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Hipster Pixel

Colourful pixels on the latest tech

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Panic to Release a Handheld Gaming Console, with a Crank!

Permalink - Posted on 2019-05-24 07:58

Panic has been an amazing MacOS (and macOS) developer for over 20 years and I find the announced of the Playdate very on point for me since I discovered the company and Cabel Sasser very late. Before I got an actual Mac, I stumbled across Cabel’s overview of the Nintendo DS Lite in a video he made at a time where good online videos were rare.

The Playdate is a handheld console that brings back lots of fun in its design and software ethos. The console has a D-pad and two B-A buttons. And a crank. Yes, a crank that does not charge the console, but is actually a console mechanism for some of the games. Some games use it, some only use it. The screen is black and white and does not have a backlight.

It’s kind of a pure, distilled handheld console that comes with 12 games in the first season. Over the span of 12 weeks, every Monday, a new game will be released. The games are from actual video game creators that are renowned like Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy), Zach Gage (Spelltower), Bennett Foddy (Getting Over It) and Shaun Inman (Retro Game Crunch).

The console will be released early 2020 for 149$. Expect more games and more surprises in the coming months!

Over the first 24 hours, the Playdate website generated interest from 70,000+ people through their waiting list, and most importantly thousands of interested developers! This could actually become an amazing console if quality games are launched on it. After all, it should be fairly straightforward since Panic created their own OS for the Playdate and their aesthetic choices are really appreciated by everyone!

In the mean time, you can head over the small post reposted on the Playdate website and if you need more, head over to the Edge magazine issue 333 with all the juicy details. It’s also part of Apple News+ if you are a subscriber.

[Read on Hipster Pixel]


SmallHD FOCUS OLED 5.5-inch Monitor Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-05-10 19:10

Many cameras nowadays come with a nice screen, often high resolution with a high brightness, but not always swivelling and always too small to fully rely on. I cannot tell how many times a bad picture on the small camera display was actually pretty decent once I opened it on the computer. And when you’re doing video, you really need to get that focus right, at all times. This is hard, but I have a solution that will help you out tremendously!

The FOCUS OLED from SmallHD is a 5.5-inch monitor that attaches to your camera via SDI or HDMI and allows you to really see what’s happening in front of your camera.

Design

Since the FOCUS OLED is a touch-screen display, it does not have many buttons. Actually, it only has one to turn it ON or OFF. Once you turn it ON, you will experience something great visually. The OLED screen is bright and crisp, and really makes your content shine!

The FOCUS is powered by a standard Sony L-battery, those large batteries that can pack lots of electrons. SmallHD also has a kit of accessories to fit a fake battery inside your camera so that the big L-battery powers both your camera and the FOCUS monitor!

One of the accessories that comes with the FOCUS is a tilt arm that allows you to install the monitor in your camera’s hotshoe mount. The display can tilt from face to back very easily and it even auto-rotates the image on the display. The word that keeps coming up in my head is simplicity.

Available in either SDI or HDMI configuration and OLED or LCD configurations, the SmallHD FOCUS has lots to please!

Features

  • 5.5” 1920 x 1080 Touchscreen Display
  • 350 cd/m² Brightness, 60,000:1 Contrast Ratio
  • Custom LUTs
  • Anamorphic Desqueeze
  • Waveform, zebra, focus peaking and more

Performance

In terms of general performance, this display is relatively fast. Not the fastest touchscreen I found, but quick enough to get to the menus and enable and disable features in a timely fashion.

For someone like me using a Sony A7III, I do not need all of the features of the Focus OLED, since many of them require specific hardware. For example, the Focus can de-squeeze anamorphic footage captured with an anamorphic lens. This is great because you get a glimpse at the final result directly on your small compact monitor without the need to do post production on your footage.

The FOCUS comes with a bunch of features that you can turn ON or OFF to fit your specific needs. This list includes high resolution scopes, waveforms, false colour, focus peaking and real-time 3D LUTs.

Basic Features

Some of the features make lots of sense for almost everyone, intermediate to professionals and we’ll go over them quickly. Once you see your subject, the thing you might want to do is look at that subject closer. The Pixel Zoom function allows you to use the pinch to zoom gesture and get up close to see the details of your shot.

The second feature you usually want to enable is the Focus Assist. This will allow you to clearly see what part of your subject is in focus. There is the exact same feature built inside Sony A7 line of cameras and if you are shooting manual, this is a must have!

Now that you see your subject in detail and know which part of the image is in focus, you might want to make sure you have the right ratio. This way if you want to try a nice 2.39:1 ratio or even one of the bleeding edge ratios like 2:1, you can very easily be set on one of the preset or specify your own. With these featured set you are good to go and film nice things with your FOCUS OLED!

Advanced Features

We all have to film different types of shots depending on what we want to do with the footage. Some great Youtubers are using CinemaScope ratio (2.39:1) for smooth b-roll shots, and the regular 16:9 ratio for talking heads. You do not want to fiddle with your controls constantly and that’s why the FOCUS has the concept of “Pages”. Each page is a setup individually and you can easily swipe between them for when you change your filming setup.

After working in film for a while, you might want to start using lookup tables (LUTs) and since you might want to preview the final look without modifying your footage, the team at SmallHD has put in a nice feature called LUTs previewing where you save your LUTs file on the SD card and assign your LUTs to pages so that by the swipe of a finger you can preview the final look very easily!

After the Focus Assist comes a very important tool called Exposure Assist! Once again, you either a colour, a zebra, a waveform or a histogram to show you when you are overexposing or underexposing your shots. This can quickly tell you where your exposure will be clipping. If you need more control, the Exposure Assist even has a False Colour mode that leverages the Arri False Colour chart to display colours from red to purple depending on the % of the dynamic range you are getting. With the latest version of the onboard OS, you can even push this further and customize it to your likings!

Less Obvious Features

The team at SmallHD did not stop there, they are pushing even further with more features that are probably not part of the “usual suspects” but nonetheless super useful; especially if you end up needing them!

To go with the cross-hair, you can have a grid and even safe zones that allow you to know where titles or old CRT TV would clip the image. But one feature that I did not realize I need is the image overlay.

This allows you to load an image on the SD card and use it with transparency so that you can, for example place an item back on the table, exactly where it was in your previous shot. You can even use the Image Capture feature to snap the image directly from the FOCUS OLED! And as usual, there is a bunch of settings you can fiddle with to get the most out of this feature.

Audio meters are often forgotten, but not this time. You can set a customizable meter for up to 8 inputs on the FOCUS OLED and even change the position and size of the meter to make sure it does not get in the way of your shot!

Crop & Scale and Size & Position allows you to change the cropping and position of the image on pages where you need to keep an eye on the histogram or audio levels at all times.

Firmware Updates

One thing that I wanted to test absolutely, and caused my review to be a bit late, is the firmware updates. I had awful experiences in the past related to firmware updates on other products, so this is always something I love to test. The FOCUS has an SD card slot to load custom LUTs, as explained above, as well as firmware updates. You simply need to copy the downloaded firmware file to the SD card and from the Settings menu, you can launch the update. It’s quick and all went very well.

I’m happy to see that SmallHD is behind their products and keeps them up to date as well as change some of the interactions you have for the better like the colour of the LED in the Power button changes depending on what’s happening in the boot sequence.

Conclusion

A monitor is a must-have product in your arsenal as a videographer and until you actually tried one, you might not understand how useful and life changing they are. So much so that when I was filming with my iPhone, I kept my iPad close by for it to act as a monitor. Canon shooters know the usefulness of the small swivel display, but until you experience a 5-inch and more display you really are missing on a lot. You can set your camera further with a longer focal to get that nice compression and that punny little 1.5-inch display is not very useful.

The FOCUS OLED with its amazing panel is simply amazing to look at! Not only do you get a large image and can see all of the details of your footage, but with its feature list as long as an arm, you are bound to make the overall experience great by unleashing a real control on your video capture as well as always have an eye on what’s actually happening.

I have not used the non-OLED version of the FOCUS but I must say that the dynamic range and colours reproduced on the FOCUS OLED is simply just a joy to use. I’m used to the nice, but small, OLED display on my Sony A7 III and going from one to the other does not feel like a drop in quality. This is important as you might be irritated when going to another larger, but less quality screen. This is not the case with the FOCUS OLED.

With the constant firmware updates released by SmallHD, you are getting an even better product than when it was released with new features and better performance. SmallHD knows how to keep their products amazing! I strongly recommend the FOCUS OLED (and regular FOCUS) for any filmmaker that would love to get a better grasp on their technique and improve the reliability of their capture skills with a tool that will increase the quality of your footage!


Logi Circle 2 Camera and Ecosystem Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-04-29 12:12

There I am reviewing another security camera, but this one is peculiar. Most of the time a security camera is a standalone, all-inclusive thing that you set and forget. It has a single precise function and does it on day one until its last day. But what if you could get something modular? Something that can be moved around the house. This is where the Logi Circle 2 camera comes in the picture!

Design

This camera is as small as a hockey puck albeit with a conical shape, and can be placed inside a variety of situations. Attached to walls and horizontal surfaces, wired or wire-free, even magnetically set against a metal surface or even glass or behind. In short the Circle 2 system is extremely flexible!

The Circle 2 camera is a super-wide angle that offers a wide, ultra-wide or 180° view and has infrared lights and sensors to even work during the night.

I got to test the Wired version and this is very important as I learned the hard way that there are actually two versions of the Circle 2 and not all accessories are compatible with every permutation. The Wired camera can be attached to the Window Mount which uses double side tape to be attached to the inside of windows facing outside. You can also swap the wire for the Wire-free battery but you can only set it on a stand and not attached to the Window Mount. I managed to do it, it looks awful and I’m not sure it’s going to hold for long…

Wired Camera with Window Mount and Battery, Not Good!

Make sure you read which accessories are compatible with the Circle 2 camera you are choosing! Look below for a table of compatible accessories.

Features

  • 1080p day and night recording
  • Waterproof camera
  • Cloud recording with person detection
  • Mobile apps and website
  • Large accessories ecosystem
  • Microphone and speaker built in

Performance

There is a lot to say about the Circle 2 because of the so many ways you can set it up and the options if offers! As I said earlier, I started with the Wired Circle 2 which comes with a long cable and can be set on a table, screwed to a wall or even on the underside of a flat surface. The cable is quite long with a standard USB-A port that you can extend cheaply with an extension for a few bucks for 10-15 feet. This cable finally connects to a USB wall adapter that is small enough.

The camera requires some love through a mobile app or the Logi website to be configured. Logi went far with customization on that product line. You can opt for suggested « packs » of settings to quickly get started but in the end going through all of them, one by one, will make you get the most out of the Circle 2 system.

Recording can be toggled between 720p and 1080p but a better feature is the cropping of the recording. You can set it to go a full 180°, Ultra-Wide or Wide, something that allows you to actually secure a full alley by setting the camera perpendicular and not lose an inch of that alley! Ultra Wide is similar to a GoPro at its widest and the crop of the centre part only slightly distorts the image.

Accessories

After testing a couple of cameras, one feature that really is key with the Circle 2 is the ability to set a Window mode which allows you to really get the best quality images when looking through glass. Not only does it disables the LED for infrared light (it would otherwise bounce back on the window and give out a useless image), it also has a couple of other settings presets that allows you go get the Circle 2 setup quickly.

