FEATURE REVIEW – ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA

Please hold while I try to resolve this problem…

Introduction
As I stated a little while ago, I’ve found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. It hasn’t been a lot of fun. Unfortunately for me, I really have no idea where Microsoft and Apple are headed with their computing initiatives. Its unnerving, too. I simply don’t know what to do at this point, and quite honestly, this is the first time I’ve been in this boat in the 20 plus years that I’ve been a tech journalist.

However, I think I may have found an interesting and rather affordable solution to my problem. Enter the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA-D4-GR. Is this the right solution? Does it resolve most, some or all of my issues; or am I chasing through a rabbit hole without the possibility of finding my way out OR the white rabbit that made the hole? Let’s take a quick look at the device and find out.

Hardware
The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H is a Surface Pro clone. It’s a 10.1 inch transformer (ultrabook and “tablet”) in one. It’s got a magnesium-alloy casing and weighs less than 800g; and is running Windows 10 Home.

The device has a quad core Intel Cherry Trail processor running at 1.44GHz. The device, as reviewed has 4GB of RAM and a 10.1 inch, 16:10 backlit, HD display sporting 1280×800 resolution and integrated Intel HD graphics. The device as reviewed has a 128GB EMMC SSD.

The device has integrated 802.11 AC Wi-Fi for wireless networking and internet connectivity. It also supports Bluetooth 4.1 for short range, accessory communication. The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H also has a 2MP web cam for video communications.

For connectivity, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102H has one of each of the following ports:

  • Combo Audio Jack
  • USB 3.0 Port
  • Micro USB Port
  • Micro HDMI Port
  • Fingerprint reader (supports Windows Hello)
  • microSD Card Slot

The build quality here is surprisingly high. I have been really impressed with the hardware and its fit, form and function. For the cost of the device, it’s going to be hard to find something better, in any class of notebook.

The full 360, below, has some really good shots of the hardware, including the included keyboard AND pen.

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The back of the device. Notice the circular fingerprint reader at the top The back of the keyboard
The device, opened up. The keyboard has magnets that attach it to the landscape side of the tablet The device, open
The left side of the device Close up of the left side, ports
The top side of the device with the microSD slot and the power button Right side of the device
Close up of the right side, volume rocker and speaker

 

Tablet
The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H is a Windows 10 ultrabook, just as the Surface Pro line of PC’s. However, it’s not a tablet. Please don’t consider this to be a true convertible – meaning this isn’t going to turn into your iPad or similar tablet when you remove the keyboard.

Like any other Windows 10 ultrabook convertible, all that happens when you remove the keyboard is that the ASUS Transformer Mini T102H becomes a slate PC.

A slate PC is NOT a tablet. It’s a regular PC with a touch interface that doesn’t require a keyboard or mouse.

A tablet is a content consumption device with an ecosystem – apps, videos, audio, etc. – available from a built in store, specifically made to consume ON that tablet. While a slate PC and an ultrabook have apps, and Windows has a “store,” per se in the Windows Store, you can get PC apps just about anywhere. You can also find videos and audio files (be they music, podcasts or other audio) nearly everywhere else that can easily be played on any Windows PC.

Windows 10 tablet mode is just a change in the standard Windows UI, nothing more. Nothing magical happens to the hardware. Nothing really magical happens to the OS after the keyboard is removed. It’s still Windows; just with a slightly different UI.

Aside from the whole Tablet Mode thing, this is really nothing more than a notebook computer with a removable keyboard. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it IS still just a PC. It just has more than one interface; but please don’t’ confuse this with a tablet like an iPad or a Galaxy tablet. It doesn’t run a mobile OS and it won’t. It’s going to have the same performance as it does when its keyboard is connected.

Keyboard
With the Surface Pro line of devices, the detachable keyboard is made of rubber and plastic. While this makes for flexibility, it doesn’t lend a lot of confidence that you’re getting a quality product. Well, that and the fact that the Surface Pro 3-4 Type Cover is an additional purchase that runs $129.99 for the older version to $159.99 for the version that has the Windows Hello compatible, finger sensor.

The keyboard that comes with the ASUS Transformer Mini T102H is included with the tablet at no additional charge. It functions nearly the same way as the Microsoft Surface Type Cover, but has a metal alloy shell. The keyboard itself employs a butterfly switch under each key and sports 1.5mm of key travel. The extra-large touch pad is built in.

The typing experience is merely ok. It’s nothing to write – or type – home about. In the end, including the keyboard as part of the whole package, is another stellar move. It just cements the value of the whole package.

Out of the box, the keyboard of my ASUS Transformer T102H had a problem with the touch pad. The keyboard is supposed to support a right click via clicking the lower right corner of the track pad. This hasn’t worked right from the moment I pulled the device out of the box, and it’s obvious that the issue is a hardware issue and not a software or driver issue.

I called ASUS Tech Support and got someone who read a script at me and had me uninstall and reinstall APK and touch pad drivers. Getting her OFF the script wasn’t possible. However, 4 restarts and one full uninstall/ reinstall round and me insisting that this wasn’t a driver issue stopped the tomfoolery.

She then told me that I could return the device to my point of purchase, or could send the device to ASUS for warranty work. I told her that since this was a detachable keyboard, and that was the only part that I needed, couldn’t ASUS just send me a replacement keyboard?

No. ASUS doesn’t send parts to customers. If I wanted a replacement keyboard, I would need to send in the entire device, and then they would examine it and then determine if they would repair my existing keyboard or send me a new one. When I reminded the tech support rep that the keyboard was removable and that all that anyone in Repairs was going to do was take a look at the paperwork, grab my unit, pull the keyboard off, attach another one and then call it a day.

I got similar service from Newegg, as I bought the device from them and also purchased their extended warranty for $50. I would need to send the entire device and they would then send a replacement. Both companies knew that this would leave me without a working machine and didn’t care.

I blame Newegg more than I do ASUS, simply because they are the ones that I bought the extended warranty from. Why no one will send me a detachable keyboard is way beyond me.

Performance
I’m going to get to battery life and other performance factors in just a moment, but I wanted to take a moment and talk about this computer and its processor and RAM performance.

In a word – WOW!

The Intel CherryTrail Atom processor definitely makes a difference. I’ve reviewed value based tablets before and haven’t been impressed. Atom processors promise decent performance coupled with battery savings, but, in my opinion, always have a hard time delivering.

My assessment of the Dell Latitude 10-ST2’s Atom processor can clearly be seen here:

The Atom processor doesn’t have a lot of horse power. In fact, it’s pretty anemic. The system is optimized for a few specific apps – Microsoft Office being one of them – but don’t expect it to power through anything else. The weak processor performance even seems to affect network traffic, disk I/O and display performance as well, though obviously system interaction between dedicated subcomponents will also factor in.

With the ASUS Transformer T102H, the tune is a little different. While this is NOT going to run Photoshop or Lightroom with any sense of reliability or desired performance, it can ink notes in OneNote 2016 without ANY ink lag at all. It will also handle most, if not all, your PowerPoint and Excel documents – barring any really complex macros or large, external data calls – with reasonable results. For reliable, light to medium level productivity work, this computer should more than adequately meet all of your needs.

