The New Surface Pro And Backlight Bleed

Backlight bleed is nothing new when it comes to LCD screens. For years, most manufactures would tell customers that it’s natural. However, most manufacturers, especially Apple, have been able to reduce the amount of backlight bleed on their smartphones, laptops, tablets, televisions, etc. Microsoft, however, is falling behind.

As fantastic as the new Surface Pro is, you better get the “right one” if you are shopping for it. As Windows Central notes, many have been complaining about units that have excessive backlight. They get more specific about what causes it.

Many of the new Surface Pro units have backlight bleed issues.

“The issue is caused by the backlight behind the screen not being completely blocked by the other components on top of it. The problem is compounded by touch displays that have an additional digitizer layer that can cause more spacing and issues with bonding.”

You usually won’t notice backlight bleed unless you are in a very dark-lit room and have a black screen, which you do when you first turn on a device or reset it. Therefore, it usually isn’t a big problem. However, when there is excessive backlight bleed, you will notice it when playing videos.

Excessive backlight bleed has been an issue for Microsoft since the very first Surface Pro. I remember having to return two units before getting one that was acceptable. And when I say acceptable, I’m talking about noticeable light in all corners that was annoying, but not disastrous since it didn’t leak in to the majority of the screen. This issue continued on the Surface Pro 2, 3, and–especially–the Surface Pro 4.

YouTube has some good backlight bleed tests. Press picture to play on YouTube.

Right when the Surface Pro 4 was released in October of 2015, backlight bleed threads flooded Reddit. Many of the commenters understood that minimal light bleed exists, but thought the Pro 4 bleed was brutal. Luckily, Microsoft is easy-going about returns. However, they may tell you that they don’t notice any backlight bleed. Of course they don’t, especially if they are looking at the device in a lit room!

I only once had a backlight bleed problem with Apple, and that was the third-generation iPad in 2012. With the lights off, you could see a yellow glow from the right center to the edge of the screen. Apple returned it with no questions asked, and that’s the last time I ever saw a backlight bleed problem with an Apple device. That’s because they spend more time in the quality control process to assure they deliver the  highest-quality products possible.

This isn’t to say that Microsoft produces low-quality products, because the new Surface Pro is anything but that. But after five generations, you would think that the backlight bleed problem would have been solved. Get with the times, Microsoft!

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It’s Official: Physical Books Have (Almost) Been Replaced With Electronics

The iPad (and iPhone in some cases) have replaced physical books.

I was going to write an article like this about a year ago, but I still saw people reading physical books once in awhile. I go to places like Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and Dunkin Donuts (when I’m outside of Southern California). In the past month, I have been able to count how many times I have seen somebody read a physical book that’s not a school textbook: 23!! I never thought this low number would be possible just seven years ago.

Is the physical/paper-back book industry completely dead? Not really. Will it become dead soon? Perhaps. From what I’ve seen, more than half of people reading books were doing so on an iPad. Some were using an iPad Air, others an iPad Pro. I was shocked how many were still using the iPad mini. There were some people reading books on their laptops, and others on their iPhones. Kindle readers are still popular, especially among the older folks. But do these electronics cheapen the reading experience? Do they take the fun out of traditional reading?

In a way, I think so. When I used to read books, there was nothing like having the actual thing in my hand. I was able to write, highlight, and take notes. Yes, you can do this with the iPad or higher-end Kindles, but not the same way you can with a physical book. And physical books are also the easiest on your eyes, although Amazon’s Kindle does a great job of mimicking text written in a book.

Amazon’s Kindle is still very popular for older folks.

However, an electronic device that stores all your books in also a lot more convenient. You can store more than 1,000 books on a kindle, and far more on an iPad. Having all your reading material on a device that weighs a pound or less is extremely convenient. How many times, especially in the physical book days, do you remember going out and having a hard time deciding what book you wanted to bring? How many times have you lost or replaced your books? Now, that isn’t a problem unless you lose your digital device, which is something you likely won’t do since you paid so much for it.

I, as well as others, may not like the fact that digital books are taking over. But we have to get with the times. In ten years, physical books may be considered antiques.

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What It’s Like To Go Back To Samsung Galaxy Note 5 After Using Galaxy S8+

This weekend, I tried an experiment. Given, it wasn’t that important of an experiment and I admit to being bored as hell. But I took my SIM card out of my Galaxy S8+ and put it in my old (less than 2 years really) Galaxy Note 5. I wanted to write some handwritten notes for an interview and thought that since the Note 5 was updated with the the latest version of Android (Version 7, Nougat), I wouldn’t miss my S8+ much. Boy was I wrong.

