What to buy? New Macbook Pro vs. New Surface Book

This was an exciting week for the big two. Microsoft unveiled its new Surface Book on Wednesday, October 26th, and Apple followed suit the next day with their new Macbook Pros. This left me wanting both laptops so I have a big decision to make!

This article isn’t about all the new features of these products but I will just give a small snippet of the big differences for those of you who haven’t seen the multitude of coverage already:

Review of new technology in both systems

Late 2016 New MacBook Pros:

  • New ‘Touch Bar’ allows for dynamic control of content, settings and actions that adapts to the app you are using
  • Upgraded to Intel 6th generation processors
  • Better screen brightness and colour range
  • Dedicated graphics on 15″ (Radeon)
  • Larger trackpad and 2nd gen butterfly switched (similar to the MacBook keyboard)
  • Thinner (who knew?)
  • and of course, as they never fail to mention it is their “best MacBook ever”…

Surface Book with Performance Base:

  • As the name suggests, they added higher-performance dedicated graphics to the base (Nvidia)
  • up to 16 hrs battery life (with base attached)

As you can tell from above, Apple was more innovative in their laptops this year (rather Microsoft’s big reveal was their Microsoft Surface Studio All-in-one). However, we can’t forget that the Surface book already has some great innovation built-in!

Comparison by price and specs

So, let’s get right into it. The pricing for both of these systems are quite evenly matched but I created a price-by-price specs-based comparison. Based on that data, it would appear that the new MacBook Pros are a better bang for your buck. Now, keep in mind that a comparison of specs vs. price is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that needs to be compared here. However, note that all of the internals have received performance upgrades this year for the MacBook Pro while the Surface Book with Performance Base only received a boost in graphics performance. The MacBook Pro has 2133 MHz clock speed ram and new PCIe-based SSDs which should make a significant difference in file transfer and multitasking.

Everyone has their own unique idea of their ideal laptop and then they make compromises to save money and start valuing different features over others. At least this is how I usually end up making my decision. So, although it is a unique decision-making process for every individual, there are two categories of laptop users that I have a strong recommendation for:

Design Professional who primarily uses Adobe Creative Cloud (Adobe CC):

This user should definitely consider a Surface Book with Performance Base over the new MacBook Pros and this is not even because of the digitizer on the Surface Book series. A lot of people would recommend the Surface Book to designers because of the digitizer but a lot of pro designers already have their preferred way to draw. This recommendation is because several Adobe CC apps now support GPU acceleration to borrow processing power from the computers GPU to speed up rendering for example. AMD cards do not support this whereas Nvidia cards do! So that fancy 4GB AMD card on your new MacBook Pro 15″ for $2700 will not be helping you much!

Apple Developer:

This is something I was struggling with up until now. I have a couple ideas for iOS apps and am looking to partner with a team of other developers to make an app or two. I bought a new laptop recently (Dell Inspiron) with the intention of using VMWare Workstation to create a virtual MacOS setup and save some money since I didn’t need a laptop that costs me an arm and a leg! After a couple months, huge regrets… It’s definitely not the same which is why I will be turning to the new MacBook Pros. They have new 6th gen processors (I wish they were 7th gen…), excellent battery life, faster RAM, faster SSD storage, they look and feel beautiful, I’m not worrying too much about graphics and most of all, it will work beautifully with XCode! The new touchbar will contain your favourite tools as well for even faster coding!

Everyone Else

If you haven’t made up your mind yet, I don’t blame you! A laptop purchase decision is something that should take more research than one article but I hope this article did help shed some light. My last advice, if you are looking to save some money but still want a MacBook whether you are an Apple developer or prefer MacOS, considering getting the previous generation MacBook! When it comes to specs, the processor is merely less efficient and the RAM clock speed is slow but it is still a very capable machine. Plus, you could spend the extra money on a bigger hard drive! If you do not have a preference of OS or like Windows better, the Surface Pro 4 is a cheap and powerful alternative as well!

Current State of Virtual Reality Technology

Virtual reality technology is paving its way into our future. In fact many would argue that it is already among us and strong. The hype for this technology was arguably introduced by two companies that should come of no surprise; Google and Microsoft. The first big introduction of Google’s launch into this technology was in June 2014 during Google I/O where they revealed Google Cardboard. At first glance, I thought it was a joke… It was a piece of cardboard! As they started explaining the use of it and how cheap it was to obtain one of these functional pieces of cardboard, I became intrigued.

1280px-assembled_google_cardboard_vr_mount

To this day, Google Cardboard announced on their official blog that they’ve sold 5 million Google Cardboard units so far with 25+ million virtual reality apps downloaded! The top 5 of these apps include: Chair In A Room, Vrse, Lamper VR: Firefly Rescue, Caaaaardboard! and Proton Pulse.

However, Google Cardboard isn’t the only thing hyping virtual reality these days. Microsoft announced the HoloLens in early 2015 and when I first saw it, my eyes were wide open. Microsoft showed videos of using the HoloLens to imitate “beaming” a television screen on any flat surface that you have a clear vision of! It showed capabilities that we thought were only found in sci-fi movies such as manipulating 3D prototypes in the middle of your living room and then printing them via 3d printer to show colleagues and investors! Finally, it brings a whole new meaning to mobile computing by being able to have a full-fledged Windows 10 computer available to you on any flat surface!

