Tech Untangled: Consumer technology keeps on getting better

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Tech Untangled: Consumer technology keeps on getting better
Tech Untangled: Consumer technology keeps on getting better – May 15, 2016

Steve Makris is a technology expert who does a weekly Tech Talk segment during the Sunday edition of Global News Morning Weekend Edmonton.

Technology today changes constantly. Sometimes it’s not very noticeable, but as you will see on my Global News Morning Weekend Edmonton segment and today’s blog, the changes can be mind-boggling.


Take smart phones, for example. In a seemingly endless parade of phone announcements, LG G5 takes the cake for the most innovative and improved phone around. The all aluminium sleek LG G5, available at most Canadian cell companies for $299 with two year plan or $749 with no plan, features a breakthrough modular design.

You can swap batteries by simply sliding them out the bottom edge of the phone, or attach the LG Friends accessories like the CAM Plus handle with built-in shutter and zoom wheel.  An optional tiny, but powerful 360 CAM compact spherical camera captures your own surround stills or VR (virtual reality) movies which you can watch on the compact 360 VR viewer. It’s one third the size and 20 per cent sharper than the Samsung’s current VR.

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The LG G5 with Friends for controlling the camera shooting, 360 VR movies and watching them on the compact 360 VR viewer. hand out

The 16 megapixel G5 camera phone rocks. It features two rear lenses: one for traditional angle view and the other with a 135 degree super wide view — beyond even the best enthusiast cameras. It shoots breathtaking stills of impossible-to-get-scenes, inside or out. Unfortunately, the picture size drops to 8 megapixels in this mode — not very usable inside dark rooms. But switching to manual shooting mode fixes most of that, by allowing you to shoot at better quality ISO settings.

You can shoot up to 4K quality video on this super wide view with incredible results. Check out a recent Greek party I shot by simply standing in the middle of the dance group and slowly panning the camera around. (Note the excellent audio quality.) When the CAM plus (a $99 attachment currently free with the purchase of a G5) is attached, you can seamlessly zoom between the two lenses from super wide mode to tele.

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I should note that the G5 is generally noisier than new 12 megapixel Samsung S7 and HTC 10 competitors when shooting at higher ISO settings, but keeps up with the top dog S7 camera in most scenes at 16 megapixels when in 16:9 mode.  Check out my earlier review of the SamsungS7 on my personal blog.

The G5 is Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 capable, low battery drain Always-on Display for notifications, huge battery life improvement, aptX HD: 24-bit Hi-Fi Wireless Audio, Network: LTE / 3G / 2G , 4GB LPDDR4 RAM (that’s a big deal for multi-tasking), 32GB storage with microSD slot  (up to 2TB), 5.3-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum Display (2560 x 1440 / 554ppi), Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS and the new Type C all-purpose faster USB connection.

HTC 10

The new HTC 10 keeps it original DNA lineage, but features at attractive sculptured design with notable improvements. Its quality, all metal unibody construction rivals any other Android or iPhone. Its most impressive feature are the two speakers which are as ‘boom box’ as you can get on a phone. The fingerprint sensor is consistent from any angle.

HTC 10 one piece metal sculpted phone with audio on steroids. Hand out

HTC put a lot of energy in audio features: from big quality sound off two HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi edition speakers with separate tweeter and woofer and Hi-Res audio recording, to a Personal Audio Profile system which enhances your audio experience tuned to your individual hearing. And it shows.

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The flagship magazine feature format is still there and the new freestyle screen layout, unique to HTC, offers a lot of flexibility on how icon layout looks like on-screen.

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A good effort to blend what Android offers all phone makers and HTC’s penchant for unique personal phone experiences.

But the HTC 10 is still average in picture taking. Despite the laser focus and all, I found it not as consistent or fast as the Samsung S7 and certainly not as fun to use as the G5. Its screen is also the dimmest and limited in bright angle viewing.

If audio and personalization is big for you, the steep $349 price with two-year plan or $900 outright cost will satisfy. But for photography, check out competitors.

Dell XPS 12

According to a recent IFA report, laptops are becoming popular again — but there is a catch. Prepare to spend for the new wave of cool compact design, bright screen and smart functionality running on Windows 10.

Dell XPS 12 with one hand convertable tablet Slim Keyboard option and Type – S converter options. Hand out

The Dell XPS 12, for example, features a unique screen pull-out converting to a thin Windows 10 full touch tablet. No hinges, but a smart soft magnet design. Smart.

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It comes in several types of screen, processor and storage options, starting at $1,199.99 for a FullHD screen, Intel Core M5, 8 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD drive. $1,499.99 gets you a 4K Ultra HD display and 256 GB SSD drive. It’s also available in 13 and 15 inch sizes and mounts.

The XPS 12 two-in-one only needs one hand to transition to a tablet. The 4K Ultra HD display option, with 6 million more pixels than a Full HD display, is simply stunning. It features high resolution cameras: 8 MP world-facing, 5 MP user-facing.

The XPS 12 allows users to capture their world how they see it. The full-size backlit keyboard and precision touchpad work well and is included. For even more mobility, the custom-built Dell Premier Folio provides a stand for the tablet, with variable angle positions and protects more when travelling.

The XPS 12 only has Type C connector ports, which handle data connection and charging. The optional Dell Adapter — USB Type-C to HDMI/VGA/Ethernet/USB 3.0 — connects the XPS to multiple devices, such as projectors, TVs, displays, and Ethernet, with one dongle. The also-optional Active Pen Stylet Actif, with two click buttons, is a must for the graphic artist in you. Use it to take notes on webpages running on Microsoft’s Edge to share with anyone.

If you want the brick and mortar Dell buying experience, check out a Canadian Microsoft Store at main cities across Canada, including WEM in Edmonton. Microsoft sells other brands in addition to its excellent Surface models, including the Dell XPS 12. You walk out of the store with a squeaky clean laptop, with no annoying third-party apps. But if you want to customize your options even more, check out

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Tune in to my Global News Morning Weekend segment with Kent Morrison and Kevin O’Connell for the keywords to enter for our post-Mothers Day giveaway at 9:40 a.m. Sunday.

LG Bluetooth Music Flow P5. Hand Out
  • LG Music Flow P5 Bluetooth speaker, now $99.99 is a quality Bluetooth, that can pair to two devices. It fills up the room with opposite facing speakers and has a built-in rechargeable battery.
Epson Home XP-430 prints and crafts. Hand out
  • The Epson Home XP-430 is a small footprint colour printer with a Large 2.7″ LCD colour display and integrated 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi lets you connect and print wirelessly from anywhere within your home or office’s Wi-Fi network range, including smartphones. Individual ink cartridges let you replace only the colour you need, and photo enhancement tools help you create stunning photos, flyers, brochures, and more. Large 100 sheet paper capacity means less paper loading. This prize includes extra media from Epson for extra project printing, like iron-on T-shirts.
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop Keyboard. Hand out
  • Microsoft’s Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop with ultra comfy keyboard, separate numeric keypad and a mouse that fits like a glove.
Fitbit Blaze is now a watch with fitness in mind. Hand out
  • The water resistant Fitbit Blaze smart fitness watch tracks your moves, distance, calorie burning, real time cardio, displays calls and texts, and includes music control. The blaze battery easily lasts days.

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