Review: Lenovo Twist Laptop

Lenovo Twist Laptop Recently I decided to purchase a new laptop now that I have graduated college. I have been using the same Dell XPS for the last 4 years and even though it still works it has suffered decent wear and tear. I constantly carry my laptops with me everywhere I go, always finding some sort of work to do or necessary need for it. So I began looking into the new technology on laptops and some of the features that I would want. This is when i found out the laptop market is a new type of beast. With all the new different types of laptops out there it is extremely complicated deciding what features best fit your needs nevermind which brand to choose from. I was in no rush to buy a new laptop because I wanted to thoroughly research each one and find something that would be perfect for my specific needs. After a bit of online research, I came to the decision that I wanted a high performance “Convertible” laptop. A convertible laptop is a touch screen laptop where the screen can be rotated or slid over the keyboard converting it into a tablet.

Now with the type of laptop decided it was onto the more complex part of choosing, deciding what brand to buy then what specifications the laptop required. Luckily I have a strong knowledge of computer statistics and knew the exact specifications I needed for both work and entertainment. I wanted an i7 with both a solid state hard drive (no moving parts) and a hard disk drive. One of the most important factors was reliability and durability, I carry my laptop with me everywhere I go…Literally I always have it so if it can’t take some rugged situations then it will have a short life span.


Price: $1100 (www.lenovo.com – $1400 after 4 year warranty)
Ownership Length: 2 months
Buy at Amazon.com (aff)


Pros:
1) Portability and adaptability – It is so light and ultra thin that it’s almost mesmerizing watching it transform back and forth from tablet to laptop. Fully functional laptop when I’m at a desk and folds into a tablet when I need to be mobile.
2) Speed – The Intel Core i7 has been unbelievably fast.
3) Durability – Gorilla glass screen and tough Lenovo ThinkPad parts combine to make a sturdy machine. (I got a screen protector because of touch features)

Cons:
1) Not 1080p HD – 12.5″ W HD (1366 x 768) LED Backlight, but it is Gorilla Glass
2) HDMI mini out – I don’t know why they did not put a full-size HDMI port in this laptop, requiring me to get an adapter is somewhat frustrating
3) Display orientation – This is a very minute criticism that I am only mentioning because it can be slightly frustrating. The screen rotation sometimes acts strange and whatever orientation it is in when it’s slept/turned off will be how it is going to startup until you are logged in, then it becomes active.

Summary

This laptop has been completely perfect for me. I was impressed when I first had unboxed it; before I had even fired it up it had me smiling. I knew it would be smaller than my old laptop but never realized this would only be a ¼ of its size.

This laptop has more than impressed me, it has spoiled me with its portability and has almost rendered my iPad as an entertainment only device. I’ve used IBM and Lenovo products before and they have a very crisp and responsive feel, this being a ThinkPad has the same overall good feel with the addition of a touchscreen and innovative portability. If you want a laptop that basically functions as a tablet just as efficiently and have strong value on dependability this should be one of your major considerations.

Tech Specs
Processor: Intel Core i7-3537U on MB
Operating system: Windows 8 64
Operating system Language: Win8 64 English
Total memory: 8 GB PC3-10600 DDR3L on MB
Hard drive: 500GB HDD 7200rpm
Battery: 8 cell Li-Polymer 42.4Wh S230u
WiFi wireless LAN adapters: Intel CW-N 2230 (2x2BGN&BT4)
Display Panel: S230u 12.5WHD,NW Mocha
Storage Adapter: 24GB Micro SSD SATA3 Win8
System Unit: S230u Intel HD, i7-3537U 8GB

Should I Upgrade to Windows 8?

Experience from Erin Cummins

Windows 8 ScreenshotYou know that feeling you get when you’re standing on the edge of a cliff? With the wind whipping at your hair and your face, your heart is pounding out a fearful tattoo.  Even so, you slowly, almost against your will, shuffle your feet forward, closer and closer to the edge… because as scared as you are to stand there, there’s a tiny part of you whispering “jump… jump…”  That’s how I felt about switching to Windows 8: I was standing on a frightening but seductive precipice.

Well. I did the perhaps-inadvisable thing and took the leap.  It felt more as if I had been pushed, actually; my previous computer (a Dell) died at an unfortunate moment, and I did not have much time to spend poking around doing more research.  I decided to buy a Samsung laptop that came equipped with Windows 8, and for the past few months I have been playing with it.

