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SURFACE

BOOK

Microsofts
rst laptop p24
Reviews Advice Projects Opinion News

TESTED

Multiroom Raspberry Pi

internet radio
AU
DIO
Build
ld a Wi
Wi-Fi
P ay the music you Bui
Pl

want, wherever
you want p104

radio for
radio
for
justt 3
jus
39
9 p130

Formula 1
The tech behind

We see how data,


as much as skill,
wins races p116

C@ntrol MSS

WELCOME PAGE

Welcome!

IN A WORLD WHERE
its dicult or even
impossible to do
something as simple as
replace the battery in
your smartphone, PCs
are rather refreshing.
These humming boxes
are all built from standard parts, and
can be repaired or upgraded with little
more than a bit of knowledge and one
size of screwdriver.
Theyre also remarkably easy to
build from scratch. Ordering the bits
and putting them together yourself
can save you money, but more
importantly means you can get exactly
the specication you want. It will also
help you understand how your PC
works, so you can x it in the future.
In this months guide we take you
through building your own computer
from its component parts. Weve also
put together three example builds to
take some of the confusion out of
choosing the right parts for your PC.
So get off the Dell website and turn
to page 86.
Gone are the days when James Hunt
would rely on nothing but his wits and

his Cosworth DFV to clinch Formula 1


victory. Nowadays F1 cars are
festooned with sensors feeding data
back to the pits in real time, and its
the analysis of this data that can
make the difference between victory
and being shunted out of the points.
Starting on page 116, we go behind
the scenes to see how data is the
real star of F1.
Microsoft has been dabbling with
hardware for a while with its various
Surface models, but has nally decided
to go the whole hog and produce a
laptop the Surface Book. Its a
stunning piece of design thats a great
showcase for Windows 10. Find out if
its a MacBook beater on page 24.
Finally, Im sad to say that this is
my last issue of Computer Shopper as
Editor. Im passing on the box of USB
sticks, pile of motherboards and bin
liner of DVI cables to new ed Madeline,
who will continue to bring you the
magazine you (possibly) love, or at
least nd useful.
Thank you for reading!

Chris Finnamore, Editor


chris@computershopper.co.uk

CONTACT US
Editor Chris Finnamore chris@computershopper.co.uk
Features Editor Seth Barton seth@computershopper.co.uk
News Editor Katharine Byrne katharine@computershopper.co.uk
Senior Staff Writer Michael Passingham michael@computershopper.co.uk
Senior Staff Writer Richard Easton richard@computershopper.co.uk
DESIGN
Art Editor Colin Mackleworth
CONTRIBUTORS
Bill Bagnall, Josh Barrie, Gareth Beach, Mike Bedford, Ian Betteridge,
Barry Collins, Mel Croucher, Kay Ewbank, Steve Haines,
Simon Handby, Gordon Holmes, Nicole Kobie, Alan Martin,
Jane McCallion, Thomas McMullan, Rene Millman, Curtis Moldrich,
James OMalley, Sarah Ratcliffe, Ben Pitt, Heather Reeves,
David Robinson, Clive Webster
ADVERTISING
Email ads.shopper@dennis.co.uk
Group Advertising Manager Andrea Mason 020 7907 6662
Advertising Manager Charlotte Milligan 020 7907 6642
COVER GIFT CONTACT
Chris Wiles coverdiscs@computershopper.co.uk
SUBSCRIPTIONS
Tel 0844 844 0031 / 01795 592905 Web www.subsinfo.co.uk
UK 44.99, Europe 70, Rest of world 90
PHOTOGRAPHY
Adrian Volcinschi, Natalie Tkachuk, Svetlana Bardarska
LICENSING AND SYNDICATION
Ryan Chambers 020 7907 6132 Ryan_Chambers@dennis.co.uk
Anj Dosaj-Halai 0207 907 6132 anj_halai@dennis.co.uk
MANAGEMENT
Tel 020 7907 6000
Group Editor David Ludlow david@computershopper.co.uk
Group Managing Director Ian Westwood
Managing Director John Garewal
Group Advertising Director Julian Lloyd-Evans
Newstrade Director David Barker
Finance Director Brett Reynolds
Group Finance Director Ian Leggett
Chief Executive James Tye
Company Founder Felix Dennis
PRINTING
Printed by Polestar, Bicester, Oxon
Distributors Seymour 020 7429 4000
LIABILITY
While every care was taken preparing this magazine, the publishers
cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the information or any
consequence arising from it. All judgements are based on equipment
available to Computer Shopper at the time of review. Value for money
comments are based on UK prices at time of review.
Computer Shopper takes no responsibility for the content of
external websites whose addresses are published in the magazine.
COMPUTER SHOPPER INCORPORATES UPGRADE SHOPPER,
GAMES SHOPPER, INTERNET SHOPPER, MOBILE SHOPPER, PC
SHOPPER, PORTABLE SHOPPER AND SOFTWARE SHOPPER

QUESTION OF THE MONTH


Mark Zuckerberg surprised everyone by crashing
Samsungs MWC press conference. Which tech
personality would you want to crash your party?
Chris Finnamore

Former HP CEO Lo
Apotheker, so my house
can halve in value as soon
as he walks in

David Ludlow

Oracles Larry Ellison


dressed as General Zod

Richard Easton

Steve Ballmer, for a game


of throw the chair at the
Google developer

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

MEET
THE
TEAM

Seth Barton

Sir Clive Sinclair, so I can


see what comedy form of
transport he turns up in

A DENNIS PUBLICATION
Computer Shopper is published by Dennis Publishing Ltd, 30 Cleveland
Street, London W1T 4JD. Company registered in England. All material
Dennis Publishing Limited licensed by Felden 2016, and may not be
reproduced in whole or part without the consent of the publishers.
ISSN 0955-8578
Copyright Dennis Publishing Limited

SUBSCRIBE
AND SAVE

Katharine Byrne

Valves Gabe Newell,


who would be three
years late and arrive
wearing a thousand hats

Michael Passingham

Elon Musk would make


the atmosphere electric

CALL 0844 844 0031


OR SEE PAGE 134
3

Issue 339 May 2016

Contents

p86

p24

p86

p104

p116

Learn
136 Business Help

p130

Regulars
6 Letters

16 Newsle

10 Under Development

InDepth
21 UberRush: the future of deliveries?

Your regular monthly missives of wit and


wisdom, tips and tricks

Is it worth ditching decades of computing


history just to free up some garage
space? David Robinson has a dilemma
on his hands

12 Cybercop

Two-factor authentication is a proven way


to beef up online security, so why dont
more businesses take it seriously, asks
Gordon Holmes

14 Rants & Raves

This is it. The game is up. The person


responsible for the advert-laden misery
of surng the web is none other than
our very own Mel Croucher. And no,
you cant have his address

146 Zygote

As dolls spy on children, cars read our


minds and tiny robots save the human
race from its own rubbish gametes,
technology continues to be used and
abused, says Zygote

News
Our round-up of all the latest tech news

22 The 4 computer
23 Intel Skylake and Windows 7 and
8.1 support

Our resident expert answers those persistent


software queries

138 Helple

Your hardware and Windows problems solved

140 Multimedia Expert

Cameras can capture images far faster than


the eye, leading to potentially stunning
images, as Ben Pitt demonstrates

143 Advanced Projects

Clive Webster shows you how to make your


own NAS from a cheap PC and some free
software, and save yourself a packet

Features
86 Build a PC

Building your own PC is a great way to get the


build you want. We show you everything you
need to build the perfect computer, as well as
some hand-picked specs to get you started

116 The data behind F1

Engineering and driving skill arent the only


ingredients in a successful Formula 1 team.
Mike Bedford explains how the analysis of
vast tracts of data is just as vital

124 Hidden gems of CES

Its the worlds largest consumer tech show,

with all the biggest names showing off their


wares under the bright lights of Las Vegas.
But what about the little guys, the start-ups
and the inventors trying to convince that
their widget is the Next Big Thing?
Barry Collins veers off the beaten track to
nd the unsung heroes of CES 2016

130 Turn your Raspberry Pi into


a wireless radio

With a Raspberry Pi, a cheap touchscreen


and some ingenuity, you can make a
wireless internet radio receiver for less
than 40. We show you how

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

CONTENTS

p116

p130

p124

Reviews

Group Test
104 Multiroom audio

24 This months hot product

With its fulcrum hinge, muscle wire and other buzzwords, Microsoft is really
going for it when it comes to marketing its rst laptop. But is it any good?
d?

26 PCs & Laptops

53 Networks

32 Handhelds

54 Storage

The Lenovo Ideacentre 700 (p29) is a greatvalue all-in-one PC with a powerful processor

Samsung and Sony face off with the Galaxy S5


Neo (p33) and the Xperia Z5 Compact (p36)

38 Photography

Panasonics Lumix DMC-TZ80 ultrazoom


camera is packed with useful features

39 Displays

Philips new pico projector is smaller than a


Post-it note

40 Home Cinema

LGs 50LF652V is a good-value smart TV

Toshibas TransferJet is an intriguing new way


to transfer data from your smartphone

A NAS and an Android-powered media


streamer in one box. What could possibly
go wrong?

56 Components

Gigabyte throws everything including


the kitchen sink at the Z170-Gaming K3
Skylake motherboard

58 Software

Can Cakewalk Sonar Platinum steal Cubases


music-production crown?

59 Games

42 Audio

Monitor Audios Airstream S150 is one of the


best-sounding Bluetooth speakers weve seen

An open-world adventure, a rst-person


puzzler and a gripping xeno-combat strategy
game theres something here for everyone

46 Video

64 Best Buys

We check out a 4K action cam from Sony and


an EE video camera designed for lifelogging

50 Printers & Scanners

We review a pair of MFPs for all your printing


and scanning needs

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

Spread music all over your house and


control your tunes from your phone with
one of these superb multiroom audio
systems, starting from just 100

Looking for the best kit weve reviewed


recently? Its all in our Best Buys section

78 How We Test

Our comprehensive tests, ratings and


awards explained

80 Your software*
Xaras Photo & Graphic Designer 9 is a
one-stop graphics package with the
power to satisfy all your creative needs

FULL
PACKAGES
FREE SOFTWARE
* FRE
EDITION ONLY
EDIT

LETTERS

Letters

Were throwing our doors wide open this month and inviting one and all
into the Shopper lair to impart tips, ask advice, admonish us for creating a
re hazard and make us feel inadequate about our broadband connection
CONTACT
LETTERS

letters@computershopper.co.uk

HUMBLEBRAG

theres really no point closing it


if a burglar can break in anyway?
Nick Adams

Virgin is supposed to be
supplying a 200Mbit/s
connection to us and then I get
this (see screenshot, right).
Should I complain?
Chris Murphy

Clive lives in the countryside, so


probably does leave his door
wide open. His point was that
any number of applications can
discover a hidden SSID or clone a
MAC address, so these security
steps arent foolproof. However,
not being a parent himself, he
failed to take the teenager factor
into account.

Thats outrageous. Get Ofcom on


the line.

SECURITY LAPSE

In Advanced Projects
(Shopper 337) Clive
Webster offers some great
advice for making a Wi-Fi
network less secure. He advises
readers to reveal their SSID
since theres no point hiding it,
and not bothering with MAC ID
ltering since a hacker will get
round that easily.
I guess Clive does not live in
the real world, where ones
children invite round
irresponsible friends who all
expect their smartphones and

UNRELIABLE NARRATOR

Fast show-off: look away now if youre still struggling with a 2Mbit/s
internet connection

tablets to get a free Wi-Fi signal.


The rst line of defence is hiding
the SSID, because if they cant
see the network name they
dont know it exists. Even if they
somehow discovered the
connection details, my routers
MAC ID ltering would be an

insurmountable brick wall to


them. The majority of people
expecting a free Wi-Fi
connection are not hardened
hackers and have little technical
knowledge. Perhaps Clive leaves
his front door wide open when
he goes off to work, because

First of all what a great


magazine, which I read
via an online service for the blind.
I am a totally blind piano
tuner who loves playing chess,
following Sheeld Wednesday
and most aspects of technology.
I use the iPhone 5s with
voiceover, and I have a braille
device and a very good
four-year-old Windows 7 laptop.

Star letter
While idly rummaging through the
options in my newly installed
Kaspersky Anti-Virus, I decided to check its
opinion of the vulnerabilities on my
Windows 10 computer. It claimed to nd
14. Four of these related to autorun being
allowed on discs and CDs, while the other
ten items related to Internet Explorer 11.
Im not an AV expert but some of the
vulnerabilities sounded potentially nasty:
enabling caching of data received over a
secure channel, loading of unsigned
ActiveX elements, running programs and
les in popup windows without user
prompting. I dont know how much of a

real-world problem these


vulnerabilities actually are
but Kaspersky let me x
them. My machine was
running the latest
Microsoft updates so I
wondered if I could solve
any future problems by
uninstalling Internet Explorer
11. It turns out I could!
Go to Control Panel and select
Programs and Features. When the window
opens click on the option on the left to
Turn Windows Features On and Off. A
list of options is displayed; nd Internet

Exp
Explorer 11 and click to
remove the tick next to
it. After a reboot you
have performed a
mas
massive, free upgrade to
you
your Windows 10 machine
bec
because Internet Explorer 11
is gon
gone; hopefully for good.
Stephen Hill
Thats a great tip. Microsoft includes IE11
in Windows 10 to maintain compatibility
for some business users, but unless you
have an intranet site to break you may as
well get rid of it.

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

LETTERS

I have tried to install


Windows 10, but for some
reason it crashes when I try to
load up my screen reader
because of a driver problem.
For a blind person it is nearly
impossible to go into Safe Mode
and sort things out. My friend
came over today and we
managed to get back to
Windows 7 and then I tried
again, but with the same
diculty. I just wish there was a
way to go into Safe Mode and to
be able to run speech.
John Gallagher

Weve been unable


le to nd
a satisfactory way to get
around this problem,
m, so in
the meantime we feel
el youre
best off sticking with
h
Windows 7, which will
ill
remain supported by
y
Microsoft for another
her
four years, and checking
ecking
with your screen reader
eader
manufacturer for when
hen
it will release an
updated driver for
Windows 10.

After some experimentation we


thought we had this problem
solved; after you boot into Safe
Mode you can press Windows-R
to bring up the Run dialog, then
type in narrator and press
Return to enable speech
guidance. However, as the
Windows sound service is
disabled in Safe Mode, this is no
use at all. This is by design, as
Safe Mode runs with as few
services enabled as possible to
help you identify the source of
your PCs problems.

It seems
Im in a rather
her
rare group of people who wants
the best 27in 1080p HDMIconnected monitor to use
primarily for gaming, as the
more I look the less I nd in the
way of helpful advice or reviews.
At the age of 38, getting my
rst gaming PC has been long
overdue, and Im nally getting
away from consoles. Learning all
I can about what makes a good
PC build has been great fun;
using your magazine to help I

ISSUE 338 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

SCREEN
FOR HELP

| APRIL 2016

Finding a decent 27in screen for gaming isnt as easy as you might think

even bought my son a Yoyotech


RS10 Warbird for Christmas.
Now Im about to do the same
for myself (except upping the
spec to a GeForce GTX 970 with
16GB of RAM).
However, the nal piece of
the puzzle I cant solve is which
monitor to go for. It has to be 27
inches and 1080p and around
150 for my budget. Ive looked

at examples by Asus, AOC, Acer,


Iiyama and BenQ, but they all
seem much the same to me.
Online reviews are sparse and
not very helpful, so I thought Id
turn to you again. I hope for
some device inspiration that can
help me see the light towards a
clear winner in this category I
have set for myself.
David Chandler

LETTERS

Wed recommend
upping your
budget a bit for
a 27in screen.
Another 50 or
so will get you a
couple of choices.
The AOC
I2769VM (which
currently costs
198 from www.
ebuyer.com) has an
IPS panel, which will give you
excellent image quality.
You could also sacrice some
screen size for smoother motion,
and grab the 24in 144Hz AOC
G2460PQU screen for 170 from
www.pcworld.co.uk; if you enable
Vsync in your games, this screen
will let you have sky-high frame
rates without any tearing.

CALL THAT A VIEW?

While it has taken a


long time from the
1970s origins of digital cameras
to develop them to a point that
they were commercially available
to us retail users, I was excited
by the prospect of using them.
They are certainly great, but
theres one thing that seriously
bugs me.
Why now are we seeing even
the likes of the Sony Cyber-Shot
RX100 IV reviewed in Shopper
338 without an optical
viewnder? This is the reason I
bought a compact Canon
16-megapixel camera, which has
been superb. Its compact and
has a lot of features, but still has
an optical viewnder.
I usually dont feel like
carrying my enormous Sony
Alpha kit around so this Canon
is ideal. The obvious reason for
needing the optical viewnder
(not an electronic one such as
an LCD screen) is that you cant
see a screen in bright sunlight.
If you are able to see it the
battery drain is so high that it
negates the purpose.
It didnt seem clear at least
from the photos how this Sony
Cyber-Shot camera operated its
electronic viewnder and yes, I
could see how if it is properly
shrouded this could work, but
again the battery drain and not
having an optical image is a
problem for me.
Am I the only one? Do the
manufacturers not understand
how useful and important a
feature this is?
Paul Winstone

temperature, to reow the


solder (Letters, Shopper 337). It
might be better to warn readers
of the dangers of noxious
vapours and the risk of your
insurance company not paying
out if you set re to your house!
Andy Shand
Quite right. Never put a piece of
electronic equipment in your
oven and then leave the house.
An optical viewnder may be easier
to see in sunlight, but it wont show
you exactly whats in shot

We agree that optical viewnders


(OVFs) are useful for bright
conditions and for those who
need reading glasses, but they
have disadvantages. For example,
an OVF on a compact camera is
only an approximation of what
the lens sees; theres parallax
error (the distance from the lens
to OVF window) and most
commonly the cropped area is
different. Its especially complex
for compact cameras with a
zoom function, as the OVF has to
zoom simultaneously.
An electronic viewnder
eliminates these problems and,
as long as theres a decent
eyeview cup, works perfectly well
in bright light. Battery life can be
an issue but it doesnt make the
camera unusable. However, if
youre set against an EVF and
can stretch to it, the 300
Fujilm X30 could well suit.

COOKING UP A STORM

You applaud someone


for sticking a TV
motherboard in an oven, at high

ROCK N ROLL WITH ME

I, like many subscribers,


can be best described as
a casual browser, itting
through the articles and reviews
while taking some of the
information in. In fact, after
reading a recommendation by
you, I bought my latest PC from
Chillblast which, for that
recommendation (and
Chillblasts excellent service), I
thank you both.
But that is not the reason for
my very rst letter to Shopper.
Ive just nished reading the
letters in issue 338 over a cup of
coffee. I put the magazine down
and only then saw the letter
headlines, and smiled when I
saw that it was a nod to the late
David Bowie. I am of an age
where the great man inspired me
and was and am still a great fan
of his music. Thanks for the nod
to him, it made my day.
Colin Threlfall
The credit for that goes to our
talented Production Editor Steve,
who has shown his true colours
as a Bowie fan. Odd, because we
always thought he was more into
The Clash and the Pistols.

Dont put your laptop in the oven, Mrs Worthington

Soul Love: our small tribute to the


late, great David Bowie pleased one
loyal Shopper reader

NETWORKING
NOT WORKING

I consider myself quite


computer-literate and
have grown up with Windows
since the early days of 3.0. The
one part of living with Windows
that always seems to cause
headaches was networking, but
when Windows 10 arrived this
seemed to be working pretty
smoothly. My Windows 10
laptop and desktop systems
could see my kids two Windows
7 laptops and vice versa, and all
could see the NAS server we use
for backups.
Until the latest Windows 10
update to version 1511. Now if
one of the Windows 10 PCs is on
it can still see the two Windows
7 systems and NAS, but switch
both Windows 10 PCs on and
the Windows 7 systems and
NAS vanish from the network.
It didnt take much searching
to realise that I am not the only
one with this issue, which
seems to have its roots in the
SMBv1, SMBv2 and SMBv3
protocols not working together
(whatever they are).
I am at a loss to understand
the Microsoft mentality here.
Why break something that was
working? And why not x it?
Andrew Parkinson
We had terrible networking
problems with Windows 10 when
we rst started using it, but that
was xed by reverting to
passwords, as opposed to a PIN,
at login. Apparently this one can
be xed in Windows 10 by
opening a command prompt and
typing netcfg -d to reset your
network connections, then
rebooting. Good luck!

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

LETTERS

Storing your les in the cloud makes them


immune from theft, re or ood, with the
added advantage that you can access them
from anywhere on any device. We nd out
which online storage service is the most
versatile and provides the best value.

CLOUD STORAGE

ne 1 4

Whether you want a huge tablet for watching


lms at home, a compact model for your bag,
the fastest model with the fanciest screen or
something good value for the kids, youll nd
the tablet for you in next months megatest.

UPGRADE THIS!

om
N
O LEnts fril
SAwsageh Apr

TABLETS

in

NEXT MONTH

Todays tech manufacturers seem


obsessed with making their products
dicult or impossible to upgrade or repair.
We investigate why this is the case, and
discover that the devices we depend on are
actually more accessible than they appear.

DIGITAL ASSISTANT FACE-OFF

Siri, Cortana, Google Now: the digital assistants


itching to answer questions on anything from
historical events to where to buy a sandwich.
But which will show you what you need to know,
and which will leave you shouting at your phone?

WRITE IN
AND WIN

Do you wish your computer


was faster when booting and
loading applications? Thanks
to Crucial, you can achieve
your dream of a faster PC or
laptop with the BX200 SSD.
The writer of our Star Letter
will be awarded one of these
solid-state devices, which
can be installed in a desktop
PC or a laptop.
This fast SSD is 15 times
faster than a hard disk, and
will make your computer
boot incredibly quickly and
make applications load faster.
With 480GB of storage, theres
plenty of room for Windows
and all your apps, too.
STAR
PRIZE
480GB
SSD

ISSUE 338 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| APRIL 2016

UNDER DEVELOPMENT

Raiders of the lost PC


Just like at the end of Indiana Jones, David Robinsons garage is a treasure trove of
ancient relics. But should he ditch all his old computers just to clear some space?

DAVID ROBINSON

Software and systems developer


letters@computershopper.co.uk

THERES A BIG space about to


appear in the corner of the
garage. Believe me, this will be a
novelty. For 20 years its been
home to a pile of vintage
computers that were put there
when we stopped working from
the home oce and moved to a
commercial property. The pile
has also become a home, to lots
of dust and generations of
spiders. But Mrs R has recently
been trying to educate me in the
principle of decluttering and Ive
nally capitulated.
The pile is an archaeological
history of our company. Theres
the remains of a Sinclair ZX81.
When I say remains I mean the
main circuit board which, at one
time, was mounted in a thirdparty case/keyboard affair that
made typing much easier. The
ashy case got sold to another
enthusiast aeons ago; goodness
knows where the original is.
I dont have a real Sinclair
Spectrum, but there is a Timex
variant, which is like a Sinclair in
a posh frock. It has a sturdy case
with a game cartridge port, 128K
of RAM and a better keyboard
(not dicult) than the original
Sinclair. This came to us to
develop software for Timex to
include in an educational package

The least loved computer is a Dragon 32,


which came when my friend was clearing
out his loft. Ive never even powered it up
for Brazil. I was commissioned to
write a word processor for it. In
theory this should have been
easy as we already had one
written in HiSoft Pascal that we
were selling for the normal
Spectrum. Translating the menus
and prompts was simple enough
and took little time. What did
take some puzzling was working
out how to deal with accented
characters. If you think French is
awkward, with acute and grave

10

accents, the circumex and


cedilla, then take a look at tinyurl.
com/udaccents for a rundown on
Portuguese. The result was a
WordStar-like word processor
that Id like to think was one the
rst adapted to do Portuguese
properly, though Ive no evidence
to prove it. After that the super
Spectrum went back in its box,
never to re-appear, so is still in
pristine condition.

DRAGONS DEN

The least loved computer in the


pile is a Dragon 32, which came
when my friend Steve Walters
was clearing out his loft. Thanks,
Steve. Frankly Ive never even had
it powered up. Most of these old
computers kicked out a video
signal that imitated what came
out of the old analogue RF TV
aerials, so plugging them into a
modern LED device doesnt work.
The Dragons a genuine dinosaur.
The heaviest computer in the
pile is a TeleVideo TS 803 (IBM)
PC clone from 1984. Theres a
specication and picture at
tinyurl.com/udtele. I sold it in 1985
to some accountants who used it
until the early 1990s, when I took
it back in part exchange for more
modern stuff. It was built like a
brick coal house and weighed
about the same. The chassis that
supports the tilt and swivel
screen is solid cast metal and the
green-screen CRT adds about
another 5kg on top. Storage?
Twin 5in DSSD (double-sided
single-density) oppy disk drives,
and it ran on a TeleVideo badged
version of MS-DOS. In 2014,
Microsoft made the source code
to TeleVideo PC-DOS available to
the public which, I think youll
agree, is pretty big of them!
Next to the TS 803 is its little
brother, which has a 7in screen.
Though easier to move around
than the desktop machine, you
still needed an Arnie-style body
to move it up and down stairs.
Despite lacking in the muscle
department, I loved this machine
to bits. It was an answer to a

developers prayer. Bear in mind


were talking about when the
internet was still years away. A
fast modem ran at 1200 baud; it
took 71 minutes to transfer a
500KB le. File-transfer software
was crap. Implementing changes
in custom software took forever,
and cost many arms and legs.
Imagine the frustration if you
wrote a modication to a
program, took it to the customer
site 100 miles away, loaded it on
his computer, then found he
wanted a small change. If he had
several computers running
MS-DOS, which happened often,
you had to copy the program on
to each machine individually,
which ruled out using modems,
even if you could persuade the
customer to fork out for one.
Why not use the network and
put the programs on the le
server? Simple. Networking like
that Novell NetWare only
became available in 1983, cost a
fortune and, in its infancy, had all
kinds of reliability issues. With
the TeleVideo luggable I could
take the whole development
environment with me, do the
change on site, and implement it
straight away. Heaven.

FLOPPED OUT LOADED

Heavier than either of the


TeleVideos is a twin oppy disk
drive unit once attached to an
ACT800. This looked like a full-on
business computer and sold for
around 4,000 in the late 1970s.
If you look underneath, however,
its little more than a Commodore
Pet with a fancy graphics card.
The twin 8in oppy disks, holding
a massive 512KB each, made it
look like it was worth the money.
Were only about half-way
through the inventory, with some
historically important computers
still to come. Ive yet to work out
where its all going to go. If I take
it to the tip, thats 35 years
worth of computing history
gone at a stroke. What to do?
Maybe I can solve the problem
before next month

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

CYBERCOP

The X factor
Two-factor authentication provides an additional security layer that can stop systems
being hacked. So why, asks Cybercop, dont businesses take it more seriously?

GORDON HOLMES

With more than 30 years of


experience in law enforcement,
our retired cop gives a police
ocers perspective on the
sticky subject of cybercrime
letters@computershopper.co.uk

A GOOD FRIEND of mine made


an interesting point the other
day. His contention was that
internet security practised by
the retail banks was making his
life as a cybersecurity and
intelligence professional for a
major corporation a lot more
dicult that it should be.
Allow me to explain.
As a number of his critical
business systems were being
transferred to cloud-based
solutions, my friend began
beating the security drum in an
attempt to introduce two-factor
authentication (2FA) as a
minimum security standard for a
number of the soon-to-be
implemented systems.
However, despite explaining
the many advantages to his
company board, it was the fact
that implementation of 2FA
would slightly increase overall
cost, together with (minimal)
implications for staff training,
that caused a response of, Well,
my bank doesnt ask me to do
that, so why should we do it?
Now, you and I know that 2FA
is far from a new concept: it has
been implemented on a number
of websites and internet-banking
systems for more than a decade,
and its usefulness is that it still

A slight increase in spending by the


introduction of 2FA might easily deter
most attackers in the rst place
continues to represent an
additional hurdle to overcome for
any bad guys seeking to break in.
Admittedly, there have been
numerous documented incidents
when 2FA has been circumvented
by the use of social engineering
or more sophisticated SIM swap
techniques, when a mobile is used
to authenticate online banking
transactions. Its not a panacea,
by any means, but as we have

12

mentioned before, security is


about layers, and its usually the
case that if any security hurdle is
placed in front of an attacker,
that attacker will likely be put off
and turn their attention towards
someone who does not employ
that particular security feature.
In other words, if you have 2FA
deployed, it wont be you.

COMBINATION LOCK

Im sure youre aware that 2FA


relies on combining something
you know (your password) with a
second factor, such as an SMS
sent to your mobile phone or a
random number generated by
an electronic token (something
you have). Many websites and
social media sites employ this
beefed-up customer security, and
it doesnt hurt to check whether
this is an option for you and the
sites that you interact with.
If you fancy performing an
audit of your own security, I
would recommend looking at
www.turnon2fa.com. Youll see a
large number of commonly used
sites (including Amazon, LinkedIn
and Facebook), together with
step-by-step instructions on how
to activate 2FA on each site
where it is available. Its a handy
reference that means you dont
have to delve into a sites
individual settings. Have a look:
its an easy way to improve your
own security dramatically.
So why has my friend got
such a bee in his bonnet with the
internet banking chaps? Its all to
do with the customer journey, a
factor that plays large in the
banking sector. The customer
journey or experience has to
be as smooth and painless as
possible, so if 2FA is employed
by banking systems then its
made seamless so as not to
cause customer confusion.
The fact that banks have
other authentication techniques
up their collective sleeves, such
as device ID, payment proling,
behavioural analytics and
fraud-detection systems (to

name but a few) that all add up


to a fairly robust security
solution for online banking
means that not all banks employ
2FA as a transaction
authentication technique.
So when my friend argues the
case for a more secure company
IT regime seizing on the
opportunity given by the
transition from local storage to
cloud-based solutions for a
number of his IT services for
the board to argue against his
recommendation for reasons of
cost or necessity ies in the face
of what we all know about the
true cost of system compromise
or data breach.

COST CONTROL

The Centre for Economics


and Business Research, a body
that supplies independent
economic forecasting and
analysis both to private rms
and public organisations,
estimates that cybercrime
attacks cost UK rms 34 billion
a year in revenue losses and
subsequent remediation or
increased IT spend. This gure
breaks down into 18 billion in
lost revenue and 16 billion in
increased IT spend.
Looking at those gures, I
would suggest that is a very
expensive stable door to close
after the (Trojan) horse has
bolted, especially if a slight
increase in spending at the
implementation stage by the
introduction of 2FA, for example,
might easily deter most attackers
in the rst place.
For you and I its usually a
simple matter to switch on 2FA
for the majority of the sites we
interact with, so why wouldnt
you? For corporations, a
transition in IT systems that
has already been agreed could
be the ideal moment to review
and strengthen security. You
never know, it may well stop that
horse cantering off down the
road dragging your reputation
behind it.

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

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Do you curse every time a bit of adware pops up on your screen? Wish you knew who
was responsible for such heinous intrusions? We have a confession to make

He may have invented the whole concept of adware for which he is


truly remorseful but Mel hopes ad blockers have got him off the hook
I WOULD LIKE to begin this months Rave
with a public confession. I have inicted
untold misery upon the peoples of the
world, and I deeply regret it. I make this
confession as the pioneer who started
harnessing computers for the purposes of
advertising. And I am howling sorry.
When I rst dreamed up the notion of
force-feeding consumers embedded
adverts for rubbish they dont need, I
never imagined the consequences. When I
registered the neologism adware in 1988,
I had no idea that by the time it got a
dictionary denition six years later, the
word would come to represent a process
of global annoyance and mass loathing.
In fact I shamelessly ran a company for
years that did nothing but inject adverts
into video games, screensavers and web
pages. Truly, I am a monster, and the only
reason I am confessing now is that
salvation has arrived at last. The Age of
the Ad Blocker has dawned.
Advertisers have been shifting their
spend to browser-based media for years.

14

Consumers dont just suffer the irritation


and wasted time caused by computerised
marketing, they pay good money for the
bandwidth eaten up by resource-hungry
adverts. In which case its no wonder that
ad blockers are booming, and I applaud
this ght against junk.
When Apple launched iOS 9, the UKs
best-selling app became a little gem called
Peace. In effect it stopped Apples built-in
browser from loading junk adverts, and as
soon as advertisers cried foul, Apple
promptly withdrew it from the App Store.
But it was too late. The genie was out of
the bottle. Twelve million people in the UK
already use ad blockers, and according to
a report from Adobe, that gure is
increasing at a rate of 82% year on year.
In other words, the partys over.
Most ad blockers are free and most of
them work on any browser. I particularly
like AdBlock Plus, which does what it says
on the tin. Theres a nice one from GT-Soft
that blocks YouTube ads as well. Currently,
my favourite ad blocker is Bancut, which

can be customised, is easy to operate, and


has the prettiest user interface.
Theres also a hidden bonus in using an
ad blocker: web-browsing speeds get
signicantly faster when advertising junk
doesnt clog things up. Online marketers
must be in denial or panic mode by now,
as they wait for their clients to realise that
ad spends on banners, pop-ups and splash
screens are a complete waste of money.
My prediction is that product
placement and branded content will take
over, and browser-based advertising will
become a whole lot more subtle. Online
advertising will hide and masquerade as
social media content, as editorial, as wikis,
as games, and as apps, until the public can
no longer tell the difference between
sponsored and impartial content. In fact
Ive coined a brand new word for this
phenomenon which I am sure will soon
enter the dictionaries alongside adware.
I call it No, maybe not. On second
thoughts Im not going to tell you what I
call it. Ive caused enough misery already.

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

RANTS & RAVES

singham
Michael Pas

You take your life in your hands every time you use a mapping app to
get to where youre going. Even if it is the dead centre of town
TECH COMPANIES SPEND half their time
harping on about how their latest product
ts seamlessly into your life, while spending
the other half beavering away on updates
when they realise your life didnt match up
to their expectations. See Apple Maps.
Actually, see all mapping apps. Theyre
great for devising a route from A to B via
C, D and E, but only work if youre willing
to adapt your habits to the apps beliefs.
Take Apple Maps. There are lots of
reasons to hate Apple Maps, not least
because it doesnt think iPhone users want
to cycle anywhere, but the complaint at
the top of my list is its inability to
understand how people get their bearings.
If I take a walk from the Shopper oces in
Londons Fitzrovia down to Temple using
its voiceover feature, Ill spend the entire
journey being directed to walk down roads
called the A4200 and the B502. Road
numberings most often appear painted on

the ground at junctions. As a pedestrian, I


dont often nd myself standing in the
middle of a six-lane overpass pondering
whether the A4 is the right route for me.

Google has the opposite problem. The


A4 is a six-lane bypass that routes trac
above the quiet streets of Kensington and
less-quiet Hammersmith. Google calls it
W Cromwell Road, because as a car driver
youre always looking out for tiny street
signs as you rush along at a cool 50mph,
as opposed to the numbers slapped on the
giant reective road signs. Its great fun.
Another example: many parks and
cemeteries are completely unlit at night.
Many of them shut their gates at sunset
because of this. Not a problem, says
CityMapper: just vault the fence and walk
through the spooky graveyard at 2am. Its
the most direct route, dont you know, and
isnt that worth a little trepidation? No app
ever takes user safety and comfort into
consideration. Theres a horrible disconnect
between the people who program these
apps and those who actually use them.
Im human. Id like to be treated like one.

ore
Chris Finnam

What Chris gets up to on his computer in the privacy of his own


home is his business, thank you very much, not Steams
IVE BEEN PLAYING computer games for
years. Since I got an Amiga in 1990, or
probably before on various BBCs, Atari
2600s or Amstrad CPCs. Its a hobby. Its
something I like to do to relax. Sometimes
I like to play games with friends, or chat
about games with like-minded people, but
most of the time its a solitary activity.
Like reading. Or playing bass guitar.
All this changed when the internet
came along, especially Steam. Here was an
innovative way to buy games and keep
them updated, and with a half-decent
internet connection you could normally
buy and download the title you wanted in
less time than it took to pop to the shops.

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

Sure, there were disadvantages. You


couldnt lend a game to a friend. Steam
pretty much killed the second-hand market
for PC games. You almost always had to be
online to play, as oine mode is rubbish.
Things can be pretty painful if youre on a
slow internet connection, especially when
you want a quick 20 minutes of gaming
and Steam insists on downloading 1.3GB of
multiplayer maps before it lets you play.
I can cope with all this, but theres one
thing I cant stand about Steam. Its
obsessed with making you social. By
default, when you run Steam (which runs
by default when Windows starts) it signs
you into its social network, so everyone

can see what youre playing. I dont want


this. Its not that Im embarrassed about
playing Train Simulator 2016 any chance I
get. Its just that Im a private person, and I
dont want to broadcast what I get up to in
my own home, for hours on end in a
darkened room with the curtains shut.
You can untick the box and opt out of
the network, but every now and then a
Steam update will come along and
re-enable it. What I do on my computer
is my business, and Id like it to stay that
way, so from now on Im either buying
everything Steam-free from www.gog.com
or plugging in my USB DVD drive and
playing Deus Ex. Again.

15

NEWS

All the best kit from this years MWC show in Barcelona

Alcatel unveils VR handsets


ALCATEL LAUNCHED A pair of handsets looking to compete with the
mid-range champions from Samsung, LG, HTC and Sony. The Idol 4 and
4S are two distinct phones, with the 4 assigned the lower price of
320 (around 250) while the 4S is priced at 499 (around
395). These prices seem fairly high to us, so we
suspect theyll drop after launch.
Both models ship inside a VR headset, with the
plastic box the handset comes in doubling up as
a snazzy Google Cardboard VR viewer. As with
most Cardboard viewers, there are no straps,
so you simply hold the viewer to your face. Its
a great idea and goes to show how popular
VR has now become. The quantity of
interesting content available via the Google
Cardboard initiative is growing steadily, too.
You can also use Alcatels own VR software.
The content on show at the Alcatel booth was of
a fairly low quality, with low-resolution shots of
Formula 1, wingsuit ying and a helicopter tour of
New York. The latter was our favourite, but it was the
best of a bad bunch; we cant see Alcatel investing heavily in
its own VR content, but this is the case for most manufacturers.
Both phones are glass-backed with rened, machined corners and
small bezels, rivalling the Samsung Galaxy A5 and the Sony Xperia XA in

2016

terms of how comfortable they are to hold. Both phones have


mid-range eight-core Qualcomm processors, but the more expensive
Idol 4S has a 5.5in 2,560x1,440 AMOLED display, compared to the
Idol 4s 5.2in 1,920x1,080 IPS panel.
We particularly liked the AMOLED screen on the 4S,
with its bright colours and exceptionally deep blacks.
The IPS panel on the Idol 4 is also excellent. Both
phones feel responsive, as youd expect from
mid-range handsets, although Alcatels Android
skin is a little bit unrened for our tastes.
One key feature for both phones is what
Alcatel calls the Boom Key. This is a button on
the right-hand side that can be assigned to
different functions, such as opening an app,
increasing the bass level on the front-facing
speakers, or opening the camera.
The latter function is both the most useful
and the most impractical. Hitting the Boom Key
with the phone on standby will instantly open the
camera and take a picture, with the image captured
before the screen is even switched on. This is great for
those hard-to-capture moments, but in reality we rarely captured
anything good. Also, the Boom Key button is a little too easy to press;
pocket pics are going to be all the rage for Idol 4 and 4S owners.

Samsung launches virtual-reality Gear 360 camera


SAMSUNG HAS BEEN a big supporter of VR,
with the Gear VR headset, which works with a
Galaxy smartphone, one of the rst to appear.
The Gear 360 is designed to make it easy to
produce your own virtual reality content. The
camera can shoot full 360 (horizontal and
vertical for a full sphere) footage that you
can view using a VR headset or as a movable
video in a supporting service, such as
Facebook or YouTube.
The Gear 360 looks great
eat and
feels tough and well made, while
the neat fold-out tripod means
ans
you can easily hold it for
hand-held shots, or place itt in a
central location for shooting
ng
more stable footage. The tripod
ipod
unscrews to reveal a standard
ndard in
screw, so you can use it with
th a
standard tripod or monopod.
od.

16

You control the camera using its built-in


controls and small screen, but a better option
is to use the app (available for the Galaxy S6
and S7) to control it from your phone. The
Gear 360 is controlled via Bluetooth, but the
preview image, which you can swipe around
to take in the full view, is sent via Wi-Fi due to
Bluetooths bandwidth limitations.
The Gear 360 has two 180 15-megapixel
directly away from
cameras facing dir
other, capturing a full 360
each othe
Fisheye lenses with a
arc. F
bright f/2.0 aperture are
bri
used to capture the
use
footage. While youll
foo
mostly want 360 video,
mos
you can also choose to
use only one of the
cameras if you just want
cam
sweep.
a 180 sw

Video is recorded at a resolution of


3,840x1,920. Test footage viewed through a
Samsung Gear VR headset looked impressive,
and theres nothing quite like the immersive
feel this kind of video gives you. The video
and still images shot by the cameras have to
be stitched together to create the full
panorama. This cant be done by the Gear
360, so your phone has to do the work, which
is why only the Galaxy S6 and new Galaxy S7
and Galaxy S7 Edge models are supported.
Samsung also has Windows software for
people that dont have the right Galaxy phone,
and weve been told that the company is also
considering writing Mac software.
No price information is currently available,
but the Gear 360 will need to be at a similar
price point to the 299 Ricoh Theta S which
also supports the iPhone and a wide range of
Android handsets if its to be a success.

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

NEWS

Sony reinvents the Bluetooth


headset with the Xperia Ear
THE STANDOUT DEVICE in Sonys MWC 2016
press conference was undoubtedly what appears
to be a Bluetooth headset, the Xperia Ear.
Bluetooth headsets havent exactly had the best
of press, being generally socially unacceptable
unless youre a delivery driver, but the Xperia Ear
could well be a force for good.
Sonys new earpiece is all about
ut
getting your eyes away from the
screen, looking up and taking in
the world, rather than down
at your phone all the time. And
thats something of which we
heartily approve.
The earpiece can of course
route calls and it has a
microphone, but Sony is
primarily positioning it as a way to
cut down on checking all those

notications. Messages, calendar alerts, Twitter


mentions: these can now be delivered to the
earpiece as spoken messages, and the voice
recognition lets you verbally respond to them if
you so choose.
Cleverly the earpiece actually knows when
its in your ear, so it can tell whether to send
audio messages
there or just show them
mes
on the phones screen as usual. The
Ear will also update you on whats
been
bee going on when you put the
earpiece back in after a period
away, as well as letting you
know if youve missed any calls.
Its an interesting device and
nowhere near as intrusive as
Google Glass; perhaps the Xperia
Ear will be the technology nally to
destigmatise
Bluetooth earpieces.
destig

LGs new G5 is a modular


theme park in your pocket
IF YOU THOUGHT MWC 2016 was just going to
feature incremental updates to phones you
already own, think again: LG unveiled the G5, its
modular and customisable agship smartphone.
Billed as an adventurous theme park in your
pocket, it represents a whole new kind of
smartphone, as the bottom of the phone can
pop off and be replaced with modules to
transform it into all sorts of devices to suit
different occasions.
The G5s other party trick is its replaceable
battery. That may not sound the most exciting
thing in the world, but the way the bottom
section of the phone pops off and the battery
slides out attached to it is a brilliant piece of
design. If you have a spare, you can just take out
the existing battery, clip the new one in its place
and slide the whole thing home. This design has
allowed LG to combine a replaceable battery
with a full-metal chassis, and we think its great.
LG says that, with the right modules, the G5
can turn into a digital camera, hi- player, and
more. Having to carry around extra attachments
all the time might rather defeat the point of
having a mobile phone, but each module is
pretty tiny. The Cam Plus camera, for instance, is
no bigger than a Post-it note, and the LG Hi-Fi
Plus, a portable music player,
layer,
er, is no
bigger than the phones existing
existi
sting
removable module.
The Cam Plus module
e will
be of particular interest to
photographers, as this
wedge-like add-on provides
es
extra grip when holding the
phone in landscape, and its
physical shutter, video
record and zoom buttons
make it feel more akin to
oa

traditional camera. It doesnt quite offer the


same DSLR-level of comfort and control that
LG claimed in its press conference, but the extra
1,200mAh battery it provides will no doubt be a
great help when youre out shooting all day.
The Hi-Fi Plus, meanwhile, is a portable hi-
player module thats been developed in
collaboration with Bang & Olufsen. This will let
you listen to 32-bit, 384KHz high-denition
audio. These were the only two modules
revealed at MWC, but there will no doubt be
more to come later in the year.
The phone itself is attractive, with a
magnesium nish, and it feels incredibly
comfortable in the hand. Its nowhere near as
slippery as its glass-backed competition, and its
smooth, rounded corners and edges feel great
against your ngers. The phone has an
always-on display incorporated into its main
2,560x1,440 panel, which will show you
everything from notications to the date, time
and weather when the screen is turned off.
We dont have any worries about the G5s
performance, as its Snapdragon 820 chip is state
of the art. This processor also enables another
one of the G5s party tricks: the 360 Cam VR
headset. This attaches to the G5 via its USB
Type-C cable,
cable which
whic
hich you
hic
y can slip into your
pocket, and the goggles
simply slide over
go
your eyes like
ke a llarge pair of sunglasses.
Theres no all-encompassing
chassis, and
allll-enc
LG hopes it wil
will be portable enough to
watch VR content on the move.
The G5 will be available in silver,
gold,
pink and dark grey when it
d, pin
launches
launch
nch later this year, but the
key thing
missing from LGs
th
press
pre conference was the
G5s
price.
G5 p

17

NEWS

Sky to launch new Now TV box later this year


SKY HAS ANNOUNCED that it will be launching its most advanced
Now TV box yet later this year. The new box will combine Now TVs
wide range of paid TV content with over 60 live free-to-air channels,
giving customers the best of both worlds when it comes to
getting the most out of their TV.
Sky has yet to reveal which channels will be offered when the new
Now TV box is released, but we wouldnt be surprised if many of them
are the same channels as those currently available on Freeview. Were
also hoping that Sky will nally introduce HD channels, but so far the
company is keeping tight-lipped about any additional features.
Sky also announced that it will be rolling out a new interface for its
existing Now TV boxes. This new UI will come with several new features,
including recommendation boxes to make it easier to nd the
programmes you want to watch. These will collate shows both from
Now TVs catch-up TV apps and paid content, but there will also be a
new Best of Catch Up section available so you can see all the best
shows from the week in one handy location.
The launch of our new homepage on the Now TV box will make it
easier than ever for our customers to quickly nd and watch their
favourite shows, said Gideon Katz, director of Now TV. And when the
new Now TV Smart Box arrives later this year, it will be the perfect

Skys new Now TV box will combine paid content and free-to-air channels

one-stop box to get a contract-free, exible way of watching the best of


pay TV and free-to-air content all in one place.
Now TV is Skys catch-up service for non-Sky customers. It has
many of the same channels and content available as Sky TV, but it has
a completely different price structure and is available to everyone. The
Now TV box itself costs just 15, but you can sign up for additional
Now TV content packages for just 6.99 a month. This gives you access
to Skys Entertainment box sets and content from channels such as Sky
1, Sky Atlantic, Fox, MTV and ITV Encore. You can also buy monthly
passes to Sky Movies for 9.99 a month and Sky Sports with prices
starting from 6.99 a month for a day pass or 31.99 a month for a
whole month, which can be cancelled at any time.

iPhones bricked by
Indonesia blocks
time-travelling trick
Tumblr over
pornographic content
TUMBLR IS A HUGELY popular microblogging site, which Yahoo!
bought for over a billion dollars in 2013. However, its soon to become
a lot less popular in Indonesia, where it has been blocked by the
government due to hosting a whole bunch of porn.
Like it or not, theres a lot of pornography on Tumblr. Theres a lot
of other stimulating content that doesnt involve nakedness too, of
course. But browse through the labyrinth of images, and youll
eventually be met with something untoward.
For this reason Indonesia has completely banned the blogging site.
The BBC has reported that the countrys Information Ministry decided
to block Tumblr simply because of its pornographic content.
Of all the webs major social media platforms, only Tumblr allows
what would be deemed X-rated. It sets the site apart from the likes of
Facebook and Twitter. This could be why it remains so popular, with 110
million registered users, about a third of whom are active.
Indonesia has a population of nearly 250 million. Even if just 1% of
the population use Tumblr, thats a fair chunk. And while this is all
hypothetical, it remains odd that a whole nation has pulled the plug on
whats usually thought to be a pretty normal part of the internet.
Whats more, Indonesia hasnt just blocked Tumblr. The country has
also banned 477 other sites, local media outlets report. Bloggers have
been arrested before and, in 2015, Vimeo was also blocked for
pornographic content. The government even moved to block a
number of emojis
oji it considers to be gay, and might
igh even ban
messaging
saging apps (such as WhatsApp) that feature same-sex couples.

18

THE FASTEST WAY to render your iPhone unusable is to go back in


time. Malicious pranksters have been circulating an image purporting to
show that if you change the date on your iPhone to the beginning of
1970, you will uncover an Easter egg retro theme for your handset.
However, the date change will in fact leave the phone broken
beyond repair. Those who have attempted to re-create the bug have
found their iPhones totally bricked and, in several cases, the handset
has had to be replaced entirely.
Although you shouldnt do it in the rst place, triggering the bug is
actually quite simple. All you need to do is dive into Settings, General,
Date and Time. Once youre there, simply untick Set Automatically and
set your iPhones date to 1 January 1970. Youll then nd that after
rebooting, your iPhone is unable to start.
According to the website 9to5Mac, the bug will affect any device
that has a 64-bit processor and runs software later than iOS 8, so it
has the potential to affect a huge amount of iPhones and iPads if
their owners are silly enough to follow anonymous online advice
which doesnt even really make sense (Apple wasnt founded until
1976, and the icons in the screenshot are in the style of a 1980s
version of Mac OS).
Apple conrmed that the bug exists in
February, and said that an upcoming
software update will address the issue.

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

NEWS

Charities seek to counter North Korean


censorship with USB sticks of banned content
IF YOU HAVE more USB drives than
han you
know what to do with, a couple of
charities would love for you to consider
ider
sending them their way.
They are Forum 280 and the Human
Rights Foundation, which have launched
nched
Flash Drives for Freedom. What do
they want to do with your old USB
sticks? Well, they want to wipe
them clean and ll them up with all
kinds of media, including Hollywood
lms, South Korean TV shows and
Korean Wikipedia.
The charities then want to
smuggle them into North Korea at
great personal risk. Distributing this
kind of content is completely illegall in the
secretive state, where government censorship
rship
is just a part of life.
After food and water, the next thing
people in North Korea want is knowledge,
Alex Gladstein, chief strategy ocer of the
Human Rights Foundation told the BBC. For
many of us, ash drives are becoming an
obsolete technology we have the cloud, and
we can share things. But every single ash
drive could save someones life.
The campaign began last week, and the
charities have already received 200 USB

Your old USB sticks could help bring


entertainment to the masses in North Korea

drives for the cause, which is helpful because


purchasing retail USB sticks for the project
would be prohibitively expensive. Especially
when you consider the cost of transport,
bribes and focus groups (yes, really) to
establish the most popular programmes for
Korean citizens. Just in case youre wondering,
Friends, Desperate Housewives, Spartacus and
The Hunger Games are all name-checked.

Arnold Schwarzenegger,
Leonardo DiCaprio
S
and Sylvester
Stallone are very popular,
Sylve
added Gladstein.
Gla
How does the content on these USB
sticks get
ge seen? While its true that
computers
and laptops remain rare in
comput
North
Nor Korea, the Notel media player is
an increasingly popular solution. Its
cheap,
versatile and, crucially,
che
extremely
easy to conceal. Although
ext
theyre
theyr legal in the country, Reuters
explains
explai that each one is required to be
registered,
registere allowing the authorities to keep
tabs on the spread of foreign media.
To avoid
getting caught, people load a
av
North Kor
Korean DVD while watching South
Korean dramas
on a USB stick, which can be
dr
pulled out,
t, a North Korean defector explained
to Reuters. They then tell the authorities,
who feel the heat from the Notel to check
whether or not it has been recently used, that
they were watching North Korean lms.
While westerners might not miss a USB
stick or two, it can make a major difference to
citizens living under censorship. As Sharon
Stratton, an organiser of the campaign, told
Wired: Youll probably never meet the person
who has it, but you can be sure that someone
will have it and will be happier for it.

Linux Mint hack leads to dodgy downloads


POPULAR LINUX DISTRO Mint has had its website hacked and dodgy
download links injected, to make unwitting punters download a
backdoored version of the operating system.
The news came to light in a blog post from Linux
Mint project leader Clement Lefebvre. Apparently
hackers (from Soa in Bulgaria, according to an IP
address trace) compromised the Linux Mint site,
and replaced the download links to the legitimate
Mint ISO disc images with links to doctored versions
containing the Tsunami malware.
Anyone who downloaded the Cinnamon Desktop
edition of Linux Mint 17.3 on Saturday 20th February
2016 will have the infected distro. The Tsunami malware

creates a backdoor in the OS, which can be used to install further


malware on the PC, or even to take control of it.
In response to the hack, and to a second attack later on, Linux
Mints administrators took the website oine to x the
problem, which was apparently caused by a vulnerability
pro
in WordPress. At the time of writing, linuxmint.com was
still oine. In the meantime, if you downloaded and
installed Linux Mint on 20th February, do a clean
reinstall and format your installation USB drive (or
throw away your Mint DVD). Data from the hack has
been spotted for sale on underground exchanges, so if
youve ever registered with the Linux Mint forums and
re-used your login details, change your passwords.

Microsoft Security Essentials still isnt good


enough to be your only piece of anti-virus
software, but it showed a marked improvement
in the latest round of security testing

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

19

NEWS

Hacker controls Nissan Leaf using


app vulnerability
A CYBERSECURITY EXPERT has found a way to control any Nissan
Leaf, the worlds most popular electric vehicle. The vulnerability,
discovered by Troy Hunt, allows anyone to take control of the air
conditioning and heating systems of any Leaf and even gives access
to the cars journey history. According to Hunt, the hack was done
remotely via the NissanConnect EV app and allowed him to take control
of other peoples Leafs on the other side of the world.
Like many other electric vehicles, the Nissan Leaf uses a counterpart
app to display your driving habits, charge levels and general ecofriendliness but it also allows for preconditioning. Simply put, this lets
you control elements of your car remotely, while its charging. That way
you can do things such as warm the cabin while the cars still charging,
saving your precious battery life for driving.
Hunt said he needed only a vehicle identication number (VIN) to
gain access. Its not that they have done authorisation [on the app]
badly, they havent done it at all, which is bizarre, he told the BBC. The
rst few characters of a cars VIN refer to the brand, model and country
of origin, so only the last few numbers would set each Leaf apart.
Normally its only the last ve digits that differ, Hunt said. Theres
nothing to stop someone scripting a process that goes through every
100,000 possible cars and turns the air conditioning on in every one.
In a video, Hunt is shown remotely controlling these features via the
API of the NissanConnect EV app, and is also shown testing the theory
remotely with a friends Leaf in the UK. Interestingly, it appears that a
hacker could even use a web browser to access the vulnerability.
As I was talking to Troy on Skype, he pasted the web address into
his browser and then maybe ten seconds later I heard an internal beep
in the car, Scott Helme, a cybersecurity adviser, told the BBC.

Windows 10 now
shows adverts on
the lock screen
SOME WINDOWS 10 users have been royally cheesed off by the
appearance of adverts on their Windows 10 lock screens. First it was
ads for apps on the Start menu, and now even your pretty Windows
background is trying to og you stuff.
The adverts so far all seem to be for the new Rise of the Tomb
Raider game. The example weve seen in the Shopper oce shows a
stunning icy landscape
from the Windows
Spotlight service, with the
cryptic message Ice cold
beauty. Dangerous
territory at the top. If you
click this message, a box
pops up telling you about
Tomb Raider, and you can
click through to the Store
The thin end of the Windows 10 wedge?
to buy it.
There was always going to be a price to pay for Windows 10 being a
no-cost upgrade, and this is it (or at least, the start of it). Those who
dont want advertising on their sign-in screen can go to Settings,
Personalisation, Lock Screen. You then have to change your
Background to Picture, and change the Get fun facts, tips, tricks and
more on your lock screen to Off.
Of course, this means youll have to do without Spotlights pretty
changing backgrounds. Apparently theres no such thing as a free
lunch. Or OS. Or wallpaper.

20

The heated seat then turned on, the heated steering wheel turned
on. And I could hear the fans spin up and the air conditioning turn on.
Hunt says he gave Nissan a month to x the issue before publicising
it, and it appears the company has now deactivated the NissanConnect
EV service. The vulnerability didnt pose an immediate risk, however. In
a worst-case scenario, hackers would be able to access the AC unit and
make the interior really warm or really cold, running down the battery in
the process. The hack doesnt work when the car is in motion.
As Hunt wrote in his blog: Its a different class of vulnerability to
the Jeep-hacking shenanigans of last year, but in good and bad ways.
Good in that it doesnt impact the driving controls of the vehicle, bad in
that the ease of gaining access to vehicle controls in this fashion
doesnt get much easier. Hunt also found that, as soon as his friend
disconnected the app from the Nissan Leaf, it was no longer hackable.
As at the time of going to press, Nissans app control remained
oine while the company beefs up security.

New Raspberry Pi has


more power plus Wi-Fi
THE EVER-POPULAR Raspberry Pi is about to get a makeover. A year
after the Raspberry Pi 2 launched, offering four times the power of the
original Pi, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has tweaked the recipe once
more to create the Raspberry Pi 3.
The Pi 2 may have been four times as fast as the 2012 original, but
the Foundation claims the Pi 3s quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor
is just 50% quicker. The Pi 2 was already capable of functioning as a
proper computer, so the new models speed bump should make things
just a bit smoother. The video hardware now runs at 400MHz
compared to 250MHz on the Pi 2. Theres still 1GB of RAM.
The Pi 3 has another big advantage: built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi and
Bluetooth. The Wi-Fi especially will be a huge bonus for those wanting
to perform projects such as turning your Pi into a wireless radio (see
page 130), as you wont need to use a USB port for a separate dongle.
The new Pi will be the same price as the old one, at around 23. The
Raspberry Pi Foundation claims to have sold eight million Pi units so far;
were sure the new model will continue to y off the shelves.
The new Pi: faster and
with built-in Wi-Fi

Is UberRush the future


of deliveries?

Taxi rm Uber is taking on the might of Amazon in the delivery industry, which
could be good news for consumers and small businesses alike
AMAZON IS A juggernaut in the retail world,
and it doesnt stand still. Not content with
shaking up retailing, the company has also
disrupted deliveries: for an annual fee, the
Amazon Prime service offers free one-day
delivery, and the company is experimenting
with new services, such as Amazon Prime
Now (which offers deliveries within an hour),
and its own eet of delivery drones.
Given its dominance elsewhere, it would
seem Amazon is unbeatable, but a recent,
seemingly dull, technical announcement from
taxi company Uber caught our attention. It
suggests that Uber could be about to give
Amazon a real run for its money.

for developers that enables them to hook


directly into Ubers services, enabling
deliveries to be triggered automatically, or
selected by users, rather than organised by
staff at the business.
Under the existing system, a delivery has
to be requested and scheduled manually by
the orist or baker using an app. With the
new API, Uber deliveries could be integrated
into the checkout process, so when you buy
something, you get the option to schedule an
Uber delivery yourself, for whenever is good
for you. You could even be offered different
pricing options. This is much less work for the
company, and much more scalable.

A RUSH AND A PUSH

AND THE LAND IS OURS

Uber isnt simply content with ferrying about


humans and picking ghts with cabbies it
also wants to get in on the delivery game. To
that end it has been experimenting in certain
US cities with a service it calls UberRush.
The idea is that small businesses, such as
orists, tailors and restaurants, use Uber to
full deliveries. By integrating with commerce
apps such as Shopify, business owners can
summon a vehicle to take their precious cargo
to customers for them. Its a smart idea: it
means small businesses can offer a delivery
service without the hassle of setting it up
themselves, and its a good idea for Uber as it
means there are more applications for any
excess capacity the company has on the road.
Its also a win for customers as both they and
the company theyve ordered from can track
the driver in real time on their phone just as
you can when you order a lift.
The big news, which makes us think that
Uber could have Amazon Prime in its sights, is
that the company recently announced an
UberRush API. In essence, this is a set of tools

ISSUE 335 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| JANUARY 2016

The company has already announced that the


API has spurred an increase in companies
supporting UberRush, including fashion
retailer Nordstrom and restaurant delivery
service EatStreet (essentially a US version of
Deliveroo). The scalability aspect is important.
Imagine how easily this service could be rolled
out to every other small business competing
with Amazon. Suddenly, Amazon doesnt have
a massive advantage in terms of delivery, and
arguably Uber could make it more convenient
to order from an independent retailer instead.
Uber already has the payment details of
millions of people, so why couldnt it let us
use our Uber accounts to pay, saving us from
entering our card details again on a new
website? Pay once, deliver in minutes.
Of course, Amazon isnt just one
monolithic behemoth. Part of the reason it
has managed to grow so massively is because,
through the Amazon Marketplace, it enables
thousands of independent sellers to sell their
wares. It even tries to persuade Marketplace
sellers to use Amazon Prime to deliver orders.

But Uber entering the delivery battle could


be good for these smaller companies, too.
Amazon is famous for using its enormous
power to bully smaller companies into
accepting less favourable terms (as its done
with the publishing industry), and if Uber
provided a viable alternative option, Amazon
would be forced to work harder to win the
business of its Marketplace sellers. That could
mean a bigger share of the cash or less
draconian supplier agreements.

UBER-INTELLIGENT

Another interesting aspect is how ecient


Uber could make these deliveries. One of
Ubers underlying principles is that it wants its
vehicles to be constantly working. If a car is
moving either a person or a package from A
to B, it is earning the company money, and
downtime between trips is wasted capacity.
Uber spends a lot of time crunching data
and improving its algorithms to ensure that,
when its app spits out directions telling
drivers where to go, theyre taking the best
route. While Uber is very secretive on exactly
how it does this, we can speculate that this
means taking into account real-time trac
conditions and historic ride data, along with
other information, to gure out optimal routes.
At the moment, UberRush is only available
in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, but
it is easy to see how the company could
expand it. In cities all around the world, there
are already thousands of drivers capable of
delivering physical goods as well as
passengers, and there are already millions of
people with the app on their smartphones
who would make it happen overnight.
Perhaps Amazon should hurry up and
ready its army of drones; after all, Ubers
eet of humans is already good to go.

21

IN DEPTH

The 4 computer
A computer for 4? Surely some mistake? We check out the bargain-basement
Raspberry Pi Zero to see if cheap means cheerful
WHEN THE ORIGINAL Raspberry Pi Model B
launched in February 2012, its impact was felt
immediately. Demand knocked major vendors
websites oine, while developers of singleboard computers that had previously felt
comfortable asking triple gures for their
wares suddenly found themselves having to
compete with a board costing far less.
The surprise launch of the Raspberry Pi
Zero in November 2015 echoed the
excitement surrounding the original, with one
major difference: while the Pi cost around
30, the new Pi Zero is just 4 a price that
saw the device become the rst computer in
history to be cover-mounted on a magazine.
Naturally, however, some corners have
been cut to reach such a low price. But is the
Pi Zero truly a herald for the next generation
of ultra-affordable, ubiquitous computing or,
as its critics would have it, simply a
promotional stunt?

SPECIFICATIONS

While the Raspberry Pi 2 is a viable computer


in its own right, the Pi Zero is much more
limited. However, it wasnt built as a rival to
its 30 bigger brother; its designed instead
to offer an alternative to the Raspberry Pi
Model A+. Here it compares more favourably,
thanks to a faster 1GHz processor and, at
512MB, double the RAM.
Areas have still been sliced to reach that
4 price point, even compared with the
low-spec Model A+. The camera (CSI) and
display (DSI) interface ports have gone, as has
the analogue audio output. Composite video
support is still there, but youll need to solder
on a header yourself if you want to use it.

