[UPDATE] The LG G4 is hitting the road soon…

 

It’s been a great time, but unfortunately, it has to go
 
The LG G4 has served me quite well. It has good performance, a killer camera, and a removable battery + SD card slot, although the software is little iffy.

I planned for it to be my daily driver for at least 3 years, even buying an extra battery and cradle upon purchase to make it so. Unfortunately, after less than a year of being my daily, it’s going to be retired, for a multitude of issues.

First off is the bootloop. My first unit fell victim to the issue and had to be replaced with a second unit. While the second unit originally performed well, it has started chalking up a multitude of issues that my original unit encountered before the bootloop. It overheated several times, failed to get a cellular signal in areas where another phone on the same carrier was able to do so without issue and really absurdly poor battery life over time that is an utter joke for a phone with a 3000mAh battery and a “supposedly” more efficient Quad HD 1440p display. The fact that seeing a bunch of stacked G4s ready to be sent for repairs while at my retailer discussing replacements didn’t help either and after that experience, I’ve decided that it’s probably time to switch to something more reliable.

Replacement Candidate #1 – Samsung Galaxy Note 6

 

The Note 6 is the leading candidate as my replacement (Note 5 pictured, courtesy of Ars Technica)
 

The Samsung Galaxy Note 6 is my leading candidate for my replacement. I have always been a fan of the Galaxy Note line for its power and productivity features alongside the S Pen, which is a Note staple and is a big reason why Note users are one of the most fiercely loyal user groups of smartphones. 

The Galaxy Note 5 was a great phone, but also flawed, as it didn’t have expandable storage and despite having pretty good battery life, the 3000mAh sealed battery didn’t bode well with many. Considering that the S7 Edge that the Note 6 may base its general hardware on, a much bigger battery and the return of expandable storage is very likely. Add in the rumors of 6GB of memory, an improved S Pen alongside others like an RGB AMOLED panel instead of a PenTile one makes this an interesting device to look out for.

Replacement Candidate #2 – Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

 

The S7e is a legitimately impressive device (Picture courtesy of Anandtech)
 

Right behind the Note 6 for my replacement candidate is Samsung’s other flagship, the Galaxy S7. More specifically, its “edgier” cousin. Last year’s Galaxy S6 Edge was a great phone, but also flawed in several areas. While it is very pretty and has a heap of powerful hardware, aside from the mediocre battery life and lack of expandable storage, it wasn’t particularly ergonomic, water-resistance was dropped and the edged display felt solely like a pretty party trick at the time. The Galaxy S7 Edge not only reinstates the expandable storage slot and stuffs in a much larger battery at 3600mAh compared to its predecessor’s 2600mAh (helped partially by the size increase from 5.1-inches to 5.5-inches), it fixes a lot of the issues that plagued its predecessor, from a more ergonomic design, return of water-resistance, more stuff for the edged display and even some new stuff like a camera that aims to improve low-light images, support for the Vulkan graphics API that will soon be a part of other phones and an always-on display. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 edge may look the same from the outside, but underneath, it’s a vast improvement over its predecessor and it’s why the phone is on my list of replacement candidates.

(This list will be updated as more phones are released)

[UPDATE] The LG G4 is hitting the road soon…

[OPINION] Why the iPhone SE actually makes sense.

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So, Apple announced the iPhone SE. A smaller version of the iPhone aimed at users who are still holding onto their iPhone 5-class phones and refusing to upgrade due to the increased size of the iPhone 6-class phones. While it is easy to make fun of it as an iPhone 6s shrunken down into the body of a 5s, it actually makes quite a bit of sense.

But first, let’s show the internal hardware of the SE. See if it rings any bells.

Processor Apple A9 SoC w/ 2x Apple Twister cores clocked at 1.84GHz per core + hexa-core PowerVR GT7600 GPU, 14nm FinFET chip (Samsung), 16nm FinFET chip (TSMC)
Memory 2GB of LPDDR4
Storage 16GB/64GB of NAND flash storage, NVMe-based storage controller
Display 4-inch IPS LCD display w/ a resolution of 1136×640 (326PPI), oleophobic coating + scratch-resistant glass
Software iOS 9.3 (current version)
Camera Rear: 1/3” 12MP sensor w/ 1.22-micron pixels, f/2.2 aperture, PDAF, dual-LED flash

Front: 1.2MP sensor w/ f.2.4 aperture

Battery 1,642mAh sealed Li-Po unit, no fast charging, no wireless charging
Features TouchID, Apple Pay, Wi-Fi AC, LTE-A, Bluetooth 4.2, Siri, iCloud

Yes, indeed. The iPhone SE pretty much has the same hardware as the larger iPhone 6s, bar some stuff like the display and front camera. While the outside design is pretty much the same as the outgoing 5S (albeit with a “Rose Gold”, A.K.A. Pink color option), the inside is a total revamp.

