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Brother MFC-L8395CDW (MFC-L8390CDW) review
5:35 pm | May 18, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Comments: Off
Specs

Type: color A4 LED/laser all-in-one  

Functions: print, scan, copy, fax  

Connectivity: USB, Wi-Fi, Ethernet 

Data storage slots: USB Host     

Print speed: 31ppm (mono) 

Paper capacity: 250 + 30 sheets

Print quality: 600 x 600 dpi

Scan quality: 600 x 600 dpi

Apple AirPrint: yes 

Consumables included: 4x toner cartridges (3,000 mono pages, 1,400 color)

Dimensions/Weight: 410 x 462 x 401 mm (WxDxH) / 21.4kg

The Brother Workhorse MFC-L8395CDW (Brother MFC-L8390CDW in Europe) is a feature-packed four-in-one aimed at a busy home office or small workgroup, though it can be expanded to serve a pretty large shared office. It’s an LED printer, which is to say that it uses an LED array to guide the toner particles onto the drums rather than a moving laser, but it still sits happily in our best laser printer category because in all other respects, the print technology is the same. 

We’ve tested many of the best small business printers, and being a business-oriented Workhorse model at the upper end of Brother’s product range means it has an impressive spec sheet. It prints quickly at 31ppm (pages per minute) and can automatically scan two-sided documents using its 50-sheet ADF (automatic document feeder). With its NFC reader, touchscreen display, front USB Host port and fax modem, this premium printer leaves nothing out. So, let’s find out if the performance measures up to expectations.  

During this review, we'll use the American name Brother MFC-L8395CDW, but Europe's Brother MFC-L8390CDW is the same model.

Brother MFC-L8395CDW: Design and build

Brother MFC-L8395CDW / MFC-L8390CDW during our testing process

(Image credit: Brother)

The Brother MFC-L8395CDW looks similar to the more expensive and rather good Brother MFC-L8690CDW and has an almost identical specification. It’s the technology that’s different because the older model is a traditional class 1 laser product, while the new model is using electrophotographic LED. The first thing you notice is that it’s significantly smaller in every dimension. That’s mostly down to good resign and partly because LED printers use fewer moving parts to apply the toner. The form factor is the same and there’s still room for the same 250 sheets of Legal or A4 paper in the main tray and a further 50 in the multipurpose tray, while the out-tray holds 150 sheets. The design is expandable and you can add a lower paper tray that will take another 250 sheets. The ADF is also slightly smaller so the new model looks less top heavy, but also holds the same amount of paper — 50 sheets. 

The control panel jutting out at the front offers a color touchscreen and this too is slightly smaller than the laser model, but it’s still an easy-to-read 8.8cm. The multipurpose tray opens directly above the main paper tray, providing a useful shortcut for feeding headed letter paper or envelopes. Power, USB, Ethernet and fax modem cables all plug into the rear panel, while a USB Host port for walk-up printing from a thumb drive is located at the front. One visible difference from the laser model is that you now have an NFC logo, indicating where you can tap your smartphone or security card to call down a secure print job.  

Brother MFC-L8395CDW: Features & specifications

Brother MFC-L8395CDW / MFC-L8390CDW during our testing process

(Image credit: Brother)

As the uppermost model in Brother’s LED line-up, the MFC-L8395CDW has a high specification and all the features you can think of. It can auto-duplex print and auto-duplex scan, send and receive a fax, copy a stack of 50 pages using its ADF and print or scan wirelessly via the Brother Mobile Connect companion app. It has a 3.5-inch color touchscreen interface and an NFC reader for secure printing by specified cardholders, which could be useful in a shared office. Connections include Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band Wi-Fi and a USB Host port.

There’s plenty of room for paper, even without the optional lower paper tray, and a decent amount of toner comes in the box. The setup cartridges are good for 1,400 color pages and 3,000 mono, but super high yield carts are available that’ll give you up to 4,000 color pages and a whopping 11,000 mono. The print speed of 31ppm for simplex pages is pretty fast and it doesn’t slow down much for duplex printing, which is given as 12 sides per minute. Like many of the best laser printers, with this rapid print speed and a high capacity for paper and toner, the MFC-L8395CDW can handle a heavy workload. Brother suggests an average monthly duty cycle of 4,000 pages which should satisfy most SMBs (small to medium-sized business). In other words, this smaller and less expensive LED model matches the Brother MFC-L8690CDW laser printer for features and raises it by one NFC module, while only lagging one page-per-minute behind in terms of print speed. 

Brother MFC-L8395CDW: Setup & operation

Brother MFC-L8395CDW / MFC-L8390CDW during our testing process

(Image credit: Brother)

Setting up any Brother laser/LED printer involves extracting the four toner cartridges, removing the transport packaging and reinstalling them. This is easy enough to do and the two-page quick setup guide is there to help you. After loading some paper and turning it on, you can then turn to Brother’s Mobile Connect app to complete the setup. The printer’s own touchscreen interface is sensitive and the menu system is logical enough, but it’s still easier to use a smartphone to get connected to your Wi-Fi network. With its prompt print speed and two paper trays to choose from (main and multi-purpose), the Brother MFC-L8395CDW is an easy printer to operate. 

It's only a pity the operational cost is not lower. Replacement cartridges, even the super high-yield carts, do not bring the CPP (cost per page) down as low as most premium laser printers manage. It’s also worth considering the other replaceable items. You won’t need to buy four new imaging drums, a transfer belt or waste toner bottle any time soon, but they’re an expense you don’t have with inkjet printers. 

Brother MFC-L8395CDW: Performance

Brother MFC-L8395CDW / MFC-L8390CDW during our testing process

(Image credit: Brother)

The Brother MFC-L8395CDW put in a solid all-round performance without suffering any crashes or paper jams. Plain text documents are turned out in both simplex and duplex modes at the claimed prompt print speeds and the quality was consistently good. The characters appeared sharp and clearly legible down to the smallest point sizes. Mixed color documents print at the same speed, as with all laser printers, and showed a bright color palette. The image quality is fine, but not quite as bright as Brother’s equivalent laser printers. It’s the same story with photographs, which look detailed enough, but could be a little more vivid. 

The ADF proved itself to be a good one by drawing in a stack of test documents and copying both sides automatically. Duplicates made in this way, or by using the glass scanner bed, looked faithful to the original and only slightly softer in their detail. It copies quite quickly making this a suitable printer-cum-copier in a shared office. One thing it is not so good at is printing on heavy paper or card because the rollers turning it around tightly inside the machine tend to leave the documents curled when they emerge.

Brother MFC-L8395CDW: Final verdict

Brother MFC-L8395CDW / MFC-L8390CDW during our testing process

(Image credit: Brother)

This exceptionally well-equipped MFD (multifunction device) has enough functionality to meet the varied print demands of a shared office and has the toner capacity and print speed to handle a heavy workload. With room for 250 sheets of paper in the main tray and scope to add a second lower paper tray it’s clearly designed for a high monthly duty cycle. The 50-sheet automatic document feed is a cut above the average ADF thanks to its single-pass dual-side scanning feature, while an integrated NFC module is a real bonus for any business where the staff are issued with NFC-enabled ID cards. It might not be the best printer we’ve ever tested, but given the decent overall print quality of this LED all-in-one, the fairly high purchase price and running cost is justified.  


Looking for your next printer? We compared the best Brother printers 

Adobe Fresco (2024) review
5:10 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro Software & Services | Comments: Off

Adobe Fresco is a fun app for iPad and Microsoft Surface tablets. It’s all about simulating the real-world painting process - so expect to go to town on your digital canvas with the stylus as paintbrush. 

We’ve tried out a number of the best digital art and drawing software, and Adobe’s graphic design set has always impressed us. We liked Fresco last time we reviewed the painting app. But how does Adobe Fresco hold up in 2024? We wanted to find out.  

Adobe Fresco: Pricing & plans

  • Free for a few brushes and some online storage, but it’s more than enough to get started. Subscriptions are available and Fresco is also bundled in with other Adobe  plans. 

You can download and install Adobe Fresco for free, which will allow you to work with about a hundred brushes, and be offered 2GB of online storage. You’ll need an Adobe account to take advantage of this - which is also free (save for a few minutes of your time).

This is the basic Fresco app, but you can choose to subscribe to it for around $10 a month to gain access to over 1,000 additional brushes, more online storage, additional shapes, and access to Adobe’s premium fonts. However, if you already subscribe to the Adobe Design Mobile Bundle, the Adobe Photoshop Single Plan, or the Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps plan, then you already have access to the full version of Fresco. Subscription prices vary depending on whether you’re an individual, in education, or a business, and whether you choose to pay on a month by month basis or opt for a yearly plan, but as a guide, an individual person can expect to pay between around $23 and $60 a month for the Photoshop Single Plan and the Creative Cloud All App respectively.

Whichever option you decide to go with, Fresco will broadly look the same, so let’s install it and take it for a spin.

  • Pricing & plans: 4/5

Adobe Fresco: How it works

Using Adobe Fresco during our review

A traditional Adobe homepage, recognisable from anywhere, whether you’re on a computer or a portable device (Image credit: Adobe)
  • A compact interface has tools that appear as you need them, with an interesting rotating feature.

If you’re familiar with other Adobe software, you’ll feel right at home in Fresco. From the home page’s style, to the layout of the various sidebars, you’re in no doubt you’re working with an Adobe product.

To the left are the various brushes available to you. Tap on one of them for that menu to expand, offering you further options. On the right is a series of parameters affecting your entire document. This is where you can access your layers (on by default), see various layer properties, enable options such as snapping, add comments, and even expose more layer-related tools. Top right of the interface are sharing options, and undo and redo buttons among others. It’s a very compact yet very full featured interface.  

Obviously, the bulk of the screen is devoted to your artwork. As it’s an app designed for a tablet, you can turn your device in any orientation and the toolbars will rotate in kind - but your artwork won’t. This might feel a little disconcerting at first, but it does allow you to work on your project from any angle. Plus, if that doesn’t suit you, all it takes is a simple two finger rotate gesture to bring your canvas into the ‘right’ orientation.

  • Score: 4/5

Adobe Fresco: What it does

Using Adobe Fresco during our review

Changing the colour of your chosen brush is just a couple of taps away (Image credit: Adobe)
  • Painting and drawing on a portable digital device is smooth and easy, coupled the advantage of digital convenience and capabilities.

From the sound of it, Fresco feels like a portable version of Adobe Photoshop, but the fact there is a version of Photoshop for mobile devices shows that it’s more than that. Its focus is on trying to replicate the real world experience of drawing and painting.  For that to work, Fresco offers a wealth of different brushes whose strokes can interact with others.

Take the watercolours for instance. They come with a ‘watercolour flow’ parameter, which is there to determine just how much bleed you’ll get when using them, ie, just how wet is the brush and how much will the new colour you’re using interact and mix with surrounding colours already on your canvas. This makes for a fun, versatile and highly interactive simulation, which is far removed from how too many digital image compositors work (not all, mind - Corel Painter is a notable example of software trying to replicate how paint behaves in the real world, only this time on a computer)

Combine this with layer work, the ability to use and customise so many different brushes, and compatibility with a stylus, allows you to get pretty close to real world painting - without the mess, or running out of paint. It’s an attempt to blend the physical with the virtual in what we felt to be a very enjoyable experience.

Add to that your ability to export your work as a PSD file, so you can work on it further in Photoshop on your computer, increasing your workflow possibilities immensely.

  • Score: 4/5

Adobe Fresco: What’s new?

Using Adobe Fresco during our review

Add a touch of dynamism to your project with the new easy-to-use motion paths (Image credit: Adobe)
  • Motion paths and rotation. It may not sound like much, but it’s well implemented and easy to use.

 On top of all this great art creation tool, Fresco also lets you animate portions of your artwork, and these capabilities have been improved in the latest version. You can now create motion paths. 

This in part due to an easy to control floating toolbar at the bottom of the screen, with various additional parameters available on the sidebar to the right, once that option is triggered. From there, you’ll also find a new feature to either rotate or sway your chosen layer. It’s all incredibly easy to use, adding additional dynamism to your project. 

Should I buy?

Using Adobe Fresco during our review

Layer Properties offer you numerous parameters to control the look of each of your projects’ layers (Image credit: Adobe)

Buy it if...

You enjoy creating digital artwork but would like to replicate the feel of the real painting experience. Fresco is a great app for working on the go, and linking to other Adobe apps across your devices.

Don't buy it if...

You're not an artist or painter, and you especially don't like free painting apps. 


Adobe Illustrator (2024) review
4:54 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro Software & Services | Tags: | Comments: Off

For those who don’t know this 37-year old piece of software, Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics editor and design program, and the fact it’s still around after all this time just shows how powerful, versatile, and ubiquitous it is. We explored version 27 around a year and a half ago - and we found it one of the best graphic design software we’ve tried. But a lot’s changed in the digital art world since then, so we put the 2024’s version 28 to the test.  

Adobe Illustrator: Pricing & plans

  • If you know Adobe, you know you can only subscribe to its professional products, so the same goes for Illustrator.

As always with a professional-grade Adobe product, you can’t own it outright: you have to subscribe. To get your hands on Illustrator, you have a choice of either getting a standalone subscription or as part of the Creative Clouds All Apps package which includes over 20 different apps both for desktop and mobile use. Useful if you’re working across apps like Photoshop and InDesign, too.

On top of that, the prices vary depending on whether you choose to pay on a month by month basis, or get a yearly plan, which you’ll also pay monthly, albeit at a vastly reduced rate. Also, Adobe offers different rates for individuals, businesses and if you’re in education.

The best price individuals can have is the yearly one, which comes to $23 per month just for Illustrator, or $60 for the lot. Students and teachers can only get the full package, but it’s reduced to $20 per month. As for businesses, the cost is per license, and will set you back $38 for a single app, or $90 for all apps, per month. 

You do get a free trial with the ‘app apps’ package, but not for the individual plan.

  • Pricing & plans: 3/5

Adobe Illustrator: What is it?

Using Adobe Illustrator during our review

Apply your design onto an object, and see it warp as you move it around (Image credit: Adobe)
  • An excellent, powerful and versatile piece of software to help you create detailed and intricate vector-based images.

Vectors are resolution independent, which means, unlike with Photoshop, they won’t get blurry or pixelated the bigger you upscale them. This makes Illustrator extremely valuable for design work, but also makes it somewhat harder to use than the usual image compositing program.

Illustrator is immensely versatile. It boasts one of the best logo makers for businesses. You can create icons, and graphics with it, design 3D artwork, build complex interwoven shapes, complex brush strokes, gradients, bezier curves, and more. The flexibility is there for you to create whatever you can imagine, without worrying about the size of your canvas.

Over the years, Illustrator has become an extremely powerful piece of software, with a huge number of intricate tools at your disposal, giving you immense freedom. The interface will feel very familiar if you're ever used another Adobe design product, with movable and customisable toolbars and properties inspectors. Just like Photoshop, it’s pretty much become the go-to standard for vector-based illustrations.

If you’re new to such creations, Illustrator can be a little daunting, but thankfully, you’ll find a series of integrated tutorials that will help you hit the ground running.

  • Score: 4.5/5

Adobe Illustrator: What’s new?

Using Adobe Illustrator during our review

The new measuring tool makes it easy to find out the dimensions of the objects you’re creating (Image credit: Adobe)
  • A lot of small new features designed to improve your workflow.

Version 28, and its follow-up updates, boast improved enhancements, including faster live edits, panning and loading times, which, even compared to version 27 were noticeable, but as always, this will also greatly depend on your own computer’s configuration.

As a side note, it’s always good to point out that Adobe allows you to retain the previous version of your app when upgrading to a new full version number. This allows you to keep working with what you know, while acclimatizing yourself with what’s new. Most useful, especially when you’re in the middle of a project.

Some other useful improvements include the ability to measure and plot dimensions easily: choose between the distance, angle, and radius tools, then mouse over your design. The cursor is content aware, being able to deduce the curve or angle you’re after. Distance is the easiest: just click on one point then another. You also have the ability to select the measuring unit. Could be a great time saver.

There have also been improvements with how Illustrator deals with embedded files. It’s now easy to delete linked and embedded files from a project, and unembed multiple files in one go. You now have more control over object selection, text hyphenation is now off by default (thank you), and you can (finally) use an A5 preset in the Print section.

Of interest is the Retype option, which is a great way to help you figure out what font is being used in an image you found, without you having to do all the legwork yourself. Just go to the Type menu, select Retype, and Illustrator will find it for you (or as close to it as it can manage).

There’s an interesting addition which is still in beta called Mockup. With it, Illustrator can apply your creation onto an image of a real-life object. You're able to resize it and move it around, and your chosen object's angles and curves should affect how your design is seen.

  • Score: 4/5

Adobe Illustrator: GenAI tools

Using Adobe Illustrator during our review

Generative AI can create intricate and complex scenes in seconds (Image credit: Adobe)
  • When used properly, Adobe Illustrator’s Generative AI can greatly speed up your workflow, creating designs in seconds, which you’re then free to edit and customize to turn them into something more unique.

Adobe Illustrator meet Artificial Intelligence. From one Ai to another. The way it works is incredibly simple - although bear in mind this tool is still in beta. You access it from the Window menu (look for ‘Text to Vector Graphic’). From there, you get to choose the Type you’re after, such as a subject, a scene, an icon or a pattern, whether or not to provide the algorithm with some artwork to draw from, how much detail you wish the output to have (from Minimal to Complex), and then there’s the text-based prompt; type in what you wish to see with as much detail as you can, and wait a few seconds for your instruction to be generated.

As always, you’re given a couple of extra variations in case the first choice wasn’t to your liking. If you’re not happy, just type in something else and see what the machine churns out next.

Everything created is fully editable, so you can fine tune and customize it until you’re fully satisfied with the results. It will certainly greatly speed up your work. Whether you think this type of ‘creation’ is a good or bad thing is beyond the scope of this review, but we were impressed with how well it worked, and how accurate the results can be, as long as you type in enough detail and your input can be easily understood by a machine.

Using Adobe Illustrator during our review

The AI tools can also create a simple sharp logo, all based on your typed description  (Image credit: Adobe)
  • AI tools: 4/5

Should I buy?

Using Adobe Illustrator during our review

Adobe Illustrator is a very powerful and versatile vector drawing package. (Image credit: Adobe)

Buy it if...

You need to create professional vector images in a very powerful, and versatile software with an excellent track record behind it.

Don't buy it if...

You don't want another subscription package, plus you’re not too sure about all this AI being included in the latest releases.


Adobe InCopy (2024) review
4:35 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro Software & Services | Comments: Off

When you think of Adobe, you’re likely imagining high end professional creative apps, be they image compositing, video editing, desktop publishing, and more besides, but would ‘word processing’ spring to mind? And yet, there is one available, which integrates perfectly with what we consider the best desktop publishing software going: Adobe InCopy. 

With it, writers and editors are able to style text, track changes and make simple layout alterations, while at the same time, designers seamlessly work on the same document in InDesign. Sounds cool, right? We tried it out to see how it helps the design workflow. 

And you can see what we thought of the latest improvements to the main app in our Adobe InDesign review.  

Adobe InCopy: Pricing & plans

  • The cheapest individual subscription in Adobe’s portfolio, and also comes free when you grab the full All Apps package.

As with any professional Adobe product, you only gain access to InCopy through a subscription. Your cheapest option is to get it on its own for almost $5 per month (that’s with an annual plan). It’s actually the cheapest subscription you can get with Adobe. You can choose to pay for the year upfront, but this is a rare occasion where you don’t get any discount for doing so, not even a cent. Alternatively, it’s $7.50 per month on no contract.

Access to Adobe Fonts, Portfolio, Creative Cloud Libraries, 100GB of online storage and 25 monthly generative credits (for AI creations) are included in the price.

Alternatively, you can opt for the Creative Cloud All Apps package which comes with the whole enchilada, including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, for $60 per month on an annual plan. As with the single app above, prices fluctuate depending if you pay on a month by month basis, or for a yearly plan. In addition to that, students and teachers get a hefty discount for the full package ($20 a month), and there are specific deals for businesses and academic institutes.

  • Pricing & plans: 4/5

Adobe InCopy: How it works

Adobe InCopy during our review

InCopy’s Galley strips the written word of all style (aside from Page Breaks), helping you focus on the work at hand (Image credit: Adobe)
  • The concept of being able to work on a document and have it updated in the InDesign project is a very attractive one. But it’s not instantaneous, and was sadly prone to crashing when we tested it.

InCopy was created to speed up the process of getting a design project done and dusted. Usually a writer would submit their copy to the designer who then turns it into an article/poster/book etc, which then gets sent back to the writer, the editor, both, or more, for review and changes, which the designer then has to integrate back into their version in InDesign. And this cycle repeats until everyone involved is happy with the results.

There’s a lot of redundant work involved, with the potential of one revision being lost or mislaid along the flow of information. InCopy’s aim is to streamline all of this, making the whole concept much more of a collaboration tool, which allows writers and designers to work on the same document - although not at the same time: only one user can alter the text at any one time.

Adobe InCopy during our review

You can see any changes in InDesign that were made in InCopy, once you’ve clicked on ‘Update Content’ (Image credit: Adobe)

A designer can submit a text box to an InCopy file, for its content to be reviewed or altered, or a writer can produce an InCopy document which will then be incorporated into a designer’s InDesign file. However you prefer to work, the link between the two documents will be made, enabling anyone who has access to either of them, to make changes.

The process isn’t automatic: making some changes in InCopy will not make them appear in InDesign, for instance. Instead you need to click on ‘update content’ from the contextual menu. Also, while someone’s altering the content, everyone else is locked out of it. The person making the changes has to manually ‘check in’ in order to release the document, allowing others to make their own modifications.

It’s not as seamless as it could be, but it works well… until it doesn’t. Although we could easily make changes in InCopy, and update our version in InDesign as advertised, our version of InCopy (19.3), crashed every time we tried to update the content after someone had made changes in InDesign, which forced us to either use it as a one-way system, or check the changes once we relaunched the app, which was far from ideal.

  • Score: 3/5

Adobe InCopy: Interface

Adobe InCopy during our review

Story takes Galley one step further by removing all page breaks - stripping even that from your page as it could be a potential distraction (Image credit: Adobe)
  • An easy interface to get to grips with, offering you just the tools you need to limit distractions.

As you’d suspect, the InCopy interface looks like a vastly simplified version of InDesign, paring down the tools to solely what you need for writing. The toolbar at the top contains all the basic word processing options, such as alignment, font, size, style, etc.

The sidebar to the left is where you’ll find some search and navigation tools, as well as a comments option, so you can easily communicate with others working on the same document. Those notes can be seen on the page itself, or in a floating window which can be accessed in InDesign. The same applies for being able to track changes, although this isn’t switched on by default.

The document’s content can be viewed in three different ways: ‘Galley’ strips the text of its style, which is displayed in a sidebar to the left for each line. The ‘design’ visual left in the body of the text are the page breaks. ‘Story’ is virtually identical to ‘Galley’, except even the page breaks are removed, letting you focus on what needs to be written or altered. 

Adobe InCopy during our review

Want to see what your text will look like in InDesign (as long as you have the same fonts as your designer’s)? Then Layout is the option for you (Image credit: Adobe)

Finally, there’s ‘Layout’ which shows you your document’s style as it would appear in InDesign, although again, only the text is shown. If the designer has laced the page with images in InDesign or instance, those will not be seen in InCopy. In addition, this assumes the writer has the same fonts installed on their machine as the designer has on theirs, which is why it’s important to make sure all those potential hiccups are sorted out ahead of time. It’s also possible to import styles, thereby limiting any additional work between computers.

Overall, when it works, InCopy does what it sets out to do: streamline the document creation process between the writer, editor and designer. Such a shame our copy kept crashing when trying to update the document’s content.

  • Interface: 4/5

Should I buy?

Adobe InCopy during our review

InCopy allows you to leave notes throughout your document, and Tracking Changes is also available (but it’s not on by default) (Image credit: Adobe)

Buy it if...

You or your designer use InDesign to create projects, and need a way to communicate more seamlessly when making changes.

Don't buy it if...

You don’t need to work with a designer as you do it all yourself, or you don’t create your projects in InDesign.


Branching out in page design? We checked out the best Adobe InDesign alternatives

Adobe InDesign (2024) review
4:16 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro Software & Services | Tags: , | Comments: Off

If you’re a page layout designer, magazine-maker, or print artist, you’ll be very familiar with Adobe InDesign - a page layout tool that stole the best DTP software crown from QuarkXpress many decades ago, and never looked back. Since then, it’s become an industry-standard for digital design, and Adobe has maintained a steady stream of updates. 

We were impressed with InDesign when we last reviewed the software - and we wanted to know how the DTP app compares in 2024. 

Adobe InDesign: Pricing & plans

  • As with any other Adobe product, you can only rent it, but you do have a few options on how to do so.

Adobe rents its software out to customers, so rather than paying a one-off high price, you pay a smaller amount every month. The main advantage of this concept is that you get all future updates, large or small, completely free. The downside obviously is that you have to keep on paying the piper, and the moment you stop, you lose access to the software.

There are various options open to you to get your hands on InDesign. One of these is simply paying to use that app on its own, which would cost you around $23 per month (through a yearly plan); paying month to month is considerably more expensive at $34.50.

Alternatively, you can opt for the full ‘Creative Cloud All Apps’ package, which includes InDesign along with over 20 other software packages such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and many more. This will set you back $60 a month (on a yearly plan) or $90 on a month by month basis.

In addition to that, teachers and students get a discount - they can only get the full package, but it’s greatly reduced to $20 for the yearly plan. Schools, universities and businesses get different rates.

  • Pricing & plans: 3/5

Adobe InDesign: What’s It All About?

Adobe InDesign during our review and testing

Adobe InDesign is a powerful and versatile multi-platform desktop publishing application (Image credit: Adobe)
  • A powerful, highly versatile piece of software, that allows you to design pretty much anything, from the simplest of leaflets, to intricate magazines, and more.

InDesign is a desktop publishing powerhouse. You could use it to design something as simple as a business card, to a detailed magazine containing hundreds of pages, and anything in between. It’s incredibly versatile, and if you’re used to any other software from Adobe, you’ll understand most of the interface straight away. You have a toolbar down the left-hand side, properties panels on the right, and your canvas taking up most of the screen real-estate in the middle. The interface is highly customizable, allowing you to detach panels from one place, and reattach them elsewhere, move them around, remove the ones you don’t need, have some as floating windows, until you’ve created a workplace that suits your needs exactly.

InDesign was created to work seamlessly with other Adobe products such as Photoshop, for instance. This means you can insert a PSD document in InDesign, go back to Photoshop to make alterations, and those changes will appear in your InDesign project after a few clicks. It’s also integrated with InCopy allowing the writer to get on with writing, while the designer works on the pages’ layout. You can see what we thought of this companion app in our Adobe InCopy review.

You can get to grips very quickly with the various tools on offer, and design simple to complex projects relatively easily. On top of that, Adobe offers numerous tutorials, either directly within the interface itself, or via their Creative Cloud app.

  • Score: 4.5

Adobe InDesign: What’s New?

Adobe InDesign during our review and testing

One of the new features is ‘Style Packs’ which allow you to create and share template styles which you can apply to any text box in seconds (Image credit: Adobe)
  • A plethora of small improvements which are all very welcome to make this powerful DTP program more versatile, flexible, and accurate.

The last few updates have brought a lot of interesting new features, and we thought we’d highlight those that got our attention…

We found a lot to like, especially when it comes to customisation possibilities. You have Style Packs for one. Go to Window > Styles > Style Pack and choose a pre-saved collection which you can apply to your selected text boxes, with headers, styles, fonts, sizes, etc, changed instantly. Even better, you get to create your own packs which you can then export and share with other members of your team, or take with you when working on another machine.

Add to that the ability to import and export user settings is now a possibility, meaning that if you’ve configured your preferences just the way you like them on your machine, you’ll be able to replicate that on any other computer you’ll work on. That’s a huge plus for wandering designers.

Speaking of being on the go, it’s now possible to access and edit your files via InDesign Cloud Documents, which also lets you share these projects and collaborate with others easily.

If you need to share your work in progress, but there’s a few pages that aren’t yet ready to be seen, you now have the option of hiding specific spreads: right-click on a thumbnail and choose ‘hide spread’. That way, all concealed pages are skipped when in Presentation Mode, or when exporting a document.

Working with Indic or MENA languages comes with its own set of challenges, and the latest version of InDesign has worked to greatly improve its rendering of those glyphs by bringing in Harfbuzz as the default shaping engine. From the examples we saw, the improvements are very noticeable.

There are other new additions, like adding Google analytics in a published document, automatically including specific suffixes to JPEG and PNG exports, and password protecting InDesign files. These are not big tentpole features, but they all contribute to making InDesign a more powerful, versatile and accurate DTP, which can only be good news.

  • Score: 4.5/5

Adobe InDesign: AI tools

Adobe InDesign during our review and testing

AI’s come to ID. It’s well integrated and incredibly easy to use… perhaps too easy… (Image credit: Adobe)
  • AI is everywhere, and with generated images now accessible from within InDesign, who needs photographers?… but is that truly a good thing?

Version 19.4 of InDesign, released in April 2024, brings AI to the page layout tool. You can’t run away from it: AI is going to be everywhere. So what does ‘Text to Image’ bring to InDesign? As you might expect, it’s powered by Adobe Firefly. There’s one big caveat though: it only works with the English International and English North American versions of the software.

If you’re used to AI in other Adobe products, you’ll know what to expect: select an image placeholder to have a floating field appear. Type in a description, and Firefly will generate three variations for you to choose from.

