Desktops Review

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Lenovo ThinkPad T60

By Cisco Cheng

For years, the Lenovo (formerly IBM) ThinkPad T series has been racking up our Editors’ Choice awards for business notebooks—and this year is no different. The ThinkPad T60 is Lenovo’s newest corporate dream machine. Not only has the addition of the latest Intel Core Duo technology increased the performance monumentally, but Lenovo integrates 3G wireless with Verizon’s EV-DO, so now you can get broadband access almost anywhere at any time you want.

The T60 comes in the traditional black, which may disappoint those who were anticipating a titanium cover like the one found on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m. In general, the design doesn’t deviate from that of its predecessor, the ThinkPad T43. The only subtle differences are the EV-DO antenna protruding from the right side of the screen and the base, which is now covered with magnesium alloy (while the cover still uses a titanium composite), making the T60 a very durable notebook.

The "Access IBM" blue button is now a "ThinkVantage" blue button, which accesses a critically acclaimed abundance of management utilities. The Alt key has shrunk by half to accommodate the addition of a Windows key, which can be combined with other keys for Microsoft Windows and Office shortcuts. The keyboard feels stiffer, but it’s still the best keyboard out there for typing. Lenovo’s TrackPoint technology is also the best in the business, and we prefer it over the touchpad, both of which are included. Our T60 review unit is on the heavy side, tipping the scales at 6.2 pounds. But the extra weight is mostly due to the 15-inch screen and the 9-cell battery, which sticks out about an inch from the back. The display’s resolution (1,400-by-1,050)is higher than that of the Z60t’s widescreen (1,280-by-768).

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Sony VAIO RB53 - P4 630 3 GHz

Reviewed by: Jason Compton
Edited by: Rich Brown

Sony VAIO VGC-RB53 Desktop PC (Intel Pentium 4 Processor 630 (H-T), 512 MB RAM, 200 GB Hard Drive, DVD+R Dbl Layer/DVD+/-RW Drive)

Sony's VAIO RB series features two configurable systems and a cluster of feature-set boxes, some bundled with monitors, others without. This series is notable because all of the systems come in midtower desktop cases and many can be powered by Windows Media Center 2005 Edition. They won't integrate seamlessly into your living room like machines with component-style cases, but with prices ranging from $590 for the VAIO RB49C (with Media Center added) to the $2,030 VAIO RB38G with a 19-inch LCD, the cost is low enough that almost anyone looking for a full-featured home-theater PC can get their hands on one.

You wouldn't want a VAIO RB series for gaming. The best video card you can get is the ATI Radeon 300, a budget card designed for only passable 3D graphics. And you'll need to look to the higher-end VAIO RA series for media-friendly dual-core CPUs. The VAIO RB series' 64-bit Intel processor is generally fast enough for most basic media-consumption tasks, though, so as long as you don't intend to get involved in a lot of content creation, the VAIO RB series is a competent, capable home-theater PC.

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Apple iMac G5

By Joel Santo Domingo

Apple iMac G5 Desktop with 20" MA064LL/A (2.1 GHz PowerPC G5, 512 MB RAM, 250 GB Hard Drive, SuperDrive)

The first two versions of the Apple iMac G5 were wonders of design and engineering, and the newest version continues on that same path. The newest 20-inch iMac G5 ($1,699 direct) adds a few features, including upgraded graphics and a slightly faster processor, while cutting the price by $100. On the whole, the iMac G5 (iSight) is an evolution of the design we first saw a year ago, and we consider it an improvement. The iMac G5 is a great desktop for Mac users whose needs go beyond simple Web browsing and e-mailing.

The iMac G5's appearance hasn't changed much from the previous version: Sharp-eyed users will notice the now-curved back panel, which makes the iMac seem more organic and less bricklike than the previous version. The power button has been moved from the back right to the back left, no doubt to prevent people from accidentally turning the iMac off when plugging in a cable. Speaking of cables, the USB, FireWire, and VGA/video adapter ports now run horizontally instead of vertically. And with the multibutton Apple Mighty Mouse now standard, the people switching from Microsoft Windows will finally be able to right-click and scroll with an Apple mouse.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

HP Pavilion d4100y

By Joel Santo Domingo

HP Pavilion Media Center a1350n Desktop PC (AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 4200+, 1 GB RAM,

HP's updated Pavilion d4100y ($2,968 direct, $2,538 without monitor) corrects one of the flaws we saw in the previous version we tested months ago, namely the HP Personal Media Drive slot. With the Personal Media Drive, the d4100y has virtually unlimited storage, no slouch, since this time the system came with a 400GB internal hard drive. The TV show completist (i.e. obsessive fan) is the ultimate user of the d4100y, since they can keep recording shows, downloading them, and archiving them on a combination of DVDs, internal hard drive space, and stored safely on HP Personal Media Drives.

Though the d4100y seems utilitarian on the outside, lacking much of the chromed flash and port-hiding front panel doors found on some of HP's recent Media Center offerings, the d4100y is all functional design, with exposed drive bays and I/O ports. A slot for HP Personal Media Drives fills one of the empty 5 1/4" drive bays, and our tested configuration came with a 160GB cartridge. The Personal Media Drive is a normal external 7,200 rpm USB 2.0 hard drive in an enclosure that facilitates easy docking in the Personal Media Drive bay.

With the 160GB Personal Media Drive, the d4100y has 560GB of total hard drive space, plenty to store video recorded by the twin TV tuners. There are also two empty hard drive bays, and plenty of unoccupied internal SATA ports for those drives. Which means that you can easily add up to 1TB of drive space. With all this drive space, you can hold all the information your household can generate, with room to spare. Music, digital Photos, and video can all sit on the d4100y, easily accessible over your home network. Add a couple of Media Extenders (like the upcoming Xbox360), and you can view everything but DVDs (thanks to DRM issues) over the network in other rooms.

Performance of the d4100y is virtually unchanged from the previous version: they both share the Pentium D 840 processor, 1GB of DDR2 memory, and 256MB nVidia GeForce 6800 graphics cards. It is a very good performer at everyday tasks, including recording and editing video. The dual core processor will ensure that a recording starting up in the background won't impact your photo editing or game playing session in the foreground. The d4100y's GeForce 6800 card ensures steady frame rates at 1,024 by 768 for Doom 3 and Splinter Cell, but high resolutions will give the system pauses and lags. That said, the d4100y is a capable system for the casual gamer.

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