Macedonia Travel Guide

August 16, 2016 by

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Macedonia is a tiny country located in the heart of the Balkans, with only 2.1 million people and a land surface of 25,713 square kilometers. If you know that saying, that strong essences are kept in small bottles, you may get an idea about where this travel guide is going.

Truth be told, Macedonia is hugely under-explored and also under-rated from the Westerner traveler’s point of view. And that’s a real shame, because what you’ll be dealing with (if travelling to Macedonia that is) would be a beautiful mountainous nation, sprinkled with shimmering lakes and lush valleys, being the perfect place to spend your vacation if you’re passionate about solitude and the great outdoors.

In case you did not know it, Macedonia boasts it deep Hellenic heritage. Alexander the Great was from Macedonia, check that out folks, and he created the greatest empire in the history of mankind.

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For most of Macedonia’s visitors, the adventure begins with the country’s capital, which is Skopje. The city’s skyline (if I may use the word here) is composed from a concrete jungle of incongruous buildings and huge statues built in the neo-classic style.

Truth be told, the city looks a little bit freakish, but you’ll get over it once you start to mingle sort to speak. There are also lots of monolithic apartment blocks built in the country’s socialist era, sitting right next to grandiose monuments, which were built in two years ago during an ambitious yet weird government scheme under the moniker Skopje 2014.

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The pre-communist/socialist architecture which still stands is composed of Byzantine and old ottoman edifices. Also, visiting Skopje you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the plethora of clubs and buzzing bars, together with the city’s vivid  night life.

If you’re not much of a city fella, just go explore the rural Macedonia, which is far easier for a Westerner’s eye. The countryside is absolutely untouched and unspoiled, as Macedonia was blessed with an awe-inspiring diversity of landscapes. One of the most inspirational and serene areas in the rural Macedonia is Ohrid, which sits serene on a lakeside, offering glorious relief if you’re to be confronted with the sizzling Macedonian summer.

The area is filled with dreamy lakes where visitors can kick back and relax, spending their lazy summer days visiting the region’s outstanding churches, impeccably preserved, while the evenings can be best spent quaffing the local wine which is produced in the area’s nearby hills. Basically, Macedonia’s hill country is nothing short of splendid, reminding me of Martha’s Vineyard.

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You will also have the time of your life while travelling in Macedonia by visiting the endless green pastures of the mountains dubbed Sar Planina, a place where tranquil and old glacier lakes magically mirror the surrounding mountain peaks, offering a picturesque view which looks like it was shot in Lord of the Rings. You can also go trekking the mountainous regions in the Pelister National Park, Macedonia’s pride and joy, which can be easily compared to the Swiss Alps, but at a fraction of the price if you know what I mean.

If you’re an outdoors junkie, the remote hinterlands of Macedonia will make your skin crawl in the most pleasant of the ways, as you’ll be able to see more wildlife than on National Geographic whilst enjoying the hard life of the mountain people. Truth be told, you won’t find too many luxury resorts in Macedonia, as the country has modest means but it’s as authentic as it gets. However, the rustic inns are very affordable, welcoming and comfortable, just don’t expect miracles, alright folks?

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During the winter, Macedonia offers its travelers phenomenal snowboarding and skiing opportunities, especially in the Mavrovo area.

While visiting the aforementioned Pelister National Park, make sure you don’t miss Bitola’s Byzantine ruins. The pretty city of Bitola is Macedonia’s second biggest town and it’s very close to the Greek border, harboring the ancient ruins of Heraclea and being a former and important headquarter  of Ottoman rule.

If you’ll be getting hungry, rest assured as Macedonian cuisine is pretty good, being a melange between Mediterranean and Balkan flavors and cooking styles. Specialties include spicy roast pepper and aubergine relish, bread rolls with feta cheese flavored with paprika and other spices, bean stew cooked using a skillet and flavored with paprika, minced meat sausages called kebapci, an ubiquitous relish made from paprika, red bell peppers and garlic, flaky pies filled with a combo of cheese, ham, ground beef and spinach, thick stews cooked in clay pots and fried dough rolls filled with nuts and honey. As per drinks, don’t forget to sip Mastika and Rakija.

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To visit Macedonia, you’ll only require a valid passport but no Visa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro, Locked and Loaded

August 16, 2016 by

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If you have any notion about the old Xiaomi Redmi 3, i.e. that it’s still one of the best smartphones out there in terms of price vs performance, you must know that the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro is even better than that.

Thing is, Chinese tech companies have a lot to catch up with the big names in the industry and once in a while they release a smartphone which is nothing short of incredible, i.e it offers a lot and costs almost nothing compared to its Western rivals.

The same recipe was used in the case of  the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro. Basically, Xiaomi took an already great smartphone, improved it a little bit in its essential points i.e. they added some additional bells and whistles (more RAM, more internal storage capacity, a fingerprint scanner) and they released it in the wild to fight with the best.

