Good grief, the SSD on this thing is fast. Thanks to the T2 co-processor which offloads encryption and disk controller functions from the main CPU (amongst many other things), the SSD performance is the fastest I’ve ever encountered. 2.5G/bits write and close to 3G/bits read.
The keyboard feels a little spongier thanks to the debris-blocking membrane, but it’s still a good keyboard to work on. Still won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. Neither will the touch bar which remains only partially useful to me. Partially because I keep the lid of the machine closed when it’s hooked up to the monitor and use an external keyboard and mouse.
CPU, cooling and throttling performance. About as I would expect having used previous incarnations of the 2017, 2016 and older MacBook Pros. Having 6 cores greatly improves everyday tasks. Importing and sorting all my photos and videos (~11,000) back into Apple’s Photos app was made faster by having that extra CPU power. That plus the speed of the SSD. When playing back video via YouTube, backing up to Backblaze and doing a Time Machine backup did cause the fans to spin up – but the noise wasn’t bothersome and kept the unit pretty cool around 69 degrees C. I haven’t really pushed CPU-bound tasks yet. Neither have I really bothered to check CPU frequencies. But everything seems to be in order.
Additionally, wireless seems to be a lot more stable than the Alienware machine, despite having the latest and greatest Killer chipset. Apple has apparently done very well with the placement and number of antennas in the Mac. So there’s another positive right there.
Epic Megagames’ Fortnite, however, is a miserable failure on these 2018 MacBook Pros. The AMD dedicated graphics card isn’t really meant for gaming. But even so, I’d have expected average or better than average performance from the world’s most popular game. For £600 more, one could purchase the Blackmagic Radeon Pro 580 with 8Gb graphics external GPU, but this is a bloody stupid idea for anybody wanting to play games. I’ll stick with the Xbox One X, thanks.
iTunes is now a delight to use now that I’m back on MacOS. It’s responsive, fast and does what it says on the tin. Having access to the underlying BSD infrastructure is a great help with work – and it didn’t take me long to set-up everything that I need to work from home.
I do wish the MacBook Pro came with a couple more Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports either side to accommodate the many dongles that you may need to attach to the machine, but otherwise, connectivity is generally very good. Here’s hoping the 2018 iPhone Whatever comes with a USB-C connector, or at the very least, USB-C cable rather than (or in addition to) a USB-A to Lightning cable. Apple needs to make a bigger commitment to USB-C connectors.
The 2018 MacBook Pro mid-range 15″ model is a beast that is definitely going to last a good few years (we’re not going to see 10nm chips until late 2019 and Apple are unlikely to get those into production until mid-2020 at a minimum), but upgradability is limited through the USB-C connectors and any repairs will need an Apple specialist (I remember the good old days of the plastic MacBooks which allowed you to swap hard drives and memory – and even the battery – alas, those days are long gone).
I am a big fan of Apple’s tablet range, and having owned the previous generation 12.9″ iPad Pro and the 9.7″ iPad Pro, they were pretty decent beasts. But they were not enough to replace my laptop.
A year and a bit on since the 12.9″ iPad Pro was launched, Apple have jazzed up the the iPad Pro range with a new 12.9″ model, and a brand new 10.5″ model replacing the 9.7″.
I have just replaced the 9.7″ with the 10.5″ model which now comes with a staggering 512Gb of storage. I’ve already filled it with 200Gb of TV shows (ready for my upcoming cruise). The A10X Fusion chip that’s driving the new 10.5″ and 12.9 iPad Pro is nothing short of remarkable. The benchmarks alone put this thing up into the MacBook Pro processing range for some tests.
But what’s particularly special about the new 10.5″ and 12.9″ iPad Pros is the display. The ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate is nothing short of a revolution in tablet display tech. Heck, even most modern monitors can’t achieve this level – not unless you go for specialist gaming or creative monitors costing many hundreds of pounds. “Smooth as butter” is probably the aptest description I can give to anything utilising 120Hz refresh. Swiping between pages or scrolling up and down in Empire Magazine’s app gives you a whole new experience of reading material on this device. The Times and Sunday Times electronic newspapers are similarly impressive when scrolling through articles or swiping through pages. The additional inch of screen real estate also makes reading electronic comics much easier too. And the whole thing – especially as Apple no longer provide back covers for the iPad Pros – feels lighter than the previous gen. It feels very comfortable in one hand.
