Microsoft’s Surface Pro X Arrives With Nasty Reviews

Critics unanimously pan the Surface Pro X.

Well, perhaps it was too good to be true after all. I recently wrote how the Surface Pro X looked cutting edge and even posted pictures of it. I played with the device for a little bit, and didn’t see any major hiccups. That’s because I didn’t test the programs that mattered. But others have used the Pro X more thoroughly.

Christopher Null of Wired calls the Surface Pro X unreliable.

“After several days of working with the Surface Pro X, I remained confused as to why the product existsOK, so compatibility is poor, performance isn’t great, and battery life doesn’t measure up, either.”

Ouch! The review from The Verge isn’t much better, referring to Microsoft’s new tablet as a “heartbreaker.”

“The ideas are exciting, but not exciting enough for me to recommend anybody pay money for them. The apps simply aren’t ready yet — either because they don’t work with this processor or because they’re too slow on it.”

The Surface Pro X runs on a slow mobile ARM processor.

Columnist Dieter Bohn notes that the product looks beautiful. However, people need to use a computer, not look at it.

Tom’s Hardware praises the Surface Pro X for its gorgeous design, easy replaceable screen, and bright 3:2 display. However, like others, the site criticizes the serious app compatibility issues, the lack of headphone jack, the price, and the mediocre performance.

Some may say that the critics are biased, but Reddit user U/Property, who actually bought the Surface Pro X, isn’t very impressed.

“As hard as I try I just can’t like this thing. About the only good thing I can say about it is that it looks good in pictures and it feels nice in the hand. Basically, it makes a nice decorative object. But as a computer – for me – it is totally useless,” the buyer says, adding that the Pro X may work for a person who does all their work on the internet and only uses Microsoft Office.

Click to play in YouTube.

After all these reviews, is the concept of the Surface Pro X dead? Not really. Perhaps the device is just way ahead of its time, and compatibility with Windows 10 ARM devices will be greatly improved. But for now, anybody who is thinking of purchasing a Surface Pro X may want to look at the Surface Pro 7 instead.

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Beats Solo Pro Is A Pure Apple Product

On the heals of the fantastic AirPods Pro, Apple has just released the Beats Solo Pro, a set of $299 on-ear headphones that competes with similar headphones by Bose and Sony. Even though Apple acquired Beats a few years back, both brands have always been seen as separate. But the Beats Solo Pro should be called the Apple Solo Pro because it is certainly operates like an Apple Product inside and out.

Stylish

The Solo Pro headphones come in several matte colors. These are no longer the flimsy built Beats headphones of the past; they are still built with plastic and aluminum, but feel very sturdy. In fact, even though I slept with them, which caused parts to move in all directions, there is not one sign of the headphone creaking Beats (and even Bose) is known for.

They are small compared to other headphones and fit on your ears rather than over your ears. But if you get get a great fit, you won’t miss your over-the-ear headphones one single bit.

Noise Cancellation

The Solo Pro offers great noise cancellation.

Beats headphones have never been known for their fantastic noise cancellation. The Beats Studio 3, released two years ago, made some steps in offering legit noise cancellation, but produced too much of a hiss and didn’t block out enough noise. There is still a hiss in the Solo Pro cans, but it’s less quiet. What’s important is that the noise cancellation is excellent — it’s right on par with the AirPods Pro. It lags a little behind the Bose NC 7oo headphones, but those also cost $100 more.

The noise cancellation on these Beats headphones has made the Solo Pro cans my go-to sleeping headphones. At first try, they felt annoying. But I barely noticed they were on through the night.

Transparency Mode

This is more proof that Apple engineers are fully involved in Beats products now. Transparency Mode allows outside noises to come through as if you don’t have the headphones on. On most products, Transparency Mode sounds tinny and unnatural. However, this isn’t the case with the Solo Pro cans, which sound exactly the same in Transparency Mode as the AirPod Pros sound.

Sound

The Beats Solo Pro headphones have a balanced soundstage.

Beats has always had a controversial soundstage with a huge emphasis on bass. This has changed over the years, and now, the Beats have more of a “V” shaped sound spectrum. The bass is prevalent, but so is the treble. The Pros are good for listening to a variety of music styles.

I’ve tested the headphones with Dr. Dre, Madonna, Phil Collins, The Beatles, and even Donna Summer, and the music listening experience passes with flying colors. My only issue is that the mids are recessed a little too much, but it’s not a deal killer.

Microphone

If call quality is the most important thing about your headphones, you are better off with the Bose NC 700. However, the Beats Solo Pro call quality is certainly above average when you position the headset in the right place. When the pads settled slightly above my ear to the rear, the phone quality was dismal. However, just an inch of movement to the lower center made things sound a lot better.

The positioning of the headphones is especially important in noisy environments, where even a half an inch can make a big difference. The Solo Pros will pick up ambient noise, but not enough to make you sound inaudible to your caller. It will help if you speak slightly louder than usual no matter where you are.

Conclusion

Those who have ignored Beats in the past because of their style-over-substance reputation may want to get past their prejudice, which certainly had validity just three years ago. In 2019, the Beats Solo Pro is an Apple product that has quality written inside and out.

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I Wish Microsoft Surface Pro 7 Had Surface Pro X Design

The Surface Pro X is Microsoft's latest laptop-tablet hybrid.

I was able to play with the Surface Pro X for a little bit. I didn’t use it enough to even write a first impressions review, but the first thing I noticed was its cutting edge design when compared to the Surface Pro 7′s outdated one. I noticed the Surface Pro X looked very thin — almost like a 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This looks like the most impressive device that Microsoft has come up with in several years.

I was very impressed with the thin bezels — something that’s been lacking on the last few Surface Pro models. The thin bezels make viewing video clips and movies more special, as if the video is somewhat floating in the air. It’s 2019, not 2015. Microsoft realized this when designing the new Surface Pro X, but not the Surface Pro 7.

The Surface Pro X is impressively thin.

The optional keyboard on the Surface Pro X is slightly thinner and the keys don’t seem to have as much travel. But it still feels solid. And it has a slot for the new Surface Slim Pen (also optional), which is noticeably better than the regular Surface Pen. It’s smaller, has a flat side, and a built in battery. Using it on the Surface Pro X feels more fluid than using the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro. It felt like I was really writing on paper.

The Surface Slim Pen may be even better than the Apple Pencil.

But here’s the main issue with the Pro X: It runs Microsoft’s SQ1 processor, a custom made version of a mobile ARM processor. Keep in mind that there has never been an ARM-based Windows device that performs very well. ARM Windows devices are good for email on the go, web surfing, and word processing tasks. Will this new processor allow users to edit photos or even videos with satisfactory results? We’ll find out soon enough.

In any case, the processor is the only thing questionable about this device, which starts at $999 for a version with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Everything about the Surface Pro X is eloquent, even its high contrast 2880 x 1920 pixel resolution screen. It will be available on November 5, and one can predict that the device will sell very well for the holiday season — even better than the new boring Surface Pro 7

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Early Impressions: Apple’s AirPods Pro Are Fantastic

The AirPods Pro are now available.

Well, my ears are now wearing Apple’s new AirPods Pro . I just took some pictures for this article, and I had a group of people surrounding me. Once again, the public is always aware when Apple puts out a new product. And I am predicting that the AirPods Pro will generate the biggest sales for Apple since the first AirPods came out three years ago.

The biggest star of the new AirPods Pro is noise cancellation. It’s shockingly good given that these earbuds are so small. The noise cancellation is on par with that on Sony’s WH-1000XM3 buds, but feels a little smoother with your eardrums feeling less pressure.

Apple's new earbuds come in a "Landscape Mode" case that is still very portable.

Apple really excels with the “Transparent Mode,” which sounds tinny and digital on every device I’ve used that has this. However, Apple’s new buds make this mode sound more natural, just like the real world sounds. And given that the new buds have silicon tips that block off your ears, you will need to use Transparent Mode when driving, walking outside, and doing other things where using noise cancellation is more of a liability than an advantage.

The AirPods Pro have excellent sound quality.

Then, there is the sound. I’m glad to report that the AirPods Pro sound noticeably better than previous versions. Not only is there more of a kick in bass, but the separation between the mids and highs has increased. My early tests indicate that they don’t sound as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3 buds, but come close enough.

I’ve made two phone calls with the new Pro buds, and both listeners said they don’t notice a huge difference between these and other AirPod models. Of course, I can hear people a lot better given that their voices don’t have to compete too much with outside noise. The AirPods Pro easily beat Sennheiser and Sony when it comes to this.

My only major gripe with the AirPods Pro is that the battery life is still rather short (4.5 hours with NC on and 5 without). That may have been great three years ago, but Sony and Jabra have made earbuds that can last more than six hours on a single charge.

I may have some other gripes too, and I promise to do a more in-depth review once the honeymoon period is over. But so far, I believe that the $249 price tag is very reasonable for Apple’s new buds. You can bet they’ll be out of stock soon.

