The Galaxy Tab S7+ May Be A Better Deal Than The New 12.9-Inch iPad Pro

The Galaxy Tab S7+ has an incredibly crisp screen.

There is a lot of hype for the new 12.9 inch iPad Pro, especially because it has a Mini-LED screen. Tech Radar explains this rather new screen technology.

“As the name suggests, Mini LED shrinks the LED modules that provide backlighting to LCD screens. LCD pixels can’t illuminate themselves – like OLED can – so they need a light-source behind them to shine through, creating the necessary brightness and color. Because of this extra layer of backlighting, too, the pixels in an LCD display can never be turned all the way off.”

The article summarizes Mini-LED as, basically, a more efficient way of backlighting an LCD screen. The improved contrast and brightness makes it comparable to OLED screens, but they are not as expensive to produce. Still, they are new and it’s the reason the iPad Pro 12.9 will go up in price this year.

There is much hype for the new iPad Pro series, especially the 12.9-inch version.

The cheapest 12.9-inch iPad Pro you can buy is the 128GB Wi-Fi version, which costs $1099. This may be a deal for those who want a tablet that can match the power of a laptop. (It includes the amazing new M1 chip Apple includes with their latest laptops.) However, the iPadOS software still doesn’t quite match the power of Apple’s desktop software, macOS.

By the time you add in the keyboard and Apple Pencil, you will be close to $1500, a price way too high for those who just want to use their tablet primarily as a media consumption device. There is another tablet that is slightly smaller (12.4-inches), has a Super AMOLED screen, and includes a stylus. It does almost everything the iPad Pro can do, and you can get it for $800 in some places.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab S7+ is still the consumption tablet to beat.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ is perfect in almost every way. Unfortunately, it runs Android, which still hasn’t provided many robust tablet apps. For example, there is only a watered-down version of Photoshop. And good luck finding powerful video editing apps. Then again, that’s what makes this tablet perfect for those who would use their laptop for heavy photo and video editing in the first place.

If you want to take notes, the included S Pen is excellent. If you want to surf the Internet, the screen has a 120Hz refresh rate for scrolling. And the battery life is fine for a tablet of this caliber (almost 8 hours of back-to-back streaming Netflix with brightness set at 50 percent). If you use the AirPods Pro or AirPods Pro Max, switching between your iOS and Android tablet is very easy.

I’m sure the reviews for the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be stellar. Many will say that Apple has re-invented the tablet. However, most people will find that the device is overkill and overpriced. The Galaxy Tab S7+ is still the consumption tablet to beat, and it costs much less.

 

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Bowers & Wilkins New PI7 Wireless Earbuds Offer A Groundbreaking Feature

The Bowers & Wilkins PI7 wireless earbuds cost $400.

Bowers & Wilkins have always been late to the game when it comes to audio products, but what they bring to the game is always good. This is especially true when it comes to their wireless earphones. It looks like they have transferred some of that magic to the new PI7 wireless earbuds. One catch: They cost $400.

Still, the reviews are quite good.

“Sonically, Bowers & Wilkins’ PI7 earphones get just about everything right out of the box, though for the price we’d like to see adjustable EQ,” says Tim Gideon of PC World, adding that the $400 price tag is more tolerable since the buds offer excellent sound, high-quality noise cancellation, and a useful analog-to-Bluetooth cable.

That cable, by the way, connects from any 3.5mm audio source to the charger, which streams the audio to the earbuds. This is useful for products that don’t have Bluetooth streaming capabilities, such as airplane entertainment systems, the Nintendo Switch, some television sets, etc. It’s shocking that this has never been offered before. It’s not just a gimmick.

CNET has also given the PI7 earbuds a thumbs up. They praise the design, stellar sound quality, the transceiver capabilities, and the fact they support several different audio codecs. As with other reviews, the $400 price tag is controversial.

T3 enthusiastically gives the PI7 five stars.

“Despite being so much more expensive than even the best true wireless earbuds, these not only justify their price, they feel like a damn good deal,” claims writer Matthew Bolton, who adds that the size of the earbuds may be too big for some people’s ears.

There have been some complaints about the size of the PI7s.

For those who don’t want to pay $400 for the PI7 buds, Bowers & Wilkins have also released the $250 PI5 earbuds. However, these have less drivers than their big brother’s, and there is no special input on the case for audio transmission  They also only have two microphones on each side for noise-cancelling.

It’s very hard to find the new Bowers & Wilkins wireless earbuds in stores, but that should hopefully change soon. For now, you can purchase them at the Bowers & Wilkins website and have them delivered within three business days. Your wallet will take a hit, but you’ll have what are perhaps the best wireless earbuds on the market at your finger and ear tips.

