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review

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    The new MacBook and its accessories

    ‘s new has been in the market for a couple of months now, and I’m sure many users are pretty miffed at its high price, considering how its specifications and performance are seemingly poor.

    This new super slim laptop targets users who don’t require their computers to do much heavy lifting, or working professionals who want a second machine to bring around for sending emails, light surfing and using applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

    I had the chance to test out this laptop for a period of time, so here are some of my thoughts after using this device on a daily basis over a one-month period.

    It’s soooooo light

    At 920 grams, this baby is light as a feather, and it makes my existing 1,580-gram 13″ MacBook Pro Retina feel clunky and overweight.

    To me, this really was the whole point of getting the MacBook. It really made a difference to my daily carrying load (I’m quite the weakling), and carrying it all day never weighed down on me, unlike the 13″ MBPr, which tended to give me a little discomfort after a prolonged period of lugging around.

    Force Touch is pretty nifty

    Features-wise, this is what I missed the most. The touch pad on the 13″ MBPr now feels stiff and immobile. Granted, I use the “tap” function on the touch pad so I won’t have to push it down, but the Force Touch pad makes everything feel so much more natural, regardless of whether I tap it, or press it like a button.

    And here I was, thinking initially that this was a gimmicky feature.

    Additionally, it also has the potential to do so much more, such as controlling the scrubbing function through audio/video files and controlling the acceleration of vehicles in racing simulators, based on how hard one presses the touch pad. Really excited to see what creative functions Apple develops for this technology.

    I don’t use the USB-A port all that often

    Having the USB-C as the computer's only port seemed daunting at first, but it turned out to be pretty ok.
    Having the USB-C as the computer’s only port seemed daunting at first, but it turned out to be pretty ok.

    I never realised how rarely I used the USB-A port until I actually had a laptop that didn’t have it. Although I had the USB-C to USB-A adapter, I actually used it less than 3 times in a whole month.

    Cloud services such as Dropbox and iCloud have made file storage and sharing a piece of cake, eliminating the need for portable drives. Add on the fact that this MacBook comes with 256GB of hard disk storage space and I had little reason to use that USB-A adapter.

    However, with useful portable docks available like the Hub+, it’s probably safe to say that those USB-A ports won’t be missed much.

    Additional adapters, additional cost and hassle

    Additional adapters don't come cheap

     

    Speaking of the Hub+, it still comes as part of an additional cost, which makes the high price of the swanky new MacBook not the only thing you’ll have to think about before pulling the trigger.

    These adapters are part of the “hidden cost” that comes with buying this computer with only a single USB-C port. Granted, it’s possible to use the MacBook without getting any of these, but that won’t be true for most.

    And not to mention the hassle of packing in extra adapters as well.

    Performance is pretty sluggish

    When Apple announced this new MacBook, many were convinced the Intel Core M processor wouldn’t be much good in terms of performance – and it’s actually quite true.

    Surfing the internet and replying emails were pretty smooth tasks, but if you’re like me, you’d have at least two dozen tabs opened on your browser. Performance then becomes really affected, but I guess that’s not too surprising. However, that’s the way I am and the laptop just didn’t work too well for me in this respect.

    Using Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint (with my browser closed) yielded quite a bit of lag as well.

    I found, though, that it was still lag-free when using Photoshop CC for simple image editing, so that’s a plus.

    I can’t tell whether my laptop is charging when closed

    The new USB-C connector doesn’t have that green/orange light on the connector to indicate whether it’s been connected or not. While not necessary when the laptop is in use (as I could tell from the battery icon in the menu bar), I was unable to tell if the laptop was charging when it’s not in use.

    It’s a minor inconvenience, though, and not really a deal breaker.

    The new keyboard is quite different, but getting used to it was a piece of cake

    The MacBook's keyboard feels comfortable enough to type, despite it's super short travel distance

     

    Of course there was a little bit of a learning curve – one day of normal usage, to be a little more specific. It was certainly quite different from the older keyboard, but not hard to get used to.

