Garmin Vivoactive HR review

If you do not bother to read the whole article, then this is a main take away points:

GOOD

  1. Battery life
  2. Accuracy
  3. The clock can be set up automatically.
  4. USB port
  5. Custom apps
  6. Auto-generated challenges
BAD

  1. Pairing
  2. Bluetooth sync is challenging
  3. Unique USB port
  4. Garmin Support channels are useless as they provide ads but not support.
  Summary. This watch brings back happiness to do more and more steps and activities that I lost when I was using Fitbit Surge. It simply works and allows you to do the day out activity anywhere .. even abroad. It is not perfect though and it has few more issues than forerunner 220.

 

STORY

I used Fitbit Surge but I got fed up with. (If you are interested, you can check my review on my IT blog: Fitbit Surge Review.  In shortcut. Fitbit struggles with work on GPS for 10 hours and measurements were flaky in the beginning  ( it gets much better over time). Smart light woke me up many times during sleep. Changing time was f.. nightmare. Pairing was a pain in the ass on Windows. There were many bugs with the website. It annoys me to level that I just give up care about it. It was one reason why I gave up on being fit. (Like Runkeeper app 6 years ago).

I wanted to go back to fit and I decided to back to Garmin as I used Garmin Forerunner 220 in the past. Time to another advertisement .. if you interested in  “After 1-year review ” can be found here:  Garmin forerunner 220 everyday review and impression after one year of usage. I was thinking about Garmin Forerunner 235 or Garmin Vivoactive HR. I did some research and it turns out that Garmin Vivoactive HR is better in my case. Why?

I look for an activity tracker that :

  • The watch must work ~10 hours using GPS (to be able to walk a marathon or be able to do many walks on a weekend out.
  • It must have built-in HRM.
  • Accurate measurement of steps and distance
  • Silent alarm so it will wake me up but not my son.
  • Easy pairing with application/website.
  • Lots of stats.

From various reviews, I got into conclusion that Garmin Vivoactive HR will suit me more as Garmin Forerunner 235 better for running while Garmin Vivoactive HR focus on keeping you active.

FIRST IMPRESSION

It came in the small compact box. As always I will skip unboxing video of middle age getting exciting about a new toy. The first impression with this watch is exactly opposite to Fitbit Surge. It was ready to use in few minutes. ( I spent few hours before I was able to use Fitbit).

  • Watch works out of the box!
  • It setup time using GPS (Something that Fitbit cannot do!)
  • Install Garmin Express. No problem.
  • Update devices. No problem.
  • Pairing is the biggest pain in the ass in Garmin. There is a tricky way to do it and it works.

MY DAILY EXPERIENCE

  • The battery is fantastic. I am impressed that watch can hold very long on battery. I went for walk for more 5 hours and there was plenty battery left. Even if you are using GPS, Bluetooth then the battery will last for many hours. I used to watch for a week and occasionally use GPS and it was OK.  Fitbit struggles badly with a heavy load for more than 6’ish hours. Forerunner 220 battery is enough for around 8hours of heavy load. Vivoactive didn’t have any problem with the weekend out where I used for more than 9 hours in total. For the size of the watch and under heavy load. I charge this watch up to 2 times per week. In comparison to the similar workload. I got a similar result on Forerunner 220 but I needed to do 3 to 4 times on Fitbit. Once I was stuck for 8 days abroad and I still have 19% battery left.
  • Sync via Bluetooth is challenging and it is very annoying. It works .. sometimes. It gets much better and better with each update but it still sucks.
  • Web application works much better than was before. It went off-line once for few hours. Garmin support couldn’t be bothered to provide any information.
  • (Vibration) Alarm clock works well.
  • The screen is clear and sharp. It usable in normal condition, swimming and foggy conditions. Touch is good but not great. It feels cumbersome in responding sometimes. It works underwater too … more-less. During swimming, i saw press any key message (to unlock ) appear every few seconds.
  • USB charge works well. can but if you lost then you are screwed. However, it is very stable when u con.
  • My biggest problem was with pairing device with Android devices. I took me 2 hours with tablet and few minutes with Huawei phone. I got annoyed that I couldn’t be connected with tablet and I thought that probably you can connect this shit in the toilet only … and for laugh, i decided to try … and guess what .. it pairs without a problem ! I was shocked. From the test, I perform u can pair device without problem when phone/tablet has internet access but there are none Bluetooth devices nearby.
  • The only problem I had was with the plug-in. For some reason, it works on USB 2.0 but not on USB 3.0 ( However, most devices struggle with this port on my old laptop.
  • Another problem I had with pair watch with a tablet. It took me 2 hours to figure out how to pair.

SUMMARY

This watch brings back happiness to do more and more steps and activities that I lost when I was using Fitbit Surge. It simply works and allows you to do the day out activity anywhere .. even abroad. It is not perfect though and it has few more issues than forerunner 220 but overall I really enjoyed and I recommend to everybody who wants keep yourself active. In comparison, Fitbit Surge is a hipster “MVP” toy that simulates activity tracker.

 

My thoughts on Star Trek Discovery Season 1

If you do not bother to read the whole article, then this is a main take away points:

GOOD

  1. Plot
  2. On average episodes in the first season are much better than episodes in other TV series.
  3. Space shots
  4. Cast and character development
  5. Sound effects
  6. Intro
  7.  Hugh-Paul relationship
  8. Klingon subtitles
BAD

  1. Klingons
  2. Seasons Finale
  3. After Trek
  4. “Fans”
  5. Mind-meld as Intergalactic Whatsapp
  Summary. It was the best first season in Star Trek history. In my opinion Star Trek: Discovery has consistently good or great episodes. The cast is fantastic. The character development is excellent. Plots are interesting with exception of Klingons. There is still the spirit of Star Trek despite new approach and re-design. Space shots are spectacular but some bits like the battle in binary stars looks shit. It is a great first season worth to watch twice.

I just finished watching Star Trek Discovery second time and I am impressed. I feel it was It was the best first season in Star Trek history not perfect but I don’t expect perfection anyway. In this post I want to share my thoughts about Episodes, Plot, Cast and lose opinion about the first season.

 

Episodes

I already said my opinion about prologue episodes here: https://dominiksymonowicz.com/2017/09/29/my-quick-thoughts-on-new-star-trek-discovery/ First proper episode (episode 3) was good. I like the spooky ambience of this episode with the very interesting plot of the rescue of the USS Gleen. I like how the cast of Discovery was introduced. I was really confused about behaving of USS Discovery’s crew but by end of the season I understood and I like it. The fifth episode is worth mention as It has good elements but many things bored me or annoyed me because the idea was great but the execution was terrible.

  • F-word bomb sounds like a great idea to use in Star Trek. There were many opportunities where Tilly could use it. Sadly, however … in this instance was … pointless. It didn’t add any value. It sounds like teenager got excited before taking some drugs for the first time. It annoyed me.
  • The story was poor.  The way how the captain was kidnap was crap and the way how they find ship was … even more, crap.
  • Luckily, however … character development in this episode was fantastic. Doctor, Paul Stamets, Ash and Saru.
  • Spore drive animation looks cool.

The sixth episode was one of the worst in this series. Why? Well, mind-meld as Intergalactic Whatsapp? Really? Self-destructive Vulcan. The story in this episode was uninteresting. At least this episode has a decent special effect. Good news is that after not so good episode was a great episode with Mudd. I am not a fan of time loop type episodes but I must admit this one was good.  The plot was interesting. I like when the story has sometimes connected with the previous event and it adds some character development.

The eight-episode was one of the classic style episodes of the Star Trek and it was great.  Episode  9 was mid-season finally and it is one of the best episodes in the series. It has a fantastic well-paced plot. You can feel drama and tension in the scene when Hugh asked Tilly “How many jumps” .. .96 … I enjoyed being very engaged while watching this episode. I really like Hugh-Paul relation plot and talk about long-term rape and abuse. I wish season finally be at least half good as this one.

I wait for ages to see episode 10 and it was worth it. It is another one of the best episodes in this series. The story starts slowly and speeds up very quickly. Only thing I didn’t like in this season Ash-Micheal relationship. I feel it was unnecessary. I wish they explore a more of Hugh-Paul relationship. I must admit the way how Capital Lorca character is developed is just amazing  I admire Jason Isaacs for his play.

Episode 11 wasn’t as good as 2 previous episodes but It was still very good. The plot was fantastic especially around reveal the truth of Ash/Voq. We finally see emperor – an evil Philippa Georgiou. My only problem was with landing party sequence which looks stupid. It was awesome to see other races from the cannon like Andorian.

The 12th episode was spectacular. I like how they reveal the truth about Lorca and I like Voq story with exception of ‘Ash fix’. Episode ending was one of the best.

And then … last 3 episodes happen.

Episode 13 was a very good episode but it was way too short and after watching Episode 14 and 15 I was very disappointed about it. It could be a fantastic 3 episodes with excellent finale but It was ruined by lighting fast rushing epilogues in a chaotic manner.

