choice questions; we didn’t want plain numbers. We wanted you to help us write the reviews themselves.

So, via the medium of The big PC Pro Linux Labs wiki, hosted by our friends over at Memset, we set about building a collaborative Labs of the likes never seen before in the pages of the magazine.

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SD cards: the cheap way to boost laptop storage

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Apple SSD

An increasing number of laptops these days boast SSDs, but capacities are rising quite slowly. For some people, 128GB as your main drive might be enough, but if you want more, is it worth shelling out the huge fees charged by manufacturers to upgrade to a higher capacity SSD, or can you make do with alternative storage?

To find out, we ran our standard file transfer tests – first between a RAM disk and the SSD of a brand new laptop, then between a RAM disk and a variety of external storage devices. (more…)

Smartphone crapware: worse than laptops?

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini ProA couple of years ago I holed myself up in the PC Pro Labs with some new laptops to see what impact their pre-installed software — known as crapware, bloatware and shovelware — had on performance.

The results proved shocking but, when it comes down to it, that software is pretty easy to deal with it’s just a matter of uninstalling everything and, if you’re really particular, running an app like CCleaner to get your Registry back to its fighting weight.

Not so with smartphones. On Friday, I eased the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro from its box, turned it on, and was greeted with a message urging me to set up McAfee WaveSecure before I’d even set up the phone with my Google account. (more…)

Superzoom cameras: take me to the bridge

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

the advantage of superzoom bridge cameras

There’s an excellent Labs round-up of Superzoom cameras (also commonly called “bridge cameras”) in the latest issue of PC Pro. My only criticism is that it doesn’t makes a strong enough case for its subject.

Most people tend to think that there are only two types of digital camera to choose from: point-and-click compact cameras majoring in convenience, and high-end DSLRs majoring in picture quality. Anything in between is – almost by definition – seen as an uncomfortable compromise. However I think that the vast majority of users would actually be far better off with this intermediate format.

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Apple MacBook Pro 13in: where’s the Turbo Boost?

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

MacBookProsIntro

The Apple MacBook Pro 13in is a glorious laptop. It’s thin and light, gorgeous both to look at and to use, and it packs no small amount of power in its tiny chassis. Yet our tests have uncovered a performance issue that will affect every user.

We ran our new Real World Benchmarks on the top-end model, with a dual-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-2620M processor, 4GB of DDR3 and a 500GB hard disk. It’s a very fast laptop for its size, as a final score of 0.70 shows – that’s only around 20% slower than the top-end quad-core 17in model. Yet it’s not quite as fast as it should be. (more…)

The all-new PC Pro Real World Benchmarks

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

PC ProIt’s our mission to bring you the most accurate and informative reviews on the market. That’s why we’ve updated our benchmarks to reflect the way real people use computers today.

Our new tests don’t rely on synthetic measures: we use real, current applications such as Microsoft Office 2010 and Photoshop CS5, as well as a completely new set of responsiveness tests, to get an all-round picture of a PC’s performance.

That means the benchmark scores you’ll see from this day on are not directly comparable with older scores, but they give the best ever insight into exactly what each system can do for you.

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DisplayMate boss attacks the TFT marketing myths

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

If you’re a regular reader of our monitor reviews, you’ll know we use an excellent suite of tests called DisplayMate. It covers colours, backlight levels, response times and any number of other tests for both digital and older analogue display types.

You’ll also know we have a real issue with many claims made by manufacturers. We generally find dynamic contrast (and its ludicrous headline-grabbing figures) detrimental to the movie-watching experience, and we’ve long stopped seeing any real motion blur on today’s panels. Quoted brightness figures don’t often appear to have any relation to the panels we test, and the pre-defined modes for movies, games and text usually make things worse.

Contrast?

It seems we’re not the only ones fed up of wading through hype and misdirection to gauge the actual quality of a monitor, though. (more…)

Taking the hype out of Hyper-Threading

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

In my recent review of AMD’s six-core Phenom II X6 1090T processor, I noted that, although this CPU has the same number of physical cores as Intel’s Core i7-980X, Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology lets the Core i7 service twice as many concurrent threads.

This prompted one commenter (giving his name as Wilbert3) to raise an insightful point. Hyper-Threading is great for everyday multi-tasking: for example, it lets a dual-core Core i5 CPU service four concurrent processes. But it works by presenting each core’s spare execution capacity to the OS as a virtual second core. Under heavy load, where there is no spare capacity, it would seem unable to offer any benefit. In such cases we shouldn’t expect to see a Core i5 achieve performance anywhere near what a true quad-core architecture would provide.

That analysis sounds persuasive, but is it borne out by the evidence? (more…)

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