New video – Samsung Note 8 Review

So – at long last, I got Sean P on camera to talk about what he likes and doesn’t like about his Samsung Note 8 device.  The video just went live on our channel, so head on over and check it out.  Be sure to subscribe and leave a thumbs up while you’re there, so I can keep the videos of Sean P coming.

Thanks for watching – be sure to leave a comment on what you’d like to see us review next!  We’ll have coverage of the Google Pixel 2 phone, as well as probably one of the new devices from Motorola before the end of the year too.  But hit us up and follow us on all the social channels too.

New video – updated Essential Phone review

Essential Home

A new video is live on our channel – we take a closer look at the Essential Phone now that it has received a few major software updates.  Have these updates made the Essential device worthy of your attention – watch and get our take on this one of kind device.

Thanks for watching – and make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel to get all our content as soon as its available.

Review – UAG Plasma Case for Pixel XL

 

I’ll be clear – I’m very picky when it comes to my choice in smartphone cases.  I’ve owned more phones than I care to count at this point, and protecting my device is something I take pretty seriously.  As phone and phone displays have gotten larger, in stark contrast, I tend to prefer the more minimalistic cases.  These cases typically feature a smaller amount of protection, but allow you to retain more of the original look and feel of the device.  A single drop with my old Nexus 6P changed my outlook on all that however; and so I sought out more coverage and protection for my Pixel XL.  This Plasma case from UAG is a good compromise between protection and svelte style.

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Moto Z2 Play Review

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Now that Sean P is back from vacation and has spent some time with the Z2 Play, we are ready to give you our thoughts on this mid tier offering from Lenovo & Motorola.  The most recent episode of the Silicon Theory podcast will also be our review, so if you’d rather hear our thoughts than read them, check that out instead.  And we want to take the time to thank Motorola and their marketing affiliates for getting us the device and the Moto Mods to review.  Our review of the mods will follow soon, but without further ado, let’s dive into the phone review.

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Dash Wand – Video Review

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For those without the time or inclination to read, our video review of the Amazon Dash wand w/Alexa built in is hitting YouTube shortly and will be live for your enjoyment.  You can click the social links in the upper right corner of the home page, or follow this link right here to find all the videos from our channel

Thanks for watching!  If you enjoy all our content, please subscribe to the channel, podcast, and this website – it really helps!  Thanks for watching!

 

The Fitbit Alta – a worthy upgrade

20170507_101801Looking to replace your standard Fitbit with something that’s got a few more features and a few more accessories?  Then the Fitbit Alta may be for you.  The designs are similar, the functionality is virtually identical, and you also get an integrated display that allows you see the time and other pieces of info.  It costs a little more, but if you can find a deal on one (as I did) I think you’d likely enjoy what the Alta has to offer.

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[Mini-Review] Samsung Galaxy S7

So this here review is gonna be a little different than other reviews…as “technically” I don’t own this phone.  But, as I know quite a few people who do, and I was able to bribe/threaten/cajole one of them enough (thanks Steven!) to lay my hands on it for a good little while, I feel confident I can give the 4-1-1 to anyone who is actively considering making this their next daily driver device.  If you’ve got a Galaxy S5 or even purchased an S6 early on, this could be the one you’re waiting for.  Maybe you’ve used an iPhone for a while and are considering making the switch to Android?  This could be the one you’ve been waiting for as well.  The Galaxy S7 – here’s looking at you, kid!

How It Looks:

Samsung didn’t change much externally with the Galaxy S7 (coming from the S6) but that wasn’t a bad thing.  The curved metal and glass housing is amazingly good looking.  Bang on Sammy all you want for some things (and I have) but the S7 (and to a lesser extent the S7 Edge) looks like a flagship phone should look.  They also reduced the size of the protruding camera hump, which has absolutely zero impact on the way the device works but makes a lot of difference from an esthetic standpoint.

