Archive for the Products Category

Review: Apple Watch Series 4 GPS + Cellular

Posted in Products with tags on September 22, 2018 by itnerd

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of the Apple Watch. I’ve had the Series 2, the Series 3 with GPS, the Series 3 with GPS + Cellular and today I’m bringing you the latest Apple Watch which is the Series 4 with GPS + Cellular:

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The model that you see below is the 44mm model in space grey Aluminum (a stainless steel model is also available along with a Nike+ model and so is an insanely priced Hermes model that is basically a stainless steel model with a really expensive watch band, a sport band, unique packaging, and a unique watch face). And that’s the first big change to the Apple Watch. They have new sizing which are 40mm and 44mm. But that doesn’t mean that they are bigger because they are not. The 40mm watch is the same physical size as the 38mm from the Series 3 or below. And the 44mm is the same physical size as the 42mm from the Series 3 or below. However each watch is a tad bit thinner than the Series 3 and below which means it looks a bit more sleek on the wrist. So, what does the new sizing mean? It’s a reference to the new display which depending on the model you get is going to be at least 30% bigger. Not to mention they seem brighter and sharper to me. And that is something that you will notice and appreciate right out of the gate. The new screens make the watch far easier to read. And things like notifications simply look better. Plus it allows you to use some unique watch faces to put way more info in front of you. One watch face allows nine complications for example. Thus I fully expect app developers to leverage that. It also means that you don’t necessarily need to get the biggest watch to see the screen. In my case, if I didn’t had an investment in 42mm watch bands (which fit the 44mm watch by the way just fine… 38mm watch bands fit the 40mm watch as well), I might have gone for the 40mm version.

There’s some other changes as well.

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The speaker is twice as large as last year and you can hear the difference. Especially if you are on a phone call.

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The huge red dot that let everyone on planet Earth know that you have a cellular Apple Watch is gone and replaced by a smaller more discreet ring. The crown has another hidden feature in the form of haptic feedback. That makes scrolling through stuff feel a lot more natural. The crown also acts as an electrode for an all new ECG feature. More on that in a second. The microphone which is the dot to the right of the crown is there to reduce echo during a phone call.

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The back is made entirely of black ceramic and sapphire. That’s to make it easier for the watch to connect to cellular and WiFi. The heart rate sensor is a brand new design. The rings around the heart rate sensor are the new electrical heart rate sensors, which will be use to perform ECGs once that feature rolls out later this fall in the US. Who knows when it will show up elsewhere as Apple isn’t saying.

Under the hood is a new 64 bit S4 processor which makes it almost twice as fast as the Series 3. You do notice it, but it wasn’t the dramatic jump that I observed when I went from the Series 2 to the Series 3. Still it’s a welcome jump as even the Series 3 could occasionally bog down. Nothing like that exists here. watchOS 5 which you can read about here is preinstalled and really leverages this platform. Along for the ride is the ability to detect falls. For some people like seniors, that’s a game changer as it will detect a fall, ask you if you’re okay or if you didn’t fall, and if you don’t respond quick enough phone emergency services and a contact or contacts that you define. However, when I tested it, I set it off by doing jumping jacks. And I suspect if I fall while cross country skiing which tend to be (mostly) painless falls, I may do the same thing. Thus if you have a more active lifestyle, you may want to think about whether you want to turn it on or not as it is off by default. In my case it is off but I am considering turning it back on. Finally, all Apple Watch models now

I picked this up from my local Telus store and set it up an hour later. As always, setting up an Apple Watch on the Telus network was dead easy and the total process to do that and move over everything from my previous Apple Watch was less than 45 minutes. Using this Apple Watch for the last few days has been interesting. Beyond the screen which is far easier for me to see, the only time I took a phone call on the Apple Watch the person on the other end of the phone noted that my voice was clear and easy to understand. One other thing I noted was that cellular performance was better with this Apple Watch as I was able to get notifications in my condo’s underground parking lot where getting any cellular connectivity wasn’t possible previously. Battery life is about the same as my previous Apple Watch which I have to admit is a bit of a let down as I hoped that Apple would have at least tried to move the needle on that that front.

