Just Another Apple Blog

A Place for Reviews, Thoughts, Criticisms and Rants.

My Late 2013 Setup

I’m a geek with an expensive Mac habit. Below is my latest setup of the gear I use everyday.

Home: 

  • Laptop: Late 2013 15” MacBook Pro w/ Retina Display. 2.3ghz i7, 16GB Ram, 512GB SSD, Intel Iris Pro/Nvidia 750m w/ 2Gb vRam GPU
  • Tablet: Apple iPad Air 16GB LTE model (mine) , Apple iPad 3rd Gen 32GB Wifi (Wifes)
  • Phone: Apple Iphone 5S 32Gb White/Silver
  • Earbuds: Yamaha EPH 100SL, Apple EarPods
  • Monitor: HP2311x 23” LED Monitor
  • Mouse: Apple Magic Mouse/Microsoft Wireless Mouse
  • Keyboard: Apple Bluetooth keyboard w/ LMP Bluetooth NumberPad 
  • Accessories: BookArc MBP Stand, Belkin USB Hub,  Apple Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapter, Apple Thunderbolt VGA Adapter, Thunderbolt HDMI Adapter, HDMI Cables
  • Router: Late 2011 Apple Airport Extreme (office), 2010 Apple Airport Extreme (extending main network)
  • Storage: WD MyBook Live 2TB, Buffalo 500Gb Thunderbolt drive, Samsung G3 Station 2TB, 1TB USB 3.0 WD Elements drive, LaCie Firewire 500Gb Drive, Toshiba 750Gb USB 3.0 drive, LaCie 1TB Desktop Hard drive, Various flash drives and other drives
  • Backup Laptop: 13” Early 2011 MacBook Pro- 2.3ghz Core i5, 16Gb Ram, 500GB Samsung 840 SSD

Home Entertainment:

  • TV: Samsung LED 40” TV (Living Room), Toshiba 24” LED TV (Bed Room)
  • Media Streaming: Apple TV 3rd Gen (Bedroom), Boxee Box (Living Room)
  • Gaming System: Sony PS3 160GB
  • Sound: Samsung HW-E550 SoundBar W/ Subwoofer
  • Portable Sound: Bose SoundLink

Work:

  • Desktop: 21” iMac (Mid 2010)
  • Laptop: 15” Late 2012 MacBook Pro w/ Retina Display, 2.3ghz i7, 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD, Nvidia 650m GPU

I still have so much on my wishlist but am still contented by all that I have now. So whats your setup?

iPad Air Review

I had no intention of buying a new iPad when Apple announced it  in October. Having been an owner of both the iPad 2 and the new iPad (3rd Gen), I had almost given up on the idea that tablets were for me. The iPad 3 was especially heavy and I could never get truly comfortable with its size. I had relegated my iPad over to my wife to use as her primary and only home computer and hadn’t really looked back. I was perfectly fine working from my 15” Retina MacBook Pro and iPhone 5s and was more set on purchasing an iPad Mini if I were be in the tablet market again. I was pretty confident that my Apple habit had been subdued for the rest of the year. However on launch day, I decided to tempt the devil and go check one out with no intention of purchasing but that didn’t last long. I bought it as soon as I laid my hands on it. 

The iPad Air is everything a good tablet should be: powerful, thin, light and ergonomically designed to perfectly fit in your hand. The iPad Air checked all those boxes and more and I knew from the moment I held it, I wouldn’t be able to stop my self from buying it. Immediately upon picking it up you almost second guess that its a fully functioning machine as its light enough to feel like a plastic dummy unit. Yet at the same time, it felt remarkably well built, rigid and high quality. As Apple nerds, this is what we demand and also expect from Apple and with the Air, they delivered it on all angles. Waking the device your presented with the same beautiful hi res vibrant display we’ve come to know from the iPad 3 & 4, only this time around, it feels as if the pixels are closer to the screen. So its as if your touching the webpage or app, rather than a digitizer on top of it. In terms of design, Apple nailed it and I can’t really think of any complaints when it comes to industrial design. Its everything a tablet should be. 