With the Wired version of the Circle 2, you can even purchase a Window Mount, which allows you to stick the camera directly to the window. Illuminating as much reflexion as possible and getting an even better image. I bought this one and I must say it’s a great companion to the Wire-free or Wired version of the Circle 2 camera.

Trying to push my luck, I also acquired the Circle 2 Rechargeable Battery in hopes of adding a battery to my Circle 2 while it’s being attached to the Window Mount. Sadly, this did not go well. I mean, I was able to force the battery to the camera, but for some reason, it does not trigger when I’m passing in front of it. It stays in “standby” mode, even with the sensibility cranked up to the maximum setting. Note that the Logi website says Rechargeable Battery works with Circle 2 Wire-Free., but since I purchased mine from Amazon, I did not know that. Also, I was, naively, expecting the whole suite of accessories to work with my Circle 2 camera, but some only work with the Wired and some only work with the Wire-free.

  Circle 2 Wired Circle 2 Wire-free
Window Mount
Rechargeable Battery 🚫
Plug Mount
Weatherproof Extension 🚫
Magnetic Mount

The TL:DR; is that the Recheargeable Battery only works with the Wire-free version and since there are no wires for it, it cannot use the Weatherproof Extension ;)

Swapping accessories is very easy and should only take a minute, once you align everything properly. I did not try the Magnetic Mount, the Plug Mount or the Weatherproof Extension, but the accessories I tried are made of great quality material and should be a blast to use.

Cloud Recording

For free, with the purchase of a Circle 2 camera, you are receiving free 24h Cloud Recording with Smart Alerts and a cool Timelapse feature of all the events that triggered a recording. This is great, but one of the features we are expecting to get nowadays is human recognition as I don’t think you really care if a newspaper passes through your lawn during a windy day.

For this, you will need to look at the other plans. Namely, the Premium plan as the Basic plans is just like the Free plan but keeps 14 days of recording at 4$ per camera or 7$ for up to 5 cameras.

Premium Person

The Premium plan adds Motion Zones, so you can define zones with a custom shape and name them, therefore the Smart Alerts are getting even smarter with contextual information. As for the Person Detection, this is the type of thing we are looking for. When you look at the UI you can now filter by event types to only see when a person was detected. Same thing with the Alerts, you can opt in only to get when somebody moved into the frame. This works great, however, sometimes a thing will go into the frame and since there is a human passing by outside of your zones, you will also get that notification.

For example, a dog owner walks their dog and the doggo goes on my lawn to sniff my plants. Only the dog got in the Motion Zone, but since at the other end of the leash there is a human, it will trigger an alarm. I would have preferred to have only events when a human actually triggered the motion. On a windy day, trees and leaves also trigger motion events so I have to give the camera some buffer around the zones. Shadows are also a thing to consider, this is why the Person Detection is required otherwise you get a hundred notifications every day.

Conclusion

Although this camera is not perfect, it gets to a level that is appreciably close to perfection. It has the most extensive accessory line on the market, to really help you to get your camera setup where you naturally want it to sit and aim. It has a tone of customization features to account for all situations and the Cloud Recording features are great and plentiful. If you are looking for a camera to set around your house that work over Wi-Fi the Circle 2 by Logi is an amazing product with great flexibility. If only the video quality was even better, sometimes the compression is plentiful, and I would love to be able to go from Wired to Wire-free mode with all accessories being compatible with both cameras. The Smart Alert stuff could be better with human-in-the-motion-zone detection being better.

But all in all, this is a great product and you can even buy a couple of packs with 2 or 3 cameras and different versions in a single purchase. Highly recommended.


ElevationLab BatteryPro, a Battery Pack With Integrated Apple Watch Charger [Review]

Permalink - Posted on 2019-04-23 12:20

When we are talking about great design and battery pack, well, we are never mixing both. Most battery packs on the market are what they are, energy in a pack. But never, or extremely rarely, is it a work of product design. That was until, ElevationLab took a crack at it! With the BatteryPro, ElevationLab are cramming a big 8,000 mAh inside a nicely designed power brick with the added touch of having an Apple Watch charger built-in.

Design

The BatteryPro has a USB-A port capable of pushing 2.4A of current to quick charge your iPhone or charge your iPad. It’s one of the few accessories that went through the hassle of getting certified by Apple. It’s using the same charging pad that you have on the included box of your Apple Watch.

The only other port is the micro-USB that is used to refill the battery pack. You can charge both your Apple Watch and your iPhone on the battery. Perfect for an overnight charge to get all your gadgets juiced up!

Features

  • Apple Mfi certified
  • Integrated Apple Watch Magnetic charger
  • Fast 2.4 mAh maximum output
  • 8,000 mAh Lithium-Polymer battery
  • Micro-USB charging in. Cable included.

Performance

This works as advertised and charges both devices at once. The nifty little green LEDs are showing how much energy is left with 25% increments. Once of the cool thing is the way the BatteryPro secures your Apple Watch. They included an elastic strap to make sure the Watch is attached securely.

ElevationLab went a step further and included all of the logos, certifications, and specs behind the elastic strap. This way, that junk text is not apparent at all!

Conclusion

If you are looking for a solid, powerful and nicely design power brick, I strongly recommend you take a look at the BatteryPro, it’s quite well designed and should be a good-looking companion for your remote adventures! Bonus points, it keeps the charge for months, and months!


ComfySleep Organic Buckwheat Hull Pillow Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-04-22 12:02

Over the last two decades, I really tried all kinds of pillows. It all started with a down-filled pillow that I got from my dad that I kept for way too long, then I moved to memory foam, latex foam, shredded latex and back to another type of memory foam. Then, I tried a water-filled pillow that eventually leaked… so I was back to down-filled pillow, this time with a mix of feathers and down for added support. And finally, I discovered the ComfySleep Buckwheat Hull pillow.

Why all that change? Comfort is the reason. I’m a side, stomach and back sleeper so I need a pillow that does a good enough job of supporting me, while at the same time, not put too much strain on my neck when I’m sleeping on my side or stomach. This is probably the longest quest I made around comfort in my whole life! Most of the mentioned pillowed ticked one or many boxes, but none of them actually were great and all of them eventually gave me neck pain, shoulder pain or back pain.

The latest contender is something that Japanese slept on for the last couple of centuries, a bag full of buckwheat hulls. ComfySleep actually provides this in a very thick and nice casing made of organic cotton twill. Let’s see how this pillow worked out for me over the last month and a half!

Design

The ComfySleep organic buckwheat pillow comes in four sizes, Standard, Classic, Classic Plus and Traditional. They are not as large as one would expect since the material is not down or feathers. I was provided by ComfySleep the Standard size pillow with an extra 2lbs of hulls, as well as the Classic Plus, same length as the Standard but a fair bit narrower.

ComfySleep Organic Buckwheat Hull Pillow

The pillow is made of a predefined quantity of buckwheat hulls, a dry ingredient that is perfect for supporting your head and neck while at the same time being able to move freely around to adapt to your back and neck line. The casing is also made of organic materials, cotton twill this time, that has a strong zipper. This makes sure the content does not come out of the casing while you sleep.

And if you need to add or remove some of the hulls, you simply unzip and remove them with a large soup ladle. Each product comes with extra hulls because overtime, they might lose some of their thickness and adding some back will bring back the optimum comfort level.

Features

  • Filled with thoroughly cleaned, organic buckwheat hulls
  • Buckwheat grown in Canada
  • Provides complete head and neck support for restful sleep
  • Casing made from durable, 100% organic cotton twill
  • Zippered opening allows for addition or removal of buckwheat to achieve your perfect level of support
  • Breathable so that you sleep cool
  • Family-owned business

Experience

When you first open the box, you are greeted with your pillow already filled a pre-defined amount of hulls and a large Ziploc bag with extra hulls. You can first start to sleep on the pillow as it and see how comfortable you feel. Then over time, you add or remove hulls to fit your preference.

I first started with the Standard pillow, thinking it’s the recognizable shape. After a few days sleeping on it, I realized it was too large for me, pushing me too far down my bed and I was having my feet dangling out of the bed. I have a king-size bed and I measure 6 ft. I could have removed some of the filling but instead I decided to try the Classic Plus, a pillow with the same length, but narrower in design. I LOVED IT!

This Classic Plus size can be used as a side pillow for people that want to have something next to them, or between your knees if you need a straighter line all along your body. In my case, I used it as a pillow and realized on the first night that it was perfectly filled and perfect size for me!

You need to know two things about buckwheat hull pillows. The first one is that they make noise when you move around or reposition your head. I did not find this annoying and I even heard people describe it as soothing (👋🏻 iMyke!). The second thing is that this material allows you to actually shape the pillow, but it actually holds in place! At first it’s eerie, but then you realize how great this actually is!

I often turn from back to side or stomach, and I then move some of fabric to fill the arch of my neck and have full support from head to shoulders and it’s actually quite soothing to feel this kind of support!

Conclusion

If you are like me and tried a tone of pillow or are still searching for the Choosen One, have a look at ComfySleep Organic Buckwheat Hull Pillow, it’s amazing and I could not be more excited for a pillow! The comfort level is through the roof even for a strong guy like me! It adapts and supports you to sleep perfectly. The extra hulls allows you to adjust comfort out of the box and over time if you feel the hulls have diminished in their abilities to hold you up correctly. You can even buy extra hulls for the coming years if you need more.

I really like the casing, the hulls, and the overall quality of this product. I strongly recommend this pillow to anyone. Period. After many decades, I finally found the type of pillow my body needs!


Belkin Car Power Valet Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-04-22 11:01

The Belkin Car Power Valet is kind of a weird product. It fills a real need, but at the same time adds a touch of luxury, not normally associated with in-car accessories.

Design

It is actually made of more than one accessory, the first part is the 12V adapter that allows you to power your mobile devices with its powered USB port. The second part is a high-quality cable that can be magnetically attached to your car dashboard with its little sticky magnet. And the last part is the leather pouch in which you can store everything.

Everything is made of aluminum and other quality materials. This really feels luxurious in terms of accessories. Even the box has a great unboxing experience that feels great!

Features

  • Single port aluminum charger
  • 2.4A for fast charging
  • Magnetized aluminum cable heads
  • Dash Magnet for cable management
  • Leather case for neat storage
  • Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad

Performance

The Power Valet works as expected and does with by adding a touch of luxury to the experience. If you have an expensive car, chances are you do not want to get a cheapo 1$ charger. This accessory is perfect to match any Lexus or BMW, or even a Tesla. :)

The 2.4A current is great for fast charging your iPhone, while you are using the GPS.

Conclusion

Overall, this accessory is great and should be looked at if you want a refined experience and accessories to match your great-looking car. The Belkin Car Valet is what you are looking for!


Almost Impossible 2, the Return Is the Modern Retro Platformer!

Permalink - Posted on 2019-04-09 06:00

In October 2015, Dan Counsell released the iOS game Almost Impossible! And I was immediately hooked! I covered it on the blog and I got very positive feedback from you guys.

Guess what? Dan is back at it [Almost Impossible! 2]((https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/almost-impossible-2/id1453987087?ls=1&mt=8), a sequel of the game! 50 new levels, no in-app purchase, just a simple purchase of 1.99$ (2.79$CA) and that’s it! No ads either, no fuss!

 

Almost Impossible! 2 is a side-scrolling atmospheric puzzle platformer, built exclusively for iOS. Guide a small ball of light on a dangerous journey. It’s easy to pick up, yet insanely addictive.

