Tag Archives: TECHNOLOGY

Top 8 best portable laptop battery chargers and power banks in 2017

There’s nothing worse than having your laptop run out of battery and you’re far away from a power socket. Thankfully,a new generation of portable laptop charger battery packs means that you won’t be stuck without your trusty laptop anymore.

They can even replace your original laptop charger altogether, providing you with an uninterruptible power supply wherever you happen to be.

In this article we’ve lined up the best of the bunch, highlighting the top portable laptop battery chargers and power banks you should consider purchasing.

Backed by a two-year warranty, this emergency battery for your laptop comes with 10 connectors to cover most of the notebooks on the market. With a 23Ah/85Wh capacity and a maximum power output of 90W (20V, 4.5A), it tips the scale at just under 560g which makes this device great when travelling by plane. The marketing blurb even mentions ‘anti-explosion’ batteries.

As expected, there are no USB Type-C connectors and you will need to carry its very own 40W (20V, 2A) power supply unit – with a proprietary connector – to charge it on the go.

Advances in computer component technology mean that newer laptops now need less juice to work. This is particularly true for high-end models like the latest Apple MacBook, HP Elite x2 1012 G1, the Huawei MateBook or Dell’s popular XPS 13 family.

The common point for all of them is the fact that they have a USB Type-C connector. RAVPower can deliver up to 30W (20V, 1.5A) of power which should be enough for the target products. You can recharge it using a 30W wall charger that can also be used to power compatible laptops – very handy indeed.

Here’s the perfect example of a vendor that went the extra mile to make sure that its product matches the expectations of the audience. The MaxOak has all the hallmarks of an Apple device – without bearing the logo – but with the matching brushed aluminium finish.

It has the second-highest capacity of all the battery chargers on this list, but these beefy reserves come with a big disadvantage – it has such a large capacity that at least one airline has banned it, so bear that in mind if you plan to use this peripheral to satisfy your long haul travels. It is relatively heavy at almost 1kg and will cater for most recent Apple laptops (MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and MacBook) but nothing else.

This is the only charger in this list that targets Microsoft’s popular Surface range by offering the appropriate DC output voltage (12V and 15V). It comes with a generous five ports, four of which allow you to charge other 5V devices (that includes anything from other power banks to tablets and smartphones).

Of particular interest is the support for fast-charging courtesy of Qualcomm’s Qi technology. You will be able to charge the new MacBook as well, but no traditional laptops that rely on a 19V DC output. Just be aware that its capacity, 35Ah, may get it banned on some airlines, just like the MaxOak devices above and below.

The K2 is the world’s second highest mountain and it is fitting – to some extent – that MaxOak named this battery after that lofty peak. After all, at 50Ah, this is the biggest battery on our list and one that is also the heaviest of the lot. It supports laptops up to 60W (3A, 20V) as well as fast-charging.

Note that it takes up to eight hours to charge the battery and that can only be achieved via a proprietary charger. Sadly, it doesn’t carry a USB Type-C connector – which makes it useless for newer laptops – and you won’t be able to lug it around on the plane (as with the previous two peripherals, the massive capacity here may mean it’s banned on some flights).

Sandberg’s Powerbank is neither the cheapest nor the most powerful around. However, it does come with a couple of features that make it a rather enticing option. It outputs to a number of voltages (12V, 16V, 19V and 20V), automatically choosing the right one depending on the device which is connected.

There are also two USB ports and these are obviously hardwired to output 5V on both. You get 12 different charge tips but sadly none would fit our Dell XPS 13, and they won’t be useful for USB Type-C models like the XPS 13 from 2016.

There are a couple of things that differentiate this from most of its rivals: it uses a brushed, premium aluminium finish, with bright blue LED status lights that clearly indicate the amount of juice left (or how close the battery is to being charged).

If you are looking for a versatile laptop charger, then do consider this RavPower offering. It is by far the most expensive model on our list, but this Reddot award winner carries a feature that no one has replicated till now. It has an AC output that can deliver up to 100W of power – yes, this could even power a TV if needed.

Note that you will probably need an adaptor (there’s one bundled) because the power bank can only accommodate two-prong plugs. You will be able to take it on a commercial flight, but you will not be able to recharge it via USB.

Dell sells the Power Companion with various battery capacities. It is more compact than the RAVPower models, and the unit looks like a Dell power brick that charges your laptop. When you’re at your desk, you can daisy-chain to recharge the Power Companion and your Dell laptop by connecting your Dell charging brick to the Power Companion, and then connecting it to your notebook.

Dell’s Power Companion is a far sleeker battery pack if your office relies on Dell Inspiron, Latitude, XPS or Venue laptops and tablets, with the added benefit that it has extra USB ports should you need them.

      

The best free office software 2017

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When you think of office software, Microsoft Office is probably the first one that springs to mind. This is hardly surprising as so many computers come with a copy of it pre-installed, but the bad news is that in many cases it is just a free trial and you’ll need to fork out for an Office 365 subscription to continue using it.

Few people can get by without a word processor, spreadsheet app, presentation tool or even all three, but what if you don’t fancy the idea of coughing up for your office software?

Thankfully, there’s now a superb selection of free office software available, and here we’ve rounded up the very best you can download today. The quality of these apps is truly impressive; you’ll never pay for office software again!

1. WPS Office Free

Well crafted, powerful and flexible, WPS Office is the best free office software

WPS Office Free may not be the most famous free office software, but after a recent overhaul we believe it’s the best.

In terms of looks (not that we’re entirely shallow, you understand), WPS Office Free is second to none. If you’ve used any recent version of Microsoft Office, you will feel immediately at home.

At its heart are the three main tools for words, presentations and spreadsheets (hence the name). WPS Office Free also offers some beautiful extra touches, particularly concerning PDFs. Not only is it possible to save documents created in WPS Office as PDFs, you can also convert from PDF to Word. Compatibility is a major feature of the suite, with each of the component program able to save in native Office formats, and the suite is available not only for Windows but also Linux and Android

There are lots of templates available to help you to get started with document creation, and just about the only annoyance with the suite are occasional ads for the premium version of the program. WPS Office Personal and Home adds tools for splitting and merging PDFs, and provides quick email support, but the free edition of the suite is brilliant and will be more than enough for most users.

Review and where to download: WPS Office Free

2. LibreOffice

A comprehensive free office suite with support for cloud storage services

If the LibreOffice software suite looks more than a little familiar, that’s because it’s virtually identical to Apache OpenOffice (below). In many ways it OpenOffice on steroids: it uses the same basic codebase, but it benefits from faster development and more frequent update. If getting bugs squashed and new features added is high on your priority list, LibreOffice should be near the top of your list.

Like OpenOffice, this free office suite has something of a retro look (but not quite to the same extent) and comprises more programs than you’d normally expect to find in an office suite – Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math, and Base.

Anyone who has shifted their life to the cloud will appreciate the support for cloud services such as Google Drive which can be accessed through the Remote Files feature, and there are scores of extensions available to add new capabilities to the suite. A highly recommended piece of software that puts Microsoft Office to the test.

Review and where to download: LibreOffice

Download OpenOffice free

3. Apache OpenOffice

This well established suite is a solid choice, with six programs rolled into one

Apache OpenOffice goes further than many other free office software suites by providing more than just the three main tools you would expect to find – in fact, there are no fewer than six programs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base.

As an open source free office suite, Apache OpenOffice receives frequent updates, and in this regard it trumps Microsoft Office. It’s not only free of charge. It can, unlike some free software, be used for business as well as personal use.

The interface does look a little dated, so if using software that bears more than a passing resemblance to something from the 90s, Apache OpenOffice may not be for you. But, of course, looks are not everything.

What’s particularly impressive is the inclusion of a database in addition to a drawing tool and even a formula creation program – just about every possibility is covered by this impressive suite.

Review and where to download: Apache OpenOffice

Download WPS Office free

4. SoftMaker FreeOffice

A great-looking free office suite with ebook creation as a welcome extra

While SoftMaker FreeOffice is available completely free of charge, you do have to jump through the hoop of requesting a product key in order to download the office software.

When you’re up and running you’ll find that SoftMaker FreeOffice includes the more familiar three office programs – PlanMaker is the spreadsheet, TextMaker the word processor, and Presentations is the slideshow tool.

Things are great aesthetically, and there are some very neat touches such as the ability to not only save documents as PDFs, but also to export them as ebooks in ePub format.

In addition to the traditional, installable version of the software for Windows and Linux, there’s also a portable version available ready to pop onto a USB drive and move from computer to computer – and mobile users have an Android app too. Highly, highly recommended.

Review and where to download: SoftMaker FreeOffice

5. SSuite Office Premium HD+

A free suite with cross-platform support and a well curated selection of tools

Despite being billed as optimized for high definition displays, SSuite Office Premium HD+ looks a little unappealing. But if you can turn a blind eye to its less than perfect looks, you have a capable office suite on your hands .

If you happen to work with more than one operating system, there’s the added advantage that SSuite Office Premium HD+ is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. All three are pretty much identical, so you can flit between them easily.

The developer of this free office software suite has recognized that what most people are interested in is a word processor and a spreadsheet, so gone is the presentation tool you never use!

Plenty of other things have been wheeled in to fill the gap, including an image editor, video conferencing tool, a calendar and personal information manager, a web browser and even an envelope printer. All of the tools are pretty basic, and SSuite Office Premium HD+ isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s still worth taking a look if you’re after something a little different.

Download here: SSuite Office Premium HD+

What makes great free office software?

When you’re choosing a free office suite, one of the most important factors to consider is file compatibility. You’re likely to be sharing files with people using other tools – both free and paid – so you need programs that are compatible with as many formats as possible, including the most recent Microsoft Office file types.

It’s also important to think about the office software you use now, and how long it will take to adapt to a new interface. The idea of learning a new system might not bother you, but changing from ribbon-based Microsoft Office apps to a menu-heavy design might seem like a step backwards, and cause you to waste valuable time tracking down essential tools.

      

Forget ransomware – emails are what cybercriminals are really exploiting

Ransomware may have had a high profile in recent times, but cybercriminals are still extracting far more cash out of organisations via maliciously targeted business emails according to a new report from Cisco.

The Cisco 2017 Midyear Cybersecurity Report takes a close look at the current threat landscape, and found that business email compromise (BEC) made criminals a massive total of $5.3 billion (around £4 billion) over a three-year period (from October 2013 through to the end of 2016) according to figures from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Whereas ransomware victims were extorted to the tune of about $1 billion (around £765 million) throughout the whole of last year. Obviously that’s still a very sizeable sum of money, but if you average out the figures for the above period for exploits delivered by emails to staff members, that works out at around $1.63 billion (£1.25 billion) annually.

In the timeframe covered by IC3, there were 22,300 companies who fell prey to BEC incidents in the US alone.

These type of malicious emails are often well-crafted attacks involving social engineering and in-depth research on the company’s staff members, with the messages being designed to appear to be sent by someone high up the food chain like the chief executive, with an urgent demand to wire a payment (into the hands of the criminals, of course).

As Cisco notes, there is no malware content in these emails – nothing for even the most sophisticated network defence mechanisms to pick up – they simply aim to trick the receiver.

Education is the key

As ever, the best way to combat these threats is to educate staff members to be aware that these sort of scams exist, and the typical things to look out for, along with obvious countermeasures such as double-checking with the apparent sender that this is indeed a genuine message they’ve sent.

All this isn’t to say ransomware is not a threat, of course; it is indeed still a big problem as a billion dollar per year money-spinner, and as we’ve seen in recent times, major attacks like WannaCry have caused havoc.

Cisco observed that malicious parties are creating ransomware easily and quickly by using open source codebases which publicly release ransomware code for ‘educational’ purposes. Unfortunately, that code can then be tweaked to make new strains of ransomware.

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) platforms also represent a swiftly growing phenomenon, with offerings such as ‘Satan’ that allow those with no programming chops to launch basic ransomware attacks if they give away a cut of their profits to the platform owner.

Malware is increasingly being seen as a business in its own right, sadly, with RaaS ‘providers’ offering services like the ability for users to track their own malware campaigns, and cybercriminals offering ‘helpdesk’ services to victims in order to facilitate payment of the demand.

      

Microsoft confirms that owners of ‘unsupported’ 2-in-1 laptops won’t get any more Windows 10 upgrades

Microsoft has spoken out concerning the 2-in-1 laptops running older Intel Atom processors which can’t upgrade to the latest version of Windows 10, admitting that there won’t be a fix for this issue, but the software giant said it will extend support for security updates for these machines to ensure they remain protected.

If you missed this story which broke earlier this week, it’s all about hybrid notebooks that were bought back in 2013 or 2014, running Intel Atom Clover Trail CPUs, which were eligible for the free upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10.

The problem for those who took that freebie upgrade is that these processors are incompatible with the latest Creators Update, and folks who try to install it get an error message stating that Windows 10 is no longer supported on their machine.

A galling error to receive, doubtless, and what’s worse is that Microsoft has confirmed that this problem appears to be unsolvable.

Microsoft said in a statement (spotted by ZDNet) that these Clover Trail 2-in-1s “require additional hardware support to provide the best possible experience when updating to the latest Windows 10 feature update”.

The firm explained: “However, these systems are no longer supported by Intel, and without the necessary driver support, they may be incapable of moving to the Windows 10 Creators Update without a potential performance impact.”

It would seem, then, that applying the update would simply bog these machines down and make them unacceptably sluggish.

Security solution

Another big worry was that critical security updates are only provided to a version of Windows 10 for 18 months after its release, meaning these machines which remain on the Anniversary Update (because they can’t possibly upgrade) will run out of road for security patches early in 2018.

Microsoft has fortunately taken action here, and has promised that it will provide security updates for these devices until January 2023 (which marks the end of extended support for Windows 8.1, the OS these PCs initially ran).

Overall, this is far from an ideal solution, because it means users will be left in Windows 10 limbo in terms of features, not getting any of the new capabilities introduced in the Creators Update and the other major twice-yearly updates going forward. But at least continued security support is something.

As we saw Acer point out at the beginning of this week, the affected laptops include those running Intel Atom Z2760, Atom Z2520, Atom Z2560 and Atom Z2580 processors.

The owners of these notebooks may well wonder why Microsoft allowed them to move to an OS which became unsupported on their device just a few years later. And the other big question mark is over whether we’ll see more machines join this unfortunate ‘unsupported’ club in the future when new (possibly increasingly demanding) updates come to fruition.

      

Samsung’s Galaxy Book and Tab S3 are finally launching in Australia next week

After months of waiting, Australians will finally be able to get their hands on Samsung’s new Galaxy Book and Galaxy Tab S3 range on July 28, 2017.

Both devices will take advantage of Samsung’s updated S Pen, which now has a pressure level sensitivity of 4,096 and no longer needs to be charged.

Replacing the Galaxy TabPro S, the Galaxy Book will be available in a 10.6-inch model with a 7th Gen Intel Core m3 processor and 128GB of storage. It’s got a 1080p LCD display and will cost $1,099 for the Wi-Fi version and $1,299 for the 4G model.

The Tab S3 will also be sold in 12-inch 128GB (eMMC) and 256GB (SSD) models, both sporting QHD Super AMOLED displays with Intel Core i5 processors. The 128GB model comes with 4GB of RAM and runs Windows 10 Home while the 256GB model boasts 8GB of RAM and sports the full Windows 10 Pro edition.

The 128GB model is priced at $1,799 while the 256GB version will set you back $2,299. Every Galaxy Book model has a microSD slot for up to 256GB of added storage. The former has 1 x USB Type-C port while the latter doubles up with 2.

As a nice Galaxy Book pre-order incentive, Samsung is offering customers a (very nostalgic) Staedtler Pen and Samsung Multiport adapter (valued at $198) at no extra cost – so long as they order before September 12, 2017.

A new king of Android tablets has emerged

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

It’s been a while since the last major Android tablet release (the Tab S2 and Google Pixel C came out way back in 2015), but now, Samsung has returned with what it hopes will be a major iPad Pro competitor in the Samsung Tab S3.

While it has basically the same 9.7-inch Super AMOLED display as its predecessor (1536 x 2048 resolution with 264ppi), the Tab S3 now supports HDR10 content for added colour depth.

On top of this, the display is now optimised for use with Samsung’s new S Pen, allowing users to take advantage of advanced drawing tools and make annotations on the go.

The Tab S3 comes with 32GB of onboard storage, with an additional 256GB available via microSD. It’s got 4GB of RAM and runs off a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Quad Core chipset (2.15GHz + 1.6GHz).

Unlike the Tab S2, the Tab S3’s 6,000 mAh battery also supports fast charging, which should significantly decrease the time it takes to fully juice up your slate. Charging and data transfer is available via the device’s USB Type-C port.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, which runs Android N, will be available in a Wi-Fi only model for $949 while the 4G version will be priced at $1,099.

      

Slow NBN speeds: ACCC puts Aussie telcos ‘on notice’

Last month, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) asked for 2,000 volunteers to sign up to allow the consumer watchdog to monitor the NBN broadband speeds being delivered by Aussie telcos.

Although that specific investigation is a four-year investment, the ACCC is already preparing legal action against the four major Aussie telcos for selling high-speed NBN packages that have failed to deliver on their speed promises.

The ACCC has repeatedly warned the Australian telcos about selling products that promise an ‘up to’ speed if those speeds aren’t realistically possible, or are available for only a part of each day, but has so far not taken any specific actions against the telcos.

Now, however, ACCC chairman Rod Sims has warned that service providers could find themselves in court by the end of the year if they continue to deliver speeds that are lower than advertised.

Buck up or go down

When advertising NBN packages, Mr Sims said that the telcos have been asked to use the term ‘typical’ rather than ‘up to’ when referring to peak-time speeds.

And although all telcos – the big fish or the small fry – are subject to Australia’s consumer laws, Mr Sims said the Commission will target the bigger players, specifically Telstra, Optus, TPG and Vocus. “They have been put on notice and some of them know that they are subject to investigation by us,” he said.

Internet Australia, a not-for-profit group representing internet users in the country, supports the ACCC’s decision, but states that legal action won’t necessarily solve the problem “because the NBN Co model is fundamentally flawed”.

      

Amazon now lets you pay in real stores using just your account

Amazon may already be the go-to for online shopping, but the retail giant looks like it wants to be a bigger part of your spending habits — even when shopping offline.

Amazon has begun rolling out Amazon Pay Places, a new feature that allows Amazon customers to make and purchase orders at brick-and-mortar establishments, according to TechCrunch.

The system is sort of an extension of Amazon Pay, a system akin to PayPal that allows online retailers to accept payments though customers’ Amazon accounts.

Rather than internet stores, however, Pay Places would use the customer’s payment credentials at real-life locations, similar to mobile payment services like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

Who wants mozzarella sticks?

Though available starting today, Amazon’s new payment system is still in its relative infancy.

At the time of writing, ordering via Amazon Pay Places is only available at select, US-based TGI Friday’s restaurants in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond, Virginia and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

For those on the East Coast just dying for franchise-quality pub food, Amazon Pay Places can be accessed via Amazon’s mobile app, under “Programs & Features” in the menu.

As for if (or more likely, when) Amazon expands its new feature out to more businesses, we’ll just have to wait and see. That said, the move to physical stores shouldn’t surprise many — the company’s bold $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods last month is no small indication that Amazon wants to be just as much an in-person shopping hub as it is online.

      

The best iPad 2017: how to choose the right Apple tablet for you

For many, the word tablet is synonymous with the word iPad, but even if you’ve decided that Android and Windows slates aren’t for you that’s only half the battle, as Apple’s ever growing range of portable powerhouses provides a lot of options.

Do you want a compact 7.9-inch screen, a well-rounded 9.7 inches, the new 10.5-inch variant or a massive 12.9-inch monster?

Get past the best iPad screen size for you and there are more questions. Do you need top tier power or are you fine with more modest specs? Are you looking for a laptop replacement or just a convenient way to browse the web?

