Bose Noise-Masking Sleepbuds: Revolutionary Or Instant Flop?

Bose has been on the cutting edge of audio technology for several decades, especially during the 2010′s. They may not be first at every type of product, but Bose — much like Apple — perfects things other companies have failed at.

This time, Bose is trying a different kind of product, and it has me both intrigued and laughing. The sleep buds, which cost $249, are not designed for listening to music (and won’t work for that either), but have what Bose calls “noise-masking” technology. The buds allegedly “deliver uniquely engineered sounds that mask unwanted noise and lull you to sleep.”

What are these “engineered” sounds? They are the sounds of beaches, thunderstorms, waterfalls, etc. They are supposed to mask the sounds of snoring, loud cars, noisy neighbors, etc.

Click to play in YouTube.

First of all (and I hate to be a critic before actually trying them), why can’t you just use regular wireless earbuds, download several soothing audio files, and play them wirelessly through Bluetooth? At the same time, you would only pay a fraction of the price. And is sound masking really good without actual active noise cancellation?

Speaking of noise cancellation, this is what I have used for the past five years in order to sleep. Some may find it uncomfortable, but I fall asleep wearing noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones, noise-cancelling neckband earphones, and even earbuds. I just leave the headphones on without playing any music. As a person who wakes up easily to almost any type of sound, I can comfortably say that noise cancellation technology has saved me from my days as a frustrated insomniac. And if I want a little added layer of protection, I play slow EDM mood music.

But I am not everybody. And battery life, for many, is an issue. Bose claims that their new sleepbuds can last though two nights of sleep. The battery life on many regular wireless headsets is too limited. But the best thing about the sleepbuds is that you don’t need to tether them to a wireless phone; the sleep-masking sounds are stored in the buds themselves.

The Bose Noise-Masking sleepbuds will be available starting next week. I’m sure, because of the novelty of the product, they’ll sell out quickly. But will this be a long-lasting type of product, or will the sleepbuds make the list of the biggest technology flops of the decade — right along with the Google Glass?

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Would You Buy The New Samsung Galaxy X Foldable Smartphone For $1850?

Samsung Galaxy X concept photo

The Samsung Galaxy X is becoming more or a reality each day. The bad news — it could cost about $1850. Know Your Mobile has the news.

“According to the sources the Galaxy X could cost as much as $1850, making it the most expensive phone Samsung has ever produced.”

The article adds that the phone, which will have an OLED screen, may be able to double as a tablet when unfolded (possibly to a 7.5-inch screen). The production of the components of the Galaxy S will allegedly begin in November, while the launch is set for early 2019.

The Good….

As high as the price may be, people may be willing to open their pockets. These days, almost all phones look identical in some way. Samsung could really shake things up with a completely different type of smartphone. It could be revolutionary in the way the iPhone was back in 2007.

Let’s also not forget that people rarely pay the full cost of a smartphone these days. So many carriers have financing plans, and one can just trade it in for the next big foldable smartphone when using T-Mobile’s “JUMP on Demand” plan. Most importantly, $1850 is just a price that’s being thrown around like it’s a fact. You can expect the final price to be a little cheaper. And even if it isn’t, you can expect carriers to have special deals.

The Bad…

The geeks may be lining up for weeks for the Galaxy X, but will it attract the average consumer? Do you ever hear people say, “I think I need a foldable smartphone?” And even if it is released, there are several rumors that the Galaxy X will be released in limited supplies and (possibly) limited countries.

The Samsung Galaxy X will also be a first-generation product. Remember the first iPhone? Remember the first Galaxy Note? It usually takes a company at least two tries before getting rid of most of the major bugs. And because the foldable technology will be so advanced, it is loudly inviting problems.

The Samsung Galaxy X could make its way into our hands during the first quarter of 2019.

The final reason why the Galaxy X may not be a good idea is because of the operating system — Android. Google’s operating system has been though so many generations, and it still isn’t as user-friendly as iOS. Putting it on a foldable smartphone will just complicate things more.

