BenQ 27″ Monitor PD2710QC Review

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work with the BenQ 27″ Designer Monitor PD2710QC in conjunction with my 15″ Macbook Pro (late 2016 model). I’ve been looking for a somewhat higher end larger monitor that had simple connectivity and lo and behold BenQ coincidentally reached out to me to test and review the model. The following is my unbiased and thorough review of what I loved, liked and didn’t like in my time testing out the monitor.

For those not in the know, here is the lowdown on this particular monitor:

  • 27-inch, 16:9, QHD 2560 x 1440 IPS 4-sided edge to edge panel
  • 8-bit, 100% sRGB & Rec.709
  • USB-CDocking Station:
  • USB Power Delivery 61W
  • Supports 2K QHD video display
  • Four USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A Ports (USB hub)
  • Ethernet RJ45 port
  • Darkroom mode, CAD/CAM mode, Animation mode
  • I/O terminals include (head): HDMI, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, DisplayPort out (MST)

The BenQ 27″ Designer Monitor PD2710QC is a higher end monitor intended for creative professionals, but for those looking for something a little more high end feature wise, a good alternative to entry level offerings. The monitor offers a 2560 x 1440 resolution with support for 100 percent sRGB color accuracy and specific modes for use with CAD and animation software.

The display itself, is a 27-inch IPS panel mounted on a plastic base that has an overall attractive look and feel. The back tapers and is neutral and thin on the sides and a thick back. An arm with a large whole for cord management attaches to the dock. Although the entire build is made primarily of plastic, it does not look or feel cheap in any way.

What I Love

Connectivity Options – The PD2710QC comes with a slew of connection options, but most importantly, the simplicity of  the USB Type-C connection which has become the standard. What really sets this monitor apart is the built in docking station that comes along with the monitor. By plugging in a laptop with USB Type-C, you in essence turn the PD2710QC docking station into an extension of your computer so that you can connect everything you need directly into the monitor vs. the laptop. This basically gives you the flexibility of a laptop solution with a desktop setup at home.

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Build Quality – The overall look and feel of this monitor is solid. While not at the level of any sort of finished metal similar to Apple, for the price, this feels like a solid monitor. I like the ease of being able to move the monitor in multiple directions while it still feeling sturdy. In addition you can easily shift the screen orientation from landscape to portrait. While I don’t see myself using this particular feature, for designers and engineers I would imagine this is a nice feature to have.

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Picture Quality – A lot of times this can be subjective for people on a variety of levels, but at the end of the day, all I can report back on is what I’ve experienced and for my use, the picture quality looks great. I’ve tested multiple applications (Adobe suite, video, picture, casual browsing) and everything looks very good clarity and color wise…no complaints.

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What I Don’t Love

Size of Dock – While I love the functionality of the dock, clearly the tradeoff is the larger base which takes up a bit of desk real estate. If you have a small desk or limited work area, this could be problematic. You could certainly place your laptop on the based, but only in closed mode.

Speakers – Normally you wouldn’t depend on the speakers in your monitor for quality listening, and you can’t with these…they’re unusable. I’ve found the speakers on Macbooks and Imacs to be quite good on most occasions, but if you want a true desktop solution, I’d either simply use the speakers from your laptop or an alternative set to hook up to the docking station.

61w Power – Unfortunately I’m unable to charge my 15″ Macbook Pro through the single USB-C connector due to the lower power put out by this monitor. It adds another cable/power adapter to the mix.

All in all, the BenQ 27″ Designer Monitor PD2710QC is a good monitor but certainly not elite. If you can’t fork over the $1k+ it would take for a true 4 or 5k monitor, the PD2710QC is a good alternative at about 60% of the price. It’s an ideal fit for the smaller Macbook Pros, but if you have a Macbook Pro 15″ you’ll have to decide if you can deal with having to use a separate power cord.

More info and purchase options can be found here: https://www.benqdirect.com/monitors/cad-cam-monitors/pd2710qc.html

My Favorite Things 2015 Edition

Every year I like to write a blog post that recaps some of my favorite products or services I experienced that year. While I didn’t host a talk show announcing my favorite things and giving them away to a screaming out of control crowd, I am posting them here for you to get for yourselves. Feel free to scream if you’d still like.

