Archive for the Products Category

Review: Apple MacBook Air With The M1 Processor

Posted in Products with tags on November 24, 2020 by itnerd

It has begun.

Apple has begun transitioning away from using Intel processors to their own Apple Silicon processors. And one of the first computers to make the transitions is the MacBook Air. A client of mine managed to get the base model MacBook Air and asked me to help her set it up. I did it for free in exchange for playing with it for a couple of hours. So keep that in mind as I detail what I think about it.

First of all, the M1 powered MacBook Air doesn’t look any different than an Intel powered one. Some may find that disappointing. But Apple has done this before and it makes sense. By that I mean that when Apple transitioned from PowerPC to Intel in the mid 2000’s, they used the existing cases and ripped out the PowerPC bits and replaced them with Intel bits. And this was done because they knew what these cases could handle in terms heat for example. In other words, it was a known target that allowed them to quickly start the transition. It was the following year that Apple rolled out new case designs. And I expect to see that with the M1 processor. But having said all of that, this case design is perfectly fine. It’s light, has a great keyboard, a great trackpad, and feels like a quality product.

One area where Apple did upgrade something was the screen. Apple has upgraded the 13″ screen to one that supports P3 wide color gamut. What does that mean in English? The screen is more color accurate which matters if your editing photos for example. And that’s a good thing because you used to have to go up to at least a 13″ MacBook Pro to get that feature. Now you can get it at lower price point. One area that Apple didn’t upgrade is the front facing webcam. It is still 720P, but Apple is taking the video and pumping it through the image signal processor that is part of the M1 chip to try and make it look better. The key word is TRY because it only looks marginally better. It’s still sub par when compared to pretty much any notebook with a 1080p camera or even Apple’s most recent iMacs with 1080p. The bottom line is that if there is one area where Apple really dropped the ball with the MacBook Air, it’s the camera. In an age where people are on Zoom all the time, you’d think Apple would have upped their game in this area. But I guess I expect too much from them.

Performance however is clearly where Apple spent most of their time when it comes to the MacBook Air. I won’t post benchmarks as YouTube based tech reviewers have done that and have found that the MacBook Air destroys anything with an Intel processor in it. But this machine is FAST. I installed the M1 version of Microsoft Office on it and putting together a PowerPoint slide deck felt smooth and fluid. For fun, I took the video that I made for my iPhone 12 Pro review and did an export of it. That took seconds. As in 5 or less seconds. I also ran Intel apps using Apple’s translation layer which is called Rosetta 2. Those apps were faster than any Intel based Mac that I have used. And what’s blows my mind about this level of performance is the fact that the MacBook Air has no fan to keep the M1 processor cool. That makes me wonder what level of performance the 13″ MacBook Pro with the M1 processor, or the Mac Mini with the M1 processor will get as those have active cooling. Speaking of cooling, I never ever felt the MacBook Air get warm. Contrast that with Intel MacBooks which get warm simply by opening Chrome.

There’s two other things of note:

  • The speakers are decent and so are the microphones.
  • I didn’t really test the battery life myself, but when I checked in with the client, she reported that she has gone three days without charging it and is at 41% battery life. That’s pretty mind blowing.

If Apple bothered to upgrade the webcam, I would say that would be the perfect notebook for people with basic needs such as word processing, surfing the net, and answering emails. But as it is, I can only say that it is almost perfect and Apple missed an opportunity here to really make a perfect notebook.

So should you get one? What I will say is this:

  • Apple’s M1 processor is their first Apple Silicon processor. Which means that future processors will be faster and better. So you may be better off waiting to see what Apple puts out because of that.
  • If you must buy now, and to be frank this machine is so fast that I wouldn’t blame you if you did, keep in mind that nothing is upgradable. Thus if you think you need 256GB of storage, buy 512GB. If you think you need 8GB of RAM, buy 16GB. Otherwise, you may regret it later.

The bottom line is that the MacBook Air is an outstanding machine save for the webcam. If this is the entry level Apple Silicon processor, I can’t wait to see what else Apple has in the pipeline. And Intel should simply feel embarrassed that they don’t have anything that can go this fast with great battery life.

Review: Apple HomePod Mini

Posted in Products with tags on November 20, 2020 by itnerd

When the original HomePod came out, I was blown away by the sound quality. But I was also blown away by the price of the HomePod. It was insanely expensive. And it didn’t help that Siri wasn’t the most intelligent personal assistant when compared to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Thus I skipped it.

Fast forward to the present day. Apple has released the HomePod Mini, and by doing that Apple has addressed a lot of the criticisms that I had about the HomePod. But let’s start with what the HomePod Mini looks like and what you get in the box:

You get the HomePod Mini which is covered in fabric like the original HomePod and has a woven fabric USB-C cable that is permanently attached to the HomePod Mini. That’s the same as the original HomePod. To the right of the HomePod Mini you get some documentation and an Apple sticker. And to the left of the HomePod Mini you get a 20W USB-C brick. The same one that Apple decided to leave out of the iPhone 12 models.

Yeah, I’m not letting the fact that Apple left charging bricks out of the box of iPhone 12 models go.

