Asteroid OS is an open source, Linux-based smartwatch OS developed primarily by a French student and hoping to take on the might of Android Wear — so does it stand a chance?
We strapped on an LG G Watch and installed Asteroid OS to put it through its paces and see whether this fledgling OS has what it takes to ruffle Google’s feathers. On paper it ticks all the right boxes, with some interesting ideas and a stylish-looking interface, so we’re hopeful that it can eventually emerge as a genuine Android Wear alternative.
It’s important to bear in mind that Asteroid OS is currently at the alpha stage of its development, which is even earlier than beta. In other words, it’s not ready for the world at large, and so a lot of the bugs we noticed are to be expected with software at this point.
Asteroid OS: The basics
If you want to install Asteroid OS (the alpha version) today, you need an LG G Watch, LG Watch Urbane, Asus Zenwatch 2 or a Sony SmartWatch 3. The code can be downloaded from here, and installed through the free Android ADB and Fastboot command line tools that will be familiar to Android developers.
Instructions are provided but it helps to have a bit of experience in unlocking and flashing Android hardware if you’re going to give this a go (we had to cut the “-p” variable from the ADB push command to get it working on our machine, for example).
Asteroid OS is actually installed in a dual-boot configuration, which means you can restart your watch and get back to Android Wear at any time if you want.
At the moment Asteroid OS comes with some basic apps — including a calendar, timer, stopwatch, music player and weather widget — and has a very basic companion app on Android for syncing data.
What documentation there is for the project is aimed at developers, understandably enough, but you can figure out the basic mechanics of the OS without too much trouble. From the main watch face, swipe down to get to quick settings (like brightness and Bluetooth) or up to get to your list of apps.
Swipe right to see the open apps screen, a multitasking shortcut page that was a bit hit and miss when we used it but shows potential. A swipe to the left from the main watch face takes you to the notifications fed through from your phone.
With the Android app offering limited functionality right now, most of the settings are controlled on the watch. You can configure wallpaper, brightness, the watch face (from a choice of four) and a handful of other features for the time being.
Asteroid OS: The good
The look and feel of Asteroid OS definitely exceeded our expectations: the design is crisp and clear, and you can zip around the interface very quickly indeed, swiping away with no lag or sluggishness to speak of.
The default wallpaper, gently shifting colours and clear iconography are all top-notch, and rival anything we’ve seen on Android Wear up to this point.
Even the individual menus and settings screens feel like a step up from Android Wear. They’re clear to read and intuitive, and in terms of operations on the actual watch itself then you don’t need to refer to an instruction manual to work out how to do anything (which is handy, as there isn’t one).
The apps themselves are well designed too. The weather app, pretty much the only fully working part of Asteroid OS at this point, has a concise and informative look to it that many other apps could learn from.
We’ve been playing around with the calculator and stopwatch apps too and they both work really well on a small screen. The agenda (calendar) and music apps aren’t quite finished, so we couldn’t give them a proper test.
There are only four wallpapers and four watch faces to choose from at the moment, but again there’s promise. We liked the text watch face that rounds up the time to the nearest five minutes (quarter past eight, twenty past eight), which is helpful when you’re quickly glancing at your wrist on the go.
That watch face and many other little touches — such as the open apps screen and the gently animated default wallpaper — show that plenty of thought has gone into Asteroid OS and how it’s going to work on smartwatches.
Asteroid OS: The bad and the ugly
As we said above, this is an alpha release — you wouldn’t expect it to be fully functional right now. Nevertheless we’ll point out some of the missing features.
Perhaps the most frustrating is the lack of an always-on display, at least on our watch, which means you need to double-tap or tap-and-slide the screen to wake it and check the time. When your smartwatch doesn’t even work normally as a watch you know your software isn’t ready for the masses, but some kind of ‘raise to wake’ feature should be fairly easy to implement.
The Android app is basic and buggy, with no support yet for tweaking notifications or getting screenshots. We couldn’t get alerts working at all, which is again a pretty fundamental part of the smartwatch experience.
There were lots of crashes too, when changing the wallpaper or checking the weather, and a few times we had to connect our LG G Watch to a PC again to reboot it.
Several of the apps need more work: you can’t change the name of new events in the calendar for example (or at least we couldn’t work out how to do it). We couldn’t figure out how to transfer music tracks to the watch either, but you can already control playback in Google Play Music on your phone, so that’s something.
All of those complaints may paint Asteroid OS in an overly negative light but the reality is it shows a lot of promise for software in the alpha stage of its development. Getting an always-on display and basic notifications sorted would make a big difference, even if extras like third-party apps are still a long way off.
If enough coders can get involved and take the project forward, then we’d be happy to have Asteroid OS installed on our wrist.
The ALLDOCUBE U33GT is a tablet that features 8.0inch IPS screen display, with 1280 x 800pixel screen resolution, Quad core CPU, dual cameras and 3500mAh Battery.
The ALLDOCUBE U33GT is made out of hiqh quality plastic. The screen display is a 8.0 inch with 1280 x 800 pixels screen resolution and a 16:10 ratio. The display is 5 points. The dimensions of the U33GT are 21 x 12.7 x 1cm and weights only 330g.
Under the hood, the ALLDOCUBE U33GT hides the Quad core CPU MT8163 ARM Cortex-A53 64-bit clocked up to 1.5GHz (V/A) and 1.3GHz (V/B). For GPU, the ARM Mali-T720 MP2@600MHz (V/A) and 520MHz (V/B), do all the hard work with graphics. The U33GT features 1GB RAM and 8GB of internal storage. It can take and a TF card when and if it is needed. Runs Android 5.1 out of the box.
The ALLDOCUBE U33GT features two cameras. The front camera is a 0.3MP and the rear is a 2.0MP. It features also Bluetooth BT 4.0 for connecting with other devices.
The U33GT features reset button, WiFi connection, mic, speakerand ethernet given with a USB to Lan adapter via OTG. The U33GT supports MP1, MP2, WMA, WAV, OGG, M4A, AC, AC3 and FLAC files. From video you can see files that are MPEG2, MPEG4, AVC1, WMV3 and VP8. And from images supports JPG BMP PNG.
The ALLDOCUBE U33GT is equipped with a 3500mAh battery.
The ALLDOCUBE U33GT is for sure not the top of the tablet that we might see, but has some very good features and the price is awesome!
The Eachine E50S is a cute pink quadcopter, foldable so is easy to carry around, that you can easily fly around taking video and images in HD format.
The Eachine E50S comes only in pink. I know it is not a usual color, but for sure is a difference or the ideal present for a woman that likes flying and drones. The quadcopter is made out of Electronic Components and Plastic. The E50S is with foldable arms so it is very easy to carry around or to store it away. When the arms are folded it has dimensions 13.5 x 6.5 x 2.5cm and when the arms are open the dimensions become 13.5 x16 x 2.5cm. The E50S weights only 73 grams.
The Eachine E50S uses the 2.4G for control from the controller, has 4 channels and 6 gyro axis.The motor that the quadcopter has is a brushed. The E50S features a 2MP camera that can shoot video at 720p or take really great images.
With the WiFi features hat has and with the app that supports for your mobile, you can have FPV to see and capture in real time great images and video. The E50S features built-in barometer with altitude hold function that can provide to the quadcopter a very stable flight. With the G-sensor that the drone has, it can automatically follow you around and follow the way you move around your mobile.
Other features that the E50S has are headless mode for having no problem with orientation, one press automatic return, so that the quadcopter can return directly back to you, the ability of doing 3D flips, one key take off, sideward flight and moving all around in all directions. The Eachine E50S features lights, so you can fly it around and in the night.
The Eachine E50S is equipped with a 3.7V 500mAh 20c battery. You will need about 2 hours to fully charge the battery and after that you can have 8 – 15 mins of flying time. The R/C distance is about 40 meters.
The Eachine E50S is a really cute pink quadcopter, with foldable arms so it can becomes very compact and easy to carry around. With many features to explore and enjoy, you will find it at Banggood at a very good price!
Umi Z is the new flagship from Umi. The mobile will be made out of metal with 3D nano cutting technology, with Helio X27 SoC and with the premium chipset NXP® TFA9890 for the sound. On the other hand, we have the Meizu Pro 6, with also premium metallic design, with 3D touch feature and Cirrus Logic chipset for the sound.
The Umi Z is equipped with a 5.5 Inch 2.5D Sharp Screen, with 1920 x 1080 (441ppi) screen resolution. The mobile is made totally by metal, which gives the idea of a very stable mobile. On the other hand uses a 3D nano cutting technology, which creates a unique sensation when holding it. The display is of LTPS IGZO technology and is made from Sharp. The display is protected from Dragontrail glass, to be sure that nothing will happen to it.
The Meizu Pro 6 has also mettalic design. The screen is a little smaller from the Umi Z, since it is 5.2 inch, with Gorilla Glass III protection. The screen resolution is the same with the Umi Z, 1920 x 1080.
The Umi Z is hidding under the hood the Deca Core Helio X27 MTK6797X clocked up to 2.6GHz. This SoC uses a tricluster architecture that lets the CPU use as many as it needs cores, increasing by this way the autonomy of the device and reducing the energy usage. The mobile has also 4GB RAM and 32GB of internal storage. If you think that 32GB is not enough, you can expand the internal storage by adding a TF card expansion up to 256 GB, The Umi Z has installed Android 6.0 but very soon will get Nougat.
The Meizu Pro 6 has under the hood the Deca Core Helio X20 MTK6797 clocked up to 2.5 GHz. For memory, the Pro 6 has also 4GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage. Unfortunately at Meizu you cannot expand this storage. Meizu Pro 6 uses Flyme 5.0 as OS.
The Umi Z has for main camera on the rear a 13 MP SAMSUNG S5K3L8 PDAF and laser autofocus with Dual Flashlight and on the front a 13 MP. The camera uses 4 LED dual tone flash for much better night shots. Features also 802.11 a/b/g/n with dual wifi 2.4GHz/5GHz, USB Type C, Bluetooth 4.1. Supports Dual SIM, NANO SIM + NANO SIM or the TF Card. The Umi Z supports B20 which is important for European countries. As for the sound, the Umi Z is equipped with the premium sound chipset NXP® TFA9890, which offers boost of the bass up to 9.5V with the help of a DC/DC converter, giving an amazing sound quality. It also features fingerprint sensor with touch ID 2.1, which unlocks the mobile in 0.1-0.3s.
The MEizu Pro 6 is equipped with a 5 MP front camera for selfies and a 21.16 MP rear camera, with Flash Light, Auto Focus and Multi-shot. Supports of course WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.1. It doesn’t support B20 and NFC, which is needed for several payments. For charging does it form the USB Type C that has. For the sound, the Meizu features a Cirrus Logic chipset to give marvelous sound.
The Umi Z is equipped with a 3780mAh Sony Battery. The Umi Z supports PE+ Quick Charge.
Unfortunately Meizu Pro 6 comes with a 2500mAh, which nowadays is thought as small. I would prefer it with at least 3500 mAh battery.
Umi Z and Meizu Pro 6, seems to be two very good mobiles. But comparing them I could say that Umi Z hasa some features that are much better from Meizu’s, so I could say from this comparison, Umi is on the first position.
Two budget turntables scooped What Hi-Fi? Awards last year: the traditional Rega Planar 1 (£250/$375) and record-ripping Audio Technica AT-LP5 (£330/$495), both more than worthy of ‘My First Turntable’ status – for those that can afford the outlay, of course.
However, those with tighter purse strings didn’t have much choice beyond the four-star Lenco LP-85 (£120/$180). Or rather, they didn’t until now.
The Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB changes that, combining simple operation with a clean, balanced and organised sound and, like the aforementioned Audio Technica and Lenco, the ability to rip your vinyl to digital files.
And all for the price of a handful of albums.
Build and feature
The Audio Technica offers a more understated aesthetic to the brightly hued Lenco or suitcase-style Crosley.
Its plastic chassis, available in silver or black, wears a shiny, tasteful finish, and the streamline tonearm mechanics and hood fixings mean that, at a quick glance, it could pass as a model worth twice the price.
Set-up isn’t quite as straightforward as rival decks around this price, namely the Lenco and Crosley Keepsake.
A little DIY is involved – the die-cast aluminium platter needs positioning and the belt attaching (no tonearm adjustment is required) – but it’s not arduous enough to put off even the most clueless novice.
Those won over by the tactility of vinyl may even consider it a bonus!
Once up and running, operation is as effortless as using a CD player.
The start button on the front of the AT-LP60-USB positions and lowers the tonearm and gets the record spinning, all within about five seconds, while the stop button next to it naturally reverses the process. The button on the other side merely changes speed between 33 1/3 and 45rpm.
With a phono stage built in, the Audio Technica can be plugged straight into your system or a pair of powered speakers via a RCA cable, although a switch at the back gives you the option to use an external phono stage instead, for example on your integrated amplifier.
We lay down Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ The Boatman’s Call for the main event and while the Audio Technica is far from thin, its lack of solidity compared to the Lenco LP-85 is immediately noticeable.
In Into My Arms, the gruffness of Cave’s baritone croon is well communicated, the staggered delivery of the eponymous lyric is clear, and the piano accompaniment carries warmth, but the presentation as a whole isn’t as fleshed out.
That’s not the end of the world, though, especially as the Audio Technica trades its peer’s instantly gratifying boldness for better precision and organisation. As such, it’s a more articulate listen.
Piano accents are well highlighted, and the flow of the simple percussion and vocal composition sounds more natural.
The advantage of the AT-LP60-USB’s discipline becomes all the more apparent when Lime Tree Arbour comes into play, too; it doesn’t lose sight of faint cymbal brushes or gentle bass plucks beneath the piano harmony any more than it does the organ notes behind his intimate vocal.
There is enough space between the instruments for the presentation to sound coherent, but not so much that they feel disconnected – and that equilibrium is by far a given at this price.
Elsewhere, the presentation is that much cleaner than its rivals too, a fair amount of detail is dug out from albums’ grooves, and without lacking drive or energy it commits itself to a pleasingly easy listening balance.
Recording from vinyl is a simple process too. Files can be ripped as 16-bit/44.1kHz or 48kHz WAVs by connecting your PC or laptop to the turntable’s USB type B output, then using the supplied Audacity software to process them.
These files have a similarly even-handed character, although in terms of quality, expectations should be closer to Spotify streams than CD-ripped files.
So what’s the catch? We pondered that too, albeit ultimately in vain.
While we’d be grateful for a little more solidity and would still back the pricier Rega Planar 1 as the most practical starting point for anyone with a curiosity about vinyl, the Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB is an attractive entry-level deck.
This year is fast shaping up to be the year of OLED, with a raft of hot new TV screens set to join LG’s vanishingly thin vanguard. Both Panasonic and Sony will offer high-end OLED screens as part of their 2017 line-ups, but the first brand convert out of the gate is Philips, with the 55-inch 9000 series 901F (or 55POS901F/12 to give it its full mouth-full-of-sandwiches moniker).
Philips aims to distinguish itself from the competition with its trademark Ambilight mood-lighting technology – which projects coloured light onto the surrounding walls, like an extension of the live image – and this transpires to be a very bright idea.
We’ve been testing an early review sample of the 901F and even after a long weekend of use switching it on still makes us giddy with excitement.
Philips 901F OLED TV review: Design
1228.6 x 751.9 x 49.4mm (55-inch)
As befits its price tag, the 901F looks fittingly premium. With its chromed microbezel and bolt-on silver boots, it’s quite the glam rocker. Even the back panel looks great, finished in an elegant gloss grey with a hairline finish. A pop-off panel hides the input jacks.
Most OLED screens are so thin they look fragile. The addition of Ambilight here adds girth, but the set only bulges to 49.4 mm at its thickest point. The panel itself, meanwhile, is like a shard of glass.
The Ambilight implementation is three sided, which casts a classic multi-coloured halo behind the set. Shame it’s not four-sided for optimum wall-mounting, but that’s only available on one of Philips’ lower-resolution LCD-LED panels.
You can set the 901F’s Ambilight to follow on-screen action, aping the general ebb and flow of on-screen hues. Or have it beat to music. The former is good for gaming, the latter fun for live music.
We rather like the static colour option for general viewing though. Choose from Hot Lava, Deep Water, Fresh Nature (aka red, blue or green), plus Warm or Cool White. Warm White is an ISF calibrated bias light, good for reducing viewing fatigue.
There is only one screen-size available at 55-inches. If you’re after a more 4K-friendly 65-inch model, you’re out of luck… for the time being at least.
Philips 901F OLED TV review: Connections and set-up
Four 4K HDCP2.2 HDMI inputs
Dual-band Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet
Connectivity comprises four HDMI inputs, all of which are 4K/60 HDCP 2.2 compliant. This is a requirement for next-gen 4K sources, such as 4K UHD Blu-ray and set-top boxes like the Virgin Media V6 and Sky Q.
There are also three USB inputs (one a fast 3.0 variant for timeshifting onto a USB HDD), an Ethernet port, a digital optical audio output, headphone jack and two CI slots for those who need such things.
The set ships with two remotes, a standard IR pointer and a Bluetooth remote with microphone and QWERTY keypad on the flip.
The set is 2D only – 3D support has been binned. This could be bad news if you’ve invested in a stack of 3D discs. But we’re not convinced that anyone has.
What apps and services does the Philips 901F OLED TV have?
Android TV OS
Netflix and Amazon Video 4K services
Philips’ connected operating system of choice is Android OS, here in a version 5.1 Lollipop flavour.
The tuner is standard Freeview HD. There’s no Freeview Play, which is a shame as Android is, at present, undeniably rubbish when it comes to catch-up services. There’s also a generic satellite tuner, if that’s your preference.
Apps of note include Netflix, Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, BBC Sport, Chili Cinema, Wuaki.tv, BBC News, I Concerts and Dailymotion. You’ll find more in the App gallery (where there are plenty of casual games, and miscellaneous Euro nonsense) but nothing of note. A quad-core processor keeps navigation lively.
Netflix supports 4K HDR (high dynamic range) streams. Amazon Video also supports UHD, but not HDR at the time of this review – although Philips tells us this will come via a firmware update at some point.
Philips 901F OLED TV review: Picture performance
High-dynamic range (HDR) capable
HDR10 compliant, not Dolby Vision
540-nits peak brightness
4K panel with HDR upscaling
Not to put too fine a point on it, picture quality is outstanding. A common truism about OLED is it tends to make everything look pretty darn great. Standard Blu-ray looks sensational, bolstered by OLED’s deep black performance and wide colour. On letterboxed movies, the bars top and bottom are totally stygian, while image detail is exceptionally crisp.
The 901F offers a variety of picture modes (or Styles, to use Philips parlance): Personal, Vivid, Natural, Standard, Movie, Photo, ISF Day & Night and Game. Care should be taken when choosing these.
For example, there’s a subtle difference between Natural and Standard, most noticeable on skintones (Natural ironically adds an element of Trump orange). The Movie mode is softer and warmer, but can actually be ruinous with 4K material. When you run HDR content, these presets are overridden by HDR prefixed versions.
Playing anti-superhero movie Hancock (UHD Blu-ray) on HDR Movie then HDR Standard modes, reveals a huge difference in image fidelity. The former is considerably duller, lacking the ultra crisp detail of the Standard mode. Hancock’s beanie hat sheds fine woollen detail, but skin texture is less clear. Even the zip on Hancock’s hoodie loses cleanly defined teeth.
Similarly, you’ll actually see fewer stars in the background of the credit crawl for Star Wars The Force Awakens (Blu-ray) when viewing in Movie mode. View in Standard and the starfield bristles with extra pinpricks. This is real detail, not interpolation.
The lack of absolute fidelity in the HDR Movie mode is confirmed by a 4K zone plate test which shows markedly less detail than any of the other HDR viewing modes.
