Nintendo Switch OLED Is A Must-Upgrade For Handheld Users

The Nintendo Switch OLED is hard to find.

The Nintendo Switch OLED went on sale last Friday, and I have been playing with it for at least two hours a day ever since. I went to the Target in Burbank, CA an hour before they opened. Unfortunately, they only had eight in stock, and I was 10th person in line.

Standing in line during rainfall in order to secure a Nintendo Switch OLED

Fortunately, I decided to check out the Target in North Hollywood, CA, which opened an hour later. I was 15th in line, but it ends up they had more than 50 in stock. I was so happy when they gave me a ticket to guarantee my purchase.

I was 5th in line for the white version of the Switch OLED.

I was even happier when I got the white version I wanted. I started playing with the Switch in my car, but it took several hours to download all of my 12 games. The first game I played was Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and it became apparent that the upgrade was even better than I thought — at least playing it on the handheld. The images were clearer, the sound was more robust, and it just felt more immersive.

One of my favorite aspects of the new Switch is the new kickstand. It has always been annoying propping up the previous Nintendo Switch on a table with the flimsy stand, which only has one angle. With the new kickstand, the Nintendo Switch OLED can be displayed at any angle you like. And thanks to the crystal clear OLED screen, it looks good at even the most extreme angles.

The OLED screen is such an advance from the LCD screen on the previous Switch, which looks very outdated. You realize how bad the contrast ratios on the LCD Switch screen are when you use the new version. And you’ll never want to go back.

That said, the relatively poor screen on the previous Switch may not be a big deal to many who usually connect their devices to their television sets. Perhaps you even have an OLED television set, which would be a video game lover’s dream come true. The new Switch won’t add 4K display output to your television set, and it still uses the same graphics chip. So, save yourself some money.

However, there are many people, such as myself, who don’t own a television set and don’t need one. We rely on the handheld Nintendo Switch for our joy. And it’s safe to say that the new Nintendo Switch OLED doubles the level of that joy.

Posted in Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Bose QuietComfort 45 Review: Cheaply Built Headset Feels Outdated

The Bose QC45 is now available.

I have been testing the Bose QC45 Bluetooth Wireless headphones for four days, and it has become the rare Bose product in which I don’t want to continue using. In fact, the QC45 feels completely outdated. Here are some of my major takeaways:

Plastic Is Still Plastic

After Bose moved to the more metal design for the Bose 700 headphones, the QC45 feels really backwards. Of course, Bose needed to make the headphones plastic in order to fold up, but the convenience isn’t worth it. After using these for a couple of days, I am reminded that plastic headphones creek a lot.

The QC45 feels cheap and easily breakable.

Mediocre Sound 

No matter what design Bose had in the past, the sound was always top notch. That isn’t the case with the QC45. It sounds like the QC35, but with less bass while the mid ranges feel recessed. The highs feel digitalized and manipulated. Bose has never been known as the maker of accurate audiophile-like headphones, but at least they offered appealing sound. This isn’t the case anymore.

Microphone Quality

Bose made major improvements to the mic quality of the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. However, quality takes a huge backseat on the QC45 as you will sound very distant to the caller when you are in a quiet area. If you talk in a noisy place, forget about the listener trying to understand you at all as you will sound robotic and faded.

Noise Cancellation

The QC45 offers excellent noise cancellation.

This is one of two areas that the QC45 excels in. It is the best noise cancellation I’ve heard on any pair of headphones except Apple’s AirPods Max. Those who do a lot of traveling on airplanes will appreciate this, although they may have to hear the sound of the headphones creaking.

The QC45 also has a “Transparent” mode where you can hear things just as you would without the headphones on. This feature is okay, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as competing headphones from Apple and Sony.

Battery Life

This is the second area in which the QC45 shines. Bose claims up to 23 hours of battery life using noise cancellation, but at one point, I had almost 24 hours of juice. It’s a good thing the QC45 has a USB-C port for charging this time around. 

