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Apple Watch Series 2

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Oct 5, 2016 in Apple, Fitness, Tech

Apple Watch Series 2

It seems like only yesterday I walked out of the Apple Store with my gen 1 Apple Watch, and since that day, it’s become a integral part of my daily life. Currently, I use it for nothing more than a second screen for apps and a notification system, but it’s just become the norm.

Back in September, Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 (doing away with the 1st generation all together). The main differences being, it’s waterproof up to 50 metres (instead of the 1 metre of the gen 1), it now has built in GPS (although doesn’t track elevation), the ability to track swimming, a faster processor, and a larger battery.

On paper, there’s wasn’t enough to make me want to upgrade, as there are still a lot of limitations. Although WatchOS3 has attempted to make the watch ‘less tethered’, the majority of the apps still require you to have your phone with you. You are able to sync podcasts and audiobooks to the watch, and then listen through bluetooth headphones, however these still require a little fannying around with playlists. Hopefully by the time WatchOS4 is released, I’ll be able to run the podcast and audible apps on my wrist, negating the need to take my phone with me.

So Darren, why did you buy the new watch if there’s no benefit to you? Simple, it seems the Apple Watch is on a 2 year cycle, and I’m pretty sure app developers and Apple will start to work together and enable apps to be more independent. As a simple example, the running app I use (Strava) doesn’t currently use the inbuilt GPS, and still requires the phone to sync/upload the data. I’m sure in the coming days/weeks/months, they’ll use the built in GPS, store the data locally, and then sync with the phone when back in range. In the meantime, I can use Apples built in Activity app to track my runs.

Secondly, the swimming. Currently I don’t swim much, in fact it’s probably been a couple of years since I’ve been swimming, however it’s something I’ve been looking at getting back into. Having tech on my wrist that tracks, monitors and encourages you to go swimming will give me the kick up the arse I need to get back into the pool.

So, does it feel any different? Yes, a little. Feels a little heavier, and a little bulkier to wear, however the speed boost is very noticeable. WatchOS3 did make a huge difference to the speed of the watch, however the dual core processor gives it the extra kick it really needs.

Basically, I didn’t ‘need’ to buy a new watch now, I could have just waited until it was more independent, however,  I thought I’d get in at the beginning, instead of half way through as I did last time.

Unboxing and comparison pics below.

Apple Watch Series 2

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8

Apple iPhone 7

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Sep 22, 2016 in Apple, iPhone

iphone7-black-select-2016_av2

Ok, first of all, I’m weak, I know I am. I currently have the iPhone 6S, and after watching the Apple conference earlier this month, I didn’t see enough in the new phone to even peak my interest, never mind make me want to upgrade. Combine that with the fact that I moved to the ‘S’ cycle last year, with the intention of getting a new ‘S’ model every 2 years, the odds on me upgrading this year were slim to none. Apple then announced they were bringing the Apple Upgrade Program to the UK, and you’ve guessed it, just in time for the iPhone 7 launch, and all of a sudden, I got the Apple twitch.

If you’re not familiar with the upgrade program, put simply, you pay a monthly interest free payment to apple to essentially rent the phone from them, and after your eleventh payment, you can hand it back and take the next model, and start the cycle again. The monthly payment includes the phone itself, and apple care, spreading the payments over 20 months. If you decided not to upgrade, you can simply pay the full term, and own the phone. This for me ticked many boxes. As somebody who wraps their iPhone in cotton wool every year, to ensure it’s mark free, so I’m able to get a good price when I put it on eBay after each upgrade, now becomes a thing of the past. According to the guy I spoke to this morning, the phone simply has to be in ‘good working order’ when you hand it in. So assuming you don’t play football with it, you should be able to exchange the phone ever year without issue. Add the fact that iPhones really do retain their value, I’m looking at getting somewhere in the region of £500 for my old phone, making this an offer I couldn’t really refuse.

Ok, so the phone itself. Upgrading from a 6S, I’ve not really noticed that much difference. Yes, it’s a little quicker (due to the improved A10 processor), the camera takes better photos (due to all the new camera tech), it’s now got stereo speakers like the iPad Pro, the home button has haptic feedback, and it’s now waterproof…yay? I guess the main change that has annoyed ‘the internet’ is that fact that it’s lost the headphone jack. For me, as an audiophile, I welcome this decision. Yes, I’m going to have to go out and buy some decent digital headphones for my phone, but as somebody who owns more pairs of headphones/earphones than I care to admit, I’m looking forward to doing the research and finding a pair that match my hearing preference. For people not willing to move on, Apple do provide a DAC adapter so you can continue to use your analogue headphones. As for the form factor, the phone looks exactly like my 6S, and it’s only when I attempted to use my old case, I found that the camera had moved a little.

I guess if I do have one slight niggle, even though I backed and restored my phone via my Mac, I then had to wipe and restore my Apple Watch to re-sync it. Although not a biggy (and I didn’t lose any data), it still took a good hour to restore the Watch. Surely this could have just moved the host to the new phone as part of the backup/restore process?

To be honest, if it wasn’t for the upgrade program, I’d have stuck with the 6S, as there’s not change to warrant an upgrade, however, I’ve now started on a yearly upgrade cycle, and this makes me happy!

