Galaxy Gear Fit Impressions

I’ve been using my Galaxy Gear Fit for a couple of weeks now. It was a bit of an impulse buy, on offer with O2, so I grabbed myself one. I prefer the look and feel of the Gear Fit vs the Neo or the Gear 2, and it’s definitely a much nicer device to wear on a day to day basis than the original Galaxy Gear.

For me it’s the style of the watch that I like. It’s small and compact and looks smart, giving a solid two to three days of battery life. Throw in the added water resistance and Samsung have really gotten themselves a winner.

When it comes to screen size, the Gear Fit is unusual, but work pretty well. I have my display oriented vertically, making my notifications and menus much easier to navigate through. Speaking of notifications, I don’t really use the watch much for them. Granted it’s handy to be able to see who is calling, or why my phone just vibrated, but for me they are an added bonus.

S-Health is a great complimentary piece of software for the Gear Fit, tracking your heart rate, steps walked, calories burned, sleep patterns and exercise. It’s nice to have these stats in one place, and you can chose when your Gear and phone sync up. I must admit however, the software still has leaps and bounds to go before it is any real use. Right now it’s more of a handy little link up to store your information, but you can’t do a massive amount with it.

So that’s it really, short and sweet. As I mentioned, this is a fantastic watch, and by far my favourite wearable so far. It suits me perfectly as I was looking for a nice looking watch, that had added functionality thrown in. Is it for everyone? No, but if like me, you want a nice watch, that can also link with your phone, then go ahead and take the plunge.

Samsung Galaxy Gear Review

Introduction

The Samsung Galaxy Gear, an intriguing bit of kit and perhaps one of the smartest wearables out there. With competition hotting up and wearables fighting to become relevant in the market place how does the Gear hold up?

Look and Feel

To start with, its a lovely looking device. Its sleek and elegant with a gorgeous premium feel to it. The screen is a good size and the metal surround looks fantastic.

The strap isn’t to my taste, an off rubberised texture that has started to irritate my wrist after a few days of use. I wish Samsung had opted for a metal finish for their strap as the current one really takes away from the premium look.

While we are on the subject of strap the clasp on the bottom is pretty large. This houses the speaker for the Gear and due to it being beneath your wrist it really gets in the way. I constantly found myself getting caught against desk edges or on keyboards and the clasp makes the Gear extremely uncomfortable for everyday use.

Another issue I found with the design is the camera location. I would have much preferred a front facing camera for video calls, instead we have a very large and obvious camera located on the front of the wrist band. Great if you desperately need to snap a quick picture but people will throw a fair few questioning glances at your Gear when they spot your spy camera.

User Interface

Its pretty basic yet intuitive at the same time. Lift your arm up towards you and the Gear will spring to life, by far my favourite feature. Swipe to the left to show notifications or continue scrolling for other apps.

You can also set quick gestures, for example the pre set gesture, swipe down from the top of the screen and your camera will power up, swipe up and your phone dialer will pop up. These gestures are welcome when it comes to such a tiny screen.

Normally I wouldn’t touch on this subject here but I feel sound quality needs a mention. Its good, very good in fact. During a call I could hear everything clearly even when I was in a relatively noisy area. Those around me fed back that all they could hear was muffles which allowed the call to remain private. I didn’t expect this device to be any good during calls and must admit I’m pleasantly surprised.

Camera

As I mentioned already I would have preferred a front facing camera, however Samsung opted to give us a spy camera shooter. To be honest the camera is OK, its not good, its not bad. I can’t see many occasions where you would want to use it but for some it is handy.

The major issue I have with the camera is that its relatively large and adds some bulk to the device. It also stands out like a sore thumb, with many people asking why I have a camera on my watch and giving me weird disapproving looks. I can see where they’re coming from, I mean what kind of person needs a secret camera on their watch?

Battery

I’ve heard some horror stories about the Gears battery. I managed a consistent and solid two days on my Gear between charges. Its not fantastic but its better than expected.

A word of warning for potential buyers. The Gear has to be charged in its unique cradle which doesn’t make charging on the go as easy as I’ve had liked. The reason for this is to remove the need for micro USB ports on the device itself, a trade off I wish Samsung hadn’t made.

What I liked

It does a lot more than the competition currently does and saves a lot of battery on my phone. Whenever my phone buzzes I can check wherever or not its worth while looking in more detail with a quick glance at my watch.

What I disliked

It’s uncomfortable. I thought that with a little time I would get used to wearing the Gear but I’m still very conscious its there. Its just a little too bulky in the wrong places. The clasp on the bottom ruins the device completely in my opinion, sticking out and catching far too much.

Conclusion

I really want to love the Gear but I just can’t bring myself to fall for it. Its gorgeous and well built but some of the trade offs that Samsung made are far too obvious to ignore.

