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MAGIX Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11
MAGIX Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11
Offered by Brooks Merchant
Price: $39.99
9 used & new from $39.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, lots of potential, but the learning curve is steep., July 24, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was led to Xara Photo and Graphic Designer 11 due to Adobe's putrid practice of leasing software instead of selling software. Every Adobe application I've come to rely has been replaced in my workflow with the last to be cut was Indesign. Unfortunately, I had no choice last year but to lease Indesign because I needed it for some freelance projects I was working on. No other alternative software in my arsenal was good enough to handle the load. I tried LucidPress Layout and Design, Scribus (which is an absolute joke. I have no idea why people recommend that trash) and a couple of other alternatives. Well, the last "hail mary" attempt before my subscription to Indesign renewed was to try Xara products so I gave Photo and Graphic Designer as well as Page and Layout Designer a go. Keep in mind that I've been working as a Graphic Designer/Layout Artist for over a decade. I've been creating digital art and animation since the early 90's on Amiga systems with some Mac systems sprinkled in, so I'm no stranger to using these types of packages. The first 30 minutes of using Photo and Graphic Designer was dismal. I absolutely hated it. But I knew that was because I had to stop mentally looking for a Photoshop or Indesign solution to a design problem and learn the Xara way of doing things.

After another 30 minutes, it started to "click." The first hurdle some many have to overcome is the UI is deceptively simplistic with Xara software. I was looking for extensive tools and menus similar to Indesign and Photoshop but many of what designers are used to isn't obviously presented. After an hour of learning where the basic tools were and learning how they functioned, I was able to dig into some of the more advanced features of image processing, editing and layout. After 2 hours, I was amazed at how capable MAGIX's software actually is. That's not to say that it's pound for pound as powerful as Indesign and Photoshop. It isn't overall but Photo and Graphic Designer (as well as Page and Layout Designer) are very powerful in their own right and actually does some things better than Indesign and Photoshop IMO. For instance, I'm using this software on a SurfaceBook. MAGIX's software fully recognizes touch input as well as screen input on the Surface. These methods of input are so well integrated that I used the SurfaceBook pen to finish a design and it was far more intuitive this way. Even pinch and zoom to zoom in and out worked without problems as well as two finger scrolling on the screen and touchpad. Try doing that with Indesign CC. I did and it sucked even after Adobe updated CC applications to better use touch screens. .

I also like the way MAGIX's applications handle libraries, called the "Bitmap Gallery" in Photo and Graphic Designer. In Indesign, the default view for a library are really small icons and a name (if you actually type one in). This is okay if the library is full of recognizable items. But working in production facilities can cause a lot of small items with even smaller text to be added to a library. If you're using a library that someone else created and the items aren't named or named properly, you can spend a lot of time looking at individual items trying to find what you need. In Photo and Graphic Designer, by default the Bitmap Gallery shows large thumbnails of all of the art included in a project as well as important information for each image including file name, pixel resolution, MB size, and bit size. This made it incredibly easy to find art and add/replace them in the project without needing to adjust the viewing options of the collection.

Font selection in another area that I prefer in Photo and Graphic Designer over Indesign/Photoshop. First and foremost, I don't have to jump through hoops with annoying software like Typekit to add or use new fonts. I have a ton of Google fonts that the software immediately recognized and made available without issues and I also use SkyFonts which is becoming a godsend for some projects. No subscriptions, no limits (that I've seen) on whether a font can be only used for the web or print. The fonts are there...use them.

Other functions that are a joy to use in the software are transparencies, gradient fills.vector drawing tools and text layout and editing tools. I can't stress enough how much I was surprised with the power of the software after the first 2 hours. I accomplished a lot with my time testing the software. But all is not perfect. There are some negatives that anyone readying this and considering should be aware of.

Cons:
The initial learning curve for new users and seasoned designers can be steep. This could turn off a lot of people within the first two hours of using the software. Example, cropping an image that you've imported into the software can be confusing at first. In Indesign, you import images into an image box and the user is free to scale and move the image within that box to their liking. Any content that is outside of the confines of the box will not show (unless you select the image inside of the box, scale and/or move it around). You can adjust the size of the overall image to fit in the box or expand the box to show more the image. Photo and Graphic Designer works differently in that you import the image but you have to use a clipping tool in order adjust which area of the image is viewed within your project. Yes, this works similar to Indesign but with limitations. In order to readjust the viewable area of the imported graphic you have to use the clipping tool again. You can right click and "unclip" the image so you can clip it again to create the desired viewable area. If you try to make adjustments by selecting the box itself all you'll do is resize the area already initiately clipped. In Indesign, with the select objects pointer, you simply click on the viewable image which will give you a transparent view of the image in its entirety as well as the lines of the box itself and drag the image until it's viewable area within the confines of the box is to your liking. There are also shortcuts to either fight the box to the image or fit the image to the box. Photo and Graphic Designer doesn't have these options. Editing the viewable area of an image is all based on the clipping tool. To be fair, the clipping tool does work. But I didn't find it as intuitive as Adobe's solution.

