Before You Buy 168 (Transcript)

Father Robert Ballecer: Coming up next: the NVIDIA shield isn’t just for gaming, we’ve got some earbuds for Bluetooth, some lenses for your iPhone, and a brand new convertible tablet from Acer.  You’ve gotta watch Before You Buy.

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Fr. Robert: This episode of Before You Buy is brought to you by Smart Things. Smart Things lets you monitor, control, and automate your home from where ever you are using your smartphone. Right now Smart Things is offering Before You Buy listeners 10% off any home security or solutions kit, and you get free shipping in the United States when you go to and use the offer code TWIT at checkout.

Hello and welcome to Before You Buy, it’s TWIT’s product review show where we take the latest gadgets and gizmos that we get into the brick house and we give it to hosts and staff members so that they can tell us their honest opinions about whether or not you should be spending your hard earned cash.

Oh, Joining us for the first review is a, well a regular to the TWIT TV network you’ll find her on many of our shows from all about Androids, to, of course, Before You Buy, that’s right, it’s Myriam Joire. Myriam, thank you very much for coming back …

Myriam Joire: Good to see you, Robert, how’s it going?

Fr. Robert: Good, and much better because you’ve got this in front of you.

Myriam: (laughing)

Fr. Robert: Now this is a NVIDIA shield.

Myriam: Yes

Fr. Robert: It’s gotten a lot of press because it’s a great gaming device, but, you wanted to take us in a slightly different slant.

Myriam: Yes, so I won this at a contest in South by Southwest and I really don’t need another tablet, and I thought to myself what, I mean I’ve got, uh this is K1 based, and I’ve got a K1 based, uh, what is it the uh Nexus 9 I guess, and, uh I thought hey let’s see how they compares right? Because the Nexus 9 is a little pricier; this is an 8 inch device, and it’s really a gaming device; I mean it has, you know, I didn’t get the control that was another reason why I kind of decided not to focus on the gaming part; but it turns out that it does have this interesting uh stylus and it’s capacitive so at first it seems kind of gimmicky but um because it has uh the ability to um, you know it’s kind of a bevel like-a shape, you can actually kind of get a tip or like a wider sense, but what’s really interesting is this app comes with the tablet and if you love to paint or draw, this uses a GPU to simulate the slickness of oil painting and the mixing of oil painting. And so let me demonstrate, it will be just a lot easier.  So here I’ve got it really big and as you can see there’s like smearing going on in real time,

Fr. Robert: Oh!

Myriam: and uh, if I made it really thick so you can be seeing really well here, and watch…see…

Fr. Robert: ahh, and of course, this is one of the things that NVIDIA is famous for, this is what they use their GPU clusters for, it’s a physics effect.

Myriam: so you see that? So um, so if, you know, this is exaggerated because you can adjust the brush size and the thickness, and the mixtures here, let me do it a little bit a less crazy by kind of dialing everything down a little bit so you can see, so, you know, here, obviously the green is getting completely lost inside the yellow because it’s so thick, and notice I’m smearing kind of a composite of things, and it’s really kind of cool to be able to play with that. And then the other thing that’s interesting here is to have an option for a watercolor, and the watercolor has gravity where it will leak down your canvas base.

Fr. Robert: how nice!

Myriam: Yeah, so that’s kind of one of the things that really kind of got me excited about this product.  It’s obviously the software and the GPU processing. But,

Fr. Robert: And that’s what I was going to ask you because this this is not super unique to this tablet, or is it?  I mean, does this only work on NVIDIA’s tablet?

Myriam: Yes, because you need the K1 GPU for that, and also this I think the pen is slightly optimized for

Fr. Robert: okay

Myriam: you know, but, uh, so you can mix how much water you want on your watercolor, and if I make it very liquid, and um, there is a way here to turn on gravity, so gravity is on now, watch, you can see it’s starting to smear down the canvas,

Fr. Robert: oh, it’s got a little bit of drip, okay.

