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All posts tagged "hardware"

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Panasonic Announces Premium 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH Lumix G X Lens; DPReview has a Hands-on look

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 01:00 PM

The first of the two rumoured premium lenses has been announced by Panasonic: It is a stabilised 12-35mm f/2.8 lens bearing the X label to denote its status (again with the X; there are 25 other letters to use. I propose J), which basically means this is like a 17-50/2.8 on APS-C cameras or a 24-70/2.8 on 35mm cameras. The size, while being larger than other Micro Four Thirds lenses, is still considerably smaller than a 24-70/2.8. Unfortunately the lens will only be available in August, and there is no pricing information. I suspect it will be north of US$1,000, just like most zooms of its class. Interestingly enough, the lens is weather resistant as well. Is a GH3 coming soon?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Get Help With Your Router Troubles

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 11:00 AM

"My router sucks. My connection goes wonky once every few days, and I have to unplug the router and reboot it (I believe this is called a hard reset) to fix the problem. Obviously, this is incredibly annoying. What can I do to just make the darn thing work properly?"

I imagine many people do not give their routers a second thought. Either bought by themselves, or provided to them by their ISP, the router is the most critical aspect of your home network. I have not seen the demands on routers significantly change over the years, with many people I know having routers that are easily 8-10 years of age. I personally suggest friends use custom firmware such as Tomato or DD-WRT, the stock firmware available with many routers usually tend to perform quite well. Our demands on routers are fairly modest, yet, like any electronic device, it can eventually die out. That is why if the Internet is absolutely critical to your existence as a human being, aside from any troubleshooting of your router, I also think it a good idea to have a backup router. Its a proven fact that most electronics die when stores are closed and no one is available to help.

Tags: hardware, router, isp

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Digital Photography Review Reviews the Nikon D800

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 10:30 AM

"When the Nikon D800 was announced, the specification that got everyone's attention was - and to a large degree still is - the massive pixel count of its 36.3MP CMOS sensor. When a moderately-sized full-frame DSLR body aspires to go toe-to-toe with medium format cameras and backs at a fraction of their price, other attributes can seem secondary." has reviewed the D800, and what can I say? It's a phenomenal camera. The 36 megapixel sensor is truly state of the art, and the camera built around it is no slouch either. If you ask me, this is the FX and DX camera of the moment. Shoot it at 36 megapixel for class-leading resolution, or downsize it to 12 megapixels to exceed the D700's performance. Shoot at 15.3 megapixel for a DX crop that beats the D7000. Now, if only I can find the money for it somehow. On a more curious note, I wonder why DPReview upsampled the Canon 5DIII files instead of downsampling the D800 files; usually that makes the image that is being upsampled look a lot worse. Still, great camera. Time to raid the piggy bank, I think.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Olympus Announces Tough TG-1 iHS

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:30 AM

"Olympus has announced the Tough TG-1 iHS, a high-end rugged, waterproof compact camera. The main selling point of the camera is its 25-100mm equivalant F2.0-4.9 zoom lens. The TG-1 is tougher than previous Tough models, being waterproof to 12m (40ft) and shockproof from a height of 2m (6.6ft) and will have optional waterproof fisheye and telephoto converter lenses available."

What is iHS supposed to mean? Anyway, this is a new Tough camera with increased specifications from the previous models. In particular, the 4x 25mm-100mm equivalent f/2.0-4.9 zoom lens is faster than many other cameras in its class, especially at that wide end with the f/2.0 aperture. The camera has a 12 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor which is stabilised, a 3" VGA OLED screen (but in Pentile layout), 1080p video mode coupled with a 10 FPS still shooting mode at full resolution or 60 FPS at 3 megapixel, and built-in GPS. As with a rugged camera, it features waterproofing and shockproofing. The camera also promises to feature AF technology from the PEN cameras, so hopefully it will be quick (I do suspect the technology is more on the software side). Oh and what modern Olympus camera is without the Art or Magic Filters? Available in June for US$400.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pentax K-01 Reviewed by Digital Camera Resource Page

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 12:00 PM

"Aside from its unique looks, the K-01 is also a full-featured interchangeable lens camera. It has a 16 Megapixel CMOS sensor, K-mount lens support with built-in image stabilization, lots of manual controls, a boatload of scene modes and special effects, an HDR function, and 1080p video recording."

