Libratone ZIPP Portable WiFi + Bluetooth Wireless Speaker Is Tempting

On Wednesday, I met one of my tech savvy friends who I have conversed with through social media for the past two years. It’s interesting when an internet friend actually becomes a real face in front of you (in a good way, Joe, if you read this). He brought with him a bunch of his favorite products. Although I initially had no interest in the Libratone ZIPP speaker since it came out in 2016, Joe proved me wrong.

Since using Apple’s HomePod speaker last month and seeing how easy it was to set up, I’ve been fascinated with WiFi speakers, especially because they produce noticeably better sound than Bluetooth speakers do. However, just about every single WiFi speaker needs to be plugged in. Imagine how incredible it would be to take the HomePod with me outdoors while using my Galaxy Note 8 to set up a WiFi network between my iPhone X and HomePod. The Galaxy Note 8 works great for this; I’ve tried it before.

So, when Joe told me that the Libratone Zipp was not only WiFi and AirPlay enabled, but it could operate with a rechargeable battery, I was interested in trying it out. And, for the most part, I was impressed. I had to download the Libratone app on my iPhone X and setup wasn’t as easy as I would have liked. But once it was set up, it worked. For each video or audio app I used, I had to connect to AirPlay. But the connection worked flawlessly.

Click to play in YouTube.

I am fascinated, but not completely thrilled with the sound from the Libratone Zipp. It’s a portable speaker that sounds better than any Bluetooth wireless speaker when it’s connected through WiFi. The bass is there, but it’s not as prominent as I would like. The middle ranges and high ranges of the sound spectrum are more prominent. Joe thinks I am wrong about the bass and that it’s strong and natural. He thinks I am judging it solely on the comparison to the HomePod, which oozes bass, but doesn’t skip on the high and mid levels.

He may have a point. The HomePod is $360. The 2018 version of the ZIPP, which now features Alexa, is $250. And although it lacks the punch of the HomePod, it still has noticeable punch. And it’s portable. Libratone claims you get 10 hours of use with a charge, but Joe says that he usually gets eight or nine hours, which is still good.

Perhaps if I never heard the HomePod, I would have instantly gone to Amazon to purchase the Zipp. I may have purchased two since you can pair them as left and right speakers. But I did hear the HomePod. And all of this makes me wish Apple would realize that there really is a market for portable and rechargeable WiFi/AirPlay speakers.

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Ears On With Fantastic Jabra Elite 65t Wireless Earbuds

Jabra Elite 65t Earbuds

Finding the perfect pair of wireless earbuds is an impossible task. Apple released the first ones that passed most tests — the AirPods — in late 2016. In the past 16 months, especially recently, you’ve probably seen people on the street or at the gym wearing them.

The AirPods are great, but they are also troublesome. They not only wiggle too much in your ears, but there is absolutely no active or passive noise cancellation. To some, that’s good, especially since they view the AirPods as extensions of their ears. The sound is very good, but not great. Still, for $160, the AirPods are a deal.

However, for just $10 more, the new Jabra Elite 65t are a must-have. To be honest, having owned some Jabra products in the late 2000s, I haven’t had much interest in their products. However, I read about the Elite 65t earbuds, which earned four stars from CNET and have been called a “true AirPod killer” by Tom’s Guide.

The Jabra Elite 65t are the best earbuds on the market.

These Jabra earbuds may actually really be the best on the market right now. The adventure starts when connecting them, which is almost as easy as connecting the AirPods. Since the Elite 65t have Bluetooth 5.0, the connection is very stable when paired with a Bluetooth 5 smartphone such as the the newer iPhones and all Samsung Galaxy products since the Galaxy S8.

The sound quality is great considering how small these things are. Of course, you have to have the right-size eartips to maximize the listening quality, and Jabra includes three different sizes. The bass is prominent, but not overwhelming. The middle ranges are there, but a little bit recessed. The high ranges are just as prominent as the bass. Of course, you can also make changes to the sound with the Jabra Sound+ app, which also offers a “HearThrough” feature to allow for ambient noise to come though.

The push of ambient sound is an important feature with the Elite 65t buds, since the noise isolation is fantastic. Noise isolation is what consumers have been asking for, and Jabra certainly delivers. But what if you want to keep the buds in for several hours (they last five hours per charge in the included charging case), take a walk in a busy area, or even drive with them? The “HearThrough” feature allows this, and even more. It was quite interesting to hear soft rain drops, which I normally wouldn’t hear with my regular ears, falling on my window.

The Jabra Elite 65t still aren’t perfect — I’ve experienced minor connection issues with the left earbud (easily fixed by pressing the Connect button), and at times, the buds fit so tightly that they can hurt your ears. Still, Jabra has delivered the best earbuds on the market. Now, it’s your turn, Apple.


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A Final Cut Pro User Tries Adobe Premiere Pro

Everybody has been telling me to try Adobe Premiere Pro. It’s the new go-to video editing solution for professionals. Mind you, I’m not a professional. However, I was somewhat proficient in Final Cut Pro, but I don’t have a MacBook Pro anymore.

I’ve been using CyberLink’s PowerDirector, and it’s been okay. It’s pretty easy to use coming from Final Cut Pro. But now that I have a chance to use Adobe Premiere Pro, I’m digging in as much as possible. And so far, I’m actually really digging it.

When I first used Adobe Premiere back in 2005, I freaked out. It overwhelmed me right from the beginning. Of course, in 2005, I was an amateur when it came to most advanced computer programs. I had just learned how to use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Illustrator — believe me, my brain was fried.

However, I’m not so much of an amateur anymore. And for those who have a medium expertise in editing video, Adobe Premiere Pro is fairly easy to use. There are various sections of the program screen like there are in other video editing programs.

Adobe Premiere Pro is best used with a large monitor, but a notebook will do.

On the upper left is where you edit the specific clip that you want to import on the timeline. Once you are happy with the clip edit, you import it to the timeline, which is on the lower-right side of the screen. The upper-right corner of the screen is where the full movie (in progress) is. You can easily add titles, transitions, and export it into almost any file format you want. This is certainly unlike Final Cut Pro, where you needed to buy the Compressor program to encode it into most video formats.

The main thing I’ve noticed is, at least when compared to CyberLink PowerDirector, how fast the video encodes. It took fifteen minutes for a five minute 4K movie on PowerDirector, but only seven with the same exact clip and settings on Adobe Premiere Pro. And the video, during the Preview mode, plays a lot smoother as well.

So I don’t overwhelm myself, I am just learning to do the basics for now — editing home movies with transitions, titles, and adding music. Then, I’ll move on to the more complex effects, such as putting a ghost in one of the video clips.

Using a 13.3-inch laptop such as the Dell XPS 13 with Adobe Premiere Pro will make you squint a lot.

I’m using the Dell XPS 13 9370 (the white one which I reviewed a couple weeks back). And editing videos, even at 4K, is certainly doable. But for the better results, one should use a laptop that has a discreet GPU. And for the best results, one should use at least a 24-inch monitor so you can view the full workspace without having to close windows, minimize size of spaces, etc.

For those who are having doubts about learning yet another video editing program, give Adobe Premiere Pro a try. Download the trial version for now. I guarantee that you won’t regret it.

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Yes, Digital Cameras Still Exist

Are digital cameras still relevant? Sort of. It’s true that smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and the iPhone X can replace digital cameras for about 90 percent of the population. But for the 10 percent who rely more on professional pictures, a digital camera is still the way to go (that’s not saying the iPhone X or S9 Plus can’t take professional pictures at times).

Mirrorless Cameras

The rage over the past couple of years has been over mirrorless cameras. They existed before, but have recently become mainstream. As PC Magazine notes, a mirrorless camera accepts different lenses. The body is thinner than a digital SLR (DSLR) camera since it doesn’t use a mechanical mirror to switch the scene between the optical viewfinder and image sensor. 

Perhaps the most talked-about mirrorless camera of the past year is the Sony RX100 V, a pocketable camera that costs almost $1000.

Sony's RX1000 V has been called a "miniature masterpiece."

The RX1000 V not only provides continuous shots at 24fps;  it records stereo 4K videos as well. It also has advanced AF/AE tracking. Sony’s camera also allows you to make still shots from your 4K videos. Sony claims the auto-focus is so good that you can easily capture someone running, take a picture at any moment, and have it look like a regular still picture instead of the person looking like jello.

The downside is that it only comes with a 3.6x zoom lens — but that should be more than adequate for most people. This is definitely a camera that this blog will take an even closer look at in the near future.

DSLR Cameras

If you want an optical viewfinder with a camera that has an interchangeable lens, DSLR is still the way to go. It’s always been the most popular type of camera for professionals. And although there are some smaller DSLR cameras, most photographers don’t care about size when purchasing one.

Canon is arguably the most popular company for DSLR cameras, and the EOS Rebel T7i has been one of their biggest sellers.

The EOS Rebel T7i has earned rave reviews.

At $750, it isn’t cheap, but it has a lot of great features. PC World gave it an Editor’s Choice award.

“The new sensor impresses, as does the 45-point autofocus system backed up by excellent live view AF, while the newly designed graphical interface will certainly make this camera even more appealing to new users.”

Unfortunately, the EOS Rebel doesn’t take 4K videos like the higher-end Rebel models do. However, according to just about everybody who has used the camera, it takes amazing pictures.

Point and Shoot Cameras

Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Samsung, and other companies still make the point-and-shoot cameras that were popular 10 years ago. Higher end point-and-shoots cost around $500, but you can still get a decent one for under $200. The cameras on the iPhone X, Google Pixel, and Samsung Galaxy S series are now as good as the point-and-shoots (in some ways, better) and that is why this category of digital cameras has faded the most. 

The Future

Many claim that in the near future, mirrorless digital cameras will replace DSLR cameras. But it’s also possible that smartphone cameras, which will have interchangeable lenses, will replace everything. It’s hard to predict the future of digital photography.

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A Look At RAVPower’s HyperAir Wireless Charging Stand

I get a lot of  small technology items in my mailbox, and admittedly, many of those things end up not being opened. But I do donate a lot of these unwanted items to schools and nursing homes. However, when I was sent RAVPower’s HyperAir wireless charging stand, I was intrigued. This is mostly because I’ve had the RAVPower Turbo+ series 20100mAh charger for almost two months, and I can’t live without it.

The Turbo+ charger is a lifesaver that has helped keep my devices charged when I’ve barely been at home. It’s the best $40 I’ve spent in the past five years, although Amazon now lists it for $49.99. So, I was excited to try the HyperAir Wireless, even though I’m not quite into wireless chargers. I’ve always thought they looked cool, but why not just use a wired charger since it charges a lot faster?

Charging the Galaxy Note 8 with the RAVPower HyperAir

The HyperAir, however, is different. It provides 7.5W charging for the iPhone X (two hours and 20 minutes for full charge), and 10W charging for Android devices (it takes four hours to completely charge the Galaxy S8). It took a little longer than four hours to charge my Galaxy Note 8. The convenience, of course, is that you don’t have to plug the phone in — you just put it on a stand overnight. And it’s a comfortable stand.

My first wireless charging stand was from Samsung, and it came with my Galaxy S7 purchase. However, it was sort of bulky, and despite the fact that “fast charging” was on the label, it didn’t charge so fast. So, I decided to just go with plugs. But the HyperAir charger is not only portable; it’s very comfortable. And you can run your fingers all over the screen of your device while it’s on the stand without worrying about the phone flipping over.

I have a plastic sleeve on my iPhone X, and the HyperAir charges it almost as fast with it on as it does without it. I could easily take the sleeve off every time I need to charge the phone, but it’s not worth the slightly faster charge. In 30 minutes, I went from a 50 percent charge to 60 percent.

