The holidays are over now, sadly, but you may be enjoying some nice holiday gifts. One of the most popular gifts this year is the critically acclaimed Apple Watch. Most new Apple Watches come with one band included, but one of the great features of the watch is that you can swap bands easier than you change your undergarments. That allows you to customize your look and find something that suits you. Apple sells a small variety of bands, but those are very expensive and leaves a lot to be desired.
If you’re like me and want a lot of variety in your choices of wrist wear, you collect different bands. I’ve tried a bunch of different ones and I have one to suggest to you today.
“Longvadon was founded by two French brothers with a passion for watches and style. It all started when one of the brothers, Robin, was sitting in a cab with a friend who’d just bought the Apple Watch and was complaining about how he just couldn’t find a really good looking, classy, quality strap for his watch after looking everywhere online. It was all either cheap knockoffs or the few extremely expensive options offered by Apple and its partners.”
The Longvadon Story
This is my second Longvadon strap, my first was featured in my Apple Watch review. I’m currently using the Men’s Classic Navy Blue Leather band as my daily driver. My favorite feature is the clasp. On the outside it looks like a traditional watch band buckle that sometimes can be tricky to put on and take off. Underneath the buckle is a butterfly style clasp that you may find on all-metal watch bands. With the press of a button you can easily slide this off your wrist when you need to charge and then put it back on with low effort.
Having tried other leather watch bands, I find the finish on the Longvadon band very comfortable and durable. With the clasp design you don’t have the normal wear and tear on the buckle that comes with a traditional style. The lugs, or where the watch band attaches to the watch, sometimes don’t fit right or slide around, unlike the Apple branded straps. The Longvadon band clicks in and stays put like it should. You can tell attention was paid to the details and fit on this band.
Longvadon is an easy company to order from. They use a secure payment processing system that even allows you to pay via PayPal, Apple Pay, or Amazon Pay. I prefer to use Apple Pay on the web where I can to ensure my transaction and information is secure.
If you’re looking for a band that both be a comfortable everyday band, but also class up your look when you want, give the Longvadon collections a look.
I’ve been working with Longvadon to get Beard Blog readers a special price on their watch bands. If you use this link and promo code: BEN20 you’ll get 20% off your purchase!
Continuing my list of the best things from 2020, mostly what helped us get through the pandemic, the most obvious thing you use a lot is your phone. There are a lot of great apps I use everyday but the three I’m about to list are essential apps for entertaining me, staying connected, and getting me what I need. What are some of your favorite apps of the past year?
Unlike movies of the past year, TV shows or series, have become our primary form of entertainment. Personally, I’ve been favoring a series over a movie because they seem to be better written and produced these days. There was a lot, past and present, content to watch while we were all stuck at home this past year. TV helped us pass the time of being quarantined, but also helped us connect with others by sharing common interests in content. I enjoyed a lot of TV shows this year, but I whittled my list down to just three. These three are new shows for 2020. There were a lot of great shows (The Mandalorian, The Boys, Big Mouth, The Crown, and Ozark) that gave us new seasons to enjoy. Today I’m focusing on shows that debuted in 2020.
In no particular order, here are my picks for best new TV show of 2020:
An international phenomenon and the only thing a lot of us talked about during the earlier outbreak of COVID-19. Joe Exotic, the Tiger King won us all over with his crazy story and footage at his entertainment park. If you haven’t seen this by now, stop what you’re doing and give it a watch. You’ll thank me later. Hopefully someday we’ll get more from this crew, but for the rest of history, Joe Exotic will be what helped us get through our first ever pandemic shut down.
A comedy about an English soccer team coached by an American doesn’t really sound like something most people would be interested in. Before I started watching Ted Lasso it was not something I would have watched based on the synopsis, or cover if you will. After the first episode I was hooked. It’s a kind hearted, well written story about overcoming the various hurdles in your life for a bigger purpose. When you watch Ted Lasso you’ll find yourself laughing, crying, and on the edge of your seat, all in the same episode. Don’t worry about the premise, give it a shot and if you’re like me, you’ll be counting down the hours until you can watch more of Ted.
A series about a chess prodigy… is this going to be another Ted Lasso where we don’t want to judge a book by its cover? Well, in short, yes. The Queen’s Gambit follows a young girl through the child welfare system where she discovers her natural ability to play chess. I can’t explain really what draws me to this show, but I think it’s primarily the story telling and the acting. The lead actress shines through her ups and downs as we see what it’s like to be a chess cehampion in the mid-20th century. The Queen’s gambit is another show that you should ignore what you think it might be about and just watch it. Again, trust me.
Movie theaters were open for like five minutes this year and it doesn’t look like their reopening anytime soon. Most all big movie releases this year were either delayed or went directly to streaming so it’s been a crap year for new movies. There were a handful that snuck out before the pandemic hit, but all the blockbusters haven’t seen the light of day yet. In fact, this past Christmas day, Wonder Woman 1984 was released on HBO Max, for no additional cost. This is the first giant movie to do this and Warner Media is continuing this strategy into 2021. All in all, 2020 was a crap year for movies, hopefully next year is better.