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Sonos Roam Is Better With A Stereo Pair

The Roam is now available but hard to find.

I’ve finally been able to test out the new Sonos Roam portable Wi-Fi/Bluetooth speaker, and I have to admit to not being really excited at first. Perhaps my expectations after using the Sonos Move this summer were way too high.

Just like the Move, the Roam is portable. However, the Roam weighs less than a pound — approximately one-sixth of the Move’s weight. It stands at 6.61 inches tall and supports AirPlay 2, Alexa, and Google Assistant. It connects through Wi-Fi, which provides better sound, or Bluetooth. Unfortunately, you can’t do a stereo pair with the latter connection.

Connecting with the Sonos app was pretty simple, but I initially had trouble doing a stereo pair with both speakers when using my iPhone’s hotspot connection. After I got it to work once, it has been rather easy to work on a continuous basis. Once again, I’m mentioning a stereo pair since it’s absolutely essential to really appreciate Sonos’s new product.

On its own, the Roam offers distinguished mono sound with bass that’s impressive for the size of the speaker but not great overall. The sound is very clear though, and one could easily tell it’s a Sonos product with their eyes closed. However, you’ll constantly  be wanting more.

Then, when you pair it with another Roam, you’ll realize why these speakers were meant to be used in a pair. You’ll be spending a total of $340 before taxes. This is cheaper than buying one mono Sonos Move for $399. I think it’s a better buy.

The Sonos Roam comes in a very small box.

Played together, the speakers offer strong bass (but not overbearing) with crystal clear highs. And the stereo separation is very good, even when the speakers are close together. You have to listen to a song like Animals by Martin Garrix to appreciate what the speakers can do when paired together. The speakers are especially good for playing ambient electronic music.

No matter what kind of music you play, you’ll want to have a charger nearby. In my one test, both speakers lasted about 10 hours, which is right in line with the initial claim by Sonos in their advertisements. That’s not a lot. It’s true that the speakers are small, but I expected more juice. It’s really more of an annoyance than a deal killer.

If you are invested in the Sonos ecosystem, buying a the Roam is a no-brainer. It connects easily with other speakers, and the sound is good for a very small room. But if you want a full audiophile experience, you need to buy two Roams. Your wallet may become depressed, but your ears will be thankful.

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Nostalgic Case For iPhone Is Fun With Some Limits

Nostalgic Case for iPhone 12 Series

Did you grow up in the 1980s? Are you a classic gamer? Do you have an iPhone 12, 12 Pro, or even a 12 Pro Max?  If so,  you may want to take a look at the Nostalgic Case, which looks like a Game Boy that (mostly) protects your iPhone.

The version I have makes the iPhone 12 Pro a little bit heavier than your average case, but it provides endless entertainment when I need to make time go by. Yes, the 2-inch LCD screen is low quality, and the case is made of cheap plastic. But for $25, you will likely think you’ve got your money’s worth.

The controls work, well, like they did on the Game Boy. But maybe that’s the point. They definitely work. However, the fact that the red A button is the main jump button may make some people question what the engineers of this device were thinking.

There are 40 classic games included with this package, and these aren’t the actual arcade versions; they’re the NES versions that are close enough. There’s Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong (without the Pie Factory level), Tetris, Galaga, Arkanoid, Ice Climber, Pac Man, 1942, Star Force, and a lot more.

The Nostalgia Case offers 40 different games.

The battery allows for two-and-a-half hours of continuous use on a full charge, but it’s easy to mistakenly hit the Power button while putting the iPhone in your pocket, on your car’s dashboard, etc. Unfortunately, it charges with a micro USB cord, which is completely outdated in 2021. Luckily, you get a cord in the package (but don’t expect a plug).

There is also a speaker that sounds pretty bad. However, the sound of these games is also crummy, so the quality of the speaker really doesn’t matter that much. There is an option to turn the sound off, and that might be the best for you or others around.

Super Mario Bros. works well on the Nostalgia Case.

All in all, the Nostalgic Case works, but it isn’t much more than a novelty item. However it’s a good novelty. Those expecting to turn their iPhones into a completely capable NES gaming device might be a little disappointed.

You should definitely get a Nintendo Switch Lite if you really want a handheld that can be instantly stowed away in your coat pocket. However, those who are iPhone fanatics will find that the Nostalgic case makes an already exciting smartphone even more useful.

