Monthly Archives: September 2017

2017 Audi R8 Spyder Review: Almost no compromises

  • Incredibly quick
  • Surprisingly comfortable
  • Easy to drive, even at speed
  • Glorious soundtrack
  • 18mpg combined isn’t bad for a V10
  • Expensive without the badge-recognition of other exotics
  • Doesn’t get the same respect as its Lamborghini cousin
  • Rear window doesn’t automatically raise with the top

You’ve probably heard the automotive press expound exponentially on the concept of ‘range anxiety’ as it applies to electric cars, but what of the ‘supercar sweats?’ You know, that feeling that descends on almost every exotic owner when called upon to park, navigate traffic, or go on a drive that lasts longer than a quick jaunt to the local show ‘n shine? After all, asphalt-scraping, bone-jarring suspension setups, blind spots the size of a refrigerator, and the constant danger of reckless drivers zooming from two lanes over to snap a photo while hanging inches off the bumper are hazards anyone who elects to daily drive their six-figure sports car regularly face.

2017 Audi R8 Spyder Review: Almost no compromises

Unless, of course, they’re piloting the 2017 Audi R8 Spyder, perhaps the friendliest 200-mph drop-top on the planet. This all-wheel drive, ten-cylinder teardrop of aluminum and steel manages to circumvent standard supercar stress by applying a thick veneer of civility over top of its nimble, apex-predator bones – and that’s not the only contextual sleight of hand performance by the R8, either. Underneath its Teutonic skin rides the same platform used by its Italian sibling, the Lamborghini Huracán, a car that is similarly easy-to-drive although not nearly as worry-free as the Audi for a number of reasons (in particular its ditch-digging chin and less-ergonomic cockpit and sight lines).

Lest you think that the R8 Spyder’s primary attribute is being cuddly as a kitten out on the road, it’s time to establish its brute force bona fides. Lurking under the two-seat roadster’s expansive rear deck is a 5.2-liter V10 engine that pushes out 540 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque, a motor that can count the brand’s successful GT3 race car program as part of its development lineage. Matched with a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, the net effect is startling acceleration and a seemingly limitless top end.

With all four wheels scrambling for traction in a straight-line thrust the R8 launches to 60-mph in just 3.5 seconds, and its terminal velocity falls a mere six-mph short of the R8 Plus coupe’s 205-mph (particularly noteworthy given that the Plus is gifted with an additional 50 ponies from the same ten-cylinder engine). Optional carbon ceramic brakes were surprisingly easy to modulate, which is not always the case when mashing these hardcore (and nearly $10,000) binders in a street setting.


Crinkle the map and the Audi R8 Spyder proves itself to be just as adept at handling the curves as it is blowing the hands off of your elegantly-crafted pocket stopwatch. I was fortunate enough to sample the Spyder’s chassis tune through New Hampshire’s White Mountains, flying low over freshly-paved sections of Route 26 with a frenetic grace typically reserved for ballerinas strapped in for a bobsled run. The car’s mid-engine balance and unusual square wheelbase made for predictable cornering at speed, while its steering offered enough feedback to bolster confident decision-making about how hard the convertible could be pushed on two-lane blacktop. All the while, the V10’s sonorous exhortations rang out immediately behind my head, adding extra tang to an already visceral top-down experience.

Still, as relentlessly quick and competent as the 2017 Audi R8 Spyder was during our time together, it was the fact that I was able to live with the car on an extended rural road trip that impressed me more than almost anything else. With hundreds of miles of open-air driving on the odometer, split fairly evenly between open interstate and sinuous secondary roads, I never left the driver’s seat feeling as though I’d just gone 10 rounds as a sparring dummy. There are luxury sedans that don’t have the same level of composure and comfort as the R8 (although they do beat its 4 cubic feet of trunk space), and while you might expect this kind of pampering from a car with a $177,000 starting price, it’s definitely not the norm in the realm of exotics. Seats were both receptive to my long torso and heated to take some of the night time chill out of the air, and once you get used to the all-in-one-place display offered by Audi’s Virtual Cockpit gauge cluster it quickly becomes second nature to keep tabs on navigation, entertainment, and mobile device settings.


The R8’s Drive Select system also let me dial its magnetically-adjustable suspension system from Comfort to Auto to Dynamic anytime I pleased, but I found myself living almost exclusively in the stiffer, louder world of Dynamic, which also held each gear longer and amped up both exhaust volume and the explosiveness of each gear shift. Occasionally, I would vacation in Individual, which allowed me to set every feature to Auto while leaving the tailpipes in their loudest, and most boisterous setting (which should really be the default on all modern sports cars). Finally, Audi’s engineering team got the R8’s ride height exactly right, as I never had any uncomfortable encounters with speed bumps, driveway angles, or protruding curbs.

You’re probably asking yourself at this point whether this really matters. After all, if you have the scratch to park a six-figure sports car in your garage, it’s probably sitting alongside a gaggle of similarly-pricy luxury rides, one or two of which are likely to have a back seat and dampers tuned to a setting other than ‘cement mixer.’ All true, but as time marches on and technology renders world-class performance attainable to any automaker willing to make the investment, the margin that differentiates one supercar from the next becomes vanishingly small when measured by velocity metrics and grip levels alone.

That the Audi R8 Spyder is able to offer exotic-level everything combined with the daily affability of an S5 cabriolet is an achievement few, if any, of its peers can claim.


Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Review


The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens stole the headlines as the first ultra-wide angle lens for full-frame cameras to break the f/2 barrier. No other ultra-wide angle rectilinear lens is as fast. Fast ultra-wide angle lenses are a rarity and your choices in this category are few. On paper, this lens is finger licking good.

What is more, the 14mm f/1.8 lens is part of Sigma’s highly acclaimed Art series, boasting lenses that consistently review really well. This is the widest one of seven autofocus prime lenses in the range. Of these, it’s the largest, heaviest and most expensive. This lens is an impressive beast.

14mm is a focal length particularly popular with astrophotographers. It’s tough to obtain sharp and vibrant images in the low contrast night light – you need all the light intake you can get. Therefore, it’s easy to see the huge appeal to this unrivalled fast f/1.8 aperture lens.

We, of course, couldn’t help ourselves and headed out with the lens for some night shots. Yet our test doesn’t end there. Ultra-wide angle lenses are prone to distortions. Sigma claims to have handled distortions really well. Our test will reveal how well.

As for full-frame competition, the excellent manual focus Samyang 14mm f/2.4 AE XP is as close as it gets specification wise. Canon and Nikon have their own 14mm prime lenses, each with a maximum f/2.8 aperture – though Nikon’s is getting on a bit now. Nikon also has its 14-14mm f/2.8 lens, while the recently reviewed manual focus Laowa 12mm f/2.8 offers a wider perspective.

The Sigma lens may well win the aperture race, but how does it handle and what is the image quality like? Read on to find out.

Ease of Use

The first thing you’ll note about the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens is just how heavy it is – a whopping 1.17kg. Attached to the formidable Canon EOS 5D Mk IV (our camera of choice for this test) and the combination is even getting a little front heavy.

The lens isn’t exactly small either, especially the front half that hosts the bulbous front lens elements. We have the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens in the office and the contrast between the two lenses is stark (check out the picture for comparison).

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

This is unmistakably a Sigma Art lens – the design is consistent through the entire range. If you’ve used one, the formula is the same for the rest. All the lenses have a weight to them and feel solid in the hand. The focus ring has a ribbed rubber grip for a firm hold and rotates smoothly enough.

Although Sigma Art lenses feel high-draw, none are weather sealed. An Achilles heal in the opinion of some. Still, when out on a cold British night, the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens keeps out condensation and the like. We haven’t truly pushed the lens in tough inclement weather or shooting conditions, but it’s held up so far.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Of course, there is no lens filter thread – the gargantuan front lens element protrudes from the barrel. If you want to attach ND filters and the like, a specialist filter holder kit is needed.

Sigma recently announced the FHR-11 rear filter holder for the Canon-fit version of the lens only. There are no plans to make one for the Nikon and Sigma fit versions because it’s not possible to implement this type of filter. We’re not sure if a front filter holder is available for this lens yet. Not that astrophotographers need such filters.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens alongside a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

That front lens element needs as much protection as it can get, given how it sticks out so. A supplied lens cap is lined with felt and slips and grips the protective built-in lens hood in perfect harmony. You’ll have no fiddles moving the lens hood on and off, or worries that it will slip off.

This is an autofocus lens. All in all the AF seems reliable, but hey we’re using it with the Canon EOS 5D Mk IV, so it has a good partner there. Still, the focusing motor is really quiet.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Side of the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Side of the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Side of the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Side of the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens

We would also say that with a bit of torchlight and the excellent AF system of the camera in use, AF proved fast and sharp even under moonlight.

There is a question of how great a need there is for auto focus in an ultra wide angle lens. Such lenses are usually used for astrophotography, landscapes and architecture – all of which afford the time to achieve a sharp focus manually. Indeed, we mainly used manual focus during this test.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Front of the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Rear of the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens

A wave of new manual focus ultra-wide angle prime lenses are coming out of China and Korea, for a fraction of the price. The competition to the big boys Nikon and Canon is heating up. Thanks largely to the Art series, we count Sigma as part of this esteemed company now – often exceeding them.

We’ll never knock a product for offering what some users may see as surplus – you can’t downgrade a lens because it has auto focus! It’s up to the user to judge whether or not the feature will come in handy. Yet, on the face of it you’re paying twice the price for the pleasure.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Front of the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Rear of the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens

We’re not writing off AF for a lens like this – it could be used for action photography when the photographer needs to get really close to the action while keeping the surroundings in the shot. AF is really handy for a few occasions and reassuring to know it’s there.

All in all, there is no doubt this is a serious lens. Its fast f/1.8 aperture comes at a cost – the lens is heavy and expensive. How much you need that extra stop of light is your call, but from our images which you will see shortly, the lens is transformative for photographing in low light.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens in-hand

Focal Range

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

The 14mm focal length gives an angle of view of 114.2° on a full-frame sensor.

Chromatic Aberrations
Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

To check for Chromatic Aberrations (CA), we switched off all lens corrections in camera and have looked at the raw image files.

