MARK'S (NOT SO) DAILY BLOG
Mark_Pilgrim_hot919_aug2017

CONSUMER REVIEW: Logitech Z906 Speakers

I love getting new gadgets to test out. I'm by no means a technical guru, simply a pro-consumer that devours electronic toys!

My latest quest was to find some decent speakers for my home studio. No, I'm not a musician (you definitely don't want to hear me sing), but I am a voice artist and do a lot of recordings at home. I was looking for an affordable speaker option that would still provide the quality and clarity of sound needed when I play back and edit voice tracks in my office.

The usual run-of-the-mill computer speakers, whilst good enough for general use and even gaming, are generally a little under powered for my professional needs, so Logitech dropped off a set of speakers they thought might do the trick: the Z906 5.1 Surround Sound System. Logitech Z906
Just looking at them you can see this system packs a punch. A 1000 watts is a pretty decent number and the styling looks great. It only took a few moments to rig the system up and connect an audio source (a feed from my iPhone) to listen to the quality of sound... and I liked it. So much so, that the speakers didn't even land up in my office, they went straight into the lounge as a home theatre system. You see, this is the versatility of the Z906. Yes, you can use it on your computer (especially if you're big into gaming), but they are also great in the lounge. By the way, I know what you're saying! You would have thought that me, being a DJ, would have sorted out my home theatre sound the moment we moved into our new home a year ago. I guess though, I'm a bit like a chef who doesn't cook at home. The intention was always there, but I just hadn't got around to doing anything about it. That is, until I got my hands on the Z906.

Logitech Z906

Logitech Z906

The Z906 accepts various inputs in the back of the subwoofer (from mini-jack and RCA to digital coaxial and optical). Surprisingly though, no HDMI port.

I connected my 55 inch TV to it via an optical cable, and straight out the box it decoded the correct signal and played it out. Part of the ease is that it has an intelligent controller with a logical user interface to change various speaker configurations.

Logitech Z906
Well done Logitech, the speakers connect using normal speaker wire (unlike some other models in the past that use a proprietary Logitech connector, making it difficult  if you want to extend the cable). The system also comes with an infra-red remote control. I programmed my Apple TV to take control of the system's volume, so I only use the Logitech remote to switch the system on (it automatically powers down after a few hours and you need to manually switch it back on).

At the time of writing this blog, the Z906 was priced at R3699 at Makro, R3999 on BidorBuy,  and R4699 on Takealot. Whilst these prices may fluctuate, the bottom line is, you are getting really good quality digital sound at a very affordable price. The Z906 is well worth the consideration whether you want an immersive gaming experience on your computer, or you want to enhance the sound of the movies your watch on TV.

I'm not sure if Logitech were expecting me to put the Z906 back in the box after a few weeks of testing and return it, but it's in my lounge and not going anywhere! The search for a speaker system for my home studio continues :)





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Should your next printer use cartridges or an Ink Tank?

Let's not kid around, ink cartridges are expensive. In fact, there's always been an inverse relationship between the the price of a printer and the cartridges. The cheaper the printer, the more expensive the cartridges... especially original ones (which the cheap, yet clever printers know to detect if they're not original).

I have a small home office and print out various documents every single day. Nothing excessive, but enough for me to use my printer cartridges sparingly. Most of the time I print using "black and white draft" mode to try and make the black ink last a little longer. I try not use the yellow, cyan or blue at all.

For the last 3 years I've had an HP Officejet 8620 and it's served me relatively well. Some motherboard thingy packed up in it after 2 years, and it was going to cost me almost the same to fix as opposed to buying a new printer, until I realised I had opted for the extended 3 year warranty and got it repaired at no cost.

Being a bit of a gadget lover (I think word gets around), last week Epson offered to drop off their new L6160 Ink Tank printer for me to play around with.  I had the CEO of Incredible Connection Craig Lodge on my radio show a few weeks ago and he was raving about Ink Tank efficiency, so I vaguely knew about it, but had never used one. I was keen to see what the hype was about, so asked Epson to "bring it on over".
 Ink Tank printer

Usually a cartridge printer has a "starter cartridge" that can print a few hundred pages before you have to go running off to the shops and sell a kidney to buy new cartridges. So on the Ink Tank printer box a number stood out for me right off the bat... it can print 14000 pages on the ink that the printer comes with!? Holy crap, that's a lot.

Taking the Epson L6160 out the box I noticed the printer is incredibly light and much more compact than my older HP Officejet 8620. The Ink Tank printer also comes with a few bottles of ink which you literally pour into the printer like you would milk into your morning bowl of cornflakes.

Ink Tank Printer

I was a little concerned it might be messy pouring the ink in. What if I mess it all on the table? So I placed a black refuse bag underneath it, but soon released that Epson were one step ahead of me. There are little notches on the bottle heads that fit only into the correct colour receptacle on the printer, they fit snuggly in place and just glug their into contents into the printer.

Pouring ink into Ink Tank printer

The printer has viewing windows in the front chassis so you can see exactly what your ink levels are. One bottle has exactly the right amount of ink to fill the respective colour reservoir from empty. Once you've filled it up, you switch on the printer and allow it 10 minutes to "charge the ink". I have no idea what this means, but you only do it once when filling the machine up.

Ink Tank charging the ink

And that's it. A few screen prompts later, the Epson L6160 was connected to my home Wi-Fi (and even automatically prompted for a small software update).

