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Sunday, April 6, 2014

HTC One M8 Review (from a Samsung Galaxy S4 user)


The HTC One M8 was recently released on March 25, 2014. The HTC One M8 is continuing where the HTC One left off as HTC's flagship device for 2014. Below is a quick review on the HTC One M8 with my impressions. Several pictures of the device (and pictures captured from the camera) are below. Enjoy!

Introduction

I will skip most of the detailed technical specifications and list what matters to most people:

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
Display: 5.0" 1080p, "Super LCD 3" with RGB matrix (441 ppi) - Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Camera: 4.0 MP, f/2.0, Dual-LED flash, 28 mm lens, 2.0 MP depth of field sensor
Memory: 2 GB LPDDR3 RAM


Build Quality and Performance

Coming from a Samsung Galaxy S4, the premium unibody aluminum frame and brushed metal backing is a welcome upgrade. HTC does not skimp when it comes to materials, and the HTC One M8 certainly feels like a premium product in my hands compared to the Galaxy S4. Granted, it is prone to slipping because of the ultra-smooth aluminum finish, but I am very happy with the build quality.

The HTC One M8 has a more pronounced curve throughout the phone as compared to the previous HTC One. Additionally, the back of the phone has been streamlined and looks cleaner than the previous HTC One in my opinion.


The phone is utilizing the fastest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor as of April 2014, the Snapdragon 801. Needless to say, it does not slow down during any task--which is expected from a flagship device like the HTC One M8. Previously, my Galaxy S4 did slow down when launching and exiting applications--and although it was a very slight slowdown (1 second or so), it was noticeable. I am happy to say that every application opens with no slowdown on the HTC One M8.

I think a large part of the speed differential is not only the processor but the User Interface. HTC's Sense 6.0 is clean and lean, and definitely faster than TouchWiz (Samsung's UI). I tried out my brother's iPhone 5S and the HTC One M8 kept pace and sometimes outperformed in opening and exiting applications. The time differences are in the milliseconds so it is difficult to judge which phone is faster from a practical standpoint.

There will certainly be benchmark reports coming out that show phone performance speeds and top contenders. But from a practical standpoint, nearly all flagship devices today have indistinguishable speeds when performing everyday tasks (e-mail, music, web browsing).

Key Features

The HTC One M8 comes with the latest version of Android as of April 2014 (4.4 - KitKat), so all of the features included in Android 4.4 KitKat come with the phone. Apart from KitKat, the biggest key feature that I saw in the HTC One M8 is the dual camera and "UFocus" feature. This feature allows the user to change depth/focus after taking a shot. The result is quite staggering, many photos look as if they were taken by a DSLR. Here is a quick example of a picture I took of a lock:

Original / UFocus on Foreground (Lock)


Original / UFocus on Background


Another great feature of the HTC One M8 is Launch Gestures. Launch Gestures allow you to simply double tap on your phone to turn it on, or swipe in multiple different directions to do different things (enter Voice Commands by swiping down, Sense Feed by swiping left, etc.)

The M8 also contains a plethora of filters and editing capabilities, as do most other phones. I found the included filters to be of rather good quality and not as gimmicky as most other phone filters.

HTC One M8 Example Pictures

Original (Left) / "Satura" Filter (Right)


Original (Left) / UFocus on Foreground/Wallet (Right)


There are many other features of the phone, but I thought these two features stood out the most to me.

Impressions

I was ultimately very impressed by the HTC One M8. Everything from the build quality, performance, and unique features of the phone made me enjoy the phone from the start. I will definitely be using my phone's camera more often to get that delicious bokeh that most phones can't produce, but the HTC One M8 can via UFocus.

Coming from a Samsung Galaxy S4, I love the HTC One M8. Unless you are a die hard Samsung fan and utilize everything from the multi-window capabilities to Samsung applications, I think you would be hard-pressed to not like the HTC One M8 after trying it out. And to all Apple users, what is taking you so long to come over to Android? You're missing out!

Additional Pictures

 
 
 


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sagar Chinese Restaurant

These were taken at Sagar Chinese Restaurant.
It's a Chinese/Indian Fusion restaurant near Hillside Ave, Queens.
It was delicious. Recommended!






All pictures taken with the Olympus OM-D w/ Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4.
Creative Commons Noncommercial (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Are In-Ear Monitors (IEMs)?

With the advent of portable music, a majority of people listen to music with headphones or earphones. Why not listen to your music the way it's meant to be heard? Higher fidelity audio can now be enjoyed on-the-go. While there is already a large market for high-end headphones and earphones, today I would like to recommend a type of headphone that I firmly believe are the best portable headphones: in-ear monitors.

In-ear monitors (often abbreviated to IEMs) are essentially like earphones, except they form a seal within your ear canal (do not confuse this with your inner ear). This seal helps reduce outside noises by approximately -20 through -28 dB. This is called noise isolation, and it is different from noise cancellation (which removes outside noises by utilizing frequency waves to annihilate the ambient waves coming from outside).

The result from this noise isolation? Better attenuation of details in music, as details usually drown out when you are listening with earphones and ambient noise is leaking in. Not only this, but you crank the volume much less than you normally would, since you can listen to your music at lower volumes.

IEMs provide a much more comfortable fit when used with foam tips. Better yet, they don't fall out of yours ears like regular earphones.

Image Source: djtechtools.com

However, the real advantage of in-ear monitors lie in their exceptional technology. IEMs often utilize 2 or 3 sound drivers to "separate" the sound frequencies between the lows (for bass), mids (midrange—for vocals), and highs. Secondly, the type of driver technology used is often Balanced Armature drivers (I go into detail about the difference between Balanced Armature drivers and Dynamic Drivers in my post here). By utilizing several sound drivers, audio quality tends to skyrocket. Your favorite band sounds like they are right there in the room playing with you. Vocals are pristine and clear. Bass is clean and without distortion. Highs shine without being drowned out by everything else.

Many IEMs utilize multiple drivers. The result is an increase in sound quality.

Image Source: shure.co.uk

The end result? You can actually appreciate the rawness of an electric guitar or the thumping beats in hip-hop songs. Sometimes, you realize that you haven't actually listened to your favorite band before this increase in audio quality.



Overall, there are three attributes about IEMs that make them stand out among other headphones:
  1. Noise Isolation: This results in better attenuation to details in music and no need to crank up the volume to dangerous levels.
  2. Sound Quality: Multiple drivers often result in a tremendous increase in sound quality. Since each speaker only focuses on one range of the spectrum (i.e., one speaker for mids, highs, and lows), distortion is very low while details are preserved. Many (not all) IEMs utilize multiple drivers.
  3. Comfort and Fit: IEMs super soft foam tips can be used (such as Comply tips), which are compressed prior to insertion, and then expand in your ear. When they're done expanding, you can barely feel anything on.
You may be thinking "But I hate sticking things in my ears!". In that case, IEMs may be a good choice.

A majority of IEMs are compatible with foam tips—which are not only super soft, but also have fantastic seals compared to plastic tips. Foam tips can be compressed prior to insertion, and once they're in your ears they expand to fit the shape of your ear canal. Thus, IEMs with foam tips can be much more comfortable than earphones that irritate your ears or constantly fall out. One of the best manufacturers of these types of foam, Comply, offers multiple types of soft tips for a variety of IEMs.

Soft foam tips (such as Comply tips) offer superior comfort compared to earphones.

Image Source: noisyhotel.com

IEMs range in their audio quality and prices. Some of the most affordable IEMs start around $100—however, these IEMs are usually single balanced armature driver IEMs and do not offer a good balance between value and audio quality. Moving up towards higher fidelity IEMs usually results in 2 or 3 drivers being utilized. These IEMs range between $200-$400+ in price, depending on their configuration and brand. The important thing to note is that IEMs should be considered as an investment, as they do not usually fail from wire issues and driver failures. If they do, most IEM manufacturers offer a minimum of a 1-year warranty, with others offering 2-year warranties and higher.

With a variety of IEM manufacturers including Shure, Sennheiser, Westone, and EarSonics, it can be difficult to choose the right IEM for you. It is important to make sure that you know what type of sound signature you prefer (be sure to see my post on sound signatures here), as well as the type of music you listen to and enjoy. You can also consult the head-fi forums for more information regarding IEMs and which IEM is right for you.

If you do decide to purchase IEMs, enjoy the increased noise isolation, sound quality, and comfort. You may just rediscover details in music that you've never heard before!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Basics of Technical Analysis — Charts

Technical analysis is often criticized for its lack of scientific proof, modeling capability, and "abstract" approach to analyzing stocks. While technical analysis on its own may not be very powerful—when combined with other forms of analysis such as fundamental analysis and simulations, it may provide a unique insight into the market.

Today I would like to introduce some basic charts utilized by technicians. We have all seen the standard line chart. The line chart is the most basic chart, as it only takes into account the closing price of the stock for a set period of time. There are advantages and disadvantages to line charts. One of the biggest advantages of the line chart is that it offers a clean, easy-to-see representation of a stock trend. However, there are many disadvantages of a line chart—they do not contain intraday information, high/low information, nor do they show the range that the stock traded during the day.

A line chart.
Source: stockcharts.com

A second chart often used by traders is called the bar chart. Bar charts alleviate the disadvantages of the line chart by providing high/low information and range information. The top of the bar chart represents the high for the stock during the day, and the bottom of the bar represents the low for the stock. The horizontal line to the right of the bar represents the closing price. Sometimes, there is also a horizontal line to the left of the bar—this represents the opening price.

A bar chart.
Source: TradeStation

The third and final chart that I would like to cover is the candlestick. The candlestick chart was invented in Japan and was used as early as the mid-1600's to trade rice futures. A candlestick chart offers the same information as the bar chart, but a candlestick chart always includes the opening price. The actual "candlestick" is called the Real Body and what looks like a wick extending out of the candlestick are called shadows. The candlestick is shaded white (or green) to indicate a day where the stock closed higher, and black (or red) to indicate a day where the stock closed lower.

How to read a candlestick.
Source: Wikipedia.org
A candlestick chart.
Source: TradeStation

By utilizing a variety of different charts, you can gain a much better understanding of intraday price movements. Additionally, it is easier to see large price movements and the momentum of a specific stock by observing ranges and high/low information—both of which can be observed in charts like the candlestick and bar charts.