Monthly Archives: August 2017

Sony Xperia XA1 Plus preview: Mid-ranger with a beefy battery

Sony announced three smartphones at consumer electronics show IFA in Berlin, including two flagships to complement the 4K Xperia XZ Premium and one “super mid-ranger”.

The super mid-ranger comes in the form of the Xperia XA1 Plus, sitting alongside the XA1 and XA1 Ultra that launched earlier this year but adding a fingerprint sensor and beefy battery to the party.

Here are our first impressions of the XA1 Plus and its edgy display.

  • Metal design with rounded edges
  • IP65/68 water and dust resistant
  • Fingerprint sensor within power button

The Sony Xperia XA1 Plus offers an almost identical design to the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra that we saw at the end of February but with one key difference: a fingerprint sensor.

The Xperia XA1 Plus slots in between the XA1 and XA1 Ultra in terms of size, but where the previous models offered the older style circular side-mounted power button and no fingerprint sensor, the XA1 Plus adopts the newer oval-shaped side power button with a built-in fingerprint sensor, like the XZ1 and XZ1 Compact that it launches alongside.


Aside from that, the Xperia XA1 Plus could easily be mistaken for one of its other XA1 siblings. It offers the signature OmniBalance flat-slab design associated with lower-end to the flagship Xperia devices, along with large bezels at the top and bottom of the display and a rear camera lens in the top left corner.

Like the XA1 and XA1 Ultra, the XA1 Plus uses one piece of metal on the rear for a more fluid finish than the likes of the Xperia XZ and XZs, but it doesn’t have the unibody design of the XZ1 and XZ1 Compact. Instead, joins can be found on the edges of the XA1 Plus though these edges are more rounded than they were on the XA1 and XA1 Ultra, making it more comfortable to hold, especially compared to the XA1 Ultra though this is down to physical size too.


The speakers and microphone are positioned at the very top and bottom of the XA1 Plus, as they are on the XA1 and XA1 Ultra, which allows for the continuation of a fuss-free design and like its siblings, the XA1 Plus sets itself apart from other Xperia devices thanks to the edge-to-edge display.

This feature sees the rounded edges of the XA1 Plus to curve into the display, though it’s not quite as obvious a design feature as the dual-edge screen on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Note 8. The edge-to-edge display on the XA range has a more subtle finish with no software enhancement present, though it is preferable to the standard screen on the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact devices as it makes things more interesting.


The XA1 Plus adds IP65/68 water and dust resistance to the XA range too, something the XA1 and XA1 Ultra missed off their spec sheets earlier this year. It also has the familiar USB Type-C port at the bottom, a headphone jack at the top, camera launcher button on the right-hand side and a microSD and SIM slot covered by a flap on the left.

  • 5.5-inch edge-to-edge display
  • Full HD resolution, 401ppi
  • No HDR, X-Reality or Triluminos

The Sony Xperia XA1 Plus comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD edge-to-edge display for a pixel density of 401ppi meaning it offers the sharpest display of all the XA range.

The edge-to-edge finish is one we loved the first time we saw it and we continue to do so, though we’d love it even more if it appeared on the flagship devices too rather than just the mid-rangers. It would also have been great to see those top and bottom bezels reduced too for an even more dramatic display, but alas, not this time.

The XA1 Plus screen appears to offer good enough vibrancy and crisp text, along with good viewing angles but we will reserve judgement until we have had the opportunity to test it properly in the real world.

There is no HDR on board the XA1 Plus, as there is with the Xperia XZ Premium and the recently-launched XZ1, meaning that while the size and finish of the display is good for entertainment, it doesn’t offer the latest technology.


Sony also misses the X-Reality and Triluminos technologies found in the Xperia flagship models off the spec sheet for the Xperia XA1 Plus, though it does offer Super Vivid mode like previous XA devices so all is not lost.

  • 23MP rear camera, f/2.0 aperture
  • 8MP front camera
  • No autofocus burst or smile shutter added to predictive capture feature

The Sony Xperia XA1 Plus is a mid-range handset, just like the XA1 and XA1 Ultra so sadly, the latest and greatest Sony features aren’t on board, as we’ve just mentioned when discussing the display. They don’t settle for mid-range specs either though.

The XA1 Plus comes with the same camera capabilities as the XA1, improving on last year’s XA model but missing out on a few of the features found on the likes of the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact, both of which also launch at IFA 2017.


A 23-megapixel rear camera is present on the rear with an f/2.0 aperture, coupled with an 8-megapixel sensor on the front. Features including Hybrid autofocus and SteadyShot are both on board, along with five times Clear Image Zoom, but you won’t find the new autofocus burst mode, the smile shutter incorporated within the predictive capture feature or the super slow-motion video feature.

The XA1 Plus also misses out on the 3D Creator app, found on the XZ1 and XZ1 Compact, allowing users to 3D scan objects for 3D printing or creating avatars. This isn’t necessarily a feature everyone will want, as some might consider it a little gimmicky, but it’s not available on the XA1 Plus so if you do want it and the latest camera technology, you’ll need to look a little higher up the Xperia food chain.


We didn’t get a chance to test the XA1 Plus camera during our brief amount of time with it but we will be sure to put it through its paces when we get our hands on it in the real world.

  • MediaTek Helio P20 octa-core processor, 4GB RAM
  • 32GB storage, microSD support
  • 3430mAh battery

The Sony Xperia XA1 Plus has an octa-core MediaTek processor under its hood, coupled with 4GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage and microSD support for storage expansion.

It’s the battery that really sets this Xperia device apart from the rest though, offering a 3430mAh capacity, which is larger than all the current XA devices, as well as larger than the XZ Premium, XZ1 and XZ1 Compact.


The XA1 Plus is charged via USB Type-C with Quick Charge supported and it comes with Sony’s Stamina Mode, Qnovo Adaptive Charging technology and Battery Care software too so it really should see you through the day with that software and that capacity.

In terms of audio capabilities, the XA1 Plus comes with Sony’s ClearAudio+ technology and Smart Amplifier, which have been designed to deliver loud and clear sound. Users can customise their sound experience and adjust settings too in order to find the right balance for you.


We of course didn’t get a chance to test either the performance, sound or the battery life of the XA1 Plus during our time with it but we will do as soon as it comes in for review.

The Sony Xperia XA1 Plus will launch on Android Nougat with Sony’s software over the top. Sony adds more bloatware on top of Android than other manufacturers like HTC and even Samsung these days, but the Sony launcher is nice and pretty useful, offering not only search functionality but suggested apps too. Users should also see an update to Android Oreo when Sony makes the update available.

First Impressions

The Sony Xperia XA1 Plus might only be a mid-range handset, but it offers good specs, like the introduction of the fingerprint sensor and a huge battery that should more than see you through the day, especially if you take into account Sony’s previous battery reputation.

The edge-to-edge display might not be as extravagant as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or the Galaxy S8, and the large bezels at the top and bottom of the screen on the Sony certainly take away some of the edgy charm, but it’s still a nice feature to offer on a mid-range device and one we wish we’d see on the Xperia flagship devices.

We’ve always been a fan of the XA range and the XA1 Plus gets our love too. On paper, it shows a lot of promise and it is up there with the most exciting Xperia devices. If Sony could just give us a unibody design, the Motion Eye camera and slimmer bezels at the top and bottom of the XA1 Plus display, it could be a real Xperia winner in our eyes.


LG V30 vs LG V20: The phone we always wanted vs the LG G6 rival we never had?

LG V30 vs LG V20: What’s the difference and which LG phone is best?

LG has just unveiled its latest flagship at IFA 2017, but is it a true rival to the LG G6? We compare the specs, design, camera, features, release and price to see how LG’s latest and greatest stacks up against its earlier launches.

That didn’t take long then, did it? It seems like only yesterday we were at MWC 2017 ogling the LG G6 and yet here we are – a few hundred miles away in Berlin, taking in a very different smartphone in the LG V30.

What’s the difference, you ask? We’re here to explain.

LG V30 Rumors: What to Expect From LG's Next Flagship

LG V20 vs LG V30 design – What’s changed?

This is the big one. The LG V20 was a fine-looking phone. It mixed plastic and metal in a body that was big, but one that held its heft well.

LG has upped its game here. The V30 is smaller, thinner and so much better-looking. The first thing you’ll notice is the predominantly all-screen front; it’s almost bezel-free. The screen edges are also slightly curved, as is the rear of the device, making it far easier to hold than the previous entry in the ‘V’ series.

The V30 lacks a secondary screen, which in the V20 sat above the main display and was one that device’s most iconic features.

The new handset is available in four colours – black, silver, blue and purple; one more than the V20, which originally shipped in a dark ‘Titan’ grey, silver and pink.

LG V30 vs LG V20 specs – What’s new?

Phwoar! Or is that, huzzah?! Whatever the case, the LG V30 is shaping up to be quite the beast.

It boasts Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 835 processor, an enlarged 6-inch screen (compared to the smaller 5.7-inch one on the V20), and Quad DAC support for improved audio through your headphones. That final feature might not be new to readers in the US and South Korea, but we in the UK missed out on the LG V20 altogether and our version of the G6 lacked this DAC, so it’s a big deal indeed.

LG has ditched LCD panels in favour of an OLED one for the V30, whose screen delivers more vibrant colours and deeper blacks than the V20. It also supports the HDR10 standard for better contrast on supported videos.

There are significant upgrades in the camera department too, although both the V20 and V30 have one 16-megapixel camera that’s paired with a secondary wide-angle unit. The V20 had a 8-megapixel secondary camera, but the V30 ups that to 12-megapixels.

lg v20

Credit: LG | The LG V20, launched in 2016

Arguably the biggest addition to the camera is the wider f/1.6 aperture, which should allow for far better low-light snaps. Moving on from photography to videography, the V30 can shoot in a format called LG Cine Log, which allows for the addition of neat movie-inspired colour-grading filters to be added. This wasn’t available on the V20.

Android O? This isn’t going to ship with the phone, but will arrive as an OS update later.

We haven’t tested either in full, though, so we advise waiting for our final review verdict before buying either device based purely on its spec sheets.

LG V20 vs LG V30 price and release date – What’s the best value LG phone right now?

This one’s kind of academic, because unless you were exceptionally adept at importing locked phones from the USA, you’re unlikely to have seen the LG V20 in the flesh – let alone in your mitts.

The LG V30? Well, the South Korean firm clearly feels it has a potential foothold in the Western smartphone market, and will make the LG V30 available for purchase along these shores later in the year.

Thanks, LG…

What we don’t have yet is a price – although the V20 sold for a premium on contract and, as such, we’d expect to see a similar price here.

LG V30 vs LG V20 summary – What should I buy?

Well, you can’t buy the LG V20 in the UK, but you’ll be able to buy the V30 eventually; if you really want LG’s latest, then your mind is probably made up.

Note that there are numerous other Android flagships around, however. At the more premium end of the spectrum, the Galaxy Note 8 could be hard to beat, while ‘flagship killer’ – the OnePlus 5 – is exceedingly compelling for the price.

Your final decision will depend on your priorities, and while we’d encourage you get excited about what the LG V30 might offer, we can’t help but feel there may be better phones out there worthy of your attention.



Ricoh Theta V hands-on: 360 camera goes 4K

Ricoh has revealed its brand new 360-degree camera, the Ricoh Theta V, stepping up to 4K video and 3D spatial surround sound audio. Replacing the Theta S, which topped out at 2K, the new camera also marks a big architecture shift, being the first 360 shooter to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset. Read on for what you need to know.

The big change with the Theta V is the twin camera sensors. Each now captures 12-megapixels, with f/2.0 optics, for up to 4K UHD video at 30fps (in 56 mbps H.264). Alternatively, you can switch to 2K, though with the Theta V’s 19GB of onboard – non-expandable – storage you can save up to 40 minutes of 4K footage. There’s a 360-degree still image mode, of course, and interval shooting that can now capture a shot every four seconds, rather than eight seconds with previous Theta models.

It should be ready for shooting faster, too. Ricoh has used a low-power Bluetooth LE radio for always-on pairing to your iOS or Android smartphone, and by default the Theta V goes into a standby mode rather than shutting off completely when you press the power button. The advantage is that you can take your first photo just 2 seconds after turning the camera on from the app – where previously it took around 20 seconds to establish a WiFi connection – plus you now get location tagging courtesy of the phone’s GPS whether you snap the shot from the camera or the app. Image transfer, mind, still takes place over WiFi.

Ricoh has done all this with minimal changes to the physical design of the Theta V, compared to its predecessors. That has a welcome side-effect when it comes to the new TW-1 underwater housing case, a $199.95 plastic shell that allows you to use the Theta V up to 30m (98 feet) underwater, but which also is compatible with the Theta S and SC. It’ll launch in October.

The primary change is on the underside of the camera. The Theta V drops the HDMI connection of the old models, replacing with a 3.5mm audio input. That works with the new TA-1 3D microphone, made in collaboration with Audio-Technica, which attaches to the tripod port on the bottom the camera. It expands the audio frequency range at both the top and low-end, compared to the Theta V’s own four microphones. Either way, you get 4-channel 4D spacial sound, but the TA-1 improves quality.

As a result, Theta is pitching the $269.95 add-on as of particular interest for those recording music or theatrical performances. Cleverly, it’s designed so you can still plug in the microUSB power cable even when the TA-1 is attached. Battery life for the camera is up to 260 images or 65 minutes of video recording.


Inside, Ricoh has effectively given the Theta V the architecture of a smartphone, only without the cellular radios and display. A customized version of Android runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835, giving the camera much more processing grunt to take advantage of. That, eventually, will mean less time waiting for 360-degree content to be exported.

Currently, the Theta cameras only stitch together and render their 360-degree video while it’s being transferred wirelessly to the WiFi-tethered smartphone. Initially the Theta V will do the same, though Ricoh says that – thanks to the 10x faster WiFi radio – it’ll only take the same length of time as a Theta S might, despite capturing at much higher resolution.

A firmware update in October, however, will allow the Theta V to do stitching in real-time. The result will be transfers that take less than half the time, the company showed me, but also which automatically correct slant at the top and bottom of the frame courtesy of the integrated gyro sensor. Previously, you’d have to do that manually in the Ricoh PC app.

Sometimes, though, you might not even need to export at all. The Theta V supports Miracast so that, if you have a compatible TV or a set-top box like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, you can link the camera to it wirelessly and then browse photos and video directly from its own storage. Navigation comes courtesy of waving the Theta V around like a Wiimote controller. It’s the first example of an Android-based plugin that Ricoh’s engineers have developed, though they plan more and, one day perhaps, could open the platform up to third-party apps and services.

Though the Theta V is powerful, Ricoh has made a few decisions that don’t make much sense to me. The biggest concerns 360-degree video live streaming, something which rival cameras like Samsung’s Gear 360 support through a smartphone, but for which the Theta V demands a USB connection to a Windows PC. It’ll be decent quality if you do – 4K resolution at up to 120 mbps – but it’s not going to be as straightforward for people wanting to stream on the go. Ricoh tells me it made the conscious decision not to support wireless 360-degree live streaming, because it could only guarantee it working on a subset of high-end devices and it thought that could get confusing for consumers.

That’s admirable, but it doesn’t quite jive with the Theta V’s overall positioning. At $429.95 when it hits stores in mid-September, it’s clearly at the high-end for standalone consumer 360 cameras. Its redesigned app, though cleaner now, still gives control over a plethora of settings including ISO (up to 1600, with 3200 in manual mode), white balance, shutter speed (up to 1/25,000 second), and more.

Sharing clips with 360 spatial audio will take a little expertise, too, since currently you can’t easily export from the Theta V to, say, YouTube. Ricoh says it’s working with the YouTube team on that, but for the moment you’ll need to go through the hassle of using a third-party app like Adobe Premiere Pro. If you were hoping to share on Facebook, meanwhile, that’s simply not possible today, though Ricoh tells me it believes it’s on the social network’s roadmap.

Back when Ricoh launched its first Theta in 2013, the company effectively had the 360-degree consumer camera market to itself. Since then, we’ve seen both standalone and plug-in cameras proliferate, many significantly cheaper than what the Theta V will cost you (the Theta SC will remain on sale at $199.99). From what I’ve seen, the Theta V’s video quality is top-notch, but I suspect you’ll need to be a true 360 video fan in order to get the most out of its upgraded hardware.






LG V30 Hands-on Review

Key Features

  • 6-inch quad-HD+ Full Vision display
  • HDR 10 support
  • Snapdragon 835. 4GB RAM
  • 64 or 128GB storage
  • Quad-DAC
  • B&O earbuds

LG V30 hands-on: More exciting than the incoming iPhone 8?

LG V30 release date: September 2017

LG V30 price: £TBC

For the first time, LG is bringing its secondary flagship ‘V’ series to the UK via Carphone Warehouse – and it’s using IFA 2017 in Berlin to announce it.

The LG V30 is a bezel-free device with numerous clever additions. The focus is on audio and videography, but LG isn’t forgetting about smartphone basics. This is a gorgeous, powerful phone that could well be one of the year’s best.

LG V30 – Design

The LG V30 is the brand’s slickest phone to date and there won’t be many who question that. If the G6 showed that LG had started to care about how its phones look, then the V30 takes that to the next level.

Yes, it does have a whiff – and a strong one, at that – of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8, but I feel this is simply the direction in which phone design is headed. Like the S8, the LG V30 says ‘bye-bye’ to bezels and ‘hello’ to a screen that makes up much of the front of the phone.

The sides of the screen curve ever so slightly and so does the rear, making it super-comfortable to hold. Considering the V30 has a 6-inch display, it feels almost unbelievably compact – and ever so light at just 158g. There’s so little wasted space; it’s a complete contrast to Sony’s hulking XZ Premium, which has a healthy chin above and below the display.

Gorilla Glass 5 covers both the front and back, which in turn makes the shiny rear a magnet for grimy smudges and grease. Moments after unboxing the V30 will be covered in fingerprints, so it’s handy that LG pops a little cleaning cloth in the box. A fingerprint sensor sits on the back of the device – typical for LG – and this acts as a lock button too.

The V30 will be available in a few colours: a shiny black, blue-tinged silver, a much darker blue, and an odd but lovely deep purple. Thankfully, all have a black front.

LG V30 – Screen

Even though the company builds some of the finest OLED televisions on the market, LG has stuck to LCD panels for its flagships phones recently. That all changes with the V30, which features an OLED display instead.

OLED panels offer more vivid colours, deep blacks and in general display more punch than the LCD counterparts. The 6-inch 2880 x 1440 ‘Full Vision’ HDR 10 panel here looks immediately better than the one on the G6. It boasts the same 18:9 aspect ratio and QHD+ resolution, but visually it appears much more colourful.

I loaded up The Defenders in HDR on Netflix and the experience didn’t at all feel like I was watching it on my phone; it drew me in with its vibrancy. LG has added a new ‘Enhanced Colour Mode’ that gives non-HDR content a faux-HDR look. Samsung offers such a feature as well.

Previous entries in the ‘V’ series paired a smaller display with the main one, which acted almost like a shortcuts bar. I’m sure it had its fans, but I’m glad it’s gone here. It always felt like wasted space; besides, it really wouldn’t have worked with the new design.

LG V30 – Performance, software and audio

By trying to get the phone onto shelves before Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S8, LG had to forego including the latest components inside the LG G6. There have been no such compromises here. The V30 features the latest Snapdragon 835 SoC, 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB internal storage.

I will save my full performance impressions for the final review – but predictably, the V30 feels quick.

LG’s downfall has often been software. Too many times it’s layered Android with an ugly skin that not only looked odd, but slowed down the handset in question. I don’t think LG has done a complete about-turn in this area, but there has been plenty of improvement.

LG’s skin is built over Android 7.1.2 and it retains many typical Android features. There are a couple of additions to stretch apps to fit the long display and a better battery saver mode, but most of LG’s work has resulted in altering the icons, native apps and the notification panel. None of the changes are overly offensive, but it isn’t as good-looking as vanilla Android on a Google Pixel, for example.

During the phone briefing, LG distanced itself from confirming when Android 8.0 Oreo would hit the V30. The company seemed to suggest it would be within six months; hopefully, before the end of the year. Neither is too positive, and considering Oreo is out already, I’d like to see it much sooner.

While the iPhone 7 and Moto Z2 Force are ditching the headphone jack, LG is actively improving and championing the port. Not only do you get a nice pair of B&O earbuds in the box in certain markets, but there’s a quad-DAC inside the phone that seriously improves sound quality.

LG V30 – Camera

The camera on the LG V30 is absolutely stacked with features, making it an exciting prospect.

Like the LG G6, there are two cameras on the rear. The ‘main’ camera is 16 megapixels with OIS and a wide f/1.6 aperture that should help low-light photography. Next to that sits a wide-angle camera that captures pictures with a 120-degree field of view. This secondary camera lacks optical image stabilisation, but it still has a wide f/1.9 lens.

Personally, this is my favourite combination of cameras. You might not get the ability to losslessly zoom or enter a bokeh enhancing ‘Portrait Mode’ – a feature LG simple calls gimmicky and would be reserved for cheaper devices – but the variation of shots achievable with that wide camera is far more useful in my opinion.

I took some sample shots in a dark hotel and the results were good, but I’ll need to use it at greater length to really get an idea of just how good this camera is.

LG’s second big push is in the area of video, with the V30 boasting a number of recording options that I haven’t seen before. The biggest of these is a new file format called LG Cine Log, which essentially allows you to colour grade your footage with a number of pre-made filters. These range from ‘Blockbuster’ to ‘Noir’; and in my short time with the phone, they look good. LG will ship 15 filters with the V30, and I’m sure there will be scope to add more.

Another new feature is ‘Point Zoom’, which lets you lock onto a target when you’re filming and softly zoom directly on the subject.

The only part of the camera that hasn’t been updated is the front-facing sensor. It remains a 5-megapixel unit, with LG basically admitting that it’s sacrificed the selfie-taking skills of this phone to rid the bezel.

LG V30 – Battery life

There’s a 3300mAh battery to keep the LG V30 going, which is the same size unit included in the smaller LG G6. It’s far too early to judge the battery capabilities of this phone, but hopefully the more efficient CPU will help it perform better than its sibling. It charges via USB-C and supports fast as well as wireless charging.

First impressions

I don’t say this often, but I’m excited by the LG V30.

It looks gorgeous and focuses on areas that other phones just don’t. The quad-DAC sounds exceptional and the included B&O earbuds are better than any other boxed headphones I’ve experienced to date. As someone who listens to a lot of music via my handset, I appreciate a good audio setup.

The camera, with its f/1.6 aperture, sounds great too. I’m slightly more interested in its photographic capabilities than video, but the new Cine Log recording and colour-grading feature that go along with it do sound interesting.

Depending on how much it eventually costs, the LG V30 could be an Android smartphone that ticks all the boxes – and one that really takes on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.


Sony WH-1000XM2 review

With The Great British Bake Off returning to our screens, it only seems apt to start with a hi-fi based baking analogy.

Sony had all the right ingredients in place with its MDR-1000X headphones. They mixed excellent audio quality over Bluetooth with a splash of fine comfort and class-leading noise-cancelling. In Bake Off terms, Sony was the master baker, beating the likes of Sennheiser and Bose to claim a What Hi-Fi? Award in 2016.

But after barely a year in production, the MDR-1000Xs have been replaced by the WH-1000XM2s. The new cans feature a few more ingredients, which begs the question, has Sony enhanced the flavour, or has it over-egged the pudding?

Build and comfort

Aesthetically, the WH-1000Xs look quite similar to the MDR-1000Xs but there are some obvious differences. The finishes have been changed slightly, with Champagne Gold replacing the original Beige. There’s still a Black option, but it’s not quite the same.

Sony claims that a change in the materials used for the headband and ear enclosures has resulted in a finish that looks more gun metal or bluey/grey. And we actually prefer it.

The headband and earpad cushioning carry across from the old model, which means comfort levels are still high and the headphones sit securely on your head without feeling vice-like.

The texture of the outer earpiece covers is a little rougher and makes them feel more tactile.

Sony has done a spot of consolidating with the WH-1000XM2s, but it has also opened up a couple of extra features for the user.

The Sense Engine and Personal NC Optimiser make a return, and although the auto calibration software pings out test tones as before, you may notice a couple of extra chimes just before it finishes the set-up process.

This signals that the integrated Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser has done its thing. A new feature for the WH-1000X, Sony has built a tiny pressure sensor into the left earpiece.

The theory is that a shift in atmosphere can upset the frequency balance of the headphones. Not only that, but the sensitivity of the microphones used for the noise-cancelling can also drop.