Stories in last 2 episodes were very .. stress-free. They were no drama. Everything went smoothly and without any continuity. They show a plan for attack Klingon’s homeworld in episode 14 and in 15th they did something else without any reasonable explanation behind it. Some part gets even boring caused by ‘endless hours’ of boring relationship chats. The epilogue of some interesting mini plots was rushed and disappointing (Klingon war, Emperor and so on). I feel very perplexed about Seasons finale. It had an amazing potential if they spend much more thoughts on the season finale. I am aware that this was probably many issues behind the scene but it is shame. However last 3 episodes have good bits too.

  • The last scene with the appearance of Star Trek Enterprise was sublime.
  • One of my favourite moments in this episode was a chat between Emperor and Sarak about their ‘child’.
  • Quite a few nice space shots! Finally!
  • I like cadet Tilly for her humour scenes ( for example: chat with Emperor)
  • Speeches. Saru’s speech was powerful and meaningful. I like Burham speech.
  • The extra bit of section 31 and Emperor that haven’t been included in the episode but shows in social media should be there.

 

Overall. I enjoyed most of the episodes.

My favourite episodes were 9 and 10 because of an engaging plot with good pace. The worst one was 6th episode.

PLOT

I think Arc storytelling in this season was great despite some bumps with the story, especially around season finale. I like the idea of the season-wide plot and a few parallel mini-plots. It makes stories in this season meaningful. It allows characters to be developed over time based on events that are connected to each other. Continuity adds an interesting twist to the stories which make them are fantastic. It makes Deep Sleep 9 a great shows when they introduce dominion war. Xindi season makes Enterprise show much more very interesting in comparison to occasional temporal cold war. It works very well for Discovery too.

There are a few glitches with sticking to canon. They cocked up Klingon and intergalactic mind-meld and they could easily be being avoided. It is shame that Klingons universe wasn’t explored in any meaningful way. The idea itself is great.It will be great to explore other major races and their culture. I love it. Execution of this idea was .. well .. rubbish.  I like how Voq was revealed but L’Rell was a most underused character in the series.  It has such a potential that was wasted due to what it looks like the abandoned idea of Klingons story. Luckily ‘real plot’ was about Lorca on his quest to back to his universe to become an emperor. This part was sublime. Little references here and there make this season worth watching twice.  like how they show evil version of the characters.

I believe the 2nd season will be much better because I think all threads in the arc will be more cohesive as I hope there will no drama as it was in season 1.

CAST

I am really impressed how all characters have been developed over time. It was a problem in other TV series with characters like  B. Crusher, Doctor Bashir, Ensign Kim and especially Enterprise where the cast was plain and uninteresting except maybe Archer, Phlox and Soval.

    Michael Burnham – I cannot verbalise why but I am struggling to like and enjoy this character. When I see scenes with Michael I feel bored and disconnected. Sonequa Martin-Green played exceptionally well and character development is great but … I don’t like it and what worse I cannot explain why.  Saru in other hand is the best character in terms of development. Doug Jones is an outstanding actor. I feel like he is a Kelpien not human. Ash Tyler/ Voq is another great character. In the way how it develops over time and how is true identity was revealed was great and how he deals with a multi-race personality disorder.  I didn’t like Michael-Ash relationship part. There were boring for me (It doesn’t mean there are bad, it is just not my cup of the tea).  Paul Stamets is another awesome character. I really liked his transformation from a pain in the ass nerd to enlighten entity. His relationship with Hugh was much more interesting that Michal-Ash one. Sylvia Tilly is a millennial generation version of Wil Wheaton. She has very warm-heart personality with lots funny scenes.  Captain Gabriel Lorca played by Jason was exceptional.

The even recurring character was great like Admiral Cornwell, Sarak, background bridge cast and especially Dr Hugh Culber and Captain/Emperor  Philippa Georgiou. It amazed how I was attached to this Captain/Emperor  Philippa Georgiou and when he was killed and it makes me very upset. Michelle Yeoh – I think it was a great double character as it shows that depends on how you use wisdom and skills result can be completely different. I feel crew need 1-2 crew members.

 

