Posts bySharon Stephens

MacBook Pro 15″ or Surface Book 2 15″ – Which one should you choose?

The Microsoft Surface Book 2 is now available in 15″ and it costs the same to lease as the MacBook Pro 15″ – but which one is best?

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Surface Book 2 15″

With the Surface Book 2 Microsoft are clearly setting their sights on creative professionals who would usually go for the MacBook Pro. The Surface Book has the high-res display, long battery life and high-end graphics performance that designers, animators, and video editors long for. You can detach the touchscreen and draw on it using the Surface Pen and Dial, and Microsoft has packed in some higher-end components, including 8th Gen Core processors and Nvidia GTX 1050 or 1060 graphics. read more


Gift of iPads to Charity – Stand by Me

We were recently able to donate a large number of iPads to the charity Stand by Me, based in Hornchurch Essex, who help to support children around the world who are trapped in poverty and give them the chance to receive a great education, rise above their circumstances and reach their full potential.

Today we received these photos of the children with the iPads. Look at those smiles!

It’s great to see the children enjoying the iPads and also to know that they will help the teachers at the school to diversify their lesson plans and be more creative and interactive in their teaching methods. read more


Free Training offer with Apple Mac’s

Have some free training on us! Need to get into the nitty-gritty of software such as Cinema 4D, Revit or Adobe CS? 

If you’re a creative or developer, you’ll know that there are several software packages that you need have under your belt in order to stay ahead of the game. With this in mind HardSoft have teamed up with Academy Class training in order to help you out with free training on certain** new top-end Apple Mac computers.

Apple iMac Pro

Free training with Apple Macs in February!

Academy Class is a training provider for creatives and developers in the UK who are offering HardSoft customers free training on a range of 17 of their online courses, covering 9 software packages – all you have to do is log in using a rebate code and you have £238.00 worth of online training available at your fingertips. read more


Mac Users – It Might be Time to Add a Windows Server

If you have Macs your current network solution is likely to include a Mac mini, or even an XServe, configured with additional Server Apps from the App Store to enable functions such as file sharing and permissions etc.

Mac Windows Server Network Options

You may have Macs but your next server needs to be Windows 2016 Server

The big issue with this is that since the old OSX server upgrade to the new version of MacOS High Sierra came into effect and server functionality has been severely reduced as Apple pull back support for Servers and push towards Cloud only Servers.

Apple have also removed FTP and iOS File sharing from the Server App, which means that it is no longer a network manager, and has become more like the office junior/filing assistant. When you combine this with the fact that the Mac Mini tech is now getting fairly old, with it not having been updated since late 2014, plus that it’s missing important items such as Thunderbolt 3, and it becomes clear that the functionality has reduced to the point of being almost useless. Which, let’s face it, is not a great deal of use to most businesses! read more


Top 5 best apps for Primary schools

As soon as they can find their way around a keyboard children are ready to use apps, so why not make them educational? If they love using a tablet then make their screen time productive by getting them learning whilst they play. Primary schools are now realising that this is a wonderful way to keep children occupied whilst making use of easy-to-use apps.

Apps for Schools

But with so many on the market, how do you decide which the best apps are for Primary Schools? Well we have done some of the research for you so take a look at our guide below and get those children apping and tapping! read more


Come and meet us at BVE 2018

We’ll be exhibiting at the Broadcast Video Exhibition, aka BVE, again this year, making it our 7th visit. This year the show runs from the 27th of February to 1st March at Excel London and we’ll be there demonstrating how our flexible leases can benefit the broadcast business.

BVE 2018

Visit our stand – R29

We look forward to BVE each year because we get to experience the latest technology hands on, as well as meeting our existing and potential new clients. With around 300 companies attending there will be lots to see with businesses showcasing their products whilst an extensive program of free seminars featuring more than 200 speakers and over 100 sessions across the 3 days. We’ll be on the same stand as last year – R29 – so come along and meet some of the HardSoft team who will be there explaining how our leasing can benefit those in fast-moving tech heavy industry. You’ll find that leasing turns the un-affordable into something very affordable indeed. read more


Unlocking Strongbox: VR & the World’s Fastest Workstation

Asus’s partnership with High Performance Computer manufacturer Strongbox has resulted in the creation of the world’s fastest PC workstation.  With outstanding graphics rendering, this makes it perfect for VR development use.  As they are keen to point out, their system has so far broken all records, taking over the OctaneBench top position with the highest score of 1620.82, all powered by less than eight ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 Tis in an eight-way SLI configuration.

