A Review of Watch Dogs: Legion

There are a variety of different types of games available. Some of these are puzzle games, others are action games, and some are classic card games. Bringing any game to market, no matter how big or small, is a major undertaking. Sometimes the game becomes a hit, sometimes it flops.

When you have a hit, there is a possibility that it will allow further games. In some cases, the entire story is a one-off and does not warrant a sequel, but sometimes you get a new series of games. No matter if it is a new intellectual property or another game in an existing franchise every game has a lifecycle to it. It goes from concept, to prototype, to active development, to actual release, or maintenance.

If a game sells well enough there may be a sequel, once you have at least two games you have a franchise. The first game in a series was released in 2014 called Watch Dogs. Watch Dogs was highly anticipated titled and I think it lived up to the hype. 

Watch_Dogs

In Watch Dogs, you play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and former thug, whose criminal past led to a violent family tragedy. Now on the hunt for those who hurt your family, you’ll be able to monitor and hack all who surround you by manipulating everything connected to the city’s network. Access omnipresent security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, control traffic lights and public transportation to stop the enemy… and more.

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs was not the last in the series. In 2016 the sequel, Watch Dogs 2, was released. In Watch Dogs 2, it’s 2016, ctOS 2.0, an advanced operating system networking city infrastructure, was implemented in several US cities to create a safer, more efficient metropolis. Play as Marcus Holloway, a brilliant young hacker living in the birthplace of the tech revolution, the San Francisco Bay Area. Team up with Dedsec, a notorious group of hackers, and expose the hidden dangers of ctOS 2.0, which, in the hands of corrupt corporations, is being wrongfully used to monitor and manipulate citizens on a massive scale.

I wrote up a review of Watch Dogs 2 in 2016, so be sure to check that out. Now, four years after the release of Watch Dogs 2 comes the third in the series, Watch Dogs: Legion, which is the topic of this review and provides some twists from what was in Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2.

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion goes across the pond from the United States and places you in London, England. “London’s facing its downfall courtesy of state surveillance, private military, and organized crime. Recruit a well-rounded resistance to overthrow the wankers ruining this once-great city. The fate of London lies with you.”

Basic Story

The game starts off with you playing as Dolton Wolfe who is working with London’s branch of DedSec. DedSec finds that there are explosives set to go off at multiple places in London, including the Houses of Parliament. Wolfe tries to disable the bombs that are set to go off, Guy Fawkes style, and discovers that those trying to set off the bombs are part of a group calling themselves “Zero Day”.

Due to these bombs, the British government allows a company called Albion to take over and restore order to the streets of London. DedSec are being blamed and held responsible for the bombings, and therefore they are being targeted. It is your job to rebuild DedSec and help the city rise up against Albion, the criminals, and the government, and take back the streets of London.

Team

Team in Watch Dogs: Legion

When you start a Watch Dogs: Legion, you are able to pick your character from a selection of characters. Along with this you also get to choose a mask. The mask is what the character will don when they are either in a restricted area or in a fight. 

The original Watch Dogs game allowed you to hack anybody to obtain information about them and steal their money. This was not nearly as prevalent in Watch Dogs 2, but has made its way back to Watch Dogs: Legion, but with a twist. Instead of hacking someone to steal their money, you hack someone to see if they might be useful for your team. Each individual that you hack has some abilities, some may be good for your team, while others may not be as useful.

For instance, a character that I had allowed uniform access to Albion sites. This is great, except he would get hiccups, so this made him a bit more noticeable by others. Similarly, there are some characters who have gambling addictions and may randomly gamble ETO. ETO is money in Watch Dogs: Legion. Yet, other characters may be public figures so they will be noticed in public. There are even characters who will randomly die. I am not sure what happens if you have perma-death enabled, because I did not play with perma-death enabled, but more on that in a minute.

List of potential recruits in Watch Dogs Legion

Along with being able to find people throughout the city, some may be recommended recruits. When someone is recommended it is because you may be able to use them in an upcoming mission, or they may have one aspect that can help the team overall. This may be something like faster healing or reduced jail time.

Because you are able to recruit just about anyone, no two people will ever be able to play the exact same game. Yes, the missions may be the same, but the experiences will never be the exact same between two people due to the variety of teams, the team’s talents, and the approach they take to the game overall. There is one setting that was mentioned earlier that may change your game play experience, and that is a setting called “perma-death”.

Perma-Death

When you start the game you have a choice to make besides which character to choose. You have to choose whether or not enable a feature called “perma-death”. When enabled “perma-death” will cause any of your team members who are killed to be dead, permanently. This means that the player cannot be revived and cannot be played again. Once enabled, this cannot be disabled. similarly, once you have chosen to disable it, it cannot be re-enabled later.

Enabling perma-death can add an interesting twist on the game, but since you are able to recruit anybody, you can always recruit additional individuals should one of your characters die. I did not enable perma-death when I played through the game, but if I go through and play again at some point in the future, I may enable it.

Game Mechanics

Watch Dogs Legion has many similarities to the previous games in the series. One aspect of game play that continues within the game is needing to unlock areas by turning electrical lines. This has always been one of my favorite aspects of the Watch Dogs series and it continues in Watch Dogs: Legion. Although, it is not nearly as prevalent as in the previous games, but they still are present.

One detail that you might not think about for a game is the driving. Not that a developer would not take into account such a large aspect of a game, they would, but there has been careful attention paid to driving within Watch Dogs: Legion. Each different type of vehicle has its own driving and handling characteristics. Here is an example of driving a car.

For instance, a motorcycle handles differently than a luxury car, which handles different than the iconic double-decker bus (yes, you can drive one), and all of these handles differently than an Albion police car does. This attention to detail is a nice touch and choosing the right car may be able to to get you out of a sticky situation. Next, let us turn to a large aspect of the game, hacking.

Hacking

The biggest aspect to the Watch Dogs series is the idea of “hacking”. What you are hacking depends on the game. The original Watch Dogs game had the ability to hack people for their money, you could hack cameras, cars, and many other elements. The same held true in Watch Dogs 2. However, in Watch Dogs: Legion you are able to hack a lot more within London. You can hack people to recruit them, as mentioned above, however you can also hack other items.

These items include barriers, cars, and drones. There are a variety of different types of drones. The different types include:

  • Cargo Drones
  • ctOS Drones
  • Delivery Drones
  • Chase Drones
  • Riot Drones

You can perform a number of tasks on drones, including disabling them, hacking them, or betraying them. Disabling a drone will temporarily stop it from working. Hacking a drone allows you to take over the drone, which can be useful in some situations. When you betray a drone, it will autonomously operate on your behalf. This last option is not available for all drones, but only for those with weapons.

Along with the drones, you are also able to hack cars, causing them to go in a specific direction or just to crash so they are out of your way.

Hacking is still a major part of the game play, but it is not necessarily the primary means of completing the game. This may not be 100% true, because after a while having to hack things just became second nature again and faded into the background and just became habit.

Side Quests

Watch Dogs Legion has a main story line. Along with this, you can perform some side missions in order to obtain more items. These may be used to recruit team members or just to fill in the overall story line. 

When you hack a person to see if they might be a good fit for your team, you can save their information to recruit them later. When you recruit a person, you will have to perform a task for them before they will join your team. Some of these tasks are easier than others. Try not to fail when doing these, because the characters may hate you and then you can no longer recruit them. Luckily, since you can recruit just about anybody, you can find another similar character and recruit them instead.

There is one mission within the game that I would totally play an entire set of puzzles that were just flying the mini-drones through different levels.

Collectibles

Many games have different collectibles, and Watch Dogs Legion is no different. There are a few different types of collectibles. These include:

  • Paste ups
  • Relics
  • Text files
  • Audio files
  • Tech Points
  • ETO
  • Masks

Some of these are out in the open, while others require a bit more  ore ingenuity to figure out. Some of these items are also only available while within a mission.  None of these items are needed to complete the game, but obtaining some of them, like ETO and Tech Points will allow you to purchase items. Getting things like relics, text files, and audio files will help fill out the entire story. If you collect a relic, text file, or audio file, you can look at it in the menu.

Here is a video of what performing a “Paste Up” looks like. You can also see me do something stupid at the end of the video.

Tips

After you play a game you may find ways that you could have improved your game play. Now that I have finished the game, I have some tips for those who have not yet played it.

Tip 1: Early in the game, use auto drive. One of the things that you can do is grab a car and almost every vehicle has the ability to automatically take you to your destination. I recommend doing this early on so you can become accustomed to not only the layout of the city. Furthermore, when you drive in London, you drive on the left side of the road, not the right side. Therefore, auto drive may help you acclimate to driving on the left side oft the road and learn the rules of the road.

Tip 2: Recruit an Albion character. This will make things a lot easier during the game, particularly since many of the areas that you need to go into can be done stealthily with an Albion character.

Tip 3: Use stealth as much as possible. There are a number of tasks that do not require you to go all “run and gun” and instead, might be better completed by either hacking cameras or using a spider. Use these as much as possible.

Tip 4: Similar to using stealth, also use melee attacks as much as possible. Doing this may allow you to subdue an enemy without other enemies being alerted.  Here is a melee video as an example.

Tip 5: There is a mission where you must chase a van, get a tough vehicle, like an Albion Hummer and use that to tip the van. It will make completing the job significantly easier. Also, use the drones that attack during that mission to your advantage.

Tip 6: If the game says “you are no longer online”, quit the game and restart. Anything you do will not be saved and you will be wasting your time.

The last tip brings us to the next section, issues that I ran into while playing.

Problems with the Game

No modern software, let alone a large game, is 100% bug free. Bugs are to be expected. Even so, I ran into some pretty severe problems with the game while playing it.

The first issue that I experienced was the game randomly crashing. The game would just randomly freeze and crash. 

Of course, when a game crashed progress that I would have made would not be saved. Sometimes, this was just a minor annoyance, but more often than not, it was a bigger issue.

The biggest issue I ran across was that the game would not save my progress. I do not mean that I would die and would have to go back. What I mean is that I would do a lot of work in the game and the game would crash.

The biggest one of these was when I was working on the last main mission, literally at the end of the game, and the game froze. Not only did it not save that mission, I lost SIX MISSIONS worth of progress. I had to redo six missions to get back to where I was.

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE. Losing progress for a single mission, or one leg of a mission, is one thing. But having to redo multiple missions is just hostile. Ubisoft needs to have more robust saving system where the game is saved locally and then uploaded to their servers. If this is how it actually works, then it is absolutely broken. If not, then this is how it should work.

Besides the pervasive not saving progress issue, I also ran across some other bugs. For instance, I took down a person who had an access card, but they fell into a column. When this happened, I could not hack the access code, therefore I could not access the area that the card opened up. As proof, here is a photo of the character in the column.

