Microsoft’s Latest Budget Surface Is A No-Go

The Microsoft Surface Go is the first major disappointment in the Surface Lineup in years. It’s unfortunate. I was so excited to finally play around with the 10-inch device. I wanted to write how it is an iPad Pro killer and shows Apple you can put in a desktop operating system in a low-cost tablet and still make it work well.

The first thing I noticed about the Surface Go is that it reminds me of one of the failed Windows 8 tablet PCs from earlier in the decade. The bezels around the screen are huge, and the device feels flimsy — it definitely doesn’t have the premium build of the iPad. But I admit that the screen, which only has an 1800 x 1200 pixel resolution screen, looks good enough since it’s only a 10-inch screen.

Things don’t look so good when looking for the ports — the Surface Go only has one USB-C port (not Thunderbolt 3) and a headphone jack. Thankfully, there is a microSD slot for extra memory, which you may need — the base model ($399) only has 64GB of SSD storage. You would be better off getting the $549 version, which not only has 128GB of storage, but also 8GB of RAM.

The Surface Go is painfully slow.

While browsing the web and doing some photo editing with the Surface Go, I noticed how painfully slow things are on the device. The Go is like the slow motion version of the Surface Pro. And that’s understandable since the device is meant to be used as secondary machine. But even as a secondary device, the Go’s slow Pentium processor can be troubling. You can load Photoshop on this, but that doesn’t mean that it will work well. Don’t even try to do any type of video editing.

Then, there is the Type Cover. After using the one for the Surface Pro, the Surface Go’s Type Cover (the cheapest costing $99) feels painful. It feels too cramped and gives you a “rubbery” feeling when pressing the keys. The Surface Go is at least powerful enough for typing documents. It’s too bad that the device Microsoft provides for this is bad for the job.

The Surface Go makes a lot of compromises.

Perhaps I’m not in the audience that the Surface Go is aiming for. Perhaps I’m being too hard, especially since the device is cheaper than the regular Surface Pro (but the cost adds up when adding the Type Cover and Surface Pen). But as someone who has consistently praised Microsoft for breaking new ground in their Surface line, I feel that for the first time in five years, Microsoft has really delivered a disappointing product.

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Dell XPS 15 (2018) Is A Real MacBook Pro Alternative

Dell XPS 15 9570

This blog talked about the surprisingly hype-lacking Dell XPS 15 9570 a couple weeks back, and — as promised — I have a living and breathing unit that can be reviewed. One theory why there have not been many reviews posted is because Dell needed to work on all the quirks before letting reviewers analyze the device.

Luckily, there aren’t that many quirks on the unit I received, which has an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, a 4K screen, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. It will cost you about $2000 (I’ve seen some deals at $1849), but you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck. Let’s take a closer look.

Build and Design

The XPS 15 is relatively light for a computer with a 15-inch screen.

Unlike the 2018 version of the Dell XPS 13, the XPS 15 retains it’s style that is clean, basic, and rubbery. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Unlike the new XPS 13, Dell is still able to put in a Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB 3 ports, an HDMI port, a headphone jack, and a regular SD card reader.

I haven’t always been a huge fan of the keyboard on the XPS 15 — I felt that in order to save time, they just cram in the XPS 13 keyboard on a 15-inch unit. But after using the keyboards for other thin notebooks such as the MacBook Pro or even the XPS 15 2-in-1 (which are still decent), I appreciate the full-travel keyboard a lot more.

Display

The display on the XPS 15 9570 is the same exact one that is on the brilliant XPS 15 2-in-1 that was reviewed here a couple months back. Though there was minor backlight bleed on that unit, there is not an ounce of bleed on this unit, which was tested in a completely dark hotel room during the night. It has a crisp 4K screen, but you can save a couple hundred dollars by getting one with a 1080p HD screen (though I would highly suggest that you don’t). 

The new XPS 15 is a powerhouse that has great battery life.

