Massage gun – review for the Theragun’s knockoffs: What’s the benefits?

I have always been a very active guy. I won’t say I am particularly fit or anything but I always seem to have this extra physical energy to burn. If I don’t exercise for a few days, I get grumpy. A bit like when someone is hangry… Yes I know, “hangry for some exercise” doesn’t sound as cool as I would have hoped. I like challenging my body and maybe this energy partly comes from being addicted to the pain I get when I stress my body properly. Theragun, less so today, was once huge on their Instagram game. You would see the pro athletes and fitness model ad posing with this triangular device pounding their muscles every other post on your feed. I am sold on the better recovery better performance theory, although in my head – “definitely not for £275.”

Did some quick browsing on Amazon, there are hundreds if not thousands of this type of massage gun going for £50. At the end of the day, a vibrating ball-head is not exactly high tech.

Appearance

The first thing I found is that, the knockoffs massage gun is usually in a T-shape rather than the Theragun’s triangular shape. Most likely because of the patent issue. Although I find the T-shape works well, I can imagine the triangular shape with the battery leaning forward brings the centre of gravity of the whole device closer to the attachment head. That should give you a bit more control with the device and maybe less energy trying to hold/manoeuvre it. The triangular shape also gives you more ways to grip the massager so you may find it easier to massage places like your back. There are still knockoff models that have funny shapes to try to mimic that handling, but I can’t say for sure if they work just as well or just increasing the weight unnecessarily.

Percussion therapy

So the recovery idea is very similar to deep tissue massage like foam rolling or some other pain hell that your physiotherapists put you through, increase the blood flow to the muscle to carry lactic acid away and increase nerve stimulation to downregulate the nervous system (I guess it’s a bit like, make you suffer until you are a bit numb to it). But instead of sustained pressure, it gives a very frequent short burst of pressure to achieve the same results. It doesn’t hurt as much so that’s why it gets more praise from those of us who find it unfair to endure any more torture after the workout itself. Apparently, they are capable of creating up to 60 pounds of pressure so you should just float the device over the muscles and no need to apply any external pressure.

What’s the benefit

The main selling point is aid recovery. To be fair, I do find that I get less pain when I have been using the massage gun straight after my workout, especially in my legs after my running or cycling training. Although I seem to find a noticeable difference when I tried to only used it on one side of my body, I recently found out from my podiatrist that my right leg seems to be weaker than my left. So now I can’t be sure whether the difference is from the imbalance of my weight distribution or the miracle recovery machine.

Some also advertise the benefits of reducing stress levels. I mean isn’t it the definition of all massage products. I am not the type of person to manifest stress levels anyway so I can’t be the judge here, but I certainly don’t get stress out by the product so I guess it does its job?

If you look on Theragun’s website, they have this “protocol” for a few sport disciplines. They advertise the use of the massage gun for warm-up. Scientifically speaking it adds up, if the machine increases blood flow to that specific muscles group using mechanotransduction, it will achieve the same results as a traditional warm-up. But I would argue apart from warming the muscles, warm-ups are meant to get your heart rate up in preparation for the increased circulation demand, and the massage gun doesn’t do that. Or at least they are not meant to…

Verdict

I like the product idea. I always love a good massage, and instead of paying a therapist per hourly session, you have a portable massage on-demand kind of gig going on. But unlike the pros, I think for the majority of us mere mortal the benefits probably remain in the very superficial level of having a massage. I certainly don’t train like any pro athletes, their intensity isn’t something you can just copy, but I do train hard while I am at it. I don’t feel any significant difference in my recovery time or performance. Maybe when you are competing at the professional level, you will benefit from the marginal gains. If you are at that level, you are not taking advice from a dude on the internet, you are already getting guidance from professional physiotherapists and sports scientists. For the rest of us, unless again your wallet is an endless pit, getting the knockoffs on Amazon will be more than enough to satisfy the need for a good ol’ massage. 

