Archive for the Products Category

Review: WPS Office 2020

Posted in Products with tags on October 8, 2019 by itnerd

Something that every computer user needs is an office suite of some sort. For most that means using Microsoft Office. But given that Microsoft is pushing Office 365 aggressively, and also making it increasingly difficult to buy a single purchase copy, many are looking for other options. I recently got the chance to try out one of those options which is WPS Office 2020. It’s available for the following platforms:

And recently they have expanded to the Mac platform. That’s the version that I tested. The user interface is simple to use and resembles Microsoft Office to some extent. If you know how to use Office, you will figure out how to use WPS Office 2020 very quickly. WPS Office 2020 offers a tab-based user interface which can group your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in a single window. That makes it even easier to use. The performance of the suite is very good on my 2015 MacBook Pro so there’s no issues on that front. Seeing as WPS Office is cross platform, you get the advantage of being able to work on any document on whatever platforms you use. One added bonus is that WPS Office 2020 supports macOS dark mode which is very cool. In terms of compatibility, I found no issues with any file I threw at it. Everything looked and behaved the way it should from that perspective.

So, is WPS Office 2020 perfect? No. The only thing that I can find that is missing is the ability to real-time collaborative editing that you get with some other suites. Is it a deal breaker? No. But it would be nice to have.

WPS Office 2020 is free to download office suite. However, users could also opt for a premium version which will set you back by $29.99 per year. The ad free premium subscription comes with a number of features, including document recovery support, file compressor, 20GB of cloud support and more including OCR functionality on the Windows platform. Given that Microsoft Office is in the triple digits in terms of costs, $29.99 is a small cost to pay for what you get here. If you need an office suite, WPS Office 2020 is a great option to look at.

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Review: Oral-B Genius X 10000 Toothbrush

Posted in Products with tags on September 26, 2019 by itnerd

Yes, I am reviewing an electric toothbrush. In fact, I am one of a handful of journalists to review this particular toothbrush which is the Oral-B Genius X 10000, which means it’s pretty special. And you’ll see in this review why it is special. Let’s start with what comes in the box:

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You get the toothbrush, a bunch of heads, a charging stand, and a travel case so you can ensure that your oral care regime stays on point when you are on the road. One cool thing about the travel case is that it’s designed to charge both your toothbrush and smartphone using only one outlet. But, the The battery on the toothbrush lasts up to 14 days between charges and has 6 modes:

  • Daily Clean
  • Pro Clean
  • Gum Care
  • Sensitive
  • Whitening
  • Tongue Cleaning

I ran it briefly in the daily clean mode. But I ended up parking it in the pro clean mode as I really liked the results that it provided.

The Oral-B Genius X 10000 works with the Oral-B app via Bluetooth connection to help you to brush effectively, track your results, and coach you on brushing better in real time as the toothbrush can figure out where in your mouth the toothbrush is. More on that in a second. Once the toothbrush connects with your phone, you get a screen like this:

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Anything that is in white is an area of your mouth that has been cleaned to the satisfaction of the toothbrush. Anything in blue still needs to be cleaned. And if see any section flashing in red, it means that you are pressing too hard. Which is a problem because it could hurt your gums. Something that gets illustrated when you get the report on how well you did.

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As you can see from this report, I covered 100% of my teeth, but I pressed too hard for 4 seconds. That dropped my brushing score to 80%. Clearly I had to improve. Which I did a few days later:

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I can go back and review my results via the app (available for iOS and Android) over days, weeks or months to see how I well I was doing. And the app has a gamification element within it where you can get awards for doing what you should be doing in terms of oral care. For example I got two awards during my test of the toothbrush for brushing and rinsing for seven days straight:

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Now for the most part, the toothbrush was able to figure out where I was brushing. But it did have some problems with my front teeth unless I was holding it in a way that allowed it to figure out where it was. And I did feel that my teeth were far cleaner than they normally would be. This is impressive given that I have used a power toothbrush (an Oral-b one for the record) for years and I thought that was doing a great job in terms of getting my teeth clean. But the real question is if my teeth were actually cleaner? To find out I used the Oral-B Genius X 10000 for a week and then visited my dental hygienist for my quarterly cleaning. And the results were interesting. Other than a piece of popcorn that was stuck in my gums that I missed while flossing, my dental hygienist said she had to do way less work to clean my teeth than normal. She also mentioned that the Genius series of toothbrushes are the “Rolls Royce” of toothbrushes and her patients get great results by using them. Thus I would conclude that the Oral-B Genius X 10000 works extremely well to keep my teeth clean and does so in a manner that takes my oral care to the next level. Thus I can say that it will do the same for you.

Gripes? I wouldn’t call this a gripe, but I would call it a feature request. It would be nice if the Oral-B app for iOS integrated itself with Apple Health as the iOS 13 version of the Health app now has a toothbrushing section in the Health app where the Oral-B app could add the data about your toothbrushing to. But to be fair to Oral-B, you can export your brushing results as a PDF from the Oral-B app and send them to your dentist which is similar to what Apple does with ECG results from the Apple Watch.

The Oral-B Genius X 10000 will be available in October and goes for around $299 CDN which is not cheap. But I truly believe that if you want to improve your oral care regime to the point where your dentist will thank you, then this is a good investment as there are worse ways to spend $299 CDN. And if it helps, more than one person can use the Oral-B Genius X 10000 as long as they bring their own phone and brush heads. That’s a winning strategy in my mind.

Review: Belkin BOOST↑UP Wireless Charging Dock for iPhone + Apple Watch + USB-A port

Posted in Products with tags on September 25, 2019 by itnerd

My wife this summer got a iPhone XR which comes with wireless charging. That to me required a new charger to make her life easier as she was charging her previous iPhone 7 Plus with a Lightning cable. Thus Belkin was kind enough to hook her up with the BOOST↑UP Wireless Charging Dock for iPhone + Apple Watch + USB-A port:

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This is everything that you get in the box. The power adapter is on the larger size. But the plug is at the end. Thus you won’t have a problem plugging it into a power bar. And you can see the charger which has stands for your Apple Watch on the right (which allows your Apple Watch to go into Nightstand Mode), and the stand for your iPhone on the left which supports 7.5w Qi-certified charging. One thing that I like about the Apple Watch end of the charge is that it will work with any band. By that I mean that if you have a traditional leather band, a sport loop, or something in between, you can still charge the watch.

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There’s a A 5-watt USB-A port on the back so you can charge another device. Though I can expect that somebody who reads this review would want USB-C to be here instead. I personally don’t think it’s a deal breaker though.

My wife had the following thoughts on the Belkin BOOST↑UP Wireless Charging Dock for iPhone + Apple Watch + USB-A port:

  • My wife thinks that this charging stand is a game changer as she can just drop her iPhone XR in with the case and it will charge 100% of the time without fail and without thinking about it.
  • The fact that it also puts the Apple watch in Nightstand Mode is also great.
  • As far as she is concerned, it’s a home run for Belkin.

I think that another plus is that it doesn’t take up a whole lot of real estate. If you have a small nightstand, that’s important to take into consideration.

The Belkin BOOST↑UP Wireless Charging Dock for iPhone + Apple Watch + USB-A port has a long name. But it does have a pretty decent price which is $139.99 USD. Consider this a must get if you need a wireless charger for your iPhone and Apple Watch.

Review: Belkin MIXIT DuraTek Apple Watch Charging Cable

Posted in Products with tags on September 24, 2019 by itnerd

My wife (thanks to yours truly) is an Apple Watch user as I gave her a Series 4 with GPS+LTE for our wedding anniversary. The one thing that she didn’t have was an extra charger for it. So it’s a good thing that Belkin hooked her up with the MIXIT DuraTek Apple Watch Charging Cable:

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Belkin sent her one in pink which she REALLY likes. When she showed it to me, I noticed this right away:

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First, the cable is braided. And it has Aramid fibers which add extra strength and act to protect the wires in the cable. Second, the ends of the cable have molding at the ends. That should ensure that the lifespan of the cable will be long. It’s 1.2M length which should give you the length that you need for any situation.

My wife noted the following:

  • She noted that it doesn’t tangle.
  • It worked everywhere she tried it.
  • It looks really, REALLY good.
  • She liked the length of the cable as it goes across her desk at work which is where this cable lives.

All of this is a win. The only thing that I will note is that charging module that you drop the watch onto is a bit larger than the stock Apple Watch which shouldn’t pose a problem unless you are using it where the size of the charging module matters. An example of this is if you want to put the charger in something like this. The price for the Belkin MIXIT DuraTek Apple Watch Charging Cable is $49.99 USD which is a bit more than any of the Apple Watch charges that Apple offers. But the Belkin MIXIT DuraTek Apple Watch Charging Cable is a much better cable that you should go for if you want a much better quality cable for your Apple Watch charging needs.

Review: Belkin ROCKSTAR Headphones with Lightning Connector

Posted in Products with tags on September 23, 2019 by itnerd

A good set of in ear headphones requires three things in my mind:

  • Good fit
  • Comfort
  • Good Audio

Belkin has a set of in ear headphones that they claim that addresses all three of those points. They’re called the ROCKSTAR Headphones. And the ones that we are testing today are the ones with the Lightning connector which is aimed at iPhone users.

