We’ve already seen a couple of the big Android flagships launch this year but there are a few we are still waiting on, one of which comes from HTC. The company opted not to use Mobile World Congress to unveil its next smartphone creation, with an event set for 12 April instead.
The show in Barcelona did reveal what LG and Samsung both had up their sleeves however, with the announcement of the G5, Galaxy S7 and theGalaxy S7 Edge. All three devices were well received begging the question, what will HTC add to the table with its new flagship?
We’ll have to wait a little longer for the official specs of the HTC 10, as it is being called in the rumours, but there is still enough speculation to put it up against the LG G5 to see how the two Android flagships might compare, based on the rumours.
There have been plenty of leaks when it comes to the HTC 10 and its design. Rather than taking from its predecessor – the One M9 – it looks like HTC will follow the same path as the One A9, in terms of the front at least.
From the leaked images, you can expect a metal body with chamfered edges on the front and rear, a fingerprint sensor on the front flanked by capacitive buttons, a serrated power button on the side and no BoomSound. Rumoured measurements are 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6mm, which is the same as the One M9, and it has also been claimed that HTC would be adding some degree of waterproofing to its new flagship.
The LG G5 also has a metal body, although it has a modular element to it, allowing for a replaceable battery by removing the bottom of the device, as well as the attachment of what LG calls Friends – more on those in a second. It measures 149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7mm and weighs 159g so while it is a little taller and wider than the reported measurements of the HTC 10, it is slimmer.
LG’s flagship has no waterproofing on board, but there is a fingerprint sensor, which is placed on the rear beneath the camera.
It’s not clear what size or technology the HTC 10 will offer in terms of display as reports contradict each other. Some claim it will offer a 5.1-inch screen, while others have claimed a 5.2-inch display. There have also been suggestions ofHTC switching to AMOLED like it did with the One A9, but there have also been reports of the company sticking with Super LCD, which is the technology present on its previous flagships.
What the reports do seem to agree on is that HTC will offer a Quad HDresolution. If this is the case, the HTC 10 will offer a pixel density of either 565ppi or 577ppi, depending on the size it selects.
The LG G5 has a 5.3-inch display, which is therefore larger than both reported sizes for the HTC 10. It is an LCD display so if HTC opts for AMOLED, you can expect richer and more vibrant colours than the G5, but probably a little more unrealistic too.
The G5 has a Quad HD resolution, which means it offers a pixel density of 554ppi. This therefore suggests HTC 10 will probably offer a sharper image on paper if the rumours are true, but with such a minute difference, the human eye won’t notice.
The HTC 10 has seen a couple of different rumours surrounding its rear camera. One report claimed we would see a 23-megapixel rear sensor, but there have been a couple of other reports suggesting it would in fact be a 12-megapixel rear sensor. Apparently, the HTC 10 could have the same sensor as the Nexus 6P with 1.55µm pixels. It is also expected to have features including laser assisted phase-detection AF, optical image stabilisation and a dual tone flash.
Less rumours have circulated around the HTC 10’s front-facing snapper, but a 5-megapixel sensor has been thrown about.
The LG G5 has dual rear cameras comprising of a 16-megapixel sensor and a 135-degree wide-angle 8-megapixel sensor. It too offers features including laser auto-focus and optical image stabilisation and there is an LED flash on board. The front-facing camera is 8-megapixels, which at the moment looks like it will mean the LG offers a higher resolution than the HTC for selfies and video calling.
The HTC 10 is rumoured to be coming with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820processor. This is said to be supported by 4GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage and microSD for further expansion. There hasn’t been as much talk on the battery capacity, but 3000mAh has been suggested.
Based on the leaked images, you can also expect USB Type-C to be on board for the HTC 10, meaning faster charging and data transfer. As we mentioned previously, it looks like BoomSound won’t be present for the HTC 10 but that’s not to say the new device won’t be capable when it comes to audio. Rumour has it the HTC 10 might offer high-res audio with MQA support.
The LG G5 also opts for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal memory. It too comes with a microSD slot for further storage expansion and USB Type-C but the battery capacity is a little smaller than the expected spec for the HTC 10 at 2800mAh. That said, LG’s battery is replaceable as we mentioned, and one of the “Friends” offered by removing the bottom of the device is a special DAC for better audio capabilities. The LGG5 has 24-bit DAC within the headphone socket though.
The HTC 10 will no doubt launch with Android Marshmallow, just as the LG G5did. You won’t get the same software experience however as both companies add their own skins on top of Android’s software.
HTC’s device might offer a closer to raw Android experience than LG’s however. It has been rumoured the HTC 10 will launch with a refined version of Sense, called Sense 8.0_GP. It is claimed to be a lighter version than previous iterations, offering users a close to stock Android with the best of Sense.
LG also refined its latest Optimus UX software for the G5 by removing the app launcher but it’s still very much LG software with Android underneath rather than Android with touches of LG.
The LG G5 is a great device and it stole headlines when it launched because it managed to be a little different. The rumours suggest the HTC 10 will give it a good run for its money though.
If the speculation is true, both these handsets will have a metal build, both will offer the same powerful hardware and both will deliver a good camera experience.
LG has already proved itself in all these areas, especially the camera, while theHTC 10 will still need to do this when it arrives. Based on the rumours though, there doesn’t look like there will be much in these two devices. For all the rumours surrounding the HTC 10 you can read our separate feature, or to find out what we thought about the G5, read our review.
The Oculus Rift may look like a relatively simple device but it’s actually a pretty amazing piece of kit packing a wealth of cutting-edge tech. The hugely exciting virtual reality headset includes a whole bunch of amazing hardware designed to create a sense of complete immersion in a three-dimensional world.
When you realise what’s in there, it’s hardly surprising that it’s taken this long to come up with a virtual reality system which actually works – and there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
The Oculus team has spent months tweaking the design and hardware. CES 2015 saw the addition of Head-Related Transfer Function technology for 3D audio and, more recently, the team confirmed a dual display setup for the latest prototype and consumer edition of the headset.
Here we’ve analysed every single bit of the final, consumer-ready version of the Oculus Rift, from the prodigious headset itself to the device that connects it to your computer and the Oculus Touch wireless controllers (which won’t ship until later this year) .
Creating 3D gaming environments is a complicated business, even if they’re just going to be shown on a 2D monitor. Add in stereoscopic 3D and it all becomes a crazy nightmare made of formulae and vomit. There is no hard and fast way to create 3D for Oculus Rift, but the nuts-and-bolts basics of it involve spitting out two near-square video feeds to the same screen – think playing a vertically-split-screen two-player game.
The clever bit is that each feed comes from a slightly different angle, so that the player’s brain is tricked into thinking that two 2D images are one 3D one. You can experience this by looking at a nearby thing (look at that thing!) and then closing your left or right eye and seeing how the angle changes just ever so slightly.
Oculus has detailed 30 games that are ready for launch…
The games themselves also have to change: motion blur, which has been used for years as a way to simulate speed and reduce strain on the GPU, no longer works. Cutscenes with static cameras induce nausea. A demanding 60 frames-per-second frame rate has to be maintained to prevent stuttering and shutter effects.
Video is sent to the Oculus Rift via HDMI, with an optional DVI adapter for laptops and newer graphics cards. It also includes USB, which carries data and power to the device, and lets your computer know what this bizarre gizmo is. This 10-foot cable is just the right length to provide a consistently good signal without any degradation, while remaining reasonably light so you don’t feel like a dog chained to a lamppost. Which is great unless you’re playing a VR game about being a dog chained to a lamppost.
The headset also includes a USB port so you could potentially connect a controller, or some USB headphones, or a novelty singing cactus. This increases the power draw of the Rift, so Oculus has chucked in a mains adapter with US, UK, Australian and European plugs which connects to the same junction as the positional tracker.
The positional tracker
Oculus has been through various different iterations of its tracking technology – essential if it wants to know where you are in 3D space – and the final consumer version is going to keep tabs on you via a small microphone-shaped pole on top of your desk. Discreet and black, it’s designed to blend in with whatever else you have on there (like a set of speakers or a pair of headphones).
A series of infrared LEDs embedded in the headset are then monitored by this wireless sensor in what Oculus calls the Constellation Tracking System – Nintendo’s Wii Nunchuks work in much the same way. On DK2 you couldn’t look behind you when you were in a virtual world because the LEDs fell out of the camera’s field of view, but that’s been fixed on the consumer release, and by adding LEDS into the rear of the headset as well as the front, Oculus Rift now offers users full 360 degree perspective.
All this feeds into the headset, which connects to your head via vertical and horizontal straps, with the uppermost strap including the HDMI and USB cable. Further customisation is achieved with two pairs of lenses, which magnify the screen so it fills your field of view without causing any blurring or motion sickness (at least in theory).
“It feels like you just put on a pair of glasses,” said Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe at the most recent press event; and speaking of glasses, the final consumer version of the headset has been adapted to accommodate as many frame sizes and types as possible, so you won’t have to switch to contacts to dive into a virtual reality experience.
Meanwhile, a dial integrated into the headset lets you adjust the lenses to suit your face – essentially, it lets you match the Oculus to however close or far away from each other your eyes are. All this means the same headset should be light and comfortable now matter how oddly shaped your head or thick your spectacles.
Within the headset sits a single custom motherboard, which includes an ARM processor and control chips for the LEDs. But the most insane bit here is the “Adjacent Reality Tracker” which was developed independently of the Oculus Rift and has since become a key component.
This features a magnetometer, a gyroscope and an accelerometer, all of which combine to accurately track the Rift across all three dimensions of three-dimensionality.
The original Adjacent Reality Tracker polled at 250 times a second (250Hz), but the team at Oculus has managed to pump it up to 1,000 times a second. The result is tracking of infinitesimally tiny head movements, even if you’re on a rollercoaster during an earthquake.
In Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 the screen was essentially an entire Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phablet with the smartphone bits removed, but with the completely useless touchscreen and logo intact. Its 1920 x 1080 HD resolution delivered a 960 x 1080 display to each eye; its refresh rate of 60Hz kept things smooth, and a 100-degree horizontal field of view meant there wasn’t too much black space around the edge of the display.
The consumer version of the Rift release pushes both resolution and refresh rate even higher and it has been confirmed that there are now two displays running at a total resolution of 2160 x 1200.
The feedback loop
A huge amount of data is continually sent back and forth between the positional tracker, the headset, the computer and its software, and the result is an incredibly smooth VR experience.
Adjustments such as brightness and contrast are made via Oculus’ software, which also includes the ability to calibrate the Rift (setting your height and so on). We’re still waiting for details of what software comes bundled with the Rift, but there should at least be a few natty demos to try out.
As mentioned in the intro, Oculus gave the headset a massive boost in January 2015 at CES when it announced that an upcoming Oculus Audio SDK would allow the use of Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF) tech, combined with the Rift’s head tracking to create a sense of true 3D audio spatialisation. This will allow Rift developers to immerse users “sonically in a virtual world, surrounded by realistic sounds in all directions.”
“HRTFs simulate the changes to a sound when it reaches your head from a point in space,” explained the company. “It does this by referencing data that represents changes that would happen to a sound coming from that direction. There is data for hundreds of points around your head, and the software smooths the audio between those points for a natural sound, regardless of head or sound source position.”
The most recent audio upgrade on the consumer version of the Rift is the detachable set of headphones to keep your ears in the moment as well as your eyes, and if you don’t like the bundled headphones then you can swap them out for a pair of your own. The audio is spatialised and encoded in 360-degree surround sound to precisely match the video.
One of the biggest announcements at Oculus’ pre-E3 event was a partnership with Microsoft that brings with it a wireless Xbox One controller with every Rift, plus the ability to play a selection of existing 2D games in the 3D setting of your choice (like a huge virtual cinema, for example). What this means for future VR games on the Xbox platform we’ll have to wait and see.
The Microsoft partnership means Windows 10 compatibility is built-in, giving developers the opportunity to create virtual reality experiences on top of Microsoft’s operating system, but you’re going to need a fairly beefy PC system to run all of this – Oculus says the Nvidia GTX 970 GPU is the benchmark as far as recommended graphics specifications go.
New at the pre-E3 Oculus event were two wireless controllers called Oculus Touch. Like a gamepad split in half, these controllers give you a more immersive VR experience: you can use them to reach out into virtual space, make hand gestures and more besides.
Like the Xbox One controller, they work wirelessly, but they are optional extras on top of the main package – and they won’t start shipping until after the Rift has gone on sale. We don’t yet know how much they’ll cost, either.
The Oculus Touch set offers a more intuitive and natural way of controlling your virtual reality experience, but considering there’s an Xbox controller included with the Rift, the Touch might end up being a luxury buy that most don’t bother with. Game support is going to be important too.
Touch controllers are currently delayed until late 2016.
When you switch on your swanky new VR headset, you’ll see a brand new interface called Oculus Home. This lets you view available games and other content, check up on which of your friends (or enemies) are currently online, and control device settings.
Oculus developers say they’ve built Home to let you do everything you need to do within the same interface, from buying new games to chatting with contacts. A battery level icon and a virtual clock are included for that very reason.
Sony today announced the FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS and 50mm f/1.8 full-frame lenses for its Alpha and NEX mirrorless cameras.
The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 is a versatile normal-length prime lens designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. The bright prime lens gives photographers a considerably less expensive option compared to the Zeiss 55mm F1.8 currently on the market. This compact and lightweight lens is priced at $249 and will ship in May.
The Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS is a versatile zoom lens designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. It is the longest FE-mount tele-zoom available. The lens features four aspherical and two ED elements, optical image stabilization, and a Nano AR coating to reduce flare and ghosting. The lens offers a minimum focus distance of 0.9m/3ft, and uses a linear actuator for smooth and silent autofocus. The 70-300 will also be available in May at a price of $1,199.
Sony Bolsters Full-Frame FE Lens Lineup with New 70-300mm High-Resolution Zoom and 50mm F1.8 Prime Lenses
New FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS Telephoto Zoom and 50mm F1.8 Prime Lens Extend Sony α Shooting Possibilities
Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced two new full-frame lenses for their E-mount camera system, the FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS telephoto zoom and 50mm F1.8 prime lens.
The new FE 70-300mm F4.5-F5.6 G OSS zoom lens represents the first Sony α E-mount lens to reach a 300mm focal length, featuring high resolution and excellent overall optical performance throughout the entirety of its range. The new 50mm F1.8 prime lens is extremely compact, lightweight and affordably priced, making it an ideal choice for those looking to explore the benefits of a large aperture prime lens at a reasonable cost.
“We’re continuing to build out our FE lens lineup, offering more variety than ever for today’s imaging enthusiasts,” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics. “Representing two of the most requested focal lengths by our customers, the new 70-300mm zoom and 50 F1.8mm prime become ideal choices for those looking to expand and enhance their Sony α kits.
New FE 70-300mm F4.5 – 5.6 G OSS Telephoto Zoom Lens
Sony’s longest reaching E-mount lens to date, the new FE 70-300mm F4.5 – 5.6 G OSS telephoto zoom lens (model SEL70300G) features a state-of-the-art optical design including four aspherical glass elements, two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements and Sony’s Nano AR coating, which all work together to effectively suppress spherical aberration, distortion, and chromatic aberration. This ensures beautiful high-resolution results for both still and video shooting.
The new telephoto zoom lens also features class-leading close-up performance, with a minimum focusing distance of less than 3 feet (0.9m) and a maximum magnification of 0.31x, making it an ideal choice for tele-macro photography. This outstanding close-up performance also factors into the lens’ excellent corner-to-corner sharpness.
The versatile zoom lens includes built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization that helps to reduce camera shake, making it easier to capture clear images when shooting handheld. Additionally, the new SEL70300G model has a linear actuator that allows it to achieve fast, smooth and quiet autofocus and is also dust and moisture resistant1 to ensure reliable operation in harsh outdoor conditions.
New FE 50mm F1.8 Prime Lens
Weighing in at less than 7 oz (192 g), the new lightweight FE 50mm F1.8 “normal” prime lens (model SEL50F18F) delivers an outstanding blend of performance, compactness and value, making it a perfect choice for hobbyist photographers and videographers looking to experience the benefits of a wide aperture prime lens at an attainable cost.
The lens features a new optical design with an aspherical element that effectively compensates for all forms of aberration, resulting in beautiful, crisp imagery. Additionally, it has a circular aperture with a maximum of F1.8, producing beautiful ‘bokeh’ in images that allows the subject to stand out against a smoothly defocused background. For extended durability, the new prime lens is built with a solid metal mount.
Pricing and Availability
The new FE 70-300mm F4.5 – 5.6 G OSS telephoto zoom lens will be available in May for about $1,200 US and $1,700 CA, respectively.
The new FE 50mm F1.8 prime lens will also be available in May for about $250 US and $350 CA, respectively.
Both of the new FE interchangeable lenses will be sold at a variety of Sony authorized dealers throughout North America.
A variety of exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with the new lenses and other Sony α products can be found atwww.alphauniverse.com , Sony’s new community site built to educate, inspire and showcase all fans and customers of the Sony α brand.
Content is also available for viewing at the sony.com product pages for the FE 70-300mm F4.5 – 5.6 G OSS telephoto zoom lens and the FE 50mm F1.8 prime lens.
Affordable; Sleek, attractive design; Good overall performance; Above-average audio
Mediocre display; Lackluster graphics power; Poor battery life ; Rear vents can get pretty hot
Starting at just $700, Lenovo’s Y700 lowers the barrier to mobile gaming with its 14-inch notebook, but the display and battery life could use improvement.
Can you really get a good gaming laptop for just $700? Despite being the smallest and least-expensive laptop in Lenovo’s gaming line, the Y700 features an attractive design, a 14-inch full-HD display and an Intel Core i7 CPU, along with an AMD Radeon R9 M375 graphics card to power your games. However, there are some trade-offs you’ll have to make to get a gaming laptop at this price. Lackluster battery life, not-so-vibrant color output and a GPU that can’t quite keep up with its Nvidia counterparts make the Y700 merely a good deal instead of a great one.
With a stylish, black-on-black, carbon-fiber pattern and red-accented JBL speakers, the Y700 might be the best-looking sub-$1,000 gaming notebook on the market. And when you open the lid, it gets even better — menacing red backlighting oozes out from behind its keys, while a smooth, brushed-metal deck offers a great place to rest your wrists. This laptop’s solid build has very little flex, and Lenovo even added a little flair to the underside in the plastic honeycomb grille that runs across the bottom vent.
Measuring 15.23 x 10.9 x 1.02 inches and weighing 4.8 pounds, the 14-inch Y700 feels closer in size and weight to the pint-size Alienware 13 (12.9 x 9.25 x 1.04 inches, 4.53 pounds) than to some of its 15-inch competitors, such as the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (15.1 x 10.4 x 1 inches, 5.9 pounds) and the Asus ROG GL552 (15.1 x 10.1 x 1.3 inches, 5.6 pounds).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Y700’s keyboard offers a decent amount of travel, at 1.42 millimeters (1.5 mm and up is ideal). But despite the healthy 62 grams of actuation force required to depress them, the slightly mushy keys could use a little more snap. On 10fastfingers.com’s typing test, I hit a brisk 82 words per minute on my first attempt, which is actually slightly higher than my traditional 75- to 80-wpm pace.
Unfortunately, the relatively small one-piece touchpad often left me with a stiff, lifeless response when I tried to left- or right-click. It got to the point where I had to actually look down to see if I was pressing the touchpad correctly. Thankfully, the touchpad responded swiftly to multitouch gestures, such as two-finger scrolling and pinch to zoom.
Unlike the displays on its bigger siblings, the 14-inch Y700’s screen looks a bit dull. I appreciate that Lenovo crammed a full 1920 x 1080 display between its black plastic bezels, instead of the unsatisfactory low-res 1366 x 768 panel on a $1,000 Alienware 13. But when I watched the trailer for War Dogs, the flashes of gunfire and neon club lights just didn’t pop the way they did on other sub-$1,000 systems, such as Asus’ ROG GL552.
According to our light meter, the Y700’s display emits a maximum 219 nits of brightness (more is better). That’s a bit stronger the Alienware 13 (199 nits) and in the same range as the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (222 nits), but substantially dimmer than the GL552’s 273 nits.
With a color range that covered 65 percent of the sRGB spectrum, the Y700’s screen was also more limited than the GL552’s range of 116 percent, and slightly behind the 70 percent we saw on the Alienware 13 and the Inspiron 15 7000.
The highlight of the Y700’s display was its color accuracy, which earned a Delta-E rating of 0.81. (Scores closer to 0 are better.) That’s significantly better than the Alienware 13 (3.9), but in the same range as the Inspiron 15 7000 (0.4) and the GL552 (0.7).
Aside from pumping out a little less bass than I’d like, the Y700’s JBL speakers do a good job of living up to their attention-grabbing design. I found that the Dynamic mode in the Dolby Audio app is your best bet for set-it-and-forget-it audio enjoyment, but if you have the time, you should play around with the customizable equalizer.
The Y700’s JBL speakers do a good job of living up to their attention-grabbing design.
After I spent 5 minutes adjusting the settings, I unlocked all of the low-fi pop magic in Darwin Deez’s “Radar Detector,” including its crisp, synthy chords and sharp, twangy guitars.
Ports and Webcam
The Y700 comes with a fairly standard assortment of ports, including an Ethernet port, an HDMI port, three USB ports, a combo headphone/mic jack and an SD card reader.
The Y700’s 1280 x 720 webcam is not very impressive. It’ll get the job done in a pinch, but even in our well-lit office, a selfie I took ended up looking a little dark and grainy.
Graphics and Gaming
Compared to other gaming systems featuring Nvidia 960M graphics cards, the Y700’s AMD Radeon R9 M375 GPU with 2GB of VRAM doesn’t offer quite the same level of gaming performance. On a system like the 960M-equipped Asus ROG GL552, I had no trouble running Dota 2 at 60 frames per second on max settings at 1920 x 1080. But on the Y700, I often saw frame rates dip into the 40s and high 30s at the same settings.
This difference in graphics power was highlighted by the Y700’s score of 2,387 on 3DMark’s Fire Strike graphics test. Asus’ ROG GL552 (4,095), Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 (3,939) and the Alienware 13 (3,701) — all of which have Nvidia 960M GPUs — performed significantly better than the Y700.
The results were similar in Metro: Last Light, where the Y700 topped out a 41 fps at 1920 x 1080 on low settings, while the GL552 and the Inspiron 15 7000 ran faster, at 59 fps and 58 fps, respectively.
The 14-inch Y700 packs pretty decent specs for a $700 system, starting with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU; 8GB of RAM; and a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive. Like most gaming machines, there’s almost no set of everyday tasks that’ll cause the Y700 to break a sweat. Even when I streamed a 1080p movie from YouTube with more than 15 tabs open in the Edge browser and a game downloading in the background, the system stayed buttery smooth.
The steamy air that came out of the vent didn’t feel very pleasant on my legs.
When we used Geekbench 3 to measure overall system performance, the Y700 notched a score of 12,589. That’s significantly higher than Core i5-powered rigs such as the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (8,800) and the Alienware 13 (6,886), though just a bit behind the Asus ROG GL552’s 13,553.
The results were similar in our OpenOffice test, when we matched 20,000 names with their addresses using the VLOOKUP function. The Y700 finished the task in 3 minutes and 36 seconds, which was a good deal faster than the Inspiron 15 7000 (3:58) and the Alienware 13 (4:03), and a touch quicker than the Asus GL552 (3:44).
While the Y700’s 1TB hard drive offers plenty of room to install all of those Steam games you’ll never finish, it’s much slower than a solid-state drive (which is available on the $1,000 model). We measured the Y700’s transfer speed at 34.91 MBps, which was three times slower than the 7,200-rpm drive on the GL552 (98.6 MBps) but around the same level as the 5,400-rpm HDDs on the Alienware 13 (37.2 MBps) and the Inspiron 15 7000 (34.62 MBps).
During gameplay, temperatures on the top and sides of the Y700 rarely got far above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but the vent in back was another story. Even after relatively short 10- or 15-minute gaming sessions, parts of the plastic around the rear vent measured 125 degrees or more, which is well above our typical 95-degree comfort threshold. That’s a little worrisome for people who are looking to game on their laps, as the steamy air that came out of the vent didn’t feel very pleasant on my legs.
I was hoping that, considering the 14-inch Y700 is more mobile than its 15-inch competitors, its battery would be a little better, too. But with a time of just 3 hours and 20 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness), the Y700 fell short of not only the ROG GL552’s 4:43 and the Inspiron 15 7000’s 6:45, but also the 13-inch Alienware 13’s 6:43.
In addition to the $700 base configuration, there’s a $1,000 14-inch Y700 featuring a 512GB SSD, 16GB of RAM and an R9 M375 GPU with 4GB of VRAM, as well as even more expensive models with additional storage and memory options.
If you’re looking for something a bit bigger, 15- and 17-inch editions of the Y700 start at $900 and $950, respectively. The big benefit of those systems, besides bigger displays, is that they feature an Nvidia 960M graphics card instead of an AMD GPU, which provides an extra bit of gaming grunt.
Software and Warranty
The 14-inch Y700 comes with Windows 10 Home and a standard one-year warranty. As usual, Lenovo added some of its typical apps and utilities, including Lenovo ID, Lenovo Settings, REACHit and SHAREit. Potentially, the most important of the bundled apps is Stagelight, which makes it pretty simple to get into music creation. But if you’re like me, you’ll probably spend all of your free time gaming instead.
I really wish Lenovo had provided an option for Nvidia graphics on the 14-inch Y700, because even if it pushed the $700 price tag up by $100, Lenovo’s entry-level gaming notebook would be a really sweet deal. As it stands, the Y700 offers a pretty competent and affordable step into mobile gaming, but it’s not as powerful as Nvidia 960M-equipped systems like the $800 Dell Inspiron 15 7000 and the $999 Asus ROG GL552. Short battery life and a lackluster display also take away some of the sparkle from the Y700. Even at such a low price, it’s a little disappointing that this system is merely good instead of being so much better.
Phone cameras have become mighty impressive in recent years, almost making dedicated cameras redundant. As we push into 2016 the new wave of flagship devices come with formidable camera specs. And having reviewed theLG G5, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and iPhone 6S Plus in recent months, it’s the perfect opportunity to test these phones cameras’ mettle in a dedicated head-to-head.
The headline-grabbing numbers and features of this trio – from megapixels to wide apertures, and laser autofocus to dual cameras – certainly do their job and swing the punches, but what’s the story in the real world and which is the best of the bunch? We go deep in our G5 vs SGS7 edge vs iPhone 6S Plus camera showdown.
Screen size / user experience
iPhone 6S Plus
5.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution, LED-backlit IPS LCD
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
5.5-inch, 2560 x 1440 resolution, Super AMOLED
5.3-inch, 2560 x 1440 resolution, IPS LCD
We’ll start with what seems trivial, but phone design, screen size and interface all have an impact on user experience.
All three phones here have large displays, the iPhone and Samsung are 5.5-inch, the LG is 5.3-inch. Each has its own fortes and downfalls. The iPhone is the lowest resolution but, really, this doesn’t matter in practice – if anything it looks the best in terms of colour. The SGS7 edge has added pop due to its Super AMOLED panel, so shots off screen look a little flatter, and those curved edges make it a little tricky to use in landscape orientation.
But of the three it’s the Samsung we favour the most for two reasons: one, the refresh rate maintains super-smooth playback even in low-light conditions, which is great for framing; and two, the touch shutter is the quickest of the bunch to react and fire off a shot (press-and-hold and it reels off batches of images).
One thing the G5 lacks that both iPhone and Galaxy offer is a click-and-drag exposure compensation adjustment. On the iPhone this vertical slider with “sun” symbol is easy and accurate to drag to make subtle adjustments and, for our money, the best implementation. The Galaxy offers a similar solution in a horizontal “lightbulb” slider though.
iPhone 6S Plus
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
f/1.8 (main camera) / f/2.4 (wide-angle camera)
The more light that a lens lets in, the more a camera module has to play with. And as the Samsung has the widest aperture – the smaller the number, the wider the opening, thus the more light – this is part of the reason its real-time playback is so smooth.
A wider aperture narrows the focal plane in an image too, which can deliver a more pronounced blurred background (especially when the focus point is closer to the lens). But the differences between the Samsung’s f/1.7 and LG’s f/1.8? It’s negligible; it’s one sixth of an f-stop. Between f/1.7 and the iPhone’s f/2.2, however, it’s five sixths of an f-stop – which, like-for-like, means the sensitivity (ISO) can be kept lower to stop processing having to work so hard.