To be honest, I don’t know if the level of performance satisfaction I have is due to the more advanced Cherry Trail processor in the ASUS Transformer T102H vs. the Atom processor in the Dell Latitude 10-ST2, or if the satisfactory performance is due to the device’s 4GB of RAM… or both. I don’t have the 2GB version of the device to compare mine against. However, I’ more than certain that it plays into the equation more than you might initially think. At the very least, it’s the combination of the quad core, CherryTrail processor and the device’s 4GB of RAM that are making such a remarkable difference in my expectations.

Battery Life
Led in part by its 1.44GHz CherryTrail Processor, I’ve found the battery life to be totally crazy awesome on the ASUS Transformer T102H. The device advertises an 11 hour, all day battery.

These estimates are close but I’ve found my results to be about half of what’s advertised in real life. However at five and a half hours, this should get me through most of the work day without really NEEDING a charge. This is great news; and a huge relief, as having a day long note taking solution is HUGE in the office, especially when you have back to back meetings and CAN’T get back to an AC outlet and charging cable.

I wish that all of my notebooks were as good on battery life and did me so well when it comes to the task at hand.

Software
The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H is a Microsoft signature PC. This means that its free of crapware. It doesn’t have any third party add-ons or software. The only thing that it really does have is the installation stub for Microsoft Office 365. Other than that, this PC is junk free.

In my opinion, Signature PC’s are the best on the market. I know in many cases that software companies cut deals with OEM’s to help defer the cost of software development, and the OEM’s get help to defer the low cost of the device. I think the software companies come out on top of that deal; and that’s fine when the software in question is useful; but when it’s something that’s so bloated like Norton Antivirus or MacAfee Internet Security, you really have to wonder why the OEM chased after it.

I’ve seen MacAfee software preinstalled on low end PC’s with budget processors and quite honestly, all that it really does is bring down the performance of the device. Having the ASUS Transformer Mini T102H be a Signature PC without all of that garbage software, is a huge blessing. Those apps don’t always remove themselves well, and you can end up with a gimpy system afterwards. Here, you don’t have to worry about that.

Conclusion
This one is fairly easy. If you’re looking for a Microsoft Surface Pro clone and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on the device, this is likely the PC for you. Its CherryTrail processor isn’t going to be something that’s going to punch through any audio or video editing or run Photoshop or Lightroom, well, really at all; but if you’re looking for a productivity machine for you or your kids, THIS is a really good choice.

The device will run Office very well; and if you’re into OneNote at all, then you’re in for a treat. The device comes with both a detachable keyboard and a pen, so you can take notes, draw, markup documents – whatever – right out of the box. There’s NO ink lag with the pen in OneNote 2016, and with an Intel Atom processor, that’s really very surprising. I’ve had other devices where that was NOT the case.

A side view of the ASUS Pen The top of the ASUS Pen. Notice, there’s no application button on the end.

This is an ultrabook PC, so even though you can remove the keyboard and use it without a keyboard, it is not a true tablet, as it doesn’t run a mobile OS. It runs 64bit Windows 10 Home. In any “mode,” PC or tablet, this is a PC. Period.

Speaking of the keyboard, it provides a decent typing experience. While it’s not something that I’d like to work with all day long, its ok; and can get you through a meeting in a pinch. Again, the fact that this device comes WITH the keyboard is huge. On the Surface Pro, it’s a $129 – $159 add on.

As a Signature PC, this device is awesome. No junk software! No crapware! This is huge on a device like this with a budget processor, no matter how good that processor may be; and huge when it has a non-upgradable SSD as a main drive. While it does have a microSD card slot for additional storage, the fact that you don’t have to run an app like the PC Decrapifier to try to remove all of the OEM sponsored junkware that comes on most Windows PC’s is huge.

The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H runs $349.99 for the 64GB version and $399.99 for the 128GB version. It is readily available on the internet and is perhaps one of the best budget PC buys you can make this year.

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Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Ok… so… this is where I’m at…

Sometimes being me can be difficult and frustrating.

Given the current state of consumer computing, finding a business solution for me and my needs at the office has been really difficult. As such, I’m finding myself stuck between a rock and hard place.

This area of no man’s land where I shuttle myself between two different ecosystems just to get critical work done is getting to be a pain. I honestly hate what’s going on, and I’ve got to come to some sort of resolution, soon, or I may just decide to pack it all in…

Problem:
Okokokok… so, my problem is that I’m a little OCD when it comes to meeting notes. I don’t like using a standard, paper note pad. In the past, I’ve misplaced them by either leaving them in a conference room, or have accidentally thrown them away or accidentally stuck them in a drawer or filing cabinet when trying to organize and straighten up either my home office or my desk at work.

A Rock…
As such, I made the switch to electronic notes. Originally, I chose Evernote, as it was available for Windows as well as Mac. Typed notes are great – and since I type 65 to 85 words a minute, I was able to keep up with the discussion. However, I got the ol’ stink-eye from a lot of other meeting attendees who complained that the noise from my notebook’s keyboard was distracting. So much for Evernote.

When TabletPC was popular between 2007 and 2010, I switched to OneNote and digital inking. It took me a while to OCR my handwriting, but there were ways around that. This lasted until the TabletPC died. I moved back to this solution when I had a Surface Pro and a Surface Pro 3.

With some of the issues I’ve been having with OneNote recently, continuing to use a Windows PC + Touch + OneNote combination has presented a number of different unresolvable challenges, especially when it comes to a Surface branded PC. They just don’t seem to be very reliable.

Some have asked why I have chosen to stick with a Surface branded PC, when something like a Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2 in 1 laptop would do the trick. Dell PC’s have their own issues, in my opinion, including the bundling of crapware and other undesirable software like MacAfee Live Safe. Removal of this software isn’t easy and takes a lot of time. Other Windows PC’s also have their own issues when it comes to drivers; and unfortunately, graphic drivers are always high on the hit list. I don’t know a Windows PC that doesn’t suffer from some sort of graphics driver gotcha.

A Hard Place
At this point, I know a bunch of you are trying to jump through your computers wanting to throttle me, saying, “you switched to an iPad Pro. Why are you still kvetching over this?!” and you’d be right.

I did switch about a year ago. The inking on an iPad Pro, especially with an Apple Pencil, solves all of my inking issues. So what’s all the hullaballoo about? That’s simple – OneNote for iOS.

OneNote for iOS doesn’t work ANYTHING like the desktop version of OneNote for Windows. It also doesn’t work anything like OneNote for macOS (but please, pleASE don’t get me started on a feature comparison between the Windows and macOS versions… you’re just gonna make me cry).

In short – OneNote for iOS is feature deprecated. The iOS version is missing features from both desktop versions; and the features that it does have, work somewhat differently than on either desktop side.

Because things work differently, you run into some serious synchronization bugs that make working with the software rather difficult.

For example, the iOS version of OneNote doesn’t allow you to insert meeting headers into any of your notes. (i.e. it won’t pull meeting information from your calendar and auto insert that into a note page via the Meeting Details button.

winonenote-00

Instead, you must do this on the Windows desktop side.

winonenote-01

When do you this, you MUST insure that you expand all of the collapsed links in the header that is inserted.

winonenote-02

They will appear auto expanded in OneNote for iOS. If you don’t do this, depending on how your handwritten notes are inked and where and how OneNote recognizes those ink strokes – as a contiguous flow of ink or as separate ink strokes – OneNote will move your inking down the page. It is possible, depending on how OneNote sees your ink that your hand written ink may get separated from the rest of your notes, thereby becoming illegible chicken scratch.

If your writing is recognized as continuous word objects, this won’t happen, but you won’t know this until you either try to select a block of ink and move it yourself, or until the header or other object from the desktop side gets inserted via sync from your desktop copy.

I’ve had this happen to me, and unfortunately, trying to piece things back together again is really difficult, and your notes end up ruined. I shouldn’t have to completely change the way I write just to make certain my digital inked notes synch correctly with all of the required meeting information.

Conclusion
I may be whining about this a bit, and I’m willing to accept that; but this is getting to be a little silly. There are three (3) different, disconnected teams writing OneNote software – the Desktop Windows Team, the macOS Team and the iOS Team. Why they are working on different feature sets? Why are feature basic sets deprecated between the three versions? Why are the teams working from appears to be a different vision for each version of the app on separate platforms? Shouldn’t this at least be unified? Shouldn’t this all be on the same page with the same feature sets?

Hint-hint… Bring the iOS, macOS and Android versions all up to feature parity with the Desktop Windows version of OneNote.

To be very honest, working with the iOS version of OneNote isn’t easy. The object selection tools are difficult to work with. Items often don’t get selected correctly, or fall off during a drag and drop and need to be reselected or grabbed again. Dragged objects or group of objects often don’t drop in the right place, and I end up arguing with OneNote for iOS on where and how objects get placed on a page.

Inking..? Oh yeah… it’s generally fine; but starting at the right point on the page so that when meeting information is inserted in the page there’s enough room for any collapsed text or graphics (whatever was in the body of the invitation when it was sent/ received) fits when it syncs over to the iOS version (and is auto expanded) without messing up any of your inking can be very challenging.

I find myself working around all of the issues more than actually getting any work done with OneNote for iOS.

…and THAT’S why I’m seriously considering a Windows touch device purchase.

I know right…?!

It seems crazy with all of the issues I’ve outlined above. However, in a Microsoft dominated and driven corporate world, what else am I supposed to do? Microsoft drives businesses. It drives industries. The entire world uses is office suite components. How do you switch to something else, when you need to integrate with other Office files? It seems a bit silly to switch to something else…some other kind of note taking tool at this point.

Where do you sit with all of this? Are you a OneNote user? Are you using OneNote for iOS? Do you use inking in OneNote on ANY platform? What has your experience been with it? I’d love to hear what you have to say; or if any of you have any recommendations for me. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts on all of this.

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Thoughts on the New MacBook Pro’s with Touch Bar

Here are my initial thoughts, long and winded though they may be.

Introduction
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately when it comes to PC’s. I’ve got a Late 2013 MacBook Pro that will be 3 years old in a couple of months. Its running just fine, so I really don’t need a new one; and I’m not looking to buy a new computer this year.

If it’s not clear, I’ve pretty much become totally disenchanted with Windows. Unfortunately, things haven’t gotten much better. In fact, the status of this issue hasn’t really changed in over a year. It’s still a problem, and all that Microsoft has is a work around – turn off auto text recognition.

That’s not an answer… but I digress.

With OneNote being the biggest reason why *I* would purchase a Surface Pro 3 or Surface Pro 4 (you’ll recall I dumped mind), I’m really not in the market for a new PC.

With the results of the recent Apple event (even if I was in the market for a new Mac), I’m not certain that I would buy one at this time. In short, I’m not happy and under impressed.

Here’s why (in as small a nut shell as I can put it…)

Cost
Let’s get this one out of the way first, as its likely the most visual issue (aside from the ports, issue, below) with the new MacBook Pros. Cost increases for the Late 2016 MacBook Pros, both with and without Touch Bar are high. They’re so high, in fact, that they’re high for Apple prices, and, THAT kids… says LOT.

Please note that all prices quoted are prices taken directly from Apple .com, and are before any applicable sales tax is added.

The entry level 13″ MacBook Pro, without Touch Bar, is meant to be a replacement for the 13″ MacBook Air. The entry level MBP is $1499. It has a dual core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, Intel Iris Graphics 540 and two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports. The 128GB 13″ MacBook Air still sells for $999; and has similar, if somewhat diminished specs. That represents a $500 increase; and you’re not getting much more for your money, in my opinion, to justify the cost.

The 256GB version sells for $1199, with the same tech specs. That represents a $300 increase, and all you’re getting is a 256GB SSD for the trouble. That’s hardly worth an extra $300 bucks.

The top of the line 15″ is $4299, up $1515 from last year’s top of the line, which maxed out at $2785. The unit includes a 2.9GHz quad core i7 processor, a 2TB SSD (a $1200 option), 16GB of RAM, and AMD Radeon Pro 460 graphics with 4GB of RAM. The cost for this new unit represents a $1515 increase over the previous model.

You could buy a whole other MacBook Pro for that much. Let’s let that sink in just a bit…

At these prices, it’s very difficult to justify the purchase of ANY model. The biggest problem there is that these units are likely LESS upgradable than last year’s model (my guess is the SSD’s are soldered on to the motherboard). That being the case, you’re REALLY going to have to try to future proof the purchase by buying as much as you can. At $4300, and without some of the features and ports (see below) that most are going to want and need, then justification FOR the purpose is much more difficult.

Ports (and other Hardware Changes)

macbook-pro-touch-bar
There were a lot of hardware changes that were made for this model. The most noticeable is the new Touch Bar replacing the function key . I heard on Mac Break Weekly that the Touch Bar was technology that was first pulled together over seven years ago and has been lurking in the Apple R&D lab since before Steve Jobs passed away. It seems that this one feature has been kicked around for a while. Now that it’s finally been set free, we’ll have to see what Apple does with it… Hopefully, it will be much, MUCH more than just a simple gimmick.

USB-C
However, the most noticeable, and potentially most damning… potentially most upsetting… are the four (4) USB-C ports, representing the computer’s ONLY non-wireless connectivity. There are two (2) on each side. While they do provide Thunderbolt 3 connectivity through what is supposed to be just as a universal connector as the USB-A connector, USB-C is really still relatively new (two (2) years or less) and while GAINING acceptance, the “U” in its universalness hasn’t really taken hold yet. I think it will be at least another 18 to 24 months before you see any and all remaining port connectors on notebooks (especially) and desktop form factors (that survive) disappear in favor of USB-C.

