MacSales Introduces 2.0TB Aura Pro SSD

MacBook Pro upgrades are few and far between; and you NEED to look at this one, long and hard…

I’ve been using Apple computers since 2006 when Apple made the switch from PowerPC chips to Intel. At that point, due in large part to Apple’s Boot Camp, it made perfect sense. Back during this time, it was really easy to upgrade nearly every Mac. Today, Apple’s Boot Camp even supports Windows 10, continuing to make it a perfect multiplatform solution.

In 2012, Apple released the retina MacBook Pro. This display change signaled not only a change in Apple display technology, but a change in its notebook architecture. At this point, according to Apple, the MacBook Pro was no longer user upgradable.

That is… until now.

On 2017-06-26, MacSales and OWC (Other World Computing) announced the availability of a 2.0TB SSD upgrade for the mid-2012 to early 2013 Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display. This particular upgrade is a HUGE deal. OWC and MacSales are one of the very few providers of upgrades for this class of MacBook Pro notebook. The upgrade comes in two flavors – one with an external enclosure and one without.

The Aura Pro 2.0TB SSD upgrade frees up and boosts capacity on the internal hard drive – at over five years of MacBook Pro ownership. The Aura Pro drive is also available as a kit with an Envoy Pro enclosure to immediately reuse an Apple internal hard drive, creating a new external USB 3.1 Gen1 portable drive. This is the perfect upgrade for a middle aged Mac, as it increases storage by at least 1TB (for those MacBook Pros that came with a native 1.0TB internal SSD).

aura

The Aura SSD line is a professional storage line that offers increased performance not only over the native SSD, but other SSD replacements. It also provides

The Aura Pro SSD offers a wide range of industry-leading controller technologies for performance and reliability, including:
• Global wear leveling algorithm automatically distributes data evenly and manages program/erase count, maximizing SSD lifespan.
• StaticDataRefresh technology manages free space, gradually refreshing data across the SSD over time, enhancing data integrity.
• Hardware BCH ECC corrects errors up to 66-bit/1KB for superior data retention and drive health.
• Best-in-class power consumption.
• Advanced security protocols support AES 128/256-bit full-drive encryption.
The cost of the 2.0TB Aura Pro is $899.99 USD for the drive only. If you’re looking for the kit with the Envoy Pro enclosure, it will set you back a cool $939.99 USD.

I had an Aura Pro 480GB SSD for the Late 2012 MacBook Air that I had for a couple of years. The performance of that drive was totally awesome. The performance bump on that i5 based Mac was definitely noticeable and a huge boon. It was more than worth the cost of the drive.

I am currently working with OWC and MacSales to see if I can get one of these drives for review. I will let you know how that effort goes. It will be a nice contrast review against the Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro and OWC/ MacSales USB-C Dock and Thunderbolt 3 Dock that I have waiting in the wings.

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Is the Apple HomePod a Non-Starter?

Apple’s got a new Siri powered speaker…

I’ve been chewing on this one for since Apple’s WWDC keynote and I just don’t get it.  Apple’s HomePod is a Siri powered speaker that connects to  your iTunes library and your Apple Music Account.  Specifically, according to Apple:

  • HomePod is a powerful speaker that sounds amazing, adapts to wherever it’s playing, and together with Apple Music, gives you effortless access to one of the world’s largest music catalogs. All controlled through natural voice interaction with Siri.1 It takes the listening experience to a whole new level. And that’s just the beginning.
  • Built to bring out the best in Apple Music, HomePod is a key part of an incredibly deep and intuitive music ecosystem that lives everywhere you do.1 With Siri intelligence and access to virtually all the world’s recordings, it’s like having a musicologist who helps you discover every song you’d ever want to hear.

HomePod does more than play music.  It’s very much like the Amazon Echo. It can help with questions and tasks. It can also connect to HomeKit related devices used to control your connected home’s heating, cooling lighting, locks, etc. It can be the center of your home, just like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa powered Echo and Dot.

The HomePod may be a superior speaker, providing rich, full sound; but it doesn’t have one thing that made the Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot – The Amazon Store.

The Amazon Echo was originally intended to be a way for users to order or reorder items you normally buy from Amazon.  All you have to do is ask Alexa to order you <something> and a few days later, the item(s) show up at your door.  It’s really that easy.  This was the main purpose of the device – to provide Amazon with an easy revenue stream.  The thought was that with a vocal path to your order history and your Amazon account, vocally ordering something from Amazon, without actually viewing your account, the prices, etc. would make you more likely to order or reorder items. It’s not “real” when you don’t necessarily see how much it costs.

This product ordering backbone provided Amazon with a reason for the product. Everything else that it does – play music, read books, control your home’s compatible products, etc. is a byproduct.  However it’s a byproduct that the Apple HomePod doesn’t have.

The Amazon Echo does everything that the Apple HomePod does and is $179.99.  The HomePod is $349.  You can literally get 2 Echo’s for the price of a single HomePod; and you’ll be able to order all the books (and other Amazon provided goodies) until your credit card maxes out.  However, the Echo’s won’t sync their playback as the HomePods will, providing better overall audio quality during playback.  You also can’t order Apple products and accessories with the HomePods.

I’m not entirely certain I get the reason behind the HomePod. The Echo is easy – It’s a verbal gateway to Amazon’s product catalog.  While Siri is more sophisticated and intelligent on the HomePod, she can’t order you any Apple products and have them delivered.

In short, the HomePod is twice as expensive and does (literally) half as much as the Echo does.  While I’m certain that Apple will sell a great deal of them, I don’t see them hanging around in the long term.  This just doesn’t seem like a core Apple product like the iPhone or the iPad.

Am I missing something here; or is the Apple HomePod a total non-starter?  Will it be successful, or is it just a flash in the pan product that Apple released in order to insure that they weren’t missing out on a market that both Amazon and Google were competing in ?

Someone please tell me… I’m really wanting to know, because I don’t think that I get the HomePod and don’t want to – nor can I afford to – buy one.  I don’t have an Echo or Google Home device and wasn’t planning on purchasing either, even though I order products from Amazon all the time.

This is where I need your help.

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area and give me your take on the Echo, the Home and the HomePod.  I don’t do any home automation, so getting one of these would really be nothing more than an audio speaker that could play music and audio books. It could also keep my granddaughter company.  She talks to Siri all the time and has complete conversations with her for hours at a time on her iPad.  At least with the HomePod, and under iOS, Siri is (supposed to be) a lot more intelligent.

Here’s to hoping the HomePod is a lot more than just a very expensive, very sophisticated wireless speaker… but I have my misgivings.

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Microsoft Releases the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S

You can file this under the WTF of the Day category…

You can definitely file this one under the WTF category. Sometimes you really have to wonder what the heck a company like Microsoft is doing. I mean, I am totally out in deep, roving, left, right field with this one, knee deep in Lake Winnapasocki… if that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry. You’re in good company. Like the last part of that statement, the whole decision by Microsoft to release the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S doesn’t make a lot of sense either.

Let me break this down for you. It’s really a very simple thing, despite what you might think.

Windows 10 S
Windows 10 S is Windows 10. It runs on an Intel Core i processor and does everything that Windows 10 Home can do (because it mostly is Windows 10 Home…). The big difference here is that Windows 10 S only runs apps out of the Windows Store. Period.

According to Microsoft, the S in Windows 10 S doesn’t stand for Store. It stands for “security, simplicity and superior performance.” Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group said that the “S” stands for Soul, or the Soul of Microsoft’s future – a secure Windows platform that will provide users with malware free apps from them as well as third parties at a variety of price points.

In short, Windows 10 S runs apps from the Windows Store. It will also run Win32 apps that are wrapped using Microsoft’s Desktop Bridge, codenamed “Centennial.”

In short, this is Windows RT for Intel Core i processors.

While Microsoft thinks that restricting Windows 10 S to running only apps that come from the Windows Store, because doing so will provide a more reliable, secure and manageable computing experience, there are a couple of key flaws to this:

  1. There Aren’t Enough Apps in the Windows Store
    This has been an issue for Microsoft since the introduction of the Windows Store in October of 2012. As of November of 2014, there were over 500,000 apps in the Store. By September of 2015, that number had increased to approximately 670,000. As of March 2016, that number should have come close to 850,000. By the time of this Writing (May of 2017) that number should be somewhere around 925,000.In contrast, the Mac App Store should have somewhere around 2,2000,000 (two million, two hundred thousand) or approximately 58% more than the Windows Store. You can find this interesting bit of information here.
  2. There are a Number of Different ways to Obtain Windows Software
    Microsoft is trying to change over 35 years of a proven software publishing business model encouraged and supported by the ASP (the Association of Shareware) and software developers all over the world. THAT is going to be an uphill battle. Most software developers and publishers have resisted the Windows Store because, well… they don’t HAVE to use it. They don’t have to subject themselves to the restrictions that Microsoft places on software that’s sold and delivered through it. They have a number of different alternatives and; it’s clear since the introduction of the Windows Store with the Release of Windows 8 and Windows RT, they’d rather NOT subject themselves to those restrictions.
  3. Windows RT was Discontinued
    Microsoft tried this method of software delivery with Windows RT, a version of Windows that ran on ARM. Windows RT failed miserably and was discontinued. Microsoft was really the ONLY software publisher or vendor of note to provide software through the Store under Windows RT; and at the time, that did NOT include MS Office. What makes Microsoft think the concept of restricting users to running software from the Windows Store on an Intel Core i processor is any better of an idea?

Now let us consider the hardware that was intended to run this “new” operating system – the Surface Laptop.

Surface Laptop
The Surface Laptop is light and thin. It has a long lasting, 14.5 hour battery and uses most of the same accessories as its other Surface family PC’s – including the Surface Pen, Surface Dock, and Surface Dial. It also has a keyboard, covered of cloth or fabric, if you will, like other keyboards from Apple.

The base model comes in four different colors – Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, Graphite Gold and Platinum. Its display is a 13.5 inch PixelSense screen made of Gorilla Glass. It has a touch display that has a 2259×1504 resolution, insuring that long exposure to it won’t strain your eyes. Its touch pad supports multi-touch. The keyboard has 1.5mm of travel, and is supposed to be more responsive and more comfortable than the keyboard on Microsoft’s Surface Book, though I have yet to actually put my hands on the device.