LAYOUT

The specications tell one story, but the


layout of the board itself tells another. The
Raspberry Pi Zero is a major feat of
engineering, packing most of the features of
the Model A+ into a footprint barely half the
size and a fraction of the weight.
For those looking to use the Pi
Zero in a hardware project,
these are positives, as is
the lower power draw
afforded by the new
models fewer components.
For those new to the Pi
ecosystem, the decision to
leave the usual 40-pin
general purpose input/
output (GPIO) header
unpopulated with pins
will be an annoyance,
although it is one readily

22

With a footprint of just 65x30mm and a weight of 9g, the Raspberry Pi Zero is as tiny as it is cheap

solved with a soldering iron and a steady


hand. More accomplished users, however,
may see the ability to connect only the pins
they require as an advantage.
The Zeros small size brings a couple of
other compromises. Rather than the full-size
HDMI port of the rest of the Raspberry Pi
family, the Pi Zero has the less-common Mini
variant. Likewise, the USB port of the Model
A+ is lost in favour of a Micro USB OTG
(on-the-go) port, requiring an adaptor to use
any full-size USB device.

PERFORMANCE

Once youve tracked down adaptors for the Pi


Zeros Mini HDMI and Micro USB ports, using
the Pi Zero is a familiar experience. With no
operating system provided, its up to you to
supply a microSD card loaded with a
compatible OS. Typically, this would be the
Raspbian Linux distribution. Unfortunately,
unlike with the newer Pi 2, options such as
Windows 10 and Ubuntu are off the table
owing to the Pi Zeros older processor.
For someone used to the Raspberry Pi 2s
quad-core processor, moving to the Pi Zero
feels restrictive. The boot time is considerably
longer and benchmarks clearly show the
Zeros limited processing power. The
cross-platform SysBench suite
completed a CPU test in
358.47 seconds, a result
thats signicantly slower
than the 74.48 seconds of
a Raspberry Pi 2.
The Pi Zeros new 1GHz
clock means it compares more
clo
favourably with the Pi Model
fav
A+ or B+, though; the Zero
completed the SysBench
test around 140 seconds
quicker than those
full-size Pi boards.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

The Pi Zeros price has been set by the


Raspberry Pi Foundation at 4, making it an
undeniable bargain, even if you need to pick
up adaptor cables, the GPIO header, microSD
card, and a power supply separately. The big
problem is that there are plenty of bargain
hunters out there. The minute stock appears
at one of the ocial outlets, it immediately
sells out again. Nearly two months since its
launch, the Pi Zero is still dicult to pin down.
That leaves room for a black market.
When the device was bundled on the cover of
The MagPi, the Foundations ocial magazine,
copies appeared on auction sites for 100.
Even now, otherwise reputable retailers are
marking the device up to ridiculous levels: one
is selling the device for 36, albeit with Mini
HDMI and Micro USB adaptors to the value of
2 included. At 4, the Pi Zero is a bargain. At
36, the Raspberry Pi 2 is a better choice for
anyone not constrained by size limitations.

VERDICT

Its easy to concentrate on the negatives of


the Pi Zero, and there are more than one. The
processor is a step backwards, the loss of
camera and display interfaces will hurt many
embedded projects, and the need to solder
your own GPIO header will make newcomers
nervous. Availability, too, is a major hurdle to
the Pi Zeros success, although one the
Foundation is working to resolve.
The price, however, is hard to argue with.
To be able to build a device that can hold its
own against the Model A+ and sell it for just
4 is impressive, and it leaves plenty of room
in the budget for the adaptor cables and
extras required to get it running even a USB
Ethernet or Wi-Fi adaptor for projects that
need network connectivity. If you see a Pi
Zero on sale at 4 anywhere, snap one up.
Its one incredible bargain.

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Microsoft drops Windows 7


and 8.1 support for Skylake
Microsoft has decided not to support pre-Windows 10 operating systems on the
latest processors. Here we explain what the decision means for you
MICROSOFT RECENTLY PUT out a statement concerning Windows 7
and Windows 8.1 support. Its not easy to digest, but it boils down to
the fact that new generations of processors, starting with Intels latest
Skylake chips, arent going to be fully supported on these older
operating systems. Microsoft is urging the owners of such chips to
upgrade to Windows 10 to ensure full support.
The issue doesnt just affect Skylake chips. All future processors
from Intel and AMD will have the same support ruling, so if you want
to use the latest hardware to the best of its abilities youll have to
move over to Windows 10.
Theres no need to panic, however. Support isnt ending any time
soon for pre-Skylake systems (which includes any computers bought
before late last year). For those systems Windows 7 has extended
support (patching critical problems and security issues) until 2020,
while Windows 8.1 has support until 2023; see the Windows lifecycle
fact sheet at tinyurl.com/win-lifecycle for details.

WHY IS MICROSOFT DOING THIS?

Microsoft claims it cant make the most of the latest hardware while
still providing the best possible compatibility and stability for older
systems. This means it wont be rolling out updates to Windows 7 and
Windows 8.1 for PCs and laptops built around the newest computer
technology. This is because such updates could produce compatibility
issues with older hardware that simply arent worth the trouble. Or, as
Microsoft puts it:
We are focused on our commitment to deliver security, reliability,
and compatibility to our installed base on their current systems.
Redesigning Windows 7
subsystems to embrace new
generations of silicon would
introduce churn into the
Windows 7 code base, and
would break this commitment.

WHO IS GOING TO
BE AFFECTED?

If youve bought a new Intel


Skylake processor for your PC
then you will be affected if you
continue to use an older version

ISSUE 335 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

of Windows. You may also be affected if you bought a Skylake laptop


or desktop PC that came with Windows 7 or 8.1 and which you havent
yet upgraded to Windows 10.
Users of certain Skylake machines have a bit more time before they
need to upgrade, however. Some laptops and desktops from major
manufacturers have been tested and will be compliant with updates
until July 2017, giving you quite a while to get around to upgrading to
Windows 10. You can nd a full list of supported systems at tinyurl.com/
skylakesupport, but its far from exhaustive, containing only machines
from Dell, HP, Lenovo and NEC at the moment.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY PC HAS A SKYLAKE CHIP?

If you bought your new PC, laptop or processor late last year or early
this year, its worth checking. In Windows 7 click the Start button, select
Control Panel and then choose System, or simply press the Start button
on your keyboard, type System and select the option that appears. A
new window will open, listing your processor. If its an Intel model, nd
the name of the processor, which will be something like i5-4430 or
i7-6700K. Copy the name and enter it into the product search box at
ark.intel.com. If your processor is described as being 6th Generation,
its a Skylake chip and subject to the new support rules.

WHAT KIND OF UPDATES WILL I MISS OUT ON?

Were still waiting for Microsoft to answer our queries on exactly how
this withholding of updates and support will work, and what difference
it will make to your Windows 7 or 8.1 PC. One piece of information we
have been able to glean is that you wont be able to install Windows 7
from USB, as Microsoft has
removed ssupport for legacy
EHCI USB devices, and
Windows 7 wont install from
a newer xxHCI USB port.
nd that Windows 10
We n
beautifully on Skylake
works bea
and is a signicant
systems a
improvement over Windows 7
improveme
and 8, so if you have a new
laptop
lap
top or PC and havent
upgraded, its well worth your
time and effort.
The latest Intel processors wont get Windows 7 or 8.1 support from Microsoft

| JANUARY 2016

23

REVIEWS
YOUR TRUSTED GUIDE TO WHATS NEW
PREMIUM WINDOWS 10 LAPTOP HYBRID

MICROSOFT Surface Book

RECOMMENDED

2,249 inc VAT From www.currys.co.uk

VERDICT

The Surface Book is expensive and not for everyone


but it is a wonderful piece of engineering
MICROSOFT HAS LONG claimed that its
Surface Pro 4 is the tablet that can replace
your laptop. However, some people are just
better suited to a more traditional laptop that
occasionally serves as a tablet when needed.
Enter the Microsoft Surface Book, the
companys very rst laptop.
One of the rst things you notice about
the device is its strange, caterpillar-like
fulcrum hinge. It looks similar to Lenovos
watch-hinge on the Yoga 900, but its inner
workings are unique. Instead of bending at a
pivot, the internal mechanism unfurls and
uncoils, allowing the hinges multiple grooves
to bend and contort as it opens and closes.
This extends the depth of the Surface
Book by nearly 20mm when its open, making
it more stable. This is important, as the
number of components housed in the display
could have made it top-heavy. Thankfully, the
system feels very well balanced when its open.
It does mean, however, theres an exposed
gap at the rear of the laptop when the lid is
closed. This might prove problematic if youre
transporting it in a grubby bag, but we had no
issues with dirt accumulating in the grooves
of the hinge. It also lends the device an
unmistakable charm when viewed in prole.

MUSCLE-BOUND

Microsofts muscle wire mechanism is


another piece of clever engineering. This
keeps the screen connected to the keyboard
base. To release it, you hold down a dedicated
keyboard button. The mechanisms nitinol
alloy then tightens as an electrical charge is
delivered and springs open to disengage the
locks. The clamps are incredibly strong, too,
as we could condently grab the system by its
display and let the base dangle in the air
without worrying it might fall off.
The release mechanism isnt instant; youll
hear a distinct clicking sound when the screen
is ready to be removed. Bizarrely, the sound is

24

articial, as the mechanism


itself is silent. However, it sounds
satisfying and provides useful aural feedback
to tell you when you can remove the screen.
The display can also be mounted back to
its base in reverse, allowing you to fold it at
or use it in a pitched-up tent mode. The
Surface Book knows when its been reversemounted, too, so it will stay in tablet mode
rather than switch back to desktop mode.
This software-based release method is
crucial, as certain Surface Book congurations
have a dedicated GPU in the keyboard base. If
the dedicated GPU is in use, attempting to
separate the display from its base will prompt
you to save any work before continuing.
Aside from its special hinge, the rest of the
Surface Books design is rather utilitarian. Its
simplicity lends it a rather industrial
appearance, and from a distance you could
almost mistake its plain, magnesium chassis
for plastic. Up close, though, it looks stunning.

DISPLAY OF AFFECTION

The Surface Book also deviates from the


norm with its 3:2 aspect ratio display, making
it taller and more box-like than a 16:9 panel.
This lends itself well to browsing the web, but
is less suitable for watching lms. Still, with a
3,000x2,000 resolution on a 13.5in display, its
pixel density of 267ppi means everythings
nice and crisp, even when Windows 10s
scaling options are set to 200%.

Microsoft hasnt
skimped on the quality of the
display, either. We measured an
excellent sRGB colour gamut coverage of 99%
and a contrast ratio of 1,736:1. White levels are
bright at 435.1cd/m2, and black levels deep at
0.25cd/m2. A brightness of 75% is more than
enough for indoor use, but having the extra
overhead for use outdoors is a real boon.
The displays shape makes it an ideal
partner for the included Surface Pen. The
stylus has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity,
and its top clickable button automatically
opens Microsoft OneNote for instant notetaking. A double-click brings up a clipping of
whats currently onscreen for annotations.
The stylus isnt paired with the Surface
Book out of the box, so youll need to pair it
via Bluetooth before you can use the pens
at end as an eraser. It also uses awkward
AAAA batteries, but you should get a years
worth of use out of a single battery.
It works brilliantly, even if its spongy pen
tip isnt quite as good for drawing with as the
Apple Pencil. Still, its great for doodling, and
it snaps on to the left side of the screen
magnetically when its not in use, so you
neednt worry about it going missing.

TOUCH AND GO

The backlit keyboard is comfortable to type


on. It has a sensible layout and each
generously sized key has a decent amount of

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

p26 HP Spectre x2

p33 Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo

travel. The keys are densely packed, and we


often found ourselves striking adjacent keys
accidentally due to the small amount of space
between them, but it wasnt too frustrating.
The laminated-glass Precision Touchpad is
by far the best touchpad weve used on a
Windows laptop. It feels smooth under your
ngertips, with swipes and gestures all gliding
across the surface with next to no resistance,
and makes using multitouch gestures an
absolute joy in Windows 10.
The Surface Book is available in multiple
congurations. The entry-level model has a
dual-core 2.4GHz Intel i5-6300U processor
that can Turbo Boost to 3GHz, 8GB of RAM,
and a 128GB SSD storage for 1,299. The next
model up doubles the storage and adds a
dedicated Nvidia GeForce GPU for 1,599. The
1,799 model swaps the processor for a
dual-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U that can
Turbo Boost to 3.4GHz. The top model, on
test here, has the same processor but doubles
the storage to 512GB and the RAM to 16GB.

THERMAL WEAR

In our benchmarks, this model managed an


overall score of 43. This is a little disappointing
considering the Dell XPS 13 (see Shopper 337)
scored 46, but this is likely because all the
components are crammed into the display,
resulting in some thermal issues.
The Surface Book is reasonably loud under
load, but theres no denying that Windows 10
feels right at home here. Transitioning
between desktop and tablet modes is smart,
and navigation is swift and responsive. This is
helped in no small part by its 512GB Samsung
NVMe PCI-E SSD, which has sequential read

p40 LG 50LF652V

p46 Sony FDR-X1000V

speeds of 1,238MB/s and write speeds of


556MB/s, both of which are very quick.
Microsoft and Nvidia are keeping schtum
about exactly what type of graphics card is in
the Surface Book, but its surprisingly capable.
At 1,920x1,080 resolution with 4x anti-aliasing
and Ultra graphics, it managed 21fps in Dirt
Showdown; dropping to Medium settings and

p62 XCOM 2

Mini DisplayPort output are located on the


keyboard base. Charging is handled by the
magnetic SurfaceConnect charging port.
The front of the screen has a 5-megapixel
Windows Hello-compatible webcam. This
means you can use facial recognition for
signing into Windows without a password,
and it worked well during our testing. On the

The Surface Book is a stunning piece of engineering. The


only sticking point is that eye-watering price
turning off anti-aliasing produced a playable
61fps. It even managed a just playable 33.1fps
in Metro: Last Light Redux at 1,920x1,080,
Medium quality with 4x AF, no tessellation
and no super-sample aliasing. With this in
mind, gaming is possible on the Surface Book,
but youll need to sacrice graphics quality.
The keyboard base contains a second
battery across all congurations. Microsoft
rates the battery life as around 12 hours in
laptop mode and three hours in tablet mode,
but in our video playback test we saw just 9h
38m in laptop mode and 2h 39m as a tablet.
As a laptop, youll still get through a working
day away from the mains, but you wont want
to use the Surface Book as a standard tablet.

PORT OF CALL

back is an 8-megapixel camera, and both are


good performers. Videoconferencing from the
front was great even under low light, and the
rear camera produced sharp images with
respectable colours even in dim lighting.

AN OPEN BOOK

As a tablet, the Surface Book is rather barren


when it comes to connections. Theres just a
3.5mm headphone jack, power and volume
buttons and a magnetic point for the Surface
Pen. Two USB3 ports, an SD card reader and a

Theres no doubt that the Microsoft Surface


Book is a stunning piece of engineering. Its
easily one of our favourite Windows laptops
in some time, and it combines a lot of the
Surface Pro 4s best features with more
practical design choices taken from Apples
MacBooks and Googles Chromebook Pixel.
The touchpad in particular is the best weve
used on a Windows laptop.
The only sticking point is that eye-watering
price. Buy a similarly specced, more traditional
laptop such as the Dell XPS 13 and youll save
a signicant amount of money. The dedicated
GPU will no doubt be a big draw for some, but
its arguably better suited to digital creatives
than average users, as its high-end specs will
be completely wasted if all youre going to use
it for is basic computing tasks. However, if
you have the budget and a burning need for
such a lavishly luxurious device, the Surface
Book certainly wont disappoint.
Richard Easton

SPECIFICATIONS
PROCESSOR Dual-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U
RAM 16GB

312mm

DIMENSIONS 312x232x23mm
WEIGHT 1.6kg
SCREEN RESOLUTION 3,000x2,000
GRAPHICS ADAPTOR Unspecified Nvidia GeForce GPU

232mm

TOTAL STORAGE 512GB SSD

Multitasking

13.5in
1.6kg

OPERATING SYSTEM Windows 10 Pro


PARTS AND LABOUR WARRANTY One year RTB
23mm
closed

DETAILS www.microsoft.com/surface
PART NUMBER Surface Book

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

43

Windows overall

SCREEN SIZE 13.5in

| MAY 2016

27
21fps

Dirt Showdown

9h 38m

Battery life
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

25

2-IN-1 CONVERTIBLE LAPTOP

HP Spectre x2

699 inc VAT From store.hp.com

VERDICT

A well-judged 2-in-1, but there are a fair few compromises


in the push for a cheaper Surface Pro 4 rival
MICROSOFTS SURFACE PRO 4 was one
of our favourite 2-in-1 tablets of 2015, but
its premium price put it out of reach for
many. Now, the HP Spectre x2 is here to ll
the gap, with similar specications, a familiar
design and, more importantly, a lower price.
HP has had to make some compromises to
keep costs down, but theyre easily forgiven
when the tablet is so much cheaper than the
Surface Pro 4. The kickstand, for example, is
inelegant and dicult to ip out, as you have
to release it with a switch on the side, then
pry it open with your ngers.
The tablet is also short of ports, as besides
the 3.5mm headset jack, it has just two USB
type-C connectors, one of which is occupied
when you charge the Spectre x2 or run off the
mains. Thankfully, HP supplies a USB-C to
USB-A adaptor, but youll need to buy a dock
if you want to connect the Spectre x2 to
anything else, such as an external display.

FAST LANE

This is where the USB-C specication comes


in handy. While the Spectre x2s ports have
only USB3 speeds (not USB3.1), theres a
dedicated video lane for displays. This means
you can use a third-party dock, such as
Sandberg USB-C Mini Dock (40 from www.
ballicom.com), to connect an additional display
without slowing down any of your USB ports.
It also helps reduce the number of wires
trailing from your device. Still, youll need to
factor in the cost of a dock if you plan to use
the Spectre x2 as your main work machine.
More importantly, unlike the Surface Pro
4, the Spectre x2 comes with a keyboard. HP
has kept things classy with a metallic silver
tray, touchpad and buttons, and the grey,
wool-like material that lines the bottom of the
keyboard dock looks and feels great. The
layout is sensible and its backlit buttons
provide a decent amount of tactile feedback.

We wish the
touchpad were slightly larger,
though. Its wide enough, but its rather squat
height makes it slightly awkward to use when
executing large, two-nger scrolling motions.
You can increase the sensitivity, but its no
substitute for a nice, sweeping scroll. At least
the touchpad has a good click.
The keyboard dock clips to the tablet with
magnets. It feels secure, but dont be tempted
to pick up the Spectre x2 by the keyboard
the weight of the tablet is enough to release
the magnets and send it tumbling.
Thanks to its lightness, the tablet portion
is very pleasant to use away from a desk. The
included stylus means taking notes in
Microsoft OneNote is possible although not
always easy. The stylus feels less precise than
Microsofts Surface Pen and there are some
denite problems with palm rejection you
cant always trust that the touchscreen will
ignore your hand resting on the screen when
drawing and writing, but its something you
can work around as you get used to its
idiosyncrasies. Theres also nowhere to store
the stylus, which means its easy to lose.
The 12in screen has a 1,920x1,280 IPS
panel. Its very bright, topping out at nearly
300cd/m2, and with a decent contrast ratio of
963:1 provides plenty of detail when displaying
photos. With just 72% sRGB gamut coverage,
however, its colours arent particularly vibrant,
leaving bright reds, greens and blues devoid
of life. Its no worse than a mid-range laptop,
but wed expect more from a 700 machine.
The built-in speakers are disappointing too.
Theyre not very loud, and even tweaking the

pre-installed Bang & Olufsen EQ


software didnt make much difference.
The Spectre x2 is equipped with 4GB of
RAM and a dual-core Intel Core m3-6Y30
processor running at 0.9GHz. This is the same
chip found in the entry-level Surface Pro 4,
and is much more capable than the lowpowered Celeron and Atom chips you usually
nd in other Windows 10 tablets.

CORE BOARD

In our 4K benchmarks, the processor stood


up well, scoring 23 overall. While its score of 6
in the multitasking portion isnt great, the 54
it achieved in the photo editing test points
to a fast single-core speed, and its video
editing result of 32 indicates decent multicore
performance too.
To test its gaming muscle we ran our basic
Dirt Showdown benchmark. At 1,280x720
resolution and High settings, it managed
25.5fps, but it achieved a more playable frame
rate at Ultra Low settings, so there is potential
for some very light gaming.
Battery life was disappointing, as the
Spectre x2 lasted just 6h 7m in our video
playback test at 170cd/m2 screen brightness.
The HP Spectre x2 is a good all-round
2-in-1. At 700, its expensive compared with
the average laptop, but its good value
compared with the equivalent Surface Pro 4,
particularly as the Spectre x2 comes with a
keyboard. There are aws, such as its lack of
connectivity, but as a device for work and
media viewing, its more than capable and is a
great budget alternative to the Surface Pro 4.
Michael Passingham

SPECIFICATIONS
PROCESSOR Dual-core 0.9GHz Intel Core m3-6Y30
RAM 4GB

303mm

DIMENSIONS 303x209x13mm
WEIGHT 1.2kg (combined), 0.8kg (tablet)

Windows overall

SCREEN SIZE 12in


SCREEN RESOLUTION 1,920x1,280
GRAPHICS ADAPTOR Intel HD Graphics 515

209mm

TOTAL STORAGE 120GB SSD

1.2kg

OPERATING SYSTEM Windows 10 Home


PARTS AND LABOUR WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS store.hp.com
PART CODE Spectre x2 12-a001na

26

Multitasking

11.6in

13mm
closed

23
6
25.5fps

Dirt Showdown

6h 7m

Battery life
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

COMPACT LIVING-ROOM PC

ECLIPSE Sky-Cube i5

950 inc VAT From www.eclipsecomputers.com

VERDICT

A compact but powerful gaming PC with a


Blu-ray drive and 802.11ac Wi-Fi
WEVE SEEN QUITE a few compact PCs over
the past couple of issues, and the race for a
spot in your living room is hotting up with
every release. The latest, Eclipses Sky-Cube i5,
is among the smallest PCs weve seen, with an
Antec ISK600 case thats just 195mm tall and
has a footprint of 260x369mm.
Its one of the cheapest mini-ITX cases you
can buy, retailing for around 30. Its no
design icon, with square edges and a boxy
shape, but at least it wont draw attention to
itself if youre after a more subtle kind of PC.
There are two USB ports at the front, one
of which is USB3, and a pair of 3.5mm audio
jacks. Cinephiles will appreciate the slim
Blu-ray drive, although it comes without any
software for playing Blu-ray discs, so youll
need to spend around 45 on CyberLink
PowerDVD Pro or something similar.
The Sky-Cube i5 is reasonably quiet,
emitting a faint whine when idling thats
audible only if you have the PC right next to
you. The power supply is at the front, and
theres a 120mm exhaust fan at the rear. An
Arctic Freezer 7 Pro fan and cooler sit atop
the Intel Core i5-6600K processor, which is
located alongside 8GB of DDR4 RAM.

ROOM SERVICE

Eclipses decision to use the highestspecication Intel Core i5 processor is sensible


given the chasis fairly spacious interior. This
gives the chip plenty of breathing room to
reach its maximum Turbo Boost clock speed
of 3.9GHz. It performed admirably in our
benchmarks with a score of 102 overall.
It did well in the photo-rendering test, too,
scoring 107, and managed an excellent 108
when converting video. However, it fell down
somewhat in the multitasking test with a
score of 97, which is slightly lower than wed

expect from this processor.


Still, its overall performance is hard to
argue with. Windows 10 feels snappy and
youre not left waiting for programs to open.
Its a pity Eclipse didnt take advantage of
the 6600Ks overclocking potential, leaving it
at its factory settings. The motherboard is
certainly ready for overclocking, and a decent
overclock might have been possible if Eclipse
had used a slightly more powerful cooler.
An Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 is supplied for
graphical grunt. Its a highly capable card that
performs well at Full HD resolutions and
beyond, and this showed in our benchmarks.
An average frame rate of 115fps in Dirt
Showdown at Ultra settings is an excellent
result, as is the 47fps it achieved in Metro:
Last Light Redux at Very High settings. These
results point to a system that will be able to
play the latest games at the best settings for
at least the next few years.
There isnt a huge amount of room in the
case for expansion. It has three slots for
storage drives, including two 2in mounting
points and a third for 3in disks, but Eclipse
has already lled two of these. The primary
drive is a 120GB Kingston HyperX Fury SSD.
This is a budget model, and while its 462MB/s
read speed and 135.6MB/s write speed in the
AS SSD benchmarks are ne, they reveal this
PCs budget origins. The second drive, for bulk
le storage, is a 2TB Seagate hard disk.
At the rear of the PC, there are six
standard USB3 connectors and a USB Type-C
port. Your audio needs are covered by ve

3.5mm jacks and an optical


S/PDIF port. There are also two
ports for connecting an external
wireless aerial. The graphics card, meanwhile,
provides two DVI connectors, an HDMI port
and a DisplayPort connector.
Two Gigabit Ethernet ports cater for more
advanced networking workloads, but the
addition of 802.11ac Wi-Fi is very welcome, as
it means you can place this PC anywhere
theres a good Wi-Fi signal rather than having
to install cables or buy powerline equipment.

SOFA, SO GOOD

A wireless keyboard and mouse pad are


supplied, greatly increasing this PCs
sofa-surfer credentials. This provides a full
QWERTY keyboard, a small touchpad and
dedicated media buttons. Its extremely handy,
especially when you just want to use the PC
to watch YouTube or Netix. You wouldnt
want to use the keyboard for long typing
sessions, and gaming is well beyond its reach,
but its excellent for sofa-based browsing.
The Eclipse Sky-Cube i5 faces stiff
competition from other custom compact PCs,
such as the incredible Mesh Elite Voyager
Mini CS, which costs just 50 more. The
Eclipse Sky-Cube i5 is a fair bit smaller,
however, thanks to its more compact chassis,
and it still provides excellent gaming
performance for the money, making it a good
buy for your living room.
Michael Passingham

SPECIFICATIONS

FRONT USB PORTS 1x USB2, 1x USB3


REAR USB PORTS 6x USB3, 1x USB3 Type-C
TOTAL STORAGE 120GB SSD, 2TB hard disk GRAPHICS
CARD 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 DISPLAY None
OPERATING SYSTEM Windows 10 Home 64-bit
WARRANTY Three years RTB DETAILS www.
eclipsecomputers.com PART CODE Eclipse Sky-Cube i5
PROCESSOR Quad-core 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K

RAM 8GB

102

Windows overall
Multitasking

97
115fps

Dirt Showdown
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

28

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

ALL-IN-ONE PC

LENOVO Ideacentre 700

RECOMMENDED

700 inc VAT From www.pcworld.co.uk


orld.co.uk

VERDICT

A capable all-in-one with an excellent processor and


practical design, but the screen is a bit of a let-down
down
THE LENOVO IDEACENTRE 700 is one of the
best-looking all-in-ones weve reviewed in a
while, with sharp corners, angular speaker
grilles and a stylish but compact V-shaped
stand. Not everyone will like the matt-white
nish on the front, but its more attractive
than glossy black. It also requires some
assembly, but its a straightforward tool-less
procedure that simply involves attaching the
screen to the stand using the supplied
thumbscrews. Its easily accomplished by one
person and takes no more than two minutes.
Wed have preferred to see slightly smaller
bezels around its 23.8in touchscreen, but at
least theres plenty of tilt, so youll have no
trouble nding a good angle whatever your
seating position. Its loaded with ports, too,
including two easily accessible USB3 ports, an
SD card reader and a 3.5mm headset jack.
For more permanent peripherals, such as
the dongle for the supplied keyboard and
mouse, it has four USB ports at the rear, two
of which are USB3. Next to these, youll nd
two HDMI connectors, one output for an
external monitor and one input so you can
turn your Ideacentre into a screen for a games
console or Blu-ray player, for example. Finally,
theres a Gigabit Ethernet connector to
complement the on-board 802.11ac Wi-Fi. On
the right edge youll nd a pop-out DVD drive,
the power button and a source switcher
button for the aforementioned HDMI input.

KEY DETAIL

The bundled keyboard and mouse are a mixed


bag. The mouse works well enough, although
with just three buttons and a scroll wheel its
very basic. The keyboard is oddly laid out,
with tiny Return and Backspace keys, which
can make typing ddly. Worse, the Fn key is at
the bottom-left where Ctrl would be, and we
found that we constantly pressed this instead
of Ctrl. The typing action is a little shallow, but
its perfectly adequate, and we had no trouble
typing on the keyboard for long periods. Each
key is slightly convex, which makes typing
slightly more comfortable.
The Ideacentre 700s Full HD screen is
probably its weakest element. Its white levels
are reasonably bright at 220cd/m2, but its
black levels and contrast ratio are below
average we measured a contrast ratio of
just 471:1 and a black level of 0.42cd/m2. This
is a shame, particularly as the screen covers
an impressive 92% of the sRGB colour gamut.
Its more than adequate for web browsing and
basic computing tasks, but photographers will

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

probably want to buy a slightly better


external monitor to do their pictures justice.
The built-in speakers are reasonably
good. Theyre loud enough to ll a room,
but we had to disable the enhancements
offered by the Dolby Audio software to get
the best out of them.
Performance is where the Ideacentre 700
really shines. Its equipped with a quad-core
2.7GHz Skylake-generation Intel Core i5-6400,
which has a maximum Turbo Boost frequency
of 3.3GHz. Its a highly capable chip, and is
perfect for challenging tasks such as photo
editing. Paired with 8GB of DDR4 RAM, it
scored 81 overall in our benchmarks, with an
excellent result of 90 in the image-rendering
test and 92 in the video-rendering task. In
short, this PC is more than powerful enough
for most home users. It also has plenty of
storage, thanks to its 2TB hard disk. The disk
is by no means fast, but we never found that
it reduced system performance much.
The Ideacentre 700 also comes with
dedicated graphics in the form of a 2GB
Nvidia GeForce GT 930A. This is one of the
lower-end cards Nvidia makes specically for
all-in-one PCs, but its more capable than you
might think. In our Full HD Dirt Showdown
benchmark on Ultra settings, for example, it
managed a playable frame rate of 38.5fps.
Dont expect to play the very latest games
at high settings, however, as it managed just
7fps in our harsh Metro: Last Light Redux
benchmark at maximum settings. It just about
managed a playable 30.5fps with the
resolution lowered to 1,600x900 and detail
set to Low, so you should be able to play most
current games with a little tweaking.

DEPTH PERCEPTION

Lenovo has installed one of Intels motionand depth-sensing RealSense cameras on the

PC, and theres a card iin


the box that gives you
access to a range of software
for it. Once youve entered the key on Intels
website, you can download full versions of
Autodesks Sketchbook and Pixlr programs,
Codemasters Grid 2 racing game, Corels Paint
Shop Pro X8 and Magix Music Maker 2016, to
name a few. In Autodesk Pixlr, for instance,
you can use the RealSense camera to insert
yourself as a sticker into an image, or separate
the foreground and background of your
photos. Many of these programs are already
free, but its a nice extra if youre a budding
creative or you want to try something new.
The screen is disappointing, but were
still impressed with the Lenovo Ideacentre
700. It packs processing and gaming
capabilities into a well-built chassis with
plenty of connectivity options, which is
rare in the world of all-in-one PCs, and the
ability to use it as an extra display is another
point in its favour. Of course, you cant
upgrade the internals of this machine, so
the specication you buy is the one youll
be using until you replace the whole PC, but
if that doesnt faze you, its a great choice.
Michael Passingham

SPECIFICATIONS

SIDE USB PORTS 2x USB3 REAR USB


PORTS 2x USB2, 2x USB3 TOTAL STORAGE 2TB hard disk
GRAPHICS CARD 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 930A
DISPLAY 23.8in integrated touchscreen OPERATING
SYSTEM Windows 10 WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.lenovo.com/uk PART CODE F0BE001FUK

PROCESSOR Quad-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400


RAM 8GB

81

Windows overall
Multitasking

70
38.5fps

Dirt Showdown
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

29

ULTRA SLIM GAMING LAPTOP

CHILLBLAST Samurai

1,500 inc VAT From www.chillblast.com

VERDICT

The Chillblast Samurai is a surprisingly svelte


gaming laptop with plenty of power
ULTRA SLIM ISNT a phrase youd associate
with gaming laptops. More often than not,
theyre huge, bulky devices that never leave
your desk, but the Chillblast Samurai is a
gaming laptop that, nally, bucks the trend.
At 19.9mm thick, its not as slim as an
ultraportable, but youd be hard-pressed to
nd a thinner laptop thats this capable. The
17mm-thick Dell XPS 15 comes close, but the
Samurai has the edge for gaming and weighs
a reasonable 1.9kg, so it shouldnt weigh you
down too much if you pack it up in a bag.
Its plain compared with other gaming
laptops, but the well-nished black metal
chassis is a refreshing change from the LED
stripes and ashy grills that usually adorn this
type of laptop. Instead, it has a blue backlit
keyboard with three levels of brightness, and
a single LED ring around the power button
that changes colour. The thick screen bezels
are perhaps a little old-fashioned, but that
doesnt make it any less of a powerhouse.
That power comes from an Intel Skylakebased quad-core 2.6GHz Core i7-6700HQ
processor, which can Turbo Boost up to
3.5GHz. Theres also 16GB of 2,133MHz DDR4
RAM, a 256GB M.2 PCI-E SSD and a 1TB hard
disk. Not surprisingly, it shot through our
application benchmarks, scoring 115, which is
four points higher than the similarly equipped
XPS 15. This was probably helped by superior
cooling from the larger chassis.
A 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M graphics
card made short work of our Dirt Showdown
test. Playing at 1,920x1,080 with 4x antialiasing and Ultra graphics was a breeze for
such a capable GPU, as it managed an average
of 81.6fps. In the tougher Metro Last Light
Redux test, the GPU slowed to 30.3fps at
1,920x1,080 with Very High quality and SSAA
turned on, but turning off SSAA resulted in a
smoother 52.1fps. Needless to say, youre not
left wanting for gaming performance with the

Chillblast Samurai, and


the fact that such a powerful
graphics card has found its way into a
laptop of this size is commendable.

DRAIN TIMETABLE

Such performance comes at a price, though,


and battery life is where the Samurai falls
down. It managed 2h 39m in our test, which is
abysmal. Admittedly, most people will plug
into the mains when playing games, but
better battery life would have been nice,
especially as the XPS 15 lasted twice as long.
The keyboard is recessed in a trapezoidal
tray, but we found it perfectly pleasant to
type on. There isnt much travel to each key
strike, but a soft action makes typing
reasonably quiet. There are no gamingspecic features, however, such as macro
keys or gaming key markings for WASD.
Chillblast has also made a few changes to
the layout of the keyboard, which took some
time to get used to. Our primary annoyance
was the half-height Enter key, which has been
split to make space for a hash key above it.
Likewise, the Windows key to the right of the
Spacebar has moved from its usual position,
but it didnt take us long to adjust to that.
The touchpad isnt very responsive, and no
amount of ddling gave us a good balance of
speed and precision. Two-nger gestures
worked ne, but Windows 10s three- and
four-nger gestures often didnt work at all.
Along the base of the Samurai, youll nd
a pair of down-ring speakers. These are
positioned so theyre unlikely to be
obstructed when the system is on your lap,
but theyre not very loud and dont produce

much bass. Youll


probably want to use
headphones or external
speakers instead when playing games.
The 15.6in, 1,920x1,080 panel is
respectable, but its image quality and colour
reproduction are lacking. Brightness is pretty
good, with a peak white level of 313.5cd/m2,
but its colour accuracy isnt as high as it could
be, covering just 86.6% of the sRGB colour
gamut. Its black levels of 0.36cd/m2 and
contrast ratio of 851:1 are both mediocre.

A PORT MISSION

For peripherals, you get two USB3 ports and a


newer USB Type-C port. The Gigabit Ethernet
port is a surprise considering the slim chassis.
Theres a full-size HDMI output and Mini
DisplayPort for a display, as well as separate
headphone and microphone jacks for audio.
An SD card reader is also included.
At 1,500, the Samurai competes with the
similarly specced Acer Predator 17. Both have
their aws: the Samurai is thinner and lighter
but has a smaller display and no macro keys
or game-tuning software. Its display and
battery life arent as good as the Predators
either, but for performance theyre equal.
The Acer Predator 17 is more obviously a
gaming system, but its ashy looks and garish
LEDs wont be to everyones tastes. We think
the Acer Predator is the better all-round
gaming laptop, but if youre after something
more subtle and compact, Chillblasts Samurai
is a very competent alternative.
Richard Easton

SPECIFICATIONS
PROCESSOR Quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ
RAM 16GB

390mm

DIMENSIONS 390x266x20mm
WEIGHT 1.9kg
SCREEN SIZE 15.6in
SCREEN RESOLUTION 1,920x1,080
GRAPHICS ADAPTOR 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M

266mm

TOTAL STORAGE 256GB SSD, 1TB SSHD

1.9kg

OPERATING SYSTEM Windows 10 Home


PARTS AND LABOUR WARRANTY Two years collect and return,
three years labour
DETAILS www.chillblast.com
PART CODE Samurai i7 6700HQ

30

15.6in

20mm
closed

Windows overall

115

Multitasking

117
81.6fps

Dirt Showdown
Battery life 2h 39m
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Chillblast
sales@chillblast.com 01202 068 333

/chillblast

@chillblast

BUDGET ANDROID SMARTPHONE

HONOR 5X

190 inc VAT From www.vmall.eu/uk

VERDICT

The Honor 5X sets itself apart with its fast processor and ngerprint
sensor, but its camera, screen and Android skin hold it back

Chillblast Ascension 2 17" GTX 980M


Intel Core i7-6700K Skylake Processor
17.3 (1920x1080 Resolution) LED Display
16GB 2133MHz DDR4 Memory
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 8GB GDDR5
250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD
1000GB Seagate SSHD Hybrid Drive
Intel Centrino Wireless AC and Bluetooth
Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64bit
418 (W) x 282 (D) x 38.7 (H) mm

www.chillblast.com

1849 inc VAT

FUSION CENTURION
Zalman Z3 Gaming Case
Intel Core i5-6600K Skylake Processor
Chillblast Centurion Direct Contact Cooler
Asus Z170-K Motherboard
NVidia GeForce GTX 750 1GB
8GB 2133MHz DDR4 Memory
128GB Samsung M.2 PCIe SSD
1000GB Seagate Hard Disk Drive
24x SATA DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
Aerocool Premium Grade 500W PSU
Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64bit

649 inc VAT

5 YEAR WARRANTY
WITH

2 YEARS COLLECT AND RETURN

WITH ALL PURCHASES


Terms and conditions are on the website.
All trademarks are acknowledged.
Pictures are for illustration only.
Prices are correct at time of going to press (01-10-15) E&OE

32

that costs less than


200, but the 5Xs
day-to-day
performance was
sluggish, despite
impressive Geekbench
3 scores of 697 in the
single-core and 3,064
in the multicore tests.
The keyboard was
laggy and unresponsive at times, and performance
took a turn for the worse when we ran our
Peacekeeper web browsing test, scoring just 573.
Web browsing was fairly effortless for the most
part, and we were able to browse media-heavy web
pages without articles appearing too jerky, but the
browser often stumbled over adverts.
The 5X proved equally stuttery during games.
Hearthstone was often brought to a halt by speech
bubbles and when choosing different cards. This
isnt surprising given the phones result of 349
frames (or 5.6fps) in GFXBench GLs offscreen
Manhattan 3.0 test, but simpler games such as
Threes! worked much better, so youll want to stick
with 2D games rather than demanding 3D titles.
Battery life is pretty decent. The phone lasted
10h 34m in our continuous video playback test with
the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2. Thats not
quite as long as the 3rd Gen Moto G, but its still
Its not brilliantly well made, then, but at
more than enough to get you through the day.
least its ngerprint scanner is quick. This can
Its 13-megapixel rear camera was a mixed bag. It
unlock the phone from sleep in just over a
produced some great outdoor shots. Colours were
second, and it rarely made a mistake, even when
on the cool side, but plenty of detail was present
our nger didnt cover the entire sensor.
across the frame. At full resolution, object outlines
Theres also Honors Emotion UI our least
could be grainy at times, but its certainly not as
favourite Android interface to contend with. This
bad as other smartphone cameras weve tested.
has no app tray, for instance, and Huaweis app
Indoors, the camera often struggled to focus,
icons sit in rounded-off squares. Honors preand produced soft, blurred shots even after
installed apps look ne, but third-party apps,
multiple taps of the focus ring. A fair amount of
including most of Googles, often sit awkwardly in
noise was present in lower light conditions too.
the centre with blocks of colour around the sides to
Altogether, the Honor 5X has one too many
ll the space, and they dont look particularly smart.
aws to warrant a full recommendation. It might be
The 5in 1,920x1,080 display is decent but not
faster than other phones in
outstanding. An sRGB colour
this price range, but it still
gamut coverage of 88.9% is
SPECIFICATIONS
cant beat the simplicity
by no means terrible, but
PROCESSOR Octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 616
and superior build quality
colours sometimes lack
SCREEN
SIZE
5.5in
SCREEN
RESOLUTION

of the 3rd Gen Moto G.


warmth. Blacks can be
1,920x1,080 REAR CAMERA 13 megapixels
Theres also the Sony
rather grey at 0.40cd/m2,
STORAGE 16GB (10.5GB free) WIRELESS DATA 4G
Xperia M4 Aqua to
but its high brightness of
DIMENSIONS 151x76x8.2mm WEIGHT 158g
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 5.1.1 WARRANTY
consider, which is slightly
468.69cd/m2 helps images
One year RTB DETAILS www.hihonor.com/uk
smaller than the Honor 5X
jump out. Likewise, a contrast
PART CODE KIW-L21
but has the same chipset,
ratio of 1,170:1 provides plenty
takes better pictures and
of detail in shadow areas.
10h 34m
has the added benet of
Its rare to see an
Battery life
being waterproof, and its
octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm
0%
-50
Reference
+50
+100
See page 78 for performance details
only 180 SIM-free.
Snapdragon 616 processor
Katharine Byrne
and 2GB of RAM on a phone

HONOR HAS MADE some great-value budget


smartphones in recent years, and its latest is the
Honor 5X, a 190 handset that has a large 5in Full
HD display, an octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm
Snapdragon 616 processor, a 13-megapixel camera
and a ngerprint sensor. Thats an impressive spec
at this price, and overshadows many of the 5Xs
rivals, including the 3rd Gen Motorola Moto G.
Its design borrows heavily from the Honor 7,
with a square camera, a rounded ngerprint
sensor and a dimple pattern at the top and
bottom of the handset that look almost identical.
You can tell that the 5X is the cheaper phone as
soon as you pick it up, though, as despite its full
metal unibody, it has a ceramic nish that feels
more like cheap plastic. Its dimpled plastic
antenna sections arent ush with the back of
the handset, and theres some ex in the screen
if you apply too much pressure.

Web browsing was fairly


effortless, and media-heavy
pages werent too jerky

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

MID-RANGE ANDROID SMARTPHONE

SAMSUNG Galaxy S5 Neo

RECOMMENDED

300 inc VAT From www.carphonewarehouse.com

VERDICT

Battery life and display are rst class, but at this price the
Galaxy S5 Neo faces stiff competition from the Nexus 5X
THERE WAS MUCH complaint from some
quarters when Samsung moved its Galaxy
range of phones to a sealed-body design.
Those people now have reason to rejoice, as
Samsung has launched a new Galaxy phone
with removable storage and user-replaceable
batteries. Well, not quite its fairer to say
that Samsung has relaunched a phone with
those features, as this is the second-coming
of the Galaxy S5, the Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo.
It isnt just the same phone with a new
name, though. This minor remix has a
different design and a new Exynos processor
inside. Its not a particularly radical redesign,
as its plastic frame and faux leather rear are
still present. Instead, Samsung has dropped
the S5s grooved shell for a plainer, more
aesthetically pleasing uniform design that still
looks and feels reasonably well made, if
nowhere near as premium as its S6 cousins.
Even Samsungs mid-range Galaxy A
phones look smarter than the S5 Neo, but the
removable back cover and microSD card slot
will no doubt be a big draw to those who
disliked the S6s xed storage and battery. The
microSD card is a particular boon for the S5
Neo, as the phones default 16GB of storage
leaves only around 11GB to the user.

NO SCAN DO

It also lacks the originals ngerprint scanner


and fast Micro USB3 port, opting instead for a
conventional dedicated home button and
Micro USB2 port. The ngerprint scanner isnt
much of a loss, as it didnt work particularly
well in the rst place, but the lack of fast
charging is a pity, especially when Samsung
makes such a song and dance about it on its
newer Galaxy S handsets. Theres still a heart
rate scanner on the back, though, and its
front-facing camera has been upgraded from
2 to 5 megapixels.
Inside, Samsung has ditched Qualcomms
quad-core 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 chipset for
one of its own octa-core 1.6GHz Exynos 7580
processors. This doesnt make a huge amount
of difference when it comes to everyday
performance, as its respective Geekbench 3

results of 724 and 3,547 in the single and


multicore tests werent dissimilar from those
of the 801-equipped OnePlus X. The S5 Neo
was around 200 points slower than the
OnePlus X in the single-core test, but nearly
1,000 points faster in the multicore, putting it
level with the Nexus 5X, which has a newer
Snapdragon 810.
Its Peacekeeper score of 865 was also
ahead of the OnePlus X, but web browsing
could still be jerky when scrolling at speed. Its
ne for leisurely browsing, but the Nexus 5X
pulls ahead in this case.
The Exynos 7580s GPU isnt nearly as
procient as its Qualcomm rivals either, as it
managed a pitiful 287 frames (around 4.6fps)
in the offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test in
GFXBench GL. Demanding 3D games such as
Hearthstone were particularly jerky at times
but never completely unplayable, while
simpler games such as Threes! were ne.
One thing that remains from its
predecessor is the S5 Neos incredible battery
life. Its battery may have a 2,800mAh capacity,
but it lasted a massive 16h 27m in our
continuous video playback test, making it the
most enduring smartphone weve tested in
the past year. It puts the Nexus 5Xs 10-hour
battery life to shame and even overshadows
the S6 and S6 Edge.
Of course, the S5 Neo only has to power a
5.1in 1,920x1,080-resolution display instead of
a more demanding 2,560x1,440 panel, but
wed rather have a longer better life than
more pixels. You cant really tell the difference
for sharpness either, as Samsungs Android
5.1.1 TouchWiz interface looks crisp and clear
despite having a pixel density of just 432ppi
compared with the S6s 576ppi.

PANEL BEATER

The S5 Neos picture quality is just as good as


that of its S6 siblings, as Samsungs Super
AMOLED panel covers a full 100% of the
sRGB colour gamut and delivers pitch-perfect
0.00cd/m2 blacks in our colour calibration
tests. Likewise, its innity:1 contrast ratio
ensures theres plenty of detail in darker
images, and its peak brightness of
practical for outdoor use.
352.31cd/m2 is pract
16-megapixel camera remains one
The 16-megapixe
features, too. Photos
of its strongest feat
looked great indoors and out.
Colours were rich and true to
Colour
life, and there was plenty
of detail throughout
each frame. Noise was
eac

kept to a minimum, and there was more


than enough contrast available to help
pick out highlights and lowlights.
Some of our indoor shots were a little
hazy in lower light conditions, however, and
the ash left images looking dark overall.
Object outlines remained soft even when
we turned on our external lamp, but more
ne texture detail was present in the fur
of our teddy bear, for instance, compared
with shots taken with the lamp off.
In some respects, the Samsung Galaxy S5
Neo reminds us just how good the original S5
was. It had incredible battery life, a great
camera and a gorgeous display, and for some,
thats more than enough reason to choose it
over the Nexus 5X or OnePlus X. However, the
S5 Neos outer trappings feel distinctly
old-fashioned, and its chipset has been
surpassed by newer rivals. Given the choice,
wed choose the Nexus 5X over the S5 Neo,
but at 300 the S5 Neo is still a bargain, and
for that it wins a Recommended award.
Katharine Byrne

SPECIFICATIONS

SCREEN RESOLUTION 1,920x1,080


REAR CAMERA 16 megapixels STORAGE 16GB (11GB free)
WIRELESS DATA 4G SIZE 142x73x8.1mm
WEIGHT 145g OPERATING SYSTEM Android 5.1.1
WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.samsung.com/
uk PART CODE SM-G903F
PROCESSOR Octa-core 1.6GHz Samsung Exynos 7580

SCREEN SIZE 5.1in

Battery life

16h 27m
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

33

MID-RANGE OXYGENOS SMARTPHONE

ONEPLUS X

199 inc VAT From www.oneplus.net/uk

VERDICT

Superb build quality and great battery life, but the OnePlus
X isnt the budget smartphone killer we were hoping for
JUST WEEKS AFTER the OnePlus 2 went
invitation-free (see Shopper 337), OnePlus
announced that it would be doing the same
thing with its latest handset, the OnePlus X.
Posited as a kind of budget alternative to the
OnePlus 2, the 199 OnePlus X isnt quite the
massive saving it once was, as the OnePlus 2
is now available for just 50 more at 249.
Judging purely by the numbers, the
OnePlus 2 is by far the better choice at this
price, but the OnePlus X has some attractive
features for those who want something
slightly smaller. Its available in either onyx
black or champagne white, but you can add
a bit of colour by buying a OnePlus protective
case for another 20. These come in a variety
of wood and carbon nishes, but whichever
model you choose, the OnePlus X makes a
great rst impression.
With an anodized brushed-metal frame
thats 6.9mm thick, and a smooth glass front
and rear, the OnePlus X looks and feels
classier than its price suggests. The grooved
metal feels a little scratchy, but we prefer it to
the rough textures of the OnePlus 2.

BRILLIANT CORNERS

Even better, with a 5in display, its a more


practical size than its 5in predecessor.
For the rst time, OnePlus has chosen an
AMOLED panel, which trumps the somewhat
disappointing image quality of the OnePlus
2. With 100% coverage of the sRGB colour
gamut, the OnePlus Xs display looks
gorgeous, delivering bright, punchy colours
against perfect 0.00cd/m2 blacks. Contrast is
extremely high, too, and its whites are cleaner
than those of other AMOLED displays, such
as the Google Nexus 6P. In fact, its colour
temperature was closer to the slightly neutral
tones of the LCD-based Sony Xperia Z5, which
is pretty impressive for an AMOLED screen.
Brightness tops out at 326cd/m2, but its more
than enough for outdoor use.
In a slightly surprising turn of events, the
OnePlus X is powered by the rather elderly
quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801

34

processor and 3GB of RAM.


In 2014, nearly every
top-end smartphone had a
Snapdragon 801 chip inside,
but newer Snapdragon
chips are now much faster,
so its not as quick as it
was. Its still pretty
generous for a 199
smartphone, but with
Geekbench 3 scores of 929
in the single-core test and
2,459 in the multicore test,
the OnePlus X isnt much
faster than other low-tomid-range handsets powered
by a Snapdragon 615, such as the Sony
Xperia M4 Aqua. The OnePlus X has the edge
in the single-core test, but its hardly the
price-defying speed weve come to expect
from OnePlus phones.

PEACE CORE

The M4 Aqua also beat the OnePlus X in


Peacekeeper, with a score of 839 to 751.
Theres not much in it, though: web browsing
speeds were almost identical. The OnePlus X
coped well with most web pages, but some,
such as the Guardian, proved more taxing, as
scrolling was jerky while the page loaded.
The main benet of the Snapdragon 801 is
its Adreno 330 GPU. This copes with
demanding games more effectively than the
615s Adreno 405 chip, and the OnePlus X
completed GFXBench GLs offscreen
Manhattan test in 534 frames (roughly 8.6fps)
rather than a stuttering average of around
360 frames (or 5.8fps). Its still not great, as
games like Hearthstone suffered numerous
frame rate drops, but it handled simpler titles
such as Threes! absolutely ne.
Like the OnePlus 2, the OnePlus X uses the
companys own OxygenOS, which is based on
Android 5.1.1. This looks like stock Android at
rst glance, but it contains a few extra helpful
features, including a Dark Mode to lengthen
battery life, and the ability to alter individual
app permissions. The latter comes as standard
on all Android 6.0 Marshmallow handsets, but
its great to see it here nonetheless its
handy for those who want to keep their data
having full use of each service.
private while havi
2,525mAh battery also has
Its 2,525
plenty of stamina. It lasted 13h
ple
6m in our test, outlasting the
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua by almost
Son
three hours.
thr

The OnePlus X has an


8-megapixel camera on the
front and a 13-megapixel
sensor on the back. However,
the rear camera is probably
one of the OnePlus Xs
weakest areas, as photos look
very over-processed. The
edge of each frame is hit the
worst, as ne details are
drowned out by fuzzy patches
of noise. Its not all bad news,
as colours are bright and
colourful, and theres a good
level of contrast. Its just a
shame everything looks so
grainy up close. Switching to
HDR mode didnt improve matters either.
Indoor shots told a similar story, but here
the camera struggled to focus even in bright
light. Again, colours were reasonably accurate
and there was a decent amount of contrast,
but nearly every object outline was soft and
hazy, and the stems of our owers were full of
artefacts. It also failed to capture much detail
in the fur of our teddy bear, instead blurring
large patches together in one lump of pixels.
The ash was disappointing, as this made
images appear very dull and dingy, providing
little to no extra illumination whatsoever.
This is a shame, especially after the
excellent camera on the OnePlus 2, and it
brings down the handset as a whole. The
OnePlus X has a lovely screen, great build
quality and excellent battery life, but with
performance levels that are roughly on par
with those of other smartphones in this price
range and a disappointing camera, the
OnePlus X fails to stand out in the way its
predecessor did. If you dont want to pay
more than 200 for a great smartphone, the
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is a better buy.
Katharine Byrne

SPECIFICATIONS
PROCESSOR Quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801

SCREEN SIZE 5in SCREEN RESOLUTION 1,920x1,080


REAR CAMERA 13 megapixels STORAGE 16GB (11.4GB)
WIRELESS DATA 3G, 4G SIZE 140x69x6.9mm WEIGHT
138g OPERATING SYSTEM OxygenOS (Android 5.1.1)
WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.oneplus.net/uk
PART CODE ONE E1003
13h 6m

Battery life
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

COMPACT FLAGSHIP SMARTPHONE

SONY Xperia Z5 Compact

BEST BUY

380 inc VAT From www.johnlewis.com

VERDICT

With its great battery life, an excellent screen and superb


performance, the Xperia Z5 Compact is Sonys all-time high
LAST YEAR, PLUS was the new Mini, as
more and more smartphone manufacturers
ditched their smaller agship models for
jumbo-sized phablets. Not everyone wants a
5.7in slab in their pocket, however, and nor do
they want to pay through the nose for the
privilege. Enter the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
the perfect antidote to phablet mania.
Like Sonys previous Compact phones, the
Z5 Compact shares much of the same DNA as
its big brother, the Xperia Z5, including its
octa-core processor, 23-megapixel camera and
ush ngerprint sensor. However, as its name
implies, its all packed into a much more petite
chassis and has a smaller display and screen
resolution to go with it.
Measuring just 127x65x8.9mm, the Z5
Compact is delightfully easy to hold in one
hand, and you dont have to stretch to reach
the top or opposite side of the screen. Were
big fans of Sonys new frosted glass effect on
the rear of the handset, too, and the yellow
and pink coral models look particularly stylish.
Even better, the frosted nish doesnt pick up
as many ngerprints as its glossy, glassbacked predecessors, so it looks much
smarter than its competitors.
Another brilliant new addition is the Z5
Compacts fast and accurate ngerprint
sensor, which has been built directly into the

peak brightness of
461.05cd/m2 rather than
nearly 700cd/m2, but its
bright enough to use
outside. It also means the
Z5 Compacts black levels
are much lower, coming in
at 0.39cd/m2 to deliver
deeper, inkier blacks.
A smaller screen also
does wonders for the Z5
Compacts battery life, as its
2,700mAh battery lasted an excellent 13h 21m
in our continuous video playback test when
we set the screen brightness to 170cd/m2.
Thats superb for a phone of this calibre, as it
not only surpasses the battery life of the Z5
by a good two hours, but its also just 15
minutes behind the Samsung Galaxy S6.
The Z5 Compact is quick, too, as its
octa-core 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
chip and 2GB of RAM give it a huge
advantage over its similarly priced
competitors, which have slower Snapdragon
615s or hexa-core Snapdragon 808s at their
disposal. In Geekbench 3s multicore test, for
instance, the Z5 Compact nished with an
impressive score of 3,794, putting it almost
200 points in front of the Moto X Style and
even the HTC One M9, which also has a

Not everyone wants a 5.7in slab in their pocket. Enter the


Xperia Z5 Compact the perfect antidote to phablet mania
power button on the side of the phone. This is
a much better solution than having it on the
back like the Honor 5X, and its nowhere near
as awkward to use as the home button
sensors on the iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy
S6. Instead, its already in the most natural
place possible when you go to turn on the
phone, and its support for multiple
ngerprints means you can turn the phone
on and unlock it instantly in either hand.
The Z5 Compact also has one of the best
displays around, as its 4.6in, 1,280x720resolution IPS panel displays an impressive
98.8% of the sRGB colour gamut. This is
fantastic, and its not far behind the Z5s
nearly perfect 99.4% coverage either. As a
result, colours were beautifully rich and
punchy, and there was plenty of detail on
show thanks to a contrast ratio of 1,161:1.
Its not quite as bright as the Z5, with a

36

Snapdragon 810 chip. This makes it one of the


fastest phones in this price range, and
Android 5.1.1 Lollipop felt beautifully slick.
Likewise, its gaming capabilities are superb,
just edging out the Galaxy S6 as Androids
best mobile gaming device (along with the
normal Z5, of course). With a whopping result
of 1,545 frames (or 25fps) in GFXBench GLs
offscreen Manhattan test, the Z5 Compact
has plenty of power, whether you want to play
demanding games such as Hearthstone or
something a little more lightweight like
Threes! or Alphabear. Likewise, with PS4
Remote Play support built in, the Z5 Compact
can become your own miniature, portable
display for your PS4 console, allowing you to
carry on gaming if someone else in the house
wants to use the TV.
Web browsing was equally quick, and its
huge Peacekeeper score of 1,629 is actually

the highest weve seen on an Android phone.


As such, its more than capable of handling
even complex web pages without any signs of
stutter or jerky scrolling.
Another feature the Z5 Compact borrows
from its big brother is its new 23-megapixel
camera sensor. Colours looked bright and
natural in our outdoor shots, and there was
plenty of detail on show. Photos could be
rather grainy close up, though, creating rather
gritty-looking textures at full resolution. We
noticed the same problem in indoor shots, but
its low-light performance was still impressive.
Colours looked great whether our external
lamp was on or off, and objects and text were
clearly dened in our still life arrangement.
With its excellent screen, superb
performance, long battery life and great
camera, the Z5 Compact is the complete,
pint-sized package. It not only takes all the
best bits from the Z5 and puts them into a
smaller, more affordable handset but in many
respects actually outperforms its big brother
by quite some margin. Likewise, while its
more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S5
Neo and Nexus 5X SIM-free, it doesnt cost a
lot more when buying on contract, as prices
currently start from around 26-per-month.
At this price, its agship specs are well worth
the extra expense. It wins a Best Buy award.
Katharine Byrne

SPECIFICATIONS
PROCESSOR Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
SCREEN SIZE 4.6in SCREEN RESOLUTION 1,280x720

REAR CAMERA 23 megapixels STORAGE 32GB


WIRELESS DATA 4G SIZE 127x65x8.9mm WEIGHT 138g
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 5.1.1 WARRANTY One year
RTB DETAILS www.sonymobile.com PART CODE E5823

13h 21m

Battery life
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

POCKET ULTRA-ZOOM CAMERA

PANASONIC
Lumix DMC-TZ80

359 inc VAT From www.parkcameras.com

VERDICT

A pocket-size camera packed with useful features,


but the TZ80s image quality lets it down
THE PANASONIC TZ80 is the latest in a long
line of pocket ultra-zoom cameras, cramming
a 30x zoom into a camera that wont weigh
you down. Its a strong concept, but these
cameras have always struggled in low light
because their small sensors and narrow
apertures dont capture much light, so photos
taken in low light tend to exhibit a lot of noise.
With last years TZ70, the company
plumped for a relatively modest 12-megapixel
sensor, down from 18 megapixels in the TZ60
that came before it. It was a brave move, as
the average punter associates more
megapixels with better quality. The lower pixel
density means more light for each pixel,
however, which reduces noise. The TZ70
produced cleaner photos than the TZ60 with
barely any detriment to detail. For the TZ80,
Panasonic appears to have lost its bottle and
gone back to an 18-megapixel sensor.
Not much has changed externally, although
its a little chunkier and heavier than previous
models. Theres a reasonably substantial
handgrip but the ash is just above and risks
being covered by a nger. The lens
specications are identical to those of the
previous two models, and theres the same
electronic viewnder with a respectable
1,166,000-dot resolution. We think that using
a viewnder feels a bit odd on compactshaped cameras but you may feel differently.

RING CYCLE

A lens ring controls manual focus, aperture or


shutter speed, depending on the selected
mode. Theres also a rear wheel for exposure
adjustments and swift menu navigation.
Unlike its predecessors, this model includes a
touchscreen, which greatly speeds up
autofocus point selection and navigation.
This is the cheapest camera weve seen
with 4K video recording. For this it uses a
central 3840x2160-pixel area of the
4,896x3,672-pixel sensor. That means it
doesnt have to resize the image before
encoding to AVC format, which reduces its
workload and keeps details sharp. It also

means the 24-720mm


(equivalent) focal length range
becomes 33-990mm for 4K video, which
is good news for telephoto recording but
comes at the expense of wide-angle range.
Video quality was pretty good in bright
light, and optical stabilisation kept shots
steady at the full zoom extension. Recordings
in low light were awash with noise, though.
Theres full manual exposure control and
touchscreen autofocus for videos, but were
not convinced that the TZ80 has the picture
quality to meet videographers expectations.
Cameras need a fast processor for 4K
video encoding, and this is put to good use
for photography too. JPEGs were captured
every 0.4 seconds, but it sometimes took a
break for up to two seconds to catch up. Raw
capture took little breaks more often but was
otherwise just as fast. Autofocus was quick
and reliable in bright light but much slower in
gloomy conditions. Continuous mode clocked
in at an impressive 8.9fps for 100 JPEGs or 14
Raw shots before slowing. With continuous
autofocus enabled, it managed 5.5fps.
The TZ80 includes the 4K Photo modes
weve seen on other recent 4K Panasonic
cameras. It records 4K video at 30fps but uses
whichever aspect ratio is currently selected
for photos. Frames from the resulting video
can then be saved as 8-megapixel JPEGs. This
in effect gives a 30fps photo capture that can
run for thousands of frames. Theres a slick
interface for selecting frames to keep, and the
camera saves the video le to card, too. One
mode buffers video continuously, and records
a second either side of the shutter button
being pressed ideal for capturing fastmoving, unpredictable subjects such as birds.

SHARP PRACTICE

Post Focus is another new feature that uses


4K video to capture JPEGs. In this case, the
user can choose which part of the photo
should be in focus. Its a nice idea thats well
implemented, with a peaking display that
shows which part of each frame is in sharp
focus and the ability to move the autofocus

point around the captured frame. However,


we suspect itll be more useful for cameras
with larger sensors that give a shallower
depth of eld. On the TZ80, the benet didnt
really justify the effort required to use it.
With its tiny 12.3in sensor and relatively
dark f/3.3-6.4 lens, the TZ80 was never going
to be a star performer, but even our modest
expectations were disappointed. The move
from 12 to 18 megapixels has been wholly
detrimental, and the extra resolution merely
reveals the lenss limitations, with soft focus
at the edges of frames and increased noise.
Indoor photos were no better than wed
expect from a smartphone, which is pretty
disappointing for such an expensive camera. It
also took its toll on telephoto shots in
anything but direct sunlight. Zooming in
requires faster shutter speeds to avoid camera
shake, and with the aperture closed to f/6.4,
shooting outside in overcast weather resulted
in fast ISO speeds and signicant noise.
It wasnt all bad news. Optical stabilisation
worked well for telephoto shots at a relatively
slow 1125s shutter speed, and automatic
exposures were well judged. However,
comparing our studio scene with the TZ70
and TZ60s output, the TZ80s noise levels
were marginally the worst of the three.
The TZ80 isnt short of features, but poor
image quality is hard to forgive at this price. It
takes decent photos of distant subjects in
direct sunlight, but thats pretty niche. The
FZ330 is more attractive with its constant
f/2.8 aperture, although its pricier and bulkier.
Alternatively, hold out for the forthcoming
Panasonic TZ100 with its 1in sensor.
Ben Pitt

SPECIFICATIONS
SENSOR RESOLUTION 18 megapixels SENSOR SIZE 3in
VIEWFINDER Electronic (1,166,000 dots) LCD SCREEN
3in (1,040,000 dots) OPTICAL ZOOM (35mmEQUIVALENT FOCAL LENGTHS) 30x (25-750mm)
35mm-EQUIVALENT APERTURE f/18-36 WEIGHT 282g
DIMENSIONS 66x112x40mm WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.panasonic.com/uk
.

