Yes, Digital Cameras Still Exist

Are digital cameras still relevant? Sort of. It’s true that smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and the iPhone X can replace digital cameras for about 90 percent of the population. But for the 10 percent who rely more on professional pictures, a digital camera is still the way to go (that’s not saying the iPhone X or S9 Plus can’t take professional pictures at times).

Mirrorless Cameras

The rage over the past couple of years has been over mirrorless cameras. They existed before, but have recently become mainstream. As PC Magazine notes, a mirrorless camera accepts different lenses. The body is thinner than a digital SLR (DSLR) camera since it doesn’t use a mechanical mirror to switch the scene between the optical viewfinder and image sensor. 

Perhaps the most talked-about mirrorless camera of the past year is the Sony RX100 V, a pocketable camera that costs almost $1000.

Sony's RX1000 V has been called a "miniature masterpiece."

The RX1000 V not only provides continuous shots at 24fps;  it records stereo 4K videos as well. It also has advanced AF/AE tracking. Sony’s camera also allows you to make still shots from your 4K videos. Sony claims the auto-focus is so good that you can easily capture someone running, take a picture at any moment, and have it look like a regular still picture instead of the person looking like jello.

The downside is that it only comes with a 3.6x zoom lens — but that should be more than adequate for most people. This is definitely a camera that this blog will take an even closer look at in the near future.

DSLR Cameras

If you want an optical viewfinder with a camera that has an interchangeable lens, DSLR is still the way to go. It’s always been the most popular type of camera for professionals. And although there are some smaller DSLR cameras, most photographers don’t care about size when purchasing one.

Canon is arguably the most popular company for DSLR cameras, and the EOS Rebel T7i has been one of their biggest sellers.

The EOS Rebel T7i has earned rave reviews.

At $750, it isn’t cheap, but it has a lot of great features. PC World gave it an Editor’s Choice award.

“The new sensor impresses, as does the 45-point autofocus system backed up by excellent live view AF, while the newly designed graphical interface will certainly make this camera even more appealing to new users.”

Unfortunately, the EOS Rebel doesn’t take 4K videos like the higher-end Rebel models do. However, according to just about everybody who has used the camera, it takes amazing pictures.

Point and Shoot Cameras

Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Samsung, and other companies still make the point-and-shoot cameras that were popular 10 years ago. Higher end point-and-shoots cost around $500, but you can still get a decent one for under $200. The cameras on the iPhone X, Google Pixel, and Samsung Galaxy S series are now as good as the point-and-shoots (in some ways, better) and that is why this category of digital cameras has faded the most. 

The Future

Many claim that in the near future, mirrorless digital cameras will replace DSLR cameras. But it’s also possible that smartphone cameras, which will have interchangeable lenses, will replace everything. It’s hard to predict the future of digital photography.

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A Look At RAVPower’s HyperAir Wireless Charging Stand

I get a lot of  small technology items in my mailbox, and admittedly, many of those things end up not being opened. But I do donate a lot of these unwanted items to schools and nursing homes. However, when I was sent RAVPower’s HyperAir wireless charging stand, I was intrigued. This is mostly because I’ve had the RAVPower Turbo+ series 20100mAh charger for almost two months, and I can’t live without it.

The Turbo+ charger is a lifesaver that has helped keep my devices charged when I’ve barely been at home. It’s the best $40 I’ve spent in the past five years, although Amazon now lists it for $49.99. So, I was excited to try the HyperAir Wireless, even though I’m not quite into wireless chargers. I’ve always thought they looked cool, but why not just use a wired charger since it charges a lot faster?

Charging the Galaxy Note 8 with the RAVPower HyperAir

The HyperAir, however, is different. It provides 7.5W charging for the iPhone X (two hours and 20 minutes for full charge), and 10W charging for Android devices (it takes four hours to completely charge the Galaxy S8). It took a little longer than four hours to charge my Galaxy Note 8. The convenience, of course, is that you don’t have to plug the phone in — you just put it on a stand overnight. And it’s a comfortable stand.

