Categories
Apple First Impression Information

Using the Apple Vision Pro in Kuwait

This past weekend I picked up the Apple Vision Pro and since then I’ve been using it daily, mostly exploring it and trying to figure out what to do with it.

First things first, if you’re planning to pick up an Apple Vision Pro in Kuwait, you need to know that you won’t be able to pick the proper sized light seal. Before purchasing the AVP from the Apple Store, they ask you to scan your face so they could recommend the proper light seal. You can do that through the Apple Store app and according to the scan, I needed a size 21W. If you’re buying an AVP from the grey market, there is no way to know what size light seal you’re getting since Apple doesn’t mention the size on the outside of the box. So it depends on your luck, I ended up with the light seal size 33W which was what Apple recommended for my wife. It doesn’t fit well on my face but I’m dealing with it till my light seal arrives. I got a brand new one off eBay for $150 but Apple sells them for $199. So just something to keep in mind.

Secondly, the AVP prices in Kuwait are quite a bit cheaper than Apple prices in the US. The cheapest price I found locally was 999KD at Best Electronics. In comparison, it costs around 1,160KD in the States with tax, but without shipping to Kuwait. Expect to pay around 20-30KD on top of that to ship to Kuwait since the box is pretty heavy. But then again, if you don’t end up with the correct light seal size you’ll have to pay for that, but it would still be cheaper to buy it locally and you’ll end up having an extra light seal.

Other than that, if you already have a US Apple Store account which I assume everyone already has, then you’re pretty much set. If you have a Kuwait Apple Store account it won’t work in the AVP since the AVP is only available in the US at the moment. If you want to use streaming services like Disney and Max, you also need a smart DNS proxy. Disney Kuwait won’t work (uses app from Kuwait store) and I don’t think there is a VPN option on the AVP, but smart DNS is easier to set up anyway.

My first impression of the AVP? It’s difficult to explain. I love it, it’s definitely the future, but if you’re asking me if you should get one, then the answer is no. If you already got one or are planning to get one, then you made the right decision. It’s confusing I know but if you already decided on the AVP it’s most likely for the same reason as me, to be there at the start of what I think is the future, and not because it’s worth getting one now.

It’s such an incredible device, using it and doing things with it is like nothing else I’ve experienced, so much so that I keep wanting to share my experience with someone else. That’s what’s also so weird about the AVP, it’s such a solo device but yet the experiences are ones you want to share with others. I’ve been constantly annoying my wife asking her to put on the AVP so I could let her experience various things I got to experience.

I will have to do a proper review of the device, but right now I’ve mostly been using it for two things, watching TV and playing ToXun. ToXun is a game that randomly puts you somewhere on Earth in Google Street View, and you need to guess where you are in the world. It’s pretty difficult but I’ve been quite good at guessing at least which country I’m in.

Watching TV on the other hand is just a really really incredible experience. For one thing, you can now have a TV anywhere. I have just one TV by choice in my apartment, but with the AVP I can now set up a large Cinescape movie theater anywhere I want in my place. I’ve watched a variety of content so far from simple TV shows to what Apple calls Immersive Videos. I’m not sure how to describe immersive video because until I experienced it I hadn’t experienced anything like it anywhere. Imagine a super large Imax screen that towers above and below you but is also in 3D. Actually, I don’t think that describes it properly. Imagine, you’re standing inside the film watching, that’s what these videos feel like. There aren’t many of them but my favorite is called Adventure and takes place up high in the mountains where a female climber sets up a high line to cross over a cliff. It’s really well shot, the 3D scenes make me feel like I’m right there, and anywhere I look I see beautiful views. They’re not 360 videos, but they do wrap around your peripheral vision.

But your regular 3D movies look great as well. I was never a fan of 3D movies because of the glasses you had to wear and how they darkened the screen. With the AVP they’re much much better. I watched the movie Gravity last night in 3D inside my theater and it was incredible, I felt like I was up there with them in space.

So far the AVP has been a great experience. I just ordered a compact carrying case for it from Waterfield in case I want to travel with it and use it on the plane. Not sure I’d be comfortable doing that just yet, but will see how it goes.

If there is anything specific you want to know or want me to try out, let me know in the comments.

Categories
First Impression Reviews

Winter Wonderland First Impression

Yesterday was the official opening of Winter Wonderland and I was lucky enough to get tickets when they first went on sale. I ended up passing last night and it wasn’t what I was expecting, mostly in a good way.