320 shots

Battery life
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

38

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

PICO PROJECTOR

PHILIPS PicoPix PPX4010

250 inc VAT From www.maplin.co.uk

VERDICT

Smart, light and extremely portable, but the


PPX4010s tiny resolution holds it back
IF YOU OFTEN nd yourself giving
presentations on your little laptop screen
because your meeting rooms projector is
broken, a pico projector is a godsend. Theyre
small enough to pop in your bag and are
usually very easy to hook up to your laptop,
tablet or smartphone, thanks to their wealth
of wired and wireless connections. While
theyre a good idea in theory, however, we
havent found one thats wowed us enough to
recommend it for everyday oce use.
The Philips PicoPix PPX4010 has its fair
share of aws, but at least it looks the part
and is very easy to use. With a footprint of
just 68x66mm, its smaller than a Post-it note,
weighs just 83g and is 22mm thick, making it
incredibly light and portable. It more than
meets its purpose as something you can
plonk on a table and start using quickly, and
its stylish design means it wont look out of
place either. The metal coating is cool to the
touch and looks very classy, although it picks
up grease and ngerprints fairly easily.

shame Philips didnt provide a few more


accessories, though, as the similarly priced
PicoGenie M100 comes with a tripod and
carry case as well as all the cables you need.
The PPX4010 doesnt have any wireless
connection options for use with your
smartphone or tablet either.
Still, the projectors 100-lumen LED
projection system, which is about the same
brightness as a mid-range set of bicycle lights,
is pretty serviceable even in a brightly lit
oce. This is important, as many modern
oces dont have light switches, and instead
use banks of lights that are controlled by
motion sensors to save energy. As such,
projector brightness is essential, as its simply

With a footprint of just 68x66mm, the PicoPix PPX4010 is


smaller than a Post-it note, weighs just 83g and is 22mm
thick, making it incredibly light and portable
One of the PPX4010s strengths is its
simplicity. It doesnt have many ports, for
example just a Mini HDMI port and a Micro
USB power port on the back but everything
you need is bundled in the box, including all
the necessary cables.
The Micro USB power port is particularly
handy, as it means you can power the
PPX4010 from your laptop rather than having
to nd a plug socket or carry an additional
power supply. A double-ended USB cable is
included in case you need to use two USB
ports, but we were able to power the PPX4010
from a single USB3 port on our laptop. Its a

no good if everyone has to squint to see your


presentation clearly.
We tested the PPX4010 in a corner oce
with windows and automatic lighting, and we
were able to see a fairly bright image at a
projection distance of up to 130cm away from
the wall, which created an image with a 41in
diagonal. We could just about stretch the
distance to two metres (which produced a
63in display), but at this size you need to turn
off the lights to get the best image.
Any further away and the PPX4010s 100
lumens just isnt strong enough to produce a
clear, legible picture. As a result, youll want to

place the PPX4010 as close to the wall as


possible and keep its brightness slider on
maximum its low and medium settings
arent very useful, even with the lights turned
off. The LED is rated to last for 30,000 hours,
which is par for the course for LEDs. You cant
replace it either, so once it expires youll have
to buy a new projector.
As is so often the case with pico
projectors, the PPX4010s biggest problem is
its paltry 854x480 resolution. Thats the same
resolution as the 6in screen on a Nintendo Wii
U controller, but in this case its spread over a
much larger area. No modern programs and
operating systems are designed to operate at
this resolution, so youre either left with a
near-illegible image or forced to use huge
fonts in your presentations and documents.
At least the PPX4010 isnt particularly
noisy. It emits a dull whine at all times, but
nothing more than that. It doesnt get too hot,
either our temperature sensor measured the
metal surface as reaching around 32C, which
is more than acceptable.
The Philips PicoPix PPX4010 might be one
of the smartest-looking pico projectors weve
seen, but it suffers from all the same issues
weve complained about before. The
technology hasnt moved on far enough to
make it good value, and in this case the
PPX4010s low resolution, comparatively low
brightness and lack of wireless connections
are quite major setbacks. For business use,
the PPX4010 might just come in handy
enough to make it worthwhile, but for us the
250 PicoGenie M100 is still the pico
projector of choice, as it comes with more
accessories than the PPX4010 and has more
exible wireless options.
Michael Passingham

SPECIFICATIONS

NATIVE RESOLUTION 854x480


LAMP LIFE 30,000h
LAMP BRIGHTNESS 100 lumens DIMENSIONS
68x66x22mm WEIGHT 83g WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.philips.co.uk PART CODE PPX4010
PROJECTOR TYPE LED

VIDEO INPUTS Mini HDMI

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

39

FULL HD SMART TV

LG 50LF652V

539 inc VAT From www.johnlewis.com

VERDICT

A good-value smart TV, but image quality


quibbles limit its appeal to less fussy buyers
LGS LF652V SMART TVs sit at the top of
the companys Full HD range. They dont
benet from the premium stand design,
advanced image enhancement or OLED
technology you get with LGs Ultra HD range,
but they do at least come with LGs latest
WebOS 2 smart TV system. We tested the
50in 50LF652V model, but 55in (55LF652V)
and 42in (42LF652V) variants are also
available. Wed expect the overall image
quality to be the same across the range.
The design of the 50LF652V is
understated, with thin, dark-silver bezels and
a central stand. Its not exactly awe-inspiring
but it wont have any trouble tting in with
your living room, and its stand will sit easily
on any sound base you choose to pair it with.
It has plenty of inputs, too, with three
HDMI ports, three USB2 ports and a Common
Interface slot. At the rear, youll nd the
Freeview HD antenna input, SCART,
component and composite connectors, an
optical audio S/PDIF port and a 3.5mm audio
output. Network connectivity comes from
built-in Wi-Fi and an RJ45 connector.
LGs WebOS still ranks among our
favourite TV operating systems for layout,
although even its new WebOS 2 interface

The EPG could also be better. Theres a


Freeview HD tuner, for example, but as LG
doesnt use the Freeview Play catch-up
system, you cant select previously aired
programmes from the EPG and open them
directly in the relevant app. Its not clear how
the recommended programmes in the Live
Menu sidebar are chosen, either, as it seemed
to be keen for us to watch Take Me Out and
Birds of a Feather on a weekday afternoon.
We love the way the TV handles external
inputs. Whenever an external source switches
on, the TV suggests that you might want to
switch to that source, which is much more
convenient than having to hunt for it in the
menus. Whats more, the source list shows
only sources that are switched on, which
helps keep the interface nice and tidy.
While the user interface is colourful and
easy to use, we had reservations about the
TVs overall image quality. The rst and most

The TVs interface is bright, colourful and free of bugs, and


includes plenty of extra features, such as Miracast
still lacks a couple of catch-up services. It
comes with BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Wuaki.
tv, Netix, Amazon Video, Google Play
Movies & TV, Now TV (exclusive to LG
at the moment) and Demand5 (soon
to be My5). Both All 4 and ITV Hub are
missing, which is a little irritating but not
a complete deal breaker, as you can easily
remedy this by buying a 30 Chromecast.
The overall WebOS 2 experience is as
good as ever. The interface is bright, colourful
and free of bugs, and includes plenty of
extra features, such as Miracast and Intel
WiDi for sending content wirelessly from
other devices to the TV. Our only complaint
is that the settings menu doesnt behave
quite as nicely as the rest of the operating
system. Its slow and rather clunky, and
making adjustments is bit of a chore as a
result. That said, once youve set up the
TV to your liking, you probably wont need
to spend too much time in those menus.

40

striking problem is its mismanagement of


motion judder reduction. Weve never had a
problem with LGs TruMotion settings before,
and enabling TruMotion did indeed eliminate
jerky motions from our test footage, including
the docking scene from Interstellar. However,
it created horrible artefacts instead, which
caused moving objects to lose their denition
and occasionally meld with the background.
We were able to improve this by tweaking
TruMotions manual settings, but even that
wasnt perfect. The only decent workaround
was to set Noise Reduction to High, which
seemed to get rid of most of the artefacts.
This came at the expense of ner details, such
as freckles and dirt on characters faces, but
its an acceptable compromise.
Broadcast TV channels looked good for
the most part. SD content has its drawbacks,
but thats true with most large TVs. HD TV
looked much better, as wed expect, but we
found that MPEG noise reduction and general

noise reduction made next to no difference to


the quality of the image.
Blacks were dark and inky, but as LF652V
TVs dont have multiple backlighting zones,
you wont get those same deep, dark colours
when the screen has to display bright and
dark areas at the same time. Contrast was still
very reasonable at 1,075:1, though, and in
Standard colour mode, the 50LF652V covered
85% of the sRGB colour gamut, which isnt
great but is par for the course at this price.
The Game image preset is easy to access
from the image settings, and the TV
remembers which external sources you have
used it with. Without the Game preset
activated, the TVs input lag is a sky-high
98ms, which makes gaming nearly impossible.
With Game mode switched on, it fell to 47ms.
Thats still not fast enough for mouse-driven
games and online rst-person shooters but it
should satisfy more casual gamers.
The built-in 10W speakers are rather
underwhelming, and although they can ll a
room with sound, they lack bass and their
midrange is only average. Switching to Movie
sound mode was a marked improvement,
giving speech and music greater impact, but
wed recommend buying a soundbar for better
audio when watching lms.
The LG 50LF652V isnt perfect, and its
image enhancement and de-judder problems
are minor annoyances, but its still a
reasonably decent set for the money. Its not
the best choice for cinephiles, but its more
than acceptable as an everyday set for
broadcast TV and the occasional lm.
Michael Passingham

SPECIFICATIONS
SCREEN SIZE 50in NATIVE RESOLUTION 1,920x1,080
VIDEO INPUTS 3x HDMI, 3x USB2, Component, Composite,
Common Interface TUNER Freeview HD DIMENSIONS
1,127x710x267mm WARRANTY Five years RTB
DETAILS www.lg.com/uk PART CODE 50LF652V

CONNECTION PORTS

HDMI x3

MAY 2016

Component

Composite

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

BLUETOOTH SPEAKER

MONITOR AUDIO
Airstream S150

BEST BUY

150 inc VAT From www.super.co.uk

VERDICT

The Airstream S150 is a stunning-sounding


mains-powered Bluetooth speaker
BRITISH SPEAKER MAKER Monitor Audio
has been around for more than four decades,
but recently it has been channelling all that
expertise into making smaller, mains-powered
Bluetooth speakers. The Airstream S150 is
one of its latest products, and shares the
same design as its similarly sized brother,
the Airstream S200, although it lacks the
S200s Apple AirPlay support.
The rst thing youll notice is its distinctive
design. Tower-shaped, with a top that slopes
and angles backwards, it looks a bit like a loaf
of bread thats been squashed in the freezer.
You have a choice of charcoal grey or white
two-tone nishes. The white model we
reviewed has a light grey speaker cloth on the
front, while the charcoal grey model has a
black speaker cloth. Both look equally smart.
Aside from its intriguing shape, the design
is pleasingly simple. Beneath the top power
button, theres an LED that lights up blue
when pairing or connected over Bluetooth, or
green when youve set it to the 3.5mm
auxiliary wired connection. The S150 can
retain ve Bluetooth devices in its memory,
but unlike some other speakers, it wont swap
to the 3.5mm input automatically when it
detects a signal, so youll need
to press the source switcher
button on the side. Another
button selects Bluetooth
and lets you pair the
speaker with your audio
device. There are also
controls on the side for
adjusting the volume.
One thing the S150 lacks
is any kind of media
playback controls, so you
cant pause or skip tracks
directly from the speaker,
which is a shame. Instead,
youll need to keep your
Bluetooth-connected audio
source close at hand,
because no remote control
is included either.
On the back, beside the
3.5mm input, theres a USB
port that you can use to
charge your devices. Its
5V/1A output will slowly
charge most smartphones,
but tablets will take an
eternity. The USB port

42

isnt powered when the speaker is in standby


mode, which is a little annoying.
The front speaker cover can be removed if
you want a look at the drivers. Taking it off
reveals a 1in dome tweeter with 3in bass
drivers directly above and below. Upon closer
inspection youll see that the two bass drivers
are actually angled slightly left and right,
rather than directly forward. This helps
disperse the sound across a wider
soundstage, making the speaker sound far
wider than youd expect from a solitary
tower-shaped loudspeaker. Theres also an

Tower-shaped, with a top that slopes and angles


backwards, it looks a bit like a loaf of bread thats
been squashed in the freezer
auxiliary bass radiator on the back to help
with its lower frequencies.
The two bass drivers output 25W each,
whereas the central tweeter outputs 10W.
While the S150s frequency
response of 80Hz-25kHz
might leave you feeling
slightly worried for the
lower-frequencies, we
found that the low end
was surprisingly rich and
weighty during our tests.
Listening to our bass test
tracks of choice, A$AP
Rockys LSD and The TourRaichel Collectives Tidhar,
there was plenty of deep,
controlled thump to the
bass, and it far exceeded
what we were expecting
for a speaker of this size.
The mid-range and treble
were suitably delicate and not
overwhelmed by the
emphatic bass. The sound
isnt as detailed as from other
mains-powered Bluetooth
speakers weve tested such
as the Bowers & Wilkins T7,
for example, but the T7 also
costs twice as much as the
S150, so even to come close

is commendable. In Menahan Street Bands


Make the Road by Walking, we were able to
pick out all the individual delicate percussion
and brass instruments.
Whether we set the speaker to low volume
or pushed it to maximum, the S150 remained
neutral and controlled throughout, and
resisted veering towards muddy or overly
bright sounds at either end of its frequency
range. It didnt distort at maximum volume,
either, and it easily lled a large room, which is
surprising considering the speakers size.
The Airstream S150s outstanding
simplicity gives it a certain charm. Its unfussy
both in its design and use, and if all you want
is an easy way to play music from a wired or
Bluetooth source with fantastic sound quality
and a more than reasonable price, its hard to
beat. If youre desperate for AirPlay, the
Airstream S200 is also worth a look, but it
costs 50 more. Wed rather stick with the
S150, as its cheaper and sounds fantastic
across a variety of genres. Its a Best Buy.
Richard Easton

SPECIFICATIONS

RMS POWER OUTPUT 60W DOCK


WIRELESS Bluetooth (SBC, aptX)
DIMENSIONS 137x120x274mm WEIGHT 2.26kg
WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.monitoraudio.
co.uk PART CODE S150
SPEAKERS 3

CONNECTOR None

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

BLUETOOTH RUNNING HEADPHONES

GIBSON Trainer Ti100

RECOMMENDED

150 inc VAT From www.johnlewis.com

VERDICT

The Gibson Trainer Ti100 have plenty of runner-friendly


features, but theyre less suitable for broader tness activities
AT FIRST GLANCE, Gibsons Trainer Ti100
looks like a conventional pair of neckbandstyle wireless Bluetooth earphones. However,
this pair has several clever design tricks that
make them ideal for running.
For instance, theres an LED light in the
centre of the cable that connects the two
earbuds. Once activated, NightNav mode
makes the light pulse, which is useful for night
runners who want to be a little more visible on
the roads. Its reasonably bright, and certainly
makes you easier to spot in a crowd.
The light is positioned at the back of your
neck, so it can only be seen by people and
trac approaching from behind. A second
light in the earbuds would help you to be seen
from other directions, but that shouldnt be a
problem as long as you run on the appropriate
side of the road.

LIGHT WORK

The LED is magnetic and slots into a supplied


magnetic clip. This makes it easy to attach to
your clothing so its visible at all times. More
importantly, its a very elegant way of taking
the slack out of the neckband, and it looks
much slicker than the pinch clips that many
other running headphones use. There are
magnets on the back of each earbud, too, so
you can snap them together for safekeeping
when theyre not in your ears.
The Trainer Ti100 is designed to be worn
either with the wires hanging straight down or
looped over the back of your ears in a hook
style, and it comes with several rotatable
wingtips made from supple silicone to
accommodate your preference. The tips do a
good job of isolating your music, but this may
not be ideal if youre road-running.

44

Fortunately, you can


trigger a Safesound mode
by simultaneously pressing
the multifunction button and
down volume button on the
remote control. This lowers
both the volume and the bass,
allowing in more ambient noise
so youre more aware of your
surroundings. Its useful, but
activating it while running is a
little ddly, so you may have
trouble activating it when
approaching a trac crossing,
for example. A beep tone sounds
in the earphones to tell you that
it has been successfully activated.
With the earphones looped over your ears,
the remote control is located snuggly behind
your left ear so it doesnt ap around while
you run. With no similar weight on the right
earbud, however, we couldnt get it to stay
still. Instead, it ared out constantly, and the
only way we could get it to sit ush against
our ear was to remove the magnetic clip,
thereby using the weight of the LED light to
weigh the cable down.
In the end, we much preferred to wear the
headphones with the wires falling straight
down from our ears. This is usually less secure
than wearing them over your ears, but with
the correct earbud tips attached we found
they stayed in place very comfortably. It also
meant we could use the magnetic clip.

OPEN AND SHUT CASE

A good quality zip-up carry case is provided


to hold the earphones and accessories,
including the Micro USB cable for charging.
The manufacturer claims that
the battery lasts for around
6.5 hours, and we found this
very accurate over the course
of our testing. Theres also a
microphone for making handsfree calls, and the remote
control has NFC support for easy
pairing with your smartphone.
The headphones are weathersealed but not waterproof, so they
can deal with rain and sweat but
wont survive a dunk in the pool.
The at, rubbery cable also feels
robust enough to survive your
physical exertions.
The Trainer TI100 has
a frequency response of

5-23,000Hz, which is
surprisingly wide for a pair of
running headphones. Theres
plenty of deep bass, so youll
be well-served if your preferred
workout music favours lower
frequencies. They provide
plenty of energy without the
sound becoming muddy, and
the mid-range and treble are
respectable for the most part.
They can sound a little
bright at times, but
its not something
youre likely
to be too
concerned
about
when youre
midway through a run. When it comes to
delivering music to keep you motivated
during a workout, they do a good job.

RUNNING TRACKS

As a pair of headphones designed for running,


the Trainer Ti100 ticks a lot of boxes. Having
used them on a number of 10k runs without
any problems, we found the t and design
great, and the sound quality more than
adequate to deliver some extra energy to our
workouts. Some of the extra features, such as
the NightNav and Safesound, are useful,
although 150 is rather expensive. For that
price, wed have liked to see features such as
a secondary light or auto-pausing when you
snap the earbuds together.
Its also worth noting that, while the
Trainer Ti100 is a great pair of headphones for
running, the LED becomes rather unwieldy
during other tness activities, such as working
out in the gym. While lying on a weights
bench, for example, the headphones are likely
to press uncomfortably into your neck and
back, so you may prefer a more generalpurpose pair of wireless headphones for
different types of exercise. However, if youre
a serious runner and want a better audio
experience, the Gibson Trainer Ti100 is a great
choice. It wins a Recommended award.
Richard Easton

SPECIFICATIONS

PLUG
WEIGHT 100g CABLE LENGTH N/A
WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.gibson
innovations.com PART CODE Trainer Ti100

HEADPHONES SUBTYPE In-ear neckband


TYPE N/A

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

4K ACTION CAM

SONY FDR-X1000V

RECOMMENDED

279 inc VAT From www.amazon.co.uk

VERDICT

The menu system is rather ddly, but the Sony


FDR-X1000V is top-notch 4K action camera
CLEARLY SETTING ITS sights on the GoPro
Hero4 Black, Sonys FDR-X1000V is a tiny
action cam that can record 4K video at 30fps.
Sonys pint-size device can achieve this at bit
rates up to 100Mbit/s, which makes it look
very impressive on paper. For storage, it
requires microSD cards rated both as Class 10
and UHS 3, or M2 memory sticks, so youll
need to factor this in if you decide to buy one.
The design is similar to that of Sonys
other action cam, the HDR-AZ1, with the same
glossy white nish and a large shutter button
on top the device. A pair of menu buttons sit
on the side next to its small LCD screen. The
display is purely for changing settings, so you
cant use it to frame shots or view footage.
For that, youll need to use Sonys
PlayMemories app on your iOS or Android
smartphone, or invest in the wrist-based
RM-LVR2 live-view remote, which you can buy
with the camera (which changes the model
number to FDR-X1000VR) or separately for
120. This slightly unwieldy remote viewer has
a colour LCD screen and dedicated shutter
button, and it pairs with the camera through
Wi-Fi Direct. You can pair the remote with up
to ve cameras, which is useful if youre on a
multi-camera shoot and want different angles.
A feed from the camera sensor allows you
to frame your shots and review your footage
afterwards. The live view has only a very
marginal delay, too, and compares favourably
with many action cameras that pair with
smartphones for functionality. You can also
change settings, and the remote uses the
same menu structure as the camera. Its
slightly quicker, but it has the rather irritating
habit of returning you to the main menu
whenever you change a setting. This can make
it rather frustrating to use, as most options
are found within nested menus, and many
arent where you might think.
The FDR-X1000V has a conventional in
tripod thread on its underside, and Sony
provides an adhesive mount. The camera is

also compatible with


Sonys monopod, chest
and head mounts, and you
can even use Go-Pro
adaptors, making it
incredibly exible.
On its own, the camera is
splash-proof, but the
FDR-X1000V can survive
submersion to 10m when
placed inside its supplied
waterproof housing. Thats not particularly
impressive when the Hero4 Black can reach
depths of 40m, but for around 24, you can
buy Sonys AKA-DDX1 Replacement Dive
Door, which allows you to dive to 60m.

STANDBY FOR TRANSMISSION

Recording begins as soon as you hit the


shutter button, even when the camera is on
standby. A hold slider on top of the camera
and waterproof case prevents you hitting the
shutter button accidentally.
There are plenty of recording modes. In
MP4 format at 1080p, you can record at up to
60fps, while dropping to 720p allows up to
100fps. At 240p (800x480), you can record
super slow-motion 200fps video. Theres also
the aforementioned 4K video at 100Mbit/s or
60Mbit/s, and 30fps when shooting in XAVC
S format. XAVC is Sonys own codec and is
incredibly versatile, as it lets you record at up
to 120fps in 1080p and 240fps in 720p, which
is very good. As well as video, you can capture
8.8-megapixel stills and take time-lapse
photos at 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 and 60s intervals.
When connected to a suitable Wi-Fi
hotspot, you can even broadcast live video
over UStream. Youll need to connect the FDRX1000V to your PC and use Sonys software
to add your wireless details and Ustream
account, but after that, you can select the
Live option and begin broadcasting. This
worked without a hitch in our tests, making it
much better than the 4GEE Capture Cam.
On the front of the
FDR-X1000 is a Zeiss Tessar
lens with an aperture of
f/2.8. It has a variable eld
of view of either 120or
170, but the latter
introduces signicant barrel
distortion. You can use this
to stylistic effect if youre
after that shot on an action
camera look, but it doesnt suit
standard footage.

At both 1080p and


4K resolutions, the
FDR-X1000V delivers crisp,
sharp images around the centre of
the frame. It becomes a little soft in the
corners but nothing too serious. Despite
recording at a higher bit rate than the Hero4
Black, however, the FDR-X1000V cant quite
match its rival for overall detail, particularly in
shadows. One advantage the FDR-X1000V
does have, though, is Sonys SteadyShot
electronic image stabilisation (EIS). Its a
shame this isnt available when you shoot in
4K, but when we mounted the camera on our
test platform, the EIS did an excellent job of
reducing low-level vibrations.

GAME OF DRAUGHTS

Two microphones on the front of the camera


capture stereo sound, and these were
reasonably sensitive. Wind noise reduction is
built in, and this worked well when we took
the camera on a bike ride. The 8.8-megapixel
stills we captured were also respectable.
Again, detail was lacking, but colours were
vibrant and there was plenty of contrast.
Battery life was excellent. Shooting 1080p
at 30fps and 50Mbit/s, it lasted 2h 5m, which
is around half an hour longer than the GoPro
Hero4 Black at a comparable resolution.
When shooting in 4K at a 100Mbit/s bit rate
and 30fps, it lasted a respectable 52 minutes,
placing it equal with the Hero4 Black.
Sonys FDR-X1000V is good value and
offers features you dont get from a GoPro
Hero4 Black, such as image stabilisation. In a
straight image-quality comparison, however, it
loses out, and there are other annoyances,
such as its ddly menu system. As such, the
Hero4 Black remains our 4K action cam of
choice, but the FDR-X1000V is an excellent
choice if you want something more exible.
Richard Easton

SPECIFICATIONS
SENSOR .3in CMOS

SENSOR PIXELS 8,800,000

MAX RECORDING RESOLUTION 4K (30fps)

AV CONNECTIONS Micro HDMI, 3.5mm microphone

DIMENSIONS 24.4x51.7x88.9mm
WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.sony.co.uk PART CODE FDR-X1000V

input

WEIGHT 114g

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

4G LIVESTREAM CAMERA

EE 4GEE Capture Cam

10 inc VAT + 11-per-month on contract From shop.ee.co.uk

VERDICT

The 4GEE Capture Cams life-logging is unreliable


and the cost of ownership is too high
EES FIRST FORAY into 4G-enabled video
cameras the 4GEE Action Cam was
arguably one of the worst action cams weve
seen recently (see Reviews, Shopper 333). Its
second attempt, the 4GEE Capture Cam, takes
a different approach, positioning itself as a
life-logging camera rather than an action cam.
The device is square, with a built-in clip
that lets you attach it to your clothing, but
theres also a bundled adaptor to use with
GoPro-compatible mounts. However, when it
measures 55x55x28.2mm and weighs 90.5g,
its quite large and heavy for something thats
designed to be clipped to your clothes. Its not
very subtle, but at least its lighter than your
typical ruggedised action cam.
With its textured, grippy edges, the
Capture Cam feels reassuringly well made. A
large f/2.5 aperture lens dominates the front
and is supported by a sensor that captures
8-megapixel stills and up to 1080p video. The
top also has a large illuminated shutter button
that changes colour depending on its mode:
purple for livestreaming and blue for local
recording. Theres also a sliding toggle to
switch between video and photo modes, and a
three-stage signal status for the 4G
connection. Under the device, youll nd the

and photo modes through the


app, so you have to use the
toggle switch on the camera.
Its also worth noting that
changing the time-lapse setting only
applies to video mode. This means
its all too easy to leave the camera in
time-lapse mode in the app, then
accidentally record a time-lapse video when
you wanted to record a regular video using
the Capture Cams shutter button, as theres
no obvious mode indicator on the camera.
You can use the app as a live viewnder
when recording locally at up to 1080p 30fps,
but sadly you cant do the same thing while
livestreaming. Instead, the screen remains
blank, prompting you to switch to the Skeegle
app instead. This is the company EE has
partnered with to enable the Capture Cams
livestreaming capabilities, but switching to
Skeegle is where things start to fall apart.
To use livestreaming, youll have to install
the separate Skeegle app and register for an
account. You can create circles of friends
through the app, either from your contacts
list or from Facebook, and those people will
receive a notication to view your stream
when you begin livestreaming. At least they

The device has a clip that lets you attach it to your clothing,
and theres an adaptor for GoPro-compatible mounts
microSD slot for expanding storage by up to
64GB, which youll almost certainly need as
the Capture Cam has only 4GB built in.
The interface isnt very user-friendly. Aside
from its rather basic controls, we found it
hard to tell whether it was on or off. The light
stays on when its active but pulsates slowly
in standby mode, making it hard to know at a
glance whether or not youve turned it off.
Most of your tinkering will be done in the
4GEE Action Cam app, which has now been
updated to support the Capture Cam. You
must connect your smartphone to the camera
through Wi-Fi Direct before the two will work
together, but the process is largely painless
and we were up and running within minutes.
Once youre in the app, you can change
the livestreaming and recording resolution,
adjust time-lapse intervals (with a choice of
1, 3, 5, 10, 30 and 60s intervals) and change
the shot mode settings for photo capture.
Annoyingly, you cant swap between video

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

dont need to install Skeegle to tune in, as the


livestream plays through a browser.
In our tests, livestreaming at the maximum
resolution and frame rate of 720p and 30fps
saw the Capture Cam produce around 14.7MB
every minute. Unfortunately, the stability of
livestreams was hit and miss. The quality
depends on the strength of your 4G signal,
but our streams were either stuttery or
stopped altogether, which was frustrating.
Our videos also showed evidence of
artefacts and a general softness, no doubt
due to the compression required for
livestreaming. Even the locally saved 1080p
video was unremarkable, however, with lots of
noise even in good outdoor light. Colours
were very dark, with an unnatural warmth to
them, and lacked shadow detail.
Unsurprisingly, with no image stabilisation,
footage is pretty shakey when the camera is
clipped to an item of clothing so much so
that footage shot while walking is almost

nausea-inducing to watch. Its not so bad


when standing still, but in that situation you
might as well be livestreaming from a
handheld smartphone, negating the point of
the Capture Cam.
The 8-megapixel still images we captured
outside were marginally better, with lots of
contrast and reasonable colour saturation,
but were no better than youd expect from a
typical smartphone. When recording 1080p
video, you can expect the battery to last
around 1h 39m, which isnt bad but pales in
comparison with the Action Cams 3h.
You can understand why the Capture Cam
isnt available without an EE contract, as its
arguably more dependent on constant data
access than the Action Cam, but given the
quality of the footage, we cant imagine many
people wanting to sign up to a new contract
purely for the camera. At the time of writing,
there were only two pay monthly plans to
choose from, both of which tie you in for two
years. One allows for 1GB of data a month and
the other 3GB. The cheapest option has a
total cost of ownership of 274 over two
years, while the other adds up to a total of
418. Thats a lot of money for a camera that
might be redundant in a year or so, but at
least you could then transfer the SIM to
another device, such as a compatible tablet.
It would have been better if the Capture
Cam was available without a contract so you
could swap in your phones SIM or use your
connected smartphones data connection, but
then EE wouldnt be able to sell you another
contract. As it stands, youre better off simply
using the Skeegle app with your smartphones
camera and saving yourself a lot of money.
Richard Easton

SPECIFICATIONS

SENSOR PIXELS 8,000,000


AV
CONNECTIONS None DIMENSIONS 55x55x28.2mm
WEIGHT 90.5g WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS
shop.ee.co.uk PART CODE 4GEE Capture Cam
SENSOR Size not disclosed

MAX RECORDING RESOLUTION 1080p (30fps)

47

ANDROID FREEVIEW HD SET-TOP BOX

AUGUST DVB500

55 inc VAT From www.amazon.co.uk

VERDICT

A cheap Freeview HD box, but its frustrating


to use and its version of Android doesnt
work well on a TV
THE AUGUST DVB500 is an interesting
device that brings the Android operating
system and a Freeview HD tuner to your TV.
Its a compelling prospect, especially given its
low price, but the concept isnt exactly new.
There have been other Android-based
media streamers and set-top boxes in the
past, such as the Nexus Player and Nvidia
Shield TV, not to mention the various TVs
that come with Android TV built in, but they
all run a modied version of Googles
operating system thats easier to navigate and
operate on a TV using a remote control.
Instead, the DVB500 runs plain Android
4.4.2, which is a fairly old version of Android
by todays standards and not particularly well
suited to a TV-sized display or navigation by
remote control. Many of the available apps in
the Google Play Store are congured to work
with a touchscreen, for example, and so dont
work well with a remote. Theres also no visual
indicator for selected menu items, and any
highlighted icons often randomly disappear.
To get round this, you can bring up an
onscreen mouse by holding down a button on
the remote. This process works, but its

As a result, the Android element of the


DVB500 is an exercise in frustration. We also
found that the box would crash completely on
occasion, in which case we had to remove the
power cable. Other strange bugs included the
loss of sound while viewing live TV, which
wouldnt return until we performed a reset.
This is a shame, as the box looks well
designed considering its low price. Its glossy
black body has nicely rounded, pebble-like
edges, and it doesnt take up much space. The
solitary blue indicator LED on its front wont
prove too distracting either.
On the back, it has HDMI and composite
outputs for connecting your TV, and optical
S/PDIF for audio. Theres also an Ethernet
jack for a wired network connection, as well
as 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. To provide
the Freeview HD tuner with a signal, it has a
coaxial RF input connection as well as an
output. There are also three USB ports on the
side and a microSD slot for adding storage.

The box looks well designed considering its low price. Its
glossy black body has nicely rounded, pebble-like edges
cumbersome, as the cursor moves very slowly
across your TV. When using the preinstalled
Netix app, for example, the cursor is the only
way to make a selection, and you need to
combine moving the cursor and using the
slide buttons to navigate around the services
catalogue of lms. Theres also the poor IR
receiver to contend with we found we had
to point the remote straight at the box for it
to register any input.
At least some of the other apps, such as
YouTube, work without the need to use the
cursor function, and because the box runs
Android, you can install other catch-up TV
services, too. BBC iPlayer worked ne but
again required the use of the onscreen cursor.

You can use this storage to record TV


through the device, but as theres only one
tuner, you can only record the channel youre
watching. This rather limits its usefulness, and
the recording method isnt particularly elegant
either, as you need to set the recording time
manually rather than selecting a programme
to record and having the device set the time.
The DVB500 saves recordings to external
storage in a .ts container, and they can easily
be copied to other devices. Annoyingly, it
names les with the channel and date rather
than the programme name, which makes it
dicult to identify a particular recording later.
The Freeview EPG is incredibly sparse, and
programme descriptions are often cut short.

The main menu isnt much better. Its very


sluggish, and the remote controls mushy
buttons certainly dont help, as they
occasionally led to double inputs, which
meant we kept overshooting the menu item
we wanted. A rmware upgrade, available
from the August website, improved menu
performance slightly, but occasional stutters
were still evident.
The remote control is light, imsy and
overly complicated. Buttons have different
functions depending on whether youre
watching TV or using the menus, and some
functions arent obvious. Pressing the left or
right navigation buttons brings up the EPG
programme description, for example, while
pressing up and down moves back and forth
thought the channels.
Youre supposed to be able to use the
DVB500 as a Miracast receiver to mirror a
display from a compatible computer, tablet or
smartphone, but we couldnt get this working,
even though our test TVs built-in Miracast
receiver worked without a hitch. At least we
had more success using the DVB500 to
access network content over DLNA.
In the end, using the August DVB500 is
simply too frustrating an experience to
recommend. The device works as a basic
Freeview HD box, but even the basic functions
such as recording arent handled particularly
well. Youll also need to factor in the cost of
adding storage to the overall price. The old
Android interface feels equally disjointed, and
the device simply isnt good enough to use as
a basic set-top box for the family.
It might be cheap, but buying the August
DVB500 is a false economy. Instead, if you
want to add basic smart features to your
existing TV, youre better off buying a slightly
more expensive Humax Freeview HD box with
recording facilities and using a separate media
streamer, such as the 35 Amazon Fire TV
Stick or the 15 Sky Now TV box.
Richard Easton

SPECIFICATIONS
TUNERS 1x DVB-T2 DIMENSIONS 170x140x30mm
NETWORKING Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
INTERNAL DISK CAPACITY None WARRANTY One
year RTB DETAILS www.augustint.com
PART CODE DVB500

48

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

OFFICE INKJET MFP

BROTHER MFC-J680DW

85 inc VAT From www.viking-direct.co.uk

VERDICT

The MFC-J680DW is compact and has fair


running costs, but its all a bit so-so
THE MFC-J680DW IS the second model
weve looked at in Brothers latest range
of home and home oce inkjet MFPs. Its
a couple of notches up from the entrylevel DCP-J562DW we reviewed a couple
of months ago (see Reviews, Shopper 337),
and yet at the time of writing we found the
MFC-J680DW on sale for the same price.
For 85, you get printing, scanning, copying
and colour fax functions, with automatic
duplex (double-sided) printing and a 20page automatic document feeder (ADF)
for unattended multi-page copies, scans
and faxes. This MFPs other key features
include support for wireless but not wired
networking, and a large colour touchscreen.
The MFC-J680DW may be a new model,
but Brothers inkjet MFPs still look resolutely
boxy compared with their rivals from other
manufacturers. Despite being slightly smaller
than the model it replaces, this MFP looks
more functional than stylish, and it doesnt
exactly exude an air of quality: the paper tray,
for example, is clattery and can be ddly to
load. Weve never noticed any build-quality
problems with Brother products before, but
on our review sample, one of the scanner lids
extending hinges was impeded by an absence
of slack in the cable that runs to the ADF.
Theres not much wrong with the
touchscreen control panel, fortunately. While
it may not be as slick as some, the menu
system it controls is easy to understand for

the most part. Likewise, Brothers print


interface does an excellent job of making
advanced functions easy to use, and its
TWAIN scan interface, although basic, is
perfectly well equipped for most tasks. Weve
no complaints with the software or its setup,
but you have to be careful when inserting the

Brother claims the two devices have


identical scan speeds, and our tests conrmed
this: the MFC-J680DW previewed an A4 page
in 10 seconds and was able to scan it at
300dpi in 15 seconds. Capturing a 6x4in photo

Brothers print interface does an excellent job


of making advanced functions easy to use
colour ink cartridges there is no physical
key, which means its possible to insert one
into the wrong slot.
In operation, this printer was signicantly
quicker than the DCP-J562DW, particularly
during our colour tests. When printing
graphics, it managed an impressive 5.5 pages
per minute (ppm), which is more than double
the 2.5ppm of the cheaper version. It also
took just two minutes to produce a borderless
postcard-sized photo, making it around seven
times faster than the DCP-J562DW when
printing photos. The advantage was far less
signicant on our black text test, but the
MFC-J680DW managed a credible 12ppm or
15.5ppm at draft quality.

at 1,200dpi took 53 seconds , which is


reasonably competitive. A single mono
photocopy emerged in 17 seconds, while the
same job in colour took 22 seconds. Copying
10 mono pages took 151 seconds, while in
colour this rose to 181 seconds.
Results from the MFC-J680DW MFP were
generally good. Printed text was dark black,
although those with sharp eyes might spot a
little jaggedness. Colour graphics were strong,
although bleed was evident on thinner papers,
which is something to watch out for if youre
duplexing. Scans were sharp and their colours
generally accurate, but darker shades tended
to merge together, resulting in a loss of detail.
The MFC-J680DW uses Brothers LC223
cartridges, which have a capacity of 550
pages each. With these installed, print costs
work out at around 7p per page, which is
competitive, if unexceptional much like the
MFC-J680DW itself.
Simon Handby

SPECIFICATIONS
TECHNOLOGY Piezo inkjet

MAXIMUM PRINT
MAXIMUM OPTICAL

RESOLUTION 6,000x1,200dpi

SCAN RESOLUTION (OUTPUT BIT DEPTH) 1,200x2,400dpi

DIMENSIONS 172x400x341mm
MAXIMUM PAPER SIZE A4/legal
WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.brother.co.uk

(24-bit)

WEIGHT 8.3kg

PART CODE MFCJ680DWZU1

Brothers print interface


is one of the best: the
main tab covers almost
everything youll need

50

Mono speed

12ppm

Mixed colour
speed

5.5ppm
2.4p

Mono page cost


Colour page
cost

4.7p
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

INKJET MULTIFUNCTION PERIPHERAL

EPSON Expression
Premium XP-530

90 inc VAT
From www.currys.co.uk
RECOMMENDED

VERDICT

Microscopic screen aside, Epsons XP-530


is a good home MFP for creative work
THE XP-530 IS the cheapest model in
Epsons Expression Premium range of
inkjet multifunction peripherals (MFPs) for
the home. Geared toward creative users,
it features Epsons ve-ink engine, which
combines a pigment-based black for text
printing with dye-based black, cyan, magenta
and yellow inks for producing graphics
and photos. You can share it over a wired
network, print from or scan to an inserted
SD memory card and print automatically
on both sides of a sheet of paper (duplex
printing), but theres no fax modem.
On rst impressions, Premium isnt a
word wed use for the XP-530. It looks smart
enough, with a squat prole and made from
shiny black plastics, but its control panel
includes one of the smallest colour screens
weve seen a 3.7cm panel that looks as if it
belongs in a cameras viewnder. Its paired
with four-way navigation and an OK button,
and at the highest, icon-based level of the
menu system, it works ne. Dive into

sub-menus,, h
however, and
nd youll
ll nd that
theres only room to display one option at a
time, so youll often have to scroll to nd what
you want. Entering our Wi-Fi password was a
tedious process, but fortunately the MFP also
supports simplied Wi-Fi Protected Setup
(WPS). We should note that the screen was
very quick to preview photos on an SD card.
While the device looks as if it has an input
tray folded up the rear, paper actually loads
into a 100-sheet tray beneath we found it
tricky to restock this without knocking the
output tray above it, and on more than one
occasion the printer nagged us to extend the
output tray properly again.
Fortunately, our opinion quickly improved
when we started using the XP-530. For a start,
its an incredibly quick colour printer at this
price, spitting out 6x4in colour photos in
around a minute each, and despatching our
colour graphics test at 6.4 pages per minute

(ppm) more th
than 50% quicker
ick tha
than wed
expect. Its black text speed of 9ppm is less
impressive, although switching to draft quality
produced faint but acceptable results at
16.3ppm. A single black A4 photocopy took 16
seconds, while a colour copy took 24 seconds.
The scanner was similarly quick, taking just
10 seconds to preview an A4 page or to
capture it at 150 dots per inch (dpi). Capturing
a 6x4in photo at 600dpi took just 25 seconds,
but repeating the job at 1,200dpi was slow,
taking two minutes and 16 seconds. While
weve seen sharper results from other
printers, the XP-530 captured colours
faithfully and was able to reproduce the full
range of shades in our tests. Print quality was
impressive, with crisp black text and vivid
colour graphics on plain paper, and natural,
detailed photos on coated papers. While no
match for Epsons more expensive six-ink
printers, pictures were comparable to those
from ve-ink Canon printers.
Epson says the XP-530 doesnt use its
photo black ink in plain paper printing,
so its not included in our 8.7p per page
running cost calculation. Even so, this is
more than 2p higher than the XP-530s main
rival, Canons 70 Pixma MG5750 (Shopper
338). Theres little to choose between the
two, but for us the Canon is the better
all-rounder, and while the Epson is faster
to print in colour, its higher running costs
and minuscule screen rob it of a fth star.
Simon Handby

SPECIFICATIONS
TECHNOLOGY Piezo inkjet

MAXIMUM PRINT
MAXIMUM OPTICAL SCAN

RESOLUTION 5,760x1,440dpi

RESOLUTION (OUTPUT BIT DEPTH) 1,200x2,400dpi (24-bit)

DIMENSIONS 138x390x341mm WEIGHT 6.2kg


MAXIMUM PAPER SIZE A4/legal WARRANTY One year
RTB DETAILS www.epson.co.uk PART CODE XP-530
9ppm

Mono speed
Mixed colour
speed

Epsons print driver


combines quick shortcuts
with more advanced options

52

6.4ppm
2.7p

Mono page cost


Colour page
cost

6p
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

WIRELESS NETWORKING KIT

TOSHIBA TransferJet

40 inc VAT From www.kikatek.com

VERDICT

A clever idea that works well, but we doubt this


new wireless technology will catch on
TRANSFERJET IS AN intriguing closeproximity wireless technology thats taken
what seems like a lifetime to arrive. It was
rst announced in 2008, but it wasnt
until October 2014 that we rst saw it
demonstrated, after which it became available
in Japan. Now, following a splashy Berlin
launch event in September 2015, Toshiba
has nally brought TransferJet to market.
TransferJet is similar to Bluetooth, in
that it allows you to transfer les between
smartphones, tablets and Windows
computers even if you dont have an internet
connection. The 40 price quoted here gets
you an adaptor that plugs into the Micro USB
port on your Android device, and a full-size
USB adaptor that plugs into your Windows
PC or laptop. A separate Lightning adaptor for
iOS devices is available separately for 35.
TransferJet is much, much faster than
Bluetooth, however. Once wed installed the
free app on our devices and plugged in the
adaptors, we were able to transfer a 31MB
H.264 video from an iPhone 6 to a Moto X
Force in 10 seconds. That easily exceeds
Toshibas claimed theoretical transfer speed
of 560Mbit/s, and wasnt a one-off, either, but
a consistently repeatable score.
A batch of 24 photos transferred almost
instantaneously, while transferring the same
video clip from the Moto X Force to a
Windows 10 laptop took three seconds.
Sharing the same le between two laptops
also took just three seconds. Oddly,
transferring the same clip from the iPhone to
the laptop always took a little longer at six
seconds. Regardless, these scores are very

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

impressive and, as TransferJet doesnt use an


internet connection, you can transfer large
quantities of data even when your 4G or Wi-Fi
signal is weak, congested or nonexistent.
As well as the requirement that both the
sending and receiving device must be within a
few centimetres of each other, le transfers
are made secure by the need for both the
sender and the recipient to specically
authorise each transfer.
Inevitably, there are caveats and theyre
all on the software side. The Android and
Windows apps are, not surprisingly, more
exible than the iOS version. Whereas the
others can transfer any le, iOS limits you to
contacts, pictures and video clips. You can

the Micro USB adaptor is especially tiny. The


lack of nger purchase this provides,
combined with the snug t on our Moto X
Force, meant that the adaptors plastic casing
broke apart surprisingly easily when we tried
to detach it. This isnt a necessary
consequence of the devices design: our
replacement unit was the Japanese version,
which while a little wider and deeper was also
easier to detach and felt sturdier. We think
Toshiba should sell this version in the UK.
A bigger problem for the technology is
that the apparently simple requirements for
an adaptor and apps makes TransferJet far
less likely to catch on. That small amount of

TransferJet is much, much faster than Bluetooth.


We were able to transfer a 31MB H.264 video from
an iPhone 6 to a Moto X Force in 10 seconds
also manipulate les more freely and easily on
Android and Windows another consequence
of the restricted le handling abilities in iOS.
All the apps were surprisingly buggy,
however. We were unable to transfer video
clips that had been edited in any way even
something as simple as trimming. The
Android app was very laggy, struggling to
render thumbnails of photos it received, and
the interface of the Windows app looked
mangled on our laptops high-resolution,
high-pixel-density
screen. Whats more,
The Windows version of
the button for opening
the app was very buggy,
the received les
but it worked in the end
folder actually took us
to the root level of our
Windows user folder
rather than the actual
destination, which was
the Documents folder.
Just as bizarrely, you
cant change the
destination folder to
one thats more
convenient for you.
The plain white
plastic adaptors are
small enough to t
into the change pocket
of a pair of jeans, but

hassle almost certainly means that you and


everyone else you know will be less likely to
use it, even if youre keen enough to carry all
three adaptors with you. It would be better if
at least a few computers and mobile devices
came with TransferJet built in, but not even
Toshibas own laptops and tablets come with
it (at least not outside of Japan).
Wed also be surprised if TransferJet wasnt
made obsolete by alternatives sooner or later.
Although we couldnt nd a reliable crossplatform alternative, iOS users can quickly
transfer les with each other if their devices
support Apples similarly cloud-free AirDrop
technology, which is built into iOS 7 and later.
Using AirDrop, we transferred the same 31MB
video le between an iPhone 6 and an iPad
Mini 4 in four seconds.
Toshibas TransferJet is a great wireless
technology that works surprisingly well, but
unless its built into computers and mobile
devices, or at least until Toshiba puts more
effort into its apps, it will be a mere historical
curiosity rather than the widely used and
appreciated convenience it might have been.
Alan Lu

SPECIFICATIONS

PART CODE TJEU00AWMX

OS SUPPORT Android 4.1.2+, iOS 7.2+, Windows 7+


DETAILS www.toshiba.co.uk

53

ANDROID MEDIA STREAMER

QNAP TAS-268

165 inc VAT From www.box.co.uk

VERDICT

This Android-powered combo NAS-media streamer is a miserable car crash


COMBINING A NAS and a media streamer
into a single device isnt as insane as it rst
sounds. If youre going to store all your media
les on your NAS anyway, connecting it to
your TV to watch them isnt such a big leap.
The QNAP TAS-268 isnt the rst HDMIequipped NAS weve seen, but its the rst to
use Android to power its streaming functions.
Although you interact with the TAS-268
via Android when its connected to your TV,
its more conventional when used as a NAS. It
has the same web-based setup wizard and
conguration interface as other QNAP
devices. Setting it up is easy enough, but
theres room for improvement. For example,
while it prompts you to set an administrator
username and password, it doesnt prompt
you to create shared folders and other users.
Experienced NAS users will nd navigating
around the Linux/OS X-style desktop
interface a cinch, but novices may be
intimidated by the plethora of options. A little
more hand holding would have been welcome.
The desktop-style interface makes it easy to
adjust settings, especially as you can save
shortcuts to your most frequently used
options on the desktop.
Plenty of extra features are included, such
as iTunes, web, SQL and FTP servers, the
ability to schedule BitTorrent downloads
without a PC, and the option to start up and
shut down the NAS according to a schedule.
You can automatically back up the contents
of the NAS to an attached USB drive, or have
the contents of a USB drive backed up when
you plug it in, and it has ve USB ports, which
is plenty. More features are available as apps
through a built-in app store.

INSTALL STORY

The TAS-268 accepts up to


two 6TB SATA hard disks in
either JBOD, RAID 0 or RAID
1 conguration. Fitting disks
is easy just unscrew the
thumbscrew, slide the casing
open, slip in your disks and
snap screwless plastic
fasteners to their sides to
keep them in place.
We tested the TAS-268 in
both RAID 0 and 1 mode and
the results were in line with
what we expected. Its
performance in the Huge les
and Large les tests was
similar under RAID 0. It wrote
huge les at 41.3MB/s and

54

read them at 78.7MB/s. Large les were


written at 43.3MB/s and read at 76.8MB/s.
Small les were written quickly at 37.9MB/s,
but reading was slow at just 40.5MB/s.
RAID 1 performance wasnt as far behind
RAID 0 as wed feared. In a few cases it was
actually faster, which was unexpected. Huge
les were written at 31.8MB/s and read at
69MB/s. Large les were written at 50MB/s
and read at 66.9MB/s. Small les were written
at 43.6MB/s and read at 38MB/s.
With the device connected to your TV, you
can view media les and control them with
the included remote. The latter is infrared and
needs a clear line of sight to the NAS because
the receiver has a narrow reception width.
This also means you cant tuck the NAS out of
sight. At least its not too noisy, though.
A bigger problem is that QNAPs Android
interface isnt suited to remote control from
the sofa. This isnt Googles specially designed
Android TV interface, but QNAPs custom
version of 4.4 KitKat. As the homescreens and
almost all the apps are thinly disguised
versions of their touchscreen counterparts,
controlling them is ddly.

GRIND CONTROL

For instance, the Q button on the remote


switches between mouse mode for selecting
text elds, menus and buttons and keyboard
mode for tapping out search queries on the
onscreen keyboard and scrolling through lists.
Switching between the two and struggling
with the slow onscreen cursor in mouse
mode, was intensely frustrating. Theres no
equivalent to Siri or voice search in Android
TV to get around it all either.
Although you can
download apps, such as
iPlayer and Netix, from
Google Play, youre unlikely
to want to given the
frustrating controls. QNAPs
own apps arent much better
the stock video player, for
example, often wouldnt
pause, and rewinding and
fast-forwarding videos was
juddery and unpredictable.
Using Chrome isnt a
serious alternative to apps,
as most streaming websites
recognised it as a mobile
browser and kicked us out to
the Google Play listing for
their app. Even the websites
that worked still recognised

Chrome as a mobile browser, and sent video


les at relatively low-bit rates.
As if all this wasnt enough, QNAPs
version of Android is buggy and poorly
designed. Some onscreen fonts are illegible,
and the needless Android button bar is always
onscreen even when youre watching video.
Worst of all, a QNAP Android update crippled
the Google Play app. It failed to recognise the
NASs Ethernet connection and tried to
connect via the non-existent WiFi instead.
As the QNAPs Android media streaming
and playback interface is separate from its
Linux-powered NAS interface, youll have
multiple sets of updates to manage. We found
this tediously time-consuming.
The TAS-268 is a good NAS, but there
are plenty of other devices at around the
same price from QNAP and other companies.
With this in mind, theres no reason to buy
the TAS-268 as its Android-powered features
are unusable. This part of the NAS is one of
the most badly designed and frustrating
pieces of technology weve ever used. Buy a
different NAS and Chromecast or a Roku
instead. Anything but this.
Alan Lu

SPECIFICATIONS
CAPACITY Bare drive 3in HARD DISK BAYS (FREE) 2 (2)
NETWORKING 1x 10/100/1,000 Ethernet DLNA MEDIA
SERVER Yes PRINT SERVER Yes DIMENSIONS
90x188x125mm WEIGHT 1.8kg WARRANTY One year
RTB DETAILS www.qnap.com PART CODE TAS-268

Large les 60.1MB/s

39.2MB/s

Small les
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

For better
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performance.
Simply plug in and enjoy excellent Wi-Fi coverage in
any room over your electric circuit: devolo Powerline.

BUY IT!

The dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit enables Wi-Fi


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Fastest Wi-Fi connection of all time


Plug & Play installation
Award winning German technology
3-year manufacturer's warranty

www.devolo.co.uk

RECOMMENDED

INTEL SKYLAKE MOTHERBOARD

GIGABYTE
Z170-Gaming K3

RECOMMENDED

98 inc VAT From www.cclonline.com

VERDICT

This feature-packed Skylake motherboard is


great value and ideal for a budget gaming PC
WITH THE Z170-GAMING K3, Gigabyte
seems to be trying to break the record for
how much you can t on a sub-100
motherboard. This ATX Intel Skylake board
features the enthusiast Z170 chipset, two
USB3.1 ports for extra-fast external SSDs
(when signicant numbers of such devices
appear), support for tiny M.2 storage devices
and fancy onboard sound and networking
hardware. The board certainly feels more
expensive than it is little touches such as the
robust-feeling PCI Express x16 slot give you
condence when putting your PC together.
The board has undergone some cutbacks
compared with slightly pricier models, such as
the Asus Z170-A (see Reviews, Shopper 333),
however. The backplate feels relatively sparse,
with only HDMI and DVI video outputs
theres no VGA for older monitors or
DisplayPort for newer ones, and the DVI port
doesnt support a DVI-to-VGA adaptor. The
DVI port only supports resolutions up to
1,920x1,200, and the HDMI port is version 1.4,
so if you want to use a high-resolution DVI
display or a 4K screen at more than a
juddering 24fps, youll need a dedicated
graphics card. We even had trouble using our
test Intel Core i5-6600K processors onboard
graphics, as the PC would reset before
reaching the Windows Setup screen. Youre
denitely better off using a separate graphics
card with this motherboard.
The onboard Killer-branded Ethernet chip
promises low latencies, but this is mainly of
interest to competitive LAN gamers. The
high-specication audio chip has wider appeal.
Gigabyte claims it has a signal-to-noise ratio
of 115dB, which is comparable to a decent
dedicated sound card such as an Asus Xonar.

One design feature (or


gimmick) is the cut-out
plastic channel under the
motherboard, which isolates the
copper tracks that run from the audio
chip to the audio outputs, separating
them from the rest of the motherboards
circuitry to reduce interference.

TAKE THE FLAC

When testing the sound chip with some


high-quality FLAC audio les, we noticed that
the Gigabyte boards audio was richer and
warmer than that of a seven-year-old desktop
PCs onboard audio, but our testers couldnt
decide which actually sounded better. The
Gigabyte boards chip was certainly more
powerful, though, driving our headphones to
an acceptable volume at a much lower setting
in Windows. This could be an advantage if
you want to use high-end headphones
without a separate headphone amplier.
For expansion cards, the motherboard has
two PCI Express x16 slots, although one runs
at x4 speeds, and four PCI Express x1 slots,
one of which will be a tight squeeze if you t
a powerful graphics card next to it. The board
offers plenty of storage options, including an
M.2 slot, which accepts both SATA3 and PCI
Express compact M.2 devices. Windows 10
ran perfectly from a Samsung SSD 850 EVO
M.2 SATA drive. PCI Express drives have a
higher theoretical transfer rate of 32Gbit/s
rather than 6Gbit/s, but theyre expensive and
wont make Windows feel much more
responsive. You get six SATA3 ports for
standard SSDs, hard disks and optical drives,
and a couple of SATA Express ports for rare
SATA Express SSDs.

In our application
benchmarks, which
involve manipulating images,
encoding 4K video and multitasking, the
motherboard scored 112 overall with an Intel
Core i5-6600K processor and 8GB DDR4 RAM
tted. Thats what wed expect from this
processor. We also tried overclocking the
board. The BIOS lets you specify a percentage
to overclock, such as 20% or 40%, and
adjusts the settings accordingly.

HOT CHIP

With a third-party Thermaltake processor


cooler, the PC was stable at a 20% overclock,
which increased the processors peak clock
speed from 3.9GHz to 4.3GHz. This boosted
its score in the image-editing benchmark
(which tests a CPUs single-core processing
abilities) from 114 to 130. However, in the
multithreaded video-encoding and
multitasking benchmarks, the score dropped
by 15-20 points compared with the CPU at
stock speeds, as it got too hot and throttled
back. This could be xed with a better cooler
or water-cooling kit theres even a fan
header on the motherboard for a water pump.
You get a lot of motherboard for your
money with the Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3,
and its a great way to build a Skylake-based
PC on a budget without scrimping on
features. The Gigabyte motherboard is best
when tted with a graphics card, and if you
can nd an extra 20 or so the Asus Z170-A
offers more features and expansion options,
but if money is tight and you still want a
high-end Skylake chipset, its a good buy.
Chris Finnamore

SPECIFICATIONS

DIMENSIONS 305x231mm
CHIPSET Intel Z170 Express MEMORY SLOTS 4
PCI-E x16 SLOTS 2 PCI-E x1 SLOTS 4 PCI SLOTS 0
USB PORTS 4x USB3, 2x USB3.1 VIDEO OUTPUTS DVI,
HDMI 1.4 WARRANTY Three years RTB DETAILS www.
gigabyte.com PART CODE GA-Z170-Gaming K3-EU
PROCESSOR SOCKET LGA1151

Shopper overall

112

Multitasking

110

Dirt Showdown Fail


0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

See page 78 for performance details

56

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

MUSIC-PRODUCTION SOFTWARE

CAKEWALK
Sonar Platinum

399 inc VAT From www.dv247.com

VERDICT

Big, powerful and versatile, but Sonar could


be friendlier and more consistent
SONAR IS ONE of the Grand Dames of music
production, with a pedigree that dates back to
the 1980s and a strong following among
professional music producers. Last year, it
ditched the version numbers and switched to
a programme of rolling updates.
Cakewalk is keen to stress that this isnt a
subscription model. The software can be
bought outright or upgraded from a previous
version, and both include 12 months of
updates. The cost can also be spread across a
year of monthly payments. That makes it feel
like a subscription, but unlike Adobe Creative
Cloud, you can choose not to renew the
payments and still keep the software.
There are three versions of Sonar: Artist
(79), Professional (159) and Platinum
(399). A second year of rolling updates costs
$49, $99 and $149 respectively. As with
Cubase, paying more buys extra instruments,
effects and advanced editing modules but,
unlike Cubase, all three versions support
unlimited tracks, buses, inputs and outputs.
With so much extra content included with
Sonar Platinum, the new Command Center
module is a welcome addition for streamlining
the installation process. Its only partially
successful, though. We were able to install
Sonar Platinum with 17 extra elements in one
go, but a couple of virtual instruments were
listed separately and the latest version of
Melodyne Essential was nowhere to be seen.
Attempting to install an earlier version of
Melodyne (which came with Sonar X3)
resulted in a message that it had already been
registered. Keeping track of third-party
licences is a common problem that wed
happily live without. Notably, Cubase doesnt
suffer this as its all developed in-house.

Bolster live drum recordings with Drum Replacer

58

Sonar Platinum packs in a lot of music-making tools; its a bit of a squeeze for a single monitor

The interface hasnt changed much since


Sonar X3, with lots of tabbed panels, graphic
displays and buttons on the screen. There are
often two or three ways to achieve the same
thing, and the result is an interface that feels
exible but rather sprawling and, at times,
unhelpful. MIDI was disabled by default and
the audio driver was set to 16-bit audio.
Effects and instrument libraries are organised
by plug-in technology, and its not easy to
track down the best plug-ins among the older
modules. Thankfully theres an option to
create custom folders of favourite plug-ins.

UPDATE WITH DESTINY

Cakewalk released a bumper crop of updates


in January 2015, and since then has delivered
between three and eight new features every
month. These are documented on Cakewalks
website, so well just cover the highlights here.
Pro Channel adds effects to a channel, with
plug-ins appearing in a narrow column rather
than a scattering of popup windows. The full
set in Platinum includes high-quality EQ and
compression plus an impressive array of tube
saturation plug-ins to inject some sparkle and
punch to mixes. Recent additions include the
bizarrely named Bark of Dog, which adds
some low-end punch. Rematrix Solo is a
convolution reverb based on recordings of
real spaces. Theres not much user control,
but its a welcome addition nonetheless.
VocalSync automatically tightens up the
timing of double-tracked and backing vocals.
This is something weve done manually in the
past and its painstakingly laborious. However,
we were disappointed
to hear uttering
time-stretch artefacts
in the processed audio,
and frustrated that the
processing must be
rendered before
further manual editing
is allowed. Well stick
with the laborious
manual approach.
Drum Replacer, like
VocalSync, is another
Platinum-exclusive
feature. It analyses live
drum recordings and

bolsters them by synchronising drum samples.


It requires a multi-microphone drum recording
to help it isolate each drum, and there are
precise tools to ensure the triggering is
accurate. The supplied samples are captured
at multiple volumes to add some variety
between hits. There are only four sampled kits
to choose from, though, and its frustrating
that the original and sampled drums cant be
sent to different mixer channels. As with
VocalSync, further timeline editing isnt
allowed unless the Drum Replacer output is
rendered to disk. These problems can be
avoided by exporting the trigger data as MIDI
or by cloning the track and applying Drum
Replacer to only one, but it feels a bit untidy.

IN THE MIX

A new Mix Recall function takes snapshots of


all mixer settings, complete with automation.
Alternatively, you can limit the snapshot to
certain channels, or exclude certain types of
mix information. Its a great way to compare
different plug-in chains or go off on tangents
without having to grapple with multiple project
les. Meanwhile, the new Smart Solo feature
means Sonar is better at soloing individual
mixer channels complete with any upstream
and downstream channels affected by it.
Sonars move to rolling updates is
interesting, but were not convinced its an
improvement. The drip-feed of new features
might be a distraction rather than an event
that demands your attention. We wonder how
many users will wait until a big new feature
arrives or until they have some spare time
before paying for a year of updates. Its a
relief that users dont lose the software if they
choose not to update it, though.
Overall, Sonar is a bit of a paradox. Its a
subscription model thats actually nothing of
the sort. Its exible, but sometimes restricts
users to doing things in a certain way. Many
people will nd it powerful and ecient, but
for us, Cubase seems better built for the job.
Ben Pitt

SPECIFICATIONS

MINIMUM CPU 2.6GHz


MINIMUM GPU Not stated MINIMUM
RAM 4GB HARD DISK SPACE 5GB DETAILS www.
OS SUPPORT Windows 7/8/10
multicore

cakewalk.com

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

OPEN-WORLD ADVENTURE

CAMPO SANTO
Firewatch

15 inc VAT
From store.steampowered.com

VERDICT

A stunning world with rich, realistic dialogue,


but Firewatchs anticlimactic ending failed to
set our hearts on re
IF BOOKS AND lms have taught us anything
over the years, its that being alone in the
great, wide wilderness is often a sure-re
recipe for madness, paranoia and crippling
self-doubt. Yes, theres pretty scenery to gaze
at and, in Firewatchs case, some rather
spectacular sunsets and midnight wildres to
take in with slack-jawed wonder, but that
natural beauty usually hides something far
more sinister and unnerving than its
easy-going inhabitants care to admit.
For voluntary re warden Henry, its the
slow, creeping feeling that hes being watched,
and not just by his friendly boss Delilah, who
mans the next watchtower and gives Henry
his daily tasks and assignments. In fact, its
your frequent walkie-talkie conversations with
Delilah that help keep Henry grounded over
the long summer months in Wyomings
sun-dappled mountains, and Firewatchs
bounty of branching dialogue options provide
plenty of scope to broaden your relationship
with your intriguingly distant mentor.
Both characters are incredibly well drawn,
and their natural, seamless performances are
one of the games highlights, next to its
beautiful vistas and busy, verdant plains and
meadows. Youd expect nothing less from a
team that includes two former creative leads
from Telltale Games The Walking Dead series,
but whereas Telltales zombie adventure made
you think long and hard about each and every

To orientate yourself in the wilderness, youll need to use your map and compass to get to your objectives

piece of dialogue you uttered, lest it upset one


of your close companions or accidentally sent
them to their doom, Firewatchs script never
quite makes the same kind of impact over the
course of its ve-hour run time.

DARK MATTER

For instance, while a handful of choices clearly


had an effect on what came later in the game,
the vast majority of our decisions barely made
any ripples whatsoever, as the story kept
trundling on towards its goal regardless of
what we said or did. This is a shame, as there
were moments when the narrative seemed to
be building toward something quite profound,
channelling works such as The Shining and
Heart of Darkness to probe a deeper, darker
truth about Henry and his unravelling mental
state particularly when you know that the
only reason Henrys out there in the rst
place is to help escape the reality of his
wifes early onset dementia diagnosis, a
revelation that comes hard and fast within a
few minutes of starting the game.
Yet, as you close in on the games nal
stretch, you begin to realise Firewatch is
burning the candle at both ends. The
consequences you thought might be coming
peter out into nothing, and the embers of the
second acts psychological horror conspiracy
are rmly stamped out for a resolution thats
altogether more mundane and disappointing.
Firewatchs landscapes
look stunning, but theyre
ultimately rather empty

Wed be loath to spoil any details, but


ultimately Firewatchs central mystery turns
out to be just as empty and unfullling as its
desolate, lonely landscapes.
Likewise, for all its visual splendour, the
environment plays only a very minor role in
Firewatch, as players are rarely forced to
engage with it in any meaningful way beyond
reporting the odd landmark to Delilah or
commenting on the contents of the supply
boxes strewn over your patrol area. There are
no puzzles to speak of apart from a few
thorny paths that are quickly dispatched once
you nd your trusty axe, and most objectives
can be completed by simply walking from A to
B, requiring little to no input from the player
except occasionally glancing down at their
map and compass to make sure theyre
heading in the right direction.

A NICE WALK SPOILED

Admittedly, the same argument can be made


about so-called walking simulators such as
Dear Esther, but at least these usually have a
compelling story to make up for the lack of
action. Firewatch, on the other hand, does a
pretty good job of keeping players entertained
with its various red herrings, but when it ends
up falling so at at the end, it undoes all its
hard work. Moreover, for a game set in a
national nature reserve, theres precious little
wildlife to speak of, reducing the games sense
of threat and foreboding even further. Its
quite literally a walk in the park.
In the end, Firewatchs appeal only goes
skin-deep. Its stunning veneer and brilliantly
realistic dialogue are some of the best weve
seen in its genre, but the anti-climactic ending
and undercooked choice system doesnt do it
justice. It could have been so much more, but
Campo Santo doesnt quite deliver the goods,
leaving us with a beautiful, but ultimately
empty world that never reaches its potential.
Katharine Byrne

SPECIFICATIONS

OS SUPPORT Windows 7
MINIMUM CPU Intel Core i3 2GHz or
AMD equivalent MINIMUM GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 450
or higher with 1GB RAM MINIMUM RAM 6GB
HARD DISK SPACE 4GB DETAILS www.firewatchgame.
com PRODUCT CODE Firewatch
AVAILABLE FORMATS PC, PS4

or higher 64-bit

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

59

FIRST-PERSON PUZZLER

THELKA INC
The Witness

BEST BUY
30 inc VAT
From store.steampowered.com

VERDICT

Fiendishly dicult but ever so satisfying,


The Witness sets a new benchmark for
rst-person puzzle games
AFTER THE BRAIN-scratching puzzles of cult
hit Braid, its only tting that Jonathan Blows
next project is something equally mindmelting. The Witness is a rst person puzzle
game in the same vein as Valves Portal series
and the PC classic Myst, but with a greater
cerebral twist than even its cleverest forebears.
While Portal had the chatty GLaDOS
guiding you through each puzzle chamber,
The Witness leaves you alone to think in
silence, letting you emerge from your strange,
underground prison to discover the games
island paradise at your own pace. In fact, the
only voices youll hear come from mysterious
tapes which are strewn around the island.
However, instead of witty commentaries
about what youre doing here and what kind
of puzzles youre tackling, they merely play
recordings of quotes from well-known
thinkers and philosophers, playing no role (to
our knowledge, at least) in the plot of the
game, except to give you a few moments
pause as you journey across the island.
Youll welcome the brief respite when you
do stumble across them, though, as The
Witness tests and pushes your puzzle-solving
skills to breaking point which is impressive
when you consider that each of its 650-odd
puzzles are all based on the same basic idea.
Instead of collecting items and guring out
complicated lever sequences, for example,
every puzzle panel can be solved by drawing a
line on a grid of squares. Circles mark your
starting point, while curved offshoots signal
your destination. The hard part is guring out
what pattern you need to get there.
It might be, for instance, that you need to
listen to certain sounds to map their basic
waveforms, or decipher various kinds of
Youll encounter this set of
puzzles early on, but can you
gure out what the solution is?

The island in The Witness


is vast, and every area is
stunning to behold

geometric shapes built into individual squares.


Or maybe you need to catch the panel at an
angle so the hot midday sun reveals hidden
markings showing you the way. We wouldnt
want to give away too many answers, but its
surprising how much mileage the designers
have squeezed out of this single mechanic.

UNIVERSALLY CHALLENGED

The Witnesss real triumph, though, is how it


builds on each of its themes and ideas to
make each panel even more compelling than
the last. Its the purest form of teaching by
design weve seen in quite some time, and
many had us reaching for pen and paper to
try to gure out their solution. For us, this is
always a sign were really being challenged
and made to think properly about the task at
hand rather than simply make do with lazy
guesswork, and there are several times when
hazarding a guess will actually reset the
preceding puzzle as well as turn off the panel
youre currently working on. It doesnt happen
with every panel, so it can feel rather arbitrary
when it does, but it does force you to engage
with the games rules in a more intellectual
and considered way than most of its peers.
A basic path loosely connects each of the
main areas in a rough order of diculty, but
within each hub youll nd clusters of puzzles
that can range from four or ve variations up
to 30, with each one getting progressively
more dicult. Admittedly, some are a little
more obscure than others, seemingly breaking
their own rules laid down by previous panels,
and the sound-based puzzles have a bad habit
of merging together to create a cacophony of
noise. However, the moment the penny drops,
you neither care nor worry about the

problems that came before it, as youre simply


too busy basking in the glory of your latest
cognitive victory until, that is, you get
stumped by the next one.

ISLAND LIFE

The brain-teasing doesnt stop at The


Witnesss panel puzzles, as eagle-eyed players
may well start to notice the island itself has a
grander design than rst meets the eye.
Again, we dont want to spoil anything, but
the moment you discover one of these subtle
strokes of genius for the rst time (along with
the deep, immensely pleasing sound effects
that accompany them), youll feel like the
cleverest person alive. You wont stop noticing
them after that point either, which only makes
every subsequent sighting that much sweeter
when you catch them out of the corner of
your eye. If you ever wanted to feel like
Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, The
Witness is most denitely the game for you.
It also helps that its set in one of the most
luscious, vibrant and colourful worlds weve
seen. With its bright, primary colours and
bold, cell-shaded art style, The Witness is as
much a joy to traverse as it is to solve, and
the sudden contrast of deep autumn reds,
light spring pinks, dusty yellow deserts and
rusting orange tankers cant help but draw
your eye and pull you in another direction if
you nd yourself getting stuck.
While 30 may seem like a lot for an indie
puzzle game, The Witness more than makes
good on the price of entry. With so many
solutions waiting to be unearthed, not to
mention the number of hours youll spend
trying to gure them all out, The Witness is a
stone-cold puzzle classic that will have even
the most hardened sudoku and cryptic
crossword fans scratching their heads in
disbelief. Its immensely satisfying to play
and the sheer brilliance of its design is
absolutely top of its class. Its a Best Buy.
Katharine Byrne

SPECIFICATIONS

OS SUPPORT Windows 7
MINIMUM CPU 1.8GHz MINIMUM GPU Intel
HD 4000 series MINIMUM RAM 4GB HARD DISK
SPACE 5GB DETAILS www.the-witness.net
AVAILABLE FORMATS PC, PS4

or higher

PRODUCT CODE The Witness

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

TURN-BASED STRATEGY GAME

2K GAMES XCOM 2

27 inc VAT
From www.cdkeys.com
BEST BUY

VERDICT

Addictive tactical combat and deep, strategic


gameplay make XCOM 2 an essential buy
THERE ARENT MANY games that allow you
to fail the very rst mission, but XCOM 2 is
the brutal exception. As we fumbled our way
back into the XCOM universe, we soon found
that much has changed since we last defended
Earth from its brutal alien assault, but the
good news is that its just as addictive as ever.
Taking after the events of 2012s XCOM:
Enemy Unknown, the once troublesome aliens
have now joined forces with the human race
and settled on Earth. Together, theyve created
the shady Advent organisation, a ruling force
that will supposedly make our lives more
peaceful and prosperous. XCOM, on the other
hand, has realigned itself, transforming from
defenders of the Earth into a mini rebellion,
and its your job to unite rebels across the
globe before Advent can conquer the world.
Headquartered in a former alien ship, the
between-mission portion of the game closely
resembles the underground base used in
Enemy Unknown. However, with its ability to
hop across the globe in just a few in-game
hours, youre denitely encouraged to venture
out, making contact with rebel groups,
hunting for hidden resources and paying visits
to the black market to stock up on supplies.
Theres a lot to take in, particularly if
youre new to the XCOM series, but Enemy
Unknown veterans will soon feel right at
home. As well as managing your various
resources, youll need to manage and
distribute your personnel to various parts of
the ship. Engineers can construct new
facilities and make existing ones run more
eciently, while scientists are needed to
research newly discovered technologies.
Youll never have enough of either
them, but thats
ats all part of the
games overarching
erarching strategy.
This pressure
sure on
resources makes
each ground mission
feel even more
important than
an it did
before, as failure
ailure not
only gives the
he aliens the upper
hand, but also
so means you
wont be rewarded for your
efforts. Mostt mission failures
result in some
me form of Dark
Event, which
h buffs the aliens
for a period of time and helps
them advance
nce their goal of
completing the
he sinister Avatar
Project. Your
ur aim is to stop this and

62

Characters in XCOM 2 are highly customisable, with modular weapons, changeable apparel and new perks

halt the ominous progress bar in your ships


situation room which shows you how close
the aliens are to achieving world domination.
The meat of the game takes place in the
ground missions, where you deploy your
squad to a turn-based battleeld to
accomplish a variety of basic objectives. Like
Enemy Unknown, each soldier has a limited
number of actions they can take each turn,
and moving them into the right position is
crucial for a successful mission.

new enemy types, but theyre bigger and


badder than ever. The Sectoid, once the
easiest foe in Enemy Unknown, now has more
hit points and the ability to mind-control your
soldiers from the off, making them a hassle
from the very rst mission. Newcomer Vipers,
meanwhile, can drag soldiers towards them
and crush them with their serpentine bodies,
while others can even disguise themselves as
civilians, morphing into giant, gloopy
monsters just as youre about to rescue them.

SHOT IN THE DARK

NEED FOR SPEED

For example, a soldier standing further away


from an enemy in full cover might have only a
20% chance of landing a successful shot,
while another standing at point-blank range
will probably (but not always) deal damage.
As with any numbers-based strategy game
there can be some frustrating and logicdefying moments where the virtual dice roll
sees your soldiers miss a target within spitting
distance, but it does help heighten the games
tension and unpredictability.
As each soldier levels up, theyre promoted
to one of four classes: grenadier, sharpshooter,
specialist or ranger. The rst two are in
effect like-for-like replacements of Enemy
Unknowns heavy and sniper classes, but the
latter are completely new. Specialists, for
equipped with a
instance, come equipp
hack location
drone that can hac
towers to hide your position
remotely, while
or heal others rem
rangers are great for scouting
ahead, as they have a melee attack
after dashing,
that can be used afte
which would normally end your
turn. Whatever combo you decide to
attached to
use, youll become deeply a
the soldiers who survive multiple
untimely deaths
missions, and their u
can even spell the end of your
campaign if you lose them at
moments.
critical mom
aliens are
The al
brutally hard, too. All
the old ffavourites
Enemy Unknown
from Enem
welcome return
make a we
along with a few
here, alo

The biggest change, however, comes from the


games pacing, as many missions now require
you to complete your objective within a set
number of turns, putting a greater emphasis
on speed. This might upset fans of Enemy
Unknown, but its more challenging and
rewarding as a result. Its still nice to be able
to lay out your troops methodically without
any time limitations, but XCOM 2 is all the
better for its renewed focus on objectives.
It can be a little unpolished at times, as
many of the issues that plagued Enemy
Unknown are still present in XCOM 2. Our
biggest annoyance came from the in-game
camera, as this can sometimes oat off into
the distance, leaving you with no way to see
whats going on during a turn. Other times
soldiers will shoot straight through walls, and
there are numerous unnecessary pauses while
sounds and animations nish playing.
That said, its impossible to drag yourself
away from XCOM 2; while youre gallivanting
around your ship micro-managing everyone,
your minds already started planning the next
assault and allocating its budget to the next
big upgrade. With its blend of large-scale
strategy and intense tactical battles, its more
than a worthy successor to Enemy Unknown
and a must-buy for strategy gamers.
Michael Passingham

SPECIFICATIONS

OS SUPPORT Windows 7 and


MINIMUM CPU Intel Core 2 Duo E4700 2.6GHz or
AMD Phenom 9950 quad-core 2.6GHz MINIMUM GPU

AVAILABLE FORMATS PC
above

1GB AMD Radeon HD 5770, 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 or

MINIMUM RAM 4GB HARD DISK SPACE 45GB


DETAILS www.2k.com PRODUCT CODE XCOM 2
better

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Choosing a... PC system


01

A basic PC costing around 350 will


be able to run everyday oce,
multimedia and education software and will
easily cope with surng the internet. It might
even be able to run some modern games.
Many PCs can be sold either with or
without a monitor. If you dont like the
display that the manufacturer is offering,
you can always use your current one, or
buy another one separately.

02

If you want to play games, youll


have to upgrade the graphics card.
Budget cards such as the Nvidia GeForce GTX
950 will cope well with many 3D games, but
to play the latest 3D games smoothly (and
enjoy the best-quality graphics) its worth
upgrading to a more powerful card such as
the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970.

03

peripherals attach to these ports. Most


new PCs come with the latest USB3 ports,
which provide faster data transfers when
used with supported devices than the
older USB2 standard.

All modern PCs come with at


least a dual-core processor and
are capable of most tasks. Anyone who
regularly undertakes demanding tasks
such as video editing and encoding
should consider a quad-core or even a
hex-core processor.

04

There are plenty of good reasons to


upgrade the PCs memory or hard
disk. If youll use your PC for gaming, video
editing or other demanding tasks, youll
need at least 8GB of RAM and a large hard
disk; 1TB should suce. Many new PCs have
an SSD, which speeds up the time it takes for
your PC to boot and programs to load.

05

Having plenty of USB ports is


always useful, as most computer

06

Most new PCs now come with


Windows 10 pre-installed. Dont
be too easily swayed by the inclusion of
other software, though, as it may be that
youll never use it.

07

While most PCs come in cases


of a similar size, some have more
compact mini tower or mini PC cases.
These smaller PCs will t under your TV
or on your desk more easily, but bear in
mind that theyre signicantly harder to
upgrade than full-size machines.

PCs

PALICOMP AMD Shockwave

YOYOTECH Warbird RS10

500 inc VAT

www.palicomp.co.uk

700 inc VAT

While its AMD processor cant


match the best Intel chips,
BEST BUY
Palicomp has pushed the boat
out elsewhere, with a decent 4GB AMD R7 370
graphics card, delivering credible gaming
performance at Full HD resolutions. You cant
get much better for the money.
PROCESSOR Quad-core 4GHz AMD Athlon X4 860K (overclocked) RAM 8GB FRONT USB
PORTS 2x USB3 REAR USB PORTS 4x USB2, 2x USB3 TOTAL STORAGE 1TB hybrid hard disk
GRAPHICS CARD 4GB AMD Radeon R7 370 OPERATING SYSTEM Windows 10 Home
WARRANTY Three years RTB DETAILS www.palicomp.co.uk PART CODE KAV2
FULL REVIEW Jan 2016

If youre after the


complete package,
BEST BUY
Yoyotech has
managed to squeeze in everything
youll need for a gaming PC, including a powerful quad-core CPU,
mid-range graphics and a decent monitor. Yoyotech has updated the
chassis and motherboard since our review, but kept the price the same.

SCAN 3XS Z170


Performance GTK6

1,057 inc VAT

64

www.yoytotech.co.uk

www.scan.co.uk/3xs

PROCESSOR Quad-core 4.4GHz Intel Core i5-6600K (overclocked) RAM 8GB FRONT USB
PORTS 2x USB3 REAR USB PORTS 6x USB3 TOTAL STORAGE 1TB hard disk GRAPHICS
CARD 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 DISPLAY 22in Iiyama ProLite E2283HS OPERATING
SYSTEM Windows 10 Home WARRANTY Three year (one year parts & labour RTB, two years
labour RTB) DETAILS www.yoyotech.co.uk PART CODE ER0815WRS10 FULL REVIEW Nov 2015

APPLE 27in iMac with 5K


Retina Display

1,599 inc VAT

www.apple.com/uk

An incredibly powerful Skylake


system that can cope with just
BEST BUY
about any desktop task, and can handle gaming at
2,560x1,440. The Z170 motherboard is future-proof too, with USB 3.1
and an M.2 slot for PCI-Express storage.

Its not often Apple


represents best-in-class
RECOMMENDED value, but the 5K iMac is an exception. It has the
best screen weve seen on an all-in-one, along with the best
processor performance and some handy graphics capabilities.

PROCESSOR Quad-core 4.6GHz Intel Core i5-6600K (overclocked) RAM 8GB FRONT USB PORTS
4x USB3 REAR USB PORTS 2x USB3.1, 1x USB Type-C, 2x USB2 TOTAL STORAGE 256GB SSD,
1TB hard disk GRAPHICS CARD 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 OPERATING SYSTEM Windows
10 Home WARRANTY Three years parts cover: first year onsite, years two and three RTB
DETAILS www.scan.co.uk/3xs PART CODE Performance Z170 GTK6 FULL REVIEW Nov 2015

PROCESSOR Quad-core 3.2GHz Intel Core i5-6500 RAM 8GB FRONT USB PORTS 0
REAR USB PORTS 4x USB3 TOTAL STORAGE 1TB fusion drive GRAPHICS CARD AMD
Radeon R9 M390 DISPLAY Apple 27in integrated OPERATING SYSTEM Apple OS X 10.11
El Capitan WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.apple.com/uk PART CODE 27-inch
iMac FULL REVIEW Feb 2016

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Choosing a... Laptop


01

A basic laptop costing around 300


will run everyday oce, multimedia
and education software, but it wont be
suitable for 3D gaming or processor-intensive
tasks such as video editing. Many laptops at
this price have a 15.4in screen and weigh
around 2.4kg, so theyre best used around
the house and for occasional journeys.

02

If you want to play modern


games, youll need a laptop with a
dedicated graphics chip such as the Nvidia
GeForce GTX 960M. Good gaming laptops
tend to have large 17in screens and weigh
around 3kg, so theyre best suited to use
at home.

03

that weighs less than 2kg. For the best


portability, buy one that has an 11in or 13in
screen. In general, the smaller and lighter the
laptop, the more expensive it is, especially if
it has plenty of processing power.

will do the job, but if you want better


performance, you should look for an
Intel Core i5 or Core i7 model instead. We
recommend a minimum of 4GB of RAM,
although 8GB is better for multitasking.

04

06

05

07

Battery life is extremely important


for a laptop, particularly if youll be
carrying it around. Wed expect all but the
biggest and heaviest to last for at least ve
hours on a single charge, but for an ultraportable that you carry everywhere, eight
hours and above is more desirable.
Laptops use mobile versions of
processors to conserve power,
and these lag behind desktop chips when
it comes to performance. For a budget
Windows laptop, an Intel Core i3 processor

If you want a laptop that you can


take everywhere, look for a model

Most budget and mid-range laptops


use a mechanical hard disk for
storage. Youll want at least 500GB, but
1TB or more is better. Solid-state drives
(SSDs) have faster performance, making
your computer quicker to boot and more
responsive. They have lower capacities,
though. Youll need at least 128GB.
Netbooks are a type of small,
low-cost ultra-portable laptop.
Theyre ne for light use, but avoid them if
you want to do complicated tasks.

LAPTOPS

DELL XPS 13

1,212 inc VAT

DELL XPS 15

www.laptopsdirect.co.uk

1,774 inc VAT

The latest Dell XPS 13


is a stunning piece
BEST BUY
of engineering.
While visually its not changed much from
previous versions, its InntyEdge screens almost
non-existent bezels look beautiful and there have been excellent
internal upgrades, including a new Intel Skylake processor.
PROCESSOR Dual-core 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U RAM 8GB DIMENSIONS 304x200x15mm
WEIGHT 1.29kg SCREEN SIZE 13.3in SCREEN RESOLUTION 3,200x1,800 GRAPHICS
ADAPTOR Intel HD Graphics 520 TOTAL STORAGE 256GB SSD OPERATING SYSTEM
Windows 10 Home PARTS AND LABOUR WARRANTY One year collect and return
DETAILS www.dell.co.uk PART NUMBER 9350-9323 FULL REVIEW Mar 2016

www.dell.co.uk

NEW
ENTRY

The new Dell XPS 15


is the ultimate
BEST BUY
Windows 10
laptop. From its superbly vibrant and
accurate InntyEdge touchscreen display to its
top-notch performance, its the new laptop to beat and even puts
Apples 15in MacBook Pro to shame.

NE

W
ENTRY
ACER
Chromebook R 11
1

PROCESSOR Quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ RAM 16GB DIMENSIONS


357x235x17mm WEIGHT 2kg SCREEN SIZE 15.6in SCREEN RESOLUTION 3,840x2,160
GRAPHICS ADAPTOR Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M TOTAL STORAGE 512GB SSD OPERATING
SYSTEM Windows 10 Home PARTS AND LABOUR WARRANTY One year next business day
DETAILS www.dell.co.uk PART NUMBER BNX5515 FULL REVIEW Apr 2016

MSI GE72 6QF Apache Pro

www.saveonlaptops.co.uk

1,222 inc VAT

230 inc VAT

The Acer
Chromebook
RECOMMENDED R 11 is the most attractive
and practical budget Chromebook you can buy, with
exceptional build quality, top processing and a lovely display.

The MSI GE72 6QF Apache


Pro is an eminently
RECOMMENDED powerful gaming
laptop with top specications, including
the latest Intel Skylake processor. Theres a
top-notch Nvidia GeForce 970M graphics card,
which can tackle even the most taxing games.

PROCESSOR Dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3050 RAM 2GB DIMENSIONS 20x295x203mm
WEIGHT 1.2kg SCREEN SIZE 11.6in SCREEN RESOLUTION 1,366x768 GRAPHICS ADAPTOR Intel
HD Graphics TOTAL STORAGE 16GB eMMC OPERATING SYSTEM Chrome OS PARTS AND
LABOUR WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.acer.co.uk PART NUMBER ND.20411.07Q
FULL REVIEW Apr 2016

PROCESSOR Quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ RAM 16GB DIMENSIONS


383x260x27mm WEIGHT 2.7kg SCREEN SIZE 17.3in SCREEN RESOLUTION 1.920x1,080
GRAPHICS ADAPTOR Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M TOTAL STORAGE 128GB SSD, 1TB hard disk
OPERATING SYSTEM Windows 10 Home PARTS AND LABOUR WARRANTY Two years collect &
return DETAILS uk.msi.com PART CODE GE72 6QF-014UK FULL REVIEW Feb 2016

www.currys.co.uk

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

65

Choosing a... Smartphone


01

A smartphones operating system


(OS) dictates its basic features and
which third-party software you can install.
There are three main contenders: Apples
iOS, which is found on the iPhone, Googles
Android, which is used by various handset
manufacturers, and Windows Phone, which
is mainly used on Lumia phones. Apple iOS
and Google Android have the most apps
available but Windows Phone is slowly
catching up.

02

All smartphones have colour screens,


but their resolutions vary. Basic
models have 800x480 pixels, but text can be
indistinct. Look for a display that has at least
1,280x720 pixels so its easy to browse web

pages. Dont worry too much about built-in


media players or Oce document editors;
you can always install apps to replace these
with better versions later.
The image quality of smartphone cameras
has improved tremendously in recent years,
and resolutions have increased to as high as
20 megapixels.

03

Very few modern smartphones have a


physical keyboard for entering text;
they almost exclusively use touchscreens
now. Physical keyboards can aid heavy
emailing, but todays touchscreen keyboards
work just as well.
Android smartphones and iPhones
running iOS 8 or 9 allow you to install a

variety of custom onscreen keyboards so


you can nd one that suits you.

04

Be careful when choosing a contract.


Look for one that includes a large
data allowance if you want to use the
internet regularly or youve set your phone
to synchronise your contacts, calendar and
email through online services.
Built-in Wi-Fi can help you avoid high data
charges by connecting to the internet
through wireless hotspots when youre out,
or your router when youre at home. Android
and iPhone handsets can operate as wireless
hotspots, letting you connect your laptop to
the web over your mobile data connection.
There may be an extra charge for this.

SMARTPHONES

MOTOROLA Moto X Force

480 SIM-free; free on 31.50-per-month contract


www.carphonewarehouse.com (SIM-free),
www.idmobile.co.uk (contract)

SAMSUNG Galaxy S6

370 SIM-free; free on 22-per-month contract


www.debenhamsplus.com (SIM-free),
www.carphonewarehouse.com (contract)

With its incredible shatterproof display,


you need never worry about dropping
BEST BUY
your phone ever again with the Moto X
Force. It also has great battery life and a super-fast processor.
PROCESSOR Octa-core 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SCREEN SIZE 5.4in SCREEN
RESOLUTION 2,560x1,440 REAR CAMERA 21 megapixels STORAGE 32GB WIRELESS
DATA 4G DIMENSIONS 150x78x7.6mm WEIGHT 169g OPERATING SYSTEM Android 5.1
DETAILS www.motorola.co.uk PART CODE XT1580 FULL REVIEW Mar 2016

The all-metal Galaxy S6 is Samsungs


best phone yet. Performance is fantastic
RECOMMENDED and the 2,560x1,440 screen looks gorgeous.

APPLE iPhone 6

PROCESSORS Quad-core 2.1GHz & quad-core 1.5GHz Samsung Exynos 7420 SCREEN SIZE 5.1in
SCREEN RESOLUTION 2,560x1,440 REAR CAMERA 16 megapixels STORAGE 32GB
WIRELESS DATA 4G DIMENSIONS 143x70x6.8mm WEIGHT 132g OPERATING SYSTEM
Android 5.0 WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.samsung.com/uk PART CODE
SM-G920F FULL REVIEW Jul 2015

GOOGLE Nexus 5X

459 SIM-free; free on 32.50-per-month contract


www.apple.com/uk (SIM-free, www.carphonewarehouse.
com (contract)
A larger screen, faster processor and
improved battery life make the iPhone 6 a
BEST BUY
huge improvement over the iPhone 5s, and
its now even cheaper as Apple makes way for the new iPhone 6s.

300 SIM-free; free on 19.50-per-month contract


www.carphonewarehouse (SIM-free), www.idmobile.co.uk
(contract)

BEST BUY

It might not be the prettiest phone


around, but the Nexus 5X is quick, has a great
camera and comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

PROCESSOR Dual-core 1.4GHz Apple A8 SCREEN SIZE 4.7in SCREEN RESOLUTION 1,334x750
REAR CAMERA 8 megapixels STORAGE 16GB WIRELESS DATA 4G DIMENSIONS
138x67x6.9mm WEIGHT 129g OPERATING SYSTEM iOS 9 WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.apple.com/uk PART CODE iPhone 6 FULL REVIEW Dec 2014

PROCESSOR Hexa-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 SCREEN SIZE 5.2in


SCREEN RESOLUTION 1,920x1,080 REAR CAMERA 12.3 megapixels STORAGE 16GB
WIRELESS DATA 4G DIMENSIONS 147x73x7.9mm WEIGHT 136g OPERATING SYSTEM
Android 6.0 WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.google.com/nexus/5x PART CODE
Nexus 5X FULL REVIEW Feb 2016

ONEPLUS 2

MOTOROLA Moto G (3rd Gen)

249 (SIM-free only)

oneplus.net/uk

NEW
Now cheaper than ever, the
ENTRY
OnePlus 2 is a fantastic
BEST BUY
agship smartphone at a
rock-bottom price. You wont nd anything faster
for less, and its camera is superb.
PROCESSOR Octa-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SCREEN SIZE 5.5in
SCREEN RESOLUTION 1,920x1,080 REAR CAMERA 13 megapixels STORAGE 64GB
WIRELESS DATA 4G DIMENSIONS 152x75x9.9mm WEIGHT 175g OPERATING SYSTEM
OxygenOS (Android 5.1) WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS oneplus.net/uk
PART CODE OnePlus 2 FULL REVIEW Apr 2016

66

170 SIM-free; free on 13.50-per-month contract


www.johnlewis.com (SIM-free),
www.carphonewarehouse.com (contract)

The 3rd Gen Moto G has an improved


camera, longer battery life and an
RECOMMENDED
all-new design, making it our go-to
budget smartphone.
PROCESSOR Quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SCREEN SIZE 5in SCREEN
RESOLUTION 1,280x720 REAR CAMERA 13 megapixels STORAGE 8GB WIRELESS DATA 4G
DIMENSIONS 142x72x6.1mm WEIGHT 155g OPERATING SYSTEM Android 5.1.1 DETAILS
www.motorola.co.uk PART CODE XT1541 FULL REVIEW Dec 2015

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Choosing a... Tablet


01

All tablets rely on an operating system


(OS) to run apps. You have three main
choices: Apples iOS, which runs on the iPad,
Android, which Google licenses to various
manufacturers, and Windows 10, which is
slowly becoming more common in hybrid
tablets and convertibles. If you own an Apple
or Google smartphone, you can download
your apps, music and so on to a tablet that
runs the same OS, so it makes sense to stick
with a compatible device.

02

Its important to pick a tablet that has


a good-quality high-resolution screen.
Many budget tablets have 1,280x800resolution displays, but better tablets have
Full HD 1,920x1,080 panels, and were

starting to see tablets that have even higher


screen resolutions. Some are as high as
2,560x1,600 or even 4K. Entry-level tablets
typically use TN panels, which dont have
particularly good viewing angles. The viewing
angles of IPS panels are much better.

03

If you want to listen to music, watch


lms and play games, make sure your
tablet has plenty of storage. Many tablets
come with 8GB or 16GB of internal storage,
although some budget models have less.
Youll typically pay more for a higher storage
capacity. Many tablets also have microSD
slots that let you add extra storage, although
you wont nd one on an iPad. This is a cheap
way of boosting storage capacity.

04

Tablets rarely include a SIM card slot.


This means youll have to rely on
Wi-Fi to get online, although some tablets
let you access the internet through your
smartphone. If you want mobile access to
the internet, look for 3G- and 4G-ready
devices. These almost always cost more
than Wi-Fi-only models but theyre great
if you use your tablet while commuting
or travelling.

05

Your choice of tablet determines the


apps you can use on it. You may nd
that some of the apps you want are available
on iOS but not Android and vice versa.
Windows 10, meanwhile, runs traditional
desktop applications.

TABLETS

SONY Xperia Z4 Tablet

450 inc VAT

www.expansys.com

GOOGLE Nexus 9

210 inc VAT

www.handtec.co.uk

Its expensive, but the Z4 Tablet is a stunning bit of


kit. Its lighter than the iPad Air 2, has a super-highRECOMMENDED resolution screen with the most acccurate colours
weve seen from an LCD panel, runs Android 5 beautifully and has
the longest battery life of any tablet weve tested.

The Nexus 9 is the rst


Google-branded tablet to have
BEST BUY
an iPad-style 4:3 ratio screen, which we think
is a better shape for web browsing. Android 5.0 Lollipop runs
beautifully and its battery life is superb.

PROCESSOR Octa-core 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SCREEN SIZE 10.1in SCREEN
RESOLUTION 2,560x1,600 REAR CAMERA 8.1 megapixels STORAGE 32GB WIRELESS DATA
4G (optional) DIMENSIONS 167x254x6.1mm WEIGHT 389g OPERATING SYSTEM Android 5
WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.sonymobile.com PART CODE Xperia Z4 Tablet
FULL REVIEW Aug 2015

PROCESSOR Dual-core 2.3GHz 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 Denver SCREEN SIZE 8.9in SCREEN
RESOLUTION 2,048x1,536 REAR CAMERA 8 megapixels STORAGE 16GB WIRELESS DATA
4G (optional) DIMENSIONS 154x228x8mm WEIGHT 425g OPERATING SYSTEM Android 5.0
WARRANTY One year RTB PART CODE Nexus 9 DETAILS www.google.com/nexus/9
FULL REVIEW Feb 2015

APPLE iPad Air 2

MICROSOFT Surface 3

399 inc VAT

www.apple.com/uk

The iPad Air 2 is even thinner and


lighter than its predecessor and
BEST BUY
still feels beautifully made. Its
the fastest iPad yet, and now has TouchID
ngerprint recognition for added security and
more convenient unlocking.
PROCESSOR Tri-core 1.5GHz Apple A8X SCREEN SIZE 9.7in SCREEN RESOLUTION 2,048x1,536
REAR CAMERA 8 megapixels STORAGE 16GB WIRELESS DATA 4G (optional) DIMENSIONS
240x170x6.1mm WEIGHT 437g OPERATING SYSTEM iOS 9 WARRANTY One year RTB
PART CODE Apple iPad Air 2 DETAILS www.apple.com/uk FULL REVIEW Feb 2015

ASUS ZenPad S 8

170 inc VAT

www.currys.co.uk

Cheap rarely means perfect, but


the combination of high-resolution
screen and low price makes the
Asus ZenPad S 8 one of the better
sub-200 tablets on the market.
Its beautifully styled, too, giving no indication its a budget device.
PROCESSOR Quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3560D SCREEN SIZE 8in SCREEN RESOLUTION
2,048x1,536 REAR CAMERA 8 megapixels STORAGE 16GB DIMENSIONS 203x135x6.6mm
WEIGHT 317g OPERATING SYSTEM Android 5.0 Lollipop WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.asus.com/uk PART CODE Z580C FULL REVIEW Jan 2016

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

499 inc VAT

www.currys.co.uk

If youre after a Windows tablet


but the Surface Pro 4 is too much,
RECOMMENDED the Surface 3 is the model to get.
Its beautifully made with a great screen, and with the optional
Type Cover keyboard it becomes a super-light laptop.
PROCESSOR Quad-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom X7-Z8700 SCREEN SIZE 10.8in SCREEN
RESOLUTION 1,920x1,280 REAR CAMERA 8 megapixels STORAGE 128GB WIRELESS DATA
4G (coming soon) DIMENSIONS 187x267x8.7mm WEIGHT 622g OPERATING SYSTEM
Windows 10 WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.microsoft.com PART CODE Surface 3
FULL REVIEW Aug 2015

SAMSUNG Galaxy Tab S2 9.7

400 inc VAT

www.currys.co.uk

Thanks to its amazing


screen, strong performance
RECOMMENDED and slimline chassis, the
Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 is the most desirable
Android tablet you can buy for around 400.
PROCESSOR Octa-core 1.9GHz + 1.3GHz Samsung Exynos Octa 5433 SCREEN SIZE 9.7in
SCREEN RESOLUTION 2,048x1,536 REAR CAMERA 8 megapixels STORAGE 32GB
WIRELESS DATA 4G (+90) DIMENSIONS 169x5.6x237mm WEIGHT 389g OPERATING
SYSTEM Android 5.0.2 WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.samsung.com/uk
PART CODE SM-T810 FULL REVIEW Dec 2015

67

Choosing a... Digital camera


01

A basic digital camera will suit


someone who wants to take pictures
to view on their computer and create 7x5in
prints. It should cost around 80, but there
may be hidden downsides such as slow
performance and very basic user controls.

02

Spend a little more and youll get a


higher resolution. A 16-megapixel
sensor has the potential to produce sharp
prints up to A3 size, but only if it and the lens
are of a suitably high quality. Very high
resolutions in compact cameras tend to
boost noise more than detail levels, so many
of the best models strike a sensible balance
by using a 12-megapixel sensor.
Back-illuminated CMOS sensors tend
to produce less noise than CCDs, but

921,000-dot resolutions for a sharper picture.


A touchscreen is useful for moving the
autofocus point.

check our reviews to nd out how a


particular model performs.

03

A 3x zoom lens provides you with


reasonable scope for framing your
shots, but a larger range can do wonders
for your photography. Most compact
cameras can manage a 5x zoom, while
pocket-size ultra-zoom cameras can
provide 24x zoom ranges.
Numbers such as 28-105mm tell you the
wide-angle and telephoto limits of the zoom
range. Big zooms require optical image
stabilisation to avoid blur due to camera
shake when zoomed right in.

04

Most cameras now have a 3in screen.


Look out for 460,000-dot or

05

Leave some room in your budget for a


memory card, as the bundled memory
provided with a camera is never enough. A
16GB card costs less than 10. You may also
need to buy batteries.

06

Dont forget that a cameras


specication tells you very little
about its image quality. Youll need to read
our reviews for that. With a compact
camera, we believe the user shouldnt have
to grapple with complicated controls in
order to take great pictures in a range of
lighting conditions.

PHOTOGRAPHY

PANASONIC Lumix DMC-G7

FUJIFILM X-T10

439 inc VAT (inc 100 cashback, with 14-42mm


kit lens) www.parkcameras.com

549 inc VAT (with 16-50mm kit lens)

BEST BUY

With sophisticated autofocus,


superb controls and 4K video capture, the Panasonic
G7 packs a serious punch for both video and stills.

www.jessops.com

With superb controls, classleading image quality and a low


BEST BUY
price, the X-T10 is an excellent
CSC that rivals many enthusiast digital SLRs.

SENSOR RESOLUTION 16 megapixels SENSOR SIZE 17.3x13mm FOCAL LENGTH MULTIPLIER


2x VIEWFINDER Electronic (2,360,000 dots) LCD SCREEN 3in (1,040,000 dots) OPTICAL
ZOOM (35mm-EQUIVALENT FOCAL LENGTHS) 3x (28-84mm) 35mm-EQUIVALENT APERTURE
f/7-11.2 LENS MOUNT Micro Four Thirds WEIGHT 525g DIMENSIONS 87x135x108mm
WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.panasonic.com/uk FULL REVIEW Nov 2015

SENSOR RESOLUTION 16 megapixels


SENSOR SIZE 23.6x15.6mm (APS-C)
FOCAL LENGTH
MULTIPLIER 1.5x
VIEWFINDER Electronic (2,360,000 dots)
LCD SCREEN 3in (920,000 dots)
OPTICAL ZOOM (35mm-EQUIVALENT) 3.1x (24-75mm) 35mm-EQUIVALENT f/5.2-8.4 LENS
MOUNT Fujifilm X Mount WEIGHT 576g (with 16-50mm lens) DIMENSIONS 85x130x116mm
WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.fujifilm.eu/uk FULL REVIEW Dec 2015

PANASONIC Lumix DMC-FZ330

CANON EOS 750D

399 inc VAT (inc 50 cashback)

www.wexphotographic.com

529 inc VAT (with 18-55mm kit lens)

www.currys.co.uk

A bridge camera with a huge


25-600mm zoom range that
BEST BUY
maintains a fast F2.8 aperture
across the whole focal range.

The new mainstay of Canons


SLR line-up has better autofocus,
BEST BUY
D5500-beating image quality
and decent video. Its the mid-range SLR to buy.

SENSOR RESOLUTION 12 megapixels SENSOR SIZE 1/2.3in VIEWFINDER Electronic (1,440,000


dots) LCD SCREEN 3in (1,040,000 dots) OPTICAL ZOOM (35mm-EQUIVALENT FOCAL
LENGTHS) 24x (25-600mm) 35mm-EQUIVALENT APERTURE f/15.6 WEIGHT 703g
DIMENSIONS 93x133x122mm WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.panasonic.com/uk
FULL REVIEW Jan 2016

SENSOR RESOLUTION 24 megapixels SENSOR SIZE 22.3x14.9mm (APS-C)


FOCAL LENGTH MULTIPLIER 1.6x VIEWFINDER Optical LCD SCREEN 3in OPTICAL ZOOM
(35mm-EQUIVALENT FOCAL LENGTHS) 3x (29-88mm) 35mm-EQUIVALENT APERTURE f/5.6-9
LENS MOUNT Canon EF-S WEIGHT 771g DIMENSIONS 104x132x148mm WARRANTY One
year RTB DETAILS www.canon.co.uk FULL REVIEW Oct 2015

CANON PowerShot G7 X

NIKON D7200

372 inc VAT

68

www.jessops.com

749 inc VAT (body only)

www.jessops.com

With near SLR-quality stills


in a truly pocketable package,
BEST BUY
the PowerShot G7 X is a huge
step up from most other compact cameras
and at an excellent price.

Best-in-class image quality


and sublime ergonomics take
BEST BUY
the Nikon D7200 to the top of
the pack for enthusiast DSLRs, whether youve already
invested in the Nikon ecosystem or not.

SENSOR RESOLUTION 20 megapixels SENSOR SIZE 1in VIEWFINDER None LCD SCREEN 3in
(1,040,000 dots) OPTICAL ZOOM (35mm-EQUIVALENT FOCAL LENGTHS) 4.2x (24-100mm)
35mm-EQUIVALENT APERTURE f/4.9-7.6 WEIGHT 301g DIMENSIONS 64x107x40mm
WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.canon.co.uk FULL REVIEW Oct 2015

SENSOR RESOLUTION 24 megapixels SENSOR SIZE 23.5x15.6mm (APS-C) FOCAL LENGTH


MULTIPLIER 1.5x VIEWFINDER Optical TTL LCD SCREEN 3.2in (1,229,000 dots) LENS
MOUNT Nikon F Mount WEIGHT 765g DIMENSIONS 107x136x76mm WARRANTY Two years
RTB DETAILS www.europe-nikon.com FULL REVIEW Aug 2015

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Choosing a... Display


01

A basic 24in LCD monitor costs


around 100. It will be ne for typical
Windows work but is likely to have poor
viewing angles, so youll need to sit straight
on for the best picture quality. Its colour
accuracy may not be very good, either.

02

A VGA input lets you use the monitor


with any PC, but the quality may not
be as good as it is over DVI or HDMI. Both
are digital connections and require a
compatible graphics card but they avoid the
need for digital-to-analogue or analogue-todigital conversions, which can reduce image
quality. A digital connection achieves the
best picture automatically, so you wont have
to adjust clock or phase settings as you do
with analogue connections.

Many DVI and all HDMI connections


support HDCP, which lets you watch
protected video content, such as Blu-ray
movies. DisplayPort is becoming more
popular, but youll need a graphics card with
a DisplayPort output (mini or full-size) to
use this input on your monitor.

03

A larger monitor will be easier on the


eye and may have a higher resolution.
Most monitors have a resolution of at least
1,920x1,080 (1080p), which provides lots of
room for working with multiple windows at
the same time. For even higher resolutions,
youll need a larger display. Some 27in and
30in screens have 2,560x1,600 or even 4K
resolutions. Youll need a graphics card with
a dual-link DVI output and a dual-link DVI

cable or either HDMI or DisplayPort to use a


monitor at these resolutions.

04

If you want better picture quality,


look for a monitor with a high
contrast ratio. The higher the ratio, the
whiter the whites and the blacker the blacks.
Youll also be able to see more ne detail in
images with high contrast levels. Viewing
angles are important, as wider angles mean
you dont have to sit directly in front of the
monitor to get the best picture. Wider
viewing angles also allow more people to
view the screen at the same time.
Fast response times reduce ghosting,
but dont be dazzled by the numbers. A
response time of 25ms or quicker is ne
for all applications.

DISPLAYS

BENQ GW2765HT

270 inc VAT

www.ebuyer.com

VIEWSONIC VX2363Smhl-W

132 inc VAT

www.dabs.com

This 27in 2,560x1,440


IPS monitor is one of
BEST BUY
the best-value screens
weve ever seen. With near-perfect
sRGB colour accuracy out of the box,
its a steal for less than 300.

The 23in VX2363Smhl-W


stands out from the crowd
RECOMMENDED with its white stand, IPS
screen and great overall image quality.
Its a good budget buy for those who have
modest needs.

SCREEN SIZE 27in RESOLUTION 2,560x1,440 SCREEN TECHNOLOGY IPS VIDEO INPUTS
VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort WARRANTY Two years onsite PART CODE 9H.LCELA.TBE
DETAILS www.benq.co.uk FULL REVIEW Jan 2015

SCREEN SIZE 23in RESOLUTION 1,920x1,080 SCREEN TECHNOLOGY IPS VIDEO INPUTS
VGA, HDMI, MHL-compatible HDMI WARRANTY Two years collect and return PART CODE
VX2363Smhl-W DETAILS www.viewsoniceurope.com FULL REVIEW Jan 2015

IIYAMA ProLite GB2488HSU-B1

ASUS PB279Q

200 inc VAT

www.box.co.uk

570 inc VAT

www.laptopsdirect.co.uk

Gamers need look no


further than the Iiyama
BEST BUY
ProLite GB2488HSU-B1.
Its a no-nonsense Full HD panel with a
144Hz refresh rate for lightning-fast
games performance.

If youre remotely serious


about design, photography
y or
BEST BUY
gaming and want an Ultra HD
screen, this is the monitor to choose. Its plain
n to
look at and has no USB hub, but in terms of pure image quality,
nothing beats it at this price.

SCREEN SIZE 24in RESOLUTION 1,920x1,080 SCREEN TECHNOLOGY TN VIDEO INPUTS 2x


HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort WARRANTY Two years onsite PART CODE ProLite GB2488HSU-B1
DETAILS www.iiyama.com FULL REVIEW Aug 2014

SCREEN SIZE 27in RESOLUTION 3,840x2,160 SCREEN TECHNOLOGY AHVA REFRESH RATE
60Hz VIDEO INPUTS 4x HDMI, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort WARRANTY Three years RTB
DETAILS www.asus.com/uk FULL REVIEW Apr 2015

SAMSUNG S32D850T

AOC U3477PQU

405 inc VAT

www.laptopsdirect.co.uk

500 inc VAT

www.currys.co.uk

Its not cheap, but this


32in monitor is actually
BEST BUY
great value. Images are
sharp and vibrant on its 2,560x1,440
panel, and the stand is among the most
attractive weve seen.

Ultra-wide monitors are


best suited to those who
BEST BUY
want to multitask on
two full-size windows at once, but also kick back with a lm or game
in the evening. AOCs U3477PQU is the best example weve seen so
far, with an incredible panel and excellent build quality.

SCREEN SIZE 32in RESOLUTION 2,560x1,440 SCREEN TECHNOLOGY VA VIDEO INPUTS


HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort WARRANTY Two years collect and return PART CODE S32D850T
DETAILS www.samsung.com/uk FULL REVIEW Jan 2015

SCREEN SIZE 34in RESOLUTION 3,840x1,440 SCREEN TECHNOLOGY IPS REFRESH RATE
60Hz VIDEO INPUTS DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, VGA WARRANTY Three years RTB DETAILS
www.aoc-europe.com FULL REVIEW May 2015

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

69

Choosing a... TV
01

A 32in Full HD TV costs around


200 and will suit smaller living
rooms. TVs look much smaller in the shop
than in your home, so measure the space
available before you buy.
Curved TVs are becoming increasingly
more common, but bear in mind that these
typically take up more oor space than a
traditional at set.

02

A 1,920x1,080-resolution TV can
display a 1080p image. You can still
buy TVs with a 720p (1,366x768) resolution,
but theyre no cheaper and the image wont
be as sharp. 3,840x2,560 Ultra HD resolution,
or 4K, TVs are nally available at reasonable
prices, although youll still pay a premium for
one over a 1080p model.

03

Consider the number of inputs


youll need to connect the rest of
your equipment. Two HDMI ports should be
the bare minimum, but many TV sets come
with four HDMI connectors. Youll need
HDMI 2.0 if you want a future-proof 4K TV,
as this is the only way to get 60fps video
playback from external sources at such
a high resolution.
If you want to plug a PC into your TV,
youll need to use either HDMI or VGA
inputs. Be aware that some TVs only let you
use a PC on an analogue input, and others
wont display the Windows desktop at the
TVs highest resolution.

04

The contrast ratio tells you the


difference between the darkest

and the brightest shades that the screen


will be able to display. The higher the
number, the darker the blacks and the
brighter the whites. A screen with a high
contrast ratio is more likely to show a
wider range of detail.

05

HD content is now becoming fairly


widespread, but if you want Ultra
HD content your options are more limited.
Most Ultra HD TVs have Netix built into
their smart TV systems, but only BT is
currently providing live Ultra HD video,
with BT Sport Ultra HD.
Ultra HD Blu-ray players are due to arrive
in 2016, but in the meantime Amazons Fire
TV set-top box will stream its Instant Video
service at Ultra HD resolutions.

HOME CINEMA

PANASONIC TX-55CX700B

849 inc VAT

SAMSUNG UE32J6300

www.currys.co.uk

312 inc VAT

Even before Currys


slashed the price by 100,
BEST BUY
this was a great-value TV.
Outstanding 4K and Full HD image quality,
a great smart TV operating system and a brilliant line-up of
streaming and catch-up services make this TV a no-brainer.

It might look expensive for


the screen size, but the
RECOMMENDED UE32J6300 is jam-packed with
features, including one of the best smart TV systems
around and every major UK catch-up TV service. Its the ideal
small TV for a bedroom, kitchen or oce.

SCREEN SIZE 55in NATIVE RESOLUTION 3,840x2,160 VIDEO INPUTS 3x HDMI (2x ARC), SCART,
component, composite TUNER Freeview HD DIMENSIONS 762x1,237x242mm WARRANTY
One year RTB DETAILS www.panasonic.com PART CODE TX-55CX700B FULL REVIEW Jan 2016

SCREEN SIZE 32in NATIVE RESOLUTION 1,920x1,080 VIDEO INPUTS 4x HDMI, component,
composite TUNER Freeview HD DIMENSIONS 428x370x91mm WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.samsung.com/uk PART CODE UE32J6300AK FULL REVIEW Dec 2015

SAMSUNG BD-J7500

LG LHB725

150 inc VAT

www.currys.co.uk

299 inc VAT

4K upscaling,
fantastic image
RECOMMENDED quality and a wealth of
streaming service support makes the BD-J7500 so
much more than just a Blu-ray player: it can turn any TV into
a smart one, or replace a streaming media stick.

ao.com

A 3D-capable
home-cinema
RECOMMENDED surround system with a Blu-ray player that has
fantastic image quality and speakers that deliver powerful sound, all
housed in an attractive package.

BLU-RAY PROFILE 5.0 3D CAPABLE Yes DIMENSIONS 360x224x39mm NETWORKING


Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.samsung.com/uk
PART CODE BD-J7500 FULL REVIEW Nov 2015

HDMI INPUTS/OUTPUTS 2/1 HDMI 2.0 INPUTS/OUTPUTS 2/1 OUTPUT RESOLUTIONS 720p,
1080p WIRELESS SUPPORT 802.11n, Bluetooth SPEAKER CONFIGURATION 5.1
RMS POWER OUTPUT TOTAL 1,200W DIMENSIONS 410x55x260mm WARRANTY One year
RTB DETAILS www.lg.com/uk PART CODE LHB725 FULL REVIEW Oct 2015

SONY HT-XT3

PHILIPS Fidelio XS1 SoundStage

349 inc VAT

70

www.ebuyer.com

www.super.co.uk

NEW
ENTRY

450 inc VAT

www.amazon.co.uk

The HT-XT3 is a classy-looking


soundbase that delivers great audio,
BEST BUY
with its integrated subwoofer helping to
pump out seismic bass. It also provides a degree of future-proong
with its 4K pass-through support, and can be linked together with
other Sony speakers for a multiroom audio setup.

Stage
The Fidelio XS1 SoundStage
is a beautiful-looking
BEST BUY
soundbase with sound
quality that matches its stunning design. There
are plenty of connections, including Bluetooth, and the wireless
subwoofer delivers the lower frequencies with aplomb.

SPEAKERS 2+2 RMS POWER OUTPUT 350W (total) DIMENSIONS 750x358x83mm WEIGHT
10.5kg DOCK CONNECTOR None NETWORKING Bluetooth (SBC, LDAC) WARRANTY One
year RTB DETAILS www.sony.co.uk PART CODE HT-XT3 FULL REVIEW Mar 2016

SPEAKERS 3 RMS POWER OUTPUT 60W DIMENSIONS 730x331x40mm WEIGHT 5.3kg


DOCK CONNECTOR None NETWORKING Bluetooth (SBC, aptX, AAC) WARRANTY One year
RTB DETAILS www.philips.co.uk PART CODE Fidelio XS1/12 FULL REVIEW Jan 2016

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Choosing a... Bluetooth speaker


01

Bluetooth speakers come in all shapes


and sizes, so youll need to decide
what you want to do with the speaker before
you buy. If you dont plan to take your music
outdoors or around the house, look for a
wired speaker. These are typically cheaper
than speakers with built-in batteries.
If you do want a portable speaker,
however, pay particular attention to how
much it weighs. Ruggedised models should
be able to survive accidental drops, water
spills and unexpected rain showers.

02

Many of the cheapest Bluetooth


speakers use the lossy A2DP
Bluetooth protocol, which is prone to
compressing your music and discarding
detail compared with the original recording.

Its hard to tell the difference when listening


to pocket-sized speakers, but if youre
looking for a speaker to ll a room, an
aptX-compatible device is a better option.
This Bluetooth protocol retains more detail
than the A2DP prole, although youll need
to use it with a compatible smartphone in
order to get the benets.

03

As with any audio product, the


number and size of speaker drivers
can have a signicant impact on the quality
of sound you get from a Bluetooth speaker.
Typically, the presence of multiple drivers
enables the manufacturer to tune each one
for specic frequencies, directing high-end
sounds towards a tweeter and sending the
mid-range frequencies to the main driver.

Single-driver speakers with larger driver


cones can be just as capable of producing
fantastic audio, however.

04

Most Bluetooth speakers have at


least one auxiliary input for a wired
3.5mm audio jack, in case you want to
listen to music from a device that doesnt
have Bluetooth.
There are other extra features to look out
for, though. Speakers with built-in batteries
may have a USB port for charging your
smartphone, or a built-in microphone to turn
it into a speakerphone when a paired
smartphone receives a call. Not all speakers
have physical controls; many rely on your
paired devices controls for adjusting the
volume or muting playback.

AUDIO

PHILIPS Fidelio M2BT

166 inc VAT

www.amazon.co.uk

The Philips Fidelio M2BT


are premium Bluetooth
BEST BUY
headphones that sound
great, look fantastic and are supremely
comfortable to wear. Battery life is pretty
reasonable, too, at around 10 hours.

RAUMFELD One S

200 inc VAT

uk.raumfeld.com

The One S is a great


compact speaker that
RECOMMENDED sounds great solo or even
better as a stereo pair, and it has a classy
design that matches its rened sound.

HEADPHONES SUBTYPE On-ear Bluetooth PLUG TYPE 3.5mm jack plug WEIGHT 190g
CABLE LENGTH 1.2m WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.philips.co.uk
PART CODE Philips Fidelio M2BTBK FULL REVIEW Apr 2015

SPEAKERS 2 RMS POWER OUTPUT 30W DOCK CONNECTOR None NETWORKING 802.11n
Wi-Fi, Ethernet DIMENSIONS 180x110x130mm WEIGHT 1.4kg STREAMING FORMATS UPnP,
Mesh Network WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS uk.raumfeld.com PART CODE One S
FULL REVIEW Nov 2015

RAZER Leviathan

ULTIMATE EARS UE Megaboom

150 inc VAT

www.box.co.uk

200 inc VAT

www.amazon.co.uk

Soundbars are
usually built for
RECOMMENDED TVs, but Razers
Leviathan is ideal for sliding underneath a computer
monitor. It sounds great and is more than loud enough to ll a room.
It also has built-in Bluetooth streaming.

The Ultimate Ears UE Megaboom is


an intensely loud and powerful
RECOMMENDED Bluetooth speaker that provides a
warm and impactful sound. Its waterproof, too, so
could provide some entertainment by the poolside
or at your next barbeque.

SPEAKERS 4 RMS POWER OUTPUT 30W WEIGHT 2kg (bar), 2.3kg (subwoofer)
NETWORKING Bluetooth (SBC, aptX) WARRANTY Two years RTB DETAILS www.razerzone.
com PART CODE RZ05-01260100-R3G1 FULL REVIEW Jul 2015

SPEAKERS 4 RMS POWER OUTPUT Not disclosed DOCK CONNECTOR None WIRELESS
Bluetooth (SBC) DIMENSIONS 83x83x226mm WEIGHT 877g WARRANTY Two years RTB
DETAILS www.ultimateears.com PART CODE UE Megaboom FULL REVIEW Aug 2015

ARCAM miniBlink

BOWERS & WILKINS


Zeppelin Wirelesss

100 inc VAT

www.petertyson.co.uk

While slightly more


expensive than some
RECOMMENDED rival devices, the
miniBlink Bluetooth adaptor makes up for it with high-quality
components and an attractive design. The miniBlink makes for a
great match even for high-end audio systems if you want to add
wire-free Bluetooth streaming.
WARRANTY Two years RTB DETAILS www.arcam.co.uk PART CODE miniBlink
FULL REVIEW Aug 2014

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

500 inc VAT

NEW
ENTRY

om
www.johnlewis.com

An update to a design classic, the Zeppelin Wireless


improves on its predecessor with Bluetooth and a
RECOMMENDED sleeker design but retains its fantastic sound quality.
SPEAKERS 5 RMS POWER OUTPUT 150W DOCK CONNECTOR None NETWORKING
Bluetooth (SBC, aptX), 802.11n Wi-Fi, Ethernet DIMENSIONS 660x183x188mm WEIGHT 6.5kg
STREAMING FORMATS AirPlay, Bluetooth WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.
bowers-wilkins.co.uk PART CODE Zeppelin Wireless FULL REVIEW Feb 2016

71

Choosing an... Action camera


01

Action cameras are typically much


smaller than a regular camcorder, as
they are designed to be mounted to a bike,
board or car, or worn on your person. As the
name suggests, they are designed primarily
for shooting action footage, but because of
their small size they are ideal for strapping
on to your pets collar or your childrens toys
for a different perspective.

02

Almost all action cameras will shoot


Full HD video, and some will even
shoot 4K, but frame rate is arguably more
important than resolution when it comes to
action video. Higher frame rates will mean
smoother clips, and super-high frame rate
videos can be played in slow motion to
emphasise exciting shots.

Keep an eye out for 4k/30, 1080p/60 and


720p/120 models for the widest possible
choice of resolutions and frame rates.

03

Most action cameras rely on ash


memory for storing your video,
letting you swap out memory cards on the
y when you ll one up with clips. More
expensive devices can have integrated
ash memory as well as a card slot, but
its typically cheaper to buy the basic
version of a camera and pick up memory
cards separately.

04

Not all action cameras have LCD


displays; in fact, many deliberately
dont include a sceen in order to extend
battery life.

If you want to be able to see exactly


what youre pointing the lens at, keep an
eye out for cameras with companion
smartphone apps, or wrist-mounted
viewnders that also let you start and
stop shooting remotely.

05

Action cameras typically have a huge


range of accessories, with specic
mounts and harnesses for different activities
and sports. If the camera itself isnt water
resistant, a weatherproof case will protect it
from the elements, while a tripod mount will
let you lock it rmly in place.
Spare batteries are essential for longer
shoots, and some decent video-editing
software will help you to produce a more
polished result.

VIDEO

AMAZON Fire TV Stick

35 inc VAT

GOPRO Hero4 Black

www.amazon.co.uk

320 inc VAT

This bargain mediastreaming device excels for


RECOMMENDED Amazon Prime subscribers.
Even if youre not, youll get good mileage out of it with platforms
such as Plex. Its our favourite discrete streaming device.

The GoPro Hero4 Black doesnt


deviate from the existing GoPro
RECOMMENDED template but its an excellent action camera
that introduces stunning 4K video at 30fps. You also get support
for a wide range of mounts and accessories.

VIDEO OUTPUTS HDMI 1.4 NETWORKING 802.11n DIMENSIONS 115x115x17mm


STREAMING FORMATS UPnP, AirPlay, DLNA INTERNET STREAMING SERVICES iPlayer, Netflix,
Sky News, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, Amazon Instant Video, TVPlayer WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.amazon.co.uk PART CODE Fire TV Stick FULL REVIEW Aug 2015

SENSOR 1/2.3in CMOS SENSOR PIXELS 12,000,000 MAX RECORDING RESOLUTION 4K


(30fps) AV CONNECTIONS Micro HDMI output, 3.5mm microphone to Mini USB (optional)
DIMENSIONS 41x59x30mm WEIGHT 89g (152g with housing) WARRANTY One year RTB
PART CODE CHDHX-4-1-EU DETAILS www.gopro.com FULL REVIEW May 2015

HUMAX HDR-1100S 500GB

VEHO Muvi K2 NPNG

190 inc VAT

www.johnlewis.com

218 inc VAT

www.amazon.co.uk

The Humax
HDR-1100S is
BEST BUY
an attractive
Freesat+ PVR thats easy to use
and integrates catch-up TV seamlessly
through Freetime.

The K2 packs in plenty of


action camera features
RECOMMENDED for a budget price, and
comes with a generous number of accessories,
including a useful hard transport case. Image
quality is very respectable, too.

TUNERS 2x DVB-S2 Freesat DIMENSIONS 280x48x200mm NETWORKING Gigabit Ethernet,


802.11n Wi-Fi INTERNAL DISK CAPACITY 500GB WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS
www.humaxdirect.co.uk PART CODE HDR-1100S-White FULL REVIEW Dec 2015

SENSOR PIXELS 16,000,000 MAX RECORDING RESOLUTION 1080p (60fps) AV


CONNECTIONS Mini HDMI DIMENSIONS 40x23x60mm WEIGHT 84g WARRANTY One year
RTB DETAILS www.veho-muvi.com PART CODE K2NPNG FULL REVIEW Dec 2015

PANASONIC HC-VX980

HAUPPAUGE HD PVR Rocket

603 inc VAT

www.photospecialist.co.uk

NEW
ENTRY

This 4K-capable camcorder


lets you capture 8-megapixel
RECOMMENDED stills from 4K video. It has fantastic image
stabilisation and its HDR video mode can help with exposing dicult
scenes. The newest model has been updated with more useful 4K
cropping modes and slow-motion features, too.
OPTICAL ZOOM 20x SENSOR 1/2.3in BSI MOS LCD SCREEN 3in, 460,800 dots
DIMENSIONS 73x65x139mm WEIGHT 351g WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.panasonic.com PART CODE HC-VX980 FULL REVIEW Apr 2016

72

www.argos.co.uk

90 inc VAT

www.maplin.co.uk

The HD PVR Rocket


lets you record your
RECOMMENDED gameplay whether youre
re
playing on a PC or games console, and
d you can
even record your own commentary as you play thanks to its built-in
microphone input. Its well designed, with a large, red Record button
and the ability to record directly to a USB drive.
WARRANTY Two years RTB
FULL REVIEW Apr 2013

DETAILS www.hauppauge.co.uk PART CODE 1527


MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Choosing an... Inkjet printer


01

You should be able to buy a decent


inkjet printer for less than 40.
High-quality printing is possible on such a
printer, but it will be slow. The actual print
speed of an inkjet can be half the quoted
(maximum) speed for text documents,
and even slower when printing graphics.
Budget inkjet printers such as these are
designed only for light use and can be
expensive to run.

