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The old PC gets a new life

The old PC gets a new life
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First Published: Thu, Mar 26 2009. 11 34 PM IST

Updated: Thu, Mar 26 2009. 11 34 PM IST
Supported by intuitive user interfaces with multi-touch (the ability to have multiple contact points) functions, these single-unit CPU-cum-display PC panels are opening up a new vista of operational alternatives and simplifying daily computing. No, we are not talking about the expensive, specialized, industrial-size monsters, such as the Kortek PC, with their 70-inch touch screens.
Three of the four PCs featured here (except for HP TouchSmart) launched at the recent Consumer Electronic Show 2009 gadget show and all four belong to the new breed of personal computers called “net tops”: Complete with touch-screen capability and a host of other functions, these machines promise to be worthy successors to the home PC you bought some years ago.
The Shuttle X50 comes with a 15.6-inch, 1366x768 pixel touch screen display. It ticks to the beat of a dual-core 1.6GHz Atom 330 processor with an Intel 945 graphics chipset and GMA 950 graphics card in accompaniment. Other specifications comprise 1 GB of RAM, a 1.3-megapixel webcam, a card reader, 5.1 channel audio, microphone/speaker jacks, built-in speakers, an Ethernet port, as many as five USB 2.0 ports and a stylus to take on screen-tapping labour. A stand at the rear doubles up as a convenient handle for lugging the PC around. Unlike the Asus Eee Top (see right), the Shuttle comes with just an 80 GB hard disk drive. While no official word on its wireless connectivity capabilities is out yet, the Shuttle X50 is expected to carry with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when it ships in March. And yes, this PC will also come pre-loaded with Windows XP.
Metamorphosing from the soul of the path-breaking MSI Wind netbooks, the NetOn M22, M19 and M16 net tops are built around either dual-core or single 1.6GHz Intel Atom 330 processors. The single-core machines come with Windows XP pre-loaded and the dual-core models carry Vista. All three offer touch screen functionality and incorporate TV tuners—but only as a buyer option.
The 22-inch M22 boasts a 1,920x1,080 resolution display, while the 18.5-inch M19 and 15.6-inch M16 are fronted by 1,366x768 screens. They offer two-three USB 2.0 ports, a memory card reader, an Ethernet port, a VGA connection, audio in and out as well as PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard. While the M22 and M19 are panel PCs that house the CPC behind their monitors, the M16 ensconces its primary hardware elements in a small box beneath the screen. The top-of-the-line M22 can also be ordered with an integrated Blu-ray drive as well as a remote control. All three models are slated to sit pretty in stores by the end of March.
With a special Windows XP interface that makes touch-based interaction easier by incorporating extra large icons—which you can’t miss even if you’ve been blessed with fat fingertips—the Eee Top hardware architecture comes riding an Intel Atom N270 and 945 GSE.
This all-in-one with its 15.6-inch resistive touch display also trumps out most other net tops with its 5,400rpm, 160 GB Sata hard disk. Apart from 802.11n Wi-Fi, onboard graphics, the 4.3kg net top offers a built-in 1.3MP webcam, twin 4W speakers, three audio ports for 5.1 channel sound, 1-gigabit LAN port, four USBs and a card reader. Yet, touch screen magic or not, the Eee Top’s keyboard and mouse are not wireless and there’s no optical drive. The Eee Top is already available in India.
HP’s TouchSmart is not an eco-powered net top-class machine but a leading edge, fully loaded, turbo-charged PC panel powered by a 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 64-bit processor with a 2MB L2 cache and a Mobile Intel GM965 Express chipset.
This hunk boasts a vibrant and sensitive 22-inch TFT active matrix display, 4 GB RAM, 256 MB NVIDIA GeForce 9,300 graphics card, a 7,200rpm, 500 GB hard disk and a slot-loading DVD burner. Obviously therefore, features such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, five USB 2.0 ports, FireWire, card reader, Web camera, built-in high-definition speakers, among others, have got to be in place too. Not to mention a wireless keyboard and mouse as well as a full-function TV remote. TV tuner? Of course. And then there’s the specially developed touch-sensitive user interface.
A coffee table as a computer? Yes. Actually, it is a 30-inch tabletop (or surface) display that allows you to play, search, enlarge, reduce—basically, do virtually everything you can do on your computer—using touch and intuitive hand gestures. So you can sift through photographs as if they were lying on a table, skim Virtual Earth (www.microsoft.com/virtualearth) maps with your hands as if they were regular “paper” maps (in addition to zooming, panning, finding as you would on your PC), play Scrabble or chess using your fingers to move pieces around, or sketch, among other things. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=rP5y7yp06n0 for a demo.
Having debuted in the retail, banking, health care, hospitality and entertainment sectors last year, Surface will be ready for regular consumers by 2010.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
LeapFrog is planning to sell a BlackBerry-like device for kids which will have a full keyboard, a calendar (for learning dates, not making appointments) and games and functions to help with letters, spelling, phonics and basic computer skills. The Text and Learn PDA will retail for between $20-30 (Rs974-1,461). There will be limited texting capabilities. The user will only be able to converse with onscreen buddy Scout. Is this a case of kids growing up too fast, and in some cases, getting ahead of their parents technologically? ©2009/ The New York Times
Did you know that you can password-protect your USB drive with an encryption utility program? Check out Pgp.com for software on sale. Companies that make antivirus and security software may have drive-encryption options for sale as well. You could also consider shareware from a reputable site or a free open-source solution such as TrueCrypt (Truecrypt.org). If you are shopping for a new USB drive, several models have security measures built in. Also try IronKey (Ironkey.com), which makes waterproof, tamper-proof USB drives. ©2009/ The New York Times
Want to listen to your favourite radio channel on your cellphone, but hate to carry that forever-tangled set of headphones? Check out Motorola’s set of upcoming models: the MotoRokr EM35, Moto VE66, and MotoSurf A3000 handsets. This new portfolio of smartphones, slated for release in the next couple of months, feature built-in antennas for FM and thus make for a totally wireless radio-listening experience. These are perhaps the world’s first phones to have such in-built antennas. Ashish Bhatia
When the time comes to scan old manuscripts and other forms of printed matter so you can edit the results, try the optical character recognition (OCR) program. Like regular photo-scanning software, an OCR programme converts the page of text into a digital file.
It takes an additional step by analysing the scanned image and converting the picture of the words into the actual words themselves. It then deposits the results into a text file that can be used with a word-processing program. ©2009/ The New York Times
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First Published: Thu, Mar 26 2009. 11 34 PM IST
More Topics: Gadgets | PC | Laptops | Shuttle X50 | MSI Wind Neton |