No Ads, no In-app-purchases, just fun gameplay and with over 50 action packed levels, Almost Impossible! 2 is the most splendid game you’ll pick up this week!

This is a instant recommendation from me! Plus, the music made by Jim Kulakowski, is as always amazing! Fun fact, after hearing Jim’s music for Almost Impossible!, I commissioned him to do the music for RGBA, our podcast!

Almost Impossible! 2 [iOS]
Almost Impossible!


The SNES Omnibus by Brett Weiss, an Amazing Retro Anthology

Permalink - Posted on 2019-04-07 16:19

Rarely do books hit a bull’s eye in my retro gamer heart like the SNES Omnibus! Brett Weiss did an amazing job gathering information, comments, and reviews of all of the Super Nintendo game repertoire!

The SNES Omnibus is an in-depth look at what not only shaped my childhood, but completely revolutionized the gaming industry. When all you could see on TV were ads about how faster the Genesis was, the Super Nintendo kept innovating with new game genres, ton of RPGs and incredible game direction that would leave a deep and wide mark on gamers all of the planet.

The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A–M)

I remember reading Electronic Gaming Monthly, Gamepro and Nintendo Power each and every month to get new reviews of games I could soon either purchase or rent for 3$ a day at the Super Club Vidéo 2000. Brett not only compiled the full list, but he also brought back from the past how the games were received and what industry experts were saying about them.

If you are ready for an amazing blast from the past, make sure to pick up the SNES Omnibus Volume 1 today and while you’re at it, go ahead and preorder the Volume 2, it just got pre-released and it will be in your hands on April 28th!

The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A–M)
The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 2 (N–Z)


Apple TV 4K Dream Setup, Wire-Free with Great Sound

Permalink - Posted on 2019-04-07 11:32

When I was preparing for my upgraded living room, I choose a great Vizio 4K television to benefit from that nice 4K HDR picture, but I also needed a new Apple TV 4K, the right cables and accessories to make all of this setup nice, tidy and most of all great looking and kid proof.

I had most of the gear chosen pretty early on and that includes the Apple TV 4K, the only hassle less 4K HDMI cable from Belkin that is trusted to do the best job, an elago Multi Mount to stick the Apple TV to the back of the TV using magnets and the elago R1 Siri Remote Case to protect the glass of the Siri Remote in case of drops.

Change of Plan

Not long after I got the Vizio TV, I realized that the back of the TV is made of plastic, but not plastic that hides a slate of metal, therefore I cannot use the 4 strong magnets of the elago Multi Mount to attach it to the TV. I have to use the rubber loop handle to attach it to my TV wall mount and leave it dangling away from eyesight.

Not the worst thing that could happen. With a bit of cable management, I can get all this setup nicely since the 6ft of the Belkin Ultra High Speed 4K HDMI Cable requires some black tie wrap to loop it around the back of the television.

I used to have the TotalMount Apple TV mount that sticks to the back of the TV, but twice it fell. I should probably have given it more time to really set by placing the TV face down and adding weight to the back of the mount for a couple of hours, but I was in a hurry and I wanted to play with my new toys! 🙂

Kid Safe

Not sure if you look up the price, but a Siri Remote repair is very expensive, 79$ in the US so probably over 100$ in Canada, so I always trusted the elago R1 Case for my original Apple TV and could have not been more satisfied! I even tried knock offs when I first got the Apple TV 4K, but highly regretted it. Bad moulding, cheap materials, etc.

Now both my Apple TV remotes are protected with the trusted elago R1 Case!

What About Sound?

For this part of the setup I was looking at a compact solution that is a no-fuss solution either. I did not want to fiddle with a ton of wire or latency. Therefore I choose the Sonos Playbar, an optical cable solution with only another thin wire for the power. It even matches my TV for the metallic accents!

Nothing fancy here in terms of setup, I only installed the Playbar Mount (sold separately) to the TV wall mount and that was it.

Conclusion

This is not the most complicated or involved setup but covers the ground to get a fast Apple TV mounted to the back of the TV and a soundbar just below. No wires dangling and a protected expensive Apple TV Remote.

Have you recently done a TV setup? If so let me know what parts you choose and what setup you did!

Apple TV 4K
Vizio 4K Ultra HD HDR Television
elago Multi Mount
elago R1 Siri Remote Case
Sonos Playbar


D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-04-07 09:33

The number of security cameras that are HomeKit powered is not very large. One of the first cameras that were released, if not the first one with this feature, is the Omna 180 Cam HD by D-Link and we gave it a spin! It’s a security camera with HomeKit support as its main features that can alert you of movement as well as record locally the footage on a microSD card.

Design

The design of the Omna 180 Cam HD, let’s just call it the Omna camera from now on, is very nice. You have a brushed-aluminum cylinder with a front-facing lense. It has air vents near its foot and a single microUSB cable connector to go with it. You install the microSD card on the underside of the camera.

D-Link Omna 180 HD Camera

There’s not much to it, as there are no options, external accessories, light or anything else. It’s pretty much there by itself.

Features

  • HomeKit Compatible
  • 180˚ Field of View
  • 1080p recording
  • Two-way audio
  • Nightvision

Performance

The first thing you need to do is setup the camera. Thankfully the HomeKit feature makes this ultra-simple. Just point your HomeKit app camera to the code label on the back and bingo. :) Just like an iTunes Gift Card of the past, you get the camera added to your Home in HomeKit.

When enabled, you can do motion recording to the not-included microSD card. This means that you get clips recorded automatically from a few seconds before movement to after the moment has stopped. The UI to view back the footage is awful though. I would strongly recommend to hook the memory card to your computer to navigate the folder structure and see your videos.

You can shout inside the app and have the speakers on the camera play what you are saying. You can have a conversation using this camera but there is some delay. Also, all of the functions I mention are only available inside the Omna app. The HomeKit app only allows to view live feed of the camera, no options, no settings. The single options you might fiddle with is the motion detection sensitivity and the delay between recordings (from 30s to 5 minutes). These will allow you to record meaningful footage.

Recording Quality

One of the most important things with a security camera is the quality of its recording. I will show you a few examples of recording in different situations so you can see how good, or bad it is. The footage is untouched and simply uploaded online as is so you can see the exact files you will be able to retrieve from the camera microSD card.

Here are a couple of examples to show off what the Omna 180 Cam HD can do.

Conclusion

As you can see just from the feature list, the Omna 180 HD camera does the minimum but very well. The quality is not up to par with other 4K cameras and it does not have any smart features like going from 4K to HD and following a detected human but it does record what you point it to. It has a very large field of view and that’s a good thing. It’s HomeKit enabled so you can use Siri Shortcuts with it.

As for quality well, I’m very happy to be late to the review. Over the last few weeks D-Link pushed great updates including a quick arm/disarm features and an auto-update for the firmware. One of the worst bugs I saw was problems when I was trying to save my zones, it would go back and ignore my changes. I would need to do this 3 or 4 times for them to apply.

I initially wanted to lower the score of this camera because of all the software issues but now that they are resolved it’s much better!


Double Density Reaches 100 Episodes and Co-Host Goes Missing

Permalink - Posted on 2019-04-02 07:30

I’ve been a big listener of Double Density since the beginning and I really enjoyed every bit of it! I’ve always loved conspiracies around aliens, crypto’s and all things paranormal and as you know tech in general. So mixing both is basically great!

They recently reached their 100th episode and by the end of last week episode something weird happened. Brian, one of the two co-host, basically disappeared… very weird.

Angelo, the second half of Double Density, is trying to understand what happened. And no, it’s not just a case of bad Internet.

I really hope Brian is found, he’s a great guy.

[Read on Hipster Pixel]


Otterbox Symmetry Series Star Wars Collection Case for iPhone Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-26 16:21

I’m kind of a sucker for all things Star Wars, and an iPhone case makes no exception. Otterbox, famous manufacturer of little tanks for your precious mobile devices did a collab (that how kids say it these days, right?) with Lucasfilm and came out with a slew of nice iPhone cases. The Symmetry Galactic Collection is comprised of seven designs depicting classic imagery and new ideas related to the Star Wars universe.

Design

If you ever wanted to get a case that can both protect your iPhone and look awesome at the same time, I think I got what you wished for right here! The Symmetry line is known to be simple yet truly effective to protect your post-1000$ device. It’s designed to wrap your phone around with a nice thick layer of rubber to absorb the shock, while at the same time offering a slick outside, perfect to receive the nice Star Wars imagery.

The case also has a raised bumper to protect your screen when you place it face down on a table.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a case to show your allegiance to the Rebels of the Empire, I think you found it in the Symmetry Galactic Collection from Otterbox, just make sure to look up the right model, not all designs are available for all models of phone!


Elago W5 Apple Watch Stand Review, a Gameboy Tribute

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-25 16:48

Sometimes a product gets released and it’s just too great no to consider it. I am particularly fond of products that have a modern take on a nostalgic aspect of my childhood so when I saw the elago W5 stand a Gameboy looking stand for the Apple Watch, I had to snap a few pictures of it!

You might remember the Macintosh stand, the Lisa stand for iPhones or even the iMac stand, I really love all of them and elago makes a great job of creating them out of quality materials!

This W5 Apple Watch Stand is no exception, it comes as a single part and you need to provide the Apple Watch charging puck, but once you do you get an awesome result!

Bonus points if you set an old green Gameboy wallpaper like me ;)

You liked the Gameboy and you have an Apple Watch? Just get the W5 Stand it’s dope!


Belkin Boost↑Up Charging Stand Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-28 10:30

Belkin is known for making great accessories. In the past, we’ve reviewed the PowerHouse Charge Dock which charges your watch and your phone at once. The Belkin Boost↑Up is the latest Belkin stand that now supports Qi charging.

Design

The stand is made mostly of rubber and plastic. Your phone is secure in both landscape and portrait charging modes. The bottom of the dock has a little groove that helps the phone lock into position. The borders on both sides make it easy to rest the phone in a dark room, they serve as guides to find the stand. The stand doesn’t have any branding except for a little engraved logo in the middle of the charging pad that is hidden with a phone. No over-branding very understated. It makes for a very sleek looking stand.

Features

The Boost↑Up works in both portrait and landscape orientation. Two indicator LEDs let you know when the phone is charging, one for portrait and one for landscape. The phone can also be charged using a case as thick as 3mm. I’ve only tested with an Apple Silicon Case which works great. The LED will blink if something is getting in between the phone and the pad preventing it from charging. The stand comes with an AC adapter attached to a 1.5 metre cable. It is compatible with all Qi devices, which includes Apple, Samsung, LG and Sony. The Boost↑Up comes with a 2 year warranty plus an additional year if you register the device. A $2,500 Connected Equipment Warranty is also available if anything happens to your device while it’s charging.

Belkin Boost↑Up Dock

Performance

The stand charges at up to 10W depending on the device. The iPhone will only charge at 7.5W which is a slight upgrade from the 5W adapter that comes with all new iPhones. Including a 5W charger with the purchase of a phone in 2019 is pretty cheap but this is not the place where I will dwelve on the subject.

Several Android devices will support the maximum output of 10W with the Boost↑Up charging pad while the Samsung Galaxy phones charge at 9W. I can’t comment on the difference between this stand and the standard adapter provided with the phone, I normally let it charge while I sleep. If I ever need a fast fill up, I still use a 10W iPad adapter and a lightning cable. I do use the Mophie Charging Pad+ to provide little fill ups when I’m running around the house doing chores. The biggest performance gain comes from the ease of using a Qi charger instead of a cable. It’s so much easier to drop you phone on a pad, or in this case prop up your phone on a pad than fiddling around with a cable. This means a lot more little instances of charging throughout the day. I’m no scientist, but several fill ups might actually be better for the health of your battery than full discharge and full charge.

