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In Depth: Hyundai BlueLink

Posted in Products with tags on July 24, 2017 by itnerd

Hyundai Canada is rolling out a new piece of technology that is really going to shake things up for those looking for the coolest tech in their next car. Called BlueLink, it’s a connected vehicle system that gives you the following via an app and a telematics system connected by Bell:

Local Search: If you need some gas or coffee, you can have your car find you the nearest Esso or Starbucks.

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Powered by Google, you can use your voice to say things like “find me a coffee” or “find me a gas station” to have the system find you what you need. All you need do is press the voice command button on the steering wheel. What’s cool is that when I demoed it, the voice commands worked flawlessly and the system displayed the opening and closing hours and offered to navigate you to the destination.

Vehicle Car Care Information: If you’ve ever wondered about the health of your car, you can check the health of your car on demand. You can also set up monthly health reports that will be delivered to you by e-mail. That way, you’re never in the dark about the health of your Hyundai.

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All of this can be done via the app (which is available for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry, though the screenshots are from the iOS version of the app) or from the infotainment screen inside of the car.

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Even if you don’t find anything amiss you can set reminders to make sure your vehicle is taken care of, and you can find your nearest Hyundai dealer should the need arise.

Automatic Crash Notifications: If the worst possible scenario should happen and you find yourself in an accident, emergency services can be automatically contacted.

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As you can see from this picture, it will send your exact location in the form of longitude and latitude co-ordinates so that emergency services can find you if you can’t say where you are. It’s also great if you run into trouble in a rural part of Canada or you’re in an unfamiliar location. If however you need to get emergency services on demand, the rear-view mirror has buttons to immediately connect you.

Roadside Assistance: If you get a flat tire or some other mechanical issue while you’re on the road, the system can connect you to roadside assistance either via the app or via the button on the rear-view mirror. Here’s what it looks like from the app.

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Find My Car: If you have a habit of misplacing your car in large parking lots, Hyundai can help you with that. BlueLink will show you your car’s location on a map and give you directions to get there. If you still need help once you get closer, you can flash the lights or honk the horn to lead you to your car. I’d like to show a screen shot of the Find My Car function from the app to highlight one key feature:

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The Find My Car feature, along with many other features within the BlueLink app, is protected by a PIN that is independent of the phone’s PIN. The reason for that is that Hyundai makes the correct assumption that not everyone uses a PIN on their phone. Thus they have to take steps to ensure that your Hyundai is protected from someone with less than honorable intentions who happens to get their hands on your phone. This is a good call on their part as it shows that Hyundai really thought about security when it comes to BlueLink.

 

Remote Start: The really cool feature that you’ll love is remote start. Not only can you start your Hyundai remotely with the app, you can also set the cabin temperature and even turn on the heated steering wheel and save up to three pre-set configurations of your favorite cabin settings. Say one for winter, one for summer and one for spring/fall. I had a chance to demo this at Hyundai Canada’s headquarters recently and I was able to take this video of the iOS version of the BlueLink app starting a brand new 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT remotely:

On to of starting your car, you can also use the app to see if your doors are locked, unlocked, or open. Not to mention you can see if the trunk or hood is open or closed.

The most impressive feature of Hyundai BlueLink is the fact that you get to use it free of charge for five years which matches the length of Hyundai’s factory warranty. That’s a brilliant idea as it sets it apart from BlueLink’s competition who offer free service for much shorter amounts of time. Plus I imagine that you will be more likely to pay for it once the five years is up because you’ve been immersed in the technology for so long.

BlueLink is rolling in Canada out starting the the aforementioned 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT which is coming to Canada shortly. As Hyundai refreshes their lineup over the next couple of years, BlueLink will make appearances in those vehicles as well. If you’re in a market for a car, and you like to have your car as part of your connected life, you should take a look at Hyundai vehicles equipped with BlueLink as it clearly is going to make waves in the automotive landscape.