The device’s feature set is rounded out with a mini DisplayPort, a USB 3.0 port, a Surface Connect jack for charging and Surface Dock connection, as well as 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0. The device does not have a USB-C port or Thunderbolt 3 port.

The base configuration of the device which includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD starts at $999. The high end Surface Laptop comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD and is priced at $2199. High end Surface Laptops only come in Platinum. If you wish to have a gold, cobalt or burgundy colored SL, then you’re going to be limited to a Core i5 with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

Microsoft is targeting the Surface Laptop at the education market and most specifically, they are marketing the product as a Chromebook competitor.

However, they aren’t going to do that well pricing the device at its current price points. To be very honest, the Surface Laptop is a premium priced product. Chromebooks, most of which are priced between $199 and $399, are minimalist based PCs. They have only just enough processor, RAM and storage needed to push and store a few documents and run the web apps needed to edit them. That’s the point of a Chromebook. They run web apps or those apps that are available in the Chrome Store and that’s all. They don’t run any other kind of app and aren’t meant to.

With Windows 10 S, Microsoft is trying to do the same thing with the Surface Laptop. However, it’s difficult to imagine that Microsoft would price that solution starting at $1000 USD. At that price, education accounts likely won’t touch them, even at a bulk discount.

There’s a great deal here to be concerned about.

The whole model is a bit problematic. Microsoft is targeting the education market where Chromebooks are used by students and teachers, along with G-Suite (formerly Google Docs), to get school work done. G-Suite is free for individuals, and Chromebooks are dirt cheap. The way that the Surface Laptop is priced, it’s really priced more in line with Apple’s MacBook or MacBook Air – a premium product.

The problem here is that Apple’s products are premium products with premium prices in a business model. Most of their apps are found in the Mac App Store; but Apple also gives you a way to side load the apps via the traditional method… the same method that Microsoft is now adopting with Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop.

Actually there are a number of problems here:

  1. The device starts at $1000 when their direct competition is priced 80% less to start.
  2. Apple’s software delivery model – the Mac App Store – contains roughly 60% more titles than the Windows Store, and it’s much more successful. Its accepted and it works. Microsoft’s isn’t proven and isn’t well populated
  3. Microsoft’s target audience, educators and students likely don’t have the means to get into a Surface Laptop and won’t choose one over even a high end Chrome book, simply based on price.
  4. Part of what makes the Surface Laptop desirable are the four cool colors that the device comes in. Unfortunately, they’re only available in the i5, 8GB, 256GB model. All other models only come in Platinum.

Everything that I’ve seen and read so far about Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop doesn’t lend a lot to its success. I really don’t think either of them are going to do well. I think the Surface Laptop won’t sell as well as either Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book. While users can upgrade Windows 10 S to Windows Pro for $50, according to Microsoft, I don’t think many users are going to seek Windows 10 S out. The last thing I’m going to want to do is pay an additional $50 to upgrade the “cloud” version of Windows.

I actually think that the whole Windows 10 S and Surface Laptop effort are doomed from the start.

What do you think? Is the Surface Laptop something you’re interested in? Will you pay $1000 or more for it? Do you think that Windows 10 S and the Windows Store are something that is going to work out? Let me know what you think in the Discussion area below.

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Is it Really Just Superficial?

Is my love for digital ink and Microsoft Surface PC’s on the level, or just skin deep?

Ok, kids…

I’m going to make this one quick and short for a few reasons – I’ve got a lot on my plate right now; and I want to really get to the meat of all of this in a deeper look at Microsoft’s Surface Book, intended to be published in the coming weeks.

However, I did want to relay a couple of things:

  1. Accept No Substitutes
    When you know you have your heart set on something, no matter how much it really just didn’t sit right with you in the first place, don’t try to convince yourself that something ELSE is just as good.In other words, even though it’s about one third the price, and has decent performance, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is NOT either Microsoft’s Surface Pro nor Microsoft’s Surface Book. As awesome as Intel’s Cherry Trail processor is, it’s not an Intel Core processor (no Intel Atom processor is…) and it isn’t going to provide the same level of performance.
  2. It’s not What I WantedWhen you’re met with the unmistakable conclusion that you were wrong and that you should just accept the facts as they are and move on, you really should do just that.
  3. Don’t be so Damn Stubborn
    Dude. Just say the words…, “I was wrong.” It’s not all that hard. Just say the words.

Ok…

So… here it goes:

  1. There really isn’t a substitute for the Microsoft Surface Pro or Surface Book. They’re basically the same 3×2 convertible ultrabook (with some minor differences). While you may prefer one over the other for one (set of) reason(s) or another, they’re effectively the same. No other transformer PC or ultrabook out there is the Surface Pro/ Book. There are similar devices, like the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA, but they are NOT a Surface device, and shouldn’t be thought of as a Surface replacement.They are similar, but NOT the same
  2. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. You can’t change the shape of your hole, either. If you want a round object, squaring it off isn’t going to make you happy. When you look at it, all you’re going to see is the fact that it used to be a circle.You can’t MAKE something into something it’s not. You hear that a lot about people, too… Yeah, it’s true there, too.
  3. Unde. I give, already.Okokokok… “you” were right. They’re not the same, and I just have to give in and let it go.

