I ordered an M2 Macbook Air

The M1 Macbook Air largely ushered in the ARM Mac transition and pushed the PC industry in a new direction. In my review of it I was blown away by its performance and power efficiency.

It was so good I retired the 2016 Macbook Pro I was using for my daily driver (including channel video edits) and handed it over to Producer Jake as he was still using my decade old prior Macbook Pro Retina for his work.

The Air worked great for 4k and 1080p video edits along with everything else I was doing for my day-to-day work. Even after I bought the 14″ Macbook Pro I still used the Air quite a bit as I left the Pro mostly docked in my studio office. And then my wife took the Air when her 2016 Macbook Pro 13 died.

So today I ordered the new M2 Air (affiliate link) to fill that secondary role. I much prefer to travel with a less expensive laptop so this will also fill that role. I ordered the “midnight” color which reminds me of the original Intel Macbook I owned back in 2007. I can’t wait to see what it looks like in person.

We’ll have a livestream and review coming up on it as soon as it arrives!

New Video: Steam Deck Review and Deep Dive

I posted my deep dive into the Steam Deck last night. For what it sets out to do I think it’s excellent. Not only does it perform well but it also feels like a fairly mature product.

Valve designed not only the hardware but also much of the operating system. SteamOS 3.0, which powers the device, feels very polished and optimized for the task. Additionally it does a superb job of running Windows games on the Linux based OS without complexity.

Things have improved significantly since we looked at SteamOS based living room PCs a few years ago. Back then only games ported to Linux would run.

In the review we look at the Steam Deck’s gaming performance but also explore some other areas including getting Epic and GOG games to run on SteamOS, evaluating its SD Card performance, trying out desktop mode, and booting up Windows 10 from an external SSD.

I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot more out of Valve when it comes to SteamOS. Don’t forget they are working with the ChromeOS team at Google to get Steam running on Intel and AMD based Chromebooks. According to the ChromeOS Wiki Valve’s Windows compatibility layer Proton will also be employed to get Windows games running on Chromebooks.

Gigabit ISPs: Real World Usage vs. Speed Tests

One of the things I talked about recently in my Gigabit Pro update video is that even though you have the bandwidth you likely will never make full use of it on any single task.

Sure it’s possible to run a speed test to fully saturate the connection as I have done many times, but when doing real world tasks things work differently. So even though I have a full six gigabits available, I’m usually only getting about half a gigabit to each location I’m sending data to.

The image above was taken from my Unifi app as I was uploading an 8.7 GB video to YouTube and Floatplane simultaneously. Each can only take about 500-600 megabits per second.

Remember the Internet is not one network. So it’s possible that within Comcast’s infrastructure I can utilize the full bandwidth. But once we cross outside the network it depends on how different networks interoperate and what kinds of bandwidth they allow across those crossing points. In some cases there are multiple networks to traverse!

“Strange New Worlds” Succeeds Because We Missed the Trek Formula

Strange New Worlds just completed its first season. I like it.

I’m a few episodes behind but it’s great Trek. Oddly I don’t think the traditional trek formula being used here would have worked if they launched this as the first new series in 20 years. We needed Discovery & Picard first to know we really wanted this.

And if you like the “problem/planet of the week” formula you’ll love The Orville. Season 3 is now on Hulu and I hope it gets renewed in the future.

Drobo Files for Bankruptcy

Apple Insider reports that storage device maker Drobo is filing for bankruptcy.

Drobo’s were once a popular direct (and later network) attached storage device. They simplified the process of adding storage to an array which allowed for expansion without having to offload all of your data first. You can see an early review video of it here from Luria Petrucci who used to be known as Cali Lewis.

I owned one of their early Firewire based devices that took four drives about a decade ago. I liked it quite a bit but its fan and drives were quite noisy sitting on the desk. Because it was a direct attached device it had to be plugged into my computer for it to work.

