Archive for the Products Category

Review: Vesafe Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Posted in Products with tags on January 28, 2019 by itnerd

After my rather negative experience with the Nonda Zus Tire Safety Monitor which was only the second product in the history of this blog that I pulled a recommendation from, I was looking for another tire pressure monitoring system as my car does not have tire pressure monitoring. Fortunately for me the folks at Vesafe sent me their tire pressure mounting system to review.

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Here’s what you get in the box.

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You get four tire sensors that replace the valve caps. You also get a LCD screen that you plug into a 12V outlet.

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Here’s one of the sensors. One of the things that I like about it is that you can see easily which wheel it goes on as the writing is on the top of the sensor.

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One area where this tire pressure monitoring system beats the one from Nonda is that the metal that is used in the sensor appears to be brass. That’s important because Nonda’s sensors use some sort of alloy that is prone to galvanic corrosion. Meaning that the sensors had a tendency to fuse to the valve stems requiring you to cut the valve stem off and replace it if you wanted to put air into your tire. That of course is bad. In this case, seeing that the sensor is brass and valve stems tend to be brass as well, this should not be an issue. Having said that, I will still use dielectric grease to make sure that this is not an issue. Another plus is that the rubber gasket on the inside looks far more robust than what was in the Nonda offering which had a habit of getting stuck to the valve stem and coming off the sensor.

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You also get a bag with anti-theft bolts, a wrench for said anti-theft bolts, and some spare parts. You also get a tool (on the right) to help you to disassemble the sensors to replace the batteries.

Installation is simple:

  1. Plug in the LCD screen into a 12v outlet.
  2. Turn on the car to get the LCD screen to light up.
  3. Screw on the sensors on to the right valve caps.
  4. Turn on the car and set the minimum and maximum pressures (28 PSI and 41 PSI based on a cold tire pressure of 35 PSI in my case) as well as the maximum temperature that the tires can take. I left that at 70 degrees Celsius.
  5. Done! Declare victory and have a beer.

I did the above and within a couple of minutes the tire pressures with each tire pressure showed up on the LCD screen:

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Mine is in the cubby beneath the controls for the HVAC system. I can still see it, but it is in an out of the way place. But I won’t be looking at it while you are driving so that’s fine. Depending on where your 12v outlets are, you might get better or worse results from a visibility perspective. I checked the pressures and the information on the screen was more or less accurate (within 1 PSI) based on comparing what was on the screen with an air pressure gauge that I trust. The system is capable of generating alarms for low or high tire pressure, as well as high temperatures on a tire. Not to mention a low battery in the sensor. The beep it generates is hard to miss. Thus it covers all use cases to keep you safe. I like this use case because if an alert goes off you don’t need to whip out your smartphone and open an app to see what’s going on because everything that you need to see is right there.

Gripes? None really. And the price is right at $84.99 CDN on Amazon. If you’re a refugee from Nonda’s problematic tire monitoring system, or you want a easy to install system for your car that lacks tire pressure monitoring, then the Vesafe Tire Pressure Monitoring System is definitely worth a look.

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Review: Linksys MR8300 AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router

Posted in Products with tags on January 15, 2019 by itnerd

One of the things that I have been telling my clients who have large homes is that the best way to get good WiFi coverage is to go the mesh WiFi route. The upshot is that via placing WiFi nodes in the right locations in your home, you can get the coverage that you need. The downside is that you do give up some functionality that you get with a traditional router. Such as multiple Ethernet ports for example. I’m now happy to say that those days are over thanks to Linksys and their MR8300 AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router:

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The router has four antennas that are permanently attached to the router. Which makes me believe that you’ll have to send the router in for service if one breaks or becomes non-fuctional. In terms of build quality, it feels solid and there seems to be more than enough ventilation to keep it cool.

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On the side is a button for WPS or WiFi Protected Setup.

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On the back are four gigabit Ethernet LAN ports as well as a gigabit WAN/Internet port. There’s also a USB 3.0 port for printers or storage devices.

