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DJI Osmo Action 4K Action Camera Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-07-25 07:48

The market for action camera has gotten much wider over the last couple of years, but rare are the actual real contender to the GoPro king of the hill. But this might change with the addition of the Osmo Action by DJI, famous maker of drones and gimbals.

This time around though, no gimbals, no hardware tricks like the Osmo Pocket, it is an action camera pure and refined!

Design

At first glance you might think that the Osmo Action is but a copy of the GoPro design, but when looking closer at it you realized that DJI stood on shoulders of giants and perfected the recipe.

The shape is very cubic and even comes with a similar snap-on case but every part of it is improved. The snap-on Case does not kill your fingers when you try to open it. It’s much easier to open while at the same time, it’s still as sturdy. It also has little holes where LED lights can shine through. The camera itself is similar in that it has top and side buttons, on top we have the power and record button, and on the side the Quick Setting button that allows so switch between modes or toggle the front screen.

Yes, there is a front screen to that camera!! In my video review displayed at the top of this review, I’ve used the feature considerably to record the review of the camera. It’s a square screen but it makes sure you actually know if you are aiming well at yourself for vlogging or for a friend to double-check your helmet attachment angle.

The two filmmaker things that the Osmo Action does incredibly better than GoPro is with the USB-C adapter to plug-in an external microphone. It’s not a dongle of credit-card size like the G, it’s a short adapter that does not dangle needlessly. The second feature filmmakers will really like is the use of a screw-on glass element that can be swapped for an ND filter or Circular Polarizer without any force. On GoPros you can swap the front element but it’s hard and does not feel like it was actually designed for that purpose. PolarPro are selling a kit of 5 polarizers for the Osmo Action.

Osmo Action Round Filter Thread

The case is compatible with regular GoPro attachments so feel free to reuse all of your current GoPro gear!

Features

  • Dual Screen
  • RockSteady Stabilization
  • 4K HDR Video
  • 8x Slow Motion
  • 4K60p Recording
  • Waterproof up to 11m

Performance

I took this little camera for a spin, as you can see in the video up there, I had fun testing its capabilities. Let’s go over the main features of the camera but first what is the general feeling of DJI’s first action camera?

This camera is a charm to use. The touch screen is responsive and I was able to find all of the features I was looking for very quickly. The only one I had to Google was how to activate the front screen. You need to long press the QS (Quick Switch) button, or tap the rear screen with two fingers. You can also use the voice control, but I prefer to actually press buttons, it’s much faster for me.

Dual Screen

The front facing screen is a good idea to film yourself, be it for a vlog or just when sing a selfie stick. It can also be useful for a friend to make sure everything is centred or angled perfectly. No more guessing game and I love it! Of course, the screen is square but as long as you centre your subject it’s all good.

There is a weird delay when recording that is only happening when recording. I tried to capture this while recording. It’s probably due to the camera working very hard to capture audio and video and it lets the actual front display with a delay to focus on the real thing, you know, recording high quality content!

RockSteady

This is what I was looking forward to the most! The Osmo Action uses a software approach to image stabilization that looks great on product video and I really wanted to know how good it really is. I must say, it is really as good as on the product shots! When walking it removes almost all of the movement, your body makes and if you were to walk slowly rolling your feet from heel to toe, you could most probably remove all of the movement!

The output recording is still in 4K, therefore, it’s not a feature you can only use in 2.7K as some GoPro forces you to do. You have full 4K resolution and 100Mbits of data to work with. Amazing!

Walking, running, skateboarding they all work great! Even when doing lateral moves, the camera follows and stabilizes the footage. DJI really outdone themselves with this stabilization feature! It’s much better than the GoPro 6 I have at home. I have not tried the GoPro 7 which is the current model.

And what about 60p? Well, good news, you can have RockSteady enabled even with 4k60p footage! Once again, you do not need to choose between high framerate or stabilization!

4K HDR Video

This is where you have to make a choice, sadly. Either you go with the awesome RockSteady stabilization or you go with the better dynamic range of HDR videos. In a perfect world we would be able to have it all, but for a first version of their action cam, I feel this is not too bad.