Conclusion

The QC45 isn’t worth $350. It’s not even worth $250 as you can get deals on other headphones that have better sound and build quality. These may work for people who have been dedicated to the QuietComfort line from Bose. However, the QC45 is generally a rare misstep for Bose.

Posted in Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

First Impressions: iPhone 13 Pro Max

The iPhone 13 Pro Max now comes in gold.

I’ve had the iPhone 13 Pro Max in my hands for the last two days. Although I’m not ready for a full review, I am ready to give my initial impressions:

  • It feels slightly heavier than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but the extra battery life makes it worth it (more on that in a little bit).
  • The screen is definitely brighter. And I could be wrong, but it also seems slightly more colorful.
  • The camera lenses definitely protrude enough to be slightly annoying. Once it’s in a case, it’s not as bothersome.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max has protruding lenses.

  • The smaller notch does make a difference despite what some others are saying. However, it is slightly taller than the 12′s notch.
  • The gold version looks and feels so premium. Whatever version you get, please be sure to get a screen protector and a sleeve.
  • Cinematic mode is great, but it only operates at 1080p — something I and others will not use that much.
  • There are notable improvements on the new camera, and it is especially noticeable with night shots.
  • The new macro photo mode takes amazing pictures. However, it keeps on switching with other lenses when it thinks you’re moving too far away.
  • The camera focuses faster, especially when you zoom in on the subject.
  • The 120Hz  refresh rate doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal if you’ve used other displays that have the same rate. However, once you go back to 60Hz, you realize the advantage of a 120Hz screen.

The iPhone's 120Hz refresh rate is welcomed but not groundbreaking.

  • The stereo sound is the same as it was on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and that definitely isn’t a bad thing.
  • The star of the iPhone 13 Pro Max series is battery life. I haven’t done numeric tests yet, but I’m shocked at how good it is. Unfortunately, the 13 Pro Max also takes slightly longer to completely charge.
  • The only time I have noticed a major difference with the new A15 Bionic chip is when I edited a video right from the phone. Otherwise, you won’t notice much of an improvement in regular tasks.
Right now, I would say that if you have an iPhone 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max, there isn’t a significant reason to upgrade. But for those who have any model in the iPhone 11 or earlier series, the upgrade will be well worth it. 
Posted in Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Microsoft Has A Winner With Surface Pro 8

The Surface Pro 8 makes some major changes.

Did you forget about the Surface Pro series? It seems as if Microsoft has. The last Surface Pro, the Surface Pro 7, was released in October of 2019 and felt completely outdated. I wrote an article wishing the Pro 7 was designed more like the Surface Pro X, a well-designed product that didn’t quite make it with the ARM processor.

Microsoft has heard from the consumers and has just announced the long-awaited Surface Pro 8. Not only does the new device get rid of the thick bezels (that felt ancient even for 2019), but it has added two Thunderbolt 4 USB ports. It has a 13-inch screen that has a 267 PPI and can get brighter than it did on previous Surface Pro devices. Best of all, it has a 120Hz refresh rate, though the default is still 60Hz. Microsoft also claims the screen can change its color temperature based on the room being used in.

The most controversial thing about the Surface Pro 8 is the price, which starts at $1099 for the base model (8GB of RAM, 128GB storage, and an 11th Gen Core i5 processor). That doesn’t include the $280 price of the new Type Cover with the new Surface Pen. For some, a full laptop-tablet hybrid that runs a desktop operating system may be worth the price.

The new Surface Pro runs Microsoft's brand new Windows 11 operating system.

As much as it sounds like Microsoft has updated its hardware to 2021 standards, it’s disappointing that the screen is still a regular LCD screen instead of an OLED or Mini LED one that is being offered by most competitors. And as strong as Intel’s 11th Gen processor is, it can’t even come close to matching Apple’s M1 chip. Then, there is battery life. Microsoft claims the Surface Pro 8 has 16 hours of battery life, but that has yet to be tested.

