Archive for the Products Category

Review: Otofly iPhone 14 Pro Silicone Case

Posted in Products with tags on September 18, 2023 by itnerd

The iPhone 15 might be about to ship on Friday, but I have an iPhone 14 Pro case to talk about. This one is from Otofly and it’s their iPhone 14 Pro Silicone case, which to be fair is available for other phones such as the iPhone 15 Pro as well. I got a black and a green one from Otofly that I’ll use to illustrate the key features of this case:

The outside of the case is made of silicone that is very grippy. The inside has a microfibre lining that makes sure that your phone doesn’t get scratched. The only thing I would point out is that silicone can pick up the oils on your fingers, as evidenced by the black case. But given the fact that this case was comfortable to hold in my hand and doesn’t pick up lint in your pockets, as well as not adding any bulk, that’s far from being a deal breaker.

The case provides good protection for your camera so that lenses don’t get scratched. You can also see the sleep/wake button which has a pretty decent feel when you click it. As do the other buttons on the case.

The speaker grills and the Lightning port are the only things exposed on the bottom.

As for the most important part which is the screen, it works with screen protectors and provides a bit of a lip so that screen doesn’t touch the table if you lay your phone face down.

As for drop protection, I am going to guess that if you drop your phone in this case from say three feet, it will be fine. Dropping your phone from something above that height might be an issue. But having said that, you’re likely getting this case to express your individuality as there are 25 colours available. The only thing that is close to negative that I have to say about this case is that it lacks MagSafe. That was a bit of an issue for me as I have a couple of MagSafe accessories that I use on a regular basis. One is this MagSafe charger which worked mostly fine as it had just enough magnetic strength to stick to the charger and charge my iPhone, and the other being this MagSafe wallet which wouldn’t stick to this case at all. Having MagSafe would have been the cherry on top of the sundae so to speak as this is otherwise a very good case. Especially given that it is $18.99 on Otofly’s website. I’d be giving this case a look if you want a good quality case that’s easy to hold and offers some amount of drop protection.

Review: Otofly Apple Watch Magnetic Buckle Silicone Band

Posted in Products with tags on September 9, 2023 by itnerd

Today I am reviewing the Otofly Apple Watch Magnetic Buckle Silicone Band which is the latest in a number of Apple Watch bands that Otofly sent me to review.

Now this looks like a typical silicone band. But it has a cool trick.

It has a magnetic folding clasp that holds everything together. It snaps together and my attempts to get it to pop open via shaking my arm failed miserably. I also took it on a 42K bike ride and had no issues with it staying on my wrist. However, I did once get the clasp to pop open by having the buckle hook on the edge of a TV that I was installing. I am guessing that this is due to the fact that the clasp is a bit thick which makes it likely to catch on something. But that situation should be an edge case. Pardon the pun.

You can adjust the size of the band using this clasp. And my testing, it didn’t come loose. Thus the use case for this band could be for everyday wear. Seeing as it comes in 15 colours, you can likely find a colour that works for you. And while wearing it, it felt comfortable on my wrist. Even while sleeping.

The Otofly Apple Watch Magnetic Buckle Silicone Band goes for $29.99 and it’s one of those bands that is totally worth looking at if you’re in the market for an Apple Watch band that is a bit different than what’s out there.

Review: Hisense 65″ U68KM Mini-LED 4K ULED Series Quantum Dot Google TV (Model 65U68KM)

Posted in Products with tags on September 7, 2023 by itnerd

Hisense has been making a big push into the Canadian TV market as of late by coming to the table with a mix of top shelf features at a price point that is less than their big name competition. And based on my experience with the 65″ U68KM Mini-LED 4K ULED Series Quantum Dot Google TV that was supplied to me by Hisense to review, they have hit that mark. Let’s have a look at the TV:

The TV that I got was a 65″ model which does 4K HDR. More on that later. Right out of the gate, I noted that reflections are well handled on this matte display.

Another thing that I noted was that the bezels are pretty thin. Even the bottom bezel isn’t that thick. I note that because I have seen TV’s where that bottom bezel is pretty thick which makes it less visually appealing to me.

There’s a ton of ports on this TV. Here’s the list of ports that are in this picture:

  • 2 x USB-A
  • Three HDMI 2.0 ports including an eARC port
  • A mini composite video input jack
  • A headphone jack
  • An antenna/cable connection

Hisense didn’t stop there, they also added a Ethernet port, a fourth HDMI 2.0 port and a digital audio out port. In short, you’ve got a ton of connectivity options here. The only thing that someone might complain about is the fact that the HDMI ports are HDMI 2.0. Which means that hardcore gamers can’t get the fast frame rate fix (meaning above 60 Hz) at 4K resolution. My answer to that is that Hisense offers the U78KM Series and U88KM Series which do 4K at 144 Hz which means that if that is important to you, that’s the direction that you should go in. Besides Ethernet, this TV has 802.11ac WiFi along with Bluetooth for audio. I should note that even though this is a TV that uses the Google TV operating system, it supports AirPlay, HomeKit, and Amazon Alexa. Thus whatever smart home standard that you have, you’re covered.

