Moto Z Review Rewind ⏪

Released in 2016 the Moto Z and its Moto Mods were primed to change the way we use our smartphones. 5 years later, 4 Moto Z versions and no Moto Z5 on the horizon the dream is dead.⁠

But, how has the original Moto Z held up since 2016 and is it still usable in 2021? ⁠

In 2016 Motorola released the Moto Z. This was the phone that was intended to change the way we think of and use our phones. What made the Moto Z special was not so much the phone itself, as it was fairly standard spec-wise when compared to other flagships at the time. It was a small patch around the back of the phone that contained pogo-style pins which allowed users to connect a variety of peripherals to the phone known as Moto Mods that was supposed to make the Moto Z stand out from the rest. While you could argue that the Moto Z did stand out, it was not in the way Motorola, freshly acquired from Google by Lenovo, would have hoped. 


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I recently had been listening to a few Android related podcasts talking about how manufacturers, the media, and tech reviewers (at least the top ones) discard an earlier generation smartphone as incapable of doing the job for users day-to-day. The podcast challenged that, and its hosts/guests discussed how many phones that are 2-3 years old can do just as much as the current generation. I decided to take that and run with it. I pulled my 2016 Moto Z out of the box, charged it up and committed to using it for a month. Let us find out how it went! 



Specs 

As I mentioned, the Moto Z specs were within the ballpark of other smartphones released around the same time. Powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor the Moto Z had a 5.5” AMOLED display, 32 or 64 GB of onboard storage which could be expanded via a microSD card, 4GB of RAM, a 13 MP rear facing camera and a 5 MP front facing camera. Also on board were a front facing fingerprint scanner and a tiny 2,600 mAh battery. It is worth noting that this was also one of the first Android phones to, at least temporarily, remove the headphone jack and provide a proprietary USB C to 3.5mm headphone adapter. The Moto Z launched with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and in true Motorola fashion slowly made its way up to Android 8.0 Oreo. This was back when Motorola committed to 2 Android version updates verses the single version update on its current phones. 


Moto Z Spec Sheet

Experience 

Using the 2016 Moto Z for the first few days had me thinking this was going to be a breeze and that there was no reason a phone of this age couldn’t be used as a daily driver. However, by day three, the battery life of the Moto Z was so poor I was not even making it to noon before needing to charge the device.  

This is where the point or the goal of Moto Mods started to show. One of many Moto Mods were various battery mods. I was fortunate enough to have the Motorola branded battery mod available which doubled my battery to nearly 5,000 mAh. Battery problem solved! 

The Moto Z is stuck at Android 8.0 Oreo which means that it is no longer able to receive security updates and features found in newer versions of Android will never be seen. In my month of use with the Moto Z I did not find I was missing any features that my Pixel or newer devices have. I missed having the option for gesture navigation, but the three-button method that Android used for years was completely adequate. 


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The screen size of 5.5” was good for 2016, but by today’s standards it was a bit of a challenge to enjoy content designed with larger and taller screens in mind. I also couldn’t stop staring at the mammoth-sized bezels found on the original Moto Z. The device has a 72% screen-to-body ratio. Today’s phones are pushing well into the 90% range. Even the final Moto Z, the Moto Z4 had an 84% screen-to-body ratio, while maintaining the exact overall footprint of the original Moto Z. 

The camera on the Moto Z, by any standard, is just not good. In 2016 when I first started using the device it could do ok in outdoor conditions, and in perfect indoor conditions the images were passable. However, anything with any movement or low-light and the camera started to fall apart. Today, it is much of the same. Using it next to a Pixel, or even its older sibling, the Z4, shows how far cameras have come. For me, the camera is the most important function of a smartphone. If the camera is bad, the phone is of no use to me. Battery life is a close second, and as I mentioned already, the Z’s 2,600 mAh battery has pretty much given up. 


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My experience with the rest of my Moto Mod collection is not exclusive to the Moto Z 2016, since all mods with across the entire family of Moto Z phones, but it certainly helped make the phone, which feels otherwise stale, into something more fun. 

The mods I have on hard are: 

  • Battery 
  • Incipio Projector 
  • Polaroid Instashare Printer 
  • Moto Gamepad 
  • Moto 360 Camera 
Mot Z with Mods

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I already discussed how the battery saved me from having to charge 2-3 times per day. The rest of the Mods worked great on the phone and like I said, added some incentive to keep using this phone despite its shortcomings and age. The Alexa speaker is staple day-to-day in my use of the Moto Z. Now, caveat, the Alexa hands-free app does not support Android 8.0 and the Moto Z, so the speaker is just a speaker, sans the smart/connected features. It was a bit of a letdown to be unable to use this feature, but even without it, the speaker sound excellent. 

Moto Z with Moto Mod Battery Pack

The Polaroid is just a party trick strapped to the back of a smartphone, but it is a lot of fun to use.  

Polaroid Instashare Printer Mod

The Instashare Projector did not get much this time around. However, I used to use it daily as a bedroom TV and was also a trusted travel companion ensuring we always had the movie or shows that we wanted to watch available. 

The gamepad had a lot of potential and is fun to use depending on the game, most games I play on my phone are racing games and the gamepad handles hat well for the most part, but the design of the controller can make its use a challenge from time to time. 

Finally, the Moto 360 camera is a fun accessory, makes for a great travel accessory or if you have a specific thing you want to capture. However, in day-to-day use, it is not something you really need. 

Final note on the Mods. They all sound great, and mostly work great, but the cost of Mods on top of what is, or was, an expensive phone is a roadblock to making this practical for most people. This brings me back to what I was eluding to earlier. The Moto Z 2016 cannot really stand on its own as a viable smartphone in 2021, 5-years after its launch. The Mods were the only thing that made the phone usable and to purchase all the Mods I own would cost you about $500 today. 

Conclusion – Can you or should you use a 5-year-old smartphone? 

For the most things sure. However, your experience is going to be severely compromised, and the lack of OS and security updates will leave you vulnerable to issues that do not make the tradeoff worth it. Any other 5-year-old phone, without the ability to augment its function using Moto Mods would leave most wanting to pull their hair out. In the end it was a fun experience, but I am happy to put the Moto Z back in its box and get back to using something more modern and up to date! 


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Smartphone Apps Gadget Syrup Cannot Live Without

We can do nearly anything on our phones today. In fact, I can run my entire site from my phone. Want to see how? Check out the apps Gadget Syrup cannot live without.

As time goes on, we can do more and more day-to-day work from our smartphones. Some people I know run their entire life off their phone, never sitting down at a computer to get things done.

I recently started looking at home much I actually do from my phone and I was quite surprised how much I do, or can do from my phone.

As a result, I wanted to compile a list of the apps and services I use on mobile to run Gadget Syrup. Check it out!



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WordPress

This first one is self-explanatory. This is the WordPress mobile app. It allows me to monitor stats, create or posts and reply to comments, among other things all from my phone. You can even write a whole post from the mobile app. However, not only is it a lot of work to create a quality post on a screen this size, a lot of WordPress blocks are not compatible or able to be added from the app.

WordPress

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Asana

Asana is a take management application that I have been a religious user of for last 3-4 yrs. Ideally, you use it with a team of people but for a content and admin planning tool it is a must. Best of all, for most of what you need, you can use Asana completely free of charge.

Asana

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Google Analytics

Another obvious one by the title. Google Analytics gives you details on anything you could ever want to know about your websites traffic. It is far superior to what the WordPress stats offer.

Google Analytics

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Creator Studio

This one is new to the list. From Facebook, Creator Studio gives you analytics on your Facebook page tied to your business or website. It focuses a lot of video creators, but still works well to triage comments.

Facebook Creator Studio

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Buffer

Planning is everything when it comes to running your own site and social channels.

I have been a Buffer user for a decade now, using it to schedule Tweets and Facebook posts for Gadget Syrup.

Buffer can also setup Instagram posts among other social accounts, but it works best for Twitter and Facebook.

Buffer


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Later

Later is a service I have used off and on for the past year. It allows you to schedule social posts, like Buffer, but I only use it for Instagram posts. It is very handy if you find your best time to post is a time where you may not be there to post. Set it and forget it!

Their Instagram account is also a great follow!

Later

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Canva

I am not a graphic designer, but I like to pretend! Canva enables users of any level to create axing designs using their templates. They offer various presets for posts like Stories and Feed posts on Instagram as well as Twitter, Facebook and others ensuring your creation is the proper ratio for the given network.

Canva

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Snapseed

Snapseed is a powerful photo editing app that has been available for years.

It is owned by Google l, and they have been rolling a lot of the features of Snapseed into Google Photos. However, Snapseed still has a lot to offer if you want to add a little more to your pictures.

Snapseed

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Regrann

Regrann is the best all-around Instagram repost app available, on Android at least.

You can repost to your feed, stories or just save the image/story to your camera roll.

It is worth the purchase for the upgraded version too allowing you to remove watermarking and the “posted with Regrann” message from your posts.

Regrann

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PanoramaCrop

PanoramaCrop is another new one I have used only a few times. The app helps you create perfectly sized divided images for your feed that flow from left to right like one single image.

PanoramaCrop

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Pexels and Unsplash

I grouped Pexels and Unsplash together because for all intents and purposes they are the same thing. Each app has an enormous collection of free stock images to use. I have started using them both to generate feature images for the pages pf Gadget Syrup, as well as the hero image for some blog posts.

Both services also offer their services on the web to use from your PC.

Pexels
Unsplash

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Snapmod

This is one of my favourite apps. Snapmod contains hundreds of smartphones renders and through this very well-designed app you can insert screenshots from your device onto a render of your device or any other.

You’ll also notice that all of the app screenshots in this article were created with Snapmod!

There are a few caveats to be aware of now that many devices come with different screen ratios and the placement of any notches or camera cutouts will make your screen shot look out of place.

I’ve also noticed the developer for this app is slow to add new models, sometimes months after a phones release. In time, my feeling is that this app will stop being updated. Fingers crossed I am wrong!


Snapmod

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As you can see it is a pretty long list of apps. Do you use any in your day to day? Are there any other apps you would suggest I look at? Let me know in the comments below.


Check out some recent posts from Gadget Syrup

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Is the Moto Z Dead?

What does the Moto Edge+ mean for the future of the Moto Z line?

This week we saw Motorola come back to the flagship game with the Edge + and to a lesser degree the Edge. But, what does that mean for the Moto Z? Motorola has release several devices since the Z4 went to market and since then the company has hardly made a peep regarding what is likely their most polarizing family of devices.


Moto Z4, Launched June 2019

The Edge+ is a true flagship beast. It has 5G, 12GB of RAM, a camera array that is led by a 108MP sensor, a massive 5,000mAh battery and wireless charging. It is a monster! Nearly every tech writer, blogger, pundit, etc. has had a Motorola phone at one time or another and every outlet I have visited since the announcement has had excellent things to say about the Edge+ so far. The only concern I have seen is related to the curved waterfall screen. As device makers move away from that design, Motorola is marking it as a defining feature due to user-complaints over touch rejection, or lack thereof. I will reserve judgement until I get one in my hands, but from a pure looks perspective, I think the device looks great.


Motorola’s new Edge+ flagship

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I have been reading media and fans a like argue back and fourth over the future of the Z Line. Many are saying the idea was a flop, they should have stopped after the Z2. While others are begging Motorola to keep the dream alive and bring out the Moto Z5. Motorola, when the original Moto Z launched in 2016, promised to give this form factor and mod-functionality going for 3 years. After the lukewarm reactions to the Z3 Play and the Z3, I expected that to be the end of the line.

However, one year on from the supposed end of modular phone experiment from Motorola, we were surprised by the launch of the Moto Z4. The Z4 though had a different feel right from the word “go”. It was positioned firmly in the middle-upper end of the mid-range phone market, and there was only one SKU last year. No Z4 Play. The Z4 was a mix of the flagship spec’ed Z and the mid-range focused Z Play line. For example, the Z4 had a mid-ranged Snapdragon 675 SoC and only 4GB of RAM. But it also had 128GB of storage, a 48MP camera sensor, a huge 4,600mAh battery and in-display fingerprint scanner.

I used the Z4 for most of 2019 and most of 2020 so far with a few other devices mixed in. Every time I moved a away from the Z4, I always had to keep it close by because it was a joy to use thanks to Motorola’s take on Android and more importantly the Moto Mods. I have 6 or 7 different mods and while I admit that most of them are not very useful or are too niche to justify there existence, the majority of them have become staples in my day to day. The projector has become the de facto TV in the bedroom, the Alexa speaker packs a serious punch for its size and the battery mod gives me an additional 2,200mAh of juice for a total of 6,800mAh of power.


Moto Mod Connector on the Z4

So, like many I wondered after the Edge and Edge + announcement. Is the Z line dead and gone? Maybe not…

I asked Motorola this exact question and their answer, well… Just read it.


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GadgetSyrup: Does the announcement of these two phones spell the end of the Moto Z and Moto Mods?

Motorola: “We aren’t defining motorola edge as a new franchise like moto z or moto g. We are approaching the top-tier, premium space in a different way than the competition and you’ll see how this unfolds over the years. For fans of moto z and moto mods, these products will continue to be available for purchase in North America.”

GadgetSyrup: Can you comment on if there will or will not be a Moto Z5 released?

Motorola: “Motorola does not comment on future products in our roadmap.”


It’s a pretty standard answer at the end, but as we near the one year anniversary of the Moto Z4, does this response from Motorola mean that there is hope for the Z line to see a 5th generation?

I honestly don’t think Motorola needs the Moto Z anymore. Despite my affinity for the device Motorola has had a tremendous amount of success with the Moto G series and more recently with the One family of devices. It is the success of those two lines that even made the Edge and Edge + possible. I’d be happy to see the Moto Z continue, but I think Motorola would do even better if they left it and the Mods in the rearview.

What do you think? Is it time for Motorola to say goodbye to the Moto Z for good?

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Kickstarter Spotlight: DGRule – The Invisible Hub for MacBook

The DGRule dock is touting itself as the first ever invisible dock for the MacBook Pro 16″/15″/13″ and is designed to overcome the dongle life and the limitations brought on by having only Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C ports on the MacBook Pro. Check it out!!

I haven’t done one of these in ages, but back when GadgetSyrup was new I would share some of the fun or neat campaigns I would find on Kick Starter. They were pretty popular posts and I really enjoyed sifting through and finding some really useful and interesting items on the platform. So after this long hiatus I thought it would be fun to bring these posts back. First up a USB dock for MacBooks. It may not sound super interesting on the face of it, but is actually really cool.

First a little back story. I spend a lot of time with laptop docks, like a disgusting amount of time. My day job is with computer peripherals company that sells dozens of different types of laptop docking stations, so I think it is safe to say I have “seen ’em all.”

What Is It?

The DGRule dock is touting itself as the first ever invisible dock for the MacBook Pro 16″/15″/13″ and is designed to overcome the dongle life and the limitations brought on by having only Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C ports on the MacBook Pro.

2019 MacBook Pro Thunderbolt 3 Ports

Why Do I Like It?

I’m not a Mac users. I actually find the MacBook Pro laptops to be very boring in design and in some respects kind of ugly. Specifically the football field-sized track pad. However, when looking at the MacBook in a vacuum with the DGRule dock connected, they make a pretty near perfect pair.

The dock secures itself to the bottom side of the MacBook and stretches from the left to right edges. The dock connects itself on those edges by plugging directly into the Thunderbolt 3 ports.

The dock is very low profile and stays out of the way while also packing a lot of I/O connectivity. The DGRule has the following connections:

  • USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 with 100 watt power delivery (the image below from DGRule is incorrectly labelled as USB 3.1 Gen 1)
  • 3.5 mm audio
  • 3 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (Type A)
  • SD card reader
  • microSD card reader
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • HDMI
  • Thunderbolt 3, 40 GB/s

Those ports pretty much have you covered for all modern or accessories from memory cards, USB devices and displays and in a very small package.

The dock also provides passive cooling for your MacBook since it raises the back-end of the laptop off your desk or lap keeping it from overheating and slowing down while you are running intensive tasks like running Final Cut of Adobe Premier.

Where Can You Buy It?

The DGRule is still active on Kickstarter as of the date of this post and has about 7 days to go, ending on Sat, January 18 2020 2:59 AM EST. They have crushed their funding goal of CAD $6,519 with a current total of CAD $373,789!!

Navatics MITO Underwater Drone Preview

Meet the Navatics MITO, launching today on Kickstarter. It is an underwater drone that is being touted as the “most stable underwater drone that makes marine photography accessible for everyday consumers and professionals alike. Well, that’s a big claim if you ask me, let’s dive into this a bit further.

The market for drones has been and continues to, grow rapidly. They offer a lot, whether it is for business or pleasure, a drone can be a very useful investment. There is a new segment of the drone market that is growing even more, and that is underwater drones.

