Fitbit Surge Review

Review: Fitbit Surge, an iPhone-connected health & fitness tracker

For iPhone users seeking a wrist-worn fitness tracker with GPS, heart rate monitoring, and multiple-day battery life, the Fitbit Surge is a good “tweener” device — not quite a smartwatch, but much more functional than a basic wearable.

AppleInsider has been testing the Fitbit Surge for a few weeks now, using it for daily step counting, run tracking, heart rate monitoring at the gym, and even while skiing. We’re generally pleased with the performance of the device, though at $250 — just $100 less than the starting price of an Apple Watch — it seems targeted specifically at people who do not want a full-fledged smartwatch.

Fitbit has smartly taken to marketing the Surge as a “super watch,” a clever way of telling consumers that it doesn’t intend for the device to be a direct competitor to the likes of the Apple Watch or Android Wear.

Still, for a wrist-worn device, the Fitbit Surge boasts an impressive feature set. Its monochrome black-and-white display allows multiple-day battery life, yet the Surge also includes touchscreen input, putting it a step above the button-controlled Pebble.

Perhaps the strongest selling point of the Surge is the inclusion of GPS for run tracking. Like the recently released Microsoft Band, integrated GPS allows users to track their run speed without the need to have their iPhone strapped to their arm, giving these products a leg up on the Apple Watch in that respect.

But the Surge does not offer any third-party app support, and iPhone-connected smartwatch functions are limited to texts, calls and music control.

Hardware and functionality

The design of the Fitbit Surge is functional, if uninspiring. The black and white display is backlit and of adequate resolution, controlled by a responsive touchscreen that’s aided by two input buttons on the right side, and a back button on the left.

The device is attached to the wrist with a comfortable rubber band. What the Surge lacks in appearance we found was made up for in comfort, which was nice when doing activities like jogging or lifting weights.

This stands in contrast to the Microsoft Band, which we found to be clunky and uncomfortable, with an elongated display better suited for viewing from the inside of a wearer’s wrist.

Unfortunately, the Surge is water resistant, but not waterproof. That means while you can get it wet in a light rain or with sweat, you shouldn’t swim or even shower while wearing your Surge. If your workout routine involves swimming laps, look elsewhere.
Fitbit says the Surge can offer up to seven days of battery life, but we presume this is accomplished by not using GPS or disabling automatic heart rate monitoring. In our tests, with semi-regular GPS use and automatic heart rate monitoring enabled, we’d get about three days before the battery started to get low. Turning the watch off at night extended the life a day or two beyond that.

From the main screen, users can swipe left or right on the Surge’s display to view the time, daily steps, current heart rate, miles walked today, calories burned, and floors climbed.

Pressing the back button on the left side takes users to the main menu, where they can choose the default workout (which is set to “Run” out of the box), choose a different type of workout, set a silent wrist-bound alarm, and modify settings.

In the settings, the backlight controls can be set to automatic based on usage/alerts when access in the dark, or the backlight can be permanently set to on or off.

Users can also choose to set heart rate monitoring to automatic, on, or off. When heart rate monitoring is on automatic, there can be a minor delay —�for example, we got started on a stationary bike at the gym, but it took a few minutes for the Fitbit to measure our heart rate and provide us with a new average BPM.
GPS can also take a few minutes to lock on for a signal before a run, which is a flaw with GPS itself and not the Fitbit. An iPhone or other smartphones find location more quickly through cellular signal triangulation, Wi-Fi and other means, offsetting the slowness of a GPS lock.

Overall, the design of the Fitbit Surge — aesthetic preferences notwithstanding — is great. It’s comfortable, responsive and durable. Unlike the Microsoft Band, accumulated scuffs on its display very easily, we found no such scratches after weeks of use with the Surge.

iPhone connectivity

The Fitbit Surge connects to the official Fitbit app for iOS, which syncs step and fitness data to the company’s ecosystem. The step tracking and syncing works largely as expected, and users can enable automatic syncing within the app to have their steps updated without the need to launch the app.

The smartwatch functions of the Surge are limited, unfortunately. The only notifications that can be seen on the wrist, at the moment, are text messages and phone calls —�that means no third-party messaging apps, no Facebook or Twitter alerts, and no iCloud Reminders or calendar entries.

For text messages, the Surge only displays the person’s name at the top of the screen. Users can read the text — but only up to 160 characters of it — by swiping down from the top of the display.
If your hands are full, or you’re wearing gloves, and don’t swipe the screen within seven seconds, accessing text messages requires users to first press the back button to go to the menu, and then choose the top right button to select message history.

We found this to be less useful than devices like Pebble, Meta or the Microsoft Band, which automatically display texts as they are received.

These seem like issues that could be easily fixed with a software update to the Surge, and we’re hopeful Fitbit will consider making the device a little smarter and more handsfree.

