Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review of the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless Headphones

I’ve never been a big fan of big, on-ear or around-ear headphones. For me, these are bulky and, being in the Philippines, too hot to wear especially when I’m out and about. I’ve always been an in-ear headphone kind-of-guy…

But when someone asked me to review the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headphones, I thought to myself: why not? Being a tech guy, why should I say no to a potentially a great piece of technology. (Which is also the reason why I don’t say no to reviewing Android phones…)

So, first off, the build quality…

Yes, out of the box, the headphone is huge! Bigly! It is an over-ear design so I expected nothing less. The headphone is made up of metal and plastics and leather! Yes, leather! And boy do I love the smell of leather! The cups are wrapped in leather and the stainless steel metal that connects the two cups together, the head band, is also wrapped in premium leather. The thing is such a thing to hold and to behold.

When not in use, the headphone can be folded and it can be tucked away in the provided carrying case.

All-in-all, this piece of tech has such a premium quality to it.

The Momentum Wireless headphones is a joy to use. When I was trying it out, I didn’t feel any pinching of my ears. The ear cups hugged my head in a way that was really comfortable. Yes, it can get toasty at times when I wore it but I just had to take it off for a short while and a little breeze from a fan can take the sweat away. It also can’t hurt that the leather that wraps around the ear cups are breathable.

But, those leather and stainless steel for this type of product won’t mean a thing if the headphone sounds bad. And in this front, the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless Headphones really shine!

I am no audiophile but I must say, all kinds of music that I listened to with this pair sounded really good! From classical music, to rap music, to rock and, yes, yes, a smothering of Taylor Swift also… The bass sounded really nice without really overpowering. The highs didn’t sound shrill and the mids sounded really balanced. There is nothing I would want more from this headphones.

Music do come alive in the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless.

There is active noise cancellation technology built in and I can say it does its job well. The sound of the streets of Metro Manila is muffled by this piece of tech, so don’t ever cross any Metro Manila street with this headphones on. (Better yet, do not wear any piece of headphone while crossing any street!) The proprietary Sennheiser technology NoiseGard does its job well.

There are music controls on the right ear cup and these can be managed by feel alone. You can play/pause the song you are listening to and answer/reject calls, among others. And of course, you can reduce or increase the volume of anything you are listening to.

The Momentum Wireless, is, of course wireless. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 technology which means your source of music and the headphones can be separated over longer distances than the old Bluetooth standard. Bluetooth 4.0 also means a more stable connection. However, if ever you ran out of juice and you are outside, away from any outlets and you still want to listen to music, then, fret not, there is a provided cable jack so you can continue listening to your music, or watching videos even when the headphone’s battery dies out.

But I am willing to bet that your headphone’s battery will outlast your smartphone… The Momentum Wireless is rated at 22 freaking hours!!! (And I didn’t mean “freaking”!) So yes, this thing’s battery will last you a whole day. And when you top it off, the Momentum Wireless’ battery will charge in approximately 3 hours.

The Momentum Wireless comes with a premium price though. But what you are actually getting is a premium, quality product with a premium audio quality - you are getting what you are paying for!

So, what are you waiting for?!? Get your Sennheiser Momentum Wireless and actually feel the music!

Highly Recommended!

(All photos from sennheiser.com)

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Review of the Apple Watch Series 2!

When Apple sold the first generation Apple Watch, they sold it as a jewelry, as a fashion accessory. As I am not into jewelry, the first Apple Watch didn't appeal to me. I've never worn a necklace nor gold bracelets. In my younger days, I wore earrings. But those days are now way behind me. Aside from my wedding band, there is nothing that can be considered a piece of jewelry on my person. The only accessories I use are a watch, which was replaced by a Fitbit band and, occasionally, a Buddhist bead (something to calm the mind when ever there is heavy traffic in Metro Manila. Which is everyday, every hour of the day...) I don't even have a watch that can be worn on formal occasions! 

But for the new Apple Watch, the company has launched the new version as a fitness accessory. Gone is the solid gold Apple Edition Watch and the most expensive version now, the white ceramic version, is a far cry from the price of the gold one from last year. And with this new branding, the Apple Watch, for me, has become really attractive.

One of my favorite accessory is the Fitbit Charge 2 (and the Surge before that). See, I was able to lead a healthier lifestyle because of those. There are some studies that say fitness bands don’t help much, but for me, they are a great tool. (Because, yes, there is no one-size-fits-all for anything, much less when it comes to fitness.) And since I am a technology/gadget nut, any piece of tech that can help me achieve my goal would be most welcome.

And that is why when Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 2, I immediately got interested…

Now, you may ask why I am doing an Apple Watch Series 2 review now, when it has already been released several months ago, a long time for tech. But, you must understand that the Philippines only got a release date in mid-November and, even then, availability of the Apple Watch here in the Philippines was really scarce. As a matter of fact, the different watches had been "available" online only this week. Prior to this week, all models, except for the ceramic one, had a 7 - 10 day shipping. And it's actually worse when you go to the different authorized Apple resellers. They actually don't have all the models in stock.

Such is the sad state of affairs for potential Apple Watch buyers here in the Philippines...

Anyway, I got the Series 2 watch because of its fitness benefits. With the addition of a GPS antenna, I can easily track my route even without an iPhone. However, the GPS antenna is fooled by the tall buildings in my neck of the woods (so to speak) and the watch sometimes track me crossing over roads and jumping over buildings… I am no Superman so it isn't possible for me to "leap tall buildings in a single bound"!

However, as far as step counting is concerned, the Apple Watch is pretty much consistent with the Fitbit Charge 2. I did several 500-step experiments using a counter and the two devices measure steps fairly precisely. However, the Apple Watch, in my experience, almost always counts more steps than the Fitbit.

The heart rate sensor on the Apple Watch is consistent with the sensor on the Fitbit Charge 2. The two, also, are both consistent with the built-in monitor in treadmills and ellipticals that I use in the gym. However, the Apple Watch is slow to catch up when my heart rate changes. For example, at warm up, my heart rate hovers at around 80 beats per minute. But when I start a run, my heart rate shoots up to around 120 beats per minute. Both the treadmill and the Fitbit Charge 2 measure the changes right away. It will take about half a minute for the Apple Watch to catch up. However, once the run is underway, the Apple Watch would measure the slow changes in my heart rate that is consistent with the machine in the gym and the Fitbit. (My target heart rate is 155 beats per minute, according to the V02 Max measurement of the Charge 2.) But, once cool down happens, the Apple Watch would have a hard time catching up again. So, two minutes into cool down, my heart rate would be measured at around 100 beats per minute by both the Fitbit Charge 2 and the treadmill, but the Apple Watch would still be measuring at around 130 beats per minute.

The Apple Watch is not good in measuring sudden changes in heart rate...

Speaking of heart rate, I notice that the watch doesn't treat all Exercises as equal. Say you do a 40-minute outdoor walk, my theory is, if your heart rate does not reach a certain level, then the watch will not credit you for the workout. It happened to me several times and I even have some friends confirm this phenomenon to me. I understand the reasoning behind not being given credit for the workout, but Apple should be more upfront about their requirements for an exercise to be considered an "Exercise".

But I love the way Apple has gamified fitness. Closing the rings is highly addicting!!! The rings consist of Move, Exercise and Stand. Move refers to the calories burned for a given exercise, that is, the calories that you burn when you actually move, not just for being alive! Exercise, as I have discussed above, refers to the jogging or the elliptical activity that you did, among others. My theory is, again, you should meet a minimum heart rate for you to be credited for it.

Also, even if you don't start a workout, the Apple Watch credits you when you do something that elevates your heart rate, like, when I walk from our house to meet with the wife for dinner, say, I usually do a brisk walk towards her and the watch gives me credit for it.

Move and Exercise can be won in one go, like a 40-minute intense elliptical exercise, but Stand must be won throughout the day. Since sitting is the new smoking, the Apple Watch prevents you from being sedentary during the day. Stand, one of the circles you would need to fill, is actually a misnomer. I thought that, just "standing" would add to a won hour. However, standing isn't enough - you actually need to walk for a minute or so, about 80 steps, for you to win the hour. And Apple's implementation of this is actually different with that of Fitbit. For the Apple Watch, you just need to walk for a minute for twelve hours during the day - the hours need not be sequential, though if you start at 11 am, then you would need to stand for the next twelve hours straight. But, if you start at, say, 6 am, and your day ends at midnight the next day, then you have 18 chances to win the hour. For Fitbit, however, you need to assign consecutive hours in which the Charge 2 will remind you to stand. You can choose from a minimum of 5 hours to a maximum of 14 hours.

At 10 minutes before the hour ends and you haven't taken 250 steps for the Fitbit or about 80 steps for the Apple Watch, then both will buzz to remind you to take some steps.

For wheelchair users, the Apple Watch will remind you instead to "roll".

There is a Nike+ branded Apple Watch Series 2 and that is only slightly different than a non-Nike+ branded one. With the Nike+ Apple Watch, you get a special, perforated Nike+ branded band, a Nike+ themed watch face and a special color associated with Nike Running. I believe the color is called "volt". Aside from those, there really is nothing different with any other Series 2 watch. Actually, if you don't have the Nike+ Run Club app on your iPhone, the watch will ask you to download it on the App Store. And what you will download is the same as what everyone else downloads.

Now, you would think that since there is a special collaboration between Apple and Nike, that the Nike+ app will be given a special access to the Health App in iOS... But, no, you would be wrong in thinking that. You see, when you do an outdoor run with the Workout App in the Apple Watch, all the metrics will be there in the Activity app on your iPhone: Active Calories, Total Calories, Distance, Total Time, Average Heart Rate, Average Pace, your split times, the map of your run, and the weather conditions when you ran.

When you run with the Nike+ Run Club app and look at the Activity app in the iPhone, you will not be shown the map of your run nor the weather conditions when you ran! I know I am nitpicking regarding this slight difference, but I thought that since there is a Nike+ branded app, all metrics will be made available to Nike! But no! If you want to see the map of your run, you will have to go to the Nike+ Run Club app on your iPhone. Or on a browser...
Anyway, I just wish the NIke+ bands will be sold separately by Apple...

The Apple Watch Series 2 is water resistant up to 50 meters. But as I am not a good swimmer, I haven't used it to measure laps. (Yep, I am not good at all!!!) However, I have taken it for a dip in the pool in our place and the watch has survived. Kudos to Apple for making the watch officially water proof.

For all the advances in technology in 2016, I actually cannot believe that the Apple Watch Series 2 still can’t measure floors climbed on its own! The Fitbit One, my first fitness tracker, launched in 2013 (or 2012?) and that was able to measure floors climbed! The same is true for my current Fitbit, the Charge 2! I don't understand why Apple wasn't able to put in a sensor for that!sometime in 2013 (or 2012?) already had it!

As a notifications device, the Apple Watch really shines. However, as I don't want to be inundated with so many notifications, I limit the notifications that will pop on the watch. I actually only have installed around 10 apps on the Watch and I don't even have photos and music in it. I don't have Twitter on it, nor Facebook, nor Instagram. I don't see the point of looking at photos on such a small screen. And yes, I can sync my music from the watch to a Bluetooth pair of earphones when I run but I actually only rarely do that - that is, listen to music while I jog... Only emails from assigned VIPs will pop on the watch, the rest can wait on my phone. I wish I can do the same for messages...

You can talk on the watch during a phone call and I did it once though I wouldn't do it again. I still value the privacy of my phone calls and I don't want other people hearing my conversations. Well, not hear half of the conversation anyway...

The screen is really bright and I actually set it to the lowest setting possible. At this lowest setting, one-third brightness, the screen is still visible under a glaring sun. Actually, at one-third setting, the old Apple Watch is only slightly brighter when that is set to maximum brightness.

Yes, that is a Fitbit Charge 2...

Since I only have a few notifications on my watch, I don't read Facebook nor Twitter posts on it, and I really only use it for fitness purposes, the battery of the Apple Watch, for me, lasts for about 48 hours. And, oh, if you use the built-in GPS, the watch battery will not last long also. However, I now wear the Apple Watch when I go to sleep so it can track my vitals, so what I do is, I charge it for an hour before I go to sleep - that is, I top it for an hour every 24 hours.

When you charge the watch, you can use it as a night stand clock, though the display is not switched on all the time. To view the time you can tap the watch or you can just tap the table the watch is charging on. This is highly convenient, though other people prefers that the display is always on. I, on the other hand, prefer how Apple has implemented the night stand mode.

So now, this is the ultimate question: will I give up my Fitbit Charge 2?

Oh, no, no, no, no, no! I won't give up the Charge 2 for two very specific reasons: it is still better at measuring my resting heart rate and it can automatically measure the quality of my sleep. Yes, there are apps out there that say they can do those things, but I still prefer my Charge 2 as my companion while I sleep. Also, the Apple Watch is heavier than the Charge 2 which makes wearing more uncomfortable during the overnight hours, though, as I've said, I have begun wearing the Apple Watch to sleep just recently.

But all-in-all, I love the new Apple Watch. If you have the original Apple Watch, now unofficially called version 0, there isn't a compelling reason to upgrade to the new one. But if you are still on the fence with the Apple Watch, now is a good time to get one. And if you are in the Apple ecosystem anyway, then the Apple Watch is the best way to go.

If you can find one anyway...

Highly Recommended!

Some photos were made with the Canon G7x Mark II. You can find my review of that camera here!

Photos were edited using the iOS app VSCO

Keep the conversation going! Contact me via my Twitter or Facebook account. You may also email me here!

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