Monthly Archives: December 2016

2017 Lincoln Continental Review: Luxury From an Alternate Future

Five billion dollars. That’s how much Ford has committed to transforming its moribund Lincoln division into The Lincoln Motor Company. Now, I’ve never run a car company, but I’ve got a feeling that if you’re going to sink $5 billion into something, there isn’t much of a chance that you’re going to half-ass it. So the rebranding came first: the McConaughey ads, the lifestyle branding, and the gradual phasing out of the geezer-friendly models. There were the pretty concepts that pointed the way for the future. Next was the impressively restyled MKZ. And now, nearly two years after its surprise debut as a show car, Lincoln has a suitable flagship in the all-new, back-from-the-dead Continental.

I’ve always been a big American classics kind of guy, so I — and by extension, Autos Cheat Sheet — have been following Lincoln’s big comeback very closely. I stood front-row at the concept’s unveiling at the New York Auto Show in 2015, as one of my earliest assignments for this site. I outlined the Conti’s Rat Pack/Camelot-era history in one of our earliest Throwback Thursday columns. And I dissected the production model as soon as Lincoln released specs on it. Almost exactly a year ago, I predicted what I thought the new car’s existential challenge (that’s the problem with heritage models: There’s always an existential challenge) would be, and I stand by it.

Brief history lesson: In 1988, Ford replaced a fogy-friendly Granada-based Continental with a crisp, all-new Continental, designed to attract a newer, younger clientele to Lincoln. The car garnered some early successes (it even made an appearance on Car and Driver’s 1989 10Best list), but it was little more than a stretched Ford Taurus, and in the face of competition from BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Lexus, and the rest, it only worked to hasten Lincoln’s descent into badge-engineered afterthought. What Ford/Lincoln needs with this [new] car is a return to the forward-thinking ’60s-era flagship, not an ’80’s-style rebadged Ford.

2017 Lincoln Continental

I recently spent a week with a Continental, and this dilemma weighed heavily on my mind, because there’s a lot riding on this thing. The good news: The Continental feels worthy of the investment; it feels like its own animal. It has Ford DNA in it, sure, but this is a concerted effort at a special, world-class luxury car. To that end, Lincoln largely succeeds.

But it isn’t quite as simple as that. While it doesn’t feel dated, Lincoln’s brand of luxury feels jarringly old school. It would be easy if I could compare the Conti one-to-one with a Cadillac CT6, Lexus GS, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, or any of the rest, but it’s difficult to. Somewhere in the 1980s, the Germans hijacked the luxury market, and since then they’ve been running the show. For at least 30 years now, Stuttgart, Ingolstadt, and Munich have been calling the shots, and the rest of the world has just been following.

Edict from Germany: Every car needs to feel sporty. Every car needs to have a dialed-in suspension, heavily bolstered seats, a top speed of at least 155 miles per hour, and a focus on its zero to 60 time. Doesn’t matter if it’s a full-size sedan, seven-seat SUV, or family-friendly crossover. That’s. Just. How. It. Is. And for the most part, cars across the board have benefited from this. But Ford has taken a risk and gone another way: the old way. The way things were done before Europe was calling the shots, and before quality control started its nosedive sometime during the Johnson Era. The way it was when the Continental was king, and when “The Best in the World” meant Lincoln, Cadillac, and not much else.

So the Continental doesn’t pretend that it’s a sports car, because it isn’t. It’s a full-size luxury sedan, and a good one at that. Lincoln clearly doesn’t give a damn about silly things like Nürburgring times. It wants to build a no-compromise, total luxury car. In my opinion, the Continental is better off for it.

Picture a dim room full of people speaking German. That’s today’s luxury sedan segment. Now picture someone bursting in speaking English in an American accent. That’s the Continental.


2017 Lincoln Continental

When Lincoln debuted the Continental concept in April 2015, it started a social media beef the likes of which the automotive world doesn’t normally see. After the concept’s reveal at the New York International AutoShow, Luc Donckerwolke, a designer at Bentley (now at Hyundai), blasted the car, saying “I would have called it Flying Spur concept and kept the four round lights.” He even went so far as posting on the Facebook page of a Lincoln designer, asking “Do you want us to send the product tooling?”


2017 Lincoln Continental

Continentals have been famous for a plush ride and a world-class interior since before World War II, and the new car doesn’t disappoint. Many of the styling cues found on the 2015 show car are here in the production model: the wide, dominant center console; three spoke wheel; and a liberal helping of chrome. While those look great (and are augmented by good-looking semi-gloss wood accents), the star of the show here is the 30-way power front seats, which Ford has been testing and working on for nearly as long as the Continental itself. Controlled by Mercedes-like door buttons, there are six ways to adjust the bottom cushion, two ways to adjust the seat back, telescoping headrest, four lumbar controls, adjustable bolsters, individual side bottom cushion controls, and extending thigh support. Oh, and they’re heated, ventilated, and they massage, too.

Got all that? Don’t worry, I didn’t at first either. The seats take a few minutes to dial in, but it’s well worth the trouble. Once they were set, they were some of the most comfortable thrones I’ve had the pleasure of driving in.

In back, there’s plenty of legroom, and with the Rear-Seat package (a $4,300 option) they’re reclining, heated, ventilated, and massage also. My test Conti had $9,300 worth of luxury options alone ($5K Luxury package, and the aforementioned rear seat upgrade). While that’s plenty pricey — it was the biggest factor in transforming our car from the $55,915 AWD Reserve model into the stately $75,950 embodiment of Lincoln’s Quiet Luxury ethos.

Interior pros and cons

2017 Lincoln Continental

+ Interior doesn’t look too far off from the gee-whiz concept. It doesn’t disappoint either.

+ You never think you’ll need 30-way power adjustable heated, ventilated, massaging seats until you have them. Then you can’t live without them.

+ Door-mounted seat controls and drilled aluminum speaker grilles give a strong Mercedes vibe, but that’s never a bad thing.

– Finding the right combination in those seats will take some time and patience. Don’t get discouraged; it’s worth it.

– Rear seat occupants have little to complain about — except their reclining thrones can’t compete with the 30-ways up front.

Tech and safety

2017 Lincoln Continental

The Continental looks like a flagship, drives like a flagship, rides like a flagship, and thankfully, has the tech to back it up, too. The adjustable digital instrument display is tastefully done, and its sweeping arc speedometer and gold accents remind me of the graceful units in the late-’50s Contis. The Sync3 infotainment system should be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Ford lately, and while it’s already quick and responsive, Lincoln has gussied it up with a beautiful and unique startup and home screen that suit the character of the car.

With the luxury packages, there are three separate climate control systems, a twin-panel moonroof, 19 speaker Revel Ultima stereo, and rear sunshades, making the Continental a great place to spend time. Safety features in my test car included lane departure warning, auto-dimming mirrors, park assist, 360 degree camera, adaptive cruise control, and pre-collision assist. It hasn’t been given a safety rating from the NHTSA yet, but since every American model that uses Ford’s CD4 platform has a five-star rating, we wouldn’t expect anything less from Lincoln’s flagship.

Tech and safety pros and cons

2017 Lincoln Continental

+ The blend of old-school luxury materials and modern tech features go together very nicely here.

+ Digital instruments and infotainment screen suit the car nicely.

+ 19 speaker Revel Ultima stereo is a great way to make that quiet ride less quiet.

– Like everything else here, tech options cost a pretty penny.

– We’d love to see some piano black controls on the doors, center console, and steering wheel. Matte black buttons almost detract from the car’s upscale feeling.

The drive

2017 Lincoln Continental | James Derek Sapienza/Autos Cheat Sheet

Since the unveiling of the Continental concept, Lincoln has been building its brand on the idea of Quiet Luxury. What is Quiet Luxury? Essentially, it’s the opposite of a BMW commercial. You won’t see a well-heeled looking driver with a glimmer in his eye stomp on the gas as the tach jumps and your TV home entertainment system blasts enhanced engine revs. With this Continental, Lincoln set out to do what it did with virtually all its previous flagships: build a car that gets its passengers to where they’re going in absolute comfort, and leave its driver wanting for nothing. And overall, it succeeded.

The cabin is remarkably quiet, whether on the highway or navigating pothole-ridden city streets. And while those 30 way seats seem daunting at first, once they’re dialed in and set, they’re hard to leave, even after a few hours of driving. Power is direct and discreet, just like you’d expect from a luxury sedan, though I thought Sport mode could have used a little more fine-tuning. And for such a big car, the 20 mile per gallon average fueleconomy I saw seemed to be appropriate.

Wrap up and review

2017 Lincoln Continental

The Continental almost feels like it’s from an alternate timeline. Like its ancestors from 1939, 1956, 1961, or 1968, this car is a synthesis of European and American styling that turns heads everywhere it goes. This isn’t German, British, or even German-British luxury (sorry, Bentley); it’s a return to old-school American luxury. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it until I spent time with it.

If only Detroit never began to skimp on quality control way back when, or  stopped building cars that handled like couches on wheels anytime before 2005, or never got so arrogant that it started filling its luxury cars with parts from lesser models. If the Big Three had never lost sight of building “the best” to beat the competition instead of undercutting the other guy on production costs in hopes of increasing profit margins. If it hadn’t just ignored the Germans when they offered something better, then stayed the course while driving their luxury brands into the ground. It doesn’t matter now, because either way, I think we would still have this Continental. If Lincoln never spent all those years in the weeds, it still probably would’ve gotten here. I, for one, am just glad Ford gave its luxury brand the chance.

2017 Lincoln Continental

But in this reality, Lincoln no longer has the clout it used to have with buyers, so now it’s firmly in the outsider part of the segment along with Kia, Genesis, and to a degree, Volvo and Cadillac. That’s OK; it has something to prove, and with a flagship like the Continental, it shows that it’s willing to do what it takes to get on the right track. Of course, there’s room for improvement, but if the Continental is this fully formed out of the gate, then The Lincoln Motor Company looks to be headed in the right direction.

So, is this car the forward-thinking flagship that’s special enough to wear the Continental nameplate? Yes. Yes, it is.


Xiaomi Redmi 4 VS Meizu M5 Note VS Huawei Honor 6X Camera Review

Most users have issue about choosing one from many products, when we face multi choice, we will feel very hesitated about making choices. Right now there are various smartphones below $150 on the current market, so we choose top three budget hot smartphone in China to help you know better, they are Xiaomi Redmi 4, Meizu M5 Note and Huawei Honor 6X.  We may care most about its camera, so let’s check their clarity, photographing effect and night photographing effect.


Camera Experience

As the first requirement that people care about, let’s see Huawei Honor 6X, Meizu M5 Note, and Redmi 4 photo interface as follow. They have nice performance in smartphone launching speed, focusing speed and photographing speed, and no long delay phenomenon.

Meizu M5 Note

Huawei Honor 6X

Redmi 4

Camera Interface

In photographing interface, they are compatible with their own UI, but they all adopt simple style, but in function setting, Huawei Honor 6X, Meizu M5 Note, and Redmi 4 have their own design logic.

Meizu M5 Note uses Flyme 5 design, all of settings are put on the top of the interface such as settings, camera mode, and filter,etc. which can let users set up by themselves without complicated searching.


Meizu M5 Note

Huawei Honor 6X continues to use the sliding operation as main logic setting, sliding to left means setting up the camera configuration, sliding to right means to set up camera mode.


Huawei Honor 6X

Redmi 4 interface designs very simply, filter lens and camera mode are set up in the first level of the camera interface, but there are some uncommon settings putting in the mode checkbox., it needs to open two levels and then it can choose.


Redmi 4

Color Comparison


In this set of Christmas sample, we can see they have nice color restoring in color performance, Huawei Honor 6X and Redmi 4 photo samples look more real, but Meizu M5 Note looks warmer according to the snowman from the window. in addition, we can see they have different performance in red and green color, in general, they all have their own style.


According to this set of sample, it shows they have nice performance in the day, but in terms of red and green color tendency, Meizu M5 Note and Huawei Honor 6X have richer color, but Redmi 4 shows simple green and red color which is not so rich.



This two samples are  the enlarging photo of three phones, Meizu M5 Note with 13MP camera and Huawei Honor 6X with 12MP camera have shown their original analysis to keep more details, and Redmi 4 with 13MP doesn’t take advantage of the 13MP camera to cause the details losing much,so we can see a little blurring.



This two samples are the enlarging part of this tower, compared with last set of photos, Meizu M5 Note and Huawei Honor 6X win over Redmi 4. But due to rich color of Meizu M5 Note, the details of its performance shows much stronger, let’s see the top part of the tower of Meizu M5 Note and Huawei Honor 6X, we can see Meizu M5 Note shows details much richer.




This sets of samples shows they have high brightness in dark details part to keep more details under the bridge, but in high gloss, Meizu M5 Note and Huawei Honor 6X make high gloss low, we can still see the light pole clearly on the bright, but Redmi 4 can’t see the light pole due to over exposure.



Let’s see this sample under the tree, the overall design looks very decent, but after enlarging the building, we can see the control of high gloss of Redmi 4.

Close Distance Comparison


In close distance, Meizu M5 Note and Huawei Honor 6X still have nice sample performance, whether in color restoring, brightness or white balance, but Redmi 4 still looks a little blue in white balance in its sample, in all, they all show rich details in their sample.


In this rotating statue, Meizu M5 Note and Huawei Honor 6X have much brighter color than Redmi 4, due to Meizu M5 Note rich brightness, it is attractive more.


Macro contrast

In this set of samples, we can they have strong level but we can see they have their own brightness, Huawei Honor 6X has highest brightness, Meizu M5 Note is second, and Redmi 4 ranks the third. According to enlarging three samples, we can see more details retained on Meizu M5 Note directly.


In this scene, we launched Huawei Honor 6X to take the photos, compared with Meizu M5 Note, we found Huawei Honor 6X is limited in blurring effect, but the blurring is over large on the edge,there will be unnatural feeling.


Huawei Honor 6X VS Meizu M5 Note


Huawei Honor 6X Blurring Setting

In this branch of tree, they still show different style, in details, Huawei Honor 6X shows higher birightness, Meizu M5 Note is better, in addition, Huawei Honor 6X and Meizu M5 Note shows naturally in color, especially the green color.

Indoor Constrast


In this indoor sample, Huawei Honor 6X and Meizu M5 Note both have nice performance to show the details and light well, but Redmi 4 shows the white balance tending to blue issue, same as close distance sample. So Redmi 4 needs to improve in white balance.


This set of sample is same as the last one, Meizu M5 Note and Huawei Honor 6X show well, but Redmi 4 still tends to green in white balance.

Night Samples


Night photographing shows the phones’ ability, in this building night sample, they both have nice performance with enough brightness and noise control, which can stand for the high-end level in 150usd smartphones.


But they all have their gap, such as Redmi 4 in the light part of the ads board with over exposure, in addition, if we enlarge the sky part of this three photos, we discover that Huawei Honor 6X has more noise.


This sample is similar to the last one, after enlarging, we can see in the analysis at night aspect, Meizu M5 Note and Huawei Honor 6X are similar.



According to comparison of photo samples of three smartphones, we can see they have shown their nice performance in picturing quality or camera experience. In night analysis, Meizu M5 Note and Huawei Honor 6X are similar, only Redmi 4 tends to green in white balance. They can take nice photos in the day. Therefore, in your mind, which one do you like most?


2016 in review: The year in VR and AR – It’s been a hell of a year for virtual reality

Real VR has finally made it home – at least for people who have the money to afford a system. Augmented reality isn’t too far behind either and has made several significant steps forward in 2016.

It’s tough to say yet whether AR headsets will make it mainstream, but the advent of VR has surely paved a way. That’s not to say VR is perfect just yet – the headsets could use some more tinkering in terms of comfort, more rounded experiences, and of course the big one: freedom from wires. However we’re confident that these developments aren’t too far off.

Here’s our year in review of VR and AR in chronological order. We can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring.

VR and AR: Year in review

Vive alive

This beast of a machine gave us jaw-droppingly amazing experiences when it arrived in April. HTC Vive let us walk around in VR and, though tethered to an expensive PC rig, the headset proved that virtual reality could be so much more than a sitting experience. From Google’s Tilt Brush to high intensity shooter Raw Data, we’ve truly loved using the Vive this year. Heck, it even won the Wareable Award for best headset of 2016 for delivering a complete VR package with its controllers, room-scale and high quality experiences.

2016: A year in review for VR and AR

But the caveats remain – Vive is expensive and not exactly the most living-room-friendly device. The SteamVR library could also use a few more polished games with varying gameplay and experiences that last a little longer.

Oculus Rift

Like the Vive, Oculus Rift has also been blowing minds this year. On arrival, Oculus was plagued with shipping delays (as was Vive, but Rift headsets arrived much later for some people). Was it worth the wait? Somewhat. We liked the Oculus Rift. And that was it – a solid, albeit vanilla, VR experience. The lack of room-scale and controllers for each hand were sorely missed. That’s been resolved with the Oculus Touch controllers which we’ll get into shortly – they arrived about eight months later than the headset. While it meant spending extra money, they were certainly worth the wait.

Microsoft HoloLens

2016: A year in review for VR and AR

Now, Microsoft HoloLens didn’t actually launch this year. However, the company did set some plans in motion for its AR/MR headset by finally selling HoloLens developer kits. For a very affordable $3,000 per headset (sarcasm), early adopters can try and create new apps and experiences plus provide Microsoft with feedback. So it’s technically still not ready for consumers but we consider it a big step in the right direction. After all, it’s better than Microsoft canning it altogether like it did with the Microsoft Band 2

Samsung Gear VR

While there are tons of mobile VR headsets now out and on the way, it’s safe to say that the Samsung Gear VR was the first to really show off what mobile VR could do. That’s probably why the 2016 version had so many impressive improvements. Samsung and Oculus took our complaints to heart and got rid of the fogging up issue, made it more comfy and of course, continued to add VR experiences.

Oculus Santa Cruz

2016: A year in review for VR and AR

Learning about the Oculus Santa Cruz standalone prototype was a major surprise of 2016. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during the reveal that high-end, untethered VR is the middle ground we need to bridge the gap between mobile VR and tethered PC VR. Trying Santa Cruz out had us seeing visions of what a future of untethered VR will look like. Even with a short demo, the immersion was undeniably better than the likes of Rift, Vive and Gear VR. We probably won’t be able to buy it next year – the headset we tried was held together with duct tape – but at least we now know a standalone Oculus is on the way.

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PlayStation VR

With all the talk of PC VR, don’t think we’ve forgotten console virtual reality. Sony’s PlayStation VR is much more affordable than its high-end counterparts, though it comes with a few sacrifices. You won’t get room-scale, meaning walking around is pretty much out of the question. The graphics quality isn’t on the same level as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive either and we’ve been more prone to motion sickness on PS VR than the other devices. However, we remained impressed by Sony’s offering – it’s compatible with PS4 peripherals you may already have, the games library is good and it’s mega easy to set up – so we aren’t complaining too much.

Microsoft VR platform

During Microsoft’s Surface event, we were expecting to hear more about the HoloLens. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by news that Microsoft is working on “powerful and affordable VR”. More specifically, the company will be partnering up with other brands to release a $299 headset that’s going to work with the upcoming Windows 10 Creator’s Edition software update. Aside from who’s making the headset – HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Acer – and the price, we know very little. Here’s hoping next year will reveal more secrets.

Google Daydream

2016: A year in review for VR and AR

We’ve expressed our fondness for Gear VR but this year we also fell in love with Google Daydream View. Where Samsung’s headset is all plastics and metals, Google’s own Daydream headset is soft, cushy and kind of cute – major props to the designers. The VR headset fits like, well, a dream and works really well too. Unfortunately, it’s pickier than its sibling Google Cardboard and will only work with the Google Pixel phone or other Android Daydream-ready handsets. That rules out iPhone users too, which is a bit of a bummer.

Oculus Touch

2016: A year in review for VR and AR

We’ve reached the final part of Oculus’ VR puzzle: the Oculus Touch controllers. Oh, and the little addition of an extra sensor to allow Oculus room-scale. We had to wait until December for the hardware, but as we said before, it was worth it. The Touch controllers give you a teensy bit more functionality than Vive’s controllers and you don’t need as much space for the room-scale tech. The sensors are also far easier to set up and adjust due to their bases, and, last but not least, Oculus’ games library is loaded with experiences that feel like you’re getting your money’s worth of playtime. But money could be the issue here – getting the complete Rift experience is pricey, and that’s the area it may struggle with for the time being.


Onda Xiaoma 41 Notebook Hands-on Review

A few days ago, Onda has held a new 2in1 notebook press conference with Microsoft and Intel. They will start to sell them until next month. But right now we found this latest Onda notebook, Onda Xiaoma 41 starts to sell from Geekbuying. And they have also tested it well. Let’s know more details about it.



Onda Xiaoma 41 has 334 x 220 x 21.05 mm dimensions, 1.3kg weight, due to using hard plastic material instead of metal material. So you will enjoy lighter and thinner new Onda notebook. It comes with 14.1 inch 1080P IPS Screen with 1920×1080 pixels resolution which can offer better screen visual experience in watching videos, viewing photos, playing games, etc. It has many useful interfaces such as  2 x USB 3.0, 1 x DC jack, 1 x TF Card slot, 1 x Mini HDMI slot, 1 x 3.5mm Earphones Jack. The outstanding feature is in two USB 3.0 ports for faster charge and data transmission.


It is equipped with Intel Apollo lake Celeron N3450 Quad Core 1.1GHz, up to 2.2GHz processor,  Intel Gen 9 High definition Graphics GPU, so that you can enjoy better user experience in entertainment and offical work with faster speed. It has RAM 4GB ROM 64GB internal storage that you can do multi-tasking freely and store large files as many as possible. Besides, you can also insert a TF card to expand the storage to 256GB if you still think the storage is not large enough for you.

According to Master Lu Benchmark test, it shows 41895 points which is similar to  Intel Core i3-3120M to prove its powerful performance. and it has 114 CPU scores in CINEBENCH R15, so this notebook will be able to do efficient work in office work, internet searching,and other entertainment.

In game test, we can play LOL very fluently with 1920×1080 pixel screen resolution, and it supports 50FPS outside of teamfights and in CS game playing, it keeps over 45FPS,


Onda Xiaoma 41 is built in 5000mAh 38Wh Li-ion battery life, which can enable you to support up to 7 hours using with low power consumption and DPTE  intelligent battery management of Windows 10 OS. And it can support up to 5 hours for playing games continuously. Of course, you can save more power by lower the brightness of your screen.

Other Features

It runs latest Windows 10 OS which can let you enjoy latest update or new features for more convenient office work, game playing, etc. It has single front 2MP camera, HDMI Output, dual Band wifi, 2.4G+5G network.


Onda Xiaoma 41 Notebook is the high-end one to bring your better and faster experience in your entertainment or office work. Right now Onda Xiaoma 41 starts to sell from Geekbuying at $299.99. If you are interested in a high-end notebook for entertainment, you can try this latest high-end notebook now.


Sony RX100 V Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Sony RX100 V’s image quality to its predecessor, the RX100 IV, as well as both of its nearest 1-inch sensor-based compact camera rivals, the Canon G7X II and Panasonic LX10. For good measure, we’ve also compared it against a compact with an even larger sensor, the Panasonix LX100, as well as a similarly-priced mirrorless camera with a far larger sensor, the Sony A6300.

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NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera’s actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera’s respective sample image thumbnail page: Sony RX100 V, Sony RX100 IV, Canon G7X II, Panasonic LX10, Panasonic LX100 and Sony A6300 — links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Sony RX100 V to any camera we’ve ever tested!

Sony RX100 V vs Sony RX100 IV at Base ISO
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 125
Sony RX100 V at ISO 125
Sony RX100 IV at ISO 125

Given that they both share the exact same 1-inch sensor size, 20.1-megapixel resolution and BIONZ X image processor, you might expect the Sony RX100 V and its predecessor, the RX100 IV, to have identical image quality too. Even at base sensitivity, though, the RX100 V turns in the better performance of the pair. It’s just slightly (but noticeably) crisper in the mosaic label and fabric swatches, and yet the sharpening haloes are no more prominent in the bottle crop than those of the RX100 IV. The newer camera also renders the color of the difficult pink swatch more accurately than did its predecessor.

Sony RX100 V vs Canon G7X Mark II at Base ISO
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 125
Sony RX100 V at ISO 125
Canon G7X Mark II at ISO 125

The Sony RX100 V also shares the same sensor size and nearly-identical resolution with the 20.2-megapixel Canon G7X II. Despite that outward similarity, Sony’s camera performs noticeably better at base sensitivity. In fairness to Canon, the G7X II has somewhat more modest sharpening haloes in the bottle crop. However, the Sony RX100 V’s mosaic label and fabric swatches are crisper, and it better holds onto the fine thread pattern in the pink swatch which is largely lost by the Canon. The RX100 V also renders the color of the pink swatch better, and shows more contrast in the difficult red swatch.

Sony RX100 V vs Panasonic LX10 at Base ISO
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 125
Sony RX100 V at ISO 125
Panasonic LX10 at ISO 125

The Panasonic LX10, too, shares the same 1-inch sensor size and 20.1-megapixel resolution as the Sony RX100 V. Once again, though, we have to give the nod at base sensitivity to the Sony, although its a close-run thing. Just as in the comparison with the Canon G7X II above, the Panasonic LX10 shows less prominent sharpening haloes in the bottle crop, but is also less crisp than the RX100 V in the mosaic crop. The LX10 does well with the thread pattern in the pink swatch, but renders the color as rather too cool. However, while contrast is a little lower than that of the RX100 V in the red swatch, the Panasonic LX10 renders its color more realistically, with lower saturation than the Sony.

Sony RX100 V vs Panasonic LX100 at Base ISO
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 200
Sony RX100 V at ISO 125
Panasonic LX100 at ISO 200

And so we come to the first comparison with a camera that doesn’t sport a 1-inch sensor. The Panasonic LX100 instead opts for a Four Thirds-format sensor with almost double the surface area of the imager in the Sony RX100 V, coupled with a much lower resolution of just 12.8 megapixels. At base sensitivity, this approach doesn’t yield dividends, with the Sony RX100 V showing significantly more detail in the mosaic label and fabric swatches. The RX100 V again renders the color of the pink swatch much more accurately too, although the LX100 manages better with the color of the red swatch and has less prominent sharpening haloes.

Sony RX100 V vs Sony A6300 at Base ISO
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 100
Sony RX100 V at ISO 125
Sony A6300 at ISO 100

Finally, we’ve decided to pit the RX100 V against an APS-C sensor-based camera, specifically the Sony A6300. Both cameras have the same list price, but the A6300 isn’t going to fit in your pocket, and nor does it come with a lens at this price. However, if you can justify the added bulk and the cost of a lens or two, the Sony A6300’s larger, higher-resolution 24.2-megapixel image sensor gathers significantly more detail in both the mosaic label and fabric swatches. And it does so without having to rely on as much sharpening as the RX100 V, leading to less prominent haloes too. The RX100 V does a much better job with the color of the tricky pink swatch, though.