Conclusion

As I’ve stated in the Mophie Charging Pad review I’ve become a huge fan of wireless charging (inductive charging!), this stand is all I want in a bedside charger. I would benefit from Qi charging for all my devices, I’m looking at you AirPods.


elago AirPods EarPads Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-30 11:53

When the AirPods were released, some tech pundits were freaking out because regular EarPods were falling off their ears and it was a certainty that the AirPods were going to fall out the same way. It was revealed to them that they are much better set in your ears than they expected, therefore there was no need to panic for the majority of users doing normal stuff.

But what if you are not one of the lucky ones that have perfect ear canals for AirPods? What if you are actually the perfect user for AirPods? Well, you need to turn yourself to elago for a potential solution in the elago AirPods EarPads!

Design

A set of « hooks » that wrap around the AirPods and a little hook that fits inside your ear cartilage. It allows to lock in the AirPod inside your ear and even if you move fast and normally have loose AirPods they will not fall.

The whole thing is made of silicone, a very soft silicone that feels comfortable. It’s very flexible thus adapts to your ears. For a perfect fit you actually have two sets in the box of different sizes.

I even tried to push the product even further by cutting the hooks and hope to have them fit inside the case. This is one thing that many users are looking for; a thin rubberized envelop that would allow to slightly increase the size and tighten the fit in your ear canal. At the same time, you won’t the AirPods to fit inside the case with that thin rubber rise envelope. Sadly the elago AirPods EarPads with the hooks cut do not fit in the case. Therefore you need to remove them each time you want to charge AirPods, this is their main disadvantage.

Conclusion

If you are someone for which the AirPods do not fit I strongly encourage you to look at the elago AirPods EarPads as a way to make the AirPods even better for you. If they already fit well there is no reason for you to look at this product. The design is very good and the quality on par, perfect for people with ears that do not accept AirPods naturally. You have to give it to elago to provide a product for almost every use cases in the wild.


TCL 6-Series 55-Inch 4K HDR TV Review (55R617)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-17 11:53

It’s not every day that a company comes up with the will to shake down a market. I remember when Vizio came out with their first local dimming HDTV at half the price of the competition. This was very impressive and it did rock the world of HDTV buyers everywhere. Today, they are still at it, but another contented entered the arena with the will to take down Vizio from its prestigious position.

TCL launched 4K television with HDR10, local dimming, Dolby Sound and Dolby Vision and many more features found in modern Vizio televisions that until recently sold for around 2,399$CA. I know this because I bought one of these last year. The new lineup of TCL is quite rich in terms of features and very affordable, but the one we need to focus on today is the 6-Series 55-incher. More precisely, the 55R617 model to be accurate.

Design

The 6-Series 55-inch TCL Roku television is great looking. Right out of the box, I really like the slim bezels and the feet. Design-wise it’s really in the same category as the other major players out there, apart from a slight detail. Panel quality. You know this plastic film they put on shiny plastic panels to protect them? Well, when I removed it from this TV set, I had to be extra careful not to pull too hard or the panels would come off the television.

Assembly of the feet is very easy and requires only a Phillips screwdriver and the four screws. One thing I love about this TV and so often gets forgotten, a metal back. The top half portion of the TV is metal covered in a thin plastic panel allowing me to stick my Apple TV remove to the back of it using magnets. Yes, I still and using the Elago R1 Intelli Case for Apple TV Remote. Actually, I have two now; one for each Apple TV in the house.

The colour choice made by TCL is great and unobtrusive, overall I really dig this TV’s design!

Features

  • 55-inch 4K UHD with Dolby Vision HDR
  • 96 Contrast Control Zones
  • Wide Colour Performance optimized for DCI-P3
  • HDR Pro Gamma
  • 3 HDMI inputs, Antenna, Ethernet, RCA, Optical

Performance

There are two major components at play here, the TCL hardware and the Roku software. They need to work well in tandem for the overall experience to work. This means the hardware must be powerful enough to run the Roku OS and all of the nice 4K content its apps allow as well as the software needs to allow a sufficient amount of customization to really get the TV experience viewers are looking for.

On the Roku OS side of things, I’m happy to report that this TV is powerful enough to quickly drive the Roku OS; as quick as the most expensive Roku box out there basically. After that, of course, we need to try some 4K content to really get a hang of how it behaves with different sources.

4K Content Sources

Starting with Youtube and the nerd stats option turned on. I managed to get 4K60p content from all of the 4K videos I wanted to look at. However, trying to navigate around the video timeline is very buggy and jittery. To a point where it really struggles to keep up if you need to skip ahead more than once or twice. Even just moving from one UI button to the next lagged a lot. The Youtube TV app should really be fixed in that regard.

Moving on to Netflix. This time, I was not able to find any 4K badges on 4K content that streams in 4K on my Apple TV. Not sure if it’s a limitation, bug or something else. But the most I seemed to be able to get out of it is HD. I tried both Wi-Fi and Ethernet and that did not make a different. The Roku OS reports a great connection in both occurrences. One weird thing I noticed is the UI is very pixelated, kind of if the UI is in 720p and stretched to 4K. Also, all of the movies I tried to play got stuck at 25%.

For the record, I have the 4K plan on my account and it works flawlessly on my Apple TV (up next!)

I tried to use an Apple TV 4K with the Roku, basically turning the Roku into a dumb TV and it worked flawlessly. HDMI-CEC turns the TV ON when I hit the Siri Remote, it auto selects the right input and the Apple TV reports 4K60p and Dolby Vision are ON and working perfectly. This time around, I can get 4K content on both Netflix and Youtube without a hitch. There is definitely something wrong with the built in Roku Netflix app.

Hardware Performance

The Roku OS has a nice set of features allowing you to fully customize the display by adjusting its colours and behaviours up to your liking. One thing you lose when you have a low-cost panel like this is colour accuracy between units therefore you should try to use something like a Spyder 5 colorimeter to get accurate colours. For the other settings, Rtings put up a great calibration article that, as usual, is greatly detailed and helps quickly get the most out of your Roku 6-Series TV. Thankfully, out of the box, you don’t have much to change to get the best image on this specific television.

The only connector lacking is the number of HDMI ports. The 6-Series only has 3 and I would love to have 4 or 5. I understand that most people buying this TV might have one or two devices only, but it’s not my case. I have many devices and video games consoles and 5 HDMI ports is a good number. The cool thing though with the TCL 6-Series is that there are no “better, best good” kind of ports. All ports are created equal and if you enable gaming mode, the latency is actually very low and identical on all ports!

You do have an SPDIF digital out and that is good, as many low-cost TVs don’t have one of those. It’s required if you want to use a Sonos Play:bar, especially if you don’t want to “waste” the HDMI-ARC port for that soundbar. Another port that is almost extinct is the antenna port allowing you to consume over-the-air content.

And finally, there is a 3.5mm jack in the back so you can plug in many headphones for a wireless experience!

Display Performance

The 6-Series TCL TVs have 120 contrast control zones on the 65-inch model and 96 on the 55-inch model. This helps a lot to get great contrast from the panel. It also has 120Hz Clear Motion Index refresh rate and a few more settings in the options to allow to get 24p, 30p or 60p content appear the way you like it on the display.

Compared to my Vizio P-Series, I really don’t see any different in terms of panel rendition, colours or contrast. TCL really did an amazing job for such an affordable television! I tried the television in a very bright living room and even with the light of the day, the television was able to be bright enough to showcase all of the great colours the Dolby Vision HDR can produce! And I was not even at maximum brightness!

Always On

When you set up the television, you are asked to connect it to the Internet, a normal move since this TCL television is powered by Roku OS and needs a connection to show you content. But what if you want to use it as a dumb panel? And use another media box hooked to it? Then you would be tempted to disable the Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection. You can do it, but prepared to be annoyed!

The front circle, and only button physical button on the television, is surrounded by a blue LED. This LED is used to provide feedback to the user when certain problems arise. But in the case of the user removing the Wi-Fi password and unplugging a network cable, this circle will blink twice then pause, and do it again until the end of time.

There is no way to have it not blink in your face constantly. This is a very sad situation, as I know, lots of people that are looking for a good panel in 2019 where they won’t use the smart features of it.

Sound Quality

The sound quality sent from the TV is OK but not impressive. It can get loud enough to hear what actors are saying, but if you are looking for that great T-Rex trembling in Jurassic Park, you can forget about it! The bass is not very present therefore, all of the low thumping and trembling will be, well, absent. Get yourself a nice speaker bar and hook it via the optical out of the HDMI-ARC port on the back instead!

Remote

The remote is very similar to what you had with the latest Roku boxes. A good-sized, rounded remote that is comfortable to use and has nice shortcut keys to help you start those favourite services of yours! I do find the selection peculiar though. Netflix, that’s a given, but Deezer and TuneIn on a television is a weird choice since both are music services. Especially given that the television’s speaker do an OK job for movies, but a very bad one for music since they are lacking in the lower frequencies.

The last one is CBS All Access, a good contender, but fairly new in Canada. It launched in the US in 2014 but only last April in Canada, just in time for the new Star Trek Discovery television series. I’m guessing they are paying big bucks to be placed in this spotlight.

You can also control the volume from the side buttons. This remote looks almost identical to the one that came with the Roku Ultra with the only exception that it does not have a 3.5mm port for headphones. For private listening, you need to go through your mobile device.

Remote App

The app has lots of interesting function and is worth installing to explore some of them. The private listening feature is very good and since a recent update to Roku OS you can have up to four people listening at the same time!

You can use the keyboard to search or your voice and almost all of the settings are accessible through the app. And by that I mean settings like picture calibration which are rarely seen outside the TV itself. This is a big plus for some quick adjustments.

Ads and the Low Price

You must be wondering how such a great TV with Roku OS built-in, a value of easily 100$ or more on top of what a regular TV can now cost under 1,000$ for a 55-inch? Well, this is explained by ACR.

Automatic Content Recognition. Your television can know what you are watching and this data is very valuable for data brokers. Thankfully, you can disable the feature in the options, but it’s ON by default. This way, manufacturers like Vizio or TCL can make extra money on an industry that usually has a 6% profit margin and at the same time lower the cost of the television for consumers.

I do not use the smart feature of my Vizio TV, therefore it does not have access to my Wi-Fi and it’s perfectly fine like this. For this TCL, however, since it has Roku OS you need to provide it with a connection or else most of the Roku OS features won’t be available.

Conclusion

The 6-Series TCL television is of tremendous value and I highly recommend it. For the price it’s very hard to beat what TCL and Roku put together. The panel is great and the HDR content looks amazing! It could benefit from stronger plastic panels, either a fixed Youtube app or a stronger CPU because the timeline actions cause major slowdowns in 4K and 2 extra HDMI ports. Otherwise, the port selection is incredible with low latency on every post when Game Mode is ON, no “better” HDMI port, they are all created equals.

The Roku OS adds a very nice touch to an otherwise great piece of hardware. And almost all of what I tried work perfectly as expected! If you are looking for the absolute best picture, follow the guides only to calibrate the feature but try to get a colorimeter to get the actual colours right. Panels are not calibrated identically in the plant.

