ProMotion display on the new iPad Pro.

ipad pro 10.5Although I do not have the new iPad Pro 10.5 inch in my hand right now, I had the opportunity to check it out at the official Apple Store at Orchard Road. Of all the many new features touted by Apple on the new iPad Pro, I was most intrigued by the new display, specifically the ProMotion technology.

The ProMotion technology advertised by Apple on its latest iPad pro is just a term conjured up by the marketing department to give the technology substance. Basically the LCD display on Apple’s new lineup of iPad Pro (both the 10.5 and 12.9 inch version) features a 120hz refresh rate. Conventional LCD display on all tablets released thus far only goes up to 60hz. The faster refresh rate apparently makes every UI animation within the iPad Pro butter smooth. I never got the chance to see first hand until I saw an actual iPad Pro at the Apple Store. All the reviews on YouTube about the new iPad Pro’s incredible display couldn’t capture the butter-smoothness animation because of the slow FPS when watching videos. Truly, this is one feature that despite its awesome rave reviews, you have to see it live in person with the new iPad Pro in front of you to understand why it’s amazing.

As I was at the store and holding the iPad Pro for the first time, the first thing that immediate struck me was how sexy the device looked like. The thinner bezels on the sides made the iPad Pro so much more sleeker. The bigger display (without considerably increasing the overall size of the tablet) is now even more capable of absorbing you in, focusing on it’s colour accurate display without distractions from the other parts of the iPad.

Colour accurate and wide colour gamut display is the main stay of the iPad Pro’s feature. But once I interacted with the tablet, swiping left, right, up and down, going through the various menus, website and general UI, I was truly amazed how smooth the interaction was. 120hz display really does makes a profound difference in the overall experience when using the iPad. Again, you really have to try it out for yourself to really understand what I am saying. There is no competition out there so far. The faster refresh rate is to me, personally what stands out from the rest of the competing tablet makers out there.

For some reason, in addition for the display to capture your attention due to its overall area occupied on the tablet, the faster refresh rate of the display now really really absorbs you in completely. While you interact with the screen, your eyes just cannot peel away from it’s butter smoothness operation.

At the store as I played around with the new iPad Pro, I was quite surprised (though not unexpected, since Apple products always sell like hotcakes regardless) that there were a lot of iPad Pro purchases. Everywhere around me in the midst of the crowd in the store, there were all the Apple Geniuses tending to some customers’ purchases. And under their arms, there will almost always be a box (or two or some accompanying accessories) of the new iPad Pro. The iPad Pro was selling like hotcakes!

Hyperdrive, Thunderbolt USB-C hub for MacBook Pro

Ever since I got my swanking new MacBook Pro about a week ago, I had to deal with Thunderbolt 3 ports. The problem is, there is nothing I can do with Thunderbolt 3 ports on my MacBook Pro, since I have no peripherals at hand that uses them. So I can’t connect my external drives, my SD cards, charge my iPhone, or use my thumbdrives.

Getting the Hyperdrive Thunderbolt USB-C hub for the MacBook Pro seems like the most economical way to expand my ability to connect my ‘legacy’ devices using ‘legacy’ ports.

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I purchased off from their Indiegogo website and within a week and a half it arrived at my doorstep. The Thunderbolt USB-C hub allows me to connect to an external monitor via HDMI, has an SD card and MicroSD card slot, and offers 2 USB 3.0 ports in addition to Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports just like what the MacBook Pro originally provided. The good thing about this hub is that it allows power passthrough, meaning you can charge the laptop while this hub is connected directly to it. The strange thing however, is that the hub uses both Thunderbolt ports to connect the hub. Once connected, only the top Thunderbolt port allows for charging and not the bottom one.

But still this hub greatly expanded my abilty to connect with other devices like I mentioned just now.

Another aspect of this hub that I really like is that the design of the hub is such that it sits flushed right next to the laptop. Buy the hub that matches the colour of your laptop, and it looked pretty natural – like an extension to your already great looking laptop. It doesn’t look bulky, or out of place and the build quality is pretty good, all aluminium, with pretty decent parts. Plus, it comes with a nice, snugly little leather pouch to safety store your hub away when not in use.

Dealing with such hubs can be annoying, but it is a necessity if you wish to walk down a path, using a laptop with nothing but Thunderbolt Ports. So for those who wish to walk down this path, know that you need a little bit more investment in choosing the right dongles or hub so that all your devices you currently have play nice with your new Macbook laptops. The Hyperdrive Thunderbolt USB-C hub manages to tick all the right things when it comes to portability, design and build quality without breaking the bank (US$69).

coconutBattery

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CoconutBattery is a must have app for any mobile Mac users out there. It provides a comprehensive look at the overall health of your mac laptops, be it MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. In addition to telling the amount of juice you have left, it also tells you the temperature, number of charge cycles the battery’s been through and overall condition of the battery. The app doesn’t just tell you the stats, it can also record the battery health on a regular basis, providing a longitudinal snapshot of the battery’s condition over time.

Personally, the neatest part of the app is that it also tells you the age of your laptop and the battery separately. From the moment the laptop was assembled and left the factory floor, coconutBattery is able to tell you the age of your device. For my MacBook Pro that I recently purchase a few days ago, as of today, it is telling me that my MacBook Pro is 27 days old. Meaning that the MacBook Pro was assembled 2 to 3 weeks before being shipped out and sold to me. The battery on the other hand is 38 days old, a little older than the MacBook Pro. It sounds logical, considering that the battery is just one of many components that makes the laptop and parts have to be ordered, produced and shipped to the factory (somewhere in China no doubt) only to be assembled into the final product. The battery that I have comes from a battery maker, Simplo. A simple Google search tells me that it is a taiwanese company specialising in battery manufacturing for small and large devices.

I used the same app for my MacBook Air many years ago. I tracked the battery condition over time. I noticed it deterioated after a year due to my extensive use over time back during my undergraduate days. I used it the whole day, every day without bringing the power adapter with me, often draining the battery from 100% all the way down to 10%-15%. Naturally, that kind of torture wears out the battery really fast. And because of coconutBattery, I was able to replace the battery before it does further harm to my laptop. All in all, I logged more than 1100 days with the laptop. I used that laptop for more than 3 years, before passing it on to my dad to use. Today, it is still very much in use, all thanks to the SSDs, that helped in keeping the laptop fast enough for normal use despite its age.

The rationale behind the Macbook Pro purchase.

Yesterday my Macbook Pro arrived. I ordered the laptop 2 days ago, which is just a couple of days after it was officially announced. On the day I placed my order for the new laptop, I put my Lenovo laptop up for sale on Carousell. I was pleasantly surprised to receive multiple offers to buy my laptop second hand. I finalised the deal with one of the buyer and decided to meet later during the night to complete the transaction. Meanwhile, it was a race against time to backup all my data and reset the laptop to its original factory settings. I had around 3 hours to do all that before our agreed upon meeting time and place.

Ever since getting my laptop, I have been reflecting deeply behind the true motivations in clicking that buy button. Why did I click it? My Lenovo laptop was perfecting fine. I like that laptop quite a lot, especially the keyboard. The keyboard is a joy to type on, and no doubt one of the best keyboard available out there on a mobile device. So what compelled me to click on that buy button?

Impulse is definitely at play here. It was a snap decision. Rarely do I make large purchases without thinking through it carefully first. It will take me weeks, sometimes months to finally make my decision, going through carefully every pros and cons. This time however, I immediately bought it after the official announcement at WWDC. But then again, one can argue that I buy because I know that Mac products are top notch. You can’t go wrong when it comes to Apple products. Having owned and used the Mac Mini (my first foray into the Mac ecosystem) and then upgrading to the MacBook Air, it feels natural to finally be part of the big league and get for myself a MacBook Pro. My gut instincts told me that this is a great time to get a new one. Despite only a spec bump and a new generation of CPU, the overall design of the MacBook Pro, in my opinion, is already highly refined. And the machine does look extremely beautiful and elegant. I had no problem with the weight, as the design philosophy has been adopted from that of the MacBook Air. So it seemed natural to sacrifice just a little bit of weight for a rather large increase in overall computing power.

Another reason might be the fact that deep down, I miss the Mac. It has been a couple of years since I passed on my Macbook Air for my dad to use. Ever since then, I’ve never used that laptop any longer. Then I got myself a DIY gaming rig, which I love it to death till this day because it was built with my own two hands. I have no intention of upgrading that PC or getting a new one anytime soon and expect that PC to last a very long while. So as far as a desktop PC is concerned, I have it covered even though its a Windows based PC.

My Lenovo was bought on a budget, with the rationale that it would only be used for school. Ever since I started my Master’s Programme in NUS, that laptop has served me well. The laptop is just 7 months old when I decided to sell it off. Like I said it’s perfectly fine. It’s all plastic, which is again, fine, but now that I have the Macbook Pro, the design and build quality is miles apart. Holding the MacBook Pro in hand in hands and on my lap, reminded me once again at the level of care and attention to detail when designing their products. There is just something magical about their devices. It may not be the most powerful devices and it don’t come cheap, but you are well assured that its a quality product. That X-factor of art and technology coming together to create a product not just to use but to enjoy and experience. That is something you don’t encounter everyday with other tech gadgets and products.

Will I regret splashing two thousand dollars on a laptop on impulse? Probably not, since I know Mac products really well and they have never disappointed me so far. Will I enjoy this laptop for many years to come? Hell yeah.

Sold my Lenovo, Bought Macbook Pro

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After using my Lenovo ThinkPad 13 for 7 months, I decided to sell it away. I came back to the Mac. When it was announced at this year’s WWDC that Apple is going to refresh the entire Macbook Pro line with the new Kaby Lake processors, I just could not resist it. I put my Lenovo ThinkPad 13 on Carousell and within minutes I had several offers of wanting to buy my 7-month old laptop. I barely even started to do a factory reset of my laptop including file backup when I started receiving several offers online. I sold the Lenovo within 2 hours, ordered the new 13 inch MacBook Pro (without Touchbar) online and within 2 days, it arrived at my doorstep.

Now, as I type this entry, I am already using my new Macbook Pro. So what were my first impressions?

Right off the bat, you are immediately struck by the beauty of this device. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The level of workmanship and design meticulousness is, to this day, unrivalled. ┬áThe Macbook Pro is a work of art, truly. When I opened the laptop and switched it on for the very first time, the next thing you noticed was how gorgeous the screen is. Colour just pops, everything is super sharp and it is really really bright when you max out the brightness setting.

That is the two most prominent feature I noticed the moment I started unboxing the laptop.

I am no stranger to using the Mac. My last laptop was the classic MacBook Air. Back then, it was considered a revolutionary device, known for its ultra portability and thinness that competing brands found it hard to replicate with grace.

But now, the Macbook Air has adopted some of the design principles of what made Macbook Air so great. You now get a far more powerful computer, but none of the added bulk, with a great, sharp, colourful screen to boot.

I got the non-TouchBar version. I figured that it is still largely a gimmicky feature that, while it adds some useful functions depending on the application that you are using, I am still not convinced that it would increase my productivity in incorporating the use of the TouchBar in my daily workflow. Add to the fact that a majority of reviewers on YouTube lamented the fact that they themselves don’t use the TouchBar extensively and you are better off saving a few hundred dollars and get the non-TouchBar version. They assured viewers of those reviews that you are not missing out on anything fundamentally important with regards to how you use the laptop.

I still cannot believe that I have a new laptop in my hands. Apple just announced the new refresh MacBook Pros and here it is right in front of my just days later. There are a few more accessories that I have ordered recently that have yet to arrive. One, is a sleeve by Tomtoc to safely store my laptop away and inside my backpack for use outside. Second, is a Thunderbolt 3 hub that would give me access to USB slots, SD card slots and additional Thunderbolt connections. Right now I cannot connect any peripherals to my laptop because none of them uses either the USB-C or Thunderbolt connections. I will have to wait for the dongle hub to arrive.

With tablets getting cheaper, it becomes delegated to impulse purchases.

New and upcoming tablets to take on Apple’s offers of tablets big and small are getting cheaper that they sometimes resort to impulse purchases. Look at Amazon with their Kindle Fire HD tablet lineups. It’s so darn friggin cheap! Top of the line specs are not important for me, especially one who is drawn to a small tablet that is easy to hold and is used mainly for reading stuff. All I need is a high pixel density screen and a decent amount of storage. I don’t play games on my tablets and thus it doesnt matter if the tablet sports a dual core cpu or an octa core cpu. So long as the screen is sharp and crisp, with great colour accuracy and sells at a fraction of what Apple offers, I am sold.

I can think of a few tablets out on the market that fits the bill. Cheaper than Apple’s iPad or iPad mini, but with a great looking screen. Asus Zenpad 3 8.0 comes to mind, including Huawei Mediapad M3. The Huawei Mediapad M3 looks really slick in my opinion, sporting an 8 inch, 2K resolution screen. That is a perfect size to hold and read stuff from the screen.

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The latest tablet from Huawei costs less than SGD500, which is pretty compelling for a nicely designed tablet. I recently tried looking for it at various tech stores here, but none seemed to be carrying it. Im not sure if this tablet actually does sell in Singapore. Even Huawei’s store at Plaza Singapura doesnt seem to be showcasing it. Which is strange, because as I was compelled to try out this tablet as a strong successor to the popular Nexus 7 tablet released years ago, I need to physically feel and touch this device. I need to hold it in my hands and have a good feel before deciding to buy it.

But at the back of my mind, I would certainly be asking the same question again and again; do you really need it? I gave up my iPad mini 4 after a year to my mum because I rarely used it, other than reading. For such a nice, but expensive device, you’d think you use it for some other purposes other than just reading, but no, its heavily underutilised. While it is without a doubt the best tablet to own and I miss having it from time to time, the iPad mini 4 is much better suited for my mum who uses social media alot and play games on occasions. She is a heavy tablet user and she was using the iPad mini 2 (if I remember correctly), the one without retina display and it was definitnely ageing in terms of screen quality and spec performance. Seeing her use the iPad mini 4 was like a breath of fresh air; everything became smooth and snappy and it certainly helped her alot.

Adieu Macbook Pro.

For years I have always wanted a Macbook Pro. What started out as an experiment, plungin myself into the whole Mac OS ecosystem many years ago starting with the Mac Mini, slowly evolved into something more powerful, more mobile to the Macbook Air. As my needs changes over the years, so does the products that are required to meet my needs.

The Mac Mini and Macbook Air are both excellent computing devices. It was the first time I felt that art and technology can coexist peacefully. Something so beautiful can be at the same time be so practical. And the design philosophy behind those two products have no equals. And for many years I believed that.

The new Macbook Pro that was recently released violently shifted my paradigm. No doubt, Apple continues to release excellently designed products. Sleek, and minimalistic with a keen eye in the tiniest detail. But sadly, the new Macbook Pros were unable to meet my needs, much less my budget. There are criticisms to the new models, and they are all valid in my opinions. Things like the lack of ports, the absurd use of mutiple dongles, the questionable usefulness of a TouchBar, and the overall price increase of those new models were all aspects that were very much criticised.

And it was from then on that it made me realise that it is time for me to depart from the MacOS ecosystem and embrace Microsoft Windows once again.

It took me a while to come to grasp, especially in finding a worthy replacement to my aging MacBook Air. Actually, I would have been fine without a laptop. I am having loads of fun with my DIY gaming rig. But because I am going back to school, I forsee that I would need a portable laptop for school assignments and also work from time to time. But buying a whopping S$3000 on a MacBook Pro, just for my part-time studies is just too much for me. It was hard initially to change my perception on the overall quality of Windows laptop. For a long while, I have held to the belief that Windows laptop are far inferior than what Mac as to offer. This actually remains true. When it comes to design, nothing beats the MacBook Pro. Design wise, it is still widely lauded and a benchmark for all other laptop to aspire to. Thinner, longer battery life, powerful. And it is only recently that certain models from certain laptop companies are slowly hitting that benchmarks. They are not exact copies of the MacBook Pro or Air counterparts, but they are close in achieving the feel and look of Mac laptops that many people just love.

So I had to spend time to have a close look at what the market was offering. It was tedious to go through so many different Windows laptop. A majority of them were still very inferior. But a handful of them was quite well design.

But the tricky part was to find a good balance between finding a Windows ultrabook that is relatively thin, light, with long battery life and packing a fairly powerful CPU without bursting my budget.

It is only then I came across the Lenovo Thinkpad 13. Out in the wild, during my search, came up Lenovo. Lenovo, best known for business laptops. Chunky by design on most models, nothing worth lauding about. Its just a business laptop. Black, plastic, nothing to wow at. But I had to be realistic here. I had to find the perfect balance between price, weight and performance. Thinkpad 13 was the best I could find. And a good find it was. At just S$930, this laptop actually pack quite a punch. Intel Core i5 Skylake, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM, 13inch IPS display, all day battery life. A middling spec of a computer but at a terrific price. The best aspect about the Thinkpad13 (and for most of Lenovo’s laptops) is the keyboard. Its an absolute joy to type on. Great travel distance and just the right size and distance between keys, typing on the keyboard is both accurate and fast. I dont think I have used a more comfortable keyboard on a laptop before.

So there you have it. It looks like a laptop from the 90s, but at least it’s cheap, reliable, sturdy enough to bring around in your bag, respectable battery life and just works.

I think Lenovo has opened my eyes to the possibilities that other laptop makers can be just as good when it comes to designing terrific laptops. I also came to realise that there are laptops out there that ticked all the right boxes for your needs, and it need not have to be expensive at all.