The HomePod Mini is tiny. It is 3.3 inches high by 3.9 inches wide and comes in white and space grey. I chose the latter as it isn’t going to get dirty. It’s small enough that it will fit in anywhere and maybe even go completely unnoticed. There is a touch screen on the top that allows you to trigger Siri and control the volume. Setup is laughably easy. You plug it in, and bring an iPhone next to the HomePod Mini. Then follow the prompts. In about 5 to 10 minutes, it will be live. You can also set it up to recognize the voices of others in the household so that they can use it as well.

Besides all the “Hey Siri” commands he HomePod to play music and the like, there’s a couple of things that make the HomePod unique:

  • The Apple U1 chip: Apple’s own ultra-wideband silicon found in iPhone 11’s and 12’s as well as the Apple Watch Series 6 is being used for handoff purposes with the HomePod Mini. Simply point your iPhone 12 for example at the HomePod Mini and the U1 chip is able to track the phone, recognize my intent, and pass off any audio I was listening to. Though I will admit that it wasn’t 100% perfect at doing that.
  • Thread: This is a new smart home connectivity standard that has many benefits over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave. The most notable being instant response. I have a HomeKit compatible light switch that prior to the HomePod Mini arriving, it would take a couple of seconds to turn on and off. With the HomePod Mini it was instant.

That’s all great. But let’s get to the key points. Starting with how it sounds. Well, I threw the same audio torture playlists that I use to test car audio systems during car reviews. I also tested it in a couple of rooms to force the computational audio that driven by the Apple’s S5 chip to adapt to different environments. And the bad news is that the HomePod Mini is a bit lacking in bass versus the HomePod. But other than that, the audio quality is great. I seriously think that you will have no complaints while playing music and I would say it is about 70% of the audio quality of a full sized HomePod. If you got two of them, you can make a stereo pair to get true left/right audio. And it would likely sound great.

You can also use the HomePod Mini as a HomeKit bridge so that you can automate and access your home remotely. It takes almost zero effort to set that up assuming you have HomeKit compatible devices. In my case, I have a pair of HomeKit security cameras, and a HomeKit light switch. I was able to create automations that did the following with ease: When both my wife and I leave our condo which is verified by the lack of presence of either the iPhone or Apple Watch that each of us has, the cameras will turn on and have the ability to stream and detect movement. If movement is detected, the camera that is pointed at the door will record video and sound to iCloud and send a notification to both our iPhones.

One cool feature is Intercom. This allows you to use the command “Hey Siri Intercom” to record and to play an audio message on all connected HomePod speakers as well as on iPhones, Apple Watches and the like of all family members. And it works inside or outside your home including on CarPlay. It’s great when you don’t want to shout from the kitchen to someone else in another room that dinner is ready. Or that you driving up to your home to pick up the kids and you want them outside and ready to go.

So what’s the downside to the HomePod Mini? For starters, all of this is only good if you are within the Apple ecosystem. If you don’t have an iPhone, you can’t set it up. Nor can you interact with it. In other words those on Team Android need not apply. Also, Siri while improved as of late, is still miles away from the sort of functionality you get with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. By that I mean that you have to speak to Siri using very specific commands to get it to work for you. You don’t have to do that with the Google or Amazon equivalent. Though the flip side of that is that Siri doesn’t troll and mine your data the way that Amazon and Google do. So Apple has made a conscious decision to prioritize privacy over broader functionality. You’ll have to decide if that matters to you and you can live with the limitations that this decision brings to the table.

The price is the best part of the HomePod Mini, it’s $99 USD which makes it enticing to those in the Apple ecosystem. And only those in the Apple ecosystem. Siri is still only okay. The sound is great. And the price is right. Which means that it might be enough for Apple to sell a few truckloads of them.

Review: Anker PowerPort III Nano Compact Travel Charger & Anker Powerline+ III USB-C to Lightning Cable

Posted in Products with tags on November 17, 2020 by itnerd

As I pointed out in my iPhone 12 Pro review, Apple made the decision to ditch the charging brick in the box of their latest phone. Their rationale for doing this was that they were saving the environment because they want you to recycle your existing charging brick. But that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because the included cable is a USB-C to Lightning. That means you need to buy a USB-C power brick to use it. Now I guess you could use a USB-A to Lightning cable along with a USB-A charger that you might have lying around. But then your new iPhone will charge very slowly. The bottom line is that this move by Apple smells like a cash grab more than anything else. That’s led me to try out two products from Anker:

Let’s start with the Anker PowerPort III Nano Compact Travel Charger:

This is a tiny 20W charger. To give you a perspective, here’s what it looks like next to the super slow Apple 5W charger:

It’s a tiny bit smaller and a touch heavier than the Apple offering. But given that the Anker product is 20W via USB-C, it will charge your phone way faster:

Now over to the cable. Fast charging is partially determined by the wattage of the charger, whether the charger supports protocols like Power Delivery and Quick Charge, and the quality of the cable that is in use. That’s where the Anker Powerline+ III USB-C to Lightning Cable comes in:

As you can see, it’s a braided cable which tend to be more durable than non braided cables:

A close look at the cable reveals the braiding as well as the molded ends to increase durability. That’s important as Apple’s own cables have a reputation for breaking at the ends.