Conclusion

Ok, so I listed more negatives than positives. However, I am truly looking forward to the Samsung Galaxy X. You can bet that despite all my present and future complaints, I’ll be one of the first in line to buy it.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sony’s WF-SP700N Sports Earbuds Aren’t A Failure, But Need Some Improvements

Last week, I posted one of the first actual initial impressions review of Sony’s highly anticipated new WF-SP700N wireless sports earbuds. Now that I’ve used them for a week, I can post my full review. They definitely pass the test, but have some annoying faults.

Design

The WF-SP700N earbuds look like miniature nuggets. You may hold them and ask how they could possibly be comfortable in your ears. However, once you put them in, your fears subside. Now, the case that they come in is a different story. It is very thick and feels like an egg that has been flattened a little bit. Don’t get me wrong; the charging case can easily fit into your pocket. However, it creates somewhat of a bulge.

Audio

Sony's WF-SP700N wireless earbuds offer the best sound in their class.

Of course, this is the most important aspect of any wireless earbuds. In terms of sound, the WF-SP700N buds offer the most rich sound of any earbuds that I have tested. Sony does offer many equalizer modes, but it’s best to leave this mode off for the most natural sound. And Sony’s default sound is heavy on bass (but not overwhelmingly so), a little heavy on treble, and the medium ranges are slightly recessed. 

You won’t get the same sound you do on Sony’s W1-1000X neckband wireless headphones, but it comes pretty close. It’s a technical wonder how Sony can fit in the sound they do on such small ear nuggets.

Noise Cancellation

It’s also a technical wonder how Sony can fit in any kind of noise cancellation. If you are used to Sony’s other headphones, you may not like the level of noise cancellation the WF-SP700N buds offer. However, it is more than decent. You won’t be buying these buds specifically for noise cancellation, but it is good to have.

Like their other headphones, Sony’s buds have an Ambient mode so you can listen to your music while the background noise around you increases. This is especially useful if you are running outside or even driving. Using this mode on the WF-SP700N definitely makes for a safe driving experience.

Phone Calls

Click here to play Sony's promotional video in YouTube.

The worst thing about last year’s WF-1000X buds is that they were absolutely unusable for making audio calls. The updated buds are capable, but still leave room for improvement.

One problem is that only the left bud works for phone calls. Still, if you are in a somewhat quiet room, others can hear you. If you are walking outside without too much traffic, others can still hear you. But once you are in your car or in a windy environment, your voice will become muffled and teeter in and out.

Battery Life

This is another big issue with the WF-SP700N buds. While the case provides up to three charges, it’s still frustrating to hear “Recharge your headset” when you least expect it. Sony says their new buds can last three hours on a single charge, but I have yet to achieve that. (The most I’ve achieved is two hours and fifty minutes).

And putting the buds back in with their fins leads to a frustrating experience. In order to maintain my sanity, I’ve had to take the fins off when charging — something you shouldn’t have to do.

Conclusion

Sony hasn’t made the ideal wireless earbuds yet, but boy they keep on trying. However, the latest buds are worth the $179 price tag. Despite their faults, the WF-SP700 earbuds offer the best sound (when compared to other earbuds), decent noise cancellation, and fit comfortably in your ears. Chances are that Sony will finally make the perfect earbuds on their next try.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

iOS 12 Is A Huge Update, And It’s Coming Soon

iOS 12 is now available for developers.

The big news at the WWDC conference this week wasn’t that Apple announced any new products. It was all about software, and the big announcement was iOS 12. The developer beta version is available now, the public beta will be available on June 26, and the final version will likely be available in mid-September.

Here are some of the new features of iOS 12.

  • Enhanced for a faster all-around experience, especially with keyboard and camera.
  • You can now FaceTime with up to 32 people at the same time.

Please click to play in YouTube.