The appearance of chromatic aberrations is present here and there and of course more so when the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens is wide open. It’s not hard to find green and purple fringing around hard silhouettes.

We have seen slightly better control in other premium ultra-wide angle lenses when wide open, like the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D. Yet CA is controlled better when the Sigma lens is set to an optimum aperture. Thanks to its wider maximum aperture, you’ll get to these optimum apertures sooner than in other lenses.

Overall the control of CA is pretty good and where present it can be removed with relative ease using editing software. Usually, moving the corrections amount up to 3 in Adobe Lightroom will remove all CA.

Light Fall-off

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Light fall-off (vignetting) is most pronounced at the wide open apertures and tends to disappear at the optimum apertures. The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art is at a distinct advantage then, because it’s widest aperture is unmatched.

When wide open at f/1.8, vignetting is pronounced – it is to be expected. However, even the middle of the frame is affected. Stop the lens down to f/4 and vignetting is virtually gone and it’s completely gone at f/5.6. The widest aperture in many other ultra-wide angle lenses is f/4, where vignetting is usually quite obvious.

Compare the performance down the apertures, and the Sigma 14mm f/1.8’s control over vignetting is rather good than exceptional. Yet, the key here is that you’ll get to the vignette-less apertures sooner than other lenses, thanks to the faster maximum aperture.

So, when comparing like for like apertures, e.g. Sigma 14mm f/1.8 set to f/2.8 and the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 set to f/2.8 and the Sigma comes out on top by quite some margin.

Regardless, corrections to vignetting can be made using editing software – though corrections may need to be made manually because the lens does not have a profile in all editing software.


Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Sigma claims that the lens demonstrates excellent control over barrel distortion. We have not tested this lens in a controlled lab setting. Our observations come from our brick wall test and more importantly real world images.

We’ve taken numerous pictures of buildings – for architectural images straight lines mean everything. We can say that barrel distortion is very well controlled. With the camera positioned horizontally to a building, vertical lines are straight.

The brick wall test shows slight horizontal curvature in the edges of the frame, but nothing that would compromise high-quality architectural images.


Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

The corners of images taken using the widest aperture of an ultra-wide angle lens are particularly susceptible to astigmatism. This distortion makes the stars that would otherwise be dots in the night sky look more like crosses (known as batwing coma).

Looking over our images we note minor astigmatism similar to other leading ultra-wide angle lenses. Yet, astigmatism is another example where the wide f/1.8 maximum aperture gives the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens the edge over competitors.

Stop the lens down to f/2.8 or f/4 – which is the widest aperture of most competing lenses where astigmatism is present – and astigmatism is very well controlled in the Sigma lens. Bravo again to the unrivalled fast aperture.


Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

This is anything but a macro lens, with a minimum close focusing distance of 27cm and maximum magnification of 1: 9.8. This uncropped image shows how close you can get to a Compact Flash card.


In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

Sharpness at 14mm

For this test, the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens was attached to a Canon EOS 5D Mk IV body, which was, in turn, mounted on a sturdy tripod. Exposure delay mode was activated. Tonal and colour variance across the crops are due to change in natural light during the session.

The full frame at 14mm

The full frame at 14mm

This test shows that f/4 and f/5.6 are the sharpest apertures of the lens. That said, in the centre of the frame detail is very sharp at all apertures, with a minor fall-off at f/16 because of diffraction.

With the lens focused in the middle of the picture, there is softness in the edges of the frame in images shot at f/1.8 and f/2. This is more of a depth of field issue – the softness represents out of focus areas rather than poor edge quality.

When the lens is focused to the edges of the frame in images shot at f/1.8 and f/2, sharpness is impressive. It’s not quite to the same mark as the optimum apertures, but it’s sharp.

This bookcase test translates to pin sharp real world images using any apertures from f/2.8 to f/11.

The lens caters very well for astrophotography – making the most of the fast aperture enables quicker shutter speeds – think 10 seconds rather than 25 seconds. A faster shutter speed reduces the amount the stars move in the sky during an exposure.

Using a like for like shutter speed with the maximum aperture brings in more light, which equals brighter images with less noise that are, therefore, sharper.

Back to diffraction. For maximum sharpness, the lens should be used at f/5.6 and sharpness is still very good up to f/11. The performance at the most closed f/16 aperture isn’t quite as good.

Therefore, in one sense the lens is a little bit restrictive for landscape photographers who need flexibility with closed apertures – like for shooting long exposures. Add to this the restricted options when it comes to ND filters – they are either hugely expensive front mounted ones, or the other option is to pay for the installation of the rear filter holder for the Canon-fit version.

Overall, the options aren’t great for long exposure daytime photography. This lens caters more for those that want more light, not those that want to block it out.

Aperture Centre Crop Edge Crop
f/1.8 f1_8.jpg f1_8.jpg
f/2 f2.jpg f2.jpg
f/2.8 f2_8.jpg f2_8.jpg
f/4 f4.jpg f4.jpg
f/5.6 f5_6.jpg f5_6.jpg
f/8 f8.jpg f8.jpg
f/11 f11.jpg f11.jpg
f/16 f16.jpg f16.jpg

Sample Images

The thumbnails below link to full-sized samples taken with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens mounted to a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera.

20/1s · f/2.8 · ISO 400

30/1s · f/2.8 · ISO 800

25/1s · f/4 · ISO 2000

25/1s · f/2.8 · ISO 1000

25/1s · f/2 · ISO 500

25/1s · f/1.8 · ISO 400

30/1s · f/5.6 · ISO 4000

15/1s · f/1.8 · ISO 800


Lens Construction 16 elements in 11 groups
Angle of View (for SD1) 114.2°
Number of Diaphragm Blades 9 (Rounded diaphragm)
Minimum Aperture F16
Minimum Focusing Distance 27cm. / 10.6in.
Maximum Magnification 1:9.8
Filter Size
Dimensions Diameter 95.4mm x Length 126mm / 9.5in. x 5.0in.
Weight 1,170g / 41.3oz.


Goodness the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens is good. Really, really good, thanks in no small part to its unrivalled f/1.8 aperture.

It’s ruddy heavy, but the extra bulk comes with the payoff of increased light intake which in turn creates vibrant and sharp images. That extra 1 1/3EV light intake (compared to f/2.8 lenses) pays dividends in numerous ways.

We’ve never really been able to take pictures during the night at ISO 200 before – that’s what 14mm at f/1.8 can do for you. The astro images we are getting are bright and crisp. (Of course, the camera helps too.)

Another benefit to the wider aperture is that users get to the optimum aperture earlier. At f/4, there is virtually no vignetting, astigmatism or chromatic aberration. It’s f/4 were many other lenses begin, with all these distortions present.

As far as Sigma Art lenses go, the 14mm f/1.8 is not cheap. Like we said it’s the most expensive in the range and will set you back a cool £1,679. That’s a price close to matching the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM.

If autofocus really is of no interest, then the Samyang 14mm f/2.4 AE XP could be worth checking out. It’s almost half the price, weighs less and is smaller too. You’ll lose 2/3EV of light.

Analysing the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens in its own right, we say its image quality is fantastic.

Detail is sharp, with only a minor fall off and stretching in the very corners. Some lens distortions are there – we can see CA from time to time while vignetting is pronounced at f/1.8 and f/2. Yet, for a lens of this type, most distortions are controlled really well and can be corrected post-capture with relative ease.

Currently, there are no easy options to attach lens filters, save for the paid service to install the FHR-11 filter holder in the Canon-fit version. In one sense this is not truly a lens for landscape photographers, especially those with a penchant for long exposures.

All being said, the f/1.8 maximum aperture is the standout feature. It brings unparalleled light intake that enables the camera to record images that are crisp and vibrant, even under moonlit skies.

If the price and weight doesn’t put you off, you will not regret acquiring a Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens.


Fitbit Ionic review : Meet Fitbit’s smartwatch riposte to the Apple Watch

There’s a lot that we really like about Fitbit’s first smartwatch, but ultimately the software niggles make it difficult to put it in the same bracket as the Apple Watch, the best that Android Wear has to offer and Samsung’s Gear smartwatches right now. When those issues are resolved and we are hoping that they are by the time it’s ready to launch in October, then it’s going to be different story altogether. Yes, the design will divide, but it’s one that we’ve grown to accept, just not love. Fitness and sports tracking including the Coach platform make a really good impression and smartwatch features like notifications, music player support and Fitbit Pay work without issue. Then there’s the battery life, which wipes the floor with the competition. The Ionic represents the best of Fitbit, it’s just a shame we’re being made to wait for the complete smartwatch experience.

  • Four day battery life
  • Solid sports tracking
  • Guided workouts
  • Fitbit Pay works
  • Buggy software
  • Too many TBC features
  • Design will divide
  • Inconsistent heart rate

Fitbit Ionic

The Fitbit Ionic is significant. Not only because the wearable is Fitbit’s first self-proclaimed smartwatch, but because it feels like the first 24/7 smartwatch.

You wake up, get in the shower, go to work, go for a run or swim, go to sleep. At no point do you need to remove it from your wrist; notifications buzz in throughout the day, and with a four-day-plus battery life, that means you can wear it to bed where it can track sleep – luckily, it’s comfortable enough to do so. The result of all this is a more wholesome picture of your day.

Neither the Apple Watch, nor any member of the Android Wear watch congregation can claim to do the same right now. In a sense, the Ionic is the archetype of a trend we’re seeing in which fitness trackers and smartwatches blur together. After all, many would call the Fitbit Blaze a smartwatch, and really you wouldn’t be wrong. But like saying Voldemort’s name, Fitbit refuses to use the word smartwatch when talking about the Blaze, presumably for fear that market analysts would then compare shipments against the Apple Watch.

But now, it’s game on. The Fitbit Ionic is going head-to-head with the Apple Watch Series 3, and while it doesn’t have LTE to offer, it has the upper hand in some other areas. We’ve been putting the Ionic through its paces for a while now, but we should caution that there are still a few pieces missing. Even with the updated software, Fitbit has some tweaking and adding left to do before the Ionic launches in October. We’ll be revisiting this review shortly after to see if our mind has been changed. But if you’re weighing up a Fitbit Ionic pre-order, read on for the current state of play.