The similarities with the older gen (sans the Pro particle) include the same conservative 5 inches wide display, an IPS LCD variety of HD/720p resolution, an aluminum-made chassis (which looks uber cool), a Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 system on chip, a 13 megapixels main snapper and an amazingly beefy 4100 mAh battery, all these for a price of under $150, which means contract free, SIM free, no strings attached. I mean, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro is as good as it gets folks. But take a load of this:

The droid features a hybrid dual SIM / micro SD card slot, 3 GB of RAM/ 32 GB of native storage and the camera now comes with hybrid phase detect auto focus and it captures video at full HD 1080p resolution.

The old Redmi 3 was quite popular due especially to its very affordable price tag and excellent built quality, but the Pro will be a true hit, mark my words folks. Especially in China and India, which are huge emerging markets and folks can’t usually afford to buy a 700 bucks smartphone, this under $150 droid will make some waves.

In terms of design, the new Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro features the same unibody chassis made entirely of aluminum with curved edges, with a smooth and clean finish.

The display is almost Retina like in terms of pixels per inch, featuring 294 ppi, being crisp and with excellent sunlight legibility. But the best thing about the new Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro is arguably its mammoth 4100 mAh battery which comes with an endurance rating of 104 hours, which means 4 days plus or 14 hours of web browsing/12 hours of video playback.

Connectivity wise, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro offers quite a lot: seven LTE bands, quad band 3G, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS with Glonass, Beidou and even an FM radio.

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Being a Xiaomi droid, the Redmi 3 Pro comes pre-loaded with Android Lollipop flavored with the company’s proprietary MIUI 7.3, an ecosystem focused on their own apps and software and away from Google, which is kind of not so popular in China, to say the least.

When it comes to performance, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro comes with the same hardware architecture as the previous generation, i.e. a Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 offering 8 Cortex A53 CPUs clocked at 1.5 GHZ/1.2 GHz respectively (2×4 cores). There’s more RAM than in the regular Redmi 3, 3 gigabytes respectively while the gaming department is taken care of by an Adreno 405 GPU. All things aside, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro has enough power to run anything on 720p resolution, including high end mobile graphics and modern games.

The 13 megapixels snapper is basically the same one found in the regular Redmi 3 being equipped with a single LED flash. Talking about bells and whistles, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro’s multimedia department offers phase detection/hybrid autofocus and a fairly simple and intuitive user interface, manual and automatic settings for the camera and the whole nine yards, there’s nothing to write home about really, except that the picture/video quality is really good considering the smartphone’s price tag.

As per my final words, the question is if the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro is worth the upgrade from the basic Redmi 3. Well, if you want more RAM, a great built quality, an awesome battery and a finger print sensor, the answer is yes, the Pro is worth the stretch. If you’re out there looking for a new droid at an affordable price, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro is hard to beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Travel Guide

August 16, 2016 by

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Australia is a continent in itself and also a country of big adventures, savage natural beauty and infinite horizons. Truth be told, if you’re into the great outdoors, sunshine, great open spaces and dangers lurking all around, Australia is the place to visit this summer.

Boasting a huge land area of 7,692,024 square kilometers and a population of just 24,1 million, Australia has one of the lowest population densities in the world, making for the the ideal travel getaway if you’re the lonely type or you don’t like crowded places.

Australia has it all: great sandy beaches, landscapes to die for, lots of sunshine, rain forests and so on and so forth, but the hardest thing is to decide where to visit first. Together with an epic scenery, Australia also boasts its outstanding cities, which are excellent traveling destinations in their own right.

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Where to go, that’s the question that drives anybody who reaches Australia’s shores, because the opportunities are basically endless. The Great Barrier Reef, the Kimberley, Uluru, Kakadu, The Great Ocean Road, Hobart, the cities like Melbourne, Sydney, choosing the ideal traveling destination is a tough one in Australia’s case.

If you’re a city dweller, you should go visit Melbourne first, which is a great place to explore if you like the architecture from the Victorian era. Also, you’ll enjoy the city’s state of the art counter culture together with the numerous local festivals, excellent cuisine, sport and the great outdoors. Afterwards, you could pay a visit to Sydney, a veritable tourist trap which boasts its beautiful beaches, the skyline, the harbor and a laid back culture, here’s the place where you’ll fall in love by the Aussie way of life, if that’s your cup of tea of course.

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Western Australia’s biggest city is Perth, featuring a chill-out urban vibe, not so energetic like Melbourne or Sydney but definitely a place to spend a few days exploring its scenic beaches and attractive parks.

If you’re already tired of the city life, go dive the Great Barrier Reef, on the east coast of Australia, a place bursting with tourists and great resorts. While here, you can go to Fraser Island which is well known for its 4 wheel drive opportunities or to Surfer’s Paradise which doesn’t require further explanation, its name being obvious for what it has to offer to the intrepid traveler.