One welcome inclusion the Surge does have is music control through a “Bluetooth Classic” mode. Setting up music control requires a few steps to pair the watch with the iPhone, but we never had issues reconnecting after the initial pairing.

Bringing up media controls requires simply double-pressing the left back button on the Surge. Users are then shown the artist and title of the currently playing track, and the top right button is a skip forward control, while the bottom right button handles play/pause duties.

We found ourselves really enjoying the music control functions of the Surge, particularly the ease with which they could be accessed. Microsoft’s Band does not have music control, and some other smartwatches we have tested in the past would require multiple button presses or menu scrolling to bring up music controls.
Finally, it’s well-known that the Fitbit ecosystem does not yet integrate with Apple’s HealthKit, and may never. This is a nearsighted decision by Fibtit that we hope the company will change its stance on soon.

The Fitbit ecosystem (and why just one device is a mistake)

As a longtime Fitbit user, I feel compelled to question the company’s policy that only one step tracking device can be used at a time for an account.

While the Surge is fine to wear at the gym, it’s not the greatest looking watch we’ve ever seen, and users might be inclined to use a more discreet device, like the company’s pocketable One, for different occasions.

Fitbit also allows users to utilize the step counting capabilities of recent iPhones to track their daily progress. This would be another ideal option for certain situations.

Unfortunately, because Fitbit only allows one hardware device to be connected to an account at a time, it’s just not possible. If you want to change your Fitbit device, all of the steps counted by the previous device for that day are erased, making regular switching a no-go.
Simply put, there is no way to seamlessly switch between wearable devices in the Fitbit ecosystem. This is a mistake for consumers who might want options, and frankly it’s also a mistake for Fitbit, which could sell more hardware.

As wearable devices mature, companies like Fitbit will need to take a hint from the fashion industry, as Apple had done with its forthcoming Watch. One wearable device simply cannot be appropriate for all occasions, and if Fitbit wants to stay relevant, it should offer more flexibility.

Conclusion

If it seems like we’ve spent a lot of time comparing the Fitbit Surge to the Microsoft Band, it’s because both devices occupy the “tweener” role of wearables that aren’t quite full-fledged enough to become a modern smartwatch like the Apple Watch. Both also include integrated GPS and heart rate monitoring, along with the usual step tracking.

Microsoft’s Band is $50 less, and it offers more features like a UV sensor, notifications from third-party iPhone applications, RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal integration, a color touchscreen, and guided workouts.

The Fitbit Surge is more comfortable than the Microsoft Band, it gets much longer battery life, it can control your iPhone’s music, and it integrates with the popular Fitbit ecosystem. Is it worth the extra $50 over the Band? For the comfort and battery life alone we’d say yes, though we’d like to see more smartwatch functions (such as notifications from more apps) added in future software updates.

As with the Band, the key feature that gives the Surge a leg-up on the forthcoming Apple Watch is the inclusion of GPS, allowing users to go for a run without their iPhone strapped to their arm or otherwise. If this appeals to you, the Fitbit Surge is a respectable choice.

But if you’re considering the Apple Watch, or any other more fully featured smartwatch with apps, customization and a variety of uses, look elsewhere. The novelty of text messages and calls on your wrist simply pales in comparison to what modern smartwatches are capable of.

Viewed in the light that Fitbit intends — as a fitness-focused wearable — the Surge can be considered a success. Just don’t call it a smartwatch.

Conferring with the iPad-Confer

The current push for the workshop model in the classroom is hefty.  What goes right along with the workshop model is the process of conferring with each kiddo on a regular basis.  The process of conferring includes discussing the child’s current book and speak about what thinking strategies they are currently struggling and excelling in.

An app for iOs that has popped up time and time again is the Confer app.

From what I have experienced from the lite version, this app is worth its weight in gold and I look forward to putting the Full version through its paces as soon as I can afford it!  HA!

iPad Air 2

I have been using iPads since the second generation was released.  I have found in my Apple opinion, purchasing the second generation or later of any of their products is truly the best practice.  I stuck with the iPad 2 until this year when I purchased the iPad Air 2.  Which I love! Going from the 2 up to the Air 2 was like night and day when it came to functionality, speed, weight and security.  The Retina Display is gorgeous. The speed bump is ridiculous. The weight is so noticeable that you would not even think you are using the same machine. Finally the finger scanner is not without its flaws, but the ease at which one can unlock the device without a passcode is wonderful.

I use the iPad everyday in class. I complete my daily lesson plans on it using the planbook.com app and website. I use Splashtop to easily access my Smartboard and desktop computer without having to be in my classroom.  Accessing the districts web-based grade-book and attendance is flawless.

I count on my iPad each day I enter the class and would recommend it to any educator who wants to streamline their classrooms and life.

