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Exploring the Smart Case Era: JBL Tour Pro 2 Review

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JBL Tour Pro 2 redefines earbud innovation with a touchscreen charging case, offering easy access to settings. , These true wireless earbuds boast sound customization options and advanced features, though some may question the balance between features and cost.

Design

JBL’s Tour Pro 2 earbuds, positioned between traditional and sport models, adopt a design reminiscent of Apple’s AirPods. Featuring a refined look with a blend of matte and gloss black plastic, these earbuds showcase an ovular inner shape, akin to the AirPods Pro. With its ergonomic curves and lightweight build, the Tour Pro 2 ensures a comfortable fit, allowing extended wear without discomfort. The touch panels on both earbuds support various controls, customizable through the JBL Headphones app. However, the standout feature is the’smart case,’ boasting a touchscreen for enhanced functionality. Unlike standard charging cases, this one goes beyond basic charging, offering wireless charging capability and a USB-C port for wired top-ups. The case’s larger size accommodates these additional features without being overly bulky.

Software and Design

 

The Tour Pro 2 impresses with a plethora of features accessible through the JBL Headphones app and the charging case display. The app guides users through initial setup, including ear tip fit, ANC performance tests, and voice assistant setup. Battery status for each earbud and the case is prominently displayed, with additional features available via scrolling. Ambient Sound Control offers choices like ANC, transparency mode, TalkThru, and off, along with customization options. Personi-Fi, JBL’s personal audio profiles, adjust the sound based on a hearing test and listening preferences. While providing a broader soundstage, some detail may be lost. Sound options include audio presets, manual EQ adjustments, and spatial sound for movies, music, and games. Gesture controls, including VoiceAware, SilentNow, and Personal Sound Amplification, enhance the user experience, allowing customization and scheduling for various modes.

Smart Case

The primary function of the smart case is to provide convenient access to the Tour Pro 2’s features. While the debate about placing controls on the charging accessory instead of the app continues, the touchscreen on the case proves to be effective. Navigating through various options with side-to-side swipes and responsive taps, the case displays battery levels, a clock, and useful icons on the top edge for quick information. During calls, relevant controls also appear on the case. The JBL Headphones app allows customization of the smart case, including adjusting display brightness, selecting screensavers, enabling message notifications, and choosing accessible features on the touchscreen. Default options include ambient sound control, spatial sound, EQ presets, VoiceAware, and auto play/pause. Additional features like SilentNow can be added to the case but are not enabled by default.

Sound Quality and Noise Cancellation

The default sound tuning on the Tour Pro 2 is adequate, offering decent clarity and detail with a focus on the midrange. However, the soundstage may feel compressed despite notable bass and treble elements. Tracks like ’30 Under 13′ and ‘$20’ lose some depth, leaving room for improvement. Although Personi-fi helps open up the sound profile, it comes at the expense of lost detail, affecting the texture of vocals and instruments. The lack of space in the sound profile is evident in recordings like Nickel Creek’s ‘Celebrants,’ where the virtual room’s ambiance is diminished. Despite various audio customization options in the JBL app, improvements are limited, with some settings potentially worsening the sound. Spatial Sound’s effectiveness varies by genre, sometimes offering an immersive experience, but for certain content, it may simply relocate the sound without enhancing it. In many cases, leaving spatial sound off is the preferred option.

Battery

JBL promises up to eight hours of battery life with ANC on and an additional three charges in the case. With ANC off, you could get two extra hours on both the earbuds and per charge in the case. In ‘normal’ use tests, including a mix of ANC, transparency mode, calls, and automatic power-off, seven hours were achieved before docking in the case. However, battery estimates on the case may not be entirely accurate, leading to unexpected drains. The case offers a 15-minute quick-charge tool, providing up to four hours of use. Compared to the Sony WF-1000XM4, considered the best premium true wireless earbuds, the Tour Pro 2 packs numerous features, but the smart case concept is debatable. While offering convenient access to settings, it may not be practical unless left on a desk. Despite features like VoiceAware, SilentNow, and Personal Sound Amplification, the Tour Pro 2 presents as an average set of earbuds with satisfactory sound, decent ANC, and a plethora of features that may not all be regularly used.

