(Updated 30th January 2007)

This is a my reviews page. It'll mostly be gadget and technology reviews here, starting off with a review of Coolermaster's Centurion case:

Coolermaster Centurion

I recently bought one of these to help with cooling problems in my PC, and also to reduce a little the infiltration of dust.

Overall fitting the components to the case was a joy, compared to previous cases I've used. Everything fits well, and the screwless fittings for some items like the drives and bus slots make life easy.

The only issue I had was caused by lugs on either side of the 5.25" slots that stopped both my DVD drive from fitting in. I had to cut these off with a combination of snips and a knife, and this was frustrating. Didn't Coolermaster test this?!

The filter on the front is doing its job, and is already clogged with dust. The components are definitely cooler and airflow is good. But why not go the whole hog and fit filters on all the openings? At least the side panel opening.

So my only problems with the case are the weird issue with lugs blocking the 5.25" drives, and the lack of complete filtration. One star lost for this.

Overall score: 4/5. Good!

Logitech Quickcam Pro 5000

I bought one of these from the USA in September 2006. Installing the camera was straightforward, and all seemed well at first. The "grasping" mount that Logitech use is well designed, and hangs easily over my LCD screen. Also the video effects are amusing, at first at least.

My first usage problem was that recorded videos were overly compressed. I spotted that the bundled software, Quickcam 10.0, was recording to Windows Media Video (WMV) format. Although the files were small, they were just too compressed. An option is necessary to change this. Where is it Logitech? Although Logitech don't tell you this, or bundle it, you can download their ImageStudio software from their web or FTP site and use this instead. Although this creates very large AVI Files. The advantage of ImageStudio though is it has security software, which allows you to turn the webcam into a security camera that monitors and records should anyone step in front of it. So it can be worth downloading it for that alone.

My second usage problem was more serious, and again seemed to be caused by Quickcam 10.0, or the associated drivers. Whenever the camera is in use, with whatever program (hence I suspect the drivers), the CPU load jumps to around 100%. This seems to be the case with several of Logitech's latest cameras, such as the Fusion. It also seems to have been an issue since June of this year (2006), yet Logitech have failed to-date to release updated drivers. More on this at a thread at Logitech's forum.

In summary: a camera that looks great at first, but quality is greatly marred by bad software. Hopefully a software release will be forthcoming from Logitech, but look at the timescale it's taken for them to release it (nothing since June 2006, and it's currently November).

Overall score: 2/5. Poor!

Update: Logitech released updated software at the end of 2006 which mostly resolves the performance issue with the camera.

Overall score: 4/5. Good!

Dell Axim X50V

Thanks to a good friend of mine I was able to get one of these secondhand in early 2006, but it was good as new and at a substantially reduced price. Otherwise there's no way I could have afforded one! For those who aren't familiar with the Dell Axim range they are Pocket PCs (AKA PDAs) that use Microsoft Windows Mobile. The Axim X50V first shipped with Windows Mobile 2003, but an upgrade was provided to later models with Windows Mobile 5 that older users could purchase (slapped wrist to Dell for making people buy it).

I'm not going to give a lot of detail about the actual PDA specifications as there are 101 web sites that have that. Suffice to say it has a VGA screen, Bluetooth and wireless networking. Mostly though I'm just going to give my experience with it.

Generally I've been impressed. It works well most of the time, and is stable. Also it's very easy to use it with Activesync, whicn makes light work of synchronising what you want with a Windows PC.

I have a few niggles with the PDA though. Firstly there are some minor issues with stability, although whether these are the PDA or Windows Mobile are hard to say (being that this is my first PDA with Windows Mobile). On occasion software will hang requiring a reset, and so far I've had to hard reset the device once when the wireless networking slowed to a crawl, and the Bluetooth device vanished from Windows and couldn't be recovered. On occasion it's also done the infamous WSOD (White Screen of Death) which requires a soft reset.