Every time we try Firefly we find it gets better and better, giving us more accurate results without having to type in lengthy descriptions. It’s good in some ways, troubling for the industry in others. However to quickly create mockups without having to even leave InDesign, it’s fantastic. The interface is incredibly easy to use, you get to choose between photorealistic or a more artsy output, as well as the image’s aspect ratio, and the various generated images and their variations are preserved in a list for you, so you can choose to use them elsewhere in your project should you want to. We’ll just leave the controversial debate surrounding AI in general for another day.

  • AI tools: 3/5

Should I buy?

Adobe InDesign during our review and testing

Need to share your draft but some pages really aren’t ready to be viewed? No problem: you can now hide them when presenting or exporting the document (Image credit: Adobe)

Buy it if...

You need a powerful, versatile and flexible DTP to design anything from a simple leaflet to a full imagazine.

Don't buy it if...

The options are above and beyond what you’re after - maybe a high-end word processor would be better suited to your needs, and you’re not a fan of renting the software you use.


For more design tools, we tested the best Adobe InDesign alternatives

Formlabs Form 4 review
2:41 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: | Comments: Off

Formlabs has earned a reputation as the go-to machine for businesses needing a cost-effective and reliable 3D printer for a wide array of applications, from prototyping to medical and mechanical uses. 

The vast selection of specialist materials and a high-quality ecosystem that includes wash and cure machines as well as a finishing station make this one of the most complete and user-friendly options on the market. Form 3+ and Form 4 occupy a niche with few direct competitors; many professional-level machines cost tens of thousands of dollars, while the best 3D printers at cheaper end of the market is great for hobbies but often lacks the consistency and reliability for heavy professional use.

First and foremost, Form 4, with the PreForm software and dashboard, makes preparing and uploading work easy, whether it's a new iteration of a prototype or a small product production run. The flexibility of the range of materials allows you to go from quick printing with general-purpose V5 materials to silicone, elastic, and biocompatible materials, providing a solution for almost any intended end-use.

In this review, we've focused on the standard and most affordable V5 materials to see what this printer is capable of, and from the outset, the Form 4 impresses with some of the speediest, most accurate, and detailed prints we've seen from any 3D printer yet.

Formlabs Form 4: Design

Formlabs Form 4

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

It's worth noting from the outset that while the Form 4 hints at the Formlabs design of previous printers, it is a completely different machine with a host of new features and technology. The overall design still features the flip-up orange protective lid and a build platform on the Z-axis with a quick release, very similar to the Form 3+. At the back, there is a slot for the resin cartridge. These cartridges look smaller but still contain a litre of material but in a more compact design than those seen with the Form 3+. 

These resin cartridges function in the same way once dropped into the machine with a rubber bung at the bottom that is squeezed by the machine to release the resin. This time, however, the resin cartridges’ contents can be easily seen through a transparent window in the machine—a small design touch that can make a big difference in the workplace. The resin tank has also been redesigned with an improved mixer that clicks into place.

Formlabs Form 4

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Like Form 3+, the front of the machine has a large touchscreen interface that enables users to adjust settings, run maintenance procedures, and re-run past prints, among other tasks.

The biggest design difference for the Form 4 is the switch from Low Force Stereolithography (LFS) used by Form 3+ to Masked SLA (MSLA) technology. This new method leverages a custom LCD and LED-based backlight to cure entire layers of resin at once, significantly improving both speed and accuracy.

Formlabs Form 4: Features

Formlabs Form 4

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Formlabs has developed the technology used in the latest model of the Form printer to meet technological advancements. As such, the machine has moved away from Low Force Stereolithography (LFS)—a technology that previously gave the company's machines an edge in accuracy. However, that accuracy can now be matched by the latest LCDs, and the Form 4 introduces a new Low-Force Display (LFD) Print Engine that utilizes a custom LCD and LED backlight system. This system strikes a balance between high speed and high precision.

The integration of Masked Stereolithography (MSLA) technology in this new machine enables faster curing of entire resin layers rather than just pinpoint areas, significantly boosting print speeds compared to the method used by the Form 3+ SLA printer.

One of the major advances enabled by this new system is high dimensional accuracy, achieving a 50 µm XY resolution similar to the Form 3+. This ensures detailed and accurate prints with smooth surface finishes suitable for functional part production runs.

Although initially appearing similar to its predecessor’s resin tank, the new version incorporates several changes to aid printing speed. One of the main features is the release texture of the film, which helps to minimize adhesion forces, improve compatibility with various resins, and reduce print failures.

All resin printers can make handling resin messy; to facilitate workflow and ease of use, Form 4 includes smart sensors for automatic resin dispensing, which should lead to fewer failures.

Specs

Print Technology: Masked Stereolithography (MSLA) with Low Force Display (LFD) print engine
Build Area: 145 × 145 × 185 mm (5.7 × 5.7 × 7.3 in)
Minimum Layer Resolution: 25 µm
Maximum Layer Resolution: 300 µm
Dimensions: 405 × 375 × 530 mm (15.9 × 14.8 × 20.9 in)
Weight: 17.5 kg (38.6 lbs)
Bed: Removable Build Platform
Print Surface: Flexible Resin Tank with Release Texture
Software: Formlabs PreForm Software and Dashboard
Materials: Compatible with over 23 Formlabs resins, including new high-speed resins like Grey Resin V5, White Resin V5, Black Resin V5, and Clear Resin V5
Print Speed: Up to 4x faster than the Form 3+, capable of printing full build volumes in approximately 2 hours

The setup process for previous Form printers has been designed to be as straightforward as possible. Even the least experienced user should be able to get the machine up and running within 15 minutes, requiring only the printer, resin, computer, Wi-Fi, and installed software, with the rest managed by the machine.

When it comes to materials, Formlabs has invested heavily in developing a wide range of specialist materials for various uses and applications. Currently, this range for Form 4 covers over 23 different Formlabs resins, including new high-speed resins for diverse applications.

As this machine is designed for professional markets, reliability and longevity are key features. The Light Processing Unit (LPU) and other components are designed for long service life and high-volume use, with robust construction and smart sensors used to monitor and maintain print consistency, stopping printing if anything appears to be out of place to help save on failures and damage to the machine.

Finally, the change in technology enables print speeds that are up to five times faster than the previous iteration of the machine. This also boosts print efficiency, with the cost per print dropping by around a quoted 40%.

Formlabs Form 4: Performance

Formlabs Form 4

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Unpacking the Formlabs Form 4 immediately showcases the significant upgrades this machine offers. Its size and weight are roughly equivalent to those of Form 3+, so it occupies a similar workspace area. The machine arrives fully assembled, requiring only a few minor setup steps before it's operational. First, you install the new-design resin tank, which, like the Form 3+, incorporates a mixer arm that also needs to be fitted and locked into place.

The resin tank clicks into place with ease, and the scoop fits back into the machine to catch the resin once the cartridge is installed and primed. The resin mixer design is more robust than that of the Form 3+ and features a locking mechanism. This new design is not only sturdier but also easier to clean between resin swaps. However, given that each tank costs over $100/£100, they are not considered disposable.

Formlabs has simplified the tank cleaning process; the mixer arm fits into the Form Wash easily, and the cleaning sheet option allows you to peel out most of the excess resin before it's wiped clean.

When it comes to loading the resin, a resin cartridge is dropped into a slot at the back of the machine, then the lid is flipped open to allow airflow to enable the release of resin. Once printing is complete or if the machine is to be left idle for some time, the lid is closed, and the resin is stored for future use.

Resin swapping follows a specific procedure: remove and clean the build platform, close and remove the resin cartridge, then swap out the resin tank. Install a clean resin tank, then the build platform and insert a new resin cartridge. This process is relatively quick and straightforward.

An advantageous feature for frequent resin changes, as in this test, is that tanks with resin residue can be covered and stored flat without a full clean. It is crucial to perform this procedure away from sunlight, as the resins will cure very quickly. Ideally, this should be done in an artificially lit room or with the curtains or blinds drawn.

Formlabs Form 4

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

PreForm software

Once Form 4 is primed and connected to the local area network, you can connect to the machine via the PreForm software and dashboard. This software allows you to prepare your models and upload them directly to the machine without needing to transfer them via USB or another method. Formlabs has designed this system to be streamlined and intuitive, focusing on professional environments without distractions from manufacturer offers or "models of the day."

An issue we encountered during testing was that many larger pre-supported models could not withstand the machine's high-speed operations. However, when this issue has been encountered with other high-speed machines we've tested, when a print falls from its supports, it often spells disaster for the resin tank and, in one instance, the LCD. However, Form 4, with its advanced monitoring, is well-prepared for such obstructions. The mixer arm detects when something has fallen into the resin, and the print process automatically pauses until the obstruction is removed. During our tests, it was generally possible to retrieve dropped pieces of hardened resin relatively easily, run a cleaning sheet, and restart printing. This occurred about five times and exclusively with pre-supported models. Switching to supports generated with PreForm achieved a 100% print success rate and after a short time of getting to know the printer the switch to using the PreForm supports at all times makes sense.

Formlabs advertises that Form 4 is up to five times faster than its predecessor for certain types of prints. Although a few prints approached the four to five-hour mark, the majority were completed within two hours—considerably faster than many other resin 3D printers. The quality of these prints is notably high, with a finish comparable to injection-molded designs.

In standard mode or print speed of 0.100, prints from Form 4 appeared clear and accurate, with superb surface quality. When switching to high-quality mode 0.050, print times naturally extended. For instance, the 3DBenchy model in PreForm is estimated to take 1 hour and 14 minutes with support or 59 minutes without. In fine quality mode at 0.050, the print time extends to 2 hours or 1 hour and 39 minutes unsupported. For comparison, the Creality K1C can produce the same model in 55 minutes or 1 hour and 45 minutes with supports using standard settings.