They later came up with an expensive network add-on (and later integrated networking into the product), but they were leapfrogged by competitors like Synology who built better and less expensive NAS devices with far more features.

I ended up moving to a Synology network drive that was just as fast over gigabit ethernet and could be located in my equipment closet where I wouldn’t hear it. Synology also has a fairly simple array expansion process that doesn’t require a full rebuild and there’s a much more robust app library.

Drobo could have been a contender.. They blamed the pandemic for their woes but they just could not keep up with competitors. It’s a shame because the product really solved a lot of problems that plagued storage arrays at the time of its release.

New Video : Beelink Mini S Mini PC Review

Today we’re taking a look at another Mini PC, the Beelink Mini S. This is an entry level Mini PC running with an Intel Jasper Lake processor. It’s not bad if you’re doing basic tasks like word processing, spreadsheets and email.

Where it falls short is in its memory configuration. Although it can be expanded to 16 gigabytes beyond its included 8GB, the Mini S only has a single channel of memory. This limits the performance of its processor for more intensive tasks.

In my testing I found that it had a hard time keeping up with 4k 60fps YouTube videos – something that other Jasper Lake processors with dual channel memory can handle with relative ease. It will also limit its performance for other tasks like casual gaming and game emulation.

That said if you’re looking to build out a bunch of thin clients for an enterprise the price here is pretty reasonable especially as it comes with Windows 11 Pro pre-installed. Ubuntu also boots up perfectly on these too.

The system supports two storage devices (one MSATA and a 2.5″ SATA drive) so there’s plenty of storage expandability.

The systems come with a VESA mount and have a very quiet system fan.

New Weekly Wrapup Experiment

I am continuing my experiments with the Weekly Wrapup transition. The goal of this show has always been to interact directly with subscribers as so much of my content is focused on attracting search traffic. I also feel it’s important to verbally acknowledge those who support the channel. You can watch it here.

What I’m experimenting with is recapping the prior week and previewing the week ahead. Along with that preview solicitating feedback on what viewers want to see in the videos I plan to produce is part of the mission.

Last week I did the preview portion as a YouTube short. So far the new Wrapup and the short are running about neck-and-neck as far as views are concerned but there’s far less interaction on the Short. Also of note is that the much shorter wrapup is doing about as well as my average views on a longer one! But so far it’s not where I want it to be.

Next week I’m going to try and make it even shorter and focus more on the week ahead. If I don’t see improvement I’ll scrap it altogether and we’ll come up with some other way of acknowledging new supporters.

Stay tuned!

The Week Ahead

Happy Independence Day to my friends in the USA!

Although it’s a day off for most the show must go on for me. So today I’ll be shooting a new version of the Wrapup that accomplishes the goal of reaching out to subscribers and sticks to being channel-oriented vs. a topic. Let me know what you think about that tonight! It’ll be posted around 6:45 p.m. eastern USA time.

I still plan to do my in-depth topic analysis videos but will do so as standalone videos. and only when there’s something to talk about.

Also be sure to check out my latest video on Amazon Luna that I posted Sunday morning. It was one of the more popular ones I did this week.

Stay tuned for tonight’s video to get a preview of what’s coming up this week!

Amazon Luna’s Free Prime Tier

When I reviewed the Fire 7 tablet the other day I said I did not test Amazon’s Luna game streaming service because I did not have a subscription to it. As it turns out Amazon recently added a “free” tier for their existing Prime subscribers. We take a look at that free offering in my latest video, testing it on the Fire 7 tablet, a FireTV stick, and a PC.

Luna works on just about everything except TV devices that compete with Amazon’s Fire TV line. So while you’ll find clients for iPhones, iPads, and Android mobile devices you won’t find Apple TV or Android TV apps. It also runs inside of a web browser.

At the moment there are four games that can be streamed from Luna at a maximum resolution of 1080p at 60 frames per second. Games are rotated in and out on a regular basis so unless you move to one of the Luna subscription tiers you won’t be able to continue your progress.

