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Asus T100 Chi review

I’ve had an Asus T100TA for a little over 6 months now. I love it. The battery life is excellent, speed is good enough, it’s light, powers on quickly and is completely silent. It’s a constant companion on my lap and is comfortable there. That said all has not been perfect. I bought a refurb’d model and from the start the space bar has been problematic. The connector between the keyboard and tablet has gotten worse and worse over time. This is a common theme. I had issues with the Dell Venue 10, Acer switch 10 amongst others.

To help clarify the previous generation was a T100TA, this one is the T100 Chi, and the recently announced model is the T100HA. The names are so similar even I confuse them. I will mention all three throughout the post (for comparison purposes).

So I started to look for a replacement. There aren’t a lot that I haven’t already played with and had issues with. Couple that with the fact that I had to give up on my Asus Vivotab Note 8 after constant reliability issues with the pen and I started looking. If I could find one tablet that would allow me to take digital notes (with a pen) as well as be my main laptop that would be a big win. The Surface 3 is an enticing device with a stellar pen, good performance and great battery life. But I have a REALLY hard time swallowing the price. Add to that it doesn’t have HDMI (without buying a $50 converter) doesn’t include a keyboard or pen at an already elevated price, and I hate the kickstand. How is that sharp edge EVER going to be comfortable on my lap? Am I the only one that uses a laptop on, oh I don’t know, MY LAP?


So onto the T100CHI. It is a nice improvement in specs over it’s predecessor, mostly incremental. Build quality wise it’s a nice step up, well sort of (more to come on that topic). It feels much more solid with aluminium on the tablet itself. The biggest change is they have moved the connection from the keyboard and tablet to bluetooth and used magnets to hold the two together, no more mechanical latch or release button. Just grab and yank. Oddly the newer T100HA has gone back to a mechanical connection? Can you say WAFFLE.

It’s amazing how a company can be both brilliant and daft at the same time. Poor follow through on an idea. Here’s what I mean. Given the keyboard is bluetooth it has to be charged. There is no direct connect between the keyboard and tablet even when docked (which could have been easily done). So you need to manually charge the keyboard from the tablet. Asus only provide one cable/charger to charge both the keyboard and tablet? Duh. I tried taking a USB OTG cable from the USB 3 port (more about this in a bit) and wrapping it around to the keyboard and it works so Asus could have easily provided a cable to do that, but they didn’t. They were at least bright enough to insure you can use the keyboard even while it’s being charged. Yay. And the micro USB ports for the tablet and keyboard are right on top of each other so you better make sure you get the right one or next day you will wake up to a well charged keyboard and low or dead tablet (yes I did it once).

Asus brilliantly included both a micro USB 2 and micro USB 3 port on the tablet. What this means is you can have the tablet connected to a USB device (like a keyboard/mouse) a monitor and be charging at the same time. But here is the oops side, Asus do not include a USB 2 or 3 OTG cable so out of the box the tablet cannot connect to ANYTHING USB. Now I knew this so bought a USB 3 OTG cable (and had a USB 2 OTG). This seems like a silly over sight. And with a USB 3 port it means Asus could have used this as a charger (which would have been faster) but this is a tease in that the USB 3 port is ONLY a OTG port. A crying shame. And while the USB 3 port is faster than the USB 2 it seems to be severely reduced in speed. I took a USB flash drive that measures 124MB/s on another machine and it only got 50MB/s on this tablet. This same drive would be around 20MB/s on USB 2. (My older T100 got 127MB/s). I tried more than one USB 3 OTG cables and never got any better than that. Not sure why this is, but this is a pretty big bottle neck for what USB 3 ought to be capable of. And the aluminum near the connectors seems like it will be easily scratched/damaged while trying to get the fidgety USB 2/3 ports plugged into. On the positive side Asus use a standard 2A micro USB charger so your not tied to a proprietary charger.

The micro SD slot also seems to be limited in speed. Connected to the USB 3 port and a USB reader my 48MB/s gets 44MB/s while plugged into the micro SD slot the card only get 24MB/s.

As mentioned above the tablet itself is much better built than the older T100, more solid with aluminum rather than plastic. But the design team that did the keyboard must not have got the memo because they went the opposite direction. It is not even as rigid as the old T100s keyboard. Pick the tablet up by the corner of the keyboard and it groans and creaks like your going to break it. And it’s a act of blind faith that it’s not going to break and both your tablet and keyboard end up on the floor (not that it has happened). On the lap the keyboard flexes noticeably but is solid enough on a hard surface. The juxtaposition in quality level and feel between the keyboard and tablet are really quite pronounced.

The tablet can be put on the keyboard forwards and backwards allowing a variety of different positions. And I love the infinitely selectable angles you can put the tablet at to minimize glare/reflection. Another issue with the silly kickstand on the Surface.

The keyboard itself powers on somewhat slowly giving a nice blinking blue light while it connects. Patience is rewarded when it starts working. Asus have not been too aggressive in power management on the keyboard and it doesn’t go to sleep quickly which given how slow it is to connect is welcome. The keyboard itself is fine, cramped for big hands, but the keys for the most part are in the right places and gives reasonable feedback. I hate trackpads but this one is not too bad. The hinge is quite stiff and opening it can be a little challenging. Asus has included an app to tell you the power level of the keyboard along with a notification as it gets close to low. A nice touch. Unfortunately there is no back lighting on the keyboard. The keyboard like some bluetooth keyboards does suffer from random repeating keys. Battery life on the dock is quite good. After my first week it still shows 85%. With nothing in the dock it is cool, quiet and reasonably light.

The tablet does not have a GPS so can not be used as a navigation device. It also does not have flash so the cameras can not be used in the dark. Both are not uncommon in tablets and the previous T100s also did not have either.