So, how well does this combo work? Well, since the Anker PowerPort III Nano Compact Travel Charger supports both Quick Charge and Power Delivery, it should charge my iPhone 12 Pro quickly. Anker says I should get 50% of a charge in 30 minutes. To test that, my wife offered up her iPhone XR and let me charge using this combo.

Now some of you might be saying “wait, isn’t this a story about fast charging the iPhone 12?” Well, the fact is that according to this any iPhone from the iPhone 8 onwards supports fast charging. Which to Apple means a 50% charge in 30 minutes if you have a compatible charger and a USB-C to Lightning cable. Which means the iPhone XR is an acceptable test bed. I charged the iPhone XR from 25% to 67% in 30 minutes using this combo. That’s a 42% gain. iPhones tend to throttle back their charge rates when the battery goes above 50%. And it really throttles back once it hits 80%. All of this is meant to save your battery. Thus If this phone was completely dead, I can see that this charger and cable would be able to get you a 50% charge in 30 minutes.

So what does this combo cost? Here’s the Canadian and US dollar prices:

If you’ve just got a iPhone 12 variant and you need a charger because Apple is too cheap to put one in the box, or you want to fast charge whatever phone you have, the Anker PowerPort III Nano Compact Travel Charger & Anker Powerline+ III USB-C to Lightning Cable is worth a look.

Review: Snap Ships Gladius AC-75 Drop Ship & Locust Stealth Fighter

Posted in Products with tags on November 9, 2020 by itnerd

Hot off the review of two other Snap Ships craft comes two more Snap Ships that are up for review. Starting with the Gladius AC-75 Drop Ship:

And the Locust Stealth Fighter:

To refresh your memory, Snap Ships are designed for kids ages 8 and up and go for a suggested retail price of $9.99–$39.99. To tell the epic story of the Snap Ships universe, the company behind Snap Ships which is PlayMonster has joined forces with award-winning content studio Wind Sun Sky to produce a fast-paced and edgy animated series. Season one of the series, Snap Ships Dawn of Battle launched this past Friday on YouTube with new episodes airing every Friday. But there’s more to this toy. Snap Ships is supported by an AR app which allows users to explore the vibrant world of Snap Ships. Highly detailed digital versions of the constructible toys come to life in the app and can be summoned into via Augmented Reality.

And back to help me review these Snap Ships is Zavier who is 12 years old and very, very good at reviewing products. Once he gets a drivers license, I may give him a shot at reviewing cars. But for now, I’ll stick to these Snap Ships:

First up the Locus K.L.A.W Stealth Craft. The Stealth craft is a very cool ship. Its unique design is unlike any of the other snap ships I’ve seen. It’s a sleek addition to the snap ships fleet. It’s a unique, simple and a quick build. 

Now for the Locust Support Fighter. The Support fighter isn’t breaking any new ground in terms of design but is still a great ship. It reminds me of the X-Wings from Star Wars, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. I do like the Idea of some smaller sets to add to a collection. Overall the Locust is a great kit and a nice gift for smaller children.

Now onto the Big one, the Gladius AC-75 Drop Ship Kit. First, I’ll talk about the Gladius Attack Rover. The Rover is nice but what gets me excited is the idea of land-based levels in the Snap Ships app. It would be great to drive across the various planets in the Snap Ships universe. That’s just an idea, back to the Rover kit itself. The Rover is a neat toy that anyone could enjoy. It also fits in well with the Dropship. 

On the topic of the Dropship, it’s fantastic. The AC-75 is Huge and probably my new favourite ship. The Dropship is surprisingly simple to build considering its size. It’s something that would be fun to construct with another person. The Dropship has very detailed and intricate printing. It also comes with two well-printed micro figures, the aforementioned Rover. The only issue that I’ve encountered is the time it takes to build. After you Build the second engine it starts to get repetitive. It may just be my attention span, but the final steps did get a little boring. Nonetheless, the whole set was a blast to build and I can’t wait to use it within the app. The Dropship is a spectacular gift for the upcoming holidays. The AC-75 Dropship is a 10 out of 10 in my book. 

That’s a very detailed review from Zavier and I appreciate his perspective on these new Snap Ships. It looks like based on Zavier’s review Snap Ships is two for two. It is clear to me that Snap Ships is a winner and is a great gift for kids.

Review: iPhone 12 Pro

Posted in Products with tags on October 30, 2020 by itnerd

Grab some snacks and a drink. This will be a long review.

