Lenovo Thinkpad W520 Review

I’ve been using Thinkpads since since the T32 model was released. And since then I have owned a T41p, T60, T61p, R61, and now the W520.  Before getting the W520 I was looking for a powerful laptop to consolidate my old desktop and laptop. So I had to find one that was not only powerful but it had to be portable as well. After several weeks of reading reviews and hands-on demoing I pulled the trigger picked up the W520.

My W520 Specs:

CPU: Intel Core i7 2720QM 2.2Ghz
Video: Nvidia Quadro 2000m 2GB DDR3
Screen: 15.6 FHD (1920 x 1080) LED
Memory: 16GB 10600 DDR3
Storage: 320 GB 7200
Weight: 5.75 lbs

Anyone who is familiar with the Thinkpad brand knows that it’s all about business, but in my opinion the matte black and minimalist design is pretty sexy and a joy to use. But underneath all that no nonsense facade is some serious hardware. With the new Core i7 processor and the Nvidia Quadro 2000m it is a CAD and photo-video editor’s dream machine. Editing pictures on Photoshop and HD videos on Adobe Premiere CS5.5 was effortless. If you’re into encoding videos I ran a VOB to MP4 file in High Profile on Handbrake and the W520 churned it out like nobody’s business at well over 100fps.  If you’re into gaming the Quadro 2000m is more than enough to handle your most demanding games. Keep in mind the Quadro card is optimize for CAD and application that can take advantage of Nvidia’s CUDA.  I ran GRID at max resolution and settings without any hiccups. I don’t play video games much but if this Thinkpad can run that game silky smooth I’m sure it’ll handle whatever you throw at it.

With all that hardware one would think the battery life is abysmal, but it’s quite the opposite. Since the W520 utilizes Nvidia’s Optimus technology the system will switch between the integrated and discrete graphics. This seriously saves battery life. With my experience I was able to squeeze out a little over 7 and a half hours with web browsing, YouTubing, and RDPing before the system hit 5% battery life. The W520 will use the integrated graphics until you use an application that requires the additional horsepower of the discrete graphics. You also get the option to have the application choose which graphics card.  In addition, there’s a BIOS setting that will force the use of either graphics card exclusively.  Either way you get plenty of choices on how you use it.

As an IT Admin I spec’d out my Thinkpad with 16GB of RAM.  Being able to virtually run a small Active Directory domain environment with a database server is invaluable. This Thinkpad can hold up to four RAM modules; two on the bottom of the system and two right underneath the keyboard. If you want, the system can go up to 32GB of RAM if you’re willing to dish out that kind of cash.

With over a week of use on this system I’m convince that the W520 is the best all-around laptop to date. Anyone looking for a powerful mobile workstation with great battery life then look no further. The W520 is the machine for you.


Amazing Thinkpad Keyboard
Decent battery life
Very Powerful
Vibrant screen
Competitive Price

Giant power adapter
No option for Blue-ray drive
No Ultrabay battery option
Pre-installed bloatware

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Playbook Review

Now that I’ve had a full week with the Blackberry Playbook in my hands I must say it has been a very interesting experience.  The Playbook is Research In Motion’s (maker of Blackberry) foray in the tablet market. Unlike the popular iPad it is a 7 inch device and it is marketed as the first “Professional” tablet because adding “professional” makes it sound so much cooler.  I’ve been anticipating this Playbook for over six months, and as a fan of their phones I had high expectations for it. So did it live up to the hype?


First, lets look at the hardware. The Playbook is solidly built. If you take away the Blackberry logo from it you may mistaken it for a device that could have been built by Apple. There’s a slight heft to the device and seems to weigh more than it looks which adds that solid feel to it.  The 7 inch form factors usefulness is subjective and depends on how you use your device. If you like to carry your tablet with you everywhere then this form factor is hands-down the best choice. If you’re a media junkie the Playbook will satisfy your needs; visually and auditory.  The Playbook’s screen is amazing. With a 1024×600 resolution jammed into a 7″ screen it packs quite a bit of pixels that makes pictures and videos look very sharp and crisp. As for the speakers they’re perfectly placed on each side of the screen to give that stereo sound. When it comes to sound quality the Playbook speakers have no competition in this department in the tablet world, at least not yet.

Many reviewers out there and people on the forums have complained about the power button being too flushed to be usable. The power button on my Playbook works great and I can hit it every time to turn off the screen. I haven’t had a problems with it. Maybe there’s a bad batch that are giving some of these owners headaches.

Battery Life

According to RIM, the battery should last around 8-10 hours. From my personal experience 7-8 hours is more likely the norm. That’s decent and is average compared to other tablets. And like any other devices watching videos and listening to music can quickly drain it. Fortunately for Playbook owners, the device comes with a plug-in charger that can recharge your Playbook pretty quick. For me it seems like the included charger charges my Playbook 2-3 times faster than using my Blackberry phone charger or when connected to a computer with the micro USB cable. It’s most likely due to the higher amperage in the Playbook charger.

Web Browsing

The Playbook is touted to have the best web browsing experience, and my conclusion to that statement is unfortunately “No”. It’s better in some areas and not so much in others. The Playbook supports Adobe Flash right out of the box, so now those who are looking to watch flash videos on your tablet you now have an option that is not an Android device. One of my favorite websites to watch videos is South Park Studios. You can watch all your favorite South Park episodes right from the browser. The downside of having flash is you’ll also have to deal with the ads made with Flash. These ads can sometime slow down your browser, but for me its not much of a difference to be of any concern. But you have the option to disable flash quickly from the settings in the browser.

There are a few annoying glitches with the browser. Some times when scrolling through pages with Flash Ads the Playbook can’t distinguish scrolling from actually clicking on the Flash ads. The browser will inadvertently open a new tab from that Flash ad. Another annoying part of the browser is its Bookmarking. You’re unable to edit or manage the bookmarks. Basically, you just add the bookmark and the browser will save it randomly to your list. You can’t rename it or organize it. The browser also lacks the ability to automatically scroll to the top of a long webpage where as the iPad can by simply tapping the top of the screen. So RIM, “best web experience?” Fix these little glitches then we’ll talk.

OS and User Interface

The Playbook uses a brand spanking new OS from QNX. This OS also happens to be the future of RIM as it will also be used in their upcoming phones. The Playbook OS is liquid smooth and rock solid. The only time I had to reboot the device was when I was updating the OS. What makes the Playbook fun and efficient is its bezel gestures. The swipes to close an app, to switch to an app, go to the home screen, to bring up the contextual menus/options, and swipe to turn on the screen is very intuitive. It’s without a doubt the best feature of the Playbook. What supplements that awesome feature is the Playbook’s multitasking abilities. Having multiple apps and tasks running in the background gives your piece of mind that its doing what it’s suppose to do and when you’re doing other stuff. Some times I find myself just swiping between apps just for fun and swiping back to the home menu to see if I can load any other apps. It goes to show that the QNX OS is powerful and efficient. I can’t wait for it to be on RIMs phones.

Apps, Apps, Apps

One of the big negatives for the Playbook is the lack of Apps in their AppWorld store. One could argue that compared to the initial release of other tablets they didn’t have as many as well, and that the Playbook has more apps than the other tablets for their initial releases. For typical users, they’re not going to care. It’s like a car manufacture releasing a new model that doesn’t have airbags, air conditioning, AM/FM radio, power steering, and power windows then argue that when the Ford Model T was release it didn’t have those features either. RIM really dropped the ball on this one. They haven’t even released a Native Developers Kit for the Playbook. Most developers now are just porting over Adobe Air apps which aren’t all that great.  Apple has shown that having high quality apps are essential to the usability of the tablet. RIM is banking on their browser to pick up the slack on this one until their NDK is released, and they better do it soon. People who are trying the Playbook and looking to switch will look for their favorite apps, and if its not there they’ll go elsewhere that has it.

Blackberry Bridge

Some of you maybe shocked that the Playbook doesn’t come with a native Email client or calendar (RIM promised those natives apps will be coming soon). RIM expects you to get those features by connecting your Playbook with your Blackberry phone, they assume if you bought a Playbook you’ll have a Blackberry phone as well. Then again, if you don’t, RIM expects you to use their “awesome” web browser for access. The Playbook as a feature called Blackberry Bridge. But you need to install a simple app on your Blackberry phone where you’ll then setup a connection with the Playbook. It uses a secure Bluetooth connection where it allows your Playbook to act like a window that can peer into your emails and calendar on your phone, and at that point your Playbook will seemingly feel as though you have a native email and calendar app, which in fact you don’t. If you lose your phone or get far enough from your phone the Bridge feature will be disabled until they can re-establish that connection, but in fairness re-establishing the connection is seamless and transparent. It’ll automatically connects once you’re phone is close enough. But there’s a feature that I think would be a game changer, if RIM can actually get it to work, called the Bridge Browser. It’s a dedicated browser that can be used to access the internet using your Blackberry phone’s cellular connection. The feature is free, it uses your existing phone’s data plan, and doesn’t require a seperate tethering plan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as it should.

