The Sonos Move Is The Best Portable WiFi Speaker Available

Last month, I reviewed the Bose Portable Home Speaker and was very impressed. It’s certainly worth $349 (or $299, if you can find a deal). But I am far more impressed with the Sonos Move and think it may be an even better buy, even though it costs $50 more. As a friend commented when listening to it, “I can’t believe the sound on this is coming from a single mono speaker.”

The truth is that unlike the Bose Portable Home Speaker, you can pair two Sonos Move devices for each stereo channel (though Bose says an update is coming sometime this year). However, you may not need to. A single speaker offers enough separation of the sound range in order to make it sound like you are listening in stereo.

The Move can be transferred from place to place, but it’s pretty heavy (for a speaker) at 6.6 pounds. It looks like some type of dome from outer space that you can charge by putting into a ring that comes with the purchase. It’s also almost 10-inches tall and not something that you can just throw in your bag.

Click to play in YouTube.

But whatever the weight, the sound is fantastic, especially when listening to ambient or dance music. Take the slow jam “Don’t Look Back” from Rick and Morty. The Sonos lifts the song up from the bottom and pumps the bass softly into your ears. And despite outstanding highs and lows, you can easily hear the vocals.

If you are in party mode, a song like “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish can make your stomach turn — in a good way. The good news is that even when you turn the volume up towards its max (you may want to avoid the highest volume if you don’t want your eardrums busted), none of the bass disappears.

The Move is very easy to set up, unlike the Bose Portable Home Speaker and the Bose Home Speaker 500, which will be reviewed here very soon. The Move App is very user-friendly and will guide you though everything and even warn you of any problems you’ll run into (you probably won’t).

The only negative thing may be the battery life. Sonos claims 10 hours of battery life, but my tests have revealed slightly less (9.5 hours and 9 hours on two tests with the volume at 40 percent). Still, it’s nice to have the charge ring come in the box. You can charge the Sonos Move though the USB-C port, but I have found that many USB-C chargers, including the ones that come with the MacBook Pro (both 13 and 16 inch versions) don’t work.

Still, the Sonos Move is the best battery-operated WiFi speaker one can buy now. $399 may seem like a lot to pay for a speaker ($349 if you are lucky), but you’ll get every bang (and bass thump) for your buck.

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Dell XPS 15 2020 Is still No Match For MacBook Pro 16

Dell XPS 15 2020

I was finally able to see the Dell XPS 15 2020 in front of my eyes this past week, and the first thing I thought is that it didn’t look like a 15-inch laptop. But it felt more heavy than it looked. Still, 4.5 pounds isn’t too heavy for a 15.6-inch laptop, especially one that has everything but the kitchen sink inside.

The 15.6-inch UHD+ (3840 x 2400)  pixel resolution screen (283 PPI) on this laptop is an absolute beauty. I was looking though pictures of beaches and waterfalls on this, and it felt like I could almost touch the objects on the screen. But even if the screen were 2K, it would still look almost as good. The human eye can’t tell that much of a difference between 2k and 4K on a 15.6-inch screen, unless their eyes are a couple inches away.

Dell's new laptop has a very crisp screen.

The reason I mention the resolution is because it really affects battery life. That’s why the 3072 x 1920 (226 PPI)  pixel resolution screen on the MacBook Pro 16 is perfect. Its resolution is very high, but not so high that it eats up a huge amount of battery life in a short time. I can’t say the same for the Dell XPS 15, although you can opt for the 1080p version. In my opinion, regular HD is too low for 2020.

Then, there’s the keyboard. The XPS 15 keyboard is no slouch, but it felt a little “sunken in” compared to the Pro 16′s keyboard, which is the best that has ever been put in a laptop. Some may prefer the plush feeling, but you really have to test both keyboards out. It’s obvious that both Dell and Apple are listening to consumers when designing they’re keyboards.

The MacBook Pro 16 has the best keyboard.

