iPad Pro 2016 vs. iPad Pro 2018 iMovie 4K Render Test: FIGHT!

If you saw any of the coverage of the 2018 iPad Pro launch, you couldn’t escape the way Apple talked up the performance of the 7nm A12X Bionic chip at the heart of their product. ArsTechnica has a great write up about the chip and what it’s capable of, the most interesting of which is that this is the first product Apple has ever released with their own chip that ran utilize all cores simultaneously. Naturally, after seeing the benchmarks where it had incredible performance numbers, I wanted to understand what the real-world results would be doing the most intensive thing I can do with my iPad: exporting 4K video. I was also involved in a conversation where another person claimed there was no speed difference in iMovie exports on the new iPad vs. the previous model.

That didn’t make much sense to me, so here’s what I did: I took four 4K GoPro clips, 2 minutes 18 seconds in total, and put them into iMovie on my old iPad and my new iPad (I don’t have a 10.5″ iPad Pro to test with). A filter was applied to each of the clips, and I added some simple text titles. I did exactly the same steps on both iPads in iMovie. I did four runs of the test, each time adding a single text element, doing the export, then removing it and doing the export again. Why? Even if you delete the exported video file, and purge deleted items from Photos, iMovie keeps an internal copy somewhere and immediately “finishes” the render when you start the export again. I had to alter the project to get a true re-render. The iPads were both running on battery power, and each was at about 80% battery level. Neither had any background tasks running purposefully, but I didn’t factory reset my 2016 iPad Pro to create a truly level playing field – so keep that in mind.

The results were interesting in three ways:

  • The 2016 iPad Pro was 23% 19% slower at exporting the 4K video compared to the 2018 iPad
  • The 2018 iPad Pro was extremely consistent, turning in the same time (2 minutes 24 seconds) on all four tests. No variation at all.
  • The 2016 iPad Pro was wildly inconsistent, doing it was quickly as 2 minutes 48 seconds, as long as 3 minutes 12 seconds, and once iMovie crashed.

A difference of 23% 19% adds up if you’re doing longer video projects; the A12X Bionic is a beast of a processor. However, 19% isn’t exactly a massive leap over two chip generations, so the real performance gains might appear elsewhere (as seen in Geekbench numbers).

I also bought LumaFusion for my iPad and did a simple 1080p edit – it worked wonderfully and the output was extremely quick. I can see why people like Jonathan Morrison are extremely excited about the iPad as a video editing tool – it really does open up a wealth of possibilities! Now if only Apple would give us access the iOS file system and let us use external storage devices…

The 10 Reasons Why I Returned My Google Pixel 3 XL…and Five Things I’ll Miss About It

The short answer to why I decided to return my Pixel 3 XL? Insufficient value to me and too many compromises. If this was a $649 phone I’d have lower expectations for it, but in my opinion Google priced this too high for what they offered me as a buyer. They are at iPhone pricing without being an iPhone, and frankly that matters. If you’re going to charge me a thousand dollars for a phone (with tax), it had better be stellar! I’d saved and budgeted for this phone, so it’s not about putting it on a credit card and having buyer’s regret either – it’s about this phone not justifying its cost to me.

I can see why a lot of people will love this phone though, especially if they don’t own a dedicated digital camera. This phone has a great camera and for many people that will be the best reason to buy it. ?

For context it’s worth noting that for the past two years I’ve been using a OnePlus 3T, and my wife has had a OnePlus 6 since July (and a OnePlus 3 before that), so those three phones serve as comparison devices. If you’re wondering why we both haven’t been using HTC phones, well, that’s a whole different story that I’ll tell another day. ?  Continue reading The 10 Reasons Why I Returned My Google Pixel 3 XL…and Five Things I’ll Miss About It

Pixel 3 XL Halloween Photos

Last night I took my Pixel 3 XL out Halloween trick or treating with my kids and decided to see how well it handled real-world low-light conditions. This is without the forthcoming Night Sight, which by all accounts is extremely impressive. The images below are shot in regular camera mode, JPEG (I completely forgot about the raw mode option) with post-processing done in Lightroom. Lightroom noise reduction was not used on any photo. I could have posted the unretouched photos, but I always do some sort of post processing, either on my phone or on my computer, so this is real-world for me. I’ve also added some additional analysis on each photo for those that are curious, and linked to the full-sized JPEG (most are somewhat cropped, so none are original size).

The TLDR version? This Pixel 3 is the best camera I’ve ever used in a smartphone, and it has impressive optical image stabilization. It’s still a tiny sensor and subject to the same laws of physics as any other phone though, so it can’t work miracles. I’m generally impressed with how well it holds up at high ISOs that would make many phone images fall apart.

Above: this scene was quite dimly lit, despite what the adjusted image looks like, and is reasonably sharp given the camera was shooting at 1/15th of a second (which is below what I can properly hand-hold at without stabilization). It had to push to ISO 2728 though, which is why the cloth robe is noisy mush. It’s an OK picture if you don’t look too closely at the robe because other elements look decent. Continue reading Pixel 3 XL Halloween Photos

If Apple Was Being Honest With Their Site Navigation

My transition to being mostly Apple hardware has taken a few years, starting with an iPod Touch years ago. I still use an Android phone, but my desktop is an iMac, my laptop is a Macbook Pro, and I have three iPads in my home. My wife has inherited my trusty Dell XPS 13 though, so I still have access to a great Windows laptop. ?

I’ve decided that at this moment in my life, the benefits of what Apple offers is worth what I have to pay for it…but that doesn’t mean I can’t get a little grumpy as I watch how Apple updates – or, more accurately rarely updates their Mac product line. The iPad is, in my opinion, the best tablet you can buy today. The iPhone is an excellent product. But Apple’s Mac products? They alternate between stale to compromised, outdated to ridiculously expensive. And yet because they are the only way to get macOS, people who want to use that platform have no choice.

Above is what Apple’s site navigation looks like today. They add the word “New” in orange when there’s a product update. What would it look like though if they were a little more honest? This. ?


(you’ll want to click on the image to appreciate all the sarcasm)

I’d created the graphic below months ago, so wouldn’t you know it today was the day that Apple finally put 8th gen Intel CPUs in their Touch Bar-based Macbooks and updated a few other key things (more max RAM and SSD options). The new Macbooks might have better battery life, and they might have fewer keyboard problems. We’ll see!

If you’re a Mac user, what do you wish Apple would update next?

AudioEngine A2+ Speakers in High-Gloss Red Reviewed

I have a long history with AudioEngine speakers; I first reviewed their A5 speakers back in 2007, and their A2 speakers in 2008. I’ve owned their A5+ speakers since 2011, having only recently retired them from use last year, and not by choice; we put a bigger TV in a spot where a soundbar was needed in front of the TV because we needed all the width of the mantle for the TV. The point is, I have a deep fondness for AudioEngine products so I had high expectations as I excitedly unpacked the box with the A2+ powered speakers. I have a tremendous ❤ for products that are red, so one of the reasons why I asked to review the A2+ speakers was because they game in this glorious red colour:

The speakers are available in satin black, high-gloss white, and the above high-gloss red. The photo above is slightly deceiving: it looks brighter in my photos than in the normal lighting of my office. Because it’s so glossy, the colour pops depending on how much direct lighting they are in. Tucked beside and behind my iMac, they are a deep, dark, blood red.

In virtually every review of speakers or headphones, the writer will trot out obscure artists and tracks, trying to impress the reader with their musical pedigree. I shall do no such thing, and simply say that with the variety of music I listen to regularly from these speakers – pop, rock, a capella, country, orchestral scores – I am extremely impressed with how great the A2+ speakers sound. You’re not getting booming bass here without hooking up a sub-woofer – that’s a matter of physics, and these are small speakers – but when cranked up, these tiny powerhouses will move some serious air (you’ll actually feel wind blowing strongly on you at higher volumes) and they sound quite full for their size.

Volume wise, listening at four pips of volume on my iMac has the speakers at about 62dB (measured with a sound meter at 16 inches away). It’s what I consider a “comfortably loud” volume level – not quiet background, volume you can actually hear and appreciate the music. At 50% volume (8 pips) they’ll hit 84db. At 100% volume (16 pips) they’ll hit 105db – a volume level I find painful being so close and would never use, but if you’re trying to full a medium-sized room at a party, you may need this volume. At max volume they hold up without distortion on every song I tested them with, and while I won’t “song drop” I tested a live cover of “Superstition” with some heavy bass and at 100% volume it was smooth and (OK, OK, check the bass solo at 4:08 here).

Continue reading AudioEngine A2+ Speakers in High-Gloss Red Reviewed

Marvel Avenger’s S.T.A.T.I.O.N Iron Man War Machine Wallpaper

Last week I went to an exhibit in Las Vegas called the Marvel Avenger’s S.T.A.T.I.O.N. If you’re a Marvel movie geek like I am, it was a lot of fun (and I’ll post photos in a bit). While there though I took a photo of Iron Man’s War Machine armour used in the movies – the real prop – and it turned out so well I knocked out the remainder of the background and turned it into 5K (5120 x 2880 pixel) desktop wallpaper. I optimized it for macOS but it should work pretty well on any device (I have it as my lock screen wallpaper on my iPad). The photo was taken with my Sony RX-100 Mark IV, and I did a bit of Photoshop work to make the background fully black. The original doesn’t look much different than this though – the blue lighting was how the armour was shown. Enjoy!

[Click to download the left-aligned 5K War Machine armour]

[Click to download the right-aligned 5K War Machine armour] 

[Click to download the centre-aligned 5K War Machine armour] 

DockCase: A Clever Solution for the Port-Anemic MacBook Pro 13…Except for Power

(photo above by DockCase)

Back in September I saw a Kickstarter project that looked like it would help with one of the main complaints many buyers had with the new design of the 2016 MacBook Pros: nothing but USB-C ports. DockCase is a clever mash-up of two things most MacBook owners want: a way to protect it and a way to add more ports. Previously I’d solved the port problem by putting my MacBook in a sleeve and carrying a variety of dongles, USB-C to USB-A adaptors, SD card readers, and a USB hub (which has an SD card slot, USB ports, and HDMI port) scattered across the two bags I’d use for transporting my laptop. I’d guess I’ve spent around $200 or so on these accessories, partially out of the paranoia that I’d need a slot/port and not have it.

The DockCase offers a variety of ports: SD card + microSD card slots, three USB-A ports (supporting USB 3.0 speeds of 5 Gbps), one USB-C port (supporting USB 3.1 speeds of 5 Gbps), one USB-C PDC (power delivery charge) port, HDMI video (1080p @ 60Hz or 4K @ 30 Hz), and a gigabit Ethernet port. That’s a comprehensive list of ports and replace every port a modern non-MacBook product would have (and then some). I paid $89 when I backed the project on Kickstarter, and it shipped pretty much on time (a rarity in the crowdfunding space).

Continue reading DockCase: A Clever Solution for the Port-Anemic MacBook Pro 13…Except for Power

How to use Lightroom CC + Still Export Albums in Lightroom Classic CC

I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom since 1.0, and I’ve evolved a workflow that adapts to some of the limitations in both Lightroom and local storage. I use Lightroom for active photo shoots only, meaning that being able to archive my albums is critical. My workflow looks like this (what does yours look like? post in the comments):

  1. Import photos + videos off memory card into new album
  2. Edit photos in Lightroom (first pass culling + develop remaining photos + second pass culling + final development tweaks)
  3. Export photos as 80% quality JPEGS, export videos as original quality
  4. Bulk rename JPEGs + bulk timestamp change in ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac
  5. Export album as catalog + delete album from Lightroom
  6. Put catalog onto Synology NAS (which is then backed up in multiple places)

Adobe recently shook up the photography world by releasing a brand new cloud-centric version of Lightroom called Lightroom CC, and re-naming what we knew as Lightroom to Lightroom Classic CC. They added some performance enhancements to Lightroom Classic, which are greatly appreciated, but otherwise didn’t add any new features. That’s a bit frustrating given we pay a monthly fee to Adobe that we presume goes into improving the product.

The big development effort clearly went into Lightroom CC, and though it’s obviously a 1.0 product lacking in many features we’re used to in Lightroom Classic, I see a lot of potential in it. The biggest limitation in real-world use is going to be upstream bandwidth: you need to have at least 20mbps up – if not 40+ mbps – yet the average nationwide upstream bandwidth is only 8.51 mbps. That will be a massive bottleneck for most people to push all their raw files into the cloud to then use on Lightroom mobile apps. Continue reading How to use Lightroom CC + Still Export Albums in Lightroom Classic CC

Presenting the Most Bad-Ass Macbook Pro Skin in the Western Hemisphere

One of the things I was looking forward to when getting my MacBook Pro 13 was the fact that I buying a hardware platform. By that, I mean a product that would immediately achieve such critical mass that hundreds of companies would create accessories, cases, covers, adapters, etc. for it. Apple keeps their form factors for years (sometimes too many years) and that gives hardware companies the stability they need to roll out a broad array of products. That’s a compelling advantage!

Coming from the Windows world, where often every year the new model has a new design, whenever I’d get a new laptop I’d search in vain for cases, covers, etc. Anything I’d find would be generic and generally boring. My last Windows laptop, a Dell XPS 13, was the first one I’d ever owned that was popular enough to warrant some accessories. I remember being so exited when I found this plastic shell for it.

I hadn’t bought a skin for a laptop since back in the Fujitsu P7000 days (and I was amazed I found a skin for it at all), but I decided that since I was likely going to keep this MacBook Pro for longer than any other laptop I’ve ever owned, I wanted to protect it from wear and tear more than any previous laptop. Time for some skin shopping!

The front is a Slickwraps Color Series wrap in, you guessed it, red. ? I chose to leave the vinyl in place over the Apple logo. I may prefer Apple laptops now, but I have no desire to advertise for the company.

Continue reading Presenting the Most Bad-Ass Macbook Pro Skin in the Western Hemisphere

The VAVA VOOM 22 Bluetooth Speaker Reviewed

VAVA (which appears to be a sister company to HooToo) did a launch promotion on the VOOM 22 for $39.99, so I ordered it from Amazon the first day it was available – and as I write this, no one has reviewed it yet. The product packaging arrived a little banged up – and with a rip on top – which surprised me. Opening the box, I found a small instruction pamphlet, a power adaptor, a 3.5mm cable, and the speaker itself. The power adaptor made me frown – it’s round-plug style connector rather than something more universal such as microUSB or USB-C. That means if you want to charge this while travelling, you need to bring this special power adaptor. It’s a huge failure in my eyes when companies do that. The rather large power supply outputs 18v at 2A, so I’d guess they opted for faster charging at the expense of customer convenience, and that’s a mistake in my eyes: I’d rather have a device that might not charge very fast but can charge with the cables and external batteries I already have. The power adaptor prongs also don’t fold down, so it would be a hassle to travel with. On the plus side, the VOOM 22 plays while charging. There are only three dots showing battery level so you’re either at full, 2/3rds, or on the last 1/3rd. You can press the power button once to display the battery level.

Continue reading The VAVA VOOM 22 Bluetooth Speaker Reviewed