Notable Review: Sharp Aquos 80 inch Smart TV

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

I’ve written umpteen reviews on a very wide array of products, from phones, to tablets, to gadgets of all kinds and more. However, never before this had I ventured into the world of smart TVs. While many of you may look at me and say, ‘c’mon, man, what’s the big deal’, I look back at you with a scolding glare and respond ‘a lot’. TVs have come a long way from the days of the standard tube and since CES 2013 – with the Sharp Aquos 3D TV catching all the eyes – have evolved from the battle of the highest resolution LCD/Plasma screen to being about who can put out the most cost-effective 4K TV. But that’s another write-up entirely.

For now, we are going to talk about the gorgeous, ostentatious monster that is the 80” Sharp Aquos Smart TV and why it’s intended for a certain buyer only and not worth the cost for anyone else.

So let’s get right into it and talk specs:

– 80” (measured diagonally) LED Flat-Panel
– Width: 71-55/64″
– Weight: 152.1 lbs
– 1920x1080p (vertical pixel resolution)
– Smart Capable (instant access to NetFlix, Skype, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter)

Is an 80” TV really necessary for a young professional?
Unless the setting is perfect, absolutely not; when we talk 80”, our minds don’t grasp just how large it actually is in person… at least mine didn’t. Eighty inches is over 6.5 feet wide against the wall. To put that in perspective, imagine (roughly) if Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade (6’4” and change) laid down horizontally against the largest wall in your condo – it would look ridiculous and you would likely trip on him a few times trying to enter the room.  That’s exactly what happened to me sans Dwyane Wade.

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You can see from the above image (side note: you haven’t watched Breaking Bad until you’ve watched it in 80” HD) that the TV literally overlapped the doorframe by about 3.5 inches.Not to mention, the glare from natural light, blinds up or down, was unavoidable. The only time I could watch TV and enjoy it was at night. As for resolution, I was sitting about 10’ from the TV and had no issues with clarity due to the unbelievable pixel density. But that’s the only reason why.

Is it really that smart?
Listen, I am not knocking what a smart TV can actually do, because it’s actually cool for what it is, I am just going to say ‘smart’ isn’t as smart as one would expect, or think, for that matter. Smart often insinuates intuitive, something that the Sharp Aquos isn’t; the menu is clunky and takes time to get used to (especially connecting to a wireless network); unlike a smartphone, the TV doesn’t learn from frequent commands/gestures and thus act in accordance to make life easier; and, regardless of an internet connection, I had to manually check for available updates. The TV didn’t notify me regularly.

For what it’s worth on a positive note, Sharp’s built-in “Smart Central” hub was very easy to navigate and use for all my favourite social channels.

So, who is the 80” Sharp Aquos Smart TV made for?
Without a doubt, a TV of this size is made for two very specific environments: an office (boardroom for presentations to a large group of people or waiting room for news-watching use) or a house/condominium with a media room that has a wall to support this kind of TV and the space to comfortably watch it from.

Otherwise, although an amazing toy that we dream about owning as kids, it isn’t something practical for a 20-something to be dropping $5k on. Not only because $5k is a lot of dough, but because it isn’t 4K, and, obviously, that’s the way of the future.

Channeling My Inner Dick Tracy With the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

I’ve been dreaming of a truly intuitive, connected watch for a long, long time. Since the days of my youth, actually; slouched in front of the TV watching detective Dick Tracy catching bad guys, all while communicating with people back and forth on his forward-thinking walkie-talkie watch.  It was the coolest thing in the world and created an obsession among tech nerds and comic book geeks for two decades to come: create/find the perfect, coolest, do-everything-for me connected watch.

Well, friends, that day is finally here. However, don’t get too excited just yet… there are still a few caveats to overcome.

First and foremost, Samsung is not by any means the first to market with a ‘connected watch’. Pebble has their watch of the same name, there’s the MetaWatch, Sony has their smart watch, there’s the “I’m Watch,” and, of course, Apple’s long-rumoured iOS-powered connected watch. But, there is a common feature missing among all the aforementioned watches that is my biggest selling point on the Galaxy Gear, something that, to most, is a bit ridiculous/over-the-top when they first encounter it: the ability to take calls on the watch.

So, before I go more into the pros and cons of why a connected watch is right for you, let’s get into a few back-end things.

