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AppleTV 4th Generation

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Oct 30, 2015 in Apple, Tech

apple-tv-4th-gen

Since the AppleTV 2 was released in way back in 2010, I’ve always hoped that Apple would enable functionality for apps on the TV as this is always something I’ve found lacking. Granted I could have always accomplished this by jailbreaking it, however I’ve always found tinkering with custom firmwares to be a double edged sword, so I always left my Apple kit vanilla.

Then in 2012, Apple released the AppleTV 3, with an improved processor (same processor as the iPad 2/iPad Mini), improved bluetooth and I though, “finally…here we go”, but it unfortunately it never happened.

The following year iOS7 was released including the MFi SDK allowing you to sync a bluetooth controller to your iDevice to play games. At this time, micro consoles were all the rage, with the rise of the OUYA and various other Android based consoles appearing on the market, I though…”here we go”….only to be disapointed again.

With the announcement of the AppleTV 4, It seemed my dream has finally come true, and the little black box that lives under my TV, would finally be getting an upgraded to allow apps and games.

Now before I pop on a party hat and start rejoicing, I’m going into this a very cautiously, as I don’t think it’s going all singing, all dancing experience I’ve been waiting all these years for. As you may be aware, I’m heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, and have spent literally thousands on media over the years. What I was hoping for was the same as I got with the Vita TV is, the ability to download any big name games I’d previously bought and play them on the big screen. However restrictions like the inital 200MB download limit per game/application (although potentially up to 2GB additional resources can be then downloaded), the fact that every game has to be playable on the new touch remote, makes me fear we’re never going to see any of the big name games I want to play on the big screen, and it’s simply going a store full of AppleTV specific flappy bird and angry bird clones.

Now I decided to go for the 64GB version, in the hope that one day in the not too distant future, Apple will create a MFi specific section on the store, and increase the file size limit to allow developers to create some truely awesome games to take full advantage of the new hardware, or at least port them to the AppleTV with ease.

So how is it? It’s pretty good. The initial setup was extremely easy, I was given the option to setup with phone. Simply enabling bluetooth and move my phone close to the device. It then used the setting on my phone to populate the main information, wifi, appleID etc. As part of the setup you can also enable location services, which seemed a little odd at the time, but made sense later when I saw the Weather Channel app auto populate my location.

Overall the UI feels very clean, snappy and has a nice little 3D effect when you’re selecting an app. I was glad to see initially there were no 3rd party apps installed, as I’ve found over the years my other AppleTV’s have become over bloated with apps I’ll never use, so it was good to be able to select the apps I actually wanted.

Although most of the default apps are familiar, iTunes Movies, iTunes TV etc, you now have access to Apple Music, and as I’m one of those that stuck with it after the 3 month free trial, it’s good to see it enabled on the box. To the left of this is the ever familiar App Store icon. Once in, you’re met with the familiar app screen layout you get on other app devices. Currently there’s not really any type of filtering or sorting, so you just have the recommended and purchased tabs. I guess when they’re more content available, I hope to see the usual category system we get on other apps stores . Within the purchased tab,  there were a handful of apps, likes of Speediest.net, Asphalt 8, Jetpack Joyride and the likes. Obviously I clicked on them all and set them downloading, to see how they look on the big screen. I guess one huge (for me) omission from the store was Apples own Podcast app. As most of you are aware, I listen to, and even record a podcast or two, so the lack of podcasting capability was rather strange.

The first app I tried was Speediest.net, although it felt like a very cut down version of the version I use on my phone, it was functional. Next on the list was Asphalt 8. As I started up, I got a message saying ‘Downloading Bundle’, and the proceeded to download the rest of the files it needed. Once loaded, I got the message of ‘Controller Optional’, so I dropped out of the game, synced my Mad Catz MFi controller to the TV and reloaded the game. Sure enough, I was able to fully control the game, and the entire AppleTV with my MFi controller. The experience was ok, the game ran a little jerky at times, however assume it was only a first run problem. Interestingly, the game seemed to download the track that it needed to play, I guess this was Apples App Thinning at work.

Moving away from the apps, I decided to have a look at the bread and butter stuff, and have to say, everything is a lot snappier than it previously was. I currently own 227 iTunes movies, and on my AppleTV 3, these would take a good few seconds to load, on this..instant. Same with the TV and music, everything was snappy.

So I guess the final thing is the controller, well it’s the same…but different. Instead of the previous navigation circle, you’ve now got a touchpad, that does the same thing, however a lot my touchpady. You now have the addition of a home button, and volume controls. Now I have to admit I was impressed when I pressed the volume button, only to see the volume go up and down on my TV without me having to punch in any settings…..ah, technology. Finally there’s the Siri button, press once, then press and hold to talk to Siri….she still doesn’t understand me.

All in a nice little upgrade, it’s still early days, but I’ll be interested to see how the app store evolves in the coming months.

As always, unboxing photos below.

 

AppleTV 4AppleTV 4
AppleTV 4AppleTV 4
AppleTV 4AppleTV 4
AppleTV 4AppleTV 4
AppleTV 4AppleTV 4
AppleTV 4

 
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Apple iPhone 6s

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Sep 26, 2015 in Apple, iPhone, Tech

iPhone6s

It’s been three years now since I’ve had a phone upgrade, and my poor old iPhone 5 is starting to struggle a bit with some of the features of iOS9, additionally there are an ever growing number of apps that no longer support the iPhone 5, so it was time to upgrade.