Unfortunately, the transition away from other ports – or the inclusion of other ports – happened WAY too early on the MacBook Pro. When this transition is in full swing… when that happens or begins to take shape, THEN I think you can safely move to an all USB-C configuration. Right now, the MacBook Pro is in dire need of other native port connectors, including one to two (1-2) USB-A connectors and at least one Thunderbolt 2/ Mini Display Port connector. (I’ll get to the SD card slot in a sec…). The lack of a transitory set of connectors forces a few very aggravating conclusions

  1. The new MacBook Pro isn’t meant for “me”
    This is the more serious of the two, and it may be a very relevant and accurate question – who is this computer REALLY meant for? Its costs are upwards of $500 to $1500 MORE than previous models, so the cost would suggest a more professional user demographic. However, based on hardware limitations, connectivity and peripheral issues, etc., a more consumer based or casual user would appear to be targeted. Until Apple can really clarify this for us with either marketing material or other hardware configurations, the LATE 2016 MacBook Pro may be something that many pass on, despite it being the “fastest selling MBP ever.”If you’re interested in a similar point of view, The Verge has a very interesting take on this.
  2. If I buy it, I’m going to need to buy dongles for all of my peripherals

Get used to this; at least for this (and perhaps) the next hardware revision of the MacBook Pro. If you have ANY Thunderbolt peripherals, you’re likely going to consider, but pass on replacing them any time soon. Thunderbolt peripherals are expensive. Getting rid of them before they’re useful life is over isn’t an option. Carrying dongles or new/ extra cables for everything is NOT what I want to do with a new computer, and especially one that I’m ALREADY paying a premium for. When I have to add an average of $1000 MORE for that premium, I’m not happy with the choice OR the results.

MagSafe 2
This 10 year plus old savior of not only your REALLY expensive computer, but your premium priced power brick is now gone. I know that before this, my daughters MacBook G4 got tossed all over the living room when someone tripped on the cord. With the advent of MagSafe and MagSafe 2 many the life of a premium priced laptop had been saved. It’s gone now in favor of USB-C.

All of the issues we had with charging prior to MagSafe and MagSafe 2 are now back after a 10 year hiatus.

Gee… thanks a lot Apple.

If you think that my computing habits have changed enough to forego this from happening or if my family of seven has reduced in number any, then you’re sadly mistaken. I need this more than ever, and is going to be a huge factor in determining if I move to a newer MacBook Pro in the future, or if I decide to just stay where I am and try to hold out as long as I can.

Right now, this isn’t too painful for any Mac owner, as they likely have MagSafe/2. The moment their new higher, premium priced laptop gets snagged by a little one’s feet and both child and parent are crying for different reasons, will everyone really start missing this… AND wishing it was back sooner rather than later.

SD Card Slot
There are a lot of folks that say that they really didn’t use this thing. I use it every day. I have a Hyper Drive for my Late 2013 MacBook Pro, and I have a 200GB microSD card in it. All of my photos from my Nikon DSLR get transferred here so I don’t take up too much space from my 512GB SSD. This gives me near three quarters of a terabyte of space on my MBP, and honestly, I’d be lost without it.

Many audio and video professionals are going to have issues with this decision as well, as not every piece of AV equipment is setup to use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or some other form of wireless file transfer. While you transfer files with a cable, its again going to require that you get and carry a different cable, OR a dongle, and that just seems wrong, frustrating and expensive.

I think removing this, in the long run will turn out to be a mistake, but having Apple reverse this kind of decision isn’t likely going to happen either, so you should be prepared for some kind of long term work around.

Upgradability
Anytime you turn a product into an appliance – something you can’t upgrade – then as the manufacturer, you’re taking on the role of providing an appropriate upgrade path; or a path that provides needed options. While Apple has turned the MacBook Pro into an appliance, they haven’t really given everyone the options they are currently requesting.

The 15″ Late 2016 MacBook Pro doesn’t have a lot of upgrade or purchase options. You have a Quad Core i7 option that offers 0.2 GHz of speed/ turbo increase for approximately $200 – money not worth spending, in my opinion – three SSD options – 512GB, 1TB and 2TB – the last coming at a $1200 premium, enough to nearly buy a whole other MacBook Pro – and an AMD discrete graphics adapter bump that effectively buys you 4GB of adapter RAM vs 2GB of adapter RAM, for an additional $200. The device comes standard with 16GB of system RAM. (I’ll get into that, below.)

In this chassis, having turned the device into an appliance, you’re likely going to need to insure that you buy enough machine as you can afford. The SSD is likely soldered to the motherboard and not remotely end user upgradable. All of the other components I’ve listed (aside from RAM, addressed below), were already soldered to the motherboard; and you’ve not been able to upgrade any of those components since the mid-1990’s when CPU upgrades were tossed out because too many end users were zapping chips, creating way too many returns. The upgrade chips also didn’t sell very well – but that’s another story.

RAM Limited to 16GB
The Late 2016 MacBook Pro is limited to 16GB of RAM due to processor limitations. According to Apple and Intel, processor issues with the Intel Core processors used limit RAM to 16GB so processor heat and other issues don’t overwhelm the battery, greatly reducing battery life to something under 3 hours a charge. While this isn’t surprising, it is very disappointing. Apparently the case can get VERY hot with the Kaby Lake processor that allows more than 16Gb of RAM.

This is a huge limiting factor, however. The current (prior to the Late 2016 MacBook Pros) crop of Mac portables max out at 16GB of RAM. While we want Intel vs. AMD processors here – Intel processors are far superior in processing power – we don’t want to burn down the house, office or your pants. However, machines with this kind of processing power really want more than 16GB of RAM, especially for audio, video and still photography processing, and this current crop of MacBook Pros just doesn’t deliver.

I’m certain this will be resolved in the future, but having this issue now just provides one more reason to pass on this new Mac laptop; and honestly… that’s very disappointing.

Conclusion
According to MacBreak Weekly, the Touch Bar has been floating around Apple’s R&D department for over seven (7) years. That puts us back into Steve Jobs time, and is a piece of technology that Steve was obviously aware of before he passed in 2011. So, considering that this at least has his knowledge, if not his approval, to move forward, you can rest assured that the Mast of Macness had a good idea that this would eventually see the light of day. After seven (7) or so years, it may simply be that it didn’t make sense to hold this bit of kit back, so out it went. Unfortunately, rationalization on feature release isn’t something that we’re likely going to get much insight on from Apple.

While this may be the biggest draw to this new crop of MacBook Pro’s there are certainly some detractors among the attractions. While thinner and faster are always at the top of what Apple is trying to do, there comes a point when you have to ask if thinner and faster is really the way to go. I mean, to be honest, I could care less if this year’s MacBook Pro is thinner than last year’s.

Some people will say that Apple really is trying to merge iOS and macOS here, as the hardware seems to be on a collision course. They’re really getting to look an awful lot like each other, the thinner they get. While I have no idea if this is actually a goa here (previously, Tim Cook said they would never meet, but get asymptotally closer (close, but never intersecting). My guess is that there are a lot of folks that are really questioning that statement right about now.

To me, it’s irrelevant.

The Mac and the iPad Pro serve two different audiences, though those could flip flop from time to time, they serve different market segments. There will – at least in my lifetime – always be the need for separate tools as they address and serve different functions.

