We can’t help but pause these days when we see an inconsequential video or silly image and think about how the size of that one file alone is larger than the memory capacity of many of the first modern computers, such as the Commodore 64 or the Apple IIE. But these days, as the price for memory has decreased, the capacity for portable storage devices such as hard drives has increased. Kilobytes are obviously a matter of the distant past, but consumers now no longer need to worry about megabytes even. Choosing a reasonably priced storage solution is now a matter of having quick and easy access to storing gigabytes and even terabytes of information. That said, here’s a buying guide to the best hard drives and memory cards that can make the task much simpler.
Best Memory Cards: Picking the Right Storage Format
There are a few different formats, sizes and speeds of memory card, and finding the one that’s right for you is a matter of determining how you’ll be using them. The most common size is the SD card, used in many digital cameras. Mobile phones and tablet computers use smaller versions, such as a miniSD or a microSD. Sony products use a proprietary format called a Memory Stick.
The best thing to do when looking for a memory card is figuring out what you need it for, and choosing the right size. The SD Association provides a nice chart on their site detailing at a glance the different sizes and uses of SD memory cards. For example, a 16GB SD card can provide 160 minutes of HD video in fine mode, 240 minutes in normal mode and 360 minutes in economy mode. The same card can also store more than 6,000 10 MP pictures.
With so many brands available, focus on the size of the card as your guide when purchasing. And as a general practice, we always like to purchase at least one extra card to keep on hand with our device should something happen or we surprisingly fill a card up.
Top Hard Drives: Portable and External Models
While memory cards are the way to quickly store photos, video and other info from other devices, chances are they are all being loaded on home computers or networks. Before long, this data can add up, especially if you’re storing a lot of HD video. There are some great options for portable hard drive storage available, many of which provide automatic backup. Here are three of our favorites:
ioSafe Rugged Portable – The ioSafe Rugged Portable likens itself to an airplane blackbox, touting it’s toughness and durability in case of water submersion, drops up to 20 feet, or even under crushing forces up to 5,000 pounds. If you’ve got important data that you want to ensure is protected and remains intact even in a catastrophe, then the Rugged Portable is the storage solution for you.
Western Digital My Passport – Offering 2 terrabytes of data storage in a design that is no larger than a paperback book, My Passport offers an easily portable way to transport a lot of data by hand. If you have the drive constantly plugged in, it can automatically back up data, even at the instant you save it to your computer.
Seagate GoFlex – If you’re looking to back up more than just one computer, the GoFlex can hook into your wireless network and allow centralized backup and storage for up to 3 PCs and Macs. Since it’s in the cloud, it also provides you with access to your files from anywhere you can access the Internet. There’s even a SeaGate app that will allow you to access all your files from your smartphone or tablet.
With nearly any computer-using household needing a printer, as well as myriad home-based and small businesses, the market for printers and all-in-one devices remains crowded. And whether it’s a simple dedicated machine you are looking for and one that can perform a number of tasks, the revenue model for many manufacturers seems to be evolving into the well-known razor/razor blade model – give them the printers for cheap and charge them lots for the cartridges. There are obviously a number of choices available for anyone in the market for a printer, so here are some of the best printers and faxes available, including standalone or all-in-one units.
HP DeskJet 1000 – This single-purpose, budget friendly print does one thing, and does it well – print documents. For those who just need a simple device that’s easy to use, this basic HP DeskJet 1000 model from HP costs only $30 as is the perfect choice for those on a budget that just need to print.
Samsung Laser Single-Function Printer – If you’re looking for a simple approach to printing but have a bit more to spend, consider Samsung’s Laser Single-Function Printer. It has wireless capability, meaning you can stow it just about anywhere. It also allows for double-sided printing and can print single-sided docs the quick rate of 29 pages per minute.
Canon Selphy CP800 Compact Photo Printer – If you’re looking to print photos, the Canon Selphy CP800 is a great choice that can provide prints in standard size or as small a credit card. With its 2.5 inch tilt-up LCD screen, you don’t even need to connect it to a printer – you can create prints directly from your memory cards or other Bluetooth-enabled devices.
Epson Expression Home XP-400 – While many do want just the ability to print, increasingly families need a device that can perform many functions at once. The Expression Home XP-400 is also a scanner and copier in addition to a printer. With space at a priority for many, Epson has cleverly dubbed their Expression Home XP-400 as the “small-in-one” printer, based on its small size. And it’s also portable, and able to print documents from Apple devices and PCs straight from the cloud.
Brother IntelliFax-2820 – Although e-mail scanning and communication has overtaken faxing, the need for a fax machine still exists for many, and for a few business and professions it’s still the way much communication gets done. The Brother IntelliFax-2820 focuses on just the fax, and provides high-quality and quick printouts, as well as a built-in phone receiver to allow for both voice and fax calls. If faxing is still a priority for your home or business, the Brother Intellifax-2820 is a great choice.
