2016 MacBook Pro — Quick Thoughts

I previously suggested that you not purchase a 2016 MacBook Pro. My video suggestion was based on one simple factor: price. Apple has a history of launching revamped product lines, raising the price, and then subsequently dropping the entry price within a year or two. I expect Apple will do this with the newly re-designed MacBook Pro, and that is why I suggested holding off on the new MBP for the time being. However, I had to donate my 2013 MacBook Air recently and find myself typing away on a 2016 13″ MacBook Pro. More information will come, but I want to leave three initial thoughts on the new device.

1. This device is thin and light. I remember the MacBook Air product launch and how thin and light that laptop seemed. Recall Steve Jobs presenting on stage with a MBA in a small envelope. Compared to the MBA, the new MBP has a smaller footprint while retaining the same weight. Plus, it has a Retina display and more powerful internal components. Impressed.

2. I really like the idea of being able to charge my laptop from any port. It’s easy, simple, and convenient. I don’t mind having only USB-C ports and having to buy a dongle to use legacy peripherals, especially because I hardly use any peripherals anyway. With that said, the fact that the base MBP only has 2 USB-C ports, compared to 4 ports in the more expensive models, really grinds my gears.

3. Space gray looks great on a laptop, it’s sleek, modern, and professional. The silver Apple laptop color is iconic, but I really like having the option to buy something new and different. This is probably why people love iPhone redesigns, to have a device that looks fresh and unique.

I Feel It Coming By The Weeknd (ft. Daft Punk)

I’m going through a daft punk phase. Perhaps it’s because I’ve recently discovered how vast and enjoyable their discography is. Perhaps it’s because of the rumors of a 2017 tour (debunked). The reasons don’t matter. What matters is Daft Punk is great and I what more.

The Song of the Week is a new track by The Weeknd, with – more importantly – beats from Daft Punk. “I feel It Coming” is actually the second song from The Weeknd’s upcoming album to feature Daft Punk. The beat is classic Daft Punk. I’m digging it. Go ahead, give it a listen. Try to tell me that beat isn’t classic and catchy. Why can’t they just drop a surprise album and tour? Why? Please.

On Hold by The XX

I attended Bonnaroo 2013, but I missed seeing The XX. Looking back, missing The XX is my biggest regret from Bonnaroo. Over the last few years, The XX have been mostly quite. That has all changed. The XX recently announced a new album (“I see you”) – coming out early next year – as well as the first tour dates for the corresponding tour. Moreover, they have released On Hold, the first track from the new album.

The sound is upbeat and modern. It’s different than other songs by The XX, but in a good way. It’s fresh and new, while keeping those familiar vocals front and center. I’m a big fan and can’t wait for “I see you” to be released in January.

iPhone 7 and Gloves

Think back to the release of the original iPhone. The iPhone flipped conventional wisdom on its head and introduced finger-touch as a complete i/o solution. There was no keyboard and no stylus. Then winter came along and individuals realized that capacitive touch screens don’t work when wearing gloves. At best, this was an annoying inconvenience. Overall, it was mostly just surprise. As the years went on, many glove makers created options that supported touch screen technology. The issue of gloves and touch screens mostly settled quietly on the back-burner.

Enter iPhone 7 and it’s capacitive home button. Within days of shipping, users are already noticing a potential ‘flaw’ with the all digital button: it doesn’t work without skin contact. See:

Does this even matter? iOS 10 added the raise to wake feature. This software feature, only available on devices with the M9 motion co-processor or higher, turns on your device’s screen when the device is raised. This feature will allow users who are wearing gloves to wake up their iPhone without using the home button. User’s can also click the power button on their device to activate the screen. Here are two alternatives that wake up one’s iPhone.

Also, remember that the iPhone 7’s screen is still capacitive and will still require a special set of gloves to operate. Overall, even if some people complain about the new home button, the actual impact on usability resulting from this ‘flaw’ is very minimal.

10 Things to Know About Apple’s iPhone 7 Event

A few weeks ago Apple announced the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2. Both devices have interesting hardware, but may not be super compelling upgrades depending on what devices you currently use. After the buzz from the event died down, I noticed ten critical pieces of information that Apple didn’t publicize at the keynote that are pretty important to note. For instance, even though the iPhone 7 is water resistant, any water damage that breaks the device is not covered under the standard warranty. For this and nine more important updates, check out the video above.

iPad Pro 9.7 Review — Four Months Later

Earlier this year the 9.7″ iPad Pro replaced the iPad Air 2 as Apple’s top 9.7″ iPad. The 9.7″ form factor has always been a staple in Apple’s iPad lineup. I find the size to be a good blend of portability and usability. The iPad Mini doesn’t provide enough screen real estate to comfortably consume content while the 12.9″ iPad Pro is too much of a beast. The iPad Pro 9.7 starts at $599 for the 32GB WiFi only model and goes up to $1029 for the 256GB LTE model. I’ve used the device for four months; here are my thoughts.