However, let’s get down to brass tacks – is this the right Mac for you? That’s going to depend on your needs and the current age and suitability of your current Mac, but my recommendation will be for you to wait.

Prices for the Late 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar are anywhere between $500 to 1500 (plus tax) more expensive than previous revisions. Their hardware limitations, lack of peripheral ports – and standardization on USB-C – puts them in a total cost of ownership category that is difficult for even the hard core professional to justify. According to IBM, which had the Mac at $563 cheaper to own over its lifetime, the high end 15″ MacBook Pro is now $952 more expensive to own over its lifetime, and that’s just for the current hardware. It doesn’t count in new cables, dongles or peripherals.

How anyone can afford something like this, without it being a machine that goes above and beyond what they have now, is very puzzling. I’m not certain how having its current limitations, will in the long run, appeal to anyone.

And just to be clear, I’m not hating on the new MacBook Pro. I’m a Mac lover. I’m just really disappointed in all of its limitations and issues.

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Connectify

Easily create and connect all of your wireless devices with this handy networking utility

connectify-hotspotI can remember back in the 1990’s when computing was just in its infancy. Back then, no one hardly ever got online. If you did, it was with a dialup connection, and then you likely had AOL, CompuServe, MSN or some other online service. Normally, what you did was dial up, get in, get what you needed and then IMMEDIATELY get off. If you didn’t, you likely ended up using (nearly) all of your monthly connect time, and after that, it got really expensive.

Computing today is TOTALLY different. People are connected all the time. Quite honestly now-a-days, NOT getting online often seems to be a waste of time unless you have specific computing tasks to do – writing a report, tweaking a presentation you already have on your hard drive, or working on a spreadsheet. Most other modern computing activities require some kind of internet connectivity. It’s simply a given.

When it comes to finding an available, trusted internet connection in today’s malware ridden, maze of untrusted networks isn’t easy. This is why apps like Connectify are so important. It’s a networking and hotspot tool for Windows.

connectify

With Connectify, you can easily create a Wi-Fi hotspot that will allow you to connect all of your wireless devices to the internet, while on the go. Connectify isn’t just the world’s most powerful hotspot app, it’s the easiest, to use. All you have to do is give your Hotspot a name and password. After that, you’re ready to go.

You can share any internet connection as a Wi-Fi hotspot. It doesn’t matter if that’s an existing Wi-Fi connection, a wired Ethernet connection, or even a 4G LTE network. However, doing THAT will require you to upgrade to Connectify’s Pro or Max version.

Some of the coolest parts of the app, however, don’t have much to do with actually creating a network signal. Some of the cool stuff comes from some of the ancillary functionality that’s included in the app. Connectify will monitory your network usage, by device. You can track down that friend who’s using all your bandwidth. Connectify’s newest feature gives you real-time graphs of your data usage at a glance.

Get access to the internet is a necessity for many people today. Much of what we use computers for today involves some kind of network functionality or connectivity from sharing files across devices to checking email, or sharing photos. Insuring you have the connectivity you need WHEN and WHERE you need it can sometimes be problematic, especially when you don’t have a data plan for every device you own. With Connectify, those troubles are greatly lessened.

The app is a huge boon to those that need internet on devices that for some reason don’t or won’t connect to some Wi-Fi networks but will connect to others. Keeping track of how much bandwidth you’ve burned and who’s the bandwidth hog on your network used to be mysteries, but now, with included utilities, you can easily figure out both of those things.

Connectify comes in four different flavors – free/ 30 day trial version, Hotspot Pro, Hotspot Max and Hotspot Max Bundle. Each version is subscription based, however, and unless you buy the lifetime version, you’re going to be renewing your license next year. If you like Connectify and feel that its bringing value to your online experience, do yourself a favor and buy the lifetime version of whatever flavor you’re interested in. The lifetime license isn’t all that much more expensive, and once you start your fourth year of use, you break even on the purchase.

download Connectify

 

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BullGuard Internet Security

Keep your PC safe with this must have internet security suite.

ThankYouDogIf there’s one thing that I know and know WELL, it’s that anyone and everyone can get a computer virus or piece of malware. It’s becoming too easy not to pick up a bug, no matter how computer savvy or experienced you are. If you use a Windows PC, as nearly everyone in the universe does, it becomes even more difficult, as most of the viruses in the wild are targeted and attack Windows PC’s specifically. This is the number one reason why I really like apps like BullGuard Internet Security. It’s a suite of security apps that can keep your Windows PC clean as well as protect it from a number of different threats.

BullGuard Internet Security is an all-in-one security suite that guards you, your kids and your PC against ever-evolving malware and cybercrime. The app protects you, your computer and your family from all online threats – identity theft, credit card fraud, hackers, viruses, spyware and much more – thanks to its broad range of features covering nearly every possibility. With BullGuard Internet Security and it’s at-a-glance update system, you will never worry about your digital safety again.

bullguard internet security

BullGuard Internet Security provides the following, holistic, protection:

Total Protection – its real time scanner can stop intruding malware in its tracks, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses and adware so you can compute without worry. The latest enhancements include better protection against advanced rootkits that can steal control of your computer as well as from ransomware so you’ll never have control of your life stolen from you.

Unwanted Apps – Adware sucks. BullGuard Internet Security stops adware cold in its tracks, protecting your data, your browser settings and search engine preferences.

Advanced Backup – BullGuard Internet Security includes 5GB of free online storage so you can keep all of your data, photos, music and home video off site and safe. You can backup data directly from folders with one click. If you want, you can view data on your computer or even your smartphone. If you have a Dropbox account, you can back up your data directly to it.

Firewall – stop unwanted intrusions from accessing your computer and other resources connected to it.

Spamfilter – stop unwanted junk email and email scams, phishing attempts, viruses and foreign language email from flooding your inbox.

Keeping your computer safe is important. Finding the right application or suite of applications to do it isn’t always easy. To be very honest, there’s a lot of crap out there. However, BullGuard Internet Security is one of the best security suites available on the internet today.

Other suites are often overpriced, bloated or difficult to work with. BullGuard Internet Security is fast, easy to use and provides protection for up to three computers in your home. It can protect your PC from adware, viruses, spam and malware. It can protect your PC from unwanted intrusions.

While its licensing is subscription based, that business model is the industry standard, and for three computers, that breaks down to just $20 per PC per year…and honestly, that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

download Bullguard Internet Security

 

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Five Most Popular Mobile Software Apps

We’ve done our homework over here and have pulled together the most popular mobile software downloads for you.

Introduction
As a mobile device expert I can tell you one thing for certainty about ALL mobile devices and smartphones- they’re only as good as the mobile software available for them. If you recall, I addressed this in part in an article on what I think will make or break the iPad Pro. To be very honest, its true for all mobile devices – Software. Popular mobile software will make or break any mobile platform.

With software so important to the mobile devices that it runs on, it’s important to insure you have the right apps for your device. I’ve spent some time, pulling together five (5) of the most popular mobile software downloads, regardless of platform and brought them here, in no particular order, for your consideration.

