MSI introduces 'affordable' Core i7 X58 motherboard

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

X58 Pro features three PCI-E graphics slots and six DIMM slots

There’s little doubt that Intel’s Core i7 is the processor of the moment, but the cost of new DDR3 memory, not to mention a £200 motherboard, isn’t particularly appealing in the current economic climate, let alone the cost of a new CPU. However, MSI appears to have taken note of the cost issue and announced its first ‘affordable’ X58 Pro motherboard, which costs well under £200 without sacrificing any major features.

The board still comes with three PCI-E 2.0 graphics slots (two with 16 lanes and one with four lanes), which will support CrossFire X graphics configurations, although MSI hasn't announced official support for 3-way SLI. It also comes with a full set of six DIMM slots, allowing you to install two sets of triple-channel memory.

This already marks the board in front of other affordable Core i7 motherboards, such as Gigabyte’s X58 Express-based GA-EX58-UD3R, which comes with four DIMM slots and two PCI-E graphics slots. MSI claims that the X58 Pro will have a retail price of £175 inc VAT, which would also put it in the same price bracket as the aforementioned Gigabyte motherboard, which costs £176.40 inc VAT from Scan.

The X58 Pro will also feature passively-cooled heatsinks for the X58 chip and ICH10R Southbridge, which are connected by a heatpipe. Meanwhile, a separate, smaller heatsink sits on top of the VRMs. MSI is confident that the power-efficiency of its five-phase DrMOS power system will enable the VRMs to keep cool without the need to be connected to the board’s main heatpipe system. The board will also feature MSI’s M-Flash technology, which allows you to test-drive a new BIOS via a USB key without flashing the BIOS.

source :

MSI X58 Eclipse LGA 1366 Core I7 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard


Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT CPU Cooler Review

Monday, February 9, 2009

For the avid readers here at Hardware Canucks, you might already recognize this heat sink. For any enthusiast that is familiar with the high-end air coolers on the market, you will definitely recognize this heat sink. Over the past few months, the buildup of the new Intel i7 processor release has gotten the computer enthusiast market in a frenzy. New motherboards, new chipsets, new socket, new processor, and of course; new processor cooling. For a long time now, the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme - and its variants - has been the big bully on the block in regards to processor cooling capabilities.

The Ultra-120 eXtreme Black and Ultra-120 eXtreme Copper are the latest derivatives of this already excellent heatsink but with the release of the Intel i7 processor and its new LGA 1366 socket, Thermalright had to adjust the Ultra-120 eXtreme. Well, the heat sink didn't get any refinements but the accessory package has. Under an all new title of Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT, the same powerful CPU cooling heatsink gets upgraded with a new mounting bracket to accommodate the LGA 1366 socket, and a new fan retention system.

In fact, unlike previous generations of the Ultra-120, the new Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT is fully equipped with a fan and ready for action right out of the box. We will be testing the performance of this "new-old" heat sink on a well equipped Intel i7 965 Extreme processor. The goal of this review will be to see what gains can be had by the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT over the stock Intel i7 cooler and which fan configuration is the ideal for our test setup. This newest generation of quad core processors are the hottest yet and adequate cooling is an absolute must for a stable overclock. We will soon find out how this legendary heat sink handles the highest heat load we can throw at it.
source :

Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme 1366 RT


Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe 2GB GDDR5 Review

By now we all know that the race for the ultra high end performance crown has another competitor with the Nvidia GTX 295 but ATI’s HD 4870 X2 is still an excellent competitor in nearly every application. With this and ATI’s recent price reductions to their ultra high-end card in mind, we are reviewing yet another HD 4870 X2 here today: the Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe. This isn’t your normal run-of-the-mill HD 4870 X2; it is a badass, triple slot monster that has a massive cooler coupled with near-stock clocks.

ATI’s dual GPU card has had a bit of a tough time as of late with the GTX 295 encroaching upon its territory and in many cases beating it quite handily. As mentioned earlier, this has necessitated a price cut but no one expected the cut to be as dramatic as it has been. Where the HD 4870 X2 used to be retailing for $500 USD, it is now sitting pretty around the $399 price bracket. The same can be said for the card’s price here in Canada; that same shiny black card has nosedived from $600 and up to a somewhat more reasonable $500. That leaves the GTX 295 in the precarious position of retailing for significantly more than the card it was supposed to be competing against. All in all, this is an extremely smart move on ATI’s part and it shows that they built enough of a buffer zone into their pricing to allow for any reactionary price changes should Nvidia decide to release a highly competitive product. Remember, Nvidia did the same thing when they were leading the pack so it is interesting to see this regime change coming from the other direction this time.