Noise cancelling

Now this doesn’t really matter if you’re listening at ground level, but what if you’re travelling in an aircraft? The sensor detects changes in atmosphere and applies a filter to compensate.

In practice, this means you need to run the calibration software every time you reach flying altitude and run it again once you’re back on terra firma.

Look around the edge of the left earpiece and you’ll see Sony has reduced the button count, so both the Ambient Sound and noise-cancelling features can be controlled by just one button instead of two.


Sony’s Quick Attention mode also makes a return. With this function, you can reduce the volume level of your music simply by covering the top of the right earpiece, which allows you to get your bearings or hold a conversation. Move your hand away and the music returns to its previous level.

Playback is still controlled by the touchpad built into the surface of the right earpiece. The added texture on the surface makes swiping sideways to change tracks and sliding up or down to change volume more satisfying.

The controls feel a bit more positive on the new model, as does the double-tap required to play and pause music. On the outgoing MDR-1000Xs, these could be a little hit-and-miss.

Sony’s Headphones Connect app, available for both Android and iOS, isn’t exactly essential, but it brings a level of extra customisation that’s worth investigating.

The app gives you access to Sony’s Smart Auto-settings, so whether you’re in a vehicle, running, walking or sitting still, you can customise the amount of noise cancelling and ambient sound you want to experience.

The headphones detect your movements through your phone’s gyroscope and automatically switch between different modes. It’s a clever feature and means you can enjoy the benefits of noise-cancelling, but with the added reassurance that you will still be able to hear some of the world around you.

Within the app, there are four different surround modes: Arena; Club; Outdoor stage; and Concert hall, and you can also play around with an equaliser to tweak the settings.

Sony’s DSEE HX audio processing can be completely turned off from the app too. The company claims this can upscale compressed music to near hi-res quality. In the MDR-1000Xs, it was permanently turned on, and in the new model we also prefer listening with the processing mode on.

However, turning it off comes in handy if you want to preserve the battery life. You can go from 20 hours to around 30, while still using Bluetooth and noise-cancelling. If you listen wired with just noise-cancelling switched on, that increases to a battery life of up to 38 hours.

Four hours should be enough for a full charge, while a ten-minute rapid charge can give you around one hour of valuable extra battery life. To help conserve battery in normal listening conditions, the Sonys automatically power down after five minutes of inactivity.


Performance-wise, the Sony WH-1000XM2s display all the strengths that made their predecessors so special. The noise-cancelling is still impressive, whether you’re trying to silence office noise or block out the rumble of an aircraft at 35,000 feet.

The sound pressure optimiser is a nice touch, and will probably help sell to more pairs, but from our ground-bound position, it’s difficult to judge whether it makes a huge difference.

The WH-1000Xs time well and are equally happy bounding along to an enthusiastic bout of house music as they are communicating the slower, more emotive melody of Sampha’s (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano.

Refined highs ensure the constant crashing of high-hat and cymbals during Idlewild’s A Modern Way Of Letting Go never threaten to sound edgy or bright, but there’s still enough of a spark to entertain. The song’s over in a flash, but the Sonys allow you to savour every moment of it.

Wide-ranging dynamics at either end of the frequency scale sandwich an impressive level of detail, and the result is that this musical package maintains your interest at all times and keeps you coming back for more.

Bass is weighty and full-bodied, but doesn’t sound sluggish. If anything, this new model sounds weightier and more confident in its ability. The headphones can plummet far enough to follow the deepest bassline, but they stop short of unbalancing the rest of the presentation.


The Sony WH-1000XM2s stick to a tried and trusted recipe that works a treat. They’re a superb all-round package that excel in every area and that’s why we’d willingly pay every penny of their premium price tag.

A showstopping pair of headphones if ever we heard them.




LG V30 vs Galaxy S8: Which Android flagship is best?

To pretty much no one’s surprise, LG has just revealed a new flagship smartphone at IFA 2017 – but how does the LG V30 stack up against current Trusted Reviews favourite the Samsung Galaxy S8? Let’s take a look at how the specs, design, features, camera and price compare.

We’ve scarcely had a moment to appreciate the Galaxy Note 8 and, already, we’ve been treated to a new Android flagship in the LG V30.

For those who don’t know, the V30 is the successor the LG V20 – better known as the best phone from 2016 that never actually came to the UK.

So just how do the two new Android powerhouses compare, and what’s the difference? We’re here to explain all.

LG V30 vs Galaxy S8 Design: What’s the difference

From a distance, the LG V30 and Samsung Galaxy S8 have certain similar design traits. Both are curved on the front and back – the S8 much more so – and they both have stretched displays that leave almost no room for a bezel. This modern look was made iconic by Samsung, but it looks just as good on the LG V30.

The V30 is slightly bigger than the regular sized Galaxy S8 and smaller than the larger S8+, and LG’s latest flagship arguably feels like the perfectly sized phone. The S8 is slightly narrower though, probably due to the steeper sides.

Another similarity is what both these phones are made from. Both use Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and back, with a metal rim adding some rigidity in the middle. They both feel great, though we will need to spend more time with the V30 to see if it’s quite as well built as the S8.

LG V30 vs Galaxy S8 Specs: Which Android phone is more powerful?

In theory, we’re on equal ground here, as the LG V3o and Galaxy S8 both pack Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB RAM and a base of 64GB storage.

But there’s more to it than that.

Where the Galaxy S8 sports a 5.8-inch screen, the LG V30 goes even larger with its 6-inch display, so potential buyers wanting to consume media (that should be ‘watch’, but we’re tied to convention here) might want to consider LG’s latest more seriously. Unless you wanted to go bigger and get the S8+ with its 6.2-inch display, that is.

Both phones have OLED displays with quad-HD+ resolutions and the ability to display HDR content, though this content is still limited.

The other major point of order is that the LG V30 comes with Quad DAC audio support, and while Samsung hasn’t quite ditched the headphone jack yet, this gives the V30 a likely win over the Galaxy S8 in terms of audio quality.

We haven’t fully reviewed the LG V30 yet so don’t quite know how well its camera performs, but what we do know are the specs. On the back it packs one 16-megapixel camera with OIS and an f/1.6 aperture along with a secondary 120 degree wide-angle 12-megapixel camera. The Galaxy S8, on the other hand, has just a single 12-megapixel camera with an f/1.7 aperture.

Megapixel metrics are never the true measure of how good a smartphone’s camera is, so we can’t stress enough that if this is your primary purchasing decision, you should wait until we’d vetted LG’s latest fully. (Samsung’s, for what it’s worth, is excellent).

Keeping the phones running all day is a 3300 mAh battery inside the V30 and a 3000 mAh inside the Galaxy S8. Both support fast charging, plus wireless charging.

LG V30 vs Galaxy S8 Price and Release Date: Which should I buy?

That’s an impossible question.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 has already proved to us that it is one of the year’s best smartphones, while we still need to spend some more time with the LG V30 before giving a final verdict.

In reality, the Galaxy S8 is more likely the true iPhone 8 rival, but that doesn’t mean that you should discount the V30 altogether – it offers distinct features that won’t be found elsewhere including a quad-DAC and wide-angle camera.

galaxys8 31

For the full, end-to-end premium smartphone experience, you may be better served by the S8 – but those looking for something different should take a long hard look at the LG V30.

It might just satisfy, or even exceed, your needs.

As we don’t know how much the V30 will cost, or even when it is out, it’s impossible to compare value. But considering the high-end features, we’d expect it to be in the same price-range as the £689 Galaxy S8.



Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Hands-on Review

Key Features

  • Review Price: £699.99/$1049.99 with 14-42mm EZ lens
  • 16-megapixel Four Thirds sensor
  • 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder
  • 8.6 frames per second shooting
  • 5-axis in-body stabilisation
  • 4K video recording

What is the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III?

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lens, based on the Micro Four Thirds standard. It’s designed for budding photographers who want to take a step up from their smartphone camera. It will be available in black or silver, and will cost £699.99 with the compact 14-42mm EZ lens.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is a mirrorless camera styled to look like an old film SLR

The camera industry has changed dramatically over the past decade. Casual photographers overwhelmingly now use smartphones rather than compact cameras, sharing their photos instantly online. However, there will be some budding photographers who inevitably find that their artistic ambitions outstrip the relatively limited abilities of their phone cameras, and therefore will look to upgrade to a ‘proper’ camera. The challenge facing the traditional camera manufacturers is how best to appeal to these potential customers, who are used to touchscreen-driven operation and always-on connectivity.

It’s into this market that Olympus has introduced its latest SLR-styled mirrorless model, the OM-D E-M10 Mark III. On the surface it looks like a relatively minor update to the two-year-old OM-D E-M10 Mark II, with essentially the same body design and broad feature set. It gains an updated 121-point autofocus system and 4K video recording, thanks to Olympus’s latest TruePic VIII processor, but that’s pretty much all that’s new. Incidentally, Olympus says the Mark II will remain in its lineup for now.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III black top

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III will also be available in silver

More interestingly, though, Olympus has radically overhauled the camera’s interface and firmware in a bid to appeal to smartphone upgraders. The idea is clearly to make both simple and advanced features more accessible to novices and experienced users alike. I’ve been using the camera for a few days ahead of its official launch, and I think the firm has done a pretty good job.

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is due to go on sale in mid-September for £699.99 with the slimline 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ electronic zoom lens. Opting for the larger, mechanical-zoom 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R will save you £50, while for those with existing MFT lens collections, the camera will also be available body-only for £629.99.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III – Features

Olympus has based the camera around a 16-megapixel Four Thirds sensor that appears to be similar to those used in the previous two generations of E-M10. Its sensitivity range runs from ISO 200 to 25,600, with an extended low setting equivalent to ISO 100, which is more likely to clip highlight detail. It offers a continuous shooting rate of 8.6fps, dropping to to 4.8fps when you need focus and exposure to be adjusted between shots.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

The retro body design is based on Olympus’ 35mm OM SLRs

The autofocus system is adapted from the pro-level E-M1 Mark II, but unlike that camera, it relies on contrast-detection only, which means it won’t have the same ability to keep up with moving subjects. It uses 121 focus points that cover practically the entire frame, and you can either select an individual point or use a group of nine, which is likely to work better when you want to the camera to track a moving object. Face detection is also available, with the option to focus specifically on your subject’s eyes.

In perhaps its single biggest update, the E-M10 Mark III gains the ability to record video at 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) and 25fps, and it’s possible to extract 8-megapixel stills from the resulting footage during playback. Alternatively, you can shoot in Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution at up to 50fps, with a variety of in-camera effects. There’s also a high-speed (slow-motion) mode at 120fps and HD (1280 x 720) resolution. However, there’s no option to attach an external microphone.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

The LCD tilts up and down, and Olympus has redesigned the user interface

On the camera’s rear you’ll find a touchscreen that tilts 90 degrees up and 45 degrees down, and above it there’s a 2.36-million-dot EVF with a decent 0.62x equivalent magnification. Both are similar to those on the Mark II, offering bright and clear views with colour that accurately reflects the images you’ll get. Compared to the optical viewfinders on DSLRs, this can be a huge advantage in making sure you have the correct settings before you take a picture; but it does come at the expense of shorter battery life.

One crucial feature is Olympus’s 5-axis image stabilisation, which works with every lens you can mount on the camera, although you’ll have to program in the focal length manually with non-electronic lenses. The system is extremely effective at reducing blur from handshake when shooting still images with long shutter speeds, with Olympus claiming up to four stops of stabilisation. It’s also remarkably good at smoothing out handheld video footage in an almost Steadicam-like fashion.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

The BLS-50 battery and SD card slot into a compartment in the base

As expected, the camera has built-in Wi-Fi for connecting to a smartphone via the Olympus Image Share app for Android and iOS. This makes it easy to copy your favourite shots to your phone for sharing on social media, and also enables full remote control of your camera from your phone, complete with a Live View display. You can even allow the app to use your phone’s GPS to keep track of your location, then use this data to geotag your photos based on the date and time they were taken.

Outside of this core, the E-M10 Mark III has a healthy array of additional features to keep more ambitious users happy. The key change is that it aims to make these far easier to access than before.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III – Body and design

As we see a lot these days, Olympus has essentially re-used the existing body design of the E-M10 Mark II, with all the buttons and dials in all the same places. However, many of them have been re-purposed with the aim of making the camera easier to use for beginners. As a result, the newcomer operates in a somewhat different fashion to its predecessor.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

A small flash is built into the ‘pentaprism’ housing

Some things haven’t changed, though. The masterful retro design is reminiscent of Olympus’ 1970s film SLRs, and a careful choice of materials makes the E-M10 Mark III look and feel rather more expensive than it really is. You might not get the weather-sealed magnesium-alloy construction of its more expensive sibling, the E-M5 Mark II, but the camera still feels very sturdy in your hand.

An enlarged, redesigned grip offers a secure hold, aided by a prominent rear thumb pad, and the control dials click with satisfying precision. Compared to similarly priced black plastic DSLRs, it’s quite simply a more tactile and desirable object. If you buy it with the retractable 14-42mm EZ zoom, it’s also much slimmer and easier to carry around.

Two electronic dials on the top plate are used to change exposure settings, while the exposure mode dial alongside them is raised to make it easy to operate. It provides access to a familiar set of modes, with a full auto mode for novices alongside PASM modes for enthusiasts. The SCN position gives access to a large range of subject-based scene modes, but these are now organised into six categories using a new touchscreen-based interface. This should make it easier for beginners to select the most appropriate one for any given shooting situation. Olympus’ signature Art filters are also onboard offering more stylised image processing, including a new Bleach Bypass filter that gives interesting, washed-out colours.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

The new AP mode accesses a range of useful features

Perhaps the E-M10 III’s best new idea is the AP (Advanced Photography) mode on the top-plate dial. This takes a whole bunch of existing features that Olympus had previously hidden away in its labyrinthine menu system, and groups them onto a dedicated position on the mode dial; the features are selected by a touch menu that includes a brief description of each.

Here you’ll find some fairly common options such as double-exposure, HDR shooting, silent mode, and autoexposure bracketing. But several more are unique to Olympus, including Keystone Correction for fixing converging verticals, and Live Time and Live Composite modes for getting perfect long-exposure shots at night.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

The new AP mode makes plenty of interesting features much easier to access

Many of the camera’s buttons have changed functions, and in a marked change of tack from Olympus, only two are customisable. So while the D-pad was previously used to move the focus point directly, you now have to press the left key first. The other keys now give direct access to ISO, flash and drive modes. Unlike on the higher-end PEN-F, it isn’t possible to revert this setup to direct focus area selection.

You can use the touchscreen to move the focus point instead, which works even when you have your eye to the viewfinder. This has become a common approach recently, but on most cameras it’s all too easy to reset the focus point by inadvertently contacting the screen with your nose. However, Olympus has come up with a fix: double-tapping the screen turns the touchpad AF function on and off. It’s a simple and clever idea, and works really well. Combined with the EVF’s relatively generous clearance from the screen, this makes the E-M10 Mark III the first camera with which I’ve really been happy to use the touchscreen for this purpose. 

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

The button beside the power switch brings up a context-sensitive options menu

One key new interface feature is that the button beside the power switch – previously Fn3 – is now used to bring up an on-screen menu with options tailored to each mode. So with the mode dial in the SCN, Art and AP positions, it allows you to choose between the various available modes. In movie mode, it selects between recording resolutions; in the PASM modes, it calls up the on-screen Super Control Panel that gives access to most shooting settings. This brings a sensible coherence to the camera’s operation.

The only buttons that are still customisable are both on the left side. The thumb-operated Fn1 button engages auto-exposure or autofocus lock, and I suspect most users will keep it his way. Meanwhile, the Fn2 button beside the shutter release is set to engage the 2x digital teleconverter. This may look like an odd choice to enthusiast photographers, but I suppose smartphone users are very familiar with the idea, and the 4-megapixel effective resolution is more than adequate for social-media use. Personally, I’d set it to operate something more useful such as depth-of-field preview, focus peaking or magnification.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Olympus’ proprietary USB connector has been replaced by a standard micro-USB

In a very welcome move, Olympus has also finally stripped down its notoriously over-complicated menus. So rather than packing in the same detailed but rarely used operational tweaks as its top-end models, the E-M10 Mark III has a reduced set of options that still gives broadly the same degree of customisability as you’ll find on mid-range DSLRs. I think the firm has done a really good job here – I was able to tweak the camera’s setup to my personal taste, without finding any key options had gone missing.

However, one area that I’d say Olympus has sadly over-simplified is that of in-camera raw conversion. On its other models you can adjust settings such as colour mode and white balance for each individual image, and preview the results before conversion, which is great for tweaking your favourite shots before sharing them using Wi-Fi. But on the E-M10 III, Olympus has reverted to its bad old ways, as you have to make the changes to the camera’s current shooting settings to apply them to an in-camera raw conversion. This is clunky and is liable to leave you with the camera incorrectly setup next time you start shooting. Frankly, it makes no sense at all.

First impressions

With the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, Olympus has made a camera that’s more interesting than it at first looks. The specifications and feature set may not have changed all that much compared to its predecessor, but the overhaul of its interface should make it much more approachable for novice users. It’s also now more distinctly differentiated from the next tier up in the line – the enthusiast-orientated E-M5 series.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

With its slim, attractive design, the E-M10 Mark III begs to be picked up and used

In terms of features, there’s nothing especially new or unknown here. The 121-point AF system offers finer control over exactly where in the scene you want to focus, while 4K video recording offers much more detailed footage than Full HD – even if you’re only viewing on a HD display.

Image quality seems broadly similar to previous Olympus Micro Four Thirds models: technically, the smaller sensor might not match APS-C cameras for resolution and high-ISO noise control, but in return you get Olympus’ consistently attractive in-camera JPEG colour and white balance, and extremely effective in-body image stabilisation.

Crucially, if you’re planning on building up a system, Olympus also makes a good range of relatively affordable, lightweight lenses that are well-matched to the E-M10 Mark III, and you can use Panasonic lenses too.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Olympus makes a good range of lenses to match the E-M10 Mark III

In summary, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III offers a strong feature set in a compact, charismatic body at a very keen price point. It looks like it will be a great choice for smartphone photography enthusiasts looking to upgrade to their first proper camera, but it should also be a capable second body for owners of Olympus’ higher-end OM-Ds. Stay tuned for our full review, which should appear in the next few weeks.




Sony Xperia XZ1 Hands-on Review

Key Features

  • 5.2-inch 1080p HDR display
  • Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage
  • 19MP camera w/ 960fps slow-mo video
  • 3D scanning
  • Fingerprint scanner (not in USA)

Sony Xperia XZ1 hands-on: An HDR display-toting flagship that will 3D scan your face and food

Sony Xperia XZ1 release date: September 2017

Sony Xperia XZ1 price: £TBC

Sony’s high-end phones appear thick and fast, and even though the Xperia XZ1 isn’t a replacement for the disappointing Xperia XZ Premium, it does take some of the biggest features from that 4K beast and crams them into a smaller package.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Design

The Xperia XZ1 is unmistakably a Sony phone. A flat front and back is paired with rounded sides and a chunky bezel surrounds the 5.2-inch display. It isn’t the most modern of designs – in fact, ‘tired’ would be closer to the truth – but in this smaller form factor it kind of works. On a positive note, it is IP68-rated for water-resistance.

The metal construction feels great, and I’m a fan of Sony’s decision to offer the device in an array of pastel shades. The phone I was using was a blushing pink colour in its entirety; it was different to anything else out there.

Sony continues to build phones that feel well made, but I do wish the company would spend some time addressing those hard edges. I’d also have loved to see a slimmer bezel, although considering there are two fairly powerful front-facing stereo speakers flanking the screen, it was hardly likely.

The fingerprint scanner continues to sit inside the power button on the side for European models. If you’re in the States, you’ll have no fingerprint scanner due to ‘business reasons’. It’s a fast scanner, but having it on the power button means the lock-screen is basically useless as you whizz by it every time you turn on the device.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Screen

HDR screens have cropped up on a few phones this year – The Galaxy S8, LG G6 and Note 8 – and that’s great, but both Samsung and LG have struggled to actually get viewable content to consumers. Sony does better here, with both Netflix and Amazon Prime providing HDR – in the HDR10 standard – content for the Xperia XZ1 out-of-the-box.

In my mind, I’d much rather have an HDR screen on a phone than a 4K one since it does actually make a visible difference. Flicking between standard and HDR content on the XZ1, the richer contrast and deeper blacks were instantly noticeable; it looked great even on the 5.2-inch panel.

That 5.2-inch display is still 1080p, rather than the now more common quad-HD resolution, but I’ve always been a fan of the LCDs Sony uses, regardless of resolution, and that remains the case here. Colours are rich, text is crisp and viewing angles are noticeably better than AMOLED panels.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Camera

Considering it’s the part of the device that Sony spent the majority of its briefing talking about, I was surprised that I was kind of disappointed by the 19-megapixel camera on the Xperia XZ1.

It’s pretty much the same camera as the XZ Premium, with a RAM-stacked sensor for quicker shooting, nifty smile detection and a burst mode that captures in full resolution rather than cropping down. But the sample images I captured during my albeit short time with the phone were wildly inconsistent.

The biggest flaw appeared to be colour accuracy, which is way off. For instance, the light-pink flower I was using as a subject appeared more neon-pink in shots. I understand that the majority of phones add some extra vibrancy and saturation to photos, but I haven’t seen anything quite this harsh before. There will be those who love this look, but it isn’t for me. Sony also doesn’t really give you many options aside from the Superior Auto Mode. There’s a manual mode, but there’s no auto-HDR option.

Colours aside, the pictures display good detail and since they pack plenty of pixels, you can zoom into the results and not have them turn into a blurry mess.

Another feature plucked from the XZ Premium is super slow-motion video capture at 960fps. If you’re in super-well-lit situations with an obvious subject then the results are ridiculously cool. However, as soon as the light goes down, so does the quality. Still, it’s impressive that Sony has managed to bring this sort of tech to phones.

The biggest addition to the camera on the Xperia XZ1 is a new 3D scanning feature that could either be the biggest gimmick I’ve seen on a phone, or something genuinely clever. This lets you take 3D scans of faces, food and lots more to then share; they can be turned into animated GIFs too.

The actual face-scanning tech is a mixture of the camera on the rear and some algorithms in the software at play, and the demos I was shown looked impressive. The scans were placed into popular GIFs and animated to dance; they can be shared on Facebook, but they’ll have to be manipulated using a special viewer. You’ll also be able to print out the scans via a 3D printer.

Sony reiterated numerous times that this was very much its first attempt at bringing this tech to a phone – and it will improve in the future. I think the tech seemed fine; it’s just what you’d do with the scans after that caused confusion.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Performance and software

Nothing too interesting in this department, since the Xperia XZ1 has similar internals to the majority of flagships. There’s a Snapdragon 835 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage with microSD expansion. The appeared to be pretty swift in my demo, but then there were no apps installed.

As touched upon above, below the display sit two front-firing speakers that sound fine. Thankfully, their placement means that they won’t become blocked by your hands when watching a video.

Sony will ship the Xperia XZ1 with Android Oreo off the bat – a thumbs up from me – although it’s been marginally ‘Sony-ified’ with different icons and a load of its own media apps. It looks fine, and Sony has kept all the Oreo features – such as notification dots and long-press actions – in tact.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Battery life

The battery inside the Xperia XZ1 is a 2700mAh cell, making it one of the smallest out there. This is one of my biggest concerns about this phone, and unless there’s some serious software optimisation going on, I can’t see this phone comfortably lasting the day. This isn’t a small device, so it’s slightly odd that Sony would put in such a meagre battery.

First impressions

Sony tends to use its heritage as an iconic brand to differentiate itself from the smartphone competition, and in lots of ways this is true here. But it could do so much more.

There’s a lot to like with the Xperia XZ1. I appreciate the way it’s built and I love the colour options and how precise the finish is, plus the display is predictably slick. But this camera just isn’t winning me round and then there’s the small battery.



Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Hands-on Review

  • Review Price: £259
  • Splash- and dust-resistant
  • Leather charging case
  • Touch controls
  • Transparency mode for ambience passthrough
  • Customisable EQ and sound staging

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 hands-on: The best AirPod alternative?

Beoplay E8 release date: October 12, 2017
Beoplay E8 price: £259/$299/€299

Wireless earbud headphones aren’t new, but there have been noticeably more models on the market since the arrival of the Apple AirPods.

Now it’s the turn of B&O Play, offshoot of luxury Danish audio brand Bang & Olufsen. It has revealed the Beoplay E8, which are distinctive for being the most attractive and feature-packed wireless buds out there right now.