Sony RX100 V vs Sony RX100 IV at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 V at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 IV at ISO 1600

But enough of the low-ISO comparisons. How does the Sony RX100 V perform as you crank up the sensitivity? At ISO 1600-equivalent, the Sony RX100 V’s early advantage has been reduced. Noise levels are pretty similar to those of the RX100 IV, and like that camera, the RX100 V’s noise reduction processing is a bit heavy-handed. That leaves a blotchy, mottled look for the mosaic label, and wipes out the thread pattern in the fabric swatches. The RX100 V does best its predecessor in terms of the color of the pink swatch, though, where the RX100 IV gives it a rather magenta hue.

Sony RX100 V vs Canon G7X Mark II at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 V at ISO 1600
Canon G7X Mark II at ISO 1600

With the sensitivity dialed up a bit, the Canon G7X II turns in a performance that’s rather closer to that of the RX100 V, even if we’d still give a tip of the hat to the Sony. Both cameras are pretty similar on the noise and detail front, with the RX100 V perhaps having just a very slight edge. The G7X II’s mosaic label doesn’t look quite as mottled, but it has sacrificed more of the finer pattern between the dark mosaic tiles. Sony also does a bit better with the hue of the pink fabric swatch.

Sony RX100 V vs Panasonic LX10 at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 V at ISO 1600
Panasonic LX10 at ISO 1600

The Panasonic LX10 turns in a noticeably less noisy image than its Sony and Canon rivals at ISO 1600-equivalent, as you can see in the bottle crop. However, in doing so it has sacrificed even more of the fine mosaic label detail than the Canon did, and has lost almost all detail in the red fabric swatch as well.

Sony RX100 V vs Panasonic LX100 at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 V at ISO 1600
Panasonic LX100 at ISO 1600

It’s once the sensitivity has been raised to ISO 1600-equivalent that the larger sensor size of the Panasonic LX100 starts to come to the fore, as you can see from its less-noisy bottle crop. Its resolution disadvantage has also been largely negated, with its larger pixels not so prone to noise as those of the Sony RX100 V, and hence a lesser degree of noise reduction needed. It still can’t quite hold onto as much detail in the dark areas of the mosaic label but it’s a close thing. Sony definitely does a better job with the fabric swatches, though.

Sony RX100 V vs Sony A6300 at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 V at ISO 1600
Sony A6300 at ISO 1600

Not surprisingly, the much larger sensor of the Sony A6300 puts it in a class of its own. Compared to all of these pants pocket-friendly (or coat pocket, for the LX100) cameras, the A6300 does better on almost every front. Noise levels are lower in the bottle crop, there’s far more fine detail and none of the noise reduction mottling in the mosaic label. The A6300 is also the only camera that could hold onto the thread pattern in the pink fabric swatch, and also does better than the rest with the red swatch. Really, the only thing preventing a perfect score is that the RX100 V does a better job with the color of the pink swatch.

Sony RX100 V vs Sony RX100 IV at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony RX100 V at ISO 3200
Sony RX100 IV at ISO 3200

Finally, we come to ISO 3200-equivalent, and here the Sony RX100 V’s noise reduction does a somewhat better ob than that of its predecessor. Not in the mosaic label or fabric swatches, where detail has been lost about equally by both cameras, but in the bottle crop. The RX100 V’s result is noticeable better here, with less of the mottled, noisy look shown by the RX100 IV.

Sony RX100 V vs Canon G7X Mark II at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony RX100 V at ISO 3200
Canon G7X Mark II at ISO 3200

Things are much closer between the Sony RX100 V and Canon G7X II at ISO 3200-equivalent. Both cameras show similar noise levelsand retain similar amounts of detail in the mosaic label and fabric swatches. The RX100 V still has a slight edge, though, with more contrast in the pink swatch and just slightly more of the finest details in the mosaic label retained.

Sony RX100 V vs Panasonic LX10 at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony RX100 V at ISO 3200
Panasonic LX10 at ISO 3200

Panasonic’s more aggressive noise reduction shows itself again at ISO 3200-equivalent. In the bottle crops, the LX10’s image is noticeably less noisy. However, the Sony RX100 V’s mosaic label, while itself rather mottled, is noticeably better than the blotchy, muddy label in the LX10’s rendering. Sony still does better with the hue of the pink swatch, but in other respects the fabric swatches are pretty much a wash between the two cameras.

Sony RX100 V vs Panasonic LX100 at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony RX100 V at ISO 3200
Panasonic LX100 at ISO 3200

By the time we reach ISO 3200-equivalent, the Panasonic LX100’s larger sensor and lower resolution are both really playing their part in keeping noise levels to a minimum. The LX100’s bottle crop is much cleaner than that from the RX100 V. And while it is still just a little behind the Sony in terms of detail, it’s only by a miniscule amount when one considers their difference in sensor resolution. Sony does still do a good bit better with the hue of the pink fabic swatch, though.

Sony RX100 V vs Sony A6300 at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony RX100 V at ISO 3200
Sony A6300 at ISO 3200

Lastly, we come to the Sony A6300. Here, there’s simply a night and day difference: The APS-C sensor-based camera is better in almost every respect than its pocket-friendly sibling. The RX100 V does still do a better job with the hue of the pink fabric swatch, though.

Sony RX100 V vs. Sony RX100 IV, Canon G7X Mark II, Panasonic LX10, Panasonic LX100, Sony A6300
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 200 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony RX100 V test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Sony RX100 IV test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Canon G7X Mark II test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Panasonic LX10 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 6400
RX100 V
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
RX100 IV
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
G7X Mark II
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. If you wanted proof that sensor size makes a difference, this comparison offers it in spades. The A6300, with the largest and highest-resolution sensor of the group, is well ahead of the rest even at base sensitivity, and holds onto that lead across the range. The Panasonic LX100, meanwhile, starts off at a disadvantage due to its lower resolution, but quickly catches up as we ramp the sensitivity. And finally, we come to the four 1-inch sensor cameras. The winner has to be the Sony RX100 V, with the Canon G7X II nipping at its heels. The Panasonic LX10 and Sony RX100 IV round out the field.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho sony rx100 v

Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V
Resolution: 20.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1 inch
(13.2mm x 8.8mm)
Lens: 2.92x zoom
(24-70mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 125 – 12,800
Extended ISO: 80 – 25,600
Shutter: 1/32000 – 30 seconds
Max Aperture: 1.8
Dimensions: 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.6 in.
(102 x 58 x 41 mm)
Weight: 10.5 oz (299 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 10/2016
Manufacturer: Sony


Urbanears Plattan II review


The Urbanears Plattan II may not look much different from the original, but subtle tweaks to its sound and comfort make them a great value for those looking for a fun and stylish pair of headphones.


  • Very comfortable
  • Audio passthrough
  • Good value


  • Slightly muddy bass
  • Narrow soundstage
  • No volume controls

You’ve no doubt seen people wearing the Urbanears Plattan on your commute without ever realizing what they are, and that’s the point. Urbanears’ styling is a mix of modern design with traditional Bauhaus minimalism that doesn’t stand out, but manages to be iconic nonetheless.

While the original Plattan headphones were just fine, Urbanears wasn’t satisfied with being mediocre. The company took customer feedback to heart and addressed many complaints about comfort, sound quality and isolation. For the most part, Urbanears succeeded, making the Plattan II a worthy sequel to the company’s most popular headphone.


Urbanears addressed user complaints about discomfort by revisiting the ear pads. The Plattan II feature thicker, comfier ear pads that also isolate better. We had no problem wearing the Plattan II for extended periods of time. Clamping force is just about perfect, though your mileage may vary.

Externally, the Plattan II look nearly identical to the original Plattan. It’s not until you look closer that you notice the subtle differences in design. Besides the thicker earpads, the Plattan II features more metal accents, namely on the headband and polished rings around each earcup. As with the original, the only branding can be found on a small fabric flap on the right side of the headband. All said, those who hate obnoxious branding will love the look of the Plattan II.


One of our favorite parts of the Plattan II’s design is the friction size adjustment. Instead of clicky stepped adjustments, you can simply put the headphones on and slide them in place. The headphones are also easily folded up for transport. The headband can also be bent at severe angles but will always pop back into place, which should help them to withstand abuse.

The Plattan II are wired headphones but with a couple of tricks up its sleeve. The headphones feature a 3.5mm jack on each earcup, meaning you can attach the removable cable to either side, giving users more flexibility.


Having two 3.5mm jacks on the earcups means you can share music with a friend. All you have to do is plug your friend’s wired headphones into the free 3.5mm jack on the Plattan II. If you and your friend have Plattan headphones, you can daisy chain them to share with even more friends. This is a great feature that wireless headphones struggle with, as devices will default to only playing audio through one pair of Bluetooth headphones at a time.

The one downside is that the Plattan II’s cable features a mic and remote with only one button. This means you can’t change volume via the remote, but that’s probably not a deal breaker for most potential listeners.


In terms of sound, there’s no getting around the fact that Urbanears has tuned the Plattan II to be bass heavy. However, the bass isn’t so overbearing that it’s difficult to listen to. The added warmth in the low end makes listening to rap, electronic and dance music fun.

We weren’t impressed with the muddy sound quality of the more expensiveUrbanears Zinken headphones, but if the Plattan II are any indication, the company’s other headphones may soon get retuned with better sound.

More critical listeners won’t like the Plattan II for that reason, but they’re not made to please audiophiles, especially at their $50 (£45, about AU$69) price point. For the money, we found the Plattan II’s warm sound signature and slightly muddy bass perfectly acceptable in its class.


One of the biggest complaints about the original Plattan headphone was its middling sound quality – though, the re-tuned Plattan II fixes this issue. The headphone’s highs are crisp (and a bit lacking resolution). Its bass is fun and impactful, but can be muddy at times. Its soundstage is also quite narrow, but most listeners probably won’t notice nor care.

Final verdict

While the Plattan II may look nearly identical to the original, subtle tweaks have made the headphone a great value buy at $49, £45 or about AU$70. Not only are they super comfortable, but they can withstand the abuse of your daily commute, too.

The ability to fold up the headphones into a small package make them easy to transport in your backpack or purse – which we like – and Urbanears’ decision to go with a thicker ear pad means you’ll be able to listen for hours without painful pressure on your head. The thicker pads also increase give the headphones good passive noise isolation for an on-ear headphone.

The Plattan II’s sound signature is strictly mainstream with a warm bottom-end but that’s not a bad thing. They offer a fun sound signature with impactful bass and sparkling highs, but lack the soundstage width and resolution of more expensive on-ear headphones like the Klipsch Reference On-Ear II. At a quarter of the price, the Urbanears Plattan II are a great value for those looking for a fun sounding pair and stylish pair of headphones that won’t break the bank.


2017 Yamaha FZ-10 Review

After a year of feverish speculation and rumor-mongering, U.S. sportbikefans finally get a crack at Yamaha’s top-of-the-line, stripped superbike; the FZ-10.

Fans in Canada and Europe will recognize this bike as their beloved MT-10 relabeled for the American market, and I take it as a sure sign that the market is finally starting to swing away from the full-plastic, racetrack look, and toward a more stripped down and street-friendly panache. Join me while I delve into the 2017 FZ-10 and find out what all the fuss has been about.


Yamaha FZ-10

This bike really grabs the eye in a way that a full-fairing ride can’t. It sports a sort of Transformers meets Predator look that may be just a bit too much for some folks. A little too edgy, little too Power Ranger. But like Old Abe said, people who like this sort of thing will find this to be just the sort of thing they like; and since beauty is very subjective, I trust the reader to form his/her/other’s own opinion on that point.

I think we can all agree that it has a very aggressive look with a rather futuristic bent, and leave it at that. Much of this is due to the insect-looking split fairing that features separate high- and low-beams that look like eyes in a face, and the alien-queen flyscreen. Oh, but please don’t take this to mean that I don’t like it ’cause I actually do. It’s edgy and new, with much in the way of implied technology and performance without going the wind-tunnel tested, race-replica route or swinging all the way to Mad-Max naked.

The high-tech, LED lights and LCD instrument display reinforce the post-modern look quite a bit, and LED tail lights and turn signals are always welcome in my book for their eye-piercing brightness and inherent safety. Although the foot controls and seat position are still set up as a jockey mount, a bit of rise and pullback on the bars encourages a more relaxed, upright riding position than you get from a more race-centric model like the YZF-R1, for instance.


Yamaha FZ-10

The R1 DNA persists all the way down into the bones of the beast with the all-aluminum, Deltabox frame that uses the engine as a stressed member to keep the weight down and clean up the looks around the cradle area. It comes tweaked specifically for the FZ-10 for what Yamaha figures is the perfect blend of strength and flex for street use, and the 24-degree rake and 4-inch trail coupled with the 55.1-inch wheelbase strikes a balance between maneuverability and stability at speed.

Suspension duties fall exclusively to KYB with a set of 43 mm, usd forks that come adjustable for preload, as well as compression and rebound damping via set screws on the fork cap. A piggyback, KYB, rear monoshock sports the same adjustments, and suspension at both ends provides 4.7-inches of wheel travel. Lightweight, 17-inch aluminum rims mount 120/70 front, and 190/55 rear, Bridgestone Hypersport S20 hoops that come formulated for maximum stickiness on the blacktop.

Radial-mount, four-pot, opposed-piston calipers pinch the dual, 320 mm brake discs up front for the bulk of the braking power, with a 220 mm disc in back. ABS comes as standard equipment, and while Yamaha touts it as “advanced,” the fact remains that it comes sans the six-axis, Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) seen on the R1 range. This is but one of the compromises struck in order to keep the price low.


Yamaha FZ-10

Yamaha’s R1-based, Crossplane Concept engine represents more compromise, but instead of price versus electronics, it’s price versus weight. Certain internal components that would normally be made from lightweight magnesium or titanium instead come made from steel. Still plenty tough and cheaper to produce, but much heavier.

The four-bore, water-cooled, 998 cc engine runs a dual overhead cam with four-valves per cylinder, and the forged pistons ride within plated cylinder walls rather than a heavy sleeve insert. Electronic fuel injection feeds the beast, and the dramatically oversquare, 79 mm bore and 50.9 mm stroke mill runs with a blistering hot, 13-to-1 compression ratio.

Though the engine isn’t quite as powerful as the track-ready version in the superbike line, it still carries plenty of punch for riding on public roads with 81.8 pounds of grunt at 9,000 RPM and 160.4 ponies at 11.5 K. Yamaha’s proprietary ride-by-wire system, the Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) enables the D-Mode function that allows the rider to tune power delivery for conditions and preference, as well as the cruise control and the Traction Control System (TCS) that comes as standard equipment.

A slipper clutch couples the specially designed transmission to engine power, and provides another layer of protection for the rear contact patch. What’s special about the six-speed transmixxer you ask? It’s the triangular arrangement of the stacked main-and counter-shafts in relationship to the crankshaft; a move that centralizes the weight of those components and ultimately improves handling.


Yamaha FZ-10

U.S. buyers can score a 2017 FZ-10 in Matte Raven Black or Armor Gray with neon green wheels for $12,999 with a one-year warranty.


Suzuki GSX-S1000 / GSX-S1000F

Yamaha FZ-10

My first inclination was to grab the 1000 cc gixxer, but I realized that I had to back off that for a true apples-to-apples comparison, so instead I grabbed the GSX-S1000F ABS from Suzuki for my head-to-head bit. Much like the FZ-10, the GSX-S is the street-centric offspring of a proper race bike , in this case the ’05 through ’08 GSX-R1000. Yamaha strips away a lot of body paneling for a fairly naked look, while Suzuki favors a more windtunnel-tested look that leaves a little more to the imagination.

I gotta say, both manufacturers swung for the fences — almost. OK maybe that’s not fair, and closer to the truth to say that “street-tuning” a racebike comes with the implication that it has in fact been detuned a bit, and so it is with both of these bikes. Ride-by-wire throttles, rider modes, traction control and ABS are standard across the board, but not necessarily up to the same standards as the race versions. The FZ mill surrenders only a single cube to the GSX-S, and manages to school Suzuki at the dyno with 160.4 ponies and 81.8 pounds versus the 145 horsepower and 78.2 pound-feet from the “S” mill.


Suzuki gets a significant win at checkout. At $10,999, the GSX-S1000F is a full two grand cheaper than the FZ-10 with its $12,999 MSRP. Not only is it more powerful with more mainstream looks, it’s cheaper, so I expect the GSX-S to pose a serious threat to Yamaha for this slice of the market.

He Said

“This is one wild-looking ride, and I can’t quite decide if I really like it, or if I just got used to looking at it and tolerate it. Given the price, design and engine size, I definitely see this bike appealing to the younger, more testosterone-poisoned riders out there, so thank goodness it comes with traction control and ABS to help the kids keep it rubber-side down. I know many buyers just had to buy a new bike, and missed the FZ-10 by a matter of weeks, and in some cases, days. Let that be a lesson in patience boys, and next time have more faith, or at least learn to fake it. Wink nudge.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “It’s a smooth ride; no perceivable vibration in the pegs, which is a good thing. The seating position is similar to the FZ-07 so guys of average height will be slightly forward, but not aggressively so. It has a digital instrument cluster, which fits with the tech panache, but I think a full-color cluster would fit better with the full-on edgy look of the bike.”



Engine Type: 998cc, liquid-cooled DOHC inline 4-cylinder; 16 valves
Bore x Stroke: 79.0mm x 50.9mm
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel injection with YCC-T
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: 6-speed; wet multiplate assist-and-slipper clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Suspension / Front: 43mm KYB® inverted fork, fully adjustable; 4.7-in travel
Suspension / Rear: KYB® single shock w/piggyback reservoir, fully adjustable; 4.7-in travel
Brakes / Front: Dual hydraulic disc, 320mm; ABS
Brakes / Rear: Hydraulic disc, 220mm; ABS
Tires / Front: 120/70ZR17
Tires / Rear: 190/55ZR17
L x W x H: 82.5 in x 31.5 in x 43.7 in
Seat Height: 32.5 in
Wheelbase: 55.1 in
Rake (Caster Angle): 24.0°
Trail: 4.0 in
Ground Clearance: 5.1 in
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal
Fuel Economy: 30 mpg
Wet Weight: 463 lb
Warranty: 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)
Colors: Matte Raven Black, Armor Gray
MSRP: $12,999


XDUOO XD-05 DAC Headphone Amplifier Mini Review – High quality music for just $144.99

If you are a music lover who wants to enjoy music at the highest quality, then the XDUOO XD-05 Portable Audio DAC Headphone Amplifier is what you need. It is a DAC which is very portable and a headphone amp that contains digital coaxial and digital optical alongside an OLED display which allows you to see information flow in real time.

It has a lot of great features, and asides from the great features that come along with this amplifier, it can be gotten at an affordable of $144.99.

XDUOO XD – 05 Portable Audio DAC Headphone Amplifier Features

XDUOO XD-05 Review


The XDUOO XD-05 Portable Audio DAC Headphone Amplifier has a weight of 0.268kg which makes it a bit on the light end. It features a 0.91-inch OLED display screen which lets you view needed information regarding connectivity.

XDUOO XD-05 Review - Display

The XDUOO XD-05 Portable Audio DAC Headphone Amplifier also comes in a size of 13.80 * 7.50 * 2.30 cm / 5.43 * 2.95 * 0.91 inches. It sports an aluminium alloy design which leaves it with a very great look. Asides from looks, the aluminium case covering the amplifier helps it in eradicating outside interfering noises so you can enjoy your music at its best quality.


The XDUOO XD-05 Portable Audio DAC Headphone Amplifier comes with an output power of 500mW (32ohms load) so you can enjoy your music at optimum volume. It also comes with a bass boost of 0 / +6dB which is a 2 gears bass boost that can keep up with all types of requirements.

XDUOO XD-05 Review - AUX Input

The XDUOO XD-05 Portable Audio DAC Headphone Amplifier has a Gain of +6 / +9 / +15dB. The 3 Gears of gaining gives the amplifier the capacity to match various headphones.

This headphone amplifier also sports a THD+N of 0.0025pct (1KHz) and an SNR of 112dB. The amplifier also comes with an SRC adjustment and DAC filter adjustment that lets users have versatile audio experiences. Finally, it also comes with a suitable earphone impedance of 8-300ohms to allow you listen to music at loud levels while it remains clear.


Asides from all the great features the XDUOO XD-05 Portable Audio DAC Headphone Amplifier has a non-removable 4000mAh rechargeable lithium polymer battery which would provide long hours of usage without having to recharge.

The battery has the capacity to provide more than 11hours of usage with the USB plugged in and above 16 hours of usage using the SFDIF, it also provides over 23 hours usage using the Auxiliary connection.

The XDUOO XD-05 Portable Audio DAC Headphone has a quick charge of 5 hours using a charger and a slow charge of 11 hours using a computer.


The XDUOO XD-05 Portable Audio DAC Headphone Amplifier has the capacity to support AUX input and output function which can be used for playing at different levels of audio qualities.

This headphone amplifier also has a USB OTG function which allows for various connections in android phones and other music players.  This headphone amplifier also has support for USB connectivity.


XDUOO XD-05 Review - Android OTG

XDUOO XD-05 Review - iOS

The  XDUOO XD-05 Portable Audio DAC Headphone Amplifier has the capacity to support the Win 7, Vista, XP, Win8, Mac, OS X Win, IOS, and the Android system. It can function perfectly on any of these systems.


CHUWI HiBox VS Meegopad T09 Mini PC Comparisons Review

Chuwi has released its first mini pc, called Chuwi HiBox with high-end configuration, right now there are few mini pc powered by Intel Cherry Trail X5-Z8350 Quad core processor, right now we found there is the other Z8350 Quad core mini pc, Meegopad T09, although we are not familiar with this brand, they still have much similarities, let’s compare Chuwi HIBox with Meegopad T09 mini pc to know which one is more worthwhile to buy.


CHUWI HiBox has 12.00 x 12.00 x 2.50 cm / 4.72 x 4.72 x 0.98 inches dimensions, 0.200 kg weight, but Meegopad T09 owns 15.60 x 8.20 x 1.60 cm / 6.14 x 3.23 x 0.63 inches dimensions, 0.050 kg weight, in terms of its size, Chuwi Hibox is larger and heavier than Meegopad T09, but we can still carry it conveniently. It has 3.5mm Audio,DC Power Port,Ethernet,HDMI,SD Card Slot,USB2.0,USB3.0, while Meegopad T09 comes with 3.5mm Audio,DC Power Port,Ethernet,HDMI,RJ45,SD Card Slot,Type-C,USB2.0. In terms of design, Meegopad T09 is lighter, but in terms of interface, Chuwi HIBOX is more practical.


CHUWI HiBox and Meegopad T09 both are powered by Intel Atom x5-Z8350 quad-core CPU, but Chuwi HIBOX has RAM 4GB ROM 64GB internal storage, Meegopad T09 only has RAM 4GB ROM 32GB internal storage. Although they both can be expanded to 128GB, personally, ROM 64GB is big enough to store large files like videos, software, etc. Currently, Intel Z8350 processor is one of the best chipset used on Mini pc and tablet pc, you can enjoy faster running speed to play games or watch movies. etc.


Chuwi HIBOX runs Android 5.1 + Window 10 dual OS 64bit, but Meegopad T09 only supports Windows 10 OS, the formers supports 1000M / 100M, but the latter one only supports 1000M Gigabit Ethernet, they both can support  dual band WiFi 2.4G / 5G and Bluetooth 4.0 technology for more fluent speed. And Chuwi HIBOX can use 2.4GHz Air mouse remote controller for more convenient operation.


In terms of storage, OS, function, Chuwi HIBOX can win over Meegopad t09 mini pc, but if you are looking for a lighter mini pc, you can try Meegopad T09. Overall, Chuwi HIBOX is much powerful than Meegopad T09 mini.


Lenovo ZUK Edge vs Xiaomi MI5S Plus Comparisons Review

Lenovo released its flagship smartphone Lenovo ZUK Edge on December 20 at 2,299 yuan over, in the similar price smartphone, such as Xiaomi MI5S Plus, Huawei Honor 8, Oneplus 3 and other hot competitive smartphones. We will compare ZUK Edge with Xiaomi MI5s plus to see which one should be chosen first.

Compare ZUK Edge VS Xiaomi MI5S Plus Specs

According to specs comparison, ZUK Edge and Xiaomi MI5S Plus are similar in the specs,  they both are powered by Snapdragon 821 processor, RAM 4GB/6GB, ROM 64GB, and they have similar price and network frequency. The main difference is in screen size, camera, battery, OS, etc.

In versions, Xiaomi MI5S Plus has been divided into standard version and advanced version, Xiaomi MI5S Plus standard version has RAM 4GB ROM 64GB internal storage at 2,299 yuan, $383, Xiaomi mi5s plus advanced version has RAM 6GB ROM 128GB internal storage at 2,599 yuan, $433. ZUK Edge also has two versions, ZUK Edge flashship version has RAM 4GB ROM 64GB internal storage at 2,299 yuan, $383, and RAM 6GB ROM 64GB version at 2,499 yuan, $416. By the way, you can read the Xiaomi MI MIX VS Lenovo ZUK Edge review here.

From different versions, ZUK Edge 4GB version sells at the same as Xiaomi MI5S Plus standard version. So we will compare this two models in terms of design, performance, camera, OS, battery, etc.


In design, ZUK Edge and Xiaomi MI5S Plus adopt different material, the former uses glass body, and the latter uses metal unibody. Both have their own style.

ZUK Edge continues the design of ZUK Z2 Pro dual glass and alloy metal frame design, although it has 5.5 inch large screen, 84.6% screen to body ratio, The front design actually only has 5 inch size, it comes with 2.5D curved glass screen, and under the screen, it is first time to use fingerprint scanner on physical home button.

Xiaomi MI5S Plus is equipped with 2.5D curved screen and narrow bezel design, under the screen are the traditional three virtual buttons, the port of the receiver on the top has not adopted symmetrical design.

ZUK Edge has simple and flat glass design on its back with two colors, Black and White.There is LED light under the back camera, and heart rate sensor to monitor users’ heart rate, and other functions.

Xiaomi MI5S Plus uses three step design with metal back cover, equipped wih dual rear camera, there is a fingerprint scanner under the back camera with 3D curved design around the edges, but the visual effect is not as simple as ZUK Edge.

Therefore, in terms of design, ZUK Edge looks much simpler than Xiaomi MI5S Plus in the front and back design with better visual effect. Although ZUK Edge with glass body is relatively not so strong, it can provide better user experience with a back cover.

Screen and Performance

In screen, ZUK Edge adopts 5.5 inch 1080P screen from Tianma, but Xiaomi MI5S plus with 5.7 inch 1080P screen, so Xiaomi MI5S Plus looks larger, and Sharp screen is better than Tianma screen, so in terms of screen experience, Xiaomi MI5S Plus screen is more outstanding.

