Month: June 2016

Kindle Paperwhite E-reader 2015 Review: A great product that’s now even better!

Kindle Paperwhite E-reader
Kindle Paperwhite E-reader

If you’re reading reviews of the new 3rd generation Paperwhite, you’re likely considering buying one. If so, you’re probably in one of these categories:
* Never owned a Kindle e-ink reader
* Own an older Kindle e-ink reader, but not a Paperwhite
* Own a first or second generation Paperwhite

I’ll save my opinion on whether the new Paperwhite 3 is worth buying until the end of my review. (But I will say this: They’ve taken a great product and made it even better.) First, here’s a comparison of the new Paperwhite with the second generation Paperwhite (comparisons are for the wi-fi models):

Second Generation Paperwhite (2013)
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Size: 6.7″x4.6″x0.36″
Weight (wi-fi version): 7.3 ounces
Display: 6″ diagonal, 212 pixels per inch, 16-level grayscale, LED frontlit
Storage memory: 4GB
Page turns: Touchscreen
Number of fonts: 6
Display lighting: Manually adjustable front-lighting

All-New Paperwhite (2015)
——————————
Size: 6.7″x4.6″x0.36″
Weight (wi-fi version): 7.2 ounces
Display: 6″ diagonal, 300 pixels per inch, 16-level grayscale, LED frontlit
Storage memory: 4GB
Page turns: Touchscreen
Number of fonts: 7
Display lighting: Manually adjustable front-lighting

Note that the physical size is identical to the older Paperwhite, so covers and sleeves that worked with the older Paperwhites are still usable (thank you, Amazon). The most obvious difference is the screen resolution: 300 pixels per inch is a major jump from the 212 pixels per inch in the older Paperwhites. With text, you may or may not notice the characters are slightly crisper, but the higher resolution is a most welcomed improvement for books that have illustrations, maps, or photographs – they’ll be noticeably most detailed.

Another addition is the newly designed Bookerly font. It appears to me to be a slightly softer, more rounded font. I like it, but I’ll have to use it for a while to see if I prefer it over the Caecilia font that I usually use.

Unlike backlit tablets and phones, which wash out badly in sunlight, the Paperwhite is very readable in any lighting condition from total darkness to bright sunshine, simply by adjusting the built-in lighting level. The touch screen’s responsiveness has been noticeably improved over the original Paperwhite, but I couldn’t tell any obvious difference compared to the second generation Paperwhite.

About the battery life: Amazon says “A single charge lasts up to six weeks, based on a half hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 10.” People’s reading habits vary too much to generalize about battery life. Also, the lighting level will vary – for example, my preferred lighting level for the conditions where I read most of the time is 15. Unlike the Kindle Fires that show the percentage of remaining battery charge, the Paperwhites only have a crude graphic indicator. I’ve gotten into the habit of charging my Kindle about once a week, so I don’t worry about it. I also leave the wi-fi connection turned on so that the Kindle can receive any software updates when they come in.

My thoughts about the “Special Offers”: To me, it’s not worth the $20 to opt out of the special offers. They’re not really intrusive, and they don’t pop up while you’re reading, and sometimes you’ll even see an offer that you like. After a while, you hardly notice the ads. My advice is to take the special offers and save $20. Later, if you find you don’t like seeing them, you can ante up the $20 and opt out.

My thoughts about wi-fi only versus wi-fi + 3G: The wi-fi + 3G model is $70 more than the wi-fi only model. Nowadays with wi-fi being so available just about everywhere you go, most people won’t need 3G. However, if you do decide to get the wi-fi + 3G Paperwhite, note that that there’s no additional cost to download books over 3G (the book publishers pay that cost).

One more comment: None of the Paperwhites have audio features, including text-to-speech, speaker, or headphone jack. Audio has not been included in any of the e-ink Kindles for several years, and I doubt if it will ever return. If you want to play audio books or music, Amazon wants you to buy a Kindle Fire.

