Alistair Dabbs

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Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing.
Lenovo U300s Ultrabook

Lenovo U300s Ultrabook

A body made from a single piece of aluminium. Uh-huh. A case held shut with magnets. Righty. A multi-gesture trackpad with a glass surface. Ohhh-kayyy, I think I can see what's happening here. Lenovo U300s Ultrabook Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Ultrabook With the IdeaPad U300s, Lenovo wants to convince you it has created the most …
Alistair Dabbs, 30 Apr 2012

Computer nostalgia is 10 PRINT 'BOLLOCKS'

"The music is reversible but time is not. Turn back! Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!" A good sign that you've reached middle age - apart from making mid-1970s ELO references - is when you discover a colleague's date of birth and can remember exactly what you were doing on that day. The sign of old age is almost the same, …
Alistair Dabbs, 27 Apr 2012

What kind of LOSER sits in front of a PC...

I have just wasted half a day at the London Book Fair, hoping to discover some new e-book readers with a view to reviewing them for El Reg. Expecting to wade waist-high through stacks of competitive continental European brands, I was disappointed to find that the exhibition's Digital Zone was dominated by companies offering to …
Alistair Dabbs, 20 Apr 2012

Laptop computers are crap

Occasionally, the crumbs scavenged by the Dabbs clan are supplemented with purchases from a local food emporium, the expenditure being partly funded by product reviews that I submit to El Reg. El Reg, by the way, is a real person in a kind of virtual concept common to all omnipresent beings. The last time I was granted an …
Alistair Dabbs, 13 Apr 2012

The iPad 3 would make me so horny...

In my Dad's generation, middle-aged men of means would buy new cars at the end of every July because that's when new licence plates came out. Their old cars would be traded in as part-exchange, sold to third parties through classified ads, or passed magnanimously to relatives. This was regarded as civilised and financially …
Alistair Dabbs, 06 Apr 2012
Aliens theatrical release and special edition Blu-ray disc set

Aliens Blu-ray disc set

James Cameron is often credited with turning science fiction from a cult or B-movie genre into a one that earned not just big money but critical success too. The breakthrough film was Aliens and the year was 1986. Aliens theatrical release and special edition Blu-ray disc set Aliens on Blu-ray: Two films for the price of one …
Alistair Dabbs, 05 Apr 2012
Toshiba Portégé Z830-10N Ultrabook

Toshiba Portégé Z830-10N 13.3in Ultrabook

The last time I tested a Toshiba laptop, it had a glowing orange screen and the keyboard rattled like a box of Lego. Come to think of it, newspapers at the time were scaring readers about ‘house parties’, so it was quite a while ago. So perhaps you can imagine how utterly charming the pretentiously named Portégé Z830-10N …
Alistair Dabbs, 23 Feb 2012
Asus UX21E Zenbook Core i5 laptop

Asus UX21E Zenbook 11.6in Ultrabook

Having already reviewed the slightly larger Asus UX31E Zenbook for El Reg, and quite liking it, I whinged that sending me the UX21E model would be a waste of time. It wasn’t, obviously, because you’re reading this. I loved it. In fact, I preferred it. Asus UX21E Zenbook Core i5 laptop For such a small device, the Asus UX21E has …
Alistair Dabbs, 09 Feb 2012
Samsung Series 7 Chonos Intel Core i7 notebook

Samsung Series 7 Chonos 15.6in Core i7 notebook

Surely someone is having a laugh. Having read nothing but five-star reviews of this luxury notebook on other sources, I find myself surprised to be staring at a four-star product on my desk. Four stars is pretty good, you know, but that’s one less than five. Samsung Series 7 Chonos Intel Core i7 notebook All in good time: …
Alistair Dabbs, 06 Feb 2012
Wacom Bamboo Fun S Pen and Touch graphics tablet

Wacom Bamboo Fun S Pen and Touch

Take TWO pointing devices into the shower? Not me, I use Wac-and-Go. When I first saw this product demonstrated – a graphics tablet with pressure-sensitive stylus but whose surface equally supports touch gestures – I thought I’d seen the best creative gadget ever. Wacom Bamboo Fun S Pen and Touch graphics tablet Wacom's Bamboo …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 Jan 2012
Asus Zenbook UX31E

