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02 March 2016

Review: Asus ZenFone Zoom

With so many different good smartphones cameras available in the market, the one feature often lacking is the ability to zoom. Asus released a new ZenFone Zoom which offers an optical zoom lens without the use of telescoping lenses protruding from the rear casing which can be proven bulky at some point. Asus achieve this by using periscope style prisms. Not only that, they have dedicated camera buttons. Obviously, this is a camera-centric phone in the market! 


Asus had produced some of the best wireless routers I had come to know in recent times and even now my own wireless router is RT-AC68U. Personally, I had never use Asus phone and not many around me are using one. So I am pleasantly surprised when StarHub offered me a chance to review one of their latest Zenfone Zoom, one which was talk about for the past 1 year. From what I understand from the launch event I just went, this phone model is only available exclusively to StarHub Customers and you get this for free if you sign up for StarHub 4G 5GB plan!



Display:
5.5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (401 ppi) IPS LCD
Gorilla Glass 4
Hardware:
Intel Atom Z3580, Quad-core, 2330 processor, 4096 MB RAM
64 GB Built-in storage and allows storage expansion up to 128GB microSD (Singapore edition)
3000 mAh battery capacity (Built-in)
Camera:
13MP 1/3" Sensor
3X Optical Zoom
f2.7 - f4.8 Variable Aperture
1080/30p video (20Mbps)
Hardware & Software Stabilization
Dual LED Flash
Laser Focus Assist
Size:
158.9 x 78.84 x 11.95 mm, weighting 185g
Available in Black and White.

I got some shots to share with you guys both in low light condition and utilizing 3X Opitcal Zoom: 

Before Zoom

After applying 3X Optical Zoom
Night shot after applying 3X Optical Zoom



Night shot
For the most part, the phone provides reasonable grip which is important if you want to use it to take pictures, thanks to the genuine leather finish back cover. It got a  designated shutter release button (2 stage camera shutter) that allows half press to focus and full press to shoot, a feature most desired for photographers. Perform very well under low light shooting condition, ability to stabilize well at maximum zoom to handle slight camera shake. Most phones zoom by cropping the image but this phone by Asus provides a 3X optical zoom which maintains the full resolution of the sensor. Overall, the phone really does look like a point and shoot camera. As mentioned earlier, there's one small red dotted button dedicated to start shooting, you gotta press and hold to initiate and press and hold again to initiate video recording. Talking about video recording, it doesn't come with 4K UHD video recording or continuous focus. Although it does offer manual adjustments on the fly for video, shutter speed isn't one of them. Stabilization is only available in 720p mode. Slow motion capture is not one you will use and share, however time lapse is impressive.  


And for all you selfie wefie shooting lovers, you will be pleased with this wide-angle 5-megapixel sensor. You can dump your selfie stick! 

The back is removable which provides access to the micro SIM card and microSD slots. Sadly, depending on how you see it as an advantage or not disadvantage, the battery is non-removable, as such, for us power users, make sure arm yourself with power bank to last through the whole day and night. On average, a full charge will last you not more than 6 hours. And to fully charge your phone when your battery is flat, it will take you about 100 mins to full charge it. 

Running on Android 5.0 Lollipop overlaid with Asus' ZenUI which I read is pretty much the same with their predecessors. Although by now, most of the phones should have already upgraded to Marshmallow, for Asus, it seems it will take sometime, earliest can be April or latest June. With the upgrade coming up, Asus own Mail, Calendar and Messenger apps are going by the wayside, in favor of Google's Gmail, Calendar and Google Hangout. The Taiwanese company decided that less is more this time round.  

In closing, this phone is built around one specific rare feature which is a well executed hardware zoom. If you are someone who cares about photography and video and want a convenience feature of a hardware zoom yet someone who is not so concern about lens clarity and video performance, this phone is for you since there's manual settings to play around and explore great many possibilities.

Updated: 03032016 (1609hrs)

06 January 2016

BlackBerry Priv, the best BlackBerry Smartphone ever!



Cut to the chase, BlackBerry Priv is the best BlackBerry Smartphone ever released in the market! A vertical slider powered by Android Lollipop 5.1.1 (slated to release by 1st quarter of 2016) and hopefully get an update of Marshmallow real soon.

This phone is so well designed that having a casing doesn't do justice! Besides, it's not slippery at all and it does give you the grip and good to hold!

It has 32GB internal storage and not only that, you can increase your storage space up to 2TB using their microSD slot which are quite a rare thing now for most popular Android smartphones! It has 3GB of RAM (Memory) allowing you to run more apps smoothly. Running on Snapdragon 808 64bit and has a integrated Adreno 418, 600MHz GPU to run a demanding Android gaming fluently.

One of the most talk about topics when comes to getting a new phone is their battery life, what you get from BlackBerry Priv is 3410mAh non removable Lithium Ion battery which makes it secure and not drop out when you drop the phone, hence disconnected and power off. I believe I did share the benefit of having non-removable and because of it, I was able to recover my previous phone HTC Butterfly S which I drop it off from my car top, drove a distance to realize my phone not with me, using my friend's phone to track the exact location of my phone to retrieve it back! That's my story! Anyway, with the affordable big capacity power banks, it's not really necessary to swap battery. Sadly, wireless charging is only available in United States but at least it has quick charging which is mandatory for all smartphones. During my 2 weeks of usage, on average, it will last me 12 hours or at best 14 hours. Heard it can give you more, so it does depends on your daily activities. But then again, quick charging is available for this baby!  

I have to say this, I enjoyed watching video and viewing pictures on this sharp and quality panel, 5.4" AMOLED curved edge screen on both sides, which comes with front facing speaker which sits at the bottom of the phone below its qwerty keyboard. I said it before and I said it again. Front facing speaker should be mandatory instead of rear facing or side facing. Have you ever seen someone in the train or walking in the streets cuping their phone in such a way they can hear the video or audio clearly? Front facing would have solved the problem. Since my first HTC phone, Butterfly S, I enjoyed watching video and even listening to music more than ever before through a mobile device. Although I would have prefer it to be 2 sided and it would have been awesome. If you still use phone to talk a lot, you will find it pleasant to hear "the other side" voice, sounded abit bassy yet sharp. 

It actually pretty close to stock Android and doesn't contain some useless bloatwares in like other brands. It is preloaded with BlackBerry enhancement and added features thrown in. If you enjoy using BlackBerry 10 OS, you will find it familiar even when using this Android powered BlackBerry Priv. Yet I believe there are some fixes and further improvement to bring it closer to BB 10 OS, like the BlackBerry Hub, you read the messages in WhatsApp app but still show unread in its hub. Pinch to show unread messages and emails are not available, although you can toggle that but selecting unread tab. You can swipe up from the bottom to not only get Google Now but swipe left to use BlackBerry Search or swipe right to load BlackBerry Hub. For those of you who are unfamiliar with BlackBerry Hub, you can call it unified messaging where all your email accounts, whatsapp, SMS, notification etc show up in one single location. It may sound overwhelming but you can find it useful, without the need to really open up the email app to see your emails etc. 



BlackBerry Priv has a special feature built in called Pop-Up widgets which lets you swipe up from a particular icons on the home screen to just show their widget, although you can get this featured installed from third party Android launchers but well, BlackBerry built in with it. As for the multitasking tray, it show different apps in different sizes which is kind of cool. You can double tap to wake the phone instead of pressing the power button on the left. Unfortunately, you cannot double tap to sleep which my LG G4 allows that. Hopefully, future updates can add that up. Also, by default,  the Productivity Edge features takes advantage of the dual curve design by letting you take a peek at your notifications, messages, calendar and so on - with a simple swipe. You can set it up  to work on either side of the screen (right, or left). One of the exciting feature I like, on the right curved edge of the display, it show a charging bar when the BlackBerry Priv is plugged in.

Qwerty keyboard is not as desirable as how it use to be for BlackBerry. Since many of us already gotten use to virtual keyboard, moreover Priv's ain't as space out as how BlackBerry Bold 9900 is which is understandable due to the design of its hardware. In fact, if there's any reason why I would pay for Priv would be their very own BlackBerry virtual keyboard. I always find myself loving Z10 or even better Z30 virtual keyboard. Even of late, I got hold of its virtual keyboard on my LG G4 from a forum. Having said that, I want to add that its keyboard act as trackpad as well, scrolling up and down without touching the screen but swiping up and down on the keyboard itself, much like the BlackBerry Passport. 

Wireless at certain point in time it will be useless. It will show the available network but not able to connect. Toggle off and on doesn't seems to solve the problem. So I have to reboot to get it work again. Although intense gaming seems smooth but occasionally, you do feel that the phone overall is not as smooth as it ought to be. Sadly it can get pretty hot when I use the phone extensively or when it boot up. Initially when I set up this phone, considering the amount synchronization need to be done, I thought well maybe it's just normal for most phones.

One feature that I particularly like is the ability to set how long I want the phone to go silent or DND like one hour or two? Or switch back to normal after the alarm set. In a way the chances of me overslept is lower. Cause I will usually get notification from either emails or other instant messaging apps.

Most people already commented that the front facing camera is mediocre when you compare with my current LG G4, I have to agree. Result is not acceptable when there are so many better front facing camera in the market. Considering BlackBerry just released this model. If it is released 1 or 2  years ago, maybe most people would have pass it. Yet, rear camera 18 megapixel auto-focus camera which comes with Optical Image Stabilization produces decent pictures which match up with even iPhone 6S.

Well, at the end of the day, I personally feel that BlackBerry Priv is perfect for those who regards messaging a priority and productivity. Occasionally you can play high demanding games during your train ride or tea break, it will work well! Premium design and one that stands out from the rest of the smartphones you ever seen! One thing about me is I dislike using phone that everybody is using kind of guy, weird it seems!



Additional info:

I would like to encourage you to click the link below to view the demo of their features:
http://demos.blackberry.com/priv-by-blackberry/na/ca/gen/how-to/priv-by-blackberry/priv-by-blackberry-overview/smartphone-interface/index.html

If you do bother about security about your Android phone, read more about it here:
http://blogs.blackberry.com/2015/10/priv-is-for-private-how-blackberry-secures-the-android-platform/ 

20 October 2015

Google Apps for Outlook cannot send out emails (Windows 10)

I did an upgrade for one of my colleague to Windows 10 and use Office 2010 for her emails. She came to me reporting about this error:

Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients.

      Subject: Test
      Sent: 20/10/2015 15:00

The following recipient(s) cannot be reached:

      '*****@gmail.com' on 20/10/2015 15:00
            This email message was not sent because we were unable to convert the message into Internet format (MIME). Removing attachments or removing forwarded text from the message may enable you to send the message. See http://support.google.com/a/bin/answer.py?answer=2392524 for details.

I followed the instruction as described by Google Support, to uninstall Google Apps Sync and MS Office altogether but error still exist.

Solution:

To Run SFC /SCANNOW Command in Windows 10

Make sure you run the Command Prompt as Administrtor.

Type the command, SFC /SCANNOW

It will take a while and may report corrupt files detected but unable to repair. Don't worry about that.

Open your Outlook and try sending email, it should work now.

23 September 2015

Issues updating iTunes for Windows 10

I encountered issues when I try to update my iTunes to the latest version (as of 23 Sep 2015) but the error pop up as shown above or text below.

"There is a problem with this windows installer package. A program required for this install to complete could not be run..."

After searching, I found this solution which is to use Win RAR or 7-zip to extract out the iTunes set up installer (iTunes6464setup.exe) into a folder.

Delete "AppleSoftwareUpdate.msi" file then I double clicked the "iTunes" installer file in that folder and it worked. However, it may not be necessary to delete it I realized.

1. open Control Panel > Uninstall Programs
2. Right click on Apple Software Update > Repair
3. Try Install iTunes (Latest version available)
4. Or if had already extracted it and install iTunes6464setup.exe, just install AppleSoftwareUpdate will do. 

Updated solution: (29 Jun 2016)

18 July 2015

Cannot view iTunes library in BlackBerry Link (Windows)


If you encounter difficulty viewing your music library in BlackBerry Link, you are not alone! In my search for the solution was in vain until I bumped into one solution which is not relevant to my issue.

When I load "Reliability Monitor", I noticed that "BlackBerryLink.Helper" kept crashing or stopped working. To access reliability monitor, just click Start menu, type "perfmon /rel" in the "Search programs and files" box. 




However, you may not encounter this issue. So I hope what I did may also resolve your issue too.

Here you will learn how to remove and reinstall the Microsoft .NET Framework in order to correct the problem with your BlackBerry Link.