Let’s get back to the card we have on hand here. From the PCB to the cooling, the Revolution R700 Deluxe has been completely designed from the ground up by Palit to offer customers the best HD 4870 X2 available on the market today. Interestingly enough, even though the Revolution can be considered Palit’s flagship ATI product, they have decided to keep near-reference clocks for some reason. On the other hand, this is one product that is extremely hard to find these days even though when it was released you could special order it from a few select retailers. Add to that the fact that Palit’s warranty isn’t exactly the best in the business at a mere two years and some of you may already be looking elsewhere. However, you have to remember that the enthusiast consumer the Revolution 700 is aimed at will probably be changing their graphics card far before the warranty expires anyways.

Will consumers be willing to live with the somewhat short warranty and higher price of this card if it means better performance, cooling and most of all a smaller acoustical profile? Well, we will just have to see how Palit’s new card performs before we jump to any hasty conclusions.

source :

Apple iLife '09 review

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

by Graham Barlow

Hands-on preview: By far the most exciting announcement during Phil Schiller's Keynote address at the 2009 Macworld Expo & Conference in January was the new '09 version of iLife.

While it's not been the most equally balanced of updates we've seen in the suite's long history (with some iLife apps getting major enhancements and others remaining relatively untouched), it once again pushes the boundaries of what's possible on your Mac.

In the '09 edition, iPhoto and iMovie both get the lion's share of the cool new features. GarageBand, meanwhile, comes in a close second and iWeb gets a small, but necessary, enhancement. iDVD however remains unchanged, which is perhaps indicative of the way everyone is moving towards online services, such as MobileMe, as a better way to share their creations.

The final version of iLife '09 was due for release at the end of the month, but we hunkered down and spent a good couple of hours on the Apple stand, where we could get hands-on with an almost complete preview version.

You can expect our full review next month once we've had longer to test the product, but for now let's start with a look at the new version of iPhoto…

iPhoto '09

iPhoto '09 introduces two new additions, called Faces and Places, which help you organise and search for your photos. These join Photos and Events in the Library section on the left of the main screen.

Faces uses face-detection technology to identify people in your photos, and then goes through your photo library organising all the shots containing the selected faces into albums.

The Faces albums don't move the actual photos, which remain in whatever album they lived in before, so they function effectively as smart albums.

As you'd expect from Apple, Faces is extremely easy to use. Simply find a good photo of somebody in your library, say it's somebody called Amy, and click on the Name button in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. iPhoto will place a square around every face it recognises in the photo and invite you to enter their name.

You type in 'Amy' under her face, and now when you click on Faces a smart album called Amy can be seen.

Inside Amy's smart album you'll see photos from your whole iPhoto library that iPhoto thinks are also of Amy. To help iPhoto get accurate you can confirm whether the first few photos are correct or incorrect. This can lead to more matches appearing straight away.

Click Done and iPhoto goes through your entire photo library looking for photos that it thinks are Amy. Of course, you can remove incorrect matches manually. The keen-eyed observer will have noticed that during Phil's keynote he demoed Faces using well-taken shots of people looking directly at the camera. Our first thought was that it probably wouldn't work so flawlessly with our own, slightly worse, pictures!

To get a feel for how well Faces would work on 'normal' photos we found a few pictures of a skater in the iPhoto library, on the iMac we had access to, and tried it on him. He wasn't looking directly at the camera in any of the shots, and also wore a helmet. Unfortunately, Faces failed to work at all on him.

Just for fun we also decided to experiment with a picture of a dog with similar results, so don't expect to be able to start cataloguing your pets any time soon. So, at this point we expect Faces to only work well on photos of people looking at the camera.

Click on the new i (for 'information') icon at the bottom-right of any photo containing GPS data and you will see a map showing where it was taken. The same thing works for Events too, and you get to see where all the photos in that event were taken on the map.

Click on Places in Library and you'll see a map of the world with pins showing all the locations you've taken shots in. Pan around and zoom into this map with ease and click on the pins to see the photos. It's a great way to find photos from your holidays, and there's also a column view that enables you to narrow your search down by the locations available in your photo library. This is the real use of Places – a great new way for finding your photos.

Faces and Places are the big new features of iPhoto '09, but there's also a few new buttons to be found on the main interface in the form of MobileMe, Facebook, Flickr and Email, which provide you with integrated upload to the various galleries, and quicker access to emailing photos.

These seem to work well, and uploading was simply a case of selecting a few photos and hitting the button. Our pictures were then online in seconds. A really great feature is that the Facebook uploader also retains any Faces information you've already added to your photos, tagging the name on the Facebook page, which cuts down on the amount of work you'd need to do later.

If somebody else then identifies other people in the photos this information is brought back into iPhoto the next time it syncs with Facebook and your Faces are updated – very impressive!

While we're on the subject of being impressed, the new enhanced full-screen Slideshow themes are definitely in the same ballpark, particularly the punchy Shatter effect, which generated a well deserved round of gasps and whoops during Phil's keynote.

There are several themes on offer – Shatter, Classic, Sliding Panels, Snapshots and Scrapbook – and they all offer exciting and vibrant new ways to show off your photos to friends. With these themes at your disposal your slideshows aren't going to put anybody to sleep anymore, especially when combined with a rocking soundtrack.

We particularly liked the ability to use a filmstrip at the bottom of the screen to jump to any photo in the slideshow. Another feature we especially liked was the ability to sync your slideshows with your iPod touch or iPhone complete with Themes, so the next time you want to show people your latest family photos you can do it with a proper slideshow, instead of having to fumble your way through your photo gallery manually.

iPhoto Books

Finally, there's an update to iPhoto's Books. These are the gorgeous bound photo books that you can create in iPhoto and then order from Apple. In the '09 version of iPhoto you can now print onto the hard cover of the book itself, not just the dustflap.

If you use the Autoflow button to automatically populate your book with your photos, then you'll find that iPhoto automatically adds in a map showing where your photos were taken, provided they had location data. Alternatively, in the Layout menu you now have the option of adding a Map – perfect for books of your latest holidays.

We also found that the Adjust panel in iPhoto '09 has had a few new features added, including a check-box called Avoid saturating the skin tones, which prevents users from ruining their photos when they're playing with the levels.

iMovie '09

While iPhoto '09 may have got the most crowd-pleasing new features, iMovie '09 has had the most additions. First a little bit of history. With iMovie 7 (also called iMovie '08, confusingly) Apple introduced a new way of editing your video clips compared to the previous iMovie 6 HD, and was completely re-written from the ground up, making it effectively the first version of an entirely new product, rather than version 7 of an existing project.

Like most first versions it was somewhat light on features. The new way of working was certainly quicker, if all you wanted to do was make a simple movie of your last holiday, but it lacked some of the finesse, like video effects, which iMovie 6 HD was famous for. Well, the good news is that now effects are back.

You'll find old favourites like Aged Film and X-Ray on offer along with some new ones. Even more impressively, the video effects don't take any time to render, like they used to, now you simply add them to a clip and they're applied instantly.

Also making a re-appearance from iMovie 6 HD in iMovie '09 are Themes. These make it easier for you to create a great looking movie without having to know too much about titles and transitions, since they are all worked out for you. There are six themes on offer, and you simply apply the theme to your current project and iMovie puts in transitions between your clips and a great opening title. You can, of course, still edit your project and add in more theme-specific effects and transitions. You can also change your theme using the Set Theme button.

Even more eye-candy is provided by the introduction of Maps. These provide gorgeous animations of start and end points on a globe, making them ideal for your holiday movies.

Cover Flow has been added to iMovie '09, so you can browse through all your video projects as easily as you can browse through albums on iTunes. There's also support for greenscreen. Shoot something against a green background, then drop it onto a clip and it plays as an alpha channel over the top of the original clip, a bit like the background effects in iChat.

The most dramatic improvement to the way the program works though is in editing, an area that many people found fiddly in iMovie '08. Now, if you drop one clip on top of another you get a new menu with the options for Replace, Insert and Audio only. Replace replaces the original clip with the new one, while Insert splits the original clip at the point of your cursor. Insert is going to be useful, but the Audio only option is even more interesting. Using Audio only you can add just the audio from a clip to the original video. So, what used to be a lengthy process of extracting audio files from clips then adding them to others is now a simple case of drag and drop.

The Precision Editor opens up a new window that occupies the bottom half of the screen, showing the start of your selected clip and the end of the previous clip. You can now fine-tune the exact point of transition between the two clips.

