Fenix 3 is a better smartwatch than most

The Apple Watch is about to be launched this month and there isn’t much excitement in Singapore because the country is not in the first launch wave. Enthusiasm over Android Wear has waned with the lack of compelling new models and there have been no improvements in battery life.

In the meantime, most people don’t know that Garmin has actually launched a pretty good smartwatch in the form of the multisport Fenix 3.

It’s just a pity most people won’t know about the Fenix 3 because they think a smartwatch ought to look like an Apple Watch, Moto 360 or Pebble. And when you tell people this is a “fitness watch”, they may give you the leery look since they associate the term with hardcore fitness freaks.

Continue reading “Fenix 3 is a better smartwatch than most”

Kindle Voyage : A really short review

Has it been five years already, since I first started using a Kindle? Amazing how so many things have changed in this time frame. I had a USD259 Kindle 2 in Feb 2010, then upgraded to a much cheaper USD139 Kindle 3 later that year.

Both were very imperfect e-book readers, hampered by the technologies of 2010. To be honest, I haven’t used my Kindles much in the past few years as the iPad, and later the iPad mini took over the e-book reader function. What I really couldn’t tolerate was the low contrast, low resolution (167 ppi) and dull grey e-ink screen of those Kindles.

Continue reading “Kindle Voyage : A really short review”

Garmin Forerunner 620 review

I recently wrote my first article for Geek Culture, a fantastic blog site for us tech pseudo-nerds and gaming fans. It’s a review of Garmin’s latest flagship running watch, the Forerunner 620.

If you’re serious about running, you’re probably already using a GPS running watch to track your weekly progress. And if you’re a geek, I would wager you are also wondering if somebody has fixed the various technical shortcomings of your current watch.

Issues like heavy weight, ugly looks, bulky size, inconvenient battery charging, short battery life, limited data displays, slow GPS lock-on to poorly designed websites, I’ve experienced all of them in the past four years since I started using different wrist devices to record my runs.

That’s why when Garmin first announced its latest flagship running watch – the Forerunner 620 – the geek in me sat up and noticed. From paper specifications alone, the watch appears to have been designed to fix most of these niggling issues. Even with its high price (USD449 with the improved and advanced Heart Rate Monitor, more on that later), it seemed too good to be true.

Check out the rest of the review here. Since I bought the watch, it had better be good, and hence my review is going to be pretty obvious.

Six Months With A Monster

Monster 1100 Evo in the KPE tunnel

At one point of time, I started to wonder if I had made the right decision in getting a Ducati Monster 1100 Evo. With all relationships, it takes time to get to know your partner well. If the Monster were a woman, I’d say she was hot-tempered, high-maintenance and unforgiving.

And you know, I’ve come to learn that those attributes makes her the perfect mistress. 🙂

If you’re looking for a new motorcycle, and been wondering why would people buy a Ducati Monster for daily city use in Southeast-Asia, here are some things I’ve learned in living with her for six months Continue reading “Six Months With A Monster”

Steinhart Apollon : More than meets the eye

The difficulty about choosing any watch is that it will usually never meet all of one’s criteria for a perfect timepiece. For quite some time now, I’ve been searching for the one watch that fits my personality and my aesthetic tastes. The unintended consequence is that I’ve amassed a small collection of watches (mostly Seikos and G-shocks) that excel in one or two aspects but left me wanting that little bit more.

None of my current watches cost more than a few hundred dollars, since I still cannot fathom why so many premium watches cost the way they do (in the tens of thousands) for the way they are designed (often surprisingly plain to anyone who has a design background). I’m not the kind moved by status or brand power, but by functionality and design. A quick disclaimer is that I’m not a horological expert, but just a guy who likes good gadgets and timepieces are the oldest form of gadgets around.

My criteria for a perfect watch in this phase of my life is pretty straightforward. The watch should be masculine, classical (or rather, timeless), sporty, unique, well-crafted and unpretentious. And I finally found these qualities, give or take a few caveats, in the Steinhart Apollon watch.

