Android Tablet: Archos Arnova 10 G2 10.1" tablet review

User Rating:  / 0

Arnova-10-G2Introduction:

Tablets as a market are gradually coming down in the price, especially with the release of faster dual-core processors and novel iterations of the iPad.  In response to this, the cost of entry-level tablets are plummeting, and many brands are additionally releasing tablets with reasonable specifications for a cut down price.  These new low cost tablets obviously don't sport the features of the more expensive tablets but are more than capable of handling the more regular activities that users want to undertake.

Specifications:

Capacity • Flash memory: 8 GB* or 4 GB*
• Extendable via micro SDHC Slot
Operating system • ANDROID™ 2.3 “Gingerbread”
Processor • ARM Cortex A8 1 GHz
Display characteristics • 10.1” capacitive multitouch screen, TFT LCD, 16 million colors
• screen resolution : 1024 x 600
Video Playback1 • H.264 up to 1080p resolution – 30 fps / 5 Mbps.
• MPEG-42 – 30 fps / 2.5 Mbps.
• Realvideo™ up to 720p resolution – 30 fps / 2.5 Mbps.
With the above codecs, the device can play video files with the following extensions: .avi .mp4,mkv, .mov, and .flv
Audio Playback1 • MP3, WAV, APE, OGG, FLAC
Photo viewer3 • JPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG
Interfaces • Micro USB slave 2.0: Mass Storage Class (MSC)
• Micro SD slot (SDHC compatible)
Communication protocols • WiFi (802.11 b/g)
Miscellaneous • 720p camera
• Built-in speaker
• Microphone
• G-sensor
Power source • Internal: Lithium Polymer battery
• USB Power adapter/charger
Dimensions & weight • 270 mm x 150 mm x 12 mm (10.6” x 5.9” x 0.47”) – 540 g / 19 oz.
Compatibility • Microsoft® Windows® XP, Vista, 7 or higher, Mac OS or Linux in mass storage mode
Computer Interface • USB 2.0 interface
Package includes • ARNOVA 10 G2, USB cable, Power adapter, Quick Start Guide (QSG), legal and safety notice

Review:

The Arnova 10 G2 sports the same body design as the Archos 101 which provides a strong, thin and lightweight surround for the 10.1 inch multitouch capacitive screen.  In contrast to the Archos 101, the Arnova 10 G2 has cut out a few features including the HDMI and bluetooth, however in our opinion, the average user won't be overly disappointed with this - after all most of us don't often use bluetooth to transfer files and with the advent of internet TVs the HDMI isn't that necessary.

With the inbuilt 1GHz ARM Cortex processor, the Gingerbread (Android 2.3) operating system is fluid and responsive handling the majority of games happily, although it is worth checking compatibility before buying (as with a lot of tablets!).  The screen is nice and responsive and responds well to touch, making typing an easy affair.  As a media plater, the speakers are actually really quite impressive compared to some we have heard (or should I say tried to hear!) and the video playback is great.  The Arnova 10 G2 also works fine as an ebook reader using either the installed software or alternatives, and PDFs are easily fitted onto the screen as full pages.

Arnova-10-G2-music-photo

File transfer to the tablet is best through the USB connection and on the unit we tested (the 8GB version), there was plenty of room for storage, with another microSD port for expansion of memory up to a further 32GB.  It must be noted that the android build we used didn't really offer much room for a lot of additional apps, however there are a number of alternative firmwares for the device that rectify this problem (with a bit of tinkering) and also give root accesibility to the device which allows far better control over system management (see the end of the review for links).  In addition, the standard firmware doesn't offer access to the Android Market, instead offering "appslib" - an alternative, slightly cut down version of the Android Market provided by Archos (Again this can be remedied by downloading a set of base APKs and installing them manually to the device or using "Arctools" that somewhat automates the process).  The tablet can also support flash, but only to version 10.3 which is sufficient to seamlessly browse any websites we tried.

Battery life is sufficient, although not awe-inspiring, and certainly not comparable with the top tablet models (iPads and similar) but happily giving around 6 hours with fairly heavy use.  Once the battery has depleted, charging has to be done using the provided wall plug charger, which is a slight disappointment as it would have been great to have been able to charge from USB.

Price:

£138 (available from HMV)

Verdict:

4/5 - For the price, the Arnova 10 G2 provides a excellent and solid entry-level android tablet for everything from video playback to web browsing and ebook reading. The savings that have been made to offer this specification at this price will not really be missed by most users and with the availibility of custom firmwares, those with a need to tweak will be able to get everything they want from the tablet.

Custom firmware links:

http://www.arctablet.com/blog/forum/arnova-10-g2-general/arnova-10-g2-improved-custom-firmware-update/

 


NAS External Data Storage: Synology Diskstation DS712+ review

User Rating:  / 0

 

Synology Diskstation DS712 sideIntroduction:

Networked attached storage (NAS) devices range in price from sub £100 home units offering basic network storage up to large corporate NAS servers that can serve entire companies that run in to the £1000s. The latest we have to review is the Synology Diskstation 712+ (DS712+) which offers a step up from the last Synology NAS server we reviewed the DS212j, which was primarily a small business/home server.  The DS712+ offers a far more scalable server conformation than the DS212j with data encryption as well as a far more powerful processor and system spec that allows for sharing data across a intranet as well as the internet faster and more securely.

Specifications (Skip to review here):

Hardware

CPU Frequency : 1.8GHz

Floating Point

Memory : DDR3 1GB

Internal HDD/SSD : 3.5" or 2.5" SATA(II) X 2 (Hard drive not included)

Max Internal Capacity : 6TB (2X 3TB HDD) (Capacity may vary by RAID types) (See All Supported HDD)

Hot Swappable HDD

External HDD Interface : USB 2.0 Port X 3, eSATA Port X 1

Size (HxWxD) : 157 X 103.5 X 232 mm

Weight : 1.69Kg

LAN : Gigabit X2

Link Aggregation

Wake on LAN/WAN

System Fan : 92x92mm x1

Wireless Support

Noise Level : 19.2 dB(A)

Power Recovery

AC Input Power Voltage : 100V to 240V AC

Power Frequency : 50 / 60Hz, Single Phase

Power Consumption : 27.5W (Access) ; 17.6W (HDD Hibernation)

Operating Temperature : 40 to 95°F (5 to 35°C)

Storage Temperature : 15 to 155°F (-10 to 70°C)

Relative Humidity : 5% to 95% RH

Maximum Operating Altitude : 10,000 feet

Certification : FCC Class B, CE Class B, BSMI Class B

Warranty : 3 Years

Applications

File Browser

File Station

FTP Server

Bandwidth Control, Custom FTP Passive Port Range, Anonymous FTP, Transfer Log

Mail Server

Supported Mail Server Protocol : POP3, SMTP, IMAP

Web Station

Virtual Host (up to 30 websites)

PHP/MySQL

Alternative HTTP Error Page

3rd-Party Applications Support

Surveillance Station

MAX IP cam # (Licenses required) : 16 (1 Free License) (See All Supported IP Cameras)

Total frame rate (FPS) : 160 FPS @ D1 (NTSC:720x480, PAL:720x576), 60 FPS @ WXGA (1280x800)

Recording Modes : Manual, Continuous, Motion Detection, Alarm, Motion Detection and Alarm

Event Playback : Sync Mode (4 Channels), Time Slicing Mode

Centralized Management

Compression Formats : MJPEG, MPEG-4, H.264

Photo Station

Supported Image Format : BMP, JPG (jpe, jpeg), GIF, RAW (arw, srf, sr2, dcr, k25, kdc, cr2, crw, nef, mrw, ptx, pef, raf, 3fr, erf, mef, mos, orf, rw2, dng, x3f)

Supported Video Format : 3G2, 3GP, ASF, AVI, DAT, DivX, FLV, M4V, MOV, MP4, MPEG, MPG, QT, WMV, XviD, RM, RMVB, VOB, RV30, RV40, AC3, AMR, WMA3
User can click and download the following video formats: RM, RMVB, VOB, RV30, RV40, AC3, AMR, WMA3, but not able to play it in Photo Station as compressed Flash video.

Audio Station

Supported Audio Format (USB Mode) : AAC, FLAC, M4A, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WMA VBR

Supported Audio Format (Streaming Mode) : MP3, M4A, M4B

Supported Playlist Format : M3U, WPL

Internet Radio : SHOUTcast, Radioio

DLNA/UPnP Media Server
PS3/Xbox 360 Support

Supported Audio Format : AAC, FLAC, M4A, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, PCM, WAV, WMA, WMA VBR, WMA PRO, WMA

Supported Video Format : 3GP, 3G2, ASF, AVI, DAT, DivX, DVR-MS, ISO, M2T, M2TS, M4V, MKV, MP4, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, MTS, MOV, QT, SWF, TP, TRP, TS, VOB, WMV, XviD, RMVB (The actual playback capabilities may vary depending on the DLNA/UPnP client)

Supported Image Format : BMP, JPG (jpe, jpeg), GIF, ICO, PNG, PSD, TIF (tiff), UFO

Download Station

Supported Download Protocols : BT/HTTP/FTP/NZB/eMule

Custom BT Port Range

BT / eMule Bandwidth Control

iTunes Server

Supported Audio Format : MP3, M4A, M4P, WAV, AIF, The music in WAV and AIF format can be streamed, but the metadata (ex: title, album) may not be indexed on the iTunes

Supported Video Format : M4V, MOV, MP4

Supported Playlist Format : M3U, WPL

Print Server

Max Printer # : 2

Printing Protocols : LPR, CIFS, AppleTalk, Appel AirPrint, Multi Functional Print Server (Only PostScript USB printers are supported in MAC environment)

Packages Center

Directory Server

HASP

HiDrive Backup

Mail Station2

phpMyAdmin

VPN Server

Webalizer

Squeezebox Server

Syslog Server

WordPress

Time Backup

iPhone/Android Applications

DS photo+

DS audio

DS cam

DS file 

DS finder 

General

Networking Protocols

CIFS

AFP

NFS

FTP

WebDAV

iSCSI

Telnet

SSH

SNMP

File System

EXT4

EXT3(External Disk Only)

FAT (External Disk Only)

NTFS (External Disk Only)

Storage Management

Max Volume # : 512

Max File System Size : 108TB

Max iSCSI Target # : 32

Max iSCSI LUN # : 256

Supported RAID Type : Synology Hybrid RAID, Basic, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1

RAID Migration : Basic to RAID 1

Volume Expansion with Larger HDDs : RAID 1

Synology Expansion Unit Support : DX510

File Sharing Capability

Max User Accounts : 2048

Max Groups : 256

Max Shared Folder : 256

Max Concurrent Connections : 512

Windows Access Control List (ACL)

Windows ADS Domain Integration

Domain Users login via Samba/AFP/FTP/File Station

Backup Solutions

Network Backup

Local Backup

Desktop Backup (using Synology Data Replicator 3 or Apple Time Machine backup application)

Shared Folder Sync - Max task number : 8

Time Backup - Max task number : 8

Time Machine Backup (Mac)

Security

FTP over SSL/TLS

IP Auto-Block

Firewall

Encrypted Network Backup over Rsync

HTTPS Connection

Management

Auto DSM Upgrade

Administrator Group

Email Notification

SMS Notification

Customized User Quota

DDNS Support

IPv6 Support

PPPoE

Resource Monitor

UPS Management

Scheduled Power On/Off

Custom Management UI HTTP/HTTPS Ports

HDD Management

HDD Hibernation

S.M.A.R.T.

Dynamic Bad Sector Mapping

Utilities

Synology Assistant

Synology Data Replicator

Supported Clients

Windows XP onward

Mac OS X 10.5 onward

Ubuntu 9.04 onward

Supported Browsers

Chrome

Firefox

Internet Explorer : 7, 8, 9

Safari (MAC) : 4, 5

Supported Mobile Devices (Photo Station, File Station)

iPhone OS 2.2.1 onward

Android OS 1.5 onward

Windows Mobile (IE Mobile or Opera 9.0 onward)

Symbian OS 9.1, S60 3rd Edition onward

Language : Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese Brazil, Portuguese European, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Turkish

Review:

Synology Diskstation DS712As with all Synology NAS servers, the diskstation comes without hard drives installed, however the DS712+'s drive bays are easily accessible via two sliding trays (lockable for security) and hard drive installation is a doddle using the included screws, with the unit supporting up to two 3.5" or 2.5" drives.  The "Synology Assistant" software is then used to install the operating system, Disk Station Manager (DSM), which then allows for full management of the device and any installed or externally connected drives through the excellent cloud-like browser interface.  The internal drives can be run in a number of standard RAID configurations including the Synology Hybrid Raid configurations that allows for hard drives of different sizes to be run in a RAID array. If you want to run external drives or devices, the DS712+ sports 3 USB2.0 ports as well as a single eSATA port that can be used in conjunction with the Synology DX510 (an optional expansion unit) that allows the addition of a further five hard drives and a maximum of 21TB of data storage (certainly enough to run a fari sized business!).. 

The DS712+ we tested was running on the DSM3.2 (although it is worth noting that there is a beta program for DSM4.0 which looks even better if that's possible!) which provides a simple interface to manage the NAS. There is a basic menu system that provides access to a control panel providing access to every configurable option for the device. Each option from setting up the inbuilt firewall to setting up a web server are all very easy to setup (normally simply a case of a single mouse click or a wizard). As regards applications, the DS712+ gives access to the all of the standard Synology applications, including file and multimedia sharing, web hosting (up to 30 websites) and mail server, as well as network backup (encrypted if required). All work seamlessly and are very easy to setup, with clear instructions, tutorials and support available from the Synology website.  

We tested the DS712+ with a couple of 1TB drives and the setup procedure was as painless as other Synology NAS servers we have reviewed.  In comparison with the DS212j we reviewed previously (here), the increased specifications were evident with the NAS clearly benefiting from the faster processor and everything felt more responsive. Even though the router we used didn't support link aggregation, the two gigabit connections make the upload and download speeds significantly faster (~96MBps and 100MBps respectively) especially for upload speeds, which is perfect for small business environments where it is plausible that a relatively high number of connections will be in use at any given time (even more so if you choose to host a website through the DiskStation).

Synology DSM3.2 control panel

With the increased server specifications in comparison to other 2-bay NAS ervers from Synology, every aspect of the DS712+ is better than previous NAS servers we have reviewed, from user interface and support through to file transfer performance and we really had no problems with setting up any of the features that the server can host.

Price:

£399 (available from Amazon)

Verdict:

5/5 In terms of NAS servers, Synology rarely disappoint and the DS712+ is no different. With the applications available, the Diskstations can handle a number of different jobs (therefore replacing existing servers and services) beyond simple file sharing and shared folders which is why in our opinion they offer, despite the initial costs, excellent value for money.  The DS712+ is one of the more expensive of the home/small business range but the specifications and performance entirely justify the cost.

 

Gaming Headphones: SteelSeries Diablo III Headset review

User Rating:  / 0

steelseries diablo-iii_headset_800x492Introduction:

Following our review of the excellent SteelSeries Diablo 3 mouse we have subsequently managed to get our hands on the SteelSeries Diablo 3 themed headset and given how much we rated the mouse, we were eager to see if the headphones could deliver the same quality experience.

Specifications:

Headset:

Frequency: 18-28000Hz
Cable length: 1m (plus an additional 2m extender cable)
Jack: Gold plated USB

Microphone: 

Active noise reduction: up to 20dB
Frequency: 50-16000
Pick-up pattern: Uni-directional
Sensitivity: -38dB

Steelseries Diablo 3 closeReview: 

Like the SteelSeries Diablo 3 mouse, the Diablo 3 Headset matches the theme of Diablo 3 brilliantly with a gothic style design, and heavy detailing. The theming is carried through every aspect of the design from the detiling on the headband to the blood red mesh on the rear of the earpieces.  However it is when the headphones are on that the true crowning glory comes to light (excuse the pun!) with red LED lighting framing the earpieces truly exuding the ethos of Diablo 3.

Past the themed design, the headphones are very similar to the SteelSeries Siberia V2, which we reviewed previously (see here). As with the Siberia V2 the sound reproduction is excellent within games, with excellent audio across the range, with a slight bias towards the bass ranges.  This bias towards the bass means that playback of music and films require a custom profile for optimal playback of standard multimedia (for our tastes), but once set (using the Diablo 3 themed support software) multimedia audio reproduction is equally as brilliant.

Steelseries Diablo 3 headband

The noise cancelling microphone is brilliantly designed to slide out of sight into the left earpiece and does an excellent job of broadcasting your voice, cancelling out ambient background sounds to make sure audio is clear.

The design of the headband of the Diablo 3 headset makes them feel lightweight with the earphones supported on a wired support that fits to any head size. Even during extended periods of wear they feel comfortable with the weight shared by the very well padded earpieces (passive noise cancellation!).  The attantion to detail is excellent, with double braided nylon cabling (and an extension should you be playing at a distance from your PC) the package covers every eventuality. As with the mouse, the LED illumination as well as the audio profile can be tailored to your desire using the aforementioned Diablo 3 themed software which allows the creation of profiles to suit a variety of games and/or activities.

Price:

£89.99 - Available from Amazon

Verdict:

4/5 - The SteelSeries Diablo 3 Headset offers all of the features and quality of the excellent Siberia V2 headset, with retractable noise cancelling microphone and excellent audio reproduction in-game and out. The Diablo 3 theming makes them essential for any true fan of the Diablo franchise and the added detailing really makes them really stand out from the crowd.

Steelseries Diablo 3 sideshot