Nintendo Switch: Week One Review

Let’s talk about the Nintendo Switch!

DISCLAIMER: The following are my impressions of the console and its launch software after one week; all items discussed were purchased with my own funds, and no one has reviewed this content prior to posting, nor am I being compensated directly by Nintendo or any game publishers for any of this content. All views expressed are my own.

Starting with the hardware itself, I think it is an impressively well-executed product in terms of hardware design. Nintendo has managed to build a system that feels natural as both a portable and a home console, functioning in both modes better than I expected. Despite some concerns with the ergonomics – and most adults will likely have the same reaction when you see how small the Joy-cons are – the Switch doesn’t feel all that bad in-hand. I can use it longer than my PS Vita or DS without any hand cramping when in tablet mode. The ability to use the built-in kickstand and included controller dock helps, as I find that more comfortable for longer play; for use in this mode, the built-in speakers are quite good, while the charger port location on the bottom of the device is unfortunate. The whole docking/undocking experience is pretty great, both with the system itself and the controllers. They nailed that aspect, right down to the “click” sound that the system makes when you slot the Joy-cons in place.

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Intel Compute Stick 2016 Review – Proof of Concept for Stick PCs

2015 was the year that HDMI “stick” PCs  moved from the periphery of the market to the mainstream. Intel’s Compute Stick, released for $159.99, had the most buzz of these new Windows PCs, combining a tiny form factor with the power of the Intel brand name.

Unfortunately, it suffered from WiFi and Bluetooth issues, and had just a single USB port. Without reliable access to WiFi and Bluetooth, it couldn’t function effectively as a streaming device, and using a USB hub as a workaround to the single, lonely USB port somewhat defeats the purpose of a tiny form-factor PC that can hide behind a TV or monitor.

For 2016, Intel has a new lineup of Compute Stick PCs hitting the market, kicking off with the February release of a lower-end model, packing an Intel x5-Z8300 processor. Does this version address the issues from last year’s model?

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Budget Desktop Battle: Kangaroo PC vs Chromebit vs Remix Mini

Today’s smartphones and tablets are powered by processors that may be small, but are powerful enough to run full desktop operating systems. This isn’t just a marketing claim, as manufacturers are making desktop computers using mobile processors and components. These devices combine the low cost and tiny footprint of these mobile processors with traditional desktop operating systems and capabilities, allowing for miniature computers that are exceptionally portable.

In this article I will compare three PCs that are all available for below $100, featuring three different operating systems: Windows 10, Android, and Chrome OS. Each has a unique form factor, resulting in varying strengths, weaknesses, and features. These small PCs are a great way to turn a TV with an extra HDMI port into a full-fledged computer, and offer both productivity and entertainment options.

Read on to find out more about these three new micro PCs:

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Remix Mini Review: A $69 Android Desktop Micro PC

Several manufacturers have introduced Android-based computers over the past few years, including attempts by HP such as the Slatebook and Slate All-in-One. Unfortunately, these devices did not account for the fact that Android was built for smartphones and tablets to be controlled via touchscreen input, not traditional desktop interfaces like a mouse and keyboard. Furthermore, core Android applications aren’t always designed for desktop screen resolution and orientation, and Android itself isn’t friendly to multi-tasking.

The result has been that these devices have felt half-baked, and haven’t been successful in the marketplace.

Enter Jide, a Chinese company comprised of former Google engineers. Jide successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign for their Remix Tablet, which featured a heavily custom version of Android – Remix OS – that turned the tablet experience into something akin to a Microsoft Surface Pro. Following that, they then launched a Kickstarter for the Remix Mini, a small form factor Android desktop PC based again on their Remix OS, now a customer skin for Android 5.0.2 Lollipop.

With Kickstarter shipping completed and a few OS updates released based on backer feedback, the Remi Mini is now available from retail for $69.99, offering the promise of a desktop-like experience melded with the rich application library of Android.

Does the Remix Mini deliver on that promise?

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Kangaroo Mobile Desktop: $99 Portable Windows 10 PC

 

Announced earlier this summer and now hitting online retailers, the Kangaroo Mobile Desktop is a $99 mobile Windows 10 PC, with a surprisingly good combination of features and specs for its price point. A joint venture between InFocus and Foxconn, the Kangaroo is a unique portable PC that seems like a great value with the potential to be a versatile addition to your tech arsenal.