 

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The key features include the fact that they are water-resistant and noise-isolating thanks to the fact that they fit in your ears. Other key features include the fact that it comes with three pairs of ear tips that allows you to tailor the fit to your ear. The cables are flat which makes them more durable and less likely to tangle. The ends are also moulded for durability as well.

The question is how well do they work. To get that answer, I turned them over to my wife and let her have at them. Seeing as she does science for a living, she came up with a way to test them that was scientifically valid to a point. She bought a song and used it to test the audio quality. She then compared it to the following headsets:

  • RHA MA450 headsets with the Apple 3.5mm to Lightning dongle

  • Jaybird X4 Wireless headsets

  • Apple EarPods

Her thoughts are:

  • The main selling point of these Belkin ROCKSTAR headphones is that they are going to be more durable. Especially if you have gone through a couple of Apple EarPods. These ROCKSTARS would be a good option once the original headphones wear out. Which they will. This is a win as from a price point as they come in around the same price as the stock apple headphones.
  • When compared to the EarPods that your original iPhone, they are tuned slightly different but comparable across the audio range.
  • Compared to the RHA MA450 with the Apple dongle & Jaybird X4 it doesn’t do quite as well. If you have headphones that more high end, even with the dongle and accounting for degradation audio resolution (due to the digital to analog conversion) or having the audio being pushed over Bluetooth, your higher end headphones will continue to be superior to these ROCKSTARS. But they are also way more money.
  • They don’t tangle in her purse.
  • Phone calls sound good.
  • They do isolate you from the exterior noise. But it’s not totally isolating as you can still hear some exterior sound. That might be a good thing when jogging for example.

So, given that these headphones are $39.99 USD, I would say that this is a win if you don’t want to get the stock Apple EarPods, but don’t want to spend a lot of money on a pair of replacement headphones. If you’re that person, this is a great option.

 

 

Review: 2019 Mazda CX-5D Signature – Part 5

Posted in Products with tags on September 20, 2019 by itnerd

So I’ve come to the end of my week long review of the Mazda CX-5D Signature. My final fuel economy was 8 L/100KM’s which I got in a mix of city roads and highways, not to mention a lot of rush hour traffic. I am pretty sure that I could have gotten better as I know that the diesel engine is capable of getting better fuel economy. Still it did better than the numbers that Mazda said that I should get. Thus I am not complaining and neither will anyone who buys this vehicle.

The closest competitors to the CX-5D Signature were hard to come by as there aren’t a lot of diesel vehicles left in the Canadian marketplace. But here’s the short list that I came up with:

  • Land Rover Discovery
  • GMC Terrain
  • Chevrolet Equinox

Now one of those vehicles is a luxury vehicle, which may make you think about why I put it on the list. Here’s the thing. With the interior that the CX-5D has, it deserves to be on that list as it is simply a class above the GMC and Chevy. And easily competitive with the Land Rover as long as you don’t go for something uber upscale. Like leather from some sort of sacred cow or something which would cost your right arm. Even if you didn’t you’re going to pay thousands less for the Mazda.

Speaking of dollars and cents, the CX-5D Signature goes for $45,950 before freight and taxes. That’s a $5000 premium over the CX-5 Signature with the 2.5 L turbo engine that I reviewed earlier this year. But you do get 2 years/32000 KM of scheduled maintenance as part of the deal. Plus on top of that you get a $300 CDN accessory credit as well. Both of those will sweeten the pot to make you want to jump to the CX-5D.

For it to be worth it to you, I’d say you’d have to do a lot of highway driving as that’s where this engine shines. Or you have to be someone who has had a diesel in the past and you want something new. If you fit either use case, I would say that you have to run to your Mazda dealer and test drive the CX-5D Signature today.

 

Review: 2019 Mazda CX-5D Signature – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on September 19, 2019 by itnerd

If you’re looking for technology in the Mazda CX-5D Signature, there’s a lot of it. Some of it which is really different. But there are two things missing. Before I get to that, let’s start with the safety technology:

  • Blind Spot Monitoring: This system keeps an eye out for cars in your blind spots so that you don’t hit them when changing lanes. It works well as the area of detection was large enough to keep me safe, but not so large that it created false positives.
  • Lane Departure Warning With Lane Keep Assist: If you cross over into another lane, this system will buzz you on either the right or the left side. The buzz really gets your attention I must say. You can also set it to vibrate the steering wheel.
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert: If you back out of a parking space in a busy shopping mall and you have limited visibility to your left and right, you’ll love this system as you will be warned of any cars that cross into your path.
  • Adaptive Front Lighting System and High Beam Control: I wrote about this previously and I have to admit that on some of the back roads that I drive at night, this feature comes in handy. I was always able to see what was in front of me clearly. One thing that I really appreciated was the fact that the LED headlights were very bright.
  • Radar Based Cruise Control: I really liked this feature as you can set the speed you want and the distance that you want to have between yourself and the car in front of you, and you can pretty much let it slow down and speed up depending on the conditions. It’s very handy on long highway drives.
  • Smart City Brake Support: Let’s say that you you do not react in time to a car that panic stops in front of you. This Mazda is capable of coming to a stop on it’s own, or slowing down to make the impact less severe. You can get more details on this system here.
  • Rear Backup Camera: The camera is a fisheye camera that has an impressive degree of clarity. You can see anything and everything that is behind you when you’re backing up. One thing to note is that the camera is exposed which means dirt could make using it an issue.
  • You get anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, and electronic brake force distribution. Plus you get hill launch assist which keeps you from rolling backwards when you’re on a hill.
  • Finally, you get dual front air bags, dual front side air bags and dual side air curtains.

The next piece of technology that stood out was this:

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The Mazda Active Driving Display is a heads up display that places everything from speed and blind spot monitoring info, to navigation and warning for the lane monitoring, and how close you are to the car in front of you. On top of that, the car is capable of reading speed limit and stop signs so that it can display them on this heads up display in color. It works very well with the only thing that I should mention is that polarized driving sunglasses will filter the display out. Thus choose your sunglasses carefully.

The best piece of technology that is in the Mazda CX-5 Signature is the inclusion of Mazda Connect. The combination of the 8″ touchscreen and the HMI (Human Machine Interface) Commander Switch gives the driver a easy to learn, easy to use infotainment system. I wrote about it in detail here. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included. And it’s the best implementation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto I have seen. I wrote an in depth report on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in Mazda vehicles here. But I highly suggest that you include trying out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto when you test drive a Mazda vehicle. The only thing that I will point out is that this is an earlier implementation of Mazda Connect versus the new and even easier to use version that comes in the new Mazda3. But I am pretty sure you will not complain given how easy to use it is.

One other thing that I should mention about Mazda Connect is the enhancements to SiriusXM which include the following:

  • More room for song/artist/genre metadata.
  • Album art display.
  • Channel logos on Now Playing and Station List screens.
  • New SiriusXM features: TuneStart, TuneScan, and TuneMix.

On top of that, SiriusXM Traffic Plus is now onboard and it includes the following features:

  • Live Traffic: View traffic flow and incident information directly on the Mazda Navigation map. This feature is available in 20 different Canadian communities. It ties into the on board navigation system to allow it to better route you.
  • Weather: View Forecasts, Radar Maps, and Severe Weather Alerts.
  • Fuel Prices: Find the lowest fuel prices or the closest fuel stations and see the available fuel types.
  • Parking Information: Find parking locations, pricing, and hours of operation.
  • Sports: Follow your favorite teams sports with play-by-play details and game/event schedules.

SiriusXM Traffic Plus is free for five years. This is separate from the three month trial SiriusXM audio subscription.

A 10 speaker Bose audio system is on board as well that sounds insanely great regardless of what music I threw at it. The track “No Mans Land” from the Wonder Woman movie soundtrack sounded incredible. As if you right there amongst the orchestra when it was being recorded.

So what’s missing? Besides the newest version of Mazda Connect, the Mazda6 Signature and CX-9 Signature have a 360 degree camera and front and rear sensors that keep you from hitting objects. They aren’t present on the CX-5D Signature. If Mazda included all of that in the CX-5D it would take the CX-5D Signature from being a great compact crossover to being perfect.

Finally, there’s actually driving the Mazda CX-5D Signature. You get a proximity key with push button start. Thus all you have to do is press a button on the driver’s door handle. Press it and the car will unlock. Get in, hit the start/stop button and drive away. One nice touch is that the start/stop button will light up with a green light if you press the brake pedal to start. That’s a nice touch to remind you to press the brake pedal to start the car. When you’ve reached your destination, press the start/stop button to turn off the car. Then get out of the car, close the door and walk away. You’ll hear two beeps. One after you close the door and one about 10 seconds later. When you hear both, the car is locked. You never need to pull out the key fob to do any of this. But the key fob does have the ability to lock and unlock the doors and it has the ever useful panic button. As an added bonus, it has a backup key inside the key fob should you need it.

The final part of this review will tie up some loose ends and I’ll give you my final verdict. Watch for it on Friday.