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FEATURE REVIEW – Unihertz Jelly Pro

The Jelly Pro takes on the Goliath’s of the Android World with the smallest form factor since 2006 (or so)…

Introduction
I remember back in the day – and I’m really targeting the 2006 – 2009 time frame, just before, and right after the face of the smartphone industry changed with the impact of the release of the original iPhone in 2007, small one-handed devices were all the rage. At this point, the world was used to small, one hand operable candy bar styled phones. Phones just like the Jelly Pro.

I’ve got one for review; and I’ve already done an of this phone and have posted it for everyone to see. I’ve been using it on and off – the intended use of the device – over the past few weeks or so and I think I finally have enough information to pass along to everyone. The Jelly Pro is NOT intended to be used as a daily driver. It’s meant to be a go-to phone when you want or need something small and still want or need to stay connected. Let’s take a look at the device and see if the Jelly Pro is something that might help you.

Design
The Unihertz Jelly Pro is 3.7 inches tall, 1.75 inches wide and 0.6 inches thick. It weighs just 2.1 ounces and is so small, it can fit in the coin pocket of your jeans without any issues, problems or forcing. It slides right in. The device is so small that it really reminds me of the Zoolander Phone – The Veer.

Zoolander Phone - The Veer

The Jelly Pro supports full 4G LTE speeds and VoLTE; and should work on just about any GSM network. It also has dual SIM slots, allowing the device to support two phone numbers at the same time. This is totally amazing in a device that’s really this small. However, the device has a bit more going for it than its size. Let’s dig in…

Display
When you’ve got a device this small, there has to be a few draw backs. If there’s one spot that’s going to suffer the most, it’s the display. The Unihertz Jelly Pro’s display is 2.45 inches in size and has a resolution of 240×432 pixels. This is NOT a display that you’re going to want to watch any kind of video on, though the device is clearly capable of playing and streaming video, the screen is so small, it’s not something you’d want to use to watch video on unless it was all that you had.

In fact, if you’re a bit older, or have poor or aging eyesight, this display is going to be a challenge. Its small. It’s very small… Especially by today’s standards where displays for phones like the iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus are 4.7 and 5.5 inches, respectively. The Jelly Pro’s display is approximately 1/2 of the size of the smaller, iPhone 8. It has 201 PPI (pixels per inch) and supports 16M colors. It’s also covered with scratch resistant glass, though I can’t find any information on whether its Gorilla Glass or something else. (So, assume something else, at this point, as Gorilla Glass would be a huge marketing point for a device of this size.)

The interesting thing here is that the phone’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness – The phone’s size. It’s too small to do anything except make calls. Trust me, I’ve really tried…

The on screen keyboard is so small, it’s amazing that you can type any words… in English (or your language of choice). You’re going to rely on autocorrect a lot on this device. You’re also going to use speech to text a lot with this device, too. It’s going to be very difficult to use, especially if you’ve got big hands. I have had a lot of trouble with the on screen keyboard, even with my slender fingers.

Don’t get me wrong. The Jelly Pro has a decent screen. It’s just too small to do any texting with. It’s also too small to reply to any email with or to do any real typing with. If you’re a heavy texter, even if this is just an occasional device, it’s not going to be one that you’re going to want to send any messages with.

Hardware
The rest of the device actually has some decent specs… with one small exception – the battery. The device has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. As long as you have a decent data plan, this device should be able to handle audio (and honestly, video) streaming without an issue. It should also be able to handle local storage of some media and entertainment content as well. At 1.1GHz, the processor should be able to handle streaming audio without any concerns with lag or other processing issues.

As I mentioned earlier, the only other issue that the device has is the battery. Its only 950mAh. This means that you’re going to be charging the device at least twice during the day, especially if you try use the device all day.

The device will NOT last a whole day on a single charge. It simply won’t. The battery is just too small. You’re also going to want to make certain you have a microUSB cable handy. The device charges via microUSB, and since the battery is so small, being without one, especially if this is the only device you carry when you’re using it, is going to be a huge mistake. Charge as often as you can with this one…

The Full 360

The front of the Jelly Pro and the HTC One.  Boy this thing is small!
02 Jelly Bottom Edge
The bottom edge of both devices
03 Jelly Right Edge
The right edge of both devices. You can see the Jelly Pro’s microUSB port and power button here.
04 Jelly Top Edge
The top edge of both devices. The Jelly Pro’s 3.5mm headphone jack is located here.
Jelly Left Edge
The left edge of both devices. You can see the volume buttons on the Jelly Pro, here.

Android
The device comes with Android 7 Nougat. I haven’t heard any news related to the Jelly Pro running Android 8 Oreo. The one good thing that is going on, however, is that Unihertz is actively updating the device. When I turned the device on last month, I immediately got an update. I got another one recently as well. This kind of active support by the OEM really makes a huge difference. I’m very pleased that Unihertz is providing this much support on this device. It means a lot when the OEM takes an active role in a device’s life cycle.

Conclusion
The Unihertz Jelly Pro started through a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. The device only retails for $129 USD and is available directly from their their website. For the price, this is a huge deal. The device has enough power to handle most of what you would want to do with a mid to low level device; and does it affordably.

This device is cheap enough, and it’s got decent performance. Unfortunately, the Jelly Pro has got some serious issues with its battery life and the feature that’s supposed to be its biggest draw – its size. The screen is too small to type on. It’s too small to really watch any video content on. The battery is also too small to last you through a day with a single charge, ESPECIALLY if you use it to play any kind of game or watch any video. You’re going to need to charge it at least 2-3 times during the day.

The biggest premise of the phone – its cheap enough to use as a situational phone, is seriously hampered by its size, which is one of its biggest selling points.

Size in a device like this is important. That and price are the reasons why you buy it. However, its display size make it very difficult to use and the size of its battery makes it something that you’re going to have to charge often (at least once every 4-5 hours) under normal use, more frequently if you use it for any kind of streaming content, especially games and video.

While the cost of the phone isn’t all that high, buying something like this to use in place of say, an iPhone 8 or iPhone X or even a Note 8 when you don’t want to take the big device, is high enough that you probably won’t want to lay down an extra $130 bucks when you just spent $1000 or more dollars on the big dog, which is very disappointing…

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Disable Fast Startup in Windows 10

This new feature in the Fall Creators Update is taking many by surprise…

If you’ve got the Fall Creators Update on your Windows 10 PC, then you’ve probably noticed a new feature that Microsoft is calling “Fast Startup.” The feature claims to improve the speed of your boot times, so you spend less time waiting on your PC to boot and more time working, being productive. Windows has this feature enabled by default, so if you’re using the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, then, you’re likely booting faster than you were before, and have likely noticed it.

Most users will like the faster booting times, but there are a few things about it that you should know so you can decide if you want to disable it or not. Understanding how it works, is going to go a long way to getting you to this decision.

Normally, when you shut your PC down, you do what many call a “cold shutdown.” Here, you save everything to your hard drive or SSD, close all the programs and kill the power. RAM is cleared. When you turn the PC back on, it loads everything back on the drive BACK into RAM in order for it to function as intended. That’s the way everyone is used to having “shut down” work on their PC.

When users have Fast Startup enabled, the computer doesn’t shut down, per se. It really hibernates instead.

Fast Startup saves all of your active data to a hibernation file before turning off. When you turn it back on, it reads in the hibernation file, putting you back to where you were before it shut down. Interestingly enough, Fast Startup can only be enabled if your PC has the ability to hibernate, AND then only if hibernation is enabled.

So, this brings you up and down quicker. That’s good right? Right?

Well… not always. There are some times when you really might want it disabled.

Drivers…

Drivers are a GREAT reason why disabling features like Fast Startup are a good idea. Windows system drivers are historically known for being picky about how they are accessed. Windows has always had issues with power and power management, and some system level drives simply don’t like being accessed after being in a hibernated state. They may not flush out of RAM correctly. They may not initialize into RAM correctly from hibernation. They may really want to be loaded and/ or reloaded upon hardware startup in order to function correctly. When they don’t get initialized right, depending on how they access RAM or what portions of RAM they live in and access, they can either make the PC unstable, OR they can crash the entire PC.

Boot loaders are another GREAT reason why you may want to disable Fast Startup. Some boot loaders don’t get accessed correctly from a hibernated state, as the Fast Startup and hibernation in general has a tendency to want to lock the hard drive. When you want to boot into a different operating system, you may find that they only way you can reliably do this is to reboot the PC after “resuming” via Fast Startup, as you can’t access the boot loader choice for additional operating systems upon startup.