The 120Hz ProMotion feature also comes into play if you’re drawing or writing with the Apple Pencil. Latency has been reduced to 20ms, and it’s as close to instantaneous response as you’re going to get (well, until the next generation of ProMotion at least). I can provide a better signature with this thing. Writing on the iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil is a much better experience.
The only thing I would mention is that everything feels a little too big when it comes to icon arrangements on the home screen. I’ve made the text smaller, but there’s still a lot more space between the icons. I’d like a feature like the iPhone Plus 7 where I can condense the space a bit more. Similarly, the smaller font I’ve selected makes the tablet font rendering in some apps look a bit odd. At times it feels like I’m using .. da da daaaa .. Android. So I think Apple has got to do a bit more work smoothing out font rendering a bit more. That said, this problem may go away in iOS 11 – an OS that will take iPads to a whole new level (seriously, this WILL make the tablet looks and feel like a proper computer from what I saw during the live WWDC video stream) .
(Note: the 10.5″ Ipad Pro’s display is a little too large to read novels, so I’ll always carry my e-Ink Kindle with me, but it’s ideal for reference material. As I have taken advantage of a few Humble Bundle reference books over the past couple of years, I have quite a few O’Reilly and other technical books which render fantastically well on this device under iBooks)
So to the naysayers that thought the iPad had run out of steam. Oh no. No, no, no. Apple have only just started. I am delighted with the 10.5″ iPad Pro. The storage space, the display, the lightness, AND with the leather pouch (ooer-missus), to protect both the device and the Apple Pencil will ensure that it’ll be a brilliant second computer to carry around with me – and will be used daily.
UPDATE(November 2017): Having switched to Virgin Media back in February this year, I’m terminating my Virgin contract early and heading back to Sky. This involves switching back to Sky broadband (Sky Fibre Max) and Sky Q Multi-Room (2Tb box with 1 Sky Q mini box). Stay tuned for more blog posts on this.
On Saturday Virgin Media came and installed their new kit.
This included the Superhub 3 (powered by Intel’s Puma 6 SoC which also contains an Atom x86 CPU), a chunky beast with considerably more ports than the Sky Q Hub. They (for there were three of them) also installed the Tivo V6, a box that’s considerably smaller than the Sky Q Silver box and old Tivo combined.
Superhub 3.0 and HomeWorks (up to 300Mbs broadband)
There are many reports of performance issues with the Superhub 3, all thanks to the Intel chipset. It mainly affects gamers, so I haven’t had a chance to properly reproduce it – all I know is that I downloaded a 52Gb game file on the Xbox One in super quick time – I was up and running within 10-15 minutes. More testing is needed when playing multi-player games. I’ll report back soon.
A speed test after installation resulted in 330Mbs download, 21Mbs upload. A speed test during the day when things are bit busier yielded a result around 278-286Mbs down, 19Mbs up, which is very reasonable. A 5am speed test shows great results again. I’m very happy. With Sky Broadband Fibre Pro, downloads maxed out at 71Mbs (uploads 19Mbs).
HomeWorks offers a number of benefits to the user – the up to 300Mbs download being one. The other is non-traffic managed uploads. I’m currently uploading 275Gb worth of data from my MacBook Pro to Crashplan and it averages around 15Mbs – which is very reasonable given the distances involved (to my knowledge, Crashplan has no European datacentres). The other benefits of HomeWorks includes next business day engineer visits if things go wrong, access to a general IT support desk, and F-Secure’s internet security suite.
The Superhub 3’s admin interface leaves a lot to be desired, however. Passwords are shown in the clear when entered, and the whole UI is exceptionally sluggish. Changing the client password was a bit of a pain – the unit enforces a specific password policy which cannot be overridden. It meant that even though I changed the SSID to match that of my old broadband Wi-Fi, the password had to be changed. So I had to reset all my gadgets Wi-Fi settings.
Oh, 802.11ac wireless coverage is good in my little place. Upstairs is covered adequately and there is no need for any extenders.
Back when I originally had a Tivo from Virgin Media many moons ago (we’re talking about 3 years ago, just when I was going through the divorce), I found it to be the most sluggish thing ever. And that’s why I moved to Sky. Four years later and I’m back with Virgin, and the Tivo V6 fixes all the sluggishness. It’s now super, super fast. Navigating anywhere is a pleasure. With Sky Q, it was the biggest pain in the arse imaginable. Nothing has changed in 12 months – shame on Sky. Even Sky’s internet based NOW TV (which I use to pick up Sky Atlantic stuff now) has a better UI than it’s premium satellite sister. Madness.