Meet the Navatics MITO, launching today on Kickstarter. It is an underwater drone that is being touted as the “most stable underwater drone that makes marine photography accessible for everyday consumers and professionals alike. Well, that’s a big claim if you ask me, let’s dive into this a bit further. Sorry; not sorry for the bad pun!

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What is the Navatics MITO

The MITO is an underwater drone capable of exploring at depths of up to 130 ft and can shoot 4k video at 30 frames per second.

The MITO also comes equipped with a 50 meter/165 foot tether to ensure your drone does not wander too far. The 165 ft tether is required for use, however, the tether comes with a buoy that is also a wireless transmitter that extends the range of the MITO an additional 500 meters.

There are many use cases for an underwater drone whether you are a diver, work in marine maintenance or a professional marine videographer. 

Key Features

Outside of the obvious 4k30fps video capabilities, the drones optics are also stabilized using a four-axis active stabilization algorithm developed by the Navatics team. According to Navatics, this stabilization system will allow for the MITO to “hover” and keep its orientation in various underwater conditions for up to four hours. I think this is pretty impressive, but take note, that is not 4 continuous hours. The MITO comes equipped with an 80 Wh battery which has a range of 2 to 4 hours of usage, depending on the marine conditions you’re operating in.

The MITO is also controlled by your smartphone. Not a proprietary controller, which is a key point for me. Being able to leverage to power of your phone and its various types of connectivity, MITO pilots can instantly share or stream video and pictures from the MITO app to Instagram, Facebook and WeChat. Note: 1080p limitation when streaming.

Speaking of the app, have a look at the user-interface below. By all accounts, it appears to be chock full of functionality but does not appear to be overwhelming. 

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Full Specifications

  • Components: Navatics MITO, a tether floatation and a remote controller
  • Stability: Advanced four-axis active stabilization algorithm
  • Weight: 3 kg / 6.6 lbs. (including battery)
  • Dimensions: 360mm x 300mm x 135mm / 14” x 12” x 5”
  • Mobility: Equipped with four thrusters enabling it to tilt up and down to 45° angles while holding its
  • depth, heading and orientation
  • Recording / Images: 4K video recording up to 30 fps (mp4) and 8 MP still images (JPEG)
  • Video Transmission: 1080 HD at 30 fps live video within 500 m / 1640 ft. (powered by Senseplay)
  • Storage: 64GB Micro SD card
  • Depth: maximum 40 m / 135 ft.
  • Tether Length: 50 m / 165 ft.
  • Tether floatation: 4-hours runtime, equipped with a solar panel to extend the duration of usage
  • Speed: Up to 2 meters per second / 4 knots
  • Interchangeable batteries: 80Wh, providing a minimum 2-hour runtime
  • Lighting: 2 1000 lumen LED lights
  • App: Available for both iOS and Android
  • Colour Correction: Integrated into smartphone app for easy correction
  • Social Sharing: Share directly to Instagram, Facebook and WeChat

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MITO Gallery

Where To Buy The Navatics MITO Underwater Drone?

The MITO is available for pre-order today (May 29th) on Kickstarter for a super early bird price of $1,199 USD. For this really low introductory price the MITO ships with a 4k camera, one battery, a remote controller cradle for your smartphone and a 50-meter/165 foot tether.

Navatics expects the MITO to start shipping in September of 2018.

If you would like to back the campaign or learn more about the MITO underwater drone check out their Kickstarter page or visit www.navatics.com.

Let me know what you think about the Navatics MITO Underwater Drone. Will it be making it onto your wish list this summer?

Motorola Continues To “Push Boundaries” Announcing The Moto G6 and E5

Five years ago Motorola surprised us all with the launches of the Moto G and E series of phones. They were incredibly well built, very pleasant to use and were incredibly affordable. 

Now, Moto has announced the release of the next generation G and E phones. Check them out!

The focus of the Moto G and E series of phones was to address a gap in the smartphone market that saw incredibly powerful high-end phones at the top and incredibly low-powered and low-quality phones on the bottom of the market.

Moto wanted to fill the gap in the middle with well built, well-performing smartphones that were reasonably priced. The mission they set out on seemed a bit far-fetched given the recent misses the company had prior to the launch of their mid-rangers.

Enter the Moto G and, well, the rest, they say, is history. As we now know, the Moto G quickly became the best selling smartphone in Motorola history. Year over year Moto has refreshed this lineup, as well as the lower-end E line, and despite not outselling the original, the G and E series impress users and reviews alike with each iteration.

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Now Moto has announced and released the latest members of the G and E series with the launch of the moto g6 and e5. There are actually several flavors of each the g and g line. They are as follows:

  • moto g6: starting at $249 MSRP

  • moto g6 play: starting at $199 MSRP

  • moto e5 plus: pricing dependant on carrier

  • moto e5 play: pricing dependant on carrier

  • moto g6 plus and moto e5 also released, but not to North America

All devices will be launching with Android™ 8.0, Oreo™ and are packed with different versions of Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ processors.

I won’t cover off the specs of each phone, as reviews of select G6 and E5 devices will be coming shortly but will share a few highlights I am looking forward too with some of these phones.

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Play All Day

The “Play” version of the G6 comes with a huge 4000mAh battery that powers the Snapdragon™ 427 processor. That battery and SoC combo are going to be capable of some incredible endurance. According to Motorola, you can expect to get up to 36 hrs of on a single charge. Obviously, your mileage will vary based on your use, but leaving the house for the day sans charger and battery pack will not be a problem. Don’t expect to be gaming on this type of device, however. The Snapdragon™ 427 isn’t going to be capable of much here.

What makes this device even more compelling, battery life aside is its price. The moto g6 play will set you back only $199 USD. Learn more about the moto g6 play HERE.

Not available in North America, the moto e5 should be an excellent consideration for those in Europe Asia. The e5 battery pack dwarfs that of the g6, coming in at 5000 mAh. Not mention it has a 6″ display as well, so multimedia use with this phone should be a strong selling point.

Camera Improvements, Hopefully

Moto phones do so much right, the software additions provided through various “moto actions” such as a twisting your wrist to opening the camera, a double-chop for the flashlight and moto voice functions allowing you to program any hot-word you like to access Google Assitant (I use “Okay Friday”, because I am giant nerd) making their devices some of the most compelling devices on the market. However, the biggest reason they are overlooked by most power users and tech-types is the less than wonderful camera experience. 

With the moto g6 and g6 plus (not play) come packing dual camera setups and software that hopes to get these devices noticed on store shelves. Having a dual-lens setup will allow for features like selective focus to be implemented. A niche, but handy feature to have when the situation suits.

I should also mention, the moto g6 is priced incredibly well, like those before it, and starts at only $249 USD.

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What do you think of Motorola’s latest offerings? Have you ever owned a g or e series phone? 

You can learn more about all upcoming moto g6 and e5 series phones on the Motorola Blog. Check them out! 

Moto Z2 Play Now Available At Videotron With A Very Enticing Add-On

If you’re a Videotron cutomer and are looking for a new device you should certainly check out the Moto Z2 Play. Not only is this an excellent phone, for a limited time customers will receive a Moto Instal-Share Projector Mod at no extra cost. That is a savings of $400 CAD!

Good news if you’re a Videotron customer! Starting today customers can purchase the Moto Z2 Play from Videotron for $0.00 on when purchased with a contract or $469.95 CAD outright.

Not only is this an excellent deal for customers looking for a solid and incredibly versatile phone thanks to its “moto-mod” ecosystem of accessories. For a limited time, customers who purchase the Z2 Play will receive a free Moto Insta-Share Projector Mod. That is a $399.99 value for FREE!



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The Moto Z2 is a very solid middle to upper-class device. The spec sheet breaks down as follows.


  • 5.5″ AMOLED HD Display
  • Snapdragon 626 CPU
  • 12 MP Rear Camera w/ 4K video
  • 5 MP Front Camera
  • 3000 mAh Battery
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 32 GB Internal Storage + a microSD Slot (up to 256 GB)
  • USB C with Motorola Turbo Charge Tech
  • Nano SIM

It is worth noting that the Z2 Play lacks the 3.5 mm “courage” port, otherwise known as a headphone jack. If you decide to pick up the Moto Z2 play you will want to look for a reliable pair of Bluetooth headphones. My personal pick would be the Aukey EP-B61s which reviewed a while back. Check that review out here.


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I have always been a big fan of Motorola phones which was intensified with the release of Moto X in 2013. The suite of Motorola software, specifically Moto Voice have been incredibly useful to users and tend to offer more than what others, Google included, are offering to users.