That extra restart WILL do a cold restart, by the way; so if you’re ever updating the operating system, or doing some kind of activity that really requires you to go “all the way down,” having Fast Startup enabled doesn’t prevent you from swapping out locked system files (or files that are in use) after Windows Update updates your PC.

So should you ALWAYS disable Fast Startup? Signs point to, “no.”

If things work ok for you… if you don’t have driver issues, problems or errors, you should be ok. You can keep it enabled and enjoy the faster booting times. You have to keep in mind, though, that if you want access to your hard drive from outside windows, you likely won’t be able to get that access with the feature enabled.

If you’re noticing that you get BSoD’s or you start having issues with devices not working or spinning up correctly; or if things don’t work without an extra restart, then yeah. You may want to consider disabling Fast Startup. Doing this is really pretty easy.

Ok… so how do I enable or disable Fast Startup on Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update?
If you wish to disable Fast Startup, follow these simple steps:

1. On the Desktop, press Win-X.

2. Choose Power Options from the context menu that appears.

3. Choose Power & sleep on the left side menu.

4. Under Related Settings, click the Additional power settings link.
Power and Sleep

5. On the left side of the Power Options window that appears, click the, “Choose what the power button does” link.
Power Options

6. On the Power Options – System Settings window that appears, if you see an Admin Link for Change settings that are currently unavailable, click it.
System Settings
7. The three check boxes under Shutdown Settings should enable. Uncheck the Turn on fast startup (recommended) check box.
Shutdown Settings

If you don’t see a check box for fast startup, it’s because hibernation has somehow become disable on your PC. Renabling this is actually a lot easier than turning Fast Startup on or off.

To enable hibernation on your PC, follow these steps:

1. On the Desktop, press Win-X.

2. Choose Command Prompt (Administrator) from the context menu that appears.

3. In the Command Prompt window, type the following:

powercfg –h /on

and press enter

If you need to need to disable Fast Startup, you can follow the steps in the above section, now.

At this point, you will notice that it takes your PC a bit longer to start up. This may be an issue for you in the long run; but as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Any driver issues you have, should be gone. Any update issues you have, should certainly be gone.

Was Fast Startup an issue for you? Did you have a need or desire to disable it? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and let me know what you did.

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Apple Watch can Save your Life

New studies suggest that owning an Apple Watch can identify potentially lethal health trends

I saw this, and I thought this was pretty cool.

I have an Apple Watch and have enjoyed using it for just over two years. I use it mostly for notifications and responding to text messages. I also use it to keep track of my physical activity, as well, such as it is. As a tech and software development geek, having something remind you to move and to move more during your day is important, especially when your job has you sitting on your tush all day long testing software. Some folks, me included, forget to move without being reminded. Having a subtle reminder to stand every hour makes it easy for me to take a break, move, and to refocus my thoughts, if needed. Apple Watch has made me more productive, as a result, believe it or not. It’s not been an interruption.

In a new development, it’s been found that Wearables can be used to accurately detect conditions like hypertension and sleep apnea in users that wear them. The research, conducted by health startup Cardiogram and UCSF, cited claims that data from heart sensors when combined with machine learning algorithms can identify patterns that predict if a person is at risk of certain health issues. The study followed more than 6000 subjects, some of whom were known to have been diagnosed with both hypertension and sleep apnea.

Cardiogram cofounder, Brandon Ballinger wants to “transform wearables that people already own – Apple Watches, Android Wears, Garmins, and Fitbits – into inexpensive, everyday screening tools using artificial intelligence” into tools that can not only help keep people well, but drive the growth of the market. The study is headed for peer review, according to Ballinger. This will hopefully lead to wearables being validated as a screening method for this and other major health care conditions, like pre-diabetes and diabetes, which, appears to be next on Cardiogram’s hit list

Cardiogram’s study lines up very well with the direction that Apple has been taking Apple Watch and the apps that are available for it in the App Store. Patents have been developed that involve both health related wearable technology by Cardiogram. Apple is also involved in a heart rate study partnership with Stanford University.

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Apple to Buy Shazam

There’s an interesting rumor going around that Apple is going to buy Shazam for about $400M…

shazam

Apple announced the acquisition of Shazam in a statement to Buzzfeed News, on 2017-12-11. In their statement, Apple acknowledged that Shazam was one of the most popular apps available for download in the iOS and Mac App Stores; and has hundreds of millions of users, on multiple platforms, worldwide.

“Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users,” Apple’s Tom Neumayr said. “We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement.”

Apple is reportedly in late stage talks to acquire Shazam, a popular content recognition and identification app that is currently rounding up investments as it moves toward an initial public offering. This would be an interesting development, as the popular music recognition app is currently cross platform.

Shazam has been integrated into Apple’s iOS since June of 2014 when it released iOS 8. While the deal between the two organizations is NOT finalized, its anticipated that the deal, worth approximately $400M USD could be announced as early as Monday, 2017-12-11.

Originally called 2580, named after the number users had to dial to reach the service via text, the UK company came into existence in 1999. The app is now in both the iOS and Mac App Stores and has turned into a comprehensive audio discovery and identification service helping users identify songs, movies and TV shows by capturing audio. The app has been downloaded over 1 billion times.

Apple partnered with Shazam’s marketing team in 2015 to help power their Apple Music app. This is likely where they will permanently put the app, should they in fact come to an agreement to purchase the technology.

According to Shazam’s CEO, Rich Riley, the company reported revenues of £40.3M pounds for their 2016 fiscal year. Riley indicated that their marketing shift to advertising is what helped make them profitable and helped them become an acquisition target.

Shazam is integrated into iTunes and Apple Music, and has hooks into the iTunes Store. On the Android side, it also has hooks into Google Play. iTunes users can quickly purchase recognized songs. Apple Music users can quickly add identified songs to a customized playlist.

If purchased, Shazam would be Apple’s second largest acquisition in recent years. Apple purchased Beats for $3B USD in 2014. The Shazam purchase, however, at $400M, is likely to be a 60% discount over the organization’s most recent funding round, which valued the company and service at approximately $1B USD. Shazam has raised over $143M in funding since 2002, including monies obtained through Sony Music and Universal.

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Apple Issues Security Update for High Sierra Root User Bug

Apple on Wednesday released a special security update for macOS High Sierra, solving a recently uncovered flaw which would let people gain root access without entering a password.

You can file this one under the ol’ “face palm – how the h3ll did this make it out to production?” category.

As a software development professional with over 25 years of experience, it really makes me wonder sometimes… It’s a question, that as a Quality Assurance professional, you never want to ask, or have someone ask YOU; but when the item in question is this blatant, you really can’t help it.

Recently, a bug in macOS 10.13 High Sierra was discovered that allowed anyone – literally, anyone – with physical access to your Mac to log in with root permissions, whether they had an account on the computer or not.

Root is a super user level of access. Someone with root or super user access can do anything and EVERYTHING to your Mac, despite any and ALL security settings you’ve made or apps you’ve installed. They can burn down your entire world with root access… and there isn’t anything on the computer that can stop them.

Now, there are a few things you should know about this.

1. As of this writing, this should no longer be an issue. Apple has released a security update, Security Update 2017-001, and it will update your High Sierra build number to 17B1002 after it installs.
2. As of this writing, the update will come down and install automatically. You won’t see an update notification or red bubble on the App Store indicating an update is available. It’s going to install automatically when you restart your Mac. Period. You don’t get a choice.

I wanted to get that in front of everyone before I relay the following comment – I’ve seen this defect in action, and it was totally devastating.

root_authorizing

In fact, it was a bit more than that. I’ve never seen such an easily exploitable, completely revealing security vulnerability like this… ever.

I have access to Mac with a standard (non-admin) account. I don’t know the admin password on this box, so I couldn’t cheat on it at all. With the above vulnerability active on that Mac, I was able to bypass the administrator’s credentials and make changes to my standard account as if I were an admin, and I didn’t even need a password.

As I understand it, there wasn’t a secret account or other access point on your computer. When users tried to log in as root, without a password, High Sierra wouldn’t let you in. The bug, however, occurred when you retried logging in as root without a password. It somehow burned the account in, without a password, after multiple tries. At that point, you had access to absolutely everything on the computer. When macOS again prompted you for any kind of admin permissions, simply entering in, “root” as the user name without a password again, got you authenticated.