So now I, as the unfortunate first penguin who has been pushed into the freezing sea, have the duty to tell the rest of you what’s going on down here in the water.  Is Windows 8 a glorious sea full of tasty fish? Or am I dinner for the killer whales?

Built to accommodate tablets

If you think I’m being a tad dramatic, yeah–I am.  Really, Windows 8 is not so different from Windows 7 (or even Vista, actually).  The biggest difference is in aesthetics; Windows 8 is built to be compatible with touch screens and tablets, so you do not get the classic “desktop” view upon first logging in. Instead, when you log on to your computer you come to the Start page, your home screen full of apps.

Many new PC ultrabooks are coming out with touchscreens, so this new start page is really helpful with that: the icons are large enough to tap with a finger.  I like the apps, even on a non-tablet device; Windows apps have the “live tile” feature and flip with new news and pictures, so you can be caught up without having to actually do anything. I particularly enjoy the Kindle app and Netflix (both of which are free, like many apps).

Getting down to Business (to defeat the Huns)

When it’s time to actually use your computer as a computer (use a browser, write a paper, etc), it’s easy.  Your desktop is an app on the home screen so you can just click on that and you basically have Windows 7 open. You can set things like Microsoft Word or Firefox as apps on the start page as well and those will both take you straight to the desktop.  I haven’t noticed any differences in the way Windows 8 handles these programs; it’s just like any other computer.

Having two different home screens (the start screen and the desktop) is revolutionary; at least in the sense that it means I can basically have two computer wallpapers.  Now my pictures of a saxophone-playing hamster and my head photoshopped onto Dame Maggie Smith’s body can be given equal billing on my computer, as they do in my life.

Navigation

The biggest difference between the desktop app and Windows 7 is the lack of a Start button in the lower left of the page.  But because of the layout of Windows 8, you actually do not need a start button.  If you want to access any program, you can go back to the start page and do it there.  If that other program is not part of the desktop app, you can lock it onto the side of your screen and have two apps open at once on your screen.  If you have a touch screen, doing this is very easy; it’s a bit harder with a mouse, where dragging things around the screen takes a bit more effort.  Luckily, there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts that take the place of the touch screen motions; for example “Windows button + [period]” will automatically snap the app to the side.

Administration

Shutting the computer down is less intuitive.  But once you learn how to do it, it’s not that tough: just use “Windows button + C” and the settings hover on the right of the page. You can then go ahead and click on the power icon, and can choose from the classic options (“shut down”, “sleep”, “restart”).

You can access the task manager the same way you always have been able to- Ctrl+Alt+Delete. Some things never change.  You also still have the Control Panel, which can help you to uninstall programs, connect to the internet, and basically access the behind-the-scenes of your computer.  And if you need to do something with your computer that you can’t figure out easily, there is always Google… just saying.

Downsides (let’s rant)

So far this review has been pretty tame, so I might be accused of being some kind of propagandist spy-blogger if I didn’t tell you about all the things I do not appreciate about Windows 8.  So here’s a list of rants:

1) The Netflix app causes the screen resolution to overload when you are connecting the computer to your TV (or other screen).  WHAT’S THE POINT OF THAT? People often watch Netflix on shared devices… it’s confusing that I would have to use my browser instead of the specially-made app for this. Get yo act together, Netflix.  Inconceivable! Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

2) A lot of techy people do not like the fact that there is no Start button.  And yeah, it kind of sucks if you just used the Calculator and have to go all the way back to the apps to open it again, instead of clicking on the recent items in the menu.  But overall, I really don’t think there’s a lot to miss from the Start menu; you still get it all, just in a different place.

3) Internet Troubleshooting.  Over the holidays I went home with all my brothers, sisters, and their significant others–and everyone had a laptop.  My parents’ router just did not have the bandwidth to support all 8 computers at once, so I ran into a lot of issues trying to connect.  At first I thought it was my computer, so I ran a lot of troubleshooting tasks. This was not awesome. It was not-some? Anyway, in Windows 7 you could go to the Network and Sharing Center, click on the globe icon, and Windows would just troubleshoot everything.  Now, I’m sent to the Help section, and given 3 options of different types of problems to troubleshoot. And I’m like… can’t you just run all 3 at once and fix whatever it is? If I knew that the problem was my adapter, I’d just fix that.

4) Windows 8 is clearly engineered for “fun”–in my opinion, this is not a system on which a business computer would thrive.  Apps are largely built for watching shows, reading books, or playing games–nothing that should be done in the office.  Businesspeople will want to go straight to the desktop, and will be frustrated by the new extra step of bypassing the start page.  Then again, I have not tested with any business-y apps, which may be out there and be very helpful. And we have also seen the speed with which companies are making the switch to “keep up with the times”–many business executives have tablets they take on trips with them instead of computers–so it’s not crazy to think that businesspeople could adapt to Windows 8.  And the question remains as well: will they have the choice to stay behind? The worlds of technology and business obey the law of the wild: Evolve or Die.

Ultimately, out of all the operating systems for PC computers, Windows 8 is one of them.  As it was famously said, “we are unable to stem the tide of history.”  Whether we like it or not, Windows 8 is part of the future.  Chances are, if you have a PC, you will use Windows 8.  Even Vista, which is authoritatively regarded as “yucky,” was the primary operating system for years before Windows 7 came out.  Windows 8 is happening: software and apps are being developed for it, and newer computers and tablets will be equipped with it.

To return to my original musings about penguins and cliff-diving (two topics definitely relevant to technology…), the choice is still yours as to whether you are actually going to jump into the ocean.  This penguin survived (and is doing quite well for herself), so it looks like the coast may be clear. Windows 8 is not incredible, but it’s not terrible either, so you need to answer the following questions for yourself: Are you going to stick with previous operating systems as programs are made more and more for Windows 8? Will you spend your days searching for a non-existent start button (“Are you there Start? It’s me, Margaret”)?  If I jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?

Review: Acer T232HL Touchscreen Monitor

Acer T232HL Touchscreen MonitorRecently I decided to replace one of the monitors at my (workstation/desk) and came to the conclusion I wanted to get a touch screen. Primarily I use my desktop for work purposes, but it also functions as a gaming computer; therefore, I wanted a screen with a fast response time and a high contrast ratio. Unfortunately, this limited me to very few and very expensive choices. I ended up choosing an Acer 23” Touchscreen LED with an impressive contrast ratio and a response time designed for fast motion movies and games.

My previous setup was a LG Flatron 22” and an old Dell 19” Tube monitor which has been in use for 8 years. Upon unboxing the Acer I discovered it would not fit in the designated monitor spot built into the desk, but then realized this is not a bad thing. If the monitor was set back into the desk I would be required to reach forward to use it as opposed to having it at my fingertips.

Once I had the monitor fully set up and connected, I enabled the touch and pen inputs and had to calibrate it so the touch inputs would be accurate. This is when I realized there was about an inch or 2 of unused black space bordering the screen and had to adjust the horizontal and vertical position/stretch. This task was very difficult because I was unable to adjust it through the monitor menu settings. After searching online, I found this was a common problem for people who had connected the display with the HDMI cord. Fortunately, however, my AMD video card has settings to magnify the display through ATI’s Catalyst Control Center program. Once I had increased the screen size by 9-12%, I was able to eliminate the black border and recalibrate the touch input.

Once I had it set up and calibrated, it felt like using a very large Windows tablet. Using the touch features instead of the mouse was fun and easy to adjust to.


Price: $499.99
OS Used: Windows 7 & 8 (video to come soon)
Ownership Length: Over one month
Buy at Amazon.com (aff)


Pros
1) Appearance: Extreme detail quality, no blur with fast motions, amazing color, vivid detail, wide viewing angle
2) Touch input: 10 point multi-touch screen allows use of all of your fingers
3) Windows 8 compatibility
3) Three USB ports on side for easy access
4) Flexible tilt stand

Cons
1) Price: I could have bought a new computer for the price of my monitor
2) Cleaning: Touch screens are very prone to getting smudged with fingerprints, so it requires much more cleaning than a regular monitor

Summary

This is by far the best performing monitor I have ever used; its quality is on par with the LED televisions on the market. It is a large monitor and will take up a lot of desk space depending on how you set up your workstation, but it can be wall mounted if necessary. The 10 touch input allows for fast and accurate touch screen interaction, making on-screen navigation and typing user-friendly. The multi-touch input also enables you to access the gesture features in Windows 8. Even in fast action sequences in movies or games, the display has no motion blur and delivers high quality moving images. The only drawback is that many games have yet to enable touch input capabilities, which means some games are unsure how to process the touch inputs. Overall I am very satisfied with the monitor and believe that as the technology develops it will be perfected over time and will become more functional.

Using Windows 8 With Touchscreen