As for performance, ZUK Edge and Xiaomi MI5S Plus both are powered by Snapdragon 821 processor, RAM 4GB ROM 64GB internal storage, although they belong to same level in their performance. Let’s two smartphones antutu test.

ZUK Edge Antutu

Xiaomi MI5S Plus Antutu

Due to different optimization, even if they both have similar processor and internal storage, but they have difference in Antutu test, the gap belongs in 10K, Both are in flagship level.

Therefore, in terms of screen and performance, Xiaomi MI5S Plus is better in screen, but in performance ZUK Edge is a little better.

Camera, OS, Battery

In camera, ZUK Edge uses 8MP front camera and 13MP back camera, the main camera is equipped with Samsung sensor, which belongs to mid-range level, but Xiaomi MI5S comes with front 4MP camera and dual 13MP back camera with Sony new sensor, the camera performance belongs to over mid-range level.

Therefore, in terms of camera experience, Xiaomi MI5S Plus is better than ZUK Edge.

In OS, ZUK Edge and Xiaomi MI5S plus runs their own system, ZUI 3.0 and MIUI 8 based on Android 6.0 OS. In terms of OS, MIUI OS is more mature with better experience.

As for the battery, Xiaomi MI5S Plus is built in 3,800mAh battery, compared with ZUK Edge with 3,100mAh battery, they have similar screen to support QC3.0, so the battery of Xiaomi MI5S plus is better than ZUK Edge.

According to comparison, ZUK Edge is better in design and heart rate, but Xiaomi MI5s plus is better in camera, OS, screen, etc. Therefore, it’s up to you in terms of your needs.


SJCAM SJ4000 Camera Review

The SJCAM SJ4000 features a 2.0 inch screen on the rear, NTK96650 chipset and 12MP CMOS sensor, with high quality performance. You can easily use the camera for your activities or as a car DVR.


The SJCAM SJ4000 comes in black color. On the rear we find a big 2 inch display from where you can see what you are shooting or you can easily surf around the menu. The camera is equipped with HDMI HD output and features a card slot for using cards up to 32GB. On the side we can find a USB slot for use. From the bottom we find the port from where we can change the rechargeable battery. The camera is equipped with the Novatek 96650 chipset. The camera is very small and light since it weights only 63 grams and with dimensions 5.8 x 4 x 2.4cm


The SJCAM SJ4000 features a 12MP sensor for taking marvelous images, while the lens support 170°HD wide-angle. You can shoot video up to 1080p@30fps at mov format and with H.264 codec. The photos that you can take can be with a max resolution of 4032 x 3024 and the images are saved as JPG. You can digitally zoom up to 4 times to take better photos of objects at a distance. You can shoot using Single Shot, Self-timer and Burst Mode. You can set the camera to shoot when there is motion detected, so you can use it for security reasons and of course using the waterproof case you can take underwater images and video using the underwater mode. The camera supports also Face Detection.


The SJCAM SJ4000 is equipped with a replaceable 900mAh battery that can easily be changed from the bottom side, so you can continue to shoot.


The SJCAM SJ4000 is a powerful small camera that you can use for your activities or for everyday use.


Peugeot 308 GTi review: Five door with added ooh la la

Think GTi and Volkswagen springs to mind, right? But as you’ll know if you’ve read our review of the Peugeot 208 GTi, the French car-maker has something to say about its German cousin owning that moniker.

And the very Golf-sized Peugeot 308 is now available in GTi format, which we’re testing here in the uprated 270-horsepower Peugeot Sport version.

In basic form the 308 GTi is one of our more favoured family hatchbacks: it looks good, drives nicely and feels premium. But its souped-up engine, front-wheel drive layout and £30K price tag mean it splits the difference between your regular hot hatch (think VW Golf GTi) and the new breed of mad hatches (think Ford Focus RS).

Can the 308 GTi 270 by Peugeot Sport offer the best of all worlds?

If your idea of a French car is still rooted in the decade-old sense then you’re in for a treat. Jump aboard any 308 and you’re in for a host of surprises.


Firstly, this Peugeot is of Audi quality but without the predictable design theme. The 308 is simple, elegant in execution and everything you touch and feel has a palpable sense of quality about it.

What’s better, we recently drove a 50k-mile 308 hire car and it felt as good as this media vehicle (which has just 7k-miles on the clock). So signs are that Peugeot has built it to last.

The seats are super too – big, hugging one-piece units that don’t squeeze you tight like a Recaro bucket (see Focus RS), yet still hold you tight in a more cosseting way. We were able to get comfortable easily.

As ever with this new breed of Peugeot, though, there’s a real try-before-you-buy necessity because the company’s i-cockpit architecture – which pushes the dials up on top of the dash below the windscreen, and shrinks the steering wheel, thus bunging it in your lap – means that some people don’t find the driving position comfortable. While it might feels unnatural at first, you should be able to find a decent position, see the dials and get used to the steering wheel being lower relative to your shoulders than in many other cars.


We think the 308 look good too. It’s handsome and smart in a VW Golf-like way (it has almost identical proportions to the Volkswagen); it stands-out finished in ultimate red paint, although you should be careful to avoid the dual “coupe franche” split colour (part black/part red or blue), which is an ideas Peugeot has brought from its recent concept cars, but looks like an afterthought and, frankly, weird to our eyes.

A GTi lives and dies by how it drives, otherwise you may as well save yourself both the bother and the cash and go buy a regular hatch instead.

The 308 is an interesting character. It doesn’t shout its performance identity from its exterior design, nor do you get a Focus RS-style grunt when you turn the key and fire it up. Instead there’s a pleasant little rasp from the 308’s exhaust as the engine catches, while the counter-rotating dials spin around their clock faces. But that’s all; it otherwise settles for a fairly hum-drum idle.


It is the engine which defines this car though. Delivering 270bhp from just a 1.6-litre unit is fairly incredible, which means Peugeot has had to play tricks with turbo-chargers and intercoolers.

So the 308 has the power, but you need to know how to use it. Being front-wheel drive, it’s easy to light up the front wheels, despite the standard limited-slip differential metering out power to the wheel with most grip. It feels very turbo-charged too, which means that below 2,000rpm it can sometimes feel flat, especially if you get caught in the wrong gear. There’s definite turbo lag, too, so when the turbo does kick-in the car can pull you down a bumpy road like a truffle-hunting hound.

Just in case all of that sounds a bit rubbish, it’s really not. It all makes the 308 GTi a very involving driving experience. You’ll occasionally need to hold on, but when it properly catches alight, it feels rabidly fast. Press hard into bends and that limited-slip differential works exceptionally well, keeping you on line and digging in. And if you’ve got the engine on the boil, blasting past lines of slower cars is a cinch.


Throw the tiny steering wheel and fast steering into the mix, and the 308 can feel truly go-kart in its ways. And Peugeot has backed up the firepower by fitting stonking 380mm front brakes, which haul everything back down to a stop very effectively.

What really stands the 308 apart is that it provides quite a different experience to other cars in its class. Indeed, it’s a different animal.

Sure, it’s not got quite the pace, nor the four-wheel drive security of the Focus RS, Golf R or Merc AMG. It’s not rounded and smooth like a Golf GTi either. And it’s not quite as hardcore or raw as a Renault Megane RS either.


But it provides a good blend of all those different poles of the hot hatch experience. In many ways, the Peugeot is perhaps closest to the Seat Leon Cupra – because it’s stealthy quick, quite a lot of fun, but refined and happy just to chug about and do the family thing too. The 308 is refined, comfortable and generally easy to live with.

Our gripes are that the gearshift still isn’t the best-in-class (a common Peugeot moan), that the back seat space is generally pretty tight (the boot size makes up for this if your children aren’t too large), and the fussy touchscreen interface (we desperately hope that an updated system – the one Peugeot showcased in the 3008 SUV launched at the Paris Motor Show – is coming soon).

As it stands the current touchscreen system is slow, dim-witted, can be very hard to work your way around and looks graphically geriatric. Eventually, the sat nav will get you to where you want to go, it’ll play your music and let you save 6 Music as a preset. But not before you’ve turned the air blue, cursing it before you set off. Luckily, the steering wheel shortcuts are intuitive.


Besides this point, the 308 is otherwise exceptionally well equipped. Options are limited to an SOS and connected services system (£240/$360), a Denon Premium hi-fi system (£400/$600) and a panoramic roof – all of which were fitted to our test car. Almost everything else you can think of (LED lamps, sat nav, DAB, massive wheels, keyless entry and start) is as standard. However, as the 308 was developed just before the most recent slew of advanced driver support systems, don’t expect auto braking radar cruise control or a head-up display (HUD).


The Peugeot 308 GTi makes quite a clear proposition: for VW Golf GTi money you get significantly more firepower and equipment as standard.

You’ll forego the wide-boy image of some of the mega hatches, like the Ford Focus RS, but with a decent driver behind the wheel you’ll at least stand a chance of keeping up on a country road.

The 308 is subtly different from its GTi competition; a mix of family car meets ooh la la. It doesn’t grab you buy the scruff of the neck and shout “buy me”, but it’s still appealing, lively and lives up to the GTi name.

So while it’s not as well-rounded as its Golf GTi cousin, the Peugeot’s quality is comparable and, for us, the overall fun factor is just that little bit greater. For that, Peugeot should be applauded.


Audeze EL-8 Titanium review

Considering the number of people still using the bundled earphones that come with their phones, aiming a pair of £700/$1050 headphones at a smartphone audience does seem like a rather big ask.

Then again, with its most expensive headphones topping out at over £3000/$4500, Audeze isn’t exactly known for concerning itself with price.

Build and comfort

The Audeze EL-8 Titanium headphones look every bit as premium as their price tag suggests.

Designed in collaboration with the team that worked on the BMW i8, the Audeze EL-8s offer large black and silver aluminium earcups that swivel flat, soft squishy earpads and a chunky cushioned headband.

They’re sturdy and well-built, but at a hefty 460g, they’re hitting the limits of what we would consider portable. That said, the fact that a travel case isn’t included for headphones aimed at smartphone users is a shame.

They’re comfy enough for short wear, but they weigh heavy on our head during longer listening sessions, and while those earpads are hugely comfy, they’ll really heat up your ears given an hour or two.

Audeze has shown a real dedication to Lightning connectivity, even before the iPhone 7 came out, with the EL-8 Titanium Lightning headphones acting as the bigger sibling to the Audeze Sine.

The removable flat Cipher Lightning cable plugs into each earcup individually, with a chunky inline mic and remote sitting where the two cables join.

More after the break

This also houses the headphones’ 24-bit DAC and amplifier, automatically bypassing those built into the iPhone.

That’s important – there is a 3.5mm cable included in the box too, but we find these just too inefficient for a smartphone to drive to high levels using the standard cable. The Lightning connector allows them to go much louder.

Some of this may be down to the planar magnetic technology inside the EL-8 Titaniums – headphone tech which is notoriously trickier to drive, not to mention which creates bigger, bulkier headphones.


We wouldn’t mind so much if the Audeze EL-8s were able to deliver in the sound department, but unfortunately they really leave us wanting.

When you first put the headphones on, you’ll be understandably taken with their snug and comfy fit, warm, rich sound and decent sense of space.

But listen for longer and you’ll notice they struggle to reach the level of detail and dynamics that you’d expect from a pair of headphones at this price. Instead they sound a little flat and lacking in get up and go.

Vocals are focused and direct, and there’s good clarity through the midrange, but they don’t offer much by way of expression or insight.

Playing Formation, we notice that Beyonce’s gravelly vocals seem uncharacteristically one-dimensional, lacking the depth and attitude that you’ll hear on a more revealing pair of cans.

When the bassline kicks in, it doesn’t hit with as much punch as we’d like. There’s decent bass weight, and it rumbles with a good amount of control, but there’s little texture to the low-end notes. Dynamically it struggles to deliver the impact it’s supposed to.

These weaknesses are highlighted again when the chorus kicks in – the EL-8 Titaniums don’t do a good job at communicating tempo changes, whether that’s building up to a crescendo or bringing it back down, which makes them feel a little one-paced and lacking in enthusiasm.

It’s certainly a laid back and relaxed listen then, but its lack of expression can make it sound uninterested and disconnected between vocals and instrumental.

Timing isn’t as tight as it should be at this level either, which can leave the sound lacking cohesion and organisation.

Switch genres to play Nirvana’s In Bloom and the guitar melody sound needs more nuance and momentum to drive it forward.

The treble in particular could do with more openness and transparency too – it feels the most affected by the Audeze EL-8 Titanium’s balance and presentation.

There’s bite when it’s needed but it doesn’t sound the most natural, nor is it given the same amount of space to develop and extend into as the lower frequency range.


The Audeze EL-8 Titanium are well made headphones that certainly make their mark as a more premium offering in the Lightning headphone market.

However, when they fall short in the levels of detail, subtlety and dynamics that we’d expect at this price, they become really hard to recommend.

That’s only further exacerbated by the fact we’d prefer to listen to the more engaging and insightful B&W P7 Wireless at half the price, or, if you’re keen to keep the wire, the cheaper-still Philips M2Ls will offer a punchier, more exciting performance for just £200/$300.

Audeze’s focus on Lightning headphones is heartening for iPhone 7 users hoping to invest in more premium cans, but until they can match the performance to their design, you’re better off looking elsewhere.



Kia Sorento review: The savvy seven-seater

Can an SUV ever be a truly exciting drive? Now in its third generation, the Kia Sorento has had more than just a facelift to bring it up to date, and while its new body and wheelbase is never going to feel like a Ferrari on the road, for carting around the whole family it’s an appealing prospect.

Sat in among the likes of the Nissan X-Trail and Volvo XC90, the Sorento is Kia’s top-of-the-line car. There’s bundles of tech and appealing trim on board. Well, if you’re willing the pay the extra for it – but even the top-of-the-range model with all the toys tops out at £41,500/$52,250 compared to the entry level Volvo’s £50,000/$75,000 starting price.

Does the Kia Sorento get the balance of functional and fun right?

The Sorento’s face has supposedly been fashioned on a wolf’s appearance (albeit minus the fur coat); we don’t quite see the lupine snarl, but it’s less bulbous than the X-Trail’s rounded front, and there’s more natural motion to the headlamp lines than something like the tech-faced, more rigid Honda CR-V.


The grille is broken only by the Kia badge, and is considerably beefier than the smaller Kia Sportage. The choice of front grille – if it can be called exactly that – is an unusual series of triangles. It’s very Jaguar-esque, but not as premium.

To the rear, the sizeable rump features LED lamps, a sharkfin spoiler up top, and a broader shouldered look than the gentler front. The wolf’s gone out the window from this angle, it’s a little more hippo – but the form has definite function, as boot space definitely doesn’t lack.

Compared to the Nissan and Honda the Sorento is the slightly larger model: at 4.78-metres there’s a lot of car to squeeze the family into. We drove two 5-seat configurations on the roads in Europe in 2015 and a 7-seat version in the UK in 2016.


If seven seats are going to be too much then the two rear-most seats will fold down into the floor giving you plenty of space for the weekly shop, or luggage space for a week away, or a couple of kids’ bikes.

With the seven seats up you get a 142-litre boot space. With five seats up you get 605-litre capacity. The middle row also flat-packs (to a point) so you can move the occasional wardrobe around too. The boot spans a 1.37m width, meaning you can fit stacks in without sacrificing on comfort for anyone. The Sorento certainly serves its SUV purpose.

Inside there’s ample space to feel immediately comfortable, whether driving or being carted about as a passenger either front or back. With a metre of headroom up front and exactly a metre of legroom in the second row – the far back row is a bit of a squeeze, as to be expected – it’s all very light and breezy. Access to the third row is really only for the nimble though.


The optional leather seats are particularly cushy, with more electronic adjustment controls available than offered by a first class airline seat. It puts our office chair to shame – we so need eight-way power-adjustable positioning with lumbar support in our lives.

However comfortable, the car’s long nose does place the A-pillar in that typically irksome position relative to driver, which isn’t ideal for ambling around curvy mountainous roads. A bit of head-bobbing and you’ll see through the large windscreen no problem though.

On the tech front we were daubed with stacks of quality in our top-trim KX4 automatic model. Finished in light grey and black the interior looks good, complete with flourishes such as a wrap-around dashboard with stitching. If that interior colour scheme is too boring, then how about beige or brown? No, still too boring? Well, it’s that or simple plain black – the Sorento doesn’t cater for the colour splashes of company’s the more youthful Soul Mixx.


But the tech on board adds a lick of colour to proceedings, including glowing Sorento logos in the footwells when the doors are open (good for not tripping up in the dark), digital dials and a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen centrepiece.

The digital speedometer is particularly fun too: the luminescent orange digital hand smoothly moves along, looking very elegant indeed. There’s also sign-detection system which was particularly useful in foreign lands to recognise the speed limits and have them display directly within peripheral vision. All non-standard stuff, of course, but a show-your-mates feature should you fork out the extra cash.

The touchscreen to the centre, which is used for sat nav and beyond, feels responsive – plus there are plenty of traditional buttons and dials for control too. Perhaps too traditional: the air conditioning controls, which offer independent driver and passenger side controls, look a bit retro, and the angle makes it all a bit “in your face”


Elsewhere there’s advanced smart cruise, plus options for lane-departure alert, reverse camera, 360-degree cameras, self-parking, and all such mod cons.

Cushy seats and electric dials are all well and good, but what’s the Sorento like to drive?

Well, the 2.2-litre CRDi engine (149g/km being the all important emissions) is the only one that’s available in the UK, and with that pulling the steel chassis – which is 30-40kgs heavier than the second-gen Sorento due to increased size, so over the 2.5-tonne mark – lacks a huge amount of grunt.

Saying that, it’s smooth as butter down the motorways, with little cabin noise or rattling to speak of, making for a very comfortable cruise. And there’s enough pep to overtake those cautious drivers too.


As with all SUVs the Kia Sorento can suffer from being a little “top heavy”, so you aren’t going to want to throw it around tight country corners. However, it feels considerably more stable than, say, a BMW X5 on the same roads. No surprises though, this is a SUV after all, it’s not going to dance around like a ballerina at this scale.

All told, we’re very content with the way the Sorento glides along the roads, the comfort of the ride and the all-wheel drive (AWD) system being there to kick into four-wheel drive mode when the on-board computer feels it’s necessary (manual differential lock is possible for a traditional 50/50 4×4 split).


The Kia Sorento is a smooth ride that’s clearly pitched at families that will ride in it while making sure mum and dad have some added comforts.

Loaded with tech (in the higher-specced models) it comes with all the usual toys like parking cameras, Bluetooth, sat nav, adaptive smart cruise control and lane assist.

But it’s the robustness of the interior that is likely to appeal most to families. Everything is wipe clean, there’s plenty of storage for all, and for those younger tots ISOfix aplenty.

And all that before we even mention the lure of the 7-year warranty.


Definitive Technology W Studio Micro review


  • Sleek premium design
  • Huge soundstage and powerful bass
  • Transparent, detailed sound


  • No Bluetooth
  • No HDMI connections
  • DTS Play Fi app problems


  • 4 x 3-inch mid/bass drivers, 3 x 1-inch aluminium dome tweeters
  • Wireless subwoofer with 8-inch woofer
  • Dolby Digital and DTS decoding
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • DTS Play-Fi support with DLNA, Spotify Connect, Amazon Music, Deezer, Napster, Tidal
  • Manufacturer: Definitive Technology
  • Review Price: £899.00/$1348.50


With soundbars now available at your local supermarket or bundled free with new TVs, you don’t have to break the bank to boost your TV’s sound quality. But if you have a bigger budget and demand superior performance from a soundbar then there are plenty of high-end models that might fit the bill, including this offering from US brand Definitive Technology.

A slimmed-down version of the company’s flagship W Studio, the W Studio Micro is a 3.1-channel soundbar and wireless subwoofer that promises premium performance in a space-saving design. It’s compatible with the DTS Play-Fi multiroom streaming platform, and can be upgraded to a 5.1 system by adding a pair of Definitive Technology’s wireless surround speakers.

Definitive Technology W Studio Micro


As you’d expect at this price, the W Studio Micro is a well-built system. Get up close and personal with the soundbar and you can feel its quality; the aircraft-grade aluminium enclosure is rigid and robust, while the black fabric grille, brushed top panel and engraved logo are classy touches. The plastic back-end lets the side down a little, though.

Definitive Technology W Studio MicroDefinitive Technology W Studio Micro

With its modern, angular design it’s an appealing soundbar, but not quite the jaw-dropper I was expecting for the money. However, soundbars are more about blending in than standing out, and the bar’s slender design should have no problem integrating with any living room. At just 45mm high, it sits below the bottom edge of my TV and doesn’t block its remote sensor.

Definitive Technology W Studio Micro

Similarly, the subwoofer’s compact size makes it easy to accommodate, while the all-black styling is easy on the eye and matches the soundbar perfectly. Its patterned finish is interspersed by a brushed silver panel on the front bearing the “D” logo, while on the back is a power switch and 3.5mm input that connects the bar and sub if you have problems with the wireless connection. It’s a solid ported box with an 8-inch woofer and chunky rubber feet that provide excellent stability.

Definitive Technology W Studio Micro

The soundbar sports a row of buttons on top to adjust the volume, toggle through inputs and pause playback, while a row of illuminated dots on the front displays the volume levels. It’s a bit small and not a patch on a text-based display, but it’s easy to follow. The lights pulse hypnotically when you switch sound modes.

Definitive Technology W Studio Micro

The soundbar’s socketry includes two optical inputs, a USB port (which doubles as an Ethernet port with an adapter, not supplied), a 3.5mm subwoofer output and a 3.5mm analogue input. There are IR input and repeater ports, too, in case the bar blocks your TV remote sensor. The lack of HDMI sockets will no doubt raise a few eyebrows at this price, but it’s understandable given the soundbar’s svelte dimensions.


Cheaper soundbars trade on hi-tech tricks but for Definitive Technology it’s all about performance. To that end, the W Studio Micro is equipped with a formidable seven-strong driver array, including four 3-inch mid/bass drivers and three 1-inch aluminium dome tweeters, all with neodymium magnets.

Definitive Technology W Studio MicroDefinitive Technology W Studio Micro

Crucially, two of the mid-range drivers are deployed in a dedicated centre channel with a tweeter, with the left and right channels getting a mid-range driver and tweeter each. Each one is powered by an individual amplifier, but Definitive Technology is being coy with its power ratings. There’s on-board Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, and two sound modes: Movie and Music.

Built-in Wi-Fi and DTS Play-Fi support let you create a multiroom system with other Play-Fi-enabled speakers across a variety of brands, including Klipsch, Onkyo, Paradigm and Pioneer. You can stream music from DLNA servers – with hi-res audio support up to 192kHz/24-bit – and a healthy range of streaming services, including Spotify Connect, Amazon Music, Deezer, KKBOX, Napster, Tidal, QQ Music and SiriusXM.

Definitive Technology W Studio Micro

Play-Fi Surround makes it possible to use two Definitive Technology W7 or W9 speakers as surround channels, bringing you true 5.1-channel sound. That’s the good news; the bad news is that the W7 and W9 cost around £400/$600 and £600/$900 a piece respectively. Ouch.

The biggest disappointment features-wise is the lack of Bluetooth, which is inexplicable on a product such as this. Play-Fi’s lossless transmission may grant you better sound quality, but not everyone wants the hassle.


With its straightforward optical input and wireless subwoofer connection, setup is remarkably simple. The two components pair instantly, getting you up and running in minutes.

Definitive Technology W Studio Micro

It’s controlled using an unusual-looking remote, clad in a pleasant rubberised finish with buttons below the surface. The keys are nicely spaced out and clearly labelled, with a simple 1, 2 and 3 denoting the three inputs.

There are individual controls for the main, bass and centre-channel volumes. They’re quite hard to see given the lack of a backlight, but the raised “+” and “-” symbols help you find them in the dark.

When using the DTS Play-Fi app, your smartphone or tablet becomes the remote, and it’s here that problems begin. It’s attractive, but the layout is clumsy: the homepage splits apps across two pages, even though there’s a large space at the bottom. The multiroom functionality could be more clearly signposted, too.

Things improve once you start exploring a NAS drive. The straightforward structure makes it easy to find the music you want and it scrolls quickly through big libraries.


The Def Tech delivers a performance that’s head-and-shoulders above any budget soundbar. Its hi-fi driver array – split into mid-range drivers and tweeters across three channels – offers a broader, fuller sound than the full-range drivers employed by cheaper soundbars.

The result is a transparent, multi-layered sound with outstanding clarity. The opening sequence from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a terrific example: as the Simians stalk a herd of deer in the woods, the soundbar renders falling rain with a feather-light hiss and teases out the apes’ gentle grunting and sniffing. As they give chase, the rustling foliage and wooden “thunk” of hands grabbing tree branches is remarkably detailed. You simply don’t get this level of subtlety when you buy budget.

Definitive Technology W Studio Micro

The W Studio Micro backs up its dazzling detail with plenty of muscle. Its huge, room-filling soundstage feels more like a full 5.1 system than a soundbar. Naturally, the superb subwoofer deserves most of the credit – deep, visceral bass shuddered through my room and made the windows rattle – but the soundbar plays its part, too. Big dynamics and impressive attack had me on the edge of my seat as explosions and gunshots fired across the room.

When Gary Oldman detonates a bomb in the movie’s climax, the explosion has plenty of weight but there’s no booming or overhang. And as the metal towers topple, the sense of scale is off the chart; you feel dwarfed as they clatter to the ground.

Definitive Technology W Studio Micro

Also impressive is the W Studio Micro’s expansive soundstage. Thanks to the soundbar’s generous physical dimensions, it offers a pleasing spread of sound, but effects are clearly placed and the dedicated centre channel keeps dialogue anchored to the middle. The centre channel volume controls make voices audible over the din of an action scene, projecting them with excellent clarity and detail.

It’s also a dab hand with music, offering the same open, transparent character that makes movies so enjoyable. The tweeters let you hear every detail, while the solid mid-range lends body and warmth. And thanks to the tight, responsive bass, kick drums are dispatched with no flab.

Flaws are minor. It strains a touch when pushed to the limits of its volume, and you’ll only get true surround sound if you fork out for the extra speakers. But otherwise, I really can’t speak highly enough of the W Studio Micro’s performance. Its sound is powerful, transparent and detailed – all the ingredients of a thrilling movie night.

Definitive Technology W Studio MicroDefinitive Technology W Studio Micro


Although £900 is a lot of money for a soundbar, the W Studio Micro largely justifies the expense if you can afford it. It’s stylish, robustly built and the epitome of living room-friendly.

Even more importantly, it delivers superb sound quality, combining ribcage-rattling power with exquisite detail and clear dialogue. In terms of performance, it’s right up there with Arcam’s Solo Bar and the Denon Heos HomeCinema.