Google Pixel Buds review: Is it any good or should you wait for the A-series

After getting the Google Pixel 4a, Eva wants some true wireless earbuds to complement the set-up. I don’t blame her, I have been going on about how convenient my AirPods are. So with that, Google pixel buds are naturally the first ones that we look at. I am a true believer of the tech ecosystem, products made within the same ecosystem are optimised for native support and thus better user experience. Initially, we were patiently waiting for the Pixel Buds A-Series to come out given the £100 discount for minimal compromise. Then we stumble across Argos doing a deal on Pixel Buds for £109. The price difference suddenly is not that bad anymore, and with  Pixel Buds A-series still yet to come out in the UK, I pulled the trigger for the Pixel Buds. 早買早享受,遲買平幾舊 (a phrase where Hong Kong people love to use to justify their spending “You can enjoy it earlier if you get it early, but could save a few bucks if you wait for the price drop” so either way, we winning)

Appearance

First off, it feels very well built. The oval-shaped charging case is very lovely to hold. The size and matt finish is just right that makes me want to pick it up all the time. It gives me this odd satisfaction of holding a very smooth egg without having to worry I may crush it. It is so smooth that I sometimes find myself rubbing it on my face… wait what.

The magnetic lid gives a very satisfying click. I noticed the lid is slightly heavier than one of the AirPods’ charging cases. Depends on your personal choice, I prefer the flick and click I get from my AirPods… I can’t see why it would matter in your purchasing decision though, I just want to mention it for fun.

Unlike the A-series that are coming, there is only the black and white version. I enjoy the contrast and the resemblance of a panda, making the pixel buds that much more likeable.

Now, you do have to get over the fact that they look like a pair of Mentos sweet in your ears, but guess it is still better than the AirPods which looks like 2 hanging electric toothbrush heads. 

Battery life & Fit

You will get about 5 hours of continuous listening time and about 24 hours more with the charging case. Those numbers are pretty standard, on par with the AirPods from Apple. 

The integrated soft silicone wing tips slot perfectly in Eva’s ears and give her a comfortable and secure fit. But for me, it can create this odd feeling in my concha during a long period of listening, which is not sore but just a bit uncomfortable.

The Pixel Buds comes with interchangeable silicone ear tips to give a better seal for sound isolation. Like the AirPods Pro, they have integrated the venting system to prevent the eardrum sucking feeling but that also let in quite a bit of ambient noise. I mean you can argue both ways, to give you a better spatial awareness and open up the sound stage or ruin your peaceful lo-fi vibe in the coffee shop. It is actually not that bad compared to my AirPods where there is no seal at all, but worth keeping in mind as they don’t have active noise cancelling in case you might want a pair that has better passive noise-cancelling capability.

Sound quality

Google is very proud of their customised 12mm speaker drivers. And to be fair, the sound quality of the Pixel Buds is actually pretty respectable. One thing I notice straight away is the clarity. The layers are nicely separated and not muffled into a big mess. The vocal performance is crisp and clear. But the bass is rather disappointing. I am not a Beats by Dre kind of guy, but the lack of bass is a bit abrupt in the Pixel Buds. It is like looking at a painting only half-finished. But luckily, since its release, Google has updated the software and included the “Bass Boost” feature in the EQ setting. Properly utilising their big driver to push those low frequencies, now the Pixel Buds sound so much better. Not only does it add in that little oomph that it was desperately lacking, but it also makes the whole sound more complete, smoother and more syrupy to listen to.

Touch functionality

I find the control is quite intuitive. One tap to play/pause, two taps to skip, three taps to go back, long press to activate Google Assistant. Pixel Buds also have swipe for volume control which A-series lacks. What I find a bit annoying though is how sensitive it is. Unlike my AirPods that the touch area is quite small and you have to be quite purposeful to control it, the Mentos size earbuds give a massive target for any unwanted touch input. For example, a hug from Eva usually pause or skip my song or trigger Google Assistant. Or adjusting the earbud position, Google Assistant will almost certainly creep in for some action.

Nice touches

Details are important! Google has put in some nice touches on software support. Like the hands-free “Hey Google” to activate Google Assistant, Fast Pair on Android to mimic the experience of seamless pairing with AirPods on iPhones and the Attention Alerts that automatically lower the volume if it detects emergency sirens or baby cries.

