Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Mophie Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL

I would have wanted to buy the iPhone XS Max Smart Battery case. However, when the wife and I and a friend went to the Apple Park Visitor Center, there wasn’t any unit available. Actually, as I write this (July 31, 2019) the soonest that a Smart Battery Case would be available is on September 3. 2019! Apple needs to step up its supply chain game when it comes to the Smart Battery Case!

So, I decided to look for something else, something that will extend the battery life of my iPhone XS Max without the need for a wall outlet.

I looked for a similar thing, a battery case that can attach to my iPhone. However, there wasn’t one that was able to satisfy completely what I was looking for. And also, I had to consider the fact that I have other devices that I have to charge, not just my iPhone XS Max!

So, I decided to get a power bank instead, one that will be able to charge my iPhone, but also my other devices as well.

I decided to get the Mophie Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL.

The Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL has a rating of 10,000 mAh. This means it can theoretically charge my iPhone XS Max less than three times over from empty. However, real-world usage for me meant that I can charge my iPhone at the most 2 to 2.5 times.

As the name implies, this battery pack can charge my iPhone and a lot of newer Android phones wirelessly. It is a convenience that I have grown to love ever since I owned my iPhone XS Max. I rarely charge my phone via wires these days.

However, wireless charging is still a really slow process so, if I want to charge my iPhone quickly, I had to rely on the 2.1A USB port. The good thing? I can actually do wireless charging and wired charging via USB at the same time! This is a boon if you drain two devices at the same time, albeit the wireless charging will be slower…

The Mophie Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL can roughly charge my iPhone XS Max wirelessly 25% after an hour of charging with the screen turned off. If the screen is turned on while it is charging, the process will be significantly slower. A small LED light turns on to tell you that your device is charging. Four LED lights also tell you how much power is left in the battery - four LED lights will tell you that the battery is full, while one LED light means there is only 25% power left.

The Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL has a pretty design and it feels hefty in the hand. However, the plastic that coats the housing of the battery pack tends to attract a lot of lint. This can be a distraction if you are bothered by such things. Well, I am. A bit. Ok, not a bit…

The battery pack can be fast-charged via USB C. And the good thing, it can bypass charging the battery pack if you have something charging on it - this means that, say you are charging the battery pack while you are charging your Android phone on it, the battery pack will charge the phone fully first before it charges the battery pack. This can save you having to look for another socket while you charge two devices!

I made a great choice when I went with this battery pack.

The Mophie Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL is Highly Recommended!

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Apple AirPods 2 Review

I have been fortunate to have my ears fit the earphones that come with iPods and iPhones. Actually, if the environment I am in is not that noisy, then, my default earphone of choice is actually the EarPods. I like the sound, I like the balance between the lows, highs and mids, and the fit in both my ears are perfect.

So, when the AirPods came out, I was greatly interested.

However, for one reason or another, I wasn’t able to get the first generation ones. But with a trip to the US, I made it a point to visit an Apple Store and get the second generation ones.

As to be expected, the AirPods fit my ears nicely, I love the sound, and I love the battery life. I love that my music, from the built-in music app, or from Spotify, and even videos from YouTube, automatically pauses when I pull out one, or both, of the buds. The buds are so comfortable in my ears that I barely notice that they are there - I don’t feel any pain nor any discomfort even if I wear the buds for an extended time. And with a battery life of up to five hours, the AirPods stay in my ears for a long time.

But, yes, the AirPods are not noise-isolating buds so, if the environment gets loud, like on the streets (where I don’t usually wear earphones nor headphones) or in cafes, the noise can leak into your ear and you would have to pump out the volume of the sound you are listening to. That is the only way to overcome outside noise.

But, all-in-all, the AirPods sound way better than the EarPods!

To pair the earphones to your iPhone, just open up the lid and, after some time, a display on your iPhone (or any Apple devices) appears and asks you to pair the earphones. It is that easy! If you are on an android phone, then you pair the AirPods the same way you pair any other pair of bluetooth headsets.

So, I am sold to the AirPods. I love them, and, now that I have them, I can’t live without them.

