Kevin's Favorite Hardware Products for 2005

by Kevin Slimp, January 2005

Kevin's Favorite Hardware Products for 2005
Itís hard to imagine a year has gone by since my last ďfavoritesĒ column. As I travel throughout the U.S. and Canada, Iím always amazed at the number of people who stop to tell me they keep this particular column taped to the wall in front of their desks. Thereís no magic in this list. These are simply the products Iíve found most valuable as I work each day with newspapers of all sizes. This yearís list is so long that Iíve had to divide it into two columns. This month, Iíll cover hardware. Next month, Iíll fill you in on my software favorites. If you disagree with something included in this list, feel free to send me an email to let me know. A lot of folks do.

So here it comes. My list of favorite hardware products for newspaper designers in 2005:

Desktop Computers

The Power Mac G5 is the perfect computer for the serious newspaper designer. Offering options from single processor models to a dual processor 2.5 GHz model, the Power Mac G5 packs a serious punch. Recent tests indicate the slowest model, a 1.8 GHz G5, completes a 450 function test in Adobe Photoshop CS 15 percent faster than a similarly equipped Dell Dimension 3.4 GHz Pentium 4. The Dual 2.5 GHz G5 completes the same test 98 percent faster. Models start at $1499 (US, for the 1.8 GHz single processor).

I was tempted to select the iMac G5 as my desktop computer of choice, but the Power Mac G5 is still the best option for pagination. However, the iMac is too good to ignore. The design is futuristic with the entire computer, optical drive, hard disk, speakers, and power supply housed within the flat panel display. Starting at $1299 (US), this system fits in with many of the tasks necessary at a modern newspaper.

Although Macs make up the majority of design workstations at most newspapers, there are plenty of folks laying out pages on Windows-based systems. When Iím making a recommendation concerning PC purchases, I usually recommend a Dell workstation. The product numbers constantly change, but the Dell Precision 670 - starting at $1,589 (US) - is a solid option today. Users will appreciate the speed (up to 3.4 GHz processor available), the storage capabilities and more. The Precision 670 also comes loaded with Windows Professional.

Server

Several months ago I had the opportunity to assist in the installation of a 64-bit Xserve G5 at a newspaper in Crossville, Tennessee. After waiting more than two months for the server to arrive - this was one of the first Xserve G5s shipped - we went to work installing the server. Since that time Iíve visited numerous newspapers and universities who rely on the Xserve. Designed to deliver UNIX-based strengths and cutting-edge capabilities of Mac OS X Server, this rack-optimized server offers phenomenal processing power, massive storage capacity - up to 1.2 TB - and remote management tools that make it a snap to maintain. At just 1.75 inches thick, the Xserve behaves well with both Macs and Windows-based workstations.

Cameras

Newspapers use digital cameras for a variety of purposes, from simple shots of houses for real estate ads to the runner sliding into home at an evening baseball game. The quality of the camera has a lot to do with the results. Two cameras arrived on the scene over the past few months and began changing the way a lot of papers take photos. My favorite high-end camera is the new Canon EOS 20D. With 8.2 megapixels, the 20D is faster than similarly priced digital SLRs. At $1,599 (US, without lens), weíre sure to see a lot of these at newspapers in the coming months.

Another camera that became a staple at many papers in late 2004 is the Nikon D70. An incredible camera for the price, around $950 (US, without lens), the D70 replaced the Canon Rebel as the hot camera in the industry.

Desktop Scanners

Epson and Canon continue to make the best desktop scanners for newspaper purposes. Ranging in price from $99, both vendors offer several models which work nicely at an 85 or 100 line screen. My current favorite is the Epson Perfection 4180. Listing at $199 (US), this scanner offers true 4800 x 9600 resolution, with excellent clarity and color. The Epson Perfection 2480 is another excellent scanner. Offering 2400 x 4800 resolution, the 2480 lists at $99 (US). For more information, visit www.epson.com.

File Storage

LaCie continues to offer the best options for file storage. Behaving well with both Macs and Windows-based PCs, LaCie d2 hard drives continue to be my favorites in 2005. For testing purposes, I selected the LaCie d2 Hard Drive Extreme with Triple Interface 250 GB drive, listing at $269 (US). Connecting via FireWire 800, FireWire 400, iLink, USB 1.1 and USB 2.0, this drive works smoothly in just about any configuration.

Video professionals love this drive for its speed. Newspaper designers will learn to love it for the same reason. Itís almost like working on an internal hard drive. Similar drives are available from LaCie in 160 GB and 200 GB models. For more information, visit www.lacie.com.

Network disks began to make their way into newspapers in late 2004. As I mentioned in a previous column, Ximeta released the NetDisk in the fall as the first external hard drive that could be connected to either a LAN (local area network) or directly to a Mac or PC via USB 2.0. It sounded too good to be true. I took the NetDisk for a test drive by connecting it directly to the network switch at my office. I was very impressed with its speed and ease of use. At less than $250 (US) for the 160 GB model, the Ximeta NetDisk is quite the file server, without the server. For more information, visit www.ximeta.com.

In 2004, LaCie released the Ethernet Disk, an easy to use online storage disk ranging in sizes up to 800 GB. Featuring advanced file-sharing technology, the LaCie Ethernet Disk frees servers by providing independent, stand-alone storage accessible to anyone in the network. The Ethernet Disk backs up and shares files among as many as 25 users at a time. I installed the 500 GB version, which lists at $899 (US). Designed for Mac, Windows, Linux and UNIX operating systems.

DVD Drives

CDs are quickly being replaced by DVDs, due to the massive amount of storage space available. Standard DVDs hold up to 4.7 GB of information, nearly seven times the amount held on a CD. Newer, double layer, DVDs hold up to 8.5 GB. Thatís more than 10 times the information that can be stored on a CD. In my opinion, LaCie makes the best DVD writers. The LaCie d2 DVD+RW drive writes single and double layer DVDs, as well as CDs. Listing at $179 (US), It connects via FireWire and USB 2.0 and works well with both Macs and Windows-based PCs. For more information, visit www.lacie.com.

Mac Keyboard

Think keyboards donít make a difference? Think again. The Tactile Pro keyboard takes Mac users back to the days of old, when keyboards provided a tactile feel, with a clicking noise to boot. I started using a Tactile Pro several months ago and thereís no turning back. For more information, visit http://matias.ca/tactilepro.

There you have it. My list of hardware favorites for 2005. Next month, weíll debate the merits of Quark 6.5, InDesign CS, Creator 7 and more.