I have to give Dell a lot of credit for its new speakers. I originally wasn’t thrilled to test the speakers out because I heard the sound on the new XPS 15 wasn’t as good as it is on the MacBook Pro 16. But I found that the new four-speaker system sounds solid, is very wide, and should be judged on its own merits rather than be compared to Apple’s laptop.

I didn’t feel the wobbly trackpad that has infected so many new XPS 15 units. The trackpad is huge and works well. But it is still offers slightly less smoothness than Apple’s amazing Force Touch trackpad.

The Dell XPS 15 2020 is probably the best Windows laptop available. Don’t let the slight negativity in this article deter you from getting it if you won’t go for anything else but Windows. But it’s not the best laptop in the world. The title for that goes to the MacBook Pro 16.

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Looking Forward: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 And iPhone 12

The Note 20 will be released later this summer.

The summer is almost here, and it’s typically the time we prepare for new smartphone releases from Samsung and Apple. Let’s take our attention away from all the craziness in the world and take a look at what we know so far about these future smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20

According to TechRadar, Samsung’s new phablet will be announced on August 5. Two versions are expected — the regular Note 20 and a Note 20+.  Both versions will have 5G, although 5G rollout has been very limited.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Mock Trailer. Please click to play in YouTube.

Most sources have the regular Note 20 with a 6.42-inch screen that has a pixel resolution of 2345 x 1084, while the Note 20 Plus screen will grow to 6.87 inches with a pixel resolution of 3096 x 1444. I enthusiastically reviewed last year’s Note 10+ with its 6.8-inch screen, but I eventually found it too large. I can’t imagine the screen on the S20+ will feel less cumbersome. Then again, that’s why Samsung has a smaller Note.

Both of the Note 20 devices will likely be powered by Samsung’s upcoming Snapdragon 865 Plus chip. They will also likely come with an improved S Pen features. 

iPhone 12

iPhone 12 Render

Most rumors point to there being two versions of the iPhone 12 (5.4 and 6.1-inches) and two versions of the iPhone 12 Pro (6.1 and 6.7-inches). As MacRumors notes, there will be a major design change on at least two of the phones that’s similar to that of the iPad Pro.

All the new iPhones are expected to feature OLED displays, and the Pro versions could have a 120Hz refresh rate. The huge notch for the TrueDepth camera system could become smaller. There are also rumors of a 3D triple-lens rear camera system that uses a laser to determine depth information.

All versions of the new iPhone 12 are expected to have 5G support. All iPhones will use an updated A14 chip that is expected to add both speed and efficiency improvements. However, the chips will only bring small gains in battery life. The iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max currently offer excellent battery life, so this shouldn’t be an issue.

How Will Economy Affect Smartphone Releases?

Both the Note 20 and iPhone 12 look like great smartphones. However, they are being released in a year where everything is uncertain. Will people be in a rush to upgrade their smartphones? If so, will there be enough smartphones produced to meet demand? Stay tuned.

 

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2020: The Year Bose And Microsoft Shut Their Retail Stores

2020 has been a pretty chaotic year, and not in a good way. Just about everyone has been affected by the coronavirus, rioting, and the sudden closure of the economy. But tech geeks also have to deal with the shutting down of both Bose and Microsoft retail stores. It’s a huge loss as both stores are as satisfying to geeks as candy stores are for little kids.

I cannot explain how satisfying it has been to walk through a Microsoft Store since 2009. Sure, they copied Apple a lot with their layout, but offered more goods than Apple did, including virtual reality headsets and video game systems. I’ve barely ever had a negative interaction with a Microsoft Store employee since they have been trained so well.

I did many first-impression reviews of items for this blog from the Microsoft Store since they always got products in the day they were announced. I remember driving 30 minutes to the Westfield Century City location in 2015 just so I can play with the Surface Book.

Microsoft Surface Book (Picture taken at Microsoft Store)

Than, a week later, I walked in and saw the ill-fated VAIO Z Canvas.

