Categories
Reviews

Microsoft Surface Earbuds Impressions: This ain’t it chief

Over the last few weeks, I have been excited to get the chance to try out the new Pixel Buds 2 and have been pleasantly surprised with my experience so far. Then, Microsoft decided to drop its new lineup of Surface products, including the new Surface Go, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Headphones 2, and Surface Earbuds. Yeah, Microsoft has a lot going on as of late.

Naturally, I skipped all the other releases and put in my pre-order for the Surface Earbuds. When they were initially announced last year, I was excited, despite the odd “gauge-looking” design that Microsoft opted for. In my mind, there are only so many designs for truly wireless headphones, so I was willing to give the Earbuds the benefit of the doubt.

The box finally arrived on my doorstep, and then I proceeded to take them out to just juice them up before actually trying them. Once they hit 100%, I took them out and put them in my ears and it was jarring. I’m not sure if it’s because my ear shape is whacky or what, but these style headphones just don’t really work with my ears.

Instant regret

I am constantly worried that they are going to fall out, even when following the instructions provided both in the packaging and the app. That’s a nice addition as it gives you a tutorial of how to use the gestures, and some EQ controls. And considering the EQ settings are nowhere to be found with the Pixel Buds 2, Microsoft’s decision to add them is nice.

Back to the fit though. I know these aren’t designed to be smushed into your ear canal as far as you can get them, as is the case with other earbuds. The flat design provides “four anchor points”, according to Microsoft’s landing page for these. This, paired with the silicone ear tips aim to keep the Earbuds in your ear and not on the floor.

But no matter what ear tip I tried (Microsoft gives you three sizes to pick from), I just never felt like the Earbuds were secure. Maybe that’s the point because Microsoft is attempting to do something different in an already-saturated market. It’s just not my style.

Actual usage

I must say that right after putting the Earbuds in and starting up some music, the sound is pretty good. Unfortunately, there’s no noise cancellation on board, so there’s definitely some noticeable sound bleeding. That’s rough for someone who has the need to shut out the outside world from time to time, but they’ll be just fine over time.

By no means do I find myself to be an audiophile, but I have been able to tell a difference between these and the AirPods/Pixel Buds. They just don’t sound great. Regardless of the aforementioned EQ settings, my music still just sounds muffled. And that problem is compounded by the little bits of “outside” noise that can leak in.

It’s just frustrating. And this goes back to maybe just being my odd ears, but I started feeling some ear fatigue after 20-30 minutes of playback. That’s just not going to get the job done.

Microsoft aesthetics

From an aesthetics standpoint, these are absolutely gorgeous to look at and take pictures of. The case is sleek, despite having a glossy and plasticky look and feel. The pairing button is found on the bottom, with the USB-C charging port placed on the back.

The earbuds themselves actually look pretty cool, and they fit in perfectly with the new design aesthetic that Microsoft has moved to with its Surface line. One issue that I have with the case design is that the top flap is light and feels flimsy.

While you get a nice “click” when closing the case, it’s not something that would be recommended for those who tend to fidget with the lids. It feels as though I would have to be super careful, only to open my computer bag one day and see the lid popped off from the rest of the case, adding to my frustrations.

What’s the verdict?

As much as I wanted to add the Surface Earbuds to my arsenal of headphones, these just aren’t it. Having to force myself to use these and put them through their paces is just not an experience I want, because it means that they will just collect dust until they get misplaced or lost. I’ll be hitting up Microsoft for the return label since stores are still closed.

In the meantime, I’ll be sticking with my AirPods Pro and the Pixel Buds 2. And my excitement for the Pro may continue to grow after Comply finally ships the new foam ear tips that were put up for pre-order a couple of weeks ago.

Categories
Thoughts

It’s finally here – Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro First Impressions

I have been watching through the window like a crazed lunatic waiting for the UPS truck to arrive. When it did, I happened to be on a call, but my excitement level instantly went through the roof. This is the same feeling that I get whenever Apple announces something new that I’ll end up buying for myself.

All of this is to say that the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard has finally arrived.

Unboxing it is just simple much like everything else that Apple has to offer. Before I knew it, the iPad was floating above the new keyboard and it’s absolutely amazing. The level for using this at my desk is absolutely perfect. The responsiveness of the keys make me want to throw my Keyboard Folio in the trash (or just return it). No more mushiness.