The 901F claims a peak HDR brightness of 540 nits. This diminishes depending on the size of the HDR highlight. In most every case this trait will not be an issue, as spectral highlights tend to be small and transitory (fireworks, glinting sunlight, etc).
HDR support is HDR10 only, there’s no provision for Dolby Vision. While this OLED doesn’t reach the bright excesses of high-performance HDR LED TVs, that certainly shouldn’t put buyers off. The perceived dynamic range of this screen is pronounced, thanks to that superb black level performance.
It’s also worth remembering that to actually benefit from the additional detail in a 4K image, particularly on a relatively small 55-inch screen, you need to sit close – and the last thing you’ll want is searing peak highlights. The 901F offers a very comfortable HDR viewing experience.
The 901F claims to cover 99 per cent of the DCI-P3 colour spectrum. Philips Perfect Colour processor boasts 17-bit colour enhancement with a palette of 2,250-trillion colours. To be honest there’s no shortage of acronyms and numerical bluster in Philips’ spec bible, all of which ultimately means little. All that really counts is the quality of onscreen image, and here there’s no doubt Philips boffins have delivered.
Ultra Resolution is used to upscale non-4K sources, while HDR upscaling applies enhanced contrast and peak brightness to SDR sources. This actually sounds more invasive than it is, offering just a minor lift in highlights. Those with a more purist bent won’t sacrifice too much by switching it off.
Motion resolution is generally superb. Philips adds its own Perfect Natural Motion processing to retain further detail, but in all strengths (Minimum, Medium, Maximum) it adds unwanted motion artefacts, as well as that distinctive soap opera/video sheen. Outside of studio footage or sports, we’d turn it off – as we do on all tellies.
Philips 901F OLED TV review: Sound quality
Integrated soundbar, 30W total power
Most ultra thin sets have audio to match, but not the 901F. The telly’s integrated soundbar features six forward facing drivers, with bass port, for a clearly delineated stereo presentation.
It’s more than fulsome enough for general viewing and even makes a good fist of bombastic action movies. You won’t feel compelled to buy a separate sound system anytime soon. Power output is rated at a generous 30W total.
The Philips 901F is a cracking 4K OLED debut. The addition of Ambilight strikes us as a perfect complement for OLED’s deeply dynamic images, and when it comes to cosmetic design this set is a beauty.
The set doesn’t just look supreme with 4K sources, like UHD Blu-ray and Sky Q, it also dazzles with HD, be it from broadcast channels, OTT streaming services or regular Blu-ray.
For some, the lack of Dolby Vision HDR support may be an issue (although the actual benefits of DV over HDR10 remain conjecture until content becomes generally available), but the addition of Ambilight is quite the sweetener.
Expensive it may be, but the 901F is one humdinger of an OLED TV.
Philips 901F OLED TV: The alternatives to consider
If you’re looking for 4K HDR without an onerous price tag, consider the Panasonic TX-DX700. This smart Firefox OS LED LCD is widely available for less than £800 in its 50-inch form. No Ambilight, of course, but you’ll have a lot more cash in your pocket.
Alternatively, LG’s E6 OLED is a brilliant buy and comes with an excellent Harmon Kardon designed soundbar. It doesn’t have Ambilight, but it is Dolby Vision and 3D compatible.
When the original FXS Low Rider hit showroom floors back in ’77, it was immediately popular and dominated Harley-Davidson sales. Based on the FX Super Glide, which was essentially a mishmash of parts from the big-frame FL and smaller XL (Sportster ) models, the FXS was the first attempt by the factory (under the blighted AMF banner) to emulate the look of the home-job customs that were popular at the time.
Since then, the FXS changed from the original, hard-mount frame to the rubber-mount, FXR frame in the early eighties, and has been built on the new, hybrid Dyna frame (FXDL) since ’91. Fast forward to 2017, and you can see The Motor Company hard at it to further improve and refine the Low Rider, and these latest versions are certainly the best yet. Read on to find out why.
As always, the Low Rider seems to embody the essence of H-D design with details borrowed from the custom culture added liberally thereunto. An asymmetrical wheel layout accentuates the lowness of the slammed rear end with a 19-inch wheel up front and a 17-inch in back, and blackout springs visually diminish the already short rear shocks to add an optical effect to the mix.
A sparse front fender looks much like an old “bobber” fender, which is to say chopped down to a minimum, and it adds little unsprung weight to the front wheel while exposing same. The upper lines flow from the headlamp brow, back across the fat fuel tank complete with instrument cluster in a Wrinkle Black console to the full-scoop saddle.
On the “regular” Low Riders, the seat comes with a tapered, mustang-esque pillion, but the new-in-2016 Low Rider S sports a solo saddle. The “S” rear fender displays a bobber-style chop that thankfully stops short of looking like the desperately unpopular “boat tail” fender from years past, and the non-S model gets a fuller rear fender.
Mid-mount controls place the rider in a relaxed, cruiser position, and the pullback handlebars come on an adjustable riser with a 2.4-inch range. Whether you have long, ape arms or little, T-Rex arms, you should be able to find a position that suits you without going out of pocket for a whole new set of bars.
Harley didn’t exactly re-invent the wheel for the ’17 model year, and kept things much the same with just a few tiny Easter Eggs sprinkled about. Both the Low Rider and its souped-up “S” model sibling now come with a battery tender harness already wired up for plug-and-play battery maintenance. The base model, “non-S” version also gets a keyless ignition feature and an all-new, two-tone color option with the Bonneville Blue/Fathom Blue paint scheme.
(Low Rider S)
As the “F” in the model code indicates, the Low Riders are built upon H-D’s heavy touring bike frame with a rectangular backbone and round tubing that forms the typical double-downtube, double-cradle skeleton, all in mild steel. A steering-head angle of 30.5-degrees plus an offset in the tripletree adds up to a total fork angle of 32-degrees, well into custom territory just like the original. This leaves us with a stable, 5.1 inches of trail for typical,cruiser stability; great in a straight line, but somewhat sedate in the corners.
This leaves us with a stable, 5.1 inches of trail for typical cruiser stability.
Fat, 49 mm forks float the front end on 5.1-inches of travel at the axle, and come with fixed parameters and no external adjustments, though I will offer that while they still make spacers that increase spring preload, it’s not a quick and easy procedure, and certainly not something you would want to deal with more than once. Go ahead, ask me how I know.
Coil-over rear shocks come with the ubiquitous spring-preload adjustment, and provide 3.1 inches of travel on the Low Rider, but just a hair over 2 inches of travel on the “S” for an unladen seat height of 26.8 inches, and 27 inches, respectively, and 4.1 inches of ground clearance. As one would expect, the difference in ground clearance has an effect on lean angles. The base model can manage 29.5 degrees to the right and 30.5 to the left (because of the exhaust system), while the “S” is limited to 27.5 degrees to the right and 28.5 to the left before it starts throwing sparks on the 2016 model. Sport-O’s may find this to be a little shallow, but these numbers are fairly typical for the brand.
At 666 pounds soaking wet, this really isn’t what anyone would call a light bike, but H-D didn’t skimp on the brakes. A pair of four-pot calipers pinch dual, 300 mm front discs, and a twin-pot binder grabs the 292 mm rear disc. Front-wheel ABS comes as standard equipment on the “S” — at least it was in 2016 — but it is only available as a $795 option on the base model, so bear that in mind if you just can’t live without that safety net.
Cast rims come in Harley’s Split 5-Spoke design, and the base model gets a partial blackout treatment while the “S” comes with the “Magnum Gold” finish for a little extra curb appeal. Fret not if you are like me and prefer a more classic look; the factory offers optional laced chrome wheels that dress up the bikes quite nicely.
Between the 2015 and 2016 FXDL, and the new-for-2016 FXDLS, we have three slightly different engines to deal with here. All three mills look pretty much alike and follow the typical Big-Twin format fans of the brand will instantly recognize; the differences are more-or-less contained in the innards. The ’15 model came with a “standard,” air-cooled, Twin-Cam 103 engine that runs a 3.87-inch bore and 4.374-inch stroke for a total displacement of 1,690 cc. This vanilla Twin-Cam cranks out a respectable 98.8 pound-feet at 3,500 rpm, and provides a combined city/hwy mileage of 43 mpg.
The ’16 model-year FXDL got the high-output version of the same engine that comes with a dollop of Screamin’ Eagle yummy-goodness in the form of a factory Stage-1 package that boosts the torque on up to 102 pound-feet at the same rpm and drops one mpg for a combined 42 mpg.
In keeping with Harley’s “S” series that makes performance a front-burner issue, the FXDLS runs the enhanced, 1,801 cc, air-cooled Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B. For those unfamiliar with the brand, this is the largest production engine Harley had before the Milwaukee-Eight 114 and the most powerful in its day. At 3,500 rpm, this mill generates a punishing, 115 pound-feet of torque that puts plenty of go in the show. Surprisingly, it picks up a bit of fuel efficiency as well, and manages to milk 44 miles out of every gallon.
The FXDLS runs the enhanced 1,801 cc, air-cooled Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B.
All three mills run with electronic, sequential-port fuel injection, and the usual, pushrod-actuated, two-valve heads. Due to the higher volumetric requirements, the High-Output 103 aspirates through a Ventilator, low resistance air filter, and the 110B breathes through Harley’s Heavy Breather (giggity!) air cleaner.
The usual, cable-actuated, multi-disc wet clutch is present across the board, but the 110 model comes with a performance diaphragm spring that the others don’t get. Gotta gig H-D here; no slipper clutch yet guys? Really? A six-speed “Cruise Drive” tranny crunches the ratios to keep it in the usable powerband and provide reasonable highway-speed revs, and a reinforced-belt drive make the final connection to the rear wheel.
The 2015 FXDL rolled in Vivid Black for $14,199, and naturally the King of Paint offers plenty of opportunity to inflate that sticker as high as $15,149, depending on color choice. The Motor Company bumped up prices by two bills across the board for the ’16s for a starting price of $14,399. Naturally, the “S” commands the highest price with a $16,699 sticker, and you can get it in any color you like, as long as you like Vivid Black. The good news is that the “S” comes with front-wheel ABS, security system and cruise control as standard equipment. You can expect to tack on some cheddar if you want ABS and security on the base model, and cruise control is limited to the “S” model exclusively.
Prices jump a bit for the 2017 model year, and the base-model Low Rider eases up to $14,749 in Vivid Black and up to $15,699 for the top-shelf paint. The Low Rider “S” model also gets hiked up a bit to $17,499 and is still only available in basic black.
Regardless of which model you pick, all buyers can expect to pay $390 for freight, and California residents can look forward to an additional $200 for your special emissions package.
American-style performance cruisers are few and far between and I was about to abandon all hope of finding a bike with similar looks and performance when I took a look at the newly-rebundled Star lineup from Yamaha , and hit upon the Raider . Obviously built for the domestic market, the Raider sports features known to turn us (U.S.?) on, and it comes with the largest production V-twin lump in the world (okay, before the Milwaukee 8), so lets see how it stands up to the Low Rider S.
While the Low Rider is an iconic bike with a long and storied history, the Raider is kind of the new kid on the block with something to prove. Even though the Raider runs a yoke-style swingarm much like the “S,” the rest of the frame geometry carries shades of the old rigid frames, and the more modern Softail chassis. The sheet metal also sports features I would normally associate with the aforementioned, and while it cuts a slightly different figure than the “S,” it looks very much like a rolling slice of Americana, as long as one doesn’t look too closely. One thing Yamaha definitely got right is the 39-degree rake that really pushes the front wheel out there, and lends the Raider an undeniably custom air, even moreso than the factory-custom Low Rider.
Rolling chassis are comparable, with a double-cradle frame, fixed front suspension and preload-adjustable rear suspension. Harley pulls ahead slightly on brakeage since it offers ABS as standard equipment and Yamaha offers it not at all.
Now for the mills. Naturally, the Twin Cam 110 comes with a 45-degree V, but the Raider lump isn’t far from the mark at only 48-degrees, a detail that definitely plays into the looks. The Raider boasts a massive, 1,854 cc engine, bigger than Victory’s Freedom 106, ’s Thunder Stroke 111, and of course, Harley’s 1,801 cc Twin Cam 110. Folks, I ain’t exaggerating when I say this is a big engine.
In spite of its size advantage, the Raider doesn’t quite produce as much grunt as the “S” mill with “only” 109.7 pounds of grunt against the 115 pounds from the Twin Cam 110. Goes to show that size ain’t everything, and Harley’s experience with V-Twin plants carries the day.
Yamaha gets some back at checkout, but less than one might imagine. The Raider rolls for $14,990, less than two grand cheaper than the “S.” Given the pedigree of the Low Rider, I don’t feel like this is sufficient to rope in any buyers looking for an American, or American-looking, , power cruiser and folks looking for a certain look without top performance will likely be better off with a base-model Low Rider. Having said that, if someone were to hold a gun to my head and demand that I choose a Yamaha right now, the Raider would definitely be my choice.
“Yeah okay, the Low Rider is an iconic bike, and while I liked the old FXR frames, I never learned to appreciate the Dyna family. Still, it warms my heart that H-D included the Low Rider in its “S” series bikes, ’cause who doesn’t want more power? This is a good direction for Harley, and it’s about time The Motor Company started pushing the V-twin envelope a bit. Owners have been souping up their bikes for long and long, I confess that it would be nice to buy one already souped.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Good power-to-weight ratio and I like the bullet fairing. I’ve heard folks say they wish it was bigger, but I’m the opposite. If it isn’t a bullet fairing, I’d rather not have one at all; I prefer that look, but go-fast folks might want the better air-flow control that a bigger fairing gives them. I think the “S” is the first in the Dyna family to have RbW, correct me if I’m wrong.”
2017 Low Rider
2017 Low Rider S
Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103™
Screamin’ Eagle® Air-cooled, Twin Cam 110™
Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder
Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke:
3.87 in. x 4.374 in.(98.4 mm x 111.1 mm)
4 in. x 4.374 in.(101.6 mm x 111.1 mm)
103.1 cu. in.(1690 cc)
110 cu. in.(1801 cc)
Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Ventilator intake with fiberglass media, washable exposed element with rain sock
Heavy Breather intake with black covers, fiberglass media, washable exposed element with rain sock
Chain, 34/46 ratio
Chain, 34/46 ratio
Belt, 32/66 ratio
Belt, 32/66 ratio
Mechanically actuated, 9-plate, wet, with high-performance spring
HDMI, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB Type C, SD card slot, headphone jack
Review Price: £699.00/$1048.60
WHAT IS THE ACER SWIFT 5?
The Acer Swift 5 is the second-tier model in Acer’s new laptop lineup, sitting below the ultra-thin Swift 7. This is still a premium, slim and light laptop, however. On the outside, the Swift 5 is mostly made from metal, and powering the system on the inside is one of Intel’s new, seventh-generation “Kaby Lake” processors.
Add to this a high-quality 14-inch IPS display, the latest MU-MIMO Wi-Fi, a backlit keyboard, and greater connectivity options than you’ll find on the Swift 5’s slim and light rivals. All that and it can be had for £699, a price that comfortably undercuts both the Swift 7 and the competition.
ACER SWIFT 5 – DESIGN AND BUILD
Acer has steered clear of the classic thin and light laptop look of anodised aluminium. Although the outer panels are made of metal, the lid has a ridged pattern embossed into it and is painted black. The hinge area is finished in silver, the base has a soft-touch black coating – to ensure it stays put on your lap – and the keyboard surround is in fact anodised aluminium with a brushed black finish.
Overall, it looks good, although it’s less cohesive than the likes of the MacBook, Dell XPS 13 or even the Swift 7. Plus, there are a few little things that just don’t quite feel as premium as the best machines. For instance, the bezel around the screen isn’t all that thin and the backlighting on the keyboard isn’t particularly even.
Similarly, build quality on the whole is very good, but it definitely lacks that sense of being crafted from solid metal – such as the Apple or Dell machines.
This is because those laptops do actually use panels that have been milled out from thicker slabs of material, whereas all the panels on the Swift 5 are stamped into shape from thin sheets. All told, you can certainly tell this is a cheaper machine than the very fanciest of laptops, but it’s still a cut above most, and comfortably outclasses the likes of the Lenovo Ideapad 510S.
One thing this laptop absolutely aces, though, is being thin and light. At 14.6mm thick and 1.36kg in weight, it beats many 13-inch machines.
What’s more, what extra bulk there is here, when compared to the thinnest and lightest, is put to good use. You get far more connectivity than many similarly-sized machines as well: there are two USB 3.0 ports, one on each side, plus a full-size HDMI port, headphone jack, SD card slot and a USB Type-C port.
ACER SWIFT 5 – KEYBOARD AND TOUCHPAD
As mentioned earlier, the backlighting on the Acer Swift 5’s keyboard looks a little uneven. Specifically, it’s the light spilling out from under the keys that’s the problem.
When viewed from a normal typing angle, there’s a central patch that appears dark while all round there’s a glow from beneath the keys. It isn’t a practical concern, but just hints at that slight lack of attention to detail.
Otherwise, the keyboard is actually very good. Keys are well spaced and the layout is fine. I kept accidentally adjusting the brightness instead of activating Home or End, because I’m used to both being secondary functions of the cursor keys (Asus and Dell do this) – but other than that, it performed well. Most importantly, you get a proper UK-style layout, rather than a fudged US version.
As for the touchpad, it also held up well. It’s nice and large and has a smooth surface over which fingers glide easily. The click action isn’t quite up there with the best, but it gets the job done.
The touchpad is also home to this laptop’s fingerprinter reader. It works well in conjunction with Windows Hello, allowing for a quick and password-free login to the laptop.
ACER SWIFT 5 – SCREEN
On the whole, the 14-inch Full HD display on this laptop is very good. With a maximum brightness of 345 nits, it’s plenty bright enough for use outside or in other well-lit environments.
A contrast ratio or 1,327:1 also ensures it can deliver deep-looking dark colours at the same time as bright ones, as opposed to cheaper displays where dark colours look grey and washed out.
A Delta E of 0.83 indicates that this display is also able to distinguish properly between fine differences in colour, with a Delta E of 3.0 generally being considered the point at which humans can distinguish differences in colour. Likewise, sRGB coverage of 88.9% is decent for a laptop, making it just about suitable for professional image and video editing.
You even get a reasonably accurate colour temperature of 6,657K (the ideal is 6,500K), so most users should have no need to calibrate the screen for best performance.
There’s just one fly in the ointment: the screen’s glossy finish. This does inevitably make for more distracting reflections than matte finishes. However, there appears to be an anti-reflective coating that, in conjunction with the bright backlight, means the laptop is still very much usable – even in tough lighting conditions.
ACER SWIFT 5 – AUDIO AND WEBCAM
Acer makes grand claims about this laptop’s audio, and largely it lives up to them. Most of the leg work is actually put in by Dolby Audio software, which tweaks the signal being sent to the speakers in order to better optimise for them being inherently weak.
It works, though, and sound is delivered with clarity, even at maximum volume. Regular music listening in particular will push you towards the use headphones or external speakers, but for everything else they’re fine.
As for the webcam that sits in the top-centre bezel, it’s just about adequate. The image isn’t particularly clear – it looks too dark – but it’s fine for video chat. Certainly, it’s good enough for face tracking on the Windows Camera app. Likewise, the built-in microphone is on par.
ACER SWIFT 5 – PERFORMANCE
At its heart, the Swift 5 has a brand-new 7th-gen Intel processor. Depending on which configuration you opt for, it’s either the Core i5-7200U or Core i7-7500U. Both are dual-core products with Hyper-Threading, so they can handle four processes at once, with the i5-7200U running at 2.5GHz-3.1GHz, and the i7-7500U running at 2.7GHz-3.3GHz.
Those processors are the only differences between the two configurations of the laptop that you can currently buy, with the slower option costing £699 and the faster one £799. From my testing, though, I wouldn’t bother with the more expensive option, since the i5-7200U is fast enough for anything you’re likely to want to do on a laptop of this type, apart from video editing, which will benefit from the higher clock speeds.
Web browsing, email, word processing and image editing are all perfectly speedy, so it’s only if you regularly find yourself editing video or big batches of photos that you’ll need more power. Notably, this is a step up in overall speed from the Acer Spin 7, for instance, which uses are particularly low-power processor and struggles for it.
What really helps to keep things moving is the 256GB SSD. It isn’t the fastest around, with read and write speeds of 468MB/sec and 386MB/sec respectively, but it’s still a vast improvement over a hard drive, making boot up, app loading and file-transfer times rapid.
A PCMark 8 score of 3,136 actually puts this machine a touch behind some other ultraportable laptops, as do its scores of 3,284 (single) and 7,049 (multi) in Geekbench 3. However, they’re still in the right ballpark.
As for gaming, the graphics integrated into the Intel processor is fairly basic and will struggle with anything graphically rich. However, a score of 65,753 in 3DMark: Ice Storm shows it can easily power through more basic titles.
The slightly more expensive Lenovo Ideapad 710S benefits from a slightly better processor with faster onboard graphics, so it will be a slightly better choice for those looking for a lightweight video editing machine. Its SSD is also substantially faster.
ACER SWIFT 5 – BATTERY LIFE
One thing this laptop pretty much nails is battery life. Around ten hours is desirable in an ultraportables such as this and the Swift 5 managed 9hrs, 25mins in our Powermark test, which runs a loop of video watching and web browsing while the screen is set to a brightness of 150 nits.
This was backed up with our Netflix test, where watching an hour of Full HD video consumed only 11% of the battery, suggesting it can last for the full nine and a half hours when watching video.
SHOULD I BUY THE ACER SWIFT 5?
Acer has created an outstanding laptop in the Swift 5. We’ve been getting used to seeing truly slim and light laptops reach prices of £1,000/$1,500 and beyond, but with the Swift 5 you’re getting an impressively portable machine for less than £700. The design can’t quite match those truly premium options, but it still looks smart enough and feels nice to use too.
Plus, you get a great-quality screen, decent keyboard, excellent performance and great battery life. Add in the superb selection of connectivity, and it’s darn near-perfect. Only a slightly nicer build and perhaps a USB-C/ThunderBolt port would have completed the deal, but that would have also added to the cost. This machine does the basics very well indeed.
The only other real sticking point is the choice of some of the software Acer has pre-installed. One in particular – the App Explorer – pops up every time the machine is booted up and insistently asks to set the browser’s homepage to the dodgy Adware platform Start Search. You can remove the software, but it’s a poor show to see it installed in the first place.
The best alternatives both come from Lenovo in the form of the Ideapad 510S and 710S. They both have optional specifications with better-performing Intel Iris graphics, but the former is much heavier and the latter quite a lot more expensive. The Swift 5 on test here fits into a nice middle ground.
If you’re looking for a truly thin and light laptop, but don’t want to pay the £1,000/$1,500-plus prices of the most premium models, the Acer Swift 5 is an ideal alternative.
As we’ve reviewed all of the Sony E-Mount and FE mount lenses to date, we thought we’d pop the 11 top scoring lenses into a list so you can easily see which are the best.
A little lens background
You can use Full-Frame FE-mount lenses on APS-C Sony E-Mount cameras, and this will give you a 1.5x crop of the lens. For example, a full-frame 50mm lens will give the equivalent of a 75mm lens. You can also use APS-C E-mount lenses on full-frame Sony E-Mount cameras, and this will use a cropped area of the sensor, with the resolution of the image depending on the camera used. This will make an APS-C 50mm lens equivalent to 75mm.
1 – Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS (Full-Frame)
This is a large and impressive looking lens that offers an equally impressive performance. Sharpness is excellent and Chromatic Aberration is almost zero centrally and generally kept under one pixel at the edges. At f/22 diffraction reduces edge sharpness but results remain good and flare is also totally absent. Images have good contrast and almost anything can be added to the shooting repertoire for the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS.
2 – Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master (Full-Frame)
Even though this lens is ideal for portrait photography, the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM is actually ideal for a wide variety of subjects. It’s a very fine lens that’s incredibly well made and is a joy to use. Resistance to flare is excellent, sharpness is outstanding and CA (chromatic aberration) is almost zero in the centre of the field, and is contained to less than one pixel at the edges. Distortion is also commendably low and the lens produces beautiful bokeh. It’s superb in every respect and received the ‘Editor’s Choice’ accolade as a result.
3 – Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA (Full-Frame)
The Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA full-frame prime lens is designed to be used with Sony E-Mount cameras and it’s another excellent offering from Zeiss / Sony. Image quality is excellent, sharpness is superb and CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very much under control. Flare does have some effect and when shooting against the light there can be a drop in contrast and there is a small amount of barrel distortion but really, it’s an insignificant figure. The bokeh of the lens is very smooth and overall, images are crisp and clear.
4 – Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master (Full-Frame)
Zoom lenses do have strengths and weaknesses in their performance, but there is little to complain about with this Sony FE 24-70mm f/1.8 GM lens. Sharpness at its best is excellent to outstanding, CA and distortion can be addressed in software, although centrally CA is very well controlled anyway and flare is non-existent. Images are excellent and the bokeh is indeed beautiful in fact, it’s quite sublime at times. The Sony lens represents a level of performance that can only be found in the most expensive lenses. It is itself quite expensive, but given that prices may yet ease over time it is within the realms of being a realistic price.
5 – Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS (APS-C)
Our lens reviewer described this lens as a ‘belter’ and thanks to its price point, sharpness levels and overall image quality, it’s easy to see why. The Sony NEX 50mm f/1.8 OSS does have a few Chromatic aberration problems but this flaw is easily overlooked taking into account this lens’ positive attributes. Auto focus is very fast and accurate and optical stabilisation is a nice feature to have and it allows sharp hand held images to be taken in around half the time with shutter speeds as low as 1/10sec.
6 – Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS (APS-C)
The Sony E35mm f/1.8 OSS might seem expensive but the performance it delivers does make it a worthwhile purchase. Sharpness is very good from maximum aperture, and can even be considered as outstanding as the lens is stopped down. Other optical anomalies, such as CAs, falloff and distortion are also kept well in check and the lens is lightweight as well as compact which will please many.
7 – Carl Zeiss Sonnar E 24mm f/1.8 ZA (APS-C)
This lens delivers a performance worthy of the Carl Zeiss name, especially in the centre of the frame, where sharpness is excellent, or even outstanding when stopped down. The Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* lens is a premium piece of glass that doesn’t disappoint. Contrast holds up very well when shooting into the light and there are very few instances of flare, even in very harsh lighting conditions. Sharpness is excellent but there are a few problems with CA however, the amount of fringing will be acceptable for many.
8 – Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS
This lens is a high-level performer that does the job efficiently. Don’t be put off by the f/4 maximum aperture as it’s not really much of a disadvantage. In fact, the size and cost of the lens actually make it a serious contender for those in the market for a new telephoto lens. The only slight drawback is the possibility of some flare, but fortunately, this does not seem to be a major problem. Our reviewer was happy to ‘Highly Recommend’ the 70-200mm f/4 G OSS and said it was ideally suited to the Sony Alpha 7R II.
9 – Sony FE 28mm f/2.0 (Full-Frame)
The Sony FE 28mm f/2 has a lot going for it, delivering high levels of sharpness in a lightweight and compact body that has a reasonable asking price. It’s a shame the aperture has to be stopped down to improve performance towards the edges of the frame and to reduce chromatic aberrations, but overall the lens performs well. The lens is quite resistant to flare although contrast can be noticeably reduced when shooting into the light.
10 – Sony E 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Power Zoom (APS-C)
The price alone will ensure the Sony E PZ 18-200mm f/e.5-6.3 OSS becomes a niche item, but if money is no object, and you require the best quality, most convenient solution for general picture taking, then this lens could be for you. This lens is quite resistant to flare and retains good contrast, even when shooting into the light and Chromatic aberrations are pretty well controlled. Sharpness levels are excellent and so is the build quality.
11 – Carl Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 T* (APS-C)
Zeiss have yet again produced a lens with optical characteristics worthy of the Zeiss reputation, that’s well designed and solidly built. Although the Carl Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 T* does carry a premium price, the additional cost isn’t so much that it will put this lens beyond the reach of everyone, especially those serious about using quality glass with their camera. Sharpness levels ar excellent, Chromatic aberrations towards the edges of the frame are very well controlled and shouldn’t pose issues for most images, distortion is very mild and falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is incredibly well controlled.
2 x 1.5-inch treble/mid drivers and 1 x 5.25-inch subwoofer
200W total power output
W428 x D245 x H239mm
Review Price: £1,399.00/$2,098
WHAT IS THE AERIX DUET?
There are plenty of manufacturers out there making Bluetooth speakers these days, but larger, one-box audio systems are still few and far between. The Aerix Duet is a rarity, then – but what a stunning solution it is.
It offers wireless Bluetooth aptX and Wi-Fi music streaming, as well as CD playback and FM radio, pumped out through stereo speakers with 360-degree sound technology. And it’s all packaged in a striking contemporary design that’s more industrial sculpture than hi-fi hardware.
Designer hi-fi never comes cheap, though. The Aerix Duet weighs in at £1,399/$2,098, with an optional stand costing £299/$448.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
The Duet is described as a “dual-box design”. And that’s a pretty good description – two cubes are sat on a silver plinth, with the electronics shared between them.
Visual interest is added by one of the boxes being set back a little from the other. It looks great, to be honest – industrial and minimalist in just the right way, whether you choose the black or white version. Add that optional stand and it’s pretty wow.
In the left-hand box is a 1.5-inch treble/mid driver facing up towards a dispersal cone surrounded by a metal grille, while below it is a 5.25-inch downward-firing subwoofer. There’s a large dot-matrix LED display on the front, which clearly shows the time while the Duet is turned off, and spells out some fairly basic info during operation.
The right-hand cube houses an identical treble/mid driver but no sub, and features a slot-loading CD player, and all the amplification and wireless gubbins. On its back are three antennae – two for Wi-Fi, one for Bluetooth – as well as a USB socket. The latter is only for maintenance updates, but I did find I could use it for charging devices.
A lack of any kind of physical input isn’t the handicap it once was, but not having an optical socket means you don’t have the option of pumping your TV’s audio through the Duet, using it like a soundbar.
Similarly, if you decide to jump on the current vinyl-buying bandwagon, or have an existing record collection, you’ll need a Bluetooth-streaming turntable to hook it up to the Aerix.
The Duet’s controls are set into the plinth, in the form of eight uniform, shiny round buttons for on/off, volume up and down, source select, track forward and back, play/pause, and eject.
There are plenty more controls on the remote control, which is metal and feels nicely solid. Shame it has those awful blister buttons and really doesn’t look as beautifully designed as the Duet itself.
The only other visual thing of note is the gently pulsing LED-lit logo on the front edge of the plinth, which Aerix describes as a “breathing light”. Yeah, I don’t know.
The Duet has DTS Play-Fi built in, which opens up a whole world of UPnP Wi-Fi streaming possibilities from all kinds of devices.
Sadly, Aerix hasn’t yet enabled the AirPlay support, so Mac owners will have no joy. Seems strange, as I imagine that the types of people who would buy a system such as this would also buy a MacBook. But I’m told it may be added via a firmware update later; Spotify Connect was added during my time with it, so fingers crossed.
Switching on the Duet and feeding it some files over Bluetooth aptX from an Astell & Kern AK70, I was initially really quite disappointed.
Vocals needed rather a lot of volume before they opened out. Listening to Colter Wall’s “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie”, the kick drum also could have had a lot more impact. It didn’t even sound quite as good as many high-end soundbars and soundbases. Then I discovered the DSP presets.
Changing the DSP preset from Natural to Hyper made a huge difference. The Natural preset is a little too laid back, appearing to blur the mid-range a little too much – ironically, it’s rather unnatural. The less said about the Relax mode, the better.
With the Hyper preset engaged, there’s a nice balance of dynamism and weight to the Aerix Duet’s sonics. The 360-degree audio works well, too, helping to ensure there are no real musical dead spots in the room.
Volume cranked, the Duet just about holds it together. It’s a shame there’s no control over bass levels, since that Hyper preset becomes a little unruly as the volume goes up – you might be tempted to switch back to Natural for parties and put up with those smeared mids.
A quick word about that large LED display: it looks lovely, but it isn’t overly useful, due to the limited characters it can show. It doesn’t even scroll track names across it – when paired over Bluetooth, the Duet’s display simply reads “PAIRED” in huge letters. Not only is this unhelpful, it’s inelegant too. With CDs you at least get a track number and time played.
SHOULD I BUY THE AERIX DUET?
The Aerix Duet is strikingly good-looking, particularly when paired with the optional stand, and it’s capable of filling a room with solid sonics. It’s pricey, though, and has its quirks. The lack of DAB will put off some people right from the start, as will the non-existent AirPlay support.
There really aren’t too many other options when it comes to true one-box hi-fi. The crème de la crème is the Ruark Audio R7, but that’s rather more expensive at £2,000/$3,000 – albeit with legs included – plus it’s much larger and distinctly retro in style, which won’t suit everyone’s taste.
The Ruark R4 Mk3 and Tivoli Audio Music System+ are both significantly cheaper, but lack Wi-Fi streaming, and don’t cope as well with higher volumes as the Aerix.
Of course, spending £1,400/$2,100 on hi-fi separates would get you sound quality that’s far superior, but you’d lose out on convenience and style – which the Aerix offers in abundance.
This one-box hi-fi system looks more like an industrial sculpture – and it sounds pretty good, too. Style doesn’t come cheap, though, and the Duet has its faults.
We’ll explain 15 reasons the iPhone is better than Android with a 2017 iPhone vs Android comparison that includes the newest iPhones and Android devices as well as Android 7.0 and iOS 10.
The iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus may not deliver super screen resolutions, but they hit the right notes for many buyers and with iOS 10 there are even more reasons the iPhone is better than Android for many users.
iPhone competition includes the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, One Plus 3, the LG V20 and other phones that deliver a bigger challenge for Apple — but there are still places where the iPhone is clearly better than Android and iOS 10 is better than Android Nougat.
Many of these could change with the Galaxy S8 and the LG G6 later this year, but for now – iPhone has an edge.
You need to learn what the iPhone does better and how Apple delivers a better experience than Android to see if an iPhone is the best smartphone for you in 2017.
Here are 15 reasons the iPhone is better than Android phones in 2017.
Use our list of reasons the iPhone is better than Android to figure out which new smartphone you should buy this year. Read our iPhone 7 review to learn what sets this phone apart from the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.
You can buy the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus at a discount with the best iPhone 7 Black Friday deals.
Even if you think you know which phone is best, you might be surprised to learn about all the reasons the iPhone is better than Android.
iPhone Apps Are First and Better Looking
Most of the popular apps are on both platforms, but many top games and apps still come to iPhone first. We’re seeing more apps come to both Android and iPhone at the same time, but there are still way more iPhone only apps that we see than Android only.
When apps are available on iPhone and Android we still often see a better design on the iPhone version than on Android. This is something that still rings true in 2017. For example, we still see some new Snapchat features and Spotify features come to iPhone before Android. iPhone owners are enjoying Super Mario Run, but the Super Mario Run Android app is still on the way.
Apps are an area where the gap is closing, but the differences still exist and are noticeable. We also see Apple take better care of the App Store. Recently they purged 47,300 apps from the app store that were simply bad or abandoned.
Fast iPhone Updates for All
iPhone owners enjoy quick and regular iOS updates for the iPhone no matter what carrier they use.
Faster updates are available for all iPhone owners.
Android updates take months to arrive on all the devices. After an Android device is 18 months old, you may need to wait for a new Android smartphone to get the latest software.
Apple delivers iPhone updates to devices that are three years old. Apple offers iPhone 4s iOS 9 support. It is unheard of to see support for an Android phone that old. iOS 10 is available for the iPhone 5.
When you look at Android devices support ends much faster. Google promises at least two years for Nexus devices, which means Nexus 6 support ends this fall and the Nexus 6P in September 2017. Google may push farther out, but it is not a guarantee. Other Android device manufacturers don’t typically match the longevity of iOS updates.
On top of the added update support, Apple does not allow carriers to hold up the updates. As soon as the update is available from Apple it is available on every carrier.
If you really want Android Nougat, you may need to simply buy a new Android phone.
Works Great with All Your Devices
If you own an iPhone, iPad and Mac your information flows smoothly from one device to the other. You can quickly sync photos to all of your devices, answer a phone call on your iPad or Mac and send text messages from your other devices. There is also support for Handoff that allows you to start a task on your iPhone and continue on your iPad or Mac.
The iPhone works great with the iPad and Mac.
Overall the connectivity between these devices is something Android doesn’t yet match without relying on a collection of third-party applications and services to hodgepodge together a similar feature.
Sharing a file from your iPhone to your Mac is also faster and easier thanks to AirDrop. This built-in service sends the file wirelessly directly to the Mac, even when there is no other WiFi around.
No Carrier Bundled Apps
There are no extra carrier apps installed on the iPhone when you buy it. On many Android phones, there are a dozen carrier branded apps, and there might be another dozen apps that you will never use but that someone paid the carrier to install.
Many times you cannot uninstall these extra apps, only disable them. This means they still exist on your phone and take up space. This is a small issue on day one, but after a year when you need more memory, and you cannot delete Candy Crush and VZ Navigator, it’s a problem.
Apple isn’t perfect when it comes to pre-installing apps, like the Apple Watch and Apple News app, but the iPhone app experience out of the box is more of a blank slate. With iOS 10 you can at least remove the user data portion and hide Apple apps.
AppleCare+ iPhone Warranty
Apple offers an iPhone warranty for $99 to $129 that extends the manufacturer’s warranty to two years, adds two years of accidental damage coverage and support by phone or in store. This is AppleCare+ and it is a service that you need to buy, but it is something that most Android phones don’t come with.
AppleCare+ is incredibly handy.
HTC offers a free one-year UhOh protection that covers a cracked screen, water damage or carrier switch. Samsung offers a Galaxy warranty program for the Galaxy S5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge and Galaxy Note 4 for $99 and $129 depending on the phone. This offers similar features to AppleCare+, but you cannot take it into a store for a replacement. On the upside, you can get next business day replacement shipping after the claim is approved.
The rest of the Android smartphone world must rely on more expensive carrier plans or go to third parties. We’ve already come across users paying $9.99 a month with a $99 deductible to get a replacement for a Galaxy S3 Mini.
Apple’s option is a better value than what you will find from most carriers and from what you will find for most Android phones. With the new $29 screen repair option and $99, repair deductible AppleCare+ is an even better value.
Sharing to Other iPhones
AirDrop and other features make sharing between iPhones simple.
When your friends have iPhones sharing everything is a bit easier. For instance, if you want to share your location with friends on iPhone it only takes a tap or two from the message you are sending to share it. Sharing a photo, link or file is also simple with AirDrop.
This seems like a small thing, but once a friend switches to Android you’ll quickly find out that you need to download several apps to maintain the same level of sharing that Apple builds in.
Samsung is making it easier to share between Samsung phones and Android Marshmallow does a better job of Android to Android sharing, but the odds are some of your friends will still be a phone behind you or an update behind you.
We could see Android Nougat help close this lead, but that will only help users if it arrives on their phones.
Worth More When You Resell
The iPhone holds its value better than an Android phone. If you sell your one-year-old or two-year-old Android smartphone, even a flagship device, you will often get much less than you paid.
When you sell an older iPhone, it is easy to find offers of almost double the value of an Android phone that came out at the same time.
An old iPhone is worth more than an old Android phone.
For instance, an entry-level Galaxy S5 from 2014 is worth $70 in flawless condition on Gazelle. The iPhone 6 that came out a few months later is worth $210 in flawless condition.
With better build quality and higher demand on more recent Android devices, this is changing in some instances, but for now, the iPhone still offers a better resale value over time.
Lightning is Miles Better than Micro USB
Apple uses a reversible Lightning cable to charge and sync the iPhone. Lightning is vastly superior to the Micro USB cable that most Android phones use to charge and sync.
Micro USB feels archaic compared to a Lightning cable.
With a Lightning cable, there is no wrong way to plug it in because there is not a top or bottom. Micro USB cables force users to attempt to plug the cord in multiple times before finding the right direction and proper angle.
The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge get around this with support for wireless charging, which is better than Lightning, but there is still a Micro USB cable needed for some activities.
With USB C now in the mix for many new smartphones like the LG V20, there is a serious contender, but for now, it’s still not the single standard across Android. When it is fully supported it will match the Lightning cable.
Apple Stores for Support
When something goes wrong or you break your iPhone and need a replacement fast, there is no substitute for the Apple Store.
If you need to replace your iPhone a trip to the Apple Store can resolve the problem in a few hours instead of waiting a day or two without an iPhone.
Don’t discount the support you can get an Apple Store.
Customer support at an Apple Store is often a step above what Android manufacturers can provide over the phone or at specialty shops inside Best Buy.
Apple Store staff can also use some flexibility in helping users who need a replacement device and there are even out of warranty replacements that are significantly cheaper than buying an iPhone off contract.
Ease of Use Wins Over Android
The iPhone is still easier to use for many owners.
The iPhone is still easier to pick up and use without issues than most Android phones on the market.
Google delivers more ease of use than in older versions of Android, but not all phones run these updates yet. Samsung has come a long way in making Android easier to adopt with an Easy Mode, but there are still issues.
While helping friends and family with iPhone and Android there are more instances where I need to help turn a setting on again on Android than on iPhone and it takes users longer to understand how something works.
This isn’t an issue for power users, but for the average user who doesn’t want settings to change randomly or for WiFi or Cellular to randomly turn off crippling functionality it is a real issue.
My in-laws are constantly coming close to data overages because they inadvertently turn off WiFi on the Galaxy S7.
Easily control your music and more with iPhone headphones.
If you love to listen to music and you constantly need to control what you are listening to, the iPhone has an advantage thanks to headphones that can control many aspects of playback.
The standard iPhone headphones, and most third-party ones can play, pause, skip forward or back a track and that’s just music. iPhone users can also control volume without grabbing the phone thanks to volume up and down buttons. Apple includes an option to launch Siri so that users can make a phone call and perform other activities.
This is a small win, but it is a very convenient one that we miss when we switch to most Android phones. We are seeing more Android headphone control options, but it’s far from universal.
iMessage, FaceTime & FaceTime Audio
Apple makes it easier to communicate with other iPhone and iPad owners with a trio of services that allow for fast and simple connectivity.
iMessage allows users to send longer messages at one time and the messages can go to any Apple device that user owns.
Apple makes communication with other iPhone users easier.
FaceTime delivers an excellent way to video chat. Unlike Hangouts, it is built into the phone app so it is easy to switch from phone call to video call with the push of a button.
FaceTime Audio also helps iPhone users call when coverage is spotty, by using data to make an audio call. FaceTime Audio calls also sound better much better than a normal call and work when you have a poor cell signal, but still have WiFi.
Better Control of Notifications
The iPhone still does a better job of managing notifications. Android makes it easier to clear out your notifications, but we still prefer Apple’s separation of notifications, options and what’s happening now to what Google and Samsung offer.
With the iPhone, you can see a short summary of what’ happening today and access widgets that keep you up to date and then tap into Notifications. Unlike with Samsung devices and stock Android devices, there are no settings options to accidentally toggle while looking at notifications.
Storage Use and Carrier Options
No matter what carrier you walk into in the U.S. you can get the same color iPhone as any other major carrier and the same storage options.
Sure, Samsung simplified things with the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, offering similar colors and only one storage option across carriers, but there are still issues.
You can add a Micro SD card to the Galaxy S7 Edge and S7, but the phone won’t treat it the same as if you had a 64GB or 128GB iPhone.
The Galaxy S7 does not support an Android feature that essentially tricks the phone into thinking your Micro SD card is part of the internal storage. Because of this, you cannot move all apps to the SD card (although you can move many) and apps that you use widgets for are not good to move to the SD card.
When you compare this to a 64GB iPhone 6s that treats all storage the same there are still clear advantages despite the higher cost of upgrading to more storage on the iPhone.
The single-bay, 3TB version of the Seagate Personal Cloud NAS box is in a class of its own in terms of value. It also offers surprisingly full-featured software, including IFTTT.
Massive bang for the buck
Excellent streaming and backup features
Integrates with numerous services via the IFTTT portal
Relatively slow performance
Single drive means no data redundancy
For simple setup and straightforward media sharing, Seagate’s Personal Cloud has no peer. It even manages to register itself on the network without user intervention. If that were all there was to it, it would be a great product. But populated with a 3TB hard drive for only $140? If you’re the competition, you’re crying foul. If you’re a consumer: Score!
Streaming, apps, and backup
The Personal Cloud’s multimedia features include the Seagate Media server, Plex Media Server, and Nero MediaHome server. Plex provides client playback apps for just about every computer and mobile device in existence, which picks up the slack that vendors such as Apple have left by not supporting DLNA. Seagate also provides its own multimedia playback apps, but the format support is weak compared to Plex’s. There’s also easy remote access to your box and its files via the company’s Sdrive web portal. Just browse the web portal, enter you username and password, and you have access.
Innocuous in appearance, the Seagate Personal Cloud leverages Seagate’s years of experience with NAS into a highly affordable media streamer and backup solution for the home.
Other apps include a BitTorrent client (albeit a primitive one), BitTorrent sync, and WordPress. Not an extensive collection, but nice basics. The HTML interface used for configuring the box isn’t quite as impressive as the windowed systems used by the QNAP, TerraMaster, Synology, and Zyxel NAS boxes, but it’s every bit as usable, and it has an appealingly clean look and design.
The Personal Cloud is extremely versatile for backup, with local-to-remote and remote-to-local backup via rsync, ftp, and other protocols. And it gets better: Seagate throws in support for IFTTT, a service aggregation portal that links the Personal Cloud with online services, including IoT services.
Seagate’s Personal Cloud interface is minimalistic and easy to use. It belies the unit’s surprisingly powerful feature set.
IFTTT (IF This, Then That) let’s you define actions such as, “If I add a file to Dropbox, then copy that file to OneDrive” or “then copy that file to my Personal Cloud NAS.” You can use IFTTT to back up Instagram to the Personal Cloud, photos you’re tagged in on Facebook to the Personal Cloud, and so on. There’s more, but IFTTT is cool, and you should check it out even if you don’t buy a Personal Cloud.
The Personal Cloud—at least the single-drive, low-end version with a Marvell 385 CPU that we tested—lagged behind the pack in performance. It’s anywhere from 20- to 40MBps slower reading and writing than most of the competition. That’s not surprising given there’s only 512GB of system memory and a slowish hard drive inside. But that’s still fast enough to stream 4K UHD HDR (2160p) video to at least one device.
The Seagate 3TB Personal Cloud isn’t barn burner, but it delivered faster write performance than the QNAP TS-251A.
What the comparatively slow performance really means is that large-scale copy operations and backups to the Personal Cloud won’t be as quick as with most of the boxes. But unless you have a truly staggering amount of data, don’t worry about it—it’s fast enough.
Minor nits and a caveat
My only real nit with the single-bay, 3TB Personal Cloud is its inability to power down and wake up according to a schedule. You can shut down the unit from the browser interface, and there’s a triangular power button on the back to wake it up, but scheduling would largely eliminate the need.
Also, the Personal Cloud’s trick of showing up on your network without having to define a workgroup, as per usual, has a side effect. When the Personal Cloud was the first device powered up on the network, it prevented Windows from enumerating other NAS boxes; i.e., the other boxes didn’t show up in Windows Explorer. They could still be addressed explicitly (\\TS-251\, etc.), but whatever trick Seagate is using—and it’s a clever one—needs a little tweaking.
Ports are minimal on the Personal Cloud, but adequate. That hard-to-see triangle on the far left is the power button.
Note that while other Personal Cloud models share the same ease of setup and feature set, we’re talking specifically about the single-bay 3TB Personal Cloud whose bargain price has a great deal to do with its appeal. The 4TB version is still a reasonably good deal, but the others don’t offer nearly the same value.
Warning: If you plan to store irreplaceable data on this single-drive box, make sure it’s synced elsewhere or backed up to a USB drive.
Nits don’t matter
Minor complaints aside, the single-bay 3TB Personal Cloud delivers mega-bang for the buck and provides all the streaming and backup features you could possibly need, including portal access and cloud storage if you want it. It’s also cheap enough that you can test out the NAS concept to see if it’s for you without breaking the bank. It’s a major steal.
When we choose a smartphone, we may focus on their design, functions, hardware, camera, battery, and price. For some parts of users, camera for them is very important, so we have selected top 4 best camera smartphones such as Vivo Xplay 6, Oneplus 3T ,Meizu Pro 6 Plus and Xiaomi MI5S plus, which one is your most ideal photographing smartphone?
Vivo Xplay 6: The king of HIFI
Vivo starts from HiFi feature, this smartphone, VIVO Xplay 6 is the first one to use ES9038 chipset to guarantee the music quality. Besides, the photographing pictures are also first-class. Besides, it has 5.46-inch QHD AMOLED Dual-Curved Gorilla Glass Display, 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, powered by 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, RAM 6GB ROM 128GB internal storage, ES9038 + 3xOPA1622 audio chip, dual SIM card, dual standby, running Android6.0 OS, 4G LTE, etc.
Oneplus 3T: The King of Performance
Oneplus 3T is regarded as the amazing smartphone with best performance whether in China or overseas, which is a big praise for Oneplus. It is powered by Snapdragon 821 Quad core 2.35GHz processor RAM 6GB ROM 64GB internal storage, equipped with Dash quick charge, and top photographing effect with 16.0MP rear camera with Sony IMX 298 sensor + sensor 16.0MP front camera with Samsung 3P8SP. It has 5.5 inch FHD Corning Gorilla Glass 4, it has NFC function, 4G LTE network and dual SIM card, dual standby.
Meizu Pro 6 Plus: The King of Regrets
By the end of 2016, Meizu has finally released its first real flagship smartphone,Meizu Pro 6 Plus with Exynos 8890 processor, but the only one regret is that it has no Netcom. It comes with 5MP front camera and 12MP back camera with autofocus and flash light, f/2.0 aperture. Besides,it comes with 5.7 inch 2K screen, 4GB RAM + 64GB/128GB ROM internal storage, although it can’t be top 1 in its hardware, in terms of taking photos, it can bring your amazing effect.
Xiaomi MI5s Plus: Real Dual Camera Phone
In 2016, Xiaomi released Xiaomi MI5S and Xiaomi MI5S Plus, many fans may be confused to make choice between them, but Xiaomi MI5S plus with dual rear camera will be more suitable for taking better photos. It has Dual 13.0MP rear-facing cameras with PDAF and dual-tone flash light + 4.0MP front-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture, and we have tested it before. Besides, it has 5.7 inch FHD screen, powered by Snapdragon 821 Quad core 2.35GHZ Processor, RAM 4GB ROM 64GB internal storage, supporting fingerprint scanner, dual SIM card, 4G LTE network. Right now during Chinese new year, Xiaomi MI5S Plus also enjoys price off.
Therefore, whether playing games or taking photos, this three smartphones are the best ones to make ultimate experience for you, so which one you will choose depends on your interest. Time to make decision.
The 2017 Chevy Malibu is a far cry from the boring rental car option you spent three days in after a long flight. A stylish exterior and plenty of legroom combine with a good driving experience to check the boxes you need on a car you’ll own for years, instead of tolerating for a long weekend.
New for 2017 Chevy adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support to the base radio and adds in Teen Driver controls to the entry level option for more control over what your teen can do in the car when you aren’t riding shotgun.
The 2017 Malibu Hybrid delivers better fuel economy without taking performance down a notch. This car is comfortable for short and longer trips, but the batteries take away some trunk space so that is something you will need to keep in mind for any longer trips.
The 2017 Chevy Malibu Hybrid delivers great fuel economy.
We spent a week driving the 2017 Malibu Hybrid, which includes a nice set of base features and upgrades from the entry-level model. Buyers get an extended warranty on the hybrid drivetrain parts, providing peace of mind in the event that something goes wrong while you own the car.
WHAT WE LOVE
Great fuel economy
Quick acceleration and good handling
Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Chevy MyLink
4G LTE Hotspot with Remote Start/Unlock from Phone
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Low beam headlights are weak.
Smaller trunk due to batteries.
The 2017 Chevy Malibu is a far cry from the boring rental car option you spent three days in after a long flight. A stylish exterior and plenty of legroom combine with a good driving experience to check the boxes you need on a car you’ll own for years, instead of tolerating for a long weekend.
The 2017 Chevy Malibu starts at $21,680 for the base model. Upgrading to the Malibu Hybrid brings the starting price up to $27,335. We enjoyed the Driver Confidence Package ($1,195) and the Convenience & Technology package ($895) that are well worth the price.
Driving & Performance
The 2017 Chevy Malibu Hybrid delivers a very good driving experience with responsive steering and acceleration. Chevy delivers very good braking that captures power to the battery while maintaining the familiar feel of a gas car. In many hybrids, the recapture process leads to brakes that feel too grabby, but that is not an issue on the Malibu.
The 2017 Chevy Malibu Hybrid offers snappy acceleration and a good overall ride.
While not outright sporty, acceleration is quite good thanks to the added boost from the electric motors. When the car switches to gas power the transition feels seamless, though you will hear the gas engine come to life. The road noise, and with it engine noise, is louder than expected. The ride is good even on poor roads and the car is responsive to your controls.
This hybrid car uses a combination of gas and electric to stretch your fuel longer. You won’t be traveling on all electric for very long, but thanks to smart switching, regenerative braking and the ability to stay on the electric motors longer the fuel economy is very good.
The EPA rating is 49 city, 43 highway and 46 mixed. This is in line with what we saw during specific drive tests. The overall combined rating was lower for our week with the car, likely due to inclement weather and a more aggressive driving style for parts of the testing.
Design & Interior
The newer Malibu models catch your eye with a commanding front and stylish sides that make this mid-size car stand out from the pack. LED daytime running lights also help draw attention to the front of the ride. On the outside, you won’t see much of a difference between the gas and the hybrid model, but you do lose some trunk space. The rear seats fold down, but thanks to the battery placement you can only slide small items through this area.
The 2017 Chevy Malibu interior alternates between cloth and plastic.
Inside there is plenty of room for the driver and passengers with good rear legroom. Even though the roof slopes quite dramatically on the outside headroom isn’t an issue for most passengers. The seats are comfortable, but firm, and offer many adjustments to find a comfortable position.
The cloth accents on the dash and doors offer a nice respite from the rest of the plastic interior and the checked pattern spruces up the interior.
Technolgy and Safety
The Chevy MyLink system is easy to use and offers fast access to tools you need on the road. The onboard 4G LTE connection lets you use the car as a hotspot to connect to the Internet and also allows you to use the myChevrolet Mobile app to start and stop the car, lock and unlock and quickly send directions from your phone to the car. This is all in addition to OnStar.
Chevy MyLink includes app support for Pandora and other services. It responds fast to touch and includes all the features we need right off the bat. If you plug in a supported iPhone or Android smartphone you can use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. These put a familiar interface and familiar voice control options on the screen. From an iPhone, this also delivers much better access to messages. This support is standard across the entire Malibu lineup.
Teen Driver controls are also standard with important safety changes and even a report card on driving behavior. With this enabled, you can control:
Muting audio when front-seat occupants aren’t wearing their safety belts
Giving audible and visual warnings when the vehicle is traveling over preselected speeds
Setting a limit on music volume
Preventing available active safety features, such as Park Assist (if equipped), from being turned off
An in-vehicle report card that informs you if safety features like available Forward Collision Alert or Forward Automatic Braking (if equipped) were triggered
Parents will also appreciate the rear seat reminder chime and alert. If you open the rear doors right before, or during a trip, you will get an alert to check the back seat when you turn the car off. This will help you avoid leaving a child or pet in the car.
Chevy offers an array of safety features on the 2017 Malibu.
With the Driver Confidence Package you gain automatic high-beam headlights, which you will definitely use due to the poor reach of the low beams, as well as other safety features such as:
Front and rear parking sensors
Forward collision alert
Rear cross traffic alert
Lane keep assist
Front automatic braking at low speeds
Blind zone alerts
With the Convenience and Technology package you also gain remote start, a larger screen on the dash, wireless device charging, a 110 V outlet in the back, leather wrapped wheel and USB charging ports in the back seat.
Recently, at CES 2017, Nokia has officilally released Nokia 6 smartphone at 1,699 yuan, $283. Someone said Redmi 4 with Snapdragon 430 only sells at 699 yuan, $100, but Nokia 6 sells at much higher price, which makes us unacceptable. But others claim that Nokia 6 has nice design, and good specs, they will choose Nokia 6. So what’s the main difference between Nokia 6 and Redmi 4?
Currenlty, Nokia 6 only has one version, Redmi 4 has standard version and advanced version, and the standard version of Redmi 4 is equipped with same processor as Nokia 6.
You can check the specs comparison between Nokia 6 and Redmi 4. From the specs, they both are powered by Snapdragon 430 processor, but Redmi 4 with cheaper price have big gap with Nokia 6 in screen resolution, storage, camera, design, etc. If we want to compare, Redmi 4 advanced version will be more proper.
Redmi 4 Pro has 5 inch 1080P screen, which belong to the same specs as Nokia 6, it comes with Snapdragon 625 Octa core processor which is more powereful than Snapdragon 430 processor, and it is built in 4,100mAh battery, which has more advantages. Of course, Redmi 4 advanced version has some gaps compared with Nokia 6 in design and internal storage.
Nokia 6 uses 6,000 aluminium magnesium alloy metal design with OGS technology, we can hardly see the gap between screen and frame. It comes with 2.5D curved glass screen, under the screen, it is the semi-round fingerprint scanner on the home button with more mature design.
Nokia 6 only has black color with unibody, adopting curved antenna design on the back, it has quite simple design on the back with camera, LED and logo in symmetrical design, which looks very exquisite.
Redmi 4 as a budget 150usd smartphone, the appearance is not as ripe as Nokia 6,it has 5 inch 2.5D curved glass, three virtual buttons under the screen. It adopts metal design with three colors, golden, silver, and grey color, similar to Redmi Note 4.
In terms of design, Nokia 6 belongs to flagship standard, but redmi 4 can’t compare with Nokia 6.
Redmi 4 is common in camera, but Nokia 6 comes with dual camera, 8MP front and 16MP back camera to support the function of auto sensing the scene, therefore, Nokia 6 is better than Redmi 4.
Redmi 4 runs MIUI 8 OS based on Android6.0 OS, but Nokia 6 runs Android7.0 OS, most interface is similar to the original OS, only customizing lightly in some icons and design. In OS, MIUI OS has more advantage.
In battery, Nokia 6 is built in 3,000mAh battery, but Redmi 4 is built in 4,000mAh big battery, due to Nokia 6 with larger screen and smaller battery capacity, as for battery life, Redmi 4 is more excellent.
Nokia 6 adopts dual speaker with Dolby Atmos sound effect, in music quality, it will have nice performance, and Redmi 4 has one specail feature to support infrared remote control.