When the Pentax K-01 was announced, I mentioned (right in the headline no less) that Pentax cannot seem to do mirrorless cameras right. Well, in addition to all the issues that come with sticking to the K-mount instead of developing a new mount for a large sensor mirrorless camera (fat body due to large flange distance for the mirror box, slow AF with some lenses not designed for contrast detection autofocus), Pentax seems to have some terrible quality control issues here. Jeff Keller has a long history of reviewing digital cameras, but I don't think I have seen him point out so many issues in one review before! Nevertheless, if you are still interested, you can read the review, where the output from the camera is actually quite good, but given all the other issues, I think there are better mirrorless cameras out there.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What Can HTPC Users Expect From Intel's Ivy Bridge

Posted by Richard Chao in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:00 PM

"The ability to cram in more and more transistors in a die has made it possible to have both the CPU and GPU in the same silicon."

AnandTech has posted their review of Intel's Ivy Bridge from the perspective of a HTPC user. They looked at refresh rates, decoding and rendering benchmarks, network streaming capabilities, power consumption, etc. Their review is pretty comprehensive and should be a must read for anyone wondering if they should update or keep what they have.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Reviewed by Digital Photography Review

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 12:00 PM has a review of the latest Micro Four Thirds camera, the E-M5. I'll spoil it a little: It's the best rated one yet. I have spent some time with the E-M5 and I have been quite impressed with many aspects of it, though the up-close and personal experience with what Olympus fans call the "Olympus Colour" did not leave me quite as impressed. It consists mainly of a very aggressive tone curve that pulls the upper-midtones and overall increases contrast to deliver a very punchy yet natural look. I think I prefer to process my raw files and their colours myself, thank you. The rest of the camera, including its low-light high-ISO noise, its AF speed, the user interface, were really good. My only quibble was with the rear command wheel, which being placed closer to the viewfinder meant I had to stretch my right thumb more than normal compared to the Lumix Micro Four Thirds cameras or Nikon DSLRs. Overall, a great performance. Now Panasonic, where is that GH3?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Is The Best File System For Your SSD Devices?

Posted by Brad Wasson in "Digital Home Talk" @ 04:30 PM,3166.html

"SSDs serve up data quickly, and prices are low enough that some enthusiasts may want SSDs for data storage. Does the file system you use matter? We compare performance between FAT32, NTFS, and the newer exFAT file systems on two popular SSD architectures."

The folks over at Tom's Hardware are known for their in-depth and credible technology reviews and opinions. In the linked piece (hit the Read link below), they tackle a very interesting question regarding which file system is best for SSD devices. Solid State Devices have some attractive properties, including small size, robustness, performance, and noise level (which is very low). They have steadily gained acceptance and profile over the past several years as their use has expanded, and as their prices have come down. Suffice it to say that most people would now own a number of devices with SSDs inside them.

There is a huge number of SSD devices in the marketplace for a wide variety of applications, so comparing them requires some filtering of purpose. In this instance Tom's Hardware decided to focus on those SSDs relevant for Windows users with flash-based storage devices. Specifically, they focus on a comparison of the performance of NTFS, exFAT, and the older FAT32 file systems. Their review is very comprehensive, and includes background explanations of some historic systems and terms. If you are interested in optimal performance for your flash-based storage devices, this is a very good read.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Samsung Launches Trio of NX Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 11:30 AM

A little late with this, but here we go: Samsung announced its latest generation of NX mirrorless cameras on the 19th of April, comprising of the NX20 flagship, the NX210 compact, and the budget NX1000. All three of them share a lot of common features, chief of them the APS-C sized 20 megapixel sensor, which first made its debut on the NX200. It is not a bad sensor, compared to the 14 megapixel found in the first generation, but I am not sure how it compares to the latest from Sony and Panasonic. The other main feature is built-in Wifi, which allows photos to be shared and uploaded wirelessly. Unfortunately, the new ability to share a Wifi link with a smartphone for remote control purposes is only available on the NX1000. The feature is not too different from the one in the recently announced Nikon D3200, but having it integrated means not having to deal with a clunky dongle. Traditional camera manufacturers watch out: The new boys are hungry, and they will beat you to their game in this connected world if you are not careful!