Note: The Paperwhite 3 comes with a USB charging cable but no charger. Any AC charger or vehicle charger that outputs 5 volts at about 1 amp should work just fine. This includes any Kindle chargers you already have, as well as most cellphone chargers.

—————————————–

Okay, what’s the bottom line? The new Paperwhite is a superb ebook reader, a continuing evolution of the super-popular Paperwhite series. I have the impression that Amazon has taken the Paperwhite 2 and tweaked it from top to bottom to make the new Paperwhite 3 as good as it can be. But is it worth the money to upgrade? Here’s my opinion:

* If you’ve never owned an e-ink reader but are considering buying one, the Paperwhite 3 is a marvelous ebook reader that makes the original Kindle (released in 2007) look like an antique by comparison (and that Kindle cost $399). It’s time to go digital, and at the current selling price, the new Paperwhite can’t be beat.
* If you own an older Kindle e-ink reader, but not a Paperwhite, by all means upgrade. It’s not that expensive, and it provides a hugely improved reading experience compared to earlier Kindles.
* If you own a first or second generation Paperwhite, in most ways, the new Paperwhite is not a huge step up, and you’re fine with your current Paperwhite. However, if you read a lot of books with illustrations, maps, or photographs, the higher screen resolution will make those images more viewable, and that could make the cost of the upgrade worth it. And if you’re like my wife and me, whenever we upgraded, there were always family members or friends who were happy to take the old Kindles off our hands.
* There is one more possibility – the Paperwhite is a touchscreen device, using touches and swipes to operate, including a pop-up onscreen keypad for typing. If you’re one of those folks who really misses the raised buttons that the earlier Kindles had, you’re pretty much out of luck unless you want to buy a Kindle Voyage, which has embedded sensors that work kind of like buttons, but it’s considerably more expensive than the Paperwhite.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0″ Review: Absolutely great. Fast, great screen, feather light

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0"
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0″

This tablet meets and exceeds all of my expectations.

Let me preface this by saying that I have an Amazon Kindle, Samsung Note 10.1 and do own or have owned the Samsung note 3 and 4. I am an avid Google/Android fan by virtue of the ability to customize the appearance and the open format.

I actually own and have this device. I am not someone who read the specs and decided to publish a ‘review” of the device based on what is perceived as problems or concerns. .

So, ordered it and arrived from Amazon one day after release. Thank you Amazon. I have been using it for the past three hours.

Initial impressions: Fantastic.

On the initial boot up, it upgraded to Lollipop 5.1.1 This is the newest and latest version of Lollipop.

As has been noted, this device is thin and light. It belies expectations. It fits in a jacket pocket. I got the 8 inch as I have a 13 inch laptop and the 10.1 tablet that I also use is big. Those are not a pocket/handbag reader. This fits in my side pocket or jacket and is unnoticeable.

It has no lag, no shutter, and no problems with instant screen changes. The touch screen and sensitivity is great.

For those who are concerned that this upgrade may not be worth it, for me, it is a huge improvement. No lag and instant response.

For android fans, the system asked my Google system password and immediately imported all of my paid and free apps. Everything installed duplicating all of my other Android products and apps.

There is an interesting problem. I do like the Google Launcher due to the fact that it has information that is helpful to me. It does not “play well” with this system. It does not look good and has a problem with how it integrates. So, if I have not figured it out, let me know. As of now, I am stuck with the touch wiz. Which on this system is really quite good.

The touch wiz is really not bad. I have accepted it and the new system is so fast and so quick that I will accept the Flipboard over the Google cards for the moment. And, I really only need most of the cards when using my cell phone.

The image is great. I am not certain why there are concerns about the new format. It is ideal for reading and any news site. Netflix looks great, as does Amazon video and Hulu. Yes, the new format is not perfect for viewing movies, but honestly, that is not how I spend my life. The image is terrific. Blacks and contrast is the best I have seen on any screen. I beats my Note 4. I read the review that the finger scanner required a few tries.

I use a Microsoft Exchange account which require a password for the system under the administrative requirement. This system accepts the fingerprint as acceptable.

