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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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


Dolby Atmos -- redefining sound


Dolby Atmos is indeed a revolutionary innovation, and it truly deserves the popularity it has gained in the last few years. Atmos is present in many forms and places, in theatres, home theatres,  headphones and even smartphone speakers. There are also ways it set it up using a sound bar or traditional 2.1 sound set up. But, how could the same technology exist in something as fundamentally different as a phones and theatres?

Dolby has over the years given us the ways and means of storing, transmitting and reproducing high-quality sound. They specialise in the way sound is stored. The so called encoding products are used to capture and store; and subsequently reproduce sound originating from various angles. They started with Stereo -- simple two channel; progressing to 5.1 and 7.1 TruHD sound. Each new offering was a significant jump from the preceding generation.
Photo by Nana Andoh on Unsplash
Dolby Atmos on the other hand is fundamentally different.  Each of the previous products store sound originating from an explicitly defined direction. Stereo has left and right. 5.1 has Left, Center, Right, Left Surround, Right Surround and a Bass output. Atmos does not have explicitly pre-defined directions. The recorder is free to choose and define any angle in a 3D space and record audio data that pertains to that specific direction. This opens up infinite possibilities to capture or artificially produce sound.

Consider the following scenario in a movie or game:
 A sports car, travelling north, is being chased by a cop car from the back and a helicopter just above the car. A cop appears from the North East, pulls out a gun and fires at the vehicle.  Instead of the traditional pre-defined sound angles, Atmos is free to create its own channels with its own originating angle and distance from the audience. From this scenario 4 distinct channels can be dynamically created:

  • Channel one: The runaway car's engines, due north, close to the audience.
  • Two: The chasing cop car, due south with a medium distance.
  • Three: The cop, due north-east, with a medium distance
  • Four: The helicopter straight above, distant.


Sound can then be encoded for each of these channels. This method best captures the precise locations and intensities of each sound source, hence accurately recording exactly what the person in the car would hear. 

Rendering or reproducing the sound is the essence of the Atmos magic. The individual channels are simulated using whatever equipment is available. A theatre with speakers in every direction will use only the speakers in those directions to generate sound, this is a big step-up from the older 7.1 standard which has a channel-limit and hence a direction-limit of 7-8. Each of the speaker arrays in the 7.1 system will have recorded all of the sounds from their particular vantage-points and hence will result in a slightly inferior sound quality in the individual channels (cross-channel distortion).

When playing Atmos content on a set-up, the decoder simulates all of the virtual channels it captures, taking into account the positioning of your speakers.You could arrange your speakers in anyway and so-long as the decoders knows the positioning, it will be able to decide which speakers to play sound originating from each of the virtual channels.

This truly gives you the best sound experience possible regardless of what your speaker set-up is. And with infinite channels, and infinite speakers, Atmos could be the very epitome of sound.

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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.

Used LG G6 vs New Redmi 7A


The LG G6 has been around since April 2017, while the Redmi 7A was launched in March this year (2019). Comparing them might not be a good idea at first glance, however there are avenues in which the phones are similar, and certain people do compare them.
Old LG G6 vs new Redmi 7A
Old LG G6 vs new Redmi 7A
The G6 can be got refurbished or in a like new condition for $150 (£120) and the Redmi 7A can be got for approximately the same price. The G6 rates about 150,000 on AnTuTu while the Redmi 7A puts out 80,000 on the benchmark. In terms of pure performance, the G6 is almost twice as fast as the Redmi 7A.

Like new or new
The question is whether users are willing to accept and use an older phone. A phone used for one year, could be used for another two as the phone lifecycle generally lasts at least three years. At a fixed under $150 budget, the G6 might be better for gaming than a shiny new phone. Games and apps would run twice as fast.

The pros of a G6
The LG G6 gives you a faster, but older Snapdragon 8 series processor (821) with a faster GPU (Adreno 5300). It has one GB more RAM (4 GB vs 3GB). It is also water resistant; the 7A is only “splash-proof”. It also has a 2k display (compared to a measly 720p of the 7A).

The pros of the 7A
The Redmi 7A comes with the newest operating system – Android 9.0, two generations ahead of the G6. It has a larger battery at 4000mAh. There is no other significant way the 7A beats the G6.
The older G6 clearly beats the 7A for anyone who uses gaming or any high-performance apps.

The 7A is good for users who want the latest version of Android and a shiny new phone. And considering most apps don’t require the latest version of Android anyway, the G6 is our choice for a under $150 budget.

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: