All posts by Chris

OnePlus 5 – Short Review

Released on the 20th of June this year, OnePlus released their next flagship phone the OnePlus 5. I ordered and received this phone shortly after it’s release and after four months of use thought this was a good time to write a review.

This is a short review, touching on some key points and facts that you can read in a minute or two – if you want a full review hit Google.

Hardware wise the OnePlus 5 comes in a single form factor – there are no “Plus” or “XL” models. There are three colour options; Black, Gray and Gold.

  • The rear body is metal meaning no wireless charging.
  • The front has two capacitive buttons and a home button/fingerprint reader that is static like the iPhone 7.
  • The phone features a dual camera setup at the back allowing for good zoom and potrait mode photos.
  • The phone is charged using a USB-C charger, fast charging is provided using the OnePlus “Dash” charger.
  • It’s a dual SIM phone, you can load two SIM cards and calls/texts sent to both come through and you can decide which SIM to call/text from at the time of use. Only one SIM can be selected for mobile data.
  • The processor is a Snapdragon 835 and GPU is the Adreno 540 (Used in the flagships Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Google Pixel 2).
  • Screen is a 5.5″ 1080p AMOLED display – great for battery life, viewing angles and deep blacks.

There are two variants of the phone you can select, these are;

  • 6GB RAM and 64GB Storage
  • 8GB RAM and 128GB Storage

I opted for the top spec model with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage costing me £499 at release making this hardware wise a higher spec phone than the current flagships Galaxy S8 and Pixel 2 – however my personal opinion is that 6GB of RAM is plenty therefore only opt for the 8GB/128GB model if you need the additional storage or are limited on options of preowned handsets.

These phones run a variant of Android titled OxygenOS which has a near stock experience with some welcome additions. Some examples of these are the ability to have on or off screen buttons, swap the “Back” and “Recent Apps” button, my favourite is customising what long holding on a button does (My screen locks when I hold the home button).

The downsides with these phones are their life cycle, less than six months after release it looks like OnePlus has stopped manufacturing and is focusing on their next phone. Also the OnePlus 5 has no water/dust resistance like the competition.

My personal opinion, this phone feels premium and provides a fast and smooth Android experience with lots of flexibility. Getting your hands on one may become difficult but I highly recommend this phone and have no intention on moving onto any other premium offerings this year.

Using a Humax HDR-FOX T2 in 2017

Search online for a review of this box and you’ll find plenty of results from 2010/2011, those were a few years back now and technology moves fast.

I made a decision to ditch our 2TB Sky Q box in favour of this, why? Well despite it’s age, it’s an amazing box today and I firmly believe the comments online that there are no better offerings.

What is the Humax HDR-FOX T2?

It is a Digital TV PVR, specifically Freeview in the UK. It was released in 2010 at £300 for the 500GB model and £350 for a 1TB model. At this time in the UK the top offering from Sky was their Sky+ HD box with a 1TB drive and as a subscriber at the time, customers had to pay an additional £10 per month for the pleasure of viewing HD channels.

Freeview at the time started broadcasting a small number of channels in HD and as the HDR-FOX T2 was a top of the range product at the time, it was able to receive these channels.

More on the Humax HDR-FOX T2?

It’s gloss black in colour and at the front displays the time when on standby and the current channel title during viewing. A large power button sits in the middle with an illuminated outer that represents the status of the box (On/Off/Recording). At the top-right there are some static touch sensitive buttons for adjusting the audio volume and channel. At the bottom right there is a USB input for media playback, standard on almost all TV’s today in 2017 but it certainly wasn’t at the time.

On the back we have the antenna input and also an output which would allow as a feed to a second box or direct into the TV tuner – this could be used to watch a third channel if the box was recording two. There is an optical output and also an HDMI output – the max resolution through HDMI is 1080p which is consistent with Sky+ HD and Virgin Media’s TiVo. We have an Ethernet port which allows for internet connectivity (More on why later) followed by Scart and Composite outputs for those who aren’t using a TV with HDMI – many were not in 2010. There is also a fan for exhausting heat generated by the hard drive during recording and a physical power switch.