At this time, AT&T has not approved the Blackberry Bridge App for their Blackberry phones, but there’s a workaround for getting the app HERE.


The Out-of-box-experience is more or less typical. You don’t need to connect it to your computer to get it going unlike the iPad which requires iTunes to activate it, but the Playbook does need a Wifi connection. Without one you’re not going anywhere pass the setup process. So those who rushed out to get the Playbook quickly realized that setting it up in the car on the way home wasn’t possible.

With the Playbook you can manage the data backups with the Blackberry Desktop Manager. You can also use it to sync up with your iTunes media on your computer. What’s great is that you also have the option to just use the drag-and-drop function to copy over your media to the Playbook. But there’s a catch. When you plug your Playbook into your computer your system will install a driver and set the Playbook as a network drive rather than an external drive like with your Blackberry phones or USB flash drive. So if you’re using a restricted computer that prevents you from install drivers you many not get access to your Playbook.

My Verdict

The Playbook on it’s own will have a hard time convincing it’s a worthy competitor to the existing tablets out there. But coupled with a Blackberry phone the tide changes dramatically. And if RIM can get the Bridge Browser to work it will even turn the tide even more. As for the Apps, it’ll come, and the minor glitches will be fixed with patches and updates. I love the 7″ size of this tablet and I’m sure those who are always on-the-go will love it too. I think if Apple made a 7 – 8″ iPad it’ll probably end up being more popular than its 10″ version. When it comes to the build and hardware RIM has got it spot on, but the software is where they need to do some more work.

I’m confident that RIM will get the Playbook where it needs to be as they have already pushed out several updates, its too bad they couldn’t do it on release day.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

NOTE: With the right updates from RIM an 8 out of 10 is very possible.

Blackberry Torch 9800 Review

I’ve been using the device for a solid 6 days.  And I must say this device is the best Blackberry yet.  When I initially got the device I had to get use the the new OS 6. I was so use to the previous OS that my Blackberry reflexes had me pressing the wrong things on the phone. As I setup most of my apps and all of my settings on the phone it began to shine. Let’s break the device down and see what we have.

Screen size and quality:
The screen has a standard resolution of 480 x 360. By comparison with the new iPhone and new Android devices it is very underwhelming. But it’s adequate for what typical Blackberry users do; email, text messaging, and casual web browsing. The 3.2 in screen is just big enough for us Blackberry users, but I wish the resolution was a tad bit higher especially when we want more data on the screen. When it comes to media such as video the Torch loses by a mile against the iPhone 4 and the series of brand new Android devices (Droid X, Droid 2, Samsung Captivate). Their screens are bright and as sharp as ever and it’s one area where I’m envious and wish the Torch had. The colors for the Torch tend to be a slightly washed out, but it’s brightness makes it very visible in bright rooms or outdoor environments. But before you trash the low res of the phone keep in mind that the Torch has a higher resolution and pixel density than the previous generation of iPhones which is only 480 x 320.

The camera is quite good. At 5mp it takes decent pictures and the LED flash is sufficient for taking pictures in dark or low lit areas. One of the could-be-better areas is video recording. Most newer phones are able to record at 720p, whereas the Torch can only do 640 x 480. So if you’re looking to record some decent family videos you’re still going to need to carry a seperate HD cam. I’m sure it’s not hard for RIM to implement HD recording. It’s probably due to the underpowered CPU that runs the phone (more on that later.)

OS 6:
One of the reason to get the new Blackberry is that it’s the first model to come with the brand new Blackberry OS 6. This new OS tries to simplifies access to apps and settings. What RIM really wanted to is to reduce the amount of searching for commonly used settings and options. So with OS 6 many of the apps and options can be access with much fewer clicks and taps. The best feature for OS 6 is how they combine the touch and keyboard usage of the phone. You can use the phone entirely based on the keyboard and trackpad or just from the touchscreen. You can forgo all the touch screen stuff and still be productive. But the magic is when you combine the physical keyboard with the touch features. Keyboard shortcuts plus touchscreen access makes working on the Torch much more effiecient and quicker. If you thought you were fast on your old Blackberries, then you should get your hands on this device. Granted there is a little learning curve for this new OS, but experienced BB users will feel right at home. New BB users may get frusturated and confused at times, but it’s all part of the learning process for any new device.