My first wireless charging stand was from Samsung, and it came with my Galaxy S7 purchase. However, it was sort of bulky, and despite the fact that “fast charging” was on the label, it didn’t charge so fast. So, I decided to just go with plugs. But the HyperAir charger is not only portable; it’s very comfortable. And you can run your fingers all over the screen of your device while it’s on the stand without worrying about the phone flipping over.

I have a plastic sleeve on my iPhone X, and the HyperAir charges it almost as fast with it on as it does without it. I could easily take the sleeve off every time I need to charge the phone, but it’s not worth the slightly faster charge. In 30 minutes, I went from a 50 percent charge to 60 percent.

The RAVPower HyperAir comes with a small (but thick) plug and cord.

Another big difference between this charger and others I’ve tried is that, thankfully, it doesn’t get too hot, even after several hours of use. After  the whole Galaxy Note 7 debacle, I’ve been afraid of things getting so hot that there will be an explosion.

So, is this something I would personally buy? Perhaps not — only because I’m still not blown away by wireless chargers. But others, including many of my colleagues, feel differently. If you are going to purchase a wireless charger, the HyperAir is not only a worthwhile purchase, but it’s made by RAVPower — the company that makes the best charging devices in the business.

 

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iPad Pro (10.5-Inch) Is Still Wonderful, But Feels Outdated

A new iPad Pro may be available sometime in June. Trusted Reviews has the news.

“Rosenblatt Securities analyst Jun Zhang told investors that the firm will unveil the new iPad Pro in June, when it will also start accepting orders, before noting that it should have somewhere in the region of six to eight million units ready for launch day.”

I posted a positive early-impressions review  of the iPad Pro 10.5 last June, and still stick to my word: The iPad Pro is a beautiful tablet with a game-changing screen (120Hz refresh rate), and using it with the Apple Pencil feels very natural. Fry’s has the iPad Pro on sale right now for $100 off (most models), and it’s a fantastic buy if you can’t wait until June.

2017's 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the ultimate consumption device.

I have been using the iPad Pro for the first time in months today. And I must say that as impressed as I am with it, the tablet feels somewhat outdated after the release of the iPhone X. The main reason is that the bezels on top and below the screen seem huge in comparison to the new iPhone and even Samsung’s new devices. Some may argue the seemingly large bezels are good since it makes it easier to handle the tablet.

The next iPad Pro is set to get rid of the Home button (and fingerprint scanner) and rely on Face ID. I still think the fingerprint scanner provides better security and unlocks devices faster. I’ve been using the X for four months, and I still miss the fingerprint scanner. However, having the extra screen space is worth getting rid of any buttons below the screen, and I can only imagine the extra screen space on a device like the iPad Pro would be even more pleasing.

Will new iPad Pro have dual-lens camera like the iPhone X?

There are rumors that the next iPad could have a dual-lens camera, but would it be worth it for Apple to put one in? Most people rarely take pictures with their iPads unless they work in real estate or showbiz. Perhaps I am underestimating the iPad Pro’s audience.

One thing that Apple will most likely not put into the new iPad Pro is an OLED screen, which would make the device cost a lot more than it would without it. Besides, Apple’s True Tone LED display is just as good, in many ways, as an OLED sceen. The problem with LED screens is that they have an unnecessary amount of backlight bleed. However, this is rarely the case with Apple’s screens.

I still think that those who believe the iPad Pro is a laptop replacement have never used a real laptop. But the Pro is the best media consumption mobile device around, and for the first time in years, I am actually excited about Apple’s new updated iPad Pro. 

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Samsung Galaxy S9+ Is Boring…Only At First Glance

My local Best Buy has the Galaxy S9 and S9+ on display. I walked by both phones not realizing that they were actually the S9 and the S9+. But I then, I heard a salesman talking about them to another customer. I had to check them out.

