- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
I put off upgrading to Windows Vista for some time, due to the horror stories I had heard after its launch, but I finally bit the bullet and decided to upgrade for my new system.
I went for the 64-bit version, as I would be using 6GB of RAM (the 32 bit version only recognizes up to 3.5GB), and had heard many stories about unsigned driver problems, bugs in the software and a general poor design.
So, is it as bas as everyone makes out?
No, it's not.
I think most people seem to be jumping on the "Vista is rubbish" bandwagon, without even trying it themselves.
Infact, from what I have seen, Vista is pretty damn good - a huge improvement over XP. Yes it has problems, but many of those have now been sorted with Service Pack 1.
However, I have been testing Vista on a high-end system, so I do not know how well it will cope on less able hardware.
So, what are the good points?
Well the whole display is a lot slicker than XP for a start. It is generally a nicer image to have on your screen. Of course you don't pay £100 for looks though, there has to be substance underneath it. And there is!
The loading times are MUCH faster than XP for me, I can boot up in around 10 seconds, whereas XP was around 30 seconds.
The aero feature is a nice touch, but I disabled it, as its just too much of a memory hog, even on a high end system. I'd recommend you do the same, it's not worth the memory it consumes.
The layout is somewhat different to XP, and I'm not too keen on the new "All Programmes" menu, but the addition of a search bar above the start button is great, and you don't realise how useful it is until you actually use it once. You'll keep using it again and again after that!
Automatic updates are good and quick, but do take a LONG time to install sadly.
Everything just seems to run much quicker on Vista than XP for me, so it's no where near as bad as everyone made out. And it virtually NEVER crashes for me. However, there are some bad points....
Setting up a network connection to get connected to the internet was pretty difficult and required a LOT of tweaking settings to get it to work. I was disappointed with this, XP was easy to do this in, and they should have just kept that set-up system.
Also, the icons on the desktop appear HUGE compared to XP, and look too cartoonish, which isn't a good look on what is supposed to be a "Sleek and Professional" Operating System.
The annoying "User Account Control" is one bad feature too, it will ask you if you have done what you have just done, so it can verify it (It literally is as stupid as it sounds). E.g. I move a file, user account control asks me "Have you moved this file?" or I run a program, and user account control asks me "Did you run this program?"... pathetic. Thankfully this can be disabled though, which I recommend you do IMMEDIATLEY.
*This applies to the 64-bit version only*
The 64-bit version of Windows Vista requires that all drivers installed are "Digitally Signed", meaning they muse be verified by Microsoft, or be from a company affiliated with them.
This is REALLY annoying, as many programmes just will not install as they don't have digitally signed drivers (older programmes especially). This can be disabled at startup in the BIOS, but this needs to be done on EVERY reboot, and it gets tiresome. I don't know of a way to fix this, there may be one though.
Overall, Vista is MUCH better than most people make out. It's actually a really good, functional operating system and is worth the money (although I recommend you buy the OEM version - it's exactly the same except no box, and £30 cheaper).
Some parts are annoying, and in 64 bit the driver singing is REALLY annoying, and user account control is pathetic, but most of these can be easily disabled or overcome.
Be warned though, I have heard Vista does NOT perform well on lower spec systems, but if you have a high spec system then I highly recommend it.
For reference, the specification of the PC I am using is:
Intel Core i7 920
6GB OCZ 1600MHz RAM
8800GTS 640MB (Now showing it's age)
Asus P6T Motherboard
First off, this RAM is designed to work with Intel's new i7 series of processors, so if you don't currently have an i7, I'd go for a cheaper set of RAM sticks.
Now that that's out the way, lets get on to reviewing the actual RAM itself.
Well, to start with the first thing anyone thinks about just now, especially with money being tight:
These aren't cheap by any means, 6GB will set you back a hefty sum of £120 over at ebuyer.com, but you do get what you pay for, and believe me, this RAM is worth it. That's only £20 per GB mind you, which isn't too bad, but when added to the rest of the cost of an i7 system, it fair adds up.
As with all RAM, it's incredibily easy to install. Just slot it in the correct RAM slot (Note: if using 3 RAM sticks, they all go in the same colour of slot on the motherboard - your motherboard should have 6 slots, 3 of one colour and 3 of another. If using all 6 slots then it doesn't matter where each stick goes).