My loose opinion

  • The intro is stunning. I like visual aesthetic with beautiful music. It is not traditional intro but I feel it has Star Trek spirit without being traditional ‘copy and paste’.
  • After Trek was a great idea but the execution was annoying and unwatchable for me. The show was presented by Matt Mira who was like some hipster after hallucinations drugs living in the happy universe. I hope people enjoy watching Matt Mira and it is just me.
  • Biggest problems are orthodox fans who are so closed minded that it has a negative impact on the show. These fans just focus on ‘shit storm’.  They moaning about everything for example  “These ships are too big for this era” .. Well why not? We haven’t seen all ships in the universe another things most advanced does not mean it must be the biggest ship ever built. There tons of this rubbish that can be canon if you use a bit of imagination which most of these fans lack.
  • Klingons. I can understand outrage with Klingons. It was a great idea for a plot but I didn’t understand this war and why Klingons suddenly became terrorist like race.
  • I hope they will have more stand-alone episodes (where they can develop character a little bit instead of 20 minutes chat chat chat like during episode 14).
  • Many ships design are astonishing. USS Discovery, USS Gagarin, USS Shenzhou. For example Shot of the USS Enterprise 1701 was astonishing and breathtaking.
  • Space shots were spectacular but they were not enough of them. Another disappointment was space battles. They were a rubbish.  I hate binary stars battle especially. Luckily there were many great shots like the arrival of USS Enterprise, spore jumps
  • I like the consistency of secondary cast on the bridge. In the past, you can see new faces all the time.
  • I really liked that some elements were super confusing like crew behave not as Starfleet normally does and when ‘truth’ reveals many things suddenly has sense.
  • I really like some subtitles references to TOS (especially sounds effects).

SUMMARY

It was the best first season in Star Trek history. In my opinion Star Trek: Discovery has consist developed good or great episodes with fewer that usually ‘pointless season fill’ episodes. Great plot with some bumps. All main characters were well developed including secondary bridge members. The cast was fantastic. Music and sound effects were sublime. Special effects are an extremely mixed bag. Some of them were spectacular. Some of them like battle were rubbish. Sadly, there were not enough of them.

I really enjoyed watching the first season of the Star Trek: Discovery. It is not classical Star Trek and that’s what I am happy about it because it is a modern tv show but it still has a ‘spirit of Star Trek’ and that is a great thing. I am looking forward to seeing the 2nd season in 2019.

 

btw. This blog may contain spoilers.

Huawei Mediapad M3 8.4 daily experience review

This review is for people who are interesting in the daily experience of using Huawei Mediapad M3 8.4. This is not a professional review. so if you looking for synthetic tests, horny teenager unboxing and so on then you can leave this page as you will waste your precious time.

If you do not bother to read the whole article, then this is a main take away points:

GOOD

  1. Great Quality and Value for money.
  2. Screen.
  3. AKG earphones with 128GB version.
  4. You can use as a smartphone but you will look …weird.
  5. Devices get regular minor updates.
  6. Dual Speakers.
  7. Split Screen works great.
  8. Battery life on battery saver if you use the tablet to listen to music and reading/writing, 
BAD

  1. Battery size is mediocre.
  2. Huawei’s virtual keyboard can be annoying because I keep pressing 123 buttons accidentally.
  3. I had some problems with Bluetooth  (resolved in one of the updates).
  4. Speaker position.
  5. Performance is not too good on battery saver. (It got better over time)
  6. Lack of fast charging.
  SUMMARY. It is a decent tablet reasonably priced. It is not perfect as you can see it has few bad parts but the overall experience is great. It is worth its price if you need a tablet for a daily long commute, long-haul trips (well with help of battery saver) and medium-range walks/ hiking.

STORY

When I bought Nexus 9 I knew that the main problem will be RAM as 2 GB was OK in the beginning but a 2 years later it causes lots of troubles and it makes tablet unusable. I needed the new one and I decided to buy a new one.

MY EXPECTATION was:

  • Great screen that will not destroy my eyes
  • Long battery life
  • Decent performance
  • 64GB storage
  • 4GB RAM
  • Good sound quality

Problem is .. .there is not many tablets to choose from these days.

  • I did not want iPad because it is waste of money and it uses iOS.
  • I hate Samsung for an endless amount of shitty products they made in the past so I have a rule now. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING MADE BY SAMSUNG.
  • Sony got the waterproof model but above my budget.
  • There are many cheap Chinese tablets but they are rubbish too.
  • Google tablet is ridiculously expensive.

While I was in China, I saw a guy calling from Honor tablet and I was shocked but then I decided to check is Huawei has a decent tablet. From the model’s that Huawei has, I found Huawei MediaPad M3 8.4. Other models were mediocre at best. I check others Chinese brands but as I already wrote they were crap and because I was happy with Huawei P9 and I decided to buy MediaPad M3. I planned to buy 64GB version but because they had great offer so I bought the 128GB version with 4GB RAM with AKG earphones.

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Huawei Mediapad M3

FIRST IMPRESSION

    When I touch tablet it feels very fragile. Over time I found it is not as fragile after a few accidental drops. I decided to turn on and then screen impressed me. It was a clean and sharp screen. When I start using and install apps and like this tablet more and more. Everything works smoothly. There are many settings to personalise tablet in the way you prefer. I tried to call somebody and it works well, but I look … ridiculous. However, I  use this tablet to call occasionally but I use my headphones. Battery life starts worrying me because during my trip back to the UK I noticed that battery starts to draining quite quickly. I managed to survive because I used battery saving mode but then I start to have some minors performance problems. Overall impression was very good.

