Rich Warren: Some simple answers to some technical questions

Sometimes your questions beg obvious answers rather than complex replies. I devoted a column to readers unable to clearly hear the dialog of British television shows. I suggested a modest home theater system.

But one of you emailed a solution to me that costs nothing and requires nary a single wire. All TVs and nearly all programming include closed captioning. This displays the dialog visually along the bottom of the screen. It's accessed from the setup menu on most TVs, or sometimes a dedicated remote control key.

All TVs and some programs also include a secondary language, also accessible from the setup menu. In most cases, the secondary language is Spanish or in a few instances French.

Another reader wonders "if it's too good to be true, can it be true?" is valid for tablet computers. She wrote: "Are Uniden and Polaroid tablets any good? They are so much cheaper, can you get on the Internet with them?"

You get what you pay for. Uniden and Polaroid are names that don't design or manufacture what they sell. There are several cheap off-brand tablets on the market and the reviews of them are largely unfavorable.

Don't expect good performance or much versatility from tablets costing less than $200. Reputable brands include Apple (which popularized this market with the iPad), Asus, Lenovo, Microsoft, Nexus, Amazon Kindle, and a few other brands running Windows 8 RT and the latest version of Google's Android operating system.

Beyond performance, a tablet's usefulness depends upon the applications it can run. The largest universe of apps comes from Apple, followed by Android, and more recently Microsoft has entered the galaxy. While only Apple products run Apple apps, any brand can license Android, but not all brands implement it alike. Thus, Kindle tablets may not be able to access or run all of the Android apps.

Returning to the reader's question, the Uniden and Polaroid can access the Internet, most likely in a slow and limited fashion.

If you're willing to accept a smaller screen, the iPod Touch, which costs less than $200, provides most of the same features as the iPad and iPhone 5, sans the cellphone.

Tablets once were either biblical or medical. Now they reign as the hottest holiday electronic gift. Most electronic products cycle new models on a yearly basis, but lately tablets halved that time. The newest full-size iPad, which arrived six months after the previous upgrade, upped the ante from a company known for rarely updating more than once a year.

One last reader question about "old" technology:

"I've owned two pairs of (Bose 901 speakers) since 1977. Series III and VI. I replaced the IIIs with the VIs after 10 years. I had to part with the last pair three years ago after moving and not having the room for them. One of the hardest things I've ever had to do, by the way!

"My question is what integrated amp would you recommend to go with a new pair of 901s? I am moving into a larger house next spring and am going to get an amp, CD player and speakers. I had a Rotel 40-watt amp and a Denon CD player with my last pair and was pretty happy with the sound but have read a lot of good reviews about the NAD-C-356BEE, along with the newer Rotel."

Both NAD and Rotel make very good amplifiers; I prefer Rotel. You also might consider Arcam, Denon and Marantz.

My main suggestion is to choose a more powerful amplifier. I recommend at least 60 to 100 watts per channel for the best performance with the Bose 901s.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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Lostinspace wrote on December 06, 2012 at 8:12 am

Query: does the iPad work outside the US?

rsp wrote on December 06, 2012 at 12:12 pm

If you're willing to accept a smaller screen, the iPod Touch, which costs less than $200, provides most of the same features as the iPad and iPhone 5, sans the cellphone.

There are apps for the iPad and there are apps for the iPod Touch and the IPhone. Some will work with all of the devices and some won't. They just aren't practical. 

The iPad will work outside of the US, wifi anywhere, wireless depends on the service. China has it's own model.

Lostinspace wrote on December 06, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Thanks.