Jabra Elite Active 75t Earbuds Don’t Live Up To The Hype

The Jabra Elite Active 75T earbuds can be purchased at Best Buy for $140.

I am very late in reviewing the Jabra Elite Active 75T earbuds, especially since they came out in October. However, what made me renew interest in them is the fact that Jabra added active noise cancelling to the buds through an update.

I liked the 65t buds when I reviewed them in 2018, so I went into reviewing the Active 75t buds with excitement. I have to admit that the nugget design is impressive, and the IP57 waterproof rating means they can survive most wet situations, though it’s not recommended you swim with them since pool chemicals can cause damage. The small case, which is smaller than that of the AirPods Pro, is also well thought-out.

One main problem I encountered, which others may not, is that none of the silicone/gel tips included in the package fit my ears perfectly. I haven’t run into this with any other earbuds I’ve used. No matter what tips I used, which were thankfully easy to change, it always felt that the buds would fall out of my ears. In addition, my ears did have a minor burning sensation after using the buds for several hours at a time.

The Active 75t buds look slick but sound sort of sick.

Several other websites have complimented the sound, which can be manipulated with a software equalizer in the Jabra app. However, I find that sound is cheap, even though there is a lot of bass. The main problem is the lack of  sound separation from the high, lows, and middle ranges.

The fact that Jabra has been able to add in noise cancellation with a software update is impressive, but the actual quality of the noise cancellation is anything but impressive. It’s true that the silicone/gel tips plug the ears enough for passive noise cancellation, so the minimal active noise cancellation isn’t that big of a deal. Still, the AirPods Pro and the Bose QuietComfort buds will block out far more noise.

The call quality in quiet situations is actually impressive considering the earbuds barely protrude from the ears. It’s a miracle that the earbuds can pick up your voice so well. However, once you go outdoors, the mics don’t cancel enough background noise. One of my callers was easily able to identify certain background sounds when I was walking throughout Albertsons.

Jabra claims that the battery lasts seven-and-a-half hours on a single charge, although I usually powered though a little more than seven. That’s still impressive, and the case is good for four full charges. In this category, Jabra beats Bose and Apple.

However, I’d rather have less battery life and better sound. I’d also like to be able to talk outdoors or in a crowded room without people asking me to repeat myself. It’s true that Jabra packs a lot for the price, but there are better options that cost only slightly more.

 

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iPhone 13: What We Know So Far

The iPhone 12 Ultra was just released in November.

It seems like just yesterday that the iPhone 12 Pro Max came out (actually, it was three months ago), but the smartphone worlds moves fast. There is already a lot of speculation on what we’ll see from the iPhone 13. It seems more like an iPhone 12s (which is what it may end up being called), but there is still much to look forward to.

Smaller Notch

Many have been waiting for Apple to trim that annoying notch for a long time. Now, it looks like that’s about to happen, at least according to DigiTimes. There is no word on just how much Apple will shorten the notch, but even a centimeter would be great. The current notch interferes with the otherwise excellent movie viewing experience.

120Hz Refresh Rate

I criticized Apple for not putting this into the iPhone 12, but it’s not the deal breaker I thought. Still, Samsung has produced screens with a 120Hz refresh rate for the past two years. Scrolling with a 120Hz screen feels so smooth and is really better for the eyes. It’s about time Apple joined the club, although the current iPad Pro models have a 120Hz refresh rate.

Design

The iPhone 12 had a significant design change with flat sides that remind people of the iPhone 5. Don’t expect Apple to change much of the design, including the screen size, which will remain 5.4 inches (iPhone 13 Mini), 6.1 inches (iPhone 13 and 13 Pro), and 6.7-inches (iPhone 13 Pro Max).

iPhone 13 Camera

The current iPhone 12 lenses have a minimal optical zoom range.

The camera on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max is already outstanding, and — at least according to Tom’s GuideApple will take things to a new level. The ultra-wide lens on all models will apparently have a size of f/1.8 instead of f/2.4. This means that the lens will have a larger aperture, which allows in more light.

All models are expected to get increases in zoom capabilities, which will definitely be appreciated. After all, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 10x zoom lens. Can Apple match this?

Mid-September Release Date

Because of the pandemic, Apple had to delay the release of the iPhone 12 in 2020. However, with COVID-19 finally winding down, it looks like Apple is back on track to release their latest smartphones in September. Let’s hope that Apple can release the upgraded phones without an upgraded price.