Microsoft VAIO Z Canvas (On Display at Microsoft Store in 2015)

According to The Verge, Microsoft locations in New York City, London, Sydney, and Redmond will be turned into “experience” centers. That could be either a good or a bad thing. We’ll have to see.

Microsoft’s announcement comes five months after Bose announced they were closing 100 retail stores. CNN was one of the first news sites with the announcement.

“Bose is significantly shrinking the number of retail stores it operates because of the ‘dramatic shift’ to online shopping, the company said in a statement…The maker of high-end electronics said it’s closing 119 retail stores worldwide across North America, Europe, Japan and Australia. It will continue to operate about 130 stores throughout China, the United Arab Emirates, India and some Asian countries.”

It’s quite interesting that some of the retail locations that remained open right after the announcement are now permanently closed. It wouldn’t be surprising if, by the end of the year, Bose only had a few “experience” stores open worldwide. This is sad because going into a Bose store was quite an aural experience for years.

It is quite true that online shopping has become increasingly more relevant than retail shopping, especially after the coronavirus hit the world. But there’s nothing like going in a store and interacting with items that you may or may not buy. The closing of Microsoft and Bose stores certainly represents the end of an era.

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Dell’s XPS 15 Problems Continue Long Streak Of Quality Control Issues

Dell XPS 15 2020

Dell has become a formidable PC laptop maker, especially since 2015. That was when the first modern Dell XPS 13 with the Dell’s practically border-less infinity display appeared. If things looked too good to be true, they were. Many people had problems with intense heat, a touchscreen that looked like it had been spread with a smudgy substance, and experiences with screen brightness changing even without any power settings turned on.

By the time the XPS 13 was revamped for 2016, there were a lot of improvements made. However, there were still some who had extreme backlight bleed. Many wondered how these units got past quality control. The same thing happened with the XPS 15, meant to be the larger version of the XPS 13, that was released at the end of 2015.

The new Dell XPS 15 9500, which some think is the best all-around laptop, has been shipping over the past few weeks. Reviews have been unanimously positive. However, since it first arrived in the hands of consumers, complaints about loose trackpads have persisted. This video explains it all.

Click to play in YouTube.

As you can see and hear, the trackpad is loose. Because it is loose, it will register clicks that you didn’t even intend. This appears to be on several new Dell XPS 15 units as well as some Dell XPS 17s as well. Some people have come up with fixes that require you to open up the XPS 15 by tightening a screw or putting tape on. However, as many have noted, one should not have to become a computer repair clerk when paying $2000 or more for a computer.

At least Dell recognizes the problem. Forbes has provided a statement from Dell.

“Dell is aware that some XPS 15 9500 customers might be experiencing an issue with their touchpad. We have identified and resolved this issue on all systems shipping in June 2020 and beyond. While functionality is not affected, it does not meet the stringent quality and experience standards we set for ourselves”

Dell claims to be fixing the XPS 15 2020 trackpad issue.

The statement adds that any current XPS 15 owners experiencing the issue can get it remediated with Dell customer service. Many are happy that Dell finally admitted the problem and are either exchanging units or sending out someone to repair trackpads at people’s homes.

So if you want to buy a new Dell XPS 15, it’s better to wait at least a couple weeks to make sure you don’t get one that has a wobbly trackpad. From all the reviews, it sounds like the wait would definitely be worth it. Let’s hope that Dell’s quality control can finally live up to the company’s innovation in the coming year.

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Bose Portable Home Speaker Is Absolutely Worth Its New $299 Price

I didn’t review the Bose Portable Home Speaker with AirPlay 2 when it was first released last fall. I tried playing with it, but had a difficult time with its connection. I was going to look into it more, but forgot about it. Besides, at $349, it didn’t seem as good as a buy as the competing Sonos Move.

Now that Bose’s WiFi speaker has been reduced to $299 this past weekend, it was time for a re-evaluation. And I’m glad I spent the time. The Bose Portable Home Speaker is one of the best portable speakers released in years, especially since it offers both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics:

Build and Design

The Bose Portable Home Speaker looks and feels solid.