The UI can be maddening at times because a good number of basic functions for such software isn't readily apparent. For instance, I challenge anyone using Photo and Graphic Designer for the first time to show me how to add a new layer. When I first used the software, I could see the Page and Layer gallery tab on the left of the screen, but there isn't a "Add new layer" button within it. There's a "New Page" option but no "New Layer" option. There isn't a "Layers" menu in the top menu bar. There is a "Insert" option which one would think a "New Layer" option would be present there, but you'd assume incorrectly. There is a "New Page" option but no "New Layer" option. This was annoying to no end when I first started using the software because adding layers is so basic. Two bit crap creative apps on mobile devices support layers easily and readily available but you have to jump through hoops with Xara? Not cool. I didn't find out how to actually add a new layer until I happened to right click on the representation of my main page in the Page and Layer tab. THEN the "add new layer" option was present. Why the developers didn't have an actual "Layers" option in the main UI is beyond me and you'll be asking that question for many things such as leading, adding columns (which works really weird once you do add columns) and applying layer effects (which BTW, I STILL haven't figured out how to do or even if the software is coded to use layer effects). Again, for an image processing application for Windows 10 to NOT support layer effects or having the option buried so deep into the menus making it a chore to find is a disgrace. Those same crap mobile creative apps I mentioned earlier supports layer effects on devices with less than 1/4 the RAM and 1/2 of the CPU power of the average laptop. What's Xara's excuse?

This is why I give the application 4* instead of 5*. Photo and Graphic Designer 11 is deceptively powerful. Capable of accomplishing more than the suspect UI would indicate. But the learning curve in unnecessarily high and the UI suffers from design choices that will have you cursing MAGIX for making bad design choices and Adobe for simply not selling their applications. But if you can get over these two hurdles, you may have indeed found a good alternative to Adobe's offerings as you can purchase Xara software and actually OWN it as opposed to the evil trickery of leasing.


Bath Blossom Bamboo Body Brush for Back Scrubber - Natural Bristles Shower Brush with Long Handle - Excellent for Exfoliating Skin - Use Wet or Dry - Suitable for Men and Women.
Bath Blossom Bamboo Body Brush for Back Scrubber - Natural Bristles Shower Brush with Long Handle - Excellent for Exfoliating Skin - Use Wet or Dry - Suitable for Men and Women.
Offered by Blossom Inc.
Price: $25.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Great for back scrubbing., June 12, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Works exactly as you'd expect. No complaints. Bristles are holding up pretty good over time.


BASEQI Aluminum MicroSD Adapter for Microsoft Surface Book
BASEQI Aluminum MicroSD Adapter for Microsoft Surface Book
Offered by BASEQI
Price: $24.99
7 used & new from $24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A godsend., June 12, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
There's not much to say here. If you hate having a SD card sticking out of the side of your SurfaceBook, buy this adapter. It works wonderfully. 5*


Roland Fantom-G6
Roland Fantom-G6
Offered by SKY-LINE
Price: $5,830.57
3 used & new from $2,500.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Potentially great but falls short in a number of ways., June 12, 2016
This review is from: Roland Fantom-G6 (Electronics)
The Fantom is discontinued but I wouldn't necessarily say it was dead. I've been a long time Roland user since 1996. The Fantom G6 was the last Roland brand keyboard I've bought mainly because I simply haven't needed a new board since the purchase in 2011. When I purchased the Fantom it was as a replacement for a XP-50 which I worked with for over a decade and loved it. With that being said, the Fantom G6 is a monster in terms of playing and producing music but with a few asterisks which I'll get to below. But be it strictly digital, live or sampling, or a combination of all three, this board can produce what you need to produce. There are so many options and so much flexibility in producing music on the Fantom that it can be intimidating at times. But the results speak for themselves in the hands of the right musician or producer. Is it perfect? Not at all, but it is a very powerful board once you get it configured to your liking.

Pros
Powerful sequencer/synth that allows production of any type of music you could imagine

Overall good quality for the sound banks with a few surprising stinkers

128 midi tracks and 24 sample tracks

Onboard memory can be expanded to 1GB

Vibrant 8.5 inch color screen

Programmable multi efx for each part

Can seamlessly mix samples and live recordings and midi tracks

built in sampler

USB Mouse support

Thumb Drive support

2X expansion

Easily sample live performances as audio tracks to be incorporated into songs

Patch partition is fully customizable and programmable and can be saved as a separate Project away from default settings.

Cons
1GB of example storage. For a $2500+ keyboard (the cost when I purchased it), I was expecting more support than 1GB.

Default sample memory is only 32MB which is a disgrace

Only 2x expansion. Even the XP-50 which isn't half as powerful as the Fantom G6 and was $1000 less, offered 4x

Expansion cards are limited to 3 and overpriced making them almost worthless

Thumb drive support is wonky at best. Some thumb drives work. Others don't. Even if you have a 128GB thumb drive that works great on your PC and has been reformatted to work with the Fantom, chances are it's not going to happen in some cases. I had two mass storage thumb drives, one 64GB and another 128GB that I wanted to use with my device. But no matter what I tried, they wouldn't work. I had to use my 16GB long dong thumb drive instead because it was the only drive that would play nice with the G6.

Steep learning curve for those not familiar with Roland sequencers and synths.

Bugs. Fortunately I bought my Fantom after the 1.5 update which offered far more stability than prior version. But for those that purchased their device prior to that update the software powering the G6 was a hot mess of bugs and instability.

Windows support is clumsy. In this age of USB devices we've grown accustomed to hot swap. Well, that's not so with the G6. You have to either power on your board plugged into a PC to be recognized by Windows or you have to power it down entirely, plug into a PC and THEN boot up for the Fantom to be recognized by a PC. This wouldn't be so bad if the Fantom always had a fast boot time. But if you save a Project that uses a lot of custom patches, the Fantom can take up to 5 minutes or more to boot.

Support or lack thereof. Roland no longer supports the G6. If you're looking for Windows 10 drivers for it, forget about it. They're not happening last I checked. You can still transfer your .WAV/.AIFF/Project files thru USB using a Fantom G6 thumb drive to a computer but that's about all you're going to be doing if you're running Windows 10, which many of us are.

Color screen isn't a touch screen.

Some of the preset patches aren't as good as similar genres of sounds on the XP-50.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

With all of the listed cons you may ask "Why give the G6 3* instead of 2* or 1*? Mainly because I have my Fantom G6 configured so it "just works" when it comes to playing music for my projects. Yes, I'd like to have continued support in general, Windows 10 support specifically, more expansion cards at better prices and better USB storage support, especially for how much I paid for the board. But I'm never upset after I listen to a final mix of a song I wrote on the Fantom G6. Some of the cons ARE damning though, hence 3*. I've used Projects that have near 100% customized patches and drum kits to make up for some of the lacking default patches which helped a lot. It would be nice if there were an easier way to get XP and JV series sounds onto the Fantom without sampling/editing each patch manually. I would gladly pay $150 to $200 for a custom Project that featured JV series and XP series sounds. Why Roland didn't think of this themselves is beyond me. When the Fantom G6 works, it works phenomenally. But getting to that point with a learning curve and at a premium price can be a hard pill to swallow when cheaper quality sequencers/synths can be hard elsewhere. In the end, the Fantom G series just feels like a missed opportunity overall considering the potential. There is an incredible amount of technology in the G6.


Brinch 15.6-Inch Multi-functional Suit Fabric Portable Laptop Sleeve Case Bag for Laptop, Tablet, Macbook, Notebook - Grey
Brinch 15.6-Inch Multi-functional Suit Fabric Portable Laptop Sleeve Case Bag for Laptop, Tablet, Macbook, Notebook - Grey
Offered by BRINCH®
Price: $61.99
2 used & new from $22.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bought to haul Surface tablets. Good deal., April 6, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I ordered this bag from Amazon about a week ago since my old leather bag was showing a lot of wear. I needed something that I could use to carry my Surface devices in as well as an extra stylus, power cable, Steam Controller and USB cables. There are a number of pockets available for storing all kinds of stuff. Of course, I didn't want to spend $100 for it either. Brinch didn't disappoint. It's a lightweight bag that allows me to haul my stuff without too much worry. The material feels nice as one would expect of a suit fabric weave but it may lead you to question durability over time. That's the main reason I give this 4* instead of 5*. Although the bag seems to be a great road warrior for the short term, because of the materials used I wonder if it will be able to handle the load and wear and tear for the long term (I used my old bag for 8 years of some really rough use before it wore down to the point of needing a replacement) If I ever need to carry more stuff, or heavier gear, I start to worry about durability. The mechanisms that hold the shoulder strap to the bag are plastic instead of metal too. So these are things to keep in mind. If you're not looking to haul a lot of gear and don't need or want a leather bag at a premium price, Brinch's 15.6 inch Fabric option isn't a bad deal.


