One standard that we’ve all become used to is the USB standard. Just about every device, from cell phones to keyboards and external hard drives has a USB connectivity option. Many devices are also charged via a USB socked.
What many people don’t realise, however, is that there are different kinds of USB ports. These days most new computers will have at least one USB 3.0 port, and yet most people don’t know the difference between USB 3.0 and previous versions of the USB standard. With that in mind we thought we’d give a quick run-down on what USB 3.0 is.
- The most recent USB standard, namely USB 3.0, was released in 2008. However, the first motherboards with USB 3.0 interfaces were only released in 2010.
- USB 3.0 offers a new transfer mode known as “SuperSpeed”, which supports data speeds of up to 4.8 Gigabits per second. That makes it more than ten times faster than USB 2.0!
- Aside from the speed difference, USB 3.0 is also the first full-duplex implementation of the USB standard. That means that data can be transferred in both directions at the same time, unlike USB 2.0 which only allowed one end to transmit at a time.
- It is completely backwards compatible, so you can still attach your USB 2.0 devices to a USB 3.0 port.
- USB 3.0 can be differentiated from USB 2.0 by either the blue colour of the port, or the letters “SS”, for SuperSpeed, stamped into the interface.
So there you have it! If you’re using a computer which is less than three years old, there’s a good chance that it may have at least one USB 3.0 port. Try plugging your devices into that port, instead of the USB 2.0 ports, for much better data speeds!
One of the most common topics of discussion amongst our IT Support team these days is the new wave of Windows 8 tablet devices that have become available in recent months. There are some very cool devices coming out and it seems like every other day we have a new machine to review!
As much as we enjoy testing out these devices, we know that many customers find themselves unsure of what to look for when comparing Windows tablets. With that in mind, we thought we’d summarise the key considerations:
Operating System Version
The first thing to consider is the version of the Windows 8 Operating System that you require. You have three options at this point in time: Windows RT, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Professional. Windows RT comes with very restricted functionality, effectively limiting you to ‘Windows Store’ applications. This means that you cannot run your “normal” Windows applications on the device. For the vast majority of business users, that rules out Windows RT as an option. The other versions of Windows 8 allow full functionality, supporting both Windows Store apps and legacy applications. The biggest difference between the two remaining versions is that Windows 8 Professional is the only one that can be hooked into a corporate domain. It is also the only one that supports hard drive encryption – a key feature for corporate businesses. The bottom line is that Windows 8 Pro is the best choice when it comes to a Windows tablet for your business.
The next key decision is around the CPU (processor) type available with the tablet. In this instance, there are two main options: Intel Atom-based systems, and Intel Core-based systems. The Atom processor family from Intel are designed specifically for ultra-portable devices, such as netbooks. They offer improved power consumption, but at significantly lower speeds. The Core-based systems, on the other hand, require a bit more power but are a lot faster. The bottom line is that running any of your legacy applications on an Atom-based system can be frustratingly slow. If you are opting for a Windows RT tablet, with its limited functionality, then an Atom-based system may be fast enough for you. Otherwise, your best bet is to go with the Core-based system, with an i5 or i7 CPU.
Once you have decided on the Operating System you require, and the CPU type that goes with it, you will most likely find that a lot of the options out there have been ruled out. If, for example, you have decided on a Windows 8 Professional tablet, with a Core i7 CPU, you’ll be limited to a handful of devices at this point in time. The differences between them can then be compared. Below are a few of the features that you should consider:
- Connectivity. Since the idea behind a tablet is portability, you may be surprised to find that many of the options on the market do not come with a SIM card slot by default. Unless you only intend to use the device within known Wifi environments, that rules out a few more of the options.
- Storage. Depending on how you intend to use the device, you may be able to get away with a small amount of drive space (such as a 64GB drive), or you may require a larger drive (drives of 256GB and up are available on some devices). Be warned, though, that Windows 8 itself takes a fair amount of space! If you are running Windows RT on an Atom platform, you might get away with 64GB of storage, but otherwise it’s safer to go for 128GB and up.
- Ports. The various manufacturers offer a wide range of ports on their devices. Some come with USB connectivity for peripherals, while others have proprietary connectors. Video output ports also vary, which will become important if you ever wish to connect the tablet to an external screen. Take a look at the types of connectors, and the number of ports, on each device before choosing your tablet.
- Battery life. While your choice of CPU and your usage patterns will play a large role in determining actual battery life, it’s still important to ensure that your chosen device can operate for as long as you require, without needing a recharge. Some devices, such as the HP Elitepad 900, come with the option of an external case or jacket which can boost battery life significantly.
- Screen. Lastly, don’t forget to look at the screen type on the tablet. Not only are the screen size and resolution important, but also the type of screen. Some screens support the use of a ‘digitiser pen’, such as those offered by Wacom, while others do not. If you only intend to use the device for data consumption only (reading email, browsing the web, etc.) then this may not matter as much, but if you intend to use the tablet for illustration, for example, then the support of a digitiser pen is a key consideration.
As you can see, there are a number of points to consider when choosing a Windows based tablet! And of course, there is that mysterious X-factor… some devices just are more appealing than others, due to their physical design, or their brand image, for example. Enjoy your shopping experience, and if in doubt, give our IT support team a call!
With touch screens becoming more popular, a lot of attention has been given to the touch gestures of Windows 8. However, one of the signs of a good Windows has always been their familiarity with some of the keyboard shortcuts. Nothing says “power user” like a few good keyboard shortcuts! So, we asked our IT Support team for some good Windows shortcuts.
Here are a few of their favourites:
- Use WIN-L (hold the Windows key and press the L key at the same time) to lock the computer. This is handy if you need step away from your computer for a brief period, but don’t want anyone to access your computer. And of course we’ll take this opportunity to remind you that it’s incredibly important to always lock your computer, even if you only step away from it for a few seconds!
- Use ALT-TAB to switch quickly between programs. Of course you knew this one, but we had to list it just in case!
- Use CTRL-X, CTRL-C and CTRL-V to cut, copy and paste text, respectively. Another oldie, but a goodie…
- Use WIN-E to open Windows Explorer.
- Use WIN-M to minimise all windows (reveal the desktop).
- Use WIN-arrow to change the position of the active Window. For example, WIN-LEFT will snap the active window to the left hand side of the screen, while WIN-RIGHT snaps to the right hand side. WIN-UP will maximise the screen, while WIN-DOWN will minimise it.
- WIN-SHIFT-LEFT and WIN-SHIFT-RIGHT will move the active window between monitors, if you are running dual (or more) screens.
- CTRL-ALT-arrow. This is a fun one, but it only works on some systems. Using this combination, it is sometimes possible to tilt the entire screen by 90 degrees. For example, CTRL-ALT-LEFT will tilt your screen left by 90 degrees. If you get back to your desk and your screen is tilted, you know your colleagues are playing games with you!
Of course, there are many more of these keyboard shortcuts but the above list should give you something to play with - and something to impress your colleagues with! Used correctly, these shortcuts can save you a lot of time, too. Enjoy!