Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
Ghacks recently posted some information about a program called Easy Context Menu that lets you put all sorts of options in a context (right-click) menu. It looks interesting. I’m going to give it a try…
I had originally intended to do a comparison of several high-speed USB flash drives. I contacted Apacer, SanDisk and Lexar, but I only heard back from SanDisk. This obviously makes it difficult to do a comparison. SanDisk sent me a Cruzer® Contour™ 4GB USB Flash Drive. As for a review, these sorts of things either work or they don’t. This one does. Here is a brief description of the drive, along with a few pictures and test results.
The first thing you notice is that this is a very sharp looking drive. Everyone I showed it too thought it was very cool and wanted to keep it. It has an ingenious slider that pushes the USB connector out, and then tucks it away. You pull back on the black side with your thumb. This exposes the USB connector. You then push up and the connector comes up with it. When you are done using the drive, you push up to cover the USB connector, and then when you pull it back down, the USB connector gets tucked away again.
The drive is a U3-enabled drive, which means that you can run programs on the drive that support this. The drive mounted without issue on several computers that I tried it on. I also connected it to a computer that only had a USB 1.1 port, and the drive still worked fine. The transfer were just slower.
I performed a benchmark test with HD Tune 2.54. The minimum transfer rate was 25.1 MB/sec; the maximum transfer rate was 27.9 MB/sec; the average transfer rate was 25.7 MB/sec. The burst rate was 19.4 MB/sec. These number are all in line with the speeds that SanDisk claims the drive achieves.
The drive is visually appealing. It doesn’t look or feel like a cheap piece of plastic. In fact the metal bottom of the drive gives it some weight that some may appreciate, or some may dislike. The drive comes with some simple instructions and a small cover/case for the drive. The drive is covered by a lifetime warranty.
As I said in the beginning, the drive works, and it is fast. I didn’t end up with other devices to compare it to, but I would definitely say you can’t go wrong with this drive. I also appreciate the fact that SanDisk did get back to me and was willing to send me the product to review. Others didn’t even respond, so the customer service at SanDisk should be worth something as well.
I have reviewed several Paragon Software Group titles over the years, and posted about them in the PCIN.net Update blog. I’ve always been impressed by their products. The trend continues to this day. I recently obtained a copy of Hard Disk Manager 2008 and it builds on its predecessors and becomes an even better product.
As with previous versions, Hard Disk Manager 2008 comes with a variety of utilities. It comes with utilities in the following categories:
- Protect System Data
- Rescue and Recovery
- Securely Dispose of Hard Disk
- Advanced Options
Please visit the FreeHelp Software Review section of the PCIN.net site to read the full review, see screenshots of the program, and to rate the review.
I know… I’m way behind on this one! Back in January 2006 I contacted Ahead Software, the makers of Nero (the CD/DVD burning software) asking to do a review. They promptly sent me the packaged product in the mail along with some PR material. I started to use it right away, and have been impressed with it every step of the way. The product has been updated a couple of times since then, and just recently it was announced that version 8 would be coming out soon (it’s out now). After having the product for 2 years, I figured it was about time I put something together.
This may sound like a lame excuse, but the biggest problem with doing a review for this product, was the number of features there were in the product. At one point or another, the suite came with the following features:
- Nero Home
- Nero Burning ROM
- Nero Scout
- Nero StartSmart
- Nero Express
- Nero Vision
- Nero Recode
- Nero Wave Editor
- Nero SoundTrax
- Nero Cover Designer
- Nero ShowTime
- Nero PhotoShow Express
- Nero PhotoSnap
- Nero PhotoSnap Viewer
- Nero MediaHome
- InCD Reader
- Nero ImageDrive
- Nero BackItUp
Over time, I’ve had a chance to use many of the features. In previous version of the suite, Nero Burning ROM was the star. It is a powerful CD/DVD burning utility that gives you access to a lot of different options. However, most users will use Nero StartSmart and Nero Express. Nero StartSmart is a front-end program that runs and from there you choose what you’d like to do and then the appropriate program starts. There is a regular user mode and a “geek” mode that offers more options. More often than not, you end up using Nero Express. This is the wizard-driven CD/DVD burning utility. I use this for almost all of my burning. It is very easy to use.
Nero Vision is the DVD authoring tool. You can use this program to create a DVD that is playable in a standard DVD player. You can import video either directly from a video camera or by choosing existing video files on your computer. You then have options for create menus, chapters, and more. Burning a DVD for use in this way takes much longer than creating a data DVD as the movie usually needs to be recoded to fit on the disk better. I’ve used this tool to create my own DVDs. It took some practice to understand the different features, but the end products look very nice.