The remote is a great remote, I always liked the Roku remote. The choice of the channels is not the one I would have made but this is something you cannot change. At the very least there’s a Netflix button and your favourite channels are always one click away when you hit Home on the remote.

Overall, 2019 is off with a great start with this amazing product! I can only imagine where they will be taking this product in te future!

Notes to Manufacturer

I write these reviews for geeks like me, the great guy or gal that will be purchasing this product so they know the type of experience this product provides. This section is aimed at the manufacturer and lists a number of enhancements of fixes that would greatly benefit the product. Think of it as a TL;DR for just the things to fix.

There is a definite problem with the Youtube Channel or the processing of the stream that really drives down the quality of the experience in 4K content. Also, the Netflix Channel does not seem to be either using high quality assets or it’s running at a lower resolution for some reason; it’s very pixelated. Also, streams have a hard time starting; I did not manage to get a stream passed the 25% mark and all of the shows normally available in 4K do not have the 4K badge, only an HD badge. I have the latest version of the Roku OS, I restarted the television many times and used both wired and wireless connections.

Considering the 4K content is still hard to come by, I would strongly suggest to invest time in either fixing (or helping Netflix fix) the app so offer high resolution assets and fix that loading issue I’m having. For the Youtube Channel I really hope it’s not a performance bottleneck and just a bug in the channel code.


PlayerUnknown's Battleground Press Kit Unboxing for PS4

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-07 11:28

PUBG just got released on PS4, and I got this sweet press kit! Let’s go through it with a knife!

This great press kit contains, of course, a download code for the game and nice extra including a pin and a coin! Hit that play button to see it in its full 4K glory!


JisonCase iPhone 7 Plus Case Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-03 13:04

An alternative to the expensive Apple leather cases for the iPhone Plus size, the Jisoncase Leather Cases are interesting. They offer a quality leather case that is well moulded for the iPhone devices, but more than that. What happens after some time?

Jisoncase Leather Case

Design

One of the things you consider when looking at leather products is the patina, the look it has after it is used and shows normal wear. I personally love how leather transforms over time and I’m happy to report that my red Jisoncase case is good looking after a few months of use. The black version I was provided looks like new!

The case itself is well fitted on an iPhone 7 Plus and looks great. The texture is also very good and holds well in my hands. The volume buttons are not perfect, they have a slight angle on the red case, but seem fine on the black case. Of course, they are always going to be harder to press at first and over time will become more flexible. This exact thing happened to me with the red case, the one I use most, the buttons are a lot softer now, but still misaligned.

Conclusion

Overall the Jisoncase are good products, not perfect, but still very good for about 23$US. Nothing beats the original Apple cases, but for this you need to pay a premium. Now, it’s up to you do compare both and see if you “need” to spend more or if the Jisoncase are good enough!


Elago Waterproof AirPods Case Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-02 19:30

We just published our review of the Elago AirPods Silicone Case that should protect your AirPods case from scratches, scuffs and more. But one thing it does not do is protect it from water damage. For this purpose, Elago has another case for this with a surreal name, the Elago Waterproof AirPods Case!

Design

The case is similar to the Silicone Case but adds both a small Lightning port cap and instead of the second part attached to the top lid, we now have a longer main part that unrolls to cover the seam between the two AirPods case parts.

This seems very effective as it’s super tight and I do trust it to prevent water damage. You should use it if you are going to a place near water or if you are often forgetting your AirPods in the washer.

Conclusion

Available in 13 different colours the Waterproof AirPods Case by Elago if you count the versions with the hook; it should be easy to pick up and match your style! I strongly recommend this case if you are like me, very clumsy!


Elevation Dock 4 for iPhone Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-02 14:20

I have always loved Elevation Labs products and I even help them by backing many of their Kickstarters and even bought some of their slightly blemished products once or twice. So I don’t need to tell you I was very curious about the Elevation Dock 4 when it was released! Over the years, I’ve reviewed the Elevation Dock 2 and the Elevation Stand for Thunderbolt Displays.

Design

This one is not made from a solid block of aluminum, but should still retain what makes a great Elevation product, right? It sure does! You now have a more compact dock with an overmoulded silicone exterior offered in both black and white.

Elevation Dock 4

But the real novel thing here is that this is the first MFi certified dock to see the light of day! It comes pre-assembled with a braided Lightning cable and that cable is MFi certified! With previous versions of the Elevation Dock you had to use your own cable (or with the Elevation Dock 3, use the one provided) and wire it thought a smart piece of aluminum. This time around it’s ready to be used out of the box!

You still have the lovely micro-suction pad under the dock with two distinct parts so you have a choice of partial or complete stickiness 🙂 One great thing with the Dock 4 is the adjustability offered by the two stainless steel knobs allowing to fit iPhone with cases up to 3mm thick. The 18° angle is also adjustable and can be locked in with 4° increments for the perfect setup!

Features

  • Compact Design
  • Compatible with cases up to 3mm thick
  • 18° angle with adjustable knob with 4° increments
  • First MFi certified Dock
  • CNC machined knobs, zinc inserts, braided cable
  • NanoPad with two levels of stickiness

Performance

As a big fan of the CNC machined aluminum docks, I have to say that I was weary about this design change at first. However, after rocking this dock as my main dock I must say that the added benefits outweigh the loss I felt regarding the design. The ability to adjust the angle and the stickiness are very welcomed. Also, I’m a sucker for a good quality cable and the braided cable both looks good and feels great!

As it goes with most of Elevation Labs products, the micro suction pad is a great addition but this time around it’s even better with the two different surfaces that allows you to have a lighter or stronger hold to your table.

Conclusion

It really comes down to the looks of it since both the Elevation Dock 4 and Elevation Dock 3 are amazing products. The Dock 4 wins in terms of functionalities so much so that I now prefer it over the aluminum Dock 3. Perfect dock if you want something that charges or syncs large files faster! And the MFi certification confirms it’s a well-made product down to the part that usually breaks more, the cable! Strong buy, in my opinion!


Elago AirPods Silicone Case Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-01 17:58

The AirPods have a nice looking shiny plastic case, but this thing will not stay pristine over time. You will see scratches, scuffs, and patches of matte spots on your case if you carry it with you every day of the week. Elago, known for their awesome docks for the Apple Watch with a retro vide, or an even retro-ier vibe, have made a nice perfectly shaped AirPods Silicone Case that cover 98% of its surface leaving only the Lightning port exposed.

Elago AirPods Silicone Case

Design

The AirPods Silicone Case is made of a single piece of moulded silicone that protects both the case and the case lid, protecting it from scratches and more. The Lightning post is exposed so you can still charge it without having to remove the case.

Surprisingly, even after months of use it still holds very well! The only problem is the little think silicone hinge can get destroyed over time. Mine is almost ripped through after a few months of use.

I have just replaced my AirPods at the Apple Store after about 5 months of use and looking at my old malfunctioning AirPods case, it still holds up very well compared to the new one. I only had it for a few weeks before protecting it with the Elago Silicone Case.

Conclusion

Availble in 8 different colours, including gray, black, white and a bunch of pastel colours, they even offer a wicked Nightglow Blue that, as the name implies, glows in the dark! I strongly recommend the Elago AirPods Silicone Case and if Elago could make the hinge stronger, it would be perfect for long-term use. Just be wary that this hinge might break one day as it is currently offered.


Belkin Stand for Apple Pencil Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-01 17:18

Here’s a quick article for the Belkin Apple Pencil Stand, a very nice, heavy stand to store your first generation Apple Pencil on your desk. This way it won’t be forgotten in a drawer somewhere.

Design

The Belkin Apple Pencil Stand is a nice brushed aluminum rounded block with a rubber centre that receives your Apple Pencil. There’s not much more than this to say. It’s heavy, it’s nice to look at and it’s well made.

Conclusion

The Belkin Apple Pencil Stand is strongly recommended to save your Apple Pencil from the depths of your desk drawer. This way you can regularly plug it in and have it always ready to be used. The Stand does not charge it, but I still recommend it.


Lowepro Slingshot Edge 150 AW Sling Camera Bag Review

Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-25 17:08

Finding a great big camera bag is not that hard, but finding a great small, compact “just perfectly sized” bag is quite a challenge. Sometimes you are only going out for the day and have one camera and one or two lenses only and you don’t need the big backpack. What bag could git the bill? The Lowepro Slingshot 150 AW is a small, compact bag that can accommodate a compact mirrorless like my Sony A7 III with a Zeiss 24-70mm installed, a spare short lens and a flash.

Let’s get over the features of this compact, but very versatile bag.

Design

The Slingshot Edge 150 AW is the smaller of the two sizes of the series. The Edge 250 AW has a single shoulder strap and should be used diagonally across your chest. When you need to take out your camera, you simply slide the bag across to the front and you unzip the U-shaped main compartment. There is your camera exposed and ready to use. If you need to swap lenses or add a flash, simply set the bag on a table or chair and unzip it completely. The internal divisions can be easily moved around thanks to the Velcro system build in most if not all Lowepro bags.

Lowepro Slingshot 150 AW

The second compartment is large enough to accommodate a few more accessories, chargers, batteries and more. You open it from the top. And for smaller accessories like a microfibre cloth, or a Lenspen, you have another small front pouch. And finally, if you need to attach a small compact tripod like the Giottos YTL compact tripod. As the name implies, the AW stands for All Weather and this means there is a hidden pouch near the bottom of the bag in the front where you can take out a nice weatherproof nylon cover to protect against the elements.

Features

  • Fits compact or mirrorless, plus one lens
  • Room for perfect tripod, headphones or other
  • Removable straps with quick release buckles
  • Weight: 700g
  • Size: 24.3 x 15.5 x 38.8 cm

Performance

I’ve been rocking this bag whenever I need to go out for the day and I really loved my experience with it! I’m able to travel light and still have my trusty Sony camera and an extra lane and all the gear I might need during this trip.

I even used this bag exclusively when I travelled to Portugal and the all-weather proofness of the bag was perfect for beach days where I had the camera tucked away to use later. The zipper was good guys that blocked all the sand from getting inside the compartment. And the weather-proof pouch was quite useful at one point when it started to pour outside. Not a single drop on the back itself!

Conclusion

Major thumbs up for the Lowepro Slingshot Edge 150 AW, as this bag really is the summum of compactness but roomy enough to allow you to bring all that you need for your quick or long trips. If you have a dSLR or an extra sense, you might want to check out its big brother the Slingshot Edge 250 AW which is slightly bigger. Both are great bags I highly recommend for any types of photography adventure!


Slide Camera Strap by Peak Design [Review]

Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-25 15:15

I recently bought a big camera as we call them, a Sony mirrorless camera but that’s not what we are reviewing here. The big camera comes with a decent strap but it doesn’t come close to the Peak Design Slide strap. Peak Design makes excellent products for photography enthusiasts and professionals, the Slide is no exception to that rule.

Design

The Slide is made of high-quality nylon similar to car seat belts. Two quick adjusters are made of metal that feel extremely expensive and high grade. The open and close action of these adjusters feel and work great. The nylon makes it easy to slide on clothing and the grippy side prevents the sliding when the strap is worn around the neck. The straps attach to the camera using the unique Anchor Link system. More on the Anchors in the next section.

Peak Slide Camera Strap

Features

Now the main reason I was interested in the Peak Design Slide was the Anchor System. When I’m using the camera around the house, I don’t really need a strap but as soon as I head out I want the camera around my neck. Using the included Sony strap meant threading it through the clips each time. The Slide fixes this problem with the Anchor System, part is left on the camera at all times and you simply snap the strap on each side. The Anchor left on the camera is similar to a bigger shirt button, it doesn’t get in the way when the strap is removed and clipping the strap back on and taking it off is a breeze.