LG Watch Urbane Wearable Smart Watch - Silver
LG Watch Urbane Wearable Smart Watch - Silver
17 used & new from $199.72

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great SmartWatch but be mindful of Android Wear, April 6, 2016
The LG Urbane is the first smartwatch I bought July 2015 direct from Google. I use my Urbane to check notifications, send and reply to messages using voice dictation, schedule appointments through voice dictation, control currently playing music on my phone, create reminders and check train and bus schedules. I've used it everyday until three weeks ago when I purchased a Samsung Gear S2. This review is based on that long term use and various changes I've noticed within that time frame. I'll make a few comparisons to Tizen on the Gear S2 to help illustrate the pros and cons of Android Wear used as a daily driver.

Pros:
Build quality: Excellent. The Urbane looks and feels like a real watch as opposed to a mini smartphone strapped to your wrist or an some alien gadget that looks like something for your initiation into the Borg. It can be a bit big for smaller wrists but I haven't found it too big for me. Even with the default leather band that ships with it the Urbane is a well designed, attractive watch. Solid with good use of materials. The side button works as expected and is firmly in place with a bit of click reaction when pressed which I found to be quite nice.

Display: The Urbane has a P- OLED display at 320x320 pixels with a 241 pixel density. For such a small screen especially compared to current high end smartphones, the Urbane's screen gives a lot of clarity and good reproduction of colors as one would expect from a OLED display even at this size. Some custom watch faces can have really small text but I can still read the text in ambient or full color mode.The screen is responsive easily recognizing my touch inputs and it generally a pleasure to use. More on this below.

Battery Life: The Urbane has 410 mAh battery. On average my Urbane has lasted me two days with normal use. A day and a few hours with heavy use which my friends and I refer to as "new toy syndrome." That's when your device is fresh out of the box and you're constantly playing with it and configuring it. Even with heavy texting, voice dictation, checking notifications, battery life has been much better than expected in my time with the device. Only in two instances I've seen the battery take a beating and not last a full day and then some. One instance was last week when I was comparing the Urbane to the Gear S2 and applied a Vector GUI animated watch face to the Urbane. It destroyed the battery life losing 45% capacity in just a little over 4 hours. Normally after 4 hours with normal use the Urbane will only lose 5 to 15% depending on how I'm using it that day. But the battery drain under those circumstances is not surprising as the watch face is the equivalent of an Android live wallpaper without the smartphone higher capacity battery resources to manage it properly. The other instance was when using Music Boss and my Urbane was at 4% after 7 hours of use. Again, my Urbane on average lasts more than 24 hours.

Android Wear*: Android Wear is not always the most well thought out design in terms of smartwatch OSes. But I do believe it's the most functional overall. Once configured to a person's liking, notifications work really well, voice dictation works exceptionally well. Key apps integrate with Android Wear in really meaningful ways. Hangouts on Android Wear is a fantastic example. In my Gear S2 review I mentioned a voice dictation test that I ran with the S2 vs Urbane/Tizen's S Voice vs Android Wear's Google Now head to head. Android Wear beat the Tizen mercilessly in this regard. It was embarrassing how much better Google Now worked than S Voice in Tizen. Using Voice dictation I was able to easily hold conversations with three different people through the Hangouts app for nearly an hour in Wear without ever touching my phone. It was a fantastic experience and a good example of what a wearable can accomplish in real world use.

Feel: The watch feels good on my wrist even though it's larger than some other smartwatches available. I've never had to readjust the watch band due to discomfort. The watchband hasn't caused any irritation from sweat and use.

Cons:

Display in Sunlight: Forget about it. In sunlight, the Urbane's display becomes unreadable. Almost totally washed out.