The Top Five Apps

Maps.Me for Android
maps.meGPS apps are perhaps some of the best mobile software around. Maps.Me is an Android software download that provides turn by turn directions anywhere in the world. It supports over 345 countries and islands. Its maps are highly detailed, and contain more information than any other map or GPS app anywhere. It has millions of points of interest including restaurants, gas/ petrol stations, ATM machines, etc. It will work both online and offline, provided you have enough local storage available so you won’t incur any data roaming charges. It’s also fast, and free.


UC Browser
uc browserIf you remember, we reviewed UC Browser a few years ago. If you get the opportunity and if you’re interested in the app, you should give it a read, as it has a really complete breakdown of what the app can and cannot do.

UC Browser is an Android app that will allow you to surf the internet. Its adaptable configuration helps you adjust the way your browsing works under different networking connections and conditions. This helps manage bandwidth usage, and ultimately, data costs. The browser can also preload pages, download files in the background, and has an add-on platform that can extend the functionality of the app.


Kingsoft Office for Android
kingsoft officeOne of the most important apps I have on many of my mobile devices – tablets, laptops, and to an extent, smartphones – is a productivity suite. Kingsoft Office for Android is a free android software download. With it, you can create and edit rich text documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The suite is also fully Microsoft Office compatible.

Having the ability to edit content on the go is an important ability. Its why many of us carry mobile devices. Having this ability on your Android smartphone or tablet may just make life easier or save your bacon when you need to edit something in a pinch.


Whatsapp
whatsappWhatsapp is perhaps the most used mobile application in the world, especially outside the US. With Android mobile software being the most popular type of mobile download, Whatsapp for Android is very popular. With Whatsapp being cross platform, meaning that it’s also very popular on iOS, its literally available and used on nearly every mobile device on the planet.

The app allows you to send and receive instant messages over a secure network. With it you can send text, pictures, audio notes, and video messages at no other cost than the cost of the app.

Let’s talk about that secure network thing. Whatsapp doesn’t function on its own network, it functions on any internet signal. However, it does employ encryption that can’t be broken, meaning that your messages can’t be read by “inquiring minds [that] want to know. Private and secure communications is what Whatsapp is all about.


Mobomarket
MoboMarketYour mobile device doesn’t do too much without the software that runs on it. When it comes to Android, you actually have a choice of stores to buy software from. You can use Google Play. You can use the Amazon Store; or you can use Mobomarket.

MoboMarket for Android is a third-party Android Market App that really focuses on free Android games and apps. MoboMarket has a geo-location based recommendation system, helping you discover the apps that you’re interested in most. Apps updated in MoboMarket are updated in real time, giving you full control of the apps installed on your mobile device.


Conclusion
Android mobile software downloads are something that every Android user wants and needs. Getting the right software for your device is something that everyone wants and needs. With Android being the most popular mobile operating system, powering some of the most popular devices in the world, having the best of the mobile software available is what it’s all about. The apps that I’ve included here are some of the best… some of the most popular mobile software downloads on Soft32. If you’re an Android user (or an iOS user in the case of Whatsapp), you need to check these out and see if these mobile apps are the right ones for you.

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FEATURE REVIEW – HTC 10

HTC sent me their new flagship Android smartphone to review, and it’s awesome.

Introduction
I’ve always been a gadget guy. If its electronic and it has buttons of any kind, then I’m usually all over it. Smartphones have always been a favorite gadget, as I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan (it’s a well-known fact that the idea for the cell phone came from the Star Trek communicator). So yeah… gadgets.

Back in the day, an obscure company out of Taiwan began making smartphones for a company out of Dubai called i-mate. These smartphones were the elite of the smartphone world. EVERYONE that was anyone in the tech journalism world went out of their way to try to get one of them in their hands, including me.

Fast forward to today. That obscure little company out of Taiwan, turned out to be HTC… and their flagship phones are some of the most sought after devices on the market today. Case in point – the HTC 10 is HTC’s latest offering in their Android line. This one is going to be kinda quick; but let’s see how well it does…

Hardware
As I said, HTC has one of the best hardware reputations in the industry. It’s always been great at hardware engineering. That being said, let’s take a look at what you get when you purchase an HTC 10.

What’s in the Box?
When you get a new smartphone, you nearly always expect to find a few things included with the device. Back in the day, you got a number of different gadgets and goo-jams in the box. This nearly always included the device, some kind of device cradle or charging station, a USB cable, some kind of carrying case or pouch and a set of earbuds. Today, that’s just not the case. Nearly NO ONE includes a cradle or charging station. I find that very problematic, as I don’t like to leave my device – in a case or not – just sitting by itself on a desk. More likely than not, I’ve got a glass of something sweet and sticky also on my desk, and I’m the kind of guy that works cluttered, as I like to spread out. This potentially makes the desk a water (read: liquid) hazard zone for nearly EVERYTHING on my desk. I’m fairly good about NOT bumping or spilling anything, but accidents do happen. Having the device off my desk surface at least gives my smartphone a fighting chance; and that only happens with a sync/ charge cradle.

The ICE View Case
When I got the HTC 10, I was really surprised that it didn’t come with w case. The HTC One (M8) came with the Dot View case. It was included with the device. The HTC 10 has a similar case, but it – the ICE View Case – is a $50 USD add-on purchase. It’s not included.

Now the ICE View case is a cool HD update to the M8’s low-red DOT View case, but it’s expensive, and honestly, I don’t think it’s worth $50 USD. I happened to be fortunate enough to catch the case on sale for $20USD, direct from HTC, and my device is in one now. It’s nice and I think the device needs to have some kind of protective case. The ICE View case does a good job at $20 bucks, but a horrible one at $50 USD. At that price, it should do a lot more.

But enough about the case that should be, but isn’t, there…

OK, So What IS Included?
To be honest… not much. You get exactly the following:

  • HTC 10
  • SIM Card Removal Tool
  • USB-C Cable
  • Wall Wart Charger
  • Warranty Documentation

Notice, that you do NOT get any ear buds or other type of headphones with the device. I contacted HTC about the lack of accessories included with the device and got the following response:

“I know we used to include earphones but this time around we are teaming up with JBL to bring the highest quality earphones to consumers in a bundle package that will be coming soon to htc.com. The earphones have not hit the market yet. What you received in the package is partially due to carrier agreements as well.”

According to my contact at HTC, the JBL bundle was supposed to the partnership with JBL was supposed to come together in late June. From what I can see, it hasn’t happened. The JBL ear buds that they do show on the site, are just that – earbuds; and they’re currently priced at $200 USD. I don’t care how great they are. No earbuds are worth $200 bucks. Period.

HTC also offers as set of HTC Pro Studio Earphones for $80 bucks and a set of HTC Hi-Res Audio Earphones for $30 bucks. The Pro set has a better dynamic range, and support HTC’s BoomSound audio profile. The plain Jane set don’t. You have to ask yourself if the HTC BoomSound audio profile is worth $50 bucks. For me… it’s not. Quite frankly, their entry level ear buds aren’t worth $30 bucks in my opinion. If you want a decent set of headphones, do some research on the internet and then go to an electronics store. If you’re looking for earbuds to get you listening to audio on the go, go to Wal-Mart or some other value retailer and buy a pair for $10-$15 bucks. Save yourself some money. Earbuds aren’t worth much more than that, in my opinion.