MY DAILY EXPERIENCE WITH Huawei Mediapad M3

  • The screen is great. Everything is clear and quite sharp. You have many settings so you can set a screen that suit you best.
  • The sound quality is good but speakers are in crap place. It means in landscape mode if u hold tablet normally, you will cover speakers and affect the sound. HTC sorted this out much better.
  • Battery. This is the saddest part. The battery is too small. 5100 is perfect for a smartphone but for tablet … It is just too small. If u use a tablet for long commute then is not a problem. It gets problematic if you are using for long-haul travelling or adventure. It can be a bigger problem if you are using Bluetooth to connect to your watch and headphones, GPS for find way and WiFi/4G for internet then battery life will drain quite quickly. Yes. It can be fixed with power bank but it is an inconvenience. Luckily you can turn out power saving to extend battery life and it works well but performance degradation will be visible but the tablet will be usable. I found it that when I uninstall Facebook then battery life is better by 5-10%!
  • WiFi works smoothly. I had no problem with connecting to home or enterprise network.
  • Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Bluetooth. I had a few problems with Bluetooth. For example, when I press volume up on a tablet it deactivated my headphones and switch to the loudspeaker (Bose Q35). I had many problems with Bluetooth LE when I pair with smartwatches. (It took me 2 hours on Garmin and it refused  to work with Fitbit). Some bugs were caused by watches and some were caused by the tablet. All problems caused by tablet was fixed in one of the tablet’s software updates.
  • Speaking of updates. This tablet didn’t get Android 8 but it gets quite many minor updates where they add some feature, improve battery life and fix problems (they fix all problems I had with Bluetooth).
  • I like Huawei’s EMUI. It is not as beautiful as HTC but it has the great functionality I found useful. Some people moaning about aggressive app killing which I really like. In fact, you can always adjust app killing settings to set which app can/should be murdered when not in use.
  • It is very stable. I didn’t have encounter any crashes.
  • I had some hiccups with performance in battery saver mode in split mode but are rare.
  • There is no dual sim version.
  • Back Camera is poor.
  • Front Camera is ok for video chats but I guess it will be crap for selfies (Sorry, I am not expert in selfies).
  • It uses a normal charger not fast one so charging … takes time. However, on my USB charger that has IQ fast charge .. it charges quite quickly … not as good as Huawei with fast charging functionality but still acceptable.

SUMMARY

After few months I am very happy with this tablet. It is not perfect. Battery life is medium, the speaker should be positioned better and performance on battery saver is a bit too low. However, advantages overcome bad side. It has a great screen, decent dual speakers, good performance while using split screen. Is worth buy it?  It is worth its price if you need a tablet for a daily long commute, medium-haul trips and medium-range walks/ hiking.  Depends on your requirements it can be a great option but Huawei Mediapad M5 coming soon and it has many interesting improvements but it also means the price of Huawei Mediapad M3 will go down and it will be an even more attractive option.

I hope it was useful for you. If you have any questions about this tablet, feel free to ask. Meanwhile, have an awesome rest part of your day/night!

Groov-e 3600mAh Portable Solar Charger Pack review

If you do not bother to read the whole article, then this is a main take away points:

GOOD

  1. It is designed in the UK.
  2. You can buy pre-charged at the airport.
  3. When its charge in 2A mode then it charges quite quickly.
  4. Solar panel idea.
BAD

  1. ‘Intelligent’ charger works randomly.
  2. Too expensive for what it offers.
  3.  The solar charging is useless in practice.
  4. It does not contain information about capacity on the charger so u will struggle to go through security check on the airport. (for example in China).
  Summary. If u want to waste your money on a toy that imitates power bank then … I hope u enjoy this product. If looking for small power bank to charge your devices via USB then it is a bad choice.

STORY

I needed small power bank to be able to charge my Phone for a long-haul flight. I didn’t  have time to buy it online so I bought precharged Groov-e 3600mAh Portable Solar Charger. My hope was that I may be able to buy it cheaper but at least I bought a good quality product.

MY EXPECTATION

It should be light and be able to charge devices quickly. That’s all.

MY DAILY EXPERIENCE

  • I was happy that you can use it out of the box as it is pre-charged.
  • It claims it has 3600mAh but I struggle to charge more than 95% on HTC Butterfly S which has 3200mAh.
  • Charging power pack was always quick. Charging devices with this power pack is a very random experience.
  • The solar panel works only one time .. bearly.