If you remember, I originally tossed my Surface Pro 3 to the wind because of the digital, disappearing ink bug that the Surface Pro (all generations – 1, 2, 3 and 4) and the Surface Book have.

The bug is still active, even as of this writing, and while I have implemented the work around, a work around is NOT a solution. Functionality on the Surface Pro series of devices is still deprecated in Microsoft OneNote. While I’ve disable “Use Pen as Pointer” and have turned off “automatic ink OCR,” having to use a work around just makes my teeth itch.

But then again, I’m a QA guy… defaulting to the work arounds is required to insure that ink doesn’t disappear, however, living with the work around and not a permanent fix just seems wrong to me.

But at the end of the day, the answer to the begged question here, “really..?? After all the complaining, you actually got a Surface Book??”, is, “yes. Yes I did.

The Surface Book has been around for quite a while, so doing a ground breaking review on it isn’t warranted, but I’ll have something together for it in the coming weeks. I’ve gotten an accessory or two for the device, so I’m committed to making it work; but the answer to that question, in all honestly, really remains to be seen.

I don’t like going backwards; and I don’t like having to put up with bugs on a machine, that by all accounts, should be the most bug free installation and implementation of Windows 10 and compatible hardware on the market. It feels wrong to me to have to put up with that kind of situation, and to be very honest, I’m not one to put up with that level of crap from Microsoft.

I don’t put up with it from Apple either, but the situation is a bit different. Windows is different from macOS in this regard because Microsoft licenses its OS to a number of different Original Equipment Manufacturers – or OEM’s. As such, there are a number of different drivers that have to be written for the OS, because – and let’s be honest – not all computer hardware is created equally.

I expect a great deal more from Microsoft Windows when it runs on a Microsoft branded computer than when it runs on a Dell or HP or even a Micro Center, build your own style PC. I expect everything on the Microsoft branded computer to work; and in the case of the Surface devices their history has been a bit bumpy.

If you remember, Microsoft had a number of different driver and firmware related problems with both Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. Other OEM’s haven’t had this level of difficulty with their computers, especially when it comes to Microsoft software, like Office 2016 and all of their components.

In the end, with the work around, things work, but herein lies the article that I want to write later…

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First Full Day of Spring – New Apple Goodies

It’s the first day of Spring, and Apple has sent released new products

Rumors of a March Apple event have been circulating for many, MANY weeks. With the end of March quickly approaching, continuing rumors changed March to April, and the rumors persisted.

I never thought there would be a Spring Apple event, regardless of the month. With Apple announcing WWDC dates in February, I never really thought that there would be any kind of streamed event prior to June. In my mind, all that a pre-June event would accomplish would be to lessen the impact of the introductions Apple had on the books at WWDC.

When Apple instead issued press releases on new products, everyone got what they wanted. The public got new goodies, and Apple didn’t ruin the impact of the June keynote with an event just a few months before they announce the 10th anniversary iPhone. With that, let’s take a quick look at everything that Apple announced yesterday.

Product RED iPhone
Apple released a 128GB and 256GB Product (RED) iPhone 7 and 7 Plus for $749/$849 and $869/$969. The anodized aluminum’s red color with white front bezels joins last year’s new matte black and jet black colors with the same set precautions – the finish could scratch and flake very easily.

Gold, Silver and Rose Gold anodization doesn’t seem to have the same set of issues that “colored” iDevices do. Those finishes don’t seem to have the tendency to flake and scratch like true colored anodized surfaces do. Users will need to take care with those devices. Some kind of clear case (otherwise, why get the (RED)..??) will need to be applied in order to keep the finish scratch and flake free.

PRODUCT(RED) is the brand that has been used for more than 10 years of partnership between Apple and (RED). Products with this special branding and color give customers a way to contribute to the Global AIDS Fund and “bring the world a step closer to an AIDS-free generation.”

PRODUCT (RED) iPhones will be available to order on Apple’s website, at Apple Stores, and at select authorized resellers and wireless carriers. The new model will begin shipping to customers by the end of March in the United States and will be available in more than 40 countries and regions around the world.

5th Generation iPad (iPad Air 3)
Apple today announced it is launching a new 9.7-inch iPad equipped with an A9 chip and a brighter Retina display. The new model is set to replace the discontinued iPad Air 2.

The tablet, which Apple is simply calling “iPad,” is Apple’s new entry-level model at the 9.7-inch size, starting at $329 for 32GB and $429 for 128GB.

The new device is similar in many ways to the iPad Air 2, which had an A8X chip and started at $399; but is slightly thicker and heavier. The new device has a faster A9 chip and a brighter Retina, but non-laminated or antireflective display.

The device’s tech specs also include a2,048‑by‑1,536 resolution and 264 PPI display, 8-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera, 1.2-megapixel front-facing FaceTime camera, two speakers, Lightning connector, 3.5mm headphone jack, Touch ID with Apple Pay, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.2. In many ways, this device can be considered the iPad Air 3, though Apple has chosen not to give it that name

iPad mini 4 128GB
Apple today announced that its iPad mini 4 is now available with up to 128GB of internal storage. The Wi-Fi only version starts at $399. The previous, 32GB Wi-Fi only model has been discontinued. A cellular model with 128GB of storage is also available for $529.