I used the tablet for about 4.5 hours for general use (surfing and the like) and the battery went down to 58% so an approximate battery life of just under 8 hours. It charged from 58% to 72% in an hour for an approximate charge time of 7.1 hours. On standby the left the tablet for 5 hours and it only went down 5% which would translate into a standby life of 100 hours. The active battery life “seems” worse than the previous T100 but still pretty good. If your going to be away from your tablet for a while the best choice is to put the tablet into Airplane mode. That cuts off Microsofts silly connected standby and extends the battery life MASSIVELY. After 18 hours it was down a mere 5%. It’s a shame Microsoft have not used this as a way or preserving battery when the device is not used for a while.

Oddly Microsoft do not enable hibernate by default This post shows how to add hibernate to the start menu power options and this post shows how to add hibernate after a period of time. But realize that waking up from hibernate is not an instant thing, think 30-40 seconds so you will not want to enter hibernate too quickly. Also hibernate chews up space on your SSD equal to the size of your memory (so 2GB on the T100 Chi). Waking up from hibernate requires a push and hold for a couple seconds of the power key. Oddly there is no flashing light to indicate the tablet is in hibernate. It will not wake from hibernate by pressing a key on the keyboard.

The other item I toyed with for saving battery was using a scheduled command to put the WIFI card to sleep at a time of day when it is often not used (such as when your at work) using commands
netsh interface set interface name=”Wi-Fi” admin=enabled
netsh interface set interface name=”Wi-Fi” admin=disabled

With a combination of the above tweaks you can easily get a couple days out of the battery.

The 64G drive speed clocks in at 32MB/s write and 78.5 read which is a nice improvement from 25/40 on the old T100.

The display resolution is 1900×1200 which is a HUGE improvement compared to the anemic 1366×768 on the previous T100. Why Microsoft still grant logo certification for a device that even in Win 8 days is well below MS’s min standards is beyond me. And oddly the even newer T100HA has gone back to 1280×800. I just don’t get it.

Processor wise it goes from a Z3740 at 1.33GHZ to a Z3725 at 1.46GHZ so a teeny tiny boost.

Ram is 2G which is fine for this category of device, and is the max this processor can support anyway. The newer T100HA now uses the Cherry Trail (vs Baytrail this one uses) which is faster and supports up to 4G of Ram.

Media wise Kodi runs well on it, even streaming over the WIFI.

And now onto the pen. It was one of the reasons I decided to choose the T100 Chi over the newer T100HA. Well first up Asus seems to have obsoleted the pen they had for this device which turns out to be Asus part number Asus 90NB07G0-P000I0, well in Canada at least. The US web site still seems to have it up but I don’t see a way to buy it. I mistakenly followed a thread on Transformer Forums and bought what I though was the pen from Asus Canada, it turned out it was not and does not work on the T100 Chi. (DO NOT BUY TAICHI Stylus Pen 04190-00030000 it does not work with the T100 Chi). And ASUS happily refunded my money minus a shipping charge and restocking charge :(. The correct Asus part number appears to be Asus 90NB07G0-P000I0 (appears because I wasn’t able to buy one and confirm it). In my mind this is VERY poor customer and product support from Asus.

Let’s start with some basics. There are a number of makers of the digitizers in the tablets that work with the stylus, and they are not compatible. This means sometimes a pen is unique to a tablet. or it can be difficult to figure out what pen works with what tablet (outside of the one from the manufacturer, if you can get it from them). The players in this space are Wacom (in my mind the pioneers in this space). My Samsung Note 8 and Asus Vivotab Note 8 both use passive Wacom pens. (Passive meaning there is no battery in the pen). The surface 2 used a Wacom with a battery in it to power the buttons.

Synaptics which I believe are used in tablets like the Dell Venue 8 as well as this T100 Chi (Synaptics 7508).

N-Trig which are used in the new surface 3 and 4.

I had a Dell active pen from my Venue 10 Pro but that one doesn’t work. Nor does the pen from my Asus Vivotab note. Both were to be expected (as not working).

In doing reading I had hints that the Dell pen from the Venue 8 (Dell 750-AAGN) as well as the Acer DNF-01561 were both reported as working. So I bought the Acer. It was referred to as only Acer Aspire Active Stylus.
The pen feels quite good in the hand albeit a little heavy. Has a nice pocket clip but no cap. The pen works way better than I expected and can easily be used to do hand writing. The pen can not be used without the battery so if it dies in the middle of use your dead in the water. You won’t get any warning about the battery getting low before it flat out dies and no way to tell the state of the battery. You may want to carry a spare if it’s important that your pen works. The pen tip does not seem to be replaceable. The buttons are easy to press and in a bit of an awkward place.

So all in all I like the T100 Chi. The pen which I took a chance on works fine (although I still prefer the passive Wacom). At almost 1/2 the price of the Surface it is a good device. I am sure the Surface is a better device but is it 100% better? A surface would cost $639 for similar specs + $150 for the keyboard so $789 Vs a list of $549, but I got the T100 Chi on sale for $419.

November 24, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Toshiba write 2 review (WT8PE-B)

I`ve been taking notes digitally for quite a while now and love it. Rather than have a ton of scribbled paper you have it in a form that`s easy to find, can be searchable and is just so much more convenient. I use Microsoft One note which has cross platform (Windows/Android/web etc) meaning your notes are available anywhere any time. Sadly there are so many parts of OneNote that are not implemented in the Android version of the product meaning the experience is the best on a Windows tablet. For over a year I have struggled with an Asus Vivotab Note. It has turned out to be 100% unreliable and Asus can`t seem to (or won’t) fix the issue. It has left me high and dry with no ability to take notes at an event. So this prompted me to have another look around at what might be out there to do this (accurately take digital notes with a pen). I stumbled upon this one on a list of pen enabled tablets.