02

For 60 you can buy a much more


capable printer thats either faster and
better built or better at reproducing photos.
If documents are your priority, youll want a
high minimum speed and low print costs.
Look for inkjets that can handle all your
oce media, such as envelopes and labels.

03

If photos are your priority, speed is


less important. Choose a printer that
reproduces subtle tones well. You cant
determine this by looking at the
specications only hands-on testing will
do, so remember to check our reviews
before you buy.
Borderless printing (up to the edge of
the paper) should also be possible. Pay
particular attention to running costs:
photos use three times as much ink as
regular colour documents.

04

Heavy-duty oce inkjets can cost


up to 1,000 and their build quality
is improving. They use large individual ink
tanks, which can cut running costs.
Printers with automatic duplex (double-

sided) printing or A3 capabilities are now


much more affordable.

05

Pricier photo printers let you print


from memory cards plugged straight
into the printer, so you dont need to use a
PC. An LCD preview screen offers greater
control for this method of printing. Many
inkjet printers now have a PictBridge USB
port, which you can use to print images
directly from most digital cameras.

06

If youre really serious about


photography, consider buying an
inkjet that can produce borderless prints
up to A3 size. The best devices can print
photos that look nearly as good as those
from professional labs.

PRINTERS & SCANNERS

RICOH SP 3600DN

165 inc VAT

www.ebuyer.com

The SP 3600DN can


print up to 50,000 pages
BUSINESS BUY per month at 30ppm.
The quality is good, and each page costs
only about 1.2p. Its a good choice for a
busy small rm.

CANON i-Sensys LBP7780Cx

415 inc VAT

www.printerland.co.uk

Its somewhat expensive


to buy, but the Canon
BEST BUY
i-Sensys LBP7780Cx is very
cheap to run, and produces impressively
high-quality prints.

TECHNOLOGY Mono LED MAXIMUM PRINT RESOLUTION 1,200x1,200dpi DIMENSIONS


268x370x392mm WEIGHT 14.5kg MAXIMUM PAPER SIZE A4/legal WARRANTY Two years
RTB DETAILS www.ricoh.co.uk PART CODE 906231 FULL REVIEW Oct 2015

TECHNOLOGY Single-pass colour laser MAXIMUM PRINT RESOLUTION 600x600dpi


DIMENSIONS 401x517x530mm WEIGHT 31kg MAXIMUM PAPER SIZE A4/legal
WARRANTY One year onsite DETAILS www.canon.co.uk PART CODE 6140B010AA
FULL REVIEW Mar 2015

EPSON Expression Photo XP-760

CANON Pixma MG5750

100 inc VAT

www.amazon.co.uk

70 inc VAT

www.box.co.uk

NEW
ENTRY

Its not brilliant for


printing oce
BEST BUY
documents, but if you
want great photos and brilliant scanning,
Epsons good-looking and compact XP-760 is perfect.

The MG5750 is good


value with a great
BEST BUY
balance of features
and quality. Its strong performance
lets us forgive less-than-perfect controls.

TECHNOLOGY Piezo inkjet MAXIMUM PRINT RESOLUTION 5,760x1,440dpi


SCANNER RESOLUTION 2,400x4,800dpi DIMENSIONS 148x455x369mm WEIGHT 6.9kg
MAXIMUM PAPER SIZE A4/legal WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.epson.co.uk
PART CODE C11CD96401 FULL REVIEW Mar 2015

TECHNOLOGY Thermal inkjet MAXIMUM PRINT RESOLUTION 4,800x1,200dpi


SCANNER RESOLUTION 1,200x2,400dpi DIMENSIONS 148x455x369mm WEIGHT 6.3kg
MAXIMUM PAPER SIZE A4/legal WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.canon.co.uk
PART CODE 0557C006 FULL REVIEW Apr 2016

HP Ofcejet Pro X476dw

PLUSTEK eScan A150

244 inc VAT

www.ebuyer.com

It may be an inkjet, but HPs


MFP beats many colour
BEST BUY
lasers in terms of speed,
print quality and running costs. Its ideal for
homes and small oces alike.
TECHNOLOGY Thermal inkjet MAXIMUM PRINT RESOLUTION 2,400x1,200dpi
SCANNER RESOLUTION 1,200x1,200dpi DIMENSIONS 517x517x399mm WEIGHT 24kg
MAXIMUM PAPER SIZE A4/legal WARRANTY One year onsite DETAILS www.hp.co.uk
PART CODE CN461A FULL REVIEW March 2015

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

386 inc VAT

www.ebuyer.com

A very easy-to-use
document scanner that
RECOMMENDED can scan both sides of a
document at once, and lets you organise
your scans onscreen before saving them
to a computer, USB disk or Android device.
SCANNER TYPE Document scanner MAXIMUM OPTICAL SCAN RESOLUTION 600x600dpi
DIMENSIONS 189x318x170mm WEIGHT 2.8kg WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.
plustek.com/uk PART CODE 0263UK FULL REVIEW Feb 2016

73

Choosing a... Wireless router


01

Wireless routers each use a number


of Wi-Fi standards, so you shouldnt
have any trouble connecting your computer
or phone wirelessly if you get an 802.11n or
802.11ac router. Nearly all routers support
802.11n, so even a cheap model should
provide decent performance.
You can expect a transfer speed of around
40Mbit/s at a distance of 10m from any
modern 802.11n router. The very latest
routers use the 802.11ac standard, which
provides tremendously fast transfer
speeds. Some devices still dont support
the 802.11ac standard, so check the
specications before you buy.

02

If you subscribe to an ADSL


broadband service, you should buy

a wireless router that has a built-in ADSL


modem. This will cost more than the
equivalent cable router, but it allows you
to connect your router directly to your
broadband connection without having to
use a separate modem.

03

Most 802.11n wireless routers use


the 2.4GHz frequency band. This has
good range but it can be prone to
interference if its positioned close to a lot
of other 2.4GHz devices, such as other
routers and baby monitors. If you have
trouble getting a consistent signal or you
want faster speeds for video streaming, for
example, its worth buying a dual-band
router that can use both the 2.4GHz and
5GHz bands.

Alternatively, a high-gain antenna can


boost signals and improve ranges and
throughputs to the entire house. You can
also add a high-gain antenna to a PCs
network adaptor. If wired network speeds
are a priority, you should look for a router
with a Gigabit Ethernet connection.

04

Many routers come with built-in USB


ports that let you connect a USB
drive and use the router as a network storage
device. If you want to share a USB printer
over your network, look for a wireless router
that has a USB print server.
Finally, if youre interested in making voice
calls over the internet, buy a router with
built-in VoIP support (and phone sockets)
because this can save you money.

NETWORKS

TP-LINK Archer C9

BT Dual-Band
Wi-Fi Extender 1200

www.currys.co.uk

105 inc VAT

50 inc VAT

It doesnt have a modem, so


youll need to pair it with your
BEST BUY
ISPs cable, ASDL or bre modem,
but the Archer C9 is an incredibly capable router
with plenty of features and fantastic wireless
performance, at a very reasonable price.
MODEM None WI-FI STANDARD 802.11ac STATED SPEED 1,900Mbit/s USB PORTS 1x USB3,
1x USB2 WALL MOUNTABLE No WARRANTY Three years RTB DETAILS uk.tp-link.com
PART CODE Archer C9 FULL REVIEW Sep 2015

DEVOLO dLAN 1200+ Starter Kit

90 inc VAT

www.amazon.co.uk

ASUS EA-AC87

www.box.co.uk

www.currys.co.uk

MODEM None WI-FI STANDARD 802.11ac STATED SPEED 1,734Mbit/s USB PORTS 0
WALL MOUNTABLE Yes WARRANTY Two years RTB DETAILS www.asus.com/uk
PART CODE 90IG01A0-BU9000 FULL REVIEW Sep 2015

NETGEAR Arlo

280 inc VAT

www.currys.co.uk

Its expensive, but the Canary is a great one-box,


cloud-based home security camera thats easy to
use and produces high-quality footage.

Incredibly exible camera


placement and great image
RECOMMENDED quality make Netgears
Arlo a fantastic home security system,
even if the base station is a tad expensive.

SENSOR Not disclosed VIEWING ANGLE 147 wide angle VIDEO RECORDING FRAME
RATES 1080p (30fps) NIGHT VISION MODE Infrared LEDs DIMENSIONS 152x76x76mm
WEIGHT 400g WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS canary.is PART CODE CT100UKWT
FULL REVIEW Mar 2016

SENSOR CMOS (size not stated) VIEWING ANGLE Horizontal 130 VIDEO RECORDING
(FRAME RATES) 720p (24fps) NIGHT VISION MODE Infrared LEDs DIMENSIONS 71x40x63mm
WEIGHT 110g WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.arlo.com/uk PART CODE 131178
FULL REVIEW Sep 2015

160 inc VAT

74

WI-FI STANDARD 802.11ac STATED SPEED 867Mbit/s LAN PORTS 1 WARRANTY Three
years RTB DETAILS www.shop.bt.com PART CODE 80462 FULL REVIEW Aug 2015

Its much larger than


the average range
RECOMMENDED extender, but thats only
to make room for a whopping ve Gigabit
Ethernet ports. The EA-AC87 can also act as an access point,
replacing your router.

CANARY
All-In-One Security

This fast wireless extender is very


easy to set up and is the perfect
RECOMMENDED companion to an 802.11ac router.
The wired LAN port lets you connect a wired device to
your wireless network, too.

114 inc VAT

The fastest Powerline


networking kit weve seen, and
RECOMMENDED even though youre limited to
a single Gigabit Ethernet connection, its the
ideal way to network a single computer. The
passthrough sockets are very convenient, too.
POWERLINE NETWORKING STANDARD HomePlug STATED SPEED 1,200Mbit/s
ADAPTORS IN BOX 2 WARRANTY Three years RTB DETAILS www.develo.com/uk
PART CODE 09378 FULL REVIEW Feb 2015

www.currys.co.uk

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Choosing an... Internal hard disk


01

A basic 1TB internal hard disk should


cost around 40. This will be fast
enough for general use and will provide
enough storage for most users.
Make sure the hard disk you choose has
the appropriate interface type for your PC.
Some mechanical hard disks still come with
SATA2 interfaces, but newer models and
most solid-state drives (SSDs) have faster
SATA3 interfaces. Youll need a motherboard
with a SATA3 port if you want to benet
from SATA3s faster speeds; SATA3 disks will
work with SATA2 ports but can only transfer
les at SATA2 speeds.

02

SSDs can make the most of SATA3s


extra bandwidth for fast le transfers.
They use ash memory similar to that found

in USB ash drives, and although they tend


to provide less capacity than mechanical hard
disks, theyre signicantly faster.

03

Buy a hard disk that provides more


capacity than you think you need, as
your storage requirements are likely to grow.
A 3TB disk strikes the best balance between
capacity and low cost per gigabyte, but in
general you should aim to buy the largest
disk you can afford.

04

If you want more disk space or you


want to protect your data against
disk failure, think about buying several hard
disks to create a RAID array. These use
multiple hard disks to create one large
logical disk with better performance, or to

duplicate your data for better protection.


RAID arrays require hard disks of the same
size. In theory, they can be from different
manufacturers, but its better to buy identical
disks if you can.

05

A hard disks spindle speed


determines how quickly it can
transfer data. A spindle speed of 7,200rpm
is common in desktop drives and is fast
enough for most purposes. Desktop hard
disks with 5,400rpm spindle speeds are
quite slow but use less power and generate
less heat and noise.
To strike the best balance between
speed and storage capacity, use an SSD as
your system disk and store your les on a
larger mechanical disk.

STORAGE

SAMSUNG 850 Evo 500GB

www.scan.co.uk

129 inc VAT

Samsungs 850 Evo is simply


the fastest SATA SSD around,
RECOMMENDED and its available in a wide
range of capacities. The 2TB model might be
expensive at around 527 (from www.scan.co.uk),
but it means saying goodbye to mechanical storage for good.

WESTERN DIGITAL Red 6TB

215 inc VAT

www.dabs.com

The Red 6TB


combines excellent
BEST BUY
performance with a
high capacity and special rmware to
make a hard disk thats perfect for use in NAS
enclosures. Its guaranteed for three years, too,
which should provide peace of mind.

CAPACITY 500GB COST PER GIGABYTE 0.26 INTERFACE SATA3 CLAIMED READ 540MB/s
CLAIMED WRITE 520MB/s WARRANTY Five years RTB DETAILS www.samsung.com/uk
PART CODE MZ-75E500BW/EU FULL REVIEW Oct 2015

CAPACITY 6TB PRICE PER GIGABYTE 0.03 INTERFACE SATA3 WARRANTY Three years
RTB DETAILS www.wdc.com PART CODE WD60EFRX FULL REVIEW Nov 2014

SYNOLOGY DiskStation DS215J

SAMSUNG T1 500GB

130 inc VAT

www.ebuyer.com

Synologys latest NAS is faster


than its predecessor thanks to
BEST BUY
an upgraded CPU, and is capable
of rapid le transfers. DSM is still the best NAS
operating system weve used, too.

158 inc VAT

www.ebuyer.com

The T1 is
signicantly faster
BEST BUY
than any USB3 ash
ash
drive as it has its own SD controller.
r.
Combined with a USB3 connection, its able to transfer les at
unbelievable speeds, then slips into a pocket for taking on the move.

3in HARD DISK BAYS (FREE) 2 (2) NETWORKING 2x 10/100/1,000 Ethernet


DLNA MEDIA SERVER Yes PRINT SERVER Yes DIMENSIONS 165x100x226mm
WEIGHT 870g WARRANTY Two years RTB DETAILS www.synology.com
PART CODE DS215J FULL REVIEW Jun 2015

CAPACITY 500GB COST PER GIGABYTE 0.34 INTERFACE USB3 CLAIMED READ 450MB/s
CLAIMED WRITE 450MB/s WARRANTY Three years RTB DETAILS www.samsung.com/uk
PART CODE MU-PS500B/EU FULL REVIEW Apr 2015

TOSHIBA Canvio Connect II 2TB

SAMSUNG 950 Pro


ro 256GB

77 inc VAT

www.dabs.com

Theres plenty of
choice when it comes to
BEST BUY
portable hard disks, but
Toshibas Canvio Connect II has an
excellent bundled software package and
impressive USB3 speeds. Considering the
price, theres no reason not to have one.
CAPACITY 2TB COST PER GIGABYTE 0.04 INTERFACE USB3 WARRANTY One year RTB
DETAILS www.toshiba.eu PART CODE HDTC820ER3CA FULL REVIEW Nov 2015

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

146 inc VAT

www.ebuyer.com

A true sign of
things to come
BEST BUY
for storage: its
the fastest, most affordable NVMe
SSD yet. If your motherboard is compatible
ompatible
with PCI Express storage, you absolutely
olutely need one.
CAPACITY 256GB COST PER GIGABYTE 0.57 INTERFACE M.2 (2280)/NVMe
CLAIMED READ 2,200MB/s CLAIMED WRITE 900MB/s WARRANTY Five years RTB
DETAILS www.samsung.com/uk PART CODE MZ-V5P256BW FULL REVIEW Jan 2016

75

Choosing a... Graphics card


01

You really dont have to spend much


to buy a decent graphics card that
can drive multiple monitors. The AMD
Radeon R7 250 costs less than 60, for
example, and while it isnt suited to playing
the latest games in Full HD, it is perfect for
watching videos, browsing the web and
playing basic games.

02

Youll need to spend more money if


you want to play the latest games.
A good mid-range gaming graphics card is
the Nvidia GTX 950, which is powerful
enough to play any of the latest games.
High-powered cards tend to be more
expensive, so expect to pay over 300 if
you want to play games in Ultra HD at the
highest quality settings.

03

Check that your chosen card has


the graphics outputs you need.
Only low-end cards now have VGA
outputs, but many come with a DVI-to-VGA
adaptor. Depending on your monitor, you
may also want an HDMI output or even a
DisplayPort connection.
Bear in mind that AMDs Eyenity
triple-monitor gaming mode requires at
least one DisplayPort monitor, which
means your AMD graphics card must have
at least one DisplayPort output. Nvidias
Surround three-monitor mode needs only
DVI and HDMI ports.

04

The amount of memory a card has


is important if you want games to
look their best at high resolutions. Get a

card with 2GB of RAM at the very least, as


this should allow you to select the highestquality textures in games.

05

A cards size, noise output and


power requirements are the nal
considerations. Make sure your PCs case
has enough room to accommodate your
chosen card. Double-slot cards with large
fans tend to be quieter than single-slot
cards with small fans but will block other
expansion slots on your motherboard.
Also check that your power supply can
provide the power the card needs and that
it has the right connectors. Many cards
require a six-pin PCI Express power
connector, and some also need an
additional eight-pin connector.

COMPONENTS

MSI GTX 970 Gaming Twin Frozr 5

277 inc VAT

www.scan.co.uk

For most people, this


card is the high-end
BEST BUY
model to buy. It will
easily cope with high-detail gaming at 1080p,
and its also capable of playing games at higher
resolutions as well, making it a great choice for enthusiasts.

160 inc VAT

NEW
ENTRY

GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 MEMORY 4GB GDDR5 GRAPHICS CARD LENGTH 264mm
WARRANTY Three years RTB DETAILS www.msi.com PART CODE GTX 970 Gaming Frozr 5
FULL REVIEW Apr 2016

INTEL Core i5-6600K

200 inc VAT

www.novatech.co.uk

NEW
ENTRY

www.scan.co.uk

The Radeon R9 380 has a great deal of power for


the price. It costs about the same as the Nvidia
BEST BUY
GeForce GTX 960 and performs almost identically at
1,920x1,080, but uses more power and isnt as quiet.
GPU AMD Radeon R9 380 MEMORY 4GB GDDR5 GRAPHICS CARD LENGTH 234mm
WARRANTY Three years RTB DETAILS www.gigabyte.com PART CODE GV-R938WF2-4GD
FULL REVIEW Apr 2016

90 inc VAT

www.scan.co.uk

The A10-7700K strikes an


excellent balance between
BEST BUY
desktop and graphics
performance, making it the ideal all-rounder for an
inexpensive PC build. Even once you factor in memory and a
motherboard, the total cost will be cheaper than many Intel CPUs.

SOCKET LGA1151 CORES 4 FREQUENCY 3.5GHz INTEGRATED GRAPHICS Intel HD Graphics


530 WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.intel.com PART CODE BX80662I56600K
FULL REVIEW Nov 2015

SOCKET FM2+ CORES 4 FREQUENCY 3.4GHz INTEGRATED GRAPHICS Radeon R7


WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS www.amd.com PART CODE AD770KXBJABOX
FULL REVIEW May 2015

ASUS Z170-A

CORSAIR Carbide Series Air 240

122 inc VAT

www.dabs.com

AMD A10-7700K

The Core i5-6600K is the rst


of Intels latest processor
RECOMMENDED generation, previously
codenamed Skylake. The unlocked multiplier means you can
push it further when overclocking, and energy eciency has never
been better, which means less power draw when using your PC.

76

GIGABYTE Radeon
n
R9 380 Windforce

75 inc VAT

NEW
ENTRY

www.novatech.co.uk

The Asus Z170-A is the


best-value Skylake
BEST BUY
motherboard around right now, with performance
and features that easily match more expensive boards without
making a big dent in your wallet.

This microATX case is very well


made. Its light and compact,
BEST BUY
but its cuboid shape means
theres plenty of room inside for all your
components, so its easy to work with.

PROCESSOR SOCKET LGA1151 DIMENSIONS 302x244mm CHIPSET Intel Z170 MEMORY


SLOTS 4 PCI-E x16 SLOTS 3 PCI-E x1 SLOTS 3 PCI SLOTS 1 USB PORTS 2x USB2, 2x USB3,
2x USB3.1 VIDEO OUTPUTS HDMI, DVI, VGA, DisplayPort WARRANTY Three years RTB
DETAILS www.asus.com/uk PART CODE 90MB0KX0-M-EAY5 FULL REVIEW Nov 2015

CASE TYPE microATX MOTHERBOARD COMPATIBILITY microATX, Mini-ITX SUPPLIED


FANS 3x 120mm MAX 3in DRIVE BAYS 3 MAX 5in DRIVE BAYS 0 DIMENSIONS
320x260x397mm WEIGHT 5.6kg WARRANTY Two years RTB DETAILS www.corsair.com
PART CODE CC-9011070-WW FULL REVIEW Apr 2016

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

SOFTWARE
www.xara.com/uk

60 inc VAT

www.wexphotographic.com

65 inc VAT

Web Designer was already excellent, but version 11


gets a slew of incremental updates that ensure it
remains our favourite one-box web design tool.

BEST BUY

ADOBE Premiere Elements 14

BEST BUY

eo
Vid iting
ed

b
We sign
de

XARA Web Designer 11 Premium

Lots of features to keep advanced users happy and


even more to help new users make the most of it.
Its the consumer video editing package to buy.

ADOBE Photoshop Lightroom 6

SERIF Afnity Designer

102 inc VAT

www.ebuyer.com

40 inc VAT

ic
ph n
Gra esig
d

OS SUPPORT Windows 7/8/10 MINIMUM CPU 2GHz with SSE2 MINIMUM GPU DirectX 9
MINIMUM RAM 2GB HARD DISK SPACE 5GB DETAILS www.adobe.com/uk PRODUCT
CODE 65234288 FULL REVIEW Jan 2016

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oto en
Ph gem
na
ma

OS SUPPORT Windows XP or later MINIMUM Intel Celeron/AMD Sempron MINIMUM GPU


DirectX 9 MINIMUM RAM 500MB HARD DISK SPACE 300MB DETAILS www.xara.com/uk
FULL REVIEW Sep 2015

www.apple.com/itunes

OS SUPPORT Windows 7/8 MINIMUM CPU Intel or AMD with 64-bit support MINIMUM
GPU 1GB, OpenGL 3.3, DirectX 10 MINIMUM RAM 2GB HARD DISK SPACE 2GB
DETAILS www.adobe.com/uk PRODUCT CODE 65237576 FULL REVIEW Feb 2015

OS SUPPORT Apple OS X 10.7.5 MINIMUM CPU Core 2 Duo (64-bit) MINIMUM GPU Intel HD
Graphics MINIMUM RAM 1GB HARD DISK SPACE 325GB DETAILS affinity.serif.com
PRODUCT CODE Affinity Designer FULL REVIEW Mar 2015

STEINBERG Cubase Artist 8

XARA Photo & Graphic Designer 11

www.steinberg.net

221 inc VAT

50 inc VAT

www.xara.com/uk

e
ag
Im iting
ed

The rst real competition to Adobes Illustrator


might be an OS X exclusive, but Anity Designer
BEST BUY
is a seriously powerful graphic design tool that
costs an incredible 40.

sic n
Mu uctio
d
pro

Lightroom 6 might be a relatively modest update,


but Adobes photography toolbox still sets the
BEST BUY
gold standard for Raw photo processing and
image enhancement.

Music production software usually saves the best


features for the priciest version, but thats not the
BEST BUY
case here, making Cubase Artist 8 an excellent
investment for musicians aspiring to the highest standards.

Powerful new warping and brush tools


take Photo & Graphic Designer to new heights,
BEST BUY
making it a genuine rival to Adobes Photoshop and
Lightroom. Its cheaper, too.

OS SUPPORT Windows 7 or later MINIMUM CPU Intel Core/AMD dual-core MINIMUM GPU
DirectX 10 MINIMUM RAM 4GB HARD DISK SPACE 15GB DETAILS www.steinberg.net
PRODUCT CODE 45550 FULL REVIEW May 2015

OS SUPPORT Windows 7/8/8.1/10 MINIMUM CPU Celeron, Sempron or newer MINIMUM


GPU N/A MINIMUM RAM 500MB HARD DISK SPACE 300MB DETAILS www.xara.com/uk
FULL REVIEW Dec 2015

GAMES
24 inc VAT

www.cdkeys.com

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

23 inc VAT

www.cdkeys.com

h
alt
Ste ction
a

d
orl
-w re
en ntu
Op adve

Fallout 4

AVAILABLE FORMATS PC, Xbox One, PS4 OS SUPPORT Windows 7/8.1/ 10 64-bit
MINIMUM CPU Quad-core 2.8GHz Intel, quad-core 3GHz AMD MINIMUM GPU Nvidia GeForce
GTX 550 Ti, AMD Radeon HD 7870 MINIMUM RAM 8GB HARD DISK SPACE 30GB
DETAILS www.fallout4.com FULL REVIEW Feb 2016

AVAILABLE FORMATS PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PS4 OS SUPPORT Windows 7/8.1
64-bit MINIMUM CPU Dual-core 3.4GHz Intel, quad-core AMD MINIMUM GPU Nvidia GeForce
GTX 650, AMD Radeon R9 270x MINIMUM RAM 4GB HARD DISK SPACE 28GB
DETAILS www.konami.jp/mgs5 FULL REVIEW Dec 2015

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Pillars of Eternity

20 inc VAT

www.cdkeys.com

13 inc VAT

tric
me
Iso RPG

Whether the story was ever really nished before


director Hideo Kojimas infamous departure or not
BEST BUY
remains a mystery, but the Phantom Pains openworld stealth gameplay is simply without fault.

y
tas
Fan RPG

Exploring a post-apocalyptic wasteland has never


been more fun. Bethesda has expanded the Fallout
BEST BUY
universe with base building and crafting mechanics,
making this the denitive entry in the series.

www.cdkeys.com

The Witcher 3 has an involving plot, an amazingly


well-realised world and beautifully drawn characters.
BEST BUY
Its the ultimate fantasy RPG for anyone that prefers
action to turn-based strategy.

A proper treat for PC gamers: Pillars of Eternity is a


classic RPG for the modern age, which any fan of
BEST BUY
Baldurs Gate will fall in love with. Expect Beholders,
Magic Missles, demilich demigods and more.

AVAILABLE FORMATS PC, Xbox One, PS4 OS SUPPORT Windows 7/8.1 64-bit MINIMUM CPU
Quad-core 3.3GHz Intel, quad-core 3GHz AMD MINIMUM GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 660, AMD
Radeon HD 7870 MINIMUM RAM 6GB HARD DISK SPACE 40GB DETAILS www.thewitcher.
com/witcher3 FULL REVIEW Aug 2015

AVAILABLE FORMATS PC, Mac OS SUPPORT Windows 7/8.1 64-bit, Mac OS X MINIMUM
CPU Dual-core 2.5GHz Intel, dual-core 2.8GHz AMD MINIMUM GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX
8800GT, AMD Radeon HD 4870 MINIMUM RAM 4GB HARD DISK SPACE 14GB
DETAILS www.eternity.obsidian.net FULL REVIEW Jul 2015

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

77

REVIEWS

How we test

Find out how well products perform with the help of


Computer Shoppers comprehensive tests

COMPUTER SHOPPERS REVIEWS use some


of the most exhaustive testing procedures
youll nd in any PC magazine. Every product
is subjected to qualitative and quantitative
tests that show how it performs in practical
use. Graphs for performance, battery-life
scores and costs are used in the Reviews
section, as shown on the right. Look in the
Summary of tests table (below) for details
of each test we run.
For PCs and laptops, we evaluate
performance using our own custom
benchmarking suite. See below for a brief
description of our benchmarking software
and game tests.

The actual scores in each test are shown


inside each bar

Normal speed

Bigger is better for all


bars except the red
ones, which show
running costs

11ppm

Mono costs

2.2p

Colour costs

6.7p
0%

-50

Reference

+50

+100

A product hitting the


+100 per cent mark
performed twice as well
as our reference

This line represents the performance of a reference product in each


test. All graphs for components and systems are relative to our
reference PC (see below for specications)

SUMMARY OF TESTS
PC SYSTEMS & GAMING LAPTOPS
Windows overall Average speed across numerous demanding tasks

BENCHMARKS

RATINGS & AWARDS

Multitasking Speed when running simultaneous applications


Dirt Showdown Frames per second at 1,920x1,080, 4xAA,
(1080p) Ultra detail
Metro: Last Light Frames per second at 1,920x1,080, SSAA,
Redux Very High detail
LAPTOPS
Windows overall Average speed across numerous demanding tasks
Multitasking Processor-intensive multitasking test
Dirt Showdown Frames per second at 1,280x720, 4xAA,
(720p) High detail
Battery life Run time in minutes for continuous video playback
SMARTPHONES/TABLETS
Battery life Run time in minutes for continuous video playback
PRINTERS AND MFPs
Mono text speed Pages per minute for correspondence-quality text
Mixed colour speed Pages per minute for presentable text and graphics
Mono page cost Running costs expressed as pence per page
Colour page cost Running costs expressed as pence per page
DIGITAL CAMERAS
Battery life Number of shots from full charge
CAMCORDERS
Battery life Run time in minutes for recording
MP3 PLAYERS
Battery life Run time in minutes for continuous playback
ROUTERS
Laptop 2.4GHz 10m Mbit/s at 10m with 802.11n laptop on 2.4GHz band
Laptop 2.4GHz 25m Mbit/s at 25m with 802.11n laptop on 2.4GHz band
Laptop 5GHz 10m Mbit/s at 10m with 802.11n laptop on 5GHz band
Laptop 5GHz 25m Mbit/s at 25m with 802.11n laptop on 5GHz band
802.11ac adaptor 10m Mbit/s at 10m with an 802.11ac adaptor

SHOPPER BENCHMARKS
Our benchmark suite uses opensource software that runs on
Windows, Mac OS X and Linux
systems. This lets us use objective
results to compare PCs and laptops,
no matter which operating system they run. Its designed to test
each computer to its limit, using a combination of intensive
image-editing, video-encoding and multitasking tests.
We ran the tests on our reference PC, which has an Intel
Core i5-4670K processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and an AMD
Radeon R7 260X graphics card. We normalised our results
so this PC had a score of 100. This makes it easy to draw
comparisons between test systems.
The resulting overall score is shown at the bottom of
every PC and laptop review. As we use the same tests in our
standalone and group test reviews, you can compare the
performance of any computer, whether its a netbook,
laptop or desktop, from both sections of the magazine.
To see how your computer compares, you can download the
suite from www.shopperdownload.co.uk/benchmarks. Versions
are available for 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems.

Computer Shopper rates


products out of ve:

Avoid

Below average
Good

Very good

Excellent

The best products can win the


following awards:

BEST BUY

Products with outstanding


quality and performance for the
money win our Best Buy award.

BEST BUY

802.11ac adaptor 25m Mbit/s at 25m with an 802.11ac adaptor


NETWORK-ATTACHED STORAGE
Large les Average MB/s for read/write of 100MB large les
Small les Average MB/s for read/write of 100MB small les
HARD DISKS
Extra large les Average MB/s for read/write of a single 2.5GB le
Large les Average MB/s for read/write of 2.5GB of large les
Small les Average MB/s for read/write of 2.5GB of small les
PROCESSORS
Windows overall Average speed across numerous demanding tasks
Multitasking Speed when running simultaneous applications
Dirt Showdown Frames per second at 1,280x720, 4xAA,
(720p) High detail
MOTHERBOARDS
Windows overall Average speed across numerous demanding tasks
Multitasking Speed when running simultaneous applications
Dirt Showdown Frames per second at 1,920x1,080, 4xAA,
(1080p) Ultra detail
Dirt Showdown Frames per second at 1,280x720, 4xAA,
(720p) High detail
GRAPHICS CARDS
Dirt Showdown Frames per second at 1,920x1,080, 4x MSAA,
(1080p) Ultra detail
Tomb Raider Frames per second at 1,920x1,080, SSAA, Ultra detail
Metro: Last Light Frames per second at 1,920x1,080, SSAA,
Redux Very High detail

78

RECOMMENDED

3D BENCHMARKS

Products that dont quite qualify


for a Best Buy award but are still
highly rated by our reviewers.

DIRT SHOWDOWN
Dirt Showdown is a cracking racing game
that makes good use of DirectX 11s
fancy graphical effects. Youll want at
least 30fps for smooth racing.

RECOMMENDED

TOMB RAIDER
With the ultra-demanding SuperSampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA) enabled,
2013s Tomb Raider reboot is a great
indicator of mid-range performance.

BUSINESS

The very best products


for work win our
Business Buy award.

METRO: LAST LIGHT REDUX


Our most demanding graphics test
uses tessellation, SSAA and massive
textures to give even high-end cards a
thorough workout.

BUSINESS BUY

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

PRODUCT INDEX

Product Reviews

Our guide to all the products reviewed


in this months Shopper
Hot Product

24

Microsoft Surface Book

PCs & Laptops

26

Displays
Home Cinema

SUBSCRIBE
AND SAVE

Audio

42

Printers and
Scanners

50

Gibson Trainer Ti100


Monitor Audio Airstream
S150

Brother MFC-J680DW
Epson Expression Premium
XP-530

Multiroom
Audio

Networks

104

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A6


Libratone Zipp
Libratone Zipp Mini
Philips Izzy BM5
Philips Izzy BM50
Samsung R5
Sonos Play:5
Sony SRS-X77
Sony SRS-X99

Video
CALL
C
ALL 0844 844 0031
OR SEE PAGE 134

1
1
9
Reviews

40

LG 50LF652V

32

| MAY 2016

39

Philips PicoPix PPX4010

Honor 5X
OnePlus X
Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

38

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ80

Chillblast Samurai
HP Spectre x2
Eclipse Sky-Cube i5
Lenovo Ideacentre 700

Handhelds

Photography

August DVB500
EE 4GEE Capture Cam
Sony FDR-X1000V

46

53

Toshiba TransferJet

Storage

54

QNAP TAS-268

Components

56

Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3

Software

58

Cakewalk Sonar Platinum

Games

59

Firewatch
The Witness
XCOM 2

79

Free software guide


Its easy to access your free software. Just go to www.shopperdownload.co.uk/339 and
register with the code from the card insert. Please be aware that you need to have
bought the Free Software Edition and not the 4.50 Edition to access the downloads

GETTING STARTED
The download instructions on the card
insert (after page 74) show you how to
connect to the download site. Make
sure you type in the web address exactly
as shown. Youll need your coupon code
the rst time you log on to the site.
ANY PROBLEMS
If you need help with any of the
software this month, please send an
email to letters@computershopper.co.uk.
We check this inbox regularly. Please
include the issue number of the
magazine and your coupon code.
WHY DOWNLOADS
In order to provide us with free
software, publishers now require us to
offer the applications as a download and
to require online registration. You need
to use the unique code printed in the
box on the card insert to register and
download the software in this issue. The
unique code means we stop the deals
leaking online, so only Shopper readers
get the software.
NO CODE?
If you dont have the card insert with the
unique code, you must buy the 4.99
Free Software print version of the
magazine. If you have this edition and
still dont have a card, please contact
letters@computershopper.co.uk.

REGISTER YOUR SOFTWARE


BY 21st APRIL 2016

Xara Photo & Graphic


Designer 9
XARA PHOTO AND Graphic Designer is a one-stop
graphics package with the power to satisfy all your
creative needs.
Photo editing: An excellent core set of features
caters for all the most common requirements, such
as cropping, resizing, xing red-eye, sharpening and
xing perspective problems. If you need more, the
program supports Photoshop plug-ins so can be
extended just as much as you like, and there are 46
bundled lters to help you get started.
Illustration: The QuickShape tools allow you to
draw pre-set shapes in seconds. There are plenty of
other vector and line drawing tools on offer, too. 3D
extrusion means you can drag any shape to create a
scripting or sound), animated GIFs, image maps,
properly lit and rendered 3D version, and its just as
buttons, headings and icons.
easy to apply transparency, feathering, blends,
If youre wondering whats new from the
shadows, bevels and more.
previous edition, there are some useful additions.
DTP: The built-in Designs Gallery gives instant
Text styles make it easy to change an entire
access to templates for all kinds of projects,
documents fonts, colours and line spacing, for
including brochures, newsletters, greetings cards,
example, in a few clicks. Meanwhile, the new Share
calendars, covers, labels and stationery. If you prefer
menu makes it easy to share media les with Flickr,
to start from scratch, there are over 3,000 bundled
Facebook and other Xara/Magix MX applications.
photos and clip art to help you. Meanwhile, powerful
Along with powerful new tools (colour selection,
print and various export options (including PDF and
hue adjustment and shape eraser),
PSD) make it easy to share your
the program also includes improved
creations with others.
REQUIREMENTS Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 or
image optimisation, support for
If youre looking to create web
10, 32/64-bit, 300MB hard disk space
WEBSITE www.xara.com
SVG, PDF, Raw and web URLs,
graphics, Xara Photo & Graphic
NOTES Get your registration code at
faster publishing, and a stack of
Designer MX can produce simple
xaraphoto9.disc.computershopper.co.uk
usability improvements.
Flash animations (visuals only, no

Sticky Password Premium

REQUIREMENTS Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8


or 10, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, 50MB hard
disk space
WEBSITE www.stickypassword.com
NOTES Includes one-year Premium licence

80

ITS A BAD idea to re-use usernames and passwords


across lots of different web services, so to stay safe
online youll need to memorise a huge number of
usernames and passwords. Sticky Password can help
to make your life easier by lling in online login
forms for you. Your usernames and passwords are
stored in a protected database, and rather than
having to enter details manually by hand, the
program can take care of form lling on your behalf.
The stored passwords are protected in a number
of ways. The rst level of protection is provided by
the master password that you set during the setup
process. You can use a USB or Bluetooth device as a

secondary authentication method, and you can even


use a virtual keyboard for password entry, to avoid
problems with keylogging software.
Sticky Password plug-ins are available for a number
of programs including Firefox and Thunderbird, and
passwords that you have already stored in various
applications can be imported in a few mouse clicks.
This is great time-saving tool and avoids the
problem of forgotten passwords and the hassle of
resetting them. As it also gives you protection
against keyloggers and phishing websites, Sticky
Password is not only useful, but also a great way to
protect you on the web.

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Ashampoo Home Designer 2

REQUIREMENTS Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 or


10 32/64-bit, 1.5GB hard disk space
WEBSITE www.ashampoo.com
NOTES Get your registration code within
the application

ASHAMPOO HOME DESIGNER


is a 3D home-planning tool which
makes it easy to see how your
next home project will look,
without your having to pay for a
professional designer.
You start by providing the
dimensions of your room, then
add walls, windows, doors and
maybe carpets to create the
initial shell. Then youll add
further objects the tables,
chairs, bath, TV, cooker,
whatevers appropriate and
reorganise, rearrange and
relocate these until you nd the
layout you need.
You can then dress the room
further for enhanced realism.
Would your room look better
with parquet ooring or granite
tiles? Choose the appropriate
material and youll see the
difference. Youre even able to
import your own photos to use
as backgrounds, such as a view
of your garden as it will appear
through the window, to give you
the best possible idea of how
your room will appear in real life.
Its hard to tell what works
from a standard 2D view, of

course, so Ashampoo Home


Designer also allows you to look
at your new room from any
angle and position: outside the
room, inside, above or below,
from the door or the window,
and with whatever perspective
and zoom factor you like.
Whatever your viewpoint,
professional lighting and
ray-tracing algorithms mean the

program will quickly deliver an


attractive and very realistic view
of your plan. You can then share
this with others in a variety of
ways, from multiple bitmaps
showing the room from every
angle, to lists of the xtures,
ttings and materials youve
used: perfect if you want to ask
a professional builder to make
your vision a reality.

Serif PagePlus X4
SERIF PAGEPLUS X4 is a
versatile desktop-publishing tool
thats easy to use, yet has all the
power you need to bring your
creative ideas to life. Browsing
the programs bundled templates
is a great way to get a feel for its
capabilities: there are greetings
cards, calendars, newsletters,
PDF slideshows, stationery,

yers, posters, photo albums and


more just nd a design you like
and double-click to get started.
This is very simple. Choose
one of the Flyer templates, for
instance, and all you have to do
is type your own body text, drag
and drop a photo, and youre
done. But if youd like to take
ne control of your design,

theres scope to go further. Take


pictures, for example: if youre
unhappy with an image, the
built-in PhotoLab offers more
adjustments than many specialist
editors. There are tweaks for
lighting, white balance, sharpness,
shadows and highlights, plus
tools to x lens distortion and
chromatic aberrations, and a
host of special effects.
Its a similar story elsewhere,
with tools to draw shapes; apply
text effects; insert tables,
headers and footers; adjust
colours, transparencies and
styles; and much more.
The well-designed user
interface ensures its all very
easy to use and, once youve
nished, its easy to share your
work with others.
REQUIREMENTS Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8,
10 32/64-bit, 500MB hard disk space
DETAILS www.serif.com
NOTES Get your registration code at
pageplusx4.disc.computershopper.co.uk

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

81

Panda Internet
Security 2016
PANDA INTERNET SECURITY
2016 is a capable security suite
with protection for Windows,
Android, iOS and Mac.
The Windows module offers
accurate anti-virus, browser

protection (via an
optional toolbar), a
rewall and Wi-Fi protection
to detect intruders on your
network. The Data Shield
prevents sensitive data falling into

REQUIREMENTS Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8,


10 32/64-bit, 200MB hard disk space
DETAILS www.pandasecurity.com
NOTES Six-month licence

the wrong hands, parental


controls keep your kids
safe online, and theres a virtual
keyboard to bypass keyloggers.
Mac and iOS protection is
more basic, with anti-virus and
an iPhone location service, while
the Android tools take this a little
further: anti-virus, device
optimisation, a location service,
and the option to lock or wipe
your device remotely.
All this is easy to set up, but
look out for the option to install
a browser toolbar: it will change
your home and search pages
unless you clear some tickboxes.
After that, the program
proves as reliable and accurate as
ever. The 2016 edition brings new
checks for Wi-Fi vulnerabilities, a
new engine, and smarter
Collective Intelligence, offering
greater protection with less
impact on performance.

IObit Advanced
SystemCare Pro 9
ADVANCED SYSTEMCARE 9 is
the latest edition of IObits
amazingly comprehensive PC
maintenance suite.
Installing the package gets
you an entire library of essential
tools. There are modules to clean
and optimise your Registry,

82

delete junk and duplicate les,


control your startup programs,
x Windows issues, detect and
remove malware, free up RAM,
update and back up your drivers,
undelete les, fully uninstall
applications, schedule PC
shutdowns, securely wipe

condential les and apply a host


of useful Windows tweaks.
Theres real intelligence, too.
SystemCare doesnt just list your
browser toolbars and startup
programs and leave you to gure
out what to do next, for instance:
it highlights unnecessary or
dangerous items and allows you
to remove them with a click.
This release offers support for
Windows 10, including cleaning
up after Edge and the built-in
apps, setting the default browser
and helping protect your privacy
by disabling Microsofts many
data-collection technologies.
If you like the hands-on
approach then its easy to launch
any of these modules, take
complete control and decide
exactly what you want to do.
But if youre not so sure or
dont have time you can leave
Advanced SystemCare to handle
most tasks on its own, xing any
problems with a single click.

MAY 2016

REQUIREMENTS Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 or


10 32/64-bit, 50MB hard disk space
WEBSITE www.iobit.com
NOTES Includes a six-month Pro licence

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Resources

Chat and Communication


Digsby (Build 92) Access all your instant
messaging services from one application;
theres support for Windows Live!, Yahoo!,
AIM, Google Talk, ICQ and Jabber.
Evernote 5.9.6 Store your notes, ideas and
plans in the cloud, and synchronise them
between computers.
UPDATED Mozilla Thunderbird 38.6 A
powerful email client from the organisation
best known for the Firefox web browser.

Customisation

7 Taskbar Tweaker 5 Customise the


Windows 7 taskbar so that it works
exactly to your liking.
Metro UI Tweaker for Windows 8
Tweak the Windows 8 user interface.
Mosaic Desktop Beta 1 Refresh
Add Windows 8s mosaic-tiled
desktop to your computer without
having to upgrade.

General

Free Studio 6.6 This software provides an


easy way to convert your video and audio
les into different formats.
Paragon Partition Manager 14 Free
Create, format, split, merge and reorganise
all your hard disks partitions.
PeaZip 5.9.1 A tremendously powerful
archive-management tool.

Postbox Express 1.0.1 An email client that


provides a comprehensive array of tools to
help you manage your messages more easily.
Skype for Windows 7.18 Make internet voice
and video calls for free, and buy credit to
make calls to mobiles and landlines.
Trillian 5.6 Use all your instant messaging
accounts with one application; this program
has support for Windows Live!, AIM, Yahoo!
and Google Talk.

Rainmeter 3.3 Customise the desktop quickly


and easily with your choice of information,
tools and shortcuts.
Windows 8 Transformation Pack 9.1
Emulate the look of Windows 8 on an earlier
version of the operating system.
Windows 10 Transformation Pack 6
Bring some of Windows 10s new features
to your current operating system.

Screenshot Captor 4.16 Create and manage


screenshots the easy way.
UPDATED SUMo 4.3.3 Quickly scan your PCs
installed applications and nd any updates
that are available for them.
ZipGenius 6.3 A exible le-compression
tool with support for a huge number of
compressed le formats.

Internet and Network


UPDATED CarotDAV 1.12.5
Manage all your online storage services
with one simple application.
Cyberduck 4.7.3
A powerful but easy-to-use FTP client for
uploading and downloading your les.
Easy WiFi 4.0
Find free Wi-Fi hotspots while youre out
and about.

NetBalancer 9.1.4 Make the most of


your internet connection by assigning
download and upload priorities to
web applications.
UPDATED TeamViewer 11.0.5 Remote-control
your computer from anywhere in the world.
Vuze 5.7 A BitTorrent client to help
you locate, share and download
torrent les.

Tweaking and Performance


UPDATED CCleaner 5.14 Remove unwanted
information, temporary les, browsing
history, huge log les and even the settings
that uninstalled software leaves behind.
Defraggler 2.2 Ensure your system is
defragmented properly and improve its
performance.
Finestra Virtual Desktops 2.5 Set up four
or more virtual desktops on your PC.

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

IObit Advanced SystemCare 9.1


A complete computer security, maintenance
and optimisation suite.
Revo Uninstaller Free 1.95 Remove installed
applications completely, including all their
folders, system les and Registry entries.
Simple Performance Boost 1.0.5 Tweak the
Windows Registry to give your PC a
performance boost.

83

2015
AWARDS

Editors Choice

Best

Best Desktop PC

PC Manufacturer

Highly Commended
Retailer

The most awarded PCs and Laptops Period.


Scan 3XS Gamer 20i
Gaming PC

Scan 3XS Vengeance


Gaming PC
Intel Core i7 6700K processor
overclocked up to 4.7GHz
8GB Corsair DDR3 2133MHz memory
4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 SC
250GB Samsung 850 SSD & 2TB HDD
Windows 10
3 Year Premium Warranty

Intel Core i7 4790 processor


8GB Corsair DDR3 2133MHz memory
4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 SC ACX
1TB Seagate HDD
Windows 10
3 Year Premium Warranty

1469 Inc VAT

999 Inc VAT


The 3XS Gamer 20i is a super-fast gaming PC thanks to
its combination of quad-core Intel Core i7 4790 CPU
running at 3.6GHz with added Hyper-Threading plus a
4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 graphics card. These
components are installed in an Asus Z97-P
motherboard along with a 1TB hard disk.

This high-end gaming system includes a Intel Core i7


6700K CPU which has Hyper-Threading and is
overclocked up to 4.7GHz plus a 4GB NVIDIA
GeForce GTX 980 graphics card, 8GB of 3000MHz
Corsair Vengeance DDR4, an Asus Z170 Pro Gaming
motherboard, 256GB SSD and a 2TB hard disk.

3XS LG15
Performance GTX

3XS LG15
Carbon G-Sync

Intel Core i5 6300HQ processor


8GB Corsair DDR3 1600MHz memory
2GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
15.6in 1,920 x 1,080 screen
1TB SATA 6Gb/sec hard drive
Windows 10

Intel Core i7 6700 processor


8GB Corsair 2133MHz DDR4 memory
6GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M or 980M
15.6in FullHD or 4K screen
1TB SATA 6Gb/sec hard drive
Windows 10

795 Inc VAT


The LG15 Performance GTX is a 15.6" mid-range
gaming laptop that includes a NVIDIA GeForce GTX
960M graphics card plus your choice of Intel Core i5 or
i7 CPU, up to 16GB of RAM and multiple hard disks and
SSDs.

1295 Inc VAT


The LG15 Carbon G-Sync is a 15.6" high-end
gaming laptop that includes a NVIDIA GeForce
GTX 970M or 980M graphics card with your choice
of Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU, up to 32GB of DDR4 and
multiple hard disks and SSDs plus NVIDIA G-Sync
for tearing and stutter free gaming.

Scan Computers recommends Windows.


3XS Custom Series
Our 3XS Custom Series is a range of computers designed to offer the best performance for a variety of applications, with a particular
focus on games. We build Custom Series PCs to order, so we can configure and tailor make an individual PC just the way you want it.
We can also overclock the processor, so you get a faster PC without a substantial increase in price. All 3XS Custom Series PCs are
covered by a three year warranty as standard with the first year on-site.

Scan 3XS
Overclocked

Built by award
winning 3XS team

3 Year
Warranty

Some features require Windows 8.1. Update available through Windows Store. Internet access required; fees may apply.
Some apps sold separately; vary by market.

Prices correct at time of print and are subject to change.

BUILD YOUR

PERFECT PC
Wondering where to get started with your PC build?
We show you how to put the perfect computer together

LAST MONTH WE reviewed all the


components you need to build your own
computer, whatever your budget (Group Test,
Shopper 338). This month were completing
the cycle with our complete guide to putting
your PC together. Were also doing things
slightly differently from before.
We realise that, even with a list of our
recommended components, working out
whats right for every budget isnt always
easy. If, for example, youre building a budget
computer, perhaps for a relative, where
should you save money and where you
should spend that little bit extra to make
sure you end up with a reliable computer
that will last the distance?
This month, were going to help you
answer those questions. In this guide, we
take you through the decision-making

process, whether youre building a PC for


yourself, a friend or relative. Given a budget
and a few key aims, where do you start?
Well show you how we look at components,
where to prioritise price over specications,
and where compromises are necessary.
This process is all about getting the biggest
bang-for-buck without creating a PC with a
shelf life thats too short and will ultimately
cost more when you have to upgrade.
Well take you through three PC builds:
one 400 budget PC for home use; a
sub-900 performance PC for photo- and
video-editing applications and gaming; and a
compact PC for use in the living room for
gaming and media consumption.
In each section well collate what weve
learned into a single PC specication based
on prices at the time of publishing. However,

you can also look at this as a timeless


guide to making specication decisions
that can sometimes seem bewildering.
After that, well show you in our
step-by-step tutorials how to
put your new PC together.
We recommend that you install
Windows 10 on your new computer.
Currently, if you have a retail copy of
Windows 7 or Windows 8, you
can get a free upgrade to Windows 10
before the end of July; this means that if you
dont have an operating system you can use,
its worth buying Windows 8, which is
cheaper than Windows 10. The good news is
that you can clean-install Windows 10 using
your Windows 8 or Windows 7 licence key.
For full instructions on the OS installation,
check out our guide at tinyurl.com/339build.

BUILD A BETTER PC

87

BEST
FOR
Web browsing,
emails,
documents,
photo
editing

NOISE
As little as
possible

DESIGN
Out of the way
GAMING
Simple 2D
games

STORAGE
Music and
photos

Budget PC
AS WE STRESS time and time again on these pages, a budget PC offers a lot more
performance than a similarly priced laptop and, if you never move your laptop around the
house and have space for a PC, theres no reason not to plump for a custom budget PC
instead. Whats more, by building it yourself you can gain valuable PC-building experience and
have room for upgrades when new components come along.
Although the price is low, you shouldnt opt for bargain-basement components. While there
is something to be said for buying the cheapest components available and sourcing secondhand kit, where possible you should try to build some future-proong into even the cheapest
PC. After all, choosing rubbish components now means youll have to upgrade sooner rather
than later, increasing your total cost of ownership.
Based on the objectives in the coloured ashes above, you can spec a PC that should be
capable, and quite a bargain at just over 400 including VAT. Well explain the basics of each
component and guide you through the decision-making process so what you learn here can be
applied in the future when new components are available.

PROCESSOR
The processor forms the heart of any PC build
and weve allocated just under a quarter of our
budget to it. Theres a lot of choice when it
comes to CPUs for around 100, which is
about right for a budget computer: spend less
now and youll have a computer that will soon
be out of date. At this price there are three
strong contenders from Intel and AMD.
First, we have to understand how a
processor affects system performance. The
rst number well be looking at is the clock
speed, measured in GHz. The bigger the
number, generally speaking, the faster your

system performance will be; however, this only


holds true for processors in the same range. In
different ranges, a more ecient processor
can be faster at a lower clock speed than a less
ecient CPU running at a higher clock speed.
Another crucial factor for performance is
the number of cores. The more cores you
have, the more tasks you can do at the same
time without experiencing slowdowns. Our
budget allows us to look at quad-core chips
from AMD and dual-core chips from Intel.
Intels Core i3 processors come with HyperThreading, which allows the operating system
to see each physical core as two separate

cores, creating two virtual cores. This means


performance is improved, but not to the same
extent as a processor with four physical cores.

The contenders

From AMD, we looked at the 81 quad-core


3.5GHz FX-6300 processor (www.scan.co.uk),
which scored 73 in our benchmarks. This is a
seriously powerful chip, but there are issues
with FX chips, namely their massive power
consumption and correspondingly high
temperatures and loud stock cooling fans. In
addition, FX chips have no onboard graphics
so a graphics card would be required, and
while a cheap AMD graphics card can cost as
little as 20, this still adds to the price and
makes the build a little more complex. Whats
more, the Socket AM3+ motherboards
required by FX chips are more expensive than
the equivalent Intel motherboards. The FX is a
tempting option, but it means the rest of the
build would be compromised.
We also considered AMDs quad-core
3.4GHz A10-7700K, which costs 90 (www.
scan.co.uk) and scored 54 in our benchmarks.
This chip, from AMDs Kaveri line-up, offers
excellent on-board graphics performance, with
the A10-7700K managing 49fps in our 720p
Dirt Showdown benchmark. Again, compatible
Socket FM2+ motherboards cost slightly more
than their Intel LGA1150 counterparts, but if
you wanted to swap our Intel Core i3 choice
(see below) for the A10-7700K, you could buy
a 40 Asus A68HM-Plus motherboard (www.
lambda-tek.co.uk) in place of
our recommended Intel
motherboard and end up
mot
with a low-end gaming PC.
wit
In the end, we couldnt
resist pushing the boat out
slightly on an Intel Core
i3-4370 chip. Running at
3.8GHz, this dual-core chip
is excellent value at 116 inc VAT
(www.scan.co.uk), doesnt generate much heat
and its standard cooler is very quiet. Whats
more, because it uses Intels Hyper-Threading
technology, Windows will see it as a quad-core
chip, which means many complex tasks will be
handled more eciently: this processor
scored a respectable 61 in our benchmarks.
The Core i3-4370 uses the older Haswell
architecture, rather than Skylake, but it
means you can get a cheaper motherboard
and DDR3 RAM (DDR4 memory, as used by
Skylake, is a lot more expensive), while
performance is still brilliant.

MOTHERBOARD
The good thing about choosing an LGA1150
Haswell processor is that theres a lot of
choice when it comes to motherboards. Given
that this is a budget computer, a microATX
motherboard will save money, while providing
enough expansion ports. The older H81
chipset is excellent value, but be warned: not
all motherboards support Haswell processors,
so check carefully before you buy.

BUILD A BETTER PC

One element of our motherboard that we


wouldnt budge on is the provision of USB3
headers, for super-fast external storage. We
also wanted plenty of USB ports at the rear to
ensure we wouldnt be hamstrung by a lack of
connectors. Finally, since were going to be
using the integrated graphics, we wanted an
HDMI port so we could hook the PC up to a
monitor with integrated speakers or even a TV.

The contenders

Your motherboard choice is limited by your


choice of processor as, generally speaking,
motherboards are only designed for one
processor socket. You should research
which socket your processor uses before
buying a motherboard. To check Intel
processor sockets, go to ark.intel.com, while
shop.amd.com/en-us/components/processors
is the place to go for ocial information on
AMD processors.
Once you know which socket your
processor uses, you choice of motherboards
will be very narrow. Were using an Intel
processor with the LGA1150 socket. As its
a Haswell processor, youll need to make
sure that your chosen motherboard
supports these types of processors; not all
LGA1150 motherboards do. Fortunately, our
budget choice, the MSI H81M-E34, supports
all Haswell processors and costs just 42 inc
VAT from www.dabs.com.

STORAGE
Storage is the nal major decision to make.
The trick is to get enough physical storage, but
to look for something thats also quick.
There are three schools of thought when it
comes to storage, and which you pick is really
up to you. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are a great
option, but are pretty expensive at around 35p
per gigabyte. Well talk in more detail about
SSDs when we get to kitting out our gaming
system overleaf, but if youd prefer an SSD for
this build because you dont have huge
storage demands, they can work out to be
very economical and theyre quick.
The second school of thought is a standard
hard disk. After extreme price hikes and
component shortages a few years ago, hard
disks are now very much back down to
reasonable pricing levels, and you can pick up
a 1TB WD Green hard disk for 43 (www.scan.
co.uk). If youre on a shoestring budget and
dont have huge performance demands, a
standard hard disk can be a good choice.

THE FINAL BUILD


Our budget PC is specied as follows:
CASE
Silverstone Quiet
Precision PS11

Understated design, foam soundproong


and a capacious interior make this a great
workhorse case
www.scan.co.uk

40

PSU
EVGA Supernova
GS 550W

69

116

A dual-core, Hyper-Threaded chip with great


bang-for-buck performance
www.scan.co.uk

A low-cost PSU from a trusted brand. Voltage


drops a little at high loads, but remains within
the ATX specication
www.scan.co.uk

MOTHERBOARD
MSI H81M-E34

42

OPERATING SYSTEM
Windows 8.1 Home 64-bit

79

RAM
8GB HyperX 1,866MHz
DDR3

33

OPTICAL DRIVE
Samsung 18x DVD writer

11

A basic Intel Haswell motherboard with all the


features you could want
www.dabs.com

A great-value memory kit with two 4GB RAM


sticks for a total of 8GB
www.ebuyer.com

10 cheaper than Windows 10 from other


retailers. You can upgrade from Windows 8.1 to
Windows 10 for free until the end of July 2016
www.scan.co.uk

An optional extra if youll be watching DVDs or


installing disc-based software on your PC
www.ebuyer.com

GRAND TOTAL: 434 (445 with optical drive)


Strapped for cache

You should be geared towards getting the


best possible value out of every component,
so the nal storage option, a hybrid hard drive,
could be for you. Hybrid drives are one of the
best ways to get the most out of a limited
budget, combining a small amount of fast
solid-state memory with a large-capacity
mechanical hard disk. When buying a hybrid
hard drive youll be given two pieces of
capacity information, usually something like
8GB + 2TB SSHD. This rst number indicates
the SSD cache, while the second is the
capacity of the conventional hard disk.
Hybrid drives store all your data on the
hard disk portion and move a small amount of
this data to the solid state portion, so its
faster to access. The SSHD knows which
les are accessed the most and optimises
the SSD storage over time. Typically, key
operating system les and your most used

We no longer test RAM in Computer Shopper


because big-name brand memory has become so
reliable and cheap that the difference in
performance offered by one brand over another is
within a margin of error thats simply not worth worrying about. As such, we simply
recommend buying good branded memory: 8GB of HyperX 1,866MHz DDR3 RAM (33,
www.ebuyer.com) is a good choice. For a budget PC its not worth buying 16GB.

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

55

Plenty of storage for all your les plus an extra


8GB of SSD cache
www.ebuyer.com

PROCESSOR
Intel Core i3-4370

Wheres the RAM?

MAY 2016

STORAGE
1TB Seagate Desktop SSHD

applications are kept on the SSD, improving


boot times and application load times.
Because of their small SSD capacity, hybrid
drives arent a panacea and only help with
specic workloads. Theyre much more useful
with small les and desktop software. Games
benet less because their size means only
some parts of games will be stored on the
hybrid portion. Still, if you want some of the
benets of an SSD without the full cost, then
an SSHD is perfect for a budget computer.
Currently, the best SSHD available is the 1TB
Seagate Desktop SSHD (55, www.ebuyer.com).

CASE AND PSU


Although it may seem a good idea to save
cash on the case, if you go too cheap, you can
end up with a badly made, thin and loud case.
As such, its not worth cutting costs too much
at this point. We recommend the Silverstone
Quiet Precision PS11, which is exceptionally
well made, well insulated and a bargain at 40
inc VAT (www.scan.co.uk).

Power up

The PSU is another area where its simply not


worth cutting costs too much: unbranded
power supplies generally arent very reliable
and dont deliver clean power at the right
voltages. Instead, spend a little more on the
EVGA Supernova GS 550W, which costs just
69 inc VAT from www.scan.co.uk.

89

BEST FOR
Photo and HD
video editing

NOISE
As little as
as possible

DESIGN
Plenty of
airow, subtle
styling

GAMING
Latest games
in Full HD
resolution (with
optional card)

STORAGE
Music, photos,
videos and
games

Performance PC
YOUR DREAM PC doesnt have to cost the earth. In fact, you can spec a fantastically powerful
PC for under 900 if you choose your components carefully. We review lots of high-end PCs in
Computer Shopper and, while the professionals touch and a single warranty is certainly
attractive, we enjoy building our own PCs as much as we do reviewing system builders efforts.
System builders are able to buy components in bulk and therefore pay less than the
average consumer, but you dont get the full choice of components and the exact computer
you want. By choosing every single item that you put into your build, you can ensure that you
get the absolute best.

PROCESSOR
For this system, you need a mid-range
processor. That would normally mean
choosing between an Intel Core i5 or an AMD
FX processor. Theres a lot of choice in the
mid-range, so coming up with a sensible
decision-making process is essential.
AMDs FX line, as we mentioned
tioned in
our budget PC build, can
provide excellent
performance at walletfriendly prices. For example,
AMDs FX-9370 has eight
CPU cores running at an
impressive 4.4GHz base
clock speed. At full tilt, the
chip will boost to 4.7GHz,
and it managed an overall
score of 109 in our 4K tests,

including an impressive 126 in our videorendering test. The FX-9370 is easily


overclockable, too, with many relatively cheap
and compatible motherboards offering
one-click overclocking for a modest
performance boost with no hardware
modications required. All this comes at the
expense of power consumption,
exp
though: a huge 220W TDP is
high for a home PC in this
day and age, and means you
need strong cooling. A
third-party heatsink and fan
is recommended, which will
cost you at least an extra
30. However, tting a
third-party heatsink and fan
isnt always easy, especially
for a novice PC builder.

AMD hasnt released any new desktop


processor lines since Kaveri at the beginning
of 2014, and its upcoming Zen architecture is
still months away from release. Pitting
two-year-old hardware against the latest,
most ecient processors is only ever going
to have one result so, right now, if youre
buying brand-new components, Intel chips
are a better choice.
Intels latest architecture, Skylake, is far
quicker than AMDs line-up, and runs cooler,
too. The Core i5 range is the best option for
most people, with each model a quad-core
chip; the Core i7 range is the next step up, with
quad-core chips and Hyper-Threading.
Intel has two tempting options for our
performance PC. The Core i5-6600K is a
quad-core processor running at a base clock
speed of 3.5GHz, Turbo Boosting to a
maximum of 3.9GHz when thermal conditions
allow. This chip comes unlocked, meaning it
can be overclocked. Weve seen several stable
overclocks of this chip at 4.7GHz with no
problems at all.
The Core i5-6600 is effectively a lockeddown version of the i5-6600K, with a couple of
minor differences. Its base clock speed is
slightly lower than the i5-6600K, at 3.3GHz,
but its Turbo Boost performance is the same
at a maximum of 3.9GHz. Aside from these
minor differences and the fact that you cant
overclock it, its functionally identical to the
i5-6600K and is 25 cheaper.
Whats more, the i5-6600K doesnt come
with a cooler, which makes sense as this is an
enthusiasts chip that Intel expects to be
overclocked beyond the abilities of its stock
cooler. This means youll end up paying
roughly 55 more for the 6600K with a cooler
factored in. For those not bothered about
overclocking its a decent saving for very
similar base performance.