The lack of compatibility also causes issues, confusing many potential customers. Unless you are sporting one of the latest Samsung Galaxy phones then you are out of luck.

The Gear feels like a gimmick at the moment with a fair bit of potential. In my opinion it just isn’t yet ready for prime time and my recommendation would be to wait for the second generation of the Gear.

CES 2014

So CES is just around the corner and I must admit I’m intrigued to see what this years show has to offer.

I’m sure we will see a whole range of wearable tech being shown off with manufacturers battling to be the first to get this right. So far no one has really brought a product to market that has had a large market appeal so 2014 could prove to be exciting for wearables.

Tablets have my attention. I’m tired of the increasing specs and what I really want to see is something with a larger screen. Samsung are rumoured to be working on something around the 12 inch mark. With bezels getting smaller there’s so much more room to increase screen size. We’ve seen it happen with mobile phones so fingers crossed that will translate into the tablet market.

My Top 10 Gadgets 2013

Below is a list of my top 10 favourite gadgets that I used throughout 2013. I got to play with a whole load of different toys and enjoyed most of those. Check out my thoughts below and click the links for more details in Amazon.

1: Macbook Pro Retina 13 inch 

 

Recently I took the plunge and upgraded from my 11 inch Macbook Air and I’m very glad I did. The Macbook Pro is a stunning machine. Its fast, responsive and above all the screen is beautiful.  

I’m no Apple fan boy, far from it in fact, but I’ve got a place in my heart reserved for MacBooks. So far my pro has served me well and is a fantastic step up from my Macbook Air. I love the larger screen size and the retina display is to die for. 

The device just feels premium and is everything I could ask for. For what I need, the Macbook Pro Retina is perfect and I would recommend it above everything else. True love has been found in 2013. 

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 was my personal phone for the best part of 2013 and I loved it. I recently changed to the Sony Xperia Z1 and find that I miss the screen size and stylus from my Note. Even it’s cheaper plastic finish isn’t enough to put me off, in fact its a bonus, making the device light weight. The Note 2 is easily my favourite phone that I used in 2013. 

Sony hit a niche market with this product. The camera on my phone is one of the biggest features I use and now with the QX10 lens I don’t really need to worry about the camera quality onboard my chosen phone. The device has god battery, is small and compact and relatively easy to use even for an amateur like myself.  

The zoom is absolutely fantastic and snapping pics in low light conditions is amazing. The lens far exceeds any dedicated camera built into a smart phone that I have used so far and that includes the Nokia Lumia 1020. 

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So I felt it was time to upgrade my graphics card in 2013 and I’m glad I did. This was the first year that I played some big name single player games from start to finish and actually enjoyed them. Games like Bioshock Infinite ran like a dead dog on my previous card but after installing my GTX 680 it ran like a dream. 

Nvidias physx also added a little spice compared to my previous AMD card. Its nothing to really shout about but there were a few noticeable differences in certain games that caught my eye, the biggest being in Planet Side 2 with its oddly beautiful teleporter effects. 

2013 was the year that I returned to dedicated portable gaming hardware thanks to Pokemon’s lure. I had always used a tablet or phone for casual gaming, singing the devices praises and condemning portable gaming hardware, saying how redundant it was. It wasn’t until I returned to true hardware controls that I realised how wrong I had been. 

The 3DS is a lovely size and very comfortable to hold. Its got a great sized screen and has a pretty good catalogue of games. I’m glad I made the move back to a portable console and couldn’t be more impressed with this device. 

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I have a love hate relationship with Sony. I want to love their products but I’ve always been unlucky in the past with all my Sony branded products going faulty. So with great reluctance I gave up my note 2 and got myself an Xperia Z1. 

Am I glad I did? Kind of. The camera is hit and miss, half of the time it takes better quality photos than I’ve ever taken before, the other half it captures horrid blurs. It feels so solid and premium unlike most Android devices which is a welcome change and the waterproof feature actually works! Its beyond fast, responding like lightning and very rarely lagging. 

The downside is its huge and my device is already faulty which is a real shame. I’ve had it exchanged and the second unit was faulty so it appears my bad luck with Sony has continued. 

The Nexus 7 is my tablet of choice at the moment. Its a relatively low cost, yet powerful device. Sporting pure Android with no manufacturer interference leaves the Nexus running blazingly fast. 

Its light weight and feels great in the hand, its rubberised back and sides stopping it from sliding all over the place and making it easier to grip. The screen size is both a positive and a negative, small enough for light browsing, gaming and work but too small for anything more. 

Overall I’m impressed with the Nexus and have so far enjoyed using it on the train to work.  

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Ah the iPad mini. This would easily be my device of the year if it wasnt for a certain software update. The iPad mini feels and looks fantastic. The screen size is perfect for on the go work and gaming. Its not too big and not too small, the best tablet size I have used. The battery life was good and it ran smoothly, never skipping a beat. 

