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OnePlus 5T: The good and the bad

Review, GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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There are hundreds of reviews on the internet explaining the specifications and showing performance tests. I won't rehash any of that information. Instead, I will provide my personal opinion on the phone. My opinion is based on a short usage window thanks to a friend that lent me the device.

This will be a short, easy to read  review that can help you make a purchasing decision (if you are on the fence).

The OnePlus 5T Screen

The OnePlus 5T moved to an 18:9 (tall and narrow display). I like this format of a screen. It gives you a tone of real estate when browsing the web yet remains easy to hold. Many have complained that it is "only" a 1080p panel but to be honest, that isn't an issue (as long as you are not using it for Virtual Reality). In most cases, at arms length, the display is clean, rendering is sharp and the colours pop. 

By using a 1080p (instead of QuadHD like the Samsung Galaxy Note8/S8, LG V30, Pixel2 XL), this screen is very battery efficient. 

Additionally, the viewing angles are excellent and there is no tinting or colour shifting when looking at it from an angle. 

For those new to the OnePlus game, I also want to note that the OnePlus 5T ships with a screen protector already applied. 

The OnePlus 5T Design

Remember that this is an iterative change (going from the OnePlus 5 to the OnePlus 5T). The design isn't revolutionary even when compared to the iPhone 8 or the Oppo R11. The truth is that it doesn't have to be revolutionary. It is a rectangular slab of glass and metal and is easy to hold, relatively light and durable. 

The curved back makes it easier and more comfortable to hold. 

The device feels premium in the hand. It feels like a $1000 flagship phone: solid and well built. Nothing creeks or crack. 

It comes in one colour: black. 

The OnePlus 5T camera

The camera on the smartphone has become one of the most important factors in my personal purchasing decision. In good light, the OnePlus 5T (like its older brother the OnePlus 5) takes fantastic pictures. In good light, pictures taken with the main camera a sharp, crisp with vibrant eye-pleasing colours. 

The OnePlus 5T got rid of the telephoto lens and replaced it with a higher megapixel sensor (same aperture) supposedly to take better pictures in low light conditions. This is were I found the OnePlus 5T sorely lacking. Low light pictures were soft and grainy (compared to an iPhone 8 or Note 8). I think OnePlus should have gone the LG V30 route and made the second sensor an ultra-wide one). I really think that is the route they will take next year with the OnePlus 6. 

OnePlus has said they will release software updates to improve the camera performance in low light but there is a hardware limitation. Going for a lower megapixel sensor with bigger pixels would have yielded better results.

The OnePlus 5T uses Electronic image stabilization instead of Optical Image Stabilization (which is mechanical). In my video tests, the EIS performed relatively well in most lighting conditions but I still find OIS better. EIS requires the video size to be cut a bit. 

Coming back to reality, the picture and video quality in regular everyday use will be great especially when you consider this is a $500 phone. 

OnePlus 5T Fingerprint reader

The bigger screen means OnePlus had to relocate the fingerprint sensor to the back. It is well located in a spot where your fingers will naturally go (unlike the horribly placed sensor on the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus/Note 8). The sensor on the back is super fast (faster than my Samsung Note 8).

The fingerprint scanner also supports gestures (e.g. swiping down to open the notification shade). 

They have also implemented a basic face unlocking feature which uses 100+ features to "authenticate" you and unlock the phone. It is crazy fast. I cannot explain how fast it is (think instant). 

The OnePlus 5T face unlock feature is not as secure as the fingerprint scanner or FaceID on the iPhone X. IT is good enought for everyday use for most people. You can enable (and should) the face unlock and  fingerprint scanning features. Face unlock uses a picture of your face (no Infrared blaster or reader) so it will not work in dark situations.

OnePlus 5T's Oxygen OS

Until I moved to a Note 8, all of my Android devices have been stock or near Stock (original Motorola, Nexus, Pixel 1 devices). Oxygen OS is not stock but it is as close to stock as you are going to get. 

Oxygen OS feels like using Android on a  Pixel 2 XL with some small improvement modifications. This near stock version means the experience is buttery smooth, no noticeable lags and it even helps with battery life. 

Things they have kept

Cool features I have liked from the OnePlus 5 they kept in the OnePlus 5T include:

  • Dash charging. Dash charging moves the charge control circuitry to the charger (instead of the phone) thus keeping the phone cooler and allowing for faster more efficient charging. In my testing, Dash charging has turned out to be the fastest charging available on any android phone but does require proprietary chargers and cables. 
  • Headphone jack: Without jumping into the headphone jack controversy, jacks are better. I love Bluetooth headphones but there are times when wired is better and cheaper. I love that they decided to keep it. 

Conclusion

Unless photography or virtual reality are your main smartphone decision drivers, this is now the phone to beat. As I write this, my top 3 Android smartphones for 2017 (in order) are:

  1. Samsung Note 8
  2. Google Pixel 2 XL (because of all the issues the phone still has otherwise would have been my #1)
  3. OnePlus 5T

Note that the OnePlus is a top contender in performance at a mid-level price. If you need a casual photo shooter and don't use VR (GearVR or Google Daydream), then the OnePlus 5T is THE number 1 phone of 2017.