For this article, I’m going to talk mostly about the Galaxy S9+ since it’s the phone I spent about 10 minutes with. I can’t give a full review until after March 16, when the phone goes on sale. Perhaps Samsung will send me a review unit before that. For now, I can say that the phone is, in no way, a failure. It may be a boring upgrade, but it’s still a great smartphone.

The only difference I noticed right away between the S8+ is that the bezels are definitely smaller. I’m not sure that’s a great thing since it will be easier now to accidentally touch the screen. And the phone seems slightly heavier as well. But when you turn the phone around, you now see a dual-lens vertical camera with the fingerprint lens underneath it. One of the only criticisms of last year’s S8+ was that it was easy to accidentally touch the camera lens instead of the fingerprint reader, which was right next to it.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ has an updated camera and fingerprint reader.

The actual screen on the S9+ is almost exactly like the screen on the S8+, except it does get a little brighter. It would be difficult to understand why one would want to turn the S9+ on full brightness; it’s blindingly bright. Some are upset that Samsung has continued to provide a Quad HD+ screen rather than a 4K screen, but the latter would be overkill and a battery life killer.

In my tests with the camera, the Galaxy S9+ was better than the Galaxy Note 8, which also has a dual-lens camera. I couldn’t take any pictures in low light since there was florescent lighting all over the place. The pictures looked great, but maybe not “iPhone X” great. But I can’t make a definite decision until I use the camera under different lighting levels. It’s important to experiment with all of the S9+ camera features as well.

The Galaxy S9+ is gorgeous, but not a "must-upgrade" type of device.

Is the Galaxy S9+ worth upgrading to if you have the Galaxy S8+? If photos are important, I would say that it may be worth the upgrade if you have a little cash to spare. Is it worth upgrading to if you have the Galaxy Note 8? Definitely not! But the S9+ is certainly no “failure” and is not as boring as some made it out to be when it was announced last week. Much to the anger of Apple fanboys, the Galaxy S9+ will be a hit.

 

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5G Is Being Deployed, But There’s Still A Wait For Consumers

“If 3G ‘was like a junior high school rock band,’ 4G was a louder high school rock band and 5G is a full orchestra,” says AT&T chief technology officer Andre Fuetsch, according to USA Today. This comment came after a bunch of 5G demonstrations at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona this past weekend, where the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ were also unveiled.

Right as we speak, T-Mobile is building its 5G network in places such as New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas. AT&T plans to offer mobile 5G to customers in a dozen cities by the end of this year (but without 5G phones?), and Verizon is launching 5G in five cities this year. At least Verizon admits that its 5G service will be available for residential broadband rather than mobile devices.

So what about the rest of us? There isn’t any smartphone maker who is making a 5G phone for release this year. It’s quite logical that 5G smartphones will start to arrive in 2019, but even that’s not completely guaranteed. And will 5G really be that much faster than 4G for the average consumer?

Well, nobody can agree on how fast 5G networks will be. Some say that the new networks will average 10 to 20 Gbps, possibly making it three to five times as fast as 4G networks, depending on which one you use. When using Verizon’s 4G network, I find myself getting an average of 5 Gbps in Southern California. T-Mobile’s 4G network, when not throttled, usually offers around 3 Gbps. Let’s put it this way — I never find myself complaining the network is too slow.

5G speeds will enhance VR industry.

Putting the numbers aside, a 5G network would enable you to watch a 4K (or even an 8K) broadcast without any lag. It would allow you to easily access VR apps and 360 degree videos that don’t look like you are encompassed in the middle of a VHS video. It could be revolutionary if VR catches on. Instead of FaceTiming your friend in Hawaii, you can VRTime that friend and transfer (virtually, of course) to their environment. There really is a lot of potential.