The newly priced iPad mini 4 is available now on Apple.com in Silver, Gold, and Space Gray with next-day shipping.

Don’t expect much more out of the iPad mini line, such as a Pro model. The fact that the mini got an EARLY Spring update likely precludes it from getting the Professional treatment with any additional iPad updates that might come to the Pro line in June. Look for this line to be discontinued no later than this time next year.

iPhone SE 32GB & 128GB
iPhone SE is the four inch version of the very popular iPhone 6. It was released to satisfy those folks that just couldn’t use the iPhone 6/ 6s/ 7 or iPhone 6/ 6s/ 7 Plus without painful hand stretching.

Previously, the iPhone SE was available in 16GB and 64GB storage capacities for $399 and $449 respectively. The 64GB model was initially $499, but it received a price cut following the iPhone 7 launch. The new 32GB and 128GB models replace the 16GB and 64GB models and will remain available in Gold, Rose Gold, Silver, and Space Gray.

Storage was the only tech spec update this iDevice received. The new iPhone SE models will be available online and in stores starting on Friday, March 24.

Apple Watch Bands-o-Plenty
As widely anticipated, Apple today also debuted its new Spring 2017 lineup of Apple Watch bands. The new line introduces all-new options like Striped Woven Nylon bands, a set of sold-separately Nike Sport bands, and new colors for Hermès leather bands. Every band is available to order now on Apple.com.

Striped Woven Nylon bands now come in Berry, Tahoe Blue, Orange, Red, and Pollen. There’s also an all-new, solid Midnight Blue Woven Nylon band. The new Apple Sport bands are available in Pebble, Azure and Camellia. The Classic Buckle has gotten a small buckle redesign and now comes in Sapphire, Berry, and Taupe colors.

Users can also finally buy the Nike Sport Band separately in Anthracite and Black, Pure Platinum and White, and Volt and Black. The company is introducing new collections of Nike Bands as well, including a 38mm and 42mm Space Grey Aluminum Case with Anthracite and Black Sport Band and 38mm and 42mm Silver Aluminum Case with Pure Platinum and White Sport Band.

Apple Watch Hermès line is gaining new colors as well. Users can now choose from a 38mm Double Tour in Bleu Zephyr Epsom leather, a 38mm Double Buckle Cuff in Fauve Barenia leather, a 42mm Single Tour in Lime Epsom leather, and a 42mm Single Tour in Colvert Swift leather. One new addition to the Hermès collections and it includes the Apple Watch Series 2 with the 38mm Double Buckle Cuff in Fauve Barenia calfskin leather.

Bands are an easy and very affordable way (excluding the Hermes collection) to spice up your Apple Watch and bring it some exciting, new life. All of the new Apple Sport, Nylon and Nike Sport bands are available now for $50 bucks. All of the new Apple leather bands start at $149.99. The Hermes Bands start at $489 for the Double Tour, $339 for the Single Tour, and $680 for the Leather Cuff.

iTunes 12.6
One of the very few software announcements Apple made include the release of iTunes 12.6 for Mac. iTunes 12.6 introduces a “Rent once, watch anywhere” feature that lets iTunes users watch iTunes movie rentals across all devices with iOS 10.3 or tvOS 10.2.

Prior to the 12.6 update, an iTunes movie was only available on a single device at a time. When a movie rented on a Mac was transferred to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod using USB, the movie became unavailable from an iTunes library until returned to the Mac. This limitation has been removed with this update, and rented movies can now be watched and transferred on any device running iOS 10.3 or tvOS 10.2.

This feature begs the release of both iOS 10.3 and tvOS 10.2, so it’s likely that these new operating system versions will be released in the coming days and weeks. Look for them on a compatible iDevice near you very, very soon.

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FEATURE REVIEW – DBZDRESS Flux Battery Case for iPhone 6/6s/7 Plus

Every now and again, Facebook ads offer some interesting purchases…

Introduction
Back in July of 2012, the New York Times published an article announcing the opening of small business shops on Facebook. Since that time, you’ve probably seen the number of shopping based posts in your feed increase. This is Facebook trying to claim their slice of the ecommerce pie.

I get them – meaning product ads – all the time. Most of them are either gadget or watch related. I’ve purchased a couple things out of these ads. In most cases, these are Shopify powered vendors. They may or may not have a true web presence, and in most cases don’t have any other type of ecommerce platform than the one offered through Shopify. This would include, oddly enough, a number of vendors that either live or drop ship directly from China.

One such vendor is DBZDRESS. They had a HUGE push about six to eight months ago regarding iPhone battery cases. (by the way, a quick look on what battery cases they offer as of this writing, indicates they aren’t offering any…)

While it was available, I purchased the Flux Battery Case from DBZDRESS in mid-November 2016. Here’s my experience with the company and with the case from the time that I ordered the case until I received it, and started using it.

Order, Shipping and Product Receipt
Believe it or not, this is probably 75% of this story; and it’s probably one of the biggest messes I’ve seen in a while.

The timeline here is way more protracted than it needs to be. In fact, it was nearly criminal. I was very close to contacting the Better Business Bureau and reporting and filing complaints against the company I purchased the case from as well as Facebook. It got kinda weird.