Whatever the case there’s an iPad for you, and to make it easier to sift through them and find the right one we’ve highlighted all the choices, in a clear, concise way, so boot up your old tablet one last time, read through our rundown and get ready to upgrade.

And if you prefer to watch than read, we’ve also put four of the best options head to head in a video showdown.

For everyone else (or if four options aren’t enough), you’ll find a rundown of all the readily available iPads below, including the brand new iPad (2017) and second generation iPad Pro duo.

These come complete with full spec lists, their good and bad points and a look at what makes them tick, so you can make an informed purchase decision.

  • Looking for an Android tablet instead? Check out our best tablet ranking.

Apple’s latest iPad isn’t its best, but it might just be its best value. The new iPad (2017) replaces the iPad Air 2 in Apple’s lineup, slotting in below the Pro range.

As such it lacks their Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil support and misses out on some of their power, but its A9 chipset is still very speedy and the 9.7-inch 1536 x 2048 screen is sharp, bright and high-quality.

It also has the same luxurious metal unibody as the rest of Apple’s iPad range, though notably it’s slightly thicker than the iPad Air 2 or iPad Pro 9.7 at 7.5mm.

With Touch ID included, iOS 10 under the hood and up to 10 hours of battery life when web browsing or watching videos, the new iPad (2017) is a great media player and a strong tablet choice if you’re not planning to use it heavily for productivity.

When you consider that it starts at just $329/£339/AU$469 too that makes it a real bargain.

Read the full iPad (2017) review

It’s a tough decision over whether the new iPad Pro is the best iPad, or the more recent (and more basic) iPad – but the new Pro is in second solely on its higher price.

If you can see past that, or you really need a tablet that can truly keep up with any app you want to throw at it while using a dedicated Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, this should be the device you look at.

The new ProMotion screen adds an impressive layer of fluidity to daily use – if not strictly necessary – and the smaller bezels means you’re getting far more display in a footprint not much bigger than last year’s 9.7.

It’s an iPad for the professionals – but also one that media munchers will adore using.

Read the full review: iPad Pro 10.5

iPad Pro 9.7

For the average user the iPad Pro 9.7 is one of the best all-round options, or it is if money is no object anyway, as it starts at $599/£549/AU$849 and if you want more than 32GB of storage or cellular connectivity the price rises steeply.

But it does a good job of justifying that outlay, as the iPad Pro 9.7 is the greatest entry in Apple’s ‘main’ line of slates.

The 9.7-inch screen strikes a great balance between being big enough to get far more out of than a phone screen and small enough to still be fairly portable.

And although Apple has ditched the Air moniker, at 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm and 437g the iPad Pro 9.7 is every bit as thin and light as the iPad Air 2.

But it lives up to the Pro name, with plenty of power afforded by its A9X chipset and 2GB of RAM, four speakers for serious media potential, a beautiful True Tone screen, which adapts the color and intensity to your environment, and of course the ability to use the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil with it, if you want to use the slate to actually get things done.

The iPad Pro 9.7 also comes with up to 256GB of storage if you’re prepared to pay, so you needn’t feel limited by the lack of a microSD card slot, and it’s likely to remain a powerful and versatile tablet for years to come, so while it’s expensive you might not feel the need to upgrade for a long time.

Read the full iPad Pro 9.7 review

iPad mini 4

Big screens aren’t for everyone, and that’s where the 7.9-inch iPad Mini 4 comes in. The screen size means it’s far more portable than Apple’s larger tablets, especially as it’s light at 299g. It’s not quite small enough that you can use it one handed, but you can comfortably hold it for a lot longer than most of Apple’s slates, or throw it in a bag and forget about it.

It’s also big enough to enjoyably browse the net or watch videos on when you’re away from home and bigger screens, but it’s obviously not quite as strong an experience for most visual media as Apple’s larger 9.7 and 12.9-inch slates.

The small size and lack of Smart Connector also makes it worse for productivity than the iPad Pro range, but this isn’t designed as a laptop replacement.

It’s still fairly powerful thanks to 2GB of RAM and the aging but still impressive Apple A8 chip, while the screen is sharp, rich and easy to see even in bright sunlight.