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Hands On With Google Pixel 4 And Pixel 4 XL

Google Pixel 4 XL

I’m a little late with an article about the new Pixel 4 series. But seriously, you are not missing much. Don’t get me wrong; both devices are solid smartphones. However, they are outdone by either Samsung or Apple in almost every single aspect. Here are some of my impressions:

  • Both phones have a somewhat boring design.
  • The Pixel still feels like the “iPhone” of the Android world.
  • Double lens camera takes great pictures from what I can see. However, Google no longer stands out from the competition since the Galaxy Note 10+ camera is almost as good and the iPhone 11 Pro Max camera easily outdoes it.

The Pixel 4 screen has a 90Hz refresh rate.

  • The 90Hz refresh rate on the screen is noticeable (things move more smoothly), but it isn’t as big of a deal as I originally thought it would be.
  • The Pixel 4 and 4XL are water-resistant, not waterproof — very disappointing.
  • The stereo speakers sound great — just as good as they do on the iPhone 11 Pro Max and Galaxy Note 10.
  • The face recognition software is accurate, but not as fast (other critics disagree) as the software on new iPhones.
  • Soli motion sensing works better than motion sensing ever did on Samsung’s devices. Still, is feels more like a gimmick than something useful.
  • The screen looks good, but something is missing? Perhaps it’s the fact that the screen brightness only maxes out at 450 nits (compared to the 600-700 nits on the iPhone Pro and Galaxy Note 10+). The colors seem slightly off as well.
  • Google Assistant works perfectly on this — better than Siri works on Apple.
  • Android 10 finally has a built-in voice recorder, and you can search recordings.
  • As usual, Google made an excellent camera. Some of the darker shots in “Night Mode” look a little more fuzzy than they do on the iPhone 11 Pro.
  • 8x digital zoom works surprisingly well. Google’s image processing is fantastic.
  • I’m worried about the battery life. I used the 4XL for fifteen minutes, and it has already gone down to 88 percent. In 2017, that would have been great. Now, not so much.
I’m not sure if I’ll be receiving an actual review unit of the Pixel 4 or Pixel 4 XL. And you know what — I don’t care. It’s not that Google messed up with their new smartphone series. It’s just that they didn’t make anything that remotely stands out. Unfortunately, it’s a hard pass for me on this one. 
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2019 iPad 7 Is A Budget Tablet That Feels Anything But Cheap

2019's iPad 7

As someone who has owned the 11-inch iPad Pro for three months (it was a great tablet, but I didn’t use it much), I wasn’t too excited to try out the new budget iPad 7. However, I can’t seem to let it go from my hands. Here are some reasons that make the budget iPad, which starts off at $329 for the 32GB WiFi version, the best version of the iPad for its price.

Excellent Screen

You would think Apple would put a cheap screen on its cheapest iPad, but that certainly isn’t the case here. The 10.2-inch 2160 x 1620 ( 264 ppi) screen isn’t “True Tone” or laminated like the other iPads, but that hardly matters. iPadOS allows you to change the contrast, color saturation, and color tone of the screen to your liking.

After adjusting the screen to my liking, I don’t see much of a difference between the display on the budget iPad and the expensive iPad Pro. And that’s great news for those who just need a device to stream Netflix, Hulu, etc.

A10 Fusion Chip Is Good Enough In Most Cases

The iPad 7 comes with Apple’s outdated A10 Fusion processor, but it still runs well enough for most tasks. If you surf the internet, write emails, stream videos, and take notes, you’ll hardly notice a difference when compared to the iPad Pro.

If you use your iPad 7 to edit 4K videos, manipulate 10MP photos, and play the most graphic-intensive games, the budget iPad isn’t for you. But many save photo and video editing for more capable machines like the MacBook Pro.

Battery Life Is Good

Apple rates the iPad 7 for 10 hours of battery life, which is accurate from my experience. Higher-end iPads may offer a little more juice, but not enough to make a huge difference. You can add extra life by keeping the screen brightness at 50 percent or lower.

Minor Quibbles

The 8MP rear camera and 1.2MP front camera are far from best-in-class, and you are much better off using your iPhone when shooting photos or videos and FaceTiming. The bezels look like something straight out of 2015. And this budget iPad works with the Apple Pencil 1 rather than the updated Pencil 2.

The iPad 7 isn't perfect, but it is perfect for its price.

Conclusion

The iPad 7 may have a budget price, but it doesn’t feel or act like a budget device. For those who are more into content consumption than content creation, the iPad 7 is a fantastic tablet that won’t eat away too much of your wallet space.

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Thoughts On New 2019 Microsoft Surface Products

The Surface Pro 7 is now available.

