The Nintendo Switch

I got a Nintendo Switch on launch day and now that I have had it for a little over a week, I wanted to give my impressions on the hardware as well as the software that I have played so far. Please note that these impressions are from a lifelong Nintendo fan who has owned every system since the NES.

I have been excited for the Switch ever since Nintendo released their first video for it last year. I read and watched everything that I could building up to the release. I preordered it the day that preorders opened up as well. I also went with a buddy of mine to PAX South in San Antonio early this year, where Nintendo was showing off the Switch to the public for one of the first times. We loved it so much that we waited in the line twice so we could play everything that we wanted! I even lined up with the same friend at Best Buy for the midnight launch to get our games and accessories. So you can imagine my excitement on Friday, March 3rd when I picked up my shiny new Switch from UPS! Below are my likes and dislikes with the Switch itself as well as the games that I have played over the last week.

Hardware

Likes

  • I really like the neon version of the Switch that I picked up, it just has more character than the gray version in my opinion. The colors of the neon red and neon blue Joy Con controllers just really pop.
  • I love the speed of the Switch software! Compared to the slowness of both the Wii U and 3DS’ operating systems, the Switch OS is super fast. Switching between the home menu and the game you are playing is super quick, as is putting the Switch to sleep and waking it back up. Also, the day one patch for the Switch downloaded and installed in less than a minute for me! I don’t believe I ever had an update for the Wii U that didn’t take at least 10-15 minutes to download and install.
  • I was also pleasantly surprised with how quick you can go from TV mode when the Switch is docked to handheld mode when you un-dock it. It happens within a second I would say!
  • I absolutely love the Pro Controller that I picked up along with the Switch. I fell in love with it the first time I used it at PAX South. In my opinion, it is the best controller Nintendo has made so far. It has the perfect weight, great battery life, perfect stick placement, and all of the Amiibo functionality, HD rumble, and motion controls of the other controllers built in. Yes, it is expensive, but to me it is worth the price.
  • Lastly, I just really like the premise of this system. It is great to be able to have a home console that you can also take with you wherever, whether that is on a trip, to the park, or just to the recliner in your living room. I love that with the two Joy Con controllers that it comes with, you are set up for co-op games right out of the box too. Battery life has been fine for me as well. I know people complain about it getting just around 3 hours playing Zelda but have these people ever played with a 3DS? I have had multiple 3DS’ for years and that’s about what I get with them as well. Would I like it to be more, absolutely. But with a full time job and a baby at home, I’m not really ever at the point where I am playing this thing un-docked for 3 hours straight. If you do, the Switch conveniently charges via USB-C, so you can always just get an external battery pack to prolong your play sessions.

Dislikes

  • The kickstand on the back of the Switch is just terrible. The sound it makes when you open it is terrible, the angle it puts the Switch at is terrible, the flimsiness of it is terrible, and the fact that it will only work on a hard, flat surface is terrible. What was Nintendo thinking with this thing? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • The Joy Con straps that Nintendo give you to slide onto the left and right Joy Cons are pretty badly designed. First off, you can easily put them on the wrong way if you are not really paying attention. When you do put them on wrong, the pressure you have to apply to them to remove them makes it feel like you are going to break the controller. Secondly, even when you get them on right, they still are not smooth or easy to remove at all. I really don’t like these things.
  • The dock itself is super flimsy and hollow feeling. Once you mess with one you wonder why Nintendo charges so much if you want another one. There is hardly anything to it.
  • The Switch operating system, while speedy, is not fully baked. You can add friends but not message with them & the online service Nintendo is building is not going to be ready until much later in the year either. Nintendo has never been known for having an awesome online service but this is extremely bare bones. Here’s hoping that they add more functionality sooner rather than later.
  • I very much disliked the taste of the Nintendo Switch cartridges when I tried one! They taste super gross! See this story for context haha.

