Samsung 970 Evo Plus

In case you’re looking to buy the best performing NVMe SSD drive, Samsung got. you covered. Again.

In the beginning of this year Samsung quietly pushed an update to their already top-tier 970 Pro series - the 970 Evo Plus. And even though the name is a bit misleading ("it's supposed to be a slightly cheaper/faster version of the 970 Evo?") the Evo Plus actually is a faster and cheaper alternative to the 970 Pro, who knew!

GPU-assembled

Here are the basic specs:
Samsung 970 Evo Plus: 3,500MB/s seq. read, 3,300MB/s seq. write
Samsung 970 Pro: 3,500MB/s seq. read, 2,700MB/s seq. write
Samsung 970 Evo: 3,500MB/s seq. read, 2,500MB/s seq. write

If you're into the new SSD, look at the 500GB/1TB Evo Plus, since the 250GB version has noticably lower writing speeds.

The Evo Plus got quite famous very fast: in our region few shops already have the new SSDs out of stock, when they just barely entered the market. So if you'd like to get those speeds in your PC, you should probably consider buying the 970 Evo Plus now or you'll have to wait for the next batches.

Samsung Galaxy S10(+/e) hands-on

The Galaxy S10/S10+ and S10e are really really great phones. But still far from ideal, and here's why.

Samsung-Galaxy-S10
Samsung-Galaxy-S10+
Samsung-Galaxy-S10e

Each of them have a wonderful, best in class (except the brightness IMO) screen with a really not that obstructive hole-punch cutouts which your mind might not even notice after some time anyway. All of three models have exceptional build quality and feel light but premium in the hand. Cameras which are taking nice (maybe a little over-saturated) photos, now include an awesome wide-angle view as well:

Samsung-Galaxy-S10-camera

Stereo speakers are loud and clear, you get the headphone jack, expansible storage, the devices are waterproof and come in a range of colors. The price for all of what you get is also quite spot on. And the first ultra-sonic in-screen fingerprint scanner is another cherry on top. On top of a very rich hardware cake.

With these phones everything is great, but only in terms of hardware. Software -wise the situation is completely different. And I'm not talking about their new One UI - you can love love it or hate it. By the software situation I mean what you can expect from a flagship device while using it. As usual, the demo devices I've tested couldn't keep up even with their own demos. If you take a phone and start going though the feature screens you will definitely notice short lag and stutter here and there. And that's on phones with 8 or 12 GB of RAM! Next is the hole-punch support. I kinda get it that Samsung depends on Google's support of all the new hardware that affects the position of UI elements. But how come on the day of release, Samsung with their own One UI and so much custom software and even standalone apps couldn't figure out the hole-punch'ed UI portion in landscape and filled the whole side with a black vertical bar (on the right of the screen in landscape) just wasting the screen real estate:

Samsung-Galaxy-S10-horizontal

These are day one problems. But what about support later on? Samsung devices get one or maximum two system updates. And even those come with a 6-9 months delay comparing to Google's devices. Another thing is the quality of these updates - a friend of mine told me recently that one of the latest updates for his S8 makes his phone to loose cellular connection once in a while. From his words the same happens to his colleague who also has a S8, so that's not a one-off problem. And this is what makes these phones noticeably less appealing for me: you can have the best hardware, but if the software is buggy, you won't be able to enjoy it. And if there's a chance of having a laggy phone out of the box or even in few months, the hardware itself just doesn't cut it. So if you're open to better software on a slightly worse hardware, the Pixel is your best bet. Although even it had inconsistent performance noted by its users. So if software is key for you, I guess only the OnePlus is your only option, with almost stock Android and fast software updates.

Though one thing the OnePlus is not capable of doing now is having these awesome wallpapers matching with camera cutouts πŸ™‚
Samsung-Galaxy-S10-plus-wallpapers

Lenovo X1 Extreme

The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme is a more powerful version of the iconic X1. Why is it a no compromise laptop?

Thinkpad X1 Extreme

So why is the X1 special at all? It's because of its built material. The original X1 named Carbon launched back in 2012 with the very original body made out of carbon fiber. I remember holding it for the first time - it was really light compared to others but at the same time without any flex at all because of the sturdiness of carbon fiber. This material looks really great and like nothing else. If feels in some way close to plastic but unlike it is completely resilient. Carbon fiber is truly amazing and having a whole laptop out of it felt and feels unique.

The X1 at that time was on par not only with build quality but with specs as well. And this year the Extreme edition pushes them to the limit of such a portable device. You can opt in for a 4k touchscreen, Xeon CPU, up to 64GB, a P2000 or 1050Ti GPU and up to 2TB nVME storage. The highest configuration will cost you around $4500 which is insane, but still $1500 less than a maxed out MacBook Pro with a worse screen, GPU and CPU. The Lenovo also has an arguably better keyboard to type on and a bunch of not yet obsolete I/O.

Unfortunately two things keeps the X1 to be the best laptop ever in my opinion: the trackpad and OS. And even though so many years passed and there is still not a single PC with a decent trackpad I keep my hopes high that someday someone will build a Mac-level trackpad for PC. What I'm not holding my breath for is having anything except Windows working properly on such nice hardware like this. Although each year I constantly hear about Ubuntu supporting more and more devices, so maybe it can be worth trying on this beast?

Chernobyl

Interesting perspective on our national tragedy and its current state.

Part #1:

Part #2:

Part #3:

Part #4:

FB Messenger iOS dark mode hack

For the last year of using an unofficial Messenger Mac client Caprine that has an unofficial dark mode I just couldn't understand why the official iOS Messenger app doesn't have dark mode for years. But now it's there. Sort of.

FB-Messenger-dark-mode

Overall I wonder how this have been found in the first place, but it works:

  1. In the messenger send anyone the πŸŒ™ (moon) emoji
  2. Accept the dark mode prompt
  3. Switch it on
  4. Enjoy

Can't wait to have it in more apps and hopefully system wide in iOS 13 this summer-autumn. But for now it's the best I can have for an app I probably use the most often among others.

Samsung unpacked 2019

Yesterday Samsung announced their new flagship devices.

Galaxy-Fold

They started with the Galaxy Fold - a folding phone with one external 4.6" screen and a big internal unfolding 7.3" screen. The phone (if you could call it has a total of 6 cameras around the body). The starting price will be $1980 (nice), but for something that new and weird the sky is the limit. We've yet to see hands-on and full reviews but from what was shown the most interesting part for me was that the folding angle should be really small for this device. Even though the external screen was placed in a weird manner, I still can't wait to see it in person.

Galaxy-S10

After the Fold, Samsung announced the new S10, S10+ and S10e (cheaper version like Apple with their iPhone XR). The S10(+) have a new almost full body ratio screens curved on the sides and a hole punch cutout for the front facing camera(s). Overall I like the new design, my main gripe though is with the unsymmetrical top and bottom borders where the chin is a tad larger than the forehead.

Both S10 and S10+ got a new third wide angle camera (without OIS though), pictures from which looked nice. I personally sometimes wish my phone had a wider camera when all the objects don't fit in the frame from close distance. And both devices got a ultra-sonic in-screen finger print reader, moving it from the back to the front of the device. Ultra-sonic reader also doesn't rely on light as optical readers do, so finger print scanning will be less annoying in the dark as with the optical readers.

When compared to the S10(+), the S10e loses the curved edges, the telephoto lens (retains the regular and wide angle lenses) and the in-screen finger print reader in favor of a side finger print reader built into the power button. The screen on the S10e however is the same 500+ ppi as on older brothers, just physically a bit smaller.