In Summary

The JBL Tour Pro 2 is a feature-packed set of true wireless earbuds with a unique selling point being its “smart case” equipped with a touchscreen display. Despite the ambitious inclusion of numerous features like VoiceAware, SilentNow, and Personal Sound Amplification, the earbuds offer average sound quality with a compressed soundstage. The ANC performance is decent, and the battery life falls slightly short of the advertised estimates, with a 15-minute quick-charge option available. The concept of a touchscreen-enabled case is debatable, as its practicality depends on leaving it on a desk for easy access. In comparison to competitors like the Sony WF-1000XM4, the Tour Pro 2 lacks some advanced features and may be considered an average option in the premium true wireless earbud market.

 

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Gadgets Buying Guide

Apple Watch Series 9 Vs. Ultra 2

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Despite their distinct external appearances, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 share significant similarities internally. Priced at $399, the Series 9 and the more robust Ultra 2 at $799 both utilize the S9 chip, providing features such as Double Tap, on-device Siri, and fast performance. However, the Ultra 2, with its larger 49mm size, titanium case, and included LTE connectivity, distinguishes itself with a higher price point.

The $399 Series 9 adds complexity to the decision-making process. Initially, you must choose between a 41mm or 45mm size, followed by selecting an aluminum or stainless steel case and deciding on the inclusion of LTE. Notably, the 45mm Series 9 in stainless steel is priced at $749, placing it in direct competition with the Ultra 2.

The pricing aspect may not be as straightforward as initially perceived.

Differences in Screen Size

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 boasts a larger and brighter screen compared to the Series 9. Despite the Ultra 2’s 49mm case being bigger than the 45mm Series 9, the screen itself is slightly larger, allowing for more content display particularly useful for applications such as Maps.

To easily observe the size distinction, one can maximize the text size on both watches. This becomes evident as part of the text is truncated on the Series 9 in contrast to the Ultra 2.

The most significant contrast in day-to-day use lies in screen brightness. The Ultra 2 surpasses the Series 9 with a brightness of 3,000 nits compared to 2,000. While the Series 9 remains visible both indoors and outdoors, the extra brightness on the Ultra 2 enhances readability, particularly during workouts in bright sunlight.

This heightened brightness also proves advantageous for the flashlight feature. By turning the digital crown on the Ultra 2, you can maximize the screen brightness when using the flashlight, which proves helpful in dark situations.

Wrists Size

The Apple Watch Series 9 could be a preferable choice for those with smaller wrists. The Ultra 2, being a sizable watch with a bulkier digital crown and a flat display, notably stands out more than the Series 9.

The Ultra 2’s larger size may pose challenges for those with even smaller wrists than mine(150 mm). Opting for the Series 9 could be a preference in such cases, offering a choice of a smaller case size. Additionally, I observed that the Series 9 provides greater comfort for sleep tracking.

Despite its larger size, the Ultra 2 is designed to be a more rugged watch than the Series 9. Its titanium case, slightly elevated for added protection, enhances durability for the sapphire crystal display. The Series 9 display, on the other hand, comes with Ion-X glass for the aluminum case and sapphire crystal for the stainless steel case.

Both watches are IP6X dust-resistant and water-resistant, but the Ultra 2 excels with a depth rating of 100m compared to Series 9’s 50m. Moreover, it features an exclusive Depth app and supports the Oceanic Plus app, transforming the watch into a dive computer.

 

Double-Tap Gesture and Siri

Both the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Series 9 feature the Double Tap gesture and on-device Siri functionality. This gesture, powered by the common S9 chip, operates identically on both watches. When the screen is active, a double tap with your thumb and forefinger allows you to perform tasks without touching the screen. For instance, raising your wrist and double tapping enables you to reply to a message using dictation, followed by another double tap to send.

This feature proves helpful, precise, and functions seamlessly in various Apple applications. It facilitates actions such as answering calls, changing tracks, and managing timers. In third-party apps, it generally executes the default action upon double tap. Personally, I use it to swiftly respond to Slack messages from colleagues when unable to reach my phone or type a response on my computer.

