tech4xmas reviews for Christmas 2016

So Christmas is now less than two months away, this series of reviews serves up gift ideas for those planning to buy presents for their friends and loved ones.

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Planning your Christmas shopping? Stay tuned for quick and easy-to-read reviews of some of the best-in-class gadgets available today.

With Christmas 2016 less than two months away, it’s a good time to begin planning gifts for those that are close to us.

So this series features quick and easy-to-read reviews of some of the best tech gadgets/products that I’ve personally tried.

Not all are the latest and newest, but they are what I think are some of the best-in-class in their category of products.

The reviews are meant to provide ideas and start you off, so do check out some of them online and in the shops if they are what you think would bring a smile to your loved ones this Christmas.

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Dell XPS 13 notebook.

Have been using this beautiful workhorse during Strata + Hadoop World in Singapore. Surpassed all expectations. Love how it’s compact yet has two full-sized Type-A USB 3 slots & a Type C slot.

And its 13.3″ QHD+ (3200X1800) display is stunning, especially with its ultra-thin 5.2mm bezel that makes it look borderless. And it’s touchscreen.

I also brought along this workhorse on vacation to finish the writing for covering the conference and for leisure – browsing the Web, editing holiday photos etc. Again the compact and powerful notebook performed fantastically!

A perfect Christmas present for both work & leisure!

This one (S$2,399) I’m using has 7th Gen Intel Core i7-7500U (4MB Cache, up to 3.5GHz), Windows 10 Home 64bit, 8GB RAM, 256GB PCIe SSD, Intel JD Graphics 620.

Also available is 16GB RAM version (S$2,699) & Intel Core i5 version 8GB RAM (S$1,899).

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Olympus Pen-F mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.

A beautiful retro-styled camera that produces lovely photos – Olympus Pen-F mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Good for both a gentleman or a lady.

You can see how well used this camera is, here it’s paired with an M.Zuiko 25mm (50mm equivalent) fast f1.8 microFourThirds prime lens that produces sharp pictures with lots of bokeh. A stylish Christmas gift for the X’mas holidays!

Personally, I love its classic rangefinder look!

The Pen-F hit Singapore shelves in February 2016 (S$1,798 body only). Lenses include 12mm f2.0 (S$1,248), 17mm f1.8 (S$748), and 25mm f1.8 (S$598). This retro camera is named after the original Pen F from 1963. Features below.

  • 20-megapixel sensor
  • no optical low-pass filter
  • 5-axis image stabilisation system
  • in-camera filters for film effects
  • FHD video
  • 4K timelapse movies
  • 2.36M dot OLED EVF (Electronic viewfinder)
  • swivel 3″ touchscreen LCD (1,037k dot resolution)

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Xiaomi Mi Max Android phablet.

Ong Chor Yew bought himself an early Christmas gift – Xiaomi Mi Max entry-level Android phablet – and he recommends it, paying S$259 for it on Qoo10 online.

Personally, I like its huge & bright screen – great for reading ebooks, watching videos and surfing the Web. And especially its long battery life.

Read his full review here.

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Left: SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C flash drive. Top: iXpand flash drive. Right: Connect Wireless Stick.

When it comes to portable flash memory devices, I seem to use only SanDisk – probably because they’re everywhere. Fortunately they’re very reliable and affordable and has never failed on me – not even once. And they’re quite innovative in launching useful devices beyond boring run-of-the-mill memory cards & dumb thumbdrives.

Here are some I’ve tried and find pretty nifty – good as Christmas gifts to colleagues and students and youths who will find them useful.

Details below.

  • (Left): SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C is a flash drive for that offers USB 3.1 speeds of up to 150MB/s. You can use it to store (16-128GB) and transfer files from mobile devices with a USB Type-C port to computers with USB Type-A/Type-C ports. It has a USB Type-A connector (the more common one we’re used to) on one end and a USB Type-C connector on the other end.
  • (Top): For iPhone & iPad users, the iXpand flash drive has a lightning Connector on one end and USB 3.0 Type-A connector on the other. Use it to store (16-128GB) or transfer files from iOS devices with lighting connectors to computers with USB Type-A connectors. You can also use it for auto photo backup and to watch videos with .wmv, .avi., .mkv, .mp4, .mov formats.
  • (Right): My favourite is the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick. It can stream videos wirelessly to up to 3 devices simultaneously. Connect wirelessly to smartphones, tablets and computers to store (16-200GB) or transfer files/media, auto-backup or share your files. Works with both Android & iOS devices.

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ASUS ZenBook 3 Ultrabook.

Originally an early Christmas gift to myself – until my wife “possessed” the ZenBook the moment she set eyes on it because she loved the color and sexy metallic finish. And it’s light and thin. So now it’s HER early X’mas present!

Light 910g and 11.9mm thickness only. Love the colour. Intel Core i5-7200U processor (2.5GHz, 3M cache), 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD. 12.5-inch FHD display, USB Type C, Windows 10. S$1,998 in Singapore.

Also available is the i7 CPU version at S$2,598 with 16GB RAM. Other specs largely the same.

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Canon EOS 5DsR with Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens (photographer not included).

In this photo, I was using the Canon EOS 5DsR with Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens. I had tried the Canon EOS 5Ds for a day in Singapore (see the photos here) last year when it was first launched and loved it, so decided to bring its sibling for my family vacation in Taipei.

As expected, it totally delivered itself. If you’re gettig a Christmas present for a serious photographer looking for top-notch performance, check this camera out. (or if you are prepared to dole out even more moolah, go for the newly launched Canon EOS 5D Mark IV).

I’ll be posting photos taken using this solid camera (see the photos here) so stay tuned.

Essentially, the Canon EOS 5DsR is a fullframe camera with 50.6 megapixels & Dual DIGIC 6 image processor. The only difference with its 5Ds sibling is that it cancels the effect of the Low-Pass Filter (LPF) to enhance detail and image quality.

I loved the almost-noiseless image quality even when shooting at ISO6400.

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HP PageWide Pro 577dw Multifunction Printer

A most pragmatic Christmas present for someone equipping a new small office – game changing new printer technology from HP. In addition to its ink-jet-based OfficeJet & toner-based LaserJet printers, HP has introduced a new printer category – the PageWide series.

Instead of having a small moving printhead moving sideways as the paper is fed through, the PageWide printhead is as wide as an A4 paper, shooting ink over the entire width of the paper all at once. So apart from the paper that is being fed through, there are no other moving parts – the printhead remains stationary throughout.

The result is faster printing speed and quality and lower total cost of ownership for SMEs – supposedly surpassing that for LaserJets! The catch is that it doesn’t come cheap, this model is listed as S$1,349 – higher than HP’s own LaserJets!

The HP PageWide Pro MFP 577dw prints colour, scans, copies and faxes and is targeted at SMEs with 3-15 users printing up to 6,000 pages a month, with print speeds of up to 70 pages per minute.

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Huawei P9 Android smartphone, in collaboration with Leica

The camera rocks! Not surprising considering it was developed in collaboration with Leica. Good in low light, sharp, and the monochrome photos are FABULOUS! The Black-and-white toning has Leica written all over it!

Get this smartphone for the camera! It’s an ideal camera-phone for the phototaking enthusiast that loves great photos right out of the phone, without any need for postediting

And the camera itself is fast, handsome and a pleasure to use.

Check out the photos that I took with the Huawei P9 here.

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Plantronics BackBeat Go 3 Bluetooth wireless earbuds.

The Plantronics BackBeat Go 3 is a pretty pair of Bluetooth wireless earbuds. S$139 in Singapore. S$219 with charge case. Sweat-proof! Copper Grey version here. Cobalt Black also available.

I loved the sound quality and the easy and fast pairing with the smartphone.

Key features:

  • 6.5hrs listen time.
  • 13hrs additional listen time using fully-charged portable charge case (180mAh).
  • 14 days standby.
  • 6 months deep sleep mode.
  • 19g weight.

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ASUS ZenWatch 2 Android Wear smartwatch.

This photo shows the “Sparrow” version, with the larger 1.63-inch gunmetal housing and navy blue leather strap.

Also available is the “Wren” – with smaller 1.43-inch silver housing and khaki leather strap.

Both goes for S$229 in Singapore. Compatible with both Android and iOS devices.

My favourite feature is naturally the ability to put Cliff’s face as a background image for the watch face!

Key features

  • Processor – Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2GHz
  • Operating System – Android Wear
  • RAM – 512MB
  • Memory – 4GB eMMC Flash
  • Display – AMOLED 1.63″, 320x320px, 278ppi Touch Display
  • Audio – Built-in microphone
  • Battery – 400mAh
  • Water Resistance – IP67
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.1 & Wi-Fi
  • Dimensions – 49.6 x 40.7 x 9.4 ~ 10.9 mm

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Canon PowerShot G9 compact camera.

The Canon PowerShot G9 X I tried out was in classic silver with tanned brown trim. S$619 in Singapore. Also available in Black.

Offhand I love the retro look of the brown trim, although the new buttons layout takes some getting used to.

Key features

  • 98 x 57.0 x 30.8mm
  • 209g
  • 20.2 megapixels
  • large 1-inch CMOS sensor
  • 3-inch 1.04million dots LCD panel
  • 3x optical zoom with IS
  • 28-84mm focal length (35mm equiv.)
  • f/2.0 – f/4.9 aperture
  • DIGIC 6 image processor
  • Full HD 24p/25p/30p/50p/60p video
  • Wi-Fi, NFC connectivity

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Moto G4 Plus Android smartphone from Lenovo.

This mid-tier Android smartphone from Lenovo is priced at S$499 in Singapore. Love how fast & responsive the fingerprint scanner is at unlocking the phone.

Key features

  • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • 153 x 76.6 x 7.9mm
  • 155g
  • 5.5″ FHD 1080p
  • 1920 x 1080px, 401ppi
  • Octa-core processor
  • 2GB – 4GB RAM
  • 16GB memory
  • up to 128GB microSD support
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • 16MP rear camera
  • 5MP front camera
  • Laser auto focus
  • 3000mAh battery
  • 6hrs power in 15min charging
  • Dual SIM (Micro/Nano)

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