The second valuable feature is the different ways you can use the strap with your camera. The Slide can be used in at least three different ways. The strap comes with a mount that can be attached to the bottom or your camera using the tripod screw, this let’s you use the strap as a sling. The classic anchor points let you use it as a shoulder or neck strap.

Conclusion

The Peak Design Slide is a huge upgrade on almost any straps that come with cameras, it’s definitely a big upgrade on the Sony Alpha strap. The Slide Lite might be a better fit for smaller cameras, it comes with the exact same feature but with a narrower strap. Now that you upgrade your strap have a look at the great Everyday Backpack also made by Peak Design that also makes use of some of the same design element cue as the Slide.


Google Pixel 3 XL Review

Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-17 12:56

Once again this year, Google is trying to hit the market hard with a new flagship device. The Pixel 3 is available as the regular Pixel and the Pixel XL once again, tries to hold the large full featured top of the line flag. Is this Pixel phone worthy of the flagship title, and is it a good iteration over the old Pixel 2 and worth the 150$ price increases over last year’s phone?

I’ve been rocking the Pixel 3 XL for the last few weeks so let’s check it out!

Design

The Google team in charge of the Pixel 3 hit a home run in my book. They managed to keep the design close to home, while making it cleaner, nicer and still add a touch of fun with the mint green power button. Yes, I have the Clearly White model! The glass back is beautiful to look at and I love the design lines on this device. It does not scream out like the Hydrogen One while at the same time feel refined.

Google Pixel 3 XL

In terms of design esthetics, for me the Pixel 3 XL is a pure joy to look at!

Google Pixel 3 XL

Display

The Pixel 3 XL display is now a large 6.3” AMOLED panel that, for someone using a Plus size iPhone as his day-to-day device, feels perfectly sized. The Pixel 3 XL and my iPhone in his case are eerily similar in terms of footprint. The major difference is the screen that covers a lot more of the front surface.

In terms of colours, this AMOLED display is really nice. The colours are very accurate and I don’t see any blown out greens like I saw in the past on some devices. People mentioned the skewing of some colours when you tilt the device sideways, and yes I can see this, but how often do you look at your screen at an extreme angle? Sometimes I think fanboys only try to find the smallest grain of salt in the cogs…

Google Pixel 3 XL AMOLED Display

There is a notch, and seriously you guys need to get over this. I’ve used an iPhone X and I’ve tried a few other devices and that notch situation is so overblown I find it crazy. Yes, the display is not completely covering the top, yes it’s not perfect, but seriously, I think this is a fair compromise especially if it’s designed in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. Embrace the notch, but make it look good. I’m looking at you Essential phone… 🧐

After not even a day, I totally forgot about the notch and ended up really liking the display with this notch. Just like the iPhone X, it’s not aggressive to live with this notch, especially when you consider all the tech they crammed inside this little space.

Pixel 3 Case

I really like first party case, but when I saw the announcement about the fabric-covered case I was definitely a skeptic. I was happy to see that they kept the minty green power button. I know many of you will find me weird, but I really, really like this little touch of colour on the side! ☺️

Once I got the Pixel 3 XL case on, I must say I became a convert. I was thinking of getting a rubber case or something like it, but that fabric gives just the right amount of grippyness and looks very, very good! It does not impair the ability to reach the fingerprint sensor on the back and I ended up keeping it on the device at all time!

Pixel Stand

This is one of the types of gizmos that you think you don’t really need, but… First of all, it’s inductive charging, by itself it’s a very useful feature. Second of all, Google added functionality so that once you “dock” your Pixel 3, it becomes a full fledge Google Home device responding to “OK, Google” queries. Great idea! This basically replaces the Google Mini people were putting on their desk. And finally, it includes 10W charging allowing you to charge your Pixel 3 XL quickly for when you place your phone on your desk for short amount of time.

Bonus idea, I really dig. Google made sure that it can display your best photos as full-screen while charging. It really looks good as a mini wallpaper display!

This charging stand packs in quite a punch. It can charge your phone fast with 10W of power delivery, as opposed to the regular 5W on Qi chargers and 7W with Apple’s fast inductive charging. But when you set your phone on it, you have the choice to enable the Google Assistant mode of the phone where your Pixel 3 actually becomes a full fledge Google Home assistant! It responds to your voice with the classic “OK, Google!”.

The stand is made of high-quality materials and shares the same design esthetics as the Pixel itself. It’s white and looks great just by itself. If you get a Pixel phone, I would strongly suggest you get this also.

Squeeze Me!

Just like some of the HTC phones, the Pixel 3 has the Active Edge technology that allows you to trigger an action by squeezing the phone in your hand. Thankfully you can set the intensity of the squeeze so it does not trigger all the time and so it does not require a Hulk level squeeze to work. Sadly, all it can do is trigger the Google Assistant and when you are receiving a phone call, a squeeze will silence the call. Not bad, but more customization would be welcome.

Google Pixel 3 XL

Features

  • Amazing new camera system and features
  • Google Assitant and Assistant Mode on dock
  • Fast charging compatible; including on Pixel Stand
  • Screen Time to manage your phone usage
  • Titan M security chip

Specs

  • 6.3-inch QHD+ OLED at 523ppi
  • 12.2 MP f/1.8 dual-pixel camera
  • 8 MP wide-angle (f/2.2) and telephoto cameras (f/1.8)
  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 845
  • 4GB of RAM

Performance

Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, a slightly more powerful CPU than the one in the Pixel 2, the Pixel 3 XL is not a slouch. It’s very responsive and the overall experience is great. Some features, especially games, could benefit from a newer CPU like the 850; which is simply an overclocked version of the 845 currently in the Pixel 3. If this was the only change from last year, most of the new camera features would be impossible to use. For that specifically, Google introduced a new Pixel Visual Core chip that supercharges most of the photo-taking capabilities of the Pixel 3.

Be it the HDR+, Top Shot, Portrait Mode and the Night Sight features, all of these would be significantly slower without the Pixel Visual Core helping crunch these calculations! This brings us to what many considered the biggest changes to the Pixel phones this year… the camera!

Camera

The actual sensor is not much different from the one in the Pixel 2. Most of the new Pixel 3 features are or will be back ported to the Pixel 2 in the coming months. The more processor intense features will not be back ported because they need the Pixel Visual Core 3 to be able to function in a relatively fast fashion and for some, like the Top Shot feature, it is still MIA.

Pixel 3 XL Camera

Let’s take the Night Sight mode, where you take a low light or even nighttime photo and after the magic processing, it’s almost as if it was taken during the day! If you quickly go to Photos after taking the photo, you will see the original version and an overlay marked “Processing…”; then after a few seconds you actually see the processed version. This only takes a few seconds, but I’m sure it would take another 5-10 on the Pixel 2. Compared to the processing done on the iPhone XS, I agree it’s not as intense, but Apple was able to cram the processing right in the viewfinder. Therefore you see the resulting pic even before you click the shutter button. If Google could have more powerful silicone, they could even do the same!

The quality of the images taken by the Pixel 3 XL are quite simply amazing. Sharp and with well-balanced colours, always. It’s a real joy to look at! Quite literally, dSLR level! When working with hard conditions, even without the Night Sight feature, it really gives out superior photos. It does so very fast and even features like the Portrait Mode works great. On the Pixel, this is all software achieved since it only has a single camera lens. The way Google approaches things with its Portrait algorithm has always been one of the best and the Pixel 3 XL gives out amazing results.

From my recordings, the 4K video looks good, but when you have such a powerful photo camera, you are kind of expecting something amazing on the video side. Don’t get me wrong, if you mix the Pixel XL camera with a nice Moment Case and a wide-angle lens, you will be able to take amazing videos. I was just expecting more.

You can record 4K30p and 1080p/120p (60p or 30p). The often preferred 24p is nowhere to be found.

Night Sight

This feature needs to be discussed a bit more. The camera actually takes a bunch of shots and then processes the result to make sure it can leverage the best of all the pictures. It eliminates all of the noise and really makes the image look as if they were taken during the day. It’s not perfect and you can clearly identify those photos as being taken with Night Sight mode ON. However, for the situations where you are missing a small amount of light, it’s really great!

Here’s a bunch of examples taken with the Pixel’s regular camera, then with the Nightsight feature ON and finally with an iPhone 7 Plus.

Pixel 3 XL Pixel 3 XL with NightSight
Pixel 3 XL Pixel 3 XL with NightSight
iPhone 7 Plus Pixel 3 XL
iPhone 7 Plus Pixel 3 XL
Pixel 3 XL Pixel 3 XL with NightSight
Pixel 3 XL Pixel 3 XL with NightSight
iPhone 7 Plus Pixel 3 XL
iPhone 7 Plus Pixel 3 XL
Pixel 3 XL Pixel 3 XL with NightSight
Pixel 3 XL Pixel 3 XL with NightSight
Pixel 3 XL Pixel 3 XL with NightSight
Pixel 3 XL Pixel 3 XL with NightSight
iPhone 7 Plus Pixel 3 XL
iPhone 7 Plus Pixel 3 XL

Selfie Camera(s)

The camera is great but what’s even better is the second selfie camera that is equipped with a wide-angle glass. This allows you to fit a lot more good people or landscape in your photos. It’s like if you arm became more than twice its current length all of a sudden!

I’m not a big selfie guy, but I can see the appeal and this will be well received by many!

Pixel 3 XL Dual Selfie Cameras

Android 9.0 Pie

Google is really getting their shit together with separating most of the OS features into single apps, like the laughter or the camera. This way more and more people, even those without an available Android update, can have a close to vanilla experience with Android the way Google intended it to be. And that OS is really good. Coming from an iOS user, this is high praise. I am at a point where I can recommend Android as much as iOS to anyone, it’s solid, stable, feature full and tries novel ideas that are pushing both OSes forward.

Pixel 3 XL Back

Price and Value

The price is, however, the pain point. This Pixel 3 XL tested starts at 899$ for the 64GB model and 999$ for the 128GB model. I complained about the iPhone XS prices and I will complain about the Pixel’s price too. The jump from the iPhone X to iPhone XS does not warrant such a big increase in price and similarly, Google decided to do the same thing with the Pixel and raised the price for no apparent reason. The Pixel 2 XL was 749$ when it came out last year.

Apple started the trend of raising prices and it really seems other manufacturers like Samsung and Google followed suit. Not a good idea, in my opinion. At least, you could get a free Pixel Stand when you pre-ordered the phone so that’s a 79$ consolation prize.

The Pixel 3 XL, is such a great device, I was hoping the price would stay the same so that it could get even more units sold since even the Samsung Galaxy is a 1,099$ phone. The Pixel is cheaper, but being kept at 749$, it would have been quite a hook into Samsung’s jaw!

Conclusion

Overall, the Pixel 3 XL is the definitive Android phone to get this year; at least until now! According to many the Google Pixel 2 camera was still the best camera on a smartphone before the Pixel 3 came out and now, with the new smarts in this camera, the Pixel 3 phones are now even further ahead the competition! I strongly recommend the Pixel 3 XL to anyone looking for a great phone!

The camera and the work the Visual Core chip is doing is quite simply incredible. Just look at the sliders of photos up there for quite impressive examples. Google hit hard with Top Shot, Super Res Zoom and the nice wide selfie camera. All of which have a wide aperture and powered by Google’s custom silicone we achieve results that basically keep it in the Top 1 position on the market!