Hardware  is only part of the story though. The iPad Air ships with Apple’s newly renovated iOS 7 and it performs admirably on the  Air’s dual core A7 chip. I’ve yet to find a single place where iOS lags or hiccups on the Air, which is a breath of fresh Air (no pun intended) from my iPad 3 which never felt its speedy self when I installed iOS7. Its clear to me now that Apple has finally developed a CPU/GPU combo good enough to push all those pixels on the iPad’s 9.7”  Retina display. iOS 7 is very animation heavy and the Air manages to push through them with relative ease. Overall, I couldn’t ask for a tablet with better performance and software stability.

Just like good hardware design is nothing without good Software and performance, good performance is nothing with out longevity. And the iPad Air is full of longevity. It literally just keeps going and going and going. I seriously don’t think I could exhaust its battery in one day if I tried. I’ve had the Air for 2 weeks to the day and I think I’ve had it on the charger 3 times, maybe 4 at most. Its ultra convenient to consume media on the iPad or play a game at night before bed and not consciously have to reach for the charger so you can use it again in the morning. Apple says you get around 10 hours of usage I’d venture to say its far longer in normal use. The iPad is a charge once a week kinda device and that itself is revolutionary. 

The original iPad was a revolutionary device and since then Apple has been hitting the nail of continuous refinement and its reached near perfection. Apple took an unusual step back with the iPad 3 and 4 to really push screen technology but now, after some refinement has been able to make a considerable step forward without scarificing screen quality, portability or performance. This is the iPad to buy and it should be on everyones Christmas list. 

Bye Bye Android. Hello iPhone

I was an Android user since October 22nd 2009 and as of April 12th 2013, this all changed. Apple has slowly worked its way into my life, to the point where now nearly every gadget I own is Apple branded. I love it, but I didn’t always feel this way. I was a Windows using, Apple hating, Android Fanboy and I was proud of it.But it all changed when I took a job in Graphic design and began using a Mac and bought a used white Macbook for my personal use to get familiar with OS X. I fell In love and soon after bought a brand new Macbook Pro and later after that, sold my Android tablet and purchased an iPad. There was just one more piece of the Apple puzzle I was missing….the iPhone.

This all changed when T-Mobile finally announced they would begin selling it. I love T-Mobile’s service in Cincinnati and couldn’t leave it and also found myself pretty aligned with the Android ecosystem and operating system. For almost 5 years, I resisted the urge of iPhone and purchased well over 15 Android devices, on my search for the perfect one. As it turns out, the perfect device was the one I never considered: The iPhone 5. 

I’ve been using it for about a week now and many rabid Android fanboys told me I’d be back to my Nexus 4 in a week. But thats just not the case, in Fact, Just 2 days after owning the iPhone, I sold my Nexus 4 and my wife’s Galaxy Nexus in one fell swoop. I was  sad that I was selling an Android device with out replacing it with a newer device like I did so many times in the last 5 years.  I’m not sad because I’ll miss the greatness of Android but rather just because I believed in the platform far longer than a lot of people did. I remember trying to convince everyone that the T-Mobile G1 wasn’t ugly and that Android was functionally better than iOS, but looking back, the iPhone 3G was a far superior device.

So what made me change? Well its not about what Android lacks but rather what iOS has gained that really pushed me towards the platform. It doesn’t hurt that I use a Mac at both home and work and my wife uses an iPad as her only computing device (outside of iPhone). iOS has always been more appealing to my eyes than Android and while Android has continually gotten faster and smoother over time, it still lacks the polish of iOS. 3 or 4 years ago, I couldn’t even consider the iPhone. The Notification system was horrible. The Gmail experience was sub par. The maps app lacked turn by turn and early on it lacked any type of copy and paste. Fast forward to 2013 and Apple has implemented all of these key elements to its iOS feature set.