However, and like with the similar resolution between different devices tale, don’t get too hung up on marginal differences in aperture values. The difference is fairly marginal but, even so, it’s the smaller number of the Samsung that sees it the victor here once more.
One of those things that’s not discussed too often is phone camera reviews is how wide-angle a lens is. The smaller the number the wider the field of view, which has practical benefits – such as fitting a bunch of people into a group shot – but also exaggerates distortion the wider it gets.
The LG G5 has a clever work-around solution: two cameras. Yep, that’s what the ugly lug on the back of the phone is: one 16MP sensor with an as-yet-unknown official focal length (we’ve compared it to the other two and it’s the least wide-angle of the bunch, somewhere at the 30mm equivalent we suspect), and one 8MP sensor with a far wider 135-degree angle of view (think of a 180-degree line as being your arms outstretched, whereas 135-degrees covers 75 per cent of this periphery). Sounds gimmicky, but we think the super-wide second lens is bloomin’ brilliant – and it’s easy to toggle between the two options within the camera app in a split second.
Here the difference between the 26mm of the Samsung and 29mm of theiPhone might sound negligible, but it makes a fair difference in what you’ll squeeze into the frame. We find the Samsung a little too wide perhaps (although it’s arguably the most practical), the iPhone sits in a good sweet spot, while the G5 has perhaps been a little too cautionary with its main camera (but compensates with the ultra-wide second solution).
The difference between those two G5 cameras, however, is that the 16MP one can utilise the phone’s laser autofocus system for speedier capture than the 8MP wide-angle’s contrast-detection system. We’re particularly fond of how the G5 provides ample feedback with focus points, or you can press-to-focus anywhere on the screen instead.
LG G5 differing angles of view from its two cameras
But just because it’s got a snazzy name and uses actual frickin’ laser beams, does it mean it’s the fastest? Well, yes and no. Point-and-shoot and the G5 is snappy with its pre-defined autofocus points. Break the mould, however, by selecting your own focus point and the SGS7 edge is as fast or faster – depending on the shooting conditions. The iPhone 6S Plus is slightly slower than the other two handsets, but not by a giant amount.
Accuracy, however, we’d give to the G5. Even when it’s being a little slower to acquire focus than the S7 edge the G5’s small focus area seems more precise – almost thoughtful – in its acquisition. But if it’s all-round speed then, perhaps surprisingly, the SGS7 edge, on average, is the nippiest of the bunch in our experience.
iPhone 6S Plus
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Not so long ago optical image stabilisation was a relative rarity in phone cameras. Not so for this trio, though, each of which uses microscopic lens-based movements to counteract for handshake and movement. That’s especially helpful for keeping shots sharp when the light dips. It’s all rather clever, isn’t it?
But which is best? Each maker has their own claims (or absence of) on how effective systems are by x-amount of f-stops, but we can’t pick one from the other. In bright conditions you’ll know no different, it’s when the light fades things kick in.
What is apparent, however, is that the differing available aperture values make the biggest difference: we’ve more often found the iPhone using 1/4-second shutter speeds compared to 1/15th-second of the SGS7, making the Samsung easier to hold steady for sharper results, for example.
Manual shooting & raw capture
iPhone 6S Plus
No raw / no manual (has exposure compensation)
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Yes raw (DNG) / manual “Pro” mode
Yes raw (DNG) / “Manual” mode
We’re not going to get too hung up on manual shooting ability, as a lot of phone users aren’t going to need or want such controls. Phone makers know this, and even the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge’s and LG G5’s manual modes – named “Pro” and “Manual” respectively within the “Modes” section of the app – are neatly tucked away by default. But if you do want shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, raw capture and other controls then these two cameras offer them.
The iPhone sticks to its straightforward usability premise, without a full manual mode or raw capture, but with easy-to-use exposure compensation – plus there are third-party apps that can be downloaded to make yet more out of the 6S Plus’ camera arrangement. We’ve even had rather a lot of fun with the DxOOne camera add-on.
There’s a lot of talk about resolution these days. But think of it like this: even a 4K Ultra-HD TV delivers 8.3-megapixels, which is more than enough resolution for a still image, so anything at that number or greater means it’s happy days.
But – and there’s always a but – you don’t want too much resolution (i.e. photodiodes, which translate into pixels) crammed onto a small sensor surface. Doing so causes issues with the ability to capture light as “cleanly”, which can result in images with more image noise present – that mottled, dotted pattern, which can also show as red, green or blue colour noise.
To counteract, makers are aiming to squeeze slightly larger sensors into phones, while maintaining the sweet spot of resolution. So while the iPhone 6S Plus has a decent sensor, the LG G5 and SGS7 edge both use a slightly larger surface.
The spread of resolution is therefore different: while the iPhone 6S Plus has the same resolution as the SGS7, the Apple device’s smaller surface means each “pixel” is smaller. But not the smallest: the G5’s higher resolution means squeezing more pixels onto the surfaces makes each one smaller. That runs the risk of lesser image quality – but clever processing can counteract such assumptions.
So, to the actual results. We’ve been shooting with all three phones in daylight through to low-light to see how they perform. Comparing actual results between all three is tricky because we’re not comparing like-for-like settings in each case: if the camera chooses a slower shutter speed because its aperture can’t equal the settings of a competitor, then we can’t control that across all three devices. Our comparison, therefore, is very much a real-world “here’s what the device does” and how the results thereof compare.
And it’s with quality that the iPhone shows its worth: of all the shots, from all three phones, the balance of colour and contrast throughout the 6S Plus’ shots gives it the most immediate appeal; its shots look the most “camera like” straight out of the device which, to a fair degree, makes it the most appealing. We found its HDR (high dynamic range, which balances highlights and shadows) results the most pleasing too.
When zooming in that little extra, to really dig at the detail at 100 per cent scale, it’s actually the Samsung that can eke out a little extra – a combination of widest aperture and largest “pixels” on sensor being the helping hand here. However its the least accurate when it comes to colour, often with very pink/magenta tones throwing things off, and contrast that is often excessive. Processing can also be harsh in areas and diminish detail in lower-light shots.
The G5 is an interesting balance because it doesn’t go wild on the processing front, therefore not pushing contrast to excess or smoothing out details to mush. In a way, the LG gives the most raw-like results of the three devices, with plenty of detail to boot, but also a little more colour noise as a result when shooting in low-light conditions – not that it’s hugely noticeable. The added resolution of the 16MP camera (and therefore smallest pixels) doesn’t make a vast difference nor hinder results, but on balance it’s perhaps exactly that: the most balanced of the three.
As you might have seen on the telly, Apple is pushing its Live Photos feature quite hard in the iPhone. The idea is simple: a still image “comes to life” when you touch it (well, within an Apple ecosystem anyway, it’s not shareable withAndroid phones in such a format) with moving image and sound. Fun, but not brand new – we’ve seen such ideas before in HTC and Nokia devices. Even theS7 edge offers a similar, but far more tucked-away feature.
With the LG G5 there’s a significant addition in the make-up of the handset too: modules or “Friends” as LG likes to call them. These physical add-ons vary from a VR headset to a hi-res audio addition. But it’s the camera extras that are most interesting, with a battery-and-controls-boosting addition available (which we’ve not used for this test, to be clear) and even a dual lens 360-degree camera.
All three cameras have dual tone flashes to make the most of warmer skin tones as needed. It was a stand-out feature when first introduced, but now seems to just be the going standard.
iPhone 6S Plus
4K at 30fps / 1080p at 60fps / slow-mo 1080p 120fps or 720p at 240fps
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
4K at 30fps / 1080p at 60fps / slow-mo 720p at 240fps
4K at 30fps / 1080p at 60fps / slow-mo 720p at 240fps
Apple hit a home run with its slow-mo modes, which are still the most accessible and varied of the three devices here – it’s the only one to offer 1080p at 120fps, for example, the other two have 720p at 240fps only.
The other big news, but of course, is 4K capture. Which all three devices offer at 30fps, keeping up with the current trends and ensuring that true flagship experience. None of the devices can play it back pixel-for-pixel on the native phone screen, of course, but that’s besides the point.
Which brings us to the wrap-up. And it’s not as clean-cut as we thought it might be. There are all kinds of additional depths.
Here’s our summary:
1. The iPhone’s images are the most pleasing straight from the device. However, it’s not the fastest to focus and sometimes conditions can get the better of it.
2. The Samsung offers the snappiest user experience. However, its images, while often the most detailed of the bunch, are the most colour-skewed.
3. The LG’s dual camera approach is a stroke of brilliance – and we’re big fans of the 135-degree second camera. Overall it’s the most balanced of the three: delivering good image quality, without overdoing processing, and delivering an accurate autofocus experience. In many ways, that makes it the best of the bunch – depending, of course, on what you’re looking for.
Force our hand and, well, we’d probably pick the S7 edge. One, because it’s the most exciting phone of the bunch; two because we’d be ok spending a little extra time applying new colour filters to any shots taken.
Whichever you choose, this current collection of flagship smartphones offer an excellent camera experience.
120,000:1 native contrast ratio (1,200,000:1 dynamic!)
HDR and 4K playback support
WHAT IS THE JVC DLA-X7000?
The X7000 is the first model from JVC’s much-anticipated new range of “D-ILA” projectors.
In the two years it’s taken the range to come to market – instead of the usual annual refresh – it will be interesting to see whether JVC’s engineers have improved on the company’s consistently outstanding projectors to achieve a whole new level of excellence. Especially since the X7000 adds high dynamic range (HDR) support to the usual lineup of ultra high contrast and “e-shift” technology.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
Aside from adding extra cooling fan vents to accommodate ever-brighter lamps, the design of the JVC DLA projector has remained consistent over the years. So it comes as no surprise to find the X7000 sporting the usual glossy black, elongated and slightly elliptical body wrapped around a large, centrally mounted lens.
It’s isn’t the most glamorous design in the projector world, but there’s a pleasing seriousness about it, and its sheer familiarity breeds a feeling of comfort given how excellent so many of the X7000’s predecessors have been.
Connectivity is fairly impressive. Although JVC includes the usual two HDMIs, both are built to the up-to-the-minute HDMI 2.0a specification. As a result they’re capable of handling 18Gbps of video data; both feature compatibility with the HDCP 2.2 4K/UHD anti-piracy protocol; and both support 10-bit, HDR and 4K/60fps images. In other words, there’s nothing the AV world can currently throw at the X7000 that it shouldn’t be able to handle.
HDR support is especially welcome given that the X7000 has likely been in development for some time – certainly before a point at which HDR specifications were finally locked down.
However, note that the model I reviewed was still missing the ability to automatically adjust its settings in response to receiving an HDR picture; this will be added via a firmware update. JVC did provide the preferred picture settings the projector will default to for HDR, so that I could try them out with my brand-new collection of Ultra HD Blu-rays.
At this point it’s important to stress that while the X7000 is capable of taking in native 4K/UHD source images, it isn’t actually a native 4K projector. When it receives a 4K image, it converts it to Full HD before pushing the results through JVC’s e-shift 4K system. This fires images through two 1080p chipsets, offset diagonally from one another by half a pixel, to deliver images that effectively contain a pixel density equivalent to that of a native 4K projector.
This isn’t the same as rendering a 4K source pixel-for-pixel onto a native 4K chipset, the way that Sony’s 4K projectors do. And I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that JVC hasn’t yet managed to deliver a native 4K D-ILA projector, with even its new flagship X9000 model sticking with e-shift instead.
That said, experience has shown JVC’s e-shift technology is capable of delivering surprisingly detailed images that surpass vanilla HD in their density and texturing. So assuming the system works as well on the X7000 as it has on previous e-shift projector generations, it will do more than enough to make up for the lack of native 4K support. This is especially true when you take into account the X7000’s £5,699/$8,548 price, which makes it more than £3,000/$4,500 cheaper than the native 4K, HDR-capable Sony VW520ES projector.
The X7000 image specifications list it as offering 1,800 ANSI lumens of brightness – up nearly 40% on this model’s predecessor, the JVC X700. This should prove handy in helping the X7000 achieve its HDR ambitions.
The X7000’s claimed native contrast ratio of 120,000:1 is also pretty impressive. The “native” bit here is very important, since it means the X7000 can achieve such a prodigiously high contrast figure without resorting to a dynamic iris system. This should mean that the X7000’s images look markedly more stable and consistent.
For those that want to JVC’s DLA projectors do offer the option of using a dynamic iris, however. And if you opt for the one on the X7000, JVC claims the contrast leaps to a brain-melting 1,200,000:1.
I can’t say I noticed quite such an extreme difference in contrast when toggling the dynamic iris on and off. However, it gives images a slight contrast boost, without exhibiting the common mechanical noise or luminance instability issues associated with dynamic iris tech. So although purists will likely leave it turned off, it’s something I’d suggest most users at least experiment with rather than dismissing it out of hand.
While 3D appears to be dying off in the TV world, sensibly it’s going strong with projectors. So it’s no surprise to find it supported by the X7000, even though there aren’t any active 3D glasses included.
Other key features include a lens memory, so you can save different zoom and focus settings to suit different film aspect ratios, and certification from independent quality-assurance organisation THX for both 2D and 3D picture quality – along with a THX-designed picture preset.
When it comes to physically getting the right-sized image positioned accurately on your screen, the X7000 is pretty much a dream come true. It provides plenty of optical zoom, vertical image shift and horizontal image shift, and since the lens controls are motorised, it’s possible to control all the optical adjustments – including the focus – via the remote control.
When you enter lens adjustment mode, the projector provides a simple but effective test pattern to help you get everything set up correctly.
As is usual with JVC’s mid-range projectors, the X7000 is well stocked with picture-calibration tools. There’s a wide selection of mostly well-considered themed presets if you don’t want to get too involved in a more detailed setup.
However, for those who want to perform a detailed calibration to optimise the performance for a particular room setup, the X7000 includes the colour, gamma and white balance management required. Not surprisingly, the X7000 is endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) as a projector that one of its specialist engineers could calibrate for you.
More controversially, the X7000 also features a few video-processing options aimed at reducing noise and motion blur. These are okay if used at the lower end of their power settings, but for most content you’ll be better turning them off.
Between its different presets – especially the Cinema 1, Cinema 2 and THX options – and the fact that its pictures have plenty going for them out of the box, setup is simple. At least with standard dynamic range content.
For HDR, and if your X7000 hasn’t yet received the HDR firmware update, JVC advises setting the Colour Profile to “Reference”; the Gamma to D; and, in the Gamma fine-tuning menus, adjusting the White settings to 12 for Picture Tone, 5 for Dark Level, and 4 for Bright Level. Also – and this is hugely important – you need to enter the Advanced picture menu and make sure the lamp is set to High output.
Personally, I also felt the need to boost the brightness setting from its neutral zero level to around 10, even though this results in a marginal reduction in the projector’s black level performance. I’ll discuss my reasons for this in the HDR part of the Picture Quality section.
While it’s tempting to get straight into how the X7000 looks with the absolute best-quality video available right now, it actually makes more sense to begin with its non-HDR performance. Which for the most part can be neatly summed up as jaw-droppingly awesome.
Having not tested a JVC for nearly two years, I’d almost forgotten just how spectacular a contrast range you can achieve with D-ILA projection technology. But the X7000 reminds me instantly, delivering dark scenes that remain the envy of the rest of the projection world.
Where pictures should look black, they essentially do look black. Usually when I’m describing a projector – or TV’s – black level performance, I’m really talking about varying shades of grey. This isn’t the case here.
The impact of the depth of black level on making movies look cinematic and immersive really can’t be overstated.
However, it isn’t only this that impresses. Since the X7000’s light engine is capable of producing incredible black levels natively, without having to use a dynamic iris, the inky blacks are able to sit right alongside punchy colours and whites.
The result is probably the single best contrast performance I’ve seen from any projector to date. Quite an accomplishment for a projector that costs considerably less than £6,000/$9,000.
The fact that the X7000 is capable of delivering such extraordinary native contrast performance yields further key attractions too.
First, despite the inky blacks in dark scenes, such scenes continue to display outstanding shadow detail in standard dynamic range pictures. This is in contrast to dynamic iris projectors, which suffer a hollow look as a result of having to compromise their brightness during dark scenes.
Reproducing shadow detail so well helps the X7000’s dark scenes to display as much depth as bright ones, creating a sense of consistency between dark and light scenes that again enhances your sense of immersion in the X7000’s pictures.
Contributing still further to this sense of immersion, if you have the dynamic contrast system turned off, is the way the image is completely free of distracting brightness shifts too.
While the X7000’s contrast understandably steals the show, it’s far from its only outstanding picture trait. Its colour performance is also stunning with SDR sources, delivering a near-flawless combination of dynamism and naturalism.
The amount of colour subtlety in the X7000’s pictures is exceptional, helping to underline the sense of solidity and depth images enjoy and contributing to the X7000’s sense of sharpness with HD sources too.
In fact, with HD the X7000’s sharpness and detailing is truly remarkable, in my opinion even outperforming Sony’s VW520ES. This is probably a result of the latter having to work far harder in video processing to remap HD to its native 4K resolution, compared to the X7000 with its more hardware-based e-shift 4K solution.
Note that is is possible to turn e-shift off on the JVC if you want to enjoy a true pixel-for-pixel HD image that looks marginally less noisy than the image you get with e-shift in play. However, I suspect that most users will be of the opinion that the extra sense of pixel density and detail achieved with e-shift on justifies living with the marginal increase in noise.
The X7000 inevitably falls short of the Sony VPL-VW520ES for native 4K content. The was especially true with sources that have been mastered in 4K rather than being upscaled from 2K. That said, the X7000 doesn’t fall as far short of the VW520ES in terms of 4K detail and sharpness, and certainly never leaves native 4K content looking in any way soft.
Throw in some extremely clean motion reproduction (without having to use the optional blur-reduction circuitry) and very natural handling of filmic grain and the X7000’s pictures with SDR content – both HD and 4K – are unprecedentedly gorgeous for a £5,700/$8,550 projector.
Firing up a few of my new Ultra HD Blu-ray discs – in particular, Exodus: Gods And Kings and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – to add HDR to the 4K equation at times takes the already incredible quality of the X7000’s pictures to new heights. But there are occasions when the projector struggles with HDR’s extreme demands.
Something that struck me right away is that, in terms of all-round brightness, HDR pictures look less bright than SDR ones. At first this didn’t make any sense; after all, if there’s one thing you’d expect an HDR image to look it’s bright.
As I watched HDR on the X7000 for longer, though, I got the impression that JVC was sacrificing some overall brightness in order to deliver HDR’s wider luminance range, with its more distinct peaks and troughs. Had it opted for a higher “base” brightness level, it likely wouldn’t have been able to achieve as much emphasis to HDR’s brightness peaks.
At times this decision to shift the whole HDR experience downwards in brightness to better render the format’s dynamics works startlingly well. In fact, some contrast-rich HDR shots look so good you’ll find yourself shaking your head in bewilderment.
But you’ll notice a couple of issues. First, dark HDR scenes can end up looking too dark, losing some of the subtle lighting and shadow detailing that’s so brilliantly delivered with SDR content, and in the process making HDR look a little forced and unnatural. It’s for this reason that I pushed the projector’s brightness setting up to 10 for HDR – although even after doing this some dark scenes still looked a little awkward.
I presume this issue is a result of the X7000 simply not having enough brightness to accurately track/map the gamma of an HDR source that’s been mastered to 1,000 nits or even 4,000 nits.
I suspect the same problem also explains the X7000’s other significant flaw with HDR: where relatively dark objects appear against bright backdrops, dark objects can become rather silhouette-like.
Less significant HDR issues are a slight yellowy look to colours on occasion and an only quite small boost to colour vibrancy despite JVC claiming that the X7000 is capable of reproducing up to 90% of the DCI-P3 colour spectrum that’s currently the target for HDR.
The net result of all these issues is that, more often than not, I preferred to watch a non-HDR version of a film than an HDR one. Sometimes, scenes unquestionably look better in HDR than SDR, but for all-round consistency – what you need most to keep you immersed in the action – SDR is the better bet on the X7000.
3D PICTURE QUALITY
The X7000 is a middling to good rather than a brilliant 3D performer. As with HDR, it could do with putting out a few more lumens of brightness – in this case to counter the dimming effect of the active shutter glasses. Nevertheless, 3D pictures look detailed and the projector’s outstanding contrast plays a big role in helping the projector to deliver a convincing sense of space and scale.
There are fairly frequent traces of crosstalk ghosting noise, however, as well as some slightly uncomfortable-looking motion during camera pans. It’s impossible to fix such issues with the projector’s processing options without leaving the image looking slightly processed.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
The X7000 runs exceptionally quietly for such a punchy, contrast-rich projector when using the lamp on its default Low position – which still delivers ample light for standard dynamic range content. Even when I positioned the projector within a foot of my right ear, the noise from its cooling fans didn’t distract me from what I was watching. Nor was I made to feel uncomfortable by excessive heat being jetted into the room.
Note, however, that if you’re watching HDR you’ll need to set the lamp to High in the Advanced picture menu. This leads to the cooling fans having to work harder and more loudly. The noise is still smooth enough not to become a major issue, but if you’re set on using HDR on the X7000 – despite the picture issues – then it would be wise to put some space between it and your seating position.
Input lag measurements, meanwhile, came in at around 130ms. This figure is more than four times as high as we’d like to see from a video display, and will make the X7000 potentially a no-go zone for serious gamers. Or at least serious gamers who like to play online.
SHOULD I BUY A JVC DLA-X7000?
With non-HDR material, the X7000 is nothing short of a sensation. The projector may not benefit from the native 4K resolution of the Sony VPL-VW520ES, but it makes up for this in spades with its incredible black level response and gorgeous colour performance.
What’s more, while its e-shift 4K system doesn’t deliver quite so pristine results with native 4K sources as the Sony VW520ES, it achieves an incredibly detailed picture and does an especially startling job of shifting the apparent detail of HD sources up by a couple of gears.
With HD SDR sources, there’s no projector that delivers a better picture than the X7000 – and that includes, to my surprise, the Sony VW520ES. The JVC’s pictures are so consistently beautiful that they turn even the worst films into works of art – good news for Adam Sandler, then. This isn’t bad for a projector that’s more than £3,000/$4,500 cheaper than the Sony VW520ES.
However, serious gamers will have to think long and hard about whether the X7000’s extremely high input lag figure is too high a price to pay for its amazing picture quality. Sony’s VW520ES, by comparison, enjoys an input lag of just 30ms.
I’d also argue that the X7000’s issues with HDR make it better suited to Blu-ray than Ultra HD Blu-ray – especially as, so far as I’m aware, there’s no way to turn off the HDR part of an Ultra HD Blu-ray image at either the player or projector end of the process.
If you’re looking for a projector to partner a new Ultra HD Blu-ray player or gaming console, the X7000 is a flawed option thanks to its issues handling HDR and its high input lag. However, the X7000 is so incredibly good with SDR HD and 4K sources, that it genuinely raises the question of whether 4K and HDR are even worth worrying about on a half-way affordable projector. And I honestly never thought I hear myself saying that.
In a world where full-size trucks are increasingly plush palaces of rolling excess loaded for bear with luxuries that rival traditional premium sedans, the mid-size pickup segment has fallen out of step. For more than a decade these somewhat smaller options – like the class-leading Toyota Tacoma – have focused more on utility than ‘wow’ factor, a symptom of the less significant market that exists for trucks outside the full-size spectrum and the fact that there was so much profit to be made with their bigger brothers.
Of course, things change. A surprise re-up from GM last year saw the Chevrolet Colorado andGMC Canyon graduate from also-rans to comfy daily drivers as the General decided to target would-be crossover shoppers seeking the additional practicality of an open cargo bed with its two mid-size offerings. This left Toyota with a decision to make: should it double-down on what had made the Tacoma a runaway success, or chase a new pickup demographic that might not actually exist when planning out its next model?
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma lays bare the schism that currently exists amongst mid-size trucks. With a new engine, brash styling, and unchallenged off-road credentials, the Tacoma has got what it takes to satisfy the legions of current Toyota owners looking to re-up with the latest model. Slip behind the wheel, however, and you’re treated to the kind of traditional truck experience that’s been sidelined by full-size models and largely dialed-out of the redesigned Canyon and Colorado.
Make no mistake: the 2016 Toyota Tacoma is an excellent mid-size pickup. You get two choices under the hood, starting with a 159 horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder that can be upgraded to a brand-new 3.5-liter V-6 that pushes out 278 horses and 265 lb-ft of torque.
This six-cylinder, which represents a significant upgrade over the 4.0-liter that it replaces, was installed under the hood of my tester, and it’s hard not to recommend paying the extra cash for the bigger motor since there are no fuel savings to be had with the smaller, weaker unit. A six-speed automatic gearbox is the volume transmission for both editions of the Tacoma, with six-speed (V6) and five-speed (four-cylinder) manuals also available.
Four-wheel drive is on the options sheet almost across the board for the 2016 Toyota Tacoma, and you can up the ante even further with the TRD Off-Road package. This version of the pickup allows you to take full advantage of the Tacoma’s 9.4 inches of ground clearance, as it features skid plates, a forward crawl control feature (new for 2016), stronger suspension setup, and an electronically-locking rear diff.
If street performance is more your thing, then the TRD Sport model makes its first appearance for the 2016 model year, and was in fact the model I drove for a week. Although not quite as ‘street’ as the slammed X-Runner that left the Tacoma line-up a few years ago, the TRD Sport still nets you a limited-slip rear differential, unique alloy wheels, stiffer shocks, a hood scoop, and searing blue paint.
Unfortunately for performance enthusiasts, the TRD Sport really doesn’t drive any differently than any other four-wheel drive version of the new Tacoma. That is to say, with a chassis largely unchanged from the previous-generation pickup, drum brakes at the back, and prodigious weight to overcome, acceleration and handling are exactly in keeping with what you might expect from a truck of its size, and the Toyota’s on-road personality will be familiar to anyone who has driven the Tacoma before.
This ‘business as usual’ attitude extends to the pickup’s interior trappings, which are the very definition of task-oriented. I like the big, easy-to-grasp buttons and toggles, but wasn’t such a fan of the Entune infotainment interface, whose seven-inch touchscreen seemed behind the times in terms of graphics and functionality. The Tacoma is available in a pair of five-passenger body styles (front-hinged doors on the Access cab and full-size rear doors on the Double cab), and the Double I drove had plenty of room in the rear row for both people and cargo. Don’t look for anything resembling high end trim inside the Toyota, however, as even the Limited’s leather can’t mask the simplicity of the truck’s design. The Tacoma is also light on active safety, with only blind spot monitoring making the final cut on the options sheet.
Ultimately, it comes down to what you are looking for in a truck. The 2016 Toyota Tacoma delivers more of the same all-around competence that has made it a runaway success for the Japanese brand, and indeed, the only mid-sizer of significance when it comes to sales since the year 2000. Exceptional resale value, great reliability, and a solid reputation for off-road prowess round out the Tacoma’s highlights.
Still, I can’t help but think there’s something of a missed opportunity here for Toyota to get in one some of the luxury truck hype that has overtaken the full-size crowd. Tacoma pricing demands that you pay a premium over the Nissan Frontier as well as the Colorado and Canyon, yet doesn’t offer much in the way of innovation or features to back it up, especially at the entry level – and it can’t match the GM twins when it comes to ride comfort, active safety, or infotainment. The ground has moved beneath the Tacoma’s feet, and Toyota’s response has been to stand fast and give us a truck that should keep existing owners in the fold, but likely won’t do much to tempt new shoppers.
The Xiaomi Mi 4s went official hours before the Mi 5, a teaser of sorts for the headliner. It even made the trip to Barcelona but enjoyed little of the spotlight for obvious reasons. This is the fourth installment in the Mi 4 lineup – hardly breaking news in a week full of high-profile announcements. Yet, we bet the new Xiaomi flagship wouldn’t mind repeating the success of a predecessor that spawned quite the offspring.
A year and a half separates the Mi 4 and the incumbent Mi 5 flagship – the time in-between was filled with a couple of phablets, including the Quad-HD Xiaomi Mi Note Pro, and a couple of Mi 4 modifications. The Xiaomi Mi 4 turned out quite a popular device, and the company was keen to use the flagship momentum in the midrange Mi 4i and Mi 4c versions.
Meanwhile, the Redmi Note series too made themselves comfortable in the midrange, and now Xiaomi fills an upper midrange spot with the Mi 4s. It builds on the Mi 4c with premium looks, more storage, more RAM, and more battery capacity, and flaunts a new fingerprint scanner at the back.
Xiaomi is sticking to the dual-glass design in both the flagship Mi 5 and the Mi 4s. Compared to the Mi 5, the Mi 4s uses a different kind of metal frame sprayed with zircon sand for a pleasant soft touch and improved grip.
Before we get into details, let’s take a closer look at the spec sheet, shall we?
5″ IPS LCD display of 1080p resolution; 441ppi;
Snapdragon 808 chipset with hexa-core processor (2x Cortex-A57 at 1.82GHz, 4x Cortex-A53 at 1.44GHz); Adreno 418 GPU; 3GB RAM
13MP f/2.0 main camera with phase detect autofocus, dual-tone LED flash; 1080p video at 30fps;
5MP f/2.0 front-facing camera, 1080p video recording at 30fps
Cat.4 4G LTE (150Mbps); Dual-SIM; Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 4.1; GPS, GLONASS and Beidou; IR blaster
Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner
64GB storage, expandable via a microSD slot
Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with MIUI 7
3,260 mAh non-removable battery, fast charging
Limited regional availability
Hybrid microSD/SIM slot – memory card uses SIM 2 slot, can’t have both simultaneously
No FM radio
Xiaomi hasn’t done anything unusual with the Mi 4S – after all, the flagship understandably received more attention. The re-design works quite well though and the hexa-core chipset is a sensible choice considering the phone’s standing in the pecking order. Its productivity should be comparable to a Snapdragon 650, power efficiency in favor of the 20nm Snapdragon 808.
As usual with Xiaomi, the sealed battery and the shared SIM / MicroSD card slot shouldn’t be unexpected. We hope the Mi 4s lives up to its legacy and, well, keep the surprises mostly pleasant. Let’s see how the things turn out this time – our hardware tour starts right after the break.
2. Hardware overview
Unboxing the Mi 4s
The retail box of the Xiaomi Mi 4s contains the usual set of accessories: a USB Type-C cable and a fast-charging-enabled A/C adapter. The SIM ejection pin is also inside a small envelope.
Unboxing the Xiaomi Mi 4s
Xiaomi Mi 4s 360-degree spin
The Mi 4s has pretty much identical specs to the Mi 4c, including the 5″ screen diagonal, but received a redesign that’s geared towards premium. Its new dimensions are 139.3 x 70.8 x 7.8mm – just 1mm taller and 1mm wider than the 4c. It has put on a measly 1g of weight, which is impressive considering the bigger battery and fingerprint sensor.
Design and build quality
Xiaomi has insisted on glass exteriors since the original Mi 4 flagship back in 2014, as part of a global trend in phone design. Sony has been using it abundantly, Samsung switched to glass for its top-shelf Galaxies. Xiaomi is now selling its second generation of glass-clad smartphones – the Mi 4s and the flagship Mi 5.
Xiaomi Mi 4s
The Mi 4s employs a rather familiar design – two sheets of glass front and rear, kept together by a beautiful and solid metal frame. Xiaomi’s had a special touch on the Mi 4s – its frame has a prominent circular shape and zirconia sand finish. The latter is responsible for the matte effect and the distant leathery feel. Long story short, it’s pleasantly grippy and soft to the touch.
We appreciate the brushed pattern on the rear glass, as well as the metal accents around the camera and the fingerprint scanner. The sensor is always-on: at a successful scan, it will immediately wake up the screen and take you straight to the homescreen. If the fingerprint doesn’t match, the phone will let you know with a short vibration.
While using the Xiaomi Mi 4s we noticed its protective front glass is rather soft, and it easily sags when pressed at the bottom. We don’t know if this was an issue with our unit only, or it’s a design flaw, but it’s possible to see dark spots on the screen while using it. It won’t hurt the LCD panel, but it may be disturbing in brighter pictures or pages.
Handling the Xiaomi Mi 4s is otherwise quite pleasant. The phone is compact, thin and light enough, and looks really beautiful. Its glass panels are prone to fingerprints, but those should be noticeable only on the black version. The phone is not that slippery thanks to the thoughtful matte frame, which should be a must for any glass phone.
Handling the Xiaomi Mi 4s
Above the Mi 4s screen, we find the earpiece surrounded by a couple of sensors on the left and the 5MP front-facer on the right. There is a status LED near the camera lens.
Below the 5″ display is the set of capacitive Task Manager, Home, and Back keys – all with white backlight. A tap and hold of the Apps key will also show advanced contextual menus with across the MIUI.
The 5″ screen • above the screen • below the screen
On the left is the lone SIM tray – it’s an ejectable hybrid slot for either two SIM cards (microSIM + nanoSIM), or a microSIM and a microSD memory cards.
The left side • the hybrid SIM slot
The right side of the Xiaomi Mi 4s houses the volume rocker and the power/lock key – both made of metal.
The right side of the Mi 4s • the volume and power keys
The Mi 4s has its audio jack, IR blaster, and second mic on top; while the USB Type-C port, the loudspeaker grille, and the primary mic are at the bottom.
The top of the Mi 4s • the IR blaster • the bottom side • the mic and speaker grilles
Finally, a dual-tone LED flash is next to the 13MP camera lens at the back. The always-on fingerprint scanner is also around, comfortably placed for the tip of your index finger.
The beautiful glass back • the fingerprint scanner
3. Display, battery life, connectivity
The Xiaomi Mi 4s features a similar 5″ Full HD IPS display to the one we saw on the Mi 4c. It has 441ppi for pleasantly sharp screen contents. Xiaomi says both sheets of glass on the Mi 4s are scratch resistant without specifying their brand or maker.
Taking a closer look at the display under our digital microscope reveals a standard RGB arrangement of the sub-pixels that make up the Xiaomi Mi 4s LCD panel.
The maximum display brightness of the Xiaomi Mi 4s (475nits) won’t turn any heads, nor will the average contrast ratio of 975:1. The blacks are deep enough for an otherwise pleasant viewing experience.
The minimum display brightness is incredibly low at 0.6nits, which is perfectly suitable for late-night reading in a dark setting.
Regarding color accuracy, the Mi 4s screen is less than stellar with an average deviation (DeltaE) of 5.6, which shows the screen has less than perfectly accurate color rendering. We’ve seen worse even in flagship devices, so this one sits somewhere in the middle. For a screen to be considered properly calibrated it needs to have a maximum DeltaE of 4 and obviously, the lower the deviation, the better.
Xiaomi Mi 4S
Xiaomi Mi 5
Xiaomi Mi 4i
Xiaomi Mi 4c
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
Sony Xperia M5
HTC One A9
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note
The sunlight legibility of the screen is hardly spectacular, but you won’t have any problems using the phone outdoors if you avoid direct sunlight.
Sunlight contrast ratio
HTC One A9 : 4.274
OnePlus X : 3.983
Meizu MX5 : 3.416
Xiaomi Mi 5 : 3.24
Sony Xperia M5 : 2.69
Xiaomi Mi 4i : 2.641
Xiaomi Mi 4c : 2.574
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note : 2.254
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (MediaTek) : 2.249
Xiaomi Mi 4S : 2.095
Xiaomi has put a 3,260mAh battery inside the Mi 4s, a solid capacity for a 5″ device. In our battery test, the Xiaomi Mi 4s scored a 75h rating, which means you can count on a little over three days if you do an hour each of calling, browsing and video playback a day. The phone does well in the three separate tests, and it behaved in standby.
Opting for using the device with two SIM cards will clip some four hours off the total endurance rating.
That is of course solely based on the two SIMs drawing battery in standby – using an estimated power usage to make our battery results comparable across devices.
Xiaomi is providing a proper fast charger (5V/2A, 9V/1.2A, 12V/1A) in the retail box, which is nice. In our 30-minute charging test, the provided charger was able to charge the battery of the phone from 0% to 32%.
The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you’re interested in the nitty-gritties. You can also check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we’ve tested will compare under your own typical use.
The Xiaomi Mi 4s supports 7 LTE bands (the Europe’s most common FDD LTE band 20 800MHz is missing though), and you can tap to an LTE network on either SIM, but the other will default to a GSM band. The Mi 4s also offers quad-band GSM connectivity and tri-band 3G connectivity with HSPA support.
The rest of the wireless connectivity features include dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac support and Wi-Fi Direct. There is also support for Bluetooth 4.1, GPS and GLONASS. Wireless screen mirroring is available via the Miracast protocol.
The IR blaster is located at the top and, coupled with the right software, you can use it to remotely control pretty much any IR controlled home appliance. Xiaomi provides its own MiRemote app, which supports a long list of devices right out of the box.
The Mi 4s is Xiaomi’s third device to support USB Type-C – it’s the new reversible connector for USB that builds on USB 3.1.
If you’d like to use USB OTG functions on the Mi 4s, you’ll have to buy a third-party USB OTG adapter.
4. Software overview
The Xiaomi Mi 4s runs on MIUI 7, which utilizes an Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. As usual Xiaomi’s customizations run very deep and replace everything including all Google services. In fact, the Mi phones sold in China don’t have access to Google’s services and those need to be sideloaded one way or the other (some resellers may even do that for you). The models sold officially on markets outside of China come with a preloaded Play Store app (and Play Services).
The lockscreen is the usual affair – it has the clock, a camera shortcut, and no widgets. If you like, you can use the Daily Lock Screens – the phone will download a new picture and change your lockscreen wallpaper every 1, 3, or 24 hours.
Fingerprint unlock is available, and it’s quite fast. The sensor is always-on, much like the sensors on Huawei phones, so the moment you tap on its surface, the phone will unlock.
The MIUI v7 lockscreen • PIN unlock • Camera shortcut • Settings
Beyond the lockscreen is the Android homescreen with four customizable shortcuts docked at the bottom by default, but you can dock up to five items. You can have any app there or even folders with multiple items if you will.
The MIUI homescreens • there is no app drawer • a folder
There is no app drawer – anything you install pops up on your homescreen, which can have an unlimited number of panes. There are no shortcuts, and the usual routine of removing icons (dragging them up to a recycle bin at the top of the screen) will, in fact, uninstall the corresponding app. There is a pop-up for confirming the action, though, so you can’t accidentally uninstall apps.
Homescreen widgets are available, too – tap and hold on the homescreen, then choose Widgets. There are few options available, but of course, you can get even more from the Play Store.
Editing the homescreens • Adding widgets • Changing effects • Wallpapers • A new wallpaper
Homescreen effects are available, and you can change themes, too. A theme will change your homescreen wallpaper, lockscreen style, system icons, system font and the sound profile (you can disable changing the sound profile from settings).
MIUI v.7 has five default themes – MIUI, High Life, Pink Blush, Rose and Ocean Breeze. They’ve been handpicked by the MIUI team, but you can always download new themes from the Mi Store.
Applying a new theme
The notification area has two semi-transparent tabs – the first one hosts all notifications while the second one (swipe left to access) offers customizable Quick Toggles and a Settings shortcut.
An enhanced task switcher with Clear All option is available, too.
Notifications • Toggles • Toggles • Task Switcher
By the way, Xiaomi’s proprietary Search widget does a similar job as iOS’s Spotlight system-wide search. You can fire it up by swiping up anywhere on the homescreen. The tool searches through your apps, music, email, settings, among others.
Xiaomi provides a cloud service of its own for content syncing between devices. Each Mi Cloud account is granted 5GB of free storage. You can use the online storage to backup contacts, messages, your entire gallery, calls log, notes, settings, voice recordings, web browser content (history, tabs, web app data) and your music library.
Xiaomi’s sync and backup service shares a lot of similarities with Apple iCloud. There is even a free Cloud Messaging option that allows you to exchange messages over the internet connection instead of being billed for SMS, but that only works for communication between Xiaomi devices.
Configuring Mi Cloud
Finally, if you signed in with your Mi Cloud account, you can opt for the Find device feature – a handy feature in case you misplace your Xiaomi Mi 5, or someone steals it.
MIUI 7 also offers a dedicated Child mode, which, once set up, adds a new user account with limited access to the stuff and apps on your phone. This is nice if you have a kid, who likes playing with your phone occasionally, and you are afraid they might delete some important data.
The Do Not Disturb mode has been enhanced too – it supports wider customization and scheduling options.
We did get our review unit with pre-installed Google Play Store plus Google sync for app data, contacts, and browser data but perhaps they’ve been sideloaded by the reseller providing this review unit. Of course, you can sideload them yourself one way or the other if they don’t come pre-installed on your unit. And once you have those, you can easily download all other Google apps such as Google Now straight from the Play Store.
The rather affordable Xiaomi Mi 4s is powered by the upper mid-range Snapdragon 808 chip, which packs a six-core processor, Adreno 418 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. That’s the same SoC to power the Xiaomi Mi 4c and the LG G4.
The processor of the S808 chip has two powerful Cortex-A57 cores ticking at 1.82GHz, and four energy-efficient Cortex-A53 blocks running at 1.44GHz. A single of those Cortex-A57 cores is quite a beast and it easily outruns any Cortex-A53 CPU (K4 Note, Honor 5X), but scores behind the Cortex-A72 within the Snapdragon edition of the Redmi Note 3.
GeekBench 3 (single-core)
Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (S650) : 1573
Xiaomi Mi 4s : 1254
Huawei Honor 5X : 705
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note : 628
Then there is the multi-core GeekBench 3, where core count matters and the Mi 4s falls behind some of the popular eight-core smartphones, but its score is still respectable.
GeekBench 3 (multi-core)
Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (Helio X10) : 4537
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (S650) : 3570
Sony Xperia M5 Dual : 3554
LG Nexus 5X : 3527
Xiaomi Mi 4c : 3321
HTC One A9 : 3209
Xiaomi Mi 4s : 3147
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) : 3061
Huawei Honor 5X : 3053
Xiaomi Redmi 3 : 2842
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note : 2745
Motorola Moto X Play : 2608
Xiaomi Mi 4i : 2336
OnePlus X : 2297
The compound AnTuTu test puts the Mi 4s better than the Helio X10-powered Redmi Note 3, equally capable as the HTC One A9, but behind the Snapdragon model of the Redmi Note 3. The Snapdragon 650 with the Redmi Note 3 also offers a hexa-core processor, but instead of 2x Cortex-A57, it has 2x Cortex-A72, which matters a lot.
Higher is better
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (S650) : 75051
HTC One A9 : 60324
Xiaomi Mi 4s : 59850
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (Helio X10) : 45474
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note : 38359
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) : 35689
Huawei Honor 5X : 35469
The BaseMark OS II 2.0 test, which gauges CPU, GPU, Memory, System, and Web performance, puts the Xiaomi Mi 4s on top of every other smartphone in its price bracket. The Nexus 5X (also S808 chip) came up with a notch better result, probably because of Android Marshmallow optimizations.
Basemark OS 2.0
Higher is better
LG Nexus 5X : 1591
Xiaomi Mi 4s : 1545
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (S650) : 1537
Xiaomi Mi 4c : 1233
OnePlus X : 1213
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (Helio X10) : 1018
HTC One A9 : 944
Huawei Honor 5X : 874
Sony Xperia M5 Dual : 860
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) : 833
Motorola Moto X Play : 809
Xiaomi Redmi 3 : 804
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note : 729
Xiaomi Mi 4i : 296
We already know the Adreno 418 is perfectly capable of handling itself under load quite well when it comes to a 1080p display and the benchmark results confirm this.
GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)
Higher is better
LG Nexus 5X : 16
Xiaomi Mi 4c : 15
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (S650) : 14
Xiaomi Mi 4s : 13
OnePlus X : 9.9
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (Helio X10) : 8.5
Sony Xperia M5 Dual8.4
HTC One A9 : 6.4
Xiaomi Mi 4i : 6.2
Motorola Moto X Play : 5.8
Xiaomi Redmi 3 : 5.8
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) : 5.7
Huawei Honor 5X : 5.6
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note : 4.2
GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)
Higher is better
LG Nexus 5X : 11
Xiaomi Mi 4c : 10
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (S650) : 9.1
Xiaomi Mi 4s : 8.1
Sony Xperia M5 Dual : 4.5
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (Helio X10) : 4
HTC One A9 : 3.8
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note : 2.6
BaseMark X, a demanding GPU bench, says the Adreno 418 within the Mi 4s is better the Adreno 405 (One A9), Mali-T720MP3 (K4 Note), and the PowerVR G6200 (Redmi Note 3 Helio X10). The Adreno 510 within the Redmi Note 3 with Snapdragon 650 came out more capable, though.
Higher is better
LG Nexus 5X : 16609
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (S650) : 14732
Xiaomi Mi 4s : 12990
Xiaomi Mi 4c : 12096
OnePlus X : 10572
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (Helio X10) : 8540
Sony Xperia M5 Dual : 7780
HTC One A9 : 6617
Xiaomi Redmi 3 : 5108
Motorola Moto X Play : 5032
Huawei Honor 5X : 5009
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) : 4947
Xiaomi Mi 4i : 4875
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note : 4072
The dual glass design of the Xiaomi Mi 4s might be beautiful, but it takes its toll on heat management. The Mi 4s becomes warm rather quickly (though, not hot) and we noticed the throttling kicking in on some benchmarks.
You can see this perfectly on the lengthy BaseMark ES 3.1, which took about 40 minutes to complete. The Mi 4s should out a similar result to Mi 4c and Nexus 5X, as both have the same GPU, but it didn’t.
The throttling isn’t detectable in real life, even when playing games, so you shouldn’t have any worries. The phone doesn’t get particularly hot either but it’s something you should keep in mind.
Basemark ES 3.1 / Metal
Higher is better
LG Nexus 5X : 306
Xiaomi Mi 4c : 248
Xiaomi Mi 4s : 219
HTC One A9 : 132
The Xiaomi Mi 4s offers more than adequate performance and will handle anything you can run or play. It has the same hardware as the LG G4, and the 3GB RAM will be enough for heavy multi-tasking. There is the issue with throttling, but nobody will notice it in real-life use.
6. Telephony, multimedia, audio quality
Contacts and telephony
The dialer and the phonebook share a single app although there are two shortcuts, bringing you straight to the tab you need. The app has pleasant flat looks, and it’s about the same as we remember it. It uses a tabbed interface – recent with dialer on the first and the contact list on the second.
Xiaomi Mi 4s supports voice call recording, and it can do it automatically on each call if you like. You can also assign an answer gesture, pre-define quick responses upon reject, there is even support for internet calling.
The Dialer • Smart Dialing • The in-call screen
There are even more call settings if you dig deeper into the menu – flip to mute the ringer, turn on/off the proximity sensor, lock automatically once slipped in a pocket, it can even mute calls from unknown numbers.
The Xiaomi Mi 4s scored a Very Good mark on our loudspeaker tests, meaning you’ll hardly miss any calls and notifications. The loudspeaker sound quality seems great, and we just wished Xiaomi had used this speaker on the Mi 5 as well.
Pink noise/ Music, dB
Ringing phone, dB
HTC One A9
Sony Xperia M5
Xiaomi Mi 5
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note
Xiaomi Mi 4c
Xiaomi Mi 4s
The Xiaomi Mi 4s comes with a custom Gallery app. It defaults to your camera roll, but also supports Albums, Cloud, and People. The People sorting, once chosen, sorts all of your photos by people’s faces. Everything is automatic. Here you can also create a new baby album, to put your newborn pics inside.
The integrated editor offers various effects, frames, tools (crop, mirror, straighten, rotate, fisheye, doodle) plus light adjustments that let you bring out the detail in the shadows or the restore the highlights.
Editing an image
The MIUI music player is a custom app with a well laid out, easy to navigate interface. It features two tabs – the first one is cloud music, similar to Google Music service, but provided by Xiaomi while the second tab has your own local music.
The player has cool effects, transitions, and transparent elements, especially on the expandable Now Playing section.
Xiaomi’s Music app offers customizable equalizers with a few default presets already available for use. You can also try Xiaomi’s MiSound enhancer, which comes into play when you use headphones, and especially, a Xiaomi-branded headset.
Audio enhancements and equalizers
The video player interface is very basic, but there is rich video codec support. It managed to play everything we threw at it (including MKV and WMV files). The AC3 audio codec is surprisingly supported, too.
Subtitles and pop-up play are not supported by the MIUI’s video player, though, so you might want to look at the Play Store if you need a more capable alternative.
Audio output is loud, let down by stereo quality
The Xiaomi Mi 4s went off to a great start in our audio quality test. When connected to an active external amplifier, it almost matched the performance of its high-flying Mi 5 sibling and got our hopes high. With very loud output and excellent scores top to bottom (stereo quality isn’t as good as the Mi 5, but still solid), this was a great showing by the Mi 4s.
Unfortunately, stereo crosstalk skyrocketed when headphones came into play, which has a pretty damaging effect on the overall performance. Intermodulation rise was negligible if still present but with so much crosstalk, we can’t give it more than a decent mark here.
Anyway, here go the results so you can make your own comparisons.
IMD + Noise
Xiaomi Mi 4s
Xiaomi Mi 4s (headphones)
Xiaomi Mi 5
Xiaomi Mi 5 (headphones)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) (headphones)
Huawei G8 (headphones)
Xiaomi Mi 4s frequency response
A 13MP snapper with a true-tone dual-LED flash
Xiaomi Mi 4s features a 13MP camera, equipped with a dual-LED dual-tone flash. The setup is the same as on the Mi 4c, which offered great photos by the way, so we started this section of the review with high hopes for the Mi4s.
The camera interface is fairly simple and features toggles for the HDR mode, the flash and the video camera.
It has three panes – the default one shows the viewfinder with a virtual shutter, flash trigger and front camera key. A pull down from the top of the screen gets you a choice of 12 filters with live previews. A slide from the bottom displays the advanced modes such as Panorama, Virtual Horizon, Beautify, Timer, Tilt Shift, and Manual as well as the camera settings.
The Manual Mode offers you manual settings for white balance and ISO, as well as focus and shutter speed. The manual shutter speed can go as low as 1/2s. The manual focus control slider allows for finer focus control from macro to infinity.
Additionally, the Face Detection switch is within the additional settings, as well as the option for adding time stamps to the images, scanning QR barcodes, and adjusting the camera processing parameters such as Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness.
When it comes to image quality, the Xiaomi Mi 4s doesn’t live up to the legacy of its predecessor, the Mi 4c. The photos are nice and have a similarly mature processing but, this time around, the produced shots are not as eye-pleasing at the default camera settings. The chosen contrast and saturation are not as nice as on the Mi 4c. Even the level of resolved detail in the center is not on the same high level. The corners are quite soft and lacking in detail. Overall, the Mi 4s camera is nice, but the Mi 4c has just set the bar way too high.
Xiaomi Mi 4s camera samples
The HDR mode is conservative enough and rescues both the highlights and shadows while producing a natural looking image. Those aren’t the best HDR photos we’ve seen, as they lose some of the sharpness, but they certainly are among the better ones, especially if you are going to use them downsized.
HDR off • HDR on
You can capture both landscape and portrait panoramic photos with an 180-degree field of view. Shooting them is easy, but the result is unimpressive – the resolution is about 3200x1240px, and the image quality is slightly above average – there is enough detail, no poor stitching and accurate colors. The dynamic range could have been better, though.
Xiaomi Mi 4s panorama sample
Xiaomi Mi 4s features a 5MP front-facing camera for high-res selfies. The images come out very soft with slightly below average detail, but will do for Facebook or similar social networks.
5MP camera samples taken with the front camera
The Xiaomi Mi 4s, even though it fails around the corners, is still quite a capable shooter, and our picture comparison tool will help you see it.
Xiaomi Mi 4s in our photo quality comparison tool
1080p video recording
Xiaomi Mi 4s camcorder has the same UI as the still camera. It supports slow-mo (the result is a 720p@30fps video) and time-lapse videos with customizable snapping interval.
The Xiaomi Mi 4s is capable or recording up to 1080p@30fps. The bitrate of the video recordings is poor at about 15 Mbps while audio is captured at 96 Kbps with 2 channels (stereo).
Video quality can perhaps be best described as average. The colors are somewhat muted, but the contrast and the smoothness are fine. The dynamic range is about average. The captured audio, just like with the Mi 5 videos, is awful, and Xiaomi needs to improve this quickly.
And here is a 1080p video we’ve uploaded on YouTube.
You can also download the 1080p video sample taken straight from the Xiaomi Mi 4s.
Here the Xiaomi Mi 4s enters our video comparison tool. There are plenty of 1080p camcorders you can compare it to. It resolves an average level of detail, but contrast and colors are good.
Xiaomi Mi 4s in our Video quality comparison
8. Other apps
The Xiaomi Mi 4s comes with the feature-rich MIUI Browser. It has flat looking UI elements and does a great job at browsing. It comes with a native ad-block add-on and a data saver, it supports downloads, there is a night mode as well. It is as almost as fast as Chrome, and now supports Find on Page.
It also offers a built-in Reading mode, which isn’t available in Chrome. It enlarges the text font and strips away unneeded elements, leaving only the article you are reading in focus.
The aforementioned Night Mode, which is something we miss in Chrome. It inverts the background and font colors and is easier on the eyes at dark rooms.
Finally, the browser supports some very handy features as scrolling with the volume keys, quick tab switching from the edge of the display; you can opt for different search engines, among others.
Mi Browser • Night Mode • Reading Mode
Other pre-installed apps
The Xiaomi Mi 4s offers a great file managing app called Explorer, which lets you browse the files in its internal storage and groups them by type.
The MIUI v7 also offers a Security app. It can scan your phone for malware, manage your contact blocklist, manage or restrict your data usage, configure battery behavior, clean some RAM; it can also manage the permissions of your installed apps.
The custom and now flat Calendar looks good, syncs with your accounts including Google, and offers Day and Month views.
There are also the standard sound recorder, notes, flashlight, calculator, clock, and weather apps, among others, that are a given in any self-respecting Android package nowadays.
Voice recorder • Calculator • Clock • Weather
We like the Compass app. It has very nice and clean interface, shows the magnetic directions and doubles as a level meter. If you lift the phone up, then you’ll get a nice augmented reality view with real-time East/West/North/South overlay.
Compass app – compass, level, VR directions
Xiaomi is preloading a new Mi Home app, which is helpful if you like to control your smart appliances from a single device. It can interact with your TV, audio system, air conditioners, air purifiers, among others. The app also offers TV information, weather detail, and even more useful information. It uses the Mi Remote app and the IR blaster.
9. Final words
The Xiaomi Mi 4s goes right by the book and pays due respect to its predecessors while genuinely trying to stand out and increase its chances of getting noticed. The Mi 4s improves on both the original Xiaomi Mi 4 and the Mi 4c version with more – and expandable – storage, a beefier battery and a fingerprint sensor.
Xiaomi has tried to get the most of a screen and chipset that are not exactly class-leading stuff, and pretty much managed to stay within budget. The focus was clearly on the exterior though and it will most probably pay off. Even if you don’t pay too much attention, you’ll know you’re looking at one of the better Xiaomis out there.
Indeed, the Xiaomi Mi 4s is a looker, and a very smooth and pleasant piece of phone to handle. It’s reasonably powerful too. The screen resolution is the same as on the current flagship though the viewing quality is slightly inferior. The Snapdragon 808 that powered one of last year’s major flagships, the LG G4, and is a pretty good deal this season for an aspiring upper-midranger.
We did expect more from the 13MP main camera – after all the 4c did a lot better. Still, if you can live with the average 13MP shots, you can fully enjoy a rather pleasant experience with the Xiaomi Mi 4s – it’s reasonably fast and responsive, good-looking and with great battery backup.
Build quality is commendable, the handling quite pleasant and the grip is secure enough for a glass device.
The display is average: it isn’t among the brightest we’ve seen, with average contrast, but deep enough blacks. The sunlight legibility is below average, the color calibration is good enough for the class.
Battery life is very good, with an endurance rating of 75 hours.
MIUI 7 is a clean and light on top of Android Lollipop, has rich customization options.
The flagship-grade Snapdragon 808 chipset does the job but may be prone to throttling. The 3GB of RAM are plentiful.
The video player supports every common video codec and AC3 sound but has no subtitle support.
Audio quality is great with an external amplifier, almost as good as on the Mi 5, but the stereo separation suffers badly when you plug in a headset.
Camera photos offer rich detail and mature processing, but the corners are soft and fuzzy. The images lack contrast and the colors are somewhat muted by default.
The 1080p video samples came out with average detail and low quality audio.