Apple iPhone 7

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3

New Home = New Home Cinema System

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Nov 9, 2015 in Apple, Films, Tech

As some of you may be aware, I finally got my butt into gear and bought my first house back in June. When C and I were looking for a new house, once of the criteria was my very own ManCave, containing all the previous home cinema and gaming equipment that previously lived in the front room at the old house. These consisted of previous speaker system, Pioneer VSX922 amp, and all my games consoles.

Below is a pic of my current ManCave, Although it needs a lick of paint, all the tech is in place and fully functional in its new home.

ManCave

I got the thumbs up from C that we could get some state of the art tech for the front room, as I didn’t really want to be forking out again for a wee while.

First tech added was a new shiny 4K TV (LG 60UF770V). Although there’s not a whole lot of content out at the moment, the 4K up scaling works well, the TV is now smart (compared to the previous Samsung Series 5 dumb TV). Although the TV does widen the sound with its build in 4 speakers, it wasn’t a patch on a proper home cinema system.

The next piece of tech was the new AppleTV, with Apple Music now being a part of the new TV, I decided it was time to finally drop on the remainder of the home entertainment system so I could hear the music through a decent system. I did a reasonable amount of research, and with wanting to stay cutting edge, I had my eye on amps with either Dolby Atmos or DTS:X technology. Now if you’re unsure what these are, these works similar to 7.1, however instead of just sending any non-directional sound to the front high/rear speaker, they have their own dedicated front high track. This means that any scenes that have the likes of helicopters flying over, or rain, will sound amazing.

My first, TrueHD amp was the Onkyo TX-SR606, it was good, but had a known issue that meant it didn’t live too long. I then upgraded to the Pioneer VSX922 which was a great improvement as had network capabilities added Airplay support, a companion app and internet radio. Being happy with the Pioneer amp, I started looking around for one of these but with the new tech, however after a bit of searching around, I couldn’t find anything in my price range. Then a little Denon AVR-X2200W receiver caught my eye, not only was it Denon, but it came with but Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, so I decided to drop on it.

As all the speakers were being used in the ManCave, I took the opportunity to spend a little more of the new speakers to compliment the Denon amp. I went with the Mission MX3 floor standing speakers, Mission MXC1 Centre Speaker, Pioneer SHS100 5.1 Speaker Package for the surround, front high and subwoofer, (as I’ve previously bought this package, and the sub is good, and the rest of the speakers are good for surround speakers).

After a day of wiring and mounting speakers, it was time to give it a test run, however, I had no Atmos or DTS:X content. I did a little googling and found an every growing list of Atmos encoded blurays. Being a fan of the Transformers films, I decided to get Transformers: Age of Extinction on next day delivery. Wanting to also test DTS:X I did a similar search, to find there was currently only one bluray encoded in DTS:X, and that’s Ex Machina, again eager to test the system, I ordered it on next day delivery.

While I waited for the blurays, I decided to simply play with the new audio options. As long as you had at least a Dolby Digital track (which most of the HD channels on my Virgin box seemed to have), you can enable Dolby Digital + Dolby Surround. This works similar to Dolby ProLogic IIz which works out which tracks should go to the high speakers. Initially, it took a little getting used to, as what was previously quite a focused sounds, now felt the sound was coming from the entire wall. This is however now my default settings, as it really does add a lot of height and width to the audio, whilst maintaining a clean centre focus.

The following day both blurays arrived, so it was time for the final test. Now I had somehow managed to convince C that with the price of the Xbox One dropping like a stone, maybe we should get another for the front room to use as a media player/bluray player, so decided this would be the player of choice to test the new system. I dragged mine down from the ManCave and plugged it in. Unfortunately after about an hour worth of playing around in the settings on the amp and Xbox, I resorted to google, only to find the Xbox will never be able to pass the additional tracks to the amp. Without going into too much detail, for an amp to even receive the additional tracks, you have to pass uncompressed bitstream audio to it. The bitstream options on the Xbox One are currently DTS bitstream or Dolby Digital bitstream, neither of these contain the additional tracks. The default audio setting for the Xbox is 7.1 PCM which is good, but again, not compatible with Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. So I went to plan B, go grab the PS4. This worked a treat, switched the output to uncompressed bitstream and I got the lovely Atmos symbol appear on the amp. I flicked through Transformers and some of the scenes definitely had a lot more height to them. As a sanity test, I took the PS4 and bluray back up to the ManCave to listen through the 7.2 set up there. Although the same helicopter tracks did sound high, they weren’t a patch on the downstairs Atmos setup.

Happy with the Atmos test, I took everything back downstairs to test DTS:X. I popped in Ex Machina, played a couple of chapters for it only to show True-HD. I check the back of the bluray, only to find no DTS:X track listed!…..after a little googling, it seems only the US version of the bluray had the DTS:X track, and the one I have only has 5.1 TrueHD…bummer. Although I quite enjoyed the film, I’m not sure it’s a good test the technology, so await American Ultra being released so I can hear how good it sounds.

Once I’d finished testing, I took my PS4 back to the ManCave and decided to buy a standalone bluray player, as I didn’t really fancy lugging my PS4 up and downstairs every time I wanted to watch a bluray, so popped out to the local Currys store and picked up a Samsung BD-J5500. For £50, it’s not bad at all, not only is it network enabled, it had Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and a DLNA player built it, and also had the option to output audio in uncompressed bitstream.

Below are a few unboxing pictures of the amp, some work in progress setup picture. Please note, no cows were harmed during the installation.

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