iPhone 13 Pro Max -A Beard Blog Review

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
Review

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are all-new this year, again. Every year, like clockwork, we get new iPhones. Just like last year apple announced four new phones with a new number, 13. Last year’s all new design was a great departure from the rounded bars of soap we’ve had for six years. If you’ve been following iPhones for a while, you may know that they like to do what most people call an “S” year. Starting with the 3GS, then 4S, 5S, 6S, and XS, we’ve come to understand that an “S” year is less new design and more internal upgrades.

The iPhone 13 should have been an “S” year. Not sure why we didn’t see the iPhone 12S, but I was betting on it. Literally, bet lunch on it being named the iPhone 12S.

So in the iPhone 12S 13 we get better cameras, bigger batteries and a new processor. The Pros got 120hz display and even better cameras.

I opted to replace my iPhone 12 Pro Max with an iPhone 13 Pro Max. As long as they’re making giant pro phones, I’m buying them.

I’m not going to go into the new features or what Apple is marketing on the device, you can see that at apple.com/iphone.

The Good

  • The 120hz display makes motion buttery smooth, and I smile whenever I notice it
  • The camera upgrades while minor year-over-year, have a huge impact on everyday photos
  • Macro photos are fun and a game changer
    Beard Blog iPhone macro photography deep-dive
  • Same squared-side design that looks modern and still feels new
  • Sierra Blue is a refreshing take on a silver finish
  • OLED screen is brighter, which is useful in direct sunlight

The Missed Opportunities

  • Moving to USB-C should have happened this year
  • The camera / Face ID notch got smaller-ish, but it’s size still feels outdated
  • Same software limitations running on a super-fast SoC
  • Night Mode could be better with the new camera hardware
    Beard Blog iPhone Night Mode deep-dive
  • My phone shipped with eSim enabled, but I still have an ugly SIM card slot
  • The physical mute switch is great, but someday it’s gotta go
  • Speaker holes are still asymmetric

The Bad

  • Front-facing camera feels old and needs updated like other Apple devices
  • Rear camera bump is huge, more noticeable on smaller phones 
  • Telephoto (3x) rear camera has more reach, but less quality
  • Face ID hasn’t seen any major improvements since it was debuted on the iPhone X, while iPads can see faces in different orientations
  • The back face of the phone is still slippery and fragile

Score

9.0 / 10

Changing to USB-C, upgrading the front camera, and making it more grippy, might make this a 10 / 10 for me.

We’ll see what next year’s iPhone brings, which I’m sure will be named iPhone 14. Will we see USB-C finally or just no ports at all? Stay tuned, here and only here, for iPhone hot takes.

Low-Light Shootout

night-mode

Apple iPhone Pro Max vs. Sony a7III

Low-light photography is all the rage now on smartphones. Better sensors and lenses combined with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other 21st-century buzzwords allow smartphone cameras to actually see in the dark. But how good are they?

Low-light photography has been around for a long time, especially on professional-grade cameras that can hold the shutter open for extended periods of time allowing the sensor to gather as much light as possible.
With the overhauled and widely acclaimed camera system on the iPhone 13 Pro/Pro Max, I thought it would be a good time to see how it compares to a “real” camera.
Using the same tripod and lighting conditions, I captured my backyard with both an iPhone 13 Pro Max and a Sony a7III mirrorless camera.

Let’s start with the iPhone 13 Pro Max, 10-second “Night Mode” capture1

ISO 5000 26mm f/1.5 2.0″ HEIC

You can see there’s not a lot of light here. 10-seconds is a long time to shoot an image handheld, but on a tripod, it’s not nearly long enough.

iPhone 13 Pro Max, 30-second “Night Mode” capture 2

ISO 6400 26m f/1.5 10″ RAW

A lot more light here, almost looks like it’s daylight outside. While the image is visible and you can see details, there’s a lot of noise present and if you zoom in you can see some blurring from noise reduction.

Sony a7III 10-second exposure at f/1.8

ISO 5000 50mm f/1.8 10″ ARW

Much more clearer detail here and has that daylight look like the 30-second iPhone shot. The high ISO gives it a softer look and has some visible noise.

Sony a7III 30-second exposure

ISO 1250 50mm f/1.8 30″ ARW

The ultimate night shot, at 30 seconds the sensor has enough time to capture enough light it can reduce the ISO and crisp-up all the details.
Some might say, “This isn’t a fair fight!”, but if Apple is aiming to take on the prosumer camera market, they need to have benchmarks. This three year old camera shows just how far smartphone cameras still have to go to be competitive.

If you’re looking to get great photos in a dimly lit room, an iPhone with Night Mode will do the job.
If you want to create daylight out of near-pitch-black, get a tripod and a big camera that can suck in all the light available.

Check out my iPhone 13 Pro Max review here (coming soon)

Macro Shootout

iPhone-13-pro

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max vs. Sony a7III

Macro photography is capturing larger than life images to show detail on smaller objects that you normally don’t get to appreciate with the naked eye.

Apple’s most recent flagship phones, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, have a new macro capability that allows the ultra wide lens to focus on objects that are as close as two centimeters. Macro photography is always fun to do especially with insects, flowers, and everyday objects. Never has it been so accessible to a consumer with the object they carry around in their pockets.

I’ve decided to see how well the iPhone 13 Pro Max does against a “big” camera with a cheap macro lens. 

I’m using a 7artisans 60mm f/2.8 lens that I purchased on Amazon, mounted on a Sony a7III, and honestly this lens is hard to use and not intended for a full-frame sensor, but let’s see how it looks.

I found a decorative wool pumpkin decorating our house for fall and through the woven nature would be a great test

Both images were artificially lit with an external LED light source to maximize detail.
You can see how much more detail and clarity comes out of the iPhone lens.

Here’s another comparison of a closer shot.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max macro capability is fantastic. Granted, I could probably match quality with an expensive macro lens on my Sony Mirrorless camera, but now I see no need with the iPhone camera.

Lastly, here’s a small collection of great macro images I captured on the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

 

In the two weeks since the iPhone 13 Pro was released I’ve been taking macro shots of everything I can find and like most new iPhone features I think this will stick around. We’ll see in a year how many macro shots from the iPhone I’ve accumulated.

Check out my iPhone 13 Pro Max review here (coming soon)

Next-Gen Showdown: Xbox Series X vs PS5

Xbox Series X vs PS5

The next generation of console gaming is here and it might be the biggest jump we’ve seen from generation to generation. PC gamers have been enjoying the next-gen performance for quite a while, but console gaming pushes game developers to implement new features and push the boundaries more widely. This generation we have the Xbox Series X from Microsoft and the Sony PlayStation 5.
I personally like console gaming because it’s an all-in-one package and ready to go out of the box. All the games are made for the current generation and you don’t have to worry about specifications or compatibility. Additionally, being able to sit down in front of my TV for a gaming session instead of in front of a computer (where I spend most of my days) is much more appealing to me.

The console wars have never been more tightly contested than now. We’re now at the point where Microsoft and Sony are buying up studios to get console exclusives and try to get an edge up on the competition. If you want to play all the best games, you need to have all the consoles (Nintendo included) because of the exclusives.

I’ve been lucky enough to acquire and spend the last six months with both the Xbox Series X and Sony PlayStation 5. It’s not an easy comparison with a clear winner so I’ve pitted the two against in each other in seven different categories. Read on to see who comes out on top.

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Grom Adventures Volume 1

A few months ago I bought a mini motorcycle, Honda Grom 125.
Recently, I acquired a GoPro camera.
This is my first adventure that I’m sharing with you all.

The Top 100 Songs: 1990s

When you think about the best decade of music, you might immediately think the 60s or 70s. Some may argue it was the 80s or 90s. I was pretty sure the best decade of music was the 2000s, but now I’m convinced it was the 1990s.

This started as a top 10 list of 90s music, which was really hard because of all the different sounds during this era. Expanding the list to a top 100 was poised to be my most ambitious list yet. Turns out, my love for music and making lists made this a simple task. In the end, I decided to rank them using an online ranking generator allowing me to compare songs 2 by 2. I input my list of 110 songs into the ranking generator and did over 400 comparisons. The end results were very surprising.

The rules for this list, made up be me:
– No repeats for main attributed artist (e.g. Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson – Scream counts as an entry for both of them)
– No covers, original recordings only (e.g. Whitney Houston – I’m Every Woman originally recorded by Chaka Khan in 1978, not eligible)
– Must have been released as a single or on an album after December 31, 1989 and before January 1, 2000
– No complications, best of, or greatest hits releases apply

For your and my listening pleasure, I’ve created this list as both an Apple Music and Spotify playlist (see below)

 


The top 100 list is below in order based on my opinion, and because I’m me, there are 10 honorable mentions afterwards!

Did your favorite 90s song make the list?

Artist

Title

Year

Rank

Lauryn Hill

Doo Wop (That Thing)

1998

1

Bone Thugs -n- Harmony

Tha Crossroads

1995

2

Usher

You Make Me Wanna...

1997

3

Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson

Scream

1995

4

Whitney Houston

I Have Nothing

1992

5

2Pac


Changes

1998

6

Luniz

I Got 5 On It

1995

7

Boyz II Men

End of the Road

1991


8

Big Pun

Still Not a Playa (feat. Joe)

1998

9

Sublime

What I Got

1996

10

Mariah Carey

Fantasy

1997

11

Hanson

MMMBop

1997

12

TLC

Waterfalls

1994

13

Aaliyah

Are You That Somebody? *

1998

14

Alanis Morisette

You Oughta Know

1998

15

Hootie & The Blowfish

Hold My Hand

1994

16

Warren G & Nate Dogg

Regulate

1994

17

Dr. Dre

The Next Episode (feat. Snopp Dogg)

1999

18

Snopp Dogg

Who Am I (What's My Name)?

1993

19

Kci & JoJo

All My Life

1997

20

Blackstreet

No Diggity (feat. Dr. Dre & Queen Pen)

1996

21

No Doubt

Spiderwebs

1995

22

Alice in Chains

Rooster

1992

23

T.Q.

Westside

1998

24

Ice Cube

It Was a Good Day

1992

25

Outkast

Rosa Parks

1998

26

Blues Traveler

Run-Around

1994

27

The Notorious B.I.G.

Mo Money and Mo Problems (feat. Mase & Puff Daddy)

1997

28

Matchbox 20

3 am

1996

29

Ginuwine

Pony

1996

30

311

Down

1995

31

Ma$e

Feels So Good

1997

32

Rage Against the Machine

Bulls On Parade

1996

33

Do or Die

Po Pimp

1996

34

Soundgarden

Black Hole Sun

1994

35

Destiny's Child

Bug a Boo

1999

36

*NSYNC

Tearin' Up My Heart

1997

37

Jay-Z

Big Pimpin' (feat. UGK)

1999

38

Salt-N-Pepa

Shoop

1993

39

The Presidents of the United States of America

Peaches

1995

40

Beastie Boys

Intergalactic

1998

41

Eminem

My Name Is

1999

42

Green Day

Basket Case

1994

43

Ini Kamoze

Here Comes The Hotstepper

1994

44

Barenaked Ladies

One Week

1998

45

Juvenile

Ha

1998

46

Bush

Comedown

1994

47

Everlast

What It's Like

1994

48

Puff Daddy

I'll Be Missing You (feat. Faith Evans & 112)

1997

49

The Smashing Pumpkins

1979

1995

50

Third Eye Blind

Jumper

1997

51

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Under the Bridge

1991

52

The Cranberries

Zombie

1994

53

Spice Girls

Wannabe

1996

54

The Goo Goo Dolls

Iris

1998

55

Next

Too Close

1997

56

Keith Sweat

Nobody (feat. Athena Cage)

1996

57

Montell Jordan

This Is How We Do It

1995

58

DMX

Party Up (Up In Here)

1999

59

Metallica

Enter Sandman

1991

60

Backstreet Boys

I Want It That Way

1999

61

Wu-Tang Clan

C.R.E.A.M.

1993

62

Sugar Ray

Fly (feat. Super Cat)

1997

63

Lenny Kravitz

Fly Away

1998

64

Master P

Make 'Em Say Ugh

1997

65

Aerosmith

Crazy

1993

66

Mark Morrison

Return of the Mack

1996

67

Brandy

Sittin' Up In My Room

1995

68

The Chemical Brothers

Block Rockin' Beats

1997

69

"Weird Al" Yankovic

Amish Paradise

1996

70

Color Me Badd

I Wann Sex You Up

1991

71

Radiohead

Creep

1996

72

Kid Rock

Cowboy

1998

73

Will Smith

Gettin' Jiggy Wit It

1997

74

Ol' Dirty Bastard

Got Your Money (feat. Kelis)

1999

75

En Vogue

Free Your Mind

1992

76

Marcy Playground

Sex & Candy

1997

77

Naughty By Nature

O.P.P

1991

78

Crazy Town

Buttefly

1999

79

Jamiroquai

Virtual Insanity

1996

80

The (Dixie) Chicks

Wide Open Spaces

1998

81

Robyn

Show Me Love

1995

82

Ace of Base

The Sign

1993

83

Oasis

Wonderwall

1995

84

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

The Impression That I Get

1997

85

The Tony Rich Project

Nobody Knows

1995

86

SWV

Weak

1992

87

Sisqo

Thong Song

1999

88

702

Where My Girls At?

1999

89

Beck

Loser

1993

90

LeAnn Rimes

How Do I Live

1997

91

Mary J. Blige

Real Love

1992

92

The Prodigy

Firestarter

1996

93

Kris Kross

Jump

1992

94

Crystal Waters

100% Pure Love

1994

95

Babyface

Every Time I Close My Eyes

1996

96

Nine Inch Nails

Closer

1994

97

Snow

Informer

1994

98

Garbage

Only Happy When It Rains

1995

99

New Edition

Hit Me Off

1996

100

Honorable Mentions:
101. Shaggy – Bombastic (1995)
102. Meredith Brooks – Bitch (1997)
103. Jewel – Who Will Save Your Soul (1995)
104. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991)
105. LFO – Girl On TV (1999)
106. Lil’ Troy – Wanna Be a Baller (1999)
107. Vitamin C – Smile (1999)
108. The Offspring – Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) (1998)
109. 98º – The Hardest Thing (1998)
110. New Kids On the Block – Step By Step (1990)

*Aaliyah – Are You That Somebody? is not available on any digital platforms.

In Memoriam: Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Tupac Shakur, Big Pun, Bradley Nowell, Lisa Left-Eye Lopes, Aaliyah, Nate Dogg, Layne Staley, Christopher Wallace, Chris Cornell, Adam Yauch, Dolores O’Riordan, Earl Simmons, Russel Jones, Keith Flint, Chris Kelly, and Kurt Cobain.

Credits: Wikipedia, Apple Music, Pub Meeple

Usher Top 10

Usher Raymond might be the best R&B singer/performer of my generation. Most of his classic music was released during my formative years so I have a lot of memories tied to his music. Specifically Confessions, an album I listened to on repeat during my senior year of high school. I’ve compiled my top 10 list of Usher songs, in order of my favorites.

  1. Burn [Confessions]
  2. You Make Me Wanna… [My Way]
  3. Confessions, Pt. II [Confessions]
  4. Nice & Slow [My Way]
  5. U Got It Bad [Confessions]
  6. My Boo (with Alicia Keys) [Confessions]
  7. U Remind Me [8701]
  8. Love In This Club (feat. Young Jeezy) [Here I Stand]
  9. Yeah! (feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris) [Confessions]
  10. No Limit (feat. Young Thug) [Hard II Love]

Honorable Mention – Caught Up [Confessions]

New T-Shirts For Sale

Graphic design is a hobby of mine and so is collecting t-shirts. One of my favorite places to get t-shirts from is a local Pittsburgh company Cotton Bureau. They print and ship custom t-shirt designs from independent artists on high-grade fabrics. A couple years ago I designed a shirt for my fictional cigar lounge, Beard Cigar Lounge, and have since printed about a dozen versions of that shirt through Cotton Bureau. Recently, I decided to make more shirts…

Today I’m debuting two new designs, each in two different design options.

The first is a simple 4-1-2 (Pittsburgh’s primary area code) design representing my hometown. This design is available in both black and white font to better match the shirt color. Order here

The second is a joke my friend and I have about “bros” observing “sun’s out guns out” in the summer. My take on this is the more grammatically correct version “Sun is out, guns are out”. This is both available in light and dark skin tones. Order here

The two new designs are available in a lot of different colors as well as styles, including tank tops and infant onesies!

Check out my Cotton Bureau store page here

The Year

Written by my 13 year-old self during the summer of ’99

The day that I moved I was fussing with my CD player so the wire was not attached to the device so I took the only tape I had at the moment and took it off the back of the box behind me. Then after a while it was up and running and of course I was listening to it. That summer I stayed with my dad because Mom made me, I was too bad. But then they found a house out in the country so I decided to go with them. I debated over the switching school thing but I decided I needed to go with them. Well anyways, I was staying with my Aunt Ginny every day except the weekends when Dad and Donna were home. Then once the first day of school I was nervous not about the new school, it was not knowing anybody. So my dad went out with me to the bus stop for the first time then so as I saw Steve, my best friend now, I knew I had seen him before. Then Rob introduced everyone, he was real friendly and then the bus came. The first day was going good I only got lost twice until seventh period when I had no idea where the science room was and when I was walking in the right direction, I saw Steve lost and looking for the same class. So I said, “Are you lost?” He said, “Yeah.” So I told him to go this way and then we found it. Next couple weeks we were best friends and we had three classes together. So then by Christmas we were best friends or my best friend he had others.

Then one hot day in February we decided to go to our friend Tom and Pete’s house so we decided to go down the hill (wrong move Ben). Half way down I started to shake because of my loose back tire and we were going about 60mph. Then I suddenly hit the ground and while I was out I was having flashbacks of the same thing over and over again. Then I woke up bloody and hurting and then Mr. Olsen came out because Steve had told Keith to get him and he drove me up then Ruth and Donna drove me to the ER where they said I had shattered my elbow almost the worst possible way. Then I had surgery and got six screws, one plate, four pins, and a wire in my arm holding it together (I hope you’re not eating Ben, like don’t read this when you’re eating). Well then I was all stapled up and then I was home for two weeks. Went back to school and was allowed to do things. Then I was fine for a while. I went to Cedar Point. Then just recently, I went to Raystown Lake and had the best time of my life. We rented a boat that had a water ski and tubing back on it. Then Mike said, who wants to go first and I said I would (Ben would, he wants to screw up his elbow just before his final surgery). So I did and I sucked then everyone else tried it and Dave went the best and then when we went to go bring the boat back I wanted to go again and I fell off after one minute, but then got back on for approximately 10 minutes, the longest in the history of the Beard’s (Ben goes from zero to her in only the short Tim elf recently turned 13 years of his life, yeah right…). Then we rented a jet ski which Dave drove and I went and it was awesome! Then the next day me, John, Mom, and Jordy went to Sandcastle for a day and we rode everything, I even rode the Go-Karts. Now I’m at Grams typing this with staples in my arm from my final surgery, cool huh? (Yeah Ben, really cool, I bet everyone wants staples in their arm just like you)

Now to explain my story as you’ve seen these “( )”, those are from my inner self and what he thinks of things (Yeah that’s me Ben, why don’t you just suck it and shut up you fuckin’ Dick head, thanks). Well in the next story coming out this fall you’ll see and read about what went on with me and everyone else at school.

The End

By Ben Beard 7/18/99 9:42pm

Bye

Notes from the publisher:
I have transcribed this diatribe (almost) word for word only fixing some typographical errors such as “ur”, “w/“, “ull”, and “every1”.

I’d like to think that my writing and overall story telling have come a long way in the last 20-some years.

Product Review: Longvadon Watch Band

The holidays are over now, sadly, but you may be enjoying some nice holiday gifts. One of the most popular gifts this year is the critically acclaimed Apple Watch. Most new Apple Watches come with one band included, but one of the great features of the watch is that you can swap bands easier than you change your undergarments. That allows you to customize your look and find something that suits you. Apple sells a small variety of bands, but those are very expensive and leaves a lot to be desired.

If you’re like me and want a lot of variety in your choices of wrist wear, you collect different bands. I’ve tried a bunch of different ones and I have one to suggest to you today.

“Longvadon was founded by two French brothers with a passion for watches and style. It all started when one of the brothers, Robin, was sitting in a cab with a friend who’d just bought the Apple Watch and was complaining about how he just couldn’t find a really good looking, classy, quality strap for his watch after looking everywhere online. It was all either cheap knockoffs or the few extremely expensive options offered by Apple and its partners.”

The Longvadon Story

This is my second Longvadon strap, my first was featured in my Apple Watch review. I’m currently using the Men’s Classic Navy Blue Leather band as my daily driver. My favorite feature is the clasp. On the outside it looks like a traditional watch band buckle that sometimes can be tricky to put on and take off. Underneath the buckle is a butterfly style clasp that you may find on all-metal watch bands. With the press of a button you can easily slide this off your wrist when you need to charge and then put it back on with low effort.

Having tried other leather watch bands, I find the finish on the Longvadon band very comfortable and durable. With the clasp design you don’t have the normal wear and tear on the buckle that comes with a traditional style. The lugs, or where the watch band attaches to the watch, sometimes don’t fit right or slide around, unlike the Apple branded straps. The Longvadon band clicks in and stays put like it should. You can tell attention was paid to the details and fit on this band.

Longvadon is an easy company to order from. They use a secure payment processing system that even allows you to pay via PayPal, Apple Pay, or Amazon Pay. I prefer to use Apple Pay on the web where I can to ensure my transaction and information is secure.

If you’re looking for a band that both be a comfortable everyday band, but also class up your look when you want, give the Longvadon collections a look.

If you’re interested in getting your own Longvadon Apple Watch band, use this link to make your purchase.

The Best of 2020: iOS Apps

“There’s an app for that!”

Continuing my list of the best things from 2020, mostly what helped us get through the pandemic, the most obvious thing you use a lot is your phone. There are a lot of great apps I use everyday but the three I’m about to list are essential apps for entertaining me, staying connected, and getting me what I need. What are some of your favorite apps of the past year?

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