I’ve got the new iPhone 12 Pro. Graphite to be precise. It’s replacing my iPhone XS. This is the first major redesign since the iPhone X, and I am not just talking about the physical design. All the iPhone 12 models have 5G and a lot of new camera hardware. Not to mention they are all OLED screens across the board capable of HDR playback. And there’s the A14 processor that is supposed to crush anything in the Android space. That’s a lot of change. Let’s dive in. Starting with the unboxing. Here’s what you get inside the box once you remove the phone:

You get a USB-C to Lightning cable, SIM ejector tool, paperwork, and a single Apple Sticker down from two Apple stickers that were in the box last year. There’s no AC adapter in the box. And if you don’t have one that is USB-C lying around, you’re shelling out $25 CDN for one from Apple. Apple says that they are trying to protect the environment by doing this. But I call BS on that because unlike the Apple Watch Series 6 which comes with a USB-A cable which enables you to recycle any Apple power adapter that you have lying around, you can’t do that with the iPhone 12 Pro without springing for a USB-C power adapter. To me this is a bit of a cash grab. Which isn’t cool given how much this phone costs.The net result is that this move is guaranteed to get some people upset. Specifically new users and those who think that spending four digits on a phone should get you a power adapter in the box.

Oh by the way, Apple is also not including the wired ear phones this time around. They sounded horrible so there’s no great loss there. Which likely explains why nobody seems to care about that. Though the cynic in me says that this was a move to make people more likely to buy AirPods.

Having said all of that, the box that the iPhone 12 Pro comes in is way thinner:

The black box is the iPhone 12 Pro. The white box is the iPhone XS. I guess you can ship way more iPhones in a plane since they each take up way less real estate. That is good for the environment.

Now onto the phone itself:

The design reminds me of the iPhone 4 & 5 which as far as I was concerned were the best looking iPhones ever due to the flat sides. But unlike those iPhones, the display is flush with the rest of the iPhone. And it’s comfortable to hold without a case. The sides are made of surgical grade stainless steel, and they are a major fingerprint magnet. The back is matte glass, and is not a fingerprint magnet. If fingerprints bother you, I’d advise getting a case. This is the graphite color which is apparently the new space grey. I chose it to match my space grey Apple Watch. They do have a four color choices in case graphite doesn’t do it for you.

As for the screen, it’s an OLED screen capable of HDR playback. To me, it seems a bit warmer than my iPhone XS, somewhat brighter, and the bezels are thinner than before. It’s a 6.1″ screen but it doesn’t really take up that more real estate than the XS which I appreciate. Apple has a new feature called the “ceramic shield” that makes the display 4x more shatter resistant. Should you believe that? Well, EveryingApplePro and MobileReviewsEh tested these screens in different ways and found them to be more durable than they expected. But if I were you, I’d put a tempered screen protector on it to be safe. Because even if it is more shatter resistant, it’s not going to be scratch resistant just like the iPhone 11 wasn’t all that scratch resistant. That’s because scratch resistance is inversely proportional to shatter resistance 100% of the time. Or put another way, if you want shatter resistance, you can’t have scratch resistance. And early reports from iPhone 12/ 12 Pro owners who didn’t use screen protectors along with a test from JerryRigEverything appears to confirm that. The display support’s Apple’s True Tone feature which adjusts the screen to ensure that colors are accurate regardless of the lighting conditions as well as P3 wide color for accurate color reproduction. You also get 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio as well as 800 nits max brightness and 1200 nits max brightness when watching HDR content. The screen has a resolution of 2532‑by‑1170-pixel resolution at 460 ppi. One downside to the screen is that Apple has yet again gone to Haptic Touch or long presses rather than 3D Touch which was a much better user interface for facilitating extra functionality within apps. I know that Apple has been ripping out 3D touch out of all their products to make all their products behave the same. But I really think that this is a mistake by Apple as it really throws those who have had 3D touch iPhones and Apple Watches for a loop when interacting with the phone.

Since we’re talking about the screen, let’s get to elephant in the room. The display is a 60 Hz refresh rate display. A lot of Android phones come with 90 Hz, 120 Hz, and a few even have 144 Hz refresh rate displays. And even Apple has the iPad Pro with a 120 Hz variable refresh rate display. So why doesn’t the iPhone 12 Pro have a display with a refresh rate above 60 Hz? I’m guessing that they couldn’t get the OLED screens that they wanted to have a high refresh rate display they way they wanted to. Or they wanted to persevere battery life as high refresh rate displays tend to obliterate battery life. But here’s the reality. Go try one. You’ll see that it is insanely smooth when scrolling and I seriously doubt that you’ll miss not having a high refresh rate display. That makes this a non-issue in my mind. At least for this year. Next year might be different if the iPhone 13 or whatever it is called doesn’t show up with a high refresh rate for those who really care.

The display is very easy to read in most lighting conditions including bright sunlight. The iPhone 12 Pro is capable of HDR playback. And the test videos that I played on it looked stunning. If that’s not enough, the iPhone 12 Pro is also capable of recording Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10 video in 4k60, which is mind blowing considering that this is a phone and not a cinema quality video camera. I should note that only the pro models are capable of recording in Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10 video in 4k60. The non pro models can “only” record Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10 video in 4k30. And no other phone currently does Dolby Vision HDR recording of any sort. To test this, I recorded a 40 second video of a hike that my wife and I did north of Barrie last weekend. If you can, view this on a device that does 4K HDR playback or turn on HDR on your browser and set the resolution to 4K:

Besides the stereo separation for the audio, the color reproduction is simply amazing. I do notice that the video has some sort of auto-focus issue. I’m not sure if that’s due to what the phone has to do stabilize the image or the phone is simply hunting for an object to focus on. But other than that, the video quality is very good. Now if you want better image stabilization, the upcoming iPhone 12 Pro Max has a In-body image stabilization (IBIS)  system that stabilizes the entire image sensor rather than just the optics which may lead to better quality video. That’s on top of having a bigger sensor to start with. Now I suspect that once these phones get out there, and videos recorded in these format start to appear en masse, it will force YouTube to support Dolby Vision HDR and companies that make TVs will have to do exactly the same thing.