Performance

The XPS 15 runs on  a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD. It’s the fastest ultrabook (yes, it can still be categorized as one) I have used. With Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Word, OneNote, and Internet Explorer running, I was easily able to open 10 tabs in Chrome without feeling any noticeable slowdown.

The XPS 15 also runs on an a Nvidia GeForce 1050 GPU with 4GB of VRAM — this makes the laptop perfect for light gaming, even though it’s not advertised as a gaming laptop. It also makes the laptop compatible with some VR headsets, especially those for Microsoft’s Mixed Reality platform.

Speakers

The speakers on the XPS 15 have always been average, and nothing has changed. It’s unfortunate, with so much space on the sides, that Dell continues to put its speakers on the bottom of the unit. However, with the MaxxAudio Pro app, one can increase bass and spacial separation. But compared to the 15-inch MacBook Pro’s speakers, Dell is a million miles behind.

Battery Life

The XPS 15 battery allows you to stream 'The Simpsons' for several hours.

I didn’t expect the latest XPS 15 to be that great on battery life, especially because of its power and 4K display. But the battery life is excellent. With the brightness turned up to 70 percent while streaming a movie on a loop, I was able to get more than seven hours of use. Using it normally without constant streaming, it would easily last me the whole day. This may be the first 15-inch notebook that you don’t need to lug around a charger with all the time.

Fan Noise and Heat

Dell’s notebooks are known for loud fan noise and becoming hot during strenuous use. The Dell XPS 15 is no different, but this isn’t a deal breaker. When the fan noise does get loud, it doesn’t have the annoying coil whine that previous Dell computers had. And when it becomes hot, it’s not bad enough that it will burn your lap. Still, one hopes that Dell can work on these minor issues in the future.

Conclusion

The Dell XPS 15 9570 is not only cheaper than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, but it runs just as fast and is just as capable. This laptop doesn’t have Apple’s solid design or fantastic speakers. Thankfully, it also doesn’t have the Pro’s gimmicky Touch Bar. If you can look past some minor quirks, the XPS 15 is still the ultimate laptop. 

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Apple Maps Is Still Bad In 2018

Despite my tech credentials, I was given the impression that Apple Maps and Google Maps had merged after the original Apple Maps release became a disaster in 2012. I don’t know why I had this idea. I do know that the application became somewhat usable in 2014, and I have been using it ever since, while ignorantly thinking I was using Google Maps.

The truth is that Maps has helped me arrive at the place I need to go at least 95 percent of the time without any trouble. But in the past month, I noticed Maps would take me on some weird shortcuts that didn’t make any sense. One time, the application brought me to a place in West LA instead of near Downtown LA, where I needed to go.  At 4 p.m., that’s an hour out of the way!  Then, I drove to the Travelodge in Santa Ana, CA, and Maps not had me take a route that was 30 minutes out of the way. To make things worse, I ended up on the wrong side of Santa Ana. The actual location was 20 minutes away.

Apple Maps has NOTHING to do with Google Maps

There have been other situations too. But I did research on the Maps app, and the consensus is that it’s terrible. And despite what you have heard, it is not powered by Google Maps. Actually, you can download a separate Google Maps app for the iPhone, and you should do that right now — you’ll be thanking me very soon.

I typed in the locations that caused me trouble on Apple Maps, and it turns out that I could have saved a lot of time and stress using Google Maps. I haven’t been taken on any crazy shortcuts, and the arrival time predictions are very accurate.

As Digital Trends notes, there are more options to change your map — Explore, Driving, Transit, Satellite, Terrain, Traffic, and Biking. Some of these options take a little bit of getting used to, but they end up working very well. I will admit that Apple Maps is cleaner, and the app gives the impression of being more simple. Google Maps is filled with icons, 3D buildings, etc., and I could see how a GPS beginner could get a little overwhelmed.

Still, I wish I could take back the four years of my life that I thought Apple Maps and Google Maps were the same. Perhaps Apple Maps will someday become a good app. However, that day still seems very far away.

