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Sunday , February 20 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Smart multi-tasker

Media players that let you push your movies, photos and music onto your TV aren’t hard to come by these days for pretty much any budget, so existing players have to pull out all the stops to impress. With the WD TV Live Hub, Western Digital has not only made their chubby line of media players lose some weight, they’ve upped the value stakes as well.

To start it, there’s a big change to the user interface, and while I liked what they already had, this one is by far more appealing and visually rich. The device itself features USB ports on the front and rear and a 3D-ready HDMI 1.4 output. With its built in 1 terabyte drive, it can not only act as a network storage but also stream in or out full HD 1080p resolution content from and to existing DLNA/UPnP (wireless streaming mechanisms) PCs and TVs. The infra-red remote is a tough cookie to master, to begin with.

More importantly, can it handle all the varied content I threw at it? Yes, and with aplomb — it plays back all forms of Internet downloaded media files (DivX HD to AVCHD and MKV), so no one’s going to complain about lack of format support. Playing files locally, via USB or over the network didn’t matter; performance was stellar from all sources. You can even access online content from YouTube, Flickr and Live365 plus Facebook. Pity that the unit only features wired network connectivity, there’s no Bittorrent downloads capability, and the HDD is not upgradable without messing around with the internals and voiding the warranty in the process. Even so, at its price, the price-performance-ratio of the Live Hub with its 1TB drive is hard to beat.

• Rating: 8/10

• Price: Rs 9,999

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Sunny side up

I abhor wires, snaking and knotting their way as only they can around my table. Ergo, I love wireless. Except when it comes to wireless keyboards and mice — the thought of the batteries running out at an inopportune time is unpleasant, and the fear looms large what with the way these things chew through batteries. But the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750, which as the name suggests is a wireless solar powered keyboard? This I have to see!

Straight off, the ultra-slim 1/3-in profile and a bevy of laptop-style chiclet keys is pleasing to use, and light on the lap. The solar panels installed on the top need only ambient light to be powered, not direct sunlight, and regular office or home lighting is sufficient. The panels do occupy a fair bit of space, and the company claims that its low-power integrated circuits can, in theory, keep the keyboard powered for three months even if you leave it in a dark cupboard.

You can even download an app from the Logitech website which lets you know about current light and battery levels and alerts you if charging is needed. The keyboard uses the same 2.4GHz Nano Unifying receiver to connect to a PC as several other Logitech wireless products, which means you can save on additional wireless receivers crowding your USB ports. In the end, it is a pricey investment, but you have to use it over a couple of weeks to understand its value — it is a rather liberating experience. Certainly shows the way forward for wireless peripherals.

• Rating: 7/10

• Price: Rs 5,995

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Premium feel

Who said Windows laptops weren’t sexy anymore? Dell’s XPS line of laptops always had a premium feel to them, and the new XPS L501X comes clad in an all-aluminium casing. But what’s pleasing to see is that for the Rs 65,000 price, this laptop does not scrimp in the least on specs. It’s targeted as a desktop replacement laptop meant for home entertainment and multimedia, and the specs do full justice to that claim.

You get the latest quad-core Intel Core i7-740QM 1.73-GHz processor, 4GB DRR3 RAM, a fast 7200rpm 500GB hard drive, an Nvidia GeForce GT 435M GPU and a 15.6-in glossy LED-backlit screen with a full-HD, 1920x1080 pixel resolution. The extra touches are all there — a backlit keyboard, HDMI output, USB ports supporting USB 3.0 and a Blu-ray BD-ROM drive. And the Nvidia graphics supports 3D TV Play, so you can connect the laptop to any HDMI-enabled HDTV and play 3D movies on your non-3D ready T V. Performance wise, the laptop scorches through everyday tasks, and movies and music sound pretty good thanks to two 4W speakers and one 12W subwoofer.

Overall the XPS L501X offers a no-compromises Windows laptop at a very reasonable price, given the specs and looks.

• Rating: 8/10

• Price: Rs 65,000 for the Core i7-740QM version, lower configurations available

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