So here’s the question that you want answered: Should you get an Apple Watch Series 4? Well, that depends on who you are:

  • If you own an original Apple Watch or a Series 0 – 2 Apple Watch, run to your local Apple Store and buy one. Do it now. You will thank me.
  • If you have a Series 3 Apple Watch, the screen is going to be the only reason why you upgrade. For those who fit in that category, they may have to think about it before they pull the trigger on the Series 4.
  • If you don’t have an Apple Watch and have been thinking of getting one, this is a no brainer as this is the Apple Watch that you have been waiting for.

Here in Canada the Apple Watch Series 4 with GPS starts at $519 CDN. The model that you see above which is GPS and Cellular starts at $649 and in either case they go up from there. Minus the lack of increase to the battery life, Apple has a winner with this version of the Apple Watch as they’ve managed to come out with a package that is well thought through and a coherent package.

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Review: Apple watchOS 5

Posted in Products with tags on September 20, 2018 by itnerd

Apple dominates the wearables market with the Apple Watch. A big reason for that is this dominance is the operating system that runs the Apple Watch which is watchOS. In the fifth iteration of this operating system, it’s been refined to not only provide a much better user experience. That starts with Siri. You can now invoke Siri by raising the Apple Watch and speaking to it without saying “hey Siri”. It takes some practise to get it right, but once you figure it out it is a handy feature. Though I have to admit that it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world to say “hey Siri” to get her to do something. But at least you have a choice as to how to invoke Siri for the first time.

If you run third party audio apps on your Apple Watch, they can run in the background and they also have access to the digital crown to allow you to control the volume. That’s neat and will be welcomed by users. Another welcome addition is a new podcasts app that supports automatic syncing of podcasts. That will likely be a feature that is welcomed by those with the LTE version of the Apple Watch as that has twice the memory as the WiFi only version.

watchOS 5 also builds on the solid fitness foundation that watchOS has with activity competitions where you can challenge your friends and win awards, expanded Workout types such as hiking and yoga, automatic workout detection which means that if the Watch thinks your running it will offer to start a workout, and advanced running statistics such as target pace. Though as my wife pointed out, you can’t configure multiple paces among other things. Which means you still have to find an Apple Watch app with those capabilities. But I’m pretty sure that these additions will motivate people to be more active. But one thing that I do have to say is that if I start a long walk, the Watch can be a bit too eager to offer to start a workout when all I am doing is walking to the local corner store down the block.

One feature that I wasn’t able to test was the new Walkie Talkie feature. This feature will allow you to send short audio messages to someone else. As long as you both have an Apple Watch running watchOS 5 and you’ve both added each other to Walkie Talkie. It sounds like a gimmick. But I think that Apple might be on to something here as I can see that this might be a niche use case for some users of the Apple Watch. Families for example as this method of communication may be less obtrusive than a phone call. Especially for a quick message such as “I’m on my way” or “I just got here.”

One big addition that most people will care about is that watchOS 5 now has the ability to allow you to connect to any WiFi access point which will give you a reason to not tote your iPhone around the office for example. Especially for those who have the WiFi version of the Apple Watch. That is as long as it is not a 5GHz Wi-Fi network, or it is a captive network or some sort. But assuming that you fit this use case, it works. Mostly. By that I mean that if you have a simple WiFi network with password authentication, it will work just fine based on my testing. But if you try to connect to a WiFi network that is more sophisticated such as an 802.1x network that requires a username and password and requires a certificate to be downloaded to the Apple Watch, your mileage may vary. In my tests of that scenario, it worked maybe 25 percent of the time. The rest of the time it failed to connect and claimed that my password was wrong which. But it wasn’t. That implies that Apple may have some work to do on this front. Another thing to note is that Apple requires you to use the scribble feature to enter the password. That can be frustrating if you have never done that before. But once you get the hang of scribble, it’s really not a big deal.