  • You can create your own Animoji.
  • Improved augmented reality (AR) features, including the ability to send AR objects with Messages and Mail.
  • New “Screen Time” feature to help monitor your child’s iPhone or iPad activity.
  • New notification features help reduce interruptions (thank God!).
  • New ways to search and share your photos.
  • Siri can now (allegedly) intelligently pair your daily routines with third-party apps to suggest convenient shortcuts exactly when you need them.
  • New privacy features.
  • The ability to make digital student ID cards in order to access places like your dorm, library, etc. (Hackers will love this).

Siri is the big star of iOS 12.

It appears that the biggest upgrade will be with Siri, who will now actually be smart. Of course, Siri was the first mainstream digital assistant, and she (or he, for some people) debuted in 2011. Siri was considered groundbreaking then. However, with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home assistants, Siri has fallen way behind the times. 

You can expect Siri to integrate better with third-party apps, such as Spotify (although it appears the integration with that app will be limited). But the best addition is a new Siri app called “Shortcuts” that will allow you to create your own verbal commands that will lead Siri to accomplish functions that you program. It sounds good on paper, but it remains to be seen how it actually works in the real world .

Despite some of my sarcasm on this article, I am looking forward to iOS 12. I, as well as many of my colleagues, are far more excited about iOS 12 than we were when OS 11 or iOS 10 came out.  And it will be interesting to see how iOS 12 integrates with the upcoming new iPhone and iPad. Your turn, Android.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sony WF-SP700N: Ears-On Impression With Sony’s New Wireless Earbuds

Last September, Sony released the WF-1000X wireless earbuds, and they turned out to be a complete quality control disaster, although my initial impression of them was positive. Not only were there huge connection issues, but there were also problems with updating them, poor sound (in some situations), and voice calls that sounded atrocious.

Sony's wireless earbud efforts completely bombed in 2017.

Now, Sony is hoping to right the wrongs of their previous flop with the updated Sony WF-SP700N sports earbuds that have noise cancellation. Here are my first impressions after using the buds for more than four hours.

  • Don’t try to charge these things with the earbud tips on. They are easy to take off, and you don’t want to deal with the frustration.
  • The WF-SP700N buds only get three hours of use per charge. That’s doable since the case charges them very fast. Still, they come up short of the five hours Apple’s AirPods offer.
  • The sound is shockingly good for earbuds that are this small. They are almost as good as Sony’s more expensive headphones.
  • There are still some connection issues and dropouts, but it’s not as serious as it was with the WF-1000X buds.
  • The phone call quality, which was atrocious on the WF-1000X, has improved and is slightly above average. Still, there is only mono sound in the left ear.

The charging case for the WF-SP700N buds resembles a squarish egg.

  • The charging case is a little too bulky.
  • Even without the eartips, the buds barely fell out of my ears. The WF-SP700N come with three different size buds, and it’s important to pick the right ones so you get the best sound.
  • Noise cancelling is good but not great. This is acceptable since the buds are so small and lightweight. The passive noise isolation is very good.
  • The Ambient Sound mode works but not as well as it does on Sony’s other headphones.
  • These make good sleepbuds that block out a good amount of noise, aren’t uncomfortable, and don’t come out of your ears easily.
I will have a full review of these after using them more. Of course, once the “honeymoon period” wears off (see some of my other reviews), I may feel completely different. For now, I feel that Sony’s new WF-SP700N earbuds are certainly worth the $179 price tag. Still, Sony’s new product isn’t perfect. 
Posted in Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Apple HomePod Gets Stereo Mode

I reviewed the HomePod in February and was really impressed with it as a speaker for playing music. I still think the HomePod has the best sound out of any smart speaker in the world. Now, you can buy two HomePods and use them as a stereo system. Wired has the news.

“Now, a week ahead of its giant annual software conference, those key updates have come. iOS 11.4 is being released today, and with it comes HomePod stereo pairing and AirPlay 2.”

Apple promised this when they released the HomePod in February. And they certainly kept their promise.

Click to play in YouTube.