All three cameras can also do 8FPS continuous photo taking, along with 1080p video at 30FPS in h.264 with manual controls (unclear to what extent) and in-camera panorama stitching like the Sony cameras. The NX1000 comes with a 3" VGA LCD screen, a small external flash to make up for the lack of an internal flash, as well as the mentioned smartphone link capability. It will ship with the compact 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS lens in June at a currently undisclosed price. The NX210 comes in a slimmer metal body, and uses a 3" AMOLED screen instead. Unfortunately it is not the Plus variety, meaning it will have the Pentile patterns. It will be packaged with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS lens for US$900, and be available from May. The NX20 comes in a bigger faux-SLR style body, with more external controls, a SVGA EVF, and the 3" VGA AMOLED screen is now attached to an always handy articulated arm. There is also a built-in flash. The NX20 will ship with the same 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS lens found in the NX210 kit, but at a price of US$1100! Ack, I am not sure if Samsung can move many at that price. It feels like twice the price the NX10 and NX11 debuted at. Ships in May. Hit the read link for full specs and more images.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gadgets For The Energy Conservationist

Posted by Richard Chao in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:51 PM

"Getting a handle on your household energy consumption can benefit your wallet and the environment."

Being green and conserving energy is not only good for the environment. It's also good for your wallet.

MSNBC has put together a list of high tech gadgets that can help you conserve energy in a variety of ways, from the inexpensive thermal leak detector and smart plug to a Nest Learning Thermostat.

Does anybody have tips, tricks or gadgets they would like to recommend?

Nikon Announces D3200 DSLR Camera and AF-S 28mm f/1.8G Lens

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:38 AM

Nikon today unveiled the D3200, the replacement for the D3100 DSLR. What is most surprising is the sensor: It is a 24 megapixel CMOS sensor, in APS-C size. It appears to be similar to the one found in Sony's NEX-7 and SLT-A77, which also makes me wonder if the next refresh of all their DX-based DSLRs are going to use the same 24 megapixel sensor. If it is, I am going to be a little disappointed, as I was hoping that the D300/D300s replacement would use something like the awesome FX-challenging (in the high ISO noise department at least) 16 megapixel sensor found in the Fujifilm X-Pro 1.

The rest of the camera has a few upgrades, like a new 3" VGA LCD, 1080 video at 24 or 30 FPS (previously only 24 FPS) with manual exposure controls, a 4 FPS continuous mode (up from 3), and the ability to add the new WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter that lets you send images to your smartphone. In a first, Android support will come first, with iOS support coming later this year. The adapter looks rather clunky, being a small dongle that sticks out awkwardly from the side of the camera. Camera manufacturers, this is not how you build a connected camera. Until you get it, your compact camera sales will continue to dwindle in the presence of crappy smartphone cameras. The D3200 will ship in late April (isn't that a week away?) with the 18-55 kit lens for US$700, and the WU-1a for US$60.

In other news, Nikon also released a potentially nice lens for FX users: The Nikkor AF-S 28mm f/1.8. Given the FOV equivalent of a 42mm on a DX body, its neither here nor there status means it is better to use the cheaper AF-S 35/1.8 on a DX body, as the 28mm is going to be US$700. Ships in end of May.

Press releases and photo of the Nikkor after the break.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Can the iPad Replace a Desktop for Photo Editing?

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 10:07 AM

"Since Apple’s first iPad came on the scene in 2010, people have wondered if tablets could stand in for computers. Few would argue they’re not up to casual tasks like Web browsing and emailing, but what about the more demanding ones? What about, say, photo editing? Until recently, that was firmly out of the question. The graphics and processing power of even the top tablets couldn’t hack it. But now, with the new iPad, I’m not so sure."

Everyone likes to chase technology, I suppose, but really, editing photos on a potentially 6-bit screen on an OS without a visible file system, being limited in toolset due to lack of input depth (multi-touch isn't everything), and having limited software that might be nice to use (Snapseed, iPhoto), well, I'm going to pass on this for my serious work for now. I still think the devices need a lot more power too, especially given the new DSLRs are coming out with ever increasing mega-pixel count.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Want to Run an App? There's a Router for that!