Bug in Watch Dogs: Legion where a character is stuck in a column.

Another example of that is this video where I tossed a spiderbot onto a building and it got stuck.

Another bug that I ran into, literally, is where I tried to turn the corner on the balcony of a building and the only thing that happened is that I was stopped. It was like a barrier extended beyond where it should. Here is the video showing what I experienced.

Here is another bug that I ran across, a missing person that I was supposed to rescue. I was able to rescue them, but it is still odd to not have the character show at all. Here is the video for that.

These last few items were minor annoyances and did not really affect game play all that much. The inability to get the access card did cause me to have to leave the area completely and come back to that spot later on. As you can see from the video, I was able to get around the invisible barrier, but it still should not have been there.

Closing Thoughts

When the original Watch Dogs game as first announced, I was immediately intrigued. Not only because of the unique hacking of the game, which was the primary draw, but also because it was based in Chicago. 

When Watch Dogs 2 was announced and released, I knew it was a game I would instantly buy and play, because it continued the same type of game. When I heard that Watch Dogs: Legion was going to be set in London, I knew I would going to buy it, but I was a bit apprehensive because I was unsure about how the “recruit anybody” mechanism would work. 

The game is really good. The fact that it is based in London is what really grabbed me. I have only ever visited London once, but I really want to to back. Maybe one day. The Watch Dogs series of games are some of my favorites, not only for the story lines, but for the actual game play. 

If you enjoyed the original Watch Dogs or Watch Dogs 2, I would absolutely recommend you pick up Watch Dogs: Legion. The new recruitment within the game is a nice twist on standard game play, as is the ability to do just about anything within the game.

Even though there are issues with the game, like the crashing and lost progress, the game is still worth playing and an enjoyable game. All of this is before the first expansions for the game are available, so even just for the core game, it is one that you should look into getting.

Here is a group of photos taken from within the game.

A picture taken of the moon in Watch Dogs: Legion
A picture taken of the moon.
The Millennium Wheel in Watch Dogs: Legion
The Millennium Wheel
The Parliament Building with Big Ben in Watch Dogs: Legion
Tower Hill in Watch Dogs: Legion
Tower Hill
The Tower Bridge in Watch Dogs: Legion
The Tower Bridge

iPhone 12 Pro Max: A Review

The iPhone 12 line of phone represents the 14th family of iPhones, but it is not the 14th iPhone. In fact, to date there have been 25 different iPhones, across 14 different processor families, introduced prior to this fall’s crop of iPhones.

Early in the life of the iPhone, the improvements that one would see from year to year were more significant than they have been lately. However, that is it not to say that any year’s iPhone is a dud. There is a segment of users who do upgrade every year, like myself. We are not the norm, and the differences that we see are less pronounced, compared to most iPhone users.

Most people when they get a phone, they will use that phone for multiple years, and sometimes the iPhone that they are using is one that has been used by someone else, prior to them receiving the iPhone. The typical upgrade cycle for most users is around three years. If you were upgrading to one of the iPhone 12 line, your last phone would have possibly been an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or even an iPhone X.

This review is going to cover a few different areas and some accessories. These will include, the form-factor, the cameras, 5G, the Silicone Case with MagSafe, and the MagSafe Charger. Let us turn to something a bit more practical, the form-factor of the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Form Factor

The iPhone has seen a significant change to the way each phone looks. The original iPhone had its own distinct shape, replete with rounded corners and the 3.5-inch screen.

The iPhone 3G and iPhone 3Gs improved upon the original iPhone’s design with a more tapered shape. With the release of the iPhone 4 though a whole new design was undertaken, one with squared edges and glass on both the front and back of the phone. The iPhone 4s had the same form factor as the iPhone 4.

The iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s took their cues from the iPhone 4, but instead of a glass back, there was a metal back, but the square corners remained. Furthermore, the iPhone 5 was a slightly taller screen, which was the first change in screen size.

The phones released in 2014 changed everything and was the biggest change to the iPhone. No longer were the older iPhones. The 3.5-inch and 4-inch screen sizes were no more. Now, there were two new sizes, 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches. Along with this screen size differences, the square edges were also gone in favor of rounded edges.

The form-factor of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus remained the same for both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8. The next big change came along with the iPhone 8 with a brand new form factor on a whole new phone, the iPhone X.

The iPhone X introduced a slew of new features, like the removal of the home button and the inclusion of Face ID, in place of Touch ID, and a rounded screen. The rounded screen allowed a whole new interaction mechanism with the home bar at the bottom of the screen and using gestures for navigation instead of relying on the home button.

The entire screen of the iPhone X, through the iPhone 11, had the edges of screen wrap around into the case of the phone. This provided a smooth transition from the screen onto the other portions of the screen. This was particularly useful when you were attempting to use the home bar and sliding up from the bottom of the screen.

iPhone 12 Pro Max next to an iPhone 11 Pro Max
iPhone 12 Pro Max next to an iPhone 11 Pro Max

The iPhone 12 Pro Max does not follow the same form factor as the other Face ID-enabled devices, insomuch as the outer case is no longer rounded. Instead, it more closely mimics the iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, and iPhone 5s by using squared edges.

The square edges of the iPhone 12 Pro Max provides a bit more bulk to the iPhone, despite it being 0.7mm or 0.29 inches smaller. The item that adds the bulk is the square corners. This is because with the previous five phones have all had rounded corners.

There is one last item to cover regarding the iPhone 12 Pro Max, The screen size.

Screen Size

I have been fortunate enough to be able to get a new iPhone every year that there has been a new one. At first this was made possible because AT&T was subsidizing the price. I made the decision to no longer be held into a contract and instead starting paying for the phone at its full price. This started with the iPhone 5s.

Having owned an iPhone every year, I have seen a significant number of changes to the iPhone, in particular, the screen size. The first of these was subtle. This was with the iPhone 5, when the screen size went from 3.5-inches to 4-inches. While only a change in the vertical dimension, it was still a noticeable change.

The bigger change came two years later, with the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. I purchased the iPhone 6 Plus and it was a huge jump going from a 4-inch screen to a 5.5-inch screen. This change required a different method of holding the iPhone. The additional screen real estate also allowed for a split view when held in landscape, as well as a new “reachability” feature that would slide the entire screen down so you could reach an element in the upper corner.

Even if you did not get the iPhone 6 Plus, and instead opted for the iPhone 6, you would still get a phone with a 4.7-inch screen. This alone was still a 17.5% increase in diagonal screen size. Still a significant difference.

As mentioned earlier, the next big change came in 2017, with the release of the iPhone X. This was the biggest change with the removal of the home button and Touch ID, the inclusion of Face ID, and the most significant change, edge to edge screen. With the screen going edge-to-edge, the physical size of the screen increased to a 5.8-inch screen. Even though the actual difference is only 5.4% different, the entire iPhone being screen does make the screen feel significantly larger than it actually might be.

In 2018, Apple took the iPhone X, introduced just a year earlier, and added a larger version. This larger model created the largest screen for any iPhone, to that point, with a 6.5-inch screen on the iPhone XS Pro Max. The successor to the iPhone XS Max, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, retained this same screen size.

Comparison of iPhone Models, iPhone X, iPhone 11 Pro Max, and iPhone 12 Pro Max
Comparison of iPhone Models, iPhone X, iPhone 11 Pro Max, and iPhone 12 Pro Max

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has now usurped the iPhone XS Max and iPhone 11 Pro Max as the largest iPhone, to date, with a 6.7-inch screen. The screen is now 3% larger. Even though this is the smallest jump from the previous model, it is still a noticeable change.

As has been the case with all of the previous changes in screen size, after a couple of days, picking up the iPhone 11 Pro Max, it now seems a bit small. I am pretty sure that if I had to go back to the smaller phone, I would be able to do so after a few days.

If you are going to go for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and you have not had a “Max” phone, be prepared for a whole different experience. The larger phone does mean that your thumbs will need to reach even further than before in order to interact with an element on the screen.

Now that we have covered the screen, let us look at an aspect to the phone that is entirely superficial.

Let us start with something that makes no difference in the function of the phone, but is a change, for me anyway.

Pacific Blue

I have purchased an iPhone every year since 2007. While I have not always gotten the phone with the highest amount of storage, I have traditionally gotten the phone which was either space gray, black, or graphite. For the first three iPhones, the original iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS, the color would not have mattered, as the front glass was black.

Starting with the iPhone 4, through the iPhone 7 Plus, the only way to get the front plate to be a dark color was to get the Space Gray/Black/Graphite iPhone. So, this is what I did. However, since 2017 and the introduction of the iPhone X, there have been no bezels on the front of the phone, so in reality the color would not matter. However, the iPhone X and iPhone XS Max only came in three colors; Gold, Silver, and Space Gray. If I would have ended up with a Silver iPhone X or iPhone XS Max, it probably would not have mattered to me, in the long run. However, I do not like gold, so that would have been a non-starter.

Last year with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, Apple did offer a Midnight Green color. I was tempted to get this color, but I was not sure that the color would be what I wanted. Instead, I went with the Graphite iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Back of a Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max
Back of a Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max

This year I did something different. I went with the Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max. I opted for this color for two reasons. The first is that it is likely that I will only have the phone for a year, so if I did not like the color, I would not have to have it that long. The second reason I went with the Pacific Blue is that the person who is likely to be getting the phone next year indicated that they like the Pacific Blue. Therefore, I opted to go with the Pacific Blue model.

Having had a Space Gray/Black/Graphite phone for so long, I never even really noticed the color on the phones, most of the time. I did notice that the shade of gray was different, but after looking at it it initially, I would not think about it.

Overall, I like the color. The color is diffused on the back, due to the glass that covers it. The stainless steel edges of the iPhone are a different shade of Pacific Blue. The edges match the Apple logo on the back of the phone, which is a nice touch.

The next topic is something that was initially introduced in 2017 with the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus. That feature is wireless charging.

Wireless Charging

When Apple announced the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X in 2017, it introduced a new feature, wireless charging. All three of the phones used the standard known as Qi. Any new iPhone that Apple has released since 2017 have all had the ability to charge wirelessly. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is no different. If you have an existing Qi Charger, it will work just as it would with any other Qi-enabled phone.

At the same event where Apple introduced the iPhone X, they also announced another device called AirPower. AirPower was designed to allow you to place your iPhone or Apple Watch anywhere on the AirPower mat and have your device charge. Unfortunately, the product itself was never released. But the idea of charging without wires did not go away.

Even though AirPower never made it to market, you can still use Qi Chargers, however there is a new line of products from Apple called MagSafe.