P21 Website Review and Reaction

In this post I will review the Partnership for 21st Century Skills site.

P21 Mission Statement 

To serve as a catalyst to position 21st century readiness at the center of US K12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders.

http://www.p21.org/index.php

  • Your reaction to the website

I found this website to be a great place to find out what other educators and professionals are implementing and doing when it comes to preparing todays youth for the 21st Century in terms of jobs and skills.  I really like how the site was laid out and how simple it was to navigate and locate any topic I was interested in researching.

  • Information on the site that surprised you or helped you develop a new understanding of the issues surrounding 21st-century skills

This portion below,from the Mission Statement included on the site, is something I will use as a template and comparison chart for how I will conduct my won classroom form here on out.

Twenty-First Century Children 

Every child in the U.S. needs 21st century knowledge and skills to succeed as effective citizens, workers and leaders. This can be accomplished by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs. 

There is a profound gap between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need in typical 21st century communities and workplaces.

To successfully face rigorous higher education coursework, career challenges and a globally competitive workforce, U.S. schools must align classroom environments with real world environments by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs:

  • The 3Rs include: English, reading or language arts; mathematics; science; foreign languages; civics; government; economics; arts; history; and geography.
  • The 4Cs include: critical thinking and problem solving; communication, collaboration; and creativity and innovation. 

As the 3Rs serve as an umbrella for other subjects and core content, the 4Cs are a shorthand for all the skills needed for success in college, career, and life.

  • Information or opinions on the site that you disagree with along with an explanation of why you disagree

One concern I have for this site is the choice of some of the sponsors it has approved.  No one particular sticks out, but I am often leery of certain corporations who choose to partner with this type of movement.  In my experience, some corporations only see things, education related, as a way to further their bottom line and help foster a society where only their ideals are seen as important.  Essentially they only become a partner to help themselves be seen as supporting education, where in reality they could care less about what is happening in todays educational realm.

  • The implications for your students and for you as a contemporary educator

The ability to access this site and use their findings and resources to better educate my class and prepare them for their future is an essential tool in my teacher toolbox.  My ability to adjust how I teach and the content I include will make me a better teacher and enable my students to get all they can from their 4th grade year!

Splashtop 2

Review: Splashtop 2 a free, innovative remote desktop Mac/iOS app

PRODUCTS REVIEWED

Josh Centers@jcenters
The iPad and iPhone are powerful devices, but they can’t do it all yet. We still rely on traditional computers for a number of tasks, especially gaming and Flash videos. Splashtop 2 (iPad App Store link, iPhone App Store link, Mac App Storelink) is a remote desktop app that promises to fill that gap, bringing the full capabilities of Macs and PCs to mobile devices. While there are numerous ways to access your computer from anywhere, such as VNC, LogMeIn Ignition, andGoToMyPC, Splashtop 2 is unique in that it emphasizes multimedia, and is capable of streaming audio as well as video. Even more interesting, it’s currently free for home use, with in-app purchases for additional functionality.

To begin, download the Splashtop Streamer for the computer(s) you would like to access. It’s available for the Mac, Windows, and Linux. Once installed, you need to create a login for the Splashtop service. While the original Splashtop required a Google account for remote access, Splashtop 2 now has its own login system.

This is where I discovered my first major problem with Splashtop Streamer: it won’t let you paste a password—a pain if you use a password management app, like the great 1Password. (At least you don’t have to reenter the password once Streamer is set up, but that itself is a potential security issue.) Splashtop support told me that this was disabled “in Splashtop 2 for security reasons.” Well, I’d like to be able to copy and paste my secure password, for security reasons. Fortunately, you can also create an optional 8- to 20-character security code that is required every time you remotely access your computer. You can’t paste that code in either, but at least it’s another layer of protection.

CPU Spike: The Splashtop Streamer tends to keep your CPU busy.

Once set up, Streamer stays in your menu bar and out of your way. However, you’re not going to want to run it all the time, as it has a habit of choking the CPU. On my MacBook Pro, with no clients connected to Streamer, I noticed my computer slowing down, and Activity Monitor reported that 98 percent of my CPU activity was dedicated to Stream. I restarted Streamer, but it did the same thing a couple of days later, using 91 percent of my CPU. Splashtop has told me that Streamer is being reworked and a new, improved version will enter private testing soon.

iOS clients

Fortunately, the iOS clients are better behaved. The iPhone and iPad apps are virtually identical, except the iPad has one extra feature, which we’ll discuss momentarily. By default, you control the linked computer through touch, which works better than you might think. At times though, working a Mac like a touchscreen becomes tedious, but fortunately, there’s a Trackpad Mode that lets you drag across the screen to move the cursor.

Fingers: Splashtop’s gestures make the Mac useable on the iPad.

Splashtop offers a premium option that allows greater control, but it’s only available for iPad users, called Configureable Shortcuts and Gamepad, which costs $1 a month or $10 a year. This feature does just what it says, allowing you to create on-screen shortcuts and gamepads. You can also create profiles for different applications. For example, there is a built-in OS X profile with controls to hide or unhide the dock, switch apps, and more. You can create your own shortcuts for any key combination you wish. Combine this with a macro app likeKeyboard Maestro, and the possibilities are endless. It’s too bad that this feature isn’t available on the iPhone, especially since it costs a monthly fee.

One of Splashtop 2’s built-in profiles is for Diablo, so I fired up Diablo 3 on my MacBook Pro and laid down on the couch with the Splashtop app on my iPad. The controls worked better than I had expected, but unfortunately, the frame rate was too choppy to make for a good experience, even when I switched the display rendering from Sharp to Smooth. Regardless of which rendering method I enabled, the gameplay was choppy and the display blurry.

Even if the framerate had been smooth, there were lingering display issues. When first loading Diablo 3, part of the display was shifted off the screen. After some fiddling, I resolved that issue, but when I quit the game, something went wrong with the Streamer, squishing my computer’s display when viewing it on the iPad client.

Gaming is one of Splashtop’s intended purposes, but I don’t recommend it. There are few PC or Mac games that don’t have an existing iOS port that would work well with a touchscreen. The few I can think of, like Diablo 3, are too demanding to stream over Wi-Fi from your Mac to your iPad.

Splashtop 2 And Diablo 3: Accessing the game on my Mac via an iPad. Not quite what I was hoping for.

Video is another matter. I found that Flash video stream on Splashtop was flawlessly transmitted, both audio and video.

For regular desktop operations, Splashtop performs admirably. It features a full on-screen keyboard, as well as on-screen arrow keys that can be toggled on and off. You can even scroll inside a window with two fingers on the screen.

If you want to access your computer on the go, you’ll have to subscribe to the Anywhere Access Pack, which costs $2 a month or $17 per year. For the price, you’ll be able to access any of your Splashtop-enabled computers from any network, protected by SSL-AES 256-bit encryption.

Bottom line

Even in its second iteration, Splashtop has a number of issues, including mediocre performance and questionable support. But it’s hard to argue with the low price of free. If you need only occasional remote access while around the house, Splashtop isn’t a bad app to keep around. However, if you require professional-grade access, you might want to look at the aforementioned LogMeIn Ignition or GoToMyPC.

How to run your business in Evernote

How to run your business in Evernote

Evernote isn’t a revolution. Like most of the technology products we tend to use regularly in our daily lives, Evernote is an evolution, a collection of good ideas that rolls into a single program the functionality of a half-dozen apps you would otherwise use separately.

Evernote was designed for individuals, but businesses have been adopting it in increasing numbers, finding unique ways to put it to use. Evernote itself has taken notice of this, and later this year it will be launching Evernote for Business, which could elevate Evernote’s business utility even further.

Meanwhile, if you’re new to Evernote, or are just dipping your toes into it, here’s how to put the little app that could to its best use.

Evernote’s desktop app syncs with its mobile and browser counterparts.
Get started with Evernote
Evernote is a hybrid system of offline and cloud-based features. You’ll need to create an account when you first download Evernote; you can then install the software just about anywhere. In fact, the more places you install it, the more useful it becomes. Evernote is available for the Mac and Windows and all mobile platforms, so no matter how multi-platform you are when you work, there’s nothing keeping you from running Evernote on every device.

Evernote’s core functionality is in storing your notes and keeping them organized and synchronized, in real time, among all your devices. It pays to understand a bit about Evernote’s terminology, which isn’t always intuitive, before you start filling the app up with content.

In Evernote terms, every page you create is its own Note. Notes are most useful when organized into various Notebooks, essentially a folder full of notes. Setting up notebooks tends to be easier on a computer than in a mobile app, so it’s a good idea to configure your notebooks ahead of time on a PC, even if you leave them empty to start. A group of notebooks is a Stack. Just drag one notebook to another to automatically create a stack. (Right-click to rename it.)

For example, if you used Evernote to keep an archive of payroll, each paycheck would be a note, each employee would be a notebook, and various classes of employees (full-time, part-time, contractor) might be a stack.

Add tags by clicking the appropriate box above the note itself.
Add content
When you create a note, you can give it multiple Tags, by clicking the “Click to add tag” button in Windows or the Info button (an i in a circle) in the mobile app. Tags are especially useful when you’re embedding nontext content, since everything in Evernote is searchable. They’re most useful when you have common but more general terms that you might want to search across all of your notebooks: “2012 taxes,” “personal,” or “urgent,” for example. Adding content from within the mobile app may be less intuitive than it should be to new users. To create a note on the go, navigate to the notebook you want to work in, then click the oversized plus-sign (+) button at the bottom of the screen.

Speaking of adding content, one of Evernote’s major features is that you can add all types of content to the archive, not just text. The program supports PDFs, images, audio recordings, sketches (with the Skitch plug-in), webpages (with the Web Clipper browser plug-in), and more. Evernote has a rich plug-in ecosystem, which you can explore on the Evernote homepage if you want to delve even further into special types of content.

Share content
Finally, we come to Evernote’s marquee feature: Sharing. Everything you create in Evernote is automatically shared with your various installations of the software unless you specify otherwise when creating a notebook. (Note that you can’t change this behavior later.) By default Evernote synchronizes all installations of the software every 30 minutes; or, you can press F9 to initiate a manual sync.

You can also share content with other Evernote users. The easiest way to do this is to right-click a notebook and select Share Notebook. You’ll be prompted to enter email addresses or to create a public link to the notebook that is accessible via the Web. After accepting the invitation, the recipient will find the shared notebook under the Shared tab on the left-hand navigation pane in Evernote. Note: To share notebooks with full read/write access, the owner of the notebook must be a Premium user ($5 a month), which comes with additional features like extra content and the ability to make text within PDFs searchable. Otherwise, notebooks are shared as read-only.

Now that you’ve got a handle on the basics, it’s time to put your new Evernote skills to better use. Here are some ways that small business owners are elevating Evernote beyond the obvious.

Combine text and audio recordings into a single note.
Upgrade your note-taking
At its core Evernote is a juiced-up note-taking system, but you can get more out of it if you make use of the software’s multimedia capabilities. Joey Price, CEO of Jumpstart:HR, says, “I record the audio of client meetings while jotting down notes in real time. We manage a lot of different clients, and sometimes taking notes in shorthand isn’t enough. Being able to replay the audio back once I’ve left helps me re-immerse in my thought process and generate new ideas to help our clients.”

iPad mini Review

iPad mini review

By posted Oct 30th 2012 9:00PM

DNP iPad mini review

The iPad mini has been rumored for nearly as long as the original iPad has existed, but it wasn’t clear early on how many of those rumors were based on fact and how many were based on hope. Hope, that was, for a smaller, more portable tablet that would bring access to all the Apple ecosystem had to offer, in a package you could easily hold in one hand. Specifically, a package more affordable than the 10-incher.

That’s this, the 7.9-inch, $329 iPad mini that sports a screen with the same resolution as the iPad 2 — only smaller. As we put this one through its paces it quickly became clear that this is far more than a cheaper, smaller iPad. This is a thinner, lighter device that deserves independent consideration. In many ways, it’s actually better than the 10-inch slate from which it was born. But is it better for you? Join us after the break as we find out.

 

Hardware

The iPad mini looks a lot more like a blown-up iPod touch than a shrunken-down fourth-generation iPad.

Apple wanted to be very clear at its product-packed iPad mini launch event that this isn’t just a shrunken-down iPad. And, indeed, that starts with a very different case design. While the second, third and fourth generations of iPads have all been more or less indistinguishable, the iPad mini’s anodized aluminum back looks entirely different. In fact, the whole thing looks a lot more like a blown-up fifth-generation iPod touch than a shrunken-down fourth-generation iPad.

The profile itself is more rounded than the full-size iPad, lacking the sharp taper at the edges. This, we presume, gives a little more room for the battery inside, but it also makes this a more comfortable slate to carry around. The edges on the 10-inch iPad can cut into your hand if you’re the sort who carries yours wherever you go. Not so with the mini.

DNP iPad mini review

Of course, that’s helped greatly by the decrease in weight here. The WiFi-only iPad mini weighs just 0.68 pounds (308 grams), which is less than half the weight of the fourth-generation iPad. It’s far thinner, too, at 7.2mm (vs. 9.4) and measures 7.87 x 5.3 inches (200 x 135mm) on the other dimensions. Inside that plane is a 7.9-inch, 1,024 x 768 IPS LCD which has significantly smaller bezels than those found in other iPads. It’s thanks to those bezels that a display this size can be housed in a slate this size, but still that 5.3-inch horizontal span may be a bit of a problem for some.

The joy of a 7-inch tablet is walking across the office or the airport, holding the slate in one hand while tapping away at it with the other.

To us, the joy of a 7-inch tablet is walking across the office or the airport, holding the slate in one hand while tapping away at it with the other. The Nexus 7, with its 16:9 aspect ratio, is relatively narrow and easy to carry securely one-handed — even by those whose mittens are size S. With the iPad mini, holding the slate in the same way can be a bit of a reach. This editor, who wears XL gloves, had no problem palming the littler iPad, but when we handed it to other, dainty-fingered people they sometimes struggled to hold it securely.