I heard a brief demonstration of the stereo HomePods at an Apple Store earlier this morning, and was blown away. These days, stereo sound isn’t as valued as much as it used to be, but the stereo setup with two HomePods shows why listening to music with stereo sound is still important.

The only big drawback is the price of this setup — $700. Still, it sounds better than many stereo systems which are more expensive. If you are using both speakers for other functions, that’s another issue — Siri just isn’t as smart as Amazon’s Alexa  or Google’s Home.

For those who don’t want to spend $350 per speaker for Apple’s smart ecosystem, and you want more portable speakers you may be in luck. According to 9to5Mac, Apple’s usually reliable analyst Gene Munster has predicted that Apple could launch a $250 Beats-branded Siri speaker at WWDC next week.

Apple acquired Beats in 2014 and has since produced many high quality products, including the Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones, which were given a huge thumbs up at IReTron last December. Under Apple’s direction, Beats has maintained a more balanced sound that still has its signature bass. The new speaker is expected to support AirPlay 2 as well, which means you can buy two to use as a mini-stereo system.

According to CNET, AirPlay 2 not only allows stereo sound, but the user now has the ability to stream music to multiple audio devices at the same time. A specific example: You want to play the song “Africa” by Toto in your garage, your daughter’s room, and the family room all with a click.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to use two Apple-branded speakers to get the stereo effect; you can use any speaker that is “AirPlay 2″ compatible. Apple Insider lists all the speakers that are compatible with AirPlay 2, and there are a lot of them, including my favorite plug-free  smart speaker, the Libratone Zipp.

AirPlay speakers have much better sound than Bluetooth speakers since they rely on WiFi, which has a much better bandwidth than Bluetooth. AirPlay sound is just as good as wired sound. With all of its developments, Apple may soon become the king of the audio industry.

 

 

Posted in Tech News | Leave a comment

Yes, DSLR Cameras Have MAJOR Advantages Over Smartphone Cameras

Well, I’m going to have to humble myself. Up until this weekend, I was certain that I (or most people) don’t need a DSLR camera. After all, you can get excellent photos with your iPhone X or Galaxy S device. It’s possible to even trick people and tell them that your iPhone X pictures were really shot with a DSLR camera. Most, who known nothing about photography, will fall for those lies.

A couple months back, I reviewed Sony’s high-end RX100 V DSLR camera negatively without really using it to take exquisite shots. I claimed that it was just easier to use the iPhone X camera. While it is easier, it’s certainly not more productive.

My niece Emilia came to town this weekend with her Canon Rebel T6 DSLR camera and made me realize that no matter how good my iPhone X photos are, they simply are not good enough.

Taken by Emilia Deino at Mountain Park/Glendale, CA.

I will still argue that smartphone cameras are best for most people — the type who don’t understand aperture settings, white balance, shutter speed, manual focus, etc. However, for those who are open to learning about these things, which is easy to do, a DSLR camera is a valuable asset.

The biggest advantage of a DSLR camera is that you can zoom in closely with different lenses and take pictures as if you are right there. Here is my favorite picture that was taken at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, CA.

Photo by Emilia Deino, Griffith Park Observatory/Hollywood, CA

It’s unfortunate that most DSLR cameras do not shoot 4K videos. And the ones that do either only have one mono mic or stereo mics that are way too close to each other. But you can always get an external microphone.

A DSLR camera, unlike a smartphone or a regular point-and-shoot camera, has interchangeable lenses. But the fact that the sensors are larger also helps one get a better shot. Here’s another great shot of the moon.

Photo taken by Emilia Deino

So, if someone tells you how the smartphone camera has taken over the DSLR camera, just laugh and show them these pictures. If they show you pictures that are better, ask them what photo editing program they used. The fact is that DSLR pictures are so good that you usually don’t need to immediately edit them in Photoshop.