One of the downfalls of the OS 6 is its fixed pages. You get 5 pages; All, Frequent, Media, Downloads, and Favorites. These pages can’t be deleted and there’s no way of creating your own custom ones. I’m a minimalist and I like to hide and delete all the stuff I don’t need and just have shortcuts for all my apps and tasks. So having a bunch of those pages that I don’t use is an eye sore and inefficient use of space.

Build Quality:
I’m actually on my second Blackberry Torch. My previous one had the front button plate coming off. The top part of the device (the screen) wiggled up and down slightly which made a ‘clacking’ sound when I typed on the screen. After replacing the phone the button plate is still on and there is no clacking noise at all. My old Torch may have been from a bad manufacturing batch. Who knows?  So far the replaced device is great. The sliding mechanism is solid and it’s as good as any sliding phone can get. There’s no looseness or play present when the device is opened or closed. But there’s one thing that stands out from previous Blackberries is that the device is heavy for its size. It weighs in at 5.7 ounces. By comparison the iPhone 4 is 4.8 ounces. You can definitely feel the heft of the Torch in your hand, and it’s one thing to be careful of when weilding the phone in your palm, ala Ari Gold-style, you need to make sure you keep a good grip on it otherwise it can be a dangerous projectile. The weight of the device can go both ways, as for me it adds more of the industrial feel to it and for others it can feel like a bulky phone.

 Web Browsing:
The other reason to get this phone is that it comes with RIM’s newest browser based on Webkit. It’s a million times better than their previous browser and it was the one thing that RIM was seriously lacking on their phones. The new browser works similar to Apple’s Safari and Android’s browser. You can pinch zoom in and out, scroll up and down, and pan webpages. Their tabbed browser feature is equally just as amazing. It’s simple and easy to use.

Final Thoughts:
Like I said before, there will be a learning curve because of the new OS. BB veterans will pick it up quickly, but new users will need some time to get acclimated to the layout and UI. The device uses the same 624 Mhz processor as with the 9700 model. The only only internal components that are different is that it has double the internal memory and a 5 MP camera. I would have expected RIM to throw in a much more powerful CPU, but they manage to use their existing chip to power their latest device. Even with all the new features and higher requirements of OS 6 the Torch runs pretty smooth. But it’s not to say that it runs smoothly all the time. There is some noticeble lag, but they aren’t show stoppers. The lag appears depending on what you’re doing with your phone and how many processes and apps are running in the background. The Torch is a great device if you’re looking to upgrade. If you want the Blackberry experience but with a better browser then the Torch is it. But if web browsing is not important to you than upgrading is not nesecessary. I think if you currently have a 9700 or a 9650 getting the Torch will enhance your experience slightly. It’s the browser where you’ll be getting the most of it. So if you’re still running a BB that still has a trackball then the Torch is a worthy upgrade for anyone. If you’re looking for media and gaming focused device than the iPhone or an Android would fit the bill.  The Blackberry is hands down best in handling text messages and emails. It’s a communication driven device and that’s what the Blackberry known for.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

OS 6 – good use of keyboard and touch
Efficient interface for accessing apps and settings
Physical keyboard
Webkit browser

Slight lag during usage
Unable to change/delete or add homepages
Underwhelming screen resolution and quality

Samsung Captivate Review

AT&T just released their newest Android phone, the Samsung Captivate. This device is undoubtably Big Blue’s biggest and baddest Android phone. The Captivate sports some amazing specs for a phone: 4in Super AMOLED screen, 1Ghz Hummingbird cpu, 512MB of RAM, Bluetooth 3.0, 720p video recording and 16GB of internal memory. Compared to other newly released phones such as the Droid X and Evo 4G the Captivate is a contender as one of the better phones running Google’s OS.

Coming from the HTC Aria the Captivate is much larger. Its almost impossible to discretely hold the cell phone in your hand or placing it on a table at meeing. It’s a head turner. As big as it is, it’s not uncomfortable to hold. The phone is thin and not too heavy and it fits in pant pockets easily. As for the screen, I think it’s a great size for internet browsing and texting in landscape mode. Small screens such as the HTC Aria makes it difficult to comfortably type unless your in landscape mode. The same goes with other phones such as the iPhone. When I had one I wish it was a tad bit bigger.

The Super AMOLED is amazing. Comparing the Captivate to iPhone 4 at an AT&T store I almost couldn’t tell the difference in quality. But the iPhone does edge the Captivate in overall quality as the iPhone has higher pixel density and the colors are a little more brighter. The Captivate has a slightly bluish tint to it, but it’s hardly noticable. To the average user they will not notice any difference at all, in fact some may say the Super AMOLED looks better than the iPhone since the Captivate contrast ratio is 50,000:1 where as the iPhone 4 is only 800:1 which aids viewablity in outdoor environments.

I was hoping Samsung and AT&T delivered the phone with the latest Android version, Froyo 2.2, but instead it comes with Eclair 2.1. There are rumors about updates being released in August or September, but I’m not holding my breath. Like other manufacturers, Samsung uses their own UI overlay on top of Android’s stock UI. Samsung’s Touchwiz 3.0 is not bad, but it’s not as good as HTC’s Sense UI. It’s too bad Samsung doesn’t allow the user to turn off their overlay and just use Google’s default one, but there is an option. You can always download other UIs from the Android Market. Launchpro is a great one. I’ve been using it and I must say its much better than Samsung’s and HTC’s. It’s currently in beta and the lack of widgets and themes may turn some off to it, but development for it is going strong and a paid version will be released soon if not already. Calls are clear and haven’t lost a call yet even in low reception areas. The speakers are loud, but they’re located on the back of the phone, so if you place the phone on its back it can muffle the audio. But there is one gripe I have with this phone. The backlight of the softkeys located at the bottom turns off within a few seconds. If you’re using the phone in the dark it makes it hard to see where those keys are located.

The overall usability of the phone is great. There are a few things that hold it back from being fantastic. Such as AT&T’s and Samsung’s lockdown on its software defeating the purpose of having an open phone. The lack of a camera flash can also be a deal breaker for some. It’s hard to see why any manufacturer would make a phone without one. But one thing is for sure, the Captivate is the best Android phone for AT&T and if you can overlook some of the minor annoyances it may be the best Android phone on the market.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

Fast and smooth UI
Large comfortable AMOLED screen
Record 720p video
Google services integration

No camera flash
Softkey backlight dims too quickly
No sideloading of apps
Samsung Touchwiz needs to be more polished

GigaWorks T20 Review

I have been  using Creative Linspire 2.1 Slim 2700 for several years. They’re a great set for the price (about $90) and have served my media and gaming sessions well, but I have decided to get new speakers because of my personal project to de-clutter my office.  To keep everything to a minimum and maintain all the important apsects of my daily computing I had to consolidate my gear. Moving from a 2.1 speaker system to just a standard 2-speaker system was one those tasks.

Switching from the Linspire Slim to these Gigworks speakers made a big difference in terms of the amount of floor space and desktop space they take up. The GigaWorks T20 is a basic 2-speaker system whereas the Linspire Slim is 2.1 (I would consider it to be a 3.1 as the Linspire Slim comes with two satellite speakers, a subwoofer, and a volume-dial).  The Gigworks T20 are just two massive desktop speakers, but the interesting bit is that even though these two speakers are big they barely take up any more desktop space than the Slims satellite speakers. The difference is that the GigaWorks doesn’t have a seperate volume dial and a subwoofer and that extra space is what counts (all the bass, treble, and volume controls are located on the right speaker). Not only did I gain a few square inches of desktop space and a square foot of floor space I also have less wires running around.

The biggest surprise is how great these GigaWorks speakers sound. The sounds are full and crisp. The treble and bass are strong and clean. They make my old Linspire Slims sound like cheap $10 speakers. But this higher audio quality comes at a much higher price. At $100 it is an expensive 2-speaker system. But you get what you pay for.  Not only do these sound great the speakers are well-built and feels very solid. So if you’re in need of a new 2-speaker system that doesn’t take up too much space and have awesome audio quality the GigaWorks T20 is it. And if you have deep pockets you may also want to take a look at the T40, they are the ultra-premium version of the T20s. The only difference is the speakers are a much taller and probably sound more awesome.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Great sound
No subwoofer or seperate volume controls
Looks great

