What makes a tech gadget a "gotta have it" item?
The answer is simple: It has to offer something useful not featured by any of its competitors.
We we've been fortunate to have the opportunity to play with two such items during the past two months: The Epson Expression Premium XP-810 Small-In-One Printer ($229.99) and the Sharp LL-S201A Multi-Touch Monitor ($999).
Both of these companies took that additional step to provide a feature or two to set them apart from their competitors.
The XP-810 is a Wi-Fi or Ethernet small format printer - - - which means it is designed to take up less desk or table space - - - but that's not what sets it apart from other printers. This baby has a retractable output paper tray! The tray sits inside the printer until you're ready to print and then glides out of the machine when it detects a print job is pending. The only drawback is that it doesn't go back into the printer once the job is done - - - you have to push it back into the unit.
Aside from this, the XP-810 has all of the features you'd expect from an Epson all-in-one printer:
- It scans, copies faxes and prints documents
- It has a large LCD screen so you can select it's various functions
- It uses five ink cartridges: photo black, black and the usual magenta, cyan and yellow.
- It offers two-sided printing
- It has two paper trays - - - one for 4x6 photo paper and printable CDs and DVDs and the other for up to 8.5x11 photo or document paper. Unfortunately the trays only hold 30 sheets of paper, which can be a huge drawback for big print jobs.
- You can edit and crop photos without using a PC by inserting a flash drive or memory cards into the printer's USB port, memory-card reader or by using PictBridge
- There's an app - - - EpsonConnect - - - that lets you print from any mobile device
The Sharp LL-S5201A monitor is a bit of a chameleon.
This 20-inch monitor can be used as a standard computer monitor, at an angle for writing with a "pen," or it can lie flat like a tablet computer. It can also be used with a keyboard and mouse or as a touch screen, which we played with using Windows 8.1.
The only problem we had was its incompatibility with older computers. The monitor connects to the computer using either an HDMI/MHL or DisplayPort cable, which means older computers using DVI or VGA video cards will need a bit of help. We ended up using a DVI-to-HDMI cable to connect it to our aging - - and still working - - - HP Pavilion. This meant we weren't able to test the audio through its built-in speakers (HDMI delivers audio and video signals), but this was a minor drawback.
Other features of the monitor include:
- It's slim and light - - - the screen is about a half-inch thick and weighs a mere five pounds
- It has a 10-point multi-touch screen, which means it can recognize up to 10 touch points at once
- You can use either your fingers or the included touch pen to write or make notes on the screen
- It supports Microsoft Office Ink Tools, which allow you to write on Excel or Word documents
- Your palm can touch the screen without interfering with pen activity.
- It comes with a suite of pen tools.
- It's a full HD monitor offering up to 1920x1080 resolution
- The image can be rotated 180 degrees
We need to emphasize, though, that this can also be used as a standard HD computer monitor without any hassle. Simply connect it to your computer, attach a standard USB cable (which detects pen and keyboard signals) in addition to your video cable and you're up and running.
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