One of my favorite categories to talk about and engage with others on is technology. Not only is it my day job but I would consider technology to also be a hobby and lifestyle of mine. Surprisingly 2020 gave us a lot of new technology; I guess that’s one thing that the pandemic couldn’t hold back. Some things were delayed, other things are supply constraint, but after it’s all said and done, nothing really got cancelled because of COVID. Good things come to those who wait so my top three picks this year were all released within a week of each other.
In order of release date, here are my three picks for best piece of technology sold in 2020:
The next generation of gaming is here! Finally we have solid state storage standard and get the amazing features like 120 frames per second and ray tracing. These are still really hard to find along with its counterpart the Sony PS5 due to high demand and low supply. Earlier this year I wrote about how you may want to put a new TV on your list as well to take full advantage of this new hardware.
The iPhone design is all new this year and Apple finally brought back the flat edge design that the iPad Pro has had for a few years now. In addition to the great new design, all new iPhones get 5G, OLED displays, and new colors. The best of them all, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, includes major changes to the three camera system producing some of the best photos you can get out of a smartphone. Two really great things about the new iPhones Pro are storage and video. Apple starts the Pro Max out at 128GB which is the sweet spot of storage for me. Lastly, the new iPhones Pro take HDR (Dolby Vision) video which may not seem like much, but when you watch it on your phone or an HDR TV, you really see the difference. I don’t want to take any other kind of videos again.
Earlier this summer Apple mentioned they would be ditching Intel for their processors and moving to their own, dubbed Apple Silicon. Now we have the first set of Macs which include the new Apple Silicon processors, the M1. It’s crazy to think that for only $999 you can get a tiny little laptop that has all day battery life and is faster than 90% of the computers out on the market, right now. We’ll probably never see leaps and bounds like this in computers again, so we have to relish it while it’s here. Anyone who asks me what computer they should buy, before they can finish I blurt out “MacBook Air with M1”. It’s great for everything from web browsing to professional video editing. It’s truly a great computer at a great price.
Much like my albums of the year, I’m listing my songs of the year. These songs are standouts and heavily rotated tracks in my library. Only one of the songs happens tp appear on my albums of 2020 list. Nevertheless, it was tough to only pick three, but by limiting that small amount I pull some truly great songs that I’ll be listening to for years to come.
The past several years, I’ve done ‘The Best Albums’ of 2018 and 2019 because music is a very large part of my life, more so listening than playing. Because it’s 2020, I’ve switched it up and limited my picks to just three and this joins an expanded list of ‘Best of’ for this year.
This past year was a horrible year in more ways than one. I’ve decided to only talk about the best things that came out of 2020. Over the next several days until the end of the year, I will be posting about my favorite and best things that I experienced in 2020.
Starting with video games, much like other categories I’ll go over, being at home gave me a lot more time to appreciate these things.
The video games I have listed as my best for 2020 came from Xbox. There are some other games that should probably be on this list, but because I only have an Xbox at this time, I was unable to experience them.
Thinking about getting a Sony PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series S|X this holiday season, or any point in the future? If so, the odds are your current TV won’t be good enough to get everything out of these next-gen1 consoles. Here’s why…
What’s Special About the Next-Gen Consoles
The next generation of console gaming is here and with it brings a variety of new technology that will make gaming exponentially better than previous generations. For starters, both new consoles come with solid state storage (finally!) that will make loading times 100 times faster than older systems. Another significant change is how similar the two major systems (PS5 & Xbox) compare in performance. In years past we could see an easy winner of performance on paper, but this generation, it’s much closer. The PS5 and Xbox Series X both make claims of achieving 120 frames per second2 at 4K resolution3 , which was previously only possible on very high-end computer rigs.
So Why Do I Need a New TV?
Let’s say for a moment you got a nice shiny new 4K TV a year or two ago and think that your new gaming system will look great on it. Yes it will display at 4K, but you won’t get the new features that allow 120fps gaming or advanced HDR4 for gaming. Keep in mind, if you’re TV isn’t updated, you’re better off waiting to get a new PlayStation or Xbox until you get a new TV or there is a specific game you want to play on the next-gen consoles. If you currently have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One or One S, you’re not even currently getting above 1080P5 gaming. You need a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X6 to get the higher resolutions. If you’re fine with not getting the most out of your new system and just want the next-gen consoles, then you’re good to go and don’t need to keep reading.
What Do I Look for in a New TV?
There are three major keys to look for in a new TV for your next-gen console. I would make sure the TV you’re selecting has all of these features to make your experience the best it can be.
HDMI version 2.1 This is the latest spec of HDMI that allows 3x more data to go through the cable. Both systems have HDMI 2.1 ports, so your TV needs to as well.
120hz refresh rate This is how fast a TV refreshes the picture. Most TVs operate at 60hz. The 120hz refresh rate is needed to hit that 120fps mark.
HDR10+ or Dolby Vision support These are competing HDR standards. This will allow you to get the most 4K/HDR content out of your new TV. I personally prefer Dolby Vision, but if you buy a Samsung, it will have HDR10+.
Bonus features to look for: VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), G-SYNC, FreeSync, HGiG, and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode)
Just Tell Me What TV to Buy
If you don’t want to look for a TV that has everything you could need to enjoy next-gen gaming, I have some recommendations for you.