Myriam: and look, it does feel like you’re using watercolors. Uh, let me change it, somehow it’s a little bit picky, so, see that?

Fr. Robert: And again, these are these are physics effects, so if you’ve ever played a game on … that’s what this is

Myriam: You can turn off gravity, and then you can of course dry the canvas, which is really awesome, right?  Boom! Canvas is dry now, so what does it look like after an hour, basically. So um, anyway, I’m not, this was just one of the things I wanted to show you, and, kind of getting it set up with the right settings to initiate your canvas and your drawings is a little time consuming so I thought I’d start with that, but let’s talk about it as a consumption device, as a tablet. So, as you can see, it’s an 8 inch display, it’s got a 1920x1200 display, it’s a bit of a mod resolution and aspect ratio, uh, really great quality front facing speakers. Uh, as I said, K1 inside, two gigs of RAM, and 16 gigs of storage, all this for $299, um, also there’s a micro SC card slot so you can add more storage, uh also comes in the 32 gig version for what is it $399, $100 more.  I really wouldn't worry about that, if I were you, just buy. You know, I think you’ll probably find this on sale pretty soon for $249, and considering the NNexus 9 is like $349.

Fr. Robert: This is an attractive tablet, I mean, it’s just …

Myriam: It’s really beautiful.

Fr. Robert: priced, I’ve been looking at it going, there’s some lot of really nice design cues.

Myriam: Let me show you some of the 'cudile' design I don’t know if you can see it here but there is a uh the power button is color keyed, the charging connector this also mini HDMI output, not micro, and the charge connector is color coded, which is really nice if you’re familiar with how much pain that can be, um, no, it’s it's great, it’s thin, it’s pretty light, has a great display, it’s IPS. Uh the only thing that’s kind of a bit negative is the uh frankly is the uh, you know the cameras, their 2 five megapixel autofocus cameras.

Fr. Robert: oh crap

Myriam: They’re maaa, they work, they do their job, but I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, you know, 

Fr. Robert: they’re not raging over … 

Myriam: pound that, but then again neither is the Nexus 9, to be honest with you, so Nexus 9, the reason I keep bringing it up is because this has a clean stalk on moly pop version of Android now, and the Nexus 9 was also running a K1, so they’re very comparable in terms of processor and and software you know as you can see this is completely stock. I’ve installed a bare minimum of apps.

Fr. Robert: So so this this is a decent way to, if you like your vanilla android, this is a decent way to get it.

Myriam: Yeah! This is a vanilla android tablet, essentially, that’s slightly smaller than Nexus 9, a little cheaper, and has some great aces up its sleeve, with this, uh, this stylus, that you can, when you pull it out it gives you some options of apps you can use with it, uh, and um, most importantly I think that it’s really fast, I mean, check this out, I’ve get every app installed right now open, running, while we were doing all of this stuff, and check out how fast the multi-tasking. Everything is super smooth, you know, there’s no hiccups here.

Fr. Robert: Well why do they sell this as a gaming tablet if it seems to be such a competent regular tablet?

Myriam: Well, I think the idea was that they felt that the shield, uh, you know, handheld play um gaming device is a little too specialized, so they decided that hey why don’t we make a tablet that can be great at gaming but also can be used as a general purpose device.  I watched a bunch of Youtube videos last night, I kind of caught up on some of my channels, and you know, normally they like grade 1080 PHD. But in addition you have this uh great sound with the front facing speakers. So this is also a fantastic media consumption device.

 Fr. Robert: Well cause it has to be cause gaming ...

