Category: Review

We expose Photoshop Lightroom 3

Product: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

Price: $299 new, $99 upgrade

Adobe announced the release of Photoshop Lightroom 3 today and we got our hands on it for review.

Lightroom is Photoshop aimed purely at photographers. While the normal version of Photoshop can do a lot in terms of image manipulation, it does not cater specifically to a photographer’s needs, such as adjusting filters and exposure. Photoshop Lightroom 3 does.

What we noticed when first loading the program is the option to Import. This can immediately grab a ton of photos and display them on the bottom panel, while you work on a single one in the centre. This can be very handy for comparison, especially when working on a series of photos. I was able to load nearly 500 photos within seconds. This is vastly superior to the import feature of previous versions.

Once you’ve loaded up an image, which happens very quickly, much moreso than the normal version of Photoshop and previous versions of Lightroom, there are a number of buttons available to make selecting the best from a photoshoot really simple. You can arrange the photos in a grid, single view, a comparison of two shots, or a survey of many more. There are then two buttons that allow you to flag the photo as a “pick” or flag it as rejected. This can make sorting through long series of photos extremely easy, especially when you’ve taken multiple shots of the same thing and want to get rid of ones that were out of focus or where the lighting is beyond correction. You can also rotate and rate pictures from this central panel.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

The navigator on the upper left hand corner may seem similar to the one in normal Photoshop, but in addition to normal zooming in and out Lightroom allows you to pick default aspect ratios, which makes it very handy to get the size and zoom level you want.

Beneath that there are options for creating catalogues, folders, collections, and publishing your work to your hardrive,  or even Flickr for those who like to share there. The Flickr integration is a new feature of this version not present in Lightroom 2.

The upper right-hand panel contains what is probably the most vital display for a photographer: the histogram. A histogram is like a graph that displays the proportion of light and shade that is distributed around the picture, which is really what photography is all about. The ability to easily see this in a technical form makes adjusting exposure on the photo much easier and gives the photographer a lot more control over how the final product turns out.

The histogram panel also provides other vital information about the photo, including the ISO speed rating, the focal length, aperture, and shutter speed. This can be particularly handy if you’ve mislayed the information or are trying to compare photos that were taken with the same setup on your digital SLR camera.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

Beneath the histogram is a panel with some handy “Quick Develop” tools. A variety of filters and effects are available here. The white balance, exposure, clarity, and vibrance can all be adjusted quickly and easily from here. The histogram instantly updates to reflect the changes in light that are now affecting the picture.

Below the developing tools are a series of panels for adding keywords, tags, and adjusting the metadata of the picture, which is important for ensuring the date taken and copyright information are added for a professional photographer.

A seperate Develop tab at the upper right-hand corner allows more detailed changes to be made. When we clicked this tab there was a bit of lag before it loaded, but no more than a couple of seconds.  This tab gives a lot of options for fine-tuning, including the familiar cropping and red-eye removal tools, but also a ton of more photographer-specific adjustors for colour, tone, and presence. A casual photographer could easily make do with the Quick Develop feature on the standard tab, however.

The menu buttons give a lot of similar options that normal Photoshop does, along with repeats of the quick access buttons found on the many panels around your photos, but there are also a number of interesting features that expand upon the others. There is auto-toning and auto white balance, handy if you’re in a hurry, but not something a serious photographer keen to keep control of his or her work would use often. There’s also colour labels you can use to make things feel more like a set of manila folders all nicely colour-coded for your project. More options for sorting your library and editing the metatags of your photos can also be explored through these menus.

This new version of Lightroom comes with a slew of new features, including much better noise reduction to sharpen images up considerably. It also comes with lens and perspective correction to fix distortions that might otherwise make your photography look extremely odd. Watermarking is also thrown in, which is essential if you’re concerned about your work being stolen. Another neat addition is the ability to add grain to a photo to give it a vintage look for that series of photos you’re doing about the interaction between the past and the present.