Design and build

fitbit review

The Ionic may trump many number of smartwatches out there on some categories, but looks isn’t none of them. A lot of work has gone into keeping the Ionic thin and light while cramming in GPS, long battery life, a tri-wavelength sensor and a 1,000 nit display, but that’s come at the expense of design. The Ionic still looks like a fitness tracker, with an angular design resembling the Blaze before it, with a slanted aluminium case built by a nano-molding technique we’ve seen in smartphones, but not wearables.

We don’t think the Ionic is as ugly as some people have claimed, and the renders betray it a little, but it would be hard to pull this off with fancy formal wear. Perhaps that’s the one break in the all-day chain. You do have the option of other bands, including some snazzier leather straps, but the proprietary system means you have to go with whatever Fitbit has on offer.

fitbit review

The Ionic comes in three basic flavours: a blue-grey band with silver watch case; a charcoal band with graphite grey case; and a slate-blue band with a blue-orange case. All of these, Fitbit told us, were loosely inspired by sci-fi movies – orange from The Martian, an Interstellar black, etc. Not that this will likely cross your mind when wearing it, but it’s a little factoid you can whip out should someone compliment your new smartwatch.

The button layout is the same as the Blaze – two on the right side and one on the left – but you’re also able to tap and swipe that screen to move through apps and workouts. Having a more tactile option is nice during workouts, especially if you’re going to take this in the pool.


fitbit review

So Fitbit went with a blocky, rectangle display and as the company’s head of design explained to us it had its reasons why it didn’t go with a circular screen. Notably that it made more sense for displaying notifications and its FitStar coaching workouts. The 1.42-inch LCD touchscreen display is smaller than the one included on the Fitbit Blaze (1.66-inch), but the 348 x 250 resolution means there is a bump up in quality.

With those pixels crammed into a much smaller space, you do get a sharper, more vibrant display as a result. It’s a bright screen as well, whether you have it’s cranked up to the max setting or in auto mode and visibility is strong in all conditions as well.

If you’d ask us if this is the best smartwatch display out there, then we’d say no. Apple and Samsung still reign in that department. It’s still a solid touchscreen display and we have little complaints even it offers less screen estate than its competitors.

Activity tracking

fitbit review

By now, Fitbit has got the basic activity tracking covered. Even if you’re not here for the workouts, the Ionic may be enough to woo people who want to track their steps and have the benefits of a smartwatch. You will of course get your basic calorie tracking and stairs climbed too, along with your resting heart rate throughout the day. In fact there are several watch faces that display your resting heart rate at all times, should you want to keep a closer eye on it.

Scroll along to the ‘Today’ app and you can get an overview of everything from steps to miles covered, but you’ll still get deeper insights, including a heart rate graph, by opening the smartphone app.

Fitbit has been working hard on its sleep tracking over the past few months, and the Ionic arrives all the stronger for it. Right out the box you’ll have access to Sleep Stages, which breaks down your sleep through the night by analysing accelerometer and heart rate data, and Sleep Insights, which gives back tips to improve your shut-eye.

fitbit review

In terms of accuracy, we found it to be on par with the Alta HR, which is no surprise as Fitbit says the technology is just the same. Which is to say it’s good; put up against the Beddit 3, which I still find to be the most accurate sleep tracker around, its results were comparable. Where it sometimes comes unstuck – like the Alta HR – is in detecting when I’m awake. On one occasion it told us that we’d woken up 20 minutes later than we had, but that was the most peculiar result we’ve had with it. Generally, it’s been very good.

In this department not much has changed, but it’s what’s to come that’s much more exciting. That tri-wavelength sensor we mentioned – it will let Fitbit track relative SpO2, a measure of oxygen in the blood, that will be able to tell Fitbit if you have sleep apnea. The company also announced it’s teaming up with Dexcom so that diabetics who track their glucose with one of Dexcom’s continuous monitors will soon get that data beamed straight to the Ionic.

The benefit of that should not be underestimated, but crucially, none of these features are yet live, and they’ve not been tested. They’re promises, and how much credence you give them is up to you to decide.

Sports tracking

fitbit review

When you want to go beyond counting steps, it’s time to step up to Exercise mode. It’s here where the altimeter, accelerometer, compass, GPS and heart rate monitor are brought into play. Along with Fitbit’s SmartTrack tech to automatically recognise a host of different exercises there’s dedicated modes for tracking running, cycling, swimming and treadmill running.

There’s also dedicated modes for weights and general workouts, but don’t expect to get the additional metrics delivered with the Ionic’s core sports tracking modes. Here’s what we made of what the Ionic has to offer in the sports tracking department so far.


fitbit review

Fitbit told us that most people use its devices for walking and running and with the Ionic essentially replacing the retired Surge as Fitbit’s only device with GPS built in, many people’s go to device for running, we were hoping for good things from the Ionic.

Before you get up and running, there’s a small handful of options to explore before hitting ‘start’. You can set up cues that will send a vibrating nudge when you hit a certain distance and the ability to customise stats (distance, pace, average pace, heart rate, calories burned, steps and time of the day). You’re not going to see information on things like cadence, but then the Ionic never tries to be a high-end Garmin or a Polar running watch by serving up those additional running metrics. It’s about keeping things simple here and that’s exactly what it achieves. The only other additional modes are turning on auto-pause and run detection so that you don’t even need to go through this process at all to track.

No one likes waiting around for GPS to kick in and thankfully the antenna packed into the Ionic usually takes no longer than a minute or so to jump into action. Once you get moving, you can swipe through the middle of the display or hit the physical button on the left hand side of the display to change data fields with the physical buttons on the right assigned to pausing and ending workouts. The touchscreen is pretty responsive although when things get wet and rainy, you’ll be relying on those physical buttons for navigation.

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GPS tracking: Fitbit (left and centre) and Polar Beat iPhone app (right)

When a run is finished and saved you can see a summary on the watch but you need to sync the activity with the phone to see maps and heart rate graphs. Below is a sample run and the kind of data you can expect to see in comparison to what we recorded with the Polar Beat iPhone app. There weren’t any accuracy dramas and average pace data was generally on the money.

Running activity like all other activities contribute to you overall steps, calorie burn and active minute totals for the day, and with a dedicated app for Strava and hopefully more to come, that data doesn’t just have to live inside Fitbit’s app.

Treadmill running is also supported on the Ionic tracking distance, average pace and heart rate data. Without GPS, you’re relying on the accelerometer to track performance, which always sees a drop in accuracy but we actually felt the Ionic did a good job here too.


For cycling, you can expect to get similar settings at your disposal that you get with run tracking including turning on auto pause, setting up data cues and customised stats that can be displayed during a ride. Again, you’ll get a snapshot of you workout summary, but you’ll need to venture into the app to see your ride in detail with mapped routes, speed, heart rate zones and calories burned.

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Cycling tracking: Fitbit (left and centre) and Suunto Movescount app (right)

We took it for a ride with the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR and distance and speed were generally in the right ball park, but we’ll be spending a lot more time in the coming months putting the Ionic through its paces out on a bike.


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We had pretty positive things to say about the Fitbit Flex 2’s swim tracking skills but what was really lacking from the experience was actually knowing what progress you were making during your pool time. That’s been addressed with the Ionic where you can now keep track of lengths, distance covered and workout duration on the touchscreen display. When you delve into the app, you also be able to see a stroke recognition as well and we found it spot on. There’s no SWOLF data available, so data-hungry swimmers might find the experience a little underwhelming. But there’s still enough here to get a better sense of your performance in the pool.

The waterproof design also extends to open water swimming, but there’s a bit of a clanger: unlike the Apple Watch Series 2 or a Garmin Fenix 5, there is no proper open water swimming, while you can take it for a dip in the sea and use the cues to measure how much distance you’ve covered.

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Swim tracking: Fitbit (left and centre) and Suunto Movescount app (right)

In the pool, it’s a solid performer. You won’t have much reason to tinker with the screen as there’s no additional metrics to review and up against the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR data there was only a difference of one length.

Inside the app you can additionally see calories burned and a break down of heart rate data although we wouldn’t read too much into that HR data. Water and optical sensors just don’t mix.

Up against the Apple Watch Series 2 over 20 lengths, the Fitbit Ionic counted one length too many, while the Apple Watch got it spot on. There was definitely some post-swim correcting done in the app, and interestingly the Ionic got the yard distance as dead on 500 – correct and same as the Apple Watch – even though it accounted for that one extra length.

It’s worth noting that the Apple Watch got our strokes wrong for the most part, so it’s not done seamlessly elsewhere.

Heart rate accuracy

fitbit review

So this is a big one. Does the Fitbit Ionic deliver accurate heart rate data? We’ve written many a word on the reliability of wrist-based heart rate monitors and the numerous factors that can affect readings. From the Charge HR all the way to the Alta HR, our own testing shows that Fitbit’s PurePulse tech is not perfect, but the same criticism has been levelled at Apple’s sensor setup or Garmin’s Elevate heart rate technology. So how does the Ionic fare? Like a Facebook relationship status, let’s just say it’s complicated.

In terms of the heart rate data the Ionic can deliver, you’ll be able to see resting heart rate information throughout the day, real-time bpm readings through all workout modes and set up heart rate zones for interval training. If we deal with resting heart rate data first, we have no issues on the accuracy front and that’s perhaps not all that surprising when those readings are taken when you are stationary. We compared it to Polar’s H10 chest strap and readings were identical on every occasion.

When we move onto exercise mode that’s where things get interesting. Once again, we used the H10 chest strap as the benchmark for our testing. We went out running, tried out some of the Coach workouts, jumped on the rowing machine and put it to the gym test. What we found is a couple of things. The first is that those coach workouts provided pretty reliable readings but when it’s time to turn to do something more intensive like running, things change.

A glance down at our Ionic and at the Polar Beat iPhone app at times showed readings that had a difference of as much as 10 bpm. It was a similar story when we jumped on the treadmill giving us very unrealistic read outs for time spent in heart rate zones. When it comes to reviewing that data in the app, the graphs don’t really suggest that readings have been wildly off during a session but average and max bpm readings tended to be 4-5 beats off overall.

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In a word, it’s uneven. On another run, it did a good job of keeping up with the Polar H10 as we kept up the higher intensity in the second half of the run. At the end the Ionic read a high of 182 against the Polar’s 183, with averages of 166 bpm and 167 bpm respectively. More concerning was the next run, where readings went totally AWOL. To start, heart rate was spiking on the Ionic even before we began running, 20-30 ppm higher than what the chest strap read, and that continued for a while at the start of the run before evening out.

Along the way, we also noticed the readings were off by about 10 bpm at times, but then the whole thing seemed to crash with no warning. Strangely enough, later on that day the app registered the workout… but said it had lasted three hours (I’d actually run for about 45 minutes). It seems like, despite crashing, it was still registering a running workout in the background, even during the pool testing I did afterwards. This was on the review-ready software, so I hope this is something Fitbit can nix before launch. As we say, it only happened once in our testing.

Bottom line: we’ve got varying results with heart rate monitoring on the Ionic. Sometimes it’s spot on, other times, it most definitely is not. While this latest version of Fitbit’s PurePulse tech is supposed be an improvement on previous versions, based on our experience it’s still hit and miss depending on the type of activity you’re doing and the intensity of the workout.


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The built-in Coach app is Fitbit’s personal training app powered by FitStar. It’s all about offering workouts of varying difficulties and duration, if you want to take on a more structured workout.

The experience is split between the watch and the Fitbit app, so you can follow some workouts from the Ionic’s screen like you could on the Fitbit Blaze, but other workouts are currently only accessible through the Fitbit app.

The idea is that these workouts adapt based on your progress to make them feel more unique and personal. So when it noticed that we had been swimming for instance, it recommended beach body and cardio workouts to try out next.

From the watch you can currently access three workouts. That’s 10 minute abs, 7-minute workout and Treasure Chest. We’re hoping unlike the Blaze, there’ll be more than three workouts available at launch, but that’s our lot right now. Fitbit is adding guided lifestyle coaching plans into the app, including Beginner Runner (couch to 5k) and Beat That Sugar Habit, but these aren’t yet live.

As the names suggest, the workouts range in duration and focus on different parts of the body. Once you’ve registered as a Fitstar user through the app and picked your trainer you can start accessing the workouts. When you hit start, you’ll get a small animation of the exercise and then it’s up to you to get working out.

It sadly count reps, but it does provide a guidance as to how many reps you should be doing during that period. If you’re relatively fit, you might find some of the shorter workouts not all that demanding but they will definitely push you with planks, squats and more.

The FitStar integration is one of Fitbit’s great strengths as a platform, and if it continues to evolve and delivers on those personalised recommendations it should be one of the reason you’d want an Ionic in your life. However, Fitbit plans to put a significant portion of its Coach workouts behind a paywall, and we’d want more than the three workouts currently live to really recommend this feature.

Unfortunately, there were some features that we weren’t able to test like the audio coaching and Fitbit Radio. It’s a pattern emerging once again that we are not getting the full Ionic package just yet.

Fitbit Pay

fitbit review

When Fitbit bought payment startup Coin, it was a sure sign of what was on its mind. And with Ionic it’s debuting its wearable payments platform named – ready for it? – Fitbit Pay.

Fitbit Pay joins Android Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and now Garmin Pay in letting you purchase things with a tap of the wrist. Through the app you just need to register your card, and Fitbit promises to support a wide range of issuing banks out the gate, though it remains to be seen how good that support will be. As we saw with Apple and Android Pay, it can take a while for banks to get on board, but we know HSBC, Capital One and Royal Bank are among early names, with more to be added soon.

You also need to set up a passcode on the Ionic itself, and this is the fiddly bit, as it’s not easy to hit the tiny number pad with pinpoint accuracy. But it’s a price to pay to not risk someone swiping your Ionic for a shopping spree on your dime. From there, to make a payment you just have to hold the left hand button and a tiny bank card will show up on the screen.

The last part you need, of course, is a wireless payment terminal, which not every store will have. That’s especially the case in the US, which continues to drag behind. Samsung Pay still has the upper hand with its support for magnetic strip payments, but anywhere that can accept NFC payments will be able to work with Fitbit Pay. Ignore anyone who tells you otherwise.

Apps, notifications and OS

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When we asked CEO James Park where the distinction between fitness tracker and smartwatch lay, apps was one of his examples. And this is going to be a real testing ground for the Ionic, which is going up against two ecosystems in particular, Android Wear and watchOS, which have had a lot more time to get apps and developers under their belt.

Out the gate, the Ionic is launching with a handful of first-party apps but only four third-party offerings: Strava, AccuWeather, Starbucks and Pandora. That last one won’t apply to you if you’re in Europe. So what will music service will you get instead? No, really, we’re asking. Fitbit still won’t tell us, and that’s not great this late in the game. Granted, the Ionic won’t launch for another month, but the fact Fitbit can’t yet say which streaming service it will be partnering with for Europe is raising a few eyebrows at Wareable HQ.

Spotify? Extremely unlikely, as word is that the Pandora deal only came about because a potential Spotify pact fell apart. But that doesn’t leave too many others. Amazon Music? Seems unlikely. If we were to put money on any, it would be Deezer. Surely not Tidal…

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But while Fitbit tries to lock down a streaming partner outside of the US, the good news is that you can put music right on the watch with Fitbit’s own music app. To do this, you need to go through the desktop Fitbit Connect app and select the files you want to sync. Once on there, it’s a case of pairing your Bluetooth headphones with the watch and you’re away. We’ve had no problems pairing multiple headphones, including Apple’s AirPods and the Fitbit Flyer, the company’s own Bluetooth headphones that also launch in October.

The question now is whether Fitbit can get other developers on board quickly. Its SDK is one that Pebble was working on before Fitbit snapped it up and uses JavaScript, CSS and SVG, making it easy for devs to build on. We also like that Fitbit is letting people share apps without needing to have them regulated, although if you want them showcased on Fitbit’s app store you will need to submit them for approval.

Battery life

Over four days battery life with a super bright screen you say? We didn’t really believe Fitbit could pull it off but it really has. While the Apple Watch will make it through a day, the Ionic has done the unimaginable and can keep going much longer. With some pretty intensive use, that’s with the screen cranked up to full brightness, notifications filtering through and multiple tracking sessions, we comfortably made it through three days.

In a more realistic scenario where we’d probably be doing a lot less tracking, there’s every possibility the Ionic could make four days and maybe a day more than that, which is music to the ears of frequent travellers who can leave the charger at home.

GPS battery life is claimed to be around 10 hours and we’d be inclined to agree with that based on our time with the Ionic. No, it’s not best in class, but it’s still a good showing, and the GPS doesn’t have a detrimental impact on battery life, knocking off less than 10% from a 40-50 minute run. How Fitbit has done it, we’re not quite sure, but it leaves us feeling optimistic that things could get even better in the future.


Infinix Note 4 Pro Review: Phablet With Lots Of Battery Life

It’s big, ambitious and has a lot of mAh under the hood

Chinese brand Infinix may not be as well known as its other rivals here in the Philippines, but this small upstart mobile company has managed to release several interesting smartphones in the past. Their latest big battery, low price phablet, the Note 4 Pro, managed to impress us with its decent camera performance as well as its long-lasting battery, despite having less than ideal chipset powering it under the hood. With its included cover and pen accessory, the Infinix Note 4 Pro wants to be a noteworthy addition to the budget phablet segment. Does it succeed?

Infinix Note 4 Pro Specs

  • 1.3GHz Mediatek octa-core processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 5.7-inch Full HD Sharp display; 1920×1080 resolution
  • 32GB of expandable storage
  • 13-megapixel rear camera, autofocus, LED flash
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • 4G, LTE
  • Dual SIM
  • WiFi, Bluetooth
  • GPS, A-GPS
  • Fingerprint Sensor
  • 4500mAh Battery with Xcharge 4.0
  • Android 7.0 Nougat, XOS 2.3 UI

Premium metal body feels, well, premium

Being the more expensive of Infinix’s Note 4 products, the Note 4 Pro is quite different from the lower-priced Note 4. The most glaring difference? The Note 4 Pro uses a full metal unibody construction, which is quite a step up from the Note 4’s mostly plastic body.

The Note 4 Pro feels weighty and certainly has quite a bit of heft to it, which adds to the premium feel of the device. While it’s not brick-like in its weight (tipping the scales at 208g) you’ll certainly feel it in your pocket as you walk around with it all day.

The overall design of the Note 4 Pro is typical for a device of its size – it has curved edges and rounded corners, which Infinix hopes gives their 5.7-inch device some semblance of ergonomics when used one-handed. The 13-megapixel rear camera has a dual-tone LED flash, though the camera module juts out a few mm from the rear.

On the right side sits the volume and power buttons, along with a dedicated microSD expansion slot. On the left side sits the SIM card tray that supports dual SIMs. Up top is the 3.5mm jack, while on the bottom sits the USB plug and speaker grille.

You’ll also see a 3-pin connector on the left side of the phone. This allows the Note 4 Pro to connect to the smart case that came with the review device that Infinix sent to us, which in turn also houses their X-Pen, their own take on the stylus.

The X-Pen is interesting because it allows you to several things with the Note 4 Pro, like write on the screen, take screenshots and doodle, among others, kind of like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.

And if the name of the stylus wasn’t already a dead giveaway, Infinix is obviously trying to capture the special sauce that Samsung uses with their Note series of devices by allowing users to open additional functions of the X-Pen via “Air Command“, accessible using the buttons on the side of the pen.

There are certain caveats to the X-Pen, as it were. It only works (in our experience) when the smart cover for the Note 4 Pro is attached. It also has its own power supply, which is charged when the pen is placed back in the dock after use. The X-Pen is also not as responsive or as pressure sensitive as Samsung’s offering, which is to be expected.

The Note 4 Pro uses a 5.7-inch full HD IPS display, which is a little bigger than the displays of phones you see in its price range. The display is good enough for what it is and has excellent sunlight legibility all around.

MediaTek MT6753 is good enough for most tasks, but isn’t a screamer

Much like the plastic-clad Note 4, the Note 4 Pro is armed with a MediaTek MT6753 octa-core processor inside. That’s paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage, pretty much what you’d expect from a device like it. It’s not the fastest processor around, but it’s good enough for the Note 4 Pro.

As an aside, the Note 4 Pro runs on Infinix’s own UI overlay dubbed XOS. It adds a few unique features to the fore, and re-skins Android Nougat on the Note 4 Pro. It’s not entirely our cup of tea but it’s functional and easy to use so it’s not all bad.

The Pro in the Note 4 Pro may stand for “Professional”, but you’re fairly limited to the apps you want to run on the phone. Most Android apps will run on the device without any issues, but more demanding games and apps may chug along at less than satisfactory speeds.

Camera is surprisingly good for what it is

When it comes to budget devices and image quality, we usually don’t expect a lot from budget devices. That’s why we were pleasantly surprised with the photos taken with the Note 4 Pro – images came out sharp, well-defined with lots of detail.


The only thing we take issue with is the apparent loss of fidelity when shooting in low-light situations, though that’s not as big of a problem on the Note 4 Pro compared to other devices in the same price bracket.

Pretty great battery

The Note 4 Pro has a rather massive battery in it – 4500mAh – which gives it phenomenal endurance. Coupled with a power-efficient processor, the Note 4 Pro has the legs to go far on a single charge. We recorded around two days of useful battery life on a single charge, and that’s with a lot of use in Shenzen and Beijing with LTE on.

And unlike other phones with a big battery, the Note 4 Pro has fast charging tech built-in. Dubbed XCharge 4.0, the Note 4 Pro gets filled up in around an hour once it’s plugged in the socket.

Verdict: A solid big battery phablet that has a surprisingly great battery

At Php 11,990/$236, the Infinix Note 4 Pro might be a little too expensive for people looking for a budget phablet. But we’ve been pleasantly surprised with the value that the Note 4 Pro gave us, specifically in the camera and battery department.

We’re still not convinced with the stylus accessory (ask any Galaxy Note owner if they regularly use theirs), but it at least gives people a useful accessory if they invest the time to learn its ins and outs.

If you’re looking for a budget big-screen phone that looks and feels premium, thenthe Infinix Note 4 Pro may just be in the cards.


Apple AirPlay 2 – everything you need to know

Apple’s AirPlay 2 is the company’s big move into multi-room, and it’s supported by some big-name brands. But how does it work, and do you need to buy new devices? We answer all these questions and more…

Apple’s 2017 WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) featured a wave of new innovations – one of the most important to hi-fi enthusiasts is the company’s move into multi-room audio. This is through a new version of AirPlay technology – aptly named AirPlay 2 – which arrives as part of today’s update from Apple’s iOS 10 operating system to iOS 11.

So what are the benefits of upgrading to AirPlay 2? Which manufacturers and devices will use AirPlay 2? And if you already own a first-generation AirPlay product, can it be updated or will you need to by a new AirPlay device? Read on for all the answers…

What is AirPlay?

Before getting into AirPlay 2, it’s worth looking back at the original AirPlay. Launched in 2010 as part of iOS 4 (around the time of iPhone 4), AirPlay was a way to stream audio, video, and photos wirelessly to Apple TV – and eventually, to dedicated audio products.

It was built on Apple’s ‘AirTunes’ software from 2004, which was predominantly used to stream audio from iTunes to AirPort Express – so you could wirelessly listen to music across your home network from your Apple device.

Content would travel over your wireless network, rather than via Bluetooth, but it proved quite difficult to get a product set up. Those early products also didn’t have the most stable connection, and music would often drop out.

Updates to AirPlay made it a lot simpler and more reliable, and – as long as your Apple device is on the same wi-fi network – music can be streamed to it at the tap of a button.

What is AirPlay 2?

We saw our first glimpses of AirPlay 2 at WWDC 2017. The main focus of the update is on streaming music from your iOS device to more than one product.

This is Apple’s first real move into multi-room technology, and also the first major update in recent years to AirPlay. As a wireless protocol, many feel AirPlay fell by the wayside a while ago in comparison with Bluetooth or Chromecast.

How does it work?

AirPlay on iOS 10

From what we saw at Apple’s presentation, AirPlay 2 will offer the ability to stream music wirelessly to, and between, compatible speakers on the same wi-fi network. This is through the Control Centre on iOS devices, an Apple TV box, or iTunes.

You can define where in your house the speaker is located, using labels such as ‘Living Room’ or ‘Kitchen’. From there, you can control which speakers are playing music at any time, both invidivually and as a group.

As long as the speakers are AirPlay 2-compatible, you’ll be able to connect speakers from different manufacturers together through this system, giving you more versatility regarding the products you want to use when setting up your multi-room system.

Which Apple products will have AirPlay 2?

Any Apple device that supports iOS 11 will also get AirPlay 2:


  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 6S Plus
  • iPhone 6S
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 5S


  • 12.9in iPad Pro (first generation)
  • 12.9in iPad Pro (second generation)
  • 9.7in iPad Pro
  • 10.5in iPad Pro
  • iPad (fifth generation)
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad Air
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 2

iPod touch

  • iPod touch (6th generation)

It’s assumed MacBooks and other Mac computers will also support AirPlay 2 once they are updated to the MacOS High Sierra operating system on 25th September.

Who’s supporting AirPlay 2?

There is already a long list of well-established hi-fi manufacturers signed up to AirPlay 2 – Naim, Bose, Bang & Olufsen, Devialet, Dynaudio, Bowers & Wilkins, Bluesound, Libratone, Denon and the Apple-owned Beats were all name-dropped at WWDC.

Apple’s recently announced wireless smart speaker with Siri built in, HomePod, will also feature the technology.

Can AirPlay products be upgraded to support AirPlay 2?

For some products, there will be a software update to update existing AirPlay speakers to AirPlay 2.

Libratone has announced an update will be available later this year to its Zipp line, but not for its AirPlay-connected Diva soundbar or some other older products.

Naim has announced its latest line of Uniti products – Uniti Atom, Uniti Star and Uniti Nova – will be updated to support AirPlay 2 “in parallel with Apple’s launch timings.”

A post on Bose’s community forum says it is “actively collecting information to answer inquiries about AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. Please stay tuned for more info.”

It seems likely your existing hardware will require an update, and we’ll let you know when we have more details about which products will be affected.

What are the alternatives?

The main competitor to AirPlay 2 is Bluetooth, especially if Bluetooth 5 offers single-source-to-multiple-devices functionality.

However, the newly announced iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X all support Bluetooth 5. It likely won’t rival AirPlay 2’s multi-rooming skills, but it’s nice to have both streaming choices in the new handsets.

Then there’s Google’s Chromecast technology. If you’re using a Chromecast Audio stick or a Chromecast video device, you can stream content from iOS and Android products to your hi-fi devices. Some products also have Chromecast built-in, so you won’t need an external Chromecast device.

While it works slightly differently from AirPlay – your phone or tablet acting as a remote while the speaker plays the file from the Internet, rather than the audio being sent over the Internet from your smartphone – there are third-party applications that will let you Chromecast local audio from your phone to the speaker.

When can I get AirPlay 2?

AirPlay 2 will come with the update to iOS 11 – which is due this very day.

It is likely other manufacturers will update their systems to coincide with this release, although we’ll keep you up to date as and when we receive more information.


How to Download and Install iOS 11 on an iPad

Your iPad’s finally realizing it’s true potential, now that iOS 11 — the first major update focused on the tablet experience — is here. Not only does it give your slate drag and drop interactions and a dock for apps, the new version of the mobile platform also introduces the Files app, the closest thing iOS may ever get to a file system.

ios 11 ipad

But first, it’s time to prepare your tablet for the update, making sure you’re ready and backing up as well. So, here’s the master guide to getting iOS 11 on your iPad.

1. Check if your iPad is supported. iOS 11 supports iPad mini 4 and later, all iPad Airs all iPad Pros and the 5th generation iPad. For example, my personal iPad, the first to get the Lightning Port, is the 4th gen model and it won’t get iOS 11.

image 3178111505839575

2. Check if your apps are supported. iOS 11 won’t support every app that runs on iOS 10, because it’s a 64-bit operating system, and some apps haven’t been updated and are still 32-bit. If your iPad is running iOS 10.3 or later, you can check to see if you’ve got any 32-bit apps installed by opening the settings app, tapping Generaltapping About and tapping Applications.

image 3178111505833118

If tapping Applications gives you a list of apps, these are the programs you’ll lose by updating to iOS 11. Hopefully, these apps will gain 64-bit versions soon, now that iOS 11 is out. If tapping Applications does nothing, then you’re in the clear.

3. Backup your iPad (we’ve got full instructions here). You can backup the slate using iCloud or iTunes. If you have slower bandwidth, we recommend using iTunes.

image 3178111505833098

4. Make sure you know your passwords. Confirm your iPad’s unlock password (Touch ID won’t work at first) and your Apple ID’s password. You’ll need both when you’re setting up.

To update over the air, move on to step 5. If you want to update using your Mac or PC, skip down to “How to Update to iOS 11 via iTunes.”

5. Open Settings.

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6. Tap General.

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7. Tap Software Update.

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8. Tap Download and Install.

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9. Follow the prompts, accepting the terms and conditions. Your iPad will restart once or more, and the installation process will take some time.

How to Update to iOS 11 via iTunes

1. Attach your iPad to your Mac or PC via USB, open iTunes and click on the iPad in the top left corner.image 3178111505839721

2. Click Check for Update or Update in the Device-summary panel, as your iPad may not know the update is available.

image 3178111505839890

3. Click Download and Update and follow the prompts to install iOS 11. Expect a restart or two, and for your device to be unavailable during parts of this process.

image 3178111505840638


5-star cars for less than £20,000/$26,000

These five-star models are all proof that you don’t need to shell out a fortune to get a fantastic car, whether you’re shopping for a family hatchback, an SUV or even a sports car

*** Note : £1 = $1.30

Five-star cars for less than £20,000

If you buy a car that achieved our top five-star rating, then you can be certain that you’re getting one of the best cars on the market today.