There are a lot of reviews out there for this device and one of the first things they comment on is that the physicals of the device are uninspiring. Nothing bad, nothing good, just another 8 inch tablet. And I have to say I agree. Now that is not a bad thing, it is light enough, good size, good thickness. The bezel like most Windows tablets is on the larger size.

Port wise the device has a standard micro USB 2 port (for charging, and USB OTG), a standard headphone jack, and a microSD slot. There is no HDMI port. The charging is good and bad. At least they didn`t use a proprietary port, but the cost of that is slow charge times. Fortunately battery life is quite good.

Spec wise its an Atom Z3735 with 2G ram and a 64G SSD. And performance is pretty much what you would expect from this combination which is fine.

The display is an underwhelming 1280×800 and is the weakest link being very low res. That said it is bright enough and crisp enough for what I want. So this falls into the good enough category and not a whole lot more.

Out of the box it came with Windows 8.1 which required 161 updates and most of the evening to install. Typical for these tablets. But shocking to me was that I bought this from the Microsoft store and Win 10 was not installed on it. Moving on …

And now onto what makes this tablet unique … the pen.
The pen is an active pen requiring a AAA battery. Oddly there is no indication of which way to put the battery in, no instructions on whether you need to pair it, nada to guide you at all. Fortunately it seems to just work. It is not compatible with the passive pen from my Asus VivoTab Note, or Samsung note. And is also not compatible with the Surface pen. Replacement pens should you loose yours are not easily had. I could only find them on the Toshiba US site at $49US.

The pen has a clip on it which leads you to believe it is for a shirt pocket, but the clip is so loose as to be easily lost if that is what it is for. But then my bud Lance looks at it and figures out it is designed to be slid into a slot on the bottom of the tablet. This was so not obvious to me (and again no instructions).
It actually fits ok but could be easily hit/caught and thus potentially broken or lost. But all in all it actually does work ok. A dedicated bay for the pen would have been nice but given the thickness of the tablet I get why there isn`t one.

They have provided a cap on the end of the pen that protects the nib, and goes on the other end of the pen for storage. The end of the pen does not act as an eraser as my last one did. I am hoping at some point I don`t forget that and scratch the screen :(

The pen has two buttons on it that do various things depending on the app. The overall feel of the pen for me is not great. It`s too slippery. I will likely end up putting some form of rubber grip on it. Overall the writing experience is quite good with little to no noticeable lag inside one note. A nice improvement over my Samsung Note 8 (on Android).

The tablet has front and back camera but as usual no flash. Common for tablets.

The power button is extremely close to the edge of the screen making it difficult to use generic cases that latch onto the side of the tablet. There are lots of inexpensive cases available for it on Amazon, although not exactly the kind I like. But then I am picky when it comes to cases.

The unit includes a GPS so with the addition of Navmi can act as a in car GPS.

All in all the tablet does what it is suppose to. The pen is fine and works well. And I was already to press save when I encountered a really bad catch. Turns out Microsoft brought a US model into Canada. Toshiba Canada will not support and will not sell accessories for the tablet. So loose the stylus or wear out the tip of the stylus and you have a $400 boat anchor. Absolutely unbelievable. So back to the store it is going. I will return it. A crying shame it’s a good tablet.

November 13, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Data interoperability

If your like me you use a number of different gadgets and apps meaning your exercise data is spread out across a number of different platforms. Fortunately a number of companies have started to work on creating data bridges rescuing your all important data from being stranded on a island or stuck in the hotel California. Figuring all these inter connectives can be neither obvious nor simple. And if your not careful, you create a situation where exercise data gets counted once, or twice in the same portal. Manually exporting and importing exercise entries is sometimes possible (and sometimes not) but is inconvenient at best.

Getting all your data in one place allows weekly/monthly summaries to give you a clearer picture of how active you’ve been. But this is a lot harder than it ought to be. And thus this post.

I mountain bike, cycle, walk a fair bit, and do some hiking. Being the gadgeholic I am (and no I don’t need help :)) here is my basket of tools. From an app point of view I use:
Endomondo as my primary exercise tracking tool.
MyFitnessPal for tracking food data.
RunGPS is the best app for hiking in that it includes the ability to navigate back to way points and do point to point routing. (My Review)
Google Fit is a necessary evil of Android wear and includes a pedometer that can be used with or without a watch. (My review)

From a Gadget point of view I use:
Garmin Foretrex 401 whenever I cycle as well as canoeing etc. It supports full navigation back to waypoints as well as supports ANT+ cadence and heart rate sensors.
Garmin FR70 with an ANT+ wheel sensor to give me a more accurate display of distance which cycling. I have handlebar mounts for both the Garmin devices. Garmin devices upload only to their portal called Garmin Connect.
Scosche Rythm+ heart rate monitor
I have a Garmin wheel and pedal Cadence sensor that works with both of these devices as well as talks to my phone. Samsung a while back added Ant+ to their devices and I love it. Ant+ supports talking to numerous devices at the same time with one sensor. Sweet!
Samsung S5 is the center of my mobile universe (well it is for now).
Fitbit Surge as an activity and sleep tracker
Moto 360 (first gen) Android wear smartwatch

Below you will see a diagram showing the inter connectivity for these apps/gadgets. I’ve left off Facebook because at this point pretty everyone does Facebook so it just over complicates the diagram. Hope you find this helpful.