The RAVPower HyperAir comes with a small (but thick) plug and cord.

Another big difference between this charger and others I’ve tried is that, thankfully, it doesn’t get too hot, even after several hours of use. After  the whole Galaxy Note 7 debacle, I’ve been afraid of things getting so hot that there will be an explosion.

So, is this something I would personally buy? Perhaps not — only because I’m still not blown away by wireless chargers. But others, including many of my colleagues, feel differently. If you are going to purchase a wireless charger, the HyperAir is not only a worthwhile purchase, but it’s made by RAVPower — the company that makes the best charging devices in the business.


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iPad Pro (10.5-Inch) Is Still Wonderful, But Feels Outdated

A new iPad Pro may be available sometime in June. Trusted Reviews has the news.

“Rosenblatt Securities analyst Jun Zhang told investors that the firm will unveil the new iPad Pro in June, when it will also start accepting orders, before noting that it should have somewhere in the region of six to eight million units ready for launch day.”

I posted a positive early-impressions review  of the iPad Pro 10.5 last June, and still stick to my word: The iPad Pro is a beautiful tablet with a game-changing screen (120Hz refresh rate), and using it with the Apple Pencil feels very natural. Fry’s has the iPad Pro on sale right now for $100 off (most models), and it’s a fantastic buy if you can’t wait until June.

2017's 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the ultimate consumption device.

I have been using the iPad Pro for the first time in months today. And I must say that as impressed as I am with it, the tablet feels somewhat outdated after the release of the iPhone X. The main reason is that the bezels on top and below the screen seem huge in comparison to the new iPhone and even Samsung’s new devices. Some may argue the seemingly large bezels are good since it makes it easier to handle the tablet.

The next iPad Pro is set to get rid of the Home button (and fingerprint scanner) and rely on Face ID. I still think the fingerprint scanner provides better security and unlocks devices faster. I’ve been using the X for four months, and I still miss the fingerprint scanner. However, having the extra screen space is worth getting rid of any buttons below the screen, and I can only imagine the extra screen space on a device like the iPad Pro would be even more pleasing.

Will new iPad Pro have dual-lens camera like the iPhone X?

There are rumors that the next iPad could have a dual-lens camera, but would it be worth it for Apple to put one in? Most people rarely take pictures with their iPads unless they work in real estate or showbiz. Perhaps I am underestimating the iPad Pro’s audience.

One thing that Apple will most likely not put into the new iPad Pro is an OLED screen, which would make the device cost a lot more than it would without it. Besides, Apple’s True Tone LED display is just as good, in many ways, as an OLED sceen. The problem with LED screens is that they have an unnecessary amount of backlight bleed. However, this is rarely the case with Apple’s screens.

I still think that those who believe the iPad Pro is a laptop replacement have never used a real laptop. But the Pro is the best media consumption mobile device around, and for the first time in years, I am actually excited about Apple’s new updated iPad Pro. 

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Samsung Galaxy S9+ Is Boring…Only At First Glance

My local Best Buy has the Galaxy S9 and S9+ on display. I walked by both phones not realizing that they were actually the S9 and the S9+. But I then, I heard a salesman talking about them to another customer. I had to check them out.

For this article, I’m going to talk mostly about the Galaxy S9+ since it’s the phone I spent about 10 minutes with. I can’t give a full review until after March 16, when the phone goes on sale. Perhaps Samsung will send me a review unit before that. For now, I can say that the phone is, in no way, a failure. It may be a boring upgrade, but it’s still a great smartphone.

The only difference I noticed right away between the S8+ is that the bezels are definitely smaller. I’m not sure that’s a great thing since it will be easier now to accidentally touch the screen. And the phone seems slightly heavier as well. But when you turn the phone around, you now see a dual-lens vertical camera with the fingerprint lens underneath it. One of the only criticisms of last year’s S8+ was that it was easy to accidentally touch the camera lens instead of the fingerprint reader, which was right next to it.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ has an updated camera and fingerprint reader.

