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Friday, December 12, 2014

Black Friday Computer Deal, A Review of Different Computers

Every year Black Friday brings shopping excitement to our household as it does with many others. This year is the first year I was looking to purchase a computer because I just sold my 27" Samsung All-In-One on Amazon for about a $400 profit after using it for over a year and replacing the hard drive with a solid state drive. That computer was so fast after installing that SSD.

Typically stores will get special computers for Black Friday that they don't normally carry in the store. These computers are similar to others they have in stock, but most of the time they are made with cheaper parts to be sold cheaper in order to be profitable for everyone. I would not go for one of these, so you will never see me sitting outside Best Buy missing football on Thanksgiving Day.

I have found that the best deals that I take advantage of take place as the Deal of the Day at Best Buy the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Last year I bought a beautiful 42" LG LED TV with 3D and a slim design. This year I saw and purchased an Asus laptop with an Intel Core i3 processor with 4 GB of RAM for $249.

Problem: I cam home with:

Asus - 15.6" Laptop - Intel Celeron - 4GB Memory - 500GB Hard Drive - Black

because it went on sale for $249 also. It looks identical to the Intel Core i3 processor Asus laptop. The display at Best Buy is the Celeron model although the shelf tag under it describes the Intel Core i3 laptop. I didn't figure it out until I was going through the 2nd set of Windows updates and decided to check the system information since the computer appeared to be moving slowly. I knew that I would upgrade the RAM, but it was moving too slow which triggered me to check it out.

I took the computer back and made it a point to complain to a manager about the bait and switch tactics. I decided that I would prefer to get the Asus laptop with the Core i5 that was on sale for $379 instead. I had to wait a little bit for the manager to come over and told him that I didn't appreciate the bait and switch tactics of that offer. It appears that they did not have any of the laptop that I originally came in for, but I told the manager that I would prefer the one with the Intel Core i5 instead. He asked me what would I like him to do for me. He said he couldn't lower the Intel Core i5 laptop to $249, so I asked him what he could do and he offered to take $30 off. I decided to go with that.

Review: 

Asus - 15.6" Laptop - Intel Core i5 - 4GB Memory - 500GB Hard Drive - Dark Gray/Blue-Gray

I was hoping for a quick little machine that would take care of my basic computer needs. I was quickly disappointed that this computer came with Windows 8, so it required many Windows updates before I could download and install Windows 8.1. During the process, my mouse was not acting right. I did like the keypad on the side like a standard keyboard, but I did not like that the "0" button was small and to the side a little which had me hitting the wrong key many times. This is the first laptop that I have had in some time, but going from a 1080 screen to a 720 was not good at all. After using it a couple of days, I felt I needed to do the RAM upgrade to determine if I would be happy with it even if I had to purchase a bigger monitor and possibly replace the hard drive.

I stopped by a Best Buy and purchased 8 GB of RAM for the computer, but had to go to Tiger Direct to purchase additional RAM for my wife's computer. I installed her RAM first, then put the new RAM in my new laptop. It didn't start up again. I checked it multiple times and it only started up when I removed the new RAM. I found on the Internet that the laptop may need to update the BIOS. I proceeded to download BIOS firmware from Asus' website and installed it. I put the RAM back in the computer and it started fine, except it would not read the RAM and still showed as having 4 GB of RAM. I decided that it was a little dated and I was not going to be happy with it, so I took it back.

Review:
I found many open box and display model computers at another Best Buy in Orlando and decided that I would probably get 

Sony - VAIO 21.5" Portable Touch-Screen All-In-One Computer - Intel Core i5 - 8GB Memory - 750GB Hard Drive 

that was listed as a open box item for $699. This appeared to be a great deal and I knew that Sony computers are known for having great displays. After purchasing it, Geek Squad had to reset Windows to a factory condition for me to take home. Unfortunately this computer had Windows 8 also, so I had to do many updates before installing Windows 8.1 on it also. My mouse was acting up on this one too.

After playing with the computer for a couple of days, I found that it froze up at times and the fan made excessive noise. The way it was acting reminded me of my old Samsung that I should have had the hard drive replaced under warranty. The display was nice, but the bottom sat directly on the desk and I was always looking down at it from my desk chair. On top of that, the display was nice, but no one with the IPS technology that I really wanted in my next computer. I think you know what happened next... I took it back. 