MagSafe

From time to time Apple has been known to repurpose names of previous products for new products. Sometime the old product and the new product do not have any correlation, as is the case with the original iBook being a laptop, but the name being repurposed for an e-book format, called iBooks.

Apple has done the same thing again, however in this case it is actually a much closer repurposing. At its keynote at MacWorld Expo in January 2006, Apple introduced a new product, the first MacBook Pro with an Intel Processor, specifically the Core Duo. Besides being the first Mac notebook with an Intel processor, it also had a new feature, the MagSafe power connector.

The MagSafe power adapter allowed power to go from a power brick into the MacBook Pro, but the connection was magnetic. This had a significant advantage, if you tripped over the power cord, the power cord would not drag the laptop with the power cord, instead it would separate. This was possible through the magnetic connection between the power cord and the MacBook Pro itself. With the introduction of the MacBook Pro in 2016, the MagSafe power connector was replaced with USB-C connections. This left the ability for Apple to use MagSafe for another product.

Apple has done just that with a new line of accessories, specifically for the iPhone 12. The MagSafe line of accessories is more than just power, but it still uses magnets to connect the accessories to the iPhone.

MagSafe Charger

The line of accessories includes cases, wallets, sleeves, and power adapters. The one that will likely be used by a majority of people is the case, let us look at the Apple Silicone case with MagSafe. One of these is a power adapter specifically designed for cases and sleeves. The MagSafe power adapter takes its cues from its older brethren and uses magnets to secure a connection to case or sleeve and will provide power to the iPhone.

The MagSafe Charger has the MagSafe Charging pad on one end and a USB-C connection on the other. You can use any USB-C power adapter, however, you may not get the fastest charging possible. In order to get this, you will need to use Apple’s 20-watt USB-C charger. To provide a way to gauge the size of the MageSafe Charging Pad, here is a comparison of the Mophie Wireless Charging Base, the MagSafe Charging Pad, and the Apple Watch charger.

Mophie Wireless Charging Base with the MagSafe Charging Pad stacked on top, and a Apple Watch charger on top of the MagSafe charging pad.
Mophie Wireless Charging Base with the MagSafe Charging Pad stacked on top, and a Apple Watch charger on top of the MagSafe charging pad.

According to Macworld’s testing, when you use the Apple 20-watt charger you will get up to 17 watts of power to charge the phone. During my testing I was never able to get more than 14 watts of charging for my iPhone 12 Pro Max. It is possible that the reporting of my Eve smart switch was not reporting the proper usage.

For most users this is not necessarily a problem, unless you really need to charge quickly. Even when I plugged in directly to the iPhone I only got 18 watts of power to the iPhone. So, that is actually more than Macworld got in their tests.

I also tried using the 18-watt charger. When I used this I only got 14 watts of power, This is approximately 77.7% of the 18-watts that I got with the 20-watt power brick. So this is still quite acceptable.

Just to complete the testing, I also used a 29-watt USB-C charging brick that I have purchased for use with my iPad Pro. The highest it ever got was actually 10-watts, which is most surprising given that it can provide more power.

While the power rating that I saw is less, it makes sense because Apple cannot guarantee the power capabilities of the USB power brick that you use, therefore Apple is capping the amount of power allowed to be pushed to the iPhone. This is designed as a safety measure.

While you may be annoyed that you are not getting the highest throughput, in day to day usage it is not a problem. Any USB-C power adapter that you use will work perfectly well, just at lower speeds. Give that most users charge their phones overnight, this really is not an issue.

I would remiss to not mention that the Apple MagSafe Charger is a standard Qi-compatible charger. This means that you can use it for anything that is compatible with Qi-charging. This includes the AirPods with Wireless Charging Case, any iPhone introduced after 2017, as well as any other Qi-compatible device. This means that even if you do not have an iPhone 12, the MagSafe charger may be a worthwhile investment. Next, let us cover one of the new accessories that works with the MagSafe charger, the silicone case.

Apple Silicone Case with MagSafe

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Silicone Case box.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Silicone Case box.

While it likely Apple’s intent that people do not use a case on their phones, the fact that a new iPhone is at minimum a few hundred dollars, there are many, myself included, who do not feel comfortable using their iPhone without some sort of case on it.

The success of the iPhone has created a market for third-party cases. It would not surprise anyone if the third-party market for cases vastly outsold Apple’s own cases. There are a couple of reasons that this may be the case that come to mind. The first reason being options available. Apple has traditionally only provided a few different types of cases. Typically these have been silicone and leather. There have been Apple cases for each of the iPhone models and sizes.

The second reason that many choose third-party cases is due to price. Apple has not been a company that is afraid of charging a premium for their products, accessories like cases included. Apple has been selling its own cases for almost as long as the iPhone has been around.

I have used a case with each and every iPhone that I have owned. This includes the original, the iPhone 3G, and the iPhone 3GS, which all could have handled not having a case on them. Having spent so much money on them, I wanted to protect them.

Typically Apple releases two different types of cases, leather cases and their silicone cases. Apple has added additional cases over time. Some of these include clear cases, leather folios, and even smart battery cases. Apple has charged $35 or $39 for silicone cases. Meanwhile, they have charged either $45 or $49 for the leather cases.

This year’s set of Silicone and Leather cases include a MagSafe charger, therefore the price that Apple is charging has increased. For the silicone cases the new price is $49 and for the leather cases, it is $59.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Silicone Case in Deep Navy
Interior of the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Silicone Case in Deep Navy

The case I have purchased has been the official Apple Silicone case, in the same shade as the phone. As mentioned earlier, I have always, until this year, gotten the Space Gray/Black/Graphite case that has gone with the phone. This year Apple has not made a case that exactly matches the color of the Pacific Blue iPhone. Therefore, I got the closest one that I could, and I opted for the Deep Navy Apple Silicone Case with MagSafe. I would have preferred one that matches exactly, but that is not the approach Apple is going with this year. Apple does release new cases quarterly, so maybe they will release one that does match the Pacific Blue color. If they do, I am not sure I would end up buying it, but you never know.

One of the features of the previous iPhone cases, not all of them, but those introduced since the iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus, and in particular iPhones with Face ID, is that the Apple cases have not had is a bottom lip on the case. This has been the form-factor on all of Apple’s Silicone and Leather cases since they were introduced.

With the iPhone 12 the official Apple Cases have a lip at the bottom. For those who have become acclimated to not having any barrier when swiping up from the bottom of the phone will need to adjust. It is likely that there will be third-party cases which do not have a lip around the entire screen.

I have found that it is strange to have to deal with the lip on the bottom of the case. While it does not affect the functionality, it is a different experience after using cases without the lip.

There are two reasons that I can think of why Apple would make this change. The first is symmetry for the entire case. The second reason may be that having a case cover the entire iPhone will allow the cases to last a bit longer. These are merely speculations, as Apple has not provided a reason for the change.

The Apple Silicone case with MagSafe has, as the name implies, a MageSafe magnet embedded in the case. The MagSafe magnet provides two functions simultaneously. The MagSafe within the case provides a passthrough for charging either via the MagSafe charger or via any Qi-compatible charger.

If you have used any Qi-enabled iPhone at all, undoubtedly you have placed your phone on the charger at night and then when you went to look at it in the morning realized that it had not charged because it was misaligned.

The second function, and the one that is probably most welcome by users, is the fact that the magnets within the case allow you to easily line up the MagSafe Charger with the the case. This will allow optimized charging, which is a common problem when using any Qi-enabled iPhone with a Qi charger.

Given that the third-party case market is a thriving one, Apple is not limiting MagSafe to their own products. Instead, third parties will be able to offer not only their own MagSafe cases, but also their own MagSafe accessories. Companies like Belkin, Otterbox, and Pitaka have already made MagSafe accessories, like cases and chargers. It is only a matter of time before additional companies begin making accessories that will work with MagSafe.

If you plan on using any of the MagSafe accessories by Apple, or third-parties, you will likely want a MagSafe case and while the Apple case does have some tradeoffs, like the increased price and full lip at the bottom of the case, it seems like a pretty good case for use with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Time will tell if the case holds up or not.

There is another aspect to the MagSafe Charger and Silicone Case that needs to be highlighted. Those items are related to some animations. When you put the iPhone 12 Pro Max into a Silicon MagSafe case, you will see an animation with the color of the case that you have. Similarly, if you place an iPhone 12 Pro Max on a MagSafe charger, you will see an animation of the current battery power, in a circle, that looks a lot the MagSafe charger. While neither of these animations is necessary, it is a nice touch to see both of them work on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Animation after putting an iPhone 12 Pro Max into an Apple MagSafe case
Animation after putting an iPhone 12 Pro Max into an Apple MagSafe case
Animation after placing an iPhone 12 Pro Max on to an Apple MagSafe Charging Pad.
Animation after placing an iPhone 12 Pro Max on to an Apple MagSafe Charging Pad.

There is one more thing to mention about the case, but that can be done in the next section, which will be about the Camera.

Cameras

iPhone 12 Pro Max in the Apple Silicon Case with focusing on the Camera lenses.
iPhone 12 Pro Max in the Apple Silicon Case with focusing on the Camera lenses.

One of the major reasons for anyone to upgrade their iPhone, particularly if they are on an every two or three year upgrade cycle, is the improvements that are made to the camera system. Normally, if you upgrade every year the changes in the camera are not that great. They are undoubtedly better cameras, but they may not be noticeable to most people. That is not necessarily the experience if you were to go from the iPhone 11 Pro Max to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, as I have.

The first thing you will notice you the cameras is how large they are. One easy way to compare the increase in size is by putting the iPhone 11 Pro Max into the case of the iPhone 12 Pro Max. You can clearly see the difference in the sizes of the entire camera module.

Back of an iPhone 11 Pro Max in the case of an iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Back of an iPhone 11 Pro Max in the case of an iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The size difference brings the last change about the Silicone case to mention. The Apple Silicone case for the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a hard plastic bumper around the cutout of the iPhone 12 Pro Max camera system. The reason for this is likely to protect the lenses when the iPhone is moved around as well as to prevent scratching should someone place the iPhone on its back.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a new feature, a LiDAR sensor, although it is not the first device with this sensor. The 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro, both introduced earlier in 2020 received this sensor first.

The LiDAR sensor has a few different applications. The first is that the iPhone 12 Pro Max can be used for augmented reality applications. This could be apps like Wizards Unite or Pokemon Go, or even room mapping applications.

While some augmented reality apps are popular, the second application for the LiDAR sensor is one that users will likely encounter more often, taking photos in low-light environments. The LiDAR sensor will allow objects, specifically people and faces, to be more easily recognized when the amount of light might be limited.

One the topic of low-light, let us look at the changes in the actual lenses. The iPhone 12 Pro Max still has three lenses, a wide angle lens, an ultra-wide lens, and a telephoto lens.