Initially the print speeds might seem slightly slower than those from a COREXY FFF printer, however for small production runs, Form 4 dramatically reduces printing times. It can produce nine 3DBenchy models in 1 hour and 12 minutes with supports or 1 hour and 25 minutes without. Conversely, using the Creality K1C for the same task would take approximately 7 hours and 10 minutes or 15 hours and 47 minutes with supports—a significant difference in efficiency.

Formlabs Form 4

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

In a design studio where multiple iterations of a design are common, Form 4 enables fast processing of all designs simultaneously. Although the print platform may seem small, it generally suffices for most print jobs. For example, while the 3D Benchy model is relatively simple by today's standards, as the complexity and detail of the prints increase, the distinction between the quality and speed of an FFF printer and the Form 4 becomes more pronounced. Printing a detailed model like the Blue Young Dragon illustrates this well, showing that Form 4 finishes the print in 2 hours 53 minutes while the Creality K1C takes 9 hours and 45 minutes. It's not only the print speed but also the removal of the supports, on the resin model all supports were removed in a round a minute on the FFF print more like ten and some of the more delicate details around the claws were lost despite the high quality of the print.

The cleanup process of resin prints is a major consideration, and with Form 4, this aspect remains significant. The Wash and Cure machines, while optional, are nearly essential for achieving the best results and are among the best in their class. The second-generation Form Wash allows the use of either IPA or TPM as the washing agent, and we've chosen IPA for continuity and ease of air drying in our tests. The Cure machine then hardens the prints post-wash using 405 nm light and heat to evenly dry and cure the models. Although these machines are excellent, their cost is comparable to many other resin 3D printers on the market and then there's the cost of the IPA which to fill to a decent level is going to set you back a good £50/$50. For those looking to economise after investing in Form 4, there are less expensive wash and cure machines available.

Formlabs Form 4

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Cleaning the prints

When it comes to finishing the prints Formlabs have streamlined the process of washing, curing, and removing supports making sure it's as straightforward as possible: print the model, remove the build platform from the printer, place it into the wash, and start the machine. After washing, use snips to detach the print from the build platform, remove the supports, and then place the print into the Cure machine. Once the curing is complete, any final touches can be applied to finish the print. The support structures are designed such that a quick rub between washing and curing usually results in a clean surface. For optimal results, it's best to ensure all residual supports are removed before curing.

Print quality and accuracy is the main reason you would levitate towards the Form 4 over cheaper resin printers and at no point does the machines print quality disappoint. Using standard settings and V5 materials, the surface finish is exceptionally smooth, with only minor visible layering on some contours. By increasing the quality settings in the PreForm software, these layer lines become nearly invisible, though the print times will be longer.

In terms of quality, the output from Form 4 is comparable to that of Form 3+, with differences only discernible at the micro-detail level. However, the enhanced user experience and additional features make the Form 4 a worthwhile upgrade from the Form 3+.

Beyond standard resin

In this test we've looked at the standard V5 resins, but it's worth highlighting that this is just the edge of what this machine has to offer. The resin materials that will work with this machine enable all sorts of uses, from functional parts, Ceramic, Biomedical and moulding with each of these materials fine tuned for their intended usage.

More on an enthusiast level it's also possible to use non Formlabs' resin which will prove to be a cheaper option for many. More details of this can be found on the formlabs website https://formlabs.com.

Formlabs Form 4: Final verdict

Formlabs Form 4

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

If you're in the market for a resin 3D printer that surpasses the print quality of all FFF 3D printers and offers a cost-effective professional solution, then Form 4 is among only a few that deliver such high standards in this price range. Right from the start, the machine impresses with its easy setup and intuitive workflow, which is straightforward enough for even those completely new to the technology to grasp.

While dealing with resin is typically a messy affair, Formlabs has made this process as manageable as possible with auto-feed and easy-to-dispense resin cartridges. The tanks are also easy to remove, safe to store, and use on a daily basis, with little to no fault.

For more sporadic use, where cleaning the machine or, more specifically, the tank is necessary, the process can be a bit more time-consuming. While the mixer arm can be easily cleaned in Form Wash, the tank requires a more manual approach. Despite the advanced design and the helpful cleaning sheet, it's more complex than some of its competitors.

Aside from cleaning, most other aspects of the workflow are straightforward, including swapping out resins. Maintaining cleanliness and methodical practices ensures smooth operation without issues. Form 4 stands out in two particular areas: its accuracy, quality, and reliability for intricate details and complex objects, which make it an ideal choice for jewellers and model makers, offering unmatched ease of consistency. Throughout testing, 8 litres of resin—clear, grey, and black—were used without a single issue, a stark contrast to some of the best, cheaper printers that often encounter failures.

The second area where Form 4 excels is in prototyping and small to medium production runs. Formlabs provided a test print file that demonstrated the machine's capability to produce small production runs of parts for their resin tank mixer, achieving quick and incredibly high-quality results. In our test we switched to printing a GoPro handlebar mount product, and successive runs produced fast and accurate prints without fault.

For those looking for one of the most reliable, high-quality, and least messy resin 3D printers on the market, the Form 4 has little competition at this price point.

Should You Buy the Formlabs Form 4?

The Formlabs Form 4 is ideal for professionals requiring high precision and reliability in industries such as prototyping, jewelry-making, modelling and small production runs. Its superior print quality, capable of handling intricate details and complex designs, makes it standout. The intuitive setup and workflow make it accessible, even for those new to 3D printing. Despite its higher upfront cost, its efficiency in managing resin and the minimal occurrence of print failures provide long-term value. Suitable for both frequent and occasional users, the Form 4 excels in rapid prototyping and small production runs, making it a top choice for businesses aiming for outstanding results without constant technical challenges.

Buy if...

Don't buy if..


For more tech tools for crafting, we've tested the best laser engravers

Creality K1C review
2:32 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Comments: Off

The Creality K1C is the latest printer from Creality's fully enclosed K 3D printer line. Once again, the style of the machine reflects the rest of the line with a high-quality, rigid frame and a tinted transparent part-glass enclosure that keeps the inner chamber heated for specialist materials.

The K1C boosts the abilities of both the K1 and K1 Max with a few additional features over both machines. While the size and mechanical specifications of the K1 and K1C are essentially the same, some of the more advanced features, such as the AI camera, have filtered down from the larger machine.

Interestingly, Creality has completely overhauled the tool head with a 300° hotend that features a hardened steel nozzle tip designed to cope with specialist materials such as carbon fibre. This enhancement makes the machine far more appealing to those using 3D printers in the industry, reminiscent of the old Cel-Robox Dual and its specialist carbon heads a few years back.

While the K1C isn't a replacement for the K1, the price difference between the two is marginal, making it hard to see why anyone would now prefer the older K1 over this all-new and seemingly much more versatile new machine. The K1 and K1 Max impressed us two of the best 3D printers we've reviewed, so with the main mechanics of this new machine much the same, it all comes down to the integration of the new tool head and the AI camera to see if there's also a step-up in quality.

Creality K1C: Design

Creality K1C review

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

An initial look at the K1C, it's instantly apparent that this is closely related to the K1. The big difference here is that the K1C has been enhanced to handle carbon fibre filaments like PLA-CF, PA-CF, and PET-CF and features a hardened steel nozzle. Part of this new tool head design is Creality's development of what they call a "clog-free extruder kit" with a "Unicorn" tri-metal nozzle, which is a combination of copper, titanium, and steel that is more resistant to abrasive materials such as carbon fibre.

Part of the potential boost in reliability is due to the AI camera, which is now an integrated part of the K1C's design rather than an optional add-on, as with the K1. Further boosting performance is an upgraded cooling system with print head fans and an additional 18W fan in the build chamber to aid with cooling when needed.

Creality K1C review

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

As with the other K series printers, the machine utilizes a CoreXY design, which can be notoriously noisy due to the speed. A design change with the pulley gears means that these are now smaller, helping to increase the printer's precision. Staying with precision, a flexible PEI build plate is incorporated, and again, the machine uses a hands-free auto-leveling system. So far, in this series of printers, the quality of the auto bed levelling has been exceptional.

One of the most notable features of the design is the fully enclosed nature of the case. This has also seen a slight development over the K1 with a better handle, improved door hinge with magnetic closure, and an anti-shatter film added to the glass to improve safety.

Along with the other enhancements to the design, the touchscreen, while on the surface looking the same, has seen a few changes to accommodate the additional features of the AI camera and improved hot end.

Creality K1C: Features

Creality K1C review

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

A quick look at the features of the K1C reveals that the basics are much the same as the K1, with high-speed printing of up to 600mm/s, full use of the CoreXY motion system, and input shaping. However, the machine has had a few stability improvements, although it is a touch lighter at 12.4kg.

The big feature that is highlighted is the extended material compatibility. Although the nozzle and hotend temperature ranges remain the same as the older machine, the new nozzle and extruder mean that it can now cope with a range of specialist materials such as PLA-CF, PA-CF, and PET-CF, essentially any material with abrasive properties.

To cope with the new materials and more specialist options, such as nylon and ABS, the machine features a reworked cooling system. This now enables dynamically balanced fans to cool where and when needed, resulting in less stringing and warping.

Specs

Print Technology: Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)
Build Area: 220 x 220 x 250 mm
Minimum Layer Resolution: 0.1 mm
Maximum Layer Resolution: 0.35 mm
Dimensions: 355 x 355 x 480 mm
Weight: 14 kg
Bed: Heated bed, up to 100°C
Print Surface: PEI flexible build plate
Software: Creality Print, Cura (5.0 and later), PrusaSlicer, OrcaSlicer
Materials: PLA, PETG, ABS, PA, ASA, PC, TPU, PLA-CF, PA-CF, PET-CF
Print Speed: Up to 600 mm/s

The new direct drive, clog-free extruder kit, and a unicorn tri-metal nozzle promise higher durability and performance. These have been enhanced to cope with high-temperature and abrasive filaments.

One of the features that appealed to me about the K1 Max or the upgrade kit for the K1 is the AI camera for real-time print monitoring, timelapse recording, and failure detection. This camera has been designed to fully integrate with the Creality Print software and, with the wireless connection, enables you to send and monitor prints to the machine remotely.