So what changed? iOS 7 landed, turning my iPad mini into a horribly slow device. My iPad was so slow it had become unbearable to use. I understand that older Apple hardware begins to run terribly slow as new software updates land but the iPad Mini was still a current device at the time of iOS 7. In my opinion this was a terrible move by Apple. 

I miss my iPad mini as it was easily the best tablet I have ever used. After the way Apple destroyed my device I don’t think I’ll be taking the plunge and updating to the latest model. 

My first Windows 8 tablet. There is huge potential from these hybrid devices but I still don’t feel like any manufacture has gotten dit right so far. I really enjoyed my time with the Ativ Smart PC Pro but it ultimately felt like a jack of all trades. As a tablet it was average and as a laptop it was average. 

The keyboard dock was plagued with disconnection issues and as tablet the device was just too big and bulky. The thing that really killed my experience was Windows 8 which offered a very jarring experience. Modern UI and desktop mode just don’t fit together at all killing any seamless experience you would expect from a device such as this. 

The concept is sound and the potential is massive but I can’t help but feel that these hybrid devices are just lacking. 

So I mentioned already that I have a love hate relationship with Sony and the same applies with the Xperia Tablet Z. I loved the feel of it. Its so slim, with a beautiful screen and gorgeous matte finish. Its probably the nicest looking Android tablet out there. 

However its incredibly slow. Almost everything I did on the device was laggy unless I installed a custom launcher. Web browsing was poor and just navigating menus was slow. I’m not entirely sure what Sony did to this device to make it respond so poorly! Needless to say my time was short lived with this device.

 

 

Wearable Tech

So wearable tech seems to be all the rage right now. We have Google Glass just around the corner and wrist watches that pair up with our smartphones. Despite the torrent of new devices flooding the market I’m yet to be blown away by any.

There’s a few nice little devices I’ve played with. I’m intrigued by Samsung’s Galaxy Gear but it’s lack of compatibility is pretty disappointing. It’s got a whole range of features but I really don’t fancy changing my phone just to use a smart watch. I’ve had a good play with the Gear and it’s a very responsive device. The camera is pretty good quality but I can’t understand why it doesn’t just have a front facing camera instead? I’m sure Samsung will address the devices short comings with the Galaxy Gear 2 and hopefully throw in some compatibility with other devices.

On the other hand we have Sony’s Smart Watch which is compatible with most Android devices but it lacks features. It’s really a fancy second screen for your smartphone with no real ability to interact with whats happening on your device. You get a notification and in order to interact you have to pull out your smartphone. Pointless really.

I’ve just backed the Neptune Pine on Kickstarter. It’s a nice looking device with loads of potential. It can do pretty much everything my smartphone can but it is a little large. It can be used as a phone thats strapped to your wrist or you can download a companion app onto your smartphone and use the Neptune Pine as a feature packed smart watch. It’s a powerful little beast and packs a front facing camera so video calls on the go could get interesting. I’ll get my device sometime in January so I’ll write a review on it when it arrives.

2013 hasn’t been a fantastic year for wearable tech but I believe 2014 will see a massive range of devices storming into the market and hopefully they will be far better than what we have on offer right now.

Samsung Ativ PC Pro Day by Day

Well my Samsung Ativ PC Pro has just arrived and I’ll be writing my thoughts on the device one day at a time. So far I’m very impressed by it and I look forward to using it more and seeing how it really performs in real world usage. So what will I look at when reviewing this beast?

Samsung

Right now I use a MacBook Air which I absolutely love. Its a great piece of kit and does most things that I need but its getting old and lacks power now. I also love the form factor of something like the Ativ PC Pro and I’m intrigued to see how well it performs as a tablet and also ultrabook. Obviously I do a lot of writing and the Mac has proved to be a great companion for all of my notes and work. I’ll take the Ativ PC Pro for a real spin and see how productive it really can be!

I’ve ordered myself a larger 256GB SSD (http://amzn.to/Z43Ec9) which I will fit into the tablet. This will hopefully be arriving this week and I’ll let you know how well the installation goes!

Day One

I’ve been using the Ativ PC Pro for just over 24 hours now and I must say I’m pleasantly surprised. I felt that I was going to be underwhelmed by this tablet due to the negativity that Windows 8 has received but I’ve got to admit that the OS actually performs very well. The tablet feels premium and performs well handling pretty much everything I’ve thrown at it. I’ve spent most of my time installing my applications and customizing the device but so far I’m impressed.

My first impressions of the OS is that it offers the best of both worlds. On the one hand I have the traditional desktop mode which I’ve spent most time using with my tablet docked in the keyboard. This performs exactly how you would expect from a Windows device. I’ve not had a chance to spend much time with Modern UI but from my brief play it handles well and gives a touch friendly environment. The thing that I love about this device when compared to other tablets is that it offers me everything. There’s no need to worry about where I will download my media content for example, I’ve got the choice to use iTunes or Google Music and I don’t need to worry about converting files. This is a full Windows experience and I love it so far.