From a technical standpoint, this is what you get:

  • Tri-Band speed up to 2.2 Gbps. That comes in the form of one 2.4 GHz channel and two 5GHz channels that show up as a single SSID. The router will then shuffle your devices to the best channel so that the device gets the best speed.
  • 802.11ac
  • 2 x 2 simultaneous data streams for stronger and faster performance
  • Intelligent Mesh Technology
  • MU-MIMO
  • Beamforming Technology
  • Guest Network
  • Parental Controls

Setting up this router is insanely easy because of the Linksys app which is available for iOS and Android as it walks you through everything that you need to do to set it up as a router that is acting alone, or in concert with Linksys Velop units. More on the latter use case later. In my case I had this router set up and ready to go in three minutes as I had a Linksys account already setup. If you don’t, I would guess that it would take you five minutes to set this up which is still pretty quick. Once you set things up, you can run and manage most of the routers functions from the Linksys app. Which means for example you can get alerted if the Internet is down and you are not at home. Or you can tweak the parental control settings to ensure your kids don’t go anywhere on the Internet that they should not be going to. Now you’re likely wondering about the “most” part. Well, when I set this up I tried to find the option to turn off UPnP or Universal Plug and Play in the app. I do that because it is a huge security risk for your home network. But I could not find that option in the Linksys app and I had to log into the router using a browser to disable UPnP. Not the biggest deal in the world, but something that you should keep in mind if you are a more advanced user like me.

In terms of speed, here’s what I got when I did the router’s built in speed test on my gigabit Internet connection. The speed test is powered by SpeedTest.net which is handy as I was able to use the standalone SpeedTest.net app for iOS to verify the results the router gave me when I was standing about two feet away from it:

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While it is not the fastest router that I have ever tested, it is more than fast enough for a family who wants to game, watch Netflix or YouTube and surf. In terms of range, it had no issues covering my sub 900 square foot condo with fast WiFi. But if I needed to cover a bigger area, the MR8300 AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router can be used with the Linksys Velop mesh WiFi system expand your WiFi coverage easily and painlessly. I tested adding a couple of nodes and it was insanely simple using the Linksys app. And the result was seamless fast WiFi.

What this means is that you can start out with the MR8300 AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router and leverage the functionality of a router in terms of the Ethernet and USB ports. If this works in your environment, then you’re done. But if you need better coverage, then add a Velop or two, or three to give you the coverage that you need. Honestly, that’s brilliant as it means that everyone can get great WiFi without breaking the bank.

Gripes? From the “I am a power user and the rest of you may not care about this” department comes these two items:

  • More Ethernet ports. As in six would be nice as there are devices that I run that are Ethernet only and four ports doesn’t cut it for me.
  • Bondable ports. As in having the ability to take two ports and bond them into a single port that has 2 Gigabits of throughput as that would be nice as that would allow me to run a NAS like this one at full speed.

But those are edge cases for a nerd like me and not for the average person. The fact is it is quick, easy to set up, and easy to expand via the Linksys Velop mesh WiFi system. And the price is just the icing on the cake seeing as it goes for $179.99 USD. Should you wish to add a Velop mesh node, I’d suggest this one which is priced at $199 USD. But Linksys does have other Velop options for you at a lower price points. But the bottom line is this. Linksys has something here that I think will attract a lot of attention for people who want excellent WiFi coverage that is fast with a minimal amount of effort and money to get there. If that’s you, then the Linksys MR8300 AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router needs to be on the top of your list.

Review: ASUS ROG STRIX SCAR II Edition GL504GS

Posted in Products with tags on December 26, 2018 by itnerd

Serious gamers who want portability want a gaming laptop that doesn’t feel like a sack of bricks to carry around. But at the same time they want enough power to pwn their opponents in Call Of Duty, Fortnite, or whatever game they’re playing. ASUS can help you with that by serving up the ROG STRIX SCAR II Edition laptop:

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This is your classic gaming laptop with a full sized mechanical keyboard that feels great when you type on it. It’s also capable of lighting up as you can see from the picture. You will also note that besides the keyboard, the underside of the laptop lights up and the ROG logo on the back lights up as well. That’s either going to be cool to you or it will be a bit over the top.

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The left side of the laptop is where most of the ports live, You get gigabit ethernet, HDMI, two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, and a headphone jack.

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The right side has a USB-A port and a SD Card reader slot. Plus there’s a security cable lock slot near the back.

It has a 15.6″ IPS panel that does HD resolution and exhibits zero glare which makes it easy on the eye. The bottom of the screen has a really thick bezel and is the location of the HD webcam as illustrated here:

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The reason why I am pointing this out is because the camera makes you want to look at it in a very un-natural way. That might be a problem for someone who does a lot of video calls and the like.

Other specs include:

  • 2.2GHz (up to 3.9GHz) Intel Core i7-8750H processor
  • 16GB RAM
  • 256GB PCIe NVMe solid state drive + 1TB FireCuda SSHD
  • GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card with 6GB of dedicated video memory
  • 802.11ac Wave 2 Gigabit WiFi. What’s cool about this is that it has four antennas that provide better WiFi connections to the laptop.
  • Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity
  • Windows 10

It weighs in at around 5 pounds which isn’t light, but far lighter than a lot of gaming laptops out there. The side-firing speakers are excellent. They have a loud but clear and unmuffled sound profile that’s supported by tons of bass. They’re great if you want to game alone and out loud or if you decide to watch a few videos with friends or roommates. You get a ton of apps to aid in your gameplay. Such as utilities to overclock the system, crank up the fans, or making your gameplay better by helping you to play better. It feels very upscale and classy thanks to the aluminum finish.