Myriam: Yeah, and the headphone jack sounds good too; a lot of tablets have really crappy audio out of the headphone jack cause you know it’s kind of like they keep, they want to keep things cheap, um, but really, I'm pretty impressed with this thing, and I might actually put it in my bag and replace my Nexus 9 which I kind of carry everywhere. For a long time I had Nexus 7, second edition, and I put the Nexus 9 in my bag cause it’s got a bit more umphh, but this I think, uh, I don’t use tablets a lot, but for my uses, which is primarily browsing the web, and, and you know, watching Youtube videos and stuff. And then here I’ll show you I have, um, wherever it is, the uh gravity movie, um, and you can kind of have a feel, I'll see if I can ...

Fr. Robert: Uh, It's got, It’s got a fast processor, it’s got good speakers, it's gotta make for a good watching experience.

Myriam: Oh yeah. So here it is, we can watch it, um, and I don’t know if the my mike is going to pick this up, but, so here, let’s turn it up a bit, oop, other way. Of course, gravity doesn’t have a lot of audio, so, but as you can see, oh, sorry here, let me adjust this a bit so you can see better.

Fr. Robert: That’s actually nice, that’s nice smooth motion. Now the funny thing is, 19 uh, 1920x1200 may sound strange, but that was actually the resolution that we had on most of our big monitors before 10ADB became the thing.

Myriam: Correct. Yeah. So I mean again, great media consumption device, you can create some cool stuff with the pen, the stylus, and it gives you a very fast tablet all for $299, you can’t go wrong. I kind of almost wish the Nexus 9 had been this device in retrospect.

Fr. Robert: Ok, Miriam, break it down for us pro’s and con’s.

Myriam: So pro’s, um, as I said, great media, great gaming device, right, there’s no doubt about that. Um I’m not going to go into detail, but uh just quickly let you know there’s a control you can get from NVIDIA that comes with it lets you play games with the controller, uh, paired … 

Fr. Robert: and you really should get that, if you’re going to use it as a gaming tablet that makes sense.

Myriam: So like you can do this, you know, and then play games with the controller, controller is about 60 bucks, I don’t know if it’s worth your while but it’s a nice controller. Um, you can also play remote play games from your own home PC if you have the right the right graphics card on your PC. I don’t have a PC, so maa.

Fr. Robert: We’ve actually shown people how to do that on KnowHow, so if you’ve got that,

Myriam: right

Fr. Robert: yeah it’s a great experience.

Myriam: Also, um, NVIDIA has a cloud-based system where they have a bunch of PC’s in the cloud that lets you remote play on this tablet, so there’s a bunch of games you can kind of try out for cheap. Um, and then of course, all the android games as well, that are K1 optimized that NVIDIA has, so there’s all that gaming stuff, and in addition, you’ve great content consumption, great speakers and display, and the ability to do some content creation with the stylus and some of the cool apps that are bundled for free with the tablet. So assuming these uh, and of course a very fast general purpose tablet. These are the three big things.

Fr. Robert: Now what, what didn’t you like though?

Myriam: Uh, What didn’t I like? Honestly the design's a little, kind of, I mean it’s it's nice but it’s a little generic, and there’s a lot of bezel, right, um, as you can see here. I wish it had ...

Fr. Robert: Yeah, if you, if you like, if you like edge to edge glass, this is not it.

Myriam: Uh, the cameras are very maa. Uh the power button is a bit mushy, and considering that the attention to detail on the rest of the tablet, it’s kind of surprising that the volume rocker feels very …, and it’s not just me, like in Gadget Review says the same thing, Shawn Buckley, uh one of my ex-colleagues over there said the same thing about that, so it’s a bit odd that um they didn’t nail that. That’s it, really. Um, again, so I’d say it’s a buy.

Fr. Robert: There you have it. Myriam Joire with the NVIDIA Shield tablet, it’s a buy, $399

Myriam: Two thirds for 32, and this is 16, so it’s only $299.

Fr. Robert: $299, that’s not bad for a vanilla, for a vanilla tablet.

Myriam: For an 8 inch tablet with pretty much one of the fastest processors short of Gwang you know snaptrack in 810 or something.

Fr. Robert: Myriam, thank you very much. Now where can they find you, of course, you’re all over the TWIT TV network, but if they want to see your other work?