At first glance you think the Precision Editor is going to be horrendously complicated to use, but really it's simplicity itself, and we felt at home with it in minutes. You can also click the Audio button inside the Precision Editor to adjust the audio of the clip separately, so the audio from the first clip can continue past the video cut-off point. You can also use the Precision Editor with transitions too.

We're impressed with this new tool, since it cures one of our biggest bugbears with iMovie '08 – the clumsy way we had to trim clips to achieve the same results. It's not quite multi-track video editing (for that you still need to step up to Final Cut Express), but it's the next best thing.

The rather slim selections of Titles in iMovie '08 has been increased in iMovie '09, and they now come with a selection of nicely animated backgrounds. There are also new options accessible via the new Actions menu for adjusting how fast a clip plays, and for playing it in reverse.

Finally, we come to perhaps the most impressive new feature of iMovie '09 – video stabilisation. When shooting video on the move we occasionally end up with footage that's ruined because the camera is bouncing around. Video stabilisation corrects this using special technology that compares each frame of the video to the previous frame and the subsequent frame to work out how best to remove the camera shake. In the examples we saw it worked well, but bear in mind that unlike the video effects you can't apply video stabilisation instantly. It will take four times the length of your shot to render the video stabilisation onto it.

You can also add video stabilisation as you are importing your footage from your camcorder, rather than afterwards.


GarageBand is perhaps the most powerful application in the iLife suite, and it's got an exciting new addition in the '09 version – Lessons. These come in two forms: Basic Lessons and Artists Lessons.

Basic Lessons offer 18 free videos that will teach you how to play guitar and piano, while the Artist Lessons cost $4.99 (UK price is still to be confirmed) each and can be downloaded from the iTunes Store.

The famous artists who will be on hand to help you include Sting, Sarah McLachlan, Fall Out Boy, Norah Jones, Colbie Cailllat, Sara Bareilles, John Fogerty, OneRepublic and Ben Folds.

We had a lot of fun playing around with the Artists Lessons – you can choose the view of the guitar they're holding and once you get to the stage of playing the whole song along with them (and their band) you can access a mixer to take different tracks out of the audio mix, so you can silence Sting's voice and just listen to his guitar if you really wanted to (something we're sure many readers will have wanted to do for years!).

There's also an intriguing Open in GarageBand button you can press, but in the Preview version we tried this wasn't functional, so it wasn't clear if you got access to the entire song in GarageBand, to re-mix, or not. Either way, it looks like it will be possible to record yourself playing along with the legends.

Finally, added to this latest version, are some new guitar effects, that recreate five classic guitar amplifiers. You'll also notice that the splash screen opener in GarageBand has also changed, making RingTone options for your iPhone much more accessible and easy to create.

source : - MacFormat 205

Samsung NC10 netbook review

By Mike Browne

The Samsung NC10 doesn't exactly break the mould when it comes to design. It's a standard 10.2-inch Netbook that in terms of design sits squarely between the Asus Eee PC 1000 and the MSI Wind. This isn't a bad thing, as Samsung has clearly looked at what works and put its own spin on it.

The result is clearly the best Netbook so far. It's certainly one the most aggressively priced, as along with the Advent 4211, which is a rebadged MSI Wind, it's the first 10-inch Netbook to break the sub-£300 barrier.

The design is compact and the look crisp. Available in three colours - black, blue and white - the matt finish of our white review sample is typical. In the hand it feels solid and robust

Well specified

The white plastic casing feels good in the hand, while the silver trim around the edge, and also on the hinges, gives it a smart look. Our one concern with the design is with the hinges, which on our sample held the screen in place but felt as thought they would soon weaken.

The hinges open the screen to a maximum 45-degree angle, so be careful not to try and force it back any further.

Weighing 1.3kg, with the six-cell battery fitted, it measures 260 x 170 x 30mm at its mid point. Sure, the battery sticks out of the bottom but this only adds an extra 5mm to the overall depth.

Slightly more annoying is the balance of the machine, as the battery means there is more weight at the back than at the front, so feels back heavy when perched on your knee.

When it comes to specification, you'll find the NC10 is very much a Netbook, packing in an Intel Atom N270 processor and 1024MB of memory. The 160GB hard drive is a welcome addition (Samsung has no plans to offer an SSD drive at the moment), which is partitioned into two equally sized portions.

