Back in April we brought you news of what we thought was the sexiest Media Center PC ever, the Acer Aspire iDea. Back then we could only fondle it under the watchful gaze of Acer's product managers, but we recently managed to sneak one into our gadget emporium, where nobody can disturb us.
Our opinion of the iDea hasn't changed a bit -- it's still the best looking Media Center, nay, the best looking PC ever. Just look at it: resplendent in silver and glossy black, luring us with its eerie blue LED power button, slot-loading DVD recorder and stealth flaps that conceal enough input/output connectors and card readers to take you to full-on geek ecstasy. Continue reading...
When someone says 'got any plans for the weekend?' you can usually assume they're making idle small talk to fill an awkward silence, or planning to burgle you while you visit granny. But not HP.
When HP's people ask what you're doing at the weekend, what they really mean is "drop whatever you're doing -- we're taking you to the Cannes film festival in sunny southern France to (literally) party with Bruce Willis, William Shatner and Co., drink champagne on expensive yachts, take in a premiere or two, oh, and look at some new products."
We reluctantly dragged ourselves along, and can report that the event was a lavish backslapping exercise following the launch of a new ad campaign. Plus an excuse to show off by pointing out that Dreamworks (Shrek, Madagascar and the forthcoming Over The Hedge starring Willis et al) uses HP workstations to create its animated blockbusters. Continue reading...
Mad props to the people at Sony for sending us the UK's first Blu-ray-ready PC (which we've reviewed here). It's called the Vaio RC204 and it's an imposing-looking thing. After spending several minutes just staring at it, we ripped it open and peered inside to find out what makes it special.
On the surface, it's very similar to the other desktops in the Sony Vaio RC range. It uses the same mammoth chassis that has a gaping hole all the way through the side, which serves as part of an elaborate cooling system. It's not our favourite case in the world, but we can't help but drool when we see the Vaio logo gradually light up when you hit the power button.
The inexorable, but slow-moving Blu-ray wagon train inched a step closer today, with Sony's announcement of two forthcoming Blu-ray devices -- the Vaio AR series laptop and the Vaio RC204 desktop.
The Vaio AR series uses a 17.8-inch screen with a high native resolution of 1,920x1,200 pixels, which is capable of churning out high-definition content at 1080p. You get an HDMI video output, a TV tuner, and it all runs off a 2GHz Core Duo CPU and a plucky GeForce Go 7600 GT graphics card.
My PC was fairly quick when I bought it a couple of years ago, but it has since slowed to a crawl. I'm a student, so money is a bit tight at the moment. Is there anything I can do to make it go faster without spending any cash? Continue reading...
P2P file hoarders and pornography enthusiasts rejoice: Carphone Warehouse has sent a shockwave through the world of Internet service providers by announcing a 'free' 8Mbps broadband package through its TalkTalk landline service.
Obviously it's not completely free -- that would be financial suicide. Customers will need to pay a one-off signup fee of 29.99, as well as their standard, BT-equivalent line rental of 11 per month. On top of that, you'll need to pay 9.99 per month for TalkTalk's Talk 3 International call plan, which gives you free calls to UK landlines and to 28 countries worldwide, including the US, Canada and even Lithuania. That's a total of 20.99 per month, or a first year total of 281.87 -- or 'free' if you speak TalkTalkese.
It's still excellent value, though. For your money you get an 8Mbps ADSL line with a huge monthly download cap of 40GB, and try as we might, we couldn't find fault with it. Even TalkTalk's technical support line is a mere 10p per minute. Currently, BT's cheapest 'free calls at any time' package is 25.50 including line rental, and its 8Mbps broadband package costs an additional 26.99 -- a yearly total of 629.88. Which is a lot less 'free'. Continue reading...
Crave is as big a fan of gaming PCs as the next blog. But one thing that really gets on our nerves is the common belief that gaming PCs have to be enormous 6m-tall 20kg monsters like the Alienware Aurora 7500.
It's an often-overlooked fact that you can cram almost as much gaming gear into a small form factor (SFF) PC as you can a full tower desktop. Shuttle, purveyor of some of the most stylish SFF machines, has just reminded us of the polygon-pushing possibilities of such PCs by sending us its latest, the XPC P 2500G. Continue reading...
Acer invited us to take a gander at its latest wares yesterday, and after tearing ourselves away from the bizarre, but strangely alluring Acer 9800 20-inch laptop, we found ourselves drawn to this little beauty: the Acer Idea. It's arguably the finest-looking Media Center PC we've ever come across, eclipsing even the mighty Shuttle M1000 for aesthetic excellence.
We've seen countless PCs that resemble ordinary DVD players, but the Idea is undoubtedly the slickest of the bunch, thanks to its slot-loading DVD drive and black and silver front end.
It's pretty trendy on the inside, too. It's Intel Viiv compliant, uses the latest dual-core Pentium D CPU and has 1GB of DDR2 memory, so it'll offer strong performance without emitting much noise. Acer claims its operative acoustic is just 23dB during idle, and 28dB during heavy load, and our highly scientific 'ear against the chassis' test suggests this is probably true. Continue reading...