Still, it’s easy to predict that the Surface Pro 8 will be a success for Microsoft. There’s nothing on the market like it (sorry, Apple’s iPad Pro, though excellent, is still a tablet), and the Pro has a huge following. Let’s hope that the contrast ratios are as good as they can be for an LCD screen. I’m more excited to test out the new Surface Pro 8 than just about any other item I’ve tested out this year. October 5 (the release date) just can’t come fast enough.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Apple Announces iPhone 13 Pro And The Usual Folks Complain

iPhone 13 Pro

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max were announced this morning, and the usual people are complaining that it’s not enough. While the new iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max don’t look much different from the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, they do offer some cool upgrades.

For those of you who still haven’t been able to get used to the notch on top of the iPhone screen, it is now 20 percent smaller. It’s still there, but it won’t disturb you as much. Since the screen finally has a 120Hz refresh rate (like Samsung’s phones have had for two years), you’ll be even less angry about the small notch. The screen can get even brighter, and that comes in handy when one is looking at the phone in direct sunlight.

The biggest improvements are in the camera setup:

  • 77mm telephoto camera with 3x optical camera
  • Ultra Wide camera with 92% boost in low light , f/1.8 aperture, auto-focus, 6-element lens
  • Wide camera: f/1.5 aperture, up to 2.2x improvement in low light
  • New macro photography features for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • Night mode available across all three lenses
  • New camera filter options, “Photographic Styles” will be available on iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13 Pro features Cinematic Mode for video, which is basically the same thing as Portrait Mode but for video. Other features include focus tracking and the ability to adjust the focus after recording
  • Macro slow mo video recording on ultra wide camera
  • ProRes video coming to iPhone 13 Pro later this year
There is no difference (at least as released in the reports today) between the cameras on the 13 Pro and Pro Max. This may make the decision between the two easier for those who like large smartphones with large screens, but not too large. Both smartphones also run Apple’s new A15 Bionic chip. There haven’t been tests yet that compare the speeds to the last generation of iPhones. 

The iPhone 13 series will launch in a variety of colors.

The iPhone 13 Pro adds 1.5 hours of battery life, with the Pro Max adding 2.5 hours of juice. That’s quite a feat, especially since the 120Hz refresh rate takes up more battery life. However, Apple is minimizing the refresh rate in situations when it is not needed.

For those of you who don’t need all the “Pro” features, there is still the regular iPhone 13, but you will have two lenses instead of three. You can also forget about the 120Hz refresh rate, but at least the battery life is slightly improved.

Most of what I read after the announcement of the new iPhone series is complaints. Many feel that Apple is misleading their customers by calling the new smartphone the iPhone 13 instead of the iPhone 12s. But I guarantee that many of those complaining will be up at midnight in a few days trying to pre-order the new phone that they are so upset about.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 Heads Towards Perfection

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

It’s a tough thing to say, and Apple fans may get upset. But I’m going to declare that Samsung has finally made an equal alternative to the Apple Watch, and — in some ways — it’s actually better. It has all the health tracking, time tracking, and coolness of the Apple Watch. It’s a shame Apple users can’t at least experience it — that is, unless they buy an Android phone.

The Galaxy Watch 4 has a 44mm round display that will remind people of the Galaxy Watch Active series. If you want something a little more sophisticated, you can buy the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, which is made of stainless steel. Both watches are absolutely gorgeous. The Super AMOLED display looks very crisp, and the round shape of the watch only brings out the colors more. There are many different eye popping watch faces to chose from. You’ll have more people noticing your watch than you will with any other smartwatch.

Even though the Watch 4 has moved to Wear OS, it still feels like a Samsung Tizen watch. For one thing, there is no Google Voice compatibility yet, so one has to suffer with the insufferable Bixby — Samsung’s failed answer to Siri and Google Voice. It’s important to note that the Samsung Health app is almost exactly the same as it was on previous Samsung watches, but that’s not a bad thing.