Myriam: Sure, so uh yeah, uh the best thing is to follow me on Twitter, my handle is TankGirl without the vowels tnkgrl. I don’t know if you’ve got a bottom third or whatever ready to go there Brian. Uh, and my blog is again without the vowels Um I also do some freelance uh um tech journalism work for various blogs like uh, sometimes um mobile geeksreadwrite, androidcentral, so you might find me there although I don’t do too much of that anymore. It’s really here now.

Fr. Robert: It really is.

Myriam: For me.

Fr. Robert: Myriam Joire,  you’re going to find her everywhere, but also here, All About Android on Tuesdays, and you’ll find pretty much every week here on Before You Buy, either live or pre-recorded. Thank you very much for your take on the NVIDIA Shield tablet.

Myriam: Cheers

Fr. Robert: Now coming up next we decided to give our very own snubs a set of Bluetooth headphones to see if they could break the issues that we typically have with wireless Bluetooth headphones. So here we go with snubs and the Kinivo Bluetooth earbuds.

Shannon Morris: Hey everyone, I’m Shannon Morris, and this week I have for Before You Buy, the Kinivo BTH360S Bluetooth stereo headsets. These cost $59.99 MSRP, and they are basically Bluetooth connected headsets, for anybody whose active and wants to go running, because they don’t have a cable that’s sticking to them. So you can get about 6 hours of playback with these. I was able to get 6 hours of playback with no trouble on about medium volume and standby mode on here is quoted at 150 hours. So that’s really good. Charge time is about 2 to 3 hours total, and once it’s charged up fully you’ll get a nice little blue light that lights up on the front to let you know that it’s completed. Now it’s very very lightweight, I really liked being able to, you know, just run around with these, they’re only 35 grams. So really really low profile, really easy to run around with, and they’re not going to get uncomfortable whenever you’re wearing them inside of your ear. Now they do come with a nice rigid headband as well so it’s not going to fall off, it’s not going to go anywhere, it’s actually pretty sturdy, I didn’t have any problems with it. And it comes with extra ear tips as well, so you get a large, a medium, that’s actually on it, and then a small pair as well, just in case you have a different size uh ear, (laughs) and they do come with a one year warranty too, so no problems there, if you have any issues you can just send them back and they’ll fix them for you. Now whenever I tried to put these on, and I’ll put them on for you real quick, they get stuck in my hair, cause I have long hair, much better whenever I have my hair up in a ponytail, but they go right inside your ear, as so, such as that, and you just leave them on, now it does hang out a little bit far off my head, but that’s just because, well, I have a small head, (laughs), I’m a girl, what can I say. Now connecting was really really easy with these, I had no trouble with that. They are regular Bluetooth, so you can use them with anything, you just turn on your Bluetooth on your device. I did notice that there were a few dropouts with Bluetooth whenever I was running, that might be because of the change in distance between these, or maybe it was just because of the movement overall but it wasn’t so often that I was got really annoying or anything. Now as far as the sound goes, uh these weren’t high quality as far as the sound, with music, I noticed that it it was kind of very shallow with all of my music, and there was practically no bass, uh even when I turned it up at max height, I still didn’t have any bass going on in here. So that kind of was an issue for me. Vocals, on the other hand, were very clear. It was really easy to listen to things such as audible books, and podcasts. So those might be a really good option if you are more of a podcast listener whenever you go running. Now they did have really good definition between left and right stereo as well whenever I was listening to things such as Pink Floyd on here so that was no trouble. And call answering, uh the audio is really good whenever I was taking calls with people.  I could easily pick up with the inline buttons they’re included here, there’s a volume plus and minus, and there’s also a middle button to turn it on and off and also answer calls. Um, Even the person that was calling me said that they could hear me really well as well.  So, on my pro side these have a really good battery life. I like that they last throughout an entire run plus some. They also have inline controls, which is excellent, so I don’t have to reach in my pocket to my phone. And they are incredibly lightweight, so really really easy to take with you, and they’re not going to bother you wearing them on your head. On the con side though, they do have a shallow sound, especially if you’re listening to a song with lots of lots of really heavy bass, and the Bluetooth breaks up with a little bit of movement.  Now those are some definite issues, and I think they would be, if they would be a Buy, Try, or a Don’t Buy, I would say they would be a Don’t Buy. And this is specifically because of that audio quality. I really think that they need to up the ante on the sound quality to make these things like super pro for anybody who is going running and listening to music.  Now again, I’m Shannon Morris, and this is the Kinivo BTH360S Bluetooth headset.  Back to you guys. 

Fr. Robert: Oh, and we don’t shed the streak of losing Bluetooth headsets. I’m sorry we’re just going to have to give the Kinivo Bluetooth earbuds a Don’t Buy.  Thanks to Shannon Morris for her review. And uh, Let’s go ahead and move on, but before we do that, let’s take just a moment to thank the sponsor for this episode of Before You Buy. Now I was at CES this year, and at CES, the rage was all about Home Automation. Now we’ve heard about home automation for, let’s be honest, for decades. There’s been the promise of the smart home, the Jetsons home, the futuristic home that would do things for us, that would figure out what we wanted when we wanted it, that would turn lights on and off, that would take care of the locking and the security. But we haven’t really found a product that could do it until now. This is SmartThings, this was rated the Number 1 smarthome product at CES 2015 and you need to take a look at it, because this right here makes all the difference. This is the hub, this is where your SmartHome will start.  Now what makes this special is that, yes, you get all of the different devices that smart things can furnish you with: with outlets, with motion detectors, with moisture detectors, with temperature and humidity detectors, with the open and closed sensors that you would use on doors and windows, but you don’t have to use just smart things stuff. It's intelligent enough to be able to work with nest thermostats, or your sonos audio system, or your dropcams or pretty much any home automation system you may have; and it combines control into one single pane of glass. Now this is the part that I really  like, this right here is the presence sensor. This means that I could walk into my home, and because I have this on my person, my smarthome will know that I'm home. And it can unlock my doors, it can turn on the lights so I have a nice bright path to walk into, it could turn on the air conditioners so the temperature is just the way I like it. It could turn on my audio system so it's playing the music that I want to hear when I get home and I want to relax. This, folks, is the promise of the smarthome. SmartThings is going to give it to you right now. Now many of you have dabbled with home automation in the past, and you've had different experiences, and I want you to put that all aside for a second, and realize that what SmartThings wants to do is not force you to create your home in a particular way, or create your off time in a particular way, but they want to create devices and solutions that work around you. It will control your lights, your locks, your security, everything through a simple IOS, Android, or Windows phone app. And because it's an open platform, SmartThings works well just as well with its own sensors as it does with connected devices from Dropcam, SlageLocks, Honeywell thermostats, and many more. Again, it's so revolutionary that it won CES 2015's Editor Choice award. Oh I would probably use this so that when uh when uh I have, say let's say water in the basement, the moisture sensor is going to turn on a pump so that it will get rid of that excess water. I'm going to use it so that if someone comes up to my front door and there's not supposed to be anyone there, it will actually play the sound of a barking dog and drive them away as well as turn on the lights and start the dropcams so that I can get a feed, a picture of who showed up uninvited. There really is no limit to what you can do with your SmartThings other than your own imagination. So here's what we want you to do. We want you to get started with your SmartHome right now. It has no monthly fees and the kits just start at $189. SmartThings is an affordable way to create your SmartHome now. And just for our TWIT audience, SmartThings is offering you a chance to save even more. You get 10% off any home security or solution kit and free shipping in the United States when you go to and use the offer code TWIT. That's and use the offer code, TWIT. And we thank SmartThings for their support of Before You Buy.

