Samsung Galaxy S8: It’s Make-It-Or-Break-It Time For Samsung

On Wednesday, March 29, Samsung will announce the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ smartphones. The Galaxy S8 will be a 5.9-inch phone, while the Galaxy S8 Plus will be a 6.2-inch device. Both screens will have a 2960 x 1440 pixel resolution. Both phones will also sport a 12MP rear camera and an 8MP front-facing camera.

As the Verge notes, the Galaxy S8 devices will have a very different design that doesn’t feature a home button. The front of the smartphones appears to be all screen and no bezel. The screen is also curved at both ends. The device looks like a real treat.

Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung really needs to deliver with the Galaxy S8, especially after the whole Note 7 debacle.  I owned the device when it came out in August of last year. The Note 7 did get really warm, but never blew up in my face. My replacement unit, which I got at the end of September, was fine too. Still, Samsung had a recall for the recalled devices, and your device was practically bricked through a software update if you still kept it. It was enough for me to never want to buy anything from Samsung again.

You know that if just one new Galaxy S8 device catches fire, the media will be all over it. As a matter of fact, in this age of “fake news,” I’d be surprised if some media outlet doesn’t purposely blow up a Galaxy S8 in order to create a story that will create a lot of clicks. At the same time, you can bet that Samsung’s quality control was intensive this time around.

Along with the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, Samsung will also be launching a new Gear VR. According to Droid Life, the new Gear VR, which is officially called the Gear VR with Controller, comes with, guess what — a controller! The field of view has also been increased to 101 degrees to provide a more immersive experience.

Since the Galaxy S8 (at least the regular version) will have an increased pixel density, the Gear VR will offer the highest resolution in VR to date. The experience will still make it look like you are looking through a screen door, but the effect will be minimized.

As angry as I was with Samsung last year, I am willing to give them another chance. It’ll be tough deciding between the Galaxy S8 and the S8+, since I do use the Gear VR. I just hope Samsung succeeds this time. When Samsung succeeds, the whole smartphone industry succeeds.

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Apple PowerBeats3: Initial Thoughts

I’ve had hands ears-on experience with the Apple’s PowerBeats3 headphones, which were actually released a few months back. The PowerBeats3 was the first headphone set to be compatible with Apple’s new W1 chip. As soon as you turn the PowerBeats3 on, you get a screen indicator on your iPhone to make a connection. That’s all there is to it.

Two years ago, I reviewed the PowerBeats2 and said they were style over substance. After using the PowerBeats3 for one day, I can safely say that they combine both style and substance to deliver a very good and comfortable listening experience. Here are some more specific observations:

  • These things are stylish. Beats headphones have never had a problem with their looks.
  • The PowerBeats3, as expected, offer a lot of bass. Unlike the PowerBeats2, they also offer decent mid-ranges and very good highs on the sound spectrum. However, the buds that fit me the best had bass that slighly overwhelmed the highs and mid-ranges.

The PowerBeats3 are comfortable.

  • The cord on the PowerBeats3 sometimes gets stuck on my neck. However, for the most part, the headphones are comfortable to wear. And because of the ear rings, you don’t have to worry about them falling out of your ears.
  • The PowerBeats3 offer some sound isolation that will be enough for most. Those who thought the BeatsX sound isolation was too encompassing will appreciate these.
  • Battery life is outstanding. The 12-hour battery life Apple claims on the marketing materials is absolutely correct. Best of all, the PowerBeats3 charge really fast.
  • Phone quality is above average but not excellent. One person I talked to while walking outside said they could hear me, but not all the wind noise was cancelled out.

The PowerBeats3 come with different sized earbuds so one can find the perfect fit.

  • Why do these require a Micro-USB port for charging when they are an Apple product? (Apple purchased Beats in 2014.) This makes certain that iPhone owners will have to carry two different types of cables with them.
  • The case that comes with these is perfect so you can put the PowerBeats3 in your pocket all of the time. However, they can comfortably be worn around your neck with the buds hanging under your shirt when you’re not wearing them.
Beats has certainly improved their headphones over the past four years to offer a more balanced sound quality. The PowerBeats3 aren’t perfect, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. 