I’m showing you the underside of the TV because I wanted to illustrate that Hisense thought through the mount points for the feet of the TV which are included in the box should you need them. You have two places to mount them so that you have the freedom of how it should be physically set up. That gets two thumbs up from me.

Now while setting up the TV to test it, I did note this:

The TV gave me the choice of setting it up as a TV using the Google TV operating system, or as a basic TV. I want to highlight this because If I am someone who doesn’t want to use Google TV for whatever reason, I have that choice. And choice is important in my world.

The setup process, which involved downloading the Google Home app to my iPhone, was pretty straightforward and a couple of reboots later due to software updates, I was up and running. I did have some issues getting it onto my WiFi network, but my WiFi network is set up for security first and to play nice with devices second, so that is likely what I was seeing. That’s when I noticed immediately the picture quality. Specifically how dark the blacks were. To my eye, they were approaching OLED levels of black even though this is a mini-LED TV. That made me want to really put this TV though its paces to see what it was capable of. Before I describe what I did in that regard, let me get techy nerdy about the TV.

This is a TV that does 4K HDR with 192 full array local dimming zones that generate up to 600 nits of brightness. In terms of HDR, it supports the following:

  • Dolby Vision
  • HDR10
  • HDR1O+
  • HLG 

It means that any HDR content that you have is playable on this TV and will display as it was intended by whomever created said content. To illustrate this, I pulled out my BluRay copy of The Dark Knight and flipped to the the rooftop scene with Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and Harvey Dent. Visually, this is a very dark scene that is best suited for TVs that do a great job or reproducing HDR content. The net result was that I was able to pick up details that I have never seen before on any other HDR TV that I have owned. I went a bit further by going to the Hong Kong kidnap scene which not only confirmed what I saw in the rooftop scene, but highlighted the fact that motion smoothness and clarity were truly next level in terms of quality as the Hong Kong kidnap scene has a lot of fast paced action in it and I didn’t notice any motion related issues. This was something that I further confirmed by watching a Formula 1 race where I saw no motion blur to speak of. Brightness always seemed to be at the right level for me relative to the content on the screen, and the colour contrast was mind blowing good. Viewing angles are another area where this TV excels at as I was able to see a quality picture from the extreme left or right side of the TV.

I really wanted to go down the rabbit hole on picture quality, thus I threw a couple of tests at this TV. I started with a blooming test to see if this TV had any blooming or halo effect issues, which is defined as follows:

Blooming, also known as the halo effect, is a display artifact that occurs when light from isolated bright objects on a screen bleeds into darker areas surrounding it. This creates a sort of a halo around the object, hence the name “halo effect.”

As far as I am concerned, this TV handles blooming extremely well as the blooming that I saw was very minimal. That surprised me as even my 16″ MacBook Pro which has a mini LED screen with full array local dimming zones has some issues with blooming that are easy to spot. Then I moved on to see if this panel had any issues like dark spots or dirty screen effect. These are both issues with the TV’s panel uniformity, which is the ability for the LED panel to display colours in a consistent manner. As in a consistent green, or a consistent red for example. Thus I ran this test to uncover any of those issues. I didn’t find any panel uniformity issues.

So why is doing this testing important? Besides the fact that you should run both of these tests the second you get a new TV to see if you have a unit that perhaps isn’t up to scratch which means you should exchange it for one that is up to scratch, I have seen many TVs that come from companies that play in the same spectrum that Hisense plays in that ship TVs with those sort issues as a matter of course. The net result being that the picture quality out of the box isn’t as good as it could be and it will never get any better. Hisense appears not to be one of those companies as this TV compares well to bigger more expensive TV brands when it comes to the quality of the panel based on my observations.

Next I did a gaming test using the online cycling platform Zwift and my gaming PC. More on both of those here. I found that riding in Zwift was super smooth and visually stunning. Now there’s a “Game Zone” mode that allows you to tweak a variety of settings including getting this TV to do 120Hz if you drop the resolution to 1080p, and it will support AMD FreeSync and variable refresh rates. It’s worth experimenting with all of that to see what sort of results that you get. And honestly, I would spend some time tweaking the setting in the “Game Zone” as well as the other parts of the TV as there is a lot to customize here so that it suits your needs.

A quick word about Google TV. It works well, and I personally have zero complaints about it as it is easy to learn and use, not to mention that it offers the content that you want to see. Be it Crave, Amazon, Netflix, etc. My wife had one complaint about Google TV which was that Google didn’t implement Apple Fitness+ on screen fitness metrics into Google TV. For me, that’s an edge case that Google can deal with in a software update. But to her it was a deal breaker as she was used to that whenever she works out using Apple Fitness+. We ended up agreeing to disagree on that point.

