• Rachel's Reviews

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    Rachel's tech review

    Catch up with Rachel as she continues to review the space-saving collection including the Lenovo all-in-one PC, Microsoft Surface Pro and HP Wireless printer.

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    One Month In...

    I’ve never written any sort of review before, never mind a tech review, so the only way I can really start is by apologising for how awkward this will probably end up sounding but thankfully, unlike in the video, you won’t have to hear me constantly repeating how ‘absolutely brilliant’ everything is. That’s not to say my tech stuff isn’t brilliant, it really is, it’s just there’s so much more to it than that.

    Microsoft Surface Pro

    So, the Surface Pro; I could spend a while throwing numbers and technical details at you but what it all comes down to, really, is the fact that I’m in love. Well not quite literally but since I was given it, the Surface Pro has not left my side. It does everything I need and it’s such a cute, convenient size! So (and apologies for the numbers that I said I wasn’t going to throw at you) it’s got a 10.2” screen which is really great; it’s big enough that it’s easy to use, it’s a nice size to look at photos on and big enough for watching TV but it’s not too big. I can still throw it (not literally although it seems to be coping well with how clumsy I am) in my handbag when I leave the house and it’s light enough to carry around all day without it getting heavy or being in the way. Yes, it’s a bit heavier than the average tablet but it’s so much lighter than a laptop and that’s essentially what it is; it does so much more than a normal tablet and with the full desktop mode, it’s essentially a small, super-portable computer!

    The past couple of weeks for me have been filled by working full-time and revising in the evening and whenever I get a chance (this is why re-sits are the worst!) and I genuinely don’t know how I would have managed this without the Surface Pro. It comes to work with me every day and on my dinner hour I can sit there and get through as much work as I need to. Mainly I’ve been using One Note, which comes with Office 365, which allows me to make a mix of handwritten and typed notes, organise them into notebooks and pages, and annotate diagrams, articles and even textbook extracts, all in one place. The stylus it comes with has been brilliant here; it’s this really nice size and is just sensitive enough that it feels like you’re using an actual pen; I might as well be writing on paper except there’s no chance of losing it (or smudging ink everywhere as I usually manage do), plus it’s automatically synced to my computer via Sky Drive.

    Lenovo All-in-one Computer

    And speaking of computers.... (and awkward paragraph links) I also got a shiny new computer! It’s one of the Lenovo all-in-one desktop computers; massive 23” touchscreen with a wireless keyboard and mouse. As a photographer, I’m sure you can imagine just how excited I was when I first saw my photos on such a huge screen and, if you can’t imagine, it involved much squealing, other high pitched noises and a little dance. I’ve already installed the Adobe CS6 Master Collection and it works beautifully; I’ve been editing photos, working on the new design for my website and creating videos, on top of all the boring revision and essay writing stuff, and the computer hasn’t even begun to show signs of struggling.

    I’m finding the touchscreen really useful as well, which is surprising to me as I wasn’t sure how much use I’d really get out of it, but sometimes it’s just so much easier to scroll through your images by hand, drag certain elements around in Photoshop and InDesign and switch songs in iTunes by just poking the screen instead of having to mess around with a mouse all the time. Of course it has it’s down sides, but only that I’m too used to it now and keep looking like an idiot, jabbing at the screen of my old laptop and the computers at work and then being confused when nothing happens...

    Then there’s the HP photo printer which, unfortunately I’ve not had quite as much use out of yet, but I know it’s going to be crazy-useful when term starts again. But for now it’s been a useful little addition to have; I’ve been able to scan documents for important stuff and print out photos to make my temporary summer bedroom down here in Brighton a little more homely. I’ve never had all that much luck with printers before but things are going great with this one, it’s fast and reliable and I’m really enjoying it. It’s got this little screen on the front which makes it really easy to use and I don’t even need to use it with a computer; I can just plug in an SD card and print straight from that.

    So that’s it really; I’ve fallen in love with a tablet, found a computer which makes me dance and finally found a printer I can see myself in a long-term relationship with; I’d call that a success (if not a strange bunch of metaphors).

    Keep an eye out because I'll be adding more reviews over the next couple of weeks, particularly when I get back to uni and start to really put the tech to the test! In the meantime you can ask me any questions in the forums!

    Microsoft Office 365

    When I was first asked to review Office 365, I’ll be honest, I was pretty worried; I mean, it’s just Microsoft Office, what was I supposed to talk about? But then I actually started thinking about it as I used it and realised just how good it is.

    Office 365 offers all the programs you could need for uni!

    Office, with its well-known programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, is something we’ve all used at one time or another, whether at school at home or at work, and I feel like it’s definitely one of those thing where you don’t realise just how much you need it until you don’t actually have it anymore.

