Review: UGREEN Digital AV Adapter

Want to wirelessly share something to a bigger screen but don’t have an AirPlay nor Chromecast compatible device? The UGREEN Digital AV Adapter is your device-agnostic solution.

Overall: it’s quite a nifty accessory to have if you don’t have a new TV nor don’t want to be tethered to one wireless standard.

While new and upcoming TVs have been adding native support for either Apple AirPlay or Google Chromecast, what about those who don’t have a new TV? How else can you wirelessly mirror your mobile device or laptop’s display? That’s where UGREEN tackles this problem with their Digital AV Adapter (a.k.a Wireless Display Dongle).

Does that mean I decided to put it through its paces

Easy setup out of the box

The dongle/adapter is quite small that it fits into the palm of your hand. It’s also quite portable and you can easily hide it away from view to declutter your work area.

Packaging comes with the essentials: the actual dongle w/ HDMI output cable (0.5m), micro USB power cable (1m), and the brief manual. Initial setup requires you to connect to the dongle via Wi-Fi to configure it (it even shows you the instructions on TV when connecting it via HDMI). The process is meant to have it connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network (also lets you upgrade its firmware).

As with any product, you would definitely want to know the specs of this accessory.

Wireless frequency2.4 GHz / 5GHz
Wireless protocols802.11a/b/g/n/ac
CPUARM Cortex-A7 dual core 1.2 GHz
Resolution4K @ 30Hz
FullHD (1920x1080) @ 60Hz
HD (1280x720px) @ 60Hz
Video format support.mp4, .avi, .wmv, .mkv, .mov, .rm and .rmvb
Operating current300-400mA
Weight300g

However, the instructions could use better wording to explain the steps (English may not be the strongest point for a Chinese company, but things can be lost in translation). Any average person who’s familiar with doing software/hardware setups should easily be up and running.

Setup instructions shown when connecting the dongle

Both AirPlay and Chromecast

Most TVs in the market integrate either AirPlay or Chromecast exclusively, which means you’d need either an Apple or Android-powered device to use it.

What about someone who visits your home and wants to mirror something but uses a standard that’s not compatible (e.g. you use iOS for AirPlay but the guest has an Android device that works using Chromecast)? The UGREEN Digital AV Adapter helps to solve that issue.

Note that it does require using one of your HDMI ports, so that’s a minor trade-off if you don’t have plenty of HDMI ports on your TV. Also, it needs power via the micro USB port; accompanying long cable should help you connect it either using a USB power adapter, or even to your console (which would require you to keep it powered).

Putting the UGREEN Digital AV Adapter in action

Since I had linked the UGREEN Digital AV Adapter to my home Wi-Fi network, it immediately showed up across my devices. I decided to put it to use on the following: iPad Pro (2020), iPhone 11 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, and 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Connecting either my iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 FE devices proved to be easy. The UGREEN dongle showed up within seconds and then a tap to select it. Within few seconds, my smartphone display was mirrored onto the TV.

Watching videos from streaming apps and even playing music worked without issues. When it comes to gaming, it can be a mixed bag cause it depends on the amount of visual fidelity of the game itself.

  • Playing Need For Speed: No Limits worked like a charm but there was random lag/frame skips on the TV (not on the smartphone itself).
  • Playing Angry Birds had no issues.
  • Music playback via Spotify was clear with no interruptions.
  • YouTube playback was smooth

Best part is that your mobile device’s orientation easily mirrors itself on the TV, so it’s best you use your smartphone/tablet in landscape mode to fill up the entire TV display area.

If you have any MacBook, it connects in the same way just like the iPhone/iPad. You can choose to mirror or have your TV serve as an extended display.

Verdict

After putting it through its paces (playing videos, games, and even mirroring the display), a dongle like this definitely helps to eliminate cable clutter regardless of your setup. Whether it’s at a business meeting or even at home, you can rest assured that

Pros

Small and portable

Easy to plugin and setup

Works with multitude of devices using either AirPlay or Chromecast

Easily switch between wireless bands with a simple button press based on your device

Cons

Instructions could use better wording in English, especially for first-time users

Display unit needs to have extra HDMI port

Verdict: Recommended

The UGREEN Digital AV Adapter is officially available at Store974 (Qatar) and Sharaf DG (UAE).

Namaste India! Apple is launching the online store on September 23

Before their official retail debut, Apple is bringing the online store to India in September 2020.

I remember this moment back in 2011: I got the email from Apple announcing the launch of the Apple Online Store in the UAE. Then in April 2017, Apple announced the opening of their Dubai Mall store.

