Category: Review

Best Earbuds Or In Ear Headphones of 2020

I went about testing almost every earbud that has been rated highly across the Internet, during the months of Oct-Nov, 2020. Here is the test criteria I used:

  • Bluetooth connection, which withstands these events:
    • Walking 20-30ft away from the source
    • Turning on a Microwave oven, and sitting within 2-3ft of a Microwave oven
    • Turning on Bluetooth on a source and selecting the device
  • Audio performance, with the following qualities:
    • Bass: Individual drums are heard in Audiomachine’s Earth Shaker (this rendition).
    • Clarity: Can feel the plucks and mini booms starting at 0:28 in Cara’s How Far I’ll Go.
  • Battery life of at least 3 hours, with the case covering for another 12.
  • Call performance
    • Mic filters out wind/noise (the other person doesn’t say, “I can barely hear you.”).
    • Movement around or away from source doesn’t drop or distort bytes.
  • Individual buds can work independently.
  • Noise cancellation which filters out at least 50% of the sound from a running Microwave oven.
  • Comfortable fit: such that you can sleep in with them, with your head turned over one.
  • Doesn’t need a special app to twiddle around (who has the time to do this?).
  • Easy to pull and place back into their case.

I referred to Tom’s guide, which has always been my favorite with their in depth reviews and good recommendations. Also, SoundGuys, that generally have good recommendations for audiophiles. Finally, WhatHiFi, who have good premium recommendations. Also, searching on Amazon helped me look at democratic results.

I compared the following, and rejected each based on what is listed below them.

  • OnePlus True Wireless Buds
    • Uncomfortable and call performance is bad.
  • Samsung Galaxy Buds+
    • Call performance was off.
    • Bass performance was a hit or miss.
  • Sony WF-1000XM3
    • Uncomfortable, large and battery performance is inconsistent.
  • Tozo T6
    • Bad audio quality and no noise cancellation.
  • Tozo NC9
    • Uncomfortable and very hard to pull from the case.
    • Excellent audio performance, I would sometimes forget that these aren’t Airpods.
    • Gestures on earbuds are leaky.
  • Jabra Elite Active 75t
    • Uncomfortable and not good with noise cancellation.
  • Jabra Elite 85t
    • Almost there, but uncomfortable. Only right bud works independently.


  • Apple AirPods Pro
    • Hit everything just right, except for battery performance.

Based on everything, and I generally don’t like Apple products, nothing beats Airpods Pro. As soon as they fix the battery performance next year, these are going to be the best premium headphones money could buy. AirPods Pro have a couple very significant disadvantages, that I’ll live with:

  • No support for Android (had to install Air Battery app to even get battery levels on the phone).
  • No way to control volume from the buds.

If you dislike Apple and are fine with not wearing your buds all the time, consider Jabra Elite 85t.

Dell XPS 13 (9343) Review

Bought a Dell XPS 13 (9343), and loaded the laptop with Ubuntu 15.04 (and later, upgraded to Ubuntu 15.10). The 4.10 kernel (shipped with Ubuntu 15.10), has support for I2S mode. This should have supposedly helped, but it did not.

  • Audio Issues (Unresolved)
    • With Windows 10, the audio keeps switching back and forth between Realtek and Intel Sound. To reproduce the issue, sleep the laptop and after it wakes up, sound  disappears. You now have to cold boot the device a couple times to get sound back. Comments on a dell community forum report twiddling BIOS settings for POST – but  it is just the fact that the device was booted a couple times.
    • The BIOS updates do not help (A03, A05 etc. – as of Oct/28/2015, nothing helps).
    • Adding a Bluetooth device (like Bose Soundlink Mini) works for the first time under Windows 10. After that, its a hit or miss. The device appears connected, but it doesn’t work. You have to switch the device off and on, re-pair it and cold boot the laptop.
    • Rebooting to Ubuntu will ensure that your Audio works – but you have to cold boot twice. With that, if you ever boot back into Windows, there’s a chance the laptop will trigger the device back to its bad state.
    • Ubuntu 15.10 recognizes the audio device as “broadwell-rt286”, and due to how “Sound Preferences” work on Ubuntu, you’ll have to change to this device both in the Output tab and in the Hardware tab to get audio back.

      Ubuntu 15.10 Audio Device on Dell XPS 13

    • This article here is the most detailed I found, and has the best information (instead of the voodoo that Dell community applies to work around problems).  Nothing is conclusive and permanent yet, and the fact that BIOS updates still don’t fix this problem is telling that this will likely never be fixed for this model.
  • Mic Issues (Unresolved)
    • Haven’t tried testing the mic extensively, but it runs into similar “device disconnected” problems on both Windows 10 and Ubuntu 15.10.
  • Bluetooth Issues (Unresolved)
    • As detailed above, Bluetooth is a hit or miss. Multiple devices (Bose Soundlink Mini, Bose Wireless Headset and a Bluetooth Logitech Mouse) worked the first time, and after disconnection (they auto-disconnect for some reason), you have to remove/pair/connect again.
  • WiFi
    • Under Windows 10 – WiFi connectivity is a mess. Needless to say, this is where Ubuntu (or any Linux for that matter) rocks. The radio has a more stable performance under Linux – not dropping / switching frequently, as compared to Windows. Of course, if you are close to the source, WiFi under Windows 10 is fine. Carry a measuring tape and do not get too far.