Swiss+Tech Utili-Key 6-in-1 Keychain Multi-Tool

Review, technologyEdward KiledjianComment

You can't use what you don't have and yesterday I wrote about my favorite keychain attached USB key. Today I want to share with you my favorite keychain multi-tool. The Swiss+Tech Utili-Key is a very portable, keychain attached multi-tool that:

 

  1. Flat Screwdriver
  2. Phillips Screwdriver
  3. Micro-Sized Screwdriver
  4. Straight Blade Knife
  5. Serrated Blade Knife
  6. Bottle Opener

 

 

Demand a little more and you can graduate to its slightly more capable older brother the Utili-Key XT 8-In-1. Which has:

  1. Flat Screwdriver
  2. Phillips Screwdriver
  3. Micro-Sized Screwdriver
  4. Nail File
  5. Nail Cleaner
  6. Wire Cutter
  7. Wire Stripper
  8. Bottle Opener

 

I checked the prices on amazon and the difference between the 2 items was about $3. You won't built a shelter or survive a hurricane with this but it will be there when you need it. I find you use these tools much more when they are always on you.

I had a chance to test the 8 in 1 for 2 weeks and found it well made. Since it's stainless steel, it cleans up easily and resisted scratching fairly well (even though it was in the same pocket as my keys and coins). In that 2 week period, I encountered about a dozen situations when the tool became useful. Can't beat its functionality for the price.

PicBackMan helps protect your pictures

ReviewEdward KiledjianComment

Of everything I have on my home PC, nothing is more important than my pictures and I am sure many of you are in the same boat. In a previous article, I spoke about the 3-2-1 backup strategy to protect your irreplaceable files. 

So how do you "easily backup your digital treasures" onto multiple online services? Enter PicBackMan. It is a simple program that can help backup your social network pictures (locally) and at the same time backup your local pictures to one or more online services. You create a free account so the app can store your connection settings and then jump straight into the simple configuration.

As mentioned, you can configure sources to backup from, think Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare, etc. Then you can choose the destinations to backup to, like Skydrive, Flickr, Picasa, SmugMug, Dropbox, etc.

Once you have configured once source and one destination, the program springs [automatically] into action and start backing up your pictures. Of course it monitors the dedicated source locations and automatically performs a backup when a new picture is found.

One interesting feature is how granular the configuration can be. You can setup different [local] folders for the different services and then configure the app to upload the content of those folders to specific online services. As an example, you can have a FACEBOOK directory locally and tell the app to automatically upload everything in that directory to Facebook.

 They currently have a Windows version only and it works in Windows 7 and Windows 8. They will be releasing IOS, Android and MAC versions in the future.

With products like this, I alway wonder how it will be monetized. At least right now, the service is free but it seems the developers may add additional for-pay functions later (which is fine with me).

 

Tell the app where your pictures are, online and offline

 

Tell the app where to backup your pictures

Verdict

I played with the app for a couple of weeks and tested various complex backup and save designs, the app worked flawlessly. I think this is one of those little gems that may become a must on all of your PCs and [soon] smartphones.

For me the winning combination was the power, simplicity and reliability. I give this app two thumbs up.

Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand for iphone or Android smartphones

ReviewEdward KiledjianComment

If you haven't read my review of the Joby GorillaMobile for iPhone 4 then go ahead and take a quick look here.

Eversince I discovered the concept of iphoneography, I fell in love. The idea of using your smartphone, the only device that is always with you, to capture the important moments in life is fantastic. First I chose my iPhone camera apps, 645 PRO and Camera+. Then I downloaded iPhoto, Perfectly Clear and SnapSeed to retouch my images. To get tack sharp images, there was one more element missing…. A tripod. There is no way you’re going to carry a full size tripod with you so the next best thing is a mini tripod you slip into a pocket and use anywhere for clean, crisp, shark pictures.

Why I love Joby products 

Before buying my first Joby, I bought a bunch of much cheaper imitations from eBay. After a couple of uses, these cheap replicas broke down, became wobbly or wouldn't grip my iphone anymore. Did I really want to risk cracking my iPhone screen? Of course not, so I bought a Joby and realized how much better their products are. I have thrown their products in laptop bags, luggage, my Scottevest jackets and have never been let down by the durability.

Why I love the new GripTight GorillaPod

Until now, most of their products required me to use a dinky plastic bumper case so in most situations, I use to connect my Glif to their tripod. One problem this caused was that I had to remove my battery or Otterbox case every time I wanted to take a picture and this was just annoying.  Not anymore!

The new GripTight has a smartphone independent grip system that works on most smartphone with or without a case. 

Here you can see it holding an iPhone 4 with a LifeProof case

As you can see, the grip arm is adjustable and spring mounted so it works for a naked phone or one with a case. I tested it with an iPhone 4s with a Lifeproof case, Phonesuit battery case, Mophie Juice Pack Air, Otterbox defender and it held wonderfully in every situation.

 

The Grip

The grip mechanism is wonderful. First thing I like is that it folds completely flat which make carrying this thing very easy.

With this side picture, you can see the little rubber pads which hold the phone snugly and the little fingers that make sure your phone never falls out. As you extend the grip to hold your phone, you notice there is enough tension to hold the phone in place but not enough to damage the side of your device (even if your device is made of soft plastic.) 

 You attach the Grip to the legs using the provided  screw mechanism. I tested this piece with the Glif and it also works perfectly (aka its a standard mount size).

To ensure the grip isn't mistakenly released from the legs, the designers at Joby even built a locking mechanism into the leg piece. You simple turn the little rubber ring and it locks the grip mechanism in place.

 

The Box

There isn't anything special about the box. It is clean and to the point.

The front

The back

Presentation of the contents

Conclusion

I didn't write about the legs but they are the standard multi joint legs you have come to expect from Joby. They are tensioned just right : easy to place them in the exact position but solid enough so they won't move on their own.

I love the quality of the product and the fact that I can use it with my current smartphone and whatever model I buy in a year or two (I even used it with a Canon S100 point & Shoot). The GripTight is a solid product that will provide years of service, even if you abuse it a bit. I give it two thumbs up and recommend you buy one.

Joby Gorillamobile for iPhone 4 /4s review

ReviewEdward KiledjianComment

The best camera is the one you have with you and in most cases, that is my iPhone. This convenience first motivated me to start taking more pictures with it and I was hooked.

Before my iphoneography journey, I always wanted the best dSLR with the most megapixels. After all, wasn’t that what photography was about? Wrong! Real photography isn’t about capturing the most realistic highest quality image. Real photography is about capturing a fleeting moment. It is about immortalizing an emotion so it can be revisited over and over.  

As great as my iPhone 4s’ camera is, there are some “helper” accessories I find extremely useful and that I usually carry around in a jacket pocket: 

  • my much loved Olloclip
  • a tripod 

A tripod you ask? Yes.... A Joby GorillaMobile iPhone 4 /4s tripod.

Why a tripod?

A tripod allows me to take nice family portraits (or self portraits) and allows me to take to take the best, sharpest pictures possible. Even when doing night photography using NightCap for a 1 second shutter, images come out clear because they are not being hand held (hand induced shaking). 

A picture I took at sunrise in a national park with the Joby, my iphone 4s and ProHDR .

What is the GorillaMobile?

The GorillaMobile is a kits that comes with a plastic iPhone bumper case, a tripod mount plug and a flexible tripod that can wrap around anything.

Unboxing the GorillaMobile 

 click on any of the images to see the full size versions

Front of the box

back of the box

A registration card (top). An instruction manual (bottom left).

And the kit with the bumper, tripod and standard camera adaptor.

You can see my white iPhone 4s installed in the kit.

The bumper case

The included bumper case is fairly slim when you compare it to other tripod mounting cases like the Diff (a good thing). As you hold it, you realize it is a rather flimsy case (not the cheapest but I was hoping it would be a little more sturdy feeling). This is definetely not a case you will keep your iPhone in all the time. 

I also found accessing the mute button a little troublesome when installed in the bumper. The bumper has been designed to allow the tripod to dock to it horizontally (for photography) or vertically (to use facetime).

Use

Because of the way the bumper connects to the tripod (with a nice secure sliding mechanism), you can be sure your iPhone will not fall out. It fits securely and even when hanging upside down in a kids playground, the iphone was held securely in place. 

the multiple joints on the flexible tripod legs means you can easily position your iphone exactly where you want to (no compromises). The joints are nice and solid (won't move once you position them), yet they are still fairly easy to mold into the proper shape.

I used the GorillaMobile to position my iPhone on tree limbs, the top of a roof, a park bench, hanging from a swing set (upside down), hanging from monkey bars (upside down), on metal tubular railing, etc. There wasn’t a single situation where I felt limited or constrained. Because the product is light, I was able to carry it around in my jacket pocket and it was available when I needed it. 

GorillaMobile and the Neat Studios Glif

Using the camera adaptor kit, I was also able to use the tripod with the Glif. Having tested the tripod with the Joby bumper case and the Glif, I eventually started gravitated more to the Glif (and I sometimes added the Serif when I need to make sure my iPhone stayed put). I found it easier, faster and more convenient to use than trying to install my iPhone in the Joby bumper (plus I couldnt use my Olloclip with the Joby bumper).

 

eBay replicas

Browse eBay and you will find Chinese made clones of many popular products and the GorillaMobile is no exception. I bought such a kit (for $10 shipping included) and tested it along with the original. 

You get what you pay for and after a couple of days of use, the joints on the eBay version started to lossen which meant my expensive iPhone was always at risk of falling on the floor. Truth is the eBay version was really cheap and very quickly I decided it was too risky to use it with my iPhone. Buyer beware. 

Verdict

I have to say I really like what Joby was done and I love the convenience of the small yet flexible tripod. I have to admit I started using it with the Glif instead of the kit's bumper but most would be happy with the later.

I read dozens of online reviews and some people are complaining that the tripod feels cheap and I don't agree. For a $20 product, the tripod held up very well and will give you years of use.  I say buy it.