Navigation: Basic navigation to pull down the top panel swipe away cards or access the app try isn't bad on the Urbane/Android Wear. But when you need to select a specific app but have to swipe/scroll through a long list of apps it becomes annoying. Or if you have to swipe through a laundry list of Google Now cards to clear the screen, that too can become annoying. The Urbane/Android Wear doesn't have physical input that allows you to quickly scroll through items. Apple has has the digital crown, Pebbles have actual buttons, the Gear S2 has the rotating bezel (which I believe is the best implementation). The reason this is a big deal is because using touch only to navigate on a smartwatch becomes clumsy when you have to block the screen to actually navigate or when you need to access something quickly from a list. Voice dictation doesn't always help in this regard.

Android Wear*: The third con I have with the Urbane and you'll notice the cons are generally the fault of Google, Not LG. Android Wear is very functional. It does a few things really well that not even Pebbles (until recently) or Apple's Watch OS does or does well. But I've found some strange wonkiness that could turn some people off if they attempt to use an Urbane (or any Wear device for that matter) and aren't aware of some details.

One negative aspect of Wear is that the user can't control which apps reside on their device on average. If you use Hangouts, as an example, but you don't necessarily want Hangouts on your watch, tough. It's a all or nothing proposition. Take both or get neither. Wear needs the ability to uninstall smartwatch apps directly from the smartwatch. The main reason (for me) being, if there's an app installed on my Urbane that causes the device to become wildly unstable I'd like the option to dump it from the watch but keep it on the phone. This is one aspect that inspired my purchase of the Gear S2, read: a non Android Wear device due to my Urbane becoming unstable a couple of months ago. My first thought was maybe it was the custom watchface I was using that caused my Urbane to become unstable. I built a few in the app Watchmaker which has been known to cause some problems in the past. I also had the Wear app Music Boss installed at one point for the better music controls than Google Music. Although it worked great for a time, it proved to be a battery killer and over time, function became glitchy. I also tried a custom app launcher which again, had some great ideas but that's when I started to realize what might be the problem under the hood. The new launcher, just like Music Boss doesn't change the default app already in Wear. Meaning, even though you installed a new app launcher for use in Wear, it doesn't replace/deactivate the default launcher. Wear will simply run both. It's the same with Music Boss. I spoke with the developer of Music Boss about this and he confirmed my suspicions and wasn't exactly thrilled about Google's handling of this in Wear considering most smartwatches only have 512MBs of RAM. Music Boss doesn't run in place of Google Music on Wear. It runs with Google Music. Meaning, when you try to access Music Boss controls on your smart watch, you'll still see the active card for Google Music as well. Both are running at the same time. Google hasn't implemented a way to "change defaults" in Wear the way Android proper has supported the option since it's debut. So apps are running parallel causing repeat cards, clumsy function and I suspect, instability. To be fair, I'm not 100% certain which app or apps caused such problems. But I DO know that once I dumped every 3rd party Wear app and only ran stock Wear apps, my Urbane functioned much better. I'm using the process of elimination with a friend also running Wear to try to find out which Wear app(s) are the culprit.

*Just as I was preparing the photos for this review, the Urbane lost it's connection to my Nexus 6P (which isn't even a foot away from it) and Android Wear crashed. WatchMaker is out.

This is unfortunate because the development community has come up with some great ideas in make Wear better. But these devices have limited amounts of RAM so multitasking like we're used to on our smartphones becomes problematic. I suspect, using 3rd party Wear apps with default apps running in the background is causing Wear to choke. You'll notice the UI will stutter like Android 1.x - 3.x from days of old. The screen to your device will become unresponsive taking seconds to react to input. You'll constantly get an error message that says "Android Wear has stopped responding." This is particularly annoying because if this error pops up when you're not looking at your device, it turns on the screen and leaves it on until you do respond, draining your battery. But I can't stress enough how much guesswork is going into this so don't be surprised if others haven't had the same issues or if others have had worse. The only evidence I have is my Urbane's function was crippled when 3rd party apps were being used.

The solution I've found that works for me? Start over. Uninstall every 3rd party Wear app and run stock (Google) apps only. I'm testing some apps individually to see what they do to performance. Watchmaker is first up because it's a very powerful Wear app that allows some extensive customization of watchfaces. In other words...I want that to work if nothing else.

