Apple AirPods Max Are Expensive

When Apple announced the AirPods Max, I wanted to get a pair simply because it is over the ear headphones. I had the original AirPods (broke after washing my pants with them inside pocket) and the AirPods Pro. I prefer the original AirPods over the Pro. They seem to fit better for me. The Pros don’t seal well even with the smallest tips. I also hear lots of cracking when I’m on phone calls.

I recently found a pair of AirPods Max that open box for $493.99 off at Best Buy. I’m never shy from open box items so I gave these a pair. I figured, any discount is a deal.

Open box at Best Buy

I picked them up and they were in great condition. I know they are used because when I paired the headphones to my iPhone, the name is Kevin’s AirPods Max. I guess Kevin returned them.

There are already many reviews out there so I will just mention things the stood out to me (good and bad).

USB Type C to Lightning cable

The rechargeable cable that comes with the headphones are USB-C to Lightning. You will need an adapter if you don’t have a Type-C connector. They are trying to push their Macs because all newer models come with Type-C/Thunderbolt connector.

My wife and I both carry “purses” now.

This is the case it comes in. It serves two purposes from what I can tell. It is a “protective” case. It also ensures that the headphones are in a sleep state while in this case so that it consumes less energy while not in use. Many reviewers have found a significant amount of battery charge/life when out of the case and not in use. Carrying it around made me feel like I have a purse/murse.

Removable ear pads

The ear pads are removable and are held by magnets. This is by far the best feature I like on the headphones. I’ve had older headphones that still work but are very worn. It’s either hard to find/replace the ear pads or you can’t replace them. You can buy them from Apple AirPods Max Ear Cushions – Silver – Apple or you can get third party ones from elsewhere.

The verdict? Way too expensive for my taste. These sound just as much as my AirPods Pro, it’s just slightly better because my ears are well inside the pads. I also prefer over the head headphones instead of ear buds. They are also a bit heavy. I wear while working and when I do my walks. I currently have the Anker Soundcore Life 2 and are great. They are also lighter and more affordable. Why did I even consider the AirPods Max? Well, I’m deep in the Apple ecosystem. I started replacing my Amazon FireSticks with Apple TVs. I’d like to connect headphones when I watch at night so I don’t wake up my wife. I wanted something that will work seemless and the AirPods Max does. I just can’t justify the price tag. Most of it is the “Apple Tax” in my opinion. There are plenty of other noise canceling headphones at lower prices. I’m actually looking at the Sony WH-1000-XM4. We’ll see how those go.

Apple Trade In With Phobio

I currently have a 2016 MacBook Pro. It’s been great but my biggest complaint is the keyboard. Fortunately, it doesn’t malfunction. It works as intended but that’s the problem. The butterfly keys are terrible and for a laptop, the keyboard and monitor are pretty much everything. I can plug in an USB keyboard but it won’t make it portable.

I paid $2799 for my 2016 MBP and the trade in value is only $710. I decided to bite the bullet and take a loss and trade in for the 2019 16″ MacBook Pro. Three things I’m after: the bigger screen (vs 15″), 8 cores (vs 4 cores), and “magic” keyboard AKA the old keyboard that shouldn’t have changed to begin with (vs butterfly keyboard). I bought the 2019 MBP online and started the process for the trade in. Phobio is the company that Apple uses for trade in. The plan is to pay for the 2019 laptop and once the trade in is completed, get the refund for $710 back on the card.

2016 MBP (top), 2019 MBP (bottom)

Phobio sent out a box with shipping labels for me to pack up my old laptop and send it off for inspection and trade in. I took several pictures during the factory reset and noted the condition of the laptop. I am very careful with my stuff. These devices are expensive!

A few weeks later, I get an email from Phobio informing me that my trade value has been reduced from $710 to $250. They said they detected some screen damages during their inspection. Here is the photo they took and sent to me.

Phobio found screen defects… can you see it?

I don’t see it and I also took photos before shipping my old laptop to them.