I believe iOS and Android are very much on par feature wise. There is very little you can’t do on either platform. So when 2 competing platforms reach feature maturity, the choice is now between execution and ecosystem. In terms of ecosystem, Android is still trailing behind iOS even though it has more overall sales. Developers still target iOS first and not only that, but they seem to make their apps more beautiful and reliable on iOS (a huge benefit of high competition and a curated app store). Also in terms of 3rd party hardware, because Apple makes just 1 phone a year, the iPhone has much larger selection of cases and accessories  than any single Android phone. Stats show that while Android leads in terms of sales, iOS leads in usage and iOS are more likely to spend money on apps than Android users. For those reasons alone, iOS will remain the top choice of developers.

But most of all, choosing iPhone and iOS over Android has been made easy because of the other technology I use thats not a phone. Things like Photo Stream and Airplay, are all huge benefits of going with the iPhone because I already owns Mac’s and Apple TVs. So its not always about the phone itself, but rather how it works with world around you. And with that said, I still am very much a Google products user. I use Gmail exclusively (minus work mail) and Google holds all my contacts and calendar events as well as my photos and important files. But the thing is, with iPhone, I get the benefits of an All Apple ecosystem AND I still get the software benefits of being a Gmail user. Sure I miss Google Now but Siri has been just fine. And while the Gmail App is not as good on iOS, I happen to love managing my mail with Mailbox now. And Google Maps for iOS is very much feature complete and I have no complaints. 

iOS gives me the power of google services and the beauty, simplicity and cohesiveness of Apple hardware. So good bye Android… it was fun while it lasted, but its me not you. :) 

Mini-Review: Samsung 840 500GB SSD

Looking for the best way to speed up your Mac? Its pretty hard to  argue that an SSD (Solid State Drive) isn’t the best option for doing so. The former problem however, was that SSD’s were very expensive. Lucky for consumers though, SSD prices have began to drop significantly in that past year. Normally an SSD would cost over a dollar per GB  where as now prices have become much more affordable, with 50-80 cents per GB being the norm. With prices like this, its a very easy decision to make the leap to an SSD. I recently have installed a new Samsung SSD drive in my 2011 MacBook Pro and I will discuss my thoughts on it below. But first here is a brief history on my experiences with Solid State Drives.

History With SSDs

Usually I am a technology early adopter and tend to and be on the cutting edge with the latest technology trends. However with SSDs, I opted to wait for a while for the technology to mature and the price to drop. I tend to like to have at very least 250GB of storage on my laptop since it is my primary and only home computer. So before getting an SSD, I opted for a Seagate Momentus XT 500GB hybrid hard drive to install in my MacBook Pro. The Momentus XT is a standard 7200RPM drive with an onboard 4GB SSD built in. The drive would learn your favorite apps and would cache them as well as the boot files, onto the SSD. This would allow my system to boot in 20-30 seconds and nearly all of my apps in my dock to launch instantly. For a long while, the Momentus XT served me well but I always knew it was just a stop gap before purchasing my first SSD. 8 months ago, I stumbled into a local electronics store and found crucial M4 256GB SSDs at a very very affordable price and I bit the bullet. The Crucial M4 sold me on SSD’s. It was fast, reliable and affordable. However, I began to out grow its 256GB capacity as I wanted to have all my files installed plus work apps and then a bootcamp partition to check out Windows 8. After a bad experience with a Crucial M4 512Gb (it failed after 3 days) I was lead to a very affordable Samsung 840 500Gb drive.

The Samsung 840 SSD

Samsung released 2 drives in 2012. The samsung 840 Pro and the Samsung 840. The main difference between the 2 is that, like the Samsung 830 predecessor, the 840 pro used the traditional MLC NAND where as the Samsung 840 uses the more affordable but harder to produce in mass quality, TLC NAND. I choose the 840 because its much more affordable than the 840 Pro and offers the same Read speeds (the speed you feel the most). TLC NAND does have its drawbacks however, as its expected life span is much shorter than MLC NAND and the SSD write speeds are not near as good as MLC  based SSD’s. 