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Some of the most incredible demos at CES this year include the ability to detect where on the screen you spend the most time looking. Microsoft calls this “gaze-data” and can be used in areas of market research to observe what things consumers pay most attention to in VR advertisements. I imagine it would be very useful in research studies to determine biases inferred from what/who someone pays more attention to or notices first.

Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t think VR will replace any of the tools and technology we have today but it will definitely enhance our experience with computing and it promises to provide very useful tools for design and development. I look forward to the near future of VR and how it will incorporate itself into our everyday lives. Will it become mainstream or will it be another one of those “smart-gadgets”?

Sources: Google CardboardHoloLens

Wuvo Spot: The Worldwide Tracker

Many bluetooth tracking devices have been released over the years but few can advertise worldwide support. The new Wuvo Spot is one of the trackers that does in fact offer worldwide tracking at a very affordable price. I was able to get 10 through this Indiegogo campaign for $100. Quite the bargain compared to other trackers out there. They will make great gifts come Christmas!

Anyway, my experience with them was positive so far. I have kept 3 of the 10 for myself and attached them to my keys, wallet and headphones (things I commonly misplace in the house). They have all the regular features of trackers such as remote alarm, GPS locator and location history. I am able to track all of their locations on a simple and well-designed app on my phone.

The one negative thing I must say about it is the keychain it came with. When I was trying to attach it, the thread broke and I had to use some thread to fix it… It does come with a double-sided sticker solution for attaching to a flat surface on your belongings which was helpful for attaching to the inside of my headphones.

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Sources: IndiegogoWuvo

Apple Pay Debuts in Canada (American Express First to Adopt)

Apply Pay has finally come to Canada today and its first and so far only adopter is American Express! Looking at the source link on Apple’s website, Canada’s list is quite embarassing, but it’s better than nothing. I live in Canada and just so happen to have an American Express so I am excited to try it for the first time! If you have an American Express card and an iPhone6/6+ or newer, then you can add you card to the Wallet app as well.

Although American Express now supports Apple Pay, we also have to wait for merchants to start adopting the technology (NFC scanners etc.) in order to actually use it. Otherwise, all we have is a pretty american express card in our Wallet app that we can never use.

If you are wondering why only American Express has adopted this technology, I can speculate that it is probably due to fee agreements (who should pay who) and/or concerns about security. Hopefully more cards are able to come to agreements with Apple so that this technology can be pushed in Canada, and more merchants can adopt the NFC technology required.

Sources: Apple

Snapdragon 820 Official News and Announcements

qualcomm

Qualcomm recently announced its new Snapdragon 820 chip and it is looking good! It is more efficient and powerful than previous chips and will likely power many of next year’s flagship phones. With past rumors of the chip overheating being officially denied by Qualcomm on Weibo, manufacturers and consumers are more excited than ever.

Among the many improvements to the chip, the features that stand out are the new Kyro CPU which promises 2x better speed compared to the 810 while also increasing battery life. Along with this improvement to battery consumption is the support for “always-on” low-power sensors and Quick Charge 3.0 which is promised to be 4x faster than traditional charging and 33% more efficient than Quick Charge 2.0. According to tests by Droid-Life for the Quick Charge 2.0 of Samsung’s S6, the new chip in Samsung’s future S7 could promise a full charge (from 0% –> 100%) in under 1 hour!

The new Adreno 530 GPU offers a 40% graphics performance boost compared to the Adreno 430 GPU of the 810 chip. This can hopefully pave the way for upcoming VR applications. With better performance, developers will be able to push the new GPUs to their limits with high-res VR environments and actions.

Sources: Qualcomm, Droid-Life, CC

Bio Processing: Your Heartbeat May Be the Key to Your Car, Home, Bank Account…

What if your heartbeat was the key to your car, home, bank account… It turns out this may be coming in the future! Samsung Electronics has developed a Bio Processor (BioP) which is able to constantly monitor one’s heart rate with a built in Electrocardiogram (ECG). This technology puts it far ahead of any current wearables in accurately detecting heart rate by being able to actually graph and record changes in electrical currents that cause heart muscle depolarizations. The applications for health informatics would be huge if this technology was affordable for the everyday consumer, especially for people with heart problems.

Aside from the obvious health applications, Samsung Electronics is looking to use the BioP’s technology to securely unlock car doors and homes. To do this, the BioP has an included bluetooth transmitter and flash-memory to connect to your phones and other devices and provide constant health-related information very similar to the smart wearables we use today. Due to its ability to constantly monitor one’s unique heart rate (which is very hard to copy), it provides a high level of security. The downside to the current iteration of the device is that it needs to be placed directly on your skin next to your heart. Samsung is working to make this chip smaller and hopefully more affordable.