    Office has come a long way since I first started using it; my earliest memories being back in Junior school and being allowed on the computers to write up pieces of work and being taught how to change the colours of words and the fonts; it was all very exciting at the time and using Office 365 somehow brought back that excitement as I discovered all the new features it had to offer.

    Easily the most exciting thing about this new version is how it’s all centred around cloud storage and a subscription model, which is definitely very popular at the minute. You only have to look at Adobe to see how successful Creative Cloud has been to see why this is a great step forward for Office.

    The great thing about having these programs on a subscription basis is that it means you’re only paying for it as long as you need it, so it ends up being really good value for money, because if you decide you don’t want to use it anymore after you finish school or uni then you just cancel the subscription and you don’t have to pay for it anymore.

    Office 365 has brilliant integration with SkyDrive as well, which is Microsoft’s cloud storage system (essentially their answer to Dropbox or Google Drive), which means you can access your files anywhere you want, whether you’re at home, uni, or sat on a bus. I feel like this is going to be really useful at uni, particularly for group projects because you can share folders to give everyone access and you can all edit the same document at the same time and it will get updated on everyone’s device so it’s great for collaborations, even if you can’t all get together in person!

    Office 365: WordOffice 365: PowerPointOffice 365: OneNote

    The version I have, which is Office 365 Home Premium, comes with pretty much every program I could ever need for uni work; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote, Outlook and Access. So far OneNote has definitely been the most useful to me. I’d never used it before I was given this pack but I can honestly say I’ve fallen in love.

    The first thing to Note (awful pun intended and I won’t apologise...) is how it allows you to organise all your work. First you can split it up into Notebooks; I currently have one for revision and then one for every module I’m taking next year. Then within these Notebooks you can split that content up into tabs, so for the revision notebook I had one for each subject I was resitting, but for the module notebooks I’ll probably split it up via topic or lecture. Then within each tab, you can split it up into pages, which I used for splitting it up into areas of each lecture or notes on separate articles and reports. Ultimately, you end up with a very, very well organised document where you can find exactly what you need immediately.

    Furthermore, Office 365 allows you to install the programs onto mobile devices as well as desktops so I’ve been using OneNote mainly on my Microsoft Surface Pro (so much Microsoft in my life right now!). Using the stylus with the program means I can write straight onto it as though it were a sheet of paper; I can highly papers, make notes, even sketch out tables and graphs if I have to. It’s just so easy to use and it all looks really neat. As a weakness, it’s not so good for using when you’re writing with your finger, you really do need a stylus, however, if I ever forget it or don’t have it for whatever reason, I can always switch to typing with a single click and continue making notes that way!

    On the whole, Office has had a bit of a makeover the past couple of years and the new design, in 365, makes all the programs really easy and enjoyable to use. The whole design is much flatter and, therefore, looks more modern and up-to-date and really fits in with things like Windows 8, which adopts a similar flat design. My favourite thing that office have done in recent years and this is used really well in the newest version of Word, is to move away from the masses of menus and submenus and, instead, make everything icon based. Whenever you need to perform an action, instead of searching through tonnes of menus, you simply press a little icon; it’s dead simple.

    Word’s got some really exciting new features this time, it allows you to import and edit PDF files, a feature I’ve been waiting for, for so long! And, as with the rest of Office 365, it’s really big on online integration, as it allows you to import images and other media from sites such as Flickr and other online sources. PowerPoint is the same; it will allow you to import images and even videos from Youtube, which means using online resources in my PhotoSoc training sessions is now really easy.

    As well as this, PowerPoint has some other pretty impressive features this time; as a default all presentations are now widescreen so Microsoft are really bringing this program up to date! And, perhaps taking inspiration from programs like Prezzi, PowerPoint now allows you to zoom into certain areas of the slide while you’re presenting which is going to be great for showing off certain details in photos and things like that.

    Actually presenting becomes a lot easier in 365 as well with the introduction of Presenter View; this allows you to have your normal presentation on the board you’re presenting on and then have your screen show all the important stuff, so as well as the slide you’ll see any notes and the next slide coming up so you’ll always know where you are in the presentation and never get lost – it makes class presentations (and my training sessions) a lot easier!

    So I’ve rambled on enough, after all, it’s only office; except it’s so much more. I’ve really enjoyed using this version as it just feels really nice to use, it’s up to date and with the Sky Drive integration it’s so easy and convenient to use and access your files. All in all, I never thought I could get to excited by a copy of Microsoft office but either it’s pretty awesome, or I’m a bigger geek than I thought... on second thoughts, maybe it’s a bit of both?

    Microsoft office has brilliant integration with Sky Drive

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