Why I chose the Samsung 840 SSD 

Typically I always want the best even if it means spending a bit more. However in the case of the 840 vs the 840 Pro, the more affordable 840 seemed to meet my needs much more.  Sure the life expectancy is much shorter however, I dont plan on keeping any piece of technology more than 5 years let alone the 11 years the drive is expected to last under normal use. And while, the write speeds are not as good as the Samsung 840 Pro, I typically look more towards the read speeds as they are the most notable. They are speeds that make my apps launch instantly or my system boot in under 10 seconds. Finally, my biggest reason for choosing the 840 was because it was a Samsung drive and its known for its reliability and having such a bad experience with my last drive, it meant a lot. To add to that, my new Samsung 840 was a pure upgrade in performance to my former drive and also around the same price.

Real Life Performance:

System boot time: 8 seconds

PhotoShop launch: 2 seconds

iTunes 11 launch: 1 second

SSD Benchmark results:

Read: 517mbps 

Write: 323mbps

Conclusion


The Samsung 840 500GB SSD is a great purchase. Its the best way to speed up your new Mac or bring an old one into the future. Its been reliable and hiccup free and has yet to show any sign of failing. Performance is much better than the Crucial M4 and a lot of other drives. On top of that, Samsung Solid State Drives have proven to be the most reliability and subsequently, the go to choose for Apple’s own SSD’s.

Specs of Mac tested on: 

13” MacBook Pro (Early 2011)

2.3Ghz Core i5 CPU

16GB of Crucial DDR3 1333mhz Ram

500GB Samsung 840 SSD

HD3000 GPU w/ 512MB of Vram


OS X Mountain Lion Mini Review

                        ML

Its summer time. The perfect season for beaches, sun burns and fun but for us Mac geeks, its time for a major upgrade to our favorite cat themed operating system. This year its OS X Mountain Lion (or 10.8 to be technical) and it brings a host of new features to carrying us through the next year. Naturally I downloaded and installed the OS the moment the download link was live in the Mac App Store. After over a week of usage, here are my thoughts.

Installation

In the old days of major OS upgrades it required a trip to your local electronics store to purchase a boxed copy of your OS of choice. The future however has brought us faster internet connections and online app stores, which make way for easy to do, nowhere to drive and even cheap OS installation options. Mountain Lion was just that as I loaded up the Mac App store, bought Mountain Lion and within an hour and a half, I was ready to begin the install. My current Mac is an Early 2011 13” MacBook Pro Core i5 based system with 8GB of Ram and a newly installed 256Gb Crucial M4 SSD and is well above the required specs for Mountain Lion. All in all my Mac was able to install Mountain Lion in less that 40 minutes however I can’t be sure because I didn’t keep track. It was an extremely smooth and hiccup free process. And the $20 price tag kept me from feeling any wallet burn.

Read More

Apple TV Vs Logitech Revue Vs Boxee Box

On release day I woke up at 5am to stand in line for the New iPad at my local Best Buy. I had no intention of buying an Apple TV. That being said, with intention to only buy a 32GB Wifi iPad, I ended up walking out with not only the iPad but with an Apple Dock, Bose SoundLink and of course, the new Apple TV.

I have 2 TV’s in my house. A 46” Samsung LED HDTV powered by a Boxee Box (and 1TB drive connected for local files) and a PS3 and 23” HDTV in my bedroom powered by my Logitech Revue. The Bedroom needed an upgrade so thats where my Apple TV went. Being as I now own 3 of the major TV media streamers, I thought I’d post my thoughts on how they compare to each other.

Apple TV vs Logitech Revue

My media weekspot is my bedroom. Google Sent me the Logitech Revue as a registered developer when it was released for free. Free is great! However its performance is not. The Google TV had me excited when I heard of its promises and when Honeycomb finally made its way to the Revue, I had high Hopes for it. I was wrong.