Photo courtesy of The Verge

The display is stunning -(2560×1440 Quad HD, with a super dense 577 pixels per inch) – and once again Samsung can lay claim to the best mobile display in a smartphone title.  Its bright, has great viewing angles, colors pop, and text and photos are sharp and crisp.  Its a display that you really want to just look at all the time.  According to DisplayMate, the automatic display features that Samsung has baked into the device work really well, and also add value to an already awesome looking panel.

How It Feels:

I have a Nexus 6P, and its great for what I’m doing with my phone: streaming video and audio, and viewing web content.  The 5.7″ AMOLED panel is great for doing all that; but having said that, its form factor is just a little too big.  Samsung really nailed the 5.1″ display size, and made the chassis and bezel around it get out of the way and really just leave you with an immersive all screen experience.  It fits very nicely in hand, and the power/lock switch and volume controls are within easy reach when using the device one handed.  The size is very good, and while some may prefer the curved display tech seen in the Galaxy S7 Edge, the Edge is also comes with a 5.5″ display, which some may or may not find easier to hold onto.  In my time with the Galaxy S7, I had no issues holding onto it, other than having to give it up at the end.  If you’re coming from a Nexus 6, Note 4 or 5, or the LG G3 or G4, the Galaxy S7 will feel smaller in hand, and that’s not a bad thing.  But if you are coming from a iPhone 5s, or even the the iPhone 6 or 6s, this small bump in screen size with a similar form factor will probably not bother you too much.  Especially if you are coming from the 5s, this newly discovered real estate in a glass and metal package will probably feel very familiar.

How It Works:

Its fast – very fast.  Snapdragon 820 CPU, Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB of RAM, lightest version of TouchWiz ever – these are all good things.  And it makes for a user experience that is very fluid and snappy.  Pushing all those pixels seems like a breeze.  The international variant sports the Exynos 8890 octa-core processor, but since that version isn’t likely to be sold here in the U.S. we all will have to make due with the simple quad-core S820.  The rumors are that the S820 doesn’t suffer from the issues with heat dissipation that the S810 did, and that makes for a “Jamaican style” cool running processor and device.  Kudos to anyone who 1) read this far and 2) got the Cool Running’s joke.

Samsung either listened to their customer base complaining or just plain got really really lucky, when they brought back two of the Galaxy series more popular features – IP68 dust and water resistance, and the external storage option via SD card slot (which supports SD cards up to 200GB)  If you’re alive and have had a TV in your home and on for more than 15 minutes at a time, you’ll notice that Samsung is really pumping up the IP68 rating in their commercials, even going so far as to have popular figure Lil’Wayne demonstrate this in recent spots.  While none of us are likely to pour champagne all over our phones just for the fun of it, the likelihood of a water or other fluid splash is high, and knowing that Sammy has already protected you will give a lot of folks peace of mind.

Photo courtesy of Droid-Life

If you aren’t into the cloud storage thing for your photos, music, movies, and other media content, Samsung once again have you covered with the external SD slot.  Popping in a fresh SD card when you run out of space for photos or swapping our your music card for your movies card is something that many people are interested in, so the fact the Galaxy S7 has so many other things going for it as well as this is icing on the cake.  While you can’t at present make the external SD adoptable (merge its contents with the native storage of the phone itself) this usage is likely to meet the needs of the vast majority of casual smartphone users.

Final Thoughts:

While Samsung doesn’t have a stellar track record with things like Android updates and updating TouchWiz, these things have been slowly improving over time.  How TouchWiz will perform on this device a year from now remains to be seen, but one thing is presently certain – the Galaxy S7 is so far, by far, the best standard Galaxy phone ever produced.  Things like the camera and voice quality and radios are subjective, based on market, and I didn’t have a lot of extra time to review them here.  But I am confident in saying:  if you are in the market for a new device, this should be on your short list.  It’s compact, has a great display, is packed with features, and won’t slow you down.  

[Review] LG G4

With a change in carrier came a change in phones – for my whole family as it was to turn out.  I went with the Nexus 6P and haven’t regretted it one bit.  Misses Tech Geek needed something with a good camera, good battery life, and had an SD card slot (since we knew we’d be using that good camera a lot) – we looked at a few options, but since she was using the G2, it made the most sense to get her the updated version, LG’s G4.  Its not my daily driver, but I’ve used it enough to know what I like and don’t like.  Does the G4 live up to the lofty expectations of its G2 and G3 forebears?  Let’s dig in and find out.