As I mentioned, this was probably the easiest “hack” I’ve ever done. You didn’t need any coding or any kind of technical knowledge. All you needed was physical access to the computer and the ability to spell the word, “root.”

Thankfully, the hole has been patched; and it was patched, as I mentioned, via a silent, forced update, that, to my understanding, Apple has only used one time before. You didn’t get the opportunity to decline this update, and Apple applied it to your system without asking for permission or requesting a restart of your machine, or your knowledge, really. It simply got installed and then silently applied when you either rebooted or turned your Mac on.

The only evidence that something had happened was a notification bubble that showed up a day or so later letting you know that the update had been installed.

root_security_updated

To be honest, I wasn’t happy with the news that this vulnerability was published, and I wasn’t happy with the way it was resolved, either. I wouldn’t have been upset with a “required” update that would have been installed without me getting a say in its installation IF Apple had told me that it was installing it. I don’t like the fact that Apple can just push an update to my PC and I can’t prevent it from installing, or even know that it was installed until AFTER it was installed.

That’s just as bad as the vulnerability existing in the first place.

In the future, I really wish Apple would be a bit more sensitive in situations like this. I *DO* understand why they did what they did. This was a serious bug that had to be resolved for everyone running High Sierra. However, I don’t like it when vendors force me to take an update and don’t tell me that it’s going to install or give me an option to postpone the update. People have been screaming about situations like that on the Windows side of the world since Windows 10 was released a few years ago. Just because Microsoft does it, doesn’t make it ok.

Did you happen to see this bug in action? Did you happen to play with it at all prior to Apple plugging the hole? Did the update reveal itself to you via the App Store, or did you get the silent version of the update shoved at you like most of the world did?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area below, and give me your thoughts on the whole thing?

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The Difference between Outlook.com and Gmail

I recently had a very good friend of mine ask me the difference between the two. Here’s the skinny…

eMail services today aren’t like they used to be. It used to be that you got email because of the online service you used (like CompuServe, Prodigy, American Online or MSN, to name a few…). Some of them were IMAP related services. Some of them were POP3 related. In very rare occasions, depending on the level of service you purchased, some of them were corporate based or corporate classed, like Microsoft Exchange services. And, on top of that, you nearly ALWAYS had an email application (like Outlook or Outlook Express) to read your email with.gmail

Today, it’s a completely different story.

Today, nearly all email addresses are services that you choose to use. While the players have largely changed – all except for Microsoft, who still offers email via Outlook.com – most users choose to use web based email services provided by one of the larger consumer SaaS providers like Google, Microsoft, (and yes, even) Yahoo! (still…).

So, as I said, I recently had a very trusted, and good friend ask me what the difference between Outlook.com and Gmail were; and more importantly if one was better than the other. My answer, as always, was qualified. It depends.aL0gJ9_Y

It depends… on your needs.

So, for this discussion, I’m going to leave the Office compatible applications OUT of the conversation. Both offer Microsoft Office or Office compatible app suites, including eMail, but they also offer

• Word Processing – Word Online vs. Google Docs
• Spreadsheets – Excel Online vs. Sheets
• Presentations – PowerPoint Online vs. Slides
• Online Storage – OneDrive vs. Google Backup and Sync

For the sake of our discussion, we’re going to call these pretty much even; though, Google’s online storage offering does offer full computer backup, where OneDrive does not.

We’re going to instead concentrate on the email offering, which, believe it or not, is also, pretty much even. However, there are a few differences, and I want to touch on those so that you can pick out the service that is really the best for you.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the differences between Gmail and Outlook.com

Feature Gmail Outlook.com
Cost Free Free
Accessibility Online or Offline; but offline isn’t easy Online or offline
Tags & Folders Uses labels instead of folders Folders and Categories
SPAM Filtering Comprehensive Rudimentary
Attachment Size 25MB 10MB

 

There are perhaps one or two more differences of note; and depending on your situation, they may make a difference to you.

The biggest one is that will likely may any difference to anyone is that Outlook.com supports Exchange and Gmail does not. This won’t make any difference to you unless you intend to use Microsoft Outlook as an email client. Exchange allows you to take full advantage of all of Outlook’s features.