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If you’re a Videotron customer, does this deal have your attention? The Z2 may not be at the flagship level of the S8 and Pixel 2, but the Snapdragon 626 is very power-efficient and the growing (slowly, but growing) ecosystem of Moto Mods is a very appealing proposition to potential customers. You can learn more about Moto Mods here.

Head over to Videotron’s website to check this deal out.

Android Wear 2.0 Causing Your Google Reminders Disappear?

Android Wear 2.0 was supposed to be a major improvement for those users still supporting the Wear platform. There were many excellent additions and updates made. However, one major bug that was introduced with Wear 2.0 causes Google Now/Assistant reminders to disappear immediately after being triggered. There is a fix, but it comes with a caveat. 

If you are one of the few people who still actively use an Android Wear device and were fortunate (or unfortunate depending on your point-of-view) enough to receive the update to Android Wear 2.0 you may have noticed that Google Now/Assistant reminders seem to disappear into the abyss immediately after they are triggered.

Here is a quick and easy fix for you, but it does come with a few caveats.


My device pairing is a Google Pixel XL and the Motorola Moto 360 Sport. I can confirm that this issue was present on other Android devices running both Android 7 and 8. This problem is also only present on Android Wear devices running version 2.0. Previous versions are not affected.


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The Issue

Setting a reminder with Google Now/Assistant shows momentarily on your device then is automatically cleared from the notification pane. Checking the reminders part of the Google App will show your reminder as “Ongoing.” 


The Solution

  1. Open Android Wear
  2. Select the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner to open settings
  3. From the settings screen select “Block app notifications.”
  4. Click the + sign at the bottom the screen
  5. Select “Google” from the list of apps available to block


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That’s it! You will now receive your Google Now/Assistant reminder notification but only on your phone. Since you have prevented the Google App from sending notifications to your Wear device, they will not be seen. The other caveat here is that not only will reminders not be shown on your wrist, but nothing from the Google App will be passed through. This means that traffic, weather, sports, etc. will only show on the phone and not the watch. For me that is fine. I use my watch for text/email notifications and, well, obviously to see what time it is.

Google is said to be aware of this bug, but given the amount of time it has taken to roll Android Wear 2.0 out to supported devices, I would not hold my breath on waiting for a proper fix.

Are you suffering from this bug? Did this fix help you at all? Let me know!

Beer Pick Of The Month – Backpaddle Blonde Ale From Upper Thames Brewing Company

It’s that time of the month again! Time for the GadgetSyrup Beer Pick of the Month. This month is a special pick from Upper Thames Brewing Company from Woodstock, Ontario!

It’s that time of month again! Time for the GadgetSyrup Beer Pick of the Month.



This month’s pick is from my local craft brewery, Upper Thames Brewing Company, the first craft brewery in Woodstock, Ontario. In 2015 the five founders of the brewery were discussing the lack of a craft brewery in the area. Rather than continue that wait, they decided to put their own plan into motion. Fast-forward two years later and UTBC has just celebrated their first anniversary and is riding a wave of growth thanks to their unique position as the only craft beer show in town.

Why Upper Thames Brewing Company?

Well, not only does UTBC make some really high-quality beer, made with all locally sourced ingredients, they recently celebrated a major milestone. Two in fact. First was their one year anniversary and second, which was the main reason I chose them this month, was that they made it onto the shelves of the Beer Store. Getting onto the Beer Store is not an easy task due to the incredible amount of rules and regulations in place, but to do it in their first year of operations, is a pretty incredible feat.


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Ok, Now Onto The Beer!

The beer I selected from UTBC is their “Backpaddle Blonde Ale“, the beer now found in our local Beer Store.

Backpaddle is UTBC’s most popular and easy drinking beer, making it a perfect choice for the final beer pick of the summer.



The pour is a delicious looking light gold colour which screams to be drank. Taste wise, this may be one of the easiest drinking blondes I’ve had. It is very crisp and not overly malty or sweet. I find that some low ABV/IBU blondes are too sweet and often do not finish well. This is not the case with Backpaddle. As you would assume, this is not a very bitter beer either at only 15 IBU, and the selection of Cascade hops for this beer creates a perfect citrus finish. 



UTBC prides itself on using local ingredients in all of their beers, and this one is no exception. The malt and hops are all sourced from farms within a 45-minute drive of the brewery.


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Until recently, if you wanted to enjoy any of UTBC’s beers, you needed to visit the brewery and take your selection home in a growler. This is not a problem if you are hosting a party or having a few buddies over to sample the brew with you. However, to commit to a growler all on your own will likely not end well for you or the beer! You will either fall flat from drinking it all in one sitting or the beer will go flat if not drank fast enough! Point is growlers are great, but if you’re like me and want to have a variety of different craft beers on hand, a growler is not the most appealing option. To get Backpaddle into the Beer Store, growlers wouldn’t cut it. So, continuing the trends of other firsts for UTBC, Backpaddle was their first beer offered in a tall-boy can. This is a pretty significant step towards opening their brand up to a much larger audience. 

Also worth noting, UTBC just released their second tall-boy beer, their Portage IPA.

 Photo Credit: Upper Thames Brewing Company Facebook Page
Photo Credit: Upper Thames Brewing Company Facebook Page

Where to Buy

Getting your hands on Backpaddle and other UTBC beers is getting easier thanks to their exceptional growth in their first year, however, they are still relatively hard to find unless you’re in Woodstock. With that said, if you happen to be in the area swing by the brewery or beer store and try this one out. You’ll be glad you did!


Beer Stats

Style: Blonde Ale

ABV: 4.3%

IBU: 15

Untappd Rating: 3.65/5 (366 Ratings)



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Don’t forget to check out previous Gadget Syrup Beer Picks HERE, and let me know what your favourite craft beer is in the comments!

Ganker Fighting Robot

Ever wanted to own your very own battle mech robot? Now you can with the Ganker Fighting Robot from GJS. Check it out!

Every time we watch the movie “Big Hero 6” from Disney/Marvel my son asks; “Dad, can we make a fighting robot?” or “Are fighting robots real?” For the most part, I tell him no they are not. Well, at least not in the same context as the robot Hiro uses at the beginning of the movie as he cuts down a larger and more powerful-looking battle bot. However, there is the TV show BattleBots, which pits one robot against another in a combat style robot deathmatch, but the time and effort to make a robot of that scale is not something my seven year old or myself have the time or skill required to assemble such a machine.



Then, I came across the “GANKER Fighting Robot” which was made available during the summer of 2016 on Indigogo and can now be purchased from various robot-enthusiast sites, such as RobotShop.ca and also on Amazon.com.


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What is a Ganker Fighting Robot?

Well simply put, it is a robot, that fights. What more did you expect? 

Moving on…

The robot is a small hobby style robot that can go toe-to-toe with other robots and can be customized with different weapons and fighting moves. The robot is controlled, like most things, via a smartphone app. Ideally, you would have two robots otherwise your robot deathmatch will be rather one-sided.

When dueling with another robot your damage level is monitored via your robots “blood level”. With each strike from your opponent that registers against one of its various sensors, your blood level will decrease. When your blood level reaches zero; game over. 

Each robot can be fully customized with various weapons and armor setups and Ganker plans to offer many more upgrades for your mech via its site at http://www.gjs.so.


I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

— unknown


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It is still relatively early days for the Ganker mech, but it has potential. A logical next step for this would be to offer an APK and developer mode via their app, allowing users to turn their robot into a truly personal creation.

There is a lot of buzz in the robotic space these days thanks to products like Anki’s Cozmo and Sphero’s offerings among countless others that offer an excellent mix of fun and educational benefits. With some additions to the Ganker ecosystem, I think GJI could be included in that conversation too.

 

You can learn more about the Ganker Fighting Robot here.

Don’t forget to check out my review of Anki’s Cozmo robot!

Facebook Messenger Digital Assistant “M” Rolling Out In Canada

Facebook is rolling out “M”, their digital assistant, which lives inside Facebook Messenger in Canada.

In 2015 Facebook announced and released its digital assistant, known simply as “M” in the USA. However, other countries have been left waiting. Well, as of today, Facebook is rolling out “M” in Canada (and the UK).

“M” is supposed to operate much like Google Assistant or Cortana with one major caveat. It works exclusively in Facebook Messenger. However, it appears to operate more like a chat bot rather than a full fledged digital assistant. 

For example, if someone were to ask you where you are in Messenger, “M” will helpfully offer to send your location with a simple tap, as seen below.



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Here is a short list of the some of the functions “M” can perform.