Strongbox Storage

Strongbox’s graphic rendering power – perfect for VR development

As Strongboxes technical director, Brian Gannon, points out “Our computers are demonstrably faster than our competitors like HP. I would say Dell are now pretty much out of the running. HP are still making excellent systems and are very well built but the fact is they are going down the XEON route because that’s what the industry recommends, which isn’t necessarily correct. Because they are going down the XEON route and they are clocked so much lower it means that our machines especially our i7X machine absolutely pummels it in to the ground. Especially with video editing, VFX and grading.” read more


Should we use iPads in Schools?

The debate rages on and the same question is asked: “Should we use iPads in Schools?” With so many varying opinions, we take a look at the issue in detail, asking are they just a passing craze or can they really help children to learn in a new and exciting way?

iPads in Schools

Using iPads is Second Nature to School Children Today

Check out the advantages

Whether you are a parent or a teacher, you need to at least consider the question as not doing so could mean that your children are failing to benefit in ways that they should. Many teachers that already use iPads take the view that they are a great asset to the classroom, enabling them to support and add to lessons rather than detract. Let’s look at some of the reasons why many rate them so highly: read more


iMac Pro – What Else Can You Get for your Money?

Apart from a small car or a dream holiday… The iMac Pro is here with a starting price of £4899 configurable into the £13000 mark… apart from a small car or a great holiday could there be computing alternatives.So what alternatives are there to the iMac Pro, and does it represent good value.

Luxury Holiday or iMac Pro?

iMac Pro or Luxury Holiday?

The first issue you will have to face is that you will need to jump ship from Apple and into a PC and Windows 10 operating system. If you’ve spent your entire life using Apple’s iOS, this is probably the thing that scares you most about making the move to Windows. But what’s it actually like using Windows? Current PCs aren’t what they were, in fact Microsoft hasn’t just caught up with Apple, in many ways they’re leading the pack. read more


GDPR – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It!

Hold onto your hats, the world is coming to an end!

On May 25th 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will take effect, and the world as we know it will end!

The implementation of the GDPR is going to have effects in every corner of the digital world. There will be marketing teams around the world with a mountain of consumer data that has been gathered in all sorts of ways and they will be being held to account for any dodgy practices they have used in the past

There’s a data revolution coming and it’s here to put a stop to all those spam emails and super annoying social media ad campaigns that besiege us every day at the behest of the army of digital marketers across the globe. read more


Microsoft Surface for Education

When it comes to the education sector, most schools have been using Apple’s Macbooks and iPads which work really well for them. However, the release of Microsoft’s Surface range means that there is now a great alternative to those iPads and Macbooks.

A study conducted by FutureSource found that Apple iOS and MacOS devices are in decline, particularly in the USA, and are not necessarily the primary tools of those in the education system. They found that outside of the US, Microsoft is still a leader in the market read more


Are Apple getting serious about VR game development?

There have been issues with some older Apple computers not supporting VR game development and users finding it difficult to work out which are compatible and which are not.  But that will not be the case for much longer as things are changing for the good with the introduction of Apple’s new High Sierra OS.

Addition of metal 2 API + eGPU

As we already know, within the High Sierra update there is already an improved version of Apple’s Metal graphics API and this, together with the eGPU Development Kit, enables developers to continue on their journey of creating apps with full VR content. read more


What Does High Sierra mean for VR Developers?

The release of Apple’s new operating system, High Sierra, has seen a whole host of additions and improvements aimed at VR developers. Join us as we delve in and take a look at them in more depth!

Metal 2 API – what it is and what it does

Included in the High Sierra update and apparently at least ten times faster than the previous version, this is an increased form of Apple’s Metal graphics API, enabling VR developers to sidestep the macOS system and go directly to a VR headset; even using only a MacBook there will be sufficient GPU function to utilize the VR and SteamVR, the HTC Vive, Unreal Engine 4 and Unity will also work with a Mac. read more


New Start Businesses – Lease Application Process Explained

So you’ve got a new start business and you want to lease your IT equipment. What do you need to do, and how does it work? If you are a new business you are probably well aware of how difficult it is to establish a credit history, as well as how traditional financing methods such as banks can be difficult to deal with. HardSoft can provide from £1,000 to £15,000 of lease finance to new businesses, which can include both hardware and software.