So why does this make sense?

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39% of users are still on the iPhone 5-class phones (Source: https://david-smith.org/iosversionstats/)

According to the chart above by David Smith, there’s still a significant number of users who are still on the iPhone 5-class phones. Whether that’s due to budget issues or other factors is on marketing researchers’ side. But to Apple, this is a significant chunk of the market and one that they can’t ignore, especially since people who want a smaller phone will have to step back to a 5S as the increased size of the 6-class phones might not suit them well.

The plan might look like a lack of innovation in the sense that Apple looks to have basically shrunken down the internal hardware of the iPhone 6s and stashed it into the body of some spare iPhone 5S bodies while spraying them with a new coat of paint, but it actually makes sense. Why? Because those who want a smaller phone but don’t want to settle for 2013 hardware now have the phone to satisfy them in terms of hardware while retaining the size that they want. THAT’S WHY!

What does this mean for the entire market?

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The increasing size of newer devices gives users with smaller hands an issue with usability. Naturally, a smaller phone would be ideal, but there are so few out there that actually pack in top-end hardware.

The issue with any non-Apple device is that any phone smaller than 5-inches is viewed as a “budget” or “value-oriented” option, not helped by the prevalence of “Mini” versions of their respective flagships, which died down recently. These “Mini” phones like the Galaxy S4 Mini and HTC One Mini packed in a similar design to their larger brethrens but often have gimped hardware and are slower to receive software updates.

Sony’s “Compact” line is perhaps the best example of a smaller flagship done right. It keeps nearly all of the hardware of the larger version (minus some stuff like the display and such) while maintaining a small form-factor. It was actually quite a hit back in the day, but has been silently killed off in favor of the X-line.

What I am hoping to see is that the iPhone SE actually makes a change significant enough for other OEMs to make PROPER “Mini” versions of their flagships. Don’t gimp the processor or storage or any critical internal component. Keep them the same as the one on the flagship. Make it more accessible to those with smaller hands.

 

[OPINION] Why the iPhone SE actually makes sense.

iPad Pro – The Review

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Introduction

It’s perhaps no surprise to anyone in recent times that the iPad has been quite a slump in terms of sales. It has had a 20% decrease in year-over-year sales, which is actually a significant number. This is actually no fault of the iPad itself. It applies to pretty much every other tablet out there, mainly due to the increasing appeal of large-screen phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, LG V10, Nexus 6P, Huawei Mate 8 and even Apple’s own iPhone 6S Plus. Apple’s response to the decline of tablets? Make it way bigger and way more like a laptop. Enter the iPad Pro, the biggest (literally) change that has ever happened to Apple’s tablet line. Is it a recipe for success, or destined to failure?

Acknowledgement

This review was done on a gold iPad Pro without a cellular connection with 128GB of internal storage, finished in Gold. The tablet has been running iOS 9.2 throughout the review period and was used instead of a dedicated laptop wherever possible. The Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Cover was not used for the review. No modifications has been made to the tablet in any way, shape or form.

Technical Specifications

Processor Apple A9X with 2x Apple Twister cores clocked at 2.26GHz w/ custom PowerVR 7XT 12-core GPU – 16nm FinFET chip manufactured by TSMC
RAM 4GB of LPDDR4
Storage 32GB/128GB of internal NAND storage, NVMe-based controller, no expandable storage
Display 12.9” IPS LCD display @ 2732×2048, variable refresh rate between 30Hz – 60Hz, scratch-resistant, oleophobic coating.
Software iOS 9.1 (upgradeable to iOS 9.3)
Camera 8MP BSI sensor w/ 1.12-micron pixels + f/2.4 aperture (rear), 1.2MP sensor w/ f/2.2 aperture (front)
Battery 10,307mAh Li-Ion unit, sealed, no quick-charging, no wireless charging.
Features TouchID, Apple Pay, Apple Pencil, Smart Connector, Wi-Fi AC, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0, quad stereo speakers, LTE*, GPS*, GLONASS*.

(* – Only on cellular models)

Design

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Visually, the iPad Pro follows a similar design language with the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 4. The back housing is made entirely of aluminium, though Apple does not specify whether this is the Series 7000 version used in the iPhone 6S with the front finished in scratch-resistant glass with an oleophobic coating to resist smudges with the home button/fingerprint sensor on the bottom. On the left, there’s the 3-pin Smart Connector and on the right is where the volume rocker lives. The power button is nicely finished at the top and the Lightning connector is at the bottom, with the 4-speaker array holes’ position optimally at the top and bottom. There’s actually nothing much to talk about the design of the iPad Pro as it’s a simple design but also elegant. The aluminium also seems to have a degree of scratch resistance, as it didn’t suffer from any major scratches throughout my 3 months of usage without a case.

The device also feels rather sturdy. Although you will feel a bit paranoid over bending concerns when using it one-handed in landscape, the tablet has yet to bend and actually doesn’t feel all that heavy thanks to its equal longitudinal weight distribution along its massive size, with means that despite weighing more than the original iPad, it actually doesn’t feel all that heavy.

Overall, there’s nothing much to say about the Pro other than that it looks pretty and elegant in a simple manner, what you’ve come to expect from Apple (though some of their other products have……questionable design tastes. Looking at you, Battery Case.)

Display

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The iPad Pro features Apple’s most advanced Retina Display ever made

The first thing that strikes you when you power on the Pro for the first time is that display. Other than the obvious fact that it is a gigantic one (it’s hard to get away from that), it’s actually a pretty damn good one, especially for a tablet.

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Despite the seemingly-low 264PPI, the Pro’s display is still extremely sharp at a normal operating distance.

The Pro features a 12.9-inch IPS LCD panel with a resolution of 2732×2048 w/264ppi, making it the highest resolution display ever fitted on an Apple portable (yes, even higher than the 15-inch Retina MBP). While that PPI reading is rather low on paper (especially compared to 326PPI on the regular 6S), it’s actually perfect for an optimal tablet viewing distance. You will notice some pixelation if you squint, but at a normal operating distance, the Pro’s display doesn’t have any jaggies or weird artifacts.

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There’s more to what makes a great display than just resolution

But displays aren’t just about resolution. There’s more to what makes a great display. Apple claims that the iPad Pro has “the most advanced Retina Display we’ve ever made”, and the Pro has some nifty engineering tricks up its sleeve to support that. The Pro’s display utilizes oxide TFT technology that provides faster pixel charging and better distribution of brightness and is also able to vary its refresh rate between 30 and 60Hz for better efficiency depending on the type of content that’s displayed. The molecules of the LCD are aligned using photo-alignment via UV light to improve contrast and a custom timing controller was designed to make that resolution possible on a mobile device.

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Engineering tricks in the iPad Pro’s display allow it to have deep black levels and high contrast while maintaining vibrancy without becoming oversaturated.

The effects in the real world are actually superb. The iPad Pro has loads of contrast while maintaining a certain degree of vibrancy without becoming over-saturated. Viewing angles are excellent and there is little noticeable “ghosting” and other unpleasant artifacts. Maximum brightness is a little lackluster, however, making it not as useful in outdoor environments.

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The iPad Pro’s display is great for just about anything, whether it’s editing with iMovie or just watching your 30GB anime collection.

Overall, the display on the iPad Pro is excellent. While it’s not very bright, it’s contrast and color accuracy is one of the best of any tablet, coupled with its high resolution and efficiency make it one of the best displays on any mobile device yet.

Performance

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The iPad Pro is a screamer.

The iPad Pro is poised to become Apple’s most capable mobile device yet, and while from the spec sheet alone, it might not seem that way, it’s what lies much deeper down that counts.

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The A9X is Apple’s most powerful processing package yet.

The Pro’s heart is Apple’s A9X processor, featuring the same Twister CPU cores from the iPhone 6S but clocked much higher at 2.26GHz (compared to 1.85GHz in the 6S’ A9 chip), and it’s paired up with a custom 12-core PowerVR 7XT GPU designed to handle the increased resolution of the display. 4GB of LPDDR4 is its memory package, alongside 32 or 128GB of internal storage depending on the variant.

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You don’t need a lot of high-clocked cores for great performance

At first glance, aside from the other hardware, the CPU doesn’t seem so powerful, looking almost like a Snapdragon 800 with 2 fewer cores. However, following Apple’s tradition of favoring IPC over clock speed and core count, the A9X’s CPU is a screamer, blasting past 3200 in GeekBench 3’s single-core performance benchmarks and 5400 in its multi-core performance benchmarks. Mind you, this is almost equal to the octa-core Exynos 7420 in terms of multicore performance and in terms of single-core performance, it’s better than even the AMD FX-8350, which is no small feat for a mobile processor.

