Reviews

Review: Jabra Sport Wireless+ headphones are great for working out with

Jabra_SportWirelessPlus_image_viewer_1440x810_03Maybe it’s my ears, but I have a tough time finding headphones that are good for working out in.

I’ve tried a whole bunch of products, from earbuds that cost hundreds of dollars to headphones that stay put but at the expense of a workout free from cables. Nothing seemed to do the trick.

And finally this, the Jabra Sport Wireless+ headphones.

Ok, so the name is a little long, but there’s not much to these simple earbuds that hug your ear for fit during tough workouts.

Out of the box, take some time to figure out which plastic earbud coverings fit best for your ear type. I went through three workouts with three variations before I settled on one that fit. And boy, did it fit.

From functional fitness routines to plyometrics and basic weight training, these guys stayed put while I worked on staying fit. And for many people who are active, having headphones that stay snug is half the battle.

It’s huge that these headphones connect to your phone via Bluetooth, so there’s no cable dangling and tangling across your body. They can also function with just tunes from the built-in FM radio tuner.

Buttons on the headset are kept to a minimum, with volume up, down, function and play/pause buttons visible to help you stay on top of your workout mixes. Pressing the volume buttons can also work to change the song.

Official documentation suggests the headphones get about four hours of music time, but I found I was able to get about 3.5 hours of time in with them before require a recharge.

Sound quality was reasonably good for headphones that are weather resistant (ie. a little water resistant but don’t try to swim with them). It’s nothing like the range you’d be able to hear from a set of Bang & Olufsen headphones, but you’re not in that price range either.

The bass was a little flat and empty, and the midrange wasn’t as rich as other headphones in this price range. But for me, that was a minor tradeoff considering these fit incredibly well during strenuous workouts.

Overall, for somebody who works out daily and wants headphones that stay put and don’t need constant readjustment, I give these 8/10

Available from Amazon

Review: Asus Transformer Book Trio bridges gap between tablet, laptop

Asus_Transformer_Book_TrioIn this connected mobile world, most people’s laptops are collecting dust while their fingerprints smudge up their tablets from constant use.

But not everyone is throwing in the towel on their laptops. While powerful Android tablets and iPads are almost as capable as their Windows (and Mac) counterparts, some people still need to get stuff done with programs that only run on Windows.

The Asus Transformer Book Trio is one such device that bridges the gap between mobile tablets and traditional laptops.

You see, it’s actually three devices in one. It opens up like a laptop and can run Windows 8.1.

But, you can also use the mouse and keyboard like a laptop with the Android operating system that’s built into the screen — the screen which is detachable (and can function as a standalone tablet).

Essentially, this is the crossover vehicle of laptops, or the Swiss Army knife of tablets. But is the Trio a jack of all trades and a master of none? Nope.

From a technical perspective, the Trio ticks the boxes.

Both “devices” share an 11.6-inch HD touchscreen that appears to be one of the most vibrant I’ve used with a laptop.

The tablet has a dual-core 1.6-Ghz Intel Atom processor that performed much faster than I had expected, while the laptop features a powerful Core i7 4500U processor.

You’ll get 2 GB of tablet RAM with the tablet in Android mode and 4 GB of RAM from the base laptop when running Windows. An array of ports from USB 3.0 to micro HDMI will keep you well-connected.

As a daily device, the Trio makes total sense. Although the pre-production unit I tried out had a few early niggles, the tabtop (my new name for this segment) fit into everyday life.

Editing photos with Adobe Lightroom, the Trio tore through batch processing tasks with ease. There’s plenty of power for other demanding tasks.

But then I began running the tabtop with Android more than with Windows for everyday tasks such as email, surfing and social networking. Using a normal keyboard with a tablet really kicks ass, especially when you want to write long emails or documents.

Then, when it’s time to kick back on the sofa with just the tablet and no keyboard, simply detach the screen and the device runs like any other Android tablet. It’s quite seamless.