I got to have a play with them ahead of their launch at IFA 2017, and they’ve left a very good first impression.

Beoplay E8

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 – Design

B&O always puts out nicely designed products, so aesthetics were never going to be an issue here. The design of the Beoplay E8 is lush.

I’ll start with the buds. They’re subtle, which might be an odd thing to say about ear buds, but nevertheless worth pointing out in comparison to the showy ‘dangling toothbrush’ design of the Apple AirPods.

The E8 are designed to sit in the gap just outside your ear canal (known as the concha). Five pairs of ear tips are included to ensure a proper fit. They’re a little nondescript at first glance, but look closer and you’ll notice aluminium accents mixed with the plastic. This may appear insignificant, but it makes a difference in handling.

Beoplay E8Place the buds into the charging case, and the magnets within ensure they fit with a satisfying snap. This triggers a sensor and the buds automatically power down.

The case is where B&O has really been able to display its design skills. It’s a leather-bound pebble, attached to a braided fabric strap. I’m not a naturally fidgety person, but I couldn’t resist fondling the case, turning it over and over in my hands. The materials add a warm, tactile element generally not found in electronics. There’s an element of ceremony whenever you decide it’s time to take it out of your bag or pocket.

Beoplay E8

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 – Features

The Beoplay E8 aren’t just the most eye-catching wireless earbuds around; they’re also the most advanced.

You might not suspect it from the pretty exterior, but the buds are splash- and dust-resistant. B&O tells me they’re not designed for sports, but it’s good to know that a bit of sweat from a particularly horrible afternoon in a sweaty train isn’t going to bring their life to an end.

Then there are the controls. The buds use touch-sensitive pads to control music and take calls. There’s also a Transparency feature, which enables audio passthrough so you don’t entirely shut the world out. That’s useful for maintaining awareness of your surroundings – when you’re crossing the road, for example. There are three levels of audio passthrough, which you can adjust in the Beoplay app. Once you’ve chosen your setting in the app, the buds will remember it until you change it again.

You can also adjust tonal balance and soundstaging to suit your mood and music types. If you’re not too confident, there are EQ presets too.

Battery life is quoted as four hours from a single charge. A fully charged case holds enough juice for a further two full charges. The case itself is charged via a micro-USB cable, which is included in the box.

Beoplay E8

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 – Performance

Unfortunately, my hands-on demo was just that – hands on. The E8s I played with didn’t have any power, so it’s impossible to say here how they perform. Nor can I comment on the stability of the wireless connection, which is the one great strength of the Apple AirPods.

That being said, the ear-canal design of the earbuds means that silicone ear tips will provide a proper seal. That will provide better passive sound isolation, and potentially better bass. Having a bunch of size options also means these buds have a greater chance of fitting a range of ear shapes. That’s a clear advantage over the Apple AirPods, which are known to have issues with fitting.

I’ll report back with an in-depth review after I receive my fully functioning review sample.

Beoplay E8

First impressions

The Beoplay E8 wireless earbuds leave a great first impression. It’s hard not to be impressed by the gorgeous design, and it’s even harder not to be wowed by that extensive features list.

That being said, the E8 aren’t cheap. At £259, they cost £100 more than the Apple AirPods. In order to justify that, they must have a flawless wireless connection and a clear advantage in audio performance.

If they can do that, Beoplay is onto something truly special.



Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact Hands-on Review

Key Features

  • 4.6-inch 720p screen
  • Snapdragon 835
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB storage and microSD
  • USB-C
  • 2700 mAh battery

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact hands-on: High-end features in a tiny body

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact release date: September 2017

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact price: £TBC

Sony Mobile has used IFA 2017 in Berlin to unveil a few new smartphones. While the Sony Xperia XZ is likely to receive many plaudits as a result of its HDR display, I’m far more excited about the rebirth of the Compact line.

It’s true that Sony did launch an Xperia X Compact last year, but this was a mid-range handset hamstrung by the fact that it looked like a bathroom tile from the 1970s. The Xperia XZ1 Compact conforms far better to what the line is trying to achieve: a device that features top-end specs, in a body that’s comfortable to use in one hand.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Design

Sony’s mobile design has barely changed since the Xperia Z way back in 2013. The Xperia XZ1 Compact follows the XZ1 and XZ Premium, but just in a smaller – and chunkier – shell.

The company has ditched the aluminium of the XZ1 for a woven plastic, but it actually feels super-nice. It lacks the cold touch of metal, and I imagine it’s far more durable and will wear well. There’s a fingerprint scanner baked into the lock-button on the side of the device, below the volume rocker, and it’s IP68-rated for water-resistance – a good-to-have feature that was missing in the last Compact device.

The boxy look that is typical of Sony’s handsets isn’t really to my taste, and in a world where the Essential Phone and LG G6 are ditching the bezel, the XZ1 Compact feels old-fashioned in comparison. It lives up to its name at least, feeling diminutive compared to the typical Android smartphone. It’s noticeably smaller than the iPhone 7, which makes it unique. If you’ve been longing for a small Android phone then the XZ1 is really your only choice.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Display

A 4.6-inch, 720p display is a rarity in 2017, and the panel on the XZ1 Compact will feel instantly odd if you’re used to something bigger. You’ll initially notice the low-resolution; even though the LCD panel is small, it could still do with a few more pixels. Icons felt fuzzy and text lacked that crisp edge you’d normally expect.

Everything apart from the resolution is fine: it’s bright, colourful and the use of LCD over AMOLED means viewing angles are better; but blacks are slightly murkier.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Performance and software

What has set previous iterations of the Compact apart from other, smaller Android phones is the inclusion of high-end components. The Xperia XZ1 Compact features exactly the same internals as the XZ1 – and that’s a good thing. There’s a Snapdragon 835 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage with a microSD card slot.

Considering all that is powering only a 720p display, it won’t be a surprise to discover that the Xperia XZ1 Compact is likely to be a fluid, fast phone.

It will also be one of the first handsets to run Android Oreo out of the box. You’ll still have to put up with some of Sony’s software ‘enhancements’, but the majority of its additions are fine. The Stamina modes offer a huge improvement over the basic Android power-saver options, and even Sony’s selection of media apps are well designed. Sony’s audio heritage comes into play with support for both Hi-Res tracks and DSEE HX for upscaling.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Camera

Like the Xperia XZ1 and XZ Premium, the XZ1 Compact packs a 19-megapixel Sony sensor with an f/2.0 aperture. It’s a ‘memory stacked’ sensor, which basically means there’s a modest amount of RAM attached to the camera to speed things up and reduce lag whilst you’re shooting. It’s capable of capturing 960fps slo-mo video at 720p, but you’ll need to be shooting in good lighting for this to be useful.

There’s a wealth of tech inside this camera, and I found it fast to both focus and shoot during my short time with it. Captured images display plenty of detail, but it does have a tendency to oversaturate bright, colourful pictures.

3D scanning is one of the new Xperia lines biggest tricks – although whether or not it will prove useful remains to be seen. This nifty feature uses some software trickery, along with the high-res camera on the rear, to scan faces, which you’ll then be able to manipulate and share on Facebook. It’s a clever party piece, and the results I was shown looked surprisingly good.

The biggest difference between the camera in the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact is the front-facing sensor. The Compact’s bonus wide-angle 8-megapixel selfie camera will mean that you can cram a greater number of faces into the shot.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Battery life

Sony’s strangest move with regards to the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact is including the same 2700mAh battery in both. This is disappointing for the larger Xperia, but a bonus for the Compact.

That’s a decent-sized battery for a phone running a small 720p display and an efficient Snapdragon 835 processor. Previous Compact phones have been able to see out two days from a  single charge; hopefully, the same will be true here too.

First impressions

The Compact is Sony’s most interesting line of phones, simply because there isn’t anything else quite like it on the market. This is the only Android phone boasting both high-end components and camera, but which isn’t a phablet.

Although the Compact still struggles with being a little thick, and it lacks the metal body of the Xperia XZ1, it still benefits from the majority of the flashier phone’s features and will great for anyone looking a smaller phone.


The Top 10 Wireless Outdoor Speakers of 2017

Having wireless outdoor speakers at your pool, deck and patio areas can greatly enhance your outdoor experience. As you swim by the pool or party with your friends, your guests can enjoy their favorite soundtracks while controlling these outdoor speakers from their Bluetooth devices. Some of these wireless outdoor speakers are portable too, making them suitable for camping or for use on the beach or even on a boat ride with their all-weather resistant design. Here are the top 10 wireless outdoor speakers that stand out for their quality material construction and stellar audio performance, producing full and rich sound in outdoor spaces while connecting seamlessly to our Bluetooth devices at long range.

#1 Grace Digital Mini-Bullet II Wireless Outdoor Speakers

Grace Digital Wireless Outdoor Speakers

The Grace Digital Mini-Bullet II are a set of very good wireless outdoor speakers with water resistance and decent sound at this price range. The two wireless auto-tune stereo speakers feature automatic level control, as well as Double Bass Boost (DBB) on each speaker for a richer and fuller range sound. A single color mood light adds ambience to night time outdoor listening, which we felt was a nice added touch. An LED power indicator on the transmitter and speakers and an LED auto-tune indicator on each speaker constantly reports the system status. These speakers had all the functionality expected in wireless outdoor speakers well thought out and designed.

These Mini-Bullet speakers look very modern and sleek, and came nicely packaged in sturdy boxes. There were 3 AC power adaptors included for the transmitter and the two speakers, in case you want to forgo the wireless function. The setup was easy; we found that you can use the auto-tune button to find good reception with no hissing noise. The great thing about these speakers is that you can link them up with up to 10 accessory speakers in the network (i.e., more Grace Mini-Bullet IIs) to expand your outdoor network, which was a pretty neat function. We particularly liked the 900 MHz wireless technology that provided approximately 150 feet range for these speakers, which means that you can easily hook up your iPod or TV and listen to them in your yard or patio.

In terms of audio performance, we found the sound quality to be crisp and clear, and it also had the ability to connect to FM radio. The sound is not the sort of audiophile sound you would expect, but it comes across clearly for a good outdoor time. The speaker can go very loud at maximum volume and there were no distortions to the music. The Double Bass Boost function worked pretty well too, and we could hear some of the punchy beats come to live with these speakers, although nothing that will blow your mind. If you are using these speakers for camping or on the beach, you can also switch on the mood lights in the evening for good ambiance. We found that these wireless outdoor speakers are very light to carry around, but heavy enough not to be blown over by wind. The battery life on these speakers last a good 7 hours too, which packs plenty of juice for the outdoors.

The Verdict? The Grace Digital Bullet II are a pair of sleek and modern wireless outdoor speakers  that are very portable, easy to set up and sound good. For speakers at this price range they represent incredible value for money. The additional functions that come with it, such as multi-linking and mood lights are a nice added touch. The water-resistance on these speakers are essential for the outdoors too, and make them overall a highly versatile pair.

#2 The Acoustic Research Wireless Outdoor Speaker

Acoustic Research Wireless Outdoor Speakers

The Acoustic Research Wireless Outdoor Speaker is a very sleek and modern looking lantern shaped speaker that delivers high-quality, full rich sound in the outdoors. The sleek, stylish design of the speaker is super eye-catching, and blends in well with home interior décor too. This speaker system gives you the option to directly connect your portable devices, or listen wirelessly with the included transmitter that allows you to listen to your music or TV from up to 150 feet away. Furthermore, the weather resistant features and solid construction allows you to bring it outdoors without having to worry about them. In terms of design, these speakers are hands down one of the most unique and modern looking wireless outdoor speakers out there in the market.

The Acoustic Research brings a lot of functionality into a single lantern shaped speaker and its corresponding transmitter. You can add multiple units wirelessly to the transmitter to expand your listening environment, which means that you can have multiple units positioned separately and control them from a single iPhone or Android. Furthermore, you can also select 3 broadcast frequencies for the best possible reception. This speaker is powered by 6 AA batteries (not included in the package) and lasts a total of 12 hours of playtime when fully charged. It also includes an AC/DC power adaptor and AUX input for other wired sources.

In terms of sound, the volume on the Acoustic Research can go relatively high without any distortions and the speakers produce crisp and clear sound. We even had to turn down the volume on these at one point. The sound quality is decent for a speaker of this size, and we felt that it had more of an emphasis on the highs and mids rather than the low-end, although this is understandable due to its compact size. The bass was decent and punchy, although we felt it could have been more accentuated. The transmission with these wireless outdoor speakers is very good; the sound is not disturbed by people walking between the transmitter and receiver, or by wifi or other electronics. We tested this speaker for about 2 weeks and felt that it worked perfectly well outside on the patio (where you can plug it in), or take in around the yard (using battery). It’s a very lightweight speaker which makes it very portable for outdoor use.

The Verdict? The Acoustic Research is a very good wireless outdoor speaker, especially for the value. The transmitter allows you to enjoy music wirelessly from 150 feet away, and the advanced Bluetooth technology allows you to connect easily with any Bluetooth device to stream your favorite soundtracks. The sound on these speakers are nice and solid; and go very loud for its size. It’s water-resistant design, portability and sleek and unique lantern shape makes this one of the best wireless outdoor speakers you can find at the moment.

#3 Russound AGO1 Wireless Outdoor Speaker

Russound Wireless Outdoor Speaker

The Russound AGO1 is an impressive wireless outdoor speaker with top notch quality construction which takes not time to set up at all. The sound is incredible at any volume too. We found that the sound fills the yard with sound or provides great background music at low volumes. Due to its weatherproof construction, you can also leave it outside (but not for extended periods of time).

Furthermore, the setup of this wireless outdoor speaker is as simple as it gets – simply install the airport express into the back of the speaker, turn the speaker on and let the airport express register itself on the network (assuming you already gone through the airport set up), select the AirGo speaker in iTunes or your iPhone or iPad, and sit back and enjoy the rich, full sounds. The set up took around 30 seconds and the concept is hands down awesome.

To put it simply, we were simply blown away by the sound generated from this wireless outdoor speaker. The highs and low responses were very good. The single large stereo speaker provided excellent sound quality and a wide sound stage. You could place it on the deck near the house of to cover the deck and backyard with music while having a cookout, on the driveway near the garage when washing the car, or at the beach for a relaxing chill. We cannot image there being a rival in its class and certainly not with the capability to pair it with an Airport Express for such an elegant solution. Because of their portability you could also transport these speakers anywhere with much ease; although we caution leaving these speakers in the outdoors for extended periods of time and exposed to the elements.

The only drawback we found with these is that you must use the Airport Express for wireless connection so that’s that extra purchase. Additionally, there is no volume capability on the outdoor speaker itself so you have to use the volume setting on the airplay device you are using. Other than that, we found this wireless outdoor speaker to function perfectly as intended.

The Verdict? The Russound AGO1 is exactly what you need set up ready to use on the spur of the moment with no fuss. It is one of the most convenient wireless outdoor speakers in the market at this price range and it gives a very good wifi range and has plenty of power in its output sound.

#4 The Monster BTW249 Wireless Outdoor Speakers

Monster Wireless Outdoor Speakers

The Monster BTW249 is one of the best wireless outdoor speakers in the market and is an easily mountable speaker that can be used indoors and outdoors. The speakers are an improved version of the predecessor Monster speakers and are now equipped with EZ-Play Technology and are water/moisture resistant, which allows it to be used outdoors as a portable speaker option. The great thing about this speaker is that it boasts 40 watts of explosive power and looks good with an intense grill. The weather resistant design allows you to take your speakers to the late or beach to provide excellent audio without the hassle of cables and wires. This means that all in all, this is one of the very few wireless outdoor speakers that have lots of power for solid, full solid, are water resistant and can be wall mounted and are bluetooth and you can even pair eight of these together to play simultaneously. In terms of functionality, these wireless outdoor speakers are hands down one of the best and they are a rare combination in outdoor speakers.

The battery life on these wireless outdoor spears last a good 8 hours. The sound produced is full, loud and deep. The highs and lows are crisps and clear, and the bass sounded punchy and very much like bass you would expect from high quality speakers. To connect to your handheld device, all you have to do is hold the phone over the top of them for a second, and the speakers will do the rest. There are also holes in the back for mounting and the speakers sync easily together. At 40 watts, you can really crank up the volume without sacrificing quality or hear any distortion. We were blown away with the quality of the sound and the volume these things are capable of. These wireless outdoor speakers come with 2 full range drivers and a “bass compartment”. We tested these on the beach and found that the inclusion of separate volume controls on each speaker is very convenient. They are also excellent out on the pool deck in the back yard.

Furthermore, the bluetooth with NFC connectivity allows the pairing of up to 8 of these speakers (with additional Monster BTW249s) 40 watt wireless outdoor speakers. This means that you can literally distribute these speakers around your backyard or outdoor space to create an excellent soundstage.

The Verdict? The Monster BTW249 wireless outdoor speakers are a steal at this price range. They are a rare find because they combine all elements of portability, water resistance, connectivity and great sound all into one single package that’s easy to set up and use. If you are looking for excellent wireless outdoor speakers that can pair up and sync together, these outdoor speakers are hard to beat.

#5 The Soundcast Wireless Outdoor Speaker

Sound Appeal Wireless Outdoor Speakers

The Soundcast is one of the best wireless outdoor speakers we have ever come across. We tested this with the amplifier to stream Pandora to the speaker which is roughly 200’ outside. The speaker provides excellent sound in e a huge radius, filling the backyard pool area with great sound. We were surprised at how good this speaker sounds considering its size. It has a tons of bass, and the mids and high ends sounded great too. Furthermore, this works great with the Soundcast Wireless transmitter if you want to send whatever music that is playing on your home stereo to the outside.

The Soundcast is weather-resistant and wireless, and is designed to let you enjoy omni-directional sound throughout your house or outdoor environments. It features a 6-1/2” downward firing woofer and four 3” high frequency drivers in an omni-directional array, which allows it to project bass you can feel and high range notes with clarity normally heard only in high-end stereo equipment. The 60-watt multi-channel amplifier worked extremely well too – the sound was loud enough for outdoor use to fill the entire backyard, and yet produced no distortions whatsoever.

Sound Appeal Wireless Outdoor Speakers 2

The unique thing about Soundcast is that they allow you to customize the coordination of transmitters and receivers, with this speaker being one of the multiple receiver options within the SoundCast system. The transmitters include the iCast transmitter for iPod/iPhone transmission and the Universal Audio Transmitter (UAT) for computer and other mp3 audio transmission. This is pretty useful if you want to stream your music from different devices from your home to the outdoors without any wiring. The SoundCast also uses frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) technology in which the transmitter constantly and automatically searches for open channels in the 2.4GHz band, jumping to them to avoid interference with other products such as telephones, radio controlled toys, cell phones, and wireless routers. This avoids any ‘hissing’ interference that you might expect from lower end wireless outdoor speakers.

The Verdict? We highly recommend the Soundcast wireless outdoor speaker. The system wireless range and battery life is outstanding, and the sound from these speakers is by far the best we have ever heard. If you are looking for a simple way to add music to an outdoor living space, this is probably one of the best choices in the market. Although the price on these speakers may be more expensive than the rest of the speakers in this list, we are convinced that you will not be disappointed especially if you are looking for great audio performance from a convenient and portable speaker.

#6 Monster Rockin’ Roller Wireless Outdoor Speaker

Monster Rockin Wireless Outdoor Speakers

The Monster Rockin’ Roller is one of the best wireless outdoor speakers we’ve ever encountered.Whether you’re camping, on the jobsite, or just working in the yard this little beast is one of the best speakers you will ever have. It packs a deep punch with 80 watts of omni-directional source for robust sound quality. The sound can go really loud which is incredible for a speaker of this size. We really like the bass that this Monster speaker produces and it also has a good balance of treble too. The highs and mids are crisp and clear and there is no distortion at high volumes. In terms of sound, you can’t really go wrong with these wireless outdoor speakers.

We really liked the additional functionality that came with the Monster speakers. The buttons are all LED powered for easy viewing at night and the extra outlets and two USB chargers are awesome, although you need to plug the unit into the power source for them to charge. The battery life on the Monster is incredible – we tested it via USB connection to our iphone and run full blast for 36 hours and it still had four “bars’ of battery remaining. The rugged construction of the Monster speaker makes it water resistant too. The rolling wheels are really nice and rugged, and it is light enough to be carried upstairs or up ridges. The Aux input for additional audio sources is a nice added touch. Furthermore, it also has an FM radio feature which is nice and clear.

Our thoughts are that the Monster Rockin’ Roller is great for any thing you do outside. We have used it on the beach, in the back yard and even connected the laptop for late night moves in the garden. The only down side we have found is that it had issues at the beach by the sand dunes picking up a signal for FM. Once we moved closer to the water no issues picking up signal. Sand and humidity did not affect the system with the rubber stoppers in place.

The Verdict? We were super impressed with the Monster and this is definitely one of the best wireless outdoor speakers at this price range . The sound of these outdoor speakers was awesome and the bluetooth was easy to connect; the extra-long lasting battery life is an added plus too. Overall, it’s one durable speaker that will definitely last for a long time with an outstanding audio performance.

#7 The OSD Audio BTP-525WHT Wireless Outdoor Speaker

OSD Audio Wireless Outdoor Speakers

The OSD Audio BTP-525WHTs are one of the best wireless outdoor speakers that money can buy.The all-weather design makes this speaker water resistant and resistant to the outdoor elements in general; its solid reinforced construction and metallic wire-mesh provide good protection to the audio equipment.  It’s also a speaker that can be easily mounted on a wall bracket and is therefore ideal for patios, decks and pool areas. The construction and look of these speakers is also modern and smooth, making them very compatible with most home interior designs. Furthermore, these speakers come with brackets (not shown in the image) which were perfect for mounting.

In terms of sound performance, these speakers deliver punchy and incredibly full sound. We were surprised at how deep the bass could go with these especially on a bluetooth connection. The volume of the speakers is sufficient for outdoor purposes and the bluetooth range is excellent. We found that the bluetooth pairing with our iphone and Android device was super quick and easy. The volume and bass output is pretty great considering that these are wireless outdoor speakers, and had no distortion whatsoever at maximum volumes. We are happy to note that the package includes a 30ft speaker wire and a stereo power amplifier found in the main speaker. If you intend to use these speakers outdoors, you can run the cable through a ½ in PVC pipe to hide it. The only complaint we had while testing it is that the power button is in an odd location – after mounting these speakers, we doubt that anyone would be able to turn off the speakers via the switch provided and you may need to unplug the speakers after use.  Having said that, we really liked how well these speakers functioned in the outdoors and audio superb audio performance to our ears.

The Verdict? Overall, the BTP-525WHTs are very sleek and modern wireless outdoor speakers that are perfect for the outdoors, and can be mounted easily at the patio, decks and pool areas, although we recommend mounting these under sheltered areas to avoid direct exposure. The all-weather material construction makes these one of the most versatile outdoor wireless speakers that deliver solid bluetooth functionality and great audio performance even in outdoor conditions.

#8 Pyle PDWR54BTW Wireless Outdoor Speaker

yle PDWR54BTW Wireless Outdoor Speakers

The Pyle ‘PDWR’ is a pair of very good outdoor wireless speakers with incredible audio performance, providing high-powered wireless bluetooth performance outdoors. We were very impressed at how good these speakers sounded considering they are not connected to a separate amplifier.  The good thing about these outdoor speakers is that they feature marine grade waterproof housing performance, and they are the perfect choice for adding full range stereos on decks, patios or backyards. It also easily syncs with android, iPhone or Samsung Gear watch which makes managing your soundtracks nice and clean.

What we really liked about these speakers is that they are solidly constructed to withstand the outdoor elements and yet are able to be powered wirelessly. The system itself includes (2) wireless outdoor speakers – one active and one passive, with built-in 2-channel amplifier that gives you the ability to daisy-chain and create sharp stereo sounds with polymer dome tweeters and long-throw subwoofers for each bass. This is especially helpful if you like to watch movies outdoors – the thrill of having sound come from so many different locations is just amazing to listen to (try watching Jurassic Park on these wireless outdoor speakers and listen to the dinosaur charging at you from behind).

The sound on these speakers can go really loud with punchy bass due to the 5.25” woofers which provide full range sound. We did not detect any distortion at maximum volumes. The active and passive speaker system work together to create nice soundstage which was quite rare for outdoor speakers of this size; we found that it produces rich and full sound that has a certain depth and quality to it.

Furthermore, we found that the bluetooth connection stays connected from quite a distance. The built-in bluetooth audio streaming ability allows you to connect and stream audio from most devices (which includes iPad, Tablet, Computer or any other bluetooth device with playback). You can also choose to connect your speaker system with rear located gold-plated speaker plug terminals and RCA audio input connector jacks. The only down side we found with these is that the cord connecting the two speakers is shorter than one would expect.

The Verdict? The Pyle ‘PDWR’ is a truly a rare find at this price range and is now selling at a great 65% discount, and is one of the best performing wireless outdoor speakers we with a dedicated in built active-passive sound system. The audio performance from these speakers are truly spectacular, and also feature marine grade waterproof construction for outdoor use. They are also very convenient to install /mount and are perfect for patios or pool or deck applications.

#9 NXG Technology Wireless Outdoor Speakers

NXG Technology Wireless Outdoor Speakers

We were very impressed with the NXG Technology wireless outdoor speakers. When we first reviewed these speakers, we were immediately impressed with the solid construction. The stand/mount is well built with smooth adjustment of the pivot point. The control panel on the main speaker is nicely labelled and contains quality switches, potentiometers, and auxiliary input jacks. The covers fit snugly and should protect the speakers well. It is apparent that these speakers are put together with above average materials. None of this would matter though, if the sound quality was sub-standard.

When we powered up the speakers for the first time and tried pairing them with a Kindle Fire, a clear woman’s voice announced: “Your device is now connected”, which we have to admit was kind of cool. We tested these wireless outdoor speakers with a few classic soundtracks. The sound quality of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go your own way” was fantastic. The bass could be adjusted from very little to thumping. The treble was also easy to adjust to my preference. We tried mounting these speakers under the eaves of the house on each end of my deck. Bottom line: we am amazed at the sound quality of these speakers. From quiet, classical music movements, to cool jazz, to 70’s rock, these speakers are excellent. There is no hum in between selections, and no static crackle or pop at any time. We were initially sceptical that these speakers could perform well for the price, but we were so wrong. The NXG Technology speakers are testament to the fact that you can get high quality audio outdoors at very affordable prices.

We also liked the additional features that came with these wireless outdoor speakers. The PVC enclosure was very sturdy with plastic bracket and metal “rotating ball” style mounts. It also provides good shielding – the hefty weight could indicate large magnet size; we had zero hum from stock power-cord testing. It also has a built in amplifier, meaning the round “dog-bone” style power cord is needed to connect these speakers. There are no proprietary cables, and the generic power cable can be easily replaced – you can use generic speaker wire to connect a passive second speaker.

The Verdict? This 55 watts RMS wireless outdoor speakers pump out some great audio juice with their 6” polypropylene woofer and dedicated amplifier with 2-band equalizer. It’s one of the best wireless outdoor speakers at this amazing price range, featuring solid all-weather construction and great bluetooth connectivity and great audio performance. These speakers look great and modern too – and will definitely enhance your outdoor listening experience by miles.

#10 The OSD Audio BTP-525BLK Wireless Outdoor Speakers

OSD Audio BTP-525BLK Wireless Outdoor Speakers

The OSD Audio BTP-525BLK wireless outdoor speakers are individually designed and fitted with an all-weather construction and “start of the art” bluetooth operation which allows for maximum connectivity. If you need outdoor audio speakers, the OSD Audio BTP-525BLK will provide a simple and quick fix. Installation of these speakers were streamlined to be very simple; it’s ideal for patios, decks and pool areas, but can also be used for indoor applications such as home entertainment or music for your store or gym.

The bluetooth connection on these speakers worked seamlessly to provide connection to virtually any bluetooth enabled device – we tested this one the iPhone, Android, Samsung Galaxy, ipad and laptop with surprisingly no issues at all. The package also includes an AC Power 110-240V Transformer 8ft power cord to main patio speaker power connection for the bluetooth receiver and stereo power amplifier in the OSD Audio wireless outdoor speakers. It also comes with a 30ft speaker wire which came very handy for installation.

The sound of the OSD wireless outdoor speaker was incredible, with a total of 75 watt per individual speaker at an impedance of 8 ohms. The sound was crisp and clear, which great emphasis on the highs and mids. We found that the bass was punchy and not overpowering, although somewhat lacking in outdoor spaces (although this is to be expected). We recommend installing these wireless outdoor speakers near corners to accentuate the bass response on these. However, as individual speakers, they pack seriously a lot of power and can play at loud volumes (loud enough to disturb your neighbours for sure) without distortion. The size of these speakers was average as compared to the other speakers at 7” by 9” by 6”.

The Verdict? The OSD Audio BTP-525BLK wireless outdoor speaker offers a ready solution to those looking to install outdoor audio at their patio, pool or deck areas. They are not the portable type of speakers you can take out to the beach or camping site, but having said that, their material construction and weather-proofing is far superior to these portable outdoor speakers. The sound output of these speakers are incredible (at 75 Watts per speaker) which is really more than what you would need in most circumstances. Overall, these speakers are value for money and represent a good long-term investment.

Special Mention: Sound Appeal Rock Wireless Outdoor Speakers

rock wireless outdoor speakers

For those who are looking for wireless outdoor speakers to fit into their garden, these rock speakers by Sound Appeal are the perfect solution. With these speakers you can wirelessly steam music up to 100ft directly from your iphone or any bluetooth device. Furthermore, the sound quality of these speakers are simply unbeatable – you will be able to fill your backyard or pool area with high fidelity sound all while controlling the volume or soundtracks at your fingertips.

Furthermore, these wireless outdoor speakers are built like a tank and are designed to withstand extreme cold and heat without failure or reduced life. The multilayer cabinets are built to withstand hot or cold temperatures; the inert design of these cabinets allow them to keep their shape even after constant exposure to the elements. To top it off, the Canyon Sandstone finish is natural and will blend perfectly into the current landscaping.

These wireless outdoor speakers produce very good sound – the sound is clear, rich and powerful, and fills up the backyard easily. The low-end bass is respectable, and the mids and highs are superb. The fidelity is quite nice, and the sound does not sound overdriven at the highest volume level (no distortions either). We note that the 6.5” woofer driver can pump out strong deep bass while maintaining a high level of fidelity; the 1” dome tweeter keeps the highs smooth with no hint of harshness, and the voice remains clear and articulate. The internal amplifier is a high efficiency class D design with 60W RMS of output power, which is great for medium to large sized pool areas too.

The Bluetooth works very well. The range we tested was about 30 to 40 feet and the sound did not have a hint of breaking up. In fact, the speaker sounds just as good as any wired outdoor speaker would – maybe even better. Furthermore, these speakers look awesome and blend in perfectly well into the garden foliage just like any other rock. These speakers were truly a spectacular addition to our garden and impressed the guests at dinner who wondered where the music was coming from.

The Verdict? We highly recommend these wireless outdoor speakers – not only are they the perfect garden speakers (blending in very well with the surrounding landscape), they sound incredible and work perfectly with any bluetooth device. We were impressed at their quality construction which are designed to withstand the outdoor elements. These speakers are worthy every single penny of investment if you are looking for a long-term outdoor option.

Special Mention: Sound Appeal 6.5” Wireless Outdoor Speakers

Sound Appeal Wireless Outdoor Speakers

The Sound Appeal 6.5” wireless outdoor speakers are a pair of incredibly good weatherproof speakers. They are portable and easily mountable, making them the ideal wireless solution for pool speakers, patio and deck speakers, outdoor living and outdoor home theatre speakers. They work very well with the Galaxy S5, the iPhone 5, and the B&N Nook thanks to the long range advanced Bluetooth technology by Sound Appeal. We found that with these BT Blast speakers we could wirelessly steam music up to 100ft directly from your iphone or compatible Bluetooth device. You will be to able to fill your backyard or pool area with high quality sound while controlling the volume and soundtracks with your Bluetooth device. We also managed to connect multiple devices as much as 15 feet from the speakers and have no problems with static on Bluetooth connectivity issues.

We note that the weatherproof cabinet has a beautiful white finish and is made of durable ABS material, which reduces any interference from outdoor elements. The internal cabinet walls are thick with rigid bracing to prevent unwanted cabinet resonances, allowing for clean clear sound at all levels. The sound from these speakers was nothing short of amazing – we found that the 6.5” woofer driver can pump out strong deep bass while maintaining a high level of fidelity. The 1” dome tweeter keeps the highs smooth with no hint of harshness, and voicing remains clear and articulate. The amplifiers on each speaker pumps out a good solid 60Ws of power – the volume can go very high with these wireless outdoor speakers without any distortion.

The electrical cord we received together with these speakers read “for outdoor use” which was a convenient addition to the overall package. However, we felt that the fairly large transformer in the middle of the electrical cord was a bit of a hassle – we used an extension cord and ‘hid’ the supplied electrical cord with the transfer above the main speaker. Fortunately, these speakers came with brackets which made installing them on the patio and deck area quite easy. The material construction on these speakers was excellent and can withstand extreme cold and heat without failure or reduced life – they look pretty awesome and have a clean finish.

The Verdict? We were extremely satisfied with these wireless outdoor speakers and their sound. You can play with the sound settings on the Bluetooth devices to get the best sound. The volume is good and the sound is rich and full, although perhaps somewhat lacking in the bass department. The mids and highs sound really good though, and we really liked the 60W amplifier that was capable of filling our deck and patio areas with great music through the day.

Special Mention: iFinity Wireless Outdoor Speaker

iFinity wireless outdoor speakers

The iFinity is one of the most powerful wireless outdoor speakers, running at 80 watts RMS power with superb bluetooth connectivity of over 600 feet. After unpacking the speaker, we were surprised by how massive this speaker is – it’s fairly heavy due to its thick enclosure.The speaker itself is shaped like a cube and has some controls at the rear that allow it to be paired with the transmitter. It is a 2-way speaker and has two efficient ultra-low-distortion power amplifiers built in. One amplifier drives the speaker’s subwoofer, and the other amplifier drives the high-frequency tweeter. The bundle includes one wireless speaker and one iFinity transmitter.

The setup of the transmitter and the wireless outdoor speakers was fairly quick. We plugged in the power to both units and then paired the speakers with the transmitter which takes less than 10 seconds. We recommend pairing the speakers with the transmitter while it is in close proximity – you have about 1 minute to pair everything up. It is important to set up the volume control of the transmitter unit properly; although this is a one-time setup. The speaker volume can be controlled at the speaker itself and you can also use the remote control of the satellite receiver to control the volume and change channels. A special feature of the transmitter is that, unlike bluetooth, the music is set uncompressed at full CD quality to up to four wireless outdoor speakers. This gives ample opportunity for sound-staging and audio positioning in outdoor spaces.

The sound quality of this wireless outdoor speaker is very good. It has good bass and crisp treble which is quite impressive for a speaker of this size. The treble is adjustable. We turned the volume up around half way and found that the outdoor speaker really pumps out some hefty volume without any distortions at high volumes.

The transmitter range is also quite impressive. We tested the transmitter around 100 feet away from where the speaker is at. There are 2 walls between the speaker and the transmitter. However, the speaker thus far has had great wireless reception – no hissing or crackles. We were pleased to note that the wireless signal is highly resistant to wireless interference from other devices and it uses advanced adaptive frequency hopping and error correction to preserve the quality of the signal.

The Verdict? We were very pleased with the performance of the iFinity wireless outdoor speakers. It has very good sound quality and a lot of power (a solid 80 Watts) output, with a wireless range that surprises most wireless speakers beyond 600 feet. The solidly constructed speakers also makes them water resistant, which is great for bringing it outdoors and recreational activities. If you are looking for one of the best wireless outdoor speakers that is technically strong at all levels, this is the speaker you should consider getting.


Cloudfone Excite Prime 2 Review – The New Budget Phone To Beat?

Cloudfone Excite Prime 2 Unboxing And First Impressions

Out of the box, Cloudfone’s newly launched Excite Prime 2 is arguably one of the most impressive entry-level Android smartphone in the market for this year yet.


Display: 5.5 Inch HD IPS OGS 1280 x 720 resolution w/ 2.5D curved glass and Glass protection at 267 ppi
CPU: 1.3 GHz 64 Bit MT6737 quad core processor
GPU: Mali T720
ROM: 32 GB expandable via micro SD card slot up to 128 GB (dedicated)
Rear Camera: 13 MP f/2.0 Sony IMX135 w/ AF, auto portrait mode and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8 MP f/2.0 w/ portrait mode and softlight LED flash
Battery: 3,000 mAh
OS: Android 7.0 Nougat
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, 700 MHz LTE Bluetooth, OTG, GPS, A GPS, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, orientation, gyroscope, proximity and gravity sensors

Others: Colors: black, gold, silver

Unboxing / Accessories

The box!
The box!

Cloudfone has a new red and black packaging for the Excite Prime 2. Inside, Cloudfone ensured that everything you need on your smartphone purchase is there.

Inclusions inside
Inclusions inside

It includes a 1.5A USB wall charger, USB to micro USB data / charging cable, Spotify earphones, 3 sizes of eartips, high quality TPU jelly case, and screen protector.

Build Quality / Design

Metal case, premium feel for the price
Metal case, premium feel for the price

Like most of the new Cloudfone devices, the Excite Prime 2 arrived with plastic frame protected by a sturdy removable metal case. The metal case that Cloudfone used here now feels better than their older models.

Dual micro SIM and micro SD card slots
Dual micro SIM and micro SD card slots

In front, the 5.5 inch HD 2.5D display has a certain type of glass protection. However, Cloudfone failed to specify the brand and type of the glass protected they used for this smartphone.

Very good overall feel and construction for the price!

Overall, its build is one of the best in its class. Moreover, you may use the FREE clear TPU case and a screen protector for added protection.

Top view with 3.5 mm headphone jack, front camera, and selfie flash
Top view with 3.5 mm headphone jack, front camera, and selfie flash
Microphone hole, micro USB port below
Microphone hole, micro USB port below
Power button and volume rocker at right
Power button and volume rocker at right

Design-wise, it reminds of a refined first generation of GR5 in front with much slimmer screen bezels and curvier back. There’s just a slight camera protrusion behind. But, it’s totally forgiveable.

It arguably the best aesthetics among all the budget mainstream budget phones!

All the buttons and ports are on standard places as well. What could Cloudfone improve is the speaker placement behind. It could have been better if it is located below or on top to avoid covering its sound.

It also feels very good to hold with the right amount of heft. It could be slippery at times, but you can always use the case to add better grip.

Initial Findings

It's also marketed as an #AwesomeSelfie camera phone
It’s also marketed as an #AwesomeSelfie camera phone

1. For the price of just PHP 5,999, the overall construction and design of the Excite Prime 2 is better than expected. It could pass as a close to premium looking device for some. It also has proper curves and great overall ergonomics. The 5.5 inch HD screen also has great colors!
2. The overall specs of the device is promising for the price. It has a 64 bit MT6737 quad core chip to handle most of the basic tasks and light 3D gaming with ease. It also has the largest amount of RAM and ROM at 3 GB and 32 GB respectively in the sub PHP 6K range. The 3,000 mAh battery isn’t the biggest around, but it should be good enough for most.
3. We liked that this phone comes with Android 7.0 Nougat OS with very clean user interface.
4. This device is an affordable camera centric offering. It’s 13 MP f/2.0 Sony IMX135 sensor and 8 MP f/2.0 front camera has tons of features you can try. It has an advanced type of camera software for a local brand. It has portrait mode, beautify, pro mode, auto HDR, time-lapse, and panorama. This phone even has flash in front! Interesting!
5. It has on-screen Android keys, USB OTG, gyroscope, and light keys

Cloudfone Excite Prime 2 review

Like what we mentioned previously, it has better build, bigger screen, and higher specs than most of its competitors at this price point.

Is this the new budget smartphone to beat?

Let’s see!

Display Quality

Big and beautiful 5.5 inch HD screen
Big and beautiful 5.5 inch HD screen

One of the key selling points of this smartphone is its screen. While most of its competitors settled on using a 5 inch display, Cloudfone opted for a bigger 5.5 inch IPS screen with HD 1280 x 720 resolution.

As a result, owners of this device will enjoy viewing photos, movies, games, and etc. on a bigger display.

Big, bright, and well saturated display!

Checking its quality, it is one of the better phones in this price point as well. It is average in details at 267 pixels per inch. Colors are warm in tone, punchy, and well saturated too. Its level of black isn’t the deepest around, but viewing angles are excellent for the price. Outdoor legibility is great too!

It even has Miravision tech with color tuning and dynamic contrast adjustment. It’s adaptive brightness is working perfectly fine as well.

Update: We just confirmed that this device has 5 points of touch instead of just 3.

Audio Quality

Speaker isn’t the loudest around, but it is just fine. Quality is very clean and clear considering the price. There’s minimal distortion even on max loudness. Just don’t expect it to have the bass punch you’ve been craving for. Again, it is just fine.

Audio output for headphones / earphones / in-ear monitors are warm in tone. Lows are highlighted better than the mids and highs. But, mids are clear and has surprising proper separation of tunes.

It is one of the better tuned smartphone audio player in this price point. It can even FLAC files with ease. Soundstage is average. It has some hissing though.

Call quality is clear as expected. Quality for recording audio with less noise is acceptable, but could be better.

Battery Life

Good battery score!
Good battery score!

The CEP 2 is equipped with 3,000 mAh of battery which is just okay on a phone with 5.5 inch screen and HD resolution.

Respectable battery performance!

In our test, it recorded 9 hours an 11 mins of work battery life. That score is considered on par with the likes of Vivo Y53 and Galaxy J2 Prime. It is also better than most in the sub PHP 6K price range.

Screen on time under very heavy usage including 4G data and hotspot all the time is at 3 hours and 9 mins. That’s a respectable score.

Charging time using the stock 1.5A charger is at 2 hours and 30 mins.


Cloudfone highlighted the Excite Prime 2 as a camera-focused smartphone. Behind, it has the well-respected 13 MP f/2.0 Sony IMX135 sensor. It’s the same good camera sensor found with some of the older flagships like LG G3 and Galaxy Note 3.

The camera interface

Going into the software, Cloudfone has loaded this machine with a pretty neat camera UI. It has familiar OPPO camera software inspired look that goes with several useful modes.

It includes: auto HDR, several filters, beauty, panorama, night, super pixel, and scene frame. It even has a pro mode which allows users to manually adjust ISO, white balance, focus, and metering. However, it has has no option for adjusting shutter speed and grids for guides.

Moreover, Cloudfone has introduced their own portrait mode on the Excite Prime 2. It allows users to to adjust the level of background blur on your subject ala iPhone 7 Plus and Galaxy Note 8. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a nice to have feature.

Note: This device automatically detects the scene to check if you can shoot in portrait mode.

Quality-wise, this device arguably has the best performance in its class. Focus speed is very quick for a budget device. Focusing on a close-up subject is workable around 2 to 3 inches near. Shutter speed is less than a second and rarely has delays too. However, steady hands are needed for shooting in lowlight as expected.

Daylight photos are impressive! It is well detailed with close to accurate colors that can rival Huawei’s Y5 2017 easily. It has less grains than Vivo Y53 and doesn’t have slightly cartoonish results like Galaxy J2 Prime as well. Auto HDR works well and won’t overexpose or oversharpen your images too.

It can also capture the night!

On auto mode, lowlight performance is just fine. But, it is so much better if you’ll turn the night mode on. The night mode will take multiple photos in one snap and stitch it together to form a better exposed photo with good dynamic range and decent details in lowlight.

Tip: Use a tripod if you don’t have steady hands when shooting in night mode.

Flash is strong, but it tends to overexpose close-up images.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight sample
Daylight sample
Close-up image
Close-up image
Flatlay with bokeh
Flatlay with bokeh
Indoor close-up
Indoor close-up
Indoor close-up on dim light
Indoor close-up on dim light
Portrait mode against the light sample
Portrait mode against the light sample
Night sample 1
Night sample 1
Night sample 2
Night sample 2
Night sample 3
Night sample 3


Selfie camera w/ softlight flash!
Selfie camera w/ softlight flash!

Cloudfone also highlights that the Excite Prime 2 can shoot #AwesomeSelfies for the price. How? It has an 8 MP sensor with wide f/2.0 aperture lens, portrait mode for background blur effect, beautify effect, and softlight LED flash for selfies even in the dark.

It has no autofocus, its face detection feature is quite nice and accurate. Shooting speed is also fast (not as fast as the main camera) which is good enough to avoid blurry selfies. The lens is also wide enough in angle to fit up to 4 people in one frame easily.

For the modes, it has adjustable beauty levels, panorama, and portrait mode. The portrait has some inconsistencies, but when it works, it works.

Selfies are good in quality in general. It is has good enough sharpness and colors in daylight. There are few occasions where images are underexposed, but results are very good for the price in general.

Use the softlight flash or flash to take acceptable to good images in the dark.

Selfie Camera Samples

Selfie w/ beautify level 2 in a well lit place
Selfie w/ beautify level 2 in a well lit place
Selfie portrait mode
Selfie portrait mode
Sharp indoor selfie
Sharp indoor selfie featuring Ms. Jaja Ramirez
Selfie portrait mode in lowlight
Selfie portrait mode in lowlight
Selfie flash test
Selfie flash test

For videos, both the back and front camera of this smartphone can shoot up to 720p at 30 frames per second. Like what we said, it is only up to 720p. Unlike the competition, this device can’t shoot up to 1080p using the main camera.

Fortunately, the 720p HD video it can record isn’t that shaky in quality and has good focus and exposure for a budget device. Selfie videos are very shaky though.

Have a look at these video samples by Raffy Pedrajita, our very good friend from Tech Patrol.


Decent benchmark scores
Decent benchmark scores

The Excite Prime 2 has one of the better specs on a sub PHP 6K smartphone today. While it has the usual 64 bit MT6737 quad core processor clocked at 1.3 GHz paired with Mali T720 GPU, Cloudfone loaded this smartphone with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of expandable storage which is bigger than the competition.

Performance is smooth enough to run most of the social media apps with ease!

As a result, running most social media apps and running most smartphone tasks are buttery smooth on this device. Due to its large enough 3 GB of RAM, multitasking performance that includes switching from an app to another is decent. The large 32 GB of storage also allowed us to store more files than competing phones.

For gaming, running Asphalt 8 on medium settings is smooth. It can also run NBA 2K17, but it has occasional lags even on very low settings. Heating is minimal too even while playing games or even 4G and hotspot mode.

Clean Nougat OS

Software-wise, we like the fact that it is running on Android 7.0 Nougat OS w/ near stock and intuitive user interface. It has few bloatwares, but most of them are removable. It has no adware as well unlike other local phones. Ahem MyPhone and Cherry Mobile.

Feature-wise, this device has DuraSpeed mode for boosting foreground app by restricting background apps. It can allow you to select the apps that would be restricted. Some notifications would be delayed or not received though.

It also has double tap to wake mode and few gestures that can be used as shortcuts for opening apps. It even has the always nice to have 3 fingerprint for screen shot and one handed operation modes.

Speedy 700 MHz LTE ready
Speedy 700 MHz LTE ready

In terms of connectivity, the Excite Prime 2 has good signal reception for SMS and calls. It even has better connectivity for LTE as it has the 700 MHz frequency. As a matter of fact, it can reach up to 60+ Mbps per second on Smart’s improved LTE network.

Signal drops are rare and it has 700 MHz LTE!

Bluetooth and GPS are also reliable in performance. This handset also has OTG and most of the basic sensors like gyroscope for VR apps.

Just don’t expect top notch VR and AR performance from it as this device is still an entry-level offering!

Pros – Premium and stylish aesthetics for the price, the 5.5 inch HD screen is beautiful, big 3 GB RAM and 32 GB ROM, ample battery life, capable back camera that can capture the night, decent selfie camera w/ flash, 700 MHz LTE capable, near complete sensors, fantastic price to specs ratio

Cons – No fingerprint scanner, camera software has no grids for guides, UI could be lighter, not for heavy 3D gaming, HD video recording only


For the low asking price of PHP 5,999, the Cloudfone Excite Prime 2 is exciting indeed! Craftsmanship is excellent, it has big screen, general performance is more than decent, battery life is okay, cameras are capable, and LTE connectivity is stable and speedy which is rare to find on a budget device.

There are few things that Cloudfone could improve on their next release though. It includes the following:

1. Add grids for guides in the camera software
2. Increase video shooting to 1080p
3. It has some sort of glass protection, but it would have been better if its Gorilla or Dragontrail glass
4. Cloudfone could add a fingerprint reader next time

Other than that, this is a very solid phone that’s arguably the best in its class yet. We highly recommend this to casual users who wants a big screened phone with great design, speedy enough performance, and good cameras.