Nokia 6 is better in design, camera, storage, sound effect, etc, but the price is a little higher for some users. As for Redmi 4, it has advantages such as battery, OS, Infrared remote control, low price, etc. Therefore, if you prefer the design, camera, brand, just choose Nokia 6, but if you are into cheaper price, more competitive performance, why not try Redmi 4?
Recently, we were reviewing the Cube Mix Plus, a high-end tablet PC running on Windows 10. But the selling point of this device is considered to be the phrase ‘worthy continuation of the Cube i7 Book.’ So we decided to take a peek at a device that has been talked so much. Before we start the review you should know the Cube i7 Book is priced very low – only $330. But don’t be confused with the price tag, because I assure you we are dealing with another top-end device capable of providing great performance.
CPU: Intel Core m3-6Y30 dual-core clocked at 0.9GHz (Up to 2.2GHz)
GPU: Intel HD Graphics Gen9
OS: Windows 10
Memory: 4GB of RAM, 64GB microSD card expandable up to 128GB
Display: 10.6-inch LCD at 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution and 10-point touch
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11a / b / g /n, Bluetooth 4.0
Interfaces: 3.5mm audio jack, USB 3.0, USB Type-C
If we say the Cube Mix Plus is the improved version of the Cube i7 Book, then the latter is the improved model of the Cube i7 Stylus. (Thus this mean we’ll review it as the follow? Who knows?) This simply means our hero is compatible with stylus as well.
Like other high-end tablet PCs the Cube i7 Book features a metal housing. I guess it’s made of aluminum.
Two speakers are located on the upper and lower right hand side. They are stereo and I have to say I am satisfied with the sound quality.
The Cube i7 Book comes with dual-camera – one at 2MP is located on the front above the screen, while the second one at 5MP is placed on the back. 2MP or 5MP camera module is not anything incredible, but they are sufficient for video chat and capturing the most important moments, respectively.
The power button along with the volume rocker are on the top side.
All the ports are located on the left side. The latter carries an 3.5mm audio jack, microSD card slot, USB Type-C port, microUSB 3.0 port, and DC port.
At last, the tablet PC comes at dimensions of 27.30 x 17.20 x 0.96 cm and weighs 728 grams. Seems the tablet is a bit heavier, but do not forget it comes with a LCD, which is considered to be the way heavier than other displays. On the other hand, this is not the weight you have to worry about, because you can do anything you want with a single hand.
The keyboard is sold separately. It is made of the same material as the tablet. Thus this keyboard has been designed especially for this device. So it turns out metal housing gives a feeling of a high-class ultrabook.
As you see, the docking connector and two legs are designed in the way to fix the tablet steady. So you can adjust any opening angle. Unlike many other tablet PCs, this one can stand in different ways similar to Voyo Vbook V3.
The distance between the keys and their height are good enough. So the typing causes no problem. I have been testing the keyboard for a long time and the most impressive thing was its noiseless operation. If all keyboard for tablet PCs come at this quality, no one will turn to top end ultrabooks.
The touchpad works well as well. There is also a dedicated button to turn the touchpad on or off. So you are insured of undesirable touches.
The tablet PC comes with an Intel Core m3-6Y30 SoC. The m line CPUs are more adopted than i series processors, because the former one comes with reduced power consumption. Moreover, the m line chips come with better GPU performance in comparison to i series products. The GPU belongs to the family of Skylake Gen 9 Graphics. Core m3-6Y30 is intended for lighter work with apps when opening a number of tabs. In practice, if you open 2-3 different and heavy apps, there will be some difficulties. But if you launch more than one tabs in Google Chrome the web surfing process will be smooth.
Generally, the m3 CPU is equivalent to Core i5. But many users don’t agree with this statement saying i line products come with different architecture and it’s not reasonable to compare m and i processors. Anyway, we have to write down the GPU performance is improved in this chip.
To test the CPU in practice I run Photoshop and worked with stylus as well. No problem occurred during the work, and I have to say the Intel Core m3-6Y30 is really capable of providing good experience.
As for connectivity, the Cube i7 Book comes with 64GB SSD and it’s the way better and faster than the eMMC storages found on many Chinese tablet PCs. Besides this it comes with a USB Type-C, which boosts the data transfer as well. However, the charging can be done only via the DC port, and it doesn’t support USB Type-C port charging.
We also have a 4300mAh battery that can provide up to 6 hours of video watching or up to 2 days of web surf. Thus if you use your device carefully it can serve you 2-3 days on a single charge.
The Cube i7 Book sports all the features making it a high-end device. I mean the Full HD screen, Intel Core m3-6Y30 latest CPU, good memory combination, large capacity battery, good connectivity options including USB 3.0 and USB Type-C ports, Windows 10 OS and many more. On the other hand, the body is made of metal and it looks like a top-notch device. I am not talking about its compatibility with a docking keyboard and a stylus. Shortly, the Cube i7 Book offers anything you need. And this beast can become yours for only $330. If you want to acquire a complete bundle including the keyboard and stylus, it will cost you $440. Thus even this set costs less than many top-end ultrabooks or tablet PCs from this niche.
Hands-on with the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 : A great, affordable telephoto lens with impressive optics and build
600mm (900mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 360.
Although the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 (Model A011) lens was released in December of 2013, not that long ago in terms of lenses, Tamron has opted to upgrade it to the new SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 lens (Model A022). The new version was redesigned from the ground up and features improvements to optics, autofocus, vibration compensation and more.
Note: During this review, I will be referencing different areas of performance, such as autofocus speeds, accuracy and optical qualities. I tested the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 lens primarily on a Nikon D500 camera body, but I also tested it with a Nikon D800E for the purposes of evaluating optical quality.
Very good build quality and surprisingly light for what it is
Considering its focal length range of 150-600mm (on a full-frame camera), the Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens is surprisingly lightweight. I tested the Nikon version, which weighs 70.2 ounces (1,990 grams). The Canon version is slightly heavier at 70.9 ounces (2,101 grams). It is a long lens though, especially when fully extended with the lens hood on. At its most compact, the 150-600mm is around 10 inches (257.7 millimeters) long.
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 mounted to a gripped Nikon D500: 150mm (top) vs. 600mm (bottom)
While a fairly large lens, to be sure, it balances nicely on a DSLR with or without a battery grip — it’s slightly more front-heavy with a non-gripped DSLR, but not by a significant amount. the lens also feels comfortable to use due to its good design. The focus ring is closer to the camera body than the zoom ring, which I like, and the lens balances well when holding it under the zoom ring.
The zoom ring has markings at 150, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500 and 600mm. To go from 150 to 600mm is nearly a half rotation, which is very easy to accomplish in a single motion. For transport and storage, the lens can be locked at 150mm using a switch on the barrel of the lens. Furthermore, the zoom ring has an excellent new feature called “Flex Zoom Lock,” which lets you lock the focal length at any distance by simply sliding the zoom ring forward. This is a very handy feature if you find yourself shooting at a single focal length consistently or don’t want to encounter accidental zoom changes while out in the field.
The rotational feel of the zoom ring is pretty smooth, but it does take a moderate amount of force. That’s an advantage in my book, in that it is easy to make fine focal length adjustments. On the other hand, the focus ring requires much less force to rotate, but it is not loose whatsoever and allows for similarly precise adjustments, even of very small increments. The lens also features a focal distance window, showing you where focus is set.
Tamron has also made improvements to the durability of the lens. It has a moisture-resistant construction, including leak-proof seals throughout the lens barrel. Based on Tamron’s published diagrams of the lens, it appears that there are six locations within the lens with weather sealing, which should be plenty to keep the lens safe from the elements. The metal-exterior lens certainly feels and looks to be durable. Its build construction looks to be very impressive for its price. While I will discuss it further in the section on the lens’s optical design, the front element of the lens is coated with a protective fluorine compound as well.
One aspect of the lens’s design which makes it much more user-friendly is that the tripod foot is not only textured, but it also has Arca-Swiss style dovetails built-in and is made of lightweight magnesium. Its use of an Arca-Swiss style interface means it will easily fit into many different tripod heads without any attachments or switching out the foot. It worked nicely with the gimbal head I use on my tripod when shooting with long lenses. I also found the tripod foot to be very stable. I could use live view to quickly check focus on my D800E even when the lens was at 600mm, this is not something I could do with some other long lenses I’ve used because the image has not been stable enough, due in part to weak tripod foot designs.
Overall, this is a well-constructed lens that feels very good in-use and has numerous design elements to help make it a rugged, durable lens, especially considering its cost. Not that it particularly matters, but I also think that the lens looks great.
Optical Quality: Very good overall, but slightly soft at 600mm
600mm (900mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/250s, ISO 400.
The Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens has 21 elements in 13 groups. Three of the elements are low dispersion (LD) elements, which help eliminate chromatic aberrations. The lens also includes various anti-reflection technologies, including “extended bandwidth and angular dependency” (eBAND) and “broad-band anti-reflection” (BBAR) coatings, which aid in the suppression of internal reflections, helping to reduce ghosting and flare in images, particularly when shooting backlit subjects. Further, the front element of the lens has a fluorine coating, as I’ve mentioned, which helps protect the lens from water and oil, but also makes it easier to wipe clean and less susceptible to damage when cleaning when dust or fingerprints do find their way onto the glass.
When shooting the Tamron 150-600mm G2 wide open, it is not a particularly sharp lens. However, let’s keep that in context. It is also a lens that offers the 150 to 600mm focal length range on full-frame cameras for US$1,400. It isn’t fair to expect it to compete with prime lenses at similar focal lengths nor is it fair to expect it to compete with say, the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II lens; it simply can’t. But when you stop the lens down, its performance be quite impressive indeed.
340mm (510mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 360.
In this 100% crop of a processed RAW image, you can see that the Tamron 150-600mm can resolve excellent detail, especially in the middle part of its focal length range.
At 150mm, the lens is moderately sharp wide open, but stopping down to f/8 makes the lens very capable of resolving fine details, especially in the center area of the frame. The lens is quite sharp right to the edge of the frame when stopped down on a full-frame camera. The edges are a bit soft wide open at 150mm, but not dramatically and not nearly as noticeable on an APS-C camera.
150mm (150mm equiv.), f/5.0, ISO 100.
100% center crop from JPEG image straight from the camera (Nikon D800E)
At 300mm, the situation is similar, although the lens is sharp from the get-go, proving to be even sharper when stopped down. In my experience with the lens, anywhere from 200-450mm seems to be the sweet spot for sharpness. You can see how sharp the lens can be in the 100% crop below.
Now we come to the focal length that many users are most interested in shooting at, full telephoto. For a telephoto zoom lens, its longest focal length is where it will see the most action, after all it’s often being used to get as close as possible to a subject. In the case of wildlife photography, it’s unusual for me to zoom out when using a zoom lens. Unfortunately, at 600mm is where we see this lens’ weaknesses become most evident. Corner sharpness falls off dramatically at 600mm f/6.3 and center sharpness is considerably less than it is at 300mm.
600mm (600mm equiv.), f/6.3, ISO 100.
100% center crop from JPEG image straight from the camera (Nikon D800E)
600mm (600mm equiv.), f/11, ISO 100.
100% center crop from JPEG image straight from the camera (Nikon D800E)
When you stop the lens down, center sharpness improves quite a lot, but corner sharpness remains noticeably low. If you don’t have to shoot at 600mm but you need to be wide open, I recommend shooting at 400-500mm if possible, as the cost to resolution is noticeable at 600mm. With that said, for the money, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option to get a 600mm focal length than the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 lens. It is very capable of capturing impressive, sharp images worth printing at large sizes at 600mm f/6.3. It is just that, as is the case with all photographic gear, there are tradeoffs. In this case, you trade critical sharpness for the extra reach.
600mm (900mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 220.
In this 100% crop of a processed RAW image, you can see that the Tamron 150-600mm can resolve good detail at 600mm, but it is noticeably less sharp than images shot at shorter focal lengths.
On an APS-C sensor, the Tamron 150-600mm produces only minor vignette when shooting wide open across the focal length range. The vignette is more obvious at 150mm and 600mm than it is at 300mm, but it’s not bad. Stopping the lens down virtually eliminates any light falloff, but only for very few situations would I consider the vignette when shooting wide open to be problematic.
The situation is quite a bit different on a full-frame sensor. The vignetting is noticeably stronger across the focal length range and seems worst to me at 150mm, okay at 300mm and somewhere in between when shooting at 600mm. As was the case with the APS-C camera, stopping down does help, although there is still vignetting at f/8 when using the Tamron 150-600mm on a full-frame camera.
Overall, if you are using the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 on an APS-C camera, light falloff is not a significant issue. When shooting with the telephoto zoom on a full-frame camera, however, you may need to perform lens corrections if you want to shoot wide open, depending on the subject. In either case, considering the focal length range and price of this lens, I found its handling of vignetting to be quite impressive.
600mm (900mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 500.
In this 100% crop of a processed RAW image (without chromatic aberration correction applied), you can see very minor fringing around high-contrast details. Whatever small amount of chromatic aberration this lens produces is very easily corrected during post-processing.
The Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 handles chromatic aberrations very well. In fact, I had no major issues with aberrations during my time with the lens. Only in extreme scenarios, such as the case of white spots on a black bird, such as in the example crop above, did I see any CA, and even then, it was minor.
Autofocus: Fast overall, noticeably faster at shorter focal lengths
600mm (900mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 900.
Having not used the original model A011 Tamron 150-600mm lens, I cannot comment on autofocus speeds of the new one compared to its predecessor, but I can say that the G2 version focuses quickly in good light, but leaves something to be desired in low light, due in large part to its maximum aperture. Particularly when shooting at 600mm, the lens can be sluggish when shooting in dim conditions. This isn’t a surprise or a knock on the lens, it is a consequence of its reliance on f/6.3 at its longer telephoto focal lengths.
The lens utilizes an Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) ring-type motor to drive its focus, which Tamron states offers “excellent responsiveness and control,” and I would agree with that description in most situations. I also found focus to be quite accurate, although it did occasionally struggle to react quickly to slight changes in a subject’s position, even when continually focusing. However, in a majority of cases, the lens nailed its focus.
600mm (900mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 800.
When you want to fine-tune focus, especially when conditions are dim or challenging for the lens’ autofocus or the camera you’re using doesn’t offer precise enough AF point placement, the G2 version of the lens has full-time manual focus override, which is a great feature and works quite well thanks to the nice focus ring.
In my experience, autofocus was fastest throughout the 150-300mm range, slowing down slightly at 400mm, 500mm and then performing slowest at 600mm. Autofocus was very accurate throughout most of the range, although I did find that at the long end of the lens, I occasionally needed to trigger autofocus multiple times to get the lens to lock on a subject, particularly in low light.
Vibration Compensation: As good as advertised
The Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens has very good image stabilization. Not only does it work well, but it’s full-featured. There are three VC modes: standard, panning and one that prioritizes stabilization during capture but doesn’t worry about stabilizing the image through the viewfinder (in other words, Mode 3 will stabilize when you fully press the shutter button, but not stabilize while half-pressing). The standard mode balances stabilization of captured images and the viewfinder. By using the lens with the optional Tamron TAP-in Console, you can customize the standard (VC Mode 1) vibration compensation to prioritize stabilization during shooting or the viewfinder image.
The VC is rated for 4.5 stops of vibration compensation. In my experience, I could capture sharp images with VC on at 600mm (900mm equivalent on the D500) with shutter speeds as slow as 1/15s, although I achieved more consistent results at 1/30s. At the same focal length, turning off vibration compensation resulted in blurry images at shutter speeds slower than 1/500s.
In the Field: Wildlife Photography
The Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 is clearly well-suited for wildlife photography for a variety of reasons. It isn’t terribly heavy, which is great for when you need to be on the move, either hiking to a location or constantly moving around. A 600mm f/4 lens is going to be great optically, which is no surprise given the large price tags, but it is also going to be a hassle to move around from spot to spot. You can’t easily handhold a big, heavy lens like that, which means that you sometimes miss opportunities. I could comfortably handhold the Tamron 150-600mm for a considerable amount of time; the lens goes to show that you don’t need to have big, heavy glass to enjoy wildlife photography with a DSLR.
450mm (600mm equiv.), f/6.0, 1/500s, ISO 2200.
If you want to shoot wildlife primarily at dawn or dusk, this probably isn’t the lens for you. However, given sufficient light, it autofocuses quickly enough for photographing many kinds of wildlife, including small, fidgety birds. The lens’s continuous autofocus performance was quite good with both Nikon cameras on which I tested the lens, although as I mentioned in the autofocus section above, it did occasionally struggle with quickly making small changes in focus. Further, when doing wildlife photography, I found myself at 600mm much of the time, which does have slower AF speeds than shorter focal lengths. If you’re fortunate enough to be photographing a cooperative subject, the G2 version of the Tamron 150-600mm can close-focus to 86.6 inches (2.2 meters).
For consistently having good wildlife photo opportunities, you must spend money on a telephoto lens. However, the Tamron 150-600mm G2 proves that you don’t need to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars for a good one. The Tamron 150-600mm provides you the opportunity to shoot sharp images at 600mm on a full-frame camera without breaking the bank.
1.4x Teleconverter: Good in bright light, but not very useful in most situations
There are two teleconverters available to use with the 150-600mm G2 lens: a 1.4x and 2.0x converter. I used the 1.4x teleconverter, and it worked quite well in good light, but it does make the lens an f/9 optic when shooting at 600mm, which is quite slow for wildlife photography, especially in any sort of dim light. It obviously decreases sharpness some, but it can perform quite well in the right situation. The 1.4x teleconverter costs around US$420 and the 2.0x teleconverter costs slightly more at $440.
700mm (1050mm equiv.), f/9.0, 1/800s, ISO 360, 1.4x teleconverter.
Conclusion: An excellent value and strong overall performer
What I like:
Versatile focal length, especially on an APS-C sensor
Good optical performance across much of the range
Reasonably compact and lightweight for what it is
Very good vibration compensation performance
Good build quality for the cost
What I dislike:
Sharpness decreases at the extreme telephoto end
Max aperture is limiting in dim lighting conditions
Autofocus can struggle with precision in certain situations
460mm (690mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 125.
Photographers are regularly looking for the ultimate balance in performance and cost and like with all lenses, regardless of specs and price, compromises must be made. The Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 is no exception. It sacrifices maximum aperture for a smaller size, large zoom range and a lower price.
It offers a versatile focal length range that’s suitable for many different subjects, including wildlife and even certain sports. Capturing great photos of wildlife used to be very difficult to achieve without breaking the bank, but with the advances made in camera sensor technology, you no longer need to shoot at f/2.8 or f/4 to capture clean, sharp images at fast enough shutter speeds for freezing action. With that said, this lens is not well-suited for shooting indoor or night sports. The Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 lens costs around US$1,400, which is a very low price for what you are getting: A lens that offers good optical performance across much of its wide telephoto focal length range.
600mm (900mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 400.
How much do you have to spend to get nominal increases in performance across the focal length range? A lot. For photographers using either full-frame or APS-C cameras who desire a lens with a lot of reach but don’t want to spend many thousands of dollars on a lens, I highly recommend giving the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 lens a try, it’s an excellent blend of performance, versatility and value.
An appealing package, complete with good features, but with a very safe sound to go with its unoffending looks
Impressive feature set
Neat control app
Option to add a second speaker
Controlled sound delivery
Plays it too safe – we’d like a more emotional performance
Libratone One Click & One Style
Libratone pulled the rug from under its shiny, plastic rivals when it launched its cashmere-clad Beat portable speaker.
Six years on, the company is practically a veteran of the portable speaker maker family and models encased in natural fibres have become the exception rather than the rule.
The One Style is very much part of the new rule. A minimalist – harsher critics may say, slightly bland – looking design, its standout feature is the thick rubber bumper that surrounds the chassis.
This frame also provides a handle with which you can carry the Libratone, as well as hang it up on a suitable chunky hook – kitchen pot rack, we’re looking at you here.
You can also remove the rubber frame – Libratone says that this enables you to personalise the unit, but we couldn’t find the frames for sale alone on its online store.
Either way, the chance of many users paying to do this strikes us as doubtful – but we probably also said that about fleece-covered speakers back in the day.
Removable frame aside – or not aside, as the case may be – the Libratone feels well finished. That bumper lends a sense of bump-based security, and the grille’s mesh is neat.
And, like any good Scandinavian, it doesn’t mind a bit of challenging weather, rating at IPX4 for its splash-proof abilities.
In response to our gentle digs about its plain appearance, the One Style produces a pretty fancy feature list from its rubberised pocket.
The built-in battery, Libratone claims, is good for up to 12 hours of fun, and it will play nicely with Bluetooth devices –plus there is a 3.5mm aux-in.
It’s an inclusive sort, too – if you buy another unit you can use the ‘Bluetooth +1’ feature to enable a two-speaker set-up.
To do this, download the free app, which is available for iOS and Android. It’s a smartly designed interface, which also lets you adjust sound settings, plus access – and add to favourites – internet radio stations. Nice touches.
This model is also one of the portable speaker breeds to allow the pairing of two phones. The thinking here is that, say, you and a buddy can take turns in playing tracks. Very democratic.
The claimed acoustic performance is also extremely free and easy, offering ‘360° sound’. The speaker system, from which this all-encompassing music is to emanate, counts a passive radiator, a tweeter, and a woofer.
Business sorts, as well as cooks with sticky fingers, may appreciate the speakerphone. And, well, that’s your lot. But quite a lot it is, too.
So we’ve got solid build quality, plus a spec sheet which brims with special tricks. All we need now is great sound. And the One Style has a good go at this last demand, but it doesn’t quite scale the heights of its rivals.
Frustratingly, it’s close, but there is no need for the cigar cutter. We say frustratingly as, to rival the best, this speaker just needs to let itself go.
As with its looks, when it comes to sound, the One Style plays safe. Bass is fine. Midrange is fine. Treble is fine. Overall presentation is good. Lower frequencies don’t swamp, mids don’t recede, and treble doesn’t bite.
Everything sounds very pleasant. Detail is fair, too, so play Bowie’s Candidate and the speaker lays out the track in an orderly fashion.
But while Candidate merits military-like order to its marching beat, as the track progresses it also needs to be let off the sergeant major’s leash.
The Libratone, though, steadfastly remains in step, refusing to cast off its inhibitions and really go for it.
The result is that you’re left wanting for that extra snap from percussion, a more powerful bass punch, and increased levels of emotion and realism from vocals.
The danger here is that we condemn the One Style with slightly above average praise. That’s not our intention. This is a good speaker, and a fine package at that.
And we recognise the thought put into extras, such as the app, which is a successful addition.
But audio is the issue here. The Libratone is up against more exciting-sounding rivals, and it’s in the emotion stakes that it doesn’t quite reach out and touch you.
But for those looking for a controlled performance it remains well worth a listen.
Despite all their merits, Samsung flagships don’t seem to enjoy the same popularity as Apple’s iPhones. They’re pretty ubiquitous, of course. But many people think Samsung phones aren’t as hip as iPhones for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons make sense to just about anybody who’s familiar with the smartphone world. But others are pretty incomprehensible if you like Samsung devices or are a fan of Android.
Nonetheless, the reasons why people choose one brand of phone over another are pretty interesting. If you’re curious about why Samsung phones just aren’t as cool as iPhones no matter how many great features and impressive components Samsung adds, read on. These are some of the reasons why people still think a Samsung phone just isn’t as cool as an iPhone.
1. iPhones are more recognizable than Samsung phones
It’s easier to recognize an iPhone from other smartphones | iStock.com/Prykhodov
Not everybody follows the news on the latest smartphone releases. And for people who don’t, the array of smartphones available at Best Buy or at a carrier’s store can be a pretty confusing lineup. But Apple’s ubiquitous advertising guarantees even people who are pretty indifferent to smartphones know what an iPhone looks like. They see iPhones everywhere and assume iPhones are more hip than whatever Samsung is offering.
2. People hear about Apple more often than they hear about Samsung
Apple is heard about more often than Samsung is | iStock.com/RossHelen
Many people assume the brand they’ve heard the most about is the best choice. And for the average person who doesn’t seek out information about gadgets and tech companies, the brand they hear mentioned the most is probably Apple. Sure, Samsung makes headlines. (And it feels like we’ll never hear the end of the Galaxy Note 7 debacle.) But for every article, column, and blog post U.S. outlets run about Samsung, there seem to be at least 10 about Apple.
3. Apple only makes high-end devices
All of Apple’s devices are high-end | Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Apple rather famously aims for the high end of the smartphone market and ignores the rest of it. Some people interpret that choice to mean Apple’s iPhone lineup is better than Samsung’s smartphone lineup, which includes a variety of mid-range and lower-end smartphones both for the U.S. and for other markets around the world. The reality is that Samsung’s high-end phones compare pretty favorably to iPhones and are better than iPhones in some regards.
4. Samsung’s smartphone lineup can get a little confusing
Samsung’s lineup isn’t as clear as Apple’s | Johannes Eisele/Getty Images
Even for people who follow the Samsung rumor mill pretty closely, Samsung’s ever-changing smartphone lineup can get pretty confusing. There are high-end flagship phones, which are pretty easy to keep track of. But the company also introduces a dizzying array of mid-range phones and low-end devices each year. Some of those devices are available in the U.S. shortly after their launch, and others will make their way stateside in the subsequent months. But many Samsung devices aren’t offered in the U.S., and that can get pretty confusing pretty quickly.
5. Some people want a gadget that works out of the box, not one that requires customization
iPhones work great right out of the box, but so do Samsung phones | Sean Gallup/Getty Images
People believe plenty of outdated myths and misconceptions about Android and iOS and how the two compare. So it’s hardly surprising that many people think their only option if they don’t want to spend a lot of time customizing a new device is to go with an iPhone. Of course, that assumption issues the point. And though you can customize an Android device, you don’t have to. But many people like the idea of a phone that won’t take more than a few minutes to set up. For those people, an iPhone seems like a better choice than a Samsung phone.
6. The App Store can look more polished than the Google Play Store
The App Store has a polished, clean look | Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Great apps from independent developers and titles from major development studios alike are available for both iOS and Android. And with a bit of digging (or Googling), you can unearth truly awesome apps for both platforms. But if you’re looking for an app store with a hip design and lots of visually appealing titles, the iOS App Store is likely to win out over the Play Store. Throw in some enduring misconceptions, like the myth that malware-infected apps don’t make their way to the App Store, and you may understand why people prefer the app store on an iPhone to the app store on a Samsung phone.
7. Americans like the idea of a smartphone designed in the United States
Apple is an American company | Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images
If you’re wondering why Americans are all about iPhones instead of Samsung phones, one reason you may not have considered is the fact that Apple is an American company. iPhones aren’t made in the U.S., of course. But plenty of people seem to like the idea that their iPhones were designed by an American company. Most people aren’t even sure where Samsung is headquartered or where it manufactures its devices. But they do know that Apple is based in Cupertino, California, and they seem to like knowing that.
8. Most people aren’t comparing pure specifications
Samsung phones may have better specs than iPhones | George Frey/Getty Images
Staunch Samsung devotees argue iPhones rarely beat Samsung flagships and other high-end Android phones when it comes to specifications. That’s usually pretty true. But when they’re considering a smartphone purchase, most people don’t sit down and make a chart to compare the specifications of each of their top choices. Most people aren’t looking for the very best numbers. So it probably doesn’t matter to them that a Samsung flagship may be better than an iPhone when it comes to specifications.
9. Apple has told Americans what to think about Samsung
Apple hurt Samsung’s reputation | Kena Betancur/Getty Images
Tech companies are constantly suing each other for grievances big and small. And not every patent battle really turns out to be worth fighting. But by constantly targeting Asian smartphone manufacturers like Samsung with patent infringement lawsuits, Apple has pretty effectively told Americans what to think about Samsung. Plenty of Americans now think that Samsung and others simply produce iPhone clones. The fact that this isn’t true doesn’t matter. It still hurts Samsung’s reputation.
By most accounts, Tesla Model 3 is the coolest thing to ever happen to electric cars. It’s like a hip nephew of the trailblazing Model S. The technology, performance, and style are all there. Then the fact that many more people can afford Model 3 makes it a home run. But we’ve heard about awesome future EVs from many automakers. To date, the only one with a real production schedule is Chevrolet Bolt EV.
So we hold Tesla to the same standard we’ve held the rest: Talk to us when it’s available to buy and drive. (Seriously, let us know. We made a reservation.) Until that day comes, skeptics will be out there circulating theories about why the release date is fictional or more likely to arrive in 2019. We don’t blame them. After all, Model S and X both had significant delays, and complaints about early build-quality suggest they were appropriate.
Tesla Model 3 delays would be rough for the EV maker, but there are ways to avoid them | Tesla
This plan of attack will not work for a car Tesla hopes to sell in high volume right off the bat. Delays on 100,000 orders and/or production issues would create a nightmare for the company at the moment it expects to enter the limelight. Here are four things the EV maker can do to avoid major Model 3 delays.
1. Near-production models in 2016
Now that designs are finished, real-world testing ms accelerate quickly | Tesla
This one sounds obvious. To get the parts necessary to deliver a car to tens of thousands of consumers in 2017, Tesla would need to give exact specs to manufacturers long in advance, and that takes real-world testing. We have yet to see reports of suppliers who have that information as of the fourth quarter in 2016.
Back in July, the “pencils down” moment for the final design arrived, which was the essential first step in the process. According to skeptical auto industry executives speaking to Reuters in May, the timeline was already stressed for a company hoping to launch an all-new EV by the third quarter of 2017.
2. Keep it simple
Tesla CEO Elon Musk demonstrates the falcon wing doors at the Tesla Model X launch | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Part of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s rationale behind the quick Model 3 launch is it will have fewer parts than other cars — even fewer than Model S. The idea was keeping it as simple as possible so the launch would be faster and smoother than with previous cars. Unless we hear of problems well ahead of the release date, we can buy this line of reasoning.
Model 3 will not have over-the-top design elements like the falcon-wing doors that plagued the company’s SUV. Skeptics might say any all-new car will have its issues during early production; Tesla planned for at least some in its delivery plans. According to the automaker, the first deliveries will go to Californians so problems are resolved in a timely fashion. Then production should continue as scheduled.
3. A massive plant upgrade
Tesla began the process of expanding its Fremont plant in October | Tesla
In addition to perfecting the actual car, Tesla needs a great deal more space to produce 500,000 vehicles by 2018. According to the Los Angeles Times, this effort has already begun in earnest. Tesla bought a 25-acre lot north of its Fremont plant and submitted a proposal to the city zoning commission to double its factory footprint.
Next up is preparing the machinery that would produce Model 3 in volume. As we saw from the ramp-up of Model S production and its impact on the Model X launch, Tesla is still small enough to struggle in this aspect of the business. Avoiding future delays requires a bigger, smoother plant operation by fall 2017.
4. Raise more money
Money may be able to buy an accelerated production schedule | David McNew/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the auto industry who doubted Tesla’s ability to rush Model 3 to completion mentioned there was one thing that could help — money. By paying a premium for advanced production schedules and hiring more engineers to perfect designs, there is the possibility Model 3 could become another chapter in the Elon Musk legend.
Getting that money means convincing investors this third-gen Tesla will be the game-changer Musk said it will be. Will it be worth another extended cash crunch for a company not known for its profitability? Grabbing market share in this industry takes aggressive moves of this nature. Maybe the course Musk charted will be the right one after all.
You could well be forgiven for doing a double-take when you see the JVC LT-43C862. With a price tag of just£379/$568, you might expect yet another bargain basement box. Yet the specification tells a different story. This is a UHD screen with the latest Freeview Play tuner and connected smart TV platform.
Could this be the best cheap 4K TV deal yet?
DESIGN AND BUILD
Admittedly this 43-inch TV isn’t going to win any design awards. At 260mm deep, it isn’t exactly thin. Style-wise, it’s circa 2014. The same goes for the chrome trim, which feels a little rough around the edges, and the shiny bolt-on feet. A JVC logo pouts from the bulge at the bottom of the screen.
Connectivity is solid, though. There are four HDMIs, three USBs (one is a fast 3.0 variant), PC VGA, scart, component/composite AV with stereo audio, and an optical audio output. All four HDMIs are 4K HDCP 2.2 compliant – necessary if you want to connect 4K Blu-ray, Sky Q 4K, PS4 Pro and so on.
In addition, there’s also a CI slot for those that want such things, and Ethernet LAN and Wi-Fi network connectivity, too.
The TV comes with an IR remote control that appears to take its design cue from a bow-tie; note its shape, below. That said, it’s light and comfortable to use and there’s a prominent dedicated Netflix button up top, for when you just can’t get to Stranger Things quick enough.
FEATURES AND USABILITY
This JVC may be cheap, but the spec is forward facing. That Freeview Play tuner combines a rollback programme guide for all those shows you’ve missed, which is allied to a full complement of catch-up services: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5.
Just use the programme listing to search for items you may have missed. If the programme is available, then the EPG will simply fire up the relevant channel catch-up player.
The set also supports time-shifting to a connected USB hard drive, while a media browser works on networked NAS devices as well as thumbdrives. Navigation is relatively sprightly, and I had no issues playing back MKVs.
Getting around is straightforward. The main menu system uses a graphical vertical strip, listing system, installation channel list, media browser and internet. There’s also a quick menu that takes you to a smattering of sub-menus, including audio and image presets.
The screen’s apps portal, which comprises a large window with apps arranged on the right, is a tad undernourished. Nevertheless, Netflix 4K and YouTube are present. You’ll also find BBC News and Sport, plus some superfluous social media apps.
There’s plenty to like about this screen, provided you take on board the usual caveats that come with any budget buy.
Picture presets comprise Natural, Cinema, Game, Sports and Dynamic. Most offer adjustable Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness and Colour settings. An Advanced menu also moderates contrast (Low, Medium High or off), and has sliders for skin tone and colour temperature.
The JVC’s 2160p resolution delivery is good in all preset modes. The adjustable contrast is worth setting on Low, since it lends extra bite to images. Native contrast is given at 1,100:1.
The immediately enticing thing about the LT-43C862 is the smoothness of its imagery. Daredevil retains its trademark cinematic grain, but snaps in the detail for its big grisly close-ups. Marco Polo displays exotic glint and texture.
Don’t get too excited about that extra Ultra HD resolution, however. Any 43-inch screen, regardless of brand, is unlikely to easily reward 4K scrutiny. There’s a relationship between screen resolution, panel size and viewing distance that can’t be surmounted.
The simple fact is that UHD fine detail is just too small to spot from a typical viewing distance on a television of this size, although sit close enough and you’ll be able to confirm Ultra HD detail is making it onto the screen.
The overall impression is more about picture sheen and lack of jaggies. Given the ticket price, you’re hardly paying a premium for the extra pixel density offered by UHD.
The set isn’t HDR compatible. For one thing, it just doesn’t have the inherent brightness, quoted at 350 nits. Predictably, black level performance is limited, and you’ll see some splotchiness from the LED backlight on dark scenes.
Movies look suitably filmic, and TV studio content crisp, but there’s no image interpolation on hand to improve motion clarity.
Consequently, all presets perform the same with fast-moving action. With a motion resolution test pattern travelling at 6.5ppf (pixels per frame), I noted no subjective detail above 600 lines, and horizontal pans can be a little juddery. So there’s no benefit to using the Sports mode compared to Cinema, bar some aesthetic tweaks of contrast, brightness, sharpness.
On the plus side, this stripped-back performance means no unwanted motion artefacts, either. The Game mode doesn’t allow you to alter any image parameters. These are all locked down.
Audio performance is adequate for this calibre of screen. The set uses DTS TruSurround DSP processing to bolster performance. The result sounds surprisingly coarse for such a small TV.
Some of this can be attributed to the generously proportioned downward-facing drivers squeezed into the far from thin frame.
SHOULD I BUY THE JVC LT-43C862?
If you’re after a connected UHD screen that won’t break the bank, the LT-43C862 ticks the right boxes. Picture quality is a cut above, and you’re not going to be shortchanged when it comes to catch-up services. At 43-inches, you’ll struggle to see any resolution benefits from the 2160p panel, but 4K Netflix is a nice bonus, while Freeview Play is ace – and you can’t deny the value it offers.
Buy Now: JVC LT-43C862 4K LED TV at Currys.co.uk from £399/$598
The ROG Claymore is Asus’ luxury mechanical keyboard for PC gamers with a lot of cash to spend. It comes equipped with Cherry MX mechanical switches, a solid aluminum body, and fully customisable RGB lighting.
While it’s certainly one the best keyboards I’ve used, that high price tag will likely be a stumbling block for many people.
DESIGN, BUILD AND FEATURES
The ROG Claymore comes in two parts: the “Core”, which acts as a traditional “tenkeyless” keyboard, and then a removable number pad that can be attached to either side of the Core. The Claymore is available as a complete two-part set for £200/$300 (reviewed), or in a Core-only package for £150/$225.
Both parts are very well made, and the Claymore looks and feels every bit as expensive as it is. Constructed from aluminium and tough plastic, the Core has a sturdiness unlike anything I’ve ever tested, easily beating any plastic shelled keyboard – and even trumping Corsair’s K70 RGB Rapidfire.
The number pad, which includes a volume roller, attaches to the Core with a simple slotting mechanism; simply drop into place and you’re good to go. The clever bit is that it can be slotted onto either end of the Claymore for maximum flexibility.
The joining mechanism has been very well designed, but it isn’t impossible for the number pad to come loose due to its rocky-ness. If you place some force on one of the corners, you will get a degree of movement. This is a shame, since it weakens the otherwise rock-solid nature of the Claymore.
Visually, the design is stellar. The jet black finish is carefully etched with motherboard-style grooves with RGB lighting present under every key. The finish looks and feels great, but it does attract fingerprints easily.
Plenty of function keys are available for quick adjustments of keyboard lighting, in addition to the standard media keys.
The Claymore has been designed to be compact, and as a result all the media keys also require the function key to be pressed. It’s easy to get accustomed to, but competitors such as the Corsair K70 RGB have dedicated media keys for easier access.
Asus has also decided to shy away from additional USB ports, which isn’t so great in terms of practicality, but allows for a significantly thinner braided cable. It’s also detachable and user replaceable, should it wear out.
The underside of the Claymore is constructed from a tough black plastic, with height adjustment available for those who prefer a raised typing stance. Each key on the Claymore can be remapped, and users can create their own macros, allowing a whole host of customisability options.
When paired with an Asus motherboard, several of the keys can be used for motherboard-specific features, such as changing fan profiles and launching the CPU motherboard tweaker.
As you’d expect of a keyboard costing £200/$300, performance is slick. Users have the choice of four Cherry MX key switches – brown, red, black and blue. The brown switches on my review unit are ideal for gamers who also use their computer for typing; they have a low actuation force in addition to a tactile bump.
Of course, which you choose comes down to personal preference, so it’s great to see Asus provide a wide choice of keyswitches. For those wondering which switch they should opt for, the traditional advice is that red switches are best for gaming, while blue is best for typing.
Typing with the Claymore is an excellent experience, with solid keycaps that respond well to hard presses, while rejecting a decent amount of accidental mishits.
The brown switch is a great middle-ground for those who wish to use the keyboard for work as well as play, and writing up this review has been remarkably easy. Typing speed is certainly improved versus a regular membrane keyboard, and I do prefer the brown switches over reds for work.
