MacBook Pro 15" late 2016 review. The Professional Portable.

(we review the high end 2.7Ghz with 512GB Ram and AMD Radeon 455 gfx card)

Apple just launched all new MacBook Pro's. Two different 13" models and one 15". One of the 13" lacks the touchbar and have slower processors. The other comes with a touchbar and has better cpu's, as well as twice the amount of ports, 4 USB-C. In this review we focus on the 15" although most of it applies to the 13" Touchbar model.

Many reviewers complains that these MacBooks are not professional anymore since they lack standard usb ports and SD-card reader. I dont agree. This progress started many years ago. Apple has always been about compromises. You need all different ports including removable battery and docking station, buy something else. My previous dream MacBook Pro was the 17" MacBook Pro 17" from 2011. What a professional computer that was. But what made it professional? The Express 3/4 port that I never used? No, to me it was the standard Gigabit Ethernet port and the matte screen. In my world most professionals use Ethernet in their daily life since they work with large files and they need the best performance and reliability working on network shares. They also like to user their computer in different light scenarios. I was going to say it also came with a DVI port and DVI to VGA adapter but I was totally wrong. It came with thunderbolt and required an adapter to connect to an external display.

Back to the MacBook 2016 review. My point is that Apple has not been selling a "complete" computer for many years regards to connectivity required by professionals. With the older MacBook Pro's two thunderbolt dongles (DVI and Ethernet) as well as charging power where foten required.  With this new MacBook and a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 display or USB-C Hub/dock we can connect all our equipment including networking and charging with just one cable. We will get back with that as soon as we get our hands on either a LG USB-C display or a USB-C hub/dock with the necessary ports.

General use:
How is this new computer to use? It's simply amazing. It's just a little bit larger than the MacBook Air 13". The screen is fantastic. It really shows your pictures with extra punch and clarity. I just calibrated it and made a display quality control with an X-Rite Eye1 Pro. It wasn't as good as a proper Eizo Display made for grafix work in Photoshop all day, but it is good. Full report can be downloaded here -->
Interestingly this is what Apple calls a wide gamut display. Apple has set up an interesting test web page where you can test your own display. This example will work on newer Apple devices like the iPhone 7, iPad pro 9.7" and the latest iMac retina as well as all of the new MacBook Pro's. Link here -->

Speakers:
The speakers are really great for a portable computer. Watching videos is really working great on this and doesnt require use of external speakers.

Keyboard:
The keys are of a different type than on the older MacBook Pro's. The first thing I can say is that after using this keyboard for a few hours, the older keyboards feel much worse in quality. With the older keyboards it was necessary to press more or less exactly in the middle of the keys. Now I just press the keys and my mind dont have to focus on pressing in the middle. Using an older MacBook Pro keyboard after this feels just cheap. This is the same quality difference in feel that the older iPhones touch id button have compared with the iPhone 7. If it was one thing that disturbed me with the previous MacBook's, it was the keyboards. It sometimes felt like the keys where not in place fully and would break loose any time. I rate this as the best keyboard I have tried. Couple this with the touch id sensor which improves security and ease your every day life and we have a proper winner. It helps the professionals use a more complicated password.

Performance:
Bad news, the Photo app can still hog down the system so it feels really unresponsive at times. Other than that it works really well. Some reviewers complain these lacks performance since the ship with "only" 16GB ram and doesn't have the latest CPU, ie Kaby Lake. Today practical performance is not measured on only which cpu and how much ram you have. Instead disk speed is what matters most, or should I say storage speed. Apple has for many years realized this and are more or less alone in using PCIe ssd's. This year we have yet faster connection to the ssd storage which proves itself in benchmarking. Other manufacturers are still using regular SATA ssd drives which severly limits their practical performance. I wonder when Microsoft sees this as well and starts to produce regular laptops?

Issues:
If we now have the touchbar to display stuff on, why do volume and display brightness need to show up on the main screen? Especially frustrating when watching full screen videos and I need to lower the volume.
You need to replace your USB stuff or get adapters for it as well as a SD-Card reader if you use that. Quite obvious if just looking at the specs.
The lack of magsafe, now someone can make the laptop fall to the floor by tripping on the charge cable. This is not good.
The so called palm rejection on the track pad is not always working as expected. Sometimes I just click on it and it is registers a touch with two fingers which in my case is the same as right click.
Everything keychain related seems to be much slower now, possibly because the touch id sensor needs to respond first.

 

Recommendations:
If you like a portable computer with the best practical performance you can get out of your applications get this one. If you like the best looking laptop, look no further.

Raw Photo with the iPhone 7

I just tried some raw shooting with the new iPhone 7. It really keeps a lot of details since you get the picture except smoothing. If you are photographing nature it will give you a much better details when it comes to leaves and trees.

Here is a picture taken with the standard camera app on the phone. Make sure to click on the image for full size:

Here is a picture taken with Adobe Lightroom using RAW:

Apple TV 4 review

Apple has finally decided to ship an Apple TV that supports third party apps. The previous Apple TV devices from Apple had only a few "apps" built in for video playback from youtube and other media companies. Sure you could always use Airplay to play content from play apps on your iPhone or iPad, but it was a real pain when someone called in the middle of a movie or TV show pausing the playback.
Now, apple has solved it with the new Apple TV 4, with support for third party apps through an app store. The App store contains the media apps that where previously preinstalled on the Apple TV as well as games and other apps. Here you also find some of the apps you already bought on your iPad or iPhone.

Remote:
The new Apple Remote is a totally new device. At first it is very good looking, but it is no marvel at ergonomics or logic. Most often when I pick it up from the sofa I would I end up scrubbing through the movie unintentionally and have the device in the wrong way.
Further, the buttons are very hard to tell what button does what. I am a fan of the old white remote that shipped with the first flat screen imacs. That was simple and elegant and easy to use with logic button placement. Fortunately that can still be used with the new Apple TV. The best thing with the new remote is that it is using Bluetooth to control the Apple TV, no more exact pointing it to the device. It has a built in IR blaster so it can control the volume on your TV or receiver as well.
I find the remote has too many input methods to be logic and can't be picked up in the dark to just pause a movie or otherwise control it easily.
The fact that the Apple TV won't support the app Apple TV Remote on the Apple Watch, nor the iPhone or iPad makes it a hassle to fill in passwords and other data.

Bugs:
Many who buys an Apple TV 4 will most certainly have some kind of sound system, a receiver or soundbar capable of playing multi channel sound like Dolby Digital 5.1. The Apple TV 4 has serious problems with playing almost anything correct depending on what is set in the preferences. Even Stereo sound as music can play as Dolby Surround sound.
Many games have serious issues where they lag or pauses mid game. It seems the AppleTV is not up to the job of displaying advanced graphics at all. We have tested Battle Supremacy, which is almost unusable at some areas due to the graphics can't keep up. On a much lesser device like the iPad 3 it works perfect. Asphalt 8: Airborne also lags severely during playing making it a frustrating experience.
Many multiplayer games won't support two MFI Bluetooth controllers. It's usually only the Apple Remote and an iphone as control or one MFI controller and the Apple remote.
The game Beat Sports have got great reviews, but me as an adult and my two sons, 7 and 5 years old found it really boring, inexact and flat.
No other device can browse the Apple TV App stores content, seems like a bug at this point.
Apple says: Apple TV makes it easy to share all your photos and home videos from iCloud.
No, it won't support iCloud photo libraries, making it a hassle to actually show your photo albums on the Apple TV.


Conclusion
At the moment, unless you like to tinker with your devices, I would hold off a purchase, there are serious bugs regarding sound that makes the new Apple TV 4 a bad device if you use something else than only the TV speakers.
For gaming the device lacks quality games and the few that exists have real problems with the graphics. In our family we thought of it as a device where the family can gather around to play games together, but we struggle to find anything great. The fact that the, Siri functionality of the remote, nor the universal search, can't be used in many countries don't push in the buy direction either. 