The cost to run the 5G networks will be very high, and it will certainly affect your cellular bill. Nobody seems to know exactly how much it will hurt your wallet. But it’s possible that unlimited 5G will run you at least $100 a month. Of course, not everybody will need unlimited 5G, so most bills will rise about $30 to $50. But once people see what 5G can do, they’ll want unlimited data. And wireless carriers will take advantage of that. Now, all we can do is wait.

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Exploring Technology In New Mercedes-Benz

You really have to excuse me with this. Yes, I write about technology — mostly smartphones and laptops. But one can argue that car technology is just as important. However, I just don’t have a passion for cars. Part of it is because if I became obsessed with cars like I am with smartphones and laptops, I would probably be kicked to the streets for not being able to pay my bills. I’ve always looked at a car as something that gets me from point A to point B, and nothing else.

Perhaps this is because I have never owned a luxury car. This week, I am visiting my brother and his family in Atlanta, GA, and he had to leave early on a business trip. Fortunately, he also had to leave his brand new Mercedes-Benz, which he just purchased last week, behind. And now that I’ve used it for the past two days, I wish I made enough money to afford a luxury car like this. Yes, many of the features are things you don’t need. But they are also incredibly cool to have.

Getting into my brother's new Mercedes-Benz

I was scared when I first got into the car. I looked at all the buttons and said, “What are these for?” Then, I saw that there was a rear-view camera (my Toyota Corolla iM has this), Bluetooth connectivity, a Wi-Fi Hotspot (haven’t figured out how to use it yet), a 7-inch entertainment display, USB-A input, USB-C input, Micro-USB input, etc. The only thing missing is the automatic coffee maker.

Thank god for YouTube, which helped me figure out what all the buttons are for. I just wanted to make the seat comfortable and mirrors viewable for my drive. I’m so used to jumping in, pulling a lever, etc. But even though it was more difficult to do all this the first time, it actually makes things easier in the long-run. It’s also great that you can program different seat and mirror settings for whoever drives the car.

An electric button for everything

The car is voice-controlled (though I still don’t trust voice-controlled automobiles), alerts you when you veer off your lane, and can sense when you are about to collide with another car. The  KEYLESS-GO system completely threw me off, and I thought something was wrong when I locked the doors, but they would still unlock when I opened them right away (that’s because the car can sense you are there).

But the best part of the whole experience was actually driving the car. I didn’t want to abuse my brother’s kindness, and only took the car to the gym, the grocery store, and out to meet a friend. I’d really like to take it speeding on a highway or rummage though the dirt. Still, I’ve been more than happy to drive the car that seemes like something out of a futuristic dream just 20 years ago.

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Will Sony’s Xperia Ear Duo Right The Wrongs Of WF-1000X Earbuds?

Sony XPeria Ear Duo

Sony’s XPeria Ear Duo Bluetooth wireless earbuds (well, they are bigger than most earbuds) have been demonstrated at many mobile events over the past year. However, this past weekend, Sony officially announced at WMC 2018  that the Xperia Ear Duo would hit the market soon. Android Police has the news.

 ”So Sony is following up now on its original Xperia Ear, which eventually launched in October of 2016, with an upgraded model dubbed the Xperia Ear Duo.”

While this article refers to them as an upgrade of the Xperia Ear Duo, others believe this is an upgrade to the WF-1000X buds.  The article adds that Sony claims the buds provide an unparalleled ambient experience through “Dual Listening” technology that lets you listen to music, hear your notifications, and even hear all surrounding sounds at the same time. The headset adjusts the volume based on your environment.

Sony's latest "earbuds" will cost $279.

Gareth Beavis of Tech Radar spend some time with the Duo, and thinks they are innovative and weird.

“Hmmmm – these are weird, but innovative. There’s something cool here, but perhaps they’re a bit on the bulky side. The sound quality is better than expected and they offer an element of safety other headphones don’t.”

Beavis adds that the earbud-like headphones are a little difficult to put on. He says you can easily hear conversations around you while listening to music. I’ve read plenty of articles about the XPeria Ear Duo, and it sounds like they are similar to the AirPods — there is absolutely no sound isolation. I don’t know how that makes the Ear Duo groundbreaking, but perhaps I’m missing something.

Sony came out with their first set of earbuds in September. The WF-1000X seemed promising at first. But after you use them for a day, you experience their faults. This is why Sony had to reduce the price by as much as $40 over the past six months. Not only is the phone quality awful, but there are connection issues as well. You could try a software update, but that has caused a lot of problems as well. The best thing about the WF-1000X is that they have active noise cancellation that works well. And they offer decent sound quality. But the WF-1000X is still a half-baked product.

It’s understandable that the Ear Duo buds won’t have noise cancellation — they are not made for that. Let’s hope that there aren’t any reports of connection issues when they are finally released. Let’s also hope that Ear Duo buds can be used for high-quality phone calls no matter what environment you are in. Sony’s quality control department better be on the ball before these things are released.

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The Galaxy S9 And S9+ Have Been Announced, And There Should Be More Excitement

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

On Sunday, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ were announced. The S9 has a 5.8-inch screen, runs the latest version of Android Oreo, and has a camera designed to maximize low-light photos. Unfortunately, the S9 still has one lens, but at least the fingerprint reader has been moved underneath.

The Galaxy S9+ has the same-size screen (6.2-inches) as the S8+ from last year, and also gets a dual-lens camera, which some say is even better than the one on the iPhone X. It really does look like the Galaxy Note 8 but without a stylus.

The comments coming from most people seem to be that these upgrades are boring.

“I’ve just live-blogged my way through the Samsung Galaxy S9 launch, and the one thing that struck me was… well, how little struck me,” says Gareth Beavis of Tech Radar, who admits that some of it has to do with how often the Galaxy S9 features were leaked.

The most exciting thing about both the Galaxy S9 and S9+ appears to be the camera.

Samsung has added a dual-lens camera to the S9 Plus.

“When you take a picture with the S9, you actually capture 12 images simultaneously. The phone then compares all exposures to create a single shot that includes all the detail you want, but with as little grain and noise as possible,” says Nate Lanxton of Bloomberg Technology

But the one feature that everybody isn’t talking about is the fact that both the S9 and S9+ will now have stereo speakers. When Apple added stereo speakers to the iPhone 7, that was an underrated feature as well. But once consumers got their hands on Apple’s new device, there was nothing but praise for Apple being able to fit great-sounding stereo speakers in such a small device.

Zach Epstein of BGR says that despite the lack of hype, he found both the S9 and S9+ to be mind-blowing. He notes that not only have the bezels around the screen been reduced, but that the glass is more durable, the casing is stronger, and the models are slightly smaller (although thicker). He says that the significant improvements happen inside.

Samsung’s big upgrade with the Galaxy S8 series happened last year, and they succeeded where they needed to after the disastrous release of the Galaxy Note 7 in 2016. Perhaps Samsung is being right by playing it safe. It’s also possible — as others have noted — that Samsung is getting ready to release the foldable Galaxy smartphone. Though the Galaxy S9 and S9+ may not be exciting to most people, Samsung may just surprise everybody by the end of 2018.

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Dell XPS 13 9370 Now Available In White, And It Looks Beautiful

I gave my first impressions of the new Dell XPS 13 9370 earlier this month, and I was — for the most part — impressed. I didn’t think that the white version of the device (with rose gold badk) would make a difference, but it does.

This version of the XPS 13 makes the screen look even better. The colors stand out more, and that may be hard to understand since there is more contrast with a darker border and a bright screen. But the border on the XPS 13 (possibly because it’s so small) just accentuates even more how great this 4K screen is.