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The iPad Pro also scored similarly well in Antutu, with a score of 186k, making it the most powerful mobile device in Antutu’s charts as of this time, aided by its GPU and memory package.

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The iPad Pro’s beefy processor and ultrafast storage mean that demanding apps such as Infinity Blade 3 won’t give the Pro a sweat.

In the real-world, you can actually notice some of its performance benefits. While processor performance is hard to notice in daily usage, memory and storage performance do make an impact. While the faster memory makes things load from memory faster, it’s the storage that makes the biggest difference. Like the iPhone 6s, the iPad Pro uses a custom NVMe-based storage controller that improves read and write speeds substantially over eMMC-based controllers. The result is much faster load and save times from and to storage, especially in storage I/O intensive tasks, like loading a high-resolution video for iMovie and launching an app that isn’t saved in memory. In gaming, the PowerVR 7XT GPU does its job very well, giving exceptional gameplay performance without frame dips, stuttering and lag in all recent titles like Need for Speed: No Limits, while the NVMe-based storage controller improves load times substantially making this an excellent gaming tablet.

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Like the BMW M4 featured in the device, this is a turbocharged tablet ready to take on anything.

Overall, the iPad Pro is a serious speed machine, both on paper and in the real-world, aided by its excellent hardware and optimizations throughout iOS. The Pro is one of the more future proof devices in the world due to its sheer performance, which means it can handle all basic tasks without issue for years to come.

Hardware

Being Apple’s flagship tablet, the Pro packs in every bell-and-whistle you’d expect out of an Apple product.

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TouchID is still as excellent as ever

At the front is where Apple’s excellent TouchID sensor lives that’s also a home button. Speed and response has been excellent though the sensor does have trouble detecting your finger when it is wet or full of sweat. Apparently, the more reliable and faster scanner used on the 6s is not found here, so that might explain it.

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It might seem weird, but those 3 prongs are for a keyboard.

The Smart Connector is one of the newest additions to the iPad Pro. The connector transfers both power and data through it, making it an ideal connector for a secondary input device, such as keyboards, of which 2 keyboard cases are officially supported by it; Apple’s Smart Keyboard and Logitech’s CREATE. I haven’t had the chance to test both cases so I can’t say how it’s like, but it looks like a worthy alternative to Bluetooth, especially since these cases don’t have batteries that degrade over time.

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The iPad Pro’s speakers are nothing short of superb. Try them out in person.

The speakers on the iPad Pro are also worthy of attention. The Air 2 utilized stereo speakers but are positioned on the bottom of the device, so there’s not much of the “Stereo effect” due to its position. With the iPad Pro, Apple has used a quad-speaker array that’s also a bunch of stereo speakers. They didn’t just add a bunch of speakers and called it a day, however. The housings are actually machined into the aluminum unibody of the device and sealed with a carbon-fiber cap, giving the Pro 61% more back-volume and 3x more output than all iPads before. The top speakers are biased towards high-frequency audio for more balanced sound, and they automatically change their calibration based on the device’s orientation. In the real-world, the Pro’s speakers are actually very, VERY good. It’s probably the best set of speakers on a mobile-device, period. It’s very loud and offers great audio, although you won’t see it beat a dedicated set of speakers anytime soon, which is expected out of a mobile device. The only real issue is that, like all iPads before it, you can easily cover any one of the 4 speaker grilles, though because there’s 4 of them (one on each corner), you won’t completely muffle-out the sound, but it does sound a little bit different when any one of them are covered.

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You’ll find every essential modern connectivity standard here. The Pro also supports AirDrop.

The tablet also comes with the usual connectivity features. Wi-Fi with 802.11ac Wave 2 support, Bluetooth 4.0 with support for Bluetooth LE, LTE, GPS and GLONASS on the cellular model, a barometer and the reversible Lightning connector that’s also compatible with USB 3.0, allowing for superquick data transfer speeds. Wi-Fi performance has been excellent using an ASUS RT-N66U and some Ruckus R700 APs. Bluetooth performance was also very good with low energy usage and no dropped connections. I didn’t appreciate reversible connectors until I used the Pro, which meant that I no longer had to figure out which was the right way. I could just plug it in any way I want, which is actually a super-convenient feature.

Overall, the Pro packs in every feature you’d expect out of an Apple tablet. All of the latest connectivity features, TouchID and whatnot along with a couple of extras like the Smart Connector and quad-speakers. Oh, and the Apple Pencil if you’re into that.

 

Camera

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Still capable?

The iPad Pro shares its camera package with the iPad Air 2, which isn’t actually too much of a bad thing.

On the rear, there is an 8-megapixel 1/4″ sensor with a pixel size of 1.12-microns housed behind an f/2.4 aperture while on the front, you are greeted with a 1.2-megapixel sensor housed behind a slightly brighter f/2.2 aperture. On paper, that doesn’t sound impressive, but in the real-world, results were actually considered more than acceptable, to the point where I would say it is a capable shooter, given the right conditions.

In broad daylight, the iPad Pro’s 8MP shooter performed quite well, with lots of details and adequate exposure plus dynamic range. Colors were also pretty saturated, although compared to some phone cameras, it is a little undersaturated, causing some subjects to appear a little dull, but I doubt that this is a serious issue. It’s actually pretty good for daytime shots, which is a pretty big deal for a tablet.

In indoor lighting, the iPad Pro falters a little bit due to increased noise that eliminates some of the detail and the lack of OIS also means that you have to be a little more steady to get a clear shot, but overall, it’s still pretty adequate.

Low-light and night shots is where the Pro’s camera exposes its weakest link. Due to its small pixel size coupled with the lack of OIS, there is substantial amounts of digital noise in the photo. There’s also some blur in the photos if you’re not steady since the software opts for a lower shutter speed to compensate for the lower amount of light that’s going to the sensor, and since it does not have OIS, you need to remain steady. This is to be expected out of a tablet camera, however, since they typically don’t pack in the same bells-and-whistles as a typical top-end smartphone camera.

The 1.2MP f/2.2 front-facing camera is serviceable for video chats but overall, it’s not a great shooter, with a lot of noise and a general lack of detail. Given how the iPad Pro is not designed for the selfie crowd, however, it does its job adequately as a video-conferencing camera.

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The camera app is quick and simple to use

The camera app itself is simple and easy to use, using swipe gestures to switch between camera modes though with the addition of some new modes, it’s not exactly quick to switch modes, especially since it can miss swipes sometimes. But overall, the app itself is easy and simple to use with tap-to-focus, sliding vertically to adjust exposure and a shutter, although I wish its position could be adjusted to a more ergonomic position. If you want a little more control, however, there are some third-party apps that bring a degree of manual controls if you wish.

Overall, considering that it’s a tablet, the Pro has a surprisingly capable camera. While it will never surpass any current high-end smartphone, the Pro’s camera package is able to hold its own given the right lighting conditions. Attached above is the iPad Pro’s camera compared to the LG G4’s camera, regarded as one of the best phone cameras of 2015, showing how the Pro can actually hold its own even when its up against one of the world’s best. Props to Apple for putting a capable camera in a tablet, especially since the cameras on many other tablets were mediocre to absolutely dreadful.

 

Software

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Not much has changed, but one thing stands out…

Like any other Apple portable that isn’t a Mac or Apple Watch, the iPad Pro runs iOS, Apple’s UNIX-based mobile OS. The Pro runs iOS 9.1, a version of the 9th iteration of the iOS, and can be upgraded to iOS 9.2.1 as of the time of writing.

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Aside from a major design overhaul in 2013 with iOS 7, the OS really hasn’t changed all that much since its launch with the original iPhone back in 2007. You still have your grid of app icons on the “Springboard” and navigating throughout the OS is still as simple as ever. Due to Apple’s locked-down ecosystem and closed-nature of iOS, you won’t find launcher, themes, or any form of true customization here unlike Android, which is a more-open OS. However, its biggest flaw is also its prime source of strength. Unlike Android, which is prone to fragmentation due to its open-nature and OEMs putting their own flavors on top of Android, making every experience different, Apple controls how the OS looks and functions, and also limits it on their own devices. This means that each device looks and works consistently with others and the small portfolio means that Apple is able to push timely software updates to devices even as far back as 2011, with the iPad 2 (launched in early 2011) being the oldest device to support iOS 9. In contrast, an equivalent Android phone of the same age has not seen a software update since 2012.

While I would have loved much more customization, iOS is actually a solid tablet OS at its core. While the UX does not seem to take much advantage of the increased screen real-estate, there are some features that do. With iOS 9, Apple has added some nifty multitasking features; Slide Over, Split View and Picture in Picture.

In essence, Slide Over slides any supported app over any app that’s currently running, which is useful for a quick reply to a message or getting some notes, while Split View is very nifty if you want to browse the web on one side and jot down some notes on the other side without leaving either app, and given that the height of the iPad Pro in landscape is about the same as the height of the iPad Air 2 in portrait, it offers a ton of screen real-estate for Split View. Picture-in-Picture basically shrinks a video or FaceTime call to a small window that can be resized and reposition, allowing you to stay in the call or keep watching a video while doing something else. It’s a fantastic set of features and I have been using them constantly during my 3 months of using the iPad Pro. It is a serious boost in the iPad’s capabilities and makes it much more suitable for productivity, especially when using it to get research information from Safari while jotting down some research notes for a project in Microsoft Word or taking a quick reply from Facebook Messenger, all while some anime is playing in a small window in the background. It is a big deal on a large tablet, and I am glad that Apple has put such a feature in iOS, although apps will have to be updated to support it. The roster is limited but constantly growing.

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Even with Safari and Apple Maps running at the same plus alongside a video playing in an overlay, the Pro did not skip a beat.

In terms of general performance, this is another department where iOS’s closed-nature shines. Because it is on a limited roster of devices, it is not difficult to optimize the OS for the devices it is on. In the case of the iPad Pro, iOS seems to be very well-optimized to take advantage of all the hardware bells-and-whistles in the Pro. Apps open and close very quickly and they were all extremely responsive and exhibited little to no lag. Memory management was also very well-executed, being able to store more than 10 medium-heavy apps and having none of them killed in the background, even having a game kept in memory even after 24 hours of it being a background app, taking full-advantage of that 4GB of memory. In general, performance was great.

Unfortunately, it’s not all bells-and-roses for the software. Bugs were still quite an issue. I had several apps freeze on me, requiring a force-close and in worst cases, froze the entire device, requiring a forced reboot. An issue occurred to me once where the device froze entirely while using Slide Over. While the device could be put to sleep, I wasn’t able to wake the device, requiring a forced reboot to get it working again. Many of them seem to have been sorted in 9.2.1, but some still exist. Also, I feel that the Pro’s capabilities are not fully-realized yet. iOS is still limited in its capabilities as of this time, which is quite a shame given how capable the hardware  is in the iPad Pro. Given Apple’s positioning of the Pro as a “laptop-replacement”, it’s frankly too-limited to be considered a true laptop replacement, though many of them could be placed on the fact that it is an ARM tablet, and thus, is unable to properly run an x86 OS.

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Still a very solid tablet OS

Overall, the software is actually quite good. It’s very fast, snappy, takes advantage of all that hardware and screen size plus timely security updates for even older devices, which is a huge plus. However, for the Pro’s positioning, it’s still rather limited and it’s also somewhat buggy, something we’ve usually come to expect these days, but a little surprising from a company like Apple, who usually pays attention to the little details.

Battery

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Battery life on the Pro is pretty good, and you won’t need to recharge it often

One advantage of the very size of the iPad Pro is battery capacity. The iPad Pro packs in a very juicy 10,307mAh Li-ion battery that’s sealed in the device and thus, cannot be replaced by the end-user as easily as a device like the LG G4.

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On my usual usage pattern, the Pro lasted me a good 2 days with 12 hours of usage, which is no small feat considering its hardware.

At first, you might think the iPad Pro will last for a week on a charge. After all, that’s a really huge battery. However, you need to take into account that it has a 2732×2048 display, a larger display size, a more powerful processor and other stuff. As such, as a package, it actually has a smaller battery than the iPad Air 2 if you take into account the display and other stuff. Despite that, the iPad Pro actually delivers excellent battery life that’s on par or sometimes better than the iPad Air 2.

With my usual usage pattern (Wi-Fi on all the time, multitasking frequently, 45% brightness, some gaming, and video streaming), I can get up to 2 days of battery life, which is actually very impressive for such a tablet, especially when you consider the amount of power that it has. More frugal users can stretch to 3 or even 4 days on a single charge depending on how frugal your usage pattern is and if you’re a heavy user, the tablet can last for a day, which is certainly no small feat for a portable device considering the amount of power it’s packing under the hood. Of course, this is helped by the more-efficient 16nm FinFET manufacturing process of the processor, variable refresh rate of the display, software optimizations and some other small stuff. In fact, the only weakness of the Pro is that it charges quite slowly. Even though the included 2.4A adaptor is quick, considering the size of the Pro’s battery, it does take an age to charge up (more than 3 hours to be exact).  The lack of quick-charging definitely hurts here, but considering that the Pro has excellent battery life to boot, it’s more of a nitpick than a serious deal-breaker.

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The Pro’s biggest Achilles’ Heel is actually the opposite of what we saw from many 2015 devices; charging time rather than battery life.

Overall, the iPad Pro has excellent battery life despite the more demanding hardware it packs. Having roughly equal or better battery life than the Air 2 is certainly no small feat when you consider that the Pro has a 78% larger display area, nearly 2.4 million more pixels, and more powerful hardware than the Air 2. The bigger battery definitely helped here, but also the efficiency of the display, processor and software optimization, proving that other factors matter too besides the size of the battery.

Price

This is perhaps one of the main “Ouch!” points of the iPad Pro.

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Pro-level performance comes with pro-level pricing.

The base 32GB model with only Wi-Fi starts at $799. 32GB of internal storage is fine if you’re a heavy user of the cloud, but a “usable” 128GB model with only Wi-Fi starts at $949. If you want LTE, that adds another $100 that brings the price up to $1079.

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Enticing, but also expensive.

And we haven’t even got into the accessories. The Smart Keyboard cover is $169 and the Apple Pencil is $99. The Logitech CREATE keyboard case is $150 if you choose to go with that. If you choose to get a 128GB Wi-Fi-only iPad Pro with a CREATE keyboard and Pencil, the grand total would be nearly $1,200. That’s actually A LOT of moolah for a tablet, especially when you consider that a 256GB MacBook Air costs the same.

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A 128GB iPad Pro with Pencil and CREATE keyboard is right up in the same price-alley as the 256GB 13-inch MacBook Air.

Now, not everyone is going to need a Pencil and a CREATE keyboard case. But frankly, if you want to get the full Pro experience, you kinda need those and they ain’t cheap. Considering that the Pro is less capable than the 256GB MacBook Air that costs the same as a 128GB Pro plus Pencil and CREATE keyboard, it doesn’t seem like the greatest value buy ever. But hey, it’s Apple. You pay a premium for their products and their accessories. Despite that, the fact that a 128GB iPad Pro with its included accessories costs the same as an actual laptop is a pill that many will find it hard to swallow and will hurt the device’s appeal.

Conclusion

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Going where no iPad has gone before.

Pricing concerns aside, the iPad Pro is probably Apple’s best tablet yet. Offering a tried-and-true design with its size cranked up to 11, while offering a display, processor and other hardware that’s a perfect match for its size and its name. Couple that with great battery life for the hardware and it’s pretty much a winning combo.

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Will the iPad Pro replace a dedicated laptop? For this guy, not entirely.

It’s not flawless, though. Even though it’s a great tablet OS, iOS could use a few more stuff to take more advantage of the iPad Pro’s hardware (user accounts in iOS 9.3 is a great start) and the price can be a little too much for many to swallow. If you can afford it and you already have a capable laptop but don’t want to lug around one all the time, the Pro is actually a pretty good offering. It delivers on the Pro moniker for light productivity and even some photo and video editing on-the-go, while having a great display and speaker combo for multimedia. Couple that with the Apple Pencil and keyboard (still expensive) and the Pro is actually a solid do-everything device that will satisfy those who just want it for the sort of daily use that most laptops endure.

FINAL RATING: 8.8/10

The iPad Pro offers a compelling hardware package baked in with the software to match. It is an excellent do-everything tablet, although it is very pricey, especially when you take into account its accessories.

WHAT IT HAS GOING FOR IT WHAT IT’S NOT-SO-HOT IN
§  Simple but elegant design

§  Great display

§  Superb speakers

§  Exceptional performance

§  Surprisingly capable rear camera

§  iOS 9’s multitasking features

§  Timely updates

§  Excellent battery life

§  iOS 9 is still somewhat buggy

§  Underwhelming front-camera

§  Still rather limited for a laptop-replacement

§  Very expensive for both the tablet and its accessories, almost as much as a laptop.

 

 

iPad Pro – The Review

Samsung Galaxy S7 + LG G5 – Basic impressions

So, a couple of weeks ago, Samsung and LG officially revealed their big flagships for 2016; the Samsung Galaxy S7 + S7 Edge and the LG G5. They’re going to be the hottest news for a while so let’s dive into these devices and my very first initial impressions.