The last thing that I want to mention are the speakers. The TV comes with a pair of 10W bottom firing speakers that support Dolby Atmos. They are better than the ones that I have heard in quite a number of TVs that I have set up in the past few months. But my recommendation would be to get a sound bar like this one or this one if audio quality matters to you.

So, let’s get to the part that you really care about, the price. I found the U68KM Mini-LED 4K ULED Series Quantum Dot Google TV for just under $900 on Amazon.ca and Best Buy. Given how good this TV is, that price is more than fair. And if the 65″ doesn’t work for you, it also comes in 55″ and 75″ sizes. The bottom line is that this TV from Hisense has knocked it out of the park in terms of picture quality and features. I have no hesitation in saying that you need to put this on your shopping list if you’re in the market for a new TV.

Review: Infinity Loops The Geometric Prepster Apple Watch Band

Posted in Products with tags on August 16, 2023 by itnerd

Last week I reviewed a titanium watch band for the Apple Watch Ultra from Infinity Loops. If you missed that review, you can read it here. Today I am reviewing another one of their bands. The band in question is The Geometric Prepster. An interesting name for an interesting looking band:

While I do have an interest in Apple Watch bands, I don’t recall ever seeing a band that looks like this. And I’m not talking just about the design of the band which is unique and has a bit of a retro vibe being a woven band with a very interesting pattern. Now if this pattern doesn’t work for you, there are 9 others to chose from. The other side of the band is made of leather which is stiff when you get it, but will loosen up over time. That should make the band very comfortable to wear.

All the lugs and the other metal hardware is not only top shelf in terms of quality, but they don’t have any play in them. And all the stitching is well done with no loose threads or anything like that. There’s nothing at all to complain about when it comes to the quality of the band. My only complaint has nothing to do with the band as such. My wife has tiny wrists, and as a result even with the band on the very last hole that the band offers, this band is too loose for her. The reason why that is an issue for her is loose fitting Apple Watches deliver inaccurate health data such as heart rate tracking. I provided this feedback to Infinity Loops and they will “update the description so the size is immediately available.” Given that my wife is a bit of an “edge case” it’s great that Infinity Loops is willing to do that.

The Geometric Prepster goes for $48 CAD and I’d recommend to all but those with wrists like my wife’s. It’s a quality band that has a unique look from my perspective. Which means that it will attract positive attention wherever you go.

Review: Infinity Loops Apple Watch Ultra Titanium Link Bracelet

Posted in Products with tags on August 3, 2023 by itnerd

While my wife and I were in France on vacation, we were contacted by Infinity Loops offering us a couple of Apple Watch band to do a review on them. After having a look at the website, we decided to say yes to this request and in short order we had two bands were headed in our direction. Today’s review is of their Apple Watch Ultra Titanium Link Bracelet. At $122 Canadian for the band, is it a good option for Ultra owners (and owners of other Apple Watches as it’s also available in sizes to fit any Apple Watch)? Let’s dive in and find out.

The band arrives in a box like this with no markings on it other than the Infinity Loops logo. And inside you’ll see the band:

The entire band is wrapped in plastic. Which is a good thing as titanium has a tendency to collect light surface scratches easily. The first question that I had was if this was really titanium. To answer that, I took a magnet to it because titanium isn’t magnetic. Thus a magnet should not stick to it if it is titanium. From what I can tell, the links are titanium and part of the clasp is made of stainless steel as the magnet stuck to the underside of the clasp, but didn’t stick anywhere else. Speaking of the clasp, it has two buttons on the side to unlock the strap. And overall, it looks almost exactly like the Apple Link Bracelet which is stainless steel and costs a lot more than the Infinity Loops offering. Speaking of the Apple Link Bracelet, Infinity Loop “borrowed” one of the best features of the Apple offering:

There are buttons on the back of the band that allows you to size it for your wrist without requiring tools or a visit to your local jewelry store to pay someone to do it for you. I had mine perfectly sized inside of five minutes of getting it delivered to me by Canada Post. As for weight, I compared it to a stainless steel link bracelet of the same size and same design. It was about 5 grams lighter than that at 69 grams versus 74 grams for the stainless steel link bracelet.

As you can see, it more or less matches the shade of titanium on the Apple Watch Ultra. And it feels comfortable. And as I type this, no stray hairs have been caught in this band which is a common thing with bands such as this one. My only advice to you is if you resize the band, make sure all the links are snapped in place. I didn’t do that and the band came apart the first time I put it on after I put it on. The build quality is also excellent as I couldn’t find anything that I would call out as an issue. Especially with the lugs which fit as well as a stock Apple Watch band.