The RAM feels sturdy when being installed due to the (rather nice looking) heatsink on them. This really does help keep the temperatures down, especially when overclocking. Be warned that on some motherboards though, the heatsink makes the RAM too big to fit in the final slot next to the CPU cooler - check how close this slot is before you buy! Each stick is 0.5cm wide for reference.
Well I've only had these sticks for around a month, but so far not a thing has gone wrong with them - and I've pushed them quite far in terms of overclocking.
The temperatures are always fairly low (as expected with RAM), even when overclocked.
They come as 1600MHz sticks, and can easily be overclocked to 2000MHz each no problem, without needed to raise the voltage at all, so there is only a very little increase in heat produced. The sticks come with a 10 year warranty (RAM hardly ever fails once in the machine).
Silent. All there is to say about that really.
As mentioned before, I have these overclocked to 2000MHz, and they are blisteringly quick, yet also completley stable.
Vista performance raiting is 5.9 (maximum) and even with several memory intensive programmes open (Photoshop, Internet, Music, Video) I noticed no slowing in the response of the system at all. Games perform flawlessly, Crysis and Far Cry2 are 100% smooth and even FSX, a game known for it's poor frame rates and high levels of stuttering, now runs 100% smooth.
**A word of warning though**: The RAM will automatically set to a voltage of 1.9V, but anything OVER 1.45V can damage an Intel Core i7 CPU PERMENANTLY! So you will need to manually change the voltage level in the BIOS settings to avoid damage. It is still perfectly stable at 1.45V
The RAM feels very well built, and the heatsink means you don't feel afraid forcing it into the motherboard slots when installing. OCZ products generally seem to have a very high standard of build quality, and the 10 year warranty reflects this. I have had no problems what so ever with them, even clocked at high speeds.
Overall, I would highly recommend this RAM to anyone building a new i7 system, it has amazingly quick performance even at stock speeds, and has a lot of headroom for overclocking.
Remember though that you need a DDR3 compatiable motherboard for this RAM, and it should be an i7 triple channel one (The ASUS P6T is a good option - this is what I use).
Fantastic for gamers, graphic artists and performance users. Perhaps a little too powerful for the casual user though, as most of the performance would just be wasted - Casual PC users would notice little to no difference over 4GB of £40 DDR2 RAM.
For refence, the system I am running this on is:
Intel Core i7 920
6GB OCZ 1600MHz RAM
8800GTS 640MB (Now showing it's age)
Asus P6T Motherboard
So, the Nehalem (aka Core i7) range from Intel has finnaly arrived and, being the geek I am, I instantly snapped one up as soon as possible.
I was lucky enough to get the i7 920 full retail package (Meaning it came with the processor and heatsink) for just £220 on eBay, cheaper than anywhere else I could find.
I installed it in my Asus P6T motherboard (Note: There aren't many i7 motherboards available yet, the Asus P6T is however the best so far) straight away and attached a 3rd part heaksink (Thermalalright Ultra-120), so I cannot comment on how good the Intel heatsink is. I did notice however that the heatsink came with pre-applied thermal paste, which is a nice touch for those who use it. It is not recommended that you use the stock heatsink if you wish to overclock though.
Installation is easy, place is in the right way (it only fits one way so don't worry about that) and lower the lever arm to secure it in place.
The first thing I noticed after installing this CPU was the physical size of it compared to my old E6850. It was quite a bit larger (1366 pins vs 775 on the E6850), which should (in theory) mean heat will be disappated better, allowing for cooler running of the CPU and more overclocking potential.
Well after installing and installing Vista 64-bit (this was a new build), I checked the Vista performance rating of this CPU - 5.9, without any overclock! That is impressive I must say.
Also, Vista recognizes this as 8 cores, not 4, as each core also has Hyperthreading enabled (This was last seen on the P4 series), so can carry out 2 tasks at once, instead of one. This is, of course, a nice advantage!
I did some testing before overclocking, just to see how well it performed on stock speeds.
I noticed that .RAR files were decompressed so much quicker, a file that would have taken 20 minutes before now took me less than 5!
Audio and video encoding was also astoundingly quick - a 1 minute DiVX file took me around 48 seconds to compress. It took around 3 minutes on my E6850.
After this I started overclocking. It's really simple with the i7 range, just change the CPU multiplier up to a maximum of 20 and hey presto! Overclock complete.
