AirPods – A Review

Like many people, I listen to music a lot. I listen in the car, on the bike, around the house (when I don’t get shouted down by the family), studying, walking around town, at work etc. And a fair chunk of that is using earphones. I’m no audiophile, so I’m generally happy with my normal earphones, which at the moment are the ones that came with my iPhones. They sit well in my ear and the cord is a nice length.

But the length isn’t always great, like when I’m working on a computer at home or at work. The cord dangles across the keyboard, or when it’s plugged into the back of the iMac it doesn’t really let me move about much.

So I thought about trying these AirPods out. I figured that as they also work with the iMac at the very least, it will make my study at home more pleasant. At work, I could use them to drown out all the other people’s radios and not have the cord dangling across my keyboard.

As I’m walking down the mall I unpacked the small box and was pleasantly surprised to find them partially charged, so they paired straight away and there I was, using them. I did feel a little self-conscious at first, but you have to realise this. If you put the normal Apple earphones (EarPods?) without the cord, next to the AirPod, they’re actually about the same dimensions, so they only look weird because there’s no cord, not because they are massive. And they are a LOT smaller than some of the Bluetooth phone earpieces that I’ve seen.

They have been really handy over the past month. When using them the range (as long as there are no walls in the way) is up to around 10m, which means I can move around the desk area, or the kitchen with the phone charging in one place, and listen to music without interruption. No cords to dangle over the keyboard or restrain your head.

Swapping between devices is probably the letdown. I vaguely recall Apple saying that they would swap automatically and they don’t. To be honest, I don’t know how you would implement that. Imagine you’re watching a video on your iPad and Facebooking on your phone. You probably wouldn’t want that pop-up video on Facebook to suddenly override the dramatic reveal in the movie.

But swapping is simple. Swipe up on iOS and then from the music widget select the little (almost looks like wifi symbol) and choose your headphones. A few seconds later you’ll hear a tone and the AirPods are now connected. Even on the iMac you select your Bluetooth drop down and connect to your AirPods.

I’ve set one ear to start/stop with a double tap and the other works on Siri. Voice clarity for someone on the other end seems pretty good, even on a busy street. Their volume level does seem a little quieter than the normal EarPods. Battery lasts for a while (several hours) and it’s only a short rest in the case and they have significant charge. I haven’t managed to empty the case yet, so not sure how many charges you’ll get out of that.

They are pricey, and I haven’t looked at any other Bluetooth headsets to compare.

Overall I have found the lack of cords as by far the best part of them. They are quieter with somewhat less bass than the regular iPhone earphones

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Last Legs?

The iMac is starting to reboot often. Started this afternoon sometime. It seems to realise that it can’t wake from sleep so it reboots (and then can’t find the bluetooth keyboard). Happened about 4 times this evening.

I’ve removed the BT keyboard and I’ll see how that goes.

Next, I’m going to duplicate the Time Machine process on a new HDD.

Then I’ll look at a full rebuild, it’s probably well overdue anyway.

After that, if it is still occurring, I’ll have to consider retirement. Considering it’s a mid-2009 iMac, having lasted 8 years isn’t too bad.

Update: So after removing the BT keyboard and the Magic Trackpad (so now its the normal keyboard andMagic Mouse) the iMac has been behaving properly again. She fights on….. I wonder when the next iMac update is, 6 months away at least I expect. Not going to look at the iMac Pro, not required.

Dying of the Light

I said I had two WoW problems (of course, there is the unspoken – I have resubbed to WoWcrack problem as well). The second is of course the iMac. Levelling with Miss 9 means running the PC and the iMac (any thoughts of an iOS version of WoW, lol) together. Normally not a problem. The PC, an ancient first gen i7 with a 9500GT – it’s pretty noisy but still running ok. As it boots from an SSD it’s very quick to start up actually. And then there’s the iMac.

So I talked somewhat about the problems a couple of posts ago. Even WoW is enough to push it too hard. It can be as long as an hour, or as little as ten minutes before bad things start happening on the screen and I need to quit. As long as I quit before a complete failure (with usually a mostly blank display) it seems to be able to carry on doing word processing etc after I’ve quit.

Otherwise, a reboot gets it back running. Still, that won’t last forever.