Two Thumbs Up:
*Screen, size/form factor
*Rear facing buttons 
*Design options 
*SD card reader/removable battery
The screen, like the G3, is sharp and beautiful.  They did better color balancing with the G4 and the colors are a bit more true to life and the display doesn’t look for feel over sharpened.  The form factor I didn’t like at first, compared to the G3.  Having used the Nexus 6P, I now look back at a smaller display size phone fondly.  And the rear facing buttons are still a design element I love.  Its so much easier to grip your device with nothing on the sides to get in the way (I’m looking at you volume rocker) and LG is still the only OEM doing this.

The G4 was the first G-series to come with replaceable leather backs as an option in a few different colors.  Even if they weren’t the most durable things in the world, at least you had options.  Which is something that no one outside of Motorola is doing.  And speaking of the replaceable backs…you get to have a device where you can swap out the battery and pop in and out an SD card, because the device will allow for it.  This is a great thing, and again – not too many OEMs anymore are offering these as options.  I love the idea of expandable storage, even if everyone is trying to get me to move my stuff to the cloud.

One Thumbs Up
*Specs
*Camera
*Performance
*Battery life

The specs when the phone was released were fine (Snapdragon 808, Adreno 418, 3GB of RAM), but everyone knew that better was coming…and better did come.  Even with all the controversy surrounding the S810 chip, bigger is better is faster is better.  As long as you do it right.  There is also the V10 to consider…if the G-series is no longer a flagship, then the pricing becomes an issue…if it IS a flagship, why the heck do you release a phone with more RAM and a bigger display in a more durable chassis a few months later?  This is a bit confusing.  The camera is very good…but not leaps and bounds better than the G3.  This earns it only one thumb up.  The display will render the pics fine, and the camera interface is very nice – but the sensor itself while fine, doesn’t seem like the very great leap forward as say, the Galaxy S5 to the S6 was.

Performance is fine for most things, but again without flagship specs you are going to see some lag here and there and LG’s UI isn’t helping matters any (more on this below) – the battery life is fine as well, similar in many ways to the G3, and its in fact the exact same size in capacity (3000mah) as well.  Which for me was fine, since my wife can use my old batteries…but again, the leap from the G2 to the G3 was significant…the jump from the G3 to the G4, less so.  When I was still a G3 user, I really didn’t consider the G4 enough of an upgrade to warrant making the move…and now I’m glad I didn’t.  

No Thumbs Up:
*LG’s UI 
*LCD tech/brightness 
*Build quality/materials
*Rear speaker
LG’s skin most consider the worst of the OEM bunch.  I’m not in this lot, but its not terrific.  After using stock Android again for a time with the Nexus 6P, I can honestly say that that’s one thing about the G3 I don’t miss.  Android has come so far that it really seems a shame for most OEMs to try to use their own skin and software as the differentiator and not their hardware.  The colors they chose seem garish, and either too muted or too bright depending on where you are in their menus.  One thing that isn’t too bright is the LCD panel that LG chose for the G4.  While the color tuning is better, and though LG claimed to increase the brightness of the display, the G4 rates exactly the same in terms of brightness in nits as the G3, which was notoriously poor in bright light.  Now, not everyone can use or even should use AMOLED display panels, but while LG’s product looks great indoors, it suffers in direct sunlight.

And again, knowing what the G4 is – in a vacuum, the build quality and materials are fine.  As noted above, you even get choices of leather over the standard polycarbonate plastic.  But – this isn’t a vacuum, and LG released the V10 a few months after the G4 and its build quality is in every way imaginable superior.  From the ruggedized plastic back to the premium metal frame, the V10 is phone you want to carry and been seen carrying.  The G4 in comparison looks like the little brother trying to keep up with the Joneses.

