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Reviews Revisited: The Test Of Time

Follow-up mini-reviews By Charlie White
We review a lot of products here at Digital Media Net's Midwest Test Facility. From time to time, I get mail from readers asking how such-and-such product has held up over the long run. So, here's a group of follow-up mini-reviews where you'll see how some of the devices and doo-dads we've reviewed over the past few years have withstood that most supreme of challenges: The test of time.

Maxtor Personal Storage 5000DVMaxtor Personal Storage 5000DV
Let's start out with a product that seemed great out of the gate, but then about a month after I had published my review, the thing went kaputsky. That's right, it died. The Maxtor Personal Storage 5000DV 120GB FireWire disk showed lots of promise, but it simply stopped working. I must say that the Maxtor tech support staff tried everything to help me fix it, to no avail. So I sent it back to CDW where I bought it (which is a great place to buy stuff like this, by the way) and they took it right back -- even allowing me to charge up a bit more moo-la for a bigger model, the 250GB Personal Storage 5000XT Firewire/USB2.0 hard drive. This baby has been running perfectly ever since, humming along and backing up everything on my production hard drive every night. I can't get over how easy it is to hit its "one-button" backup and suddenly all fears of lost data are vanquished. I love this unit, even though its little brother betrayed me.
Original review: Here.

Sony DRU-500A DVD WriterSony DRU-500A DVD Writer
This DVD-everything (except DVD-RAM) burner has been a blessing for us here at the Midwest Test Facility. It can burn the DVD-pluses, the DVD-minuses, the rewritable DVDs, everything. Anything we want to do with it, it can do. Any authoring software we throw at it, it's game, playing along and burning anything we want quickly and without complaint. If only everything (and everybody) were like that! I said I was delighted with its results seven months ago, and I still am. This is the kind of trouble-free technology the designers of the DVD standard had in mind. The DVD writer has been a long time coming -- heck, I can remember writing about DVD burning seven years ago, saying it was going to be available in a few months. So now, finally, DVD writing is user-friendly and trouble-free. There are now other products that can do the same things this one does, but this unit from Sony was the first. Bravo.
Original review: Here.

Apple PowerBook G4 667Apple PowerBook G4 667MHz
I was so taken by the PowerBook G4 667 MHz machine when I first laid eyes on it, I had to just go ahead and buy one for myself. I must say, I have received mucho complimentos on this beautiful little bauble. Alas, its beauty is only skin-deep. Woe is me, but the first problem I had was when its finish began to wear off only about five months into my love affair with it. After two or three more months, the front edge was marred with numerous pits and missing paint, even with kid-gloves treatment. The thing now looks like a rusting hulk. And, its blurry, myopic screen is about the worst LCD I've seen on a modern-day notebook. The unit is also alarmingly noisy, with a whining fan kicking in after about two minutes of Final Cut Pro editing. This pretty-faced trinket is nothing but a piece of cheaply-built junk. Beyond that, the poor thing is about the slowest computer we have here. It's pathetic, even though it does run the brilliant Final Cut Pro. But wait -- it has that cute Apple logo that lights up on its lid! Doesn't that make it all worthwhile? Uh, no. Sure, maybe Apple has fixed some (or maybe even all) of the problems with its TiBooks, but I don't have one of those shiny new ones. So, Mac hate-mongers are probably saying I'm ignorant about that; I say I'm apathetic -- whichever it is, I don't know and I don't care -- all I know is that I'm stuck with this one. Low-performance, low quality, worn-out fake metal paint job -- I'm sorry I ever bought it.
Original review: Here.


Canon Power Shot S100 Digital ElphCanon Power Shot S100 Digital Elph
I didn't think I would even use the Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Elph digital camera when I first got it nearly three years ago. But it has become one of the most useful objects in our facility here. Even with its mere 2.1 megapixels, it can snag shots at 1600x1200 resolution, far exceeding what you'd normally need for standard definition editing. I can't even count the times I've needed a still of, say, a fire hydrant, and gone out and grabbed it with this little deck-of-cards-sized digital camera. Then I just slip out the camera's tiny Compact Flash card, pop it into a reader, and it shows up as a hard disk on any computer on our network. What could be easier? I can't imagine going back to film for still work. Sure, we use much higher rez digi-cams for important still work, but for quick shooting and on-the-go use, the S100 has been a workhorse.
Original review: Here.

Dell Precision Workstation 340Dell 2.53GHz Precision Workstation 340
Speaking of workhorses, this Dell machine has been the most reliable workstation ever to sit underneath my desk. It's proven itself to be an ideal citizen of our testing digs, with its tool-less PCI slots, super-fast hard disks and bullet-proof stability. It's the Quantas Airlines of computers -- it's never crashed even once, the whole time it's been here -- that's nearly eight months without a single cold boot. And, the unit is so quiet that often I think it's not even turned on. I must say, in case you haven't noticed, that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dell. I have bought numerous products from the company over the past decade, and nary a one has delivered even an ounce of disappointment -- all have been excellent and represent a substantial value. And notice, also, that Dell isn't one of the advertisers on this site, nor are they paying me to say this: I think Dell's products represent what computers should be -- no need to pay attention to them -- just get your work done. And this one sees many hours of daily use running the most demanding applications in all of computerdom. It's a box we take for granted. We like it that way.
Original review: Here.

Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Another reason that aforementioned Dell machine runs so well is that it has Microsoft Windows XP Professional under the hood. Say what you will, but this operating system is by far the best ever produced by Microsoft. Its stability is so perfect on this particular machine, I'm not sure who to congratulate. But for me, one who has had more than my share of computer problems through the years, I think it's near-miraculous the way this OS keeps going and going. Even when I was using an unstable hardware configuration with a computer I was goofing around with using spare parts, XP's System Restore would forgive any of my wild transgressions. Try that on a Mac. And, even with all that extra overhead, XP's 10% faster than predecessor Windows 2000, according to our testing. I only wish Gates and company would figure out how to keep these viruses from wrecking the computers of those hapless enough to click on every attachment they receive via email. Oh, well. I guess it's nigh-on impossible to bug-fix problems that are between keyboard and seat.
Original review: Here.

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