Asus Zenbook UX31E

I honestly thought it would take the industry a lot longer to start producing Windows Ultrabooks for under a grand that are this good. The Asus Zenbook is as flat and skinny and as light as a MacBook Air without trying to look like one, and is a darn sight better connected. Asus Zenbook UX31E Smart notebook in size zero …
Alistair Dabbs, 15 Dec 2011
Apple 27in Thunderbolt Display specs

Apple Thunderbolt Display 27in monitor

After Apple’s hoo-ha about the Thunderbolt port on its newest Macs and MacBook Pros, it’s great to finally have something to plug into it. But I began testing this monitor with tainted expectations: less ‘OK show me what you can do’ and more ‘oh lordy, yet another locked-in connectivity standard’. It ended with tainted love. …
Alistair Dabbs, 02 Dec 2011
Apple MacBook Pro 13in Core i5 laptop

Apple MacBook Pro 13in Core i5 laptop

Guilty, your honour. In mitigation, I would like to assure the jury that I do not automatically adore everything with Apple branding on it, nor have I any intention of jacking off over a Steve Jobs biography. I just happen to like the current range of Apple MacBook Pro notebook computers, that’s all. Is it such a crime? Apple …
Alistair Dabbs, 24 Nov 2011
Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook

Acer Aspire S3 Core i7 Ultrabook

The Acer Aspire S3 is a major new entrant to the emerging market for ‘ultraportables’ – ultra-thin but powerful notebook PCs with reduced components to keep the space and weight to a minimum. It won’t suit everyone, but if you like the idea of a portable Windows computer than can be carried in one hand or tucked under your …
Alistair Dabbs, 16 Nov 2011
Acer Iconia A100 7in Android tablet

Acer Iconia A100 7in Android tablet

Hey, tablet geeks out there, do you remember what you hated most about Samsung’s original 7in Galaxy Tab? The grainy display, the glitchy software, the lack of memory, the poorly located buttons that you kept pressing by mistake? Acer Iconia A100 7in Android tablet Designed for portrait usage I suspect Acer drew up the same …
Alistair Dabbs, 23 Sep 2011
Apple MacBook Pro 17in

Apple MacBook Pro 17in 2011

A slap across the face is what I need. It’s the only language I understand. My problem is that I have played with too many Apple MacBooks over the past 18 months. They were starting to look similar, a little standard perhaps, maybe even ordinary. Apple MacBook Pro 17in Quad core as standard: Apple's 17in MacBook Pro So I took …
Alistair Dabbs, 23 Aug 2011
HP Envy 17 3D

HP Envy 17 3D Core i7 laptop

After years of computer journalists telling me – erroneously, I hasten to add – that my next desktop PC will be a laptop, it’s pleasing to see manufacturers such as HP trying to make it happen. HP Envy 17 3D Viewing spectacle: the Envy 17 3D is a big beast but HP has managed to keep it looking clean and stylish What do I hate …
Alistair Dabbs, 08 Aug 2011
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

10.1? The impression I get with the naming of this much-anticipated grown-up version of last year’s Galaxy Tab is that it has psychological hangups about (ahem) ‘size’. I imagine it loitering down the pub, boasting of its prowess: “It’s not just TEN inches, Al, it’s TEN-point-ONE!” It wants to be the Spinal Tap of Android …
Alistair Dabbs, 04 Aug 2011
Mac OS X 10.7

Apple Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Part Two

You find me in better spirits compared to my anxious state during last week’s experimentation with OS X Lion. A weekend of sanity makes quite a difference. That is, sanity achieved through the cathartic process of a clean instal. Apple Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Safari swipe Swipe your fingers sideways across your Magic Mouse or Magic …
Alistair Dabbs, 25 Jul 2011
Mac OS X 10.7

Apple Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Part One

There was a time when I’d be excited about the launch of a new version of Apple’s Mac operating system. I’d count the days leading up to the launch with the same fervour as opening the windows on a yuletide advent calendar. Apple Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Installing the big cat The day of arrival was never a disappointment. The …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Jul 2011
HP TouchSmart 610

HP TouchSmart 610 touchscreen all-in-one PC

This is going to be good. I reviewed the first TouchSmart 600 all-in-one home desktop computer in January 2010, and loved it, frankly. I fondly remember Reg Hardware readers expressing their admiration for my gushing praise at the time... That was sarcasm. Enough, I’m over it. HP TouchSmart 610 Finger friendly: HP's TouchSmart …
Alistair Dabbs, 12 Jul 2011
Apple iMac 27in

Apple iMac 27in

For those of you who revel in Mac versus Windows shouting matches, click the Comments link now. You’ve already made up your minds, so feel free to dive into the debate without reading the review. That’s what you normally do, anyway. Apple iMac 27in Widescreen viewing: Apple's iMac 27in If you’re still with me, let me confirm …
Alistair Dabbs, 17 Jun 2011
Acer Iconia A500

Acer Iconia Tab A500 10in Android tablet

PC manufacturers clearly haven’t been reading the script. They were supposed to over-hype their forthcoming Android 3.0 tablets as iPad-killers (check!), miss their initial launch dates (check!) and then let us all down by delivering a hunk of poorly designed, obsolete tat (er…). Acer Iconia A500 Acer's Iconia Tab A500: lighter …
Alistair Dabbs, 01 Jun 2011
Sony Vaio VPCF21Z1E

Sony Vaio VPCF21Z1E 16in laptop

Imagine my joy when asked to try out a 3D entertainment centre built into a Sony Vaio notebook. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I discover that the notebook in question is actually too big to fit in my notebook bag. Sony Vaio VPCF21Z1E Sony's Vaio VPCF21Z1E: don’t think of it as an overgrown notebook but as a very …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 May 2011
Motorola Xoom

Motorola Xoom

You will be aware that 2011 is supposed to be the year that Android tablets hit the big-time. In case you missed it, the explosion of new devices was supposed to happen at Easter. In the event, many launches have since been put back to later in the year, while other products have been launched but are plainly impossible to buy …
Alistair Dabbs, 09 May 2011
Bolle BP-10

Bolle BP-10 iPhone photo printer

Here’s a home photo-print ‘toaster’ with a difference: it can’t be plugged into a computer, nor does it support Wi-Fi. Instead, it comes with a built-in dock for an Apple iPhone. As such, the Bolle BP-10 is promoted as the world’s first dedicated iPhone printer. In other words, it won’t print from anything else. Bolle BP-10 …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 Jan 2011
Canon Pixma MG-5250

Canon Pixma MG-5250 Wi-Fi all-in-one inkjet printer

Canon has launched so many photo all-in-ones recently that only a handful of people outside Canon seem to be able to tell one from another. One thing I can say, though, is that if you go shopping for the Pixma MG-5250 to print your Christmas pics on, you shouldn’t be disappointed. Canon Pixma MG-5250 Canon's Pixma MG-5250 …
Alistair Dabbs, 04 Jan 2011
Cyberlink vs Nero

Cyberlink v. Nero media authoring suites

Back in the day, Cyberlink was best known for DVD player software, while Nero was a developer of CD-writing ('burning') utilities. Now both companies are producers of very successful creative multimedia suites that play DVDs, burn discs and a whole lot more. For an embarrassingly low price, both packages offer audio, video and …
Alistair Dabbs, 13 Sep 2010
HP Pavilion dv6

HP Pavilion dv6-3085ea 15.6in notebook

Those who want their notebook PCs to play music and video while managing a burgeoning digital image collection should cast an eye at the HP Pavilion dv6-3085ea. It's an attractively slim computer with a design outline that's generally reminiscent of Apple's MacBook Pro. The clamshell even stays closed thanks to Apple-style …
Alistair Dabbs, 06 Sep 2010
Apple iMovie for iPhone 4

iMovie for iPhone 4

Let's get one thing straight: this is not a port of Apple iMovie from the Mac OS to the iPhone OS. Rather, think of the iMovie iPhone app is a massively cut-down version with a handful of editing functions and even fewer options. Apple iMovie for iPhone 4 Getting started in Apple's iMovie for iPhone 4: Pick a theme from a …
Alistair Dabbs, 09 Aug 2010
Lite-On iHBS112