The Bose Portable Home Speaker looks and feels solid.

The aluminum designed speaker, which measures 7.5 inches, is simple but eloquent. It reminds me of the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ from 2017, but it feels better. The controls are on the top, and the speaker space is rounded at the bottom. It’s shocking that a device this small (compared to other WiFi speakers) could produce such fantastic and lifelike sound.

Features

The most important thing to note is that this is not just a Bluetooth wireless speaker; it’s a WiFi speaker as well. This is important because WiFi offers better sound quality. Most WiFi speakers need to be plugged in, but not the Bose Portable Home Speaker.

Setting up the speaker was frustrating. You’re supposed to be able to download the Bose Music app, which guides you on how to connect your device to your WiFi network. It wasn’t so easy, even for a tech-friendly guy like me. But once everything was connected correctly, the speaker worked very well. It was worth all of my frustration in setting it up.

Setting up the Bose Portable Home Speaker was frustrating.

Bose’s WiFi speaker is also a smart speaker that works with Google Assistant and Alexa. I didn’t test it with Alexa, but it worked very well with Google Assistant, even when I was several feet away from the speaker. I never really got into the whole smart speaker voice assistant thing much, but Bose’s speaker proves how far voice assistants have come.

Sound

Bose has always had a V-shaped sound spectrum, and that certainly continues on this speaker. The bass is punchy, but not overwhelming. The treble is also very clear. Though it’s not a deal killer, the middle range sometimes gets recessed a little more than Bose’s other products. Still, it’s only a minor issue, and some may not mind at all.

Overall, the sound is excellent and doesn’t get distorted when turning up the volume. Only at the very highest volume do you notice distortion, but I don’t think anybody would dear turn this up to its maximum capability unless they really want to disturb their neighbors.

Battery Life

Bose claims this speaker gives you 12 hours of battery life. However, the higher you turn up the volume, the less battery life you will get. At medium volume, I am able to get about 10 hours of use. Some people think that’s disappointing, but it’s great for a speaker this small and powerful.

Conclusion

Many have compared the Bose Portable Home Speaker to the Sonos Move, and claim the latter is better. However, at $100 less, Bose offers the best value. If you are looking for a portable WiFi speaker, the Bose Portable Home Speaker may be your best choice.

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Apple AirPods Studio Headphones To Be Released Very Soon

Will the AirPods Studio look anything like this? We'll find out soon.

Apple has already conquered the world of wireless earbuds. The AirPods Pro was named best product of 2019 by this blog. Now, Apple is hoping to finally conquer the world of headphones, giving Bose and Sony a run for their money. Mac Rumors has the news.

“AirPods Studio will join the AirPods lineup with the AirPods 2 and the AirPods Pro, and the new headphones will be distinct from Apple’s existing Beats lineup, which features several over-ear headphones options.”

The article adds that the over-the-ear headphones will feature active noise cancelling, equalizer settings, and head and neck detection. They are expected to be announced at the WWDC 2020 conference on June 22. They could start shipping by the end of June or beginning of July, and the software for these cans has been finalized.

According to 9To5Mac, Apple’s new headphones will also feature a sensor that will be able to detect your left and right ears and automatically route the audio channels. This means that you don’t have to worry about putting the headphones on backwards. (Yes, it happens. I do it with my Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 all the time.) The headphones will also allegedly be released in two variations – one using leather fabrics and another with lighter materials for fitness use.

Apple has to improve the already great sound quality and noise cancellation of the AirPods Pro.

Most sources say the AirPods Studio headphones will cost $349, and the price could be worth it if Apple lives up to their reputation. However, the sound quality will have to be better than the AirPods Pro buds, even though those have great sound quality. The active noise cancellation will also have to improve from the Pros in order to compete with the excellent noise cancellation that Bose and Sony offers with their latest headphones.