 

 

 

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Review: Linksys MAX-STREAM AC4000 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Tri-Band Router

Posted in Products with tags on June 29, 2017 by itnerd

In the age of the Internet of things, the average home has at least 10 devices connected to the Internet. And all of those devices want access to the Internet at top speed. Thus your router is going to be the bottleneck, or the best friend to those devices. And if you want a router that is more of the latter, you need to look at the Linksys MAX-STREAM AC4000 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Tri-Band Router. Here’s what you get in the box:

  • 1 Gigabit Ethernet connection for your Internet access
  • 4 Gigabit Ethernet connections for your wired devices
  • Two USB 3 ports for printers and storage
  • 802.11ac with MU-MIMO
  • A 1.8 GHz quad core CPU and three peripherial processors
  • Airtime Fairness which allows faster devices to have more airtime than slower devices
  • Amazon Alexa support
  • Seamless Roaming when paired with a range extender like the Linksys RE7000

Physically this router takes up a lot of real estate. Thus you might have issues finding a place to put it. It’s also very heavy as it weighs in at a hefty 3 pounds and has a lot of ventilation which is needed as it does get hot. That’s a sign that the router well built.

I’m going to highlight a few things that make this router faster than most. The first is MU-MIMO which allows a Wi-Fi router to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously. This decreases the time each device has to wait for a signal and dramatically speeds up your network. That means that gamers and Netflix users will remain happy while they do their thing. The second is the fact that it has a 1.8 GHz quad core CPU and three peripheral processors which combine to push the theoretical 4 Gbps that this router is capable of. Not that any single user will see that speed as that figure is an aggregate of the two 5 GHz bands, each capable of 1625 Mbps and single 2.4 GHz band which is capable of 750 Mbps. Third is the fact that the router supports beam forming. Meaning that the antennas (six of them) surrounding the router are all directional, but between them they cover a full 360 degree range and the router can utilize the antenna or antennas to deliver the best signal to a device. Thus wherever the device accessing the router happens to be, it is guaranteed to get a good connection.

So…. How well does this work in the real world? Very well in fact. Using my Rogers Ignite Gigabit connection, I was able to get an average of 680 Mbps downstream and 44 Mbps upstream over 802.11ac WiFi when I was close to the router which is very quick and very close to my current speed champion which is the Linksys MAX-STREAM AC5400 Router. However I noted that the speed of this router is better than MAX-STREAM AC5400 router in every area of my condo. Particularly in areas where I had problems getting a good quality signal. Thus if you have a large home, this router will ensure that all parts of it get speedy WiFi.

Setup was trivially easy using Linksys Smart WiFi as I had it setup and fully up to date from a firmware perspective in minutes. Linksys Smart WiFi also allows you to fully configure aspects such as parental controls, media priority, and block HTTPS sites which is a unique feature. You can do all of this over a webpage, or over apps for the iOS and Android platforms. Keep in mind that the router will be connected to the Linksys servers at all times for you to fully leverage Linksys Smart WiFi. By the way, future functionality is going to appear in this router such as VPN support, DUAL WAN support to take two Internet connections and combine them, link aggregation to give you faster file transfers on your home network, and dynamic frequency selection which will provide up to four times the wireless channels available on the 5GHz frequency band among other things that Linksys has on their roadmap.

Downsides? Two that I can think of. The first is that if you want to plug in a lot of wired devices, you need to get a Gigabit switch or look to the MAX-STREAM AC5400 router which has 8 Ethernet ports. It is also not cheap at $379.99 CDN. But those who want the best wireless performance possible will willingly hand over their cash to get their hands on the Linksys MAX-STREAM AC4000 as it is a router that is very balanced in terms of performance when it comes to overall speed and range. Consider this router if you stream 4K video or you frequently want to pwn your friends in your favorite online game.

