FitBit Surge review: Part two

OK, in the first part of my review of FitBit’s Surge (Super Fitness Watch) I covered some basics about the watch itself. Today, I’m looking at how it actually functions during exercise (I mean, that’s what it’s primarily for, right?)

FitBit's smart phone app tracks all your exercise so that it's easy to go through.

FitBit’s smart phone app tracks all your exercise so that it’s easy to go through.

Over the past two weeks I’ve used the Surge during bike rides, walks with the dog and walks/runs during the week. The exercise function is accessed by pressing the button on the watch’s left side, which gives you the option to record runs or exercise.

The exercise option is broken down into several options:  Currently I have Hike, Workouts, Weights, Spinning, Biker and Walk but the watch will let you customise up to seven options ranging from Kickboxing and Yoga to Stair climbing and Golf.

I was particularly interested to see how the Surge worked with bike rides and while I don’t ride my bike as much as I used to, I still like to pedal the tarmac a couple of times a week. I was particularly interested in having an active heart rate monitor that didn’t require me to wear a cumbersome chest strap.

Not long before I got the Surge, Strava, a bike recording app, had announced it was compatible with the Surge so rides would be saved to the Strava app, which is great because I use that app on my LG smart watch to record bike rides as well as a Magellan Cyclo 100 cycle computer. I was also interested to see out of the Surge & the Magellan which was most accurate.

Starting the Surge to record activity only requires a couple of button presses and I found that it generally found GPS satellites quickly (there is an option to do a quick start which starts recording your activity and will vibrate when it’s located satellites).

I found that the Surge found satellites much quicker than my Magellan cycle computer, which I was most pleased with. During one ride, the Magellan didn’t lock onto a GPS signal until about 2 minutes after I’d actually started my ride, meaning it was already behind recording my activity.

The Surge will track overall distance using GoogleMaps and its inbuilt GPS.

The Surge will track overall distance using GoogleMaps and its inbuilt GPS.

The bike setting recorded all the stats that I needed: Average speed, distance covered and heart rate and I noticed that when I put in a really hard effort, such as sprints or climbing, the heart rate would pop onto the display. Uploading the details to my PC broke down the information even further, telling me how long my HR had been in the peak, cardio and fat burning zones.

My heat rate broken down by the FitBit Surge into peak, cardio and fat burning periods.

My heart rate broken down by the FitBit Surge into peak, cardio and fat burning periods.

Looking at the information in more depth, graphs for speed, calories burnt and HR actually have sliders which can show you exactly what speed you were doing at each point during your ride, how many calories you were burning a minute and what your heart rate got up to.

For example, when I was averaging 30km/h, my HR was peaking at 158bpm (beats per minute) and I was burning 7.6 calories a minute. That’s quite mind-blowing.

Overall, I was impressed with FitBit’s Surge, given that it’s a good all-rounder for a variety of exercise options. While it might not be cycling-specific (if you want a dedicated cycling monitor you’d be better off going for something from Garmin), the Surge ticked all the boxes for me as someone who likes to do a variety of activities.

Homeworld Remastered Let’s Play: Part two

OK, here’s my second video of me playing an early mission of Homeworld Remastered (no commentary).

The mission takes place in the Great Wastelands where we meet an alien race called the Bentusi who give us weapons technology to use on enemies. The final task of the mission is to destroy an enemy carrier before it jumps to hyperspace: I fail. Seems like I need to have more bombers and interceptors and have them attack the heck out of that thing.

Enjoy.

Homeworld Remastered Collection: My new gaming obsession

One of my fondest memories of the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo (or as it’s more formally know, E3) isn’t all the games, the bright lights and the sheer scale of the event: It’s sharing a cab with Alex Garden, the CEO of Canadian game developer Relic Entertainment responsible for the space strategy game Homeworld.

I was staying at the Standard Hotel in Hollywood and when Garden (I didn’t know it was him at that stage) and another person asked if they could share the cab to the LA Convention Centre, I said sure. We chatted about gaming and what I did in New Zealand (I was there covering the event for my newspaper employer) and then as we got to our destination, we exchanged business cards and went our separate ways. I’m not sure whether I saw him again at E3 or not.

