File Transfer & Backup Services
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#1 Virtual Drive, Inc.

Virtual Drive is currently the top rated contender for Free FTP Server & Online Storage services that we have evaluated. They also are leading in online backup solutions to ensure your files security online. 

#2 YouSendIt, Inc.

YouSendIt has been a leader in File Transfer for quite some time, but fell to the #2 position after our extensive review and public reaction to their file transfer services.  


A great console-sized PC stuck in the alpha stage

As great as PC gaming is, let’s face it, when it comes to gaming in the living room, consoles have the PC beat. Alienware and the Steam Machines were supposed to change that, but considering Valve delayed its hardware initiative, Alienware decided to releases its box early as a small Windows 8.1 PC, dubbed the Alienware Alpha. While the PC does an admirable job of attacking the PC’s problem areas in the living room, as the name implies, it’s still (unfortunately) in a bit of an alpha stage.

The chassis is black and small. Measuring 2.1×7.8×7.8 inches, the Alpha is closest in size to Nintendo’s Wii U console. At 4.5 pounds, Alienware’s little PC is also extremely portable. We had an easy time lugging it around to friends’ apartments with four controllers inside a backpack. Speaking of controllers, the unit comes with a black wireless Xbox 360 controller.

alienware alpha review

Ports on the Alpha include two USB 3.0, three USB 2.0, one S/PDIF, and two HDMI (one for output and another for input). It is a little disappointing that there isn’t an analog headset port, but Alienware told us it was one concession it had to make to produce such a small form factor.

The box’s aesthetics aren’t very flashy. It’s got some sharp angles, akin to Alienware’s gaming laptops, a glowing triangular LED, and a glowing Alienware power button. You can also customize the LEDs through Alienware’s UI. Overall, it will look nice sitting next to your TV.

Inside the box, the Alpha is running a mobile GPU based on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 860M, which was the same graphics card used in the HP Omen gaming laptop we reviewed last month. Since this box has such a unique setup, the Omen seemed like the fairest candidate for a zero point to test against. Its GPU runs at 1,020MHz and has 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM clocked at 1,253MHz. Compared to our ZP, however, the Alpha’s performance was a disappointing 11 percent slower in our Metro: Last Light and 3DMark 11 benchmarks. It did perform 7 percent better in BioShock Infinite, however. Overall, the Alpha is nowhere near the most powerful gaming PC out there, but it should be able to run most AAA games on medium to high settings. It will, at the very least, be competitive with the next-gen consoles. 

alpha tv

One aspect of the Alpha that we feel isn’t up to snuff is system RAM; our unit only offered what we feel is a minimal 4GB. Sure, the majority of games should run fine on 4GB, but that’s beginning to change with newer titles. We think Alienware should up the Alpha’s base RAM to 8GB. Luckily, you can upgrade the RAM to 8GB, though you’ll need laptop RAM to do so.

You can also upgrade the storage with any 2.5-inch drive. If you’re like us, you’ll really want to do this. Our unit came with a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive, which was embarrassingly slow. It took the Alpha one minute and 35 seconds to boot up, and then another 35 seconds to boot up into Steam Big Picture Mode. If you’re loading a really big game, it’s only going to lengthen the wait.

At the heart of the console is the Alpha’s i3-4310QT CPU. Despite the box’s size, it’s actually a quad-core desktop CPU running at 2.9GHz. You can upgrade this to a quad-core i7, too. And you may want to, considering this i3 gets beat up by 30–54 percent compared to the HP Omen’s mobile i7-4710HQ processor. While dual-core CPUs are fine for the majority of games, for a little more future-proofing, we would have preferred at least a quad-core i5 chip.

Of course, the hardware means very little if the software isn’t properly optimized to take over the living room. While the Alpha is running Windows 8.1 underneath, Alienware has wrapped its own user interface around it, which you can navigate with a controller. The Alpha UI also allows you to launch directly into Steam Big Picture Mode, which comes pre-installed. Because some Steam games only offer partial controller support, Alienware has done some super-nifty software tweaks to allow you to use an Xbox controller like a mouse in a pinch. You can do this by pressing down on all four shoulder buttons and pressing down on the left stick. This will allow you to navigate past any pop-up window boxes.

The Alpha isn’t perfect, however. One of the taglines Alienware is using for the Alpha is that it “combines the freedom of PC gaming with the ease of a console,” but the slogan doesn’t always ring true. We encountered some resolution issues. For instance, in Shadow of Mordor, it defaulted to 1280×1024 resolution on our 1080p TV and had no in-game option to adjust it to 1080p. Some games that allowed us to adjust the resolution ended up blacking out the screen when we cranked it up to 1080p. Meanwhile, some games would open up off-center in a windowed mode by default. When we tried to boot up Skyrim, it gave us an error message that read, “Failed to initialize renderer. Your display doesn’t support the selected resolution.”

The consoles also allow you to watch Netflix, and the only real good way to do that on the Alpha at the moment is to boot it up to the desktop mode, but here you’ll need to have a keyboard/mouse plugged in. Because of that, we really recommend getting something like Logitech’s wireless K400 keyboard, which pairs well with the Alpha.

alpha review

Another area in which the consoles have at a little easier than PC gaming is that console gamers don’t have to tweak their settings. Nvidia has a solid workaround to this problem with its GeForce Experience, but unfortunately the Alpha does not support GeForce optimal playable settings, which is a shame considering many console noobs might not know which graphical knobs to twist.

At $550, the Alpha certainly isn’t cheap, especially when you look at its specs and compare it to the consoles. And the Alpha has a bunch of little software hiccups to overcome. Despite these problems, however, when the Alpha works, it’s awesome. Steam has a surprising number of fun local co-op games like Broforce, SpeedRunners, and more. Alienware’s box does a great job of bringing PC games to the living room. Sure, you could build a cheaper, more powerful system, but Alienware has spent a decent amount of R&D trying to solve the software/UI issues. Yes, the box is in a bit of an alpha stage right now and isn’t the console-killer it set out to be, but we hope that Alienware continues to make future iterations of the Alpha. As it stands, the Alpha is a good machine for the PC vet, but not a perfect solution for the console noob.

Alienware Alpha Specs

alienware alpha benchmarks

alienware alpha specs


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LG UltraWide MonitorMonitor market is transforming

For the longest time, it seemed as though the monitor market was frozen in time. While CPUs and graphics cards became increasingly advanced and faster with each new generation, monitor makers were content to stick with Full HD 1080p panels of varying sizes for mainstream users, and 30-inch panels checking in at 2560×1600. Ah, but the landscape is changing, so don’t be shocked if monitor makers test the market with bigger size and higher resolution displays.

According to Digitimes and whatever “industry sources” it spoke with, panel makers (including those that make touchscreens) are seeing opportunities in the 34-inch WQHD (2560×1440) UltraWide category to be the new high-end option. At present, high-end solutions still consist of 30-inch panels at 2560×1600 and, more recently, 32-inch 4K displays. There are less pixels in a WQHD display, though it’s still visually appealing, easier on the GPU for pixel-intensive tasks (primarily gaming), and offers tons of horizontal screen space for those who like that sort of thing.

However, that’s not the only segment monitor makers will toy with. They will also experiment in niche categories with high-resolution and curved displays taking center stage. These panels will feature wide color gamuts and, in some cases, 10-point touch features.

Finally, monitor makers will also push out 24-inch, 27-inch, and 28-inch models with 4K Ultra HD and even 5K resolutions in 2015.

In short, it’s going to be a wild year for monitors, versus what’s mostly been a stagnant market up until recently.

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IBMSetting the record straight

A Forbes report last week indicated that IBM was preparing for a “bloodbath,” one that would see the dismissal of about 26 percent of its workforce, or as many as 112,000 employees. That would indeed be a bloodbath, expect that the actual number of pink slips IBM plans to hand out will be much lower. Instead of 112,000 employees being shown the door, IBM said layoffs will number in the several thousands, or a “small fraction” of what Forbes reported.

By its own admission, IBM doesn’t address rumors, a policy that’s common in the tech industry. But even with that being the case, the company couldn’t help but, well, address the rumor, taking a jab at the initial report in the process while offering up a clarification.

“IBM does not comment on rumors, even ridiculous or baseless ones,” IBM told Reuters in an email. “If anyone had checked information readily available from our public earnings statements, or had simply asked us, they would know that IBM has already announced the company has just taken a $600 million charge for workforce rebalancing. This equates to several thousand people, a small fraction of what’s been reported.”

The “rebalancing” effort IBM references is intended to make room for incoming employees with new skill-sets. In addition, an IBM spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that it currently has around 15,000 job openings as part of the rebalancing process. Areas it’s looking for new blood include cloud, analytics, security, and social and mobile technologies.

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Logitech ConferenceCam ConnectBuilt for small groups

Logitech today announced its new ConferenceCam Connect, a portable all-in-one videoconferencing solution with a cylindrical design and flexible compatibility that slips in between the company’s entry-level BCC950 ($250) and high-end ConferenceCam CC3000e ($1,000). It works with any computing device with a USB port (PC, Mac, Chromebook) and plays nice with just about every videoconferencing software, such as Microsoft Lync and Skype, Cisco Jabber and WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, Blue Jeans, and more.

The cylindrical design is aimed at making the device more portable and is intended for small groups consisting of 1-6 people. It’s more affordable (and flexible) compared to high-end videoconferencing systems built for large rooms, and much more practical for smaller groups than trying to cram everyone in front of a webcam, thus revealing who forgot to put on deodorant – awkward!

Logitech’s ConferenceCam Connect sports a 90-degree field of view with digital pan and tilt, along with 4x digital Full HD zoom. It also features Zeiss optics with autofocus, a speakerphone with support for both mobile and USB audio calling, Bluetooth, NFC, 360-degree full-duplex sound, and acoustic echo and noise-cancelling technology. Plus it comes with fancy remote.

Logitech ConferenceCam Connect Group

The Logitech ConferenceCam Connect will be available in March for $500 MSRP, or “about the cost of an office chair,” the company says.

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Panasonic Toughbook 31Two batteries are better than one

We love that laptops are getting slimmer, lighter, and overall more portable than ever before (have a look at Michael Dell introducing a new notebook 25 years ago), but if your work (or pleasure) takes you off the beaten path into some extreme environments, a thin and light machine probably isn’t your best bet. That’s where systems like Panasonic’s upgraded Toughbook 31 comes in.

Key upgrades include an 18-hour battery life (or up to 27 hours with an optional second battery), a new 5th Generation Intel Core i5 5300u vPro processor (3MB cache, 2.3GHz-2.9GHz) with Intel HD Graphics 5500, and a revised design that can now withstand a 6-foot drop and is certified to pass 19 different MIL-STD-810G tests.

Other rugged and fancy bits of interest include a magnesium alloy case, sunlight-viewable touchscreen, reinforced locking port covers, and a quick-release hard drive with its own heater for cold weather operation. It all adds up to a system that Panasonic sees being ideal for emergency service professionals, utility workers, and anyone else who needs to be connected in extreme environments.

As for the other hardware specs, they include 4GB to 16GB of DDR3L-1600 RAM, 500GB 7200RPM HDD with heater, SSD options (128GB to 512GB), 13.1-inch display with a 1024×768 resolution, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, optional backlit keyboard, USB 3.0 (x1) and USB 2.0 (x3) ports, GbE LAN, and various other odds and ends.

The Toughbook 31 won’t come cheap — Panasonic says it will be available in February starting at around $3,700.

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