The Galaxy Note 5 is the most recent Note device that’s on the market due to the Note 7 being recalled. The Note 7 was the perfect smartphone, but it doesn’t help to dwell on what could have been had the device gone under stricter quality control checks. Even though the Note 5 has the same screen size (5.7-inches) and pixel density (1440 x 2560 pixels) as the Note 7, the Note 5 feels less solid, and the screen edges don’t curve like they do on the Note 7.

Since the Note 7 doesn’t exist anymore (except for refurbished units in some countries), I’ll stick to comparing the experience of using the Note 5 to that of  Galaxy S8+. The biggest difference is speed. Using the Note 5 feels really slow after using the Galaxy S8+, especially when using the Chrome browser. Pages load up to 20 percent faster using the same T-Mobile LTE network on the S8+. Not only that, but scrolling is a lot smoother on the Galaxy S8+, whereas it is somewhat choppy on the Galaxy Note 7.

Both the Note 5 and Galaxy S8+ only have monaural sound, but the speaker on the Galaxy S8+ has a fuller and more vibrant sound than the tinny Note 5 does. The speakerphone feature on the Galaxy S8+ also works better, although using both devices as a regular phone reveals the same sound.

The 16MP rear camera on the Galaxy Note 5 was certainly the best of its time, but pictures taken in lower-lit situations look rather reductive when compared to the 12MP Galaxy S8+ camera. Remember, megapixels don’t mean everything, and the fact that the Galaxy S8+ has less megapixels prove this. The Galaxy S8+ camera is the best one on the market next to the dual-lens camera of the iPhone 7 Plus.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 was a great phone for its time. But one has to remember that one year in smartphone time feels like 100 years in the real world due to all the advancements being made. If you really miss the S Pen and think going back to the Galaxy Note 5 will fulfill your needs, you are making a huge mistake. It’s best to wait another month or two for the Galaxy Note 8.

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HP Spectre x2 (2017): The Surface Pro Killer?

HP has just released the new HP Spectre x2,  a beautiful laptop/tablet hybrid that certainly gives the new Surface Pro a run for its money. I played around with the unit for almost ten minutes, and though it’s not long enough to provide a full review, I can easily say that HP continues to improve their products. The 2017 Spectre x2 is certainly a device you should look at before buying the Surface Pro.

In the end, you may end up buying the Surface Pro, but there are a lot of things about the Spectre x2 that will make you drop your jaw (in a good way). First, there’s that 12.3-inch screen that has a 3000 x 2000 pixel resolution. (By comparison, the 2017 Surface Pro has a  2736 x 1824 pixel resolution.) And the max brightness level outdoes that of the Surface Pro. However, the Surface Pro has a more accurate color display and like other HP screens, the one on the Spectre x2 looks slightly washed out.

The Spectre x2 keyboard, which comes with the device, is solid.

Then, there’s the keyboard that actually comes with the unit. Oh, and HP includes a digital (N-Trig) pen with their new laptop/tablet hybrid as well. The keyboard is solid and easy to attach/detach. The keys have solid travel space with an industrial feel rather than the rubbery feeling you get when pressing the Surface Pro keys. And the Spectre x2 can easily be put on your lap. The tablet part bends back pretty far, but not as much as the one on the Surface Pro does.

Everything seems to indicate that the HP Spectre x2 would be the perfect laptop/tablet hybrid. Then, unfortunately, there is the battery life. The unit I was using depleted 10 percent of its juice in almost 10 minutes, though I admit brightness was almost completely turned up. However, other reviews suggest that the battery life on this new Surface Pro competitor is a problem, but not a complete deal killer.

PC World says the performance is marred by mediocre battery life, and they’re not the only ones to say so. According to most sources, a majority of users could get six hours of battery life with the Spectre X2. That probably means power users can expect around 5 hours. In 2015, that was great — but this is 2017.

The Surface Pro 4  had a very similar battery  life after an update, and it was barely passable. For all the criticism that the new Surface Pro has endured for not being much different than the Pro 4, Microsoft did improve the battery life by at least two hours. Because of this, Microsoft’s laptop/tablet hybrid is still the one to beat, although the HP Spectre x2 certainly comes close.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Some Disappointing News

Samsung promises the Galaxy Note 8 will be worth waiting for.

When Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ were released in April, the fingerprint reader was put on the rear–right next to the camera. This made it easy for people to smudge the camera with their fingers and was considered the only design flaw in what was an otherwise perfectly designed smartphone. It was rumored that Samsung just wasn’t able to perfect the under-the-screen technology in time for the release date.

People were relieved when it was revealed that the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 would have the revamped fingerprint reader they wanted. However, the most recent leaks appear to confirm that the Note 8′s fingerprint reader will be on the rear of the unit instead. Forbes has the news.

“Last week delivered a shock: arguably the Galaxy Note 8′s biggest headline feature will not make it into the final design. Now two new leaks have have confirmed this.”

The article adds that the distance between the camera (which will be a dual-lens one) and the fingerprint reader will be increased. This will certainly help quell fears about the smudge issue, but it still isn’t enough. Samsung had a long time to perfect this technology but have failed to do so. You would think this is good news for Apple, but the Cupertino company appears to be ditching the under-the-screen fingerprint reader as well.

The next iPhone may ditch the fingerprint ID for facial recognition.

“iPhone users may soon unlock their smartphones through facial recognition, with an Apple expert predicting that the technology giant would drop the ‘Touch ID’ fingerprint sensor in the upcoming iPhone 8,” reports the site Economic Times.

Like Samsung, it would be easy to call out Apple for their failed fingerprint reader, but that wouldn’t be completely thought out well. Apple ‘s facial recognition could outdo any fingerprint reader. Apple has a history of taking things other companies have failed at and making them work. Facial recognition technology has been a disaster for Windows 10 and Android devices, where your face is likely to get turned down too often, making you resort to entering a password. After all, Apple perfected the fingerprint scanner, which was buggy on all the devices before it finally appeared on the iPhone 5s.

According to the latest rumors, the Galaxy Note 8 may arrive in August like it did last year. However, it’s not so certain that Apple will hit the market with the iPhone 8 in time for their usual late-September release. Still, things are finally starting to get very interesting again in the smartphone world.

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Apple’s Updated 2017 MacBook Gets Solid Reviews

In 2015, Apple released their first 12-inch laptop known just as the “MacBook.” I complimented it, for the most part, on this blog. The MacBook was one sexy computer, though it was (and still is) low-powered with Intel’s mobile processor that has been renamed to confuse consumers. Still, the MacBook is a great option for those who do office work, engage in internet browsing, and watch streaming video services.

The 2017 version of the MacBook runs the new Kaby Lake CPU, has a revamped trackpad, and a faster SSD. It has received some very positive reviews.

“The refreshed MacBook offers swifter Kaby Lake performance and a better typing experience while retaining the same long battery life and barely-there design,” says Mark Spoonauer of Laptop Mag in a four-star review, only criticizing the mediocre webcam.

Roman Loyola of Macworld says that with the new MacBook, the bang for your buck gets better.

The new 12-inch MacBook is ridiculously thin.

“Like a lot of Apple products, it takes a generation or two before a new product line hits its stride. And the MacBook has hit its stride,” Loyola notes, adding that thanks to the Kaby Lake processor, the MacBook is finally worth bragging about.

The Verge appears to be the only site that’s not convinced by the new MacBook.

“What you need to know is that the Core i5 and Core i7 options on the skinny little MacBooks are not the more powerful Core i5 and i7 processors you might be thinking of. They’re less powerful than the processors you can get on the MacBook Pro models.”

You may be asking what is going on with the MacBook Air, especially since some consider the new MacBook a replacement for the Air series. According to BGR, it looks like the MacBook Air has been discontinued.

Some Apple fanatics are upset about this, but I have to ask why? Though Apple hasn’t released something new in the MacBook Air series since 2015, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar is really the replacement without the name recognition.

Still, the lowest-costing version of the 2017 MacBook Pro 13 is $1299, and it only has a 128GB SSD. For someone who wants a device similar to the MacBook Air but with the controversial Touch Bar, they will pay $1799, though much better deals can be found on the late-2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

If Apple really wants to impress (at least more than they already have), they would deliver a 12-inch MacBook with the power of a MacBook Pro. However, a device like this is impossible to make — at least for now.

 

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How Much RAM Do You Really Need In A Laptop?

One of the biggest misconceptions of laptops is that the more RAM (random access memory) you have, the more happy you’ll be with your device. While RAM is important, there are other factors that determine power, especially the CPU and GPU. Many customers who are spending $200 extra to get the laptop with 16GB instead of 8GB are misguided.

RAM is about having your computer operate smoothly. Those who use plenty of programs without closing windows use more RAM. Graphic designers who use 3D creation programs need a lot of RAM. Most designers I know have 16GB of RAM on their laptops, and some even have 32GB. However, for 90 percent of people using laptops won’t need 16GB of RAM.

The new Surface Pro is more than efficient with 8GB of RAM

Let’s take the most popular version of the new Surface Pro, for example. It has 8GB RAM, runs an Intel Core i5 processor, and has a 256GB SSD. While having Word, Excel, and three windows open in Chrome, I can easily open up Photoshop, edit a photo, and add several filters. There is barely any slowdown. However, if I opened up two new huge-sized photos in two different windows with all the programs open, there would be some lag. But this is barely a typical situation.

However, when you get into video editing, the situation gets more complex. 8GB RAM is more than enough for 90 percent of people who edit videos, but for those who edit 4K videos and add all different types of effects, 8GB will not be enough. If you are an AutoCAD user, it is recommended that you have at least 8GB RAM, though most AutoCAD experts say that’s not enough.

Five years ago, 4GB was the sweet spot with 8GB being extra and “future proof.” Now, the amount has doubled. The processor also determines how smoothly things go when you use several programs. For advanced designers and video editors, an Intel Core i7 processor is recommended, even though an Intel Core i5 processor will do the job. In fact, there are several virtual reality-ready laptops and desktop systems that have Intel Core i5 processors and run without a hitch, even though the i7 processor is recommended for computers that run virtual reality hardware and software.

When you get a laptop, it’s important to choose the one with the right amount of RAM right away instead of thinking you can upgrade later. In most cases, you will not be able to. Desktop systems are different and allow easy RAM upgrades for relatively cheap prices.

For now, 8GB RAM is the sweet spot. You will pay more for a laptop that has 16GB of RAM, and most people will never need the extra RAM — at least for now. In the next few years, operating systems will likely get complex enough to a point where 16GB of RAM becomes the new norm.

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Microsoft’s New Surface Pro Is Better Than You Think

“The new Microsoft Surface Pro is barely different from the Surface Pro 4″ — that’s what blogs, including this one, have been saying ever since the new Surface Pro was announced last month. The truth is that one needs to spend a lot of time with the Surface Pro in order to notice the difference. I’ve been using the Surface Pro consistently for the past two days.

For the purposes of this article, I’m comparing the Intel Core i5 versions of the Pro 4 and new Pro. Both products have 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD.

The Screen
Microsoft has made subtle improvements to the 12.3-inch screen on the new Surface Pro. The colors are slightly richer, and the contrast ratio is also higher. Some on Reddit have denied there is any difference between the Pro 4, even insisting that the people who notice an improved screen must have had a different color profile set on the Surface Pro 4. However, as someone who has worked with the Surface Pro 4 for hundreds of hours, my eyes could see a slight difference.

The new Surface Pro offers extended battery life.

Battery Life
The battery life on the Surface Pro 4 was disastrous at first, but it became somewhat tolerable after Microsoft did some major updates in the spring of 2016. As a power user who likes the brightness set at 80 percent, I barely got over 5 hours of use using the Surface Pro 4. On the updated Surface Pro, I get 6 to 6 1/2 hours of use. It’s a big enough difference for me to leave my battery charger at home.

The New Surface Pen
Yes, it’s unfortunate that this is now an optional accessory at $99. But it is a huuuge upgrade from the previous Surface Pen, which was jittery and had a lot of latency. The new Surface Pen feels as close to natural writing on a Microsoft device has ever felt. The new Surface Pen doesn’t hit Apple Pencil levels of greatness, but it certainly comes close.

The New Keyboard
Yes, this is also an optional purchase. The new Surface Pro Signature Type Cover costs $159, but it is an absolute beauty. It feels noticeably better than previous Type Covers in that the cover is made of “Alcantara” fabric and the keys feel more firm. There are also two specific keys to change the brightness, so you no longer have to press a  combination of keys to do so.

Faster
The new Surface Pro is slightly faster than the 4th generation thanks to the all new Kaby Lake processor. You’ll especially notice the speed increase when scrolling with Chrome or using advanced programs such as Adobe Illustrator or CyberLink Power Director. 