Review:
This past June, my father came over to Orlando and bought 

Acer - Aspire 23" Touch-Screen All-In-One Computer - 8GB Memory - 1TB Hard Drive

for $719. Due to Thanksgiving coming up, they raised the price to $769 as it became a Black Friday sale for $649. I went over to my parent's house for Thanksgiving and saw this computer in action. It froze for a little over a minute when I was on it, but I thought that was due to the McAfee Virus Protection. I was a little excited by it because the screen was great to look at and it did have an Intel Core i3 processor with 8GB of RAM. 

In less than one week, the computer froze up on me 2 times for more than a minute each time. Before taking it back, I went to Acer's website to get support. The rep that I was chatting with recommended that I go into the BIOS, load default BIOS, save and reboot. Each time I reboot, I was reminded that this computer had a hard drive and not a SSD as it took a couple of minutes before I could do anything on it once into Windows. Then I was disappointed with the Internet speed...

Brighthouse RoadRunner Update:
So I called Brighthouse to complain about my Internet speed as my computer was only showing 48 to 50 Mbps when we are paying for 60 Mbps. The technical support person from Brighthouse found my modem did not have the most up to date firmware, so he updated it. He then asked me if I could direct connect it with a network cable. I did and the speed test came back 75 Mbps. He then told me that everyone on the RoadRunner Turbo 60 was getting upgraded to 90 Mbps at no additional cost before the end of the month. In shock, I went to my wife's computer which is directly connected to the router and her computer showed 85 Mbps on the speedtest. This got me questioning whether this new computer made sense since it did not have the most updated network card, a slow hard drive and an Intel Core i3 processor when the HP that I really wanted has a hybrid hard drive with SSD, 8 GB of RAM and an Intel i5 processor that I knew that I would like. 

Since I was between jobs, I did not want to pay $1099 for the 

HP - ENVY 23" Touch-Screen All-In-One Computer - 8GB Memory - 1TB Hard Drive

when it was on sale for $949 a month ago. So I waited a couple of days and this past Sunday it was on sale again for $949. Again I questioned that I wanted to spend that much money on a computer that I might not use it for it's full capability. 

Review:
I decided that it was time to buy and try 

HP - Chromebox - 2GB Memory - 16GB Solid State Drive - White.

The free offer of 1 TB of Google Drive space was of interest to me as I primarily use Google Drive for my cloud storage of documents. I really liked being able to set Google Drive as my default location for saving files. The access to Google Drive was seamless. I was not expecting more than 50 Mbps on the speedtest, but was surprised with the speedtest showing 85 Mbps almost every time. The access to the files from my external hard drive was very fast and responsive. I didn't like the mouse back button didn't work in the file manager application, but was OK with it. 

I was using my Logitech mouse and keyboard and tried to use my LG 42" television as my monitor, but I had to enlarge the text so big to read, it gave me a headache. I had to walk away for a little bit and when I came back, I hooked the Chromebox to my Acer computer via HDMI cable to use a monitor with speaker. 

After using the Chromebox for about 3 days, I thought that I would not need another Windows computer. I felt that I just needed to upgrade the RAM since is was lagging when I had many tabs open while searching for jobs. Unfortunately, Best Buy doesn't sell the RAM for this Chromebox and it would need to be special ordered. When printing a few copies of my resume with my picture on it, I found that my printer was not printing the colors correctly. I tried to clean the print heads, but could not do more than just the basic print head clean. 

I ended up turning on the Acer computer, installing the HP printer software and doing multiple deep cleaning of the print heads. Unfortunately for the Chromebox, this was enough that told me that I needed more than additional RAM for the Chromebox to work for me, so I took it back. Overall, the Chromebox was my favorite because it was simple and quick. 

Review:
I took the Acer back on the same trip and exchanged it for the 

HP - ENVY 23" Touch-Screen All-In-One Computer - 8GB Memory - 1TB Hard Drive.