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Do you see any imperfections on the screen? I don’t either. I declined the new trade in offer. I called Apple and Phobio for additional options. Phobio is firm with their decision. They say that the damage they saw could not have happened during transit but more of wear and tear damage. I told them that there is no damage when I sent it to them, could the damage occur while they were inspecting and testing – of course not.

They shipped the laptop back free of charge. After receiving it back, I inspected the laptop and did not find any screen damage as they described and photographed (I still don’t see it on the photo). I contacted Apple and they suggested to bring it into the store to do the trade in – but with COVID19, the stores are closed. I was nearing the return/refund deadline – which was extended from 14 days to 30 days due to the current situation. I didn’t want to risk not being able to get the trade in amount and/or get a refund on the new laptop so I just returned it and got a refund.

Working from home, I don’t need to be portable with the laptop so I just docked it with a keyboard and monitor – problem solved until the new ARM Macs come out and I’ll revisit the trade in option.

After this experience, I would definitely suggest to do your trade in inside the Apple store. Any screen damage will tremendously reduce the value. But at least when doing it in the store, you will know right away of the value. And they may be more lenient with imperfections.

The best USB C dongle for your 2019 MacBook Pro

I recently traded my 2016 MacBook Pro for a 2019 MVVK2LL/A model (8 cores) for obvious reasons (“magic” keyboard and more cores). With this generation of MBPs, you will need a dongle sooner or later. I have been using this dongle for a few years.

doedoeflu dongle

It has mostly every thing I need. USB3 A ports, C ports, card reader and most importantly HDMI. I tend to dock my MBP when I’m at home because the keyboard is just unusuable and I like using a larger monitor. The only port I wish it had was an ethernet port.

Wifi is convenient but I don’t really like using it with computers. I transfer data between my home server and other computers on the network. Wifi is slow compared to being plugged in. So I end up using a USB-C to A adapter and a USB3 Gigabit LAN adapter. Yes, another dongle.

Tendak SuperSpeed USB 3.0 to RJ45

The current dongle works with the 16″ MBP. The connectors are the same – dual USB-C. I figured, new laptop, new dongle but this time get one with an ethernet port. There are more dongles available now and at competitive pricing. I was able to find one from Saferell that checks all the boxes.

Saferell dongle

The dongle consist of 2x USB3 Type-C ports just like the previous dongle. It takes up one side of the laptop. With all those ports, it utilizes both ports. It has a way to run the power adapter as well. It has everything I need from the previous dongle and more. It has gigabit ethernet and 2 HDMI ports.

2 HDMI ports

Now the description may say triple display but it only has 2 HDMI ports. The third display is the laptop itself so don’t misunderstand thinking there are 3 HDMI ports or 2 HDMI plus an addition display port.

I’ve been using it for a few hours with one HDMI external display. I have a HP 27″ 1440p monitor. I don’t have any 4K displays but it does run at 60Hz. I don’t game on my laptop, mainly coding so the refresh rate is fine. It does run warm so be aware of that.

Card readers

I’m still disappointed that Apple removed the card reader but at least most dongles have card readers. This one has a reader for SD and Micro SD cards.

The USB-C can accept the 100W charger and will charge through the dongle. Or you can charge on the other side of the laptop where the other 2 USB-C ports are open.

The dongle plug is on a stiff cable and I prefer this design than the previous dongle. It makes the dongle more flexible where I can position in different positions.

Flexible plug

It makes it a larger dongle but it’s fine. I mainly use the dongle when I’m at home “docked”. I rarely use the dongle when I’m out or moving around the house.

I’ve always preferred the Space Gray over Silver – on my laptops, watch, and iPhone. If they had matte black, I’d be all over it. Between the two dongles, I feel the Saferell matches better.

Space gray

I’m really pleased with it so far. Do you use a dongle? Which one do you use. What port do you miss the most?

