The Epson Artisan 835 is the company's flagship, photo-oriented color inkjet multifunction (print/copy/scan/fax). Although it isn't specifically designed for office use (as is Epson's WorkForce line), the Artisan 835 has nearly every feature a home-office user could want and then some, making its $300 price justifiable, if still dear.
Setting up the Artisan 835 wirelessly was a breeze (USB and ethernet are also available); the dialog boxes were concise and easy to understand. Bundled software includes ArcSoft Print Creations for projects such as calendars, cards, and brochures, as well as Web to Page for formatting online content to fit better onto paper.
Automatic duplexing (two-sided printing) and an automatic document feeder for sending multipage documents through the scanner help make the Artisan 835 one of the best-equipped inkjet multifunctions we've seen. It also handles printable optical media (CDs, DVDs): Press the CD Tray button, and a 5.25-inch disc tray descends from the output area. The bottom-mounted, 120-sheet letter/legal paper tray is adequate; a dedicated, 20-sheet photo paper tray nestles inside it. Two media-card slots take CompactFlash, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD-Picture Card.
In the storage world, if you want a RAID array, you’re expected to also want a network attached storage solution and a wealth of features like remote access, bit torrent support, and various media servers. But what if you just want a no-nonsense RAID array? The Icy Dock Dual Bay RAID Enclosure might be the storage solution for you.
The Dual Bay (I looked at model MB662USEB-2S) offers high-performance, varied RAID arrays, multiple connection options and a respectable price for a RAID enclosure ($200). The Dual Bay is an upgraded version of its 3.5 inch MB662 line, adding eSATA to FireWire 800, FireWire 400, and USB 2.0 connectivity. Icy Dock boasts that the enclosure can achieve transfer speeds as fast as 3Gbit per second via eSATA, and 800 Mbits per second via FireWire 800.
The updated RAID controller also allows for 2TB drives to be used in each bay, ensuring users have 4TB of storage for their media needs. The Dual Bay can be set to be a “concatenated” JBOD mode that will allow for a combined storage volume without the risk of complete data loss. According to Icy Dock, this means that, “The data is written across a single drive, and when it becomes full, it moves to the next drive, so if a drive fails, only the data on that drive will be lost.” Additionally, the Dual Bay can be configured in a RAID 0 array for faster performance or a RAID 1 array for data redundancy.
The Dell 1250c color printer uses LED technology instead of the more-common laser to create equally crisp results. Priced at just $230, it makes color output seem attainable even for a home office. Unfortunately, exorbitant toner costs make this printer unbearably pricey in the long term.
Printer vendors often charge lower-volume users less for the printer and more for the toner, but Dell has set a new record with this model. The printer ships with standard-size, 700-page supplies. The black toner costs $50 (7.1 cents per page), while each color costs $55 (7.9 cents per color, per page). A page with all four colors would cost almost 31 cents. Those prices would look expensive even compared with the costs of a color inkjet printer. The higher-yield supplies, at $70 each, are merely onerous: The black toner lasts 2000 pages (3.5 cents per page), and each color lasts 1400 pages (5 cents per page). A four-color page would cost 18.5 cents.
Further disappointment lies in the skimpy design and features. The control panel consists of a couple of clearly labeled buttons and a lot of lights, the meanings of which can vary depending on the color they show and the speed of their blinking—yes, you have to figure out whether it's a fast or slow blink. You need the documentation to interpret them.
The Lexmark Impact S305 inkjet multifunction printer (for printing, copying, and scanning) offers a basic set of features and capabilities for just $100, which would make it a real bargain except that its ink prices are extremely high. If your printing needs are modest, you might not mind; but in this price range, other devices offermore for the money.
Lexmark's setup routine can guide a novice through every step of printer setup; savvier users can skip through at a faster pace. The wireless installation we chose required a brief connection via USB. Lexmark installs exactly one shortcut to the Lexmark Printer Home software, which adequately covers scanning but does not include the photo and creative features that some other vendors' software offers.
