Dedicated reviews of affordable technology including headphones, mice, monitors, printers and other peripherals for the budget user. And, once in a while, a pinch of random opinion.

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Showing posts with label peripherals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peripherals. Show all posts

The two most affordable Dell Keyboards


Dell Keyboard KB 522 ($18-$29)

The 522 is a budget keyboard that simply works without any frills. It connects via USB so you can  forget about buying batteries and ensuring the keyboard is charged. The most distinguished feature of the keyboard is the inclusion of quick action keys at the top of the keyboard that can trigger the following actions:

  • Internet
  • Email
  • Calculator
  • Zoom
  • Play/Pause/Fast Forward
  • Mute
  • Sleep

Unfortunately, these keys are predefined and not programmable. There is also a roller controller to precisely control volume that gives you a nice feeling when you increase and decrease the volume.
Features of the Dell KB522
The keys have no space between them and have a mid-level key depth giving great hepatic response, although not as good as a mechanical keyboard. It also has a built-in comfortable palm rest, which can be attached and detached as and when needed. The top of the keyboard can be elevated to about 10-15 degrees which isn’t too steep and would work for most people. An additional benefit is the inclusion of two USB 2.0 ports on the side. We would recommend using these to plug in peripherals like a USB lamp and not use storage medium like an external hard disk or flash drive, which is more suited to a USB 3.0 port.

Side view of the KB522
The KB522 has a compact design owing mostly to its lack of large bezels around the keys. It has an excellent build quality and would last a good seven years, which cannot be said for most cheap keyboards people buy on Aliexpress. The KB522 is one of Dell’s lowest price offerings and works with any Windows 7/8/10 device seamlessly.

Buy the KB522 from Amazon via the following links

 

Dell KM636 – Keyboard and mouse ($30-$55)

The KM636 is a tad bit more expensive compared to the KB 522 but comes with a mouse. The design is quite elegant and it has a comparatively sleek modern look and feel, being compact and taking up less space. It uses a single 2.4Ghz wireless receiver ‘dongle’ which connects to your USB ports. The devices are powered with two AA batteries for the keyboard and two AAA batteries for the Mouse, Dell claims you could use it for about a year before changing batteries and Dell’s claims are usually legit.
The KM636 has both a mouse and a keyboard.
The Island style keys gives it a clean and comfortable look, reducing errors when typing. The keys are noise-free, like those of a laptop keyboard, so you can type in peace. Do note, some people prefer the noise produced by each keystroke which serves as a way of getting hepatic feedback. In that case, this keyboard may not be for you. The keys have a low-key height but good elevation on the top. There are dedicated action keys only to adjust volume, other actions keys are used with the help of the function key.

Side view of the KM636 Keyboard.
The KB522 on the other hand offers more variety in this regard and contains a scrolling volume controller too. There is an optional palm-rest as with most Dell keyboards.The mouse is a simple three-button with no added feature, it works well as expected. On the cons, the keyboard has no USB ports, which is acceptable since it’s a wireless variant.
Tip: Plug the receiver on a USB 2.0 port instead of a 3.0 port for an error-free experience. Not suited for an environment where everyone is using wireless keyboard and mice, could be interference.
Get the KM636 from Amazon

 

FHD and ultra-wide, two budget LG monitors explored



LG monitors are quite expensive – notably their high-end OLD monitors. LG are the pioneers of both the older IPS panel displays as well as their current flagships, the OLEDs. OLEDs don’t have plasma; their pixels are purely driven by LEDs and each LEDs output both colour and light. IPS panels on the other hand, drive colour using LCDs and light using backlit LEDs. The biggest advantage of OLEDs are their contrast ratios, with black being true back without any backlight (the LED pixels on the black spot are switched off). On IPS panels, the LCD portion switches-off but the backlight remains, giving a faint (usually blue) hue.

But going for an LG television does not mean going for an expensive OLED. You should ask yourself – do you really need an OLED? Do you need those total blacks? Or could you make do with an excellent IPS panel with immaculate colour reproduction at a fraction of the cost? In this post we look at two stunning LG offerings under the $250 (£215) mark.

32ML600M-B
The 32ML600M is a 32” Full HS monitor (1080p) at a maximum refresh rate of 75Hz. The panel is a stunning high-gamut HDR10 IPS display that gives you amazing and accurate colour so you experience movies, TV and games just as the director intended. It has a full 179-degree viewing angle, so anyone next to you gets the full colour (95% of P3-DCI) experience, compared to cheaper panels that has a lower colour gamut and loses colour as your viewing angle changes.
32ML600M front face
For gamers, 32ML600M has Dynamic Action Sync – which is a ultra-low latency mode that does not buffer frames, instead of waiting for frames to buffer, the monitor directly displays partial frames straight off the cable, you have several partial un-buffered frames on the panel at a given times and hence resulting in almost no-input lag. This may at times result in parts of your monitor out of sync if you don’t have good graphics hardware, so uses would have to try out games with and without DAS turned on before selected whether to use it.
32ML600M side view
The monitor has two HDMI outputs and one audio out to a speaker. It has flicker safe and anti-glare coatings which helps with readability in both bright light and in rooms with incandescent lighting. Most monitor functions can be controlled with the on-screen control app for windows, so you don’t have to deal with physical buttons.

29WK600-W
The 29WK600-W is an ultra-wide monitor which measures 29 inches diagonally. Since it’s ultra-wide, it may look a little small when using applications like a word-processor or web browser. It features a 2560x1080 resolution which gives crisp quality for most applications. This monitor features HDR10 but does not have the wider colour gamut that the 32ML600M-B has so if you are a designer, the other one is better. 29WK600 has 99% of the sRGB spectrum which is only a subset of the P3-DCI spectrum.
29WK600
The 29WK600 also has gaming features such as DAS, AMD FreeSync (which is like DAS but requires an AMD graphics card), anti-tearing and anti-stuttering. But the response times will still be greater than 32ML600M because of larger frame sizes to be rendered.

Whether you choose the 32ML or the 29WK, will depend on whether or not you value widescreen displays. However, at the under-$250 price point Kategat recommends you go for the FHD monitor that is great for regular work, movies, gaming and more. You also get a larger display with an wider colour gamut.


The Budget choice: Laser vs Ink Jet


For the budget consumer, there is always the choice between going for an Ink Jet printer or an affordable laser printer. We look at some consideration for choosing between the two in this post.
A dot-matrix printer -- we didn't even think of considering these ones. 😀
Colour experience
At budget price points, you can only reach a black and white laser printer. This is more suited to people working with office documents, lecture notes, and other text based content. At the same price point a colour ink jet printer can be obtained which gives you a full color experience producing photos, graphics and coloured flyers. These are ideal for basic home use and if you need color print once in a while.

Durability and workload
Durability is also a factor when comparing laser and ink jet printers, laser printers are usually more durable and can manage larger workloads to the tune of about a 2000 pages per month. Unfortunately at the sub-$200 level, these are understandably lower at about 750 pages per month, which comes up-to about 180 pages per week. Ink Jet printers used to print over 750 pages per month generally break down in less than 2 years due to their mechanical nature of the printing function, as well as the cheap builds that come with it. You could go for an ink jet if you are at about 100 pages per week.

Speed, Noise, Form Factor
Speed and noise are generally not big factors for the budget user, and are things they generally don't mind sacrificing. Laser printers are generally faster and less noisier than their highly mechanical counterparts. Most laser printers are bulkier and would ask the user for decent desk space; ink jets are generally smaller and can be squeezed into a smaller area.

Output Quality
Output quality is generally measured in the number of dots printed per inch, with 600 being high quality and 300 being normal quality. Most laser printers do 600dpi well but look out for budgets ones that max out at 300dpi, especially ones that print fast. Ink jets are usually lower, especially colour ones and they are able to print at about 300 in general which is good for daily use.

Print stationary
Ink Jets print on a wide variety of stationary such as photo paper while laser ones are typically limited to the standard laser printer or copier paper. So home users who would want to occasionally print photos might consider a colour ink jet.

Other fancy stuff
Ink jets can also come as an all-in-one, featuring a scanner and a copier -- which most users don't have at home.

Average cost of printing a page
This is a factor that varies widely from printer to printer. Ink Jets almost always require expensive ink, especially when printing colour; lasers have expensive toners too but you change them less often. On the other hand, the average cost of an inkjet printer is several times cheaper than a regular laser printer, so you could buy one every two years rather than have a laser printer for five years. This is because the cost of an ink jet printer is subsidised and sold at a loss and companies make the money back selling expensive ink.

Here is a summary of deciding between an ink jet and a laser:
  • Durability, workload - Laser is slightly more durable and does better at heavy lifting.
  • Colour - Laser colour printers are not affordable, so ink jet is the only option.
  • Speed and noise - Laser is faster and less noisier; but they take up space.
  • Print Stationary - Ink Jet prints on photo paper too.
  • Scanner and Copier - Included with some ink jets.
  • Cost per page - Laser has a higher initial cost but lower cost per page.
Kategat recommends going for a laser printer, it suits a budget-conscious user in the long term. If you ever want to print colour occasionally, you can always go order prints online.