This computer is the closest available for to my 27" Samsung All-In-One as it has 8 GB of RAM with an Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo boost, 8 GB SSD hybrid hard drive (1 TB total), Beats Audio speakers, 23" IPS touchscreen display and the most updated network card. The Internet speedtest shows I am getting 85 Mbps with this new machine. And my mouse and keyboard have not experience any lag with it.

I did experience one problem though... The first one that I brought home did not boot and had an error with the hard drive. I got the blue screen of death, so I rebooted it and got the same error. I took it back to Best Buy in 5 O'Clock traffic to exchange it for another one and this is the one that I have not had any problems. I am happy now... I think.

To summarize, don't get a computer that runs Windows with any less than 8 GB of RAM or you will be hating it. If you get a Chromebook or Chromebox, make sure you get 4 GB of RAM to make sure that is runs smoothly. Google has done a great job developing Google Drive and compatibility with Microsoft Office files. You won't miss Office if you get a Chrome OS device. 



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Asus Zenwatch Review

I tried my hardest not to get a new watch and wait for the Moto 360 to come out. When I saw it in the store, it appeared big and chunky to me. I was a little disappointed hearing about the poor battery life also. Then I saw the Asus Zenwatch.

This watch is beautiful and was the first watch that I thought looked really great. It didn't appear to be too chunky either and the leather band really adds a classy touch. It took about a month before Best Buy started carrying them. I happened to be in Best Buy looking at computers and the Google guy said they had them in. I was back the next day to get one.

I opened it quickly and connected it to my phone. I started downloading apps for it including Android Wear and the Asus Zenwatch app that allowed me to change the settings for different watch faces. There was only the digital watch face that allowed me to put my own custom background image on it. I would have liked to be able to change the background on all of them and more digital watch face options.

I was a little disappointed that Google Hangouts was not an app that I could access from the watch. I knew that I could respond to a message with my voice and it did a good job as long as I swiped to the left, but I accidentally swiped to the right and the message was gone. The options were so limited, it did not keep me from taking my phone out of my pocket as I have done before.

I was looking forward to utilizing Google Music saved on the watch to play through my BlueTooth headphones while I was at the gym, leaving my phone in the car. I don't understand what music if any was downloaded from my phone to the watch, but when I walked away from my car, the option to play music was gone. 

The heart rate sensor appeared right on the first time using it, but when I tried it for a quick second time to verify my heart rate, it was completely off. It also sucked that it was completed by taking a finger on each side of the bezel. Obviously it doesn't take a constant measurement of my heart rate. 

The default display setting goes to black and white always on. I changed it mid way through the day, but the battery life is barely enough to make it through a whole day of light use. Because I added my phone battery to display on the watch face, I noticed that my watch battery was draining much faster due to the Bluetooth staying on. I felt this was counterproductive as I was hoping that using the watch would keep me from looking at my phone as much and save the power for the phone.

I returned the watch this less than a week from getting it. Hopefully future Android Wear will have better battery life and more functions. Now is not the time. This video says pretty much was I was thinking when I thought about writing this.


Today I see that Android Wear 5.0.1 is coming out. It appears to fix problem with accidentally dismissing a notification and gives more options for watch faces. It is a great move for the future, but I don't believe it adds enough new functions that make the watch more than a novelty.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Comparable with the Motorola Droid Turbo

Android Headlines: Sony Xperia Z3v Now Available at Verizon Wireless. http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIwv_ym2Ro

I was impressed after looking at the specs of this new Sony phone for Verizon. It has a the same size battery as the Note 3, with a regular size display with a pretty good camera. It is waterproof but doesn't have the top of the line display as the Note 4, Nexus 6 and the Droid Turbo.

That might be a good thing since it also has last year's processor which doesn't provide support for fast charge of the battery.

The camera is a 20.7MP which may put it ahead of the Note 4 and possibly even with the Droid Turbo. What I don't understand is 8f Samsung is using a Sony camera in the Note 4,why isn't it this one?

I believe it is foolish to get a different phone right now with the upcoming new phones being released in the next 2 weeks along with Android Lollipop. Especially since Lollipop is meant for a 64 bit processor which only the international Note 4 has.