However, when I bought the AirPods from the Apple Store, the Apple employee actually gave me a case that charges solely via a lightning cable without me noticing. I would have wanted to get the one with the wireless case. So, when we came back home to the Philippines, I gave my not-so-old pair to the wife and I bought a pair with the wireless case.

The wife, also is comfortable with wearing EarPods so the AirPods fit her ear like a glove also! She was blown away by the AirPods and now she also considers it one of her most favorite accessory! For listening to music, for web calls and online meetings, she uses the AirPods solely now!. She loves the AirPods and she can’t live without it now also.

Just like me!

But what can I say about the wireless case? It is a love-hate relationship, to put it mildly…

I have an iPhone XS Max and I rarely charge it via the lightning port now. I use a wireless charger and I just leave it on the charger overnight. So, I was expecting the same kind of convenience when it comes to the AirPods with a wireless charging case. Well…

First of all, the light that tells you that the case is charging turns off after a few seconds. So, you really don’t know if your case is charging or not. I would have wished that Apple designed it so that the amber light is switched on the whole time while the case is charging! The only way for you to know if the case, and AirPods themselves, are fully charged is if you check on your iOS device or on any device the AirPods are paired with. (Unfortunately, I can’t check how it is done on an android device.)

Secondly, I feel that the induction coil in the AirPods case is so small that a slight misalignment from the coil in the charger can cause the charging process to stop. This happened to me a lot of times already - I thought that I have placed the case on my charger properly and, after some time, when I got back, the charger is blinking, signifying that the case was improperly placed. This also meant that, instead of charging the case, it actually had less charge than when I put it on the charger.

Oh, the blinking light can also mean that the metallic hinge of the case has interfered with the induction coil in the charger.

So, when you place you wireless charging case on your wireless charger, make sure that you observe the set up first before you leave. You don’t want to have a depleted case when you go out of the door. You can also use a lightning cable exclusively. This is a more reliable way of charging the case anyway.

So, if you want to save on some cash, just get the case that is charged via a lightning cable. It is more reliable and it charges the case faster. But, if you just want to plunk the case down on a wireless charger that you already have, like myself, then I suggest you get the one with the wireless charging case. Just make sure that the case is properly set first before you leave it for an extended time.

Overall, the wife and I are happy with our AirPods. If you are happy with the way the EarPods fit your ears, then you will be happy with the AirPods.

The Apple AirPods are Highly Recommended!

Get your AirPods accessories from Amazon here!!!

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Fujinon 23mm f/2 all-weather prime lens review

Ever since I started photography, the one thing that keeps me up for several nights before I travel is what kind of lens I was gonna bring. OK, it does not really cause me to lose sleep but I still get a little anxious about my lens choice every time I travel.

However, when I shifted to Fujifilm, I also discovered the Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR. This is a fine piece of lens that, I discovered, is the perfect companion whenever I travel.

In my latest travels to different destinations here in the Philippines, in those occasions, I only brought the 23mm lens with me.

But first, about the lens…

The 23mm f/2 R WR is the lighter variant in Fujifilm’s lens line up. You see, there is an f/1.4 version of the 23mm. The 1.4 maximum aperture affords you more light but it also means you will have to pay more - bigger maximum aperture means bigger price… Also, the 1.4 variant is not weather-sealed, so, if you go to places where it could get dusty, then you will be better off getting the f/2 version. And one last thing, the 1.4 version is heavier than the f/2 one so if you want to go light, then you should choose the latter.

The 23mm f/2 is a small lens but is a chunky one. I mean, it is small but it feels hefty. It is dense and its build quality feels really superb. It tapers towards the front of the lens as this is also designed for Fujifilm’s range-finder type cameras like the Fujifilm X-Pro2. (If this lens didn’t taper towards the front, then you will be able to see the lens in one of the corners of the optical viewfinder.) This means that the 23mm f/2 uses a small filter; it is 43mm actually and it is the smallest filter size I have used so far. I actually had a hard time looking for such a filter in the many camera shops in Metro Manila…

Paired with the Fujifilm X-T3 camera, the lens feels actually small. The chunky size of the X-T3 dwarfs the lens somewhat. If you have a X-T20 or X-T30 or the like, then the lens would feel more at home with your camera body. But this does not mean I don’t like the lens. Quite contrary! I love it because it has a great build quality and because it takes really great photos!