You might think that you’ll be forced to pay through the nose for the privilege of owning one of these cars. However, there’s actually a variety of five-star cars available for less than £20,000, and one that you can pick up for less than half that. From city cars to SUVs, there’s something for everybody.

Here’s our round-up of five-star cars that you can buy right now for less than £20,000.

Renault Zoe

Price from: £14,245 (after the Government’s £4500 electric vehicle grant)

The Renault Zoe is one of the best electric cars around – in fact, we named it as our Electric Car of the Year at the 2017 What Car? Awards. It’s quiet and easy to drive, has plenty of range and its low running costs make it very easy to recommend. Our favourite Dynamique Nav model comes with everything you’re likely to want, including a 7.0in infotainment touchscreen, sat-nav, rear parking sensors and keyless entry.

Mazda MX-5

Price from: £18,795

If driving fun is a high priority for your next car, then the Mazda MX-5 should be at the very top of your list. Not only is it great fun on the open road, it’s also got a quality interior and a refined and fairly economical range of petrol engines. It’s also the only new two-seat sports car you can buy at this price level – its closest competitor would be the Toyota GT86, and that’s more than £8000 more expensive.

Hyundai i10

Price from: £9540

The i10 is our favourite city car of 2017. It’s cheap to buy and run, and is ideal for use around town, where its tight turning circle, light steering and small dimensions make practical sense. Rivals such as the Volkswagen Up have classier interiors, and entry-level versions of the i10 don’t get important kit, such as air conditioning, but the i10’s charm is hard to ignore. Opt for our recommended Premium SE version and you’ll also get a heated steering wheel and a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system.

Seat Ibiza

Price from: £13,130

The new Seat Ibiza is the best small car on the market today, offering tidy handling, a comfortable ride, low running costs and a surprisingly spacious and practical interior. It really has no major weaknesses.

Skoda Octavia

Price from: £17,195

It’s easy to see why the Skoda Octavia is such a recommendable family car. It offers a huge amount of space inside, a strong range of engines and comes with plenty of equipment as standard. Sure, it’s not as plush inside as some rivals, but the Octavia should definitely be on your shopping list if you’re looking for a comfortable cruiser that can handle your family and their luggage with ease.

Ford Fiesta ST

Price from: £18,215

The Ford Fiesta ST is about to be replaced, but it’s still one of our favourite hot hatches. Part of the ST’s appeal, of course, is that it’s based on the already good Fiesta, and doesn’t lose much of that car’s practicality or everyday usability in its transformation into a performance car. It also offers excellent handling, a sporty petrol engine and sensible running costs.

Seat Ateca

Price from: £18,340

The Seat Ateca is one of the best small SUVs around, and this year it knocked the excellent Nissan Qashqai off its perch to become our Small SUV of the Year for 2017. Keen pricing makes the Ateca one of the cheapest SUVs of this size on sale, but a spacious interior and excellent handling makes sure that it’s also one of the best. Our preferred SE trim gets you rear parking sensors, along with an 8.0in infotainment touchscreen, 17in alloy wheels and Bluetooth connectivity.

Volkswagen Golf

Price from: £18,420

Recently updated, the Golf continues to be a popular choice for those seeking a practical family hatchback. What’s more, it’s fully deserving of its success, blending a comfortable ride with class-leading refinement and a spacious and classy interior. It might be a little pricier than some rivals, and its boot isn’t the biggest around, but in every other respect it’s a superb car.


iOS 11 Review: An excellent update

  • Finally gives the iPad some focus
  • Much better Control Center
  • Files app is very useful
  • Rigid homescreen grid is so dull
  • Notifications are still archaic
Key Features
  • Improved iPad experience
  • New Control Center
  • Dock for iPad
  • Updated App Store
  • ARKit

Kết quả hình ảnh cho iOS 11

An excellent update

iOS 11 on iPhone and iPad review: Maybe not the design change expected, but vital for iPad owners

Note: I haven’t given iOS 11 a score yet, as I want to wait and see how the update process goes for everyone. A score will be added in the next few days. 

iOS 11 is the most important update that the iPad lineup has seen since its release nearly eight years ago. And with it, Apple’s tablet finally moves away from being seen as a blown-up iPod Touch, taking its first big step towards becoming a laptop replacement.

The improvements to the iPhone are less obviously impressive. Nevertheless, there remains enough new here to give your phone a fresh lease of life.

iOS 11 release date

Apple has confirmed the iOS 11 release date will be September 19, enabling current device owners to download and install the new operating system before the next generation of iPhones arrives.

The final release comes exactly a week after the company’s September 12 event, where it unveiled the iPhone 8 and new flagship iPhone X.

The iPhone 8 range will go on sale on September 22, and the iPhone X will arrive on November 3. Both ranges will come with Apple’s new mobile OS pre-installed.

iOS 11 download – Which iPhones work with iOS 11?

In terms of compatible devices, if your phone worked with iOS 10 then it will work with iOS 11 – except the iPhone 5C, that is.

Interestingly, the new OS will remove support for 32-bit apps and phones. As a result, apps built with a 32-bit architecture will need to be updated. This also means that if you’re still using the iPhone 5C then future apps will not work.

The following iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads work with iOS 11.


  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 5s


  • 12.9‑inch iPad Pro (2nd gen)
  • 12.9‑inch iPad Pro (1st gen)
  • 10.5‑inch iPad Pro
  • 9.7‑inch iPad Pro
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad Air
  • iPad (5th gen)
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 2

iPod Touch

  • iPod touch (6th gen)
How to install iOS 11

If tradition is anything to go by, the mad rush to install the latest version of iOS could mean long waiting times for Apple fans eager to get the latest software on their device.

Our advice is always to wait a few hours, if not a day or two, before attempting a new iOS update. As well as escaping the download congestion, some iPhone and iPad users also choose to wait a few days before installing the software in the hope of avoiding bugs in the first release.

It’s also advised that you make a backup of your device via iTunes or iCloud before installing a new operating system, just in case something goes wrong.

You can update to iOS 11 directly from your phone: Head to Settings > General > Software update and iOS 11 will automatically download. The iOS 11 file seems to be about 1.8GB in szie.

It’s also possible to set off the process by plugging your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch into your computer running iTunes.

iOS 11 review – A completely new iPad experience

Following years of minimal focus on the iPad, all the biggest features in iOS 11 relate to the tablet. The iPad software doesn’t act as it does on an iPhone, instead feeling built for the bigger screen.

Multitasking isn’t a new idea for the iPad, but its execution here is a leap forward. Swipe up from the bottom of the display and up will pop a dock of apps reminiscent of that in macOS. Continue swiping and all open apps are splayed out.

The dock is a small addition, but it makes a significant difference to how you use the iPad. It provides quick access to both the apps in the dock, alongside a selection of recently used and suggested ones too. Plug in a pair of headphones and the Video app will appear here, or Spotify. From the dock you can drag apps up and pop them out into separate windows. The latest duo of iPad Pro tablets can have three apps open and updating at once. Older models are limited to two.

iOS 11 – Much-improved multitasking

The new multitasking overview screen makes it easier to view all your open apps and dismiss them with a swipe. It remembers how you group apps together and lets you switch between different spaces. For instance, if you have Mail and Word open and switch to Safari, you can jump back and those apps are still side by side.

The multitasking changes are significant and welcome, but some annoyances remain. Numerous swipes and gestures are required to get things going, without a whole lot of help from Apple. In addition, the features are limited to apps designed to work in split-screen, and apps can’t be manually resized. If I try to watch Sky Go and scroll through Twitter, for example, the video will stop.

iOS 11 – Drag and drop

Drag and drop sits alongside improved multitasking as yet another productivity improvement for the iPad in iOS 11, and it’s such an obvious feature that it’s almost hard to believe it wasn’t present before.

When two apps – Word and Safari, for example – are open next to each other, you can drag text from one to the other. That’s fine, although not overly mind-blowing. Things get more interesting with pictures, which can be selected from apps such as Photos and dropped into documents and emails. In my opinion, using your fingers to move items between apps feels far more intuitive than using a mouse.

This leads us to a new app called Files. This is the file system that the iPad (and iPhone) has been waiting for, providing a single area in which to store everything on your device and even linking to other services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, so that your files are always available.

The Files app is executed well, although it’s a little basic. To add other services you must have that app installed, and instead of really integrating, say, your Google Drive files, it simply takes you to the Drive app. This in turn means that you can’t simply open a DOC file in another word processor and get to work. There’s basic tagging, similar to macOS, but things can become difficult when you’re having to trudge through lots of files. Still, the fact that the app exists is a huge plus point.

Most of these drag-and-drop features are iPad-specific, but a few are present on the iPhone. The iPhone also benefits from the Files app, but split-screen multitasking is still lacking – even on the big 7 Plus. Split-screen is a native Android 7.0 feature and it remains a significant feature still missing on iOS on the iPhone.

iOS 11 – Notes and Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil is the iPad Pro’s killer accessory, and in iOS 11 it becomes an even more vital tool in setting Apple’s tablets apart.

You can now draw over screenshots as soon as they’re captured, and mark up PDFs too. Double-tap on the lockscreen with the tip and you’re taken straight to Notes, an app that has seen major improvements in itself. Inline drawing lets you mix text and sketches in a single note, while the handy ‘scanner’ is great for filling out documents.

iOS 11 – Updated Control Center

Arguably the biggest visual overhaul in iOS 11 is the Control Center. Gone is the three-paned grid layout, replaced by an initially odd mixture of different-sized shapes and bubbles.

I must admit that I wasn’t a fan of the layout at first sight, but the improved functionality, and finally being able to edit and remove shortcuts I don’t use, makes it a welcome improvement.

The new Control Center mimics 3D Touch actions on the iPad, so to alter brightness you simply long-press on the brightness slider as you would on the iPhone 7. You can switch around the layout and add a few new shortcuts, although Apple appears to be stopping short of letting developers build their own shortcuts. This could be great, though, since the Apple TV shortcut is the entire Remote app shrunken down.

iOS 11 downloads

iOS 11 – App Store

Rumours before iOS 11’s actual unveiling suggested an overhaul of the design was likely. Maybe the tired gridded view of apps would be replaced by something more modern. Sadly, this didn’t come to pass – but there’s a smattering of updated visual flair across iOS 11.