Here we explain our simple application process for new start businesses:

  1. The first step is to establish whether you are a homeowner.
  2. If you are a homeowner, we will ask you for bank statements (either business or personal) in order to assess your ability to meet the lease repayments. If you are not a homeowner, we will ask you to provide a guarantor, such as a director, shareholder, or relative.
    • Unfortunately, if you’re unable to provide a guarantor we won’t be able to proceed with your lease application.
  3. Once you have provided your bank statements, we will review them to prove you can cover payments.
    • A Limited Director’s Indemnity may be requested if you have set up a new Limited Company.
    • If we cannot be satisfied that you would be able to make the repayments on your lease we will not be able to proceed with your application.
  4. If you are looking for an amount in excess of £10k we will request to see your business plan or proof that you have external investment in your business.
    • Once we have seen either your business plan or proof of external investment we will complete your application and proceed with any credit searches.
  5. If you are requesting less that £10k we will complete your application and proceed with any credit searches.

The first payment will be equivalent to one month’s payment, which can be paid by debit or credit card. Occasionally we may require the lease to be over 24 months (rather than 36) and a deposit of three months maybe requested should the ability to repay be difficult to assess. read more


8th Gen. CPU’s are here and they’re fast!

Dell XPS 13 leasing

Dell XPS 13 is first with i7-8550

Intel announced their new 7th Gen Kaby Lake processors just last year but, in the blink of an eye, in August they announced their new 8th Gen CPUs. Designed specifically for the premium ranges of thin and light notebooks and 2-in-1s, according to Intel these new 8th-gen processors will keep the Kaby Lake name and be referred to as Kaby Lake R (‘R’ for refresh) with Coffee Lake and Cannon Lake processors coming later.

One of the major selling points for these new 8th Generation series CPUs is that they are twice as fast as the ones you’d find in a five year old laptop. There have been vast improvements in performance over the past five years across not only laptops but in desktops and tables too. Intel claims that there will be up to 40% improvement over their current 7th Generation Core i-series CPUs, which have only just been rolled out by many makers of PCs. read more


Storage – Why Use A NAS?

We know our customers and blog readers are pretty savvy when it comes to technology, but just in case you were wondering NAS stands for Network Attached Storage.

In recent years we’ve all been storing more and more information in ‘the cloud’, entrusting some of the most important things in our lives to third party companies who we hope are trustworthy. We obviously don’t want to return to the days of saving everything onto those temperamental floppy disks, but local Network Attached Storage (NAS) is available and there may be more reasons to start using it than you’d think. read more


Windows 10 Pro for Workstations – NT Resurrected?

The last time we heard the phrase “Windows for Workstations” was back in the 90s when Windows NT Workstation 4.0 was launched in 1996. In fact, if you asked some of the younger people in your office what Windows NT was, they will probably look at you blankly or think it’s the name of a new version of the windows operating system, and actually they wouldn’t be wrong!

Windows NT Workstation 4.0

Windows NT Workstation was released as a more robust version of Windows ’95 for businesses who use high-end hardware. The workstations label disappeared as Microsoft names it’s operating systems Home, Server, Pro, and Enterprise etc. Then, in June this year, more than 20 years on, Microsoft announced it was resurrecting Windows for Workstations with Windows 10 Pro for Workstations scheduled for launch any time now. read more


What are the Best new features in iOS 11?

The latest Apple update hit our systems last month and there was the usual frenzy of people trying to download it to their iPhones. But was it worth the wait? What do you think? Pretty much all of the HardSoft team are Apple users and they’ve all now downloaded iOS 11, so we asked them what they thought about this latest update.

New Customisable Control Centre

The new control centre is full of widgets that you can access simply by swiping up from the bottom of your screen. The control centre has had a redesign allowing you to fit more on the screen and you can change what you have on it. You can increase/decrease the brightness, select the camera and choose whether to take a selfie or a forward facing photo, turn your wifi and bluetooth on and off, and add whatever you want. read more


Why is your Mac running slow and what can you do about it?

Does your Apple Mac seem to be running slow?  They can run slowly for no apparent reason but there is usually some cause as to why your Mac is running below par, so if you think your Mac would lose against a blindfolded snail in a race to launch an app, then read on for our tips on how to tackle the most commons speed issues.

Software Update Loading

It doesn’t really make any difference whether you have a brand spanking new Mac which updates via the App Store, or an older version which goes via Software Update, either way it can cause your Mac to slow down temporarily whilst it launches in the background. You’ll know this is happening because after a minute or so, a Software Update notification will pop read more


How Do You Keep Your Children Safe Online?

If you’re a parent, keeping your children safe online is becoming a mammoth task. They’re accessing all sorts of things online via a multitude of means, from tablets and smartphones, to YouTube and Snapchat, they’re certainly growing up in a world that is totally different to the one we did! It’s second nature to them though, so there’s no escaping it, we just need to know how to protect them. But how do we do that in the ever changing online universe?