Perhaps, in 10 years, the time will come when, somehow, smartphone cameras take better pictures than DSLR cameras. For now, the quality isn’t even close.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Typing Notes On Computing Devices Hurts The Learning Process

You have probably recently seen a college classroom with a bunch of students typing notes on their MacBook Pros. (I haven’t seen many students with PCs.) There are students who do use an iPad, but I see them using an external keyboard rather than the Apple Pencil, which they should be using. This is because several studies have shown that writing things down helps one learn more than typing the same things.

As Scientific American points out, students may be able to take more notes than writing them down. They are also enable to instantly engage in more online activities. But the study they point out, done by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, notes that students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more (the same goes for using a digital pen to write notes).

Imagine this — You are in a lecture hall and have access to your laptop. You are typing notes just as fast as the lecturer is speaking. Now, it’s time to put your laptop away and use a pen device. At first, it may be scary. But this is forcing you to pay attention more to what is being said while summarizing the information your own way. Sometimes, you draw figures to represent what you are hearing. Other times, you map out what is being said. You are getting a lot more out of the lecture.

The Surface Pro is an excellent device for taking handwritten digital notes.

Using a Surface Pro, iPad (with Apple Pencil), or even a Galaxy Note to take notes may have some disadvantages. After all, they still can be distractions. But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Not only can you write down everything in your own handwriting, but you can save everything as well. You don’t have to worry about losing your notes, unless someone steals your digital device.

More importantly, advanced programs such as Microsoft OneNote allow you to search your handwritten notes. If you are looking for your notes on the Shakespeare discussion, just type (or write) Shakespeare in the search bar, and all your notes on Shakespeare will come up. If you are looking for all instances of the word “sedimentary rock,” you can search all your handwritten notes — that is, unless you write like an absolute maniac.

The Galaxy Note 8 is also good for taking digital handwritten notes.

The Galaxy Note is also a good note-taking device, although the screen is small (compared to a piece of paper) and narrow. You’ll have to do a lot of scrolling. The S Note program allows you to search all your handwritten notes like you can on Microsoft OneNote but with even more accuracy.

Whatever you do, don’t leave the pen at home — either the regular pen or the digital stylus. While it may seem like more of an effort to write your notes rather than typing them, it’s been proven to be more beneficial.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The OnePlus 6 Looks Tempting, But It Isn’t An iPhone Killer

The new OnePlus 6 smartphone is being called an “iPhone X” alternative, but only much cheaper. According to Business Insider, people lined up around the block to get a chance to buy the phone on Monday.

“Those at the head of the line started lining up around 6:30 a.m., more than 12 hours before the store opened its doors. Others took days off work and travelled from New Jersey and Long Island to stand in line. There were even some tourists from Italy.”

The cheapest version, which has 6GB RAM and 64GB internal storage (doesn’t have microSD card slot) only costs $529. It has a 6.28-inch screen (it’s only HD instead of Quad HD), has a dual 16MP camera, and runs Android 8.1 (Oreo). So far, the OnePlus 6 has received excellent reviews.

Click to play in YouTube.

CNET gives the hot new smartphone four stars.

“The OnePlus 6 is blazing fast, shoots amazing portrait mode photos, has a polished refined design and costs much less than other flagship phones.”

However,  they don’t like the fact that the OnePlus 6 lacks waterproofing, wireless charging and has a shorter battery life than the OnePlus 5T. They also note that in the US, the phone doesn’t work on CDMA carriers like Verizon and Sprint.

Digital Trends gives the OnePlus 6 four-and-a-half stars.

“It doesn’t sacrifice what matters — speed, build quality, design, and features you want to use. If that’s not a reason to hand over your cash, we don’t know what is.”

Critic Andy Boxall likes the camera the most. He notes that there is a slow-motion video mode that has a maximum of 480 fps at 720p.

If you try and search for people who don’t like the  OnePlus 6 through Google, you’ll have a hard time finding any negativity. And even my eyes have been glued to the OnePlus 6 for the past couple of days. However, I’m not in a rush to go out and buy it or request a review unit.

The OnePlus 6 has a dual-lens camera.