HDR videos will have to be stabilized in post or only when you are on a steady playing field. The HDR video do add a bit of depth to the image and the shadows are better defined, while the sky is very blue and not overexposed. You can see my review up the article for video examples. I would not choose HDR over RockSteady, that sweet stabilization is so good! But if you know the camera will be stable, go for the HDR, always!

8X Slow Motion

The 8X Slow Motion feature is great because you Quick Switch to it and record, that’s it. It does all of the heavy lifting internally. The output is an HD file with about 25Mbits at 30fps. You can very easily add it to your timeline with no configuration or basically no configuration. Personally, I still prefer 4k60p to get 2.5X slowed down but preserve the 4K resolution. But if you are capturing very, very fast action, it might be worth it to switch to 8X Slow Motion.

Conclusion

Overall, the DJI Osmo Action is one killer product! It just got on the market and already it was priced more aggressively than the GoPro HERO7 Black with 50$ less at 349$ (469$CA) and it packed in so much feature that it can rival the King of the Hill that GoPro is in the action camera market.

The RockSteady stabilization is so powerful that it really is impressive to see. Everyone I showed footage too was very impressed! Plus you get to have 4K HDR or regular 4K60p if you like to. The 8X Slow Motion is a cool go to feature that is confusion and configuration less that makes an awesome little HD clip with zero hassle.

The camera is incredibly well designed, I love the round threaded filter, the snapping case that does not destroy your nails when you to remove the camera from the case and even the more advanced features like 4K HDR and RockSteady leave you impressed. The microphone situation is good but could be made better but you could always use an external mic with a cheap USB-C adapter so at least you got this going. I strongly suggest you look at the DJI Osmo Action as your next action camera for all the boxes it ticks for a first-generation product, this is impressive!


Boosted Mini X, a Concentrated Formula? [Review]

Permalink - Posted on 2019-07-18 17:33

After two good generations of longboards with a great collaboration with Loaded, for the deck, and with Orangotang, for the wheels, Boosted is now ready to build from what they learned and come up with their own products built from the ground up! Last summer they finally released a replacement for the Boosted Board, a super fast version called the Stealth and finally two compact commuter boards, the Mini S and the Mini X. I’m focusing today on the Boosted Mini X, a compact board with the Extended Range battery!

This is the format that people were waiting for many years. Some with more courage actually moved the Boosted Board v2 (38-inch length) tech under a Loaded Truncated Tesseract (33-inch in length). Although it’s an amazing feat, it’s not for everyone’s to do. Many commuters actually use the bus or metro during their commute and there is a real need for a shorter board that does not become a hassle to take with you.

The Mini X is the answer to that need, I know it is because I also have this exact need!

Design

This time around, Boosted build their own composite deck instead of relying on Loaded. Given the short length of the board and the size of the battery, sadly this deck cannot flex at all. It’s totally rigid and I was afraid that this would become a problem for shock absorption having ridden other boards like the Winboard GT-M8 that was also very rigid. The Boosted Mini X board has a deep dish shape which should really help with handling and agility of the board.

Boosted Mini X

As for the wheels, Boosted once again did their own thing with a brand new PU recipe. Their Lunar 80mm wheels should be smooth enough to absorb some of the road bumps but at the same time, not shred to pieces when riding the hard streets of Montreal.

Finally, the underbelly of the beast has the battery in the front and the electronics right after. You can see that this compact board is actually leveraging almost every single millimetre there is to get. The idea is to squeeze in as much battery as possible to increase the range over the Mini S.

Overall, the Mini X looks amazing! I love the dark colour scheme and I’m happy Boosted tried something different than their signature orange! The design and component choice looks to be of good quality and the whole board feels solid.

Features

  • 20 mph top speed (32 kph)
  • 14 miles of range (22.5 km)
  • Custom Deep Dish Deck
  • Custom Lunar 80mm 78a wheels
  • Custom machined trucks
  • 3 ride modes

The Woes of a Reviewer

Before I jump in, I need to give specifics on the board I got for review. This is a refurbished Mini X. This means that the board was ridden before, it had a few scratches here and there and some of the parts were brand new. I did not have any belt service kit included, only the T-tool, the board and the remote.

After riding about 25km with the board, I started to have belt slippage which is easy to fix, but hard to get perfect. Boosted said to have about 1/2-inch movement on the belt once tighten, but I would prefer they actually sold a tool that separates the motor from the trucks at the exact distance it should be. After fixing this and riding some more, I started to hear a weird noise, turns out that both my motors are shot. I contacted Boosted just like every customer does to test the support and they were fast to respond and after sending them videos they quickly sent me two replacement motors.

They took almost 3 weeks to arrive, thus I had to postpone this review as I had almost no footage of the board for the video review. I finally replaced the motors, which is a real joke to do, really simple and really quick. These boards are well designed!

Performance

Let’s go over a couple of key points that should give you a good idea on what the board is and how it behaves. Keep in mind that I’m a 6-feet and 250 lbs (113kg) guy that likes to ride fast!

Some of the comparison will be against the Exway X1 which I’ve mostly ridden over the last two summer seasons. The Exway X1 can do 24 mph (38 kph) as its top speed and has a range of about 6-7 km in real life at the fastest speed.

Speed and Braking

The very first thing I wanted to try was the Expert mode. I’ve ridden an Exway X1 at 38-40 kph every day and I wanted to see how the 32 kph of the Mini X would feel against the faster Exway. This Mini X maximum speed is a good cruising speed on a straight road and should be sufficient for most riders that are now crazy like me.

I would love a couple of extra MPH just to help with passing bikers since on my commute I use the bike lane and share it with fast riders that go around 32-36kph sometimes. The Boosted Stealth has a 4 mph (6.5 kph) faster speed and I kind of wish the Mini X had it too.

I don’t ride most of my commute at full speed but on the few stretches of straight road not too badly damaged I would have loved to have that sweet 38 kph!

Braking is much better than on any hub motors skateboard I have tried. The motors are powerful and they really help in stopping you quickly. Given my weight, I still need to account for a certain distance before a full stop but what I really like is that the power of the motors allow me to reduce the speed quickly when I need to negotiate traffic, pedestrians or bikers.

Range

This is the part that I was the most afraid of. Given my riding style and my size, I was not sure that the promised 14 miles would be much better than what other boards gave me. The Exway is rated at 10 miles (16km), but at the fastest speed and my commute I can do about 5.5 km and have about 30% left. I can stretch my luck to about 7-8km at most though. Not enough for me to go to work and come back home; so I need to charge at work.Boosted Remote

The Mini X is able to get me to work and back and I still have about 30-40% of the battery left, which totals to about 6.84 miles (or 11 km). Not quite the 14 miles, but mind you that this is on Expert mode, I’m heavy and I ride fast and hard. For me, these are great numbers. I can probably double that if I drop in Eco mode if I know I have a long commute ahead.

Torque and Acceleration

This is the clear benefit of having belt motors instead of hub motors, their strength is much greater and thus it allows you to accelerate faster. There is definitely lots of power in that little skateboard and it’s really pleasing! I had already tried a Boosted Board v2 in the past and the experience is very reminiscent of it. From a stand still the board accelerates gently for a second and then the real power kicks in so that you are not thrown out.

Once used, this is very easy to ride and I always give it a kick push or two to help with battery life and to get it to its full speed faster.

Riding Comfort

Given that this is a stiff deck, I had memories of the Winboard GT-M8 v2 with its feeling of riding a 2x4 on wheels. I’m glad the Mini X is not like that! It’s actually much better than I was expecting. It’s not as smooth as a flexi bamboo deck like v3 or the Stealth for sure, but it’s much better than I expected! Remember that I ride in Montreal where cracks and pot holes are everywhere, the Mini X really can take this crazy ride to a much more comfortable level. Plus, once you know how to make this better, it can significantly increase the riding comfort.

How to Take the Mini X to the Next Level

I’ve been researching this topic over the 3 weeks I was waiting for the new motors to arrive, and I’m happy to say that there are a few things you can do to make your Boosted Mini X experience even better.

Adding shockpads will make sure the shocks are even more dampened, this is not an incredible difference, but it does make a significant difference if your roads are bad like ours. For 6$ it’s an insta-buy.

The Lunar wheels Boosted made are great but only available in one single size, 80mm. To get a better riding experience, you should consider the Orangatang Caguamas, made of a soft 77a PU, they also have 5mm extra diameter. On the numbers, this should not make much of a difference, but you do get a 6.3% longer circumference, thus adding 1.5 mph to the total speed of 20 mph of the Mini X. This little gain is welcomed, but the overall size of the wheels, that extra 5mm, and the 77a durometer are what makes them absorb even more of the shocks.

Finally, this one is more of a maintenance thing, but I read that the Kevlar clad belts have a longer life expectancy that can go over 1,000 miles. I have not tried that myself, but being heavy and always on Expert mode, I have the feeling my belts are going to be messed up a long time before that. Therefore, this should be an item in your Amazon Wishlist for when they need replacement.

Conclusion

The Boosted Mini X is a great little electric skateboard with enough punch for most and a good enough range to last for a long commute or to and from a shorter one. The quality of the components and the high availability of parts makes this board something that will last and for which you can even customize some parts to allow it to flourish even more for enthusiasts. Shorter board means easier transportation when in a bus or metro and the torque allows a big guy like me to have fun while staying safe with a board that is responsive and fast when sharing the road with bikes and cars.

I really recommend this board to almost everyone, the DIY crew would prefer something even more powerful, but for the regular user, beginner or advanced, this is very high on my list of recommended esk8s! If you ever buy one and end up customizing it, or changing parts of it let me know in the comments as I’m very curious in what ways you make this great board even better!


Arlo Ultra Security Camera Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-07-08 12:20

Over the years I’ve reviewed a bunch of security cameras, but more recently I’ve reviewed the Circle 2 by Logi and the D-Link Homekit camera. Both had their strengths and flaws, and I must say that my preferred still is the Circle 2 for its great ecosystem of accessories. But Arlo, has been working non-stop on making camera after camera, when looking at their website, I counted a total of 7 camera products currently being sold going from the baby monitor all the way to the 4K Ultra camera.

Well, I just so happen to have the single-camera Arlo Ultra for review and I’ve played with it for a couple of weeks. I’ve tried it on a bunch of placements and I tried to mess with the settings like a mad man… you’ll know why in a minute. But first, let’s take a look at the camera itself!

Design

The Arlo Ultra is a very smartly designed camera that consists of the camera internals, a cubic battery and an outer shell. By the press of a button, you can get the internal out of the shell since it’s spring loaded. Then, you can install or remove the battery. There is also a magnetic charging pad below the camera so you can simply bring the camera inside and snap the charging cable to it. No need to take it apart.

Arlo Ultra and All Accessories

On the front, a very wide-angle lens is what you mainly see. On top of it, a very strong light that illuminates when someone passes by the camera. A dual set of microphones and a speaker are also present so you can discuss with your visitor, welcome or not.

The camera comes with a magnetic stand which you can screw to a wall or with the appropriate non included hardware, to cement. This allows you more to change the angle of the camera freely. It’s a very smart idea. You can also purchase other stands on Amazon since it has a standard screw hole on the back. There are flexible mounts, similar to the Gorillapod 5K I just reviewed, and screw-on mounts that can be adjusted and even screwed to trees. All of these are not from Arlo so I cannot say the Arlo Ultra has a vast ecosystem like the Circle 2, but 3rd party sure help to get this little camera mounted anywhere.

Features

  • 4K HDR Video Recording
  • Auto-zoom and subject tracking
  • Enhanced Color Night Vision
  • Dual noise-cancelling microphones
  • 180˚ Field of View
  • Smart Siren, Activity Zones
  • 1-year of free Arlo Smart

Installation

Getting a camera setup is no easy thing, expecially when it’s wireless. You must not only make sure to set it up securly, but also that the wireless network of your home reaches it. I’ve get an Eero Pro system and an aluminium isolated house (this helps with heat transmission but also blocks all types of electro magnetic waves) and I have barely good reception when setting it up just above the front door. I would have liked to set it up in the yard, on a tree but I’m not sure I would have enough range to it.

I got myself a mount so that I can attach my camera facing a little downward on the front of my house. It came with a rubber hood and I could quickly srew it in place.

The initial setup is a real joke. You simply connect the Arlo SmartHub and optionally add a microSD card to record the videos to it. Then, you launch the mobile app and follow the steps. I won’t bore you with the details, but basically you setup the Hub, update its firmware, detect the camera by inserting its battery and after a few screens, and more updates you are ready to go. Just know that this is very much hand-holding all the way and it worked perfectly on the first try. Love the graphics and the little animations, it reminds me a bit of the Eero Mesh Network 2nd Generation I tested awhile back.

Arlo Ultra

Performance

There is a lot to say in the performance area of things. Let’s first go through the configuration of the camera, there are many, many options, including activity zones. Then we’ll move on to the accuracy, night vision and battery life.

Configuration

Let’s start with the SmartHub, it has the least number of options, but it does have what it needs. You can setup recording of the videos on the microSD card you plugged into it. You can also select if you would like 4K recordings of the videos and if the camera should rollover old videos, once it’s actually filled. After a few weeks, I’ve only filled about 6 of the 16GB of my memory card.

Note that if you use the Zoom feature where the camera will zoom to people walking by or vehicles, it will record in 1080p only. If you want 4K in all its glory, disable that feature. The rest of the features for the camera itself are related to the picture where we can set the brightness, Auto-HDR, Local 4K streaming, Auto-Zoom and Tracking as well as Low Light management.

The Auto Zoom & Tracking feature is interesting and works mostly as advertised on Arlo’s website, however, the picture quality is much grainier and really not as clear. Remember that from the camera and the mobile app, even if you enable 4K recording, you won’t be able to download it from there, all is happening in HD. You need to load up the microSD card, that’s where the 4K footage is found. Think of it as an archival mode in higher resolution!

Activity Zones

One of the features most of us like to setup is the Activity Zones, these allow you to track movement or objects but only in specific zones and ignore the rest of the image. In my above example, I’ve setup the camera in front of my house and I do not care about cars or passersby that do not come onto my driveway or on my lawn. Therefore, I have set up to zones, one called Driveway and one called Lawn. My expectation is that anything happening outside these zones would be ignored. Well, I was very, very right.

The Arlo Ultra only uses these zones to notify you where somebody passes. Like “A vehicle was detected in Driveway”. But it is also triggered when a car passes in the street. I have recorded hundreds of events on my microSD card with the camera facing the street. So much so that I counted over 25 events for just a single hour. And the sad thing is that the battery life suffered, greatly.

Recordings in 1 hour

Smart Detection

You can specify what types of movement triggers a notification. A Person, an Animal or a Vehicule, this smart recognition feature will try its best to guess what things are. It’s very often right, but sometimes confuses things. I got an “animal” for a clip where I could not see anything, perhaps the wind ruffled too many leaves? And a cyclist was considered a cyclist. Most of the time it’s actually funny, but for people it is usually quite accurate.

This is a very useful feature and I’m assuming it will only get better overtime.

Accuracy

Once you have readjusted your expectation, the accuracy of the detection is actually quite good. You can be alerted by notification only when certain things happen and this makes it a good experience to only get notified for what you want.

Sadly, because of the previous point about Activity Zone, you will need to place the camera far from the street or angle it down so low as to completely exclude streets or sidewalks from it.

Night Vision

The coloured night vision is actually pretty good. The sensor seems to be sensible enough with a good amount of noise reduction that makes up for a slightly discoloured but still coloured video.

The embedded LED light is very strong and can actually help with the video since it does light up subjects. Its main feature is a deterrent though so people getting too close will know they are being filmed.

Battery Life

As you might have guessed, this is where the Arlo Ultra falls short. Because of it constantly being triggered by subjects outside the activity zones, it basically records all day. I had over 400 clips in one single day last week!

The battery is dead after 2 days, at most three. Not something ideal, especially if you want to peak at your house during a vacation that is longer than a weekend.

Arlo Smart Premier

The cameras come with a free 1-year plan for up to 10 cameras and 30 days recording. This plan is what enables smart notifications and people detection, similar to how Logi is selling their monthly plan to add similar features. At 3.49$ per month per camera it’s a good price for the rich notification support and image recognition, they even recently added package detection for when UPS drops a package on your porch. I feel this is a mandatory buy for this camera to really be featured full.

Conclusion

The Arlo Ultra does not have the most complete ecosystem, but it has great features that make it very fun and practical to use. The Auto-Zoom and Subject Tracking is very cool and makes for a nice demo. However they are sadly not available when in 4K, the video has to be 1080p so that it can zoom around the frame.

I feel that for every nice feature, there is a downside. For example, the Activity Zones are just for notification purpose, as the camera still records every passing car or pedestrian outside the activity zone. The swappable battery idea is nice but because it literally records hundreds of clips per day, it drains the battery in a matter of 2, maybe 3 days.

So to who is that camera really for? It is made for securing a perimeter where there is basically no movement regularly. And when there is some, it will trigger the camera, light and allow you to sound the alarm if you wish. Then, this camera will be worth it! I’ve seen a local shop that recently installed these inside his place of business, it makes total sense as after the store closes this is a perfect security camera system.

Given that you can set it to have specific armed hours, or geofencing, it’s ideal for a business scenario or a house scenario when you are asleep or out of the house.

But if you are looking for something to secure your front porch, you might have problems setting up the camera so that the battery does not drain in matter of days. You could always get a weather-resistant extension, however, the camera placement might not be ideal to have a dangling wire. Given the price of the kits, even the very expensive one camera kit, I would really ask myself if my need is for rare movement or constant movement type scenario before buying. Or making sure I can return it later if it does not fit the bill.

I really wanted to love the camera, the design is great, the feature list looked impressive but the limitation in terms of battery life and activity zone detection makes it a hard sell for many scenarios. Only if you were looking to point it at your porch from atop or to the back of your house, would it make sense.


Gorillapod 5K dSLR Bendy Tripod Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-06-23 21:19

The king of vlogging tripods, Joby, has refreshed his line of tripods with brand new internals and new names for all of its tripods. The biggest bendy tripod, the Gorillapod 5K, comes with a ball head and is capable of supporting a dSLR with a short lens and even some smaller cameras with a larger sense.

Why are these bendy tripods so popular? Are they really that useful when you have a dSLR and a medium lens?

Design

The Gorillapod 5K is the strongest of the bunch, able to support up to 5 kg, it’s made of mostly aluminum therefore it’s holding up heavier gear much easier. But the great thing with the 5K model is that it can come with a ball head with a quick release plate compatible with the Arca-Swiss system.

Gorillapod 5K with Ball Head

This ball head allows for free 360˚ movement and it has a full 90˚ angle section so you can attach the tripod to vertical objects like a pole.

Features

  • Holds up to 5 kg (11 lbs)
  • Anodized aluminum construction
  • Rubberized grips
  • Ball-head with Arca-Swiss quick release plate

Performance

I’ve been rocking this tripod for on a table setup with both my iPhone 7 Plus and a Sony A7 III equipped with a Zeiss 24-70mm lens. It also works very well with a vlogger setup and I brought my A7 outside and attached it on trees or posts and it kept stable. The camera is about 650 g and the 24-70mm is 426 g, totally at just above 1 kg. It’s rock solid and does not even give signs of flexing even in weird positions.

I even added a few extra gear like a monitor or a shotgun mic and it’s still very stable. But the real winner here is the ball head. This is a very high quality ball head that allows you really get the perfect angle you are looking for. It’s much easier to get that horizon levelled with that ball head. So much so, that I’m even moving it to the Gorillapod 3K when I want to use this lighter and shorter tripod.

The quick-release system is very useful and at the same time rapid to remove and solidly attached in just a few turns of the locking wheel. I do not have other compatible devices to the Arca-Swiss system, but from the look of it I would have really happy to more than one.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a vlogging setup, the Gorillapods are still the king and this new line of products confirms their position as the leader of the pack. They are more professional looking and you have one for each budget and for all the types of uses. The 1K, 3K or 5K are all different length, size and strength so you can get the one that fits your gear perfectly. The ball head alone is worth the investment. If you choose a Gorillapod 3K or Gorillapod 5K, both would have a big benefit from the versatility that it allows. So much so that I strongly recommend to get one with these Gorillapods!

The only time a Gorillapod 5K is not recommended is if you have a very large dSLR and or lens, it could be hard to get it balanced and could damage your gear if you can’t set it up properly. If it’s your case, I would into a store with your gear and test it out first.


SharkWheels on a Penny Board [Review]

Permalink - Posted on 2019-06-23 19:50

This is, I agree, not what you were expecting. I have an old faithfull Penny Nickel board I use for quick rides to the corner store a few blocks away and, when I don’t have my electric skateboard, to go to work. If you ever used a Penny board for long distances in a city, you know there are two major troubles with it. The small wheels compared to a longboard are not fit for road cracks, and with them cracks and a long commute it seems we are always kickpushing non-stop.

Well, I found two potential solutions to these problems! The first one is to irradicate that crack problem. But since the city is notorious for not caring at all about the bikepaths, we are left with solution numero dos! SharkWheels are the makers of nice helical polyurethane wheels, larger wheels (60mm) than the stock Penny with a special shape that seems out of this world, but they are also a great upgrade for any commuter skateboard. They call them, the California Roll !

Design

What is a helical wheel? It a wheel that is shaped like a sine wave! This looks weird, and it’s a great conversation starter, but do the really work?

SharkWheel California Roll 60mm 78

Although they look kind of like as square, they are actually perfectly round. The have a diameter of 60mm and a durometer of 78A. Compared to stock 59mm and 83A Penny wheels, it does not seem like it would make a big difference just by looking at their actual diameter. Their durometer being less, allows them to be better equiped with impacts thus sending less vibration through your legs.

Also, SharkWheel has other sizes as follow available:

Features

  • Helical design
  • 60mm diameter
  • 78A durometer
  • available in a wide range of colours

Performance

Without loosing a minute, I quickly replaced the stock wheels on my Penny with the crazy looking SharkWheels and use the board for my daily commute in Montreal. For all Canadians that took a car or bike trip in Montreal, you know that this city is known for its aweful road. There are many cracks on my commute, many of them dangerous for Penny-sized wheels.

The larger the wheel, the better so the wider 60mm wheels were well received during my commute. The rocks are also less of a problem since the shape of the wheel is rarely receiving a rock head on. Finally, I had the “joy” of riding in the rain and I must saw that this really makes a huge difference. The grooves are acting as water channels and they are allowing the water to flow and let the wheel grip the pavement.

Newer Bearings?

Sharkwheel were kind enough to send me a kit of ABEC-9 High Performance bearings at the same time. So I tested the wheels seperately on the stock Penny bearings and I got all of the above results. But once I changed the bearings to the ABEC-9, with their special lubricant, things changed. Alot. I’m known to be the kind of guy that clean his bearings regularly and uses the famous Speed Cream on cleaned bearings. I must say that the ABEC-9 bearing from Sharkwheel are actually much better than stock, clean and lubed bearings from Penny Co. They are smoother, spin the wheels much faster and actually need less kickpushing!

Shiver ABEC-9 High Performance Bearings

Both the Sharkwheels and the ABEC-9 bearings make what I think is the Ultimate Combo for any board. Add thicker shockpads to help with the bumps and overall comfort of the ride and you get one mean board!

Conclusion

If you have a commuter board, like a Penny or even any type of cruiser board, the Sharkwheels are a great product to look at. They are also a good conversation starter, but most of all I feel they are a required upgrade to anyone that is riding in the city where cracks, rocks and rain can be a problem. They help with all of these situation and are simply very cool to look at! I strongly recommend the Sharkwheels and ABEC-9 High Performance bearings from the same company!


Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST With Alexa Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-06-13 12:18

The smart speaker world is expanding as I write these lines. It started with the Amazon Echo a couple of years ago and since then, Google and Apple joined the party. But none of those devices can take a good splash. What about actually going downstream with you? Nope, none of them can. But there is hope! The Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST does check this box!

Design

Usually, a smart speaker is a cube or cylinder shape speaker with microphones that has a short cable that ties it to the wall. But the MEGABLAST is not like that. It’s actually powered by a large battery. It has a very nice and modern look, can go outside in the rain and even be dropped in the pool with zero stress.

MEGABLAST is tall

It started with the Ultimate Ears BOOM years ago, I reviewed it on the now deceased Future Shop Tech Blog, and I really loved it! It had a great sound quality and could take a tumble and a splash like a king. Fast forward almost a decade and now the MEGABLAST is a bigger version that is both more powerful in the audio sense or the term and in terms of features with Alexa built-in!

The speaker is faithful to the very efficient design of the first generations with a large plus and minus button on the front and a power button on top.

Features

  • Very Loud
  • 360° Sound
  • Alexa Built-in
  • Waterproof
  • Customizable EQ

Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST

Setup

The setup is very simple with the MEGABLAST, you can follow the simple app to add the speaker or use the simple Bluetooth setup you all know from forever ago. Both solutions are quick and easy to set up. The interesting part comes when you use the Ultimate Ears app to customize the experience offered by the MEGABLAST.

In reality, you will benefit from also installing the Amazon Alexa app so that you and your Spotify account for when you ask Alexa to play music. It includes a free version of Amazon Music but it’s super-limited and you will quickly run into its limitations.

On the audio side of things, you can select one of the preset EQ settings or define your own. Then, you can enable or disable the microphone for those not wanting Alexa to listen in too much. I prefer to simply click the main button to close the speaker down.

Sound Performance

When you take the speaker by itself and listen to it, you immediately realize that it is capable of outputting a high level of sound as well as a very good quality reproduction of your favourite music. I tried it in different rooms and outside, and in every case, it sounded great and I could not complain.

But when you face it off against an opponent like my Sonos Play:1 that has been optimized with the Trueplay room calibration, you can hear that Sonos has the upper hand. The MEGABLAST tries to send sound all around it, and therefore cannot be as directional and optimized as the Play:1. This is the only time I felt like the MEGABLAST did not have the best sound quality.

Alexa Performance

This is where I had major issues with the MEGABLAST. It often times works but more than half of my request simply die in the void. The speaker not responding after waiting a few seconds. The good thing is that the speaker supports multiple languages so I was able to set it up in French for my kids to use, but ended up switching it back to English since most of what they do is ask for songs and telling English song names in French do not work great with any assistant out there.

Make sure you fully set up Alex through the ULTIMATE EARS app and the Alexa app to really enable its full potential. Sadly, you do not get the full Amazon assistant experience, but you still can control your music, request songs, it plays nicely with smart devices in your house and more.

If only they could fix that reliability issue. If you factor in the kids trying to speak to it with their lower voice volume, it works about 20% of the times. It seems the microphone is not as sensitive as with an Apple Homepod or a Google Home.

Battery Life

The battery life is great and I never once had an issue with it needing to be recharged. I store the speaker away on its POWER UP puck, a contact charging dock that makes sure that no matter when you need the speaker, it will always be at 100%. I even took the speaker on a trip for multiple days and after many, many hours of playback it kept on playing as if nothing happened. It can provide up to 16 hours of playtime so you really need to listen to a ton of music for many days to actually drain the device.

Of course, playing at higher volumes will drain it faster so in a party scenario, you should use the POWER UP to have non-stop party action!

POWER UP

Talking about the POWER UP, this is an optional accessory that allows you to simply drop the MEGABLAST on a round puck for it to be fully charged at all times! You simply swap the bottom centre hook piece with the included contact charging one from the POWER UP and plug the puck into the wall. That is it!

For me this optional accessory is so useful that I highly recommend it for anyone looking to either use the speaker as an Alexa speaker or just to be 100% sure the speaker is always fully charged when you leave the house.

Conclusion

Once again, I feel Ultimate Ears did a great job on their 360˚ speaker! By having water resistance, I feel you can really bring this little guy everywhere. Sound quality is great, although not as good as a Play:1, but being cordless and having a long play time, I cannot complain!

Now if only, it would have a better microphone (or microphone array), more reliability with Alexa requests and the full-Alexa skill set, it would be even better than Amazon’s own products and a real mix between an amazing speaker, shock and water resistance and all the smarts you could wish for!


Boosted Mini X Unboxing on Video!

Permalink - Posted on 2019-06-05 09:53

I recently got my hands on a Boosted Mini X, a compact but quick electric skateboard from Boosted that can do 32 km/h and a range of 22km. Before doing the full review, here is the unboxing video and an overview of the specs with cool shots of the board up close; and clean, something that will not stay like that over time!


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.