Jabra Elite 65t In-Ear True Wireless Headphones review

AirPods AirPods AirPods!

Sometimes it feels as though there are AirPods and a tiny selection of competitors that make up a slither of the market. When I go to the gym I see AirPods, on the train there are AirPods and seemingly everywhere else. Those little dangly white things hanging out of people’s ears like a statement, one which is growing all of the time.

AirPods 2 will soon arrive and are basically the same with a few bits tucked inside to keep the momentum going, but is there another choice? Maybe.

The Jabra Elite 65t has had some good press of late, but also appear to be a little strange looking in the marketing shots. They look big on paper and almost feel like a previous generation of design when compared to Apple’s offering.

See how happy they make me…

When I first opened up the box, however, I was surprised at how small they are, and even more surprised at how small they look when in my ears. They are noticeable, of that there is no doubt, but they look much more subtle than the dangly white things.

Sound quality

So, I went through the very short pairing process and they were immediately connected. I put them in my ears and played some bass-heavy music, and I was impressed. Not impressed on a technical level because a nerdy audiophile would no doubt tell you that the sound reproduction is not great, but neither is the sound from AirPods or most other wireless EarPods. The fact is that of all the wireless buds I have tried these sound the best to me.

There is an associated app that lets you equalise the music, but in reality you will likely end up using the default setting or perhaps the ‘Energize’ mode. The rest sound a little forced to me and unnatural. You can also enable a feature called ‘HearThrough’ which is supposed to help you hear outside sounds. Truth be told I could not tell the difference, but maybe I need to be in louder places to experience the true effect. Finally, volume will be more than loud enough for those of you who like to crank your music right up.

Controls

The controls are a bit fiddly because of the way the buds fit in your ears. I found myself having to push a little too hard which would distort the sound, and strangely the sound could be affected when eating or drinking due to the movement in my jaw. There are a few controls to learn which are not so intuitive, but like anything you will soon get used to those.

Comfortability

They are comfortable after sitting in your ears for some time, but you need to make sure that you select the right inserts. I was surprised that the small ones fitted my ears just right and that the entire bud sat snug and at no point came close to falling out. Even better, you will forget they are in which is not always the case with much of the competition.

Battery life

Brilliant. Five hours of music plus another ten hours through the case, and it is true as well. That is superb.

Build quality

They feel fairly sturdy and I suspect they could easily survive a drop or two. The only concern I had was with the charging case which feels quite cheap and with an opening mechanism that never feels tight.

What’s worse than AirPods?

Well, the charging case, as I said, is a bit flimsy. Annoyingly when you want to only use one bud you have to use the right one. I always prefer the left one, but the main controls are on the right bud so there is no choice here. Connectivity is very good and the best I have seen outside of the AirPods for my iPhone X, but on a couple of occasions the left bud would not make any sound until I took them both out and started again. Audio on videos can lose sync quite easily so I would suggest that if you watch a lot of YouTube on your phone with headphones these may be worth avoiding on that basis alone. Strangely, I suffered no lag in Netflix or Prime, but there is a technical reason for the loss of sync and it is something to do with not supporting a new standard, one that I cannot remember at this time. Sorry.

What’s better than AirPods?

The sound quality is better in my opinion, but this is very much a personal take and one which every person will have a slightly different view on. They look better when worn and, for me, they are much more secure in the ears when running or exercising. I can use Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant through them and it works well. It works well because I obviously don’t use Siri. They are cheaper if you shop around, down to as low as £129 in the UK.

Conclusion

Are the Jabra Elite 65t In-Ear True Wireless Headphones better than AirPods?

Yes.

The Apple TV 4K is bad, really bad

I purchased an Apple TV 4K last week as I needed one for a freelance article and was expecting an experience that was better than the previous Apple TV or my smart TV, because after all I spent £179 on it.

The design is nice and of course so is the unboxing experience, but there are some problems-

Apps like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime take a LONG time to start streaming any film or TV episode, and the apps themselves take a long time to start up.

