Review: Castlevania Season II

Castlevania has always been a double edged sword, leave you yearning for more content but short enough for you to binge in a single sitting, which is what we did. Season II of the Netflix original, is just as good as the original maybe better. At the end of Season I Trevor, Alucard and Sypha group up to take down big bad Dracula. It was fast, bloody and focused on the action, keeping us at the edge of our seat. Season II on the other had pays more attention to the story and character development. For the uninitiated, you might know why the Belmont name bears significance. A drunk Trevor Belmont just shows up and happens to be good at hunting demons. We finally get to see the lore behind the Belmont family and their significance throughout history. The Belmont hold is depicted a wondrous trove of knowledge, one that could rival the vast knowledge accumulated by Dracula himself. Relationships are flushed out to great extent, be it human, vampire or half-blood and that’s what kept us hooked. The trio of heroes get brief moments void of action, unlike the first Season, it is at these moments that we get to experience their witty humor and empathy for each other.

In Season II we see a different version of Dracula, one where he lets his generals dictate the direction of battle, and where there is a struggle of power there is betrayal. With the intent of not spoiling too much of the story, we’d advice you pay attention to the new characters, especially the forge masters and the generals as they play a significant role in the story. We do get to see a glimpse of Dracula’s true power. Wounded and dejected he may be, but he is still the strongest character in the realm. Fans of the Castlevania games are going to love the representation of characters like Carmilla, Hector and Godbrand. The morning star is actually a weapon from the game that you upgrade to and the castles engine is a direct reference to Symphony of the Night There is a lot of politics, seduction and mind games its more Game of Thrones than you think, well mostly because of the similarity between Carmilla and Cersei.

Now let’s talk about why all of this is set into motion. Inescapably Dracula’s thirst for vengeance against the town of Wallachia turns in to a hatred of all human kind and proceeds as such. This part of the story could be explained better but the only two humans in Dracula’s court pick up the slack. The last few episodes include some of the best action animation in anime. Fast paces fluid and it isn’t another Michel Bay movie where everything blows up. Every move has purpose and every weapon has its limits. Absolutely perfect. The final “Boss Battle” is beyond satisfying fans of Dracula himself get to see him overpower his foes with ease and the trio finds purpose together and give it all they’ve got. This is a must watch and absolutely worth your time.

Castlevania Season II

Cast: Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont, Graham McTavish as Dracula, Emily Swallow as Lisa Tepes, James Callis as Alucard, Theo James as Hector, Adetokumboh M’Cormack as Isaac, Jaime Murray as Carmilla, Peter Stormare as Godbrand

Director: Sam Deats, Ryoichi Uchikoshi (co-director)

Review: P20 Pro

660 US, might sound like a lot for a Chinese smartphone, but exceptional battery life, flagship specs and one of the best mobile cameras in the market are some of the reasons why we think you should look into the Huawei P20 Pro. Glass and metal have become synonyms for premium design in the smart phone industry and the P20 Pro is no exception, if you can get past the notch the luminescent color progression make this is one of the best looking smart phones this year. The Twilight colorway features a reflective back that transitions from purple to blue, while the Pink Gold version totes a similarly interesting pearlescent finish, The phone also comes in black and Midnight Blue if you prefer a more subtle finish. The pronounced chin with a traditional fingerprint censor has us questioning the notch but between no fingerprint censor and a larger chin bar, it is definitely the latter. The proximity to the on-screen navigation buttons runs the risk of unintentional triggers from time to time, as it doubles as a capacitive home button. Noticeably absent is a 3.5mm headphone jack, Huawei does include a dongle in the box, but with phones like the LG V40 Thin Q around, seems unnecessary and backward. The metal grill besides the USB C port hides dual down firing speakers and a microphone. The audio is loud and crisp, making general media consumption a delight. The phone IP67 rated for dust and water resistance and oddly comes with a screen protector installed. We recommend getting rid of the same as the screen guard itself holds onto minor scrapes and makes an otherwise premium phone look a little tatty.

Display

The Huawei P20 Pro has a 6.1 inch FHD+ OLED Display, with an 18.7:9 aspect ratio, which means better contrast, deeper blacks, punchier colors and lower power consumption. The screen does get bright enough and outdoor visibility is decent but not exceptional. As mentioned earlier, there’s a small notch at the top of the screen which didn’t feel like much of a nuisance. That said, I can certainly see how it could be a bit of an eyesore for some users. Huawei has an option that lets users conceal it. Once enabled, the space on either side of the notch is occupied by a black bar, creating the illusion of a notch-free screen. The screen itself has a resolution of 2160 x 1080. It is set to the vibrant color profile by default, content does run the risk of looking oversaturated. You can adjust the color balance to suit your personal preference by diving into the Settings menu where there is a variety of options to play with. The Huawei P20 Pro offers full support for HDR10, the leading standard for high dynamic range visuals it can stream HDR content from supported sources such as Netflix, delivering a viewing experience that can only really be rivaled by the likes of Samsung’s latest flagship.