The bold text and large pictures first utilised in iOS 10’s rebooted Music app are now system-wide, notably giving the Podcast app a much-needed update.

One app that has received the radical redesign I’d hoped would be apparent throughout is the App Store. The new layout highlights how tired the previous design had become. Artwork and videos can be seen everywhere, but there are now dedicated sections for both apps and games; and there’s far more curated content too. Some of this will no doubt be fluff, but I’ve seen a few nicely written pieces so far.

Hopefully, these additional extras won’t get in the way of the actual apps that most people are there to find. Nevertheless, the curation of constantly updating apps seems much-improved.

It’s odd then that the iTunes Store remains untouched; it now feels rather old-fashioned when positioned next to the App Store.

iOS 11 – The problem with notifications

The other design change you’ll notice as soon as you update to iOS 11 is the lockscreen. It doesn’t look any different, but it replaces the old notifications panel where messages sit. Swiping down from the homescreen will see the lockscreen appear, with your string of notifications in tow.

This feels like the single biggest disappointment with iOS 11. Notifications are a weak point of iOS and they continue to be so in iOS 11. It’s now more difficult to manually dismiss individual alerts and there’s still no system for grouping together notifications from a single app. If you suddenly receive an influx of WhatsApp messages, it will push everything else out of view.

iOS 11 – ARKit, Photos and Siri

Look past the headline additions in iOS 11 and you’ll probably notice some smaller tweaks. Siri, for instance, now has a more natural voice that sounds less robotic and more like an actual person.

Another big change is the format in which photos are saved. Previously, as with most phones, the camera saved your shots in the widely supported JPEG format. In iOS 11 , this has been switched to HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format). The reason for this is simple: this new format takes up much less space. Using the HEIF format saves about 50% of the space taken up by a single picture, which makes a huge difference when you have thousands of pictures.

There’s been a similar move for videos, too, with the default format now HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec) rather than H.264.

There will likely be compatibility issues with photos to begin, although apps such as Google Photos have already started to update to support the new formats.

You can select filters without leaving the shutter

I you prefer the simple life and aren’t too fussed about saving space, it’s easy enough to switch back to the more familiar. Head into Settings > Camera, and switch to Most Compatible.

Finally, there’s ARKit. This caused quite a stir when it was first announced at WWDC, leading to many to believe that the iPhone X and iPhone 8 would both have quite a strong focus on augmented reality – and in some respects they do. However, Apple’s claim that these are the first phones built for augmented reality falls a bit flat when you consider that the Asus ZenFone AR is almost completely focused on AR. It’s hard to see the full power of ARKit yet, but I’ll update this review in the future when I hope to see more apps available that support it.

iOS 11 – Should I install right away?

iOS 11 is the update that the iPad has been waiting for. Although the new multitasking features along with drag and drop and improved Apple Pencil tricks won’t mark out the iPad as a laptop replacement for all, it will certainly make it a much more viable alternative.

I still believe Apple needs to work harder on notifications and freshening up the tired homescreen. But the changes to Control Center and the App Store at least indicate it has the ability to do so.

Whether or not you want to install iOS 11 right away is really up to you. Apple’s iOS releases don’t tend to suffer any truly game-breaking bugs, but there’s always the chance, and I haven’t encountered anything major using the final version on an iPhone 7, iPhone 6S and iPad Pro 10.5.


A huge step forward for the iPad, with an excellent set of features and improvements all over the place.

ARKit, Notes, Control Center and Verdict

The dock is a small addition, but it makes a significant difference to how you use the iPad. It provides quick access to both the apps in the dock, alongside a selection of recently used and suggested ones too. Plug in a pair of headphones and the Video app will appear here, or Spotify. From the dock you can drag apps up and pop them out into separate windows. The latest duo of iPad Pro tablets can have three apps open and updating at once. Older models are limited to two.

iOS 11 – Much-improved multitasking

The new multitasking overview screen makes it easier to view all your open apps and dismiss them with a swipe. It remembers how you group apps together and lets you switch between different spaces. For instance, if you have Mail and Word open and switch to Safari, you can jump back and those apps are still side by side.

The multitasking changes are significant and welcome, but some annoyances remain. Numerous swipes and gestures are required to get things going, without a whole lot of help from Apple. In addition, the features are limited to apps designed to work in split-screen, and apps can’t be manually resized. If I try to watch Sky Go and scroll through Twitter, for example, the video will stop.

iOS 11 – Drag and drop

Drag and drop sits alongside improved multitasking as yet another productivity improvement for the iPad in iOS 11, and it’s such an obvious feature that it’s almost hard to believe it wasn’t present before.

When two apps – Word and Safari, for example – are open next to each other, you can drag text from one to the other. That’s fine, although not overly mind-blowing. Things get more interesting with pictures, which can be selected from apps such as Photos and dropped into documents and emails. In my opinion, using your fingers to move items between apps feels far more intuitive than using a mouse.

This leads us to a new app called Files. This is the file system that the iPad (and iPhone) has been waiting for, providing a single area in which to store everything on your device and even linking to other services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, so that your files are always available.

The Files app is executed well, although it’s a little basic. To add other services you must have that app installed, and instead of really integrating, say, your Google Drive files, it simply takes you to the Drive app. This in turn means that you can’t simply open a DOC file in another word processor and get to work. There’s basic tagging, similar to macOS, but things can become difficult when you’re having to trudge through lots of files. Still, the fact that the app exists is a huge plus point.

Most of these drag-and-drop features are iPad-specific, but a few are present on the iPhone. The iPhone also benefits from the Files app, but split-screen multitasking is still lacking – even on the big 7 Plus. Split-screen is a native Android 7.0 feature and it remains a significant feature still missing on iOS on the iPhone.

iOS 11 – Notes and Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil is the iPad Pro’s killer accessory, and in iOS 11 it becomes an even more vital tool in setting Apple’s tablets apart.

You can now draw over screenshots as soon as they’re captured, and mark up PDFs too. Double-tap on the lockscreen with the tip and you’re taken straight to Notes, an app that has seen major improvements in itself. Inline drawing lets you mix text and sketches in a single note, while the handy ‘scanner’ is great for filling out documents.

iOS 11 – Updated Control Center

Arguably the biggest visual overhaul in iOS 11 is the Control Center. Gone is the three-paned grid layout, replaced by an initially odd mixture of different-sized shapes and bubbles.

I must admit that I wasn’t a fan of the layout at first sight, but the improved functionality, and finally being able to edit and remove shortcuts I don’t use, makes it a welcome improvement.

The new Control Center mimics 3D Touch actions on the iPad, so to alter brightness you simply long-press on the brightness slider as you would on the iPhone 7. You can switch around the layout and add a few new shortcuts, although Apple appears to be stopping short of letting developers build their own shortcuts. This could be great, though, since the Apple TV shortcut is the entire Remote app shrunken down.

iOS 11 downloads

iOS 11 – App Store

Rumours before iOS 11’s actual unveiling suggested an overhaul of the design was likely. Maybe the tired gridded view of apps would be replaced by something more modern. Sadly, this didn’t come to pass – but there’s a smattering of updated visual flair across iOS 11.

The bold text and large pictures first utilised in iOS 10’s rebooted Music app are now system-wide, notably giving the Podcast app a much-needed update.

One app that has received the radical redesign I’d hoped would be apparent throughout is the App Store. The new layout highlights how tired the previous design had become. Artwork and videos can be seen everywhere, but there are now dedicated sections for both apps and games; and there’s far more curated content too. Some of this will no doubt be fluff, but I’ve seen a few nicely written pieces so far.

Hopefully, these additional extras won’t get in the way of the actual apps that most people are there to find. Nevertheless, the curation of constantly updating apps seems much-improved.

It’s odd then that the iTunes Store remains untouched; it now feels rather old-fashioned when positioned next to the App Store.

iOS 11 – The problem with notifications

The other design change you’ll notice as soon as you update to iOS 11 is the lockscreen. It doesn’t look any different, but it replaces the old notifications panel where messages sit. Swiping down from the homescreen will see the lockscreen appear, with your string of notifications in tow.

This feels like the single biggest disappointment with iOS 11. Notifications are a weak point of iOS and they continue to be so in iOS 11. It’s now more difficult to manually dismiss individual alerts and there’s still no system for grouping together notifications from a single app. If you suddenly receive an influx of WhatsApp messages, it will push everything else out of view.

iOS 11 – ARKit, Photos and Siri

Look past the headline additions in iOS 11 and you’ll probably notice some smaller tweaks. Siri, for instance, now has a more natural voice that sounds less robotic and more like an actual person.

Another big change is the format in which photos are saved. Previously, as with most phones, the camera saved your shots in the widely supported JPEG format. In iOS 11 , this has been switched to HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format). The reason for this is simple: this new format takes up much less space. Using the HEIF format saves about 50% of the space taken up by a single picture, which makes a huge difference when you have thousands of pictures.

There’s been a similar move for videos, too, with the default format now HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec) rather than H.264.

There will likely be compatibility issues with photos to begin, although apps such as Google Photos have already started to update to support the new formats.

You can select filters without leaving the shutter

I you prefer the simple life and aren’t too fussed about saving space, it’s easy enough to switch back to the more familiar. Head into Settings > Camera, and switch to Most Compatible.

Finally, there’s ARKit. This caused quite a stir when it was first announced at WWDC, leading to many to believe that the iPhone X and iPhone 8 would both have quite a strong focus on augmented reality – and in some respects they do. However, Apple’s claim that these are the first phones built for augmented reality falls a bit flat when you consider that the Asus ZenFone AR is almost completely focused on AR. It’s hard to see the full power of ARKit yet, but I’ll update this review in the future when I hope to see more apps available that support it.

iOS 11 – Should I install right away?

iOS 11 is the update that the iPad has been waiting for. Although the new multitasking features along with drag and drop and improved Apple Pencil tricks won’t mark out the iPad as a laptop replacement for all, it will certainly make it a much more viable alternative.

I still believe Apple needs to work harder on notifications and freshening up the tired homescreen. But the changes to Control Center and the App Store at least indicate it has the ability to do so.