November 4, 2015 Posted by | Android, Electronic gadget reviews, GPS Stuff | Leave a comment

MyFitnessPal app review

MyFitnessPal is a combination of an app and a web portal that attempts to aggregate data from different places to give you your calories (in and out) as well as nutritional information. You manually enter what you eat either on the web based portal or on the phone app after telling it your sex, weight, weight goal etc and it tells you where you are in your calorie count (plus or minus) all the while taking into account the exercise you’ve done (more on this in a bit). The app/portal are bent towards individuals trying to loose weight. It has not taken into account those that might be trying to gain or maintain weight, marking when your under calories and trying to maintain or gain as still a good thing. Nutritionally it also codes when you are below the number of vitamins again as a good thing. I do admit, this is nit picking.
If you upgrade to premium it will save you the work of figuring out what food might be causing you to be too high (or too low) of a particular vitamin.
The database of foods is quite impressive. The app even allows you to create your own recipes from base ingredients. All in all it is pretty well done from this point of view. Entering your food is shockingly easy and gives you a picture of what foods are good (and bad for you). Highlighting areas of your diet that might need some attention. All in all this part of the app is pretty well done.

Moving on to exercise the app itself does nothing (it’s not a pedometer) although you can manually add exercises. The back end (web portal) allows you to have apps like Endomondo and others import your exercises automatically into MyFitnessPal which means you get possibly get all your exercise data in one place. Sadly no Google Fit.

There is a pedometer called Pacer you can use to get your step data into the portal and is free. It also supports Fitbits and the like too.

The app makes no attempt to incorporate sleep data which is a pretty major miss in my mind.

All in all the app/portal are well done. There are some basic and simple reports you can run but in my mind this is one area seriously lacking. We have as a generation become data rich information poor. If you can’t do something with the data you have spent a lot of time collecting what was the point in collecting it? It’s not important on a particular day if you are over or under what is more important is averages and trends. Sadly the tool does a lousy job of this. If this were addressed the tool is near perfect from a diet/vitamin point of view. Although accuracy becomes a matter of how much time do you want to spend getting it exactly right.

October 30, 2015 Posted by | Android | Leave a comment

Fitbit Surge review

I have been looking at these for a little while, it peaks my curiosity. It has a lot of potential like a lot of these new wearables have. But more often than not this potential is not realized. At this point I have played with numerous Android wear devices most recently the Samsung Gear Live, as well as the Moto 360 but in the end the battery life on them sucks. If your lucky you get through a day by not touching the watch. Both have pedometers (but sadly Google fit remains an island of data that you can’t get off) as well as heart rate monitors (though wildly inaccurate, especially on the moto 360). I do love the ability to constantly change the watch faces (on Android wear). I’ve also played with a Garmin Forerunner 305 as well as Garmin Foretrex 401 (still my favorite device and I don’t go out for a mountain bike ride without it) and lastly Garmin Forerunner FR70. Fitbit wise I’ve played with the One, Flex and lastly Charge HR

So with these experience points in mind I was interested to see what this device could do. For another point of view be sure and checkout DC Rainmakers review of this device.

My firmware is at

Ok probably best to start out with what can’t this device do. It might rule it out for you right off the bat.

1) It can not connect to a Bluetooth heart rate monitor for more accurate exercise tracking. Wrist based heart rate monitors are not always the most accurate.
2) It can not be used to navigate even though it has a GPS. The GPS is used ONLY to log where you have been and calculate distance. By the way in a sport like mountain biking where you are doing a lot of twisting and turning GPS distance can be off quite significantly (compared to a wheel sensor), like 10-20%. It has to do with how frequently it samples the location.
3) The heart rate monitor on the watch can not pass heart rate data to anything other than FitBit app
4) you can not customize the watch face (outside of the watch faces provided). And no where does it tell you the current temperature (passed from the phone or otherwise).

So what can it do. Let’s start with the basics. It can do basic watch functionality including clock, date, timer, stop watch and alarms, all of which can be done on the watch itself except the alarm. Alarms can only be set on the web or the App.

It can also do everything the Fitbit Charge can do including continuous heart rate monitoring as well as exercise heart rate monitoring (more on this later), steps taken, floors climbed, auto sleep, etc. all the usual activity tracker functions.

This device also has a built in GPS which you can use in outdoor activities (hike, bike and run) to track your route etc.

There are also modes for indoor sports (non-GPS) including generic exercise (based on heart rate), elliptical, spinning etc.

On paper the device sounds like it is a jack of all trades. As always the devil is in the details so let’s jump into the details.

I’ve had a ton of experience with wrist based optical heart rate monitors from the Mio link to Android wear’s heart rate monitor. And if there is any constant its that for me, they all suck. Really badly. But then again maybe what is needed isn’t new tech but a level shift in expectations. If you focus rather on a point analysis of the heart rate data (which more often is an act of fiction) but instead on averages then maybe you have a more realistic expectation. And at the end of the day what really matters from a calorie count point of view is not high/low etc, it’s about the average. And if you can swallow this sad reality (these wrist based heart rate monitors are not that accurate) then maybe there is a place in this digital world for these devices.

Let’s start out with the display. This is a backlit LCD display making it a much better device for battery life and outdoor viewing when compared with the more traditional smart watch. And easily readable in the dark as well. The backlight can be set to off (for sleeping), on, and auto. In auto mode it attempts to detect when it’s needed. And if your sleeping that could be while you are tossing and turning. And in the dark if you turn the back lighting off your out of luck. You will need to wait until you get into the light to turn it back on. Why Fibit didn’t turn the back lighting on when you press the home button is beyond me. An over sight for sure.

The battery gauge is small and not the easiest to read. On the portal and the app all you get is a high medium or low for the battery. So it’s not easy to know just how much juice is left :( Fitbit make no attempt to tell you anything other than your battery is low charge it soon.

The experience (as a daily watch) is mired by a HUGE bezel as well as a shockingly poorly designed watch face featuring a small time display (on the default watch face) leaving a TON of wasted space on the wrist. The screen isn’t that big to start out with and to waste even a cm of it is a crying shame let alone how much of this watch face is often unused. This is a HUGE disappointment. And what a crying shame. Let’s put some numbers so you get a feel. The watch has a hard profile on your wrist of 33mm x 62mm. The screen itself is 20mm x 25mm. The default watch face shows the time in a 5mm x 10mm. So it utilizes 50/500 or 1/10th of the real estate. Ridiculous, and with an aging population whose eye sight including mine is fading fast. And if you take the whole profile it is using 50/2046 or 2.5% of the space. Silly. And it is really obvious when you see it on the wrist. I won’t say it looks bulky but to say it looks elegant would be a HUGE over exaggeration even to geek like me.

You have a total of 4 watch faces to choose from.
With the largest possible time display it’s 25mm x 8mm or 200/500 or 2/5ths of the display. This one is at least readable without my glasses. This is at least something I can hope fitbit will fix in future firmware releases.

Physically the watch is square with sharp edges that love to catch shirt and jacket sleeves. I found this an issue in everyday use as well as with exercise clothes for the cooler weather.

I have a super small wrist for a guy and I bought the small and this time around they really do mean it. It barely fits me. So be careful. I’ve read that the large and the small use the same electronics and just a different length band but can’t confirm that. The band itself is the typical rubbery stretchy band. It does not seem to be easily changed/replaced. Some have reported rashes from it. I found I had a minor irritation after a couple weeks right where the optical sensor is. It’s definitely functional and works fine. At least Fitbit didn’t try and reinvent the watch band unlike others.

On the underside of the device is where the sadly proprietary charge cable connects. Fitbit says 7 days (non GPS), 5 hours GPS battery life with a recharge time of around an hour. A charger is not included. Use a standard USB charger or plug it into your PC.

The cable is used only for charging and all data transfers are done using Bluetooth. The device supports both older Bluetooth (it refers to it as Bluetooth classic) as well as Bluetooth 4.0. You can disable classic Bluetooth support which likely saves battery life. They also include a bluetooth USB dongle in case your PC does not have bluetooth.

I searched and searched looking for how to do a factory reset of the device. I eventually discovered that pairing the watch with a new phone wipes all data and resets everything. I had to call their tech support to find out this one. And pairing the new device was done from the fitbit app not from the Bluetooth setup screen.

Once setup I was off to go.

The watch is controlled by a series of three buttons and a touch screen. It’s responsive enough and while not always intuitive you can easily get use to the controls.

The watch can do notifications from your phone for text, and phone calls. The notifications are strong and well done. You can drag it down and read the message but there is no ability to respond.

In bike mode (for example) the watch displays distance on the top in a small font, time in the middle in a large font and a selectable field of (current time, heart rate or calories) on the bottom in a small font. Beyond this the fields are not selectable. Garmin does a much better job of allowing the user to put what they want on the screens. Once an exercise tracking is started you can not move to the time display and put the tracking the background. Your stuck on the one screen until your done.

And the absolutely dumbest thing the device continues to track steps even while tracking biking (for example). So I got off my ride and it recorded over 7000 steps and 70 floors. Similarly it continues counting steps while your out running. Both end up double counting work outs. After 8 emails with Fitbit trying to describe to them the issue, I gave up :(

At the end of the ride you get a on device summary. Very nicely done and probably the first time I’ve seen that.

Wearing the device is comfortable enough to be worn all day and night, and since battery life is multiple days you can use it as a sleep tracker. I did however find that wearing through a 2.5 hour mountain bike ride left my wrist sore from it bouncing around on it. There were no bruises perse.

Occasionally while riding I would compare the heart rate on the Fitbit with that of my Scosche Rhythm+ heart rate monitor (all the while trying to avoid trees :) It’s all fun and games until there is bark on the ground!). The Fitbit was off by as much as 15%. With a max heart rate of 200 on the ride this meant at times it was off by as much as 30bpm. But at the end of the ride the average heart rate over three different rides saw a variance of -2.5%, -1% and -13% or in bpm -4, -1 and -19. Each person has an acceptable amount they are willing to live with from an accuracy point of view. For me 10-15% is not great but not horrible either.

Heart rate data with fitbit is like the hotel California, you can checkin an time you like you can never leave. They do not allow you to export your heart rate data. So getting a clear picture of accuracy is really hard. So what I did was take a screen shot of the heart rate data of the first ride (that was -2.5%) and overlaid the data from my Scosche. It’s the best I can do. The graph actually shows the Fitbit tracked quite well. This is actually mountain biking too so rough terrain.

The second time around not so well. I am not sure if maybe it was looser around my wrist of if the right hand was worse than the left, and this time it was road riding which I would expect to be less challenging given the smoother terrain. This is the graph for the -13% ride.


Calories is always an odd one. In reality what matters is more about the relative calories than the actual number of calories so you can compare workouts. That said let’s compare the results from the same three different rides. I used Endomondo with a heart rate monitor for comparison. Ride 1 Endomondo 2004 calories Vs the Fitbit at 1240 or a difference of -38%. Ride 2 964 Vs 618 or a difference of -36%. And ride 3 1305 Vs 683 or a difference of -48%.

Distance numbers on all three rides was pretty spot on, so one can say the GPS is accurate. Here is the data:

I compared Google Fit running on a Moto 360 Android wear smartwatch with the surge and the number of steps compares well, but the translation to distance and calories is not great.

So to figure out how accurate the Fitbit is I went on a 1.5km walk measured by a GPS. Fitbit recorded it as 1km so it would seem that the fitbit translation into distance is a way off. Sadly I see no where to adjust your stride that would allow you to correct this error.