If you’re going to have a great display, you need quality speakers to go with them. I found that they are loud and clear. Music sounds good with clear bass and treble.

Storage options start with 128GB, then go to 256GB and then 512GB. I got the 256GB model. It’s IP68 rated to a maximum of 6 metres for up to 30 minutes instead of 4 metres for 30 minutes like the iPhone 11 from last year. You still get a Lightning connector on the bottom instead of USB-C for data transfer and charging, and it has one new party trick. Apple has resurrected the MagSafe name to use it for a bunch of magnetic accessories that attach to the back of the iPhone. The MagSafe charger for example offers 15W fast wireless chargers. Though if you’re not using a MagSafe charger, you’re stuck at 7.5w for wireless charging. I personally am not interested in this feature as when I charge it’s either in my car, or on a wireless charger next to my bed at night. But it’s clear that this is the first step in killing the Lightning port in favor of a port-less iPhone in the future. That also likely explains why Apple still hasn’t gone to USB-C in this iPhone.

5G is the big feature for the iPhone 12 Pro. But what is equally as big is the fact that Apple has finally dumped the horrible Intel LTE modems that have been used by Apple for years (and Apple now owns by the way) for Qualcomm modems which are now available to Apple now that Apple and Qualcomm have stopped suing each other. This allows the iPhone 12 to be way faster than I am used to on the TELUS network. Here’s an LTE score taken in Etobicoke Ontario:

This is about 100Mbps higher versus what I was able to get on the iPhone XS on LTE. That’s quick and basically says that you will have better LTE speeds if 5G isn’t available in your area. But 5G is available in my area and this is what I got:

Now while this isn’t the 1.7 Gbps peak speeds that TELUS claims as their theoretical maximum speed, it’s not slow. I suspect that if I go to other areas of Toronto, I’d get faster speeds. I’ll be doing that and I’ll let you know what I get in a future story. To stop you from chewing through your battery life, Apple has a feature that will switch between LTE and 5G depending on your data needs to save power.

Another point. Since I am in Canada, the version of 5G that I am getting is the “Sub-6” version of 5G which gives you a bit of a speed increase and has better signal coverage and better building penetration. Americans get a US only version of the iPhone 12 which gets support for “Sub-6” and the “millimeter wave” version of 5G which has neither of those things in exchange for super fast speeds if you are in the right area and you are pointed in the right direction. If you prefer to save your mobile data, you get WiFi 6 as part of the deal, which is very fast as well if you have a WiFi 6 router like I do.

Inside you get the A14 Bionic processor which according to benchmarks is yet again the fastest processor in a mobile phone. It is 20% faster than the A13 Bionic that was in the iPhone 11. And to be frank, it’s complete overkill for an iPhone as it is faster than some of Apple’s macOS desktops and laptops. But we should take it as it’s really fast while being power efficient. Win/win. Now if you pair the A14 Bionic with 6GB of RAM which is up from the 4GB in the non pro models, and it’s also up from any other earlier iPhone model. This is going to help with running multiple apps and muti-tasking. But it also helps with all the computational photography that the iPhone 12 Pro is capable of. And I suspect that this is the reason why Apple’s upcoming (via a software update presumably) ProRaw format where you can get a highly detailed picture with all of the computational photography info included is only available on the pro models. Meaning that for those who want to take a photo and make it beyond perfect in Photoshop, the is the phone for you. Not to mention doing 4k60 video which as mentioned earlier is another pro only feature. But here’s the real reason why you should care that this phone comes with the A14 Bionic and 6GB of RAM. When iOS 18 comes out in four years time, this phone will still feel fast. Speaking of iOS, it comes out of the box with iOS 14.1 which is pretty stable and does what you expect iOS to do.

So let’s get to the cameras. You get three cameras at 12 megapixels:

  • Ultra Wide – ƒ/2.4 aperture and 120° field of view
  • Wide – ƒ/1.6 aperture
  • Telephoto cameras – ƒ/2.0 aperture 

What does that look like? Here’s the telephoto camera:

And the wide camera:

And finally ultra wide:

And check this out. My wife and I took a photo side by side in the same marginally dark forest. Her using her iPhone XR. And yours truly on the iPhone 12 Pro. First the iPhone XR:

And here’s the iPhone 12 Pro:

Overall, the iPhone 12 Pro picture looks brighter than the iPhone XR picture. It also has a bit more detail. You can likely thank the computational photography on the iPhone 12 Pro for that. And that computational photography works on all the lenses unlike last year’s iPhones.

I am going to focus on the telephoto lens for a moment. The detail that you get from this camera is great for macro shots as evidenced here:

New to the iPhone 12 Pro is a LIDAR sensor. This sensor has great promise in the future for things like AR applications (though in the here and now, you can use the measure app to accurately measure humans and other objects). But at present, it is being best used for better portrait mode photos because it can not only perform amazing levels of depth perception, but it can make the auto focus from the rear cameras insanely good. Especially at night for both of those items as evidenced by this picture which also took advantage of Apple’s Night Mode tech to give you better pictures in low light situations:

I don’t have a need for doing night selfies. In fact I rarely take selfies at all. But Night Mode selfies may be a thing for some and based on this photo, they would be pretty good:

But I think the best example of Night Mode is to see what the same shot looks like without it. So My wife and I took identical pictures on our balcony. One was on my wife’s iPhone XR and one was on the iPhone 12 Pro.

First the iPhone XR:

Then the iPhone 12 Pro:

The grassy area is the key reason that the Night Mode photo wins. You can actually see it in a good amount of detail.

By the way, Night Mode works on all the lenses for the first time. Ditto for Apple’s Deep Fusion feature which makes your photos look sharper with better colors.

Finally there’s battery life. As I am typing this, I’ve had this phone for a week. But I will give you my last three days.

Here’s Monday where I was working from my home office all day on WiFi 6:

Here’s Tuesday where I went out a couple of times for a couple of hours and I was on 5G and WiFi 6:

This is Wednesday where I mostly worked at home. But I made a trip out to UPS to ship something out:

On each one of those days, I ended the day at or just below 50%. And I was using the phone to check email, surf, and use Reddit among other things. In other words, I was not using this phone lightly. So if I can get this sort of performance out of the iPhone 12 Pro, you should be able to do that well or better.

There’s one other other item. The iPhone 12 has a U1 chip to allow you to unlock a car that is compatible with it. Which at this point is any BMW made after July of this year. It will also work with the new HomePod Mini to precisely position you in your home. And it will work with the much rumored AirTags product which is a Tile like tracker. That’s great for the future, but in the here and now, they will help you to AirDrop files better.

So, should you buy the iPhone 12 Pro? Well, I think it comes down to this:

  • If you want better photo quality than the iPhone 12, then it’s worth it.
  • If you want to leverage the upcoming ProRaw format from Apple, then it’s worth it.
  • If having the extra 2GB of RAM is worth it to you, then buy the iPhone 12 Pro.
  • If you are coming from an iPhone X, XR, or XS or earlier, then you are in the target market for the iPhone 12 Pro.

There is one other thing to consider. If photo quality matters to you, then it may even be worth waiting for the iPhone 12 Pro Max which gives you even better camera optics including In-body image stabilization (IBIS) which may give you better pictures than the iPhone 12 Pro. Not to mention that the iPhone 12 Pro Max will have a bigger battery due to the fact that it is a physically bigger phone. With a bigger price tag to match. But if photos aren’t top of mind, then the iPhone 12 would be the way to go. You’ll give up some of the photo quality of the iPhone 12 Pro and save $200 CDN in the process seeing as the iPhone 12 Pro starts at $1399 CDN with 128GB. Of course that assumes that you get the iPhone 12 with 128GB as well. Which if you fit the use case for an iPhone 12 you should as it’s only $70 over the base price of $1129 CDN with 64GB of RAM.

The iPhone 12 Pro is an impressive smartphone package thanks to its worthwhile camera upgrades. But it is going to face some tough competition from the iPhone 12. You can’t really go wrong either way. But for me, the iPhone 12 Pro is the choice for me. And I think it may be the choice for many.

Review: Mujjo Full Leather Wallet Case for iPhone 12 & 12 Pro

Posted in Products with tags on October 28, 2020 by itnerd

Most of the time my iPhone 12 Pro is a tool to check my email and get calls. But there are times that I also want the iPhone to be a bit of a fashion statement. For example at formal events. That’s where a case like the Mujjo Full Leather Wallet Case for iPhone 12 & 12 Pro comes in handy.

This is a vegetable tanned leather case in what Mujjo calls “Monaco Blue”. You’ll notice two things about this case. One is that the bottom of the case isn’t covered. But that’s not uncommon for leather and even some rubber cases. Second, you’ll see a pocket on the back. I got it to hold my credit card and drivers license which is what I would take with me if I was going out for the evening and I wish to leave my wallet at home so that my suit would look better as there would be no bulges in the jacket or pants.

It was a bit tight to get cards in and out of the pocket, but I would imagine that the leather will loosen up over time. Speaking of the leather, out of the box it had a nice smell to it, the case looks well assembled, and all the duplicate buttons worked perfectly. Plus the cutouts also have very tight tolerances. For example, here’s the cutout for the camera array.

Overall the craftsmanship is top notch as it is clear that Mujjo spent a lot of time and effort to design this case. It’s also a very thin case that doesn’t add much if any bulk. I will however point out that there likely isn’t going to be much drop protection for that reason. Though it will likely protect your iPhone from bumps without a problem. The edge around the screen is slightly raised. That means if you put your iPhone face down, the screen won’t touch the surface that you put it on which is a good thing. Finally, wireless charging and Apple Pay worked fine.

There’s one other thing that I would like to point out:

There’s a microfiber liner on the inside of the case that’s really classy. Right down to the fact that Mujjo embossed their logo into the inside of the case.

Mujjo has a number of colors to fit your style and the case goes for €41.24. It’s a well made case that is very stylish and I will be using this case when the world stops ending and we can go out to formal events again.

Review: Spigen iPhone 12 / iPhone 12 Pro Tough Armor Case

Posted in Products with tags on October 27, 2020 by itnerd

Protecting my new iPhone 12 Pro is top of mind for me because when you spend the kind of cash that Apple wants you to spend on a phone, you want to make sure that nothing happens to it. For that reason, I went with the Spigen iPhone 12 / iPhone 12 Pro Tough Armor Case to protect my iPhone 12 Pro:

This is a case that offers the following features:

  • All-new foam technology for an extra layer of shock resistance
  • Combination of TPU and Polycarbonate for dual protection from drops and scratches
  • Reinforced kickstand with raised lips to protect screen and camera
  • Certified [MIL-STD 810G-516.6] protection and Air Cushion Technology for anti-shock protection
  • This case completely covers every edge of the iPhone for complete protection.

Let’s dive in a bit. Starting with the first two items:

You can see it uses a combination of materials to give it the ability to fully absorb shock. Which is exactly what I want as I want to make sure that this phone will survive a drop. Before you ask, I didn’t do a test drop. EverythingApplePro will likely do that on his dime.

Next up is the kickstand:

The case has a built in kickstand to allow you have the iPhone in landscape mode on a table handsfree.

That makes it perfect for watching videos. For example this is a video of Jai Hindley of Team Sunweb fighting to protect his lead in the Giro d’Italia three week bike race. For the record he lost the lead and the race overall to Tao Geoghegan Hart of Team Ineos Grenadiers.

The case has duplicate buttons are very large and tactile in terms of pressing them, and cutouts for the silent switch, speakers, and Lighting port. The edge of the case around the screen is slightly raised, which means that if you put the iPhone face down, the screen isn’t going to touch the surface. It’s also wireless charging compatible and Apple Pay seems to work fine with it. The case isn’t bulky which means it doesn’t change how you hold your iPhone, but it isn’t thin either. Likely because you need it to be that way to provide meaningful drop protection. It also doesn’t add much weight.

I’d recommend the Spigen iPhone 12 / iPhone 12 Pro Tough Armor Case daily use or for those who have “butter fingers.” This case is $40 USD and as far as I am concerned it’s worth every penny. Especially if you’ve spent a lot of money on your iPhone 12 or 12 Pro.

Review: Caseology Glass Screen Protector

Posted in Products with tags on October 26, 2020 by itnerd

I’ve had my iPhone 12 Pro for a few days now. And even though though Apple claims that it has a “ceramic shield” that claims to make the screen four times more drop resistant, I am dubious of how scratch resistant the screen is. The iPhone 11 series for example was extremely prone to scratches on the screen despite the screen being more impact resistant. The reason for that is that as you make a screen more impact resistant, it becomes more prone to scratches. That made me seek out a tempered screen protector for it. The logic being that a tempered screen protector will protect the screen from scratches and add some additional impact resistance. To that end, I am using the Caseology Glass Screen Protector. Here’s what you get in the box:

You get two screen protectors, two cleaning wipes, a microfiber cloth, a squeegee, a sticker to remove lint and dust, and a installation tray to help you guide the screen protector in place. Caseology says that the screen protector has an oleophobic coating keeps smudges and fingerprints away and uses tempered glass for impact resistance. Installation couldn’t be easier. After cleaning the screen you put the phone in the installation tray like this:

Then you remove the back sticker from the screen protector and drop it into the installation tray:

You then use the squeegee to get rid of the bubbles which are the white spots that you see in the picture above. And that’s it. I did this when I took the iPhone out of the box and got a perfect result the first time out. By perfect I mean no bubbles and it was perfectly centered. As long as you take your time, you shouldn’t be able to screw this up. I should note that this screen protector is case friendly as it doesn’t cover the entire screen. Instead, it leaves a bit of a gap around the edge so that a case can be used without popping off the screen protector. Given that this screen protector is $14.99 USD, and you get two screen protectors as part of the deal, this is a must get so that you can protect the screen of your brand new iPhone 12 or 12 Pro.

Review: Snap Ships

Posted in Products with tags on October 19, 2020 by itnerd

Today I am presenting a review of a toy called Snap Ships.

Designed for kids ages 8 and up, Snap Ships has eleven ships at a suggested retail price of $9.99–$39.99. To tell the epic story of the Snap Ships universe, the company behind Snap Ships which is PlayMonster has joined forces with award-winning content studio Wind Sun Sky to produce a fast-paced and edgy animated series. Season one of the series, Snap Ships Dawn of Battle launched this past Friday on YouTube with new episodes airing every Friday. But there’s more to this toy. Snap Ships is supported by an AR app which allows users to explore the vibrant world of Snap Ships. Highly detailed digital versions of the constructible toys come to life in the app and can be summoned into via Augmented Reality.

All of this sounds great. But I’m not a kid so I can’t speak to how engaging Snap Ships would be for a kid. Thus I had to enlist someone much younger than I. Enter Zavier who is 12 years old and as you will read, he can do product reviews after he’s finished his homework. For the record, everything was written by Zavier and he did the screen shots as well.:

After getting myself familiar with the Snap Ships I can say it’s a great product. The Snap Ships are fun and straightforward to put together with simple, clear instructions. The interlocking cubes snap together well, however they are quite hard to take apart by yourself. Thankfully each kit comes with a separate tool that comes in very handy. All snap ships are fairly unique and considering the highly affordable price, gives a huge incentive to buy more than one kit. In short, the kits themselves are spectacular. 

Now onto the App itself. When you first enter the app you’re presented with a very easy to navigate user interface. It gets its job done and isn’t too overwhelming. 

The dogfights, sectors are fun at first but can get very repetitive. Just a couple of different variations on the standard gameplay can improve the game a whole lot. Sometimes when playing the game it feels like the game is playing for you. There should be an option whether you want the autopilot or manual controls. A crosshair would also be a neat addition so that you’re able to tell where you’re shooting.

The main attraction, augmented reality is immersive and amazingly rendered. It’s really fun to just play around with and other kids will love it. Sometimes though, the ships can get a little glitchy and confusing.

Overall Snap Ships are a great product and I would recommend it to all my friends. Since every piece can snap together it invites a lot of creativity, you make your own ships. It’s very reminiscent of things like Lego in that way. With a few updates and a bit more availability the app could take off (no pun intended).

That’s a very detailed review from Zavier and I appreciate his perspective on Snap Ships. Since he recommends Snap Ships, I will recommend it given the price and the entertainment value that it provides.

Review: Roku Streambar

Posted in Products with tags on October 15, 2020 by itnerd

Today I’m reviewing a 2 in 1 device called the Roku Streambar. It combines a Roku streaming device that is capable of 4K with a compact sound bar that is capable of Dolby Audio.

Here’s what you get in the box:

Besides the Streambar and the power cable, you get an high speed HDMI cable, a optical cable which you only need if your TV doesn’t have an HDMI-ARC port, and a remote with AAA batteries.

On the back of the Streambar you get power, optical, HDMI, USB ports along with a reset button. The Streambar does support Ethernet via a USB adapter that is an optional extra. Out of the box you can connect the streaming part of the Streambar to your network via 802.11ac MiMO WiFi.

This is the Streambar set up and functioning normally.

It is tiny by sound bar standards. It also doesn’t take up a whole lot of real estate as it’s about a third of the size of a typical sound bar. That’s great if you need the space. It also has a pair of mounting holes on the back so that you can mount it to a wall if you wish.

Speaking of the set up process, it was laughably easy. I plugged it into the HDMI-ARC port of my TV and then followed the directions onscreen to set it up. Including adding it to my WiFi network and software updates, it took me ten minutes to set it up. I might have been able to set it up quicker if I didn’t put one of the AAA batteries into the remote backwards. As part of the process, the streaming half of the Streambar automatically optimizes itself for my TV so that it can stream in 4K HDR.

The Streambar has four internal speakers that point in different directions so that it fills your room with sound. You can easily tweak your sound to highlight voices for example, or level the sound, or reduce bass. And it did a good job of filling my living room with sound despite being a physically small sound bar. The sound is very rich, clear, and detailed. This was true whether I was watching regular TV, a movie, or playing a video game. I was kind of surprised at a sound bar at this price point could be this good. More on the price in a moment.

The Streambar comes with Roku OS 9.4 which as part of its feature set is supposed to come with Apple HomeKit and AirPlay 2 support. However, I could not find this support for either in the product. A quick email exchange with Roku confirmed that this is still coming later this year. It makes sense as my TCL TV which has Roku functionality that needed to be updated to Roku OS 9.4 so that I can test the Streambar doesn’t have HomeKit and AirPlay 2 support either. But until AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support makes an appearance, you can stream music to the Streambar via Bluetooth which sounded really good. On the downside, I had to switch to the Streambar to stream music via Bluetooth. And I had to use the remote (which by the way supports voice commands) that came with the Streambar to use it. Maybe I am doing something wrong here, but assuming that I am not doing something wrong, I would have liked to see a bit more integration between the two devices.

In my opinion, if you don’t have a Roku device, the Streambar is a great way to get streaming and upgraded sound onto your “dumb” TV. As always Roku brings a large channel selection to the table. So at what this costs, it’s a total win. If you’re like me and have a Roku TV, in my case a TCL TV, you’ll get upgraded sound. But you’ll also get a second Roku device that you won’t be using most if the time. In my case, I only used it when I was streaming music via bluetooth after I was finished my initial testing. But in either case, the Streambar only costs $189.99. So even in my use case it’s still a win. The Roku Streambar is very much worth a look if you want to bring better sound to your TV along with streaming to your TV at a good price.