Archive for the Products Category

Review: LNKOO Apple Watch Band

Posted in Products with tags on June 9, 2017 by itnerd

So I’ve been using my Series 2 Apple Watch for a while now, and I have had one issue with it. The sport band that came with it had no ventilation. The net result was that sweat had no place to go and my wrist would kind of be gross after cycling. Now I could have invested in a Nike Sport Band that you can get at the Apple Store. But they’re $65 a shot which seems to be a bit steep….. Says the guy who dropped $550 on a Series 2 Apple Watch. So after doing some reading on what the best third party bands for the Apple Watch are, I came across the LNKOO Apple Watch Band on Amazon.

I’ll cover the price first. It cost me $15.99 CDN which is dirt cheap. However, the quality is top shelf. The company claims that all the metal parts made with hypoallergenic nickel free stainless steel, plus the band itself is made of silicone. It feels like something that Apple would do as there were no build quality issues that I could find. 

In terms of durability, I have hiked, done stair climbing, and cycled with it and I have had no issues. It feels no different than the stock Apple Sport band. And I am getting the ventilation on my wrist that I was looking for without dropping $65 in the process. It is the same size as the stock Apple Sport band which means that I can use my Road ID for the Apple Watch without issue as it means that I don’t have to wear something else on my wrist and I can wear the Road ID all the time for extra safety. It works with Series 1 and Series 2 Apple Watches, comes in a number of colors, and is available in 38mm and 42mm widths. Overall, I have no complaints at all. 

If you want a replacement Apple Watch band that is well suited for your athletic activities, the LNKOO Apple Watch Band is absolutely worthy of your immediate attention.

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Review: Road ID For Apple Watch

Posted in Products with tags on June 9, 2017 by itnerd

To properly review the Road ID for Apple Watch, I have to explain what a Road ID is. Many people reading this review run, cycle, hike or do some other outdoor activity. However, I’m willing to bet that most of those who are reading this review do not carry any form of ID when we do those activities. That’s a problem if there’s some sort of emergency and you cannot speak for yourself because nobody knows who you are and if you have any sort of medical conditions that would be important at a time like that. Thus Road ID exists. I started using Road ID when they simply had a wristband with a metal plate that was laser etched with emergency contact info. But they’ve since branched out to have a complete lineup of identification gear as well as an app for iOS and Android that allows your friends and family to track you in real time as well as customize your phone’s Lock Screen to provide vital information to first responders in the event of an accident or injury.

With that out of the way, I am going to focus the Road ID for the Apple Watch. Here’s a good look at it via a picture from the Road ID website:

roadid_applewatch_pair_largeThe Road ID for the Apple Watch is basically a custom-engraved, stainless steel ID faceplate that slides onto your existing Apple Watch Sport, Woven Nylon, or Leather band. The company only guarantees that it will fit Apple Watch bands. But it fit my LNKOO Apple Watch band with no issues. Your mileage may vary. You can customize it with your own info. In my case, I have the following:

  • My name
  • My home phone number
  • A message to call my wife in an emergency
  • My wife’s name and cell number

Another option is to go with Road ID Interactive which takes what I mentioned above and adds a 24/7/365 number for first responders to phone as well as a website that in either case can give first responders access to info such as contact numbers, allergies, medications and more. The service is free for the first six months and then costs $9.99 USD a year after that.

Here’s why this has replaced the Road ID Wrist ID Sport that I have worn for years.

  1. The Road ID for Apple Watch adds no bulk and I do not feel it at all. It also appears to have no problem staying in place regardless of what I happen to be doing so that it does not become annoying to have on my Apple Watch.
  2. It is one less thing for me to remember to wear on a ride or a cross country ski. To be frank, I occasionally forget to pop on the Wrist ID Sport which I admit is sort of like tempting fate as the day I forget it will be the day I get into serious trouble.
  3. Because it’s always on my Series 2 Apple Watch, and I wear my Apple Watch all the time, it adds a extra layer of safety as now have something that can speak for me in case I cannot all the time rather than just when I am cycling, hiking, or cross country skiing.

All of that makes the Road ID for Apple Watch an #EpicWin in my book.

Now, if the Apple Watch isn’t your wearable of choice, the company does have options for Fitbit and Garmin users. To get the security that Road ID provides, you can expect to spend $24.99 USD for the Apple Watch plus shipping. Or you can expect to pay between $24.99 to $29.99 USD for other wearables. Add $9.99 USD if you want Road ID Interactive.