Software

Likes

  • Let’s get this out of the way at the very first. The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild is an absolutely amazing game. It is unlike any Zelda game that has come before and allows a since of freedom and exploration that I have rarely seen before. The sheer size of the world and things to do and various ways that you can approach different problems is insane. The fact that after a very brief tutorial at the beginning of the game, that you can then just go anywhere and start exploring is such a cool concept. The only 3 games I can think of that have hooked me in this way in my entire life are Animal Crossing on the GameCube, Pokemon Blue on the Game Boy, and Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64. That’s really it for me, this game is that good. Sure, I have played the majority of the mainline Zelda games but I’m telling you this game is different. This game is special in a way that few are. I find myself thinking about it when I am not playing it and when I am playing it, I am playing it for far longer that I intend to. Throw in the fact that I can play this game at home on my big screen and then need to leave and can just un-dock it and take it with me wherever I go and it just feels magical to me! I know that the Nintendo Switch launch lineup of games is pretty limited but trust me, this game alone is worth buying a Switch for in my opinion.
  • Another game I bought and have really enjoyed is Snipperclips – Cut it out, together!. This is a equally parts cute and clever co-op puzzle game where you are trying to solve puzzles together with your partner. My wife and I have had a ton of fun playing this together, and it is easily worth the $20 price tag in my opinion.
  • I also have bought the Shovel Knight Treasure Trove bundle. I never did play Shovel Knight on any of the platforms it was on previously so this bundle that came with everything was perfect. This is a really fun game that is made in the style of an 8-bit platformer like the ones I grew up playing. It also has co-op play which is something that I can’t wait to try out!

Dislikes

  • I bought Super Bomberman R and so far, I’m not really enjoying it. Now, I have only been playing the single player campaign so far and I know multiplayer is where Bomberman shines, but I have not been super impressed as of now. Maybe playing the campaign in co-op and playing some 4 player multiplayer will redeem it, but I am skeptical. Right now, it would be hard for me to recommend it, at least at its current price. It has a terrible camera angle, mediocre music, and some pretty bad slowdown as well.

Miscellaneous

  • I purchased Nintendo’s other launch game: 1-2-Switch, but have not got the chance to play it yet. I mostly bought it to play with my wife and friends but just have not had the chance to play it so far.
  • Some of the games I am very much looking forward to are: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in April, Splatoon 2 this summer, and of course, Super Mario Odyssey this winter.
  • Sales numbers so far for the Switch have been promising and anecdotally, it seems like there is much more talk and interest in the Nintendo Switch than the poor Wii U ever had. I sure hope it is a success for Nintendo. They could really use another hit after the disappointing sales of the Wii U. I personally don’t want to ever live in a world where Nintendo stops making their own hardware. Nobody makes quality, fun filled, family friendly games as well as interesting hardware quite like Nintendo does.
  • These are my initial impressions of the Switch so far. I am looking forward to playing it much more over the coming weeks and meeting up with some buddies of mine that also bought Switches and playing some multiplayer games.

Thanks for reading!

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The iPad Pro

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I purchased an iPad Pro 12.9″ (the big one) a few weeks ago and wanted to give my opinions on it now that I have had it for a while. I got the silver 128gb cellular iPad Pro. I also purchased the Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil (more on the accessories later). I was not sure how I was going to like it, at first it seems comically large, but after spending some time with it I absolutely love it.
The Hardware – There’s no denying that the 12.9″ iPad Pro is huge. It is also pretty heavy when compared to the standard 9.7″, 1.57 pounds vs .96 pounds, but it is about as light as it can be given the size of the device. The Retina display is a joy to look at & I just love how big the display is. In fact, it has quite a bit more screen space then my laptop for the last several years, the 11″ MacBook Air. The speakers are a huge improvement over the previous iPads. There are now four speakers as opposed to two and they are on each corner of the iPad Pro. They get really loud if you crank them, so much so that I have not found the need to connect it to a bluetooth speaker. The battery life has been really good as well. I’m getting 12+ hours even when watching a ton of video. And the standby time has been great as well. I love that there is just zero battery anxiety with this device, if you have it fully charged in the morning you will not run it down in the course of a day.

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The battery life on the iPad Pro is legit.

Another new hardware addition on the iPad Pro is the new smart connector on the bottom of the iPad when it is in landscape. This 3 pin connector allows it to attach to various 1st and 3rd party accessories wirelessly and with no power required from the accessory. This is a really cool new feature, one that I use nearly constantly with my Smart Keyboard.