The rear speaker is a clear, but does nothing for me in the sound department.  Yeah, yeah its a smartphone speaker.  Its purpose is to ring and give me notifications and stuff.  But let’s focus on the reality here – most people now use their smartphones to consume media, and may even use it as their primary source of media consumption for 50% or more of their day.  Knowing this, and still putting a speaker on the back of the device is just plain wrong.  Or foolish.  Or wrongly foolish.  I don’t care for it one bit, and the front facing speakers on phones like the Moto X Pure and the Nexus 6P will put it to shame.

The G4 is a really nice phone, and is just about what my wife was looking for in her next smartphone.  And it might be fine for a large group of folks, especially those for whom a solid mobile camera and expandable memory are priorities.  Its not a large jump in any area over the G3, which made it a “like to have” but not “need to have” at the time of its release.  Perhaps even more so now that LG has a few more offerings out in the market.  The G4 is a really good phone, but if you don’t mind the jump in size and the extra display that the V10 touts, its got everything the G4 has, and then some.

[Review] Huawei Nexus 6P

Its been a long time, and many things have happened…but among those things was a switch of carriers for the Two Tech Geeks (from Verizon to T-Mobile) and a new daily driver phone, from the LG G3 to the Nexus 6P.  Mrs. Tech Geek also got an LG G4….more details and some thoughts on that to come soon as well.

But for now…since the 6P has been in my hands for a couple months now, let’s get into what I like, don’t like, and whether the Two Tech Geeks recommend this first Nexus from Huawei.

2 Thumbs Up
*Display/Specs
*Nexus Imprint
*USB-C & rapid charging
*Battery life

The specs are cutting edge and it shows.  The display is Samsung current generation, and is bright, sharp, and represents what is best about AMOLED tech.  Colors are vibrant and pop, and the blacks are deep and true.  The size of the display is great for viewing video and web content (more on the overall size of the device below), and details are rendered crisply.  Performance is as snappy as you’d expect from a Snapdragon 810 with 3GB of RAM and running stock Android.  I’ve yet to encounter any lag or delays with anything (other than the camera, which will be discussed below) – the battery life is also quite excellent, with stock Android (including the Doze feature) and the large capacity battery.  Its very common to get through a typical work day with 2.5-3 hours of SoT with around 45% of the battery left.  On light usage days, the battery will easily last a day and a half.  I’ve gone upwards of 33-34 hours off a charge before having to find the charge.

Speaking of chargers, the USB-C charging port is a handy thing to have.  No more fussing with which direction the connection goes before popping the cable in – you can do it bi-directionally.  And USB-C supports rapid charging, which is no joke. I can go from 50% to fully charged in the time it takes me to get in the shower and get ready for work (usually an hour and a half) which means you can leave it off the charger longer, which hopefully will extend the life of the battery (due to fewer charging cycles per day) *This is important because of the lack of a removable battery.  Only bummer with USB-C is its not related to the Qualcomm Quick Charge technology…so you have to find both a cable and adapter that will allow for the native USB-C rapid charge.  The stock charger does this…I’m still looking for a few more that will.

Now – fingerprint scanning can be great (see my article on iPhone 5s) or it can be a bust (see everything else) – until now.  I don’t know who designed or made the Nexus Imprint (contained in the ring on the back of the device), but this is some of the best fingerprint scanning technology in use today.  Contactless, and fast as all get out.  Not only does it unlock the device, it will wake and unlock from sleep simultaneously in almost no time at all.  Add in its native support in Android M for future use and support, and you have a real winner.  It can also make mobile payments a snap, with Android Pay and Google Play both supporting use of the fingerprint scanner for payments for just about anything that uses the internet or NFC for your phone.  I’ve used it at many merchants and now my forgetting my wallet when going to lunch is a mere annoyance of the past – I can now pay with my phone!

1 Thumbs Up
*Size/form factor
*Front facing speakers
*camera sensor
*build quality/stock Android

The overall size of the display on the Nexus 6P is great, the overall form factor isn’t terrible (it lands in at basically the exact same footprint as iPhone 6S+) but it is a big phone.  And this is coming from someone who has increased the size of their device and display every year for the last 5 devices.  You do adapt and get used to it.  I’ve got medium-to-large size hands, and I can basically do just fine with it after a case and some practice.  But for those who are in love with their Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6 – you will want to get a 6P in your hands first and play with it before making a final decision to buy.  Or play with an iPhone 6S+ for a day…that would serve as an adequate stand in.