So, is the Infinity Loops Apple Watch Ultra Titanium Link Bracelet worth it at $122 CDN? I would say so without hesitation. This is a very good option for those who don’t want to spend the cash on Apple’s offering, or some other similar offerings that cost less than what Apple has to offer, but cost more than this band. But they want something more upscale for the Apple Watch. Be it the Ultra or some other model. I’m pretty happy with this band and it will be in my rotation of bands going forward. And I am sure that if you get one, you’ll be happy with it as well.

Review: Spigen Rugged Armour Card Holder For MagSafe

Posted in Products with tags on June 17, 2023 by itnerd

When I go out for a training ride on my new road bike, I try to carry as little as possible. Specifically, my house keys, my iPhone 14 Pro, and a couple of pieces of ID. Up until this point I was using this Ekster MagSafe wallet to carry my ID. But the problem is that it is leather, and leather and sweat are not a good combination. So I wanted another option that was more compatible with doing an activity that involved sweat. Thus after some hunting around, I found this:

This is the Spigen Rugged Armour Card Holder For MagSafe. It holds two cards and is made of a silicone like material.

You can get a better look at that material here with a pair of cards inserted into the card holder. The fact that it is made of silicone means that sweat will not be an issue. The company says that it holds two cards, and they are right as I attempted to sneak my VISA card into the card holder on top of two other cards and it wouldn’t fit. But that’s still fine as I only need to take my drivers license and health card with me when I ride. I’ll also mention that if you have other Spigen gear, the faux carbon fibre motif fits in with their cases and the like. That way you can be all “matchy matchy” as my wife would say.

On the back you’ll note that there are two pads on the bottom. They are made of some sort of material that is tacky. And that is what makes this card holder work. When put directly onto an iPhone or onto a MagSafe case like this one, it stays solidly on the back of the iPhone or case. That’s another win for me as I have always been concerned about a card holder like this coming off my phone and being lost someplace on a bike ride. In my opinion, that’s less likely to happen with this card holder.

The Spigen Rugged Armour Card Holder For MagSafe goes for $39 USD and I would really take a good look at it if you want a card holder that is guaranteed to stay on your phone no matter what, and is made of a material that is more durable than leather.

Review: HYAS Protect At Home

Posted in Products with tags on May 15, 2023 by itnerd

Most people that I work with run whatever DNS (domain name service) their ISP provides if they are a home user. Or they may stand up their own DNS server if they are a business user. The problem with either is that it won’t stop threat actors from potentially hitting your network with malware and ransomware just to name two threats. And the CISA backs me on this. Having a Protective DNS service is one layer of a multi-layer approach to cyber security.

That’s where HYAS Protect comes in. It’s a Protective DNS service that protects you from any cyber threat that uses DNS to communicate. Such as threats that use command and control methods of communication. Plus you can get a better insight into what is communicating to whom on your network as that might tip you off as to something amiss on your network. Like a PC that has been infected for example.

What’s really interesting here is that HYAS has a home version that is available for free. I’m assuming the logic is that if you as someone who knows what DNS is uses the home service, you’re more likely to recommend the enterprise grade version to your company. Which is why I’m testing the home version today

To start the process of setting this up, you need to go to this page and enter your information. Within five minutes, you will get this email:

Now it took another four days before I got any further communications from HYAS. And that communication was in the form of this email:

The email has a username in the form of my email address, and a temporary password (both have been redacted the screenshot above) that I was forced to change when I logged into for the first time.

I spoke to Paul Van Gool who is the Senior VP Of Engineering at HYAS, and he mentioned that right now the reason for the delay in getting this email is that any request that they get to sign up for HYAS Protect At Home goes through a manual review process. Something that I can confirm as I used my personal email address as opposed to my corporate one, and a HYAS employee had a look at my LinkedIn profile that is associated with that email address a couple of days later. Which means that they’re trying to figure out real people from threat actors for example. But the goal is to get this fully automated so that you as the end user can be using this product in minutes and not days.

Once I logged in and changed the password, I was then greeted with this screen:

There was a short video that I watched welcoming me to the product. Then I went about configuring it which was a three step operation:

First it identifies your external IP address. Then you have to enter their DNS addresses into your router. Finally you have to test it. It is kind of hard to screw this up if you know your way around a router. And the target audience of this product would know their way around a router. So this part should be trivial.

Now my ISP of the moment is Bell Canada. And they have a habit of changing my external IP address frequently. What happens at that point? According to Mr. Van Gool, you’re still protected because you’re using their DNS service. But any reporting on traffic after the external IP change won’t be reflected in the control panel until you update it with your current external IP. And doing so is a couple of clicks so it’s not a big deal to do. Mr. Van Gool also mentioned that HYAS is looking at putting this more in the user’s face so that it’s clear that this needs to be done.