For example, while Gmail supports calendaring, Exchange’s calendar features are an industry standard. In fact, most of the features in Outlook are an industry standard. The thing about Outlook.com is that if you really want to use it, you’re best email client is going to be Outlook. If you’re not wanting to use Outlook, then you don’t have to.

Outlook.com will still work with a web browser, and work well; but if you really want that to work well, you’re going to need to use Edge or Internet Explorer. While Outlook.com works with any web browser, its feature set is deprecated with anything else other than a Microsoft web browser. Gmail works with Outlook, but it requires either POP3 or IMAP configurations. Gmail also really wants to live in a browser, and more than that… it really wants to live in Google Chrome.

So, at the end of the day, where does this really leave us? Honestly, that’s pretty easy.

If you want to use Outlook, then you should choose Outlook.com or Office 365 for your email needs. Outlook.com will default to Exchange regardless of the email address it creates for you. If you want to use it as either a POP3 or IMAP service, you can, of course, but you won’t get the advantages of Exchange, in Microsoft Outlook if you go that route.

If Exchange Services aren’t important to you, then , as I mentioned you can still use Outlook.com as a POP3 or IMAP service provider, or you can simply go with Gmail, which has some of the most reliable, easiest to configure services available It just depends on what you want to do and how you want to do it… It’s really up to you.

So what are the differences between Gmail and Outlook.com? Why do you pick one over the other? To be honest, I’m going to tell you exactly what I told my friend:

They’re effectively identical.

The only reason why you choose one over the other is going to depend on what type of mobile devices you have (Google services plays best with Android devices…); or whether or not you need or want Exchange.

If either of these are a toss up, then by all means, just pick one. To be honest, most folks aren’t going to care and it won’t really matter… It’s not your email needs that are going to drive you to pick one over the other. It’s going to be another service – Exchange, Office Suite compatibility, web browser needs/ choice, or full app client that are going to push you to choose one over the other.

If none of that makes a difference to you, then by all means… flip a coin.

However, I’d love to hear what you chose and why. Did you go Google or Microsoft? Chrome or Outlook? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and tell me what direction you went and why. I’d love to hear all about it.

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Unboxing the Unihertz Jelly Pro

I never thought the Zoolander phone was real… until now.

The Unihertz Jelly Pro is here! Just off of successful campaigns on both Kickstarter,and Indegogo, the Jelly Pro is intended to be a supplemental device and not your daily driver. The device is tiny. It fits in the coin pocket on your jeans. It fits into a small party clutch.

It goes where you do when you can’t take your standard, five plus inch smartphone, yet still provides all the power and functionality of your regular Android phone, without taking up all the space and without the risk of breakage (because you stuck it in a rear pocket or some other place where its likely to get sat on…
Jelly
Full Specs are below.

• 4G/ LTE Smartphone (with support for VoLTE (voice over LTE))
• Quad Core CPU 1.1gHz
• 2GB RAM
• 16GB ROM
• 950mAh Battery – Reported 4-12 hours real use, depending on apps installed
• 2.45 Inch (62.23mm) Display
• 8MP Rear Facing Camera
• 2MP Front Facing Camera
• Android 7.0 Nougat (out of the box)
• Connectivity Support:
o LTE
o WLAN
o Bluetooth
o GPS

Unihertz doesn’t have all of the details I’m looking for in their tech specs, so I’m doing a bit more digging and investigating to see if I can get information on connectivity support and when (read: IF) Unhertz will be updating Jelly Pro to Android 8 Oreo.

The full review is still in the works!

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Microsoft Introduces Surface Book 2

If you thought Surface was just a passing fancy, think again…

Surface-Book-2-696x429

I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Microsoft Signature PC’s. They are, in my opinion, the best Windows experience that you can buy. They don’t have any extra crap on them that would take away from or distract you from your computing purpose. It’s one of the reasons why I really like Microsoft Surface PC’s as well.

Over the past five or so years, I’ve had an original Surface Pro, a Surface Pro 3 and a Surface Book. The combination of the devices features – like the touch screens and pens – have made the Surface line one that I find very valuable, especially in a corporate setting. The Surface Pro and the Surface Book are both perfect for Microsoft OneNote and for a number of different business applications, including custom sales and invoicing apps as well as process and business flow.