The point of me bringing up my Alex Garden moment is that I bought the Homeworld Remastered Collection from Steam the other day – and I’m totally engrossed. It’s like I was transported by to 1999 when I played the original. The Homeworld Remastered Collection, which has original and remastered versions of Homeworld and Homeworld 2.

I’m making my way through the remastered Homeworld now and it’s a thing of beauty, so I thought I’d record part of my playing through one mission just to see if for yourselves. I’ve not long entered the Kharak system, where I have had to protect cryo tubes containing thousands of citizens in cryosleep from attacking forces.

Homeworld Remastered Collection is my game of choice at the moment and is helping fuel my love for PC gaming, something I’ve done a lot more of this year than the previous few.

I hope you enjoy it. Let me know if you want to see more of me playing Homeworld Remastered.

 

Fitbit Surge: Part 1

Fitbitsummary

 

 

This is the first part of several posts on my time with Fitbit’s Surge super fitness watch. For this one, I pretty much just talk about the watch.

It’s amazing how one image can convey so much information about what’s happened during one week.

The image above is a screen grab of my Fitbit dashboard and its tells me – and now you if you click on it (you’ll also see what other tabs I’ve got open) – how active I’ve been over the past week, thanks to Fitbit’s Surge Super Fitness Watch (hence forth just to be called Surge).

See the green circle at the top left with the black lightning bolt in it? That’s congratulating me on doing 80 minutes of exercise today (at time of writing, July 23). Underneath the “How much exercise minutes I’ve done” graph are little Google Maps icons showing the places I’ve travelled so far during a week of bike rides and walks.

That bar graph next to it? With all the different coloured bars? That’s telling me how many steps I’ve taken during the day. If I hover over each bar I can find out how many steps I took each hour.

The dashboard tells me that I should be aiming for 70,000 steps a week – 10,000 a day: As of Thursday night, July 23 I’ve managed 73,369.

I’ve only had the Surge for one week and already I can’t live without it. It’s replaced my LG Smart Watch, too (at least for the time being) and I’m just amazed at the plethora of information that the Surge gives me about my sleep and how active I am during the day. It’s on my  wrist 24.7 (apart from when it needs charging).

I’ve always tried to keep fit: Riding my bike as many times during the week as work and family commitments allow, walking with my wife during the weekends and talking the dog for a walk most days. When I bought an HTC One M8 phone earlier this year it had Fitbit software pre-installed and I was fascinated at how many steps I could walk during a typical day.

My current part-time job can involve a lot of walking, depending on the job I’m doing that day, and I started using the Fitbit software to compare days, seeing which days I was most active and which days I needed to up the activity.

So when I was offered a Fitbit Surge to review, I jumped at the chance. I’m going to do this review over a few posts, too: There’s just too much for one post.

The Watch: simply if a little chunky

The watch itself has an active backlit OLED touch screen, a nice flexible rubber strap and three buttons: One on the left, two on the right.

It’s quite chunky, though, and on the back is a USB charging port (but it’s not a standard USB fitting) and the optical Heart Rate monitor, which continuously scans your heart rate using two (safe) green LEDS which measure your heart rate by detecting blood flow and capillary size changes under pressure.

It’s all very technical but it’s nice to see a sports heart rate monitor that doesn’t force you to wear a chest strap. (As a comparison of the HR monitors, my LG Smart Watch has an HR function which I find next to useless: I have constant trouble trying to read my HR with it).

One of the several watch faces you can pick on the Fitbit Surge.

One of the several watch faces you can pick on the Fitbit Surge.

The step counter shows how many steps you've done in a day.

The step counter shows how many steps you’ve done in a day.

The Fitbit Surge has a continuous optical Heart Rate monitor.

The Fitbit Surge has a continuous optical Heart Rate monitor.

The Surge measures all the things you’d expect a fitness watch to: Calories burned, steps, distance and heart rate, as well as the number of floors you’ve travelled. You can access all those metrics by swiping the screen.

The data can be synchronised to your smartphone where you can see things in more details (and in colour: the Surge’s screen is monochromatic). I found that I got a few steps when I did simple things like move my wrist to pick something up so while you might find a few extra steps at the end of the day, I found the Surge to be accurate. You also get a nice notification when you’ve reached 10,000 steps for the day.

I found the watch comfortable to wear – the rubber strap is soft and flexible – but you have to make sure that it’s not too loose otherwise the HR won’t be able to get an accurate reading.