I love the fact that the Epson L6160 is much more compact than my older printer and fitted nicely into the shelf space I had. The model above mine (the L6170) has an automatic document feeder on the top, but I really use mine more for printing than multiple-scanning, so was not too phased (but something to think about if you need to feed a lot of documents into the printer for scanning).

Ink Tank

So here's the big question everyone is asking... is ink tank technology much more cost effective than using conventional printer cartridges?

As a test, I did print out a 120-page university document that I needed and the ink levels didn't even budge, but that test isn't really scientific I suppose. The box the Epson came in said it prints 14000 copies with the 2 ink bottles included in the packaging. I don't print enough to get a real sense of usage in just a week or two, so I mentioned the Ink Tank technology on my Twitter feed and got some positive responses from heavier users:

Tweet


Tweet 

Tweet

Being a quantitative market researcher by profession (yep, I was part of another world before becoming a radio deejay) I decided to crunch some numbers.

The premise of my calculation is, since the Epson L6160 prints 14000 black copies straight out the box, how much does it cost to buy and use, compared to my HP Officejet 8620 (to buy and print 14000 copies as well)?

The HP Officejet starter cartridge (that comes in the box) prints about 1000 pages, so I simply added the cost of printing another 13000 pages using extra cartridges (each HP Officejet 950 XL cartridge prints about 2500 pages so I did the calculations below).

I must mention, to make it as practical as possible (in case you want to pop off to the shops and buy a printer after this), I went onto Incredible Connection's online site and chose models they listed that are as close to my 3 year old HP Officejet 8620 and the Epson L6160 that I could find. I found the HP Officejet 8610 and the Epson L4160. If you want to compare different models, just change the purchase price in the calculation below.


Hp Officejet 8610



Epson 4160


Here are my numbers:
Ink Tank vs cartridge printer comparison

So, there is a R2330 saving by printing 14000 black and white pages using the Ink tank vs cartridge printer. Put another way, printing the same pages on the cartridge printer will cost you about 50% more than if you use the Ink tank technology.

It would appear that whilst an ink tank printer may cost you more than a cartridge printer at the initial purchase stage, in the long run, if you're a small business using your printer all the time time, ink tank technology is the winner.
 
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What's that cooking on your Weber?

I know that I'll be frowned upon by certain purists. That's because no matter how much people love a real fire, I'm a gas guy. And that's okay. I simply don't have the patience to work with coal. I want to flick a switch and know my fire is instantly raging.

That's why, when it came to deciding on a BBQ for my new home,  I went with the Weber e320 Spirit 3-burner gas grill.

Weber rotisserie

First of all, you get what you pay for. There are definitely cheaper 3-burner gas grills out there, but Weber is the Rolls Royce of the brands. Having just bought a new home I wanted to get the right BBQ that will last me for years. As the unit will be sitting on an exposed patio, I also opted for Weber because I know that it won't rust after the first year. Even with a cover, the legs/wheels always land up being a little exposed and my previous braai (South African word for BBQ) landed up looking a little shoddy with the rust marks.

So with all the models to choose from, which one is for you?

I opted specifically for the e320 because 3 burners is an ample grate size and it also has a convection cooking lid. Believe me, you simply have to do a rotisserie chicken! (Tip: I let it rotate for 2 hours at about 190C using the indirect cooking method of keeping the burner underneath the bird off so it doesn't burn. Also, use a drip tray so that the fat/oil falls into the tray and not on a burner which would cause flare-ups).



In fact, I probably use the rotisserie more than I use the open-style grilling. My wife is Greek and we even did Souvla chicken on it:

Weber rotisserie souvla

After using the braai for a few days, I got adventurous and bought the pizza stone accessory. You'll notice in first picture of the e320 (above) there is a circular cut-out on the grilling plates. This is to be able to slot the pizza stone onto the grates. It's a ceramic plate that you heat up to about 450C. It distributes the heat evenly on the pizza base and also absorbs the moisture of the base, giving you a superbly crispy pizza bottom.

Weber pizza stone

The trick with the pizza stone is to let it heat up with your burners otherwise it can crack from an extreme temperature change. I let it sit there (with the lid closed) for about 30 minutes with the burners on high. The temperature should go to somewhere between 450C and 500C.

While that's heating up, prepare your pizza (Tip: Get the raw pizza bases from your local pizzeria!). Each pizza takes about 8-9 minutes depending on how crispy you like your base. My first one cooked for about 11 minutes, but the base was a little overdone. Cutting the time down to 8 minutes 30 seconds worked for me (I'm a radio guy, so every second counts!). What comes off the Weber is mouth wateringly delicious...
Weber pizza stone

The Weber brand is great because they have so many add-ons which are readily available at most stockists. I would definitely recommend getting the rotisserie and pizza stone.

I initially thought the gas bottle was stored inside the chassis, but it's actually strapped to the side of the braai. Not sure why, but at least you can still wheel the braai around without needing extra hands to hold the gas bottle as you move.

What I almost forgot to mention is that the big difference between the e320 and the older e310 is that the newer model also comes with a stove plate on the left hand side of the convection lid. This is not something I'd use on a regular basis, but it will definitely come in handy if I need to cook something in a pot when the power goes off.

Weber e320


So, should you spend a little more and get a Weber? In my mind, it's well worth the investment.


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