2013 Products Of The Year

A Great Year For Products

The high-tech industry continues to amaze us with the pace of innovation and change. Intel built on its ground-breaking Tri-gate transistor by significantly advancing its power efficiency. Dell and Hewlett-Packard doubled down on the respective progress of their server and workstation products. Ultrabooks became more convertible, security got more secure and disaster recovery became more routine. Tablets are tougher, smartphones are smarter and displays show more than ever before. Here's a synopsis of CRN Test Center reviews of the 2013 Products of the Year.


Covertix SmartCipher 3.0

Israeli-based Covertix, which landed on CRN's list of 2012 Emerging Vendors, gets a nod for this year's security Product the Year award for SmartCipher 3.0, its agentless solution that monitors files as they move in and out of an enterprise network and prevents unauthorized access to the data contained within. A major update this year added support for Microsoft SharePoint and smartphones and grants end users the ability to assign security policies from their own desktop. SmartCipher focuses on file contents, working with individual files or groups of documents -- either of which can be selected based on ordinary criteria -- and monitoring movement of files by employees, visitors, contractors or other temporary workers. A browser-based administration console assigns file security levels according to extension, file size or property, location, specific content, people, groups, domain and other attributes, times or conditions. SmartCipher requires Windows Server with Microsoft SQL Server and can run virtually. Price is per user, per month and varies by configuration.

File Server

Dell PowerEdge VRTX

In 2011, Dell's PowerEdge C6145 caught our eye with its 96 Opteron cores in a 2U, two-node design. In 2013, Dell doubles the fun with the PowerEdge VRTX, a desktop data center capable of housing up to four server nodes, 48 TB of storage and enterprise-grade network switching in a single cabinet or 5U rack enclosure. Designed specifically for a small office, enterprise branch office or campus department, the PowerEdge VRTX starts with two M620 or M520 Intel-based blade server nodes, which top out at 12 Xeon E5 cores and as much as 768 GB of DDR3 memory. It can accept a third and fourth blade in any combination depending on budget, computing requirements or intended applications. VRTX includes an eight-port Gigabit Ethernet switch and redundant power supplies, and uses many of the same hot-swap components as other Dell systems. Designed for remote, headless operation and management, a color LCD panel displays system status and most vital configuration settings. Pricing starts at $2,015.


Hewlett-Packard Z620 Workstation

HP enjoys recognition for a second year in a row for its Z620 Workstation. This completely redesigned system incorporates an all-new two-socket motherboard within a rackable minitower with a maximum of 24 cores across two Xeon E5-2697v2 CPUs. Its 12 DIMM slots can handle up to 192 GB of 1,866MHz eight-channel ECC DDR3 memory across four memory channels per CPU. A six-channel SATA controller can address up to 12 TB of internal storage and manage RAID 0, 1, 5 or 10 arrays. HP also offers optional LSI 9212-4i (four-port SAS) or 9717-4i4e (eight-port SAS) controllers. Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, four USB 3.0 ports (two front, two rear), and a FireWire port come standard. A pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports is offered on an optional PCIe card. Graphics options include Nvidia Quadro K4000, K5000, 6000, Tesla C2075 and K20c, or the AMD FirePro W7000. The Z620 Workstation is well suited for video production, computer-aided design and any application that demands ultra-high performance from a small-footprint PC. Pricing starts at about $1,689.


Lenovo ThinkPad Helix

Lenovo's ThinkPad Helix offers far more than most and is the most versatile laptop we've seen this year. Helix has up to five operational modes due to a reversible docking system. Covered entirely in a rubberized coating, the tablet alone weighs 1.8 pounds. In clamshell mode (with the keyboard/dock) it's weighs 3.8 pounds, but the extra battery and ports balance that out. Helix offers quick access to the frequently used functions, and its wide, five-button touchpad supports touch gestures that mimic the action of the touch screen. It offers the usual ports, and all but the Dual Mode DisplayPort are full size. There's also a SIM slot, security hasp, two USB 3.0 ports (on the dock) and support for 4K and 3-D video. Its battery life is rated at nine hours, though our tests got about 6.25 hours (with some power-saving features disabled). It sports an 11.6-inch, 1,920-x-1,080 IPS panel and 400 NIT LED back light. The Intel Core i5-based unit we tested finished in eighth place on the CRN Test Center's all-time laptop performance list. Pricing starts at about $1,400.

Retail Appliance

Motorola Smart Badge SB1

In 2012, Motorola earned Product of the Year for its ET1 Enterprise Tablet, a rugged, manageable Android-based appliance with free development tools for health care, hospitality and other verticals. This year, Motorola went a step further with the SB1 Smart Badge, a chest-worn device that's part ID badge, part communicator and part phaser. This high-end nametag employs a 3-inch monochromatic LCD that, with a tap of its front button, displays a menu of apps. Clerks can scan bar codes, check back-room inventory or get real-time sales or technical assistance from co-workers with a push-to-talk function with broadcast capability. It connects via Wi-Fi for communications and downloading and tracking tasks. The SB1 accesses HTML5 data stored on a centralized server, simplifying device management and permitting employees to pick up and log into any device, where their name, title, likeness, tasks and messages will be displayed. A touch-sensitive screen works with bare or gloved hands and requires no stylus. Pricing starts at $490 before volume discounts.


Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1

For field deployment, it's often cheaper to spend more on a machine built to last than replace it every year or two. Starting at $2,899, the Toughpad FZ-G1 from Panasonic is squarely in the former category. This high-power tablet for Windows is built for construction sites, hospitals, military deployment and anywhere that machines take a pounding. Performance-wise, it's seventh on CRN's all-time list.

Toughpad adheres to MIL-STD-810G and IP65, a rigorous set of tests that demonstrate a device's ability to repel dust, dirt, moisture and debris and survive drops and dings. While it likely wouldn't survive complete liquid immersion, it's designed to endure spills, 70- mph driving rain on any surface and 26 drops from a height of up to 5 feet. An option slot can add a nine-pin serial port, USB 2.0 port, microSD card reader and/or a Gigabit Ethernet port. The microSD slot would support as much as 64 GB of memory, adding to standard 128- or 256-GB SSD configurations. List price is $2,899.


Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung's Galaxy S4 is a remarkable device. Its 5-inch display puts out 1,920-x-1,080 pixels; its 441 dots per inch leave Apple's Retina display in the dust. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC has four 1.9GHz ARMv7 cores and an Adreno 320 GPU that's optimized for HTML5 and 3-D software. Galaxy S4 has 2 GB of DDR3 memory. The 13MP rear camera has a 4X digital zoom, and both cameras capture 1,080p video at 30 frames-per-second and can record video or take pictures at the same time. The unit is secured by Knox, a kernel-level BYOD solution. Samsung also sets Galaxy apart with two-app multitasking, ad-hoc networking, collaboration for as many as eight devices, and improvements to its AppShare Cast wireless screen sharing. There are also major improvements to Android 4.2's device function toggling, a beefier battery with full-day power management, and an easy-to-use interface for setting up as many as five lock-screen widgets. Pricing starts around $200 with a two-year contract.


Sharp PN-K321 Ultra HD Monitor

The next big thing in digital displays will be Ultra HD -- four times the resolution of today's 1080p. Among the first out of the gate was Sharp and its PN-K321 Ultra HD monitor, a 3,840-x-2,160 panel that's ideal for medical imaging, CAD/CAM, video production and other applications that rely on crisp resolutions and accurate colors. It employs a technology Sharp developed called indium gallium zinc oxide, or IGZO. It's faster, thinner and more translucent than today's active layer technology -- amorphous silicon -- and can, therefore, allow more light to pass through more densely packed pixels. The result is greater resolution displays with faster refresh rates that use less energy to run and require less cabinet space to keep cool. Interestingly, Sharp's new technology also has persistence characteristics that enable it to maintain unchanged portions of the display without the aid of the graphics processor, a capability that's expected to be of great benefit to mobile devices. Apple is reportedly evaluating IGZO for a future version of the iPhone. Pricing starts around $4,000.


Symantec Backup Exec 3600

Data center backup is a turnkey operation with Symantec's Backup Exec 3600, a fully licensed Windows Server with Backup Exec 2012 preinstalled that can back up physical and virtual images within minutes of plugging it in. A browser-based UI monitors storage, RAID levels, system health and appliance alerts and manages its embedded software. A trip to the server console or a remote session makes it easy to create, run or debug backups and view logs. Backup Exec 3600 offers a powerful point-and-click environment for automated off-premise backup and recovery of physical and virtual systems running Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. Recovery options include creation of bootable ISOs for bare-metal recovery from CD, DVD or USB. Image formats include Microsoft's .VHD, VMware's .VMDK and Symantec's .BKF, any of which can be located on a local volume, network share or tape/disk devices managed by Backup Exec. The tool also can convert .VHD and .VMDK files from virtual to physical and vice versa. Pricing starts around $15,000 depending on configuration.

Office Machine

Xerox Work Centre 6605 MFP

The Xerox Work Centre 6605 Color Multifunction Printer is a sturdy all-purpose workgroup laser with PCL and Adobe PostScript 3 designed for small to midsize companies and departments. It delivers dazzling color images and is easy to set up, use and maintain. The 6605 is rated to deliver 36-ppm for black or color output with a rated workload of 80,000 pages per month. In tests, the 6605 turned in an impressive time-to-first-page between 9 and 11 seconds and was true to its rated 36-ppm print speed, both for color and black only. A large 4.3-inch color touch-screen control panel presents an intuitive UI for the unit's main at-machine functions of copying, emailing, faxing and scanning, plus dedicated buttons to invoke settings for copying ID cards and for printing from specific devices. Jobs can be saved to a network folder or local USB drive, or sent to an email address (with LDAP support). Automatic adjustments handle page fit, exposure, color balance and saturation. Starting list price is $999.

Editors' Choice

Intel Haswell Processors

Intel's fourth-generation Core series processors heralded a new era of high-performance, power-efficient application and graphics processors. With superior GPUs and three new low-power modes, Haswell offers a bit more processing power than Ivy Bridge but with 50 percent more battery life. The Iris graphics processor increases resolutions and doubles the 3-D performance delivered by prior Intel HD Graphics editions. When compared with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor with Iris technology is rated to deliver a 17 times improvement in video conversion rate and 25 times faster graphics performance for PC gaming. Intended for digital designers, artists and advanced video and photo editors, Iris Pro supports the 4K Ultra HD 4,096-x-2,160 display spec with high-frame rates adequate for gaming without the need for a discrete graphics card. Haswell processors were initially available in four models starting at 15 watts. Prices range from around $197 for the low-end Core i5 4430 to a high of $368 for the Core i7 4470.