But the W Studio Micro is less impressive in other areas. For starters, there’s no Bluetooth, which is nigh-on criminal in this day and age, while the lack of HDMI ports might be a turn-off for some. What’s more, DTS Play-Fi isn’t a particularly intuitive music streaming interface.

But if none of that bothers you then the Def Tech’s stellar sound quality makes it money well spent.


The W Studio Micro delivers sensational sound quality, but missing features and streaming woes are a blot on the copybook.



2016 – 2017 Victory High-Ball Review

Victory is something of a Johnny-come-lately in the American motorcycle scene (since 1998). Its main competitors, Indian Motorcycles— which falls under the Polaris umbrella along with Victory — and Harley-Davidson, boast over 100 years of experience each in the U.S. market, so there can be no doubt that Victory has its work cut out for it. The factory usually uses its lack of deep roots as a springboard for a more-progressive design, but the High-Ball is something of a departure from the norm. Let’s take a look at this ride and see what Victory does with the modern-retro combo.


Victory High-Ball

To be honest, Victory bikes are usually a little too “Nessy” for my taste — a little too flowy; a little too Alien-meets-Predator. Oddly enough, the High-Ball maintains many of those attributes, but manages to dial back the clock a bit with some custom touches from America’s custom culture circa mid- 20th century. Similarly sized whitewall tires cap laced rims for a down-to-earth symmetry, and the cut-down front fender, blacked out headlight can and other black features interrupt the flow in a curious blend of then-and-now.

The layout and rider triangle leave no doubt as to the designed purpose of the High-Ball; this is a straight-up cruiser that makes no pretenses of trying to serve as a weekend-bagger convertible, just brutally honest transportation. A deep-scoop seat, forward controls and ape hangers leaves us with a large rider triangle that places the rider in the super-windsock position – a position better on the boulevard than the highway, to be sure. Yeah, you could adjust the bars a bit, but at some point, they stop being handlebars and start being a tiller, a look that would not work on this sled. So don’t let the low appearance fool you, this bike will swallow up shorter riders. To compound that problem, the bike is relatively top-heavy, especially with a belly full of fuel, and can present a bit of a wrestling match in certain, low-speed situations. Leave this one to the stretched-out crowd.


Victory High-Ball

Frame design swings well to the Southward with the 25-inch seat height, a number normally reserved for faux-rigid (Softail) frames, and it manages to suggest the lines of a rigid without a triangular swingarm. The steering head is set at 32 degrees for that raked-custom vibe, and it leaves us with 6.7 inches of trail sure to make it nice and stable on the straights, and still be reasonable in the corners.

The wheels are a nice touch. Good old gangster whitewall Dunlop D421 with chrome-laced rims – just doesn’t get any better than that. The cut-down front fender and right-side-up front forks with blacked-out fork sliders reinforces this custom, dated look. Though it lacks the Softail-style swingarm, it does follow the same stealthy mindset and buries the preload-adjustable monoshock to keep it out of sight and the rear end clean.

Four-pot caliper up front and the twin-pot in back handle bindage, acting on 300 mm discs. Yeah, only one front brake, but one simply does not cover up wheels like that! The brakes are honest, with no ABS or any other fandangled contraptions to complicate the plumbing. I like this, but I have to admit that I am starting to see the merits of rear-only ABS.

The 64.8-inch wheelbase and 93.4-inch overall length puts the High-Ball squarely in the midrange category, and the 4.7-inch ground clearance keeps it low with enough clearance for cornering. Honestly, I think the apes will be more of an impediment to comfortable cornering than clearance and lean-angle issues.


Victory High-Ball

Victory favors big V-twins that not only fit within the “American-made” mold, but also deliver their power with a thumping staccato beat. Engine paint follows the blackout look, but the polished cooling fin edges accentuate the big V shape and keep the engine from disappearing into the black hole. Far from being an all-show-and-no-go model, the 106 cubic-inch Freedom engine cranks out 110 pound-feet of torque – not the most among American-made V-twins, but close, and anything over 100 pound-feet is good enough.

The engine dumps waste heat through both air- and oil-cooling rather than ruin the look with a big radiator. Yeah, liquid cooling is superior, but it’s ugly, and I’m glad Victory didn’t go that route. A pair of 45 mm throttle bodies feed the engine, and dual, slash-cut pipes carry off waste gasses. As with the other big U.S. manufacturers, you can change the exhaust, air cleaner and fuel delivery a little to open the engine up and let it breathe as it was designed – what some circles call “The Harley Tax” — equivalent to a Stage-One modification.

Power flows through a gear primary drive rather than the high-maintenance chain-and-sprocket type used elsewhere, and a torque compensator smooths out the power pulses ahead of the six-speed, overdrive-ratio, constant-mesh transmission.


Victory High-Ball

The High-Ball comes with relatively little sticker shock, and is a lot of bike at $13,499 plus freight and setup — just $150 over the 2016 price. No need to grip about which color to pick for 2016; the High-Ball only came in Suede Black with a white tank graphic. For 2017,Victory adds Matte Nuclear Sunset Orange so at least you have a choice, even if it’s only a choice between Halloween colors.


Victory High-Ball

Harley-Davidson Street Bob

Staying stateside for my competitor, I had to look no further than the Dyna Street Bob from Harley-Davidson. The bikes are close enough in design, and H-D surely represents Goliath to Victory’s David, at least as far as market shares go.

Visually, the High-Ball splits between classic and futuristic extremes, while the Harley kind of rides a mellow middle with a more neutral panache. Functionally, both are set up as cruisers, and you will need to visit the accessories catalog if you even want to carry a few groceries home. You could call them the bare bikes of the cruiser world, which means they are a blank canvas for your own custom touches.

Powerwise, there isn’t much to choose between the two. The Harley Twin-Cam 103 puts out 98.8 pound-feet versus 110 from the Freedom 106 – not enough to be a dealbreaker or maker – and both follow the Big-Twin look so the engine design doesn’t detract from the visuals.


Aside from a slew of visual details, the bikes are fairly similar – all the way to the bank. Harley offers its Vivid Black Street Bob at $13,699, just a trifle more than the High-Ball at $13,499. H-D offers a number of alternative colors, the most expensive of which can drive the price up to $14,449. Ah yes, vanity is expensive.

He Said

“I kind of like this ride, though I got to say I ain’t feeling the apes. There comes a point of diminishing returns, and in some areas, it’s illegal to have your hands higher than your shoulders anyway. Overall, the custom touches temper the “future flow” a bit to make this an interesting-looking bike.”

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Anyone who follows me knows I am a shorty. While I usually go for bikes with low seat heights, this High Ball is a bit top heavy. Between the forward controls and the ape hangers, I do not feel comfortable or confident. If I really wanted a High-Ball, I’d have to explore some options. Luckily for me, I’m not a big fan of Victory simply on an aesthetic level.”



Engine Type: Freedom 106/ 6 V-Twin
Displacement: 106 cubic inches (1,731 cc)
Bore x Stroke: 101 x 108 mm
Cooling: Air & Oil
Exhaust: Dual-Staggered Slash-Cut with Common Volume
Fuel System: Electronic Fuel Injection with dual 45 mm throttle body
Transmission Type: Six-Speed Overdrive/Constant Mesh
Valve Train: Four Valves per Cylinder, Hydraulic Lifters & Cam Chain Adjusters
Transmission/Primary Drive: Gear Drive with Torque Compensator
Transmission/Final Drive: Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt
Compression Ratio: 9:4:1
Drive/Driven Clutch: Wet Multi-Plate/Diaphragm Spring
Charging System: 38 Amps Max Output
Battery : YTX20HL-BS/12 Volt 18 Amp Hour 310 CCA
Front Suspension: Telescopic Fork/ 5.1-inch travel
Rear Suspension” Single Monotube Gas/Preload Adjustable/3.0-inch travel
Front Brake: Single 300 x 5 mm/ Floating Rotor/ Four-Piston Caliper
Rear Brake: Single 300 x 5mm/ Floating Rotor/ Two-Piston Caliper
ABS/Cruise Control: Not Equipped
Brake System Type: Not Linked
Tires / Wheels:
Front Tire: Dunlop D421 – WWW 130/90B16 67H
Rear Tire: Dunlop D421 – WWW 140/90B16 77H
Rear Wheel: 16 x 3.5 inches
Front Wheel: 16 x 3.5 inches
Ground Clearance: 4.7 inches
Seat Height: 25.0 inches
Wheelbase: 64.8 inches
Rake/Trail: 32 degrees / 6.7 inches
Overall Length: 93.4 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons
Dry Weight: 671 Pounds
GVWR: 1,151 Pounds
Oil Capacity: 5.0 Quarts
2016: Suede Black with White Tank Graphic
2017: Suede Black, Matt Nuclear Sunset Orange
2016: $13,349
2017: $13,499


O+ Compact Pro Review


* Nice display
* Decent performance
* 700MHz LTE
* Free microSD card and JBL headphones


* Camera doesn’t offer “professional performance”
* 80GB is just 16GB storage + 64GB microSD
* Expensive compared to competition

O+ USA introduced last month a sub-Php12K smartphone with a 5.5-inch display, octa-core CPU, 700MHz LTE, and 13MP rear camera – the O+ Compact Pro. The brand also boldly claims “professional camera performance” from this device. Can it live up to the claim? Let’s find out in our review below.

Design and Construction

The O+ Compact Pro doesn’t have much flare to it when it comes to design. It has a rectangular build with curved top and bottom but has a chrome lining to accentuate its frame.

The front is dominated by the 5.5-inch display while located above it is the earpiece, 5MP front camera, and sensors. Down below is an unused space since it uses on-screen navigation buttons instead of capacitive ones.

The left side is devoid of any buttons while the right side textured volume rocker and power/lock button.

At the top we have the headset jack, while down at the bottom is the microUSB port and microphone.

Flip it on its back and you will see the 13MP camera, dual-LED flash, secondary microphone, and the loudspeaker. The removable back panel hides the dual-SIM and dedicated microSD card slots, and non-removable battery.

When it comes to quality, the O+ Compact Pro is mostly made of plastic but feels solid. It has a matte finish to it which repels fingerprints and smudges while the backside has curved sides for a better grip. It’s a bit chunky too at 8.95mm but light enough on the hands and pockets.

Display and Multimedia

At 5.5-inches, the O+ Compact Pro’s screen has the size of a standard phablet. Good thing it’s equipped with a Full HD resolution which equates to a good 401ppi. Mounted above it is a scratch resistant glass. Screen quality is good with natural vibrant colors and wide viewing angles thanks to IPS.

When it comes to speaker quality, the O+ Compact Pro’s loudspeaker sounds hollow with very weak bass. It’s audible though in a quiet room but won’t do much in a noisy environment. That said, it’s better that you use a good pair of headphones or external speaker.

OS, UI, and Apps

Running the software department is Android 6.0 Marshmallow with tweaked UI which is mostly evident in the theme and icons. The rest though feels stock and uses an app drawer with the apps scrolled vertically. As for extra features, it has Air Shuffle and Doodle Control.

Pre-loaded apps are kept to a minimum which is good. It doesn’t even have a lot of Google apps and only has Google search, Gmail, Hangouts, Maps, News, and Photos. It also has Clean Master but can be uninstalled.

Storage-wise, you don’t have a lot to use at 16GB with 11.26GB left for the user. On the bright side, there’s a dedicated microSD card slot with support for up to 64GB (microSD card included in the package) which O+ markets as “80GB” in the handset’s name. Nothing special. As for USB OTG, it is supported which is good for those who need quick file transfers between devices.


When it comes to imaging, where the Compact Pro is boasting, it is handled by a 13MP BSI rear camera with dual-LED flash and a 5MP BSI front. The camera itself feels stock and just comes with standard features like Beautify, HDR, Smile and Gesture capture, and filters. For a phone that they are marketing as a “photographers’ choice” I don’t even see a manual mode.

As for image quality, both the front and rear cameras produce photos with decent quality, especially in bright conditions. It has acceptable details and colors although dynamic range can be improved. In other words, the Compact Pro doesn’t offer anything spectacular. Check out the samples below:


As for video quality, it can record at 1080p at 30fps in 3GP format. Quality is similar to stills but with some sharpening. Watch sample below:

Performance and Benchmarks

Powering the Compact Pro is a 1.3GHz MediaTek MT6753 octa-core CPU, Mali-T720 GPU, and 2GB RAM. So far it was able to handle basic tasks and launch apps with relative ease. There’s no crashing, random reboots, or pop-up ads which. Gaming is possible with the likes of Marvel Future Fight but you can expect some drop in frame rates especially in action-packed scenarios.

* AnTuTu – 37,192
* Quadrant Standard – 22,387
* Vellamo – 1,572 (Multicore), 858 (Metal), 1,863 (Chrome)
* 3D Mark – 201 (Sling Shot Extreme)
* PC Mark – 2,625 (Work 2.0)

Connectivity and Call Quality

The Compact Pro comes with basic connectivity features like dual-SIM, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. What’s worth noting is the support for the new 700MHz LTE so expect faster mobile data in the area of coverage. Call quality is good as well as long as the signal is strong.

Battery Life

It’s good that O+ equipped the Compact Pro with a 3,045mAh battery. Although not exactly high-capacity, it will suffice for a device with mid-range specs. It can last a whole day with light calls, SMS, and photo-taking, and heavy social media browsing via WiFi.

PC Mark rated the battery at 7 hours and 53 minutes which is almost average. Expect a shorter life though when gaming or heavy on mobile data.


The O+ Compact Pro, at best, is a decent mid-ranger with a good display, decent performance, and 700MHz LTE for those who want to take advantage of faster mobile data. The professional camera performance, on the other hand, feels more like a marketing ploy as it doesn’t exhibit anything special when it comes to imaging. On the bright side, it doesn’t ask a lot at Php11,395. O+ USA is also throwing in a 64GB SanDisk microSD card and a JBL T300A headphones.

However, I don’t think it would be enough to sway buyers as it has stronger competition at a lesser cost. One good example is the ASUS Zenfone 3 Max for just Php10,995. In other words, if you like the freebies, go ahead and go for the Compact Pro, otherwise, there are better phones to consider.

O+ Compact Pro specs:
  • 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display, 401ppi
  • Scratch-resistant screen
  • 1.3GHz MediaTek MT6753 octa-core CPU
  • Mali-T720 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • Up to 64GB via microSD
  • 13MP BSI rear camera with dual LED flash
  • 5MP BSI front camera, wide angle lens, F2.0 aperture
  • Dual-SIM (micro)
  • 4G LTE (up to 700MHz)
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS, A-GPS
  • Android Marshmallow
  • 3,045mAh battery
  • 152 x 76 x 8.95 mm


Lexus RX vs. Toyota Highlander: Buy This, Not That

In its 16 years on the market, the Toyota Highlander has been a stylish if inoffensive people mover. For the past quarter century now, Toyota itself has been masterful at that: Building cars that play the middle better than anything else. It doesn’t make many lust-worthy vehicles (at least not yet), but at the end of the day, it offers the masses what they want to buy. Solid, quality-built, and virtually maintenance-free, the company has become the master at selling the best all-rounders in virtually every segment you can name.

And that’s what makes its mid-size SUV so interesting — or at least, so far as playing the middle goes. Because the Highlander is as sure a sure thing as the brand has. Over 165,000 have been sold in the U.S. through November, making 2016 its best year ever. And if Toyota is the brand that has something for everyone, the Highlander lineup is a microcosm of that. Starting at just over $30K, and topping out at just over $50K fully-loaded, there are three rows, a trio of powertrains, and no fewer than eight different trims to offer something for everyone.

Lexus RX350 F Sport

Except, the high-end Highlander runs into some in-house competition by way of the Lexus RX. In a curious case of chicken-and-egg, the midsize Lexus actually predates its Toyota platform-mate by two years. But today, they both share the company’s trusty K-Platform, which includes a 192.5 inch length, 109.8 inch wheelbase, and 4,000 pound-plus curb weight. So if you have around $50K to blow, want to say “Oh, what a feeling!” but aren’t sure where in your local Toyota superstore to do it, we’ll give you a hand in this latest installment of Buy This, Not That.

Tale of the tape:

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

At the top end of the Highlander segment sits the $47,880 all-wheel drive Hybrid Limited. We tested a 2016 model in February, and while a facelifted model has since bowed, it still has the same 3.5 liter Atkinson cycle V6 mated to a pair of electric motors and a CVT, good for a combined 306 horsepower. That powertrain isn’t a gem, but it does the trick. From our ’16 review:

In my week with the Highlander, its magic number was 23.5. I got 23.5 miles per gallon in bumper-to-bumper near-gridlock, on flat-land highways, on mountain highways, dirt roads, and in fields. No matter how much I pushed or prodded, the average economy never strayed from that mark. The hybrid system and gasoline engine play very well together, the stop/start function was nice and discreet, and frankly, I was impressed by it’s stubbornly consistent fuel returns.

Any way you slice it, 23.5 mile per gallon average is nothing to sneeze at in a two-plus ton people mover.

Inside, you’re treated to Toyota’s finest leather, wood, aluminum, and soft-touch materials, making the Highlander a comfortable place to spend time. Its un-bolstered seats can get tiresome on really long drives, but in most situations, things feel plenty cushy. One clear edge over the Lexus here is the standard third row, something the RX doesn’t even offer. So despite an identical length, the Highlander’s longer roof and taller greenhouse accommodates an extra two passengers (three if they’re tiny or have a thing for punishment), and gives the Toyota around 140 cubic feet of interior room.

Lexus RX350 F Sport

The RX, however, gives you room for five, a sloping, floating roofline, and 108 cubic feet of the full Lexus experience. If you’re past the point of lugging your kids and all their friends, or making the big trips to Costco, then you won’t miss those precious extra feet missing from the RX. A cool $50,320 will land you an all-wheel drive RX350 F Sport, which also uses a 3.5 liter V6. Without a battery pack and AC motors (which are available on range-topping 450h models), the engine sends 295 horses and 268 pound-feet of torque to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Combined fuel economy is a not-too-different 22 miles per gallon. And since it’s an F Sport, you get a revised suspension, cross-hatched spindle grille, darker trim bits, and “LFA inspired instrumentation.” That alone might add an extra 50 horsepower.

Inside, you get leather-trimmed power front seats, aluminum-trimmed dash with big Lexus analog clock, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and aluminum pedals — which might add another 20 horses. Goodies like real wood trim, dual-panel panoramic sunroof, and a high-roller Luxury Package are available, but it’ll set you back a whopping $4,485.

The verdict:

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

As Lexus continues to go bold with its designs, it’s beginning to separate itself from its parent company. A decade ago, a loaded Highlander and RX wouldn’t have felt too far off. But today, the bold Lexus would be our winner every day of the week. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Highlander, and it’s not like Toyota is having a problem selling them, but both these models hover around a certain threshold, and the Lexus just comes out on top.

And here it is: If you told someone that you spend $50K on a Lexus, their response would most likely be a nod, a “sounds about right,” or even a “not bad.” Tell someone you spent that on a Toyota, and their response would likely be a lot different. Not that the Highlander Hybrid Limited isn’t worth it, but when you design a family car for the everyman, that kind of money is a lot to ask. The Highlander has an extra row of seats, substantially more room out back, and a hybrid powertrain, but the RX350 F Sport is more comfortable, more stylish, and nearly as fuel efficient.

Lexus RX 350 F Sport

The Highlander may be one of the best people-movers on the market, but if you’re looking for luxury, you might as well embrace it and opt for the Lexus RX.


UNIC UC46 LCD Projector Review : Business-grade device for just $71

There are various projectors in the market today, but the UNIC UC46 LCD Projector has some amazing features which make it unique. If you are a business person who constantly delivers presentations, or you’re someone who loves video games and would prefer a bigger and clearer view of your favourite games, or you’re just a movie lover who wants his/her own personalised big screen, then the UNIC UC46 Projector is for you. You can get it today at a cheap price of $71.11 (achieved via coupon).

UNIC UC46 LCD Projector Review - PackagingKết quả hình ảnh cho UNIC UC46 LCD Projector

UNIC UC46 LCD Projector Review and Features

UNIC UC46 LCD Projector Review - Design

The UNIC UC46 LCD Projector has a weight of 1.105kg which is not so bad for a projector. This weight enables you to carry it about with ease, especially if you need to go along with it for business presentations and other forms of presentations. It comes in a dimension of 20.00 * 15.10 * 9.00 cm / 7.87 * 5.94 * 3.54 inches. This projector is available in black and white colours.

UNIC UC46 LCD Projector Review - Performance

The UNIC UC46 LCD Projector has a resolution of 800 * 480 which ensures it provides users with clear images. It has a maximum brightness of 1200 lumens with a contrast ratio of 800:1 which ensures that the clear images are razor sharp and clearer. The UNIC UC46 has a projection distance of 1-3.8 m which is reasonable enough, including an image size of 34-130 inches.

UNIC UC46 LCD Projector Review - Lens

The UNIC UC46 LCD Projector supports a large number of video formats which include 3GP, MKV, FLV, MOV, MP4, MPG, VOB and RMVB as preferred by the user. These features make it great to utilise the projector in playing video games and seeing movies in the home. It also has the capacity to play MP3, WMA, ASF, OGG, AAC and WAV audio formats which ensure that the audio quality never suffers while in use.

UNIC UC46 LCD Projector Review - Air Vents

The UNIC UC46 LCD Projector has a built-in Wi-Fi with a speed of 5GHz which provides a Wi-Fi signal that is more stable and allows users enjoy videos of higher quality while using the projector. The projector comes with AV, HDMI, USB and VGA support which allows you use various forms of multimedia like laptops, gaming consoles and DVD players, amongst others.

The projector has a 3.5mm headphone jack which allows you to connect an external speaker for a more wonderful audio experience. This could also be done using the 3-in-1 audio or video port.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho UNIC UC46 LCD Projector

The UNIC UC46 LCD Projector also sports a USB port which could be used to connect hard drives so you could access your data directly. This projector also comes with a USB 5V out port which can be used to charge your gadgets like your iPads and phones while you carry out your presentation or watch your movie.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho UNIC UC46 LCD Projector


The UNIC UC46 LCD Projector comes with an infrared remote control and allows you to control the projector from a distance. This is especially great during presentations, as you can change the slides without having to fiddle with your laptop. It also supports Miracast DLNA Airplay.

The UNI-Link OS has the capacity to function with Android 4.2.2, iOS 6.0 and Win 8.1 system. The projector comes with a lot of other accessories included in it that make it more enjoyable to utilise the device.

Price, Deals & Discounts

This amazing projector with great features can be gotten at a cheap price of $71.11 which is a great deal. However, this is attainable only by using the Coupon Code UNICGB on Gearbest. Hurry because this offer closes soon. You can get this projector in white and black colours.


2016 – 2017 Victory Hammer S Review

Price king in Victory’s 2017 cruiser  lineup is the Hammer S with its awesome 250 mm rear tire, inverted forks and red on black racing-style colorway. Originally introduced in 2006, the Hammer S appeals to the cruiser crowd with that easy-going rider triangle. With plenty of torque in the low-to-mid range, the bike is surprisingly nimble and responsive for its size. As a “super-cruiser,” the Hammer S won’t be left behind if your friends are still into sportbikes. For the size, power, black-out look and almost bare-necessity instrumentation, you definitely get the no-nonsense “muscle” vibe.


Victory Hammer S

Lack of sweep — that Ness-like flow — that Victory bikes usually have is missing from the Hammer S. That isn’t a bad thing. As far as looks go, this is probably the Victory I dislike the least. Performance-wise, the bike is right there, but I don’t care for the usual swoopy-sweep of the Victory lines. The plus side is that if you’re sitting on it, you aren’t looking at it.

The clutch is a little heavy, but power delivery is smooth all through the powerband. It’s a cruiser and that is evident in how well it “cruises.” Pick a gear and just let the bike take you as opposed to other bikes that insist you stay engaged all the time or you’re borked. The brakes are positive and the analog gauges are easy to read, though the digital display isn’t positioned well for at-a-glance viewing.

It’s a bit heavy for an around-town bike; but so fun to ride, you might not care. As a commuter bike, you’re not going to sprint through traffic; however, if your commute includes a trek up the highway, you’re golden. The turning radius is a bit wide; I don’t have a spec on it but turning around in the parking lot can turn into a K-turn depending on how much room you have.


Victory Hammer S

Typical of heavy, American cruisers, the Hammer S uses a thick, double-downtube, double-cradle frame design. A large gusset closes off the gap between the downtubes, backbone and steering head. While I am sure this was done for strength, I can’t help but think had they left it out, the gap between the front rocker box and the backbone would give the Hammer frame a faux stretched look.

Big, usd front forks keep the front end looking beefy, and aside from the stiffness they impart, they come with 5.1 inches of wheel travel and should be sufficient for most paved-surface situations. In a really classy move, Victory hid the rear monoshock deep within the guts of the bike which leaves the rear end clean and trim. The rear gas shock comes with 3.9 inches of travel, and an adjustable preload setting.

Victory certainly seems to make sure Hammer riders do not want for lack of rear traction. A truly massive 250 mm Dunlop rear tire caps the 18-inch cast rim, and a not-so-small 130 mm hoop rides the 18-inch wheel up front. These tire sizes give the bike something of a drag-tastic appeal, and the large contact patches certainly improve handling and safety. All-around, 300 mm brake discs work with dual, four-pot calipers up front and a twin-pot caliper in back. No ABS or linked brakes, and as usual, I am OK with that.


Victory Hammer S

The Freedom 106/6 V-twin drives the Hammer S, and lends it the characteristic big-V-twin look expected in the domestic market. Although the mill comes blacked out, along with the exhaust and other components, the polished cooling fin edges makes it stand out from its surrounds, and leaves no doubt as to the power bridled within. This power takes the form of 106 pound-feet of torque, and as with most big V-twins, you don’t have to wind it up to a frenetic pitch to wring the power out of it.

A 45 mm throttle body with electronic fuel injection manages the induction, and dual, slash-cut mufflers dampen the exhaust note, as well as performance. To really get the most out of it, you will need to pay the Victory equivalent of the Harley  tax, which is to say you need a Stage-1 kit with low-restriction air cleaner and exhaust to open up the circuit up and let the engine breathe as it was meant to, not as the government says it should. A six-speed tranny sends the power to the rear wheel with a quiet and low-maintenance reinforced belt drive.


Victory Hammer S

MSRP on the Hammer S is $15,599, $100 over the 2016 price. It’s a bit higher than entry-level, but certainly not out of reach. For 2016, you can have it in Gloss Black with Havasu Red racing stripes and for 2017, it comes in Gloss Black with White racing stripes.


Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout
Star Motorcycles Raider

Victory compares the Hammer S to the Breakout from Harley Davidson. I don’t disagree. It is a suitable apples-to-apples comparison and Victory claims a win with specs only marginally better. Three more cubic inches, eight pounds less weight and a handful of torque don’t make for a clear victory for the Victory, in my opinion; but I don’t want to jump on that bandwagon. Instead, let’s look at the Raider from Yamaha’s Star cruiser lineup.

The Raider completely lacks the “Nessy” swoop so prevalent with Victory, and the rear fender, seat shape and tank-mounted console gives the Raider a decidedly Harley-ish vibe, much more so than the Hammer. This is interesting because both companies are in direct competition with the bikes from Milwaukee, and one seems to embrace the look, while the other seeks to establish a new look all its own. How effective are the results depend entirely on your personal tastes.

Star keeps its performance cards close to the vest, as usual, but it does squeak out a win in the displacement category with a 113 cubic-inch mill over the 106-inch Freedom from Victory. Air-cooling keeps both powerplants clean and “looking right,” a crucial component for the U.S. market. The Star tranny, however, only comes with five speeds to the Victory’s six, so Victory pulls out a minor win there, though I can’t say where the advantage to Victory falls; could be lower cruising rpm on the highway, or simply better ratios down low for powerband control.

Price is almost a wash, with the Raider eking out a minor win at $14,990, just a tad under the Hammer with its $15,499 sticker, but this discrepancy is not a deal-breaker by any means.


He Said

My husband and fellow writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Once again Victory makes a bike that I find attractive by dropping some of its distinctive overlapping-arc look. Simply by straightening the rear fender and adding the cafe’ racer-ish rear end, the factory managed to moderate just enough for my personal tastes. Love the headlight housing and cut-down front fender with the big usd front forks and blackout treatment; it makes for a solid, mean-looking ride.”

She Said

“I keep saying I don’t care much for the Victory style, but this bike really is a blast to ride. Get just a little twisty with it and the rumble of the V-Twin roars making you feel like an apex predator on the road. The seat feels a little wide with your feet down, but once you pick your feet up, the saddle is comfortable all the way across the butt. If you feel like you’re ready to move on from a sportbike  and still have antiquated ideas about what cruisers are, do yourself a favor and look at the Hammer S.”



Engine Type: Four-stroke, 50-degree Freedom 106/ 6 V-Twin
Valve Train: SOHC – 4\Four Valves per Cylinder/Hydraulic Lifters & Cam Chain Adjusters
Displacement: 106 cubic inches (1,731 cc)
Bore: 101 mm
Stroke: 108 mm
Drive/Driven Clutch: Wet Multi-Plate/Diaphragm Spring
Compression Ratio: 9:4:1
Cooling: Air & Oil
Fuel System: Electronic Fuel Injection with dual 45mm throttle body
Exhaust: Dual-Large Bore Slash-Cut with Common Volume
Battery: YTX20HL-BS/12 Volt 18 Amp Hour 310 CCA
Charging System: 38 Amps Max Output
Clutch Type: Wet Multi-Plate / Diaphragm Spring
Transmission/Final Drive: Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt
Transmission/Primary Drive: Gear Drive with Torque Compensator
Transmission Type: Six-Speed Overdrive/Constant Mesh
Final Drive Type: Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt
Primary Drive Type and Ratio: Gear Drive With Torque Compensator – 1.49:1
Swingarm: Forged and Cast Aluminum with Rising Rate Linkage
Front Suspension: 43 mm Telescopic Fork, 5.1-inch travel
Rear Suspension: Single Monotube Gas/Preload Adjustable, 3.9-inch travel
Rake: 33 degrees
Trail: 5.5 inches
Brake System Type: Not Linked
Front Brakes: Dual 300 x 5 mm/Floating Rotor/Four-Piston Calipers
Rear Brakes: Single 300 x 5 mm/ Floating Rotor/Two-Piston Caliper
ABS/Cruise Control: Not Equipped
Front Wheel: Cast 18 x 3.5 inches
Rear Wheel: Cast 18 x 8.5 inches
Front Tire: Dunlop D418F Elite 3 130/70R18 63H
Rear Tire: Dunlop D419 Elite 3 250/40R18 81V
Length: 93.8 inches
Width: 37 inches
Height: 45 inches
Seat Height: 26.5 inches
Wheelbase: 66.5 inches
Ground Clearance: 5.8 inches
Oil Capacity: 5.0 Quarts
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons
Fuel Reserve: 1 Gallon
Recommended Fuel: Premium Unleaded
Dry Weight: 672 Pounds
Wet Weight: 702 Pounds
GVWR: 1,173 Pounds
GAWR: Front: 415 Pounds, Rear: 758 Pounds
Maximum Load Capacity: 471 Pounds
Colors (Base):
2016: Gloss Black with Havasu Red Racing Stripes
2017: Gloss Black with White Racing Stripes
2016: $15,499
2017: $15,599


MediaTek Helio X27 vs Qualcomm Snapdragon 820

MediaTek launched new chips at the beginning of December. They were named as the MediaTek Helio X27 and X23. Both processors are a good addition to the company’s premiere deca-core SoC family. As you remember, the manufacturer had previously launched the Helio X20 and X25. Thus, this family is very powerful and can compete with any processor carrying any brand. We decided to compare it with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820. It may seem this comparison is not even, but the Snapdragon 820 is one of the best processor of the American chip-maker. So let’s see how a newbie can stand against a veteran.


Briefly on SoCs

Some time ago when we were talking about the ‘brain of a digital device or a computer’, we called it CPU (Central Processing Unit), which was accompanied with various chips like GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), memory controllers, specialized video and audio chips (DSP), and many more. But manufacturers decided to integrate significant portions of an electronic system into a single chip. So we are dealing with a system-level integration. But you have to take into account the fact we are not talking about the number of transistors combined into one, it is the functions to be integrated. Therefore, the term of SoC (System-on-a-Chip) means a single chip including a lot of different functions.

SoC = CPU + GPU + memory controller + DSP + network radio + …

Currently there are only four major players in the SoC market – Qualcomm with its Snapdragon line, Samsung with its Exynos series, MediaTek with its MT and Helio chips, and finally Huawei with its Kirin SoCs (they are made by its subsidiary HiSilicon). However, this list is going to be enlarged via Xiaomi, which is going to launch smartphones based on its own chips codenamed Xiaomi Meri or Xiaomi Pinecone In-House Chip. The latter has leaked a few times, and seems it will first appear on the Xiaomi Mi 5C.


As for GPU, there are three major designers in this market –ARM, Qualcomm, and Imagination. ARM is known for its Mali GPUs. Qualcomm GPUs are popular due to Adreno series. And finally, Imagination comes with its PowerVR range. But it’s very difficult to compare them taking into account only the specifications written on paper, because all of them use OpenGL ES 3.1, RenderScript, and high gigaFLOP numbers. The actual results can be shown only testing them on 3D games.

Anyway, all of these manufacturers make chips for all range smartphones starting from low-end devices and finishing with top-notch models. With the launch of the MediaTek Helio X27 this competition has become rougher. So let’s see what features caused such a mixture of cards.

MediaTek Helio X27

The MediaTek Helio X27 belongs to a family of chips, where we can also find the Helio X20, X25, and X23. All they use the same deca-core CPU configuration (two ARM Cortex-A72 cores for heavy works and two quad-core Cortex-A53 clusters for medium to light works). The little cores are designed especially for lower-power operations. The main differentiation factor between those four SoCs is the clock frequency. It’s clear the highest frequency can be seen at X27 (2.6GHz / 2.0GHz / 1.6GHz for the (A72 / A53 / A53)).

Note: Currently we are mostly dealing with Heterogeneous Multi-Processing (HMP), which means not all cores in a SoC are equal (hence, heterogeneous). For example, quad-core processors use 2+2 configuration, octa-processors use a 4+4 configuration, and deca-core processors use 2+4+4.

The SoC also comes with an ARM Mali-T880MP4 GPU that runs at up to 875MHz. So it almost reaches the frequency of 900MHz seen at the HiSilicon’s Kirin 950/955, which uses the same GPU by the way.


The MediaTek Helio X27 is manufactured on the same TSMC 20nm process, and as the manufacturer didn’t make any changes to the layout, the clock frequency can’t be higher. Therefore, ARM targets high frequencies only on 14nm/16nm FinFET processes.

X27 still includes MediaTek’s Imagiq ISP and integrated Category 6 modem.

The ISP still supports for dual camera sensors (color + monochrome configurations), which means it comes with improved low-light photography. Plus, there’s also a 3D depth engine built in to enable DOF post-processing effects. It supports up to 32MP sensors at recording resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.

One of the new features added to the MediaTek Helio X27 is EnergySmart Screen power-saving technology. It’s part of MediaTek;s MiraVision display suite that modifies various display parameters to reduce display power consumption by up to 25%.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho MediaTek Helio X27

The MediaTek Helio X27 supports 2560 x 1600 pixel (WQXGA) resolutions at 60 fps and 1920 x 1080 pixels (Full HD) at 120 fps with 12HZ Blending layers.

It also comes with MediaTek CorePilot 3.0, SmartScreen, Tiny Sensor Hub, and UltraDimming technologies.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820

2015 wasn’t a good year for Qualcomm in the high-end market. Though the Snapdragon 810 was the first ARMv8 AArch64-capable SoC of the company, it failed completely. Probably, the main reason was related with 20nm planar manufacturing process. More precisely, as many manufacturers think the Snapdragon 810 couldn’t make good use of its highly clocked ARM Cortex-A57 cores.


With the launch of Snapdragon 820 everything changed. This SoC comes with new Qualcomm developed CPU cores called Kryo. Two of four cores are designed for high class performance, therefore, they are clocked at 2150MHz, while the next two cores are lower-power cores clocked at 1593MHz. what’s interesting, the CPU architectures of both clusters are the same. The only difference is related with the cache configuration and power/frequency tuning.

Adreno 530 GPU is inside the SoC as well. It is a new design from Qualcomm bringing functionality previously found only in PC desktops. Not talking much about the technical changes, the most significant step forward in comparison to Adreno 400 was the graphics side supports OpenGL ES 3.1 + AEP and Vulkan.

There is a new image signal processor (ISP), which takes data from camera and produces photos itself. ISPs are becoming more important, because smartphones get thinner leaving less space for camera. As for Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 ISP, it was called uniquely – Spectra. The devices with Spectra ISP support up to 25MP cameras with no shutting lag. One of the most attractive features of this processor is capturing multiple focal depths simultaneously. Thus you can change focus on any part of a scene after a picture is taken. The Snapdragon 820 supports 4K video at 60fps recording.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Qualcomm Snapdragon 820

Another big change was that the Snapdragon 820 comes with a new DSP block, the Hexagon 680, which has been designed to handle significant compute workloads for VR, AR, image processing, video processing, and computer vision. Thus the tasks related with this processes will run on DSP instead of CPU and GPU.

The trump card of Qualcomm making it such a required player in this market is its advanced LTE cellular modems. Even Apple uses Qualcomm’s cellular modems in its iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. The MDM9625M Baseband Processor allows maximum download speeds of 300Mbps and 50Mbps upload speed. The Snapdragon 820 comes with X12 modem that allows maximum download speeds of 600Mbps and 150Mbps upload speed.

At last, the Snapdragon 820 consumes 30% less energy and it’s powered with Quick Charge 3.0 technology.

Helio X27 vs Snapdragon 820

The Phones Powered with Helio X27 and Snapdragon 820

The MediaTek Helio X27 was announced on 1 December and it’s reasonable why there is no smartphone with this SoC onboard. However, one of the first companies announcing its plans on a new device packed with this chip was Uni. The latter has been busy making its brand more popular in the international market. Thanks to many flagships such as the Umi Super, Max, Plus and Plus E (the first phone powered with the MediaTek P20) the company can state it succeeded. This list was completed by the Umi Z unleashed recently. You get it right – the Umi Z will be the first smartphone to sport the MediaTek Helio X27 SoC.

Umi Z specs

The Umi Z sports an all-metal housing, 5.5-inch Full HD Sharp screen covered with 2.5D arc glass (Dragontrail), 4GB AMSUNG eMMC5.1 RAM, 32GB of internal memory that be expanded up to 256GB via a SD card slot, 13MP Samsung S5K3L8 rear camera with quad LED flash seen on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus that also supports 4K video recording, the same sensor is on the front (wow) paired with a Softlight LED, NXP-TFA9890, a high efficiency class-D audio amplifier, 3780mAH battery providing up to 2 days of normal usage and it can be charged in 100 minutes thanks to USB Type-C and MediaTek Pump Express+ fast charging technology. The Umi Z comes with Android 6.0 out of the box, but it will be updated to Android 7.0 Nougat in the nearest future. At last the Umi Z costs only $279.99, which means you can acquire an incredible smartphone for a song.

Note: Umi has been renamed to Umidigi, and the Umi Z is the last smartphone with Umi brand.

As for the Snapdragon 820, this SoC is in the market for a long time and there are myriads of smartphone powered with it. Among them we can mention the Lenovo ZUK Z2/Pro, OnePlus 3, Xiaomi Mi5, LeEco Le Max 2 and many more.  However, the first smartphone featuring this SoC is the Le Max Pro, which is priced at 1799 yuan ($258.6). Thus the thoughts as Snapdragon chips are the way more expensive than MediaTek chips disappear when it comes to Chines manufacturers.

One more thing, no matter how powerful the Snapdragon 820 is and how popular it was in 2016 (this chip can be found on over 100 models), there was one problem we will close eyes on never – the SND820 had an overheating issue, which was solved immediately.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho MediaTek Helio X27 vs Qualcomm Snapdragon 820

The Bottom Line

Many think the MediaTek Helio X27 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 shouldn’t be compared, because the American manufacturer has already launched Snapdragon 821 and it is also working on the next gen SoC dubbed as the Snapdragon 835. The latter will come with a 10nm chip and eight cores of Kryo 200 processors. Shortly, it will bring many goods to the market, and it will be very difficult for other manufacturers to compete with this brand. This means, most likely we’ll have the same picture what was in 2016 – MediaTek SoCs will be in low-end and mid-range handsets, while the top brand and high-end smartphones will be powered with SND processors. In this sense, it’s quite reasonable to compare the Helio X27 with the Snapdragon 820, because if want to take a peek at the latest and the most powerful SoCs of MediaTek and Qualcomm, we’d have to compare the Helio X20 and Snapdragon 821.

Anyway, when the Snapdragon 820 became available, it was tested and hit records scoring 136.383 points at AnTuTu. It was a step forward of Apple A9 and Samsung Exynos 8890 that scored 132.657 and 129.865 points, respectively (the rest SoCs score under 90.000).

As for the Helio X27, it was tested on one device, the Umi Z and scored 116.486 points at AnTuTu. Thus it’s the way better than many other SoCs, but it still yields its main competitors a bit. On the other hand, the manufacturer could improve the performance, because the X25 scores only 98.930 points.


2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 review

THE GOOD: The GLS450 packs a smooth ride and is nearly as capable as its bulky body-on-frame competition. It’s surprisingly good without requiring a ton of options, too.

THE BAD: Since it’s an older platform, the GLS lacks many of Mercedes-Benz’s most visually stunning new features. The second and third row lack USB ports, and some connected features are slow as molasses.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite being long in the tooth, the GLS450 is a properly capable family trucklette with on-road demeanor that bests competitors.

Trying to fish through a field of options is tough when you’re trying to buy a new vehicle. But it’s even tougher when you have to review one within the span of a week. I might spend all my time trying to figure out where half the baubles are by the time it’s ready to go back home.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when a 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 arrived on my doorstep with very few options — what some call a ‘stripper.’ Sure, its $68,700 base price inflated to $78,550 (including $925 for destination and delivery), but considering most Mercedes-Benz press cars arrive with a CES show’s worth of gizmos, this nearly base GLS450 allowed me to spend most of my time evaluating how it drove and how it survived daily use in and around the metro Detroit area.

What I learned is that the GLS450 packs an impressively smooth ride with decent fuel economy. Its day-to-day demeanor is leagues ahead of its body-on-frame competition, but its age lets it down a bit in the face of newer, fresher unibody rivals.

What I’m trying to say is, this is one stripper you’ll want to take home to the family.

Not a truck, but still a behemoth

Other new Mercedes-Benz SUVs play host to a smorgasbord of curves, as if the engineering team lost all the rulers and replaced them with compasses. The GLS is unabashedly old school in comparison, keeping what rulers remain quite busy.

There’s no getting around the fact that many full-size, three-row crossovers and SUVs look like bricks on wheels. The GLS450 is a large slab with wheels underneath, and this impression isn’t helped by its design, which is still based on the original 2007 model (then dubbed GL).

Yet, there is some character here. The front end is mostly new, bringing it closer in line with other new Mercedes-Benz products. The rear end has some changes, too, like new taillights. The sides feature some impressive sculpting. The whole package is cohesive, despite being a smattering of both new and old design. It works. It’s one of the best-looking vehicles in its segment, if only because it doesn’t resemble those bricks that make up dorm room walls.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS450

An interior bordering on anachronistic

If the outside strikes you as a little old, boy howdy, you’re in for a treat once you step inside the GLS450. Whether it’s the centrally located volume knob on the center stack or the keypad immediately to its right, the GLS450’s interior takes you right back to the pinnacle of Mercedes-Benz’s design — from the last generation.

Mercedes-Benz has added some new bits to keep it relevant. The COMAND infotainment controller is the new touchpad, the steering wheel is newer and there are two USB ports in the (admittedly small) center console. But the best parts of Mercedes-Benz’s new interior design will not make an appearance. There is no double-widescreen display, à la E-Class, and the ambient lighting comes in three colors, as opposed to approximately one billion.

That said, the trim is still pretty, the seats remain very supportive and there’s plenty of room for adults inside. That’s what really matters. The second row has a massive amount of space, according to this 6-foot-zero lanky Gumby type.

The third row is tight, putting my knees to the seatback, but headroom is ample. Its third-row legroom measures 35.0 inches, which is ahead of the Cadillac Escalade and Infiniti QX80, but it lags behind the Lincoln Navigator. It would help if the second row could slide forward, but it can’t. It just tilts.

Speaking of tilting, folding down the third row for extra cargo space is a breeze, thanks to power switches in the trunk. You can fit a week’s worth of groceries for two in the back without dropping the third row. Moving the second row is a larger hassle — the 60-percent portion of the 60/40 split is rather heavy.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS450

Super soft on the road, for better or for worse

I’ll just dispense with the tired boat references — the GLS450 is supremely soft. Detroit’s horrible roads became much easier to deal with, although there is a trade-off, because with all those gradual motions comes a fair bit of body roll, and it might be too soft on the highway with its 275/55/19 Continental all-season tires. But it’s comfortable.

The GLS450 packs a 362-horsepower, 369-pound-foot V6 engine. It’s the volume engine, and while it doesn’t pack the outright thrust of the 449-hp V8 in the GLS550, it’s still plenty capable along with managing to save you more than $10,000 in the process. The new nine-speed automatic transmission keeps the revs low for fuel economy’s sake, but the shifts arrive quickly if you put the hammer down.

You’ll want to leave it in Comfort mode for the whole period of ownership. It starts from a stop in second gear, which requires a stronger pedal push, but it’s a gradual departure free from drama. Sport mode is horrible and pointless, as it attempts to inject some unwanted performance characteristics, like an all-too-touchy throttle and transmission shift points that hold all nine gears for unnecessarily long periods.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS450

Much of that softness comes from the air suspension, which is standard. You can raise it for slightly more treacherous terrain, but I recommend against that unless absolutely necessary. It takes more than a minute to raise the vehicle a couple extra inches, and at least in the case of my tester, the suspension creaks and groans the whole way up. I thought it was broken the first time I lifted it. A Range Rover, this is not.

If you want to get a little dirty, though, there’s an optional Off-Road Package that adds a two-speed transfer case, skid plates and extra ride height.

Visibility from all angles was ample. Blind spots were minimal, and the driver gets a great view of the road ahead. That said, for something so big and fancy, I was turned off by the amount of road and wind noise that permeated the cabin.

Over the course of a couple hundred miles in the GLS450, my highway fuel economy danced between 18 miles per gallon and its EPA-estimated 22-mpg highway rating. It’s rated at 17 in the city, but I saw closer to 15, although I prefer to keep up with traffic instead of steadfastly adhering to posted limits. Stop/start helps keep fuel consumption in check, and it’s very hard to tell when the engine turns off and starts up again.

Tech, there is some

This is an old SUV, so it’s not surprising that the GLS450 comes with some — but not all — modern tech appointments. Apple CarPlay is a welcome addition, but it comes tacked along with the navigation option, which is part of a $3,830(!) Premium Package that also adds such random doodaddery as keyless entry and start, blind spot monitoring, a power passenger seat and illuminated door sills. Does a pseudo-random number generator put these packages together?

While the COMAND navigation system is, again, from the older generation, it still packs plenty of optional frippery. You can use it to check the weather, read news headlines, view local fuel prices and even look up the location of traffic cameras in your area. Pairing a phone via Bluetooth took under a minute using both the phone and the infotainment system itself.

There’s also an internet browser, which took whole minutes to render Roadshow’s front page, and the touchpad is so bad at navigating said page that it took me additional minutes to figure out how to scroll down. Just use your phone.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS450

There exists a second screen, nestled between the gauges. You get some basic information thrust upon you, like fuel economy, distance to empty and a digital speedometer. It’s super simple to manipulate using the buttons on the steering wheel.

Other letdowns include a lack of USB ports in the second and third rows. The second row gets a 115-volt outlet and a 12-volt accessory outlet, but that’s it. The parking sensors are displayed on little plastic nubs that sit atop the dashboard and just in front of the rear glass, which is also a vestige of previous-generation Mercs.

An optional surround-view system gives you a top-down glance at the world around the GLS450, and it’s worth every bit of the $1,290 Parking Assist Package. This is one option I would not skip over, especially if I were regularly driving in urban locations. Just because the GLS has good visibility on the highway doesn’t mean you know exactly where the rear bumper’s corner ends.

How I’d option it

In my opinion, the best GLS450 is one with few options. The GLS450 is the range’s volume model, and given the sheer number of folks leasing these things, it’s probably better to opt for fewer toys and save a bit of coin for when the next GLS-Class update comes ’round.

We’ll start with the base GLS450, which retails for $68,700. I’d absolutely recommend the Parking Assist Package for $1,290, because Surround View is a godsend. I would also throw in $250 for the heated steering wheel. If you have kids who love complaining, add in second-row heated seats for $620. I would also opt for the $350 Magic Vision Control, which moves the wiper fluid nozzles to inside the wiper arm, and it really does work like magic, especially in the winter.

That brings the total to $72,135, including $925 for destination, which is $6,415 less expensive than the “stripper” press car I drove.

If safety is of great concern to you, you can toss another $2,250 shrimp on the barbie and add the Driver Assistance Package. This gives you adaptive cruise control with full-stop capability, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind-spot assist and lane-keep assist.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS450

Down to brass tacks

Nearly every one of the GLS450’s competitors is a truck-based, body-on-frame leviathan. SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator and Infiniti QX80 wear their ladder-frame hearts on their sleeves, especially in the handling department. The GLS450 out-handles them, um, handily. Why subject yourself to inferior on-road manners?

Well, there might be one reason to do so — capability. The GLS450 can tow up to 7,500 pounds, but its body-on-frame competitors have it beat, albeit not by much. The Escalade can tow up to 8,300 pounds, and the QX80 tops that with 8,500, but the Navigator trumps both with up to 9,000 pounds of towing capacity.

And then there’s the Audi Q7. This new-for-2017 wildcard is a tech-laden tour de force. But it focuses less on sheer comfort in order to give a few points to handling, which makes it less desirable if all you’re looking for is something that will shuttle your family about in comfort. The GLS450 lacks the Audi’s tech, and the Merc isn’t as fuel efficient, but the Q7 is also less capable of genuine off-roading is in the cards thanks to its more wagon-like approach. The Audi’s third row is also off-limits for fully-grown adults, so Audi buyers give up some space, too.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS450

The BMW X5 could be a competitor, too, as could the Volvo XC90. But both of these vehicles haveoptional third-row seats. When the third row becomes an option, it usually means cargo space is greatly reduced (or nearly eliminated) when the seats are up. It also means the seats are rather cramped, which is definitely the case with both of these models.

While money isn’t as important to buyers at this price tier, it’s still a factor. In that regard, the Navigator has the advantage, and by more than $5,000, at least in terms of base pricing. Hell, even the Audi is cheaper. The QX80 is on par with the Merc, but somehow, it’s the one SUV that manages to feel even older than the GLS. The Escalade starts at $73,395.

When it comes down to it, the GLS450 is a posh sort of pragmatist. Without too many options, it will deliver comfort and space in spades, and it shouldn’t break the bank. If sporty handling isn’t your thing, and you prefer the on-road sensibility of a unibody chassis, the GLS450 is a smart choice.


Lenovo ZUK Z2 vs Elephone S7 : Which One Should You Buy ?

Chinese smartphones have improved a lot in past couple of years and today, companies like Xiaomi have shown the potential of Chinese manufacturers. Today, we see that half of the smartphone market consists of Chinese devices. Well, here in this article we are going to compare two of the best smartphones right now under 250$ price tag – Lenovo ZUK Z2 vs Elephone S7. The ZUK Z2, in case you don’t know, is the cheapest Snapdragon 820 smartphone whereas the S7 is a premium looking powerful phone. Let us see which one you should prefer buying via thia quick comparison of ZUK Z2 vs Elephone S7.



Both the phones are very well built and come with a metal body. The Z2 plus comes with the roll cage design which mounts all the key components on a metal frame to increase the structural integrity of the phone and helps with efficient thermal management. On the other hand, the Elephone S7 comes with a design that is pretty much similar to that of Samsung Galaxy S7. It has a Glass and Metal design and that Glass on the back makes it look really a gorgeous device! Now, coming to the main question – Which one should you prefer? Well, if you want a compact phone with a well-built design, go with the ZUK Z2. And if you want a premium looking phone (that attracts fingerprints also), then go for the Elephone S7.



In terms of display, things really change as both the phones have different screen sizes. Firstly, both the phones have a Full HD Screen. But, the screen size on the ZUK Z2 is 5-inch, compared to 5.5-inch on Elephone. So, surely the pixel density is going to be higher on the ZUK. Due to the amazing 424ppi in ZUK Z2, the screen is really crisp and bright. But, this doesn’t mean in any sense that the screen of Elephone S7 is bad. No, A big No! The S7 comes with a 5.5-inch JDI Full Lamination In-cell screen that is thin yet bright. If you are looking for a phone with big screen, go blindly with the S7. But, if you want to buy a compact phone, then ZUK Z2 is there for you!



Now, let us talk about one of the determining factors for any smartphone, the camera. The ZUK Z2 comes with a 13MP AF rear camera and an 8MP front-facing camera. On the other camera, the Elephone S7 has a 13MP rear and 5MP front camera. The camera tests have shown that Z2’s camera produces slightly better image quality as compared to the one on Elephone. So, if the camera is the thing you need the most, the ZUK Z2 is the phone you should buy.