In this full review, I’ll talk about my experiences with this device over one full week of mixed use, inclusive of web browsing, local gaming, Steam Streaming, Minecraft, Hearthstone, and MS Office. Note that you can also click here to watch my full video review of this device on YouTube.

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Pebble Time Steel Review: It Has Great Personality

Despite being mostly happy with my Moto 360 and the Android Wear platform, I still chose to back the Pebble Time Steel on Kickstarter this past summer, lured by promises of amazing battery life, great water resistance, and a revised Pebble OS based on a timeline concept.

Now that I’ve been wearing it for a week, here is my review of the Pebble Time Steel, and a comparison between the Pebble and Android Wear platforms.

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Pebble Time Steel: What Is It?

The Pebble Time Steel is the successor to Pebble’s original Pebble Steel, and like that watch, it is compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones. It is worth noting, however, that as with Android Wear on iOS, Apple has limited the Pebble’s functionality in iOS compared to the Apple Watch.

The Time Steel is the fancier sibling to the recently released Pebble Time, which contains mostly the same guts, but has a plastic case and synthetic band. The Steel also has a more clearly visible screen and longer battery life.

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The Moto 360 Turns One: 1st Birthday Follow-up Review

The true second generation of Android Wear devices are now upon us, with the release of the 2nd Gen Moto 360, and the upcoming release of the Huawei Watch, among other releases already on the market like the LG G Watch Urbane.

If you’re considering buying a smartwatch, you may be wondering how those first generation Moto 360s have held up, both physically and in terms of functionality. It is also worth noting that you can pick up the outgoing generation for half the price of the new one ($149.99 or less) and thus a review of the original may still be helpful. This is especially true given that many OS updates have happened since the launch period reviews, making much of their information out of date.

So: here are my impressions of the original Moto 360 after a full year of use, taking a look at how the device has held up physically, how it has performed, and the best features and apps of Android Wear.

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Fluxmob Bolt2 Battery and Charger: Kickstarter Tech Review

If you travel frequently for work, you’re likely familiar with the annoyance of packing up multiple wall chargers and battery back-up packs. In the future hopefully all of our phones and tablets will run via USB Type C charging, but if you’re impatient and want a better solution right now, Fluxmob’s Bolt2 battery back-up and wall charger 2-in-1 may be of interest:
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The original Bolt was interesting, but ultimately limited by its single charging port, 3000 mAh battery capacity and 1.0A output.

The sequel doubles up the original in all the key areas:

  • Total battery capacity has doubled to 6000 mAh, enough to charge most phones twice or a single tablet approximately once – roughly 80% full on an iPad Air 2
  • There are now two available charging ports, and both can be used simultaneously to charge two devices via both battery or outlet
  • Power output has increased to 2.4A allowing for much faster charging of tablets and other devices capable of drawing that additional power

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HP Stream Mini Review: Windows 10 Edition

The HP Stream Mini is an excellent Windows alternative to a Chromebox for those who want a small, cheap PC primarily designed for web content, but with more horsepower than lower end laptops and HTPCs using Bay Trail processors. It has been the best-selling desktop system on Amazon.com fairly consistently since its release, which frankly doesn’t surprise me at all. It has modest but competent specs paired with easy upgradeability, resulting in a package that offers tremendous performance for the price.

With the release of Windows 10, I wanted to see how the upgrade process went on the Stream Mini, and how it handled Microsoft’s new OS.

Let’s take a long look at the HP Stream Mini and Windows 10.

NOTE: As of fall 2015, HP has discontinued the HP Stream Mini. Hopefully they will be releasing an updated version with Windows 10 pre-installed in the near future. That said, it is still available for purchase and remains an incredible value.

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Razer Forge TV “Review” – $149 Android Micro-Console

Announced at CES in January 2015, the Razer Forge TV is an Android TV-based streaming device as well as an Android gaming platform. It is available with just the console for $99 or with the Serval Bluetooth controller in a bundle for $149. In addition to offering streaming video content and native Android apps and games, the Forge TV will offer Razer’s proprietary PC game streaming service via an update in the future, apparently Q4 2015, but launches without that functionality.

Today, I’ll give you my thoughts on this device and whether it is worth purchasing over competitors like the Nexus Player and Roku 3, and how it compares to spending a little extra for a low-end PC like the HP Stream Mini.

This was intended to be a full review, but due to certain events related to this device that I will detail below, there’s no real need for a full review.

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