Archive for the Products Category

Review: Samsung 850 EVO Pro 2.5″ SSD

Posted in Products with tags on November 2, 2017 by itnerd

As part of fixing this problem with my wife’s MacBook Pro, which led me to fixing an even more serious problem, I replaced the Samsung 850 EVO drive that I popped into it with a Samsung 850 EVO Pro that I had lying around. Now, when you toss the word “pro” into a product name, it implies that it should be better, faster, and stronger. So, is it all of that? Let’s start with the main differences between the two drives:

  • The 850 EVO Pro has faster sequential read speeds of 550 MB/s vs 540 MB/s for the 850 EVO.
  • The 850 EVO Pro consumes slightly less power when reading or writing. In this case, 3.3W reading and 3.4W writing for the 850 EVO Pro versus 3.7W reading and  4.7W writing for the 850 EVO.
  • The 850 EVO Pro is rated to last 2 million hours versus 1.5 million hours for the 850 EVO.
  • The 850 EVO Pro has a 10 year warranty versus the 5 year warranty that the 850 EVO has.

So in short, the 850 EVO Pro will consume less power, is a bit more durable, and reads data a hair faster. To test the latter, I I gave my wife her MacBook Pro back after I dropped the 850 EVO Pro in and asked her if she could tell the difference. She couldn’t. But I did note some minor speed gains here and there when I tested it before handing her MacBook Pro back to her. But the differences aren’t substantial enough that the average user would notice at all.

So given that in the Samsung 850 EVO Pro is somewhere between an 18% – 23% price premium over the 850 EVO of a similar size, is there a reason to buy this drive? Well, if you need an SSD with a much longer warranty, lower power consumption and increased durability, then there is a reason to get the 850 EVO Pro. Those are the things that will appeal to people who beat up their hardware or want to get every bit of battery life out their laptop that they can. Or they simply want peace of mind which is a valuable thing to have. If however you are looking for a massive speed boost, look at the much cheaper 850 EVO as it is almost as fast as the 850 EVO Pro, has a still serviceable 5 year warranty, and you can pocket the cost difference for a night out with your significant other. In fact, for most people out there, I would recommend the latter path.

Advertisements

Review: Orico USB 3.0 Type C 2.5″ HDD Enclosure (2598C3)

Posted in Products with tags on November 2, 2017 by itnerd

After swapping my wife’s SSD for a faster one to solve an issue with macOS High Sierra, and in the process running into a serious issue that I had to deal with, After I dealt with that crisis, I needed to do something with her old SSD. So I decided to turn it into an external hard drive. To get there, I used the Orico USB 3.0 Type C 2.5″ HDD Enclosure. It promised a tool free install. And they were right on that front. Here’s all I had to do:

IMG_0929

Press the button on the right hand side of the enclosure:

IMG_0930

This allows you to swing open a door that allows you access to the innards of the enclosure:

IMG_0931

Slide the drive into the enclosure until the drive clicks into the place. It only goes in one way so you can’t screw it up. Then you close the door and you’re done. Declare victory and have a beer because this only took 3 minutes. Yes, I timed it. Here’s the result:

IMG_0932

It’s a metal enclosure that feels like it’s a quality product. I’m pretty sure that this will survive whatever you can throw at it. Now this enclosure comes out the box with a USB 3.0 to USB-C cable as the enclosure has a USB-C port. So while this is perfect for use with my MacBook Pro or my wife’s MacBook Pro which are both USB 3.0, you’ll need to acquire a USB-C to USB-C cable to use it with a newer MacBook Pro with USB-C. That’s a bit of a #fail. But at $25 CDN at my local computer store, it’s cheap enough that I can overlook it. If you need to repurpose a 2.5″ drive, this enclosure is a great way to go.