Lite-on iHBS112 internal Blu-ray writer

Lite-On is certainly pushing the boundaries of optical disc burning at aggressive prices. The iHBS112 is an internal drive that goes beyond the combo by letting you read and write Blu-ray, DVD and CD media in one unit. Its Blu-ray writing speed, 12x, matches the current fastest on the market. That's not bad for £123. As a …
Alistair Dabbs, 26 Jul 2010
HP MediaSmart Server EX490

HP MediaSmart Server EX490

Beyond the entry level market for NAS (network attached storage) there is the kind of buyer who has big server requirements within a small operation, and thinks they might get a great deal bigger later on. That's who HP's MediaSmart Server EX490 is aimed at. HP MediaSmart Server EX490 HP's MediaSmart Server EX490: looks like a …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Jul 2010
Apple MacBook Late 2009

Apple MacBook mid-2010

There’s no persuading a committed PC nerd of the unnerdy appeal of Apple’s consumer products, so I won’t bother. Whatever I write about Apple’s latest MacBook, they’ll hate it. They can buy computers for far less money that achieve better benchmark results, and serious computers are supposed to look hideous, so case closed. Move …
Alistair Dabbs, 13 Jul 2010
Acer Aspire 1825PT

Acer Aspire 1825PT 11.6in touchscreen notebook

Some years ago, I made a fool of myself by describing Microsoft's ultimately doomed Tablet PC concept as a good idea. My saving grace was that I wasn't as dim as all the Tablet PC manufacturers, who chose to overprice their own products out of existence. Acer Aspire 1825PT Acer's Aspire 1825PT: if only Tablet PCs had always …
Alistair Dabbs, 07 Jul 2010
Asus EeeTop PC

Asus EeeTop PC ET2203T 21in touchscreen all-in-one

Testing touchscreen PCs is always a pleasure but it’s especially satisfying when a manufacturer gives you lots of display surface to tickle. In the case of the ET2203 model of Asus’ EeeTop (named by a Yorkshireman, perhaps?) all-in-one PC, you get a rather splendid 21.6in, supporting 1920 x 1080. That’s full 1080p HD resolution …
Alistair Dabbs, 07 Jun 2010
MyXerver Pro MX3800

Universal Tech MyXerver Pro MX3800

It was only a matter of time before someone thought of putting Wi-Fi connectivity into a network-attached storage (Nas) drive for small networks. Come to think of it, we must have thought of it at least three years ago, but at the end of last year, Universal Tech lay claim to being the first to bring the idea to market. …
Alistair Dabbs, 27 May 2010
Toshiba Satellite U500

Toshiba Satellite U500-1EX touchscreen notebook

Toshiba is evidently very pleased with its Satellite U500 design: it has now based several models on it, including one with joint Ducati branding. The 1EX version reviewed here adds support for Windows 7 touchscreen gestures. Toshiba Satellite U500 Toshiba's Satellite U500-1EX, decked out in an 'interesting' two-tone black and …
Alistair Dabbs, 26 May 2010
Apple MacBook Pro 15in

Apple MacBook Pro 15in

Remember the Apple PowerBooks? They were pants. Of course, I didn't know this at the time. It's only now, having had the chance to play with Apple's latest MacBook Pro, that I realise that everything that came before it was so dreadfully ordinary. Apple MacBook Pro 15in Apple's MacBook Pro 15in: now with Core i5 or i7 CPU …
Alistair Dabbs, 18 May 2010
Dell Inspiron One Touch

Dell Inspiron One 19 Touch touchscreen all-in-one

Despite appearing on sale in larger numbers in recent months, touchscreen PCs still tend to be sold as luxury items with a price to match. So with the Inspiron One 19 Touch, which starts from under £500, Dell is deliberately giving the whole touchscreen PC market a boot up the backside. Dell Inspiron One Touch All fingers and …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 Apr 2010
Acer H5360

Acer H5360 3D projector

2010 is supposed to be the year that 3D breaks into mainstream home entertainment but most of the PR puff has been focused on expensive TV sets. Acer does a good job of making this currently tiny market a damned sight more interesting with its H5360, a sub-£600 '3D Ready' digital projector. Acer H5360 3D ready? Acer's H5360 …
Alistair Dabbs, 27 Feb 2010
Medion Akoya Multi-Touch Monitor E54009

Medion E54009 touch monitor

Love or scoff at the idea, Windows 7’s touchscreen features need to be experienced first-hand, and jabbing away at a demo machine at PC World doesn’t really count. The problem is that buying in to touchscreen technology for the home is an expensive experiment: you would normally need to invest in a brand new touchscreen notebook …
Alistair Dabbs, 03 Feb 2010
HP TouchSmart 600

HP TouchSmart 600

Every now and again, reviewing a new PC can be a pleasure rather than a chore. The feeling is not the result of blistering performance or a full set of ticks next to a spec list, but the natural response to using high-quality kit that works exactly as you want it to. HP’s TouchSmart 600 looks beautiful and reveals an approach to …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Jan 2010
Samsung SH-BO83L Internal BD-ROM/DVD Writer

Samsung SH-BO83L

For those using their PCs as home entertainment centres, the Samsung SH-BO83L internal drive turns your computer into a versatile Blu-ray player while also acting as a fast DVD and CD writer. In one step, it upgrades your disc burning ability and adds BD-Rom support at a thoroughly reasonable price. Samsung SH-BO83L Internal BD …
Alistair Dabbs, 14 Jan 2010
Aiptek MobileCinema D10

Aiptek MobileCinema D10

Remember those rugged plastic ‘singalong’ cassette players you could buy for pre-school children? The Aiptek MobileCinema D10 looks a projector version of the same kind of thing. Encased in tough, nursery-blue plastic, it is the least fragile projector we have ever tested, and the only one that required absolutely no warmup or …
Alistair Dabbs, 02 Jan 2010
Acer Aspire 5738PG Touch

Acer Aspire 5738PG Touch

Plenty of notebooks supporting Windows 7 multi-touch features have already been announced, but the Aspire 5738PG Touch is one of the earliest to actually hit the shelves. Acer has entered into the spirit of the touch revolution by implementing the technology on-screen as well as on the trackpad, but more on that later. Acer …
Alistair Dabbs, 01 Dec 2009

PLDS iHES208 Blu-ray drive

PLDS is a joint venture between Philips and Lite-On that develops optical disc drive technologies and markets related products. The PLDS iHES208 internal drive is new take on the 'combo' drive concept, providing complete CD and DVD reading and writing functions, plus the ability to play Blu-ray titles at full 1080p quality. …
Alistair Dabbs, 15 Oct 2009
Brother DCP375CW

Brother DCP-375CW wireless multifunction inkjet printer

Product design has clearly moved on leaps and bounds since the early days of popular multifunctional devices (MFDs), judging by the Brother DCP-375CW. Not only does it look rather swanky in its dual-finish matt and shiny black casing, but it is extraordinarily compact at just 150mm high, 390mm wide and 360mm deep. How Brother …
Alistair Dabbs, 14 Oct 2009
Philips BDP3000

Philips BDP3000 Blu-ray disc player

Many people enjoying Blu-ray movies do so using a Sony PlayStation 3, while the rest of us will opt for a dedicated Blu-ray player. For the latter, Philips is touting its BDP3000 as a budget player and, while certainly not the cheapest, it does offer 1080p playback, the optimal Blu-ray format. Philips BDP3000 Philips' BDP3000: …
Alistair Dabbs, 06 Oct 2009
Oki MB290

Oki MB290

First a confession: we have always been troubled by the concept of black-and-white multifunctional devices (MFDs). Being able to scan in colour but print only in mono seems rather like being given a punnet of strawberries that you are only allowed to smell. However, Oki clearly feels there continues to be demand for this level …
Alistair Dabbs, 30 Sep 2009
HP 3015d mono laser printer

HP 3015d mono laser

In a printing market awash with colour products, here comes HP with an A4 black-and-white business laser. But far from seeming dull, the LaserJet P3015d serves to remind us of how good HP lasers are – and how much better they can be than much of the flashier competition. HP 3015d mono laser printer Quality performance: HP’s …
Alistair Dabbs, 23 Sep 2009