The iPad Mini 4 is also a fraction of the price of Apple’s Pro range, starting as it does at $399/£379/AU$569 and with up to 128GB of storage you needn’t be terribly limited in that area – though it’s no match for the 256GB you can get in the iPad Pro.

Read the full iPad Mini 4 review

iPad Pro

The iPad Pro 12.9, or simply the iPad Pro as it’s sometimes known, is in many ways a bigger and better version of the iPad Pro 9.7.

It matches that slate’s four powerful speakers, accessory options and storage capacity, but at 12.9 inches the screen is significantly larger, while its 2048 x 2732 resolution ensures it retains the same 264ppi pixel density. It’s also more powerful than its smaller sibling, combining the same Apple A9X chipset with a massive 4GB of RAM.

That power is undeniably a good thing, but the screen size will be more divisive, as while all that space is great if you plan to use it as a real laptop replacement, for running apps in split screen, or for watching a lot of movies, it leaves it a little unwieldy in other ways, especially as it makes the slate a hefty 713g. If you want the ultimate in portability this isn’t it.

But if you can afford the high price and want the very biggest and most powerful tablet Apple has to offer there can be no other choice than the iPad Pro 12.9.

Read the full iPad Pro 12.9 review

iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 2 is the predecessor to the iPad Pro 9.7 and the difference in name gives a hint of what it’s lacking – namely compatibility with the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, along with the four powerful speakers found on the Pro range.

It’s not as strong for productivity then, but in many other ways the iPad Air 2 can almost match up to the iPad Pro 9.7 and all for a much lower price.

For one thing it has the same premium metal body, along with the same weight and dimensions, leaving it a slim and light 6.1mm thick and 437g.

It also has the same size and resolution 9.7-inch 1536 x 2048 screen, though behind the scenes more vivid colors and the True Tone tech (for dynamically adjusted white balance) in the iPad Pro 9.7 make the display altogether more impressive.

But when the screen is already so good on the iPad Air 2 you might not miss those things, especially if you’ve not seen them in action.

The slate sports plenty of power too, matching the iPad Pro 9.7 for 2GB of RAM and finding a middle ground between that and the iPad mini 4 with its A8X chipset. In short, if you don’t need the productivity potential of the iPad Pro and can live with slightly dated but still solid specs, the iPad Air 2 is a strong choice.

Read the full iPad Air 2 review

iPad mini 2

Apple no longer sells the iPad Mini 2, but it was only discontinued recently and it’s still available from some retailers.

And it’s easy to see why. The iPad Mini 3 (which has also been discontinued) offered little that the Mini 2 didn’t, only really adding Touch ID, and in being so conservative secured a mediocre 3-star review from us.

The iPad Mini 2 though was and is impressive. It’s every bit as powerful as the iPad Air and has a compact 7.9-inch display, with the same resolution as the iPad Mini 4. The overall quality isn’t quite as high, but it’s still a strong tablet screen.

At 7.5mm thick and 331g it’s not quite as slim and light as Apple’s latest Mini, but it’s still compact enough to comfortably cart around with you and it sports a similarly premium design.

It has an older chipset and half as much RAM, which combined with its age means you might feel the need to upgrade sooner rather than later if you do invest in the iPad Mini 2.

But right now it still offers a quality experience and is an ideal option if you want a highly portable and low cost tablet, just as long as you can live without the secure convenience of Touch ID.

Read the full iPad Mini 2 review

      

Microsoft releases new repair kit for Surface Laptops

If your Surface Laptop is misbehaving, you can now download a free repair tool from the Windows Store to identify and fix common problems automatically.

The Surface Diagnostic Toolkit looks up system specifications, checks battery health, repairs common software issues, and validates your device’s hardware. It typically takes about 15 minutes to run, but Microsoft advises that the whole process can take up to an hour if your machine needs some TLC.

Laptop limitations

The Surface Laptop runs Windows 10 S – a version of the operating system that prevents users installing software from outside the Windows Store. It’s designed with education in mind, and the idea is to prevent kids accidentally downloading viruses, ransomware and other nasties to the school network.

