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Xbox Series X Review

I’m sold on the Xbox Series X every time I boot it up. From hitting the button on the controller to being on the dash in about two seconds is still – weeks after getting my hands on the hardware – miraculous every single time.

There are all kinds of other benefits, of course. The games look better, even my old games, and load times are incredibly quick. I mean ‘no more checking Twitter’ kinds of fast, but I think it’s that near-instantaneous start-up that really sells me on the console.

Maybe that’s down to my specific circumstances as a dad of several kids, the youngest being three. My gaming time is sporadic – I might just get settled down to dive into the latest Destiny 2 expansion or my Yakuza: Like a Dragon adventure when *boom* someone wants my attention and I have to abandon it for a bit.

Gaming on a time budget was painful on the old consoles, with their long start-ups (outside the Switch, which isn’t that bad at all) and extended loading times in the games themselves. When you have 15 minutes to play something, you don’t want to waste a minute starting up the console and another minute or two loading into whatever game you’ve picked out. With the Series X, however, short gaming sessions are a lot more productive. I can get into a game and be playing in the time it used to take to start up the console – it’s, if you’ll pardon the awful pun, game-changing.

Also game-changing – literally – is Microsoft’s commitment to backwards compatibility. Not only did I log into my Series X day one with 1,159 games in my library ready to be played, but the majority of them look and run better than they did on past consoles – even the Xbox One X. The resolution and framerate upgrades were expected given the work the backwards compatibility team has put in on past hardware, and it was nice to see the improvements in games that had special attention paid to them, like Gears 5, but it was Auto-HDR, a newcomer to the feature set, that really impressed me.

HDR has been around since the 90’s, but it wasn’t until 2015 or so that it broke into what I’d call widespread adoption. Every Xbox console generation except the Series line predates that break in the adoption curve, so games from those gens didn’t support that expanded range – but now they do thanks to Auto-HDR. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved on a good HDR television is amazing, for example, and that game came out in 2003. How does it work? I have no idea, but it really freshens up those older games – especially ones with a lot of vivid colours in their palette.

OK before I just ramble on the whole time, here’s my Xbox Series X review.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Review

The pandemic did some weird things to our bodies and brains, didn’t it?

None of us know what time, or even what day it is. Being stuck at home, for those considered non-essential, or, for those that kept working, not being able to go play recreational sports, has wreaked havoc on both our mental and physical health.

Imagine my joy to find something that promised to help with all of that – the Samsung Galaxy Watch.

Not only can it tell me what day and time it is, but it also has a slew of health-related functions like monitoring your steps taken, calories burned, heart rate…it’ll even track your sleep and let you know if there’s any problems there. Need motivation? There are even leaderboards to track your progress against others!

The watch is capable of being self-sufficient, if I should want it to be, with 3G, 4G LTE, and NFC capabilities. I haven’t set it up on my Telus account yet, though I’m considering it, as my day-to-day life keeps me in WiFi range or within Bluetooth rang of my phone for ~70% of my use cases, but it would be nice to cover that other 30% as well.

I’ve noticed I use my phone less now that I’m used to having the watch on. When I get the discreet buzz on my wrist to let me know I got an email or message, I check the watch and most of the time can dismiss it. The odd time I have to respond, I take out my phone – all in all, I’d estimate I use my phone about half what I used to.

It’s also handy to be able to answer calls without taking out the phone, though it’s only something I do when I’m alone – nobody likes that person who’s talking on speakerphone in a group…don’t be that person. Again, this probably doesn’t seem like a major plus but it’s really a lot bigger change than you realize.

I did find one fairly unusual application in my day-to-day work in sales at a Ford dealership. We constantly have to go park vehicles after test drives, and lining them up usually means getting in and out of the vehicle again and again.

There’s a camera app on the watch that can sync with your phone, however, and my phone case allows it to be set up at an angle. I put the phone down with the camera app open facing down the line and was able to watch the feed on my watch face to get the vehicle perfectly lined up without having to get in and out over and over. This probably isn’t applicable to most people’s daily routine, but it really showed how powerful and flexible this can be when paired with your phone.

Like most people I know I don’t use everything this thing can do, but what I’ve integrated into my day to day life is enough that I don’t think I could do without it anymore. If someone had told me that before trying it out, I don’t think I’d have believed them, but it’s true. The Galaxy Watch has allowed me to be more engaged with the things and people around me, not with my phone.

Before trying it out, I was worried about battery life but that proved no issue at all. The watch lasts four-five days between charges, and the included charger – which it snaps to magnetically with satisfying force – gets it up to speed in about two hours. If you’re away from your charger you can put it into low power mode, it starts prompting you at about 15% battery power, which extends the life dramatically.

One day when trying to see how long I could stretch the battery between charges I discovered I could stick it back to back with my S20 Ultra and use powersharing to give the watch enough juice to stay alive until I got home. It’s a handy feature, and you can use it while charging the phone to top up both at the same time.

I really like the UI, which has you swiping side to side or using the rotating bezel to traverse the various screens. Adding or removing apps from the rotating app wheel is simple, as is moving them around. All in all I never found I needed to look up how things worked – it just worked the way I expected.

For more on Samsung’s watch offerings, check out https://www.samsung.com/ca/watches. The LTE version of the Galaxy Watch is currently priced at $379.99 – $50 off the regular $429.99 until December 3, 2020 – but currrently shows as out of stock. The non-LTE version, priced at $249.99 – $80 off the regular price until December 3, 2020 – is still available.

What I Loved:

  • Attractive form factor – love the bezel
  • Fast OS with great customization options
  • Some really great apps
  • Great battery life

What I Liked:

  • The included watchband is decent
  • Solid UI that just works the way you expect
  • Good charger and liked being able to powershare from my phone
  • Exercise tracking has automatic detection that works well
  • Solid sleep tracking, and love the leaderboards for health tracking

What I Disliked:

  • Could use more third-party app support
  • Could use more sport options in the exercise tracker

What I Hated:

  • Nothing