Now folks, sometimes, just sometimes, we like to give products to our host, to our editors, to our staff members so that we can find out whether or not their taste is on the level. So we went over to our very own Mike Elgin and we gave him the Olloclip to see what he could make out of it.

Mike Elgin: Hey, it's Mike Elgin here and today I'm reviewing the Olloclip 4-in-1 lens for the iPhone 6 and 6+. This is a clever $80 accessory for the iPhone that will give you different lenses and of course Olloclip has another product that does telephoto type of uh lens changes but this one is for a wide angle fisheye and a couple of macro lenses so let's go into some of the details here. Uh the wide angle is about 24 millimeters, it's probably the most generally useful um lens that uh the Olloclip has. And what this will enable you to do is instead of doing photosphere type things if you want to capture a whole room you can just have the wide angle effect. There's also a fisheye lens, if you turn it around, uh, you'll see the fisheye feature, this will capture the entire room with tons of distortion of course, because it's a fisheye lens. And by unscrewing the uh the fisheye and the wide angle lenses you can get a 10x macro lens and a 15x macro lens for super super close-ups. And of course, we'll get into the quality of this imagery in just a second, but first let's go through some of the things that come with this um this set of lenses. Uh, The way that they do it is that they clip it on the top, and you turn it around in order to switch lenses, but if you're not using it you know what do you do with this thing? Well they've they've given you this um whole system for uh clipping on different colored plastic um uh you know sorta clipon things that enable you to attach an included lanyard if you want to hang it around your neck. I don't see a lot of people really doing that. People don't want to carry their iPhone accessories around their neck, but if you want to do that it is an option. It all comes, it also comes with a small bag that lets you just throw the lens into the bag and then you can put it in your backpack, that's probably more practical and probably going to be the option that most people use. Now let's talk about the the image quality first, and then we'll get into some of the other specifics. The wide angle uh view uh has some uh distortion uh some black corner softness around the edges but the center is very very clear you kind of expect that for a device like this uh for a wide angle lens for a phone that isn't designed uh to use a lens. It's not like a CANON, you know, DSLR camera that's designed to have swappable lenses.  And so, it's pretty good, considering uh what it is that they are trying to achieve there. And of course the fisheye lens has even more edge distortion, more black corners, more softness around the edges. But it's, it does the job, uh, if you really want to use a fisheye lens. Now the macro lenses are really interesting. They are super super close-up. Even the 10x and of course the 15x get you right into the action, uh you know a grain of sand will take up half the screen and the macro lenses will actually um give you an incredibly shallow depth of field. I mean, unbelievably shallow. So, if you, for example, zero in on a kernel of popcorn, the and focus on the top of the kernel of popcorn, you know, 10% down the kernel of popcorn is already super blurry. Very very shallow depth of field. It takes some um some care in taking macro photos with the Olloclip lens. uh but when you do that the shallow depth of field can actually have a nice effect.  One of the great things about this, and of course, the Olloclip has been around for a long time, they've made some improvements and in some cases because of the changes in the design of the iPhone they've actually had to make it somewhat less convenient, so let's talk about the improvements first. First of all, the best improvement of all is that the new Olloclip can fit over the front facing selfie camera as well as the back camera. The lenses itself is larger than the previous version, which is nice, and you know, again the rear camera is about um 32 mm in width, the wide angle will take you to about 24 mm. It's a relatively subtle change in the angle uh and it's a very welcome one because it gives you the kind of scope of the scene that you want without radical distortion so you're likely to see that. Now let's talk about some of the things that they did that made it kind of worse. Um, for starters, um and one of the things that hasn't changed actually, is that you still have to remove the case. If you have a case which most people have, you have to remove that case in order to put on the Olloclip. So that's a minor inconvenience I think for most people. It's a little harder to place than the previous version. The first version of the Olloclip I believe was with the iPhone 4 and 4S. If you recall that had a perfectly flat front, perfectly flat back, uh and a nice rounded edge. So the way the Olloclip worked for that phone is you just clipped it on the edge it went right over the lens and there was no messing around. Now because Apple has changed the design of the iPhone you have to kind of fiddle with it a little bit to get the uh to get the lens to cover either the front or rear facing cameras. It will never go straight on, you kind of have to line it up and do a little bit of 5 seconds of troubleshooting to get it on, so it's slightly less convenient. And uh and of course, this lens is going to have an issue that you have to uh take care of because if you're going to use the macro lenses you unscrew the regular lenses. That exposes the internal lenses and so you're always going to have to be careful about dust and other things getting inside the Olloclip and also smudges on the outside of the Olloclip because with these kinds of lenses it's really going to show up. Well that is my review of the Olloclip 4-in-1 lens for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+, and of course, I am giving this a BUY. This is a really great product if you like to take pictures with your iPhone 6 or 6+ and I highly recommend it. Uh and my name is Mike Elgin and that's the review of the Olloclip 4-in-1 lens for 6 and 6+.

Fr. Robert: That's a Buy for the Olloclip 4-in-1 lens for your iPhone. If you are an Instagram addict, if you love giving high quality video to your friends, well maybe you just need to pick one up. Thanks to Mike Elgin, of course, you can find him all over the TWIT TV network. He does Tech News Today every morning. And as our news director, you'll find him anytime breaking news may happen.

Now let's change things up a little bit. We've been talking about attachments for your iPhone, about earbuds for those music afficionados, even a gaming tablet that's good at things that aren't games. Now let's talk a little bit about that trend I saw at CES for hybrid tablets. Acer sent us their latest and greatest hybrid, the R13, and this is what I thought of it. The R13 is Acer's latest submission into the growing field of convertible ultrabooks, notebooks, tablets, and other all-in-one stealth package. At 13.5 inches wide by 9.1 inches deep and .7 inches thick, the R13 is quite a bit bigger than a typical tablet, and at 3.31 pounds, it's also noticeably heavier than a top shelf ultrabook. But that extra size and weight also gets you a lot of extra power and flexibility. Our review unit priced at $1400 sports a 13.3 inch 16x9 2560x1440 multi-touch screen driven by 2Ghz dual core Intel I74510U on top of 8GB of LPDDR3 system memory. Acer dropped in two 256GB SSD's in RAID0 on a SATA 600 card for 512GB of crazy fast storage, as well as a media card reader. Network connectivity is provided by an integrated 802.11 ABGN and a C wireless card. The R13 has a sparse port loadout with a combo audio, two USB 3.0, and one HD myport on the left side of the unit, and a USB 2.0 port on the right that can be used to charge your portable devices even when the R13 is off.  Taking some of its styling cues from my personal favorite ultrabook, the Acer S7, the R13 uses Gorilla Glass on both sides of the lid, anodized aluminum for the keyboard tray and palm rest, and matte finished polycarb for the base. The keyboard is quite usable, a little soft but it also has decent travel, a firm feel, a nice little click, and blue backlighting. The track pad also looks like it's been lifted from the S7, which is good, but somehow it didn't feel quite as responsive as it should be. The 3220 mAH Lithium Ion battery is rated for 7 and a half hours of operation, and I actually averaged 8 hours while using it as my daily driver. Performance-wise the R13 performed well for an ultrabook, averaging 2314 in PC Mark 8. Pushing the score up were fantastic read-write speeds from the RAID0 SSD. Of course, specs and performance are good, but what makes the R13 unique is its hybrid modes. Acer uses what they call an easel arrow hinge, that allows the screen to pivot 180 degrees along its centerline. Combined with an ultra-strong yoke, the screen can be placed in 6 different positions. Notebook mode, easel mode, stand mode, pad mode, tent mode, and display mode. While the difference in position may seem slight for many of these modes, they are actually quite useful in different situations and more importantly, the R13 pulls them off. The R13 is an above average ultrabook with good performance, a nice screen, and decent bells and whistles. It's a high powered Windows tablet with a nice format for cradling, combined with Acer's active pen, it's fantastic as a drawing and drafting device, and the specialized modes give it a little extra wow. All in all, the Acer R13 is a fantastic example of a hybrid and maybe just maybe right for you.

It's getting harder and harder to justify a tablet that does some laptop functions when you can get a laptop that does really really good tablet functions at a price that's not that much more than just the tablet itself along with its accessories. Now there are a few things that I really liked about the R13. I liked the speed, I liked the construction, I loved this innovative hinge. I like the fact that it has all these useful modes. And it you know, I don't think it's going to replace my Acer S7, I think that's still going to be my daily driver, because the price on this, and this falls in the cons, is a little bit high, and I'm not so big on this track pad. In fact this trackpad feels like the trackpad that was on the original Acer S7. It's a little bit stiff, it's not as responsive as I would like. I'm thinking that the next generation of the R13 is going to be much better. This is their second attempt at this sort of multi-use, easel style of computer, and I've gotta say, it's got its definite uses. If you've ever been on a plane, and you've had to sort of squeeze your laptop in on that tray and then someone puts their seat back in suddenly it becomes impossible, you're going to love something like that that stand mode. If you do a like a vertical use of your tablet you're going to love to be able to do this to your laptop and have all the power of your full operating system, but in a format that really isn't a whole lot heavier or bigger than your ten inch tablet. Now as far as Try, Buy, or Don't Buy, I I gotta give the Acer R13 a definite Buy. If you are looking for a new laptop, if you want something that's a little bit different, that does the hybrid thing, then uh, the R13 is probably for you.

Now, we did start a new thing here on Before You Buy, called the parting shot. It's where we take products that have been sitting around for a while because they don't really merit a full review on their own, and we give them to a member of the staff and say hey, give us in the shortest amount of time possible, what are your impressions. So we reached back into the grab bag that is our product showroom, and we asked OMG Chad to take a look at the OGIO Ascend backpack.

Chad Johnson: Hello, my name is Chad, I'm with TWIT and Before You Buy, and today I'm reviewing the OGIO Ascend Backpack. This is a backpack that sports a 15 inch laptop sleeve, I'm keeping my MacBook Pro in here right now. Uh It also has a sunglasses case which uses sorta hardened um canvas, and this would be perfect for sunglasses or maybe even a point and shoot camera, that sort of thing. There's a large compartment which inside houses two uh stretchy sleeves. Inside of a smaller compartment on the front there are pockets which would be perfect for an iPen, something like that. There's also a few places to hook on carabiners. On the side there is a stretchy pouch for a bottle. And on the other side, there's more of a secret pouch which only opens on the straps right here, and currently I have a passport in there. Altogether, this is uh very light, it's very sturdy. I'm going to give this a Buy. I really enjoyed using it, it was uh really nicely constructed and stylish in the process. Thanks so much for watching. I've been Chad Johnson, see you next time.

(Laughing in the background)

Fr. Robert: Thanks to Chad Johnson, he gives a Buy to the OGIO Ascend backpack. Now remember, Before You Buy is a chance for you to find out the latest and greatest in gadgetry from the wizards here at TWIT TV. And you can watch this show each and every single week on Fridays at 2 o'clock PM closer to 2:30PM Pacific. You can find us at  You can also jump into the chat room at and um maybe talk to me during the show. I love your feedback and I'll always try to include it whenever I can. Also I'd like to thank everyone who makes this show possible, especially to our presenters: that's to Myriam Joire for showing us off the NVIDIA Shield tablet, of course to snubs for showing us those earbuds, Mike Elgin for giving us the latest and greatest for iPhone accessories, and of course, OMG Chad for giving us your next backpack. Now until next time, I'm Father Robert Ballecer. Remember, you've gotta watch Before You Buy!

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