Once you’re in, you’re presented with a short explainer that you can move through at your own pace:

Followed by an easy to use and reasonably clear control panel:

Now it did take me a few clicks of the control panel on the left side of the screen to figure out what everything was. But if you’ve used these sorts of tools before, it will only take you a few minutes to be up to speed. From top to bottom the functions that are:

  • Overview – That’s the screen that you’re seeing above. This shows shows an aggregated view of DNS traffic activity. 
  • Log View – This page will display all of your organization’s DNS traffic log data. 
  • Reports – This will download the logs shown that have been checked off into either JSON or CSV format. 
  • Policy Engine – This allows you to turn on/off policies such as blocking adult sites for example.
  • List Management – This allows you to block individual domains based on domain name or IP address.
  • Passthrough – This is a feature that is not available in the home version of this product. But it will show any traffic that you have defined as being allowed to passthrough and not get flagged.
  • Alerts – This allows you to see any alerts that you should take action on.

In my testing of this product, I can say that it works as advertised. My test was to go to a website that is known for all sorts of “shady” behaviour when it comes to what it drops onto your computer and the domains that it contacts. When I went to this site, HYAS Protect At Home reacted like this:

It blocked a bunch of sites that it deemed as untrusted. Which is good. I did some other testing with some “dark” web sites and got the same result. I also found thanks to HYAS Protect At Home that my ASUS router had a tendency to phone home to places that Protect At Home flagged as suspicious. A lot. And it was more likely to do this when I have the configuration webpage open. When it is closed, the amount of “phone home” traffic is still there, but in lower amounts.. But the fun doesn’t end there. My gaming PC is also phoning home to ASUS servers. From what I can tell, the software that is supplied for the ASUS Republic Of Gamers motherboards dials home as well. But it seems to do that on a cold start or a reboot, as well as periodically while it is online. I’ll have to go down the rabbit hole as to why my ASUS stuff seems to be so “chatty” as nothing else on my network appears to be that “chatty” at a future time. But it illustrates another benefit to HYAS Protect At Home. Which is it allows you to gain real insight into what places on the Internet that devices on your network are talking to. That way if you see something that seems odd, you can investigate and take action.

Another thing that caught my attention is that my wife has a tendency to go to sites having to do with cooking. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it looks like the sites in question have a lot of stuff that HYAS Protect At Home did not like because it blocked a lot of things coming off those sites:

When I investigated it, the source were ads that were placed on the site. Why that matters is that things like pop-up scams and malware can often come from ads placed on websites. This is knows as a “drive by attack”. Thus it’s good that these sorts of threats are being proactively blocked long before it can hit your device.

The final area that I tested was DNS resolution speed. As in how how long it takes from the time it takes you to hit enter on the address bar of your web browser before the web page that you want to go to starts to appear. According to Mr. Van Gool, it can be up to 250 milliseconds. And my “seat of the pants” observations seem to be consistent with that as nothing I did was slower than normal. In fact some things that I normally do felt a touch faster.

I have to admit that I am pretty impressed by HYAS Protect At Home. It provides an added level of security, which I was able to verify. On top of that, it has some of the best reporting and visibility tools that I have ever seen. And that’s validated by the fact that I found out stuff about my own network that I need to look into further. And the kicker is that this is the home product. If the home product is this good, imagine how good the enterprise product must be. As far as I am concerned, this is an easy two thumbs up from me. And my advice is if you are responsible for security in your enterprise, feel free to try this out on your home network and see for yourself how good this product is.

Review: BenQ DesignVue PD3220U 32″ Monitor

Posted in Products with tags on May 12, 2023 by itnerd

I’ll get this out of the way right now. The BenQ DesignVue PD3220U is either almost the perfect monitor for Mac users. Or it is the perfect monitor for Mac users. It depends on who you are and what you will use this monitor for. If you’re the average Mac user, you’re in the former camp. If you’re the target audience for this monitor, which are people who design content, you’re in the latter camp. Let me spend this review walking though the features of this monitor and pointing out the things that make it perfect for the latter camp, and slightly less so for the former camp.

It’s a 31.5-inch IPS panel with a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels which represents 140 ppi. While not Apple retina levels of ppi, fine detailing is still easy to see at a comfortable viewing distance. Given that I have a small standing desk from to place this monitor on, that’s something I did like. The monitor has a peak brightness of 300 nits which is the first issue that some might have with this monitor. Which is that you’ll either like the fact that this isn’t a super bright monitor that will sear your eyeballs, or you will wish that it was brighter. I personally, am ok with the brightness level that this monitor is capable of as this is aimed at people who don’t want super bright monitors. Designers and video editors for example. Though I will note that it pales in comparison to my MacBook Pro which can get to much higher brightness levels. Thus I can see some people being unimpressed at first glance and wanting it to be a bit brighter if they consume content as opposed to create it.