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Bose Sport Open Earbuds Are Interesting But Not Worth Buying

Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Leave it to Bose in order to come up with the most experimental products. Remember the Bose SoundWear Companion Wireless Speaker from 2017? Then, the Bose Frames came out in early 2019. Now, we have the Bose Sport Open Earbuds, which have the speakers sitting on top of your earlobes rather than inside your ears. This all sounds exciting, right?

No matter how much transparency the AirPods Pro or the Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds have in certain modes, you can still feel them in your ears. So, when you put on the Sport Opens, your ears don’t feel clogged. But the effort to put them on is too much. Perhaps others will have an easier time, but I find myself constantly trying to make sure they are fitting correctly.

The Sport Open Earbuds fit on your earlobes, not in your ears.

When you finally do get them on, they feel light as a feather — at least in the beginning. These certainly aren’t comfortable for wearing several hours at a time. Your ears will notice the weight more and more as time goes by, especially if you are exercising with them. However, different ears may experience different things.

Then, there’s the sound. It’s crystal clear, and it’s surprising that there is barely any audio leak until you turn the volume all the way up. If you are in a waiting room with people, they’ll barely notice the noise. But if you are falling asleep with the volume at more than 70 percent, your partner may be annoyed.

The Sport Open Earbuds don't crank out a lot of bass.

The biggest problem I have with the sound is the lack of bass. It’s the same lack of bass you experience with the Bose Frames. That’s not to say there isn’t any bass at all, and many might not mind. But if you are coming from Beats headphones and listening to hip-hop, you’ll definitely be disappointed.

Then, there are the phone calls. The three people who I called said they could understand me but could easily tell I was on a Bluetooth device. When I was in a windy area, my friend said she could easily hear the wind as much as my voice. If you have used the AirPods Pro or many other recent headsets from Apple and Bose, you will be disappointed at the call quality.

The most troubling thing about the Bose Sport Open Earbuds is that you’ll love the compact case they come in. However, you’ll be easily disappointed when you realize the case doesn’t charge the buds. There is a separate charging station for that, and you better carry it around with you all the time since the battery life lasts about 8 hours. That’s good when compared to other earbuds, but not so good considering the size of these.

While the Sport Open Earbuds may become another Bose niche product, one has to give credit to the company for constantly experimenting while hitting more high notes than lows. Perhaps, if the Sport Open Earbuds were cheaper, they could be recommended. But at $199, earbud fanatics should stay far away.

 

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Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Show Why Nintendo Switch Is Still The Best

A lot has been said about the new PS5. It’s an excellent gaming system that is still hard to find, although stock is trickling into many places. However,  I still prefer the Nintendo Switch. Even though the PS5 is far more capable, it’s just not as fun. And there could be nothing more fun than the latest release, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury.

The game is cute, riveting, action packed, and helps you escape from this Covid-19 world. It’s the best game in the Super Mario series besides Super Mario Odyssey Even though it launched on the WiiU in 2013, the game hasn’t reached its full potential up until now.

Seeing 3D World on a portable device makes the game feel more approachable. Nintendo uses the same formula as most of its other Mario games, but strikes it up a notch or two. The characters, who can become cats, are more animated than ever. There are also the Cat Goombas, Koopa Troopas in underpants, and other creatures that you feel guilty pouncing on.

Click to play in YouTube.

The gameplay is rather simple, but requires some keen movements and a careful set of eyes. It does get more difficult as you go on, especially when you land in World 4. If your child becomes addicted to this, at least their hand and eye coordination will be sharpened.

The biggest surprise is the addition of Bower’s Fury, a new mini-adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat. It’s more than just a side game, even though most Mario experts can get through the complete game in four to six hours. I can’t really understand the plot, but know that enough Cat Shines to fight against the final boss sequence are needed. You even get to have Bowser Jr. as an ally in calming down his father.

I’ve noticed that the frame rate, at least in handheld mode, varies as slight lag appears (when running) at times. This is the first time I’ve noticed any lag in a Nintendo Switch game. Still, it doesn’t take away from the amazing fun or amazing frustration when a fiery Bowser appears just as you think you are about to complete a level.

I have yet to play these games with the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, but the thought didn’t even occur while playing with the regular ones. Everything feels smooth and responsive. There is never any lag when pressing the buttons.

With the exception of virtual reality experiences, it’s difficult to think of a gaming experience that convincingly transports you into another world as much as this one does with the Nintendo Switch. This new world may be crazier than the real one, but it’s guaranteed to bring you nothing but joy.