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Microsoft Introduces The Surface Laptop 4

The Surface Laptop 4 is now available.

The Surface Laptop has been a favorite of critics since Microsoft first introduced the product in 2017. The one thing people have been complaining about, besides the lower-than-average resolution screen, is the battery life.

However, it appears that Microsoft has fixed the issue with their updated Surface Laptop 4 notebooks on both the 13-inch and 15-inch versions. For one thing, they both offer AMD processor variants. Although some consider the AMD chip somewhat outdated, it does offer a lot of battery life when compared to an Intel chip.

It appears that average battery life on the AMD versions easily outdoes the batter life on the Intel MacBook Pros (people have been reporting 11 hours on the 15-inch version and almost 13 on the 13-inch laptop.

The 15-inch unit, in particular, has received great reviews. Laptop Mag has given it four stars.

“Microsoft’s 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 with AMD is among the best laptops you can buy, bringing the performance and battery life missing from the previous model.”

Reviewer Phillip Tracy adds that the only downsides to the Laptop 4 are the fact that it only contains one USB-C port (non-Thunderbolt) and has relatively large bezels when compared to most of today’s laptops.

Click to play in YouTube.

CNN‘s Michael Andronico claims the Surface Laptop 4 is one of the best-looking and feeling notebooks you can buy.

“The Surface Laptop 4 is more of a good thing. Like the Surface Laptop 3 before it, Microsoft’s latest flagship laptop looks great, has a vibrant and uniquely tall screen, and delivers one of the best typing experiences in the business.”

However, he also criticizes the battery life (despite others universally praising it), speakers, and 720p webcam. Overall, he believes the Surface Laptop 4 offers some advantages over the Dell XPS 13 or MacBook Pro 13.

PC World’s claims that the AMD Ryzen chip supports Microsoft’s claim that this 4th generation laptop is twice is fast as the 3rd generation version. However, most won’t notice the difference when doing everyday activities.

The one aspect of the Surface Laptop 4 that critics haven’t discussed much is the screen. It’s sharp, but lacks some pixels when compared with the Surface Pro 4 or even the MacBook Pro series. The 13-inch version has a 2256 x 1504 resolution (201 PPI) , and the 15-inch version has a 2496 x 1664 (201 PPI) resolution.

To be fair, any screen resolution above regular HD offers crisp enough text and images for most people. When looking at previous Surface Laptop devices, the resolution wasn’t a huge issue. Microsoft seems to have hit the hot spot with the new Surface Laptop 4, and we’ll have a first-impressions review very soon.

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You Should Definitely Be Excited About The Nintendo Switch Pro

An advanced version of the Nintendo Switch is likely coming in 2021.

The Nintendo Switch came out in early 2017, and I still think it is the best thing that happened to gaming. It’s also been a huge success, and sales aren’t slowing down, despite other companies releasing new systems. While the graphics aren’t as amazing as they are on the PS5, it excels at what a gaming system is supposed to do — provide fun. It also provides the most fun out of any gaming system in a portable package, also allowing you to connect it to a television set or monitor.

There have been different versions of the Nintendo Switch released, including the Nintendo Switch Lite. Though Nintendo doesn’t plan to release a next generation gaming system for a while (at least according to Nintendo President of America President Doug Bowser), it looks like we will get the next best thing — the Nintendo Switch Pro.

According to International Business Times, leaked rumors point to a 720p OLED screen, 4K external display support, a Nvidia Ada Lovelace GPU, and games that are capable of better performance. In fact, there might be some games exclusive to the Nintendo Switch Pro that can’t be played on the regular Switch or the Switch Lite.

You may soon be playing 4K Mario games.

An OLED screen would not only be fantastic visually, but it will also consume less battery life than the current screen. Even though the latest version of the Nintendo Switch has improved battery life, it’s far less than ideal. That’s why you see so many people carrying battery packs with their Switches.

Of course, there are also those who say that there isn’t much of a difference between 4K and 1080p. If you’re looking at a 13-inch computer screen or 26-inch television screen, they may be right. But looking at 4K content on a 40-inch or taller television screen shows a night-and-day difference between 4K and 1080p. Can you just imagine playing a Mario game in 4K? The thought of it gets me far more excited than it should at my age.

The Nintendo Switch Pro (if that’s what it’s called) will likely be released in the 4th quarter of 2021. There are no more details now, but you can expect to hear a lot more in the coming months. Even though this isn’t a completely new gaming system for Nintendo, you can expect long lines the first day of its release.

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Virtual Reality Is AT The ‘NES’ Stage Right Now

VR has been slowly advancing towards perfection.