For me, after entering the fingerprint scanner information is almost never a provlem it works first or second time. It works in less than ½ second. I just hit the home button and it is instantly accepted. Absolutely great. A vast improvement from the prior systems used on the Note 4.

And, the fingerprint scanner integrates with Last Pass. You can use it to enter passwords without re-entering your secure system password.

So, how can I summarize:

Fast processor and no lag.

Google imports all the apps and allows complete integration

Great screen for video and reading

No lag and much improved screen response.

A terrific finger print detector.

Works with Last Pass and allows access to secure sites with a simple thumb print.

The only con is a problem with the Google Launcher.

I have read reviews that it is not a quantum leap above previous tablets. I am always surprised that reviewers on major electronic sites want every iteration of a product to be a huge change. Samsung has made a new format with a great screen and fast processor. The newest software and it works great.

So, if you are in the market for a new tablet, this one appears to be great. As an aside, the gold color is a bronze/gold and not flashy or over the top. A very nice change from black and white.

All in all, five stars. I am very happy.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Hands-on Review: An Unworthy Successor

Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Samsung Galaxy Note 5

For readers, my opinions on this device (ATT 64Gb version) is based off the experiences I had with this device for the passed few days since launch day (Aug 21, 2015). I will continue to update this review in the future. This review should be the similar to Galaxy Note 5 on other carriers such as Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

When the brash, fat and squat original Note made its debut, Samsung’s competitors jeered, tittered and cackled. The consensus in the electronic realm was that it was too large, too unwieldy and entirely too cumbersome to be palatable as a phone. 5 years later, the Note has firmly established itself as a pacesetter. And the competitors are no longer laughing. Instead, they have fallen in line with the exemplary obeisance of a Roman soldier.

With the Note 5, it is clear that Samsung has come a long way from yesteryears, when its phones were easily the most unappealing plastic hunks on the market. Its efforts to create more premium-looking devices is evident in this version. I’ve owned Notes 2, 3 and 4, and the Note 5 is the slimmest and most attractive yet of the line, with a glossy glass back and a redesigned stylus that pops out when depressed. Its design manages to make the unwieldy phablet more comfortable to hold in one hand than its predecessors. Packing an upgraded 16-megapixel camera which is capable of live YouTube streaming, it’s hard not to be impressed by its social media credentials. The front facing camera is a selfie-lover’s dream, having attained 5 megapixels; a notable increase from the prior model’s 3.9 megapixels. By far my favorite new feature is the ability to jot notes on the phone screen while it remains turned off. And proximity charging is a cool, if not head-turning feature. Fast charging was introduced in the Note 4. This latest version charges even faster. The tiny speaker is now at the bottom of the phone, correcting last year’s monumental mistake that found the Note 4’s speaker on its back, muffling output.

In operation: The Note 5 maintains the respectable 2,560 x1,440-pixel resolution of last year. It ships with Android 5.1 Lollipop; a nod and salute to Google’s juvenile notion of naming an operating system after teeth-rotting appetizers. The oftentimes uneasy marriage between Google’s Android and Samsung’s Touchwiz appears less fractious than in prior iterations. More, the Note 5 will be eligible for an upgrade when Android 6.0 Marshmallow makes its debut. The operating system has been so efficiently implemented this time around as to improve battery life over and above the Note 4. With moderate use – a handful of emails, texts and one 30 minute call – it lasted about 16 hours. Which is impressive. This figure will vary for every Tom, Dick and Harry. Err, and Jane as well. Toggling on WIFI, Bluetooth and location services will deplete battery faster, as will a brighter screen. My recent switch from Sprint to T-Mobile may have also contributed to the battery’s stellar performance. In my current location – Middle Kingdom, by the banks of the River of Delirium, U.S. of A. – Sprint’s service is rather lacking, leading to a faster battery discharge. Any mobile phone will conserve battery best when its cellular service provider has abundant signals in any given geographical location. The converse is true: with a weak signal, the phone continues to search for a connection, depleting the battery faster. Since cellular providers are better in some locations and worse in others, a savvy consumer should research the issue before selecting one. Every major service provider in the U.S. sells the Note 5.

