The glossy glut of technology magazines

Friday, June 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Your local magazine stand may be jammed with a scores of regular publications about computing and consumer electronics - some quite general, others narrowly focused. Here are some of the best periodicals in a handful of popular categories:


Time Digital
Publisher: Time Inc.
Cover price: $3.95
More information: 1-800-444-3404;
Time Digital, a monthly sister magazine to Time, divides the technology world neatly into departments that are easy to navigate. A section called "Living Digital: What to Get" features items about new devices, accompanied by compelling graphics. The July issue, for instance, shows off modular plug-ins for the Handspring Visor hand-held organizer, including an MP3 music player, a modem and a voice recorder.

Another section called e-conomy is more for readers of business news. A recent story discussed how a new generation of online calculators can help readers plan for retirement.

Publisher: Condé Nast Publications Inc.
Cover price: $6.95
More information: 1-800-769-4733;
More than any magazine in its genre, Wired was responsible a few years ago for making geekdom cool. It became a cultural icon with its blindingly bright graphics plus profiles of movers and shakers in the technology world. But as the market for technology-oriented business publications mushroomed, Wired drifted somewhat from its original mission. The magazine, though still a leader, has increasingly focused on the offbeat. A July cover story featured an effort to build an e-commerce enterprise on a former gunnery fort in the North Sea, where the business wouldn't have to answer to regulators or lawyers. A piece on ergonomically designed chairs, however, had to have been relevant to every one of Wired's readers.

Yahoo! Internet Life
Publisher: Ziff Davis Media Inc.
Cover price: $3.99
More information: 303-665-8930;
Like its namesake Internet portal, Yahoo! Internet Life tries to be a gateway to all things interesting on the World Wide Web - a useful concept. The problem with this printed product from Ziff Davis Media is the timeliness of its material. The June issue had pieces on the Stephen King electronic book and on the Dot-ComGuy, neither of which had much new to add to what's already been written. Still, the magazine brings a lot to the table. Film critic Roger Ebert, an Internet junkie, is a regular columnist. A recent piece reported that video game technology will soon make it possible to create feature-length animated films at home.


PC Magazine
Publisher: Ziff Davis Media Inc.
Cover price: $4.99
More information: 303-665-8930;
Ziff Davis uses its venerated laboratories to produce consistent, reliable reviews of new hardware within this thick, thoughtful magazine. But, like others of this ilk, PC Magazine has recently broadened its scope to include a multitude of Internet-related developments. The publication's Top 400 list of the best products on the market is a much-anticipated yearly event. Small-business PBX systems, home user desktop computers, hand-held organizers, printers - they're all inspected and tested for concise reviews. Its stable of pundits - among them columnists Bill Machrone and Jim Seymour - may be the best anywhere. For up-to-date information on all things PC, PC Magazine remains on top of its game. On the downside, the slant of the magazine may be too industry-centric for the casual reader.

PC World
Publisher: IDG
Cover price: $5.99
More information: 1-800-234-3498;
PC World, too, has expanded its coverage to the Internet. Unlike PC Magazine, this publication leans more toward consumer help than industry developments. Readers are regularly given primers on the latest in broadband access to the Internet and Web hosting, in addition to the publication's staple product reviews. A recent edition contained a wide-ranging exploration of e-mail security and tips. There's a monthly Here's How section that many hobbyists find helpful. The magazine is not shy about going right to the manufacturer to resolve consumer complaints. Once readers have been around Windows long enough, though, the endless lists of tips can seem a waste of space.

Maximum PC
Publisher: Imagine Media Inc.
Cover price: $7.99
It bills itself as "Minimum BS" and caters to PC gamers and performance freaks, but Maximum PC has plenty for beginners. The magazine may lead its editions with esoteric rants on AGP 4X performance in video cards, but those issues are balanced with more mainstream pieces such as how to format your hard drive and conduct a "clean" installation of Windows 98. The Watchdog column regularly helps readers with serious rebate and equipment complaints. In general, the magazine's irreverence and distinctly pro-consumer attitude persevere throughout. On the downside, readers will become sick of hearing about video and sound card technology if they're not intense gamers with top-notch equipment.


Publisher: Mac Publishing L.L.C.
Cover price: $7.99
More information: 1-800-627-2247;
www.macworld.comMacworld bought rival MacUser, it became the undisputed Mac magazine of record. Heavy on reviews, Macworld's content is evenly spread between hardware and software. Regular features include Quick Tips, which offers questions and answers, and opinion columns, all in a highly readable, modular layout.

MacHome Journal
Publisher: MacHome Journal
Cover price: $7.95
More information: 1-800-800-6542;
Aimed squarely at home users and newbies, this information-packed magazine hits its target. MacHome Journal has a bit friendlier tone than Macworld, and it's written in an easy-to-understand voice. Reviews and new products are geared toward home use and not high-end pocketbooks. The magazine has departments for home, office and family computing. It comes with a monthly CD of shareware, demos and system updates.