    The keys were slightly bigger than on the MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs. The travel distance of the keys was really, really short, and it was the main thing that I had to get used to. However, the MacBook’s keys with the new butterfly mechanism, whereby the key could effectively be pressed from every corner, it wasn’t difficult getting used to the new typing dynamics.

    I will get it… but only as a second computer

    I simply love the design, weight and form factor of the new MacBook. Features such as Force Touch and new butterfly keyboard mechanism are also pretty cool. However, its sluggish performance really let me down.

    I would be willing to get it for business trips, or going out to cafés to write when I know the only tasks for me are to check my email and doing light work on the internet. Tasks such as research that involves many browsers opened, heavy processing in Excel and PowerPoint, or more advanced graphic design work on Photoshop wouldn’t really be suitable.

    Final thoughts

    Get this if:

    • You use your laptop for pretty lightweight tasks such as casual surfing and checking email
    • You want it as a second computer to complement a more powerful machine
    • You appreciate a light-weight, well-designed piece of hardware
    • You’re dying for a gold or space grey Apple laptop

    Avoid this if:

    • You can’t stand the fact that it’s got no USB-A port
    • You do a lot of design work
    • You crunch a lot of numbers on Excel
    • You leave many tabs opened while surfing the net
    • You do all of the above, and are getting this as your primary machine

    Check out some of our additional pictures of the new MacBook below:

    Apple's new MacBook

     

    Apple's new MacBook

     

    Apple's new MacBook's thickness, compared to an iPad Air
    Apple’s new MacBook’s thickness, compared to an iPad Air

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    He was actually staring intently at keyboard cat doing his thing.

    What’s it about

    American Sniper, is an adaptation of the autobiography of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper). Recently nominated for 6 Academy Awards, this Clint Eastwood directed movie chronicles Kyle’s transformation from wannabe rodeo cowboy to the most lethal man in US military history. Chiefly, the movie deals with the effects of war on Kyle and his psyche, including the distance created between Kyle’s commitment to the military and his family, especially his wife Taya (Sienna Miller).

    The Awesome

    Introspection: This movie is quite unlike most military related films. Sure, soldiers still stick to walls and do all of that fancy tactical movement. However, the movie isn’t really all that action-oriented. Instead, the movie focuses on the many personal moments of Kyle’s life as he serves four tours of duty, ranging from not only his toughest moments on the battlefield but also, the courtship and eventual deterioration of his relationship with his wife. It’s certainly a different way to frame a war movie but this stripped-back approach is one that lends a very different perspective to the genre. While others may find it slow, I found it quite a refreshing change of pace in a war flick.

    "Stay with me, Chris. And our fake plastic baby."
    “Stay with me, Chris. And our fake plastic baby.”

    Grappling With Duty: A big focal point of the movie is the tug of war between Kyle’s sense of duty and the needs of his family. Between every tour of duty he spends in the Middle East, Kyle is changed by the horrors of watching his fellow brothers fall in battle and the slaughtering of innocents. As such, Kyle isn’t able to be the husband or father that his family need. Yet, he keeps going back. Why? Out of loyalty to his fallen brothers? Or is it blind duty to his country? It’s a massive struggle that’s really interesting to watch play out on screen.

    Tension-filled:  Trailers for the film have been highlighted by one moment in particular – Kyle takes out a man carrying a rocket launcher. A young boy sees the launcher and moves towards it, looking like he’s about to pick it up. Kyle prays hard that he doesn’t… before the trailer cuts away. The movie, like others in the genre such as Lone Survivor, is filled with lots of moments like that, where his character has to make extremely tough split-second moral choices in super high stake situations. One wrong call and protecting your fellow soldiers could turn into the act of killing an innocent. The stakes get even higher when Kyle starts to develop a rivalry with an enemy sniper, a Syrian shooter who actually won a medal at the Olympics. (Am I the only person who finds that to be hilarious?)

