HP Spectre 13 Laptop 13-v001na


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HP Were kind enough to loan me this rather beautiful device to look at for a couple of weeks and I thought I would share my thoughts on how I got on!

So the first thing I ussually do is have a quick look to see what reviews say accross the web.  I picked out a few here that rang true of my own experiences:

I also spotted this link which appears to be premium second user devices at a reduced cost:



As already mentioned the Spectre has a premium feel largely down to it’s design and the materials used – aluminium and carbon fibre.  Considering it’s svelte dimensions there is very little give in the body and screen and it doesn’t feel like it is going to break under normal use (and for obvious reasons I haven’t gone beyond that!)
The ‘piston hinge’ contributes to the overall sense of quality in this device although I did on occasion try to tilt it back beyond it’s clearly defined limit – so no way is this a ‘yoga style’ device which perhaps is an opportunity lost given todays expanding expectations of new laptops and tablet devices however the range does support the premium test of laptop on lap!


3 USB Type C  ports provide the Spectre with ample opportunities for expansion. One of the ports is used for charging  and the other two for high-speed data transfer (USB 3.1 Gen 2). NB the charging port can also be used for data transfer.  While my knowledge of the latest USB spec is narrow I am aware of the increased opportunities for sharing across these ports, including high speed video, that does not exist with older style USB 1 and 2 devices.


With a Gorilla Glass coating the screen while excellent does suffer a little from reflections, though I never found this a problem indoors it perhaps might prove troublesome outdoors on a Sunny day?  Having said that the quality of the images produced is excellent reflecting the high build quality and perhaps proof that going much beyond 1080p Resolution on a screen this size really does have da diminishing return.  Being used to a touch screen I did find myself reaching for the screen on a number of occasions and personally I think my future devices will need to support touch to completely satisfy – however that is a personal preference and anyone used to using MacBooks will likely feel right at home.



The two speakers are prominently placed either side of the keyboard and coupled with Bang and Olufsen internals this laptop really delivers great sound.  In particular I found that I was able to hear the separation in the stereo channels much more so than on other laptops with stereo sound and it is clear that a deal of thought has gone into the sound design of this laptop.


If you are in the market for this stylish device then you probably should consider the matching accessories from HP at http://store.hp.com/UKStore/Merch/offer.aspx?p=c-Spectre-Offer

A number of bags and cases are available with the premium leather sleeve matching the premium style of the device itself:



  • Premium Feel
  • Powerful Specification
  • USB-C Support
  • Svelte figure (it is very thin!)

  • Desirability!


  • No Touch Points
  • Price

If the style of this laptop is to your liking and you have the necessary funds there should be little to stop you from considering this device.  Personally the lack of touch holds me back but otherwise both my wife and I have been very happy with our respective use of the Spectre over the last couple of weeks  (my wife principally Excel and Word and myself as a developer with Visual Studio)

Privacy Policy


This App does not collect, store or share any personal information, or anything related to your device.  We do not collect any statistics, trends or track user movements.

Sharing Data

The app provides share functionality through the O/S that allows you to share newsworthy information with any third party application. The App allows you to open Web URLs from the application.  The internet urls might be saved by the web browser on your device.  For further information on this consult your web browsers own documentation.

NB This Privacy policy covers your use any app  from “Web Surfaces”

Microsoft Fitness Band Web Tiles


Microsoft Band

While not strictly fitness  related the Cortana ‘news feed’ on the band is nevertheless one of the most useful day to day features.  If, like me, you enjoy this additional functionality then read on!

One of the nice side pieces of functionality for this device is it’s ability to display RSS feeds – this means that if you have a particular favourite subject, be it anything from Dog Grooming Tips to the usual Geek related  news you can be alerted of new nuggets of information without having to delve into your pocket (or handbag) and pull out your Phone!

I thought it might be useful to add a few tiles that  I created myself to this page – to use them on your own band all you need to do is navigate to this site on your phone (iPhone, Android or Windows Phone) and click on them – this will trigger the install and they should end up on your Fitness Band.

From time to time I will update this page with new Tiles so be sure and check back!