Pixel Buds vs Pixel Buds A-Series

Pixel Buds A-Series were set to be released in June. But till today, you can only join the waiting list on the Google store in the UK. It is set to be released at £99 compared to the full price Pixel Buds of £179. A-series actually have very minimal compromise compared to the regular Pixel Buds. No wireless charging care, no swipe for volume control and no attention alerts and no wind reduction on call clarity. If you are getting them at full price, those are not really a compromise for a price difference of £80. But if you are quick, you might still be able to grab yourself the regular Pixel Buds of £109, only £10 difference for a few extra convenient features.

Verdict

Same as the Google Pixel 4a, on paper, it might not be the most impressive wireless earbuds out on the market but I really enjoy the sound quality produced by these little things and the satisfying case completes the whole experience. 

Although truth be told, I don’t think it is a straightforward recommendation unless you are like me and have some kind of ecosystem issue. Sitting at £109, what Pixel Buds have to offer are certainly a very good value for money if not the best at the moment. However, some issues might be a deal-breaker for some. For example, I find the fit differs from person to person and only lucky in my case that the earbuds are for Eva and they fit her very well. I personally have not experienced the connection issue described by so many yet, but it is certainly something to keep in mind. I would give it a 7/10 on the recommendation scale with the discount and a 5.5/10 at the full price of £179.

Google Pixel 4a review: The most under-rated mid-tier phone

Recently found myself looking for a new smartphone although not for myself but for my partner. Her Samsung Galaxy S7 edge finally gave up on her. Got it back in 2016, survived a million drops with only a small crack to the front screen, it decided one day to over-heat and stop working completely. Probably consider herself lucky that it didn’t explode consider Samsung’s reputation around the time when S7 is released (RIP Note 7). Given my favourite spent time is browsing the web to find tech gadgets, I was tasked to find her a new phone with fairly simple criteria: less than £400, reasonable size as girls have no pockets, take good photos and fast enough for her smartphone usage which is Pinterest and Whatsapp. So I got to work and decided on the most unassuming smartphone on the market – Google’s pixel 4a. Here is why…

Mid-tier phone

The mid-tier phone market, phones that are £300-500 mark, is arguably the most competitive and therefore the most colourful. Each phone sacrifice different functionality to compete in this field, creating a more dynamic and interesting range. Unlike the flagship phone market where they just put everything in: the latest chip, more camera lens and bigger and brighter screen. 4 phones caught my eyes: Xiaomi Poco F3, iPhone SE, Samsung A52 5G and of course the Google Pixel 4a.

Spec

 Poco F3Pixel 4aiPhone SEA52 5G
Price£289£299£399£399
ProcessorSD 870SD 730GA13SD 750G
Battery (mAh)45203140No mention4500
DisplayRefresh rate6.67” AMOLED120Hz5.8” FHD+ OLED60Hz4.7” Retina HD60Hz6.5” AMOLED120Hz
Release dateMar ‘21Aug ‘20Apr ‘20Mar ‘21

Why Google Pixel 4a

From the get-go, Pixel 4a does not stand out at all on paper. Not the fastest chip, not the best display, pretty small battery and not the latest phone available either. Xiaomi Poco F3 wins in literally every category, from the price to the hardware. They offer the fastest processor SnapDragon 8 series, the largest battery and an amazing display. But what pushes me to Pixel is the stock Android, amazing camera and the perfect screen size in a sub £300 package.

Review – what’s good

1.    Plastic build means light and no worry for cracked glass

The phone has a matt finished plastic back. It makes the phone very light. It also means there is no need for a phone case as you don’t have to worry about dropping and cracking the glass. I wish I am brave enough to use my iPhone without a case, but the thought of dropping it and having to pay the premium, I will just have to accept the inferior hand feel.

2.    Full-screen OLED

There are a lot of android phones that have a full-screen display with a punch-hole front-facing camera. It just makes the phone nicer to look at. Especially she is coming from the Galaxy S7 edge which had a big forehead and a big chin. Even I am super happy with my iPhone X, I can’t help but still feel jealous of the quality of the OLED display.

3.    Snappy UI

Stock Android is the best Android. It doesn’t have any junk 3rd party app dragging it down. It is smooth and intuitive. They also come with 3 years guarantee of Android updates.

I have not recently used a Xiaomi device, but I had a tablet from Xiaomi previously. Their UI is just too clunky with tonnes of unwanted apps installed on them. On top of that, the fact that Xiaomi is a Chinese company and having witnessed what the Chinese government is capable of doing, I am just not that comfortable with that idea. Hardware in all those 4 phones are more than enough for my partner, it is therefore down to the software experience. Samsung’s One UI is pretty minimal as well but there is no need for the extra spec that comes with that extra £100. She doesn’t want an iPhone as the forehead and chin are off-putting for 2021.

4.    Good looking

I don’t know what it is, but I like the square bump at the back of Pixel 4a better than the straight line camera module from the other phones. I have an iPhone X with has 2 lenses in the top-down configuration, but nowadays phones that have 3 or 4 lenses that also go top-down configuration just looks terrible in my opinion. Pixel 4a has only one camera so it shouldn’t need the square bump but I kind of dig the look. Minimal logo with a stealthy “G” that goes nicely with the matt black finish but have a hint of colour with their contrasty minty green/blue button, all very minimalistic.

Not a huge fan

1.    The fingerprint sensor at the back

It is at a good place when you pick up the phone as your index finger are just there. But it also means you have to pick up your phone. You can’t do the lazy just glancing your phone on the table thing. Well, you can, just have to type in the bloody pin.

2.    Mat finish is slippery

My partner just doesn’t care about tech gear. Little attention is paid to where the phone is placed so the phone is on the floor more than in her pocket. With the matt plastic finish, it is even more likely for it to slide out of her pocket or drop from her hands. The back is plastic but the screen is still glass, so it is just a matter of time.

Verdict

Overall, I think Google’s Pixel 4a is highly under-rated. Because on paper they are not the most impressive one and in the sea of mid-tier phone, it is easy to forget. But for my partner it is the best phone – good price, good size, more than enough power and have an amazing camera that does wonderful things with just software.

Who I would recommend it to: if you want a smartphone that has a good balance of price and quality. Takes good photos without the gimmick fuss, good user experience, only need the phone for basic things like texting, phone calls and media consumption and a reasonable size phone that still fits in your jean pocket.

Who I would say look elsewhere: If you game intensely on your phone. You want the absolute best hardware for the money or you don’t like Android.

Kobo Libra H2O review: The Best Mid-Tier E-reader On The Market?

Since my lockdown resolution to read more started, the thing about carrying a book with me everything that was annoying me was that traditional books are chunky and they are not designed to be particularly friendly with water. So I was digging around with some kind of solution that can make reading a habit easier to stay. That’s when I started looking into the world of e-readers. If you have missed my last blog about Kindle vs Kobo and how I chose to go with Kobo, it might be worth checking it out especially if you are still undecided which company to go with. But if you are here to find out whether you have really made the right conclusion, here is my 1-month review of my Kobo Libra H2O.

Design

The flagship e-readers on the market, namely Kindle Oasis and the Kobo Forma, claim the ergonomic design, physical page-turning buttons, bigger and higher resolution screen, option for landscape and portrait mode and the adjustable colour temperature and brightness front light will provide the most comfortable reading experience to date. So the fact that Kobo Libra H2O adapt a lot of their design and put it into a package half the price caught my attention instantly. 

The handgrip

It houses the two page-turning buttons and is the distinctive feature that separates itself from the lower-priced models. It is slightly raised at an angle, designed to be more ergonomic and slot into your palm while holding. One thing I would say though, despite the fact that I have rather dainty hands, I do sometimes wish the side grip is slightly deeper to give it a bit more secure hold. But balancing the fact that it needs to be thin (that’s the whole point of having an e-reader in the first place), perhaps a slightly gripper finish might well do the trick in the future model. I know some might argue about putting on a case will help with the handling, but I just don’t like the extra bulk it gives.