‘Intelligent’ charging.

It supposes to detect can you charge with 1A or 2A. In reality, it works …. sometimes. Nexus 9 was charged 1A or 2A depends on the day. On my HTC butterfly S it was always 1A and it took ages sometimes to charge. Samsung Galaxy 4 was charged with 1A Huawei MediaPad M3  was 2A (most of the times). When it charging at 2A rate then it charges quite quickly but it often switches back to 1A.

Solar charging.

This feature worked once but it took 2 days but It does not work indoors or outdoors anymore. They claimed it will charge in 25 hours after around 15 hours of charging outdoors and 40  hours indoors it still didn’t charge even 25%!

The idea itself sounds great. If you could charge 3000mAh for 8 hours it will be a useful feature but at the moment it is not and it doesn’t really work.

SUMMARY

It works but I feel disappointed when I was using on daily basis. Groov-e describes this as Portable Solar Charger but it isn’t.  It looks like classic branded  ‘white label’ product from China but sadly not too good one. In my humble opinion if you want to waste your money on a toy that imitates power bank then … I hope u enjoy this product. If looking for small power bank to charge your devices via USB then it is a bad choice.

Company website: http://www.groov-e.co.uk/about-us

Laptop HP Pavilion 14-al119na review.

This is not a professional review. This is more daily experience with using this laptop.

If you do not bother to read the whole article, then this is a main take away points:

GOOD

  1. Cheap
  2. Good 14″ Spec for money
  3. Speakers
BAD

  1. Glossy screen
  2. No backlight on keyboard
Summary:

   It is a pragmatic choice if you want reasonably priced 13-14” secondary laptop for a commute, lightweight work, learning or medium distance travelling. Don’t buy this laptop if are surrounding for fashion police or hipster developers. If you good spec for money then you should choose 15.6” laptops or looking to spend £700 at least.

 

STORY

    I needed an Ultrabook as my tablet is a great device for content consumption but for the simple content creation and practice some development skills failed. I tried Nexus9 with keyboard and …it didn’t work for me. I needed a device that I can use during my commute on Tube and as a secondary device while I am trying to survive as being a super father at home.  I didn’t want to spend a fortune as I assume this laptop will be murdered by my son someday during his “crash tests” of all items that he can grab or drop.

 

MY EXPECTATION:

    I want to use this laptop to practice programming skills, write blogs and be able to use as my travel laptop. I decided that laptop should have:

  • 13-14” screen with low resolution
  • Core i3 minimum. Prefer i5
  • 8GB RAM,
  • 128GB SDD (minimum 256GB will be perfect)
  • Decent battery life
  • lightweight

    Problem is that ultrabook is designed for hipster developers so it must be expensive and offer spec that it is pointless for most of them. Is it any budget ultrabook?  I did research and it turns there are not too many choices for the budget ultrabook. Best choice turns out to be HP. However, I don’t like this brand but in this price range, it was a most pragmatic choice. Anyway. It looks like a most valuable option.

This is specification:

Processor Intel(R) Core(TM) i3-7100U CPU @ 2.40GHz

RAM 8 GB

SDD 128GB (Samsung MZNTY128HDHP-000H1)

GPU Intel(R) HD Graphics 620

WiFi Intel(R) Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168

Sound Realtek with some B&O tunning.

Cost £400

In shortcut, not a good spec for 15.6” laptop but for 13-14” is not too bad.

 

FIRST IMPRESSION

    It came with the small package. It has just essentials. I will skip unboxing as you can find sponsored videos when people are much more orgasmic about the process of unboxing. Believe me seeing a middle aged fat guy cutting his finger during the process is …boring. Anyway.

    I read some complaints about battery but this one was enough to hold whole day but I use from time to time and I used for playing music, videos online and install few important apps and enjoying endless Windows Updates.

    Laptop looks quite decent outside but cheap when you open and when you touch you feel … cheated. Everything works. Typing on the keyboard is great. The touchpad is usable. The screen is good but it is glossy so I see my ugly face instead of the screen on sunny days. Overall, I was happy with the choice.

 

Screen

    It is a 14″ Screen with resolution 1366 x 768 pixels and it is perfect. I know, having a screen that is less than 4k is considered as a disadvantage, but for me, it is the ideal resolution for content creation and consumption and development.

There is a one big problem Glossy screen. It is great for narcissist person, but I am not one of them, so it is annoying to see my face on screen while I am developing. Glossy screen and battery saver change your screen to mirror. You can see your face, but you cannot see what you are typing. I am not sure what is the purpose of glossy screen apart of collecting your fingerprints and make it impossible to see anything during the sunny day while the laptop is in battery saver mode.