I changed straight away to 20x multiplier, giving me a speed of 3GHz. This was the same clock speed as my E6850, but with 8 effective cores vs 2.
After overclocking, the results were phenomenal.
Vista performance raiting of course remained unchanged, it was already at the highest possible, but in games is where it really began to shine.
Far Cry 2 was running in DX10 mode, 1680x1050 resolution and all graphics settings maxed out and was fully smooth and playable, the performacne truly was fantastic! Crysis runs great too, "maxed out" and still very, very playable with around 20-24 FPS.
And the CPU temperature never once ventured above 40C, with an overclock on it. This IS impressive! As this CPU is based on 45nm architecture, it consumes less power that previous CPUs, and therefore produces a fair amount less heat.
Bear in mind that if you do upgrade to i7, you need a new motherboard (which in itself is pricey) and DDR3 RAM (Again, pricey).
I use the Asus P6T motherboard which I would highly recommend and OCZ 1600Mhz DDR3 RAM (6GB of it), again which I would highly recommend.
A full i7 upgrade is still very expensive, and isn't likely to come down in price soon.
I very, very highly recommend this processor, but only to those who use their PCs for gaming, audio/video editing or graphic design, otherwise most of the power will go wasted.
If you are in the group of people that could make use of this CPU though, then I strongly recommend you buy it.
A quick note: Don't be tempted by the i7 940, at almost double the price of the 920. With the i920 overclocked to 3GHz, performance is the same as the 940.
Infact, all the 940 is is a 920 that has been pre overclocked, so save a few hundered £££ and overclock yourself (But be sure to invest in a good fan/cooler!)
For refernece, the system I am running this on is:
Intel Core i7 920
6GB OCZ 1600MHz RAM
8800GTS 640MB (Now showing it's age)
Asus P6T Motherboard
And I used OCZ Freeze thermal paste with a Thermalalright 120 Extreme CPU cooler.
A printer is one of those things that everyone should have, so after my last one (A canon) decided to pack up, I of course went in search of another.
I found the D88 Plus at PC World for £88 (What a coincidence!) and decided to buy it there and then, as it seemed like a good price, and I know Epson are a reputable brand.
The first thing I noticed when I set it up was that it started printing a lot quicker than my previous printer, and the drivers were very, very easy to install. From clicking "print" to the printing starting was only a few seconds, a good change from the 10 minutes of whirring and banging from the old machine.
After messing around with the settings a bit (Quality settings go from Draft to Best Photo), I found that text & image works best for a speed/quality balance.
The quality was indeed very good, very sharp images and great contrast.
Printing speed was great too, a page took about 10 seconds, and will be done in 2-3 on the "draft" setting, which still gives good quality for text files.
The downside of this printer is the emphasis it places on "Genuine Epson Ink". I, of course, don't use genuine Epson ink, as it is ridiculously priced (around £14 per cartridge) I use "InkWorld" ink at around £3 per cartridge. The printing quality and speed is IDENTICAL to the genuine ink, so don't be afraid to use cheaper alternatives.
When using non genuine ink however, a message saying "Warnging, using non genuine epson ink may damage your printer!" appears for every file you wish to print, and you must verify that you still wish to print.
This is really annoying, as I can't queue up 5/6 printing jobs, as I need to click "continue" between each one.
There may be a way to get rid of this, but I'm not sure, I haven't found one yet.
That's all there is to say really about this printer - Great quality, good speed, hasn't broke once yet (and I've have it just over a year now). The ink levels stay high for a LONG time, but then seem to dip suddenly, so be warned about that - always have spare ink handy.
The non genuine ink warning messages are down right annoying and not needed to be honest, it's just Epson trying to increase profits by scare-mongering people into thinking genuine ink is needed.
The fact that I can't queue print jobs because of this is the major disadvantage, so if you're looking for a printer to use for lots of office paper work/spreadsheets etc, avoid ANY Epson printer, they all do this.
Well I'll start with the bit most people are interested in - the price.
Well, seeing as the recession is upon us, I needed a fairly cheap phone that would meet my demands both at work and at home. This was a fairly small list, which included:
Phone Calls (obviously)
Basic web browsing
A camera, for the times when you wish you had one, but had forgotten it!