If the camera is more important than design and memory expansion, then the Xiaomi Mi 4c is a good place to start exploring the competition. Ordinary looks with better image quality pretty much sums it up.
The Redmi Note 3 has a bigger screen and metal body, but a similarly mediocre camera performance. Its main asset is the extra screen real estate.
The OnePlus X costs about the same as the Mi 4s a couple of months after launch and the ceramic black version is probably even hotter – though in fairness, more expensive. You’ll get enough processing punch out of Snapdragon 801 but the Oneplus X’s camera is uninspiring.
The HTC One A9 is more expensive than the Xiaomi Mi 4s, yet it can’t offer anything superior but an AMOLED panel. We like its 4MP UltraPixel selfie camera, so it has that going for it. If these sound enough to justify the extra $100, then you should check it out.
HTC One A9
The Sony Xperia M5 is a bit more expensive but it adds water-protection to those pretty looks. The IP68 rating is a tough one to beat and the M5 is also a very capable performer, with quite the camera package (21MP rear and 13MP front).
Sony Xperia M5 • Sony Xperia M5 Dual
Finally, the Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) is a real treat with a 5.2″ Super AMOLED screen and capable hardware. It does great at taking pictures outdoors, and it also posted an excellent battery rating. TouchWiz isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but MUIU isn’t either.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
The Xiaomi Mi 4s is easily likable, especially if you are a fan. Even unbiased users should be able to appreciate the attention to detail and the premium looks Xiaomi are offering at a reasonable price. Not to mention that the 64 gigs worth of inbuilt storage along with a memory card slot coe as standard. Maybe the Mi 4s wasn’t just shadowing the flagship at the MWC after all. We guess we can take it as a sign that Xiaomi can sustain their recent good run.
The Razer BlackWidow X Chroma has responsive mechanical switches, great software and solid performance, but its unique design can make typing a challenge.
With its mice and keyboards, Razer tends to refine rather than redesign. The BlackWidow X Chroma ($160) is a perfect example of this strategy in action, as it’s essentially just the BlackWidow Chroma keyboard, but with a redesigned metallic faceplate. The keyboard’s strengths are still present: decent mechanical switches, great software and solid performance. Its unique design can get in the way of typing, though, and while it knocks $10 off the asking price, the X doesn’t add much beyond aesthetics.
If you’re familiar with the BlackWidow line of keyboards, the X is simply a variation on it. Like the standard BlackWidow line, the X comes in your choice of full-size, tenkeyless or full-size plus a row of macro keys. (We reviewed the full-size model, no macro keys.) Where it differs from the more traditional peripheral is in its face plate.
While BlackWidow keyboards have, up until now, used a plastic plate that hid the lower half of the keycaps, the X takes a much more stripped-down approach. The faceplate is made of metal, with an extremely low profile. You can see every keycap and the root of the switch underneath, like row upon row of shark teeth. It’s a cool look that’s not too aggressive or obnoxious. The BlackWidow X Chroma has a very industrial, art deco feel to it, and I’ll take a distinctive design over a boring one any day.
In terms of size and weight, it’s the same as the regular BlackWidow Chroma: 17.6 x 7.5 inches and about 3 pounds. As full-size keyboards go, it’s neither huge nor compact. Like other Razer keyboards, it has no built-in wrist rest, which helps save space, but doesn’t offer much wrist support.
Like other BlackWidow keyboards, the X Chroma gives you a choice between clackety Razer Green and quiet Razer Orange switches. We reviewed the Green model, and found the keys pleasantly responsive and noisy, as always. They don’t quite measure up to industry-standard Cherry MX switches, but Razer does have some promising news on that front. Within the next few months, Razer will start to offer BlackWidow keyboards with Cherry MX Blue switches. If you dig the BlackWidow’s general design but wish it had slightly better keys, you’ll just need to hold off for a bit.
While the BlackWidow X Chroma is impressive from a design perspective, its distinctive style can be a double-edged sword. The deeper keycaps mean there’s more of a gulf between keys. The metal faceplate means that the keyboard sits heavily on a desk, and often feels cold to the touch.
Typing is not as comfortable as I’m accustomed to, and it showed. On a standard Dell office keyboard, I scored an adjusted 113 words per minute, while on the Razer BlackWidow X Chroma, I scored 108, even after a few attempts to help me adjust. While the keys were incredibly responsive, it also seemed a little easier to hit an adjacent key by accident, since the faceplate was too deep to stop my finger from accidentally tapping two keys.
The performance was fantastic across the board, as I’ve come to expect from Razer products.
Given some time with the BlackWidow X, I’m sure I could adjust to its quirks. But for experienced touch typists, prepare for a few hurdles thrown your way.
The BlackWidow X Chroma eschews the USB pass-through from the standard BlackWidow models, but beyond that, it has everything you’d expect from a full-size keyboard. The Ultimate variation has five extra macro keys, while the Tournament edition is tenkeyless. Beyond that, there’s full RGB illumination, at least in the Chroma version — other variations possess just one color, or no lighting at all.
Speaking for the Chroma, at least, the backlighting is beautiful. Razer’s Chroma devices offer 16.8 million colors, and they look particularly rich without the plastic faceplate to get in the way. The metal plate reflects the colors and gives them a deep, vibrant appearance. Changing them, and adding fun effects like rainbow waves and rotating colors, is also quite simple using the Razer Synapse 2.0 software.
You can see every keycap and the root of the switch underneath, like row upon row of shark teeth.
The Razer Synapse 2.0 has consistently been one of the best gaming peripheral software packages on the market, and it’s still riding high. The program makes it very easy to program macros, change lighting or reprogram any one of the keys to any keyboard or mouse function you desire. You can also create unique profiles for each game (great for changing colors on a game-by-game basis), or activate and deactivate a “game mode” to disable Alt-Tab and other interruptions.
The software is both competent and comprehensive, and if you buy a Chroma model, you’re sure to encounter some gorgeous illumination, too.
I put the BlackWidow X Chroma through its paces with Star Wars: Battlefront, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Star Wars: The Old Republic. The performance was fantastic across the board, as I’ve come to expect from Razer products.
As an all-purpose keyboard, the BlackWidow X Chroma didn’t favor any particular genre. (Those who purchase the Ultimate might have a bit of an easier time with massively multiplayer online games, thanks to the extra macro keys.) Guiding Lara Croft up a perilous mountain was just as much fun as gunning down Snowtroopers or exploring an abandoned Protoss temple. No matter what I did, the keys were responsive and easy to reach.
While the keys were incredibly responsive, it also seemed a little easier to hit an adjacent key by accident.
Given that Razer’s mechanical switches are both durable and comfortable, it’s hard to think of a gaming genre that wouldn’t benefit from them. The BlackWidow X Chroma is about on a par with any other mechanical gaming keyboard, but miles and miles ahead of a membrane model.
The BlackWidow X Chroma is one of the coolest-looking keyboards I’ve reviewed. It’s also intuitive and a little cheaper than its standard counterpart, but what you gain in savings, you may lose in typing proficiency. I found that the low-profile metal design impeded my typing, and didn’t feel as comfortable as the admittedly less attractive plastic plate. Still, it’s hard to argue with responsive switches, gorgeous backlighting and fantastic performance. The BlackWidow X Chroma is worth a gander from any PC gamer looking for a new keyboard, but bear in mind that it’s an optional variant, not an evolutionary step.
The average speeding ticket in the U.S. costs about $150, so if you’re willing to shell out hundreds more on a radar detector to avoid them, it’d better be a good one. In recent years, high-end detectors have added digital signal processing (DSP), directional technology, and smartphone connectivity to increase their potency, and the unit I’ve been testing over the last few weeks — the Escort Max 360 — incorporates all those features and more.
With an MSRP of $649.95 though, it could be a hard purchase to rationalize for those who don’t take driving lessons from Dominic Toretto or Frank Bullitt. More importantly, its main rival, the Valentine One, can be had for significantly less coin. Is it worth it? To answer that question, let’s break down what the 360 has to offer in terms of capabilities.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
The device is rated for X, K, Ka, Ka-POP, and laser signals, and with its dual antenna setup, it can scan for them in every direction. Combined with its digital hardware, Escort’s flagship reacts very quickly and at an impressive range. It’s essentially the same DSP chip used in the Escort Max2, so while the product’s core functions probably won’t shock longtime fans of the brand, its full-circle awareness and directional tech just might.
As you may have guessed by its name, the star of the show is the 360’s arrow indicator. Simply put, it helps drivers figure out exactly where the 5-0 is coming from, allowing them to act quickly and ignore weak, stationary signals. This is actually the first Escort commodity to boast this type of technology, as Valentine held a patent on arrow indicators until 2011.
In addition, the high-priced Max equips GPS-enabled Autolearn, a system that files and rejects false alerts over time, as well as a pre-loaded “Defender” database of red light and speed camera locations. That’s not all though, because like many of its rivals, the Max has its own app that allows all the lead foots in your community to share speed trap information, real-time radar activity, and local speed limit data.
WELL … DOES IT WORK?
The Max 360 is clearly filled to the brim with gizmos, but the name of the game here is functionality, so my first point of evaluation was the Autolearn function. Why? Frankly, it seemed like the feature most likely to fall flat on its face, but potentially one of the most valuable for metropolitan customers. After attaching the suction cup bracket to my windshield and sliding the unit onto its magnetic mount, I was on my way.
The Escort Live app notifies you of local threats in real time.
My first test took me to the closest strip mall, which have historically been a major pain in the sides of detector users due to their motion-sensing doors and frivolous radar emissions. On my first pass, the Escort sang the song of its people loudly and proudly, but as I continued to drive by over the coming days, the alerts went away completely. It had learned. The Escort also allows you to lock out signals manually, which I took advantage of as I rolled by my local police station. Sure enough, the 360 remembered my inputs the next time around, reducing alert level down to a silent gray popup on the screen. If you drive in the city or other crowded areas often, you will absolutely love these features.
In terms of the essentials, the Max 360’s accuracy, range, and overall filtration abilities are exactly what you’d expect from a range-topping radar detector; it just works incredibly well. Like in the Max2, DSP sifts through heavily-saturated radar bands to locate those specifically used by law enforcement, ignoring background noise for a pleasant, largely uninterrupted ride.
If there’s one drawback with regard to performance, it’s ironically the arrows. The tech is very useful in a general sense, but the arrows respond relatively slowly when the position of threat changes. For example, when I passed a known speed trap on a cold Wednesday morning, it took a couple seconds for the arrow to switch from “ahead” to “behind.” The OLED display is a noticeable improvement over the Valentine’s LED red light tree however, as it can change color relative to the radar band being used.
As is the trend, the Max 360 uses Bluetooth to link itself to smartphones, giving users access to a community-based ticket protection program called Escort Live. Like Cobra’s iRadar system, Escort Live is a free app for Android and Apple Devices, one that notifies you of nearby alerts, red light camera locations, local speed limit data, and even your own over-speed violations.
Overall, it’s a very simple application to use — swipe left to report a risky area, tap to mute, and swipe right to lock out. Waze is still a better option for its large user base alone, but the ability to interface detector and phone gets major convenience points. Another thing to note is that while the Escort Live app is free, access to the Defender database will cost you $19.95 per year. As for the Valentine? There is a third-party YaV1 app available, but it only works on Android phones, and it doesn’t offer community connectivity like Escort Live does. Point goes to Escort.
In short, if a radar detector is must-have equipment and cost is of little consequence, this is the one to buy. Aside from a badge or spectacular flirtation skills, the Max 360 is best way to avoid a ticket, and even though it costs significantly more than the ol’ V1, it’s a much more modern, intuitive, and connected way to protect yourself.
Yes, the average ticket may only cost $150 or so, but as any stoplight racer will tell you, that can add up quick. So if you’re looking to avoid the constabulary altogether, opt for a radar detector that can literally watch your back.
Terrific on its own, even better with the Super Black Box upgrade, the V 80 SE is one of the best integrated amplifiers we’ve heard
Even, detailed and entertaining presentation
Plenty of control and composure
Articulate and informative
Charging £150/$225 extra for a remote seems mean spirited
Octave Audio is a new name to us here at What Hi-Fi?, but the company’s heritage goes back over 40 years to when its founder, Andreas Hofmann, first started developing amplifiers.
After spending time with this German unit we can’t help feeling that it’s a shame we’ve waited so long to review an Octave product, because the V 80 SE is terrific.
It’s a valve amplifier for those that don’t want the fuss of valve amps, without sacrificing the sound quality potential of the much-loved technology.
The engineering team’s starting point for the V 80 SE design was to take a look at the traditional weaknesses of valve-based amps and try to eradicate them. The list of weak points included short tube life, limited power output, poor compatibility and high distortion.
Octave also wanted to make owning this amplifier as painless as any transistor alternative.
It’s a tall order, but we think the brand has succeeded, helped in large part by the use of a sophisticated control system that not only ensures the power valves – a quartet of KT150s – aren’t put under any undue strain on start-up, but also makes routine adjustments such as biasing easy.
Typically, as a valve is used its electrical characteristics alter, which means the amount of electricity flow it requires for optimal performance changes. On a conventional product it’s a relatively simple periodic adjustment, but still involves prodding around the circuit board with mains electricity and thousands of volts in close proximity.
Understandably, the idea of this is unlikely to appeal to many people. Octave has made things easy with a LED-based system where all adjustments can be made using a small screwdriver from the front panel. Nice.
Octave tackles the compatibility, distortion and power issues with a carefully considered Pentode circuit backed up with high quality output transformers. The sound of a valve amplifier is heavily dependent on the capability of its output transformer.
Octave designs and builds these transformers in-house, giving it a huge advantage over rivals that buy these components in from OEM suppliers.
The result is a claimed power output of 100W per channel into 8ohms, which is deeply impressive for an all-valve design, and significantly more than normally produced by valve integrateds we’ve reviewed.
The V 80 SE’s circuit is flexible and it’s possible to switch out the KT 150 power amp valves for alternatives such as KT88s, 6550s and KT100s if you wish, though the power output will be reduced.
As expected at this level, the company has paid a great deal of attention to getting the power supply right. This starts from enclosing the mains transformer in a magnetically shielded housing (and potted with resin), and extends to extensive filtering with dedicated feeds to the different valve sections. It’s all done to minimise noise – mechanical, electrical and magnetic – and reduce sonic distortion.
Move away from the innards and there’s plenty to admire in the casework. While the appearance certainly isn’t to all tastes, there’s no denying it is beautifully made, with neat, crisp edges and a feeling of solidity.
The positive action of the control dials, with a nicely damped precision and satisfying heft, reinforces this impression. It adds up to a product that feels like it’ll last decades, which it should do at this price.
We mostly like the simple metal remote – a nicely sized wand with just two buttons to control volume. We have complaints though. Firstly, if you want one you’ll have to pay £150/$225 on top of the V 80 SE’s hefty price, which seems ridiculous, and secondly, the volume buttons feel a touch vague.
But elsewhere, Octave has been generous with the features. There’s a plentiful supply of line level connections, including balanced XLR, as well as an optional moving coil phono module (add £550/$825) for those that need it. Unusually, the company also makes it easy to split the pre and power sections of this amplifier – just turn the small dial on the right to Extern(al) – making it simple to upgrade either section, though good luck in finding something notably superior.
It’s also unusual to find a headphone output on a valve amp. The V 80 SE doesn’t use a valve-powered circuit though; instead the company has come up with a dedicated solid-state module that will suit headphones with impedances between 30 and 2000 ohms (that’s the vast majority). There’s a small toggle on the back that switches the headphone circuit on. It’s a shame the 6.3mm output is hidden awkwardly between the chunky speaker terminals. This makes it hard to get to.
Look carefully at the back panel and you’ll also see a connector for Octave’s Black Box upgrades. There are two versions – the standard (£910/$1,365) and the Super (£2,395/$3.593) we have on test here. In simple terms they add extra capacitance to the V 80 SE’s power supply.
The basic one increases the storage capacity by a factor of four while the premium option takes that up to a factor of 10. We have to say, on paper at least, those prices look eye-wateringly steep, but as ever, we listen with an open mind.
Octave wants this amplifier to be reliable. There’s a built-in control system that manages the current flow through the circuit, so if you do something like switch the V 80 SE on and off quickly – a no-no with valve products because it puts serious strain on the components – the system will control the current flow to ensure that they’re not unduly stressed. More valve stress means a shorter life and less reliability.
There’s also an Ecomode that switches off the valve circuitry if the amplifier is left unused for more than 10 minutes.
This not only preserves valve life – typically around five years for the KT150s and 10 years for the smaller ones (ECC81/2xECC82) – but drops power consumption to 30W down from 180W under normal conditions. It’s a good idea and the first time we’ve seen this feature on a product such as this.
We used our usual reference set-up for this test, comprising Naim’s NDS/555PS streamer, Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable package/Rega Aria phono stage and ATC SCM50 speakers. The V80 SE worked wonderfully in this system.
If you’re expecting the stereotypical warm valve sound here you’re going to be disappointed. The V 80 SE just doesn’t do that. It isn’t overtly rich or smooth and certainly doesn’t have the lush quality many people still associate with such amplifiers.
Instead, this is a neutral-sounding amplifier that has plenty of punch and impressive control over bass frequencies. If it weren’t so fluid and free of hard edges you’d be hard pushed to detect any valve-like tendencies at all.
We start off with Nick Cave’s As I Sat Sadly By Her Side and love what the Octave does. It’s responsive and articulate, revealing nuances in Cave’s rich, characterful voice as well as anything else we’ve heard at this price. There’s so much detail here, from the layered harmonic richness of the backing piano to the deep, beautifully textured lows.
There’s also plenty of authority and a pleasing solidity to the presentation. The amplifier conveys the momentum of the music well, keeping it moving with a lovely deliberate gait.
That ability to render rhythms is even more obvious when we take a listen to Janet Jackson’s If. Here the Octave delivers a wall of sound with plenty of attack and drive. There’s no shortage of composure here or the ability to keep things organised even when it’s easier to let them be messy. Through it all Jackson’s vocals come through with clarity and attitude.
We move onto something larger scale in the form of Beethoven’s bombastic Fifth Symphony. Here the Octave responds with entertaining presentation packed with strong dynamics and plenty of authority.
Detail levels are high and we’re impressed by its ability to keep low-level instrumental strands audible even when things get complicated. Instrumental timbres are convincing, as is the sound staging, which is nicely layered and expansive.
Remember that Super Black Box upgrade? It’s simply a matter of connecting the Box’s umbilical lead into the V 80 SE. The Box itself doesn’t need to be plugged into the mains. It may cost a huge £2,395/$3,593, but the difference it makes to the already excellent performance of this amplifier justifies that outlay.
The presentation becomes even more open and precise. There’s extra authority, greater scale and the low-end gains weight, punch and power without losing articulation. The standard amplifier is terrific, but this upgrade takes things to another level.
If we were considering the V 80 SE we would definitely buy the Super Black Box too, even if we saved up for it at a later date. It’s that good.
The V 80 SE shouldn’t be seen as just a great valve amp. It’s a simply a great amplifier that happens to use valves. It fits into most systems with ease and has a range of features that puts most rivals to shame.
Add excellent build and fuss-free usability combined with a ready-made upgrade path and you have a superb buy.
Octave isn’t particularly well known in the UK, but if this amplifier is any guide we hope the brand gets the recognition it deserves.
In this article, I’ll compare the Canon EOS Rebel 1300D / T6 vs 1200D / T5, T6i / 750D and Nikon D3300 (most popular DSLR camera on amazon.com as of the time of writing, so I added it to this comparison as well).
All of these cameras are entry-level compact DSLR cameras. Before we start learning more about the new T6 and compare it against the other cameras, let’s first take a look at the current prices for each one.
T6i / 750D (+ 18-55mm): ~$750
T6 / 1300D (+ 18-55mm): ~$550
Nikon D3300 (+ 18-55mm): ~$450
T5 / 1200D (+ 18-55mm): ~$400
* rounded up prices via amazon.com as of 3/24/2016. Visit amazon.com for updates prices.
As you can see from the above price comparison table, the T6i/750 is an upper entry-level model and costs around $350 more than the T5 and $200 more than the new Canon Rebel T6. The T6 is around $150 more expensive than its predecessor, the T5. Keep in mind that all these prices are for the 18-55mm kit because as of the time of writing, the T6 / 1300D is only offered as a kit and not body only, so I compared it against other kits.
Canon Rebel T6 / EOS 1300D
OK, now it’s time to learn more about the new T6 and see if there is anything to get excited about. The Canon T6 is aimed at beginners, but it also a good fit for enthusiasts on a very tight budget, photographers who prefer spending most of the budget on an extra lens or a better lens than the kit offering. It also a good choice for travelers either want to travel relatively light and prefer a small DSLR body, they are on a tight budget, they prefer to leave their more expensive pro DSLR at home or they are on a tight budget and this is the best they can buy at that moment.
The Canon EOS 1300D / T6 replaces the T5, but boasts relatively minor differences, including faster processor, higher resolution display, ‘White priority’ White Balance mode, food scene mode, as well as WiFi and NFC wireless connectivity. The T6 uses the same 18-megapixel image sensor, AF system, video capabilities and all the other features of the T5. No that that wireless connectivity is a nice addition because it makes it easier to transfer your images and videos to your smartphone. It’s very useful for travelers who might opt for capturing photos with their smartphone, but now that it’s easy to shoot with a DSLR and share images, they might prefer to shoot with a DSLR for its better image quality, low-light performance, lens selection and the ability to create photos with very shallow depth of field effect.
On the outside, the T6/1300D looks almost identical to the T5/1200D, with some cosmetic change and it looks less rounded and it’s now more streamlines with the other cameras in the lineup.
Canon T6 vs T5 side by side size comparison
In my opinion, one of the most important addition is the Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. NFC makes it easier for people to bind their smartphone or tablet device with the camera. It also makes it easier to bind the T with the Connection Station C5100 device if you have it at home.
The T6 can also capture very high-quality photos in low light and has a native ISO 100-6400 range, which can also be expanded up to ISO 12800 when shooting in very limited light conditions. Just attack a fast prime lens on it (e.g. 50mm f/1.4), and you’ll able to shoot in almost any light conditions.
So although there isn’t anything overwhelmy excited to talk about when we compare it to the T5, on its own, the T6 is a great little camera. It can take gorgeous pictures in low-light, it is relatively small and lightweight (check out camerasize.com and compare it versus other DSLR cameras), it has wireless connectivity,3-inch 920K high-resolution display, good ergonomics and buttons that offers quick access to change camera settings, built-in pop-up flash, 3fps burst, 1080p30/24fps video recording and optical viewfinder. As I mentioned, it’s a beginner’s camera, if you need more, you’ll need to check out Canon’s more expensive entry-level models or pick up a mid-range DSLR.
T6 1300D vs T5 1200D vs T6i 750D vs D3300
As I mentioned before, the Canon EOS 1300D/Revel T6 can appeal to a very large audience, but it’s mainly aimed for beginners and enthusiasts on a very tight budget. People who pick this camera are those who appreciate the advantages of a DSLR camera in general, prefer a DSLR over mirrorless for its better battery life (you can shoot only via the viewfinder, which saved battery) and those who prefer Canon’s lens selection.
Canon T6, T5, T6i and Nikon D3300 cameras side by side
Canon Rebel T6 /
EOS 1300D /
Canon Rebel T5 /
EOS 1200D /
Canon Rebel T6i /
EOS 750D /
March 10, 2016
February 12, 2014
February 6, 2015
January 7, 2014
Aluminum alloy chassis, composite exterior
Carbon fibre plastic composite
None of the cameras have weathersealing protection.
22.3 × 14.9 mm (APS-C)
22.3 × 14.9 mm (APS-C)
22.3 x 14.9 mm (APS-C)
23.5×15.6 mm (APS-C)
Both the D3300 and 750D have the same sensor resolution, higher than the T5 and T6. The D3300 is the only camera among the three that lacks an optical low-pass filter, which should help the D3300 produce sharper and more detailed image, but at the cost of more visible moire in certain type of scenes.
100 – 6400
100 – 6400
100 – 12800
Hi-1 25,600 (extended)
Both the 750D/T6i and D3300 have a broader ISO range of one stop compared to the T5 and T6.
The new Rebel T6 features an updated image processor. According to Wikipedia, Canon claims that the new DIGIC 4+ processor is 60% faster than the original DIGIC 4 processor.
The DIGIC 6 has improved low-light and AF performance, provides 60p at Full HD movie recording as well as improved stabilization. In 2016 Canon has introduced the DIGIC 7, used in the PowerShot G7 X Mark II, but it’s not used in the T6.
9 AF points (1 cross type center)
9 AF points (one center cross-type AF point)
Hybrid CMOS III
19 AF points (all cross-type – f/2.8 at center)
Range: EV -0.5 -18
Nikon Multi-CAM 1000
11 point AF (1 cross type center)
Range: EV -1 -19
The Canon T6i has the most advanced AF system for Live View and video recording compared to the other three. It uses Canon’s latest Hybrid CMOS III which has proven to be super fast and very accurate for subject tracking.
Regarding stills, the T6i has more AF points and all of them are cross-type, which provide the camera with more accurate subject tracking performance. All the other cameras have 1 AF point which is cross type.
Spot: 3.5% of frame
Range: EV 1-20
Spot: 2.5% of frame
Range: EV 0-20 (Matrix or center-weighted)
EV 2-20 (Spot metering)
The Canon rebel T6i has a much more advanced light metering sensor, which is new to the Rebel series. It uses IR color info to further optimize the accuracy of the light metering sensor.
It also helps the camera focus faster and more accurately.
30 – 1/4000 sec
30 – 1/4000 sec
30 – 1/4000 sec
30 – 1/4000 sec
The Canon EOS 750D has the best display among the four, it has the highest resolution, it’s vari-angle and the camera offers touch operation via the touchscreen.
Buffer size: 940 JPEG / 8 RAW
Buffer size: 100 JPEG / 6 RAW
640×424 pixels 30fps
The Nikon D3300 is the only camera among the four that offers Full HD video recording at 60 progressive frames, as well as 30p and 24p that the other camera offers. Both the D3300 and the 750D have mic input, the T6 and T5 lacks this feature.
The 750D / T6i however has the biggest advantage, and that its Hybrid CMOS III AF system, which means that the camera utilizes phase-detection pixels and the information from the contrast-detection sensor (aka Hybrid AF) to provide photographers with much faster and more accurate subject tracking performance and better AF performance when shooting movies or capturing stills in Live View.
Wi-fi / NFC
Optional (via Eyefi card)
Wi-fi / NFC
Optional (WU-1a wireless mobile adapter)
Both the T6 and T6i have built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, which is essential if you want to effortlessly share your images with friends on social networks or just transfer them to your phone for later use or for backup.
The Nikon D3300 and the T5 lack a built-in wireless connectivity, but you have optional accessories that you can buy to enable this feature.
The D3300 has really impressive battery life for its size.
129 x 101 x 78 mm (5.08 x 3.98 x 3.07″)
130 x 100 x 78 mm (5.12 x 3.94 x 3.07″)
132 x 101 x 78 mm (5.2 x 3.98 x 3.07″)
124 x 98 x 76 mm (4.88 x 3.86 x 2.99″)
485 g (1.07 lb / 17.11 oz)
480 g (1.06 lb / 16.93 oz)
555 g (1.22 lb / 19.58 oz)
430 g (0.95 lb / 15.17 oz)
As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Canon Rebel T6 / EOSD 1300D adds only little compared to its predecessor the T5 / 1200D. You get a newer processor, a new ‘white priority’ WB mode that helps produce more neutral color in tungesten lighting, there is the new food scene mode, higher resolution display, Wi-Fi / NFC and a slight cosmetic change to the camera shell. Is it worth an extra $150, I’m not sure.
Having Wireless connectivity is very useful nowadays, but you can always transfer your images after you come back home. If it’s a camera for traveling, it might be more important, because you’ll want to share some images the moment you take them, rather after you get back to the hotel.
I think that this announcement is better for the T5, because the price will probably get lower in the upcoming weeks after the T6 is released. The Canon Rebel T6i / EOS 750D is more advanced. It has better build quality, broader native ISO range, faster processor, much more advanced AF system, slightly larger Viewfinder, faster burst, articulating touch-screen display, mic input to improve video’s audio quality. It’s better for those who demand better AF performance for both still and videos and also plan to shoot many videos with it – it’s an excellent Hybrid camera.
The Nikon D3300 is one of my favorites entry-level DSLRs. It’s behind the T6i in terms of AF performance, but it’s AF system has a slightly broader sensitivity range. It offers 1080p 60fps, which the other camera lack and has a great battery life. It does lack built-in wireless connectivity, there is no mic input, it has a smaller buffer than the T6i, it lacks an articulating touch-screen display as the T6i and it features less advanced light metering sensor.
That being said, it costs around $300 less than the T6o/750D. I know many people who would prefer to put that extra money in an extra lens and be fully satisfied with what the D3300 has to offer. If you don’t need a strong video features nor a super fast subject-tracking performance, the D3300 is an excellent alternative. This is one reason why the D3300 is so popular. It’s an excellent camera for beginners and even enthusiasts on tight budget. When I bought the D3300 I purcahsed it with the 18-55mm and 70-300mm lenses, and I had a blast with it. Image quality is superb, and if you plan to shoot in low-light, get a fast prime, but image quality is amazing nevertheless.
Price wise, the D3300 still holds its place strong. It cost around $100 less than T6, but in some areas it’s even better than the T6. It has larger viewfinder, faster burst, mic input, better battery life, more AF points, broader ISO range and higher sensor resolution. Like Canon, The D3300 does lack wireless connectivity, which might make it less attractive for those who need this feature.
So the T6 does have something to offer and it does fills up the gap in Canon’s lineup, while enjoying updated features that makes it more attractive to potential customers, that until now might opted to go with the D3300 instead of the T5.
Chevrolet isn’t messing around with the Camaro. The sixth-generation model is the best yet. We even named the Camaro SS the Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2016. Next up is the most powerful Camaro ever.
At the new York International Auto Show, Chevrolet showed both the 2017 Camaro ZL1 coupe and convertible.
Featuring the familiar supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 found in the Corvette Z06 and Cadillac CTS-V, the ZL1 packs a staggering 640 horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque. That means the ZL1 has 60 more horses than its fifth-generation predecessor, which held the title of most powerful Camaro until now. It’s also 200 pounds lighter, thanks to the tauter chassis of the sixth-generation Camaro’s Alpha platform.
But that’s not all the powertrain news. In addition to the standard 6-speed manual transmission with rev matching, the ZL1 will offer a new 10-speed automatic transmission that General Motors developed with Ford.
We don’t have performance numbers yet, but expect the car to be significantly quicker than the previous ZL1, which ran the quarter mile in the 11s.
There’s loads of technology that should ensure that the car is not just quick in a straight line. The list includes magnetic ride control, an electronic limited-slip differential, performance-oriented traction control, launch control, and a driving modes selector. That’s in addition to extensive testing at the Nürburgring, among other tracks.
The car also gets massive Brembo brakes with six-piston calipers at the front and four-piston calipers at the rear. These reside within 20-inch wheels shod with Goodyear Eagle F1 tires measuring 285/30 at the front and 305/30 in the rear.
Exterior features include a large front splitter, wider front fenders, and a rear wing spoiler. Underbody aero elements help cut through the air, while cooling is aided by the “Flowtie” open front grille and a functional heat extractor in the hood.
Inside, there’s a pair of Recaro bucket seats and a flat-bottom steering wheel lined in suede. Pricing and performance figures should be announced as we approach the on-sale date later this year.
Won’t work with older laptops; Can’t handle certain monitor combinations; No USB Type-C port
The Dell WD15 Docking Station provides 4K or dual-monitor output over USB Type-C, but competing machines offer more versatility for less money.
Since 2015, we’ve seen a few laptops and tablets that can charge over USB Type-C, and we expect that number to grow exponentially in the coming months and years. The $199.99 Dell WD15 is one of the first universal docking stations to provide power, 4K video output and a host of connectivity options over USB Type-C. Unlike competitors such as the Plugable USB-C Triple Display Docking Station, which uses DisplayLink compression technology, Dell’s dock takes advantage of USB Type-C’s new Alt Mode to send video directly from your laptop’s GPU. The WD15 offers a solid dual 1080p monitor (or single 4K monitor) experience at your desk, but you can’t pair it with a non-USB Type-C laptop, and its DisplayPort connector won’t output at the highest resolution.
The Dell WD15 Docking Station doesn’t want to be noticed. It’s a rounded black rectangle that sits horizontally on your desk. At 6.1 x 4.3 x 0.83 inches, it takes up a bit of space, but unlike Plugable’s USB-C Triple Display Docking Station, which only stands vertically, you can keep the WD15 under your monitors or below your laptop.
The solid-black top of the dock is adorned only with a reflective black Dell logo. A button on the top corner turns your laptop on and off, but it seems unnecessary because you can already do that from the laptop itself. The bottom features nonslip material to keep the WD15 from sliding around your desk when you plug peripherals into it. The laptop’s built-in DisplayPort over USB Type-C cable juts out of the left to plug into (and charge) your laptop. You’ll have to supply the rest of your own cables.
The 130-watt power brick is sizable and almost two-thirds the size of the dock itself. Comparatively, Plugable’s brick is about the size of your average laptop charger. If you keep it behind or under your desk, though, you won’t even notice it. If your laptop requires more power than the brick provides, you’ll need to plug your laptop into both the wall and the dock.
The WD15 has a lot of ports, but it’s still missing a few of our favorites. On the back of the dock, you’ll find an HDMI port, a mini DisplayPort, a VGA port, an Ethernet jack, two USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port, a 3.5mm audio jack and the power port. A Kensington lock slot is on the side, and two USB 3.0 ports and a headphone/mic combination jack are on the front.
I wish that the mini DisplayPort were a full-size DisplayPort jack that didn’t require an adapter, and I would have preferred having a DVI port to a VGA one, like Plugable’s USB-C dock has. Most odd, though, is the decision to attach the DisplayPort over USB-C cable to the dock, which won’t let users replace it if something happens to it. I would have preferred a USB-C port and cable, like what Plugable offers. Without the USB-C port, I was unable to try using a USB Type-C-to-USB-Type-A adapter with an older laptop. If your laptop doesn’t have a USB Type-C port, you’re out of luck.
When the WD15 worked, it worked well, but setup was finicky. The dock can support either one 4K monitor or two full-HD monitors. We usually try our docks on dual 4K monitors, which downscale to a resolution supported by the dock. However, the WD15 couldn’t support two 4K monitors, even at lower resolutions. Unlike most other universal docking stations, Dell’s dock doesn’t use DisplayLink technology. Instead, it employs USB Type-C’s alternate mode to send a video signal directly from your GPU to the dock.
We hooked up the WD15 to a Dell XPS 13 Gold Edition, a 1080p TV via HDMI and a 4K monitor via VGA at a resolution of 2048 x 1152. Supporting the dock and monitors took just 3 percent of the CPU and 2.5GB of RAM with no programs running.
I played some 4K video on the display while taking the 10fastfingers.com typing test on the TV, and found that performance didn’t stutter at all. The video was smooth, and I managed to type at my average rate of 100 wpm with a 2 percent error rate, and experienced no lag.
I tried swapping out the VGA for a mini DisplayPort cable and found that it didn’t play nice. No matter how I hooked up the monitors, the DisplayPort would only work on its own. It powered monitors at 2560 x 1440, but not in tandem with either VGA or HDMI cables. That isn’t something consumers should have to think about with their dock; it should be plug and play.
The alternative is to use just one display at 4K with the HDMI cable. In this setup, we had similar experiences with typing and video watching.
Due out later this spring, Plugable’s $179 USB-C Triple Display Docking Station was far less fussy in our tests. The DisplayLink chip inside handled three monitors at once (via two HDMI cables and DVI), one of which output at full 4K.
The Dell WD15 Docking Station is a strong performer, once you get the right combination of monitors to get it up and running. Its issue with balancing 4K monitors and lack of a USB Type-C port for adapters to use with older laptops mean that, while the dock is aiming to be future-proof, it’s still a little hard to use today. Plugable’s upcoming USB-C Triple Display Docking Station offers a better and cheaper solution, powering up to three monitors, one of which can be 4K, for $20 less.
Huawei has had a busy few months, not only joining the Nexus programme with the excellent Nexus 6P, but also launching the great Huawei Mate S with a pressure sensitive display and more recently boosting its phablet line with the Mate 8.
Of all the mobile companies out there, Huawei is one of the most ambitious, quietly seeking domination, raising its brand profile through sponsorship, like that of Arsenal, as well as releasing some half decent phones. Oh, and making money, which some others are struggling to do.
However its conventional flagship hasn’t been its best phone. The P8 was good, but blighted by software woes. Could the Huawei P9 be the Chinese company’s crowning moment?
Huawei P9 release date and pricing
Huawei chose not to announce the P9 at Mobile World Congress. Instead, it is opting for a dedicated event that will take place in London. Evan Blass tweetedthat the launch date will be 6 April and this has since been confirmed after Huawei sent out invites for an event on this date simply saying “Change the way you see the world”.
At the top of the save the date is #OO, most likely nodding to the dual rearcamera of the P9 that was leaked consistently for several months and has also since been confirmed.
The Huawei P9 has appeared in all its variants online at Oppomart, a store specialising in China to US exports. Pricing was included with the P9 at $499, the P9 Max at $699 and the P9 Lite at $299.
Huawei P9 design
Huawei has been making waves for delivering quality design at a price that’s much more affordable than some rivals like HTC or Samsung. We saw that in the Mate S with its all-metal construction and the Mate 8 that followed, while the Nexus 6P and the recently announced MateBook tablet both opt for the metal path too.
A tweet from @stagueve in October 2015 suggested the design might put a dual lens camera on that rear. That idea has since been supported by several leaks including a couple from China’s Weibo, VentureBeat and more recently again from @stagueve showing the device in all its glory. Since the save the date came through hinting at this dual camera setup, Huawei has released an image confirming it – more on that in a minute.
Other rumours suggest a triplicate of handsets, the P9, the P9 Lite and the P9 Max. Evan Blass, writing for VentureBeat, said a fourth, feature-enhanced P9 will offer slightly larger screen, additional RAM and storage, improved camera, with dual lens, dual 12-megapixel cameras. It seems this fourth device could be called the P9 premium. Take this with a pinch of salt for now though as many of the other rumours refer to just the P9.
Huawei P9 display
Huawei’s recent launches have been notable for one reason: the Mate S and the Mate 8 have a Full HD display, sporting a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. The former, the Mate S, has a special edition that’s pressure sensitive and that could well be a feature of the P9 too.
According to a listing on Oppomart the P9 will have a 5.2-inch 1080p display, the P9 Max will have a 6.2-inch QHD display and the P9 Lite will have a 5-inch 1080p screen.
Some rumours have suggested the Huawei P9 will have a Quad HD display, 2560 x 1440 pixels with a 5.2-inch AMOLED panel however. The P9 Lite is said to be 5-inches, the P9 Max 6.8 inches. Huawei is no a stranger to Quad HDdisplays, as the Nexus 6P shows, so again, for a new flagship this is entirely plausible.
That said, Evan Blass, writing for VentureBeat, said none of the P9 variants will have Quad HD resolution. Apparently Huawei feels that the slight improvement in image quality is not worth the trade-off in power drain, meaning that the Nexus 6P will likely remain the only Huawei-built phone to offer a 1440 x 2560-pixel screen for some time.
It is thought at the moment the P9 will therefore arrive with a 5.2-inch display offering a Full HD resolution.
Huawei P9 specs and hardware
As for the internal hardware, Huawei likes to keep things in house. A number of rumours have pointed to a Kirin 950 chipset. That’s the same as the Mate 8 features, offering octo-core 64-bit power. It’s entirely likely that it will appear in the P9 too.
Oppomart lists the P9 with Kirin 950 octa-core and 3GB of LP-DDR4 RAM plus 32GB storage, the P9 Max with Kirin 955 octa-core and 4GB of LP-DDR4 RAMplus 64GB storage, and the P9 Lite with a Snapdragon 650 processor and 2GB of LP-DDR3 RAM plus 16GB storage. This also lists the P9 and P9 Max with3000mAh batteries but the P9 Lite with a 2500mAh battery.
Leaked benchmarks have suggested as much, although some rumours have also suggested the Kirin 955 chip will be present. Initially reported as having 4GB of RAM, recent reports have suggested it might have as much as 6GB.
One thing you can be sure of though is a fingerprint sensor on the rear, as shown in the latest VentureBeat images and @stagueve’s latest Tweet. The last few devices have given a great fingerprint scanner experience, with additional features, something we’d expect to see here. The VentureBeat images also show USB Type-C so if legitimate, you can also expect faster charging and data charging on the P9.
Huawei P9 cameras
Huawei has made a lot of noise about the cameras on its devices, cramming in a lot of features and functions, both on the front and rear. We’ve seen some great results too.
The invite for the 6 April event featured two circles that look like cameras and it read: “Change the way you see the world”. Since then, as we mentioned, Huawei officially released the image you can see above, confirming the dual cameras. The image also presents a glint of red which could be a nod to Huawei’s partnership with Leica for camera development.
The company recently announced a strategic partnership with iconic camera maker Leica, with a plan to “reinvent” smartphone photography. This joining of forces, along with the image above, could suggest the P9 might feature Leica lenses and imaging technology but neither company would confirm or deny this so we will have to wait and see for now.
An Oppomart listing shows the P9 and P9 Lite with a 12-megapixel dual OISrear camera, the P9 Max with 12-megapixel dual rear camera. Other rumours say there will be two 13-megapixel rear cameras, while some say two 12-megapixel dual-cameras on both the P9 and P9 Premium. Perhaps that’s justification for the 6GB of RAM.
However, Evan Blass writing on VentureBeat claims that the dual-lens version will be the fourth enhanced model, this time with second-gen dual lenses, improving over the Honor 6 Plus. For now, it is a wait and see game.
Huawei P9 software
Huawei like its own EMUI skin that sits over Android and we’d expect that to be fully lodged in place on the P9, but sitting over the top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
We’re not expecting huge changes to the software in the P9. Huawei changes just about every aspect of Android to put its own twist on things. There are some great additions for power saving, but some of the app additions and changes to icons undo the good work of stock Android.
Want to know more?
We’ll be keeping abreast of all the rumours in this article as they appear, so keep checking back for updates over the next few weeks.
Various backlight distractions with dark HDR scenes
Slightly complex picture settings
50-inch LCD TV with edge LED lighting
Native 4K resolution
Firefox OS smart system
Wide colour phosphors and ultra-bright panel
WHAT IS THE PANASONIC TX-50DX750?
The 50-inch TX-50DX750 is the first model I’ve tested from Panasonic’s 2016 selection of TVs. At £1,299/$1,948, it sits in the middle of the 4K/UHD range, below only the DX902 flagships and boldly designed DX802s. As well as carrying a native 4K resolution, it supports the new high dynamic range (HDR) format and Panasonic’s Firefox Smart TV interface.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
While the TX-50DX750 doesn’t boast the design flare of the easel-based Panasonic TX-50DX800 series I’ve previewed, it still combines a sharp, crisp look with a sprinkling of innovation.
The “sharpness” can be seen in the form of its extremely slim, angular design and its impressive metallic-looking light silver finish. The innovation comes from the “switch” leg design, which allows you to configure its two metallic desktop feet in no less than four different ways.
For starters, they can be attached right at the screen’s edges or close to the TV’s centre, depending on your preference and the width of the furniture on which your TV will sit.
But you can even choose which way round the feet are attached, forming either a near-complete half circle at the front of the TV with a subtler, straighter look to the rear, or vice versa.
Obviously, we’re not talking about a truly bespoke TV design solution here, but any sort of aesthetic flexibility is welcome at the TX-50DX750’s relatively mainstream (for a 50-inch 4K HDR TV) price point.
Connections on the TX-50DX750’s slim rear are pleasingly numerous. To begin there are four HDMIs, two of which are compatible with 60/50Hz 4K playback and the HDCP 2.2 protocols necessary for handshaking with modern 4K sources. There’s built-in Wi-Fi for accessing either multimedia stored on networked devices or Panasonic’s online services, plus three USBs for playing multimedia from USB storage devices or recording from the built-in Freeview HD tuner to a USB hard drive.
The TX-50DX750’s smart features are built on essentially the same Firefox operating system Panasonic introduced to such great effect in 2015.
Sensibly, Panasonic has decided to change very little about the Firefox OS. However, in the coming weeks it will apparently be introducing new ways to discover web apps and save them to your TV, while also offering a new “Send to TV” feature that will enable you to more easily share web content from Firefox for Android to a Firefox OS TV.
I was pleased to see that the 4K-capable version of Netflix and Amazon’s streaming apps are present and correct, and that the Amazon app plays Amazon’s HDR shows too. This suggests that the TX-50DX750 will play Netflix’s HDR streams when they eventually begin, although Panasonic doesn’t yet feel able to provide 100% confirmation of Netflix HDR compatibility.
Note that the TX-50DX750 doesn’t support Dolby Vision HDR, so it won’t play Dolby Vision streams from Amazon or Netflix, sticking instead to the standard HDR 10 streams.
One last key smart feature of the TX-50DX750 is its support for Freeview Play. This lets you access on-demand, catch-up TV content from all the main UK broadcast TV channels using a simple electronic programme guide (EPG) interface. With it you can scroll back through shows you’ve missed, as well as forward to upcoming programmes. This really is a neat addition for UK consumers.
The TX-50DX750 has a pretty potent set of picture specifications for a £1,300/$1,950 4K HDR TV. Admittedly, its LCD panel is lit by an edge LED array rather than the direct system that might have delivered the ultimate HDR experience. However, there is a degree of local dimming driving the edge LED engine to help it hopefully deliver the sort of localised lighting HDR pictures really need.
Panasonic has also managed to fit the TX-50DX750 with one of its powerful new Studio Master HCX video processing engines, complete with fine-tuning by Panasonic’s renowned Hollywood Laboratory.
This engine extends its tendrils into pretty much every part of the TV’s picture performance – and, as ever with Panasonic’s high-end TVs, its focus is on generating “accurate” pictures that should look as the director or cinematographer intended.
Another part of the TX-50DX750’s processing engine claims to deliver a pseudo-1,800Hz motion performance to ensure the screen’s 4K clarity doesn’t break down when there’s motion in the frame.
The fact that the TX-50DX750 supports only an 8-bit colour depth, rather than the 10-bit recommended for HDR playback, raises a question over whether the TV will really be able to deliver HDR pictures as directors intended them to look. However, Panasonic’s colour processing in recent years has been excellent, so the Studio Master HCX engine may be able to at least minimise the impact of the missing 10-bit support.
The lack of 10-bit colour depth precludes the TX-50DX750 from being able to claim compatibility with the Ultra HD Premium set of HDR recommendations introduced in January. Neither does the screen hit Ultra HD Premium’s 1,000-nit brightness requirement.
While this may prevent it from delivering a “pure” HDR performance, its combination of wide colour gamut phosphors and ultra-bright LCD panel design should still yield a clear HDR experience. In fact, the decision not to drive its edge LED array all the way to 1,000 nits may turn out to be a sensible one, given the difficulties involved with accurately controlling such lighting systems at such luminance levels.
A couple of final features worth mentioning are colour and contrast remastering processes designed to give standard dynamic range sources an HDR face lift if you so desire, and 3D playback.
Support for 3D is something of a rarity now that Samsung and Philips have both decided not to build 3D into their 2016 TVs. Note, though, that Panasonic doesn’t supply the necessary active shutter 3D glasses in the box, so you’ll need to factor in the cost of them with the TV.
The TX-50DX750 guides you through the initial setup stages with aplomb. It runs a short but effective interactive demo sequence to help you find your way around the Firefox operating system, even though Firefox is in fact so intuitive that you’ll require only need a bare minimum of help to learn the ropes.
Getting the best out of the TX-50DX750’s pictures is a more complicated process, however. This is in part due to the huge roster of picture setup tools included, and also because optimising the set’s HDR performance throws up a few tricky challenges.
One thing to get clear right away is that, unlike Samsung’s 2015 HDR TVs, the TX-50DX750 doesn’t dictate the picture settings it uses for HDR. It does instantly adjust each of its picture presets when it detects HDR – in particular, backlight and contrast are both pushed up to 100% – but you can change any setting you like. I’d suggest that there are a number of adjustments you may wish to make, beginning with the picture preset you use.
Each preset delivers quite a different HDR experience, although the only two that I really found myself torn between were Normal and True Cinema.
True Cinema is confirmed by Panasonic’s engineers as giving the most accurate HDR image, while the Normal setting in its default state boosts colours with a Vivid Colour option and “colour remaster” processing. AV enthusiasts will prefer True Cinema, but I suspect that many more regular users will be unable to resist the extra colour saturation provided by the Normal HDR setting.
Having selected your preferred preset, there are various other settings I suggest you tweak. For instance, turn off all noise-reduction processing if you’re watching a 4K source, or even a good-quality HD one. Don’t use the Colour Remaster setting higher than its Minimum setting – or don’t bother with it at all. Similarly, make sure the Intelligent Frame Creation feature isn’t set higher than Minimum if you don’t want images to suffer with distracting processing side effects.
The most complicated area of adjustment concerns the TV’s backlight. For reasons discussed in the performance section of the review, it’s pretty much impossible to achieve a perfect backlight set up for HDR.
My own view is that you’ll get the best HDR results if you set the Adaptive Backlight to Low, the backlight to around 88, and the contrast to around 95. Setting the backlight substantially lower reduces the backlight consistency issues I’ll talk more about later, but also makes pictures look much less “HDR”.
When watching standard dynamic range content, things are more straightforward. Simply reduce the backlight much more – to below its 50% level – to resolve the backlight issues without leaving the pictures feeling too low on brightness.
While there are many moments where the TX-50DX750’s pictures impress in a way you really wouldn’t expect for £1,300/$1,950, the set is ultimately a little frustrating – something I feel is likely to be the case in a few other 2016 HDR-capable TVs too.
I kicked off my testing with 4K HDR playback from a few clips I have on USB plus, much more excitingly, a selection of Ultra HD Blu-rays played on one of Samsung’s new K8500 UHD Blu-ray players. First impressions were spectacular.
Even though its screen is incapable of hitting 1,000 nits, the TX-50DX750’s HDR pictures look spectacularly bright and dynamic compared with the standard dynamic range TVs we’ve been used to for so many decades. Whether it’s the animated joys of The Lego Movie or the Biblical spectacle of Exodus: Gods And Kings, you never doubt for so much as a second that you’re watching the next generation of home video in action.
Colours pop with a new level of intensity and bright highlights look so radiant that you feel you’re watching the real world through a window rather than a TV screen. The range of luminance from the screen’s darkest to brightest parts is far more extreme. It does no harm to the glories of the HDR experience that the colour and brightness is partnered with the clarity and pixel density you get with a native 4K-resolution panel.
By comparison, the same scenes on a normal SDR Blu-ray without the TX-50DX750’s HDR remastering tools active look almost painfully flat and drab.
With the TX-50DX750 unable to hit the full 1,000-nit brightness output used in the mastering of the first Ultra HD Blu-rays, Panasonic’s processing has to slightly “downscale” the images coming in from the discs to suit the abilities of its screen. But it does this remarkably well, avoiding typical pitfalls such as crushed blacks, hollow-looking peak whites and colour imbalances.
So far, so very good. So what’s the frustration I mentioned earlier?
Well, HDR relies on high brightness levels for much of its impact. Yet while LCD TVs that use edge LED lighting are capable of pumping out far more brightness than a screen that uses OLED technology, they aren’t able to partner that brightness with much local control.
In the TX-50DX750’s case – especially since it appears to be using a vertical backlighting array, where the LEDs are arranged along the TV’s top and/or bottom edge rather than down its sides – the intensity of bright highlights in dark HDR scenes can be accompanied by some fairly distracting stripes of light around them that run all the way down the picture.
Using local dimming does at least ensure that the TX-50DX750 doesn’t have to adjust the brightness – and thus damage the backlight uniformity – of the entire screen just to illuminate a bright highlight or two in a dark HDR scene. However, since the local dimming is rather crude relative to what may be possible with direct-lit LCD screens, it causes its own striping distractions.
And even despite the local dimming, there are times when you can clearly see the whole brightness level of the image jump up and down as the brightness content of the image changes. The only way to tackle this is to turn off the Adaptive Contrast feature – but, unfortunately, doing that seriously damages the overall black-level response.
I guess you could argue that the TX-50DX750’s backlight distractions with HDR are a small price to pay for the stunning, more real-world dynamism HDR delivers. Especially when Panasonic’s processing ensures that HDR effects always look natural and organic rather than forced and stretched.
It’s also true that the backlight issues aren’t as much of a distraction if you’re watching in a bright room and/or if what you’re watching was shot in a 16:9 aspect ratio and so doesn’t appear with black bars above and below the picture.
Ironically, though, all 10 of the Ultra HD Blu-rays I have feature aspect ratios wider than 16:9, so there wasn’t a single HDR film I watched on the TX-50DX750 where I wasn’t thrown out of the action at least a few times by sudden, over-aggressive backlight activity.
With non-HDR content, the TX-50DX750 is much more consistently excellent. They key point here is that you can drop the TV’s backlight to as low as 30-40% with standard dynamic range (SDR) sources, which is low enough to ensure that all backlight issues disappear and leave you with deep, even black colours that still, impressively, contain bags of subtle shadow and colour detail.
Panasonic’s Studio Master HCX engine also works wonders with SDR in terms of delivering subtle, beautifully balanced colours, and when it comes to upscaling HD content to the screen’s 4K native resolution. HD sources really do end up looking close to 4K thanks to the way the Studio Master HCX engine is able to process out noise and process in startlingly accurate new picture data.
The TX-50DX750’s SDR pictures may have looked even better if they weren’t being produced by a backlight system designed with HDR in mind. But the quality of Panasonic’s processing and quest for naturalism carry the day, resulting in SDR pictures I’d happily recommend to anyone. Especially considering the TX-50DX750’s price.
3D PICTURE QUALITY
While the TX-50DX750 might be one of the few TVs carrying the 3D flag this year, it unfortunately doesn’t do a great job here. Detail levels are decent enough, and the screen’s brightness helps to overcome the inevitable dimming effect you get from active 3D glasses. However, 3D pictures are afflicted by aggressive crosstalk ghosting that affects objects in the mid as well as far distance.
This ghosting catches your attention way too easily, often drawing your eye away from the parts of the picture where you should be focused and making for a pretty fatiguing 3D experience.
Considering how thin its frame and rear are, the TX-50DX750 doesn’t sound at all bad. It doesn’t deliver much bass, but its mid-range is open, clean and expansive. Detail levels are high, voices – male and female – always sound convincing and accurately positioned on the screen, and the speakers always work within their limitations, meaning you don’t have to worry about excessive harshness or “thuddy” basslines.
There are, of course, TVs out there with bigger, forward-firing speakers that deliver more raw power and much better dynamics. But the TX-50DX750’s audio sounds impressively natural overall for such a slim TV.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
The TX-50DX750 is a respectable, rather than brilliant, video-gaming screen. Using its Game mode, I recorded an input lag measurement of around 40ms. In an ideal world this would be 10ms lower – and it’s worth stating, too, that I saw a few measurements higher than 60ms. But really the average input lag figure of 40ms isn’t bad considering how much is going on inside the TX-50DX750.
SHOULD I BUY A PANASONIC TX-50DX750?
Carefully set up, the TX-50DX750 can deliver superb standard dynamic range 4K pictures; it’s capable of making HDR look jaw-droppingly good; and the Firefox operating system remains excellent. There’s no doubt this is a trule next-generation TV – which is impressive given its approachable £1,300/$1,950 price.
However, while HDR playback looks gorgeous with bright sources, a combination of backlight issues can make dark HDR scenes look distractingly flawed.
The TX-50DX750 gets plenty right for the price. However, while Panasonic’s mid-range 4K TV can look spectacularly good with HDR at times, persistent backlight problems prove distracting enough to make edge LED lighting and HDR look like potentially rather uncomfortable bedfellows.
The Fuji X-Pro 2 has just been announced. We look at the main differences between this camea and its predecessor, the Fuji X-Pro 1.
The X-Pro 1 used a 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor, variations of which were used in subsequent models. Now, the company has moved on to a third generation X-Trans CMOS III sensor, with a significantly higher 24.3MP across the same APS-C area.
2. LCD screen
The LCD screen has maintained its 3in dimensions on the new model, and it’s still fixed to the camera rather than being adjustable in any way, although its resolution has jumped from 1.23million dots to 1.62million dots. It isn’t touch sensitive, however, which means that all operation happens through the physical controls.