Forget fringe-group hacks that let you run Windows XP on your Intel-based Macs, now Apple is offering a legitimate alternative. New beta-release software, called Boot Camp, lets you pop a Microsoft Windows XP installation disc into your Intel-based Mac and install Windows XP as a dual-boot option.
Boot Camp will be a full feature in the next major revision of OS X, Leopard, which is scheduled for release in August.
"Apple has no desire or plan to sell or support Windows, but many customers have expressed their interest to run Windows on Apple's superior hardware now that we use Intel processors," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, in a statement. "We think Boot Camp makes the Mac even more appealing to Windows users considering making the switch."
Boot Camp offers a step-by-step assistant application that creates a second partition on your hard drive for Windows to occupy. Once it's all installed, you can decide whether to run either Mac OS X or Windows when you restart your computer. Continue reading...
If Alienware made cars, it would make twin-engined nitrous-powered dragsters that can accelerate from 0-60mph in 0.2 seconds and cover a quarter-mile run in less than five seconds at a terminal velocity of 300mph. In reverse.
Fortunately for us PC lovers, Alienware doesn't make cars -- it makes some of the fastest computers in the world. The latest of which is the quite frankly ridiculous Aurora ALX with quad SLI.
Following in the footsteps of the Dell XPS Renegade, this bad boy uses four Nvidia graphics cards in a Serial Link Interface (SLI) configuration -- hence the words 'quad' and 'ridiculous'. Each of the four graphics cards in this beast is a GeForce 7900 (though not the all-singing, all-dancing 7900 GTX model) so it'll spank the bottom off any gaming PC on this side of the galaxy. Continue reading...
Good news for home entertainment PC freaks -- Shuttle has, somewhat predictably, released a barebones small form-factor PC that's compatible with the Intel Viiv standard.
The diminutive Shuttle SD36G5M SFF is a part of the company's successful XPC range, so it inherits the small, cube-like chassis we've come to know and love. The main difference with this new model is that it's the first to sport an Intel 945G chipset with an integrated GMA950 graphics card.
Today's news of Dell's Alienware acquisition is significant, if hardly surprising. When the rumours first hit, Alienware's representatives coyly responded with a somewhat self-congratulatory release along the lines of "it's not true, but we're very flattered, because Dell is awesome and so are we".
We're obviously paraphrasing here, but it was plain to see the deal had been done barring a few crossed Is and dotted Ts. Now the relevant vowels and consonants have been completed, we're left to ponder the reasons and implications of the deal. Can a staid corporate entity such as Dell simply jump on a Learjet from its Texas base to buy a slice of cool from Miami, Florida's trendiest PC builder?
The move makes great sense on paper and is reminiscent of other blue chip-luxury brand deals, such as Nike's acquisition of the iconic Converse brand, or Ford's buying up of Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover. The speed and efficiency with which Alienware manufactures its PCs is questionable at best, so it could use Dell's efficient manufacturing processes, not to mention its vast coffers to help create and promote its PCs and reach a larger audience. Continue reading...
Hi, I bought a PC a few years ago, and although it was a pretty good all-rounderÂ then it's clearly starting to show its age. I'd like to buy a new PC, and being a keen gamer, I want one that can handle the latest titles.
The problem is, I'm really confused about whether to get one with a single graphics card, or to splash out for one that has two graphics cards -- as I heard the latter can run games twice as fast. What makes things more confusing is that I'm not sure if getting a PC with one super-fast graphics card is better than a PC with two slightly slower cards running in tandem.
Help! Continue reading...
When Microsoft announced it would be delaying its Windows Vista operating system until January 2007, we weren't sure whether to react with anger, surprise or indifference based on its extensive catalogue of launch indiscretions.
By the time Vista is released (assuming it stays on its new schedule) it will have been in development for nigh on seven years. But what's the story behind the delays? Is Microsoft taking time to get things right; is it trying to be fashionably late; or is the whole thing a complete lateness balls-up that would make the rebuilding of Wembley Stadium look like a well-oiled machine? Continue reading...
Everybody and their grandmother knows Sony will be releasing Blu-ray disc players en masse by the end of the year, so Crave was a tad disappointed that it chose not to show off a single one at the CeBIT 2006 show in Hanover.
The mysterious absence of players has been short-lived, however, as Sony has revealed its Blu-ray Disc (BD) hand, less than two weeks after the show. Three products have been announced, including a standalone BD drive (the BWU-100A), an unnamed VAIO desktop PC with a recordable BD drive, and a living room BD player called the BDP-S1.
Crave can't wait for these products to hit the streets, but we reckon we'll be playing with HD DVD products before Sony has a chance to release its own -- Toshiba recently released a laptop with an HD DVD drive. Whether the timing of these releases will have any effect on deciding the victor in the forthcoming Blu-ray versus HD DVD war remains to be seen. Continue reading...
