Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Budget laptops: the processors behind the new breed

nvidia tegra x1

Architectural improvements by both Intel and AMD will ensure we continue to see increasingly powerful devices, but without increasing costs

Intel’s Atom processors were always intended to expand the potential of compact, low-cost PCs, but it was only with 2012’s Clover Trail platform that the processor really began to deliver on its promise. Today, Clover Trail’s successor, Bay Trail, brings us fully capable laptops at remarkably low prices.

That’s thanks to the underlying Silvermont architecture, launched in 2013, which represents a few firsts for the Atom line-up. For a start, it’s the first Atom processor to embrace the 22nm 3D Tri-Gate technology introduced in Intel’s mainstream Core line with 2012’s Ivy Bridge processors. What’s more, it’s Intel’s first low-power SoC (system on a chip) to have out-of-order execution (OoOE).

How Photoshop changed the world

How Photoshop changed the world

Adobe Photoshop has tweaked, brightened and enhanced our lives for 25 years. Adam Banks unmasks its many-layered reign.

It’s hard to believe there was no Photoshop before 1990. Its impact has since been magnified by the rise of digital photography and social media, and continues through an endless variety of rival products, but for a quarter of a century we’ve been living in the Photoshop age.

“Photoshop changed the ontology of the photograph,” said Caroline Bassett, professor of media and communications at the University of Sussex. “It revolutionised our sense of the relationship of the photographic image to the reality it remade. Before Photoshop, it was easier to believe a photograph captured the truth. After, we knew it was constructed. I think it’s the single most influential software package of the PC era.”

Does technology matter in the General Election?


Many of the issues facing the United Kingdom are underpinned by technology. Nicole Kobie reveals where the main three parties stand on key questions

Broadband, surveillance and online censorship are all important issues to the tech community - but they're unlikely to be the factors that any of us votes for in the General Election in May.

Instead, it will be the economy, immigration and the NHS that dominate, according to ComRes pollster Katharine Peacock, speaking at a meeting of the Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum (PICTFOR). Yet this doesn't mean technology is an irrelevance. As Peacock explained: “These three are important for technology... It underpins a wide range of issues.”

How Microsoft will make cash from its “free” OS

Microsoft free OS

If Microsoft won’t be charging for upgrades to Windows 10, and it's being bundled free with tablets, how will it keep the cash rolling in? Barry Collins investigates

It’s free on phones, on compact tablets, and now for those who already have Windows 7 or 8 installed on their PCs. Is Windows, as Microsoft’s chief operating officer was asked recently at the Credit Suisse Technology Conference, becoming a “loss leader”? Will it be given away for peanuts to lure people towards more lucrative products, such as Office 365?

Record classic TV & Film from the Web

old movies

Jane Hoskyn shows you where to find your old favourites online and how to save them for watching in comfort

Remember the first time you set the video to record a TV programme? VHS felt revolutionary (and a bit naughty) because it let you watch your favourite programmes when you wanted to, instead of when Auntie Beeb or ITV wanted you to. You no longer had to choose between going out or watching Doctor Who. Even better (or naughtier), you could watch it over and over again at your leisure.

Then the internet came along, with its streaming video services like YouTube and the BBC's iPlayer, and you could watch what you wanted, when you wanted, where you wanted. You could search for an old favourite on YouTube and there it was, as clear (well, as fuzzy) as it was in the comer of your parents' living room all those years ago.

Sort your messy files and folders

files and folders

Your PC is full of folders, photos, documents and other clutter. Barry Collins reveals free tools and tricks for bringing order to the mess

Duplicate photos, empty documents, long-abandoned folders and other clutter quickly turn a clean hard drive into a digital dump.

The space problem is especially pressing if you’re using a modern PC or laptop with an SSD (solid-state drive), because these drives are built for speed rather than storage. Alas, Windows (or File) Explorer isn’t as helpful as it might be when it comes to de-cluttering your files and folders, so here we’ll show you the best free third-party tools for keeping your hard drive and external drives in good working order.

Toshiba Kira 107

Toshiba Kira 107

A sleek and light laptop that's undergone a nip and tuck

The Kira 107 is an updated version of Toshiba’s excellent Kira 101 ultra-portable laptop (also known as the Kirabook). The 107 retains the same slender, sturdy and stylish metallic casing as its predecessor, but inside you’ll find one of Intel’s latest processors.

The dual-core Core i7 5500U runs at 2.4GHz and is paired with 8GB of memory, so it's certainly quick enough to be your main computer. That said, it’s only slightly faster than the previous-generation Core i7 processor in the Kira 101. More frustrating is the irritatingly loud processor cooling fan. Fiddling with Windows’ power options helped alleviate this somewhat, but it’s still a pain.

HP Colour LaserJet Pro M277

HP Colour LaserJet Pro M277

A small and well-designed colour printer that also scans, makes copies and sends faxes

HP’s Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw is a multi-function colour laser printer (MFP). Its basic functions include sending and receiving faxes, and making colour prints, scans or photocopies, but that’s just the start of things. Connect it to your network using either an Ethernet cable or the built-in Wi-Fi adapter, and you can share it with everyone at home. As expected for a modern MFP, it also supports a wide range of additional features, all of which are controlled using a colour touchscreen.

Asus ZenBook UX305

Asus ZenBook UX305

Long battery life and a thin, lightweight casing at a surprisingly reasonable price

The best ultra-portable laptops tend to be expensive - slender lightweight casings, large long-lasting batteries and power-efficient components don’t come cheap. This makes the relatively low price and high quality of the Asus ZenBook UX305 all the more surprising.

The UX305 is remarkably thin with its metal casing only just thick enough to accommodate its three USB 3.0 ports. Despite how slender and lightweight (1.2kg) it is, its metal build is robust with only a little flexing in its base and lid. Its mauve design is attractive too, as is the circular pattern etched into the lid.