The iPhone Pro Max ultra-wide lens is still a 0.5x zoom lens, while the wide angle lens is still 1x, however the zoom lens is a slightly different than previous models. With the iPhone 11 Pro Max, it was a 2x lens. Now, however, it is a 2.5x zoom. It should be mentioned that all of these are optical zoom, meaning that the lenses themselves will be able to have those particular zoom levels.

With the new optical zoom of 2.5, this means that the maximum digital zoom has been increased from 10x to 12x. While this does not sound like a big jump in actual numbers, you have to realize it is a 20% increase in optical zoom. This should allow you to take even better pictures when you zoom in.

Here is a good comparison between what the iPhone 11 Pro Max vs the iPhone 12 Pro Max. These were taken in low light.

iPhone 11 Pro Max photo taken of a HomePod mini box. The photo was taken in Low Light. The image is a bit blurry.
iPhone 11 Pro Max photo taken of a HomePod mini box. The photo was taken in Low Light. The image is a bit blurry.
iPhone 12 Pro Max photo taken of a HomePod mini box. The photo was taken in Low Light.
iPhone 12 Pro Max photo taken of a HomePod mini box. The photo was taken in Low Light.

The reason that iPhone 12 Pro Max is able to take even better low-light photos is due to the bigger aperture in the lens. When it comes to low-light pictures, the more light that you can let in, the better the image can be. The iPhone 11 Pro Max improved low light photos by leaps and bounds. Still, the iPhone 12 Pro Max improves upon this.

Here is another comparison of some clouds taken with each phone. If you look carefully, you can see that the iPhone 12 Pro Max represents the colors more accurately than the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Photo of pink clouds taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The colors appear a bit washed out.
Photo of pink clouds taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The colors appear a bit washed out.
Photo of pink clouds taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The colors appear a bit more vibrant
Photo of pink clouds taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The colors appear a bit more vibrant.

One of the major reasons that I waited for the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the cameras. I use the iPhone as my exclusive camera. It is always with me, or at least not very far. From what I have seen so far, the improved cameras were worth waiting for. Next, let us look at a feature that is new to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and that is improved cellular connectivity.

5G

5G Speed OMGGGGG.
5G Speed OMGGGGG.

One of the most touted features of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the other iPhone 12s, is the inclusion of 5G connectivity on the device. I use AT&T for my service, and I have since before the introduction of the iPhone in 2007.

When the original iPhone was introduced I bought one on the second day and immediately signed up for the unlimited plan. I continued to use the same plan since then. AT&T stopped offering unlimited plans in 2010. However, if you had an existing plan you could continue to use it. I, of course, kept using my unlimited data plan.

Over time AT&T had increased the price of the unlimited plan from $30 to $35 in 2015, and then to $40 in 2017, and to $45 in 2018. I continued to dutifully pay the increase prices. I was on a family plan, so switching to either another carrier or to a different plan was not as simple as you might expect.

I called AT&T about changing my plan and they informed me that it would cost me $15 more to switch two phone lines, even though one of them was a flip phone. I was able to move the second line off of my account and then I was able to switch to one of AT&T’s newer unlimited plans. I wanted to make the switch in anticipation of getting an iPhone 12 Pro Max, with 5G. And the older AT&T plan that I had would not have provided me with 5G, nor did it allow me to use the hotspot functionality that has been available on AT&T plans for a while, but those latter two are a different story.

Prior to getting my iPhone 12 Pro Max I did look at the AT&T 5G coverage map to see if I would be able to get 5G in my area, and I am able to get 5G coverage. Here are three different comparisons that I did with the iPhone 12 Pro Max using the SpeedTest app. These compare AT&T’s LTE, which they label as “5Ge” (do not get me started on that), and true 5G. These results are in Megabit per second, or Mbps.

  LTE Download LTE Upload
Server 1 35.50 1.81
Server 2 5.60 0.44
Server 3 12.50 3.67
  5G Download 5G Upload
Server 1 30.90 4.57
Server 2 42.50 2.95
Server 3 36.90 6.50

These tests were all done about the same time. Each of the servers used for each test are the same. Servers 1 and 3 are located in Chicago, while Server 2 was a local server. As you can see in some cases 5G was significantly faster, but in others, LTE was faster. The biggest difference is the difference in upload speed.

One thing mentioned in the iPhone 12 keynote was that macOS Big Sur has a bit more optimized when connecting to a hotspot on an iPhone. I did some testing to see if this was true.

  LTE Download LTE Upload
Server 1 3.79 0.44
Server 2 7.06 0.43
Server 3 19.50 0.27
  5G Download 5G Upload
Server 1 40.00 3.35
Server 2 25.30 3.95
Server 3 38.0 4.47

When tethered wirelessly to LTE and 5G, the same general outcome is shown, where 5G was faster, but particularly so with upload speeds. Your experience with 5G is definitely dependent on many things, including current congestion, usage, number of devices on the same cellular tower, the servers you are using, and many more factors.

I have mixed thoughts on 5G for the iPhone 12. On one hand, it is great to see that 5G is available on the iPhone. At the same time, I do not think that most will notice the difference at this point in time. However, in a few years users may actually notice a difference. If you combine this with the fact that many users will hold onto their phones, it may be worthwhile having 5G in the iPhone 12. Furthermore, even after one person has upgraded, their old phone may go to another person and therefore having 5G would be a nice upgrade for them.

One of the benefits to using a standard like 5G is that should there be any improvements that can be made via software, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will get that benefit, through a firmware update. Should there be an improvement that can only be made with hardware, they will not get it, but the likelihood of a change requiring a hardware change is quite low. The last thing that we will tackle is just some benchmark comparisons for various devices.

Benchmarks

Would it really be a full review without some benchmarks? I do not know if it would be. So here are some benchmarks for comparison. These were all run using the Geekbench 5:

Device Single Core Multi Core
iPod touch (7th Gen) 553 1077
Early 2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro 684 1400
Late 2018 Mac mini 992 4442
Mid-2017 27-inch iMac 1068 4377
12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd Gen) 1124 4680
Late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro 1170 5391
iPhone 11 Pro Max 1328 3252
iPhone 12 Pro Max 1604 4297

While the iPhone 12 Pro is not the fastest when it comes to Multi-Core performance, it is the fastest when it comes Single Core performance, at least of the devices that I own at this point. The iPhone 12 Pro Max out performs the iPhone 11 Pro Max, quite easily. Benchmarks are only one aspect to overall performance, but they can be useful to give you a comparison to how a particular device might perform, compared to other devices.

Closing Thoughts

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a large phone. A very large phone. The increased screen size, which is only 0.2 inches or 5.08mm, is still quite noticeable. The width and height have also increased slightly, which accounts for the larger screen. The squared off edges are a nice touch that harkens back to the old iPhone 4, 4s, 5, and 5s form factors. It is good to see the old form factor come back in a new revision of the iPhone.

The Pacific Blue color is a nice color and the fact that stainless steel edges match the Apple Logo on the back is a nice touch. Although, to be honest I probably will not be seeing much of the back or the sides, because I will have a case on the phone. The new Apple Silicone Case with MagSafe is a pretty good case, albeit with an increase in price. The increase in price does include the new MagSafe charging feature.

The MagSafe charger can be used with any Qi-compatible charger, not just the MagSafe Charging pad. However, if you opt to use a standard Qi-compatible charger, you will not get the full fast-charging capabilities that come with the MagSafe charger, but that may be worth the tradeoff. I know for me, I almost always charge overnight, so I do not need the fastest charging possible. Even so, the magnetic aspect of the MagSafe Charging case, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max in general, means that if you do use the MagSafe Charger, you will always have a charged phone. You will no longer need to worry about a misaligned charger and therefore a phone that did not charge overnight.

The addition of 5G, may not make a meaningful difference right now. In the future depending on what applications and use cases arise with having 5G, it may become an absolute necessity at that point. For now though, if you do not have 5G in your area, it is not necessarily a deterrent for not upgrading to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

As has been the case with previous years. If you have an iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS Max, then upgrading to the iPhone 12 Pro Max may not make sense. However, if you have an iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, or older phone, then upgrading to any of the iPhone 12 Pro Max may be a worthwhile upgrade, but be prepared for a significant jump in physical size and screen size. The larger screen real-estate, combined with the improved cameras may make it an easy choice for some users.

Here are a few more examples of some photos taken with the iPhone 12 Pro Max.\

Two Space Gray HomePod minis on a shelf.
Two Space Gray HomePod minis on a shelf.
Lego Super Mario Brothers set taking up the full frame.
Lego Super Mario Brothers set taking up the full frame.
Lego Super Mario Brothers zoomed in using the 2.5x zoom lens.
Lego Super Mario Brothers zoomed in using the 2.5x zoom lens.

Mafia Series: Definitive Editions: A Review

There has been a trend in the recent years where it seems like new intellectual property titles have not been as numerous as in days past, or maybe it just seems that way. The modern computer-gaming era is now around 40 years old. 

One thing in life that is quite powerful is nostalgia, and gaming nostalgia is one of the most powerful pulls. 

With so much gaming history, there has been a variety of series that have started on one platform but have made their way to another. Similarly, there are a number of platform-specific games that have been re-issued for a later generation of the same console. Sometimes, there are games that are re-issued even for the same console generation.

I have lost count of the number of times that I have purchased versions of some games. The list that I have lost track of are Wolfenstein 3D, Doom I, Doom II, and Duke Nukem 3D. I would not be surprised if I have purchased versions of all of these games for PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. I know I have purchased multiple copies of Wolfenstein 3D just for the PC. 

There is one series that fits all three of these instances, at least for some users, and that series is the Mafia series. 

A Brief History of the Mafia Series

The first Mafia game was originally released in 2002 for Microsoft Windows and was ported to both the Playstation 2 and the the original Xbox in 2004. I originally played Mafia on the PC.

The sequel, Mafia II, was released in 2010 for the console successors, Playstation 3 and  Xbox 360, as well as Windows, and this time on OS X. I played this one on the Xbox 360, and due to backward compatibility it is also available on the Xbox One, in its original Xbox 360 gameplay.

The third in the series, Mafia III, was released in 2016 for the current console generation, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, as well as Windows. I wrote a review of Mafia III back in 2016. You can read that review at https://www.waynedixon.com/2016/10/30/a-review-of-mafia-iii/.

Reissuing Games

One trend within the gaming industry is that when a game is initially released, it may be just the core game. However, as time progresses additional add-ons are released. After some time, a game may be re-issued. Often, these re-issues include all of the add-ons and purchases.

Typically, when games are re-issued, the story and gameplay do not change. However, that is not necessarily the case with the Mafia series.