Get the weight out of the weigh

As someone who has tried out the Brydge Pro in the past, I was hoping that Apple’s keyboard would be a bit lighter. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case, as the combo of the iPad Pro and keyboard weigh in at 1350g. Surprisingly, the Brydge Pro & iPad Pro combo comes in at around 1323g. This difference may matter to some, but in the grand scheme, likely won’t.

This is a feeling that I’ll have to flush out over the coming days, but a big problem I had with Brydge’s keyboard is that I was always afraid that closing the iPad’s glass screen up to the Brydge’s aluminum body would end up in disaster. It never actually happened, but I didn’t feel like I could just close up the iPad and go, as I would have to carefully close things up.

In my (extremely) limited time with the Magic Keyboard, this is not much of a concern yet. Perhaps it’s because Apple opted to use the same plastic-feeling material from the Keyboard Folio, instead of just a slab of metal. But closing up the iPad is pretty quick, easy, and doesn’t scare me quite as much.

That trackpad doe

iPad Pro with Keyboard Folio and Trackpad 2

I’ve been toying around and using the Magic Trackpad 2 with the iPad Pro since the release of iPadOS 13.4. I already feel pretty comfortable with using the trackpad for gestures, but there is one thing to make note of with the Magic Keyboard. The Trackpad is tiny.

I have thicc hands so I definitely have to change how I interact with this smaller trackpad. Although the surface area is much smaller than the Trackpad 2, this one doesn’t actually feel so different that it’s unusable. I can still move my fingers down and interact with the new cursor with ease. And that’s really just something that I continue to be enamored by.

Magic Keyboard Trackpad

Activating gestures is just as easy, even if I have to pinch my fingers closer together than with the Trackpad 2. And this may just be placebo, but using the Magic Keyboard’s trackpad actually feels snappier. Maybe it’s because of the Smart Connector, as the trackpad is directly connected, and not just relying on Bluetooth. Yeah, that’s probably it.

The keys themselves

Right after Apple launched the 16-inch MacBook Pro, I replaced my 2015 version, but opted to go with the last 15-inch model. This was because Best Buy was having some great sales and I just couldn’t pass up on it at the time.

I bring this up because those sport Apple’s dreaded butterfly keys that have plagued users for years and years. After the 16-inch made its way to stores, I would type with the new keyboard to see what it felt like, and felt like it was a great move, as there was some actual movement again.

Magic Keyboard Keys

From what I’ve seen so far, the Magic Keyboard takes advantage of these same keys that are also expected to come in the new 13 or 14-inch MacBook Pro coming soon. Typing is a breeze, there’s good bounce back, and bottoming out doesn’t feel like such a bad thing.

While writing this, one potential frustration I’ve found is that my fingers end up under the front lip of the iPad. It’s not like they get stuck or anything, but I am hitting the tops of my finger nails on the bottom of the iPad. It’s probably nothing, and I’ll get used to it, but it’s still something to be aware of. And the arrow keys are laughably small, but will do the job if I need to use them.

Laptop lap time

Floating iPad Pro
It floats!

A huge complaint that I had with the Smart Keyboard Folio is that I never really felt comfortable using it on the couch. There just wasn’t enough rigidity for me to get through long-standing typing sessions, so more often than not, I would just get up and go to the desk.

When using the Magic Keyboard in my lap, it feels exactly the same as it did when using the Brydge Pro. But now, I have the ability to use the trackpad, and can keep my hands on the keyboard without needing to reach up and tap the screen all the time.

There have been some who have wanted Apple to release a touch-screen Mac for awhile, and this is it. And while iPadOS still doesn’t match up to the hardware, it’s making me even more excited to see what’s to come with iPadOS 14 this Fall. And I’m even more excited for the possible new iPad Pro with all-new silicon in the same slab form factor.

There’s plenty of time to keep typing away

I’m going to keep putting the Magic Keyboard through its paces, and will likely move away from using my laptop for anything but my day job. That will give me plenty of time to see what, if any, limitations I end up coming across throughout my usage.

Stay tuned for more, but early signs point to “love at first type”.