Publisher: Imagine Media Inc.
Cover price: $7.99
This is the hippest Mac magazine around, making a big splash with younger users by incorporating tons of color and graphics. MacAddict's content is very easy to understand and includes information you might not find elsewhere. Reviews are there, but they take a backseat to how-to articles and features. MacAddict was the first to include a monthly CD full of shareware and other free stuff.

Maximum Linux
Publisher: Imagine Media Inc.
Cover price: $7.99
More information: 1-877-995-4689;
This colorful publication is packed with easy-to-read reviews and how-to stories for the Linux computer operating system, which is beginning to attract attention among nongeeks. Maximum Linux goes after new adopters wanting to learn more about Linux rather than engineers with rooms full of boxes to support.

Linux Magazine
Publisher: Infostrada
Cover price: $4.95
More information: 1-800-950-1974;
Cleanly designed, Linux Magazine focuses sharply on the business buzz that the operating system has stirred up. The technical tone of Linux Magazine's content appeals more to information technology professionals wanting to keep up-to-date on Linux's development as a high-end workstation and server platform.

Linux Journal
Publisher: SSC Inc.
Cover price: $5.00
More information: 1-888-665-4689;
Linux Journal is another publication crammed with exhaustive reviews, interviews and discussion of all things Linux. It's also written for the engineering professionals who handle the care and feeding of the operating system.


Mobile Computing & Communications
Publisher: Emap USA Inc.
Cover price: $4.99
More information: 1-800-274-1218;
Mobile Computing & Communications is newly redesigned and features a smart, snappy layout that's a cinch to navigate. Intended primarily for laptop users, Mobile Computing also includes solid reports on hand-held computers, sometimes called electronic organizers or personal digital assistants. A recent issue had a story about UPS drivers and their hand-helds, as well as items about 32 new products for the mobile user.

Pocket PC (formerly Handheld PC)
Publisher: Thaddeus Computing Inc.
Cover price: $4.95
More information: 515-472-6330;
In a bold shift, this magazine has renamed itself and shifted its focus to hand-held computers running the Windows CE operating system. In fact, Palm computers users should look elsewhere - Pocket PC's content seems to be 100 percent Microsoft CE. More than 50 new products were highlighted in a recent issue. The very colorful layout looks dated, however, and it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between advertisements and stories.

Portable Computing
Publisher: Emap Enterprises
Cover price: $4.99
More information: 323-782-2000; (Web site under construction)
Portable Computing has great all-around content that covers numerous aspects of computing. Its articles are comprehensive, offering information for every kind of user. The CoolTools section in one recent edition highlighted 24 new products. The magazine also reviews games and DVD releases. On the flip side, eight pages containing specs on more than 125 laptops seemed to blend together, and the layout was a bit confusing.


Electronic Gaming Monthly
Publisher: Ziff Davis Media Inc.
Cover price: $4.99
More information: 303-665-8930;
Electronic Gaming Monthly's cover emphasizes Sony PlayStation, the upcoming PlayStation 2, Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo 64, although it writes about every gaming system except personal computers. The magazine's target audience is 18- to 24-year-olds, as reflected in the language, games covered and photo choices. Its coverage of the gaming landscape is comprehensive: news, previews, reviews, letters to the editor, tricks, cheats, game walk-throughs and interviews.

Publisher: IDG Communications Inc.
Cover price: $4.99
More information: 303-604-1465;
GamePro is a multiconsole, hand-held and PC game magazine offering news, previews, reviews, hints, cheats and guides. The emphasis, however, is clearly on console games. Children ages 10 and up are its market, and GamePro is suitable for them. The language is mild enough for them, while the subjects are covered in enough depth to satisfy older gamers. The reviews are generally well done, although they can tend to be more positive than in competing magazines.

NextGen: Next Generation Magazine
Publisher: Imagine Media Inc.
Cover price: $5.99
More information: 1-800-678-3643;
NextGen covers consoles such as Sony PlayStation and the soon-to-be-released PlayS-tation 2, Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo 64, as well as PC games. Thorough reviews and previews are staples, but the main focus is on the latest insider news about upcoming games, consoles and peripherals. The magazine goes after readers in their midteens and older. Its writing style is more sophisticated than that of some competitors. NextGen also occasionally discusses the business side of games. Although language and pictorial content is mild enough for kids, younger children may find the reading too complicated.


PC Gamer
Publisher: Imagine Media Inc.
Cover price: $7.99
More information: 1-800-898-7159;
This one is at the head of the class among PC game magazines. PC Gamer's great reputation and big-time clout mean that it gets tons of exclusive coverage of upcoming games and gets the news before anyone else. Besides having the best preview section in the business, PC Gamer has detailed, uncompromising reviews and stories that cater directly to crusty old-timers. However, the magazine's focus could perhaps shift slightly in the next few months because it has added several staffers from the now-defunct PC Accelerator, which targeted a younger audience.