The tablet was a tad heavier than most I’ve used, and it would be neat to use the tablet in Windows mode too (not just docked in the keyboard).

Otherwise, the Asus Transformer Book Trio is a good device to bridge people’s digital worlds between tablets and laptops.

Which new gaming console to do people want most? The Xbox One or the PS4?

9415145673_12a1e130c6_cWith the holiday season around the corner, there are going to be two next-generation gaming consoles vying to be under the tree.

One is Microsoft’s Xbox One, the other is Sony’s PS4. And according to a recent poll, people really want the Sony device over the other.

The results of the Reuters/Ipsos poll suggest that 26 per cent of people are likely to buy the new PlayStation 4, rather than 15 per cent for the Xbox One.

The poll also looked at the intentions of those under the age of 40 – and the results lean even stronger in the direction of Sony’s console.

It found that 41 per cent would go for the PS4 compared to 27 per cent for the new Xbox.

What gives? Didn’t the previous generation of the Xbox, the 360, do incredibly well?

One thing to consider is that Sony’s new console will cost more than Microsoft’s – about $100 more. Heck – that’s $100 to put toward games, movies and music.

And movies and music will play a key role in this whole thing, because a gaming console these days is about as dedicated to gaming as a Swiss army knife is dedicated to cutting rope. The consoles of tomorrow will do so much more in the living rooms and bedrooms of consumers.

The Xbox One also came under fire from enthusiasts following early reports that people couldn’t play used games, and that it needed a constant connection to the web.

These days, if you don’t have a constant connection to the web, you might be still getting to work in a horse-drawn carriage down a dirt path. Almost everyone has an always-on Internet connection at home.

But that requirement irked people who trade games amongst friends, or buy used games from a local store.

Well, Microsoft backstroked on both of those concerns – but not after rubbing supporters the wrong way.

I had a chance to briefly play around with the Xbox One. The console looks more like a boxy PC case than a sleek device in the living room.

But the gaming experience was impressive – especially the graphics – as I took Forza 5 for a test drive.

Review: BlackBerry Q10

When I got the BlackBerry Z10 to review, I thought it was great. Finally, the Canadian company had made a solid piece of hardware without a physical keyboard, and a touchscreen the size of a proper smartphone.

The keypad-free formula seemed to have worked for Apple. Nobody is waiting for an iPhone with a QWERTY keyboard (though hackable alternatives exist).

My “CrackBerry” acquaintances disagreed. They wanted a BlackBerry with physical buttons. It was, so they say, impossible to type on a touchscreen. So they waited as the company formerly known as RIM prepared to release the Q10, a BlackBerry running the newest operating system with a physical keyboard.

Alas, it has arrived. Finally.

At a time when screen sizes are getting bigger and bigger, the size of the Q10 touchscreen suggests BlackBerry didn’t get the message that bigger is better.

While Samsung is going bonkers with the 6.3-inch screen on the Mega smartphone, the 3.1-inch display on the Q10 is as appealing as a pencil is to swat a dragon fly.

 The web, at least the mobile web, is designed for tall screens. Apps, for the most part, are designed for tall screens. Neither translate well on such a small, boxy display.

Otherwise the Q10 stands up well to the demands of everyday life. It feels solid, especially the rubberized back that won’t easily slip out of your hand or across the desk.

The camera is good for well-lit situations, the BB10 has some nifty camera features that I’ve covered previously.

Battery life is quite good, with more than enough juice to last you through the day (and even into the next).

And as for the keyboard – it’s as good as they get if you’re looking for a physical one. Even my good friend, who has had a BlackBerry for as long as BBM has been a popular noun, liked the feeling of physical buttons against his thumbs.

But my friend couldn’t wait long enough for the Q10…so he went for a Samsung Galaxy S4.

The Android app selection is better, anyways. But if you’re still somebody who craves physical buttons, then there isn’t any question the Q10 is for you.

Lover.ly app helps you get inspiration and plan for weddings

loverlyMy app pick this week is Loverly.

Lately, Loverly is the app I’ve lost my fiancé to.

Loverly is like Pinterest, but just for weddings.

With big, gorgeous images, this app offers a way to find and save wedding ideas.

Unlike Pinterest which is a free-for-all of all things pretty, the boards on Lover.ly are editor-curated.

Browse categories, from bridesmaids dresses to centrepieces. Then ‘love’ items you’d like to see later.

Users can also add items to bundles – or take pictures of things you see in real life and save them to your collection.

There’s even a guys section for things us fellas might like.

Watch Episode 3 Season 4 of App Central

WeVideo app easily edits video on Android

The video editing app WeVideo is almost like an Android version of iMovie.

The app starts off by letting you add and remove videos to a production. It’s as easy as dragging and dropping clips from your phone’s collection to a timeline. Don’t like a clip? Drag it out.

Then, edit your clips by using the Trim tool to get the cuts of the shots you do – or don’t – want to use. You can also adjust the audio levels. Both controls are with handy sliders.

Add a title to the start of your video, and customize how long it shows up for.

After the core editing is done, apply an Instagram-like filter to punch up the artistic qualities of your video. There’s a fairly broad selection, from Bold Distinct to the fun ‘Confetti’ option. The first option will add some lens vignetting and will amp up the contrast. The latter option will make everything seem fun, fluffy and bright.

Once your video is done, you can share it to an array of social networks, including Facebook, Videmo, Youtube and WeVideo.

Three reasons the HTC One is the best Android phone now

HTC One

HTC One

HTC is struggling in the smartphone market, a problem that shows as the company reporteda 98 per cent dip in profit during the first quarter.

It’s a shame, really, because the company’s plunging profits shouldn’t be grabbing headlines. That’s the way it seems after spending some time with their new flagship handset, the HTC One.

It’s an awesome phone that – coupled with the right marketing – can help turn around HTC’s fortunes and put a smile on your face.

Maybe it’s the supermodel-gorgeous design or the impressive camera, but the One is the best phone on the market right now. Here’s why.

Design

The back of the phone is cusped in machined aluminum, a piece that comprises the unibody construction of this phone.

It’s so sturdy that you might consider ditching the hammer in your toolbox with this phone. Need to hammer in a nail for a picture frame? The HTC One is probably sturdy enough to get the job done.

That being said, it’s too beautiful to actually use for that purpose. So don’t.

And because it’s so sturdy, you might not even want to wrap this phone in a case. Doing so would be like wrapping Mila Kunis in a parka for a dinner date.

While the HTC One is on the heavier side and the power button is a bit of a stretch across the 4.7-inch screen, some prefer their technology to feel like it’s worth something.

Camera

It seems HTC didn’t get the memo when it comes to building phones with a gazillion megapixels.

Inside the HTC One is what they’re calling an ‘UltraPixel’ image sensor. It’s more than twice the size of the 13-megapixel image sensors winding up in today’s phones, but it’s 300 per cent more sensitive to light.

The result is photos that capture shadows and highlights with colour reproduction as balanced as a Nik Wallenda on a high wire.

Images aren’t quite as razor sharp as what you’d see from the iPhone 5 in low light situations, but the One does a better job in dark places.

HTC Zoe is also a new feature that lets you capture 30-second videos that can be turned into photos, letting you select the right moment to produce a still picture.

Sound

Bookending the Gorilla Glass are two forward-facing speakers. Whether you’re cranking up a song, or watching YouTube video, these speakers help the HTC One pump out pounding audio in…stereo.

Yes, this phone does feature Beats Audio (which also improves the sound of anything travelling through the headphone jack). I was skeptical of this super-marketed audio feature at first, but it’s really grown on me.

So there you have it – three reasons why the HTC One stands out. There’s more to talk about, such as the quad-core processor and the high-resolution screen. But the three features outlined above are the ones to watch out for.