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For those of you seeking outback adventure, I have three words: the Gibb River Road, which stretches over 370 miles across the Kimberley, a place which is actually venerated by off-road enthusiasts from all over the world for it savage and rugged scenery and the truly challenging conditions. This is a place that can be visited only using a four wheel drive/all terrain vehicle, but it’s worth every penny if you’re into rally and similar stuff.

While in Western Australia, don’t forget to pay a visit to Purnulu National Park (I know, it sounds funny) and fly over the Bungle Bees, it will be an experience to remember for the rest of your life.

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Tasmania also is worth a stretch and if you’re the artsy kind of gay or “gal”, go to Adelaide, which is one of the world’s most livable cities and the capital of South Australia, a true urban gem if it ever was one. This city is the ideal place for art buffs, as it harbors countless art galleries, beautiful parks and it also hosts numerous cultural events and art festivals.

Australia’s Kakadu National Park is a place where you’ll experience a real shock and awe adventure, being a huge place boasting Australia’s best features, i.e. untamed wilderness, wild natural landscapes and plenty of wild life, the likes of crocs (crocodiles, yes), creeks and even waterfalls.

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Don’t forget to experience the Aussie cuisine, such as Sydney rock oysters, Barramundi (a species of fish), lobster, Kangaroo, macadamia nuts, meat pies, mangoes, apples, pumpkins (all locally grown and the best in the world), deep fried hot dog aka dagwood dog, craft beers and superb local wines.

Before you go, keep in mind that you’ll require a valid passport and a Visa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Huawei Honor 7 Lite (5c), Deja Vu

August 16, 2016 by

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With the new Huawei Honor 7 Lite, it’s deja vu all over again, to quote a famous guy, because this baby reminds me of the former P9 Lite we all knew and love in its time. And yes, I did a review about it, check out the website folks.

The P9 Lite was borrowing some of its design elements from the current (at the time) flagship P9, especially the straight lines and sharp edges. The Huawei Honor 7 Lite is more on the curvy side design wise, but the rest (I mean under the hood) is basically the same.

Talking about similarities, you may think that the Huawei Honor 7 Lite looks very much alike the Honor 5c, and you’d be spot on. The only difference between them is that the latter doesn’t feature a a fingerprint scanner on the back panel, the rest is basically the same.

I already gave you enough spoilers folks, so let’s move it with the actual review, shall we?

The key features of the Huawei Honor 7 Lite are as it follows: first, I must observe the cool aluminum (aircraft grade) frame, which looks good and it’s tough as nails.

The display is a 5.2 inches wide IPS LCD variety with a pretty impressive resolution of 423 pixels per inch. The whole shebang is powered by a HiSilicon Kirin 650 system on chip, which is basically an octa core (as in 8 cores) architecture featuring four Cortex A53 processors clocked at 2 GHz running in tandem with four Cortex A53 CPUs clocked at 1.7 GHz. For video demanding applications, there’s a Mali-T830 MP2 graphic processing unit on board, along with 2 gigabytes of RAM and 16 GB of native storage capacity.

These are pretty cool hardware specs for a droid priced like the Huawei Honor 7 Lite is. To make things even better, this baby runs of Android 6.0 out of the box, with Huawei’s in house made EMUI 4.1 launcher.

In the multimedia department, things are taken care of by 2 cameras. The main one is a 13 megapixels variety, whilst the secondary snapper has 8 megapixels, both being able of recording full HD videos/1080p.

Another cool feature of the Huawei Honor 7 Lite is its hybrid dual-SIM/micro SD card slot which can boost the internal memory capacity up to 256 GB. Connectivity wise, the 7 Lite features dual antenna Cat.4 LTE, dual ban Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Hotspot, WI-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, GPS, Glonass, NFC and even a micro USB 2.0 port.

There’s also the aforementioned finger print scanner and a beefy 7000 mAh battery to keep the lights on forever. Ok, maybe not forever, but the battery packs quite a punch sort to speak, featuring a 75 hours endurance rating, which means something like 2 days of intensive use in real life.

The display is one of the strongest selling points of the Huawei Honor 7 Lite, being a 5.2” IPS LCD variety with full HD resolution, which translates into an amazing pixels per inch density and pretty good color accuracy and average contrast.

The design of this little droid really looks and feels premium, as in flagship, despite the fact that it’s not. Measuring 147.1 x 73.8 x 8.3 millimeters and weighing a respectable 156 grams, the Honor 7 Lite is not the lightest around, but it feels sturdy as the weight gives it substance. The chassis is very well put together and the smartphone offers that solidity which is specific  for metal-made devices.

The back panel is made from aircraft grade aluminum featuring a brushed finish and all around it you’ll notice a plastic rim which is aimed at improving grip and handling, according to Huawei. I don’t know about grip, as the plastic frame is pretty slippery, but it definitely improves the smartphone’s durability when dropped, as that plastic frame will prevent the aluminum back panel from scratching/deforming upon impact.