Well, I came across this phone on the carphone warehouse website, who had it at the cheapest price I could find - £70 on T-mobile, with £10 credit included. So £60 a phone that suited all my needs - not a bad start! :)
The phone came in a nice little box, nothing special though. Charger cable and PC driver CD were included which was nice, although the Sony PC software is quite frankly terrible. I recommend MyPhoneXplorer instead, it's a free download and works great - just google it :)
A headset which also acts as a radio antenna was included, which was nice - but I can never get a radio signal. No matter though, I didn't need (and wasn't even aware of) it's radio capabilities.
So, after turning the phone on and playing around for a bit I got the hang of it. The phone is VERY easy to navigate, which was a nice bonus, especially for those of you who find technology difficult to work with (Even my partner can use this phone! Just don't tell her I said that....)
The text/phone functions are easy and self explanitory to use. So simple, even my dog could probably use them.
The email function is another matter. It took me AGES to set up, I'm talking 3 hours + here, so if you want email functions, look for a blackberry not this phone, it's not worth it. However, once set up it's not too bad, and fairly reliable.
The internet connection is 3G and is pretty fast. I only use it for news sites on the go, and the odd bit of facebook, and it handles all with ease. No problems here.
The camera is of very good quality (3.2 Megapixel) and the shots it takes look rather decent, even on a large PC screen. Video capability is poor however. 3.2 megapixels is more than enough, these phones with 8 megapixel cameras are ridiculous, the battery is just drained in minutes.....
Which bring me to the next point: Battery life.
Well, I can leave it on for a week without needing to recharge, and that's with about 4-5 hours of use a day. The battery life really is fantastic, and I recommend the phone for this alone!
The one downside is that the keys are a bit small, I have rather large hands and often accidentally press keys I didn't mean to. However, with practice I got used to key size, and it's not so bad. Bigger keys would still be nice though.
The styling is a bit marmite to be fair - love it or hate it.
Flip phones seem to be all the range these days but I really don't like them, I prefer the old fashioned "brick" style phone.
Yes, the phone is quite thick (about 3-4cm at the thickest part), and is reasonably heavy, but it has a "well built" feel about it. It feels sturdy and I know it won't break anytime soon!
If you're worried about style though, then I wouldn't recommend this - it's not the prettiest, but it is acceptable.
Overall, this is a very nice phone. It's reasonably cheap, does everything the majority of users will require, and has some nice extra features thrown in too.
The main downside is the key size, so if you don't like small keys on your phone, or have relatively large hands, it probably isn't the phone for you.
If, like I was, you're looking for some new RAM for your PC, and are thinking "Oh, I'll get any type, it's only RAM", then you need to think again.
I decided to go for it and buy some high quality gaming RAM instead of the cheap unbranded stuff you find around (I say cheap, this was only £10 per GB, not a bad deal), and my god did it make a difference!
I went from 2GB for eBuyer value RAM, to 4 of these 1GB sticks, and the difference in performance is amazing. Definitely the best "Cost:Performance" ratio you can get on a PC.
Although the 800Mhz DDRII RAM may not be at the forefront of technology with the recent release of DDR3, it is still the most cost effective way to improve performance.
A real life benchmark example, my framerate in Crysis (measured using FRAPS) went from 27 with the 2GB value RAM to 104 with 4GB of the Corsair XMS2 RAM in it. That is quite an increase! And not bad for £100.
And it's not just games that have improved. The start-up time of my PC (From boot to log on) has decreased from 21 seconds to 11, and even general web browsing is quicker now, as the computer can handle more at once.
Be warned though, if you are buying 4GB you must have a 64-bit OS (I use XP 64-bit, although this is hard to find now. Vista would be your best bet). If you only have a 32-bit OS, only 3-3.5GB will be recognized by your system.
Also, I wouldn't go for the low latency versions of these, as they cost around £5 more per stick, but you can just adjust the latency yourself in the BIOS and save a fair bit of money.
Installation is super easy (as with all RAM), just slot it in the correct slot and hey presto, it's done!
The lifetime warranty is a much welcomed edition, although I haven't heard any reports of a single one of these sticks going wrong! I've had mine in for around 12 months now, and they're still going strong, despite daily (and rather punishing) use.
Definitely a must buy!
I purchased this monitor on a bit of an impulse, after seeing how beautiful it looked at my local Comet showroom (I know, it's stupid to buy a monitor based on looks). But, did my gamble pay off?
This is a seriously good monitor, and perfect for everything ranging from spreadsheet work (The 1680x1050 resolution allows you to have several spreadsheets open at once), to high spec gaming. Crysis looks particularly beautiful in high resolution glory.
The refresh time (2ms) is very good indeed, one of the lowest around. This means no "ghosting" in games, which is especially beneficial in fast paced games such as racing/first person shooters.
The gloss black finish is very nice, but attracts dust VERY quickly, and needs to be cleaned several times per week. However, when clean the monitor really does look superb.
The inclusion of both a DVI and a VGA input was a welcome bonus, as this means it can be used with both older and newer graphics cards. Be warned though, if you plan to do any gaming on this screen, you will need a high end graphics card to cope with the resolution.
The only downside I found was that my unit had 2 dead pixels, right next to each other. This isn't noticeable until the screen goes dark, where these 2 red dots stand out very clearly. Unfortunately Comet nor Samsung would let me return the unit for this, so I am stuck with them.
The main downside was the lack of included speakers, which was a little annoying as I didn't have any around. A cheaper pair can be got for about £3 though if you aren't to fussed about quality, so not great loss here.
I bought this graphics card the day after it was launched, and I must say, it was rather pricey. £380, over half of what my ENTIRE PC build cost me.
But the main question, was it worth it?
Well at the times, YES, it most certainly was. This could could play anything that was out (assuming the rest of your rig is up to scratch), and even had Direct X 10.
The key here is that I wrote that paragraph in the past tense. What was once amazing is now almost redundant.
For starters, you can now get more powerful cards cheaper than this (8800GT), which is also smaller (This card was hard to fit in a large PC case, and took up 2 PCI slots), and has a lower power consumption.
Also, the newer cards (The 9 series) have DX10.1 support, something which this card lacks. I guess that's the price you pay for getting the first generation of something though.
I don't regret buying the card, it was amazing at the time, and still is pretty good, but there are much better alternatives out there, and at a fraction of the price.
STAY AWAY! Buy it now and you are WASTING YOUR MONEY!
The iPod is undeniably the king of the MP3 player world, but are they really as good as people make them out to be?
Well, in the case of the 80GB classic, yes and no.
- The sound quality is very, very good
- It is exceptionally easy to use
- The ability to have podcasts is a nice touch
- Some of the games from the iTunes store aren't actually too bad
- It looks pretty damn cool I must say
But that's where the positives end, and there are also many negatives to the iPod. It's not the fantastic machine Apple make it out to be. Why? Well:
- The most annoying thing is being tied to iTunes, that's just annoying, and the software is very buggy.
- Tracks have to be in MP3 or AAC format, which means reformatting all my WMA tracks. Not fun......
- The screen scratches so easily, and ruins the viewing experience
- The aluminium back scratches incredibly easily, mine is a mess now, it looks terrible and this alone has really put me off buying another iPod.
- It crashes. A LOT. Not acceptable for a £150 product
- The repair costs from Apple are obscene (Over £50 just for a new battery!).
As nice as the iPod is, it has too many flaws pulling it down. I personally would recommend another, cheaper alternative where you aren't paying for the "Street Cred" of the Apple brand, and one that doesn't tie you in to one piece of software. Sony and Creative players spring to mind here.
These Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones really are at the top end of the market in terms of sound quality. I've owned a pair for around 6 months now, using them primarily for music production, and they are ideally suited to the job in hand.
They are excellent at blocking outside noise, although I did find that leaking sound was an issue at times, which was a little annoying considering I paid £90 for these.
These are by far the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn, and by a long way to. Most headphones (particularly "In Ear" ones) really start to hurt me after an hour or so, but I had these on for my ENTIRE flight from Manchester to Las Vegas, all 10 hours, and my ears felt fine afterwords. They are exceptionally comfortable.
The sound quality is superb from these headphones, the bass is clear and doesn't distort, even at high volumes, the trebles are crisp, and again do not distort, and the mids are perfect.
The coiled cable is excellent as it prevents the cable from being tangled, so no spending ages just trying to untangle it before getting to listen to anything.
The one downside to the design I found was that although the headband is flexible, even on the shortest setting they would fall of my head, particularly if I was using these whilst on the drum kit.
So in conclusion, fantastic sound quality, excellent comfort (although some other reviewers do not seem to agree), and well worth the price. However, the sound leaking and the fact that they occasionally fall off your head bring them down from 5 stars to 4. Still, well worth a purchase, especially for audiophiles.