The CeBIT show in Hanover was a good chance to take a look at the way PCs are evolving. The scary news is they're living us poor humans, far, far behind
If humans evolved as quickly as the PCs we saw in Germany, in a few years we'll all be telepathic beings with quad-core brains, respiratory systems that can alternate between breathing oxygen or carbon monoxide, and the ability to extract all our nutrients from vodka alone.
Sadly, our lack of natural predators and sheer laziness means we're stuck in an evolutionary rut, so most of the progress will have to come from PC hardware boffins.
One of the most interesting developments at the show was the Nvidia GeForce 7900 range of graphics cards. Yes, it's only been a couple of months since ATI released its top-of-the-range Radeon X1900 XTX, but the 'green machine' has just reclaimed the top spot with its 7900 GTX, and taken the mid-range market with its 7900 GT, which cost around 370 and 260 respectively. Continue reading...
Microsoft has been desperate to claim the living-room as its trophy wife, but a series of attempts to nail the Media Center concept have largely failed. Noisy PCs with fans blaring don't really appeal to many of us.
After a hard day at work, slaving in the sickly glow of an Excel spreadsheet, the last thing you want to do when you get home is run a spyware removal tool and edit the registry before you can get Shrek to play. Still, Microsoft was the only real option last year.
We've decided to pit Microsoft's Media Center offerings against Apple's new Intel Core Duo Mac Mini. A newcomer to the PVR scene, the dual-core Mac Mini is no bigger than a Bible (indeed some Mac fans will consider it thus), and capable of running full 1080i high-definition video. It also comes with a bundled remote control. The Mini is practically fanless. Although a small fan will audibly kick in if things get very hot, in normal operation it's almost silent.Â
our experiences with most
Windows PCs, you won't have to turn up the volume to mask the sound of
the small jet plane taking off inside. But Apple's G4 towers were once
notoriously referred to as 'wind-tunnels', so PC manufacturers are not
alone in this problem. However the majority of Media Centres we've
looked at are distinctly noisy, especially in comparison to a DVD
player or video recorder.
The Mini comes pre-installed with Apple's Front Row software. This is an extremely slick interface that lets you browse your iTunes and iPhoto libraries using the Apple remote control. It's a tough call between this interface and Microsoft's -- both are glass-buttoned masterpieces and easy to navigate. There is, however, one snag with using the Mac Mini as a PVR, and that's the absence of a built-in TV tuner. We've suggested before that the reason Apple hasn't included this is because it views TV as a declining technology. Apple probably intends iTunes to eventually usurp terrestrial and satellite TV. Continue reading...
When Apple's Steve Jobs invites the world's press to a launch, you expect an event roughly on a par with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Perhaps this was the problem, for when Jobs pulled the silk sheet off yesterday's new Apple products a hush fell over the Internet. A ghetto-blaster for your iPod, a faster and Intel-based Mac Mini and some leather iPod pouches were all the company could muster. A minute passed in absolute silence. Then a small boy stepped forward, pointed at Jobs and announced, "The Emperor is naked".
"Fool", the broadsheet hacks told the boy. "Don't talk nonsense!". But the remark was repeated over and over again by the other journalists, until everyone cried, "The boy is right! The Emperor is naked! It's true!".
News journalists and international fashion correspondents beat their
info-sticks on the piñata that is Apple PR, begging for any news on
what Big White is going to unleash later today. The Internet is
straining at its seams with rumours -- here's our exclusive
lowdown on what Apple may have in store for us.
There's been talk of this for a while. Apple has filed several patents which suggest it may be working on a touchscreen device (artist's impression pictured) to stay well ahead of the competition in the MP3 player market. Pundits speculate that the device will measure the same size as the current iPod video, but with a screen that fills the entire surface of the unit, offering a massive, yet pocketable, movie player.
Mac Mini media centre
Apple has quietly watched Microsoft foul attempts to crowbar PCs into the living room. The noisy, fan-laden, power-guzzling ways of Media Center PCs have failed to inspire many consumers. Could a Mac Mini equipped with some kind of PVR functionality show Gates how it's done? There are even rumours that Apple may couple a Mac Mini media centre with an iTunes-style HDTV service, completely undermining the Blu-ray/HD DVD war.
Details on this are scarce, but some observers believe that Apple may be set to launch a super-thin iBook that would make current laptops look as lardy as Brando in his later days.
It's expected that Apple will update its new photo-management and retouching software, Aperture. This is an impressive bit of kit that lets professional photographers emulate the traditional darkroom and lightbox. The first revision was derided for poor RAW output, but Apple may have this nailed now.
Today we're launching a beta version of the CNET.co.uk Podcast, giving you chance to hear our team discussing the latest and greatest in personal technology and consumer electronics.
Join us as we report from Intel's launch of Viiv, gaze into our crystal ball and discuss the future of electronic books, debate the future of high-definition TV -- and let you know about some great tech gear we think is worth your hard-earned cash.