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Playing the waiting game

windows-7-taskbarAre you hoarding cash waiting to drop some on a Windows 7 PC on October 22? So was I, until I realized it might make more sense to take a different strategy. I think buying a Vista PC right in the next month might be a great idea, and here’s why I’m not mad…

You are probably aware that if you buy a qualifying PC at the moment it might be eligible for a free Windows 7 upgrade. Most manufacturers have a pretty clear definition of which of their systems are eligible, so you can check before handing over your hard-earned savings.


Sounds like a schlep, after all this means installing a whole OS, and yes, it shouldn’t be considered lightly.
However most off the shelf PCs tend to ship with a boatload of bloatware, which few people want and tends to contribute to an overall performance degradation. Installing a fresh OS wipes all of this away and you get a clean system which is likely to perform better.

Normally OS upgrades are done well into the life of a computer, once many applications are all loaded on and working habits are well established. This can be disruptive to smooth running (experiences of upgrades to Snow Leopard and Vista are recent examples of this kind of user pain). But buying an eligible Vista PC in mid-October and going straight to a fresh Windows 7 a few days later sounds like a great plan to me as I probably wouldn’t have loaded on lots of software yet. Plus if you get the physical media it’s an added bonus in case you ever need to re-install.


Deals on Vista PCs should start coming thick and fast as stores look to clear inventory ahead of October 22. Some refurbs may also be eligible for a free Windows 7 upgrade, but you should be extra-vigilant when checking the eligibility of these systems. For example it does seem like some systems on Dell’s Outlet site are eligible, make sure you check before you buy though.


The other factor creating downward pressure on current Vista PC inventory will be the increasing availability of the Intel Core i5, i7 and i7 Mobile platforms. It’s likely that HP, Dell and Acer and the wider industry will time many of these system releases with Windows 7, again pushing existing inventory prices south. Those current inventory Intel Core 2 and AMD Phenom/Turion based systems are still capable for what many people need on a day-to-day basis.


Ironically it seems, with Windows 7 right around the corner, there may have never been a better time to buy a Vista PC. Just make sure that what you buy is eligible for a free upgrade!

Neil Berman

Sep 25, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Guides, Microsoft, Software | , | 1 Comment

Does Core i7 Mobile bring us closer to the final destination for desktops?

Corei7Intel hit up the market with an (expected) bombshell on Thursday, bringing the Core i7 platform to notebooks.

If you’re thinking this is just another development in desktop chip design shoehorned into laptops then think again. Core i7 is sick in desktops and super-sick in laptops.

Why the fuss? Like its desktop sibling the mobile version has four cores capable of running eight threads (a thread is a stream of execution instructions sent to a core). Both also ship with large amounts of level two cache, starting at 6MB, and can support mega-performance memory on the motherboard.

Kicker number one for the mobile version thought is a sort of ultra-speedstep technology called Turbo Mode which massively varies clock speed based upon processor demand. This allows the cores to function at anywhere between around 1.6GHz and around 3.2GHZ depending upon the model.

Kicker number two is that the mobile version can idle unused cores at almost zero power usage, which should mean great shakes for battery life if you’re performing simple tasks.

How much difference does Core i7 make compared to previous generations of mobile processors? It appears to be simply staggering from the benchmarks taken by various reviews published this week. The price? Not quite as heart-stopping as you might think; Dell announced it would sell a Studio 15 model fitted with a Core i7 for $999.

So are we going to be seeing Final Destination: Desktop Massacre? Core i7 Mobile should give us desktop replacement power without the weak battery life of some previous mobile powerhouses. Consequently more people might feel they no longer need a desktop.

In permanent installations however, such as corporate or home media center environments, desktops will probably continue to have a place for a while to come. But even in those scenarios the votes are increasingly going towards notebooks. After all, why choose a desktop when similar power is available at a similar price but with more flexibility?

Neil Berman

Sep 25, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Mobile, News | , , , , | Leave a comment

iPod Touch videocam: It’s not over yet

Adding more fuel to the rumor fire about whether the lack of cam-equipped iPod Touch is a temporary delay or a never-product,  a UK flyer was spotted advertising an iPod Touch with “Built-in video recorder & WiFi”.  This was a publication error as said features are not currently available, as we know all too well, but it does lend credence to commentators who say that the device was pulled at the last moment.