I want to begin by talking about the display. Nearly every interaction you have with your tablet is through the display, so it’s got to be good. Apple’s retina displays — although not industry leading with respect to pixel density — are always strong. Text is crisp and colors pop. Most critically, the touch screen is very responsive.

The iPad Pro’s display actually includes two updates that make it significantly better than previous models. Number one, the display is much less reflective than other iPads. Not only does this translate to better out-door usage, it also makes watching movies a lot nicer. We’ve all missed dimly lit movie or tv scenes because of glare on the display, but I can happily report that this iPad is much better at handling the glare problem.

Number two, the iPad Pro features a True Tone display. According to Apple, a True Tune display, “uses advanced four-channel ambient light sensors to automatically adapt the color and intensity of the display to match the light in your environment. Which means reading is more natural and comfortable — almost like looking at a sheet of paper.” In practice, I love this True Tone technology. True Tone is one example of Apple adding a feature you didn’t think you needed or wanted, but after using it, you wonder why it didn’t always exist.

Next I want to touch on the speaker system on this device. For me, good speakers are important on a tablet. I consume a lot of video — Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video — so having strong sound quality is important for me. And yes, I know I can wear headphones, but that just isn’t as comfortable when in bed or laying on the couch. The iPad Pro has four speakers that allow for stereo sound. When I first got my iPad Pro I was blown away by the speakers, they were just so loud. After using the device for an extended period of time, I’m still very impressed. I’ve realized they aren’t quite as full sounding as an external speaker, but for a slender mobile device, Apple did a good job in this department.

I’ll end by simply saying that build quality is fantastic. Nothing feels cheap about the iPad Pro. Say what you want about Apple price points, but Apple devices almost always feel premium.

This device sports the A9x chip and 2gb of ram. I’m not concerned with boring you to death with numbers. What I will say is that this iPad is fast. I’m coming from a third generation iPad, which in 2016 was too dated to do anything more than load Netflix, but I’ve been impressed with this device. Everything I’ve thrown at the iPad Pro has gone off without a hitch. I’m not a big gamer, but browsing, completing mobile purchases (especially with support for Apple Pay in safari in iOS 10), social media, basic photo editing, and media consumption run smoothly on the Pro.

I want to talk about multitasking for a minute. Although iOS is still limited with respect to multitasking, iOS 9 (and 10) are better than ever. Most notably, picture in picture is incredibly smooth on the iPad Pro. While not an exclusive feature of the Pro, the improved processing power and ram on this device make watching videos while browsing the web easy and pleasant. Each app needs to build in support this feature, but it works very well when it is implemented. I also frequently use Apple’s other multitasking features, slide over and split view, to send messages while watching videos or browsing the web. The Pro handles this like a champ.

Battery Life
This is not the best iPad with respect to battery life. Although all full sized iPads are rated for ten hours of battery life, in reality each iPad model deviates from this number (usually for the better). However, I’ve noticed this iPad gets less battery life than both my iPad third generation (back when it was new) and the iPad Air I bought my mother for christmas a few years ago. Apple had to sacrifice battery life to keep this device slender.

To be slightly more specific, when Engadget conducted battery tests they found that the iPad Pro 9.7 lasted 9 hours and 21 minutes. Perhaps a battery test consisting of looping HD video isn’t how you will be using the iPad, but the comparison to other iPads is relevant regardless. Both the iPad Air 2 and 12.9″ iPad Pro lasted longer, the former lasting 11 hours and 15 minutes while the later lasted 10 hours and 47 minutes. In case you missed it, the iPad Air 2 lasts nearly 2 hours longer than the iPad Pro 9.7. That is a significant difference.

I’ll end this section by saying the iPad Pro 9.7 isn’t awful in regard to battery life. It’s certainly serviceable. In fact, it’s basically in line with Apple’s estimates. However, it’s critical to note the battery life comparison to the Air 2 when deciding which iPad to snag.

Although I don’t really use my iPad to take pictures and videos, it’s certainly nice to have the option. The iPad Pro has the same camera system as the iPhone 6s. To recap, that means the rear camera captures 12MP photos and up to 4k video. Click here for a sample of the video quality. Overall, I’ve been impressed with the camera. There is still a lot of room for improvement with respect to low light performance, but for an iPad that I sparingly use to take pictures, quality is more than good enough.

More important to me than the rear camera is the front facing camera. I use my iPad a lot to communicate, particularly for video chatting. This device features a 5MP HD camera, so FaceTime calls look and sound great. Video chatting depends on network quality as well, but I’ve been impressed thus far. If you are into selfies, the iPad Pro won’t disappoint.

I will note that the rear camera protrudes out of the iPad body. This camera hump is irritating to me. Apple wanted to make the iPad thin and had to include the hump in order to include the new camera system. Frankly, I would prefer a slightly thicker iPad with better battery life and no camera hump. But alas, no one asked me.

When I created my initial video review of the iPad Pro 9.7, I said it was the best iPad ever made. I stand by that statement. It’s incredibly quick, the display is fantastic, the build quality is great, and the camera system is solid. However, since my original video review, I’ve had a few realizations.