Steinhart is a German watchmaking firm that has attained a sizable following in recent years. They released the Apollon late last year, with the unique selling point of offering three interchangeable bezels – stainless steel, bronze and black – in a classic automatic watch design.

At the same time, the watch strap is easily swapped out thanks to the allen key-type screws that is also used for securing the bezels. You can find aftermarket straps at any local watch dealer, but I prefer to go online at Watch Band Center from Germany where the selection is mind-boggling, the prices are reasonable, and it costs less than SGD20 to ship over to Singapore.

So if you are into customizing the look of your gadgets, the Apollon offers an amazing experience in modding that is as easy as putting together a Lego set or Gundam model. In other words, the Apollon is like a Transformer among watches, and you don’t even need to know how to dismantle a watch to get it looking the way you desire.

My friends know that I’m a big fan of modding anything from Xbox chassis decals to my Ninja 250R motorcycle.  Now of course, there have been moddable watches in the past, but few offer the high quality parts like the three bezels that come with this watch.

To complete the package, the Apollon checks all the major boxes for an automatic watch under SGD1,000 – sapphire glass, Swiss automatic movement (ETA 2824-2), Super Luminova on dials, a brushed titanium body, and 300m water resistance. Everything is manufactured with high standards, and it feels and looks way more than it costs.

I purchased it for SGD800 from Gnomon Watches in Singapore, a little high considering the euro SRP of the watch is 440 euro (SGD704) from the Steinhart website. You can order directly from Steinhart itself but do factor in shipping costs.

My favorite bezel, without a doubt, is the bronze piece. Until I purchased this watch, I knew little about the properties of bronze. Then the bronze bezel started to tarnish from the third day and I learned that it was developing “patina” which is a layer that helps to prevent further corrosion. What would we do without Wikipedia?

Patina also imbues the bronze product with a unique vintage look over time, so I guess no two Apollons will look alike after a year. In the photos posted here, the bronze bezel has already developed some patina “stains” and is not as shiny as when I first installed it, but I’m perfectly cool with it.

The bronze form of the Apollon also reminds me of the original Pantheon in Rome, or Mjolnir, Thor’s trusty old hammer. As a big fan of classical sculpture and art, this watch nails it.

My second favorite bezel is the stainless steel piece. As you can see, the watch takes on a completely different look – more like a warrior shield from The Immortals or Captain America’s shield in The Avengers. Coupled with the massive height of the watch (17mm) and the brushed titanium body, the stainless steel Apollon is not unlike the pure chrome Mark II of Iron Man’s armor. It will also pass off as a diver design in this form.

As for the last black bezel, I’m very lukewarm towards it. There are those who like the sports watch look, and this bezel does an okay job. However, it makes the Apollon look a little like the majority of Seiko sports watches out there and does not have the oomph factor in my opinion. This black bezel is not coming out of the dry cabinet anytime soon.

So what’s not to like about this watch?

Firstly, I’m not thrilled about the blue second hand. While the blue color lends the watch a taste of the modern, the watch would have truly gone to the next level had it been a plain chrome or gold color to reinforce the classical look.

Also, the default 24mm wide strap made of Nubuck leather that comes default with the watch is very hard to maintain – the velvety texture ensures that it gets stained a different way each time the watch comes into contact with water. The grey-green color of the strap (you can see it on the Steinhart website) also brings the watch design to an understated level

Luckily, my purchase of the Apollon at Gnomon Watches came with a free 24mm strap and I chose a black leather Rios. I’m still mulling on the Apollon titanium strap that will go very well with the bronze bezel, but it’s pricey at 95 euros.

Finally, the watch is really heavy at 137 grams and I can feel my left elbow developing some extra muscle. The Hulk-height of the watch also means that I have to be careful not to knock it against other objects, and I found my violin string rubbing against the thick strap during practice sessions.

Still, the pros outweigh the cons of the Apollon. My search for the right timepiece has come to an end…for now.