Interface: 59. The Showroom Idea

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Amazon has spent the last few years slowly killing off the traditional bookstore (and many other stores along the way). Now Amazon has opened a physical bookstore to help those indecisive buyers find books that might enjoy. Nordstrom is doing the same, allowing you to shop online, and have a personally tailored shopping experience in store. The question is, do people actually want to shop like this?

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Review: QacQoc USB-C Hub – More Ports For Your MacBook

The 12″ Retina MacBook is my favorite Apple computer in a long time, and the one I do most of my personal (and much of my professional) work on. It’s incredibly thin and light, has an amazing screen, and offers up enough power for most tasks. My only gripe is the single USB-C Port, because it is used for either connecting external devices, or powering the computer, but out of the box, never both simultaneously.

Most of the time, this isn’t a serious inconvenience, as I don’t frequently need external drives, keyboard, or mouse connected to my MacBook. That is, unless a particular tasks requires me to do extended work with external storage, audio, or video gear, or connect an external display, and be plug in to power at the same time (like recording a podcast). Thankfully, the QacQoc USB-C Hub may be a great solution in those situations.

Overview:

The QacQoc USB-C Hub ($72.99 on Amazon) is an unpowered hub that expands the single USB-C Port of the MacBook (or other USB-C computer) into a 6 different options, giving you the connection you need. Included around the hub are a trio of USB (type A) ports, rated at USB 3 speed, an HDMI port which is capable of driving a 4K screen (at 30hz), an SD card slot, a micro SD card slot, a gigabit ethernet port, and a single USB-C port, which is limited to pass-through power.

The QacQoc hub is small and light weight so adding it to your laptop bag won’t add weigh you down when you’re on the go. The hub comes in MacBook-matched colors, and is finished in a brushed aluminum to really blend in with your Apple gear. The gold model I was sent is a perfect match for my gold MacBook (gold is best!), with the exception of the white surround on the ethernet port, which looks un-Apple-like.

Functionality:

Often times, USB hubs can be flaky, causing a variety of data integrity or even corruption issues. In my testing of the QacQoc, I found that it reliably kept external storage (both thumb drives and external drives) mounted to my MacBook, even when moving from one desk or table to another. The SD Card reader also worked great, and provided much faster transfer speeds than cheap SD Card readers available elsewhere online.

While I don’t have a 4K monitor available to test with, I did find that connecting to an external display through the QacQoc worked as expected, and video appeared clear, and ran at the expected resolution. Due to my current setup, I did not test the ethernet port, so take that into consideration if you’re planning to pick one up.

 

As far as power goes, the ability to simultaneously charge your MacBook and use peripherals as needed is really where the QacQoc shines. Normally, the single port on the MacBook would require disconnecting power to connect something else (and probably a dongle or adapter in the middle). With the QacQoc, that is no longer an issue. Unfortunately, power delivery through the QacQoc isn’t the full 29W that is offered up by the MacBook’s charger. This means significantly longer recharge times when charging through QacQoc.

In an informal test, the QacQoc was projected to take more than twice as long (about 140% longer) to recharge my MacBook than using the MacBook’s 29W USB-C charging block. While that may not be a huge issue when you’re doing light web browsing, email, or document editing, it could make a huge difference with power-intensive tasks like video or audio production, photo editing, or app development in Xcode, which can potentially drain the battery faster than it can charge.

Verdict:

Rating: 4/5

Ultimately, the QacQoc USB-C Hub is worth it if you’re a MacBook owner and you find that you’re swapping dongles and power with any kind of frequency, or need more connectivity than the single USB-C port can offer. Having USB (Type A) ports, SD card and micro SD card slot, ethernet, video, and power ports available, without needing a bulkier computer or a giant bag of dongles and adapters is a great compromise, even though the recharge rate is slower MacBook power adapter.

Pros:

  • Multiple port options for greater connectivity
  • Color-matched to Apple’s laptops
  • SD and micro SD card slots
  • Small and light-weight

Cons:

  • White ethernet port looks un-Apple-like
  • Slower recharge time

If you’re in the market for a USB-C hub for your Mac, and want a great blend of affordable and and functional, the QacQoc is a pretty solid option. It’s available right now for $72.99 on the QacQoc website and on Amazon.

from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Interface: 58. Supplementing Your Reality

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Chase can now have a Tesla anywhere he goes. The problems is, it’s invisible unless he’s looking through his iPhone’s camera. Meanwhile, Andrew has been experimenting with AR simulated board games and loves the shaky cam battle scenes. Also, Ian has a cold. Sorry.

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The End of the “Plus”

Every year, as summer comes to an end, the hype for the next iPhone becomes palpable. Rumors and speculation swirl, and leaks begin to reveal what Apple might be doing at their early fall event.

This year is like every other in some regards, but is also very different in many ways. A summer of leaks and speculation has most people predicting an iPhone with slimmer bezels, a repositioned home button1, and a $1000+ price tag2. What is harder to predict is the other device that will make an appearance in 2017.

In the history of the iPhone, every other year, we get an “S” model phone, which subtly iterates on the previous years device. The iPhone 4S was essentially the iPhone 4, with an improved camera and the addition of Siri. The 5S was the iPhone 5 with added TouchID. The 6S was the 6 with a first generation Taptic motor and the introduction of 3D Touch.

In 2016, with the iPhone 7, for the first time in Apple’s history, the new phone was almost akin to an SS device. Instead of being a new design AND new features, it further iterated on the 6 and 6S design, with only a few notable new features and a familiar size and shape.