And speaking of photos, I took my Fujifilm X-T3 with the 23mm f/2 lens to four different tourist destinations in the Philippines, two of which are beach destinations. Yes, we are spoiled for having so many beaches!

Paired with the X-T3, the 23mm f/2 forms a weather-sealed camera system! So, I was not even a little worried despite the very fine sand on the beaches of Boracay! Of course you cannot take the camera and lens combo swimming but at least your camera system is protected when it comes to sand and water splashes.

And the photos taken by the 23mm f/2 lens is short of breath-taking. Focusing is also quick so you won’t have to worry about missing a shot. As a matter of fact, I took a photo of a cyclist and the photo produced was tack sharp. And, yes, this lens is also great for portraits!

However, if there’s one thing that I’d like for the 23mm to have, it would be an optical image stabilisation. In all of Fujifilm’s lens line ups, only the new Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 WR Macro has optical image stabilisation. This means that your shutter speed should not be slower than 1/25 of a second. This also means that, when the light goes down, you will have to boost your ISO so you can keep that shutter speed in place. It is thus a good thing that, even at an ISO of 12800, the pictures taken by the X-T3 are still relatively clean! Any slower than 1/25 of a second can mean having the risk of camera shake. And since the Fujifilm X-H1 is the only camera with in-body image stabilisation, you should consider the constraints of shooting with a relatively high slowest shutter speed. If you get what I mean…

But, all-in-all, the Fujinon 23mm f/2 R WR lens is a great lens to have in your collection. It is perfect for street photography, it is perfect for travel photography, it is great for portraiture among others. I even shoot events with it. The build quality is top-notch and the weather sealing can give you some piece of mind when you go places. Also, the price is not that expensive compared to other lenses in the same category.

So for me, having this lens prevents me somewhat from the anxiety of having to choose which lens to bring. I can travel to different locations with only this lens and I will not, have not, regret(ed) it.

Highly Recommended!

Photos of the Fujinon 23mm f/2 R WR and the Fujifilm X-T3 taken with an iPhone XS Max. Some photos post-processed on the iPhone XS Max using the app Snapseed.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The B’Twin InRide 500 Bike Trainer

If you can’t bike outside, if there’s strong rains, strong winds, typhoons, or, if you are in that part of the world where it can get really, really cold, then a bike trainer is a must have. There are also times when, like right after my accident, my doctor forbid me to bike outdoors… Any of those instances above can be the perfect time to do some indoor training to stay fit.

The B’Twin InRide 500 from Decathlon is a very good trainer to have. It costs 10,000 Philippine Pesos (less than 200 US Dollars) so it relatively is not that expensive. You just need a separately sold speed and cadence sensor to pair with your bike computer or, in my case, my Garmin Fenix 5. With those, you can monitor your speed and distance traversed. The speed and cadence sensors are also sold by Decathlon.

The trainer is relatively quiet, is not that heavy (so it can be placed in different locations in your house or apartment) and folds to a relatively small size. However, the unit itself is stable and you won’t feel your bike wobble when you do your seated sprints. I got a bike riser from CycleOps since I want to have a relatively high front wheel when I use the trainer. I don’t want to feel like I am descending the whole time…

Oh, you can get the separately sold mat from Decathlon also.

(Disclaimer: this post is not, in any way, sponsored by Decathlon Philippines!)

And if you are short in space, then, in this video, I demonstrate that it is easy to set up your indoor trainer - just three and a half minutes! And I assure you, it took me that amount of time to fold everything up also. So, if you are short in space, then the area occupied by the trainer can be easily taken back and used for other purposes.

So, if you are in the market for a bike trainer, then check out the B’Twin InRide 500 from Decathlon. It is Highly Recommended!

Equipment used for this post:

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The Garmin Fenix 5 (a repost)

I just finished my first duathlon. The hot sun beating down, the exhaustion, the cramping muscles, the dehydration... I wouldn’t exchange any of those if it meant not being able to participate in the duathlon. And yeah, only serious people would participate in such an event - the duathlon is not for the faint of heart. In the third part of a run-bike-run event, my legs were already cramping that I was forced to walk majority of the 3km event. But despite the pain I was determined to finish the course. It would have been more painful to not finish the 6km run - 27km bike - 3km run course. Not finishing was not an option. And, as I neared the finish line, I decided to give it one last push: I wanted to be seen jogging on video, not hobbling in pain. And the Garmin Fenix 5 was with me the whole way.