One of the standout features of the new series is the enhanced touchscreen interface, which is well thought out across the range of printers and enables you to make real-time adjustments and monitor print times if needed. As interfaces go, it's both intuitive and easy to navigate.

When it comes to the print area, the volume of the K1C remains the same as the K1 at 220x220x250mm with a PEI flexible build plate that supports input shaping.

A nice touch with the K1C is the option for a side-mounted spool holder, which gives you a few more options regarding the machine's positioning.

As a fully enclosed printer, the machine comes almost ready to go out of the box, only taking a few minutes before you can power it on and start printing. The build quality of the full metal frame, glass door, and acrylic sides all add to the feeling of quality that ups the level even when compared to the K1 and K1 Max machines.

Creality K1C: Performance

Creality K1C review

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The print quality from both the K1 and K1 Max was on par, with the two machines scoring decently at 26.5. You can see the full performance in our Creality K1 review and Creality K1 Max review

In the tests, the K1C looks to follow suit with a slight improvement in some areas. Starting with the real-world tests, the quality of the prints is exceptional, considering the speed at which the machine can produce a print. All models were produced flawlessly through three different material choices: PLA, PETG, and finally, Carbon Fill.

Looking closely at the PLA prints, the overall finish was good, with the new cooling system seeming to minimize stringing effectively. When using PLA, the top of the machine and doors are left open to aid with cooling. Switching to PETG, the filament enabled finer detail and a superb surface finish, although with both filaments, while the dimensional accuracy is good, the benchmark test showed some variation. 

Creality K1C review

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

While the machine's performance is solid and would have stood out if launched alongside the other two, there are now machines like the Qidi Tech Q1 Pro 3D, which have slightly better overall print quality but lag in machine build quality and features.

However, this machine's main focus has to be carbon filaments, which are notoriously difficult to work with and can easily damage a standard machine. Here, the K1C handles the specialist materials with ease, producing excellent prints that are incredibly durable and well-finished. Carbon filament is not for generic modelling and is more suited for workable prototypes, for which this machine excels.

Creality K1C: Print quality

Dimensional accuracy - score of 5 

Target 25 = X: 24.94mm / 0.06mm Error | Y: 24.97mm / 0.03mm Error 
Target 20 = X: 19.96mm / 0.04mm Error | Y: 19.98mm / 0.02mm Error 
Target 15 = X: 14.99mm / 0.01mm Error | Y: 15mm / 0mm Error 
Target 10 = X: 9.93mm / 0.07mm Error | Y: 10mm / 0mm Error 
Target 5 = X: 4.92mm / 0.08mm Error | Y: 5.04mm / 0.04mm Error 

X Error Average = 0.052

Y Error Average = 0.018

X&Y Error Average = 0.035

Fine Flow Control - score of 2.5 

Fine Negative Features - score of 5

Overhangs - score of 4 

Bridging - score of 5 

XY resonance - score of 2.5

Z-axis alignment - score of 2.5

Adding up the totals gives a final score of 26.5 out of 30.

Creality K1C: Final verdict

Creality K1C review

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Currently, the K Series of Creality 3D printers sets a comfortable benchmark for build quality. The machines look great, and the company has worked hard to elevate its offerings from run-of-the-mill 3D printers used by enthusiasts to machines that have a far wider appeal.

Compared to the Ender-3 series, which really brought the company to the forefront, the K series is far more refined and professional, breaking away completely from the DIY form that many of these printers originated from. The CoreXY design, combined with their speed and Klipper firmware, has boosted speed and quality, and the K1C is currently one of the most refined printers out there.

Looking at the benchmark scores, the printer performs well, putting in one of the highest scores of any FFF printer we've looked at. However, when it comes to print quality, there are now some very serious competitors. While the likes of QIDI and AnkerMake M5C might just edge ahead with print quality, neither comes close when it comes to the complete package.

The software for the QIDI is good but not as integrated as that of Creality, and the build quality needs to catch up. Meanwhile, the AnkerMake M5C produces outstanding prints but is still an open system and slower overall. The Creality K1C has it all—for education enthusiasts and professionals, this is one interesting printer. The only downside at present is that it still lacks any multi-material support from Creality, although that's likely to come.

Should You Buy the Creality K1C?


We've also tested out the best laser engravers

Anycubic Photon Mono M5s Pro review
2:23 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Comments: Off

The Anycubic Photon Mono M5s Pro is one of the highest-resolution resin printers available, with a 14k screen enabling a resolution of 13,312 x 5,120px over the 10.1-inch screen. This resolution should translate to incredible quality prints that will leave the competition in its wake. 

The overall design is very AnyCubic, as the company often opts for pure functionality over design aesthetics. Indeed, the machine itself reflects the Mono machines that have come before, but inside, the technology has taken a huge step forward. The high-resolution screen is the big hitter when it comes to features, but there are also the heater and air purification system and 105mm/h print speed. While the machine itself might not reflect the best 3D printer technology it contains, it is a machine of real interest and potential for several reasons.

The first is the cover, an essential part of the resin printer. While it's nothing outwardly wrong, most other manufacturers adopt a flip-up design that is much more user-friendly.

The heat and cleaner are also great additions that significantly improve the quality of the prints. However, their integration into the design isn't as refined, especially compared to direct competition like the Uniformation GKTwo and Creality HALOT-MAGE PRO. Still, when it comes to print quality, it's hard to argue with the capabilities of the 14k screen and the prints it enables you to create.

Anycubic Photon Mono M5s: Design

Anycubic Photon Mono M5s

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

AnyCubic is known for making outstanding-quality machines that are functional, reliable, and capable of producing high-quality prints. This reputation holds for both its resin and FFF printers. However, while most other printer manufacturers have innovated with their designs, AnyCubic has remained reserved, sticking to what's familiar and maintaining its loyal user base.

The Anycubic Photon Mono M5s Pro is disappointingly similar to previous mono machines, with some small design tweaks, but ultimately, it's an ultra-functional machine that's slightly uninspired in design. The bright yellow UV protective cover remains a lift-off rather than a flip-up like most modern machines. While some people will appreciate the ability to remove the lid completely, these days, that shouldn't be necessary, and for accessibility and ease, a flip lid is much easier.

The resin tray is once again bolted down rather than a quick release. While this is still the most common approach, it could be more convenient when it comes to cleaning. This resin tank is also manually filled; there's no issue there, but with plenty of autofill options available, it seems a shame that something has yet to be innovated in this area, especially considering the cost of resin.

That said, the machine has plenty to get excited about. Underneath that resin tank is the ultra-high-resolution 14k screen, making it the highest-resolution printer we have examined. While the machine's aesthetics might not excite, the technology does.

A significant advancement for this machine is the integration of the heater and cleaner, which ensures the resin is kept in ideal conditions and helps reduce blemishes and other issues. Then, there's a series of advanced print monitoring with smart detection features. This style of monitoring is relatively new to resin printers, so its inclusion here is great.

Like most resin machines, we also have the touchscreen interface, which is very AnyCubic, simple, yet perfectly functional.

Anycubic Photon Mono M5s: Features

Anycubic Photon Mono M5s

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The AnyCubic Photon Mono M5s Pro promises exceptional detail and precision with its industry-leading 10.1-inch monochrome LCD. It delivers a 14K resolution and an XY resolution of 16.8*24.8μm, which is comparable to the thickness of a hair. AnyCubic has combined this high resolution with 85% light uniformity to ensure fine detail and sharp edges.

Innovatively designed, it incorporates an air heater and purifier module, maintaining a consistent air temperature of up to 40℃ to keep the resin above 20℃ for optimal printing in colder conditions. It also includes a high-quality activated carbon component to absorb resin odours, thus creating a more pleasant printing environment.

The printer's high-speed capabilities, with an average print speed of 105mm/h, are supported by its third-generation high-speed ACF film. This film reduces peeling force, lowers the peeling height, and increases lifting speed, thereby enhancing the printer's performance and reliability.

Specs

Print Technology: LCD-based UV Photocuring
Build Area: 200 x 223.78 x 126.38 mm
Minimum Layer Resolution: 10 microns
Maximum Layer Resolution: 50 microns
Dimensions: 460 x 270 x 290 mm (HWD)
Weight: 9.4 kg
Bed: Laser engraving aluminium alloy
Print Surface: Unibody design with scale lines
Software: Anycubic Photon workshop
Materials: 405nm UV resin
Print Speed: Up to 105mm/h

A standout feature of the Photon Mono M5s Pro is its leveling-free design, which, through floating platform technology and internal sensors, adjusts to ensure consistent printing quality. Furthermore, the printer is equipped with smart detection systems that prevent screen breakage by identifying resin residue and adjusting the peeling height according to the model's shape, thus improving the success rate and speed of printing.

Completing the feature set is the printer's compatibility with the Anycubic App. This app facilitates one-touch printing from a wide selection of pre-sliced models and enables efficient print management and troubleshooting. This app integration represents a significant advancement in making 3D printing more accessible and user-friendly.

With these advanced features, the AnyCubic Photon Mono M5s Pro is well-suited for both professional and hobbyist users who demand high-quality, detailed prints, and a reliable, user-friendly printing experience.

Anycubic Photon Mono M5s: Performance

Anycubic Photon Mono M5s

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

As with all resin printers, the print quality depends on the conditions and the resin used. For this test, the tank was filled with high-speed resin to put the printer to the test in terms of print quality and speed. I have used this resin in the past and am not a fan.

While the resin prints fast and is high quality, it is extremely tough and brittle from the outset. This means that you need to be extremely careful with how the supports are applied to the models using the Anycubic Photon Software. Even with the models that Anycubic supplies as an example of the quality, the printer suffers from the overapplication of supports and the impossibility of support removal.

However, swapping the resin for one of the company's other resins, such as their well-priced standard resin, results in slower but still fast prints, and the results are far easier to extract from the support system.

Overall, the quality of the prints is fantastic, challenging far more expensive printers in terms of the overall finish.

Anycubic Photon Mono M5s

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

After washing and removing the support trees and curing in the superb Anycubic Wash & Cure Max Machine, the final prints are of extremely high quality.