Whereas the X-Pro 1 used an EXR Processor Pro, the new model has been equipped with an updated X-Processor Pro. This is the first time the company has used this processor, and it’s said to offer faster processing, lower noise and better tonal and colour reproduction than the previous EXR II processor (itself an improvement on the X-Pro 1’s EXR Processor).
The X-Pro 1’s ISO 200-6400 standard sensitivity range has been expanded to ISO 200-12,800 for the X-Pro 2, with extensions settings equivalent to ISO 100 and up to 51,200 on hand.
Previously a Hybrid Multi Viewfinder on the X-Pro 1 and now an Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder, the size of the optical and electronic viewfinders in both models is roughly the same, although resolution of the X-Pro 2’s EVF is now at 2.36million dots, which is significantly higher than the 1.44million dots on the X-Pro 1. The EVF’s display rate of 54fps on the X-Pro 1’s is now up to 85fps when the X-Pro 2 is set to the High Performance mode, while the previously seen Electronic Rangefinder, a feature that was only introduced after the X-Pro 1, has also been thrown in here. The eyepoint has also been made slightly longer, from 14mm to 16mm, which is said to make the viewfinder easier to view.
6. Dioptric correction
Dioptric correction wasn’t possible on the X-Pro 1 as standard – for that you needed to buy separate lenses. Thankfully, Fuji has incorporated this into the X-Pro 2’s viewfinder.
7. Weather sealing
The X-Pro 1 didn’t offer weather sealing of any kind – that only came much later with the X-T1 – but the X-Pro 2 has been sealed against the elements. Thanks to 61 seals around the body, Fuji claims the camera is splash- and dust-proof, and can be used in temperatures as cold as -10oC (10oC cooler than the X-Pro 1).
8. AF system
Fuji has made a number of changes here, such as by increasing the AF points from 49 points to 77 as standard and tweaking the predictable AF algorithm for better tracking of moving subjects, in addition to promising faster overall AF performance.
9. Film Simulations Modes
While the X-Pro 1 offered 10 Film Simulation options, the X-Pro 2 comes with 15 as standard. These include the Classic Chrome mode first seen on the X30 and X100T cameras, as well as a new black-and-white Acros option.
10. Grain Effect mode
An option not present on any previous model, this adds graininess to images to make them appear more like images captured on film.
The back of the camera welcomes a new joystick-style lever, which can be used to change the focusing point and for general menu operation.
12. Exposure compensation options
The exposure compensation dial on the X-Pro 1 allowed for adjustment over a -/+2EV range, and this has now been broadened to -/+3EV on the X-Pro 2. Additionally, a new ‘C’ setting on the dial allows the user to continue adjusting exposure compensation up to a maximum -/+5EV through the front command dial.
13. Menu system
Fuji has refreshed the menu system on the X-Pro 2, with changes to the font and layout for both cosmetic and practical reasons. Furthermore, the addition of a My Menu option allows the user to assign 16 settings of their choice for quick access.
14. Burst rate
The X-Pro 1 offered maximum burst rate of 6fps, and this has now risen to 8fps on the new model.
Among other minor changes, Fuji has redesigned the grip and rear thumb rest for the new model, and also lost the buttons that were on the left hand side of the rear LCD.
16. Front command dial
The X-Pro 1 only sported one command dial, which was positioned on the back of the camera, although the X-Pro 2 has an additional dial around the front.
A new focal-plane shutter now allows for a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec (compared with the X-Pro 1’s 1/4000sec limit). Maximum flash sync speed has also risen from the X-Pro 1’s 1/180sec speed up to 1/250sec.
Although full HD video was possible on the X-Pro 1, the choice of frame rates has now been expanded to 60/50p, 30/25p and 24p options.
The X-Pro 1 didn’t offer wireless control of any kind but the X-Pro 2 is one of a number of recent models to have Wi-Fi built into it.
20. Memory cards slot
Although the X-Pro 2 follows its predecessor in recording images and videos onto SD-format cards, it’s the first camera in the X-series line to sport a dual card slot. This accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC cards and supports both UHS I and II, although the latter only in one slot.
The new model is only slightly larger than the X-Pro 1, with measurements of 140.5 x 82.8 × 45.9mm against the X-Pro 1’s 139.5 x 81.8 x 42.5mm.
Fuji states that the X-Pro 2 weighs approximately 445g without its battery and memory card, which is 45g heaver than the X-Pro 1.
I like Android phones. But when most friends and family ask me what phone to buy, I tend to recommend the iPhone over Android. Here’s why.
Let me start by saying that I like Android phones. I love the variety of hardware and myriad software customization options. The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are especially compelling for those who want thebest phone camera. But when most friends and family ask me what phone to buy, I tend to recommend the iPhone over Android.
Notice that I didn’t say “iOS over Android.” The reason to go the Apple route isn’t just the platform; it’s how the software and hardware complement each other. Live Photos on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, as well as the new iPhone SE, is a perfect example. The iPhone also works seamlessly with other Apple gadgets, including Macs and the Apple Watch — there’s an ecosystem factor. Here are 10 reasons why the iPhone beats Android.
1. Better Hardware and Software Integration
The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus introduce a new feature that no Android phone maker could copy. The 3D Touch display is smart enough to sense pressure, allowing you to take quick actions from the home screen just by long pressing on an app icon. Or you could peek at that email just by lightly tapping on it in your inbox. Sure, Android phones have offered haptic feedback for ages, but the Taptic engine in the new iPhones promises to be super efficient.
2. Live Photos
The iPhone consistently produces pleasing photos with accurate color, generation after generation. And the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus up the ante with a sharper 12-megapixel camera with 4K video capture. Just as important as the bump in resolution is Apple’s homegrown image signal processor, which delivers realistic colors. This same camera is now available on the iPhone SE.
The most compelling and unique iPhone camera feature is Live Photos, which captures video and audio during and just before and after your shot. You animate the image during playback by just long pressing on the screen. Other Android phones have offered similar features, such as HTC’s Zoe, but Live Photos is easier to use. Plus, both Facebook and Tumblr support Live Photos, so you can share them with your friends.
3. It’s the Easiest Phone to Use
Despite all the promises by Android phone makers to streamline their skins, the iPhone remains the easiest phone to use by far. There’s no separate app drawer for your apps and no annoying overlay to get in the way. Some may lament the lack of change in the look and feel of iOS over the years, but I consider it a plus that it works pretty much the same as it did way back in 2007. Pick it up, turn it on, touch the app to open.
Of course, Apple has folded in enhancements over the years, such as Siri and Control Center (though I think the Today Screen still isn’t useful enough), but the iPhone still has zero learning curve. With iOS 9, Apple is playing catch-up in some ways, especially by putting transit into in Maps, but the proactive assistance features, improved search and smarter Siri add up to a better overall user experience than Android. We could do without the new News app, though.
4. OS Updates When You Want Them
This is going to hurt a little, Android fanbois. Five months after Android Marshmallow debuted (the latest version of Google’s software), it was installed on a whopping 2.3 percent of devices. Contrast that with the 80 percent of active Apple devices running the latest iOS 9 software as of March 2016.
The problem is this: with the exception of pure Android phones like the Nexus, the Samsungs, LGs and HTCs of the world have to jump through more hoops to bring you the latest version of Google’s OS, including carrier certification. Plus, phone makers typically drag their feet on updating older phones, so as to encourage folks to upgrade. All iPhone owners can update to the latest version of iOS on day 1 (or close to, depending on Apple’s servers). This dynamic isn’t going to change anytime soon.
5. The Best Apps First
Now that both iOS and Android have more than 1 million apps in their stores, the arms race is over, right? Not really. The iPhone is still favored by developers as the launch platform of choice for the hottest new apps.
The Google Play store is like the Netflix of app stores; it gets the hits, but usually after they see their first run on iOS. For instance, it took two years for Instagram to debut on Android after it launched for the iPhone. Other apps have taken only months to jump for iOS to Android, such as the Meerkat and Periscope video streaming apps and the highly rated Vainglory game. But the message is clear. If you don’t want to be treated like a second-class app citizen, the iPhone is still the king.
6. No Bloatware!
It’s not a good sign for prospective Android phone buyers that some of the most popular articles we do are bloatware-removal guides. Samsung and others have gotten better at minimizing the pain for users by lumping all carrier bloatware into a single folder, but it’s still just crap taking up space on your phone.
You won’t find a single piece of carrier software pre-loaded on an iPhone, making for a clean out-of-box experience. Now, Apple does include some apps you might not want or need, like Apple Watch, but it has much more restraint than other manufacturers when it comes to bundling its own stuff.
7. Works beautifully with Macs
If you haven’t tried a Mac in a while, you might be surprised to know just how well iPhones work with them. For instance, with the Continuity feature in OS X, you can use your MacBook to send and receive text messages and even receive and place calls. All you have to do is keep your iPhone nearby.
I find the Handoff feature a little less useful, but some may like that they can do things such as start an email on their Mac and then pick up where they left off on their iPhone — or vice versa. Thanks to iCloud keeping everything in sync, you’ll also have easy access to the photos you take on your iPhone from your Mac, as well as any notes or documents you create.
8. Apple Pay
Between Android Pay and Samsung Pay, Apple has plenty of rivals, but right now Apple Pay is the most popular method for making mobile payments. It’s also dead-simple to use. All you have to do to use Apple Pay is bring your iPhone close to the supported payment terminal at the checkout counter, then press your finger on your phone’s Touch ID sensor.
Apple Pay is getting better with iOS 9, too, which adds reward cards from the likes of Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera and Walgreens. Store-issued credit card support is available now, too, with BJ’s Wholesale Club, Kohl’s and JCPenney on board so far. All of the above will be stored in the new Apple Wallet app.
Samsung Pay can be used in more physical locations, but with reports that Apple Pay will be available to mobile websites later this year, Apple will likely extend its mobile payments lead.
9. Family Sharing
An Apple family that plays together, saves together. With Family Sharing on the iPhone, mom, dad and the kids can share purchases from the App Store, iTunes and iBooks with up to six people. You can still keep your own iTunes accounts, too. When Junior wants to make a purchase, you’ll receive an alert via the “Ask to Buy” feature, so you can keep better tabs on what he’s downloading and also prevent bill shock.
Other Family Sharing features include shared photo albums, a shared calendar and the ability to see where your kids are on a map at any time. Google doesn’t offer easy family sharing on Android devices.
10. Best Support and Help
When you have a problem with your Android phone, you can try online forums or calling your carrier. But with the iPhone, you can tap into a vast database of useful help articles on Apple’s website, get help via live chat, or you can schedule an appointment at an Apple Store Genius Bar. Google doesn’t have this kind of direct relationship with its customers. With Android, you’re on your own.
The Microsoft Band 2 is something of a triumph for the Redmond-based software giant, and the company has finally managed to pile a super array of tech inside a fitness trackerthat’s actually (semi) wearable.
But with so many advanced sensors and tech, it’s easy to miss some of the niftier aspects of the Microsoft Band 2’s bulging feature list.
So check out our hand-picked tips and tricks to enhance your Microsoft Band 2 experience.
Wear your Band face down
Which way to wear the Microsoft Band has always been a bit of a issue, and Microsoft’s own images and messaging don’t make it any clearer. Obviously it’s a personal choice, but if you’re just getting to grips with the Microsoft Band, try putting the screen on the inside of your wrist.
The new Microsoft Band 2 display is constructed of Gorilla Glass 3 so there’s no worry about scratching, and it works well for a couple of reasons.
For some people the large sensor clasp can push on the blood vessels under your wrist and become less comfortable. What’s more, there’s also a UV sensor on the outside of the clasp so having that on top makes it more likely to capture accurate data. Give it a try.
Connect to third party apps
While the Microsoft Health app continues to improve, it also lets you use the big third party health apps too.
Tap on Apps on the left menu of the Microsoft Health app on your phone and then choose to link your accounts with your Microsoft account. Currently supported services include Lose It!, RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal, HealthVault, MapMyFitness, Strava, and TaylorMade.
There are some limitations with the data that is exported. For example, the data Microsoft provides to RunKeeper does not contain the GPS route info, which is a bit of a dealbreaker, but it means that you existing RunKeeper users can still see progress and improvement.
Enable motion tracking for your phone
If you happen to leave your Microsoft Band 2 at home on charge, don’t worry about missing out on capturing your motion. Tap on My Phone in the left side menu of the Microsoft Health app on your phone and slide the toggle over to have your phone’s in-built sensors cover for your Band’s.
Then when you connect your Band again, the gaps in activity tracking will be synced. You won’t get all of the data that you would with your Band on your wrist, but at least your weekly step averages won’t be trashed.
Delete false sleep sessions
Thankfully, Microsoft introduced automatic sleep tracking Band 2 so you don’t have to remember to put the tracker into sleep mode, like on its precedessor. However, it’s not perfect.
Our testing showed that the Band tracked a movie or other slothful couch time as sleep. However, you can always go in and delete false sleep sessions, which for our money is still better than miss out tracking sleep all the time. But there is a caveat.
While restful sleep, light sleep, times woke up, time to fall asleep, duration, and calories burned are all tracked in auto mode, sleep restoration is not. If you want all the sleep data you can gather, you’ll still need to use manual mode. Just go to the Sleep Tile and choose the action button.
Try out the web app
You can view some data on your Microsoft Band 2 and then even more of the details on your smartphone. However, if you really want to see all of the details, see your personal bests, data compared over different periods of time, then the web version of the Microsoft Health Dashboard is your friend. Just follow the link and sign in using your Windows ID to get more data than your mind can manage.
Make those stairs count
The new barometer sensor in the Microsoft Band 2 can measure the stairs climbed, so make use of it by earning points for skipping the elevator. While this data appears in the details of the Health app, Microsoft also provides your stair climb number when you toggle through the basic data using the action button on the home screen display.
Turn on the coach
Microsoft provides an incredible number of guided workouts, to help you get more out of gym sessions. They’re a little hard to find, but there’s lessons from Gold’s Gym, Shape, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Benchmark WOD, and Starting Strength including weight training sessions, race distance plans, cardio, stretching and yoga.
On your phone or the Microsoft Health website, browse and find guided workouts that you want to try and then sync them to your Microsoft Band. After launching the workout, you will be guided through the routine by your Band through words, data tracking, and vibrations.
Control music from your wrist
Most people use their phones to enjoy music, but it’s also a bit of a pain to pull your phone out of your pocket to control the volume and playback of your music.
Microsoft recently updated the Microsoft Band 2 and now when you play music on your phone you will see music controls appear right on the Band after you double press the large power button. Skip back, play/pause, and skip forward controls appear on your Band. Swipe right to lower volume and swipe left to increase volume from your Band. The Action button can also be used as a play/pause button.
Use the smart alarm for easier mornings
You may have found that you wake up on the “wrong side of the bed” at times and feel terrible when that alarm goes off. It’s likely that you were woke up while in a restful sleep stage.
The new Microsoft Band sleep mode has an option to set a smart alarm, which will wake you during a light sleep phase so you can avoid that groggy feeling when your wake up call sounds. You’ll feel better for it, make sure you get to bed on time so it doesn’t cost you vital sleep.
Pay for stuff with custom tiles
You can have up to 13 tiles displayed on your Microsoft Band 2, and some offer more than just tracking and information. The Starbucks app will enable you to pay for items in the coffee chain from your band, meaning you don’t have to pull out your wallet to grab a latte.
Explore web tiles
Microsoft announced Web Tiles in July where developers could provide glanceable information to customers in the form of a tile. In the Microsoft Health app add the Windows Central tile. It’s still slim pickings, but with the full release of the Band 2 there should be more tiles inbound and it’s an area well worth watching.
Strong full HD gaming performance; Bright and accurate matte display; USB 3.1 Type-C Port; Speedy 7,200 RPM HDD
Left vent gets really hot when gaming; Poor webcam; Mediocre battery life
The Asus ROG GL552 is a top-notch gaming laptop that won’t bust your budget.
The most powerful gaming laptops will blow your mind, but they’ll also wallop your wallet. Fortunately, you can get a really great mobile rig for a lot less money. For $999, the 15.6-inch Asus ROG GL552 combines strong performance with a sexy, stealth-fighter-themed chassis, vibrant display and snappy keyboard. While we wish its battery life were longer and its left side stayed cooler, this is the best sub-$1,000 gaming laptop you can buy.
Despite a slick aluminum lid that Asus claims was inspired by an F-22 fighter plane, the ROG GL552 doesn’t look as sleek as some of its competitors. At 15.1 x 10.1 x 1.3 inches, the system is a little chunkier than similar 15-inch gaming notebooks, such as the Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition (15.4 x 10.3 x 0.9 inches) and Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 (15.1 x 10.4 x 1 inches). However, weighing 5.6 pounds, the GL 552 sits between the lighter 5.1-pound Acer and the heavier 5.9-pound Dell.
Inside, Asus added some silver patterning, which helps bring a little flair to the GL552’s black metal deck, along with the sinister red backlighting. The detailing on the left vent helps reinforce the GL552’s red-and-black color scheme, and is also a good reminder to keep your hands and legs away from that area, which can get pretty hot.
Unfortunately, like grungy black sneakers on a gymnasium floor, the Asus GL552’s rubber feet leave streaks on any surface. So try to prevent dragging it across tables and desks.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The ROG GL55s’s keyboard oozes sinister red light and features an extra band of red highlights along the bottom of the W, A, S and D keys. Typing on the black plastic keys felt snappy, thanks to a pretty standard actuation weight of 60 grams and typical 1.87mm of key travel. Asus also managed to squeeze a 10-key numpad on the right side of the keyboard, but since space is at a premium, the keys on the numpad have been shrunk to about half size.
On 10fastfingers.com’s typing test, I hit a speedy 83 words per minute after just a few minutes spent getting familiar with the keyboard. That’s pretty impressive, since my usual typing pace ranges from 75 to 80 words per minute.
While it doesn’t get the same backlighting treatment as the keyboard, the 4.1 x 2.75-inch touchpad features a similar level of responsiveness. The pad accurately and immediately registered my swipes, clicks and multitouch gestures, such as two-finger scrolling.
The GL552’s 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen delights with great accuracy, spot-on colors and top-tier brightness. It makes both gaming and watching movies a pleasure, and since the non-touch screen also features a matte coating, you’re never forced to stare back at your own reflection. When I watched the trailer for The Nice Guys, the GL552’s display nailed Russell Crowe’s turquoise blue suit in a way that screamed 1970s even louder than the teaser’s retro font.
At 272 nits of brightness, the GL552’s screen fell barely short of the display on the Acer’s V15 Nitro (289 nits), and performed significantly better than 222 nits we saw on Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000. With a color range that spanned 116.2 percent of the sRGB spectrum, the GL552 topped the V15 Nitro’s mark of 115 percent and easily surpassed the Inspiron 15 7000’s range of 70 percent.
And with a Delta-E error rate of 0.7 (0 is perfect), the GL552 was more color accurate than the V15 Nitro (1.0), but a tiny bit behind the Inspiron 15 7000 (0.4).
The GL552’s stereo speakers feature SonicMaster tech that’s supposed to provide rich, high-fidelity audio, but in my experience, both music and games sounded a little shallow. When I listened to Ratatat’s “Cream on Chrome,” the twangy guitars and thumping bass didn’t have the same depth and impact that I heard from other systems. Switching to the battlefield preset in the AudioWizard app offered a slight improvement to the bass, but still didn’t do enough to help the overall audio experience.
On less demanding tasks like streaming HD video from Hulu, the ROG GL 552 strayed just 5 degrees over our typical 95-degree comfort threshold on its bottom. The space between the G and H keys and touchpad were cooler at 92.5 and 90 degrees.
The problem is that while gaming, temps near the vent on the left side of the system shot up to over 125 degrees. On its bottom, temperatures rose only a couple of degrees, which means you can still get in some laptop gaming; you just have to be careful to stay away from its super-hot left side.
Ports and Webcam
When it comes to connectivity, the ROG GL552 provides an unusual feeling of having one foot stuck in the past while the other boldly strides toward the future. That’s because the GL552 sports an archaic dual-layer DVD tray while also pushing things forward with a USB 3.1 port with a Type-C connector. There are also three traditional USB Type-A ports (two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0), HDMI, Ethernet, SD card slot and separate microphone and headphone jacks.
The GL552’s 1.2-megapixel webcam takes a pretty poor picture, even among laptop cameras that usually fail to impress. In our well-lit office, a selfie I took with the Asus’ webcam featured a lot of noise and grain and turned my hair and eyes into a dark, indistinct mess.
Graphics and Gaming
In this price range, you’re not going to get a better graphics card than the GL552’s Nvidia 960M GPU with 2GB of vRAM, which puts Asus’s laptop on the same footing at its competition. On 3DMark’s Fire Strike synthetic graphics test, the GL552 scored 4,095, which is similar to numbers from the V15 Nitro (4,069) and the Inspiron 15 7000 (3,929).
When we played Metro: Last Light on low settings at 1920 x 1080, the GL552 notched 59 frames per second. That was slightly behind the V15 Nitro’s 67 fps and about the same as the Inspiron 15 7000’s 58 fps. But when we pumped up the graphics to high, all three systems fell below 20 fps, which is not playable.
However, on a less demanding game such as Dota 2, the GL552 easily hovered between 70 and 80 fps on max settings. It’s only for graphics-hungry games such as Metro or GTA 5 that you’ll need to step down the settings if you want to reach a stable 60 fps.
Featuring a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700 HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD, the GL552 is similarly equipped to other thousand-dollar gaming machines. However, since the GL552 features a 7,200 RPM HDD versus the 5,400 drives in the V15 Nitro and the Inspiron 15 7000, its storage speeds were three times faster. The GL552 moved a DVD’s worth of mixed media files in 51 seconds for a transfer rate of 98.59 MBps, as opposed to speeds of 33.97 MBps and 34.62 MBps for the V15 Nitro and the Inspiron 15 7000, respectively.
This advantage also showed up on Geekbench 3, which measures overall system performance. The GL552 scored 13,554 versus 12,577 for the V15 Nitro, despite the Nitro having the same CPU and amount of RAM. Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 (8,880) was even further behind, as its Intel Core i5 CPU simply didn’t provide the same level of swiftness.
As expected, when we used OpenOffice to sort a spreadsheet with 20,000 names and addresses, the Core i7-powered GL552 (3:44) and V15 Nitro (3:46) finished with almost exactly the same time, while the Inspiron 15 700 trailed behind with a time of 3:58.
With a time of 4 hours and 43 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness), the GL552 fell between the endurance numbers turned in by Acer and Dell. It lasted nearly 2 full hours longer than the anemic 2:40 mark of Acer’s V15 Nitro, but fell short of Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 (6:45) by around the same margin.
If you’re willing to go above $1,000, there’s a $1,249 version of the GL552 that bumps up storage with a 128GB SSD + 1TB hybrid and an Nvidia 960M GPU with 4GB of video RAM, instead of the 2GB you get in the base model.
Software and Warranty
The Asus ROG GL552 comes pre-loaded with Windows 10 Home and a handful of useful utilities, including Asus Live Update for keeping your system current, the Splendid Utility for customizing your display, and the Game First III app that helps prioritize network traffic to make sure you don’t lag while gaming.
The system also comes with a standard one-year warranty, which also includes one year of accidental damage protection.
With a faster hard drive, more colorful display and better-looking chassis than its direct competitors, the Asus ROG GL552 is the sub-$1,000 gaming laptop to beat. If you’re looking to save money, the $800 Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 provides similar frame rates and longer battery life, but slower overall performance and a less-vibrant display. Asus could make this laptop even better by improving its heat management and power consumption. But if you’re looking for a gaming laptop under $1,000, the ROG GL552 should be at the top of your shopping list.
For several years now, the Nissan R35 GT-R has offered high-end exotic performance at low-end exotic prices. For a shade over $100,000, you could get a 545-horsepower, all-wheel drive vehicle that could handily outperform or at least keep pace with cars that cost two, three, or even four times as much. It may not have the exotic caché of a Lamborghini or a Porsche, and it may share a badge with your neighbor’s 2002 Sentra, but what the GT-R has accomplished is nothing short of impressive.
That said, Nissan’s flagship sports car is starting to show it’s age. A complete overhaul is on the table sometime in the next few years, but for the meantime, Nissan has given Godzilla a facelift. And a stronger beating heart.
Power for the GT-R has been creeping up for years — it started at 525 horsepower when it debuted — and that trend continues for 2017. The 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V6 now lays out 565 horsepower and 467 pound-feet, increases of 20 horsepower and 4 pound-feet respectively. Nissan was able to extract the numbers from individual ignition-timing control of the cylinders and extra boosts from the turbochargers.
Up front, Nissan has applied its flying-V design language to the car’s face. It’s a relatively subtle change; people familiar with the GT-R already won’t have a hard time picking it up, but those who don’t pay attention to cars would have to look closely to really discern the changes. A different front LED strategy helps set the 2017 apart from the current model.
Some of the changes are more hidden; there’s a new lightweight titanium exhaust system and Active Sound Enhancement, a more rigid body structure and a new suspension to help improve handling, and Active Noise Cancellation technology and new sound absorption materials help ensure the occupants hear only what they want (read: exhaust) and less of what they don’t.
Buyers can also now choose ‘Blaze Metallic’ (pictured) from Nissan’s paint palate. Other new features include side sills that have been pushed out to direct air flow around the vehicle, new rear bodywork, and a redesigned, premium interior.
The entire dashboard is new, but perhaps most importantly (at least for enthusiasts), the shift paddles are now mounted to the new steering wheel, allowing drivers to change gears mid-turn without having to take their hands off the wheel.
Pricing and exact performance information hasn’t yet been disclosed, but it’s likely that the GT-R will see a price increase, albeit a relatively modest one. A 2016 model currently runs around $101,770.
The P9000 is the latest Android-based smartphone from Chinese manufacturer Elephone, which is gaining a solid reputation for its cheap yet cheerful mobile tech.
It sports a 5.5-inch LG-made LCD screen, a true Octa-core MediaTek chipset, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, fast charging, wireless charging, NFC, a Sony-made 13-megapixel camera and a fingerprint scanner on the rear.
The Elephone also runs Android 6.0, the latest version of Google’s operating system. Despite these incredible specs, it costs less than £200/$300.
DESIGN AND BUILD
Elephone’s previous efforts have been a little inconsistent when it comes to general build and design.
The Elephone M2 looked and felt like a premium phone but offered middle-of-the-road performance, while the more recent Vowney had power to spare – as well as 4GB of RAM – but was saddled with a mostly plastic casing that felt a little cheap. With the P9000, however, the company finally seems to have struck the perfect balance between power and design.
The P9000 follows the current trend in the Android arena for metal-bodied handsets, boasting a metal chassis that’s backed by a plastic panel.
Around the edges of the phone you’ll discover a subtle chamfered effect, as well as the usual buttons and inputs. On the right-hand side sit the power key and volume rocker, while on the opposite side there’s a button that can be configured to be a one-press shortcut to open pretty much any application you desire. Handily, a long-press of this button also puts the handset into silent mode, not entirely unlike the “mute” switch found on iPhone models.
On the top of the handset you’ll find the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone jack, while on the bottom resides the reversible USB Type-C data and charging socket – a future-proof element that even the recently released Samsung Galaxy S7 doesn’t include. Flanking this port are two grilles, one housing a speaker, the other the in-call microphone.
Spinning the P9000 around reveals a plastic rear panel, which has a texture that takes some getting used to. It’s a matte-effect surface, which at first glance looks like it should be soft – but it isn’t; to describe it as very fine-grain sandpaper wouldn’t be a million miles from the truth. I actually quite like it since it increases grip, but it also picks up marks and scratches a little too easily.
On the back you’ll find the Sony-made 21-megapixel camera – complete with LED flash and laser auto-focus – and the fingerprint scanner.
Strange choice of back panel texture aside, the P9000 looks and feels like a phone that should cost much more than £200/$300, and it arguably gives the likes of HTC, Samsung and LG a run for their money in terms of overall design.
Dual-SIM functionality is a mainstay of the Chinese mobile market, and the P9000 offers support for two micro-SIM cards.
However, if you’d rather expand your available storage you can use one of those SIM slots for a microSD card, neatly augmenting the amount of space available for photos, music and other data.
Fingerprint scanners are becoming fairly commonplace on budget Android devices – the Elephone Vowney and Elephone M2 each had one – but it’s clear that companies such as Elephone are perhaps struggling to implement the tech as effectively as their larger rivals.
The scanner on the P9000 often requires a second or even third tap to register your fingerprint and unlock the device, but at least it can be used to wake the phone even when the screen is off. You can also use it to verify payments on the Google Play Store, thanks to the fact that the phone has Android 6.0 installed; when Android Pay hits the UK, you’ll be able to team it up with the NFC chip to make contactless payments in shops.
Elephone proudly states that the P9000 has a 5.5-inch Full HD, LG LTPS LCD on the device’s Apple-like plastic packaging, and it has good reason to to shout about it – this screen is absolutely superb, even by upper-tier standards.
Colours are incredibly punchy, contrast is excellent and viewing angles are rock-solid. When the adaptive brightness setting is enabled, things can get a little dim, but at mid-to-full brightness this display positively sings. It’s easy to view in directly sunlight, too.
The manufacturer is also keen to point out that the phone has incredibly slim bezels – 1.6mm, in fact – on the left and right sides of the screen, which ensure that it isn’t too wide, even for a phablet-class handset. It’s still pretty sizeable in the hand, but it certainly feels easier to handle than some of its big-screen rivals. In fact, placed alongside the Galaxy S7 – which has a 5.1-inch screen – the P9000 is only marginally taller.
Like previous Elephone handsets, the P9000 comes with touchscreen gesture commands that allow you to open apps while the display is off.
For example, tracing a “C” shape on the sleeping screen will automatically boot up the camera. These shortcuts are simple enough to memorise and have the potential to be incredibly useful – provided you don’t use any kind of screen-lock security. Doing so means that even when you input the gesture, you have to unlock your device to get to the app, which kind of defeats the purpose. Still, it’s neat all the same.
Unusually for such a low-cost handset, the P9000 ships with Android 6.0. The presence of Marshmallow means you get features such as Google Now On Tap and the battery-saving Doze mode. However, Elephone has confused matters somewhat by including its own granular app permissions system from its Android 5.1 phones, and this clashes with the built-in version that ships with 6.0 as standard. Thankfully, you can switch off Elephone’s manager to avoid any conflicts.
Elsewhere, Elephone has taken the same approach that it did with the M2 and Vowney, by presenting an almost stock version of Google’s mobile OS.
There’s a one-tap option in the Recent Apps menu that shuts down all running processes, and the Settings menu has a few new entries such as gestures and button shortcut customisation, but on the whole this is similar to the software that ships on the Nexus 5X and 6P.
Elephone has even been quite restrained with the apps it preinstalls; you get a flashlight, FM Radio, backup program, pedometer, sound recorder and Elephone Service app – and that’s about it. In fact, the phone itself is somewhat barebones the first time you switch it on – a blank canvas ready for your own personal preferences.
Elephone’s Turbo Download feature is an interesting addition to Android – it allows you to combine your network and Wi-Fi signals to boost the speed of downloads. If you’re in an area where the 4G signal is strong and you have access to a wireless hotspot it really makes a difference, but I forgot to switch if off on a few occasions and my data allowance took a bit of a beating.
The way the P9000 handles the usual Android commands of back, home and multi-tasking is worth a mention, too. By default, these icons don’t appear on-screen – instead, the single capacitive button found below the screen covers the three main commands.
A single tap on this button will take you back, while double-tapping brings you back to the home menu. A long press, on the other hand, opens the multi-tasking menu. It’s an elegant solution, but one that feels a little pointless – after all, there is space either side of this button for the back and multi-tasking commands, so why not include them?
Also, it’s impossible to activate Google Now (usually done with a longpress on the home button) via this interface. Thankfully, you can switch to the traditional on-screen icon bar that sits at the bottom of the display, just like on the Nexus 5X and 6P. This can be collapsed if you so wish, and reinstated with an upwards swipe from the bottom of the screen.
Despite the phone’s Chinese origins, I had absolutely no issues in setting up the P9000 in the UK. It connected to my provider’s network without any problems and, for all intents and purposes, behaved exactly like a phone purchased from a British high-street store. Given that rival Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi’s phones often require additional legwork to get them operating correctly here in the UK, that’s a pleasant surprise.
PERFORMANCE, SPEAKERS & CALL QUALITY
The P9000’s Helio P10 processor is unique in that it’s a “true” Octa-core chipset. This means that its eight Cortex-A53 cores are running at the same level of performance, rather than using the “big.LITTLE” architecture where smaller, weaker cores are paired with more powerful ones.
As a result, performance dips found in other phones due to the presence of slower cores aren’t really a feature on the P9000. It’s an incredibly fast device, and the roomy 4GB of RAM included means that switching between apps is rarely anything but buttery-smooth.
In terms of pure processing grunt, however, the Helio P10 isn’t in quite the same league as the leading silicon from the likes of Qualcomm and Samsung.
In real-world performance the handset rarely feels like it is lacking power. The only time I found it struggled was with detailed 3D games, which, while perfectly playable, don’t run as smoothly as on cutting-edge Android devices. Again, it’s perhaps foolish to expect this, since the P9000 costs less than £200/$300.
In AnTuTu Benchmark, the device scored 47,864, which places it way behind the likes of the Galaxy S6 (81,087) and HTC One M9 (79,965) – two phones which, it should be pointed out, cost substantially more than Elephone offering.
Geekbench 3 returns a single-score rating of 810 and a multi-core score of 3,056. Again, these are behind the very best Android phones, but by no means disastrous – in fact, the P9000 scores better than the Google Nexus 6, OnePlus One and Galaxy S5 in the multi-core test.
The Elephone includes 32GB of storage space, which again bucks the trend for this end of the market. Of that total, around 24.5GB is available to the end user once preinstalled files and OS data is taken into account, and using the aforementioned microSD support, you can add to that total if you so wish.
The Sony IMX258 sensor on the rear of the P9000 is capable of snapping 13-megapixel shots and is aided by laser auto-focus and a two-tone LED flash.
4K video recording is supported, and it’s also possible to snap images in the low-compression RAW format – something that purists will be pleased to learn. The camera software comes with the usual array of settings and shooting modes, allowing you to have a pretty deep level of control over your shots.
Colours are bright
The app is quick to boot up from the cold start, and the sensor captures photos with impressive speed. However, the resultant shots suffer from a lot of noise when viewed up-close.
There’s quite a lot of overexposing going on here
The phone’s somewhat sluggish HDR mode also seems to overexpose images, washing them out with too much light as a result. To be honest, I stopped using HDR after the first few shots.
Elephone has told me that the camera software that currently ships with the P9000 isn’t the finished article though, so this may well be rectified with a future OTA update. For selfies there’s an 8-megapixel camera, which was more than up to the job of taking vanity shots and holding video calls.
Surprisingly for such a slim handset, the P9000 is packing a 3,000mAh power cell, which gives the phone impressive real-world staying power. Stamina of this kind is welcome in such a cheap phone, but what’s even more remarkable is the inclusion of both quick charging and wireless charging. For the former, the P9000 takes advantage of MediaTek’s Pump Express technology, which is similar to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 standard.
We were able to entirely fill the battery in just over an hour, but it’s worth noting that you’ll need a compatible quick charger to do this – and amazingly, there isn’t one bundled with the phone as standard. Instead, you just get the reversible USB Type-C cable and are obviously expected to slum it with standard charging via one of the many compatible wall chargers you’ll inevitably have lying all over the house.
The official Elephone quick charger is available for purchase separately, and is actually pretty cheap. I was sent one along with the review phone, and had to use it with a UK travel plug adapter. I was also sent a rather fetching, official faux-leather flip-case, which can be purchased with other items in a special accessory bundle.
Wireless charging is a real bonus, especially in a phone of this price; Google couldn’t even stretch to fit it in the Nexus 5X or the 6P. Any Qi charger will do the job – I used an old Nokia one from a couple of years back and it worked flawlessly, although it’s worth noting that it doesn’t charge anywhere near as fast as when using a wall charger or fast charger.
Stamina-wise, that 3,000mAh battery will get you through an entire day of use without much trouble. If you’re playing games, watching films or generally taking part in activities that require the screen to be on for long periods, however, you’ll notice a sharp drop-off in longevity. During my video test – where I streamed an HD movie from Netflix for an hour – around 20% of the battery was consumed.
SHOULD I BUY THE ELEPHONE P9000?
In the past there have always been a few niggles that have held me back from wholeheartedly recommending Elephone’s products. However, the P9000 manages to get pretty much everything right, with the possible exception of its inconsistent fingerprint scanner and unfinished camera software.
Practically every other element of the device is exemplary: the pin-sharp screen, the surprisingly nippy performance and the impressive build quality. Not to mention the inclusion of features such as fast charging, wireless charging, NFC and Android 6.0 out of the box.
When you consider that all of these elements are featured in a handset that costs less than £200/$300 – albeit one that has to be imported from China, and therefore risks possible import duties – then the P9000 becomes even more remarkable.
It’s powerful, runs the latest version of Android and comes with a checklist of features one would normally associate with a flagship handset from the likes of Samsung or LG. If you’re not concerned about having a phone manufactured by a brand nobody in the UK is likely to have heard of, then this should be a serious contender for your cash.
The Elephone P9000 offers cutting-edge features and performance at a superb price.
The iPad is getting more Pro all the time, but we’ve always had professional-grade accessories, and when you want to look businesslike, nothing beats a nice folio case. Office product purveyor Fellowes just released its MobilePro Series of business-class cases aimed at people who travel with their iPads.
The series features folio cases with integrated iPad stands and room for a pad of paper, as well as a Bluetooth keyboard. I got my hands on them early, and while I like the cases a lot—the stand is particularly cool—the keyboard has one big flaw that makes typing on it an exercise in annoyance.
MobilePro Series Deluxe Folio
With a nylon exterior and soft leathery interior, this handsome folio snaps shut with magnets. Hidden magnets in the separate keyboard’s cover even cling to the closed folio when you stack them, like a baby koala hitching a ride on its mom’s back. They don’t stay firmly together if you hold them vertically, but if you pick up the folio while the keyboard is placed on top, the magnets will hold them together while you move them as a pair. (More about the keyboard below.)
The Bluetooth Keyboard can piggyback on the Deluxe Folio thanks to magnets inside.
Inside, there’s room for a pad of paper on the right side—the iPad Pro sized folio I tested has a full-size legal pad. (Lefties can easily flip the orientation and have the iPad on the right and paper on the left.) Two stretchy loops ably secure a pen for writing as well as an Apple Pencil or other stylus, and there are pockets behind the notepad to hold business cards and other papers. All the stitching is well done, the materials are nice without being over the top luxe, and the loops seem like they’ll stay firmly attached even as the folio suffers the rigors of travel.
The Deluxe Folio has a pocket behind the notepad, slots for business cards, two pen loops, and a really great iPad stand that you can use in the folio or separately.
The iPad side of the case has a plastic attachment system for the removable SmartConnect Case. The case snaps around your iPad, and features a stand that holds the iPad in landscape or portrait orientation, at three viewing angles. It’s not the lightest iPad stand I’ve tried, but it’s sturdy and easily adjustable, and I love how you can use it inside the folio, or snap it out to use it on its own. Even better, when you want to remove the iPad from the case, it pops right off—you don’t have to pry your iPad out with so much force that you wonder if it’ll snap in half.
The SmartConnect case can hold your iPad in portrait or landscape orientation, at three viewing angles. So much better than a soft, wobbly “stand” that’s just a folded-up iPad cover.
The MobilePro Series Deluxe Folio comes in versions for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (which we tested) for $100, or for iPad Air/Air 2 for $80. (Presumably the iPad Air 2 version would fit the 9.7-inch iPad Pro—I’ll update this when I find out for sure.) There’s also a version for the iPad mini for $70, which I particularly loved since it works just like the big one, but is so much smaller and lighter, with a mini pad of paper ready to go.
Bluetooth Keyboard with Carrying Case
Unfortunately, my love didn’t extend to the separate keyboard. While the iPad Pro-sized Deluxe Folio has enough room that you can store your iPad in its Smart Keyboard cover right inside, Fellowes’ own Bluetooth keyboard is a separate piece, in a matching folio-style cover that you can’t remove. Its materials match the folio, and I like how the magnets hold them together when they’re closed, as explained above. When the keyboard is open, you can use its case’s folio flaps as a wrist rest or tuck them underneath the keyboard, but I wish I could pop the keyboard out of the cover instead.
The Bluetooth Keyboard with Carrying Case is always with its carrying case.
That’s not the main problem, though. It’s the typing.
The plastic keys are clicky enough, with more travel and a more satisfying typing feel than Apple’s Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro. Apple’s keyboard is covered in fabric for a spill-resistant design, while Fellowes’ keys are open, which is my subjective preference. There’s no backlighting, but the Function buttons contain plenty of shortcuts, for going back to the home screen, copying and pasting (key commands work for that too), controlling playback, even jumping straight to iOS’s Spotlight search.
I keep pressing the Up arrow when I mean to press Shift, and it’s driving me so crazy.
The dealbreaker is the Shift key. On the left side of the keyboard, it’s a nice long Shift key, like it should be. My problem is I never seem to use the Shift key on the left side of the keyboard—as in, ever. The right Shift key, which my right pinkie goes for automatically, is a regular width key, and the keyboard crams the up-arrow key between that “short Shift” (heh) and the / key next to it. This led to two problems.
First, when I’d try to use the Shift key, I’d almost always instead hit the up arrow with my pinkie. My cursor would fly up one line and suddenly I’d be typing a new word into the middle of an old word. I did this over and over, hoping my muscle memory would adjust before I lost my damn mind. (The jury is still out.)
Second, typing a question mark suddenly got so hard because the two keys involved (shift and slash) are no longer next to each other. You have to reach around the up arrow key between them. The keys themselves are pretty small—fine for an iPad Air-sized keyboard, but keep in mind I’m using it with an iPad Pro—and I found that to type a question mark in this weird way on these small keys meant I had to physically look at them while I was doing it, and it slowed me down every time.
The MobilePro Series Executive Folio, which I didn’t test, integrates the keyboard into the case.
The MobilePro Series Bluetooth Keyboard with Carrying Case retails for $65. Fellowes also has a MobilePro Series Executive Folio ($150) for iPad Air and iPad Air 2 that integrates the keyboard right into the case, but we didn’t test that one for this review.
I wanted to like the keyboard as well as the folio, because they just match so well. The keyboard’s flaws will send me back to, well, any other keyboard, but the MobilePro Series Deluxe Folio is a keeper.
30m operating range (around 10m through a wall or ceiling)
Manufacturer: One For All
WHAT IS THE ONE FOR ALL SV 1760 WIRELESS HDMI SENDER?
Judging by the number of times I’m asked about it, the The One For All SV 1760 solves one of the nation’s most pressing AV issues, allowining you to ‘beam’ audio and video wirelessly from an HDMI source in your main living room to a distant projector or a TV screen in another room. It’s a simple concept and there are some drawbacks, but for many households it’s a timely solution to an annoying problem.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
Despite having the Wireless HDMI Sender installed for a couple of weeks at the time of writing, I still find myself flip-flopping over whether I admire the business-like design or whether it’s actually just a bit dull. They look like tiny wireless routers with perforated holes spcing up an otherwise grey-and-black design.
Thanks to their small size it’s pretty easy to hide them from view if you decide they’re not the ideal ornaments for your AV kit shelf or mantelpiece. You can lie them both flat if you wish, though they cut a more elegant profile if you slot them onto the little hexagonal feet One For All provides in the box.
The basic idea behind the One For All Wireless HDMI Sender is simple: to send full HD, even 3D video – with accompanying audio – wirelessly from an AV source or computer that has an HDMI output to another display device that has an HDMI input. It doesn’t support Ultra HD video, though, which could be a problem if you’re planning on upgrading to Ultra HD Blu-ray any time soon.
Scenarios where these could come in handy are include feeding a signal from a Blu-ray player at one end of a room to a projector at the other without having to worry about the usual long cable run, or sending a Sky receiver feed from the living room to a bedroom without having to use Sky’s clumsy wired solution or paying for a second-room subscription.
Of course, in the latter situation you won’t be able to watch one Sky channel in one room and another in the second room; both rooms will be restricted to watching the same content.
The One For All Wireless HDMI Sender uses the 5GHz frequency rather than the 2.4GHz frequency that tends to be used by the majority of older and cheaper Wi-Fi routers and cordless phone handsets. This should limit the potential for those other devices to interfere with the Wireless HDMI video signal.
You also don’t have to worry about neighbours enjoying your wireless AV streams thanks to the Wireless HDMI Sender’s use of 128/256-bit AES security encryption.
One For All claims an effective range of 30m from the transmitter unit. This figure, though, depends on there not being any walls between the transmitter and receiver. Since the wireless transmission system doesn’t use infra-red (IR) technology it will work through walls; you’re not dependent on a direct line of sight. But introducing a wall or ceiling between the two parts of the system will undoubtedly significantly reduce the effective range. See the Performance section for more information.
While One For All has certainly made its units more svelte by installing their aerials internally, I do wonder whether this form-over-function decision might limit their effective range.
As you would expect from a wireless video system capable of running between rooms, the One For All SV 1760 also supports an IR return path so you can still control your source equipment with its remote control when you’re watching a screen in a different room. The IR receiver is handily designed to hang from your second screen’s bottom edge, hopefully in line with your remote, while the IR transmitter that relays the signal is a more standard little head unit designed to be stuck flat in front of the equipment you’re trying to control remotely.
One nice addition is that both the transmission and receiver units use MicroUSB ports, so you can power them using connected devices –such as a PC – rather than having to hook each unit up to its own separate mains supply.
Setting up is simple, and works as you’d expect. Connect an HDMI cable from your source device to the transmitting box and connect another cable from the receiving box to your TV or projector. You can also use the HDMI output on the transmission unit to loop back to the screen that’s in the same room as your source device if you want to have the option of watching content on two screens.
After that, you need to connect the IR transmitter and stick it in a place near your source where your source can receive its signals and stick the IR transmitter to the IR receiver on your second device.
Both the transmitter and receiver units carry simple, easy-access pairing buttons, and pairing takes place reasonably quickly. What’s more, as long as you’re within range, the connection remains stable.
The IR part of the process is probably the most irritating. The little dongle that feeds IR signals on into your source equipment seems to have quite a narrow working range and required lots of tweaking before I managed to get it into a position where it consistently communicated with the source.
It could well be in this day and age, though, that you don’t even need to use the IR system to control your source gear from a second room. After all, many devices, from Blu-ray players to Sky boxes, now let you control them via your Wi-Fi system and apps on your phone or tablet.
One other niggle is that I found the both the stands and transmission/receiver boxes are a bit too light, meaning they could easily be pulled off shelves or window sills just by the weight of the cables attached to them.
When it comes to picture and sound quality, the One For All Wireless HDMI Sender gets most things right, but is let down by a single aggravating flaw.
Starting with the good, pictures clearly contain every pixel present in a source, delivered with just as much sharpness and colour richness as you would see if the source was connected directly to the same screen.
What’s more, there’s no extra noise in the picture. The sort of fizzing, blocking, or sparkling problems sometimes seen with video sending systems are all entirely absent, as long as the receiver and transmitter are within comfortable range of each other. The image can freeze before the system – slightly sluggishly – tries to re-establish a connection if you push it right to the edge of its range comfort zone. Still, this is no more than you would expect of any digital transmission system.
When it comes to audio, the system is capable of transmitting both PCM stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, and both of these arrived at their destinations without interference or loss of quality.
Sadly, there’s one issue I couldn’t solve: judder. With both 50Hz and 24fps sources the SV 1760 causes the picture to stutter really quite noticeably – far more than even a high quality TV’s motion smoothing processing will comfortably be able to deal with. Quick camera pans look particularly ugly, while content like the ticker text running along the bottom of a Sky News feed noticably choppy.
This issue occurs even if you have the receiver and transmitter sitting very comfortably within range of each other; it’s not something that only happens on the fringes of reception.
Aside from the quality of the images it transmits, probably the most important aspect of the One For All SV 1760’s performance for most people will be its effective range. I was happy to say that moving our second screen and the receiver unit around the house suggests One For All is pretty close with its 30m effective range claim when you’re talking about a direct line of sight.
The range drops to a still respectable figure of between 10m and 12m if you have a room or ceiling to go through.
My tests suggest that going through two walls seemingly won’t be an option for all but the very tiniest of homes though this is no more than I would have expected, and One For All never tries to suggest in any of its materials on the SV 1760 that it’s good for double wall transmissions.
One last key aspect of the SV 1760’s performance that will be of critical importance to gamers is the amount of delay it introduces into the video signal. My tests reveal that the SV 1760 consistently adds between 35 and 40ms of delay as it transmits the images from your source to your projector or second-room screen.
This isn’t actually a bad result; I’ve seen other video transmission platforms routinely introduce almost twice that much delay. Still, given that you have to add the SV 1760’s 35-40ms to the lag being introduced by your display device, you could well be looking at a combined input lag in an SV 1760 system of 70ms or more (depending on the abilities of your display). This will prove a bit too high for serious gamers to feel comfortable with.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
If you find the system struggling to work over a range you want to cover, try marginally adjusting the angles of the receiver and transmission boxes a bit at a time, ideally with you moving one box in one room while someone else moves the other box in the other room. This is because there is a degree of directionality in the way the units transmit and receive their signals, and from my experimentation getting the relative angles right can make quite a bit of difference to the signals’ range and robustness.
One other point to raise here is that while the SV 1760’s £200 price is pretty much in line with what you’d generally expect to pay for a decent quality wireless HDMI sender. It looks steep, but it doest at least serve its purpose for homes with a dire need for this sort of solution.
SHOULD I BUY A ONE FOR ALL SV 1760 WIRELESS HDMI SENDER?
If your household would benefit from being able to send sound and vision between rooms or to a distant projector, then the One For All SV 1760 gets most things right. It delivers robust transmissions over a decent (if not spectacular) range, even through single walls or ceilings, and the system is easier to hide than most similar packages.
It also manages to retain full resolution and noiseless pictures throughout its wireless sending process. However, the picture quality is compromised quite significantly by judder, no matter what video source you’re using.
There are lots of things to like about the SV 1760 Wireless HDMI sender. It’s reasonably easy to set up and keep out of sight, it works over a reasonably useful range, and it keeps many aspects of your source’s sound and picture quality intact. Unfortunately, though, some fairly significant judder in its transmitted pictures stops me being able to give it a whole-hearted recommendation.
The latest all-in-one from HP is an office PC that’s been built to handle a wide variety of business tasks, while at the same time adding some sheen and style to the average desk.
For many office environments this £1,343/$2,014 machine will make perfect sense, providing enough power to cope with the tasks at hand while saving a huge amount of space. It even benefits from some attractive added extras, thanks to its touchscreen display and Bang & Olufsen audio.
HP has mixed more familiar businesslike looks with stylish metal to create the EliteOne. The screen sits in the middle of a glossy black bezel that’s arguably a tad too wide, beneath which you’ll find a band of aluminium that houses the EliteOne’s Bang & Olufsen speakers.
The stand is finished in the same light metal. It gently slopes towards the front of the desk, and its rear features subtle curves and angles – it’s good-looking, but it won’t prove distracting in an office. That stand has a hidden talent, too; press the machine down and it dips the screen to a horizonal position, which is ideal for meetings and co-working.
The EliteOne’s reclining stand isn’t the only available option for the machine. A second variant makes this PC height-adjustable – a rarity for all-in-one systems. It’s available as an accessory that costs £71/$106, but there are some versions of the all-in-one that include the height-adjustable stand as standard.
Great looks are backed up with decent build quality. There’s no give in any of its panels, and the stand feels strong while the machine is being moved.
HP has run its EliteOne machines through a battery of tests to back up its claims. It’s been through 1,000 miles of transportation, covered in dust, jolted and dropped from various angles and been subject to simulated altitude and temperature changes. While I’m not quite sure who’d be taking a large all-in-one PC into the field, it’s reassuring to know that HP’s machines are built to withstand punishment beyond what most of us will be able to throw at it.
It’s not all good news, however. HP’s machine is chunky: it stretches 278mm from front to back, and it’s 567mm tall. It also tips the scales at 7.34kg, making it a hefty unit. Although the Apple iMac 21.5in has a smaller screen than the HP, it feels positively light at 5.68kg – and it’s only 528mm tall and 175mm deep. Arguably it looks more stylish, too, with its slimmer screen, svelter stand and all-metal construction.
HP has kitted out the EliteOne with a decent selection of ports. The right-hand side has a DVD writer and a fingerprint reader, and the left-hand edge serves up two USB 3 connectors, a USB 3.1 Type-C port, an SDXC card reader and two audio jacks. They’re alll easily accessible, which is something the likes of Apple could probably learn from.
The rear of the system offers more, namely four USB 3 ports and the Gigabit Ethernet jack. However, all those connectors are more tricky to reach; they’re beneath the stand and hidden in a recess so these’ll probably be used for your more permanent peripherals.
Apple’s machine doesn’t have a fingerprint reader or an optical drive, but it does have Thunderbolt, and its ports are all easy to reach.
I’ve already mentioned the SDXC card slot and fingerprint reader, and those office-friendly features are augmented by impressive hardware elsewhere. There’s a TPM 1.2 module, and Intel vPro. HP has included a webcam and noise-reduction technology for its dual microphones.
The EliteOne also comes with HP’s familiar business applications. Its Sure Start tool aids BIOS management, and the firm’s TouchPoint Manager can be used to manage updates and software across a wide deployment of machines.
It’s a reasonable slate of business features and tools, and it’s all powered by a mid-range specification. The Intel Core i5-6500 is a quad-core chip clocked to 3.2GHz with a peak of 3.6GHz, and it uses Intel’s HD Graphics 530 core – a new integrated GPU with 192 stream processors and a 1,050MHz top speed. That’s fine for work, but there’s no Hyper-Threading on that Core i5 chip, so multi-tasking will take a hit when compared to a more expensive Core i7.
HP’s Core i5 chip is a solid mid-range piece of silicon, and it will no doubt compete well with the CPU inside the £1,049/$1,574 iMac. That system’s Core i5 chip is quad-core, but it’s a 2.8GHz part that relies on the Broadwell architecture – a step back from HP’s Skylake chip.
The EliteOne comes with 8GB of memory and a 256GB Samsung PM871 SSD. That’s a welcome inclusion that will outpace more traditional hard disks, such as the 1TB drive included in the iMac. Only pricier models of the iMac have PCI-E-based SSDs.
The HP has a reasonable mid-range specification, and it also offers ample customisation. The EliteOne can be configured with a selection of CPUs from low-end Celeron and Pentium processors to powerful Core i7 chips, and it can be fitted with anything up to 32GB of memory.
Storage options range from basic hard disks to high-end PCI-Express SSDs and self-encrypting drives, and the system can be configured with Windows 10, 8.1, 7 or even FreeDOS.
There’s huge potential, although only a couple of alternative models are available to buy online. A system with a Core i7 processor and 1TB hybrid hard disk costs £1,345/$2,017, and a cheaper version sold elsewhere mixes its Core i5 chip with 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard disk for £956/$1,434.
For further options – perhaps to buy several systems for a larger deployment – you’ll need to speak to HP directly.
The HP’s default warranty is a three-year deal that covers parts, labour and on-site service – a generous service that outstrips most consumer and corporate PCs.
SCREEN AND SOUND QUALITY
HP supplies the EliteOne with a 1,920×1,080-pixel touchscreen. The resolution is adequate for a 23in screen, and as a result it won’t be necessary to use any scaling options. However, its middling density level of 96ppi means that pixellation is obvious without any squinting – and it also makes it tricky to use more than two windows on this panel at once.
That firmly positions the HP as a standard office system, rather than anything that’s a cut above. There’s no chance of sharper media playback, or being able to edit photos and videos with the added precision delivered by higher-resolution panels.
Rival Windows machines with higher resolutions – or the pricier Apple iMac models – are sharper, and their higher resolutions result in greater screen real-estate, making them more versatile for work. The EliteOne’s semi-glossy finish may also prove irritating beneath bright lights.
The HP performed consistently well in benchmarks, with no major issues. A contrast ratio of 1,145:1 is a stellar start – that’s higher than most dedicated screens, which means that there’s ample vibrancy in bright colours and depth in darker tones. The 0.2-nit black level helps with the latter, and the 229-nit brightness measurement will prove adequate for any office.
The average Delta E of 2.46 is great, and the colour temperature of 6,661K isn’t far removed from the 6,500K ideal. The HP’s screen displays 89.9% of the sRGB colour gamut, and it loses only a reasonable 11% of its brightness level in the corners. This is a decent uniformity result that won’t prove ruinous or noticeable.
Problems are minor. There’s that uniformity measurement and a little backlight bleed along the bottom edge. In addition, brightness and clarity tend to disappear when the screen is viewed off-centre – but that’s it.
The decent set of benchmark results ensure that the EliteOne’s screen can handle a wide variety of work tasks. It’s more than good enough for Word and Excel, and it has enough accuracy and gamut coverage to tackle photo and video-editing, too.
It will struggle only when a user needs more pixels or more accurate colours – and in that case, a discrete professional screen will always be the best bet. It’s unrealistic to expect that level of performance from a PC such as this.
HP has added some sheen to the EliteOne with Bang & Olufsen audio hardware. While this sounds impressive, in reality it means that HP’s engineers have worked with Bang & Olufsen to improve the PC’s audio firmware, not hardware. There’s no sign of software to alter the sound output, for instance, nor has the speaker hardware been beefed up.
There’s little sign of high-quality audio, either. The speakers have mighty volume, but the bass isn’t deep enough – it fails to provide the thump I expect. The mid-range is reasonable, but it lacks the detail and depth that even cheap speakers will provide; the top-end is a little tinny. The HP’s speakers are fine for video-conferencing, but I’d only use them for music if alternatives weren’t available.
There were few surprises amid the HP’s application and gaming benchmarks. In Geekbench 3, the mid-range Core i5 chip scored 10,947 points, following up with a score of 5,896 in PCMark 7.
They’re both solid results that will allow the EliteOne to excel in most work tasks. It won’t struggle with running any Microsoft Office application, and there’s enough power to run photo-editing tools, too. Only more intensive multi-tasking will see the HP falter, and for that you’ll want a Core i7 chip with Hyper-Threading.
The integrated graphics core is less capable. Its 3DMark Fire Strike score of 811 is sluggish – not far ahead of laptops, but miles behind even the weakest discrete cards, so this system isn’t cut out for intensive graphical work. It will be able to handle photo processing, but anything beyond that – such as CAD or video – will require specialist GPUs.
The mid-range performance follows through to the SSD. The Samsung drive’s read speed of 505MB/sec is good, but its write pace of 289MB/sec is average at best. Both results are quicker than any hard disk – including the one inside the iMac – but better SATA SSDs and PCI-E-based drives will be faster still.
Heat and noise were never an issue with the EliteOne, either – the processor peaked at a modest 52 degrees. The HP is basically silent while handling the vast majority of tasks, and noise output was minimal even with its CPU stressed to 100%.
SHOULD I BUY THE HP ELITEONE 800?
There’s plenty to like about the HP EliteOne 800 G2. Its processor has adequate power to handle the vast majority of office applications, the storage is reasonable, and under stress the system never became hot or noisy. The screen offers decent quality in every area, and the touchscreen unit has a sensible resolution.
The EliteOne looks good, too, thanks to its metallic finish – and that’s paired with sturdy build quality. The provision of two stands add versatility thanks to height adjustment and horizontal movement.
However, the EliteOne’s biggest problem is its £1,343/$2,014 price. For that money I’d expect a system that specialises in certain departments. The EliteOne is a good all-rounder, but it doesn’t excel in any important office areas.
It’s hampered by the competition, too. Apple’s 21in iMac competes with this machine for £1,049/$1,574, and the Retina version costs £1,199/$1,798. Dell’s 23in Optiplex 7000 Series all-in-ones start at just £755/$1,132, and a Core i7 model is a tempting £1,079/$1,618.
The HP EliteOne is a good-quality office PC that performs well in every important department. However, it doesn’t have the ability to exceed in any particular area – and that means it’s difficult to justify its £1,343/$2,014 price.
Asus Z1 Titan VS Asus Ecchellon X One are 2 powerful 4GB RAM beasts by one of our favorite smartphone producers. Under those attractive and unique designs, there are awesome and impressive specs.
Asus Z1 Titan VS Asus Ecchellon X One features
One thing Asus Z1 Titan VS Asus Ecchellon have in common is their powerful processor and RAM to boost smooth performance. Asus Z1 Titan is a 6GB RAM gaming beast, while Asus Ecchellon sports strong a 4GB of RAM. For your max storage of files, apps and favorite media, both mobiles offer huge internal memory spaces: 256GB VS 128GB respectively. These features make both smartphones perfect choices if you are either a heavy gamer or a keen user who need a vigorous mobile.
Other Asus Z1 Titan specs include a handy 5.5 inch display, 3,500 mAH battery, Snapdragon 830 chip set. There is also a 16MP/5MP camera duo in case you like taking photos, and 4 speakers to bring you the best sound quality. The rest of Asus Ecchellon specs offer the same 5.5 inch screen, another 3,500 mAH battery, and 16MP/8MP camera duo. One special thing we spotted from this Ecchellon is that, the right corner of the smartphone can be removed to insert microSD and SIM card slots.
For now, both Asus Z1 Titan VS Asus Ecchellon X One are still render designs. However, exciting as they appear to be, both smartphones have very high chance of going through mass production by the company. While waiting for further information about the release of Asus Z1 and Asus Ecchellon, many gamers and Asus fans still can’t get enough of these amazing monster smartphones.
Asus Z1 Titan VS Asus Ecchellon X One: beyond awesome
Recent smartphones are being launched with stronger and stronger specs to meet up with increasing demands by users. Since Asus has always been famous for their qualified products with very reasonable prices, we can make sure that these 2 beasts will be super competitive compared to their rivals in the market. Let’s hope Asus will launch them soon, maybe around late 2016-early 2017
In the three years since Sony announced its first generation of RX1 camera, there’s been some very interesting developments in the camera market. The latest announcement, the Sony RX1 R II, brings with it some exciting new technologies which could perhaps see it crowned as the ultimate pocket, or carry-around, camera.
However, where once Sony stood pretty much alone in offering a full-frame compact camera, Leica joined the party earlier in 2015 with its Leica Q (Typ 116) camera, which also has a full-frame sensor. In this piece, we’re going to look at the differences between the two premium offerings to see which one stacks up (on paper at least) as the better option.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: sensor
Both the cameras feature full-frame sensors, with the Leica Q’s offering 24.2 million pixels. Meanwhile, the Sony RX1 R II comes close to doubling that number with a whopping 42.4 million.
The Sony also features a special new design, which it is calling a world’s first, in the form of a “variable” optical low pass filter over the sensor. In basic terms, this means that you can alter the strength of the low pass filter depending on the subject you’re shooting. So, if it’s something that could cause moire patterning, you switch it on, but if it’s something unlikely to do that (such as a landscape) you can switch it off and get the best possible detail in your shot.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: lens
The Leica Q has a Leica Summiliux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens which features 11 elements in 9 groups and 3 aspherical elements. The Sony, as with the previous RX1 cameras, has a narrower Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2.0 offering with 8 elements in 7 groups and 3 aspherical elements. An advanced aspherical (AA) lens element in the Zeiss lens helps it maintain a small size.
The Leica Q’s lens is both half a stop faster, and includes optical image stabilisation, which gives it a big advantage when shooting in low light.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: screen
Despite being an electronics giant, Sony is continuing to be resistant to including touchscreens on its premium RX range of cameras. However, one improvement the RX1 R II has over its predecessor is that it now tilts upwards and downwards for help when shooting from awkward angles. It features 1,229k dots, and is three-inches.
The Leica Q’s screen is also three inches, but has slightly fewer dots at 1040k. However, it is touch sensitive, so you can make changes to certain settings, scroll through pictures and set autofocus point with a touch.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: viewfinder
The Leica Q has a fixed electronic viewfinder which features an eye-sensor for automatically detecting when you have lifted the camera to your eye. Its ultra high resolution at 3.68 million pixels make it one of the best on the market.
Originally, the Sony RX1/R didn’t have a viewfinder, but Sony has added one for its newest generation. Like the RX100 IV, the XGA OLED TruFinder found on the Sony RX1 R II has a retractable design which means you can push it back into the body of the camera to save space. With 2,359 million dots, it’s not quite as high resolution as the Leica, though.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: autofocus
One of the problems of the original Sony RX1 was its relatively slow focusing, but Sony says it has addressed this problem with a 30% increase in focusing speed. There are 399 phase detection AF points, or 25 contrast detection points.
At the time of launch, Leica claimed that the Q had the fastest autofocus of its class, making it quicker than the original RX1R with a suggested focusing time of just 0.15seconds.
Both cameras also feature a macro focusing setting, as well as the option to manual focus.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: sensitivity
The native range of the Leica Q is ISO 100 to the incredibly high ISO 50,000. Meanwhile, the Sony RX1 R has a native offering of 100 – 25600, but, there is the option to expand that offering down to ISO 50, and up all the way to ISO 102400.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: shutter speeds
Leica has included both an electronic and mechanical shutter for the Q, which means that it can shoot from 30 seconds to 1/2000 second with the mechanical, or 1/2500 to the incredibly quick 1/16000 with the electronic shutter. Super fast speeds are very useful when shooting at wide apertures in bright daylight.
By contrast, the Sony is only capable of offering 30 seconds up to 1/4000 – and it can only manage 1/2000 if shooting at the full wide f/2 aperture the lens offers, which means you may have to use a neutral density filter to shoot wide open in bright light.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: continuous shooting
Neither of these cameras would necessarily be the first choice for action photography, but both can shoot pretty quickly. The RX1 R II manages up to 5 frames per second, but the Leica Q doubles this to fully 10 fps – once advantage of having a lower pixel count and therefore less data to process for every shot.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: battery life
Battery life is a problem which plagues small premium cameras such as the Sony RX1 R II and the Leica Q.
There’s no official CIPA rating for the Q, but reviews suggest that battery life could be better.
However, the same could be said of the Sony RX1 R II – with a quoted life of just 220 shots, or 200 shots if you use the viewfinder, it may not last a full day of shooting.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: Wi-Fi
Both of the cameras feature Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for easily sharing your shots between devices, or taking remote control of the camera. With the Sony, you can also add PlayMemories apps from Sony’s store to increase the functionality of the camera.
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: size and weight
Neither of these cameras are going to be able to slip neatly into a tight jeans pocket, but for the specification they offer, the size is still pretty impressive.
The Sony wins out in terms of size and weight here, being noticeably smaller and lighter – at 113.3 x 65.4 x 72.0mm it’s roughly the same size as the RX100 IV when its lens is extended. in contrast the Leica Q measures 130 x 80 x 93mm.
Weighing in at 640g (with battery), the Leica Q is over 130g heavier than the 507g Sony RX1 R II (also with battery).
Sony RX1 R II vs Leica Q 116: price
Ah, the biggest sticking point when it comes to choosing between these two cameras is likely to be its price.
You pay a premium for having that Leica badge, and the Q will set you back a cool £2,900/$4,350. The Sony undercuts that price by around £300/$450 – a price tag of £2,600/$3,900 still isn’t cheap, but at least you’ll have some cash left over to buy some accessories.
The Leica Q is available to buy now, while the Sony RX1 R II goes on sale from December.
For all intents and purposes, a motorcycle housing a V8 engine from a Maserati is nothing short of overkill. It’s also nothing short of insanely fun. And, yes, the resulting vehicle is nothing short of utterly absurd. I mean, one look at the Lazareth LM 847 makes all of that clear.
Yes, that monstrosity is a motorcycle. And, yes, it’s meant to burn rubber on the road, even though the darn thing looks like it can fly. But that’s about where the similarities with other motorcycles end.
The Lazareth LM 847 houses the same 4.7-liter V8 from the Maserati Quattroporte, which sends a whopping 470 horsepower to the tire out back. Since a single wheel isn’t likely going to handle that much power, it comes with two, each with its own separate chain drive and a single-sided swingarm, although they share just one TFX rear shock that’s mounted transversely. Another pair of swingarms sit out front, each holding its own hub-steered wheel, shocks, and rim-mounted brake.
So, yeah, it’s technically a quadcycle, with a tilting design that should help the rider lean the bike into tight corners. As you can imagine, this is no small motorcycle. In fact, it measures a whopping 8.5 feet long and weighs over 880 pounds, so good luck to anyone brave enough to ride it. Heck, it even comes with handlebars that are probably the widest ones you’ll ever see on a motorcycle, so we’re guessing this is going to be hell to steer. Like we said, good luck.
Check out more pictures of Lazareth LM 847 directly from the French custom builder’s website.
For most people, an AC1900 Wi-Fi router hits the sweet spot. It delivers enough speed to support media streaming, and enough features to handle the needs of most homes without blasting a hole in your pocketbook. They’re not the most powerful, but they’re much less expensive than higher-end routers equipped with all the latest whiz-bang features.
This review compares two of the newer contenders: the Buffalo WXR-1900DHPD (notable for its use of open-source DD-WRT NXT firmware), and the somewhat more conventional Linksys EA7500 (one of the lowest-price routers to offer MU-MIMO).
I’m not a big fan of the router industry’s methodology when it comes to identifying 802.11ac router speeds. Manufacturers sum the maximum theoretical speeds available on each frequency band (often rounding up or down) and precede that with the letters AC.
The Buffalo WXR-1900DHPD and Linksys EA7500 routers reviewed here are classified as dual-band AC1900 routers because they deliver maximum throughput of 1300Mbps on the 5GHz frequency band and 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz frequency band. You will never see real-world speeds anywhere close to those numbers, because they don’t take protocol overhead and other factors into consideration. But, generally speaking, an AC1900 router will be faster than an AC1300 router (867+450) and slower than an AC2400 model (1734+600).
Neither the USB 3.0 port on the front of the Buffalo WXR-1900DPHD Wi-Fi router nor the USB 2.0 port on the back are functional.
You also need to look at more than benchmarks to determine a router’s true value. If a router doesn’t support all the features you need, it could deliver the fastest throughput and the longest range in the world, but not be the right solution for your needs.
That’s particularly true of Buffalo’s WXR-1900DHPD. While enthusiasts will be drawn to its DD-WRT NXT open-source firmware, that firmware in its current iteration seems half-baked in that it doesn’t expose all of the router’s hardware features. The router’s USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, for instance, are completely non-functional.
When I benchmarked the Buffalo WXR-1900DPHD using a Windows 10 desktop PC as a server and a Windows 10 laptop outfitted with a D-Link DWA-192 USB 3.0 Wi-Fi adapter as a client, it edged out the Linksys EA7500 at close range while using channel 36 on the 5GHz frequency band (it didn’t fare as well at long range). What’s more, it performed even better (including at long range) when I switched the router to operate on channel 153 on the 5GHz frequency band.
When I benchmarked its performance with an 802.11n client on the 5GHz frequency band, on the other hand, the Linksys delivered the superior performance—and by much higher margins.
Wireless performance with a Windows client
Check out the benchmark charts below to see how the two routers fared against each other on Windows. If you’re only concerned about raw performance, andyou’re running Windows, then Buffalo’s router (the orange bars) might better suit your needs.
With a Windows PC as a client, Buffalo edged out Linksys in most of my 802.11ac benchmarks, but its Wi-Fi performance doesn’t make up for its lack of features.
Wireless performance with a Mac client
Interestingly enough, I had a very different experience on the Mac platform: The Linksys clobbered the Buffalo on both 802.11ac channels and at every test location (the MacBook Pro I use for benchmarking has an onboard 3×3 802.11ac adapter, so I didn’t perform 802.11n benchmarks with it). Either router will deliver enough bandwidth and speed to stream 4K video, but if you have a Mac client, the Linksys EA7500 will deliver more of both—as well as better range, too. Just look at the green-bar victories in the charts below.
When using a MacBook Pro as an 802.11ac client, the Linksys EA7500 thrashed Buffalo’s WXR-1900DPHD on both the low and high channels.
Network-attached storage performance
If you don’t want to spring for the cost of a NAS box, you can plug a USB storage device into the Linksys EA7500, and use it to share files or stream media over your network. This will work on both the Mac and PC platforms, but Mac users won’t be able to use that storage for Time Machine backups.
The Linksys EA7500 is very fast when it comes to network-attached storage. The USB ports on Buffalo’s WXR-1900DHPD are useless.
The Linksys EA7500 is very fast when it comes to transferring files to and from a computer hardwired to the network. I’m using a hardwired connection to measure storage performance in order to remove the Wi-Fi bottleneck. But don’t compare the PC numbers to the Apple numbers. I used portable SSDs with USB 3.0 ports for both tests, and the Windows PC I used has an SSD, too—the iMac, however, does not. Buffalo’s router also has USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, but they’re not exposed in the firmware and are therefore not usable.
Which is the better router?
The Linksys EA7500 is a very good router for $200. It’s easy to set up and use. It has a strong set of features (although it is missing OpenVPN and Time Machine support). And it’s relatively fast. Linksys puts a lot of emphasis on the EA7500’s MU-MIMO support, but that standard is just too new to be all that relevant; don’t buy this router for that feature alone.
Buffalo’s WXR-1900DHPD proved faster in most of my Wi-Fi benchmarks (with a PC, that is—it was slower with a Mac), and it’s a little less expensive, but it falls far short on the features front. Its firmware doesn’t even support all of its hardware, which is not what you expect to see from open-source firmware. It’s an attractive and well-made router with a weak price/performance ratio. I can’t recommend it in its current form.
Feature-rich functionality including turntable support and wireless stereo pairing (using two units)
Apple Siri doesn’t work
Battery life highly varies widely, depending on which features are used
TrueWireless stereo mode stutters audio when starting
The market is awash in Bluetooth speakers, so a new model has to offer something extra special or really different to capture our attention, especially when that new speaker is from a new company.
Riva Audio promises that its Riva S portable Bluetooth speaker meets that objective by reproducing music in a manner that will satisfy both music lovers and audiophiles. Not only has the company largely delivered on that promise, it’s also come up with a number of new features that differentiate its speaker from the broad competition.
The rectangular Riva S is small at only 7.5 inches wide, 2.6 inches high, and 2.5 inches thick. While It weighs a mere 1.5 pounds, it feels solid and dense as though every square inch of the Riva S is filled.
The Riva S comes with a velvet-lined ballistic nylon carrying case and carabiner clip.
To make it easy to take the speaker with you, Riva Audio provides a high-quality, velvet-lined ballistic nylon carrying case and a carabiner clip. The case isn’t big enough to include the international power supply and its swappable U.S., U.K., E.U., and Asia plug adapters, though.
Turn two channels into three for big sound
Riva Audio says it has paid meticulous attention to the speaker’s design and sound. The amp, transducer, and mechanical design were all engineered in-house. Riva Chairman Rikki Farr and Riva President Don North, each of whom has decades of experience in sound reinforcement (i.e., live audio for concerts), spent more than nine months fine-tuning the Riva S’s sound.
But the speaker’s secret sauce is ADX Trillium, the company’s patented and proprietary technology that creates a 300-degree sound field by distributing a stereo signal across the Riva’s three 40mm full-range drivers (one faces front and there’s one mounted on each end-cap). Riva claims that the Trillium design creates the psychoacoustic perception of a wider stereo sound stage and coherent timbral accuracy even as you move off-axis. To my ears, this is more than just marketing fluff; it’s just what I experienced.
The Riva S uses the company’s patented Trillium technology to split a stereo source across three speakers to create a wide soundstage.
The Riva’s Trillium configuration and four custom dual-piston radiators are anchored by an internal, three-channel, 30-watt, Class D amplifier. You can really crank it up.
Riva claims the speaker will deliver 13 hours of battery life if played at 70dB, but you’ll get only about five hours of play time at full volume. A handy battery indicator on the unit’s rear panel lights green if you’re good or red if you’re running low. Taking advantage of the unit’s handy USB charger to top off your mobile device will also result in a battery hit. An on/off switch on the back will help conserve battery life when you listening to music.
I’ve heard more than my fair share of run-of-the mill Bluetooth speakers, and the Riva S is anything but. Like many of its competitors, it supports Bluetooth SBC, AAC, and AptX audio codecs (the latter of which will give you near CD-quality sound when paired with an AptX-compatible source). And there’s a ubiquitous 3.5mm auxiliary input. But that’s where many of the similarities end.
You’ll never need to guess how long the Riva S’s battery will last.
Two Riva S speakers can make a stereo pair
I found the Riva S to be a feature-rich speaker that could be used in many situations where other Bluetooth speakers would be out of their element. Some of these features are automatic, while others are enabled by pressing combinations of the Riva’s capacitive touch-control buttons or via the spartan Riva Mobile App (iOS only right now; Riva says an Android version is in development).
TrueWireless is my favorite Riva S feature. It enables you to add a second Riva S via Bluetooth and play both as a stereo pair. When you set the Riva S into TrueWireless, the first (master) speaker always acts as the left channel and the second (slave) acts as the right channel. The master speaker’s buttons remain functional while the slave’s are defeated. Riva recommends you keep the pair within 10 feet of each other and in the same room to prevent any latency or interference problems.
The team at Riva also fine-tuned the sound in TrueWireless mode. Because both speakers playing together can yield up to a +7- to +8dB increase in loudness, the Riva S loads a different volume level table to keep the Riva’s sound optimal at all volume levels and configurations. That’s attention to detail.
The Riva S is rated IPX4 for water resistance. That means it can take an occasional pool-side or shower-water splash, but it won’t serve as a true in-shower speaker or survive being submerged in water. You must affix a rubber cover (cleverly stored on the bottom of the unit) to the rear ports before exposing it to any water or all bets are off.
The speaker can also function as an echo-canceling speakerphone, thanks to tiny microphones built into the top of the unit. You can accept, reject, and end calls without touching your phone—just press buttons that are also on top of the cabinet. While in speakerphone mode, the Riva S applies a special EQ setting that boosts mid-range frequencies, so you can hear voices more clearly. In my real-world tests, the speakerphone feature worked well; but perhaps unsurprisingly, the people on the other end of my calls said I still sounded like I was on a speakerphone.
The Riva S is rated IPX4 for water resistance, meaning it can survive the occasional pool-side splash but won’t survive submersion.
The speakerphone wasn’t flawless, however; I couldn’t use Siri, a fact that I confirmed with Riva. I couldn’t hear Siri’s audible prompt, nor could I speak any commands though the Riva S. I had to unpair the speaker in to use Siri.
Unlike many Bluetooth speakers, which compress a music source’s dynamic range, the Riva doesn’t. While that’s great for audio quality, it also means that “hot” recordings (tracks whose dynamic range was highly compressed during the mastering process so that they peak at maximum amplitude more often) will come across really loud, while recordings that haven’t been mastered this way will sound quiet.
To compensate for this difference, the Riva S has a “power mode” that adds about a 4dB boost in volume, plus a degree of its own dynamic compression. Don’t overuse this feature if you intended to run on battery power, because engaging power mode can slap you with 40-percent battery-life penalty. With great power comes great responsibility.
Exploded view of the Riva S’s internal design.
Vinyl has enjoyed a major comeback in the past few years, but most powered speakers—especially portable ones—haven’t taken this trend into account. The Riva S has. Plug one end of the provided 3.5mm-to-stereo-RCA cable into the speaker’s Aux input and the other into your favorite turntable. Before you drop the needle, hold the “+” and “-“ buttons down for 5 seconds. The Bluetooth button will turn orange and you’ll now be in Phono Mode. This bypasses the Aux input’s automatic gain control and adds up to 9dB of gain to the speaker’s output to compensate for a turntable’s weaker signal. The Riva S isn’t outfitted with a true phono preamp with an RIAA EQ curve, but it does allow you to connect a turntable to a very small speaker system; and yes, it works with TrueWireless, too. You could set up your turntable with a Riva S on either side and jam to your vinyl collection just about anywhere (you’ll need power for the turntable, of course).
Finally! Two Bluetooth annoyances solved
The Riva S is the first speaker I’ve tested that address two of my biggest perpetual complaints about Bluetooth speakers: concurrent device pairing and relative speaker volume.
In Party Mode, you can pair a Riva S with two Bluetooth sources.
Put the Riva S in Party (Multi-User) Mode by pressing the Bluetooth and “–“ button, and you can pair two active Bluetooth sources with it. Party Mode is simple and smart. The Riva S will start playing the first source you send it. Initiating a stream from a second Bluetooth source won’t override the first; but if the first source is paused or stopped, the second source can start streaming audio anytime. There are no cryptic error messages to decipher, and there’s no need to un-pair and re-pair one device at a time. Party Mode and worked flawlessly in my tests. The Riva S can “remember” up to eight Bluetooth relationships, with the last-connected device being remembered first.
Concerning volume, if you’re using an Apple device, your iOS volume maps exactly with that of the Riva S. In other words, 40-percent loudness on your iPhone corresponds to 40-percent loudness on the Riva A. This is critically important because the Riva is voiced to add loudness contouring when it’s playing at low volumes (to compensate for the way bass sounds at lower volumes), and a loudness defeat when it’s playing near it’s limit (to protect the drivers).
Android users and AUX connections don’t have that luxury. To get the best performance and sonic benefit from the Riva S’s loudness contouring, therefore, users should set their source device’s volume to max and then use the Riva S to adjust the volume.
The Riva S comes with a quick reference card outlining all of the shortcuts to enable the speaker’s various modes.
I had to hear it to believe it
I followed the Riva’s audiophile-inspired “Get Started…” note that greets you upon unboxing. The instructions recommend that you play the S for three hours at 50-percent volume to break in the drivers. I did so on a Sunday afternoon by pairing my two Riva S review units into TrueWireless mode.
I tested the Riva S via Bluetooth using AAC-encoded music files on iPhone 6s and an iPad Air, and FLAC, ALAC, and DSD hi-res music files a mix of three hi-res audio players (Astell & Kern AKjr, Pioneer XDP-100R, and the Questyle QP1R) that I have for a forthcoming review.
When fed the right material, the Riva S can pull out textures, layers, and fine details with ease. Those months of fine-tuning the Riva’s voicing really paid off. It has a euphonic tonal balance that leans a bit to the warmer side of neutral that I found addictive.
The Riva S features a set of capacative touch buttons that glow when you pass your hand over them.
For example, The saxophone on the title track from Steely Dan’s Gaucho was smooth and silky without any harsh or edgy sound coming through.
On the hi-res FLAC version of Eric Clapton’s “Alberta,” from his eponymousUnplugged album, I noted very good timbral accuracy. Clapton’s signature guitar strings on the song’s opening were nicely layered and full-bodied, conveying a good sense of the guitar’s body. Both Clapton’s guitar work and the accompanying piano were sweet and lush—far from the thin or brittle presentation you’d get from many speakers this size.
Dynamics were a real strength, too; for example, I wasn’t expecting the concluding kick-drum from “Alberta” to exhibit a good chest-thumping hit, but that’s what the Riva S delivered.
TrueWireless mode allows you to pair two Riva S speakers via Bluetooth and use them as a stereo pair.
And don’t fear about how loud a single Riva can be. I played Pink Floyd’s “Any Colour You Like” from the hi-res DSD version of Dark Side of the Moon, and from about four feet away measured an average of 93dB, with peaks hitting 96dB.
Turning to TrueWireless, I preferred positioning the Riva’s straight ahead as opposed to toeing them in. Taking the time to position a stereo pair of Riva S speakers yields spectacular results.
Imaging on “Welcome Me” from the Indigo Girls’ Nomads, Indians, Saints was spot-on. There are also various instrument decays and sound effects during the song that fade from one speaker to another. I didn’t perceive any latency between the speakers that would shatter the stereo illusion.
The Riva Audio Mobile App offers instant access to some of the S’s functionality, but it has some noticeable limitations. For example, you can’t browse your music library from the app.
The Riva S delivered excellent horizontal off-axis response in both single-speaker and TrueWireless modes, among the best I’ve heard from any wireless speaker. There was amazing consistency. You almost needed to be behind the speaker to get that muffled coloration that you experience with so many other small speakers.
During all my listening sessions with the Riva S, my sole complaint is a split-second quirk in TrueWireless mode which, according to Riva President Don North, is a result of how CSR’s Bluetooth chipset works with TrueWireless. When I would start playing a song, it would engage in stages. First, there was a bit of lag as the left (master) speaker would start. Then, the left speaker would mute for a micro-second delay, stutter, and then the right (slave) speaker would kick in. After that, all was fine.
Audiophiles and music-lovers take note
If you’re an audiophile, you likely rue the mere thought of being parted from your high-end two-channel gear or headphones. The Riva S won’t take the place of your most treasured critical-listening gear, but it is a music-lover’s portable dream come true. It’s small, lightweight, feature-rich, and it sounds oh so right. Highly recommended.