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The Smart Connector

Lastly, the A9x chip and 4gb of ram make the iPad Pro 12.9″ super fast. Everything just flies on this thing.

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Test results from the Geekbench app on my iPad Pro 12.9″

Overall, I really like the hardware of the iPad Pro. However there are a few nitpicks that I have with the hardware:

  1. Apple ships the iPad Pro with a dinky 12w charger that takes a very long time to charge the iPad. The 12.9″ iPad Pro supports fast charging via USB-C, but you have to pay about $75 for the necessary charger and cable. This is ridiculous on a device at this price point. They should ship it with the proper adaptor and cable.
  2. The iPad Pro is really not a one handed device, unlike the mini or regular size iPad. It is pretty unwieldy in portrait orientation. If you want something to read books on or slip into your purse, this is probably not the right device for you.

The Software – The new multitasking features introduced in iOS9 for the iPad were just made for the 12.9″ iPad Pro. Multitasking truly feels at home on this big screen. It gives you almost 2 full size iPad apps side by side. Check out the multitasking view in the picture below.

Narwhal (Reddit client) on the left, Safari on the right, and a picture in picture baseball game on top.

 

I have found myself using the multitasking view so much more with the Pro than I did with my iPad Air 2. There are a few other new software features that the 12.9 Pro gets, namely a full size software keyboard with a number row & a two column today view. These are still the early days for the 12.9″ iPad so while I feel like things will get better on the software front, not everything is rosy right now. A few of my gripes are –

  1. You can only have the same amount of icons on the home screen as all of the other iPads. There is so much wasted space!
  2. Some of the apps are still not optimized for split screen (Pocket), picture in picture (YouTube), or even the new screen size 😡 (Facebook).
  3. The multitasking app picker is just awful at trying to find the app you want. There needs to be a complete redesign as well as a search bar.

The Accessories – When Apple announced the iPad Pro, it also announced two brand new accessories that only work with the Pro – The Smart Keyboard & the Apple Pencil. I own both and would like to tell you my thoughts on each.

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The smart keyboard is awesome, it has a full sized keyboard & doubles as a cover for the front of the iPad Pro.

The Smart Keyboard – Before I purchased my iPad Pro, I did a lot of research on various cases & keyboards. I narrowed my choices down to two options – the Smart Keyboard & the Logitech Create. Both keyboards have their pros & cons & both support the new smart connector on the iPad Pro. I decided on the Smart Keyboard due to it’s lighter weight, more minimal design, & the ability to pull it off as easily as a smart cover when I just want to use it as an iPad. That second part ended up not mattering much because I absolutely love the Smart Keyboard and would estimate it is connected to my iPad Pro 95% of the time that I use it. Some combination of it being a full size keyboard, it instantly responding to you pressing a key with no need to wait for a bluetooth connection, never needing to be charged, and all of the keyboard shortcuts available for the iPad in iOS 9, have just endeared me to this accessory in a way I had not imagined it would. I use it setting on a table, my desk, on my lap, as a stand for watching streaming content, etc. This is the accessory for the iPad Pro in my opinion. It also completely takes away one of my gripes with the 12.9″ Pro, namely it being a little hard to hold comfortably for extended periods. With the Smart Keyboard, my iPad simply rests on my desk or on my lap with no strain on my hands at all. Would it be better with backlit keys and a shortcut row of keys? Absolutely, and I hope that a future version does all of that but for what it is, I absolutely love it.

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😍

The Apple Pencil – Oh, the Apple pencil. It’s so beautiful and I love it so much, but I am not quite as bullish on it as I am on my Smart Keyboard. On one hand it is the best stylus I have ever used hands down. I’ve tried out a bunch of iPad styluses as well as the styluses for the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, and the Apple Pencil is just better. It has the least amount of latency I have seen and it is a joy to use. It is really fun to use in an adult coloring book app called Pigment. It is also really cool to take handwritten notes in Notability and Apple Notes. It’s useful for editing photos as well. But the main thing it is awesome for is for artists. If you like to draw, this is the stylus for doing that with. Unfortunately, I am not even close to being an artist so using the Apple Pencil for drawing is not something I can really take advantage of. This leads to me not using it that often and for what it cost, it’s hard to justify recommending it if you are not an artist or a big handwritten notes taker. I got it solely because I was excited about trying it out and because it looks so beautiful. I am trying to figure out ways that I can use it but right now it is not used as much as my Smart Keyboard.