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Hisense LTDN65K680M3D 65 Inch 4K UHD Smart Television Review – 4K Quality Test


So having already stated that I bought this set as an HD upgrade to my existing set I obviously have half an eye on what this set can do with a 4K video source.and also as a 4K development desktop

I’ll start with my conclusion – in two words – absolutely stunning!

NB For this test I used this PC linked via HDMI 1.4 at 30Hz and ran through some 4k content I had picked up on the net.

Having seen the set looking this good, but not wanting to have a Desktop PC Base in my lounge I am now definitely thinking about what is the minimum spec PC that I can get away with that delivers this sort of quality?  Although this desktop machine uses an AMD GPU (which is fabulous) I don’t really need that kind of grunt for watching 4K video and am already thinking in terms of one of NVIDIA’s Kepler based GPUs (if for no other reason than to experiment with 4K at 60Hz (though having witnessed these demos running at 30Hz I seriously doubt the value of the extra Hz!)


(Actual Screen Grabs from the Hisense)

Interestingly I found that the TV would output at what I understand to be UHD (3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall) but actually has a default capability that is even higher than that (4096×2160)!  An unexpected bonus!

Conclusion: Congratulations to everyone who managed to pick this up on Cyber Monday but even at £1499 it represents excellent value for money!

And it is also good to see the following quote from Hisense UK

“We will be releasing boxes next year capable of playing 4K content and providing new HDMI and HEVC capabilities for these monitors as and when more 4K sources become available” (I have confirmed that this monitor is included).

Not sure but possibly the box that Hisense are talking about may be something along the lines of this?

Footnote: I am looking at adding one of these to play back 4K video until such time as the above box becomes available.

There is a good article about the likely availability (and reasons for the current lack of) 4k content):




The Android M8 has arrived and thus far is looking like a good short term partner for the HiSense.   By default it pops up in 720p resolution and so the first thing to do is to set it to 4K:

Office Lens_20141209_101103_processed 

The one I got came with XBMX and a 4K video player pre-installed:

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It played all the 4K videos I had downloaded flawlessly:


I downloaded PLEX to pick up my networked photos and videos – this worked as anticipated and everything looked great!


I noticed that someone has posted their own preferred settings for this TV which turn out to be similar to the ones that I had set myself:

Pic mode:user
Brightness: 41
Sharpness: 10
Noise reduction: off
Backlight: manual/15
Colour temp:standard
Dynamic contrast: off
Skin tone off
Motion effect: off.

Hisense LTDN65K680M3D 65 Inch 4K UHD Smart Television Review – Device Mirroring

Office Lens_20141205_124430



So one menu option on the Hisense that caught my eye was “AnyView Cast”.  This is supposed to allow your phone or tablet screen to be mirrored on the big screen over wifi.


I selected the option on the TV  (see screen 1) and picked up my HP Stream 7 Windows 8 device and proceeded to pair the two devices





Office Lens_20141205_123251




I am an optimist but even I was a little surprised when It worked first time!  (The HP Stream is a fantastic device and definitely seems to be able to punch above it’s weight in the specs department)..

NOTE: Having said that it worked first time I did find that subsequent connections sometimes failed!





With apologies for not thinking out a better scenario (and the lack of sound)  but at least you can see this functionality in action: in the short clip below:


BTW In case anyone is wondering this scenario is not going to give you 4K – but it’s a useful thing to have built into your TV nevertheless!

Hisense LTDN65K680M3D 65 Inch 4K UHD Smart Television Review – Initial Setup & YouTube App

On switch on you are presented with a series of screens to setup the basic configuration of the device: (click on any image to enlarge, I have tried to keep the images in their logical order with selections shown where possible):

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After selecting your region and internet settings you can access the devices own web based menu and select from a series of apps and options from which the below is a selection:

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YouTube App

Selecting the YouTube App gives the option to search for videos (I searched for “4K” and selected “Star Wars”)

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Sadly the videos do not play back in 4K though they do look OK – this perhaps isn’t surprising when you think about it as the TV would require copious amounts of it’s own memory in order to buffer the video. 