Pre-installed with Windows XP, we found it loaded smoothly and quickly, booting in just 29 seconds. Performance was more than acceptable, running basic office tasks with relative ease.

You won't want to run anything too taxing on this kind of machine but as a second machine for use out and about, or around the house, it proved great for word processing and surfing the internet.

We've grown accustomed to manufacturers simply loading the basic install of Windows onto their Netbooks but Samsung has gone the extra mile and added its standard array of applications, such as Samsung Battery Manager and Recovery Solution III.

The first time you launch the NC10 you'll be forced to create a backup image and then you'll be able to set up user profiles. We found setting up the wireless connection, it uses an Atheros chipset, easy and we were on the internet within minutes.

You'll also find McAfee Internet Security has also been bundled with it, which is something we've not seen with other Netbooks. It's inclusion may not sway your buying decision but if you're going to use it for web browsing it'll certainly come in useful.

The two most important aspects of any Netbook are the screen and keyboard and we can safely say, the NC10 excels in both departments. The 10.2-inch screen may have the standard 1024 x 600-pixel resolution, so images are a good size. As a result, as with all Netbooks, you'll still need to scroll sideways to view most web pages.

However, what really makes this Netbook stand out is the sheer quality of the keyboard. Until now, the MSI Wind has clearly been the most user-friendly but having used the NC10 for the last few days, we feel it has beaten the MSI into second place.

It fills the entire width of the 260mm chassis and are 95 per cent full-sized. The keystroke is quite short but the keys feel incredibly sturdy, as you type and you'll soon find yourself typing with relative ease. Secondary function keys are small but at least Samsung has added a full compliment, which is something you won't see on the likes of the Dell Inspiron 9, for example.

The touchpad is rather small and the use of a dual-click single strip mouse button will have its detractors but overall we found navigation was easy.

MSI made a mistake with the Wind by releasing it with a 3-cell battery, which undermined it's otherwise all-round usability. Samsung hasn't made that mistake, as the 6-cell battery more than lives up to expectations. In standard mode, Battery Manager Normal, we managed to get 298 minutes, which at just shy of five hours is highly impressive.

Dropping down into Maximum Battery Life mode we managed to eek a further 26 minutes from the system, to get an overall battery life of 324 minutes. Simply put, if battery life is high on your list of requirements, this is the Netbook to opt for.

The design incorporates nothing new in terms of features, so you'll find three USB ports - one on the right-and side, two on the left - VGA-out, Ethernet port and mic and headphone jacks. One nice touch is that icons down the side of the keyboard highlight where they are so you don't need to pick the machine up to locate the USB port, for instance.

On the front of the casing you'll find the obligatory Secure Digital slot, which supports SD HC. Stereo speakers are located on the base of the machine and while the quality is tinny what we found impressive was the volume, which is far better than we've heard on any other Netbook.

So, has the Samsung NC10 been worth waiting for? Clearly the answer is yes. While it does nothing new, it takes all the proven good points of other devices, tightens them up and delivers an excellent package at a great price. It'll be interesting to see how other companies respond but for the time being, Samsung has set the benchmark for 10-inch Netbooks and set it high.

source : What Laptop

Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4) review

By John Brandon

Photoshop CS4

It's no secret that despite the 21 other apps in the Adobe Master Folder, Photoshop is the flagship product in the new CS4 line. The new photo editing tool has four main innovations, making it an impressive upgrade.

The first innovation is it now runs in 64-bit mode. Keep in mind that you need to have the 64-bit version of Windows Vista or Windows XP, as well as a 64-bit processor, and it won't hurt to have at least 8GB of RAM too. 32-bit apps can only access 4GB of RAM, but some workstation computers can support up to 32GB.

According to John Nack, an Adobe Product Manager who blogs at, 64-bit memory addressing improves performance by about eight to 12 per cent for most operations. However, when dealing with extremely large images (say, a four-gigapixel image), he says that performance can be as high as 10 times that of a 32-bit app.

The second innovation is new Pixel Bender support (formerly known as Hydra), an Adobe technology that allows Photoshop to access your high-end graphics card directly. The HP DV7 uses an Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT 512MB adaptor, so the Pixel Bender support is important because Photoshop can swap memory in RAM and use the graphics card for graphics rendering, giving a one-two punch that speeds up every filter and editing function.

We'll save the detailed benchmarks for a proper review, but suffice it to say that Photoshop CS4 is much snappier than Photoshop CS3. We tested CS4 on an HP Pavilion DV7 high-end notebook with a 2.8GHz dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM, Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit and two 300GB drives. We used a 10,000 x 15,000 image that was 430 MB in size.

