iPad Mini 5 review

Review, Tech

Being on my second go with an iPad Mini 5 after having returned one previously I feel that the break without one has given me a fresh perspective. I’ve got enough experience with it now to write up a review.

The model I picked up was the 256GB in silver and I also picked up the £45 Smart Cover. It’s a tad expensive but my favourite accessory for giving the screen some protection when it’s being carried around. The reason I went 256 over 64 was that I wanted to incorporate it into my photography so didn’t want iCloud Photo Library to be constantly swapping images on and off my iPad.

The design is as it’s been since launch and in my opinion it’s great. Keeping this form factor meant the costs are reduced and as I’ve mentioned before not having FaceId is a bonus for me.

When comparing to our family 2nd generation Mini both the performance increase and screen are the most noticeable. The speed is on par with the latest iPhone XS and the screen now has True Tone and is glued to the glass so there are no gaps. This model is going to be on the latest iOS for at least 4 years so buying it to keep a while is definitely viable. It’s what I’ll be doing with mine now it can run the latest iOS.

Another win for me with the latest iPad Mini is pencil support. I use the original Apple Pencil every day with my larger Pro and being able to use the same pencil here was a big positive for me.

I use the Mini alongside my 10.5” Pro but I found I use it more. In fact it’s become my number 1 device to use around the house and on the go. I’ve pretty much replaced all my in house use of my iPhone with it and if I want to pop out I’ll take the Mini to catch up on a comic book or do some writing.

I wrote this review using it, in portrait two thumb typing.

If you’re after a kindle alternative or want a portable iPad that packs performance then you can’t go wrong with the 5th generation iPad Mini. It’s not just a device for kids but anyone that uses iOS and wants something more portable. I absolutely love it and at the moment my favourite product Apple has released this year.

iPhone XS mid term review

Review, Tech

I tend to write about my hardware when I get it and at the half way point in the year. I like to do this to see how my feelings have changed over time and see how it’s holding up to the daily wear and tear. For this post I’ll be looking at my silver 256GB iPhone XS.

Durability

I’m on my second XS (read about that in a later section) so the wear and tear will be less than if I’d used it since the launch version I had.

I don’t use a case day to day so as expected my stainless steel band shows scratches. I don’t mind this, in fact I like the worn in look. They’re only really there if you look closely but overall the construction that Apple went with for with the X models seems to hold up.

The screen shows some light scratches but nothing that bothers me. The back glass has a few deeper scratches but on the silver model you can’t see them easily and again they don’t bother me.

I did drop my last one onto concrete and although the corner had a scratch the glass held up fine.

Camera

The camera has been good this year a definite step up from the X, especially in low light.

I can’t make my mind up on smart HDR but tend to leave it on. I found especially when comparing to the Pixel 3a they were over brightened to my eyes but with some editing you can get really great shots. The camera is the only reason I upgraded last year and I’m pleased that I did it for the outlay. Remember I sold my X for a good amount so moving to the XS cost me a couple of hundred pounds. This was worth it for me to get the improved camera.

Any replacements?

I tend to get the Apple curse and need replacements, I always get Apple Care+. I’m on my second XS currently, the first being replaced due to the SIM tray keeping working it’s way out all by itself. This was sorted easily over the phone with Apple shipping a replacement.

Performance over time

The only lag I’ve found is when I take a picture then go to look at it. I see a slight delay in rendering the image. I’m not sure if this is iOS or my processor but it’s something I’ve noticed on and off over the last year.

Battery life

Battery life has been fine, I wouldn’t say any better or worse than my X or 7 before that. I get through a day fine but as I’m home based I don’t tend to need to worry about it. I do make sure though that background app refresh is turned off for almost everything.

FaceId

I’ve come to accept that we aren’t getting TouchId back so embraced FaceId this year and on the whole it’s fine. I do get frustrated when I’m in sunlight outside with a hat and sunglasses on and it works maybe half the time.

My major niggle

Is a software one. I’ve written about this before but I’ve been calling my emergency contact a lot from my pocket with the XS. I’ve got an open radar with Apple on this one and need to give them some system info to look into it. I’m hoping working with Apple I can help influence getting it fixed.

Overall thoughts

I’m glad I upgraded to the silver XS, I like the colour and the camera. It’s holding up fine and I’m not feeling the need to change it.

Reviewing your stuff

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I’ve not normally actively reached out for review units and apps but in light of testing the Pixel 3a it reminded me how much I like to play with new stuff. If you have a product be it an app, device or accessory please drop me a note via my contact page and I’d love to take a look.

Google Nest Hub review

Review, Tech

To preface this review I need to state up front that I’m new to Android and haven’t been hooked into the assistant for long so your mileage may vary. This is a review from someone that’s lived on iOS for the last 10 years but is gaining new perspective on mobile operating systems.

When I picked up the Pixel 3a I took advantage of the offer to get a free Nest Hub. I didn’t really know what to expect with it to be honest being a heavy iPad user I didn’t know where it would fit it.

Setting up is easy and all you need to do is turn it on and manage the setup from the Pixel Home app.