Regarding machine maintenance, the main point is to be careful with the High-Speed Resin. Updates to the Anycubic software have improved the application of the support tree. Still, it's crucial to experiment fully with the tree application before using and adjusting every model. This material is good but very brittle; with all these issues, the flip side is that the material does what it is designed to do and enables you to print very high-quality prints extremely quickly and with great detail.

Ultimately, this resin printer's print quality, with its high 14k resolution, is outstanding. Still, as always, to achieve the best results, you will need to do some legwork when finishing the models, especially being careful with the high-speed resin.

Anycubic Photon Mono M5s: Final verdict

Anycubic Photon Mono M5s

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

This is an outstanding-quality resin 3D printer, only held back by its machine design rather than the quality of the prints it produces. The design is tried and tested, and while some aesthetic tweaks have been made compared to past models, the actual usability could be better.

For example, the protective lid rests on top of the base and can be lifted completely clear. Some might prefer this design in a workshop or studio, while the more common flip-up design is much neater and more suitable for a busy creative environment.

There's the resin tank, again using the same foundational design that Anycubic has always employed. Bolts hold it securely to the base. This works but feels a bit dated, as other machines offer slick quick-release mechanisms.

The addition of the heater and filter system is superb, and it's great to see. Still, with its power supply and slightly makeshift integration and attachment design, it feels like a must-have afterthought rather than a smoothly integrated part of the system.

Putting these points aside, they are minor and shouldn't overshadow the fact that this is one of the best resin 3D printers out there. The Pro model has built on the quality of the Anycubic Photon Mono M5s with enhanced resolution and features. Used carefully, with the support trees correctly set within the Anycubic Photon Workshop software at that 14k resolution, this machine can print models of a quality that you would expect from some of the top-tier printers.

Should you buy the Anycubic Photon Mono M5s Pro?

Buy the Anycubic Photon Mono M5s Pro if you prioritize exceptional print quality and high-resolution capabilities. Its 14k screen delivers intricate details, perfect for professionals or enthusiasts who demand precision. Tmachine'se's advanced features, like the heater and air purifier, enhance printing consistency and environmental quality.

However, don't buy it if you're looking for a modern design or if your budget is a primary concern. The traditional design might appeal to some, and its high-end features come with a price tag that may exceed the budget of casual users or those new to 3D printing.

Buy it if...

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Qidi Tech Q1 Pro 3D Printer review
2:04 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Comments: Off

The Qidi Tech Q1 Pro 3D Printer is the first from the company that we've reviewed, so we're evaluating it with fresh eyes. We can only compare it against the best 3D printers we tested, not any previous releases from the company. Initial online impressions of the design, featuring a full enclosure and touch screen, are positive, and the specifications suggest a very promising machine.

When the box arrives and the machine is unwrapped, it looks quite nice and true to the marketing images. Unfortunately, the quality of the casing materials is not as high as the design initially suggests. A closer inspection reveals that the quality of the components and the construction of the actual mechanics are sound, and it's important to remember that this is a sub-$500 printer.

Considering the price and what you see, this is a COREXY machine with a heated inner chamber, Klipper firmware, and enough internal support to hold things together during high-speed printing. Initial impressions are, therefore, mixed: it's a great-looking machine with a not-so-great exterior material choice and amazing specifications, but can it pull all this together to produce a decent print?

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro 3D Printer: Design

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

From the outset, the design is appealing, even if the outer casing's materials feel a bit on the cheap side. The case allows for printing with more technical materials, or if you prefer to stick to standard PLA, you can simply remove the top and open the door.

On the front of the machine is a large LCD screen where you can select prints, adjust settings, calibrate, and connect to a local area network. The interface is straightforward, and the large screen is exceptionally well-designed and easy to use. Loading the first reel of filament is straightforward, and uploading prints is done through the QIDISlicer, which is based on the excellent PRUSASlicer and offers plenty of options.

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The machine features some interesting design choices, such as the independent dual Z motors, which create a solid build platform necessary to handle the machine’s speed when running at full capacity. The chamber can be heated to 60ºC, accommodating various materials, and the design is fully enclosed when needed.

Inside, there’s a small box at the back of the machine that, when the machine starts working, reveals itself as the filament bin. This is where the excess filament is deposited to keep prints clean—a small feature that can make a significant difference.

The design is attractive but let down by the material choice, which feels somewhat flexible. However, as a functional product, the touch screen, large plexi door, removable lid, filament bin, and dual independent Z motors all feel extremely solid and built to last.

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro 3D Printer: Features

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Qidi Tech Q1 Pro is equipped with several features that, until the release of the Bambu printers, were typically found in mid to high-end models. QIDI states that it only takes ten minutes from the box to the first print, and with features such as full-auto calibration, this proved to be absolutely accurate, making it one of the most straightforward printers to get started with.

Through the plexi front door is the impressive inner chamber with a build volume of 245 x 245 x 240mm. Notably, the hotend above features a nozzle with a maximum temperature of 350°C, ideal for high-temperature filaments like PAHT-CF and PET-CF.

When printing these materials, a heated inner chamber creates an ideal printing environment, capable of reaching up to 60°C depending on the material settings. This feature reduces warping and improves layer bonding, which is particularly beneficial for warp-prone filaments such as ABS, PA, and PC.

The Q1 Pro’s design includes independent dual Z motors, providing higher precision and stability. Combined with its CoreXY structure, this should ensure high-speed, accurate, and stable printing, especially when paired with the Klipper firmware.

Specs

Print Technology: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Build Area: 245 x 245 x 240 mm

Minimum Layer Resolution: 50 microns

Maximum Layer Resolution: 400 microns

Dimensions: 480 x 380 x 480 mm

Weight: 18 kg

Bed: Heated, up to 100°C

Print Surface: Removable and flexible magnetic plate

Software: Qidi Print, compatible with Cura and Simplify3D

Materials: PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, and other 1.75mm filaments

Print Speed: Up to 150 mm/s

The printer also features a tri-metal hot end, enabling it to handle a variety of filaments, including those with better mechanical properties. The printer is designed with speed and accuracy in mind. Like the initial setup, calibration is an ongoing feature with dual sensor auto bed levelling and an essential filament detection system, including filament runout and tangle detection, crucial for 1.75mm filament nearing the end of its usable life.

Inside the outer casing, the Qidi Tech Q1 Pro is built with a full metal frame structure, which is necessary due to the high speeds this machine can reach. Powering the processing is a powerful 64-bit processor and 32G-EMMC large memory, supporting high-speed Wi-Fi 6, allowing you to send your print files directly from QIDISlicer.

Additional handy features include a 1080P camera, which enables remote monitoring of prints and timelapses. Considering the price, this is a feature-packed printer that rivals many more expensive machines.

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro 3D Printer: Performance

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Few machines can compete with the QIDI Q1 Pro in terms of absolute print quality. During testing, a variety of filaments were run through the system to evaluate the heated inner chamber, along with many standard prints using PLA. The results demonstrated the machine’s exceptional accuracy and speed.

Throughout weeks of testing, there were no failed prints, which is nearly unheard of, and upon inspecting the prints, the extrusion quality could have been better. As a CORE XY machine, it excels in speed, but it is unusual for a machine at this price point to be both accurate and capable of producing such clean results. The only other machine that compares in cleanliness is the AnkerMake M5C 3D printer, which uses refined yet older technology and has an open design, making it unsuitable for many uses.

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Examining the models reveals that the quality shines through: detail is well-defined, support structures, with some tweaking, are easy to remove, and surface quality is excellent. The test prints all looked great, as evidenced in the images. Similarly, running the usual benchmarking tests produced outstanding results, confirming that the QIDI Q1 Pro is a top contender in its class, delivering both speed and precision in its prints.

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro 3D Printer: Print quality

Dimensional accuracy - score of 5 

Target 25 = X: 24.98mm / 0.02mm Error | Y: 24.96mm / 0.04mm Error 
Target 20 = X: 19.98mm / 0.02mm Error | Y: 19.94mm / 0.06mm Error 
Target 15 = X: 14.87mm / 0.13mm Error | Y: 14.94mm / 0.06mm Error 
Target 10 = X: 9.95mm / 0.05mm Error | Y: 9.94mm / 0.06mm Error 
Target 5 = X: 4.88mm / 0.12mm Error | Y: 4.90mm / 0.10mm Error 
X Error Average = 0.068
Y Error Average = 0.064
X&Y Error Average = 0.066

Fine Flow Control - score of 5 

Fine Negative Features - score of 5 

Overhangs - score of 4 

Bridging - score of 4

XY resonance - score of 2.5

Z-axis alignment - score of 2.5

Adding up the totals gives a final score of 28 out of 30.

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro 3D Printer: Final verdict

Qidi Tech Q1 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Qidi Tech Q1 Pro is a 3D printer that stands out, especially considering its price. It offers features typically found in higher-end models, such as high-speed printing, precision, and robust features like active chamber heating and dual Z motors, making it a superb choice for small businesses and educational purposes.

While the external casing materials may feel less premium, the printer's overall build quality and functionality are impressive. The print quality is exceptional, with accurate and detailed outputs that are consistently great for small product runs and prototyping. For those seeking a reliable, feature-rich 3D printer without breaking the bank, the Q1 Pro is an excellent choice, effectively balancing performance and value.

Should You Buy the Qidi Tech Q1 Pro?


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Asus ExpertBook BR1204F review
2:23 pm | May 17, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: Intel® Processor N1000, 0.8 GHz (up to 3.4 GHz, 4 cores)
Graphics: Intel® UHD Graphics
RAM: 8GB DDR5 onboard (Max up to 16GB)
Storage: 128GB UFS, expandable via 1x M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0x4 slot
Rear Ports: Not specified
Front Ports: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (supports display/power delivery), 1x USB 2.0 Type-C, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack, 1x RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) Dual band 2*2 + Bluetooth® 5.2 Wireless Card
Audio: Audio by Dirac, built-in speakers, built-in array microphone, Cortana support
Camera: 720p HD camera with privacy shutter, 13.0M world-facing camera
Size: 12.2-inch touchscreen, WUXGA (1920 x 1200) 16:10, glossy display with Corning Gorilla® Glass
OS installed: Windows 11 Pro Education
Accessories: Optional MPP 2.0 garaged stylus

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is a robust and flexible laptop specifically designed for educational facilities. It provides students and teachers with workstations that meet standard academic course criteria while allowing easy upgrades and repairs.