Kobo Libra H2O e-reader

Page button

Call me what you like but I love a good ol’ physical button. Touch screen technology has indeed come a long way and it has opened up a whole new dimension on how we interact with our devices with the intuitive gesture controls. But able to keep my finger on a button and get to the next page with minimal movement, in my opinion, is much neater in this scenario. Although one thing I would say is, I do wish the buttons have a tiny bit more travel but not complaining at this price point. And don’t worry if you are a diehard touch screen fanatic, they do support touch screen. 

Power button

It is well placed at the back, on the opposite side of the handgrip which means you are very unlikely to bump it accidentally while reading one-handed unless you are some sort of monster to purposefully hold the device on the thin edge. It does, however, mean you need your second hand to turn it off once your finish.

Screen

The evil blue light

The harmful nature of blue light has been well covered over the years. From affecting sleep quality to damaging retina cells, many tech companies have since adapted their screen to reduce the impact of it, such as the Night Shift function with the iPhones and Samsung with their built-in “Blue Light Filter”. Same as Kobo, the front light’s adjustable colour temperature and brightness in the Libra H2O make reading in low light very comfortable in my experience. 

Auto-rotation and landscape mode

The landscape and portrait options certainly add to the fluidity of the user experience. To be honest, I don’t ever use it in the landscape orientation because it just feels weird to me to hold a “book” that way. So I just locked it in the portrait orientation, but with the auto-rotation, I can easily switch between hands by flipping the reader upside down and the text will always be the right way up. It is a feature you don’t think much of it but you will miss it when it is gone (cue the Passenger…).

High resolution

The screen is 1680×1264 which come in as 300ppi (pixel per inch). It is the same as the flagships. Not only does it show crispy texts, but it is also extremely capable of displaying images with great details, well suited for my inner manga nerd.

Lock-screen 

One detail I appreciate is the lock screen. By utilising the bistable property (image stays even with the power being cut off) of the E ink technology, Kobo uses it to display the cover of the book you are reading when you turn it off instead of a blank screen. It gives the impression of an always-on display.

The rest of the features

Battery life

Battery life is one of the strongest selling points of an e-reader. So it may not be surprising to find out that I have only charged it once out of the box and I am yet to charge it again despite having used it every day. Still, with the increasing number of items I need to plug in the wall every night, it is refreshing to find that the Kobo is not one of them.

Waterproofing

This is the must-have feature on my list. Now, although I trust it will survive if I drop it in the bath, the deep-seated fear of “electronic not meant to be mixing with water” is holding me back from dunking it in. I guess knowing it can is enough for me, it certainly survived me splashing water on it going in and out of the bath. That’s the extend I am willing to find out at this presenting time…until the accident strikes. 

Dropbox and Pocket app integration

It is more convenient than I initially thought. I downloaded all my Open University courses through Dropbox without having to find a micro USB cable and a dongle to plug into my laptop. And Pocket encourages me to go through those long web-article archives that I have saved a while back as well. (psst, you can Pocket my blog posts to read them later too!)

Verdict

If you are looking for an e-reader that can do more than just text but at the same time not ready to splash out £200+ on the “luxury experience”, Kobo Libra H2O, in my opinion, is hands down one of the best if not the best mid-tier e-reader on the market. Yes, it only has a 7” screen rather than 8”, 8GB storage instead of 32GB, no flush display and no audiobook support. But for me, a 7” is as good as 8”, I listen to my audiobooks on my phone like I would be listening to my music which means I don’t need huge storage either. But instead of a £130 extra to upgrade to the flagship models, a mere £40 (or less if you are quick, as Kobo is doing a discount means it only costs £119.99 as I am typing) gets you almost all the handy features upgrade you would want from a flagship with only some insignificant compromises. That’s why I bought it!

Which e-reader do you have and what is your thought about Kobo Libra H2O? Or maybe you have an even better alternatives? Leave a comment down below to let me know! 🙂