Categories
Tech

June 2017 Gadget update

Every 6 months I do an update on the state of my gadgets and what I use

Computers

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga (2017) – replaced my 2015 ThinkPad Yoga 14

This is my main laptop now and replaces my Thinkpad X240, and Thinkpad Yoga 14. A light, convertible laptop, weighs only 2.8lbs (substantially lighter than the Yoga 14 which I previously had), docks with a one link dock connector and wireless dock, has that traditional Thinkpad robust build quality and great trackpoint keyboard, and is convertible which means I can watch movies in 4 different modes, and comes with a gorgeous 1440p OLED screen to boot. It loses the dedicated graphics (Nvidia 840M) of the Yoga 14 but improves on it everywhere else including ports, display and weight. Compared to the X240, it loses the VGA, full size SD and Ethernet ports but is much lighter, has a much better display, and is convertible.

Dell Latitude 7370 (2016) – replaced my 2016 Vaio S

This is my main portable laptop (yes the X1 Yoga is portable too but it has a lot of sensitive data that I would rather not take on travels). It replaces my Vaio S, and is basically the fanless, futureproof version of the Vaio. Compared to the Vaio, it has thinner bezels on the display, loses two USB3 ports, VGA, full size SD and Ethernet (legacy ports), but gains microSD and 2 USB-C (more futureproof ports).

Alienware 15 R3 (2016) – replaced my 2011 HP Envy Beats, 2015 Asus ROG G751

This is my main gaming and VR computer now, replacing my aging HP Envy Beats 14 and hefty Asus G751. I decided I wanted a 15 inch because of its lightness and portability, yet its still powerful enough to have a GTX 1070, power my Oculus Rift (VR ready), hooks up to my external monitor, plays all the latest games, and looks great at home on a laptop stand.

Macbook Pro 13 (2016)replaced my 2012 Mac Mini
My replacement for my Mac Mini as a programming/entertainment computer. It’s light (3lbs) and runs macOS making it great for development and the lack of ports is made up by my Dell USB-C Dock at home.

Tablets/Phones
iPad Air (2013)

The iPad Air is my go to tablet for surfing, gaming, music or reading. Has been since 2013.

iPhone SE (2016) – replaced my 2013 iPhone 5S

The iPhone SE is my main video recorder, which I use on occasion to record videos, mainly because my model is a 64GB one that can store more videos. Plus love the small size which is what cameraphones should be! light and small. It replaces my aging iPhone 5S.

Google Pixel (2016) – replaced my 2014 Sony Xperia Z3C
The Google Pixel is my main phone now. It has a great camera as well, and is generally just a fast and capable phone all around. It replaces my Kyocera Duraforce Pro and Sony Xperia Z3C as my main Android device.

BlackBerry KeyOne (2017) – replaced my 2015 Blackberry Priv

The BlackBerry KeyOne replaces my Blackberry Priv as my secondary phone and video call device, has a way better keyboard and gets wayyyy better battery life to boot.

Sony Walkman A17 (2017) – replaced my 2015 Pioneer XDP

The Sony Walkman has replaced my Pioneer XDP, since its much lighter and more portable. It doesn’t sound *quite* as good as the Pioneer, but it’s 80% as good and still much better sounding than most smartphones (with the exception of a few like the HTC 10). The Pioneer is more like the old HDD players like the iPod Classic and Creative Zen Vision – stores more music and plays videos, but big and bulky. The Sony Walkman is a small flash based player like the iPod Nano and Zune HD. They both have their uses.

Huawei Watch (2016) – replaced my 2012 Seiko Kinetic, 2016 Orient Sun&Moon

Now with the Android Wear 2 update, Huawei watch is awesome and is definitely my main watch now. It replaces my Seiko Kinetic (quartz) and Orient Sun & Moon (mechanical) which I used before.

Music

Generally I prefer using speakers at home and headphones on the go. I rarely use headphones at home. The advantages of speakers – everyone can hear it, higher fidelity and larger drivers, but usually also more expensive and not as portable.

Razer Hammerhead BT (2017)

Razer Hammerhead BT

These are very convenient bluetooth earphones for mostly working out where the wires getting in the way would be troublesome.

Fender FXA3 (2016) – replaces 2014 Master&Dynamic ME03

The Fender FXA3s are my main earphones for traveling and studying.

Denon Music Master MM400 (2016) – replaces 2014 Sennheiser Momentum

This is my main headphone that I use at work to listen to music and for conference calls.

Absolutely the best over ear headphones I’ve ever had, these now have replaced my Sennheiser Momentums which were falling apart as well. I use it with my Creative SoundBlaster E5s at work for the extra oomph!

Creative SoundBlasterX Katana (2017) – replaces 2015 Creative T4W

Now used as my computer speakers for my Alienware. It’s the first soundbar designed specifically for computer use. RGB lighting, bluetooth, 7.1 virtual surround and a bunch of other options – what’s not to love?

Klipsch Promedia 2.1 (2016) – replaces 2015 Klipsch R-4B Soundbar

Klipsch Pro Media 2.1 Klipsch Pro Media 2.1

Absolutely fantastic computer speakers. Now using it for my TV and gaming systems since I found it has better bass than my Klipsch R-4B. The bass and overall sound quality is fantastic. Replaces my non-functioning Creative T4Ws which shorted out :(, and the Samsung and Klipsch soundbars that I used before.

Klipsch the Three (2017)

This speaker is really cool and retro looking especially with the Ebony wood finish, and pairs well with my Google Home (using Chromecast audio) and my Fluance record player to play some nice vintage tunes!

Bose SoundLink Revolve (2017) – replaces 2015 Creative Soundblaster Roar 2

This speaker replaces my Creative Soundblaster Roar 2 as a portable outdoor (splash proof!) speaker, also pairs very well with my Macbook.

Yamaha TSX-B72 (2017)

This is my alarm clock radio that I use by my bedside to wake me up each morning 🙂 and yes it has bluetooth and can charge my phone too. It replaces my Sony BSP60 bluetooth alarm speakers those ones are a little complicated to operate and I just wanted a simple vintage looking alarm clock radio.

Cameras

Nikon D5100 (2013)
My DSLR camera for serious video making. I usually pair it with my Samyang T1.5 24mm cinema prime lens.

Sony Action Camera AS300 (2016) – replaces 2014 GoPro Hero3+
Replaces my Sony Music Video recorder and GoPro Hero 3 as both my action camera and my wide angle camera that I can use for blogging, travel videos, action videos, etc and has optical image stabilization which no other action camera has! Also waterproof/dustproof as well and quite small, making it great for situations where my Osmo+ would be too heavy.

DJI OSMO+ (2016) – replaces 2015 DJI Osmo
My go to camera for taking cinematic walking shots, travel video, and completely replaces any camcorder. The Plus model now has optical zoom capabilities with it too.

DJI Phantom 4 Advanced (2017) – replaces 2015 DJI Phantom 3
Replaces my DJI Phantom 3, better sensors, obstacle avoiding, takes better night shots etc

Other
Other laptops: Asus G751 (secondary gaming laptop and workstation), HP Revolve 810 G2 (secondary Win7 laptop and secondary convertible), Thinkpad X240 (still only laptop I have with hot swappable battery and mobile broadband), GPD Pocket (mini netbook)
Video game systems: New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, PSTV, Nvidia Shield Pro, GPD Win
Displays: Mobile Monitor 2 Go, Dell 24″ Gsync 1ms 144hz infinityedge monitor, Royole Moon, Avegant Glyph, DJI Goggles
Storage: 1 Synology DS412+, 2 Synology DS416j, 1 Synology 416slim (20TB all in RAID 1)

Laptop collection (one for each size)
11.6″ 1366×768 – HP Elitebook Revolve 810 – 4th gen Core i5, 8GB RAM, 180GB SSD, 3lbs, Win 7, 6 ports: 2 USB3, DP, Ethernet, microSD, headphone
12.5″ 1366×768 – Lenovo Thinkpad X240 – 4th gen Core i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 3.5lbs, Win 7, 7 ports: 2 USB3, miniDP, VGA, Ethernet, SD, headphone
13.3″ 3200×1800 – Dell Latitude 7370 – 6th gen Core m7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 2.5lbs, Win 10, 6 ports: 1 USB3, 2 USBC, microHDMI, microSD, headphone
13.3″ 2560×1600 – Apple Macbook Pro 13 – 6th gen Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 3lbs, macOS, 3 ports: 2 USBC, headphone
14.1″ 2560×1440 – Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga – 6th gen Core i7, 8GB RAM, 180GB SSD, 2.8lbs, Win 10, 7 ports: 3 USB3, miniDP, HDMI, microSD, headphone
15.6″ 1920×1080 – Alienware 15 – 6th gen Core i7 quad, Nvidia GTX 1070, 16GB RAM, 2TB SSD, 7lbs, Win 10, 8 ports: 2 USB3, 2 USBC, HDMI, miniDP, Ethernet, headphone
17″ 1920×1080 – Asus G751 – 4th gen Core i7 quad, Nvidia GTX 970M, 16GB RAM, 2TB HDD, 9lbs, Win 10, 10 ports: 4 USB3, SD, VGA, miniDP, HDMI, Ethernet, headphone/mic

Categories
General

My gadget history

I guess continuing from where I left off at my fashion style, and similar yet different than my semi-annual gadget update posts, I just want to list my main gadgets over the years, the ones I carry and use everyday. I’ll also include vehicles, just for kicks because they are also “gadgets” in a way.

Vehicles
I got my first car in May 2009 when I got my internship at Environment Canada. So because Toronto’s TTC system sucks, I had to buy a car for the commute. I liked small, luxury cars so I eventually ended up with a 2002 Acura RSX, paid $6500 for it, with help of my parents.

Acura RSX

It was a decent car, and I enjoyed driving with the sunroof down, listening to music and cruising a lot. I had it for a little over a year before I sold it in Aug 2010, to help pay for school, at only $3300 (I scratched up the car alot).

My second vehicle that I used from Nov 2012 to Apr 2016 was my 2011 Honda PCX 125 scooter. This was my primary vehicle in San Francisco, and I loved driving around in it. The freedom I had in it was much more than anything I ever experienced from a car.

Honda PCX 125
Honda PCX 125

Bought it for $2500, sold it for $1300 (because again I crashed it and it wasn’t in good shape).

I can also list my parents’ cars since I drove them around before. The first car I remember our family having was an old 1980s Ford Escort, followed by my dad’s 1992 Ford Taurus, and my mom’s 1994 Mercury Topaz. My dad’s Taurus eventually broke down, and my mom’s Mercury was wrecked in a car accident which I was involved in back when I was 12. I was delivering papers back then and my mom went out to drive me and it was a really cold day with a blizzard so the driver t-boned us and fortunately we didn’t suffer any injuries but the car was totaled.

My dad got a new car, the 2000 Ford Taurus station wagon (he likes big vehicles), and my mom got a 2003 Honda Civic (which was new at the time). My dad drove that Taurus for like 15 years up until last year when it stopped working, and my mom’s Civic got totaled by my brother in a car accident in 2011. My brother was not injured fortunately, and my mom replaced it with a new 2011 Honda Civic. My dad just recently got a new 2015 Acura MDX 2 years ago, which was a really good ride. I think our family became more fond of Hondas/Acuras now (my mom had 2 Civics, my dad the MDX and me the RSX and PCX).

My dad's 2015 Acura MDX

2009-2010: 2002 Acura RSX
2012-2016: 2011 Honda PCX 125
2017-: EcoReco Model R

(main) Phones

In 2005 I had my first cellphone (remember, kids didn’t have cellphones that much in those days!). It was a cheap Sanyo flipphone, and I used it sparingly to text or call my friends. In 2007 I upgraded to a Samsung D900 Black Carbon, which was thin, slim, and had a 3.2mp camera. I used that phone from 2007-2010 until I broke the screen.

Samsung D900

Then I had an iPhone 3G from 2010-2011. I got an iPhone 4 after I went to San Francisco in 2011 and used it until it was stolen from me in Apr 2012. Then I upgraded to an iPhone 4S which is still one of my favorite phones, that I would use until Nov 2013, when I upgraded to the iPhone 5S. Because I don’t like big phones, I would stick with the iPhone 5S until Apr 2016, when Apple finally released the iPhone SE. And now the iPhone SE is my main phone. I would also use the Sony Xperia Z3C as my main phone in Korea from Dec 2014 to Aug 2016 when the screen got smashed.

I used the 5S from 2013 to 2016

2005-2007: Sanyo flipphone
2007-2010: Samsung D900
2010-2011: iPhone 3G
2011-2012: iPhone 4
2012-2013: iPhone 4S
2013-2016: iPhone 5S
2014-2016: Sony Xperia Z3C
2016-: iPhone SE
2017: Google Pixel
2017: Kyocera Duraforce Pro
2017: BlackBerry KeyOne
2017: HTC 10

(main) Laptops

In 2003 I had my first laptop, the Dell Inspiron 7500 and it was good for the time even having a dedicated ATI graphics card, although it had heating issues.

Dell Inspiron 7500

When I went to university, I changed to the laptop I would use the most, the Gateway CX2724, which I bought in 2007. It was a convertible tablet, and had a digitizer and pen with it, wayyy before Windows 8 came back. It was running Windows XP tablet edition!

Gateway CX2724

I used this laptop until 2008, when I switched to the Dell Latitude E4200, which was a very small, portable, light (only 2.2lbs!) laptop that was very versatile. I would dock it in the docking station and use it with my monitor at home, and it was easy to carry at school.

Dell E4200

I would use this laptop until Aug 2011, when I got my HP Envy Beats edition. This laptop had dedicated graphics, which I hadn’t had since my first laptop, so I could finally play games on it!

HP Envy Beats

I would use this laptop until I felt that it was rather heavy to carry around all the time, and made me wish I had a notebook like my Dell again. The screen on it also later broke and doesn’t work anymore. That’s when I got my Lenovo Thinkpad X240 in Jan 2014, which then became my main laptop. I also had a Macbook Pro Retina 13 from 2012-2014 that I used mostly for programming or recording.

Lenovo X240

I used this until the screen started malfunctioning around Jun 2016. From then on, I used my work Macbook Pro Retina 15 as my main laptop until I got the Lenovo X1 Yoga to finally have my own personal laptop again. It now remains my main laptop as of Dec 2016.

2003-2007: Dell Inspiron 7500
2007-2008: Gateway CX2724
2008-2011: Dell Latitude E4200
2011-2014: HP Envy Beats 14
2012-2014: Macbook Pro Retina 13
2014-2016: Lenovo Thinkpad X240
2015-2016: Lenovo Thinkpad 14 Yoga
2015-2017: Asus G751
2016-: Lenovo X1 Yoga
2016-: Alienware 15 R3

Categories
Music Tech

Choosing a new portable digital audio player (DAP) and Lasik Surgery

As people who read my blog know, and who watch my youtube, I’m a semi-audiophile, and I’m a musician. I care alot more about audio than most people do. I don’t care that much about having super high resolutions on my displays, and I think 1080p is fine for me. I still export a lot of my youtube vids in 720p still because of the space requirements of FHD. I can’t fathom making any 4K videos. I’ve always thought the display technology (IPS, IGZO, OLED etc) was more important than the resolution.

Anyways, I’m in the market for a new digital audio player (DAP). Most people just use their phones to play music these days, but I long for the days when I had a Creative Zen Vision M and people had their iPods and stuff to play music… what happened to those days? Those players were dedicated audio players, and they have discrete DACs to play music with. I feel because I play FLACs and lossless files a lot, I am best served getting a stand alone audio player.

Note that I already have a Soundblaster E5 DAC/Amp but thats more for home use… the device is kind of bulky to carry around in my pocket.
I’ve also upgraded to a pair of Denon MM400s over my Sennheiser Momentums for home use, and Fender FXA6 over my Master&Dynamic ME03s for portable use.

I’ve been using my Sony Xperia Z3C as my audio player up until now, and that is actually better than most phones due to high res / flac capabilities, but I’m about to retire that phone soon as its getting some technical issues.

So I’ve been shopping around with DAPs as there is a lot ranging from $100 – $1k+ and I’ve been looking for one around the $500~ mark. Here’s my considerations.

Shure SHA900 – is a portable DAC/Amp, but is not a player in itself. Its probably the best portable Amp out there, but its really expensive ($1k) and I would have to carry an extra device in my pocket.
Astell&Kern – have a strong lineup of dedicated audio players which sound great and are nicely designed, but most of them have a steep price, and I prefer having an Android interface so I can access my music apps. (DAC: Wolfson WM8740)
Onkyo DAP-X1 – is pretty nice, runs Android lollipop and has dual DACs/Amps and a balanced out and 2 microSD slots, but a bit expensive considering I don’t even use balanced headphones. (DAC: 2 ESS Sabre ES9018K2M)
Sony Walkman ZX2 – is now much cheaper online due to its age, but its still a good one to think about. Sony has always been renowned for its products and I am a acknowledged Sony fan, but to nitpick a little here – the Android OS version Jellybean is kind of outdated and it lacks some features the other DAPs have like having a DAC, and for the price, there could be better.
Colorfly C4 – looks hands down the coolest DAP I’ve ever seen, complete with built in RCA inputs and switchable SRC, but is a bit bulky and the controls while very retro, don’t look the easiest to use. Runs its own OS as well. (DAC: Cirrus Logic CS4398 the exact same one as my Soundblaster E5)
Acoustic Research M2 – looks great, slim, runs Android, etc but price point is a bit high, and only available in Europe it seems. There are cheaper players with the same specs. (DAC: Burr-Brown PCM1794A)
Hifiman HM802S – having a balanced out is nice, as well as a retro clickwheel and has a modular amplifier card that can be replaced. However the bulk and lack of Android means this suffers from the same issue as the Colorfly C4. (DAC: Wolfson WM8740)
FiiO x7 – FiiO has always been a brand for good value, affordable yet good quality. And I was really drawn to this player. It’s got everything the expandable storage, good price, slimness, running Android lollipop, and swappable amp modules. (DAC: ESS Sabre ES9018S)
Pioneer XDP-100R – this is basically the Onkyo DAP with one less DAC and amp chip and no balanced out and as a result its slightly cheaper. I like this one a lot too, it runs Android lollipop, slim enough, has a speaker surprisingly, and has 2 microSD slots for expansion. (DAC: ES9018K2M)

In the end, I was deciding between the FiiO x7 and the Pioneer XDP and the Pioneer won by a hair. The speaker and 2 microSD slots made the difference. You never know, I might need to show my friend some youtube videos and the speaker comes in handy. They are both at the perfect price points since I don’t use balanced headphones.

Pioneer XDP-100

Anyways, can’t go wrong with any of these, they all have microSD for expansion, some form of DAC to make the music sound a lot better, and support for high res formats like DSD, DXD, PCM, MQA etc although I really only care about FLAC. I think MQA has a good future but it needs more support and if it was widely available I’d use that more.

And.. in other news I got Lasik Surgery in Korea!
My time in Korea is becoming short and I wanted to do surgery here since Korea is world class in experienced surgeons and most Koreans get it done more than other Asians. Maybe 90% of Korean girls wear contacts or did Lasik. Plus, its cheaper, only $1500 for me compared to $3k/$4k/$5k in USA/Canada.
I highly recommend this site Dream Eye Center the staff can speak English, its located in Gangnam, and the doctors and staff are very professional and helpful. Alot of Kpop stars did it there too so you know that have good credentials.

I was a bit nervous at first, but it was ok.. there was no pain, but it was slightly disturbing because I can see the blade come down and cut a flap in my cornea, and theres a suction cup placed on my eye and that was slightly painful for a second. That was about it… and now my vision is a bit blurry especially in my left eye, and I have to use 3 different eye drops a day. But it will get better within a week I heard. Anyways, through the miracle of technology I don’t need glasses anymore after wearing them for 10 years!

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