During the course, the Garmin Fenix 5 was prompting me were my heart rate was: it was telling me that I was already at the 75% of my maximum heart rate, at 95%, even when I got to 110% of my maximum heart rate. I also wore a chest strap heart rate monitor that’s connected to my bike computer and the heart rate reading of the two devices were fairly consistent.

I was so happy also that, for my first duathlon, I was able to use the Fenix 5. With its multi-sport mode transitioning from the run to the bike and back to the run were very easy. I didn’t need to stop and start the app on my watch - something that I would have been required to do if I still used my previous watch - I just needed to press the lap button and I’m off to the next part of the event. The transition part is also included in the duathlon app and the time I spent in the transition wasn’t included in the overall time of my accomplishment.

It was a really sunny morning with no cloud in sight but I wasn’t worried even if I was suddenly caught in a downpour. The Fenix 5’s water resistance would fend of any rain easily. Actually, even if I decided to take it swimming up to 100 meters deep, the Fenix 5 would be fine.

The Garmin Fenix 5 is a sizable watch. No one will be able to mistake this for a small watch. (More so the Fenix 5X!)m However, it was still a very comfortable watch to wear. I didn’t think it was too heavy nor too large. For me, the size of the Fenix 5 is just right and the weight and heft of the watch didn’t bother me at all especially during my run.

GPS tracking was spot on and the path the I ran and biked really hugged the roads. Well, considering the duathlon happened on an essentially open space helped the GPS tracking very much. However, If I ran on my neck of the woods, so to speak, the buildings mar the area and GPS mapping could be slightly off.

However, for me, the thing that makes the Garmin Fenix 5 a truly super sports watch are the data you get after an event. When you stop sports tracking, say a run, the watch will give you a lot of data about the run. For example, it will tell you whether your run was a productive one or not. This is because you may be overtraining (you are not having enough recuperation time) and you are doing more harm than good to your body. You will also be told what is your performance condition, a metric that tells you about your “ability to perform compared to your average fitness level”. This performance condition may also be a symptom of fatigue...

And speaking of fatigue, the Fenix 5 will also tell how much time to recover! In the case of my last duathlon, it told me that the next intense exercise that I should do should be 4 days after the said event. Otherwise, I only should do really light exercises, one that really doesn’t elevate my heart rate.

Well, I didn’t exercise at all and just did some “normal” pace walking!

Under the beating sun, the display of the Fenix 5 was very much visible. Ironically, when indoors and when you use the watch’s backlight, the display gets washed out... This watch is really meant to be used outdoors!

On the night before the event, I hardly was able to sleep because of all the excitement. And since the Fenix 5 also tracks sleep automatically, the device showed how much I slept. Unfortunately, I think the Fenix 5 is not as good as other devices in sleep tracking. For example, say I get up to, ahem, pee at 5am, go back to sleep and then finally rise at 6:30am, when I sync the watch with the iOS app, the app shows that I didn’t go back to sleep after 5am. So, I had to edit the app entry so as to get a more precise sleep measurement.

Also, sleeping with a biggish watch is something that takes some getting used to…

But, the good thing is, the Fenix 5 is more precise in measuring my resting heart rate, something that is comparable to the Apple Watch and to my Omron BP monitor. Another brand of fitness tracker that I am using overestimates my resting heart rate, something that I told the company about but something that they chose to ignore...

The battery life of the Fenix 5 is really good! In my 2.5 hours of duathlon, the battery was deducted only less than 10% of battery life. That’s a GPS activity mind you! So, by ratio and proportion, the GPS life of the Fenix 5 will round to 25 hours, something that is advertised in the Garmin website! The battery life in watch mode is rated at two weeks, though, because of my activities, I usually charge the Fenix 5 after every 8-9 days. Still not bad at all!

The Garmin Fenix 5 came at a very opportune time. Good thing I had it right before my Duathlon.

The Garmin Fenix 5 is highly, highly recommended!


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