Things completely change when we talk about this factor. As mentioned before, the ZUK Z2 is the cheapest device with Snapdragon 820 chipset. Well, we all know how fast and snappy Snapdragon 820 is! On the other hand, Elephone S7 comes with a Deca-core Helio X25 chipset. Snapdragon chips are always better than MediaTek ones so there is no doubt that the performance of ZUK Z2 is far batter as compared to Elephone S7. Both the phones have 4GB RAM and 64GB ROM.



Lenovo ZUK Z2 comes with a 3,100 mAh battery whereas it is 3,000mAh on Elephone S7. It is not difficult to say that the Z2 will give you a longer battery life due to its slightly bigger battery size and small screen. If a phone with a big battery is your choice, ZUK Z2 is definitely the one you should prefer.


So, we compared Lenovo Suk Z2 vs Elephone S7 based on their specifications and the Z2 is better of the two. The ZUK Z2 is available to buy on Gearbest for just $186 at the moment and so you better hurry! In case you want to buy Elephone S7 due to its gorgeous design and curved screen, Gearbest is selling it for $249.


Lumie Bodyclock LUXE 700 review


  • Effective wake alarm
  • Decent sound quality
  • Lots of built-in sound effects and white noise tracks
  • Blue light filtered lamp


  • Fiddly controls
  • Expensive


  • Sunrise/sunset lighting
  • Dimmable bedside light with blue filter
  • Bluetooth, wired and USB audio
  • USB charging port
  • Sleep and wake sounds
  • Manufacturer: Lumie
  • Review Price: £170.00/$255.00


For some people, waking up in the morning is generally not a pleasurable experience. I am one of those people – I’m as far removed from a ‘morning person’ as you can possibly imagine. More often than not I greet the new day with a grimace rather than a smile.

The idea behind the Bodyclock LUXE 700 is to wake you more seamlessly from your sleep in the morning. It uses a bedside light that emulates the rising sun, gradually telling your body to reduce the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. That way, you’re eased out of sleep rather than snatched from your slumber. At night, it’s designed to help you drift off to sleep by replicating a fading sunset, with optional white noise or calming sound effects to help you nod off.

Throw in some extras like a Bluetooth speaker and USB port for charging your devices and you have a useful multi-function bedside companion, albeit one that’s a little expensive and fiddly to use if you need to regularly change your wake-up time.


The LUXE 700 is reasonably wide at 200 x 230 x 130mm but doesn’t have much depth. Still, you’ll need a reasonable amount of space on your bedside table.

I’m not sure if it was intentional, but the symmetrical orb-shaped design of the Bodyclock LUXE 700 has a distinct face to its front. The two dials and row of five white buttons along the button definitely create a Cheshire Cat-like facade that you can’t unsee.

Lumie Bodyclock LUXE 700

Still, the black and white combination is attractive enough and it certainly didn’t stand out on my bedside table in a garish manner. The top is dominated by the glass lamp cover, which houses six high-power LEDs. There’s a backlit, dimmable LCD display on the front that displays the time nice and clearly.

Look to the back and you’ll find a USB port that can either be used to charge your device or can be used to access music from a USB flash drive. Next to this are an 3.5 aux port and a headphone jack for private listening.

Lumie Bodyclock LUXE 700


Setting up the Bodyclock LUXE 700 is a little fiddly for my liking. There are four buttons, one for toggling the alarm on or off, another for turning on the sunset mode, the third for toggling the audio source and the final button for accessing the settings.

Once in the settings you need to use the two dials for navigating the menu tabs and making selections. To select an item you need to press the dials in, as they’re in fact also buttons. This is all well and good but it’s very easy to accidentally rotate the dial when trying to instead press it, moving you to the wrong menu item.

Setting an alarm requires you to set it for each day of the week, so even if you need to wake up at the same time every weekday, you’ll need to manually change the time for each day. There’s no logical ‘weekday only’ option to save time. Worse for me, as my alarm can change day-by-day depending on where I need to be the following day, changing the alarm time is laborious.

Lumie Bodyclock LUXE 700

It’ll be fine if you have a regular alarm pattern – and I’d say also better for your sleep health – but you might find this annoying if you need to constantly change your alarm.

In the settings you can also define the actions for the sunset and sunrise actions, such as the duration for the light, what music or sound effects you want to be played and the brightness of the LCD display. I liked the sound of rainfall during the sunset action but there are plenty of other options or you can use your own music with a sleep timer.

Ultimately, the controls do what they need to, but there’s a lot of memorisation of what things do and it’s a tad more complicated than I would have liked. Still, once you’ve got things finally set up as you like, you can largely leave things be.

Lumie Bodyclock LUXE 700

I actually did find the sunset actions helped me to fall asleep at night. I set the light to gradually dim over 15 minutes. Similarly, I also found myself waking up feeling less groggy in the morning thanks to the sunrise light. I eventually turned off the actual alarm sound as I found the light was enough to wake me up, although that could have also partially been a bit of bodyclock training as well.

Granted, I didn’t wake up feeling like the world was sunshine and rainbows like a movie cliché, but it was certainly better than the infuriating buzzing of a conventional alarm.

The Bodyclock LUXE 700 can also be used as a standard bedside lamp and you can adjust the brightness using the left dial. Clicking the dial in will also toggle a low blue light mode, which is useful at night. Supposedly, too much blue spectrum light at night affects your circadian rhythm, thereby making it more difficult to fall asleep.


Pairing a music device to the Bodyclock is easy enough, or you can connect over a wired 3.5mm connection or USB as mentioned. The USB method will require using the Bodyclock’s dials to navigate your music folders, though, which is far more fiddly than just using your smartphone.

Lumie Bodyclock LUXE 700

Sound quality is perfectly acceptable. It’s not going stack up against something like the Sonos Play:1 I also have on my bedside, it sounds a little thin in the low-end, but it does a perfectly serviceable job as a general bedside speaker. I also really liked using it to listen to podcasts to help send me to the land of nod.


Lumie Bodyclock LUXE 700

If, like me, you both find it difficult to fall asleep and then even more difficult to wake up, the Bodyclock LUXE 700 could be for you. Its defining features work really well and provided you don’t have a constantly fluctuating alarm time, you won’t have to constantly deal with its fiddly controls. It is still a little pricey for my liking. But if you can’t put a value on a good night’s sleep, you may well consider it justifies its hefty price tag.


The Lumie Bodyclock LUXE 700 is a little fiddly to use but it can help deliver a good night’s kip.



Elac Uni-Fi UB5 Speaker System Review

PRICE $2,047 as reviewed

Concentric mid/tweeter
Pinpoint imaging
App-driven, room- correcting sub
Extra power required
App required for sub control

Speaker designer extraordinaire Andrew Jones continues his work for German manufacturer Elac with some of the best monitor-class speakers we’ve ever heard plus a provocative, app-driven sub.

There are a lot of ways to put together a home theater system. Small speakers—or, as I call them, monitors—are among the best foundations for a multipurpose room that isn’t cavernous in size. The audio industry used to pump out so many potentially interesting passive monitors (not to mention towers) that we could barely review a fraction of them. But with the increasing emphasis today on soundbars and powered lifestyle speakers at the lower end of the market, it’s becoming increasingly hard to put together small-speaker configurations for surround sound. So it’s both a pleasure and a relief to add a new entry from the German manufacturer Elac, which has hired the eminent British speaker designer Andrew Jones to craft new lines of passive speakers, such as the Uni-Fi series, which includes the UB5 monitor reviewed here.

From Turntables to Speakers
Elac, or Electroacustic GmbH, was born in 1926 in the German city of Kiel, up north between Hamburg and the Danish border. Elac introduced their first phonograph in 1948. In 1984, as the CD made its debut, they turned their attention from turntables to loudspeakers, later introducing the Jet folded planar magnetic tweeter in 1993. Elac’s products include eight full series of passive speakers, a line of active speakers with planar tweeters, a couple of satellite/subwoofer sets, a Dolby Atmos–enabled add-on elevation module, a super-tweeter add-on, in-walls, inceilings, and a music server. Jones is concentrating his attention on new models for the existing Debut series (see review at, and on Uni-Fi, a brand-new line consisting of the UF5 tower ($999/pair), UB5 monitor ($499/pair), and UC5 center ($349). Reviewed here along with the UB5 (one pair for the front left and right channels, another pair for the surrounds) are the UC5 center and a Debut subwoofer, the S12EQ ($700). All three Uni-Fi models use a concentric driver array, with the tweeter placed in the center of the midrange. Jones has had a longtime fascination with concentric/coaxial drivers since his days with KEF. The key advantage is that the two drivers cover their combined frequency range as if they were a single point source. According to Elac, their concentric drivers afford uniform directivity, flat frequency response, strong power handling, and enhanced imaging both on and off axis.


The Uni-Fi speakers are three-way designs using combinations of the same driver types—1-inch soft dome tweeter with concentric 4-inch aluminum-cone midrange and 5.25-inch aluminum-cone woofer— in rear-ported enclosures with custom-designed binding posts. The UB5 monitor squeezes all three into an enclosure just a little more than a foot high. The UC5 has two woofers flanking the mid/tweeter array in a longer enclosure that can serve as either a center or an LCR speaker. The floorstanding UF5, not reviewed here, uses triple woofers in a 38-inch-tall enclosure. All Uni-Fi speakers have the same rated sensitivity of 85 decibels, which is on the low side of what’s usually claimed nowadays, at least for a home theater system. Nominal impedance is rated at 4 ohms and minimum impedance at 3.4 ohms. You wouldn’t want to hear a cheap receiver clipping through these high-resolution speakers, so think step-up model. The more power, the better.

Don’t be miffed by the S12EQ subwoofer’s near-total lack of back-panel connectivity. You don’t need anything more than the single RCA input because this sub is too hip for dials and toggles. It takes orders from the Elac Subwoofer App, available for Android or iOS. The app requires a compatible portable device to communicate with the sub via Bluetooth 4.0 low-energy profile, but doesn’t require a typical Bluetooth pairing procedure. Its Auto EQ tailors the sub’s bass response to the room.

Auto EQ is a two-step process: First, place the mobile device within a foot of the sub so the app can perform the microphone calibration. Then retreat to the listening position, where the app measures the response in the room, spitting out the results for each of its 15 bands of EQ, culminating in a chart that represents in-room response and the needed compensation. You can then apply the room correction or redo the process. Auto EQ is switchable, so you can A/B it or just shut it off if you don’t like it. I don’t know your room as well as you do, but I’m betting you’ll like room correction for the sub, especially if your room suffers from bass bloat at the preferred seating position.


If you don’t trust Auto EQ, a Parametric Equalizer function lets you manually set center frequency, bandwidth, and gain for a single frequency. The app gives you a pretty good idea of where that problematic frequency might be. There are also listening mode presets: Besides normal, you can select music (with a little low-bass emphasis), cinema (which boosts what Elac refers to as “the dramatic frequencies around 50 hertz”), or night (which reduces maximum volume). A delay function compensates for the sub being placed near the listening position and may help it to blend with the rest of the system. Traditional sub adjustments include low pass, phase, and auto on/off. The latter adjusts the auto-on threshold from 1 to 10 millivolts, depending on the surround processor.

Please note that I received two samples of the sub. The first one couldn’t run Auto EQ—then later did so. The second sample ran it on the first try. Both severed the connection between sub and app whenever the Blu-ray player was paused for a few minutes, which required a tap on the app to rediscover the sub. However, the sub didn’t stop playing or lose its settings; it just stopped recognizing the app. As long as the volume and other settings were appropriate, this wasn’t a problem in practice.


Associated equipment included a Denon AVR-X7200WA receiver, Oppo BDP-83SE universal disc player, Micro Seiki BL-51 turntable, Shure M97xE cartridge, and Denon PRA-S10 stereo preamp serving as phono preamp. All movie demos were on Blu-ray Disc with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.

The Hi-Res Treatment
Sometimes I look for a word that sums up a speaker system. In this case, I had to settle for two: high resolution. The UB5 monitor and UC5 center were champion imagers, helped by both the concentric mid/tweeter array and generally adept voicing. They were intriguingly revealing, more lively than relaxed, and candid about the quality of source component and content. I was careful about what I fed them (except when I wasn’t). The top end was refined and fully developed, not crude or overemphatic. Midrange was a rabbit hole—not ridiculously unpredictable, but full of unexpected texture, nuance, and surprising articulation. Bass from the monitors was lean and well controlled, while the sub was weighty but well controlled. Common denominator: controlled.


Spectre, with Daniel Craig as the most charismatic 007 since Sean Connery, showed off the speakers’ dynamic capabilities, starting with the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City, complete with booming bass drum and the satisfying blam of an explosion. The S12EQ subwoofer had the appropriate scale and force—though this warm-up demo came before I’d dialed in the sub’s room correction, so my room’s bass bloat was apparent in the war drums that rampage through the movie. The soundtrack’s top end is almost too brassy for a set-and-forget approach to volume—you don’t want a wishy-washy feel in a Bond pic— but the speaker system’s refinement kept it in check. Dialogue clarity was impeccable.

The Finest Hours tells the real-life story of the Coast Guard rescue of an oil tanker’s crew during a catastrophic 1952 storm. The action ramps up early as massive waves rip the tanker in half while the Coast Guardsmen scale the crests of still more massive waves to reach the stranded sailors. This gave the speakers and sub as memorable a battering as any I can recall. They conjured up huge dynamic swells to match the maelstrom of lowfrequency and lower-midrange effects: the violence of stormy seas, the sorrow of groaning metal, and the thrum of engines, as well as countless ominous rumbles and shudders. I tried key scenes both before and after room correction. Auto EQ made the sub sound less obviously like a sub and more like an integral component of the drama, though the difference was subtle; the correction’s curve followed a more moderate course than the measured notches and peaks. I ran the Auto EQ setup again to be sure it was working. Shifting among the listening modes (normal, cinema, etc.) made a more discernible difference. Dialogue shouted into the Foley engineer’s howling wind didn’t collapse amid the effects—as much a tribute to the Denon receiver’s brawny amp section as to the speakers. Chris Pine, as the captain of the rescue boat, inhabited his New England character so thoroughly, I didn’t even think of Captain Kirk.


Bridge of Spies is another real-life story, this time with Tom Hanks as the attorney who negotiated the prisoner exchange that freed spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers. At every turn, the Elacs fulfilled the dramatic potential of an eventful soundtrack, starting with dense street noise down below the Brooklyn Bridge—the most forceful street noise I’ve ever heard coming out of speakers— and equally dense rainfall, which the concentric array delivered not merely as a wash of sound but as a bombardment of fat splatters. All of that, however, was just the appetizer to the main course: the apocalyptic roar, bam, pow, and rumble of the U-2 being shot down over enemy territory. The sub was admirably forceful, both before and after correction.

Robert, Felix, Jorma, and John
With best-case content, these speakers were eye-wideningly good. They were at their best with Ingrid Fliter’s dazzling recording of Schumann’s lone Piano Concerto and Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring Antonio Méndez and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, on a 5.1-channel hybrid SACD. There are advantages to a hi-fi company—in this case, Linn—serving as a patron of the recording arts. This superlative recording blends direct and reflected sound like a master chef. The UB5 was faithful to what Linn captured, imaging in a way that was more like photorealism than a cartoon, without exaggerating the outlines of objects or detaching them from the hall’s acoustics. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time comparing my local concert halls, and this combination of hardware and software was strikingly like Carnegie Hall as heard from the balcony (which I prefer to the parquet). I had a sense of filters vanishing, and barriers falling, including the pain barrier: There was copious information but no discomfort at peak moments.

Blue Country Heart is the only Jorma Kaukonen solo album available on SACD, a 5.1-channel non-hybrid disc from Columbia. The album sounds great even on the standard CD release, but I like the way the surround mix expands the front soundstage into a horseshoe that sneaks toward the surround channels at the sides. The Elacs didn’t tamper with or exaggerate the flatly recorded natural string sound. But the combination of the aforementioned adept voicing and hi-res software did give the guitarist and his team of Nashville pros an extra measure of directness that didn’t compromise the production’s cozy warmth.

I played John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and Imagine on U.S. LPs from the early 1980s. No one would accuse these Phil Spector co-productions of being audiophile recordings. John was not an elitist; he wanted his music to sound good on car radios, boomboxes, and phonographs (including Elac phonographs of the period, I would assume). But I liked the way the concentric driver–based designs teased apart the strands of the doubletracked lead vocals on “Oh My Love” and celebrated the harmonic richness of the layered acoustic guitars on “Oh Yoko!” And again, there was a disarming directness about the music. I felt closer to John (and Ringo and George).

When Andrew Jones demonstrated the UB5 to the dealers and press at CES this past January, it was one of the stars of the show. Everyone in the room seemed to love this well-engineered and well-built speaker. It maintained its strength once I was alone with it. If you’re familiar with Jones’ mass-market speaker lines for Pioneer, the Uni-Fi series is an even more laser-focused version of the same approach, with an extra dollop of resolution—yet these speakers are also a superb value. They demand more power than AVRs in the same price class are likely to provide, so take what you saved on the speakers and splurge on the amp. You’ll end up with an amazing system.

UB5: 5.25 in aluminum cone woofer, 4 in aluminum cone midrange with concentric 1 in soft dome tweeter; 7.87 x 12.75 x 10.75 in (WxHxD), 16.5 lb
UC5: 5.25 in aluminum cone woofer (2), 4 in aluminum cone midrange with concentric 1 in soft dome tweeter; 18.75 x 7.87 x 10.75 in (WxHxD), 23.3 lb
S12EQ: 12 in doped paper cone woofer; 12 in passive radiator; 500 watts RMS, 1,000 watts peak; LFE in, RCA; 17 x 17 x 17 in (WxHxD), 49.1 lb
Price: $2,047 (UB5, $499 pr; UC5, $349; S12EQ, $700)


BMW F800GS vs. Triumph Tiger 800XC – COMPARISON TEST

It’s the USA’s northernmost, easternmost and westernmost state. It’s larger than Texas, California and Montana combined. Its east-west span—from its lower peninsula that extends into Canada to the outermost of the Aleutian Islands—could reach from Jacksonville, Florida, to Sacramento, California. But with only 700,000 residents, it’s one of the world’s most sparsely populated areas, and half of those people live in just one city, Anchorage. Everywhere else, moose, bear and caribou outnumber humans, and dirt roads far outnumber paved ones. Some small towns even have no road systems connecting them to other towns.

BMW F800GS and Triumph Tiger 800XC on-road action

Much of the state sees no darkness in summer, no daylight in winter. It’s home to North America’s tallest mountain, 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley, along with three million lakes, chains of active volcanoes and half of the world’s glaciers. It’s Alaska, a place the state’s license plates call “The Last Frontier.”

Because it is.

It’s also the perfect setting for adventure riding. All of that wilderness, all of those dirt roads and trails, all of that uninhabited territory, all of that breathtaking scenery is tailor-made for adventure bikes.

riding motorcycles in the Alaska wilderness

In Alaska, isolated trails like this one don’t just go on for miles; they go on for days

And what better way to experience the backcountry wonders of our 49th state than on BMW’s F800GS and Triumph’s brand-new Tiger 800XC? The adventure-bike segment is one of motorcycling’s fastest-growing, and these two middleweights are widening the appeal of that activity to more riders. These 800s are almost as capable on-road as the biggies like the BMW R1200GS and KTM 990 Adventure but slightly more manageable off-road—not to mention thousands less expensive.

With that in mind, CW staff photographer Jeff Allen and I packed up and headed to Anchorage, anxious to enjoy a full week comparing the GS and XC in adventure-riding paradise.

We had a very limited amount of time to conduct a thorough test in unfamiliar territory, however, so we solicited some help from MotoQuest (, a worldwide motorcycle tour company based in Anchorage. MotoQuest’s fun-loving owner, Phil Freeman, allowed us to tag along on a tour he was leading in that same time period; he also assigned one of his tour guides, Brenden Anders, to hang with us to help with testbike photography. Jeff Allen is a very capable off-road rider, but he obviously could not simultaneously ride and shoot action photos of both bikes together, so Anders would fill in for him when necessary.

Triumph Tiger 800XC off-road action

Alaska can present you with the entire checklist of off-road conditions including copious rocks

Despite the BMW being a Twin from Germany and the Triumph a Triple from Merry Olde, these two machines are remarkably similar. Their displacements and weights differ by just 1cc and 1 pound; and not only do their engines make almost the same horsepower and torque, their acceleration times (quarter-mile, as well as 0-to-30, 60, 90 and 100 mph) are essentially identical, with only a 2 mph difference in their top speeds.

For the most part, those similarities held up once we hit the road…on the way to the Canadian Yukon. Yeah, I know, this is billed as an Alaskan adventure, but MotoQuest’s route first took us northeast and across the border to spend a fun day at the annual “Dust to Dawson” adventure-bike event in rustic, isolated Dawson City.

Our ride to Dawson began in Anchorage on Route 1, a highway that terminates some 300 miles north at the village of Tok. On that mostly smooth asphalt road, the Tiger gradually emerged as a marginally better pure-street machine, even as the weather morphed from partly cloudy to overcast to steady drizzle. The Triumph’s seat is slightly cushier for droning along the open road, its three-cylinder engine a little smoother at highway speeds than the GS’s parallel-Twin, its taller windscreen more protective. And although the Triumph has quicker steering geometry (24.3 degrees/3.8 inches of trail vs. the GS’s 26/4.6), the BMW was a little more nervous at higher speeds.

BMW F800GS in a deep water crossing

BMW F800GS in one of many deep water crossings

From Tok to the wee community of Chicken (pop. 7) and on to Poker Creek (pop. 2), site of the northernmost U.S./Canada land border crossing, the road offered up alternating sections of clean pavement, broken pavement, dirt, mud and deep, fresh gravel. From the border to Dawson on the Top of the World Highway, the surfaces were almost exclusively dirt, mud and gravel. And forget the drizzle of the previous day; steady rain and heavy fog stalked us all the way to Dawson, preventing us from even being aware of any interesting sights along the way.

In those wet, low-traction conditions, any meaningful performance differences between the GS and the XC were indistinguishable. The torque output of both engines hovers right around 50 foot-pounds from 3500 rpm up to 8000, so dialing the throttle open on either one in any gear was answered with comparable acceleration. They differed in sound, with the Triumph emitting a classic three-cylinder howl and the BMW the staccato thudding of a parallel-Twin, but the end result was same-same.

Both machines had been fitted with Continental TKC knobbies by The Motorcycle Shop (the actual name of the BMW/Triumph dealer in Anchorage) before we picked them up, and those tires attributed greatly to the bikes’ surprising stability and excellent grip, even on wet, loose surfaces in faster corners. In some remote sections, where Jeff and I saw our speedometers nudging 100 mph as we splashed through goo and gravel, neither bike ever did anything to accelerate our heart rates.

prying a Kawasaki KLR650 out of the mud

What does it take to pry one of MotoQuest’s Kawasaki KLR650s out of an ultra-gooey, bottomless mudhole? In this case, five people and about 15 minutes of strenuous grunting.

After a beautiful, cloudless day of play in Dawson, we motored back into Alaska under a light but steady rain. We were headed for the Denali Highway, a 131-mile dirt road that runs east-west between the tiny towns of Paxson (pop. 43) and Cantwell (pop. 222). IQ Magazine rated that road sixth among the Top 10 World’s Most Scenic Drives, but the low ceiling again kept most of those panoramas blocked from our view.

Our destination was the Gracious House, a B&B/campground/bar/air taxi/gas stop/tire service/welding & truck repair facility at the 82-mile mark on the Denali. The simplistic charm of this one-stop shop is the lifelong work of Butch and Carol Gratias, who’ve been operating the facility for more than 40 years.

Gracious House is a regular two-night sanctuary for MotoQuest’s Denali tours, so Butch and Carol have come to know and trust Freeman and his bands of intrepid adventurers—so much so that guests are sometimes pressed into service to help this two-person operation take care of business. Which explains why I was recruited to bartend for a few hours while Butch performed a little maintenance on the site’s huge diesel generator and Carol cleaned up the kitchen after dinner. I tried my best to keep track of it all, but I’m certain that later inventories revealed considerable discrepancies of Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam and Alaskan Amber.

motorcycles in front of the Tangle River Inn

Like so many other wayside stops in the 49th state’s wilderness, the Tangle River Inn on the remote Denali Highway can provide just about anything a weary—or adventurous—traveler might want or need.

If we were looking for deciding factors in our comparison of the GS and XC, we would discover them during the next day’s ride not far from Gracious House. Freeman promised a stunning view from the top of a local mountain that could only be accessed on a trail involving two-track, single-track and even a bit of no-track, plus more than a dozen water crossings and mudholes.

On the easier parts of the trail, both the Beemer and Triumph again felt very similar, each able to cope with moderate off-road obstacles rather well. But as the ruts got ruttier, the rocks bigger, the bumps taller and the water/mud crossings deeper thanks to steadily increasing rain, the Triumph began to struggle. The XC’s fork bottomed heavily and frequently where the GS’s front end did not; the Tiger’s steering offered less feedback than the BMW’s in tighter sections; and for the first time, the BMW felt the lighter and more agile of the two, no doubt the result of its under-seat gas tank providing a lower center of gravity.

Other factors also distanced the Beemer from the Triumph. The XC’s footpegs are a little too far forward, so standing on the pegs in rough terrain is more difficult and tiring. The Tiger’s tall windscreen blocks the view of the trail just ahead when the rider is seated. Turning off both bikes’ anti-lock braking systems is a must when riding off-road, and it has to be done every time their ignitions are switched on; but while doing so on the BMW involves just one push of one large button on the left handlebar switchpod, the Triumph requires six or seven pushes of two small buttons in the correct sequence to scroll through a menu on the instrument panel’s LCD display.

Alaskan scenery

Alaska in all its majesty.

Last but far from least, the plastic mounts on the XC’s saddlebags are way too fragile for adventure riding. I snapped the mounts off the left bag when I brushed a small tree so lightly that its bark was largely undisturbed. A few days later, a tip-over in a deep mudhole not only broke the right bag mounts but also snapped off a large portion of the bag’s top front corner. In both instances, we had to use straps to hold the bags in place. A few tip-overs on the BMW—a couple of them more severe than those on the Triumph—caused the bags either no damage or so little that they could be snapped back onto their brackets.

Bag problems aside, we made it to the top of the mountain only to have heavy fog prevent us from enjoying the promised view. We were even more disappointed during our ride back to Anchorage on the next and final day. We rode right past Mt. McKinley but could see no trace of that majestic, snow-capped peak, thanks again to the rain and fog.