Notifications: Generally speaking, notifications are very useful in Wear as they show up as cards that don't block the full view of the screen. But if you get a few notifications as well as Google Now card updates, there is a ridiculous amount of swiping involved to sort through it all. Initially I dealt with this as the usefulness outweighed the frustration. But my thoughts began to change when I experienced how the Gear S2 handles notifications. First and foremost, the S2/Tizen can display MMS images directly on the watch. Something I haven't experienced with Android Wear. Also, notifications with the S2 can show up in their entirety as soon as the message comes in making it far easier to read at a glance. If you don't catch the message before the ambient mode initiates. A yellow notification indicator pops up on the left side of the display letting you know you have messages. Swipe to the left and your message(s) are there in their entirety. The UI for notifications on the S2 are better designed as well. The S2 will display the message with a transparent image of the contact in the background. Android Wear will show the contact image but the card with the actual message blocks nearly half the screen. It's a sloppy design on Google's part. I understand Google's thought process with the cards, but the design of the cards for Wear, the appeal is limited. They're clearly an extension of a design stripped down from stock Android for smartphones and tablets. Yes, they generally work, yes, Now card notifications can provide a wealth of information. But they can also be bothersome and not-so attractive. Samsung's notifications for the S2 fit better with the design aesthetic of Tizen overall and simply make more sense even if they don't show the same level of information. Note: The S2 can display Now cards but Tizen doesn't provide the same depth of information native to Samsung devices. It has to piggyback on Google services.

Even with this being said, I still give the Urbane 4*. Why? Because the watch itself is still well designed, looks great as a time piece with a quality screen and good materials. Yes, although Android Wear clearly has issues, the reality still remains the same. It's very functional even with the negatives. You can do a lot with it, voice dictation and recognition can be a bit scary at times in how well it can work, you can track and receive a lot of information through Google Now on Wear and it does allow you to look at your phone less.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 30, 2016 8:43 PM PDT


Samsung Gear S2 Smartwatch - Dark Gray
Samsung Gear S2 Smartwatch - Dark Gray
Price: $249.00
167 used & new from $129.88

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but with some issues that could be dealbreakers for some, March 22, 2016
I've been using a LG Urbane for 9 months and decided to switch to a non Android Wear smartwatch after experiencing issues with Google's wearable OS. My original plan was to buy a Pebble Steel but Best Buy doesn't offer it. So I bought a Samsung Gear S2 Sport. As you read this, keep in mind that I am not a fan of Samsung. Their software support for their Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets are terrible, Touchwiz is a hot mess that does rip off Apple shamelessly and Samsung charges a premium price for plastic devices that simply aren't worth the cost. But the Gear S2 is so potentially good that I bought it. I stress "potentially" because depending on your needs, the S2 could be a total waste of time. For my needs, after 5 days of constant use, I can say Samsung has something good here.

Pros:
Build Quality - The Gear S2 is very well built. It's a sleek design and solid. The band is rubber which could be a turn off for some but I have no problems with it. The rotating bezel that many of you may have read about is a fantastic design feature that is a better take on the Apple Watch crown (more on that below). The watch is smaller than many other smartwatches available so it could be a great fit for those with smaller wrists. The device features two buttons, a back button and a home button. These buttons in combination with the rotating bezel and the touch screen make navigation a breeze.

Screen: Samsung's AMOLED technology is at work here. The screen is vibrant with bright colors and rich blacks which has been the trade mark of these screens for years. It responds well to touch input and does a serviceable job of outdoor viewing. Viewing angles are excellent. The resolution is 360x360 at 302 pixel density.

OS/Tizen: The Gear S2 runs Samsung's OS Tizen. It performs incredibly well on the device. It's fast with a good UI, great navigation and a wealth of options to use and/or customize the watch. The learning curve isn't steep if you're coming from a Apple Watch, Pebble or Android Wear. I'd say it's even good for people totally new to smartwatches. The OS supports Widgets and a task manager which doesn't exist on Android Wear. But to be fair, as good as the widgets are, they don't provide the same level of information as Google cards. S2 Widgets can display the weather, news, World Time and fitness information, but Google Now Cards can provide sports updates, travel information, package tracking, mapping information, transit information and other data. The S2 can display cards from Google Now, but the level of information this provides is because the Tizen is piggybacking Google services through synced notifications between the phone and watch. Tizen currently can not provide the same level of information native without the help of Google. I'd like to also note that the music player that's standard in the S2 is better designed visually than the Google Music player in Android Wear. But the Google Music in Wear allows you to see which track is playing without blocking the time. I haven't had any problems with receiving notifications from various apps that some may have experienced. The notification system works really well in Tizen. I still believe that Android Wear is more functional than Tizen in this regard as it's easier and faster to see and respond to messages in Android Wear. But Tizen is still good in that regard.