Email sent by apple back in Sep 19, 2011 announcing the online store in the UAE

Fast-forward to the present, Apple will launch the Apple Store online in India on September 23.

This is good news for the Indian diaspora (like me!) in the Middle East, especially if they have bank cards/accounts back in India. Order products to your home address and then hop on a short flight home when visiting family to collect them.

Same Apple, but with some Desi flavour

For the first time, the online store will be offering Apple’s full range of products and support directly to customers across the country. You’ll get to enjoy the premium experience found in Apple store locations around the world:

  • Online Specialists available to help with anything from custom-configuring any Mac to setting up new devices.
  • Customers can get advice, receive guidance, and learn about new products both in English and Hindi.
  • Presence of financing options and an available trade-in program.
  • Students can shop for a Mac or iPad with special pricing, and receive discounts on accessories and AppleCare+.

Starting in October, customers in India can also avail free online Today at Apple sessions led by local Creative Pros, focused on photography and music.

Just in time for the festive season, signature gift wrap and personalized engraving will be available for select products:

  • Engraving of emoji/text in English, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu will be available for AirPods.
  • English engraving will be available for iPad and Apple Pencil.

Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, all orders from the Apple Store in India online will ship with contactless delivery. Orders that do not require a signature will be left at the customer’s door. Those that do will need only a verbal confirmation from a safe distance instead of a written signature (I experienced this when I had my MacBook Pro delivered to me after its repair by UPS).

Since his first official visit to India back in 2016 (where he also got to see the IPL and hang out with Bollywood stars), Tim Cook is also eager for the launch.

Apple has been slowly moving production and other parts of their supply chain into India to offset the ongoing trade war between USA and China. Their third-party suppliers have been ramping up production work for Apple products in India and aiming to export them worldwide.

India has put strict requirements for them should they wish to avail some of the incentives, given that the country is a very price-sensitive market. This also helps them gain a foothold in the country, before they open their official retail stores sometime in 2021.

Getting my Apple MacBook Pro repaired during COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has hampered everything, including repairs to electronic items. I had to give my MacBook Pro, and I was impressed with the pace they completed it.

So I thought about sharing a recent experience during this COVID-19 pandemic, regarding repairs to Apple products. In a nutshell: I got my MacBook Pro repaired during the pandemic and I was impressed. How did it come to that?

Repaired MacBook Pro (notice the transparency strip on the Touch Bar) shipped via UPS

How it all started?

Back in December 2019, I flew to Bengaluru for a family wedding and took my MacBook Pro (mid-2018) with me. It wasn’t until I got to the hotel that I felt something was wrong with it. I kept it on the desk and it didn’t look like it rested flush to the surface.

Turns out the battery warped inside the MacBook Pro, causing a bump that I could feel below the trackpad area. This never happened to me before, cause I’ve travelled with with plenty of times. You want to know the surprising part? The machine still worked as if nothing happened.

Given this issue, I thought of taking it to the nearest Apple Premium Reseller to see how long it would take to fix it. Turns out I’d need to stay in India even longer. That’s when I decided that I’d rather take it to an actual Apple Store once I’m back in the US.

It wasn’t until late January 2020 when I went to the 5th Avenue branch in New York City with my appointment. The specialist clearly noticed something was wrong. Good thing about them is that they were checking with their staff on the estimated turn-around times for this. I’d have to wait at least a week and I didn’t have the luxury of time.

I decided to wait for a few more months until I could give it. The WHO hadn’t yet declared the Coronavirus as a global pandemic. I was still able to use it, but that bump was becoming annoying and uncomfortable when I type on it.

Then the surprising thing happened – the clamp locks for the base, which keep it closed align with the screws, slightly snapped off. The side vents were now open that I could easily see the swollen battery from either side. Still, the MacBook Pro worked but the battery life had already taken a toll on it when the swelling began

Fast forward to present

August arrived and I decided to finally take it to the Apple Store (after scheduling an appointment). Given that Apple has been closely monitoring the pandemic, closing off their stores based on the situation or opening with strict guidelines in place, I knew that there would be some wait but I was ready for it.

After taking it to the nearest Apple Store, they said it would have to be shipped via land (due to the battery issues) to their repair facility. It would take 10 days amd that’s an estimate. I assumed it would be 10 working days, totalling up to 2 weeks.