So the device itself, what’s it like? Nice, very nice. It’s obviously bigger than your traditional tablet but that suits me just fine. It feels premium and when docked in it’s keyboard it feels and handles like an ultrabook. It’s on the heavy side so one handed use will get uncomfortable after a while and it’s also very long so using this device in portrait seems odd. It has all the ports I require and doesn’t really compromise on anything.

One of the biggest advantages is also the biggest let downs. I went for the Samsung Ativ PC Pro over the Microsoft Surface Pro due to it’s keyboard dock. The keyboard is great to use and the trackpad works well although it is a little on the small side. However the keyboard disconnects that are so widely reported are exceptionally annoying causing the keyboard to disconnect at even the slightest movement. The dock also feels extremely cheap and light which is odd considering how well made the tablet itself feels. It’s a shame that Samsung didn’t really go to the same effort in building the keyboard dock as they did the tablet. What I would have loved to see is something that employs the same materials as the tablet and perhaps uses bluetooth to connect with the tablet to avoid disconnection issues.

I’ve installed a couple of games onto the tablet just to test out how well it handles them. So far I’ve tried out Torchlight 2 and Guild Wars 2 and both games have handled well. As I mentioned I’ve not had a great deal of time yet to really test out the tablet but I’ll get some benchmarks etc in my day 2 experience.

Day Two

Well another day down and I’m still impressed by the Ativ. One thing that has struck me is how well the battery performs. I expected a couple of hours at best but I’ve squeezed over to 5 hours of screen on time and a couple of these were spent playing Guild Wars 2. Considering the power needed to keep this going it doesn’t overheat even when gaming and just keeps on performing.

So when it comes to gaming how well does it actually do it? It’s acceptable but won’t blow your socks off. If you’re looking for something that’s going to act as your gaming machine then look elsewhere, perhaps the Razer Edge? Yes the Ativ can game but it doesn’t deliver stellar performance. My session in Guild Wars was relatively smooth but bear in mind I had to drop all settings to low and lower the resolution to 720. The other problem I faced when gaming with this tablet was the keyboard dock. For whatever reason you cannot use the trackpad simultaneously with the keyboard which makes controlling your character difficult. I just hooked up a bluetooth mouse and problem solved but still it’s just another flaw with the dock.

I also decided to spend a few hours using the Ativ as a tablet because lets face it Windows 8 has been marketed at the touchscreen crowd. Desktop performed reasonably well with only a few icons being too small to hit
but at the end of the day it’s what you would expect. What I really wanted to find out is how well Modern UI performed. It was all lovely, pleasant boring. It just felt like a really dumbed down windows and left me constantly longing for my keyboard and mouse. It’s ok for those occasions when space is limited but in comparison to the likes of Android left me feeling underwhelmed. The other issue with using the Ativ as a tablet only is its weight! After a few minutes of using this I had to rest it somewhere because it is big. It’s also long which makes using it in portrait feel a little bit odd.

So to sum up if you plan on using it as a tablet only it maybe worth looking at other options unless you need the sheer power of this machine. However if like me you want a good mix and a hybrid machine then don’t let my experience of using it as a tablet put you off.

Day Three

I think I’ve got a good grasp of how well this tablet performs now. I went into this wondering if I would be getting rid of my MacBook and using only one device. My expectations were low, Windows 8 hasn’t exactly had a great ride since it’s launch. So what’s the outcome?

I love it! Sure there are things that aren’t up to scratch within the OS but for the most part it does what it needs to and its got a lot of polish and even better it offers a full desktop OS unlike any others offer right now. I can load up all my old applications and also play full PC games on my tablet. No other OS gives me this power right now and that’s where Windows 8 beats Android and iOS hands down.

When it comes to hardware I love pretty much everything about the tablet. It gets a little hot when under heavy load but its not uncomfortable. The biggest let down is the keyboard dock which has an appalling trackpad and is missing so many features. It’s just too light so tips over on non flat surfaces, could have been solved with an additional battery and the disconnection issues… the less said about that the better. If Samsung can manufacture a better dock then this device will be absolutely fantastic.

The tablet market is about to get flooded with Windows 8 devices but in my opinion the Samsung Ativ PC Pro is head and shoulders above the rest. I just really hope that manufactures don’t start pulling out of the Windows 8 space. I thought I was going to hate it but this has been a refreshing experience. It’s a no compromise device and I all I can say is that if you’re in the market for something portable but with power then this is your device.

For a full spec list and current prices check out Amazon for details:

http://amzn.to/Yb7ih6

For a full list of accessories available check out Amazon for details:

http://amzn.to/11Ul2kL