Checkpoint: Baller Brands Edition

Checkpoint: Baller Brands Edition

posted in: Editorials & Features | 0

When I was a wee lad, I saw brands like Apple and Bose as overpriced junk for snooty people. Now, a decade and a half later, I am typing on an Apple MacBook Air and listening to music on Bose Bluetooth speaker.

What happened?

I’m certain some of it has to do with lack of money at the time. How can someone spend so much on something that essentially does the same thing as a significantly cheaper brand? I never understood the differences in nuances available on higher end brands like Apple or Bose. For many tasks and functions, cheaper options would suffice but now I get it. Paying extra nets that extra layer of polish and quality that are “nice-to-haves”. Do I need them? No. But I also have the funds now to legitimately choose those higher priced options.

Consumer awareness has also increased significantly since my youth where big brands like Monster can no longer hide behind marketing speak. Companies now need to have actual substance behind their words. Technology and gadget sites now review and dig into the nitty gritty details to see how higher priced options stack up to cheaper offerings. I picked up the Bose SoundLink Mini II based on one of The Wirecutter’s recommendations and not out of any brand recognition.

I finished the first run of Nier: Automata which left me a bit underwhelmed if I’m honest. For some reason, I thought I would see more interesting vistas and places. The Copied City was amazing and I was hoping to see more areas like that but 2B’s run came to somewhat of an abrupt halt that left me wanting. So I dove back in as 9S curious to see what his perspective has to offer. 

Rosy Improvements

Rosy Improvements

posted in: Game News, Technology News | 0

Apple A9

Intel’s battle against physics may not be going according to plan with setbacks and less than spectacular performance increases but that doesn’t mean CPU performance increases in other areas have stagnated. The newly released Apple A9 SoC looks like another one of those jumps in performance that we’ve come to expect from the tech giant.

The CPU and GPU improvements are impressive but were known. The significant jump storage though? That was a pleasant surprise. The inclusion of NVMe over the industry standard eMMC gave the iPhone 6S nearly double the storage performance over last year’s iPhone 6.

Well done, Apple. Well done.

PS4 System Software 3.0

Speaking of incremental updates, PlayStation 4 System Software 3.0 arrives tomorrow and if you’re a fan of socializing and streaming, it seems to be a wonderful update. I’m hoping for some hidden surprises because only the PNG screenshot feature is appetizing to me. If I stream, I’ll likely switch to YouTube but that’s an “if”. Everything else seems like extra fluff and I’m not seeing the immediate appeal.

 

 

Apple’s Fall 2015 Announcements

Apple’s Fall 2015 Announcements

posted in: Technology News | 0

It’s Apple Fall 2015 media day. Here are some of my thoughts on the newest products. It was a solid lineup of new products that I doubt I’ll partake but it’s nice to see Apple march on.

iPad Pro

It’s a larger, faster and more productivity oriented tablet. You want a keyboard cover? It’s got one. You want a digital pen? Apple Pencil has you covered. It sounds a lot like a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. So why would one choose one over the other?

The Surface has a wider array of support thanks to its x86 Intel processors but the iPad Pro has the edge on portability with its thinner and lighter profile. Microsoft’s on-stage support of the iPad Pro is a nice gesture but the Surface Pro still has the edge for full Office suite support.

The starting price of $799 USD for the 32GB model was a legitimate surprise to me. This places it right there with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3’s cheapest model. I doubt anyone would actually live with the 32GB model if they’re trying to be productive but it’s nice to see a relatively affordable model.

Oh and they squeezed in the existence of the iPad Mini 4 as well.

Apple TV

The new Apple TV with its touch and voice enabled remote reminds me of Kinect and the Xbox One. As expected, it has robust Siri integration and all the small luxury touches that Apple is known for. It’s essentially all the niceties of iOS brought to the Apple TV which includes iOS apps such as games like Crossy Road to the big screen. But thanks to the more capable hardware, previously console and PC oriented titles like the new Guitar Hero and Disney Infinity 3.0 are making its way to the new Apple TV as well.

The ability to pair a game controller will also enable light but more sophisticated games akin to the console. Games like Transistor will be playable on the new Apple TV which makes it quite an attractive proposition for Indie games. Curiously, it only sports an A8 processor unlike the iPad Pro and iPhone 6S.