My bottom line is this: If you’re someone who runs, hikes, cycles, or you do some other sort of outdoor activity, you need a Road ID. If you wear some sort of wearable, a Road ID for the wearable of your choice such as the Apple Watch is a no brainer. It will speak for you in the event that you’re unable to. And depending on the wearable, that security extends to your daily life as it does in my case since I am an Apple Watch user. And if you don’t buy into what I am saying, Road ID has plenty of examples of the excellent value proposition that Road ID provides.

Review: Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA

Posted in Products with tags on June 8, 2017 by itnerd

Not everyone needs a Windows tablet or laptop. For some would be best served with a Google Chromebook. The ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA is an example of such a Chromebook, and it has a fair amount going for it.

Now for a very long time, Chromebooks were largely used in education. Pardon the pun, but the Asus Chromebook Flip is going to flip the script on that. First of all, it’s quick by Chromebook standards. Nothing I did could bring it to its knees and you can thank an Intel processor and 4GB of RAM for that. In terms of storage, you get 64GB of storage which doesn’t sound like a lot. But it is by Chromebook standards.

Second, it’s all bundled up in a very classy and good looking package. For starters, all of this Chromebook goodness is in a thin aluminum body that feels solid and of high quality. In fact, it almost feels like something from 1 Infinite Loop. There’s a 12.5 inch screen with a max resolution of 2400 x 1350. My mid 40’s eyes found that to be too high a resolution, but you may not find it so bad. Regardless, the screen is sharp. Though I will note that it does get washed out when you’re outside in bright sunlight and sometimes in bright indoor lighting situations. You also get a full sized keyboard which is excellent to type on because it has long key travel. It’s also backlit and has a decent sized trackpad. Connectivity comes in the form of a pair of USB-C ports (which of course do double duty for charging purposes) and there’s a MicroSD card in the mix as well. A headphone jack is also included and you’ll need them as the speakers aren’t exactly the loudest. Battery life is good. Ten hours is what I managed to get out of this Chromebook which is what I look for in any portable device of this type.

The one thing that the Asus Chromebook Flip has going for it is that you can “flip” it and turn it into a tablet. To get to that mode, you just rotate the screen on its hinges. There’s also a magnet to make sure that it stays in tablet mode. It’s a cool and well designed feature that sets it apart from its competition.

Now in terms of pricing, the unit that I had goes for about $700 dollars Canadian. But Asus has models that start at under $600. If you’re in the market for a Chromebook, take a good look at the Asus Chromebook Flip.

 

 

Review: Asus Transformer Mini T102H

Posted in Products with tags on June 7, 2017 by itnerd

The Asus Transformer Mini is a entry level, 10.1″ Windows 10 tablet that has a bunch of things going for it. For example, it comes out of the box with a cover that doubles as a very nice keyboard (which is detachable). Typing on it was very good as the keys had a substantial amount of travel to them. Thus typing was easy for a touch typist like me. It also comes with a pressure sensitive stylus that you can draw lines with varied thicknesses in apps that support that functionality. There’s two buttons on the stylus as well that can be programmed. Both of these are extras or not available on many other tablets.

The tablet itself has a 10.1″ display that does 1280×800 resolution in a 16:10 aspect ratio. It was a very bright display where the colors simply looked amazing. The speakers are pretty good too when I played videos from YouTube with stereo separation. They were, loud, clear, and distortion free. The back of the tablet has a flip out stand that swings out of the back panel. It can stop at a wide range of angles, from straight up to an almost horizontal. It also has a fingerprint reader for security reasons which works with Windows Hello. Connectivity is pretty strong as it comes with a microSD card reader on the top of the tablet, and on the left there are a headset jack, a micro HDMI port, a micro USB port for the charger, and a full-size USB 3.0 port for connecting memory sticks, hard drives, etc. It also comes with 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 for wireless connectivity. The whole package weights less than 2 pounds.

Under the hood, you get 4GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage on top of having Windows 10 on board with an Intel quad core processor. Integrated Intel HD Graphics are on board as well along with a 2 megapixel web cam. I was able to open lots of tabs in Microsoft Edge as well as not have it slow down when I tossed a copy of Microsoft Word on it to see what it can do. As long as you’re not playing Overwatch or something on it, you’ll have no complaints on the horsepower front. Speaking of power, I got ten hours of battery life which is in line with its competition.

The best part is the price. Expect to pay $549 Canadian which given what comes in the box is a pretty good price. If you’re in the market for a versatile tablet, take a good hard look at the Asus Transformer Mini. It’s got more than enough to warrant your immediate attention.

Review: Asus ROG SWIFT PG27A 27″ 4K Monitor

Posted in Products with tags on June 6, 2017 by itnerd

I’ve been spending the last two days playing Team Fortress 2 on a brand new Asus ROG SWIFT PG27A 27″ 4K monitor and I’m loving the experience. Why? It comes down to a bunch of factors. 

