Category: Gear

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Epitaph to Chromebook

A few days ago, one of my Google+ followers, Steve Kluver, commented on an August 2014 share: “I am shopping for some more Chromebooks this Holiday Season, and found this post via G+ hashtag #chromebook search. How current is your ebook now?” He refers to Chromebook Reviews, which is available from Amazon for sale or for free reading with Kindle Unlimited. I apologized that the tome, published more than two years ago, is “way out of date”. If I’m not going to revise, I really should remove the title.

I offered to give him buying advice, which got me to thinking about Chromebook as a concept and computing edifice. While a big fan, and owner of both generations of Google-made Chromebook Pixel, my primary laptop was a MacBook Pro for most of 2016. Measure of commitment: I bought the new 15.4-inch Touch Bar model just a few weeks ago. I’ve moved on, and got to thinking about why in crafting my response. 

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My Cat Wants to Know: Why 15.4-inch MacBook Pro?

Water smacked the windshield—a torrent of heavy droplets—as my wife struggled to feed money into the tollbooth machine. Pelting rain is uncommon during November in San Diego, but we had purpose for driving 36 km through the downpour to Chula Vista and the Otay Ranch Apple Store, where I had never been before. The shop was the only one around that had the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar in stock.

Eleven days earlier, Nov. 15, 2016, I received the 13.3-inch model that was ordered on October 27th. While first impressions were wow, the laptop felt slow compared to my previous MBP, and the battery drained in about half the time as specs stated. I worried that Apple produced a defective unit. No store in the area had the smaller laptop in stock, should I want to take advantage of the 14-day return policy. Deadline approached, so I considered as alternative my first 15-incher in more than a decade, tempted in part by quad-core processor and discreet graphics. 

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Google OnHub vs Apple AirPort

We all make mistakes. The challenge is recognizing and correcting them quickly enough. So comes admission: I bought Apple AirPort Time Capsule to replace Google OnHub—what a bad decision.

My tale starts with a chance sighting on Kinja Deals for the 2TB Apple WiFi router on sale at Amazon for $199; one-hundred bucks off. I ordered on Nov. 16, 2016, and the device arrived two days later. At the time, I had 45Mbps AT&T Internet (which has changed since). Placed in the same location where OnHub had been, about 3 meters away from my desk in the same room as the router, throughput consistently came in at 15Mbps, occasionally a little more, as measured by Fast.com or SpeedTest.Net. By contrast, Google’s router wirelessly pumped 40Mbps or more. Ah, yeah

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New MacBook Pro is ‘Wow’

A few hours after setting up 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, I can tell you who it’s for. Surely you wondered, and maybe you even considered this pricey portable to be an insane release. Mea culpa, for thinking something similar. But no longer. The laptop lives up to my early expectations—and more.

I ordered new MBP, after serious deliberation, the day Apple announced it; Oct. 27, 2016. Better to get into the front of queue before backorders begin and cancel later should there be second thoughts. Or third. Or fourth. I had them. Often. But in the end took the risk. Apple Store indicated my order would arrive sometime between November 17 and 24. However, after shipping on the 13th, delivery date revised to the 16th but the beauty arrived today. Oh La La. 

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Master & Dynamic Unleashes MW50 Wireless Cans

I am a big fan of on-ear headphones, which attitude bucks the noise-cancellation trend. The design is a nice compromise between over-ear and open-back styles—the latter of which can present the best soundstage. Cans that rest on the ears, rather than cover them, tend to be lighter and confer airier, more natural sound. However, they also leak noise both ways, which makes them less appealing for commuter trains or air travel.

Since I reviewed MW60 Wireless last week, I simply must point out that Master & Dynamic launched MW50 on-ear Bluetooth headphones today. Yes, I plan to review them in the near future. The company says the Fifty is one-third lighter than the Sixty, while adhering to the same, retro-design ethic and modern materials—aluminum, lambskin, leather, and stainless steel. 

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What’s Behind MacBook Pro Touch Bar?

For fervent fanboys who drink Apple Kool-Aid like water, the new MacBook Pro unveiled last week is a thrilling update. But excitement isn’t sure for the thinking public considering buying one or wondering whether or not to cancel an already placed purchase before it ships. Anyone perplexed by what Apple decision-makers are thinking, and whether the new laptops are good value, must first understand the underlying design-ethic and answer: Is it rationale?

Apple is finger-obsessed and has been since before the first Mac shipped, as I explained in March 2010 BetaNews analysis: “What 1984 Macintosh marketing reveals about iPad” (Also see from this site, in April 2010: “The Most Natural User Interface is You“). The company lags behind Google getting to the next user interface, which is more contextual and immediately responsive: Voice, meaning touchless interaction, rather than touch, supported by artificial intelligence. By contrast, Apple isn’t ready to abandon the finger-first motif, as Touch Bar makes so obviously apparent. 

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Your Older MacBook Pro Is More Valuable Than You Think

If you’re a recent MacBook Pro buyer, Apple just did you a huge favor—something that may be lost on new MBP buyers, who are in for some sticker shock. The entry-level for the cheapest, newest 13-incher is $200 or $500 more than its predecessor, depending on whether or not opting for the newfangled Touch Bar and Touch ID. That’s $1,499 or $1,799. Yikes. MBP 15 is a $400 price hike, $2,399, for current tech.

But if you already own MacBook Pro, particularly the 13-incher released in March 2015 or the larger model two months later, Apple increased the laptop’s value by not accelerating its depreciation. No kidding. That’s because the new entry-level SKUs are the same as before. 

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Apple’s New Mac Family is Frightening

The Mac laptop line, following today’s new announcements, looks lots less like Apple and more like Compaq—where Tim Cook worked much earlier in his career, incidentally, long before the original IBM PC clone-maker’s demise. Confusing. Complicated. These are apt descriptions that might just send the ghost of Steve Jobs skyward on either—take your pick—Halloween or Day of the Dead.

Among Apple cofounder’s first tasks when returning to the chief executive’s chair in 1997: Simplifying product families. Jobs cut the deadweight, surprising many people by killing off Newton, for example. Complex product lines define Apple under successor Cook, by contrast. 

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Master & Dynamic MW60 Review

For Christmas 2015, I bought myself a new pair of Bluetooth headphones. After trying several sets, I settled on Master & Dynamic MW60, which were a fantastic choice then and are still my top recommendation nearly a year later. The wireless cans replaced my beloved Grado RS1e—no small feat.

Read no further and buy the M&D cans, if wireless listening is priority—and should be if using iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, which lack 3.5 mm jack. Authentic audio, spacious soundstage, and full fidelity (without over-punchy bass) make the MW60 the gold standard for Bluetooth cans. 

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Grado RS1e Review

Yesterday I sold my beloved Grado RS1e headphones, which get my highest recommendation. Parting ways, time is long overdue for a review, even if post-mortem. I let go the cans mainly because my lifestyle changed. Being tethered by wires is too confining; I listen to music more on the move now. As such, fine-fidelity Bluetooth cans—Master & Dynamic MW60—give great sound with more flexibility and mobility.

I purchased the RS1e direct from manufacturer Grado Labs in late July 2014, soon after release. Grado is a family-owned/run Brooklyn, New York-based business that opened in 1953 offering turntable cartridges. In 1990, the company starting selling headphones, which are hand-crafted and tested for the distinctive, sound signature that defines them. Founder Joseph Grado passed away in February 2015 at age 90. 

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A Smartphone Sales Story

I sold my sister’s T-Mobile HTC One M9 today. Nan lives in Vermont, where Verizon delivers consistently better coverage and where the market for a used smartphone is much smaller than here in San Diego. The buyer had previously owned the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which she really enjoyed. While waiting until late November or early December for her matte black iPhone 7 Plus order, the woman has a Samsung Galaxy J7 loaner and hates it. She is familiar with the M9 because her mom owns one.

This lady is the fifth person I’ve met in just a few days who had bought Note 7. They’re everywhere—and a sorry lot of disappointment, too. Every one switched to an iPhone. What? Has no one read reviews claiming Google’s Pixel handsets are the Android iPhones everyone waited for? 

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How Much Storage Does My Mac Need?

The question nags as I prepare to review TarDisk Pear flash memory expansion. The doohickey is available in 128 or 256 gig capacities for either MacBook Air or Pro. It fits neatly and snuggly into the SDXC card slot, which is required; color and finish match, too. Windows users must look elsewhere, though, and many may be glad to. The tech lists for $149 and $399, respectively. But, hey, the Apple fan club is accustomed to paying more for everything.

I will test TarDisk Pear on my 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, 3.1GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 256GB SSD. I recently, and unexpectedly, filled up the hard disk with photos and podcast raw recordings. (Hehe, using Chromebooks for so long spoiled me and my awareness of such things.) Doubling storage, particularly with San Diego Comic-Con coming in 14 days, could prove useful for editing audio, pics, and video on the laptop. But is it necessary or contrivance?