Apple Watch Review

Apple Watch, welcome to 1975

I have now used my 42 mm Apple Watch Sport for a week. Even though I have not used a wrist watch daily for 25 years I feel really comfortable wearing it. My first impression, what a small watch this really is. The attention to detail is as always excellent.
I have been using training watches from Garmin for many years so that is how I compare it mostly during this review. Garmins training devices are very bulky and is hard to get under a normal shirt.

Daily use:

I am totally convinced anyone who doesn't actively do any training is going to be healthier with the watch since they are going to move more. Apple has made it dead simple with the small circles which need to be filled every day. Marco Arment has written a nice article about it here.
 

Athletetic use;

"Apple Watch gives you a complete picture of your all-day activity. It’s also an advanced sports watch, giving you real-time stats for a variety of the most popular workouts."

Well, the marketing team at Apple really knows what to say, read that again: real-time stats. Yes, I would say ONLY real-time stats. If you like to see what was going on in retrospect, welcome to 1975. This is how an athlete is supposed to look at their training activity on the iPhone only:

IMG_4530.PNG
 

Where are the graphs of pulse, speed, tempo, laps? Today, I would say the Apple Watch leaves many features out that anyone that used a regular training watch expects to find. Most obvious, there is no way to show more detailed information about a training event. All the data of the pulse, speed, pace, etc are all showed as data points in a long line in the health app. So after a nice run you like to know if you where making a harder effort then last time? Well, the only was is to look at you heart rate numbers sorted in a list on your iPhone at random sampling. I would say it is almost impossibe to do any analyze of the data the watch records.
You get measured calories but I don't know anyone who trains by burned calories. These are all software issues that can be more advanced over time. The first iPhone was lacking lots of features my Ericsson phone had at the time. The biggest difference was that all the iPhones functions worked. The Ericsson was not. Same goes for the Garmin devices of today. Many features but really buggy software that causes them to crash, measure the training data wrong etc.
To sum it up, the Apple Watch is more an activity tracker (that won't track your sleep) than a training device.

Bugs:

The most notable bug I have seen is when the Watch during the day is suposed to display sunset, but always display sunrise. There are some users seeing less pulse reading during daily use with the latest version of firmware, 1.01, but that can be Apples intention since the idea is to measure pulse at rest. But, Apples own information, claims the pulse is measured every 10 minutes during normal use, but that simply is not working as Apple stated it.
I often find the watch unresponsive, for example raise to speak to Siri rarely works, or Siri just replies back, Hello Johan, disregarding my commands altogether. For some reason the weather app often takes so much time to update that I have to wake the clock up to 5 times just to get the weather report. Remember this is the Apple supplied app and not a third party one,

Annoyances:

It has happened twice now that the watch accepts some form of input even though it is on my arm. Once a timer stopped by itself so I had really hard boiled eggs that morning. Another time It was trying to send a message to one on my friends list.
The watch use is rather inconsequent. Usually, a short press on the crown brings up the watch face, but not always. If I have the training app running and I press the crown I get a view of that app. But that seems to be just that one. The timer, nor the stop watch works like this. I would like to have at least the Apple included apps to come back at all times when they are actively in use.
Sometimes the watch won't take input. The worst app is the training app. When I launch it and select an activity type and try to start it I have to wait up to 20 seconds before it responds.

Packaging:

Wasn't Apple supposed to care about the environment? The Apple Watch box almost takes up more space than a iPad mini box. I am sure the Apple Watch 2 will have a much smaller box. I will come back to this in more detail.

The future:

I expect the Apple Watch to be much more advanced, even the current model with the lacking hardware features. How about third party gym apps? Imagine yourself at the gym, you are going to the dumbells, you tell the Watch you are doing Arnold presses. The watch knows that last time you did 3x8 on 50KG. Now you like to increase to 55kg. The watch measures how many reps you do using its accelerometer and records the data so you can go back and have a look at it later.
I also expect the Watch to be more responsive, probably not this generation though. It is more or less the same as an iPhone before iphone 4. You select something on the display but you don't know if it got it or not.

 

Apple Watch as a training device

Finally, the Apple Watch has been "released". Apple is touting the device as a mix of training watch, a day to day watch and an activity tracker.

It is not a very easy market to get in to, Garmin, Polar and Suunto owns the training watch market today. Feature wise the Garmin Fenix 3 is the most complete device today. Garmin has it's Connect web site where you can see where you have been riding or running. How far and how quick. You can see various information about your training. If it is not enough, web sites like TrainingPeaks and Strava has even more possibilities and they are working with Garmin. They all have apps for your mobile phone so you can look at you training data everywhere you like.

Where is the Apple Watch positioned today? Well, to start with, Apple doesn't have a website dedicated to training. How the Activity phone app is working we have no good idea. On Apples site there are a few screenshots showing circles on your activity during a month. But will that cover what an Athlete is looking for? Today the Apple Watch looks more like a activity tracker, a small band around your wrist.

With the help of third parties, like Strava, the Apple Watch can be a good device, even for an Athlete.

Life after Aperture

I have been an Aperture user for many years. I was shown it's excellence by a photographer when I was installing an Epson printer at an AD agency in Gothenburg. A brief overview where Photo Stacks and Aperture edits where shown to me made me realize that iPhoto was not good enough for me. Since I have a lot of experience with Apple and their software and their somewhat strange attitude to keep data safe, I never trusted iPhoto with my pictures. I always kept my files on my hard drive as: YEAR/MONTH/DAY/YEAR-MONTH-DAY-NUMBER.jpg. Images are then only referenced in iPhoto or Aperture, so if or when the Photo Library crashes for some reason my images are kept safe on the file system. Also, migrating to another application is also quite easy.

So, what made it easy to migrate from iPhoto to Aperture, is now making it easy to move away from Apple software completely regarding my Photo management? Yes and no. My edits of my pictures as well as my albums, for example vacations or birthdays, won't transfer over easily. But when it comes to pictures taken three years from now, it is fine if I just have them sorted by date.

Apples last take on managing photos in the cloud has been terrible, I don't know how many users I have helped over the last years. The following is my main issues with Photo Stream:

  • Only pictures goes into Photo Stream, no video
  • Pictures are not deleted on the iPhone or iPad after transferring to the cloud
  • If you edit pictures on one device, or make albums, nothing is reflected in your other devices (this is not true for Aperture between Macs, when images are imported into an album, it is reflected on the other Mac but only one time and only one way)

All the reasons above gives the user even more problem than it tries to solve, full devices, some data is shared automatically, some is not. The user needs to know exactly what is imported automatically and what is not. Currently I recommend all users to skip Photo Stream completely and just import images into iPhoto manually.

I have the following requirements for my photo workflow:

  • All images should be backed up in a remote location
  • I need access to my pictures from various devices, iPhone, iPad, MacBook
  • I would like to have edits and albums to transfer and update among devices

One example workflow I came up with is the following and involves Adobe Lighroom and Smugmug.

  • I import pictures to one computer to a file system based catalog
  • Make monthly albums on Smugmug and upload pictures every month

With this workflow I have all my images available both on disk directly and through Lightroom. There are many drawbacks though, I won't have any images appear on my other iDevices. Changes to my Photo library, ie happenings like birthdays and travel trips are not easily done.

Another future workflow involves Apples new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library. It seems to solve the main issues I have with Photo Stream. It uploads and stores both still images and videos to iCloud, Albums and edits are synched through devices.  According to Apple, if space is low on the iPhone, high res images are deleted and only an optimized version is stored on the iPhone. Will this be the solution for all users of 16GB and smaller iDevices? It seems not, because if you have a really large Photo Libary, even low res versions of ALL photos will take up space. If you delete a photo on your iphone, it will be deleted from alla devices. You can go back and restore photos from 30 days back. In the future, we might get a "keep photos from last xx days on this device". Or only Favourite photos should be stored forever?

To sum it up, Apple seem to have solved some issues, but not all.

Apple and the iCar

A lot of rumours are currently floating around the inter webs about Apple getting into making cars.

To me, it seemed really strange at first, but when I thought twice about it it seems like a well thought through idea. We know Tim Cook prefers protecting environment over making money:

"Mr. Cook made it very clear to me that if I, or any other investor, was more concerned with return on investment than reducing carbon dioxide emissions, my investment is no longer welcome at Apple," said Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center's Free Enterprise Project."

We also know that Tim Cook likes to "leave the world better than we found it". Apples efforts when it comes to making iPhone packaging smaller and using solar energy for their data centres only goes a short way.

Almost no traditional car manufacturers has tried really hard to really make an effort to care about the environment. Usually new technology are used to improve performance instead, like on the  McLaren P1. Except one car manufacturer, Tesla, who Apple is claimed to be recruiting employees from. So, if Apple likes to change the world, it seems producing a good all electric car is a very good idea.

The state of Apple in 2014

In recent months Apple has seen a lot of bad publicity in the tech expert world.

Marco Arment wrote this piece about Apple software rapidly being worse.

I certainly agree, but for me who has been working with Apple for the last 20 years,  Apple has been like this all the time. As I see it, It's more that we now have some products from Apple that is that much higher in regards to quality over all, than we ever had. It's easy being nostalgic, but remember our classic Mac OS? It was full of bugs and limitations. After Steve took over, Mac OS X 1.0 was in almost any case even worse to use than classic Mac OS. It wasn't until we got 10.4 that it was usable as tool for anything else than computer nerds.

The hardware from mid 1990 wasn't very good, nor great looking. The quality issues that plagued certain model lines, for example Powerbook 5300, was extreme. Apple published a tech note for us explaining that their portables was not to be lifted up att all while booted. If you did, it would certainly die at once, because it loosed connection to the battery. 

Apple did as they used to do, developing new stuff and soon abandoning them again. Ever tried opening an older document produced in any Apple's software suites? ClarisWorks? AppleWorks? Even iPhoto can't be easily upgraded if you don't follow every update. Now Aperture is dead. iWeb? It was in fact a great app once, but now? No one knows for sure, If there is something that I don't like with Apple it's this: make a new application, or a new major version of the existing and then all compatibility with existing documents is lost. In the recent time Apple just made its iWork suite break completely with older documents. And that is from one version to the next. And for what? It certainly does not work great opening Keynote Documents on the iPad that was created on OS X. In Excel I can save documents that can be opened with Excel 5 from 1993. And what about OS X Server? That is almost crap now, From the quite advanced 10.6 server it has been worse for every version. Mail on OS X? Has it ever been just great?

I have been working in the reseller part of Apple my whole life. Apple didn't treat us well in the old days. I remember when they tried to deny us the right to sell other computers than Macs. First we where forbidden to deal with clones, and then it was also windows computers. We where considering leaving Apple altogether because we where selling SGI and SUN servers that our clients relied on. Apples solution? Buy our mega fridge Apple Network Server. When we replied: but there is no software that runs on it, we simply got no answer.

What about big companies and schools and universities? Apple hasn't had a proper working solution for many many years, if ever. 

Apple is doomed :)

Garmin Fenix 2

I have now had my Garmin Fenix 2 since April 2014.

If you like a short answer if it is worth the money, no. At it's current state it is usable as a day to day watch and a Garmin Virb Remote.

My watch has been replaced once since I was unable to sync with my iPhone and the altimeter was totally off. I have had the replacement since August and it is worse than ever.

  • The watch reboots itself during workouts
  • The watch looses GPS signals very easy
  • The watch suddenly sets itself back in time
  • All the above makes it nearly impossible to use it as a training watch

I will come back to this when I receive my watch back from Garmin