Two years ago, virtual reality looked like it would remain a niche technology. Then, the first Oculus Quest came in and changed the course. A wireless and rather comfortable headset that could play decent games, even if they weren’t as powerful as the desktop versions of the same games, sealed the deal for many who were on the fence.

Then came the pandemic, and VR not only became fun but also necessary for escape. Families couldn’t go out to see movies together, but they could meet at a VR theater. They could also meet in VR locations with Oculus social apps. Most important — at least for myself — is the fact that VR experiences such as Thrill of the Fight or Beat Saber could provide some type of cardiovascular exercise.

As far as VR has come, it’s also imperfect and hasn’t achieved it’s goals. It reminds me of when the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) became popular after a huge slump in the home video game industry. The NES proved that video games are here to stay but they also need work. They needed better graphics, better controllers, better sound, more portable systems, etc. And that eventually happened. It could be argued that the video game industry reached its magic stage with the release of the Nintendo 64 in 1996.

The Oculus Quest 2 is currently the hottest VR headset, but Apple could change that soon.

Along Comes Apple

The Oculus Quest 2, released last year in October, has done very well. But it hasn’t quite pushed VR over the edge of acceptance yet — or at least to the point where almost everyone you know has one. However, it has been revealed that Apple will announce a headset in the coming months.

“Sometime in the next several months, the company is poised to announce a mixed reality headset, its first major new device since 2015. If possible, Apple won’t want to make such a critical announcement at an online event. It wants employees, the media, its partners and developers in the room.”

The Bloomberg source adds that the headset will be lightweight, come with two 8K lenses, and it may include several tracking cameras. The price could punch between $1,000 and $3,000. That would make it out-of-reach for most consumers.

Apple allegedly has plans to make it a niche device for developers in the initial stages and then release a more affordable headset, possibly called Apple Glasses, soon after. Apple’s devices will allegedly be capable of both VR and AR.

If you, like others, are looking for an escape from this world, you can soon escape into a virtual world that is almost as real as the physical one. It may be a couple of years, but it will be worth the wait.

 

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Apple’s MacBook Pro M1 Is A Fantastic Futuristic Computer With Dated Design

The MacBook Pro M1 has a familiar design.

The MacBook Pro being reviewed is the late-2020 13.3-inch version with Apple’s M1 processor, a 256GB hard drive, and 8GB of RAM. It is on sale for $1199 at Best Buy this week. 

I don’t know why I didn’t have much of an interest in reviewing the latest 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with Apple’s M1 Silicon chip. After all, after using it for the past couple of days, I can comfortably say that the latest MacBook Pro is the most significant laptop in years.

Of course, it looks very much like the mid-2020 MacBook Pro 13 model. That’s not really an awful thing since it has the Magic Keyboard, which is one of the best keyboards available for a laptop. But the bezels are very thick for the year 2021, and Apple could easily free up that space for a 14-inch screen. Actually, that is going to happen, but you might be waiting until the fall for it.

For now, the latest MacBook Pro 13 is still an incredible device. The M1 processor does wonders in terms of speed, productivity, and — especially — battery life. In two streaming tests, I was able to get about 16 hours of juice on 50 percent brightness. It has lasted more than twice as long as any MacBook Pro I’ve ever used, including the incredible MacBook Pro 16.

The latest MacBook Pro 13's battery life seems never-ending.

You might think that you won’t be able to use all your favorite programs with the latest MacBook Pro, and that’s absolutely not true. In fact, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere, which are now optimized for the M1 processor, run much faster than they did on any Intel MacBook. Microsoft Office runs without a hitch as well. The programs that aren’t optimized for the new M1 chip — and there aren’t many — run through Apple’s Rosetta 2 technology.

Some have scuffed at the fact the entry level version of the Pro M1 only has 8GB RAM. After all, shouldn’t all powerful ultrabooks or notebooks have at least 16GB RAM in 2021? Well, that’s only true if you are using a notebook with an Intel chip. Apple’s M1 processor manages the memory far more efficiently. There have been many articles demonstrating how the 8GB of RAM in the M1 notebook overperforms.

8GB RAM is more than enough for most users for the MacBook Pro with M1 processor.

In fact, although I don’t have specific numbers, I can easily make the claim that the Pro M1, which costs $1,000 less than the entry-level MacBook Pro 16, is a more powerful computer for almost any task. Even though it doesn’t have the thinner bezels with the amazing thumping speakers (though the 13.3-inch Pro’s side speakers are still way above average), it is a better computer.