Unfortunately, that means users are unable to use the original Surface Diagnostic Tool, which is only available to download from Microsoft.com. The newly released app is available to all Surface owners, regardless of which operating system their machine uses.

      

Top 5 best business anti-malware and anti-spyware software in 2017

The impact that cyber-attacks have on businesses can be nothing less than catastrophic. Not only do firms risk losing vital data and information to cybercriminals, but attacks can also result in them losing a lot of money. A study conducted in 2016 by internet service provider Beaming claimed that breaches cost UK companies a total of £34 billion (around $42 billion, AU$56 billion) annually. And government statistics show that two-thirds of large organisations have experienced cyber-attacks in 2015-2016.

The most common attacks on companies are malware and spyware-related, and falling victim to any such breach could have a worryingly long-term impact on your business, particularly when it comes to your reputation.

Fortunately, you can defend against any bad outcomes by picking up the right security tools, which is why we’ve highlighted these anti-spyware and anti-malware solutions for businesses. Getting your SMB protected with a solid security solution is a very smart move.

Avast produces some of the most popular antivirus and anti-malware software packages out there, and it also has a solution for business users. Avast Endpoint Protection is a program that’s not only easy to use, but also a proven contender in the enterprise cybersecurity arena.

The software will protect your company from a diverse range of malware and phishing attacks. It constantly searches for suspicious files that could render your business systems and servers useless, and runs a boot-time scan every time your computers load up to find any deeply buried malware.

As well as looking out for common viruses, Avast can also run potentially risky apps without causing any harm to your computer. There’s even a handy silent mode which lets you and your employees focus on important work while security processes run in the background.

Bitdefender is another big name in security products, and its GravityZone Business Security package is an excellent option for companies. Compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux devices, it gives you the tools you need to protect your firm from complex online threats, and it won’t slow your systems down.

The system has been built to detect and fight a range of malware, ransomware and zero-day threats that are often missed by traditional security products. It sports two anti-ransomware layers capable of blacklisting millions of risk sources and a so-called vaccine that ensures all data is encrypted, regardless of the device or platform.

This offering also boasts an advanced threat control feature, which constantly runs and keeps an eye out for any hint of malicious behaviour or potential hacking. AI and machine learning are also thrown into the mix to get better detection rates, and also to minimise any annoying false positives.

If you use a variety of different devices and platforms in your business, then Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security is a good option. The solution provides comprehensive enterprise protection for Windows, Mac, mobile devices and servers.

With the software, you have a way to keep your business protected from data loss, viruses and ransomware. It constantly searches files for signs of malware, viruses, trojans, worms and spyware, and prevents employees from accessing malicious content online.

There are some handy tools for managing data, too. The system can limit the access of USB sticks and other portable devices to ensure vital data isn’t in danger of being compromised, and it can also prevent emails carrying sensitive information from being sent out accidentally (or indeed deliberately). There are comprehensive anti-spam capabilities, to boot.

Norton is a well-known security brand, and its Small Business product is available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices, aiming to protect business assets across the board.

The system is constantly alert and ready to flag potential security threats, even if you’re not in the office. Custom-built for every device, it ensures that your computers are protected from malware, viruses and identity theft, while your smartphones and tablets aren’t exposed to the potential loss of customer information.

Norton Small Business is relatively easy and quick to set up on your devices, and because it’s a cloud-based system, you won’t need any software installed at your office. You can cover all your employees by sending them an email that contains step-to-step instructions. There’s the ability to add/remove and manage as many devices as you want, and you get access to 24/7 support from a team of Norton experts.

Sophos Endpoint Protection is one of the more powerful options for businesses of all sizes. Designed for use on-premise or in the cloud, the system offers a next-generation security engine that uses behavioural detection to look for and stop threats from flash drives, emails, websites – a whole gamut of threats. And its malware detection rates are impressive to say the least.

As well as protecting your business from typical security threats such as viruses and malware, Sophos also encrypts your data, and boasts some interesting extras such as data loss prevention facilities which can be fully customised. We all know how precious that company data is, so it’s good to see this sort of security on board.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a 30-day free trial, so you can try the system out for yourself before you commit. Handy, as getting a quote is somewhat convoluted.