Definitive Editions

Each of the three Mafia games now has a version called the “Definitive Edition”. The Definitive Edition, in this context, is more than just a re-issuing of the game. The “Definitive Edition”, in this context, means that this is what the developers want to be considered the canonical version. 

Definitive editions, and reissues in general, offer players not only an upgraded visual experience, but also an opportunity to get additional gamer score because all of the achievements are new, except in the case of Mafia III. Since Mafia III was released on the Xbox One, the core game is the same, therefore the Mafia III game is the same.

Now, onto the reviews, starting with the first in the series, Mafia. These reviews will be shorter than the full review I did for Mafia III in 2016.


Mafia: Definitive Edition

If you played the original Mafia and you play the Definitive Edition, you will definitely notice some differences in the game. Not just in terms of graphics, because they have been rendered in 4K, but in the actual story.  The changes are not that noticeable, but they are there.

Because this is a “definitive edition”, it comes as no surprise that the developers decided to change the story a bit. I am not sure if the changes are good or bad, but they are what they are. I will not spoil the changes, but know that they are there.

I can tell that the developers spent significant time on this game. How can I tell, because I did not have any issues with the game. I do not recall any glitches. No lost audio, no game crashes, or anything like that. Which cannot be said for the other games, but more on that in those sections.

The Story

Mafia is set in the 1930s in a fictional city called Lost Heaven, which is somewhat modeled off of Chicago. This is easily noticed with the “L” trains throughout the city. And no, they are not “El” for elevated trains. They are the “L” trains. But that is a separate rant.

As mentioned earlier, you play as Tommy Angelo, a cab driver just trying to earn a living. One night, while taking a break you run across two mafia members, Paulie and Sam, who compel his assistance with escaping. After a successful escape, Tommy begins working with Paulie and Sam’s boss, Mr. Salieri, and everything escalates from there.

Not everything goes well for Tommy though, he starts to do some side jobs, and not all of them sanctioned by the Don. This makes for an interesting story line.

Side Missions

There are many common aspects to a variety of games. One of these items is the idea of side missions. Side missions are not ones that are required to get through the main storyline. One of the side missions that is available within Mafia is the accumulation of cars. These cars can be obtained by finding ringing phone booths throughout Lost Heaven and performing the tasks given to you.

Game Play

Mafia: Definitive Edition changes some aspects of the original game. Most notably, the combat tactics are rebuilt and more like the more modern Mafia III game. This will be helpful for more modern gamers. If you want to relive the original, you can play with the “Classic Difficulty”. This will make the game much more like the original.

Here is a video of a car within the game, called the Crazy Horse, doing a jump onto the roof of a building.

Unique Gameplay Mechanics

Mafia is a game that comprises a lot of driving. Sometimes you need to grab a car. In most games there are only two options, the car is already open, or you smash a window. Mafia, and Mafia II, have a different mechanic; that ability to One of the gameplay mechanics in Mafia is the ability to pick locks on cars.

The type of lock depends on the type of car, but the mechanic is all the same. You have to pick each of the lock tumblers. The fancier the car, the more tumblers there are to pick. As is the case, you may get caught by the police and then trouble can begin.

There is a game mode, called “Classic Difficulty” that will allow you to play as the original gameplay. What this means for the police is that they will actually pull you over for everything. This includes speeding, running through lights, hitting pedestrians, hitting cars, and almost any other infraction you can think of.

This can make for some interesting gameplay. In the Definitive Edition, you can select how much you want the police to pay attention.

Closing Thoughts on Mafia: Definitive Edition

Mafia: Definitive Edition stays very true to the original Mafia. Some bits of the story have been changed, but those changes do not detract from the overall game. The uniqueness of the lock picking is a nice touch and does offer a unique aspect to the game.

The upscaling of the graphics to 4K does allow the game to fit nicely into today’s modern systems. Given that the game is such a faithful representation of the original, many modern gamers may become annoyed with the more antiquated combat tactics and some of the game play may be a bit “old” in their minds, but only if they play the “Classic Difficulty” mode.

Next, let us move onto the sequel, Mafia II.


Mafia II: Definitive Edition

Mafia II was originally released in 2010 and is set in the 1940s and 1950s, not long after the setting of Mafia. Instead of being in Lost Heaven, this game takes place in Empire Bay. And you do not play as Tommy Angelo, instead you play as Vito Scaletta.

The game starts off in Italy during World War II. During this first level you learn how to play the game, use guns, maneuver, and other aspects. Once you have completed this level, you then have Vito returning home on furlough where he learns that his family is having some issues, specifically that his late father left his family in debt to a loan shark. Now, Vito must help his family repay the debts.

Vito talks to his childhood friend Joe who helps him get some additional cash by getting him in connection with Mike Bruski, who needs particular cars. Eventually, this escalates and Vito begins working with someone Joe knows, Henry, who is part of the Clemente crime family.

The work Vito does with Joe and Henry does get him enough to repay his father’s debts, but it only escalates from there.

Side Missions

Mafia II, just like its predecessor, contains the ability to do side missions. The side missions allowed in the game include the ability to deliver cars. Depending on the car, and its destination, you can quickly earn cash. This can be done at almost any time, with some caveats, but only once they are unlocked for you.

One type of side mission that is often available for games is collectibles. Mafia II is no different. You can collect a couple of different collectible things that you can attempt to get. The first of these is a set of playboy magazines. These are scattered throughout Lost Heaven, and some can only be obtained during missions.

The second collectible is Wanted Posters. These are scattered throughout Lost Heaven and are more easily found while roaming around Lost Heaven. There are 189 of these in the definitive edition. This is up from 159 that were included in the standard game.

Some Interesting Experiences

Here are tow examples of some interesting game play. The first one is a car driving along a wall, with the second being a cool explosion.

Game Play Issues

While I was playing the Mafia II: Definitive Edition I had significant issues. The game would constantly crash, resulting in lost progress. Furthermore, audio would just randomly not work, or characters would not trigger their cutscenes. This is quite disappointing given that the game was re-built from the ground up.

Here is an example of one of the many glitches I experienced while playing.

Included Content

The original release of Mafia II had some additional downloadable content released after the original game. The content included the following:

  • The Betrayal of Jimmy
  • Jimmy’s Vendetta
  • Joe’s Adventures

All three of these are included in the Definitive Edition of Mafia II. Just as is the case with the first Mafia game, Mafia II: Definitive Edition does provide the ability to get additional gamer score, so if you like to get additional score for a game you already know, you cannot go wrong.

Closing Thoughts on Mafia II: Definitive Edition

Mafia II: Definitive Edition is a decent rebuild of the original. Even though it does have significant bugs, it is still worth playing if you have not done so. The storyline is interesting and it does allow you a bit more freedom to do things without being too nagging about the next mission. If you want to get some achievements, then the collectibles will definitely help in this, but be prepared for a slog to find all of the Wanted Posters.

Now, onto Mafia III: Definitive Edition.


Mafia III: Definitive Edition

As mentioned earlier, I already wrote up a review of Mafia III, which you can read at https://www.waynedixon.com/2016/10/30/a-review-of-mafia-iii/. The Definitive Edition of Mafia III does not modify the story like the other two games. However, it is expanded a bit. This expansion is done through the downloadable content, and with the definitive edition it is all in a single package. The base game is the exact same as the one released in 2016, including some of the same problems.

Included Content

As is the case with Mafia II, Mafia III: Definitive Edition is more than just the base game. In fact it includes the following content, in addition to the base game:

  • Family Kick-Back (Gun Pack)
  • Judge, Jury & Executioner Weapons Pack (Gun Pack)
  • Faster, Baby! (Additional missions)
  • Stones Unturned (Additional missions)
  • Sign of the Times (Additional missions)

I will admit then when I was playing through the Definitive Edition I thought the game was taking a lot longer than the first time through, and it was. The reason for this is that these additional missions are available where they were not at first. These additional mission packs are nice additions and fit right into the overall narrative quite well.

Game Play Issues

While some of the issues that I experienced during my time playing have been fixed, there are still some issues, even  four years later. To me, this is unacceptable. The developer has had four years to fix these issues, but obviously they have not. Just today, as I write this, I had a hard crash of the game where I did a jump off of a ramp, landed, and the game just crashed.

The biggest issues that I have experienced include game crashes, severe slow downs, to the point where the controls stop responding properly. I have also experienced instances where cars get stuck and cannot be moved no matter what. There is even this video where I am driving along and just randomly hit an invisible barrier, when there is not one on the screen. 

One issue that seems to be new is that while driving the car will just randomly stop responding to pressing the accelerator. It will just stop dead in the middle of the road and it will not respond at all. I am not sure what is happening in these instances, but it has occurred more than once.

The last issue that I have experienced is that some non-playable characters, who are with you on a job, will just randomly get out of the car. This happened more than once and I was baffled both times.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, the Definitive Editions of the Mafia series are pretty good games, even though a couple of them are full of crashes and weird glitches. If you have played any of them before, and enjoyed them these versions will not only bring you back to when you played them previously.

If you have never played any of the Mafia series, I recommend getting the Trilogy and playing all of them. It is cheaper to get all three of them in the trilogy than it is to purchase them each individually. The entire trilogy is $60, which comes to $20 per game and overall that is a pretty good value. You can view a lot more media at the developer’s website, mafiagame.com.

Apple Watch Series 6: A Review

From time to time, new product lines are announced by a company. In September of 2014 Apple announced a whole new product line, the Apple Watch. It took a bit more than six months until the first Apple Watch was released, but it did arrive in April of 2015.

When it was introduced the Apple Watch was positioned as a replacement for the iPhone, however that is not the focus of the Apple Watch today. Recently, Apple announced new watch, The Apple Watch Series 6.

Each year I have purchased a new Apple Watch and I have always purchased the Space Gray aluminum model. For the first Apple Watch through the Apple Watch Series 4, I ordered it with the Black Sport Band. With the Apple Watch Series 5, I ordered the Anchor Gray Sport Loop.

The reason I ordered the Gray Sport Loop was because I purchased and reviewed the Black Sport Loop and I liked the Sport Loop. Apple no longer sold the Black Sport Loop, so I went with something as close as I could. Therefore, I ordered the Apple Watch with the Anchor Gray Sport Loop. If they would have had the Black Sport Loop, I would have ordered that.

When the Apple Watch Series 6 was announced it was available for ordering that day and would begin arriving on September 18th. I ordered an Apple Watch Series 6. As mentioned above, I have always ordered the Aluminum Space Gray, but this year I have done something a bit different. Instead of getting the standard Aluminum Space Gray, I went with the Aluminum Space Gray Nike Apple Watch.