Social Media


Social media is far and away the cause of most issues for young people online today. How old do they have to be to have an account? What pictures are OK to post? Should you monitor them, and how do you do this without intruding on their privacy? Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter all have a minimum age limit of 13 years, so anyone younger than that can have their account deactivated by the network. read more


Apple DEP and MDM Solutions

As an Apple Authorised Seller we are able to centrally register the Macs and iPads we lease to customers with Apple, which helps them with the management of their assets. Apple’s Device Enrolment Programme (DEP) an efficient way to deploy Macs, iPads and other iOS devices which you have leased across a business or school. The DEP allows you to choose to supervise VMware airwatch mdm solution leasing - get a demo from a distance any iOS devices owned by your business but used by your staff, whether they’re office based or work remotely. This higher level of management allows you to add restrictions, such as turning off Game Center and iMessage and blocking certain apps from the device. With the Device Enrollment Program, large-scale deployments of iPad and Mac are seamless. Your devices are configured through a management solution, and users are guided through the activation process with the built-in Setup Assistant. You can streamline setup by specifying that certain steps in Setup Assistant be skipped — such as screens for Apple ID, passcode, or terms of service. read more


Sonnet eGFX Breakaway box for VR in High Sierra

While modern portable systems pack a nice punch and feature high-end graphics solutions sometimes it’s just not enough, as Apple users know only too well. That’s where external graphics cards come into play and for all the creatives out there something exciting is happening – Sonnet has announced the release of their eGFX Breakaway Box! The eGFX Breakaway Box supports any Thunderbolt compatible PCIe card, with 40 Gbps of bandwidth and a full PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, there’s plenty of power to share giving you the flexibility to add whatever you want to boost your capability without any degradation of speed – which was an issue for the previous Sonnet box. read more


Why Lease Your School’s IT Equipment?

If you are considering buying IT equipment, such as tablets or laptops, for your school, you’ll be looking for the best deal for your funds. You may be surprised to learn that leasing is actually cheaper than buying and there are more advantages to leasing too. Such as:

  • It frees up your capital – when you lease your IT you don’t have to use your capital funds as a lump sum to purchase them, or upgrading at a later date. Being able to spread the cost enables you to use your funds elsewhere and payments can be deferred to suit your needs.
  • It comes with technical support – you will have access to our technical support team throughout the period of your lease. Our technicians are trained to an extremely high standard with expert authorisation and knowledge on both Apple and PC platforms. We are available to assist you with synchronising and maintaining your devices from the moment they are delivered.
  • Free training is available – if you or your staff require training on your Apple iPads or laptops, or need some advice on the best apps to use in education, one of our qualified trainers will come to your school and deliver a program of training – FREE of charge – which will be tailored to your needs. This can cover iPad basics, right through to specifics of education related apps, Once your trainer has visited you, they will continue to work closely with you in order to ensure your iPads are fully utilised in the classrooms.School-iPad-Product-Pro10.5
  • Accidental Damage Insurance – each lease to a school has specialist comprehensive insurance cover. This means that any Apple iPad or Windows device you have which is accidentally damaged, will be fixed or replaced at no cost to your school. It costs around £150 to repair the screen of an iPad which has been dropped, but with our insurance you are covered and will NO excess to pay.
  • You get a full 3 year warranty as standard – all Apple iPads that you lease will come with a 3 year warranty so that you’re covered. Should you have an issue with an iPad, we will swap it for a replacement to ensure you have the minimum of down time at no additional cost to your budget.
  • Renewal and Upgrade at the end of lease – at the end of our normal 3 year lease term we will provide you with the option to return the iPads you have and cancel the original lease, provided that you take out a new lease on the latest iPads. You can keep the original iPads if you choose to do so, however there is a small fee payable in order to do this.

Here at HardSoft we offer operating leases to schools which are recommended by the Department for Education. When you choose to lease from HardSoft you will be benefiting from the experience an expertise of an IT company with 30 years of trading and dealing in finance. read more


Use your iPad as a Touch Bar and External Display for your Mac

If you use your MacBook Pro in the closed-clamshell mode, which allows you to drive an external display while the MacBook is closed, you may find that losing the use of your Touch Bar will be an irritation.