 

Review: LNKOO Apple Watch Band

Posted in Products with tags on June 9, 2017 by itnerd

So I’ve been using my Series 2 Apple Watch for a while now, and I have had one issue with it. The sport band that came with it had no ventilation. The net result was that sweat had no place to go and my wrist would kind of be gross after cycling. Now I could have invested in a Nike Sport Band that you can get at the Apple Store. But they’re $65 a shot which seems to be a bit steep….. Says the guy who dropped $550 on a Series 2 Apple Watch. So after doing some reading on what the best third party bands for the Apple Watch are, I came across the LNKOO Apple Watch Band on Amazon.

I’ll cover the price first. It cost me $15.99 CDN which is dirt cheap. However, the quality is top shelf. The company claims that all the metal parts made with hypoallergenic nickel free stainless steel, plus the band itself is made of silicone. It feels like something that Apple would do as there were no build quality issues that I could find. 

In terms of durability, I have hiked, done stair climbing, and cycled with it and I have had no issues. It feels no different than the stock Apple Sport band. And I am getting the ventilation on my wrist that I was looking for without dropping $65 in the process. It is the same size as the stock Apple Sport band which means that I can use my Road ID for the Apple Watch without issue as it means that I don’t have to wear something else on my wrist and I can wear the Road ID all the time for extra safety. It works with Series 1 and Series 2 Apple Watches, comes in a number of colors, and is available in 38mm and 42mm widths. Overall, I have no complaints at all. 

If you want a replacement Apple Watch band that is well suited for your athletic activities, the LNKOO Apple Watch Band is absolutely worthy of your immediate attention.

Review: Road ID For Apple Watch

Posted in Products with tags on June 9, 2017 by itnerd

To properly review the Road ID for Apple Watch, I have to explain what a Road ID is. Many people reading this review run, cycle, hike or do some other outdoor activity. However, I’m willing to bet that most of those who are reading this review do not carry any form of ID when they do those activities. That’s a problem if there’s some sort of emergency and you cannot speak for yourself because nobody knows who you are and if you have any sort of medical conditions that would be important at a time like that. Thus Road ID exists. I started using Road ID when they simply had a wristband with a metal plate that was laser etched with emergency contact info. But they’ve since branched out to have a complete lineup of identification gear as well as an app for iOS and Android that allows your friends and family to track you in real time as well as customize your phone’s Lock Screen to provide vital information to first responders in the event of an accident or injury.

With that out of the way, I am going to focus the Road ID for the Apple Watch. Here’s a good look at it via a picture from the Road ID website:

roadid_applewatch_pair_largeThe Road ID for the Apple Watch is basically a custom-engraved, stainless steel ID faceplate that slides onto your existing Apple Watch Sport, Woven Nylon, or Leather band. The company only guarantees that it will fit Apple Watch bands. But it fit my LNKOO Apple Watch band with no issues. Your mileage may vary. You can customize it with your own info. In my case, I have the following:

  • My name
  • My home phone number
  • A message to call my wife in an emergency
  • My wife’s name and cell number

Another option is to go with Road ID Interactive which takes what I mentioned above and adds a 24/7/365 number for first responders to phone as well as a website that in either case can give first responders access to info such as contact numbers, allergies, medications and more. The service is free for the first six months and then costs $9.99 USD a year after that.

Here’s why this has replaced the Road ID Wrist ID Sport that I have worn for years.

  1. The Road ID for Apple Watch adds no bulk and I do not feel it at all. It also appears to have no problem staying in place regardless of what I happen to be doing so that it does not become annoying to have on my Apple Watch.
  2. It is one less thing for me to remember to wear on a ride or a cross country ski. To be frank, I occasionally forget to pop on the Wrist ID Sport which I admit is sort of like tempting fate as the day I forget it will be the day I get into serious trouble.
  3. Because it’s always on my Series 2 Apple Watch, and I wear my Apple Watch all the time, it adds a extra layer of safety as now have something that can speak for me in case I cannot all the time rather than just when I am cycling, hiking, or cross country skiing.