The Full 360
As you can see from the pictures, below, the device is similar in form factor to its cousins, the M8 and the M9. However, the first moment I took it out of the box, the first thing I thought was, “wow. This looks exactly like an iPhone.” In fact, for a split second, I thought I was holding an iPhone instead of the HTC 10.

To be blunt, the hardware is awesome looking. Check it out!

 

IMG_5490 IMG_5491 IMG_5492
FULL FRONTAL: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 LEFT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 TOP: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Notice the audio jack placement on the HTC 10
IMG_5493 IMG_5494 IMG_5495
RIGHT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Both the M9 and the HTC 10 have power, volume rocker/ buttons and SIM card slots on the right side. BOTTOM: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8 and M9 have microUSB connectors, off-centered. The HTC 10 has a centered, USB-C connector & a bottom speaker instead of the headphone jack. BACK: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8’s dual camera setup was so disappointing, they did away with it.

Camera
I’ve been shooting amateur photographs for quite a while now. I’ve become pretty good, though I will be the very first to admit that I have a great deal to learn when it comes to the manual settings on my cameras. However, one of the things that I do well is compose and take a good picture.

So, when I found out that the HTC 10 supported RAW camera files, I got very excited. For those not familiar with Camera RAW and its benefits, here’s a quick explanation. Camera RAW is basically a dump of the actual camera image that the camera captures when it snaps a shot.

Usually when you take a picture the camera will take the data that it captures and then convert that data into a file that your PC – either Windows PC or Mac – can read. In many cases, in order to conserve space on the SD card you’re camera uses for storage, it also compresses that file. While the choice of this file type and its compression level is user controllable, compressing a file always strips detail out of the file, degrading the image. This happens with JPEG’s and JPG’s regardless of the compression level you use. JPEG/ JPG by default has some compression to it, even when you choose a compression level of “0.”

This is an issue because when you go to tweak your photos, you want to work with as much detail and data as possible in order to insure that you get the best results. When you add compression, you strip detail away, and well, by now, you get the point – you don’t get the best results. Camera RAW is the FULL detail of the image you took, and is really the one that every photographer wants access to when they go to retouch their images.

However, most consumer based digital cameras don’t support camera RAW. While it’s mostly because 1) Most consumers don’t care about or understand how the loss of detail effects their pictures, it’s also about 2) The camera manufacturer doesn’t want (for whatever reason) to write the translation filter for your computer so it can read and edit the RAW files for that camera (and yes, each camera/ camera brand has its own RAW file format).

With this in mind, you’re going to need to do a couple of things

  1. Understand that RAW files are big. Pictures normally range in file size from 20MB to 30MB, depending on the lighting, detail, type of shot (macro, zoom level, etc.)
  2. You’re going to want/ need to store files on an external SD card. If you keep files available on your phone, you’re going to run out of space, quickly.

All this said, I was very pleased with the performance of the camera on the HTC 10. Full camera specs can be found below.

Primary
  • 12 MP,
  • f/1.8, 26mm,
  • OIS,
  • laser autofocus,
  • dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Features
  • 1/2.3” sensor size,
  • 1.55µm pixel size,
  • geo-tagging,
  • touch focus,
  • face detection,
  • HDR,
  • panorama
Video
  • 2160p@30fps,
  • 720p@120fps,
  • HDR,
  • stereo sound rec.
Secondary (Front-facing)
  • 5 MP,
  • f/1.8, 23mm,
  • OIS,
  • autofocus,
  • 1.34 µm pixel size,
  • 1080p,
  • HDR

The camera here has decent low light exposure and a decent depth of field, but it’s strictly your basic point and shoot camera. This isn’t going to do pro or pro-sumer level photography. Don’t expect that. The pictures that it takes are decent at best. I’ve noticed that zoomed in photos taken near dusk (some are below) can be grainy, even when using camera RAW.

Here are some unretouched photos that I took with the HTC 10. These are in fact JPG’s, as the RAW files wouldn’t have displayed in this review. However, they are done with minimal compression. However, if you’ve got a good eye, you may see some image degradation and graininess in them. I can; but that’s due more to the “Save for the web” feature that I used in Photoshop Elements than anything else.

IMAG0028 IMAG0029 IMAG0031 IMAG0032
My family at my oldest son’s baseball game. My granddaughter making friends at the game The following pictures are of the coach’s review after the game (they won…) This shot is grainier at the top than it is at the bottom. I think that may be due to the stark color discrepancy between the top and bottom of the shot. Its more washed out near the extreme powder blue of the sky.
IMAG0033 IMAG0035 IMAG0036
The coaches review continues. You can see some graininess here The graininess isn’t as bad here, though, as the picture contains more elements of color than actual white.

Communication
The unlocked version of the HTC 10 that HTC sent me runs on both the AT&T and T-Mobile networks here in the US. The HTC 10 uses a nano SIM, and I was able to pull the card out of my iPhone 6 and immediately stick it in the HTC 10.

As expected, calls were clear. As expected coverage and radio reception were on par with my iPhone 6. The thing that DID go sideways with it was its communication with my car radio, the Pioneer AVH-X4800BS.

While the radio is Siri Eyes Free Compatible, it is neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto compatible. The radio uses an app called AppRadio One to display audio and video content and compatible apps on the radio’s 7-inch screen. If you want, you can call this the “poor man’s” version of CarPlay or Android Auto. It does much the same thing, but it’s a Pioneer product.

While I’ve learned that its nothing anywhere close to either Android Auto or CarPlay, I have found that the iPhone communicates and works much better than the HTC 10 does with this radio. I’m not certain if that’s a USB issue (the radio supports a direct, cabled, USB connection), a software issue (it seems to work better with iOS than with Android, in my opinion).

The radio does hands free calling via Bluetooth. That works, mostly, without issue. There are more minor Bluetooth communication quirks with the HTC 10 than with the iPhone 6. To be honest, it was one of the major reasons why I went back to the iPhone 6 much earlier than I had originally planned.

Android
The HTC 10 is an Android phone running Android 6.01 Marshmallow (or greater). The full platform specs are below.

OS Android OS, v6.0.1 (Marshmallow)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820
CPU Dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo
GPU Adreno 530

I have been watching for updates to the operating system. Since I received the device about three months ago, I have received two OS updates and a carrier update. The device is running well.

The only real concern I have is how long HTC will support the device with upgrades. The device isn’t cheap, and one would usually expect to have it supported with updates and upgrades for at least 2 years (the average of a single “contract” term with any character. However, that may not be the case. HTC and the rest of the other OEM’s have made it clear they’d rather sell new devices than provide support.

Conclusion
I was impressed with the HTC One (M8), though it had its issues. The HTC 10 is a far cry better than the M8.