Specifically, I ordered the Space Gray Nike Watch with the Anthracite/Black Nike Sport Band. Along with this, I also ordered a Nike Black Sport Loop, as well as one of the new Black Sport Loop. All of this provides me a couple of new areas to review. The areas that I will review are:

  • Series 6 Watch
  • Sport Bands
  • Sport Loops
  • Solo Loop

Each of these will be looked at in turn starting with the Apple Watch Series 6.

Apple Watch Series 6

If you were to upgrade your Apple Watch year over year, as I have done, you will only see incremental updates over the previous year. However, if you upgrade from an older model, you might notice significant changes. Each new Apple Watch has some change that goes along with it. Typically, these updates are hardware. The Apple Watch Series 6 is no exception. The biggest feature of the Apple Watch Series 6 is a new sensor for testing your blood oxygen levels.

Blood Oxygen

The Apple Watch Series 6 has a new sensor that allows you to determine the amount of oxygen within your blood. This is done by shining a bright infrared light through your skin. The amount of reflected light that is reflected back is put through an algorithm that will determine how much oxygen is in your blood.

The way that you test your blood oxygen is by opening up the “Blood Oxygen” app. When you open up the Blood Oxygen app you will be presented with an animation. Additionally, you will see the last time that your blood oxygen was taken and the recorded ratio. You can start measuring your blood oxygen by tapping on the “Start” button.

The test will take 15 seconds. In order to get the best results, you will want to rest your wrist on a table or flat surface. This is because movement can cause the test to be inconclusive and not be able to be taken. Furthermore, it is best to not tap your fingers, because this can also cause the test to not be able to be done properly.

The result that you will get is a percentage.Obviously, the higher the percentage, the more oxygen that is present in your blood. A majority of individuals have a level between 95% and 100%. There are those who may have a lower blood oxygen level.

Blood Oxygen levels are not only recorded when you take the test. They are also performed in the background, particularly while you are sleeping. All of your tests are stored in the Health app. You can get to this data by performing the following steps:

  1. Open the Health App.
  2. Tap on the “Summary” tab.
  3. At the bottom of “Favorites” tap on “Show All Health Data”.
  4. Scroll down to “Blood Oxygen”.
  5. Tap on “Blood Oxygen” to open up the Blood Oxygen data.

Here you will see a standard Health data chart with the Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly options. You can also select any of the options at the bottom, which will highlight the necessary information or a line to the graph so you can see the variations throughout the day.

The Blood Oxygen sensor in the Apple Watch Series 6 is a nice addition for users to be able to add one additional data point to their health records. Apple is very cautious when it comes to health-related items, and it makes sense to be cautious. The data from the blood oxygen sensor will help users, and their physicians, have a record of blood oxygen levels and can help should any issues arise in the future. Let us now turn to a couple of other hardware changes.

Other Hardware Changes

The Apple Watch Series 6 has a coupe lot other hardware-specific items. With each new version of the Apple Watch, there is a new chip that powers the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 6 has an S6 chip. The S6 Chip has some new features which are not present on the S4 and S5. The S6 has an always-on Altimeter.

The always on Altimeter will allow you to see your current altitude above sea level. You can add a complication to your Apple Watch face so you can see your current altitude. This is great addition particularly if you are on a hike that will bring you up or down a hill with significant change in elevation.

Another new feature of the S6, which does not have much usage right now, is the inclusion of the U1, which is Apple’s ultra Wideband chip. The U1 is present in the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The U1 is used for spatial awareness, which currently only used with Air Drop. It might be used for other features in the future though.

The U1 chip is capable of allowing you to communicate between devices that are local. There are other ways of communicating. One feature that the Apple Watch has had since the first version is the ability to connect to the Apple Watch to Wifi. Every Apple Watch has had the ability to connect via Wifi, except this is only able to use the 2.4GHz spectrum. For most uses this is acceptable, however the 2.4GHz Wifi can be quite crowded and a crowded

The last hardware change is the screen. The Apple Watch Series 6 has a brighter screen. According to Apple it is 2.5x brighter while in sunlight. With previous models it may have been difficult to see the items on your watch face while using your watch in direct sunlight. This should be reduced with the Series 6. An additional change with the Series 6 Apple Watch, which has not necessarily been mentioned by other reviews. While your wrist is down you are now able to access complications

Nike Watch Specific Features

This year I ended up getting a Nike Apple Watch Series 6. The reason for this was two fold. First, I have actually wanted to get the Nike version of the Apple Watch just to see what the differences were. It is not likely that I will use the Nike specific features, like the Nike Run Club, but I still want to see the differences.

The second reason is that it was available for release day delivery. I had not gotten any of the Nike models in the past is because they were not usually available until two weeks after the other models. I generally like to have the devices the day they are released, so I just always got the standard model. This year though, the Nike version was available for release day delivery, so I opted for that model.

The Nike Apple Watch Series 6 does not have any hardware difference from the standard Apple Watch. Instead, the changes are only software related. There are a couple of specific differences.

The first software change is that when you look at the settings within the Watch app on your iPhone, you will see a new option, the “Nike Run Club” app. This is a direct shortcut to install the app. If you do not have it installed, you are able to install it with a single tap.

The biggest change software change is the inclusion of Nike-specific Apple Watch faces. There are a variety of unique watch faces that are not present on the standard Apple Watch. The additional watch faces available are:

  • Nike Compact
  • Nike Hybrid
  • Nike Analog
  • Nike Digital

Nike Compact

The Nike Compact Watch Face allows you to have three complications and a clock. The three different complication spots are Top, Middle, and Bottom. These are small, small, and large complications respectively.

The clock is in the upper right corner and can be either an analog clock or a digital one. For the analog clock, there are two different options. One of the analog faces has large numerals for 12, 3, 6, and 9. The hour, minute, and second hands will sweep around the clock face. The second analog watch face only has the watch hands, and is two tones. The upper portion is one color and the bottom portion is another color.

With the Nike Compact face you have an option for selecting the color of the face, just as you would with other watch faces. There are 27 different color options. You have 13 different sets, that all match the various Nike Watch bands. As an example, one of the sets is Pure Platinum/Black. With this color option the clock face color will be Platinum, as will the tint for all of your complications also being Platinum. The color of the digits of the analog and digits of the clock will be black. If you choose Black/Pure Platinum, the background of the clock face switches and the color of the digits will flip. This is the same for all of the other 24 colors. There is one last color option, Multicolor. This color will show your complications in color and the clock faces will be the same as Platinum/Black.

Nike Hybrid

The Nike Hybrid watch face has the same three options for the clock. However, each clock face has two options for the dial itself, Rectangle or Circle. The Rectangle option does not have any room for complications. However, the Circle option allows for five complication options. Four of these options are the ones around the outside corners. The fifth option is along the top of the dial.

As is the case with the Nike Compact watch face, you have a variety of choices for color options. There are 40 different options. It does not make sense to list all of the possible combinations. However, many of the colors have three options. As an example there is Obsidian Mist/Black, Black/Obsidian Mist, and just Obsidian Mist. The last item listed is a single color but with two different shades of the color. There are some color options that do not have this last choice. Anthricite/Black and Lime Blast/Black are only available in the two choices. Let us turn to the next Nike Watch Face, Nike Analog.

Nike Analog

The Nike Analog provides places for three complications. These are in the top left, top right, and bottom. The top left and top right that are small complications while the bottom is just a line of text.

You can choose amongst four different styles of analog watch face. Style 1 does not have any numbers, just indicators. Style 2 had small numbers for hours 12, 3, 6, and 9. Style 3 has small numbers for hours 12, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 19. Style 4, the last style, has the standard large numbers for hours 12, 3, 6, and 9.

There are 35 different color choices, 32 of these are solid colors. While three of these, White/Volt, White/Red, and Rainbow provide multiple color options for the watch face.

Nike Digital

The Nike Digital Watch Face has the time in large font along the left and three complications. The complication locations are Middle Left, Bottom Left, and Bottom. The Middle Left and Middle Right options allow you to select a small complication. Just like the Nike Analog, the “bottom” option will allow a complication that is a line of text.

There are three style choices, Solid, Two-Tone, and Outline. The Solid style will display the time with a solid fill color. The Two-Tone option will show the hour with a solid fill and the minutes will have an outline. The Outline style will display both the hour and minute in an outline.

There are a number of different options for the Nike Digital face, 32 to be exact. 30 of these are solid colors, and there are two dual-color choices. The two dual-color choices are Volt/White and Red/White. If you select one of these dual-tone colors, the displayed time will appear white and the complications will be either Volt or Red, depending on your choice.

All of the Nike Watch Faces offer a unique style and option for your Apple Watch which can help differentiate your watch from other Apple Watches. Now that we have covered all of the Nike-specific watch faces, let us look at various bands for the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Bands

Not everything is a “one size fits all” type of situation. People like the ability to customize things and the Apple Watch is designed to be a fashion item. While there are plenty of ways to customize the watch face, not everyone may notice this. However, others may notice if you are wearing a specific Watch Band. Watch Bands are an easy way to customize the look and feel of your Apple Watch. There are a number of Apple Watch Bands, as well as many third-party bands available. One thing that has remained the same throughout all of the generations of the Apple Watch is that bands that were purchased early in the lifespan of the Apple Watch may work with the newest watches, provided you are using the same size watch.

For instance, if you bought the 38mm Apple Watch Series 2 and bought a 40mm Apple Watch Series 5, the watch bands should, for the most part, work with both watches. However, if you bought a 38MM Apple Watch Series 2, but then got the 44MM Apple Watch Series 5, the bands would not work between the two models, due to the size differences. Let us look at some of the available bands from Apple and the differences between the standard models and the Nike models. Then we will look at a brand new band from Apple.

Sport Bands

The sport sand has been around since the first Apple Watch was released. Until the Series 4, the default band was the sport band. The sport band is made of Fluoroelastomer. Fluoroelastomer is a rubber product. The sport band is designed to be comfortable and used all day. The fact that the sport band is rubber, it is odor resistant.

The sport band can be worn while swimming, exercising, or any other activity. Due to its ability to be done doing just about any activity, it means that its designed to stand up to use. Even though, by its very name, it is usable in sports, it means that it is designed to be cleaned. The sport band can be cleaned with mild soap and water.

The Nike Sport Band is similar to the standard sport band. The biggest difference between the two, outside of the available colors, is that the Nike Sport Band has additional holes along the left and right side of the central holes. The additional holes are designed to help wick away sweat and provides a bit more air around your wrist.

The Nike Sport Band that came with my Apple Watch Series 6, it is my first time using the Nike version of the sport band. The Nike Sport Band is a pretty good band and just like the standard sport band.