But while some of the Note 4’s more positive attributes such as an ultra power-saving mode carried over, Samsung eliminated some of the Note’s most distinguishing features. These features were so key that I am returning this latest iteration, and renewing my relationship with my trusty old Note 4. One reason why I originally embraced the Note was because of its monstrous battery. I am a road warrior, and I needed an Amazonian who could match me step for step. To its credit, Samsung recognized early on that such a large phone would require a larger battery.The Note’s battery capacity was increased with each successive release. Even in the electronic world, or perhaps particularly in the electronic world, size does matter. This time, not only has Samsung reduced the battery capacity from 3,220 mAh to 3,000 mAh, it has also towed Apple’s line, and sealed the battery, such that it cannot be removed from the phone. No more swapping out batteries when travelling, or when it weakens from multiple charging cycles. The older Notes also came with an IR blaster, necessary for using the phone as a remote control. All of my electronic devices can be turned on with my Note 4. Handy for when the remote control plays hide and seek at the most inopportune times. The IR blaster has been eliminated in the Note 5.

Gone also is the expandable slot. Users must now think carefully about how much media they plan on handling with the phone before purchasing. Storage can no longer be increased by the simple expedience of purchasing a micro SD card. Going from 32GB to 64GB will cost the average consumer about $100 more. A micro SD card is also handy for easy transfers. Accessing the same pictures, videos and music on a different phone is as easy as sliding out the card from the old phone and inserting it in the new one. Cautious users like myself prefer to keep digestible content on an SD card as opposed to the cloud. Just ask Ashley Madison. That ability is gone. The Note 5 is also more dainty. I didn’t mind the faux leather back of the Notes 3 and 4, though it would have been nice to have real animal hide. After they die of natural causes, of course. Certainly. But the faux leather was tough to crack if the phone was dropped. And the leather resisted fingerprint smudges and lent Notes 4 and 5 a measure of sophistication reminiscent of Blackberry’s original Bold. That has been eliminated as well. And all this for a narrower, slimmer profile and a glass back that may not survive Galileo’s gravity test. A faustian bargain.

In a nutshell: The Note 5 is an unworthy successor to last year’s Note 4, and represents a step in the wrong direction. If you’ve never owned a Note, then this is a great phone, with lots of attributes that make sense for a phablet particularly as it relates to the stylus. If you are a previous Note owner, then gear up for disappointment with these new changes. I will hold out for 2016 which will surely bring us the Note 6. Eliminating choices for consumers and issuing a positive press release was ever an audacious move. Other than different operating systems, broadly speaking, the stylus is now the only real difference between the iPhone Plus and the Note. It will forever remain a head-scratcher to find companies attempting to eliminate competition by mimicking the products that they are competing with. Rather than distinguishing their own products even more. Go figure. It is my sincere hope that Samsung will reverse course in the 2016’s Note, which is surely coming to a theatre near you, probably in September of next year.

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iPhone SE Hands-on Review

Nice phone. 400 at the Apple Store. I bought it because I am looking to get a new car radio and Apple Car Play is currently better than the android alternative. The build quality is top notch. It’s definitely the most reasonably priced of Apple’s phones. Samsung and Apple are always really expensive though. In my opinion Android is the better OS due to how flexible it is. However, for every day use the difference is negligible.

iPhone SE
iPhone SE

Having tried an iphone 6s, and owned nearly every version up through an iPhone 5s, I’ve concluded that the iPhone SE is my favorite iPhone. If, like me, you value portability and ease of operation with a single hand over larger screen viewing area, this phone may be what you’re looking for.

The SE has the exact same form factor as the 5/5s. If you’re familiar with it, you know what you’re getting. If you’re not, and only know the 6 series, then you’ll find the SE is a half millimeter thicker, but considerably smaller in area. It also has a more squared off shape along the edges, in contrast to the rounded edges of the 6. Look carefully at the product photos for the distinction. I find that the harder edges of the SE give me a better grip on the phone than the rounded contours of the 6 series, and of course, being smaller, it will be easier to grip in any event. I like that I can use this phone with one hand. My hands are just large enough that I could use the 6s okay with one hand, but the SE is much more comfortable for this. The display is also the same as the one in the 5s. It’s nothing special, but it’s a good, solid display.

The marriage of the SE’s smaller size with the power of the 6s is the real advantage of this phone. Internally, it is for the most part an iPhone 6s, meaning an A9 processor, a full 2 GB of RAM, and most of the other bells and whistles that come with that added processing power, such as Touch ID. In actual operation, iOS 9.3 runs quickly and smoothly on the SE, and it’s speed at performing tasks is indistinguishable from the 6s. The Touch ID on the SE is the version from the older iPhone 6, but I find it works just as well and about as fast as the newer Touch ID system on the 6s. Comparing to online videos of the 6s Touch ID speed, my SE is maybe just a tiny bit slower than the 6s, but it is also just a tiny bit faster than the 6. Graphics are also as fast as the 6s, in some cases measurably (but probably not noticeably) faster because of the lower power demands of the smaller screen. The rear camera is excellent, the very same 12 MP iSIght camera that’s also on the 6s. It also takes Live Photos, as well as HDR photos, and can capture 4K video. Battery life is great. I can go for a day with calls, text, maybe thirty minutes of internet use, and an hour of gaming, and walk away with about 70% charge. Like the 6s, it also has Apple Pay, but I don’t use it, so I have no comment about it. The WiFi specification has been upgraded from the 5s, and is now 802.11ac.

So, what are the tradeoffs? The 6 series, of course, has bigger screens than the SE, which also means they have higher resolution. The 6s screen did look better and appeared brighter to me. Likewise, normal two-handed typing is also easier on the 6s. I have to pay more attention while typing on the SE. Also, the SE does not support 3D Touch. For those unfamiliar with it, 3D Touch is a pressure sensitive screen input system that allows you to perform certain actions by the intensity of a touch on the screen. I personally didn’t find it very useful, but others are quite happy with it. The front-facing camera on the 6s is quite a bit better than the one included on the SE; selfie artists and Face Time users should take note of this. The maximum storage for the SE is 64 GB, so anyone needing more will have to look to the 6 line. Evidently, the SE’s modem does not include support for as many LTE bands as the 6s, and this may be in issue if you plan to use the phone in some foreign countries. Also, the 6s has MIMO WiFi so it should have faster maximum throughput than the SE.

Bottom line: this is a compact, easy-to-handle, yet really powerful phone. It’s a big performance step up from my 5s. I prefer a phone I can keep for at least 3 years, and I think the SE has enough power that it will be able to run future iOS versions well enough for me to do that – time will tell. At least until iPhone 7 is released, the SE will give me a phone that’s nearly as powerful as Apple’s top of the line, but which I can easily put into my front jeans pocket (well, more easily than the 6s, anyway) and that’s exactly what I was looking for.

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Kindle Voyage E-reader User Review

Kindle Voyage E-reader
Kindle Voyage E-reader

Since other people have gone into detail on the device, I will answer only the burning questions I had before I received mine. I was very happy with my Paperwhite and would not have bought this had mine not been stolen/lost (not sure which). My husband still has his Paperwhite, so I was able to compare them side by side.

CAN I USE THE WALL CHARGER FROM MY PAPERWHITE TO CHARGE THE VOYAGE?

Yes.

CAN PRESSING THE PAGE TURNERS CAUSE REPETITIVE USE ISSUES?

I don’t think so. You can turn down the pressure it needs (which is very slight) or you can turn it off completely and turn pages with a tap. It’s actually nice to have both options.

CAN YOU SEE WHERE TO TURN THE PAGES IN THE DARK?

No. You can guess where the page forward area is, but the page back is a dot, so guessing would be difficult. But you can still tap to turn pages. Using a cover helps, as the edge of the cover would be right over the dot.

DOES THE FEEDBACK BUZZ ANNOY YOU WHEN YOU TURN PAGES?

I think it does take a little getting used to, but you can turn it down, and I think I will not notice it after a while. (There’s no sound; it’s purely tactile.) [Months later: It’s not distracting; you forget about it.]

IS THE ADJUSTABLE LIGHT NICE?

I still do it manually. It doesn’t adjust the way I’d like it to. Not as bright in good light as I’d like, and not as dim while my husband is sleeping next to me. Note that if you want to use the “night light,” you have to set that separately from Auto Adjust. Settings/Device Options/Screen Light. I’m not actually sure that the night light is working. It was at 18 when I turned off the light (this is quite bright), and I checked it about 10 minutes later, and it was at 17. My eyes adjust a lot faster than that. I turned it down manually to about 7.

CAN I USE THE COVER/CASE FROM MY PAPERWHITE FOR THE VOYAGE?

I had a Fintie, and I tried it. The entire reading area was still completely visible, but there was about 1/4″ of extra space above and I couldn’t access the power button. You need to access the power button in the back to wake it out of screen saver mode, and you’d have to take it out of the cover to do that. It would protect it, though, in a suitcase while you’re traveling. I ended up buying another Fintie for the Voyage and I’m very happy with it.

IS THE CRISPNESS OF THE TEXT AND WHITENESS OF THE BACKGROUND BETTER THAN THE PAPERWHITE?

When I originally wrote this review it was. But Amazon recently upgraded the Paperwhite and the newest version now has the same screen resolution as the Voyage. Although I don’t have the two of them to compare (my husband has the earlier version Paperwhite), I understand that the text on the Voyage is still a tad crisper and clearer. See the Update in my conclusion below.

ANY ISSUES?

I do not have any of the page hue issues that others have. The screen is uniformly white.

At first, I was having a problem with the page turners being located at just the spot where I like to hold the device. It took a while to find a comfortable way to hold it consistently. My thumb kept wanting to move to that spot, causing me to inadvertently change pages. Using a cover helps.

BOOKS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN AND A COUPLE OF TIPS

There is a way to easily download public domain books from Project Gutenberg on your Kindle by using the experimental browser. Open the browser on your Kindle (in the main menu) and type in the URL: http://www.freekindlebooks.org This will open a link to what’s known as the Magic Catalog. When you have downloaded the catalog, it will appear on your home page and will look like a book. When you open it, you will see it is a listing of all the books in Project Gutenberg, and all these books are linked to their website. You can search for something (like, say, Peter Pan), and download it from the catalog right onto your device without having to connect to a computer. Very nifty. This can be done on any Kindle, not just the Voyage. Be sure to use the domain name ORG, not COM. freekindlebooks.com is something completely different.

You can also download books from the mobile site: m.gutenberg.org. But you would have to open the browser each time, as opposed to the Magic Catalog, where the links are already there.

Tips:

Know that you can turn off the public notes and highlights that appear in your book, and you can also turn off the “Recommended Content” that appears on the bottom of your home page.

CONCLUSION:

If you are happy with your Paperwhite, I would recommend sticking with it. Only buy the Voyage if you have money to throw around and like buying all the latest gadgets. The Voyage is fabulous, but the Paperwhite is perfectly fine. If you have a keyboard Kindle, the Paperwhite is much better than what you have in terms of clarity, brightness and readability. [UPDATE 7/9/15. There is a new Paperwhite. It has the same screen resolution as the Voyage, but the Voyage text is still a bit more clear and crisp. The main differences between them are that the Voyage has the Page Turns on the bezel (with the Paperwhite you have to tap the screen), and the Voyage is thinner. The Voyage’s screen is flush with the bezel and is made from a kind of glass rather than plastic. The new Paperwhite is $119 vs. $199 for the Voyage.]

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