Best of the best

This year’s Windows Middle East Awards were the most hotly contested to date.

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By  Administrator Published  December 31, 2006

Best graphics card

Winner:

XFX GeForce 7950 GX2 570M XXX Edition

Highly Commended:

Connect3D X1900 GT

The component star of our September 2006 issue, this XFX single card graphics solution packs serious high-resolution performance punch. The card essentially comprises two 7900 GPUs working together via a custom-developed PCI Express switch developed by nVidia (different from nVidia’s own Scalable Link Interface (SLI) in that the 7950 will happily function in a single PCI-E x16 slot). This means you don’t need to buy an SLI compatible motherboard, though SLI support is also present if you own one already. Sweet.

Connect3D’s X1900 GT meanwhile is a super-fast single card solution aimed squarely at gamers that is whisper-quiet thanks to its ingenious cooling system.

Best networking device

Winner:

US Robotics MaxG range

Highly Commended:

Linksys Wireless-N range

Networking giant US Robotics has opted not to release ‘Pre-N’ kit, instead preferring to boost the data speeds of ‘G’ standard kit with its MaxG enhancement technology. A true WiFi star.

Best storage product

Winner:

Western Digital Raptor X hard drive

Highly Commended:

SanDisk

Cruzer Titanium flash disk With sharper performance than ever before and a killer new see-through cover option, Western Digital’s internal SATA disk is one deadly creation.

Best PC Accesory

Winner:

Genius Laser Navigator 535 mouse

Highly Commended:

Creative Live Motion webcam

If you frequent LAN parties and want a real competitive edge, this Genius is the mouse to own.

You can change its tracking resolution on the fly and it’s suited for lefties too. Quality through and through.

Best Motherboard

Winner:

Asus M2-Crosshair

Highly Commended:

Foxconn 975X7AA

The board no PC enthusiast should be without.

The M2-Crosshair makes up for its whopping asking price with benchmark-busting performance and a gargantuan feature list.

Best LCD monitor

Winner:

LG Flatron L1717S

Highly Commended:

BenQ FP93GX

It’s no spring chicken but this quality display is still the upgrader’s screen of choice. It offers great viewing quality, an aggressive price tag and a comprehensive three-year warrant; quite an offer.

Best digital camera

Winner:

Casio Exilim EX-Z850

Highly Commended:

Canon Digital Ixus 55

Excellent picture quality, fast-operation and sensible pricing make this snapper a star. No digicam has come near it in our WinLabs tests this year, making it the obvious choice for this coveted prize.

Best consumer PC

Winner:

Sky Electronics Expression Xtreme2 Gaming PC

Highly Commended:

Shuttle SD36G5

With its polished black exterior, Sky’s high-flying eXPression gaming system not only looks like a top class $2000 PC, it also performs like one. Its top-spec component list and tuning options make it a real star.

Best PC game

Winner:

FIFA World Cup 2006

Highly Commended:

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Easily the winner of this reader-voted category, EA Sports’ FIFAWorld Cup 2006 gave players the chance to reverse their home countries’ miserable fortunes in the world’s biggest sporting event.

Best mobile multimedia device

Winner:

Apple iPod Video

Highly Commended:

iPod Nano

The Windows team’s reviewers might not agree, but the mag’s readers have had their say so it seems the mighty iPod still rules the MP3 roost.

Best security software

Winner:

Norton Anti-Virus 2006

Highly Commended:

McAfee Virus Scan 2006

Symantec’s family of Norton products has been a hit with users around the world for years, thanks to these releases’ simple-to-use interfaces and comprehensive protection.

Best consumer notebook

Winner:

Toshiba Qosmio G30

Highly Commended:

Dell XPS M series

Facing the future with style, Toshiba’s Qosmio is HDready and truly one feature-packed beast. As PC replacements for the digital home go, you won’t find a better piece of kit right now than this.

Best photo printer

Winner:

HP Photosmart

Highly Commended:

Canon Pixma

HP’s Photosmart range just keeps truckin’. Offering sky-high print resolutions, memory card slots, quick print speeds and media options a plenty, the firm’s Photosmarts are the buy of choice for digital imaging enthusiasts.

Best consumer multifunction device

Winner:

HP Photosmart

Highly Commended:

Canon Pixma

Multifunction devices - or, as HP calls them, ‘all-in-one’ printers - offer not just print functionality but copying and scanning capabilities too, and these devices have grabbed more and more market share from single-function printers over the last few years. Of these offerings, HP’s feature-packed Photosmart line continues to lead the pack. Great performing, comprehensive and cost-effective releases such as the popular Deskjet F380 and the digitally accomplished Photosmart C5180 have scored a hit with users around the region and look set to continue dominating the consumer sector, sales-wise, for some time to come. Thanks to HP Middle East’s strong Middle East presence, buyers can also be sure of receiving quality ongoing support should any problems arise. Congratulations HP!