Display – 4
Audio – 3.75
Battery – 4
Camera – 4.25
Performance – 3.75
Average – 4 / 5


Acer Switch 7 Quick Hands-on Review: Skinny, Fanless 2-in-1 With Discrete GPU

We go for a quick spin with Acer’s Switch 7!

While traditional tablet sales have been tanking, 2-in-1 sales have been relatively robust. This is why everyone from Microsoft to Acer has been releasing their own take on the hybrid tablet, though Acer’s new Switch 7 promises better performance with a discrete GPU without the annoyance of a whirring fan.

Initial impressions: big, handy and easy to use both as tablet and notebook

Despite being billed as a 2-in-1 hybrid, the Switch 7 feels more like a notebook than a tablet. With a 13.5-inch display, the Switch 7 takes up a lot of real estate in your bag when you slip it inside. Of course, there’s a trade-off: you’re getting a notebook-class display that has a resolution of 2256 × 1504, which is sharp enough to use by professionals.

The Switch 7 has a kickstand on the back that’s actuated by deploying the keyboard, falling into place with a nice, reassuring ka-chunk sound. We haven’t had good luck with keyboards integrated into covers as of late, but the one in the Switch 7 feels nice and responsive. It doesn’t have as much travel as a regular notebook, unfortunately, but it’s good enough that we didn’t have any trouble typing on it during our short time with it.

The keyboard isn’t the only input option available either – there’s also an embedded stylus powered by Wacom’s EMR technology that’s embedded on the side of the hybrid, and an under-glass fingerprint scanner to make sign-ins via Windows Hello faster and more secure.

The real star of the show with the Switch 7 are the internals – Acer’s pegging the Switch 7 as the first ever 2-in-1 in the world that doesn’t have a fan AND has a discrete GPU. NVIDIA’s GeForce Mx150 isn’t going to let you play Destiny 2 on the highest settings, but it’ll give people like photographers and video editors a little bit of extra oomph to power through photo and video editing apps like Premier Pro and Photoshop without hitting serious PC bottlenecks. That little bit of extra silence brought on by the fanless design doesn’t hurt either. There will be only a single configuration for the Switch 7: an Intel Core i7-8550U processor, 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 512GB of SSD storage.

So how does the Switch 7 stay cool? By utilizing liquid cooling pipes embedded into its body. While there’s been liquid cooling on Acer’s 2-in-1’s before, the Switch 7 ups the ante by utilizing liquid cooling pipes for both the GPU and CPU. We won’t know the extent of the cooling pipe’s effectivity until we start using the Switch 7 though.

Acer’s Switch 7 will be arriving later this year in December in the US, with an expected price of $1,699. No local pricing has been set as of yet.


Apple watchOS 4: Hands on with the Apple Watch’s smart new skin

Getting our fingers on Apple’s new Watch OS

Apple took the wraps off watchOS 4 back at WWDC, revealing a new look for the Apple Watch and dropping a few hints at what we can expect to see on the Watch Series 3 later this year.

You won’t be able to get watchOS 4 until around the same time, but it’ll be rolling out to all versions of the smartwatch – that’s Series 0, Series 1, Series 2 and, presuming it does in fact happen, the Series 3. It’s possible there will be no public beta before then, so you’ll have to wait until September unless you download the developer beta – which we strongly recommend you don’t.

watchOS 4: Our thoughts so far

While there’s now a public iOS 11 beta available, watchOS 4 is only available to developers. If you go ahead and do install the beta certificate, it can only be rolled back to watchOS 3 by taking it to an Apple store.

You’ve been warned.

But it’s okay, because we’ve been playing with the update to save you the trouble. It’s obviously buggy right now – even though we’re now on beta 8 – prone to crashes and all sorts of bizarre behaviour – but hey, it’s a beta, what do you expect? Since initially testing it out Apple has rolled out some updates that have added more functionality and made the whole experience more stable. So… what do we think of it thus far? Here are some thoughts.

New ways to get around

Apple watchOS 4: Hands on with the Apple Watch's smart new skin

When it comes to navigating the Apple Watch, I’ve always felt it’s been a mixture of “How lovely” and “Yo Jony Ive, what the hell?” Apple’s been listening: in watchOS 3 it introduced the dock, serving up a new way to quickly access your most-used apps and reducing time spent looking at endless spinning wheels.

The dock has been rotated in watchOS 4 so you now scroll vertically instead of horizontally. The first thing I noticed was how much more natural this feels with the Digital Crown, and it’s obvious that Apple’s done it for this very reason. It’s intuitive to put a finger to the screen when you have to swipe side to side, but when going the other way the Digital Crown makes much more sense – and means you’re not obstructing the display.

watchOS 4: First look at the Apple Watch's new skin

I still don’t use the dock much, and I don’t think this enhancement will change that, but it definitely feels better. I’m also a fan of the new way to navigate the app grid, which you access by tapping the crown. Using force touch you can now switch between the honeycomb grid and a list view which, again, works more naturally with the crown.

It all seems more sensible when you’ve got such meagre screen real estate. I don’t think the honeycomb view is terrible, but to me it’s never quite sat right, as nice as it looks.

watchOS 4: First look at the Apple Watch's new skin

Another small but welcome change in watchOS 4 is the new pairing process. No longer do you have to go through the ceremony of aligning the watch with your iPhone’s camera – the Watch takes inspiration from the AirPods by popping up a pairing button as soon as it’s detected by the iPhone.

It’s all about the Siri face

Apple watchOS 4: Hands on with the Apple Watch's smart new skin

It is with great joy in my heart that I can announce the Toy Story watch faces are live and pretty rad, but I still think it’s the Siri face that will be the one you’ll see most people using. Google was onto something with Now, and the Siri face mirrors Apple’s efforts to offer more contextual information on the iPhone.

The new face serves up a list of upcoming events and updates that Siri thinks you’ll be interested in – traffic, weather warnings, calendar events – and you can use the crown to scroll through the sequence. It’s already my favourite aspect of the update, and over the beta updates it’s got even better. I’m now even seeing little photos from Apple News along with other upcoming events in my tiny feed. If you have Breathe reminders on, it will stick those in there too.

It’s like having a little diary on your wrist. By default there’s a shortcut complication on this face for opening Siri, but you can change that if you wish.

Apple watchOS 4: Hands on with the Apple Watch's smart new skin

As for other new faces, the kaleidoscope face is pretty trippy, letting you mix up different photos and facets that move and groove, and again you can roll the crown to fast forward through the movements. Speaking of Apple Watch faces, I noticed that on iOS 11, when you tap the ‘share’ icon on a picture, there’s now an option to create a Watch face from the picture. This makes both a regular photo face and a kaleidoscope version for you to choose from.

If you like the sound of the Toy Story faces, no doubt a homage to the late Steve Jobs, know that you’ll see a random character on the screen, doing some animation, every time you raise your wrist. Note for improvement: too much Buzz and Woody, needs more Hamm.

Apple watchOS 4: Hands on with the Apple Watch's smart new skin

There are some new complications too: Now Playing, which gives you faster access to your tunes; and Apple News, which breaks down the biggest current stories into bite-sized Watch format. On the subject of music, Apple has sneakily tweaked this so that any time you start playing music from either the watch or iPhone, it will default to the music player when you raise your wrist, saving you a few taps when it’s time to skip tracks. It’s a small thing, and not something Apple made a point about, but I’ve found myself using the Watch to control playback a lot more since.

Back to that Siri face – while you can only add a couple of other complications to the screen, that’s okay, because Siri should serve things like the weather forecast and news updates into the feed. It also gave me an update to say I should go walking for another 30 minutes to close my Activity rings before the end of play. I prefer having this show up on a feed I can glance at if I wish, rather than a taptic update.

Apple’s also added a flashlight feature to the Watch, which can be accessed from the dashboard by swiping up. You’ve got three versions: a bright white light that gets brighter when you turn it away, as if you were using it as a torch; a strobe light that flashes between white and black, good for running out on roads late at night; and a red light, presumably for emergencies.

New ways to move

Apple watchOS 4: Hands on with the Apple Watch's smart new skin

Apple’s all about fitness right now, so it’s no surprise that watchOS 4 brings enhancements in this domain. A big one is support for high intensity interval training. While the Apple Watch heart rate tracking is generally very good, and surprisingly accurate in interval performance (where many wearables fall down), the Series 2 has struggled in hitting target HR in shorter intervals. The addition of HIIT in watchOS 4 comes with the promise of new motion and heart rate algorithms for better accuracy, but we’re not certain that these are up and running yet.

There are also auto-sets for pool swims, and we’ve spotted that VO2 Max tracking is on its way. Plus, a recent discovery has unearthed a string of other exercise modes hiding in iOS 11, suggesting the Apple Watch will soon be able to track badminton, cricket, boxing and even equestrian sports (finally!), among others. Hopefully, these will all work with existing Apple Watches, and won’t require a Series 3.

As you can see above, the Workout app has been given a facelift to be a little less neon-yellow-take-your-eye-out. I much prefer this design, and while the stats screen during a workout hasn’t changed, you can now swipe right for easy access to your music settings. Also cool is that I can easily jump to a different workout by swiping left and tapping the ‘New’ icon then choosing another activity. Triathletes rejoice!

And finally we have GymKit, a new platform on the Watch that will let you sync data from some cardio gym equipment. Say you’re using a treadmill, this means you’ll have a more accurate distance recorded at the end of your workout, as the Watch would only be able to make its best guess if used in isolation. StairMaster, Cybex , Star Trac and TechnoGym are among the partners so far.

Since we started testing watchOS 4 it’s got a lot more stable and fleshed out, and we reckon some of these new features will go down a treat. We’ll be updating this article with more of our thoughts as we get more familiar with the update, as Apple continues to update the beta. For now, it’s another promising refinement of Apple’s smartwatch experience – and it’s not long until we get it.


2017 Honda CR-V v Volkswagen Golf Alltrack comparison

Car reviewers usually determine which cars to compared based on the vehicle ‘segment’ they occupy. Medium SUVs take on medium SUVs, small hatches take on small hatches, and so on…

Yet we know based on buyer data, and personal experience alike, car buyers don’t always think in these terms.

2017 Honda CR-V v Volkswagen Golf Alltrack comparison

There are a load of other factors beyond mere market segmentation that determine which vehicles may be cross-shopped. And so while the two cars being tested here may not immediately strike you as obvious rivals, there’s a method.

The brand new Honda CR-V arrived in Australia a few months ago to significantly more acclaim than its lukewarm predecessor. The consensus is clear: a fantastic Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson alternative, within a fast-growing corner of the market.

Another obvious rival is the Volkswagen Tiguan. Yet, we’ve opted for something a little different from the same brand, in the newly facelifted MY17 Golf Alltrack high-riding crossover wagon, which promises to be a ‘thinking person’s’ SUV alternative.

What are the merits of opting for a conventional SUV, versus something that sits somewhere in between this type of car and a conventional passenger wagon? Do you really need a medium SUV, or are you just following the crowd into a hot market segment?

Pricing and specs

Volkswagen Australia is keen to capitalise on our insatiable appetite for crossovers by luring more people into the Golf Alltrack. As part of the recent MY17 update, it introduced the base 132TSI model tested here at $34,490 before on-road costs.

This is $1000 cheaper than the roomier Honda CR-V VTi-S with all-wheel drive (AWD) that comes in at $35,490 – but which can also be had for $33,290 with front-wheel drive.

Features common to both include: fabric seat trim; Apple CarPlay/Android Auto app connections; cruise control with limiter; climate control; front/rear sensors, rear-view camera; driver fatigue alert; LED daytime running lights and tail lights; and roof rails.

Pictured above: Volkswagen

The Volkswagen has a bigger touchscreen – 8.0-inch compared to 7.0-inch – and has features not on the Honda at this spec level such as autonomous emergency braking and an auto-dipping kerbside mirror to stop wheel scuffs.

You also have various driving modes that adjust the throttle and gearbox calibration from sporty, to eco, to comfort-biased.

The Honda counters by offering proper integrated satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic updates that doesn’t rely on phone data and signal; an electric tailgate with height presets; Honda’s LaneWatch passenger-side blind-spot camera; and 18-inch wheels instead of the VW’s 17s.

Pictured above: Honda

You’d have to give the edge to Honda, though the company needs to make advanced safety assist technologies such as AEB available on all grades, sooner rather than later.

On a side note, if you’re happy to give your Volkswagen dealer a further $1800 for the Driver Assistance package, you’ll get the great 12.3-inch Active Info Display driver instrument, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, and parking assist.

Winner: Honda


The Golf Alltrack’s cabin is everything we’ve come to expect from Volkswagen. The doors thunk, storage pockets are fabric-lined, touch-points are soft, panel gaps are consistent and the build quality is as solid as a rock.

The update for MY17 brought a new flush touchscreen that swipes like your smartphone, and which serves to modernise an otherwise austere design. The ventilation controls, analogue gauges and digital trip computer (with speedo) are basic, but intuitively designed.

The Golf’s driving position is obviously lower than the CR-V’s, giving you a less commanding road view, as is the hip point. The fabric-and-suede seats with manual adjustment are supportive, and even have sliding storage drawers under them. We’re a sucker for the frameless rear-view mirror as well.

The CR-V’s cabin is a big step up on the old model. There’s a new tablet-style fascia with touchscreen, and the addition of proper satellite navigation alongside CarPlay/Android phone connections is fantastic.

The build quality is typical Honda – in other words, bulletproof – while there are some contrasting bits offsetting all the dour greys and blacks, to heighten the vibe. The Civic-style digital instruments and the small steering wheel are also inviting.

The other area where the Honda scores points is practicality. Obviously the driving position is higher and the ease of entry/egress greater, but there are also more places to put your stuff, such as the massive, configurable centre console that easily swallows a big handbag.

Pictured above: Volkswagen (top) and Honda (bottom)

The Honda also offers a superior experience for back seat passengers. First, the rear doors open almost 90 degrees and have huge apertures to assist entry, or parents loading kids into booster seats/capsules.

There’s also more legroom, shoulder room and headroom, a useable middle seat, and greater levels of outward visibility thanks to the larger side windows. In terms of rear seat comfort, the Honda beats most other like-for-like SUVs, so it’s no surprise it kills the VW here.

Both cars on test bring rear air vents, a flip-down centre armrest, ISOFX and top-tether child seat attachments, door pockets, reading lights and side airbags. But the Honda has USB points for kids to charge their tablets/phones, and seat pitch adjustment.

Pictured above: Volkswagen (top) and Honda (bottom)

In terms of cargo space, the CR-V has a slightly longer cargo area which is also about 6cm wider between the arches, though it’s actually 34 litres smaller than the old model.

Volkswagen claims you can store 605 litres in the Golf Alltrack’s cargo area behind the second-row seats, which is 83L more than the Honda’s claim. Yet it’s the latter with a lower loading lip (despite riding higher) and more useable space.

Both cars have cool levers in the cargo area to flip the second row of seats down, though the CR-V has an electric tailgate with pre-sets for height (for if you have a low garage) and a full-size alloy spare wheel rather than a space-saver.

Winner: Honda


Both of these cars come with small turbocharged petrol engines, though buyers keen on towing or doing high-kilometres might be interested to know that only the Golf Alltrack can be had with a diesel option – albeit in higher-grade guise at $40,990.

The Golf Alltrack 132TSI’s engine is a 1.8-litre unit with 132kW of power between 4500 and 6200rpm and 280Nm of torque between 1350 and 4500rpm.

By comparison, the Honda CR-V comes standard with a new 1.5-litre unit that has 300cc less displacement than the German, more power (140kW at 5600rpm) but less torque (240Nm between 2000 and 5000rpm).

The Golf’s engine uses a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox (DSG), while the CR-V uses a CVT auto with artificially-programmed ratios to mimic stepped gear changes, aimed at people familiar with a conventional lock-up torque converter.

The Alltrack’s fuel economy claim of 6.8L/100km on the combined cycle is eight per cent better than the heavier Honda’s, but the latter happily drinks 91 RON fuel rather than the 95 RON premium favoured by the VW.

The fact the VW has more torque, accesses its peak power earlier, has a twin-clutch DSG as opposed to a CVT and weighs about 100kg less, means it’s obviously a faster car, with better punch off the line, and stronger mid-range response. Zero to 100km/h in 7.8sec is hardly hanging about…

The Honda’s CVT is not bad as far as these ‘boxes go, but elicits a keening drone from the engine under heavy load, at the point where the Volkswagen is still surfing a giant wave of torque. The drivetrain in the Alltrack is an absolute cracker. The Honda’s? It’s just fine.

Both cars tested here also use on-demand AWD systems that apportion torque to the rear axle when sensors on board detect slippage at the front. The good thing is, these sensors take only milliseconds to do this.

The Honda’s system can send up to 40 per cent of engine torque to the rear when called on to do so. The CR-V can also take-off from idle in AWD guise to minimise slip off the line.

Volkswagen’s 4Motion setup has an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch directing torque to the axle with the best traction from zero and above, contingent largely on the engine torque demanded by the driver. A system within the all-wheel drive control unit also evaluates parameters such as wheel speeds and steering angle.

The Honda has marginally greater ground clearance than the Volkswagen, which counters with an off-road mode built into its onboard software, that alters the throttle response, gearbox tune and ESC parameters when on low-grip surfaces.

Both are more than capable of negotiating a rutted track, light mud, loose gravel, slippery grass or mild snowy trails – those rear wheels get moving in less time than it takes you to blink.

Winner: Volkswagen 

Ride and handling

The CR-V is not a corner-carver like a Tiguan or CX-5, but its ride quality is first rate despite the 18-inch wheels on thin rubber, and the body control/handling is safe and predictable.

The new model has increased front and rear track widths, refined front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension, a new electric power steering system, and more noise-deadening insulation/gap sealing.

There’s also an Active Noise Control system, kind of like noise-cancelling headphones that keeps out road and wind noise.

Over a mixture of urban and regional winding country roads, plus the odd gravel trail, the CR-V showed controlled body roll through corners, but also generally good ride compliance and good big-bump control that only turns into body wallow near the limits of traction.

Suppression of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) is good for the class, while the steering has a very fast action. There’s now only 2.2 turns lock-to-lock (down a full revolution), meaning less arm-waving in town and quicker responses at speed.

But, by contrast, the car-like Volkswagen utilises its lower centre-of-gravity with aplomb, offering greater agility and more pep – and though its sharper ride causes the body to fall into bigger ruts, the car irons out the road better when it’s not rutted.

In terms of steering resistance, turn-in, body response against lateral inputs and exiting corners, the Volkswagen is a few rungs above the Honda. Find a twisting, snaking piece of road and it rewards you with hatch-like responses that no $35k SUV can touch.

It’s also quiet and imparts a feeling of stability and solidity matched by nothing at the price point that we can think of.

The downside of the Alltrack is that lower driving position, since most SUV buyers aren’t after a sporty feel as much as they are after a commanding view. Still, it’s objectively better to drive – not because the very pleasant Honda is bad, simply because it’s so well-sorted.

Winner: Volkswagen 

Ownership costs

Volkswagen Australia has a three-year and unlimited kilometre warranty.

There’s a capped-price servicing which at current levels – at intervals of 12 months or 15,000km – charges $369, $559, $593, $1133 and $369 over the first five visits.

The Honda comes with the company’s recently introduced five-year and unlimited kilometre warranty up from three years/100,000km previously).

Honda Tailored Servicing caps the price at present at $295 per dealer visit, at intervals of 10,000km (or 12 months). Every two years you’ll need to fork out $65 for new dust and pollen filters, and $48 for new rear diff fluid.

Winner: Honda


The real question we wanted to answer here was: do you really need a conventional mid-sized SUV, or does something left-field such as the Golf Alltrack tick enough boxes? And if it does, do its other winning attributes actually make it a sensible choice?

Clearly, the Golf is the more spirited driver’s car, with outstanding ride and handling balance, potent and frugal engine, premium cabin feel with modern tech, and acceptable off-road nous.

Yet the Honda more than justifies its $1000 premium from most angles, given its more flexible cabin, slightly superior feature list (arguable, we admit), comfortable ride, commanding road view and cheaper running costs.

The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is a great vehicle, but it’s understandable the CR-V appeals to a wider audience. It fills its brief brilliantly, particularly in VTi-S guise.

Model Honda CR-V VW Golf Alltrack
Variant VTi-S 132TSI
Made in Thailand Germany
Price $35,490 $34,490
Drive AWD On-demand AWD
Engine 1.5 turbo 1.8 turbo
Fuel 91 RON petrol 95 RON petrol
Power 140kW @ 5600rpm 132kW @ 4500-6200rpm
Torque 240Nm @ 2000-5000rpm 280Nm @ 1350-4500rpm
Fuel use 7.4L/100km 6.8L/100km
0-100km/h 9.9sec 7.8sec
Trans. CVT Six-speed DSG
Wheels 18-inch 17-inch
Tyres 235/60 R18 205/55 R17
Spare Full-size alloy Temporary
Front susp. MacPherson strut MacPherson strut
Rear susp. Independent, multi-link Independent, multi-link
Steering EPAS, 11m EPAS, 10.9m
Towing 1500kg (100kg towball) 1500kg (80kg towball)
Length 4596mm 4578mm
Width 1855mm 1799mm
Height 1689mm 1496mm
Wheelbase 2660mm 2629mm
Clearance 208mm  175mm
Cargo Claimed 522L Claimed 605L
Weight 1597kg (kerb) 1491kg (tare)


Model Honda CR-V VW Golf Alltrack
Variant VTi-S 132TSI
Airbags 6 7
AEB No Yes
Driver fatigue alert Yes Yes
Parking sensors Front/rear Front/rear
Blind-spot monitor LaneWatch camera No
Rear-view camera Yes Yes
ISOFIX/top-tether Yes Yes
Auto-dip side mirror No Yes
Headlights Halogen Halogen
Tail-lights LED LED
Alloy wheels 18-inch 17-inch
Keyless access Yes Yes
Roof rails Yes Yes
Tailgate Motor driven Manual
Climate control Yes Yes
Cruise control Regular Regular
Speed limiter Yes Yes
Touchscreen 7.0-inch 8.0-inch
Apple CarPlay Yes Yes
Android Auto Yes Yes
Sat-nav Yes No
Bluetooth/USB Yes Yes
Seat trim Fabric Fabric
Option/s $1800 package:

  • Active Info Display
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane assist
  • Parking assist
  • Proactive occupant protection system


Nikon D850 vs Canon 5D Mark IV – Comparison

Let’s have a brief look at the main features of Nikon D850 vs Canon 5D Mark IV. So what may be the main differences when consider their specs list?

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Nikon D850

As you can see from the table below, Nikon D850 beats the Canon 5D Mark IV pretty much on every major spec. That’s because Nikon’s new DSLR competes more with the Canon 5DS R rather than the Canon 5D Mark IV. On the other hand, both cameras almost has the same price tag around $3,200. So we’ve decided to take a quick look at the comparison sheet of specs.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Canon 5D Mark IVKết quả hình ảnh cho Canon 5D Mark IV

If you’re looking to upgrade to a camera with full frame sensor, the Nikon D850 vs Canon 5D Mark IV comparison covers all the important specifications of each camera.

Nikon D850 has a larger viewfinder, better storage media options, 9 fps burst shooting with the grip, better AF system and range, 4K video without any cropping, a tilting LCD screen, superior battery life and a lower price tag.

Nikon D850 vs Canon 5D Mark IV Specification Comparison

Nikon D850 vs Canon 5D Mark IV - Comparison

Here is the comparison of the Nikon D850 vs Canon 5D Mark IV DSLRs. Some differences like sensor, image size, shooting speed, lcd size etc.. detailed as bold on the table.

Features Nikon D850 Canon 5D Mark IV
Sensor Resolution 45.7 MP 30.4 MP
Sensor Size 35.9×23.9mm 36.0×24.0mm
Low-Pass Filter No Yes
Sensor Pixel Size 4.35µ 5.36µ
Image Size 8,256 x 5,504 6,720 x 4,480
Image Processor EXPEED 5 DIGIC 6+
Raw Buffer 51 21
Native ISO Sensitivity ISO 64-25,600 ISO 100-32,000
Boosted ISO Sensitivity ISO 32, ISO 51,200-102,400 ISO 50, ISO 51,200-102,400
Dust Reduction / Sensor Cleaning Yes Yes
Viewfinder Type Pentaprism Pentaprism
Viewfinder Coverage and Magnification 100%, 0.75x 100%, 0.71x
Built-in Flash No No
Storage Media 1x QXD, 1x SD (UHS-II) 1x CF, 1x SD (UHS-I)
Continuous Shooting Speed 7.0 fps, 9.0 fps with MB-D18 7.0 fps
Max Shutter Speed 1/8000 to 30 sec 1/8000 to 30 sec
AE Bracketing Range ±5 EV ±3 EV
Flash Sync Speed 1/250 1/200
Shutter Durability 200,000 cycles 150,000 cycles
Exposure Metering Sensor 181,000-pixel RGB sensor 150,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor
Number of AF Points 153 AF points, 99 cross-type 61 AF points, 41 cross-type
AF Detection Range -4 to +20 EV -3 to +18 EV
Auto AF Fine-Tune Yes No
Focus Peaking Yes No
Focus Stacking Yes No
Video Maximum Resolution 3,840 x 2,160 (4K) @ up to 30 fps 4,096 x 2,160 (4K) @ up to 30 fps
Video Crop Factor 1.0x 1.74x
Audio Recording Built-in stereo microphone
External stereo microphone (optional)
Built-in stereo microphone
External stereo microphone (optional)
Headphone Jack Yes Yes
LCD Size and Type 3.2″ Tilting Touchscreen LCD 3.2″ Touchscreen LCD
Dual Pixel AF No Yes
Dual Pixel RAW No Yes
LCD Resolution 2,359,000 dots 1,620,000 dots
Built-in GPS No Yes
Wi-Fi Yes Yes
Bluetooth Yes No
Battery Life 1840 shots (CIPA) 900 shots (CIPA)
Button Illumination Yes No
Weather Sealed Body Yes Yes
USB Version 3.0 3.0
Weight (Body Only) 915g 800g
Dimensions 146.0 x 124.0 x 78.5mm 150.7 x 116.4 x 75.9mm
MSRP Price $3,299 (as introduced) $3,499 (as introduced)


Alienware AW568 Keyboard Review: Good Price, So-So Performance

Alienware has something of a mixed reputation among PC aficionados. For those who prefer not to build their own machines, Alienware provides powerful hardware in an attractive chassis; for those who do, the company doesn’t have much to offer.

Now that Alienware is producing its own peripherals, its AW568 keyboard ($90) proves both camps right, in a way. The keyboard is a perfectly workable peripheral with a few attractive aesthetic touches. Crack it open, though, and it’s powered by so-so switches and half-baked hardware. For the price, the AW568 isn’t bad, but you can get a much better keyboard if you can spend even a little bit more.


The AW568 is a large, full-size keyboard with a few extra angles thrown in for good measure. The triangular flourishes on either side of the device aren’t really necessary, but they don’t add too much space, and they give the keyboard a little more flair than the average peripheral. At 19.7 x 6.8 inches, it’s almost 2inches bigger than some of the more conservative full-size gaming keyboards, but this is partially to accommodate the extra row of macro keys.

My only qualm about the keyboard is that the lighting might be a bit too subtle. The software makes a big to-do about the AW568’s rainbow lighting, but up until a co-worker pointed it out, I wasn’t even sure where the narrow strip of illumination was located.

You can make the periphery of the keyboard light up a static color, or in rainbow waves, but it’s almost pointless; unless your room is very dark, you won’t see it — and even then, you’ll never see it directly unless you’re off to the side.


The AW568 uses Kailh brown switches: Cherry MX Brown copycats that do a fairly reliable job of mimicking the genuine article. Whether you consider Kailh to be the poor man’s Cherry, or Cherry to be an overpriced Kailh, will probably determine how you feel about the keyboard overall. I found the keys comfortable, although a bit stiffer than Cherry’s switches. They’re tactile and quiet, and possess a respectable key travel before bottoming out.

They’re also thoroughly decent for typing. On my regular keyboard, a Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum, I scored 108 words per minute with 11 errors on The AW568 gave me 105 words per minute with 11 errors, which is a pretty negligible difference.

I’m still on the fence about Kailh keys overall. I say if you can get Cherries, go for Cherries; on the other hand, Cherries aren’t cheap, and Kailh is probably about as good as a direct imitator gets.


The AW568 runs on proprietary Alienware software. The program is OK, as these things go, but it needs some work. For every novel feature it offers, there’s some kind of significant drawback. For example, you can remap every key on the keyboard — if you’re willing to program a macro for each one. Speaking of macros, you can record them and map them to the extra column of buttons, but you can’t record macros on the fly, or set up multiple profiles for different games.

You’re also not able to turn the lighting off on the Alienware logo without disabling the border lighting as well. This seems like a bug, but it further demonstrates that the software still needs some work before it’s ready for prime time.

I ran it through both competitive and story-driven games to gauge its performance, and the keyboard delivered in every case.

On the bright side, the keyboard has discrete volume controls (it doesn’t have a full suite of media buttons, but volume is probably the most useful feature anyway), as well as a Game Mode, which can disable the Windows key during gameplay. The AW568 has most of the features a good keyboard needs, and where it falls short is mildly irritating rather than catastrophic.


Like most mechanical keyboards with a half-decent set of switches, the AW568 performs very well in-game. I ran it through both competitive and story-driven games to gauge its performance, and the keyboard delivered in every case.

Running and gunning in Overwatch, building up bases in StarCraft Remastered, slaying hordes of demons in Diablo III: Reaper of Souls and tossing Captain America’s shield in Marvel Heroes Omega were all simple and responsive experiences. My only caveat would be that the keyboard’s lack of on-the-fly macro recording could make it difficult for MMO players who want to make use of the extra row of keys.

Bottom Line

Considering that a top-of-the-line mechanical keyboard could set you back as much as $170, a full-size model with decent switches for $90 is not a terrible deal. The AW568 isn’t impressive, but it’s competent, and given the asking price, that’s probably all it has to be.

You could get the Corsair Strafe or the Logitech G610, each with authentic Cherry MX keys, for $120 apiece. In my estimation, that’s a better deal, since a mechanical keyboard could easily last five or 10 years. But if the extra $30 is simply impossible, the AW568 will do.


Hands on: Panasonic SC-GA10 Google Assistant smart speaker review


By focusing on audio quality, the Panasonic SC-GA10 stands out in an increasingly crowded smart marketplace. It might look a little boring, but it’ll blend in with the rest of your AV equipment.


  • Great sound
  • Refined looks
  • Onboard controls
  • Google Assistant integration


  • Only two microphones

Announced at IFA 2017, the SC-GA10 is Panasonic’s first foray into the world of smart speakers.

In case you’ve been living under a rock right now, smart speakers are the latest craze right now, with manufacturers all over the world rushing to produce speakers that are capable of listening, and responding to, your every request.

Rather than building their own smart assistants to power these speakers, manufacturers are instead drawing upon the existing efforts of experts like Amazon and Google.


While others have hedged their bets as to which intelligent AI will come out ahead by supporting both of them, Panasonic has come out firmly in favor of team Google. The SC-GA10 features full support for Google Assistant, which means that it will integrate with the latest smartphones and anything that’s Google Assistant compatible – and that includes other smart speakers. More or that later.

Audio first

With most smart speakers now supporting the same small number of voice assistants, the race is on to find points of differentiation. The Panasonic SC-GA10’s unique selling point is its audio quality.

Inside this speaker you’ll find two 20mm tweeters paired with an 8cm woofer to round out the base. This dual woofer has a dual voice coil, and is paired with a long port back bass reflex system for extra oomf.


Two speakers can be paired together in a stereo configuration.

A representative from Panasonic told us that the company decided to focus on audio due mainly to what people are tending to use their smart speakers for. While in the tech industry we like to view these speakers as opening up a world of smart home automation, the simple truth is that most people mainly use these speakers for listening to music.

Therefore, Panasonic reckoned that it made sense to design them with music in mind.

A multi-room contender

The Panasonic SC-GA10 should, in theory, seamlessly integrate with any other Google Assistant speakers you have around your home. You can pair them together to play the same song in different rooms, you can request one speaker play music from a speaker in a different room, or, if you have two GA10s, you can pair them together in stereo.

With this amount of options, it feels like Panasonic is targeting the Sonos crowd more so than those who are after a no-frills smart speaker. The company is yet to announce pricing information, but we can’t imagine these are going to be a budget option next to the standard Google Home.

Thankfully, first impressions suggest that the speaker is capable of a level of audio quality that’s a real step above the stock smart speaker options from Amazon and Google. The speaker’s low bass was really capable of rumbling the room we were demoed it in without losing too much detail in the mids and trebles.


The speaker features touch controls if you’d like to control your music more directly.

Putting the speaker further in Sonos territory is its on-board controls. On the top of the device you’ve got buttons for cycling through the various inputs, which include Bluetooth and a 3.5mm aux input.

Unfortunately Panasonic was unable to confirm whether you’d be able to switch these inputs using your voice.

Listen up

Of course, when it comes to a smart speaker, its listening abilities are just as important as its aural ones.

The SC-GA10 is packing a pair of microphones in a similar configuration to what the Google Home features. Yes, that’s less than the Amazon Echo’s seven microphone array, but so far it doesn’t seem to have been a massive problem for Google itself.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for our full review to learn how well the SC-GA10’s mics perform, as we weren’t able to test them for ourselves on the show floor.


A Google exclusive

With Google and Amazon dominating the voice assistant market at the moment with their Google Assistant and Alexa software respectively, Panasonic has chosen to embrace the former as the virtual genius behind the SC-GA10.

When I asked a representative why this decision was taken, he expressed confidence that Google would come to dominate the voice assistant market. Google Home may have launched later than the Amazon Echo, but it has gained ground remarkably quickly, and he was confident that it would be the one to stand the test of time.

Additionally he stated that Panasonic’s existing relationship with Google made them a more natural partner for a first smart speaker.

Whether or not Google does win out in the war with Amazon, if you’re already invested in the Alexa ecosystem, then the GA10 might not be for you.


Early verdict

With every audio manufacturer under the sun rushing to support a voice assistant, it’s perhaps no surprise that Panasonic is now amongst the club.

However, it’s reassuring to see this company, with its rich background in Hi-Fi audio, joining their number. While other smart speaker companies are coming at it from backgrounds in rugged portable Bluetooth speakers, Panasonic’s history is more high-end, and the acoustic quality shows.

For playing music then, the SC-GA10 looks like it might provide a high-end alternative to other smart speakers, but we’ll have to wait until next year to see how well it performs against the smart competition.


Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro Hand-on Review

  • 1.5-inch curved Super AMOLED display
  • Tizen OS
  • Dual Core CPU
  • 34g (large) 33g (small)
  • 200 mAh battery
  • Works with Android and iOS


Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro hands-on: A souped up Gear Fit with swim tracking

  • Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro release date: TBC
  • Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro price: £TBC

Like the previous Gear Fit devices the Fit 2 Pro is a fitness band and smartwatch hybrid, with a long narrow display and a flexible strap. The Fit 2 Pro is perhaps unsurprisingly very similar in looks to the excellent Gear Fit 2 that was released late in 2017. It has the same vibrant, 1.5-inch curved AMOLED display and runs on the same Tizen software.

The biggest difference between the two is a new focus on swimming. The Fit 2 Pro is rated 5 ATM for water-resistance, meaning it’ll withstand depths of 50m and won’t be damaged after long sessions in the pool. To complement this, Samsung has upgraded its S Health app with a dedicated swimming section and partnered with Speedo to build a bespoke app. This app not only tracks your lengths, distance travelled and speed, but can also tell exactly what variety of stroke you favour and when you switch.

If swimming isn’t your thing, then don’t instantly discount the Gear Fit 2 Pro. Like its less ‘Pro’ sibling, there’s onboard GPS for accurate run-tracking without having a phone connected and auto-workout detection. There’s also a continuous heart rate monitor on the back, which can take a reading every second.

This means that once the band has detected you moving for more than 10 minutes, it’ll log your workout. There are dedicated sections for running, but also a ‘Dynamic Option’ that will cover things like tennis or football.

Add to this the ability to store around 500 songs offline from Spotify and you’ve got an excellent all-round fitness watch. If only Samsung had managed to cram an NFC chip inside for Samsung Pay.

What the Gear Fit 2 Pro really has over dedicated smartwatches, even the Gear Sport, is a much smaller footprint when you’re wearing it. The silicone strap sticks close to your skin and the plastic build means it’s light. Importantly, it’s comfortable and doesn’t wobble about like so many ill-fitting wearables. I probably wouldn’t wear it with a smart suit and for a night out, but it’s an almost perfect design for popping on when you’re out for a run or a swim. Out of the two colour options available at launch –  an all-black and a black and red – the one with the red trim stands-out noticeably more.The Gear Fit 2 Pro is available in either a large or small size, based on the size of your wrist. Unlike the Gear S3 and the Gear Sport, two size bands aren’t included so you’ll need to choose accordingly when you buy. You will be able to swap bands at a later date, though.

When our Wearables Editor reviewed the Gear Fit 2, he managed to get about 3 days of juice per charge. This altered quite heavily depending on how hard the band was pushed and whether GPS was on or off. Samsung didn’t give me a estimated battery life for the Gear Fit 2 Pro, but considering it the same 200 mAh battery I would say they’ll last a similar amount of time.

First impressions

The Gear Fit 2 Pro seems like it’ll be a good wearable for someone who doesn’t really want a smartwatch.

It’s packed with features and looks good, but importantly it feels good thanks to a trim and well designed body. Depending on the price, this could very well another excellent entry into the Gear Fit line.



Samsung Gear IconX 2018 preview: Battery life boost and Bixby voice control for wireless in-ears

The truly wireless in-ear market is well and truly upon us, with heaps of options now available: Apple AirPods, Jabra Elite Sport, Bragi Dash Pro, Sol Republic Amps Air, to name but a few.

Samsung also wants a piece of the wire-free pie, with its original Gear IconX launched in 2016 updated in the so-called 2018 version. Boasting improved battery life and added voice control with Bixby and Google Assistant, are they the wireless in-ears to go for?


  • Available in black, grey or pink
  • Various wingtip sizes included for ideal fit
  • Touch-sensitive controls, Bixby and Google Assistant voice control
  • 18.9 x 21.8 x 22.8mm and 8g per earphone
  • Charging case included with USB-C recharging

On the face of it the design between one generation IconX and the next hasn’t changed: the in-ears come in their own carry/charging case and there are spare wingtip sizes for an ideal fit included in the box.


The 2018 model’s charging case is slightly smaller, however, without ditching any of the available on-board battery life – its 340mAh battery should be enough to re-juice these in-ears a number of times.

Despite the entire lack of wires, the IconX 2018 are easy to control via touch-based controls on the in-ears exteriors. And this generation adds in Bixby and Google Assistant smart control so you can just say what you want to see on your synched phone and that’s it – job done.


  • 4GB on-board storage for music playback
  • Personal Running Coach for in-ear encouragement
  • Auto Activity Tracking will record activity (after 10mins)
  • Battery: 82mAh per earphone; 340mAh in the charging case

The ‘Gear’ part of the name shows these in-ears fit in among Samsung’s sport product line, along with the Gear Sport smartwatchand other devices, so the voice control can be used to directly view current or previous activities via Samsung Health in easy-to-digest visual form.

The addition of a Personal Running Coach means in-ear voice messages will encourage you, as applicable to your ongoing goal, while Auto Activity Tracking will select the type of sport it believes you’re engaged in when recording an activity.


If you like to listen to tunes when you work out then the 4GB of on-board storage is ideal for playing music without the need for a smartphone weighing down your pocket. If you want full sync, with sports tracking, the you’ll need a phone synched, however.

The biggest push in the 2018 Gear IconX is the boos to battery life. Samsung claims there’s up to five hours of streaming time (seven hours of direct listening), considerably improving on its predecessor. There’s also a quick charge feature, to deliver an hour’s worth of exercise time after charging the in-ears for a mere 10 minutes.


First Impressions

In a rapidly growing market, the Samsung Gear IconX 2018 don’t offer anything particularly special in the wireless in-ear market. Others have voice control, in-ear coach, adjustable fit and battery-laden carry cases. The improvement to battery life in this year’s model, if genuine during use, is a notable boost, however, which sees Samsung remain competitive.


Samsung Gear Sport vs Apple Watch 2: The battle of the fitness smartwatches

In a similar vein, the Apple Watch Series 2 was a refinement over the original, adding in a much stronger focus on fitness tracking by adding GPS and water-resistance, which is why it forms the basis of this comparison and not the original. Don’t forget, though, if you’re considering an Apple Watch, you’ll need to have an iPhone. There’s no such compatibility issues with the Samsung Gear Sport, which will work with both Android and iOS devices (although you’ll have a better experience with Samsung’s own Galaxy range).

Both wearables include smartwatch features alongside fitness tracking, in line with the way the wearables industry is moving. But which is the right one for you? Stay with me while I break both smartwatches down.

Samsung Gear Sport vs Apple Watch 2 – Design and display

Once again, Samsung has opted for a circular design, which immediately gives it the look of a more traditional watch. Its 1.2-inch display is smaller than its Gear S3 bigger brother, but the 320 x 320 resolution touchscreen AMOLED display is still sharp and bright. Samsung hasn’t revealed just how bright that screen is, though.

The screen is flanked by two physical buttons, but it’s the rotating bezel that’s once again the star of the show. A mainstay of Samsung’s Gear smartwatches, the rotating bezel is one of the more intuitive methods of interacting with a smartwatch, and means your fingers don’t get in the way of the screen. There will be a range of silicone, leather and fabric straps available but if none of those take your fancy, the Gear Sport uses standard 22mm watch straps so you can always find your own.

The Apple Watch 2’s physical design didn’t change between versions remaining square and still characterised by two options: a 38mm or 42mm design to cater for different-sized wrists.

These have 272 x 340 resolution and 312 x 390 resolutions, respectively. The screen is also super bright at 1000nits, meaning it’s easily viewable even under bright sunlight. While not necessarily looking like a traditional watch, the light weight and relatively thin design make the Apple Watch comfortable to wear. There are also more premium options available, such as the expensive ceramic model. All Apple Watch models make use of a rotating crown, which acts a lot like the Gear’s rotating bezel. This lets you navigate the menus while keeping your fingers out of the way of the display and plays a prominent role in how the watchOS operating system was designed. There’s a whole range of straps available, including metal, silicone and fabric.

Both the Gear Sport and Apple Watch 2 are water-resistant to 5ATM (or 50 metres), meaning they can be used safely in the pool or the shower.

Samsung Gear Sport vs Apple Watch 2 – Sensors and specs

There’s not a great deal separating these two wearables in terms of sensors. Both the Gear Sport and Apple Watch 2 feature onboard GPS for accurate location tracking during exercise and heart rate monitors round back. The Gear Sport also has a barometer, which is notably absent on the Apple Watch 2. This means it can accurately track elevation, which is useful for lovers of hill sprints or hiking without the need to use a connected phone.

Both also include NFC for contactless payments through Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. This means you can leave your wallet behind and still make payments. You can store music on each smartwatch, too, and pair Bluetooth wireless headphones so you can leave your phone behind. A feather in the Gear Sport’s cap is the ability to store Spotify music offline, which is rarity for wearables. The Apple Watch can use Apple Music for offline music, however.

Samsung Gear Sport vs Apple Watch 2 – Exercise and activity tracking

All-day activity tracking with move reminders feature prominently in both Samsung’s S-Health and Apple Activity apps. Samsung’s S-Health also makes use of the barometer to also throw in stairs climbed goals alongside the usual steps, which is a nice added incentive to make improved health choices during the day. Both wearables support bodyweight exercise tracking, too, but you’ll need to use third-party apps on the Apple Watch. Apple is updating its default Activity app with a whole range of new sports, however, such as basketball and even skiing.

As both watches are waterproof to 5ATM, swim tracking plays a big part on both. You’ll be able to track laps swum, distance and speed, as well as automatically detecting your stroke type. Samsung has partnered with Speedo to also create a custom app designed for the pool.

Samsung Gear Sport vs Apple Watch 2 – Smartwatch functionality and apps

The app selection is one of the most important aspects of any good smartwatch, and this is where Apple has historically had the edge. Running on its own watchOS operating system, the catalogue of apps for Apple Watch remains strong with plenty of support from messaging to banking to shopping, all from your wrist. There’s also a range of third-party fitness apps, such as Strava, if you want to use something different from Apple’s default options. Samsung’s Gear Sport once again uses its Tizen operating system, which isn’t quite as strongly supported when it comes to apps. There are some notable big inclusions, such as Uber and Spotify, but it’s not quite at the level of watchOS.

At a base level, there’s not a lot massively separating Tizen and watchOS from a functionality standpoint. Both make excellent use of their respective user interfaces and are swift and responsive, providing all of the smartphone notifications you could want and ways to interact with them. There’s Siri support on the Apple Watch and Samsung’s S Voice on the Gear Sport.

Samsung Gear Sport vs Apple Watch 2 – Battery life

The Apple Watch 2 typically lasts around two days on a single charge. Samsung hasn’t revealed how long it expects the Gear Sport to last, but we do know it features a 300mAh battery. The larger Gear S3 had a 380mAh, which I saw around three and a bit days battery. I’d expect the Gear Sport will last a little longer than the Apple Watch 2, at least with its always-on display turned off, but we’ll have to wait for a review sample to be sure. Both watches use magnetic chargers to top up their batteries.

Samsung Gear Sport vs Apple Watch 2 – Which is better value for money?

The Apple Watch 2 starts at £369/$553.5 for the most basic 38mm option. Samsung hasn’t actually put a price on the Gear Sport yet, but we suspect they’ll undercut the price of the Gear S3, which launched at £349/$523.5.

Samsung Gear Sport vs Apple Watch 2 summary – What’s the difference?

Apple Watch

For a quick breakdown of the key differences between the two smartwatches, here’s what you need to know.Design: The Gear Sport uses a more traditional round watch face with a rotating bezel. The Apple Watch 2 uses a square design with a rotating crown. Both watches are waterproof to 50m.

Specs: Both devices have a similar array of sensors including GPS and a heart rate monitor. The Gear Sport also benefits from a barometer for elevation tracking.

Smartwatch functionality: You can expect similar smartwatch functionality, including the ability to respond to messages and make and receive calls. Apple’s watchOS app catalogue is still bigger than Samsung’s Tizen.

Battery life: The Apple Watch 2 has around two-day battery. It’s not been revealed how long the Gear Sport is expected to last, but we suspect it will be around the same if not slightly more.

Price: There’s no confirmed price for the Gear Sport, but we suspect it will be less than the Apple Watch 2’s starting price of £369/$553.5.



Samsung Gear Sport Hand-on Review

Key Features

  • 1.2-inch circular Super AMOLED display
  • 360 x 360 resolution
  • Tizen
  • 50g
  • 4GB internal storage
  • 300 mAh battery

Samsung Gear Sport hands-on: A smaller Gear watch aimed at swimmers

  • Samsung Gear Sport release date: TBC
  • Samsung Gear Sport price: £TBC

For all the new features that it added, Samsung’s previous entry into its long-running Gear smartwatch line felt like it sacrificed usability for headline features.

The Gear S3 was simply too big and bulky for the majority of wrists, and considering it had some seriously clever additions, that was a real shame. Thankfully, the Gear Sport offers a feature-packed smartwatch in a smaller body.

With the name ‘Gear Sport’, the focus of this wearable is obvious. Samsung says that the reason most people buy wearables is to improve their health, which echoes views held across the wearables industry. As such, the Gear Sport is a well-rounded device to monitor various forms of exercise.

Unlike the Gear S3, the Gear Sport boasts a 5-ATM rating for water-resistance. This is the same as the Apple Watch Series 2 and the recently announced Fitbit Ionic, and means the device can be used to track swimming – an activity for which support on smartwatches is still rare.

To complement this, Samsung has not only updated its own S-Health app with a range of swimming features, but it has partnered with Speedo to create a completely new app.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to swim with the device during my brief demo, but the app appears to be well built, allowing you to track the number of lengths swum plus speed and distance travelled. It can also identify your strokes – freestyle, breaststroke, and so on – so you don’t have to manually input this information.

Another new software feature expands on the previously available calorie counter, but lets you add in calories you’ve eaten to set daily targets. Samsung is also trying to turn the Gear Sport into a personal coach, by loading the Note 8 and S-Health app with a range of workout regimes. The company has promised support will be coming to other Galaxy devices soon, too.

It’s even possible to connect the watch up to particular Samsung Smart TVs to follow these workouts, with your heart rate appearing on the television screen. This looked great in demos, but will only really be useful if you’re completely submerged in the Samsung ecosystem.