Siri through the remote is poor and rather inaccurate, just like it is on the iPhone or anywhere else.

The remote is fiddly to use and not friendly in the hand in any way.

My Samsung smart TV does everything much, much quicker and remarkably has a more natural interface.

Overall performance of the Apple TV is slow and it all feels dated in almost every area.

For £179 it is poor value indeed and most definitely not recommended. One day Apple will get the TV stuff right, one day…

Tudor Black Bay GMT thoughts. Too good for me?

A grail watch that is so good it just doesn’t feel right

For many years I have wanted a Tudor Black Bay Heritage. It has always been the watch I look at and consider to be ‘the one’. I cannot explain why, but the cliche of ‘it needs to speak to you’ is 100% true in the case of watches and the invisible emotions that can make you love or hate a watch are completely real.

When I found myself in a position to finally get my grail I made some enquiries with regards to the red Heritage and was advised by my authorised deal that he had none. I was ready to check elsewhere, they are readily available, but he mentioned that he had just received a Black Bay GMT. That made me stop in my tracks.

You see, the GMT is not easy to find at all which is evidenced by this snippet taken from a watch forum discussing the availability in London last August-

So far:

John Lewis Oxford Street – Long Waiting List
Ernest Jones – Cheapside – 70 people waiting
Goldsmiths – Victoria – 200 people waiting
Watches of Switzerland – Regent St – 120 people waiting

Will update information as when I know more…

This has not changed much at all and to this day many people have been waiting for a long time to get their hands on one. So I asked him to keep it aside and I popped into the store the next day. £2,780 later it was mine.

A huge amount of money for a watch, but the picture is much bigger and far deeper when it comes to this particular watch. I shall try to explain why this amount of money makes perfect sense-

1/ It is a Tudor Black Bay. Try to buy a second-hand Black Bay and you will pay close to the original asking price so it is hard to lose money if you keep it in decent condition.

2/ The GMT is scarce and they are regularly changing hands for between £3,000 and £3,500 and in some cases even higher.

3/ The Rolex GMT Master II is £6,850. Yes, it is in some ways a very different watch, but in others the similarities are stark.

4/ It is an asset which holds its price in a way almost all other products fail to do. If troubling times come, I have +£2,500 to sell at any point. Potentially I will have a lot more once a few years have passed.

There was logically no reason to turn down the GMT even though when I sat in the jewellers with it on my wrist I was not overcome. It was not speaking to me as I expected it to.

I bought it anyway.

A strange thing happened over the next few days and especially so on the first wear. I was paranoid of getting any scratch or mark on it, presumably because of points 2 and 3 above, and so I was being extra careful with resting my arm on the desk etc. It took 30 minutes for me to pull out a second watch from my bag and replace this one in a safe place so that it did not gain any mark.

What was more strange, however, was how I felt wearing a watch that is worth approximately £3,000. It felt overwhelming in a small way. I didn’t feel like someone who should be wearing such an expensive watch. It’s not me and I simply did not feel worthy because it felt so out of place on my arm.

I am not a Rolex guy. Never have been and I never will be. There are many reasons for this; the designs feel as though they have been put together for other people to see and not for the wearer to enjoy. The Submariner is wonderful, but now so generic that everyone who gets into watches owns one. When people reach a certain financial position in life that they want to stamp they buy a Rolex. They don’t look for something different, they go for a Rolex because it is the safe choice.

The Pepsi icon. Rotary has tried to copy it, but failed in a big way. As have many other brands..

For all of the greatness of Rolex, and there is much, the designs feel as though they are aimed at people at least a generation ahead of me and maybe more. Look at the GMT Master II and compare it to the Black Bay GMT- the Master II comes over as far too decorative whereas the Bay feels somehow younger and cooler.