An interesting new addition is tethered capturing, which will automatically import photos as you take them, providing you’re hooked up to your computer via USB. The potential here allows for you to instantly adjust the photo on your laptop or retake it if Lightroom cannot achieve what you want. We found this makes it a little awkward to take the shots you’re looking for, however, and preferred to manually import them afterwards. Lugging your laptop around with you to tether capture is not exactly every photographer’s cup of tea.

The update with the most impact in this package is definitely the speed boost, however. Older versions of the software could lag pretty badly at times when trying to deal with a large volume of photos. Apart from small lag when switching between the main screen tabs Photoshop Lightroom 3 is a very speedy application, a fact that many photographers will greatly appreciate.

Photoshop Lightroom 3 could easily replace the traditional darkroom of photographers and offers many incentives to do so. It is much more difficult, if not impossible, to destroy a digital picture being adjusted in Lightroom than it is to ruin a physical copy in a darkroom. Photographers working regularly with a digital SLR camera are missing a lot if they’re not using Photoshop Lightroom 3.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

We take a dekko at an HP Mini 210

With the iPad launch having gone full swing and tablet PCs going to be the talk of the town at Computex in Ol’ Taipei we thought we’d go firmly against the grain and take a look at a netbook, the HP Mini 210.

HP Mini 210

£249.97 at PcWorld.co.uk

The first thing you’ll notice about this netbook is that it’s light as anything and it looks prettier than your average netbook. The sample copy sent over was a masculine pinky red. The base and lid are smoothly textured while the 1024×600 screen is shiny and a very reasonable size for a netbook. It’s not going to get you the same level of attention is a brand spanking new tablet PC but as far as a traditional keyboard netbook goes it’s a sleek and cool design that you won’t feel embarrassed about getting out at a trade show, a conference, on the train or wherever you take it – should you be as terribly bothered by vanity as us.

When you boot the system up you’ll notice it’s fairly quiet, and it stays so for extended use, even when its little fan is going bonkers trying to keep the kit cool.

When you’ve started up the Mini you’re taken to a quick-access page before it boots up Windows 7. This has all the sort of stuff you may need to access sharpish on the web: instant messaging, emails and browsing are all included without needing to head into Windows 7. Quickweb is great and lets you toy around with your media files too. We found start-up for Windows 7 was quick and painless, but in a rush Quickweb is very useful.

In terms of ease of use, the main thing you’ll have to struggle with is the keyboard. It’s a diddy keyboard for diddy hands and diddy fingers – small, that is, not branded by the hip hop mogul who we hear paradoxically has rather big hands – but then again, the netbook itself is small, so what were you bloody well expecting!? In actual fact it doesn’t take long at all to get used to the smaller keys and spacing. The touchpad is generally pretty good though we did find that a flailing thumb could scupper the window you’re working in – but that’s touchpads in general. You can quickly turn the touchpad off by double tapping the top left. The only issue we found was the left-and-right click buttons. They’re stuck in, as usual, at the bottom of the touch pad, however they are built into the touchpad itself instead of being raised. This makes the touchpad pretty to look at but occasionally annoying to use, particularly with scrolling or moving windows about.

In terms of what’s inside, it’s standard-ish fare: the HP 210 is powered by an Intel Atom N450 which clocks at 1.66Ghz. It’s got a huge 250 GB of storage space and packs in 1GB of RAM memory. While this doesn’t seem like much, compared to the other netbooks below we found the HP 210 to run extremely well.

WiFi is, of course, built in but there’s no 3G. This makes train travel a bit of a pain but since most of us are dongled-up it’s not much of a problem really. Another impressive aspect of the 210 is its long battery life, built with a six-cell battery by default. Your mileage may vary but we got around four and a half hours out of the netbook each time without a charge. When your juice has run out, the charge is fast and you’re good to go again in no time.

The Good: It’s pretty and light. You won’t feel like a huge nerd bring this out in front of a bunch of Macbook’d types. It runs smoothly and Quickweb is a great addition. Generally sample kit is fun and we’d like to keep it, but we were really sad to part with the 210 and this review is considering buying one.