The onboard GPS means you won’t have to carry around your phone to accurately track your runs, and Samsung says the heart rate sensor has been ever-so-slightly tweaked to make the readings more reliable – a common complaint levelled at optical heart rate monitors.

What really sets Samsung’s Gear Sport, and even the older models in the series apart, is the rotating bezel that acts as the main method of input. Everything in the Tizen OS is built around spinning that bezel, and it makes so much more sense on a display of this size as opposed to having to prod with your finger.

Tizen does lack the app selection you’d find on watchOS, however, but having the ability to store 500 songs from Spotify offline is a seriously neat trick that’s still notably absent from most wearables. Combine that with the NFC chip inside for Samsung Pay and you can pretty much head off on a run and leave your wallet and phone at home.

The 1.2-inch screen is smaller than Gear S3, but the 320 x 320 resolution is sharp and, since this is an AMOLED panel, it’s bright and colourful.

While the Gear S3 looked ridiculous on my smaller wrists, the Gear Sport feels like a regular watch. Its sturdy build and circular screen makes it look like a traditional timepiece, and the two buttons on the side are clicky and satisfying to press. Samsung’s strap choices have improved, too – although the silicone one included in the box will probably need some time to break in to lose its rigid feel.

The fabric options I saw – styled like classic NATO straps – aren’t quite as sporty, but they’re softer and more comfortable for everyday wear. There’s a bunch of classier leather options, too. Samsung says there will be 23 strap varieties available at launch, which is a huge improvement over previous Gear watches. You’ll also be able to use your own strap; the Gear Sport will work with any standard 22mm strap.

Battery life remains a mystery, however – although Samsung has stated that there’s a 300mAh cell inside. The company is also remaining coy about the price. Nevertheless, from what I’ve seen so far, the Samsung Gear Sport is shaping up to be a decent rival to whatever Apple has in store for the next Apple Watch.

First impressions

I like the Gear Sport a lot, especially since it takes all those useful features from the Gear S3 and puts them into a smaller and more manageable body. The addition of dedicated swimming features gives it broader appeal – and, hopefully, the implementation will be as good as it was made out to be.

Of course, mysteries remain around the all-important battery life and price. However, if Samsung gets these right then this could be a wearable to give the Fitbit Ionic and whatever Apple has up its sleeves a run for their money.



Betterspot review


Betterspot looks great, and the compact form factor makes it a convenient travel router. The VPN is overpriced and underpowered, though, and overall, it’s just way too expensive for what you get.


  • Stylish router
  • Compact and portable
  • LED shows connection status at a glance
  • No DNS or WebRTC leaks


  • Overpriced subscriptions
  • Poor VPN performance
  • Small number of server locations
  • Few configuration options

VPNs are great for concealing your identity, protecting your data and accessing blocked websites, but setting them up can be tricky. VPN clients can interfere with other software, you might have to manually set up some devices, and many VPNs restrict the number of simultaneous connections you can make.

Betterspot is a simple VPN router which bypasses all of these hassles. Plug it in to your current router and the device creates its own ‘betterspot’ wireless network. Connect any device to the network – desktops, mobiles, smart TVs, game consoles and more – and all traffic is automatically routed through its VPN (Betternet Premium), with no other setup required. And as the VPN only sees a single connection, you’re able to connect as many devices as the hardware allows: that’s at least 10 to 15.

Buying the basic $99 (£76) Betterspot package enables connecting to the internet via Tor. That won’t give you the best speeds, but it’s free, and handy to have available for emergencies. You can also use the device as a standard router, which works like any other.


Accessing the full Betternet Premium service requires paying a subscription. These are relatively expensive at $19 (£15.20) for a one-off month, or an equivalent $10.75 (£8.60) a month if you buy a year upfront. Even signing up for a quality service like NordVPN only costs $5.75 (£4.60) a month on its annual plan.

You could alternatively buy the router with lifetime access to Betternet Premium for $399 (£320). That’s certainly convenient, but at the equivalent of paying for four or five years of service elsewhere, it’s hard to recommend.

There’s no trial of the Premium service, and we couldn’t see any sign of a ‘money-back guarantee’. The safest option is probably to buy a one-month subscription for testing, and sign up for the annual plan if Betterspot delivers what you need.


Betterspot is a compact black box, small enough to be effortlessly portable (8 x 8 x 2.9cm, 317g), but with just enough weight to give it a solid and reliable feel.


The device looks good, too. That’s partly down to simple design touches – rounded corners here, bevelled edges there – but the highlight is the Betternet shield logo on the front of the box. Power up Betterspot and the shield changes color to indicate device status, showing whether you’re connected to the internet through a VPN, Tor or your standard network connection. It looks very Apple-like, although the build quality isn’t as good.

The rear of the box has a ‘factory reset’ button, but there are no other switches or any other physical ways to control or configure Betterspot. That might not always be convenient, but it does mean fewer points of failure, and you can still set up the device via its web interface, iOS or Android app.

Betterspot is clearly designed for portability, and you can even see that in its packaging. The device arrives in a durable cardboard box with a magnetic clasp, ideal for keeping it safe while being used as a travel router.



Betterspot is powered by a Mediatek MT7620A device with 128MB RAM, running Linux and OpenWRT.

The system connects to the outside world via two 100Mbps Ethernet connections, one in and one out, and two 802.11n wireless adapters (2T2R – two transmitters, two receivers).

These specs can’t match the latest Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac standards for performance. Still, Betterspot claims you can connect more than 10 devices simultaneously via Wi-Fi, and they’ll share up to 300Mbps of data transfer. That’s very much a theoretical maximum, but is likely to be much, much faster than your internet connection.

Betterspot comes with a single Ethernet cable. Connect this to a laptop or desktop and they’ll be able to use Betterspot directly. Alternatively, plug it in to your router and it’ll be available to all devices, with no other configuration required.

The router is powered by a regular 5V/1A microUSB cable. If that’s not convenient, there’s also an AC adaptor in the box, although in our review sample this was a two-pin model.


Betterspot is straightforward to set up in most situations, with very few steps involved. At a minimum you would power the device via its USB cable, connect it to your router via Ethernet, and as Betterspot boots up, it grabs an IP address and configures itself as a router. (From power-on to connecting via VPN took around 30 seconds with our test unit.)

An LED light behind the shield logo highlights device status. If there is a problem, you’ll see right away, as the light turns red. But if you’re connected to the Betternet VPN, the colour turns – green? No, it turns blue, which doesn’t seem intuitive (there is a green status, but it means ‘update is available’).

Once the router is showing its VPN-enabled blue, you should be able to connect to it from your device(s). It appeared in our network list as ‘Betterspot 04’, and we got online without difficulty using the password ‘betterspot’. Not the most secure of defaults, but at least the documentation warns you to change it.

That’s all you need to do, at least initially. Betterspot sets up its own VPN connection via Betternet Premium, and every device you connect to the router uses that encrypted tunnel, with no other software or special setup steps required.



Betterspot works in a simple way entirely automatically, but to get the full benefit of the router you’ll want to access its settings and options. You can do this from any connected device with a browser by accessing its web interface, at There are also iOS and Android apps which do the same thing (connect to that address and display the results in a dedicated browser), conveniently meaning you see the same functions and interface from every device.

A simple opening screen displays the current VPN location. By default this is ‘best performance’, which tells Betterspot to connect to the fastest VPN server for your location (that’s the closest one, probably). Click or tap this and you can choose a new VPN location from United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Singapore.

The website displayed many more locations, including Netherlands, France, Australia, Germany, Japan, and Hong Kong. We asked Betterspot support why these weren’t accessible from our unit and were told they would be added ‘gradually’. Well, okay, but if locations are advertised on the website, we expect them to be available now – not ‘one day’, when the company gets around to it.

The default ‘VPN’ router mode can be changed to connect via the Tor network in a couple of clicks. This is an alternative connection, rather than an addition – you’re connecting via Tor alone, not Tor and the VPN – but it’s handy to have as an option if the VPN is down, or you don’t want to subscribe.

A ‘Direct’ router mode turns off the VPN, and enables using Betterspot as a standard router or range extender.

There are also a few advanced network settings. The most useful allow changing the network name and default password, and turning off the access point if you want to use the router by cable only. That could be handy if you’re using Betterspot while travelling and don’t want others to be able to see your device.



In theory, Betterspot should be simple and straightforward to use, but we found the reality could sometimes be a little different.

The router opened in a mysterious ‘free’ VPN mode. Was this using Betternet Free servers – and were there any time or bandwidth limits? We’ve no idea. The website and Betterspot support seemed to have no idea of its existence.

Subscribing was clumsy. We were sent an email with a link to authenticate our email address, but clicking the link opened a browser tab which displayed website code rather than an acknowledgement page. We asked Betterspot support if they had any explanation, and an automated response told us our question was being reviewed, but days went by with no response.

Betterspot allows payment via credit card only, with no PayPal or other options. The only way to view or manage your subscription is via the device, which seems inconvenient. What if the router won’t boot, or you’ve given it to someone else? There’s no central web console to see how much time your subscription has left, change payment method or cancel the service. The best you can do is contact support and ask for help.

After testing the service for a while, we ran into Betterspot’s auto-update feature, where it detects, downloads and installs new firmware. We had no real control over this, with the router stating an update was available, asking us to press a key, then explaining we had to wait 10 or more minutes for the upgrade to complete.

You can’t turn the device off until this is finished, which is potentially very inconvenient if you’re using a slow internet connection while travelling. But the ability to update your firmware is still a plus, and although it took a few minutes, this worked without issue on our test device.

Moving on to the VPN service itself, we noticed that Betterspot’s default ‘best performance’ setting connected us to a server in the Netherlands or Switzerland, even though we were in the UK. Does this mean the UK server was so slow that the Netherlands was the best option? We don’t know, but this wasn’t a temporary issue, as we found it was the case over two days of testing. This may not matter too much as long as you are getting the fastest server, but could lead to some unexpected issues (Google would redirect us to or, for instance).

Speed tests suggested that Betterspot’s free servers will never be fast, no matter which location you use. UK to UK connections gave us good response times, but download speeds were a disappointing 10-12Mbps. We’ve seen higher speeds from free VPNs, and would expect a quality commercial service to be at least two to three times as fast. Also, speeds dropped to 8-10Mbps from the Swiss server, and 5-6Mbps when connected to the US.

While there might be some questions regarding Betterspot’s performance, we couldn’t fault its privacy. Checks at and other privacy sites showed our IP address was safely masked, with no DNS, WebRTC or other leaks to give away our identity.


Final verdict

Compact and stylish, Betterspot could work well as a travel router. Plug its USB cable into your laptop and within seconds you’ve got a VPN-protected wireless access point that’s ready for all your devices.

Ease of use is another plus, especially when it comes to Betterspot’s LED. If the connection goes down you’ll see that right away.

The problem is that, despite being a decent router, Betterspot’s underlying VPN just isn’t good enough. There are very few locations, performance is poor, and the service costs at least twice what it’s actually worth.

There may still be hope. Betterspot’s terms of service states that it’s intended to be used with other VPN services, and if you could set the box up to use your preferred VPN, it could be much more interesting. But until then, we’d give Betterspot a miss.


Sony XE85 4K TV review: Impressive performance for the price

With Sony mostly smashing it out of the park this year with its high-end TVs – the A1 and XE90 being obvious examples – hopes have to be high that a healthy dollop of such quality will have filtered down to more affordable Sony models such as the XE85 model reviewed here.

In fact, if this 55-inch model can combine its eye-catchingly aggressive £1,099 price with even a flavour of Sony’s 2017 picture quality talents, it has the potential to be one of the season’s biggest AV bargains. But does it hold up?

  • 4x HDMI in
  • 3x USB multimedia port
  • LAN and Wi-Fi
  • Optical digital audio output

From a sensible viewing distance the 55XE8596 looks attractive for such an affordable set. The black frame (silver is also available) around the screen is remarkably slim, the rear is fairly sleek too, and the whole thing seems to float on a barely-there rectangular “open frame” desktop stand.


While setting up the 55XE8596, though, we couldn’t help but notice that build quality is a bit flimsy, featuring more plastic than metal. The open frame stand even flexes and bends under its own weight until it’s fixed in place. The completed TV does still feel stable enough, however, to withstand all but the most strenuous destructive efforts of large pets and children.

  • HDR support: HDR10, HLG
  • Sony X1 chipset
  • Triluminos colour management

The XE85 doesn’t sit quite high up enough in Sony’s current TV range to get the brand’s latest and greatest X1 Extreme processing chip. It does get Sony’s previous X1 4K HDR chip, though, and this still offers some great features.

It drives Sony’s renowned Triluminos colour system, for instance, which continues to deliver some of the most dynamic and finely tuned colours in the TV world. It also carries a database of Sony picture knowledge that the 55XE8596 can draw upon to deliver better on-the-fly upscaling for non-4K sources, from video streams to HD Blu-rays and broadcasts.


Digging a little deeper into formats, the XE85’s 4K screen can handle both the industry standard HDR10 and new broadcast-friendly Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG). There’s no support for the HDR10+ system recently delivered by Samsung (and set to be supported by Amazon), and there’s no support for the advanced Dolby Vision HDR platform. Dolby Vision only kicks in with Sony’s 2017 TV range from the XE9305 series up.

  • Edge LED illumination
  • 450 nits brightness

The XE85’s 55-inch screen is lit by an edge LED lighting system with no local dimming. This doesn’t sound like a particularly promising light setup for a High Dynamic Range (HDR) TV, but thankfully Sony has gone back to more contrast-friendly VA LCD panel technology for its 2017 8-series following an ill-fated move to IPS panels for last year’s equivalent models.

When it comes to peak brightness, however, the XE85’s output is around one third as bright as some of this year’s flagship LCD TVs. Its 450 nits just doesn’t deliver an explosive HDR image, but it does help the TV keep a lid on the sort of backlight flaws edge-lit HDR LCD TVs so often suffer.


Dark HDR scenes suffer much less with the low-contrast grey misting typically associated with edge LED TVs. Even better, there’s impressively little interference from the sort of backlight clouding and banding issues usually associated with HDR playback on edge LED TVs.

However, the lightest parts of HDR content don’t pop or stand out so starkly against darker elements as they do with more potent HDR TVs, and exterior shots and skies don’t enjoy the same sort of life-like intensity.

None of this means that the 55XE8596 doesn’t deliver some benefit from HDR, though. In fact, given the brightness limitation, the XE85 offers arguably the best black level performance you can get from such an affordable set.

Screens that don’t have much brightness to work with can lose detail in the brightest areas of HDR images. The 55XE8596’s tone mapping system, though, is clever enough to make sure that peak HDR areas avoid that tell-tale empty, flared out look you see with less able, brightness-challenged TVs.

Overall colours look excellent: blends and skin tones are delivered with exceptional subtlety for such an affordable TV, unlocking the potential of the screen’s native 4K resolution and helping to paint a richer, more three dimensional picture world.

  • Sony Motionflow system

Actually, detailing in general is exceptional with the XE85 – especially as its colour and tone mapping talents are joined by the TV world’s finest motion handling system, Motionflow.

Use this on its Clear and True Cinema settings to reduce judder and blur without having to worry about the image becoming unnaturally fluid, or the processing causing unwanted processing side effects.


Being able to handle motion effectively is particularly important with 4K TVs, and is another clear way in which the 55XE8596 stands out against its similarly priced competition.

The XE85’s pictures even manage to look sharper than usual when you’re watching HD rather than 4K sources, thanks to the excellent upscaling efforts of Sony’s X1 processor. Sony’s database approach does a stand-out job of identifying and removing image noise before embarking on the arduous process of adding millions of extra pixels to the HD source.

  • 21ms average input lag
  • VA LCD panel (not IPS)

The 55XE8596’s contrast, motion, colour and clarity prowess makes a great gaming screen too. Image lag is no issue, averaging 21ms and only rarely slipping to a less satisfactory 50ms in some setup scenarios.

As noted earlier, the XE85 uses a VA LCD panel. While this delivers key contrast advantages, it does also have one weakness: limited viewing angles. You only have to sit at an angle of around 20 degrees or so for contrast and colour saturations to start reducing rapidly. Something to bear in mind if your room layout means someone in your household routinely has to sit at a fairly severe angle to the TV. This limitation is hardly a rarity in the LCD world, though.

  • Smart systems supported: Android TV, YouView

Android TV is now less buggy and sluggish than it used to be. It supports a few more video-friendly apps than it did at launch, too. That still doesn’t make it a great smart TV interface though.

Its homepage still feels cluttered and the layout is poor. It still tries to dictate what it thinks you should be interested in rather than trying to figure out the sort of content you actually want to have prioritised. There’s hardly any potential for personally customising the layout, and it seems to need far more data-heavy firmware updates than rival systems.


It also lacks a few key UK apps, but fortunately Sony gets around this by adding the YouView platform, with its support for all of the big four UK terrestrial broadcast catch-up platforms. There are also 4K HDR-capable versions of Netflix and Amazon, plus Android TV’s biggest selling point: integrated support for Google Cast.

  • Speaker configuration: 2x 10W

Lastly, there’s sound, which is decent considering the XE85’s asking price. Considering how little chassis there is to work with, the telly casts sound well beyond the confines of its frame, immersing you in a wide but well controlled wall of sound.

There’s depth as well as width to the soundstage, which helps the TV define an engaging sense of audio space for the images you’re watching.
There’s not enough bass to really do action scenes justice, though, leaving them sounding a bit thin and harsh at times. But you couldn’t reasonably expect anything else at this price point.


After struggling to impress with its mid-range TVs for the past couple of years, Sony has turned things round handsomely with the XE85.

Its picture quality is exceptionally good for such an affordable 55-inch TV, handling both standard and HDR sources with the sort of authority and panache that you’d normally expect to have to spend way more to get.

Sure, it can’t deliver the brightest output levels – but that helps it deliver a standout black level for this price point. Any brighter and its edge LED illumination would likely become a problem.

Overall, the easy-on-the-eye design and Sony’s considered move to use a higher-contrast panel than its 2016 models all adds up to an improved and impressive performance at this price point.


  • £1,399/$2,099

If you can find another £300/$450 or so, stepping up to Sony’s 55XE9005 gives you a direct lighting system for an even more contrast rich picture, as well as a substantial step up in HDR-friendly brightness (it’s almost twice as bright).


Samsung QE55MU7000

  • £1,1491,724

The cheapest member of Samsung’s new QLED family is actually one of the best, combining effective backlight controls with good brightness and colour volume to deliver a remarkably (for its money) complete HDR experience.


LG Stylo 3 review

The Good: The LG Stylo 3 has a stylus and costs a fraction of the Galaxy Note 8’s price. Its removable battery lasts a long time.

The Bad: It’s simple, laggy and nowhere near the Note 8’s league. There’s also no NFC for mobile payments.

The Bottom Line: If you’re craving a phone with a stylus, the LG Stylo 3 is your only cheap option. Just don’t expect high-end features.


Let’s get one thing clear: The LG Stylo 3 doesn’t even come close to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. For one thing, it doesn’t have the Note’s two 12-megapixel rear cameras, proven Snapdragon 835 processor or water resistance. And the LG phone’s stylus, which can be stored inside the phone like the Note 8’s S Pen, won’t be able to carry out software tricks like selecting text to translate or creating animated messages.

Still, if you want to take notes, jot down quick memos and doodles, or just give your fingers a break while using the touchscreen, the Stylo only costs $130 on Cricket Wireless and Boost Mobile. That’s a whopping $800 less than the Note 8’s cheapest price (seriously, that’s like seven Stylo 3s for the price of a single Note 8).


Here’s a breakdown of exactly what both phones can and can’t do:

LG Stylo 3 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8

LG Stylo 3 Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Embeddable stylus
Pop-up menu for stylus shortcuts
Note-taking app
Scanning app
Pen untethering detection
Screenshot a portion of the screen
Take notes on homescreen
Take notes on lockscreen
Multiple note pages on lockscreen X
Pin note to lockscreen X
Stylus cursor hover X
Create animated GIFs X
Multifunction button on stylus X
Selects text to translate X
Scroll in the browser window X
Hover to see menu options X


Other stuff to know about the LG Stylo 3:

  • The battery lasted over 16.5 hours in our first looping video drain test.  We’re going to test again to make sure, but that’s seriously impressive.
  • Its Snapdragon 435 processor isn’t very powerful, and can get a little laggy. I sometimes had to wait as I scrolled through web pages or for apps to launch and close.
  • The phone’s 13-megapixel camera is good for what it is, but not super great. Brightly lit photos were clear, but did look smudgy at full resolution. Low-light photos also looked blurry at times, and there was a notable amount of digital noise.
  • Because of its slow processor, taking a photo of anything that moves remotely fast (a lively dog, for example) will come out blurry.
  • Our review unit from Boost Mobile had tons of preloaded bloatware. You can uninstall some apps, but not all of them.
  • There’s a fingerprint reader on the back to unlock the phone, but since the phone doesn’t have NFC, you can’t use it for Android Pay.


Again, if you’re lusting for the Note 8 and all its cool features, be ready to cough up the money. If you want a built-in stylus for cheap though, the LG Stylo 3 is your only choice. (True, you can buy a separate stylus for any phone, but it won’t be as convenient as storing it inside the phone itself.)


If you don’t care much for the stylus, however, your other option is the Motorola Moto E4. It also costs $130, but it’s splash-resistant and its front-facing camera has its own flash. While its battery doesn’t last as long (about 14.5 hours for the same test) and it has an 8-megapixel rear camera compared to the Stylo’s 13-megapixel shooter, you can get it for even cheaper, at $70 on Verizon prepaid, or $100 from Amazon with ads.


2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk First Drive: The 707hp SUV

If you’re offended by the concept of a 707 horsepower SUV, then you should probably just stop reading right now. In our age of instantaneous outrage, it’s easy to see how from certain quarters the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk could appear as yet another missive intended to inflame the passions of those who have already decided that high-po people movers represent the height of excess in an era where emissions and efficiency are increasingly under the microscope.

For everyone else (that is to say, the small contingent of automotive buyers seeking the ultimate in straight-line speed while also towing their boat/camper/house), the Trackhawk is a revelation. Forget Marvel throwing in a superhero shawarma scene after the credits of the latest blockbuster – by stuffing the supercharged Hellcat V8 under the hood of the uber-popular Grand Cherokee, Jeep has committed the ultimate act of fan-service. This is a truck built for those who bleed Mopar-blue, and it will be almost certainly embraced with open arms by anyone who already owns an SRT product.

There was never really any doubt that the Trackhawk would happen, as it was only a matter of time before FCA elected to implement the next step in its master plan to keep its fleet of older platform offerings interesting via the injection of absurd amounts of horsepower. Out of all of the brands under the Fiat-Chrysler stable, Jeep has by far the greatest global reach and certainly the most bankable badge, which means that introducing a second flavor of high performance Grand Cherokee made sense to both bean counters and marketing execs alike.

It also helps that the vehicle is astoundingly capable when executing its dual-prong mission of both hauling groceries and kicking sand in the face of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo in the next lane. The 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque available from the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk’s 6.2-liter supercharged V8 arrive without delay with the accelerator floored, with delivery even more violent when accessed via the launch control system’s ‘torque reserve’ feature thanks to its ability to build boost from a standing start.

Look past the SUV’s 3.5 second explosion to 60-mph, however, and you’ll be equally impressed by its docility during the daily drive. The Trackhawk’s personality is astoundingly similar to the Grand Cherokee SRT, the ‘other’ race-ready SUV in the Jeep portfolio, which is to say that you can easily insulate yourself from the vehicle’s more explosive aspects. Driven normally, there’s little aside from a horrendously expensive fuel bill and somewhat more ostentatious styling to remind you of the fact that you’re sitting on enough power to tap in for a Saturn V rocket on an upcoming moon mission.

This is the real key to the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk’s success. Although the 180-mph top speed, six-piston Brembo brakes, adjustable adaptive suspension system, and surprisingly planted cornering capability were all put to the test on the track at Club Motorsports in Tamworth, New Hampshire, it’s clear that few, if any owners will flog their SUVs in a similar manner (should they be able to find a lapping club that welcomes 5,500 lbs of top-heavy steel in the first place).

FCA’s savvy lies in its acknowledgment that there’s considerable equity in customers being able to claim 707 horsepower’s worth of bragging rights without risking their lives in the process. After an initial miss-step with the twitchy Challenger Hellcat – a vehicle that is truly hair-raising to drive at the limit – each successive supercharged Hemi model has proven to be not just reliably sedate while commuting, but also completely controllable with the pedal down. The Charger SRT Hellcat and the widebody Challenger Hellcat both exemplified this design decision, and with the Trackhawk’s standard all-wheel drive system providing not just excellent off-the-line traction but also exceptional stability, it continues the trend.