As mentioned previously, the OnePlus smartphone only has a 1080p screen. Of course, a 1080p resolution is still okay for a 5.5-inch phone like the iPhone 8 Plus. But that won’t be the case with a 6.28-inch screen, although those who really aren’t smartphone fanatics won’t mind.

But the big elephant in the room is the fact that the OnePlus 6 runs Android, a mobile operating system that has improved a lot over the years. However, it’s still not as good as iOS. You can say a lot about the iPhone and how it’s overpriced. But the fact is that it also runs the most capable operating system.

This isn’t to put a damper on your enthusiasm for the OnePlus 6 if you are considering it. Not everybody has the money for an iPhone. However, although you’ll be saving money, you won’t be getting as much of a deal as the numbers suggest.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 Is A Powerhouse With Minor Flaws

The version of the XPS 15 2-in-1 reviewed here is the one with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, a 256GB SSD, a 4K screen, and a discreet Radeon™ RX Vega GPU.

After problems with UPS (this can be a whole book written on this), I finally have the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and have been using it for the past day. I’ve used it enough where I feel comfortable giving a full review. I am mostly happy with it, but there are a few flaws. Let’s get started…

Display

The 4K display on the 2-in-1 is gorgeous. It ranks up there with some of the best 4K screens on the market. The MacBook Pro’s screen has a better contrast ratio, but only a 2880 x 1800 pixel resolution screen.

This XPS screen, at 400 nits, gets extremely bright, so it is okay if you just turn it up 50 percent — this would be a good thing, since it saves battery life. I did notice some screen bleeding, but it is on the lower-right part of the screen. My eyes don’t even notice it unless I am using the XPS with a black screen in the dark.

Keyboard

Originally, I wasn’t thrilled with the magnetically driven keyboard. However, after two hours of use, I loved it. The keys don’t have as much travel as other laptop keyboards, but you can actually type faster on this than others, including the MacBook Pro and its butterfly keys. Some other sites say that this isn’t the type of keyboard that you would want to type a novel on, but I disagree. 

The keyboard on the XPS 15 2-in-1 takes some getting used to.

Performance

I’m not a gamer, so I can’t tell you how well this plays games. However, I am a video editor, photo editor, and do some minor 3D design. And I can tell you that this computer operates significantly faster than the Dell XPS 13 9370 that I reviewed a couple months back, which is the same one I use as my regular computer. Some of this has to do with the 16GB RAM on board, which makes a huge difference when using programs such as Adobe Premiere or Adobe Photoshop.

Battery Life

Some say that the battery life is the Achilles heel of the XPS 15 2-in-1, but I don’t agree. It’s certainly not fantastic. But I’ve been able to get five hours of use with the brightness turned to 50 percent. Considering the power under the hood of this computer, that is pretty good. Perhaps, with updates from Dell, the battery life will be even better.

Fan Noise and Heat

The XPS 15 2-in-1's fan can get quite loud, but it's not a deal killer.

If somewhat loud (but not overbearing) fan noise and warm keyboards (at times) bother you, the XPS 15 2-in-1 may not be for you. When I first used this on my lap, I felt that there would be a hole in my pants when I lifted it up. However, once I did a BIOS update, the heat wasn’t nearly as bad — just more of an annoyance. 

The fan noise, even after the BIOS update, is somewhat annoying, but it doesn’t make the screeching coil whine noise heard on Dell’s older laptops. It’s a small price to pay in order to have a large and powerful computer.

Tablet

There is a reason this is called the XPS 15 2-in-1, and that’s because the screen can be folded back so you can use your laptop as a tablet. Mind you, it’s one very huge tablet. There is an optional pen you can buy for inking or drawing.

Conclusion

The XPS 15 2-In-1 is the best 15-inch laptop in its class. You will have to pay a hefty price (most configurations are over $2,000), but you get a portable gaming machine and fantastic video editing device. Plus, your eyes will get addicted to the large and beautiful screen.

 

Posted in Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment