Up In The Air Again

Every fall, Apple upgrades its Mac line-up. The new Air does the series proud.

twitter-logoNidhi Singal | Print Edition: November 2011

Price: Rs 89,900
Specs: 13.3-inch LED backlit display; 1.7GHz dual core i5 processor; 4 GB DDR3 RAM; 256 GB flash storage; Intel HD Graphics 300 processor; Wi-Fi, HDMI, USB
BAG IT OR JUNK IT? Proves once again size matters, as does power.

Apple Inc had a goal when designing the latest MacBook Air- "create an incredibly thin and light notebook computer that's every bit as powerful and capable as one twice its size". Hats off to Apple for its vision.As the new MacBook Air proves, the company manages to do what others haven't even thought of.

Design: Believe us or not, the new Air is super slim at 0.11 inches swelling up to 0.68 inches from front to back. So don't come complaining about the missing CD drive. Without compromising on specifications, it had added two USB ports, one on each side along with a card reader. For this review, we received the bigger of the two sizes available: 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches. It has a high resolution, glossy, blacklit widescreen display, on which watching multimedia content was a delight. The keyboard is desktop size and so, comfortable. The built-in sensor automatically detects ambient light and adjusts the brightness of the keyboard and backlighting. Apple smartly embeds controls on the top row of the keyboard, like brightness adjustment, desktop view, volume controls, Wi-Fi. And don't forget the multi-touch trackpad. Yet, the Air still weighs a Kareenaish 1.35 kg.

Performance: Apple has successfully managed to complement the sleek looks with a lot of power. It has upgraded it with a dual-core Intel i5 processor clocked at 1.7GHz along with a 4GB RAM. This gives it enough power to handle graphics, games and iMovies smoothly. To achieve the ultrathin form factor, Apple switched to flash storage. The Air comes with 256 GB storage on board. Even within its slim contours, Apple has managed to inter a battery with a backup of seven hours (and a claimed standby time of a month)

ACER K330: Ray of quality
Price: Rs 54,000
Specs: LED projector; 500 lumens brightness; 0.9-9.9 m throw; 30-100 inch image; 2W internal speaker; VGA,USB, HDMI, microUSB; SD card reader; 120W consumption in operation.
BAG IT OR JUNK IT? Impressive projection power, neat design.

Board room meetings can be tiring for the eyes, with minuscule charts and writing on 55-inch displays. The bigger projectors can take ages to start and link only to laptops. Acer's latest, the K330, puts these concerns to rest. The big projector not only starts quickly but is also USB compatible, immediately opening up new sources for projection content besides the laptop.

The K330 is in rich white and should fit in with most office décor. All the essential controls-the power key, menu, enter and navigation keys-are neatly placed at the top. They do not interfere with the design of the projector. The main menu comprises settings, office, videos and images.

The lens casing can be used to adjust the focus manually. Thanks to the sleek body, it can find room in any corner of the office if it doesn't ahve its own permanent niche there. At 1.24 kg, it is light enough to be carried around. The box has a smart sleeve that protects the machine from dust.

The biggest plus point of this projector is the huge variety of connectivity options at the back-a VGA port for connecting it to a PC, USB port, microUSB port, HDMI port and a memory card reader along with the video, AV in and audio out ports. Unlike other projectors where the shut down and boot up times take 30 seconds and more, the K330 starts up inside of a few seconds.

Using the K330, you can project presentations, videos, pictures, etc. An LED projector, it provides brightness of 500 lumens in the normal mode. The text images projected are crisp and clear. You have the option to switch to the eco mode where the brightness dims to 400 lumens. The difference is not a merely in the lumen figures; it is noticeable in the quality of the projected imagery also.

The sound output is average as the K330 has a 2W internal speaker. Compared with other projectors, this Acer machine does not make much noise during operation. Also, since it uses LED illumination, it does not generate much heat. With projection distance of close to 1-10 m, the image it projects ranges from 30 inches to 100 inches. The menu contains other features such as auto-shut off feature, high altitude mode, alarm, etc. Acer claims the LED lamp life is around 20,000 hours.

BEETEL MAGIQ: Not quite there
Price: Rs 9,999
Specs: 7-inch resistive display; 2MP camera; 8 GB internal, 16 GB expandable; Bluetooth, 3G, Wi-Fi; Android v2.2, 2200 mAh battery.
BAG IT OR JUNK IT? Invest a little more and get the Reliance 3G Tab.

Wallet Friendly: If you discount the government-issued Aakash tablet, then the cheapest tablet around would perhaps be the 7-incher from Beetel. The MagiQ comes with a price tag of Rs 9,999. The MagiQ looks like it is designed to be used in landscape mode. A stand at the back allows it to be placed upright for watching images and videos. The touch interface is not flawless. The resistive touch display aggravates this drawback. The controls are scattered all over-the 3.5 mm jack and power on the top, volume on left, charging port and microUSB port on right and microSD port at the bottom.

The SIM card slot is placed next to the battery. Specs include a 1GHz processor, 512 MB RAM and Android v2.2. However, the interface doesn't give an Android feel. One can swipe through 10 windows on the homescreen. The notification bar has been replaced with a set of icons on the top right for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, brightness, network, battery and notification. The Notification icon divides the display into two with the pending notifications appearing on the left and the running tasks on the right. Although apps can be added to the homescreen, they can also be launched from the main menu. Documents to Go, task manager and a few social networking apps are pre-installed. The 2200mAh battery was disappointing as it hardly lasted four hours of usage when connected to a Wi-Fi along with access to web, music and a few apps.

Price: Rs 22,890
Specs: 7-inch capacitive display; 2 MP camera; Android v2.2; 3D maps with turn-by-turn navigation; 32 GB memory, expandable; 3G, Wi-Fi; 3400 mAh battery.
BAG IT OR JUNK IT? It may be good at navigation but Rs 22,890? Think again.

MapmyIndia has joined the tablet mania with a navigation pad.The CarPad looks like any other sevenincher, but is very heavy and runs on Android v2.2. What differentiates it from other tablets is its inbuilt navigation system with detailed all-India 3D maps. You can use the tablet for accurate, turn-by-turn, voice guidance.

Unlike other Android tablets that offer a set of Google services, the CarPad sadly makes you aware there is no instant access to GTalk, YouTube and even Android Marketplace for downloading applications. The only relief is that MapmyIndia has added access to Slide, from where we were able to download applications. The 3400 mAh battery isn't impressive either. With 3G in use, the battery drains rather alarmingly. The experience wasn't different on Wi-Fi and you would need to ensure you have a car charger wherever you may be going. Mind you, it has a proprietary charger and not the miniUSB one that is compatible with most gadgets these days.

IBALL SLIDE: Missed The Mark
Price: Rs 13,999
Specs: 7-inch capacitive display; 2 MP front facing camera; 8GB internal memory, expandable to 32GB; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G via Dongle; HDMI port; 4400 mAh battery.
BAG IT OR JUNK IT? Does not outshine the Reliance 3G Tablet.

In direct competition with the recently launched Reliance 3G Tablet is this iBall Slide 7-inch tablet. While it has a presentable get-up in black and silver, it loses points for its cheap plastic back.The Slide is designed to be used predominantly in the landscape mode as evidenced by the placing of the front camera and the circular home key on the right panel.

With Android Gingerbread on board, browsing through the main menu and launching applications aren't difficult but the keypad appears stretched. That said, it can be used in portrait mode too. The Slide does not have a SIM card slot. This means that to access Netbased based applications you would need to be close to a Wi-Fi source. A microUSB-to-USB converter allows the user to plug in a 3G dongle. Although it is powered by a 1GHz processor, it still slows down a bit when heavy applications are in use. The Slide is fuelled by a 4400mAh battery that drains much faster than the cells of its competitors.

ACER TRAVELMATE 8473TG: Business With Pleasure
Price: Rs 47,500
Specs: 14-inch HD LED LCD; 2 GB RAM; 500 GH HDD; Intel Core i5 2.3GHz processor; Windows Professional; 6-cell battery
BAG IT OR JUNK IT? Can't say it's the best in the segment, but the Travelmate has its plus points

Business professionals seem to prefer laptops that define their personalities. They should look good, perform well and be light enough to be carried around. Acer has kept these factors in mind in unveiling its new TravelMate 8473TG.

The exterior is matte black but has light diagonal lines running across the panel. It is not only good looking but, at 2.3 kg, slim and trim. The 14-inch HD LED display produces rich colours that enlivens any boardroom presentation or video. The keyboard is superbly smooth. The notebook comes with business essentials like three USB ports, Wi-Fi connectivity, Ethernet, and CD reader. The Travelmate, as appropriate for a business machine, runs on Windows 7 Professional that is prodded on by an Intel Core i5 2.3 GHz processor and a 2 GB RAM.