Battery Life: I read that Samsung rates the S2 Sport at 3 days of battery life with normal use. From my experience I'd say that's accurate. My first test of the battery, full charge, off the charger started at 3 a.m. By 9:30 p.m. I was still at 49% battery with "new toy" use. Meaning I tinkered with the device at various times throughout the day as well as checking text messages, emails, Using S-Voice to reply to messages, installing apps and customizing the watch. With normal use, I'm sure I could stretch that to three days. The S2 will never compete with the Pebble Steel's herculean week long battery life on 1 charge but you won't necessarily need to charge your device every night although I do so out of habit. I'll run the test again tomorrow after I condition the battery and update the review accordingly.

Rotating Bezel: Absolutely fantastic design feature. The rotating bezel makes it very easy to scroll through a list on the device or pan through a series of options without blocking the screen. It clicks in increments making selections that much easier to choose. After a few minutes of wearing the S2, using the bezel just "made sense." The Apple Watch crown is a great idea but I like the rotating bezel better because it's just more intuitive to me. I can use my finger to easily rotate it without much thought placing my finger on various places on the bezel to move it. The Apple crown is more specific and a bit more deliberate.

General specification:
The S2 Sport has a dual core 1GHz Qualcomm processor, 4GBs of internal storage which is standard these days and 512MBs of RAM.

The Bad:

Tizen OS: As good as Tizen functions, there are some key issues that potential buyers should consider. Tizen is not a widely supported OS. Meaning you're not going to get a wealth of apps and services that support it. Samsung has done a decent job of getting key big name companies to support Tizen on the Gear series of Smartwatches. Namely, Nike, ESPN, Flipboard and a few others. But it still pales in comparison to Apple Watch, Android Wear and even Pebble support. As a result, even the custom watch face selection isn't as robust as the competitors. If you don't have any desire to load up your smartwatch with 3rd party apps then this will not be a problem for you provided your needs are met within what's available. But if you're looking for room to grow beyond what's on tap with Tizen, you may have some serious problems doing so.

S-Voice: Because we don't have a lot of screen real estate available to us on a smart watch screen, voice interactions become a big deal. Bigger than on smartphones. S-Voice unfortunately comes up short as performance can be wildly inconsistent. I ran a 1 hour test comparison of S-Voice on the S2 compared to Android Wear voice commands on the LG Urbane running Android Wear 1.4. S-Voice was beaten soundly and in some cases failed miserably. For example, on Android Wear, I said "Ok Google Send text message to Nate" - Google responded almost immediately asking me "What's the message?" I answered "Testing testing." Android Wear almost immediately displayed the results and asked me "Which number would you like to use?" I answered "Grand Central"l (which is what I have my friend's second number labeled as in my contacts). Wear sent the message. It may sound like a lot but this interaction took about 30 seconds if that and was very fluid, almost like talking to a live operator.

On Tizen using S-Voice, the function was clumsy as hell. I named my S2 "Jarvis" which IS a cool option that Android Wear doesn't allow, the ability to rename your device within the voice commands. To the S2 I said "Jarvis" which brought up S-Voice. Then I said "Send text message." S-Voice asks, "which contact?" I answer "Nate." S-Voice asks "What's the message?" I answer "Testing testing." S-Voice literally took 30 seconds just to process the message before it displayed it on the screen. Fail. Worse, S-Voice wouldn't recognize the command "Send text message to Nate." If I include the name of the recipient in the initial command, S-Voice fails each and every time. It has to be broken up..."Send text message" wait for S-Voice to respond. THEN tell S-Voice who the recipient is. Clumsy. I set an appointment using Android Wear on the LG Urbane by saying "Ok Google, Set an appointment for 12:30pm Friday." Android Wear responded almost immediately asking "What's the appointment?" I said "Designer meeting at XXXX" and Android Wear immediately marked it on my calendar and the event showed up across my tablets, smartphones and computers. All in less than 30 seconds. I tried the same command using S-Voice..."Jarvis, Set an appointment for 12:30pm Friday." S-Voice kicked back an error saying it couldn't complete the command. WTF? I tried it a couple of times to make sure I was speaking clearly enough but each time...error, S-Voice couldn't complete the command. Instances like this went on for the remainder of the hour. S-Voice can perform some basic functions and answer some questions but it requires the user to jump through too many hoops and it's unbearable slow on average. Sometimes it would perform very quickly, other times it took far too long to process. That's when it actually worked which in many cases, it didn't. If you're used to having robust voice commands at your disposal or if you're buying your first smartwatch with the intention of using this feature, the S2 isn't for you. S-Voice is embarrassingly bad especially when compared to Google's stellar effort in Android Wear.

Initially Setup:
The last negative is the setup of the S2. After powering on the device, users are tasked to install the Gear app and at least two plugins on their device as well as creating a Samsung user account. Some people may not see this as that big of a deal if they're using Galaxy S devices. But in my case, I wouldn't use ANY Galaxy S smartphone even if it were given for free. So I don't have a Samsung account and I don't like the idea of Samsung software soiling my Nexus 6P. I created an account obviously so I could use the watch but it was with reluctance and apprehension. This is what happens when a consumer buys a product and gets screwed one time too many by the OEM. Samsung's software and consumer support are pathetic from my experience. Touchwiz should be discontinued and Samsung refuses to provide standard software support for their devices. Not providing support for Android proper is bad enough, Samsung doesn't even provide adequate security support for their devices. But some of their engineering tries to balance the scales when the company decides to build a great product (as in the S2). In comparison, all Android Wear requires is the Android Wear app and a a bluetooth connection. No additional plugins. Obviously a Google account is needed as well for the syncing of data to actually work but I favor Google services over Samsung because at least Google actually makes stuff that works really well more often than not. Samsung copies and fails more often than they succeed from my experience with services that work just enough to be mentioned by never good enough to take seriously (see S-Voice on the S2).

Final thoughts:
I still give the S2 4* when it's all said and done. Even though I'm not a fan of Samsung, I give credit where its due and the S2 is a very well built, well designed smartwatch. It provides a great screen and good battery life and comfortable on the wrist. Tizen is capable but in desperate need of support for the long game and S-Voice for the watch is definitely in need of an upgrade as Google Now crushes it easily. If you're a potential buyer that doesn't plan on using voice dictation and doesn't plan on loading up on 3rd party apps, then The S2 can be a great purchase for you. Otherwise, I'd look at Android Wear devices, the Pebble Steel or Pebble Time Round or the Apple Watch if all else fails.
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Cell Phone Tripod Adapter - iPhone Tripod Mount - SE 6 6S Plus 5 5S 5C 4 4s Clip Holder Connector Head Smartphone Attachment Samsung Galaxy S7 S6 S5 S4 S3 S2 - DaVoice (Black)
Cell Phone Tripod Adapter - iPhone Tripod Mount - SE 6 6S Plus 5 5S 5C 4 4s Clip Holder Connector Head Smartphone Attachment Samsung Galaxy S7 S6 S5 S4 S3 S2 - DaVoice (Black)
Offered by Davoice
Price: $7.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Works as expected, December 11, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this attachment for a 35mm camera tripod my father bought for his camera but gave to me to use with my smartphone. The attachment worked perfectly. Very snug fit with no fear of slippage, easy to connect to the tripod, easy to adjust. My only recommendation would be to use a case with your phone when using the attachment. The fit is snug but for some devices such as a Samsung galaxy smartphone the cheap build and plastic materials could be scratched if you're not careful. Otherwise great product 5*, no issues.


Koss KTXPRO1 Titanium Portable Headphones with Volume Control
Koss KTXPRO1 Titanium Portable Headphones with Volume Control
Price: $12.59
148 used & new from $10.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome headphones, better now especially for the price, December 6, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've been using Koss KTXPRO1s back when they were called Pro 35 Titanium and a RadioShack brand. I had one of the first releases of them, when they were all black and more bass heavy going back over 10 years. Awesome headphones, better now especially for the price. The titanium filaments deliver clear sound with good reproduction of highs, mids and lows. The frequency range is good but could be better in some respects. It's too easy to listen to your music too loud because of the clarity of the song and cause damage to one of the speakers in the headphones causing distortion at higher levels. That would be one of my concerns as well as being mindful of the wires. It's easy to cause breakage with the wires which causes loss of sound in one side of the headphones. But the headphones are lightweight and comfortable to wear to the extent that more than one occasion I'd forgotten that I even had them on and connected to a device.

But for the price, I still give these 4* because of the clarity of sound and comfort. If you want headphones that focus more on heavier bass, then Koss isn't for you. But if you want to actually hear well mixed sound across all three ranges then by all means, give them a try.


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5.0 out of 5 stars Road Warrior power supply. Works as expected, December 6, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought an extra power supply for use on the road with my Surface Pro 3. I was getting tired of disconnecting the original from the wall outlet and prepping it for transport. So I bought another to keep in my travel bag at all times and to work as a backup if anything happens to the original. Works as expected with no problems thus far. 5*.


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