Random Gadgets Review 2

Toshiba A300 PSAGCA-09Y01N

The A300 is a full-sized laptop with a high-gloss finish and a 15.4in WXGA display. My review sample ran Vista Home Premium on a Core2 Duo P8600 2.4GHz processor with a hefty 4G of RAM and a 400G hard drive.

Pros: With specifications like this, you’d certainly expect the A300 to perform well, and it didn’t disappoint, acing my performance tests both for basic office applications and more hardcore efforts like video rendering and gaming. As with many Toshiba laptops, the keyboard is very good, with excellent key travel characteristics.

Cons: It’s certainly powerful, but there are some drawbacks to that. First up, it’s physically huge – this is much more a desktop replacement machine than a portable machine. Also, having that much power also requires power, and the A300’s battery life was distinctly average.

Overall I give this a 3.5/5 – A good match for those who want power in attractive casing.

Apple iLife ‘09

Apple’s iLife ’09 suite updates the compan’ys ‘fun’ suite of applications, including iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iWeb and iDVD. New features include facial and geo-tagging photos, star lessons in GarageBand and a reworked iMovie interface that’s easier to use.

Apple iLife ‘09
Apple iLife ‘09

Pros: The new facial recognition feature in iPhoto is surprisingly addictive. GarageBand is well suited now to experts (who will love the flexibility) and novices alike.

Cons: iPhoto’s GPS recognition is less compelling, unless you like lots of flags of all the photos you’ve taken around your house. Some parts of the suite, most notably iDVD, have barely changed.

Overall I give this a 4/5 – A decent upgrade, but it’s not compelling enough to make it one you can’t miss.

Apple iWork ‘09

Where iLife ’09 plays on the fun side of the fence, iWork ’09 is all business, offering upgrades to Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheets) and keynote (presentations).

Pros: The ability to quickly export to Word from Pages is excellent, and the suite as a whole ran a little quicker on my test Mac. Apple’s also offering an online shared space at www.iwork.com for document sharing.

Cons: There are still some parts of more complex Microsoft Office documents that Pages, Numbers and Keynote can’t convert properly. Like iLife ’09, iWork ’09 is a great suite that’s only been marginally tinkered with, so you need to ask yourself if that’s enough to justify a full upgrade.

Overall I give this a 4/5 – A good, lightweight suite, but possibly not advanced enough to justify an upgrade for many.

Altec Lansing Expressionist Classic Speakers

Altec Lansing’s latest speakers offering is certainly eye-catching. They’re a pair of stereo speakers with PC and/or MP3 player usage in mind, with a design that looks (to my eyes) pretty much exactly like a set of stage speakers.

Pros: Like most PC speakers, they’re very easy to set up, with just an audio cable to plug into your chosen audio source. Buttons for power and volume and large and easy to get when you need to make adjustments.

Cons: The speakers are physically large, so you’ve got to give plenty of desk space over to them. Also, the output sound was only average at best.

Overall I give this a 3/5 – Looks great, but sounds ordinary.

HTC Dream

HTC’s Dream is a slider phone that has the distinction of being the first phone to hit the Australian market running Google’s Android phone operating system. It’s a smartphone with (not surprisingly, given it’s powered by Google) a particular eye on Webbrowsing, search and other Google-specific applications.

Pros: Android’s a great phone operating system, with a lot of flexibility, a genuine effort to be mostly easy to use, and its own iPhone-like App store, called the Marketplace. As smartphones go, there are few smarter than the Dream.

Cons: The hardware does the software no justice; it’s clunky in places, with an ordinary keyboard, no stereo Bluetooth and is in the odd position of being comparatively more expensive than an iPhone to run.

Overall I give this a 3/5 – A great phone operating system that’s let down by a fairly ordinary physical phone.

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