The one remaining unknown for the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk seems to be whether those who clamored for so long for a Hellcat SUV will be willing to pay for their medicine now that it’s been prescribed to them. The Trackhawk’s base price is a heady $85,000, but delve into the options sheet in order to build a more comfortable or decadent example of the truck and you’re suddenly looking at over $100,000 to park a Jeep in your driveway.


Although that number represents a sizeable discount versus what it would cost to own a less-mighty monster wearing a BMW M or Mercedes-AMG badge, this six-figure sales price is ostensibly what scared the company away from pursuing its three-row Grand Wagoneer luxury ‘ute just a few short years ago. In addition to its status as a clear profit center for the brand, and owner of the world’s most powerful SUV title, could the Trackhawk be a test balloon to see just how well the muddy faithful respond to a stratospheric window sticker? If so, it’s a low-risk, high-reward strategy for Jeep that also happens to pay off big-time for anyone with pockets deep enough to drive home in SRT’s latest.




Technics SL-1200GR/SL-1210GR Review


  • Unparalleled timing and grip
  • Seismic bass
  • Fantastic build quality
  • Incredibly versatile


  • High asking price
  • Slight lack of resolution

Key Features

  • Review Price: £1299.00/$1948.50
  • Direct drive
  • 9-inch aluminium S-shaped tonearm
  • Pitch control with pitch lock
  • 33/45/78rpm
  • Dust cover

What is the Technics SL-1200GR/SL-1210GR?

Technics’ legendary direct-drive turntable was only discontinued in 2010. But then the vinyl revival came and, frankly, killing off the world’s best-known record player suddenly seemed like a silly idea.

It was first resurrected in 2016 in the form of the £2799 SL-1200G and limited-edition 1200GAE, which were heavily modified to please modern-day audiophiles who’d been furiously upgrading any old 1200s they could get their hands on.

The SL-1210GR and Sl-1200GR – the same turntable in black or silver, respectively – are less extreme, and also less than half the price of the 1200G.

Technics SL-1200GR/SL-1210GR – Design and features

If you don’t know what an SL-1200/1210 looks like, you must have been living off beetles and tree bark in the Australian Outback for about 30 years or so. First introduced in 1972 as a hi-fi turntable, it went on to become the archetypal DJ deck. The direct-drive operation, pitch control and almost bomb-proof build quality made it perfect for mixing, blending and scratching in clubs and bars all over the world.

The Sl-1200GR/Sl-1210GR closely resembles the Mk5 version, with an on/off knob that isn’t so easy to knock accidentally, and a button that locks pitch to 0. The version I looked at was the 1210GR, as you can tell from the black finish. You couldn’t mistake it for anything other than a Technics.

This is no straightforward reissue, though, with plenty of upgrades that address the criticisms audio geeks have aimed at past versions of this turntable. The underside of the aluminium platter has been heavily damped to prevent ringing, the feet now isolate better, there are phono sockets instead of a captive interconnect, and the power supply uses a switch-mode design to reduce cartridge hum.

These are all things that aftermarket mods – notably from companies such as TimeStep – have addressed on the earlier models. Something not so easy to overcome has been the ‘cogging’ effect of the direct-drive motor, which Technics/Panasonic claims to have solved via a motor control that’s now digital rather than analogue.

In most other ways, the 1200GR/1210GR is very similar to the old models – and that’s really where it differs from the more expensive 1200G. While the 1200G has been upgraded with a steel top plate, the GR’s is cast aluminium. The 1200G’s tonearm has a magnesium-alloy tube, but the GR again uses aluminium for that part, as well as for the platter – the G’s platter has a fancy brass-and-aluminium sandwich construction.

The layout is so familiar and so much copied that it’s totally intuitive to use. Power comes via that rotary knob on the left, next to which are buttons to select between 33 and 45rpm – hold down both for 78rpm – and a large button for start/stop. On the right side is a slider for pitch control and the reset button that locks back to 0% pitch change.

The tonearm has VTA adjustment and anti-skate, while the removable headshell has a standard bayonet attachment. The arm has a proprietary fitting that’s secured within the plinth, so while replacing it with an alternative tonearm is possible via third-party adapter plates, it isn’t easy.

A thick rubber mat is supplied for the platter, and there’s that distinctive removable Technics dust cover with the dome for the tonearm-bearing housing.

The only other extra of note is the traditional aluminium 45rpm adapter, which has its own seat at the back left of the plinth.

Technics SL-1200GR/SL-1210GR – Sound quality

Setting up the Technics is extremely simple by the standards of this price point. As a result of the direct-drive mechanism, you simply need to drop the platter and mat onto the spindle, with no worrying about a belt.

With a cartridge bolted and plugged into the headshell – alignment is made simpler via a supplied tool – just attach the shell to the tonearm via the bayonet fitting. Ideally you’ll have scales for setting the tracking force of the cartridge, but gram markings on the arm’s counterweight mean you can get it roughly correct without scales.

I listened to the Technics SL-1210GR mostly fitted with a Goldring Legacy moving-coil cartridge, plugged into a Leema Acoustics Elements Ultra phono stage.

If you haven’t used a decent direct-drive turntable before, the first thing that will strike you is the unshakeable grip, regardless of what you’re listening to. The Technics just won’t be dragged down, with speed stability and timing that’s second to none. Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’, which can easily sound slow and lifeless through a poor belt-drive deck, is agile and emotional through the 1210GR. You’ll want to punch the air as The Boss sings “I’m pulling out of here to win!”

Bass depth is also phenomenal, with every ounce of low-end dug out from a record’s grooves.

Having previously owned a heavily modified 1210 Mk2, none of this came as a surprise to me. In fact, it made me want to dig my one remaining 1210 out of the loft and go through the whole upgrade process again.

Where the GR feels like it’s maybe missing something is with outright resolution – detail retrieval isn’t quite what it should be. From past experience I’d put this down to the tonearm, which can be improved a little with a better headshell – I’ve had some success with the Audio-Technica AT-LH series. But something far better from SME or the top of the Rega range would take it to another level.

Should I buy the Technics SL-1200GR/SL-1210GR?

The SL-1200GR/Sl-1210GR is a fantastic hi-fi turntable, with sonic grip and timing that you’ll struggle to find from players costing over twice as much. However, for the DJ crowd the cost of a pair will be way too high to justify.

Also worth considering is that, despite the GR’s value for money, it’s possible to get a secondhand Technics model and upgrade it with an external PSU, improved tonearm and various other mods to get it to a standard that’s in some ways even better – and for less money. Sure, that’s all more hassle, but swapping the tonearm does mean you can choose one that might synergise better with your chosen cartridge.

Sonically, however, you won’t go far wrong with the SL-1200GR/SL-1210GR, and the improved motor makes it fundamentally better than the old models. Hi-fi fans who’ve never experienced an upgraded Technics will find it revelatory. If you have a chance to audition them, I’d try the Pro-Ject 6 Perspex SB and Rega RP8 alongside to see whether their extra refinement appeals to you.


An excellent upgrade to the legendary Technics ‘table – but at a steep price.



Samsung Unveils Gear Sport Watch with Focus on Fitness

Smartwatch makers seem to have figured out that it’s fitness tracking capabilities that will convince people to slap a smart device on their wrist. Samsung’s embracing that trend whole-heartedly with the Gear Sport, a new addition to its smartwatch line.

The Sport, unveiled here at the IFA trade show, isn’t the only fitness-focused device that Samsung’s rolling out. It also rolled out new versions of its Gear Fit 2 fitness tracker and Gear IconX earbuds, both of which have been updated with workouts in mind.

The $199 Gear Fit Pro 2 goes on presale tomorrow (Aug. 31) before hitting stores Sept. 15, the same day Samsung’s Note 8 smartphone goes on sale. Samsung hasn’t said what the Gear Sport watch and updated IconX earbuds will cost, though they’ll ship later this fall.

The Gear Sport’s Fitness Regimen

So what can you expect from the Gear Sport, when the latest addition to Samsung’s smartwatch line goes on sale? Expect a watch that’s ready to tag along on your workouts, even if that means a dip in the pool.

Similar to the upcoming Fitbit Ionic, the Gear Sport has a 5 ATM water resistance rating, meaning you can take it into 50 meters of water without a problem. Samsung says its new watch will survive saltwater too, which open-water swimmers will appreciate. And whether your daily swim takes to a pool or the ocean, Samsung is tweaking the activity tracker on this watch to track your aquatic workouts, monitoring your laps and the number of strokes you took each time down the pool.

Even on dry land, the Gear Sport is pretty serious about tracking your activity. The watch’s heart-rate monitor promises improved accuracy, as does its built-in GPS tracker. Samsung built auto workout detection capabilities into the Gear Sport, so that when the watch detects that you’re moving around, it will start capturing any workout data, asking you later if you want to save what it’s logged. The idea is to get you more focused on your workout and less on fiddling with your watch.

In the spirit of better workout tracking, the Gear Sport also gives you a quick way to enter calories you’ve consumed during the day via a series of taps. You’ll have to enter in a specific number, as opposed to the type of food you ate, but the reward is a help at-a-glance view on your Gear Sport that shows you calories consumed and calories burnt. Ideally, you’d use that view to adjust your behavior for the rest of the day whether it’s getting in another quick workout on the way home or indulging in dessert if your calorie count happens to be low for the day.

App selection has been a sore sport for Samsung watches, which uses the company’s Tizen OS, but Samsung insists the situation is improving with more developers producing watchfaces and apps for its watches. The company didn’t leave anything to chance with the Gear Sport, striking partnerships with Under Armor, Spotify and Speedo to provide apps for both the Sport and the Gear Fit 2 Pro.

That Spotify partnership will be particularly welcome if you like music to accompany your workout. Using Spotify’s offline feature, you’ll be able to access playlists and store them on your watch, which can hold up to 500 songs.

The Gear Sport’s Look

The Gear Sport features the same circular watchface with rotating bezel that you’ll find in the current Gear lineup. The display is a 1.2mm Super AMOLED screen and the casing will come in a single 42.9mm size. You can choose from either blue or black casings.

Credit: Samsung

Credit: Samsung 

Samsung will let you swap out the straps, offering a variety of choices in leather and silicon. In a particularly clever touch, you can opt for a watchface that’s color-matched to your strap. If you don’t want one of Samsung’s straps, the Gear Sport is compatible with any 20mm watch strap.

Samsung sees the Gear Sport as something you’ll wear long after your workout ends, thus the ability to swap out a more functional silicon strap for something more fashionable. The Gear Sport can also pull off a few tricks that have nothing to do with monitoring your workout. It’s got support for Samsung Pay built-in, meaning you can pay for items just by waving your watch at an NFC terminal. The watch also supports Samsung Connect for controlling Samsung devices, and it can double as a controller for both PowerPoint and Samsung’s Gear VR headset.

Other Fitness Focused Updates

The Gear Fit 2 Pro offers many of the fitness features Samsung’s touting for the Gear Sport. That includes 5 ATM water resistance with swim tracking features, heart rate monitoring and the partner apps from likes of Under Armor, Spotify and Speedo.

Like the Gear Sport, the Gear Fit 2 Pro also works with iPhones (the iPhone 5 and later) in addition to Samsung’s Galaxy phones and any other Android device running Android 4.4 or later. That tackles a major complaint we had about the Gear Fit 2.

The Gear Fit 2 Pro comes in black with red accents as well as a solid black design. It’s got the same curved 1.5-inch Super AMOLED screen as the original Gear Fit fitness tracker. A buckle-and-strap design should make the tracker feel more secure during your workouts.

As for the 2018 edition of the Gear IconX, it comes in black, pink and gray. But the biggest change to the earbuds will be vastly improved battery life. Samsung says the earbuds can now stream for 5 hours, up from 90 minutes before. Talk time remains at 4 hours. It also has 4GB of internal storage to download music.

The IconX isn’t leaving the fitness features to the Gear Sport and Gear Fit 2 Pro. It now features a personal running coach that can shout encouragement and status updates into your ear. The earbuds also connect to the Bixby personal assistant that’s now on board the Note and Galaxy S8 phones, though it augments the touch controls, not repacling them.


2017 Ssangyong Tivoli First drive Review

  • Still cheap to buy
  • Still looks good
  • Punchy performance
  • Still a Ssangyong
  • Some cabin vibrations

Kết quả hình ảnh cho 2017 Ssangyong Tivoli

Ben Griffin drove the more safety-minded Ssangyong Tivoli in and around the Millbrook Proving Ground to see if the budget crossover is still worth a punt.

With probably the least badge appeal of any manufacturer and having driven the original Rexton, our expectations weren’t just low for the Ssangyong Tivoli – they were positively subterranean.

But we ended up feeling like you could justify buying one. It was cheap enough to give rivals a run for their money, pretty enough to appease the style-minded and involving enough to drive. No wonder, then, around 2,200 Brits have been brave enough to take the plunge.

One of the areas where the Tivoli was unable to compete with its competitors was safety, which is why the 2017 Tivoli we just spent the day driving comes with numerous electronic goodies. The sort that aim to keep you alive – and earn it a better Euro NCAP rating.

What’s new?

The Ssangyong Tivoli is the manufacturer’s first B-segment vehicle designed to take on the many, many crossovers already available.

In its 2017 guise, the mid-range EX model comes with Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking. We tested the latter at 20mph and 30mph and it kept us from driving over an inflatable car.

Ssangyong’s autonomous emergency braking systems works like that of its rivals. First, it warns you of an impending collision, then pre-arms the brakes to ensure you stop as quickly as possible. If you fail to stop, the Tivoli does the braking for you.

Another new addition is Lane Departure Warning, which gives you an audible warning if you start to creep over a white line without indicating.

Lane Keeping Assist takes things one step further and keeps you within the lines at up to 111mph (not that you can ever reach that as the top speed is 109mph). The steering provides resistance if you try to override it and will bleep at you if you keep your hands off the wheel for too long.

Then there is Traffic Sign Recognition, which lets the Tivoli recognise the speed limit and warn you if you go over it, while High Beam Assist dims the high beam automatically if an oncoming car is detected. All are standard on the range-topping ELX.

The alloy wheel designs have been tweaked for a fresher look and the steering wheel now offers rake and reach adjustment, allowing you to get more comfortable.

Another change is to do with the ventilation, which is said to have been improved for those up front, while the rear seats can now be reclined. The boot (from 423 litres), meanwhile, has a new two-position base to help with storage.

As for the rest of the car, it is business as usual. So expect loads of head room, ample leg room and an exterior that manages to turn more heads than you would expect. Even if you dislike how it looks, you can appreciate the fact it is bold.

What about the engines?

You get the same choice of a 1.6-litre diesel or a 1.6-litre petrol that can be paired up with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed Aisin automatic (except in the case of the entry-level SE). Nothing new here, nor have the output figures changed.

The petrol is still quieter than the diesel, but offers weaker fuel economy and is less punchy. On paper the diesel sounds glacial, but it can speed up with pleasing enthusiasm once the turbo spins into action.

When paired up with the manual, which could be smoother yet offers a solid gear change, the Tivoli is actually more involving than a couple of its rivals. Pleasant sums up the handling best, which we would take over mundane any day.

Those who want the automatic will see a hefty drop in fuel economy so it is worth avoiding, although the difference is reduced in the case of the petrol.

Out of the two, the diesel is the most sensible choice (47.9mpg combined for the ELX we were in), but diesels may come under fire and so more of a case can be made for the petrol alternative, which happens to be cheaper to buy.

Any negatives?

Our diesel car made a rather noticeable vibration noise when changing between third and fourth gear caused, presumably, by a loose plastic component or two in the cabin, ruining an otherwise peaceful ride if you keep the revs down.

The ride itself is capable of smoothing out small imperfections, but more serious undulations can cause quite a din and unsettle the car. There is also noticeable body roll and the steering gives zero feedback, but it does grip well.

Some of the plastics in the largely ergonomic cabin look particularly cheap, but the lower price puts you in a more forgiving mood and adding a bit of colour via the My Tivoli customisation helps draw the eye away from the unsightly areas.

Which model is best?

It is worth going for the EX model if you care about safety as that comes with the aforementioned autonomous emergency braking system and enough goodies to keep you entertained without making undoing the value for money advantage.

Pick of the bunch is the EX diesel with the six-speed manual. Avoid going for a fancy metallic (in this instance, white) as that adds £500/$650. The £400/$520 styling pack, which paints the roof, alloy wheels, spoiler and mirrors in black, is more tempting.

Standard equipment on the EX includes the seven-inch infotainment display, reversing camera, dual zone climate control, full leather interior and 18-inch alloy wheels. ELX adds keyless go, navigation and front, automatic wipers, automatic headlights and rear parking sensors.

Keep it sensible and there is a strong chance your Tivoli will undercut rivals such as the Citroen C4 Cactus and Nissan Juke by a substantial sum (but not the Dacia Duster) and can even come out cheaper than some smaller cars.

Then there is the five-year unlimited mileage warranty. Ssangyong assures us the terms and conditions are less strict than its rivals, which means you should get most issues repaired without having to complain too strongly.

Should I buy one, then?

The safety improvements of the Ssangyong Tivoli help keep it competitive. That and the fact it looks good, drives sufficiently well, comes with a solid warranty and is cheap to buy will be all the persuasion some buyers need to go against the grain.

Key Specs

  • 1.6-litre e-XDi 160 turbo diesel
  • 113bhp (115PS)
  • 221lb/ft (300Nm) from 1,500rpm
  • 0-62mph in 12 seconds
  • 113g/km of CO2
  • 65.7mpg (combined)


JBL K2 S9900 review

  • JBL’s K2 S9900s are a fantastic pair of speakers that deliver a spellbinding combination of dynamics, insight and finesse. Retro appearance may not suit all, though
  • Exceptional resolution and dynamic finesse
  • Composure at high volumes
  • Superb low frequency performance
  • Work with all types of music
  • Retro appearance isn’t to all tastes
  • They’re pretty big
  • Price puts them out of reach of most

Kết quả hình ảnh cho JBL K2 S9900 review

For many people, owning a pair of JBL’s K2 S9900s will be a non-starter.

Even putting the massive price tag to one side, many won’t get on with their determinedly retro appearance, their unfashionable proportions (which make them wider than they are deep) or even like the fact they use horn technology for everything above bass frequencies.

But we think these people will be missing out. The K2s are superstars, delivering performance as informative as it is fun. We can’t think of an alternative that has had such an addictive effect on us.

What makes them so good? As usual, it’s never just one thing – it’s a combination of engineering and tuning decisions that have turned these monsters into one of the finest pair of floorstanders we’ve ever heard.


Monsters? First off, these speakers are huge. They’re about the size of a stout fridge, and weigh much the same.

To put numbers on it, these are 120cm high, about half as wide – and they weigh in at a hefty 83kg each. Don’t try to install these JBLs alone; your back won’t thank you for it.

Other numbers say a lot about these floorstanders – 38cm bass driver, 93dB/W/m sensitivity and 8 ohm nominal impedance with a minimum just one shy of that. From these figures you can expect plenty of bass action, with no shortage of sonic authority and the ability to deliver high volume levels from modestly powered amplification.

While these speakers sound perfectly happy with a good quality 50W amplifier, their power handling figure of 500W suggests they may come into their own when driven by high quality, high power amplification.

Indeed, much of the design work on these was done with sister brand Mark Levinson’s products – and those never want for grunt.

The S9900s are three-way speakers. That large rear-ported paper-coned bass driver works all the way to 900Hz, at which point a 10cm magnesium compression driver takes over.

This unit is far more than just a midrange driver, as it handles most of the treble too – right up to 15kHz ,where the 25mm beryllium compression supertweeter takes over.

The integration between these drivers is handled seamlessly through a high quality, but relatively simple, biwire crossover. The aim with this circuit is to maximise detail and dynamics, while still providing a convincing and relatively even frequency response.

While horn speakers don’t have a particular stellar reputation as regards a smooth frequency response, these JBLs prove things don’t have to be that way.

The engineers have taken great care with the horn profiles to ensure good and balanced dispersion.

That curved front baffle provides the sidewalls for the main horn, while the top and bottom sections are made of precision-moulded Sonoglass. The supertweeter is also horn-loaded – in this case it sits behind a dedicated Sonoglass horn.

Two MDF layers of differing thickness go into making the 25mm thick cabinet. These layers are decoupled from each other but, together with extensive bracing, make the K2’s cabinet a surprisingly rigid and inert structure.

Fit and finish is as good as we demand at this level. Each cabinet edge is beautifully crisp and the finish of the wood veneer on our samples is flawless, just as it should be. There are two standard finishes – the wood grain of our review sample, or Zebrawood.

Add another £11,000/$14,300 to the K2’s price and you can have a choice of seven high-gloss options. These are built to order – taking around four months to complete – and hand-worked to a mirror finish.


Positioning is remarkably easy. These may be massive speakers but they don’t need a particularly large room in which to shine.

Our 7 x 5m listening-room is perfectly acceptable, even though we have no doubt a larger space will result in an even bigger sense of sonic scale, even more agile low frequencies and the opportunity to push the speakers harder.

We position them about a metre from the back wall and well away from the sides, with just a bit of angle towards the main listening position.

It’s worth playing around with the angles, as it’s possible to dial in the stereo image scale pretty well. Even once you’ve got things optimised, if you sit notably off-axis the soundstage isn’t so convincing, though the JBL’s sonic character remains intact.

It also pays to take care with partnering equipment. While the K2s are surprisingly easy to drive, they’re also wholly transparent to the quality of the source and amplification, right down to the cables used. If your equipment has flaws or simply a distinctive sonic characteristic, these speakers will reveal it.

In a nutshell: don’t skimp on the system. If you’re planning on buying speakers at this level, expect to pay a similar price for the rest of your set-up.

We use our reference Naim NDS/555PS music streamer, Clearaudio Innovation Wood record player/Luxman EQ-500 phonostage and Gamut D3i/D200i pre/power combination to good effect.


It’s hard not to approach speakers like these JBLs with preconceptions. They’re huge, and have a massive bass drivers – so high volume levels and seismic bass must be firmly on the menu.

Horn design? That must mean high sensitivity and punchy presentation, plus a bit of shoutiness thrown in. Right?

Well, yes and no.

Most of these things ring true. We start off with one of our favourite bass torture tracks, the classic Angel by Massive Attack. After a few seconds we sit back and laugh at the ease with which the K2s manage to deal with that distinctive, insistent bassline.

Low frequencies are rendered with utter conviction. Yes, they are extended and powerful but, less predictably, they bristle with agility and texture.

We can’t recall hearing this track laid bare with such skill or reproduced with such composure, especially at high listening levels. This is a sound you feel as much as hear.

Most speakers change their sonic character noticeably as volume levels change, but not these. The K2s retain most of their sparkle even at a whisper, and from there continue with an unchanging balance as the watts mount.

They stay clean and controlled while refusing to harden up, even at very high levels. Trying to break them, we find our limits are breached first.

But the K2s are more than just about bass and volume. Move higher up the frequency range and you’ll find an immensely engaging midrange that captures vocals with considerable skill. Voices are strongly projected with a great deal of clarity.

That nominal midrange driver covers everything from 900Hz right through to 15kHz, so there’s none of the vagueness we hear from conventional speakers (whose crossover point tends to be planted in the heart of the midrange).

Crossover networks, while necessary in speakers, invariably add a degree of phase distortion while compromising transparency and dynamics. The K2 has moved these unavoidable issues to frequency points where they’re much less likely to be heard.

Moving on to Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar OST and it plays to the K2’s strengths. It’s a chance for the speakers to show off their immense authority, their ability to deliver large dynamic shifts and display their skill at organising a complex production without pulling the music apart.

The K2s sound clean and clear, handling the most fragile instrumental strands with all the care they deserve. Yet they’re fully capable of generous portions of scale and power when the music demands. Just a short listen to Mountains is enough to convince us of that.

Flaws? We’ve heard speakers that convey the tonality of an instrument more convincingly, though few – if any – that manage to deliver the dynamic nuances of that instrument better or match the palpable sense of presence.

While these JBLs paint a fairly convincing soundstage, it’s not as expansive or as out-of-the-box as some we’ve heard.


In our experience, even the very best hi-fi can remain some way from perfection. But make no mistake, we consider the K2 S9900 to be among the best speakers money can buy.

They can charm and thrill. They can make us sad or happy, just as the music demands. We can’t get enough of them.