As we approached Anchorage at the conclusion of our ride, the weather remained questionable, but the outcome of this comparison was crystal clear: As a true adventure bike, the Triumph Tiger 800XC is not quite a match for the BMW F800GS. On any kind of pavement, the Triumph holds a marginal edge, and in mild off-road riding, the outcome between these two is a toss-up. But the more difficult the off-road conditions, the brighter the BMW shines. It’s more agile, more predictable, more controllable. And in one area, at least, more durable.

BMW F800GS and Triumph Tiger 800XC

Purpose-built motorcycles, great expanses of seductive wilderness and endless ranges of snow-capped mountains: No wonder Alaska is adventure-riding heaven on Earth.

Triumph has no reason to be ashamed here. For a first attempt at a true adventure bike (previous Tigers were really just streetbikes dolled up in adventure guise), the folks at Hinckley have done a bang-up job, producing a very good motorcycle that just needs a little fine-tuning of its off-road capabilities.

But when it comes to adventure riding, BMW has the right answers because it knows how to ask the right questions. As it should. The F800GS, after all, isn’t BMW’s first rodeo. The company has been in the adventure-bike business a long time—about 30 years, give or take.

It shows.


Fun and games in the Yukon

Dawson City's downtown hotel with motorcyclist

Posing for a group photo in front of Dawson City’s Downtown Hotel is a ritual at the annual Dust to Dawson “gathering.”

It’s NOT a rally!

You see that proclamation on just about every sign, every T-shirt, every bumper sticker and other mention of the annual Dust to Dawson, um, get-together. The event is instead described as “a gathering of like-minded motorcyclists.” For the vast majority of attendees, the “like” in their mindedness is for adventure riding, evidenced by the fact that 99 percent of the bikes roaming Dawson City’s dirt streets or parked next to its wooden sidewalks are BMW GSs, Kawasaki KLR650s, KTM Adventures, Suzuki V-Stroms and the occasional Ducati Multistrada. You might spot a Honda XR650L, H-D bagger or Gold Wing trike, but they’re usually lost in a 200-plus-strong sea of adventure bikes.

motorcyclist taking the ferry across the Yukon River

You don’t “ride” into this town; you have to take a no-charge ferry across the Yukon River.

Dust to Dawson is the almost accidental creation of three riders—Jim Coleman, John “Cash” Register and a gentleman known only as “Fighter”—who hatched the idea over a few beers in Dawson back in 1992. Long story short, word spread, more riders gradually joined the party and before long, the ride became an event. Originally, it was called The Over The Top Hop, since Dawson sits at the east end of the Top of the World Highway. But that name didn’t fit well on a T-shirt, so the ride was rechristened Dust to Dawson, shortened even farther for logo purposes to “D2D.”

To call D2D a laid-back event would be an understatement. There are no vendors, no commercialism, no manufacturers displaying their new models, no bike shows. Riders just arrive in this historic, beautifully restored town—which was the nucleus of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897—and enjoy two days of camaraderie. One afternoon is devoted to typical biker games—poker run, slow race, weenie bite, etc.—but it’s all in good fun.

There are no rules, procedures or entry fees for attendance at D2D; you just show up. Really, there’s only one thing you need to know: It’s NOT a rally!

BMW F800GS off-road action

List price $14,007 (as tested)
Warranty 36 mo./unlimited mileage
Engine liquid-cooled, four-stroke parallel-Twin
Bore & stroke 82.0 x 75.6mm
Displacement 798cc
Compression ratio 12.0:1
Valve train dohc, four valves per cylinder, shim adjustment
Valve adjust intervals 12,000 mi.
Induction (2) 46mm throttle bodies
Electric power 400w
Weight: Tank empty 463 lb.
Weight: Tank full 489 lb.
Fuel capacity 4.2 gal.
Wheelbase 62.3 in.
Rake/trail 26°/4.6 in.
Seat height 34.9 in.
GVWR 997 lb.
Load capacity (tank full) 488 lb.
Claimed wheel travel 9.0 in.
Adjustments none
Claimed wheel travel 8.5 in.
Adjustments rebound damping, spring preload
Front 90/90-21 Pirelli Scorpion Trail
Rear 150/70-17 Pirelli Scorpion Trail
1/4 mile 12.15 sec. @ 108.18 mph
0-30 mph 1.5 sec.
0-60 mph 3.9 sec.
0-90 mph 8.1 sec.
0-100 mph 10.7 sec.
Top gear time to speed: 40-60 mph 4.1 sec.
Top gear time to speed: 60-80 mph 4.8 sec.
Measured top speed 122 mph
Horsepower 76.9 @ 8320 rpm
Torque 54.5 ft.-lb. @ 5770 rpm
High/low/average 48/39/43 mpg
Avg. range inc. reserve 181 mi.
From 30 mph 33 ft.
From 60 mph 127 ft.
Triumph Tiger 800XC off-road action
List price $14,029 (as tested)
Warranty 24 mo./unlimited mileage
Engine liquid-cooled, four-stroke inline-Triple
Bore & stroke 74.0 x 61.9mm
Displacement 799cc
Compression ratio 11.1:1
Valve train dohc, four valves per cylinder, shim adjustment
Valve adjust intervals 12,000 mi.
Induction (3) 44mm throttle bodies
Electric power 645w
Weight: Tank empty 464 lb.
Weight: Tank full 496 lb.
Fuel capacity 5.0 gal.
Wheelbase 61.0 in.
Rake/trail 24.3°/3.8 in.
Seat height 33.7 in.
GVWR 966 lb.
Load capacity (tank full) 470 lb.
Claimed wheel travel 8.7 in.
Adjustments none
Claimed wheel travel 8.5 in.
Adjustments rebound damping,spring preload
Front 90/90-21 Bridgestone Battle Wing
Rear 150/70-17 Bridgestone Battle Wing
1/4 mile 12.14 sec. @ 107.49 mph
0-30 mph 1.5 sec.
0-60 mph 3.8 sec.
0-90 mph 8.2 sec.
0-100 mph 10.8 sec.
Top gear time to speed: 40-60 mph 3.8 sec.
Top gear time to speed: 60-80 mph 4.6 sec.
Measured top speed 120 mph
Horsepower 82.3 @ 9160 rpm
Torque 51.4 ft.-lb. @ 7750 rpm
High/low/average 41/35/37 mpg
Avg. range inc. reserve 185 mi.
From 30 mph 33 ft.
From 60 mph 137 ft.
curious squirrel surveys the land

A curious squirrel investigates strange mechanical noises he may never before have heard

Giant muffins and delicious apple cobbler

Giant muffins, delicious apple cobbler and a dry haven from the relentless rain were welcome offerings at the Chicken Roadhouse

Chicken Roadhouse interior environment

The Chicken Roadhouse is about 40 miles from the Canadian border

sign post with traveling distances

Signpost up ahead…


Every Fossil Group designer wearable launched in 2016 – Getting to 100: Michael Kors, Diesel, Armani, Kate Spade & more

At Baselworld back in March, Fossil Group announced it would launch 100 wearables from eight of its fashion brands, in 40 countries and 20 languages, by the end of 2016. 100! That’s no small figure and we’ve been pretty much obsessed with its efforts to hit it all year.

We won’t be reviewing each and every single Fossil Group device partly because this mega plan is upending how we think about gadgets, wearables and connected accessories.

We’re not talking 100 different spec lists, form factors, processors, screen tech etc etc but three main categories: accessories, smartwatches with screens and hybrids without screens and many, many different styles. There’s actually only strictly about 20 – 30 devices listed.

Every Fossil Group wearable of 2016

If you’re looking for a subtle, good-looking wearable check out the other designer collaborations and stylish wearables before scrolling your way through this little lot. At our count there’s now 95 – impressive.

It’s also worth noting that whatever Fossil’s plans for 2017 (200?) the only devices on the list to score 8/10 (four stars) is the Misfit Ray and now the Misfit Phase. Sure, we have only tested a fraction so far but Fossil still has a ways to go getting function to match form. For starters, please no more flat tyres on the smartwatches.

Fossil Q Marshal (1-4)

fossil wearables

This 46mm Android Wear watch is a bit of a looker as we found in our hands on review at IFA, and it’s on sale now. It starts at $299.99 and will fit any 22mm strap.

fossil wearables

The Q Marshal comes in four different styles: all black, stainless steel, smoke stainless steel and grey (above right with the Wander). But as with all Fossil’s Android Wear watches, it has an annoying flat tyre at the bottom of the screen.


Fossil Q Wander (5-8)

fossil wearables

A second $295 Android Wear watch from Fossil’s Q collection, this time with rose gold, stainless steel and black styles aimed at the ladies and anyone with a smaller, dressier wrist. On sale now.


Fossil Q Crewmaster/Nate/Gazer/Tailor (9-20)

OK, now we’re talking – Fossil Q also includes four smart analogue watches that come in three styles each. They just went on sale and do a really good job of bringing plenty of variety to smart analogue style. All the options handle alerts and fitness tracking in the same way. Here’s a gallery.

From $175,

Fossil Q Motion (21-26)

fossil wearables

This is Fossil’s version of the Misfit Ray (see below). It’s a slim, cylindrical $95 tracker that uses LEDs – from beneath a Fossil logo no less – to help you stay on top of alerts. There are six different styles to choose from but it’s actually disappeared from Fossil’s online stores – we’ll keep an eye out for its possible return.

Fossil Q54 Pilot (27)

fossil wearables

A rather tasty-looking smart analogue watch that was announced way back a CES, the Q54 Pilot’s design was inspired by vintage aviation. It starts at $175.

From $175,

Michael Kors Access Crosby (28-31)

michael kors wearables

A dainty $95 tracker, emblazoned with Michael Kors’ name, the Access Crosby comes in four colours (above) and like the Kate Spade below incorporates mother of pearl and steel into the design.


Michael Kors Access Reade (32-33)

michael kors wearables

The Crosby tracker also comes available as the Access Reade cuff, which costs a bit more than the Access at $125 and doesn’t appear to be on sale yet. Get it in black/gold tone or white/silver tone with a wide crocodile embossed band.

Michael Kors Bradshaw Access (34-41)

michael kors wearables

Ready? You can get this $350+ 44.5mm female focused Michael Kors Android Wear watch in eight styles including: tort gold, pave gold, gold/turquoise, silver, metallic blue and metallic brown.

From $350,

Michael Kors Dylan Access (42-44)

michael kors wearables

The 45mm Dylan Access comes in just three styles – all black, blue/silver and gold/black. It starts at the same price as the Bradshaw and is a rubber affair with a more defined bezel. In our review, we found that it’s bulky but screams high end.

From $350,

Skagen Hagen Connected (45-48)

skagen hagen wearables

A $195 – $215 smart analogue watch that comes in four styles including titanium, with leather, steel mesh and silicone straps. On sale in September.

From $195,

Skagen Connected Activity Tracker (49)

skagen hagen wearables

A $95 Misfit-style activity and sleep tracker with interchangeable bands. On sale in October/”late fall”.

Kate Spade Scallop Tracker (50-55)

kate spade wearables

This adorkable silicone fitness tracker could be a big seller – it’s $125 and really makes the most of Kate Spade motifs with cat ears, glitter, monochrome or gold/cream dots and monochrome striped styles. It’s on sale now but we can only see four styles available in the online store.


Kate Spade Bangle Tracker (56-58)

kate spade wearables

Slightly fancier is this $150 activity tracking bangle with mother of pearl – you can get it in the three styles above from November.

Kate Spade Metro Grand smartwatch (59-62)

kate spade wearables

Kate Spade’s $250 smart analogue watch comes in three styles (black/rose gold as pictured, grey/silver tone and vachetta/gold tone) with cutesy watch face details.

kate spade wearables

It features three physical buttons on the right hand edge and has a bunch of straps. The ‘hybrid smartwatch’ is on sale in November.

Misfit Ray (63-68)

misfit wearables

A slim, stylish $99 Misfit tracker that you can wear with jewellery or a watch. You can buy it now in six colours – black, rose gold, navy, forest green, ‘stainless steel’ and gold – plus there are two new Apple-matching shades coming soon. And a bunch of accessories – paracord bracelets, necklaces, you name it.

$99, | Amazon

Misfit Shine 2 (69-74)

misfit wearables

Misfit’s (other) $99.99 activity and sleep tracker will soon come in six colours, four to match iPhone hues. In our review we found that its tracking is accurate, form factor is comfortable and battery life is awesome. Various bands, accessories and clips available.

$99.99, | Amazon

Speedo Shine 2 (75)

misfit wearables

The $120 successor to Misfit’s first swim-focused wearable. In our review we found its lap counting data questionable but it is at least easy to use.


Emporio Armani Connected (76-84)

Every Fossil Group designer wearable launched in 2016 so far

This hybrid watch collection from Emporio Armani snuck in at the end of the year. The 22mm Armani Collected comes in rose gold-tone, black, gunmetal and stainless steel finishes with metal or leather bands.

From $245 to $395,

Diesel Timeframe (85-88)

Every Fossil Group designer wearable launched in 2016 so far

Diesel has put its sparkly Samsung collab behind it and come out with this new series of hybrid Timeframe watches. The first four stainless steel mens’ watches all have big Diesel styling but don’t seem to add much to the weight or size of a normal Diesel watch.

From $225,

Diesel Jewel (89+)

We don’t have any pics yet but the Jewel is Diesel’s series of fitness trackers, following Fossil’s lead last year with the Q Dreamer and Reveler bands. Look out for more details soon.

From $150,

Misfit Phase (90-95)

Every Fossil Group designer wearable launched in 2016

In November, we got a surprise hybrid tracker from Misfit, the Phase, which comes in six styles – black, black and rose gold, rose gold, silver, navy and gold, and navy and grey. It’s water resistant to 50m, there’s leather and silicone straps and a small window at the bottom of the watch face with colours to assign to specific apps.

From $175,

Still to come – Chaps hybrid watches?

The last brand to round out the Fossil Group stable is Chaps – we still haven’t seen these yet so perhaps they will turn up in 2017.


PSB Imagine XA Dolby Atmos Speaker Review

What is the PSB Imagine XA?

The PSB Imagine XA is a Dolby Atmos Speaker Module that uses upward-firing drivers that have been specifically designed as the height channel in a Dolby Atmos enabled system. The advent of immersive audio has probably caused more friction in the households of AV enthusiasts than any other development in recent memory. An audio system like Dolby Atmos requires a minimum of two overhead speakers in order to create a three dimensional space around which sound designers can move objects. So it’s hardly surprising when a conversation between an AV enthusiast and their ‘significant other’ ends with the question “you want to do WHAT?” Installing overhead speakers in a dedicated home cinema might be a genuine option but the reality is that few people really want speakers on the ceiling of their lounge.

PSB Imagine XA Dolby Atmos Speaker Review

Of course Dolby realise this and have been working with companies like PSB to ensure that there is a viable alternative. The Imagine XA has been designed to fit on the top of the existing floor-standing or bookshelf speakers in your system and create a true multi-dimensional sonic environment. Working in conjunction with Dolby and using advanced acoustic research undertaken by Canada’s National Research Council (NRC), PSB have developed an upward-firing speaker with a very precise frequency and directivity response that perfectly matches Dolby’s own specs. The Imagine XA’s driver technology and crossover design was not only developed to deliver a Dolby Atmos experience but to also integrate with almost any home cinema system. At a cost of £349 a pair as at the time of writing (December 2016) they aren’t going to break the bank either, so let’s see how they perform.


PSB Imagine XA Design

The Imagine XA is designed to fit on top of any existing floor-standing or bookshelf speakers in your system and has obviously been designed to perfectly match other speakers in PSB’s Imagine X series of speakers. However they also fitted perfectly on top of the B&W speakers we use in our home cinema, so the size and shape is fairly generic and should match most larger speakers. There are two Imagine XA speakers in a box and each one measures 165 x 267 x 171mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 7.26kg. The build quality is excellent and the speakers use a black ash finish with a black detachable grille. The black ash finish was perfect for our needs but might be problematic for those with speakers that aren’t black.

The XA uses a dual driver layout with a 4″ woofer composed of a clay/ceramic reinforced polypropylene cone, a rubber surround and a turbo magnet. There is also a 1″ tweeter that uses a titanium dome with a ferrofluid neodymium magnet. The cabinet is sealed, the speaker can handle an input power of 10-80 Watts and has a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms with a minimum of 4 Ohms. The on-axis frequency response goes from 100Hz to 23,000 kHz and the sensitivity is 87dB. Although the grilles are removable they have a distinctive wave-guide foam design in them that is intended to help dial the speaker precisely into the Dolby Atmos target function specification, so you need to make sure they are always attached.

PSB Imagine XA Design

At the rear of the Imagine XA speakers are the binding posts, these are a five-way gold-plated design and feel as solid and well engineered as the rest of the speaker. There are also fixtures for wall mounting and PSB include brackets if you would rather wall mount than simply place the XA on top of your existing speaker. Although if you do decide to go with the latter approach, there are also adhesive anti-slip strips of rubber for a comfortable and partially isolated fit.

The Imagine XA is well made and attractively styled, so it should match most decent speakers

Features & Specs

PSB Imagine XA Features & Specs

The Imagine XA speakers have been specifically designed by PSB to be used as upward-firing modules in a Dolby Atmos system, however they would be equally as effective for a DTS:X setup using the same speaker configuration. As previously mentioned the speakers themselves have been designed to sit on top of an existing floor-standing or bookshelf speaker and they are angled to fire up at the ceiling. The grilles need to be attached when using the Imagine XA speakers because they contain a wave-guide foam insert that is intended to help dial the speaker precisely into the Dolby Atmos target function specification.

The speakers have been designed in conjunction with Dolby and use advanced acoustic studies conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) in Canada. PSB have designed the Imagine XA speakers with a very precise frequency and directivity response that perfectly matches Dolby specifications for Atmos. The final voicing was performed by Paul Barton at the NRC and the end result is a speaker that can recreate an object-based, multi-channel immersive audio surround format like Dolby Atmos without needing to bash holes in your ceiling or hang speakers above your head.

PSB Imagine XA Features & Specs

The result of all this research is a custom-designed driver that utilises technology from PSB’s flagship speakers. The tweeters use a titanium dome with ferrofluid cooling and a neodymium magnet structure for perfect piston movement to well above audibility. The woofers use clay/ceramic reinforced injection moulded polypropylene cones with an ideal balance of stiffness and damping, coupled to an advanced motor with a high temperature voice coil and dual turbo magnet structure. Although they have been designed to sonically integrate with other Imagine X speakers, they can also be used with many other speaker brands. The speakers use gold-plated five-way binding posts and come with brackets for wall mounting and anti-slip strips.

Designed in conjunction with Dolby, PSB utilised the acoustic research of Canada’s NRC


If you’re new to the world of immersive audio, a system like Dolby Atmos is designed to take surround sound to another level by adding overhead channels. This creates a three dimensional soundfield around which sound designers can move sound objects, which is why it is sometimes referred to as an object-based system. There is a two dimensional sound ‘bed’ which is composed of the traditional 5.1 or 7.1 floor speaker layout and an additional overhead layer that can be composed of two or four channels to create the third dimension of height. In Dolby Atmos and other formats like DTS:X, these overhead channels are fed discrete signals in order to move sound objects around the room with pinpoint accuracy. Of course not everyone wants to hang speakers above them or start cutting holes in their ceiling, which is where upward-firing speakers like the Imagine XAs come in.

In terms of running an immersive audio setup you’ll need a suitably equipped AV receiver or processor and then it’s a question of creating a speaker layout that suits your room and the capabilities of your AVR. As a minimum you will need a 5.1.2 speaker layout, although you could also run 5.1.4, 7.1.2 or 7.1.4 configuration. The first number is the number of ear level speakers, the second number is the subwoofer and the third number is the number of overhead speakers. Clearly the more channels that your room and AVR can handle, the better the overall effect, although even a basic 5.1.2 configuration can sound really impressive. If you have the choice between a 5.1.4 or 7.1.2 layout, we’d recommend the latter because it allows for a more effective 360 degree sound field and, according to Dolby, you can get about 85% of the effect with just two overhead channels.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho PSB Imagine XA Dolby Atmos Speaker Review

Although discrete overhead speakers are what Dolby Atmos was originally designed around, that clearly wasn’t going to be practical for most people. So Dolby developed the Dolby Atmos Enabled Speaker specification, from which the Imagine XA was created. A Dolby Atmos Enabled Speaker works by creating ‘phantom ceiling speaker locations’ by reflecting sound off the ceiling at a precise angle. To achieve this a Dolby Atmos Enabled Speaker must have a very specific frequency and directivity response. PSB used the NRC’s research to create a speaker that matched this specific frequency and directivity response precisely. As a result you will need to select Dolby Atmos Enabled Speakers in the menu of your AV receiver or processor when setting up your system.

In terms of speaker setup, you should position the Imagine XAs on top of your existing speakers, although if that isn’t possible you can also wall mount. Whichever approach you take you must install the XAs at least 36″ from the floor and no higher than 48″. If you plan on running two overhead channels then place the XAs on top of the front left and right speakers and if you plan on running four overhead channels place the other two XAs on top of your rear speakers. Then all you need to do is wire the speakers up and run through the setup procedure of your processor or receiver. There is one important caveat, for this approach to work you do need a flat reflective ceiling, so vaulted ceilings or acoustically treated ceilings are going to be an issue.

Setup is simple and depending on your system you can have 2 or 4 overhead channels

Kết quả hình ảnh cho PSB Imagine XA Dolby Atmos Speaker Review


We initially set up the Imagine XAs in our home cinema, which already has four overhead speakers installed but the ceiling is covered in black velvet, which tended to absorb the reflections. The actual overhead speakers were also in the way, so we set up a Dolby Atmos configuration in the lounge instead. This worked perfectly because the lounge has a low, flat and reflective ceiling that is ideal for upward-firing speakers. However the home cinema still proved useful as a point of reference with its four physical overhead speakers. We started off with just two XAs at the front before switching to a 5.1.4 configuration because we had two pairs of speakers sent for review.

When we first heard about Dolby’s plans to use upward-firing speakers as an alternative to actual overhead speakers we were sceptical. However we can say from first hand experience that they really do work and although you know there are no actual speakers above you, that’s clearly from where the sound is emanating. There is a particularly useful test on Dolby’s Atmos demo disc that consists purely of a helicopter flying overhead. The only sounds are emanating from above, so it’s a great way of seeing how effective the upward-firing speakers are without any of the other speakers confusing the issue. There was no doubt that even with just two XAs the sounds were hovering above our heads but the effect was even better with four speakers, as a helicopter moved around our ceiling.

We then moved on to a number of Dolby trailers and again the XAs were impressive as thunder rumbled over our heads, rain poured down, wind blew around the room and leaves flew past. It was an incredibly immersive experience and almost as good as our home cinema with its four actual overhead speakers. In fact in some respects it was even slightly better because the XAs tended to disperse the audio across the ceiling more, which worked better for ambience and atmospheric effects. The actual overhead speakers were easier to localise, however this did mean that they were better when it came to pinpointing specific effects as they moved around the three dimensional sound field. Although the XAs were designed by PSB in conjunction with Dolby, they can be just as effective with DTS:X as well as Dolby Atmos.

It is also worth pointing out that you don’t want to be sat too close to the XAs or you might hear the speaker directly and thus ruin the overhead effect. This won’t be a problem for the front speakers but people often sit quite close to their rear speakers, so bear that in mind. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack for Mad Max: Fury Road has a particularly complex and sophisticated mix which can sort the men out from the boys. The XAs managed to handle the ambient effects well and the more localised effects and music were also rendered effectively, even if the overhead speakers in the home cinema had the edge in terms of the multi-layered audio. Another area where the actual overhead speakers had an advantage was in terms of lower frequencies because you can’t bounce the low frequencies the way you can the mid-range and higher frequencies.

As a result in certain scenes the actual overhead speakers had a bit more impact when compared to the upward-firing XAs. So for example in San Andreas there is a scene where a character is stuck in a car that is being crushed and the sound design puts you right inside that car. Whilst the effect was excellent with the XAs, when it came to the overheads it definitely felt as though the weight of an entire parking structure was above you. It was the same in a scene in Independence Day: Resurgence where a spaceship flies through the debris field created by the destruction of the mothership in the previous film. There are loud bangs as debris hits the outside of the spaceship and often these come from above. Once again the XAs delivered the impacts very effectively but with the actual overhead speakers the sounds felt more solid and we were ducking when the debris hit. Ultimately though we found the PSB Imagine XAs to be a highly effective solution to the problem of not wanting to physically put speakers on your ceiling.

The Imagine XAs were highly effective and precise in creating overhead channels

Kết quả hình ảnh cho PSB Imagine XA Dolby Atmos Speaker Review


The PSB Imagine XA upward-firing speakers are designed to deliver an immersive audio experience without resorting to hanging speakers over your head or cutting holes in your ceiling. The XAs are well made with an attractive black ash finish, they use gold-plated five-way binders and include brackets for wall mounting. The woofer and tweeters use technology ported over from PSB’s Imagine X range of speakers and they have been designed to meet the specifications laid down for Dolby Atmos Enabled Speakers. PSB have also used research conducted by Canada’s NRC to create a speaker that delivers a very precise frequency and directivity response that perfectly matches Dolby specifications for Atmos.

In testing the Imagine XAs delivered an impressively immersive audio experience with both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. The speakers were able to reflect sounds off the ceiling with admirable precision, so that the audio genuinely emanated from above. The XAs were able to handle complex soundtracks and were particularly good at atmospheric and ambient effects because the sounds were dispersed widely across the ceiling. The XAs weren’t quite as good as actual overhead speakers in terms of locality, which meant they weren’t quite as precise in terms of moving objects around a three dimensional space. They also weren’t able to handle lower frequencies as well but overall the XAs created a decent multi-layered sound field, they integrated well with other speakers and they’re competitively priced. As such the PSB Imagine XA upward-firing speakers come highly recommended.


7 Tech Stories That Defined Local Tech In 2016

And just like that, 2016 is almost over. The year has been a rollercoaster ride for many people, and probably won’t be looked at fondly by any stretch of the imagination. It’s also been a big year for tech in the Philippines, both good and bad, and today we’ll be taking a look back at the stories that made the headlines in 2016:


Dual camera technology comes of age

Smartphones with two rear cameras aren’t new – LG’s Optimus 3D and HTC’s Evo 3D both had dual-cameras on their backs, though their purpose was a little different than the ones on phones today. Despite this, they were commercial flops, and it wasn’t until the arrival of devices like HTC’s One M8 and Huawei’s Honor 6 Plus when the real potential of having two rear cameras showed itself.


This year we saw companies like LG and Huawei release dual-camera devices like the G5 and the P9 at the beginning of the year, and their ranks grew bigger each quarter. And while the dual-camera trend was seen as a gimmick by many people in the tech industry, even Apple has embraced the trend with their iPhone 7 Plus.

Expect a lot more phones with dual-cameras in the next months, in all sorts of price brackets – ASUS’ Zenfone 3 Zoom will probably debut with a price tag under 20K when it’s announced in CES in a few short weeks, while local companies are probably going to release their own dual-camera smartphones to compete with Starmobile’s Knight Spectra that was released a few months ago.


The third telco that never was

To say that the Philippines is hungry for a third telco to compete with Smart and Globe is an understatement of epic proportions. People are so hungry for a third choice that they’re willing to chuck commonsense out the window at even the hint of a third player coming in to save them from both telcos.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this year. Australian telco Telstra withdrew from their supposed partnership with San Miguel Corporation after talks collapsed, and despite initially promising to go at it alone, SMC suddenly decided to call it quits.

The company sold its telco assets that included the highly lucrative 700MHz bandwith to Globe and PLDT. For their part the two telcos pledged to make good use of the spectrum to improve their internet services, but the people still hunger for a third telco to challenge the status quo. While there have been new franchises approved by congress lately, none of these have materialized into a third player, unfortunately. Hopefully that will change next year.


The Galaxy Note 7’s explosive and unexpected end

When Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 7, the device was on track to become the best big phone that we’ve ever seen. It was the best phone that we’ve ever seen from the Korean brand.

That was before the phone started exploding for unknown reasons. This triggered an unprecedented product recall that encompassed around 2.5 million devices worldwide. Samsung re-released safe Galaxy Note 7’s to the public in an incredibly short amount of time, an achievement made possible by the company’s logistical prowess.


Unfortunately, the second batch of supposed “safe” Galaxy Note 7s also started exploding, which prompted Samsung to announce the permanent withdrawal of the Galaxy Note 7 in stores. While Samsung has been tight lipped about what caused the problems in the Galaxy Note 7, it’s been speculated that the Korean giant pushed the boundaries of design too far in their efforts to capitalize on Apple’s lack of innovation and vision in their recent releases.

The silver lining in all of this is that Samsung will be pulling out all the stops in their next big smartphone reveal, the Galaxy S8, in Barcelona, Spain during Mobile World Congress next year. You can bet that the Korean giant is looking to put the explosive past of the Note 7 behind them, and what better way to do that than release a stellar flagship?


Xiaomi leaves the Philippines

While Chinese tech player Xiaomi has been enjoying brisk sales in China and nearby ASEAN territories, they’ve been relatively quiet in our shores. In June, we found out why – apparently the company has quietly pulled out of the Philippines.

It wasn’t entirely surprising – the company hasn’t been doing well in our country in terms of sales, and the entirely all-online model hasn’t meshed well with the buying habits of Filipinos. Still, their absence has been felt by Filipinos that want high-end devices for cheap, and despite local resellers picking up the slack, the greater gadget buying public would prefer buying direct from the company themselves, and availing of the official warranty from the company.


Facebook Live hits mainstream, almost guarantees to kill PPV’s

While Facebook announced their livestreaming service in August of last year, it wasn’t until this year that the social media giant made the feature available to everyone.

With the ability to livestream anytime, anywhere, people started to use the new feature in surprising ways. Streaming gameplay is one of those things, but the most surprising (and most disruptive) use of the new feature is streaming paid content, free, straight to the masses.

Until Facebook finds a way to block and limit these streams in real time, the feature certainly means the death of traditional pay-per-view streams. It wasn’t difficult to find livestreams of Manny Pacquiao’s latest fights, which is what will happen moving forward. What’s the use of paying for the right to watch a hotly anticipated fight when you can find a free stream in your Facebook feed on the same day?


Selfies become OPPO’s new niche

Chinese manufacturer OPPO has been present in the Philippines since 2014, but it’s only this year that they’ve managed to rack up record sales numbers thanks to an unlikely vertical: selfie smartphones.

For the past year OPPO’s recent releases relied heavily on their selfie capabilities to sell smartphones to the public. While we were a little skeptical of their strategy at the beginning, the result of their efforts are hard to deny – the brand has gained massive ground in both marketshare and mindshare, enough that their domestic rival Vivo, have started on the same path.

You can expect more selfie-focused smartphones from top tier players by next year – Samsung’s Galaxy C9 Pro’s eventual release in January will kick off a year filled with selfie phones.


Modular phones hit major stumbling blocks

The promise of being able to upgrade your phones just like a consumer desktop has long been a dream for many consumers. Google’s Project ARA was once heralded as the future of smartphones, and consumers had long hoped that Google’s oft delayed project would finally bear fruit.

It wasn’t meant to be sadly, as Google cancelled the project back in September. LG’s ambitious modular phone, the G5, hasn’t been as successful as the company hoped and signs point to the Korean company shelving the modular aspect of the phone for the G6.


The only successful, modular phone on the market right now is Motorola’s Moto Z family of devices, and to be honest calling that particular phone modular is a stretch. Still, it is something – hopefully other players will follow suit with their own modular ideas next year.


Holden Astra v Renault Megane v Subaru Impreza – Small hatchback comparison

The small car market is one of the busiest segments of the Australian automotive landscape, both in terms of sales and for new product – and 2016 in particular proved to be a big year for the humble hatchback.

Sales of small cars may have slowed off a little as people move towards the plethora of small SUV alternatives, but make no mistake: this segment still makes up the single biggest proportion of overall new vehicle sales, and it’s dominated by a couple of big-name models.

However, instead of opting for the likes of the Hyundai i30, Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla for this test, we’ve got three newcomers to assess. It has been a busy year in the segment, and these latest additions have all arrived on sale during the latter part of 2016.

Small hatchback comparison: Holden Astra v Renault Megane v Subaru Impreza

First is the Holden Astra, which the brand hopes will reignite its charge in the small car segment after a few disappointing years with the now-defunct Cruze range. The Astra – sourced from Europe (it’s built in Poland, despite the fact they market it as being German) – offers, according to Holden, “class-leading luxury, superior style and innovative technology in one world-class package”.

Our second entrant in this test is the Renault Megane. This French-made small hatchback has been labelled by its maker as being destined to be “a hit with Australians seeking superior levels of style, refinement and driving dynamics, all packaged at a highly competitive value proposition”. We’ve never rated the regular small Renault too highly, but the brand’s styling renaissance alone could be enough to get a few buyers through its showrooms.

The third, and newest, rival in this test is the Subaru Impreza. With all-wheel drive this Japanese-built hatch already stands out from the pack, but Subaru says the new model “won’t just keep you moving, it’ll deliver pure, effortless fun”. That’s something we’ve associated with the hotter WRX, but not so much the white-bread regular Impreza line-up.


So, which of these three new hatchbacks offers the right blend of value, practicality, driving nous and ownership credentials? Let’s find out.


The vehicles you see here aren’t the base models of their respective ranges – instead, we have the second-tier Holden Astra and Renault Megane, while the Subaru Impreza is the third-tier version.



Starting off with the Astra, we have the RS version… well, in fact, we had both the RS and the RS-V, because the RS won’t initially be available with an automatic transmission – those cars will arrive from around March 2017.

In the meantime, we attempted to create an RS automatic by testing just that drivetrain in the more expensive model, and everything else in the cheaper version: so we’re essentially testing auto against auto, just with two Astras on hand – and don’t worry about the dearer model having a weight disadvantage: it’s only 19 kilograms heavier in RS-V guise.

Oh, and if you’re one of those rare humans who hates automatic gearboxes, the Astra is the only car here to be offered with manual transmissions across the model line-up. The Megane has a base model manual (Life, not on sale yet), while the Impreza is exclusively automatic.

Anyway, the Astra RS kicks off at $26,490 plus on-road costs for the six-speed manual or $28,690 plus on-roads for the six-speed automatic version, making it, even in theoretical guise, the most expensive car here.



A sign of Renault’s intent in the local market is the aggressive pricing it has in place for its new small car range.

The Megane Zen we have here is priced pretty close to that, with the automatic hatchback listed at $27,490 plus on-road costs.



The most affordable model here, though, is the Subaru Impreza – which is a big surprise, given the brand has previously pushed a bit of a premium for its all-wheel-drive underpinned models.

The Impreza 2.0i Premium is listed at just $26,490 plus on-road costs for the auto hatch, and it’s the only vehicle here – at the time of writing – with a sedan version available, if that’s what you prefer (and that body style is even cheaper: Subaru offers a $200 discount on the Impreza sedan range).

All three of these vehicles have strong equipment lists, but some are packed with more kit than others.



All three cars have touchscreen media systems – the Holden and Renault being 7.0-inch units, while the Subaru’s is an 8.0-inch screen in this spec.

Both the Holden and Subaru have both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity across their respective model ranges, but the Renault misses out on both those forms of extended smartphone integration. The Subaru misses out on digital radio reception, which the other two have.

All three have the requisite Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and there’s voice control in all three – the Subaru’s system was by far the best. The Subaru also outdoes its rivals here with four USB connection points (two purely for charging), while the Renault has two USB jacks and the Holden has just one. Each also has an auxiliary port.



The trio has built-in satellite navigation systems, none have leather seat trim in their respective specs, nor do any of them have heated seats (get the next spec up if you’re prone to a cold bottom) or electric seat adjustment – but each has a leather-lined steering wheel, though the materials are very different in each of the cabins.

The Subaru gets a sunroof fitted as standard at this price point, which is an intriguing consideration: the Holden can’t be optioned with one in this spec, but the Renault can be optioned with that for $1990, and it adds an auto-dimming rear-view mirror (the other two cars have auto-dimming rear-view mirrors standard).

The Renault and Subaru both have dual-zone climate control in this spec, but Holden asks buyers to step up a rung for that.



As you’d expect, each has a rear-view camera – the Subaru’s, again, was the best, and included active guidance lines – but both the Holden and Renault have front and rear parking sensors as standard; the Subaru can’t be had with parking sensors at any price point, which is odd. All three cars have digital speed readouts, which is good.

The Impreza has the brand’s EyeSight forward camera system, which includes forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance. The system also includes a neat feature where it will alert you if the car in front has moved away if your eyes aren’t on the road ahead.

The Astra has a similar system called Holden Eye for autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warning, as well as lane-keeping assistance. It goes one step further with blind-spot monitoring fitted on this mid-spec model (the Subie can be had with that tech, but only in the top-spec), but in the Astra RS you can’t get adaptive cruise control. The Astra does, however, pip its pals here with a semi-automated parking system that can perform parallel parks – and it’s fitted as standard.




Pictured above: Holden Astra (top); Renault Megane (middle); Subaru Impreza (bottom)

The Renault doesn’t come with any form of autonomous braking system at this point in time, nor is this version fitted with adaptive cruise control (unavailable on any model) or blind-spot monitoring (you need to buy the GT-Line for that). So that’s a few points deducted, then.

The Subaru misses out on auto headlights and auto wipers, which both of its rivals have. And the Subaru’s halogen headlights and running lights look quite old-school compared to the bold LED daytime running lights of its competitors. You can get LED headlights and DRLs on the top-spec Impreza, while LED headlights are optional only on higher-spec Renaults, and the adaptive matrix LED headlights available on the Astra are also optional on the highest-spec version.

As for airbags, the Renault and Holden both have six (dual front, front side, full-length curtain), while the Subaru has seven (adds a driver’s knee ‘bag). The Impreza and Astra have both attained five-star ANCAP crash test ratings this year, while the Megane scored five stars in a Euro NCAP test in 2015.

If you like big, blingy rims, the 17-inch wheels of the Subaru (with Bridgestone Turanza 205/50 rubber) and Holden (with Michelin Primacy 3 rubber in sportier 225/45 size) will likely appeal to you more than the 16s of the Renault, which are clad in chubby Continental ContiEcoContact 205/55 rubber.


If there’s a car here with a “wow” interior, it’s the Subaru. Surprised? We were, too.



The new Impreza’s cabin design – dominated by that big, bright, colourful media screen in the middle of the dash – was instantly judged by our experts to feel the most upmarket, the most complete, the most thoughtful and the most premium of these three cars.

The materials are of a higher standard, and there is more soft-touch plastic through the cabin. The lower part of the dash, including near where your knees are, is soft in the Subie, while in the other two cars it’s a harder, scratchier plastic.

All three cars have soft plastic dash-top finishes and front door tops, and hard plastic finishes on the rear door tops for grubby kids’ mitts.



Speaking of grubby fingers, the centre design of the Renault is prone to showing up disgusting oily prints, even when you think your hands are clean. Its shiny, touch-sensitive surface will, undoubtedly, be a pain to keep clean. The Renault’s media screen, too, seems quite washed out, and we had issues with it being slow to load as well.

The Holden’s dash-top screen is relatively bright and not too hard to use, but the mapping system is at odds with the menus, in terms of colours and fonts. At the very least, there’s a selection of buttons and knobs below, which is much easier to master than the Renault’s touchy centre console, which could will see you accidentally bumping the wrong buttons below if you’re adjusting things on the move. It’s annoying.



Not only is the Subaru’s big screen the nicest to look at, it was the quickest to load when switching between screens, jumping around the map on the navigation, and joining back up to your Bluetooth-connected device – it should be noted that your passengers can’t join up their device when you’re on the move, though.

Our test crew assessed the sound systems of each of these cars – the Impreza and Holden with six speakers, the Renault with eight – and we found the Subaru to have the best quality, while the others lacked depth and clarity.

The Subaru also has a second screen above the media screen that displays information like your fuel use, Eyesight monitoring, and also – cutely – illustrates whether you’ve got your headlights on or off, and even shows when you touch the brakes. The other two cars have information on their dashboard screens, but not to the same extent.




Pictured above: Holden Astra (top); Renault Megane (middle); Subaru Impreza (bottom)

The steering wheel of each car offers buttons for the cruise control system, and the Astra and Impreza have audio controls there too. Renault persists with its silly stalk that extends off the steering column, and not only does it look daft, in our Megane it was also quite poorly finished.

Our judges felt the plastic finishes on the dash and doors weren’t as classy as those used in the Subaru (Tony, oddly, labelled the design of them as like a “pyjama party gone wrong” – whatever that means!), but they are at least something different to the piano black that is liberally used around the cabin of the Astra.

The Astra’s controls also don’t feel as nice as those in the Subaru, and they can be quite hard to read due to the fonts used.

As for space, the Astra and Impreza are both surprisingly roomy in the rear, where the Renault is considerably tighter. Tony went as far as saying that the Renault “feels like economy, where the Subaru feels like business class” – and believe us, with the amount of travel he does, he knows the difference. [Ed… does he though? When was the last time Tony flew Economy?]




Pictured above: Holden Astra (top); Renault Megane (middle); Subaru Impreza (bottom)

The Astra’s back seat was the most capacious, but it is a pretty bare environment back there, despite the fact you slide a long way back into the seats and the support and comfort is pretty good. Maybe it’s best considered to be like premium economy then, hey Tone?

You don’t slide quite as far back into the Subaru, which means taller occupants may find themselves wanting a little more headroom (that’s true of the front seats, too, due to the sunroof), but the leg and toe room on offer is excellent. The design of the Impreza’s beltline means it’s easier to see out of than its competitors whether you’re in the front or the back, and that could be a big consideration if you’ve got kids.

The Renault’s back seat lacks both knee and toe room compared to the other two – in fact, with the same driving position in all three cars, my knees were touching the seat back in the Megane where I had more than a fistful of space in the Astra and Impreza. Despite lacking some space, the Renault is the only car here with rear seat air-vents.



Pictured above: Subaru Impreza

All three cars have dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor-points and three top-tether points, too. We aren’t massive fans of the Subaru’s silly middle seat-belt setup that sees the clicker drawn from the boot and over the backseat. Why not just integrate it into the seat like everyone else does?

In terms of access, the Renault’s shallower entry point means those with big feet may struggle a little. The Holden’s back door openings are very accommodating, while the Subaru’s openings are great, too – but occupants in the Impreza may require a few attempts to shut the doors, which detracts a little from its otherwise plush feel.

Another debit is the fact the Impreza has auto up/down windows only for the front occupants, where the Astra has auto down for all four windows and auto up for the driver, and the Renault has auto up/down all around.



Pictured above: Holden Astra

Loose-item storage is good in all three cars: the Renault even has a pair of cupholders between the front seats – but even then, they’re a bit shallow for taller cups.

The Renault has a pair of lined map pockets where the other two only have one map pocket, but it and the Holden both miss out on a flip-down centre armrest, and neither has cupholders in the back where the Subaru does.

The Impreza’s door pockets are bigger all around, and its rear door grab-handles also act like little storage cavities.



Pictured above: Renault Megane 

As for boot capacity, there’s quite a lot between then in terms of claimed room.

Renault says that the boot of the Megane has a capacity of 434 litres, which is considerably more than the Astra’s claim of 360L and the Subaru’s claim of 345L.

We found, though, while the Megane’s boot may have been deeper, the aperture at the rear of the vehicle made it hard to load it larger items, like my dodgy old golf bag (click the Photos tab above for more images).

All three have space-saver spare wheels beneath the boot floor, and each has 60:40 split-fold rear seats – the Renault’s with the biggest lip between load area and passenger space, which could be a pain at IKEA.



There’s a fair split in terms of engine capacities represented here, with the Renault rocking a 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol, the Holden harbouring a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, and the Subaru stocking a 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘boxer’ petrol engine, sans turbo.

The power, torque and claimed fuel consumption differences are pronounced, too, but all three have engine stop-start technology.



Starting at the smallest capacity engine, the Renault’s 1.2-litre churns out 97kW of power at 4500rpm and 205Nm of torque at 2000rpm. It runs on 95RON premium unleaded fuel, with claimed consumption pegged at 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres.

The Renault is offered only with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission in this specification, and it is front-wheel drive.



The larger capacity Holden engine has considerably bigger outputs, with a stonking 147kW of power at 5500rpm and 280Nm of torque (300Nm on overboost) at 3500rpm. Unsurprisingly, it needs premium (95RON) fuel as well, and the claimed fuel use for the auto model is 6.3L/100km.

As mentioned, we had both the six-speed manual and six-speed auto on test, and both are front-wheel drive.



Subaru’s 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed ‘boxer’ engine forgoes the downsized, turbocharged trend, and suffers as a result.

The engine produces 115kW of power at 6000rpm and just 196Nm of torque at 4000rpm. Its claimed fuel use is higher than its rivals, too, at 6.6L/100km. The Subaru is the only model here with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic, and likewise it’s the only vehicle on test with all-wheel-drive.

As for performance, there was one standout vehicle here: you guessed it – the powered-up Holden Astra.

With warm-hatch levels of grunt, the engine felt like it propelled the Astra along at a greater pace than its rivals, rewarding the driver with delicious power on call. The claimed 0-100km/h time from Holden is 7.4 seconds, which is a damn sight speedier than the Renault (claim: 10.3sec) and Subaru (10.1sec).


Our focus was on assessing the performance of the auto Astra, and it outshone both of its rivals here due to its superior acceleration. It was also the least fussy at lower speeds, with the six-speed auto generally offered well thought-out shifts despite a bit of slurring when you’re on and off the throttle a lot. If you like manuals, the six-speeder was pretty sweet despite a bit of a long throw action.

At higher speeds the Astra was easily the peppiest and most potent, and the auto gearbox was good under hard pressure, offering decisive shifts. It’s the only car here with a sport mode, and that enabled the driver to rev the engine out more – but it and the Renault both miss out on paddle-shifters, unlike the Subaru.


The Holden’s engine performance was helped by the fact it cuts a reasonably lithe figure, with a kerb weight of 1344 kilograms.

The lightest car on test is the Renault with a kerb weight of 1265kg, while the Subaru is a relative porker (that all-wheel-drive system has its downside!) with a 1417kg kerb weight.

The Renault’s diet body and engine combination may not sound like a match made in heaven, and there are elements of the drivetrain that disappointed us immensely.



Its low-speed behaviour in traffic is gross. From a standing start, particularly if the stop-start system has been engaged, there’s a profound hesitation when you get on the throttle, before the car surges or lurches forward. The way it takes off can be so violent in stop-start traffic that it drove fellow tester Tony Crawford to label it “unliveable”.

The thing is, that’s pretty much only if you’re doing less than 10km/h, in forwards or reverse (yep, it’s lurchy when you’re trying to park or back out of your driveway, too). As soon as your speed rises above that, and you get into the higher gears, the response of the engine is pretty good. It certainly offers enough pep to execute overtaking manoeuvres on the highway, and the gearbox is considerably smoother at higher speeds.

One redeeming feature of the Renault is that it will automatically engage the electronic park brake when you shift it to P at a standstill. The Subaru didn’t do that, and the mid-spec Astra comes with a manual handbrake.



The Impreza was also a bit of a slow-speed struggler. At times under light throttle in stop-start traffic it was a bit lurchy, chugging so much the body of the car wobbled along in time. This only occurred intermittently (the Megane’s issues were more consistent), and it was nowhere near as big a problem with more than one person on board – presumably the extra weight settles things down a bit.

Being the underpowered one of the group there’s no surprise the Subaru’s engine felt a little lacking for grunt, but it was definitely adequate under harder throttle. The Impreza’s engine was a bit whiny, in terms of its soundtrack, while the Astra had a beefier note to it at lower revs, and the Megane emitted some nice whooshing and a hearty chortle the harder you revved it.

The Subaru’s CVT auto offers a stepped feel to it, as though there are gears rather than ratio steps, but it’s as though it’s robbing the engine of what little power is there. At the international launch we felt it was a great car let down by a less-than-great engine, and we maintain that the Impreza would be a considerably stronger entrant in this class were it to have a turbocharged engine akin to its peers. That said, it’s neither offensive nor disappointing. It’s just what we’d come to expect.


Putting aside the claimed consumption of these three cars, we saw the best economy out of the Subaru (average: 8.0L/100km), followed by the Renault (average: 8.3L/100km) and the Holden was well and truly last (11.0L/100km). The price you pay for power, eh?

Driving dynamics and comfort

As we said from the outset, we’ve never really praised the standard Impreza for its road manners. But this new-generation model changes all that. That’s because it’s built on an entirely new platform with a lower centre of gravity and completely rethought steering and suspension. As a result, it was surprisingly good to drive.



The Impreza’s ride comfort and compliance was found to be excellent during our three-up testing: over sharper, smaller bumps it never felt clumsy or crashy, and Tony – our back-seat judge – said the comfort was the best in the Impreza, by some margin.

The Subaru’s independent rear suspension set-up does bounce and pogo a little bit following speedhumps and at higher speeds over sharp edged bumps, but the control of the car is never affected. That’s because the damping set-up is very soft, and for the most part that means it’s very comfortable.

The soft damping isn’t to the detriment of the Impreza’s handling, either – it holds a decent line through bends, and has a beautiful balance to its chassis and more willingness to turn into tight bends and better adjustability in the corners than either of its front-drive compatriots. Its steering is direct, weighty and responsive yet light enough and quick enough when you’re trying to complete parking moves, and while there’s a hint of understeer at pace – mainly because of the tyres – you always feel like you can get out of it, such is the Impreza’s balance.



The fact it has all-wheel-drive means when you punt it out of bends there’s excellent traction on offer. It’s a shame the tyres weren’t a bit better… like the Holden’s, for example.

The Michelin-trimmed 17s of the Astra RS held on valiantly, and while its slightly lower-profile rubber meant it was a bit terser over bumps at low and high speeds. Part of that, obviously, comes down to the Astra’s more sporting chassis set-up, which features stiffer suspension damping. It was never uncomfortably firm at low speeds, and was well resolved after bit hits on sharp-edged bumps… on straights, that is.

If you hit a mid-corner bump there was a certain lack of balance, where the front end and rear end of the car didn’t feel as though they’re working hand-in-hand. It could understeer during hard driving, too: in fact, it felt a little bit brittle in the way it reacted to bumps, with the Watts link rear suspension twitching during direction changes, and as such it felt a bit unsettled.

The Astra’s sport mode not only plays with the drivetrain, it also makes the steering feel meatier – but there was quite a bit of kickback through the wheel over mid-corner bumps at higher speeds, and the steering rack was slower than the Subaru, meaning more effort to turn into parking spots or even through hairpin corners.



The Renault didn’t exhibit the same levels of cornering alacrity as the Holden and Subaru, mainly because of its dull, heavy steering that felt as though it lacked accuracy in the tighter bends. Those eco tyres may help a bit with efficiency, but they don’t help with grip at the nose, as it understeered more noticeably than the other two.

Its body control was better than the Holden when it came to changes of direction – provided there were no bumps, because its twist beam rear suspension tended to get upset in those instances.

Under braking, the Holden was both the most impressive and also the quickest to feel like it was starting to lose stopping power, but that could have been because it was also the fastest to drive, and therefore had more momentum to halt. The Subaru and Renault both offered honest braking, with the Renault’s brakes feeling a bit sharper to react at lower speeds.

As for quietness in the cabin, the Subaru was again the standout, with the Renault and Holden close to even. The Renault made more of a clatter over cats-eyes, where the Holden was a touch louder over coarse-chip surfaces.



For some buyers, ownership is a big deal. If they do a lot of kilometres and their car needs servicing more regularly than other competitors, it could be a painful experience. Automotive brands have realised that, and now they sell their wares not only on the first drive impressions, but also the notion of what the first few years of ownership will look like for the buyer.

Renault offers a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty for its models, and that also includes five years’ roadside assistance. The brand has a capped-price service campaign covering the first three maintenance visits, which are due every 12 months or 30,000km (generous!), depending on which comes first. The price per service for the first three years/90,000km is $299.

Holden has a lifetime capped-price servicing program – yep, as long as the car lives, they’ll guarantee a set level of pricing for it – and the Astra requires visits every nine months (a bit annoying) or 15,000km. The average cost per visit over a three-year period is just $229. The brand’s expansive dealer network is bigger than either of its competitors, but it still has the bare minimum three-year/100,000km warranty, albeit with three years’ complimentary roadside assist.

Subaru has long been known for its expensive servicing that is required more regularly than competitor brands, and that’s still the case for the new Impreza – but thankfully it, unlike other Subarus, doesn’t need to visit the service centre every six months! Instead, it requires maintenance every 12 months or 12,500km, whichever occurs first, but it is the dearest to service of these three: the average cost per visit over three years or 37,500km is $432. That said, Subaru has added a promotional five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty program with the new Impreza, where the standard cover is three years/unlimited kilometres. It only has 12 months’ roadside assist.



These three newcomers each offer different aspects that could appeal to different buyers.

If you love the design of the Renault Megane, for example, then its interior shortcomings and twitchy drivetrain at low speeds might be forgivable for you.

If you want the most rewarding and effortless drivetrain, you have to choose the Holden Astra. But you’d be paying more than you should for it, considering its price:equipment ratio.

And if you want the most comfortable and plush feeling small car of these three, then you should get a Subaru Impreza. You may not like its drivetrain, though…


So, which would it be if we had to choose one?

The Subaru, and without a second thought.

It felt the most complete, rounded, and mature vehicle here – and the fact it was the most affordable, and now offers more affordable servicing, simply adds to its credentials in the small car segment.

The new Impreza may look like a humble hatchback, but it’s a very impressive vehicle for the price.