Nero PhotoSnap with the associated viewer is an image editing/viewing program. This was a bonus program as I wasn’t expecting it in the package. Ahead Software has turned Nero into an all-encompassing multimedia suite of tools, so an imaging program was needed. One of the best things about the program is that it reads many different image formats. For instance, I had some Photoshop files (PSD) on my memory stick, and Nero was able to display the files.
The packaged product came in a very cool box and a QuickStart Guide that described the programs it came with. The basic requirements are for a PIII 800MHz processor with 128 MB of RAM. Depending on what features of the program, higher speeds are recommended. The install itself takes up to 600MB, but it is recommended there be 9GB or more free space for working with videos. At the initial release of version 7, the program still worked with Windows 98.
As I mentioned at the beginning, with version 8 out now, all of this information is out-dated. But if history proves anything, it will be that version 8 will be even better. I’ve used the last 3 version of the Nero suite, and the program has always been stable and each new version has included useful new features. If you don’t want to spend the money on version 8, but can get you hands on Nero 7 for a good price, it will be well worth the price.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 and Adobe Premier Elements 3.0 Software Review – Digital Photography Tip of the Week
Over the past several weeks I have been using the new Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 and Adobe Premier Elements 3.0. Having used every version of Photoshop Elements, I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of a few features I have long thought would make this the best product for amateur and serious hobbyist photographers, curves and better black and white support. Those additions, along with several other features make this a worthy upgrade from Elements 4.0.
Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 is the third edition of Adobe’s consumer level video editing package. Unlike Adobe Photoshop Elements 5, I had some difficulties with this product. Installation was not possible on my main system as the software requires a processor with SSE 2 instructions and my Athlon XP 2600+ processor does not include this instruction set (newer AMD processors and Intel Processors do). I was able to install the software on my second system though it ran slow. The feature set of Premiere Elements is excellent and apart from the speed on my test machine, the software was easy to use and quick to learn. I am sure that the performance on newer PC’s would be fine, and have no doubts that today’s Dual Core processors would provide a dramatic speed boost.
Together, the bundle, available for $119.00 US from Amazon is still a great value. Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 sells for $86.99 US from Amazon.com and Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 sells for $89.99 US.
Until next time, happy shooting.
I just finished reviewing Partition Manager 8.0 Professional from Paragon Software Group:
When a product has been around for many different versions, it is often hard for the programmers to come up with enough new features to make the upgrades worthwhile. I’ve reviewed several Paragon Software Group products in the past, and have always been impressed with them, but I wondered how the new Paragon Partition Manager 8 could be any better than the last version. I was quite impressed by Partition Manager 7 and still use the recover CD whenever I need to do some tweaking. After using Partition Manager 8 for a while, and testing both the installed version as well as the recovery CD, I can say that it is definitely a worthy upgrade.
Quite some time ago Chris reviewed Stardock’s Object Desktop. It was an impressive product. The latest version has been released:
Object Desktop 2007 has just been released and it has a ton of great new features such as:
* WindowBlinds 5
* DesktopX 3.2
* WindowFX 3
* RightClick 1.2
* Keyboard LaunchPad 1.5
And the all new Object Desktop Command Center which brings all the pieces together.
You can learn more about it at ObjectDesktop.net
PCWorld.com has compiled a list of what they consider the worst tech products of all time:
Picking our list wasn’t exactly rocket science; it was more like group therapy. PC World staffers and contributors nominated their candidates and then gave each one the sniff test. We sought the worst of the worst–operating systems that operated badly, hardware that never should have left the factory, applications that spied on us and fed our data to shifty marketers, and products that left a legacy of poor performance and bad behavior.
#1 is AOL.
I just finished reviewing Battery Pack Pro 2.1 by Omega Software:
Microsoft gets in a lot of trouble because it bundles too much with Windows. Well, the opposite is true when it comes to Windows Mobile. There is very little extra included with the basic operating system, and so a user must search for the best, most useful utilities. Omega One Software has one of these truly useful utilities in Battery Pack Pro. I used Battery Pack Pro v1.1.1 for several months, and recently had a chance to review the most recent offereing, Battery Pack Pro v2.1…
Battery Pack Pro is great. I would highly recommend it to anyone. It fills in the gaps where the built-in utilities don’t go far enough. You have a lot of flexibility in what you install, and when you actually run what you installed. It is definitely worth trying!