A complex fresco filter that takes several minutes on CS3 took only 20 seconds in Photoshop CS4. Most filters – including a basic blur and unsharp mask – were instantaneous. Liquify filters, new layers, artistic brush treatments and image resizing took only a few seconds.

The third innovation is a brand new interface that's a departure from even the previous release. It doesn't follow the typical Windows Vista or XP conventions and hints at a day when Adobe will move their powerhouse apps to the web.

Finally, Photoshop CS4 has several new editing features. You can now rotate the canvas without rotating the image, select parts of an image in the Refine Edge dialog box, use new multi-channel and abstract colour channels and implement tweaks to the dodge and burn tools that improve the effect on colour saturated images.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS4

Premiere Pro is the only application in the Master Collection suite for CS4 that was not upgraded with the new interface.

New support for hard disk-based (what Adobe calls 'tapeless') video cameras is supposed to be a key feature, but we could not get Premiere Pro to work with a JVC Everio GZ-HD6U camcorder, either in terms of recognising the device as a capture medium or reading the files directly from the hard disk drive on the camera. These tweaks reveal that Premiere is trying to appeal to the budding videographer.

Adobe InDesign CS4

The flagship page layout program for professional designers, InDesign CS4 also benefits from a facelift: it's now much easier to navigate around the screen.

Palettes are more streamlined (they even ghost out when you move them around) so that options are just one or two clicks away. For example, on the new Preflight dialog box, you can quickly scan through any colour or font treatment issues. Preferences for the dialog box are not buried in a general window but can be found right on the dialog box itself.

There's also a new conditional text option that works remarkably similarly to the layers in Photoshop: you can create one document for web and print and then hide or show individual elements with just a radio click.

Smart guides that help you line up objects, task-based workspace views, an amazing 'rotate spread' option and SWF support, including export to Flash, are all key enhancements.

Performance in InDesign seemed about 20 per cent faster than the CS3 applications during complex chores such as re-paginating a long document.

Other big applications

With all the fanfare over Photoshop and how it can now access a girth of RAM on 64-bit machines, the other apps in the Master Collection suite play a 'me too' role. However, they also run in 64-bit mode, use Pixel Bender to access your GPU and feature a new streamlined interface.

Dreamweaver CS4 now provides a powerful Live View feature. This is absolutely amazing for coders who work in JavaScript and other languages because it approximates browser compatibility. In our tests, Live View worked flawlessly when emulating Internet Explorer and only had marginal positioning errors when used to emulate Firefox.

New Photoshop Smart Objects save a tremendous amount of time in workflow production. You can drag-and-drop them directly into Dreamweaver, encouraging dualmonitor use like never before.

Dreamweaver also adds Adobe AIR support for creating rich web apps. Think of it as the PDF for the web: applications can be fully developed for use in a browser in the same way that a rich document can be formatted as a PDF, without concern over program compatibility.

Adobe Illustrator CS4 finally adds multi-artboard support, which means that it has inched a bit closer to being a page layout tool. You can now view multiple pages of a document in all shapes and sizes. Illustrator also adds a new blob brush for creating artistic-looking objects. Its performance on a 64-bit computer with 4GB of RAM was phenomenal.

Long-time Illustrator fans will know that there is sometimes a pause or stutter when rotating, resizing or even just moving very complex objects around the screen. Even when using a sample Japanese menu with hundreds of lines of text and graphics, adjustments in Illustrator CS4 were instantaneous.

Flash CS4 – a tool for creating web animations – benefits the most from the new Adobe CS4 interface shift. There is now far less clutter found on the screen, and you can step animations by adjusting objects incrementally rather than using keyframe animation (where you make adjustments to each frame). Flash also supports more 3D animation-editing tools, inverse kinematics and Adobe AIR support.

After Effects, Fireworks, Contribute and Soundbooth have all been updated with a new user interface design and features that unify CS4, making each application more powerful. Overall, CS4 is a major milestone because it's the first legitimate, powerful graphics suite to run in 64-bit mode. It points to a future where memory addressing, graphics utilisation, fluid design and technically superior features will rule the desktop.