Computer Gaming World
Publisher: Ziff Davis
Cover price: $7.99
More information: 303-665-8930;
Computer Gaming World runs neck and neck with PC Gamer for top honors. It competes fiercely for the attention of older, hard-core PC gamers who want in-depth articles with all the gory, technical details as well as tough, critical reviews. The magazine has no qualms about unleashing vitriol on a bad game. Conversely, if its reviewers give a game the thumbs-up, you can be sure it is pretty darn good. In addition to the usual news, reviews and previews, Computer Gaming World boasts great features from veteran writers who remember the glory days of pen-and-paper role-playing. In the latest issue, the publication explores the future of online role-playing by taking a long, hard look at Bio-ware's upcoming Neverwinter Nights.

Incite PC Gaming
Publisher: Computec Media USA
Cover price: $4.99
More information: 1-888-546-2483;
For younger gamers who want all the latest news, reviews and previews, Incite delivers. It is a fairly new magazine but seems to have it together. Incite has a hip style, the reviews and previews are short and sweet, and its writers don't beat readers over the head with the technical stuff. The features are brief but well-written. The June cover story tracks the evolution of PC game music. On the whole, reviews are solid, though not as good as those in PC Gamer or Computer Gaming World. Incite's reviews can be a little too generous at times, and occasionally a write-up seems out of sync with the final score. On the plus side, the reviews include a handy chart telling readers exactly how well the game will run on their systems. It is a welcome addition in this day of misleading system requirements. Like it major competitors, Incite ships with a CD.


Publisher: Emap USA Inc.
Cover price: $6.99
More information: 1-800-666-3746;
The magazine has featured reviews and writings from many of the keenest minds in audio engineering, frequently about some of the more exotic stereo products available. Now it may be trying to claim some of the ground vacated by Audio, a defunct monthly that was respected for covering products of a broad price range by writers who weren't afraid to be critical. A recent edition of Stereophile reviewed a Yamaha receiver-amplifier built especially for personal computers. Its $500 price tag may have seemed a welcome relief to some readers, given the fact that gear in Stereophile often costs 10 times that much.

The Absolute Sound
Publisher: Absolute Multimedia Inc.
Cover price: $7.95
More information: 1-888-732-1625;
The novice who opens a copy of The Absolute Sound may feel like a Hyundai shopper who has mistakenly stumbled into a Jaguar showroom. Sound system prices here usually climb into the tens of thousands of dollars - if not higher. But many audiophiles respect this magazine the most - so much so that there was mourning on Internet news sites a few years ago when it folded. Revived with a new publisher, The Absolute Sound is still unabashedly opinionated. There has been some effort to review products with less stratospheric price tags. But regardless of budget, people can learn more about the hobby here than perhaps anywhere else. The writing is occasionally stuffy but illuminating in its description of what makes some products sound gorgeous and others sound gaudy.

Sound & Vision
Publisher: Hachette Filipacchi Magazines Inc.
Cover price: $3.99
More information: 1-800-876-9011;
If you're wondering why Stereo Review isn't one of the 'zines crowding the supermarket racks these days, Sound & Vision is what the longtime periodical has become. Home audio products still get heavy coverage, but they share space with home theater and video gadgets - hence the new name. Like its predecessor, Sound & Vision is regarded as an industry heavyweight, so it gets the scoop on all the latest mass-market audio gear. Go to it for ideas about what products are available and how to use them. But beware: The magazine also may have inherited Stereo Review's long-criticized reputation of rarely hearing a new product it doesn't like. A recent roundup of four amplifiers ended with the writer wondering aloud which one was best, then ducking the issue.

Home Theater
Publisher: Emap USA Inc.
Cover price: $4.99
More information: 1-800-264-9872; (Web site under construction)
This is a magazine for true gadget heads because it's loaded with features and reviews of new equipment. Especially helpful in each review are close-up photos of components, both front and rear, as well as pictures of remote controls. Charts of relevant technical statistics, such as frequency response for sound components and color temperature for TVs, are nice additions. The July issue has an in-depth article about the type of service readers should expect from specialty retailers.

Audio Video Interiors
Publisher: Primedia Inc.
Cover price: $3.95
More information: 1-800-333-8849;
Geared toward users who are serious about including their home theater in their decor, Audio Video Interiors features lots of wide-angle photos of finished living spaces. Reviews of products are thorough and include close-up shots of the buttons and plugs. Nevertheless, this magazine is not overly technical. The focus of the latest issue is plasma TVs, with coverage that includes an extensive comparison of 19 models. Other features discussed integrating electronics into your everyday life.

Magazine reviews by staff writers and special contributors of The Dallas Morning News