The front facing speakers are good quality, nothing special, and get loud enough for most things.  Notifications and music are fine, most movies are fine…I wished for a little bit more volume in quite a few settings, but its good enough from a phone.  You’ll love just having them on the front though.  No more cupping the back of your phone to try to get the movie you’re watching a little bit louder.  So even though the design is good, the volume rates only 1 thump up here.  The camera performance for me has been really good, not on the level of the G3 or G4, or even the Galaxy 6/Note series, but really good.  Some will knock the lack of OIS in the sensor, and this is a valid concern, but I’ve not really noticed a big issue in day to day usage.  I don’t take a lot of video, an this could be why my experience is different from a lot of the other reviews and websites, but I think in general it performs well in good light, low light, and most things in between.  There is a bit of lag when using the stock camera UI, especially if using HDR+ mode (which really is the best way to capture much better images) – so if mobile phone digital photography is your thing, you’d probably going to want to look elsewhere for your device.  But if you need a better than average perfectly adequate mobile phone camera, look no further.  The device feels solid in hand, and the aluminum chassis is a nice classy touch.  It feels good (if a touch big) and is thin and sits in the hand well.  Some have noted the notorious “does it bend?” test; others have seen a slight variance in the angle of the front display that can cause some issues with applying a tempered glass screen protector (I was one of these) – all of these are true to a greater or lesser extent, but at this point, we’re probably splitting hairs.  Its a good looking well built device, and don’t let any blogger tell you different.

Having a stock Android experience on board means you get the best of what Google has to offer.  And like the saying goes, you’ve come a long way baby.  I can remember the days of hoping and praying for Ice Cream Sandwich to come to my phone…and Marshmallow represents the pinnacle of Google’s Material Design.  When you’ve used a skinned phone (like TouchWiz from Samsung or the LG Optimus skin) you don’t really appreciate the simple purity of what Android has become.  Its clean, elegant, and very intuitively useful.  And you know with a Nexus that you’ll always get the fastest updates possible, which can be very important for some.  The monthly security updates are a nice new touch as well – something most of the OEMs have committed to, as well as Google.

No Thumbs Up
*No external storage/removable battery
*Android 6.0 compatibility issues

Coming from the G3, and with the wife having a G4, sometimes I really miss having an SD card slot. I splurged for the 64GB storage in my 6P, so storage isn’t really an issue.  But with kids and taking pictures all the time, its WAY easier to pop out an SD card and replace it, rather than have to download all my photos off the 6P once a month.  Same with a removable battery…its nice to occasionally pop the battery out in case you need a freshie or just need to do a battery pull for getting something stuck….unstuck.  I can’t believe there isn’t a “reboot” option built into stock Android still…just that old “power off” feature.  Maybe someday?  But since the 6P has a great size battery for its footprint, having a need to change out a dead battery for a charged one doesn’t really come around well….ever.  At least not for me.  And if you get low, USB-C rapid charging has got you covered.  So its really a non-issue with both the external storage and sealed battery – some folks may want to pursue a G4 or V10 if those items are deal breakers.

While stock Android is great, some apps won’t have full compatibility with it yet, as developers work to catch up to its new twists and wrinkles.  I was disappointed to find that one of my favorite apps (Tasker) lost a few permissions that I used frequently due to the Android 6.0 changes.  These should mostly be resolved, given time.  So again, mostly minor quibbles…nothing that’s really a deal breaker for this device for most common, every day usage.

Without anything that really gets a thumbs down, the Nexus 6P is a great Android device; in fact, its one of the best that money can buy right now.  There aren’t a lot of compromises here, and the stuff that Huawei managed to pack into a device the size of the 6P is remarkable.  Its available for all the major carriers, and simply put – for the money, there isn’t a better Android phone you can buy.