As a final caveat: we should remember that the power of the desktop may yet be overshadowed by the extreme flexibility of web apps. And when that happens, we'll get to start all over again on the continuum towards cloud computing and online data warehousing.

source : PC Plus 274


T-Mobile Shadow Review

Monday, February 2, 2009

Reviewed by: Bonnie Cha

The T-Mobile Shadow was first announced at CES 2009 as the replacement to the original Shadow, boasting a fresher look and some new features, such as a faster processor and UMA support. The Windows Mobile smartphone is now available through T-Mobile for $149.99 with a two-year contract, but we can't help but feel a bit disappointed. There are some nice design tweaks, but it's the negative elements, such as the shoddy dialpad, that leave a more lasting impression. Also, while we appreciate the additional features--especially the UMA support for making calls over a Wi-Fi network--we would have liked to see more, such as 3G support, integrated GPS, or a better camera. In short, the Shadow doesn't bring any real innovation over its predecessor and we don't think there's a compelling reason for current Shadow owners to upgrade. That said, the T-Mobile Shadow has a place and purpose. It's a good fit for T-Mobile customers who are ready to make the jump from regular cell phones to their first smartphones. It includes all the extra functionality of a smartphone, but offers a easy-to-use interface and still feels like a regular cell phone, making it a nice transition device.

From afar, the T-Mobile Shadow looks like a hipper, more modern version of the original Shadow. By the numbers, it's the same size as its predecessor at 4 inches tall by 2 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep and 5.3 ounces, but the smartphone now sports curved edges, a shinier face, and a new paint job that gives it a fresh look. We received the white and mint version (it's also available in black and burgundy) and found it quite attractive, especially the back where it slowly transforms from white to mint.

However, that's about where the attraction ends. Up close and in the hand, the T-Mobile Shadow looks a bit like a toy, and we didn't really see any vast improvements or benefits over its predecessor. In fact, we almost favor the original model's design. For one thing, the new Shadow's 2.6-inch QVGA display doesn't look all that sharp or bright, showing just 64,000 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution.

We do like the user interface for its cool animated effect and how it organizes the phone's applications into eight main categories, all of which are accessible right from the Today screen. For example, all your messages--text, multimedia, Outlook, personal, and so forth--are grouped into one section from where you can then scroll through each sub-section of messages. It just makes the Windows Mobile OS easier to use and understand, especially for first-timers.

To help you navigate the phone, there are a number of controls and shortcuts below the screen, including two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Home page shortcut, and back button, and a navigation wheel. The latter is similar to the one found on the first Shadow in that you can spin the wheel clockwise or counterclockwise to help you scroll through lists, photos, e-mails, and such. You can also use it like a traditional directional keypad and press up, down, left, and right. That said, the toggle felt a bit plasticky and cheap and we would have liked a bit more feedback when turning the wheel, since it feels pretty loose.

The Shadow offers the same slider design as the first Shadow. To access the SureType 20-button keypad, just slide the screen up. It requires a good push, but the sliding mechanism feels strong and the screen securely locks into place. What greets you when you finally open the phone, however, is a bit disappointing. Here's an example of what we mean.

Two co-workers happened to be around when the smartphone arrived (one who was actually considering purchasing the T-Mobile Shadow for herself) and as soon as I pushed up the screen, they both immediately went off about how worn down and ugly the keypad looked--that's never a good sign. But they're right. While the buttons are large and easy to press, the backlighting is really uneven, dim, and only illuminates about five buttons. It just looks bad. It's even more disappointing considering that HTC made the Shadow, and the company has quite a reputation for making some high-quality devices. It completely falls under the "What were they thinking?" category.

On the left side, you'll find a volume rocker and a microSD expansion slot, and a user-programmable shortcut key and a camera activation/capture button on the right side. The power button is located on top and there's a proprietary power/headset connector on the bottom. Obviously, we're not happy with the fact that there's no 3.5mm headphone jack, but it's even worse that it is not a standard mini USB port, so be sure to hang on to the included accessories. Last but not least, you'll find the camera located on the back.

The T-Mobile Shadow comes packaged with a travel charger, a USB cable, a wired headset, an audio adapter, a carrying case, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phones accessories, ringtones, and help page.

The T-Mobile Shadow brings a couple of new features to the table. To start, the Shadow now ships with Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard Edition out of the box. The update doesn't bring any major changes to the operating system, but it does include a handful of useful enhancements, such as threaded text messaging, more robust Windows Live capabilities, and pan in/out capabilities in Internet Explorer Mobile.