AirMail – I’ve struggled to find an email program on the Mac that I can get behind. The Gmail interface is horrible, and unfortunately, the Mac Mail program has always been lacking and buggy. AirMail not only works great, but looks slick as hell. I’ve been using it for a few months for my work and personal email, and have enjoyed every minute of it. Works great, and has a great UI. Only $10 in the Mac App Store.

The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land – My favorite mobile game of all time. I’ve pretty much given up on most games, but this one sticks. Of course being a fan of the TV show helps, but even if you aren’t, this is an incredibly well designed game that you can actually play without having to pay every 5 minutes to progress. Perfect user experience for mobile, entertaining, great music/sound effects, they really nailed this across the board.

Tech Matte Phone Car Mount – I finally found a phone mount for your car that gets it right. These geniuses got it right on 2 counts…how it the mount attaches in your car, and how your phone attaches to the mount. The first being using your unused CD slot to attach the mount. It works like a charm and no more having to worry about suction cups or adhesive on your dash. Plus, who listens to CDs anymore? The second, and my favorite part, magnets. Your phone attaches magnetically. You can either slide a magnet between your phone case and phone, or attach an adhesive magnet to the back of your phone. Either way, it’s a genius way to manage this as you can attach your phone to the mount quickly and easily. The magnets hold incredibly well regardless of which method you use. And the damn thins is only $11. It’s a no brainer.

New Macbook – I wrote a review on this bad boy, but just needed to reiterate my love for it. No mystery I’m a Mac guy, but not to the point where I’m so blind that I can’t see when they miss the mark (see my Mac Mail comment above). However I love this machine. It is a fantastic travel laptop plain and simple. It’s not a power machine, and it won’t replace a desktop by any means, but if you’re looking for something that travels well, you can’t go wrong. I actually prefer the single input design. I’ve got the adapter if I need more inputs which keeps the slim profile.

Marianas Trench – I don’t know what it is about these guys, but I stumbled across them a few months ago and they are all that I’ve been listening to since. They are a band based out of Canada that just released a new album this year. Definitely a pop feel with a unique blend of different sounds depending on the song. Some Queen, Michael Jackson, etc. Definitely worth a listen.

UrbanEars Platten ADV Wireless Headphones – While I typically use my noise cancelling in ear Bose headphones for most of my headphone listening, I really wanted a wireless pair of on ear cans for more casual listening and workouts. These definitely fit the bill. I’m no audiophile, but they sound just fine, and love how the controls are simply swiping actions on the ear piece…no buttons or levers. They’re comfortable and I love the feel of no wires.

2015 Macbook Review

If you’ve read my blog for any period of time, it’s no secret I’m a fan of Apple. Despite my love for the majority of their products, I’m not without an ability to point out when they fail (Apple Music…eck). But once again I’m blown away by the technical achievement of their latest offering, the new Macbook.

For the past few years I’ve worked on a Macbook Pro, and loved every minute of it. The build quality and user experience was second to none, and I rarely if ever had any downtime or crashes. If you search online you will find thousands of articles, discussions and comments between PC and Mac users beating each other up on which technology is better. I find the whole argument tired and pointless. To each their own. Everyone has different needs, wants and opinions on how they want to use their technology, and there is no one size fits all. Are Apple products incredibly more expensive then their counterparts? Absolutely. But to me, the additional cost is worth the build quality, time saved not dealing with system crashes, and the incredible support of their products. The time and hassles saved are worth the upfront added expenses.

That being said, I’ve now moved to a Macbook and this thing is an absolute technical achievement. It blows my mind that they’ve been able to build a laptop this thin and portable that does what it does. It’s definitely a fairly big shift moving from a full size workhorse laptop to a more portable, travel friendly one, but I really love this machine overall.

What I Love

Form Factor – This thing is crazy thin, lightweight and portable. I haven’t seen anything even come close to this level of build quality at this size. It’s the perfect machine for traveling, and while I had to sacrifice some performance specs for the smaller size, I haven’t found myself struggling with any normal day to day usage.

Keyboard – Full size keyboard? Check. Crazy how they fit that on this. The backlit keys are awesome. Touches like these in such a small package to me quantify the price. This could not have been easy to pull off. The keys have a different feel as there is a shorter distance on the press. They did so by replacing the traditional scissor-based keyboard switches with a new butterfly mechanism, which saves 40 percent thickness per key. That means that you get less travel with each press, but Apple also points out that there’s greater stability across the key, meaning keys don’t ‘lean’ to whatever corner you’re exerting the most pressure on which each keystroke. It takes getting used to, but again, after time it makes sense.

Touchpad – At first the touchpad threw me off. It doesn’t work like previous iterations. There are no moving parts with this thing, yet it throws taptic feedback at you to fool you in feeling the “click”. The addition of the force touch provides more functionality that developers can take advantage of such as getting the definition of a word on the fly. Still playing around with it, but as I get used to it, it just makes sense.

Speaker – It’s crazy the sound that this little thing puts out. No need for an external speaker, the sound is more than enough for casual listening.

Display – If there’s one thing you can’t argue is Apple’s display tech is outstanding. The Retina display on this thing is about as good as it gets.

What I Don’t Love

Inputs – Probably the biggest complaints on the net is around the fact that this machine only has one USB-C input. Yes, it’s not ideal. But there’s no way they are able to build a machine with this profile any other way. Is it a pain? Sometimes. Does it suck that you have to buy a $79 adapter to connect an external monitor, charge and add a traditional USB input? Yep. Honestly, I wish they would have included that with the machine. For me the portability trumps having those inputs in the machine. Having the adapter solves the issue, but yes, it comes at an additional cost. This is definitely a machine meant for wireless connectivity.

Lack of HD camera – Not sure how an HD camera doesn’t happen. I have to believe it can certainly it in the thing, so this is a miss in my opinion. But by no means a deal breaker as I’ve never found myself doing a ton of photos or video calls on my machine.

Price – No surprise here. In most cases, Apple products are more expensive, plain and simple. The anti-Apple community allows rants on this issue, but I feel they never really factor in everything. Build quality/materials, support/service, reliability…all these things factor in to the cost, and while paying more up front isn’t ideal, I believe that the time saved and the quality of the product are worth the price.

This is a machine for the person that prefers portability and simplicity in their computing and uses their computer for productivity and entertainment. While the machine can handle light to medium photo and video editing, it’s not intended for power users in that regard.

My Apple Watch Review: 5 Reasons It Works

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Apple products. I’m usually an early adopter no matter what the product is. However with the Apple Watch, I actually held back longer than usual for a few reasons. For starters, I’ve never been a watch/jewelry guy. I’ve never liked the feel of wearing anything like that. I also had reservations about how the watch would look. Would it be too bulky? Uncomfortable? And would it really be worth spending that much on a watch? After a few months of letting the reviews filter in, and actually being able to try them out in a store, I ultimately decided that I did want one as the look and feel issues were addressed shortly after getting to try one on.

There are a plenty of Apple Watch reviews out there, most of them favorable, and plenty of ones saying it’s not worth it. It really comes down to personal preference. And honestly, this is a premium piece of equipment. If you are not the kind of person that has some expendable income for fancy gadgets and such, then this is clearly not a device for you. There’s also been way too many overblown expectations out of a 1st generation device. “Wahhh…the battery won’t last a week.” “Boooo….it won’t blend my smoothies.”  “Pffttt….I can’t teleport to work with it.” Get a grip. It’s amazing to me how out of touch some people can get when it comes to technology. This thing is a technical achievement plain and simple. It’s remarkable what something this small can do.

The Apple Watch is not without it’s short comings of course. The current Apps out there are not strong. There’s only a handful of ones that truly work well on the watch. I would imagine over time this will improve as developers have more time to get the user experience right on a smaller device. Also, the Apple watch is heavily dependent on your iPhone currently. Word on the street is that the next version or software updates may improve this, but for now, you must have an iPhone, and you can’t stray too far from it for the watch to optimally perform. Also, the learning curve is a bit steep to get to a point where you get the most out of the watch. Anyone with a lack of patience or some tech savviness may find themselves frustrated.

So with all that being said, here is my simple breakdown of 5 reasons why I think the Apple Watch works. While there are other reasons, these are definitely the ones that stand out the most.

  1. Convenience – I have an iPhone 6 Plus. It’s a big phone. I haven’t regretted it since getting it as I prefer the larger screen, but it is a bit wieldy when it comes to finding pocket space or having to dig it out sometimes. Having the Apple Watch drastically limits the need to pull my phone out when receiving any sort of message or notification. Most of the time these notifications are not urgent, so being able to quickly glance at them without having to pull my phone out is incredibly convenient and efficient. It may not seem like a big deal, but once you experience it, it’s awesome.
  2. Notifications – The Apple Watch does a terrific job of managing your notifications. Through the app on your phone, you can easily select which ones you’d like the watch to notify you of, and how it does. The Taptic engine is really quite amazing. It makes being notified less obtrusive then your phone constantly going off.
  3. Health – This has been a game changer for me. It is incredibly eye opening to actually see how active you are vs. how you think you are. I know there are plenty of fitness wearables on the market these days, and have been for quite some time. I’ve never been motivated to buy or wear a fitness device as it only really serves one purpose. Not being a watch guy, it took a device that could do a variety of things to motivate me to actually get into the habit of wearing a watch every day. So I’m fairly certain there are plenty of other devices that do what the Apple Watch can from a health standpoint, but just like everything else they do, it’s beautiful in it’s execution. Incredibly easy to use, and an absolute motivator for me. I find myself constantly being more aware of my need to stand, move, exercise to a degree that meets my specific health goals that I set up initially. It’s a fantastic entry point for those new to this sort of thing like myself, and I’m sure there are plenty of other additional apps that can do more for those more advanced. Seeing all of your health data add up over time on the phone app is also amazing to see and an additional motivator to keep it up on a daily basis.
  4. Apple Pay – While more and more stores start to take Apple Pay, we’re finally getting to the point where the wallet can become obsolete. I always thought the play would be fingerprint, but the Apple Watch makes it even easier. One button, flash the watch, done. Paying for something has never been easier. The only real downside is having to wait for this to scale so that most stores have this as an option.
  5. Siri Integration – For whatever reason, I’ve never really uses voice recognition with my phone as much as I should. The Apple Watch takes a very important step in making it even easier to use. You simply talk to it. By raising the watch up and asking for Siri, you’re in voice recognition mode. To me that makes all the difference in the world instead of having to trigger it with a button press. Obviously the small screen that comes as a watch makes it a no brainer to use your voice to navigate it, but the fact that it just requires your actual voice to use it makes it quicker, easier and more practical to me.

So what say you? For those that have or had the watch, what’s been your experience?

My Switch From iPhone To Android: Part Two

Earlier this year I decided to make a switch to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 from an iPhone 5. I wrote an initial piece about this switch, and my reasons for it, mainly as I wanted a larger screen for my phone, and I had grown increasingly frustrated with Apple’s lack of keeping up with the competition. It is now roughly 4 months later and I’ve had plenty of time with this new device, and I can say with the utmost confidence…I’m going back.

Now before any backlash from Android enthusiasts or how I should try Windows Mobile (not going to happen), here’s the deal…I don’t fall into this strange world of fanboyism for electronics. There are people that will yell and scream about how amazing Apple or Android or whatever is and how everybody else sucks. To each there own I say. I think most platforms do a variety of things very well, and some things not so much. No one is perfect. But for my world, I’ve learned that the iPhone is where I need to be. Here’s why:

  1. I’m ingrained in the Apple ecosystem. I use a Macbook Pro every day and I miss the consistency and marriage of my phone matching with my computer and software. Using an Android device and a Mac just don’t work nearly as well.
  2. You can say what you want when you compare mobile operating systems, but in my opinion, no system is more polished, clean, and overall a pleasant user experience then iOS. I’ve used the Android OS and it’s just too fragmented, messy and quite honestly, I always found myself trying to get it to look and work like iOS anyway. Most notably I found the text messaging UI and camera UI on the Note frustratingly bad as compared to the iPhone.
  3. The build quality of iPhones is unmatched. Although I really like having the bigger screen with the Note, the build quality always felt cheap and more susceptible to damage.
  4. I never realized how many people I knew that used iPhones until I switched to Android. I miss the iMessage compatibility, and even more importantly, being able to iMessage with my kids on their iPods.

I really wanted to hold for the iPhone 6 which if I had to guess, will finally succomb to a larger screen size, but I don’t think I can wait that long so may pony up for the 5s. That was my experience, and interested to hear from others that have similar stories whether they ended up with the same or different results.