Review: Bluewave Audio GET

Posted in Products with tags on October 18, 2017 by itnerd

Earlier this year, I got the iPhone 7 Plus. At the time, I said that I would have to live the dongle life on my next trip to listen to music. I did not anticipate a significant problem though. The Apple supplied Lightning to 3.5mm dongle that allowed me to plug in my RHA MA450 headsets sucks. And I mean that it really sucks. They do a horrible job of reproducing audio, even for non-audiophiles. What’s the fix for this? You could go with Lightning headphones. But there’s not a whole lot of them out there and they tend to be pricey if you want anything that has decent sound quality. Apple says to go wireless. Here’s my problem with that. I either have to buy W1 or Bluetooth headsets, or get a Bluetooth dongle of some sort to use my RHA headsets. The problem with the former is buying wireless headsets is not a cheap option. The problem with the latter is that when it comes to most Bluetooth dongles, the audio quality sucks almost as much as the Apple Lightning to 3.5mm dongle.

Fortunately, a Canadian startup called Bluewave Audio is out to give you a third option which is to use your existing headsets wirelessly via a device called the GET:

atCoj+PiTmm1HeVVxBm0pw

This is a Bluetooth 5.0 wireless audio adapter. Bluetooth 5.0? That’s not a misprint. It does support the latest version of Bluetooth so it’s ahead of the curve. It feels solid and well built. It has buttons to change tracks, a button to play/pause/answer and end calls along with turning the device on and off, and an analog volume control (which feels great by the way). There’s a clip that you can use to hang it off your clothing, or you can replace it with a bigger one to hang off your headphones of choice. I should also note that it has EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) support as well. But that’s not the only thing that it has going for it. For starters, it supports a wide range of audio codecs:

  • AAC
  • AptX-HD at 24 bit
  • AptX Low Latency
  • AptX
  • SBC
  • MP3

By “supports,” I mean that it processes those audio formats on the GET itself so that you get better sound quality. It has a built in microphone with cVc noise cancelling which from my testing works exceptionally well, a 3.5 mm jack to allow you to plug in the headsets of your choice, an insanely broad frequency response range of 20-20000Hz, a shockingly low signal to noise ratio of 96 dB, and up to 6 hours of battery life with a 2 hour recharge time. One added bonus on that front is that you can charge the GET and use it at the same time. Plus when plugged in to a power source, it will not use any battery power. You can read the full specs on the Bluewave website at your leisure. But you’re likely thinking if all of this is true. In particular, can this device really deliver top quality audio?

In short, YES.

The GET got subjected via my RHA MA450 headsets to the playlist that I use to test the audio systems in cars, wireless speakers and the like. It has a variety of music that will highlight the best or worst in whatever I am testing. If you’re interested, artists contained in this playlist include:

  • The Pet Shop Boys
  • Beth Orton
  • David Bowie
  • Röyksopp
  • Austra
  • Avicii

To my utter amazement, I have never heard any of this music sound this good. I was truly shocked about how good it all sounded as I was hearing details like drum reverb in songs that I have never heard before. I was also blown away in terms of how full bodied that this playlist sounded using the same headsets that I have been using for a while now. Clearly I wasn’t even close to maximizing the abilities of these headsets prior to the arrival of the GET in my test lab. As far as I am concerned, it delivers what it promises. And then some.

But I wanted to push the envelope. I gave the GET to my wife to try it with her iPhone 6 to see what her reaction to it was. She’s a perfect test subject as she’s a classically trained pianist who has taken several Royal Conservatory Of Music exams. Thus she has a great ear for what music sounds like. I’ll cut to the chase. What was supposed to be a single day test turned out to be four days, and she was reluctant to give it back to me on day four. But she did say two things. The first thing she mentioned is that she went the four days that she had it without having to recharge the GET. The second thing she said was that the sound quality was so good that it made her want to listen to music again. Clearly the GET impressed her as well.

Now the use case of not having to live the dongle life is not the only one that the GET addresses. You can use it with your home stereo for wireless audio, or use it in your car, or pair it to your computer. Anywhere you can plug in a 3.5 mm device to play audio, you can use the GET. One other note, there’s an app coming which will allow you to tweak options and update the device’s firmware. That I am looking forward to seeing as I am a bit of an “control enthusiast.”

The GET is in the process of starting to ship from the suburbs of Montreal where they’re assembled. MSRP is $129 USD, but it’s currently going for $99 on their website. If you’re sick of living the dongle life and you want outstanding audio wirelessly, you need to get your hands on the GET. The company has a money back guarantee. But I assure you that once you try it, you won’t be sending it back for a refund.

 

Review: VMware Fusion 10

Posted in Products with tags on October 17, 2017 by itnerd

I’ve been a long time user of Parallels Desktop for Mac as it has been very good to me in terms of being able to run virtual machines on my Mac. But a long time ago, I did try VMware Fusion. I hadn’t really given it another thought until I was approached by VMware to give VMware Fusion 10 a try. Frankly, I’m glad that I did.

First of all, the graphics capabilities in VMware Fusion 10 are outstanding. You can attribute that to the addition of Metal support. This gives the VMware Fusion 10 a serious performance boost, along with increasing the accuracy of rendering and improving power efficiency. I felt this when playing Team Fortress 2 in Windows 10 as it was so good I almost forgot I was playing the game in a virtual machine. It was truly that good. I would imagine that you would get the same experience if you were running something that is graphics heavy such as a 3D modelling application. I’m going to also highlight something else on the graphics front which is the support for retina displays. Parallels Desktop supports retina displays. But it was done in a way that made the virtual machine unusable because the type was so small. Thus I ended up turning that feature off. No so in the case of VMware Fusion 10 where they have fully leveraged the retina display to make the virtual machine more than usable.

There’s support for operating systems including macOS 10.13 High Sierra and the fall updates for Windows 10 and Server 2016. But one trick that VMware Fusion 10 has is the ability to import virtual machines from Parallels Desktop which I utilized to review the product. The process worked fine though I had two hiccups. One was that once the import was complete, VMware Fusion 10 was unable to boot the virtual machine until I chose the virtual hard disk. The second hiccup was I had trouble getting sound to work in the virtual machine once it booted. It was apparently due to the lack of drivers. But if you’re starting from scratch, you can easily create a virtual machine or clone a desktop computer to a virtual machine via easy to understand wizards that walk you through the process. And when I say the words “easy to understand” I truly mean that they are extremely easy to understand.

If you want to get really nerdy, VMware supports features such as NVMe devices, UEFI Secure Boot, UEFI boot, and TPM chips. Why should you care about this stuff? In my case I care because I use virtual machines to replicate customer environments so that I can understand why they are having an issue, and come up with a fix for it. For example, during the testing of VMware Fusion 10, I was asked by a customer to try and help them to replicate an issue that involved Microsoft’s Bitlocker encryption. To replicate this issue properly required me to use the TPM chip that is found in many corporate class PCs. This is something that I would not have been able to do with any other virtualization product, and had I not had been testing VMWare Fusion 10 at the time, I would have to borrow one of their computers and set it up at home to perform this testing. Thus for the first time, I can now replicate environments accurately from a virtual hardware perspective as VMware Fusion 10 supports technologies like these. The kicker is that I didn’t have to use the pro version to get support for technologies like these.

VMware Fusion 10 is now available from vmware.com $79 USD. The pro version which is more focused at enterprise users is $179. Fusion 8.5 users can upgrade to Fusion 10 Pro for only $119 and to Fusion 10 for $49 at the VMware online store. And those who purchase Fusion 8 or Fusion 8 Pro between August 22 and November 1 are eligible for an electronic upgrade to Fusion 10 or Fusion 10 Pro, respectively, at no additional cost. No action is required on your part, your licenses will automatically be upgraded in your MyVMware account manager. If you have the need to run virtual machines on your Mac, VMware Fusion 10 should be your first choice. In my case, I am giving serious thought to converting over because VMware is the new champ of virtual machine software on the Macintosh platform.