These manage all tasks without a hassle. The notebook has a storage capacity of 500 GB, adequate for the jumble of data that needs ferrying around. What impresses is the silent operation. Also, you can use this on your lap without your anatomy being singed. We got up to seven hours of battery backup, a little less than the claimed 8-hour life.

Price: Rs 1,235
Specs: Suitable for 15-inch laptop; 110 mm blower; USB cable attached
BAG IT OR JUNK IT? A heaven-sent if your laptop heats up a lot.

Of the numerous laptop accessories available in the market, the one that is most often ignored is the cooling pad. Most ask what it achieves at all. For those who think along these lines, cooling pads are meant to prevent your laptop from overheating by providing heat escape routes. Antec has joined companies like Logitech and Philips now in offering affordable cooling pads.

The Antec Notebook Cooler Designer is a lightweight raised platform finished in silver. The colour blends in with most laptops and the pad almost becomes a part of the machine. It has a flat front and raised back that make it ergonomically comfortable to work with a notebook. The Cooler can be placed on a flat surface and is equally comfortable to use on a lap. Its 110 mm blower, hidden within the sleek body, operates at 800 rpm to create a cooling power. Surprisingly, the operation of the blower is so silent that you will not even hear the noise of the fan. But using this means blocking a USB port on the laptop.

The Cooler can be used for notebooks of up to 15 inches. It is good at what it is meant to do, and, at 700 gm, it is convenient to carry around too.

CANON HF M41: Pricey Performer
Price: Rs 56,995
Specs: 1920 x 1080 HD recording; 10x optical zoom; 32GB onboard memory; Two SD card slots
BAG IT OR JUNK IT? Good at video capture but priced on the higher side.

With camcorder costs sliding and coming within reach of everybody, we were taken aback when we first espied the tag for Canon's new video camera. Such pricing has to be justified by performance. Let's see how it all turned out. The build of the HF M41 is solid. At 360 gm, it has just the right weight. It has a comfortable grip for right-hand operation, with the recording key and zoom button conveniently placed there. The 3-inch touch LCD display too has a few controls and ports at the back, including USB, HDMI, component out and AV out (an HDMI cable and USB are included in the box).

Like most high-end video cameras these days, the HF M41 is capable of capturing videos at Full HD resolution of 1080p. Canon claims to have incorporated the CMOS Pro sensor for high resolution videos in this camcorder. What this new sensor does is to capture amazing videos, even from a distance with the 10x optical zoom full on.

The HF M41 also offers numerous shooting modes that include smartauto, portrait, low light, night, sports, snow, beach, sunset, spotlight, etc. The optical stabiliser actually worked well, ensuring the videos were captured with only a hint of blur even when our hands were shaking while on the move. The beauty of this camcorder is that it comes with 32 GB onboard memory. To supplement this, it has two memory card slots. It also comes with a remote that can also be used while shooting. Despite these qualities, we still feel the HF M14 is optimistically priced.

Price: Rs 19,013
BAG IT OR JUNK IT? If you have the money, bring home this fabulous device.

Regular Bluetooth speakers are small and don't pack enough power to shake a small room. But Bose's Sound Link Wireless Mobile Speaker actually makes you realise you don't need big speakers to raise Cain. In keeping with Bose's design fetish, this speaker has straight lines and fits into any ambience-modern or retro. It is so compact that you can just place it on a small sidetable and forget about it. A special cover at the base becomes both a protective wrap when not in use and a stand when the music is blaring out.

Since it employs Bluetooth for connectivity, it comes without wires and, therefore, can be put to use not only in a room, but also in a moving car, at picnics or even during power cuts. It has inbuilt rechargeable batteries that, once charged, can play music for a good four hours and more. And if you are more worried abut the battery dying on you than listening to music, all you got to do is to use the auxiliary option.

There is an Aux In port at the back. Bose has managed to do without a display by adding a narrow panel with LED indicators that shows the charging status and connectivity via Bluetooth and Aux. Also, the controls, including power on/off, Aux, Bluetooth along with the mute and volume controls, are placed on the top, without disturbing the rich look of the device. On the music front, the SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker offers loud and clear audio. This comes from Bose's proprietary technology that has speakers with "dual opposing passive radiators" for robust sound with low notes. While playing music, the volume can be controlled from the device itself. The claimed Bluetooth range is up to 30 ft.

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