Microsoft Surface Book review. Form meets function.

Summary:
With the Surface line Microsoft goes head to head with Apple.
Design:
Carved out of a single block of magnesium the Surface Book is very well made. There was no flex or give when I pressed down on the body or the display.
Just under 1Kg (1560 grams to be precise, the device just about makes it into Ultrabook territory although it’s a bit cumbersome at times.
Configurations:
As the Surface Book is quite a premium device pitched at professionals and creative types it’s quite expensive. If money is no object and you want something running Windows 10 with all it’s great features it might be well worth the investment.
Starting at AUD 2299 you get a 6th generation Intel core I5 CPU, 128GB of storage, and 8GB of RAM. The second one up from that starting at AUD 2899 gives you a 6th generation Intel core I5 CPU, doubles the storage to 256GB storage, and comes with 8GB of RAM.
The system Microsoft gave me to review comes with an Intel core I7 processor running at 2.6GHZ, 16GB of RAM, and a large 512 GB SSD. The cost for this version of the Surface Book is an eye watering AUD 4200.
Touch the touch screen:
Being both a traditional laptop and touch centric device I had a lot of fun playing around with the touch screen. Both JAWS 18 and the latest version of NVDA worked well. Gestures were detected and were fluid. Most people however will be using the keyboard for productivity reasons and I found the keyboard to be excellent.
The keys have a satisfying spring with plenty of travel. A quick note on accessibility as it relates to the keyboard. Out of the box the top row of keys are set up to emulate media controls. For screen reader users, this means you must press the FN key to resume standard operation. I’m still investigating weather the change can be made permanent. A slight annoyance but I must stress after hitting the FN key all works as expected. The good thing is if one shuts down the computer or restarts the change is saved.
Conclusion and final thoughts:
For a first-generation product Microsoft has done an incredible job with balancing both portability and power within such a slick package. The combination of Windows 10 and great hardware is irresistible.
Rating:
4 stars excellent.
Pros:
Great design, exquisite hardware, Windows 10 is superb.
Cons:
Can get astronomically expensive if one chooses to upgrade specs, fan can get quite noisy under a heavy load

iPhone 7 review. Goodbye headphone jack.

Summary.
With no headphone jack, the 64 fusion CPU, a double lens arrangement for the larger 7+ this year’s iPhones make a big bold statement for the future.

Intro:
At Apple’s special event held in September CEO Tim Cook and other executives demoed the new iPhone 7 and 7+.
Most of the features this year appear to be subtle upgrades that hint at something bigger to come.
Press my home button:

One thing long term iOS users will notice is that the iconic home button is no more, rather it’s become a button controlled by software.
If the phone is turned off you’re unable to depress the button at all.

Turn it on however, and you’ll feel a gentle tap to mimic the physical click.

It takes some getting used to but is probably a nice addition as there is one less component of the phone to fail.

Design:

Apart from being a tad heavyer you’d be hard pressed to tell apart the 7 and 7+ from what came before) 6s and 6s+).
The only change is a new paint job there calling glossy black.

Sighted members in my family and some friends that have the glossy version tell me it looks wonderful.

I personally went with my favourite standard gold.

For the first time ever for an iPhone you can get the biggest storage quota 256GB an obscene amount of storage.

This will please music and movie junkies or those who love to have everything at hand.

The larger model also comes with 3GB and 2 cameras something that will be welcome for people that take a lot of pictures.

The FaceTime camera has now been upgraded to 7MP.

Optical image stabilisation is also now present in both phones.

Conclusion and overall impressions:

With Google rebranding their Nexus line Apple had to bring something to the table and as stated previously it would seem that this year there testing the waters.

If you have a perfectly working 6s or 6s+ I’d stay your hand and wait it out.

For those of you with a 6 or 6+ the upgrades will be huge.
Go for it!

Rating:

4 Stars excellent.

Pros:

The best mobile software period, feels good in the hand, new home button is interesting.

Cons:

No headphone jack is painful, no fast charging, design is getting old, can get inordinately expensive specially if you get all the cases and adapters required.

Dell XPS 13 review A kick ass Windows laptop.

Background:

After 5 years on the Mac platform for various reasons key among them productivity I decided to return to Windows.

Windows 10 in of it’s self is a total rethink from Microsoft, and when coupled with good hardware it really shines.

Enter stage left the Dell XPS 13 a sleek MacBook Air competitor.

Design:

The Dell XPS 13 here  on refered to as XPS is really well made. Dell has given this ultrabook a premium 2 tone feel that screems decadent. From the smooth carbon deck to the well spaced keyboard and even the aluminium body you’ll want to pull this stunner out wherever life takes you.

It’s nice to see finally a Windows OEM make a laptop that is as good as Apple’s hardware.

Configurations:

Starting at $1799 the XPS comes with a 6th generation I5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The second level which is the one reviewed comes with a 6th generation I5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and doubles the storage to 256GB.

If you want a serious power house a none touch I7 version can be had for $2299. Finally, if money is no object you can get the cream of the crop a machine with an I7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and large 512GB of storage for an eye watering $2999.