I ordered the Flux Battery Case on 2016-11-15. My credit card was charged immediately, and my credit card was charged almost immediately. Shopify sent me an email about the purchase, and I waited.

On 2016-11-22, I got a notice from USPS that the device had shipped. On 2016-12.02 I got a notice that the case had entered customs in China. It was updated again on 2016-12-07 but there was no event detail provided. The last that I knew, the case was stuck in customs.

I contacted DBZDRESS on 2016-12-23. I requested assistance on the status of the shipment. It was ignored.
I contacted DBZDRESS on 2017-01-13. I requested assistance on the status of the shipment. Again, it was ignored.

I contacted DBZDRESS on 2017-01-27. I requested assistance on the status of the shipment. Again, it was ignored.

I received the battery case on 2017-02-05. I got a reply from DBZDRESS on 2017-02-06 telling me that I had received the case, and that it didn’t look like I needed help any longer. DBZDRESS thanked me for my time and my purchase, and sent me on my way.

This is by far the worst customer service experience I have ever had, with any vendor, EVER. I am not used to being ignored, not once or twice, but three different times, without my emails – which are the only way to reach out to them – even so much as acknowledged… until AFTER the product was received.

Based on this and this alone, I don’t care HOW great the case is, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing anything from these guys ever again. They’ve pretty much ruined any repeat business from me. I did a little looking into DBZDRESS and they have a forum on their website. After readying through the few comments that actually have been posted on their site, it’s clear that my experience is not unusual. In fact, it’s the norm.

Product Review
The Flux Battery Case is slim; and its simple. It contains a 2000mAh battery; and only adds 0.2″ of thickness and 2.5 oz. of weight to your iPhone. It provides little to no protection to your iPhone. So, do not look to it to do that.

The case provides power; and that’s about it. When the battery in the case is activated, it can take your native battery from 0% to 80% before it dies, itself. The case is supposed to support USB pass through according to the product’s website. However, the version that I bought from DBZDRESS doesn’t do this.

The battery in and of itself does a decent job of charging a dead iPhone. The specs for the case say it can take from 0% to 80% and it’s supposed to do it without going to sleep. That hasn’t been my experience.

My Flux Battery Case charges the battery or charges the case. It will charge both at the same time, IF I attach the battery connector to the phone and then plug the case in; but that’s about it.

An angled view of the case notice the open connector leads on the bottom, the stored connector on the bottom corner and the damage to my screen protector The bottom of the case. The connector attaches here, via the Lightning port and the four leads.
The left side of the case. Notice the cut outs for the volume rocker and the sound switch. The top of the case.
The right side of the case. Note the cutout for the wake/ sleep button and the power connector. The power connector removed. A Lightning cable goes into the opening on the side of the case to charge it. The connector, inserts into the bottom of the case.
The power connector and the bottom of the case. Turn the power connector over and firmly insert it into the Lightning port on your iPhone to charge your iPhone. The power connector attached to my iPhone 7 Plus.
The power connector attached to my iPhone. Note the green power light under the case. This notes that the case is charging the iPhone. An elevated view of the power connector attached to my iPhone 7 Plus. You can more clearly see the damage to the screen protector, on both bottom corners, here.

Conclusion
In the end, the case does what its advertised to do, but not without a couple of hiccups.

It doesn’t do USB pass through, as versions now available, do. I’ve tried with different cables and different computers and USB connections. It simply doesn’t work.

The case also seems to sleep, or stop charging my iPhone, 10-15 minutes after the device sleeps. At this point, the case stops charging your iPhone, even though it still has ample charge left in its battery. This doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I have no idea what is going on here; and it’s very frustrating

Waking the device does not reactivate the charging mechanism in the battery case. In order to get it charging again, you have to pull the connector out of the Lightning port and reinsert it. As long as the case’s battery has power, it will start charging your iPhone again. However, I still wouldn’t consider the charging mechanism to be reliable. If I have to wake my phone in order to insure that its taking a charge, I’m going to waste power that I would much rather just get banked into my iPhone’s battery than burned by the LCD or other component because the phone has to stay awake to get the most benefit from the case’s battery.

The cases provides little to no protection to your iPhone. Don’t look to it to do that. I have a $35 Invisible Shield glass screen protector on my iPhone 7 Plus that now needs to be replaced thanks to this case. I’ve used these screen protectors on my last couple of devices (iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and now iPhone 7 Plus), and I’ve never had to replace one of these. There are deep scratches in it near the top, two corners and chips and breaks in both bottom corners.

I’m not pleased with this case, and for the amount that I paid for it ($50USD, shipped direct from China) and with the atrocious customer service experience I had actually getting the case to me, there’s little to no chance I’ll ever purchase a case – or any other product, for that matter – from DBZDRESS. I suggest you steer clear of them as well. Based on how they dealt with me, I’m lucky I received the product I ordered at all.

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Installing Custom ROM’s on the HTC 10

You need to start with a rooted device…

Introduction
A while back I rooted the HTC10 that HTC sent me. Since then, I’ve not done much with the device. However, I did notice that rooting it DID break OTA updates for the stock ROM that ships with the device.