Another big addition is that the Mail app finally displays HTML content. That way you don’t have to fish out your phone to read an email. Which in turn enhances the fact that you can leave your phone behind and just rely on the Apple Watch.

Gripes? Well, I have noted that the user interface is kind of buggy. For example there is the odd occasion where I try to respond to a text message in Messages and when I use a canned response, Messages disappears and I simply hear the sound that indicates that I have sent the message. But because I am not 100% sure that I have used the right canned response, I have to go back into messages to check to make sure. But that is minor in the grand scheme of things as this is a solid iteration of Apple’s wearable OS. If you have an Apple Watch, you should download this and install this ASAP as it is a major step forward for Apple Watch owners.

 

 

Review: Apple iOS 12

Posted in Products with tags on September 18, 2018 by itnerd

Last year’s iOS 11 was far from Apple’s best effort to say the least. It also had multiple security issues. It wasn’t Apple’s best moment. Thus you’d think that iOS 12 would have to be substantially better. At best, it is only marginally better.

Here’s the good first before I get to the bad. The big news is that Apple promised that this update would make your iPhone feel faster. For the most part they’ve delivered on that as this is the first iOS update that didn’t feel slower than the last update. And so far, I am only noticing a slight hit on battery life. By that I mean that the battery drain that this enhanced performance causes is so slight that it’s almost not worth mentioning.

Notifications are now grouped together and easier to manage. That way they are far less overwhelming. This is another welcome change that users will appreciate. Users will also appreciate  the new features in the Do Not Disturb functionality. Specifically the ability to set a specific hour for bedtime and calls, texts, and notifications will be silenced until whatever time you set to wake up. While I still wish for a option to program weekday and weekend Do Not Disturb times, this is a welcome addition. Screen Time is an option that is meant to curb smartphone addition by tracking and even limiting your smartphone usage. I won’t be using this feature personally, but there are many who will.

Siri got some love in this update via Siri Shortcuts which will allow you to create complex actions and trigger them using Siri. For example turning on your HomeKit enabled security system when you leave the house via a Siri command. And the love continues in Siri Suggestions which can tell you to call someone back if you have missed a call for example. The built in apps have been nipped and tucked, and there’s a new one called Measure. This app not only acts as a tape measure and a level, it also shows off Apple’s ARKit 2.0 functionality. Photos is another app that is worth mentioning as the tweaks that it got makes finding and organizing photos easier. Finally, CarPlay will finally allow you to use Waze or Google Maps instead of Apple Maps. At least you’ll be able to use them once updated versions of those apps ship.

So now to the bad. It’s like iOS 11 still shockingly buggy. Let’s start with CarPlay where the Mail notification sound is no longer suppressed in CarPlay. That in my business is called a regression which is a situation where something worked and then broke. It’s also a sign that Apple’s QA didn’t do their job. I’ve also noted user interface bugs in Mail which have been present since iOS 11 where you can go through a list of messages until there’s nothing that is marked as being unread, but you will still see that a message is unread. And browsing the Internet indicates that others have tripped over other iOS 12 bugs as well. Now based on past history, Apple is likely to come out with a quick update to squash bugs in the original release of iOS 12 in the next week or two. But frankly, stuff like this should have never made it out the door and it highlights how far Apple has slipped when it comes to their software quality.

So, should you update to iOS 12? Maybe after the first bug fix comes out you should because even with all the enhancements that Apple has done, I’m finding it difficult to say that you should dive right in given the negatives that I have outlined above. Once they are (hopefully) addressed, then give it a shot.

Review: Rudy Project Zyon Sunglasses

Posted in Products with tags on September 13, 2018 by itnerd

My wife like yours truly has challenges with her eyesight. But unlike yours truly, she can’t solve those challenges using contact lenses. And her prescription is so strong that it makes the possibility to use prescription performance sunglasses from companies like Oakley a non-starter. That was until Rudy Project stepped into the picture with these:

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Meet the Rudy Project Zyon sunglasses Two things to point out about them. First are the lenses. They are photochromic lenses that go from clear to black depending on the lighting conditions. The second thing that you should note are the prescription inserts which allow the wearer to have an optician put in their prescription to allow you to have performance sunglasses even if you’re optically challenged.