The display has 10-bit colour processing which delivers a palette of 1.07 billion colours, resulting in smoother shading, colour transitions and tonal gradations. On top of that, you get 100 percent of the sRGB colour space and its video equivalent, Rec.709. The display also covers 95 percent of the DCI-P3 colour space, and for video-makers, the PD3220U also handles HDR content via having HDR10 support. More on HDR in a bit. Oddly, BenQ doesn’t supply a specification for the Adobe RGB colour space. But there’s a calibration report in the box as it is a factory calibrated monitor. Finally, this is a 60Hz panel. And that brings me to the second issue that some will have with this monitor. For some, especially those who own newer MacBook Pros that are capable of ProMotion or the ability to ramp up the refresh rate up to 120Hz, the fact that this is a 60Hz monitor is pretty noticeable and may be a turn off to some. Others, again those who create content will likely not care. I say that because those who edit video for example are editing video at frame rates of 24 and 30 fps for example. And those who are doing photo editing for example will not care as they look at static images all day.

The monitor is mostly plastic. But it felt solid and the build quality looks good. The PD3220U has a matte anti-glare screen surface that BenQ doesn’t want you accidentally peeling off. In fact they have this sticker on the monitor telling you not to peel it off:

Consider yourself warned. This anti glare film does work though as it I noted no reflection in my home office which has a window on the left that even though it has blinds, it gets a lot of sunlight in the afternoon as it is facing west.

Let’s move on to connectivity. The PD3230U has lots of it:

The full list of connectivity for the back goes like this:

  • Two USB-A 3.1 downstream ports
  • One USB-B upstream port
  • A USB-B mini Port for the hotkey puck
  • Two HDMI 2.0 Ports
  • Display Port 1.4
  • Two USB Type C with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. One is downstream and one is upstream.

Here you see the USB-C, USB-A and 3.5mm headphone jack that are located on the right side of the monitor. That way you can plug in a set of headphones or a USB stick.

All this connectivity gives you a one cable setup that delivers video, power (85W), and connectivity over a single Thunderbolt cable. For Mac users, especially portable ones, that’s the dream setup. This monitor also has support for a Keyboard Video Mouse (KVM) which allows for easier switching between two computers with a single keyboard and mouse. There’s also a ‘DualView’ mode for when you’re using one display with two inputs. Plus there’s all sorts of Picture in Picture modes that allow you to keep tabs on one of those computers. Finally, you can daisy chain two monitors together and still connect everything to your computer with one cable.

The PD3220U includes BenQ’s Hotkey Puck remote control dial. This plugs into the monitor via the mini USB port that I referenced earlier and is used to control monitor settings like brightness, colour modes and the volume of the built-in dual 2W speakers. Though I should mention that there are buttons on the back of the monitor if that’s your preference. In terms of the speakers, they are unremarkable as most monitor speakers tend to be.

Let’s get to the part that you care about. How does this monitor perform? Here’s the TL:DR on that:

  • The Display P3 colour mode is impressive. It has vibrant colours and excellent colour and contrast consistency.
  • BenQ has software called Display Pilot for the Mac that will help to make sure that my MacBook Pro Display matches the PD3220U as closely as possible is an excellent touch. I didn’t use that option when I reviewed this monitor. I simply put the monitor into “M-Book” mode and went to work. But content creators and control enthusiasts will appreciate that Display Pilot exists.
  • This monitor has a low blue light filter which helps reduce the amount of harmful blue light emitted by the display. This is especially useful for those who work long hours in front of a screen, as it can help to reduce the risk of eye fatigue and other related issues.
  • HDR-10 performance was a surprise for me. I typically don’t expect much from any monitor that has no local dimming ability, not to mention the brightness levels that this monitor has. But running some test HDR videos on this monitor revealed that you can view HDR with correct colours 100% of the time, which is very useful from a content creation perspective. But less useful for content consumption.

Another area that I want to touch on is the stand. It’s made of metal, features tool free assembly, and is solid. The monitor has a bit of shake to it if you shake the desk that it is on. But I didn’t notice any shaking while I was typing. The stand also has some basic cable management and is height adjustable as well as having the ability to tilt and swivel. Though in terms of height, it may not go high enough for those who are on the taller side. For those people, a good quality VESA mount (it supports 100×100 VESA mounts) may be your best option.

Finally, in the bonus points department, all cables are included in the box which makes life easy for anyone who buys this monitor as everything is there for you to set it up and use it.

The BenQ DesignVue PD3220U is going to be the perfect monitor, or almost perfect monitor depending on who you are. In my opinion if you’re a content creator of some sort, this monitor has to be on your shopping list. If you’re an average Mac user, this might not be the right monitor for you. Though given the connectivity options, it is still worth a look for that reason alone as there aren’t a lot of monitors outside of Apple’s own monitors that provide this level of connectivity. I found it on Amazon for $1500 CDN which isn’t exactly cheap. But I suspect for many, it will be at a price point that makes it worth considering.

Review: ESR HaloLock 3-in-1 Wireless Charger with CryoBoost 

Posted in Products with tags on May 2, 2023 by itnerd

My wife and I both have had chargers for our iDevices on our respective night stands. The iDevices that we charge are usually our respective iPhone and Apple Watches. Over the holiday season I gave her a ESR HaloLock 3-in-1 Wireless Charger with CryoBoost  which she absolutely loves. As a result of that, I got one for myself and decided to review it.

Now to be clear, this charger will charge the following devices:

  • An iPhone with MagSafe which will charge at 7.5W.
  • An Apple Watch which will charge at 5W and requires you to supply your own charging puck.
  • A pair of AirPods in the wireless charging case underneath the iPhone. That will charge at 5W.

Here’s what you get when you take it out of the box.

Not pictured is the wall adapter. As you can see and as I mentioned earlier, you need to bring your own Apple Watch charging puck. I’m guessing that ESR didn’t want to pay Apple to put one that was MFi certified in, which also explains why the MagSafe charger is capped at 7.5W as that the max that a non-MFi MagSafe charger can go. But as you’ll see shortly, neither of these details matter. But before I get to that, let’s get the Apple Watch charging puck thing out of the way. So to make this work, I had to spring for the fast charging version of the Apple Watch charging puck. And ESR has a couple of really clever features that make this work:

As you can see here, you can open the base of the charging stand and you will see a USB-A port, and a USB-C port. Choosing the latter allows you to use the fast charging Apple Watch charging puck which is important if you have a recent Apple Watch that supports fast charging. In fact, I would suggest you just go out and by the fast charging puck as that is a form of future proofing.

And as you can see, you can wrap the cable up so that it is nice and neat so that it looks like the stand came that way from the factory.

Here’s the net result with the charging puck installed. It looks pretty clean.

Now the main claim to fame for the ESR HaloLock 3-in-1 Wireless Charger with CryoBoost is the aforementioned CryoBoost feature. CryoBoost in short is a MagSafe adapter that has a cooling fan. By having the cooling fan it will keep your iPhone cooler while charging. Which not only extends the health of the iPhone’s battery as heat kills batteries, but it keeps the charging speed more consistent. Which means it charges faster as a result. This despite the fact that it has a maximum 7.5W charge speed. Now the company claims that it can charge an iPhone 13 from 0 to 100% in three hours. Which is 4 hours faster than Apple’s MagSafe charing puck which while it has the ability to charge at 15W, the MagSafe puck will bring that charge speed down as the phone heats up. And it will stop charging if the iPhone gets too hot and wait until the temperature comes down to start charging again. Which means despite the fact it has a charge speed of 15W, it will charge slower because it has to manage the heat the iPhone generates while charging. When I tested these claims out, it took 2 hours and 21 minutes to charge my iPhone 14 Pro from 5% to 100% with CryoBoost turned on. That was pretty impressive and confirms what the company claims.

As for the charging puck for the Apple Watch, I used my Apple Watch Ultra to test this and it charged that as fast as the fast charging puck that is on my desk. That makes sense as this stand isn’t employing any cooling tricks to charge the watch faster. Finally, the spot for the AirPods didn’t charge my AirPods Pro any faster than any of the 5W chargers that I have scattered around my home. Again, that makes sense as the stand isn’t doing anything cooling related to charge the AirPods faster. The only thing that I have to say about the AirPods charger is that you have to put the AirPods in exactly the right spot for it to charge. Fortunately there is an outline on the charger that in daylight will help you with that. At night you’re going to have to rely on either the light on the AirPods case or the ding sound on the Generation 2 AirPods Pro to let you know if you’ve got them in the right spot. And if you move the AirPods because you toss and turn while you sleep for example, you may not have fully charged AirPods in the morning.

Gripes? I have a minor one. The fan is definitely not silent. It’s not super loud either. But you will be able to hear it, and this will keep you awake at night. Along with that, when CryoBoost is turned on, a light gets turned on around the MagSafe charging puck that will create a bit of a glow in a dark room which can keep you from getting to sleep. Fortunately you can hit a button on the stand to turn both of those off. But that takes away the ability for CryoBoost to keep you phone cool. Now that’s not really a big deal as having Optimized Battery Charging turned on will charge your iPhone to 80%, and then slow charge to 100% before you wake up. That makes heat less of a factor on your iPhone’s battery health. But still, it might have been nice to be able to make the fan a tiny bit more quiet and having the ability to turn the light off while keeping the fan on.

So this is what this setup cost me on Amazon:

  • ESR HaloLock 3-in-1 Wireless Charger with CryoBoost: $70.39 CDN
  • Apple Watch Fast Charing Puck: $37.96 CDN

Total cost: $108.35

I really can’t argue with the price, and the fact that I had to bring my own Apple Watch charing puck to the party. This product is well thought out for the most part and works as advertised. Thus if you need a charging stand for your Apple Watch, iPhone, and AirPods, you should give this one a look.