With the additional holes, you technically can use any of the other holes, but then you would have to bend the sport band a bit to get the clasp to fit into the clasp where the excess Since the sport band is two pieces, you can mix and match them. So you can mix and match the parts of the bands, which can allow you to create your own design.

You might expect that all sport bands are the same. However, they are not. The Nike Sport Band feels just a tad bit lighter weight than the regular sport band. This makes sense given that there is less material than the standard sport band. If you are using the Nike Sport Band for exercise, being able to have a lighter band can help make exercising a bit nicer.

The sport band, no matter which specific model, is the standard band and a great overall band to use with the Apple Watch. The various holes allow each person to adjust it to their wrist, but the preset holes can result in some people not getting the exact fit they need. Let us turn to a slightly different take on the Sport Band to a band that has been around for a while, the Sport Loop.

Sport Loops

The Sport Loops are made of two layers of woven nylon. The sport loop uses a hook and loop fastener that will keep the band classed. The hook and loop mechanism allows for the Apple Watch to easily be removed and put on. Additionally, the sport loop band allows you to fit the band even better than other bands, because you can adjust it to the size you need.

There is only one subtle difference between the standard Sport Loop and the Nike Sport Loop, and that difference is that the Nike Sport Loop includes reflective nylon that is woven throughout the band. This is designed to be reflective when light is shown on the band. This is particularly useful for those who exercise when the light may not be the best. While you will likely have other items to indicate your presence, like neon clothing, a head lamp, or flashing light, it is one more item that will allow vehicles and others to see your while exercising.

After a year of usage, and even with regular cleaning, the Sport loop can accumulate odors. Apple indicates that you can clean the sport loops with water and a lint-free cloth, but this does not work in practice. Instead, you may want to let the band soak with a touch of soap for a while. Once the band is soaked, a light scrubbing may help with the cleaning to remove the odors. Another possible option, which may sound strange, is to shower with your watch band. The soap that you use should help a bit as well. Plus, the Apple Watch can certainly handle getting wet in the shower.

Overall, the sport loop is a lightweight band that is much easier to take off and put on than the sport loop. Over time, the clasping mechanism does seem to reduce the strength of the clasping mechanism. So this is something to keep in mind.

The Sport Loop is probably one of the more comfortable bands and the infinite adjustability allows the band to be versatile as band that can be used throughout the day and that you can adjust throughout the day, if needed. Next, let us look at one of the newest additions to the selection of Apple Watch Bands, the Solo Loop.

Solo Loop

The Solo Loop is a new type of Apple Watch Band. The Solo Loop is compatible with the Series 4 and newer. The Solo Loop is a single piece band that is made with silicone rubber. This is similar to the fluoroelastomer of the Sport Band.

The Sport Loop does not have any clasps, buckles, or any sort of mechanism that allows for adjustment. So it is important to choose the proper size. Apple has a printable tool to be able to help size the Solo Loop. If you visit an Apple Store, you may be able to obtain one.

The Sport Loop comes in one of twelve sizes, 1 to 12. Sizes 1 to 8 are available for the 40mm Apple Watch, and sizes 4 to 12 are available for the 44mm. The difference between each size of the Sport Loop band is very little, hence why there are a bunch of different sizes.

There are actually two methods for the tool. The first is to print out an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, cut out the measurement tool, and then wrap it around your wrist to determine the proper band size. The second method is to use a piece of paper and a measuring tape. You measure from the end of the paper to the point where the paper matches the end. Once you have this, you can then enter in the length into Apple’s conversion tool, which on the page, and it will provide you with the proper band size.

I tried both methods. First, I used the tape measure approach and it said it could either be a size 8 or a size 9. I then tried with the print-out and it said 8. With the physical measuring tool from the Apple Store, it would be between 7 and 8.

It is important to make sure that you have the correct size. Having a Sport Loop that is too loose will not allow the watch to sit properly on your wrist. You may be able to get a Sport Loop that is one size larger than what the tool indicates. When I did the measurement with Apple’s tool, it indicated that I was a size 8. I was able to order one for pickup at my local Apple Store.

When I opened the package, and put the Sport Loop on my Apple Watch, it seemed like it might be too small, but once I put on my Apple Watch, it did fit, although it was a bit loose. I would probably be better with a size 7, but the size 8 that I have does fit. Even though the Sport Loop is a bit loose, it is not too loose that it stops the Apple Watch from functioning. Furthermore, if the Sport Loop was too loose, the Apple Watch would lock because it lost contact with the skin. So far, I haven to experienced that.

While having a Sport Loop that is too loose could be a problem, you also do not want a super tight band either. This is for a few of reasons. The first is that a band that is too tight can cut off circulation and would be quite uncomfortable. The size of ones wrist can change over time depending on my factors, including but not limited to, heat, hydration levels, and just natural body cycles. The second reason is that if the band is too tight, the blood oxygen sensor will not work properly.

There is one last item to note about the Solo Loop. According to its support document for Apple Watch bands, quote:

If you have a Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop, the band size should be comfortable, but snug against your wrist. Simply pull from the bottom of the band to stretch it over your wrist when you put it on and take it off. Solo Loop may increase in length over time.

I would guess that this may take some time to occur, but it is something to be cognizant of when purchasing a Solo Loop.

Overall, the Sport Loop is a pretty good band and a great addition to the various bands available for the Apple Watch. The lack of a clasp is nice, however its biggest downside is that you need to get the size correct. The only problem will be finding the right fit. If you have an Apple Store nearby, you can see if they have a measuring tool and you can get the proper size. The Sport Loop comes in a variety of colors. The available options are:

  • Deep Navy
  • Ginger
  • Cyprus Green
  • Pink Citrus
  • White
  • Black
  • PRODUCT(RED)

Closing Thoughts

Overall the Apple Watch Series 6 is a solid upgrade, provided that you are upgrading from certain Apple Watches. If you have an Original Apple Watch, a Series 1, 2, or 3, and you are looking to upgrade, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a worthwhile upgrade. However, if you have an Apple Watch Series 4, the new Blood Oxygen sensor and speed increase may be enough to persuade you to upgrade. For Apple Watch Series 5 owners, the only changes are the inclusion of the Blood Oxygen sensor. For some, and particular during these times, it may be a worthwhile upgrade.

With the Series 6 being my first Nike edition of the Apple Watch, it is different to see the distinct Nike Watch Faces in person. I am not sure if I will end up using them on a daily basis, because I do like my Apple Watch to be a mini computer on my wrist, where I can quickly glance at information and the Nike Watch Faces do not allow the breadth of complications on the watch faces. The best part though, is that the Nike Apple Watch does not restrict you to using just the Nike Watch Faces, but you can use any of the Watch Faces that are included in watchOS.

Customizing your Apps Watch face is huge, but a lot of people may not see your watch face unless you show them specifically. What many others can see though, is the Watch Band that is attached to your Apple Watch. There are a variety of bands available. The newest one, the Solo Loop is a great choice if you do not want to use a clasp of any sort. The biggest downside to the Solo Loop is that you need to get the size exactly correct, otherwise it may end up being too tight or too loose. There is one last thing to note, if you purchase an Apple Watch Series 6, or an Apple Watch SE, with the Solo Loop and the Solo Loop is the wrong size, you may have to wait for a replacement, because they are popular.

The differences between the standard Sport Band, and the Nike Sport Band, as well as the standard Sport Loop, and the Nike Sport Loop are very minimal. The Nike Sport Band feels a bit lighter than the standard Sport Band. The lighter weight of the Nike Sport Band is due to the band not having as much material. The only difference with Nike Sport Loop, as compared to the original, is that the Nike version has reflective threads woven in so that in the dark vehicles are able to identify that there is someone there.

I am not sure if I will end up settling on a single band. I do like the Sport Loops due to their overall comfort and adjustability, but the Solo Loop is also quite comfortable and can allow me to easily rest my wrist anywhere without worrying about a clasp. I guess only time will tell which one, or ones, I end up using the most.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is quite popular and some models have longer lead times than others. If you are planning on getting one for the holidays, ordering now is prudent. The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $399 for the 40mm GPS model, and $429 for the 42mm model. You can add cellular for $100 more on either size.

You can read a lot more about watchOS 7 in my book, iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 for Users and Developers. It is available on Apple, Amazon, for $3.99 each, as a black & white paperback for $14.99 or a color paperback for $39.99.

Magic Keyboard for 12.9-inch iPad Pro: A Review

The iPad has changed significantly since its initial introduction in 2010. There have been new features like multitasking, multiple windows, and split view. There have also been changes in the way that iOS looks, from the skeuomorphic design to a more refined one. There has even been changes in the size of the devices from a single 9.7-inch iPad to multiple sizes, 7.9-inch, 9.7-inch, 10.2-inch, 10.5-inch, 11-inch, and 12.9-inch models. One of the things that has been true since the original iPad, with iPhone OS 3.2, is that some users want to use the iPad as a productivity tool. One way to be productive is by using a keyboard. The purpose for using a keyboard can be to write, like I do, but a keyboard can also be used for programming with applications like Swift Playgrounds, or even just to use keyboard shortcuts within apps like Photoshop for iPad. While it is possible to use the on-screen keyboard to accomplish some of these tasks, there are instances when using a physical keyboard is just a better overall experience.

You may think that Apple has only recently made a keyboard specifically for the iPad, but Apple has had keyboards available that you could pair with the iPad since 2010. Let us look at some of those now.

Apple’s iPad Keyboard History

Apple has been making iPad keyboards since the original iPad was introduced in 2010. They started with a forgotten device called the “iPad Keyboard Dock”. It is so forgotten that it is not even listed on the Wikipedia page for Apple keyboards, nor on the iPad page. This was a product that had an Apple keyboard attached to an iPad 30-pin dock that was specifically designed to work with the original iPad in portrait mode.

original iPad Keyboard Dock

If you did not want to purchase the iPad Keyboard Dock, you could pick up an Apple wireless keyboard for $69. The difference is that the Apple Wireless keyboard was bluetooth and could work with any bluetooth device, which makes using an external keyboard more versatile.

When I first got an iPad back in 2010, I did not get an iPad Keyboard Dock. Instead, I paired my iPad with an Apple Wireless keyboard. The ones that required 3 AA batteries to power. Once Apple introduced the updated version of the Wireless Keyboard that only required 2 AA batteries, I switched to using that model.

The fact that the keyboards required batteries did make it a bit difficult sometimes, particularly if you need to use the keyboard but the batteries are dead. Additionally, it was likely that you needed to carry extra batteries with you in order to be able to make sure you could use the keyboard when necessary.

In 2015, Apple introduced a completely redesigned keyboard, they called it the Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard changed almost every aspect of the keyboard. Instead of requiring batteries, it switched to being rechargeable, using the included lightning cable.