Wearing it sleeping is also comfortable enough. The backlight kept coming on as I moved around and sadly there is no easy way to 100% turn the screen off. You can manually turn the backlighting off. At the end of your sleep you get a report of how many hours, how it compared to your sleep goal, and how restless your sleep was. On the portal you even get a sleep efficiency (but not on the device oddly). And it doesn’t stop counting steps while your sleeping so you wake up in the morning and it has recorded steps. Last thing I checked I don’t sleep walk so it’s detecting tossing and turning through the night as steps. I also had a restless night where I was awake off and on through the night and instead of giving me a sum of the parcels of sleep I did get it gave me a couple of small sleeps. And this of course throws off the numbers. Less than perfect but not horrible either.

You can swipe and see the current stats for calories burned, current heart rate, steps etc. There is no screen to show constant heart rate, and no where can you see the current altimeter.

My bud setup the Android Fitbit app on his Blackberry Passport and the app works to some extent allowing you sync your steps etc but notifications would not work and regularly the app would complain about missing Google Play services which is a common issue with Android apps on Blackberry.

So in the end I am both impressed and disappointed. As an every day watch I really would LOVE to see better time display. As an exercise tracker it is convenient and acceptably (IMHO) accurate. The exceptional battery life is a huge step forward from Android wear. Is it a “superwatch” as they call it? Well I think that’s a bit of a stretch. And the price tag isn’t cheap for what your getting. But all in all I do like it. Enough to keep it? Hmmmm

October 19, 2015 Posted by | Electronic gadget reviews, GPS Stuff | Leave a comment

Anker PowerDrive+ 1 (Quick Charge 2.0 24W USB Car Charger) review

When I did my S5 review I noted that the S5 had the ability to charge dramatically faster than the S4. In the car I was not getting the same quick charging in spite of it being a 2A charger. To give you an idea on a standard (non quick charge) you get about .6%/min for a from dead charge time of almost 3 hours. The factory charger brings this up to 1%/min up to 90% and then trickle charges the last bit. It cuts charge time in half. So I bought this charger and put it through it paces. It does not come with a cable. When I first plugged it in I noticed I was still not getting the proper charge speed. So I used the factory supplied cable and levoila quick charging. In fact I used the factory cable and got almost the same quick charging on my existing 2A car charger when I used the factory cable. So I did some digging. The S5 can take a standard micro USB cable or it can use the USB 3 cable. Some of the standard micro USB cables can deliver the full 2A charge, but some can not. It turned out my issue was not with the charger it was with the thin flimsy standard micro USB cable I was using. I bought some spare micro USB 3 cables and they all were able to deliver the full quick charge. So what it means is to get the quick charge experience you need a good 2A charger (car or home) and either a good micro USB cable or a usb 3 micro USB cable.

Testing this one out (The Anker) with the factory cable I was able to get 0.9%/min Vs 1%/min on the factory charger. So a mere difference of -11%. So it is working as it should. So before you leap out and buy a new car adapter (because as it turned out I didn’t need to), try the factory cable and see if that solves your issue.

In this graph you can see the charge curve by comparison.
charge graph


September 21, 2015 Posted by | Android | Leave a comment

Frozen Front Android Game review a turn based battle SIM

I’m not much of a gamer. First person shooters inevitably bore me. The bizarre combination of buttons you have to press to make it do anything and the eventual road block I have no idea how to get past mean they just aren’t my thing, never have been. But give me a turn based battle simulation where I can use my brain to map out strategy plan attacks, build resources and that’s my kinda game! Back in the day (I hate that phrase, what day are they talking about anyway? Lately it seems it’s been used by EVERYONE :)) I loved board games like Machiavelli, Supremacy and the like. Then along came Military Madness on the TurboGrafx 16! I bought the game console just to play that one game. And play I did. On Android I actually found a version of Military Madness. Loved it. Then eventually I found Populus Romanus followed by Populus Romanus 2
The same developer then came out with Wargame 1939
The games were well written and I spent hours playing them. The graphics were rudimentary, but still well worth the money. Recently I discovered this game Frozen Front. (You knew I would get to the topic of this post eventually). The game can be played 100% for free but it is heavily laden with fixed and video adds that quickly gets annoying. But at least you get to play it and decide if you want to purchase it. It’s inexpensive $3.49. You can buy gold that you use in the game and that makes the game play a whole lot easier but where is the fun in that :) The game takes place in WWII on the Eastern front. You get to play the Germans sometimes and the Soviets others. The game includes the reality of having to keep your tanks fueled and rearmed. Get too far ahead of your supply trucks and too far from your supply base and your tanks run out of gas! The author has included a vast array of equipment and troops, all named authentically with the time period. This adds an interesting dimension to the game. Recently I read a number books on the Eastern front and playing this game just seemed to add a reality to the stories. There’s troops, tanks, artillery, and planes. You get gold every time you destroy an enemy and you have to decide how you want to spend that gold. Buy a more powerful tank, and then have it destroyed by planes or artillery? Buy just troops and have them mowed down by enemy tanks and Katushya rockets? All in all I love this game. Excellent game play, great graphics hours upon hours of fun. It’s quite immersing. I can HIGHLY recommend this game. Very well done. You can even play online against real people :) Check it out!

September 14, 2015 Posted by | Android | Leave a comment

HP LaserJet Pro P1102W review

I have had an HP Laserjet 1020 for a very long time. It is a simple small cost effective, quiet, black and white laser printer. The printer was not network enabled so it’s been a bit of a challenge to print from multiple devices (tablets, phones laptops etc). So I decided it was time to look at a new one. This one came up on RedFlag deals at HPShopping for $79 so I pounced. The experience with HPShopping was fine, but they were a little slow to ship compared to others (it took 8 days). The printer is WIFI enabled. Overall setup is pretty straight forward. Getting all of the shipping restraints off the laser cartridge and the like was the most difficult thing I had to deal with :) The picture instructions were less than helpful or clear. Bring back the words and forget this multi language nonsense. We all speak Engrish anyway don’t we? (Just kidding:) ).