To uninstall the Microsoft .NET Framework:
  1. Open Programs and Features from the Windows Control Panel (or Add or Remove Programs for Windows XP). An easy way to bring this up on non-Windows XP systems is to type "programs and features" in the search field at the bottom of the Start menu.
  2. Uninstall everything that starts with "Microsoft .NET," To get a complete clean removal of the .NET files, run the .NET Framework Cleanup Tool. Here is the download page:
  3. Download and install all of the following that pertain to your version of Windows: Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5.2 (only for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1)
You may proceed to perform updates via Windows Update thereafter. 

You should be able to see your iTunes library in your BlackBerry Link and sync with your BB device!

Do let me know if this solution helps you or not. Alternatively, you can also use Google Music Player! 

16 October 2014

Review on BlackBerry Passport


BlackBerry Passport, possibly the most unique Smartphone in recent times, considering the square display and a qwerty keyboard which is touch responsive. Swiping up those predictive words instead of typing, just like how you did it with Z10 or Z30. That's amazing! In terms of apps, without sideload SNAP which works like Google Playstore, BlackBerry preloaded Amazon Appstore in their newest OS 10.3 installed in BlackBerry Passport which will be subsequently available for all other BlackBerry 10 devices as well. That somehow compensate the lack of apps, one of the common complain you hear about.

Display: 
BlackBerry Passport uses IPS-LCD display which delivers more accurate colors, and allows the screen to be viewed from a wider angle. The downside is that an IPS-LCD may consume more power than a TFT-LCD. Currently iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus are using similar display.

Its screen resolution makes it comfortable to read content whether from your emails or web sites. However, when watching video or Youtube, you will always see the black bar on top and bottom of the video. Not able to stretch your video which is also pointless and it will crop the video even if you can do so. Make no sense of rotating the screen too since its a square. 

Watching Youtube video
Yet no matter how big or square this BlackBerry Passport is, thankfully I am still able to mount this device with my existing Mobile Car Mount.

Mobile Car Mount
Keyboard:
Just as when you though you mastered using Q10 qwerty keyboard, BlackBerry released another version of keyboard that require a new learning curve, can't really use one hand to type (not encouraging using keyboard when driving please). 

Because the whole keyboard is touch sensitive, when I was using the keyboard to type message on Telegram (installed using SNAP but available via Amazon Appstore), the whole screen or message will scroll up and down, frustrating. However, that doesn't happen when composing emails or on other native BB apps. 

You can use the keyboard like how you use trackpad in legacy BlackBerry devices, using it to control the cursor and all. 

Perhaps, the predictive words is the saving grace if you find it challenging to type using the qwerty keyboard like I did. Swiping up those predictive words is fun! 

Social Media:
Although WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare (which I hardly use at all now), native apps like Instagram and Telegram are lacking. Installing them via SNAP (3rd Party app that require you to sideload) is possible but do not expect them to work 100% well in Android devices. Notification issues and crashing particularly for Instagram pretty prone. Instagram for OS 10.2 are more stable but I guess 10.3 still having issues handling Instagram. 

Battery:
I appreciate the fact that it is Built in. Changing secondary battery is seems somewhat old school when now Powerbank like XiaoMi 10200 MAH is so affordable. I can also imagine any phone with removable battery is subjected it falling apart when you drop it from certain height and therefore switching off your phone. Relating to my own experience, I am using HTC Butterfly S with a built in battery and I accidentally left it on top of my car and drove off. To cut the story short, I managed to recover it using Android Device Manager and locate the precise location of my phone. Can't imagine the time and effort I will need to take if the battery dropped off from my smart phone. 

Operating System:
One thing for sure, BlackBerry engineers are constantly updating, fixing and improving their OS, 10.3 is their latest and I must say its further enhance the user experience with. One of the obvious feature, pretty much like Siri for iOS, Cortana for Windows Smartphone and Google Now for Android, BlackBerry Assistant is released to do just that. This is their first generation, so don't expect it to work exactly like other platform but there's always room for improvement! 

Amazon Appstore allows you to install Android Apps, but you can side load SNAP into your BB and also install android apps you can find in Google Play store. If for some reason, you have to reboot your BB, it will remembers your open apps. 

Further improvement has been make for managing their emails interface, such that you can easily select your emails for archiving to another folder or deleting them. You can "pinch in" to read your unread emails and "pinch out to resume the normal view of your Inbox.



They also included a new advanced interaction feature, such as "Lift to Wake", "Flip to Mute" and "Flip to save Power".



