The Bill and Phil Show

Battle of the Pros: iPad Pro 12.9 v. iPad Pro 9.7

Post by Phillip Hampton on Apr 30, 2016

ipadprosWe love to buy gadgets as soon as they hit the market.  We are fully aware that you pay extra for being an early adopter.  Guess we enjoy being broke (and also being the first kids on the block with the new toy).  So, it should come as no surprise that we bought Apple’s big screen 12.9” iPad Pro as soon as it hit the market.

THE IPAD PRO 12.9.  

We must admit, we were a bit disappointed when we started fooling with it.  Yes, the iPad Pro 12.9 was the biggest, fastest Apple tablet ever made.  You can buy a really nice keyboard to go with it, and we did.  You can also buy a pressure-sensitive stylus/pencil to take notes, sketch, and really create great art.  We bought that too.  The giant screen is beautiful, and the quad speakers are incredible.  The large screen really works well with split screen apps that are now available in the new iOS 9 series.  You can watch movies on the right-side of your screen and edit documents on the left, for example. In other words, you can play and work at the same time; which we don’t necessarily recommend but do occasionally enjoy.

But, we were not as overjoyed with our new pricey toy as we thought we would be.  First, by the time we added additional storage, a cellular modem, a Bluetooth keyboard and the pencil, the price tag was creeping up north of $1,200.  For that price we could buy a very nice fully functional laptop (keyboard included).  In addition, the large size makes the iPad Pro 12.9 seem less portable.  Its size almost defeats the purpose of having an iPad.  (At least we felt that way after we bought it.)  The 12.9” display is so large you really need to carry it in a laptop bag, and it just does not have the portable, compact feel that made the original iPad and its successors so popular.  So, while the iPad Pro 12.9 is powerful and has a great deal of potential (especially for graphic designers and media creators), it is not a laptop killer in our opinion.

 

THE IPAD PRO 9.7. 

We’re not sure if the Apple execs heard our complaints about the 12.9” iPad Pro, but we took it as a nod in our direction when they subsequently announced a smaller iPad Pro, the 9.7.  Gadget nerds like us and our money are soon parted.  So, when the new iPad Pro 9.7 became available, we had to buy one immediately as well.  And, as usual, we were excited in anticipation of delivery of our new gadget.  We were certain that the new, smaller iPad would be more portable and more in line with the iPads we had come to know and love, while providing all the “Pro” advantages.  Unfortunately, we had become spoiled.  After using the iPad Pro 12.9, the screen on the 9.7 seemed tiny (yes, we know we complained that the 12.9 was too big; forgive us for being tech divas).  With the 9.7 we began to feel like we were just looking at an iPhone screen.  In fact, it was very hard to tell the difference between a regular iPad or iPad Air 2 and the iPad Pro 9.7.  Yes, the iPad Pro 9.7 has a faster, more power processor than the iPad Air 2.  Yes, Apple has updated the iPad Pro cameras.  Yes, you can take great selfies and great pictures with the high-resolution camera that comes with it.  Yes, you can even record videos in 4k resolution.

Nevertheless, for just regular users it is very hard to tell the iPad Pro 9.7 apart from the iPad Air.  The displays are nearly identical.  They run the same software.  They use the same apps.  There just does not seem to be a great advantage to having an iPad Pro 9.7 versus having a regular iPad (especially the sleek iPad Air 2).

IPAD PRO 12.9 v. IPAD PRO 9.7.  

Returning to the comparison of the iPad Pro 12.9 to the iPad Pro 9.7 (yes, we got a bit sidetracked), we believe the iPad Pro 12.9 is actually a superior product.  The high resolution and the four-speaker system take greater advantage of the faster processor and superior display on the iPad Pro models.  In addition, you have more screen real estate to use the split screen feature that is bundled into iOS 9 (now 9.3.1).  Of course, you can use the split screens feature on any iPad, but it just works better on the larger screen.  The bottom line is that while the 12.9” iPad Pro is a bit more cumbersome to carry, you get spoiled once you have used the larger screen.  You do not want to return to a smaller iPad model.  So, in our opinion, the iPad 12.9 is the winner (but barely) over the iPad Pro 9.7 or just a regular iPad.

But, here is a word to the wise and thrifty.  If you are not a spendthrift like us, our best advice is to buy neither “Pro” model and stick with an iPad Air 2.  Save your money.

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S

Post by Phillip Hampton on Apr 22, 2016

galaxy-tab-pro-sWe’ve been tablet shopping again and what we brought home from the store may surprise you.  We have always admired Samsung’s tablet computers over the years, but have never really taken the plunge since they always ran the Android operating system.  Don’t get us wrong, we love Android.  We have Android phones and love them.  But for a tablet/laptop hybrid device we really prefer the Microsoft Windows operating system.  So when we found out the newest Samsung tablet, dubbed the Galaxy Tab S Pro, was going to ship with Windows 10 installed, we put it on our ‘buy’ list.

We saw the Tab S Pro at the Consumer Electronics Show back in January but at that time Samsung did not reveal the price or ship date.  As the release date neared we were pleasantly surprised when Samsung revealed the $899 retail price.  The fact that this price included the keyboard cover made the Tab S Pro an even more attractive option.  So shortly after the release date, we scoured all Best Buy stores within a 50-mile radius of our office and found one that had four of these tablets in stock.  They soon had just three.

It is no secret that Microsoft’s breakthrough Surface tablet has been successful as we are now seeing other manufacturers mimicking the Surface design aesthetic.  Samsung has jumped into the fray as well with the Tab S Pro.  It looks a lot like the Surface with a few distinctions.  The most impressive feature for us on the Tab S Pro is the incredibly sharp and bright 12-inch display.  For sure, Samsung has perfected the art of the beautiful display as can be seen in their successful line of Galaxy S and Note phones.  They bring that same screen perfection to the Tab S Pro.

The other distinction of note for this table is the fact that the keyboard cover comes packaged with the tablet for the $899 price.  We paid $899 for our Surface Pro 4 but then had to fork over another $130 for the keyboard.  Getting a keyboard with our Tab S Pro for the advertised price made us very happy.  Our happiness dissipated somewhat, however, after we unpacked the box and began testing our tablet and keyboard.  Perhaps we were spoiled by Microsoft’s pricey Surface keyboard, but the Galaxy keyboard just did not measure up.  First the positives:  we didn’t pay extra for it; the keyboard doubles as a tablet cover; and it’s not horrible.  However, the keys are really close together and there is a little bit of a clicking noise that can be bothersome unless you have some music playing to drown it out.  Because the keyboard is more compact, it does fit better in compact places (like an airline seat tray); but we like our space, especially on keyboards.  A particular pet peeve is when certain keyboard keys that we use a lot (like Home, Page Up, Page Down, etc.) can only be accessed via a Function key toggle.  So count us as pretty much bummed that this beautiful tablet has a smallish, less than luxurious keyboard.

While the Tab S Pro has two viewing angles, we found ourselves missing the unique built-in kickstand on the Surface Pro 4 which allows you to adjust to just about any viewing angle.  Operationally we have no beef with the Tab S Pro.  For our basic activity of e-mail, word processing, web surfing, and the occasional app from the Microsoft app store, the tablet is proficient and speedy.  We also have no beef with the battery life (touted to be 10 hours by Samsung).  We get a good day of activity on our unit without running out of juice.

It’s funny that Samsung did not include a stylus or pen with this tablet, particularly after the wild success of the Galaxy Note phablet with its built-in pen.  The Surface has a pen and now even Apple has a pencil for its iPad Pro series.  We expect that Samsung will introduce a pen for the Tab S Pro at some point, but it is not included when you buy today.

So what is our overall impression of the Tab S Pro?  We really, really like it.  If you are looking for the best product in this genre (tablet/laptop hybrid running Windows 10) for the buck, the Tab S Pro is a great choice.  If you have already splurged on the Surface Pro 4, then migrating to the Tab S Pro would be a step backward in our view.  Of course, if you are super geeks like us, you will go ahead and buy both.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Post by Phillip Hampton on Mar 23, 2016

Just as surely as the days start getting longer and warmer as the calendar flips into Spring, we begin to get antsy as Samsung and Apple start their annual rollout of new phones.  Not content with last year’s “must have” technology, we usually raid the Spring Break trip fund to pad Samsung’s and Apple’s bottom line by buying their latest and greatest.  This year was no different.  When Samsung revealed the latest incarnation of its immensely popular Galaxy S line of phones, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge,  the question for us was not “if we should buy?”, but “when can we buy?”.  And so, after dispensing no small amount of digital currency from our smart wallet (more on that gadget in a subsequent article), we bought the beautiful and curvy Galaxy S7 Edge.

 

Now we promise we are not geeky pervs, but, out of the box, we have to admit that the S7 Edge is one sexy smart phone.  It is sleek and thin with the beautiful and vibrant display curving around both sides of the phone.  The immediate effect that we noticed is that the viewing experience, whether internet, photos, videos, or even e-mail, is more immersive.  The two-sided curved screen gives the impression of a never ending display that seems to lift the contents off the screen.  The glass and metal body of the phone gives it a sturdy feel without being heavy.  The 5.5 inch display is smaller than Phil’s previous huge Note 5 display but about the same as Bill’s iPhone 6Plus display, but not as large as Bill’s other phone the S6 Edge+.  Phil thought he would have trouble adjusting to a smaller display, but the curved aspect of the display sort of masks its smaller size.  Furthermore, the S7 Edge is a good fit for your hand (even if you happen to have smallish hands like a certain presidential candidate).