The performance of this phone is great even if it does not have the best CPU when it got release, but with a full-day battery life and quick charging you will definitely not feel constrained! And Google is behind its product 100% having release multiple great updates since the phone was released. Including one that caused apps to be closed due to a high memory consumption issue when using the camera and its powerful algorithms.

If you are looking for an Android phone this year, this is the phone to get! And if you are curious about Google or would like to switch to Android for a change, you will have a great experience!


DSA Granite Keycaps Set Review

Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-05 11:17

When you fall in the amazing world that is mechanical keyboards, it really feels like a breath of fresh air for a kid of the 80s. And if you are too young to have lived in that era, please try a real mechanical keyboard. Once you do, you will fall in love with this hobby!

In the past I’ve tester short keyboards like the Pok3r, the new Sakura switch equipped Varmilo and the Durgod TKL just to name a few. But after having stopped on a keyboard of your preference, you need to dress it. And by that I mean equip this keyboard with options that will eventually lead to your endgame, a term often used to describe an enthusiast keyboard that is in its final form of evolution. One of these evolution is the keycaps set or keyset for the initiated. More than just plastic bits, they really can make an incredible different on the feel and ergonomic of your keyboard. A few months ago, I purchased a great keyset on Massdrop, the Matt3o /dev/tty MT3, a set that reminds of the old IBM PCs of the 80s.

The keyset is great and has a very high profile, aptly named Hi-Profile. The caps are very high quality and looks amazing, however, I was craving for another type of profile, something that is a lower profile. Here comes the classic DSA Granite, also designed by Matt3o too, are made of quality PBT plastic and dye sublimated.

The DSA profile is much shorter than the Hi-Profile but still have a half-dome design that is comfortable to type on. The shape allows you to easily centre your fingers on the keycaps and after a couple weeks on them I find them much more comfy to type on than the Hi-Profile set.

I have installed this keyset on both a Varmilo VA68M V2 as a tenkey-less solution and on the big Sakura equipped Varmilo MA104C. As you can see, they look amaaaazing! Personally I prefer the short-size keyboard to keep my Logitech MX Master mouse close for ergonomic reasons.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a great keyset that will fit with all keyboard design and do not need to wait for a group buy, jump over Pimp My Keyboard to grab a custom DSA Granite kit with all the keys that you need for your specific keyboard!


(Podcast) Casey Liss on Double Density

Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-28 08:15

Friends of our podcast, Brian and Angelo, just published their latest Double Density podcast episode with a special guest, Casey Liss! The guys did an amazing job of recording this great show with a great discussion on superstition, A-powered Apple computers and the best bagels (#TeamMontreal)!

I personnaly know Angelo and Brian and have been behind the scenes of the production fo this episode and I have to to bow very low at the efforts that was put in place, not only to do a great recording, but also to match the audio of Casey’s track as close as possible to how his voice sounds on ATP (Marco would be proud!)

If you are not a listenener of Double Density, what are you waiting for??

Double Density

[Read on Hipster Pixel]


RGBA #101: Kids Improve Security

Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-23 17:23

This week we discuss security hygiene, or if you prefer best practices. We hoped to cover security related to devices, but it’s already a very packed episode!

Enjoy the episode and take notes if you learn something, the whole episode is a big PSA!

[Read on Hipster Pixel]


Belkin Case + Stand for Pencil Review

Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-23 12:03

I’m betting the first thing you realized once you opened your Apple Pencil box is where will you store the replacement tip and the small female adapter? Well, Belkin has a solution for you in the shape of a case, a transport case that is very sturdy that can also, be used as a stand to showcase and have your Pencil ready at all times!

Design

The Case + Stand for Apple Pencil is a storage box made of two half parts that receives your Pencil as well as all the other accessories you might have laying around. They are stored in perfectly shaped containers hidden behind a small door. This way you will not loose the spare tip and it even has a place for an extra cap as, you know, this is probably the most lost part since the invention of small parts!

If you do not need to store and carry your Pencil, you can always close the lid and stab your Pencil on the case. It has a small place where you can set your Pencil vertically so it’s always ready to be used.

Case + Stand for Apple Pencil

Features

  • Sturdy case
  • Enough space for all the small parts
  • Shiny white finish matches Pencil look
  • Vertical stand on the case

The Case + Stand is a great product by Belkin, we can see their mastering of moulding and plastic to appropriately match the Pencil esthetics while at the same time offer useful storage compartments for the small parts of the Pencil.

Conclusion

For storing the Pencil on the go the case is great, and if you need an accessory that can also serve as a stand, this is the one to get! Nice design, nice useful features and a two in one, it’s the perfect match between form and function.


Exway X1 Full Review, Faster Than a Boosted Board!

Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-08 12:21

This is not my first rodeo on an electric skateboard and I’ve come to be quite used to the hub powered world of electric skateboard. When seeing what people were sharing about the Exway X1, I was really wondering if this board was all that mighty and great as the early videos showed it to be…

I’ve been riding an Exway X1 for many weeks now, and after camera troubles, I’m finally able to film and edit my review. If that’s what you like hit the Play button in the hero image and read this through afterwards!

Design

The X1 is a stiff deck electric skateboard that actually includes everything you need INSIDE the board and not under the board like Boosted or Juiced actually does it. Sure, you do lose the flex of the deck, but you also gain waterproof capabilities! The Exway X1 is rated IP55 and can survive puddles, rain and more. The only real downside is that you will need to clean your bearings more often.

The deck also has a nice concave shape that really helps with the overall control of the board when turning corners and carving around obstacles. I felt great on the Boosted Board, and the Exway is as great and it does not have the very nice Loaded deck. One particular component that so often have problems is the trucks. Often times, you will see cheap trucks being used on electric skateboard and in the worst scenarios, they can break and be very dangerous. Exway actually partnered with Seismic, a real skateboarding truck company to make sure they have top quality parts that will not break. Believe me, I’ve put more than 200 km on the Exway in Montreal where we have cracks and potholes that will put lots of strains on trucks when you hit them hard at 40 kph!

The wheels are 80 mm with a durometer of 80A, great wheels for city riding as they absorb lots of the vibrations. The board has also shockpads preinstalled to help with this. The only downside to this diameter of wheels is that the PU around the hub motors is too thin for hard road conditions. After 50 km I already had cracks on them, because 80 mm is not thick enough to absorb vibrations like the front wheels do. Not a single crack on the front wheels, but lots of cracks on the hub motor PU. Thankfully there is a spare set in the box and we can already get 83 mm wheels and 85 mm wheels on the Exway store! This will help greatly!

The Remote

The remote is very similar to the Boosted Board remote which, in my opinion, is the best remote out there in terms of control. The deadman switch and the wheel are just perfect. The Exway team took notice of this and built a very good quality remote. It does not have a deadman switch, but the wheel is almost as good. I’m also in love with the small screen that can not only display the battery of both the remote and the board at all times (thanks to a recent firmware update) but also show which mode you are on and the speed at which you are going!

This screen is incredibly useful and I don’t know why not more companies integrate such a nice feature in their remote! Finally, the remote has a matte finish that holds very well in hand, sadly it can easily come off. It does not impact the performance, just that it looks a bit more beat up. Personally, I like it a little bit beat up, it shows that it’s been used!

There is only one wheel for speed and one button to turn it ON or OFF, change the mode from 1 to 4, or even set the board to reverse.

Features

  • 40 km/h (25 mph) top speed
  • 15 km (10 miles) of range
  • 4 speed modes
  • Curved deck, 93.5 cm long (36 inches), 24 cm wide
  • Seismic 45˚ professional trucks (90A bushings)
  • Customizable modes and firmware updates through mobile app
  • 80 mm/80A wheels standard (83 mm option replacement online)
  • Waterproof (IP55 rating)

Performance

The performance of the board is quite simply amazing. If you were not looking, you could basically say that this is a belt-driven system! It’s even more powerful than a Boosted Board! I could not accelerate as fast as a Boosted Board but I could go much faster than a BB v2! But where this product really shines is with every little detail that was carefully thought and rendered into a fully featured board, waterproof and high performance!

Speed

In terms of speed, we can very easily know what is your current speed thanks to the speedometer inside the remote and clearly displayed on the screen. The board is rated at 40 km/h and I was able to reach very easily 38-39 kph with all 250 pounds of myself. It also accelerates fast to reach that top speed. This number is corroborated with speed radars in my neighborhood, they report the same speed. To be fair to the Exway X1, I also need to compare this speed with the Ride App, the mobile app that allows you to track your ride. With the Winboard and the Koowheel, I had to use this app since neither of them had any speedometer and at that time I did not have yet the speed radars.

RideApp Maximum Speed!

I can reach 43 km/h according to Rideapp! Quite a bit more than the 38 km/h I got with the Koowheel using the speed hack!

Range

As for the range, the manufacturer promises 15 km (10 miles). As with Boosted Boards, and all other boards, it all comes down to the way you ride, how many times you stop and how fast you go. I love speed and I do stop at red light, therefore, my maximum range is not as high as that promised 15 km. I always ride on the 4th speed with all customization options set to 100%. Also, I like to carve. In short, I have two speeds: stoped and full steam ahead.

For my style of riding (and with my weight on the maximum of what’s supported), I can get about 4 to 5 km of range. But if I know I need to go further, I change the remote back to 3rd speed where I have set the acceleration to 80% and 75% maximum speed with a 100% on the breaking for security reasons. This way I can increase my range alot and reach about 8-10 km depending on the road conditions and riding style. If you really want to reach the full 15 km, you might need to go back down to the 2nd speed but for me this is too slow.

Exway X1 in the Wild

Charging

I prefer to ride hard and fast and charge once I get at work. Using the charger, you can go from 0 to 100% in 2h. I usually have about 20-30% on the battery left when I get to work so in about 1h and a few minutes I get my board back to 100%. Brand new from this week, you can now get a quick charger that charges at 160% the rate so you can do a 0 to 100% charge in 35 minutes! This way you can stop to get a coffee, take a few sips while reading the news and your board is ready to go once again!

The remote will need a charge every 2.5 weeks for me if I ride the board 5 km in the morning and 5 km in the evening. I would love the vibration to be less intense, if often time give me a scare when I’m concentrated on the traffic around me.

Riding Experience

The Exway comes with a concave deck, great Seismic 45˚ trucks and bushings and a very comfortable wheel base. All this adds up to an amazing riding experience. Second to a Boosted Board that uses a flexi Loaded deck. The Exway deck is not flexible as they decided to install the batteries inside the deck to offer a nice waterproof rating. Carving is a pure joy and it really feels like you’re riding a cloud! If the streets are freshly paved!

Acceleration is great, especially when your board is fully charged and breaking is good. It’s not great because I’m a heavy guy and when coming at about 28 km/h I find it lacks breaking power to come a full stop. I nonetheless feel safe riding in traffic in Montreal.

Voltage Sag

This brings us to the only downside of the Exway, the way the battery management system and battery behave when you reach the 30% mark or lower. At full charge, when I get out of my house the power throughput of the BMS is amazing. I really fly, accelerate super fast and get to that 38 km/h in a few seconds. After riding for a while, when I get close to the office, I’m in the 30% range and I now see that that the acceleration is much slower. It still goes and I can still climb small hills, but you definitely feel it.

Yesterday was an awful day with constant wind at high speed and I got to work in the 10% range, it was still going but very slow. It’s like I was down to the first or second speed at about 16-18 km/h. There’s really no solution to this unless you stop to recharge with that new Quick Charger that can do 100% in 35 minutes.

I remember having the same issue with the Boosted Board v2 but not that strong of an impact though.

Waterproof

This is for city riders a real gift from above! No more riding around puddles or fearing drops of rains. The Exway can resist water splashes with its IP55 rating and I can confirm having ridden it on wet pavement and while it’s raining. It even happened yesterday that I crossed a rain patch on my way home.

It works perfectly and I still feel the bearing are great, not perfect, but great and that’s after riding the board for over 270 km. The only danger really is to yourself as the slick wheels will slip if you turn too fast or if you try to carve. Watch out and wear protective gear!

Maintenance

Given that the design of the board provides protection from the elements, there is not much maintenance to accomplish. You basically have the bearings to clean once in a while and perhaps the grip tape. All the electronics are embedded inside the board and apart from the bearing nothing is exposed.

You might need to change the bushings on the board depending on your weight. They come with 90A durometer bushings and I have just received 98A purple bushings that should allow for a better riding experience. Right now I need to super tight the trucks or else the board wobbles when I go fast. I’ll be sharing a video shortly about the bushing replacement and the maintenance I will do to my Exway board.

Conclusion

Overall the Exway X1 is the best hub motored powered electric skateboard for the masses! With its affordable price of 888$US at the time of writing these words, you get an amazing board designed to be low maintenance, resist water damage and provide sufficient speed for the most demanding customer.

If you are lighter than the 250 lbs I weight, you will even have more fun with faster and longer range than I had! If you can, get the 83 mm or 85 mm wheels and a Quick Charger as believe me, you will not want to stop riding it! The 80 mm PU on the back wheel is too fragile so if you need to ride into the city with awful pavement, you should seriously think about the 83 mm wheels at the very least!

I don’t have any major issues to report that are exclusive to this board and my overall satisfaction is very high. I strongly recommend this board to anyone that is looking for a board that can grow with them if they never rode one in the past. It will offer a great experience once you are used to eSk8s.

Notes to Manufacturer

I write these reviews for geeks like me, the great guy or gal that will be purchasing this product so they know the type of experience this product provides. This section is aimed at the manufacturer and lists a number of enhancements of fixes that would greatly benefit the product.

To make this board perfect, you should offer it with options for different wheel size when purchasing the board. You just added new 83 mm and 85 mm wheels yesterday so I’m super happy about this as I was going to strongly recommend doing so! The voltage sag is not something you might be able to do much about with the current configuration but it’s something that you should really look into for the 2019 update of this board (or your next Exway X2 board if one is planned!) Perhaps offer replacement bearings as this is really the only part that will eventually need replacement.


Exway X1 Electric Skateboard Video Review

Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-07 12:29

After many weeks on the Exway X1, here is my full review, in video form. If you are looking for words, subscribe to the social accounts, the written review is coming up soon!

TL;DR: It’s amazing, but not perfect! It is faster than a Boosted Board and have lots of unique features. Check out the video for the juicy details!


TCL Arrives in Canada With Great Televisions

Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-01 12:28

I’ve been recently invited by TCL to a press event where they were showcasing their latest models of television just in time for their launch in Canada. Starting this month, you can order one (or many!) of their great television sets in the Great North!

For those of you that do not know TCL, I was one of you guys until recently, they have been around for more than 35 years doing everything from electronics to refrigerators and washing machines. They have a great offering that cover most of the vertical of making products and that’s why they’ve been around for so long. Just like LG, they make their own products and panels and that’s how they are able to offer so much performance out of what seems, just by looking at the price, an entry model television.

That’s one of the peculiar things about TCL in 2019. Because of their vertical integration they are able to offer so much more than some of the competition, at such a low price that you end up wondering if it’s a price error in the store!

TCL 6-Series Television

Show Me the Money!

TCL will be offering three series of television in Canada, the 3-series, 4-series and 6-series. The each have multiple sizes available and cover the whole spectrum of prices from a cheap 32-inch 3-Series for 219$CA all the way to a 65-inch 6-Series for 1249$CA.

The crazy thing for me is the 6-Series, sadly due to logistics problems they were not able to have one to show, but just looking at the specs you can see why this is a very interesting product. Available in 55-inch for 849$ and 65-inch for 1249$, this 4K HDR-enabled display with Dolby Vision support has a great contrast thanks to its 120, yes one hundred and twenty zones, of local dimming. This feature was still only available on very expensive displays from LG and Samsung, and Vizio democratized it over the last few years. And now, you have this same technology in a sub-900$ television!

Thanks to their amazing colour engine, it allows for the full HDR colour spectrum and most of the DCI-P3 scale. Usually, you need a dark room to benefit from these colour technologies, but in this case, TCL has worked on its engine to make these benefits stand out in a room with daylight around!

What About the OS?

As detailed above, TCL has been around for many decades and offer different products in different parts of the world. Some of them have Android TV, some have their own Linux-based operating system and for Canada, TCL partnered with Roku to be the exclusive OS behind their three lines of products!

I’ve always loved the work Roku puts behind their technology and the care they put in to keep pushing updates out, even for older products. One example is the latest update, version 8.1, bring the Private Listening feature to the full living room. Before this version, you were limited to have one single device doing the Private Listening dance of streaming the audio of the content being watched to your mobile device. But today, you can do the same thing with multiple devices!

Is It That Great?

Well, I can’t say since I was not able to review one of their products, yet. But from the good friends over at Rtings, an amazing television review shop in Montreal, they have put it against the Vizio P-Series 2017, that’s my television I reviewed here. And while not being better in all accounts, the 6-Series with its 1249$ price tag is basically as good as the, now 1600$, but not too long ago 2100$ P65-E1 television!

If TCL can pull this off this year, I can only dream of what they will come up with next year and totally take the market by storm!

I really look forward to test the 6-Series in all its 4K HDR glory, even with broad daylight around me!


100: Your Siri is My Touch ID

Permalink - Posted on 2018-10-10 14:56

This week we discuss the new fall release from Apple, the Aqua Image Library, China’s Big (Biggest?) Hack and we review the Sennheiser AMBEO Smart Headset and the Exway X1 Electric Skateboard!

This is an amazing episode! We talk about the bane of our existence, Siri for me and Touch ID for Tyler while discussing the new iPhone XS, XS Max and iPhone XR.

We go over one of the most impressive hack that comes from China and we review the Exway X1 electric skateboard as well as the Sennheiser AMBEO Smart Headset.

[Read on Hipster Pixel]


Sennheiser AMBEO Smart Headset Review

Permalink - Posted on 2018-10-06 13:14

There are many great innovations showing up every year in the great world of headphones and audio gear. Some are for enhancing the simplification and usability of a technology, like the AirPods for Bluetooth earbuds or amazing audio quality like the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless.

Surround audio or 3D audio is something that requires specialize equipment, XLR connections, a mixer and even a custom audio codec to capture the ambience around you. Now this is changing today with a product that can do all that, without a special codec, it can even be heard on regular headphones and can fit on your ear! The AMBEO Smart Headset by Sennheiser is a pair of in-ear headphones that work connected to your smart device, in this case using the Lightning port of my iPhone, and record 3D audio in your good old Camera app or any other Camera app on iOS.

Design

The AMBEO Smart Headset is a set of earbuds with three size silicone cups that plugs in your ears. They also have some kind of a hook around your ears on which sites multiple microphones to capture the audio around you. They record and mix down the audio in a simple stereo track while keeping the ambiophonic track intact. It is added to the video your Camera app already records and, best of all, it simply needs regular headphones to be listened too!

Sennheiser AMBEO Smart Headset

Attached to the cable, there is a core component that allows the headset to be smart. The brains of the headphones are part of a rectangular piece that hangs midway on the cable. It includes controls to toggle between the different listening modes. You see, you can actually toggle the active noise cancelling OFF, a feature not many headphones offer. The other mode you can set it too is transparent hearing where you can actually hear your surroundings. The microphones pick up the sound around you and mixes it with your music or podcast. Very useful when you need to stay alert.

Ear Hooks on the AMBEO Smart Headset

And finally, there is a mode where the regular mode without active noise cancelling. From a switch on the smart module you can cycle through all of these modes.

Features

  • Binaural audio recording (3D audio)
  • In-ear earphones with three tip sizes
  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • Connected through Lightning port, no 3.5mm

Performance

It is very surprising to take these out of the box as I was expecting them to be quite bigger than they really are. They fit very well in my ears and are lighter than expected. After coming from years of wireless headsets and AirPods, I do have some difficulty adjusting to the added tug on the cables caused by the smart module. It’s not pulling hard enough that it pulls the earphones out of my ears but it does still weight enough to be noticed.

For me these earphones are mostly aimed at providing great binaural audio and believe me they do! I’ve filmed a couple of scenes in my recent trip to Mexico and made a quick movie to showcase the special gift this headset offers your ears. Headphones required !!!

 

As you can hear, it is very impressive and allows for a greater depth in your recordings. So much so that I’m thinking of using my phone as a field recorder while my Sony A7 III records the images!

You can’t really get anything simpler, just plug them set the level (regular or lowered specifically for loud environments) and that’s it! Hit record and enjoy !

They do offer a good noise cancelling, but I never found a great ANC system when it comes to earphones. I tested for a while the Momentum Wireless and the Urbanite XL Wireless from Sennheiser, both with great ANC and I loved the result. It might be my ears that are not liking the in-ear and ANC combo so your mileage may vary with this feature.

Conclusion

The AMBEO Smart Headset is a crazy good recording tool! No need for complex setup, mixer or weird codecs, this simple headset offers what many of us tech nerds wanted for quite some time! 3D audio on the go and with no fuss whatsoever!

The 3D effect is great and believable and recording on your phone or with your phone as a field recorder could not be simpler! I’m not in love with the act


Exway X1 Unboxing and First Impressions

Permalink - Posted on 2018-10-01 15:22

Time for another electric skateboard review, well, not quite. This time it’s an unboxing and first impressions! Then, later the full review will come!

The Exway X1 is a recent board that promises belt-driven types of performance, ease of use and quality inside a more affordable package with a bunch of smart features that you will really like!

Exway X1 Electric Longboard

The Exway X1 is the first board from the guys behind the Exway company and it’s a seriously good first try! You can think of this as mix between a Boosted Board, a Juiced Board and sprinkle on the result some magic dust that adds smart features through a mobile app that does not only show the total range ridden but allows you to customize the behaviour of the board!

The main feature of this hub motor powered board is the fact that the whole thing is IP55 water resistant. This means that almost everything electrical in this board is hidden away. The board itself has a bottom part made of shaped plastic and the waterproof grip tape covers the top of the board for a great seal. The power connector, a usual suspect when water damage normally occurs, is water tight and uses magnetic charging.

The only damage you can get from puddles is rust on your bearings that requires a normal maintenance!

Head over to the included video for my first impressions and expect a full review very soon!


The Story of Tetris

Permalink - Posted on 2018-10-01 13:18

Rarely have I seen a documentary of an old game or console with this amount of details. Congrats to Gaming Historian for making The Story of Tetris such a complete and interesting documentary!

For any fan of Tetris on the NES be it the legit copy or the unlicensed Tengen version, or the crazy popular Tetris on the Game Boy, you have no idea everything that happened with Tetris over the years! This is a strong recommendation!