I am usually not late when it comes to talking about new Microsoft products. However, there hasn’t been much excitement about their Surface product lately. Don’t get me wrong; the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and even the Surface Laptop are great. But HP and Dell have caught up in the laptop/tablet hybrid category.

I have mixed feelings about the new products Microsoft has just announced for release this quarter. There are some possibly groundbreaking products Microsoft announced for the future, so I’ll get to those in another post. For now, let’s take a look at what’s available for this holiday season:

Surface Pro 7

The new Surface Pro 7 finally has a USB-C port.

I’ve been able to play with Microsoft’s updated Pro, but I can’t tell much of a difference between the 7 and last year’s Pro 6. However, Microsoft has finally added a USB-C port — something they should have done two years ago.

Microsoft has added their new 10th generation processors, and there are new updated microphones, which can be used for making and receiving calls. But I think the bezel space is still too large for a 2019 device. And while the Surface Pen is very good, it still lags behind when compared to the Apple Pencil 2

Surface Pro X

The Surface Pro X lacks the power of its (smaller) brother.

For those on the go, Microsoft’s Surface Pro X, which has a 13-inch edge-to-edge display, comes with a slot for LTE Advanced networks. The big letdown is that it runs on an ARM processor with a Qualcomm chip that may be great for smartphones and tablets but lags behind on Windows 10 devices. In a way, it’s a much larger version of the Surface Go, Microsoft’s well-reviewed on-the-go LTE tablet from 2018.

Surface Laptop 3

The Surface Laptop 3 now comes in a 15-inch model.

The Surface Laptop has never been a very groundbreaking laptop, especially because its screen resolution is low for a high-end laptop. However, for those who have always wanted a 15-inch Surface Laptop, your dreams have come true.

Microsoft has made some minor changes to the Surface Laptop 3, but the most important is that the laptop finally has a USB-C port. The 13-inch version runs Intel’s latest 10th generation processor, while the 15 inch runs an AMD chip.

Conclusion

Microsoft’s 2019 devices aren’t anything groundbreaking, and those who bought a Surface Pro or Surface Laptop in 2018 need not upgrade unless you’re desperate for USB-C port. However, those in the market for a new laptop or laptop/tablet hybrid should definitely look at Microsoft’s new devices.

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Nintendo Switch Lite Is Better In Some Ways Than Its Big Brother

I initially had no intentions of reviewing the Nintendo Switch Lite, a smaller version of its big brother, the Nintendo Switch, which came out in early 2017. The main attraction of the Switch was that it was a powerful portable game system (although a little large and flimsy) that could be “switched” to your television or computer monitor. People thought it wouldn’t succeed, but it has.

So, why would Nintendo want to release a smaller version of the Switch that can’t even switch to your television set? Why would they want to release a version without detachable joy cons? Yeah, it costs $100 less, but it seemed that the $100 reduction wasn’t worth it. Then, I held it in my hands.

The Switch Lite comes in a small box.

After using the Nintendo Switch Lite for the past four days, I am highly considering selling my regular Switch, which I never connect to anything. There are several reasons for this.

Nintendo Switch Lite Feel More Portable

Yes, it’s a given that the Lite feels more portable, but you won’t understand how much until you hold it in your hands. The Lite has a 8.2 x 3.6-inch design with a 5.5-inch screen. The turquoise model, which is being used for this review, is gorgeous and doesn’t slip out of your hands.

This feels like a real handheld that I can play powerful games on. Imagine being able to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Yoshi’s Crafted World on a device that actually fits in your pocket (but does stick out a little bit). I can take this places where I won’t take my regular Switch.

Nintendo Switch Lite Has Sharper Screen

The screen resolution on both the regular Switch and the Lite is 720p. However, 720p looks more sharp on a 5.5-inch screen when compared to a 6.2-inch one. The screen on the Lite is pretty incredible for a $200 device. Besides being sharp, the color saturation and contrast levels are near perfect.

Battery Life

The Switch Lite has a very good battery life.

One of the biggest issues with the regular Switch has been battery life. Nintendo just released an updated version of the Switch that adds a couple hours of juice, but most people are still stuck with making sure they have a charger wherever they go. The Switch Lite can last three to seven hours. It has usually lasted four hours for me, while the regular Switch gets a little past two.

Nintendo Switch Lite Verdict

This is a five star device! The fact that the Lite can’t output to a larger display is a bummer. But, as you’ll find out once you use the device, the Nintendo Switch Lite is meant to be played in your hands. 

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Full Review: Sony WF-1000XM3 Earbuds Are Best In Market

Sony's new earbuds come with a large charging case.

You may try to go to Best Buy, Fry’s, or any other electronics place to get the new Sony WF-1000XM3 buds. If you go, chances are that you will come back without them. Sony’s new noise cancelling earbuds are very hard to fine. And there is a good reason for that.

It’s important to note that these buds are quite big compared to other earbuds. And the case they come with feels relatively large, although it still fits in your pocket. They’re not the most comfortable earbuds, and you feel the slight annoyance of their weight after about an hour. That said, I still sleep with them every night to block out annoying noises, though they will sometimes drop out.

The WF-1000XM3s have no waterproof rating either, which is a shame since they offer just about everything else. Sony hasn’t hit the waterproof spot that Jabra has with their earbuds, but Sony”s are still far better.

Sony's new earbuds have fantastic noise cancellation.

The most noticeable thing about the WF-1000XM3 buds is the noise cancellation, which is impossibly good for a product this size. They offer about 80 percent of the isolation that the big over-the-ear WH-1000XM3 give out. For those who don’t comprehend technology, this may not be good enough. For the rest of us, this type of noise cancellation is a technological breakthrough for buds that can fit in your pocket.

Then, there is the sound. Sony takes the heavy bass and high treble from the WH-1000XM3 and puts it in these small buds. You can manipulate the sound with Sony’s Headphones app, but it’s better to just let the 1000XM3s do their thing with their natural audio ouput. The sound quality equals that of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless buds, but Sennheiser doesn’t have noise cancellation.

If you want to wear your buds in public and be able to hear everything and everybody around you, Sony’s buds offer an Ambient Mode that allows you to change the amount of sound that comes through. If you are jogging outdoors, it’s a good idea to turn it all the way up. You can also switch from Ambient Mode to Noise Cancellation Mode with just the touch of your finger on the left bud. The right bud controls playback, Google Assistant, or Siri.

You can make calls on the WH-1000XM3 earbuds.

As I noted in my ears-on impressions review of Sony’s new earbuds, the phone quality isn’t the best. But as I’ve been able to make more calls, I’ve realized the call quality is definitely adequate. Yes, people can tell I am wearing earbuds, but they can still hear me. If I’m in busy traffic and surrounded by loud noise, I do have to constantly repeat myself.

When push comes to shove, the WH-1000XM3 buds are worth the $230. If anything, you get a small noise cancellation system that fits in your pocket. The 1000XM3s aren’t the perfect earbuds that smartphone users have been asking for, but they are closer to perfection than any earbuds have come so far.

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Apple Watch Series 5 Feels More Like A Downgrade Than Upgrade

Apple Watch Series 5

I received a review unit of the Apple Watch Series 5 a couple days back, and I still think Apple makes the best consumer-friendly smartwatch — when it is actually working. The problem, right now, is that there is something that is causing the battery (on this non-LTE version) to last, at most, 7 hours instead of the 18 hours which has been quoted by Apple. And this is even after disabling the Always On feature.

I thought I might have received a defective watch, but Zac Hall of 9to5Mac recently covered the issue.

“I’ve been eager to review the new Apple Watch for the fifth consecutive year, but there’s just one problem: I can’t get through a full day without it dying. Apple Watch Series 5 introduces an always-on display so you can read the time at a glance, and Apple says battery life is unchanged from Series 4 models.”

The article adds that he is only able to get 12 hours of battery life a day. Judging from my experience, he’s one of the lucky ones. I’m going to do a hard reset soon to see if that changes things. In the mean time, my Watch isn’t a brick, but still remains in the realm of a rock.

This particular Watch spends more time on charger than on my wrist.

There are plenty of good things to say about the Apple Watch 5: the screen has slightly more contrast than the Apple Watch 4; the Watch has an Always-On feature; voice recognition has slightly improved; and health tracking seems more accurate even without claims that it has been improved. It’s a solid smartwatch when it works.

I’m assuming that a software update should fix the battery issue, but how much more juice will the average user get? For now, the Apple Watch Series 4 offers the best battery life. If you have a fourth-generation Apple Watch, there is absolutely no way you need to upgrade to the latest.

The Apple Watch Series 3 is the best buy now.

In fact, the Apple Watch Series 3, which starts at $199 (38mm version), may be a better buy right now. Even though the third-generation smartwatch has a smaller screen and the pixel density isn’t as crisp, the device still works perfectly and will last at least two days for the average user. The LTE version takes up a lot of power, but most users should be able to last at least a day with that version — if they actually use the LTE part.

Perhaps the sixth-generation Apple Watch will be a true upgrade. For now, the Apple Watch 5 feels more like a downgrade.

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