For those interested the dimensions of the unit are 25.2 x 38 x 5.5 cm.

The TV Portal

I mentioned above that the TV has an ethernet port, when connected to the internet you can use the TV Portal. As we have a Smart TV I’ve not used this at all but confirm that it contains apps such as BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Flickr and Internet Radio. At the time, a Sky Player app was available to access exclusive Sky content you couldn’t receive through Freeview.

Performance and EPG

As I mentioned we’ve come from Sky Q and we find the performance of the box very snappy with little hesitation and lag – it’s way ahead of the Virgin Media TiVo box which we’ve used before and found to be very laggy.

Looking at the EPG it’s very clear and easy to understand, whilst browsing the EPG a small window displays the current channel broadcast at the top-left. Compared to Sky Q it’s starting to look a little bit dated, but is very functional and provides you with all the information you need readily available.

Recording

As this is a PVR (And HDR) you are able to record programmes onto the internal 500GB or 1TB hard drive. These aren’t large in capacity today but it uses a standard 3.5″ SATA hard drive which you can pick up a 1TB on Amazon UK for less than £40 or 2TB for less than £55. The box is very easy to open and the drive is easily exchanged by a non-technical user.

The box supports series link and we’ve found zero problems with it – recordings are grouped into their own folders for easy organisation and a small pie chart displays at the top-right giving a visual representation of the storage capacity remaining/used.

Connect an external hard drive to one of the USB ports and you have the option to transfer recordings to and from the external drive. On the standard firmware, these are only playable on your box but as we explore the custom firmware later, there are many more possibilities here.

Recording playback performance is outstanding and using the Next/Previous buttons on the remote control, commercials are easily skipped by pressing two buttons. You can customise the duration, next skipping 30 seconds and previous going back 10 seconds for example.

Cost

I’m not done yet, the best is yet to come but consider the base functionality and performance of this box you can pick them up used from £25 on. The more you pay the better condition unit you’ll receive – I paid £65 for mines delivered and it’s in great condition. I’d recommend budgeting £50 – £60 for one.

Custom Firmware

This, is the reason the box remains very popular today. There are some clever people at Hummy.tv who have developed a custom firmware for the box that allows some unique features you’ll not find on any other box today.

First two points are that the firmware is very easy to install, I’ll provide a link below where you’ll find all the information. Second point is that the interface on the box itself (On the TV) remains unchanged.

Custom firmware allows you to do the following;

  • Schedule recordings via a web interface.
  • Decrypt recordings so they can be played on other devices.
  • Customise the front light behaviour.
  • Customise the front digital display behaviour.
  • Run a DLNA service on the box.
  • Access recordings via Samba share.

There are many more but these are some of the initial benefits and reasons why I use it – sometimes when travelling I’ll be able to easily download recordings from my box to my phone with ease.

Looking for more information on custom firmware? This forum is the place to start.

Aug ’17 Cycling Dist. Challenge – Ride 14

I didn’t make it out for a cycle for three whole days, sometimes you have to prioritise other commitments and waking up each morning to high winds and heavy rain is incredibly demoralizing.

I did plan a cycle for this morning and decided to head into the City Centre – down the other side of the river to Clydebank and home via the Erskine Bridge. There was no rain, little wind and although there was a lot of start/stop there it was a nice ride.

I’ve also had a reality check, month to date I’ve cycled 377 miles which I’m feeling good about however to hit the 776 mile target for the challenge I’d need to cycle at least 39 miles every remaining day this month – that isn’t going to happen.

Despite knowing I won’t hit the target I’ll not stop – I wanted to get back into cycling regularly and I’m happy that this is happening. Instead of seeing the “XXX” miles to go I’ll focus more on the “XXX” miles cycled. I’ll keep the target on the home page to see how far off I was.

As above, I’ve cycled 377 miles so far this month.

View activity on Strava.

Aug ’17 Cycling Dist. Challenge – Ride 13

Unfortunately due to other commitments I didn’t make it out for my ride yesterday but I was able to get out a cycle this afternoon with Sandra from JWCC.