Upgrading Ram on Late 2015 iMac Retina

Back in 2017 I purchased a refurbished late 2015 iMac MK482LL. It’s still going on strong for what I use it for – mainly development. It came with a 27″ screen, 2TB Fusion drive, and an Intel i5 3.3GHz quad-core CPU. The Fusion drive truly makes a difference and the 2TB model has a larger 128GB Flash component over the 1TB version which only has 24GB. It’s not as fast as a SSD hard drive but better than HDD. There isn’t much you can upgrade. Ram is probably the most accessible part that can be upgraded. So I did.

I picked up a 16GB (2x8GB) kit from Amazon. Ram has been crazy expensive for a while. I’m not sure if the $99 price for DDR3 SODIMM PC3-14900 (1867MHz) is a good price. I mean it is DDR3 but the laptop size. Though the OWC brand is a reputable brand.

OWC 16GB DDR3 kit

The iMac came configured with 8GB of Ram installed (2x4GB). The specs are pretty much what I mentioned above – DDR3 SODIMM PC3-14900 (1867MHz). The iMac model I have seems to go as high as 64GB. It has 4 DIMM slots. I’ve seen people report of 16GB per slot to work.

8GB (2x4GB) kit

The 16GB price was within budget considering I didn’t need the upgrade, but it would be nice to add some more Ram. I run VMs for development. Currently, they are configured to use 2GB of Ram per VM. I want to start running more than 1 at a time or increase the Ram of the VM and have it do more.

Initially, I was only going to get another 8GB (2x4GB) kit to match what was already installed. Generally, you shouldn’t have issues with mismatching Ram kit sizes so I went for the larger kit. The main thing to remember is if the performance is different, it will run on the lowest spec – the entire series. This should work mainly on consumer hardware. You may get different results with enterprise or if using some obscure hardware.

Unplug you iMac and lay it on its front. In the back you’ll find a button right above the power plug.

Press the button above the outlet.

Right above that you’ll see the Ram compartment. When you press that button the compartment lifts up. Just remove it.

Ram compartment

Behind the Ram compartment you’ll see a diagram for the next step. Essentially, you just move the lever on each side outward and it will move the Ram slots up so you can slide the new Ram in. You will notice that the Ram sticks installed skip a slot. That is done on purpose. Do not move them next to each other. Just leave it as is and install the new Ram in the available slot.IMG_1652.jpeg

Push the Ram holder back in and make sure the levers lock in. Replace the cover and that should be it. Plug in the iMac and check the About This Mac and the new Ram should register. In my case 8GB + 16GB = 24GB.

24GB total Ram.

Fairly easy to do. I am unsure of the new iMac and if the Ram is upgradeable. Apple tends to change their design and remove features like hardware upgradeability.

Traded in iPad Mini 4 for 6th Gen iPad

Apple announced the 6th Gen iPad (2018) in March. My kids are currently using the iPad Mini 4. Now anything older, Apple no longer support. It made me think about upgrading. At the moment Best Buy and Apple are accepting trade ins for $145. I checked eBay and used are selling for around $150 – 270. But after fees, shipping costs, my time and a possible “picky” buyer who may return it based on the condition, I chose to just trade it in with Apple. Plus, I used the education discount.

Aside from the possible dropping of Apple support in the near future, I was looking forward to the CPU upgrade. The iPad Mini 4 uses the A8 CPU while the 6th Gen iPad uses the A10 Fusion chip (same as iPhone 7 and 7 Plus). This also has the M10 co-processor (check out the full spec sheet) I also liked how it finally supports the Apple Pencil.

My youngest son with benefit largely. He will be starting kindergarten soon and he’s learning to write. Many of his activities consist of tracing so I will be getting apps for him to use that involves tracing letters and numbers. I want him to also practice color. There is supposed to be a crayon from Logitech but so far it looks like it can only be purchased through an education institution. Hopefully, I can buy it from his school. They are currently using Chromebooks so I’m not sure.

But what will I be giving up leaving the iPad Mini 4. You would think all the features are found in the newer model. Not exactly. According to Macworld, here is what I will lose in the new iPad.