The construction is great for the price but I would have liked a black front option rather than white. On top we have a couple of sensors and the screen although not huge is clear and looks great when displaying photos.

On the back there’s a manual switch to disable the microphone if you want to make sure you’re not always being listened to.

On setting up I was immediately struck with how useless this product might be for me. No Apple Music, only Spotify and Google Music and without my entire photo library in Google Photos it meant my picture frame options were limited.

I put it in my office and thought I’d see what it can do for me in my day.

Well, all it became was a clock for me. I asked it to play my YouTube subscriptions but it couldn’t. The only way is either to ask for specific videos or cast from your Pixel. This was ok but my iPad has a bigger screen and is already hooked into my YouTube account.

After looking at the photos for a bit I realised this is a £119 fancy clock that tells me stuff about the weather.

Remember this is my experience if you’re totally hooked into Google then I’m sure it’ll be good as a photo frame but I couldn’t get the use out of it and now it’s sat in the box and I’m wondering what I do with it.

It’ll go back with the Pixel if I ultimately decide to return the whole package.

Get a view of your week with Eventail

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I’m trying to get better at being more productive and keeping an eye on what’s happening over the coming week. I tend to focus on the current day and not look ahead and plan for things happening over the week. Staying in the moment is great but sometimes I feel more relaxed or prepared for the week if I know what I’m up against.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying out an app called Eventail.

When I say app I actually mean a supercharged Today widget.

It’s completely configurable and for me I use it to display just my Calendar events for the next 5 days. It doesn’t give me times but just an order of what’s happening each day.

I can also tap on any of the days to give me a view of the day in detail if I’d like.

What’s even better is nothing leaves your device so privacy isn’t an issue.

There are also options for showing Reminders but I’m yet to dig into this one at the moment.

If you’re using iCloud for your Calendar then I’d definitely recommend giving Eventail a look.

Apple Watch Series 4 at six months

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I picked up the series 4 Apple Watch at the end of September 2018 and now at a few weeks before 6 months with it I wanted to share my longer term testing thoughts.

I picked up the silver aluminium model, 44mm. I was going to treat myself with a stainless steel version but couldn’t justify spending almost double the price. It’s frustrating that Apple force cellular on the stainless now adding to the overall price. To change things up though I went for silver rather than my traditional space grey.

Durability

One thing to bear in mind here is that I’m on my second one due to warranty replacement. The issues I had was around heart rate tracking on a workout, it just couldn’t keep it locked. My new one is probably 3 months so not going to be a full view of the durability over the whole time period. Mine has held up well, shows no signs of wear on the body and the screen is scratch free. With the addition of a ceramic back it is also scratch free. I’ve had the original watch and series 2 and they both showed scratches on the back and the screen. In theory the screen is the same glass but in my experience it has held up better.

New screen size

The immediate thing you notice when trying on your new series 4. If you’re coming from a 42mm I didn’t notice any difference to the way it felt on my wrist but I did notice the increase in screen size in use. You quickly get used to it however and it’s not large enough to force an upgrade from a 42mm series 2 or 3 in my opinion. The new watch faces are ok but I haven’t really settled on them. It also makes the older ones worse, the rounded complications on the bottom don’t sit well with me and I end up having less data than on my series 2. I’m hoping we get a better range of options soon.

Speed

Wow, it’s a fast watch. Massive upgrade from my series 2, which felt laggy almost every time I used it. Having skipped series 3 it was the main reason I upgraded. There’s no lag in anything I’m doing even after 6 months of watchOS. I’m not seeing any need to upgrade this year based on the performance of the processor in the series 4.

Bands

The only new band I have is the white one that came with it. The good news though all of my old 42mm still work so it’s not been an expensive six months for me in terms of picking new ones up.

Is it worth upgrading?

From an original or series 2, yes. From a series 3 then no. I wouldn’t upgrade for the slightly bigger screen but I would for the performance gain, that’s if like me you use your watch every day.

If you are considering an upgrade or even a new purchase then get into a store and try both sizes. I went 44mm so that older bands wouldn’t go to waste and I think the size looks fine on me but with the old 38mm becoming 40mm maybe that would suit you best.

You might also want to shop around a bit as there may now be deals given we are around 6 months from an update and series 5 potentially. (And don’t forget you can trade in your old one directly with Apple).

A cheap iPad Pro case that’s good

Review, Tech

I’ve spent ages testing the Amazon cheap iPad cases over the years and finally found one that I can recommend.

This is the MoKo with integrated Smart Cover and shell back.

I was looking for something to protect my iPad after going through a few over the last few months or so. I wanted something that offered some protection to the back for when I put it in my bag. This one doesn’t add a lot of bulk and removes the need for carrying around my Smart Cover.

The only downside that I’ve encountered is that the Smart Cover is fixed so if you want to use your keyboard cover it’ll have to come off first. I’m going to look at getting one without the cover attached so that I can carry it with the keyboard.

An added advantage of the rear shell is I have somewhere to put my stickers so that I don’t lose them if the iPad needs to go in for servicing at any point.

So, a quick write up but there’s not really much more to say on this case. It’s cheap at £10.99 and offers you protection from everyday carry and knocks.