Samsung throws everything but the kitchen sink at the Watch 4 in terms of health features. The most prominent new addition is body analyses, which (allegedly) measures one’s body fat percentage, skeletal muscle mass, and body water. I find this feature to be highly inaccurate, especially since the measurements can drastically vary from two different measurements taken within five minutes. However, the other health fitness features are top notch. Samsung has come a long way from its first Galaxy Watch in terms of measuring steps, calories, heart rate, etc.

Samsung's new watch is thin and stylish

Samsung’s new watch has something in common with Apple’s: It doesn’t have the best battery life. I have not been able to get two full days of battery life…ever. This is with brightness turned up only 50 percent. The battery life certainly isn’t a deal killer, but it’s just not that great.

The Watch 4 is not perfect, but it’s getting there. Samsung smartphone users have always wished that there could be an Android equivalent of the Apple Watch. I’m happy to say that the dream has finally been realized.

Posted in Review | Tagged | Leave a comment

Two Days With The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: The Good And The Bad

Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 Is now available.

It has been a difficult task getting a hold of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3. Moral of the story: Don’t ever pre-order anything from Best Buy and expect your order to arrive on release day as promised. But, I digress.

I’m not going to get into details, but I got a hold of The Z Fold 3 after hours of trying to do so. Was it worth all the effort? For the most part, yes. There are many minor improvements when compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 2. But I’m not sure the Z Fold 3 is completely ready for prime time. It’s still more of a niche product, though it is excellent at being that. Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives.

First, the positives:

Beautiful Screen

I didn’t think there would be much of a change from the Z Fold 2, which already had an excellent screen. But the Z Fold 3 gets noticeably brighter. And that makes it easier to use outside. But you may not want to turn up the brightness too much, and I’ll explain why when I get to the negatives (cough…battery life…cough).

Much-Improved Software Experience

Multitasking is a pleasure. You can put two apps side by side or vertically. If you want, you can even operate three apps at once. There are more apps this time around that work with multitasking.

The coolest thing is the “Labs” setting, which lets you optimize most apps for the screen. For example, I was able to force Instagram to be displayed across the full screen. You can change aspect ratios for almost any app. There are other things you can do to optimize apps, but I haven’t gone through all the settings.

Overall, it just feels more like a tablet experience than a tablet phone with enlarged apps made only for smartphones. There are many apps that are made for “Flex” mode which allows — when folded — an app to operate on the top half while the controls and options are on the underneath half. You can also turn off the “Flex” mode if you don’t mind a full-screen app when folded. I like watching Hulu this way.

Videos look quite interesting with the screen folded.

S Pen

Unfortunately, finding the new S Pen at a store is even more difficult than finding the actual Galaxy Z Fold 3. I was able to try it out at the store, and I really like it. Yes, it’s a real bummer that you have to spend $50 on a specialized S Pen for the Fold, but once you use it, you’ll forget about the price. The writing is smooth, there is barely any lag while writing, and the convenience is fantastic. The specialized S Pen doesn’t have all the complete features of the regular S Pen, but it’s still a great addition to the Fold.

Now, the negatives:

Battery Life

I can confirm the battery life, so far, is slightly worse than it was on the Galaxy Z Fold 2. I had to recharge the new Fold after playing Netflix for almost 4 hours. There is no way the Fold 3 is going to last you all day, so please bring a charger to avoid frustration.

Playing games on the Fold 3 can eat up a lot of battery life in a short time.

The Front Screen

It would be great if you could just operate the phone from the front, when it’s folded, if you want to. Technically, you can. However, the Galaxy Z Fold 3′s front screen is just damn too thin for most eyes (and fingers). It would be great if they can come up with a more square option on next year’s fold, but that may not be possible with the way the phone is engineered when put into tablet mode.

Under-the-Display Selfie Camera

On paper, putting the tablet selfie camera under the screen sounds groundbreaking and cool. However, you can still see the camera – it looks like a bunch of pixels. Your eyes will ignore it after a while, but for those who have OCD — it’s visibly there. And the pictures it take take a hit, although Samsung does do some weird post processing.