Lexmark Pro5500 – This all-in-one printer, scanner, copier and fax machine from Lexmark features a large 4.3 inch tough screen that helps make job selection and set up simple and easy. Although the Lexmark Pro5500 is a bit bigger than some smaller all-in-ones, it’s great for small businesses with its handle to handle big jobs from a number of different sources simultaneously.
Xerox WorkCentre 3325 – While they’re best known for the large-scale office copy machines, Xerox also has products designed for the home office, such as the WorkCentre 3325, an all-in one printer, fax machine, copier and scanner that can produce and replicate two-sided documents with ease. Since Xerox has so much printing and copying and experience, it’s no surprise they can create a dependable and fast home printing option as well. The Xerox WorkCentre 3325 is wireless and small, so can it go nearly anywhere, and reports a printing rate of 37 pages per minute.
Although computers and smart phones play an integral role in family life, the individual nature of their use is very personal and solitary. High-Definition Televisions (HDTVs), on the other hand, continue to be a central focus for families as the entertainment hub for television and movies, and the latest models are working to integrate music, web browsing and more.
We’re also seeing the arrival of 3D as more than just a gimmick, and the latest HDTVs are incorporating 3D either via glasses, or in some cases without: LG’s Cinema 3D TVs being just one highly-recommended example. These days, the ability to produce crystal clear widescreen HD images is no longer a selling point; you must look even deeper at what else the HDTV has to offer.
Here’s a closer look at five of today’s best HDTVs and 3DTVs and a buying guide you should consider when contemplating purchasing them. Keep in mind that specific models may vary depending on the screen size you are looking for.
Panasonic TC ST50 Series
Panasonic provides a number of features in addition to HD signals and a reasonable price, making the TC ST50 series a great choice for families who don’t need to buy the top-of-the-line models. If you’re looking for 3D features, the TC ST50 series uses 3D eyewear and also has the ability to convert 2D images into a simulated 3D. We also love the super-slim built-in subwoofer which helps make the audio experience feel more theater-like. And one of the coolest things about nearly any Panasonic Viera-branded HDTV you’ll buy is the ability to download an app to your smartphone or tablet and use that device as your TV’s remote control or even as a control for specific games designed to be played on Panasonic TVs.
Sharp Quattron Smart 3D TV
The Quattron Smart 3D TV from Sharp delivers a number of features that may someday be standard on all TVs, but for now are tough to get all in one place. It’s got built-in apps to quickly allow you to stream videos and programs over services like Netflix, Vudu and CinemaNow, as well as social network integration with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. There’s also built-in wife so you don’t need to worry about hooking the Sharp Quattron Smart 3D TV up to an Ethernet or other cable to enjoy this streaming content. And the Quattron branding is indicative of Sharp’s patented use of adding a yellow pixel to the traditional red, green and blue ones that make up standard HDTV displays, which (according to Sharp) creates deeper and more vivid colors. One other cool feature of this HDTV: the ability to switch glasses into 2D mode, so that family and friends can all make their own choice as to whether to view content simultaneously in 2D or 3D.
Vizio Theater 3D Edge Lit LED with Vizio Internet Apps
With four battery-free 3D glasses included, Vizio’s Razor LED technology allows for the screen to get brighter and darker than many standard HDTVs, producing more detailed colors in full 1080P HD. The Vizio Theater 3D Edge Lit LED also has built-in Wi-Fi features and apps to allow for on-demand streaming of TVs and movies, as well as access to web browsing, music and more. To make all of this easier, there’s a Bluetooth remote with a full QWERTY keyboard. It’s one of the best HDTVs and 3D TVs out there.
Samsung LED 6420 Series Smart TV
Samsung is bringing HDTVs and 3DTVs to the cloud with what it calls the AllShare DLNA technology. Essentially, with a little work in connecting them all to the AllShare network you can access content straight from your PC, camera or other mobile devices, and view them on your Samsung HDTV. The other Smart TV features on the Samsung LED 6420 Series Smart TV include apps from Netflix, Blockbuster, Hulu Plus, YouTube, ESPN, Pandora, Facebook and Twitter, as well as an integrated search function which lets you easily seek out content across all these platforms as well as your own personal AllShare network. The Samsung LED 6420 Series Smart TV also comes equipped with 4 HDMI inputs as well as 3D glasses and the ability to convert 2D content to 3D.
Sony XBR Internet TV
Sony’s Bravia XBR Internet TV is made of gorilla glass, the same lightweight and durable material most smartphone screens are made of. By combining this with the OptiContrast panel, Sony promises that the XBR Internet TV can minimize light reflections while enhancing picture clarity. If the sleek design doesn’t grab your eye, a full suite of Internet features to allow on-demand streaming and social networking make the Sony XBR Internet TV an easy choice to quickly connect and mount to the wall to become the entertainment hub of your home right out of the box.