The Bad: The touchpad can be annoying at times. We wouldn’t have minded some additional memory but generally the 1 GB fared well.

The Ugly: Hey? What!? The netbook BSOD’d on us once and on reboot it told us that there was no operating installed! We let it cool down for a while and on the second reboot all was well again. Phew.

We take a dekko at three silent graphics cards

We take a break from the constant humming of our over-clocked over-strained graphics cards in an attempt to introduce an air of tranquillity with a selection of silent graphics cards. Not all systems are about raw power, and with the convergence of devices, people are finding many interesting places and applications for the good old desktop PC. With this in mind, we take a look at three supposedly completely silent graphics cards that could suit those with a sensitive ear.
             

We’ve got our hands on three of ATI’s mainstream offerings, starting with the HIS Radeon HD 5550 Silent, found online in the US for $80.00; at the current exchange rate this card would be around the £56 mark, however, the US to UK rate for tech pricing seems to be around $1=£1 at the moment so we wouldn’t hold our breath. The card is low profile and has a single heat sink that extends over the back, protruding a couple of centimetres above the low-profile bracket, so check headroom before you order.

The next card is the equivalent offering from Sapphire, the ATI Radeon HD 5550 Ultimate, which retails for around £80.00. This matches both the features and price of the HIS offering very closely. The card has a single slot full-size PCB and a nice looking but rather large heat-sink that extends onto the back of the card via a couple of heat-pipes.

And lastly, the Sapphire Radeon 5450 which can be yours for just under £50.00. This low-profile card is the smallest on offer with a black one-piece heat-sink that extends over the top and around the back of the card. The card also uses the least power, drawing under 20 watts on load!
                    

We’re going to try a selection of tests to see if any of these cards has an advantage. Taking a closer  look at the packaging, the boxes are covered in game style art and DX 11 stickers; at this end of the market all that should probably be seen as marketing hype at best. Gaming may not be the main focus of the boards but without it we can’t help but think that there may be no real edge over IGP chips. We run them through their paces with a selection of real-world and synthetic benchmarks.

The games in question will be Race Driver: GRID, Dawn of War 2, Modern Warfare 2 and Crysis Warhead. Each card will also get the synthetic treatment courtesy of 3DMark Vantage. The test set-up contains an AMD Phenom II X6 Black Edition 1090T processor, 8Gb DDR3 1600mhz Kingston HyperX memory, Asus CROSSHAIR IV FORMULA 890FX motherboard and a Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drive.

We weren’t expecting these cards to set the gaming benchmarks alight, but once settings were dropped a little things got playable. The notable and unsurprising exception to this was Crysis Warhead, which although running on all three cards, had to have the settings dropped to a point where some of the major selling points of the game were completely lost. The 5450 certainly did the worst through these tests, but anyone buying a fan-less graphics card to play Crysis is probably mildly deluded anyway. Next we try the synthetic benchmarks in 3DMark Vantage, testing both factory settings and the highest stable over-clock we could get.

At the factory clock speed the two 5550s were nearly indistinguishable, and although the Sapphire card over-clocked slightly better, there’s not much advantage to this when you’re talking about the mainstream market. The 5450 came in significantly lower than the other two cards. Just breaking the 1k mark isn’t the best of performances, and when starting from a lower base over-clocking has even less of an effect.

Games and 3D won’t be on everyone’s agenda, and taking a look at the multimedia performance we’re fortunately getting past the point where 1080p playback will test anything other than integrated kit. Nevertheless, we try Bluray playback on all three and unsurprisingly find no problems.

At this point we have to give up on the two 5550 cards showing any differences. It would be fair to say that neither of these cards disappointed but they sit in a strange middle ground, slightly over-powered, and priced for general media use, but underwhelming when it comes to 3D performance. Given that HIS have managed to squeeze the card onto a low-profile PCB, that gives it the advantage in our books.