This can be overcome by using your iPad as an external Touch Bar via the Duet Display app. Duet can be used with an iOS device as both an external display and a Touch Bar, which offers the perfect solution to anyone using an older Mac, which doesn’t have the Touch Bar feature, or the latest model MacBook Pro in closed-clamshell mode. Duet Display is an app for iPhone and iPad which helps you to turn your iOS device into a second screen for your Mac. The 2016 update for the app also allows you to use a virtual Touch Bar with that second display, even if your Mac doesn’t have a hardware Touch Bar. And as a bonus, any app that has been updated with Touch Bar support, will work with the virtual version as well. read more


Apple Finance on New Macs – Is it a Good Deal?

Apple have recently started offering 0% finance on their products via PayPal Credit , but are they really offering a good deal?

Look at the Figures

Apple offer an iMac at £2019.00 on 12 months interest free credit, with a £0.00 deposit, which looks attractive at first glance, but there is no warranty with that and the repayments are £181.26 per month – don’t forget you have to pay the full amount back within the 12 month period, otherwise you’re hit with the interest at 14.9% APR.3-Warranty-extra

Alternatively, if you take a look at the HardSoft lease on the same iMac at £2019.00 over a 12 month period, the difference is we ask you for a deposit of £403.80, but with repayments of £134.60 you’re left with almost £50.00 more in hand each month. Combine that with the 3 year HardSoft warranty and you’re quids in! read more


Welcome to the Family – the Microsoft Surface Laptop

Microsoft have unveiled the new addition to their Surface family – the Surface Laptop. Released this month, it’s the first laptop with integrated keyboard in their Surface range, so we thought we’d tell you a little more about it.

Similar in size to the Surface Book, it features the same 13.5” PixelSense touchscreen display with 3:2 aspect ratio and will be the first device to run on Windows 10 S. Microsoft have said that the S doesn’t actually stand for anything, but they do say that Windows 10 S is streamlined for simplicity, security and speed, so we guess that’s where it came from! With a boot time 15 seconds faster than a comparable machine running Windows 10 Pro and with the same profile and apps installed, they also claim that it will run as fast on day 1,000 as it does on day one. read more


Hints to prolong Laptop Battery life

Laptop batteries are getting better. The Lenovo Carbon X1 and HP EliteBook x360 can get to 16 hours and the Carbon X1 can charge to 80 per cent within an hour. Apple MacBooks quote ‘all day battery’ BUT these laptops are not cheap. For your average Laptop though you’ll be lucky to get just a few hours, so you need to manipulate the settings.

The display is, for the most part, the biggest drain on your battery. If you want to be specific, it’s actually powering the backlight which illuminates the pixels on your display that drains the battery. In which case, it would seem obvious that the best way to prolong your battery life is to simply lower the brightness on your display. You can usually do this using your keyboard on Windows 10 laptops and Apple Macbooks, but there are other ways you can do this to automate it. read more


Leasing technology is better for schools

We all know just how quickly technology moves on. In this day and age children are always looking for the next video game console or smartphone (and let’s be honest, most of us adults are too), but as soon as you buy one Xbox or iPhone a new and improved version is announced. And then it’s on to the next thing. It can certainly be hard to keep up.schools

It sure can be expensive, too. In the same way that a new car depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot, the truth is that technological equipment suffers the same fate. It’s expensive enough to buy new, but when you factor in that you’ll probably have to buy the next ‘thing’ soon after, while getting nowhere near what you paid for it if you try and sell, then bank balances are bound to be stretched to near breaking point. read more


HP Premium Laptops offer Great Security

Security is understandably the number one concern for any business, and the stats show that it’s not unfounded. With the risk of a device becoming infected increasing at an average rate of 40% each year, security has never been more important and HP knows this. Their premium range not only looks great, it also offers a deep level of security that gives you more than just protection for your hardware, but for your data and identity too.

For some reason HP don’t shout very loudly about the great security features they offer. We love them, so thought we’d do some shouting for them and summarise the best ones for you here. read more


Microsoft Surface Studio or Apple iMac?

Apple Mac vs PC. The choice is on… The debate that’s been going on forever is going to get even bigger with the imminent arrival of Microsoft’s Surface Studio to the UK on 15th May 2017.  And while these two all-in-ones may look very similar at first glance, there are in fact a fair few differences between them.

The 28″ Surface Studio is different to the iMac. It has an intuitive hinge on the back of the screen – an incredible feat of engineering that Microsoft have named the Zero Gravity Hinge – allowing for almost effortless repositioning from an upright panel to a nearly flat worktop. All the internals run from a small chrome box through the Zero Gravity Hinge, which you may think is just an unnecessary extra component compared to the iMac, but doing this has allowed Microsoft to produce an incredibly thin 12.5mm display. read more