Anyway, I digress. I wore the Black Bay GMT the next day and it managed to get more wrist time than in the previous 24 hours, and the sense of ‘not good enough to wear it’ started to dissipate. But then another feeling clouded my thoughts. The red and blue bezel, which is made up of two perfectly matched subtle colours, pops in the subtlest of ways. It is not noticeable most of the time, but now and again I appreciate the colour scheme used on GMT. The white snowflake hands work perfectly with the grey(?) dial and the GMT hand of course makes sense in red. However, the sense of silver, red and blue all together can come over as too cautious. It is hard to put into words, but it is perfectly possible that I am truly smitten with the Black Bay Heritage and the gold hands and markers. It will sound silly to those of you who don’t have an interest in watches, but when you see something that fits the way you are, it is hard to move to the opposite.

The lack of a date window on the Heritage helps a lot as does the full red bezel and the gold of course, and it is these little things that make it feel special to me. It makes it feel just more special than the GMT. I cannot of course criticise the GMT for this because it is a true tool watch with a brilliantly intuitive movement and it makes no apologies for that. It should be perfect for me because it ticks every box, but the Heritage feels just a little more perfect.

Overall though I am left with the feeling that a £3,000 watch is too much for me. Do I not feel worthy to wear an expensive watch? Does it feel like a risk carrying something like this with me every day? I don’t know, but it makes me feel uncomfortable and somewhat guilty deep down. It feels arrogant and unnecessary which is bizarre because I have always wanted a watch like this. My iPhone cost £1,000 and I don’t have any guilt about carrying that around so why is a watch a problem?

I don’t know why it is, but I suspect that I will end up wearing a £300 Seiko again and will continue to ‘look up’ to watches like the Black Bay GMT. Something about not being able to attain an object makes it seem more special to me than when I have it on my wrist, and it is kind of a disappointing feeling.

If you have no such worries, however, get this watch. It is wonderful and probably the best value watch on the market today when compared to its peers.

Kindle Paperwhite 2018 first impressions

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Buying a new Paperwhite is a bit like buying the one you already own. Not much changes and the overall experience feels so familiar that you are left wondering what you spent the money on. It is, however, a product that many, including myself, feel nailed its intent from the very first release and if it ain’t broke…

The latest release adds serious water resistance (IPX8 rated) which is ideal when on holiday and a must have feature which is long overdue. For such a simple product I am surprised it took this long.

It is also lighter (182 grams) and slightly smaller (167 x 116 x 8.2 mm) than the previous generation and this is noticeable at first. It doesn’t take long though to forget that and to feel that the new Paperwhite is just the size it should be. The only other noticeable hardware change is the flatness of the display with no bezel ridges anymore. Theoretically this is an improvement, but for me I kind of like the dip in the middle.

You can now pair it to Bluetooth headphones to listen to audiobooks which is a nice bonus and of course your place in the book is synchronised whether you are reading or listening, a feature that still impresses me to this day.

Photo 12-11-2018, 16 33 38

There are also some software adjustments including the ability to save settings for multiple people which makes it a useful reader for the whole family and besides that it all feels, as I said before, very familiar.

The fact that I cannot write much about the new Paperwhite is a compliment. It has always been my preferred reader of choice, even above real books, and the latest version is a subtle improvement that keeps it high up in my list of products that are worth every penny. I only bought this because my current Paperwhite was damaged in a fall and it had served me perfectly for many years and many many books. I fully expect this new Paperwhite to be just as good and truth be told I don’t really want it to change much.

Fitbit Charge 3 first impressions

The Charge 3 is a step forward for Fitbit, a very small one.

First impressions show that it wears and looks extremely similar to the Charge 2 and that the physical advantages are at first glance not indicative of a big jump forward. It is slightly smaller which is noticeable for someone like me who wears it on his dominant wrist upside down, in deference to a real watch on the other wrist. I don’t like wearing something on each wrist, but needs must I suppose.

The screen is better than on the Charge 2 and is now touch sensitive whereas previously you would need to tap the device, physically, to achieve a response. The problem, however, is that the touch sensitivity is not particularly natural and I find myself often times having to tap and tap again to get a response. Technically this is an improvement, but in the real world it still feels somewhat clunky.

You do get more information than before and some nice animations, a glitter ball for example when you hit your step goal, but these are novelty aesthetics that do not actually add functionality. Overall it feels almost exactly like the Charge 2 with little extra information on screen at any one time which at this moment feels like a missed opportunity. Add to this the fact that there is only a handful of watch faces available at launch and that these are minimal at best. For example, I used to show the time, step count and floors on my Charge 2 watch face and that is now not possible on the Charge 3. Indeed, to see the floors you have to scroll multiple times to get to the data, when the screen accepts the scrolling gesture that is.

On the subject of floors the Charge 3 is displaying the same problems as the Versa. I managed 13 floors just by driving to work for 30 minutes – it is the exact same problem that many Versa users complain about in the Fitbit forums and they are already doing so with regards to the Charge 3. Fitbit has a serious problem with its floor tracking in the latest devices and is coming up with stock answers time and time again, and not resolving what is becoming a more evidenced problem by the day,

Oh, I should also add that the Charge 3 also counts too many steps, just like the Versa, and my step count is at least 10% up from all other trackers. This is not good enough for a company that makes fitness trackers. If there are obvious problems in the sensors why are they being continued on the latest devices?

The one good point is the battery life which is exceptional, but this does not offer enough of an advantage to make the Charge 3 a worthy upgrade over the Charge 2, and mainly because the Charge 2 is accurate while the 3 is not. It’s as simple as that.

The Charge 3 may offer more watch faces and apps over time. It may be fixed to resolve the floor and step tracking issues, but today it is not worthy. Sorry Fitbit, but you need to sort this out once and for all.

Related-

Charge 3 counting too many floors

Versa counting too many floors

APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 – FINAL THOUGHTS

I feel like a man in 2007 who doesn’t want to give up his basic Nokia phone. I can see the future coming and I don’t want to admit that one day I may need a smartphone.

The future will overtake me and I will own an iPhone or Android phone like everyone else and wonder why I ever thought my Nokia was enough for me.

I kind of feel this way about the Apple Watch. I can see a time when it could be essential, when it could be a product group that is viewed as an oddity if you do not have one strapped to your wrist. With time and the advance of technology it is conceivable that smartwatches will offer so many benefits that they becomes a must have item, and at that point they will also become fashionable and potentially luxurious.

It is hard to imagine at this time, that a device so small can be so essential, but open your mind just a little to consider the advancement of voice control, the miniaturisation of technology and the progression of power management, and it feels possible that the usefulness of such devices will outweigh the pleasure some of us get from mechanical timepieces.

Balancing gaining pleasure from a mechanical object against the sheer utility of a gadget is not easy because it is like comparing oranges and bricks, but with only two wrists and the propensity to cover just one of them at a time, something has to give.

While it is possible that a watch on one wrist and a smart device on the other could become normal, I suspect that will not happen. The inconvenient truth is that the smart one will make the elegant one feel redundant, even for those of us who love mechanical watches, and it will be a no-brainer for the rest of the population (98% minimum) who care little for watches.

There is, however, a difference between watches and phones, and history cannot be a completely accurate guide here. No one had emotional connections, not strong ones, to their basic mobile phones. There is no sense of real history, no passing down through the generations and thus they are automatically replaceable. You will never see a vintage Apple Watch that is valuable or that can even be used in the future, and at no point will one ever be seen as an emotional object which is kind of strange for something you wear.

I suspect that the Apple Watch, and the other smartwatches, have come along at the right time. In a moment when young people tell the time with their phones and when even many older people do not bother with a watch. The time is ripe for a new product category and those of us who love the tradition of mechanical watches are in the most minor of minorities.

Onto the Apple Watch itself.

I was hugely disappointed with the Series 4 at one point because of the battery, but that seems to have settled to the point that 45 minutes of charging per day will likely be enough to keep it running the rest of the time. It still irks me when compared to the likes of Fitbit and Garmin, but it is manageable.

The Series 4 is a huge improvement design-wise over the previous four models and that screen matters more than you may expect for making touch points feel natural and for displaying the information you require without the need to squint. The way it hugs the wrist has been improved a great deal with a flatter sensor at the bottom, the Series 3 sensor lifts the entire watch from the wrist, and a more consistent form throughout.

It is extremely fast, extremely convenient and for a variety of tasks could be considered essential. For runners who want music and podcasts on the move and who do not want to carry a phone with them, the cellular version will be close to perfect.

For those who are new to fitness and who do not realise that Fitbit and Garmin do a ‘much’ better job in this area it could help them become much more healthy. And for those who for whatever reason find the iPhone impractical to use when working, the notifications and basic interactivity will feel more than a little useful.

Apple has moved the Apple Watch up a huge notch with the Series 4 and it feels like the iPhone 4 to me. The sudden design change and extra usability will make it more appealing to more people, just like the iPhone 4 did, and look what followed. If the Apple Watch Series 4 is the iPhone 4 equivalent, I am very curious to see what the Apple Watch Series 10 will be.

For the moment, however, it is still not for me and for two reasons. Firstly my love for mechanical watches which may be on borrowed time and secondly the fact that the Fitbit Versa, Ionic and various Garmin smartwatches are more practical on a day to day level, mainly because of the battery life. They most certainly have their faults, of that there is no doubt, but they have been designed to give the user what they need without the requirement to charge it too often and to mess about making it work how they need it to.

I have moments of clarity where I just sit and think. Moments when I don’t want to be interrupted and just need to consider what happens next, and as silly as it sounds in those moments I like to look at my watch, play around with it and just enjoy it. The Apple Watch is not for those moments and it is not for people who want a zero hassle experience, and if they did want a smartwatch I would still have to recommend one that does not require a daily charge to get through the day.

This is not an Apple Watch

I have owned a few Apple Watch models since release, mainly to facilitate freelance work, and to date I have been less than impressed by almost everything the device offers.

From the form factor (too square, too thick, too fiddly) to the limited customisation options to the unambitious fitness implementation, it ticks none of the wrist-based boxes for me and falls into a place that just doesn’t fit my tastes or my needs.

Throw in a battery that requires a daily charge, even if it is a short one, and I struggle to understand why it is so popular. Indeed, it is the only Apple product that doesn’t appeal to me in any way. Apart from the HomePod, AirPods and iPad, but that’s another story. For me, Apple is the iPhone and the Mac and that’s about it, but boy do I enjoy using both of those products every day.

Photo 02-09-2018, 16 24 53

Because of the above the time had come to try something new and so I was given the opportunity to test the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier watch, which is perfect timing considering that the new Galaxy Watch is imminent?

The testing ended up being cut short sadly due to battery performance that was beyond poor. It moved from 100% at 10pm to 0% at 4am and as such failed to track my sleep. I re-charged it and it was gone again by midday.

The watch was reset and I followed all of the online tips to resolve this issue, but it simply would not improve and the end result was half-day battery life which is of course unmanageable.

Aside from this I genuinely really enjoyed the Frontier when it worked. The faces on offer are visually quite impressive, some of the apps actually make sense on the wrist and there is a sense that this is a ‘watch’ rather than a small computer.

The debate surrounding what shape a smartwatch should be continues with some saying that square is the way forward because it makes more logical sense to build it this way. You get more real estate to cram small app interfaces into and it just makes things easier all round. However, for some of us a watch should be round if possible to break up the notion that it is in fact a computer.

This simple change of shape actually means a lot to the experience and in my case I found that I much preferred the Frontier to the Apple Watch on the wrist.

Fitness is catered for well with sleep tracking, steps etc and a heartrate sensor, and with Samsung Health you have the ability to track trends and aim for improvements. The main problem I see though is that it is very standalone with no way to import data from other fitness software. So, if you move from a competing product to this you will effectively be starting over, and the solution is not good enough (in my opinion) to allow that.

