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High Tech Office: Alan Zisman

•Blu-Ray on the desktop. A year ago, Blu-Ray won the battle for next-generation high- capacity, high-definition video storage device, beating out the competing HD DVD format.

•Blu-Ray on the desktop. A year ago, Blu-Ray won the battle for next-generation high- capacity, high-definition video storage device, beating out the competing HD DVD format. The result: increased home sales of standalone Blu-Ray players for connection to the increasingly popular hi-def TV systems. Sony’s popular PlayStation 3 also includes a Blu-Ray player.

They’re rare in computers, however, even though many of today’s desktop and notebook systems have more than enough resolution for high- definition video content, and even though some computer software is now shipping on multiple DVD discs to hold related media content.

Samsung’s SH-B083 ($130) is a bare optical drive – no case. That means it can be plugged into many desktop computers either as an addition or a replacement to the current DVD burner, using now-standard S-ATA connectors.

Alternatively, it can be plugged into an external case for connection to most laptops.

It isn’t a Blu-Ray burner. You can’t use it to burn 25 gigabytes onto blank Blu-Ray discs, assuming you could find some to buy. A combo drive, it reads Blu-Ray discs just fine and reads and write the various types of CD and DVD discs. It uses separate lenses for Blu-Ray and CD/DVD, which Samsung says offers greater reliability. Bundled Cyberlink Power producer software (Windows-only) can be used to burn high-definition video content to DVD.

We’ll see if something like these will become commonplace, allowing content providers to ship a single disc holding 25 gigabytes or even 50 gigabytes (double-sided). Or maybe not. Apple, apparently, is betting against Blu-Ray, believing that users will, instead, be getting large quantities of content online rather than on shiny plastic discs, preferably from Apple’s online stores.

Despite that, Samsung’s drive worked just fine connected to my Mac.

•Ultra-portable projectors. Digital projectors have become commonplace, but most are a bit of a chore if you have to tote them around. Also from Samsung, the $800 P400 offers some big-projector capabilities in a compact package that’s a mere 15 centimetres (5.8 inches) wide and weighs under a kilo. Some small projectors put out a relatively small, dim image, which is OK for making a sales pitch in a small office to one or two customers. The P400’s 150-lumen brightness is clearly visible even with room lights on, giving a reasonably bright, high-contrast, two-metre-wide image, projecting to a screen or wall anywhere between half a metre to three metres away.

SVGA and RCA composite and audio inputs let you connect a laptop, DVD player, digital camera and more, while the use of an LED light source means no worry about broken (and expensive) bulbs. (The lamp is rated at 30,000 hours of use, which equates to two hours of presentation five days a week for 38 years.) Samsung’s claim: one lamp, one life. (Note: there’s also an $830 P410 model that adds a USB port, which allows you to leave your laptop at home.)

It doesn’t do everything its big siblings do, however. Don’t expect to use it to project hi-def video with its 800x600 resolution. It’s not a home theatre replacement. The built-in audio is fairly puny. It’s barely loud enough to be heard above the noise when the cooling fan ramps up. And there’s no zoom.

Finally, the P400 itself is small and light, but Samsung calling it a “pocket imager” is a bit of a stretch. The external power supply, moreover, is nearly the same size.

That makes it somewhat less easily totable than it might seem at first glance, though the whole thing will fit into a typical briefcase with room to spare. Recommended for road warriors. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator and computer specialist. He can be reached at His column appears weekly.

This article from Business in Vancouver February 23-March 1, 2010; issue 1061

Business in Vancouver ( has been publishing in-depth local business news, analysis and commentary since 1989. The newspaper also produces a weekly ranked list of the biggest companies and players in a wide range of B.C. industries and commercial sectors, monthly features and industry-focused sections that arm its subscribers with a complete package of local business intelligence each week.