Number 1, I don’t need the power of the iPad Pro. I originally wanted the iPad Pro to replace my laptop for note-taking and video editing. However, I still find it much easier to use my laptop for these workflows. It’s just much easier to record a video and edit it with a trackpad on my MacBook Air than it is for me to use iMovie on iOS. I’ve also realized that iMovie on iOS is quite limited compared to the desktop version.

Number 2, this is not the best iPad with respect to battery life. In fact, the battery life is significantly less than previous models. As I previously mentioned, the Air 2 lasts nearly 2 hours longer than the 9.7″ iPad Pro (in certain comparisons). This is huge. I find myself charging my iPad Pro much more than weekly and I’m still using my laptop and phone throughout the day. I think the way I use an iPad is better suited for long battery life.

With these two notes in mind, the iPad Air 2 would probably have been a fine purchase for me. It’s powerful enough to support all the same multitasking features, while also providing better battery life, but it is less expensive [iPad Air 2 starts at $399 for the 16gb model, $499 for the 64gb model]. If I’m not going to edit videos nor take advantage of drawing with the Apple Pencil [not really mentioned in this review because I don’t use one], the iPad Pro is probably overkill. However, I do appreciate having future proofed devices, so it’s a close call.

Overall, the iPad Pro is great. If you plan on really taxing your tablet, definitely opt for the Pro. If you want to use the Apple Pencil for precise input, obviously spring for the Pro. If you really crave the best camera you can get, certainly go for the Pro. But if you mostly use your tablet to watch videos, stream music, or browse the web you can save some money and have a great time using the Air 2.

If you want more iPad Pro coverage, I highly recommend checking out these videos.

All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem

I was at Lollapalooza a few weeks ago. As I’ve mentioned before, I love music festivals. I’ve attended governors ball, Okeechobee, and Lollapalooza this year, with mostly likely more on the horizon for 2016. One headliner that dominated festival lineups this cycle was LCD Soundsystem. To be honest, when I first saw LCD at the top of Coachella lineup I was disappointed. Who are these guys? How are they headlining? I’ve never herd of them. That was all a mistake.

As I learned in my preparation for Lolla, LCD Soundystem is amazing. Their music is unique and fun. The lyrics are catchy and the music itself is exciting. I recommend checking out their entire song catalog, but I have to share my favorite LCD song: All My Friends. This might be a perfect song. It builds up, it’s so easy to dance to, and it makes you wonder where your friends are tonight. If you don’t know LCD, please give this song a few listens. It took me several listens to get into it, but I’m so glad I did.

Mr. Brightside by The Killers

Today is the second day of The Governors Ball Music Festival and I am incredibly excited. As I’ve mentioned before, I look forward to music festivals all year long and really loved attending the inaugural Okeechobee Music Festival earlier this year. Governors Ball 2016 has an incredibly diverse lineup of artists, but to me, the draw of the weekend is The Killers. I love this band. I’ve seen them several times already [most recently at Firefly 2015] and I will always buy tickets when they play close by.

2004’s Hot Fuss is as close to a perfect album as you will find. Every song on it is fantastic. Even 12 years later, the music on this album has not become dated nor dull. I’ve embedded the entire album to this post, but the official song of the week is Mr. Brightside. I picked Mr. Brightside, instead of a lesser known track, because the energy derived from festival of people yelling the lyrics is too much to pass up. To me, the passion and excitement of the crowd really makes or breaks a live performance. When Mr. Brightside is blasting, the energy level is cranked up to 10.

7 Years

The song of the week today is 7 years by Lukas Graham. Coming from Denmark, Graham’s new, self-titled album is surprisingly deep. However, 7 years is certainly the most popular track as it currently sits at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 [As of May 28]. Specifically, 7 years is a coming of age story that that jumps from a mother’s words of wisdom to her 7 year old son to the recollections of a 60 year old man. Definitely give it a listen.

Song of the Week

I love music [music festivals too]. Sitting at my desk, walking down the street, or working out at the gym, you are likely to find me with headphones on and music playing. The array of music I listen to is broad. I’m a huge Beatles fan. How can you not be? Seriously, how can you not be a Beatles fan? However, I also enjoy mindless rap hits. The spectrum is large, varying based on my mood, time of day, and the like.

Because of my love for music, I’ve decided to share one song per week that is really catching my attention. There is no way to predicate the song or genre in advance. It could be a throw back [again, The Beatles can take over any week of listening] or a pop hit from the week. Regardless, each Friday I’m going to post one song that’s been absorbing me.

This week, I’ve got a song by The Strumbellas. I’ve actually been listening to their latest album Hope a bunch this week [by a bunch, I mean non-stop]. Specifically, for the inaugural song of the week, I want to recommend Young & Wild. To me, this is a perfect summer song. Upbeat music, catchy lyrics, easy to dance to. I’ve embedded the entire album below [because it’s all worth a listen], but make sure to check out Young & Wild.