Samsung Galaxy S7

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The Samsung Galaxy S7 and its Edge counterpart are pretty much a refined version of its predecessor, the Galaxy S6, which started a whole-new design language for Samsung. While it bears a similar look to its predecessor, it has received some major internal upgrades. While an improved processor and more RAM are to be expected, there’s even some great stuff inside, such as a MUCH bigger battery, plus the return of expandable storage (THANK YOU, SAMSUNG!), along with IP68-certification for more peace-of-mind in case the device gets wet, a more slimmed-down version of TouchWiz that bears a similar look-and-feel but has revisions underneath and a camera that turns marketing convention on its head by going with a 12MP sensor but increasing the pixel size and upgrading every other part of the camera. This is looking to be yet another great device in the Galaxy lineup.

Personally, I really, REALLY love the S7, especially the Edge. Mainly because it brought nearly everything we asked for when the S6 came out. Sure, there’s no removable battery, but with a 3000mAh battery on the flat model and a gigantic 3600mAh battery on the Edge, I don’t see any real need for a removable battery. Add in expandable storage and a whole heap of other improvements, the S7 kinda makes the S6 look like a concept by comparison. This is a strong contender for Phone of The Year 2016.

Galaxy S7 Specs

Display 5.1-inch 1440p Quad HD Super AMOLED (S7), 5.5-inch 1440p Quad HD Super AMOLED w/ Dual-Edge (S7 Edge)
Processor Samsung Exynos 8890 w/ 4x Exynos M1 @ 2.6GHz + 4x Cortex A53 @ 1.6GHz (worldwide), Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 w/ 2x Kryo @ 2.2GHz + 2x Kryo @ 1.6GHz (United States and certain markets)
Storage and Memory 32GB of UFS 2.0, microSD card slot for expandable storage, 4GB of LPDDR4 (all variants)
Operating System Android 6.0.1 “Marshmallow” with Samsung’s “TouchWiz” UX layer on top.
Rear Camera 12MP Sony Exmor RS IMX260 w/ 1.4μ pixels. f/1.7 aperture, dual-pixel autofocus, BSI, OIS.
Front Camera 5MP sensor w/ wide-angle lens + f/1.7 aperture
Battery 3000mAh sealed unit (S7), 3600mAh sealed unit (S7 Edge), Adaptive Fast Charging/Quick Charge 2.0.

LG G5

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LG arguably brought out the more “interesting” device. While the LG G5 bears the expected hardware upgrades over its predecessor, the G4, along with a metal-unibody, it has a little party trick up its sleeve. The bottom portion of the phone slides out to reveal….A REMOVABLE BATTERY. Yes, there is still a removable battery in this metal-unibody device, which should make loyalists to those very happy. The portion also doubles as a modular slot, meaning that users can attach things like LG’s camera grip and Bang & Olufsen’s upper-end DAC for a better camera and audio experience respectively. Other than that, the phone is a pretty solid upgrade over the G4.

Personally, I’m not as intrigued by the G5 compared to the S7. It’s still a great phone without a doubt. I just feel that LG got so caught up with the modular design, that they seemed to lose a bit of focus on what makes a great phone, well, GREAT. Now, don’t get me wrong. You don’t need those modules and the phone works plenty fine without them. I just think that LG has to really make these modules an extremely compelling thing so that it can take off, because right now, I think it’s a pretty fancy gimmick. Perhaps that will change once LG leverages on that. Other than the modules, the phone itself is pretty nice, with a USB-C port and lots of expected hardware upgrades, though I still think the software needs some new UI design work.

LG G5 specs

Display 5.3-inch Quad HD 1440p IPS LCD Quantum Display
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 w/ 2x Kryo @ 2.2GHz + 2x Kryo @ 1.6GHz
Storage and Memory 32GB of UFS 2.0, microSD card slot for expandable storage, 4GB of LPDDR4
Operating System Android 6.0.1 “Marshmallow” with LG’s “LG UX” UX layer on top.
Rear Camera 16MP Sony Exmor RS IMX234 w/ f/1.8 aperture, OIS, laser autofocus + RGB sensor +  8MP sensor w/ wide-angle lens
Front Camera 8MP Toshiba T4KA3 w/ f/2.0 aperture
Battery 2800mAh Li-Ion unit, removable via modular slot, Quick Charge 3.0

Closing thoughts

Man, it’s already the beginning of the year and we already have 2 pretty darn compelling devices. There’s more to come like the HTC One M10 and Apple’s iPhone 5SE + iPad Air 3//iPad Pro 9.7-inch event, so it’s not even the end of the craziness of tech. Stay tuned for more!

Samsung Galaxy S7 + LG G5 – Basic impressions