The Tivo V6’s UI is the same UI as seen on the older Tivo. Coming from Sky Q, it’s all a bit strange and new, but as I say, it’s about 65,000 times better than Sky’s offering. With the Tivo, it’s not a case of downloading on-demand content – it’s streamed in real time via the Superhub 3 (live TV comes in via the co-ax cable). Older Tivos had a dedicated 10Mbs cable modem connection for on-demand stuff – this one doesn’t need it other than for live TV. 10Mbs these days means nothing in the 4K / UHD world, so it makes sense to get on-demand and internet related stuff from the Superhub. I am interested to see where Virgin takes 4K TV, however. Will it be live via co-ax? Will it be live streamed over the internet?
The Tivo V6 does come with a few problems, however. I’ve come across a couple of super scrambly, artefact-laden picture quality issues which tend to go away if you pause/unpause playback. It seems to affect on-demand – I haven’t come across it on live TV yet. It’s not happened often, but I’ve definitely experienced it. A few others have noticed it on the Virgin community forums, so we’ll see what Virgin has to say about it. Not a big issue for me as yet – but I’m keeping an eye on it.
The second problem is video output. By default the unit will attempt figure out what modes your TV supports. In my case, it knows its a 4K TV and sets it to 2160 resolution. However, some content (notably standard definition (SD)) appears blockier than usual, and some 4K content (under Tivo’s Netflix app) looks to add weird motion oddness that’s not present on the TV’s own Netflix app.
Tivo V6 offers a number of pass through modes that forces the TV to do any upscaling and other fancy video doodads, but I’ve found that occasionally – especially when using YouTube which can offer 4K, HD or SD content depending on the uploader – the TV loses the signal and I have to turn the TV off and on to get the picture back. Again, I mentioned this on the forums – it seems that it is a bug, and the Tivo is due a 4K firmware update at some point. I’ve left the unit in 2160 mode, no pass through and will just use the TV Netflix and YouTube apps which work perfectly.
The Tivo V6 is still new, and there are gremlins. Just as there were (and still are) gremlins in the Sky Q system. They aren’t bad gremlins, as it so happens, and doesn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the device. My favourite thing about the Tivo is the remote. It makes the Sky Q remote look like a simpleton’s plaything. I had to stop using the Sky Q touch remote because I found my thumb was aching a lot, and it was too responsive, resulting in too many mistakes. So I gave up and went for the more sensible remote. But even the Sky Q sensible remote wasn’t that sensible. The Tivo remote has a proper home button like the Sky Q, but more importantly, has a Guide button that takes you to the TV guide. And it’s so easy to filter the guide from the remote.
In short: the Tivo V6 is everything Sky Q should be, but isn’t. Better UI, better remote, super quick access to everything, and super fast. It lends itself better to discovering content more than Sky Q does. With Sky Q the Top Picks were just not relevant to my tastes. I can find and discover stuff much faster with Tivo.
I’ve gone for a Virgin phone line. So far, my experience is better than my previous Virgin phone line in that whoever had the number last was the target of phone spammers galore. Fingers crossed his new number (which I love, BTW – they did a good job in picking it) will be spam free.
As my contract with EE is at an end in April, I thought about consolidating everything with Virgin. But the ordering process for Virgin Mobile when signed in as a Virgin Media customer is the biggest pain in the arse in the universe. It told me that I had no Virgin Media kit installed (I do) and refused to give me the offer of 20Gb for £15/month (better than my £19 for 16Gb with EE, which runs out in April and goes up to £34.99). So I try to call, but end up running around in circles with the operator. This clip from the cartoon, The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, sums up my experience:
Just as well I didn’t go through with my Virgin Mobile order, however. It turns out that they don’t allow mobile tethering – something vital for my job. So I’ve found a great deal with Three (30Gb tethering – unlimited data on phone) and will be moving to them soon – I’ll be porting my number from EE, so that number will not change. For my iPad SIM, I’m considering pay as you go. I don’t use anywhere near the data I’m currently paying monthly for, so it seems a bit of a waste.
Personally, I don’t think Apple will get away with an appeal. But I reckon it’ll make Apple think about where they’re going to want to put their next European HQ. Probably a country which is in the process of leaving the EU…
Regardless, we can probably expect iPhone 7 announcements next Wednesday. But I don’t care. I’ve got my Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and it’s a thing of beauty. This little (haha – but in all seriousness, even at 5.7″, it’s not as big as you might imagine) thing will have to last me at least a year – if not two. But that’s okay, it’s got enough oomph in it to last the course.
In comparison to the S7 Edge:
What I love about the Note 7 is how clean the UI is in comparison to the S7 Edge. I’m able to put many more app icons on each screen, and the icons are much more “professional” looking. The S Pen works fantastically well, and I’m extremely impressed with the ability to write on the screen when it’s “off” (Samsung’s “Always On” display feature) and save the notes for later use. Only slight issue is that the case tends to hinder even my E.T. fingers at pushing out the pen, but I’ll get used to this. Unlike the Apple Pencil which I still keep in its original packaging because Apple couldn’t be arsed to design a holder with their covers.
While the screen is curved like the S7 Edge, it’s less pronounced and makes it much, much, much easier to grip with or without the case. It really does feel much nicer in the hand over the S7 Edge.
The S Pen works fantastically well, and I’m extremely impressed with the ability to write on the screen when it’s “off” (Samsung’s “Always On” display feature) and save the notes for later use. Only slight issue is that the case tends to hinder even my E.T. fingers at pushing out the pen, but I’ll get used to this. Unlike the Apple Pencil which I still keep in its original packaging because Apple couldn’t be arsed to design a holder with their covers.
Here’s the first image I took with the Note 7. It should be identical to that of the S7 Edge.
Finally, a word about the Iris scanner. It’s a pain in the rear end. I’ll be sticking with the finger scanner (and others) for the time being.
I’ll post a more in-depth review after a week’s use.
(Note: I was due to post a report on Guildford’s Comic Con, but WordPress’ text editor / image editor is playing silly buggers at the moment. I’ll to sort the photos out in Photoshop and deal with them that way.. sigh)
On Saturday I pootled along to the local Odeon in Guildford to take advantage of my new Odeon Limitless pass.
I had already booked Captain America: Civil War for the Saturday and Bad Neighbours 2 for today (after work), but given that Limitless only allows for 2 advanced bookings (to avoid people booking stuff and never turning up), I’ve had to hold on until Sunday to book Florence Foster Jenkins. Limitless does, however, let you book multiple same day tickets. It just so happened that Eye in the Sky was showing straight away after Captain America, so I booked that on Saturday morning.
Captain America: Civil War had a Premium Seating booking (an extra £2.30), Eye in the Sky did not (therefore no additional charges). Bad Neighbours 2 is standard seating, but I’ve gone for Premium Seating for Florence Foster Jenkins.
Picking up tickets
If you’ve paid for an extra (3D, seat upgrade, etc.) not included within the Limitless programme, you can collect your ticket automatically via the machines in the lobby. For everything else you’ll have to queue, present your (temporary) Limitless membership card, and get them issued manually. Not sure whether the card will be able to handle tickets automatically via the machines, but we’ll see. The Odeon staff didn’t seem to know. It’s all still very new.
Captain America: Civil War is currently showing in Screen 1 – one of two biggest screens at Guildford. Unfortunately the air condition wasn’t working at the time, and combined with a very comfortable seat and a very slow first act, I keep falling asleep until the airport sequence which is when the film picks up the pace and action. Overall a great film (when I remained awake), but needs a bit of a tinker to bring the running time down (147 minutes) and get that first act into shape. I’d still rate this as one of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best films – but perhaps not THE best. We’ll see what Avengers: Infinity Wars brings us. Also it sets things up very nicely for the Black Panther and Black Widow films.
Eye in the Sky is currently showing in the smaller Screen 7. Normal seating. For a lad of my size, I started to get very uncomfortable towards the middle of the film. I have long(ish) legs, so not much room to stretch out or change “bum: positions. This may have been in part because I had already been sitting down for over two hours, so I have to rethink about double features in the future. Not unless they’re both Premium Seating.
Eye in the Sky itself I found more engaging that Captain America. As Alan Rickman’s last film role, it tells of a joint British-American-Kenyan operation to take down suspected terrorists operating out of a compound in Nairobi using a combination of remotely operated drones (the Eye in the Sky) that are under the control by the US military (specifically Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) and Kenyan ground forces. It’s a very tense drama. Some of the spy tech seems a bit far fetched at times, but this is only a very small complaint. The story as a whole is gripping from start to finish, even if maybe you can see where things are heading. I wholeheartedly recommend this film.