It’ll be available in late October for $149 USD for the 32GB and $199 USD for the 64GB.

iPhone 6S & 6S Plus

An improved 12MP camera with 4K capabilities, improved LTE Advanced support and the new A9 processor were to be expected but what’s the hook? Well apparently that’s 3D Touch.

3D Touch enables the pressure sensitivity that was found in the Force Touch trackpad on the iPhone 6S. Unfortunately for Apple, demonstrating 3D Touch is difficult. From the viewer’s perspective, 3D Touch (like Force Touch) is best experienced in person. 3D Touch demonstrations simply look like people are holding their finger on something for a brief period of time which is already something that multi-touch displays already do.

Other little Apple touches like using the Retina display as a giant flash for selfies and the “Live Photos” (aka animated GIFs) for their cameras.

It’s an S revision. Solid but not Earth shattering.

Announcements Ahoy, Mon Capitan

Announcements Ahoy, Mon Capitan

OS X El Capitan

This year’s OS X release isn’t going to be the overhaul like Yosemite was. El Capitan will offer fixes, refinements and other nice but not so sexy changes.

I welcome it. I welcome features like Expose side-by-side so I can stop using BetterTouchTool for the sole purpose of including Windows Snap.

I look forward to Metal, Apple’s low-level API, improving rendering performance across the board. I don’t play graphically intensive games on my MacBook Air but hopefully this gives the user base fewer reasons to switch over to Windows just to play games.

I’m hoping OS X El Capitan breathes new life into my MacBook Air like Mavericks did with its power optimizations.

iOS 9

Unsurprisingly, iOS 9 looks to follow El Capitan’s lead and focus on refinements and improvements to performance, battery life, security and usability.

I use Siri regularly for sports and weather updates. On occasion, I ask her to figure out the name of a song or some trivia but her accuracy remains so suspect that I tend to stick to the basic inquiries. Apple promises to address accuracy and capabilties but I’ll believe it when I see it. The day, I don’t feel the need to launch Google Search for reliable voice inquiries is the day I’ll consider Siri a dependable digital assistant.

Apple continues its trend of adopting popular ideas into its own apps and gently pushing out competition. Notes and News apps were their latest efforts. They gave Notes additional word processing capabilities for simple note taking and News (rebranded Newsstand) is now a Flipboard clone.

My favorite iOS device isn’t the iPhone. It’s the iPad and Apple finally gave it some love with the addition of multi-tasking and a new shortcut bar that sits on-top of the keyboard. Fortunately, I have an iPad Air 2 which supports the new multi-tasking functionality. But if I was an iPad Air user, I’d feel a little miffed knowing that a key feature like multi-tasking won’t be making back to mine. I understand the limitations (the Air 2 has 2GB of RAM) but not everyone will.

And the Rest

WatchOS 2 is coming as well and I know exactly one person who’s excited by that announcement. The native app support is a step in the right direction. I’m curious what developers will come up with in that space. I doubt they can make the thing appealing to me though.

Apple Music is now a thing. If the likes of Spotify, Rdio and other music streaming services aren’t to your liking, maybe give Apple Music a try? They’ve hired humans to make a 24/7 radio station a reality. No idea how that radio station will fare Apple promises it’ll be better than having algorithms select the music.

I didn’t know what to expect from Apple Music but it wasn’t whatever they announced. Jimmy Iovine started by pointing out all the streaming services available and how it’s fragmented. I thought that was going to a segue into a Wallet (they renamed Passbook) or News app amalgamation app but for music. That would have been a logistical nightmare but that would have been nice.

Pre-E3 Announcements Continues

  • 1TB Xbox One Console will take over at $399.99 USD
  • New Xbox One controller revision features wireless updates, 3.5mm audio jack & minor refinements. Costs $64.99 USD
  • Xbox One wireless adapter for Windows will be available in autumn. Will cost $24.99 USD
  • Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst will see the light of day in Q1 2016
  • Halo 5: Guardians will have 20 maps at launch & 15 free maps by June 2016
  • Dark Souls 3 will be available in early 2016
  • Marshawn Lynch will be in Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  • Call of Duty lives for another year on PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360

Thought of the Day

As soon as I saw what 2015’s OS X release was called El Capitan, I thought of Q and Captain Picard.

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