SSD
In our budget PC build we picked a hybrid hard
disk with 8GB of SSD cache. This offers the
best compromise between storage and
performance, but for a more expensive build,
go for a full SSD and a separate hard disk.
SSD prices have dropped dramatically in
recent months. The Sandisk Ultra II 240GB, for
example, is now just 65 (www.ebuyer.com).
Granted, faster SSDs are available, but with an
overall large-le read speed of 87.3MB/s, its
more than fast enough for most conventional
uses. The 240GB capacity not only gives you
enough room to store your operating system,
it also means larger programs such as
photo- and video-editing suites, as well as a
few games, will t on the disk.
Our mechanical hard disk is a 2TB WD
Green. Its by no means the fastest mechanical
disk around, but for bulk le storage its the
best-value high-capacity disk you can buy
today, especially when the programs that will
benet from a faster drive are installed on the
SSD instead. The WD Green is available in 3TB
and 4TB sizes, too, if you need more storage.

BUILD A BETTER PC

GRAPHICS CARD
Our performance machine needs a bit of
graphical muscle in order to full our objective
of being able to play the latest games at Full
HD resolution. Well look at four graphics
cards that can give your PC some serious
power for under 200.
There are two graphics processor rms
competing for your cash: Nvidia (with its
GeForce-branded cards) and AMD (which
produces Radeon cards), and a dozen or so
third-party manufacturers selling ranges of
cards with custom coolers and tweaked clock
speeds. This does make a small difference to
performance, especially on cards that have
been overclocked, although the overall
performance gains are usually fairly small.
Graphics card coolers also vary in quality, with
some cards, such as Asuss STRIX GTX 960,
congured to power down their fans when the
GPU is operating at less than 65C.
Weve narrowed down our choices to
specic card and cooler combinations that
weve actually reviewed. However, you can
spend up to 30 less if you pick a less
comprehensively cooled card, although you
shouldnt expect quite the same performance
and noise levels as our recommendations.
Our selection of four graphics cards two
from AMD and two from Nvidia cover two
price ranges. For around 130, the AMD
Radeon R7 370 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 950 are
both excellent cards for the money and while
they will have a shorter lifespan than a more
expensive card, if gaming isnt your priority
and you only want to play basic 3D games,
older titles or the latest titles at a reduced
resolution, theyre more than good enough.
Our other choices are the next models up
from both these cards, offering Full HD
gaming at very respectable frame rates. The
AMD Radeon R9 380 is a slightly more
powerful, rebadged card from 2014, while the
Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 is a slightly cheaper
card with only slightly slower performance.
In the graph below weve broken down our
benchmarks for each card, taking an average
frames-per-second (fps) gure from the three
tests we run and divided it by the cards

THE FINAL BUILD


Our performance PC is specied as follows:
CASE
NZXT Source 340

59

A roomy and inexpensive case with plenty of


room for upgrades and extra fans
www.ebuyer.com

PROCESSOR
Quad-core 3.3GHz Intel
Core i5-6600

Powerful quad-core chip with excellent


multitasking performance
www.cclonline.com

176

101

Good-value motherboard with plenty of room


for extra components. Supports AMD CrossFire
if you want to add a second graphics card
www.ebuyer.com

RAM
16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX
2,400MHz DDR4

78

Plenty of memory for photo and video editing,


and enough for todays most demanding games.
An 8GB set costs 43
www.scan.co.uk

current retail price. While this method is


extremely unscientic and only applies to
people who will be playing Dirt Showdown,
Metro: Last Light Redux and Tomb Raider, the
graph demonstrates that despite what you
might hear from loyal fans of both Nvidia and
AMD, you get what you pay for when it comes
to raw frames per second, with a few pennies
between each card in terms of pounds-per-fps.
At the time of going to press, the AMD
Radeon R9 380 provided the best performance

Price per fps


3.10
3.05

80

3.00

60

2.95

40

2.90

20

2.85

Dirt Showdown

GeForce GTX 960


Tomb Raider

Radeon R7 370
Metro: Last Light Redux

GeForce GTX 950

2.80

/fps

Frame rates per second (fps) in recent titles at 1,920x1,080 resolution (higher is better). The yellow line
shows you how much youll pay per fps (lower is better)

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

HARD DISK
2TB WD Green

64

www.amazon.co.uk

GRAPHICS CARD
Gigabyte Radeon R9 380
Windforce

160

PSU
EVGA Supernova G2 750W

93

OPERATING SYSTEM
Windows 8.1 Home 64-bit

79

OPTICAL DRIVE
Samsung 18x DVD writer

11

More than enough power for your components


www.scan.co.uk

www.scan.co.uk

An optional extra
www.ebuyer.com

GRAND TOTAL: 875 (886 with optical drive)

GRAPHICS CARD PERFORMANCE

Radeon R9 380

65

Quick and incredibly good value


www.currys.co.uk

A top card that will handle Full HD gaming


www.scan.co.uk

MOTHERBOARD
ASRock Fatal1ty Z170
Gaming K4

fps
100

SSD
240GB Sandisk Ultra II SSD

relative to its price, although the GeForce GTX


960 is close; its the sort of thing that can
easily change with the normal day-to-day
uctuations of the components market.

RAM
Intel Skylake processors require DDR4 RAM.
Given that RAM speeds dont make that much
difference, the best-value RAM is currently
DDR4 2,400MHz. A total of 16GB makes sense
for a PC like this, giving you more memory to
open more applications and larger les, but
you can save a bit of cash if you opt for 8GB.

CASE AND PSU


Youll want a decent, well-made case to house
your computer. An ATX case is the best choice.
If youre on a budget, the NZXT Source 340 is
excellent value at 59, but spend 104 and you
can get the super-stylish NZXT Phantom 530.
A powerful PSU is essential in order to
power this systems more powerful
components. You can work out your exact
power requirements by using the eXtreme
Power Supply Calculator (outervision.com/
power-supply-calculator). We recommend the
EVGA Supernova G2 750W, which costs 93
from www.scan.co.uk.

91

card up to 13 inches long. It has room for a


full-size Intel heatsink, which is useful for our
processor of choice (see nal build, opposite).
It also supports slimline optical drives so it
can be used as a genuine media centre PC.
66 from www.scan.co.uk

BEST FOR
Media
consumption
and web
browsing
NOISE
As little as
as possible

DESIGN
Slim

Fractal Design Node 202 Another great


living-room option, with a sleek design and a
built-in 450W power supply. Its a challenging
build so read the instructions carefully, and
keep in mind the graphics card can only be
12.2in long. 120 from www.overclockers.co.uk

Corsair Carbide Air 240 A slightly larger PC


with room for a microATX motherboard and a
full-size graphics card.
A large perspex
window on the left
and a separate,
hidden compartment
for your cables make
this a great case for
showing off. 75 from
www.scan.co.uk

GAMING
Latest 3D
games in Full
HD

STORAGE
Games and
media

Compact PC
AS WE DISCOVERED in Shopper 337, compact PCs can offer a brilliant alternative to full-sized
desktop PCs. Despite their much smaller size, you dont have to worry about poor performance
and overheating thanks to clever case designs and ecient components.
Building them can look like a challenge, though. Because the cases are so small, care must be
taken when selecting components such as CPU coolers and graphics card, and you have to pay
special attention to the number of drive bays available. Installing each component is trickier, too,
because unlike ATX cases, many Mini-ITX cases require you to install things in a certain order.
Our compact PC should be able to act as your media centre PC and games console
replacement. It should have lots of room for storing games and media, as well as wireless
connectivity so you dont have to route network cables around your TV setup.

Cooler Master Elite 130


30 A
great option for buyers
on a budget. It isnt the
prettiest case, but its
squat dimensions and
support for 13.5in
graphics cards and
water-cooling systems
make it very adaptable.
42 from www.ebuyer.com
Fractal Design Core 500
A cheap chassis that
looks great and has
loads of room inside. Its
slightly larger than
conventional Mini-ITX
cases and supports
graphics cards up to
12.2 inches long.
50 from www.scan.co.uk

WI-FI CONNECTION
COMPACT CASE
The smaller the case, the harder it is to build
in. Even if youre a seasoned PC builder, the
challenges presented by a Mini-ITX case are
signicant. Part of this is down to the smaller
working space, but the bigger problem is that
some cases require you to t certain
components rst. This means removing a
component can require the complete
disassembly of your PC, which isnt for the
faint of heart.

While larger compact cases allow you to


install conventional PC components, one
thing they do not allow for are full-size
motherboards. As a result, you have to make
some fairly hefty compromises in terms of
expandability and ports, and small
motherboards can be slightly more expensive.

The contenders

Silverstone Raven RVZ01 (main image, above)


This chunky but compact case is great for the
living room and has space for a large graphics

One of the reasons people choose compact


PCs in the rst place is the convenience of
being able to place it anywhere in the house.
Some compact PCs will even nd themselves
moved around on a regular basis. One of the
best additions you can make to a compact PC
is a Wi-Fi module, and if youre starting from
scratch and can spend a little more, you can
buy a motherboard with Wi-Fi built in. The
ASRock H170M-ITX/ac motherboard comes
complete with built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi and, at
90 from www.kikatek.com, costs only a little
more than a non-wireless motherboard.

BUILD A BETTER PC

THE FINAL BUILD


Our compactt PC is
Ou
i specied
i d as follows:
follo
CA
CASE
Silverstone Raven RVZ01
Silv
Si

66

Ag
grea
great-value compact case with lots of room
for extra
ex storage devices and a graphics card
www
www.scan.co.uk

PR
PROC
PROCESSOR
Quad
Qu
Quad-core 3.3GHz Intel
Core i5-6600
Co

ASRock H170M-ITX/ac
motherboard

GRAPHICS CARD
If youre building a compact PC with gaming in
mind, youll need to choose your graphics card
extremely carefully. Not only will your choice
dene how well your PC plays games, youll
also have to check the specications as not all
cards will t in all compact cases. Theres no
standard for dening what sort of card will t
in what sort of case, aside from vague
Mini-ITX-labelled products, so youll need to
check your cases documentation and the
dimensions of your graphics card.
Many conventionally sized graphics cards
will t into our recommended cases opposite,
but if you pick a case with limited dimensions
youll need to hunt for compact cards. Heres
our selection of the best-value compact cards
you can buy today.
Asus GTX 950 Mini
ITX This compact
card has great
mid-range
performance and
is perfect for a games
console replacement.
Its just 6.8 inches
long, making it a decent t for the most
compact cases. 130 from www.scan.co.uk
Sapphire R9 380
ITX Compact OC At
just 6.7 inches long,
this AMD-based
GPU is a good
mid-range option for
Full HD gaming.
150 from www.scan.co.uk
.uk
Asus GTX 970 DirectCU II OC Another 6.7in
card that will easily handle the latest games at
their highest
settings
hig
ing in Full HD. 280
0 ffrom
www.ebuyer.com

Pow
Powerful
quad-core chip with excellent
multit
multitasking
performance, and includes a
heatsi and fan
heatsink
www.ebuyer.com

176

MOTHERBOARD
ASRock H170M-ITX/ac

90

A well-specied compact motherboard with


integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi
www.kikatek.com

MEMORY
8GB Corsair DDR4
2,400MHz RAM

35

Enough for the latest games, and leaves room


to double your memory later
www.ebuyer.com

SSD
240GB Sandisk Ultra II SSD

65

Quick and incredibly good value, you wont


nd a better SSD for less
www.ebuyer.com

HARD DISK
2TB WD Green

64

A reasonably fast and high-capacity mechanical


disk for media and the rest of your games
www.amazon.co.uk

GRAPHICS CARD
Sapphire R9 380 ITX

150

A powerful and compact card for the latest


games at Full HD resolution
www.scan.co.uk

PSU
Silverstone Strider SX500

72

OPERATING SYSTEM
Windows 8.1 Home 64-bit

79

OPTICAL DRIVE
Samsung Slimline
Blu-ray drive

44

This is a slightly longer SFX-L power supply,


incorporating a quiet 120mm fan. Despite its
larger size it still ts in the case weve picked
www.cclonline.com

Upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 for


free until the end of July this year
www.scan.co.uk

An optional addition to make your compact PC


a true media hub, allowing you to play DVDs
and Blu-rays (additional software required)
www.amazon.co.uk

GRAND TOTAL: 797 (841 with Blu-ray drive)

Small fry
How much do you lose when you downsize from an ATX to a Mini-ITX motherboard,
and how much more do you pay? We found the cheapest mid-range Intel H170-chipset
motherboards online and compared their specications.
TYPE

ATX

MINI-ITX

Motherboard

ASRock H170 Pro4/D3

ASRock H170M-ITX/DL

Price including VAT

70

78

Retailer

www.scan.co.uk

www.lambda-tek.com

Supported memory type


and maximum speed

DDR3, 1,866MHz

DDR4, 2,133MHz

Memory slots

Maximum memory

64GB

32GB

PCI-E x16/x4/x1 ports

2/0/3

1/0/1

SATA3/Express/mSATA ports

6/2/0

4/0/1

Wired network ports

Motherboard sound (ports)

3x 3.5mm

3x 3.5mm

USB ports/headers

6/2 USB3, 0/2 USB2

6/1 USB3, 2/1 USB2

93

HOW TO: GET THE CASE READY


STEP Remove the side panels

To get inside the case youll rst need


to remove the side panels. Some cases
use thumbscrews so this will be easy; if not,
youll need a crosshead screwdriver to remove
the screws. The priority will be the left side
panel (when viewing the case front on).
If you know theres space to work behind
the motherboard tray in your case for cable
routing, remove the right panel as well.

STEP Take out accessories

Most case manufacturers place all the


accessories and instructions inside the
case itself for easy transportation. Make sure
you take them all out. Its not uncommon for
the screws to be in a box mounted in one of
the hard drive bays, so be sure to slide this out
using the removable tray. The end result you
want is an empty, clean space inside the case
for you to get to work. Make sure you keep all
the screws within easy reach as youll need
them later when installing the motherboard.
STEP Remove the front plates

If youre planning on installing a 5in


optical drive (or a memory card reader
in the cases 3in external bay), youll rst
need to remove the port surround (or
blanking) plates from the front of the case.

It will probably be easiest to remove the


front of the case altogether to do this, so
consult the instruction manual. Most likely it
will just need unclipping by pulling away from
the case. Not all cases support an optical disc
drive, so make sure yours does if you still need
to use DVDs or CDs. A
STEP Remove the backplates

If youre planning on installing a


graphics card or PCI/PCI Express card
such as a TV tuner, youll also need to remove
the blanking plates that cover the expansion

slots from the back of the case. These usually


have screws holding them all in place, so reach
for your screwdriver if you need it. B
Only remove the ones you need, not only
to maintain the attractive exterior but also to
stop dirt entering the case. Some graphics
cards require two plates to be removed. Keep
hold of any screws you remove as youll need
to use these to secure your graphics card or
PCI/PCI Express card once inserted. If youre
having trouble working out which plates to
remove, you can always take them out later
when the motherboard is installed.

HOW TO: INSTALL THE POWER SUPPLY


STEP Fit power supply in case

Increasingly, a lot of PC cases now


position the power supply unit (PSU)
in the bottom of the case. This can be
preferable as the sheer weight of some
modern PSUs means systems can be
unbalanced when theyre mounted at the top.

If your PSU is modular,


meaning that unneeded
power cables can be
detached, its easier to
detach the cables now
and reattach them later, as this will
leave you more room to work inside
the case and make the PSU slightly
less unwieldy to install.
Power-related problems
are often the cause of a
system not booting.
Make sure everything is
properly connected and
that you havent missed a power
cable before pulling your hair out.
Some PSUs let you switch the
voltage between 110V (US) and 230V
(UK). Make sure yours is set correctly.

It can also make for neater cabling as the


power cables dont hang down into the case.
Which way round you install the PSU
depends on the case, so be sure to consult the
manual. In some cases, you can point the PSU
air intake fan up or down. With the PSU fan
pointed up towards the case internals, the fan
can draw warm air in and then expel it out of
the rear of the case, helping to lower the
temperature inside. Alternatively, you may be
able to point the PSU fan down, so it will draw
in cool air from outside the case, allowing it to
maintain a lower operating temperature and
potentially increasing its lifespan.

If your case does take a PSU in the top


there will be a small shelf on which the power
unit can rest. Slide the PSU on to the shelf and
push it back towards the rear of the case until
it makes contact. A
STEP Screw in PSU

With the PSU in place, make sure the


screw holes match up with the back of
the case. Now its a simple matter of attaching
the four screws to hold the PSU in place. Now
is also a good time to attach the kettle lead and
plug into a grounded wall socket so the case is
grounded. Dont turn it on yet, though. B

BUILD A BETTER PC

HOW TO: INSTALL THE MOTHERBOARD


STEP Unpack the board

Open up the motherboards box and remove its contents. Most


likely youll nd the motherboard itself inside an anti-static bag.
Keep hold of the bag in case you need it later, but do not place
components on this bag. Youll also nd a number of cables, most
likely including a SATA cable or two, a driver CD and a port surround
plate to insert into the rear of the case. Take these all out and put
them somewhere safe for later on.

STEP Check the port surround plate

The port surround plate (often called the backplate) ts into


the back of your case and gives you access to the ports on the
motherboard, typically with pre-cut holes. Occasionally motherboard
manufacturers use generic plates that t all of their motherboards,
so you might need to remove specic port covers in order to match
the actual connections available.
The easiest thing to do is hold up the plate to your motherboards
back connections to see which of them match, and then remove the
ones you need. This could mean either twisting metal covers off, much
like the expansion card blanking plates on some cases, or it could
require you to push a ap cover inwards to give access to the hole.
STEP Installing the port surround plate

Now that all the holes line up with the connections on your
motherboard, its time to attach the plate to the case. Youll
need to install the plate from the inside of the case, pushing it
outwards. The ridges should face out and the writing on the plate
should be readable from outside of the case. A That way you know
youre denitely tting it the right way. Also make sure its the right
way up, with the PS/2 keyboard and mouse connections at the top and
the audio connections on the bottom. Push the plate into the opening
on the case with a little bit of force and it should click into place.
STEP Measure up the motherboard

The next step is to install the motherboard inside the case. For
this you will need to line up the motherboard with the predrilled holes in the motherboard tray. Make sure you have the right
size PC case for your motherboard. For example, an ATX motherboard
wont t inside a microATX case as its too large. A microATX board will
usually happily t inside an ATX case, however.
Take the motherboard and manoeuvre it into the case, lining it up
with the port surround plate you tted into the back of the case. Push
the board in rmly so its ush. The holes on the motherboard should
now line up with the holes on the motherboard tray. Take a mental
note of which holes are required and remove the motherboard, placing
it in (not on) the anti-static bag it came in to be safe.

MAY 2016

STEP Fit the motherboard standoffs

Here is where the screws and accessories you put safely aside
when opening up the case will come in handy. Have a dig to nd
the motherboard standoffs. These are the tall, hollowed-out screws
that are typically made from brass. These standoffs are designed to
hold the motherboard away from the case to prevent it shorting out
should the motherboard contacts touch the case.
Simply screw these into the pre-drilled holes in the motherboard
tray using the ones you identied in the previous step. B Make sure
theyre screwed in tight and use one for each hole on the motherboard
so that its held in securely. In some cases the standoffs might come
pre-installed in the case but they might not be in the correct place for
your particular motherboard. Follow the earlier instructions to make
sure theyre in the right place; dont leave any in the case that arent
required for your board.
STEP Install the motherboard

Once again slide the motherboard into the backplate and


double-check youve installed the standoffs in the correct place.
If you havent, remove the motherboard and t any missing standoffs.
With the standoffs in place, line the motherboard holes up and insert
the screws, screwing them into the standoffs. C Its best to do each
corner of the motherboard rst so that its held safely in place. Dont
tighten them all the way yet: just tighten them enough to keep the
motherboard from sliding. With the corners done, insert the screws in
the remaining holes and tighten them all so that the board is secure.
Dont over-tighten them as the board may crack.

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

95

Modern motherboards use a 24-pin ATX


connection, which is easily identiable as
its the largest connection on the PSU
STEP Identify the ATX connector

The motherboard draws power from the PSU typically using


two connectors: an ATX connector and a secondary connector.
Modern motherboards use a 24-pin ATX connection, which is easily
identiable as its the largest connection on the power supply.
Older motherboards used a 20-pin connection, so your PSU might
have an ATX connector with a detachable four-pin connector. Make
sure that a full 24-pin connector is made by snapping the two cables
together, a bit like two pieces of Lego.
STEP Attach ATX connector

The ATX connector will only plug in one way as it has a small
hook and clasp for securely attaching to the motherboard.
Once its lined up correctly, attach the connection by applying a little
downward force until you feel the clasp engage. D Give it a gentle tug
afterwards to make sure its connected properly and give it a visual
inspection to make sure its ush with the motherboard. A common
reason for a PC failing to boot is that the power cables have been
incorrectly attached, so heres a good chance to use your torch.
STEP Connect the secondary connector

Modern motherboards need a secondary power connector


from the PSU. This will either be a four-pin or an eight-pin
connection, depending on your motherboard. Check what type your
PSU has as you might have to buy an adaptor. If your PSU is modular,
make sure the correct power cable is attached. Some PSUs have an
eight-pin connection that can be split in two. Much like the 24-pin
connector, youll need to line up the connector the right way round
and apply a little bit of force to attach it properly. A satisfying click will
let you know when its in. E

Third-party
Intel coolers

If youre using a motherboard for Intel processors and are


planning on using a third-party cooler, make sure you install
the motherboard backplate before you t the motherboard
in the case (see How to install an Intel processor, page 98,
Step 4). Otherwise it will be a nightmare having to remove the
motherboard unless your case provides rear access.

BUILD A BETTER PC

HOW TO: INSTALL AN AMD PROCESSOR


STEP Open the socket lever

AMDs AM3, FM2 and FM2+


processors t directly into a socket on
the motherboard. The rst step is to lift the
metal lever to release the socket. The entire
xture will move slightly backwards until the
holes in the plastic socket are aligned with the
connectors beneath. A

STEP Fit the processor

The processor is a delicate component,


so hold it on the edges and avoid
touching the pins underneath. The processor
will t only one way into the socket so will
require no force.
Theres a small arrow on the corner of the
processor and a matching arrow on the corner
of the socket. Line these two up and the
processor will simply drop into place without
any fuss. If it feels as if the processor is not
sitting ush with the motherboard, dont
re-close the lever as this could damage the
connections on the processor. Instead,
double-check that the arrows are lined up
and that the processor is squarely in the
socket. Once youre sure everything is set,
close the lever again to lock the processor
securely in place. B
STEP Apply thermal paste

You can skip this step if youve bought


a new retail processor kit as the cooler
will already have thermal paste pre-applied.
Thermal paste helps to conduct heat away
from the processor into the heatsink of the
cooler, keeping temperatures under control.
If theres what looks like a silver sticker on the
bottom of the heatsink, this is actually a layer
of thermal paste.
If there isnt any pre-applied paste, youll
need to add your own. A small amount goes a
long way so apply just a little on the top of the
processor to start (no more than half a
pea-sized lump). Use a thin bit of card to
spread the thermal paste evenly across the
top of the processor, avoiding getting any
over the sides. Add more if necessary. C

STEP Fit the cooler

The cooler supplied by AMD with its


processors is relatively straightforward
to t, although it does take a little bit of force.
Theres a large metal rod that extends beyond
the sides of the cooler. This is designed to
latch on to plastic tabs surrounding the
processor socket on the motherboard.
First orientate the cooler so that the CPU
cooler connection is closest to the cable for
easy reach (see How to connect the case and
fan cables, page 101). Then, take the cooler

and open the lever so that the metal clips


move freely. Place the cooler over the top of
the processor and take the clip on the
opposite side of the lever and attach it over
the plastic tab so that it hooks up. Now take
the other latch and, with a bit of effort, press
down so that this also hooks on to the tab.
With both sides connected, close the lever
to lock the processor cooler into place. This
may also take a little bit of force. The cooler
should be tightly locked to the motherboard,
and you shouldnt feel any wiggle. D

Fitting an AM1 cooler


If youre installing one of AMDs budget AM1 processors, the coolermounting process is different to the other socket types. AM1 chips uses
push-pins that punch through pre-set holes on the motherboard rather than
the locking clasps used for AMDs other processor sockets. These can be a
bit tricky to install if you follow the instructions included with the cooler, so
use this guide instead.
To install the cooler, rst line it up so that the two push-pins are above
the holes in the motherboard. Push down on one of them until it goes
through the motherboard, and insert the holding pin through the hole to
keep it in place. Now do the same for the other corner of the cooler. This
side will have risen up slightly so will be a bit trickier than the rst. With
both pins in place, the cooler will be securely locked to the processor.

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

97

HOW TO: INSTALL AN INTEL PROCESSOR


STEP Lift the processor cage

First youll need to remove the plastic cover on the processor


socket to expose the cutout in the metal housing. This should
simply pop out. To access the socket, unclip the handle that runs down
the side of the socket. Lift this up to release the retaining clip on the
main cage. Now lift the main cage up and out of the way to expose the
socket. The pins for an Intel motherboard are on the board itself, so be
sure not to damage these as bending them will stop the motherboard
communicating with or powering the processor properly. A

STEP Install the processor

Now line up the two cutout notches on the sides of the


processor with the ridges in the socket. An arrow on the
processor should line up with the corner of the socket that has a
missing pin. The processor should drop gently into place and sit ush
with the socket. If it doesnt, and theres some lateral movement, the
processor is in the wrong way. Carefully lift it up and align again.
Close the metal cage and pull the retaining handle down. This might
require a little bit of force, so again double-check the processor is
positioned correctly before pressing down too hard. Slide the handle
back into its locking position to put the processor securely in place. B

STEP Apply thermal paste

Chances are that if you bought a new processor with an included


cooler, thermal paste is already pre-applied. If not, see How to
install an AMD processor, step 3 (page 97) for how to apply your own.
STEP Fit the cooler

If youre using a third-party cooler, check the instructions as they


might differ from standard Intel reference coolers. Some might
require you to install a motherboard backplate to hold the cooler in
place, especially the larger coolers.
The standard Intel cooler uses four feet that are secured into the
holes surrounding the processor socket on the motherboard. Make sure
these are rotated away from the direction of the arrow to start. Its
sensible to orientate the cooler so the fans power cable is close to the
CPU fan header on the motherboard. Line up the four feet with the
holes and press down on two diagonally opposite feet so they lock into
the motherboard. These should click into position so you know theyre
secure. Now do the other two corners, and the cooler should be securely
in place. If you need to release the feet, simply use a screwdriver to turn
the top of each foot as indicated by the arrow to release it. C

Motherboard compatibility
If your motherboard is particularly old or your processor is
particularly new, you might run into compatibility issues.
Although all the motherboards we tested last month should
work out of the box with our recommended processors,
some motherboards will only work with the latest processors
following a BIOS upgrade. A problem occurs when certain
motherboards wont boot to the BIOS without a compatible
processor installed, meaning youre incapable of updating the
BIOS with the chip you have.
In this scenario youll need an older compatible processor to
let you get to the BIOS ashing interface and then swap the
processors once youve upgraded the BIOS. Some motherboards
allow you to ash a BIOS using a dedicated button on the
motherboard that will allow it to take a BIOS update from a
connected USB ash drive. Either way, be sure to check your
processor is compatible with your motherboard or that youll
be in a position to upgrade the BIOS if needed.

BUILD A BETTER PC

HOW TO: INSTALL MEMORY


STEP Identify the

slots to use

If you want to take


advantage of the performance
increase of dual-channel
architecture (theres no
reason you wouldnt), the rst
step will be identifying which
memory slots you should use
as a matching pair. Frustratingly,
motherboard manufacturers seem
incapable of settling on a standard, so
you might have to consult the manual if your
motherboard has more than two slots.
Most memory slots are colour-coded, but
whether you should install two modules in
identically coloured slots or in different
coloured slots will be down the manufacturer.
The slots might also be numbered, so inspect
the markings on the motherboard. These will
make following the instructions easier.
STEP Open the retaining clips

Clips on each end of the slot hold the


memory in place. Youll need to open
up the clips on each end by pressing down on
them. They should pop open up to around 45
without much effort so that youre ready to
insert the memory module. A

a slit on the memory module. Match these up


to make sure youre inserting the memory
module the right way round. Provided you
have the right memory for your motherboard,
everything should line up.

STEP Line up and insert memory

STEP Clip the memory in place

Theres an off-centre ridge on the


memory slot on the motherboard and

Once everything is lined up properly,


press the memory into the slot on the

motherboard by applying even pressure on


each end. B The clips should spring back and
lock into place with a click.
Check that the clips are nestled securely
against the side of the memory module; if not,
you might have to press down a little bit
harder until theres better contact. Repeat
these steps for any other memory modules
you need to install.

HOW TO: INSTALL AN OPTICAL DRIVE


STEP Fit the drive

Many new PCs and laptops no longer


come with optical disc drives. If you
want an optical drive for reading CDs, DVDs or
Blu-ray discs, youll need to make sure your
case supports external 5in drives.
The standard way to install an optical drive
is to insert it from the front of the case, rather
than the inside as with your hard disks. The
rst thing youll need to do is remove the
cases front panel. Chances are this will just
pop off, but consult your manual if this isnt
the case. Slide the optical disc drive into the
drive bay and push it back until the front is
ush with the case. A
Screw-holes on the side of the drive should
line up with holes in the drive bay. Secure the
optical drive in place using four screws, much
as you would with your hard disk (see page
100). You should use four screws in total, two
on each side. B
STEP Plug in the SATA power cable

Youll need to connect your optical


drive to the PSU using a SATA power
cable. Attach the cable to the PSU and make

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

sure its inserted all the way (see image B in


How to install a storage disk on page 100 to
know what to look for). Older optical drives
may use a Molex cable, one of which should
be available on your PSU.

STEP Connect the SATA cable

to the optical drive

You now need to connect the SATA


cable to the back of the optical drive. If youve
installed a few storage disks you might be
running low on SATA cables unless your
optical disk drive had one included, so make
sure you have enough. You can pick up
additional SATA cables for as little as 1 from
www.ebuyer.com.

STEP Connect the SATA cable

to the motherboard

Locate the SATA ports on your


motherboard that youll use for your storage
disks (see page 100). If your motherboard has
a mix of SATA2 and SATA3 ports, use a SATA2
port for your optical drive as they dont
benet from faster speeds. You can then save
your SATA3 ports for future additions.

99

HOW TO: INSTALL A STORAGE DISK


STEP Fit the disk into a bay

Solid-state drives (SSDs) are a popular


choice for storage these days, and
most new cases have dedicated 2in drive
bays to accommodate them. In older cases you
might have to install your SSDs in a 3in bay
using mounting brackets. Many SSD retail kits
include these, or you can buy them online
separately. As a stopgap you can pretty much
put your SSD anywhere in the case, as it wont
vibrate or create much heat.
Some cases mount 2in SSDs around the
case. Consult the instruction manual to see if
there are SSD vertical mounting points behind
the motherboard tray, in the bottom of the
case, or elsewhere. Youll need to secure the
SSD to these mounting points using the
screws supplied with the case. A
Whether youre installing a 2in or a
3in drive, it helps if your case supports
tool-less installation using drive cages or
rails. If yours does, slide the storage disk in;
the rails on the side should hold it in place.
Some cases require you to screw rails into
the storage disk and then slide the entire
assembly into the drive cage.
If youre installing a 3in drive, rst locate
a vacant 3in drive bay on your case. This will
most likely be in the front of the case but
some cases might position them elsewhere,
such as at the bottom of the case, depending
on their shape and design. Dont use an
external bay (one that has a cutout in the
front of the case) as these are designed to be
used with memory card readers.
STEP Plug in SATA power

The SATA power connector is the wider


of the two thin connectors on the disk
drive, and needs to be connected to your PSU
to provide power to the drive. Locate the SATA
power cable coming from your PSU (or attach
it if your PSU is modular). Connect this to the
SATA power connector on the hard disk itself.
Look closely and youll see its an elongated L
shape, so it will only connect one way.

Depending on your
power supply unit,
you may need to use
a Molex-to-SATA
adaptor to power a
storage or optical drive.
Make sure you connect it straight in,
avoiding any downward pressure, as this
could damage the connector. B
STEP Connect the SATA data

cable to the storage disk

The other thin connection on your SSD


or hard disk is the SATA data connection. This
is what carries the data between the storage
disk and the motherboard. Your motherboard
will come with SATA cables included, so
locate the accessories you put aside earlier.

M.2 and mSATA


M.2 and mSATA SSDs are both relatively new technologies,
ologies, and
theyre a great choice as a fast system disk for your operating system.
These connect directly to a dedicated socket on the motherboard, usually
near the middle of the board. Theyre great not justt for speed, but also for neatness,
as no additional power or data-transfer cables are needed.
To install an mSATA SSD, match the ridges and notches on the mSATA SSD and the
socket. Insert the drive at around a 45 angle until its ush with the socket. Then lay
the mSATA SSD at. The disk will either be held in place with retaining clips, similar to
the memory modules, or you may need to install screws. Use the screws included with
the mSATA SSD.
The process for an M.2 SSD is very similar. You may need to remove an existing
pre-installed retaining screw from the motherboard before you install the M.2 SSD. Once
the SSD is installed you can re-install the retaining screw at the end to hold it in place.

Your hard disk may have also come with SATA


cables if it was a retail kit.
The SATA cable may terminate in a straight
connection, or it may be an angled L-shaped
connection. The latter can be better for neater
cabling as the cable isnt angled straight out of
the connector. Like the power connection, the
cable will only connect in one way. Push it
straight in and you should feel a subtle click to
let you know its securely connected. C
STEP Connect the SATA cable

to the motherboard

Now you need to connect the other


end of the SATA cable to the motherboard.
First locate the SATA connections on your
motherboard. These can usually be found at
the bottom right of the board. Some of the
connections may be facing sideways and
placed along the edge.
Each SATA port should be numbered,
Eac
which will let you know the motherboards
default boot order (unless you change the
defaul
priority in the BIOS). Lower-numbered
boot p
SATA ports will boot rst. Therefore if youre
SAT
installing more than one disk drive, make
ins
sure that the disk drive youre using as a
sur
boot disk (the one on which your
boo
operating system will be installed) is
ope
plugged into the lowest-numbered port.
plugge
You may need to make sure all the SATA
ports behave in the same way, as some may
be reserved for special uses such as RAID
arrays, and some may be the slower SATA2
standard. Youll want to connect an SSD to a
SATA3 port as they benet from faster
transfer speeds. The SATA cable will only
connect one way to the motherboard and will
click securely into place. D

BUILD A BETTER PC

HOW TO: CONNECT THE CASE & FAN CABLES


STEP Connect case cables

to the motherboard

There will be a number of different


loose cables coming from your case that need
to be connected to headers on the
motherboard. Connections for the power
button, reset button and status LEDs are all
grouped together. The cluster of headers you
need might be labelled Panel or JFP1.
Consult your motherboard manual to be sure.
Get the cables ready to be attached; they may
be tucked away behind the motherboard.
You can see an example of what you
should be looking for on the right. A If you
have trouble connecting the ddly headers by
hand, use a pair of pliers to help you.

JFP1

Power
LED

Power
switch

10

HDD
LED

Reset
switch

STEP Connect the power cable

One of the cables is the two-pin power


cable, which will allow your cases
power switch to turn the system on. The
cable will connect to a pair of pins among the
cluster of other headers described above. If
youre lucky, the motherboard might have a
Power SW marking inscribed next to the
relevant header. If not, youll need to consult
a diagram in the motherboards manual in
order to identify the correct headers. The
power cable will slide over the two pins.
STEP Connect the reset cable

If your case has a reset button, this will


also need to be connected to the same
group of headers. Again, youre looking for
the header for RESET SW; look on the
motherboard or in the instruction manual.
Slide the cable over the two pins as above.

another row of four, so one is missing from


the corner. Make sure you look at the
connector end of the cases USB cable and
line this up with the header on the
motherboard. It should t only one way. B

connected earlier or nearby. The correct


header will be labelled Speaker.
STEP Connect the fans

These are the status indicator LEDs


that ash on the front of your case to tell
you its turned on or that the hard disk is
active. These cables have plus and minus
polarity, so its important theyre tted to the
correct header. The end of the cable will be
marked for polarity. Consult the manual to
make sure that you connect the cable to the
right header on the motherboard.

Your case may also have a USB3 port


on the front, which is the much faster
USB standard. This lets you connect faster
USB3 devices such as ash drives, which will
be able to transfer les much faster than
plain old USB2.
The USB3 header will look different to a
regular USB header and there may only be
one of them. If your motherboard is an older
model, it may not have any at all, so check
the specications and manual. The cable will
only attach in one way, so make sure you
have it the right way round. C

Fans can be connected directly to the


PSU, but its better to connect them to
the motherboard. This way they can still get
the power they need to operate but can also
communicate directly with the motherboard.
The motherboard will be able to control fan
speed, which is useful if you want to strike a
balance between case temperature and the
noise generated by the fans.
Your fans will end in three- or four-pin
connectors. Have a look on the motherboard
for jumpers labelled SYS_FAN, PWR_FAN
or CHA_FAN. There will probably be more
than one at different positions on the
motherboard, so use whichever is closest to
the corresponding fan.

STEP Connect USB headers

STEP Connect the audio ports

STEP Connect the CPU fan

STEP Connect the power

and HDD LEDs

If your case has front-mounted USB


ports or a memory card reader, these
will need to be connected to headers on the
motherboard. The cable from the case will be
labelled USB and will be larger than the ones
youve connected in the previous steps.
Look for headers marked USB on your
motherboard. This may be followed by a
number, and there may be more than one
header available, depending on your
motherboard. Its advisable to use whichever
is closest to the cables origin to avoid messy
cabling. The header on the motherboard is
arranged by one row of ve headers and

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

STEP Connect USB3 headers

The headphone and microphone jacks


on the front of your case also need to
be connected. The cable will be labelled HD
Audio on its connector. This might be
labelled on your motherboard as JAUD1 or
AAFP; consult the instruction manual if
youre unsure. This cable will again attach in
only one way, so make sure you have it the
right way round. D
If your case has a built-in speaker for
warning beeps, this will also need to be
connected. The speaker headers on the
motherboard may be in the same cluster of
headers as the power and reset headers you

The fan on the processor cooler we


installed earlier also needs to be
connected to the motherboard. Failure to do
so might result in your motherboard giving an
error or the processor quickly overheating
and automatically shutting down the system.
Much like the case fans, the processors fan
speed is controlled by the motherboard.
Connect the CPU fan to a connector
labelled CPU_FAN on the motherboard,
typically located right next to the processor
socket. Like the other connections, it will
only plug in one way. This will either be a
four-pin or three-pin connector.

101

HOW TO: INSTALL A GRAPHICS CARD


A

STEP Remove the blanking plate

We showed you how to remove the


rear blanking plates on your case in
Step 4 of How to get the case ready on page
94. Its a little easier to do this when the case
is empty, but if youve already tted your
other components, its not too late; just follow
the instructions on page 94.
If you have a double-height graphics card,
youll need to remove two blanking plates.
STEP Identify the PCI-E x16 slot

Graphics cards connect to a PCI


Express x16 (PCI-E x16) slot on your
motherboard. This is usually the longest slot
on the motherboard next to the blanking
plates. Your motherboard may have more than
one PCI-E x16 slot, allowing you to install more
than one graphics card for increased
performance. If youre only installing one
graphics card youll want to use the slot
nearest the top of the motherboard, towards
the processor. This is because this slot will run
at full x16 speed whereas other slots may run
at only x8 or x4 speeds.

the case. Exert even pressure down on the


graphics card into the slot. A A retaining
clip towards the end of the slot will click into
place when the graphics card has been
successfully connected. The whole of the
graphics cards connector should sit level
within the motherboard slot.

STEP Fit the graphics card

To t the graphics card youll need to


line up the card with the slot in the
drive, with the output connections towards
the vacant blanking plates you removed
earlier. The graphics cards fans will normally
be pointing towards the bottom of the case.
Push the graphics card down and towards
the back of the case so that the display output
connections are available from the back of

STEP Screw the card into place

Youll now need to insert the screw(s)


you saved earlier when removing the
backplate(s). This will secure the graphics card
to the rear slot and stop it from moving
around or coming loose.

STEP Plug in the power

Most graphics cards require separate


power from the PSU using either a
six-pin or an eight-pin power connector.
Some of the more power-hungry models
might even need two connectors. Any modern
power supply will have these connectors;
otherwise a Molex-to-PCI Express adaptor is
often bundled with the card. B

HOW TO: ROUTE YOUR CABLES


STEP Tie excess cables

Some cables, such as the front panel


audio, branch into two connections
when you only need to use one of them.
This usually means that a second
connection branches off just before the
main cable terminates. Fold the excess cable
back on itself and tie it down to the main
cable so its out of the way. Do this for any
other cables around the case, such as the
PSUs SATA power cables.
STEP Bundle together cables

Any cables close to one another can


be bundled together to make one
thick cable. Use several ties along their
length. You should also group together several smaller bundles where
possible. Dont use zip ties as these are a nightmare to remove.
If your case lets you route cables behind the motherboard, see the
next step. If not, try to route as many cables as possible along the edge
of the case so theyre out of the way. You can use electrical tape for
this. You can also tie cables to the drive bays. Keep the cables clear of
any fans as they may cause an obstruction.

STEP Route cables behind board

Not all cases let you route cables


behind the motherboard, but if yours
does its denitely something you want to
take advantage of. This takes them out of
the airow path across the components,
allowing the fans to work more eciently.
If you have a window on the side panel, it
also makes your PC more attractive.
Your case may have several rubbercovered passthrough holes through which
you can route the cabling. Route any excess
cable through one of these holes towards
the back of the tray and then back round to
the front again through another hole, a bit
like sewing a stitch, so that the cables can
be connected to components or the motherboard. There will be several
passthrough holes, so use whichever is closest to the cables intended
destination to reduce the amount of cable on show.
Be sure to run the cables in such a way that they sit at against
the back of the motherboard tray. This is to ensure that the side
panel wont be blocked by bulging cables and that youll be able to
put it back on properly. A

BUILD A BETTER PC

HOW TO: INSTALL EXPANSION CARDS


STEP Identify a spare slot

Depending on what youre planning to


install, you may need to install software
before you t your new card. This means it
should be the last thing you do, after youve
installed an operating system.
When youre ready, locate a PCI Express
(PCI-E x1) or PCI slot, depending on the card
youre installing. Not all motherboards have
both, so check whats available on your board
before you buy an expansion card. Look at the
image on the right to identify which slots you
have. A Its best to try to leave some space
between components to help with airow, so
use the slot furthest away from the graphics
card, if you have one installed.

PCI-E x16

PCI-E x1
PCI

STEP Remove the blanking plate

You might have already removed the


blanking plate while setting up the case.
If not, now is the time. It will either be screwed
in or held in place by a retaining bar. Sometimes
the blanking plate will lift straight out, but you
might need to rock the plate out and break it
off the case. Be careful with any sharp edges
and be sure to keep hold of the screw for later.
STEP Install the card

The procedure for installing a PCI or a


PCI Express card is the same. Line up
the notches and ridges between the card and
the slot; they will only t one way. Apply some
downward force to get the card to sit securely
in the slot. Unlike the PCI-E x16 slot used for
the graphics card, theres no retaining clip at
the end, so dont worry about not feeling a
click when the card is seated. Just make sure
the entire card connector is level within the
motherboard slot down its entire length. B

B
STEP Screw the card into place

With the card tted, secure it in its


slot using the screw you retained.
This will stop the card moving when you
connect anything through the rear of the
case, such as external antennas.
STEP Plug in the power

Most PCI and PCI Express cards dont


need separate power, instead drawing
what they need from the motherboard. If your
card does require power, connect it to the PSU
using the appropriate cable.

HOW TO: PUT THE CASE BACK TOGETHER


STEP Final checks

Once everything is attached, its a good


time to do a nal check. Make sure all
the motherboard connections are securely in
place. One of the most common reasons for a
boot failure is a loose cable, so it pays to
double- or even triple-check. Similarly, make
sure all the components, such as the RAM and
graphics card, are seated correctly.
Make sure theres no loose cabling that
could obstruct the fans. Go back to How to
route your cables (opposite) if necessary.

STEP Attach the front of the case

With the nal checks completed, youre


ready to re-assemble the case. If you
removed the front of the case to install an
optical drive or attach a fan, now is the time to
re-attach it. It should clip back into place, but
consult the manual if your case is different. A

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

STEP Attach the side panels

Next up are the side panels. To


re-attach them on most cases you
simply slide them into place so that the clips
line up with the grooves. B

Re-insert the screws to hold the panels in


place either using thumbscrews or a
screwdriver. If you cabled correctly, you
shouldnt have any problems with the side
panel behind the motherboard tray.

103

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

HOUSE MUSIC

Multiroom audio systems


Stream music all over your home with a classy multiroom audio system.
With prices starting at just 100, youll be making a sound investment
CONTENT REVIEWS

Page 112

BOB DYLAN MAY have gone electric in 1965,


but nowadays music is not just digital, but
wireless, too. Bluetooth music-streaming has
come into its own, providing convenience and
liberation from wires and paving the way for
multiroom audio systems to stream music
throughout your entire home.
Research by CSR, which provides wireless
technology for the consumer market, shows
that 35% of those surveyed were looking to
explore multiroom audio within the next two
years, and this number doubles to 70% within
the next 10 years. With this months group
test, you wont have to wait anything like that
long to liberate your audio library.

Page 113

DIFFRENT STROKES

Page 106

BANG & OLUFSEN BeoPlay A6


Page 107

LIBRATONE Zipp

Page 108

LIBRATONE Zipp Mini

Page 109

PHILIPS Izzy BM5


Page 110

PHILIPS Izzy BM50


Page 111

SAMSUNG R5
SONOS Play:5
SONY SRS-X77
Page 114

SONY SRS-X99

104

There are numerous ways of sending music to


speakers across your home, and different
manufacturers take different approaches.
Some speakers broadcast directly over your

wireless network, others create a dedicated


network thats connected to your local
network but operates separately, while still
others leave your network alone. Dedicated
audio networks separate the audio trac
from your local network trac, thus
maintaining streaming performance even on a
heavily congested network. Sonos and
Samsung are the main proponents of such
mesh networks. None of the speakers tested
requires a separate hub unit to bridge the gap
between router and speaker.
AirPlay speakers, such as Bang & Olufsens
BeoPlay A6, are based on an Apple technology
formerly known as AirTunes when it was only
used for audio. Nowadays AirPlay can be used
for screen mirroring and wirelessly sending
video as well as audio. The protocol is based
around a transmitter and a receiver, the latter
in this case being a wireless speaker. AirPlay is
natively supported by iOS devices, as well as

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

music really shine. Typically, spending less


money will get you a smaller, less powerful
speaker, but if youre only looking to ll a
small room with sound, some of the speakers
weve tested pack a serious punch far beyond
their diminutive size. If you intend to place a
speaker in a larger room, choose a speaker
with ample power output.
An ampliers output is rated in watts,
which is a measurement of electrical power.
Where its available, we provide the RMS
Power Output in our table on page 115.
This gives you an indication of a speakers
overall power and the level of volume it is
able to achieve. The more watts, the more
ear-busting decibels. Speaker sensitivity is
also important and more expensive
speakers are typically more sensitive than
their cheaper counterparts, producing
superior overall sound.
Its not just about sheer volume, though.
Sound quality is crucial, so we put each
speaker through a battery of tests using
tracks that span multiple genres. Sound
quality is always slightly subjective some
people enjoy thumping bass, while others
want a more gentle touch but well give you
an impression of a speakers clarity and
accuracy and whether or not there is
excessive colour to the speakers sound.

SYSTEM SLEDGE

in iTunes on PCs and Macs. There are ways of


using AirPlay on Android and broadcasting
audio outside of iTunes on Windows and OS
X, but streaming music from an iOS device or
iTunes is the most elegant method.
Philips izzylink network uses 802.11n Wi-Fi
technology but only to communicate with
other Izzy-range speakers. You feed a master
speaker via a Bluetooth source (or CD or FM
radio, in the case of the Izzy BM50), and this
audio stream is then broadcast to every other
speaker in the izzylink network. While this
means the speakers cant stream audio
directly from the internet, it does make
Izzy-range speakers easy to set up and use.
And as the source is any Bluetooth device, if
your device can play audio from a service, so
can the izzylink speakers, whether its Spotify,
Apple Music, Deezer, Rdio, YouTube or a
favourite podcast app.
Bluetooth is supported by all but one of
the multiroom audio speakers on test, and is
another convenient way to connect wirelessly
if you only want to use one speaker for audio.
Some of the speakers also include 3.5mm
stereo inputs so you can connect wired audio
devices; others support music playback from
USB ash drives.

TAKE IT TO THE TOP

With different speakers to use in different


rooms and combinations in a nal multiroom
audio system, theres a speaker to t every
budget, from entry-level speakers to high-end,
audiophile-grade systems that will make your

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

Respondents to the CSR survey said that


future-proong and upgradability were
important areas when upgrading their audio
systems. The wonderful thing about
multiroom audio is that youre able to
upgrade your setup over time. Many
multiroom systems have different speakers to
accommodate different needs, so you might
start with a small speaker in the kitchen and
add larger speakers to the living room later,
for example. Some systems also let you pair
multiple speakers with other components
such as soundbars to create a wireless
surround sound system.
At the moment theres not much
cross-compatibility between multiroom audio
manufacturers, although this might change in
the future. When buying a multiroom speaker,
youre often buying into a system, so youll
need to make sure its the right system for
you before your rst purchase.

ALL I HAVE TO DO IS STREAM

Most multiroom audio systems use an app or


desktop software as a unied way to control
the music playing from each speaker. These
apps might let you access music on your local
device as well as on a NAS device or
networked computer, putting your entire
music collection at your ngertips.
The app might also often run you through
the initial process of connecting the speakers
to your network. Weve tested each of the
companion apps and mention in our reviews
how easy they are to use and what degree of
control they give, as well as any additional
functionality they might have.

Most apps also integrate with streaming


services such as Deezer or Apple Music. In
most cases, the speaker connects to the
streaming service directly to stream audio,
rather than going through the controlling
device. This means service compatibility can
be a factor, so its important to check that
your preferred streaming service is supported
by your multiroom audio system of choice.
Speakers can often be upgraded with new
rmware to support more services, as
manufacturers add more support over time.
One of the most popular music-streaming
services is Spotify. To take advantage of
Spotify with most multiroom systems, youll
need to have a Spotify Premium account in
order to use Spotify Connect, which lets you
send music to speakers on your network.
As the speakers themselves sign into your
account, you can actually start playing music
from anywhere you have an internet
connection, even if youre not at home.
Google Play Music is another popular
service that lets you upload up to 20,000 of
your own tracks to the cloud for streaming.
With Google Play Music All Access you get
Googles music-streaming subscription. Play
Music has become even better value now
that Google has rolled YouTube Music Key
into the subscription. This lets you play
YouTube videos in the background while the
app is closed, save oine videos and view
music videos without ads.
One recently launched service is Tidal,
which streams CD-quality lossless music at
a bit rate of up to 1,411Kbit/s. In contrast,
Spotify Premium offers a maximum of
320Kbit/s, so Tidal has generated interest
from those who value sound quality.
Beyond that, some speakers on test
support high-resolution audio. While Tidal
provides an impressive 16-bit/44.1kHz
(1.5Mbit/s) audio, a high-resolution audio le
can be upwards of 24-bit/192kHz, making a
transfer rate of an astonishing 9.2Mbit/s. This
means there is far more detail in the audio as
none of it is lost; high-resolution audio is far
closer to a studio master. Some of this detail
is arguably beyond human hearing, but at
least youll know its your ears that are at
fault, not your speakers. It should be noted,
however, that high-resolution audio les can
be expensive and individual tracks can take up
a considerable amount of storage space.

DESIGN OF THE TIMES

As speakers can be the focal point of any


room, design is also important. Multiroom
speakers come in all manner of shapes, sizes
and nishes. Typically, the more powerful a
speaker, the bigger it will be, whereas less
powerful speakers will be right at home on a
bookshelf or bedside table.
If youre not planning on moving a speaker
around very often, look for a weighty speaker.
A heavy, solid cabinet can help reduce
reverberation and rattling during intense
bass-heavy tracks that will otherwise prove
distracting and detrimental to sound quality.

105

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

BANG & OLUFSEN


BeoPlay A6

799 inc VAT From www.beoplay.com

VERDICT

A stunningly designed multiroom speaker,


but it comes at a premium price
AT 799 THE BeoPlay A6 isnt going to appeal
to everyone but it is, in fact, one of Bang &
Olufsens more affordable options. The price
reects the design and materials used, with
fabric from luxury Danish upholstery studio
Kvadrat draped across the speakers front.
The BeoPlay A6 has some interesting
touch-sensitive controls, so its important
that the wool-blend fabric feels nice.
The precision woven fabric is designed for
acoustic transparency while still looking
attractive. The BeoPlay A6 comes in a light
grey wool nish on a white back as standard;
replacement fronts in dark grey, dusty blue or
dark rose cost 99 each.
Along the thin top edge of the BeoPlay A6
are touch-based controls that also respond
to gestures. Tapping the centre will start
music playback, and repeated taps will cycle
through the music services youve set up; a
long touch will mute the volume. Swapping
between services feels slow, however, and
youll have to remember the order youve set
(via the iOS or Android app). Swiping left and
right along the top of the BeoPlay A6 can
adjust the volume or skip tracks.
Setting up the BeoPlay A6 is a slightly
frustrating affair. You must connect to the
speakers own wireless network with a
smartphone or tablet, and then use the
BeoSetup app to enter your network details.
However, after successfully saving our
network details to the speaker with an
Android phone, it then disappeared from the
BeoSetup app. Triggering Spotify Connect
playback on the BeoPlay A6 (via the Spotify
app) made the BeoPlay A6 suddenly reappear
in the BeoSetup app.
Using an iOS device, you can set up
the BeoPlay A6 as an AirPlay speaker
to get the speaker on your
network much faster. You still
have to use the BeoSetup
app for updates and
settings, however. As
the BeoPlay A6 cant
skip updates we had to

install one update, and then


the latest, which took a while.
Annoyingly, music playback controls are
handled by the separate BeoMusic app,
which is hardly the slickest app weve seen,
but it functions well enough. Theres TuneIn
internet radio and the Deezer streaming
service on offer, plus the ability to link
BeoLink multiroom speakers. With 802.11n
Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, 3.5mm mini-jack
and AirPlay youre not short of ways to get
audio to the speaker. B&O should be adding
Google Cast support via a software update
by the end of March.
While you can synchronise any of the
sources across multiple speakers, theres a
delay from the line-in feed when doing so,
which is jarring if the speaker is playing a
video soundtrack. You can turn off the delay,
but then the line-in feed cant be relayed to
other speakers. Similarly, theres a slight delay
from a Bluetooth input.
The bowed shape of the speaker is
designed to look attractive and to provide an
acoustically wider sound stage. On the
underside of the speaker is a slider switch,
hidden behind a removable cover. This lets
you swap between different sound proles
suited to how you place your speaker.
These include Free, if the BeoPlay A6 is
sitting on a table or other surface, Corner, if
the speaker is tucked away, and Wall if you
choose to wall-mount the speaker. The wall
brackets cost an additional 79. Selecting
the right setting is important, as acoustic
properties change depending on the
proper
speakers position. This is the case
spe
with nearly any speaker, but more
so with the BeoPlay A6 because of
its driver arrangement.
There are two front-ring 5in
woofers and two 2in tweeters

but the 1in full-range driver res backwards.


While the BeoPlay A6 doesnt aim to deliver
omnidirectional sound, as the Samsung R5
(page 111) does, theres not a big reduction in
audio quality or volume when walking around
the BeoPlay A6. Unsurprisingly, youll want to
be in front of the BeoPlay A6 to get the best
listening experience.
From this position, the lower frequencies
can really be heard and felt. Theres some real
punch to the bass, which at times we thought
was a little overpowering. Anyone who likes
their music particularly emphatic in the lower
frequencies will love it.
The strong bass makes the sound ever so
slightly warm, but with plenty of intricate
details in the mids and treble. The sharpness
of a trumpet and delicateness of violins were
still there in acoustic tracks but thumping
electronic bass lines were delivered with
aplomb too. Disappointingly, despite the
bowed shape, we still found the sound slightly
narrow for our liking.
The BeoPlay A6 has all the inputs you
might want, especially as Google Cast support
is coming soon. Its sound quality is also
impressive. However, at this price were not
going to suffer messy and unrened apps,
and wed also like to choose a colour for free
when purchasing, rather than pay an extra
99 for an alternative cover.
Ultimately, the Sonos Play:5 (page 112)
sounds nearly as good as the BeoPlay A6
and is almost half the price. While you miss
out on a number of connection options, the
Sonos multiroom system is far more elegant
for internet streaming and accessing your
own music. Wed choose the Play:5 over the
BeoPlay A6 every time.

SPECIFICATIONS
SPEAKERS 5

RMS POWER OUTPUT 150W


WEIGHT 6kg

DIMENSIONS 298x536x144mm

NETWORKING Bluetooth (SBC), dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi,


10/100 Ethernet

STREAMING FORMATS AirPlay, DLNA


DETAILS www.beoplay.com

WARRANTY One year RTB


PART CODE BeoPlay A6

106

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

LIBRATONE Zipp

BEST BUY

219 inc VAT From www.libratone.com

VERDICT

The Zipp can extend multiroom music even


into your garden, and the 360 sound is great
LIBRATONES NEW ZIPP speaker shouldnt
be confused with the older version, which
only supports Bluetooth. The newest Zipp
adds Libratones SoundSpace Link support
(for multiroom audio), plus Wi-Fi, Apple
AirPlay, Spotify Connect (which requires a
Spotify Premium account) and internet radio.
Otherwise, the new Zipp range looks the
same: a cylindrical speaker with a detachable
cover from which it derives its name. Unzip
the cover and you can replace it with a
different colour, either to customise the look
or to distinguish one speaker from another.
The Zipp is available in four different
colours: deep lagoon (green), victory red,
cloudy (light) grey and graphite (dark) grey.
Additional covers are available for around
20 each. The covers are made from a mesh
fabric with a diamond-shaped weave that is
soft to the touch.
The Zipps handle helps you carry the
speaker around the house, while the shape
and 1.5kg weight make it feel suitably solid.
The built-in battery lets you take the Zipp into
the bathroom or garden, but as its only
humidity-resistant and not rugged you
shouldnt leave it out in the rain. The battery
is rated at 8-10 hours, which is plenty.
The top of the Zipp has a circular touch
interface; by dragging your nger around the
circumference it emulates a volume dial, with
a light effect that follows your nger. Its both
satisfying and slick. Tap the touch
surface to play and pause,
skip tracks, turn on the
SoundSpace Link function
and access your favourite
internet radio stations.
A particularly elegant
function is Hush, which
mutes the speaker for as
long as you place a at
hand over the top of
the Zipp. If multiple
speakers are linked
together, Hush only dips
the speaker you touch.
The Libratone app for
iOS and Android guides you
through the process of
providing your network
details. Frustratingly, the
setup process on a
Google Nexus 6 didnt
work for us. However, you
can set up the speaker
through a browser; just
nd the Zipps IP address
to log in directly.

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

Once youve got the Zipp on your network,


Apple devices can connect via AirPlay while all
others can use DLNA. Spotify Connect is
supported, so you can control the Zipp
through the Spotify app (only with a Spotify
Premium account). Otherwise, you can use
Bluetooth or the 3.5mm stereo connection,
neither of which require the speaker to have a
Wi-Fi connection, unless you want to link
multiple speakers. Theres also a USB port to
play audio les from a ash drive; the full
range of audio formats is supported.
Alternatively, the USB port can charge a
device, albeit not particularly quickly.
If you pair a smartphone over Bluetooth,
you can use the Zipp as a hands-free
speakerphone using the microphone. In a
small room the microphone could pick up
voices from around 3-4m away, making the
Zipp one of the best conference speakers
weve used. Bluetooth range is rated at
around 10m. We didnt have any problems
maintaining a connection with the speaker at
home, even when the Zipp was on the ground
oor and our smartphone on the rst oor.
The app can be used to group different
Zipp and Zipp Mini speakers into groups, or
SoundSpaces. This is done by tapping and
dragging together oating bubbles
representing each speaker, in a similar way to
Sonys multiroom speakers. Alternatively, you
can start playing music on one Zipp speaker,
then press the SoundSpace Link
button on it and then
subsequent Zipp speakers.
SoundSpace Link allows
up to six speakers per
group, eight different
groups and a maximum of
16 speakers on a single
wireless network. You can
also link a pair of speakers
into dedicated left and
right stereo pairs. With
SoundSpace Link turned
on, all speakers in that
particular group will play
music simultaneously,
regardless of the source.
Libratone has packed in
a 4in neodymium woofer
and two 1in soft dome
neodymium tweeters,
supported by two 4in
low-frequency radiators,
positioned to disperse
sound evenly in every
direction in what Libratone
calls 360 FullRoom sound.

This isnt dissimilar to the Samsung R5s


omnidirectional sound.
The Zipps bass is delivered with more
punch than you would expect for a speaker
of its size. The mids and trebles, while not
the crispest, arent lost among the lower
frequencies, either. The Zipp outputs 100W
and it can easily ll a medium- to large-sized
room. Position the Zipp in the middle of the
room and it will disperse the audio evenly,
thanks to its speaker arrangement. All in all,
the Zipp sounds great.
Theres a lot to like about the Libratone
Zipp. It takes multiroom principles and applies
true portability with its built-in battery and
design. Its ability to synchronise audio from
a multitude of audio sources makes it
incredibly versatile, and its sound quality
doesnt disappoint. We also appreciated the
USB charging function and the handle. Its
also cheaper than the Samsung R5 if youre
after a room-lling 360 listening experience.
If youre looking for a versatile multiroom
speaker thats not limited by streaming
compatibility issues, the Libratone Zipp is a
fantastic choice.

