HP Envy 24 Review (with beats)

Having recently relocated, and sold all my worldly possessions, I was once again in the market for a second monitor. Back home I had been working with a Samsung 2333 which had served me faithfully for about 7 years. I amazingly paid about R1500 for it brand new, and since then I have been concerned by the ever increasing costs of LCD monitors.

One thing I’ve enjoyed about the US, is the large refurbishment market. It allows one, with minimal risk, to purchase 2nd hand products that have been through some form of quality and performance check. Generally receiving at least some form of warranty. And thus I ended up purchasing an HP Envy 24 with beats audio.

hpenvy24My only real requirement for the product was that it was at least 23″, full HD (1080p) and had either an HDMI or DVI input. I did a variety of Amazon and E-Bay searches before settling on this product. Originally finding it on E-Bay, I actually purchased it through the retailer’s own website: Refurb4Less.

I paid $85 (R1300 on my CC) for this product, which new retailed for well over $200. My only concern when purchasing this was that it had a stated quality of B-, indicating “Minor scratches on the frame, base and screen”. At the price though I was willing to accept this.

LHS with volume | RHS with power button and light up touch buttons

LHS with volume | RHS with power button and light up touch buttons

It arrived quickly, in less than 3 days, and I opened it with trepidation. However after putting the base together, and going over the screen several times, I can’t find any of the reasons it received a B- rating. And I’ve stopped looking, as this way I’m happier with my product :)

The screen includes beats audio speakers along the bottom, and provide marginally better sound than my laptop’s admittedly impressive sound. The screen came with a separate power supply, HDMI, VGA and 3.5mm audio cable.

pixcels

pixcels

The screen looks really nice, it’s clean and neat. It doesn’t rotate or lift, but does tilt, which is adequate for my needs. Picture quality is excellent. It boasts an IPS screen with amazing viewing angles, and my only complaints would be because we’re stretching a 1080p resolution across such a large screen. This is not HP’s fault, just the current market.

Plugs - Refurbished

Setup was easy, I plugged it straight into my laptop’s HDMI port, and sound and picture worked straight away. The screen has a form of touch buttons which I’m not a big fan of, but fortunately one only needs to use them once to set up. It has a power button just below the light, as well as a volume scroller on the other side of the screen which is a nice addition.

My only annoyance, is I’ll often leave my laptop playing music in the background and go do something else in the same room. However after 15min the screen goes to sleep, and with it power to the speakers. I know I can prevent this from happening, but then I’ll have to get into a habit of turning the screen off when I actually want to. So for now it just requires a regular mouse shake to keep things running smoothly.

so thin

so thin

The screen is way thinner than I was expecting, and the bezel is also super narrow (especially compared to my old LCD) and I’m really impressed with what I got. Would recommend.

It even has a headphone jack on the LHS of the screen.

DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles)

I had some free time recently and heard you could go up to the observation deck of City Hall. While not the highest building downtown, the 27th floor observation deck gives a nice view over the city.

LA City Hall

LA City Hall

It’s free to the public, you just need to show some ID at security and go through a metal detector. But they sign you in, give you a visitor sticker and some quick directions up to the top. You have to switch elevators near the top, and climb one flight of stairs.

pressroom

Press Room in LA City Hall

At the top you are met by a dark room which looks like it is used for press conferences, but all around it is a balcony which overlooks LA. On each side is a small summary board, naming the buildings and other sites you can see. I giggled a bit when I noticed the optimistically marked Catalina Island. With LA smog, and a distance of 35km to the island, it is a special day when one can see it.

catalina

Optimistic marking of Catalina Island (2)

visitorI took a bus from University Park to downtown, and then walked the streets to get to the city hall. Walking down a random street (Broadway), my attention was drawn to a girl taking a photo of a door mat. Reading the doormat I read “Bradbury Building”. This name was familiar to me, but from the outside the building doesn’t look like much, so I carried on to city hall while taking out my phone to investigate.

dtla

View of Downtown

And yes, it was the Bradbury Building, a famous(y) building used in a number of films. I heard about it from a 99PI episode about the building. And while not being much to look at from the outside, inside has some interesting architecture. One is free to walk around the lower landing during office hours.

bradbury

Bradbury Building – inside and out

On my way back to catch the bus, I came across an unexpected funicular. I had actually read about it recently on Reddit, where it was the focus of a recent vandalism attempt, but hadn’t taken note of where it was.

funicular

Angels Flight funicular

But there’s still so much to see downtown, and I’ll definitely research a bit more before my next trip.

St Lucia and Kruger

Photos are a combination of mine and my wife’s.

When you’re leaving South Africa for a couple years, what is the last thing one should do? That’s right, undertake a two week safari. So that’s what my new wife and I did. We flew up to Durban and kicked off our trip with a week in St Lucia.

We started off with a 3 night package from Heritage Safaris. This included a cruise on the St Lucia Estuary, a day trip to through the Isimangaliso Wetlands to Cape Vidal, a night drive through the wetland park and a day trip to Hluhluwe Umfolozi. Accommodation and meals are included, so it was a nice relaxing start to our trip.

Hippos in St Lucia

Hippos in St Lucia

Although the area is in the middle of a massive drought, the wetland still has a decent amount of water in it. Enough to support the hippopotami (my spellcheck accepts it as well asĀ hippopotamuses) and other wildlife. The boat cruise is a great way to get up close to the hippos which carry on as if you weren’t. A few birds, some antelope and the opportunity to see a croc or two is also possible.

White rhino, samango monkey and giraffe in Isimangaliso

White rhino, samango monkey and giraffe in Isimangaliso

The wetland park had a lot more to give than what we had expected. On driving in we immediately came across a number of wildebeest and zebra. A bit further on we were spoilt by several white rhino. We continued to see a number of birds and various antelope. Apparently leopards can be relatively common, although we didn’t see any. During season, whales can often be seen from the coastal regions. Cape Vidal was also a bit of a surprise. A lovely beach in the park allowing one to swim, fish or snorkel the nearby reef if the tides are right.

Warning sign and crocodiles on beach in St Lucia. Hippos on walk in Kruger

Warning sign and crocodiles on beach in St Lucia. Hippo on walk in Kruger

As with any kind of safari, they can be hit or miss. You can go 10 times and not see anything, then get an amazing sighting on your last day, or you can pitch up and get something new every day. It’s luck of the draw. Our night drive was a little bland, although we still saw several antelope, zebra and giraffe.

Our trip to Hluhluwe was a great trip though. It starts with a 5AM pickup and a freezing trip in the back of a land cruiser to the park. We spent the day in the Umfolozi section of the park. We saw almost everything we could have wanted, elephants by the tens, several white rhino, a cheetah sighting followed by a wild dog. Antelope of all sizes and kinds. The only surprise for us was the lack of birdlife. This is apparently not abnormal though.

Our beat up rental, getting close to zebra in St Lucia, petting cheetah cubs at Emdoneni

Our beat up rental, getting close to zebra in St Lucia, petting cheetah cubs at Emdoneni

We spent a further two nights self-catering in St Lucia (at the Safari Lodge). We spent a day exploring the town, and did a return visit to Hluhluwe. The town itself has its own beaches and several paths one can wander and still manage to encounter some wildlife, sometimes more than one would want. On our way out of St Lucia we also stopped at the Emdoneni Cheetah Project where you are taken on a tour of the project. You get shown serval, wild-cat, karakal and cheetah. You are taken into the cages of each, and may be able to approach the cheetah and serval.

Hornbill, giraffe and zebra, all in Kruger

Hornbill, giraffe and zebra, all in Kruger

St Lucia is a lovely little tourist town, well worth a visit. They have a fuel station, grocery shop, plenty of accommodation and ample restaurants. After a week there, we took a meandering drive up to Kruger National Park. While in St Lucia, it was suggested that instead of skirting the Swazi border the whole way up, that we actually cut through Swaziland to get to Kruger. For a number of reasons we couldn’t do this, but it is a highly recommended route.

Baby hyena are surprisingly adorable

Baby hyena are surprisingly adorable

We spent the night just outside Nelspruit at the recommended Bee-Eaters Farm. Although we mainly saw kingfisher, we did spot a bee-eater as we were leaving, just managing to live up to its name.

We had two nights booked at the Sabie-River Bush Lodge, just outside the Kruger Gate, and then three nights within the park at the Olifants rest camp. We drove up on the first day from Nelspruit through the Malelani Gate, taking some back roads through the park, past Skukuza and out Kruger Gate. It is was towards the end of the school holidays and we had been warned to pre-book a day pass which we had, but found it wasn’t necessary on arrival.