Another useful function is that you can track your sleep with the Surge and it will breakdown how many hours you got and how many times you were restless or awake.

Fitbit touts that the Surge has a battery life of five to six days but I found that using the GPS functionality every day meant that I was getting around three to four days on a single charge. That’s still good, in my book. It comes with a wireless dongle that plugs into a USB port on your computer so you can sync the data from your watch easily.

As I said, I’m wearing the Surge pretty much 24/7 and am  so far really impressed with what it’s capable of. I’ve used it for several bike rides and walks but more on that in another post.

OK, that’s it for this post, in the next one I’ll go into more detail about how the watch handles strenuous exercise and go more indepth about what all the graphs mean.

Just Cause 3 game play walkthrough

Watch the latest Just Cause 3 game play trailer from E3 and you’ll see exploding bridges, exploding petrol stations, wing suits, main hero Rico Rodriguez driving through sunflower and lavender fields, a parachute that goes back into its backpack when you’ve used it, a fighter plane being used to blow up a refinery, a grapple hook, a statue that pulls itself to bits thanks to Rodriguez’s tether system.

There’s so much carnage that my eyeballs hurt just watching it. It’s an assault on the eyeballs, that’s what it is.

Just Cause 3 is out on “high-end” PCs, PS4 and Xbox One on December 1. I guess a high-end PC means my Geforce 660Ti isn’t good enough? Console it is, then.

 

 

Samsung Galaxy S6 & S6 Edge: The reviews

New models: Samsung has just released the Blue Topaz S6 and Green Emerald S6 Edge.

New models: Samsung has just released the Blue Topaz S6 and Green Emerald S6 Edge.

S6Edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samsung’s recently released Galaxy S6 Edge makes my day-to-day phone, an HTC One M8, look positively fat.

Put the two phones side by side and the S6 Edge is noticeably thinner and more streamlined. The screen is a lot clearer, colours are more vivid and it makes the One M8, itself a bloody good phone, look old and outdated, which I guess it is in the fast-moving world of smart phones.

I’ve been playing around with the S6 Edge and vanilla S6 for a couple of weeks now and I have to say I’m impressed by what Samsung have produced. The camera is second-to-none (I’ve been told it’s the best smart phone camera on the market at the moment and I’m inclined to believe that) but it seems that Samsung has learned some lessons from its previous Galaxy editions and put them into the S6 Edge and S6.

Sporting a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen, a 16MP rear and 5MP front facing camera, and wireless charging, the S6 Edge and S6 are the business when it comes to cutting edge tech. The screen is amazing, producing vivid and bright colours and the S6s also have a fingerprint scanner for when you want to extra high on security. Personally, I found the fingerprint scanning a bit touch and go if I didn’t place my finger in exactly the right position when it was scanning. Another nice feature is the heart rate monitor which uses the same sensor that scans your fingerprint. Something I liked on the Edge was that you could have its edge lighting illuminate when you got notifications.

The S6s seems free of the bloatware that previous iterations of the S-range were cluttered with. One of my biggest complaints with the S3 (that was the last S-phone I owned) was that it had too much Samsung software that just couldn’t be deleted (in fact, Android itself suffers from that problem, too, forcing apps on me that I’ll never use but can’t delete easily).

It’s good to see that with the S6 phones, Samsung hasn’t weighed them down with unnecessary apps and software. The home screen of the phone has a ticker-style notification area that recommends apps that are useful for the phone but I didn’t download any of them. I wanted an uncluttered, bloatware free phone. If I wanted to download the Facebook app, which I did, I clicked on the FB icon that was on the phone  which then started the download.

Another thing I like about the S6 range is that they feel like quality phones now, and not the plastic encased previous generation models that, despite their high-end price felt cheap, especially when compared to phones like the iPhone and the HTC One M8.

OK, the S6s do have design similarities to the latest iPhone range but it’s good to see metal and glass used rather than cheap plastic. People are paying a lot of money for these phone so they expect high-end finishes. The S6 and S6 Edge certainly deliver on that front.

In terms of performance, the S6 and S6 Edge are exactly the same phone, except the Edge has, rounded edges, hence the Edge moniker. Call quality was consistently good and the phone was responsive (my son seemed to thing there was a slight lag when swiping from screen to screen but I couldn’t see it, but then I have old eyes). I didn’t experience any lock-ups or hangs that forced a re-start.