Image by Blake Patterson on Flickr, published under the CC license.

Three little Microsoft Mice



It may not be for hardware that Microsoft is known for, but for a giant so accomplished at software and web technology, their peripherals deserve a look at. The first piece of hardware Microsoft sold was a mouse. Microsoft’s mice are now quite diverse and feature rich compared to the heavy, single button thing that was awkward to handle back in 1983. In this post, we look at some of Microsoft’s mice worth of the Microsoft name.

The Modern Mouse
The “Modern” in Microsoft’s modern mouse refers to its design resembling minimalist modern art. It is comparatively flat with a well-designed parabolic arc. It features the standard two-button layout with a metal scroll wheel that has a pleasant hepatic feedback. The mouse itself is quite low-profile, and the silent clicks will make you forget it’s even there. 
The Modern Mouse
The Sculpt Comfort
The sculpt as created with design focus on ergonomics. It has a bigger form factor than the modern mouse and easily fills your hand. There is also a dimple for resting the thumb on the side of the mouse. The mouse connects via Bluetooth and would work with most Android phones too. There is also a customisable button which can be used to use common windows functions such as the start menu and switch desktops feature. The customisable features require a companion Windows app and works with Windows only.
Microsoft Sculpt Comfort
The Arc Mouse
The Arc mouse, named after its physical shape, is probably one of the most popular Microsoft peripherals. It became famous for the use of a touchpad on the upper surface of the mouse, instead of the traditional two buttons and scroll wheel. Users can both left and right click by tapping on each side of the touchpad. They could also scroll vertically and horizontal by using their fingers to swipe to in all four directions.
Arc Mouse Photo Credit: hothardware.com
At just 83 grams, it is quite lightweight. It can also be flattened or folded for travel use. It connects via Bluetooth and therefore could theoretically be used with smartphones – however some users seem to have a problem with this. The two AAA batters used in it need only be replaced every six months, which is great for such a functional device.
Microsoft Arc Mouse when flattened
The arc features a minimalist, elegant design and looks good in both black and white. The Bluetooth pairing button is neatly hidden in the underside and will only be seen if you look for it. The physical arc is also quite high which fills the palm and feels comfortable to use. Overall, it is the top choice for a mouse from Microsoft and the touch-based scrolling means you won’t regret buying it.

See also


Exceptional but economical, two Shure Headphones explored


Shure is well known to put out products that target the audio professional and audiophiles – people who work in the recording or performing industries and at times individuals that claim to have wider audio response spectrum. However, as we explore the brand’s offerings further, you will also find devices that suite the regular headphone user and casual music listener too.


Just 10 years ago, Shure did not offer products for the regular user. It was only relatively recently that they offered headphones for the regular Joe and Jane. We delve into two of Shure’s more economical audio pieces, what we consider professionally crafted masterpieces for the non-professional user.

SRH240A

Even their most affordable offering – the SRH240A – features the neodymium drivers, the world’s strongest magnets. For an economical headphone, it has a rather stylish, polished demeanour, but is not too outlandish. You also get a gold-plated headphone jack but surprisingly does not appear to have good protection on the wires. They do claim their “Legendary Shure quality” so while the wires themselves are thin, they might last a good 3-4 years.
The SRH240A pairs well with a smartphone
The SRH240A pairs well with a smartphone
The ear-cup padding is comfortable and would easily cut out some decent ambient sound. It has a full 20Hz – 20KHz which can reproduce exceptional base. Most other headphones start at 200Hz which cuts out some of the deepest levels of base. It has an impedance of 38ohms so you’ll hear some amazing sound when connected to a high-power device like a laptop but still profound sound when listening to on a smartphone.

SRH440
SRH440 Packaging
SRH440 Packaging
The 440 is about twice the price of the 240A but you certainly get a lot of advantages. The connecting wires are replaceable, and they look better than that of the 240. The wires must be screwed in rather than plugged in which ensures they don’t fall off when pulled.  The headphones are foldable and comes in an exquisite carrying bag. The cusps are highly adjustable whist looking very durable.
SRH440 Source: Instagram, @dubmethod
Source: Instagram, @dubmethod
You still get the superb 40mm neodymium magnet drivers that the SRH240A brings, but what is astounding is the range of sound. It starts at a crazy 10Hz – you could listen to even the punchiest of base – and goes all the way up to 22KHz. That’s a pitch so high that only 10-year-old kids and mosquitoes can pick up. There isn’t sound outside this spectrum that the human ear could pick up!
The impedance is 44ohms, so it might not be perfect for smartphones but would work well with devices with more driving power – like a laptop or TV.  If you are in between an audiophile and a human, this is what Kategat recommends to you.