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Specs from a glance:

– 1.63-inch super AMOLED screen (320×320 pixels)
– 800MHz single-core processor
– 512MB RAM
– 11.1-mm thick
– 315mAh battery (25 hours of usage claimed)
– Its own version of Android
– 1.9-MP camera

Further, I want to make it abundantly clear that this watch, in its current state, is for early adopters only. Why? The apps are sparse (very little in the Samsung AppMarket), as of writing this post it’s only compatible with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and the battery, though not horrible per se, leaves a bit to be desired (I got less than a full day’s usage and only used it for notifications most days). The average consumer would be annoyed by most of the above and probably end up returning the watch rather than giving it some time and waiting it out.

The Pros:
The features that it does have work beautifully and, as expected, are very much so complemented by the gorgeous super AMOLED display. The camera is impressive and offers little lag when taking quick snaps for demonstrations’ sake (haven’t found a need for the camera otherwise).  Although it sounds a bit distant and echo-y, using the Gear as a Bluetooth headset is not only refreshing and cool, but somewhat of a head turn for passersby who appreciate the forward-thinking nostalgic factor that it offers. I was able to leave my Galaxy Note 3 charging or in another room of my condo and take calls effortlessly. Something that Samsung impressed me with was ability to fit a lot into a tiny 1.63-inch screen, and it’s noticeable; colors are sharp, vivid and on-point. Not once was I forced to squint or angle my wrist to accommodate ever-changing lighting conditions.

The Cons:
Of course, with all the positivity previously mentioned, there are bound to be some downsides to this sought-after watch. First and foremost, there are very little apps to choose from in its current state. Like, I mean less than 10 (if that) that are download-worthy. However, playing devil’s advocate, it did only just come out. Developers need time to develop, right? Further, Samsung omitted a feature that boggles my mind: a battery level meter – no, seriously. The only time you can easily tell what the battery life is at is when it’s plugged in and charged. As for the battery life, I expected a lot more from a device that really only needs battery to power the vibrant super AMOLED screen. I rarely took calls and wasn’t able to physically respond to texts from the watch itself, so I was shocked to find the watch dying very easily by dinner, which is about 6pm for me. (I took it off charge at around 6:30am, so the watch offered roughly 11.5 hours of battery life.) This is something that worries me. Should developers hop the connected bandwagon and start developing watch-ready apps, how will the watch ever make it through a few hours of heavy usage? It’s not like users can just plug the watch in on the go; it needs a specific carrying case to charge properly.

Overall:
After reading this review, it may seem like I harbour a bit of resentment towards the Galaxy Gear watch, but on the contrary, I adore it. It’s become the extension of my phone that I didn’t realize I needed until I became adjusted to having it on.

This led me to realize the following:

Connected watches to our mobile devices are becoming what shoelaces are to our shoes: a necessary addition to ensure the best experience possible. The difference is that the need for laces is apparent while the need for a connected watch is something that will be acquired through more consistent usage as popularity grows. 

The Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch can be purchased for $329.99 from BestBuy.ca.

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Kindle Fire HD Launches in Canada Tomorrow. Here’s Why You Should Care

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

With the dust having now settled post Apple iPad Air announcement, it couldn’t be a better time to talk about other tablet options that are more cost-effective to young professionals and, for the most part, offer similar or better specs.

One of those options begins shipping to Canada tomorrow, that being the upcoming Kindle Fire HD, running Android 4.2.

The 7-inch tablet, which sports a 2.2Ghz Snapdragon 800 processor, a 1920×1200 pixel display, 2GB of RAM, dual-band WiFi, a front-facing HD camera, and 11 hours of battery life, will start at $254 for the 16GB model, going up to $294 for the 32GB version and $334 for the 64GB model. It offers access, though not as expansive as our American counterparts, to all that Amazon has to offer including apps, books, games and movies.

But, it’s Android, not iOS; why should you care?

Because, pound for pound, you get more for your money with Android. Its direct competition, the iPad mini with retina, starts at $299 for 16GB of internal memory, has marginally higher screen resolution (2048×1536), sports roughly the same battery life (Apple claims up to 10 hours), has much less RAM (512MB), and otherwise does not have the flexibility that is offered by the Android ecosystem.

Not enough for your on-the-go lifestyle? Seven-inch and 8.9-inch versions of Kindle’s Fire HDX tablet will begin shipping to Canada on Nov. 26, which will start at $254, and $399 for 16-gigabyte models. HDX models are equipped with Qualcomm’s top of the line quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, which are three times faster than the older Kindle Fire line.

How’s that for a Christmas wishlist curveball?