All of that makes the Road ID for Apple Watch an #EpicWin in my book.

Now, if the Apple Watch isn’t your wearable of choice, the company does have options for Fitbit and Garmin users. To get the security that Road ID provides, you can expect to spend $24.99 USD for the Apple Watch plus shipping. Or you can expect to pay between $24.99 to $29.99 USD for other wearables. Add $9.99 USD if you want Road ID Interactive.

My bottom line is this: If you’re someone who runs, hikes, cycles, or you do some other sort of outdoor activity, you need a Road ID. If you wear some sort of wearable, a Road ID for the wearable of your choice such as the Apple Watch is a no brainer. It will speak for you in the event that you’re unable to. And depending on the wearable, that security extends to your daily life as it does in my case since I am an Apple Watch user. And if you don’t buy into what I am saying, Road ID has plenty of examples of the excellent value proposition that Road ID provides.

Review: Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA

Posted in Products with tags on June 8, 2017 by itnerd

Not everyone needs a Windows tablet or laptop. For some would be best served with a Google Chromebook. The ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA is an example of such a Chromebook, and it has a fair amount going for it.

Now for a very long time, Chromebooks were largely used in education. Pardon the pun, but the Asus Chromebook Flip is going to flip the script on that. First of all, it’s quick by Chromebook standards. Nothing I did could bring it to its knees and you can thank an Intel processor and 4GB of RAM for that. In terms of storage, you get 64GB of storage which doesn’t sound like a lot. But it is by Chromebook standards.

Second, it’s all bundled up in a very classy and good looking package. For starters, all of this Chromebook goodness is in a thin aluminum body that feels solid and of high quality. In fact, it almost feels like something from 1 Infinite Loop. There’s a 12.5 inch screen with a max resolution of 2400 x 1350. My mid 40’s eyes found that to be too high a resolution, but you may not find it so bad. Regardless, the screen is sharp. Though I will note that it does get washed out when you’re outside in bright sunlight and sometimes in bright indoor lighting situations. You also get a full sized keyboard which is excellent to type on because it has long key travel. It’s also backlit and has a decent sized trackpad. Connectivity comes in the form of a pair of USB-C ports (which of course do double duty for charging purposes) and there’s a MicroSD card in the mix as well. A headphone jack is also included and you’ll need them as the speakers aren’t exactly the loudest. Battery life is good. Ten hours is what I managed to get out of this Chromebook which is what I look for in any portable device of this type.

The one thing that the Asus Chromebook Flip has going for it is that you can “flip” it and turn it into a tablet. To get to that mode, you just rotate the screen on its hinges. There’s also a magnet to make sure that it stays in tablet mode. It’s a cool and well designed feature that sets it apart from its competition.

Now in terms of pricing, the unit that I had goes for about $700 dollars Canadian. But Asus has models that start at under $600. If you’re in the market for a Chromebook, take a good look at the Asus Chromebook Flip.

 

 

Review: Asus Transformer Mini T102H

Posted in Products with tags on June 7, 2017 by itnerd

The Asus Transformer Mini is a entry level, 10.1″ Windows 10 tablet that has a bunch of things going for it. For example, it comes out of the box with a cover that doubles as a very nice keyboard (which is detachable). Typing on it was very good as the keys had a substantial amount of travel to them. Thus typing was easy for a touch typist like me. It also comes with a pressure sensitive stylus that you can draw lines with varied thicknesses in apps that support that functionality. There’s two buttons on the stylus as well that can be programmed. Both of these are extras or not available on many other tablets.