That doesn’t mean that HIS has it all its way.  When buying a graphics card for your set up you have to ask what do you really want from it, and this is where the silent 5450 come into play, offering most of the features of the other cards at a significant discount. If you’re looking to play games, the 5450 isn’t right for you, but then again the 5550s aren’t exactly going to  revolutionise your digital world, either. However, if you’re using these cards for general multimedia, then we don’t really see what the 5550s offer over their less powerful counterpart. The 5450 did have one small but important absence from the card, namely a HDMI port or adapter; something that seems like a major oversight given possible applications. A quick check of Sapphires website reveals that  an HDMI version of this board is available and we’d go for that one if you can find it.

Leaving the HDMI port aside we say that the Sapphire 5450 would be our choice, since it offers a full set of features, uses the least power and costs under £50, whilst still producing 0dB.  But shhh, you didn’t hear that from us, right?

We take a dekko at the HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo

Factory over-clocked cards are more common than iPhones in Starbucks at the moment, and not wanting to be left out we’ve got our hands on one of the front runners, the HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo. With iCooler and Turbo in its name it must be good, right?

On paper you would think so. Powered by ATI’s 5870 GPU, this card offers more than the standard model, using a redesigned PCB and cooler to up its clock speeds. The 5870 GPU is no slouch by modern standards, and we were keen to find out how well HIS has tweaked this, so we pit it against the reference design.    

The package and card itself are Modern Warfare 2 branded and a code to download the full game from Steam is included, no doubt in an attempt to ride on the back of the series’ popularity. We’re not complaining about this though; if you’re in the tiny minority of PC gamers who haven’t already played through MW2, the inclusion comes as a nice bonus. The GPU is pre-clocked at 25MHz above the reference design to 875MHz, and the memory gets a similar treatment set to 4900MHz QDR. This alone should give the card a nice boost over other 5870s, and with a new cooler there’s likely to be room for over-clocking.  

To test, we’re plugging it into an AMD set-up using the AMD Phenom II X6 Black Edition 1090T processor, 4Gb DDR3 1600mhz Kingston HyperX memory, Asus CROSSHAIR IV FORMULA 890FX motherboard and a Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drive. We’re comparing it to the MSI HD 5870 1GB which uses the same GPU and isn’t over-clocked out of the box. On this set-up we’re running some real-world gaming benchmarks, thanks to Crysis Warhead, Dawn of War 2, Race Driver GRID, and as it ‘s included in the package Modern Warfare II, and synthetic test courtesy of FutureMark Vantage.

Let’s look at the real-world benchmarks first. Not wanting to weigh you down with too many figures the method is simple; we’ll run each game over the same content at 1680×1050 taking the average frame rate.  All the games are run at max settings, apart from Crysis.

Looking at the results, it will come as no surprise that the HIS card has a slight edge over its disadvantaged sibling. However, both cards do perform well and all the games are very playable. One thing that does strike us is that the included game Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t provide much of a test for either.

Before moving onto the FutureMark Vantage, in an attempt to further separate these cards, we see how far the HIS and its new cooler can be pushed. Using MSI’s afterburner software, we slowly crank the core up to 945MHz and the memory 1275MHz or 5100MHz QDR, which is the highest we can reach with the card remaining stable.

Additional over-clocking surpasses our expectations, and although under some stress, the GPU temp was kept within a reasonable range 55 – 68 °C. When pushing the card to the higher clock speeds, the fan does give off a very audible whine. This is in contrast to the card, whilst the GPU isn’t under load as this was noticeably quieter than the standard 5870.

HIS looks to have done a good job at tweaking the 5870 set-up to safely squeeze a few extra MHz and to allow a bit of extra head room for over-clocking. We found the card online for £335, although at most retailers it was around the £350 mark.  Even then, this is only £10-20 more than the standard 5870, and with the addition of Modern Warfare 2 this looks like good value to us. Either way both 5870 cards are excellent and if you really need that extra bit of performance, or like tweaking settings, we can recommend the HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo.