Overall it runs pretty nice. The games load quickly and latency feels pretty minimal using an Xbox bluetooth controller. Amazon also sells a controller for the Luna service that connects directly to their servers to minimize input lag.

Extra’s Video: Unboxing and Initial Impressions of the Steam Deck

After almost a year since I put down a deposit my Steam Deck finally arrived in the studio! You can watch me unbox it and hear my first impressions in my latest Extra’s channel video.

Valve has attempted a number of different hardware products over the years including the Steam Machines, Steam controllers, VR headsets, etc. Their devices have always been a little hit and miss to me, there was always something lacking. It feels like all of what they learned from past mistakes resulted in this product. It’s great.

The performance is excellent although as pointed out by my friend Metal Jesus Rocks having only a 1200×800 display vs. something higher resolution helps there. But the overall software interface and hardware quality feels on par with anything we’ve seen from Microsoft and major PC manufacturers. The fact that Valve is controlling the whole stack here including the OS is impressive, especially given how polished it all feels.

It also corrects some of the wrongs of past SteamOS iterations insofar as Windows compatibility is concerned. Thanks to its Proton layer most of your Steam library is likely runable although some games not verified “on deck” might have some issues. Valve does a pretty good job pointing out what to expect on those.

In a livestream I did yesterday I was able to get Windows working through an external drive. I’ll have a little bit more on that topic soon.

New Video: Amazon Fire 7 Tablet

Some of the most popular hardware products from Amazon are their Fire tablets. Their new Fire 7 tablet is the subject of my latest review.

Fire tablets are stock commodity Android hardware running with a forked version of Google’s Android operating system. Because they’re a gateway to digital purchases Amazon makes these things super inexpensive. But even though they are running a version of Android they don’t work with the Google Play store or its apps.

To get the best price on this you need to put up with lock screen advertisements. The ads are getting more aggressive now with some of them featuring video in addition to still images. Amazon does sell versions of the tablet without ads for a little more money.

This new tablet is about twice as powerful as the prior model, with the same guts now as the more expensive 8″ HD tablet. It has double the RAM of the previous model (2GB vs. 1GB) and 16 GB of storage on its base unit vs. 8GB before. Its SD card slot will accommodate up to a 1TB microSD card for additional storage. Even though it is faster it’s much more sluggish vs. an entry level iPad or Samsung tablet. But it’s also half to a third of the price of those devices.

The new Fire 7 has the same look and feel of prior models with large bezels and a plastic casing. But it’s pretty rugged and I would argue more-so than an iPad even without a case on it.

If you’re happy living in the Amazon app ecosystem or just mostly stick to web browsing and media watching (Prime, Netflix, etc), the Amazon tablets are fine. But I’ve found a number of apps where the Amazon version lacks features found in their Google equivalents.

For example the Xbox app does not support GamePass streaming even though the Google Play version does. And because this doesn’t run Google Play services you can’t run any official Google apps like Gmail, Chrome, or YouTube. The Youtube “app” Amazon offers is just a web wrapper of the YouTube website and lacks features found on their android app.

All in this is more of the same from Amazon with a little more performance. If you’ve had good experiences with prior Amazon tablets you’ll like this one. But tablet enthusiasts will feel a bit more restricted unless they hack Google Play onto their device – a process that is not supported by Google or Amazon and comes with some security concerns.

iPhone at 15 – Original Box and Shopping Bag

The iPhone started shipping on June 29, 2007. I can’t believe it’s been that long. Incidentally I also got married that year so it’s easy to remember how many years I’ve been married based on the age of the iPhone :).

I posted this video on the extra’s channel the other day in recognition of the iPhone’s 15th birthday. It’s kind of a re-run as I made this short on the main channel a little while back.

