I’d been eyeing the AirPods Max for a while, but held off on ordering them in hopes that there might be at least a refresh of colors. But that never happened, so I finally pulled the trigger and ordered them. A month later, here they are! But I’ll have to return them.

Apple AirPods Max in Sky Blue


In pure Apple fashion, and as it ought to be, setup is easy and quickly done. So much so, I actually almost missed it happened.

Build, Look and Feel

On paper, they’re heavy compared to other comparable headphones. On my head, though, I barely felt them at all – and I wore them all day during work and streams.

Sky Blue is a lovely color

They feel extremely comfortable. I love the mesh on the ear pieces – it’s very soft and squishy which, *when* I felt it, felt amazing.
My ears did get a bit warm after a while (expected with over-ears), but it’s still pretty cold here in Austria, so I’d expect this to become worse as summer closes in. At times, I was quite happy to take them off for a couple of seconds to let fresh (prince of bel-) air in.
Altogether, they do feel their prize – premium.

A small side note: The USB-C-to-Lightning cable included in the package is not braided. I don’t care either way, but that feels like Apple skimping a little bit. A bad look for their Max product?

The Max’s case is very nice to the touch. If I were to travel with them, I’d probably have them in an extra enclosure or wrapped up in something anyway, so while it does look odd and doesn’t cover/engulf the entire thing, I don’t have any complaints with the case. I was careful when taking them out of the case though, as the two ear pieces unnervingly clank together as they come out of the case.

Battery life is great; it lasts way longer than two work days, so: no complaints. Charging via Lightning doesn’t bother me at all, it’s how I charge everything anyway, except the Apple Watch.
Any battery life is better than my current AirPods’ – I get about 30 minutes on the right one, and an ~1h20 on the left 🤷‍♂️


Now, I’m coming from regular AirPods 2nd generation (released in March 2019), and I don’t have any other headphones to compare them to. Let’s just say, I expected quite an improvement in terms of sound – and I was not disappointed.
To me, they sound full, rich and just generally well-balanced. I won’t bore you with this too much; there are tons of other in-depth reviews out there regarding sound. They sound incredible to me.

Spatial audio/Dolby Atmos is a blast. “Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles is a joy to listen to; Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me” album is a pleasure to the ears.
As for Spatial audio with head tracking: it’s a nice gimmick, but I don’t really have or see a use for it when playing music or watching something. I tried it for a bit, then turned it off and never looked back. I’m sure this will play a role once Apple’s VR/AR headset is released, though 🤔
Spatialised Stereo Audio is very good in most cases, too. There was the odd song where the “ordinary” stereo version sounded more balanced and defined than its spatialised version, but for the most part, I preferred the spatialised versions.

Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency

I’ve never had or tried any noise-cancelling headphones before, so this was new to me. I went into this thinking noise cancelling means noise elimination: anything coming from the outside is completely blocked out.
That is not true. You’ll hear some stuff, and you won’t hear other stuff. Let me give you a couple of (weird) examples:

What I could not hear at all with ANC on:
– Our fridge running
– Our dishwasher running
– Our PlayStation running
– Our upstairs neighbor practicing her singing and piano
– Street noises when our balcony door or a window is open
– The passive ventilation in our bathroom
– My girlfriend washing her hands in the bathroom with me in another room
– My girlfriend chopping veggies in the kitchen

What I could still kind of hear with ANC on:
– Our dishwasher drawing water
– My girlfriend talking or coughing
– Myself unwrapping a cough drop
– The clinking of my spoon against my coffee cup
– Myself peeing (yes, I had to try that – who wouldn’t!?)
– Washing my hands (I’d just peed, after all)
– My girlfriend (no! not peeing!) typing on her keyboard
– Myself typing on my keyboard
– The active ventilation in our bathroom
– The washing machine
– Our capsule-coffee machine
– The doorbell very, very faintly, almost missed it

Now, keep in mind that even though I still could hear that stuff, it was reduced by *a lot*. With music playing, it became very difficult to make out any “external” sounds.
I quickly grew used to noise cancellation. It is very well done in the AirPods Max.
And if you’re wondering if wearing glasses made any difference: no, not at all, although it might depend on the kind of temples your glasses have (mine are pretty thin).

As for transparency, it’s downright amazing. (Transparency is a mode that uses the headphone’s microphones to let “external” sounds through, so you can more easily hear somebody talking to you). It doesn’t sound tinny or like talking into a pillow, it’s very natural and quite close to not wearing any headphones at all. I read somewhere that Apple’s AirPods do this best compared to other manufacturers, and I can see (or hear) why.

So why return them?

It all comes down to two minor, and one glaring issue.
On the second full day of using the AirPods Max, I noticed that the back of my ears hurt, because I’m wearing glasses, and the ear cups do press down on them (they must, it’s what they’re designed to do).
That became a bit uncomfortable and could only be fixed by taking off the AirPods, defeating the purpose of having them (taking off my glasses is not an option).

I could actually hear my own heartbeat (faintly, but enough so that it bothered me on occasion). On that note, even more pronounced, I could actually hear a low “drone” in my ears whenever I moved. Not because of ANC, but because the vibrations of my movement or muscles translated into the ear cups. That got annoying quickly.

And the kicker: their Bluetooth connection to my Mac (which is right next to me). Intermittent drops in playback, or a little “click” here and there – often several times a minute. I also experienced it using them with Apple TV (right next to the couch where we’re sitting), albeit much less so.

To justify spending €629 on a product, I really have to love it. And… I didn’t.
The droning sound when I moved, hearing my own heartbeat on occasion, and the connectivity issues… Especially that last one is unacceptable for a product at that price point.

I’m actually sad about it, because I expected love them. I like the way they look, feel, and sound, but at that price point, that’s just not enough.

Back to my old AirPods from 2019?

Nope. I decided to get the AirPods Pro 2nd generation. I ordered them and got them the next day – I did not have to wait another month for them to arrive 😄

Apple AirPods Pro

Noise cancelling is *almost* on-par. The Maxes cover your ears, so from that fact alone they are a bit better in that regard.
Transparency sounds just a touch “tinnier”, but it’s still very natural sounding.
I can’t hear my own heartbeat, nor any vibration droning in my ears when I move.
I can use them for workouts and outside, even when it’s raining.
I have not experienced any connectivity issues.
My ears don’t get warm, and my glasses’ temples don’t hurt me after a while.
They sound amazing. Not “for their size”. They sound amazing, period.

Pro max me happy

I’m surprised to say it, but I am way happier with the AirPods Pro than I think I ever could have been with the AirPods Max. Sometimes, pro is max less is more.

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When I revamped my setup early this year, I struggled with getting a lamp for it.
For one, the desk is rather large, and I wanted something that could illuminate it all pretty well, without having to get two lamps, which would have been overkill.
Secondly, I wasn’t sure I really needed any additional light in the first place. With a glassy double-door, the office gets a lot of natural light, and in the evenings, I do have the “normal” lights I can turn on.
I even looked into some options and was close to purchasing the BenQ ScreenBar, but decided not to in the end – just because I wasn’t sure I really needed it.
But now that I’ve been using the BenQ ScreenBar for more than a week and a half, I do know better.

BenQ approached me on Twitter (via @BenQBeleuchtung) a while ago, asking if I was interested in receiving a free BenQ ScreenBar in exchange for giving my honest opinion about it on my social channels.
They had me at free, so here we are.



The packaging is pretty simple and instructive.
There’s three parts: the ScreenBar (the light source), the clip (which holds it up on your monitor), and the USB cable.
Each item is annotated with useful information, so there’s really no need for a manual – which, if you still need it, you can get via the printed-on QR code.


Setting it up

My external monitor is an LG 27UN880-B, which I’m able to pivot, rotate, tilt and elevate.
I was a little worried that the monitor’s ergonomic arm wouldn’t be able to handle the additional weight (the ScreenBar’s specifications say it’s just shy of 1 kg total (bar and clip), but I worried for naught.

You really just have to place the ScreenBar on top of your monitor, plug in the USB cable and you’re done.
Speaking of which, that is one long USB cable for something you probably plug into the monitor it sits on top of (1,5 meters).

I decided to use the thing the cable came wrapped up in to tie a bit of it up, because I don’t like loose cables hanging behind my screen – problem solved.
The good thing about the length of it is that I don’t *have* to plug it in to my monitor’s USB port. I could also plug it in to my Thunderbolt hub, and leave the monitor’s plug free for quick access when I need it. I prefer a cable that’s too long over one that’s too short, anyway.

Using the ScreenBar

I’ve been using the ScreenBar mostly with the Auto Dimmer running.
It automatically adjusts the brightness and color temperature using its light sensor. And here’s the only minor “issue” (if you can call it that) I discovered using it: the automatic adjustment doesn’t happen smoothly, but changes to the new temperature and brightness right away, which can be a bit jarring. On a cloudy day, where the light outside changes all the time, it becomes especially noticeable. But there’s a solution for those cases: turn off the automatic adjustment – which is done with a single tap.

With the buttons on top, I can quickly adjust the brightness and color temperature myself, which disables the Auto Dimmer.

The ScreenBar, according to the documents, was designed to avoid screen glare, and it does that very well.
What I find particularly nice is that you can “roll” the ScreenBar further to or farther from your screen:

And even though I have it turned all the way towards me, it doesn’t blind me. I’d have to lean in pretty far and down to be able to see the LEDs.

To give you an impression of the “power” of the ScreenBar, here are four stages of lighting in my office (during daytime, with the blinds closed):

All lights off
ScreenBar only
Room lights only
ScreenBar and room lights

Even with the room lights on, the ScreenBar very noticeably illuminates my work area.

Adjusting the ScreenBar’s color temperature
(from 6500K – cool light – to 2700K – warm light, and back)


Again, I received the ScreenBar for free from BenQ, in “exchange” for my honest opinion about it.
I seriously doubt I’d like it any less if I had had to pay for it – which, now, I wish I purchased it earlier.

It’s a great addition to my setup.
It rests on top of my screen without taking up unnecessary desk space (my desk is crammed as it is, even though it’s huge) and gives me light exactly where I need it – and beyond – when I need it.
The very minor, nit-picky “gripe” with the jumpy automatic brightness/temperature adjustment aside, I really couldn’t ask for more. It’s exactly what I want in a desk lamp.

I’m particularly looking forward to using this in the winter. It’s summer when I’m reviewing this, so, as I said, there’s lots of natural light, all the way into the evening, but come winter time, this thing will really shine. It’s already proven a fine companion during late-night coding sessions.

Be sure to check it out (see the links below), I do find it very useful.


BenQ ScreenBar Website

BenQ ScreenBar Instructional Video – YouTube

Purchase the ScreenBar on Amazon DE (€109 at time of publishing)

Purchase the ScreenBar on Amazon US ($109 at time of publishing)

Q & A

I usually don’t leave comments open for my posts on my blog in fear of spam & co, but for this, I’m making an exception, in case you’d like to ask any questions about it.
You can also ping me on twitter, or by mail.

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