  • Sending stickers – personalised suggestions for stickers like ‘Thank you’ or ‘Bye-bye’.
  • Sharing location – If the conversation is about your location, so someone asking “Where are you?” for example, M will suggest that you share your location.
  • Making a plan – If you are trying to organise a plan with a group, M will suggest using Messenger’s planning capabilities.
  • Creating a poll – If you and a group are having a difficult time deciding on a subject, M will suggest creating a poll to decide once and for all.
  • Birthdays – If the person you are speaking to in a one-on-one conversation is currently celebrating their birthday, M will surface a suggestion to wish them happy birthday in one of the many ways Messenger currently supports; these include stickers, cards, and videos.
  • Saved – When content is shared in a message that M decides is worth you saving for later, a suggestion will pop up for you to use the Saved extension. This can be used for URLs, videos, Facebook posts, events, and pages.
  • Starting a voice or video call – If you’re in a one-on-one message and one of you suggests you actually speak, M will suggest initiating a call within the app.

Will I use it?

I am a big user of digital assistance on my devices, with most of my use being Google Assistant or Cortana based. As for “M”, I highly doubt the features will be incredibly useful to me. That said, I won’t actively avoid or turn off “M”. I will likely leave it as is when it hits my devices and if it gives me a useful prompt from time to time, great. If not, oh well.


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What do you think? Is Facebook “M” a big deal, or just another me too product in the digital assistant space?

July 2017 Beer Pick of the Month

Welcome to the second instalment of the GadgetSyrup Beer Pick of the Month. This month’s beer is from Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton, Ontario. Click through to find out more!

Name:

Saint of Circumstance Citrus Blonde Ale

Summer in my area got off to a rocky start this year. It had been cold and wet, and the kickoff for summer beer, for me, was subsequently delayed. 
Well, now that summer is finally in full swing I figured it was time to come with a citrusy flavourful blonde.


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Stats:

Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 4.7%
IBU: 19
Untappd Rating: 3.6/5
GadgetSyrup Rating: 3.5/5

Nees some more details on these stats? Have a look here: http://http://www.gadgetsyrup.com/home/2017/6/19/beer-stats-explained


Why I like it:

To be completely honest, the first time I tried this beer I felt it was too bitter, despite the lower IBU rating. However, with each drink, the feeling of bitterness transformed to bring the citrus flavours of orange and lemon. I also started picking up grapefruit notes which is a natural taste thanks to the hops used. Citra, Amarillo and Sorachi Ace hops to be exact.

Going back to the citrus flavouring, the lemon notes found in this type beer is a natural flavour from the wheat used. However, Collective wanted to kick that taste up a notch they added the zests of oranges and lemons to the brewing process before fermentation. 

The result was a very easy drinking and refreshing summer ale which does not disappoint. Be sure to serve it as cold as possible to maximise taste this beer offers. 



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Where to buy: 

You can purchase Saint of Circumstance from the LCBO.

You can also purchase directly from the Collective Arts online store in single, four and six packs which can be found here: Collective Arts Brewing Store


Have you tried this or any other Collective Arts Brewing beers? Let me know in the comments!

GadgetSyrup’s Favourite Audiobooks for Geeks

Looking for some good geek books to listen to? Look no further! Check out my favourite geeky books from Audible.

Looking for some good geek books to listen to? Look no further! Check out some of my favourite geeky books from Audible.


Ready Play One – Ernest Cline

Possibly my favourite on this list has to be Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Set in a dystopian future where people spend most of their waking hours in a virtual world called the OASIS. The book is packed with nostalgia-inducing references to some of your favourite old movies, video games and pop culture references you will find it tough to take a break from listening. 

A major bonus is that this book is narrated by Wil Wheaton who adds a whole new level to the story based on the way he guides you through this adventure as the stories main character Wade Watts.

Ready Player One: Audible


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Armada – Ernest Cline

Another Ernest Cline/Wil Wheaton combo, Armada, is every gamers dream come true.

Imagine you’re playing a video game and it is suddenly revealed to you that the game you are playing is not actually a game but in fact preparation for an imminent attack from an alien race. 

Again, in my opinion, the narration style from Wil Wheaton really adds to the stories ability to suck you in.

Armada: Audible


Console Wars – Blake J. Harris

Possibly my favourite non-fiction book in this list, Console Wars details the journey of Sega from a small and “scrappy” video game company into a behemoth of a company during their efforts to take down Nintendo.

As a kid I was always firmly in the Sega camp, being the owner of a Master System and Genesis, I was sucked into this story containing many first-person accounts from both sides of the battlefield that was the video game industry during the 1990s. 

If you are a retro video game fan, this book is a must.

Console Wars: Audible


Magic 2.0 Series – Scott Meyer

The Magic 2.0 series contains 4 books (listed below) that chronicle the adventures of Martin Banks after he discovers that the entire world is a computer simulation and can be changed via a single text file. As you can imagine, Martin gets himself into trouble and has to travel back to the middle ages with the idea of pretending to be a wizard.

I found myself giggling nonstop and laughing out loud repeatedly while listening to this series. The writing style of Scott Meyer and the incredible narration of Luke Daniels work great together to keep you locked into this and unable to stop listening.

  1. Book 1: Off To Be The Wizard
  2. Book 2: Spell Or High Water
  3. Book 3: An Unwelcomed Journey
  4. Book 4: Fight And Flight

All-in-all the series is about 45 hours of listening, but it is worth it.


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Masters of Doom & Prepare to Meet Thy Doom – David Kushner

The first book, Masters of Doom, in the two part series, is based around the “Lennon and McCartney” of the video game industry. John Carmack and John Romero. The story chronicles the rise and subsequent fall of “id” software from the early pre-doom days to the post-quake days. David Kushner does an excellent job of showing how the early days in the gaming industry were the true definition of the wild west.

Book two, Prepare to Meet Thy Doom does not revolve around the two John’s from book one but rather shares individual stories that either formed or were formed by the video game industry and the games it produced. The compilation does an excellent job breaking down some of the first-hand accounts of the video game industries biggest moments.

The book does tend to jump around chronologically but each story has a lot of content and gets listeners behind the scenes enough to really pull you in.

Book two also provides an update on what Carmack and Romero are up to these days as well.

It is also worth noting that Wil Wheaton also narrates both of these books on Audible. As mentioned before, his narration style is excellent and really makes it hard to stop listening until you reach the end of the story.

Masters of Doom: Audible

Prepare to Meet Thy Doom: Audible


That’s it! There are dozens of other really excellent books that could have gone on this list, but these are my favourites from both the fiction and non-fiction genre. Currently, I am listening to a book titled “Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA” by Sam Pettus. It covers the story of Sega from the early days in the 1950’s up until the end of its console run with the Dreamcast. It is a good story so far, but nowhere near the quality of writing or narration that sucks you in the same way that Console Wars does.


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What are some of your favourite geeky books? Let me know in the comments below!

Beer Stats Explained

If you are interested in dabbling in craft beer there are a lot of different stats you need to know. Check out this short piece which explains some of the key beer stats.

Looking for a quick explanation on some common beer stats? Have a look below!


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International Bitterness Units or IBUs: Possibly the most polarising stat for craft beer lovers is the IBU.  Some craft fans swear by it, while others, myself included, use it as a general guide. IBUs are a numerical value used to designate how bitter a beer is supposed to be. The higher a beer’s IBU, the more bitter the beer will be. 

Well, that’s how it is meant to be. Just because a beer has a very high IBU does not mean that it will be more bitter than a lover IBU beer. Other ingredients used in a beer will also determine how bitter the beer tastes. Not solely the type and amount of hops used.


Original Gravity or OG & Final Gravity or FG: You won’t see this stat often, especially not at your local brew pub. You may, however, see it at breweries taprooms. Some may also use it on their label, but they are few and far between at this point. 

OG is a reading taken from a beer that is unfermented looking at the total sugars available for the yeast to convert into alcohol and CO2. Principally, OG tells a brewer what its beers potential is before completion.

When a beer is complete, you can compare its OG with its Final Gravity or FG. These two stats can help a homebrewer calculate their beers ABV.


Alcohol by Volume or ABV: This is the most widely known and understandable for any beer drinker – craft or not.

It goes without saying, that a beer with a higher ABV will mean that the physiologic effects will be playing a greater role. However, this is not the only thing that matters when looking at ABV. A beer with higher ABV has great potential to be full flavoured and savoury. 


Style: I won’t define all the different styles of beer here. That list would be way too long, and let’s be honest; none of you will read it. For more info, check out CraftBeer.com () for a well-rounded style list.