There are also some general issues that related to Windows Mobile and the hardware. For starters memory management is confusing. It's hard to know for a beginner which memory pool you're saving to, and to keep the memory pool of the device itself clear. So typically a beginner will find themselves having to hard reset the device and start over once they get some knowledge. Also these types of devices tend to power on with alarms, or for what appear to be other random reasons. This can drain the battery unnecessarily, and I think off ought to be off, short of an alarm. On the subject of alarms, famously the clock alarm doesn't wake the Axim X50V, which seems ridiculous. Although reminders set in the calendar will wake it. Another odd inconsistency.

Another niggle relates to the way it handles emails. Bearing in mind this is a device that many businesspeople will use, you'd think the functionality for multiple email accounts would be better. As it stands with both Windows Mobile 2003 and 5, it will only check the one active email account at the prescribed interval. The other accounts are ignored. This needs to be changed!

In summary, a good device marred by niggles relating to both the hardware and the operating system.

Overall score: 3/5. Average.

Westinghouse LCM-20v5 20.1 inch LCD Monitor

Back in April 2006 I was visiting Florida, and was on the hunt for a reasonably large LCD monitor to replace my rather awful 17 inch CRT monitor. I perused the selection at Best Buy, and by far the cheapeast (amid the expensive Sonys, Samsungs, and others) was this model by Westinghouse. I was on a budget, so took a chance, and the recommendation from the Best Buy staffmember, to buy it.

So far, in November 2006, I'm thoroughly impressed and it's still going strong. It survived a trip back from the USA to Brazil, albeit as hand baggage (thanks to American Airlines for that! British Airways wouldn't have been as flexible). Its native resolution of 1400 x 1050 is plenty big enough for working, yet not too hard on the eyes. Hopefully it continues to last!

Overall score: 5/5. Excellent!

Microsoft Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2.0

I bought this as a replacement for an aging Microsoft wired mouse. The build quality is excellent, as is often the case with Microsoft hardware. The mouse works as required with the major exception of the middle mouse button, that's incorporated in the wheel. Essentially the middle mouse button is set way too hard in terms of the pressure required to press it. In the times where ergonomics and repetitive strain injury are major issues, I can't believe this was overlooked.

In summary what could have been a good basic wireless mouse, but marred by a simple design flaw with the middle mouse button.

Overall score: 2/5. Poor!

Logitech MX610 Wireless Mouse

After the major issue of the Microsoft mouse above I thought I'd take a risk and try this Logitech mouse, a risk more so because of the issues I'd had with the Logitech webcam. The build quality of the Logitech mouse isn't as great as Microsoft's, which a simple once over inspection makes obvious. Even so, the MX610 is packed with features supposedly, including the standard wheel, as well as volume up and down, mute, and back and forward navigation buttons.

Aside from the volume buttons, of interest to me are the light up buttons that are supposed to be used to notify you when either an email or IM message are received by your PC. The email side works at least with Microsoft Outlook, and the IM notification is supposed to work with MSN Messenger, Windows Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger (a rather limited list). As you may have noticed from the "supposed tos", they don't work. Neither new emails with Outlook 2003, nor IMs from MSN Messenger, cause the buttons to light up. The idea is that when the buttons light up you can immediately press it to get focus on the new email/IM. So far I've heard via Logitech's forum that replacement mice are being issued to solve the problem. I've just opened a support ticket with Logitech, and so far the first response (which took a couple of days) is to check I'm running their SetPoint software, which I am, the latest version of. It remains to be seen if the problem of a key feature not working can be resolved.

In summary: an OK mouse, spoiled again for Logitech by key features not working.

Overall score: 2/5. Poor!

Update: I managed to resolve the IM notifications, which it seems were not working because of some preferences I'd changed in Messenger Live. Bottom line, make sure notifications are switched on there as well. Even so, I'd think twice before buying the mouse for the notifications. You need a very specific situation where these are useful, and often when clicking the email or IM button it won't give focus to the relevant window and it sits there flashing on the taskbar.

In summary: a good mouse, but think whether you need all the features.

Overall score: 4/5. Good!

   
   
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