Then, there is the call quality. Many companies don’t realize this, but people care a lot about using their headphones for phone calls. Bose realizes this and has done an excellent job making one heard, even in a crowded room. Sony has yet to make headphones that offer great phone quality, but that may change with the upcoming WH-1000XM4 cans.

Can Apple revolutionize wireless headphones like they have done with wireless earbuds? Will this be another example of Apple being late to the game? We’ll find out in another couple weeks. The AirPods Studio is shaping up to be the most exciting product release of the summer.

 

 

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2020 MacBook Pro 13 Is Boring, But Has Some Important Improvements

2020 13-inch MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro being reviewed for this article is the 13-inch version that has a 2GHz quad-core 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. It retails for $1799, but you can easily find it in some stores for $1599.

What a letdown! After Apple completely redesigned their big MacBook Pro by shortening the bezels and putting in a 16-inch screen, many predicted they would do the same with the 13-inch version. In fact, most reports were sure it would have a 14-inch screen. Unfortunately, that may not happen until 2021. Still, there are many things about the new 13-inch Pro to like.

New Keyboard

I’m one of those who thought the Butterfly keyboard on the previous version of the 13-inch Pro wasn’t that bad. Of course, I’m in the minority — and that’s why Apple has given the new Pro its Magic Keyboard. Pressing down on Apple’s new keyboard gives your fingers a plush feeling, and you can probably type faster on this keyboard than most others.

The Magic Keyboard is probably the best you'll get on a laptop.

Improved Speakers

There has been some debate on whether or not Apple has improved the speakers on the 13-inch Pro. They certainly didn’t at the lower-end models, but — as Forbes points out — the higher-end model being reviewed here has the best speakers ever heard on a 13-inch device.

There is more bass as well as distinctive treble coming out of the speakers than previous versions. They only distort at high volumes. A friend of mine who was watching Rick and Morty with me was shocked on how well the sound traveled from such a small device. Even with the sound improvements, the 13-inch Pro lags far behind the 16-inch Pro, but that’s because Apple likely didn’t have as much room to insert more speakers and woofers.

10th Generation Processor

The new lower-end MacBook Pros only have an 8th generation processor. But the $1799 version reviewed here has a 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor, and it really helps speed things along. I edited some 4K videos using Final Cut Pro and was surprised how well the new 13-inch Pro handled the editing process. Then again, if I were a professional film editor who spend hours a day editing professionally, I would probably go for the 16-inch Pro.

Unfortunately….

Despite using the latest processors, the new MacBook Pro has WiFi 5 instead of WiFi 6, which is included on all the latest smartphones and PC computers. There are also the (relatively) thick bezels around the screen that look so 2015. Unfortunately, the battery life is just average. It will give you five to six hours of power usage. Unlike the 16-inch MacBook Pro, it’s not the type of laptop that allows you to leave the charger behind without any worries.

Conclusion

The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro isn't a "must-upgrade-to" device.

If the Butterfly keyboard of previous MacBook Pro computers bothers you a lot, then an upgrade to the 2020 version may be worth it. Otherwise, it’s probably better to wait for the 14-inch Pro, which will likely be a real upgrade.

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A Day With The Fitbit Versa 2 Is Too Much

Fitbit Versa 2

I had the Fitbit Versa 2 watch with me for a day, and I don’t miss having it on my wrist. It’s not a bad watch overall, but it doesn’t provide a smooth adventure like the Apple Watch or the different smartwatches Samsung makes. Here are some of the significant things I experienced:

Difficult to Set Up

I have never experienced such difficulty with setting up a device before. First, getting the larger band on the watch is nearly impossible. It doesn’t just slide in an out. You almost have to be some type of engineer to deal with the task.

When I first turned on the Versa, I got a message that the watch couldn’t sync…or something like that. I had to read forums on how to get the thing started. I eventually had to connect the watch to my laptop to be able to get it working. Afterwards, it took almost 30 minutes to download the software and get started.