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Apple’s AirPods Max Prove To Be Best Wireless Headphones Ever Made

Apple AirPods Max

I did my ears-on review of Apple’s AirPods Max about six weeks back, and I was impressed. However, I didn’t think they were worth $550. After using them for a week, my mind has been somewhat changed.

The AirPods Max are not like other headphone products where the more you use them, the more you notice faults. Instead, they get better. You appreciate the comfort a lot more. And after listening to other wireless headsets, you appreciate the sound more. Let’s take a further look…

Comfort

After wearing the AirPods Max for two hours in a row, the comfort level was still excellent. No matter how heavy they are, they fit just right. The earcups, made with memory-foam cushions, feel wonderful on your ears. Yes, you can even sleep with them on without worrying about breaking them.

The AirPods Max are the most comfortable headphones available.

I think it’s the stainless steel headband that allows the weight to be distributed so evenly. In your hand, they feel far heavier than any set of headphones you ever used. On your head, it’s a far different story.

Noise Cancellation

I’ve tested the noise cancellation on the AirPods Max in many situations — in traffic, by a noisy lawn mower, next to a noisy hotel room, and even in a park with screaming kids. The Max, hands down, cuts out more noise than the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose NC700 headphones, both which many think are the noise cancellation leaders in the industry.

The Transparency Mode is just as impressive. Just like the AirPods Pro, you are hearing exactly what you would if you didn’t have headphones on. The Max amplifies sound a little bit more than the AirPods Pro and is perfect for those who don’t want to have conversations without taking their headphones off.

Sound

It’s hard to believe that a pair of wireless headphones could produce such good sound. It’s audiophile level sound, though a true audiophile can always tell a difference between wired and wireless sound. Listening to “Physical” by Dua Lipa brings out the lower bass while bringing out individual instruments. I especially enjoyed listening to electronic mood music which brought out instruments I haven’t ever noticed before in many songs.

Phone Calls

The AirPods Max make great phone calls.

If you think the AirPods Pro offer great call quality, just wait until you try the AirPods Max, which cut out even strong wind noise. Many people I called using the AirPods Max said they could not hear the usual “echo” that wireless headphones produce when making calls.

Conclusion

There is no doubt about it – the AirPods Max are not just groundbreaking in price; they are groundbreaking in quality as well. While most may want to wait until the price goes down (which it eventually will this year), others – who have some extra cash and are looking for the best headphones available – will not be disappointed with their purchase.

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Three Days With The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is now on sale.

I did a hands-on review of the Galaxy S21 Ultra recently, but feel more like an expert on the phone now that I’ve had three days to use it. It certainly is the best Android smartphone available right now, but is the S21 Ultra the best smartphone overall? I’ll try and answer that question.

The most fascinating thing about the S21 Ultra is the camera. In some cases, it’s better than the iPhone 12 Pro Max when taking very close or very far pictures of objects. Here is a closeup of my lunch the other day taken with the S21 Ultra.

The details and lighting are perfect, and the full size photo allows you to zoom in even more without the details getting fuzzy. The S21 Ultra has a 100X “Space Zoom” feature for taking pictures of far-away objects. However, this zoom number doesn’t mean much as the details get muddy after 30X digital zoom. At 10X optical zoom (the largest optical zoom lens of any Samsung smartphone), the camera takes fantastic pictures. Here is one below:

I would say that for regular pictures, the iPhone 12 Pro Max delivers more natural-looking photos, but some may disagree. Still, I’d rather live with Samsung’s camera, although both are fantastic.

Another feature I’ve really enjoyed on the S21 Ultra is the S Pen, which writes just as smoothly as it does on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. You don’t get all the S Pen features the Note offers, but if you just want to draw or take quick handwritten notes, the S21 Ultra and the S Pen make a perfect couple.

Putting the S21 Ultra next to the iPhone 12 Pro Max made me finally realize that Samsung’s 20:9 aspect ratio screens are too long. The 19:5:9 ratio of Apple’s latest iPhone screens makes scrolling and viewing content in portrait mode a lot easier. Even if the S21 Ultra has a higher resolution screen, I still prefer using the screen on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

I also keep dreaming that Samsung could release a Galaxy S smartphone with Apple’s iOS operating system, but that is just about as likely as Joe Biden becoming a Republican. It’s a shame because the S21 Ultra is still limited by Android. Don’t get me wrong; Android has improved a lot, especially over the past four years. But it still doesn’t have the smoothness and convenience of iOS

However, now that Samsung has reduced the price of its flagship phones by $200, I’m betting they sell a lot of devices. The S21 Ultra is really the do-it-all smartphone. Samsung isn’t just throwing things at the kitchen sink; they are making sure a bunch of good features stick. Still, I don’t think Samsung has done enough to make iPhone 12 Pro Max users jealous.

