Heading back to college or university means sourcing out some gear that can provide all the computing power you need, while being easy to use too. This time on CTV Tech Talk, we looked at a laptop, tablet, and some other tech that can help make school assignments and studying easier. Continue reading “CTV Tech Talk: Back to school gear for college students: Apple, Beats, HP, Targus”
Tablets are now as much a part of our lives as laptops, and desktops, and in some cases, they take over those roles. They can because tablets have much more power and versatility than ever. I recently had a chance to play with a new Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Regular readers will know I’ve been an Apple user for much of the last 6-8 years so I’m finding it very interesting branching out to explore new brands and getting to know Android.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 – first look
The tablet is a very good sized 9.7″ device, though it does have a wide bezel all the way around the screen. I found that unusual right away, only because Samsung’s new Galaxy phones are basically all screen. Nonetheless, this screen is still large and vibrant. The tablet is impossibly thin with a nice rounded edge it feels good to hold in your hand and it’s not slippery. There’s also a physical home button on the face that doubles as a fingerprint scanner.
The device comes with a special pen that allows you to write on screen or otherwise control the tablet.
Though I didn’t get to sample this feature, you can also attach a magnetic keyboard to the Tab S3 to help provide an easier typing experience if you’re going to use it like a laptop.
Introducing the Samsung S-pen
The pen is relatively small and weighs next to nothing. Several smart pens I’ve tried before are fat, bulky, heavy, and make it very uncomfortable to write. The Samsung pen feels like your favourite pen; the one you want to grab for constantly when you need to take notes.
Using the pen to write on the screen is a surprisingly comfortable experience. If you’ve ever used a stylus on a glass screen before you know it feels kind of weird, but in this case the pen’s contact with the screen feels much more natural, almost as if you were putting pen to paper. None of that metal to glass scrape.
Amazingly, the pen never requires charging, I think that’s because the technology is built into the screen as opposed to the pen. So really it’s just acting as a stylus. The small 0.7 mm pen tip is very natural for writing. Unlike some other pens or styluses, you’re not blocking your view of the letters you’re forming behind the pen nib.
Turn handwriting into type or make notes with screen off
With the pen function you can write notes that are than digitized into typed format, you can draw pictures, edit videos, or even jot something down when the screen is locked. That ‘screen off memo’ function almost looks like chalk on a chalk board, and it’s a super handy and quick way to write yourself a memo.
Using handwriting to text feature
To use the handwriting-to-text feature, do a long press on the microphone button on the virtusal keyboard on screen this will bring up the bottom screen where you can hand write texts that will then be converted to tight text in the top screen
Using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
The home screen displays easy access to Weather information and time, as well as the typical Google search screen. There are numerous apps pre-installed on the device including Netflix, YouTube, and the full suite of Google apps. Anything else you need is as close as the Google Play store.
The tablet features a 9.7 inch QXGA SAMOLED display that’s HDR video compatible to give you great looking programs.
Here’s where we’ll learn a little something while we’re here; HDR or High Dynamic Range (in a nutshell) makes colours bolder by using light more realistically.
What is QXGA? What’s AMOLED?
Without going into too much detail, QXGA stands for Quantum Extended Graphics Array—it’s is a computer display mode that has enough pixels to offer fine details — more like print on paper, and it’s great for people that want to see all the details or multiple images — and for gaming. the downside is that it’s expensive.
Finally, since we’re playing professor, AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) is a display technology used in smartwatches, mobile devices, laptops, and TVs. You’ve heard of LED or OLED TVs — Light emitting diode — that’s just the the ultra thin film display technology that uses organic compounds to create the display.
Ok lesson over!
The all glass design is sleek and shiny, but at the same time it doesn’t feel too delicate. In the construction of glass and metal have been fused together though it doesn’t feel heavy or metallic
Typing on the tablet is quick and responsive. With some other tablets I’ve tried it almost feels like there’s a lag between the time you press the button and the time the action takes place. With this tablet it felt very instantaneous.
Galaxy Tab S3 has faster performance
The tablet has made some improvements on previous versions; it’s 18% faster than galaxy tab S2, and the graphics load three times faster than the S 2. You can thank the snapdragon 820 processor inside for that.
4 built in speakers in Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
There are four speakers on this tablet for much better audio performance. The speakers that play will automatically adjust to the orientation of the tablet, ensuring you’re always getting the best sound.
Galaxy Tab S3 made for gaming
These tablets are made for gaming too. Though gaming isn’t something I’m into, it’s worth mentioning here. “The Galaxy game launcher it has been optimized for Galaxy Tab S3’s screen, offering a power saver mode, game broadcasting, and mute games or ongoing calls mode,” according to Samsung.
How to use multi-function window or split screen
Conveniently the tablet also runs Android’s newest operating system, Nougat, which allows you to open two windows at the same time. The ‘multi-function window’ as it’s called is a bit weird to get used to using. When an app is open in full screen view, just press and hold the recents key, then select another app to open by tapping the double rectangle in the top right corner of the second app.
How to close multi function window
I was mystified about how to close the multifunction window. I thought I could do it by following the same procedure that I did to open it, but not so. You’ll need to grab the blue slider bar that splits the screen, and drag it up and right off the screen. The second window will wipe away.
Battery & charging
The S3 charges very quickly. You can get up to 12 hours of video playback with less downtime according to Samsung. The onboard battery is a 6000 mAh battery, which should last from 8-12 hours, depending on usage.
Tab S3 Camera
I’ve always found it awkward to use a camera on a tablet, though I’ve seen people doing it at national parks and the like. if you’re one of those people, you can look forward to a main camera resolution of thirteen megapixels while the front camera is five megapixels. A flash and auto focus are included.
Overall review – Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
Since my hands-on experience with Android devices has been limited, I felt like this as a whole new experience for me. I don’t have previous Tabs to compare to, so I’m coming at this as a completely new device.
Overall, I liked the tab S3. It’s light and easy to use and hold; it feels good in my hands. The screen is large and detailed, clear and vibrant.
The functions seemed fast and there was almost no lag.
I found some of the functions like using the handwriting to text or the multi window feature to be anything but intuitive. I had to go online and look up how to do some things. Perhaps that’s my lack of familiarity with Android, but my feeling about smartphones and devices is that you should be able to figure things out without research.
In short if you’re looking for an Android tablet that’s fast, sleek, sizeable and great looking, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a great pick.
Get a Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 for about $599 US and $799 CAD.
I love docks for my phone. They keep the device within easy reach, allow you to see the screen, and get it all charged up at the same time. The worst problem with a docking station is that you need two hands to remove it so you don’t end up dropping something on the floor. Recently I had a chance to test out a brand-new dock that’s a bit different. Henge Docks Gravitas dock is ultra heavy weight for single-hand operation, and it can not only hold and charge my iPhone but my iPad too.
The Henge Docks Gravitas is about the size of a fist, and it really packs a punch. It weighs 2.5 lbs so it’s not going to tip over of slide off anything. That’s because it’s made of a sturdy zinc alloy that’s is 265% denser than aluminum. That allows it to be very small, but hold a lot of weight, and even use it one-handed.I was skeptical that this would work, but after testing I found it’s quite easy to use one-handed, thanks to its solid weighty base.
The sleek brushed metal finish also makes it chic and minimalist for my home.
Henge Gravitas dock – Grab & Go with one-hand
The Gravitas dock is built for Apple devices only (sorry Android friends!) and can accommodate a variety of iPhone sizes with a set of included liners. For me, I loved the fact I could swap my iPhone 6+ and my iPad (both still in their respective cases) in and out of the device without fuss. This dock is super versatile.
The Gravitas uses a USB port for connecting it to AC power and has an integrated Apple charging cable built right into the dock. There’s also an audio line out if you want to connect your set up to some speakers. Smart!
If you’re an Apple user and need something to display and charge your devices, the Gravitas from Henge Docks is a great pick. Get it here for $69USD/$89CAD.
I was hunting all over my house for my power cord — my one lonely, last Apple power cable— and realized I’d left it at work. My phone was about to die, and I figured it was well past time for me to get a second cable. I was dreading having to go to the mall and fight summer vacation traffic, so I googled “Apple retailer” to see if there was a better way to get that cord.
When London Drugs came up I felt a bit dumb, “oh RIGHT! I thought, “London Drugs has a huge electronics department,” but I didn’t realize they also carried Apple products.
I grew up in Ontario but lived in BC for many years, and out on the coast, London Drugs is people’s main source for electronics, cameras, computers and gadgets.
It sounds weird that a “drug” store should be the go-to destination for tech gear. Maybe it is, but that doesn’t change the fact that London Drugs carries just about anything you could want that uses power or batteries.
That got me thinking about London Drugs, so I got in touch with Assistant Store Manager Dan Do to see about getting the 411 on the store people might not have at the top of their minds.
Computers, Electronics, and yes, drugs
Dan gave me a tour of the Royal Oak store in northwest Calgary. It’s kind of the opposite of a traditional electronics store. It’s warmer and brighter for starters. And yes, there’s also a huge part of the store devoted to the eponymous ‘drugs’, health and beauty, and household goods.
Living in BC, and something I’d totally forgotten, was the handiness of being able to pop in to London Drugs, pick up some specialty batteries, a camera peripheral or whatever, then grab a few things from the drug store. It’s one stop and two items checked off my to-do list.
But back to the computer and electronics department. The day I was there, there were lots of staff on the floor. Anyone looking blankly at the cameras, or the Fitbits for instance, had a friendly employee swoop in and ask if they needed help.
The Fitbits were one of the things that first caught my eye when I walked in, as part of a display with the Aria scale. The whole line was there for people to look at, touch and get to know. Indeed, London Drugs has a lot of other wearables available too.
Drone Simulator in-Store
Speaking of displays, Dan led me over to a really cool set up that has to be a huge draw. There’s a drone flight simulator right inside the store! As part of the promotional set up for the ultra high end Solo drone by 3DR, there’s a controller right next to one of the drones. You can test it out and see how easy it is to fly (if you let go of the controls, it doesn’t crash, it hovers!). Test flight over New York’s Statue of Liberty? Yes, please! The Solo is built to work with GoPro cameras, something else you can pick up at London Drugs.
3D Printers? They’re HERE
If you want to get wowed some more, the London Drugs store I visited in Royal Oak also has a functioning 3D printer. Yes, that technology you’ve been hearing about on the news is actually available at your corner London Drugs store.
The Tiertime Up Mini works just like a regular home printer, except with the obvious distinction of printing objects in 3D. While the store model is for demonstrations, the printers are in stock, so if you want one, you can probably take one home on the spot.
While we’re on the subject of printers, London Drugs has a full selection. Printers are so inexpensive now, it’s shocking. The store also had a large scale Epson Surecolour art-quality printer for sale, which is a perfect back to school must-have for an art or photography student, or an amateur photographer. (Not to mention, the photo lab in the back can also do professional photo processing and printing and can print up to 44” prints in house! Plus there’s often free shipping. But I digress.)
While I was looking over all the amazing electronics and computer equipment at London Drugs, Dan reminded me they’re a Canadian company. I really love dealing with Canadian companies. It’s probably some sort of underlying patriotism, but it’s nice to know, and makes me feel good about spending my money here. That’s when I also found out London Drugs must be some kind of great employer, because one of the employees I talked to on my tour had worked at the store for 12 years, and one had been there 30 years, and apparently that kind of long-term service is common! Something else I didn’t know? London Drugs has been in Alberta for 30 years.
Back on the tour, I got a look at the computers and tablets all on display and ready to play with. From the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to Apple’s iPad line, and even London Drugs own computer brand, Certified Data, there’s a whole host of computers to pick from. Plus, if you ever need serious help with your computer, there’s an emergency service centre right in all stores. That means you can bring your computer or tablet in and get it triaged, and fixed, all right on site in many cases. There are even Apple certified technicians in-store, meaning you can skip the Genius Bar, and the frenzy at the mall!
Skip the mall and your your Apple here
Speaking of Apple, I was really wowed at the full selection of Apple products at London Drugs. I’m a full-on Apple girl, so being able to pop into London Drugs to service my MacBook, or pick up Apple-authorized cords, cables or screen protectors or cases for my iPad is super convenient. (Because let’s be honest, those cables you buy from the internet will stop functioning with your Apple products after a few months and you’ll need new ones anyway. Take my advice and just buy the real thing. It’s more expensive, yes, but you’ll have it for the life of the product.)
Back to my cable conundrum. I finally decided to place my order on line and pick up in store later that day, another great London Drugs option that means you won’t need to waste a trip to a store only to find they’re fresh out of what you need.
So now London Drugs is top of mind for me again when it comes to electronics, computers and gadgets. And I can thank them for the power I needed (and the inspiration) to write up today’s blog, right from my fully re-powered phone!
3D Printing Demo TOMORROW:
Looking for more info about 3D Printing? Looking beyond the novelty of 3D printing, noted expert and enthusiast John Biehler will be visiting the 130th Avenue SE London Drugs in Calgary for a talk and demonstration, and the public is welcome to attend.
WHEN: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more info, call the store, located at 4701 – 130th Avenue. SE, Calgary. 403-571-4964
This blog post has been sponsored by London Drugs.
Home security systems can be expensive, cumbersome, and pain to install. However I’m happy to report that I’ve recently been testing several home security options where installation is quick and easy (read my review of the Ring video doorbell), and operation of the systems is a snap.
The free Presence app is one of those. Presence turns your spare, unused, or out of date smart phones or tablets into wireless video monitors. How? You plug them into a power source, prop them up in a room you may want to keep an eye on and they connect to Wi-Fi. From there, you use the presence app on another phone to remotely access the video feed. You can watch what’s going on in your home, garage, or business, either obviously, or surreptitiously. The presence app has a neat feature where you can dim the screen, but the app stays running in the background, so no one will know it’s watching. Great if you need to use it as a nanny cam or similar.
Presence has a few interesting features. For one, you can load multiple cameras into your stream, meaning you can have as many eyes as you need. You can control the camera functions remotely from pretty much anywhere in the world you can get access to the Internet; whether on another smart device, or on a desktop. The app also allows motion detection recording, meaning if it detects anything moving in your home, it will start making a movie of it, and you can even set how long it should record for, and the time between recordings, so repeated emotions can be eliminated as any source of concern. You can also adjust the sensitivity of the motion recording, and the Presence app also gives you access to your smart phone or tablet microphone, meaning you can hear what’s going on inside your home as well.There’s also an option to creat your own customized rules for using the app.
Presence also has an interesting/creepy feature called Twitter auto sharing. When enabled, Presence will automatically post motion detection videos or thumbnail photos to your Twitter account on your behalf. Presents says “it’s a great way to share interesting moments with the world while building a following”. I think the potential for posting stuff you don’t want for the world to see is enormous and terrifying. But that’s just me. You maybe wondering how presence makes any money by giving away the service for free. I know I was. Presence actually also offers more traditional security and home safety devices, as a bundle from its website. Those devices can integrate with the Wi-Fi cameras from your old smart devices giving you a full spectrum home security system.
“1.4 Digital Video Our Presence application includes a feature which allows you to use a smartphone or tablet as a video monitoring device. Videos, Audio, and Images are captured locally and automatically by your device when triggered by motion or audio detection events, sent over a secure channel to our server, and then immediately encrypted while being securely stored in our servers for future playback via streaming. Video, Audio, and Images may be archived even if they do not appear in your account interface. Each video has time and date information as well as unique identifier to link it to your account and device. Video and audio is stored in common video file formats such as MOV or MP4 but may change as needed for efficiency or to adapt to emerging standards. Images are typically stored in .jpg format. Unless you select a different permissions or sharing level, then by default all your content is privately stored encrypted on disk using AES-128 encryption, to prevent anyone but you or anyone you’ve given access to your account from accessing it.”
Now, is there some chance your camera could be hacked remotely? We’ve seen that happen with several baby monitors recently (read more here). I’ve gotten in touch with the folks at Presence, and here are their answers to my two most burning questions, straight from President & CTO David Moss:
Erin: What measures are there in place to prevent an unauthorized person hacking into my video feed?
David: “Presence implements a much more advanced method of security than standard IP cameras. First, your username and password is require to gain access to any camera or device in your Presence account. Next, cameras will not begin streaming content until they receive a command from our cloud servers to start streaming. All communications to and from the cloud (including the command to initiate streaming) are encrypted with 2048-bit SSL, and delivered to the device over a channel that is bi-directionally authenticated with a cryptographic token. This level of communication is more secure than a banking website. The biggest security risk is divulging your own password to someone else, or selecting a weak password.”
Erin: Would there be any way for, say, a Presence employee to surf people’s video feeds at will? i.e. is there any potential for my video feed to be viewed by anyone other than myself, and those I choose to authorize?
David: “No – your video streams and video feeds are accessible only by you. In fact, we architected the cloud server FabrUX which powers Presence (read more), to prevent everyone, including our own employees, from being able to access users’ video feeds or motion detection videos. Motion detection videos are stored in the cloud encrypted with AES-128, using the same methods used in banking websites to store credit card information. Because of the level of security we’ve implemented, all of us here at People Power Company (creators of Presence) are comfortable having Presence cameras throughout our own homes.”
I like this app a lot. It has great functionality, excellent options, and seems like something I’m definitely going to have set up next time I’m away from home. For now, Presence will be watching the dog while I’m at work. The app gets 4 1/2 out of five stars from reviews on the Apple App Store. You can also get more info from the Presence website.
If you found an Apple TV under your Christmas tree, congratulations! You’ve entered the 21st century! I won’t bother with the “How to Set Up Your Apple TV tips here, because if you haven’t gotten that far by now, you’re probably not ready yet for the kind of awsomeness I’m about to unleash on you