The Good

    * The package with Modern Warfare 2
    * Very stable at default settings
    * Room for over-clocking
    * The Price 

The Bad

    * Fan noise under load
    * Many people have already played Modern Warfare 2

Acer Aspire 5538G with AMD Vision

The last time we were in Austin TX, the guys and gals at AMD were pushing the Vision idea. AMD is still pushing Vision and no doubt bugging Intel at the same time.

AMD showed us quite a few notebooks branded Vision in Austin and we were interested in having a go at one of these AMD based machine. For years I have used notebooks based on Intel processors.

There’s been one good reason for this – I certainly prefer to have a smaller machine with a longer battery life than a giant I have to tote around, across the world.

But the world has moved on – desktops are mostly a thing of the past, with everyone’s figures from analysts to CPU companies concluding that the world will continue to move towards the notebook.

AMD bunged me an Acer Aspire Vision branded notebook and I must say that while it’s unlikely I’ll tote it to Computex in Taiwan in a couple of weeks time, the quality of the machine, its battery life, and its display were all most pleasing. I’m no Luddite but this is also my first experience of Windows 7. Yeah I know, I skipped Vista entirely and uninstalled it on my lovely Sony Viao. Never to return. More about Windows 7 later. The version on this machine is Windows 7 Home Premium.

And so to the specs of the Acer Aspire 5538G. This machine comes with a 285GB hard drive, an AMD Athlon X2 dual core processor – the L310, clocking at 1.20GHz and with 4GB of memory. An ATI Mobility Radeon HD4300 is built-in. Audio from Realtek – I am not sure that the processing power, the memory and the video are matched by the audio, even with the Dolby Sound Room in there.

AMD bundled a couple of DVDs with the machine – Terminator Salvation and Hurt Locker. I think I saw Terminator Salvation on a plane a little while ago – certainly it looked and sounded better than that “experience” and there wasn’t any noticeable dragging and the rest. No turbulence either.

The video is really quite excellent on this machine, no doubt a combination of  the amount of memory, the graphics processor and Windows 7 on board.

Windows 7 is fast to boot and fast to switch off too. Yeah, of course Microsoft plays its games with a slightly different interface, but it certainly doesn’t give you that sinking feeling when Vista examined your system and said “oh, your system isn’t quite powerful enough to run me”.

This is not the kind of machine you’d want to lug about the world but that certainly isn’t the point. Right now I’m watching BBC3 on an LCD machine and simultaneously watching a programme on this machine too. The quality on this machine is way beyond what the bog standard TV is giving me.

I’m pleasantly surprised by a number of things after using this PC for around a month. The AMD/ATI display is lovely, the 1.9GHz chip seems to have more than enough beef to do the kind of things you need to do if you’re a magazine editor – videos, and the rest.

Last week AMD introduced more processors in its range intended for notebooks and they promise to give even better battery life. The little one is really going for notebooks – not netbooks – and if this machine is anything to go by, AMD really has a chance to bite into Intel’s market share just that little bit more.

AMD clearly wants to tread on the tiger’s tail. If this machine is anything to go by, Intel clearly has a fight on its hands. This PC is no netbook and the price ain’t half bad.

We go goggle-eyed with the HIS Multiview II adaptor


Product: HIS MultiView II
Web Site: HIS Digital
Street Price: Around £40


If you believe the marketing hype then we should all be working from multiple monitors. ATI and Nvidia have certainly been focusing on this lately, but what about laptop users? Eyefinity-equipped laptops may be on their way but we can’t see many IT departments forking out for that. There are other options though.

HIS has sent us its latest offering, the MultiView II USB display adaptor. Running from a standard USB 2.0 port, this offers multiple monitor support without trading in your laptop or upgrading your desktop. It also claims that you can plug up to six of these in at any one time, but as it has only sent us one, we can’t vouch for that.

In the box you get the multiview adaptor with USB on one side and a DVI port on the other, plus a retractable USB cable, DVI to VGA port adapter and software DVD. There’s also a mid-90s bum-bag-fashioned holder with a clip at the top to attach to you, something, someone… your enemies?