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Performance wise, the Honor 7 Lite performs admirably considering its price bracket due to its state of the art SoC which lies under the hood. The HiSilicon Kirin 650 is almost comparable to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808. Well, almost, but then again, the price is important in this equation.

 

Keep in mind that this baby will handle most mobile games with flying colors and it’s cheaper than the P9 lite, offering the same performance.

The camera has the same basic specs/performance as the P9 Lite, being quite sharp for its price bracket, with a good dynamic range and capable of recording decent 1080p videos at 30 FPS.

Bottom line, the Huawei Honor 7 Lite is a solid smartphone with a strong metal body, a nice screen and above average hardware, being the definition of a droid playing in the “best bang for the buck” category.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey Travel Guide, New Beginnings?

August 15, 2016 by

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As you may already know, Turkey is passing through huge political turmoil these days, hence my “new beginnings” title.

Other than that, the country which was once the great Ottoman Empire is one of the most appreciated and universally acclaimed  travelling destinations, being situated between Europe and Asia and playing in the “best of both worlds” category (just kidding).

If we’re talking about diversity, it’s almost impossible to beat Turkey, as it’s a land of multitudes, both in terms of people/cultures and land/scenery. Diversity is the name of the game here, and while Turkey is a country boasting its large,open spaces, its fertile valleys, massive mountain ranges and a rugged yet interesting coastline, the same thing can be said about its fast growing and lively cities, together with the dormant villages, the remote beaches and top notch seaside tourist resorts.

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Everything is about history and culture while visiting Turkey, as the country faced lots of hardships during its long and tumultuous history, ranging from immigration and rebellion to numerous waves of invasion. All these made Turkey hard as a rock, with a cultural depth that will shock you if you’ll be travelling across the country talking to the locals.

Turkey is a country which literally overflows with archaeological wonders and historic sites, all being located in an absolutely breathtaking landscape, especially when talking about those situated on the Mediterranean coastline . Visiting here you’ll be delighted to see the impeccable preserved Greek-Roman cities like Ephesus (Turkey has a territorial issue with Cyprus by the way) or Pergamom, while the epic scenery in the Cappadocia region with its underground cities and cave churches is absolutely epic.

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Istanbul is the heart of Turkey, its main city and almost the capital (yet it’s not, the actual capital is Ankara), and let’s not forget that Turkey is a country with eighty million people and a land surface of 783,562 square kilometers…

This city is the former capital of the Ottoman Empire too and it’s a magical place and bizarre place to be in, considering the fact that it was once Christian and the heart of Christianity/Byzantine empire, when it was called Constantinople. Istanbul is an actual living archive, as it passed through the centuries, keeping a myriad of cultural and architectonic influences almost intact, harboring Roman aqueducts together with Byzantine cathedrals and churches sitting near Ottoman palaces and mosques.

However, Istanbul is not a dusty relic but a lively and modern city, boasting its lively night life, bustling bazaars, public baths, cafes and lots of businesses buzzing with activity.

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If you’re not so fond of culture and architectural wonders, don’t worry as you can lay your bones on the beach in the sun on one of Turkey’s many all inclusive resorts in Marmaris, Bodrum and Izmir, along Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coasts.

Ankara is amazingly the actual capital of Turkey, yet unlikely if you compare it to Istanbul, less frequented by tourists and businesses alike, but given its location in the heart of Anatolia, it’s worth a stretch to pay it a short visit, to see the huge contrast between the surviving citadel that still holds heroically the winds of time and the modern city that’s today’s Ankara. Being more remote and less visited than Istanbul, Ankara is the perfect place to take a sip of Turkish culture and Islam, if you have the minerals/the stomach, as you’ll see facets of Turkish culture you won’t observe in “westernized areas”…

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If there’s one thing you must experience in Turkey is the Whirling Dervishes, one of the most flabbergasting  tourist attractions, together with the iconic Hagia Sophia (the most important cathedral in the Christian empire until the Muslims conquered it in the 15th century), Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Also, don’t forget to search for Noah’s ark on Mount Ararat and to glide over the dream-lands of Cappadocia.

And if you get hungry after seeing all these marvels, rest assured because Turkey’s foods and drinks are absolute delights for your culinary senses. Let me just mention the spicy sausage shaped meat balls made of minced lamb meat called kofte, the shish-kebab, pide which is Turkey’s pizza, dolma and lokum. Unfortunately, you’ll require both a passport and a Visa to visit Turkey, but they’re easy to obtain.

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Moto Z Force Droid, Feel the Force!

August 15, 2016 by

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The Moto Z Force Droid is Motorola’s latest flagship smartphone, being designed, developed and built entirely under Lenovo’s ownership. In case you did not know it, Motorola sold its mobile phones division to the Chinese tech giant a few months ago.