Perhaps in the future the App could be given the option of buffering to an inserted (and empty) USB stick and also an option to allow playback at any of the available YouTube default resolutions?

The option to pair a mobile device (screen 3 above) is nice to see included though perhaps somewhat redundant in the light of the in-built support for streaming/casting from devices. 

Also interesting target advertising – when I selected Star Wars I was first given an advertising trailer of the new Hobbit film! (screen 7 above)

Incidentally I also tried the web browser and applied the same search but I could not get it to default to anything other than the mobile version of “YouTube” which defaults to a maximum 720p for playback).  I suspect if this were not the case the same buffering issue might rear it’s head?


Settings / Options

There are four main settings screens, some with sub menus which I will work through as they become relevant:

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Hisense LTDN65K680M3D 65 Inch 4K UHD Smart Television Review – History



Historically my criteria for purchase of a new TV goes something like:

  • My current TV must be at least 3 years old
  • Budget  £1000

And so this formula has led me to:

Tosh circa 2000

Toshiba 28W8DB. CRT

I have great memories of this TV which came with a full Dolby Pro logic surround system and integrated stand.  I think I got this Circa 1998 (no idea what my foot is doing in this picture – sorry about that – and if anyone is concerned the answer is yes – I do have new slippers now!)

Next up was this Sharp Aquos 42” 1080P set:

Circa 2005 – Notable as the first high definition TV we owned and it’s massive size (at least in those days). this TV now does sterling service wall mounted in the kids play room.

(Note to self – those cables look a mess!)

Circa 2010 came this 50” Samsung Plasma – a significant upward shift in size and the first TV to support 3D – which was my main motivation for the purchase (read elsewhere on my blog – stereoscopy is a hobby of mine – yes, I am that nerd).  Not much changed otherwise (a spot of decorating and some new carpets maybe)

(Eagle eyed will spot the ill fated (but bargain at £799) Lenco 65” 4K TV in the background waiting to go back as it had arrived damaged)


The Hisense unboxed and in situ. (It is big – this picture doesn’t give you a sense of just how big!)

The first thing that struck me about the TV, apart from its sheer size  is how good it looks!  Aesthetically it is a nice bit of kit lRemoteooking every bit as good (and possibly a little better) than TV’s from the “name brands”. 

The remote is simple and although plastic feels better quality than the average remote.  I was able to navigate around what is quite a lot of functionality quite easily – so ergonomically I guess that is a good thing.  (It feels functionality better than the last two TV remotes I have owned from Samsung and Sharp).


The TV isn’t too heavy and I was able to un-box and attach it to it’s stand (which IS heavy) by myself (easier with 2 people but my wife is away at the moment!). Once assembled it was a struggle to lift it onto the existing unit (in the picture above) but again, I managed it alone.



The down side of being well packaged will be a trip to the dump at the weekend to rid myself of all the cardboard and inserts!



(I will save switching on the TV for the next post).

Oculus Rift (on a budget …)

Anyone who knows me knows of my interest in all things 3d (stereoscopy) and won’t be at all surprised by my interest in the Oculus Rift. (DK2).

However, as most of my stereoscopic viewing equipment looks like this, and not having a particular interest in ‘gaming’ I found that I was lacking in the hardware required to do the Rift justice!

I also wanted to look at development opportunities for the Rift so decided to dip a toe into the water and build an entry-level gaming PC to utilise with it:


Using this page I set about picking out what I hoped would be good value kit with which to build my machine.


My first ‘compromise’ was a new Lenovo desktop machine that came up ‘cheap’ at just under £250 delivered:


  • Processor: 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3470S Processor (6MB Cache, up to 3.60GHz)
  • Operating system: Windows 8.1 Professional 64 English (via included discs)
  • System Graphics: Intel Integrated HD Graphics
  • Total memory: 4GB PC3-12800 1600MHz UDIMM DDR3
  • Pointing device: Lenovo Edge Enhanced Optical USB Mouse
  • Hard drive device: 3.5″ – 500GB 7200rpm SATA
  • Optical device: HH Rambo 8 16x/48x SATA DVD-R/CD-RW
  • Network card: Integrated Intel 82579 Gigabit Network Adapter


I spotted a sell-off of some ‘custom RAM’, not the fastest, but good value at this price (£69.37)

  • Crucial Ballistix BLT2CP8G3D1608DT2TXOBCEU Tracer 16GB kit (8GB x 2) 240-pin DIMM (with LEDs) DDR3 PC3-12800 Memory Module – Orange/Blue


Next up someone posted a good deal (£149) on a mid-range graphics card (GPU).