The consistency in functionality arises from both watches running the same chip. On-device Siri is also consistent, eliminating the need to ping the cloud for tasks like starting a workout or setting a timer. Additionally, both watches boast 64GB of internal storage, ideal for storing music or numerous apps on your watch.

 

Special Features

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 offers exclusive features, enhancing the shared WatchOS 10 experience and app selection on both watches. Unique watch faces, like Modular Ultra and Wayfinder, provide detailed information and a dark mode that turns either watch face red when the light sensor detects it’s dark outside. The Ultra 2 excels in communication with a three-microphone array and louder dual speakers than the Series 9, as demonstrated in a recorded call audio comparison. Notably, Ultra 2 comes with LTE as standard, allowing standalone use without the phone, while the Series 9 requires a specific LTE version. Both watches feature the second-gen ultrawideband chip for precise iPhone finding and phone pinging from the watch for older iPhone models.

The Ultra 2 distinguishes itself with a notable design feature absent in the Series 9—the Action button. Similar to the Action button on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, it allows you to swiftly launch favorite workouts, the flashlight, stopwatch, and other preset tasks.

An intriguing use of the Action button is to initiate a Shortcut, providing a quick access route to favorite features or tasks within an app. Creating a Shortcut is possible using the dedicated app on the iPhone.

While the Series 9 doesn’t have the dedicated Action button, it still supports Shortcuts. You can set a complication on the watch face to launch a Shortcut, but it requires an extra tap on the screen to confirm your intent.

 

Health Tracking Features

The health tracking features of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 are remarkably similar. Both include a temperature sensor, blood oxygen sensor, ECG app, and alerts for high and low heart rates, as well as irregular heart rhythms. The heart rate sensor, accurate when compared to a chest strap, is identical on both watches.

Fitness tracking is uniform, with progress monitored through the Apple Watch Activity app. Both watches support Bluetooth accessories, such as power meter pedals, allow the creation of multisport workouts, and provide heart rate zone monitoring.

Standard features on both watches include a compass app, back track, waypoint functionality, car-crash detection, fall detection, and emergency SOS.

Notable differences include the Ultra 2’s 86dB siren for safety and dual-band GPS, utilizing both L1 and L5 bands for increased accuracy in tracking distance and route information, especially in built-up areas. However, the Series 9 still performs admirably for regular outdoor activities like runs in the park or bike rides on trails.

 

Battery Life

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 stands out with exceptional battery life, surpassing the Series 9 in every usage scenario. Regardless of whether you’re running a marathon or simply using it for timekeeping and notifications, the Ultra 2 outperforms the Series 9.

Officially rated at 36 hours, the Ultra 2’s battery life exceeds Apple’s conservative estimate. In regular use, which includes phone notifications, an always-on display, GPS workouts, and sleep tracking, the Series 9 lasts about a day and a half before needing a charge. In comparison, the Ultra 2 can last closer to three full days with the same usage.

Both watches offer a low power mode to further extend battery life, but actual results may vary based on usage, with resource-intensive tasks like LTE and Bluetooth music streaming affecting battery depletion. Fast wireless charging is supported by both, requiring an 18-watt or higher adapter. The Series 9 charges faster due to its smaller battery capacity.

 

When comparing the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, which share a similar feature set including Double Tap and on-device Siri, the key distinctions lie in size, price, and battery life. The Series 9, being more affordable and slimmer with two size options, requires more frequent charging. Both are excellent choices for an iPhone-compatible smartwatch, but after a month of use, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 stands out as my preferred option. Its extended battery life eliminates daily charging concerns, and the customizable Action button enhances usability, making it more enjoyable and convenient.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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The new Apple Vision Pro, Apple’s highly anticipated foray into wearable computers, faces significant expectations. Priced at $3,499, it introduces “spatial computing,” aiming to seamlessly integrate apps into your surroundings. Apple’s bold advertisements depict people wearing the Vision Pro in various daily scenarios, emphasizing the ambitious goal of augmenting reality by layering apps and information over the real world.

Pros:

  • Impressive display, a technical marvel, offering the best video passthrough to date.
  • Noteworthy advancements in hand and eye tracking technology.
  • Seamless integration with Apple’s ecosystem.
  • Enjoyable experience placing windows throughout space.

Cons:

  • Come with a hefty price tag.
  • Video passthrough may still be blurry.
  • Inconsistent and occasionally frustrating hand and eye tracking.
  • Personas can be uncanny and somewhat unsettling.
  • Can feel isolated or lonely during use.

Apple’s Vision Pro marks the tech giant’s inaugural venture into constructing a computer that seamlessly integrates into your surroundings. The aim is to position the Vision Pro as a comprehensive device, coexisting with Macs and iPads in Apple’s ecosystem, enabling users to accomplish meaningful tasks. From handling productivity tools like Excel, Webex, and Slack to leisure activities such as watching movies on a virtual 4K HDR display, the Vision Pro offers a versatile experience. Additionally, users can mirror their Mac’s display, utilizing the Vision Pro as a vast monitor suspended in virtual space.

While the Vision Pro boasts impressive features, it comes with significant tradeoffs that cannot be overlooked. Tangibly, the headset’s tech contributes to considerable weight on the face, leading Apple to opt for an external battery pack connected by a cable. Beyond physical aspects, there are also philosophical tradeoffs inherent in the design and functionality of the device.

Hardware

Apple positions the Vision Pro as more than just a VR headset, blending virtual and real-world experiences. Its compact design, crafted from magnesium, carbon fiber, and aluminum, defies expectations of bulkier VR headsets. The front EyeSight display attempts real-world connection but falls short with a low-res OLED.

Under the cover glass, the Vision Pro boasts an array of cameras and sensors for video passthrough, hand tracking, and spatial awareness. Powered by an M2 processor, it incorporates a unique R1 spatial coprocessor and includes detachable headbands, magnetic light seals, and adjustable headbands.

The speakers deliver impressive spatial audio but tend to be leaky, prompting the need for headphones. Weighing between 600 and 650 grams, the Vision Pro’s front-loaded distribution may impact comfort during extended use. The external battery, while contributing to weight management, limits runtime to around two and a half hours.

Setup is simplified, utilizing motorized adjustments and familiar iOS processes. Despite its design excellence, the Vision Pro’s weight becomes noticeable during prolonged use, emphasizing the trade-off for its sleek appearance.

Apple showcases the Vision Pro’s displays as a remarkable technological leap, featuring MicroOLEDs with 23 million pixels at just 7.5 micrometers. Despite their excellence, the high cost and inherent tradeoffs highlight the challenges of implementing them in this device.

The headset prioritizes real-time video passthrough, blurring the line between VR and AR. Apple’s claimed 12ms latency and adept video processing deliver an impressive experience, even in challenging situations like working in front of a large window.

However, Apple acknowledges display effects, with spokesperson Jacqueline Roy detailing hardware and software efforts to minimize these issues. While the Vision Pro’s video passthrough is the most advanced in consumer devices, occasional quirks persist, challenging the perception of flawless visuals given the high price tag.

In essence, the Vision Pro’s display, while exceptional, serves as a reminder that screens can’t fully replicate the richness of reality, falling short in capturing the vibrant colors and intricacies found in the world around us.

 

Controls

Apple takes pride in the Vision Pro’s cutting-edge eye and hand tracking control system, surpassing other consumer systems. Operating as if your eyes are the mouse and your fingers are the button, you navigate the interface by looking at and tapping on desired elements.

Initially, using hand and eye tracking feels like a superpower, with external cameras effortlessly capturing hand movements within a generous zone. However, the novelty fades as the requirement to constantly look at what you want to control becomes distracting and, in some cases, hinders usability. Unlike traditional computers where input is independent of your gaze, the Vision Pro demands your attention, leading to moments of frustration, especially in activities that require sustained focus.

The Apple Vision Pro, priced at $3,499, marks Apple’s venture into “spatial computing,” aiming to integrate augmented reality into daily life. While the display impresses with stellar video passthrough and remarkable MicroOLED technology, weighing between 600 and 650 grams, it poses ergonomic challenges, and its external battery pack adds to the bulk. The headset’s visuals, despite advancements, suffer from common VR limitations such as motion blur and color gamut restrictions.

Controlled by a sophisticated eye and hand tracking system, the Vision Pro offers a unique interface, but the constant need to look at what you want to control becomes distracting, deviating from the independent input mechanisms of traditional computers. The eye tracking, while awe-inspiring initially, exhibits inconsistencies over time, hindering the overall user experience.

In essence, the Vision Pro presents an impressive step towards spatial computing but grapples with weight, display limitations, and occasional control challenges, prompting users to weigh the magic it offers against notable tradeoffs.

Complaining about a hand tracking system needing to see hands might seem silly, yet the Vision Pro’s limitations become evident. While Siri and dictation help navigate visionOS, the constant awareness of hands and the visual tracking system’s occasional failures make it a unique, sometimes frustrating, experience. The system, keen on capturing hand movements, can lead to amusing unintended inputs, showcasing both the system’s brilliance and its pitfalls. Achieving rock-solid reliability in the input system is crucial for a seamless computing experience in the Vision Pro.

 

Spatial cameras

Shooting photos with the Vision Pro yields low-quality 6.5-megapixel stills, and videos, though slightly better, suffer from noticeable compression and barrel distortion when viewed on non-Vision Pro devices. The impracticality of taking photos with the headset and the assumption that most users own iPhones with superior video capabilities make these features seem less significant. However, spatial videos shot on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and viewed in 3D on the Vision Pro offer a compelling, albeit solitary, experience, allowing users to relive memories in a bittersweet fashion.

VisionOS

The Vision Pro operates on visionOS, a customized version of iPadOS with optimizations for spatial computing. Leveraging iPadOS provides Apple with a robust app library from the start, although early controversies involve major developers like Netflix, Spotify, and YouTube holding off on supporting the Vision Pro. While Safari on the device accommodates web-based experiences, WebXR support is inconsistent. Apple expresses commitment to contributing to WebXR but acknowledges the current variability. Notably, YouTube VR lacks support, with Apple citing a focus on delivering high-quality spatial media experiences. The Vision Pro’s app ecosystem and web compatibility remain evolving aspects.

VisionOS sets itself apart with a novel experience featuring free-floating windows for unlimited app openings and spatial arrangement. The multi-operating system support adds versatility, integrating native visionOS apps, iPad apps, and Mac connectivity. However, the personal nature of the spatial environment limits shared experiences. The intuitive gestures for window management lack centralized controls, making it more complex than typical iOS devices. Seamless Mac display sharing showcases the Vision Pro’s versatility, transforming it into a virtual Mac display.

While Vision Pro falls short in true AR interaction, subtle features like the “connect display” button and a text preview window during Bluetooth keyboard use offer a glimpse into AR possibilities. In mixed reality scenarios, particularly in entertainment, Vision Pro excels. Immersive movie experiences, 3D content, and Apple’s library of 3D movies enhance the viewing experience. Yet, the device’s weight and DRM limitations pose challenges during screen captures.

Gaming on the Vision Pro lacks popular VR titles and fitness apps, highlighting a gap compared to competitors like Quest. Concerns about the device’s weight and design arise, impacting its suitability for physical gaming experiences. While developers work on porting more games, the absence of established titles like Beat Saber points to a current limitation. A cautionary note emphasizes the need for users to adapt gradually to VR motion, acknowledging potential motion sickness.

Despite its impressive features, the Vision Pro’s hefty price and specific limitations raise questions about its broader market appeal, especially compared to dedicated VR platforms. While its transformation into a virtual Mac display showcases versatility, considerations about weight, gaming ecosystem, and adapting to VR motion suggest a niche audience for this mixed reality device.