From the ground up, this laptop is crafted with its intended audience in mind, resulting in a functional, if slightly unexciting, design. We've tested out loads of the best student laptops, and unlike many sleek modern devices with high-end CPUs, GPUs, and storage, this Asus model offers a more traditional word processing-focused approach, at least on first look.

The Intel Processor N200 easily handles Windows 11 Pro for Education and standard word processing applications. It even supports applications like Tinkercad without issues, making it one of the best laptops for engineering students and 3D modellers - but only if your needs are pretty simple or you're just starting out. While Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom can run, performance could be enhanced with a slight HD and RAM upgrade from our review unit.

While it looks like a traditional laptop, the BR1204F features a flip-over design that sees the keyboard flip under the screen, transforming the machine into a tablet and very capable creative tool. It features an outstanding touch screen protected by Gorilla Glass, ideal for less delicate students. Apps such as Microsoft's garage project Sketch360 and the native drawing app function smoothly.

Overall, this machine is designed with a focus on education. For educational-based fun and games, it performs well, though it's not intended for video or image editing. However, some graphics and creative applications are feasible with its flip screen design. It's a well-made, and designed educational tool, with straightforward maintenance requiring just a few tools.

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Introduction

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is a laptop specifically designed for education as part of Asus's Education product line. Consequently, many high-end features typically promoted are not the focus here. The Intel N200 CPU and standard Intel graphics are sufficient for office applications and academic study, rather than multimedia playback or overly distracting games.

The machine is tailored to meet classroom demands, equipped with Windows 11 Pro for Education, a stylus, and a flip screen design, enabling students to use it as a screen, tablet, or laptop, offering versatility.

When used with Microsoft Teams, the whiteboard feature is invaluable, allowing students to interact with the class by drawing directly on the board without leaving their seats. Class materials and formative and summative feedback can be easily distributed through the Teams Classroom environment.

Of course, the classroom is just part of what an education laptop needs to address. With decent battery life in use and standby mode, the system has enough power to last through a day's worth of lessons between charges. Charging is quick via a standard USB Type-C connector, and the machine offers a good array of other connection options for connecting devices such Lego Mindstorms, 3D printers, Laser Engravers and networks.

One of the most appealing features for education is the ease of maintenance, with a five-point procedure for maintaining, repairing, and upgrading, making it quick and easy for any IT technician or anyone with basic IT hardware skills.

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is fully geared toward education, and in that environment, the choice of hardware makes complete sense. Outside that world, the limited storage space and processing power might be restrictive.

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Price & availability

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The ExpertBook BR1204F is designed for education and is part of the Asus Education Solution program. For more information on purchasing the machine please visit your local education supplier.

  • Price: 4/5

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Design & build

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The laptop's size is compact, measuring 297mm x 213mm x 22mm and weighing 1.47kg, making it easy to carry or fit into most bags or backpacks. Its relatively flat shape allows easy stacking of several BR1204Fs in a secure cupboard or custom computer stand.

Designed for classroom use by students, the laptop’s overall construction is tough, though not to the standards of a tough book, so it will withstand knocks and far more abuse than most but will not survive submersion in water or drops from significant heights.

The robust construction is evident when picking up the laptop, as it feels more solid than similar general-use laptops. Aside from the stylus integrated into the case design, there are no protective doors or components that can be easily dislodged. Additionally, access to the inner electronics is secured by cross-head screws to prevent young engineers from making hardware alterations in class.

Once the lid is lifted, the robust build is clear, with large, thick monitor hinges designed to be extremely strong. If a student wants to walk around with the laptop open, held by the monitor, it should withstand this handling, although it is obviously not ideal.

The general layout includes a small touchpad, a keyboard, and a 12.2-inch monitor. While the touchpad and keyboard are standard, the monitor stands out as a full touch screen toughened with Gorilla Glass, making it more resilient in a classroom.

The laptop’s left and right sides feature connection ports, including 1x RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4, USB 2.0 Type-C, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, and the stylus on the left, and USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (supporting display/power delivery), USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, and a 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack on the right.

An interesting feature are the two cameras: one above the screen and another above the keyboard. This second world-facing camera can be used with applications like Microsoft Office Lens. When the keyboard is flipped under the screen the now rear-facing camera can scan documents or students' work with the preview appearing on screen, essentially think mobile phone. The captured image can then be cast to a whiteboard or stored for portfolio work.

The flip screen means that the laptop can be used as a touch screen tablet or part open can be used as a stand so the laptop can sit on a desk as a handy screen, enabling class materials to be cast during presentations and the Teams Whiteboard feature to be used by the entire class for interactive sessions.

Using the laptop reveals more to its design compared to standard off-the-shelf machines, with features updated to ensure better functionality within a classroom environment.

The final aspect of the design is crucial for education IT engineers. The BR1204F is modular, meaning it can be purchased as is and expanded as needed for each intended use. Our review unit was suitable for most office applications, but with upgraded RAM and storage, it could edit HD footage and images. More importantly, the modular design simplifies maintenance.

The Panel, I/O ports, Keyboard, Thermal Module, and Battery are all quickly accessible, serviceable, and replaceable. Unlike other laptops, where removing these parts can be time-consuming and delicate, requiring specialist intervention, the modular design of the BR1204F simplifies the process significantly.

  • Design: 5/5

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Features

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The BR1204F is designed from the outset as a durable and versatile laptop, tablet, and screen for educational environments. It may not be the best rugged laptop we've tried, but built for its intended use, it's more durable than most devices of its size and specifications, meeting MIL-STD 810H US military durability standards, with a fingerprint-resistant finish, full rubber bumper, and spill-resistant keyboard.

The display is a 12.2-inch touchscreen, protected by scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass for durability, with a 16:10 aspect ratio and TÜV Rheinland certification for low blue-light emissions.

Standard storage options are relatively small at 128 GB of integrated UFS 2.1 storage, ideal for educational environments where multiple students use the same machine and files are stored in the cloud. For additional storage, there is an expansion slot for up to 1TB. The laptop also features advanced AI-powered noise-cancellation technology to isolate background noise during video calls, enhancing call quality.

Connectivity is well-catered for, with Wi-Fi 6E and 4G LTE ensuring fast connections for online learning, whether in the classroom or remote. An essential feature for tablet use is the inclusion of a garaged stylus, held on the left side of the machine and charged while docked, providing a more accurate tool than a finger for using and drawing on the touchscreen.

Beyond student use, the Asus BR1204F's design is fully serviceable, with a modular design allowing easy access and upgrades to internal components.

  • Features: 4/5

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Performance

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 1709.58MB/s
Crystal Disk Write: 923.20MB/s
GeekBench CPU Single: 2754
GeekBench CPU Multi: 1220
GeekBench Compute: 3891
PC Mark: 2824
CineBench CPU Multi: 2300
CineBench CPU Single: 794
Fire Strike Graphics: 1204
Fire Strike Physics: 379
Fire Strike Combined: 379
Time Spy Overall: 430
Time Spy Graphics: 376
Time Spy CPU: 2444
Wild Life: N/A
Windows Experience: 8.0

Ordinarily, processing power is a primary concern for any computer, but within an educational environment, you just need a machine that works, runs the necessary apps, is durable, and can be fixed when the inevitable happens. With the BR1204F, Asus has provided exactly that, and if more is needed, the RAM and storage can be upgraded.

In use for all Microsoft Office applications, the BR1204F works smoothly, handling word processing and all the features of Teams with ease. Most importantly, the connection to a wireless network is robust, and the ability to link to the wired network as a backup adds resilience compared to some alternatives.

Outside of office apps, the lack of storage at 128GB is somewhat restrictive, allowing only small additional apps to be installed before running low on space. A base of 256GB would have been better, given the size of the Windows installation.

The integration with Teams is the major advantage here, with classroom apps enabling interactive sessions, and the touchscreen allowing all class members to engage with the lesson. The touchscreen also adds flexibility to the laptop’s use, and while drawing apps are not super quick, they are fluid enough to be enjoyable.

The benchmark results for the Asus BR1204F highlight its capabilities in handling educational tasks. The 3DMark Fire Strike graphics score of 1109 and a combined score of 379 suggest it can handle basic graphics and interactive classroom applications smoothly. Time Spy's overall score of 430, with a graphics score of 376 and CPU score of 2444 highlights its ability to run multi-threaded tasks, ideal for applications like Tinkercad and Lego Mindstorms.

Cinebench R23's multi-core score of 2300 and single-core score of 794 indicate moderate performance for multitasking and single-threaded applications like Microsoft Office, so just running one possibly two applications at a time is advisable. GeekBench 5 scores, with 2754 for multi-core and 1220 for single-core, underscore its ability to handle general computing tasks and most educational software well. The CrystalDiskMark read and write speeds of 1709.58 MB/s and 923.20 MB/s respectively ensure quick data access and saving, beneficial for handling large files and applications. 

PCMark 10's score of 2824 and a Windows Experience Index score of 8 reflect the laptop's robust performance for productivity tasks, again highlighting all Office applications, making it well-suited for extensive use with Microsoft Teams and classroom features.

  • Performance: 3/5

Should you buy the Asus ExpertBook BR1204F?

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is a solidly built, education-focused laptop offering a robust and versatile solution for students. Its durable design, coupled with a flexible touchscreen and easy maintenance, makes it ideal for the demands of a classroom environment. While the base model's storage is limited, the device's modular design allows for easy upgrades, enhancing its longevity and utility in education. Overall, it's a superb educational tool that prioritises function and durability over high-end specs, making it a worthwhile investment for schools and educational institutions.

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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