Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Sparc TechBook S1 In Depth Review

A pretty simple box. Only a thin clear front plastic cover and bubble wrap protects the laptop. Unlike mall branded laptops with full on corrugated cardboard box and foam on all sides. But it was delivered damaged free naman.


  • It's Intel Atom Z8350 processor with Intel HD Graphics is faster than Atom Z3735 series processor on the more expensive 10-incher Cherry Mobile Cubix CubeBook or 2015 Acer Switch 10 laptops. Local laptops with the same processor cost 10,000 pesos and up. The latest Acer branded laptops with Z83xx series processor costs 24,000 and up.
  • 1366 x 768 resolution TN display
  • 2GB RAM, 32GB storage expandable by SD card (64GB max)
  • 1 full size USB 2.0
  • 1 full size USB 3.0
  • 1 mini HDMI port
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 0.3MP front camera
  • Large multitouch touchpad
  • Full size keys, non-illuminated 
  • Windows 10 Home, 64-bit
  • Price: 4,999 - cheaper than your cellphone!

First boot:
It took 2 hours in blue screen with spinning dots before the login screen appeared. Then another hour of busy cursor after logging in as Admin where you can’t do anything but wiggle the cursor from time to time. Nabato after 1 hour at nag long press na sa power button for forced shutdown. The succeeding Windows boot took less than 30 seconds na consistently. Fast boot.

Available user space:
17.8 GB free before any software install.
Can install 64GB SD card max and configure Windows to use it for future installs and file saves. Of course this depends if the app for install supports storage selection.

Power supply:
Power brick is small, parang pang cellphone. Cord length is short. Di ka makalayo sa outlet compared to those extra long cables ng conventional laptops.
Trickle charging lang if plugged in while turned ON. To expedite charging you need to turn it off.
Battery life is 8 hours. Longer if wifi and bluetooth off.

Comes with a screen protector with side 1 already attached. Just peel off side 2 plastic.
Screen brightness good and sufficient even when outdoors. No dead pixels.
Horizontal viewing angles are good. Vertical viewing angle is confined which is expected of TN panels. It's not IPS so expect what TN panels offer. Very good for its price and size.
Illumination flickers sometime. Sana wag mag black out later.

Speaker volume is audible but tinny. Zero mids and lows. Headphone jack works.
2 noise cancelling microphones are sensitive enough for Cortana to hear me and respond when I give her tasks.

Zippy connection to BT speakers. Clean output.

USB ports:
1 full size USB 2.0 and 1 full size USB 3.0. The USB ports are upside down compared to “normal” laptops. Ingat connecting your USB thingy baka pwersahin nyo pag di pumasok. Just flip it over.

HDMI port:
Mini HDMI port works well with TV, projectors and extended monitors.

Wireless display connection:
Can wirelessly connect to a SmartTV with wireless display or Miracast support. Just press windows+P then select connect to a wireless display. Works great. No wires.

No noisy fan. No hot spots while in use. Warm lang. Di makakaluto ng itlog.

LCD back panel illuminated logo:
Looks cool when dark. When against the light (example, morning sun) and you have a black wallpaper, the logo outline is visible from the front. Lipat ka na nag ng pwesto.

Magaan. Sarap dalhin.

Similar to 1st generation Macbook Air in thickness. Looks cool. Bagay itabi sa iPhone.

Program loading and response:
Fast response for MS Office 2016 applications, iTunes and email apps. Light gaming ok. Very usable for school/office work, web browsing, social media, YouTube, downloading and playing movies and music.

Live USB:
Can boot to Linux and other live OS.

External HDD:
OK. Can read/write.

Windows update:
First few tries to update were fails. Downloaded Windows update troubleshooter from Microsoft and it fixed it. Windows update was a breeze afterwards. Was able to upgrade legitimately to Windows Fall Creators Update (version 1709). Be sure to do Windows disk cleanup to free up disk space once the update is completed.

For 4,999 pesos less voucher discount, it’s a very good deal indeed. Cheaper than your cellphone. Same performance as well branded smaller 10” windows laptop with the same processor and memory config. But those cost 11,000 pesos to 25,000 pesos.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Baguio in 3 days (Part 3)

My parents woke up early to have a hot cup of coffee and my brothers took an early morning bath to knock the cold away. We packed up our stuffs after breakfast and checked out of Assumption for our final pasyal point and the long drive home. We went out late in the morning but traffic was still heavy from Baguio to La Trinidad.


We just admired how houses were sticking out of the mountains with very steep stairs to go up and down. We wondered how they bring big appliances way up the steep stairs to where their live.


An hour before lunch we reached Benguet State University strawberry farm. We made this our last stop so we can take home strawberries and other vegetable produce and reach home while they are still fresh.


My mom was surprised on how a strawberry plant looked like. It was her first time to see it and she quipped "nakakita rin ako ng totoong strawberry na halaman. Ganyan lang pala yan."

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We started our drive home right after buying some produce and eating strawberry ice cream, lumpia and strawberry pie. "Di masarap ang strawberry pie" sabi ni Ian.


And as promised, we headed back to S.O.U.L. Cafe for a relaxed lunch and for papa's papaitan. He said it was good and "ilokanong ilocano ang lasa."

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The rest of us had our choice of steaks while Hannah of course had her all-time anytime anywhere favorite - cheese burger. Along the way home we bought tupig which is also a first time my parents and brothers. Good thing Lilia thought of stopping by one the kids selling tupig along the road.


Dinner was in Shell of Asia along NLEX, less than 20 Km away from Balintawak. We opted for Mang Inasal because about a month ago I discovered that papa and mama have not tried Mang Inasal yet.

It was a long drive home so we spent the night in papa and mama's house before heading home to our own house the next day.

3 days  -  789 kilometers  -  all good fun

thank you God

Baguio in 3 days (Part 2)

Our first night in Baguio was a big change from our nights at home. No need for air-con or electric fan in Baguio. The temperature dropped to 17 degrees C that summer night. And unlike home, no way to throttle the temp to a cozy 23 to 24 degrees C. It was a good experience for my parents and brothers as their first time.


Sunday began early with a 7:30 AM Holy Mass in Assumption. We came in early just as the others are coming in. It was followed by breakfast then LnP worship then Lunch.


Group pictures were taken before everyone went on separate ways for the rest of the weekend. Some already needed to go back home with an optional detour to Our Lady of Manaoag while some stayed to experience more of Baguio.


Mines View on a Sunday is crowded with people. Parking was along the streets only because no parking area is available.


There are a lot of pasalubong stalls all around including the classic wooden barrel man with the big surprise. There are also photo ops with horses that have pink manes or Saint Bernard dogs wearing shades.


For pasalubong and take home goodies we passed by Good Shepherd Convent that is located near Mines View Park. The price is a bit higher but aside from their good quality products, you get the good feeling that part of what you pay for goes to the education of the convent's scholars. You can see some of them in the upper left corner of the photo above. Their ube Jam is very smooth and creamy. You can make home-made ube hopia by spreading this on pan de sal. They don't have an ube jam version with chunky bits in it. Their peanut brittle really deserve the name "peanut brittle" because it easily breaks when bitten lightly - no stress or effort needed, just the joy in consuming caramelized finely ground peanuts. It is far better than some other peanut brittle that should be more appropriately named "peanut rocks". Lengua de Gato was out of stocks.


Merienda was next. We had it in Cafe by the Ruins which is very close to our next point of interest.

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A merienda of croissant, fancy turon, leche flan and Jose Rizal's favorite tsokolate-e.


Last stop for the day was a cool leisurely late afternoon stroll in Burnham Park. The man-made lake reminded me of the lake in NUVALI. But instead of boat riding, NUVALI lake have another purpose.


Some of the sunflowers were already starting to wilt so I guess late March is the best time to see all of them in full bloom. Sunflower bloom signal the start of summer. As the sun said goodbye, we headed back to Assumption for dinner.


Assumption make very good hototay soup and it made me return to get some more - twice. The dinner and hot soup was a good combo before settling in for the cold night.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Baguio in 3 days (Part 1)

A few weeks after PAGASA declared the beginning of Philippine Summer of 2013 and a week after Holy Week, my family and friends from Ligaya ng Panginoon catholic community went on a Baguio Summer outing. It was a 3-day mixed catholic community out of town prayer meeting and personal vacation.

We were a bunch of 8 packed in one car with our bags, driving 300 Km from Southern Luzon and climbing up to an altitude of 1.5 Km to Baguio. It was my mom and brother's first time to go to Baguio and my father's revisit of Baguio after more than two decades.

All need to be perfect. I had the car's preventive maintenance done two weeks before the trip, washed and vacuum cleaned 8 hours before the trip, car fluids filled, tire pressure increased for fully laden weight and placed water bottles and snacks for all 7 passengers plus mine.

For navigation, I used my trusty old Nokia 5800 phone which at present I have stripped off the job of being my primary phone but kept lovingly as my GPS navigator and underwater camera sidekick when coupled with a waterproof bag. Nokia still makes the best GPS navigation software to date. Google Maps have great maps, street view and terrain layers. But voice navigation is robotic and needs an always on internet connection. Nokia on the other hand (both Symbian and Windows phone) offers natural voice GPS navigation, whole country road maps saved inside your phone (no need internet connection whatsoever), points of interest with offline search, vehicle speed tracking, over speeding warnings, route and stop over planning. All that a driver needs. A week earlier, I programmed on my Nokia phone our route and all stop overs to, within and from Baguio. The good news is that it never failed me. We got to Baguio and back trusting all our routes to that little old phone. Thanks Nokia.

We left home on Saturday 1:00 AM, enabled Nokia GPS Navigation, said our travel prayers and took a leisurely drive towards Baguio and never going more than 100 kph along the way. No hurry. All is cool. It is a vacation after all. And after it, I do not want to feel too tired and wanting another vacation from this Baguio vacation.


The 1:00 AM drive, nature breaks and short stops along the way were just right to bring us to Shell gasoline station in La Union at 6:15 AM. This point is about a kilometer away from the road fork separating Baguio-bound vehicles taking Kennon Road or Marcos Hi-Way. I planned it this way because S.O.U.L. Cafe, our breakfast stopover, opens at 6:30 AM (I called them 2 days earlier to confirm what time they will open that Saturday). After a Shell fuel top up, we went in and had our breakfast.


At this early we were the first and only customer. It was fun hearing my father talk in Ilokano with the staff. He ordered kinilaw na kambing while the rest of us took our own pick of dinaing na espada with egg, longganisa with egg, batchoy, pinakbet, lumpia shanghai and spaghetti. The chef arrives around 10:00 AM so the full menu with gourmet pasta and steaks were not yet available.


Each set of breakfast meal came with a hot cup of chocolate de batirol. Their version are in small cups the size for espresso shots. It is a rich and thick native chocolate blend that is a good morning kick starter. Smaller cups of milk are also served to mix in as desired. After a good meal and with a promise to go back to S.O.U.L. Cafe when we make our trip back home, we continued or journey to Baguio. We took the route along Pugo-Rosario Road then turned right at its intersection with Ben Palispis Highway (also known as Jose Aspiras Highway or Marcos Highway). Marcos' bust is just a wreck of it's former self when we my wife and I first went up Baguio 10 years ago when it still had a recognizable face. I wish they kept it intact for history's sake like Bataan and Corregidor. 


Our first and foremost Baguio point of interest target of the day is Fort del Pilar of PMA (Philippine Military Academy). I know it is way off and over the other points of interest but there is no stopping at any other location. 


Because it is only on Saturday mornings when PMA cadets go out to the parade grounds and treat visitors to an hour long program. 


The cadets performed their silent drill mixed with pattern formations and three live rifle shots that surprised the audience. The show ended with a fun dance number of the cadets to show their soft side to the tune of Gangnam Style, Harlem Shake and Teach me How to Dougie. It is a show that a PMA visitor must try to catch to add more meaning to the PMA visit. 


By the way, visitors in ordinary slippers are not allowed inside. So wear sandals or shoes. Here are some of the other pics we took in PMA. 



The sun is up and the skies are bright blue but the breeze is cool and relaxing. Standing under a shady tree will instantly give you the feeling how cool it is compared to Laguna. The temperature that day was 24 degrees C and it was almost noon. It was the typical comfy aircon temperature setting you use at home - not hot, not too cold, just right. At night, the temperature dropped to 17 degrees C during our stay in Baguio - colder than the coldest setting of air-cons and enough to force our daughter to use a blanket the whole night for the first time.

Next stop was Camp John Hay. We strolled for a while on the hill where the small Statue of Liberty was located. There were a lot of families having fun and taking an early picnic or barbecue lunch and almost all the picnic tables were occupied.


We paid for the entrance fee and went inside Camp John Hay Historical Core to see more of the previous rest and recreation area of the US Army in the Philippines. Inside it is the Amphitheater. Ten years ago it was free to access this place. A wedding reception catered by Mario's, a popular restaurant in Baguio, was being set up when we were there.


Other parts in the Historical Core are the Secret Garden, Cemetery of Negativism, History Trail, Liberty Loop and Bell House where you go inside the house of Major General Franklin Bell. A portrait of then Philippine Secretary of State John Milton Hay is displayed inside the house.


Having a rest inside the part of History Trail overlooking The Manor. 


We had a late lunch in Choco-late de Batirol located in the Igorot Garden near Gate 2.


It is a famous destination. The time was just right and the place was not crowded. Lunch time for most people just ended and it was an hour before the next wave of crowd come in for merienda.


We had the best place. A cool and private garden nook surrounded by plants and wood carvings. Just right for 8 persons.


Lunch was very good then we ended it with suman sa lihia, bibingka and chocolate de batirol. Their version of chocolate de batirol was not as thick and not as sweet as S.O.U.L. Cafe and it came in a normal sized mugs. It had a slight bitter and nutty flavor most likely due by adding finely crushed peanuts. I like more the chocolate de batirol we had for breakfast earlier. 



Just as the crowd came in for merienda, we headed to The Mansion and Wright Park. No more time for merienda as we were still full but for visitors staying longer in Wright Park, the recommended eating place is just a short walk to Ketchup Food Community along Romulo Drive near Pacdal Circle.


Late in the afternoon it was time to check-in to the retreat house. A year earlier, LNP reserved Assumption Sabbath Place for the Baguio outing. It was a very early reservation because it is always fully booked. We did not check-in early in order to catch the PMA program and also to let the previous occupants check-out and for the rooms to be prepared. After our stay, nuns from Xavier University of Cagayan de Oro were next in line.



The rooms surrounded a naturally lit, naturally ventilated, covered central area where gatherings and activities can be held. Surrounding it are two levels of rooms of different types and sizes. Some have their own toilet and bath and some share a common toilet & bath where there are plenty of cubicles and shower rooms. We settled in our rooms and rested for a while before the night's events.


At 6:00 PM we had the Lord's Day celebration with LNP community followed by dinner and fellowship night of games and fun. 


Lilia won the longest ear, Hannah the smallest biceps and me the longest distance from eye to eye in the Pinaka contests. A good way to end our first day in Baguio.