The palm rest now has a slighly-textured woven glass palm rest, and it feels great. Supposedly, the titanium oxide coating helps keep stains off the laptop. I wish the same thing can be said about the touchscreen, but when you touch it with greasy fingers, you know what you are getting into. I think the Windows 10 gestures and excellent trackpad make touching the screen unnecessary, but everybody does things differently. It’s important to note that even though the Dell XPS 13 has a touchscreen, it’s not made for digital inking.

The Dell XPS 13 9370 is thin and powerful.

After extensively using both the dark gray and white versions of the new XPS 13 (8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD), I do notice that the device is a little slower that one would expect. After all, the 7th gen Intel Core i5 processor on the MacBook Pro moves most tasks along faster than the better processor on the XPS 13. But when editing 4K videos, the XPS 13 did so noticeably better without any hiccups.

The keyboard feels slightly different on the white version of the XPS 13 than the dark gray one. The keys still have only a small amount of travel, but have more of a “click” feeling to them. It really makes me appreciate how Dell could fit in a regular keyboard on this device instead of completely flattening the keys like Apple has done with their latest laptops. I can type fast on both, but it’s easier to make a mistake on the MacBook Pro than it is with the XPS 13.

I am really in awe of this laptop, and I may actually sell my Surface Book 2 to get it. After all, the Microsoft Store has it for just $1,399, and I am able to get an educator’s discount. A comparable version of the MacBook Pro (when ordered with the i7 processor) costs almost $200.

The XPS 13 9370 provides a great keyboard experience.

It’s interesting to point out that after using two different new XPS 13 devices, neither show extensive light bleed. I can’t say the same about recently using PC laptop devices from Lenovo, Microsoft, or even HP. Most people don’t care because they don’t actually see the light bleed unless they are actually in a very dark room.

Dell has become the new “Apple” in terms of making top-quality laptops. Now, if Dell can improve their marketing and customer service the same way they have done with quality control, the company can become the hottest PC laptop maker in the world.

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Apple’s New HomePod Sounds REALLY Good

The HomePod is an amazing-sounding device.

The HomePod has its share of mixed reviews. The problem seems to be with Siri, which allegedly works just over half the time on the HomePod. That said, this is just about the best sounding device I have ever heard. Of course, you can’t fully appreciate the sound unless you are in front of the HomePod, but here is a clip I took of the device at Best Buy this past weekend.

Click to play in YouTube.

“Animals” by Martin Garrix usually shows off bass more than any other song on a portable speaker. Unfortunately, this video doesn’t get to the “meat” of the first verse where the bass is absolutely pumping. It’s almost more of a pleasure listening to music on the HomePod than it is listening on a stereo system.

I heard that the HomePod sounded good from peers who tried out the device. However, I wasn’t prepared for just how good it sounded. The bass was rich with absolutely no distortion, and the treble was very well balanced. I actually would have purchased the HomePod instantly if it were a wireless speaker that didn’t need to be plugged in all the time. I, as well as others watching, were absolutely fascinated by how the sound filled up the huge space by all the Apple products. Perhaps some Best Buy workers, however, were a little annoyed with me. So, I went back again Monday morning. This next clip was recorded in stereo.

Click to play in YouTube.

According to Ars Technica, Reddit audiophiles say that the HomePod sounds better than some $1000 speakers. For example, after a series of tests with a calibrated microphone in an untreated room, one user found the HomePod to sound better than the KEF X300A, a well-liked bookshelf speaker that costs $999. However, the writer of the article, Jeff Dunn, admits that he is in the process of reviewing the HomePod, and his tests aren’t as positive.

I’m not a staunch audiophile, and I believe that’s a good thing for reviewing several audio products for this blog. I listen as a consumer would, even though I have a lot more knowledge than the average consumer when it comes to different aspects of audio products. I also don’t work for Apple, which is obvious since I sometimes criticize their products. But I highly suggest that if you have some free time this week, get yourself over to a Best Buy or Apple Store and listen to the HomePod. The sound will absolutely blow you away.

 

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