Review: Combo Touch for iPad

iPad with Combo Touch

If you are looking for a way to transform your 10.9” iPad Air into a laptop, consider the Logitech Combo Touch. This is a detachable case complete with keyboard and trackpad.

This Combo Touch has just two parts (1) Case and (2) Keyboard with trackpad. Installation could not be easier. Just insert your iPad into the case and then attach the keyboard into case via the magnetic Smart Connector and you’re done. This device bypasses Bluetooth and is powered through Apple’s proprietary Smart Connector™.

The keyboard features backlit keys so working in a low-light environment should not be a problem. The illumination can be controlled with 2 keys on the top row of the keyboard. The top row also features all the media keys you may ever need including volume, screen brightness, onscreen keyboard, etc.

The trackpad on the Combo Touch is slightly larger than those found on similar devices or PC laptops. It has a solid feel.

There is also a space on the top of the screen for your Apple Pencil, magnetically held in place. My only criticism is that this device should have a closed elastic loop found on earlier devices instead to insure a more solid grip on the Pencil.

One of the best features of this device is its weight. It weighs just over 22 ounces with slightly less weight than Logitech’s Folio version. I compared it to my generic plastic case and the Combo Touch weighs only 4 ounces more. Total weight of the Combo Touch and the iPad Air is only 2 lbs. and 2 oz. To add a keyboard and trackpad with such a low weight differential is just amazing if weight is a paramount consideration for purchasing this item.

The magnetic Smart Connector makes it very simple to remove the keyboard if you want to use the iPad for gaming. Just separate the keyboard with a slight tug and you’ve got a standalone iPad!

Some may be put off with the $200 price for this Combo Touch. But Apple wants $100 more for their Magic Keyboard for the iPad Air, a 50% premium. That’s a lot of price difference to consider!

This Logitech Combo Touch is not for everyone. But if you’re wanting to add more functionality to your iPad Air, this is the device to buy!

REVIEW: Apple Mac mini (M1)

Most Mac users view the Mac mini as a poor step child compared to the iMac or MacBook models.  The mini has always had a small footprint (8” x 8”) but only comes with the basic guts of a more expensive Mac but without a monitor, keyboard or mouse.  One needs to just add these peripherals to get a complete Mac system.

Mac mini

Traditionally, the mini series has had a slower processor, less RAM, and hard drive space to account for its lower pricing.  But in November of last year, Apple introduced the mini with Apple’s own M1 chip at the same price point.  Most retailers offer the mini at $699 with 256GB storage or $899 with 512GB of storage.  Both models come with 8GB RAM.  However, if you want larger RAM or storage, you need to order your mini from Apple.  A 16GB RAM is an extra $200—non-user serviceable.

256GB Storage512TB Storage1TB Storage2TB Storage
$699$899$1099$1499

In the past, I owned an iMac and was considered upgrading to the new 2021 iMacs with Apple’s M1 chip. Checking the pricing of the newly released 24-inch models, I expected to upgrade to a newer 27” or larger iMac closer to $2000.  I considered this as a financial decision to upgrade to a mini and transferring the same peripherals to the new Mac to give me a similar performance level. I never expected betterperformance!

Monitor

To make this system complete, I also needed a new computer monitor with similar specs to iMac’s Retina 5K display.  I could easily find a monitor in the $150-200 price range that would do the job, but I preferred one that would approximate the resolution and brightness I obtained with my iMac.  My research led me to the LG 27UN850, a 27” 4K display.  This monitor offered 2 USB-C inputs as well as 2 HDMI inputs.

Although this monitor originally sold for $600, discounts can be found around $400 or less.  An alternative would have been the LG 27MD5KL-B monitor, a 27” 5K model designed for Macs.  The only problem with this monitor is the price – $1100 or more at most vendors!  I’m just not sure how much of a difference that resolution would make to the naked eye.

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WiFi Connectivity Experience

A few years ago, I received a Ring video doorbell as a Christmas gift. If you’re not familiar with one of these they are a great simple device that replaces the exterior doorbell on your house. Most exterior doorbells are really just a simple switch, but these devices include a wide-angle video camera, speaker and microphone for two-way conversation with anyone who rings the bell. I have the earlier version 1 which includes a 720p HD camera, but the newer models incorporate a 1080p camera for better resolution. The device couples with your home’s WiFi network, so that you can connect with it on your iPhone. In addition to iOS, Ring supplies application software for Android, Windows and Mac so there should be no problem with compatibility. 

In my case, the problem came with my regular WiFi signal not being sufficiently strong to work with the doorbell mounted on the outside of the house near the front door while my WiFi router is in my basement office. Fortunately, I had an old Linksys WRT160 router which I had replaced a few years ago with a Netgear WNDR4000. The Netgear was a significant improvement to the older Linksys which did not support the 5GHz speed. The doorbell only uses the 2.4GHz band so I created a separate network for the doorbell and the living room where the signal from the Netgear was weak.

First Netgear Router

The WNDR4000 was fine with my computer located in the same room as the router, but my wife who has her computer on the third floor would often have poor connectivity on the 5GHz band and occasionally even on the 2.4GHz band. Neither router supported the newer 801.11ac protocol, but we rarely need to transfer large files between computers on different floors. Another drawback with this setup is it left us with 5 networks broadcasting their availability; two from the Netgear WNDR4000 (one for the 2.4 band and one for the 5GHz band), one from the Linksys, one from the Comcast cable modem and one for the xfinitywifi network which Comcast foists on all its subscribers for anyone to use when they visit your home. The main reason for not using the WiFi network on the cable modem is that the bandwidth is substantially inferior. Throughput with the cable modem network in barely 25% of what the bandwidth is when connecting through the Netgear router.

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Xfinity Modem Rental

Comcast-Xfinity logo

Exactly four years ago I wrote an extensive article for our newsletter about switching from Comcast TV and Internet service to AT&T’s U-verse. At the time it was a good deal and U-verse was certainly more reliable than Comcast. We had U-verse for two years until the introductory priced contract expired and the rates rose. U-verse service was okay, but not great and streaming Netflix was annoyingly interrupted multiple times for buffering. Both my wife and I have part-time consultancies which require us to have good, consistent internet connections and U-verse just didn’t quite do it for us. So two years ago when a Comcast sales person came around and tried to get us back to Comcast with a deal that was equal to U-verse TV but with much better Internet speeds, we bit and made the switch. That contract ended this month and as we should have expected, our bill rose dramatically. We complained to Comcast and told them we had to get the bill back down to a manageable level, and certainly there must be some other bundle that would do the job for less. To make a long story short, we wound up with a basic TV, phone, and internet package, and upgraded the TV and internet portions to mid-tier levels and still wound up with a price well below the bill we had after our previous contract had expired. Continue reading…

Apple Watch Pre-Orders Off and Running

Over the weekend, Apple started accepting pre-orders for the new Apple Watch. While I wasn’t in line Thursday night at the local Keystone store myself, I was interested to see some of the more intrepid reviewer post YouTube videos of their first impressions. In the two URL’s below are some good hands-on coverage of what these two reviewers thought and how the interface works.

User interfaces is where Apple really shines. If you stop and think what sets Apple software apart from others purveyors of technology, it is how they can make maximal use of a minimalist interface. With only two “buttons” and a tiny touch screen, you really have a wide range of commands at your disposal with the Apple Watch.