Due to the rechargeable battery the Magic Keyboard was able to have a new lower profile, which makes it much easier to carry and allowed for smaller bags and carrying cases as a result. Even though this is a much better result, it is still not ideal for some because you had to carry multiple items with you. Instead of having to carry multiple devices, it would be easier to only encompass everything into a single item. There are two different lines, depending on which iPad you own. These are called the iPad Smart Keyboard or the iPad Keyboard Folio.

iPad Smart Keyboard and iPad Smart Keyboard Folio

Apple has not focused solely on external keyboards for the iPad. They have also introduced keyboards that are embedded in cases. Apple has called these the Smart Keyboard Folio.

These are a combination of the Smart Folio, which is a case that covers both the front and back of the iPad, as well as a keyboard. The Keyboard Folio allows you to snap the Keyboard Folio onto the back of the iPad and the edge of the iPad sits on the Keyboard Folio right above the top of the keyboard. There are two positions for the iPad Smart Keyboard and iPad Smart Keyboard Folio. The iPad Smart Keyboard allows two different angles with the keyboard in front of the iPad. The iPad Smart Keyboard has one position for the iPad on the keyboard or the keyboard can be hidden behind the iPad for when you are viewing media on your iPad.

There is another additional difference between iPad Smart Keyboard and the Smart Keyboard Folio. The Smart Keyboard Folio has a fabric cover on top of the keyboard. This has two functions. The first is that it protects the keyboard from any debris getting into the keyboard. The second function is to protect the iPad screen.

The second difference is that the keys have less travel for the keys. The travel is how far you have to press down on a key in order for the key to appear on the screen and the Smart Keyboard Folio has a very short amount of travel, similar to the butterfly keyboards on the late-2015 to 2018 MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

All of this changes with the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Before we delve into that, let us look at the design.

Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro

The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is three devices in one. These devices are a case, a keyboard, and a trackpad. The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro covers the entire back of the iPad and attaches to the iPad using magnets.The magnets allow the iPad Pro to be positioned properly for a few reasons. The first is so that the cutout for the camera will be positioned properly on the 4th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro as well as the 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro.

The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro works with the last two generations of the iPad Pro. These are the 3rd and 4th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the 1st and 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro. The latter of the two sizes has a new camera sensor that has a square design and the Magic Keyboards are designed with these iPads in mind. Therefore, on the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and 1st generation 11-inch iPad Pro, you will see more of the back of the iPad. In practice, this is not a problem.

The second reason for the magnets is so that Smart Connector will be aligned properly. The Smart connector is how the Magic Keyboard actually gets its power from the iPad Pro and does not have any battery contained within the keyboard itself.

With the Magic Keyboard attached, the iPad Pro floats over the keyboard so that you can still hit the keys in the number row, if you need them. When you type on the keyboard, you will notice that the keyboard is backlit. This can come in handy if you are using the Magic Keyboard while in the dark. You are able to adjust the brightness of the Magic Keyboard through settings. You can go to Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Hardware Keyboard and you can adjust the brightness of the keyboard.

The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has a cantilevered design. This means that you can adjust the iPad Pro’s angle to the most comfortable for you. This angle is limited though. This is due to the next item to discuss, the weight of the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro.

Weight

As you might expect, the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro does have some heft to it. In fact, it weighs 1.51 pounds, or 684 grams. When you combine this with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the entire package, including an Apple Pencil, coms to 2.95 pounds, or 1,337 grams. I wonder if this weight is purely accidental, or is this was the target weight for the entire pack. When you first hear that the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and Magic Keyboard comes to almost 3 pounds, it might sound like a lot. But the question is, how does this compare to other portable Apple devices.

I only have a few devices to compare this to. These are an Early 2015 MacBook Pro, a 16-inch MacBook Pro, and a Mid-2007 MacBook.

The Early-2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro comes in at 3.48 pounds, or 1578.5 grams. This is approximately 20 percent heavier than the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard. So this is a bit heavier. Even heavier still is a 16-inch MacBook Pro, which comes in at 4.3 pounds, or 1,950.45 grams. This makes the 16-inch MacBook Pro 45.8% heavier than the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard. Lastly, the Mid-2007 Black MacBook is a hefty 5.2 pounds, or 3.45 times heavier than the MacBook.

While the Magic Keyboard does make the iPad heavier, it is not as heavy as other portable Apple devices, even somewhat recent ones.

Keyboard

The big draw for purchasing the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, for me anyway, is the keyboard. The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro honors its name, it is the Magic Keyboard. It has the same layout, the same key sizes, and even the same key mechanism. This means that it is a Magic Keyboard through and through. There are some differences between the standard Magic Keyboard and the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro.

The biggest change is that the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has one fewer rows of keys. The entire top row is not present on the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. This means that there is no physical escape key, nor any function keys. The lack of function keys does mean that some changes need to be made, if you are used to using another keyboard with the iPad Pro. Because of the changes, there are some things that you may have to get used to.

The first change, and for me it is the biggest, is the lack of an escape key. There may not be that many things that I can do well, but using a computer keyboard is one of them. Since I tend to use the keyboard as much as possible, the lack of an escape key makes it super difficult for me to adjust. I use the escape key for various tasks, particularly with a terminal. It is possible to re-map keys on iOS. These keys are:

  • Caps Lock
  • Control
  • Option
  • Command
  • Globe

So you can re-map one of these if you would like. Since I go between many devices, re-mapping one of the keys will not work for me. I really hope the second revision has a physical escape key. I completely understand the trade-offs made with the keyboard, and I agree with them, but it makes it more difficult for me. There is another way to simulate the escape key. The key combination of command and period will perform the same function as escape, for the most part anyway.

Next, let us look at the other item on the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, the trackpad.

Trackpad

iOS 13.4 was specifically designed for the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. This is due to the addition of trackpad support within iOS. The first thing you will notice is the physical size of the trackpad. The trackpad is 4 inches wide by 2 inches tall. Let us see how this compares to other devices.

  • My Early 2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro’s trackpad is 4.375 inches by 3.125 inches tall.
  • Apple stand-alone Magic Trackpad is 6.750 inches wide by 4.5625 inches tall.
  • The Late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro’s trackpad is 6.750 inches wide by 4.00 inches tall.

When you look at these the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro might seem small. However, there is one last item to compare the trackpad to, the Mid-2007 MacBook. If you measure the trackpad for the 2007 MacBook you come up with 4 inches wide by 2 inches tall. Hmm…this is the same size as the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Therefore, while the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro may seem small, in comparison to more recent trackpads on devices, the trackpads on past devices have been the same size and we used those for years.

Here is an life-size comparison of the various trackpads. As you can see, the sizes really do differ quite a bit depending on the device being used.

Even though the physical size between the 2007 MacBook and the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro may be the same, they do not function the same, outside of moving the cursor. The trackpad on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro supports many of the same gestures as the standard trackpads. This includes three finger swipes, pinch to zoom, and even four finger gestures, although the latter are a bit more difficult to accomplish with one hand.

The trackpad is a great addition and combined with iOS 13.4, it is will allow some to be even more productive than before.

Possible Drawbacks

To use the tag line of John Siracusa’s Hypercritical podcast, “Nothing is so perfect that it can’t be complained about.” That means there are a few things that could be possible drawbacks to be aware of regarding the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. Most of these have been covered, but let us recap.

The first issue I mentioned earlier, the lack of a physical escape key. I completely understand the trade-offs being made. On a standard Magic Keyboard there is an additional row that has the Escape key as well as 12 function keys and an “eject” key; at least on the US English keyboard layout.

Also mentioned earlier is the fact that command + period will replicate the escape key, and for those who use the app “vim” for terminal editing, this does work well for the escape key. Despite this, a physical escape key would be nice, even if the other top row keys where reduced to accommodate the key.

The second possible drawback is the weight. As outlined above if you are accustomed to using the iPad on its own, the weight difference will be quite noticeable. However, if you compare it to a traditional laptop, it will be lighter and therefore more portable.

The third possible drawback is the possible angles. The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is limited in the angles that it can be tilted towards. Just as with the lack of a physical escape key, the reasons for this make sense. In the case of the limited angles is due to making sure that the keyboard is balanced.

In fact, the keyboard is so balanced that you can perch the keyboard, complete with iPad, on the edge of a desk and it will not fall. Which cannot be said for other keyboards that are on the market. I would not recommend always living on the edge, but the keyboard is quite balanced.

The last possible drawback, is the price, which is outlined below.

Price

At first glance when you look at it, the Magic Keyboard for the iPad is not an inexpensive product. The keyboard for the 11-inch iPad Pro is $299, and the keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is $349. At first glance this may seem like a lot, and there is no denying that it is expensive. Yet, it may not be as expensive as you think. If you were to add up the cost of the three items in the Magic Keyboard for iPad, a cover, the magic keyboard, and a magic trackpad, it would be $99, $99, and $129 respectively, or a total of $327.

Therefore, this does make the overall price for the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro a bit more than buying each item separately, but for that price, you get allof them in a single package. Therefore, you do not need to worry about having three separate items. It is entirely true that you cold purchase less expensive solutions for the iPad Pro and you can be satisfied with those, but if you are looking at Apple-only solutions, then this really is comparable.

Closing Thoughts

I have used my 3rd Generation iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard for just about a week now. I used to use my iPad on a somewhat regular basis, but I feel as though I will be using my iPad a bit more than before. This is because I now have a device that can fill in most of the functions of my 2015 MacBook Pro. I am not sure whether or not I will end up replacing the MacBook Pro when it comes time. This is because the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard may be able to fulfill the role that my MacBook Pro has done so far, for the most part.

There are some items that I cannot do on my iPad, as easily, even with the Magic Keyboard and trackpad. The biggest of these is web development. I use the Safari Inspector quite a bit, and it is not available at all on iPadOS. Additionally, I use BBEdit for all of my web development. The built-in SFTP and browsing has become an absolute essential for me, and without this I am not able to be as productive with my web development. If you happen to know of another tool that is comparable, definitely let me know.

However, there are other tasks that I can do with the new setup. Chiefly among these is writing. It is my hope to be able to use the iPad to write most of the books I plan to write this summer, but time will tell. It is possible that significantly more of the books will be written using the iPad, now that there is a keyboard that makes it much easier to type on when sitting in various places.

The combination of iPadOS 13.4 and the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has capability of fundamentally changing the way that you use the iPad Pro. While it was possible to use an iPad with a keyboard, the addition of a trackpad makes the iPad like a laptop. For those who really enjoy using iPadOS as their primary operating system, but would really benefit from using a TrackPad, then you cannot go wrong with the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, even with the starting price of $299.