I would like to see which manufacturer will put Lollipop on their devices first. Motorola is typically the first due to the relationship with Google, but it could be different this time since the pre-release of Lollipop.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Google: Snooze Needs to be Fixed

With the announcement of Inbox by Gmail there are many things that this new app will attempt to fix.

Gizmodo Australia: Google Can't Fix What's Really Wrong With Email: Us. http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIw7OCI2Ro

The snooze feature in smartphones is not as smart as it should be. When you get a notification that you want to be reminded of later, you don't want it in 10 minutes. That snooze is cool for an alarm, but we need smarter snooze capabilities.

Please Google fix snooze to allow 10 minutes, 30 minutes and set time to be reminded again. This needs to be fixed in Google Now also. Please.

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Smart Phone?

About twice a year phone manufacturers are introducing a new smartphone claiming it is the best. Recently big is the way to go so I will address each of the best phones available and coming out.

IPhone 6 and 6 Plus
These are 2 different phones, but unfortunately Apple is still chasing the trend rather than creating a new one. The camera is said to be an improvement, but anything would be an improvement over past iPhone cameras as their pictures are horrible. The limit is with the 8mp camera will not get the best detail in photos compared to other smartphones despite having great colors that are a little too unrealistic. The worst thing Apple did was put a small battery in the 6 of only 1800mAh. I have not had a battery that small since the Samsung Galaxy Nexus of almost 4 years ago that I quickly replaced the battery with the bigger available which was 2100mAh. Sorry Apple users will still be hovered over power outlets to charge their phones.

HTC

The HTC M8 is a cool phone, but only a 4MP camera, small battery and no option for additional data storage put this about even with the iPhone 6. HTC new selfie camera appears better so far from what I have seen with a 13MP front and back camera. Unfortunately they are just trying to put their news out as they are late to the race this Fall.




Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5
I rank these 2 phones even as the S5 is slightly better than the S4. A slightly better battery, camera and the removal of the menu button in favor of an app switching button make the S5 slightly better. The bigger battery, better camera and available to add a micro SD card make either Samsung better than HTC.





Motorola X
Very cool phone with quick updates to Android make this about even with the Samsung S5, but it doesn't have the ability to add a micro SD card and Motorola has not produced a very good camera yet. The cool voice commands and running a stock Android version makes this better than the LG G3 which doesn't get listed on this list as it was introduced comparing it to last year's smartphones.

Samsung Note 3
Although this is last year's phablet by Samsung, I would still place it higher than anything from Apple, HTC or LG. The camera is awesome along with the many useful features of the S Pen. The battery is great and so is the screen. I don't like the Menu button, but it was replaced by the app switching button on the Note 4. I am not a fan of Touchwiz as I prefer using Nova launcher due to the customization of gesture based shortcuts. I will probably use Nova launcher on my next phone as well.

Motorola Nexus 6
I was happy to hear that Verizon will be able to get this Nexus which will be the only one
other than the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The screen size, battery, processor and RAM are identical to the Samsung Note 4. This phone could be number 2 on my list, but Google has yet to show how this phone can be used effectively with one hand. I would call this a tablet without showing comparable features to the Samsung Note 4. Although Nexus gets Android updates first, I doubt that the Verizon version will be as quick as I felt burned by the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The only reason why this Nexus to ranked so high is due to the newest version of Android.

Motorola Droid Turbo
This is the phone that has me waiting to get my next smartphone. A 5.2" screen with the
same processor and RAM as the Nexus 6 and the Note 4 make this one interesting, but the Huge battery (3900mAh) might put this one over the top if the camera doesn't suck like on other Motorola phones. This phone is perfect for those who don't have a charger with them all day, and don't want a bigger screen as the phablets. It will run a nearly pure version of Android and has a 20mp camera which is the best available in Android or Apple. Let's just hope that the camera doesn't suck. Lol

Samsung Note 4
I rank this number 1 because they improved the S Pen functions, changed the Menu button for an app switching button and the ability to have multiple applications running on the screen at one time is a great improvement from the Note 3. The screen and camera were great on the Note 3 and are even better on the Note 4. Ultra battery saving mode is a plus over the Note 3 which most new smartphones are coming out with this year.