For most people the second version of the XPS should be fine and see you well into 2018. Unless you do video work or sound editing then by all means go for the highest model.

Hello Windows 10 and great hardware:

This machine comes preinstalled with Windows 10 home 64-bitt. For the most part Windows 10 works well. Gone is the annoying Windows 8/8.1 start screen. In it’s place you have the start button reminiscent of the good old days of Windows XP and 7. Microsoft’s virtual assistant is on board so you can use your voice to set up meetings on your calendar etc.

Overall Windows 10 takes huge steps to correct the blunder that was 8/8.1.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Oh god yes! The combination of great hardware and fresh Windows 10 features makes this a no brainer.

Rating:

5 stars.

Pros:

Fantastic build, good battery life, Windows 10 works well.

Cons:

Can get expensive.

A personal tech journey Why I switched back to Windows after more than 5 years.

Introduction:

Back in 2010 fresh out of high school I decided to give the  Mac a try.

I had heard some podcasts by David Woodbridge of Vision Australia, and having had the iPhone for about 6 months I went in head first.

The good stuff:

There’s something to be said for being able to set up/take any Mac out of the box and get VoiceOver running. With no sighted assistance I was able to set up the Mac.

Within a couple of hours I had the  machine up and running. Over the next 2 weeks or so I listened to all of David’s podcasts and visited Www.applevis.com to get a feel for how things worked on the Mac.

Being a long time Windows user. One of the things I had to get use to was interacting with webpages and alike. Although Safari was great this interacting drove me crazy.

The PDF problem:

Windows screen readers have always worked better when working with PDF content. JAWS and other screen readers allow one to get a feel for how documents are structured. Not so on the Mac. I have emailed Appple’s accessibility department to no avail. This is one of the main reasons I have come back to the Windows platform.

Recently a friend told me that Word for the Mac had become accessible, but it’s no where as good as the version on Windows.

Conclusion:

I really hope the state of PDF accessibility changes. When and if that changes I might return to the Mac. Until then it’s Windows all the way.

iPhone 6s review. More of the same

Intro:

” The only thing that has changed is everything.”

That  seems to be the marketing pitch Apple ( APPL ) has decided to hammer for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

It’s kind of a cliche  statement to make because if  you picked up one of these phones you’d be hard pressed to tell  it apart from last years 6 or 6 Plus.

The focus this time round is what’s on the inside that counts.

Design:

After the radical make over the iPhone got in 2014 nothing much changes here.

You still have 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch variance although this time there’s a new rose gold option that you can get if so desired.

The firm claimes that the smartphones are made of a tougher cover glass and strengthened 7000 aluminium the same type used in the Apple Watch sport.

So what’s actually changed?

New camera and live photos:

For years the iPhone whilst taking great pictures was stuck with an 8MP rear snapper.

That changes with the camera being upgraded to 12MP.

It can now also record 4K video.

A slight annoying hardware issue is that the lenze still sticks out from the casing.

Live photos is where the camera records 1.5 seconds of video before and after the shot.

Think of those moving pictures in Harry potter.

Kind of cool but probs not reason enough to get the new phone.

The resulting footage can be shared with other Apple weelding friends.

Be warned that this feature does eat up storage.

So if you plan to record lots of video or take live photos it would be best to forget about about the 16GB model.

3D touch.

Sort of like right click does for Windows and Mac OS X the screen of the iPhone lets you press harder to get options.

With a small press you can glance at your imbox in mail, compose a new Instagram post, update your status on Facebook and generally speed up all the things we do with our phones.

It’s a fantastic way of making the iOS experience that much smoother.

I expect will be seeing lots of app developers introduce this feature into apps soon enough.

Speed:

The phone is powered by the new A9  CPU and 2GB of RAM.

It’s scorchingly fast keeping up with whatever I did.

Software and hey siri:

iOS 9 brings a hand full of advancements such as a smarter Siri,that is always listening in the 6s and 6s Plus   being able to run 2 apps side by side ( iPad Air 2 and above ) a much better notes app, and my favorite low power mode.

It’s more of a round off rather than introducing anything new.

It runs like butter on the new hardware.

Even if an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus isn’t in your future the upgrade is worth it.

When it’s all said and done should you upgrade?

That depends if you have an iPhone 5s or older don’t think just do it!

People that have the 6 it’s not so so clear cut.

If you can wangle your mobile provider to upgrade you with minimal fus then go for it.

If not it won’t hurt to stay put for another year.

Apple did announce an iPhone upgrade program in which one can get the new phone every year for a  bace cost of $32.

Sadly it’s only valid in the US.

Here’s hoping it makes it to Australia waters.

Conclusion:

With a new camera, improved inards, 3D touch, and the best version of iOS this years iPhones are the best smartphones money can buy but it sure will hurt your pocket book.

Pros:

Nice  design, 3D touch is exciting, silky smooth UI, outstanding camera, the best mobile software

Cons:

Very  expensive, design hasn’t changed, 16GB isn’t enough

Prices:

6s AU$1079 16GB, AU$1229 64GB, AU1379 128GB

6s Plus

AU$1229 16GB, AU$1379 64GB, AU$1529 128GB