They even gave me the option of whether I come and collect it from the store it self, or they’ll mail it direct to me. I chose the latter, just to minimize my movements from home. Good thing I got AppleCare with it, cause this was all covered in it. Otherwise, I’d be paying ~$800 for this.

Waiting for it

I was kept up-to-date on its repair status electroncially with email updates, since I had my Apple ID linked. One thing to note is that my appointment was on a weekend. In addition, they said that the machine would be sent on Monday via road due to battery safety issues. Technically, it took 8 days if I count it from Monday.

How the repaired MacBook Pro arrived via UPS

Then, I got the email update on Friday saying that they received my machine. Hours later, another email saying that repairs were done and it’s being shipped. Wow! That’s quick on the repair side.

Since it was being mailed back, I got a UPS tracking number to track it. Turns out the machine went to their repair facility in Houston, TX.

Now I was just counting the days until I could receive it. UPS dropped it off at my place here and then proceeded to unbox it to start using it. The machine looked brand new, since they replaced both the top and bottom chassis. Did I mention that there’s a fresh new battery inside it as well?

Unboxing the delivered MacBook Pro

What did I learn?

Even during these difficult times, Apple still maintained their daily operations pacing. For something like the issue on my MacBook Pro to likely minor stuff, the brand has really tried to keep its promise.

I’m sure the Apple Stores in the UAE have a similar process in place when it comes to taking repairs, especially since they had closed their stores completely and have only jsut reopened with limited services. They’d definitely have their repair operations somewhere in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

It also got me thinking why can’t Apple also audit their Authorized Premium Resellers to have a similar process in place for repairs. It also helps make the case that Apple should be opening up more stores in the Middle East (kept to main metro areas). Easier said than done, but there also has to be a commercial reasoning to bolster the act.

The one problem I’ve seen with the Middle East branch of the Apple Premium Resellers is that they have to order the parts once they diagnose the issues. This is from my personal experience with one of my older laptops. It’

Summer surprise for MacBook Air & 13-inch MacBook Pro

Summer is a quiet period, and Apple used the opportunity to refresh the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro family before the back-to-school rush.

Apple gave the MacBook Air a near-complete revamp in October 2018; it came with significant changes that included more RAM/SSD storage options and a retina display. As for the MacBook Pro, they kept base model with the Escape/Function keys, which picked up the nickname “MacBook Pro Escape”.

With a surprise during the summer holidays before Back to School season, Apple has updated both the MacBook Air family and the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

True Tone on the Air

True Tone has been added to the Retina display for a more natural viewing experience, bringing it on par with the Pro. It automatically adjusts the color temperature of the display for a more comfortable viewing experience. You also have the benefit of a lower starting price.

All other features have remained unchanged:

With this new update, the non-Retina MacBook Air ceases to exist. When it comes to built-to-order storage, the option now maxes out to 1TB (previously, you could add up to 1.5TB).

RIP: Escape button on the Pro

The non-Touch Bar 13-inch model has been the entry-level MacBook Pro model for a few years. It still packed powerful processors, super-fast SSDs, two (2) Thunderbolt 3 ports, and more packed into a portable 3-pound design since its 2017 refresh.

The new entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro packs even more power for the same starting price as before, along with some hardware changes. The Touch Bar now replaces the Escape/Function key rows, adding Touch ID and the Apple T2 Security Chip to the entry-level model. True Tone is also added to the Retina display. Thunderbolt 3 is a standard across the MacBook family, and the base model still comes with the standard 2 ports.

This means that the Touch Bar is now a standard feature across the entire Pro family. Most of the other specifications including the storage and RAM options (max up to 16GB LPDDR3) for the entry model remain unchanged. The entry-level model starts off with the following specs:

Other stuff you may not know

The newly updated MacBook Air and 13-inch entry-level MacBook Pro models will be able to use the upcoming macOS Catalina releasing this fall. For those doing build-to-order configurations, Apple has also dropped the pricing for the storage upgrades.

Both models are available today through Apple.com, the Apple Store app and in select Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Resellers later this week. With “Back to School” season just a month away, it’s the perfect time to consider one of these laptops for your productive work.

Huawei MateBook X Pro: high-end sleek upgrades

How do you improve on the high-end of Huawei laptops? Take some of the design features of its younger sibling and upgrade the components, you have the new Huawei MateBook X Pro (2019)

The updated Huawei X Pro is looking to maintain its high-end performance lead, combining some of the improvements from the recently unveiled Huawei 13 and upgrading its performance-focused components.

They don’t disappoint at all, by offering specs that exceed the standardized price-to-performance package for its segment. Powered by the latest version of Windows 10 Home, you’re looking at a sleek and nimble high-end machine with looks to match.

Improvements, performance, and more

The display measures 13.9 inches with touchscreen capabilities, and a 91% screen-to-body ratio with a 3000 x 2000 px resolution.

The Huawei X Pro is equipped with the NVIDIA® GeForce® MX250 and the Intel UHD 620 integrated GPU; this makes it switchable depending on the workload. Keeping the machine cool given the GPU necessitates an intelligent cooling system; it has the same Shark Fin Fan design that debuted on the 13 to funnel out the hot air.

 Core i5Core i7
ColoursSpace Grey / Mystic SilverSpace Grey / Mystic Silver
ProcessorIntel Core i5-8265U (Whiskey Lake)Intel Core i7-8265U (Whiskey Lake)
RAM8GB LPDDR3 @ 2133 MHz16GB LPDDR3 @ 2133 MHz
Storage512 GB1 TB
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce MX250 with 2 GB GDDR5 + Intel UHD Graphics 620NVIDIA GeForce MX250 with 2 GB GDDR5 + Intel UHD Graphics 620

The most significant addition to the new X Pro is a Thunderbolt 3 port (as a USB Type-C port), allowing you to use an array of high-bandwidth peripherals. For those looking to use external GPUs, your calls have been heard.

Audio systems get a bigger boost with a Dolby Atmos Sound System packed into the slim chassis. In the same space, you have a massive 57.4 Wh battery optimized with Windows 10 to provide long battery life.

Huawei MateBook X Pro (2019)

The portable, multi-purpose HUAWEI USB Type-C Power Adapter supports multiple quick charging standards. Have you got more than one Huawei device? This is extremely useful for you.

This laptop is aimed at pro-level content creators and those who require powerful performance for media-intensive work. Expect the Huawei X Pro to be released in the Middle East sometime after April 2019.

Image credit: Huawei Newsroom

Huawei MateBook 13: ultra thin and powerful

If you’ve been looking for the Windows 10 equivalent of the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air, Huawei has something for you that was just unveiled at CES 2019.

Apple may have set the benchmark for the ultra-thin laptop with the MacBook Air, but their specs don’t always bring a big smile when compared to the price (emphasis on Apple’s recent refresh that updated the specs to newer processors and adding a Retina display). Want higher specs? You’d have to move up to the MacBook Pro family.

When it comes to ultra-thin laptops, it’s always a compromise between high-performance (which hampers battery life hence more heat) or power-efficient (lower spec components that give you longer battery life). It’s hard to get something in-between while keeping the same display dimensions and chassis. Taking up the challenge, Huawei unveiled the new MateBook 13 just a day before the start of CES 2019.

Under the ultra-thin chassis

You would think that the hardware specifications for the MateBook 13 would be inferior but you’ll walk away surprised and eager to get one of these. For a quick breakdown of the different specifications, here’s a brief table outlining them.

 Base ModelPerformance Model
ProcessorIntel Core i5-8265U (Whiskey Lake)Intel Core i7-8565U (Whiskey Lake)
RAM8GB LPDDR3 @ 2133 MHz8GB LPDDR3 @ 2133 MHz
Storage256 GB512 GB
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620NVIDIA GeForce MX 150 with 2GB VRAM

When comparing the specifications of the MateBook 13 to the MateBook X Pro, it takes a few steps forward and few steps back; yet it’s still a compelling product for its form factor that gives a better price-to-performance ratio compared to the MacBook Air.

The MateBook 13 sits between the lower-end MateBook D and the higher-end MateBook X Pro, and still packs plenty of features that justify its existence.

Huawei MateBook 13 at CES 2019

The display is also a touchscreen with a 2160×1440 resolution with 200 ppi (3:2 aspect ratio), and the entire keyboard is spill-resistant. Apple may have pushed for the fingerprint reader to double-up as a power switch, and the same concept is also present here with the MateBook 13 that’s been carried over from the MateBook X Pro. Both the base and performance model weigh ~ 1.3kg

The laptop comes with 2 USB-C ports, with one supporting faster data and charging and the other one supporting data and DisplayPort support. Rather than spending extra for a dock, Huawei has courteously bundled a small dock with a few ports to ensure compatibility. There’s also the standard 3.5mm headphone jack so you won’t have to worry about getting a dongle adapter at all.

Huawei is releasing the MateBook 13 first in the US on January 29 and then bringing it to other markets worldwide.

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