As a side note, you may be wondering how everyone’s heart rate can be unique when one’s heart rate varies during different activities and that is a very good question. The uniqueness of one’s heart rate comes from the patterns of electrical currents within the depolarization of the heart muscle that generates the beat. So although you may have increased your heart rate substantially after running, the pattern of eletrical currents that causes your heart polarization, albeit at a faster rate, will still be constant and unique to you.

Sources: Samsung, EtNews

Apple’s Indoor Directions and iBeacon

Companies have ventured into providing indoor interactive maps including Google. Large malls have developed their own mobile apps that provide indoor maps and directories, some even interactive. However, Apple is looking to join and take over the scene with the ability to map an entire indoor space without any additional hardware except the latest iPhone!

Sources show a new app that was officially published to the App Store by Apple called “Indoor Survey” that requires special permissions to log onto and use. Apparently this app will allow the user to broadcast their location and through the phones GPS and other sensors, beam information about the space indoors.

If this app succeeds and works as described, you could safely assume that any well-visited and popular indoor venue will be mapped. The consumers may not benefit from this as much as the corporations, in particular all the retail stores in malls! If consumers are broadcasting their location (relatively accurately) indoors, a retail store can ping a potential customer through Apple’s iBeacon service very easily, notifying the customer of new promotions and incentives. Maybe you won’t be greeted by a friendly employee handing you a sale flyer for much longer!

Apple Pencil Accessory Will Come With a Charging Adapter for Lightning Cable

picture of lightning to lightning adapterWhen the Apple Ipad Pro was teased and announced, one of my biggest worries was the fact that the Apple Pencil accessory would have to be charged by plugging into the Ipad Pro’s charging port. So many concerns arose… What happens if my iPad is already out of juice? What if my desk is relatively narrow and someone accidentally hits the thin portruding Pencil as it hangs off my desk? What if I really just don’t like how the Pencil looks when it is plugged into the iPad?

Thankfully I can still look forward to this promising device now! According to 9to5Mac, the Apple Pencil accessory will come with an adapter for our regular lightning cables that will allow the lightning cable to insert at one end and the pencil at another. Now, charging the Pencil through the charging port of the iPad is merely a bonus feature for convenience but isn’t absolutely necessary. Now what I am looking for next is a nice case (maybe even a keyboard case) that has effective storage for the Pencil.

Sources: 9to5Mac, TechnoBuffalo

Apple TV Now Available in Stores with App Store Functionality!

Apple TV is now available in its retail stores! It retails for $149USD/$199CAD or $199USD/$269CAD for the 32GB or 64GB model respectively.

The most exciting feature I would say is the support for a full App Store. This means developers will start and probably have already released several third-party apps and most interesting, games! Although I would not compare the Apple TV to a Playstation, Xbox or the Wii U, it is much more affordable and will have its own set of unique games for also much more affordable prices! Considering the fact that gaming on mobile phones is quickly becoming very popular with almost 50% of smartphone users playing games at least once a month in the UK according to TechRadar, I would not be surprised if they dig a nice whole into the traditional console’s market.

Apple fans who have not yet jumped onto the Apple TV train due to its lack of features over any other smart device should definitely think about giving this new 4th gen iteration a shot. In terms of whether or not you should upgrade from a previous model would depend on how much you value the addition of the app store. The new gen device also comes with hardware upgrades to support the new functionality such as a redesigned remote with a mic for Siri as well as a touch panel, accelerometer and gyroscope for more user input. It also supports 7.1 Dolby Digital Surround as opposed to the 5.1 channel of the previous model. Last but not least, a jump from the old single-core A5 chip to the dual-core A8 chip and support for wireless AC.

Sources: Apple, TechnoBuffaloTechRadar


 

Newly Announced OnePlus X, Another Flagship Killer!

Available November 5, OnePlus will start rolling out invites for consumers to purchase their new phone, the OnePlus X. OnePlus is famous for making flagship killers and this phone lives up to their reputation… arguably anyway. The specs of the OnePlus X definitely don’t compete with some higher end flagship phones out there but what makes it still a flagship killer in my opinion is what you get for its insanely low cost of $250 USD or ~$329 CAN.

First of all, the specs are actually not bad at all:

  • 5-inch 1080p display
  • Snapdragon 801 processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 13-megapixel rear camera
  • 16GB/32GB of storage.

Rumors point towards the inclusion of NFC, a 2450mAh fast charging battery and a water-resistant design.

one-plus-x-designofsidesSecond of all, the design is beautiful and arguably better looking than some flagships out there. The OnePlusX has a beautiful all Gorilla Glass front and back panel. The border of the entire phone is a nicely finished “grated” metal (shown to the left) that provides a premium feel with the added benefit of extra grip!

I want to emphasize one last reason for why it is a flagship killer which is the sim/microsd slot visualized below. A lot of flagships today stopped including or never included expandable storage. The OnePlus X however includes a slot for a microsd card for up to 128GB of expandable storage while also doubles as a dual sim slot if needed (**Note that you can only have dual sim or microsd slotted in, not both).

one-plus-x-microsddualsimslot

Sources: OnePlus, TechnoBuffalo