So those are my thoughts on the iPad Pro. I love it and use it every day. I go for days without turning on my Mac since I got it. The fact that I can have a 12.9″ Retina display with tons of storage & power, LTE connectivity, all day battery life, and the huge app selection of iOS in a device that weighs what the original iPad weighed is just mind blowing to me.  At the same time, I know that the iPad Pro is not for everybody, especially the big one. It’s not a cheap device & some people are still more comfortable with a laptop or a desktop. That’s perfectly fine, use the device that is right for you but I firmly believe that the 12.9″ iPad Pro is the right device for me.

 

The LG Tone+ Bluetooth Headset

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I didn’t purchase much on Black Friday 2014 but one of the few things I purchased was the LG Tone+ Bluetooth Headset. I had been eyeing them for several months and Best Buy was selling them for $39.99, which is considerably less than the MSRP of $69.99, so I picked them up. I have been using them heavily for the past several months and wanted to give my thoughts on them.

The LG Tone+ have a fairly unique design in that you wear them around your neck and the earbuds pull out and go into your ears. The neckband always rests on your neck and houses all of your controls. I really do like this design as your ears aren’t having to support hardly any weight. The neckband is comfortable, doesn’t bounce around much, and the earbuds magnetically attach to the ends of the neckband when they are out of your ears, which is a nice touch. I think the best way for me to do this review is simply list the pros and cons of this headset below.

Pros

  • They can be connected to two devices at once. So if you want to be listening to music from your iPad and still have them connected to your iPhone for if a call comes in, you can. I really appreciate this feature.
  • Call sound quality through this headset seems to be good. I use this headset heavily at work and answer and make 30 plus calls a day and I haven’t heard any complaints.
  • The controls are well thought out and easy to reach. It took me just a couple of hours to memorize where everything is.
  • The headset will vibrate when you are receiving a call which is nice if you are away from your phone and don’t have the earbuds in. I have been notified of several calls I would have missed because of this feature.
  • They are very comfortable in my ears. They come with 3 sizes of tips for various ear sizes and I find them to be very pleasant to wear.
  • Each time you turn them on they will tell you the battery level they are at. They also will show the battery level in the status bar on your iPhone. They will reconnect automatically if you go out of range as soon as you get back in range.
  • You can activate Siri from the headset by tapping the call button. This is really handy.

Cons

  • Battery life is good but not great. I can typically get a full 9 hour work day out of them but thats about it. Thats with me using them for several phone calls as well as several hours of podcast or music playback. It’s not bad but I do wish I could go two days on the battery instead of having to charge them every day. They do charge fairly quickly at least. (about 2 hours)
  • Sound quality is just average on this headset. Sure you can’t really expect incredible sound quality on a sub $100 bluetooth headset but I still wish it was a little better. This is not a deal breaker at all, especially as the majority of the time I am listening to podcasts instead of music, but don’t buy these expecting to have stellar sound.
  • This headset looks a little dorky. I definitely have gotten some questions while wearing it. It’s not a big deal to me at all but if you are really fashion conscious you may want to look for something a little more casual looking.

That about sums up my thoughts on the LG Tone+ bluetooth headset. Hopefully this will help you decide if you have been on the fence about them. For the price I got them at I highly recommend them. They are incredibly nice for my work and I don’t see myself going back to my EarPods anytime soon. You can find them on Amazon here.

The iPhone 6 Plus

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As many of you know I got an iPhone 6 Plus about a month and a half ago. I have used it as my only phone every day since and think that I have had enough time with it to do a full review. The model I got is the AT&T 64gb Silver version. Let’s get right to it.

Design

The iPhone 6 Plus (as well as the 6) are quite a bit different design wise than the previous 2 models of iPhone. While the iPhone 4, 4S, 5, & 5S all had flat edges and a chamfered cut, the iPhone 6 & 6 Plus have curved edges with an all aluminum back. It’s quite a different feel in the hand and has it’s plusses and minuses in my opinion. While it feels better in the hand to me and is very pleasing when swiping from the edge of the screen to the sides it is quite a bit more slippery in the hand than the older models. Also, while I still think it is a beautiful phone, it just doesn’t have that classic Leica look of the iPhone 4 & 5. To me, those phones just felt and looked so solid. This is all just a matter of taste of course but I would have loved to have seen a bigger iPhone done in the style of the iPhone 5S.

The iPhone 6 Plus is really thin. At just 7.1 mm thin it is the second thinnest iPhone ever. Only the iPhone 6 at 6.9mm is thinner. So while it is a lot bigger phone than any of my previous phones, it is by far the thinnest phone I have had. I really appreciate the thinness & at just 6.1 ounces it is really light for it’s size as well.

Another change that the 6 & 6 Plus have is the sleep/wake button has moved from the top of the phone to the right side. This is necessary due to the larger size of the phone which would make reaching the top of the phone much more difficult compared to the previous models. The volume buttons and mute toggle switch all feel fine to me.

The screen on the iPhone 6 Plus is a 5.5″ 1080p display (1920 x 1080) which is good for 401 ppi. I have no complaints about this screen at all. It has excellent color reproduction, great contrast, gets plenty bright enough, and is a great size in my opinion. It is quite a change going from the 4″ display of the iPhone 5S to this. You can see so much more information on this screen than you could on previous iPhones and it is just a pleasure to read on. I’ve found that I am much more likely to read on my phone now than I did in the past. It has definitely cut into the time I previously would have used my iPad mini.

The iPhone 6 & 6 Plus have a new “reachability” mode which you access by tapping the home button twice. Doing this brings the top half of the screen down to the bottom half so that you can reach the icons at the top while using the phone one handed. While this is a cool trick I don’t really find myself using it much at all. Instead I have just started holding my phone higher up than I used to and I can pretty much reach everywhere without doing this. If you have small hands, this would probably be more useful. Here’s a gif of how it works:

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A few nitpicks about the design: One, the antenna lines on the back are kind of ugly. I appreciate the effort to go all aluminum on the back but to me, the glass on the top and bottom of the previous iPhone models looked better. Two, the back camera on both the 6 and 6 Plus sticks out just a little from the casing, causing the phone to wobble slightly if laid on a flat surface. I know most people (myself included) will use a case which will negate this but it still kind of sucks if you are one that likes to go without a case.

All that being said I do really love the design of the 6 Plus. It took a couple of weeks to get used to the size coming from an iPhone 5S but I have fully adjusted and have no desire to go back. I have picked up my wife’s iPhone 5 several times since getting the 6 Plus and I cannot get over how small it now feels to me. I know all of the Android fans are like “We’ve had giant phones for years” but it’s nice to have the bigger size in the iPhone. Better late than never in my opinion.

Camera

If there’s one thing about iPhones most people can agree on, it’s that the cameras they use are excellent. While both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are still sporting 8 megapixel cameras, I believe that they are the best smartphone cameras yet. I can’t go into near the detail that these guys go into but I can tell you that for everyday shooting the camera on the iPhone 6 Plus is great. It has incredibly fast autofocus and the built in optical image stabilization helps a lot in low light situations as well as when shooting video.

I still wouldn’t use it for taking vacation pictures or for something like my child growing up if I had one, that’s what my Sony NEX 6 is for, but for everyday photo taking for Facebook & Instagram it is more than sufficient.

It also takes some really nice panoramas, up to 43 megapixels. Here is one I shot downtown the other day:

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As far as video is concerned it seems to do a really good job. I have had a lot of fun playing with the new 240fps Slo-Mo mode. There is an excellent video of some skateboarders shot with this feature that I will put below. This was shot handheld with an unsteady hand and it still came out really smooth.

Performance

The 6 Plus comes with a 1.4 GHz 64 bit A8 processor. Performance on the 6 Plus is very good. I haven’t noticed any slowdown when using it. If I could change one thing it would be for Apple to give us 2gb of ram as opposed to the 1gb it has. This would seriously cut down on your safari tabs and apps in the background having to reload so often. Apple did give the new iPad Air 2gb of ram so I am hopeful that future iPhone models will as well. I have attached a screenshot of my Geekbench score below:

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Battery

This right here is probably the strongest part of the iPhone 6 Plus to me. This phone is an absolute beast in regards to battery life. I cannot kill it in a single day no matter how hard I try.

On weekends when I’m not using it much I can easily go 2 days without a charge. A normal work day of me getting up at 7:00 AM, using it hard throughout the day and night and plugging in in around 10:30 or 11:00 PM will have it at 40-50%. My iPhone 5S  could barely make it through a work day at all. I would normally charge it in the afternoon so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it dying that night.

I cannot stress how nice it is to not have to worry about the battery on my phone at all anymore. It’s one less thing for me to worry about everyday and that’s a very good thing.

Touch ID

After a month and a half, Touch ID is still working great for me. Touch ID is so convenient and it would be very hard to go back to a phone that doesn’t have it. I wish I had it on my iPad and my MacBook. It just works.

Apple Pay

I unfortunately have not had the chance to try out Apple Pay yet as my bank still doesn’t support it. I have emailed their support and they have responded saying they will probably be offering it sometime this year. If they do, I will be sure to come back and update this section with my thoughts on how well it works. Reports of people who have used it have been generally positive. This video does a decent job of showing how it works:

Accessories

I have bought a couple of cases for my new iPhone. As much as I would like to go without a case the phone is just too slippery for me to trust it. I am very careful with my phone though so I wanted something very minimal. I ended up buying the official Apple leather case a well as the Griffin Reveal. Both cases are very thin while providing much improved grip as well as negating the back camera bulge. The Apple case specifically gives the phone a really solid grip. The Griffin case has decent grip with the rubber bumper on the sides while having a clear back so you can still see the design of the phone. I really love both cases and switch between them constantly.

Wrap-up

So there you have it. Is the iPhone 6 Plus a good phone? Absolutely! Is it the right phone for everyone? Absolutely not! For some it will be just too big. Luckily Apple makes the iPhone 6 as well. But if you have been waiting for a big phone that runs iOS I would wholeheartedly recommend the iPhone 6 Plus. I am very satisfied with it and can’t imagine going back. Thanks for reading.

Extra

I love reading and watching tech reviews (big surprise). I have read and watched probably over 100 reviews of the iPhone 6 Plus. My absolute favorite one is by my absolute favorite youtuber MKBHD. Do yourself a favor and check out his video review if you are interested in this phone.

 

 

The iPad Air

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I bought a Wifi only 32gb iPad Air a couple of months ago and would like to share my impressions on it. For the last year I have been using a Verizon 16GB iPad mini which I loved for many reasons and hated for a few. Before that I had a Wifi only 32GB 3rd generation iPad. So what made me go back to the big iPad? The number one reason I upgraded was that I needed more space. 16GB just doesn’t cut it for me anymore on an iPad. I am fine with a 16GB iPhone but with the amount of magazines, comics, & blueprints (work related) that I have on my iPad, I need at least 32GB. I found myself constantly having to manage the storage on my mini. I also recently got tethering enabled on my iPhone so having a cellular iPad was no longer necessary. If I need data on the go I can easily get it from my phone now.  Another reason why I upgraded is that I read a lot on my iPad and the non-retina screen on the iPad mini was really starting to bother me, especially for comics and blueprints. All that being said why not just upgrade to the new iPad mini with Retina display? It was a very tough decision to be honest. The iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina display are both incredibly good tablets. They both have the same A7 processor, cameras, retina display, battery life, etc. They have never been more similar. It really comes down to just two things.

  1. Screen Size – The iPad Air has a 9.7″ display where the iPad mini has a 7.9″ display.
  2. Price – The iPad Air being $100 more than the comparable iPad mini.