There is no doubt that with the deletion of the useless Touch Bar, addition of micro-LED screens, thinner bezels, and other improvements, both the upcoming 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros will be amazing. However, at least for the next several months, the latest 13.3-inch MacBook Pro is the best laptop you can buy. Just don’t let the dated design bother you.

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First Impressions: Dell XPS 13 9310 (Late 2020) Is A Masterpiece

Dell XPS 13 9310

The Dell XPS Unit being tested for this hands-on review is the frost white Dell XPS 13 9310 that has Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and a 512GB SSD. It was released in late 2020 and is selling at Best Buy for $1549 ($350 off the regular price).

You have to hand it to Dell. The XPS 13 line, which debuted in January of 2015, has become far more influential than anybody had ever thought. Ever since Dell reduced the bezels, companies such as Apple, HP, and even Microsoft have taken note. At first, because the bezels were so small, Dell had to put the webcam on the bottom. However, that’s not the case anymore.

I want to use the XPS 13 9310 for a couple more days before I write my full review. However,  here are some of my first impressions:

  • This screams “Premium!” in every aspect — the keyboard, the chassis, and — especially — the screen.
  • You have to mess with the screen settings in order for it to look perfect. You should also make sure you are updated to the latest drivers.
  • A 4K screen on a 13.4-inch laptop certainly is overkill, no matter how beautiful it is. A 3K screen would save battery life, and most eyes wouldn’t be able to tell a difference.
  • The speakers are still on the bottom, but they sound much better than previous versions of the XPS 13. The sound isn’t tinny anymore; it is rich and detailed. It’s definitely not the sound quality of the MacBook Pro 16, but it is surprisingly good for a 13.4-inch laptop.

The latest XPS 13 has a very thin but sturdy design.

  • The webcam is kind of grainy. In 2019 this would be okay, but webcams have become a lot more prevalent since the pandemic.
  • The battery life on the 4K version so far is meh. But when put in low-power mode (which is more than enough power unless you are doing video editing), you can get about five to six hours of use. It’s not great but not awful either.
  • This is the best keyboard I’ve ever used on a device. It’s even better than the Magic Keyboard on the newest MacBook Pro devices.
  • The trackpad is also fantastic — very buttery and responsive.
  • This isn’t a 2-in-1, but I wish the screen bended back slightly more.
Conclusion So Far
I test out a lot of laptops, and I can definitely say I’m in love. Will the honeymoon last? Find out more when a full review is published either at the end of this week or the beginning of the next. 
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Apple iPad Air (2020) Is Not Quite Pro

The latest iPad Air lacks some of the iPad Pro's special features.

The version of the 2020 iPad Air that is being reviewed for this article is the 64GB WiFi version, which can be purchased for sale at Micro Center for $530, which is $60 off the regular price. 

Apple made some significant changes to its new iPad Air, which was released late last year. For one thing, it looks just like the Pro except it has slightly larger bezels and is slightly thinner. Instead of an 11.1-inch screen, it’s 10.9-inches. Instead of Face ID, the Air uses the power button for Touch ID — something that’s more convenient with people wearing masks.

It runs on the powerful Apple A14 processor and has 4GB of RAM, which is enough for most tablet users. The 64GB version may seem inadequate for storage, but it’s fine for most people at a time when most things are stored in the cloud.

The latest iPad Air has 4GB of RAM.

But there are some significant differences between the latest iPad Air and iPad Pro 11, which was reviewed here last April. The biggest being that the Pro has a 120Hz ProMotion display, which allows for smoother scrolling and more realistic inking capabilities (with the Apple Pencil 2).

Both have Apple’s True Tone displays, but the screen on the Pro seems to have a slightly better contrast ratio. And the battery life on the 11 Pro, which gave me 8.5 hours of non-stop streaming, is also significantly better than the 5 hours offered by the iPad Air.

The iPad Air has a great screen, but Pro users may be disappointed.

The iPad Air has two speakers that work very well. You’d be satisfied if you hadn’t ever heard the audio on the iPad Pro, which sounds as good as any high-end laptop. To most people, this isn’t too much of a big deal since they can always use their earbuds or headphones for the best sound quality.

If you are using any iPad as a laptop replacement, there will be many challenges. However, the 11-inch Pro, with more RAM, is less of a challenge. Both iPads do work with Apple’s Magic Keyboard.

Don’t get me wrong; if cost is an absolute issue, one should definitely go with the new iPad Air. But if you could take just $200 from your $1400 stimulus check, you’ll definitely be better off with the iPad Pro, especially since a new version is expected to be announced in April.

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