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Klipsch Reference X12i Wireless Headphones: Look And Sound Is Pure Class

Klipsch is a lesser-known brand name than Bose, Beats, or Sennheiser, but they make products with comparable sound quality. The case in point is the Reference X12i Bluetooth headphones, which are actually two earbuds that dangle from a neckband made of leather. Although the neckband is heaver than that of the recent Bose QuietControl 30, it is far more comfortable — it’s as if you don’t notice anything is on your neck unless you lean far back.

The X12i Wireless headphones are expensive, but worth the price.

It’s important to note that these headphones, at the price of $399 to $299 (If you can find them at Fry’s now, they are $349 without tax for some reason) will take a bite out of your wallet. But that bite may be worth it if you take your wireless listening needs seriously.

The X12i fit is not only comfortable on your neck, but the buds are comfortable in your ears as well. At first, the included rubber buds may be a little uncomfortable — but that goes away once you get used to them. Besides, Klipsch also includes two foam earbuds, which are like memory foam for your ears. These provide the most comfortable and best listening experience, but they also fall out of their narrow slots easily and you may lose them.

The Klipsch headphones have a very balanced sound.

Although wireless headphones and earbuds are becoming the norm now, the fact is that wireless sound quality still isn’t the same as wired sound. However, it has become very close, and the Kipsch Reference X12i headphones are up there with Sennheiser Momentum 2 Wireless set in providing accurate close-to-audiophile balance and sound quality. The X12i concentrates on the mid-level of the sound spectrum. The highs are there, but not overly powerful. The bass kicks in at the lower spectrum, but doesn’t shake your eardrums.

As with all earbuds, to get the best sound, you need to have the best fit in your ears. The second largest rubber buds did the job for me, but the foam buds were, by far, the most comfortable and provided the best sound.

I haven’t had the chance to test these out with making phone calls enough (I will update once I do), but on the two calls I made, listeners could tell I was on a wireless set, but said that they could still hear me. The phone quality appears to be about as good as the revised Bose QuietControl 30s, which are more than adequate.

I’ve never tested a product by Klipsch before, and really never had the desire to. After using the Reference X12i headphones, I can hardly wait to hear what Klipsch comes up with next.

 

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AirPods: Thoughts On Apple’s Wireless Buds Three Months Later

The AirPods are a hot device. I had mixed feelings when an Apple Store salesman let me try them in December, which I wrote about on Iretron. I mainly had a problem with the lack of bass. However, when I purchased them a week later, I was able to get a better fit in my ears, which allowed for better bass. In fact, I was — in general — very impressed with the AirPods.

I ended up selling my AirPods for the same $160 price I purchased them for. For me, there was one flaw that won’t bother others — the lack of sound isolation. I don’t expect any in-ear buds to have active noise cancellation. At least for now. But almost every earbud product I have used for the past couple of years at least provided some type of noise isolation.

I will say one thing. After using the AirPods for two months, they stayed in my ears 99.9 percent of the time. One time, at the gym, the right bud ejected from my ear when I took my shirt off. I only hit the right bud lightly, but it still fell out. However, it still worked perfectly.

The AirPods never lose a connection with your device.

Another great thing about the AirPods — the connection is perfect. Thanks to the new W1 chip in the iPhone, the AirPods (which have the W1 chip as well) connect just as soon as you take them out of their dental floss-like case. And they stay connected. No matter how much I walked around in Downtown Burbank, Glendale, or even Los Angeles, there was never a skipped sound due to interference.

Then, there is the phone call quality, and I am quite amazed that Apple was able to provide great voice quality on this. Those who I talked to said I sounded just as good as I did when talking on the regular EarPods Apple includes with the iPhone. The AirPods do a good job of blocking out wind and other background noise (at least to the caller on the other end).

After I returned the AirPods, I went back to the Bose QuietControl 30 earphones, where the buds are tied together by wires and a neckband. There were major quality control problems when they were released last October. Bose quietly recalled them and worked out most of the issues before sending them back to the stores this Christmas.

Even if the AirPods aren’t perfect, they have at least become the first legit wireless buds (with no wire or neckband between them) to become a hit with consumers. This will set the stage for more competion and,  hopefully, better products.