The scrawny bezels on either side actually exacerbate this issue to some degree, as those who must loop a thumb around the front of the device when holding it are forced to put that thumb right on the display. Thankfully, every app we tried handled this situation without issue, Kindle and iBooks turning pages and acting normally even with that stray opposable member making square contact on the digitizer.

 

Overall, the tablet is very comfortable to hold; its thinness and lightness are both attributes that must be perceived first-hand. That 7.2mm depth is exactly the same as the fourth-generation iPod touch, which even today is an impressively svelte device. We reviewed the black model, which features a dark bezel and anodized back to match. It’s cool and matte to the touch, which we find very appealing, but time will tell just how durable this black version will prove. Those who are scratch-averse may want to think about the white and silver variety, which will likely hide those markings a bit better.

The layout of the buttons is familiar, but different. The volume rocker and orientation lock switches are on the upper portion of the right side, but here up and down are distinct buttons, not like the integrated rocker on the full-size iPad. It’s also not like the three-way rocker found on the latest iPod nano, which features an integrated play/pause button. That’s a bit unfortunate, as we’d like to see that find its way across the product line, but perhaps it will in future revisions. (Yes, we’re expecting more.)

The power button is up top, looking and feeling very much like those on older iPads. There’s a small slit for a microphone up there as well, and on the other side, the 3.5mm headphone jack, which bucks the trend of bottom-placement found on nearly every other Apple mobile device. On the left side of the device nothing, and on the bottom is where the Lightning connector lives. Like the iPhone 5, that connector is flanked by two sets of two rows of holes, drilled to let the device’s sound out. It’s reasonably loud and, since it’s on the bottom not the back, the sound is closer to traveling in the right direction to meet your ears, but it’s still a less than ideal listening experience. You’ll want a set of headphones — which, as with other iPads, are not included.

 

The only other button is on the front, a smaller version of the same Home button found on the iPad. Curiously, it’s even smaller than the button on the iPhone, making it very petite indeed. Around back, there’s just one detail to concern yourself with: the lens assembly for the 5-megapixel iSight camera stuffed in the upper-left. That’s paired with a 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD center-cut in the bezel atop the LCD.

Display

DNP iPad mini review

Mini owners may have to make do with some resolution envy, but they at least won’t be lacking in any other regard.

No, this isn’t Retina, but maintaining the same resolution as a 10-inch display shrunken down to 7.9 means a necessary boost in pixel density: 163ppi. That’s a nice increase over the iPad 2’s 132ppi, but it still falls short of the 264ppi of the fourth-generation iPad — not to mention, the iPhone 5’s 326dpi. Naturally, this means that text isn’t anywhere near as sharp as on the newer iPads, but this is still a very nice-looking display.

In fact we found the brightness and color reproduction to be improved over the iPad 2, comparable to the latest Retina displays. Colors are very pleasing to the eye and viewing angles, as ever with an Apple display, do not disappoint. You can line up as many friends as you like and sit them shoulder-to-shoulder, they’ll all have a bright, clear picture. Yes, mini owners may have to make do with some resolution envy, but they at least won’t be lacking in any other regard.

Performance and battery life

DNP iPad mini review

The iPad mini is running a dual-core 1GHz CPU with 512MB of RAM, same as in the iPad 2 and as such it throws down the same benchmark scores and overall performance figures. Geekbench averages out at 751 and GLBench shows 24fps on the 2.5 Egypt HD benchmark. The SunSpider JavaScript benchmark completes in 1,426ms.

Geekbench Results (higher is better)
Apple iPad mini 751
Apple iPad (late 2012) 1,763
Apple iPad (2012) 720
Apple iPad 2 721
Apple iPad 442
Apple iPhone 5 1,628
Apple iPhone 4S 623

These numbers pale in comparison to the new, fourth-gen iPad but we think that in day-to-day usage the relative lack of performance won’t be as noticeable. Apps do load more slowly but most are still up and running within a second or two and when it comes to general web surfing tasks the iPad mini easily kept up with our taps and swipes. So, perhaps not the greatest performance in the Apple lineup, but there is one place where it bests the rest: battery life.

Tablet Battery Life
Apple iPad mini 12:43 (WiFi)
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 12:01
Apple iPad (late 2012) 11:08 (WiFi)
Apple iPad 2 10:26
ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime 10:17
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 9:55
Apple iPad (2012) 9:52 (HSPA) /
9:37 (LTE)
Google Nexus 7 9:49
Apple iPad 9:33
Pantech Element 9:00
Motorola Xoom 2 8:57
HP TouchPad 8:33
Lenovo IdeaPad K1 8:20
Motorola Xoom 8:20
T-Mobile G-Slate 8:18
Acer Iconia Tab A200 8:16
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus 8:09
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 8:00
Archos 101 7:20
Archos 80 G9 7:06
RIM BlackBerry PlayBook 7:01
Acer Iconia Tab A500 6:55
T-Mobile Springboard (Huawei MediaPad) 6:34
Toshiba Thrive 6:25
Samsung Galaxy Tab 6:09
Motorola Xyboard 8.2 5:25

In our standard battery run-down test, which entails looping a video with WiFi enabled and a fixed display brightness, the iPad mini managed an astounding 12 hours and 43 minutes. This gives it the longest battery life of any tablet we’ve ever tested, besting even the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 by 42 minutes. Indeed during the course of our testing the battery on the iPad mini exceeded our expectations, expectations that were already high thanks to the consistently great battery life offered by the iPad family.

Cameras

The iPad 2 never saw HDR nor the Panorama mode that wowed us so on the iPhone 5, and neither does the iPad mini. It does, however, have a better camera than the iPad 2, a 5-megapixel shooter with an f/2.4 lens, and a 1.2-megapixel Facetime HD camera up front. The one ’round back appears to be the same camera module used on the iPhone 4 and as such, it takes good quality images. No, they don’t quite pop like the 8-megapixel shooter on the iPhone 5, nor does this tablet manage low-light shooting as well as Apple’s latest round of CPUs, but in our opinion tablets should only be used to take pictures in a pinch, and as such the iPad mini does just fine.

It also takes reasonably good video, shooting at 1080p like all the latest Apple devices. But again, the combination of a lower-res sensor and the lack of a newer image processing chip means image stabilization isn’t nearly as good here as on the iPhone 5. So, you’ll want to hold steady while shooting, but remember to do so in a place with enough ambient light; do that and you’ll get yourself some quality footage.

 

The competition

DNP iPad mini review

You can’t tally up any iPad’s chances in the market without comparing it against all the other iPads in the market, and so we’ll start by comparing the mini to its siblings, of which there are two at present. First is the iPad 2, available only in 16GB sizes either WiFi-only or a 3G model, each priced $70 more than the same-sized mini. For that $70 more you get a bigger screen and lower-resolution cameras front and back. For us, this is a no-brainer. Get the mini. Unless you suffer from ailing eyesight and need a larger portal into the iOS world, the smaller device is far and away the better one.

The choice between this and the new fourth-generation iPad is a bit more challenging. It’s a considerably more expensive device, starting at $499, and of course a bigger and heavier one, too. Still, battery life on that guy is impressively good (over 11 hours) and the performance is stellar — living up to and exceeding Apple’s “2x faster” claims. Still, speed isn’t everything and while we love that big, Retina display we’re not entirely sure that we prefer it to the tiny, lightweight form factor of the mini. In fact, we found ourselves enjoying the portability of the mini so much that we’d probably give that one the nod, but this decision will almost certainly come down to personal preference. So, if you can, head to an Apple Store and try out both.

Moving outside of the ecosystem, most people are comparing the iPad mini to the Nexus 7. To some degree that’s a natural comparison, as this is Apple’s cheapest tablet compared to Google’s low-cost device. In practice, these are very different devices, starting with the cost: $199 for a 16GB Nexus 7 vs. $329 for the iPad. The designs are strikingly different, too, with the Nexus having a high-quality but somewhat discount feel versus the overwhelmingly high-end iPad mini. In no way does Apple’s latest feel like a tablet that was made to a budget. It simply feels like an Apple device.

 

And, of course, it gives access to Apple’s ecosystem of hundreds of thousands of tablet-friendly apps — plus all the media iTunes has to offer. We can’t help you decide which ecosystem, Apple or Google’s, is better-suited to your interests, but we do imagine that will be the deciding factor for most. When it comes down to hardware, it’s almost no contest between the two, with the iPad mini clearly winning out — except in one area. That’s the display. The Nexus 7 has a higher-resolution panel that’s also 16:9, making it better for movie watching. It’s also narrower, and thus easier to hold in your hand.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t at least mention the $199 Kindle Fire HD. Amazon’s latest also offers a higher-resolution, IPS LCD and has the extra selling point of stereo speakers. It also has a strong suite of content, courtesy of Amazon’s many partnerships, but overall we have a hard time comparing these two. Amazon’s device is clearly a cut-rate slate designed to push as much digital buying power into the hands of consumers as possible, while Apple’s is simply a legitimately nice tablet. It’s a legitimately nice tablet that Apple certainly would love for you to fill with premium content downloaded through iTunes, but it never feels like a shopping portal. The Kindle does.

Accessories

DNP iPad mini review

Surely, the most popular accessory for the iPad mini will be the new Smart Cover that, despite being both smaller and of considerably simpler construction, still costs the same $39 as the bigger, 10-inch version. That’s a little unfortunate, especially because we don’t think this version works as well. There is one positive change: the smaller Smart Cover moves away from the aluminum hinge on the bigger version, a good thing because we’ve seen plenty of scratches caused by that metal-on-metal contact.