    The Coop Show: Bradley Cooper does a fine job of portraying Chris Kyle the way the movie wants to portray him to be. Transforming from a free rodeo cowboy to a sniper who entrusts himself with the impossible task of saving every solider on the battlefield, Cooper puts in a believably battle-weary performance. He’s intense, on edge and you can feel the weight on his massive shoulders threatening to break him down in just about every frame of the movie.

    Not So Sure About That…

    Neutered: Perhaps Clint Eastwood wanted to focus more on the patriotism. Or perhaps it was the real life involvement of Taya Renae Kyle in the making of the film… but whatever reason it is, the portrayal of Chris Kyle feels almost too safe, respectful and may I say… sugarcoated? At times, it seems that this portrayal of the man is really a little bit more introspective than he really would have been, burying the complex anti-hero vibes of the character under a safer, shinier coat of paint.

    Shaky Acting: Sienna Miller, never known to be a particularly strong actress, has some struggles crying/acting in emotional scenes with Cooper.

    Fake Baby!: Yep. This happened. There’s a scene where a fake baby was used. It’s REALLY distracting.

    Verdict: 3.5/5

    Although the portrayal of Chris Kyle may be a little too much on the safe side, American Sniper still features a great natural leading man performance from Bradley Cooper. Clint Eastwood’s steady directing hand makes this an occasionally heartbreaking character driven war film that manages to capture the toil of physical and mental anguish that war puts their heroes through.

    To watch or not to watch…

    Definitely Watch If…

    Avoid This If…

    • You’re a war movie junkie.
    • You’re squeamish. This is pretty graphic at times.
    • You appreciate the intricacies: not everything has to explode.
    • You can’t stand a slower storytelling pace.
    • You love a good character-centric movie.
    • You don’t like “true story” movies.

     

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      Sennheiser Urbanite (Photo by Sennheiser)

      The Sennheiser Urbanite is the latest headphone offering from the German audio specialists following the massive success of their Momentum series.

      Great design seems to be part of Sennheiser’s recent releases, and fit in perfectly with that philosophy. At first glance, it seems Sennheiser is injecting a younger, funkier design into their cans, a la Beats. And as many can attest, the sound quality from Beats headphones doesn’t quite match up to their illustrious design.

      We managed to get hold of a pair of Urbanites in ‘Sand’, so let’s see how it stands up to the hype.

      Design

      The Sennheiser Urbanite on-ear headphones appear incredibly stylish at first sight. While the equally exceptional Sennheiser Momentum headphones have a vintage twist in its design, the Urbanites scream “modern”. With its bold lines and sharp finish this latest offering by Sennheiser scores high in all things sexy.

      The accompanying audio cable is flat, which makes it tangle-resistant. In our experience, such cables are typically fragile , but these have a certain measure of sturdiness to it. The locking mechanism when connected to the headphones is also a nice touch.

      The headband comes in a unique, textured nylon material, which is a good breath of fresh air from the synthetic leather that tends to flake after a while. However, we’re not hot about the underside of the headband, which lacks padding and feels a little too “slippery”, giving a poor grip on the head. The headphones will slip off if you’re a head banger (and trust us, audio is so good you can’t help but move to the groove).

      We like how Sennheiser has made the Urbanites foldable, with both ear cups able to be folded in and making it extra portable for travel or commuting. The Momentums were a little difficult to keep and bring around, given their inability to fold up.

      The ear cups are also adjusted via a non-traditional system. There are no metal bands that click on these headphones; the ear cups are instead attached to a flat rubber cable (a little like the audio cable) that runs inside the headband. The cups are then able to move along this rubber cable like a track.

      Sound

      The Sennheiser Urbanite delivers a warmish sound signature, with sweet, detailed mids and treble, accompanied by a powerful bass that doesn’t come across as adequate.

      Compared to the Momentums, these have a slightly less prominent bass, while the midrange and treble are arguably richer and offer greater clarity. One concern about bassier headphones is how the sound can come across as ‘muddy’, but this isn’t a concern with the Urbanites.

      If we could change one thing about the sound – and this is purely a personal preference – we’d make it a little brighter. As it stands, the thick layers of sound offers a more natural-sounding set of cans, albeit a little less ‘exciting’.

      The Urbanites were made to appeal to a wider audience, and we fully expected it to perform well on most genres of music. And as expected, we weren’t disappointed in this aspect. Jazz, rock, pop, folk, trance, house and country  music all sounded great with the Urbanites.

      While sound isolation wasn’t particularly great with the Momentums, the Urbanites proved to do a much better job. Don’t worry about sound leakage as well as the Urbanites don’t reveal much of your music tastes to your fellow commuters.

      Comfort

      These are very comfortable. The velour ear pads add a nice cushioning to the ears, while the pressure from the headphones isn’t too strong. But as with most on-ear headphones, they do get a little painful on the ears after a continuous, extended usage.

      Our benchmark for a comfortable pair of cans are the Sony MDR-1RMK2 – those are absolutely the most comfortable pair of headphones we’ve owned. How do the Urbanites compare to the 1Rs? Well to be honest, it’s really hard to beat the comfort of the Sonys. These would count as the second most comfortable pair of headphones we’ve tried – and that’s certainly no slouch.

      Verdict: 4.5/5

      These headphones are amazing, and it’s not entirely surprising considering the success Sennheiser had with their Momentums. We would definitely buy these for the comfort, good isolation and impressive sound signature.

      While we found the bass levels adequate for our taste, bass heads may find it slightly lacking. The main reason why this pair shines, though, is its good balance of sound between bass, mids and treble, with the latter two being particularly impressive.

      What we’d like to change is the material underside of the headband, and having a slightly brighter sound wouldn’t hurt as well.

      Do you own a pair of Sennheiser Urbanite On-ear headphones? Let us know what you think of them.

      The Sennheiser Urbanite On-ear headphones retail for s$269.

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        FootballHero

        Disclaimer: GrateNews does not condone the use of this app for real gambling purposes.

        FootballHero is a new social football prediction game to hit the market, and it allows users to compete against friends, or global opponents by predicting football scores.

        Whether you’re a hardcore football fan, or just love sticking it to your friends, here is a list of reasons why you’ll love FootballHero.

        A new take on fantasy football

        We’re sure many of you are familiar with the fantasy league concept, where you choose a team of players and compete against your friends based on points scored by your selected players and how they perform in real life.

        Well, it’s the same thing here. Pick your predictions before the match, and pray hard you win. Players can check their rankings globally, as well as create private leagues to compete with friends.

        You love the idea of punting… without money

        Let’s not kid ourselves, people are risk takers. Some just don’t like gambling for various reasons – and one of the big reasons is putting our money at risk.

        So why not try this out? A virtual, gamified bookmaker that allows you the enjoyment of punting without the nightmare of putting your money on the line.

        FootballHero provides statistics on which team is favoured by players, as well as different punting categories

        You always give the, “I told you so” speech when it comes to football predictions

        Bragging rights are a big deal, especially among friends. Think you understand the game better than them?

        Make it official and set it in stone by challenging them on FootballHero. It’s a sure way for you to put to bed all doubt about your mastery of football predictions.

        You get to win an all-expense paid trip to the UEFA Champions League Finals in Berlin

        The headline just speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Apart from the private leagues you can set up to play against your friends (or frenemies), there will also be a FootballHero Championship. Global users will compete in weekly, monthly and overall season championship for prizes such as autographed memorabilia and game-work jerseys.

        And of course, the overall winner would get to fly to Berlin for the UEFA Champions League Finals.

        You’re a big fan of TradeHero

        As you  may know, FootballHero comes from the same guys who brought us TradeHero. So if you’ve played TradeHero and loved it for its gamified, yet realistic and educational trading simulation, then you’ll love FootballHero.

        It’s free

        Zilch, zero, nada cost.

        The FootballHero app is available for free on both iOS and Android devices.