The actual screen on the S9+ is almost exactly like the screen on the S8+, except it does get a little brighter. It would be difficult to understand why one would want to turn the S9+ on full brightness; it’s blindingly bright. Some are upset that Samsung has continued to provide a Quad HD+ screen rather than a 4K screen, but the latter would be overkill and a battery life killer.

In my tests with the camera, the Galaxy S9+ was better than the Galaxy Note 8, which also has a dual-lens camera. I couldn’t take any pictures in low light since there was florescent lighting all over the place. The pictures looked great, but maybe not “iPhone X” great. But I can’t make a definite decision until I use the camera under different lighting levels. It’s important to experiment with all of the S9+ camera features as well.

The Galaxy S9+ is gorgeous, but not a "must-upgrade" type of device.

Is the Galaxy S9+ worth upgrading to if you have the Galaxy S8+? If photos are important, I would say that it may be worth the upgrade if you have a little cash to spare. Is it worth upgrading to if you have the Galaxy Note 8? Definitely not! But the S9+ is certainly no “failure” and is not as boring as some made it out to be when it was announced last week. Much to the anger of Apple fanboys, the Galaxy S9+ will be a hit.


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5G Is Being Deployed, But There’s Still A Wait For Consumers

“If 3G ‘was like a junior high school rock band,’ 4G was a louder high school rock band and 5G is a full orchestra,” says AT&T chief technology officer Andre Fuetsch, according to USA Today. This comment came after a bunch of 5G demonstrations at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona this past weekend, where the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ were also unveiled.

Right as we speak, T-Mobile is building its 5G network in places such as New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas. AT&T plans to offer mobile 5G to customers in a dozen cities by the end of this year (but without 5G phones?), and Verizon is launching 5G in five cities this year. At least Verizon admits that its 5G service will be available for residential broadband rather than mobile devices.

So what about the rest of us? There isn’t any smartphone maker who is making a 5G phone for release this year. It’s quite logical that 5G smartphones will start to arrive in 2019, but even that’s not completely guaranteed. And will 5G really be that much faster than 4G for the average consumer?

Well, nobody can agree on how fast 5G networks will be. Some say that the new networks will average 10 to 20 Gbps, possibly making it three to five times as fast as 4G networks, depending on which one you use. When using Verizon’s 4G network, I find myself getting an average of 5 Gbps in Southern California. T-Mobile’s 4G network, when not throttled, usually offers around 3 Gbps. Let’s put it this way — I never find myself complaining the network is too slow.

5G speeds will enhance VR industry.

Putting the numbers aside, a 5G network would enable you to watch a 4K (or even an 8K) broadcast without any lag. It would allow you to easily access VR apps and 360 degree videos that don’t look like you are encompassed in the middle of a VHS video. It could be revolutionary if VR catches on. Instead of FaceTiming your friend in Hawaii, you can VRTime that friend and transfer (virtually, of course) to their environment. There really is a lot of potential.

The cost to run the 5G networks will be very high, and it will certainly affect your cellular bill. Nobody seems to know exactly how much it will hurt your wallet. But it’s possible that unlimited 5G will run you at least $100 a month. Of course, not everybody will need unlimited 5G, so most bills will rise about $30 to $50. But once people see what 5G can do, they’ll want unlimited data. And wireless carriers will take advantage of that. Now, all we can do is wait.

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Exploring Technology In New Mercedes-Benz

You really have to excuse me with this. Yes, I write about technology — mostly smartphones and laptops. But one can argue that car technology is just as important. However, I just don’t have a passion for cars. Part of it is because if I became obsessed with cars like I am with smartphones and laptops, I would probably be kicked to the streets for not being able to pay my bills. I’ve always looked at a car as something that gets me from point A to point B, and nothing else.

Perhaps this is because I have never owned a luxury car. This week, I am visiting my brother and his family in Atlanta, GA, and he had to leave early on a business trip. Fortunately, he also had to leave his brand new Mercedes-Benz, which he just purchased last week, behind. And now that I’ve used it for the past two days, I wish I made enough money to afford a luxury car like this. Yes, many of the features are things you don’t need. But they are also incredibly cool to have.

Getting into my brother's new Mercedes-Benz

I was scared when I first got into the car. I looked at all the buttons and said, “What are these for?” Then, I saw that there was a rear-view camera (my Toyota Corolla iM has this), Bluetooth connectivity, a Wi-Fi Hotspot (haven’t figured out how to use it yet), a 7-inch entertainment display, USB-A input, USB-C input, Micro-USB input, etc. The only thing missing is the automatic coffee maker.

Thank god for YouTube, which helped me figure out what all the buttons are for. I just wanted to make the seat comfortable and mirrors viewable for my drive. I’m so used to jumping in, pulling a lever, etc. But even though it was more difficult to do all this the first time, it actually makes things easier in the long-run. It’s also great that you can program different seat and mirror settings for whoever drives the car.

An electric button for everything

The car is voice-controlled (though I still don’t trust voice-controlled automobiles), alerts you when you veer off your lane, and can sense when you are about to collide with another car. The  KEYLESS-GO system completely threw me off, and I thought something was wrong when I locked the doors, but they would still unlock when I opened them right away (that’s because the car can sense you are there).

But the best part of the whole experience was actually driving the car. I didn’t want to abuse my brother’s kindness, and only took the car to the gym, the grocery store, and out to meet a friend. I’d really like to take it speeding on a highway or rummage though the dirt. Still, I’ve been more than happy to drive the car that seemes like something out of a futuristic dream just 20 years ago.

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Will Sony’s Xperia Ear Duo Right The Wrongs Of WF-1000X Earbuds?

Sony XPeria Ear Duo

Sony’s XPeria Ear Duo Bluetooth wireless earbuds (well, they are bigger than most earbuds) have been demonstrated at many mobile events over the past year. However, this past weekend, Sony officially announced at WMC 2018  that the Xperia Ear Duo would hit the market soon. Android Police has the news.

 ”So Sony is following up now on its original Xperia Ear, which eventually launched in October of 2016, with an upgraded model dubbed the Xperia Ear Duo.”

While this article refers to them as an upgrade of the Xperia Ear Duo, others believe this is an upgrade to the WF-1000X buds.  The article adds that Sony claims the buds provide an unparalleled ambient experience through “Dual Listening” technology that lets you listen to music, hear your notifications, and even hear all surrounding sounds at the same time. The headset adjusts the volume based on your environment.

Sony's latest "earbuds" will cost $279.

Gareth Beavis of Tech Radar spend some time with the Duo, and thinks they are innovative and weird.

“Hmmmm – these are weird, but innovative. There’s something cool here, but perhaps they’re a bit on the bulky side. The sound quality is better than expected and they offer an element of safety other headphones don’t.”

Beavis adds that the earbud-like headphones are a little difficult to put on. He says you can easily hear conversations around you while listening to music. I’ve read plenty of articles about the XPeria Ear Duo, and it sounds like they are similar to the AirPods — there is absolutely no sound isolation. I don’t know how that makes the Ear Duo groundbreaking, but perhaps I’m missing something.

Sony came out with their first set of earbuds in September. The WF-1000X seemed promising at first. But after you use them for a day, you experience their faults. This is why Sony had to reduce the price by as much as $40 over the past six months. Not only is the phone quality awful, but there are connection issues as well. You could try a software update, but that has caused a lot of problems as well. The best thing about the WF-1000X is that they have active noise cancellation that works well. And they offer decent sound quality. But the WF-1000X is still a half-baked product.

It’s understandable that the Ear Duo buds won’t have noise cancellation — they are not made for that. Let’s hope that there aren’t any reports of connection issues when they are finally released. Let’s also hope that Ear Duo buds can be used for high-quality phone calls no matter what environment you are in. Sony’s quality control department better be on the ball before these things are released.

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