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Nintendo Switch: Unboxing And Hands On

I have a Nintendo Switch in my hands and even though I’m not a gamer, I feel proud. The Switch is very hard to come by. My first thought is that it is not as exquisite like other handheld electronics I own, such as the iPhone 7 Plus. Then again, the iPhone 7 Plus is $800, while the Nintendo Switch is $300.

I opened the box and noticed how many things Nintendo puts into the box.

Nintendo packs a lot in the Switch box.

There is the Nintendo Switch console, which reminds me of the Archos media players from last decade. There are the left and right Joy-con controllers, the Joy-con wrist straps, the Joy-con grip, the Nintendo Switch television dock, an HDMI cable, and an A/C adapter, which is larger and heavier than I thought it would be.

The Joy-con controllers fit easily on both sides of the Switch. They don’t feel as flimsy as I thought they would. There have been many complaints about the controllers (the left one in particular) not working, but I haven’t experienced any problems yet. Then again, I’ve only used the unit for two hours — in handheld mode.

The screen on the Switch is fine, but outdated.

There have been people who have complained about dead pixels on their Switch screen, and Nintendo doesn’t think it’s a problem since they believe dead pixels are common on an LCD screen. Yes, they were common in 2010. But this is 2017, and any LCD screen with a dead pixel is not okay. Luckily, my review unit doesn’t have one.

The Switch screen is only a 720p screen, but the unit turns into a full HD (1080p) device when connected to your television set — something I have yet to do. The lighting on the screen is somewhat uneven, but only tech nerds will notice or care. It feels like a screen from 2010, but I have to remember — once again — that is is a $300 device.

I have tried two games with the Switch. The first is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I am not very familiar with the Zelda series and had to watch a YouTube clip in order to even come close to being able to play it. Needless to say, Zelda is fun, visually enticing, and is the type of game you can spend hours playing without realizing hours have gone by. The second game is Blaster Master Zero, an arcade type shoot ‘em up game from the 1980s.

Master Blaster Zero brings back the Gameboy vibes.

Overall, I’m impressed, but not wanting to run out and get the Switch. Perhaps I would if I was more of a gamer. However, no matter how much or little experience you have as a gamer, the main problem right now is the lack of content that is available for the Switch. Hopefully, that will change soon.

 

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F.lux Is The App Every MacBook Owner Needs To Download — Now!

One of the best features of the new iPhone and iPad Pro is the “Night Shift” mode, which turns the screen to a yellowish tint and helps you avoid blue light exposure — the type that keeps you awake. Of course, you want the blue light exposure during the day, but if you — like many others — use your computer or smartphone device before you go to bed, you may have a more difficult time getting to sleep.

I am an insomniac and recently talked to my doctor about this. He asked me if I use my computer before trying to go to sleep — something I admitted to. I was told that studies prove that the light from the computer screen hurts sleep. A more harsh claim from the Huffington Post said that reading on a computer screen before bed might by “killing you.”

“You’ve heard that using screens before bedtime can mess with your sleep, but new research suggests the problem is even more serious. Reading from an iPad before bed not only makes it harder to fall asleep, but also impacts how sleepy and alert you are the next day, according to new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.”

Of course, this can lead to inattentive driving, inattentive walking, and other things. Don’t worry, it hasn’t been said to cause cancer (yet). The article is definitely a case of clickbait, but it does bring up some important points.

Last night, I discovered the app F.lux and can’t believe I hadn’t discovered this app years ago. It makes the display adapt to the time of day you are using your MacBook. However, I didn’t set it automatically; I just need it at night. F.lux turns your screen display into a yellowish tint that is even more inviting than it is on Night Shift mode in iOS. It makes reading so much easier, and I notice my eyes didn’t tear up as much. It really is such a relief.

F.lux is one of the most helpful apps available for the Mac.

I first looked in the settings on macOS Sierra 10.12.2 to see if Night Shift was available. However, I found out it’s only available on the Sierra public beta version 10.12.4, which I didn’t want to install because it is buggy (it’s a beta version, so no criticism there). Then, I searched Google and found F.lux, which is a free download. If you have a Mac or a MacBook, it’s time to download this. It may save you plenty hours of sleep.