The keys on the Claymore are positioned quite close together, which takes a degree of getting used to, but I was able to adjust with ease.
The keyboard does make a relatively loud noise as you clunk away at each key, but it won’t be an issue in most environments. Those opting for blue switches will find themselves making quite a racket however, so using the keyboard in a quiet area may not be the most polite thing to do.
In gaming scenarios the keyboard is just as happy, and playing Battlefield 1 felt great. Responsiveness is quick and snappy, and the benefits of a mechanical keyboard really do need to be felt to be understood.
The brown switch coped very well, and the actuation force of 55g is a happy medium, despite being higher that of red switches. It wouldn’t be fair to say that the Claymore can transform you into a professional e-sports player, but in my opinion, it does help gameplay.
Quickly switching to pistols feels instantaneous, and firefights can get all the more dramatic as a result. The experience will vary from genre to genre, but there’s no doubt that this is a cracking keyboard for gaming.
RGB keyboards aren’t all created equal, but the Claymore is up there with the best. Each colour is precisely mixed without traces of colour separation on all but the whitest tones.
The lighting can be customised in the Armoury software, with varying effects through an easy to use colour-selection tool. Peripheral lighting sync is also present, with my review unit pairing up nicely with the ROG Spatha mouse.
It’s worth noting that the selection of Asus RGB peripherals is limited compared to competitors, with both Razer and Corsair offering far more RGB hardware. Having said that, if you also rock an Asus Aura-compatible motherboard or graphics card, you can sync up lighting to that too.
Overall, it’s a very good-looking keyboard, and you can create some brilliant visuals with RGBs. There will be plenty of people out there who will opt for a calming effect, while others will want to go crazy. Fortunately, everyone is catered for here.
SHOULD I BUY THE ASUS ROG CLAYMORE?
The ROG Claymore is a standout choice for gamers who have money to spend on style. The removable number pad can be useful, and performance is satisfying to the point where I really can’t fault it.
Having said all of this, the Claymore has a serious issue: its price. For £200/$300, you get plenty for your money – but sadly, a wrist rest and USB passthrough isn’t on the list of features, which is surprising.
The Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire costs £30/$45 less and comes with both, as well as Cherry’s latest Speed switch, which reduces actuation force further. Build quality isn’t as good though, and the removable number pad will be the deciding factor for many.
Parting with £200/$300 is far more than most would ever spend on a keyboard, and there are plenty of other options out there that offer similar experiences for far less. But if you can stomach the asking price, you’ll be getting one of the best keyboards on the market today.
While it’s incredibly pricey, this is unquestionably one of the best keyboards money can buy.
When we were invited to the office of Hellotronics, they had a bunch of devices for us to check out. While our attention was mostly diverted to the Nokia 6, we also made sure that we were able to book some time with the other smartphones they had on the table; one of those phones was the recently released Infinix Zero 4 Plus. Today, we’re going to be taking a quick look at the Zero 4 Plus to give you our initial thoughts on this big-screened device before putting it through its paces for its full review.
20.7-megapixel rear camera, dual-LED flash OIS, laser AF
8-megapixel front camera, LED flash
WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, A-GPS
Android 6.0 Marshmallow (XOS)
SRP Php, 15,990
Initial Impressions: Zero’s Got Back
Infinix Mobile is no stranger to big-screened devices, their previous release prior to this one — the Note 3 Pro — was a 6-inch phablet, and the “Plus” tacked on to the big brother of the Infinix Zero 4 should clue you in that you’d be handling a rather big device with a considerable amount of heft as well. The Zero 4 Plus has a metal unibody build with chamfered edges that breaks away from the norm we’ve seen in the more recent models from other brands. In this case, given the size of the Zero 4 Plus, we think it was a good call to sacrifice a bit of the ergonomics that curved edges give in order to give you a better handle on this device.
Taking a tour around the Zero 4 Plus, you’ll see the that the right side houses the volume rocker and power button, on the left is the notch for the hybrid SIM tray, on top is the 3.5mm jack, and on the bottom is the Micro USB port flanked by speaker grilles; only the right one has the speaker though.
Flip the phone over and you’ll see the incredibly massive camera bump that the Zero 4 Plus has for its rear shooter. Seriously, it sticks out like a sore thumb! Thankfully, they’ve included a case out of the box so you can lay it down flat on a table. But, I digress. Right below the camera and its dual LED flash and Laser AF system, is the fingerprint scanner.
Let’s move on to the front of the Zero 4 Plus, which is covered in 2.5D curved glass with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection. The Zero 4 Plus has a 5.98-inch Full HD IPS display that has a decent color saturation and contrast, plus pretty good legibility outdoors and viewing angles as well. Above the screen is the 8-megapixel front camera and its LED flash for you selfie aficionados out there. We really appreciate that Infinix Mobile didn’t go with plus-sized bezels on the Zero 4 Plus, but expect to adjust your grip on the device since there is a considerable amount of travel going from the on-screen navigation buttons to the volume rocker and power button.
For its internals, the Infnix Zero 4 Plus rocks a Helio X20 deca-core processor that’s paired of with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage; you can choose to bump your storage capacity via MicroSD card but it’s a hybrid slot, so it’s either that or another SIM. Running AnTuTu Benchmarks, the Zero 4 Plus was able to achieve a score of 85171 and, so far, everything looks to be on the up and up. The Zero 4 Plus runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Infinix Mobile’s custom UI, XOS, which doesn’t seem to get in the way of the experience; navigation was smooth with no hiccups when launching apps. We hope this holds up as we take the phone through its paces. The Infinix Mobile Zero 4 Plus has a 4000mAh battery, which is a good move considering the Infinix Zero Plus’ size.
And, that pretty much does it for our initial review for the Infinix Zero 4 Plus. It’s currently available at Lazada and is priced at Php 15, 990.
Glance too fleetingly at the X100F and you might think nothing had changed, compared with the X100T. Or the X100S, the original X100 or the film rangefinders their styling harks back to. But, in keeping with continuous improvement approach (‘Kaizen’ if you must) Fujifilm appears to be adhering to, just about every aspect of the camera has been updated in some small way.
But is the sum of those changes enough to make it worth upgrading or to attract new customers?
The single biggest change to the X100F is the use of the latest 24MP sensor. As we’ve seen the the X-Pro2 and X-T2, it’s capable of some excellent results and is a bigger step forward from its 16MP cousins than the 22% increase in linear resolution would suggest.
Arguments still rage about the merits of X-Trans, especially now that Bayer sensors are reaching high enough pixel counts that manufacturers can cut out the costly AA filter without too many downsides/complaints. Clearly X-Trans strikes a different balance of luminance/chroma resolution than the Bayer design and isn’t as universally well supported, when it comes to Raw processing, however, we’ve seen the 24MP version and Fujifilm’s latest processing give some great results, so we find it hard to get that worked-up about it.
What hasn’t changed?
The X100 series’ core features are, broadly speaking, unchanged. The OLED panel in the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder is being run at a faster refresh rate, but it’s still essentially the same spec as on the previous model.
Likewise, the lens is unchanged from the X100F’s predecessors. This means that it’s still a increasingly soft when shot close-up and wide-open but also that it’s not exactly fast to focus (though this is the snappiest X100 yet). The good news, though, is that the the lens seems to me more than sharp enough to resolve the higher-res sensor at all but the closest working distances, and remains as impressively small as ever.
Handling differences: Joystick
Many of the differences between the X100T and F come down to small changes in the cameras’ handling. The first thing to note is the addition of the AF joystick that first cropped up on the X-Pro2.
In its own way, it’s as big an upgrade as the 24MP sensor. It speeds up AF point selection immensely (which is needed, since the X100F can offer up to 325 individually selectable points). Or, at least, it does once you’ve got out of the habit of trying to use the four-way controller to do so.
The other thing the joystick does is resolve the tension between using the four-way controller as Fn buttons or to directly access AF points. This means that, while the X100F still offers the same number of customizable buttons as its predecessor, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to use them all.
Handling differences: Buttons
There’s been a considerable re-shuffling of buttons between the X100T and the F though, as already mentioned, the net result is still that there are still seven customizable control points.
The buttons to the left of the rear screen, which date back to the original X100, have been eliminated, with most of them being pushed across to the right. There’s also an extra function button at the center of the viewfinder mode switch on the front panel, to make up from the one lost on the rear plate. The ‘Drive’ mode function is now irrevocably assigned to the four-way controller, while the function of the rear dial’s push-in button can now be re-configured.
For most users we think it’s likely to be a case of swings and roundabouts, unless there’s some very specific but vital combination of buttons that we’ve not been able to envisage. Generally it seems likely that the certainty of being able to use the four-way controller (or, at least, three of its buttons) as Fn keys will be enough to keep most users happy.
Handling differences: Extra dial
The bigger change to the camera’s handling is the addition of a clickable dial set into the camera’s front plate. By default, this does nothing while shooting, and is primarily used for jumping between images in playback mode. However, there is a menu option that allows its use to control ISO if the top plate ISO dial is set to ‘A.’
While this makes it possible to use the rear dial to set shutter speed (by setting the shutter speed dial to ‘T’), and the front dial for ISO, there’s no way to use anything other than the aperture ring to control aperture value. We’re not sure why you’d want to, but if that’s something you were hoping for, you’re out of luck.
The final big change is the use of the focus ring as a control ring. There are four settings for this: Standard, White Balance, Film Simulation and (if you’re shooting JPEG-only), Digital Teleconverter, all of which are overridden if you switch to manual focus mode. Personally I found that assigning anything to the focus ring just meant that I’d inadvertently make a change, every time I changed the aperture, so I just left it on ‘Standard’, which leaves the ring inactive in most drive modes.
Handling differences: ISO Dial
The final two changes in the X100F’s dial behavior are modifications that were introduced with the X-Pro2. Note that I say ‘modifications,’ rather than ‘improvements.’
The first, which I’m all for, is the addition of a ‘C’ position on the Exposure Comp dial. Set to this position, the newly added front command dial takes charge of Exposure Comp and extends the controllable range from ±3EV to ±5EV.
The other modification is the arrival of the pretty-but-pretty-impractical ISO control set within the shutter speed dial. I don’t hate it, but, given that I change ISO more frequently than once every 36 frames, I just don’t think that lifting, turning and dropping a dial is the most sensible way of controlling sensitivity. Thankfully there are two effective workarounds: pushing ISO control to the camera’s front dial or, better still, setting a couple of Auto ISO presets and switching between them.
The X100F has the latest ‘X Processor Pro,’ which not only sees the addition of the more-detailed black-and-white ‘Acros’ film simulation, but also the option to control the JPEG output with a higher degree of precision.
Whether it’s for straight-out-of-camera JPEGs or for subsequent in-camera Raw conversions, the highlight and shadow portions of the tone curve can now be adjusted between +4 and -2, while most other parameters, including sharpening, noise reduction and color (saturation) can be adjusted on a ±4 scale.
As you might expect (assuming you’ve been reading our recent X-series reviews, start-to-finish), the X100F gets Fujifilm’s improved menus.
The latest version of the menu system breaks the options down into sensible categories with icons to distinguish between them, as opposed to the numbered tabs in the older scheme.
On top of this, there’s a ‘My Menu’ tab that can be populated with your most-accessed menu options. Add to this a wider range of flash control options, for use with external flashguns and the X100F manages that rare trick of being both more powerful and easier to operate.
In the moment:
The thing that’s most noticeable when you pick up the X100F is that it’s quicker than the T or any of the previous models. It’s the little things: start-up time, especially from sleep mode, or a focus re-acquisition if there’s been very little change of depth, they all add up.
Continuous focus still isn’t going to help you win any sports photo competitions but it too is noticeably improved. Overall, then, the camera just feels responsive to an extent that the series hasn’t really done, previously. Hell, even the Wi-Fi connects faster, making it that bit more likely that you’ll use it.
This newfound responsiveness is something that will be almost immediately apparent to existing X100 series owners and, perhaps just as importantly: unnoticed by new users whose expectations have been set by contemporary cameras.
Fujifilm’s approach to the its X-series cameras has been one of constant improvement, which has meant that each generation of camera is better than the last (bickering about X-Trans notwithstanding). However, while this has made it easy to recommend which model a new customer should buy, it’s meant it’s not always been clear-cut whether the sum of the differences is sufficient to prompt existing owners to upgrade.
Obviously the specific decision will depend on the needs, expectations and level of satisfaction of individual users but, even in pre-production form, this feels like more of a step forwards than the bare specs led me to expect. We’ll revisit this question as part of the full review, once we’ve spent more time with the camera, but our initial impressions are pretty positive. Well, except for my bank account.
The Asus ROG Strix GL753 offers gaming on a budget with a comfortable keyboard and vivid display, but it struggles with intensive titles at high settings.
If you’re looking for a gaming PC but don’t have the cash to drop on something that’s VR-ready, you can still find a laptop that will play most games. The Asus ROG Strix GL753 ($1,099 to start, $1,299 as tested) is one of the first notebooks on the market with Nvidia’s GTX 1050 Ti GPU, along with the company’s first RGB-backlit keyboard to add a bit of color. It’s a solid laptop, but other systems are on the way with similar specs for under $1,000.
Asus took the awesome design that it uses with its premium ROG machines and dumbed it down for its budget models. The result is a plastic beast that’s more garish than sleek. The lid is made of black plastic with a faux-aluminum pattern, and while the premium machines have glowing lights on the sides of the logo, the company opted for orange neon paint on the lid of the Strix, making it look like a race car bed.
Lifting the lid reveals the 17.3-inch, 1080p display and an island-style keyboard complete with number pad. There’s a bit of neon orange on the plastic chassis, too: the ROG logo in the bottom right-hand corner and a stripe around the touchpad. There are a few more orange accents on the front-facing speakers under the palm rest.
At 6.4 pounds and 16.3 x 10.7 x 1.3 inches, the Strix is light for a 17-inch gaming notebook. The Alienware 17 R3 is a noticeably heavier 8.3 pounds and 16.9 x 11.5 x 1.3 inches. Unsurprisingly, the 14-inch MSI GS63VR 6RF Stealth Pro is lighter at 4.2 pounds and smaller at 14.9 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches.
The sides are lined with ports to connect to external displays and attach peripherals. An Ethernet jack, HDMI and Mini Display Port outputs are on the left side, along with two USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 3.1 Type-C port and a headphone/microphone jack. The right side features a Blu-ray drive, another USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port as well as a lock slot. An SD card reader is hidden just beneath the palm rest.
The Strix boasts a 17.3-inch, matte 1080p display that shows off sharp, vivid details, but it isn’t as bright as the competition’s. I watched the latest trailer for Power Rangers and was able to make out every little cube that made up Bryan Cranston’s character Zordon. Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa costume was a deep, emerald green that popped against the street during a battle with the Rangers. Thanks to the screen’s 178-degree viewing angles, I could see the trailer even from the far side of the laptop.
When I played Batman: Arkham Knight, the red-and-purple neon signage atop stores in Gotham City contrasted nicely against a cloudy night sky, and I could see the raindrops pelting the Dark Knight’s cape. The viewing angles were still great, but it was hard to make out Batman in the dark when I wasn’t looking straight at the screen. Even though the screen doesn’t support Nvidia’s G-Sync, I didn’t have any problems with screen tearing.
The screen on the Strix reproduces an excellent 124 percent of the sRGB color gamut, though it falls just short of the desktop-replacement average (128 percent), and far below the Alienware 17’s (174 percent), but it’s better than the Stealth Pro (111 percent).
With its high Delta-E score of 2.2, the Strix’s colors aren’t very precise (0 is ideal). This mark is worse than the average (1.5), the Stealth Pro (2) and the Alienware (0.8).
Our light meter measured the Strix’s average display brightness at 285 nits, which is just below the 295-nit average and dimmer than the Alienware (319 nits), but it was brighter than the Stealth Pro (242 nits). Despite the score, I found the screen to be bright enough for both casual use and gaming.
The speakers on the Strix GL753 are pretty powerful. When I listened to Tegan and Sara’s “Closer,” the sound immediately filled our small conference room with a blast of synths, vocals and drums. With the preloaded Dolby-powered ICEPower AudioWizard, I switched to the Action preset, which emphasized the percussion and cymbals, but I think the default multimedia setting is fine for most people when they’re just watching YouTube videos.
When I played Batman: Arkham Knight, I found that the speakers really packed a punch when the Batmobile fired missiles at drones and enemies talked through walkie-talkies. The background music, however, was quiet. I tried switching to action mode, and it provided a more well-rounded soundscape.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Strix’s keyboard offers an extremely comfortable typing experience. Between its deep 2.1 millimeters of key travel and 60 grams of required actuation, I never came close to bottoming out. On the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I typed at a speedy 115 words per minute, exceeding my average of 107 wpm. My only complaint is that the keys could stand to pop up a bit faster, which would be better for quick-twitch reactions while gaming.
This is one of Asus’ first laptops with an RGB-backlit keyboard. Out of the box, all of the keys were red, but with the new ROG Aura Core software, I was able to change or cycle between hues and separate the keyboard into four different zones to give them each their own colors. I would prefer a bit more customization, like the ability to customize every single key’s color, but it’s nice to finally see something other than red on a ROG. The software is limited to colors, however, so don’t expect to start setting custom macros.
Get a gaming mouse, though, because the 4.1 x 2.8-inch touchpad is a bit finicky. While the cursor is accurate and I had no trouble performing gestures like swiping three fingers up to see all of my open programs, I had to be very specific about where I clicked. Particularly, I often had to use the very bottom of the trackpad to right click, as it didn’t always accept that input in more comfortable locations.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
The Strix will play intense games, thanks to its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM, but that entry-level GPU can have a little trouble running intense titles at their highest settings.
When I played Batman: Arkham Knight at 1080p on high settings, the Strix ran the game between 40 and 55 frames per second as I used the Batmobile to trade missiles with unmanned tanks on the streets of Gotham City. I noticed that when I drove really fast, however, the frame rate dropped slightly. It was smoother when I switched all of the settings down to normal, and the game stayed between a more stable 47 to 60 fps.
While playing Batman: Arkham Knight, the speakers really packed a punch when the Batmobile fired missiles at drones.
The GPU struggled on our regular benchmarks. On Metro: Last Light (high settings, 1080p), the Strix reached just 28 fps, which is lower than our 30-fps playability threshold. The Stealth Pro (GTX 1060) and Alienware (GTX 980M) delivered a better 45 fps and 37 fps, respectively.
On Hitman (1080p, Ultra settings with DirectX 12), the Strix again hit 28 fps, falling far short of the 88-fps average and the Stealth Pro’s 48 fps.
On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark at medium settings, the Strix reached 28.9 fps, falling just short of the average.
Don’t expect to connect an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift to the Strix, because it won’t work. While The GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti are meant to provide better performance than Nvidia’s previous generation of GPUs, neither is really considered to be VR-ready. The laptop earned a score of 2.4 on the Steam VR benchmark, rendering those immersive titles unplayable. The Stealth Pro hit 7.4 on the same test.
When you aren’t gaming, the laptop falls back to integrated Intel HD Graphics 630.
Thanks to its 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU (it’s among the first gaming notebooks with a “Kaby Lake” processor), 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and a 1TB 5,400-rpm HDD, the Strix is primed to multitask. I switched between Grand Theft Auto V on very high settings and an instance of Chrome with 25 open tabs without experiencing any signs of lag.
The Strix notched a score of 13,693 on the Geekbench 3 overall performance test, falling short of the desktop-replacement average (17,478) and the Alienware (Intel Core i7-6820HK, 13,906) but surpassing the Stealth Pro (Core i7-6700HQ, 13,454).
It took the Strix 23 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed-media files, which translates to a rate of 221.3 megabytes per second. That’s significantly slower than the 560.8-MBps category average, the Stealth Pro (565.5 MBps) and the Alienware (509 MBps).
Asus’ notebook paired 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 19 seconds on our OpenOffice spreadsheet macro. That’s speedier than the average (3:34), as well as the Stealth Pro (3:38) and Alienware (3:53).
The ROG Strix will last longer on a charge than most desktop replacements. It endured for 5 hours and 25 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That’s 1 hour longer than the average (4:23) and far better than the Stealth Pro (2:54). The Alienware, perhaps thanks to its last-gen graphics card, lasted the longest at 6:07.
If you’re using this computer for streaming, get yourself an external webcam. When I used the 720p webcam for a selfie in our lab, the resulting photo was dark and blurry. My brown shirt appeared closer to black, my hair was blurry and the walls behind me looked grainy.
The Strix was nice and cool in our testing. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, the bottom of the laptop measured 88 degrees Fahrenheit, the keyboard reached 83 degrees and the touchpad hit 81 degrees — all of which are below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
When I played Batman: Arkham Knight for 15 minutes, the center of the keyboard hit 91 degrees, the touchpad reached 88 degrees and the bottom of the notebook was 105 degrees.
Software and Warranty
Asus’ pre loaded software is a mix of gaming-specific apps and a few other useful utilities. Most notable is the ROG Gaming Center, a complete dashboard that shows everything affecting performance, including CPU and GPU memory and temperature, as well as options to boost fan speeds and disable the Windows key. The other major gaming app, GameFirst IV, makes it easy to prioritize which apps use internet bandwidth for a lag-free experience.
Additionally, Asus’ Splendid Utility lets you control color temperature (perfect for some late-night gaming), and XSplit Gamecaster is onboard for streaming.
Unfortunately, there’s a bit of bloatware packed in too, including Netflix, Minecraft, Drawboard PDF, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Royal Revolt II and Twitter.
Asus sells the ROG Strix GL753 with a one-year warranty.
The Asus ROG Strix GL753 we reviewed is a $1,299 model that packs a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-770HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM, a 256GB M.2 SSD and a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive.
For $1,099, you can get a version with an Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU instead of the 1050 Ti. That version also ditches the SSD together, leaving you with only the hard-disk drive.
The Asus ROG Strix GL753 is an affordable gaming laptop with a comfortable, RGB-backlit keyboard, vivid display and Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti GPU.
When a laptop comes along with a 1050 or 1050 Ti with a subthousand-dollar price range, that will almost assuredly become a better deal (and we know they’re coming. We saw the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming and Acer Aspire VX 15 at CES). Otherwise, I’m hard-pressed to recommend anything with a GPU that isn’t Pascal-based.
The one exception is if you immediately need a laptop with more configuration options. You can still buy a version of the Alienware 17 R3 on Amazon (though Dell is phasing it out for newer models), some of which offer 4K displays. It’s great for watching movies, but you sure won’t be gaming at that resolution with a 980M GPU.
Your best bet right now is to accept the Strix for what it is: a solid budget gaming laptop with a nice keyboard and finicky touchpad, that’s available immediately. But keep in mind that laptops with this GPU will be very competitive in pricing sooner rather than later.
We recently drove a 2016 BMW X5 in mid-coastal California, as perfect a spot to drive one as there is anywhere on earth. Well into its third-generation, the X5 is a versatile, American-made, all-wheel drive five-seater with an available third row. Equal parts aggressive and restrained, it’s arguably the best looking of Bimmer’s SU — er, sorry, SAV lineup, and it’s proven popular enough over its 16 year history to have become a fixture in every chichi suburb across the country.
BMW Dynamic Light Spot
A range of powertrains are available in the X5. There’s the 308 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque from the hybrid xDrive 40e, with its 2.0 liter four and electric motor. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find the 4.4 liter twin turbo V8 in the 50i, with 450 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. At the top of it all is the X5M, with its 567 horse V8 making it as close to a track toy SU — right, SAV, as you’ll find anywhere on the planet. For the rest of the lineup, there’s the trusty 3.0 liter twin turbo V6, which pumps out 300 horsepower. That’s what our X5 had. Along with a surprisingly engaging suspension (for a big luxury people mover at least), nicely weighted steering, and quiet, comfortable cabin, it all seemed to suit our test truck just fine.
2016 BMW X5 | BMW
And that’s all we have to say about the X5 for today. Because while it deserves (and will get) a full write-up from us sooner rather than later, we’re more interested in talking about what it doesn’t have in America — and what our tester did. Because we took our X5 to the bustling campus of UC Santa Barbara to test out BMW’s night vision package with Dynamic Light Spot technology. Developed by automotive supplier Autoliv, it’s a system that’s proven to save lives and avoid accidents. But because of outdated U.S. safety laws, not only is it unavailable in America, but for now, it’s illegal.
Remember the small, rectangular headlights on your grandfather’s Buick? Those were sealed-beam headlights. Until 1983, they were the only units that could be legally sold in America. Before 1974, sealed beams had to be round, and it had been that way since 1940. So despite the massive technological leaps made between 1940 and 1983, American cars were using relatively ancient technology for some of the most important safety features on a car. Today, our HIDs, LEDs, and projector units seem like a far cry from the old square units. But the sad truth is, U.S.-spec cars are falling behind again, and adhering to a 33-year-old law when the rest of the automotive world is evolving is having dangerous consequences.
In March 2016, the IIHS published the results of its first-ever headlight tests, and the results were frightening. Of 82 new models tested, only one car, the Toyota Prius, earned a “Good” rating for its lights. The vast majority, whether pickups, family cars, or luxury models, earned a Marginal or Poor rating. Nighttime accidents will amount to over 70% of all collisions, despite having far fewer drivers on the road. There are roughly 2 million accidents alone involving deer or other large animals in the U.S. annually, amounting to several thousand injuries, hundreds of deaths, and nearly $3.5 billion in property damage. Cars may be getting safer, but as long as drivers can’t see what’s in front of them, then those safety features will unfortunately be called into action a lot more often than they should.
1967 BMW 2000 C/CS, free from restrictive U.S. lighting standards | BMW
In the rest of the world, it’s a slightly different story. European automakers have been using larger, brighter halogen lighting since as early as the 1960s, and also pioneered lights that swivel with the wheels to give the driver unbroken visibility. That kind of innovation has never stopped, and today, manufacturers like BMW and Audi have partnered with Autoliv to develop cutting-edge lighting systems, with the results being nothing short of astonishing.
2016 BMW X5 | BMW
The Autoliv-developed Dynamic Light Spot system in our X5 used a number of features that interacted in real time to let us know what lurked around every blind corner, bend, and rural road. Despite the rest-of-world specs, our BMW was a U.S.-spec truck with European lights and modified ECUs. Working with Autoliv’s grille-mounted far-infrared camera (a unit found in a number of BMWs, Audis, Mercedes, and Cadillacs, among others), the ECU works out in a split second what type of object the camera detects (human or animal), determines its trajectory, and classifies it based on threat to the driver. If it’s in the periphery, it will show up with a green or yellow box around it on the display screen (located in the center console on BMWs). Objects in the car’s path will show up with a red box. Animals will show up with an eerie orange glow.
While you get the camera feed in the screen, BMW’s system takes it one step further. As you approach an object, the car uses a projector lamp foglight to shoot a beam of light across the road that lands just at the feet of a potential obstacle. If it’s a running animal, jogger, or cyclist, the beam will follow it until it’s safely out of the car’s path. And since the beam is projected downward, it doesn’t risk blinding them, avoiding a deer-in-the-headlights situation. In fact, if they weren’t looking incredibly closely, they probably wouldn’t even notice it. In Europe, the system actually has a mode for deer where the projectors flash when they detect them, as Autoliv found that deer are actually repelled by strobing lights. Since only emergency vehicles can have strobes in the U.S., don’t expect that feature to ever make it to our shores.
BMW Adaptive Headlight | BMW
In the crowded neighborhoods and around UC Santa Barbara, the BMW/Autoliv system is a revelation. As pedestrians and cyclists dart in and out of parking lots and cross streets, the system works overtime to shine a light on them, and show where they’re going, giving you plenty of time to react accordingly. The infrared camera is clear, and cuts through any obstacle like fog, condensation, or glare from oncoming cars, and as generations of Europeans already know, BMW’s swiveling headlights are a vast improvement over the fixed units we’ve been living with more or less since before World War II. Put them all together, and you have a cutting-edge safety system that works to make nighttime collisions a thing of the past.
So unfortunately, the BMW X5 isn’t the story here; its headlights are. We’re living in an increasingly globalized world, where most cars are being developed with an eye on the European and Asian markets just as much as the American ones. If we’re getting the same cars, why shouldn’t we get the same safety features? BMW and Autoliv’s lighting and night vision systems can save lives and drastically reduce accidents. We’re hoping that the U.S. government’s lighting standards can change to include them on our roads. It wouldn’t cost us taxpayers anything, and besides, there are lives hanging in the balance.
A look back at some of the lesser stories from the past seven days
And finally is the place where we round up the wearable tech rumour mill, bringing you fully up to speed with what’s being reported by the tech press.
It’s also a one-stop shop for some of the lesser stories of the week, that didn’t land on our dedicated wearable tech news page.
Read on for this week’s instalment….
Apple Watch eyes smart strap movement
An Apple patent has been uncovered, detailing a modular accessories system for the Apple Watch that disguises electrical components like batteries, biometric sensors, solar cells and more as links in the watch’s metal band.
Apple Insider has the lowdown and it says Apple’s idea uses modular links containing working electronic components, which connected like the Apple Watch’s Link Bracelet strap, attaching using a flexible conductive material.
LG Watch Style renders impress
It’s widely reported that the first smartwatches to showcase Android Wear 2.0are being built by LG – the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style. Alleged (blurry) images of the smartwatch duo leaked out at the start of the week and now we’ve got an even better look at the latter.
Courtesy of notorious tipster Evan Blass, here’s a look at the silver version of the Style. Check out this tweet to see the rose gold version as well.
Blass has already claimed that Android Wear 2.0 will go live on 9 February.
Samsung Gear Fit Pro incoming
Samsung has filed a new trademark application for the Gear Fit Pro brand. There’s no more details than that at the moment but the guys at SamMobile suggest it might tap into Samsung’s Simband health platform for cloud-sourced health tracking.
The Simband (pictured) featured a variety of sensors that measured data points like oxygen level, body temperature, heart rate and more.
Alexa Trump jokes no more
While the tech industry is only too keen to tell Trump just how it feels about his extreme immigration orders, one company that seemingly is a bit scared of the President is Amazon.
A Reddit user has posted that Alexa doesn’t tell jokes about The Donald any longer. Alexa now says,”I don’t know any Donald Trump jokes. But you can ask me for a political joke instead.”
Here in the UK, trump means fart. Make of that what you will.
The Sony SRS-XB3 is a fairly small wireless speaker. It wants to be used anywhere and everywhere: while you’re in the bath, beside a swimming pool in Tenerife, or just as you cook your evening meal.
Sony’s special move is to use slightly larger drivers than the competition to achieve a meatier, more powerful delivery. And it works.
The Sony SRS-XB3 is a great little speaker for noisier environments. However, some rivals display more clarity and finesse if you’ll mostly be listening indoors. At the time of writing, the speaker can be picked up for £89.99/$135 rather than its £129/$193 RRP – and at that price it’s a good deal.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
Quite a lot of speakers in this class are made of metal. The Bose SoundLink Mini series drew up a blueprint that others have tweaked, but Sony isn’t playing copycat.
The Sony SRS-XB3 is made of plastic and rubber, injecting a touch of personality with colour instead. There’s the dark-green version seen here, as well as black, red and blue. All but the red are quite moody and subdued in tone, leaving the red version for those who are after something that really stands out.
A plastic frame isn’t exciting, but the Sony SRS-XB3 feels like it could withstand being thrown against a wall. The plastic is thick, and will easily handle being scraped carelessly across hard surfaces much better than aluminium.
The speaker appears to be far better equipped for outdoor use than most, and is also water-resistant. The Sony SRS-XB3 is certified to IPX5, meaning it can handle rain or being splashed, but it can’t be submerged. Actual IPX5 testing involves spraying the speaker with 12.5-litres of water a minute for three minutes at a distance of 3m.
What enables this water-resistance other than a clever speaker grille is the port protector on the rear of the device. A rubber-sealed panel pulls off to reveal the charge socket, aux input and a USB port with which you can charge other devices.
One part of the Sony SRS-XB3 that might disappoint is its use of a 15V cylinder charger rather than the USB kind used by Android phones.
However, this lets Sony include a large battery that doesn’t take an age to charge. The speaker lasts for up to 24 hours at moderate volume, which is excellent. Some this size last for only eight hours – BUT to be honest, I’ve been happy with just that much in the past.
This is a side benefit of the Sony SRS-XB3 being slightly larger than some ultraportable Bluetooth bricks. It’s bigger than favourites that include the Bose SoundLink Mini II, Riva S and Jam Heavy Metal, but will happily fit into my luggage for a work trip or weekend away. Just.
The Sony SRS-XB3’s controls are entirely obvious, valuing practicality over design impact – just like the construction. A bunch of buttons let you alter volume, enter pairing mode, take calls and turn the extra bass mode on and off. They couldn’t be much clearer.
One that might get you scratching your head is “Add”, though. This is used to join up two Sony SRS-XB3s as a stereo pair. I don’t think all that many buyers will end up acquiring two of these speakers for that purpose, but it makes linking them up simpler than most others – which tend to require some fiddling in apps or button combinations.
There are other extras, too, including NFC for easy pairing with Android devices and a speakerphone function. This means there’s an integrated mic, letting you take calls by just talking to the speaker. There’s a “call” button up top, too. Solid, dependable, practical. That’s what the Sony SRS-XB3’s hardware is about.
The Sony SRS-XB3 sound is different to many rivals, with Sony’s aim to outgun the competition. You only need to look at the drivers for proof. The Bose SoundLink Mini II has a pair of 38mm active drivers and a radiator array; the Sony has 48mm drivers and bass radiators, the main reasons why the SRS-XB3 is a little larger than most such speakers.
Its sound is more powerful than most, too. Larger drivers let it go louder with fewer signs of strain, and bass depth and clout is very good for a still-small unit. The tiny Bose SoundLink Mini’s bass is deeper-sounding, though – a surprise given it’s significantly smaller.
If you haven’t used one of these small rectangular Bluetooth speakers before, I think you’d be pleasantly surprised by any of the better models, this one included. The Sony SRS-XB3’s parlour trick is that it can be pushed harder before it actually sounds like it’s being pushed, meaning the start of obvious compression and/or distortion.
Use the Sony SRS-XB3 in a quiet indoors setting, though, and you start to hear some of its shortcomings.The sound is thick, too, which helps it deal with noisier environments. Small speakers can get lost in noisy rooms, but this one could shout over the noise of a small house party.
The thickness to the bass and low mids make the lower third of busier mixes sound a little muddled, lacking definition and separation. While the Riva S doesn’t go as loud as the Sony SRS-XB3, it sounds far more articulate and sophisticated. The Bose SoundLink Mini II also has better mid-range tone, making vocals sound a little more natural; the cheaper Jam Heavy Metal offers greater clarity and detail.
Using the Extra Bass mode confuses the sound from the SRS-XB3. It gives bass drums more obvious punch, but mainly because it boosts mid- and mid-bass frequencies to act as a “loudness” booster, making the SRS-XB3 appear louder at the same output level.
These are serious problems if you’re looking at the Sony SRS-XB3 at its RRP of £130/$195, but since it’s available right now for around £90/$135, the significance of these sound issues evaporate somewhat.
SHOULD I BUY THE SONY SRS-XB3?
At £130/$195, the Sony SRS-XB3 is only a fair buy. However, it’s far more attractive at the £90 for which it can be had at the time of review. At this price its main competition is the Jam Heavy Metal, a speaker with less power, bulk, battery life and ruggedness, but greater treble detail, an all-round cleaner sound and still excellent top volume.
The UE Boom 2 is also a significant rival, offering water-resistance and a similar, hardwearing plastic style. That speaker has many fans but I’d likely pick the Sony SRS-XB3 over it for being cheaper and sounding less strained at high volumes.
For pure sound quality the SRS-XB3 comes nowhere close to the Riva S, though, which at a recently reduced price of £155/$232 looks like a more attractive proposition if you can afford a little more expense.
A super-powerful and portable – if not always subtle – wireless speaker.
The Huawei P8 Lite has been launched two years back. But this handset was so popular that the manufacturer decided to come in with a few upgraded models. One of them called as the Huawei P8 Youth Edition is already available, but we’ll see another model from this family dubbed as the Huawei P8 Lite 2017 designed for European market.
This device comes with a rounded glass body with 2.5D arc technology and a fingerprint scanner on the back. The Huawei P8 Lite 2017 will be available only in black, and its dimensions are 147.2 × 73 × 7.63 mm, while the phone weighs 147 grams.
As for the specs list, it is packed with a 5.2-inch LCD IPS screen at a Full HD resolution, Kirin 655 octa-core processor with 16nm process technology and A53 architecture (2.1GHz + 1.7GHz) it’s said there is also an Intel i5 co-processor, Mali-T830 MP2 GPU the same found on the Glory play 6X, increased 3GB RAM, and 16GB internal memory that can be expanded via a mciroSD card slot. There is also a 12MP rear camera supporting PDAF, aperture f/2.2 and an 8MP camera on the front with f/2.0 aperture.
The Huawei P8 Lite 2017 is good in terms of connectivity, as it comes with a 3000mAh battery, micro USB 2.0 port, WiFi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC. At the end, the phone will run on Android 7.0 Nougat and EMUI 5.0.
Well, as you see this mid-range smartphone is armed well. And it’s been announced the handset will hit the market on February 1. The first market it will be available in is the UK. Vodafone has got exclusive sales rights. The phone is priced at 185 pounds, while the contract version is priced at 16 pounds.
As this is a European model, we can expect something like the Huawei P8 Lite 2017 coming to other markets as well.
Fujifilm has unveiled the X-T20; the lower-end model of the X-T2 with improved features. So here is a Fujifilm X-T20 vs X-T10 vs X-T2 comparison that shows the highlights to help you for decision.
We thought that for all users who are curious about Fuji’s entry to mid-level mirrorless cameras, let’s put together the features of all the latest members of the X-T series side by side.
That’s why we put the X-T10 features back in the comparison chart. In this way we can see the general differences on the shelf and make initial impressions for new purchases.
The X-T20 and X-T2 cameras sure being priced very differently. On the other hand both cameras have a surprising number of features in common. These include the new 24MP APS-C X-Trans III sensor, advanced hybrid autofocus system with Custom AF settings and 4K video at 30fps.
According to the traditional features of this series, the X-T20 lacks the weather sealing. The shooter also doesn’t have the AF point joystick, ISO dial, Log output and battery grip option like the X-T2 but gains a touchscreen with a built-in pop-up flash.
Now let’s add the X-T10 to this new dual of X-T series models and look at their differences.
Specifications Comparison of Fujifilm X-T20 vs X-T10 vs X-T2 Cameras
Below you can see the specs comparison table of Fujifilm X-T20 vs X-T10 vs X-T2 mirrorless cameras. Some differences like sensor, image size, shooting speed, lcd size etc.. detailed as bold on the table.
Sensor and image resolution
Maximum Image Size in Pixels
4,896 × 3,264
6000 × 4000
6000 × 4000
X-Trans CMOS II
X-Trans CMOS III
X-Trans CMOS III
EXR Processor II
200 – 6400
200 to 12800
100, 12800, 25600, 51200
100 / 25600 / 51200
100 / 25600 / 51200
Multi, Spot, Average
TTL 256-zone metering, Multi / Spot / Average / Center Weighted
TTL 256-zone metering, Multi / Spot / Average / Center Weighted