 

Performance & Interface

The Huawei P20 Pro is wonderfully fast. With the Kirin 970 SOC at its heart, coupled with 6GB of RAM (2GB more than the standard P20) the phone feels responsive and fluid. It handled every task we threw its way with ease, remaining composed while switching between applications and streaming a YouTube video over 4G while running a game using the phone’s split-screen multitasking functionality. Huawei P20 Pro scored a respectful 1921 in the single-core and 6837 in the multi-core test on Geek Bench 4

 

Huawei’s infamous Emotion UI (EMUI) has managed to resolve most of the flaws that affected the previous builds and the latest version delivers outstanding performance, switching between applications and launching sub-menus in the bat of an eye. It also includes a number of useful assistive features. The P20 Pro ships running Android 8.1 Oreo, skinned with a much-improved version of EMUI. Face recognition is all the rage nowadays, and the Huawei P20 Pro has you covered. There’s 2D face recognition is a lot faster but isn’t as secure as the 3D depth-based alternatives found on the iPhone X or Oppo Find X.

Huawei has introduced useful knuckle Gestures which make screenshot n quick open much more effective.Double knocking with the single-knuckle take a full screenshot while making a loop with a knuckle takes a selection section shot. The selected screen shot can be saved into four shapes, the one user creates with their knuckle, rectangle, round and heart shaped. Double knocking with Two-knuckles start and stops the screen recording. 

Using your knuckle to draw a letter opens some apps. By default, drawing “C” opens camera while drawing “M” open the music app. The shortcut letters can be changed in the settings. Swiping the knuckle, left to right or vice versa enters the split-screen mode.

We have been using the gestures for quite a while now n they come in handy more often than expected. Specially the screenshot and screen recording gestures are the one I use on daily basis. For apps it’s not very feasible as sometimes it might mix-up what a user drew. Split screen feature is also something that can be a lot useful especially if you are constantly moving between two apps.

Private space is another very useful feature that the Huawei P 20 Provides it enables you to create a completely different profile can be used in situations where multiple users have access to a single device (mostly work phones), using secondary profile for personal business, or just using a secondary profile to keep private data. This feature can b enabled in the security section of the settings. To enable the private space, user must enter a pin completely different from the main pin code, cannot use ascending, descending or repeated pin codes like 1234, 4321 or 1111. The separate finger scan must be linked to the new profile.

The Huawei p20 pro includes a Dark mode, which turns all the system apps dark which is easy on the eyes and helps conserve battery.

 

HiTouch is a great feature for online shoppers. While surfing if you come across a picture of a product that you like, just press and hold the picture with two thumbs. The phone will search for that product on amazon with the help of amazon assistant. This is a great feature especially if the picture has no details about the product. We hope to see more improvements to this feature in coming years with better support for online stores besides Amazon.

Camera

The Huawei P20 Pro is the first smartphone on the market to offer a triple camera setup: a whopping 40-megapixel primary ‘Light Fusion’ RGB sensor (with an f/1.8 aperture), a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor (with an f/1.6 aperture) and an 8-megapixel telephoto sensor (with an f/2.4 aperture) work in conjunction to supercharge the camera module’s photographic capabilities.

At launch, Huawei explained that only, the 8-megapixel telephoto lens included OIS (optical image stabilization) whilst the 20 and 40-megapixels sensors relied on the performance of the phone’s NPU (the neural processing unit that serves as part of the Kirin 970’s makeup) to deliver additional AI enhanced stabilization.

All three sensors, fine-tuned by the German optics titan Leica, work together with each being assigned a specific role. The 40-megapixel sensor captures the colors in the scene, the 20-megapixel monochrome sensor ensnares additional detail, as well as texture and depth data for a bokeh effect (when required), whilst the 8-megapixel telephoto sensor helps zooming in. But that’s not the best bit. Huawei has invested a lot of resources into further developing the AI engine that debuted on the Huawei P10, with the feature now offering frame-by-frame optimization – in the default Auto shooting mode – for a host of different scenarios, including action shots, night shots, and close-ups.

Still, shots taken in both daylight and low-light are crisp and full of detail. The same can also be said for images captured by the 24-megapixel front-facing shooter. Video, on the other hand, quite as perfect – the super slo-mo feature, which lets you shoot a 0.2-second burst of slow-motion footage at 960 frames per second, often distorted the subject. The auto-manipulation, which is powered by the aforementioned AI engine, works in the camera’s favor, making colors pop, even in the darkest of settings. Having tested the Galaxy S9 Plus, iPhone X, and P20 Pro, the latter comes out on top. It’s a lot more reliable in low-light environments, and takes exceptional photographs in well-lit conditions. The same, once again, can be said for the front-facing camera – which is clear and crisp and loaded with features to play with too.