    The image is sharp and colours look nice but vertical view range is not good enough as I usually most adjust it.  

Keyboard

    The keyboard is OK. Key layout for this size of the keyboard is quite good. There are only 3 problems with it. 2 major and 1 minor.

  1. The Enter button is very small and it is a problem for me as a person who hit Enter all the time.
  2. The pause button is put in weird place (fn+right shift).It was difficult to find at first, but I used this button rarely, so it is not a problem.
  3. Up/Down arrows are tiny and cause some problems during development.

    Most weird thing is that there is enough space for one more column for keys which will solve all these problems. Overall, it is good enough keyboard to type but you can find much better one.

TOUCHPAD

    The touchpad is usable but not comfortable.  Moving pointer on the touchpad is quite good. It is smooth. Buttons work a bit better than on my Asus laptop but it still quite annoying to use. Left clicks works, usually. Right clicks can be tricky to trigger on many occasion. It works, but it depends on its mood. Overall, you can survive without using a mouse but it will be an unpleasant experience. 

 

BATTERY

    As I mentioned in the first impression there is concern about average battery life. With limited choices in this price range, it is hard for me to define an average and good battery. My aim was to have a battery that lasts for 5 hours of developing and listening music in background and laptop seems can holder even longer on battery saver mode. If you planning fly Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Auckland and your seat socket doesn’t work then, unfortunately, you are screwed, but for a bit shorter … like  5 hours journeys should be OK. 

 

MUSIC

    Let’s face it. This laptop is not for DJs who want play drum and bass from laptop’s speaker. However, the sound quality is great for their size. If you don’t  expect to experience a brainquake from bass then you should be happy. B&O did a great job with this speakers. For background noise, play songs to a baby or listen to the podcast at room is perfect. For teenagers who want share, they passion to dubstep in public is a bad option.

 

MY DAILY EXPERIENCE WITH Laptop HP Pavilion 14-al119na

  • I was surprised that fan works all the time. When I was exploring ‘rich’ configuration possibilities in BIOS (as I looked can you set this CPU in specific mode), I discover option “fan always on” is enabled. If you disabled, fan works when CPU gets hot. When you disabled “fan always on”, the laptop is very quiet. I have no idea what was the reason behind it, but so far laptop temperature is good.
  • Some people complain that it WiFi doesn’t support AC standard. Is it a problem? Not really. This laptop wasn’t designed with best possible performance in mind. It was designed to be cheap ultrabook and this cut seems to be reasonable. If you need ac-standard, then … it is not a laptop for you. Most funny thing is I check my laptop. It supports AC.
  • People moan on the internet that Ethernet doesn’t support gigabit standard. Many portable laptops do not have this port at all because it is not needed in wireless communication times. Another thing is it should not be a problem for me as with 128GB SSD there is unlikely that you will flood this drive with many data. I think it is good that it has a port at all.
  • I saw on the internet complaining about a lack of DVD-ROM. It should NOT have one. Ultrabook is designed to work on the move and the n digital age. This is no retro machine to support ancient technologies like CD-ROM, floppy disk and N64 cartridges. DVD-ROM is just waste of space and increases cost and weight.
  • Bluetooth works. I connect my headphones, ‘no name’ speakers’ and everything seems to work.
  • The battery is good enough for my 3 hours commute plus 1 hour spent at the coffee place and spend some time at home on doing various things.
  • It doesn’t have a keyboard with backlight which is especially useful in ultrabook.
  • Performance seems to be ok for my need playing video, having browsers with many tabs and running various CPU intense tasks. My unit tests running around twice longer than tests on my Asus laptop or worse. Performance can be sluggish on rare occasion on battery save mode.
  • Windows didn’t crash.
  • If you looking value for money, then buying 15’ish” laptop is a better idea.

 

SUMMARY

    It is weird for me to say about HP laptops but this is quite a decent laptop for my requirements in this price. I am happy with the choice.  It seems is good enough to handle browser with many tabs and developing a medium sized project without any hiccups. 

 

Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L White LED review.

This review can be useful for people who are interesting in daily experience with Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L White LED and people who are developers who are looking for a great keyboard.

If you do not bother to read the whole article, then this is main take away points:

GOOD

  1. Typing.
  2. Keys.
  3. Backlight.
  4. No drivers required to setup keyboard.
  5. Excellent Quality for money.
BAD

  1. Lack of wrist support.
  2. Short cable.

 

 

Summary:
It is a great keyboard for a software developer at work. It offers excellent quality and exceptional value for money.