SPECIFICATIONS
SPEAKERS 5

RMS POWER OUTPUT 100W


WEIGHT 1.5kg

DIMENSIONS 261x122x122mm

NETWORKING Bluetooth (aptX), dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi


STREAMING FORMATS AirPlay, DLNA, Bluetooth

DETAILS www.libratone.com
PART CODE LH0032010EU2001
WARRANTY One year RTB

107

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

LIBRATONE Zipp Mini

RECOMMENDED

179 inc VAT From www.libratone.com

VERDICT

Packs the same features as the larger Zipp


into a slightly smaller package
THE ZIPP MINI packs in the same features as
its big brother, the Libratone Zipp, making it
one of the most versatile multiroom speakers
around. You can feed the Zipp Mini with
almost any source, from dual-band 802.11n
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, DLNA, Spotify Connect,
Bluetooth and internet radio to 3.5mm
mini-jack and USB ash drive. All of these
sources can be played simultaneously across
multiple connected Zipp-range speakers.
The cylindrical Zipp Mini weighs 400g less
than the Zipp (at 1.1kg), is 40mm shorter and
20mm thinner (224x100mm). Aside from the
bulbous top, both speakers follow the same
design principles.
As standard, the Zipp Mini comes with a
woven fabric cover in one of four colours.
Removing and replacing the covers takes
some practice before changing styles
becomes simple. Alternative covers cost 19.
Theres a built-in battery, and a handle lets
you easily carry the speaker around or hang it.
The speaker is humidity-resistant, too, so it
makes a great bathroom speaker; just make
sure you dont get the Zipp Mini wet as its
not water-resistant. The battery will last up to
10 hours on a single charge, which will easily
get you through a party or barbecue. A special

mention goes to the Zipp Minis plug, which


has an attractive white glossy rounded nish
and shows great attention to detail.
On top of the speaker is a circular touch
panel that provides the usual media playback
controls, as well as quick access to your
favourite internet radio stations. Place a at
hand on the top of the Zipp Mini and youll
activate the Hush feature, muting the speaker
to let you talk or hear more easily. If your Zipp
Mini is part of a multiroom setup, Hush will
only mute the speaker you touch, letting the
party continue elsewhere.
You can use the Libratone app for iOS and
Android to set up the speaker. Like the
Libratone Zipp, we struggled to congure the
speaker using the Android app, with it
refusing to save our wireless settings.
Although the speaker is portable, youll still
need to remain within the wireless range of
your router unless you just want to use it as a
Bluetooth speaker. The Zipp Mini supports
the less lossy aptX codec, too.
Libratones SoundSpace Link function
allows you to group multiple Zipp or Zipp Mini
speakers into a multiroom system using either
the app or the controls on each speaker.
This lets you synchronise music across all
grouped Zipp-range speakers whatever the
music source. SoundSpace Link therefore
circumvents any issues with streaming service

If youre only looking to ll a smaller room


the Zipp Mini does well, but youll want the
larger Zipp for big spaces. Still, the sound
quality from the Zipp Mini is top-notch and
uses the same 360 FullRoom sound to evenly
distribute audio in all directions. The Zipp
Minis 360 FullRoom audio is easily as
effective as the omnidirectional audio of the
signicantly more expensive Samsung R5,
evenly lling a modest space with sound.

Sound quality is top-notch, and the 360 FullRoom sound


evenly distributes audio in all directions
compatibility, which is a problem for other
multiroom speakers. You can have audio
coming from your favourite podcast app,
Apple Music, Google Play Music or anything
else you can think of, and the Zipp Mini will
happily accept and play the source.
The Zipp Mini has a surprisingly sensitive
microphone inside, meaning you can use it as
a useful hands-free speakerphone when a
smartphone is connected over Bluetooth.
We also appreciate that the USB port can
charge devices plugged into the Zipp Mini.
Due to the reduction in size and weight,
the Zipp Mini has a smaller 3in neodymium
woofer (compared to 4in in the Zipp), only
one 1in soft dome neodymium tweeter
(compared to two) and two 3in lowfrequency radiators (4in in the Zipp). These
combine to output 60W (100W in the Zipp).
As such, theres a little less punch than the
Zipp, but a similar warm sound signature.

108

The Zipp Mini is a wonderfully versatile


multiroom speaker; just make sure youre
buying the latest SoundSpace Link model.
Although the Zipp Mini is more expensive
than the Philips Izzy BM5, the range of inputs
and features is far greater. The 360 sound
delivers on its promise, and at a lower price
than the Samsung R5, too. For smaller
rooms, or as a personal speaker for taking
everywhere, the Zipp Mini is tremendously
unfussy about the source of your music and
delivers great audio for its size.

SPECIFICATIONS
SPEAKERS 4

RMS POWER OUTPUT 60W


WEIGHT 1.1kg

DIMENSIONS 224x100x100mm

NETWORKING Bluetooth (aptX), dual-band 802.11n

DETAILS www.libratone.com

WI-FI STREAMING FORMATS AirPlay, DLNA, Bluetooth


WARRANTY One year RTB

PART CODE LH0020010EU2002

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

PHILIPS Izzy BM5

100 inc VAT From www.maplin.co.uk

VERDICT

A compact multiroom speaker with simple


setup
THE APPEAL OF the Philips Izzy range of
multiroom speakers is two-fold. Not only are
they incredibly simple to set up, but theyre
also inexpensive. At 100 each, an Izzy BM5 is
signicantly cheaper than entry-level options
from the likes of Sonos, Bose and Raumfeld.
The BM5 is available in black or white
nishes, whereas the better-equipped BM50
(page 110) is only available in black. The BM5s
footprint is larger than the Libratone Zipp
Mini but is around half the height. Speaker
cloth extends around its circumference and
the top is dominated by a large volume dial
that illuminates to show if the speaker is
turned on, muted or in group mode.
The silver rotary volume dial provides a
pleasing level of tactile feedback compared
with simple volume buttons, and pressing it
down instantly mutes your music. Below the
dial are power, group, Bluetooth pairing and
play/pause controls. If you have multiple
speakers grouped hitting the pause button on
any speaker pauses all of them.
The BM5 removes the need to connect the
speaker to your home wireless network by
instead creating a network all of its own,
called izzylink. Not only does this simplify the
setup process, as you dont have to enter your
network details into each speaker, it can also
mean a more stable connection if your home
wireless network is particularly congested.
Each Izzy speaker communicates with
others through a dedicated 802.11n wireless
network. Hit the Group button on each
speaker you want to synchronise and one of
the speakers becomes the master speaker.
The whole process takes only a few seconds
but requires you to pair each speaker with the
master at rst. After this you can have music
playing simultaneously from different

speakers around the


home, easily switching which
speaker acts as the master.
Getting music to a master speaker is
handled through Bluetooth, with the master
broadcasting to slave speakers via the
dedicated izzylink network. While the audio
source device needs to be within Bluetooth
range of the master speaker (up to 10m), the
slave speakers can be tens of metres away
from the master and still receive a clear signal.
The Bluetooth input essentially means that
any music service or source is compatible. If
your Bluetooth source can provide it, you can
have audio coming from Spotify, Apple Music,
a podcast app or even YouTube. The master
speaker can then synchronise that audio
across all slave speakers. With multiroom
speakers that connect directly to the internet,
the speaker itself must support your
streaming service of choice.
You can have a maximum of ve speakers
in a single group, which should cover all but
the largest of homes. As well as Bluetooth,
the BM5 also has a 3.5mm stereo connection.
Disappointingly, audio from this input cant be
relayed to other speakers from a BM5.
This is a little strange, as the BM50 will
happily broadcast from its 3.5mm stereo
connection as well as its other audio sources.
Swapping from the auxiliary connection back
to Bluetooth also requires you to put the BM5

into standby and turn it


back on, which is annoying.
Theres a USB port on the rear,
but this is used purely for software upgrades,
whereas youre able to play MP3s from a USB
source on the more expensive BM50.
Inside the BM5 is a pair of 2in drivers
with a bass reex port. For a speaker of its
size it manages to pack a decent amount of
punch. At 5W, the BM5 is by far the weakest
speaker on test, but for a small or medium
room it certainly doesnt struggle for volume.
Like the BM50, the BM5 isnt the most
detail-orientated speaker, with certain trebles
lacking prominence. It lacks any real impact or
presence for any critical listening. If youre
just looking to have easy access to music in
the kitchen, the audio quality is serviceable,
however. Disappointingly, you cant congure
a pair of BM5 speakers in stereo. However,
the separation from a single BM5 is at least
respectable for a small speaker.
The cost of the Izzy BM5 makes it
comparable to many standard, battery-less,
Bluetooth speakers, making it a compelling
option. Even if you dont want a multiroom
setup from the outset, the BM5 works well as
a traditional standalone Bluetooth speaker,
leaving you the option for future expansion if
you do want to add more speakers.
With the simplicity of the izzylink system
comes the need to have a Bluetooth device
within range of a master speaker, which wont
be ideal for everyone. If you want simplicity
for a low price, the BM5 is a solid choice,
especially if youre looking to supplement
esp
the more capable Izzy BM50. Then again,
the Libratone Zipp Mini has superior
audio and much greater exibility when it
comes to input source and positioning,
and for most people will be worth the
much higher price.

SPECIFICATIONS
SP
SPEAKERS 2

RMS POWER OUTPUT 5W


WEIGHT 1.1kg

DIMENSIONS 118x165x165mm

NETWORKING Bluetooth (SBC), izzylink (dual-band 802.11n


Wi-Fi)

STREAMING FORMATS izzylink, Bluetooth


DETAILS www.philips.co.uk

WARRANTY One year RTB


PART CODE BM5B/10

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

109

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

PHILIPS Izzy BM50

200 inc VAT From www.amazon.co.uk

VERDICT

The BM50 streams from CD, FM radio or


Bluetooth without any hassle
MULTIROOM SPEAKERS ARE fantastic for
anyone looking to play music throughout the
home, but setting them up can sometimes be
infuriating. Its not uncommon to encounter
issues when initially connecting your speaker
to your wireless network. If your home
wireless network is unreliable or congested,
this too can cause headaches.
Instead of using your home wireless
network to synchronise different speakers,
Philips Izzy range of speakers connect to one
another using what it calls izzylink, which
uses the 802.11n wireless standard. This is
used purely to connect different Izzy
speakers, so izzylink doesnt need to connect
to your router at all. You just tap or hold the
Group button on each speaker to group them
together in different arrangements.
You connect your audio source using
Bluetooth to one izzylink-compatible speaker,
which then broadcasts to up to four additional
speakers in a master and slave conguration.
This means that one master speaker can
control up to four slave speakers. This should
be plenty unless you happen to live in a
mansion. As your Bluetooth device handles
the audio source, you can stream anything
from Spotify to YouTube across your izzylink
network via the master speaker.
The BM50 is the biggest and bestequipped speaker in the Izzy range. Its a wide
and relatively thin speaker at 500x112mm.
With just a silver stripe down the front, the
design is reserved and classy. Media controls
are placed across the top, and a remote
control is included. An LED display is hidden
away behind the speaker grille and shows
what mode the speaker is set to, as well as
the volume level.
Not only can the BM50 play music from a
Bluetooth device, it also has a CD player, an
FM radio, a 3.5mm stereo input and a USB
port for MP3 playback. CDs are slot-loaded

from the top. All these sources are


compatible with izzylink, so you can stream
a CD or FM radio to other izzylink speakers,
including the Philips Izzy BM5. Theres also a
headphone jack for private listening.
As it has the most music source options,
the BM50 is a logical candidate for the master
control speaker. Having said that, changing
the master speaker is a wonderfully simple
affair. If you decide you want to use a
different speaker as the master perhaps
because you and your smartphone have
moved out of range just press the Bluetooth
pairing button on the new master.
Network stability was good for the most
part, with only occasional problems when
carrying our Bluetooth source device around.
With it left stationary, or using the other
audio sources, music synchronised and played
from different speakers without a hitch.
For the best exibility, you should
manually pair your Bluetooth devices with
each Izzy speaker you own, which doesnt
take too long. Bluetooth reception to the
BM50 is about 10m, which doesnt come as
any surprise. As the izzylink connection
between speakers uses the 802.11n wireless
standard, it should be good for at least 20m.
Certainly in a three-storey house there
werent any issues having izzylink speakers on
different oors. Three status indicator lights
on the front show how strong the connection
is when speakers are grouped together.
The BM50 is easily capable of lling a
medium- to large-sized room on its own.
There are two 2in woofers inside outputting

40W in total. Its sound stage is slightly


narrow, however. The BM50 is not the most
detailed-sounding speaker weve heard, either,
occasionally erring towards the overly warm
side, making it dicult to pick out individual
instruments. The delicateness you would
expect from a violin or the pluck of a guitar is
slightly lost, for example, while a certain level
of presence is missing. The BM50 isnt as
emphatic-sounding as a larger speaker, due in
part to its relatively thin cabinet.
However, the sound quality is within what
we would expect for a speaker of this price
and size. Obviously, listening to a poor audio
source such as FM radio is never going to
sound particularly good, but the listening
experience from Bluetooth devices or CDs
was still enjoyable.
As a budget-friendly, multiroom-capable
speaker, the Philips Izzy BM50 acquits itself
well enough. For anyone who wants a
multiroom system that can be set up in mere
seconds, the izzylink system is hard to fault.
With the addition of CD playback and FM
radio, youre well covered as an all-in-one
music system. However, the izzylink-only
Wi-Fi means that theres no built-in internet
music streaming, and no way to stream
music directly from a NAS.
However, using a Bluetooth audio source
means you can access music from pretty
much any service or source. Compared to
some well-established multiroom audio rivals,
the Izzy BM50 is great value for its feature set
and versatility. If you place a high priority on
sound quality, however, the Sony SRS-X77
(page 113) may suit your needs better,
especially if your music has already been
ripped and your CDs are in long-term storage.

SPECIFICATIONS
SPEAKERS 2

RMS POWER OUTPUT 40W


WEIGHT 2.9kg

DIMENSIONS 218x500x112mm

NETWORKING Bluetooth (SBC), izzylink (dual-band 802.11n


Wi-Fi)

STREAMING FORMATS izzylink, Bluetooth


DETAILS www.philips.co.uk

WARRANTY One year RTB


PART CODE BM50B/10

110

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

SAMSUNG R5

350 inc VAT From www.johnlewis.com

VERDICT

The Samsung R5 lls a room with sound and


looks gorgeous, but its price holds it back
SAMSUNGS NEW CLASSIC range of
multiroom audio speakers carries over the
omnidirectional audio of the old Wireless 360
range but does so in a cylindrical shape. The
R5 is 313mm tall, with a diameter of 166mm at
each end, and weighs 2.7kg. The all-black R5
could easily pass as a slightly abstract vase or
item of furniture. Its design is certainly more
subtle than the egg-shaped R7 and kettleshaped R6 of the previous range.
The top of the R5 looks plain at rst
glance, but it is in fact a touch panel with an
integrated OLED display. This lets you swap
between the main modes using a dedicated
Mode button, and adjust the volume by
giving a delicate tap to the subtly textured
surface. Tapping the centre of the OLED
display plays and pauses tracks as you would
expect, but horizontal swipes can also be
used to skip tracks. A touch and hold for ve
seconds puts the speaker into standby, which
will happen automatically after 15 minutes of
inactivity. Holding for 10 seconds turns the
speaker off. The interface is intuitive, never
misses an input, and means reaching for your
smartphone isnt always necessary.
The OLED display is nice and bright,
displaying volume, the operational mode and
fun little animations when it powers on or
skips tracks. As well as the OLED display,
you also get audio cues in the form of a
female voice. This is slightly jarring, however,
and the accent is a little odd.
The bottom of the speaker has a button
for setting up the Wi-Fi, with the
R5 able to connect
ect directly to
your router. There
ere isnt an
Ethernet port for a wired
connection. You set up the
speaker with the
e Samsung
Multiroom app for
or iOS or
Android. With the
he speaker in
setup mode, the app searches
for a broadcasting
ing speaker
and then helps you add your
network settingss to the R5.
The Samsung Multiroom
tiroom
app is now considerably
iderably
more colourful and intuitive
than the previous drab
interface, with transparency
ansparency
effects, new controls
ols and
slide-in panels.
The R5 supports
rts Spotify
Connect (using the Spotify
app with a Premium
ium
account), while the
e app
can access Deezer,
er, TuneIn,
Rdio, Qobuz, 8tracks,
racks,

Napster and Mure. This list doesnt quite


rival Sonoss for compatibility, but its still
longer than those of many of its rivals.
The app also lets you access music stored
on your devices or networked storage, and
the universal search function makes nding
tracks easy. The R5 can play high-resolution
tracks up to 192kHz/24-bit in FLAC, AIFF and
ALAC, as well as the usual other formats.
Pairing different Samsung multiroom
speakers is easy and you can link them
together, so that volume ratios are
maintained as you adjust the main volume.
You can use the R5 as a Bluetooth
speaker, but you cant use Bluetooth as a
multiroom audio source as you can with
Philips Izzy speakers and Libratones new
Zipp range. Still, Bluetooth support allows
you to route YouTube or a favourite podcast
app through the R5. Bluetooth can also be

Place the R5 in the centre of a room and you get the same
listening experience as someone standing directly opposite
the speaker. Its ideal for communal spaces such as ofces
used to pair an R5 with a TVConnectcompatible Samsung TV.
A dedicated 5in woofer in the bottom of
the R5 is paired with a 1in dome tweeter on
the top. The R5 delivers its omnidirectional
sound by ring the
th woofer and
lenses
tweeter into acoustic
ac
gaps in the top
placed near gap
of the speaker
and bottom o
Samsung calls this
cabinet. Sam
arrangement Ring
clever arrangem
technology.
Radiator techn
In testing, there wasnt any
drop-off in sound
noticeable d
where we stood in
no matter wh
respect of tthe R5. Place the
centre of a room
R5 in the ce
and you get the same
experience as
listening ex
standing directly
someone stan
opposite the speaker. The
therefore ideal for
R5 is theref
communal spaces such as
wasted in a
oces; its w
corner or on a bookshelf.
only issue is that,
The on
solitary tweeter, you
with a solit
mono sound;
get only mon
listen to a song such as
Pink Floyds Money and

the stereo separation is gone. Granted, the


mono sound is delivered equally wherever
you are, and if you have deep pockets you
can pair two R5s for proper stereo.
Otherwise, the sound quality is
respectable. The sizable woofer delivers lots
of impactful bass that stays the right side of
muddy. The mids and trebles arent quite as
crisp as we would like, but theyre well
controlled. The speaker will ll a medium- to
large-sized room with ease.
The Samsung R5 delivers truly
omnidirectional sound, and its classy design
lends itself to becoming the focal point in a
room, giving you audio no matter where you
are. However, you should look elsewhere if
you prefer speakers in corners or on shelves.
The R5 is also a little expensive for the sound
quality it delivers. If omnidirectional audio is a
must, consider the Libratone Zipp, while a
Sonos Play:5 is a better bet for audiophiles,
despite being 80 more expensive.

SPECIFICATIONS
SPEAKERS 2

RMS POWER OUTPUT Not disclosed


WEIGHT 2.7kg

DIMENSIONS 313x166x166mm

NETWORKING Bluetooth (SBC), Samsung Mesh (dual-band

STREAMING FORMATS Samsung Mesh,


WARRANTY One year RTB DETAILS
www.samsung.com/uk PART CODE WAM5500
802.11n Wi-Fi)

UPnP, Bluetooth

111

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

SONOS Play:5

RECOMMENDED

429 inc VAT From www.sonos.com

VERDICT

The updated Sonos Play:5 is far sleeker than


its predecessor and it sounds great
THE ORIGINAL SONOS Play:5 had been
around so long it had started to look dated.
The update to the new Play:5 isnt just visual,
though: there are nearly 60,000 precision
drilled holes in the front grille, with the Sonos
logo placed so as not to impinge on the sound.
Sonos has also introduced touch-based
controls to adjust the volume. The gyroscope
inside the Play:5 means that increasing the
volume is always an upward swipe, no matter
which way up the speaker is standing.
Rotating the Play:5 will also affect the
physical speaker arrangement, and Sonos has
taken this into account. When the Play:5 is
stood vertically, the top tweeter is actually
turned down so that sound isnt directed up
towards the ceiling. The larger centre tweeter
takes over the main bulk of the work.

which is usually forbidden. Creating


new playlists through the Controller app can
be ddly, requiring you to add albums to the
queue and then select tracks, rather than just
picking tunes on a track-by-track basis; the
system takes a while to get used to.
Theres also an independent Sonos playlist
system, which lets you save a queue for later
use, or create a playlist for another day. This is
particularly useful for creating playlists of
tracks that span multiple streaming services
or network locations. The app is on the whole
cleanly designed and easy to navigate.

The Play:5 performs exceptionally well across all genres,


delivering impact and excitement when tracks require it
As with Sonoss other multiroom speakers,
the Play:5s real strength lies in its wide
support for music-streaming services. Theres
everything from Spotify (but not Spotify
Connect), Deezer, Google Play Music, Apple
Music and Tidal to TuneIn and Rdio internet
radio, as well as storage devices on your
network. Theres also a 3.5mm input on the
back of the Play:5 for a CD player or turntable.
The Sonos Controller app works well with
all the supported services. If you use multiple
streaming services, the apps universal search
gathers results from all of them. While Spotify
Connect isnt supported, you can play multiple
audio streams from a single Spotify account,

The Controller app can group any Sonos


speakers, as well as pairing two Play:5s as a
stereo pair. Sonos says two speakers placed
vertically produce a wider soundstage;
horizontally gives better stereo separation.
Add a Playbar and Sub to the mix and you can
create a 5.1 setup with wireless rear speakers,
although wed use Play:1 speakers for the rear
channels, not the more expensive Play:5s
Inside the Play:5 are six custom-designed
drivers: three mid-woofers and three tweeters
for the high frequencies, each with their own
amplier. The Play:5 is easily able to deliver
room-lling sound, with rich, weighty bass
and bright, crisp mids and trebles. The hi-hats

in jazz tracks are distinct and vocals have a


wonderful clarity. The Play:5 performs
exceptionally well across all genres, delivering
impact and excitement when tracks require it,
and a more delicate touch for acoustic,
vocal-driven songs.
Acoustic performance can be drastically
affected by where you place your speakers,
whether thats close to a wall, in a corner or
hidden behind a curtain. Sonoss Trueplay
tuning software comes as part of the iOS
Controller app, and attempts to calibrate your
speaker based on the acoustic response of
your room. Unfortunately, Android isnt
supported as there are so many different
audio hardware and body designs for Android
devices that Sonos hasnt created a catalogue
of the different properties of each device.
Apple devices only come in so many avours,
so its easier to know how they respond.
During Trueplay tuning, the speaker emits
a test sound which your iOS devices
microphone measures as you walk around the
room, waving your device in circles and
following the apps instructions. After a bit of
pacing and arm wiggling, we found Trueplay
helped in our sillier tests (putting the speaker
in a cupboard, for example) where the altered
EQ balance helped minimise the muing of
half an inch of MDF. Its certainly worth a try.
Theres an awful lot to like about the
Sonos Play:5. The only real disappointment is
the lack of Bluetooth support, which would ll
the few gaps in Sonoss service support. It
makes the Play:5 seem a little out of step with
other multiroom audio offerings, a strange
situation for such a pioneering company.
Regardless, whether youre starting a new
multiroom setup or merely looking to add
speakers to an existing Sonos network, the
Play:5 is a great-sounding and attractive
speaker, and lives up to its position as the
agship Sonos speaker.

SPECIFICATIONS
SPEAKERS 6

RMS POWER OUTPUT Not disclosed


WEIGHT 6.4kg

DIMENSIONS 203x364x154mm

NETWORKING SonosNet (dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi), 10/100


Ethernet

STREAMING FORMATS SonosNet, AirPlay


DETAILS www.sonos.com

WARRANTY One year RTB


PART CODE Play:5

112

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

SONY SRS-X77

215 inc VAT


From www.coopelectricalshop.co.uk
RECOMMENDED

VERDICT

The built-in battery and Bluetooth makes the


SRS-X77 a seriously versatile multiroom speaker
THERE ARE LOTS of multiroom speakers to
choose from, but few are designed for moving
around the home. A built-in battery separates
Sonys SRS-X77 from most of its rivals. At
132x300x60mm and 1.9kg, its the smallest
speaker in the SRS range, making it well
suited for portability; the larger X88 and X99
(page 114) lack an integrated battery, so are
meant to remain stationary. The only limitation
is your Wi-Fi range, but you can still use the
SRS-X77 as a conventional Bluetooth speaker.
The SRS-X77 is a minimalist rectangle with
a front face of uninterrupted speaker grille. It
feels premium and well-constructed, and
theres decent heft to the cabinet. The only
issue, as is the case with all piano-black glass
objects, is how prone to dust and ngerprints
it is. Be prepared to constantly wipe the
SRS-X77 down to keep it looking its best.
The glossy glass top has touch-based
controls for swapping between Bluetooth,
Network and wired Audio In modes, plus
volume adjustment. Disappointingly, the
buttons arent backlit. The NFC contact point
on the top for quickly pairing a Bluetooth
device is a handy inclusion, though.
The power, Ethernet and 3.5mm stereo
connections can all be found on the back.
Theres also a USB port, which can be used to
charge a device, but not as an audio input.
The back also houses a pop-out antenna that
can be used to improve wireless reception.
When extended, the aerial slightly ruins the
clean lines of the speaker, but its not too big
a sacrice for a stronger connection.
As with Sonys other multiroom speakers,
setup and controls are handled through the
SongPal app for Android, iOS and desktops. A
tutorial helps you save your wireless network

details to the speaker if you dont use


the WPS pairing option. You rst connect to
the speaker over Bluetooth, before entering
your Wi-Fi details and assigning the speaker a
name. The app also handles rmware updates;
we spent about 20 minutes downloading and
installing a new version. Thats rather slow,
but updating rmware is an infrequent task.
Speaker grouping is handled in the SongPal
app by dragging icons representing each
speaker around the screen. Its an intuitive
way to visualise how your speakers are
arranged, and shows at a glance whether a
speaker is in Network or Bluetooth mode.
Tapping a speaker displays individual controls,
where you can select an audio source. The
SRS-X77 is compatible with both Google Cast
and Spotify Connect, it supports AirPlay, and
can play music over DLNA. With Bluetooth
and the 3.5mm input, youre well covered.
The SRS-X77 supports Bluetooth LDAC,
which allows for higher bit-rate wireless
streaming from compatible devices compared
to Bluetooth SBC. Unfortunately, not many
devices support LDAC, apart from Sonys
smartphones and Walkmans.
Two 46mm full-range drivers, a subwoofer
and two passive radiators deliver a combined
40W of output. They deliver some impressive
sound, using digital sound enhancement to
upscale low bit-rate audio.
The SongPal app lets you change sound
settings; by default, Sonys ClearAudio+ DSP
is enabled, but you can use preset equaliser
settings or adjust the balance using a custom
EQ. We dont like how ClearAudio+ colours

the sound: it not only makes everything


louder, it also over-emphasises the bass.
Even on the Flat pre-set, theres plenty of
low-end frequency presence.
You can also adjust the Wide Stereo
setting between Normal and High to add
some width to the soundstage. While the High
setting did indeed disperse the sound more
between the left and right channels, we found
it left vocals feeling thinner and more distant,
so preferred to keep it switched off.
Listening to A$AP Rockys LSD, which
features strong electronic bass, there was a
little cabinet reverberation, but beyond this,
the impactful bass is well controlled. Bass
begins to distort a little when approaching
maximum volume, but considering how loud
the speaker can get you probably wont be
dialling it all the way up. Mids and trebles
have the level of delicate control we expect
for a speaker at this price and size.
Built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the integrated
battery make the SRS-X77 a jack of all trades,
rivalling the comparably priced Libratone Zipp
and cheaper Zipp Mini, if not quite eclipsing
these immensely versatile speakers. Used as a
conventional Bluetooth speaker, youll get
about 10 hours of battery life from the
SRS-X77 (less if using Wi-Fi), and we liked the
ability to move the speaker around. The same
is true of the Zipp speakers, however. The
sound quality of the SRS-X77 matches its
design, and it would make a solid inclusion in
any Sony multiroom set up. While the recent
price drop (from an original 259) makes the
SRS-X77 worth considering, the Zipp and Zipp
Mini still get our vote due to their superior
features and more exible design.

SPECIFICATIONS
SPEAKERS 3

RMS POWER OUTPUT 40W


WEIGHT 1.9kg

DIMENSIONS 132x300x60mm

NETWORKING Bluetooth (LDAC), Dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi,

STREAMING FORMATS UPnP, DLNA,


WARRANTY One year
RTB DETAILS www.sony.co.uk PART CODE SRS-X77

10/100 Ethernet

AirPlay, Google Cast, Bluetooth

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

113

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

SONY
SRS-X99

RECOMMENDED 469 inc VAT

From www.simplyelectricals.co.uk

VERDICT

The Sony SRS-X99 packs in plenty of


connections and combines great sound
quality with a stunning design
BACK IN 2014, we were very impressed by
Sonys SRS-X9 speaker. It delivered stunning
sound that matched its elegant and stylish
design. The latest version, the SRS-X99, builds
on this model by adding some new features to
bring it bang up to date for 2016, including
support for Google Cast, Spotify Connect and
multiroom functionality.
It slots into Sonys multiroom speaker
range at the higher end of the spectrum just
above the SRS-X77. Its signicantly bigger
than the X77, too, measuring 133x430x125mm
and weighing a reassuring 4.7kg. Unlike the
SRS-X77, which is eminently more portable
and includes a built-in battery, the SRS-X99
isnt likely to be moved around as much.
The heavy use of glossy, piano-black glass
makes a welcome return for the SRS-X99,
and gives the speaker a gorgeous, luxurious
appearance. Its clean edges and uninterrupted
front grille look classy, and it feels like a
premium product. That said, youll probably
want to refrain from touching the SRS-X99
too often, as its surface is an absolute
magnet for messy smudges and greasy
ngerprints so much so that theres a
microbre cleaning cloth included in the box
to help the speaker look its best.
Luckily, the SRS-X99s touch controls are
located on the top corner of the speaker,
making any potential marks less obvious
under bright lights. The controls are backlit,
too, so theyre easy to nd in the dark, and
a proximity sensor will turn them on only
as you reach out to touch them.
Its a subtle effect thats both
functional and charming.
Using the controls, youre able
to swap between the speakers
different connection modes

114

including Network, Audio In and Bluetooth,


the latter of which can easily be enabled via
its NFC contact point. You also get a simple
minimalist remote control, which has media
playback controls as well as a selection of
different input buttons.
On the back of the cabinet youll nd
both USB Type-A and USB Type-B ports.
The former can be used to charge portable
devices, such as your phone or tablet, as well
as to connect external storage devices with
local music les, while the latter can be used
to connect the SRS-X99 to a computer for
direct playback. Alternatively, theres also a
3.5mm mini-jack connection.
The SRS-X99 supports a wide array of
formats, including FLAC, AAC, ALAC and DSD,
along with MP3s. This being a Sony product,
it comes as no surprise that theres highresolution audio support as well, so playback
of 192kHz/24-bit les isnt a problem. This will
be particularly appealing to audiophiles with
high-resolution masters.
The SRS-X99 also has built-in dual-band
Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port for a wired
network connection, so youre certainly not
left wanting when it comes to ways of
accessing your music. A pop-out antenna can
be used to improve wireless reception, but
once youve connected the SRS-X99 to your
network, which can be done through Sonys
SongPal app, you open up Spotify Connect,
AirPlay, Google Cast or DLNA as wireless
connection options alongside Bluetooth.
Sonys SongPal app can be used for
managing multiple speakers, changing EQ
settings and accessing music stored on your
home network or device. Grouping speakers
together is easy and intuitive, too,
thanks to the apps simple interface.
You just need to tap and drag speakers
connected to your network together in
order to group them.
In terms of driver conguration,
nothing has changed from the SRS-X9.
Sony has managed to pack in seven
speakers here, and these consist of two
50mm magnetic uid drivers, a central
94mm woofer paired with two passive
radiators, two 19mm front wide
dispersion tweeters and two 19mm top
tweeters. The front speaker grille can be
removed using the included magnetic

tool to expose the impressive drivers inside. In


terms of digital sound enhancement, theres
both DSEE HX, which upscales compressed
les to near high-resolution levels, and Clear
Audio+, which applies digital signal processing
for crisper audio. Weve never really been fans
of Clear Audio+, though, as while audio does
sound marginally more detailed, it also adds in
a tad too much bass, colouring the sound.
Thankfully, youre afforded a decent
amount of control over the EQ to get your
music sounding just how you like it. On a at
EQ, the SRS-X99 sounds universally great
across all genres. Orchestral tracks have
presence and space, while hip hop has plenty
of low-end drive and aggression. Listen to
high-resolution tracks and you can begin to
pick out even more detail. Acoustic tracks
sound ethereal, with the singers breathing
becoming even more discernible for that
authentic, in-the-room type of experience.
Like the SRS-X9 that came before it, the
SRS-X99 sounds fantastic.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering how
good the SRS-X9 was, the SRS-X99 is an
excellent speaker. The additions of Spotify
Connect and Google Cast are useful, and
improvements to the SongPal app make it a
fully functional multiroom speaker. It trumps
similar high-end speakers such as Sonoss
Play:5 when it comes to connections and
high-resolution audio support, but Sonos
arguably still wins in terms of convenience
and delivery, as it supports a wider variety of
online streaming services.
Depending on what you need, you wont
be disappointed with the SRS-X99, especially
if you shop around, as its often available for
around 400, making it slightly cheaper than
the Play:5 and therefore even better value.

SPECIFICATIONS

RMS POWER OUTPUT 154W DOCK


NETWORKING Bluetooth (LDAC),
dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet DIMENSIONS
133x430x125mm WEIGHT 4.7kg STREAMING FORMATS
UPnP, DLNA, AirPlay, Google Cast WARRANTY One year
RTB DETAILS www.sony.co.uk PART CODE SRS-X99
SPEAKERS 7

CONNECTOR None

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

Bluetooth Apps,
Spotify Connect,
Deezer, TuneIn

Internet streaming
services

Prices correct at time of going to press

BeoPlay A6

www.beoplay.com

Details

Part code

www.beoplay.com

One year RTB

799

Supplier

Warranty

Price including VAT

BUYING INFORMATION

MP3, FLAC, Wav,


WMA, AAC, AIFF,
ALAC

DLNA

Supported servers

Audio formats

AirPlay, DLNA,
Bluetooth

6kg

LH0032010EU2001

www.libratone.com

www.libratone.com

One year RTB

219

Bluetooth Apps,
Spotify Connect,
Apple Music

MP3, FLAC, Wav,


AAC, AIFF, ALAC,
OGG

DLNA

AirPlay, DLNA,
Bluetooth

1.5kg

261x122x122mm

Not disclosed

None

298x536x144mm

iOS, Android

No

No

iOS, Android

Bluetooth (aptX),
dual-band 802.11n
Wi-Fi

None

1x USB input/
charging

None

None

3.5mm stereo

100W

Bluetooth (SBC),
dual-band 802.11n
Wi-Fi, 10/100
Ethernet

None

Streaming formats

STREAMING

Weight

Dimensions (HxWxD)

Battery capacity

App support

NFC

Networking

Memory card support

Service only

None

USB port

None

Audio outputs

3.5mm stereo

150W

LH0020010EU2002

www.libratone.com

www.libratone.com

One year RTB

179

Bluetooth Apps,
Spotify Connect,
Apple Music

MP3, FLAC, Wav,


AAC, AIFF, ALAC,
OGG

DLNA

AirPlay, DLNA,
Bluetooth

1.1kg

224x100x100mm

Not disclosed

iOS, Android

No

Bluetooth (aptX),
dual-band 802.11n
Wi-Fi

None

1x USB input/
charging

None

None

3.5mm stereo

60W

Zipp Mini

Zipp

Dock connector

Audio inputs

RMS power output

Speakers

HARDWARE

LIBRATONE

RECOMMENDED

LIBRATONE

BEST BUY

BANG &
OLUFSEN
BeoPlay A6

BM5B/10

www.philips.co.uk

www.maplin.co.uk

One year RTB

100

Bluetooth Apps

MP3

None

izzylink, Bluetooth

1.1kg

118x165x165mm

None

None

No

Bluetooth (SBC),
izzylink (dual-band
802.11n Wi-Fi)

None

Service only

None

None

3.5mm stereo

5W

Izzy BM5

PHILIPS

BM50B/10

www.philips.co.uk

www.amazon.co.uk

One year RTB

200

Bluetooth Apps

MP3

None

izzylink, Bluetooth

2.9kg

218x500x112mm

None

None

No

Bluetooth (SBC),
izzylink (dual-band
802.11n Wi-Fi)

None

1x USB input/
charging

None

3.5mm headphone

3.5mm stereo, CD,


FM radio

40W

Izzy BM50

PHILIPS

WAM5500

www.samsung.com/
uk

www.johnlewis.com

One year RTB

350

Spotify Connect,
Deezer, 8tracks,
TuneIn, Rdio, Qobuz

MP3, FLAC, Wav,


WMA, AAC, AIFF,
ALAC, OGG

DLNA

Samsung Mesh,
UPnP, Bluetooth

2.7kg

313x166x166mm

None

iOS, Android

No

Bluetooth (SBC),
Samsung Mesh
(dual-band 802.11n
Wi-Fi)

None

None

None

None

None

Not disclosed

R5

SAMSUNG

Play:5

www.sonos.com

www.sonos.com

One year RTB

429

Spotify, Google Play


Music, Soundcloud,
Deezer, Amazon
Music Library, Apple
Music

MP3, FLAC, Wav,


WMA, AAC, AAC+,
AIFF, ALAC, OGG

UPnP, SMB

SonosNet, AirPlay

6.4kg

203x364x154mm

None

iOS, Android,
Windows, OS X

No

SonosNet (dual-band
802.11n Wi-Fi), 10/100
Ethernet

None

None

None

None

3.5mm stereo

Not disclosed

Play:5

SONOS

RECOMMENDED

SRS-X77

www.sony.co.uk

www.coopelectrical
shop.co.uk

One year RTB

215

Spotify Connect,
Google Play Music,
Internet Radio

MP3, WMA, AAC,


ALAC

UPnP, SMB, DLNA

UPnP, DLNA,
AirPlay, Google Cast,
Bluetooth

1.9kg

132x300x60mm

Not disclosed

iOS, Android,
Windows, OS X

Yes

Bluetooth (LDAC),
Dual-band 802.11n
Wi-Fi, 10/100
Ethernet

None

1x USB charging

None

None

3.5mm stereo

40W

SRS-X77

SONY

RECOMMENDED

SRS-X99

www.sony.co.uk

www.simplyelectricals.
co.uk

One year RTB

469

Spotify Connect,
Google Play Music,
Internet Radio

MP3, WMA, AAC,


ALAC, DSD

UPnP, SMB, DLNA

UPnP, DLNA, AirPlay,


Google Cast

4.7kg

133x430x125mm

None

iOS, Android,
Windows, OS X

Yes

Bluetooth (LDAC),
dual-band 802.11n
Wi-Fi, 10/100
Ethernet

None

1x USB input/
charging, 1x USB
Type B input

None

None

3.5mm stereo

154W

SRS-X99

SONY

RECOMMENDED

MULTIROOM AUDIO SYSTEMS

115

A DATA
DRIVEN
FORMULA

F1s armies of design, analysis and simulation specialists feast on the


data generated by the cars. Mike Bedford explains how this data is
generated, collected and distributed across the world in real time

FORMULA 1 DATA

t may not seem long ago that Lewis


Hamilton clinched his third Formula
One Drivers Championship in the
United States Grand Prix at the Circuit
of the Americas in Texas, or the 2015
season nale took place under the
oodlights of the Yas Marina circuit in
Abu Dhabi. In this fast-moving sport,
though, nothing stands still for long.
Already the new 2016 cars have been
put through their paces in pre-season testing at
Spains Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and by the
time you read this the F1 show will be on the road
again, starting at Albert Park in Melbourne.
F1 is widely acknowledged as the pinnacle of
technology in sport. As such, the image of a mechanic
with a greasy rag and spanner has long since been
replaced with teams of specialists hunched over
laptops running everything from computational uid
dynamics software to real-time race simulations.
Most F1 fans will be aware of the importance of
telemetry the transmission of data from sensors on
the cars to help the teams ne-tune their race
strategy, but thats just the start. Race control and the
stewards use data to ensure that drivers abide by the
rules and that safety is assured. And, since there

would be no Formula One without its army of


dedicated fans, theres the data that we consume
when we turn on the TV or log into the Formula1.com
website. In this article we delve into the data that is
intrinsic to Formula One, looking at the challenges of
collecting data from fast-moving cars, the impressive
data centre that is set up in just a few days at each
circuit, and at how the various data streams are used
both at the racetrack and across the globe.

Accessing telemetry
data is key to ne-tuning
the race strategy
Image: Williams, LAT

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

117

Image: Mercedes AMG Petronas

THE COMPETITIVE EDGE

Long gone are the days when a racing driver was on his own
from lights-out to the chequered ag. Despite Formula
Ones governing body, the FIA, recently tightening the rules
on what advice or instructions a team can give its drivers,
those drivers are reliant on information provided by their
race engineers. Much of this information comes from
sensors on the cars, with a modern F1 car having over 100
instruments, each gathering data about different aspects of
the car. This way, race engineers are able to keep an eye on
tyre wear, brake temperature and fuel ow, as well as other
factors that might indicate impending faults. Its also been

Large amounts
of data are
transmitted by
each car to the
team garage as the
cars race around
the track

rumoured that, for safety reasons, the FIA is considering


including information about the drivers themselves such
as their heart rate, respiration and temperature in that
stream of telemetry data sent to the team in the pit lane.
The key telemetry is handled by the Engine Control Unit,
or ECU, a standard component supplied by McLaren that all
teams are obliged to use. In a typical race, the ECU is
responsible for the transmission of around 1.5GB of data.
Although this might sound like a lot at rst, this works out
at a modest 2Mbit/s. Given that cheap 802.11n routers can
manage a real-world speed of around 50Mbit/s, this doesnt
sound especially dicult to achieve. However, were not
comparing like with like. An ordinary Wi-Fi access point will
only achieve its top speed over a very short range and could
have dropped out entirely within a hundred metres
outdoors, or a few tens of metres in a typical home or
oce. At the extremities of a race track, a car might be a
couple of kilometres from the teams garage, yet coverage
black spots would be catastrophic. Using a combination of
dedicated radio channels rather than Wi-Fi to eliminate
interference from other cars, and placing receiving antennas
all around the track, continual coverage is assured, even in
the famous harbour-side tunnel at Monte Carlo.
Getting sensor data from the cars to the trackside team
is only part of the story. Tata Communications is the ocial
managed connectivity supplier for the Mercedes AMG
Petronas Formula One team; as such, Tata allows this

Quick start: the trackside data centre


Establishing high-speed data links from a plush oce in London
to locations worldwide might be a challenge; providing that same
connectivity from a transient facility at one of 19 race tracks
across ve continents (or 21 races this season) takes the challenge
to a whole new level. Yet this is exactly whats needed when
Formula One arrives at one of those circuits.
Formula One Managements trackside Technical Centre, from
where it distributes multiple video feeds and data to its oces in
Biggin Hill, Kent, is housed in a temporary climate-controlled
building that might be described as a gloried tent, albeit one that
houses 200 people over a race weekend. But that modest-looking
exterior belies its high-tech contents. Connected to cameras and
sensors around the track via 20km of bre optic cable installed
just for the race and ripped up immediately afterwards are racks

upon racks of servers and data-communication equipment. A


couple of statistics provide more of a feel for just how much
equipment is housed in this temporary data centre. For European
races, where materials can be transported by road, this equipment
is carried in no fewer than 15 trucks. For y-away races, its
designed to weigh no more than 130 tonnes, thereby permitting it
to be carried but only just in a single Boeing 747 freightliner.
Perhaps more impressive than the Technical Centres sheer
scale is the fact that some races take place on consecutive
weekends. As one race ends on a Sunday afternoon, the rst
practice session of the next Grand Prix will take place on the
following Friday morning. The bottom line is that the data centre
can be dismantled in just three hours and, once on site at the next
race, can be put together in less than three days.

Formula One Managements


Technical Centre, with its racks
of equipment, is assembled at
each track in less than three days

championship-winning team to make use of the gathered


data, both at the track and beyond, using its global data
networks. To learn more about this, we spoke to Tata
Communications Mehul Kapadia, managing director of F1
business. He explained how the data strategy is dictated to
a large extent by the rules imposed on the team. FIA
regulations limit the number of staff from each team at a
Grand Prix to 60, so Mercedes needs to be very ecient in
how the team works, he said. Super-fast connectivity
ensures the team complies with FIA rules, while tapping
into as much brain power as possible. Mercedes runs a
state-of-the-art remote operations setup, with a second pit
crew based at the teams factory in the UK playing a direct
role in each race, communicating, collaborating and
exchanging data and insights with the pit crew at the track
in real-time, as if they were in the same place.
Low latency a minimal delay between endpoints is
important here, as Kapadia went on to explain. Low-latency
connectivity also underpins Mercedes data strategy. Our
network has trebled the speed of data transfer for Mercedes
AMG Petronas, enabling critical race-car telemetry and
sensor data to be transferred in less than a quarter of a
second from a race track anywhere in the world to the
factory in the UK and vice versa. Thats 0.244 seconds to
send a signal around the world, transmitting 128GB of data
per second. With the volume of data analysed by the team
growing each season, this infrastructure delivers a real
competitive advantage for the team.
Kapadia provided an anecdote that emphasises the
benet of low-latency links. Due to high decibel noise at
the trackside, the drivers and the technical team
communicate via headsets. On one occasion Lewis
Hamilton was taking part in practice for the upcoming
competition, and was talking to a member of the
engineering team via his headset all business as usual.
Only the engineer wasnt at trackside, but actually back in
the factory in the UK. So clear was the line of
communication that Lewis didnt realise this at all; he even
asked, Where are you? I cant see you!

Image Mercedes AMG Petronas

FORMULA 1 DATA

As you can
see from Lewis
Hamiltons steering
wheel, an LCD panel
allows the driver to
access data while
hes out on track

Its not only across the globe where the data from the
cars is needed; it is also made available much more locally.
In F1 the phrase steering wheel has become something of a
misnomer or at least a gross over-simplication. Just as the
steering wheel on a road car now boasts a whole manner of
controls and push-buttons, from gear-changing paddles on
the back to cruise-control buttons on the front, an F1 cars
steering wheel has also outgrown its humble beginnings.
But while a production car might have a handful of controls,
pretty much every square centimetre of an F1 cars steering
wheel is occupied by push-buttons, dials, controls and that
all-important LCD panel. These steering wheels can cost
anywhere between 20,000 to over 50,000.
Via the LCD panel, much of the data that is available to
race engineers can be accessed by the driver, too. We can
only speculate as to how a driver manages to scroll through
pages of data while approaching Curva Parabolica at Monza
at 208mph. We also have to speculate on what information
Tata Communications
global bre-optic network
provides the essential lowlatency connection that
satellite links cant achieve

Key
Consortium (shared)
Tata Global Network

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

119

is at their disposal, since teams are notoriously secretive


about such things. However, a couple of examples are
worth mentioning. Its widely acknowledged that drivers are
able to view deltas, or timing differences, something thats
particularly important in qualifying. So, for example, a driver
on a ying lap in the last session of qualifying can get
immediate feedback on how their lap time compares with
that of their previous laps and whether theyre on track to
snatch pole position from the current pole-sitter. Steering
wheels also display information from race control to reduce
the likelihood of drivers missing ags. So, for example, if a
driver is being shown blue ags by the trackside marshals,
indicating that the driver must move aside and be lapped by
faster cars approaching from behind, that information will
be duplicated on the drivers steering wheel.
The data transmitted by each cars ECU during a race
doesnt represent the sum total of the data acquired by an
F1 car: as much as 6GB can be collected during a practice or
qualifying session. Because current technology doesnt
permit all that data to be transmitted in real time, and the
regulations wouldnt allow its use during a race, this data
has traditionally been downloaded using a hard-wired

With so many cameras


around the track, transmitting
the data to Formula One
Managements technical HQ
requires a massive bandwidth

The F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize


Tata Communications F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize is, to quote
the companys promotional material, a global platform that will
engage international brainpower against the demanding backdrop
of Formula 1 racing. Tata announces several challenges each year
there were two during the 2015 season and entrants come up
with solutions in the hope of winning a share of the $50,000 prize.
The rst challenge in 2015 was set by the Mercedes Formula
One team and unveiled by its driver Lewis Hamilton, who is also a
judge on the prize panel. The challenge was to design a new
approach for displaying critical race-car telemetry and sensor data,
such as tyre degradation and temperature, airow, aerodynamics,
throttle, brake and oil temperature, and movements inside the
gearbox, for use on the pit wall, in the garage and at the team
headquarters during track sessions. The rhetoric further referred
to permitting more accurate decisions through the visualisation
of big data analytics in real-time.

Paul Clarke won the 2015 Grand Prize for his entry Signals and
Streams. He said: The solution I proposed is designed to leverage
the proven capabilities of traditional web technologies with the
addition of modern protocols and concepts to produce near-realtime, low-latency communications and form a consolidated view of
quantitative and qualitative data sets. I called the concept Signals
and Streams. Signals refer to data collected from multiple sources,
which needs to be displayed unambiguously to meet the challenges
faced by trackside engineers. Streams is a concept borrowed from
micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter, which presents messages
from users, interpreting the data and events in real time.
Finally, the platform includes an element of machine-learning,
using a concept called ARROW (Articial Recognise-React
Orientated Worker), which provides an autonomous analyst to
compute vast amounts of data and scenarios based on incoming
Signals and communicate with the team via Streams.

The Grand Prize


Winner in Tata
Communications
F1 Connectivity
Innovation Prize
was Paul Clarke for
his entry Signals
and Streams

Image: Matrox Graphics

FORMULA 1 DATA

Access to multiple views


of the race track is
essential to race control

connection when a car returned to its garage. During the


2015 season, though, semiconductor manufacturer
Qualcomm supplied Wi-Fi technology to Mercedes allowing
that data to be acquired when the car approaches the
garage. This isnt common-or-garden 802.11n Wi-Fi, though,
but the up-and-coming 802.11ac, which was certied in 2014
and offers speeds of up to 1.3Gbit/s.
Qualcomms solution uses 80MHz channels and four
Wi-Fi chips to implement a distributed system consisting of
small boxes at multiple locations on the car. Even this
doesnt represent the limit, though, as Qualcomm plans to
upgrade to 802.11ad. This little-known Wi-Fi standard is a
radical departure from its predecessors, operating at 60GHz
instead of in the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands. It is intended as a
cable replacement technology, perhaps for HD video, rather
than for networking. The downside of 802.11ad Wi-Fi is that
its a very short-range standard, running out of steam in 10
metres or less. What it lacks in reach, though, it more than
makes up for in speed, with a maximum rate of 7Gbit/s.

THE VIEWING SPECTACLE

One of the unique aspects of Formula One is that the


action cant all be seen from a single viewpoint. So while 15
cameras might be enough to provide TV coverage of a
football match, capturing all the action during a Formula
One Grand Prix is much more of a challenge.
The circuits that hosted races in 2015 varied in length
from 3.3km to 7km, so ensuring that the entire track is
covered is a feat in itself. Over 30 cameras were used for
the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, despite it being the
shortest circuit on the F1 calendar at 3.3km. Viewing the
on-track action isnt enough, though, as races can be won
or lost during a pit stop. So cameras in the pit lane add to
the tally. There are also cameras in helicopters, remotecontrolled cameras on zip lines, and cameras with a high
frame rate for those ultra-slow motion shots. Then there
are the on-board cameras. Regulations require every car to
be tted with no fewer than ve camera housings, although
not all those housings will necessarily contain working
cameras. Bear in mind there will be 22 cars on the track (at
the start of the race, at least) in the coming season and its
clear that theres a potentially massive amount of video
data being streamed from out on the track.
In addition to working with the Mercedes AMD Petronas
team, Tata Communications is the ocial connectivity

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

provider to Formula One Management (FOM), the


company that owns the commercial rights to Formula One,
a key element of which is providing the TV coverage to over
a hundred broadcasters worldwide. Again we discussed with
Tata Communications Mehul Kapadia the companys
contribution to F1, this time in making the action available
to fans. Since becoming Formula One Managements
ocial connectivity provider, we have boosted connectivity
at the track by tenfold from 100Mbit/s to a minimum of
1Gbit/s. Our network plays a central role in Formula One
Managements broadcasting centre, a 130-tonne structure
built onsite at each Grand Prix location. Thanks to superfast connectivity, Formula One Management is able to
handle many of its broadcast operations remotely, from its
technical HQ in Biggin Hill [in the UK], in the same way as at

MERCEDES PLANS TO USE 802.11ad


WI-FI TO DUMP DATA FROM CAR
TO PIT CREW AT UP TO 7GBIT/S
trackside. For example, using a reverse data path, Formula
One Management controls some of the robotic trackside
cameras remotely from Biggin Hill. The team also listens to
and edits the radio messages between drivers and their
teams, and shares them with TV broadcasters globally.
As with the Mercedes team, being able to access data
remotely is essential but, for FOM, the requirement isnt
one of adhering to the regulations concerning stang
levels. With less manpower needed at each Grand Prix,
Formula One Management is able to dedicate more
resources in innovation, Kapadia told us. We share a
passion for pushing the boundaries of technology to create
more immediate and immersive experiences for F1 fans. So,
to help bring the race to peoples living rooms, we
undertook a trial at the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix practice
session delivering live footage in 4K quality over our
network to Formula One Managements Technical HQ in
Biggin Hill. Thats a distance of over 10,000 kilometres and
multiple time zones. Although this rst ever live 4K feed of
an F1 event over bre was not broadcast to viewers at

121

the maximum ow rate and, ve hours after he had stood


on the podium, Ricciardo was disqualied from the race.
Stewards also have access to historical telemetry data so
they can make comparisons. Waved yellow ags are used to
indicate a hazard on the track and, under these conditions,
drivers are required to reduce their pace throughout the
hazardous section. By comparing throttle and brake
telemetry data with that of a normal lap, race ocials are
able to determine whether drivers have lifted off the
throttle or braked, as they are required to do.
In addition to the sensors that monitor the cars engine,
gearbox and tyres, all cars also have GPS on board. The FIA

home, our proof of concept demonstrated the capability


which will soon provide fans with the best possible viewing
experience in the comfort of their own homes. The critical
factor is connectivity and the ability to transmit broadcast
content seamlessly worldwide and manage it in ways that is
just not possible via satellite links. In the not too distant
future, Formula One Management may be able to select
specic live video feeds on the y to share with fans.

RACE CONTROL

The FIA, the Fdration Internationale de lAutomobile, is


the governing body of Formula One. At a grand prix, its job
is to ensure fair play and to assure the safety of the drivers,
spectators and staff at the circuit. Race control, stewards
and marshals play their part and, once again, data is key.
Telemetry may have come into Formula One to give
teams that winning edge, but that same data must be made
available to race control and the stewards to make sure that
teams and drivers abide by the rules. A well-known instance
in which the FIAs use of telemetry data impacted the result
of a race was in Australia in 2014, the rst race in which
restrictions were imposed both on the amount of fuel that
could be used during the entire race and the rate of fuel
consumption at any moment in the race. At the conclusion
of the race it was thought that Red Bulls Daniel Ricciardo
had secured second place in this, his inaugural race for the
team, in front of his home crowd. It later transpired that the
team had been warned during the race that theyd exceeded

THE 2014 SINGAPORE GRAND


PRIX WAS STREAMED IN 4K IN
REAL TIME TO BIGGIN HILL, UK,
OVER 10,000KM AWAY

Site management
Live TV coverage of F1 is watched by 425 million viewers worldwide, and as
many as seven million simultaneous users in 188 countries make their way
to the Formula1.com website at peak times during a race weekend. Much of
the content, including news stories, results and tables, is freely available,
but live data is available to subscribers in races, further extending the reach
of data networks at the circuit and team oces worldwide.
Using a web browser or an iOS or Android app, subscribers can view lap
and sector timing, speed, weather and tyre information, or put themselves
in the seat of a race engineer by viewing graphs of throttle, braking, steering
and more. Hosting and content provider Tata Communications is also
working on an initiative that will allow live video footage to be delivered to
online users with no appreciable delay. Tatas OTT (Over the Top) service at
the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix provided an almost instant video feed.

uses this satellite-based navigation system, working


hand-in-hand with inertial sensors, to keep track of where
each car is on the track. Theres even talk of using GPS data
to determine whether cars have exceeded the track limits,
either when cutting a corner or using a run-off area to carry
greater speed through the preceding corner.
Whatever data is available, interpreting the rules isnt
always black and white. For example, drivers have
traditionally been penalised for leaving the track only if they
gained an advantage, but this is a subjective issue so the
scrutineers need to be vigilant. This means race ocials
have to be able to see the action anywhere on-track, so
FOM makes its TV coverage available to the FIA.
This isnt the limit as to what can be monitored in the
race control centre, though; far from it, as evidenced by
the wall of screens. FOMs cameras are used to provide
entertainment for TV viewers worldwide, and this means
concentrating on the most important on-track battles.
Race ocials, on the other hand, need a view of everything.
As many as 30 CCTV cameras also monitor the track, the
run-off areas and the pit lane. The video feed from every
one of the various cameras is recorded to allow stewards
immediate access to replays.

MILLISECOND TIMING

The ocial Formula One website can receive as many as seven million simultaneous
visitors during a race

Arguably, the most crucial job for the FIA is to determine


the result. Normally its self-evident whos won a race, but
there have been notable exceptions. The closest ever
Formula One race was the 1971 Italian Grand Prix, in which
Peter Gethin won by a margin of just 0.01 seconds and the
top ve nishers all came within 0.61 seconds of each other.
Although such close nishes are the exception rather than
the rule, its another matter entirely in qualifying, where
cars are usually much closer. During the whole of the 2015
season, for example, there was never more than a second
between pole position and second on the grid, and the
difference was less than half a second in all but a couple of
events. In Japan, Nico Rosberg beat his teammate Lewis
Hamilton to pole position with a margin of just 0.076
seconds. By way of contrast, the proverbial blink of the eye
takes between 0.3 and 0.4 seconds.
Just as the human eye often blinks much more slowly
than the differences in qualifying times, the GPS systems of
Formula One cars are also too slow and too inaccurate for
timing. Ordinary GPS, of the type you have in your in-car

FORMULA 1 DATA

Telemetry from land to sea


Formula One is rightly acknowledged as the sport where technology
rules, but other sports arent left to compete in the technological
Dark Ages. Indeed, experience gained in F1 is now being employed
to provide a competitive edge in another sport where speed counts.
Royal Yacht Squadron Racing Ltd is a club aliated to the Royal
Yacht Squadron, and Land Rover BAR will be its sailing team in the
35th Americas Cup. If the team succeeds in its quest in Bermuda in
2017, it will be the rst time a British team has held this prestigious
sailing trophy since the rst Americas Cup regatta took place
around the Isle of Wight in 1851. Richard Hopkirk, formerly a race
engineer for the McLaren Formula One team, is head of systems
and analysis with Land Rover BAR. He now employs the same
engineering skills to get the best from the teams boat, and theres
more synergy between the two sports than you might expect.
Just as success in F1 depends on the support of a team of
experts monitoring the running of a car, much the same is true of
success at sea. Traditionally this has been achieved using a chase
boat sailing alongside the competition boat to observe it and, in
recent times, monitor telemetry. But as the sail boats got faster and
the chase boat had to carry ever more designers, coaches and
performance analysts, the requirements became unmanageable.
Enter the virtual chase boat. Data and video feeds are now

transmitted to a control room ashore, but this shift wasnt without


its challenges, as we learned when we spoke to Hopkirk.
We were keen to know just how much similarity there is between
telemetry in Formula One and in the Americas Cup. There are more
similarities than differences, he suggested. The technology is
essentially the same, with data readings from the various sensors
being sent from the vehicle [boat or car] back to the pit lane for
the engineers to view using specialist software. We use motorsportdeveloped electronics on the boat, and much of the sensing
hardware is similar too.
The challenges of the aquatic environment mostly concern the
distance over which the data has to be transmitted. Hopkirk told us
that while an F1 car drives around a well-dened track thats no
more than a few miles from the pit lane, in contrast the Americas
Cup boat particularly when it is out testing is somewhere on a
piece of relatively open water. It can be many miles away from
where we want to receive the data, so we needed a different data
transmission technology that would cover this distance.
The environment is another challenge, as Hopkirk explained:
Both environments are harsh, but in different ways. In F1 the main
challenge for the hardware is vibration from the engine. In sailing it
is water ingress particularly salt water, as it is so corrosive.

satnav system, can provide a x to within three metres.


Professional differential GPS, as used for surveying,
achieves an accuracy of around 10cm, but receivers cant
obtain more than 20 xes per second. Formula One cars
use inertial navigation to bolster the GPS, but even then
the accuracy isnt good enough for timing purposes.
Instead, a transponder, supplied by F1s ocial
timekeeper, Rolex, is tted to every car on track
to provide the necessary accuracy. These
transponders are radio transmitters that
constantly send a signal with a code thats
unique to each car. The signals are picked up
by timing loops embedded in the tarmac;
these short-range antennas only receive a
signal when the on-car transponder is

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Image Land Rover BAR

Much of the technology that


has been applied in Formula
One is being used to secure
victory for British team Land
Rover BAR in the Americas Cup

immediately above them. Theres a timing loop on the


start-nish line, and there are dozens of others around the
track too. Each track is divided into three timing sectors, so
there are loops at the end of each sector; because speeding
in the pit lane is a punishable offence, timing loops are
also used to police this regulation.
Then theres the Drag Recovery System (DRS),
which opens a ap in the cars rear wing,
reducing aerodynamic drag and increasing its
maximum straight-line speed. DRS is only
allowed to be deployed at certain areas of
each track, and only if a car is less than a
second behind the car in front; its not
hard to see how the timing system
plays its part here, too.

123

The Hidden

Tech Heroes
of 2016
Everyone knows about the major smartphones, laptops and VR headsets
that are due to arrive this year. But what surprises are on the horizon?
Barry Collins uncovers the potential gems from CES 2016

ou have to work pretty hard to get


noticed at the Consumer
Electronics Show (CES). With
thousands of exhibitors spread across
several aircraft-hanger-sized halls, in
venues dotted across Las Vegas, there are
hundreds of interesting products and
innovations that wont have a single word written about
them. Even though there are thousands of journalists on
duty at CES, their attention is almost universally drawn
towards the multinational brands who can afford the
huge press conferences, the football-pitch-sized
showoor stands and the celebrities to launch products.

In this feature, you wont nd any


mention of the products announced by
Sony, Samsung, Intel and the like.
Instead, weve focused on the hidden
heroes: the smaller players and startups
that turned up at CES hoping for their
big break. Were not talking about the
stands where dozens of clueless hired hands are
deployed to demonstrate the products, but where
the CEOs and inventors are hawking the products
themselves. Heres a selection of the hidden gems
that could change your life this year, and yet you
might never have heard about until now.

???????????

looking to move to the speaker into mainstream production


soon. We cant wait to hear more. Or less.

Akoustic Arts

Personal directional speaker


Most CES exhibitors use whopping great speakers to get
attention; Akoustic Arts used an amazing piece of audio
technology that we couldnt even hear to capture ours.
You can stand right next to the companys A speaker
playing at full blast and not hear a thing. Thats because the
A uses directional beams to ensure that only those in the
intended range of the speaker can hear its output.
This technology could have all manner of incredibly
useful applications. Imagine an alarm clock that could only
be heard by the person lying on one side of the bed, for
example, or a laptop speaker that only beamed sound to
the person sitting directly in front of it, leaving fellow
passengers on the train blissfully unaware that youre
watching Die Hard with the volume cranked to 11 instead of
tutting irritably about leaky headphones.
The accuracy of the directional beams depends on the
frequency of the sound being emitted, we were told by the
French companys spokesperson. At below 500Hz, the
accuracy of the beam can be honed to within 3 degrees; at
frequencies of between 1,000 and 3,000Hz the range widens
to between 20 and 25 degrees.
The company unveiled the A speaker last
year, but this year demonstrated an even
smaller Junior version that measures
only 90x90x22mm, less than half the
size of the original. Akoustic Arts is

Keep your sounds to


yourself with Akoustic
Arts directional speaker

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

KeyMouse

Super-fast control system


Turn up in Las Vegas with an ordinary keyboard and go
home. Seriously. If youve not found a novel way to rearrange
26 letters, or chiselled the keys out of moon rock, or done
something equally ludicrous, youve no place at CES.
Step forward the KeyMouse, a split keyboard with a
mouse under each hand, which was rst shown off at last
years CES before it cobbled together more than $150,000
from a successful Kickstarter campaign and came back this
year with a revised model. Let no-one accuse KeyMouse of
blowing that Kickstarter windfall on a fancy stand: we found
the companys CEO, Heber Allred, demonstrating the latest
model in a modest 10x10ft booth at the back of the Sands
Expo, an off-shoot of the main show at the Las Vegas
Convention Center.
The KeyMouse is, as Allred readily admitted, not for
ordinary Joes. Its aimed at gamers, CAD designers,
programmers or anyone who spends serious amounts of
time in front of a PC and wants greater precision and
programmability from their
keyboard. Each half of the
device is like a mechanical
oven glove that you can
either type on or slide
around the desk as a mouse.
That naturally demands an
ability to touch-type
accurately, as well as more
mental dexterity than we
were able to command in our
brief demo; it takes quite a
while to get your head
around having a massive
mouse under each hand.
After watching Allred
handle the device, we could
see why more than 650
Kickstarter backers took a

125

The KeyMouse
puts a mouse
under each hand

punt, though. He could hold down the Num Shift key on the
left-hand pad and use the number pad on the right, using the
left once again to shift the cursor into a new cell on his
spreadsheet. Its also possible to set a different mouse
sensitivity for each half of the KeyMouse, making it easier to
zip across multiple monitors, with practice.
KeyMouse was estimated to reach Kickstarter backers by
September but has been hit by delays. Making the device
using injection moulding rather than 3D printing has created
production problems, according to the CEO. A KeyMouse
costs a hefty $399 (around 275) on pre-order.

Noke

The smart lock


Oce desk drawer, suitcase,
garage door, key thats been
on your ring since 1992 and
you havent got a clue what
its for how many
different keys do you try
before nding the one that

unlocks your bike on a rainy station


forecourt on a chilly spring evening?
Noke aims to solve that problem with a
bit of wireless magic.
The companys Bluetooth-enabled locks
merely require your phone to be within
spitting distance to pop open the lock. You press
a button on the lock and dont even need to take the phone
out of your pocket to be on your way.
If that sounds like an over-engineered solution to a minor
problem, consider that Noke has thought through the
potential pitfalls. If your smartphone battery runs out of juice,
a backup combination of Morse code-like button presses can
be used to open the lock independently. If the locks own
battery fails and its designed to last three years on the
U-lock for bikes you can jump-start the device by holding
a new watch-sized battery to its base.
There are other benets. You can get friends to download
the Noke app and give them access to your locks, letting a
friend pick up your bike from the station or open the padlock
on your locker, for example. You can manage multiple locks
from the same app, instead of carrying around a jangling,
jeans-ripping set of keys. And you can get a location history
of where devices were locked/unlocked invaluable if the
kids forget where they left their mountain bike.
The price isnt unreasonable either: $70
(roughly 50) for a padlock, $40 (27) for
the bike cable and mount, and $110
(around 75) for a U-lock.

NodOn NIU

Smart buttons
Trying to pick a winner in the smart home
stakes is like trying to pick a winner in the Grand
National: a few favourites in a vast eld of runners.

Prizm

The music brain


When the major music-streaming services let you take
your pick from a pool of more than 35 million tracks (and
counting), you could nd yourself pining for John Peel,
Steve Lamacq or another favourite DJ just to throw some
songs at you. Prizm promises to do just that, tweaking
the output of your streaming service to suit whoevers in
the room at the time.
The device itself is a pyramid-shaped player that
hooks straight into your hi- setup or speakers (it has
both optical and 3.5mm outputs). You press the button
on the front and it automatically delivers a stream of
music to you, apparently ne-tuned to your tastes.
Theres more than automated guesswork going on
behind that Perspex pyramid. Prizm detects whos in the
room via an associated smartphone app and so adjusts
the music stream to accommodate both you and your
partners tastes when they come home from work. Its
also listening for ambient noise in the room. If it detects
you and your girlfriend are having a quiet night in, youre
more likely to get Kenny G than Rage Against The
Machine; if plenty of background noise suggests youre
having a house party, get ready for Get Lucky.
The smartphone app lets you take control if you
want to hear a specic track, album, artist or playlist
and you can also skip tracks or add songs to a playlist,

further helping the device to tailor streams to your


tastes at particular times of day.
Prizm is another Kickstarter success story, winning
$161,000 worth of backing from more than 1,200 backers.
Youre looking at 150 (around 115) to get your hands on
one; join the waiting list at www.meetprizm.com.

PicoBrew

French manufacturer NodOn is backing several horses or


at least, building its cool little automation products to
support a number of smart home standards, including
Nothing is left unsmart in the modern home, including
EnOcean, Z-Wave and ZigBee.
those foul-smelling vats of iffy-tasting beer that men like to
We were particularly taken by NodOns simple NIU
leave bubbling away in the cupboard under the stairs.
smart buttons and soft remotes. These rubberised devices
Homebrew 2016 is a much more high-tech affair and it
dont require any batteries simply pressing the buttons
wont take weeks before you can slurp the
generates enough energy via a magnetoresults, either.
resistive generator to send a radio signal
The PicoBrew (www.picobrew.com)
to the controller device which means
was one of many smart brewing kits
they can be placed anywhere in the
that were being touted at CES, but
house and dont need to be wired up.
the one that most caught our eye.
The buttons can be used as
Its the size of an upturned microwave
controllers for all manner of things:
oven and capable of brewing a
they can switch on smart lights, dial
ve-litre mini-keg of beer in about
up the temperature on smart
two hours, although youll need to
thermostats or switch off the power
leave the beer fermenting in the keg
to other devices in the home.
for at least a week before you even
Theres also an NIU channel for
think about necking it.
the web service If This Then That
The device is Wi-Fi connected,
(IFTTT), meaning that pressing a
Control your smart home
letting you not only keep track of the
button on your desk could be used to
with NodOns rubber remote
progress of your brew from your
place a fake call to your mobile phone to
smartphone, but also order and download different
get you out of an awkward situation at work, as a
recipes. The store offers pre-prepared ingredient modules
remote control from your phones camera or to send a
from 80 craft breweries and 350 homebrewers, or you can
text message to someone to let them know youre
try to mix-and-match your own ingredients for Terrys IPA,
leaving the oce, for example.
or whatever witty name
The smart home is coming. It might be that
you wish to christen your
these dinky little controllers priced at around
beer with.
40 are the most versatile additions to it.
The device will cost $700
Special brew: organise the
pre-order (roughly 485), or
proverbial in your very own brewery
$1,000 (695) when its
with this Wi-Fi-connected kit
expected to start shipping in
May. That gives you plenty of
time to grow the mandatory
hipster beard required for
drinking craft beer.

Smart homebrew

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

127

Turn your iPhone into a walkie-talkie


so you can use it without a signal

Iwoxs i6 Power Talkie

Use your iPhone off-grid

You know how it is when you go to a really remote place


a ski slope, the outback, Streatham High Street and you
cant get a reliable mobile signal. The i6 Power Talkie, from
Chinese manufacturer Iwoxs, partially solves that and
another big problem when youre travelling off the grid:
battery power for your phone.
This clip-on case basically turns an iPhone 6 or 6s into a
walkie-talkie, complete with ip-up antenna to make it look
like a slimline Del Boy mobile from the late eighties. It claims
to be compatible with both US and UK radio frequencies
(PMR over here), and it claims a wireless radio range of
around 3km (1.8 miles). We can vouch that it worked on the

signal-swamped CES showoor, although


the two devices were more like 1.8 metres
apart than 1.8 miles.
The case has a small OLED display
on the rear, showing you which channel
the radio is on, which region its set to,
battery health and other information. If
not being used to power the walkie-talkie,
the 3,000mAh, 3.7V bolt battery can be
used as a backup for your iPhones
fast-dwindling cells.
Were yet to nd any UK stockists for
the device, but the whole point of CES is
to bring showcased gadgets to new
markets. Given the amount of interest it
was generating on Iwoxss stand, we
reckon it wont be long before its
over-and-out here.

ReliefBand

A cure for VR sickness?


It was impossible to walk around CES without someone
trying to strap a virtual-reality headset on you. If CES really
is a bellwether of the tech industry to come, theres going
to be an awful lot of people bumping into one another over
the next couple of years.
However, an even more nauseating side effect of the VR
uprising is motion sickness. We lasted precisely nine minutes
of a demonstration of HTCs Vive headset during which we
sat in a virtual, surround-vision cockpit ying a spacecraft in
Elite: Dangerous before we had to rip the headset off and
take a few deep breaths, lest we vomited over HTCs plush
booth carpets. Although that probably says more about our
ying skills than anything else.

Lima

The self-styled Dropbox killer


The rst day of tech journalism training teaches rookie scribes
to be wary of anything branding itself a killer. Described on its
CES stand as a Dropbox killer, were pretty sure Lima wont
even inict a graze upon the omnipotent cloud storage service,
but it remains intriguing in its own right.
Lima is effectively a personal cloud, letting you build your
own secure online storage by plugging the Lima dongle into
your router and an external hard disk (size of your choosing).
The les on your smartphone and tablet can be synced to the
drive via an app, while your PC sees a Lima drive in much the
same way it sees a Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive folder.
Lima plays on peoples (often justied) fear of cloud
services and their ability to scour your data at the behest of
law-enforcement ocers. With Lima, all your data remains on
your devices and is fully encrypted in transit; only your devices
can access les with a dedicated TLS encryption key, the
company promises.
Youre not necessarily bottlenecked by the speed of the disk drive, either. Lima uses torrent multisource transfers
to piece together large les by downloading them from several of your devices simultaneously, before putting the
fragments together. Were yet to test transfer speeds in any meaningful sense.
The other advantage is theres no monthly cost, just a one-off $99 (68) for the Lima and the cost of the drive.
However, if you want to back up your Lima (which, of course, you do), that will cost another $79 (55) for an additional
dongle and whatever the hard disk sets you back. We didnt have the heart to point out that most NASes have a similar
personal cloud service built in these days. That free if limited Dropbox account isnt on the endangered list yet

???????????

Orbitrec

Nevertheless, motion sickness is a


known problem for wearers of VR
headsets, and one company claims
to have the solution. The ReliefBand
was designed to cure the more
Youve got to go some if you
conventional problems of nausea
want to bring bike smarts to the
triggered by actual travel and
table in 2016: cyclists have been
morning sickness. However, its
strapping digital tracking kit
manufacturer claims that it also
to their handlebars (and
offers the same benets to
themselves) for decades, and
those who feel queasy after a
theres no shortage of
few minutes of VR action.
smartphone apps for
According to the
pedallers. The Orbitrec
companys press
certainly ups the ante, though.
spokesperson, the device
The company behind the
works by sending pulses
bike, Cerevo, has each bike
with highly specic waveform,
frame printed from sintered
frequency and intensity that
titanium and carbon bre tubes
stimulate the median nerve on
to precisely t the individual
the underside of the wrist.
dimensions of the customer. That
This precise activity (technically
customised frame includes a slot for
referred to as neuromodulation)
the Ride-1 sensor system (which is also
uses the bodys natural neural
available separately), which claims to
pathways to block the waves of nausea
provide a safer ride for its users.
produced by the stomach.
Vomit relief for virtual reality
How? For starters, the nine-axis sensors
Alas, we were unable to nd out whether
detect bumps and other dangerous road
this device cured our VR sickness, although
conditions and that data is uploaded to the
the company claims the ReliefBands benets
cloud (via the accompanying smartphone app), so that fellow
have been clinically proven and approved by the US Food
users are given an audible warning when theyre approaching
and Drugs Administration (FDA). With wearable technology
potentially treacherous potholes and other dangers. Thats
becoming widely accepted, the time is right now to bring this
combined with trac data to keep you out of harms way as
clinically proven technology that has been developed over
far as possible. Angular velocity sensors can detect if youve
decades to a device that people can buy without a
crashed and will automatically send an SMS message to a
prescription, says the companys CEO, Nick Spring.
named contact, alerting them to your predicament.
If you cant stomach a VR session, youll need to factor in
The Orbitrecs intelligence
another $90 (roughly 62) for a ReliefBand to go along with
module can also be
your VR headset.
connected to ANT+
wireless sensors, which
are user-programmable,
On yer bike: each
letting you switch on
Orbitrec frame is
printed to fit the
the bikes lights
riders individual size
automatically when the
light dims or send a
Twitter update when you
reach your destination.
The bike and the Ride-1
system are due for release
this spring. Theres no word
yet on price, but they wont
be found in the bargain
basement at Halfords,
thats for sure.

3D-printed
smart bike

MAY 2016
2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

129

Turn your

i
P
y
r
r
e
Raspbinternet radio
into an

Coupled with an onboard display, the Raspberry Pi


makes a great choice for an internet radio receiver.
Follow our guide to start streaming stations
he radio, a remarkable invention,
was all but supplanted as the
centre of home entertainment
by the television, and as a source
of up-to-the-minute news by the internet. Its
biggest drawback, aside from sometimes

questionable audio quality, is its limited range.


Even today, with the rise of digital radio,
channels are typically national rather than
international in their reach.
Internet radio is a different beast. Streaming
over a global network rather than the airwaves,

a single station can reach almost anywhere on


Earth if only the receiver has a device capable
of decoding and playing the audio stream. A
device, in fact, like the Raspberry Pi.
The Pi is a great choice for an internet
radio receiver. Its small, unobtrusive and

RASPBERRY PI INTERNET RADIO

silent in operation, while its analogue audio


output means it can be connected to powered
speakers or an existing hi- setup to extend
its capabilities. Coupled with an onboard
display, you wont even need a TV or monitor
to control the playback.

Installing the software

The software that drives the PiFace Control


& Display is available through the Apt
package management system in Raspbian.
Log into your Pi, and type the following
commands at the terminal to download and
install the required software:

sudo apt-get update


sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install pythonpifacecad python3-pifacecad
mplayer

This installs versions of the PiFace


software for both Python 2 and Python 3,
allowing you to make use of it regardless of
which version of the language you prefer.
Note, however, that the internet radio utility
that comes with the PiFace works only with
Python 3 and wont run at all under Python 2.
This isnt a distinction you need to worry
about if you just want to stream some
music; both versions of Python are installed
by default in Raspbian. The command-line
music player Mplayer is also installed via the
last command.
Before you can begin using its software,
the PiFace requires a conguration change on
the Pi: the enabling of the Serial Peripheral
Interface, or SPI, a feature of the generalpurpose input-output (GPIO) header. To load
the Raspberry Pi Software Conguration Tool,
type the following at the terminal:

sudo raspi-cong

At the menu, use the cursor keys to scroll


to the Advanced Options choice and press
Enter to conrm. At the next screen, scroll to
the option labelled A5 SPI and press Enter
again. A window will appear conrming the
current status of SPI. Usually, this will be
disabled and you can press Enter to toggle the
setting to Yes. If the setting is already enabled,
be sure to move the cursor off the No option
before pressing Enter. Conrm the change
again with Enter, then exit the menus by
pressing the Tab key until Finish is highlighted,
and then pressing Enter.
If the Raspberry Pi Software Conguration
Tool prompts you to reboot it may not,
depending on any other changes youve made
choose No and press Enter. As youre about
to install the board itself, you should instead
manually shut down the Pi with the following
command before removing the Micro USB
power and any other connected cables:

sudo halt

The shutdown process will take a short

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

What youll need


Streaming internet radio stations requires,
naturally, an internet connection.
Audio-only streams are typically low
bandwidth and dont require particularly
fast connections, so a Pi connected
wirelessly should perform just as well as
one connected to a wired network.
As this project uses an add-on
board for its input and display, the
usual limitations surrounding a
Raspberry Pi Model A and its single
USB port dont apply here. Its
perfectly possible to complete this
project using a Model A with a
wireless network adaptor connected
over USB (6, www.modmypi.com).

The PiFace installs


on top of the Pi as
a piggy-back board

while to complete; check the Pis status LEDs


to see if its nished before pulling the power.
When the Pi has shut down, all LEDs except
PWR should be switched off.

Installing the PiFace

Although its possible to stream internet radio


on the Pi without any additional hardware, its
not convenient. You need to have it
connected to a TV or monitor at all times to
see what youre doing, and you need a
keyboard and mouse to perform even simple
tasks such as pausing the stream or skipping
to a different station.
The PiFace Control & Display board,
designed by a team led by honorary research
fellow Dr Andrew Robinson specically for
use with the Pi, is an alternative to traditional
control methods. The front of the board is
dominated by a LCD panel
offering two lines of up to
16 characters, while the
edges feature ve buttons
and a three-way joystick.
The board also includes an
onboard infrared receiver
designed to work with
your existing remote
controls with a little
extra conguration.
The PiFace is
designed to install on

Youll also need some way of listening


to the radio. You can connect a pair of
headphones to the Pis 3.5mm analogue
audio output, but the result will be quiet.
Youre better off investing in a pair of
powered, amplied speakers (from 3,
www.ebay.co.uk), or using a 3.5mm-to-RCA
adaptor (99p, www.ebay.co.uk) to connect
your Pi to an existing but internet-lacking
stereo system or amplier.
Finally, youll need the PiFace Control &
Display (15, part code FACE-0002, www.
modmypi.com), an add-on board that gives
the Pi a small LCD screen and buttons to
enable interaction without a TV, monitor
or connection from another computer.

top of the Raspberry Pi as a piggy-back board,


connecting to the GPIO header at the top-left
of the board. Its lower board includes a
supporting strut designed to sit on top of the
Ethernet port to provide rigidity once
installed. Although the board works perfectly
well with the Ethernet-less Model A, it can
wobble a little when held via that corner.
Whenever youre installing hardware on to
the Pis GPIO header, ensure youve shut
down the Pi safely using the sudo halt
command at the terminal and removed the
Micro USB power connector. Plugging devices
into the GPIO header while the Pi is powered
on is not advisable. The pins connect directly
to various components of the Broadcom
BCM2835 processor, and have no protection
against shorts or spikes.
The Pi should be positioned face-up on a
at surface with the HDMI connector facing
you. Take the PiFace, with the ve buttons
facing you and the joystick and infrared
receiver furthest away, and carefully position
the black connector on its underside over the
Pis GPIO header.
Make sure its aligned correctly and press
it down gently but rmly with your ngers to
either edge of the board on the top of the
connector. It should slide into place easily; if it
feels like youre having to apply excess
pressure, remove the PiFace and check the Pi
for bent pins before trying again.
The PiFace takes its power directly from
the Pi, and needs no power adaptor of its
own. This can, however, put a
strain on lowerspecication power
adaptors. If after installing
the PiFace you nd that
the Pi begins to respond
erratically to the keyboard
err
especially by skipping letters
esp
or repeating them as though
youve held down the key
this is a sign that the
power supply cant cope.
Try replacing it with one

131

The PiFace software is easy to install using the Pis Apt package manager

rated to a higher amperage, removing any


overclock you have set on the Pi, or both.
With the PiFace rmly installed, and its
seating double-checked to ensure it hasnt

statistics: the temperature of the Pis


BCM2835 processor, as reported by its
internal sensor, and the percentage of the Pis
memory thats currently in use.

Before you start configuring the Pi to


stream internet radio, its worth testing
that the PiFace is properly installed
missed any pins, you can reinsert the
Micro USB cable and allow the Pi to boot
back up again.

Testing the PiFace

When the Pi has loaded up, you may notice


that the PiFace has remained switched off;
this is normal. The PiFaces display is
controlled entirely from the Pis GPIO header
via software. Until it receives an instruction
from the software, it wont do anything at all.
Before you start conguring the Pi to
stream internet radio, its worth testing that
the PiFace is properly installed and working.
The canonical way of doing this is by using
the system status script supplied with the
software. Log into the Pi, and type this
command at the terminal:

You may notice that while this system


status script is running, your terminal
remains in use. The Python script to drive the
PiFace, as called using the above command,
always runs in the foreground, meaning it ties
up your terminal. To quit the script, now
youve proven the PiFace is working as
expected, press Ctrl-C. Later, youll learn a
trick for running scripts like this in the
background, so you dont lose your terminal
and can multitask.

Configuring the radio script

Handily, the creators of the PiFace Control &


Display have included an example Python
script designed for streaming internet radio,
which works out of the box and can be
congured to stream almost any standardscompliant station. This script is compressed,
along with some other example scripts, and
must be uncompressed before use. Type the
following commands at the terminal:
cd /usr/share/doc/python3pifacecad/examples
ls

The rst command takes you to the


directory where the PiFace example scripts
are kept. The second lists the contents of that
directory, showing you all the scripts provided
as standard with the PiFace. As well as the
system status script youve already used and
the radio script youre looking for, there will
be a game of hangman, a tool for looking up
train times, one for displaying Twitter
messages, and a script for generating weather
forecasts. They can all be extracted and used

python3 /usr/share/doc/
python3-pifacecad/examples/
sysinfo.py

After a few seconds, the display on the


PiFace should light up and display a message
regarding the Pis IP address. A few more
seconds later, and the screen will refresh to
show the Pis currently assigned IP address a
handy way of nding it on the network if you
havent assigned a static IP and two

Look for the conrmation


window to check SPI has
been enabled correctly

RASPBERRY PI INTERNET RADIO

To use the PiFace display youll


need to change the conguration
of the Pis GPIO headers to enable
the Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI)

for experimentation by following the same


instructions as for the radio script.
The majority of scripts are compressed
using a tool called gzip to save space. Before
they can be easily used, the scripts must be
uncompressed back into their plain-text
formats. To uncompress just the radio script,
type the following command at the terminal:

{'name': "Champion Radio


UK",
'source': 'http://uk2.
internet-radio.com:31216/
listen.pls',
'info': None},

sudo gunzip radio.py.gz

Alternatively, if youd prefer to extract


all the compressed scripts at the same
time, type:

sudo gunzip *gz

If you type ls again now, youll see that


the .gz extension has disappeared from all
the les in the directory. This shows that
theyre uncompressed and ready for use.
Its possible to run the radio script right
now and start streaming, but its worth
spending some time customising it to your
tastes rst. Run the following command to
edit the le in Nano:

sudo nano radio.py

The Python code for streaming internet


radio stations isnt well documented, but is
thankfully very simple in its layout. Part-way
down the le, theres a list of radio stations
that the script can access. These are specied
in the following format:
{'name': "Friendly
Station Name",
'source': 'URL of
stream playlist or le',
'info': 'URL of
information stream' or
None},

Note that each station is enclosed in


braces, and has spaces at the beginning.
Pythons syntax relies heavily on indentation
to know which lines belong to which part of
the program. To add your own choice of
radio station to the list, you can simply
copy these lines, making sure to place

MAY 2016

them before the } symbol that sits at the


bottom of the list. Ensure you include the
spaces, four on the rst line and ve on the
remaining two, or the script wont be able to
understand your formatting.
For example, to add the station Champion
Radio UK to the list, youd write:

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

You can create as many custom entries as


you like, and delete or edit the existing entries
until the list is more to your taste. Compatible
radio stations are easily found on a web
search. Try www.internet-radio.com for a wide
selection. Stations are played in the order in
which they are listed; try putting favourite
stations closer to the top of the list, or sorting
alphabetically. When creating a new entry,
bear in mind that not all stations have an
information URL, as with the example above.
When youve completed the list, and
double-checked that it includes the right
indentation, commas at the end and
matching braces, save the le with Ctrl-O
and exit Nano with Ctrl-X.

Streaming radio

To start the radio-streaming script, simply


type the following command at the terminal:

python3 radio.py

The PiFace display will clear, and after a


few seconds display the name of the rst
radio station in the list, then
status information about the
stream will appear on the
terminal. At the same time,
you should be able to hear
the stations stream coming
out of your speakers. If you
cant hear the stream, the Pi
is most likely trying to
output it via the HDMI
connection instead of the

3.5mm connection. Exit the radio script with


Ctrl-C, then type the following command
at the terminal:

amixer cset numid=3 1

This tells the Pi to send all audio through


the analogue output. Replacing the number 1
at the end of the command with 0 returns to
the default of attempting to automatically
detect the appropriate output, and using 2
forces the audio to output via the HDMI
connector. Restart the script with the
following command:

python3 radio.py

The radio script makes use of the buttons


on the PiFace to control playback. The
joystick at the top-right of the board can be
moved left and right to skip between stations.
Pressing the joystick inwards while at the
centre position toggles between play and
pause. To exit streaming altogether, press
the right-most button at the bottom of the
PiFace; this quits the script.
Having to plug in a display and keyboard to
start up the script makes the PiFace a little
redundant, however. To have the script
automatically load in the background every
time the Pi boots, load the rc.local le in
Nano with the following command:
sudo nano /etc/
rc.local

Add the following line above exit 0, then


save the le with Ctrl-O and exit with Ctrl-W.
nohup python3 /usr/
share/
sha
doc/python3-pifacecad/
examples/radio.py &

This will run the script in


the background every time
the Pi restarts. Test it by
rebooting the Pi with the
reb
following command:

sudo reboot

133

Business Help
If you have database, ofce application or macro issues, Kay Ewbank can
help. Send your problems to businesshelp@computershopper.co.uk

Email server keeps closing the connection


Q

I have several email accounts that I


manage using Outlook 2010,
including a new BT Openworld
account that uses an IMAP server. The
others use POP3/SMTP and work ne, but
the Openworld account gives an intermittent
error telling me that the IMAP server closed
the connection. This is a really irritating
message as it grabs the focus, appearing on
top of whatever (usually much more
important) task Im attempting to carry out.
How can I prevent the message appearing?
Gary Martin

The best way to x this is to alter the


way Outlook includes the account in
automatic send and receive. Outlook
does a scheduled automatic send and receive,
but you dont need to do that with IMAP
accounts because theyre live, so emails
come in as they are received at the server. The
problem is that the scheduled send and
receive happens at the same time as the live
connection is doing an update, causing an
error because the IMAP server doesnt like
having two concurrent connections.
If you remove the account from the list of
automatic send and receive settings, you
should nd that the errors stop. Ive tested,

Remove IMAP email accounts from Outlooks Send/Receive groups to prevent error messages
telling you the server has closed the connection

and emails between my colleague sending me


a test email, me receiving it and answering it
saw a round trip time of under a minute, so
theres no noticeable delay from having the
email not specically send and receive.
To remove the email account from the
send/receive list, click the Send/Receive tab in
the Outlook Oce Ribbon, then click the
down arrow on the option Send/Receive
Groups. Select Dene Send/Receive Groups.

Therell be a group called All Accounts. Select


it, and click Edit. In the list of mailboxes (or on
the only mailbox if you have only one), select
the IMAP mailbox and untick the option
labelled Include the selected account in this
group. Click OK, and restart Outlook.
You should nd that even though you still
get emails arriving for the account, you no
longer see the message telling you that the
IMAP server has closed the connection.

Bold words indeed


Q

Im editing a large document in Word which contains a list of


technical terms, which my predecessor formatted in bold, but
are otherwise just part of the normal text. I need to create a
separate list of all the words in bold, ideally in a separate document. I
tried using Find to locate the bold words one at a time and copying
and pasting them, but it was taking forever to copy them to the new
document. Do I need a macro?
Nick Marshall
You could use a macro, but you could also use the Advanced
Find option. Click Find on the Home tab of the Oce ribbon,
then Advanced Find. Press Ctrl-B to nd words formatted in
bold. At the bottom of the dialog, youll see a button labelled Find In.
Click this, and choose Main document. This will highlight all the bold
words in the document. Click the Close button to get out of the dialog.
Now go to one of the highlighted words, right-click it, and choose Copy
from the menu that appears. Now open a new blank document, and
choose Paste to see all the bold words pasted into the new document.

136

Choose Advanced Find in Word to search for words formatted in bold

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

BUSINESS HELP

Lockout blow to Access database


Q

I have a problem with an Access


database. Its stored on a shared
drive on the network, and anyone in
the department can use it. This morning it
failed, telling us the database is corrupt. Im
trying to sort the problem out, but when I try
to rename the existing database it tells me
someone is using it. Theres no .ldb le in the
directory, so I dont know why it thinks the
database is locked, or how to solve it.
Ken Fraser
Multiuser Access databases across a
network are notoriously problematic.
I assume you have the database split
into a front end containing the forms and
reports that all users have a local copy of, and
a back end with just the data. If this is the
case, when the rst user opens the database
two lock les are opened. The format will be
either .ldb or .laccdb, depending on which
version of Access youre using, so rst check
that youre not looking for an ldb le when its
actually an laccdb you should be looking for.
One lock le is created in the folder where the
back end is located, the other in the folder
where the front end is located.
The lock le keeps track of who is using
particular records to prevent two people
editing the same data. When the last user
closes the shared database, the lock le is
deleted. Lock les are only left undeleted if a
user doesnt have delete rights in a folder,
when the database is marked as corrupted, or
if something goes wrong such as a machine
crash. If the database is marked as corrupted,
the lock le isnt deleted because it contains

Check whos got a lock on


an Access database using
Administrative Tools in
the Control Panel

information about who was using the


database at the time the problem occurred.
To avoid the rst problem, make sure that
all users have read/write/delete permissions
on the folder where the database back end is
located. Its worth noting that the lock le on
the shared back end is only created when the
user actually gets some data; if they open a
main form that has no data les associated
with it, for example, the lock le isnt created.
I suspect that whats happened in your
case is that one or more of the users hasnt
shut down their local machine and copy of

Access correctly, leaving lock les still open


on their local folders. You can check if this is
the case by working on the shared machine.
In the Control Panel, look in System and
Security, Administrative Tools, Computer
Management. Youll see a Shares option, and
if you use this you can see what les are open
and who has them open. You can then get
those users to reboot their machines, which
often solves the problem. If it still occurs,
have a look on their local disks in the folder
where the front end database is stored, and
manually delete any lock les.

Lets arrange a date in Excel


Q

Im working on an Excel workbook


where I have lots of items with dates
ranging from last year to the end of
the present year. The items arent in date
order. What Id like to do is to use conditional
formatting to highlight all the items that fall
into the range of todays date and 21 days
into the future. There are plenty of preworked options such as the last 7 days, but
nothing similar to what I want. Is it possible?
Jill Evans
Yes, its actually quite simple. What
you need is to set up two cells, one
of which has the formula Today(),
and the second the formula Today()+21. You
can then use conditional formatting.
Select the range of cells youre interested
in, choose Conditional Formatting from the
Home tab of the Oce ribbon, and from the
options that are shown, choose Highlight Cell
Rules. On the next set of options, choose
Between. In the next dialog, set the rst box

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

Use a conditional formatting rule to highlight cells between two dates in Excel

of the condition highlight cells that are


between to refer to the cell holding Today(),
and the second box of the condition to the

cell holding Today()+21. Remember to


complete the formatting by actually choosing
a format that will stand out visually.

137

Helpfile
Whatever your general PC, hardware and software woes, Simon Handby
is here to help. Send your problems to help@computershopper.co.uk

Disk space puzzle


Q
My computer has a C: partition
which, in Windows 7, was 120GB.
However, after a fresh install of
Windows 10 this has mysteriously shrunk to
60GB. I have a 1TB disk, which has data (H)
and program (P) partitions. Using EaseUS
Partition Manager I can see two internal
disks with master boot records, as well as my
external drives. Is there any way I can move
extra space on to the C drive (shown as disk
two) from disk one without reformatting the
drive? I cant nd a tool that will work.
Pete Clough, pete.d.clough@gmail.com

Your email and screenshot present a


confusing picture. If weve read your
email correctly, your understanding is
that you have a single 1TB disk which contains
your system (C), data (H) and program (P)
partitions, but the screenshot youve supplied
suggests that in fact your C partition is on a
second, 60GB disk. If youre sure theres only
a single disk in the system the most likely
scenario is that you inadvertently installed
Windows 10 on to an external disk, rather
than the internal one. This would explain the
smaller C partition than you were expecting.
If you do have two internal disks and you
installed Windows 10 to the correct partition,
were at a loss to explain the smaller C volume.
If the partition had shrunk, a partition manager
should reveal the additional space that it once
contained either in a different partition on the
same disk, or as unallocated space, but that

Petes screenshot appears


to show the system, data
and program partitions on
two separate disks

GParted Live lets


you move and
resize partitions

138

isnt showing in your screenshot. If you do


have two disks, its not possible to move free
space from one to the other. It is possible to
congure drive C within Windows so that its
a spanned volume using additional space from
the second disk, but we wouldnt recommend
this, especially not on a boot drive.
If you have only a single disk, EaseUS is
mistakenly identifying a second physical disk
containing your C drive. Try running a
different program such as GParted Live; you
can download this from www.sourceforge.net/
projects/gparted, after which you need to burn
the image to a blank CD and boot from that. If
GParted reveals a similar picture, something
odd has happened to your drive conguration.

If in fact you have a single disk containing


all three partitions, its simple to increase the
size of the C drive, although youll rst need
to shrink or delete another volume to free up
some space. It appears you have a 100GB
volume (G) which is barely being used. If you
dont need this you could delete it, or at least
shrink it to free up some space; check rst to
see whats on it and back it up if necessary.
With this done, reboot into GParted Live
and, if youre planning to resize the 100GB
partition, nd it in the list, right-click it, select
Resize/Move and drag the edge of the bar to
shrink the partition to a more suitable size.
Click Resize/Move, then click the Apply
button to apply the change. If youre happy to
delete it, right-click it, select Delete, then Apply.
Now look to see if the disks unallocated
space is adjacent to the C partition (youll
have to nd this by its size 59GB).
If theres no adjacent free space, youll
have to move one or more other partitions so
that they vacate disk space adjacent to the
partition you need to expand. Do this by
right-clicking the relevant partition, selecting
Resize/Move, then dragging the middle of the
bar to move the partition across the disk,
clicking Resize/Move again then clicking
Apply; note that this operation will take some
time to complete. Once you have the requisite
free space and its next to the C partition,
right-click that partition and select Resize/
Move, then drag the edge of the bar to extend
the partition to the size you want and again
click Resize/Move to apply the change.

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

HELPFILE

No sound in YouTube videos


Q
A
I have desktop and laptop PCs, both
running Windows 10 Home. I use
Internet Explorer 11 on both, and can
view YouTube videos on the laptop, but on
the desktop theres no sound, and the video
taskbar doesnt even show a volume slider.
All other media plays sound with no problem.
Jim Sadler, ajaysadler@hotmail.com

Check that IE 11 is congured to play sounds

The lack of a volume slider suggests


the desktop PC may be congured to
use a different playback method. Go
to www.youtube.com/html5?gl=GB on both PCs
and look under the What does this browser
support? boxes. Check that both PCs are
congured to use the HTML 5 player. If your
desktop says The default player is currently
used, check you havent accidentally added
YouTube to the Compatibility View list: click
the gear icon to open IEs settings, select
Compatibility View settings and if youtube.
com is in the list, select it and remove it.
If thats not the issue, go to the settings
menu, choose Internet options, Advanced and
scroll down to the Multimedia section; is Play
sounds in webpages ticked? Its also worth
checking for any add-ons you dont recognise:
open the settings menu again, choose
Manage add-ons, and try highlighting and
disabling any you dont recognise; you can
re-enable them later, but youll need to select
All add-ons from the Show box to see them.

Cant upgrade to Windows 10


Q

I have a 24in Sony all-in-one PC


running Windows 8.1, with the most
recent available updates installed.
The Get Windows 10 app said I was eligible
for a free upgrade to the newer operating
system, and that my PC would be able to run
it. It spent an hour downloading Windows 10,
but on restarting my PC I found something
had failed and I still had Windows 8.1.
I have no idea why this is; perhaps its
something to do with the applications Im
running? I have Microsoft Oce 2010, Adobe
Photoshop and McAfee Antivirus. I tried the
upgrade again and it failed after 41 minutes.
It seems weird that I cant upgrade when
Microsofts app says I can. Whats going on?
Mike Claydon, mike.claydon@ntlworld.com
Its hard to say what the issue is
without knowing the exact error
message you received, but its
unlikely that any of your installed applications
are causing the problem. The rst thing wed
check is that you have 12GB or more of disk
space before starting the download, which
totals more than 3GB: the upgrade itself
needs at least 8GB of free space. If you dont,
open the Start screen, type cleanup, select
Clear disk space by deleting unnecessary les
and run the Disk Clean-up tool on your
system drive. Free up the most space by
clicking the Clean up system les button.
If you have an empty USB disk of at least
4GB capacity, wed recommend upgrading
with the Media Creation Tool. Insert the USB
disk and visit tinyurl.com/339helple, scroll
down and click the Download tool now

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

The Windows 10 upgrade needs 8GB of disk


space; free up room with the Disk Clean-up tool

button. Run the tool, and when prompted


select to Create installation media for another
PC and click Next. Select the language,
edition and architecture you want, click Next,
select USB ash drive, select your drive from
the list and click Next. After Windows 10 has
downloaded, the tool will set up the USB disk.
This will take about an hour and youll see a
conrmation when the ash drive is ready.
You can install Windows 10 by running the
setup program on the USB disk, but if that
doesnt work, try booting from the disk itself.
You may need to change the boot options in
the PCs BIOS so the USB disk is the rst boot
device. You didnt specify the exact model you
have, but you should generally be able to get
into the options on a Sony all-in-one PC by
shutting it down and using the Assist button
(rather than the power button) to restart it.
You need to change the boot options so that
USB disk or removable disk is at the top, then
save the changes and reboot.

Chromecast
5GHz network
problem
Q

Inspired by your review (Shopper


335), I bought myself a Google
Chromecast Audio dongle so I could
play music on the speakers in our living
room. Weve got a dual-band router running
2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless networks, and I
had hoped to connect it to the latter to avoid
interference from the microwave.
Unfortunately, it wont connect: each time
I try it reports a problem, and asks if I want
to try again. It can get on the 2.4GHz network
without any issues, but then it changes my
phone to that network, too both the
Chromecast and phone then drop their
connections when the microwaves on. Ive
tried repositioning the Chromecast to try to
get a better wireless signal, but that doesnt
seem to be the problem. Can you help?
Paul Bullock
Weve seen many reports of people
struggling to get Chromecast and
Chromecast Audio on to some 5GHz
networks. There appears to have been a
problem in an earlier rmware version, and
while this is xed in newer releases, it doesnt
always resolve the issue: you may also need to
reset the Chromecast. With the Chromecast
on, hold in the reset button near its USB port;
the status light will turn amber and ash
increasingly rapidly until it turns white again,
at which point you can release the button.
Check your mobile device is on the 5GHz
network and give the Chromecast a minute or
so to boot, before loading the Chromecast
app and tapping the Devices tab. If you still
see your old Chromecast here, reboot your
mobile device and try again. You should now
see a new Chromecast Audio: tap Set Up and
follow the setup process, being sure to
connect the device to your 5GHz network.
Depending on the speakers youre using, once
youve congured the Chromecast you may
need to return to its device settings in the app
and re-enable its full dynamic range.

You may need to reset


and recongure your
Chromecast to connect
it to a 5GHz network

MULTIMEDIA EXPERT

Capturing high-speed
photography
Taking shots that are faster than the eye can see can produce
some stunning images. Ben Pitt shows you how
LAST MONTH IN this column we showed
you how to take photos of smoke from an
incense stick to create abstract images with
complex, rippling multicoloured shapes. Key
to the success of this is an off-camera ash
system that allows careful control of the
quality and direction of light.
An off-camera ash system is a great
investment with lots of uses, and to prove the
point, were using it again this month.
High-speed photography is a broad term for
capturing subjects moving at speed. Were
not talking about sports and wildlife, though.
This is more about studio photography, where
subjects are shot in controlled conditions. The
objective here is to shoot with split-second
timing to capture subjects in a phase of rapid
change. This freezes motion to reveal shapes
that might never be seen with the human eye.
The classic example is of a bullet tearing
through an apple. Were happy to report that
we dont own any rearms and were not
about to encourage you to go and buy one, so
well be taking a more genteel approach.

An exploding water-lled
balloon resembles a
block of ice as it retains
the balloon shape a few
milliseconds after popping

ON THE TRIGGER

We covered off-camera ash equipment


in detail last month, so well just give a
quick recap here. Off-camera ash is a
ash that you position away from the
camera and trigger remotely. It neednt
be prohibitively expensive, but it does
require a camera with an accessory shoe
and manual exposure control.
Any cheap ashgun will do the job if
youre happy to set the ash power manually.
Fortunately, thats usually the best approach
for creative tasks such as this. Suitable
ashguns are available from photographic
stores from around 60, or from Amazon and
other online stores from around 30. Youll
also need something to trigger them remotely.
Search for wireless ash trigger and youll
nd various suitable candidates with prices
starting at 15. For 150 you could pick up a
pair of ashguns, wireless triggers, mini
tripods and rechargeable batteries, giving an
off-camera ash system that will come in
useful for a wide range of projects.
Alternatively, check out studio ash kits,
which use mains-powered ashes and often
come complete with tripods, softboxes and
barn doors for careful control over the angle
and quality of light. These kits start at around
170. If you just want to keep things simple

140

This shot was created by dropping pliers into


a metal baking tray and illuminating with two
ashguns with coloured gels

and cheap, go for a single ashgun and


wireless trigger for around 50.
The other kit were been using this month
is a Triggertrap Mobile (www.triggertrap.com).
This little dongle costs 30 and lets you
trigger your camera from a tablet or phone.
Youll need a camera with a wired remote
input, and there are versions of Triggertrap
Mobile available for different camera brands.
The Triggertrap app can take a photo based
on various criteria: at set intervals, with a slow
shutter speed or with a self-timer function. Of
particular interest to this article is the ability
to trigger based on sound, vibration or

motion, using the devices microphone,


motion sensor and camera respectively.
These three functions are available in the
iOS app; the Android app only includes
the Sound Sensor mode. Because of the
way audio is handled on Android devices,
its not as responsive to an audio input
as the iOS app. We made an audio
recording to time the gap between making
a hand clap and the cameras shutter
release. It came in at 220ms on a Google
Nexus 4 and 110ms on an iPad.
Triggertrap also sells something called a
Triggertrap Flash Adapter for 24. This allows
the Triggertrap Mobile dongle to trigger the
ashgun rather than the camera, which gives
an even faster response. With this setup, we
timed a delay of 28ms using an iPad. The
Android app came in at around 240ms, so
theres little point in using the Flash Adapter
with an Android device.
The downside of triggering the ashgun
directly is that you also need to trigger the
cameras shutter beforehand. This must be
done manually using a shutter speed of one
or two seconds to ensure that the ash is
captured within the exposure time. The slow
shutter speed runs the risk of capturing blurry
trails from moving subjects, but shooting in
reasonably dark conditions and with a small
aperture avoids the problem in practice.

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

MULTIMEDIA EXPERT

A paint-on-paint impact. The multicoloured


backdrop is the result of previous efforts,
but it was darkened in Photoshop to make
the splash stand out more

We also found that, while the Sound


Sensor mode on an iPad was extremely
responsive, the Motion Sensor was less
successful. There was a fair bit of latency
between an input and the camera trigger, and
this was less predictable from shot to shot
than the Sound Sensor mode. It also failed to
spot small movement such as drips of paint.
Thats why we ended up sticking with Sound
Sensor mode for all the shots in this article.

THINGS THAT GO POP

in order to keep everything in focus unless


you specically want a shallow depth of eld
as a creative effect.
The diculty then is to position the
ashguns close enough to illuminate the
subject when shooting with a narrow
aperture. A ashguns power is rated as a
Guide Number, or GN. Its stated in metres for
a given ISO speed (usually ISO 100), and gives
the range of the ash when shooting with a
theoretical f/1 lens. To calculate the range of
the ashgun at f/16, divide the Guide Number
by 16. Flashguns typically have a Guide
Number of between 24 and 64 metres, which
equates to 1.5m and 4m at f/16.
To complicate matters further, a ash at
full power isnt just brighter: the burst of light
actually lasts for longer. This is imperceptible
to the eye and it makes little difference for
most subjects, but when capturing very fast
motion youll get a sharper image with less
motion blur by setting the ashguns to lower
power settings. For the balloon shot we set the

Using the Triggertrap app in Sound Sensor


mode and connected to a Triggertrap Flash
Adapter means its possible to capture a shot
just a few milliseconds after an audio cue.
That makes it possible to capture action
shots of things going pop, banging into each
other or generally making a noise as they
change state very quickly.
Our rst attempt was to photograph a
balloon lled with water being popped.
There are some great examples of this online;
search Google Images for water
balloon popping. If the photo is
The Triggertrap app, dongle
captured quickly enough, the water
and ash adaptor provide an
retains the shape of the balloon
extremely responsive soundeven after the balloon itself has
to-ash trigger system
disappeared from view.
A balloon can hold a lot of
water, and water doesnt mix well
with electronic equipment, so
position the camera at a safe
distance a couple of metres away.
A telephoto lens will help here, but
a balloon is a relatively large
subject and its worth framing it
with plenty of space around it to
catch the drops of water.
Positioning ashguns is trickier.
As with last months smoke
photography, its worth using a
narrow aperture of around f/16

pair of GN 33m ashguns to quarter power,


which gave them an effective range of 50cm
at f/16. We managed to avoid soaking the
ashguns by wrapping them in clinglm; not
the most elegant solution, but it did the job.
Positioning the iPad was the toughest
challenge. A balloon lled with water doesnt
make much of an audible pop, because water
doesnt compress under pressure in the same
way as air. Theres a bit of noise but a quiet
environment is needed so the threshold can
be set suitably low on the Triggertrap app.
However, with water going everywhere we
needed to move out to the garden, which isnt
necessarily the quietest environment. The
iPad needed to be close enough to pick up the
relatively faint pop of the water balloon, but
far enough away so as not to get soaked. In
the end we resorted to stamping our feet at
the same time as we popped the balloon with
a pin. The timing wasnt precise, but it was a
lot easier to stamp than attempt to press the
shutter button at the same time. A wired
remote would have been another
option, but triggering the ashguns
via the Triggertrap Flash Adapter
gave a lower latency than any
wired remote.
We were determined to use the
Triggertrap Sound Sensor mode to
trigger a shot directly, so the next
set of shots involved dropping
objects into water and capturing
the results. Splashes of water are
pretty chaotic and structureless,
but capturing a shot just a few
milliseconds after impact tended to
give more interesting results.
The setup that worked best
involved a large plant pot tray lled
with water and lined with black
cloth so it wouldnt show up in the
shot. Dropping metal objects such

141

MULTIMEDIA EXPERT

A blue drop of paint landing in a


shallow pool of yellow paint. The
paint wasnt watered down so it
doesnt scatter much on impact

A squirt of coloured paint into wate


r
mixed with a little black paint. The
blue spots in the yellow paint are
the
result of fragments of dried blue
paint
mixed in with the yellow paint

as tools, coins and bolts produced a dull thud


that didnt always trigger the ashes, so we
put a metal baking tray at the bottom. For
these shots we set the pair of ashguns to 1/8
power, which reduced their range to just
25cm. We also used some rolled-up black card
to create a snoot to direct the light across the
splash without illuminating the back of the
tray. Inserting coloured gels in front of the
ashguns gave some variation in colour.

PAINT SPLASHES

This is the subject we were most looking


forward to capturing. There are some truly
stunning examples to be found online, with
splashes that resemble mushrooms, wine
glasses, exotic owers and intricate glass
sculptures. Search for Markus Reugels or
Leon Dafonte, both of whom have taken this
technique to extraordinary heights. In the
video at tinyurl.com/splashphoto Reugels
reveals his techniques, which include a
computer-controlled system for triggering
valves to squirt paint with millisecond
precision in sync with his camera.
Sadly we were unable to achieve the same
level of technical and artistic wizardry, but we
were pleased with what we achieved with a
much simpler setup. The timing of the shot
had to be coordinated with the squirting of
the paint manually, but using Triggertraps
Sound Sensor mode meant we could trigger
the camera simply by tapping the table. Its
perfectly achievable without this, but we
would recommend using a wired remote so
youre not having to contort yourself to
release the paint and trigger the camera at
the same time. Wired remotes are available
for less than 10 for camera models that
include a wired remote input.
Drops of paint need to be released
carefully, so some kind of pipette is called for.
We found an old poster paint set at the back

142

of a kitchen drawer that came in pipette-like


plastic tubes, but you can buy a pipette for a
few pence if you dont have anything suitable.
One advantage of the old poster paint set
was that the dried-up blue paint in one tube
produced a speckled effect when mixed with
liquid yellow paint.
Getting the timing just right is a hit-andmiss experience, and we had a lot more
misses than hits. However, unlike popping
balloons full of water, its a lot easier and
quicker to re off lots of shots with this
setup. Its worth experimenting with different
paint thicknesses. Neat paint has a high level
of viscosity so it tends to stick together and
doesnt scatter so much on impact compared
to watered-down paint. The depth and
thickness of the liquid in the tray makes a
big difference, too, and so does either
squirting paint at pressure or letting a
single droplet fall by gravity alone.
Its important to get the paint to land in
the right place. Even with a narrow aperture
the depth of eld is quite shallow when
photographing such a small subject. Its also
extremely frustrating when a gorgeous splash
appears halfway off the edge of the frame.
The best way to control this is to fasten the
pipette to some kind of structure above the
tray. We managed to get away with simply

holding it but being careful to line up with


some markers wed placed just out of shot.
Beyond that its a matter of experimenting
with different colours, consistencies,
quantities and pressures of paint, moving the
ashguns around and seeing what works. In a
darkened room the burst of ash froze
motion in our vision as well as in the camera
so it was usually immediately apparent when
wed got the timing spot on.
As with any creative photography project,
its well worth shooting Raw and processing in
Lightroom or a similar image editor to
accentuate colours and textures, tidying up
stray details and applying sharpening and
noise reduction. Cropping the photo often
helped to bring out interesting forms, too.
Theres lot more to this technique, and we
hope to come back to it again in this column.
As Reugels and Dafonte show, theres huge
potential to explore. We hope theres enough
here to convince you to get started.

NEXT MONTH
PLAN YOUR VIDEO SHOOT

If you have an important video project


coming up, these practical tips should
prevent the shoot descending into chaos

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

ADVANCED PROJECTS

NAS devices are ideal for streaming video or backing up data wherever you
are. Clive Webster shows you how to make your own using free software

IF YOU HAVE more than one


network-capable device in your
home, a NAS is an excellent way
to share storage, printers, music,
photos and more. Given how
much these devices do, youd
expect them to be powerhouses
inside, but take a look at even
the Best Buy-winning Synology
DS215j (Shopper 328) and
youll be surprised at its lowly
hardware: an 800MHz, 32-bit
processor; only 512MB of RAM;
and no Wi-Fi. What this means
is that using cunning, hardware
nous and freeware you can
create a viable alternative for
the same money.
A drive-less Synology DS215j
and a 2TB Western Digital Red
hard disk cost roughly 200,
but a Celeron-based, 2TB Acer
Revo One Mini costs 190 (see
www.ebuyer.com). While
underpowered for a desktop
system, the Revos Celeron 2957U runs at
1.4GHz, is 64-bit compatible and has 4GB of
RAM to back it up. Thats a promising start, as
more processing power and RAM will help to
serve multiple HD video and high-res audio
streams reliably. The Revo also has built-in
802.11n Wi-Fi, which should deliver speeds of
up to 50Mbit/s. This is enough for an HD
video stream. Heres the snag, though: the
Revo only comes with Windows and you need
a bespoke NAS operating system (OS) to
make the unit a Synology killer.

BUILD YOUR NAS

Weve chosen OpenMediaVault


as our NAS OS. Unlike the
better-known FreeNAS OS,
OpenMediaVault has
modest hardware
requirements and is
relatively easy to install
and use. By comparison,
Companies sell FreeNASready systems, but the system
requirements for FreeNAS are
so high that the cheapest driveless model in PowerNASs range
costs only 370

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER


PPER

| MA
MAY
Y 2016

FreeNAS requires a ludicrously high minimum


8GB of RAM (see www.freenas.org).
Meanwhile, NAS4Free (see www.nas4free.org)
requires certain specied controller chips on
your motherboard, but nowhere in its
hardware requirements does it outline a
recommended processor or quantity of RAM.
We rejected that option immediately.
Download the OpenMediaVault installer
ISO from www.openmediavault.org/download.
html (use version 2.1). Youll need to use a tool
such as Win32DiskImager (see tinyurl.com/

win32di) to create a bootable USB ash drive


from the ISO, as the Revo doesnt have an
optical drive. As with all open-source NAS
operating systems, OpenMediaVault will
consume the entire storage drive to which its
installed, destroying any partitions previously
created. As the OS requires only 2GB of
space, its silly to install it to the single 2TB
hard disk of the Acer Revo. Instead, use a
second USB drive as your host drive; the only
caveat is that this boot drive must use wear
levelling. Branded USB drives from reliable
manufacturers such as Kingston, Corsair,
Crucial and so on should use wear
levelling (which ensures that the
ash memory of the USB drive is
worn out evenly, thus increasing
the overall lifespan of the drive).
If in doubt, buy a new USB3
drive: SanDisks tiny Ultra Fit
16GB drive is 6.55 on Amazon.
Lets be clear about those
two USB drives here: the drive
with the OpenMediaVault ISO is
the installer drive, the other
drive is the host drive (as it will
host the nal OpenMediaVault
installation). Plug both drives
into the Revo, using a USB3

143

ADVANCED PROJECTS

(blue) port for the host drive if its a USB3


drive. Then connect the Revo to the internet
via an Ethernet cable to your router. Press the
small power button (furthest from the power
socket) and repeatedly press Delete until you
enter the Revos BIOS.
Using the arrow keys, navigate to
Authentication and then disable Secure Boot.
Move to the Boot Options menu and set
Launch CSM to Always. Move down to Hard
Disk Drive Priority, hit Enter, and change the
order so that your installer drive is the
topmost. Press Escape and your installer drive
should now be listed as the 1st Boot Device
in the Boot Priority Order. Press F10 to save
and exit and the Revo will restart. It should
boot into a pale blue screen; hit Enter and
OpenMediaVault will start to install.

INSTALLING THE SOFTWARE

The OpenMediaVault installer generally does


a good job of explaining the options and
choices. You might not know your network
name, but if you use any Windows 7 or later

Remember which drive letter (such as sdc) is assigned to your host drive. A camera is useful for this

PCs, it will probably be HomeGroup. When the


installer warns you that its found multiple
drives, dont worry just ensure that you
select the host drive as your destination; also
note this drives assignation (probably sdc).
The same error will confuse the installer
when it comes to installing Grub, Linuxs boot
manager: it stupidly wants to install
OpenMediaVault to the installer USB drive
(sda, or storage drive a). When you see the
message Unable to install GRUB in /dev/sda

select Continue twice to open a menu of


installation options. Using the arrow keys
highlight Execute a shell, and hit Enter.
A command-line input will appear; type the
following commands, followed by Enter:
chroot /target
grub-install /dev/sdc

If the drive assignation you noted earlier


wasnt sdc, use whatever you noted instead.
After this command, the installer should
return Installation nished. No error
reported. If not, youve made a mistake.
All being well, you can update Grub and exit:
update-grub
exit
exit

Wipe the Revos


2TB drive and
then format it as
an EXT4 drive

You need to install the


OMV-extras plug-in to enable
video streaming. Once youve
updated the system youll nd
it in the Plugins section

144

You must exit twice, to exit chroot and


then the Execute a shell function. Now
choose Continue without a bootloader
from the installation
options menu, then
Continue. Once the
install is complete, you
can remove your
installation USB drive
and hit reboot.
OpenMediaVault is
meant to report its IP
address when it
reboots, but we had
no luck with this.
Instead, log into your
router to nd the IP
address of your new
NAS and make it static
(or reserve it, or whatever terminology your
router uses). This differs from router to
router, but most have a web page for the
local network, usually under the DHCP
setting, listing all the devices connected to the
network. Most routers will then let you
reserve an IP address for a device, effectively
making sure that your NAS is always on the
same IP address.
Now log into OpenMediaVault by typing
the Revos IP address into a web browser on
your PC or laptop: the default login
credentials are admin, openmediavault
(change the latter as soon as possible, via
System, General Settings, Web Administrator
Password). Youll actually want to use that
2TB hard disk in the Revo, so head to the

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

ADVANCED PROJECTS

Physical Disks entry of the Storage section.


Find the 1.82TiB drive and click Wipe, and
then click through the warnings; a quick wipe
is ne as theres no personal data at risk.
Once the wipe is complete, head to File
Systems and click Create. When the dialog
appears, select the 1.82TiB disk from the
Device dropdown menu, label the drive as
you like and leave the File system as EXT4
(Linuxs favourite and most modern le
system); click OK once youre happy. Then
select the disk and click the Mount button,
click the Apply button on the yellow warning
bar that appears, then select Yes.

Dont forget to enable SMB/CIFS,


the le server module that allows
you to see the OpenMediaVault
NAS on your network

PLUG-INS

In its basic form, OpenMediaVault doesnt


actually do much. To enable video streaming,
for example, youll need to download and
install the OMV-extras.org plug-in. Head to
System, Update Manager and check all the
entries; then click the Upgrade button and
wait (for ages) while the updates install. A
scary Software Failure message will appear
once the install has nished this just means
ns
that OpenMediaVault needs to restart, not
that anything has catastrophically failed so
left-click as instructed and log back in.
Head to tinyurl.com/ap-omvextras and
follow the instructions for From OMV web
interface to make the OMV-extras.org
plug-in available. Once the .deb le has
been uploaded, the list of plug-ins should
automatically refresh; tick the entry for
openmediavault-omvextrasorg 2.13.1 (at
the bottom of the list) and click Install, and
then click Yes. Once thats done, click
Check again and the list will be updated with
an entry for openmediavault-minidlna 1.1.
Tick this (plus any other plug-ins that look
useful) and then click Install.
Once done, head to Services, DLNA and
click the Enable toggle, then Save, Apply, Yes.
Then open the Shares tab and click Add.
On the dialog box that opens, click the plus
sign next to Shared Folder. This opens another
dialog box in which you can create a folder on

Reserve
Windows 10

Before installing OpenMediaVault on


your Acer Revo you should bag your free
Windows 10 update, either via the icon in
the System Tray or by downloading the tool
from tinyurl.com/ap-getwin10. Once youve
reserved a copy of Windows 10 for the
Revo (and the Revo only, alas), you
can switch the machine back
to Windows at any point
in the future.

the Revo to share. Give the folder a name


(Video, for example), select the 1.79TiB drive
(Volume) and change the Permissions to
Everyone: read/write. Click Save and youll be
returned to the previous dialog box, where
you should change the Content Type to suit
the name of the new shared folder. Click Save

and then Apply on the yellow bar that


appears, and then Yes. Repeat this process
app
to create other folders, perhaps for music,
photos, backups and so on.
pho
To actually see these shared folders on
your network (and so be able to load them
you
with les), head to Services, SMB/CIFS and
wit
click Enable, then Save, then Apply, then Yes.
cli
Then open the Shares tab and click Add;
The
select a shared folder from the drop-down
sel
menu, and change the Public setting to
men
Guests Allowed before clicking Save.
Gu
Repeat this process for all your shared
folders, nally clicking the Apply button on
the yellow bar once youve nished, and then
Yes. You may need to reboot the Revo to
access the Revo NAS via your le browser.
OpenMediaVault cant rival an off-theshelf NAS for ease of setup, and its interface
is still years behind the friendly windows-andicons approach of most major NAS
manufacturers. We should also say that
Synology in particular has an excellent range
of add-ons and apps, from CCTV surveillance
to USB TV tuner recording, and a foolproof
remote access system. However, our Revo
NAS has a few tricks, too: the Celeron
processor and 4GB of RAM are able to
transfer large les at 7.2MB/s, the Wi-Fi could
be handy (once set up: see tinyurl.com/
ap-omvwi), and the Revo is about half the
size of a conventional two-bay NAS.

NEXT MONTH
Enable your shared folders
in the Shares tab of SMB/
CIFS to see and access them
on your network

ISSUE 339 | COMPUTER SHOPPER

| MAY 2016

MAKE AN AUTOMATIC
DESK LIGHT

Dont let fading light ruin your ow: we


show you how to stay in the zone

145

PARTING SHOTS

Zygote
With unborn babies tuning into podcasts and advertisers secretly listening to your
every move, Zygote decides its time to sound off. Even if Barbie is eavesdropping
EGGHEADS

Scientists in Dresden, Germany,


have developed computerised
sperm in a push to help couples
conceive. A tiny helix ts around
a sperms tail, giving a whole new
meaning to the Archimedes
Screw. The propeller is rotated by
magnets and guided towards the
egg to help fertilise it, and the
technique has already been used
with success on bull semen. One
in ve human males produce love
juice that is rubbish at swimming,
so motorised robosperm could
help them do the business.
Theres also good news for
the unborn babies of the future.
The Barcelona Institute
Department of Gynaecology has
developed an entertainment
centre designed to be inserted
into mums vagina. The musical
tampon is called a Babypod, is
bright pink, controlled by an app,
costs around 95, and has been
selling well around the world.
Dr Marisa Lpez-Teijn said
on behalf of the Institute: I had
the idea of inserting a speaker in
the vagina of pregnant women,
who were excited to be able to
communicate with their babies in
this way before birth. So excited,
in fact, that a whole group of
mums-to-be enrolled for a special
vaginal podcast by popular singer
Soraya, who represented Spain in
the Eurovision Song Contest.
Zygote is not sure what songs
were chosen for the unborn to
enjoy, but hopes that previous
Eurovision winners Boom
Bang-a-Bang and Ding-a-Dong
both made the internal playlist.

account IDs and various les


from the toy is, to coin a phrase,
childs play, but Zygote thinks
its important to set out the
dangers of commoditising our
children, so here goes.
The private conversations of
children should not be
monitored, stored or shared by
anyone, let alone corporates.
Children and their parents should
not be swindled into thinking
that a conversation with a doll is
a private affair, when it is really a
marketing device. And besides, it
is parents who should be
communicating with their
children, not spy robots linked to
the cloud, disguised as a doll.

ME OLD CHINA

Next time George Osborne needs


to og off a load of British assets
to the Chinese he wont need to
bother with a trade delegation
and an army of cunning linguists.
He can talk direct via Skype.
The video chat service was
Microsofts largest ever
acquisition at over ve billion
quid, and now offers a real-time
instant translator from English to
Chinese. Britain cant run away
from China, the Chancellor said
on his last trip to Beijing, Britain
should run towards China.
Lets hope Skype can handle
this sort of utterance, which
appears to Zygote to be a road of
cobras. Speaking of which

MIND THE DOORS

The highways of China are about


to welcome cars operated by
mind control. Vehicles that can
be controlled by the power of
thought have been developed at
Nankai University in Tianjin. They
are primarily for use by disabled
people, but it cant be long before
they become the plaything of the
fashion-conscious masses.
The cars on-board computer
reads signals generated by the
drivers brain, which are captured
by 16 contact sensors. So far,
commands range from locking
and unlocking the car doors,
driving forwards and in reverse,
as well as the vital ability to apply
the brakes. All of this is achieved
without any use of the hands or
feet to control the vehicle.
Zygote applauds this
innovation, although fails to
understand why voice commands
have not been introduced as a
cheaper, safer option.

HEAR, HEAR

We all know that marketing


agencies use tracking software to
gather data on website visitors.
What most people dont know is
that advertising agencies can
now track our behaviour across a
whole range of devices. This is
done by embedding highfrequency signals into adverts
that are inaudible to the human
ear, but clear to machines.

Data from these ultrasonics is


gathered by computers, tablets,
phones, consoles and anything
else capable of picking up an
audio signal from a TV or
computer speaker. Its then
agged to keep track of how long
an individual views a specic
advert, and tracked to see if it
scores a result such as clicking
on a link, making a web search or
buying online. Unlike cookies,
this technology is not disclosed
and theres no opt out.
If you think such privacy
concerns dont affect you, then
think again. One of the leading
developers is the ubiquitous
Adobe, whose software resides in
most devices on the planet.

FARCICAL

The fth annual report of the


most popular UK and North
American security passwords has
been published, and the results
are as risible as ever. The top slot
is still occupied by 123456, which
will delight hackers the world
over. The ever-popular password
remains in second place, while
qwerty is even more widely used
this year than last.
Its not until we hit the 25th
most common password that we
come across something a
malicious infant might not be
able to crack in under a minute,
which is the word starwars.
May the farce be with you.

HELLO DOLLY

It is almost a year since Zygote


predicted the security hazards
built into the repulsive interactive
doll Hello Barbie. The wee poppet
is designed to respond to
infantile sweet talk and store all
sorts of dodgy data for reasons
best known to the manufacturer
Mattel. A recent demonstration
by a former employee of security
outt Trustwave has proved that
extracting Wi-Fi network data,

146

MAY 2016

| COMPUTER SHOPPER | ISSUE 339

Fusion Nano 970


From 1000
For full specs please visit:
www.chillblast.com/Nano

You'll find nothing more powerful at this size and price


Michael Passingham, Computer Shopper

Chillblast
www.chillblast.com/Nano
01202057271

Intel, the Intel Logo, Intel Inside, Intel Core, Core Inside,are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries.
Prices are correct at time of going to press (19-02-16) E&OE

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