The weather is crazy, weather wise was the worst I’ve faced this month with high winds and heavy rain – at one point we couldn’t really see where we were going when cycling downhill into the wind.

Another run to Kilmacolm with some rural roads in the mix, covered a nice 24 miles leaving me 426 miles to go!

Aug ’17 Cycling Dist. Challenge – Ride 12

After having completed the metric century on Saturday I decided again yesterday to give my legs a rest, today my ride went well with no pains or discomfort so I’m pleased I done this.

I’ve a busy evening and didn’t make it out first thing so it was a short one tonight – I decided to do a Paisley > Crookson > Hillington > Renfrew > Georgetown > Linwood > Paisley loop. It hasn’t been the most pleasant of days with wind and rain all day but I did manage to avoid heavy showers myself.

This afternoon I covered 19 miles leaving me with 451 miles to go.

Aug ’17 Cycling Dist. Challenge – Ride 11

With a pretty positive weather forecast, I decided that in addition to my Distance Challenge today would be the day I complete the August Gran Fondo – to complete at least 100km in a single ride.

My intention was to cycle from home to Kilwinning which has a 5 mile section of hills, meet Steven at Kilwinning and then cycle to Ayr together for a bite to eat then head back to Kilwinning.

Pleased to say this was a success and I covered 105km (65.7 miles) if you wish you can view the ride detail on Strava here.

This distance boosted my monthly progress to 39% leaving me with 470 miles to go.

Aug ’17 Cycling Dist. Challenge – Ride 10

Those following my progress may have noticed I didn’t do my cycle yesterday, unfortunately I had a really busy day at work with some other things going on in the evening so I took the opportunity for a rest day.

Unfortunately I woke up to wind and rain today, I intended on doing a short cycle today as I’ve got a longer route in mind for tomorrow. I went out anyways and took Chris’ road bike again to get some miles in on that… I’ll need to go and clean it shortly!

A short ride to Howwood and back today covering around 17 miles leaving me with 540 miles to go.

Aug ’17 Cycling Dist. Challenge – Ride 9

A change of scenery tonight as I set off to Balloch with Steven – it’s been a while since I went to Balloch and back, a nice cycle. It was a great day for weather today which blessed us with some sunshine.

The photo below was taken from the top of the Erskine Bridge towards Loch Lomond. When we got to Balloch we had a bite to eat and then came back – a little later than normal.

Again I took Chris’ road bike with me to get some more miles on it which was great.

Tonight we covered a health 35 miles which leaves me with around 557 miles to go.

Aug ’17 Cycling Dist. Challenge – Ride 8

Another evening ride tonight – decided to spend some extra time in bed this morning and with a busy afternoon this seemed like a good idea.

It was forecasted to be cloudy with no rain tonight, but after 5 miles heavy rain started and I had to stop to put my waterproof on, it stopped shortly after but I’d sweated so much that when I took it off the breeze against my sweaty top made my cold – I ended up cycling a little faster and achieved three personal records on a route I’ve been cycling frequently for three years… not bad.

Though, this ride was a little different. My mate Chris has given me a loan of his Specialized Secteur Elite road bike which appears to be a great fit but more importantly is giving me the opportunity to try a SRAM drivetrain for the first time… more on that later.

It was another 23 flat miles to Kilmacolm and back leaving me with 592 miles to go.

Aug ’17 Cycling Dist. Challenge – Ride 7

It’s a bank holiday here in Scotland but as I’m employed by an organisation based outwith Scotland I’ll have my bank holiday later in the month – I was able to get out for my cycle this morning however as I’ll be working late tonight.

It’s a nice day here with sunshine and a light wind – I did notice some showers earlier but I avoided them on my ride.

I decided to go to Lochwinnoch and back today, the cycle path is closed again at Johnstone but I noticed a sign on the way back confirming the works will finish today.

So an easy 23 miles this morning leaving me with 615 to go. This is my 7th day of cycling and over the last week I’ve covered 164 miles.