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New Feature! GadgetSyrup Beer Pick of the Month

If you are following me on Instagram or Twitter, you have probably noticed that gadgets are not my only passion. In fact, gadgets may not even be number one for me.

If not gadgets, what then? Beer – craft beer to be exact.

If you are following me on Instagram or Twitter, you have probably noticed that gadgets are not my only passion. In fact, gadgets may not even be number one for me.

If not gadgets, what then? Beer – craft beer to be exact.

What exactly is craft beer? That’s a tough one to answer. Beer is a very personal experience. It is also a very subjective one. Because of this, defining craft beer is no simple task.

According to the American Brewers Association, based in Boulder, Colorado, “craft beer” is a beer made by a brewer, that itself is small, independent and traditional.

So if we use the above as our working definition, this means that beers owned and produced by large brewing conglomerates like Labatt, Molson, or Anheuser-Busch are not craft beers. Even if they release a small “craft” batch, it will not qualify. 

You could also consider smaller brewers that are partially owned by the big brewers would not classify accurately as craft beer depending on who you ask. As I mentioned; defining craft beer is very subjective and will vary from one person to the next.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, as I said before, craft beer may be a greater passion for me than gadgets. Don’t get me wrong; I love me some gadgets but compared to an excellent craft brew, nothing compares. As a result of this passion for craft beer, I felt a craft beer section would be an excellent addition to GadgetSyrup. A lot of “gadget nerds” I have connected with over the last year or so are also passionate craft beer lovers. 

With all that out of the way, I would like to announce a new weekly addition to the site; The GadgetSyrup Beer Pick of the Month!


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Monty’s Aged Ryed Ale from Old Tomorrow Beer

Old Tomorrow is a family owned craft brewery from Toronto, Ontario which “aims to create distinctively flavourful beers which celebrate iconic moments of Canadian greatness.” Hence the use of Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, being prominently featured on their labels



Monty’s is possibly the best craft beer I have ever had. It is aged in oak barrels and infused with 100% Canadian Rye Whiskey. 



Why the name? Well, most Canadians will remember John Montgomery’s historic Gold medal win in the Skeleton during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. After winning that race, Montgomery walked from the Skeleton venue through the Olympic village in true Canadian style; chugging a pitcher of beer while singing “O Canada.” With this being such an iconic moment in Canadian history, the name of this brew fits right in with Old Tomorrow’s mission.

For those who don’t recall John’s “golden ride” check it out here.


STATS

Style: Rye Beer
ABV: 6.2%
IBU: 16
Untappd Rating: 3.5/5
GadgetSyrup Rating: 5/5 – Yes, I love this beer!

Nees some more details on these stats? Have a look HERE.


WHY DO I LIKE IT?

I was skeptical when I fist picked up Monty’s from the LCBO earlier this year. I had tried Old Tomorrow’s CPA and Track 85 Lagered Ale, and neither disappointed. But Rye Ales were something I have either loved or hated; no middle ground. 

After cracking the can open I was pleasantly surprised by the aromas of vanilla and caramel with a hint of oak. Up front, you’re met with a flavourful blast of that Canadian Rye that hangs around with a slight malty taste until the vanilla/toffee and caramel flavours take over to finish. Some Untappd users state the Rye is too powerful, but I completely disagree. It is noticeably there, but it does not overpower you and does not stick around until the finish. It sticks around with each drink just long enough for you to feel it but not long enough for you to be turned off by it.

You may pick up different aromas and flavours based on your own taste tendancies.


 Monty's Aged Ryed Ale flanked by two Honey Ginger Shandy's
Monty’s Aged Ryed Ale flanked by two Honey Ginger Shandy’s


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WHERE TO BUY

As of today, Monty’s is only available at the LCBO, and for a limited time. It will only be offered at the LCBO as part of their season program. If you try and enjoy this beer, be sure to let the Old Tomorrow and the LCBO know, and maybe they will be able to stock it regularly. 

You can pick it up today for $3.25 per 473 ml can.


If you’ve tried Monty’s Aged Ryed Ale, what did you think? Have you tried other Old Tomorrow beers? What did you think? If you haven’t had anything from Old Tomorrow, what are you waiting for! Go now!

You can become a Magikarp master with Magikarp Jump on iOS and Android

Check out Pokemon’s latest mobile game. Magikarp Jump, allowing Pokemon trainers to teach their Magikarp to jump higher than the rest. 

Magikarp is the single most useless Pokemon a trainer can have. Its only possible move is Splash, which is entirely ineffective in almost every single battle scenario. Despite this famous uselessness, everyone has an affinity for this useless pocket monster. Now, once you work a Magikarp up to level 15, or collect 400 Magikarp candies in Pokemon GO, this flopping fish can evolve into the powerful and highly sought after Gyarados.


Why am I telling you this? Well, that is because the Pokemon Company has just released a new game which is entirely dedicated to Magikarp.



Available for iOS and Android Magikarp Jump allows aspiring Pokemon trainers to catch, raise, train and enter their Magikarp in various “Jumping Leagues.”

As you can probably discern from the title, the goal of the game is to train your Magikarp to jump higher than other Magikarps

There is more to just raising and competing with your Magikarp; there will be encounters with other Pokemon throughout the game including Slowbro, Piplup, and Pidgey. 

After spending a bit of time with the game, it is, as with most Pokemon games, easy to pick up and despite its simplicity, surprisingly addicting.

Sphero is at it again: Now you can own your very own Lightning McQueen

Love your Sphero BB-8 App-enabled Droid? Then you’re really going to love what Sphero has come up with next. Check out the Ulitmate Lightning McQueen, just in time for Cars 3.

I love my BB-8 droid from Sphero. Being able to have your own app-enabled, semi-autonomous robot that can roam around, project messages and watch Star Wars with you is every geek’s dream.  Add in a Force Band, and you’re living the dream. Now imagine if you could also have another nostalgic app-enabled gadget to do these same things with or at least some of it. Well, now you can.


Sphero is at it again with their latest release. With the next installment in the Cars franchise, Cars 3, right around the corner, the company has teamed up with Disney-Pixar to release the Ultimate Lightning McQueen. And by all accounts, they have brought their A-game with this one.



All previous Sphero devices have been round or cylindrical shapes (hence Sphero), but Lightning McQueen is a full-fledged car with a ton of the life like personality kids and adults have enjoyed while watching the Cars movies.

Lightning McQueen has animated LCD eyes, an animatronic mouth, running LED headlights & taillights and emotive vehicle suspension allowing him to convey his feelings while he interacts with you.

Controlled via Bluetooth and the Lightning McQueen app which is available for iOS and Android devices users can take advantage of the following Lightning McQueen features:

  • Driving – Emotive suspension allows Lightning to move like a champion.
  • Drifting – Drift and do donuts Lightning-style with authentic movement.
  • Reactive Touch – Master Lightning’s latest moves with a simple tap.
  • Build Strategy – Match wits with Lightning and sharpen your skills.
  • Acting Studio – Create animations for Lightning to perform.

As mentioned, Lightning is Bluetooth controlled and has a range of about 30 meters. He also can drive at speeds of up to 6 mph with an approximate 40-minute battery life.


Ultimate Lightning McQueen App – Available for iOS and Android devices:


Sphero is doing a lot of really amazing things right now with both their consumer-focused and educational-focused robotics products, and I am sure the Ultimate Lightning McQueen car will continue that trend.

 

 


I hope to get my hands on the Ultimate Lightning McQueen shortly for a full review and showdown with BB-8.

What do you think of the Ultimate Lightning McQueen toy? You can pick one up here for $299.99 USD.

Oh, and while you are there. Have a look at the app-enabled Spiderman tease too

Microsoft Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S Thoughts

In less than a month Microsoft will start shipping the Surface Laptop running Windows 10 S. This is Microsoft’s first traditional laptop device but it will come running a new Windows 10 version, one that is locked down to the Microsoft Store. Will the story of the Windows RT be relived, or has Microsoft finally figured this out?

It has been a few weeks now since Microsoft announced their next Surface device; the Surface Laptop, which is Microsoft’s first “standard” laptop device. There is no kickstand or a detachable keyboard. Just a simple and straightforward laptop. I couldn’t be more excited.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the form factor of both the Surface Pro and the Surface Book, but despite their features, those features can be a problem for many use cases, such as lapability. The Surface Laptop will (hopefully) solve some of those problems while providing customers the premium look and feel we have come to expect from Panos and the Microsoft hardware team. The Surface Laptop is also able to take advantage of the Surface Pen. It does not come in the box, so you will need to shell out a bit more if you want to use the pen functions.