Expensive (about $100)

HTC Aria Review

I got an HTC Aria earlier this week and have been using it full time ever since. This is my first Android device.  I’ve got to play with other Android devices on Verizon and Sprint, so I was able to compare how it works to the other Android devices on the market.  The HTC Aria is a sleek looking touch device. The device is as thin as an iPhone 3G(s) but shorter and narrower. It feels great in the hand and the heft to it makes it feel very solid, but it’s small size can make it difficult to type and text when in portrait mode. Landscape mode is best for typing on this slim phone. The soft coated paint on the back makes the device feels like it’s already in a case and the best part it doesn’t attract dust and lint. The battery life is decent. I can get a full workday’s use out of it, but don’t expect it to go a full 24 hours without charging.

What surprised me about the phone is the quickness of it. Sliding through the menus and opening apps were quick and responsive. The Aria uses HTC’s Sense UI and it adds a lot of flair to the interface. Those who have used other HTC Android phones will feel right at home with it. As my first Android it took me awhile to get use to all the different menus and the entire interface. Coming from the iPhone and Blackberry this Android device is a breath of fresh air in a market where the dominant OSes are getting stagnant.

With Android all your Google contacts, emails, and calendar are easily synced up leaving one the think why Apple is charging for MobileMe and why RIM doesn’t have anything similar. If you’re a Google Voice user then Andriod is a must-have. It intergrates seamlessly with your phone and there’s no need to fiddle around with an app or use a web browser.  Android allows you to customize what you want to display on your phone and how to display it. The widget feature is what makes it possible.  The Android Market is not as extensive as Apple’s (Who is?) but it still has a boat load of apps. One thing that’s holding the Aria back is AT&T. They’ve locked down the device so apps can only be install by the Android Market. It really defeats the purpose of an open-ended device. But for the most part people won’t be bothered by it, it’s only the power users who want the ability to side-load apps onto their phone.

There are a million comparisons I can make with the iPhone and Blackberry and what I can say is that each of those devices do well in certain categories and poorly on others, and Android is no exception. There are things that Android definitely does better than the iPhone and Blackberry and there are some areas that it needs some more polishing, but the road ahead is very bright. If you’re stuck on AT&T and looking for a non-iPhone touch device the HTC Aria can easily fit the bill. But if you’re not bound to a particular network you have plenty of Android options such as the upcoming Droid 2, Droid X, and Sprint’s EVO.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Google services integration
Snappy performance
Solid fit and finish
Responsive capacitive screen

Can’t side-load apps
Comes with Android 2.1 (Hopefully it gets Froyo 2.2 soon)
Can be too narrow for typing
Optical track pad is useless
No flash for camera

D-Link DNS-323 NAS Review

Believe it or not this is my first NAS device. I’ve used many different kinds for work but never really bothered buying one for myself. My previous storage methods were with several USB external hard drives and a server with multiple drives. They all have been working fine and luckily they haven’t failed on me. The issue with my current setup is the amount of space they take up and the amount of power it consumes.

I needed an efficient and effective way of consolidating my storage. With over 800 GB of music, movies, pictures, and files the D-Link DNS-323 fits the bill. The DNS-323 is a 3 year old model and its one of the more popular NAS solutions available. This device is a 2-bay enclosure and the drives are sold separately. The DNS-323 supports RAID 1, 0, and JBOD. It can also be set up as an ftp server so you can access your files remotely.

The device can be used with one drive, but using two drives is best if you want to take advantage of RAID. When paired with Western Digital Green drives it will keep your NAS cool, quiet, and power consumption to a minimum.

What is RAID? It stands for redundant array of independent disks. The DNS-323 supports two types of RAID. RAID 0 is referred to stripping. It means data is written to both drives. Half of the data goes to one and the other half goes to the other drive. When data is being accessed both drives can send each half of the data so it provides better read performance compared to using just a single drive. The draw back of RAID 0 is that if one drive fails all your data is hosed.

RAID 1 is referred to mirroring. Data is written to both drives since the drive” mirror” each other. In the case with the DNS-323 RAID 1 provides the same read performance as RAID 0, but at the cost of reducing the storage capacity by half. This setup is best (and recommended) if you require data protection. Even if one drive fails you can still access your data. When you replace the failed drive the NAS can rebuilt the new drive automatically to ensure your RAID 1 configuration.

JBOD stands for “just a bunch of disks.” Each manufactures have different meanings for it. JBOD can be referred to having separate independent drives that can be visible from the NAS or it can be represented as one volume where the storage is spanned across the two drives. As for the DNS-323 it uses the latter meaning. Data is written to the first drive until it is full then data will be written to the send drive. The difference between JBOD and RAID 0 is that JBOD read performance is not as fast, and if one drive fails in a JBOD setup only data on that drive is lost.

My current setup consist of 2 x 2TB WD Green drives with a RAID 1 configuration. My laptop has a mapped drive to the NAS with certain folders set for offline syncing. It works great and does what I need it to do. This device supports a gigabit connection and if you’re looking to transfer a large amount of files be sure you’re network supports it. Those looking for a NAS solution should check out this D-Link DNS-323. It’s inexpensive and easy to setup. It supports the large 2 TB drives that are available and it’s firmware has been updated frequently to add better stability and more features. Since the device is popular there are a ton of end-user support through official and unofficial forums.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Support 1000Mbps networks
Easy to use Admin interface
Small and quiet design

User and Groups creation and network access setup is archaic
RAID 0 & 1 vs JBOD read performace difference is minimal
Can’t be used as an external (USB) disk drive. (But there are available hacks to allow it)

iPad Review

The iPad is a great looking piece of hardware, and there’s no doubt that Apple has pushed the tablet onto consumer minds. Now everyone and their grandmother is trying to push out a tablet device to compete with it.  

For those who haven’t gotten their hands on an iPad it’s basically an oversized iPod Touch. Besides its size the device has a larger resolution and a faster processor that makes navigating and browsing the internet on it very smooth. There really isn’t a solid reason to go out an buy one if you already have an iPhone or iPod Touch. The iPad is meant for content consumption rather than content creation. If you’re a news and media junkie like me then the iPad is a great device. Don’t expect the iPad to replace you laptop or even your netbook. Typing a lengthy email or a document on this tablet is not as comfortable as one might think.

I bought the iPad knowing what it was capable and incapable of doing. I knew exactly what I was going to do with it when I got it; play with my iPhone apps, casual web browsing, Netflix, and checking personal/work email. I have some friends who bought an iPad then tried to find a way to use it only ended up returning it. Those buying the device based on hype and no knowledge about it will no doubt have buyer’s remorse. Throwing $600+ at a gadget you don’t know what you want to do with it is idiotic. If you can’t see yourself using it regularly then just skip it.

One of the few disappointments with the iPad is not the device itself, but rather the apps. If you bought an app on the iPhone or iPod Touch it will work with your iPad, but if you want the app that supports the higher resolution you’ll have to pay full price. Some of the iPad version of apps are just an upscaled in resolution, no additional content, no additional function and I can’t justify paying full price for an app you already have. You can still use your iPhone/iPod Touch apps but you’ll have to settle for a lower res version which looks very pixelated. Some developers have apps that support both, and the apps automatically scale to the device you have. In the iPad app store there is a designation on the app that shows that is supports both the devices. These are the apps I tend to download and buy. Some of the iPad specific apps are fantastic. The developers really took advantage of the additional pixels and crammed as much content as they could on that screen. I can definitely see it being used as a teaching/studying tool. The iPad is still relatively new and great apps for it is far and few in between at least for the moment.

At the D8 Conference this week Steve Jobs stated that the tablets are like cars and desktops/laptops are like trucks. They’ll always be around, but not many will use them. I have to disagree. I would compare tablets to motorcycles and desktops/laptops to cars and trucks. Your first computing device will most likely be a desktop/laptop because, like a car, it’s more utilitarian. And like the iPad, motorcycles are cool and fun to try and it’s not very comfortable on long rides or very useful when you need to carry a load or even a light load. With Apple’s help the tablet is here to stay, but whether it’ll be mainstream only time will tell.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

Great form factor and build quality
Decent battery life (9-10 hours)
Can access all your iPhone/iPod Touch apps
Simple and familiar UI

No Adobe Flash support
No Camera
No Multitasking
Very expensive

Blackberry Bold 9700 Review


RIM’s newest device is the Blackberry Bold 9700 and like many other reviews out there that says it’s the best Blackberry device so far I would definitely agree. The 9700’s form factor is takes after the Curve design. When held in my hands it feels like my old 8310. And prior to my Bold 9000 the Curve 8310 was my favorite Blackberry. It was small, well-built, and it was a Blackberry.

Compared to the Bold 9000 the 9700 feels much smaller. For me, I was so use to the bigger size of the original Bold that when using the 9700 it felt cramped and difficult to type fast. It took me less than a day to adjust by then I was typing just as fast as I was when using the 9000. People with larger hands they will probably prefer the size of the original Bold.

RIM is getting rid of the their trackball and has replaced it with a trackpad. The pad is very similar to the touchpad found on laptops. It sense the movement of your finger as you drag it across the black square pad. It’s very sensitive on the 9700 and it takes some time to getting use to. Anyone who has been using Blackberry’s with the trackball has experienced it getting stuck which could be annoying and or frustrating at times. With the trackpad there are no moving parts and no reason for your courser to get stuck.

Other upgraded features of the 9700 includes a better camera, 3.2mp camera with auto focus, and an increase in internal memory. The 9700 has 256mb whereas the 9000 has 128. With the all the application on my old Bold I would have less than 20mb of available space at all times. And when I open several apps at the same time I get that dreaded spinning  clock. With the 9700 I have plenty of space for my apps and I haven’t experienced any slowness yet. If there’s one thing that RIM can improve on their products is to add more RAM to their devices. It doesn’t require anymore R&D costs. Just up the damn memory. It’s a no brainer. I think all new Blackberrys should come with at least 1GB of memory. Upping the 9700 to 256 is a welcome upgrade, but I wish they would have made a more significant upgrade.

If you’ve used a Blackberry before then you can rest assure the rest of the device is practically the same. With 5.0 OS there are many GUI enhancement but nothing revolutionary. Email and messaging is rock solid as always. Calling with the phone is clear and crisp, and it’s media features are more than enough to get by.  Web browsing is unfortunately the same. It’s one of the few things that I wish RIM would improve. Phones like the iPhone, Palm Pre, and those Android devices are years ahead in terms of web browsing. I hope RIM has something up it’s sleeve for web browsing otherwise it’ll get left behind in the case of cell phone dominance, and it’ll be a shame if it was because they neglected their web browser.

If you’re thinking upgrading from an old Curve then the answer is simple. Just do it. The 9700 is better in every single way. But if you’re coming from the old Bold, then you might want to consider its smaller size. Also if you constantly have a trackball that get stuck then the 9700 will solve it. Or if you run multiple apps and find yourself running near empty on your memory the 9700 has double the capacity for your apps. Currently AT&T and T-Mobile are the only carriers in the US that has the 9700, so go to your local store and give it a test run and see how you like it. It won’t disappoint.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

More internal memory
Smaller form factor
Long lasting battery
Comes with 2GB MicroSD

Wish there was more internal memory
Uses MicroUSB, old MiniUSB are now useless

Samsung BD-P1600 Review


Over the Thanksgiving break I had the chance to do a little shopping and picked up the Samsung BD-P1600. This little box is essentially a Blu-ray player with a network connection that allows you to stream Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, and other streaming services. Some of the streaming services are free and some are premium paid content.

The BD-P1600 is the lower-end model of the three that are currently available (BD-P3600 and BD-P4600). The Samsung BD-P1600 is pretty cheap and I was able to pick one up at Fry’s Electronics for about $145. The main reason I got this was to replace my Xbox 360. I moved the Xbox out into the living room and the BD-P1600 was a good replacement for my Netflix/DVD player.

When I first turned on the box it asked me to upgrade the firmware, which I did. The upgrade took quite sometime. I would say about 40 minutes. I’ve been using it for a few days and all the functions it’s meant to do did so without any problems. The DVD up-conversion worked well and the Netflix, Youtube, and Pandora streamed as it would if you played it on a computer. The only thing I noticed is that the initial buffering time could be long. For Netflix it took about 30 to 40 seconds before it played.  Some users my get put off by the menu of the device. It’s just not user intuitive, but after playing with it for a while you’ll remember what each menu and selection does and you can breeze through what you need to do with a few presses of the buttons.

Anyone looking for a cheap Blu-ray player with Netflix capabilities this Samsung BD-P1600 maybe just the item for you.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Streams Netflix, Youtube, and Pandora
Supports Wifi
Good DVD up-conversion

Lengthy firmware upgrades
Non intuitive menus
Wifi dongle sold seperately
Long buffering times