HP LaserJet Pro P1606dn

The HP LaserJet Pro P1606dn monochrome laser printer aims at small offices and home offices that prize speed. Despite its moderate price, it delivers plenty of pep, along with good paper handling. Unfortunately, its high toner costs make it a better fit for low-volume users than for high-volume users.

The LaserJet Pro P1606dn’s feature set is a definite step up from what you’d typically find in a low-end printer. It has a 250-sheet main input tray and, above that, a 10-sheet secondary tray for feeding letterhead or envelopes. The top-loading output tray holds 125 sheets. The construction of these parts seems adequate, but the output tray extensions are a bit bendier than we’d like. USB and ethernet connections are standard. The biggest disappointment to us was the control panel: Its two buttons and four LEDs all have icons, but no word labels, so you have to guess what each one means or look it up in the documentation.

Speed is impressive for the price, and quality is normal. The LaserJet Pro P1606dn averaged a swift 19.2 pages per minute on the Mac and 19.3 ppm on the PC, printing mostly plain text with some simple monochrome graphics. Print speeds for graphics pages were respectable, but the output quality was somewhat rough.

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HP LaserJet Pro P1102w

HP LaserJet Pro P1102w monochrome laser printer
The HP LaserJet Pro P1102w is a basic monochrome laser printer with a few surprises, namely better-than-expected speed and Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, its pricey toner offsets its very affordable purchase price.

Standard 802.11b/g wireless (plus USB) gives a progressive lift to an otherwise typically configured low-end laser printer. The P1102w has a 150-sheet main input area, a foldout front panel (rather than a full-fledged tray) with sliding width guides. The machine also has a manual-feed slot for thicker media. The top-loading output tray holds 125 sheets. Although the construction of these parts is impressively sturdy, their markings (stamped into the black plastic with no contrasting coloring) are nearly impossible to decipher. Manual duplexing is available on both a Mac and a PC, with helpful on-screen prompts.

The control panel's two buttons and three LEDs all have icons, but no word labels. You have to check their meaning in the HTML-based documentation, which, to its credit, has excellent, animated translations of the LED sequences.

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12-core Mac Pro (Mid 2010)

The differences between the recently released Mac Pros and the 2009 models they replace are minimal—an update, really, with graphics and processor speeds brought up to 2010 standards. If there is one new specification that sets this generation apart from previous Mac Pros (and all previous Mac, for that matter), it is the new, double-digit number of processing cores available in one system.

The new Intel Xeon Westmere processors that make their Apple debut with the new Mac Pro offer up to six cores per processor. And for $5000, you can outfit a Mac Pro with two six-core processors, for a total of 12 processing cores. That system ships with a 1TB 7200-rpm hard drive, 6GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card with 1GB of video memory.

The new Westmere processors support Intel’s Hyper Threading technology that can offer twice as many virtual cores (24 in this case) to applications that can make use of them. The processors also use TurboBoost technology to power down those extra cores when idle to provide more power to the one or two cores that a typical application might actually use.

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MicroNet unveils new RAIDBank5

On Monday, MicroNet, a storage developer catering to the small and medium business community, unveiled its new RAIDBank5 storage solution. Boasting a 10TB capacity with the reliability of RAID 5, the RAIDBank5 is designed for creative professionals looking for a fast, low-hassle RAID solution.

The RAIDBank5 offers quad interface connectivity including FireWire 800, FireWire 400, eSATA, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0. Unfortunately, as USB 3.0 connectivity is not supported by Apple at this time, Mac users cannot enjoy this latter connection type. But they can enjoy all four other connection types and the RAIDBank5’s RAID architecture that MicroNet claims can deliver more than 200 MBps.

According to MicroNet’s press release, the RAIDBank5 can achieve read and write speeds of 218 MBps and 220 MBps, respectively, when configured for RAID 5 operations. This makes the RAIDBank5 an ideal solution for small business owners and creative professionals who have high-end needs for digital audio editing and video production. The RAIDBank5 supports multi-stream High Definition Video, DVCPro for broadcasting use, Apple’s Pro-Res 422 for post-production on Final Cut Studio, as well as uncompressed Standard Definition and High Definition video workflow.

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Lab Report: The fastest Macs money can buy 2010

Apple offers its Macs in a number of standard configurations; these are the systems you see when perusing the shelves of retail Apple Stores or the virtual shelves of the online Apple Store. But Apple offers upgrades for each system that can increase performance—and the price—of a Mac.

The upgrades include faster processors, faster storage devices, and more RAM, and these built-to-order (BTO) options usually offer considerably improved performance over the base standard configuration that you start with. Macworld Lab got a few of these BTO Macs, and our new overall system performance test suite, Speedmark 6.5, shows that four of the five fastest Macs we’ve tested are BTO configurations.

More cores, faster cores

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CalDigit AV Drive

For months, Mac users have had to sit on the sidelines while Windows users have enjoyed drives with USB 3.0 capabilities. The next-generation connection type promises to be even faster than eSATA while still maintaining USB’s convenience and universality. CalDigit’s AV Drive claims to be the first drive with USB 3.0 connectivity for both the Mac and Windows, and when we first heard of the company’s promises of universality and blazing 5Gbps transfer speeds, we were understandably skeptical. But as our lab tests prove, the AV Drive is one of the fastest, most exciting, and unique storage solutions we’ve seen this year.

The single biggest question about the AV Drive: “How do you offer USB 3.0 connectivity when Macs don’t have USB 3.0 ports?” The answer isn’t elegant, but it works: The AV Drive comes with either a SuperSpeed PCI Express Card for Mac Pros or a SuperSpeed Expresscard/34 for laptops. Essentially, CalDigit has made USB 3.0 as approachable as eSATA but the company has gone the extra mile and supplied the user with the cards necessary to ensure they can actually use the device. This also helps to explain the hefty $258 price tag for the 1TB model we tested. One major caveat: The bundled card is compatible only with CalDigit hard drives.

The AV Drive isn’t going to win any style points, and the average consumer probably won’t want to bother with card installation in order to use USB 3.0 connectivity. But the audio/visual experts and prosumers who do get their hands on the AV Drive will probably not care that the silver heavy brick is a visual bore. Instead, they’ll likely care more that the drive has two FireWire 800 ports, a DC power port, and a USB 3.0 port with backwards compatibility to USB 2.0.

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Mac benchmarks: Speedmark 6.5

Here in the Macworld Lab, we try to keep Speedmark, our Macintosh benchmark test suite, on pace with the current version of Mac OS X (for example, we updated to Speedmark 6 when Mac OS X 10.6 was released). Since the introduction of Speedmark 6, we’ve seen new releases of Photoshop, HandBrake, Aperture, and Parallels. Another application in Speedmark 6, CineBench R10, can’t handle all 24 virtual processing cores found on some 2010 Mac Pros.

Though there has been no announced release date for OS X 10.7, it has become necessary to update our Speedmark tests. To that end, we’ve been hard at work updating the applications and the tests to come up with Speedmark 6.5.

Aside from the updates to the applications, we’ve made some additions and some subtractions from the test suite. We’ve added a multitasking test, running our updated Photoshop CS5 action script while iTunes 10 converts AAC files to MP3 and the Finder compresses a 2GB folder. Due to strange issues with certain optical drives, and the absence of DVD drives on some Macs, we no longer rip a DVD from the Mac’s optical drive—we now use HandBrake to encode a video file already ripped to the hard drive. We’ve also chosen to leave out our Compressor test; Speedmark 6 was heavy on encoding tests and our iMovie and HandBrake tests seem more in-line with the tasks Macworld readers are likely to perform most often.

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