s7edge

So the S7 Edge won us over with its sexy looks; but was it smart?  In a word, “Yes!”.  The S7 Edge, running the latest version of Android, Marshmallow, is quick and powerful.  The battery life, which always seems to be a problem with our phones, so far has been phenomenal.  Other reviews that we have read tout a 20-hour battery life.  We haven’t pushed it that far, but we have not dipped passed 50% for day-long activity.  One of the first things we did was to put in a security lock code (as everyone should do to protect your privacy and security).  We were very pleased to try the fingerprint authentication to unlock the phone which works very well.  Also, the camera, as is the case on most recent Samsung phones, takes stunning photos and videos.

The Smart Home Evolution

Post by Phillip Hampton on Mar 2, 2016

We’ve tried smart phones, smart watches, smart shoes, even smart socks; so we thought it was time to bring this smartness home, literally. From the plethora of connected devices now appearing on retail store shelves, it is quite apparent that the era of the “smart home” has arrived. The choices are myriad and a little overwhelming, so our advice is to do like we did and take one step at a time. In other words, we decided to take an evolutionary approach and make our homes smart by introducing new devices and teaching new tricks a little bit at a time. We call this the “smart home evolution”; and it is in full swing with many new exciting things coming down the pike.

51SngfqS5kL[1]The first thing we have noticed about the evolving smart home market is that there are a lot of players with competing products as we witnessed at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Iris, Wink, Insteon, WeMo, Philips are just a few of the major players in this market and all have similar product offerings. There is no law that says you have to use devices from only one brand; however, product integration (smart lights, for example) can be easier when they are all of the same brand controlled through a central hub. Probably the most common smart device that many consumers have already been using quite a bit is the smart thermostat, which provides a touch screen interface, Wi-Fi connectivity, programmable controls, and “learning” capability. The popular Nest thermostat (now owned by Google) has been around for a few years and is very easy to install and operate. The Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is another popular option that we have been using. It has many cool features, but to be honest, the only “smart” feature that we use quite a bit is the ability to adjust the temperature setting remotely via a smartphone app. We most certainly will get around to “training” the thermostat to predict our daily temperature preferences; but alas we are too busy programming all of our other home gadgets.

Bill and Phil CES 2016 Review

Post by Phillip Hampton on Jan 25, 2016

CES_logo1Once again we have just returned from the annual Vegas geek fest known as CES (Consumer Electronics Show). The Las Vegas Convention Center and surrounding hotels were packed to the gills with 170,000+ tech enthusiasts from all over the world. It’s at CES where you see the technology that you can’t exactly purchase…yet. Indeed, some of the tech gadgets, software and hardware that we see on display at the glitzy show never make it to retail shelves. But many of the concepts on display are snapped up by buyers and become hits in the tech world and in our homes and offices. Although we haven’t perfected a system for guessing what the winners and losers will be, we can discern tell-tale trends in the tech industry at large by surveying the vast CES exhibit floor. So, again this year, we donned our comfortable shoes, downloaded the CES exhibit map on our smart phones, and proceeded to log record step counts on our new Fitbit devices as we traversed much of the 2 million+ square feet of exhibit space at CES 2016. From our observations, here are the current tech trends that are most apparent to us:

Bill & Phil’s 2015 Stocking Stuffers

Post by Phillip Hampton on Dec 10, 2015

Ho Ho Ho. Santa called us and wanted some ideas for cool tech stocking stuffers. Seems like that’s what all the kids are wanting these days (us included). So we just made a list of some of our favorite gadgets that will fit nicely in your stocking (and in your budget).

FitBit Charge (www.fitbit.com): We’ve experimented with all sorts of wearables, but really all we need is something that will track our activity, provide basic notifications, and, oh yeah, tell us what time it is. The FitBit Charge fits the bill nicely. The wristband is unobtrusive and comfortable. The battery life is great (7-10 days). And the wireless synch to the FitBit app provides a real-time dashboard of our activity throughout the day. So, forget the expensive “smart watches”, this is all we need for a cool $99.

Samsung Gear VR (www.samsung.com): If your special someone has a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, you can get this accessory to experience virtual reality right from your phone. With this headset (and your Galaxy phone), you can participate in games and watch movies in a 360° immersive virtual reality view. The Gear headset is $99.

Logitech K480 Bluetooth Keyboard (www.logitech.com/k480): This Bluetooth keyboard is one of our favorite gadgets for typing on all of our computer devices. With the K480 you can pair the keyboard with up to 3 different devices (maybe your smartphone, tablet, and PC). A selector then lets you choose which device you want to control via the keyboard. No more unpairing, re-pairing as we move from one device to the next. It works on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices and costs $50.