 

Review: The Essential Phone & Essential 360 Camera

Posted in Products with tags , on October 16, 2017 by itnerd

If you’ve heard of Google, you’ve likely heard of Andy Rubin. He was the guy behind the Android operating system. That worked out well for him. For his next trick, he’s making a phone that runs Android. And it’s called the Essential Phone which is being carried by Telus exclusively in Canada. Here’s what you get under the hood:

  • 5.71-inches, Quad-HD display, 2560 x 1312 resolution
  • 8MP Front camera
  • 13.1MP Dual rear camera
  • 128GB storage
  • 4GB RAM
  • Rear Fingerprint Sensor
  • Android 7.1
  • USB-C

First off, this phone feels solid. That’s due to a titanium frame and ceramic back. The flip side is that this phone is a fingerprint magnet. You’ll need to put it in a case if you want to keep it clean. Another point to make. this phone is neither dust proof or waterproof unlike the likes of the Apple iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S8. Nor does it come out of the box with wireless charging. Oh yeah, the memory is non-expandable. Those could be fatal flaws for a smartphone these days. But strangely I can overlook all of that.

Now one thing that is different is the fact that it has a magnetic connector on the back with wireless data transfer. The first accessory that utilizes this is a 360 degree camera which I will get to in a bit. Then next that’s coming soon is a wireless dock that promises cordless charging to address the fact that it doesn’t have it at present.

Back to the phone. The star of the show is the Quad-HD screen which is in a word, stunning. Except for that cutout for the front facing camera that looks kind of weird. But seeing as the iPhone X has a similar cutout, is this a big deal? Likely not. I should note that Google apps like Maps work best with the cutout. However other apps from developers outside of Google are hit and miss. When it misses, there’s a black bar on the top of the screen. You are either going to love or hate that. In terms of the rest of the phone, it’s insanely minimalistic. Power and volume controls on the right. The SIM tray and USB-C connector are at the bottom which is where the only speaker is. In other words, there’s no stereo speakers. There’s also no headphone jack as well. But there’s a USB-C to 3.5″ adapter in the box if you wish to live the dongle life. If you don’t, there are many Bluetooth and the USB-C headphones for you listening pleasure. On the back is the fingerprint sensor. If that doesn’t minimalistic, I don’t know what does. Good thing the battery isn’t minimalistic as it will last almost two days of usage between charges.

The software is stock Android. And I do mean STOCK with the only non stock apps being the Camera app which is made by Essential and the Telus My Account app. That I love. So is the fact that the phone is quick and everything that I did to the phone couldn’t slow it down.

Speaking of the camera, I’ve got two cameras to cover off today. The stock camera is 13.1MP dual rear camera that’s capable of 4K video. To test this out, it required a trip to Pearson Airport in Toronto to get some shots of planes landing:

All these pictures were easy to take thanks to the simple yet effective camera app. There were no issues in quality. And in terms of video, here’s one shot on 4K:

Again, it was easy to get this video thanks to the easy use camera app. No issues here with the video.

Now onto the party trick that the Essential phone has which is the Essential 360 camera.

IMG_0901.jpg

It attaches magnetically and it uses the smartphone to capture 360-degree stills and 4K video using the camera app. While it’s on your Essential phone, you can’t use the built in camera. It features two 12MP sensors, a pair of fisheye lenses, each with a 210-degree field of view. Now to be honest, going into this review, I have to admit that this camera seemed like a party trick to me. But maybe there’s a use case for it given these results, starting with this 360 degree video which you can interact by clicking and dragging the video. For best results, I’d recommend using the Chrome browser:

It’s an interesting feature is easy to use and works well. But I have to admit that I am still undecided if this is a feature that will set the Essential Phone apart from its competition. And I don’t think that the Essential Phone will appeal to everyone the way an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy will. But I suspect that it will find a market for those who want a powerful yet minimalistic phone that comes with stock Android and a few tricks up its sleeve. Telus is offering up the phone for $1050 outright, or up to $0 on a 2 year term. The Essential 360 Camera goes for $270. Check it out if you want a different sort of Android phone.