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 01:30 PM

"The Linksys EA4500, EA3500, and EA2700 -- the "A" designation being short for "app-enabled" -- look like models in the earlier E Series but have more-powerful hardware and support Cisco Connect Cloud, the next generation of Cisco Connect software. The EA4500, for example, looks exactly the same as the original Linksys E4200, but the differences inside are significant."

While I love the idea of apps for a home router, I do not know if it will find much success. Apps for home server type machines have been tried before. Windows Home Server offers apps. Various other NAS devices also offer the ability for apps. None of them have found any significant success. I think the primary reason for this is that while there are benefits to hosting your own apps, most people have taken to the cloud as their main computing resource. With people being so mobile these days, why have something at your home base that you have to maintain when the cloud can do it? I certainly see value, and do run a lot of server like apps out of my home, but I do not think it will appeal to most people.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Panasonic Announces Lumix DMC-GF5 Mirrorless Camera

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 03:00 PM

I hope you all were not expecting anything big from this announcement; the GF5 is a small refinement over the GF3. The sensor is an improved version of the 12 megapixel one in the G3, while the other main upgrade is a new VGA touch screen. There is no word on what type it is, so hopefully Panasonic has decided to use a capacitive touchscreen instead of its current use resistive touchscreens (yuck). There is also a new processing engine, so hopefully the JPGs will be better as well. The rest of the camera remains pretty much the same, including the 1080 video capability. DPReview has a hands-on, so hit the read link for more. The camera will retail for US$750 for the kit that comes with the 14-42 power zoom, or US$600 for the kit with the much bigger 14-42 zoom (which also defeats the purpose of a small camera). Panasonic needs to find a way to cut down the price of that power zoom!

Apple TV 3 (2012) Reviewed: Worth the Upgrade?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 10:07 AM

"The iPad (3) took front row during the recent launch extravaganza, however Apple also refreshed their Apple TV with a new model sporting a single core A5 SoC and some other noteworthy tweaks. We've spent some time with the new model since its launch, and have found a few interesting new things lurking inside. In addition to decoding 1080p iTunes content as well as YouTube and Netflix streams, the new Apple TV also includes a second WiFi antenna with better gain, which translates to improved reception and network throughput."

It's amusing - and a little odd - that in 2012 a "new" product feature is supporting 1080p video, but here we are. Up until recently, unless I'm mistaken, all iTunes video content topped out at 720p. Now that iTunes supports 1080p downloads, it makes sense that Apple would wait to release this product. I wonder of Apple TV is still a "hobby" product for Apple? This review has a cool teardown of the product, and in typical Anandtech fashion, even their "short" reviews are incredibly detailed.

The most interesting part of this review for me wasn't about the Apple TV: the reviewer did some detailed examination of the 1080p and 720p video files from iTunes. By switching to a different encoding parameters, Apple went from 720p to 1080p, but only increased the file size by 25% because they only went up by 1mbps in terms of bit rate to 5mbps. Does 5mbps sound low for 1080p content? Yeah, exactly. The movies I've watched via my iPad at 1080p look good, but not Blu-ray good. There's always a balance between quality and file size, and I'm sure Apple tested this more than a bit, but the bit rate geek in me would love to see higher quality so when I buy a movie or TV show I don't feel like I'm losing out vs. Blu-ray...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

LG Set To Launch Flexible e-Paper Displays In April

Posted by Richard Chao in "Digital Home News" @ 11:47 AM

"LG has made no secret of its fondness for flexible e-paper, but those dreams became a reality today, with the announcement of a six-inch display that promises to "revolutionize the e-book market.""

Reading on e-paper is about to become a more paper like experience thanks to LG. LG has announced plans to make a flexible e-paper available to ODMs in China by the beginning of April. The flexible e-paper measures 0.7 millimeters thick, supports a resolution of 1024x768 and will bend up to 40 degrees.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

DxOMark Declares D800 for Best Camera Imaging Sensor

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 02:00 PM

"The two Nikon full-frame cameras, the D800 and the D4, occupy the top two places in the full-frame category. Simple and efficient. Still, be careful: as ever, in this review we are discussing only the D800’s RAW-image-based sensor results."

Before I continue, bear in mind that DxO tests camera sensors at a very technical level, and is weighted accordingly to their own system, which you may or may not disagree with. Regardless of the actual "score", the D800 has been rated very highly by the team at DxO, and comes close to $30,000 medium format camera backs! This is an impressive feat, regardless of how you look at it. I expect one heck of a rush for this camera, despite its price. I am now tempted just a little bit...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Console Gaming is Dying!

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 01:00 PM

"In a 26 minute presentation at GDC - available now as a voice over'd slideshow - Ben Cousins who heads mobile/tablet game maker ngmoco, uses some rather convincing statistics of electronic and gaming purchases along with market shares of developers and publishers from just a few years ago, that when compared with today, displays some surprising results. The old guard, including the three big console manufacturers - Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft - are losing out massively, compared with the new generation of gaming platform developers, Facebook, Apple and Google."

The rise of casual gaming certainly has had an impact on console gaming, but like the PC, I do not think that consoles are completely gone. Gaming at mobiles and social sites has certainly opened up the market to more people, and mobile phones have certainly improved in graphics capabilities, but consoles still retain the edge, as do a certain segment of PCs. The challenge that I see with consoles is that mobiles tend to have a much shorter development cycle. Instead of the 5 to 10 year cycle that consoles have enjoyed over the past, mobiles are getting faster almost every day, and people tend to switch up their phones much more frequently. That means that mobiles will probably catch up to consoles in the coming future, at least for a casual observer or gamer, though more serious gamers will try and demonstrate the greater depth and complexity of consoles.

Consoles also face the challenge of "smart" TVs, which are also growing in capabilities. That is probably why you see consoles working hard to push their online channels such as Xbox Live Arcade. Ultimately, the console market will probably plateau, but you will find games with much more cross platform integration, with you being able to play some parts of a game on your phone, some on your console, and some through a standard web browser.

Tags: hardware, gaming

Monday, March 12, 2012

Windows 8 To Go (From USB drive)

Posted by Brad Wasson in "Digital Home Talk" @ 06:00 AM

"But Windows 8 does offer a "mobile" alternative that may at least pique business and tech support users' curiosity: Windows to Go, an installation of Windows 8 that boots from a USB thumb drive. In theory, Windows to Go could give administrators a way of creating a verified, locked-down image of the Windows 8 OS that can be given to wandering users, temporary off-site contractors, or telecommuters to allow them to connect to the corporate network with confidence from their own (or someone else's) computer."

By now you probably have heard or read at least a story or two about Windows 8. Microsoft released a Windows 8 developer's preview about six months ago, and has just recently released a consumer preview. If you like to poke around at new technology then with the consumer preview you can download the code and test it out on your (hopefully) spare home computer. One of the really interesting aspects of this Windows 8 preview release is the ability to create a bootable USB drive. Ars Technica has been examining this capability and has suggested a number of scenarios where it could be very useful (e.g. tech support or temporary access to corporate networks). They have also prepared a recipe for how to create your own version of the bootable USB drive. The Read link has all the details.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Backup Alternatives - Something For Everyone

Posted by Brad Wasson in "Digital Home Talk" @ 06:30 PM

"If you've considered backing up your entire DVD collection, or duplicating your hard-drives-full of RAW photos in case of electromagnetic terrorism, then you've looked at your backup options before. The thing is, there is no one single best way to backup tons of data. But there are several ways to protect yourself from data loss disaster. The experts at Q&A network Stack Exchange weigh in."

I am sure all of our readers are the most conscientious backup creators around. But, I bet you know someone who could use a little advice as to which of the myriad of options available on the marketplace would work best for them. Fortunately, the folks at Lifehacker have put together a nice little piece on this subject matter. Amongst their advice is to avoid relying on one backup (technology and dataset). Particularly interesting is that some of the cloud-based options are pretty flexible and relatively cheap these days. Hit the Read link just to touch up your knowledge on this important issue, and then prepare to advise others on how you do it. Oh, if any of you use a cloud-based solution, I would be keen to hear your comments on how well it works.

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