Those of us suckers who bought an iPhone on release day also got a cool shopping bag to take it home in that you’ll see in the video. I called it the “mug me” bag as it clearly gave away its contents as you left the store. My original receipt was still in there too:

June 29, 2007!

My then fiancé was on a trip with her family and I was bored. So I drove up to the Apple store and bought the phone. There were no lines and they had plenty of stock. Of course that would soon change in future iterations. AT&T’s activation servers that were set up specifically for the iPhone were so overloaded I couldn’t actually use the phone until the next day.

Back then it only worked on AT&T’s network and I had to switch from Verizon. What a mistake that was – the phone part of the iPhone didn’t work anywhere in my house! I had to get a “Femtocell” in order to receive phone calls which barely worked. As soon as Verizon got the iPhone on its network I switched back.

The phone had pretty slow data speeds.. 3G networks were prevalent at the time but the iPhone only supported “Edge” which was about a 135k bits per second – not much faster than a dialup connection. There was no front facing camera and the rear camera was pretty lousy.

I think I traded in my old iPhone at one point to save money on a new one. I regret that now. It sure would look nice on my gadget shelf!

Today’s Links

The tiniest Raspberry Pi gets a new version with built-in Wi-Fi – ARS Technica

FCC authorizes SpaceX to provide mobile Starlink internet service to boats, planes and trucks – CNBC

Couple bought home in Seattle, then learned Comcast Internet would cost $27,000 –ARS Technica

‘Cryptoqueen’ allegedly defrauded investors of billions – FBI

New Video : Plex HTPC Overview

Each month Plex (affiliate link) sponsors a tutorial video on the channel covering one of the many, many features of their personal media server and streaming service. This month’s video is about Plex’s recently released an official Home Theater PC (HTPC) client for Windows, Mac and Linux. You can see my review of it here.

This app runs full screen right when loaded and replicates the living room interface experience found on smart TVs and set top boxes. Notable in this release is full support for lossless audio passthrough, client-side “tone mapping” to convert HDR content to a SDR color space on non-HDR displays, and the ability to switch a television into HDR mode for content that supports it.

HDR is a tricky beast with PCs and unfortunately the HDR here is more of a generic profile vs. one based on the metadata of the individual media files. It also does not support Dolby Vision.

Here’s a little more technical detail from the Plex team as to how HDR works:

HDR10: This works when using Windows. MPV creates a Rec.2020 swapchain in D3D11, which outputs to the display. There is a switch in HTPC’s settings to switch the display from SDR -> HDR when you play HDR content.

HDR10 with Static Metadata Passthrough: One of the users in the forums has done a writeup on how to use some of the more experimental features of MPV to do HDR10 with static metadata passthrough. So the maxCLL and maxFall values from the content are sent through to the display. See https://forums.plex.tv/t/hdr-metadata-passthrough-plex-htpc-for-windows/794358 for more information.

So for the best experience I’d still stick with the most recent Nvidia Shield Pro (the 2019 version). But it’s nice to see Plex showing some love to their most technically inclined users looking to build out their own home theater PC experience.

Wrapup Feedback & Shorts Experiment

I want to thank everyone for their comments on the wrap-up ! I haven’t figured out exactly what I’m going to do with it just yet but we’ll get there soon. I do have a great topic for next week that I think will do well and after that we’ll figure out what to do next.

One idea I heard from those who liked the wrapup was to maybe have it live on its own channel. If I do that I think I’ll have it live on my Snippets channel where I used to post clips from the longer wrapups I used to do. Those clips still get decent traffic depending on the topic.

Another thing I’m experimenting with from a wrapup perspective is testing out using YouTube shorts to preview the week. I posted one as an experiment yesterday – they are super easy to put together.

Shorts are supposed to help drive subscribers but this one cost me 2 of them. So the juries out on this one :).

Tonight’s video will be my monthly sponsored Plex video! We’ll be taking a look at the official release version of Plex’s HTPC client. This supports HDR in a limited fashion along with lossless audio passthrough.