BlackBerry Blend:
You are able to access your emails, calendar, text messages, BBM and other files from your BB Passport even without using your USB cable. You can connect it under the same wireless network. 

However, I do encounter an issue when trying out BBM on the laptop, as I type the message, it will not be refreshed at times and I have to refer to the device itself to see new messages, although there are notification that pops up and show new messages. Subsequently, as I type new message on BB Passport, then it refreshed. I am sure BlackBerry engineer will get this resolve. 

Accessing your BlackBerry Passport via your laptop

Music - Transferring one album of the songs, simply drag and drop into the device will upload wirelessly. BlackBerry Passport speaker although still not front facing but could be the loudess BlackBerry device ever built which I am impressed! 

Bottomline:
If you are looking for a smartphone purely for communication, specifically Emails, SMSes, WhatsApp, BBMs, Social Media status updates on Facebook and Twitter etc, watching decent videos on Youtube and listening to music while travelling... Surfing the web and reading with ease? This is the smartphone you should consider getting! 

Specification:
4.5 Inch Display, IPS-LCD display with Gorilla Glass 3, 1440 x 1440 resolution at 451 PPI.
2.2 GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 Processor 3 GB RAM
32 GB On-Board Storage, MicroSD Slot (Support up to 128 GB)
Wifi 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n and 5Ghz a/n + ac. 4G (LTE) Hotspot available, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy.
13 MP Rear Camera with Auto Focus, 4128x3096 pixels, Optical Image Stabilization, 1080p@60fps HD Video Recording
2 MP Front Camera & 720p HD Video
3450 mAh Battery (Non-removable)
Capacitive touchscreen 3-row BlackBerry Qwerty keyboard
Uses Nano-SIM
Weight 196g. (iPhone 6 only weight 129g, iPhone 6 Plus weight 172g)

25 July 2014

Review on UE Boom

Retailing at S$299 which is a bit pricey but considering it is water and stain resistant. Compact and durable Bluetooth speaker, as its name 360 degree suggested, project sound  in all directions and its very loud, well built for conference call in the office and at the same time, perfect for outdoor use too! It promised to last at least up to 15 hours of battery life. What's best is it can pair up to 2 devices at the same time!


Let's face it! It may not have the BEST sound in terms of quality but I can be pretty sure, it is most practical to have it around you when you are outdoor in a rugged environment, like camping, cycling, playing beach ball, picnic etc. Other speakers may not be able to withstand harsh weather and conditions. You can even clip to your belt loop on the little clasp with a carbiner clip. Remove the clip, you got a hole for a camera tripod, how about that?! 
Ok, when come to sound, this speaker is a winner when come to loudness! It sound spreads widely with a pretty strong clarity when listening to vocals. Especially when watching talk show on Youtube like "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" or "Jimmy Kimmel Live" , you will definitely enjoy throughout considering you can increase its loudness. One setback would be weak bass output, tried playing some EDM or Trance hits I listen to, it doesn't fail terribly but just not that kind of bass you enjoy.  

As mentioned earlier, its fantastic to use for conference call and the built-in mic relays your voice clearly to the other end and of course, again, you can hear them loud and clear! 

This guy is NFC enabled so you can just tap to hook up, else you can use conventional Bluetooth method to link. 

General Information about UE Boom
Wireless Protocol
Bluetooth 3.0
Wireless Range
Up to 50 feet or 15 meters
Connection Type (Audio Input)
Analog stereo (3.5mm), Bluetooth
Audio Controls
Power On/Off, Volume control, Bluetooth connect button
Indicator Lights (LED)
Power on (white) on power button, Bluetooth connect (blinking white)
Battery Details
Rechargeable
Non-accessible
Size: Proprietary
Quantity: 1
Type: Li-Ion
Battery Life
Recharge time: Estimated 2.5 hours
Discharge time: Up to 15 hours
Power Adapter
Yes (5.1v, 2A)
Cable Length (Power/Charging)
4 feet or 1.2 meters
Microphone
Yes
Microphone Specifications
Microphone Type
Built-in
Noise Canceling
Yes
Frequency Response
200 Hz to 3.2 kHz
Sensitivity
-36.0dB V/Pa (+/-3dB) @1kHz
Product Dimensions
Product component
Width
Depth/Length
Height
Weight
Speakerphone
69 mm (2.7 inch)
N/A
180 mm (7.1 inch)
540 g (19 ounce)