The prices will start at $749 for the S10e, $899 for the S10 and $999 for S10+. The prices are almost identical to iPhone's $749/$999/$1099 for the XR/XS/XS Max respectively. But if you compare the Galaxy phones purely from the hardware perspective, you'll get an additional camera and better screen and maybe even $100 off each time if you choose Samsung. I just wish their software was closer in terms of quality to iOS. But for many software is more than good enough and for them Samsung phones are (which is objectively true) and will be a better deal.

Other hardware improvements: the ability of the phones charging other devices wirelessly like it was done by Huawei in their Mate 20 Pro few months ago. And the camera improvements didn't end with just a third camera but with the support of HDR10+ for both photos and videos.

The event also had few interesting software announcements. First - Instagram will be integrated to Samsung's camera app giving you the option to post images or to your stories right from the camera app. Second - Samsung opens their Camera SDK to allow 3rd parties using the same quality of images and videos as first party apps get. I've heard that many times that people who are relying on posting to their audiences on Snapchat, Instagram or other services usually have to buy iPhones where they can take consistent pictures as with the first party app. But on Android the image quality in third party apps were significantly worse than in the main camera app, and now (at least on Samsung phones) it's gonna change.

Overall, with the hardware getting less and less distinction and people buying phones mainly for their cameras, Samsung does the right moves with adding a wide camera and software enhancements to their devices because it's what actually people might want. They don't buy phones for the brand or the technical specs, they buy them for the best appearance in photos and videos on Instagram. And with Samsung giving all of this such priority, they just make their pieces of glass more desirable than others.

There was also an interesting push with 5G at the event. Samsung will have a special 5G version of the S10, and they told how 5G will be important for the industry. The CEO's of Sprint and T-Mobile were praising 5G from the screen, but the Verizon's CEO had stage time where he announced an exclusive 5G launch with the help of Samsung. In my opinion such hype is just a way for the carriers who are desperate to be something more than just pipes to be relevant again. In my opinion 5G is quite far away from practical use: 4G is not even everywhere yet, and it feels to be more than sufficient enough already. I'm not sure what are the practical implications of 5G are as well. Who needs those low latency and high speeds on a smartphone? For online gaming maybe that's a necessity, but with the nature of waves and their tendency to be reflected the shorter the wave gets, I'm not entirely sure how 5G will be effective at all without putting a signal transmitter every hundred meters which obviously no one is going to do. I guess we'll see where 5G will take us, but for now the hype around it is mostly carriers looking for ways to stand out.

New .dev TLD

Today the .dev top level domain name rolled out for preorder. Prices start from $11k for the first year from $15 per year from the second year and on.

.dev TLD

Apple.dev, app(s).dev, software.dev - already taken πŸ™‚

Prices are pre-sale, the general sale should start in a week with much more modest prices.

-- Added:
software.dev looks like is now by Atlassian
app.dev and apps.dev redirects to Virgin Media
apple.dev (via icann's lookup) mentions Apple as registrant. So no cybersquatters at this time πŸ™‚

eSIM

After landing in Las Vegas yesterday to attend CES 2019 before going out of the airport I was advised to pick up my conference badge. And this is when I experienced eSIM goodness πŸ™‚

In order to do so I had to wait in line for about 15 minutes, which should have been far less than what I would've waited to do the same close to the convention center, so I decided to get my badge at the airport.

While standing I realized I forgot my T-mobile US sim card (which probably expired anyway) and since I just came from Europe I didn't have time to buy a new one as well. I opened up Google Maps to figure out where's the closest T-mobile store, as they have the best cellular offerings for tourists.

After few seconds of searching I recalled that on the previous WWDC Apple announced (actually mentioned in only in the list of new 'other' features without any comments) an electronic sim card support for their latest devices. Since WWDC I've heard US carriers adopting eSIM one after another. And that one of the latest iOS updates actually enabled those.

So I started googling eSIM for T-mobile US and I found their separate app just for getting one! I downloaded the app via the airport's wifi, entered my credentials, credit card info and the app offered me to install a T-mobile data plan! After me accepting it and going through few setup steps my phone connected to T-mobile, but also kept connection to AT&T as a roaming carrier for my EU sim card. Now I had connection to two carriers with only one sim card in the single physical sim slot installed! How cool is that?!