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Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Don’t Live Up To Hype

Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro can be purchased for $199.99

The Galaxy Buds Pro are Samsung’s answer to the AirPods Pro, but they don’t live up to the hype. Don’t get me wrong; they are the best wireless earbuds Samsung has released yet. But they lack in several ways. Let’s take a look at some of the most important aspects:

Design

The circular nugget design of the Buds Pro is boring, but it works. These buds don’t stick out like the AirPods Pro or some other earbuds, and they do fit comfortably in your ears as long as you find the right tips to put on. They have an IPX7 waterproof rating, and I was actually able to swim with them without any issues. They are built strong enough that if you drop them, you won’t have to worry about them breaking. 

Sound

The sound stage is similar to that of the AirPods Pro — high treble and some deep (but not strong) bass. The mid-ranges are there, but not too noticeable. You can adjust the sound using equalizer settings on the iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy device. However, a windy environment definitely affects the sound and comfort. The volume levels for use with both iOS and Android devices is excellent.

Noise Cancellation

This is where the real problems start. If you’ve never used active noise cancellation with earbuds, then you may not notice the low quality. But compared to the AirPods Pro or even the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, the quality is lacking. The noise cancellation can’t even shut down the noise from an average fan.

Noise cancellation on the Galaxy Buds Pro is disappointing.

Like other buds, Samsung offers a Transparency Mode so one can hear sound as if they would without wearing any buds. Unfortunately, I’ve still had to take the earbuds out to comfortably hear people. Most won’t mind, but to those who have hearing issues, the Galaxy Buds Pro don’t pass the transparency test.

Call Quality

People use earbuds for phone calls just as much as they do for listening to music, podcasts, etc. The Galaxy Buds Pro offer decent call quality, but not good enough for some more strenuous calls. If you are walking alone without much traffic, you’ll be fine. However, if you are walking in the city with heavy traffic, expect to repeat yourself a lot. 

Battery Life

The Galaxy Buds Pro offer great battery life.

Samsung claims you’ll get five hours of battery life with noise cancellation, and they lasted about 4.75 hours with high volume in my use. Still, given the size of these, the battery life is still impressive.

Conclusion

For $199, the Galaxy Buds Pro may be worth the price for some, especially if owning a Samsung Galaxy device. Still, Samsung comes up short when it comes to the overall earbuds listening and calling experience.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Is This The Ultimate Smartphone?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is available for preorder now.

I was able to play with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra this weekend. I have no interest in the S21+ or the regular S21 since only the Ultra version can be used with the S Pen. Besides digital inking capabilities, the Ultra also has a dynamic 6.8-inch display, a Snapdragon 888 processor, and FOUR camera lenses (108MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP telephoto with 3X zoom, and another 10MP telephoto with 10x zoom). The S21 Ultra is capable of 100X zoom with the Space Zoom feature.

The Ultra also has a 40MP front camera. It appears as if Samsung has learned from its mistakes with the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which had amazing features on paper that were not-so-great in actual use. Even better, the camera lenses are integrated into a metal frame on the rear instead of protruding from within the device. I wasn’t able to take many pictures, but could tell that the lens is a lot less shaky when zooming in on far objects.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a four-lens rear camera.

I really liked the screen. It’s brighter than any Samsung screen I’ve seen before, and the 120Hz refresh rate even works when the resolution is set to its highest capability – Quad HD+ (3,200 x 1,440). The contrast ratio on video clips is fantastic, and the colors really pop out.

The big surprise with the S21 Ultra is that it’s compatible with the S-Pen, but don’t expect it to have all of the S-Pen’s normal features that exist on the Galaxy Note. However, you can write with it, and it works very well in Samsung Notes and Microsoft’s OneNote.

Digital inking on the Galaxy S21 Ultra feels simple and natural.