Recently, Microsoft released an update to their Surface Book line, and this update, is squarely aimed at not only the creative professional, but the enterprise as well. The Surface Book 2 now comes in both its original 13 inch size, but also a new, 15 inch version. The new size, paired with Intel’s eight generation Core i processor and better graphics hardware also enables Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Headsets.

Like its earlier iterations, the Surface Book 2 has put the bulk of its processing power in the tablet. The keyboard houses both the extra battery and the new Nvidia graphics cards. The 13″ version has an optional Nvidia GeForce 1050 and the 15″ gets a GeForce 1060 by default. Both are mainstream gaming graphics cards and a big step up from what the Surface Book was previously equipped with.

The following are basic specs for both versions of the Surface Book 2.

 

 

Surface Book 2 – 13″ Surface Book 2 15″
Processor Intel 8th-gen Core i5 (dual-core) or i7 (quad-core) U-series processors Intel 8th-gen Core i7 U-series processors
Display 13.5-inch 3,000×2,000-pixel display 15-inch 3,240×2,160-pixel display
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU

(Core i7 version only)

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU
USB Ports 2x USB-A 3.1 ports

1x USB-C 3.1 port

2x USB-A 3.1 ports

1x USB-C 3.1 port

Card Reader SDXC card reader SDXC card reader
RAM 8GB or 16GB RAM 16GB RAM
Storage 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD storage 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD storage
Intel 8th-gen Core i5 (dual-core) or i7 (quad-core) U-series processors Intel 8th-gen Core i7 U-series processors

When it comes to augmented reality, both of these convertibles are in good shape to perform well. Both work well with Microsoft’s Pen and the Fall Creators Update version of Windows 10. You can, for example, create a file in Microsoft’s Paint 3D and then drop it into a real word situation, capturing everything with the device’s 8MP, rear-facing camera. The only problem that you’re going to have here, when trying to hook into AR headsets is the lack of an HDMI port, though you shouldn’t have any real concerns with performance of the box or its graphics adapters. According to recent test results, both versions of the Surface Book 2 can be taken seriously as gaming machines, which is kinda cool.

Microsoft is also releasing a new mouse, called the Surface Precision Mouse. It’s got a more traditional design than either the original Surface Mouse or the Surface Arc Mouse. It also includes a set of programmable left side buttons; and supports both wired USB and wireless Bluetooth connectivity. As of this writing, pricing for these devices has not been released, though you should expect them to fall somewhere between $50 and $80 USD.

Microsoft is putting the Surface Book 2 directly against the new Apple MacBook Pro. According to Microsoft, the Surface Book 2 is a much better performer. There may be some truth to this, as the Apple MacBook Pros are still using previous generation Core Intel processor. Pricing for the new Microsoft Surface Book2 starts at $1499 USD for the 13 inch version and $2499 for the 15″ version.

In my opinion, pricing for the Surface Book line has always been a bit on the high side. As I previously stated, Microsoft is clearly targeting the Surface Book 2 at Apple’s MacBook Pro. The problem that I have with this pricing strategy is that the MacBook Pro is a clearly well established, top performing machine with a long history of top notch components and high price tags.

Microsoft doesn’t have any of these precedent, with any version of the Surface Book. The device has had what I would consider to be a mediocre performance history, especially with all of the issues that were first encountered with the original Surface Book and its ROM problems.

This update is also mostly what I would call an evolutionary update rather than any update of note. Surface Book with Performance Base, released earlier this year, put a better graphics card in the keyboard along with the extra battery. It also bumped the price up quite a bit.

The Surface Book 2 offers a new processor and a new graphics card; but the fact that it also offers a new 15″ screen size takes this device to a completely new level, in my opinion. It clearly brings the Surface Book up into a better class of computing device, and may actually make the larger price tag, a bit more reasonable. To be honest, we’re going to have to wait and see on that one, though. The a5″ version is new. It’s a completely different device than the 13″ version, with different components and different drivers; and Microsoft has always had an issue with drivers and components when it comes to Windows, regardless of version. So this clearly falls in the wait and see category…

Is Surface Book 2 something that you’re interested in? Will it be a convertible that you pursue or keep your eye on as a potential work tool? I’d love to hear what you plan to do. Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the Discussion area below?

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