Just one more annoying issue is the fact that the laptop’s wider keys (specifically the “Enter” key), are slightly depressed on one side. I had to adjust to this and hit more precisely.

While trying to return this laptop, the Dell customer exec offered a $100 discount (first offered $75). I saved Dell the $100 discount and let them keep this laptop.

Bruce’s Cheap Working Cars – F&M

I wanted a cheap car that could roll me to places nearby,. Non-fancy and no frills.

Bruce helped me out find one. The best part was (and this is after I read an earlier review), he hands over the keys to me so that I can take it to a mechanic and checked up. I got two cars checked; for the first one. Bruce said “If you’re going to take it to a mechanic, you’ll not buy it.” – and he was right. The forthcoming honesty was what struck me.

The second car needed some repairs per the mechanic, but was driveable. Took it back to Bruce and struck a deal. It’s been about two months now, and things are looking good. I’d recommend Bruce & Bruce. :)

Things Remembered

I had a pretty bad experience with an order I made at the store located in Westfield Valley Fair Mall, Santa Clara, CA.

First, the order was incomplete on the day we tried getting it + it was broken. So we could never get it the same day. I had to finally call off the whole event.

Second, when I went there later, the store keepers just kept telling me to come back on Monday because they didn’t have the form and receipt for the order. So they would not refund the amount of something they never delivered and can’t make a new one without making me pay.

I have never had such a headache with pricey things. I’m paying $$$ to get a service which isn’t reliable, and then the store keeper rolls their eyes at you and says, “Guys, you are not going to get this.” Excellent.

Finally, I make them call up their managers – talk to two different people, they agreed on re-making the order, broke it again and ultimately refunded me the whole amount. I wasted close to 5 hours doing this whole thing.

Never go to this store (or even this chain).

Sunnyvale Ford

I was new to the country back in summer of 2010 (and I do see a couple of reviews very similar to mine from back then). I wanted to lease a Ford Fusion somewhere else, but before I really did, I wanted to test drive it. I call up the nearest Ford dealership – Sunnyvale Ford, and they call me in.

I get a greeting from a “new guy” there and then they start showing around. I tell them what I’m looking for specifically and they take us on a test drive. Driving on I-280, I could feel the bumps being hit, but I was told it “was normal”.

Back in the showroom, they start to “sell”. I told them that I’m getting this car leased. When I tell them the numbers, they almost call me a “liar”. An unimaginable amount of pressure was being put on me by “a very tall guy” there (I really don’t remember names). “Help me out here,” says he. Running back and forth between a high-rise room, I’m being super pressured into buying. They brought their numbers to a low of what I could have afforded (another mistake I made). They hit a ‘gong’ and say congratulations even before I’ve said yes. The worst was yet to come.

They call in an insurance agent, who hurriedly does it for me. Their finance guy then starts putting more numbers into my bill. 2500 for an extra warranty + 2500 for ford care. When I say no, he says my financing rate will go up – since I’m new to the country without credit history. I was extremely naive to keep on falling into those traps – it was my fault too (..and I paid for it).

That night, I was unable to sleep. Somebody just slapped a $30,000 liability on me and I’ve no way of getting out. The next morning, I woke up early and went back to the dealership and told them how unhappy I was. Pressure tactics again – this time I was going to fight back. I said I’ll get my financing elsewhere, just cut the whole $5000 from my bill. Panic gripped them and they told me to wait. Magically, a person without any credit history in this country, was offered a low rate of 3.9% – the only condition was to buy the extra warranty+care. I was very very upset and completely lost it. I urged them to drop the warranty and bought only the Ford care plan (still an extra $2500 on my car).

I have always been thinking of writing to Ford or someone about this, but have never been able to. I signed up on Yelp to review another business – but this frankly is my worst experience ever – and I learned some very hard lessons. The only thing that has kept me happy so far is Fusion itself. It’s not such a bad car after all (despite people jesting me, this car is very comfortable has been great so far). Service (although it’s covered in Ford care) at Sunnyvale Ford has been “ok” – nothing that I would cherish.

Folks at Sunnyvale Ford sure know how to get you – and if you have never bought a car, please don’t go there.

DC Ducks

This is the best thing ever. If you go to DC, you’ve got to do this tour. The best reason to be on this tour is because you get to ride in an awesome vehicle and get to see things close up (without having to walk!).

Our Captain was very friendly and incredibly knowledgeable. I did a few fact checks on a few things he answered to folks – and they very pretty accurate.

This is some real fun – try not to miss it.