First, the monitor is a 4K monitor, meaning it four times the resolution of HD. If you crank up the resolution to maximum, the images be it graphics, photos, or text, are bright, vivid, detailed and simply stunning on this IPS display. And you can tweak everything to your hearts content which will appeal to the control freaks that are reading this review. What helps with this is support for the Nvidia G-Sync standard for syncing your video card to this monitor for extra-smooth performance during your gaming sessions. Nothing I threw at it produced anything negative. Zip, zero, nada. It was impressive. Though for me to get this stunning display to work in this manner, I needed to use the DisplayPort connector instead of the HDMI cable that came in the box. My MacBook Pro should have been able to output 4K video via the built in HDMI port, but for some reason this monitor didn’t like doing anything about HD resolution via HDMI. But that’s not a deal breaker by any means as I am assuming that it’s the Mac more than the monitor.

Another thing that helps with the positive experience is the design of the monitor. In terms of ports, you get HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 connections. You also get three USB 3.0 ports for peripherals, as well as an audio jack for your headphones. Plus a pair of great sounding speakers that produce audio that was better than those found in most monitors that had built in speakers that I’ve tested lately. The bottom line is that you have every port you need at hand. What makes those ports easy to access is that this monitor will pivot 180 degrees to give you access to those ports and you can rotate the display to do a landscape display (though it’s not automatic on the MacBook Pro that I tested). That way you can get some work done between online gaming sessions. Other nice design touches are the triangular opening in the middle of the stand that makes it easy to organize your cables. As well as the fact that you can raise and swivel it to a huge degree, which means that you can adjust it to fit your workspace and your needs. There’s a a directional nub and a series of snappy physical buttons on the right hand side of the monitor. They’re used for doing things like changing display presets and activating special features such as the Asus GamePlus special features which will be handy for hard core gamers. Everything in the on screen menus are logically laid out and easy to figure out.

The only downside of two that I found was the glowing red LED lights and futuristic-looking patterns on the base of this monitor (which for the record you can turn off). It’s polarizing. Gamer types will love it. I was indifferent. My wife despised it. This will be a your mileage will vary sort of thing. The second thing that this monitor goes for about $1200 Canadian. Not exactly a low price. But is one of the best high-end gaming monitor around. And that’s why I’m not bothered by the price as gaming types who want the best display available to help them to pwn their competition will flock Asus ROG SWIFT PG27A without batting an eyelash. I almost hate giving it back to Asus because it is that good.

 

Review: Asus Pro B9440

Posted in Products with tags on May 31, 2017 by itnerd

If you are a corporate user and you travel a lot, you likely want a laptop that balances light weight with power. That’s a hard balance for any PC company to keep. Asus is trying to walk that line with the Asus Pro B9440 business laptop.

Now this is a laptop that weighs in at 1.05Kg or 2.3 pounds even though the case is made of metal. That’s not going to weigh you down while you sprint across the airport terminal to catch your flight, and it explains why it’s MIL-STD 810G rated for durability. It is also spill resistant for those who like to work and drink their Starbucks coffee. It is slim and has a pair of USB 3 ports on the sides of the screen near the hinge (but only the one on the left side can charge it which is kind of strange) as well as a headphone jack on the left center edge. Two speakers are on the bottom front edge that sound great when I tested it by playing The Who. Above the power button is a fingerprint reader which works with Windows Hello. The keyboard itself is really comfortable to type on, and it’s at at an angle that favors a touch typist like myself. Plus the touchpad is a decent size. But kind of finicky. Finally, the 14″ HD screen is almost bezel-less. But what is weird is that it is missing a webcam which I would have expected to find on a business class laptop. It’s also matte which while it cuts down on the vibrancy of the colors, it makes the screen glare free. Bonus points come in the form of a sleeve to put the laptop into that is included.

The laptop comes to the table with Windows 10 Pro. It does its tricks via a 2.5 Ghz Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. You get 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. Graphic processing comes in the form of a 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620 chipset. The whole package works well. It’s quick to boot. As in 10 seconds or so from the time you press the power button to when you see the login page. I really couldn’t get it to slow down whether I was surfing the web or streaming video. Though it did get warm when I really pushed it. Battery life was in the order of roughly 9 hours which is what I expect, and you should expect from a laptop of this type. If you need to charge it, you can get 50% of a charge in 30 minutes. That is a plus for someone who’s always running from meeting to meeting and is away from an AC outlet from extended period of time.

One thing that the Asus Pro B9440 has in its favor is price. At roughly $1300, it is in line with most of the competition from Dell, Lenovo and HP. If you’re someone who travels a fair bit and need a light laptop, and you can live without a webcam, I’d consider the Asus Pro B9440 for your laptop needs. It’s light, durable, and will handle your typical office related tasks with ease while giving you plenty of battery life to make through a business day.