The Moto Z Force Droid is the sequel (bigger, better, faster, more) of last years’ Droid Turbo 2, which was a Verizon exclusive in the United States and sold to the rest of the plebes under the Moto X Force moniker.

In terms of design, the main difference between the Moto Z Force Droid and the regular Moto Z is in thickness, the rest is relatively identical, being pretty hard to tell them apart from a distance.

The Force particle stands for sheer hardware power, as the Moto Z Force Droid comes with a beefier battery, significantly larger not just a marketing gimmick, a better camera (as in a higher res) and a tougher chassis featuring a shatter proof display, which can withstand drops from up to five feet on a hard surface.

Overall, the Moto Z Force Droid is a great deal if you can afford the price, compared to the regular Z, if you can live with its fatness.

Truth be told, the Moto Z Force Droid competes head to head with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active, as they’re both water resistant/shock proof. The Moto Z Force Droid is only splash resistant actually, but I’ve seen videos with the S7 Active drowning when immersed in water, so I’d take that IP 68 Certification with a big grain of Himalayan salt, i.e. I wouldn’t try it on my own S7 Active, if you know what I mean.

Moving along with the review, the Moto Z Force Droid comes with a mega-cool 30 watt Turbo Charger and it’s compatible with Moto Mods (Check out my previous article about Mods).

In terms of design, as I already told you, this baby is quasi-identical to the Z except for its 25 percent extra thickness which makes it 16 percent heavier, due to the beefy 3500 mAh power plant.

The smartphone comes with a style-shell inside the retail box which mimics wood and looks pretty weird in this writer’s opinion. Unless you’re from Alabama, the Charcoal Ash Style Shell will make you scratch your head, or at least that was my first reaction.

The display is a 5.5 inches wide and truly beautiful AMOLED variety, with QHD resolution and excellent quality, being one of the best I’ve ever seen. In terms of connectivity, everything’s on the menu, ranging from Bluetooth latest gen, LTE latest gen, NFC, GPS, Glonass, Wi-Fi Direct and, last but not least, the Moto Dock connector.

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The 3500 mAh battery is also outstanding in regard to autonomy, as it confers this droid an impressive 88 hours endurance rating, which is quite a lot in our day and age, i.e. more than 3 days for a flagship smartphone it’s amazing.

But, to get all these goodies, you’ll have to pay the price for the premium, which is 100 bucks vs the regular Z, so keep that in mind folks.

Given the Moto Dock, you’ll be able to enhance your Droid experience via Moto Mods, which include cool stuff like the Mod Insta Share projector, which transforms your smartphone into a video-projector (duh!), a high end JBL made loudspeaker for listening your favorite tracks and various expandable battery packs.

Performance wise,this baby is flabbergasting to say the least, as it features Motorola’s Mobile Computing System that works alongside the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 system on chip, which is paired with an Adreno 530 GPU together with a plentiful 4 gigabytes of RAM for offering an out-of-this-world Android experience, regardless what task you’ll be throwing at it. Long story short, the Force is strong in the Moto Z Force Droid, as it also runs strong in the family, if you catch my drift.

The camera is a little bit on the slow side, meaning that it takes a while until it focuses and what not, but the pictures are great, with lots of resolved detail, due to its 21 megapixels sensor, phase detection auto-focus and all the bells and whistles imaginable. Also, the Moto Z Force Droid is capable of taking cool 4K videos, so you’re covered on all fronts.

Bottom line, if you want a Lenovo Made Moto flagship, sturdy and reliable, offering quite a punch in terms of processing power, an amazing display, great battery life and Moto Mods, i.e. modular accessories together with a top-notch Android experience, the Moto Z Force Droid is a match made in heaven for you.

 

 

 

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina Travel Guide

August 15, 2016 by

 

bosnia-and-herzegovina-bosnia-sarajevo-miljackaBosnia and Herzegovina is a relatively under-rated travelling destination in Europe, as it just emerged from the tragic war in Yugoslavia in the nineties, a war which left the country scarred but recovering slowly, especially in the past five years.

To describe it in a few words,  Bosnia and Herzegovina is a compelling and multi faceted place to spend a couple of weeks of your life, being blessed with a beautiful mountainous landscape which can be admired best visiting the country’s lush national parks.

Even if  Bosnia and Herzegovina still suffers from the war, especially its fractured infrastructure which is currently rebuilt, you’ll definitely enjoy the country’s natural beauties and its urban centers, especially the capital Sarajevo (you know, where Archduke Ferdinand was shot, starting World War 1) which makes for a unique place in Europe and a pleasure for the intrepid traveler, boasting a vivid nightlife and a rich history and architecture.

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To begin with,  Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country in East Europe with a population just shy of four million and a land surface of 51,129 square kilometers. As I already told you, the main city and also the capital is Sarajevo, a cosmopolitan place if there ever was one. Sarajevo’s old town is basically an “east meets west” kind of job, if I may use that expression. The idea is that the old town is composed, historically and architecturally, from two main parts: one of them bears the legacy of the old Ottoman Empire, filled with historic mosques, craft workshops and little cafes on its cobbled streets, while the other half wears the signature of the Austria-Hungarian empire from the 19th century. Indeed, in Sarajevo East meets west and that itself is a good reason to pay a visit this summer to  Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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However, there’s much more than the “east meets west” thing if you’re brave enough to book a flight to Sarajevo. If you’re a history and/or an art buff, Sarajevo harbors some of the most interesting museums in Europe. The rest of the country is mostly undeveloped to tell you the truth, but there are lots of epic mosques and old fortresses scattered around the territory, so you’ll definitely have a good time, all things considered. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, life is very cheap in  Bosnia and Herzegovina, 3-4 times cheaper than in Western European countries, especially food and rent, so here you’re gonna have the surprise of your life, in a pleasant way.

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Talking about Sarajevo, even if it was heavily scarred by the war, it makes for a truly vivacious place to live in, with an awesome cafe culture and a vivid night life. The Ottoman quarter makes for a truly unique experience, being as pretty as it gets sort to speak, boasting its timeworn monuments and splendid mosques. If you’re into shopping, you’ll have the bargain of your life walking the Ottoman quarter along its old bazaars and lanes, where you can buy basically anything for dirt cheap prices.

You can also visit the exact spot in Sarajevo where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated , which is the event that started World War 1, one of the bloodiest in the history of mankind. Also, you can cross the Mostar Bridge, which links the 2 sides of Sarajevo as it crosses Neretva River. The original Mostar Bridge was built by the Ottomans almost five hundred years ago, but it was destroyed during the 1990s war. However, since then it has been reconstructed using the original specs provided by the Turks themselves.

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The scenery in  Bosnia and Herzegovina is absolutely delightful, hence you can always go hike the country’s beautiful and undulating landscape, which offers myriads of hill walking opportunities, especially the areas in Bjelasnica Mountain. Here you can hike, go trekking, engage in rafting and also enjoy the local village tourism, which is cheap and authentic.

Bosnia has only one beach at the Adriatic Sea and to visit it, you must head to Neum. Here you will be amazed by its golden, beautiful sands and the Adriatic’s emerald waters.

Sutjeska National Park  is an impeccable nature reserve and it makes for one of the last primeval forests in the continent, being also the country’s highest point (2368 meters).

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The food in Bosnia and Herzegovina is excellent and cheap, being a melange between the various cultures which inhabit the Balkans, with the Turkish cuisine having the biggest impact apparently. There are also stews and soups on the menus, courtesy of the Austrian regime, while the Herzegovina region is well known for its great wines.

To visit the country, you’ll require a passport and a visa, but don’t worry, just check with your local embassy.

 

 

 

 

 

Lenovo Vibe K5, Feel the Summer Vibe!

August 13, 2016 by

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The Lenovo Vibe K5 plays in the best bang for the buck category, being a relatively cheap smartphone which delivers a lot of punch where it counts.

Don’t confuse the Vibe K5 with the K5 Plus, which is another malarkey, this baby is the base variant, the cheaper and also with fewer add-ons and a more affordable price tag. When I am talking about fewer add-ons I am referring to bells and whistles, such as hardware stuff.

For example, the Lenovo Vibe K5 was downgraded in terms of screen resolution, 720p vs Full HD 1080p in the Plus, also the hardware architecture, i.e. a Qualcomm Snapdragon 415 chipset vs a QSD 616 in the Plus.

But the rest of the features are relatively the same, especially the built quality, the dimensions and the metal back-panel, which is something quite unexpected in a cheap smartphone. Yes, that’s a plus folks, together with a more than decent 13 megapixels camera, 2 gigs of RAM and a beefy 2750 mAh battery. In these regards, the two droids are virtually the same.

Now, let’s take a look at the Vibe K5’s main features, right after the break!

So, the first thing that comes to mind if you’re an avid smartphone user in an emerging market is the dual SIM support. You know, your friends are on Orange, AT&T or whatever carrier you have in your neck of the wood; what are you going to do, exchange SIM cards every time to when calling to save a few bucks? Because if money were not an issue, you would have chose another smartphone, something like a Galaxy S7 or an iPhone 6s, right?

Rest assured, because in this regard, the Vibe K5 offers full support for dual SIM, so your basis are covered totally. The display is a conservative 5 inches wide IPS LCD with HD/720p resolution and a more than decent 294 pixels per inch density.

The little droid runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 415 system on chip, as I already warned in the preamble, but that’s pretty cool, as the quad core architecture of four Cortex A53 CPUs clocked at 1.0 GHz are more than enough for day to day jobs, Facebook, YouTube videos, Whatsappa and the whole shebang. Everything runs pretty good on the Vibe K5, helped quite a bit by the 2 gigs of RAM and the decent Adreno 405 graphic processing unit.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this droid is not suited for hardcore apps and games, but if you’re a regular Android user, you’ll feel just like home, everything runs smooth if you don’t push it too hard.