A nice bee-eater sighting, complemented by lilac-breasted rollers

A nice bee-eater sighting, complemented by lilac-breasted rollers

We did fairly long drives each day, weaving up and down through all the roads. We twice went to Lake Panic, a hide just outside Skukuza. We got there an hour before gate closing each day, and had some amazing bird sightings. We had a number of other great sightings including a pair of hyena cubs right next to the car, a civet on a night drive and a honey badger on our last day. Although we lacked for cheetah and leopard, we had a distant lion sighting. This was all complemented by numerous birds of prey, sightings of rhino, giraffe, elephant and various antelope.

Two giant kingfisher sightings, and a fish eagle

Two giant kingfisher sightings, and a fish eagle

It’s amazing how big Kruger really is, and we were constantly impressed by the running of the park, and the amazing placement of restaurants (specifically the ones we visited at Olifants and Lower Sabie). We additionally did a morning walk. You get taken out into the bush by two rangers. Although you may not see much, it’s a really cool experience to be out in the wild, and a nice escape from the daily confines of your car.

Civet we saw on night drive and a honey badger

Civet we saw on night drive and a honey badger

We had a great trip. Going to the two parks were completely different experiences. Kruger obviously caters for the masses and has many comforts to support that. Hluhluwe was amazingly quiet, and apparently never gets too busy. It’s perhaps a bit more out of the way, but definitely worth the visit.

Watch your step…

“For your safety; Watch yer step, when exiting the bus”

These are the automated words that anyone who has made use of the LA metro buses will have heard countless times. And it cracks me up every time. Just the way the guy says “Watch your step”. It sounds like a threat, “Watch your step, or else”. Anyway.

I both love and hate the LA Metro. As much as people say the LA Metro “isn’t that great”, it has been a lifesaver for my wife and I. As new arrivals in the city, without a car, the metro can get you within a mile of almost anywhere you want to go. If you have time. ie. If you really need to get there.

It has saved us a lot of walking to the university and back. It has allowed us to go to the beach, visit friends and family, do our shopping and go out in the evenings. Taxi services and Uber/Lyft are very prominent here, but you can’t beat $3.50 for a return ticket anywhere in LA, and there are major discounts available for students.

Metro signs shows 2 buses stopping, but no indication as to when or where they go

Metro signs shows 2 buses stopping, but no indication as to when or where they go

But it takes a long time. Most places we want to go are within an hour (by metro) of where we’re staying, this would be a 20-30min bus trip. We looked at going to the LA Country Fair, but this would take over 2 hours by metro, as opposed to 40min by car. One of the places I’m applying to work is a 1hr30 bus trip, or a half hour drive. Again, if you need to get there you can. You just need time.

Another thing is the reliability of the buses. Unlike European equivalent systems, where at each bus stop there is a full schedule of the bus, what times it will arrive and where it’s going, the bus stops here are merely a sign saying the 37 bus stops here. It doesn’t tell you when, or where the bus goes. Just that if a 37 bus drives past, it will pick you up here. Part of it is understandable, as with LA traffic, it is anyone’s guess when the next bus will arrive. Making use of Google Maps, or other services, you can view an estimated time, but if the bus is running ahead of schedule it won’t necessarily stop and you can get to the stop on time and have to wait for the next bus. There are set stop points along the way.

busstops

German bus timetable displayed at bus stop – Marielle Segarra, WHYY

Buses are scheduled every certain amount of minutes. For peak times, this may be every 6min. So you know you shouldn’t have to wait too long, however we have experienced times when waiting over 10min for a bus, and for whatever reason the bus was delayed, resulting in 3 of the same bus arriving at a stop at the same time. Once on a bus it is usually possible to get a paper copy of the ‘timetable’.

Also, if you’ve ever looked at an LA street map, you’ll see that the roads are pretty much set up in a massive grid, and buses tend to travel straight, very rarely turning off the main road they are on. So if you know where to go, you can just take a series of buses going in the direction you want.

They have an App, and with their website most of the information you require is available. It also seems to be fairly well synced with Google Maps, which we rely on more than anything else really.

So while we will continue to use the metro, a car is definitely on the purchase list for the next few months.

Also I like their campaign artwork.

metroArt

Metro artwork – from Metro Projects

And this is just something else: Click it and Go