 

 

 

 

Review: Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

Posted in Products with tags on May 29, 2017 by itnerd

Today I am reviewing the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom. There’s two key reasons why you want to get this phone. Those are the camera and the battery life. But there’s plenty of other reasons to consider this Android powered phone.

The phone has a sleek metal body available in black, gold, and silver. It’s easy to hold and is really thin. The right side has a volume rocker and power button. The bottom features a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB-C charging port, and a speaker. The left side has a SIM/microSD card slot and worked fine with a 256GB card. You can also use two SIM cards instead which is something that travelers will find handy as the phone is available unlocked. But only one will connect to a 4G network. You get a fingerprint sensor on the back along with a dual camera with laser focus and a dual LED flash. The screen is a 5.5-inch, 1,920-by-1,080 AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 5. It looks sharp and bright but it does attract fingerprints. Besides having 4G LTE, you get Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz band and Bluetooth 4.2, Strangely, there’s no NFC which strikes me as weird.

Other specs include:

  • 2 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32GB of storage (you can add up to 2TB of storage via an SD card)
  • 12MP dual rear camera with the ability to record video in 4K
  • 12MP front camera
  • Android 6.0.1 with Asus ZenUI 3.0

In terms of real-world performance, the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom is smooth. I never encountered any lag or stuttering. What helps with this is the fact that there are software enhancements packed in to improve performance. The most notable is Power & Boost, accessible through the notification shade. It’s a memory manager that cleans up background apps when the screen is off, and can stop apps from automatically starting when you turn the phone on. ZenUI 3.0 makes the phone easier to use and doesn’t get in the way. The only part where this phone might fall down from a software perspective is the fact that it comes with a two year old version of Android.

The Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom supports high-resolution 24-bit audio playback through the headphone jack. Using a feature called Audio Wizard you can adjust music using the built-in equalizer and use DTS Headphone:X virtual surround sound for movies, music, and games. Quite simply, it is the first phone I’ve reviewed since the ZTE Axon 7 that has such outstanding audio quality. Another area where this phone is outstanding is battery life. I got three full days of usage from a single charge. That is impressive given that I am pretty hard on smartphones when it comes to battery life.

Another impressive area is the camera. You get a pair of rear-facing 12-megapixel shooters capable of 2.3x optical zoom. It also has a laser autofocus sensor, a dual-LED flash, and Dual Pixel Phase Detection Autofocus. And it works insanely well. To test this, I took the phone to Toronto’s Doors Open event to three sites where I was hoping to some great pictures. The first was the still under construction Downsview Park subway station which is part of the extension of Toronto’s Line 1 subway line:

The next stop was the still under construction York University subway station which is further along the extension of Toronto’s Line 1 subway line:

Finally, I visited the Old Don Jail which has been heavily renovated to function as the administration building for Bridgepoint Health:

One cool thing that the camera software has going for it is the fact that it has a full manual mode which allows you to use the camera like it is a digital SLR. It also has a ton of preset modes including:

  • Auto (default)
  • Manual
  • HDR Pro
  • Beautification
  • Super Resolution
  • Children
  • Low Light
  • QR code
  • Night
  • Depth of Field
  • Effect
  • Selfie
  • GIF Animation
  • Panorama
  • Miniature
  • Time Rewind
  • Smart Remove
  • All Smiles
  • Slow motion
  • Time Lapse

I used the depth of field feature and got this picture to show how well it worked. Click to enlarge:

P_20170527_102907_DF

You can see just to the left that the concrete is in a bit of blur. This feature isn’t automatic like the portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus. But it does work.

The panoramic mode works really well as I was able to take this panoramic of the York University subway station. Click to enlarge:

P_20170527_105457_PN.jpg

The zoom function was pretty impressive as evidenced by this Canada goose that I found nesting outside of Downsview Park subway station. I took this picture from several feet away. Click to enlarge:

P_20170527_102613_vHDR_Auto.jpg

Finally to test the video capabilities, I shot this video of a plane landing at Toronto Pearson airport in 4K resolution:

One thing that I noted is that the camera app initially refused to shoot in 4K video when I set it to that resolution and the error message that it threw up wasn’t helpful. I started to play around with the settings and found that I could get it to work by setting the Video Preference setting to quality. Clearly Asus has some bugs to squash on this front. Other than that, all was good with shooting video.

The Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom is $479 Canadian unlocked, and the camera, the battery life, and performance makes this a very compelling choice if you’re in the market for an Android phone. Check it out as I suspect that if you pick up one, you will not be disappointed.