STORY

My keyboard at work is … how to describe this in politically correct way … unpleasant to use. There are two models of the keyboard in the office. One I am using which has a classic key layout but it is uncomfortable and dull to use. Another one has better clicking experience but it annoying to use due to key placement. It is problematic when you are using many shortcuts during development and suddenly it is hard to use them efficiently as keys are in wrong place.

Last year I was thinking about to use my spare wireless keyboard that I have at home. At similar time I have noticed that some of my colleagues are using a mechanical keyboard. I decided to try it and I enjoyed a lot. My main problem with the mechanical keyboard was:

  • They are very loudly.
  • They have plenty features that are gamers friendly but it can be distracting for development typing.
  • The backlight is great for light show but less comfortable as a daily backlight.

What I was looking for is:

  • Full sized mechanical keyboard
  • A mono-coloured backlight as I don’t need to perform a light show at work.
  • Reasonable priced.

I am not playing games* so I wasn’t interested in any features related to gaming like resist to damage during ‘rage quit’ and so on.

*) That’s a lie actually.

    I did research on the internet about mechanical keyboards and I quickly released that for good keyboard you need to spend around 150 pounds. I just couldn’t justify why I should spend that much money. I decided to abandon the idea of having a mechanical keyboard and I was too lazy to bring my own wireless keyboard to work. As result, I stuck to my office keyboard.

This year I did another research and I found something that meets my criteria. I decided to buy Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L White LED. This is an official specification found on Coolermaster’s website. http://www.coolermaster.com/peripheral/keyboards/masterkeys-pro-l/

I was a bit surprised that Cooler Master make keyboards. I knew this company for decent cooling systems for CPU  but I didn’t know, they are doing gaming stuff. Actually, after the short time, I realized that it looks like the natural evolution for this company to make a gaming toys.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I ordered it. When I received a package, my first impression was disturbing. Amazon delivered my package into recycle bin. I was a wonder if Amazon knew that I bought rubbish and it is worth recycling only.

You can find many unboxing videos, so I will skip that. It seems an ascetic and simplicity were the main theme for this keyboard. The box is as small as possible and contains essentials only. Keyboard is  simple and without fancy or quirky ‘features’.

After I plugged-in keyboard to my laptop, I was amazed. Writing experience was very smooth. I feel, I typed everything faster than on my laptop’s keyboard (Asus ROG-G771JW) and Logitech illuminated keyboard. The backlight is awesome. Overall, I was very happy. I had only one concern. My wrist feels painful after 30 minutes of using the keyboard. I bought wrist support and it solves the problem.

MY DAILY EXPERIENCE WITH KEYBOARD:

  • As I mentioned but I think is worth to repeat. Typing on the keyboard is an amazing experience. However, let’s face it. You can live with a typical office keyboard. The main difference is that on you developing with pleasure and experience on typing is quicker and smoother. I guess it is just my imagination. That’s all.
  • It has a classic layout without any quirky key design mutations and I like that because it helps me to use ‘normal’ keyboards without hassle. Truth is you can get used to it to any keyboard but it slows you down when you switch between different layouts/
  • Another amazing thing that you can setup keyboard using … keyboard. You don’t need drivers. It can come handy when you are doing pair programming with different PC and use your keyboard.
  • They provide a tool, so you can develop your own stuff on the keyboard which sounds awesome but I haven’t use it .. yet.
  • My main problem is the lack of wrist support. I used the keyboard for 30 minutes and my whites start to hurt. I needed to buy wrist support and it solves a problem. It is the second time in my life when I  have this kind of problem.
  • This keyboard has mode when you can play … Snake game. On keyboard! It comes handy when you need to wait for your tests to finish.
  • Cable is quite short. It is OK if you keep your PC on a desk, but if is under your desk, then you will have a problem. Cable quality is one of the best as I used.
  • The keyboard is not too noisy. Good enough for office use and you should not pissed off colleagues, but it is too loud to use at night at home.
  • In first few days, I had a few occasions where Windows stop recognize keyboard and it stops work. It stops happening after I restart Windows.

SUMMARY

It is an awesome keyboard so far. Typing is awesome. I think it is a great keyboard in terms of quality for money and value for money. You may need to buy wrist support or your wrist will kill you.

In fact, I am really surprised how much difference make to use a mechanical keyboard instead of the normal keyboard.

If you are a software developer who needs a great mechanical keyboard with monochrome backlight and spends reasonable money then this keyboard is the best choice.

I chose this keyboard as my first mechanical keyboard as I didn’t want invest fortune, but there are cheaper alternatives (for around £55 if you want to try a mechanical keyboard.

Second part will be after 3 months and third part will be after 1 year of usage

 

 

Picture source: http://www.coolermaster.com/peripheral/keyboards/masterkeys-pro-l-white/