I wasn’t able to get a complete idea of how well the stereo speakers sound, but they are about as good as the speakers on the Galaxy S20+, which means they are great but not iPhone 12 Pro quality. Using the S21 Ultra with the upcoming Galaxy Buds Pro will likely provide the ultimate audio experience.

Unlike Apple, Samsung continues to use curved screens. There are pluses and minuses to this, but Samsung makes it into a plus with the black version as the screen blends in fabulously with this color. I would definitely recommend the black S21 Ultra more than any other version.

Samsung creates the ultimate smartphone.

I can’t wait to do a full review of the Galaxy S21 Ultra when I get my hands on a review unit next week. For now, I can definitely say that, once again, Samsung has produced the ultimate smartphone.

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CES 2021: A Look At This Year’s Virtual Show

CES provided a virtual smorgasbord this past week.

CES 2021 was definitely different this year as it is mostly virtual. However, there has still been some great technological announcements when it comes to smartphones, television sets, laptops, etc.  Let’s take a look at some of the trends.

COVID-19

There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed our lives permanently, and technology companies know this. For one thing, there have been various new smart masks developed. The AirPop Active Plus is one of those, and it is built to help your respiratory health with a Halo sensor that captures breathing and air quality data.

If you want to decrease the risk of COVID-19 entering your home, there is the Ettie doorbell that uses a built-in infrared sensor to check a visitor’s temperature. Even without the COVID-19 pandemic, this doorbell would still be useful. It is slated to launch later in 2021 for $300.

Laptops

HP's Elite Folio is a mobile user's dream come true.

There was no shortage of new laptop announcements at CES this year. 2-in-1 laptops were plentiful, including the new HP Elite Folio, a slick hybrid machine powered by Qualcomm’s 8cx Gen 2 Arm processor, which HP claims will provide 24.5 hours of playback.

Another laptop that turned heads was the Asus Chromebook Spin 514, which will feature an all-aluminum design combined with a new Ryzen CPU. It also has a 14-inch full HD touchscreen, and it begins shipping in early February.

Television Sets

Will 2021 be the year when 8K television sets become mainstream?

CES introduced us to many new television sets this year by LG, Samsung, Sony, etc. Samsung claims that 2021 will be the year of the MicroLED television, and they are releasing many new sets to support that theory. It remains to be seen if they can finally bring those television prices down to earth. 

The Rest

This year, robots (including a furry one), toilets, coffee tables, and many other strange products were also introduced. A lot of people complained about the show this year, but a lot of credit goes to CES for putting in so much effort during a horrible international pandemic.

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Bose Sport Open Earbuds May Be Another Crazy Audio Product That Works

Bose Sport Open Earbuds go on sale in early February.

Bose is the king of experimentation, and usually, their experimentation works. Take the SoundWear Companion Bluetooth speaker that fits around your neck. It really was a great product, although it didn’t lead to the mainstreaming of similar speakers.

Then, there are the Bose Frames, which I found impressive but admitted they weren’t for everyone. Having sunglasses that point audio to your ear really sounds more fun than it is. Still, I hear that the Frames have done pretty well for Bose, especially with all the refinements.

Now comes the announcement of the Sport Open Earbuds, which don’t actually go in your ears. Instead, they hang on your earlobes and let you hear music with your eardrums wide open. This helps you hear other sounds as well. It’s a feature that I find overhyped since the latest earbuds from Bose and Apple offer a transparency mode that allows outside noises to come though in the same way they would without wearing earbuds.

The Sport Open Earbuds leave your eardrums wide open.

Bose claims that their OpenAudio™ technology keeps the music away from others as well. They also claim that one can make crystal clear phone calls. Those thinking about any type of noise cancellation should look somewhere else; these buds aren’t made for reducing outside noise, and that will be a great thing for some listeners who don’t plan on being in a busy train.

They’re IPX4 water-resistant, which means you can sweat with them but not swim. Be careful about ever dropping them in water. Sport earbuds, for the most part, offer more water resistance. Unlike other earbuds, these come with a recharging magnetic base rather than a small charging case. Bose claims that you can get up to eight hours of non-stop listening when the buds are fully charged (that takes two hours).

If you are debating on whether the Sport Open Earbuds are good for you, give them a try. If you buy them straight from their website, Bose offers a 90 day trial period and allows you to return them if you’re not completely satisfied. Unlike other companies, Bose doesn’t make returning their products a hassle either.

Even though I’m not jumping up and down in excitement over these, my ears would still like to try them out. Tune in to this blog for a full review, which should take place within the next month.

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