Read also:

Affordable Logitech headphones

Inexpensive but reliable Logitech mice


Mice come in three primary formats; corded mice are connected via a cable; Bluetooth mice connect with any device that has Bluetooth and 2.4Ghz mice have their own receiver which is plugged into a USB port.  A 2.4Ghz receiver has a better response rate than Bluetooth and it has an advantage in areas saturated with Bluetooth devices. Here, we explore some affordable entry-level mice from Logitech.



M100 (Wired)
The M100 is a simple wired mouse that just works. Being wired it has the fastest response time and does not need battery changes. It comes in matte black and is bulged in the sides, designed to fill a palm. This model does not give you anything fancy, but the Logitech brand guarantees reliability and ease of use.

M185 (2.4 Ghz)
The M185 is the most basic of Logitech’s wireless mice. It uses the 2.4Ghz connection system with its own receiver and so cannot be easily used in mobile devices and tablets, unless an OTG cable is used. Response rates can be very snappy – in the range of 1-2ms -- which is great for gaming and situations where precise control of the pointer is required.
It has a simple, ergonomic design with dimples on the sides – designed to be held with fingers – and the Logitech logo on top. Its powered by an AA battery and could get more than a year of constant use with a good alkaline battery.

M500 (Wired) 
The M500 is pitched as a “precision laser-mouse”. It features a free-spinning scroll wheel – the wheel continues to spin for a few cycles once you scroll down fast. It also features two thumb-button, which are usually used to navigate back and forth on a webpage but can be configured to do anything else. We recommend configuring the “Ctrl+Tab” function to move quickly switch back and forth tabs on a web browser.
The contoured twisted design gives ample room for a fat thumb on one side and two fingers on the other.

M557 (Bluetooth)

The M557 has a very simple and elegant design flat design. It connects via Bluetooth and does not require a separate receiver. It could easily work with smartphones and tabs. Logitech however, claims the mouse is designed for Windows. It has a single additional button in between the right and left buttons which is dedicated to launch the Windows Start Menu.
The simple design means it can be suited to both right- and left-handed people. One minor weakness though is response time, it has a 5-6ms delay which could impact hardcore gamers.

Affordable Logitech headsets


Logitech is ubiquitous within both the gaming community as well as the white-collar class. The brand is the bread and butter of computing peripherals. This time we will be reviewing their affordable headset offerings.

H111 (3.5mm jack)
Logitech H111
Logitech H111
The H111 is an inexpensive yet highly versatile headset with a full 20Hz – 200kHz frequency response. The impedance level of 32 ohms will also give you good volume and will be just enough to hear some base. The boom microphone also has a good frequency and will be able to record with clarity. This headset is okay for gaming, excellent for calls on your smartphone or computer, and will be an affordable daily driver.

The foam rests comfortably on the external ear and the size is extendable by a good two inches. It can be worn for about four hours comfortably. The H110 is another model that features two 3.5mm jacks but is exactly the same in all other regard.

Get it from Amazon:



H151 (3.5 mm jack with volume dial)
Logitech H151
The H151 is an upgrade over the H111 – it has a volume dial and a mute toggle. It still has the full spectrum audio and excellent sound capture through the noise cancelling microphone. This suits calling and use as a phone headset as the recording range is slightly lower. The impedance is also lower which means that clarity might reduce at earsplitting high volumes. It has a slightly more comfortable foam than the H151. The dual jack equivalent of this is the H150.

Get it from Amazon:



H370 (USB A)
Logitech H370
Logitech H370
The H370 is a bit more stylish than the previous ones with a curved angle just above the ear pads. Unlike the 111 and the 151, it does not have a 3.5mm jack and instead uses USB Type-A or the standard USB port. Like the H151, it has controls for volume and a mute button; however, the controls are on the wire and not on the ear pad itself.

All three of these models are quite lightweight and do not put a lot of strain on your head. However, there is one interesting downside, the frequency response for the speakers are 100 – 10KHz which reduces the dynamic range on the treble side. And because of this, the sound will usually be dynamically compressed to the new range, so there could be a loss of base too. This is surprising, since the H370 has a higher price point compared to the other Logitech offers above, the H111 and H151.

The H370 is suited to uses of computers and laptop that don’t have a 3.5mm jack – especially those that use a soft phone. Using this for casual music is not recommended unless your source music too is of an inferior quality.

The H370 isn't on Amazon, check out a related headphone: