Kim Huat tries out the iPhone X and his favourite feature of them all.
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/APn0TxyifJQ
These are the X- mini INFINITI speakers. I’m trying them out in my home and so far, I like how they sound. Clean and balanced, fills the room.
They are Bluetooth wireless, so you can use them anywhere but you have to charge them first. My main gripe with them is that they don’t ship with a charger, but they come with only a USB-A to USB-C cable. Seems like an oversight for a premium-priced speaker like this.
The 10,000mAh battery inside should give you about four hours at max volume. These are not speakers you take with you when you travel but maybe something you drag out to the patio for a party. Because they are heavy at 4kg EACH.
I am trying to wrap my mind around the use case for the X- mini™ INFINITI. Are they home speakers? If so, you have to find your own charging solution as the charger is not included.
Are they move around-the-house speakers? If so, then eventually you will need to lug both 4kg speakers to a power socket and charge them with your own charger (2.5 hours minimum).
I like their CLICK 2 speakers. The use case is obvious with the tiny and loud little fella. These larger cousins of the X-mini range, I’m not so sure.
Still, they sound good and pair with each other easily (you get left-right pairing when you turn both on). You can use the INFINITI alone or as a stereo pair.
Personally, I think they should come with a USB-C charger. That way, one can get the internal battery charged up quickly.
Also useful is the Aux-in port behind the speaker. For when you need to connect a player directly.
I am in San Jose at the moment, recovering from a mad day of covering the 12th September 2017 Apple keynote at Apple's HQ, Apple Park. And since I am still jet-lagged and awake at 2.30am, I thought I would write my thoughts on the iPhone 8 series vs the iPhone X.
I am sure you by now, you have seen or read about the Apple keynote, and questions are flying around.
Questions like, where is iPhone 9?
Dunno man, maybe 9 sounded too much like Dog in Cantonese. Microsoft Windows also skipped 9 and went from 8 to 10, to be fair. Poor number 9. Nobody likes 9.
Or questions like, how many kidneys do I need to afford the iPhone X 256GB?
To be fair, the prices out there are without contract, so you are forking out S$1,888 for the iPhone X up front unless you don't plan to get it from the telcos.
Also, do remember that this is for a 256GB model. When the top-of-the-line 256GB model of the iPhone 7 Plus came out in 2016, it wasn't cheap either, selling at SGD1,588 without contract.
And finally questions like, is the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus good enough or should I wait for the X?
That is a the golden question, isn't it?
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are fine phones, and they are a significant upgrade from the iPhone 7 series (wireless charging being one of them). They are essentially the matured second-gen models of the 7 and 7 Plus, and you should see the 8 series as such.
If you own a 6 series or 6s series, the 8 series is a nice jump.
But the iPhone X. It is not a jump. It is a leap in iPhone design.
Besides Face ID, I am looking forward to the X because of the gorgeous Super Retina screen that displays HDR. The entire phone is all screen. And because of that, it has a bigger screen but smaller body than the 8 Plus.
The 8 series HD Retina screen is an LCD IPS screen while the X screen is the latest OLED screen. The OLED screen of the X has darker blacks and better resolution and colour. I've seen it in person and that screen, oh so nice.
My only gripe is the little notch where the TrueDepth camera is. When you watch a movie at full screen, you have that little notch there blocking it a little. I hope Apple has a mode that lets me shrink my movie screen to just below the notch. (Update: The TrueDepth camera will not get in the way when watching a movie in regular aspect ratio, so you'll be fine. Only when you go full-screen and wrap the movie to the edge of the screen does the notch block part of your movie.)
Also, the cameras of the X are BOTH optically stabilized too. On the 8 series, only the Wide angle one is.
The tele lens of the X is f2.4, slightly better than the f2.8 aperture of the tele lens of the 8 Plus and 7 Plus series.
Face ID is very cool tech too. I know other smartphones have had Face Recognition before, the implementation of it isn't as sophisticated as the iPhone X's. It recognizes you with or without your glasses, or if change your hair.
It won't unlock if someone uses your face while you're sleeping (because your eyes need to be open). Though I cannot say if Face ID will be thrown off if you go for drastic plastic surgery.
Face ID isn't fooled by a photo of you. And, this is important, it doesn't send your facial info to any servers out there.
The entire facial recognition is done in-device. Apple went through a whole lot of trouble to design a neural engine — the A11 Bionic chip, and additional software, to do keep the Face ID processing within the iPhone X instead of handing it off to a cloud. So no, Apple doesn't store a copy of your face on their servers.
Because of that TrueDepth camera on the X that Face ID uses, you will also be able to do Portrait mode with BOTH the back and the front cameras. The 8 series can only do Portrait mode with the main camera. With the X, your selfies will be macam got bokeh.
Portrait Lighting, the advanced version of Portrait mode, will also work on both cameras of the X. Meaning your selfies can also have dramatic lighting.
The Animojis are very fun to do too. Only the X can currently send Animojis because it needs the TrueDepth selfie camera to read your face. I'm so going to send my wife messages with the talking chicken.
Finally, battery life. The X has a longer battery life (partly because of the OLED screen). It is rated at 2 hours more than an iPhone 7. Assuming the 8 series is about the same battery life as the 7 series, that makes the X the battery life king. And who doesn't like more battery life?
So there you go. My early thoughts on the iPhone 8 vs the iPhone X debate. I like the entire new lineup but if you ask me, is the X exciting to me? Yes, it is.
The X had me at Hello, I can read your face.
Related: Kim Huat's take on the new iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X.
(Photos are all mine, don't take without asking.)
It was another good WWDC 2017, this time in San Jose. A bit ulu compared to downtown San Francisco, if you ask me. But I am a city boy.
I enjoyed meeting my tech media friends again and hearing the new announcements for macOS, AppleOS, iOS and WatchOS. I even saw the famous Walt Mossberg, who is retiring from the tech journalism world.
What excited me the most?
1. The game Monument Valley 2 is out.
2. Apple Watches will have Toy Story faces.
3. The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro.
4. The new Apple HomePod speaker.
5. The new insane iMac Pro.
6. AR and VR coming to iOS and macOS devices.
and most of all, the iOS 11 improvements that will make iPads even closer to a laptop replacement. Drag and drop all the things!
I was going to do the video presentation myself but I will leave Kim Huat to give you the executive summary in this video because he hijacked my video production when I was in the toilet.
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/_cbrneR4_k0
Here's a first look inside the new Singapore Apple Orchard Store. It's gorgeous. I already see stuff I wanna buy. Siao liao.
The boardroom you see in the photos is used for meetings and it's not open to the public. There are copies of the Apple book and paintings of the new Apple Park. I hope to see Apple Park some day.
The Forum space on the second floor is for Today at Apple educational sessions and experiences where you can learn stuff like photography from creators like Chia Aik Beng.
I am typing this while sitting under a tree at the Genius Grove inside the Store. Yes. Sitting under indoor ficus trees. The Genius Grove on the second floor is where you get help with your Apple products.
I brought my bigger camera, but in the end, I just shot all of these photos with my iPhone 7 Plus (PRODUCT)RED.
Interestingly, the wifi in the Apple Orchard Store recognized my previous login from the Apple Union Square Store in SF and I joined the network automatically.
I like the Forum space. I think it will be a great space for local creative people to share their work and experiences with people. Aik Beng's session was fully subscribed within ten minutes of the session booking going live online. Here is an arty-farty black and white photo of my friend Aik Beng:
The other thing I like is the abundance of space. You rarely have retail space that isn't cramped with aisles and aisles of product.
I think Orchard Road suddenly became a little more interesting.
Me: "Joy, do you have any cute stickers I can stick on my AirPods case?"
Queen of Stickers, Joy: "I got ya, bruh."
Me: "Oi, that's Papa to you. Oooh that's a cute duck."
I had to do this to distinguish my review-unit AirPods from my wife's (I bought her a pair as a Christmas pressie).
How do I feel about them so far? Well, having lived with them for a few months now, here is my assessment.
The pairing process is wicked fast and painless. You open a new pair of AirPods and your iPhone will detect them and ask if you want to pair them. You say "Yes" and it's done. None of that pressing some button until a blue light blinks etc.
Once you pair them, it is paired across all the Apple devices you use that are logged in via your Apple ID. So you don't have to pair them again with your iPad Pro, Apple TV 4 or Apple Watch. That's also very neat.
The other neat thing is that AirPods work out of their case. You take them out and wear them, and your iPhone knows and auto-connects. There is no need to turn them on. Place them back into the case, and you auto-disconnect and the buds are charged. The AirPods last five hours on one charge and the case that is also a powerbank for the buds will let you use the AirPods for up to 24 hours. A quick-charge option gives you three hours of use if you charge them inside the case for fifteen minutes.
Will you lose them easily? Not really. I find myself putting them back into the case when not in use. Like my favorite Erato Apollo 7, you can't hang them around your neck and forget them.
I also like how the AirPods know when you take one earbud off and will auto-pause the music or video, and resume when you put them back on. It doesn't always work but it works enough of the time to make it very convenient. Using the AirPods for phone calls is also very good, with the mics picking up your voice so well, the other party thinks you are holding the iPhone to your ear.
Double-tap one of the AirPods while you are wearing them, and you can get Siri to do stuff. You can also set the double-tap to do other things instead of Siri, like pause and play.
What do I not like about them? The audio quality is about what you get out of the EarPods you get free with your iPhone. These aren't audiophile earphones by any stretch of the imagination. The isolation isn't great too, and you can still hear the ambient sound from your surroundings when you wear them. My Erato Apollo 7 has way better sound and isolation.
I also wish I could control the volume or skip tracks using the double-tap but the only way you can currently do that is to double-tap for Siri, and tell Siri, "Lower the volume by 50 percent." or "Next track."
So, that S$238 you are paying for is mainly the battery life, the ease of use, and the ease of pairing.
That said, these are the most convenient wireless earphones I've used with my iPhone. Now if only Apple can make them less dorky-looking by shortening the stems. And improve the audio quality, darn it.
There you go, the good and the bad things about the new AirPods. The few flaws I've noted don't seem to have affected their popularity or sales, I think. There is a six-week waiting time for a pair on Apple's online store as of now. And I can't find them in physical stores right now.
Let me tell you a sad story about my quest to find the right wireless earbuds (don't worry, got happy ending one).
It all began when I decided I didn't want wires anymore. I can hear the audiophiles amongst you gasp. Surely he jests, you say. Wired headphones and earphones provide the best sound!
I agree. I have many headphones and earphones that I love, that come with wires. But this was 2016, and I felt it was time to cut the cord. At first, I used wireless cans, the kind that went over the ears. It was great, I was no longer getting my wires yanked by people on the crowded train or bus. The sound of those headphones were also decent. But they were bulky and heavy, and when I traveled, I didn't want to pack them along.
Then I found some wireless earphones for sale that had decent sound, and I bought them. These were the kind that had a wire connecting the two buds but no wire to your audio jack. You charge them via the tiny micro-USB port on the earphones and the battery life was decent. I got a pair of Jaybirds like that. It sounded good, it was lightweight, it was wireless, and I was happy.
For a week.
Only a week? Yes, because soon after, I LOST that pair of wireless earphones on the bus. How did I lose a $200 pair of wireless earphones, you ask? Simple. When I was talking to someone, I took them off and let them hang around my neck. Then I FORGOT I had them around my neck, and bent down to pick up something or put on my sweater on the bus. And yes, you guessed it, they fell from my neck and I didn't know it.
Somewhere out there, there is a happy person wearing my pair of Jaybird X2s.
So I bought another pair of wireless earphones, this time, a pair of Under Armor ones. The fit was a bit dodgy but it sounded good, it was lightweight, it was wireless, and I was happy.
For a week.
YES. I LOST MY SECOND PAIR OF WIRELESS EARBUDS.
Same way. Except I lost them in the United States of America. Somewhere in New York state. Hung them around my neck. In a park. Forgot about them. Lost them.
This wireless earphones thing was getting costly.
Then the Erato Apollo 7 came along. I was asked to try them. I was apprehensive. These are expensive earphones. Will I like them? Will I lose them? Where is the wire connecting the two earbuds? They looked like two bullets.
I took them out the their aluminium case, that also acts like a charger. I paired them to my iPhone 7 Plus (yes, the one without the headphone jack). And I listened to them.
Wow. The sound. Just wow.
I took out the silicone tips and swapped them for the supplied Comply tips. These are softer and stickier tips that hug your ear canal tighter. WOW! Better isolation and better bass!
There were other accessories in the box, like wings that secure the earbuds better, for running, but I was happy with the fit of the Erato Apollo 7 with just the Comply tips alone. 4 grams only, you hardly feel the weight.
I took them on a few trips, like my Taiwan one. I was on a plane, in a hot air balloon, in a bullet train for that trip.
I used them every day, for music from Spotify, for phone calls, for watching movies on my iPad Pro. Everything worked nicely with the Eratos. The battery life is 3 hours, and then you pop them into the case and charge them. The case can charge them for another two times, for a total of nine hours of use.
At night, in the hotel, I would plug a micro-USB cable into the case and charge the case and the earphones together, ready for another day out.
The Bluetooth 4.1 connection means it supports the latest AAC, SBC, and aptX standards. The omnidirectional microphone is very clear during video and voice calls. And did I mention they are WATERPROOF?
I also like the little button on each earbud that lets me pause music, skip songs, control the volume, and talk to Siri.
If I have one complaint about the Eratos, it would be battery life. Most people won't need more than 3 hours at a time, really. But I was bingeing on the Daredevil and Luke Cage tv series and was watching more many many hours. So my use case is a little extreme.
And oh, did I lose them? So far, so good. Because there is no wire between the two earbuds, you don't hang them around your neck and forget they are there. I usually took them out and put them in the case when I wasn't using them. The case fits into my pocket easily, without any bulk. So there is no reason not to carry it on me. Take out the earbud, put it in the case, put case in pocket. Problem solved.
I even used them in the National Museum of Taiwan Literature located in Tainan. I downloaded their app and I was listening to the audio descriptions on my iPhone with my Erato Apollo 7 earphones on.
You can say I am now a happy camper, with my Erato Apollo 7 earphones in my backpack. They are going to be in the daily work backpack for the commute to work, and also in my travel packing list from now on.
I also used them to Facetime video call the wife when I was overseas. The only problem is, she saw me wearing the earphones during the call, and said, "Eh? Those wireless earphones look cool. Do they sound good?"
You can check out the Erato Apollo 7 at the Tat Chuan website. Mine are the Gold ones. I think gold is very chio, The Rose Gold ones are also nice.
In October this year, I had the opportunity to test the new 360fly 4k action camera. That is the camera you see above. This little ball takes 360º videos and photos, and is also water-, dust- and shockproof. And most important of all, it has no seams.
What does "no seams" mean? Well, traditional 360º cameras usually have two lenses mounted on each side and the captured images are stitched into one 360º image. The 360fly is just one lens, and captures the 360º view without stitching. This really intrigued me, so I took it to my Taiwan trip to test it out.
In Taitung, I went up in a hot air balloon, the only such service in Taiwan. It was a great experience, and I captured it with both 360º photos and videos.
This is a 360º timelapse video of the setup process, go ahead and play it, and use your mouse to shift it around to see the full 360º view:
It is so cool to be able to capture the whole thing in timelapse, compressing a long process into a few seconds, AND still see it in 360º!
Once we were in the air, I also captured a 360º video of our ride. Check it out (again, click on the video to move it around):
Here is a 360º photo of the ride too.
Here are some photos I took at Chulu Ranch (初鹿牧場) in Taitung:
The 360fly works indoors nicely too, even though it is an action cam. This is a 360º photo of my friends and I drinking tea and eating tea eggs in Taitung:
In the Chishang Township of Taitung, we cycled at Mr Brown Avenue (yes, it is really named that) or 伯朗大道.
When I took this photo, I was lying on the ground, and didn't realize the lady was cycling straight at me and the 360fly camera. I got away just in time, haha!
It is also heck of a lot of fun to do group photos with the 360fly:
After Taitung, I visited Kaohsiung and we cycled around the city with the free bicycles provided by the hotel we stayed in.
I thought it would be fun to mount the 360fly 4k camera on the bicycle with the special bicycle mount, and give you guys a little 360º video tour of the Huashan Creative Park, home of the Upside Down House and other fun art.
We really enjoyed riding around Kaohsiung, though I wish the weather was not so hot in October!
The 360fly camera was easy to use and set up. Once I got the camera paired up with my iPhone via the app, using Bluetooth and wifi, it was easy to control the camera and to see what it saw. The videos and images are stored on the 360fly's internal 64GB memory, which you can transfer from the camera to your smartphone (via the app) or transfer to your computer (via the PC or Mac application).
Charging is done via a magnetic base/dock. You can't stick a micro-usb cable directly into the 360fly to charge it, since the camera is fully waterproof and sealed. So you need to remember to pack the little charging dock when you travel with it. The dock doesn't take up much space anyway.
The iOS app I used allowed me to directly upload videos and photos to sites like Facebook, which support 360º videos and photos, so I didn't even need to use a computer for uploads. Very convenient when you want to travel with just the 360fly and your smartphone.
I think this 360fly camera will go into my gear bag for my future trips. It is too fun to pass up.
Stand a chance to win a 360fly HD camera for Christmas! Go to 360fly Asia's Facebook page for details: http://mrbrwn.co/360flyasiacontest
My first look at the Apple AirPods and Apple Watch Series 2
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/RVToUCWCwe0
Hot off the Apple Event in San Francisco, my first look at the Apple iPhone 7 Plus.
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/eB2brGdZtyw
And so it came to pass, that a tween son and a tween daughter finally received their (pre-loved) iPhones tied to the All-Father’s Family Sharing account.
At the iPhone Handing Over Ceremony, the All-Father read out the Rules and Regulations governing said iPhones.
Thank goodness for Apple Family Sharing and the ability to calibrate the iPhones correctly for kids. This All-Father thanks Apple.
A shorter version of this article originally appeared on my Medium blog.
It is hard to believe that it is already the 27th Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) for Apple. Besides me, more than 5,000 attended the conference to find out what Apple will do for watchOS, tvOS, iOS and macOS.
Yes, OS X is finally called macOS. I will miss the old name but hey, at least the naming convention looks consistent now.
Before diving into the program of the day, Tim Cook led the auditorium in a moving moment of silence for the victims of the tragic Orlando Shooting.
The new watchOS 3 looks a lot faster, which is welcome. With each iteration, WatchOS has gotten faster and more usable. You can now share Activity with your friends and family, which is useful for keeping motivated and for trash talking your fitness "opponents". This means I may have to buy my wife an Apple Watch now. I also like the Scribble feature that lets you write on the Apple Watch screen. And SOS will call for help via your iPhone or wifi, without you needing to know what the emergency number is for the country you are in.
And oh, Minnie Mouse is joining Mickey Mouse as a watch face in watchOS 3. And you can even change her outfit colour. Minnie fans, rejoice.
Eddy Cue came on to talk about tvOS, and now you can do Single Sign-on for all your Pay-TV apps on Apple TV 4. Not terribly relevant to us since we don't have that many Pay-TV apps in Singapore. But the new Remote control app that mimics the Apple TV 4 remote is most welcome.
macOS gets a nice big update, besides the name change. macOS Sierra finally brings Siri to the Mac. I use Siri a LOT in my Apple Watch and iPhone so this is a welcome addition for me. You can search for your files on the Mac with Siri, and even get Siri to find photos or work files with criteria you speak.
Universal Clipboard also got me excited. This lets you copy and paste seamlessly between your Mac and your iDevices. Also cool: Craig Federighi showed us how you will be able to use Apple Pay for your online purchases on your Mac. How it works is you click on the Apple Pay option on the website and then you authenticate payment with either Touch ID on your iPhone or by using your Apple Watch.
iOS 10 is a huge huge update. I don't even know where to start. Messages will support full-screen messages, stickers, emojis on steroids and other third-party enhancements. Some of these sticker and emoji action look like the features we already use on Line, Telegram and WeChat but I have to say that the Apple implementation is slick.
Yes, Apple has opened up Messages to developers to add functionality to it. In fact, Apple seems to have opened up a whole lot of the iOS core features to developers, the most significant of which is Siri.
You will be able to tell Siri to send a message via WeChat or Whatsapp, tell Siri to book a restaurant… I cannot wait to see how developers make use of Siri. That sounded kind of wrong.
Photos is another exciting iOS 10 improvement. Memories is a function that will be able to identify faces, and group people, places and things into albums. Then you can use the grouped content to create Memories movies, a slide show made up of photos and video clips from say, your trip to Seattle or Japan in June 2016, and set it to music.
Apple Music gets a long needed overhaul too. The interface is bolder and cleaner. I shall give it a go when it is available, to see if it is improvement enough to lure Spotify stalwarts.
Interestingly, Apple revealed that there are now 15 million paid subscribers to Apple Music. That is a lot of paying customers. Maybe there are many Taylor Swift fans.
Bozoma Saint John, Head of Global Consumer Marketing Apple Music & iTunes, who presented this segment, was a breath of fresh air in the presentation. She played some cool music (Rapper's Delight by the Sugarhill Gang) and tried to get the auditorium dancing and rapping along. Sadly, we failed her in the rapping department. What a cool lady!
And finally, Tim Cook revealed a free gift in the form of Swift Playgrounds for iPad. The app allows anyone, especially kids, to learn how to code in Swift. Now that is something I wouldn't mind letting my kids play with on the iPad, instead of just games.
Coding is indeed an important language for kids to pick up, and Swift Playgrounds may be a great gateway to interest them enough to learn more.
Here is a nice summary of the features in one video, used with permission from Apple:
I stayed up till 3am for you. Here, a roundup of the new Apple announcements:
-New 4-inch iPhone SE a.k.a. Baby iPhone 6s (16GB and 64GB). Now those of you with small hands and really like tiny toy-like phones have a powerful new option.
-New 9.7-inch iPad Pro a.k.a. Baby iPad Pro with new Smart Keyboard (effectively bye bye, iPad Air 2). I am most excited about this since it is a lighter version of the huge 12.9-inch iPad Pro. At less than 500 grams, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro should be a great travel iPad Pro. Also, the same four-speaker awesomeness for movies and music on the go.
-256GB configurations for both 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros. Now this I like a lot. I already use up my 128GB often.
-New Lightning to USB 3 Camera kit and SD card reader. The former is very cool to me as it opens up the Lightning port to more power-hungry USB devices.
-New nylon and metal straps for Apple Watch. Gotta love that black Milanese strap.
-iOS 9.3 with Touch-ID password protection for Notes app. This is awesome. I can now store sensitive info in Notes. Like the secret drawings of my new Iron Man suit.
I watched the 9.7-inch iPad Pro announcement on my 12.9-inch iPad Pro: iPadProception.
Yes, I know the iPhone SE stands for Special Edition but why couldn’t Apple name it iPhone Boaty McBoatface? I'd buy an iPhone McBoatface.
Also cool, Singapore gets a mention on the use of solar panels for Apple in Singapore.
I finally set up my new 2015 Apple TV with the Siri Remote. Decided to give the Siri feature a try so I asked via the Remote, "Hey Siri, show me the latest movies."
My Apple TV, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6s Plus in the room all heard the question and replied at the same time.
I quickly went down to my nuclear bunker.
You would think that having owned a wireless SONOS sound system in the house for a few years, I would be jaded. But when TC Acoustic, distributor for SONOS, sent me a Playbar, Sub and two of the new Play:5's to play with, it was like having a second honeymoon with a system I thought I already knew.
I set up the Playbar and Sub in my master bedroom, and used my two existing Play:1's to be the rear speakers. Now my bedroom became a home theatre. I used to watch my movies in the living room, where my home theatre is set up. But with the SONOS setup in my bedroom, the wife and I were now watching our Netflix and Apple TV movies in air-conditioned comfort.
The Playbar, Sub and Play:1s were compact and unobtrusive enough to reside in my bedroom, while giving me 5:1 surround sound. Most of our viewing happened on Netflix anyway, which meant tv shows and movies streamed from our TV were in surround. And because the system is wireless, using the SONOS wifi system, I didn't need to run unsightly wires in the bedroom to enjoy surround. I just needed to find power sockets to power the speakers.
With a complete SONOS system in the bedroom, streaming music from our Spotify account or from the music library on my home network drive was even more enjoyable. Playbar + Sub + Play:1s gives me great sound in the bedroom. Bass is solid, the highs and mids clear.
The first thing I do every morning now is turn on the room-filling music. Then when I am done dressing in the bedroom, and I move into the living room to read the papers, I use the SONOS app to shift the music to the SONOS system in the living room, where I set up the new Play:5's.
Ahhhh, the new Play:5. What a huge improvement from the older model! The new Play:5 really surprised me.
Two of these Play:5's set up as a stereo pair are enough to cover my living room with music. You can lie the Play:5 on its longer side for a wider sound stage or stand it vertically for more focused sound.
The older Play:5 had five speakers: two tweeters, two mids and one woofer. In the new Play:5, there are SIX drivers inside the box: three tweeters (one central, two side-firing) and three mid-woofers, each with their own dedicated amplifiers, which explains the clear and vibrant sound.
When you change the orientation of the Play:5, it knows if it is horizontal or vertical and adjusts itself accordingly.
Using new Trueplay feature in the SONOS app, I could tune the speakers to give me equal sound throughout the room or tell the SONOS speakers to focus on my sofa area, where I listen to music most. You use it by turning on Trueplay on your phone, then you turn it upside down so the mic is facing out, and then you walk around your room waving your phone up and down while Trueplay plays a test tone. You will look silly doing this, but the result is impressive, giving you better tuned sound for your room.
My pair of new Play:5's are so good, I don't even need to use the SONOS Sub for added bass (though if you wanted to, it would definitely sound better). I have my Sub with the home theatre setup in the bedroom, and just use the two SONOS Play:5s in the living room. The speakers, including the Sub, are wireless and easy to set up anyway, so I can always move the Sub to the living room to join the Play:5's anytime I want to.
The SONOS app is as usual, a treat to use. All my music services work with it, like Spotify and Apple Music. I would still love to be able to use my Spotify app directly, but the SONOS app is very usable, plus it knows to search for music on both my home music library and Spotify.
Now I am tempted to try adding more speakers into my study room, which currently has a lonely Play:1 in there. It's an audio addiction, I tell you. A SONOS one.
Go join the Tat Chuan Acoustic contest and stand a chance to win your own Play:5!
Caption: Renowned artist Artgerm giving the iPad Pro and Pencil a go. He liked it a lot. Watch his Livestream review.
It has been about two weeks since I got my iPad Pro. I was probably one of the earliest to get it in Singapore before it was officially out.
1. When you first see it, your first thought will be “Wah, so big!”. Your second thought will be, “Wah, that’s really big!”
It is not designed for one-handed operation, though it is only about 712grams, about the weight of the first iPad.
It is happier on the table. Or carried with both hands.
2. The screen is incredible. I feel like my photos look awesome on it, and as a photographer, having something that shows your photos in the best light, in 5.6 million pixel glory, is really important.
That said, any flaws are also visible. Every bit of motion blur and poor focus is visible when you zoom into that photo on the 12.9-inch screen.
3. The speakers. Oh. My. The speakers. They have bass. They are loud without distortion. The four speakers, one at each corner, switch orientation when you turn the iPad Pro around, always keeping the top two speakers firing the mids and highs.
Movies and TV shows shine on this device. I rarely watch things on a tablet without my headphones. I don’t even do that with my MacBook 12-inch Retina because I don’t like the tinny sound. But not this iPad Pro. I want to hear the sound from the speakers. They are that nice.
I used to travel with an iPad Air 2 (tiny serviceable speakers that only fired sound out of one side when watching a movie in landscape) and a very loved Harmon Kardon portable Bluetooth speaker so I could get nice room-filling music in my hotel room. I may just take the iPad Pro alone for the next trip.
4. The iPad Pro is fast. They say it is up to two times faster than the iPad Air 2, which wasn’t a slouch in the first place.
I can feel it when I work. I open photos. Edit them. Type stuff. Open two apps side by side to work. Run a movie in Picture-in-Picture mode. The iPad Pro doesn’t break a sweat.
5. I wish there was no bezel. This is a peeve. I want to see an edge-to-edge screen. I know I’m asking for a lot. But an all-screen device would be awesome.
6. The Smart Keyboard and Pencil work great with the iPad Pro. The Smart Keyboard adds about 300grams to the iPad Pro, bringing it to about 1.1kg total weight, MacBook weight territory.
Yes, I weighed the Smart Keyboard because A) I am a nerd and B) there were no specs of its weight found anywhere.
iPad Pro or MacBook for Travel?
So do I pack the MacBook 12-inch, which weighs 900grams by itself and 1.2kg by the time you add an protective neoprene sleeve and the charging cable and plug? Or do I take the iPad Pro with Smart Cover and Lightning charger plug and cable?
It’s a close fight, weight-wise. And call me anal but I’m an ultralight traveler, and every gram counts.
I think for most of what I do, writing and photography, the iPad Pro can take care of business when I travel. I still find the Mac OS and the MacBook more useful for things like uploading to my blog and my Exposure photography site. But that’s only because these two online properties don’t have good app-support.
Video editing is doable on both the iPad Pro and the MacBook but the iPad Pro can handle 3 streams on 4K video in its version of iMovie. That’s amazing, considering that video editing is traditionally a desktop computer’s thing.
For heavy video lifting, I think my dual-screen desktop Mac will still be the go-to device but on the road, one can get decent video done on an iPad Pro, methinks.
I think I’ll take the iPad Pro on my next trip, which is the end of the month, and see how it performs. I will post updates on my thoughts.
Meanwhile, I am going to read my new Star Wars comics on this gorgeous screen.
This article originally appeared on my Medium blog.
I've finally clocked enough hours gaming and doing computer things on the Dell SE2716H monitor to tell you that it's a really nice little 27-inch monitor.
I didn't think I'd like the curved part or that it would be beneficial but after staring at the thing for hours on end, I've grown fond of it.
At the right distance, the monitor's curve gives you a nice no-glare view of your world. I tinkered with the distance for a while until I got it right.
The max resolution of the screen is 1920x1080, or 1080p, which is fine for me because that's the max resolution I could get out of my Alienware M17x gaming laptop anyway. But if your graphic card can do more than that resolution, then this isn't the monitor for you.
The monitor is surprisingly light. I lifted it up without a problem from the box.
Some of you asked me some questions about the monitor, which I directed at Dell.
1. Why No 4K?
Reply: Dell does have a 4K monitor with a 27” screen size, but it doesn’t come in a curve format. Due to limitations with the current curve technology for the 27”, Dell has instead employed a full HD resolution for the panel.
2. Why TN panel and not IPS?
Reply: Dell is using the VA panel for SE2716H, which is comparable to the IPS technology.
To be honest, the TN screen looked fine to be, even though it wasn't an IPS panel.
You can push the sound from your computer through the HDMI port and output it from the monitor's 2x9W speakers. I found the sound pretty decent for in-built speakers and left them on for gaming. Except when the wife complains, then it's back to headphones.
I did have some overscan problems with the HDMI port when I first connected the computer to the SE2716H, which resulted in a thick black border around the image. But I fixed that fairly easily in my settings.
There are two HDMI ports, a VGA port and a headphone port behind. Pretty basic stuff though I wish the headphone jack was in a more accessible place instead of behind.
There were no DisplayPort and Mini DisplayPort inputs, which I'm more used to using. If you have a Mac that uses Mini DisplayPort, it can be a pain because you need to get a adaptor or a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable.
Other small annoyances are the lack of USB ports or height movement. You can see I've had to place it on my trusty box thing to raise it to the level I'm comfortable with. The stand doesn't allow height adjustments which I feel is important.
Still, the monitor is good value for the price, and has good color and contrast. The bezel at 7.7mm is quite thin too. I'm pretty happy with it.
A reader emailed me to compliment me for my photo essays from my Japan trip with my son. and asked me why I chose to shoot with a Fuji X100T, a fixed lens mirrorless non-full-frame camera.
“Why not a DSLR or some other mirrorless interchangeable lens camera?” she asked, considering that the price of an X100T can get you a pretty good interchangeable lens camera.
The X100T and the X100 series of cameras are an acquired taste, I have to say. I use DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras too but if you ask me why I prefer to carry just the X100T, it is harder to explain. I will try.
1. Quality. The APS-C sensor on the X100T is the same one in the top of the line Fuji XT-1. It gives 16 megapixel images that are sharp and as good as any full frame sensor. I often shoot at 3200 ISO without an issue. The X100T handles low light with very little ugly noise.
Frankly, the quality gap between APS-C and Full-frame isn’t that big a deal, as some pro photographers like Zack Arias have shown. The gap between full-frame and medium format, yes. But not for the former, especially if you don’t plan to print huge prints. And frankly, you can print fairly large and detailed prints from this camera anyways.
I know. It sounds sacrilegious to say it but full-frame matters very little in the current scheme of things (please don’t start an APS-C vs Full-frame flame war in the comments below).
And Fuji is one of the few companies that make lenses and film. So their color and glass expertise is incredible. I love the various film simulations on their cameras.
2. Lens. The lens is a fixed 23mm f2, which is equivalent to a 35mm full frame field of view. And because they fix the lens into the camera, they can make the protrusion very small and optimize the lens to the sensor. You can’t do that with interchangeable lens cameras due to the variance in the lens mounting.
I like shooting in 35mm for travel, it is one of the most versatile focal lengths. Though for my recent Japan trip, I shot slightly wider with a WCL-X100 wide-angle adaptor which gives me about 28mm full frame equivalent.
Fixed lens has its pros and cons. The con is that you can’t shoot everything. The pro is that you can’t shoot everything. Let me explain.
Not being able to shoot everything means that you end up focusing on making good photos with what you have, and focusing on composition. I find that liberating.
So I cannot shoot that bird 2km away with my X100T. I don’t shoot it then. It’s not a big deal.
You take the camera you need for the type of photos you want, of course. If you are on a trip to shoot birds, you are going to need a camera that has 200mm to 600mm options. But for general travel, I don’t think I’ll need my telephoto lens.
And being able to zoom can sometimes make you lazy. You think you can get something by zooming instead of trying to move to a better spot for the shot.
The fixed lens also sometimes means you have to move up close to the subject. It often means more intimate photos.
3. The camera is small and light, and doesn’t call attention to itself. Interchangeable lens cameras, both DSLRs and mirrorless ones, are usually big and loud (unless you are using small m4/3 cameras with tiny m4/3 primes, like the LUMIX GM-5). People can see you a mile away. And sometimes you don’t want that. Also, lugging big lenses and a heavy body is a real pain, especially when you get to my age.
4. It looks CHIO (beautiful). It’s a funny thing but having a camera that looks retro-nice makes you happier. Who knew?
5. The Viewfinder. The X100 series has a hybrid viewfinder. You can choose to shoot in optical or EVF mode. Some people like the feel of optical. Some like the what-you-see-is-what-you-get nature of EVFs. I like having both options available to me.
The viewfinder position is also very useful for a rangefinder shooter like me. I can see the viewfinder with my right eye and see the rest of the real world with my left eye, and having that visual worldview is important to me.
6. The Silence. The X100 series uses a leaf shutter. It is literally silent. For a stealth street shooter like me, it is a godsend. I even turn off the fake shutter sound provided. And because it is a leaf shutter, there is next to no vibration. I can shoot handheld below 1/15 and still be fine.
Some current cameras have electronic shutters that do the same silent thing but I’m old school and I guess I’m fond of the good ole leaf shutter.
7. The High Speed sync. The leaf shutter means I can shoot at high speeds with my flash, doing stuff like using flash during a bright sunny day.
8. The Built-in ND filter. I can shoot at f2 in broad daylight by cutting the light up to 3 stops, to shoot portraits of people in the sun, with shallow depth of field. Or shoot long exposure shots.
9. The Controls and Handling. The X100 controls are intuitive and very familiar to someone who used to shoot manual film cameras. The only other camera I like as much for controls is the X100T’s big brother, the XT-1. This is of course a subjective thing. But feel matters a lot to me.
The X100T also comes with USB charging, which is a great boon for an ultralight traveler like me. I don’t need to carry the charger if I don’t want to. Or if I take the charger along, I can charge two batteries at once: one in the charger and one in the camera.
10. The Wifi. This model has wifi on it, compared to the X100S before it. I own both the X100S and X100T and love both versions, but the wifi on the X100T has allowed me to shoot and send my shortlisted photos to my iPhone/iPad to be edited and uploaded immediately, and as a backup. That’s handy for a social media addict like me.
I’ve traveled with both an interchangeable lens camera and the X100T before. Like for my recent SF trip in June, I packed an X-T1 with three lenses (I had an event to shoot) and my X100T. But when I reviewed my photos for my SF photo essay, I found that 80% of that trip was taken with the X100T. It tells me that I enjoy shooting with it a lot and my hit rate of favorites is higher.
So that is why for my trip to Japan, I decided just to take that (also, with my son along, I didn’t feel I’d have the time to fiddle with lenses or a more elaborate camera).
Now if Fuji will make an X100 with a flip screen next. That will be neat. Then I won’t need to lie down to do low shots, and look like a bozo on the streets of Japan. Oh and make it weather sealed too, while you’re at it.
This article originally appeared on my Medium blog.
This is the pocket wifi I used on my Japan trip. It is from Changi Recommends and it was an essential part of my trip. It cost me $8 a day (discounted) and it was usable the moment I landed in Tokyo. I got 4G speeds most of the time (except in the mountains) and a generous fair use limit of 1GB a day. Some days, I would even use this rather that a hotel's slower wifi.
The pocket router battery lasts pretty much the whole day. In my nine days away, I only had to charge it once but that was a day we were out from 5.30a.m. till midnight.
I used to have my own pocket router but the hassle with that is that I had to hunt for a local SIM card when I landed and that isn't always practical depending on the time you landed and the city. Not every country has easy access to prepaid local SIM cards with decently-priced data.
Using my own iPhone to hotspot drains my phone's battery, so I don't use that method.
Another method I used to get internet for Japanese Internet was to book a pocket wifi from an Japanese online service. But that method meant having to pick up the device at the post office at the Japanese airport, which was a problem if you do not reach Japan during their post office opening hours.
The Changi Recommends booths are open at the Singapore side 24 hours a day, so you can pick up and drop off your device regardless of your flight time.
With the Changi Recommends pocket wifi, I can share the data over wifi with more than one device so my iPhone, MacBook and my son's iPod Touch could all access the Internet. Heck, I'd get it even if I was traveling alone, I think.
Booking one is simple. I called the hotline a few days before my departure and gave them all my details. Then on the day of my flight, I went to their counter at the T3 arrival hall (they have a counter at every Changi terminal) and picked up the device. It comes in a black pouch with the charging cable and universal travel plug.
I added the wifi SSID and password printed on the back of the device to my iPhone and I was ready to use it when I landed.
Charges begin one day after you depart, which I think is very fair since you may be flying to a faraway land that takes 18-24 hours and won't be using it in the air.
When you return, just drop it off at the Changi Recommends counter and they bill you right there. It cannot be simpler.
The data service is reliable and stable and they cover quite a lot of countries, like the States, Japan, South-East Asia, and Europe. This is me using the service in my recent September San Francisco-Portland-Seattle-Yosemite trip.
The Europe one is interesting. Their pocket wifi works across many European countries so if you are doing an EU trip that crosses different European cities, you don't need to buy and change SIM cards like we did on our last European trip.
I tell you, this thing is a lifesaver. When you land, and you need to get online to use Google Maps to find your hotel or Airbnb, the pocket wifi is ready to go. I'm a fan already.
Lately, we have been shooting with the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus quite a bit for our videos. For example, the election period Minister Midas series was shot entirely on the iPhone 6 Plus.
For a rig, we used the Koziro Cinema Mount that gives you a wider angle lens, which is great since we find that in video mode, the field of view of the iPhone 6 series can sometimes be too narrow.
The iPhone is thin and light, but for video shoots, it can be TOO thin and light, so the rig gives you more stability when shooting handheld, and a better handle made of hand polished rose wood (I know right, rose wood sia).
Also included in the package are filters for landscape photography. The rig also has mounting points for you to attach a tripod below, and a microphone or portable light on top. In our case, we mounted our Rotolight LED light on top of the Koziro.
The Koziro mount should fit most smartphones, and we were very pleased to have this around to shoot our quick and dirty videos, which were shot, edited and uploaded from the phone itself.
Thanks to TK Foto for providing us with the review unit. You can purchase it at their store in Funan.