The technology powering all this is provided by DisplayLink. Once installed, its software adaptively compresses the video signal, utilizing the CPU and GPU of the computer. This signal is then sent through the USB cable to the Mulitiview II, which contains a DisplayLink DL2+ decompression engine that restores the data back into a graphic signal.  All very clever.

Deciding how to test this product has caused us a few problems, since there’s not much else to test it against and nothing in the box shouts about possible usage. Saying that, as the device is portable and it’s hot pluggable, all the scenarios that come to mind are business related. As such, the test system is a Dell Latitude E4300, Core 2 Duo P9300, 4Gb Ram and Windows 7 Enterprise.

The software installed in a couple of minutes and after a bit of screen flicker everything went back to normal. Next up, to plug everything in –  connecting the multiview to the laptop and a desktop monitor that runs at 1680×1050 native thorough DVI, resulted in the desktop extending instantly to the second monitor.  Office applications and normal Windows’ functions worked without problems and nothing would make you think you were working through USB.

The next hurdle could be multimedia performance, but DVD playback on the second screen caused no problems there either. In an attempt to test the multiview further, a change was in order, switching from the desktop monitor to a 40-inch 1080p TV. The screen resolution was recognised and adjusted straight away, and although the Dell laptop doesn’t have a Blu-ray drive, we downloaded a couple of 1080p wmv to try. Playback was shockingly smooth but seemed of lower quality than the original 1080p version. During this whole test, CPU utilisation only mildly increased, so if you want,  you could continue working on the main screen.  

HIS Multiview II

After 1080p video, gaming would be the next logical step, but following some initial testing this looks to be one step too far.  A couple of pop cap games worked but there were already some latency problems that would rule out anything serious.

Gaming aside, the kit is impressive. Displaylink and HIS have done a great job at getting the kit to work without any configuration and the package as a whole feels polished.  Our only grumble would be that we can’t think of many situations in which it would be useful, but like all good gadgets, now we know it exists,  we’re trying hard to find some.

IOSafe Solo 500GB Review

In the name of science, or in actual fact solely for our own amusement, we’ve paired up two unlikely suspects in the world of external hard drives. IOSafe’s latest effort, which is a mammoth beast and claims to be indestructible, and Freecom’s Hard Drive XS, which claims to be one of the world’s smallest USB 3.0 drives.

We wanted to take them out and put them in fun and kooky situations, since they are an unlikely pair and thus excellent candidates for a sitcom pilot. However, the IOSafe is just too bloody fat and heavy to carry around so we had to leave him at home and just take the Hard Drive XS to the park to go on the swings instead.

Try as we might to stop the IOSafe from working, we couldn’t manage it. It’s basically a house, but you can’t keep bedrooms and kitchens in it, you can only keep 500GB of space in it. We pushed it down stairs, tried to drown it, set fire to the bugger, heck, we even tried to smother it with a pillow in its sleep but it would just keep on working. Very frustrating. It’s the Rasputin of hard drives. We treated it like a conman would treat his elderly bride on the brink of the beyond, we treated it like a resented red-headed stepchild and we even treated it like it was a Middle Eastern country with oil and we were America. Nothing would stop this beast from ticking along fine.

Considering its hefty size we’d have thought it would fit more than 500GB of space in it – that’s how these things work, right? To be fair, models start at 500GB and go up to a massive two terabytes. Other than the novelty of its indestructible build, it performed well and we had no problems with installing or using it, aside from lifting it onto a desk. Luckily we have a forklift loaned out as a review sample that we’ll probably never get around to, crisis averted. 

We’re surely not the target market for the IOSafe, though. Rarely in the London suburbs do we have earthquakes or natural disasters, so our hard drives are likely quite safe as they are. 

Here is a photo of the IOSafe on the left, the XS on the right and a quaint British 50 pence piece for comparison, and lens flare.

Freecom Hard Drive XS 3.0 Review

In the name of science, or in actual fact solely for our own amusement, we’ve paired up two unlikely suspects in the world of external hard drives. IOSafe’s latest effort, which is a mammoth beast and claims to be indestructible, and Freecom’s Hard Drive XS, which claims to be one of the world’s smallest USB 3.0 drives.

We wanted to take them out and put them in fun and kooky situations, since they are an unlikely pair and thus excellent candidates for a sitcom pilot. However, the IOSafe is just too bloody fat and heavy to carry around so we had to leave him at home and just take the Hard Drive XS to the park to go on the swings instead.

The Hard Drive XS 3.0 is a cool little number, dressed in sleek, sexy black rubber and giving you an alluring gaze that is impossible to resist if you are some kind of technosexual weirdy beardy. It is fast, bloody fast, when it’s hooked up to a USB 3.0 port. It boasts it can manage 5gbs / second transfer and it generally performed at that level or just under. It also has a whopping 1.5 Terabytes of space on it, making it small in stature but with a big heart.

It’s a quiet little number too, rarely making so much as a whirr, which in our experience has always been an annoyance with external hard drives. It only weighs 860 grams so is highly portable. The 3.5″ SATA drive is low on power, too, making it a worthy purchase if you’re always eager for mammoth amounts of space to work with. It goes for £130.00 here.

Here is a photo of the IOSafe on the left, the XS on the right and a quaint British 50 pence piece for comparison, and lens flare.

We take a dekko at two external HDs

In the name of science, or in actual fact solely for our own amusement, we’ve paired up two unlikely suspects in the world of external hard drives. IOSafe’s latest effort, which is a mammoth beast and claims to be indestructible, and Freecom’s Hard Drive XS, which claims to be one of the world’s smallest USB 3.0 drives.

We wanted to take them out and put them in fun and kooky situations, since they are an unlikely pair and thus excellent candidates for a sitcom pilot. However, the IOSafe is just too bloody fat and heavy to carry around so we had to leave him at home and just take the Hard Drive XS to the park to go on the swings instead.

Read our reviews here:

Here is a photo of the IOSafe on the left, the XS on the right and a quaint British 50 pence piece for comparison, and lens flare.

Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX works on every surface

Logitech has kindly posted us an Anywhere Mouse MX, a wireless little number that boasts it can be used on pretty much any surface. Does it work, and is it any good? Let’s take a look:

It looks like a hand grenade straight out of Star Wars which is cool. It’s tiny and fits easily into your hand with all the buttons placed where they should be. The Anywhere MX is really light to hold too, making it useful for gaming. We trialled it with Left 4 Dead 2 and it proved helpful in swivelling around and chopping off a zombie’s face with relative ease.

There are six buttons in total on the mouse, your standard left and right buttons, two thumb ‘back’ and ‘forward’ buttons on the left hand side and a button to open your tabbed windows easily plonked right underneath the clickable scroll wheel. The wheel really lets the rest of the device down, feeling quite alien on the finger. If you’ve got big farmers hands like a certain TechEye reviewer, your fat finger bounces off the bottom of the scroll wheel every time you use it. It feels like being poked by a tiny pin each time.

The Anywhere MX runs on two standard AA batteries and promises to run for a while. When the mouse isn’t in use it goes to sleep, not to mention there’s a power slide on its underbelly to switch off when you’re not mousing around.

When installing your mouse you’ll see that the MX is shipped with Logitech’s unifying technology, which means you can use other wireless kit with the mouse should you want to – there’s space for up to 6.

The mouse’s main appeal, though, is that it works on most surfaces. Logitech has called the laser tracking tech onboard Darkfield, fitting nicely with the slightly sinister appearance of the device. We were skeptical before having a go, but it seems the claim is true to a point. While it struggled with sandpaper and simply refused to work at all at the bottom of a full sink, it managed glass surfaces which other mouses often find tricky. We even had a go on a bit of carpet and it worked fine.

Overall it’s a highly portable and stylish little thing, let down slightly by an uncomfortable scroll wheel. But that’s nitpicking. In the end, the technology is cool, it’s a nice mouse and it does work on all sorts – but it is hard to justify lightening your wallet by way of seventy quid.

Update: it’s retailing at the moment for up to £50.00 on Amazon.co.uk.