I parked a full block down from Winter Wonderland and decided to walk the rest of the way because I was expecting crazy traffic. It was opening day and tickets were sold out so I was pretty surprised when I got to the Winter Wonderland street and realized there wasn’t any traffic and parking was available.

The second surprise was the lack of a queue to get into the park. There were two gates, the first gate checks to see if you have a ticket and for the correct date, then the second gate is a metal detector which once you go through, staff on the other side scan your QR code.

Once inside, the park also felt empty. I was there around 6:30-7:00 PM and it didn’t feel busy at all. I think because the area of the park is huge and the few rides they have are spread out, the place didn’t feel crowded at all. A lot of rides, especially the ones further out from the center were empty while some, mostly the interesting ones had queues. I kinda wish they had squeezed Winter Wonderland into an area half the size so it would feel cozier and busier.

The whole thing was really organized with lots of staff around in case you needed anything as well as lots of cops everywhere (both inside and outside the park). Tickets for December are already sold out so if you’re interested in going, the earliest tickets are for January. Booking is through winterland.kw

Categories
First Impression Information Luxury Sneak Peek

Sneak Peek: Grand Hyatt Hotel

Yesterday I got a tour of the new Grand Hyatt Hotel that’s opening as part of the new 360 Mall extension. I have to admit, I went unprepared. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting the hotel to be anything special but I went out of curiosity. I even left my camera in the car because I didn’t think I needed it and I quickly regretted that as soon as I walked into the hotel.

The best way to describe Grand Hyatt is that it’s the hotel we’ve always wanted Kuwait to have.

Grand Hyatt is massive and there is so much to talk about and cover that I’ve decided to do it over multiple posts, a sort of a “Grand Journey”. For this initial post, I’m going to just quickly go through some of the main areas of the hotel which are the lobby, restaurants, spa, and a peek at one of the rooms. But over the next month or so, I’ll delve deeper into the various spaces and share more specific areas like the corporate meeting rooms or the VIP suites at The Arena which will be managed by Grand Hyatt. In a future post I will also go through the different rooms including the Presidential Suite which is so large it took me 45 seconds walking at a fast pace to get from one end to the other. If there is anything specific you guys want to see or know about, I could also put together a post covering those questions.

The Lobby
The hotel will have two three entrances, a small one at the mall side in the new extension of 360 next to the pond, and a main entrance from the street side that leads straight into the lobby (*Was just told there is a third entrance next to Table Otto in 360 Wadi). I came in from the mall side which is one level above the lobby so we had to take the stairs down. It’s a luxury hotel and so you get that premium feeling as soon as you walk in. The decoration isn’t very busy with lots of large empty spaces, the ceiling is very high, there is a striking large sculpture in the middle, and expensive artwork and pieces spread throughout the floor. It feels like walking into a luxury hotel in Dubai which is something we’ve lacked in Kuwait.

Saheel Lounge
The Saheel Lounge is on the same floor as the lobby and is composed of different styled seating spaces. It’s a social space where you can come have a drink or a small bite with a friend or someone you’re meeting.

Liberté
There are three restaurants at the hotel and Liberté is the one most people will see and likely visit since it’s located partially inside the hotel, and partially inside the mall. It’s a modern brasserie and is located adjacent to the hotel’s mall entrance.

’Stambul
This is going to be the main hotel restaurant, it’s where hotel guests will come for breakfast but also where people would come for lunch. It’s the largest restaurant at the hotel and is described as a theatrical Turkish dining experience.

MEI LI
This is the restaurant I’m anticipating the most. It’s a fine dining Chinese restaurant that is really beautifully designed. It’s the area of the hotel I took the most photos of but it sadly won’t be ready in time for the hotel opening. The tentative opening date of MEI LI is currently October but that can change.

The Rooms
The hotel will have over 300 rooms including 21 that will have their own garden terraces, 35 Grand Club Suites, eight Junior Suites, and one Presidential Suite. From what I saw on the website while trying to book a room, prices will start at around 150KD a night without breakfast.

Noor Spa
This was also one of the most photogenic spaces in the hotel and will definitely be the most instagrammable area by fashionistas. The spa is split into half with a stream splitting the men’s and womens areas both of which have gyms, treatment rooms, and features like steam and sauna rooms. At both ends of the pool is a pathway that leads you to an outdoor area where you can tan and chill under the sun surrounded by water and greenery. The spa will be available to use by hotel guests as well as have a limited number of yearly memberships.

So that’s pretty much a quick rundown of the main areas of the hotel. As I said I’ll go into more details in future posts but for now I just wanted to give a general overview to start with. It really is a beautiful hotel and after finishing the tour and initially taking photos with my phone, I ended up going to my car and getting my camera and coming back to shoot a few more photos.

The hotel is set to open on August 15th which is less than a month from now. Booking is already open on their website which you can check out by clicking here or you can check them out on Instagram @grandhyattkuwait

Categories
First Impression Food

Korea Grill is Back as The Kimchi

Earlier this year, Korea Grill, the small Korean restaurant in New Park Hotel closed down along with the hotel and so they were forced to relocate. Last week they finally reopened but this time at the Radisson Blu and they’ve rebranded to The Kimchi.

The Kimchi took over the location of the Polynesian restaurant Kon-Tiki which had opened back in 2004 when Radisson Blu used to be the Radisson SAS. I believe Kon-Tiki closed down over a decade ago (not sure) and I think its been empty ever since. I remember I saw the place when I got a tour of the hotel after they refurbished it, but I don’t recall what this space was being used for back then. The interior was always nice looking with lots of wood and bamboo and private rooms built to look like small Asian structures. The restaurant is located underneath the Al Boom ship and the hull of the ship is integrated into the interior. The Kimchi updated the space a bit and it still looks good although I do wish the lights were dimmed a bit to give the space a moodier feel.

The menu is pretty huge now so I’m assuming everything that was on the menu at Korea Grill is still there along with a lot more new items. I went for some Korean BBQ and ended up ordering their set menu of assorted cuts for 2-3 people. It was good but I felt it was overpriced at KD28 considering neither of us left full. I actually contemplated passing by Peacock to continue dinner there because I was still hungry. I didn’t want to order any more food at The Kimchi since the service was incredibly slow and disorganized. I know that’s normal for a place that just opened but it was still frustrating having to ask for things multiple of times or watching people get their drinks or food before us even though they had come in later. I couldn’t wait to leave honestly.

I’ll give the place at least month or two before I head back again, hopefully by then they would have worked out all the kinks. Right now The Kimchi is open daily for lunch from 12PM to 3PM and then again for dinner from 6PM to 10PM. The place is big with lots of seating so I don’t think you need reservations. For more information and photos check out their instagram account @q8koreagrill

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First Impression In Focus Interesting

Calma – Float Therapy

Yesterday night I dropped by Calma, the first float center in Kuwait. Float centers (sometimes called spas) use large pods called isolation tanks that you float inside of in complete darkness to deprive your mind of external senses. The pods are soundproof and filled with extremely salty shallow water that is heated to your body temperature. The saltwater allows you to float effortlessly on the surface while zoning out in complete darkness and silence.

People use flotation tanks for muscle relaxation, to lower anxiety and to help with depression.

When you first walk into Calma it feels like you’ve just walked into a spa. After a small introduction on isolation tanks you’re led into one of their four flotation rooms where you’ll have access to your own pod and private shower. There you’re given some more instructions before you’re left alone to start your float session.

Although I had heard of flotation tanks before, I only got to try it for the first time yesterday. I was curious to know how it would feel floating in the tanks but I was also curious to see if it would feel claustrophobic or not. I did an MRI scan once and it felt extremely uncomfortable and so was worried this would feel the same. It surprisingly didn’t! The pod actually feels spacious once you’re inside, even after you close the lid. Then, once you turn off the lights it no longer feels like you’re inside a pod, it feels like you’re floating in the ocean in complete darkness or even in space.

The flotation sessions last one hour and cost KD30. Compared to prices abroad that’s fairly reasonable considering we’re in Kuwait and that Calma is located in the basement of Symphony Mall and not some shady first-floor building in Salmiya. Right now they’re in their soft launch phase and only accepting bookings through direct message on instagram. So if you’re interested in trying this out you can find them on instagram @calma_kw

Categories
First Impression Internet

First Impression: Zain 5G in Salmiya

I have Zain 5G at the office in the city and I average around 650Mbps there which is pretty incredible. This got me curious to see how 5G would perform at my apartment in Salmiya so Zain hooked me up with a unit to try out. Right now I have a Zain Beam connection at home and I get a stable 30Mbps.

My experience so far with 5G in Salmiya has been really weird. I’ve gotten speeds as low as 3Mbps and as high as 350Mbps. I don’t understand why the speed fluctuates so much here. I’m gonna continue to experiment with it and move the router around to see if that helps. If I can get a stable connection over 100Mbps that would be pretty crazy considering just up until a few months ago, I couldn’t get anything higher than 10Mbps at my place.

Update: Problem got solved, click here for an updated post.

Categories
First Impression Internet

Zain Beam – First Impression

Around ten days back I asked if anyone had tried the Zain Beam internet service and a few of you responded with high praise for the service. Zain also read my post and got in touch with me with an offer to try the service for a month, so I jumped on the opportunity and yesterday they installed Beam at my place.

The installation process is supposed to be fairly simple, they install an antenna on your balcony or the roof of your building, and then run an ethernet cable to your apartment where they hook it up to an LTE modem. In my case the installation process was slightly more complicated and took around an hour and a half because they were having trouble finding a strong signal. My building which back in the 90s was the tallest in the neighborhood is now surrounded by much taller buildings and so it was difficult to find a good signal. Thankfully, just as I was about to give up hope, they found a spot on my roof with ample signal and then ran the ethernet cable from it down to my apartment.

First impression? It’s fast! I asked for the 20Mbps connection and I’m getting around 30Mbps which is similar to what other people are reporting. What’s also great is my upload speed is between 10-20Mbps.

This right now is the fastest connection I’ve ever had at home and it feels strange because I’m so not used to having a fast and stable connection at home. YouTube videos play instantly as well as HBO, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. The video quality from the streaming services also looks to have improved because of my now faster connection. I also managed to update all the apps on my two ipads plus two macs really quickly. I know all this sounds very normal, but you have to keep in mind, my connection for the past year or so has been terrible and I now finally feel like I have fast internet like a normal person.

For those of you who are gonna leave a comment saying I should get LTE or B Wireless or whatever, those services might be great where you are, but not where I am. I’ve had B Wireless for the past 7 years but you need a direct line of sight to their tower for it to work properly. A few months ago I lost what little line of sight I had which is why I had to look for a B Wireless alternative. Regular internet services from telecoms also doesn’t work properly where I live. Zain Bolt which can easily hit 60-70Mbps at the office barely gets 12Mbps at my place and spends most of the time hovering at around 5Mbps. So I understand you might have super fast mobile or fiber optics internet at your place, at mine it’s a different story.

Its too soon to tell if the Zain Beam speed will remain consistent, but I’m optimistic since Zain are limiting the amount of Beams they install per area. A friend of mine also told me these antennas can be upgraded in the future to work with 5G, so Zain could potentially end up providing much faster internet than their current two options (20Mbps or 40Mbps). Personally, if the connection continues like this for a the next few days I’m not even going to wait for my one month trial period to finish, I’m going to sign up right away.

The cost of the service is KD25 a month for 20Mbps, and KD40 for 40Mbps. With both options you need to commit to 24 months which is a tough pill to swallow. But with no better option, I’m willing to commit. If you guys have any questions about Zain Beam or want me to try anything let me know in the comments below.

Categories
Apple First Impression

First Impression: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2018)

Earlier this week Xcite hooked me up with the brand new iPad Pro 12.9-inch that was recently released by Apple. I hadn’t really considered getting the 12.9-inch iPad Pro until I realized it would be a great way to edit my photos using Adobe Lightroom. I’ve had the iPad now for less than a week and still need to pick up the Apple pencil and keyboard, but I wanted to post my initial impression first until I get the rest of the stuff.

My current Mac setup at home is composed of a 27-inch iMac which I use mostly for my design work, a 13-inch MacBook Pro which I use as my daily computer, and a 9.7-inch iPad Pro I use for random things like watching YouTube videos in bed or when I want to chill and browse the web at a coffee shop. Most of the reviews online have been discussing if the new iPad Pro’s can replace your computer, I wasn’t looking to do that instead, I wanted it as a supplementary device to my current setup. My first impression so far? I’m loving it.

The thing that surprised me the most is the thickness and size of the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It’s thinner than my iPhone XS and even though I had read that in the reviews, I didn’t believe it until I put the iPad next to my phone. I compared the size of the iPad to various mac devices and you can see some of those comparisons below with more on my instagram acccount @mark248am. It’s clearly a much more manageable size compared to the older larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

So far I’ve mostly been using the iPad to edit the photos I took of the Ferrari Portofino I test drove a few days ago. I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom and the process has been super smooth. Because the new iPad Pro uses USB-C, I was able to connect my Sony A7 III camera to the iPad and copy all the photos easily and I’m loving the experience so far.

Really my only gripe with the new iPad so far is that it’s a fingerprint magnet (more than usual). Both my older 9.7-inch iPad Pro and my iPhone don’t capture as many fingerprints and it really shows on the screen both when turned on and off. I guess things will improve once I get the Apple Pencil but still, this is pretty annoying.

Once I get the pencil and keyboard I’ll post a more thorough review but for now, if you’re interested in picking up a new iPad Pro I think Xcite still have a few left [Link]

Categories
First Impression Food

PEKO PEKO – Japanese Eatery

PEKO PEKO is a new restaurant that opened up this past weekend and it’s one I had been waiting to open for a few months now. That’s because PEKO PEKO used to be called RAW before they closed down this past Ramadan for renovations. RAW was one of my favorite sushi places and so I was disappointed they had closed down but also curious to see what they were going to open up instead. The chef is the very talented Abdullah AlYaqout so I knew whatever he was cooking up was going to be interesting.

While RAW was a purely Japanese eatery, PEKO PEKO is a Japanese eatery but with East Asian influences. What this means is you’ll find more than just your typical sushi on the menu. With so many sushi places in Kuwait and some really good ones, they probably realized that they had to do something different to stick out and I think they did a pretty good job based on what I tried. The menu I had was the tasting menu and so was fairly limited and didn’t include the prices, but I pretty much liked 8 out of the 10 or so dishes I tried.

I’ll be heading back there this week again to try their full menu and maybe post about the place properly, but for now, if you’re looking for a new restaurant to try then check them out. They’re in their soft launch phase so they’re currently open only from 6PM to 10PM (but daily). For pictures and a link to their location, check out their instagram @eatpekopeko

Categories
First Impression Photography

Hello Sony A7 III!

Earlier this year I sold all my Nikon photography gear because I wasn’t really using them. They were large and heavy so I spent more time using my iPhone and compact but full-frame Sony RX1 camera instead. That setup turned out to be fine for 80% of my needs, but over the past few months, I realized how much of a handicap it was by not owning a DSLR with changeable lenses. So I started looking at compact mirrorless cameras, specifically the Sony A7 series and the newly announced Nikon Z and Canon R series. Mirrorless cameras had similar capabilities as much larger DSLR’s, but they’re a lot more compact. I was kinda leaning towards the Nikon Z mirrorless camera, until I found out that AAB World had recently become official Sony camera dealers. That news made my decision easier, I was getting the Sony A7 III.

Full disclosure, I have a long-standing relationship with AAB World. They’ve been very active with me and the blog over the years and they’ve lent me lenses and camera gear to review whenever I wanted and also hooked me up with discounts. I’m a huge fan.

I’ve had the Sony A7 III for around two weeks and I love it so far. My aim with the A7 III was for it to play two roles, I needed it to be compact when I needed something small and portable, but I also needed a full frame camera I could attach various lenses too˙. The A7 III has fulfilled both those requirements. First thing I did after buying the camera was to get the compact Sony 35mm F/2.8 prime lens for the A7 III. With the 35mm lens, the A7 III was not that much larger than my RX1 (check the picture above).

The second lens I picked up was the Sony 12-24mm F/4 lens and now I’m planning to get the Sony 24-105mm F/4 and Sony 70-200mm F/4 lenses. I’m going with F/4 lenses and not brighter F/2.8 lenses because the F/4 versions are lighter, smaller, cheaper and nearly as good for my needs.

The A7 III feels really great in my hands and I’m loving all its features and capabilities. I can understand why many are calling it the best camera of 2018. I’ll be posting a more comprehensive review after I get the rest of the lenses and shoot some more with the camera. But first impressions, the A7 III is great, it’s so good that I’ve actually decided to sell my Sony RX1, something I told myself I wouldn’t do.

If you’re interested in the A7 III, AAB World are currently out of stock but they should getting another shipment soon. Here are their preorder links on their website:

Sony A7 III (Body only) – KD679
Sony A7 III (Kit including lens) – KD749

Categories
Apple First Impression Geek Reviews

A Weekend with the iPhone X

Thursday night I picked up my iPhone X from Digits in Marina Mall. They’d given me early access to buy one so that I could review it on the blog, but they made me promise that I wouldn’t turn it on until Friday morning 8AM. Apple is pretty strict with these things so I understood their concern. I know someone who had gotten an iPhone X a few days earlier, and when they turned it on, Apple sent the authorized reseller he had gotten the phone from a warning that they had 2 hours to shut it down or else. I wasn’t in a rush, I didn’t mind waiting till the next morning to play with the iPhone X, I was just glad I had my hands on one and didn’t have to wait in any line to get it.

I’m not the kind of person that upgrades phones every year, I was actually using an iPhone 6S until last week and was perfectly fine with it until my company handed me an iPhone 8. The iPhone X is the first iPhone in years that I’ve really wanted, and after using it over the weekend, here are my first impressions:

No Home Button
The iPhone X no longer has a home button and I was worried it would take time to get used to the new swipe up to go home gesture. But, I got used to it within the first few minutes of using the phone. To me it feels natural and so much slicker and faster than clicking down on the home button. So goodbye home button, you won’t be missed.

Face ID
This is probably my favorite feature in the iPhone X. It just works. The best way to describe it is that it’s as if your phone doesn’t have a passcode. To unlock your phone, you pick it up and then you swipe up to go home. Super simple, super fast. If for some reason your phone doesn’t wake up when you pick it up, you just tap the screen to wake it up and then swipe up. Again super fast. But Face ID has other advantages than just using it to log into your phone. When I get to a website that asks me to log in with my username and password, the phone checks my face and when it recognizes me automatically fills in my username and password. Another cool feature of Face ID is with notifications. When you get say a whatsapp message on your phone, you won’t see a preview. Pick up the phone and Face ID will recognize you and then show you a preview of the whatsapp messages [Example]. That’s a really smart feature because it means you can leave your phone out in the open and not worry about anyone reading your notification previews, but it also means you yourself can still read those previews. If you’re also wondering, Face ID works under different lighting so if you’re in complete darkness or out under bright sunlight, Face ID will still be able to read your face. Face ID was still able to read my face even though I had sun glasses on and even when my face was half stuffed deeply into my pillow.

The Screen
It’s huge and I’m loving it so far mostly because the blacks are so black. One of the biggest advantages of OLED screens (which is what the iPhone X uses) is the blacks are pure black. That’s because unlike LCD’s, to get the color black on an OLED screen it shuts off the pixels that are supposed to be black. So black is parts of the screen not lit up. Am I making sense? Imagine a room with no windows and one light bulb, to turn the room black you just turn off the bulb. No light = complete darkness = black. The “notch” on top of the screen isn’t annoying at all by the way, in fact I barely notice it. I mean its there, but it doesn’t hinder the experience of using the phone in any way. For those of you who are also concerned that not all apps are yet adapted to take full advantage of the iPhone X, from all the apps I use I think only 2 or 3 still display a black border on top and the bottom of the screen. The rest of my apps all display full screen and so it’s not really a big issue, and whatever apps don’t display in full screen I’m expecting them to by their next update.

Wireless Charging
I picked up a Belkin Qi charger from Xcite for around KD6 and have it on my bedside table. I noticed compared to the iPhone 8 the iPhone X has a larger wireless charging sweet spot. With the iPhone 8 it wouldn’t always start charging when I placed it on the charger but I haven’t had that issue with the iPhone X. If like me you use a magnetic mount for the phone it can still work with wireless charging. I have the metal plate sandwiched between my silicone cover and the phone, but I moved the plate all the way to the bottom of the phone and turned it sideways. That way the center of the phone is clear and the metal plate won’t interfere with charging.

Size vs iPhone 8
The iPhone 8 and X are virtually the same size. The iPhone X is slightly taller and thicker but too minor to even notice.

The Camera
Finally the camera, probably the most important aspect of the phone for me. I was always jealous of iPhone Plus owners since they had two lenses on their phones, the regular wide one and a more zoomed in one. Other than the added advantage of being able to zoom in closer to a subject (while maintaining the image quality), having two lenses allowed Apple to create the “portrait mode” feature in which it blurs the background making it look like it was shot with a DSLR. The iPhone Plus is too big a phone for me so I never considered getting it, but the iPhone X has the same camera system as the plus, with more features like a brighter aperture (f/2.4 vs f/2.8) and optical image stabilisation for both lenses not just the wide one. I haven’t really taken that many shots with it, just a few of my brothers cats and some of my friends and so far I really am loving the portrait mode.

So yeah as you can tell, I’m really loving the iPhone X so far. Although it was a big chunk of change to spend on just a phone, I think its worth it. If you’re looking to pick one up, Digits sold out their stock on launch, but are getting another shipment in around a weeks time. They currently have a waiting list so you can go and reserve a phone. The prices of the 64GB version is KD353 and the 256GB version KD405. A friend also just picked up a phone from Zain this morning but I think you have to sign up to a plan or something to get it (i.e. don’t think you can just straight up buy it from them).

Categories
First Impression Geek Reviews

First Impression: The DJI Spark Mini Drone

I wasn’t planning on posting about the DJI Spark until I got to use it on my upcoming trip, but because of the amount of interest I got on it from my instagram story and twitter over the weekend, I decided I’d at least post my first impression. First full disclosure, DJI released the Spark last month and when I saw Xcite had a preorder page for it, I got in touch with them and asked them if they could send me one over to review. They couldn’t get me a Spark from their first shipment since it quickly sold out, but Thursday they got in touch with me to let me know they secured me a drone from their second shipment and I passed by and picked it up.

The DJI Spark is tiny, like super tiny. Its around the same size as my iPhone 6 and it weighs just 300 grams. But don’t let the size fool you, this isn’t an indoor drone and it’s packed with advanced features of its older brothers. I’m not going to go into too many details since there are a ton of YouTube videos that do that, but I will highlight some things in this post which I think are cool.

There are three ways to control the Spark, either with your phone, with the optional remote, or using hand gestures. The last one is a bit of a gimmick but it works and it can be useful.

Hand Gestures
The Spark has a sensor at the front that will recognize your face and then detect your hand gestures which you can use to control the drone. You wave goodbye at the drone and it will fly up and hover away from you. You want it to snap a photo of you? Just give it the correct gesture and it will take your photo. This is pretty cool because it keeps things simple for those who don’t want more out of the drone other than snapping selfies. You can watch the video above of how this works.

Using Your Phone
The Spark doesn’t come with a remote control, instead you can download an app onto your phone and use it to control the drone using wifi. This means you don’t have to carry a remote around which keeps the Spark portable. The only downside is that the Spark’s flight height is limited to 50 meters and the flight range to just 100m when using the phone due to the wifi’s limited range. The top speed is also limited to 20km/h.

Remote Control
The first thing I did after picking up the Spark was buy the optional remote control. Personally I can’t use virtual control sticks in apps, maybe I’m old fashioned but I like physical buttons and joysticks. The second reason I wanted to get the remote control was because it increases the flight height from 50m to 500m and the flight range from 100m up to 2KM. That’s a HUGE increase. With the remote control you can also put the drone into sport mode which increases the top speed to 50kmh. Really impressive specs for something so freakin tiny. I still can’t believe how high it can fly.

I spent the weekend playing around with the Spark and as a complete drone newbie, I did find the experience overwhelming at first but that’s probably because I didn’t read any instructions and just winged it. Friday morning I woke up early and headed to my favorite open area in the desert to take some photos. There was an overcast so my photos were coming out very flat and dull, but I did manage to take one photo which I added to my instagram story. Saturday morning I decided to take the drone near Scientific Center and fly it there, that was a pretty scary experience because when I told the drone to come home and land, I freaked out because I got worried it would decide to land in the sea. It did’t thankfully and instead came back down to it’s original launching point. That same afternoon I wanted to see if I could fly the drone from my hand and then have it land back in my hand when I was done, all without having to leave my car. It worked! Because the drone is so tiny you could use your palm as a launch and landing pad.

If you’re a beginner like me, the drone has a bunch of automated and smart flying modes that will make your videos look professionally shot including:

Active Track: You highlight the subject you want the Spark to follow and it will follow it
Tripod: Keeps the drone stable and slow allowing you to film cinematic shots
Rocket: Starts filming you from eye level and then flies straight up while still focusing on you
Dronie: Starts filming you from eye level and then angles out and away from you while still keeping you in focus
Circle: The Spark films you while rotating around you
Helix: Rocket + Circle combined

Battery life is my only issue with the Spark so far. The total flight time is just 16 minutes which isn’t a lot especially if you factor in the time it will take you to get to the height you want, position your drone and also the amount of time the drone needs to fly back down to you. You’re definitely gonna need more batteries and I already ordered 2 from Amazon and they’ll be waiting for me in L.A. when I get there end of the week.

Overall I love this little thing. It kinda feels like having an invisible photographer friend with you everywhere you go. When I went out to the desert to take some photos, I tried the active tracking feature and had the Spark follow my car around shooting video of it while I was driving. In the winter when I go snowboarding I could have the Spark follow me shooting video of me face planting all the way down the slope. It’s tiny and light enough to take everywhere with you which is why I’m looking forward to using it on my trip.

If you’re interested in the DJI Spark, Xcite are selling them for KD169. Here is the [Link]

Categories
First Impression Kuwait

My Visit to the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre

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Yesterday I finally got to pass by and check out the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center. Those of you who’ve been following the blog for awhile will remember I was the first to break the story on the cultural centre back in May 2014 after my visit to Al Salam Palace. Yesterday was the first time back since then and damn what a difference two years makes.

Firstly the project is basically done. I mean it was done a couple of months ago but they pushed the launch till Q4 of this year so they’re now using the extra time to make sure everything is close to perfect once it’s finally open. I visited all four of the buildings and I’m now even more excited about the cultural centre than I ever was. The whole project is so beautifully designed with each building having a different style interior than the other. I am not sharing a lot of photos in this post because most of the rooms were getting a final coat of paint so everything was covered in plastic and there was lots of scaffolding everywhere. That includes all the theaters but I already shared some great shots last week so you’re not missing out on anything.

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Behind the 4 buildings is a super super long and large corridor that stretches from one corner of the project to the other. One side of the corridor is connected to the indoor parking while the other side connects to the buildings. This means in the summer you can go from your car to the theaters or library without having to walk much under the sun or in the heat. The whole exterior structure is extremely photogenic and I’m very interested to see what photographers will manage to do with the place. Inside the ceilings are very high with lots of large spaces and hallways. I can already visualize large crowds of people gathered waiting to enter a theater or after a show is done, just socializing in these large spaces.

The fact that this project was completed in just two years is insane. I have no idea how they did it, probably by throwing lots of money at it but whatever their formula was, they need to apply it to the new airport. Below are the photos I’m sharing for now, once most of the work is done I’ll pass by again and reshoot. If you have any questions you could ask me and I’ll try to answer it with the best of my knowledge.

Categories
Apple First Impression

First Impression: iPad mini

Xcite dropped off the new iPad mini for me to play around with earlier today and I’m honestly surprised that I like it. I really wasn’t interested in the iPad mini when it was first announced and didn’t think it made sense until I took it out of the box and held it in my hands. Now I’m wondering if there is a purpose for the regular sized iPad. The new iPad mini feels a lot lighter and slimmer than my now huge iPad 3 and I really LOVE the black anodized aluminum finish on the back.

Once I downloaded Zinio and the latest issue of Backpacker Magazine I realized why I’d rather have my iPad 3 over the mini. The problem with most of the magazines on Zinio is that they were originally intended for print in sizes similar to that of the regular iPad. Since the iPad mini is smaller, all the text in the magazines become smaller as well and makes it a lot more difficult to read. The fact the iPad mini doesn’t have a retina display isn’t helping its case either.

But for a first impression, other than the issue I would have reading magazines on it the iPad mini does make sense. I’ve stopped carrying my iPad when I travel and instead have been carrying my 13″ MacBook Air and my Kindle because it didn’t make sense to carry iPad 3 and MacBook Air at the same time. If I had the iPad mini on the other hand I wouldn’t mind taking it along since it wouldn’t be adding that much weight or size.

If you want to check out the iPad mini yourself, Xcite have them on display right now at their Avenues and Al Rai locations.

Categories
Apple First Impression Kuwait

First Impression: The iPhone 5

I was leaving the house this morning when I got a phone call from Xcite letting me know they received the new iPhone 5 and if I was interested in picking it up to check it out. Luckily traffic wasn’t that bad and I was over at their head office 15 minutes later picking up the phone.

The new iPhone 5 looks smaller than my iPhone 4s even though it’s taller. It looks very slick and slim while the iPhone 4s which I didn’t have a problem with an hour ago now looks pretty bulky sitting next to the iPhone 5 on my desk. I have the black iPhone 5 with me which is black all over including the side trimming which is what is also helping the iPhone 5 look smaller than it actually is.

Even though I was expecting the iPhone 5 to be light based on the reviews I read online, I wasn’t expecting it to feel this much lighter than the 4s. It’s really the first thing that grabbed my attention when I picked it up and it kinda feels like the phone is hollow on the inside. The second thing that grabbed my attention was the aluminum back of the phone. To me it doesn’t look or feel like aluminum but more like a plastic. I think it’s because I was expecting the metal to have some sort of texture which is doesn’t.

I booked my nano sim card from Viva [Here] but I still haven’t received the sim card yet nor do I know when they’ll be available. So right now if you want to use the iPhone 5 you’re going to have to cut and sand your sim card down to the size of the nano.

If you want to check out the iPhone 5 yourself you can since Xcite have it on display right now at their Avenues location. They aren’t selling them just yet nor have they priced them since they’re waiting to secure a large quantity of phones first. If you have any questions or curiosities about the phone let me know since I’m going to have it with me for a few more hours.

Update: Xcite just informed me they’re now selling the iPhone 5 starting at KD299