I found this out after I rooted the device and a device update notification showed up from AT&T. I suspect this was the Android Nougat update that was promised, but I’ll never know. Downloading the AT&T update and trying to install it simply reboots the device directly into TWRP Recovery for HTC10 and nothing more. Trying to do anything in TWRP at that point either results in a flash error or in a file not found error.

I’ve reached out to the author of the tutorial video but haven’t received any kind of response or acknowledgement.

I figured since I rooted the device and can flash just about any available ROM for it anyway, that I should likely get to flashing. However, before I get into anything here, I really need to relate the following:

  1. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) & No Warranty
    Anything that’s suggested in any of this text or any of the linked articles either written by me or referenced by me and written by others is done at your own risk. I’m not telling you to do anything, can’t provide you with any support; and no warranty – either real or implied – is available by or through me, Soft32.com (or its related companies) or your device OEM or mobile carrier. If you flash your device and it bricks, you’re simply outta luck. (it’s the same risk I’m taking with the same YMMV issues with my HTC10, too).
  2. It’s all Just for Fun
    I’m not suggesting or implying that you HAVE to do anything I’m writing about. I think it’s cool and I like to do it, at times…
  3. I Ain’t Goin’ Overboard
    The reason I stopped using an Android device in the first place was because supporting a rooted device can be very tedious and time consuming. I started doing it because I was bored with the stock launcher and Android distribution on the Android phones I was using. I’m going down this road again, but only with a select chosen few custom ROM’s and then certainly NOT with nightly or experimental builds.

Resources
The first thing you’re going to need is a microSD card. If you don’t have one in your HTC10, stop what you’re doing and go get one. A 32GB card can as cheap as $13 bucks on Amazon while a 64GB card can be gotten for about $21 bucks. Both of these deals are available via the same URL and are available with Amazon Prime’s 2 day delivery service. Get as big a card as you can afford. The HTC 10 will support a 128GB card.

After you’ve got an SD card in your device and its mounted and readable, you’ll need to find some ROM’s to flash to the device. Of course, the best place to find this stuff is XDA-Developers and most specifically, in my case, the HTC10 Device Forum.

Once you get to the form on XDA-Developers, you need to spend a bit of time wandering around. All of the ROM threads are prefaced with a “[ROM]” label. All the kernels with a [KERNEL] label, etc. everything is easy to spot.

[ROM] threads are likely the most interesting to most folks, especially those of us that are among the noobies of the group. Most of these threads come with an introductory post that explain everything you’d likely ever want to know (and everything you don’t) about the ROM creator, its features, issues, bugs, etc. This post will come with instructions on how to install it, as well as any needed or desired components that make this ROM special. It will also include any special instructions and gotchas that you might need to care for. Follow their instructions to the letter. You’ll want to be able to back up that claim with facts, should you need help setting things right if they turn sideways.

Read through all of that information.

It will also include any special instructions and gotchas that you might need to care for. Follow their instructions to the letter. You’ll want to be able to back up that claim with facts, should you need help setting things right if they turn sideways.

If the ROM author offers any support if and when you have problems installing the ROM, I can promise that they will be more willing to help you if you’ve followed all of their instructions and paid attention to the known issues, etc. for their ROM. If you haven’t they will likely send you packing telling you you’re on your own. That’s not me, that’s just the way this advanced crowd rolls.

[KERNEL] threads will provide instructions and download links to alternative ROM kernels that can be flashed to your device. Kernels can most likely provide a great deal of enhanced functionality to the ROM you’re using. However, since this is really the heart and soul of the ROM, you need to treat it like the “heart transplant” it feels like.

While all kernels in any device forum will work with that device, they may NOT work or work well with every ROM. Make certain you read the instructions post – again, usually the first post in the thread – and take note of any listed warnings. If there are ROM’s in the forum that don’t work and play well with any specific kernel, it will likely be listed in either the instruction post of the kernel or the ROM (or both). Heed these warnings. Don’t install a kernel that doesn’t work with your target ROM. You’ll brick your device or worse.

Flashing a Custom ROM
I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail here (there will be some) on flashing a custom ROM. There are some very specific reasons for this, and I want everyone to understand why.

  1. Flashing a Custom ROM Voids the Warranty on Your Phone
    It doesn’t matter what device you have. It doesn’t matter what custom ROM you use. If you’ve rooted your device AND you proceed to flash a custom ROM on it afterwards, you’re risk bricking the device AND you void the warranty all in one fell swoop.As such, flashing your Android device with a custom ROM shouldn’t be done lightly, or by anyone who really doesn’t know what they’re doing or getting themselves into. Recovering your device from a bad flash can be a very tricky, and very long, stressful set of activities.
  2. I’m not Taking Responsibility
    If you flash your device and it bricks, winds up in a circular boot loop (that happened to me while researching and writing this article…it’s not easy to fix), or some other nasty result, it’s not on me… It’s on you. You do this at your own risk.
  3. Your Mileage May Vary
    Not every custom ROM is built equally. You need to find ones that work for you. However, XDA Developers remains the PREMIER resource for finding rooting instructions and help and for available compatible ROM’s for your device.

If you’re still good to go with flashing a custom ROM to your previously rooted Android device – I have an HTC 10 and will be using it for this article.