 

The Vision Pro is a testament to Apple’s engineering prowess, showcasing a stunning display, sophisticated passthrough technology, and seamless integration within the ecosystem. However, it may unintentionally reveal that certain core ideas, like camera-based mixed reality passthrough or advanced hand- and eye-tracking, could be dead ends, facing challenges for mainstream adoption. Despite its magical moments, the device’s complex technology might be ahead of its time.

Alternatively, the Vision Pro could serve as a precursor to Apple’s envisioned true AR glasses, acting as a simulator or developer kit. This perspective suggests the current device is a stepping stone for app and use case development, preparing the ground for future optical AR glasses capable of shared digital experiences. However, these scenarios come with significant tradeoffs, emphasizing the inherent loneliness of the Vision Pro experience. Tim Cook’s acknowledgment of headsets being isolating rings true, posing challenges for a device aiming to be a primary computing tool. Despite its impressive features, the Vision Pro raises questions about its role in collaborative workspaces and everyday computing.

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Things to Know about the AI-Powered Samsung Galaxy S24 Series

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Explore a realm of endless possibilities with the newly launched Galaxy S24 Ultra, Galaxy S24+, and Galaxy S24, now available for purchase. Empowered by Galaxy AI1, these devices redefine our phone interactions, offering innovative ways to create, connect, and beyond. Starting the journey, the Samsung Care team highlights seven key features that make the AI-powered Samsung Galaxy S24 Series a game-changer.

Here are standout things you need to know about the AI-powered Samsung Galaxy S24 Series.

1. Enhance your S24 performance with the enhanced Galaxy AI experience.

The Galaxy S24 series is infused with artificial intelligence (AI), enriching every aspect of your smartphone experience. Packed with AI capabilities, your S24 is geared to elevate your Galaxy experience and boost productivity. With Galaxy AI, you can seamlessly keep pace with the speed of life, even when faced with a multitude of tasks and limited time.

2. Experience faster information retrieval with “Circle to Search” on the Galaxy S24

The pioneering phone to introduce this intuitive, gesture-driven feature. With a simple circle gesture, explore new dimensions of discovery. No more frantic searching—when something catches your eye, circle it, and ta-da access Google Search results instantly. Get answers in a flash without leaving your feed, making information retrieval swift and seamless.

3. Elevate your photography with the “Generative Edit” feature on the Galaxy S24. After capturing a photo, harness the power of Generative Edit to effortlessly turn ordinary images into photographic masterpieces with just a few taps. This innovative Galaxy AI editing tool enables easy adjustments like erasing, recomposing, and remastering. Capture a great shot, then enhance it with Generative Edit to take your photos to the next level.

4. Find the right words fast with “Chat Assist” on the Galaxy S24.

Receive real-time tone suggestions to enhance the professionalism or conversational flow of your writing. With AI integrated into the Samsung Keyboard, effortlessly translate and communicate with friends and family in various languages—real-time translation is available in 13 languages. Carry on your conversations confidently, seamlessly bridging language barriers with ease on the Galaxy S24.

5. Overcome language barriers during calls with “Live Translate” on the Galaxy S24.

Whether making reservations while traveling abroad, this feature in your Phone app provides near-real-time voice translations. Enjoy two-way, real-time voice and text translations during phone calls, eliminating awkward lost-in-translation moments and enhancing communication on your Galaxy S24.

6. Note smarter, not harder, with “Note Assist” on the Samsung Galaxy S24.

Revolutionize your note-taking and organization in Samsung Notes with AI-generated summaries, streamlined templates, and cover creation for easy preview and retrieval. Additionally, Note Assist goes the extra mile by offering translation capabilities for your notes. Let the Galaxy S24’s Note Assist handle the heavy lifting of everyday tasks, making your note-taking experience more efficient and convenient.

7. Effortlessly transfer data and settings with “Smart Switch” to seamlessly set up your new Galaxy S24.

Once you’ve acquired your Samsung Galaxy S24, the setup process becomes a breeze. Smart Switch ensures that all your content from your previous phone, including photos, contacts, calendar events, notes, apps, themes, device settings, and more, stays with you during the transition to the Galaxy S24.

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