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There were advantages to both iPads for me and I will list them below.

iPad Air

Advantages:

  • The iPad Air is incredibly thin and light with an all new design. It weighs just 1 pound. It is unbelievable how much lighter it is compared to previous full-sized iPads.
  • The 9.7″ Retina display on the iPad Air is ideal for comics and magazines of which I consume a lot of.
  • The larger iPads are much better for typing in my experience. The iPad mini is just not very comfortable to type on for long periods of time.
  • The iPad Air’s battery seems to last much longer in standby than my iPad mini did.

iPad Mini

Advantages:

  • The iPad mini is extremely portable. For example, when I had my mini, I would take it to a lot more places as it would fit in my back pocket where now that I have the Air I end up just using my iPhone more.
  • The iPad mini is much better for one handed use. While the iPad Air has lost a significant amount of weight, it is still a two-handed device.
  • The iPad mini is $100 cheaper than the iPad Air. You can basically get twice the storage for the same price by going with the mini.

Lastly, I want to talk about accessories. I picked up a blue smart cover for my iPad Air. I like it quite a bit better than the same smart cover that I had on my iPad mini. It doesn’t collapse near as easily. I also picked up a Belkin Shield back cover. I like it fine though it is a tad loose. That is all I have bought for my new iPad but I have been using my Cocoon Gramercy bag with it that I loved using so much with my 3rd Gen iPad. It is still the best bag for an iPad, a few accessories and a phone in my opinion. When it is not in the Cocoon, it is in my bigger but still small bag, the Tom Bihn Ristretto 11″ which I really need to write a blog post on.

In conclusion I am very happy with my iPad Air. I am enjoying the large retina screen, the reduced weight, & the bigger storage capacity very much. I would hesitate to recommend it completely to everyone else though. If you are looking to buy a new iPad consider both the Air and the mini and buy the one that best fits how you would like to use it.

The iPhone 5S

SONY DSCI purchased an AT&T 16GB Space Gray iPhone 5S on launch day (September 20th 2013) and would like to post my thoughts on it. First off a little backstory. For the past 2 years I have been using an AT&T 16GB White iPhone 4S. It was my first smartphone and I loved it dearly. It had begun to slow down a little with iOS7 installed on it & it wasn’t getting quite the same battery life that it once had but other than that it was still a very usable phone. I have used my new 5S heavily in the last month and a half and have posted my thoughts below.

  • The Design: The first thing I noticed with the 5S coming from my 4S is how much lighter the 5S is. This is because the iPhone 5 & 5S have aluminum (a-loo-minium) backs compared to the iPhone 4 & 4S, which had glass backs. I would describe the weight difference as feeling like the 5S’s battery had been removed from the phone. I am slightly torn on how I feel about this. On one hand I like that it is lighter and it is less likely that the back will break if it is dropped but on the other hand the glass back on the 4S made the phone feel a little more like a premium product to me.  The 4S had a good heft to it. The screen is also really nice. I appreciate the jump from 3.5″ to 4″ even though that is still a relatively small screen size for phones these days.  Other than that I love that it has a lightning connector instead of the old 30 pin dock connector. I really like the Space Gray color on the back. It is supposedly much more resistive to scratches and scuffing compared to the Slate Black colored back on the iPhone 5. The hardware buttons are fine but I do think the ring/silent switch on the left side is a little worse than the one that was on the iPhone 4 & 4S. It works fine but it’s just a little harder to toggle if you have fairly big fingers. One more note, I’m not sure but it seems like to me that the vibration on the 5S is also not quite as strong as it was on the 4 & 4S.

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  • The Camera: The camera is simply incredible on the iPhone 5S. Between the excellent low light performance, improved flash, burst mode shooting (10 photos per second!), and slo-mo video recording, it is a very nice upgrade from my previous iPhone’s camera. I still use my Sony NEXc3 as much as I can but the iPhone 5S’s camera is very capable on  it’s own.
  • The A7 Chip: The iPhone 5S is powered by the first 64bit processor ever in a cell phone. It is a substantial jump from the A5 chip that was in my iPhone 4S. I’m not going to go into detail about the processor, if you interested in more I would point you to the excellent AnandTech review.  Simply put this phone is fast. Everything just loads so much faster than my last phone. Apps, webpages, emails, etc. all just load nearly instantly. I am very happy with the performance of this phone. Apple has upgraded all of their apps to 64bit and it shows. Once 3rd party developers start updating their apps to 64bit, we should see even more performance improvements. I ran the Geekbench 3 app and have posted my results below.