This isn’t too much of a big deal, especially because one can take selfies with the main camera since the outside screen works as a viewfinder. One can also fold up the phone completely and take pictures with the front camera. Still, I would have rather Samsung put a decent selfie camera on the main tablet screen.

Conclusion

The Galaxy Z Fold 3′s positives easily outweigh the negatives. However, the negatives are important to stress if one is going to spend $1800 (before major discounts) on Samsung’s new foldable. Let’s hope that Samsung will move their next Foldable from the niche bin into the permanent square with the Fold 4.

Posted in Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: Hands On Impressions

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

While most of the attention for Samsung has been on the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the Korean company has a much cheaper foldable phone (although $1,000 isn’t cheap) that’s also being released on August 27. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a candy bar shaped foldable phone. It’s not a regular-sized phone that opens into a tablet. It’s a miniature phone that folds out into a regular one.

That may not sound too exciting, but once you get your hands on the Z Flip 3, you’ll be quite impressed. It’s not a phone that you’ll immediately say, “I gotta have it!” However, it’s also not something that you’ll scuff at either. There may just be a market for it.

At $1,000, the Flip 3 costs around the same amount as the most advanced smartphones out there like the Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro. You’ll definitely be impressed with how solid it feels in your hand. The Super AMOLED screen is beautiful, but you can still notice the crease in the middle, although it’s not a deal breaker. I did notice that my fingerprints were easily able to smother the screen.

When the phone is completely folded, you can still get instant messages and emails, though you’ll be less frustrated if you just open up the phone to view them. Still, Samsung made a huge improvement when compared to the cover screen on the previous Z Flip.

The main problem with the Z Flip 3 is that even though it folds out into the size of a full smartphone, it doesn’t offer the same cameras as Samsung’s other high-end phones. On the back, you get 12MP wide and 12MP ultra-wide lenses along with a 10MP lens on the front. But the pictures just don’t look like they should in 2021. There seems to be something missing, but perhaps I need to play around more with the settings.

The Z Flip 3 battery life is adequate but not great.

The dual 3,300mAh batteries won’t help the new Z Flip last all day for power users. With all things considered, the battery life isn’t a deal killer, but one can only hope Samsung improves the battery life on their next Z Flip.

I definitely need more time to spend with Samsung’s new Flip foldable to make a complete conclusion. However, even though I can comfortably say that it’s a phone I’ll never buy, I can’t say that when it comes to others. The coolness factor may just overcome the Z Flip 3′s disabilities, and it may become a hit for Samsung.

Posted in Review | Tagged | Leave a comment

Galaxy Z Fold 3: Hands-On Impressions

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is available for pre-order

Some Samsung faithful nerds might be disappointed at the official announcement of the Z Fold 3 (sometimes written as Fold3). After all, at first glance, it doesn’t look much different from the Fold 2. There’s the same strangely-shaped 6.2-inch cover screen and the 7.6-inch screen that it unfolds to. There’s not any improvement in the cameras, except that the hole-punch camera on the inside is now under the screen.

I wasn’t too excited when I went to try out the phone yesterday. However, as soon as I put the phone in my hands, I not only knew I was holding a fantastic high-end phone, but I was able to easily tell some differences when compared to the previous generation Fold.

Lighter

The Z Fold 2 weighed 282 grams, while the new Fold weighs 271 grams. It seems small on paper, but you can definitely tell the difference when the phone is folded and when it is open. Overall, it just feels better in the hands.

120Hz Front Screen

This year's Fold has a 120Hz front screen.

Last year’s Fold had a 120Hz screen when opened, but the front screen was only 60Hz. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but the improvement is very noticeable and pleasing to the eyes and fingers.

Brighter Tablet  Screen

Last year’s Super AMOLED tablet screen was sharp and colorful, but it wasn’t very bright. It wasn’t that big of a deal unless you used the Fold in direct sunlight. This year’s screen is noticeably brighter. Samsung claims it’s 29 percent brighter, and my eyes very much appreciate it.

S Pen Support

In my enthusiastic review of last year’s Fold 2, I indicated how having S Pen support would make the Fold perfect. Well, now it does. But it’s not perfect. If you think the S Pen stylus you have from your Note or Galaxy Tab is going to work, think again.

Since the screen is more fragile, the Fold 3 requires a special “Fold Edition” Pen that has a lighter and rounder tip. The S Pen Pro will also work with the new Fold. However, there is no built-in storage on the Fold 3 for the S Pen, so you will need to buy a special case or just trust that you won’t lose it.

IPX8 Water-Resistant

Are you one of those people who has a habit of dropping your phone in the toilet or the swimming pool? Well, there is no need to worry about doing this with your Fold 3, which has an IPX8 rating. That means splashes and droplets of water will not hurt it. In addition, this rating means the smartphone-tablet combo can be submersed in up to 1.5 meters of water for a half hour.

This year's Fold is more affordable.

Price

Last year’s Fold 2 started out at $199.99. This year’s Fold 3, with its improvements, starts out at $1799.99. That’s still a lot of money, but it will help sell the phone to more mainstream customers. There’s also some great deals you can get with trade-ins.

Conclusion

The Z Fold 3 is anything but a disappointment. It’s a great refinement of the Z Fold 2, and its cheaper price and improved hardware (along with software) could make this the breakthrough hit Samsung has aimed for with their foldable devices.

 

Posted in Review | Tagged | Leave a comment

Apple Watch Series 7: What To Expect

The Apple Watch has become an important part of people's lives.

The Apple Watch took a couple years to catch on, but it was unstoppable once it did. According to 9to5Mac, there are more than 100 million people wearing one — and that was said by an analyst in February. The Watch hasn’t drastically changed over the past few years, and the motto — if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it — appears to be working well for Apple.

The Apple Watch 7, which is expected to be launched in September, will have one major upgrade according to MacRumors. 

“Apple may skip adding new health sensors to this year’s Apple Watch Series 7 in favor of improving the device’s battery life. The company is said to be adopting new double-sided System in Package (SiP) technology to reduce the size of Apple Watch’s processor.”

As someone who thinks one shouldn’t have to charge the Apple Watch every day or even every 36 hours, this is a major upgrade. Any smartwatch should last most users at least a couple of days. The current Apple Watch is an amazing device, but its battery life is shorter than it is on many other brands.

According to CNET, some other changes could include a flat-edge design, more color options (possibly green), and a possible glucose monitor. It appears that the cost of the watch will remain the same and that it may be announced on September 6.

The next Apple Watch will have more color options.

It’s highly likely that the Series 7 will be released the same time as watchOS 8, a much improved operating system for Apple Watch users. According to Apple’s website, the operating system will offer more convenient access to Apple Wallet, a redesigned Home app (will offer you ability to control devices in your room), new workout selections (including Tai Chai and Pilates), sleep respiratory rates, more photo engagement, a new Contacts app, and multiple timers.

I would love more than anything if Apple included a camera on the Watch. In the first place, it would be great to unlock the watch through Apple’s facial recognition software. In addition, can you imagine making FaceTime calls from your Watch? It is definitely possible with Apple’s processing power. However, privacy concerns will keep a camera off the Watch for several future generations. It could become a huge workplace liability.

I would also like the Apple Watch to be able to recognize if you are driving, thus turning off notifications. It’s easy to forget to turn on “Do Not Disturb” on the Watch or iPhone. Doing this can possibly save lives — or at the very least — accidents. Apple already has a patent for this, but they need to turn it into a reality.

The Apple Watch is slowly transforming from being the iPhone’s sidekick to becoming a solo productivity device. The Apple Watch 7 will continue pushing the Watch in the right direction.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , | Leave a comment