Here’s hoping for the Apple Store to come mysteriously down sometime before Christmas and to come back up with enough cam-equipped iPod Touches for Santa to fit in his bag.

Neil Berman

Sep 23, 2009 Posted by | Apple, Audio, Mobile, News, Rants | , , | Leave a comment

Zune HD is a sellout, but is it better than an iPod Touch?

Early indications tell us that the Zune HD has been selling out at Amazon, BestBuy and Newegg. Is it actually a more desirable device than the iPod Touch or is this just an initial flurry of fan purchases?

I’m not going to review the two devices here, as plenty technical articles have already been written about how the Zune HD has both the design and quality playback edge over the iPod Touch. From a pure stored media reproduction perspective the Zune HD seems to be the superior PMP with slicker hardware and cooler software.

But consumers now expect more than just media playback, and this is where the iPod Touch fights back. Yes the Zune HD has a browser, but Safari on the Touch is better. The Touch also offers an email client and YouTube playback. The Touch might not have got it’s camera yet, but let’s not forget it is a gaming platform.

This flexibility, rooted in the App Store, ultimately makes the iPod Touch a stronger platform than the Zune HD. The Zune HD does have a selection of applications available, but its ad-based revenue model makes little sense in the face of ad-free 99 cent apps for the Touch.

Ironically the largest thorn in the side of the Zune HD’s third party app growth may be Windows Mobile. It makes every bit of sense for the Windows Mobile and Zune platforms to merge, just like the iPhone and iPod touch share the same OS. But right now Windows Mobile and Zune feel too far apart, which may ultimately harm third party app growth on both platforms.

As I said prior to the Zune HD’s release, the device brings technical superiority, but the iPod Touch is probably a more fun and flexible platform even without the camera we were hoping for. Ultimately the buying decision depends upon what you want to do with your device, but it’s now a harder decision than ever.

Neil Berman

Sep 20, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Audio, Microsoft, Mobile | , | Leave a comment

Red rings, yellow lights; what no blue mouth?

wii blueWe know all too well about the Xbox’s infamous red ring of death and now the PS3 seems to want a piece of the action with its yellow light of failure.

This kind of attention is not necessarily the best type of attention, but they always said that any publicity is good publicity. So what about it Nintendo, are we going to see a ‘blue mouth of MotionLess’?

Neil Berman

Sep 18, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Hardware, Microsoft | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wii might drop to $199

First ToysRUs and now BestBuy ads have been spotted listing the Wii at a possible future price of $199. It’s pretty amazing that the console has gone so long at its original price, with such strong sales, especially having been christened with such a peculiar name. Who would have thought it possible way back in 2006!

With the PS3 Slim now out at $299 and looking like a good value proposition with its BluRay drive compared to the Xbox 360 Elite, battle is now formally joined at the top end of the 3rd gen tree. It’s therefore not entirely surprising to see rumors appearing of a Wii price reduction as at $249 it must now be coming under significant pressure.

Nintendo must be pretty happy about the great run it’s had so far, well done to them for making this a three horse race. Back in 2006 many of us feared you might walk in the footsteps of Sega.

Neil Berman

Sep 18, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Gaming, News | , | Leave a comment

Hey jetBlue, what’s on TV?

There are sooo many cool things about flying jetBlue, like free WiFi in their JFK terminal, loads of charging points at their JFK departure gates and 36 channels of DIRECTV onboard…but please give us a 37th with a program guide!

Neil Berman

Sep 13, 2009 Posted by | Home Theater, Photo & Video, Rants | , | Leave a comment

AMD has a Vision for Main Street

AMD VisionApparently there are some people who get confused by computery numbers. Not you of course but they’re out there somewhere according to AMD, and said company is on a mission to ameliorate said situation.

So instead of Athlons and Turions, look for your next AMD computer to have a Vision, or at least a Vision logo denoting the relative capability of the computer. From what we know currently there will be a graduating scale of four levels, starting with just Vision, passing through Vision Premium and Vision Ultimate all the way to Vision Black…er, because something can be better than “ultimate” these days.