The HTC 10 is shy on accessories. You get little more than the device, a cable and a wall wart in the box. Even on HTC.com, the number of offered accessories is limited to the ICE View Case and a handful of headphones/ earbuds. If you want a lot of accessories for your smartphone, the HTC 10 may not be the device for you.

However, as the device has killer battery life, and a decent point and shoot camera. Marshmallow is a decent version of Android, though to be honest, while it does a good job with the HTC 10, it’s much like any other version of Android since Jellybean. If Android is your mobile OS of choice and you’re due for an upgrade or looking for a new mobile device, this is a GREAT device of choice.

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Opening up the HTC 10

HTC sent me an HTC 10 to review…

HTC-10

Introduction

I love mobile devices. For me, when it comes to electronics, smartphones and mobile devices are some of my most favorite things. So, you can imagine my delight when HTC contacted me two weeks ago and offered to send me an HTC 10 to review.

I was wanting to do a video unboxing of the device, but honestly… there’s little to nothing to unbox.  The device comes in a white, square shaped, box with rounded corners. It contains the device, a SIM tray ejector tool, a wall wart and a USB-C sync/ charging cable.  There’s also some minor regulatory documentation booklets that are included by law, but other than glancing at them to see exactly WHAT they are and maybe to see which side of the device the SIM tray is on, you’re never going to look at them… EVER.

I’m working on a full review for Soft32.  I’ve been in the device since late Sunday 2016-05-22, Chicago time. I’ve got a few first impressions that I’d like to pass on to everyone, without going into too much detail at this point. I’d like to save it for the review that I hope to file before the end of May 2016.

Hardware

When you open the device, the first thing you think is, “iPhone,” or “Samsung.” The device really looks like an iPhone wanna be.  That’s too bad, from a form factor perspective; but it’s not all doom and gloom or any kind of “fanboy” put down.  While the device REALLY does look like an iPhone, the hardware is pretty awesome.

I’ve got the device running around nekked right now; and that’s a bit of a shame. The device itself is truly impressive looking; but as I said, the contents of the box are a bit Spartan. Again, you get the device, the AC wall wart and the USB-C cable.  Clearly missing in my opinion, is a basic case, and a set of ear buds.

NOTE: I shot out an email to HTC on this while I was writing this inquiring about both the HTC Ice View case and the missing earbuds.  HTC is partnering with JBL on a set of exclusive earbuds for the HTC 10.  HTC will be offering them in a bundle package that will be “coming soon” to HTC.com. What I received from HTC was due to this as well as “carrier agreements.”

If you get your HTC 10 now, that’s all you’ll get. Starting in late June, HTC will ship the HTC 10 with JBL earbuds.  The bundle that I mentioned, will be an exclusive offer available only at HTC.com.

Battery

The battery life on the HTC 10 is simply amazing.  The device has 27 hours of talk time and up to 19 days of standby time.  The device can go from zero (0) to 50% charged in as little as 30 minutes with its Quick Charge 3.0 charging system.

I’m still trying to see how well the device lasts without a charge. During the week, I often listen to podcasts and make calls while driving, with my smartphone connected to my Pioneer AVH-4800BS in dash DVD receiver.

As such, battery life on my phone doesn’t usually drop below 60% by the time I leave the office during the day.  However, the weekends are a much different story. My phone usually ends up spending most of the time in my jacket, without being connected to power. We’ll see how well the battery holds up over this American Holiday three day weekend.

UPDATE: As of this writing, I last charged my HTC 10 on Friday 2016-05-27 at 6pm.  It’s been off the charger ever since, fully active and with moderate use – gaming, email, calls, etc. – as of 3pm 2016-05-30, I got my first low battery warning at 15%.  This battery is amazing and you should have no issues with the batter lasting you when using this device.  Normal use should have you no lower than 65% at the end of a normal day.

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

Suffice it to say I wasn’t too impressed with Marshmallow when I covered it last.  That hasn’t changed much. I am finding that Marshmallow – perhaps Android in and of itself – gets in its own way.  Half of the stuff that I’m trying to do with it seem simple enough, but it just doesn’t seem like it wants to work.

It may not be the mobile OS for me… and I’ll have more on this in the full review.

Connectivity

As with any smartphone, connectivity is the key to making any mobile device a success. Today’s mobile devices have a number of different radios in them, and the radios in the HTC 10 have a few quirks that you will need to be aware of.  While I hope to have more information on this in the full review, there are a few things that I need to cover here.

BT performance & connections

If there’s one thing that I really hate about Bluetooth is that its inherently unreliable.  In fact, more often than not for me, it doesn’t work right.

Now, while that is a general statement, it does hold true for the HTC 10.  All of the Bluetooth accessories that I have used with the HTC 10 do not perform as I, or anyone, would expect them to, as you’ll see below.

Olio Model One

This is the one device that seemed to work better with the HTC 10 than with my iPhone 6.  The watch seemed to connect with much form consistency and accuracy with the HTC 10. It connected with much more consistency and accuracy to the HTC 10 than it ever did with my iPhone 6.  However, I’m finding an issue with notifications that I hope to have more on in the full review.

Pioneer AVH-X4800BS
This car accessory is an issue.

Not only does it connect via Bluetooth for phone calls and the like, but it also connects via USB.  Both have issues.  The HTC 10 itself often doesn’t connect to the radio consistently without manual intervention.

Android phones also don’t automatically make any of their multimedia content available again, without manual intervention. Worse yet, this manual intervention must be done every time you connect the device to the radio…and that’s a pain in the butt.

USB Type C

This was an interesting choice for the HTC 10. While it does offer higher speed synching than nearly every other serial connectivity out there, USB C, like all other serial connections, it has its roots in RS-232, and in a technology that is well over 40 years old. As such, it’s not as reliable as you might think, or want it to be, especially when it comes to my car radio.  Yes, it charges well, and audio does play through the cable, but not as well as you might think or hope.  In fact, it doesn’t play through the cable consistently at all; and then, it doesn’t resume audio where you left off. It starts everything from the beginning again – beginning of the song that last played, beginning of the podcast, etc.

The biggest issue I have with USB C is that now, I have to get new cables to go everywhere I have and need cables – my home office, work, the car, and any other place I need to charge.  Type C cables are new, and are, unfortunately, somewhat expensive… and they will be until they become ubiquitous.

Call Quality

Call quality both via Bluetooth and the handset are good… much better than I would have hoped.  However, I’ve used HTC devices on and off for over 12 years. I have yet to run into one of their devices that doesn’t do well with call quality. The HTC 10 is no exception here.

Conclusion

So far, the HTC 10 is a decent device.  It’s got some state of the art hardware that includes one of the best batteries and battery technology that I’ve seen in the history of smartphones. It’s also running the latest version of Android Marshmallow, version 6.0.1.

It’s got some connectivity issues to get over, but this is one heck of a smartphone. If Android is your mobile OS of choice, and you’re in the market for a new device, then you really need to stop and give this one a serious look.

Over the next few weeks, I will be putting the HTC 10 through its paces. I’ll have a full review with pictures and additional information. I may also have some extra articles on the HTC 10 during this time as well.

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