The tablet itself has a 10.1″ display that does 1280×800 resolution in a 16:10 aspect ratio. It was a very bright display where the colors simply looked amazing. The speakers are pretty good too when I played videos from YouTube with stereo separation. They were, loud, clear, and distortion free. The back of the tablet has a flip out stand that swings out of the back panel. It can stop at a wide range of angles, from straight up to an almost horizontal. It also has a fingerprint reader for security reasons which works with Windows Hello. Connectivity is pretty strong as it comes with a microSD card reader on the top of the tablet, and on the left there are a headset jack, a micro HDMI port, a micro USB port for the charger, and a full-size USB 3.0 port for connecting memory sticks, hard drives, etc. It also comes with 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 for wireless connectivity. The whole package weights less than 2 pounds.

Under the hood, you get 4GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage on top of having Windows 10 on board with an Intel quad core processor. Integrated Intel HD Graphics are on board as well along with a 2 megapixel web cam. I was able to open lots of tabs in Microsoft Edge as well as not have it slow down when I tossed a copy of Microsoft Word on it to see what it can do. As long as you’re not playing Overwatch or something on it, you’ll have no complaints on the horsepower front. Speaking of power, I got ten hours of battery life which is in line with its competition.

The best part is the price. Expect to pay $549 Canadian which given what comes in the box is a pretty good price. If you’re in the market for a versatile tablet, take a good hard look at the Asus Transformer Mini. It’s got more than enough to warrant your immediate attention.

Review: Asus ROG SWIFT PG27A 27″ 4K Monitor

Posted in Products with tags on June 6, 2017 by itnerd

I’ve been spending the last two days playing Team Fortress 2 on a brand new Asus ROG SWIFT PG27A 27″ 4K monitor and I’m loving the experience. Why? It comes down to a bunch of factors. 

First, the monitor is a 4K monitor, meaning it four times the resolution of HD. If you crank up the resolution to maximum, the images be it graphics, photos, or text, are bright, vivid, detailed and simply stunning on this IPS display. And you can tweak everything to your hearts content which will appeal to the control freaks that are reading this review. What helps with this is support for the Nvidia G-Sync standard for syncing your video card to this monitor for extra-smooth performance during your gaming sessions. Nothing I threw at it produced anything negative. Zip, zero, nada. It was impressive. Though for me to get this stunning display to work in this manner, I needed to use the DisplayPort connector instead of the HDMI cable that came in the box. My MacBook Pro should have been able to output 4K video via the built in HDMI port, but for some reason this monitor didn’t like doing anything about HD resolution via HDMI. But that’s not a deal breaker by any means as I am assuming that it’s the Mac more than the monitor.

Another thing that helps with the positive experience is the design of the monitor. In terms of ports, you get HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 connections. You also get three USB 3.0 ports for peripherals, as well as an audio jack for your headphones. Plus a pair of great sounding speakers that produce audio that was better than those found in most monitors that had built in speakers that I’ve tested lately. The bottom line is that you have every port you need at hand. What makes those ports easy to access is that this monitor will pivot 180 degrees to give you access to those ports and you can rotate the display to do a landscape display (though it’s not automatic on the MacBook Pro that I tested). That way you can get some work done between online gaming sessions. Other nice design touches are the triangular opening in the middle of the stand that makes it easy to organize your cables. As well as the fact that you can raise and swivel it to a huge degree, which means that you can adjust it to fit your workspace and your needs. There’s a a directional nub and a series of snappy physical buttons on the right hand side of the monitor. They’re used for doing things like changing display presets and activating special features such as the Asus GamePlus special features which will be handy for hard core gamers. Everything in the on screen menus are logically laid out and easy to figure out.

The only downside of two that I found was the glowing red LED lights and futuristic-looking patterns on the base of this monitor (which for the record you can turn off). It’s polarizing. Gamer types will love it. I was indifferent. My wife despised it. This will be a your mileage will vary sort of thing. The second thing that this monitor goes for about $1200 Canadian. Not exactly a low price. But is one of the best high-end gaming monitor around. And that’s why I’m not bothered by the price as gaming types who want the best display available to help them to pwn their competition will flock Asus ROG SWIFT PG27A without batting an eyelash. I almost hate giving it back to Asus because it is that good.