It’s still attached magnetically, but where the 10-inch model will immediately snap into the perfect placement every time, we found the mini cover just as eager to attach either too high or too low. It requires a little more precision. Hardly a deal-breaker (how often are you removing your Smart Cover?) but a bit of an annoyance.

The other accessories, and there are plenty of them, all make use of the device’s Lightning connector, many existing only to add a little more life to your various iPod docks and chargers. The stubby 30-pin to Lightning adapter is $29, the same cost as the two camera adapters: one USB and one SD. (This is a change from the 30-pin Camera Connection Kit, which included both for $29.) The Lightning to 30-pin adapter (which includes a 0.2 meter cable in the middle) costs $39 and, finally, both the VGA and digital AV adapters are $49. Like the previous Digital AV adapter (which was $39), this one includes HDMI output and has an input so that you can still charge the tablet while it’s in use. Handy for those digital signage applications — or getting in one final, epic Lord of the Rings marathon before December.

Wrap-up

DNP iPad mini review

This isn’t just an Apple tablet made to a budget. This isn’t just a shrunken-down iPad. This is, in many ways, Apple’s best tablet yet, an incredibly thin, remarkably light, obviously well-constructed device that offers phenomenal battery life. No, the performance doesn’t match Apple’s latest and yes, that display is a little lacking in resolution, but nothing else here will leave you wanting. At $329, this has a lot to offer over even Apple’s more expensive tablets.

Those comparing this to the Kindle Fire HD will have a hard time, as that’s a tablet manufactured to a fixed cost and designed to sell you content. This is very much more. Similarly, the hardware here — the materials, the lightness, the build quality, the overall package as it sits in your hand — is much nicer than the Nexus 7 and it offers access to the comprehensively more tablet-friendly App Store, but whether that’s worth the extra cost depends entirely on the size of your budget — and your proclivity toward Android.

Regardless, the iPad mini is well worth considering for anybody currently in the market for a tablet. Its cost is compelling, its design superb and it of course gives access to the best selection of tablet-optimized apps on the market. To consider it just a cheap, tiny iPad is a disservice. This is, simply, a great tablet.

Update: This review originally stated (as does Apple’s spec page) that the iPad mini has a mono speaker. It is, in fact, a stereo device.

 

 

 

Essential iPad and iPhone Apps

Today I am going to list some apps that I think any new or veteran iOS user should be including on their iPad or iPhone.

  1. Netflix -free    Movie and TV Streaming
  2. Crackle-free   Movie and TV Streaming
  3. Flipboard-free   News and Feeds customized for your liking
  4. Flixster-free    Movie News and Times
  5. IMDB-free  Movie Information
  6. Pandora-free  Radio Streaming
  7. Remote-free  Controlling Apple TV and Mac Products through Wi-Fi
  8. Evernote-free  Cloud Service Notes and Writing
  9. Find iPhone-free  Enables you to find and lock your iOS Devices remotely
  10. Ultimate Password Manager-$4  A password locker to store securely all your passwords
  11. Google Earth-free   3D rendering of the Earth
  12. Amazon-free  Shopping
  13. Ebay-free  Shopping
  14. Apps Gone Free-free  Lets you know when paid apps are free for a limited time only
  15. Appsfire Deals-free    Lets you know when paid apps are free for a limited time only
  16. Pinterest-free  Accumulation of awesome ideas on the web
  17. Cards-free  Lets you send customized cards to people anywhere for $3
  18. Yelp-free  Travel and food information
  19. The Weather Channel-free  Weather
  20. Reeder-$5  RSS Feeds Reader
  21. Appadvice-$2  Gives you tips and news on new apps
  22. ESPN Sportcenter-free   Sporting News
  23. Pocket-free  Custom News Feed
  24. My Fitness Pal-free  Health and Food tracker
  25. Dropbox-free  Links to a Cloud account for access to files from anywhere

The Importance of iCloud

I feel that it is important to encourage anyone with an iOS device, with iCloud, to use this service as your primary backup.  The reasons are many but the main ones are as follows:

1.  If you ever lose your device or buy a new one  this backup will make the new purchase seamless.

2.  Well, I guess there is only one!

I have helped several people switch their backup from their computer to the cloud and it has made a big difference in their mobile world. 

When the new update iOS 6 came out, if you had the backup set to the cloud it was easy to download and install the new update.  If not, you had to back up to your computer, then you could install the update.  A friend had backed up her iPhone to an old computer that she didn’t even have anymore.  This was a problem to keep her information on her phone when she unknowingly installed the update and it wiped out her phone.  Luckily Apple has the ability to re-download previous apps and the Photostream service.  Unfortunately for those that didn’t initiate the Photostream in the beginning, all those photos are lost.

Please ensure your main backup is iCloud and not a computer.