Aside from its Wi-Fi capability, the Impact S305's features are minimal (as you'd expect at this price). Though the few buttons and backlit monochrome LCD are scattered across a large control panel, they're labeled and easy to use. You don't get an automatic document feeder for the letter-size scanner, but the lid telescopes to accept thicker material such as books. The single, vertical rear input tray accommodates just 100 pages, which is enough for light home or student use. The foldout front output tray holds 25 sheets. Manual duplexing works on the PC platform, but not on the Mac.
If you’re a fan of the 27-inch iMac, but don’t want to give up the portability of your MacBook Pro or expandability of your Mac Pro, Apple thinks you’ll love its new 27-inch LED Cinema Display. The display is basically a 27-inch iMac without the computer, matching closely that popular iMac’s display in both specifications and design.
Aside from the few inches of aluminum found on the bottom the screen of the iMac, the Cinema Display looks nearly identical, sharing the same flat aluminum stand, black border, curved corners and edge-to-edge glossy glass cover. Like the iMac, the display has built-in speakers and iSight camera.
The Cinema Display lacks many ergonomic adjustment abilities, offering no way to raise or lower the display, or to rotate into a portrait mode. The display can tilt forward and back, but that’s about it. A VESA mount ($29) is sold separately, allowing you to remove the stand and mount it on a wall or a more ergonomic stand. OS X’s Displays Preferences recognizes the LED Cinema Display and offers standard or 90, 180, 270 degree rotation options.
The 2010 MacBook Air models offer impressive improvements in both design and in performance when compared to previous MacBook Airs. But with just 2GB of RAM and the slowest Intel Core 2 Duo processors in the entire Mac lineup, we were interested in putting some of the build-to-order options to the test.
Luckily, our local Apple Store was more than happy to sell us the “ultimate” configurations of the MacBook Airs with twice the RAM and faster processors. The ultimate 11-inch MacBook Air takes the $1199 MacBook Air () and adds 2GB of RAM (4GB of RAM total) and bumps the processor from the stock 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo to a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo processor. These upgrades cost $100 each, bringing the 11-inch ultimate MacBook Air to $1399. The ultimate 13-inch MacBook Air configuration starts with the $1599 13-inch MacBook Air (); the RAM gets bumped to 4GB and the processor gets a boost from a 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo to a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo. It sells for $1799.
Our Speedmark 6.5 results show the BTO 11-inch MacBook Air topping its standard configuration version by 12 percent, overall. The biggest individual test gains were in iTunes encoding and our multitasking test, which were both 16 percent faster on the BTO 11-inch MacBook Air. Aperture was 14 percent faster, and iPhoto and HandBrake were both 13 percent faster.
Despite a few quirks, the Samsung CLX-6220FX color laser multifunction printer is well worth considering for small-workgroup use. It offers only average performance and toner costs, but its output quality is very nice. Although the printer lists for $699, we'd seen it advertised for less than $500, so it could also represent a minimal initial investment.
The CLX-6220FX faxes, copies, prints, and scans, via both USB and ethernet. Duplexing is standard for both printing and copying or scanning via the 50-sheet automatic document feeder. You get a 250-page input cassette and a 100-sheet multipurpose tray, plus a 170-page output tray. An additional 500-sheet, bottom-mounted cassette is available for $235. The control panel is minimal but efficient, with a four-line monochrome LCD, a logical menu and navigation-button layout, and a numeric keypad for faxing. Bundled applications are provided for both OS X and Windows, and they are easy to use. In our tests, however, the installation on the Mac tucked them away in the Applications folder without leaving a clue as to their existence.
As mentioned earlier, the CLX-6220FX's output quality is very good for a midlevel laser printer. On tests with both our PC and our Mac, text was sharp. Color images exhibited a slightly bright but still realistic default palette, which made the mild background pattern and graininess more tolerable. Our PC scan sample (a high-resolution snapshot) looked cartoonish, while the Mac scan sample (an even higher-resolution, near-full-page photo) tended to get too murky in darker areas. Copies on both platforms were crisp and well colored.