  • Laminated display
  • Both have the same resolution (2048×1536) but the 6th gen iPad has a lower pixel density at 264ppi vs 326ppi
  • Anit-reflective coating
  • Pay the $169 (with edu discount) plus taxes

I have the 2nd gen iPad Pro and I have an Apple Pencil. I have easily paired between both iPads. I have my own Apple ID on the iPad Pro and I set up my son’s account on his. I can easily pair between the two iPads but plugging in the pencil on the lightning port. It then asks if I want to pair the pencil with the device.

Simple pencil pairing between iPad with different profile.

I’m glad it isn’t similar to how the Airpod pairing. Though the pairing of Airpods are easy, my iPad is using my profile while the new iPad has my son’s profile. It would be more of a pain switching.

If you have an aging iPad and don’t mind the trade in value from Best Buy or Apple, you should consider it. We actually have done this before with our 1st gen iPad at Target. We were able to get a $200 gift card – wow!


iPad Pro 2017 MP6G2LL

I have always looked at tablets as a gaming device. I have yet to use them to be productive. Being a programmer I can’t use it to develop anything, at least I have yet to figure out a workflow. I have owned several tablets, both Android and iOS. I can’t get past just playing games on it. I have always been curious about the iPad Pro. I just couldn’t justify the size or the cost. But the combination of the upcoming iOS 11 and the 2nd gen iPad Pro may change my mind. Since Apple’s announcement in WWDC, I have been excited about the new iPad Pro. I preordered one and now have it.

I picked up the 12.9″ MP6G2LL model in space gray to match my MacBook Pro 2016. I also found an open box Apple Pencil to save a few bucks. I was curious to see if the pencil worked exclusively with the iPad Pro and it does. I was hoping for it to work with my iPhone or regular iPad.

Apple Pencil

So the pencil is sold separately and cost $100. Its connected via Bluetooth. One thing I suggest to enable is the battery widget. It’s a widget for both the iPad and pencil battery.

Battery widget for iPad and Pencil

The pencil charges fast. You can stick it on the Lightning port at the bottom of the iPad. But it’s kind of weird because it sticks out awkwardly and in the way. The pencil does come with a female to female adapter where you can use a regular charging cable.

Apple Pencil and charging adapter

The pencil feels smooth and natural when it is used on the iPad. I have been playing with different apps and doodling. They say it has 20ms latency. I cannot determine how accurate this is and I doubt many would. It’s currently leading in all devices. I have seen videos in slow motion that shows some latency. It’s not a bad thing but interesting.

Media Consumption

With 12.9″ LED display and 2732×2048 resolution, it’s a pleasure to consume media. I have yet to do any activities that take advantage of ProMotion (120Hz). I’m sure it kicks in when using the pencil. I have yet to play games. The display though is beautiful and bright. I have an iPad Mini 4 (128GB) and an iPhone 7 Plus (128GB), the iPad Pro’s display is brighter and better by a huge marging when compared to the iPad Mini 4 (obviously). I have been watching my movies on Plex using the iPad Pro, very nice. I wouldn’t hold it for a long time – 1.49 pounds (677 grams). It sounds wonderful as well – four speakers. There are two on top and two on the bottom. Older iPads only have two and their at the bottom.

Computing Power

The 2nd generation iPad Pro is powered by the A10X processor and 4GB ram. To put in perspective, the 1st generation iPad Pro uses the A9X. For non pro models, the iPad Air 2 uses the A8X and the 2017 iPad uses the A9 chip. On iPhones, the 7 and 7 Plus uses A10 Fusion. I currently have the iPhone 7 Plus (3GB ram) and iPad Mini 4 (A8 chip, 2GB ram) to compare performance. The closest hardware I can compare would be my iPhone 7 Plus. One of the biggest difference in terms of performance that I’ve noticed so far is app installation time – not the time it takes to download but the time it after the app is download until the button changes to “open”. I see a difference. The coprocessor also got an upgrade to the M10. This handles the sensor data from accelerometers, gyroscopes, etc from the main CPU. The TouchID seems to be as fast as the iPhone 7. It is surely faster than the iPad Mini 4.

The camera features and functions now match what you will find in the iPhone 7.

  • 12-megapixel camera
  • f/1.8 aperture
  • optical image stabilization for photos and videos
  • 4K video record at 30 fps, 1080p 30/60 fps, 720p 30 fps

Those are the standout features I care about. There are more if you check the specs page. The FaceTime camera is now HD – 1080p recording.

Battery Life

Apple claims 10 hours. In all honesty, I can never test these since I have charging cables every where. Almost every room in the house has one, the car, at work, etc. I’ve got into the habit of whenever possible, charge my devices. Or if my battery is halfway discharged, I make an extra effort to charge it. I have read that the iPad Pro 2nd generation supports fast charging but not with the included adapter. You will need to purchase a lightning to USB-C adapter or the lightning to camera adapter then use a 29W plug. Luckily, I have a Macbook 12″ retina and it came with the 29W adapter. I could also use my 2016 Macbook Pro adapter as well. This combination should use the fast charging capability. Otherwise, it will charge at the “normal” rate which will work but at a “normal” rate.


Overall, I may be using the iPad more with the Pro. Currently it’s running iOS10. I have joined the public beta for iOS11. Right now at the time of writing, I am at iOS10.3.3 beta 3. There are many features that will be release with iOS11 for the iPad Pro.

I have downloaded a few apps from Adobe that will let me use the pencil. My kids and I are having fun with playing around and doodling. As far as typing, because of the larger size, in landscape mode the on-screen keyboard is not bad. Paired with the predictive text and auto correct, it is very usable. I started this blog post using the WordPress app running on the iPad Pro. Have of this post was typed on the digital keyboard in landscape mode. I did get tired after a few minutes, but I was in bed typing. It may be more comfortable if I was on a table but I doubt I’ll use it for long periods of time. I will be getting a keyboard though.

There are many accessories to consider as well. First off, find a cover. This is such a nice hardware that you don’t want it scratched or damaged. As mentioned, the pencil is not included. If you will be doing a lot of typing, it’s recommended to get an external keyboard – one that uses the smart connector. So far, you can look at either the Apple Smart Keyboard or the Logitech Create Keyboard.

Refurbished Late 2015 iMac MK482LL

I came across a good deal on a refurbished late 2015 iMac MK482LL. The brand new price for this particular model is $2299 but I was able to get it for $1599, plus 10% eBay Bucks. The promotion maxes out at $100 but I still consider it an additional discount. I’ve seen them as low as $1499 – right after I bought it, too bad. Still a good deal. It is refurbished but it is refurbished by Apple. I checked the serial number to find that the warranty expires 1 year after I turned it on and logged in. Apple is selling their refurbished model for $1949.

Good on the warranty as if it was new

I got it from eBay from a seller named mfilm. The rating is great and I checked recent transactions with iMacs and all have positive feedback. The shipping is through Fedex Ground. The box has foam that surrounds another box that contained the iMac. It’s very well packaged and protected. Upon opening the package, every thing was wrapped as if it was new. I didn’t notice any wear and tear damage. The screen is beautiful, 5K (5120 x 2880). The iMac comes with the Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2. Both are rechargeable. I couldn’t connect right off the bat but I charged them up for an hour each and was able to do so afterwards. Now it only comes with 1 lightning adapter to charge, so I used my iPhone charger to charge them both at the same time.

I’ve also bought a Thunderbolt2 to DisplayPort cable so I can connect to my LG 34UM88C-P. Had I known I would be going back to Mac, I would’ve spent the extra money and got the Thunderbolt version. This monitor is nice as well and refurbished. I can dual display with 5K and 1440. So much screen real estate. I wish I had a better desk.

The iMac display and the LG 34UM88C-P

It feels good to be back using a Mac desktop at home. The additional cost to get the 2TB Fusion drive is worth it. Many on the internet highly suggested it. The 1TB Fusion drive uses 24GB of SSD while the 2TB version uses 128GB – and it’s a huge difference in performance. I found a Youtube video of someone doing a benchmark for the 1TB Fusion drive. The write speeds were around 330MB/s and the read speeds were 830MB/s.

2TB Fusion drive benchmark

I was using my 2016 MacBook Pro docked but it was a lot of work when I needed to connect/disconnect and power on/off. I had to open the lid, turn it on, connect the cables, close the lid. If I need to put it to sleep, I had to open the lid, unplug the cables, close the lid. I just couldn’t open the lid because the laptop would turn back on almost instantaneously. Not sure if my Apple Watch is waking it up or the external monitor won’t let it sleep. I figured I’ll just get a desktop and be done with it.

So far, the iMac is running smooth. I am considering a couple of purchases to make it better.

I’ve never been concerned about getting refurbished products, specially from the manufacturer. Just be aware if you have any problems, you will need to spend time taking care of it. It’s fairly similar process to buying new and experiencing problems but you can save a good amount of money.

Using USB SSD on 2014 MacMini

Best Buy dropped the Mac Mini price by $100. Open-box versions got an additional 10% off. So the low-end MGEM2LL/A version was as low as $355. I had a $40 gift card, so I figured why not. I needed an Apple desktop at home anyway to replace a broken one from 2007 MB138LL/A. This Mac Mini has the following specs.

  • Intel i5-4260U 1.4GHz with up to 2.7 GHz turbo boost
  • 4GB LPDDR3 1600MHz ram (soldered)
  • I’m not sure if all models come with Hitachi HTS545050A7E362, but mine did. It’s 5400 RPM and 500GB storage. Yuck!
  • Intel HD Graphics 5000 with 1.5GB VRAM. I’m using a LG Ultrawide 34″ monitor displaying at 3440 x 1440 @50Hz via HDMI.
  • It has 4x USB3.0 ports and 2x Thunderbolt2 ports.
  • Bluetooth 4.0, gigabit ethernet, and Wi-Fi 802.11ac.
  • It has a card reader. I didn’t realize it but I did miss it after using my 2016 Macbook Pro.

You’re pretty much stuck with the CPU and ram. Both are soldered. You can however, upgrade the HDD. There’s two ways to do it. Open it up and swap it out – which looks laborious from the videos I’ve seen. Or you you can boot off one of the USB3.0 ports. I did the latter. I had an old Samsung 830 SSD lying around.

Check out to view boot options. I used Option-Command-R to recover macOS over the internet.


Next, choose Disk Utility from the list so you can format the SSD.

Choose Disk Utility

Select the SSD from the list on the left. Select Partition on the top. Provide a name. Make sure the Format is Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Scheme is GUID. Then erase. I assume you know what happens when you do this, right? Remember, it will delete everything on that SSD.

Format the SSD

Quit out of Disk Utility. Now Reinstall macOS. It will connect to the internet and get a copy then install. If you are not using the ethernet port, it should’ve asked you to pick from the wireless network it detected and enter the password if applicable.

Reinstall macOS

Normally, the external drive is the yellow one. But just in case, I named my different – “MacintoshSSD”. You should see both drives in the next screen. Make sure you select the USB SSD drive.

Choose the USB SSD drive

That’s pretty much it. Grab a coffee or beer. It’s going to take around 15 minutes or so. I would suggest the following once you’re finished.

  • Get something to fasten/affix the USB enclosure on the Mac Mini to prevent any movements. It could also help accidental disconnects. I used double-sided velcro. That way I can remove it with ease.
  • Format the original 500GB drive. It shouldn’t boot off it unless it doesn’t detect the SSD. Besides, you won’t need to boot off it anyway. Just use it for storage. You can also use it for Time Machine. Since we all back up our data, right?

By doing this I tripled the hard drive performance without opening up the Mac Mini.

Hitachi 500GB 5400RPM HDD

Samsung 830 256GB SSD

I was actually working on Hackintosh. I thought the process improved. It did, but there was still some challenges – even if you go off a recommeded parts build. Here’s my list I ended up return most of the parts. But some were used off eBay so I couldn’t. For less, I got an Apple computer and it works flawlessly.