So I’m assuming that means you’ll be able to get Windows 7 Ultimate on Vision Premium and Windows 7 Premium on Vision Ultimate; you can see where this is going.

To be fair, I can appreciate the value of this for some consumers and it makes it easier to train store staff as well. But if average consumers can weigh up a 300hp 4.0 liter engine against a 120hp 1.5 when buying a car, I’m sure that a little marketing wizardry can teach them about computer horsepower as well.

Hopefully this will go away in a year or so…unless AMD fades away into obscurity sooner as a result of the ground it lost to Intel in the netbook and ultra-low-voltage laptop markets.

Having said that, AMD just announced it’s new thin ‘n light processors to keep Intel on it’s toes so here’s hoping this two horse race has plenty more distance to run. Remember competition drives innovation and feature development, which is great for consumers. You only have to look at the camera-less iPod Touch for proof of that.

Neil Berman

Sep 11, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Guides, Hardware, News, Rants | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stay calm and breathe normally

Warning: I’m haven’t fully recovered from today’s stratospheric letdown. I’m still angry that my planned trip to the Apple store on 5th Ave was cancelled at lunchtime. I’m hot under the collar that I still have the cash that I totally expected to part with this evening.

So it went down like this:

Steve’s return was obviously a wonderful moment and a great achievement on his part. After that the regular stats rundown took place. iTunes 9 looks cool, liking the LPs, loving the music sharing. Not a convert yet but it’s looking like a more welcoming platform.

iPod Touch makes an entrance, games start. Getting psyched on the games, going wild for the games, Madden (nice), Nova (WOW) and with a video cam on the back this is just gonna be SICK.

Just one more thing: Video Camera. Wallet…check. Subway ticket…check. Cancel dinner with Zune HD…check.



Awesome, this is gonna be so swee… Wait…NANO!!! Whaaaa??? Deflation takes hold of my entire body, I’m entering shock, emergency room on standby.

Epic disappointment. Legendary letdown. Quick mental review; the obvious contender for a cam, with its big screen for editing, WiFi for instant YouTube action and a processor which can allegedly handle HD video goes cam-less whilst an offline tiny-screened music player gets a VGA video-cam.


Like I said, I’m still a bit emotional about this, but I guess that’s the risk of believing the rumors so many of us thought were true.

Neil Berman

Sep 9, 2009 Posted by | Apple, Audio, Hardware, Mobile, News, Rants | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Now we can all install a CableCARD tuner into Windows 7 Media Center, not just OEMs

WMCIt’s widely accepted that Windows Media Center is da bomb when it comes to home media convergence if you want your HTPC setup to include live TV.  But until now, those wanting to view encrypted cable channels have needed to buy a pre-configured HTPC from an OEM with a CableCARD tuner already built-in.

That all changed a few minutes ago when Microsoft announced at CEDIA that “Integrators and enthusiasts can now add Digital Cable Tuners with CableCARD to their PC”.  For now you’re going to need Windows 7 in your HTPC for this, unless Microsoft publishes an update for previous versions.

We didn’t see that one coming Microsoft, but you just made the Media Center HTPC faithful waaaaay happy.

CES 2010 update: Check out our video discussion with Microsoft about the Ceton CableCARD quad tuner.

Neil Berman

Sep 9, 2009 Posted by | Computing, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Microsoft, News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Panasonic Lumix FZ35 goes the distance

FZ35A co-worker once told me a crazy statistic about the amount of apartment owners who a telescope, and the number seemed worryingly larger than the amount of astronomers I would expect to live on this planet.  The scary-cool thing about Panasonic’s FZ35 is that it’s essentially a baby telescope which takes photos.  Whilst it sports a these-days-meh 18x optical zoom, at three megapixels this Leica-lensed zoom-o-matic can crank it up to 35.2x optical and a staggering 140.8x zoom with digital enhancement.  No need to worry about Google Street View snapping you on an extended cigarette break, now your whole office can get evidence from half a mile away.  Oh and it does HD video with a stereo mic.  I used to own a FZ18, which was the first member of this family.  The FZ35 sounds like the daddy.

Neil Berman

Sep 7, 2009 Posted by | Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, News | , , , , | Leave a comment


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