Cool Tech Reviews

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May 31, 2006

AOpen updates MiniPC

You may recall the AOpen look-alike of the Mac mini that they launched last fall. engadget reports that it has been revamped:

It seems that the engineers over at PC manufacturer AOpen have been studiously reading the reviews of the first generation of their Mac mini ripoff homage, the miniPC, as the latest version is promising to eliminate the loud whine that made its predecessor almost unusable. The company has just formally announced the Core Duo-powered version of what is now called the MiniPC (with the capital “M” presumably meant to further differentiate the box from its Apple counterpart), which is essentially the same machine that was being shown off at CeBIT 2006, except with a black case that makes it look less like an external DVD burner.

I’ve always been dubious as to the utility of this system and Dan Ackerman’s review at CNET confirms my doubts:

The good: Not much bigger than a Mac Mini; speedy Core Duo CPU; multiple video output options.

The bad: More expensive than the Mac Mini; BYOKMM (bring your own keyboard, mouse, and monitor); only two USB ports; no remote control; not much in the way of bundled software.

The bottom line: The clone that comes closest to the nearly flawless Mac Mini, AOpen’s MiniPC Duo MP945-V would be easier to recommend if it hit the same price point as Apple’s pocket-size box.

That price point is variously reported as $955 or $899 and the model number is sometimes reported as MP945-VXR.

Let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong with a compact form factor machine since there are a number of places where it would be useful such as among home entertainment components, for portability, or just to reduce desk space consumption. But slavish imitation of the Mac mini serves no particular purpose.

Posted at 6:58 am. Filed under AOpen, Apple, Companies, Desktop PC, Small Form Factor

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May 30, 2006

Airgo chipset to provide Wi-Fi IPTV

Marguerite Reardon at ZDNet:

Airgo Networks, which makes Wi-Fi chips, announced Tuesday that Caton Overseas and STMicroelectronics will use its latest generation of wireless technology to distribute video over Wi-Fi links throughout the home. Caton is a Chinese maker of set-top boxes for satellite and cable TV providers in Asia and Europe, and STMicroelectronics provides chips to set-top box manufacturers such as Siemens and Cisco Systems’ Scientific Atlanta.

Airgo has already been supplying wireless routing companies such as Linksys with high-performing Wi-Fi chips using a technology called MIMO or multiple input, multiple output, which improves Wi-Fi’s range and throughput. MIMO is currently the primary basis for next-generation Wi-Fi standard 802.11n.

Now Airgo says it has tweaked its MIMO technology to improve the throughput, range and reliability of the signal enough to deliver high-quality video. Airgo’s next-generation chips, called True MIMO Gen3, provided transmission speeds up to 240mbps when tested in Airgo’s 6,000-square-foot model home, said Dave Borison, director of marketing for Airgo. This speed is enough to transmit three high-definition TV channels, he said.

The good news is that you don’t have to run wires, but I wonder about interference if everyone has a similar setup. How many folks in your neighborhood use anything but the default channel for their Wi-Fi setups?

Posted at 8:37 pm. Filed under Airgo, Companies, Internet, IPTV, MIMO, Wi-Fi

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May 27, 2006

Get out your credit card, PC prices are dropping!

Damon Darlin at the NY Times:

Lower prices are part of the natural order in the world of electronics. Sometimes, though, the slow but relentless drop in price turns into a torrent. That’s happening now in personal computers.

All right!

Prices are falling fast on notebook computers, as much as 18.5 percent so far this year, according to statistics compiled by Current Analysis, a market research firm. The bulk of notebooks now sell for less than $1,000.

The lower-priced notebooks are pushing desktop prices down, too. “I would expect even more intense price competition,” said Charles Smulders, an analyst with Gartner, another market research firm.

The pace of price cuts has accelerated because a price war has broken out that offers great benefits to anyone in the market for a PC. And that could be a pretty large market. Forrester Research estimates that 70 percent of PC’s in use are more than two years old and 90 percent of second, third and fourth computers are even older. The wars started quietly a year ago this week when Acer, a PC maker in Taiwan, re-entered the American market. The strategy was to get into the top tier of PC vendors as quickly as possible, which meant it would grab market share by keeping prices low.

Acer and other makers took business from Dell, which began to look less like the growth company that its investors were accustomed to. Dell’s response came earlier this year as it cut prices.

Intel, meanwhile, was losing a significant portion of the microprocessor market to Advanced Micro Devices. Intel’s share dropped to 77.9 percent from 81.5 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to Gartner, while A.M.D.’s market share grew to 20.4 percent from 16.6 percent two years ago. Intel is fighting to win back share, which means PC makers use the rivalry to get a price break.

There’s more in the article, but you get the idea – a number of factors have converged to push PC prices way down.

Another statistic will tell you just how good consumers have it. While the number of notebooks sold is up 37 percent, revenue growth in the period is up only 15.5 percent, Mr. Bhavnani said. Companies are making less money on each notebook. Desktop computers are literally being given away. Retailers sold 14.8 percent more of them in the first five months of the year, but revenue declined 4 percent, Mr. Bhavnani said. Half of the computers sold for less than $500.

I can testify to this myself, since I bought a sub $1,000 laptop earlier in the year and lately have seen it selling for over $100 less than the price I paid.

Posted at 1:44 pm. Filed under Bargains, Desktop PC, Laptop, Notebook

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