Should You Upgrade?
I am probably going to be the first person to suggest that if you have a Surface Pro 4, sell it in order to get the new one. Don’t listen to the hype; the changes are certainly significant enough to warrant the upgrade.

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Affinity Photo: The iPad Finally Gets Its ‘Photoshop’

Ahead of the first iPad Pro release in November of 2015, Tim Cook claimed that the new device would be able to replace your laptop. However, most others agreed you couldn’t. It wasn’t so much the power as it was the fact that the iPad Pro didn’t have desktop quality apps such as Photoshop.

Well, that is certainly changing. Many iPad owners who depend on photo editing and don’t want to leave their laptops behind will be happy to know that Affinity Photo has just been released for the iPad, and it’s a steal at $19.99. Affinity Photo allows you to do almost everything Photoshop can, and it’s often easier than Photoshop if you have the Apple Pencil.

Those who swear on Photoshop may have a hard time getting used to the Affinity Photo desktop at first. But the app, which is easy to learn if you already learned Photoshop, can do just about everything that Photoshop can do, including working in layers, adding filters, “liquifying” photos, making animations, changing basic features (contrast, brightness, saturation), and so much more.

I store all my photos on Dropbox, and Affinity Photo works fluidly with the program. Because my files come from cloud storage, they may take a little longer to save or open than usual, but that’s not even close to being the deal breaker. You can also access photos you took that are saved to your iPad.

Click to play in YouTube.

Where Affinity Photo really shines for me is its integration with Apple Pencil. I’ve used the Surface Pen with Photoshop on the Surface Pro 4, and there has always been inconsistency and lag. This isn’t the case with the Apple Pencil on Affinity Photo, where it’s quite simple to draw selections, crop, change parts of the picture, and do many other things. It helps that the new iPad Pro has a 120Hz refresh rate that makes everything feel more fluid.

Those who have an iPad instead of an iPad Pro won’t be as thrilled with Affinity Photo, which operates inconsistently on the iPad due to lower speed and less memory. I tried working with a photo on the iPad Air 2, and even though I was able to do all the editing I needed, doing so was a little painful. However, those who own an iPad Pro (2015-2017 versions) should definitely spend $20 to get Affinity Photo, which is currently the most desktop-like app available for a mobile device.

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The Galaxy Note Line Needs A Comeback With Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

I’m really looking for Samsung to make a comeback with their Galaxy Note line. Last year’s Note release was tragic, of course, mostly for the fact that it blew up in people’s faces. But another part of the tragedy is that it ruined what is perhaps the most useful smartphone series ever.

People laughed when the first Galaxy Note came out in 2011 and said that the stylus was outdated by five years. It was, of course, until the Galaxy Note made it relevant again. It provided Wacom technology and allowed people to take handwritten notes, which could be searched. Samsung really didn’t perfect the technology until the release of the Galaxy Note 3 in 2013.  2014′s Galaxy Note 4 was the first smartphone to come with VR capabilities.

The Galaxy Note 5 was a slight upgrade from the Note 4, but it was the Note 7 that proved to be the ultimate smartphone. The screen, build quality, power, and note-taking capabilities were all outstanding. I was upset with Samsung during the first recall, but was furious after the second one, especially after my phone was bricked thought a “software update.”

I forgave Samsung– how can one not when they, along with Apple, are the most innovative tech company in recent times. The Galaxy S8+ is an almost perfect smartphone save for the single-lens camera and the fingerprint reader that’s (unfortunately) next to the camera and is hard to reach at times.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Alleged Leak Photo)

There have been a lot of rumors about the Note 8, and some who like constant change aren’t happy that it will look almost like the Galaxy S8+, except with a fingerprint reader (possibly) under the screen and a dual-lens camera. As the saying goes, “If it’s broke, don’t fix it.” And since the two minor flaws of the Galaxy S8+ are being fixed, I say Samsung is doing the right thing.

Samsung is going to have a lot of competition from the higher-end version of the iPhone 8 (which could be called the iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8 Pro, or something else), which is rumored to have an OLED 5.8-inch screen. This new version of the iPhone is also expected to be compatible with the Apple Pencil, which is the best stylus yet. However, the Stylus is huge and won’t attach to the iPhone like the S Pen attaches to the Galaxy Note.

The second half of 2016 is shaping up to be one of the best ever for smartphones. The sooner the Galaxy Note 8 arrives, the better our lives will be.

 

 

 

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