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Bose Sleepbuds Prove Groundbreaking After One Month’s Use

Initial Review: Bose Sleepbuds

My first impression’s review of Bose’s sleepbuds was mostly positive last month. I did (and still do) think that $249 is too much to pay. Then again, the sleep that I’ve been able to get with these buds may be worth the extra price. I’m talking about the type of sleep that’s not interrupted — something that is rare for most people.

Though there are many different sound files on the Sleepbuds app, only a few seem to do the trick for me — Shower, Rustle, and Campfire. Rustle, with the sound of wind and leaves, is my default setting. Not only does it mask most outside noise, but I feel that I don’t even notice the sound after wearing the buds after 15 minutes. Campfire recreates a believable camping scene, and I use this setting when taking short naps during the day.

The Sleepbuds are valuable in masking annoying noises that wake or keep you up.

Now, one has to remember that Bose puts a volume limit on the buds, and this is for a good reason — to protect your hearing. That said, they will usually mask your partner’s snoring. They may even mask the sound of cars on the street. The only time they have felt somewhat ineffective is at Starbucks, where music and background conversations can get very loud. Turning the volume up all the way masks out most of the noise, but then my eardrums start to ache.

I’ve noticed that the Sleepbuds aren’t just for sleeping; they are great for relaxation when you are awake. For example, when I feel stressed out, I put one of the sounds on and calm down a little bit. I think that the buds would come in handy for developmentally or mentally disabled adults and kids in certain situations that would help them relax.

The Sleepbuds are not for playing music.

I’m not upset, like others, that you can’t play your own music through them. It’s obvious that Bose made these as small as possible so they could fit comfortably in your ears and last 16 hours on a single charge. If Bose allowed these to be used to stream music, the battery life would be a lot less.

The Sleepbuds win the prize for the device I never knew I needed, but can’t live without. I can comfortably say that the Sleepbuds will eventually take off in a huge way. Thank you, Bose, for reinventing sleep.

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The Difference Between Water-Resistant and Waterproof

Many products these days claim to be either water-resistant or waterproof. Is there a difference? You better bet! A product that is water-resistant is good for exercise and will survive sweat. It may also survive getting slightly wet from the rain, but you shouldn’t count on it.

A waterproof product can be submerged under water for a short period of time, depending on the IPX rating (we’ll get to that soon). You can feel safe taking a waterproof product to a swimming pool, especially headphones. If you run into a rain shower, your pretty safe with headphones that are waterproof.

To see how water-resistant or waterproof your product is, check out the IPX rating. IPX-rated products have been tested and certified with the International Protection Marketing standard. If a brand claims to be water-resistant or waterproof without an IPX rating, you should stay away from it.

Headphones with an IPX rating of 4 are sweat resistant (good for workouts) and can sustain light rain showers. However, if you plan to go swimming with your headphones or want to protect them from being completely submerged in water, they should have an IPX rating of 5 or higher. The average waterproof headphones have an IPX7 rating.

If you see a number replace the X, that means it has a dust rating as well. For example, a speaker might have an IP67 rating, and the 6 means it’s fully protected from dust. There are some products with a lower-than 6 dust rating, but 6 seems to be the standard these days.

Here are a couple of products that are considered water-resistant

The Bose Revolve+ has an IPX4 rating, meaning that it is water-resistant, but not fully waterproof.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t have an IP55 rating for dust and water-resistance.

It’s somewhat difficult to find new products that are just water-resistant rather than waterproof, since most people want the latter these days. Here are some examples of products that are definitely waterproof.

The iPhone X has an IP67 rating and can be submerged under water at a depth of one meter.

The Sony SRS-XB41 speaker has an IPX7 rating and can also be submerged under water.

Are there products that don’t have an IPX rating that can survive contact with water? There certainly are, but for one reason or another, they don’t have the rating. For example, I’ve dropped my AirPods in the toilet before, and they still worked. Several old pairs of headphones from Bose have survived my sweaty workouts.

Within a couple years, just about every electronics product will be completely waterproof. Still, that doesn’t mean that you should throw them in the river. And just because the products are waterproof doesn’t mean they are weatherproof.

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What About The Dell XPS 15 9570?

Dell XPS 15 9570

Every fall (or early winter), Dell releases an updated version of the XPS 13. This year’s model was a significant upgrade from previous years, and it even came in an all-white version as well. A lot of people were looking forward to the updated 15-inch version, which usually shows up a couple months after the new 13-inch version.

This year, Dell threw us a curve ball and released the XPS 15 2-in-1 in early spring. This blog gave it a glowing review, but noted how the unit tended to get quite hot and could get loud. The 2-in-1 can be used as a tablet as well, but it’s an awfully huge tablet. In order to make the unit as thin and light as possible, Dell had to include short magnetic keys that gave the illusion of travel. It’s a pretty good keyboard, but not as good as the one you usually find on the regular XPS 15.

The updated 2018 regular XPS 15 took a back seat thanks to the 2-in-1, but it has been available from Dell since June and has started showing up in stores. It’s listed at Fry’s website (but good luck actually finding it at any Fry’s location) on sale for $1749. That’s quite a deal for a laptop that has an 8th gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, a discreet NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, and a 512GB SSD. It’s more powerful than the 2-in-1 and doesn’t have to make any sacrifices since it’s not a tablet (but it does have a touchscreen).

There aren’t many reviews yet. Tech Times thinks it’s worth an upgrade from previous XPS 15 models, and Notebook Check gives the 2018 XPS 15 an almost perfect rating. However, there have been a number of complaints from the 9570′s actual owners. Users have complained about battery problems, overheating issues, sleep problems, etc. There is even a YouTube video dedicated to the problems.

YouTube users have uploaded videos to complain about Dell's latest laptop.

In other words, the XPS 15 9570 is facing the same issues Dell’s other computers do when they first hit the market. It always starts with the overheating complaints (the most popular against Dell) and leads to sleep issues, hibernate issues, and speed issues. But after Dell issues a BIOS update, the problems are usually fixed. It’s very probable that within a month, XPS 15 9570 owners will be talking about how much they love their computer. And hopefully, this blog will have a full hands-on review of the XPS 15 9570 in the next couple of weeks.

 

 

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Corning Unveils Gorilla Glass 6, Which May Be Used On New iPhones

Does the new version of Corning's Gorilla Glass really prevent scratches?

This morning, Corning debuted the 6th generation of their very profitable Gorilla Glass. Mac Rumors has the news.

“Corning this morning unveiled its next-generation Gorilla Glass product, Gorilla Glass 6, which it says offers “unprecedented protection against multiple drops” and better protection against drops from higher heights.”

Corning claims that Gorilla Glass 6 is its most durable glass to date. Glass 6 is allegedly made of a new material that’s been engineered to “stand up to more than one drop.” While people often drop their smartphones, shattered screens are not as big of a deal as lichicken scratches. Apparently, Gorilla Glass doesn’t completely protect your device against these little scratches.

If you think your smartphone is scratch free, do me a favor — take it out in the bright sun and turn the device off. Then, look closely — you’ll notice little scratches you never thought existed. Yes, they aren’t noticeable in most situations, but they are there nonetheless.

This iPhone X screen actually has some small scratches.

Corning has claimed that your screen is three times less likely to scratch with Gorilla Glass, and they could be right. After all, devices that have Gorilla Glass certainly scratch less than the screens from just one decade ago, which would mark up at the touch of a fingernail. Still, there aren’t any completely scratch-resistant screens, which is why every single smartphone should have a protective screen cover.

Some people sigh at the thought of using a screen protector — not only are they expensive, but you have to perfectly clean the screen and then roll the screen protector on gradually. Often, it is done incorrectly. However, within the past couple of years, many companies have released tempered glass protectors, which are reasonably priced and easy to put on.

I recently purchased a pack of three tempered glass protectors for my iPhone X from Amazon. The protectors from Pulais were reasonable at $8.99, and they arrived at my mailbox in only two days. In most situations, I don’t even really notice that I have a screen protector on. When I’m in the bright sun, I can tell, but I can still read my iPhone screen.

A tempered glass screen protector is cheap and easy to put on.

Perhaps, in the future, smartphone companies will start including screen protectors with their devices. These days, it’s not enough to tell customers that smartphones have Gorilla Glass. Including screen protectors will not only make customers happy, but it will cut down the cost of some repairs.

 

 

 

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Dream Come True: Full Version Of Adobe Photoshop Coming To iPad Pro

Why has it taken so long for Adobe to release a full version of Photoshop for the iPad? There are other alleged “desktop” photo applications you can use on the iPad Pro or iPad (though they run way too slow on the latter). One of them is Affinity Photo, which was positively reviewed here on this blog last year. I still think it’s a good app, but, in the end, it’s no Photoshop.

Well, it was finally announced that Photoshop will be available for the iPad. Bloomberg has the news.

“Adobe Systems Inc., the maker of popular digital design programs for creatives, is planning to launch the full version of its Photoshop app for Apple Inc.’s iPad as part of a new strategy to make its products compatible across multiple devices and boost subscription sales.”

The article adds that Adobe will unveil the new iOS app at the annual MAX conference in October. However, the app won’t be released until 2019, provided that there aren’t many engineering delays. Making the full desktop version work on a mobile operating system could certainly lead to engineering issues, but my hopes are high. The ultimate joy would be seeing the new Photoshop app work on the iPhone as well.

Adobe Photoshop still provides the best photo-editing experience after all these years.

Photoshop is still the best photo editing program ever, but there are still people disappointed with the program because they want it to do more when it comes to drawing and illustration. Of course, that’s what Adobe Illustrator is for. When I worked as a graphic designer last decade, integrating Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign for my projects was enjoyable and productive.

Adobe needs to do a great job of making Photoshop compatible with the Apple Pencil. Using the Surface Pen with Photoshop produces mixed results, so a true pen-enabled Photoshop experience needs to happen. Of course, one can argue that a true touch-enabled experience is the most important when it comes to using Photoshop on the iPad Pro.

When Photoshop becomes available for iOS, perhaps the iPad Pro can come closer to the PC replacement that Apple likes to tout it as. Then, we need Adobe Ilustrator, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Premiere Pro, but perhaps the iPad Pro won’t be strong enough for these programs for a long time to come.

Most importantly, Adobe’s move to iOS will likely influence other software makers to release full versions of their software for iOS. The iPad version of Microsoft Office already works almost as well as it does on a PC, and in the future, perhaps their will be a full version of AutoCad to use on the iPad Pro. Your turn, Android.

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The 2018 MacBook Pro (13-Inch) Is A Worthy Upgrade

Yes, I was a skeptic earlier this week, but now that I’ve had the 13-inch MacBook Pro in my hands for two days, I am impressed with the minor (but important) improvements. I’m specifically reviewing the version that has the Intel Core i5 processor (8th gen), 8GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD. It retails for $1799, but you can certainly get it slightly cheaper with student or work discounts.

Upgraded Processor

Although the 2018 MB Pro looks just like the late 2016 and 2017 versions, it’s definitely different on the inside. Perhaps the biggest improvement from last year’s version is speed. The 8th generation i5 processor runs on four cores, which makes a large difference with some advanced tasks.

I’m not going to get into specific numbers and other things that are hard to understand, but I’ll give you a real world example. You can definitely work with editing 4K videos on this MacBook Pro using Final Cut Pro, and the results render much faster. Working with 4K videos operates pretty smoothly, for the most part. Of course, you could do the same on the 2016 and 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro, but there is more stuttering, more delays, and it takes at least 40 percent longer to render the final videos.

Upgraded Keyboard

The 2018 MacBook Pro's keys have slight improvements.

 

There have been a lot of issues with Apple’s new Butterfly keyboard, and the third generation Butterfly keyboard is actually slightly different. First of all, crumbs and other small particles no longer get stuck due to a slightly flexible enclosure that is now built into the keys. Even better is the fact that the keys are more quiet. The tapping sound on the 2016 and 2017 versions of the MacBook Pro’s keys wasn’t awful, but could get quite annoying. You can now use the keyboard in bed with your partner without waking them up.

Improved Screen

Apple has not increased the resolution on their MacBook Pros since 2012, and this is disappointing. After looking at the 4K screen on the new Dell XPS 13, you can easily notice the lower resolution on the 13-inch MacBook Pro, especially when it comes to printed letters. However, Dell could never match Apple’s contrast ratio, which is near perfect.

Apple added their True Tone display technology to the new MB Pro, which keeps the white balance of the display appearing the same regardless of ambient light. It works very well as it makes the colors pop out more and causes less eye strain. When you turn the True Tone setting off, you see that the screen is still colorful, but develops more of a blueish tint.

Speakers

It’s surprising that the improvements made on the 13-inch’s speakers haven’t been discussed. Perhaps that’s because the speakers on the two previous generations were already good (but noticeably “not as good” as the 15-inch Pro). But even though the volume hasn’t changed, the fullness of the speakers has on this generation’s 13-inch Pro. There is not only more bass, but the sounds seem more spaced out. This won’t replace your home speaker system, but you may be satisfied without having to connect the MacBook Pro to an external speaker. 

Now, the Bad…

Actually, the only really negative things about the new Pro is that it still has the gimmicky Touch Bar (I know, some like it), and the price tag is still too high when compared to Windows laptops that have similar specs — specifically, Dell’s fantastic new laptops. But when you compare Dell’s awful customer service to Apple’s, paying a couple hundred dollars more for a MacBook Pro may be worth it.  

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The New MacBook Pro Updates Don’t Address Consumer Concerns

Well, it happened. People have been waiting for Apple to update the MacBook Pro for a long time. There were hopes that they would fix the keys. There were hopes that they would add speed and memory, especially to the 13-inch version. Basically, there were hopes that the MacBook Pro would become the MacBook Pro again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen — at least not with the latest release.

As Wired explains, the $2,399 15-inch Pro and the $1,799 13-inch Pro are the models being updated. The 15-inch model now has a six-core processor since it’s been upgraded to the 8th generation Intel i7 processor. It will ship with Radeon Pro discreet graphics, and although the $2399 model does come with 16GB or RAM, it can be configured with 32GB.

Then, there is the 13-inch model. Although it’s been updated to the 8th generation processor, the $1799 version still comes with an Intel Core i5 processor (a crime, I believe, for that price), but you can configure one with an i7 processor. It has Intel Iris Plus graphics and 8GB RAM (also a crime at the price), but you can get it with 16GB of RAM. Oh, and Apple claims that the display has improved, but there is no new resolution bump. Both models are still stuck on the same resolution they’ve had since 2013.

The latest 13-inch MacBook Pro does run fast, but is it really a "Pro"?

The new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros are expected to have the same battery life, and that is great since the 2017 models were fantastic in that aspect. And yes, both models will also have the gimmicky touch bar. Unfortunately, there aren’t any new models without the Touch Bar. 

There are many criticizing Apple, and they are, for the most part, spot on. For example, Mashable‘s Pete Pachal not only criticizes the Touch Bar, but also goes after the unchanged keyboard and the fact that both models only have USB-C ports. Yes, USB-C is the way of the future, but we are still living in the the present.

As Twitter user Kjeldahl notes, many laptops are going all-purpose and delivering detachable touch screens that can be used as digital notepads. Of course, there is the iPad Pro, which delivers what is, perhaps, the best digital notepad out there. However, it still only runs a mobile operating system (iOS).

People have a right to question why Apple didn’t make a big deal out of the new MacBook Pro update announcement. It’s on the front page of their website, but there was no press conference. There are not many media appearances. Perhaps Tim Cook knows himself that it’s a disappointing update. Let’s hope that Apple is just trolling us and will release a truly updated MacBook Pro by the end of the year.

 

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