Of course, you continue to get the Microsoft Office Mobile Suite for viewing and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (view only) documents. If you're looking for a little break from work, you also get Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, allowing you to enjoy your favorite AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV music and video files. There's a File Explorer utility to help you locate files on your device and media card. Other personal-information-management tools include a PDF reader, a voice recorder, a task manager, a calculator, an alarm clock, and more. There's a wealth of third-party applications available for Windows Mobile devices; check out CNET for some ideas and suggested titles for the T-Mobile Shadow.

The T-Mobile Shadow also features Microsoft's Direct Push Technology for real-time message delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. You can also access your POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts, and like its predecessor, T-Mobile includes a set-up wizard for each of the popular e-mail clients, including AOL, Gmail, Windows Live, and Yahoo. The phone also comes preloaded with four instant-message clients: AIM, ICQ, Windows Live, and Yahoo.

The second addition that the new Shadow offers is UMA (unlicensed mobile access) support. This means that you can use the phone's integrated Wi-Fi to make and receive calls via wireless networks. The benefit of this is that calls made via Wi-Fi will not be deducted from your cellular plan, meaning you get unlimited calls as long as you're within range of the hot spot. However, there's a catch (isn't there always?); you will need to sign up for T-Mobile's Unlimited HotSpot Calling service, which starts at $9.99 per month, on top of an existing plan.

Regular phone features on the Shadow include quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, voice dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The smartphone also works with T-Mobile's MyFaves service, which gives you unlimited calling to five contacts, regardless of carrier. MyFaves plans start at $39.99 per month and your MyFaves contacts are displayed right on the Home screen for easy access. The address book is only limited by the available memory, and there's room in each entry for multiple numbers, e-mail and IM handles, home and work addresses, and all the other standard information. For caller ID purposes, you can assign each contact a photo, a group ID, and a custom ringtone.

Bluetooth 2.0 is onboard, with support for mono and stereo wireless headsets, object push, phonebook access, dial-up networking, and more. Unfortunately, the Shadow isn't compatible with T-Mobile's 3G network, so even if you were to use the smartphone as a modem for your laptop, you wouldn't get the fastest speeds.

Finally, the T-Mobile Shadow comes equipped with a 2-megapixel camera, which isn't any different from the original Shadow. In camera mode, you have the option of five resolutions and four quality settings. Other tools include a self-timer, white balance and brightness controls, a time stamp, various effects, and zoom. In camcorder mode, you get three resolutions, effects, and white balance and brightness settings.

Despite having the same camera, we actually found picture quality to be better this time around. While we weren't thrilled with the yellowish overtone, objects looked clear and there wasn't that hazy look that plagued the first Shadow. Video quality was also quite decent, as the picture had minimal blurring and graininess. Once you're done with shooting, you can view your images in a slide show and save them as your wallpaper or a contact photo. You can also send your images via MMS or e-mail, and there's something called Audio Postcard, which lets you title your picture and send along an audio note. The Shadow offers about 100MB of available storage, which can be expanded up to 8GB with a microSD card.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) T-Mobile Shadow in San Francisco using T-Mobile service and call quality was decent. Volume was fine and audio sounded mostly clear, though we could detect a slight background hissing and some warbled tones here and there. We were still able to carry on conversations without much distraction and successfully used an airline's voice-automated response system. On the other end, our friends said they could tell we were using a cell phone and at times, our voice could sound a bit digital, but otherwise they didn't have any complaints. Unfortunately, speakerphone quality wasn't the hottest. Calls sounded hollow, and even at the highest volume, the sound was very soft. We successfully paired the T-Mobile Shadow with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

Despite the faster processor (260MHz versus 200MHz), we ran into a bit of that notorious Windows Mobile sluggishness in the form of a pause or a few-second delay when launching applications and performing some tasks. It was particularly noticeable when trying to activate the camera and view our photo gallery. The onboard task manager can help you optimize CPU usage and will allow you to end tasks or close out of any applications you're not using.

The Shadow had some initial problems finding our Wi-Fi network, so we had to turn the radio off and then on again. Once we did that, we were able to connect right away. On T-Mobile's EDGE network, it took about 40 seconds for CNET's site to fully load, while CNN's mobile site came up in 10 seconds.

The T-Mobile Shadow has a 1,100mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 7 hours and up to 7 days of standby time. We are still conducting our battery-drain tests, but will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the Shadow has a digital-SAR rating of 1.38 watts per kilogram.

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