Review: BenQ PD3420Q 34″ Ultrawide Monitor

Posted in Products with tags on April 25, 2023 by itnerd

Let me get right to the point. The BenQ PD3420Q ultra wide monitor is aimed at anyone who needs a colour critical monitor for image or video editing. Ideally if you’re a Mac user as it has a lot of features that are Mac friendly. That’s it. The review is done. Have a nice day.

Seriously this is a great monitor with very few things for me to gripe about. Let’s start with the monitor itself. It’s a 34″ monitor that is 21:9 which means that you get a resolution of 3440 x 1440 with a pixel density of 109 ppi. It’s also a 10-bit IPS panel that has a 60Hz refresh rate.

The PD3420Q has 100% sRGB and 98% DCI-P3 color space coverage. It also comes factory calibrated (the documentation is in the box) to an accuracy of Delta-E <3 which is okay as many monitors have a Delta-E of <2. But I think that might be on the conservative side as I will point out later. I didn’t see Adobe RGB percentage coverage mentioned anywhere in the specs, so if someone reading this needs that, you might have to look at another option.

Now let’s look at connectivity which is the first reason why I like this monitor:

From left to right you get a Mini-USB port for BenQ’s Hotkey Puck to control the monitor, two HDMI 2.0 ports, DisplayPort, a USB-C port that supports 65W power delivery and DisplayPort, A USB-A upstream port, two USB-A downstream ports.

On the side you get a USB-C port and a USB-A port along with a headphone jack.

What all of that means is that if you have a modern MacBook, you can do a one cable setup where a single USB-C cable delivers video, power and anything else that you need as seen in the picture above. And you have additional connection needs, you can leverage the monitor for that.

The PD3420Q includes BenQ’s Hotkey Puck remote control dial. This plugs into the monitor via the mini USB port that I referenced earlier and is used to control monitor settings like brightness, colour modes and the volume of the built-in dual 2.5W speakers. Though I should mention that there are buttons on the back of the monitor if that’s your preference. As for the stand, it’s made of metal, features tool free assembly, and is solid. The monitor doesn’t shake at all which is great and has some basic cable management. The stand is height adjustable as well as having the ability to tilt and swivel. Though in terms of height, it may not go high enough for those who are on the taller side. For those people, a good quality VESA mount may be your best option. I should point out that before getting this monitor, you should look at your setup so that you can ensure that it enough depth for the monitor. Otherwise you might find it difficult to look at if it is too close to you.

I should also mention that the PD3420Q incorporates a built-in KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) switch, allowing you to control two computers from a single keyboard and mouse, with the Hotkey Puck able to switch between the two computers.

Now all of that is nice, but how does the monitor perform? I’ll get the negative out of the way. The speakers will not impress you. However, in the default Display P3 colour mode, the PD3420Q will impress you. It has vibrant colours and excellent colour and contrast consistency. And the fact that BenQ has software called Display Pilot for the Mac that will help to make sure that my MacBook Pro Display matches the PD3420Q as closely as possible is an excellent touch. More on that in a moment. But what this means if you depend on your monitor for colour critical work, this is a very good option for you. I will also say once you tweak things using Display Pilot, text was pretty sharp.

One feature I really appreciated was the low blue light filter, which helps reduce the amount of harmful blue light emitted by the display. This is especially useful for those who work long hours in front of a screen, as it can help to reduce the risk of eye fatigue and other related issues.

The PD3420Q also has several additional features that make it a versatile and powerful monitor. For example, it has a Picture-by-Picture feature that allows you to connect two different sources (a PC and Mac for example) to the monitor as mentioned above and display them side by side.

The monitor also has a Picture-in-Picture feature, which allows you to display a smaller window within the main display. This can be useful for tasks such as video conferencing or keeping an eye on your email while working on something else.

Another feature worth mentioning is the Display Pilot software, which allows you to customize and optimize the display settings to suit your specific needs. The software includes various features such as split-screen options, colour temperature adjustments, and more. This software was a very nice touch during my testing.

The PD3420Q does Display HDR400 and HDR10. And I will say that HDR performance is better than most IPS displays that I have seen lately. However as is usually the case, the Mini LED XDR display in my MacBook Pro blows it away. Largely because of of the fact that the MacBook Pro’s display can get way brighter than the 400 nits that this monitor is capable of, and because it comes with local dimming which the PD3420Q does not have.

Finally, in the bonus points department, all cables are included in the box which makes life easy for anyone who buys this monitor as everything is there for you to set it up and use it.

Overall, I was impressed with the BenQ PD3420Q. It’s a powerful and feature packed monitor that is well suited for professionals who need a high quality display for their work. Its price point is pretty good as I found it on Amazon for about $1200. Take a look at it if you have a colour critical workflow.