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Mecer creates stylish low-cost notebook

The South African computer manufacturer shows off its latest entry-level laptop. BRYAN TURNER tries out the Xpression Z140C.

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It’s easy to think about international brands when considering a laptop that’s strictly for office tasks or university work. But Mecer’s Xpression Z140C offers some tough competition to international brands in the entry-level “cloudbook” space.

The unit we reviewed was all-white, with a white keyboard and white trackpad. It houses an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 CPU, Intel HD graphics, and 32GB eMMC storage.  

The overall design deviates from other manufacturers with an all-plastic body. The left side of the laptop features a USB 2 port, a headphone jack and a micro-SD card slot. On the right side, there is a USB 3 port, micro HDMI, and a proprietary charging port.

When opened, the computer is matte finished on the trackpad, the keyboard, the screen, and chassis plastic. This makes it a little more ideal to work outside, with less glare from the sun.

The hard plastic chassis is a really good indicator of the laptop’s high resilience to bending and drops. This makes the computer a little more life-proof when compared to the more delicate models in this price range. 

Even though this laptop is rugged, it remains light at 1.4kg, around the weight of the latest Apple MacBook Air.

The keyboard has decent travel and responsiveness, making it great for typing out long documents. The trackpad, on the other hand, needs some work. We experienced some phantom cursor movement and inconsistent glide, which was fixed by connecting an external mouse.

The 14” IPS display redeems this oversight by showing thoughtful screen design, mostly thanks to its matte display that’s just the right amount of matte. It features a 1366×768 resolution, which is standard for units in this range. The viewing angle may be a bit awkward when two users want to see the panel at the same time, as colours tend to get washed out when one doesn’t look directly at the screen.

It comes preloaded with Windows 10 Pro, which is snappy for the most part. For better performance, we used a light version of Ubuntu Linux.

Intel’s Atom processors are not the most popular because they’re known for sluggish performance. That said, this computer exceeded our Atom expectations, mostly thanks to the fast access speeds of the eMMC storage. For light work, like word processing, working spreadsheet and browsing the web, it does well. It becomes slower on the more intensive multitasking like running four or more programs at the same time.

When working on the lighter applications indoors, we found the 10,000mAh battery delivered around 8 hours from Windows and 9 hours from Ubuntu. This makes it an ideal computer for note-taking in lectures and working on projects in an electric socket-limited library.

Overall, this computer offers basic features one would expect from a computer in this price range. At a retail price of R2,999, not many cloudbooks come close.

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Acer’s latest Chromebook means serious business

The latest Acer Chromebooks for business have arrived in South Africa. BRYAN TURNER reviewed the Acer Chromebook 715.

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The Chromebook market has been perceived as very consumer-focused, until the recent introduction of management tools for Chrome OS.

To complement these corporate management tools, Acer has released the Chromebook 715, aimed at the business person that works in the cloud, in South Africa.

The unit we reviewed contained an Intel Core i5-8250U, 16GB of RAM, and 128GB of eMMC storage. All of this was housed in a sturdy aluminium body. 

On the left side, the computer features a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer, a standard USB Type-A port, and a headphone jack, while on the right it has a Kensington Lock, another USB Type-C port just for connectivity and a microSD card slot. 

When open, the narrow bezelled 15.6″-inch display has a Full HD resolution for crisp lettering in documents. The wide colour gamut also ensures that colours are accurately represented on screen. 

The keyboard features a first for Chromebooks: a num-pad. This is especially useful for those working with spreadsheets on Google Sheets or Excel Online, or accountants working in web apps like Xero.

The overall design of this computer shows the professional look Acer was going for with a business-facing Chromebook. It has a grey aluminium body, which looks heavy, but comes to a mere 1.8kg. It’s much lighter than it looks for an almost 16″ laptop.

The performance is great and switching between web apps is fast. This is thanks to the embedded i5 processor, which doesn’t make as much of a noise as its Windows counterparts.

The computer isn’t for the “slashie”: those who run their personal and business lives on the same device. As a result, games don’t run on the computer because it doesn’t run applications. This asserts the device’s status as a purely business-focused device.

Apart from the hardware features, the computer is handled via the lightweight Chrome OS. 

Chrome OS is Google’s answer for those who only work with web apps, and don’t want their computer’s performance hindered by unnecessary apps. With the increasing power offered from web apps, the computer application as we know is likely to disappear eventually. 

With Google’s Apps for Work platform, the Chromebook lends itself to the same admin management tools that exist on other platforms. 
The integrated 45 Wh battery may seem small but operates for around 9 hours, thanks to the lightweight software and good battery management.  

Overall, for those who want a no-nonsense approach to computing, the Acer Chromebook 715 may be their best next device. However, its pricing at R7,999 may deter those who would expect to pay less.

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Philips’s new toothbrush does more than clean teeth

Philips’s new Sonicare DiamondClean toothbrush comes with five brushing modes, including one focused on gum care.

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Brushing one’s teeth and following a daily oral healthcare routine has more than just cosmetic gain.

Plaque forms a film of bacteria between one’s teeth and gums, that if not properly removed can lead to gum disease and a range of diseases like diabetes and coronary heart disease. With statistics from Philips indicating that an estimated 90% of South Africans suffer from gum disease at some point in their life, good oral health has never been more important.

This is why the company has created the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean electric toothbrush.

The Philips Sonicare is tough on plaque but gentle on gums.

Its brushstrokes drive fluid deep between a user’s teeth and along the gumline. According to Philips, one brush with this toothbrush does more than a manual toothbrush does in a month.

It features 5 modes to cover more brushing needs, such as Clean, Polish, White Sensitive and Gum Care, it offers a customisable experience providing up to 7x more plaque removal than a manual toothbrush. Philips says the users of this brush can also get a whiter smile in one week with the DiamondClean brush head and improved gum health in just 2 weeks.

For the person on the go, the USB travel case doubles up as a charger to ensure the device remains charged. For home charging, the charger glass doubles as a glass for rinsing after brushing. To activate charge, place the brush into the glass to experience two weeks of regular use from a single charge.

Available in a range of colours at Takealot and Dis-Chem for a recommended retail price of  R3299.

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