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You can see that the prescription insert mounts on the nose piece. But it doesn’t affect the adjustability of the Zyon sunglasses. The nose piece as well as the arms are extremely adjustable. My wife found that it was easy to make them fit comfortably. She used them at the Epic Tour 80K (which was actually 85K) ride in Milton Ontario and found that they did a great job of keeping wind and dust out of her eyes as well as having the right amount of tint for the lighting conditions. Gripes? It took her a bit to dial in the fit so that the Zyon sunglasses provided ample protection while not having the prescription inserts press against her face and get dirty. But once she got past that, the Zyon was a total win as far as she was concerned. And she can’t wait to use these for cross country skiing with the racing red lenses that are designed to enhance contrast. One thing that isn’t pictured are side shields which give you additional protection from dust and debris. My wife chose not to use them.

IRudy Project has many models that have a prescription insert option. Not only that, depending on your prescription, a prescription lens may be an option for you. So your best bet is to visit a Rudy Project dealer that is an optician so that you can get your prescription filled at the same time. Expect to pay $250 USD and up for a pair, plus $80 for the prescription inserts, & plus the cost of the prescription lenses if you need them. According to my wife, you won’t regret it.

 

Review: Rudy Project Tralyx XL Sunglasses

Posted in Commentary, Products with tags on September 12, 2018 by itnerd

I’ll say this up front. Of all of the Rudy Project kit that my wife and I have received, the Rudy Project Tralyx XL sunglasses are simply outstanding. But before I get to why I feel that way, let me show you what they look like.

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The Tralyx sunglasses come in three sizes. The Tralyx Slim which is on the smaller side, the Tralyx XL which is on the larger side and is what you see pictured above, and the Tralyx which is between the two in terms of size. That’s important to point out because depending on your face size and shape, you may need to try on all three until you get the coverage for you eyes that you’re looking for. In my case, that was the Tralyx XL. The lens that you see above is the photochromic lens that goes from clear (about 74% light transmission) to black (about 9% light transmission) depending on the lighting conditions. In other words, the brighter the sunlight, the darker the lens gets. That’s handy for me as I usually am out on my bike doing a training after 5PM on the weekdays. Which means that I am using returning home when the sun starts to set as it will ensure that I can still see while protecting my eyes. You’ll also notice a blue lens inside the case. That’s the multi laser blue lens that I will use when I am cross country skiing this winter as it is designed to enhance contrast which is extremely handy on a cross country ski trail.

One big plus to the Tralyx XL is ventilation:

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Ventilation ports abound on the frame and on the lenses. This will ensure that the sunglasses will never fog up regardless of weather conditions of how hard you are working. Another big plus is the adjustability. The nose piece is extremely adjustable, and the arms are made of a flexible rubber that not only grips but adjusts accordingly to your head. That means that you can make the Tralyx XL fit you perfectly with or without a bike helmet. Which is something that I could not get with my now Craiglisted Oakley Radarlock Path Sunglasses.

While I did do a couple of training rides with these sunglasses, they were battle tested so to speak in the Epic Tour ride in Milton Ontario by riding the 80K even (which was actually 85K). They performed extremely well as the weather changed from completely overcast to having sunny breaks, and it was extremely windy as well. Not that the wind was an issue  as the Tralyx XL protected my eyes from the wind and debris that was around late in the ride. That isn’t a surprise as these sunglasses have been battle tested by professional cycling teams such as Bahrain Merida, Lotto Soudal, and Trek-Segafredo. In the case of the latter, Trek-Segafredo rider John Degenkolb pulled off an emotional win on stage 9 of the Tour De France which was run over very dusty, rough and dangerous cobblestones of Northern France. If the Tralyx XL are good enough for him in that harsh environment, as well as for some of the best bike racers in the world, they’re good enough for you.

The Tralyx XL start at $249.99 USD. Other Tralyx variants start at $224.99 USD. They come in a variety of lens colors to suit your use case, and frame colors to suit your fashion needs. While you can get them on Rudy Project’s website, I do suggest that you go to a local Rudy Project dealer and try them on for yourself and see what works for you. I think you’ll find that these sunglasses are outstanding and you’ll be taking home a pair.

Review: aceyoon Cigarette Lighter Splitter Car Charger

Posted in Products with tags on September 11, 2018 by itnerd

I tripped over a very interesting piece of tech recently for the car:

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This is the aceyoon Cigarette Lighter Splitter Car Charger which I found on Amazon for $14.58 CDN. It allows you to use a 12V outlet to charge a USB device while having a 12V outlet available for use by a 12V device. Now you can see the single USB port on the front. But it has two more underneath: 

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You can charge 3 devices at the same time with a max output is 3.1A. There’s also one other trick that it has:

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It reports the voltage of your car battery. That way you get a hint of whether you need to replace your car battery which is kind of important if your car battery is 4 or 5 years old. The output current is displayed when the battery is charging while the car battery voltage is displayed when not charging.

Installation is simple. Plug it into the 12V outlet and you’re good to go. I tested it with an iPhone 7 Plus and an Android phone and all of them charged at a rate that I would be considered quick. I couldn’t find anything to criticize as well. At $14.58 CDN, it’s cheap enough that you could pick one up for each car that you own. 

 

Review: Rudy Project Agon Sunglasses

Posted in Products with tags on September 10, 2018 by itnerd

My wife and I have recently decided to make the move to using Rudy Project sunglasses for our cycling, cross country skiing, and other outdoors activities. Thus over the next few days I will be reviewing three pairs of sunglasses from Rudy Project. Starting with the Agon sunglasses that I will be using for driving and casual walking around.

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The ones that I got have “Laser Black” lenses.  These lenses allow for about 12% light transmission. But I also notice that they enhance contrast and I can wear them while driving, or taking a walk in the woods or just walking around. The fact that they enhance contrast means that you can pick up small details that would have gone unnoticed even by the naked eye. Such has cracks in the road while driving or uneven terrain while hiking. That makes them the perfect general purpose sunglasses for me. Now these glasses were originally designed for cycling so I had to take them out for a training ride to see how they performed. At the end of a two hour training ride, I found that they weren’t moving about regardless of how much I was sweating.

One thing that I really appreciate is the fact that the nosepiece is adjustable. That’s something that was lacking with the Oakely Flak 2.0 sunglasses that these were replacing because I could never get the right fit with those. The Agons also include adjustable temple tips which allow you to further dial in the fit which is handy to get it to fit over a cycling helmet for example. But five minutes of playing with the Agon’s in both regards allowed me to get the perfect fit which is close to my face to keep out as much dust and wind as possible.

But the Agons have one really useful party trick that you should know about. They have venting that you can turn on and off. Rudy Project’s Integrated Vent Controller lets you choose between two difference lens positions:

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This is open which allows for maximum venting.

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This is closed which does not allow as much venting given that there is a notch on the side of the lens. I usually use them in this position and I have had no issues with fogging which was another problem that my Oakley Flak 2.0 had.

One final aspect that I would like to bring up is the look of these sunglasses on my face. Now looks are subjective, but I think that for most people the Agons will fly under the radar as they look like your average pair of sunglasses rather than something from a sci-fi movie.

The Rudy Project Agon glasses are on sale now at Rudy Project’s North American website with the ones that are on display here going for $119.99 USD with the regular price being $249.99. Though I am a proponent of you visiting your local Rudy Project dealer to find the right pair of sunglasses for you as Rudy Project offers a ton of lens choices and sunglass styles to fit your use case. But I would strongly suggest the Agons for anyone who wants a conventional looking pair of sunglasses that wants to tweak them to fit their face, or who have had issues with fogging or fitting glasses while using a bike helmet. They are well worth it.