 I liked this option as if it proved to be lacking I could always get another card and link them together to boost performance using ‘crossfire’:

  • VTX3D AMD Radeon R9 280 X-Edition Graphics Card (3GB, GDDR5, PCI Express 3.0)


Finally I opted to upgrade the PSU as the ‘business oriented’ PSU that came with the shell (180w) would struggle to power the GPU (I wanted 750w or ideally 1000w to give me the crossfire option).  If there is room in the case I will keep both PSU’s otherwise I will ditch the 180w.

  • Coolermaster GM-Series 750W Semi Modular 80+ Bronze Power Supply (£57.90)



So along with the monitor and keyboard (which I already have ‘knocking around’) this would be my starting point (with an SSD and second graphics card being logical upgrades should I need or particularly desire them).

My initial total spend was a little over £500 and looks like this:

  • Processor: 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3470S Processor
  • Operating system: Windows 8.1 Professional 64 English
  • Graphics: VTX3D AMD Radeon R9 280
  • Memory: 16GB  (8GB x 2) 240-pin DIMM DDR3 PC3-12800
  • Pointing device: Lenovo Edge Enhanced Optical USB Mouse
  • Hard drive : 3.5″ – 500GB 7200rpm SATA
  • Optical device: HH Rambo 8 16x/48x SATA DVD-R/CD-RW
  • Network card: Integrated Intel 82579 Gigabit Network Adapter
  • PSU:Coolermaster GM-Series 750W Semi Modular 80+ Bronze


UPDATE 26/08/2014

Kit arrived after a shipping delay – bonus as it also included keyboard, mouse and 3 Windows 8 related discs (I have got used to Windows 8 so am installing that instead of Win 7).

imageI found a 4GB stick in my toolbox so have installed that while waiting for the 2x8GB sticks.  The recovery session is underway as I type this …. my plan is to get Win8 up and running then substitute the PSU, check functionality, then substitute the GPU …

… Fitted new PSU and Left overnight running the update from Win8 to 8.1 so was ready for fitting GPU this morning.  All went smoothly and internals now look like the image here..


Now onto the process of installing Visual Studio and the Rift itself ….



… Oculus Rift up and running.  (wow)

and I cannot say that loud enough … The system coped well with what was thrown at it – if you get a chance sit down in ‘the chair’.  It coped well with all the animations only faltering with some head movement at the point at which I suspect the on screen animations and graphic density was maxed out.  Words do not do it justice :and I am looking forward to seeing what I can bring to the table with my own dev chops!


UPDATE 6/1/2016

Sadly this spec PC fails on the CPU and GPU reccomended minimums but my approach will be to wait and see how performance fairs on release with overclocking (see below) and then upgrade components as required (sadly I am not a millionaire yet Winking smile)

Here’s the recommendations from Oculus for the “full Rift experience”:

graphics card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
processor: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
memory: 8GB+ RAM
output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
input: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
operating system: Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer

When you use the comptibility tool here and don’t meet the recommendations you will see something like this:



GPU Over clocking




NB There appear to be some notes on over clocking this GPU here

I ended up using the utility mentioned and the settings shown.

(I elected not to set these at startup as unless I am running a GPU intensive task I prefer to leave the card at the manufacturers settings, consequently running a little cooler).



Rift Code / Visual Studio

I fired up VS with one of the demo projects and had a ‘play’.  Not being a native C coder means that I wasn’t very comfortable – I look forward to the time when the current managed code native compiler helps to unlock the door to c# development for the Rift!