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  • The Touch ID Sensor: The iPhone 5S comes with Apple’s Touch ID Sensor which is built into the home button. This sensor allows you to simply place your finger on the home button to unlock your phone as well as to authorize purchases on the App Store. It is a feature that nobody actually needs but is very convenient & very cool. Also, when it works it is nearly instantaneous. It is a very “magical” feeling when it scans your fingerprint & unlocks your phone for you. I go to a lot of Apple related sites and by all accounts Touch ID seems to work 90% to 100% of the time for the vast majority of people. As for me, I had some trouble initially getting it to work reliably but it now works for me about 75% to 80% of the time.
  • The LTE Speed: I know LTE is nothing new but this is my first phone that supports it. The AT&T speeds where I live are very good. I routinely see speeds of 15 Mbps up & 15 Mbps down. It is very nice to have speeds like that when you are out and about.
  • The Battery Life: I am very satisfied with the battery life in the iPhone 5S. I charge it every night and it rarely is under 40% by the end of the day.
  • The Software: The iPhone 5S comes with iOS7 installed. iOS 7 is a major departure from the previous iOS releases. It replaces the skeuomorphic designs of the previous OS’s with a clean, simple, & more modern look. For the most part I really like it. High points include the control center which comes up from the bottom, new voices and functionality for Siri, a much improved Weather app, FaceTime audio calls, & better multitasking. Overall I am very happy with iOS7. It’s not perfect but I like where Apple is going with it.

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In conclusion, I am very happy with the iPhone 5S and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Yes, it is not a perfect phone but between the improved camera, the A7 processor, great battery life, & most of all the incredible app ecosystem, I can’t think of a phone that I would rather have. It is the best iPhone yet.

The nGroove Snap By Mountek

SONY DSCI wanted to talk about my new favorite phone/tablet mount for my car. As some of you may know I have been a big fan of Mountek’s nGroove Grip for the last year or so. It is great for nearly any size smartphone and was the best mount that I could find. I love that it is easily installed and removed with no tools required.  I love how solid it mounts as well, I never worry that it will come unmounted or that it will allow my phone to fall out. The only drawbacks in my opinion were that it could not hold my iPad mini and that you could only angle it so far to either side.  Some people don’t like Mountek’s mounts as they mount into the cd slot of your car and therefore render your cd player useless. I however love that it mounts where it does. I never listen to CDs and while you can easily find a suction cup mount for any device they all have their own set of drawbacks. Most of these mounts gradually lose suction after a while and will eventually fall if you don’t remember to reapply them. Also, I live in Texas where any device mounted to the windshield will get extremely hot, which I am not a fan of. So the mount being secured in the cd player slot is a big win for me. A few months ago I found out that Mountek was developing a new mount, the nGroove Snap, and had put it on the crowdfunding website indiegogo. I backed the project and received the new mount about a month and a half ago. I have been using it every day since. It is simply the best mount that I have ever seen. It installs the same way as the nGroove Grip but improves on it in every way. Gone are the adjustable arms on the side. Instead you now simply place your phone onto the flat surface and your phone just attaches to it. It’s really quite magical. IMG_8790Mountek includes a couple of very thin magnetic badges which you stick to the inside of your devices case. These magnets are incredibly strong for their size, it’s really impressive. It’s kind of hard to explain how nice it is to get into your car, simply set your phone against the mount, and be able to easily glance at your screen but it makes me smile to this day. The new mount also fixed my other complaint about the older one, it tilts side to side a lot further. I have the two magnetic badges stuck to my iPhone 5S case and my iPad mini case and both devices mount great to the Snap mount. The iPhone is very secure and the iPad mini is slightly less but still works. Needless to say I am extremely impressed with the Snap mount and would recommend it to anyone looking for a mount that doesn’t mind giving up their cd slot. My wife just bought one as well. She replaced her old nGroove Grip that I had bought her. She absolutely loves the Snap as well. If you are interested in purchasing one of your own, it is available now to the public on Mountek’s website as well as Amazon.

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