Another thing that plays in K5 Vibe’s favor is the fact that it runs on an older version of Android, the 5.1.1 Lollipop, which doesn’t require so much hardware like the newer distros.

When it comes to multi-media, don’t worry, the K5 Vibe will not disappoint you, provided you’re not expecting DSLR like quality from its more than decent 13 megapixels main camera, which comes with an f/2.2 aperture lens, full HD video capabilities (1080p), a LED flash and auto-focus.

Lenovo K5 Vibe

The native storage capacity is 16 GB which is more than enough, and if not you can expand it further via micro SD cards. In the connectivity department, everything is taken care of, as the Lenovo Vibe K5 features LTE Cat.4 (that’s 150 megabytes per second, okay?), GPS with Glonass, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and even an FM radio, which is kind of rare nowadays unfortunately. I know flagship smartphones that fail to provide an FM radio, I will never understand this trend. Or maybe it’s because of internet streaming which killed FM radio? Who knows…moving on with the review, to keep the lights on for the maximum amount of time, the Lenovo K5 Vibe packs a beefy 2750 mAh power plant which offers 13 hours of talk time and almost nine hours of web browsing, having an endurance rating of 64 hours.

Bottom line, if the review sounded familiar to you, there’s a good reason for that, as the K5 Vibe is pretty similar with the Plus, as I already told you (and I already reviewed earlier). And that’s a good thing in my opinion, i.e. a dual SIM smartphone, with a removable battery, booming stereo-speakers, a metal cover and a dirt cheap price.

 

 

 

 

 

Hungary Travel Guide

July 12, 2016 by

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Hungary is a relatively small country located in Eastern Europe, with a population just shy of ten million and a land surface of 93,028 square kilometers. If I’d have to describe Hungary in just a sentence, I’d say that it makes for the odd-one out compared to its neighboring countries.

However, Hungary is “odd”in a good way, as it’s linguistically and culturally distinct from its surrounding neighbors, making for a hugely interesting travelling destination this summer.

To start with the most obvious thing, let me tell you a few factoids about its main city and capital, Budapest, which is widely regarded as a mirror-image to Austria’s Vienna, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

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Budapest is a world in itself, a micro-Cosmos if you like, boasting its impeccably preserved castles and a beautiful landscape of oak forests and thermal springs.

Today’s Budapest is following into the steps of ancient Romans, who were the first to discover and benefit from the medicinal properties of the city’s hot waters, hence a visit to Budapest must include a trip to the local spas/touristic resorts, spending some quality time relaxing in the splendid bathhouses the city offers to its visitors.

Budapest is a lively city, stylish and elegant, which is composed of 2 distinct settlements, sitting on both sides of the Danube river. One half is the hilly Buda, which boasts its Habsburg legacy, i.e. the neoclassic and graceful architecture, while the second half, Pest, is the country’s commercial center, offering its visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy its art nouveaux architecture and its vivid night life.

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Basically, Budapest is a must-see urban center while visiting Hungary, offering some of the best natural delights together with a chance to meet a warm and welcoming populace. Lake Balaton is located south west of the capital, and it makes for the biggest lake in Europe, an excellent choice to spend this summer cooling off in Balaton’s top-notch tourist resorts.

Exploring Budapest, you must take a stroll on the city’s cobbled streets and enjoy the magnificent view of the river Danube along the way, which is especially terrific from the Fisherman’s Bastion. Also, Pest is home for the Museum of Applied Arts, the Hungary National Museum and the Hungarian Parliament building.

Baroque interior of The Great Church, Hungary Kecskemét

Baroque interior of The Great Church, Hungary Kecskemét

While visiting Hungary, when living Budapest for Szeged, remember to stop at  Kecskemét, a very interesting little town which is home for an excellent selection of art nouveaux architecture and several museums, but more importantly, here you can acquire the taste for palinka, a fruit brandy which is Hungary’s pride and joy. The locals use to say that palinka is a medicine taken in small amounts or a remedy in large amounts.

Pecs is the former European Capital of Culture, Hungary’s 5th largest city and home to one of Europe’s oldest universities. Also, while in Pecs you can stand in awe admiring some of the finest architectural wonders dating back to the Ottoman period, especially the mosque of Gázi Kászim Pasha which was built almost 500 years ago. Don’t forget to take a peek at the Early Christian Metropolis, which is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, along with many buildings from the Habsburg era.

Hortobágy National Park sits on a huge grassy area in eastern Hungary and it makes for the perfect place for nature lovers, especially bird-watching aficionados. This magic place also sits on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and it’s a sanctuary for 350 bird species, including warblers, storks, rare great bustards and herons.

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Together with palinka, Hungary is world renowned for its Bull’s Blood wine, which is best sampled while visiting  Szépasszony Valley’s vineyards. Here you can enjoy some of the best red-wines in the whole wide world; I must recommend you Miskolc-Tokaj’s area distinctive dessert-wines, which are absolutely wonderful.

Speaking about wines and palinka, I must confess that Hungarian cuisine is excellent, being a melange of Turkish, French and Central European, best known for its paprika, garlic and sour cream use. Specialties include spicy soups made with paprika and fresh fish, the Hungarian goulash, made from capsicum, paprika soup and hearty beef, paprika chicken, kidney bean soup, sausage spiced with paprika and egg dumplings.

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As per Visa requirements, Hungary is an EU member and it signed the Schengen treaty, hence no Visa is required unless you’re from outside of the EU, in which case you’ll only need a valid passport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

vivo Xplay5 Elite, the Master of Affordable Flagships

July 11, 2016 by

Xplay5 Elite

The vivo Xplay5 Elite can be described as a dirt-cheap high-end smartphone, if there’s anything like that at all. I mean, just imagine a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, but without the home button. Close your eyes. Do you know what you’re seeing? Well, you’ve already guessed it: a vivo Xplay5 Elite.

However, the resemblance with the S6 Edge+ disappears completely when you flip the vivo Xplay5 Elite over, but now another “borrowed” design feature comes into play: from the back, the vivo Xplay5 Elite looks strikingly similar to an iPhone 6s Plus.

Are you starting to get it yet? That old saying about imitation being the highest form of flattery is the essence of the vivo Xplay5 Elite’s design. The frontal panel design is borrowed from a Samsung flagship while the back is similar to the latest iPhone.

But what about something more juicy, that doesn’t meet the eye? Well, besides being the master of disguise, the vivo Xplay5 Elite is a strong contender in the hardware department, as it runs on a high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 system on chip, with an ample 6 gigabytes of RAM, a Sony made sixteen megapixels snapper and 128 gigabytes of internal storage capacity as standard.

Do you want to know more? Are you interested yet? Well, keep reading folks, because the vivo Xplay5 Elite is one hell of a droid!

Talking about metrics, the vivo Xplay5 Elite measures  153.5 x 76.2 x 7.6 millimeters, almost identical to the S6 Edge+ and weighs 168 grams, being a tad thicker and wider than the Korean flagship. The design of the smartphone, besides resembling the aforementioned flagships, features a cool unibody built, it’s made entirely from metal and the workmanship is truly Elite, sort to speak. This baby looks and feels as premium as it sounds, and that’s a great achievement for the company in this writer’s opinion at least.

The most awesome design feature of the Xplay5 Elite is definitely its dual edge display, with a subtle curvature which looks amazing, while the back is perfectly flat.

The Xplay5 Elite comes with an odd 5.43 inches wide display, a high-end QHD AMOLED variety, featuring a flabbergasting 541 pixels per inch density, almost identical to Samsung’s high end smartphones.

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In the connectivity department, the Xplay5 Elite offers almost anything you could think of, ranging from dual SIM capabilities to dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac powered by two MIMO antennas, 4G/3G/2G, Bluetooth is v4.2, GPS, NFC, micro USB 2.0 and Miracast.

The battery is a beefy 3600 mAh unit and it comes with an impressive endurance rating of 85 hours, which is outstanding to say the least.

The Xplay5 Elite runs on Android Marshmallow out of the box and in terms of performance, taking into account the fact that under the hood you’ll find the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 architecture, everything runs buttery smooth.

The chipset is helped by an Adreno 530 GPU that works together with an elite 6 GB of RAM on top, making sure everything is taking care of, from the latest games to the most demanding apps in the app-store.

Oh, but the camera is a real treat. This droid comes with a Sony IMX298 sensor which is hidden behind a six element lens featuring an f/2.0 aperture/16 Megapixels with no optical image stabilization unfortunately, but phase detection auto-focus as standard and a dual tone flash.

The camera app’s user interface is simplistic but very familiar to iPhone (former) users. In terms of photo quality, the smartphone does an excellent job, with a dependable and very fast autofocus, good contrast and impressive color accuracy. The secondary/selfie camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels and it comes with fixed focus and an f/2.4 aperture lens.

As per video recording capabilities, the Xplay5 Elite produces great 4k videos but, surprising enough, mediocre 1080p clips.

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Now, as per my final words, I must confess that I was absolutely amazed by this smartphone. The design is great, even if I can call “copycat” in this department, the build quality is flagship-grade, the hardware is top notch, the feel and looks are as premium as they come, the battery is excellent, the fingerprint sensor is lightning fast,  the camera provides an excellent output in terms of quality, 4k video recording is superb and the price…well, the price in China is $200 less than what Samsung asks for the S7 Edge+.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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