Gadget update (Dec 2016)

End of the year tech update, these are the tech I have when I finally get back to SF from Korea.

Computers

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga

This is my main laptop now. 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. Just perfect. It replaces my Thinkpad Yoga 14.

Alienware 15 R3

This is my main gaming and entertainment computer now, replacing my aging HP Envy Beats 14. 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 Mini
My main multimedia / programming computer.

Asus G751
My Asus stays as my main workstation computer, mostly for editing videos.

Dell Latitude 7370
My replacement for my Vaio S and Thinkpad X240 as a travel laptop. Amazingly, even though its 13" and my X240 was 12", its over a pound lighter!! Of course the battery life isn't as good, but it is lighter and slimmer, and just as good for travel. The Vaio S is slightly lighter and has a more powerful processor, but the display isn't as good, and the footprint is bigger due to the 13" screen (the Dell has an InfinityEdge display which only takes up space equivalent of a 12" laptop).

Tablets/Phones
iPad Air

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

iPhone SE

The iPhone SE is my main camera and 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. Its also my secondary phone.

Google Pixel
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.

Pioneer XDP-1000

Since I don't need a Korea phone anymore, the Pioneer acts as my main music/video player, with hi-res capabilities and a whopping 2 expandable slots for a lot of storage.

Music

Fender FXA3

These have replaced my Master&Dynamic ME03s as my travel/in ear headphones.

Denon Music Master MM400

Denon MM400
Denon MM400

Absolutely the best over ear headphones I've ever had, these now have replaced my Sennheiser Momentums which were falling apart as well.

Creative Soundblaster Roar 2

These have replaced my Bose Soundlink Mini as my new portable speaker, sounds great and comes with a variety of features like mp3 player, voice recorder, USB DAC etc

Klipsch Promedia 2.1

Absolutely fantastic computer speakers. The bass and overall sound quality is fantastic. Replaces my non-functioning Creative T4Ws which shorted out :(.

Cameras

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

Sony Music Video Recorder
This camera is mainly used for casual recording video blogs, music videos and video reviews. Basically my youtube camera now.

Sony HDRAS300
My camera for action shots like biking, scooter, hiking, swimming, etc replaces my old GoPro 3+ Silver; this one has optical image stabilization which is a big help for recording action videos.

DJI OSMO Plus
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 Mavic Pro
My new DJI Drone has slightly less wider field of view than my old Phantom 3, but makes up for it by being more portable and having similar image quality

Btw.. I recorded a tour of my apartment finally.. here it is

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

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

(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 fliphone
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

(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
2016-: Lenovo X1 Yoga

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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