The problem with the Note 4 is it was announced at the beginning of September and we had to wait until the end of October for the release which has allowed Apple, Motorola and HTC to introduce new phones to compete. Samsung has made many mistakes coming out with so many different devices and now the Note 4 may not sell as quickly due to people wanting to wait for the other phones to come out for a in hand comparison.

The Note 4 is the winner!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

iPhone 6 Bendable

I find it funny how many times I see someone with a broken screen on their iPhone. I am a huge Android fan, but I have to admit the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus look pretty. They don't look better than my Samsung Note 3, but regardless Apple did a much needed improvement to their flagship device.

Then I saw this yesterday...



So many people commented about their HTC M8 being made out of aluminum and not bending like that. I did have in the back of my mind wondering how my Samsung Note 3 would do under similar pressure.

And then I saw the Samsung Note 3 Bend Test followup video.



It was cool to see another broken screen on an iPhone at the beginning of the video, but my Samsung Note 3 did great in the similar test. Then today I saw +Marques Brownlee doing an explanation video of the iPhone 6 Bend Test.


I agree with +Marques Brownlee that this kind of bend would be an extreme situation to happen in someone's pocket. But you know that someone is going to cry about how their iPhone 6 got caught in the door or something crazy that we haven't heard before.

The fact is the iPhone 6 and Plus are backed with an extremely thin aluminum back that offers minimal protection to its components. Obviously there are more important parts than the screen as shown by so many using their broken iPhones for everyday use after breaking their screen. Inside an iPhone there is a circuit board that is not as strong as the aluminum back that is covering it. This brings me back to when I had a broken motherboard on one of my first laptops.

A broken iPhone will take a new meaning than having a broken screen very soon as people are going to be showing up at Apple stores with iPhone's where the screen may appear fine, but not functioning properly. Hence Apple has anticipated this happening as they have recently announce a new repair cost schedule for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. +Marques Brownlee does a great job with this video, but I wish you would have brought up this important point about the internals components of the iPhone 6 rather than almost dismissing the Bend Test that I am sure will make all iPhone 6 users feel better.

Definitely not hating on +Marques Brownlee as he is the only independent tech video blogger that I follow on YouTube because I appreciate his work.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Profit for Samsung

OMG!Droid: Samsung Goes Into Cost Cutting Mode Following Consecutive Losses. http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIwx5KzxRo

Samsung is a great company that makes the best devices available in a wide range of areas. It is a shame that they are not making profits. I read recently that their employees returned their bonuses. I think the upper management is to blame as the company is so focused on putting out products for everyone they lost focus on business.

Business is all about turning a profit. When you have a product that is producing a great profit, you maximum it's profitability through economies of scale. That is you mass produce it until it doesn't make sense.

You might think that Samsung is doing this which they are in many products with the exception to phones and tablets. Samsung has far too many 10" tablets available and many of them have similar specs. For example the Tab Pro is almost identical to the Note 2014 with the exception to the S Pen. I understand the 12.2" Note Pro as it is different from all other tablets with the size and capabilities of 4 windows on a screen. Other than the 12.2" Note Pro, the Pro series of Samsung tablets is a waste and not thought out very well being introduced between the Note 2014 and the Tab 4.

Samsung's tablet division made similar mistakes as the cell phone division. The Galaxy S and the Note are the 2 phones that Samsung is known for. The rest of the phones that Samsung manufactures are junk including the Mega which is like throwing a sumo wrestler in a game of jepordy against Payton Manning. The Mega might dwarf the Note, but the processor, RAM and screen quality is horrible and frankly give it's owners a poor image of Samsung.

Samsung should only produce 2 phones for every carrier: Galaxy S and the Note. If the price is too high for a prepaid carrier then they should buy last year's model. A premier model should not be introduced that has better graphics or anything as it should be held for the next year's version.

Besides reducing the number of variants of tablets and phones, they should stop tinkering with the software. S Voice might have came out before Google Now, but Google has proven to be the best at apps and everyone else is so far behind. Trash S Voice, S Translate, and everything else including TouchWiz so they can focus on doing what they do best: Building the best devices available.

K.I.S.S = Keep It Simple Stupid