To test out the power of this laptop, I tried out Zwift which is an online platform that allows cyclists to ride a variety of real and imagined courses assuming you have a stationary software controlled stationary trainer. In my case, this one. That doesn’t sound exciting. But Zwift really pushes a computer because it has to acquire data such has the riders heart rate via a Bluetooth enabled chest strap, their cadence (how fast they are pedaling) via a Bluetooth enabled sensor, and not only determine how fast you are going via the software controlled trainer, but also to the required math to replicate uphills and downhills in 1% gradient increments. All while trying to replicate roads of London, Innsbruck, or wherever else you happen to be riding. Not to mention the dozens or in some cases hundreds of people around you. In short, that’s not easy for any computer to do as there is a lot that is in play. Now, the actual look of Zwift at HD resolution or higher connected to a 4K TV was dead smooth with no stuttering an no lag. However, I did run into issues with connecting my Bluetooth sensors to the ROG STRIX SCAR II laptop. I was able to connect two sensors with ease. But when you added a third to the mix, it had problems with the third sensor staying connected. I was able to replicate this with another set of sensors connected to the ROG STRIX SCAR II laptop. However I was not able to replicate this behavior with another laptop that I was reviewing at the time. Thus I have to assume that the implementation of Bluetooth 5.0 on this laptop is problematic. But the flip side to that is that I am testing using a pretty extreme use case. Thus if you’re sticking to more straightforward games like Call Of Duty or Fortnite which don’t use the sort of sensors that Zwift does it shouldn’t be an issue. Though it should be something that ASUS should look at.

Finally, while battery life is usually an issue on gaming laptops. The SUS ROG STRIX SCAR II Edition GL504GS isn’t any different. You’ll get about 3.5 to 4 hours on battery if you’re surfing the net and watching videos on YouTube. The take home message is that you should not stray far from a power outlet. Having said that, the target market for this laptop isn’t interested in the best battery life possible.

The ASUS ROG STRIX SCAR II Edition GL504GS goes for $2000 CDN at Best Buy which is great price given the power and capabilities of this laptop. If you want a laptop that will allow you to pwn people with power to spare, the ASUS ROG STRIX SCAR II Edition GL504GS should be on your list to look at.

 

Review: MSI PS42 8M-096CA

Posted in Products with tags on December 24, 2018 by itnerd

MSI is rolling out a new pair of laptops that’s aimed at creators of content. Meaning photographers, designers, or 3D animators. The first one that I will look at is the MSI PS42.

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The first thing that I noted was this laptop was very, very light. It weighs 1.19kg which puts it in the range of the MacBook Air. However, based on these specs, it is way more powerful:

  • Intel Core i7 8550U processor that runs at 1.8 – 4.0GHz
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 16GB RAM
  • Intel UHD graphics
  • Thin bezel 14″ IPS-level panel
  • 512 GB SSD based Storage
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetoot 4.1

Those specs on paper crush the MacBook Air rather easily. To confirm what the results would be in the real world, I put that to the test. But before I get to that, let me point out some other things:

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On the left side of the PS42 there’s a HDMI port, a USB-C port and a headphone jack.

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On the right side are two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, a card reader slot as well as a security lock slot. In short, unlike the MacBook Air which makes you live the dongle life, you will not have to make any such compromises here as every port that you need is right there.

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The web camera which is 720p camera is at the bottom of the screen. I am not a fan of this position as it places your head at an unnatural position when you use it. You’ll also notice that the keyboard is backlit.

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There’s also a fingerprint sensor built into the trackpad and it works with Windows Hello authentication.

The PS42 feels very solid and it feels like a very quality piece of kit. The screen is bright and the fact that it close to bezel-less makes this a very easy screen to read. The keyboard  does not have a lot of travel. But touch typists shouldn’t have an issue typing once they get used to it. Battery life is outstanding. MSI quotes 11 hours. I got 9.75 hours surfing the web and playing YouTube videos which is more than respectable.

So, in terms of performance, I threw Zwift at it to see what it would do. Zwift is an online platform that allows cyclists to ride a variety of real and imagined courses assuming you have a stationary software controlled stationary trainer. In my case, this one. That doesn’t sound exciting. But Zwift really pushes a computer because it has to acquire data such has the riders heart rate via a Bluetooth enabled chest strap, their cadence (how fast they are pedaling) via a Bluetooth enabled sensor, and not only determine how fast you are going via the software controlled trainer, but also to the required math to replicate uphills and downhills in 1% gradient increments. All while trying to replicate roads of London, Innsbruck, or wherever else you happen to be riding. Not to mention the dozens or in some cases hundreds of people around you. In short, that’s not easy for any computer to do as there is a lot that is in play. Now even at the default settings, Zwift can humble a lot of computers. It taxes my 2015 MacBook Pro every time I run it. But the MSI PS42 had no issues with it at HD resolution while connected to my TV. And this was with the Intel UHD graphics chipset. You can add Nvidia graphics as an option to seriously amp things up. But based on this test, it’s got a ton of power as it is. A couple of things that I noted was that the laptop offered to optimize the sound for game play seeing as Zwift technically was a game. The other thing that I noted was that the aluminum chassis was slightly warm to the touch. If this was my MacBook Pro, it would be really warm if not hot.

This particular MSI PS42 goes $1488 CDN on Amaon.ca. At that price this is a package that makes the MacBook Air look rather pedestrian. Thus if you’re looking for a very lightweight laptop that is still packed with power, take a look at the MSI PS42 and forget the MacBook Air. You’ll be glad that you did.

The IT Nerd Award For The Best SUV Of 2018 Goes To: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD

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

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The Hyundai Santa Fe has always been a top seller for the Korean carmaker. But I suspect that the 2019 makeover of the Santa Fe is going to take this vehicle to a whole new level. Especially in the Ultimate trim level that I tested this year which has a ton of tech including a feature called “Safe Exit Assist” which besides being a piece of tech that you currently can’t find anywhere else, will ensure that you will not accidentally hit cyclists that may be approaching your vehicle from directly behind. On top of that, they really made the interior one that you’ll want to spend a lot of time in as well. Quite simply besides being an IT Nerd award winner for the best SUV for 2018, the Hyundai Santa Fe is going to shake up the mid-sized SUV space in a very big way.

The IT Nerd Award For The Best Car Of 2018 Goes To: 2018 Mazda6 Signature

Posted in Products with tags on December 19, 2018 by itnerd

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I’ve always considered the Mazda6 to be the best mid sized car out there. It has excellent handling, great fuel economy, and great looks inside and out. Though I have heard complaints from some who wished there was a V6 under the hood as they could not get past the normally aspirated 4 cylinder engine that was in the vehicle. Well, Mazda in 2018 solved that by taking the turbo 4 cylinder engine that came as part of the CX-9 and dropped into the Mazda6 to really put the “sport” in the phrase sport sedan. If that wasn’t enough, they came up with a new trim level called “Signature” which took a really good interior and improved upon it so much that it now rivals what luxury car makers can offer. In short, the Mazda6 is not only a deserving winner of the IT Nerd Award for the best car of the year, but it now has to be on your shopping list if you are in the market for a mid sized car.

The IT Nerd Award For The Best Accessory Of 2018 Goes To: Apple Watch Series 4 With LTE

Posted in Products with tags on December 17, 2018 by itnerd

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The Apple Watch has been out since 2015 and has just been regarded as an accessory to those on Team iPhone for the most part. But with the Apple Watch Series 4, things have changed. Apple now has a device that legitimately can save lives and help to make your life better. That sounds a bit over the top, but it’s not. Let me list why that is:

  • The Apple Watch now detects fast and slow heart rates. Both of with are highly dangerous and if you got an alert like this, you should seek medical attention.
  • The ECG feature that is only available on Series 4 Apple Watches in the USA (for now) can detect conditions like Afib which is highly dangerous and requires rapid medical attention.
  • Another feature that is unique to the Series 4 Apple Watch is fall detection. It’s turned on by default for those who are 65 or over. But you might consider turning it on regardless as it will alert emergency services along with the contacts that you define if you’ve fallen and cannot respond because you’re unconscious or the like.
  • It’s fitness game has been seriously improved as it is way better at tracking your activities and you have more activities to choose from.

All of that is now done in a package that looks stylish, and with the larger screens is now easier to read. Plus it is faster and has apps that cover a large number of use cases. Quite simply it’s the best wearable device out there. Sure it’s still only for those on Team iPhone, but it’s so good that those on Team Android may be tempted to switch to Team iPhone to use what I consider to be the best wearable device out there at the moment. The Apple Watch Series 4 is a well deserved winner of the IT Nerd Award for best accessory.