Top Pick: LG CX OLED 55”, 65” or 77”
Has all the bells and whistles plus it’s OLED so it looks incredible
Supports Dolby Vision
Samsung Q80T LCD 55”, 65” or 75”
Great alternative to the high-priced OLED, also has everything you need
Budget Pick: Vizio P Series Quantum X LCD 65”, 75”, or 85”
Personally I chose the LG CX OLED 65” for my home theater and gaming TV. The TV was discounted heavily for the holidays and met all my requirements. Now all I have to do is wait for my Xbox Series X to show up.
Another year, another Apple Watch. Even amid the craziness of 2020 Apple found time to release an update to one of their still emerging products. I’ve been a fan of the Apple Watch since day one and it keeps getting better and better with each revision. I purchased the Apple Watch Series 6 on launch day making this my fifth watch since the original in 2015.
Just like last year, there aren’t a lot of major changes, especially when views as a year over year change. The Series 6 still looks the same and comes in the same sizes as the Series 4 and 5. The biggest three changes this year are the addition of the blood oxygen sensor, new case colors, and better always-on display.
The Series 5 finally gave me a feature that I’ve been longing for ever since the first Apple Watch, the always-on display. This allows you to view information on your watch without having to raise or flip your wrist. The Series 6 expands on that with a brighter display that allows you to see it better in sunlight (in always-on mode).
Something that is pretty relevant right now with COVID-19 being a respiratory disease, is the ability to measure your blood oxygen level. You may have seen this in your doctor’s office when they put a sensor on your finger to get your pulse and a percentage usually in the high 90s. Apple warns that this is not a health device so it should only be viewed as informational. I suspect this is just a liability protection until they can get FDA clearance like the ECG.
I used the Apple Watch blood oxygen reading and a traditional sensor and they both resulted in 99%. To me, this justifies the level of accuracy I would expect out of this device. Just like the ECG in the Series 5 (which is still present and the same in Series 6) I’ll probably only use this occasionally when I remember it exists. The watch will also take background measurements when you are idle, which could be interesting to track.
For the first time ever, we finally have actual colors in the Apple Watch. Instead of the usual silver, space gray, and gold finishes, we get an anodized blue and red finish for the Series 6. These look great in person with and have a similar matte finish as the iPhone 11. The stainless model also got a refined finish changing the black to graphite.
The model I went with is the Apple Watch Series 6 44mm Graphite Stainless Steel. Usually I opt for the Aluminum “Sport” versions, but after a few years of my watch face getting severely scratched I find the stainless model (which features a sapphire crystal lens) to be better against scratches.
In addition to a new Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced a lower-priced SE version. This is the same as the Series 6, but without the blood oxygen sensor, ECG, and always-on display. This creates a good, better, best structure to the Apple Watch tiers allowing a wider variety of buyers.
New watches usually come with new bands and this time around Apple debuted a new style called the Solo Loop. Similar to the original Sport Bands, this is a single piece of silicone that you can stretch around your hand to attach to your wrist. These bands come in 12 different sizes (1 – 12) to fit a wide variety of wrists. Downside to this is it’s not like shoes where most people know their size. You have to measure your wrist and hope it’s correct. Apple provides a printable measuring tool to measure your wrist. The tool told me I was a size 12, but I concluded a 11 would be a better fit. After getting the band, I could have gone down to a 10, but that might be too tight. If you but a Solo Loop band with an Apple Watch, and it doesn’t fit, you have to return the entire watch and band to get another one. This is a difficult online-only purchase as in-store try ons would be great for this item.
Update: I have since reached out to Apple about their Solo Loop sizing debacle. They have revised their return policy to allow returning of the band purchased with the watch. Apple also update their sizing guide to make it more clear that it needs to be a tight measurement. They are sending me a size 10 and a box to send them the too large size 11 back. To make things right, they’re also gifting me a Sport Band for my troubles.
Of course you don’t have to use a watch band made by Apple. One of my favorite bands are made by the good folks over at Longvadon. They make luxury watch bands that pair great with an Apple Watch. Made to look like they came right off a high-end luxury traditional watch. The cost of these bands slots nicely between the cheap knockoffs and the really expensive Apple bands. My favorite thing about these Longvadon bands is they combine the traditional metal clasp with a buckle fastener, meaning you can just unclasp the watch and slide it off your hand instead of fiddling with the buckle. Pictured above is the ‘Men’s Whiskey Brown w/ Silver Details’ from their Caiman Series. It has a beautiful embossed crocodile pattern on top of high quality top grain bovine leather. The inside of the strap is very comfortable and soft. Shortly after I got my Apple Watch Series 6 I had a wedding to attend and the Longvadon watch band was the perfect way to class up my watch for the formal occasion. You can get your own Longvadon watch band on their website use my exclusive code ‘BEN20’ to save 20% off all products in their store!
There’s always a great reason to get a new Apple Watch, and this year’s lineup is no exception. With all the fitness and health benefits of an Apple Watch I recommend any iPhone user (and now their kids) look into being an Apple Watch wearer.