The printer came with a simple setup CD and believe it or not came with a USB cable. First time I’ve seen that in a while. Very welcome. As usual the CD is out of date compared to what’s on the web so start by downloading the current. I did the USB setup first then did the WIFI setup. Both were trivial and problem free. As is often the case you end up with different printing queues setup on the machine (USB, network and different printer support) which can be confusing for some. Once on the network it was easily found (through uPNP) by Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and even Windows Server 2012. I used the CD to add the printer drivers. I could not find the drivers in the base Windows or on Windows update. Surprising for Windows 10, but a minor annoyance.

The printer itself does not support cloud printing but HP does have their own variation called HP ePrint. There is an Android app as well as a PC app that allows you to fairly easily print from anywhere connected to the net. A nice touch. You install HPePrint, then give it your email address (the same one you registered your printer with) and it sends an activation code back to your email you which you then enter. Better than a password.

There is also a portalthat allows you to see the status of the printer remotely anytime, but this is basic. It does not show you the status of the cartridge, details about the hardware (such as serial number), and oddly does not even provide a link over to HP support to download drivers etc.

You can also setup an email address that anything sent to that email address get’s printed. This can be controlled for only “allowed senders” to avoid wasting paper on spam or having your printer wake you in the middle of the night. Oddly there is no way to see the print queue remotely.

The printer also supports what it calls direct printing. The printer itself sets itself up as an access point that guests in the house can connect to and print without being on your WIFI. This can fortunately be turned off to avoid the unnecessary RF chatter in the house.

If there is a computer in the house that has chrome on it and the printer has been added to that computer then that computer can act as a Cloud printer gateway fixing the one missing pieces of the pie. Why HP didn’t include this is beyond me. But in all honesty, I knew it when I bought it so really can’t complain a whole lot.

The printer itself has a web page you can access to see almost everything possible about the printer. Oddly there is no place to check the current Vs installed firmware of the printer.

The firmware on the printer itself turned out to be old 20140916 Vs a current of 20150114. Oddly no where did it tell me there was a firmware update available. Of course no info on what’s new in the firmware. The firmware is upgradeable over the network, a nice touch.

All in all I like the printer. Small, quiet, fast, good quality, network connected and good drivers. If it had included cloud printing I would have been thrilled but even without it, it is a great little printer for a bargain basement price.


August 27, 2015 Posted by | Other reviews | Leave a comment

Windows 10 is here

Windows 10 is finally here. I played with the technical previews for Win 10 but found enough issues I couldn’t make it my primary device. July 29th came around (the release date for Win 10) and went and my machine had not downloaded Win 10 yet. You first “reserve your copy” then are supposed to be informed that it has been downloaded and is ready for you. I got impatient and downloaded it myself. You download a media creator tool (you have to get the right version of the media creator tool depending on what you are running it on, a 32 or 64 bit machine, oddly if you download the wrong one you don’t get a nice clear error message so that wasted a bit of my time), then say whether you want to download an ISO or make a USB bootable drive. I downloaded the ISO to start assuming I could then convert the ISO to a USB drive but that failed and would not let me boot to it. So I went ahead and allowed the tool to download the USB image. Once I had the USB image I had two choices, I could use the USB to upgrade my machine in which case the licensing is taken care of. Microsoft are giving away the Win 10 upgrade for now. The second choice is to boot off the USB drive and do a clean install. The clean install can then be used to create a dual boot with your existing Win 8. All you need is a partition large enough to hold win 10. I did this at first expecting windows to pick up the hardware key from Win 8. It didn’t. It asked for a key at install time (which I just said skip) and then kept wanting to activate. I probably should have tried to manually activate but I didn’t so at this point I don’t know if it eventually would have needed a new key or what. I checked my tablet and box and there was no key for Win 8 anywhere so eventually if I didn’t solve this I would to shell out for a Win 8 license. After about a day of looking for show stoppers I was impressed enough to go ahead and give up on dual boot and go ahead and upgrade Win 8. On my second tablet I just went ahead and did the upgrade. On my 32G Asus Vivotab Note 8 which start with 9G free using the USB Win 10 I was able to upgrade it in a little over an hour. After which there was 4G free :(

Microsoft have been IMHO slow to embrace tablets. Win 8 really was limited in how well it handled tablets, ie touch only devices (no keyboard/mouse). To remedy this issue Microsoft have introduced a new “Tablet Mode”. Tablet mode has been only half assed implemented in my humble opinion. Even on a tablet you find yourself needing to switch out of tablet mode frequently. And while it is quick to go in and out of tablet mode, it isn’t instantaneous (but I would admit to nitpicking on that). Start up any kind of an install of a normal windows application and you find yourself wondering where the install box went to. Well slip out of tablet mode and low and behold there is the install box waiting for you to press next. Microsoft have also been really dumb in that they have not given you a Metro file explorer. I only recently discovered you can pin to start My Computer (or any other drive short cut) allowing you to from a Metro tiled interface to have access to file explorer. Why this isn’t a default setup is beyond me. In tablet mode and using Edge (Microsoft’s new web browser) and low and behold you finally have an on screen keyboard that predicts what your typing. Slide out of tablet mode and levoila the prediction is gone. Maddening. In tablet mode there no longer is a shortcut to the desktop, meaning the only way to get back to the desktop is to turn tablet mode off (yet again).

Microsoft STILL has not included a tile to show the battery life on your device. You can see a small battery guage down in the tray but that is so small as to be virtually useless.