Review: Nomad Universal Cable

Posted in Products with tags on October 13, 2017 by itnerd

I am in the midst of updating the kit that I travel with which (I hope) covers any problems that I face on the road. The idea of this kit is to have every cable and piece of software that I might need if I am on a business trip so that I can address minor or moderate issues on my own. One of the areas that I am looking at is cables because I don’t want to carry around a rats nest of cables as they’re just going to tangle. Which is why the Nomad Universal Cable caught my attention:

IMG_0886

This is a cable that has three heads:

IMG_0888.jpg

  • Lightning for Apple iDevices (and it’s MFI certified by the way)
  • Mini USB
  • USB-C

The logic is that this cable will work with any smartphone type that you might have. That way if your Android friends need a cable to charge their phone and you’re an iPhone user, you can help them out. In my case, the end of the cable that connects into the computer is USB-A. But those who need USB-C should know that Nomad has a USB-C version of this cable as well wihch also includes a USB-A connection.

The cable is overbuilt to allow it to survive anything. Specifically:

  • It is wrapped in a 500D Nylon woven in a ballistic weave pattern. This material was originally developed to protect military forces from shrapnel and bullets.
  • It has been lab tested to withstand over 10,000 flex cycles.
  • It has RF shielding to ensure that data transfers work 100% of the time.
  • It has a durable silicon rubber cable tie to allow you to wrap the cable up with no concerns about the cable tie breaking.

On top of all of that, I noted that the ends of the cable have no flex. That means that breaks at the ends of the cable, which is common for a lot of cables out there is a non issue. That explains why the company offers a 5 year warranty on their cables.

In my testing, the cable worked perfectly. Though I note that when you have to use the USB-C or Lightning head, you have to be careful to make sure that you’re popping it on correctly as those heads connect to the Micro USB connector on the cable, and it only fits one way. Other than that, it survived in my car which has a history of killing cables. If this cable can survive that environment, then it’s a winner. So much so that I bought two of them. One is the .3M version which will go into the kit that I spoke of earlier. That one goes for $30 USD. The other is the 1.5M version which will go into my car so that if a passenger needs a charge, I have them covered. That one goes for $35 USD. It’s a no-brainer to recommend if you want to ensure that you have a cable that you can use with any device.

Review: EZOPower 6 Foot Braided Sleeve Sync & Charge Data Cable

Posted in Products with tags on October 12, 2017 by itnerd

Today I am reviewing a pair of cables that I plan to use in the kit that I travel with which (I hope) covers any problems that I face on the road. They’re from a company called EZOPower and they are their 6 Foot Braided Sleeve Sync & Charge Data Cable. Here’s what they look like.

img_0877.jpg

You will notice that they have a woven fabric coating. That’s there to make the cable tangle free and durable while still being flexible. It also gives it a feeling of quality as plastic cables tend to feel cheap. The cable is also stiff when compared to most cords these days. Stiff and braided cable means that this isn’t going to get tangled as easily as other cords and that is a real plus for me as cables have tendency to mysteriously end up tangled in my corner of the planet. The company has also added foil and braid shielding to reduce EMI/RFI interference.  That way it ensures high-speed, error-free data transfer.

If I had a concern, it would be the strain relief which is this part of the cables:

IMG_0877

The fact that the ends of the connectors aren’t that long is a concern as I have to wonder if they will hold up to the rigors that USB cables are exposed to. But to be fair, I haven’t had any problems thus far so maybe I am being overly paranoid.

I got two of these cables from Amazon. One was a USB to Micro USB and one as USB to Mini USB. The former was $6 CDN and the latter was $12 CDN. They also have USB-C and Lightning variants too, so you can likely find a cable that fits your needs and not spend a lot of money to get them.