Psst! Want to know more about Amazon’s secret hardware launch in Seattle?

echo

Here is the summa. Secret is giving amazon more credit, than they deserve, the event seems more rushed and unorganized especially compared to other tech giants.

The echo dot gets an update “industrial design, fabric base with multiple colors” sound familiar? Jokes aside the echo dot is the reason Alexa continues to grow in user base, its pricing and compact footprint made it accessible compared to the Apple HomePod or Google home. The 2018 update gets a 70% louder and sounds better than the previous generation while staying under $50. So better build, better audio and the same price.


The echo input is the amazon echo which cannot create an echo, this pebble shaped device ships without a speaker. Aiming to make existing speakers “smart”. It gives customers the freedom to use speakers of their choice and still have access to Alexa. A nifty idea for $34.99.
The echo sub is a portable subwoofer for echo devices, this is where things get a little iffy. Depending on the number of echo devices in your home you can either configure it to 1.1 or a stereo 2.1 configuration. At $129.99 the little 100W sub doesn’t make much sense to us at the moment but well hold final judgement until they start delivery.



The echo plus is basically a bigger echo with a fabric lining, better audio and a temperature sensor. Do you see what’s happening? They are flooding the market with very similar products all launched at the same time which also compete with each other in one way or the other. Getting back to the echo plus at $149.99 you can add a routine which lets Alexa control the temperature at home or you could use IFTT to write an applet.

There’s a new Alexa enabled smart plug for $24.99, it’s a smart plug just like any other.

The Echo show is a couple of years old now, and honestly, the hardware was never really that spectacular to begin with. Well, Amazon just introduced a new version of the screen, sporting smart speaker, which features a much nicer design and more. Like the rest of the company’s recently introduced Echo products, the new device features a more premium cloth design. The screen size has been doubled to 10 inches, while the speaker has been tweaked to now feature real-time Dolby processing. The product features an eight-microphone array and will integrate Microsoft’s Skype for non-proprietary chatting. The company has also added third-party browsers, including Firefox, further blurring the line between the display-enabled smart speaker and the company’s Fire tablet offerings.There are various other fun new skills for the refreshed product, including a Battleship game. The product will also integrate with Amazon’s  security offerings through the camera and new doorbell API.The newly designed Show should help Amazon compete with the various third-party Smart Displays introduced for Google Assistant, along with a proprietary Google device expected to be announced next month.
Like its predecessor, the product runs $229.

Alexa Guard, Now this is something where we see potential, if polished. It’s a hub which uses existing smart products. You could tell it to turn on the lights before you leave and it would, or it detects glass breaking or smoke and alerts the user on his phone. At its current state much of the functionality can be replicated easily but with proper routines you could possible use it to call emergency services, or provide one time access to UPS. Among the slew of devices Amazon  announced in Seattle is a new Ring Stick Up Cam – stick up, because it’s designed to go anywhere. Well, almost anywhere. The camera comes in two versions, one that’s battery-powered and could be more easily used outdoors, as well as one that’s wired, which may make more sense indoors.These are called The Ring  Stick Up Cam Wired and Ring Stick Up Cam Battery, respectively.The cameras are the first from Ring that are designed for both indoor and outdoor user, and will also connect with Ring’s Neighborhoods app that helps nearby Ring users communicate about suspicious activity in their neighborhood.The device also supports power over Ethernet (PoE) so if your house is wired for that specifically, you’ll have another option to power the device, Amazon says. Another option is through a micro-USB power supply that provides an internet connection and consistent power.When used indoors, the Ring Stick Up Cam will notify users of any suspicious motion inside the home. When used outdoors, home owners can have a view of their property and further surroundings.Both cameras feature motion detection, 1080p full HD resolution, night vision, two-way talk, a siren, and a wide viewing angle. They will also integrate with Ring Alarm and Alexa in the coming months, Amazon says. When Ring Alarm is disarmed, the cameras will stop recording and detecting motion. When Ring Alarm is enabled and is triggered, the siren will sound. It can also be then prompted to start recording.Alexa owners will be able to call up their Stick Up Cam feed by saying “Alexa, show me the living room”

Yes, there’s now an Echo Wall Clock available that has Alexa voice capabilities by pairing with an existing Echo device over Bluetooth.That means you can ask Alexa to do things like set alarms and timers, and the lines on the clock will illuminate as the time progresses. Alarms and timers, of course, are two of the most-used Echo features, and a wall clock makes sense as a place where people might like to use them, or so Amazon thinks.At the event, the company demonstrated using the clock for setting a pasta timer, which illuminates the minutes on the clock. This 60 LED ring can display multiple timers at the same time, countdown to some event, as well as show visual animations along with the chimes for timers, alarms, and reminders.The 10-inch clock is powered by a battery, and automatically syncs the current time.

Another subscription based content provider, Yay! #sarcasm. Firetv recast is a DVR which has an app that tells you the optimal location to setup an antenna. You can use this to stream the content available to echo spot, echo show, fire tv and other devices.  Unless you are away from home and hate sports bars this is a pass for us at $229.99 and 500GB of storage.
Echo auto, now you can have Alexa in your car, the device uses either the auxiliary port which is a good way to wear down or break the port on your car or Bluetooth to connect to the ICE in your car. Great Bluetooth is amazing, Bluetooth everything, However it needs your phone to connect to your car? The idea is useful but implementation is clunky at best. The location aware services can be used to say open your garage door when you arrive or turn the air condition off when you leave, but if you can do most if this using just your smart phone and the external device is not seamless enough to compete with a car that comes with android auto. If you need to make your old car “smart” then maybe.
Something that we dint mention because it’s getting kind of ridiculous at this point is the $60 Alexa microwave can use nearby echo devices to start making popcorn and has dash replenish

We kept the best for the last which for us is the awkwardly named Echo Link Amp. This is a $300 streaming amplifier with multiroom and voice control, and it’s a companion to the new Sonos Connect-like Echo Link.While the Link is a strange proposition,who has a power amp sitting around that they’d connect a $200 Amazon preamp to? The Link Amp makes much more sense. It is essentially a “BYO speakers” mini system.
It includes a 60-watt x 2-channel amplifier, Coaxial in/out, Optical in/out, Line in/out and Subwoofer output
The Amp is part of Alexa’s expanded multiroom system, which incorporates devices that now include the new Echo Plus and the Echo Sub. As far as its competition in the market the closest is the Sonos Amp, but that device offers HDMI, twice the power and retails for $600.
Amazon says the Amp offers “voice control music selection and playback with your compatible Echo device or the Alexa app.” While it’s obvious that the company wants you to interact with the device via voice it’s a little disappointing that there’s no onboard microphone or even a source indicator. At this stage it’s unclear if the inputs will even be selectable or if everything connected will simply play at once. (Hopefully it’s the former.)
 
The good the bad the meh.
The largest improvement here is the one actually made to Alexa her self, they have improved contextual conversation, like asking her a question and not having to trigger her again for a follow up question. Performance improvements and natural responses rival google assistant. But she still cant use artificial intelligence to schedule a hair cut on your behalf.
The Echo Link Amp could a very strong contender to any of the premium smart sound setups but we lack information regarding the same as of now. If you have a good set of speakers and don’t mind an active microphone in your house get the amazon input. It looks like best way to get into the ecosystem.
The smart wall clock is super pointless but super cool, because everyone needs a good alarm. The event has been long and tiring similar to this article there is way too much for us to pay attention to. The new echo dot is a good upgrade from the previous generation and you can always pair this to a larger speaker in the future.
The Echo auto and ring cam is a pass for now and the echo plus is decent device, but falls short compared to its own more affordable siblings.

La La Land

Edit

Having promised a friend earlier, I reluctantly agreed to watch La La Land. I grew up watching Fred Astaire musicals, hence the lack of interest in modern day musicals. The trailer was a tad bit boring, and the critique felt biased. It’s not hard to bring out emotions in me while during a film, its not even that difficile to bring a tear. However, every once in a while a film comes along the way that leaves me overwhelmed and giddy; La La Land is such. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, who is most known for Whiplash. has out himself with La La Land.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it made it to Broadway. They don’t make movies like this anymore. It was very ballsy of Damien Chazelle to have the passion to make this original musical with a realistic ending. Every moment within the direction, including Mandy Moore’s choreography are spectacular.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have already been known for having an impeccable on screen chemistry to together, but this is by far the best. These two were perfectly cast. Their performance is charming and raw that makes it work, and it reflects throughout.

There’s so much theatre and drama in the score, it’s lovable, that you want to stand up and applaud after every song as it carries the story forward. For those who are aware of Justin Hurwitz works (Whiplash), he doesn’t fail to bedazzle us yet again and the theme score is just hauntingly beautiful.

Striking cinematography coupled with beautiful sets help weave the screenplay together. The cinemascope presentation lets the audience experience movement better.

I honestly, feel like every person should go through that experience of not being able to predict and not miss on the movie like I almost did. Its critically phenomenal, for the love of art, drama, music and film. Chazelle tells a great story through incredible shots, music, dialogue making sure it is not a waste of a lovely night.