Review: Microsoft Surface Pro a mixed bag

Microsoft Surface Pro, with the Surface Pen, appears in this supplied photo,

Microsoft Surface Pro, with the Surface Pen, appears in this supplied photo,

When Microsoft rolled out Windows 8, it did so alongside its first tablet – the Surface.

But that device wasn’t running the most powerful hardware, and the operating system was actually a watered-down version of Windows 8 called Windows RT.

The concept was a good effort, but I was hopeful that a tablet with more horsepower running a full-blown version of the operating system would be better.

Here we are, a few months later, and Microsoft has rolled out the Surface Pro. With more power under the hood and an operating system that can run Windows 8 apps along with traditional Windows 7 programs, is the Pro any good – and is it better than the basic Surface?

For those not familiar with the Surface, it’s a tablet with a little (and sturdy) kick stand that helps it stand at a slight angle on its own. Users can use a keyboard to type and click away at things. When it’s not a necessity, the keyboard can snap off or fold backward.

The Surface Pro has significantly faster hardware behind its rock-solid VapourMg case. Behind the 10.6-inch screen sits an Intel Core i5 processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000, the same type of computing brains you’d find in many laptops and desktops. Microsoft has this tablet configured with 4 GB of RAM.

There’s no spinning hard drive – the Surface Pro is available with either a 64 GB or 128 GB SSD drive that helps the device boot up and restore in almost no time at all.

But going back to the case, the Surface Pro has actually gained a bit of weight to fit in all the hardware. It’s not as easy to hold for long periods of time, but it’s still lighter than a laptop.

The full HD screen looks great, but it’s almost too small to use comfortably when in Desktop mode. Unfortunately, given the still-fresh selection of apps, I used the Surface Pro in Desktop mode almost 90 per cent of the time.

The other 10 per cent of the time, when I’m either watching full-screen video or using native Windows 8 apps, the display looks fine.

The Microsoft Surface Pro is an improvement on the base Surface. But with a starting price tag of $899 (which doesn’t include the Touch Cover keyboard), the Pro proposition is getting a little expensive.

And then consider what most people may not like with the Surface – you can’t exactly use it as a laptop on your lap. The hinge, though very clever, is not ‘stiff.’ And this means you can’t use it on your lap comfortably while the little kickstand rests on your legs.

Although it’s larger and less travel-friendly, the Lenovo Yoga is a Windows 8 computer that seems to get the format just right.

Partly Cloudy – the ultimate weather app

There’s weather apps, and then there’s Partly Cloudy. It’s quite possibly the best weather app you’ll find.

Partly Cloudy doesn’t just tell you the weather, it shows it to you.

After firing it up, the app shows you a visual representation of the day’s weather. The weather is represented by different colours displayed in a circle, with hotter temperatures showing up red, and cooler temperatures showing up blue.

A needle points to the current temperature, which you can slide from from left to right to see the days’ different temperatures.

Since weather involves more than just the temperature, a blue bubble within the circle shows when you’ll get precipitation – and how much will fall.

Saga app tracks your life to make suggestions

Saga is an interesting app that relies on your activities and tracks to make suggestions about other places you might like to go.

For starters, Saga uses your smartphone’s geolocation feature to follow your footprints around town – or around the world. It’ll help you check into places on Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook.

Most of the time it’ll guess the places you’ve been, making suggestions if it gets things wrong. You can always correct its mistakes by entering in the places you actually went – and how long you spent there.

But once it gets the hang of things, Saga will start suggesting other places you should go – and things to do – based on your history. So if you like a good soccer-themed pub, it will suggest one if you’re in proximity to one. If you appreciate art galleries, it will give you suggestions instead (when you’re nearby one).

Because the app is constantly using your location, it tends to draw down your battery charge a little faster than usual.

The app does keep tabs on your location, so those concerned for their privacy may want to steer clear of this app. It’s not like there aren’t options to protect your privacy, but the whole point of this app is to track your location.

If you do enjoy the convenience of geo-location, then Saga will help you get more out if it.

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