As I said, my time with the Frontier was cut short, but I do see something here which reinforces my view that the wrist will become smart and that the age of traditional watches, at least those below £500, is time limited. The Apple Watch may well be selling the most, but in my view there is much better out there, if some of the irritations are fixed.

Fitbit Versa: two days in (vs Apple Watch)

I have been using the Versa for two days now and feel that this is enough time to start to understand the good points, the bad and the meh…

Overall I am very impressed with the Versa as a fitness tracker, which should obviously be expected considering that this is what Fitbit does. It is in no way of the same build quality as an Apple Watch, but the gap is not that small when it comes to comparing it with the non stainless steel models. The lightness causes an immediate negative impact in terms of how the build is perceived, but it is actually an advantage. With the standard strap it is simply not noticeable when worn. Also, there is nothing obviously wrong with the Versa in terms of fit and finish because it is well made and does what it needs to without trying to be something else.

This is my overriding impression of the Versa in these early stages. It is a fitness watch that will help you to understand what you do each day without the need to pretend to be luxurious or some kind of status symbol. The Apple Watch, on the other hand feels completely different. To me, the Apple Watch is for those who go to the gym to be seen at the gym or to tell the people at work that they went to the gym last night. The Fitbit Versa is for those who go to the gym to get fit, quietly.

That is obviously a huge tongue in cheek generalisation and smart watches are meant to be about more than fitness, but the fact is that they are about fitness and notifications, and telling the time. Nothing else at this time. Find me a third party app that works well enough on a smart watch to make it worth installing and I will still challenge it because (logically) I have found no apps that work on a watch better than on a phone or that benefit the user because they are on the wrist. With this in mind, the fact that the apps on the Versa are poor means little to me because I am unlikely to use them. Just as I used no third party apps on the Apple Watch.

As a fitness tracker the Versa is brilliant whereas the Apple Watch is not. Filling rings takes me back to the thoughts of gym people because it feels like dabbling with getting slightly more active than before. It feels as though Apple doesn’t quite get the true idea of fitness and instead looks at it as a lifestyle thing to do at the end of a busy day in the office. Don’t get me wrong, filling rings is nice and all that, but to me doesn’t offer a sense of improvement or the detail needed to truly understand how and why you can improve. Some of you may disagree completely, but I know of four people who owned the Apple Watch and who now use Fitbit’s because of the superior tracking. I can only go on my experience and those of people I know.

The battery life is an obvious advantage on the Versa which again offers a sense of ‘tool’ rather than ‘style’ and from a practical sense the Versa ticks all of the boxes. The Ionic almost did, but the Marmite design is a killer for too many people, and it’s also too big for most women.

It would be nice to be able to store more than one watch face on the watch and to not have to use the phone to change them, but I am hoping that I will find one I stick with so that will not be a problem. Seriously, I must have tried more than 30 faces so far and am kind of enjoying messing around with them. The whole clock face thing really is the majority of the customisation available on the Versa, unless you want to play around with the apps and games, but the less is more feeling is to me another advantage because you end up just using it and not thinking about it too much. In a grown up tech world, products that benefit you without the need to fiddle are what most people want.

The Versa is not exciting and it is not complex. It is not jewellery and it offers no statement about the person wearing it. It just works (a phrase Apple would do well to remember).

An old PDA in a new world

I watched Steve Litchfield’s review (below) of the Gemini PDA yesterday and as much as I have fond memories of the original Psion PDAs, I couldn’t help but think that the world has moved on. Such a device just doesn’t seem to fit anymore.

In a world where the MacBook is portable enough for many daily activities (working on a train, in a coffee shop and elsewhere) and with much more power, the Gemini feels like a half-way house we do not need. And one which doesn’t do too much more than the smartphones that dominate portable technology today.

If we needed keyboards still on ultra-portable devices, the BlackBerry would still be king of the hill and the lesson has not been learned with the release of this product.

It may build into a niche industry that makes some money and there is a part of me that wants to try it to see if it does offer something that I have been missing for a couple of decades, but the logical part of me can’t find a place for it in 2018.