Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Apple iPad Pro review - Thumbs down!

I've been testing the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 inch for the past several weeks and while I appreciate the incremental improvements, it's not worthy of a separate "Pro" model and the extra cost. The iPad Pro 9.7 brings even more enhancements but is still just an incremental upgrade to the iPad Air 2.

  • Larger 12.9 inch screen. While not for everyone, it's great to have choice - small (7.9 inch), medium (11.7 inch) and large (12.9 inch).  While most apps aren't optimized for the large 12.9 inch screen, they are coming. Slide Over and Split View, introduced in iOS 9 provides multitasking capabilities and work great on the large 12.9 inch screen. 
  • Apple finally eliminated the base model with 16GB of limited storage and replaced it with 32GB.  I hope Apple follows suit with the new iPhone and also increases the paltry 5GB of free  iCloud storage.
  • Smart Connector.  While I'm not a fan of the Apple Smart Keyboard (there are much better and less expensive third party keyboards with backlighting and support for multiple screen positions), I am a fan of the new Smart Connector as it eliminates the need to charge a Bluetooth keyboard and it delivers "instant on" capabilities. 
  • Faster A9X processor, 4GB RAM (12.9 inch) and improved front and back cameras (9.7 inch).
  • Improved four-speaker design sounds great.
  • Improved cameras. The iPad Pro 9.7 inch now has support for 4K video and an improved FaceTime camera

  • Additional cost. Apple hasn't delivered enough enhancements to warrant the extra cost or the "Pro" moniker 
  • Too many models. Apple makes the iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4 and iPad Mini 2.  Apple needs to consolidate and simplify the product line.  Why not just call it the iPad and make it available in three sizes?
  • Apple Pencil. There are plenty of excellent third-party styli and the Apple Pencil seems like an afterthought.  There is no eraser, no way to turn off the Apple Pencil to conserve battery life, no magnet to attach the Apple Pencil to the iPad for travel/storage and charging using the Lightning port is awkward.  However, it's unforgivable to ship the Apple Pencil without handwriting recognition in iOS.  The Apple Newton had this feature in 1993. 
  • Apple marketing.  Apple touts the iPad Pro as a Windows laptop replacement. Why isn't the iPad Pro being positioned as a Mac replacement?  The sad truth is that the iPad Pro isn't a replacement for either for most users. 
  • Software. iOS hasn't been optimized for the larger 12.9 inch screen. Finally, Apple's focus on hardware is overshadowing software and quality has suffered as Walt Mossberg and others have noted.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, February 08, 2016

What tech accessories do I use for work?

In my previous posts, I shared the smartphones, tablets and PCs I use for work as well as how I have my Apple iDevices configured.  In this post, I share my favorite tech accessories:

High Sierra Business Elite backpack is my everyday gear bag for all my electronic devices. I've owned several High Sierra backpacks and I've found them to be well made with plenty of pockets to keep all my gear organized

Amazon basics laptop sleeves are affordable, high quality and keep my gear protected and free from scratches and dents

Velcro cable ties keeps my cords under control

Vaultz mesh bags keep all my cables and dongles together

Beats Studio Wireless headphones are a great way to listen to music, watch movies on flights and keep out the noise. Yes, they are expensive, but there are deals to be had online (I picked mine up new on eBay for $120)

Pencil by Fifty-three is an excellent stylus for the iPad Air 2 and works with several apps including Paper and Microsoft OneNote as well as others.

Anker PowerCore 20100 is an outstanding external charger to keep all my mobile devices charged and ready to go

EasyACC 4 port USB charger is inexpensive, small and charges 4 USB devices

Ergotron LX desk mount LCD arm is relatively inexpensive, easily adjustable, well made and frees up precious desk space in my home office

There you have it. My favorite tech accessories. What are some of yours?

Monday, January 18, 2016

What laptops, smartphones and tablets do I use for work?

As a follow up to my earlier post on how I have my Apple iDevices configured, I thought I'd share details on the hardware I use for work:

Apple MacBook Pro (13 inch) my primary work laptop. When I work out of my home office, I connect my MacBook Pro to a 24" external monitor and an external Apple keyboard. I have other Macs (MacBook, MacBook Air) that I use for testing as well as several Windows laptops and tablets that I use for testing

Apple iPhone 6 (64GB) is my primary work smartphone. I have several other smartphones that I use for testing.

Apple iPad Air 2 (64GB) is my primary work tablet. I have several other tablets (Nexus 7, HP Stream) that I use for testing.

Apple Watch is my primary smartwatch and I use it to read alerts, flip Microsoft Powerpoint slides and more.

Apple TV (Gen 3) is my primary streaming device since I use Apple products. I always keep an Apple TV in my work backpack to deliver wireless presentations to colleagues and clients. At home, I use an Apple TV Gen 4

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Ambient Weather Station WS-1400-IP - thumbs up!

A year ago I purchased the Ambient Weather WS-1400-IP OBSERVER Solar Powered Wireless Internet Remote Monitoring Weather Station for my home and I couldn't be happier. For $150, it's extremely easy to setup and use, full-featured, wireless, solar-powered and allows me to share my data via Weather Underground free of charge. 

My home weather station is a perfect example of the Internet of Things (IOT), cloud, big data and analytics in action and I used it as a teaching tool for my kids. The following is a presentation with more details, including photos, that I delivered at my son's local middle school.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller - thumbs up!

I previously reviewed the Apple TV gen 4 and one of my complaints was that the new remote control wasn't great for playing games. I'm happy to report that the SteelSeries Nimbus wireless gaming controller solve this issue. Sold at Apple stores and online, the Nimbus can be used with iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac and easily connects via Bluetooth. The controller includes a built-in rechargeable battery and is easily recharged via an Apple Lightning cable.  The controller is well-made, comfortable, responsive and comparable to other game controllers like XBox and PS4.  At $49.95, the Nimbus $10 less than those controllers.

A brief demo of using the controller with an iPad to play Pinball Arcade:

Happy gaming!