Best retail store

Winner:

Carrefour

Highly Commended:

Plug-Ins Electronics

For two years now the Windows Awards have featured a Best Retail Store award and for two years straight French power-retailer Carrefour has stormed the show. With outlets across the Middle East each offering a wide selection of quality IT and consumer electronics kit at bargain-basement prices, this store truly remains the one to beat.

Congratulations must also go to Plug-Ins Electronics for once again running Carrefour a close second. Plug-Ins’ stores might be smaller in size than Carrefour’s massive destinations, but in our investigation earlier this year the Windows team found Plug-Ins staff to be enthusiastic, knowledgeable and very keen to help would-be buyers. Outside of these top two, Saudi-based retailers such as Jarir Bookstore also made a strong showing this year.

Best customer support

Winner:

HP Middle East

Highly Commended:

Dell

Making quality products is one thing and selling them at value-packed prices is another, but if they go awry then considered, helpful support is what the buyer needs. Our readers reckons HP offers that assistance in spades. Congratulations also to Dell for its strong showing in this category.

Best business software

Winner:

MS Office 2007 beta 2

Highly Commended:

Touchmate

Passport & Visa Control 6.1 It hasn’t been fully released yet, but Microsoft’s nextgeneration Office system’s last beta version blew the WinLabs crew’s socks off. Much more than a mere upgrade but still quick and easy to get to grips with, this is one impressive suite.

Best business handheld

Winner:

Samsung i320

Highly Commended:

i-mate JasJam

The svelte and sexy Samsung i320 proves that it is possible to have a quick, slim smartphone with bags of features yet still sell it at a very attractive price point. Based on the Windows Mobile 5 OS, this stable little player will go on and on...

Best digital projector

Winner:

Viewsonic PJ406D

Highly Commended:

BenQ PE7700

When we tested it earlier this year we found Viewsonic’s PJ406D to be a stunning buy. It’s a capable display device yet freakishly small and light, whilst feature-wise its 2000:1 contrast ratio and ANSI lumens rating of 1900 are quite a treat.

Best business workstation

Winner:

HP Compaq 5000 series

Highly Commended:

DTK Cruiser 600

HP’s workstation lines bring to market well-specified, reliable and secure systems at business-friendly value-packed price points. DTK meanwhile has continued to prove that regional system brands aren’t to be trifled with.

Best business MFD

Winner:

Brother MFC-9420CN

Highly Commended:

Epson CX11NF

A great year’s performance by Brother saw it grab -- this hard-fought business all-in-one gong as well as a Highly Commended prize in our next Best Business Printer category. Well thought-out products at reasonable prices; well done Brother.

Best business printer

Winner:

Oki C5900DN

Highly Commended:

Brother HL-2040

Back in June our Windows Printer Guide pitted Oki’s machine against HP’s like-for-like LaserJet offering.

The Oki beat the HP in almost every test we ran and since then we haven’t tested one business printer that’s come close to changing our minds about this winner.

Best small business server

Winner:

Dell PowerEdge 1800

Highly Commended:

Sky Expression VBST

Best Performance winner in our July grouptest this year, Dell’s 1800 is an excellent small business server buy that will crush any performance anxieties you might have in no time. It also boasts excellent scalability should your needs grow over time. Quite a release.

Best business notebook

Winner:

FSC Lifebook P1720

Highly Commended:

Toshiba Tecra A8

Business users need tough laptops that can move them through work tasks with performance to spare and keep on truckin’ for hours on end. To this end, the Lifebook P1720 is the best notebook we’ve tested. With its tiny dimensions, light weight, whizzy performance and huge battery life, it’s the real deal.

IT Businessperson of the year

Winner:

Anil Gandhi, general manager, Personal Systems Group, HP Middle East

Anil has over 25 years of experience in the IT business, including sales, channel management, general management, supply chain operations and various IT functions. During the last seven years, he fulfilled multiple leadership roles at HP Canada, before moving back to the Middle East to resume work with the firm he set-up here.

Editor's choice: Product of the year

Winner:

Intel Core 2 Duo CPU family

The first ever winner of our Product of the Year prize is a dual-core monster that over the next couple of years should take personal computing to a whole new level. AMD, you’ve got some serious catching up to do!

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