The Surface Laptop is not just another laptop running the same Windows 10 we have been using since 2015. The single most important feature of the Surface Laptop is the version of Windows it will ship with; Windows 10 S.



What is Windows 10 S?

On the surface (pun!) Windows 10 S looks and feels a lot like Windows 10 Pro with one major exception. Users of Microsoft’s new OS are limited to using applications from the Microsoft Store. No third-party installable applications will be permitted.

You may recall that this is not the first time Microsoft has played the Store only card with Windows. They did this with the very first Surface device which ran Windows RT based on the ARM architecture. That experiment was a complete failure. Microsoft may never make that statement, but we all know it. Customers bought what they thought was a Windows PC only to find out they could not install applications like Chrome, iTunes, Photoshop, etc.

Things will be very different this time around, we hope. Windows, and possibly more importantly, Microsoft has grown and evolved into a far more user-centric, customer friendly OS/company. Windows 10 and the Store are far more complete now than Windows 8 ever was. There is also one key differentiator with Windows 10 S compared to Windows RT known as Project Centennial. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but the TL;DR version of Centennial is that it enables software developers to convert their legacy x86 programs into Store-compatible apps which are far more secure since they are reviewed and held to a very high standard. Unlike non-store apps which is pretty much the wild-west. Anything goes, including security.

Another potential major benefit of Window 10 S and its store-only restrictions allows customers to avoid the inevitable “OS rot” that has plagued Windows machines since the days of Windows 95. The limitations put in place by store apps and the structure of the OS will inhibit apps from making a mess of the systems registry and file system, allowing customers to enjoy the speed and performance their PC afforded them when it was new.


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What if you do not like Windows 10 S?

If you purchased a Surface RT or Surface 2 and decided you needed to run non-store apps you were out of luck. The OS, despite looking a lot like its Windows 8 Pro counterpart had no upgrade path due to it being an ARM based OS and not an x86 OS. Windows 10 S users will have the ability to upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro is they need to. Initially, customers will be able to make the jump from 10 S to 10 Pro for free until December 31st, 2017. Starting January 1st, 2018 users will need to pay $50 USD to jump to the Pro version.

There are already several excellent Store versions of legacy apps in the store, with Photoshop Elements being chief among them. It is also worth noting that Apple has already announced a Store version of iTunes, which is the second most installed/used application on Windows today, right after Google Chrome.

Moving back to the Surface Laptop…


Surface Laptop Specifications
 


The spec sheet may not blow other higher priced laptops out of the water, but that is not the point of Microsoft hardware. It is guaranteed to be one of the most premium feeling laptops of the year. Microsoft will set the standard for this line and plan for OEM partners to develop hardware that will undercut the Surface Laptop on price.

The Surface Laptop is available for pre-order from the Microsoft Store starting at $1,299.00 CAD and is expected to ship by June 15th, 2017. The top end of the Surface Laptop will set you back $2,799.00 CAD.

It is also worth noting, if it was not obvious, is that the keyboard is included with this Surface device. A first for Microsoft. The pen as mentioned, however, is not included.

I look forward to getting my hands on the Surface Laptop in the next month or so. I have already moved over to Microsoft’s Edge browser full time to prep for a world without Google Chrome. So far, so good on that front and my fingers are crossed that the Windows 10 S experience will be as good as I am expecting.


What do you think? Excited for the Surface Laptop? Will Windows 10 S be a bust? Let me know!

May The 4th Be With You: The Best Star Wars Toys & Gadgets To Celebrate Star Wars Day

Celebrate Star Wars Day in style! Check out the GadgetSyrup list of favorite Star Wars Toys & Gadgets and May The 4th Be With You!

The day is upon us. The day where geeks and normals alike dawn their favorite Star Wars gear and celebrate in the streets together paying tribute to possibly the most historic and notable movie franchise ever.

Ok, well maybe they do not celebrate in the streets, but you will be sure to see an increase in Star Wars apparel, display pictures, and Instagram posts on the topic of Star Wars throughout the day.

In honor of Star Wars Day, which is this Thursday, I put together a short list of my favorite Star Wars toys & gadgets.


Sphero: BB-8 App Enable Droid

May as well get this one out of the way early. Everyone’s favorite Star Wars toy, mine included, is the remote controllable BB-8 droid from Sphero.

Using Sphero’s BB-8 app, available on Android, iOS and Windows 10, you can control this little fella manually, or have him wander around on his own patrolling your surroundings.

 The Force is strong with this tiny droid.
The Force is strong with this tiny droid.

Another really awesome feature available with BB-8 is his ability to enjoy the two most recent Star Wars films with you. Turn on “The Force Awakens” or “Rouge One” and BB-8 will watch along reacting with excitement or fear depending on the part of the movie.

As a bonus, there are several third party BB-8 apps available in the Android Play store that allow you to interact with BB-8 in different ways. My personal favorite is the “BB-8 Lamp” app which allows you to turn BB-8 into a desk lamp or nightlight in a variety of different colors. You can check that out here.


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Star Wars Lightsaber Selfie Stick

First, let me be clear. You should not own a selfie stick. Unless that selfie stick is in the form of a lightsaber. Available for 80% off at only $3.99 USD on Think Geek you can’t go wrong here. Oh, and it extends a total of 40.5″ when fully extended and is modeled after Darth Vader’s lightsaber.

But first… Let me take a selfie!

— Darth Vader

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X-Wing Knife Block

Sure, you could have any old knife block, but a true Star Wars fan would have a knife block in the shape of an X-Wing Fighter.

The set will put you back $99.99 and includes 5 single-piece knives for all your kitchen needs.

You can check it out over at Think Geek.


24k Solid Gold Darth Vader Helmet

Now onto something completely ridiculous and likely a tad out of most people’s price range is this 24k gold Darth Vader helmet made by a jeweler in Tokyo, Japan.

This helmet was crafted by Japanese jeweler Tanaka Kikinzoku honoring the 40th Anniversary of the Star Wars franchise. 


Millenium Falcon Bottle Opener

As a craft beer lover, I always keep a bottle opener handy in the kitchen. There would be nothing better than popping open your favorite dark chocolate or coffee stout with a can opener shaped like the Millenium Falcon.

You can pick this up on Amazon for less than $5. 


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Bantha Pest Costume

Your pets can get in on the action too on Star Wars day. For $31.00 on Amazon, you can dress your four-legged friend up as a Bantha equipped with a “Sand Person” along for the ride.


TIE Fighter Portable BBQ

Wrapping up the list is the TIE Fighter inspired portable BBQ from Broil Chef.  It does not come cheap, at $499.99 on Amazon, but has a lot of thought put into its design, including a TIE Fighter temperature monitor and side tables in the shape of landing platforms.


That wraps up the list of my favorite Star Wars toys and gadgets. I hope you enjoyed the list. What are your favorite Star Wars items? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Star Wars Day and May The 4th Be With You!

OnePlus 5 Wish List

The rumor train is getting up to speed regarding the OnePlus 5 which is slotted for a Q2/Q3 2017 release. With that in mind, why not spin up a wish list of things that must be a part of the next “Flagship Killer”?

The rumor train is getting up to speed regarding the OnePlus 5 which is slotted for a Q2/Q3 2017 release. With that in mind, why not spin up a wish list of things that must be a part of the next “Flagship Killer”?


1. Top tier “Image Signal Processing.” Megapixels are great, dual cameras are great, shutter and focus speed is excellent. Do you know what is better? The OnePlus 3 had a great camera on paper, but its performance was more in line with its price point. The OnePlus 3T had the same camera but is a step up thanks to the Snapdragon 821. Quality ISP leads to better noise reduction and sharper images. Put the work in here, and OnePlus could see some amazing results in a place where they have lagged year to year when compared to other phones.

2. Don’t change a thing with Oxygen OS! I cannot stress this enough. Oxygen OS is the cleanest, fastest and more user-friendly skin on an Android device since Google debuted the Google Experience Launcher a number of years back. With each update to Oxygen OS, which is usually pushed to the public ever other month add subtle, yet very useful tweaks and features for users. I would love to see OnePlus continue to iterate on this already excellent Android distro.

Oh, and keep the beta train rolling. Target OnePlus customers are made up of users who love to tinker and stay on the bleeding edge. Having a solid beta track or two with excellent communication surrounding it makes for a fun experience.

3. DASH Charging – Don’t change a thing here either. Keep DASH charge as-is. Qualcomm quick charge is great, but DASH charge is better. It is that simple. How can you make DASH charge better? A DASH-compatible portable battery pack would be great. If you’re reading this OnePlus – make it happen!