Why didn’t you get the iPhone 6 I hear you ask?, Well, I decided last year to break my biyearly iPhone buying cycle and wait for the S model instead, for a number of reasons. It allows app developers to catch up with the new screen resolution, and case and screen protector manufacturers to have a years worth of cases and protectors out. Previously, I’ve had to buy some cheap case and protector, hope it fits ok, and then replace it with a better one later. I’m still mentally scared from dropping my iPhone 5 on the first day, without a case or screen protector, as I was waiting for them to arrive it the post.

So three years on, and there’s a reasonable amount that has changed. Obviously the screen resolution gives you more real estate, the phone size and button placements also (the on/off button on the side it taking a little getting used to). The camera is a vast improvement over the 5, sporting a 12 megapixel camera, that not only now gives me the option of 4K video, but also slow motion and the auto HDR functionality. In addition, I now get to play with the true tone flash, which if I remember correctly has 2 different coloured flashes and uses the best mixture based on the current lighting. I’ve yet to take any pictures of peoples faces, but will report back when I have. I now have the option of the Live Photo which feels a little bit of a gimmick if I’m honest. This is the option to automatically record a couple of seconds of video either side of a photo being taken to help you remember that moment. However realistically, the few seconds before and after are usually people looking in the wrong direction, or somebody walking across the shot.

I now have the option of using the finger print reader that was introduced in the iPhone 5s, which seems a really simple way of unlocking your phone, and making purchases. It seems I can now even make purchases on the Amazon app with my thumb print…(dangerous for drunken purchases!)

Due to the addition of the NFC chip,  I am now able to use Apple Pay, allowing me to play for things with my phone. To be honest, there are very few shops that I use that support contactless payment, so not sure how much use it’s going to get, however it’s a fun feature to have.

With the dedicated motion chip, I can now use the phone as a pedometer feeding straight into the Apple health app, however as I currently use my Fitbit flex, I can’t really see me using this function too much.

I guess the most interesting feature of this phone is the 3D touch. Using a pressure sensitive screen you are able to lightly press to get a peek at an item, say a picture, an email attachment, a url, and then a slightly harder press to pop into the item itself. In addition, doing the same on an app can bring up a short cut menu. This is taking a little getting used to, as it’s sometime hard to gauge the light press. I have however noticed that this only work on a few apps other than Apples own. For example, lightly pressing on the Twitter app, will give the the option of Search, New Tweet, New Message. As my apps seem to be updating on a daily basis, I’m it won’t be long before the majority of the apps support this feature.

Finally, and probably the most noticeable change for me is the battery life. My poor iPhone 5 was getting to the point of having to be charged at least twice a day (due to streaming music, podcasts and video), however this is getting me through the day and still having at least 40% charge under the same load.

All in all, very happy with the purchase, and plan to continue with the S model cycle, I’m yet to go out and play with the camera, as I’ve been suffering with manflu since I got the phone, however will update the post later with some images and 4K video.

As always, pics below.

iPhone 6siPhone 6s
iPhone 6siPhone 6s

 
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Apple Airport Extreme

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Sep 13, 2015 in Apple, Tech

Airport Extreme 2013

Having recently moved house, I found my previous solution of a Time Capsule and an AirPort Extreme to extend the wireless network was no longer good enough in the new house. This is partly due to the fact that I’m now living in a 1961 house with very thick walls, and partly down to the Time Capsule location.

Previously the Time Capsule was in the same room as all the tech, and on the 2nd floor, with the AirPort Extreme hard wired in the front room extending the wireless network and giving a very good coverage. In the new house, I have a dedicated server room (aka pantry, broom cupboad, the cupboard under the stairs) and even with the Airport Exteme in the Man Cave, the wifi connection was ok at best. I guess with moving from my previous 30MB connection to my now superfast 152MB connection, the difference between wired and wireless connection became a lot more noticable.

Having just ordered an iPhone 6S, I decided it was time to finally upgrade the router to an AC router, to get the benifits of the faster wifi speed and increased range. Being the Apple fan boy I am, it made sense to simply upgrade to the new version of the Airport Extreme.

Apple being Apple made the transistion between the two extrememly painless. I plugged the Airport Extreme into the switch, the Airport Utility popped open on my iMac, and a prompt popped up saying new device detected, what do you want to do. Within a few minutes, my new Airport Extreme had all the DHCP, and routing settings of my Time Capsule, and was happily working as my main router. As part of the process, it switched off all the DHCP settings on the Time Capsule, I assume to avoid any DHCP conflict. It did also give me the option to extend the network of the new Airport Extreme device, however with them sat next to each other, it seemed kind of pointless.

So, was it worth the upgrade? Yes, sure, kind of. Although I did notice a massive speed increase on any wireless AC device, the range didn’t increase as much as I’d have hoped. With the single device (as the wifi on the Time Capsule and old Airport Extreme are now switched off), I am able to get a decent signal throughout the house, and within about a five metre range around the house, which for a single device, locked in a room, in the middle of a thick walled house isn’t too bad at all.

As always, unboxing pics below

 

Apple Airport Extreme (2013 model)Apple Airport Extreme (2013 model)
Apple Airport Extreme (2013 model)Apple Airport Extreme (2013 model)
Apple Airport Extreme (2013 model)Apple Airport Extreme (2013 model)

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