The case, the main heatsink for these computers gets very toasty. It always has, but it seems if this cools down then I get a bit longer out of it than if I try to start WoW when it’s already warm. I’m sure that’s either the root cause of the problem (heat stressed components failing over time, it’s a late 2010 model after all) or a symptom of it (the dying video card working harder than it needs to).

So come on Apple, announce MacMini updates if you’re going to so I can decide what to do. I’m starting to lean back towards the cheapest MacMini (second hand?) I can get and spend the money on a PC instead. Either way, I have 2 keyboards, 3 mice and a display all ready for whichever box I head down. I may be dual boxing on one screen.

Of course, I have all my fingers and toes and eyes crossed hoping I won’t get a total failure of the iMac before I am ready. Heck it’s hung on for a year already (more than 2 if you count back to when my original problems started occurring!)

NOTE: I am not considering the smaller iMacs (21.5″) as there is no advantage over the MacMini. None of the smaller ones run a discrete video card, only the larger Macbook Pros and 27″ Macs do. So I would be paying extra money for a (nice) screen.

Progress is a funny thing

So when I was about 10, if I wanted to listen to music, I put a tape in my Walkman, put the headphones on and pressed play. If I wanted to listen in the lounge, I moved the tape in the Hi-fi in the lounge and pressed play.

Today to listen in the lounge I used my phone app to switch on the amp, and then remote control my iMac to select the playlist and play over the network.

The iMac dutifully fetched the songs from the NAS, then AirPlay across to the Amp, which played it out the speakers, while displaying the track info on the TV.

So, including the switch and the router (for the Wifi), that’s SEVEN devices, just to play a song.

It sounds silly like that, but then when you think that I can

  • play the same music upstairs or in the computer room (I can actually play different music in both if I get the Apple TVs involved) at the same time;
  • play music outside;
  • play a movie inside and music outside;
  • play a movie on the computer, a different one upstairs, another different one downstairs, while listening to music outside.;
  • and only have 1 copy of the music or movie on the NAS.
  • and listen to music on the phone on headphones.

maybe it isn’t so silly???

 

Moving has started..

I’ve started moving things to Sydney. It’s only about a month before I finish up in Canberra and there is no real reason to keep a bunch of stuff in Canberra now.

First up was the computers. Got them set up now. The NAS is stored in the hallway cupboard that the network switch is. Keeps the noise down in the Study here. The desks have cable runs along the back underneath, so it’s all nice and tidy. With no gaming at the moment I also switched over to the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse so even less cables about.

Study set up with the Mac and screen from Canberra. PC to the right (smaller screen)
Study set up with the Mac and screen from Canberra. PC to the right (smaller screen)

Seems to work well so far. For the rest of the month I’ll use my iPad Air and the iPhone in Canberra, that is plenty of internet for there. Still have my broadband connection so watching Netflix and stuff on TV or iPad will be ok.

I also took the PS3 up and connected into the amp downstairs.

One of the coming weekends I have to move the bike and then the mountain bike. Moving the Daytona is going to be a little complicated as I need to drive up, get back to Canberra without taking the car (bus, train, ride with mate) and then the following weekend I ride up. Worst case I have organised to ride the bike on the last day and get the car delivered.

Not the right colour :(

My iMac has been showing symptoms that I think may be terminal, or at least probably very expensive.

In the past couple of weeks there has been the occasional flashes of pink/orange/green squares appearing randomly on the screen. This Sunday, when I returned from Sydney, the screen was covered in them. And the iMac seemed to be running slowly.

I am fairly confident in diagnosing a graphics cards in its last days. There are always other possibilities, but that is the most likely. The iMac is about 5 years old and the card is pretty tight in there. Yes the aluminium unibody would act as a heat sink, but it still gets warm. Running a second screen (also 1440 27″) may have hastened it’s demise.

So I’m struggling to export and back up. That’s to add to the 2 other backups I have of course. Perhaps I am being a little paranoid, but there is the possibility that I won’t return to a Mac at the end of this. So stuff has be available in a format that Windows can also use.

A couple of hiccups in the copy have me doing some direct shell work on my NAS. Seems the most reliable way to delete things from the server (there are some duplicates of the iPhoto Library I’m trying to get rid of).

It is also screwing up my study. I have an essay due this week and I’m not looking forward to having to sort it out without a computer!