Performance:

The Revue struggles to stream Netflix with out stopping to buffer every 5 minutes. IF I had a slow internet connection, I could understand the buffering however I have a 30mbps down and 10mbps upload connection  being pushed by the most consistent router I’ve ever owned, the Apple Airport Extreme. The Revue was such a bad performer that it did more collecting of dust  than media streaming. On paper the Revue out features the Apple TV however performance is everything on a media platform and no one wants lag when trying to enjoy a good movie. The UI was also a bit too laggy for my tastes. Everything launches a few seconds slower than what it should. Its painful to navigate. While I do like that the Revue has local content support, I never had great performance from any file format. It was a mixed bag from file to file. Again Not Ideal.

The Apple TV on the other hand has been great. I’ve yet to have any Netflix woes and it streams files from my MacBook Pro with out a hiccup. The UI is fast, though could be faster. It lacks local content via USB but it makes it up in performance.

Winner: Apple TV ( easily)

Remote/Features:

The Revue has the advantage when it comes to searching as a full size keyboard is alway easier to type on…. In theory. My issue with the revue keyboard is that I use it on the couch or in my bed and with no backlight, its tough to see and very awkward to hold while typing. Again its easier than the Apple TV for typing but its not a fun experience. As far as other features goes, the revue does have a decent selection of apps but performance really hindered the app experience. Even downloading the apps is painfully slow. Features are nothing with out good execution and Logitech/Google has failed us.

The Apple TV Remote is very simple. I love the simplicity of it but as noted above, its not a fun experience trying to type in an email address with it. Luckily the iPad remote app can really save you a lot of time. As far as other features go, the Apple TV has some default built in apps and streams YouTube and Netflix much better than the Revue. iTunes library sharing is also a genius feature and almost makes up for the lack of local content. If it were just features, then the Revue has the upper hand however the execution of the Apple TV feature set is of much higher quality.

Winner: Apple TV

Overall, the Apple TV is a great replacement for the Revue. The Revue gave me such bad Netflix performance that I rarely was able to use it. I find my self now watching more movies in bed than I did before and to think that this was only $99 as opposed to the $350 the Revue launched at, its just a great product.

Apple TV vs Boxee Box

I love Boxee and have been using the software on my Mac for a while now. So when the Boxee Box was released I was excited however waited until the bugs were ironed out before purchasing. Its the main media streamer for my house and I thought I’d stack it up against the Apple TV.

Performance:

As I noted above, Im not sure what the Boxee Box performed like when it was first released but I can report now that the BB holds its own. The UI is fairly lag free and also very beautiful. In fact, I think the Boxee UI is the best in the business. Netflix streaming is perfect and the file format support for local content is fantastic! There is not a file format I’ve thrown at it, that it doesn’t stream and do so really well. Its performance is top notch.

Winner: Boxee Box

Remote/Features:

The Boxee Box remote is the best remote I’ve ever used. It provides the best of both the Revue and the Apple TV Remote. It sports simplistic controls and yet a quick flip to the other side and your typing on a full qwerty mobile style keyboard. My only gripe would be that its not backlit which makes it harder to type in a low light movie watching situation. Feature wise the Boxee Box is unrivaled. Boxee provides the best local content experience I’ve ever seen. I have 700Gb of Movies and TV shows on the HDD connected to my BB and it recognizes all of them. Not only that but it creates a Netflix like interface of my local files and provides movie info, ratings and a status to show if I have watched it or not. Its Brilliant for that alone. Add in all the apps that Boxee supports and it becomes even better, from Netflix to Vudu to youtube to a thousand more plus a browser.

Boxee Boxe’s killer feature however is… Airplay support!

Winner: Boxee Box (By a Long Shot!)

Overall the Boxee Box is the best media streamer and platform on the market. It does everything and does it well. The Apple TV is a close second for simple UI and great performance and small footprint. I gave away the Logitech Revue because I had no use for it. I am really happy with my home media setup and think you can’t go wrong with the Apple TV or the Boxee Box

Apple TV (Gen 3) Mini Review

Apple TV

On Friday March 16th, I did something I had never done before: Stood in line for an Apple product on release day. I woke up at 5am and headed to my local Best Buy and was first in line at the Eastside Cincinnati location. I had absolutely no intention of buying an Apple TV. I came for the “New iPad” exclusively (more on that in a later post) however walked out with a 32GB Wifi iPad, Bose SoundLink speaker system, Apple Dock and of course, the brand new Apple TV.  I over did it but am happy to report a full week later that I have no buyers remorse.

I have 2 HD TV’s in my house. A 40” Samsung LED connected to a Boxee Box and PS3 in my my living and a 23” HDTV in my bedroom which had a Google TV Logitech Revue powering it. I am completely happy with my living room setup however my bedroom setup was in dire needs of an upgrade. The Logitech Revue is a piece of junk. It barely streamed Netflix and would constantly stop to buffer multiple times even on my 30mbps download connection. Google sent it to me for free so I had remorse in replacing it and since, I only planned on watching internet content in my bedroom, I decided the Apple TV would be a perfect fit. I wasn’t disappointed.

A full week later and I am completely happy with the $99 Apple TV. My Netflix woes are fixed,  content from my MacBook Pro streams  flawlessly and Airplay mirroring is genius. Setting it up is a breeze especially if you use the iPad as a remote for typing, though compared to the full keyboard of the Revue, it was much more difficult while using on the Apple remote to type. I also love its small footprint as it just blends in with the base of my bedroom TV.  IF I compare the Apple TV to the Revue, the Apple TV wins hands down however I don’t see myself replacing the Apple TV in the living with my current Boxee Box setup. Boxee Box is the best media streamer money can buy however the Apple TV also holds its own and performs extremely well. 

Pros:

  • Simple elegant space saving design
  • No stutter Netflix streaming
  • Great lag free simple UI
  • Airplay Streaming is great and will add the Mac when Mountain Lion releases
  • Shared Library features eliminates the need to local storage

Cons:

  • Remote lacks keyboard unlike Boxee Box, makes typing difficult
  • iTunes video file support is limited, movies need converted

I Love my 13” MacBook Pro

The above screenshot is of 2 Geekbench scores. On the right is scores from my co-workers 2010 15” Core i5 MacBook Pro and on the left, my Early 2011 13” MacBook Pro Core i5. These systems share the same amount of DDR3 Ram and also the same exact HDD, the Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid Drive. The difference is, The 15” MBP is running an Intel Arrandale Chip and the 13” is running Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPU’s. What a difference a year makes.

Never before has a 13” Entry Level MBP been faster than the previous years entry level 15” MBP. Not only does it match its speeds, it beats it by a good margin in almost all categories. Its insane how much the 13” MacBook Pro grew in performance. 

Who Needs an imac?

I love my 13” Macbook Pro, its a fantastic piece of machinery. But what I love most about it is its versatility. With my Core i5 8GB of Ram packing Early 2011 MacBook Pro I can run just about anything I throw at it. The best part is. I can do it on my couch, at a coffee shop or hooked into a Monitor using the above desktop setup. I can’t see any reason to buy a desktop computer like the iMac, when I have such a powerful versatile machine like the MacBook Pro. 

I think most people could save a lot of money using a setup like the one I use above instead of a Laptop/Desktop combo. My hard drive is big enough on my MBP to house all my files and I don’t have to worry about keeping it in sync with my desktop for a familiar experience. It just works and saves me time and money in the process.

My desktop setup includes:

  • Early 2011 13” MacBook Pro: 2.3Ghz Core i5 CPU, 8GB DDR3 1333mhz ram, 500Gb Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid HDD
  • HP 2311x 23” 1080P Backlit LED Monitor (connected via thunderbolt to HDMI)
  • BookArc Closed MacBook Pro Stand
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard
  • Bluetooth Numberpad (connects directly to Apple Keyboard)
  • Apple Airport Extreme Router
  • Lacie Rugged External HDD
  • 500Gb Firewire External HDD
  • Rubber Cord/cable manager
  • Google Cr-48 Chromebook
  • Canon Pixma Printer
The Crazy One: Rest In Peace

The Crazy One: Rest In Peace