Most rumors to date suggest that in addition to the fancy new iPhone (I’m calling it iPhone Pro), there will be an iPhone 7S and 7S Plus. Others suggest that they will skip the 7S moniker and jump to iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Either way, the general assumption is that there will be a total of 3 iPhone models this year.

I think that’s wrong.

In 2014, 2015, and 2016, it was easy (or easier) to decide which new device you wanted to purchase. If you wanted a smaller, more hand and pocket friendly device, you picked the 6, 6S, or 7. If you wanted the cooler camera features (OIS, Depth Effect, 2X zoom), or wanted a giant screen and more battery, you picked the Plus model.

In 2017, if the iPhone Pro is roughly the same physical size as the iPhone 7, but packs all the camera features and a bigger screen than the Plus, why would anyone buy the 2017 Plus. As it is, differentiating 2 devices is a challenge, aside from screen size, trying to extend that to 3 seems impossibly complex for consumers AND Apple’s marketing team.

This year, I firmly believe Apple will FINALLY fix the naming of their iPhone lineup (much like the rest of their product lines), and will stick with just 2 devices. iPhone and iPhone Pro. No more generation numbers, no more S years, just an iPhone with good specs, and an iPhone with great specs. Selling a good phone to people doesn’t seem to be a challenge for Apple, and selling a great phone seems to come naturally as well. Selling a phone that is good, but not significantly better, but also isn’t great seems much less practical.

Between getting a Plus or Pro, who would pick the Plus? I know I wouldn’t. And I think Apple knows that, too.

Review: OWC USB-C Dock for MacBook

The 12″ MacBook is a remarkable computer. It’s incredibly thin, amazingly light, and an all-around solid machine for most tasks. Unfortunately, to make the device so incredibly sleek, Apple stripped it of any connectivity, with the exception of a headphone jack and a single USB-C port. This has caused many would-be MacBook owners to shy away from the device.

The need for a plethora of dongles to use the MacBook with other USB devices, SD card readers, ethernet or a monitor makes it all the more daunting. Fortunately, thanks to the fine folks at OWC, there is now a dock that expands your MacBook’s single port into a collection of ports and connections to make it a more versatile machine.

Overview

The OWC USB-C Dock for MacBook (starting at $127.99 on MacSales.com) is a multi-port dock, allowing you to extend the connectivity of your 12″ MacBook, 2016 or newer MacBook Pro, and other PCs with USB-C connectivity. The USB-C dock offers you multiple USB ports (4 type A, 1 type C), an SD card reader, audio in/out, gigabit ethernet, display out, and the ability to charge your USB-C computer.

For my testing, OWC sent me the HDMI variant of the dock, allowing me to connect an external monitor (up to 4K resolution) via a single HDMI port. OWC also offers a Mini Display Port model, depending on what your setup requires. Regardless of which video port you need, the dock comes in 4 colors, designed to match the look of your MacBook or MacBook Pro. Personally, a gold dock seemed like it might be a little flashy, so I definitely prefer the Space Gray model, but knowing that option is there is a great selling point for some.

From a functionality standpoint, the USB-C Dock is extremely versatile. After getting my MacBook in 2016, I picked up a 4 separate dongles to allow me to connect various things to the computer, or charge the computer while also using a USB device. Having the OWC Dock has made all of those dongles redundant when I’m at my desk. Having a single USB-C cable going into the MacBook is incredible convenient when the other end is host to a plethora of ports.

When out and about, the OWC Dock is much less convenient. Unlike most dongles, which require no external power, the USB-C Dock needs it’s own power, complete with a a giant a hefty converter box. Not only that, but the dock and power block are both quite thick, especially in comparison to the incredibly thin MacBook.

The biggest perk of the USB-C dock, in my opinion, is the pass-through power, which is rated to 80 Watts. That means that if you’re using a 12″ MacBook, or the 13″ MacBook Pro (with or without TouchBar), you’ll get full power delivery in addition to all the expansion. If you use a 15″ MacBook Pro with TouchBar, you’ll get near full charging power (based on rated 85W). Many other USB-C adapters with similar connectivity deliver much lower power, leading to extremely long recharge times. With the OWC Dock, I saw recharge times equal to that of the Apple-provided charging block and cable.

The only complaint I have with the dock is the length of the included USB-C cable. At roughly 18″, it is very limiting on where I can position the dock, forcing me to leave it residing on my desk, instead of tucked away, out of sight. Currently, there are some standards issues with USB-C cable and device designs that can restrict cable length somewhat, but something in the range of 3′-6′ would have been much more accommodating of keeping a tidy desk space.

Verdict

[Rating: 4.5/5]

The OWC USB-C Dock is a great option for MacBook owners looking to get more out of the single port on their device. Whether you’re looking for HDMI or Mini Display Port, the USB-C dock comes in multiple colors, and offers the same flexibility for extending your workspace. The lack of portability, and the incredibly short USB-C cable are minor sticking points, but not critical flaws by any means.

Pros

  • Extends a single USB-C port into 10
  • 2 Display options, each in 4 Apple-matched colors
  • Sturdy and reliable
  • SD card slot and headphone jack on front for easy access

Cons

  • Included USB-C Cable is very short
  • Dock power adapter is very bulky

If you are the owner of a 12″ Retina MacBook, or a new MacBook Pro, the OWC USB-C Dock is a great option for extending the port(s) of your device to make it more versatile. Head over to MacSales.com to grab the configuration you need, or check out their new Thunderbolt 3 version for 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro.

from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast