The BlackBerry PlayBook is a superb piece of hardware with a great screen, powerful speakers, smart design, and feature-packed innards. And were the software up to scratch it could easily be one of our top choice tablets. However, even though we know updates are imminent, as it stands this tablet lacks app support, is too unstable, has variable performance, and is too reliant on being paired to a BlackBerry phone. Check back in a couple of months, though, and we could well have a winner on our hands.
Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 is a premium, super-slim, semi-rugged 13.3in laptop with an IPS display protected by Gorilla glass and running on anything up to a quad-core Intel Sandy Bridge CPU. It's built in the spirit of the company's new "for those who do" logo, with all the features, power and usability you could want. Typing and general interaction was a joy, enhanced by the vibrant screen with its excellent viewing angles. Somehow, we have a feeling it won't just be corporate types who will want this slab of desirability.
LiveScribe’s 8GB Echo Smartpen allows you to easily organise, store and share your written words online. The pen itself is comfortable to hold and writes just like an ordinary – if a little chunky – ball-point. What sets if apart however, is its ability to capture and record everything you write and say. While the software and interface takes a little getting used to, once you have everything set up, it’s a breeze to use.
Anybody looking for a laser printer, rather than an inkjet, in the sub-£100 market should look seriously at this machine. More like a miniature version of Brother's office printers than a cutesy, bread-loaf style personal printer, it has proper paper trays and a good turn of speed.
Like the NB520, Toshiba's NB550 is very attractive and well-built. Its AMD Fusion innards give it the ability to handle Full HD video on and off-line as well as providing an HDMI-output, strengths which put it a step above most budget netbooks. Other specifications are basic and the screen is still sub-HD, but considering its low price these issues are easy to forgive. Throw in the soft-touch finish, decent battery life and excellent speakers, and you have one of the better entrants in its class – though heavy discounts on older ultraportables make for strong competition.
Epson has really tried to put together a good scanning package for home and photo enthusiast customers. As well as a good quality CCD-based scanner engine (still better than CIS, in our view), it includes a transparency adapter for legacy slides and negatives, and a comprehensive software suite, including stitching and photo fix software.
There’s still a prevalent misconception that inkjets are more expensive to run than lasers. This Epson machine costs 6.6p to print a colour page. In contrast, we haven’t tested a colour laser all-in-one in the last year which costs less that 10.7p. Running cost isn’t a valid argument for picking a colour laser.
The Acer Inconia Tab W500 looks good on paper offering both power and flexibility at a reasonable price, but a bulky body and control issues stop it from being as attractive as alternatives - netbooks, ultra-portable laptops and Android tablets.
Having a portable scanner that doesn't require connection to a PC or notebook can be very handy, although the relatively low resolution and variable colour quality reduce the usefulness of the Visioneer Mobility. If you have a smartphone, one of the main difficulties of scanning blind is removed, thanks to the preview function.
Sometimes it's difficult to say anything individual about a printer which is, well, very similar to many that have gone before. This is a perfectly capable laser multifunction, with added duplex print, but it's not devastatingly different or resoundingly better than any of its competitors. Could ePrint make the difference?
Xerox's argument for buying a ColorQube 8570ADN is that it has a much lower energy footprint, because it uses simple blocks of ink and is a less complex mechanism to manufacture. As a printer, it's well up to the laser and LED competition, though it's noisier than most.
There are lot of nice little extras on this scanner, such as its five EZ-Scan buttons linked to features like direct scan to PDF. Software support is generally good, though a more sophisticated OCR applet would be an improvement, and scan quality is well up to the opposition at the same price.
Is Lenovo's ThinkPad X220T the perfect tablet laptop? Not really, but it's as close as it gets. Sure, it's not cheap, its industrial aesthetic won't appeal to everyone, it lacks USB 3.0 and eSATA, and we would have liked a few more vertical pixels on the screen. However, with the excellent quality of its class-leading IPS display, amazing battery life, superb build quality and ergonomics, high-end specifications and ThinkPad reputation, this is the best convertible tablet laptop currently on the market.
This is a mono laser all-in-one with most of the facilities you'd expect from a modern multi-function printer, including duplex print, though not copying. It's quick and won't overpower even a fairly small space on a desk. However, it's pricey compared with the competition and other Brother models, so be sure you need the speed and duplex.
A four-function all-in-one including fax for under £70, looks like something of a bargain. There are a couple of shortfalls in the Stylus Office BX305FW, most especially print speed and to a lesser extent text quality, but if you're requirements aren't too demanding, it's well worth considering.
The Acer E210 is another addition to the relatively small club of Android handsets that have physical QWERTY keyboards. However, despite having a good keyboard, the phone is marred by its low resolution and unresponsive touchscreen that makes using the Android V2.2 software a joyless experience.
There's no two ways about it, the Nokia E7 just doesn't cut it. The hardware is lovely with loads of luxurious metal, a great screen and superb keyboard. However, the software is a pig to use and is rather slow as well. Add in the silly slip up of having no autofocus on the camera and you have a phone that's only worth considering if you're a Nokia/Symbian/keyboard fan who simply can't bear to change. Even then we'd probably opt for the Nokia N8.
The BlackBerry Bold 9780 is another classic BlackBerry that ticks all the boxes we'd expect; the keyboard's great, the screen is small but very sharp and nice to look at, messaging facilities and call quality are superb, and you'll get days of use out of it.
The BlackBerry Curve 3G doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before, but given that it’s an entry-level model this is perhaps to be expected. It’s certainly a great phone for emailing and text messaging and with GPS and 3G onboard it offers a decent feature set. However, it’s very awkward to use for web browsing and with Android touchscreen handsets now appearing on the market for around £100 on PAYG, we’re not quite sure there’s enough here to attract those new to the BlackBerry platform.
The E5 is a sturdy messaging phone that offers plenty of features and has an excellent keyboard and good battery life. However, its cramped screen is a bit of a let down and the Series 60 operating system looks quite dated now compared to the competition. Given that there are plenty of great smartphones you can get for around £180 on Pay As You Go these days, we don’t think the E5 offers quite enough thrills to make it a tempting a proposition.
If you can live with the screen's average viewing angles, this 13in, metal-look convertible tablet laptop is attractive, well-built and well-specced, and offers great ergonomics in addition to its capacitive touch-and-stylus input.