Monday, November 20, 2017

Kotas Reviews the Pixel 2

As we gear up for the next Turkey Day, let us give thanks for the miracles of modern technology. Things that would have seemed magical when I was a kid are now common place: Looking up almost endless facts to settle dinner arguments while right at the table, watching video while in a car, playing video games while on the crapper, and many other wonders are literally in the palm of our hands with the modern smart phone. These little techno wonders have certainly changed my life, and probably yours. Then again, that which is common place becomes mundane, eh? Let's take a look at the Pixel 2

Ta da!
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My first smartphone was the venerable Nexus 5 way back in December of 2013. I resisted the call of a smart phone for many years for reasons that mostly amounted to "I don't really need that garbage". Well, I'm big enough to admit that I was totally wrong and I totally need that garbage. That Nexus 5 changed the way I go about living. Browsing while waiting in lines, entertaining my kid while waiting for food in a restaurant, finding my way to new and exciting places via the Maps app, and playing a wide variety of games are all things I do on a near daily basis thanks to these marvels. I cannot count the times I've turned to my spouse (or friends, or random people on the street...) and said "How did I ever get along without smart phones before?". However, as the years rolled by my poor Nexus 5, much abused, began to show its age. A little slower, a little less able to keep up with modern apps, and most noticeably, the drop off in battery life. Gone were the days of "charge it at night and go strong all day", now I had to top it off during days with someone moderate use. Thus, I looked around for a good replacement and after a lot of research I landed on the Pixel 2. I love stock Android, and Google (for a few years anyway) gives near immediate updates on all the phones it sponsors, but dat price tag...well, I splurged for my and my spouse's phone as an anniversary present.

After a bit of a SIM card fiasco involving my spouse's SIM card and a SIM cutter (and then a few package deliveries), the Pixel 2 was in my grubby hands. Transferring my stuff from my Nexus 5 was pretty easy. Turn on the Pixel 2, connect it up with the old phone using the Type-C to Type-A adapter and my Nexus' old charging cable, let Google do its magic, and voila! Most of my apps and stuff were transferred over. Still had to download them, but the settings were mostly preserved along with account info and whatnot. Notably, everything from my Google Authenticator was lost and had to be set up again, so beware when doing that. Also, Super Mario Run didn't transfer data either, which I guess I understand since I don't have a Nintendo account. The process was not as easy for my spouse's phone, since the cable transfer app refused to open on the Moto G4 she'd been using, but an alternative method of "restore from backup" went through without issue. Your mileage my vary.

A lot of people have commented on the large top and bottom bezels this thing has, and yeah, they are noticeable and make it slightly harder to use the phone one handed, since the top of the screen is slightly above where my thumb naturally would rest. The screen is gorgeous though with rich colors and snappy responsiveness. No headphone jack is annoying, but since I only used headphones when I was working out (and thus not charging my phone anyway), the included Type-C to headphone adapter works well enough.

The phone itself feels pretty good in the hand, with the aluminum body covered with an easy grip coating. It's super thin too, which might be good for some people but kind of annoyed me until I got a case to give it a little more heft. The fingerprint sensor is on the back, which is super useful for how I use a phone, but again I kept brushing it without meaning to until I got a case. I don't know how anyone uses a phone "naked", but more power to ya! The selfie camera works pretty darn well, but what I was really blown away by was the standard camera. This thing is freakin' amazing 98% of time, taking great photos in many light conditions super fast. Way better than the Nexus 5 camera, that's for sure. The only flaw in it is the software. For reasons I can't determine yet, it will occasionally throw an error that has to be remedied by closing the app and reopening it. A minor niggle, but one nonetheless.

Processor and RAM are all great, and the phone is incredibly responsive and snappy when opening apps, closing them, etc. The "docked app" feature allowing for split screen use is super cool, and some apps, like Maps, actually work with a picture in a picture mode, which is sweet. The "always on" screen is something I didn't even know I wanted, since I can now look at my phone and see the time and date without having to unlock it. Such a tiny detail, and yet so useful! The battery life is also pretty amazing. Even with heavy use I can go a full day without needed to top up. However, when I DO need to top up, the Fast Charging is actually pretty damn fast. Good work, Google!

I've gushed about this thing for a while, but it does have some problems. The aforementioned "slightly too big for one handed use" issue. The "squeeze to use Google Assistant" is okay, but more often then not I find myself accidentally triggering it, even with the sensitivity turned down. The new Google Assistant screen doesn't let me swipe away stuff I don't like. I now have to hit the ellipsis menu and pick 'Hide', which is a few more steps than it should take. All small things. What isn't small? The Price. This is definitely a flagship phone and it comes with a price to match. I paid full retail for this thing (because I'm on an MVNO Bring Your Own Phone plan) and it hurt me a bit to pay that much for something this small and relatively fragile. Still, as a buddy of mine once said "You are going to use it every day for years. Buy the best you can and enjoy every moment rather than settle and keep being annoyed." I'm pretty sure someone said that anyway. Right?

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 3 Smiley Faces. I love this phone and I have been singing its praises to anyone who has asked me about it. It is a slick bit of tech and improves upon every use I had for my phone in almost every way. It has a few niggles, and the price is pretty high, but its still a great phone and I wouldn't want any other one. At least until next year's model comes out, amirite?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Kotas Reviews the Starbucks Zombie Frappucino

Happy Halloween everyone! The perfect holiday. You get to wear costumes, gorge on candy, and leave neighbors with vague threats if your demands aren't met! How cool is that, eh? I've always enjoyed Halloween, for its focus on scares and sweets, and this year is no exception. Of course, this year I'll be escorting a little superhero around for candy goodness, but that doesn't mean I can't get a little something creepy for myself, now does it? Well, I couldn't do that, so I settled for today's offering. Ladies and Gentlemen, today we look at the Limited Time Only Starbucks Zombie Frappucino.

The Horror...the Horror...
Starbucks did a pretty darn good job with their Unicorn Frappucino, so I guess it's no surprise that they would once again dip into "mythical creatures" for inspiration. Finding this wasn't too hard this go around, mostly because now I know where to go for the limited edition stuff...the local grocery store outlet! People forget that it is there so when the main Starbucks has nothing, the one in the local store probably has plenty. Anyway, it is clear that Starbucks is trying to have both visual and flavor appeal with these. LOOK AT THIS! It looks both awful and amazing at the same time.

The base product is sickly green, with a rim of mocha "blood" topped by a pinkish brainlooking dollop of whipped cream. I'm not sure I ever considered what a 'Zombie' drink would look like, but damned if that doesn't look perfect, eh? The mocha ring actually "bleeds" into the drink!

Like so!
It's deliciously gross looking and yet enticing at the same time. Like Funyons. Still, that's not what is important now is it? You didn't buy this to just look at it, and neither did I! Well, it tastes...surprisingly bland compared to how it looks. The barista and I compared notes and we concluded that it was "Green Apple Laffy Taffy" flavored, though I think the marketing says it's supposed to be "Caramel Apple" flavored. If there is caramel in this, I couldn't find it. The chocolate adds very little to this, as does the whipped cream. Sure, they taste fine together, but they are mostly overwhelmed by the flavor of the base drink, which basically is "okay" at best. Kind of a disappointment really, because it looks amazing, but the drink itself is very...meh.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 0 spooky scary skeleton Faces. It looks amazing, and is wonderfully themed, but the flavor leaves a lot to be desired. I can't really recommend it unless you are super into odd flavored drinks, but if you get one you won't be sad. Just maybe a little let down. Now, if you will excuse me, I've a pumpkin to mutilate.