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4K TVs Are Cheaper Than Ever, But Where’s The Content?

If you have been holding off on buying a 4K television set, now may be the time to finally take the plunge. My personal recommendation would be a Samsung 4K set since Samsung’s sets offer the most vibrant colors and best contrast ratios. Other people may suggest an LG set. Whatever brand you choose, you can safely make the jump now without spending thousands of dollars.

You can buy a 40-inch Samsung Smart 4K TV at Best Buy for $599, and it has received excellent reviews. A 50-inch 4K TV from Samsung costs $749. If you want to go for a less popular brand, such as VIZIO, you can find a 55-inch 4K TV for under $600. The price of 4K television sets right now are where HD sets were five years ago. Why not take the plunge?

Well, sadly, there may be one valid  reason not to take the plunge just yet — the lack of 4K content. Netflix offers 4K streaming services for a limited selection of movies and shows, but you must have a very fast internet connection for it to work in order to avoid a bunch of stuttering images. 4K Blu-ray players are starting to become mainstream, but there are still a limited amount of titles available.

Netflix has a limited amount of 4K titles.

It’s important to note that regular television still isn’t in 4K yet. HD has been the standard for most programming for the past ten years. And the new television set you buy may not be ready for this. ATSC 3.0, which will enable broadcasters to deliver regular TV in 4K, will only be able on ATSC 3.0 television sets whether the one you own is 4K or not.

However, there are some valid reasons why you would want to buy a 4K TV today. Most of today’s smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7, shoot video in 4K. On many 4K television sets, one can put their videos on an external drive, plug the drive into the 4K TV, and watch their videos in their Ultra HD glory. If you have seen home 4K videos on a television set, you know how good they look.

There are still some people who say they can’t tell a difference between HD videos and 4K videos. Perhaps the videos these people watching aren’t in 4K or they aren’t being displayed in 4K, because there is a noticeable difference. 4K is more immersive than 3D in many ways.

Unlike 3D, 4K doesn’t require any type of glasses, but it needs just a good pair of eyes. Now, we just need the 4K content.

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5G Is About To Become A Reality

4G LTE has been mainstream for about five or six years now. It was going very strong on Verizon in 2011. Then, by the summer of 2012, Sprint’s 4G LTE network started showing up — at least in Los Angeles. There were problems with Sprint’s LTE network because — at least on the iPhone 5 — users kept getting caught up between the 4G and LTE network, which caused web pages not to load and phone calls to drop.

T-Mobile waited until the Summer of 2013 to launch their 4G LTE network nationwide. They were late, but their network worked well when it was launched, was reasonably priced, and helped bring in new customers. Most people have been satisfied with LTE speeds, but if virtual reality becomes more of a mainstream reality, and if cars are going to be driven automatically (we’re talking without actual drivers), a faster network needs to go mainstream. Welcome, 5G.

For the past year or so, we’ve started to hear more about 5G. According to CNET, 5G was a big topic at the latest Mobile World Congress conference. They explain that the technology promises to change our lives by connecting everything around our world to a network that is 100 times faster than our cellular connection and 10 times faster than the speediest home broadband service. Latency issues (lag), which is a big issue with 4G LTE networks no matter how fast they are, will also be fixed.

How soon can we expect 5G networks? According to CNN Money, Verizon recently announced that it will start testing 5G services in 11 different locations — some rural and some urban. The pilot will be available to customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Miami; Sacramento; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

Verizon will be the first to test 5G services in 11 different locations.

This doesn’t mean any customer in these areas can test the 5G service. Verizon claims it will select pilot customers based on how close they are to the new 5G towers and contact them about participating in the trial directly. These customers will need a phone with an advanced modem that can produce 5G speeds. Qualcomm is said to be working on 5G modems as we speak.

It is predicted that 2020 will be the year 5G becomes mainstream. However, you can bet at least one of the carriers (probably Verizon) will roll out their nationwide 5G network before that. Let’s hope the prices for 5G phones and 5G services aren’t astronomical.

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Using Final Cut Pro On 2017 13-Inch MacBook Pro With Touchbar

I think the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar doesn’t deserve to be as controversial as it is; it combines portability, (some) power, and is just an overall beautiful machine. I wish Apple could have upped the 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution screen they’ve kept since late 2012, but the new Wide Color display really makes the colors pop out.

Overall, the new 13-Inch Pro is the perfect machine for a blogger and writer such as myself. It allows me to easily edit pictures in Photoshop and rapidly write down my ideas in Word or OneNote with — at times — a video playing in the background. For my own fun, I use Adobe Illustrator on the Pro as well.

Final Cut Pro works on new 13-inch MacBook Pro for most videos.

I have Final Cut Pro and have used it a couple times over the past couple months to create HD videos, which it does well. Yesterday, I wanted to put together all my 4K videos taken with my Samsung’s Galaxy Note devices and my previous two iPhones. Needless to say, this is where the new 13-inch Pro showed some hiccups.

One rule of thumb: if you are doing a 4K project, import your 4K videos from your external drive to your project. Doing this will save you several minutes, or even an hour. It will also stop the videos from stuttering. Once I did this, there were only a minor amount of hiccups.

Everything was fine building a ten minute 4K video from short videos I had taken over the past year. Then, I sent the video to Compressor so it could output my final project in a high-quality H.264 file, which is a common video file that can compress videos without much of a noticeable loss in quality. I expected it to take about ten minutes. Instead, it took almost a half hour.

Working with 4K videos is difficult on new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

Using CyberLink Power Director on the Dell XPS 15 (2017 Version) put together a 10 minute 4K video in about 10 minutes. But the XPS 15 has a quad-core Intel i7 processor with Nvidia graphics. It also has 16GB of RAM instead of 8GB. The 16GB of RAM allowed me to surf the Internet while the 4K video was editing. Doing so on the 13-inch MacBook Pro was a painful process.

So, what’s the lesson in all of this? The $1799 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is not for video editors or movie makers — although the laptop can certainly do this. If you need to edit 4K videos, which most people will eventually need to do, get the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. However, if you don’t need to use Final Cut Pro, the Dell XPS 15 9560 should be your No. 1 choice.

 

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What’s So Exciting About The Nintendo Switch?

The title of this article is written, of course, as a hypothetical question. It’s something that someone who isn’t into video games (yours truly) would ask. So, let’s take a look at Nintendo’s upcoming gaming device, which is set to be released on March 3.

What Is the Nintendo Switch?

The Nintendo Switch is a gaming console that includes a tablet-like device, which gets docked into a docking station when you want to play it on a monitor. It has a 6.2-inch 720p screen and clip-on controllers that can also be used independently as small gamepads. When docked and attached to a monitor, the Nintendo Switch becomes a 1080p display.

The Nintendo Switch is the most hyped-up gaming system of the year.

When Is It Available?

The Nintendo Switch will be available on Friday, March 3 in the United States. Many Best Buy retail locations will stay open until midnight to sell the device. It is expected to be very difficult to get. Pre-orders for the Switch sold out immediately. If you live in Europe, you will have to wait until March 31.

How Much Does It Cost?

The Switch will cost $300, but you can bet that secondary sellers will raise the price to over $1000.

What Is Included in the Box

The box includes a Switch tablet, a set of Joy-Con controllers, a Joy-Con dock, two wrist straps, and two cables (power and HDMI).

What Games Will Be Available on Launch?

The Nintendo Switch is short on a supply of games.

According to Forbes, the list of games that are being launched keep changing. However, it’s certain that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ($60) will be on sale the same day the Switch goes on sale.

Click to play clip.

However, Snipperclips, a puzzle game, will only cost $20. Games such as World of Goo, Little Inferno and Human Resource Machine may or may not make the release date — if they don’t, you can bet they’ll arrive within the first two weeks of March.

What Are the Critics Saying?

The Nintendo Switch has received mixed reviews so far. Tech Radar praises the design and screen of the Switch, but criticizes the battery life and lack of games available for launch. Polygon also praises the design, but thinks that the Switch may not be ready for prime time yet.

More official reviews will arrive within the next week. No matter how mixed the reviews are, you can bet that initial sales figures for the Nintendo Switch will be incredible.

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