And all of the above I could achieve while standing in a line for a conference badge. I not only made my time useful but saved some more by not having to re-route and go to a physical T-mobile store, wait in line there and speak to not always pleasant consultant, take off my phone's case, swap cards, etc. I would be also loosing connection to my original phone which I still need abroad to see incoming calls, get verification SMS, etc, to which I usually take a second phone with me. The second phone is also a hassle - I have to charge it separately, keep an eye on it separately as well.

But now I could avoid all of this: wasting my time by going to a physical store, managing a second phone - which in this particular case I also forgot, the same as my previous US sim card. I would probably have to buy a cheap third phone just for receiving sms on my main EU number without having to swap between US and EU sim cards each time.

I heard plenty of times rumors on Apple's plans ditching all the ports and openings with time. And if the headphone jack was (and is) an arguable port to loose, I will definitely not miss the sim card slot. And in this regard the eSIM is a wonderful replacement: not only it doesn't take away something you need - you can still use your sim slot with carriers which don't support eSIM yet. But it brings the game up in a very noticeable manner not no be worrying and dealing with sim cards with carriers that do support it. And in time most of them will, and that's when all the phones will start shipping without this truly ancient and unnecessary technology, bringing us even more seamless phones, tablets, and who knows, a cellular-enabled Mac but without a sim slot :)

iPhone XR

Apple's latest 'budget' phone caused a lot of buzz. You can find many reviews on it, but here's my short take on this device from a long time iOS and current iPhone XS user.

iPhone XR
Guess which is where?

Disclaimer: I spent with this device only 30 minutes in the Apple Store, checking it thoroughly. I also spent few days afterwards reading and watching any review of it I could find. Reason: I was researching what would be the best phone for my wife, for her needs and usage and I wanted to make the right choice.

My wife had a nice but already quite old iPhone 7 and I wanted to upgrade it for her. The main reasons why she uses and chooses the iPhone - is that for her the camera is the most important part of the phone. Battery life is second, third is everything else, including geeky specs she doesn't care about at all like I do.

Essentially the XR is very similar to the flagship XS:

  • Same 1x camera sensor, although with a bit bigger lens, allowing more light to come in
  • Same world class A12 chip
  • Same nearly bezel-less screen, front camera, Face ID, all other internals are completely the same

What is different:

  • Aluminum body unlike stainless steel in the XS. This gives it a less premium look, especially if you compare it to a shiny white XS with a chrome bezel. Both phones have glass front and back (for wireless charging)
  • Screen is LCD vs OLED on the XS. The screen bezel is a bit wider, the screen resolution is also a bit lower
  • Only 1x camera instead of 1x and 2x on the XS
  • Colors: XS comes in black, white, gold, where the XR is blue, yellow, orange, white, black, red, grey
  • Max memory capacity: 256GB for the XR and 512GB for XS
  • Battery on the XR lasts longer due to that less detailed screen
  • Obviously price: XR starts at $750 when base XS model costs $1000

Now, whether the difference is worth in my mind:

  • Build material: most people use a case anyway, so I guess it doesn't really matter which material you have - matte aluminum or glossy stainless steel - it won't be visible anyway
  • Screen resolution: the XR has 326 PPI, XS has 400+. Bringing them really close to my face - I couldn't tell the difference. The reason for this is the technology of the screens. LCDs tend to have equal pixels with almost no empty space in-between whereas OLED pixels are arrange differently and they require more pixels per inch (ppi) to have the same picture sharpness for the same physical dimensions. So here I can't recommend going for the higher PPI of the XS unless you really see it. I don't. Even with a sharp vision
  • Screen technology: LCDs have a long history of improvements: they are fast (the iPad's LCD supports 120hz refresh rate), they are bright (and nicely visible in direct sun), colorful (years of calibration), don't tend to flicker (due to their nature) and are cheaper to make (that's one of the reason of the lower price of the XR). OLEDs theoretically should have richer blacks (because each pixel is individually highlighted and black colors are just switched off pixels with pure black levels), higher contrast and nicer picture, and being thinner allow wrap the end closer to the edge giving that smaller bezel than on LCDs. But OLEDs may suffer with flickering for a distinctive eye (I don't notice it), burn-in of the pixels (taken care by software most of the time, I never saw one). OLEDs also cost more to produce, hence the higher price of the XS. Personally I thought OLEDs are far superior. And after my iPhone 7 it looked that way. On my iPhone 7 the blacks looked grey-ish, for someone else - blue-ish. On my iPhone X and XS black is black, no questions asked. But when I looked at the iPhone XR, its blacks (despite the backlight illuminating the whole screen and not individual pixels) where almost unnoticable! Apple did a very good job with the XR's LCD: not only its blacks are almost black, but its whites are even whiter than on the XS's OLED! In person you would clearly see the difference between whites in favor of the XR (XS looks yellow-ish in comparison) but not so clearly the difference in blacks. I tested both phones at max brightness with TrueTone off and I was just blown away how XR's screen looked good. So in this regard I can recommend both phones. If you can't sleep without having OLED on your phone - go for the XS, otherwise the XR is a very good option
  • Screen bezels: yes, they are more noticeable on the XR, but only if you hold it next to an XS. If not, you won't tell, no one would tell the difference in bezel size. So again, if you can't live with the thought of having bigger bezels - XS is your choice, otherwise the XR is almost the same
  • Cameras: even though the XS has 2x (which is not always true 2x), I was torn apart here. The XR has noticeably better low-light portrait mode but I just try to avoid taking pictures at night anyway due to smartphones' camera limitations. So 2x for me is more desirable, because in the day time it allows me to capture things which otherwise would be too tiny to bother to shoot. But your mileage may vary here
  • Battery: the longer the better, right? I wish I could trade some thinness of the XS for the bigger battery, so XR here in my opinion is superior.
  • Max memory: for me this is a tie - I don't need as much memory as it's physically available at the moment
  • Colors: XR colors are much more fun than the boring b/w and gold in the XS. But again, because of glass backs, you probably will keep both in a case, so this doesn't really matter. Unless you're really careful, never dropped the phone - the red XR looks so good, you wanna eat it πŸ™‚
  • Price: this is important for everyone. Obviously the XR is a winner here: you can get either the 128GB or the 256GB version still cheaper than the entry level 64GB XS

In general I went with the XS because:

  1. It was available sooner than the XR
  2. The geeky specs are better (even though practically I don't see most of them πŸ™‚)
  3. I actually use the 2x quite a lot where 1x just wouldn't be enough
  4. If there would be an XR with everything as is but with 2x, I would probably buy it instead, because XS prices are way out of hand for something like a smartphone where for $200-300 you can buy something usable with stock Android.

But again, I wanted to choose the best not for me but for my wife. I was thinking long and it was painful πŸ™‚. I was considering the XR most of the time:

  1. Bigger battery
  2. Worse specs my wife will never notice anyway
  3. Red color, it's that awesome, yes

But I went with the XS instead, only because of one thing: the 2x camera. The camera (as well the 256GB version to store them) is of the most importance for my wife, so I couldn't ignore that. She doesn't take as much low-light pictures as much she misses on photos of objects too far away. But if not that, I would have taken the XR in a heartbeat. Even for myself! At some point I was even thinking to 'downgrade' to the XR from the already owned XS. It's really that good. On another hand, if you're an ultra geek living on the edge - the XS/XS Max is for you. Which objectively because of a significantly higher price has a much worse price/value ratio.

P.S. If you're considering the XR, go with the 128GB version. I recently noticed I'm pushing towards my 64GB cap quite often, because of media taking so much space lately. On the XR the extra 64GB over the base version cost only $50 more which are really reasonable and which you will definitely miss down the road.