One thing I didn’t like – and Samsung has gone the way of Apple – is that battery is non-removable battery. I suspect it’s a weight-saving things but frankly, I’d prefer to be able to replace the battery when it dies, not have to send it off to a service centre to do it.

Hey, good looking: Some of the pictures I snapped with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge smart phone. I think they look pretty good.

Hey, good-looking: Some of the pictures I snapped with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge smart phone. I think they look pretty good.

20150618_11193620150614_124826Then there’s the camera. It is, in a word, amazing: Perhaps the best camera phone I’ve ever used. Pictures were clear, video was crisp. It’s almost as if Samsung have designed the camera first, then bolted a phone on afterwards. The camera is definitely the hero here. It really is that good and I was impressed with the quality of images. I’ve posted some I took here.

After spending time with Samsung’s new S6 phones, I can say I was really impressed with what Samsung has delivered here.

The build quality was superb and the rear facing camera was second to one and I can honestly say if I was going to buy myself a new phone (and I was prepared to pay close to $1000 for a new one), the S6s would definitely in the mix (Note, though, you are paying considerably more for the Edge’s rounded profile.)

Thanks to Samsung NZ for providing an S6 Edge and S6 for review purposes. 

 

 

 

Here’s 15 minutes of the Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End E3 game play demo. You’re welcome

I have to say that I’ve always been a fan of developer Naughty Dog and what it’s able to do with Sony’s PlayStation hardware, especially in the later years with the Uncharted series.

I was impressed with the Uncharted 4 trailer shown at Sony’s E3 press conference but after watching this extended 15 minute game play trailer, which you can watch here, too, all I can say is that the folks at Naughty Dog must be possessed of some sort of wizardry that lets them do amazingly wonderful things with the PS hardware.

Uncharted 4 looks like the staple game play that fans of the series have come to love but the attention to detail (that mud, that flame) is impressive.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is out in 2016 sometime – so you have a bit of time to start saving. Thoughts?

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided trailer blast

It’s no secret that I’m hyped for SquareEnix’s Deus Ex Mankind Divided.

So, while trawling the net tonight, I came across two more Mankind Divided trailers: One showcasing the Dawn Engine that will be used in the game and the technology behind it, and the other which shows the work that went into the Mankind Divided announcement trailer (anyone else think that the dude speaking in the video has a hairstyle and beard that looks sort of like Adam Jensen’s?)

Both are impressive and have hyped me even further.

Enjoy.

Xbox and PlayStation bring the games to E3 2015

Firstly, I guess I’m sitting at two for three when it comes to pre-E3 predictions then, given that my three most anticipated games for E3 2015  were Mass Effect 4, a new Hitman game and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

OK, the Mass Effect reveal didn’t show game play footage but hey, EA has still announced it, as has SquareEnix with the latest game in the Hitman series featuring old baldy, Agent 47. All I need now if for SquareEnix to showcase the new Deus Ex game and I’ll be a happy man.

I was thinking earlier today about how I was going to cover today’s press events from Xbox and Sony: Would I write it up, game by game, announcement by announcement, giving my opinion on everything? Or would I just let the trailers speak for themselves?

I’ve decided that I’ll let the visuals speak for themselves. I’m not going to do these “Xbox/Sony Won E3″ write-ups that inevitably appear after E3’s pre-show events.Frankly, they’re pointless (and I probably did them in the past).

Do you want to know who won? Gamers won, that’s who. Let’s stop this “X won E3!”bullshit. There was plenty there for Xbox gamers, plenty there for PlayStation gamers. Gamers won.

Tomorrow, I believe there is a dedicated PC gaming event so I’ll watch that as I’m sooooo close to plonking down close to $NZ600 on a new nVidia Geforce GTXC970 GPU so I want to see what I can do with it.

I got up at 4.15am to watch the Xbox press event and it had games like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Halo 5 Guardians, a compilation of 30 games from British developer Rare, backward compatibility with Xbox 360 games (I’m guessing it’s some form of emulation where you’ll have to download a digital version of the game, even if you own a disc copy), a rather impressive game from New Zealand development studio Aurora 44 (where are they based? Call me! Lets talk!) called Ashen (which had a real Shadow of the Colossus/Journey feel to it), a game from another Keewee Dean “Rocket” Hall called Ion, a rather impressive demo of Hololens and Minecraft (although, I’m sceptical about Hololens until it’s actually at retail and we can see it in real-world conditions) and a re-mastered version of the original Gears of War, as well as Gears of War 4.

It was a solid showing. I’ve got trailers for some of them below.

Gears of War 4: 

Halo 5 Guardians: 

Ashen: 

Ion: 

Sony

From what I’ve heard about Sony’s press event, it seemed to be full of fan service (I didn’t watch it. I was working) and no doubt wooed the crowd by finally showing The Last Guardian, a game that seems to have been written off as vaporware after around eight years in development.

Among the games Sony announced were: a remake Final Fantasy 7 and that Shenmue 3 was in the works, a new game (not a FPS) from Killzone developer Guerilla Games called Horizon: Zero Dawn, No Mans Sky (which looks fantastic but, if I’m being honest, I still have no idea what you do apart from fly around and discover other planets), a new Hitman game, a game that looks genuinely interesting called Firewatch, Dreams from Little Big Planet developer Media Molecule,  and, not surprisingly, an extended look at Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

The Last Guardian: 

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End: 

Dreams: 

No Man’s Sky: 

Firewatch: 

Hitman: 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you liked from Sony & Microsoft.

Pre-E3 day one: Bethesda brings the Doom, Dishonored & Fallout 4

Bethesda

Bethesda opened up its pre-E3 press event today, revealing the new Doom and, if I’m being honest, I was shocked by the gore on show.

I’ve played the Doom games (I played the original Doom on my father’s 486-power PC when I was a teenager) so know about the Over The Top violence, but the graphic nature of the new Doom, thanks to the realism a new generation of hardware can provide, took me somewhat by surprise. Maybe I’ve reached Over The Top Violence critical mass?

Maybe I’m getting old, but part of me wondered whether the gore was entirely necessary. Look, I’m not shocked by violence in movies or games if it’s central to the narrative but part of me saw the gruesome nature of Doom’s violence as perhaps fuel for anti-video game advocates to further have a go at our pastime. Clearly, the new Doom will be R-rated..

Doom is out in November for Xbox One, PC and PlayStation 4.

Bethesda also announced Dishonored 2, the follow-up to Arkane Studio’s great FPS game where you played an assassin in a steam-punk inspired London. This time, players will be able to play as either master assassin Corvo Attano or Emily Kaldwin, the daughter of the murdered Empress from the first Dishonored.

No release date was given for the game, which leads me to believe that it won’t be out till next year some time.

The biggest announcement, not surprisingly, was saved till last (although, it wasn’t a surprise: Fallout 4 was teased last week in a short trailer), with Bethesda’s Todd Howard taking the stage to reveal more details about the game. Here are some of them:

  • The character customisation is freshly unique in that players can change facial features on the fly , while looking at themselves in a bathroom mirror  – and you can play as a woman, which is a big step up from the normally male-dominated lead game roles. Hopefully more developers will follow Bethesda’s lead and give players the option to play as their preferred gender.
  • You’ll have a canine companion that you can issue commands to. Bethesda’s trailer show the video game dog staple, the German Shepard dog as your companion but tongue in cheek here, why can’t they have a dog like a Samoyed (like I have) for a chance? Although, I’m sure a Samoyed would lick an enemy first then flop on them, smothering them to death. That’s what my fluffy Samoyed would do.
  • There will be a Pip Boy Collector’s Edition which features a replica Pip Boy that you slot a smart phone into. There’s also a working Pip Boy app (iOS & Android) that is a working Pip Boy interface.
  • Fallout 4 is highly customisable where players can scavenge parts from the game world and use them to make new settlements, weapons and new structures. There’s also an iOS game Fallout Shelter that’s out now. It looks quite cute. I’ve already downloaded it and might play it tonight. No word on whether it’s coming for Android.

Fallout 4 is due out on November 10. Looks like November will be a busy month.

Quote of the show: “As far as stupid gimmicks go, this is the best fucking one I have seen.” Todd Howard, from Bethesda,  after revealing the Fallout 4 Pip Boy Collector’s Edition.

Xbox has it’s pre-show press event tomorrow morning (4.30am NZ time). If I get up, I’ll watch it. If I don’t, I’ll watch it later in the day.