If you have a desktop, or a convertible with the keyboard attached you won’t be spending a whole lot of time in tablet mode. It just isn’t useful. And the on screen keyboard still pops up when a physical keyboard (or bluetooth keyboard) is attached. Fortunately it goes away quickly once you start typing.

The Metro interface is still full screen and prominent in tablet mode, but sufficiently depreciated in desktop mode. The interface is a little different now in that the apps are listed up and down instead of side to side.

In desktop mode low and behold there is the old start menu. And the Metro apps and tiles now show up on the start menu just like any other app. The gestures we learned in Win 8 from either side of the screen now do different things, so time to learn again and only work in tablet mode. And the start menu is rather small and not finger friendly (and I have small fingers) in tablet mode.

There now is a back button similar to Android and it works nicely.

The one thing that is most irritating with Win 10 is how differently it behave in Tablet mode from desktop mode. You get use to one and have to remember which mode you are in to remember which way to do something.

Some of the menu selection items in desktop mode have been nicely increased in size to make them more finger friendly, a good start.

After the install was complete I had to uninstall a bunch of apps Microsoft decided I needed. Bloatware. This is irritating …

The new Calendar, People and mail apps now fully support Google. Yay!

I had almost no issues with the new Edge browser Microsoft has included. I had a problem with cellartracker which worked perfect in Internet explorer on Win 8 but did not see the Dymo label printer plug in. Fortunately Internet explorer is actually still in Windows 10, although it is hidden. From within edge you can select settings and open with Internet explorer. Not sure why Microsoft have hidden internet explorer. I do find edge noticeably slower than chrome.

All in all most of the compatibility issues I encountered on the preview are gone. Older Metro apps for the most part work fine. I had issues with a few (Amazon Kindle and 7 Little words) not properly adjusting to full screen in tablet mode. Taking it out of tablet mode seemed to resolve the issue.

Win 10 is a good step forward. Microsoft still have a ton of work to do before a Windows tablet is less clumsy, but I have to say, all in all this is a good start. If you haven’t upgraded yet, I’m not sure I see a reason not to. But if I were you I would make sure I have created a USB recovery key so at least you can get back to Win 8 if you need to.

Update (8/19/2015): On my Asus VivoTab Note 8 Windows 10 has been a disaster. The pen stopped working, required numerous reboots to get working, OneNote 2013 wouldn’t let me bring up the on screen keyboard when in full screen mode, numerous crashes etc. And to top it off it seems Microsoft didn’t think about palm detection and the task bar kept getting selected when I started to write. So back to Win 8 I went. It was a painless downgrade. Microsoft did (smartly) ask question as to why I was going back.

My Asus Transformer T100 however is working quite well on Win 10.

August 16, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

The new Google Fit

Back in December I reviewed Google Fit and was utterly amazed how lacking the app was. Fast forward 8 months the app is at Version 1.52.44 and it has come a long way. The app now includes an estimation of active time, distance walked, calories burned and steps taken (for the pedometer). It does a reasonable job of tracking cycling too although there is no way to add a heart rate monitor (or any other sensor for that matter) to your activity. There is also no way to manually start/stop an activity. Theres still is no measure of stairs climbed but other than that Google have really brought fit up to par. Google have also not added the ability to periodically take your heart rate from the Android wear smartwatch. Add in an an app like Cinch and you can overcome that limitation. Google have included a portal to allow you to view all your data online rather than stare at a phone. A nice touch. If you don’t have an Android wear device (or it is disconnected) Fit will use your phone’s accelerometer to calculate steps. And since all this data is in the cloud changing devices does not mean loosing all the data that you’ve accumulated (as it does with Samsung S.Health).

Accuracy on Fit calories or steps is an expectation thing. If you expect it to be better than +/- 15% I think you will likely be disappointed. I’ve seen pedometer numbers all over the map. And calculating calories is somewhere between a fine act of fiction, magic and science. What’s more important IMHO is not necessarily the number (calories or steps or whatever) what is important is the trend. Are you doing more or less activities?

A number of fitness tracking apps including two of my favorites RunGPS and Endomondo both can automatically sync back to Google Fit. Both have to be manually setup in the app to enable this feature. Both seem to have quietly added it without much fanfare or notice. When the activities comes over Fit keeps all of the data, (heart rate calories, distance etc) that the app has. The data shows where it came from. And Fit itself does not double count for runs/cycling which it could have easily done had they not thought of that.
Setting up Google Fit in RunGPS/Endomondo
You can also add manual activities on the portal. The benefit of this feature is you can get a complete picture of your exercise all in one place. This was always elusive in the past. It’s definitely a nice to have!

There is no way to manually import activities from other sources. Also missing is an ability to manually export ANY of the data.

From the app or the portal you can manually log your weight. I am not sure if there is a way to get a wireless scale to work with fit, I haven’t played with that.

I was playing with a sleep tracking app Sleep for Android and it has integration with Google Fit, although I can’t for the life of me see where that data goes. It’s no where in the app or the portal.

Also missing is an ability to enter your food eaten or liquids consumed.

You can see graphs of the various items like calories, steps etc, but it would be nice to be able to see daily/weekly/monthly summaries. The orange colored line by the way is inactive calories. I am not sure how they calculate that. If it’s basal calories then I have no idea why it’s not constant. It almost seems like Fit only calculates inactive calories when you are indeed inactive. I am not sure what Fit is using as a basal calorie count. Some apps are smart and tell you straight off what your basal calorie count is.

So all in all Fit has moved WAY forward. There are still LOTS of places Google needs to improve just to catch up, let alone innovate. A number of these programs are data rich information poor. Add some intelligence to the data, interpret it for me, and tell me something, anything, that I can use to help me make sense of the data and guide me to a healthier life style and your providing value add. I look forward to seeing Google continue to advance this now useful tool!

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Android, Android Wear (Smartwatch) | Leave a comment


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