Huge Bezel Surrounds AMOLED Display

I was happy to be sent the 44mm version of the Versa 2 since my eyes aren’t in the best shape. The only problem is that the viewable screen is significantly smaller than the full screen due to the huge bezel. This is a huge disappointment coming from Apple or Samsung smartwatches.

Intuitive Interface

The interface is quite simple and easy to navigate, even though some animations stutter. There is only one button, and operating the watch depends mostly on swipes. Switching through the screens will remind many of the Apple Watch.

The Fitbit 2 has exercise and heart tracking sensors.

No GPS

I don’t know how much of a deal killer this is for people. But like the first Apple Watch, the Versa relies on location information from your smartphone. And because of the connection issues (more on that in a bit), you’ll often find yourself without location information no matter what.

Connection Issues

Remember your devices from the 2000s that relied on a Bluetooth connection — one which didn’t always work? Well, you can (unfortunately) relive those experiences with the Fitbit Versa 2. I found that if I went out of the Bluetooth distance between my phone and the Versa, it didn’t always reconnect when I went back in the safe zone. This affected syncing as well. It ends up others have this issue as well.

Battery Life

One of the few things I find impressive about the Fitbit Versa 2 is the battery life. Fitbit claims the watch can be used for four or five days on a single charge. After one day of heavy use, I had about 75 percent juice left.

Conclusion

At $199, the Fitbit Versa 2 isn’t a bad deal. But spending $50 to $150 on a better watch will be worth the extra pinch in your wallet. Perhaps Fitbit will make a really good smartwatch in the future. For now, just “average” doesn’t cut it. 

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Surface Go 2 With Core m3 Processor Is Ultimate Portable Workstation

The Surface Go 2 doesn't come with Surface Pen or Surface Type Cover.

I recently wrote a “first look” review of the Surface Go 2. The unit I was reviewing had an  Intel Pentium 4425Y processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. It sells for $549.99.

I was very satisfied with the mid-level version of the Surface Go 2. It was a great small machine to use for creating documents, watching movies, writing handwritten notes (with the extra $90 Surface Pen), and (sometimes) editing photos. It wasn’t powerful enough to use as a primary computer.

The $649 version of the Surface Go 2 (same specs as mid-level version but with a Core m3 processor) is really in a league of its own when it comes to low-powered laptop/tablet combos. Unless you are editing 4K videos, it can really be used as your primary machine.

The Surface Go 2 is light and has a great screen.

I’ve been editing photos using all sorts of filters, and the Go 2 has been handling things just fine. It renders things slower than my MacBook Pro does, of course, but it does the job. I can leave the big MacBook Pro home while I go out and sit on park benches to do some work. This is the perfect machine to carry when sitting down at Starbucks, a place that will likely reopen its seating area in the next month.

I’m not sure I would want to write a whole novel using the Surface Go 2, although I could. The keyboard is a little too cramped, but that’s the payoff for having such a small device. It’s not as good as the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, but it’s more than usable.

One of my colleagues reminded me that I could get a Surface Pro 7 for about $100 more. However, the cheapest model of the Pro 7 only has 4GB RAM. Any computer should have at least 8GB of RAM, and the average laptop now has 16GB.

The main reason to buy the Surface Go 2 over the Surface Pro 7 is portability. The Surface Pro 7 is quite portable itself, but it’s not something that you can throw into a very small bag. It’s not something that takes a very small amount of space on a table. For example, if you go to Starbucks, you can have a drink, bakery item, and the Go 2 on your table without having to worry about knocking anything over.

The Surface Go 2′s main peer, however, is the new 11-inch iPad Pro. Apple’s device has a slightly better screen, much better speakers, and a more powerful processor. But there is only so much you can do on iOS. If you want the best content consumption tablet, the iPad should be your choice. However, if you want a great content consumption and decent content creation device around the same size, the Surface Go 2 (Core m3 version) is a much better choice.

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