4. More Battery! Don’ be afraid the add a little more thickness to get the battery closer to 3,500 mAh mark or higher. The camera bump is not something anyone is a fan of. What are we fans of? Better, longer battery life.

5. Stop with the gimmicks. Granted, we are in a much better place than we were with the OnePlus  One, Two and X. But the fake supply shortages or the hype around “immediate dispatch” of your order are getting old. I understand that supply chain management is not easy for “smaller” companies and that it is important to keep your customers interested in what you’re doing next. But pushing this too hard runs the risk of alienating your current customers and possibly scaring off prospective customers.


All in all, I think the OnePlus 5 will be a spectacular device at a price that undercuts the big players like Samsung, LG, and Google. Yes, the price of the OnePlus 5 will be the highest for any OnePlus device yet, but with the specs that they will likely be offering and the quality of the hardware build, I’m sure it will be worth over cent.

What do you think? Does this wish list match yours? What’s missing? 

Upgrade Your Tent with Skycamp from iKamper

Take your camping to the next level! Check out the Skycamp rooftop tent from iKamper.

What is Skycamp?

The Skycamp, from iKamper, is a unique take on the prototypical tent. Rather than dealing with a mess of poles, pegs and bags way to small for repacking the Skycamp is a collapsable room that mounts to the roof rack of most vehicles.

It is not just a tent on your roof either. Every Skycamp comes equipped with a kingsize bed which lies on the hard plastic floor (no more tree roots!)

Why do you want this?

Judging by the video above, the Skycamp is incredibly easy to set up. According to the iKamper, it should take less than one minute. For me, this is a major selling feature. Our current tent is a behemoth, requires its rolling suitcase and takes a very long time to setup and tear down.

The Skycamp, by nature of its design, is always off the ground. Keeping you dry from water seeping in from the bottom seems, while also keeping you up and away from unwanted four-legged visitors.

The biggest reason I would buy the Skycamp is the freedom it offers. With this, you can camp anywhere, at any time. It makes road tripping far easier than having to lug, setup, and tear down a tent. Can’t find a campground while on a long road trip? No problem, find a rest area or service center and you’re set.

Where can you buy it?

Pre-orders are currently available at iKamper.com for $2500, which is $900 off the price the Skycamp will eventually retail at.

You can also purchase via Kickstarter as well for another 15 days.


Overall, the cost of the Skycamp will be prohibitive to most, but if you’re thinking of something like a popup trailer or a very easy to use camping solution I think the Skycamp is worth considering.

Super Mario Run Launches Tomorrow, March 23rd, on Android

March 23rd is finally the day Android users can download and enjoy Super Mario Run! Are you ready? Or is Mario passed his prime?

I wrote on Mario Day (March 10th – MAR10) that the perfect time for Nintendo to spring Super Mario Run on Android users was that day. 

As we all know, that day came and went with no Super Mario Run. About a week later Nintendo, broke the silence on Super Mario Run and its long-awaited arrival on Android, announcing that March 23rd will finally be the day.



So what is Super Mario Run?

Well, we all know who Super Mario is so that I won’t explain that, but for those who are in the dark about what the game is, which launched on iOS in December 2015, let me explain.

Super Mario Run is a side-scrolling, auto-runner game much like several other popular Android and iOS games. The difference here is Mario. This is (was) Nintendo’s first non-Nintendo platform game that features Mario. There have been other Nintendo games on Android such as Mitomo, but this is the first time we’ve been able to enjoy Mario on another system.

The gameplay is fairly easy as Mario is always on the move. The way the player taps the screen affects how Mario jumps through each level. 

The game itself is free to download and players are able to work their way through 3 levels before you are hit with a $9.99 USD one time purchase to unlock the whole game.

This price of $10 may seem excessive, however, once a play beats the game you can go back trough, trying to improve on your previous score at each level.


Are you ready for Super Mario Run? Or is the Demo + Purchase format Nintendo has opted to pass on Mario?

You can pre-register for Super Mario Run now on the Google Play Store.

**Update** Happy Mario Day! Will Super Mario Run For Android Launch Today?

Will March 10th – MAR10 Day – finally be the day Nintendo releases Super Mario Run to Android users? 

Update: Nintendo has made March 23rd the official release date for Super Mario Run.  

 Are you excited or is it too late? 

Happy Mario Day!

Today is March 10th, which is also Mario Day, you know, because MAR10.

We all had hoped that today would be the big day for us Android users. The day where Super Mario Run finally made its wa over to Android, so we could join all our iOS user friends in playing the game that we have waited so long for.

Well as of 11:00 am EST there is still no Super Mario Run in the Google Play Store. At the time of this post, the first banner ad on the Play Store is still telling us that Mario will arrive soon.


 Is today the day, Mario?
Is today the day, Mario?


There is still a chance that Mario will make his long-awaited debut for Android today, but knowing Nintendo, we will be left waiting.

I hope that by then end of the day I have updated this article and my wallet will be $10 lighter. Fingers crossed!

At the very least you can have another look at the Play Store screenshots.


The Google Play Store Turns 5, Check Out These Top 5 Lists From Google

The Google Play Store is 5! Check out the “Top 5” Lists from each Play Store Category.

Once upon a time, the Google Play Store was called the “Android Market.” To be more in line with the direction Google was headed with a multi-pronged approach to content Google changed the name of the Market to the Google Play Store. That was five years ago today, and to celebrate Google had put together some “Top 5” lists of Apps, Games, Books and more.


Google Play’s Top 5 Lists to Celebrate Turning 5

Top Installed Games

  1. Candy Crush Saga
  2. Subway Surfers
  3. Temple Run 2
  4. Despicable Me
  5. Clash of Clans

Top Installed Apps*

  1. Facebook
  2. Facebook Messenger
  3. Pandora Radio
  4. Instagram
  5. Snapchat

*Download only. Does not include pre-installed apps on Android devices.

Top Selling Songs

  1. Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
  2. Lorde – Royals
  3. Taylor Swift – Blank Space
  4. Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk
  5. Pharrell Williams – Happy

Top Selling Albums

  1. Adele – 25
  2. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP2 (Deluxe)
  3. Taylor Swift – 1989
  4. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
  5. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Top Selling Movies

  1. The Interview
  2. Frozen
  3. Deadpool
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy

Top Selling Books

  1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E L James
  2. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
  3. A Game of Thrones, by George RR Martin
  4. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
  5. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

The success of the Play Store is pretty incredible. According to Google, the Play store has “grown to more than 1 billion active users in 190 countries. And with millions of apps, 40 million songs, 5 million books and more movies than ever, there’s so much to explore.”

You can also hit up the Play Store to save $5 on any book over the price of $5. While nice, I would have liked to see some deals on apps, games, and movie as well. But hey, don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth, right?

Head over to the Play Store for more info.

BioLite CampeStove 2

Remember when camping involved packing up the car with a tent, sleeping bags, matches, clothes, food and bug spray?

 

Forget all of that. We can’t camp today unless we have smart devices and power to keep them charged! The BioLite CampStove 2 is here to meet that need. Check it out!

Remember when camping involved packing up the car with a tent, sleeping bags, matches, clothes, food and bug spray?

Well; those days are over. It is time to come to terms with the new way of camping which involves several smart devices, battery packs and things of the like. I have accepted this reality and stress before a camping trip about things like; Do I bring one portable battery or two? Should I bring a second lightning cable? Does the tablet have enough movies and shows for the kids? 

Welcome to the future! Isn’t it great!

The CampStove 2 from BioLite is something I am seriously considering for this year’s camping outings. I am always tweaking the packing list for each years camping, and something like this is certainly going to be beneficial for my family and me.



What is it?

The CampStove 2 is a portable wood burning stove that converts heat into electricity.

The CampStove 2 generates up to 50% more power output than the original CookStove while also containing a 2600 mAh battery. Something the first generation lacked.

Aside from producing clean and storable energy, the CampStove 2 can also be used for more conventional purposes such as cooking meals and boiling water using the Portable Grill and KettlePot add-ons.

Click here to check out all compatible BioLite add-ons

The generator & power pack of the CampStove 2 contains USB Type-A ports for powering or charging your devices. It also contains 3 LED strips allowing you to keep tabs on fire strength, power output, and fan speed.


Check out the CampStove 2 promo video from BioLite.


The CampStove 2 can be purchased directly from BioLite for $129.95 USD and qualifies for free shipping in Canada, the USA and Europe.


What do you think? Is the CampStove 2 something you would consider bringing on your next camping adventure?

Do you miss the old days of roughing it in the woods? Or have you embraced this new way of camping?

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