Please note that my HTC 10 is still running Marshmallow and a Marshmallow compatible firmware. While I will be flashing a Nougat (Android 7) ROM on this device, my HTC 10 will still be running that Marshmallow firmware.

To flash a new ROM to your device, follow these steps.

  1. Find a ROM
    The first thing you have to do is find a ROM that you like, with the features you’re looking for. There are always a LOT of ROM’s to choose from. Pick one that you like and that has a lot of support from the developer. Most ROM posts have screen shots and informative information in the first couple of posts. Again, go through these intro posts very carefully. Any gotchas will be listed there.
  2. Copy the ROM to your SD Card
    Connect your device to your computer via cable. After allowing it to connect to your PC, copy your ROM of choice to your device’s microSD card. Depending on your PC and the type of connection you have (USB2, USB 3.x or USB-C), this may take up to 15 minutes. It usually takes about seven to ten minutes for me.
  3. Reboot to Recovery Mode
    I’ll be speaking to TWRP Recovery as defined in my article on how to root the HTC 10.Reboot your device to its bootloader and then to the recovery partition. Press and hold the power and volume down button until the device buzzes and then the device logo appears. The device’ download mode screen should appear.

    Press the volume down button twice. The blue bar should move down to highlight “reboot to bootloader.” Press the power button to accept the choice. The device will reboot into its bootloader.

    Press the volume down button three times. The blue bar should highlight the words, “Boot to Recovery Mode,” and press the power button. The device will reboot into the TWRP Recovery Partition.
  4. Begin the Installation Process
    Once TWRP has loaded, tap the Install button.

    TWRP’s select storage screen will appear. Tap the Select Storage button on the bottom left corner of the screen.

    Select the location where you copied the ROM image you downloaded earlier. If you followed my previous suggestion, you copied it to your storage card. Select the Micro SDCard radio button and tap OK.

    Select the ROM you wish to flash. The Install ZIP screen will appear, asking you to confirm your choice and to swipe right to start the process.

    The flash process will start, the LeeDroid logo will appear, and Aroma will appear.
  5. Choose your Aroma Options

    Aroma is a ROM option selection application used to collect installation and OS default options in Android ROM’s. It’s fairly straight forward and easy to navigate through. There are, SEVERAL Aroma screens. I’m not going to run through them all here, as that would unnecessarily elongate this process. It also may not be very meaningful to everyone, as my installation options are unique to my preferences. There are, however, a few screens that you need to be aware of when you go through the process. I’m going to highlight those very quickly, here.
    Do you wish to perform a full wipe?
    This comes about 5 screens into the process. If you’re installing a new version of an existing ROM on your device, you don’t have to do a full wipe. If you’re installing a never used on your device before ROM, you should always wipe your device before installing a new ROM. While you’ll need to reinstall all of your apps and tweak the ROM to your liking, you’re likely going to do a lot of that anyway. Failing to wipe your device appropriately, will likely cause it to become unbootable, as your data partition likely contains data specific to the functioning of your OLD ROM, and will conflict with the new one you’re flashing.

    Which firmware are you running?
    You are asked this on screen 7. Choose the right firmware! This process will NOT upgrade your device from one firmware version to another. It will only install the a version of Android that will run on your device; and that version must be properly configured for your device’s firmware.CHOOSE THE RIGHT OPTION HERE or risk bricking your device.
  6. Let the Install Run

    After all of your options are selected, tap the Next button to begin the actual installation.

    Let the install run. The ROM will install with the options that were selected. Tap the Next button when you’re done.
  7. Reboot the Device

    Tap the Next button. You’ll be taken to the TaDa page, indicating that you’ve successfully installed the ROM and a reboot is required.Reboot the device. Let the device do whatever the device wants to do when it reboots. It’s likely going to take a while to get through the first reboot after the flash, as well.Don’t panic.This is normal and not something to be concerned about. There are cache files that need to be created and written to internal storage, and this happens on the first boot of the device after a ROM flash.

Conclusion
Flashing a ROM on a rooted Android device is always an exciting time. In many cases, users buy a specific Android device for one of two reasons – they either love the hardware or they love the OS screens they see. It’s rarely ever both; but when that happens, its magical.

The HTC 10 I have is a truly awesome piece of hardware. I love the device, the camera, the Ice View Case; and was really NOT impressed with the version of Android that shipped with it. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t anything to write home about, either. Simply put, it allowed the device to operate. That’s about it.

Rooting your device and then installing custom ROM’s on it can be very exciting. It allows you to use functionality that the OEM or even the carrier never envisioned for the device in the first place. It allows you to extend the life of your device. I know users who find three to four different ROM’s that work with their device and then flash back and forth between the versions as the mood strikes them. If the device they own is popular and has a lot of enthusiast support, I’ve seen users do this for a period of three to four years with a single device. (Most smartphones are designed with a two year life span, max.)

Caution should be taken with any device flash, however. There are a lot of opportunities for failure and flashing the wrong type or version of a ROM on your device can easily brick it. As such, the moment you flash a custom ROM, you void the warranty on your device.

At the end of the day, READ the information the ROM author posts. Follow any and all instructions that are posted. Ask questions on the forum if you have them; and by all means… HAVE FUN!

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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.

>
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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