Whether or not you want to install iOS 11 right away is really up to you. Apple’s iOS releases don’t tend to suffer any truly game-breaking bugs, but there’s always the chance, and I haven’t encountered anything major using the final version on an iPhone 7, iPhone 6S and iPad Pro 10.5.


A huge step forward for the iPad, with an excellent set of features and improvements all over the place.


August Smart Lock Pro Review


  • Easy to install
  • Broad smart home compatibility
  • DoorSense is legitimately upgrade-worthy


  • Expensive, especially if you’re upgrading multiple doors
  • Apple HomeKit doesn’t get full DoorSense support

When it comes to connected locks, August is rightly one of the first names that comes to mind, and now there’s a new flagship aiming for a spot on your door frame. The August Smart Lock Pro may look like its predecessor, but inside it’s all-change with faster components, along with Z-Wave Plus support for pro-installation alarm systems. It’ll even tell you whether you’ve left the door ajar. Question is, does that make it worth $279?



If you’ve installed an August lock before, you’ll know how straightforward it is to switch out an existing “dumb” deadbolt for the Smart Lock Pro. Indeed, it’s the same mounting system – a metal plate screws into the same holes the old deadbolt lever used, and then the August lock clips onto that with a pair of latching arms – as the first and second generation models. I was able to quickly swap a second-gen model for this new one in a matter of minutes.

After that, the app walks you through pairing the lock with your phone and then installing the DoorSense sensor. That’s a little white block, and has two mounting options: you can either screw it into the side of the door frame, or for a more discreet finish you can embed it into the frame itself. I oped for an even more low-effort fix, and used the self-adhesive pad August provides to position it.

The August app then walks you through teaching the various sensors about your particular door. First closed, then open, then slightly ajar. I was a little concerned that the deeply-recessed frame on my particular door would present an issue with the DoorSense sensor being too far away from the lock, so was curious to see if August could effectively take that into account.


Finally, there’s the August Connect WiFi Bridge. That plugs into a spare outlet near the lock and then acts as a conduit for the Bluetooth it speaks and the WiFi of your home network. I had an odd error where, in an outlet two feet further along the same wall as my door, nothing would speak to each other. When I moved the Connect to an outlet directly opposite the door, though, everything worked fine. The August app took me through each step of that troubleshooting, though it was a fairly time-consuming process as I waited for the various wireless options to do their handshaking.

In Use

Earlier August locks have saved me from languishing outside in the cold. On at least one occasion I’ve inadvertently locked myself out and had to resort to the smart lock to get back in through the basement door. As you’d hope, then, the August Smart Lock Pro does everything its predecessors did, though while being noticeably quieter in operation.

That includes manual control through the app, support for issuing temporary or time-limited codes to other people for guest access, and support for the August Keypad if you have one installed. You can have your August lock automatically open when you get near, too, and automatically lock itself after a preset length of time.

DoorSense, though, builds on that with more peace of mind. My concerns about the distance between the sensor and the lock proved unfounded, and I got a warning message – and a hatched yellow ring – in the app when the bolt was thrown but without the door first being properly closed. In the settings, you can choose to have the door automatically lock as soon as it’s closed, too, courtesy of DoorSense.

It’s worth noting that HomeKit doesn’t share the same granular awareness as August’s own app, though. When the August app was telling me the door wasn’t secured, HomeKit’s notification simply said the door was locked. For best results, head into the activity log in the August app, where you’ll get a read-out of all the lock’s activities. With the Active Monitoring beta, you can have push notifications of each event, too. Eventually, the company plans to offer more granular control over what you get notified about, and when, but for now it could get a little overwhelming for a well-trafficked door.


The other improvement over my previous August Smart Lock was the August Connect performance. In the past, I’ve had issues where the lock just doesn’t want to speak to the bridge; this third-generation Smart Lock Pro has proved more stable in re-connecting. It still takes a little time to route things over the network rather than a direct Bluetooth link, but it has always connected eventually.

A virtual butler

HomeKit – and Siri – isn’t the only smart home language August speaks: the Smart Lock Pro is also compatible with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Exactly what you can do with that, though, varies depending on the specific platform.

Common across all three is the ability to lock the door with a voice command. Alexa optionally supports unlocking the door with a custom PIN, though the Google Assistant does not. Siri can also unlock a door, directly from your iPhone, though doesn’t require a PIN to do so; it’s unclear what Apple’s HomePod will support when it arrives later in the year.

Honestly, I’m slightly wary of granting the (virtual) keys to my door to a voice-controlled assistant. The thought of someone getting my phone, triggering Siri from the lock screen, and asking her to unlock the house doesn’t fill me with warm, fuzzy feelings. Even if Alexa or the others don’t have unlock skills, someone with nefarious intent being able to ask the virtual assistant whether the doors are locked or not – potentially by shouting from outside – is similarly unwelcome.

Competition from within

As of today, August now has two smart locks to its name. The Smart Lock Pro is the flagship, but at $279 it’s not cheap – even if you do get the August Connect bundled in the box. Far more affordable is the new August Smart Lock.

That’s just $149, though you make some compromises along the way. It doesn’t have HomeKit support, for instance, or the Z-Wave Plus of the Smart Lock Pro. However, you still get DoorSense and, if you buy the bridge separately, will play nicely with August Connect. Honestly, for most people I suspect it’s everything they need from a connected lock.

Where does that leave the August Smart Lock Pro? It’s undoubtedly the most ambitious of the company’s models, and has proved faster and more stable than its predecessors in my experience. At the same time, its price tag makes it a pricey upgrade. If you’re waist-deep in Apple’s HomeKit platform then you should spend the extra, but keep in mind that August does have a cheaper option for those who merely want door access from their phone.


iPhone 8 review

The Good: The iPhone 8 offers wireless charging, lightning-fast performance and small but solid upgrades to its camera, screen and speakers. Its starting storage size is a roomy 64GB, double that of the iPhone 7.

The Bad: This phone has the same pedestrian design, missing headphone jack and battery life as the iPhone 7 — and no dual camera either. The iPhone 8 costs a bit more than baseline new iPhones in years past, and comes only in black, silver and a new shade of gold.

The Bottom Line: The sensible, speedy iPhone 8 makes a nice upgrade to the iPhone 6S and earlier siblings, but we won’t know until November how it compares to the much pricier iPhone X.

On Nov. 3,  Apple will roll out its seductive sports car of a phone: the all-new, totally redesigned, edgy, giant-screened iPhone X.

In the meantime, the iPhone 8 ($699.00 at Apple) and 8 Plus — the practical crossover and supersized SUV of the 2017 Apple phone line — have pulled into the lot. They’re here and available, and suddenly your iPhone purchase decision is wildly confusing.

So why buy an iPhone 8 when that sexy iPhone X is just around the corner? The 8 is last year’s design with this year’s technology. It feels familiar. It’s a safe pick. It’s a “let’s not spend a thousand dollars on an iPhone” iPhone. It’s a “Touch ID and a home button matter more to me than a leap of faith into the world of Face ID” iPhone.

iPhone 8

Make no mistake: The iPhone 8 is essentially the “iPhone 7S.” Apple saved the cool features and radical new design for the iPhone X, which costs 43 percent more — $999, £999 or AU$1,579 to start. And if you want the truly impressive dual camera, with portrait mode and 2x optical zoom — both seriously nice step-ups — you’ll need to invest in the much larger iPhone 8 Plus ($799.00 at Apple), or wait for that eventual X. It’s a different approach than Samsung, which made its whole line of Galaxy S8 and Note 8 phones look new. With the iPhone, new looks only come at the top end.

That X is tempting indeed, but my only real-world experience with the device is the brief time I spent with it at Apple’s Sept. 12 launch event. Until I can eventually get one and put it through its paces, I strongly recommend that you refrain from buying any phone whatsoever.

But if you need a phone right now, or if you have no desire to pay the iPhone X premium, let’s talk practical considerations.

2017 iPhone pricing (64GB, 256GB)

US UK Australia
iPhone 8 $699, $849 £699, £849 AU$1,079, AU$1,329
iPhone 8 Plus $799, $949 £799, £949 AU$1,229, AU$1,479
iPhone X $999, $1,149 £999, £1,149 AU$1,579, AU$1,829

The iPhone 8’s best feature is its processor, a fast new six-core A11 Bionic chip, similar to the processor in the iPhone X and 8 Plus. Thanks to an all-new image sensor, photo quality has improved in low light, as has video quality. The iPhone 8 adds an improved iPad-style True Tone screen, and the speakers sound nice and loud. All the new iPhones include wireless charging now, thanks to a glass back.

If you have an iPhone 7, you’ll find the faster speed, better screen and better camera on the iPhone 8 “nice to have,” but short of “must-buy” territory — unless you’re particularly enamored with the wireless charging Android owners have enjoyed for years.

For anyone with an iPhone 6S ($650.00 at Amazon Marketplace) or previous model, however, the benefits of jumping to an iPhone 8 ramp up dramatically. The speed, screen, audio and camera improvements will feel significant, and you’ll get nice upgrades you missed when you skipped the iPhone 7, including water resistance.

So, yeah: That iPhone X may look great in the showroom window. But ultimately, you’re driving off the lot with the practical four-door crossover. It’s more affordable. It gets perfectly decent gas mileage. But it still has the same nice high-end navigation package, entertainment system and fuel-injected engine as that sweet low-slung coupe. Not too shabby.

That’s the iPhone 8. The baseline 2017 iPhone remains a top-tier smartphone — a seriously good phone. Just don’t expect it to turn heads.

iPhone 8

Do you wait for the iPhone X? (Yes)

The X is compact — it’s got a 5.8-inch screen in a body that’s taller but barely wider than the 8 — and it feels great. Its dual cameras should be at least as good as those on the excellent iPhone 8 Plus. It has a weird 3D-mapping front camera array housed in a notch above the screen, a design compromise some iPhone purists find maddening. It uses your face to pay for things. And we have yet to see how its Face ID tech compares to Touch ID in real-world testing.

If any of that sounds attractive to you — or if you’re willing to pay a huge premium for “the best iPhone” — you should wait until November.

If you don’t care about that stuff, or if you just can’t see yourself paying $1,000 for a phone, the iPhone 8 is fine. Yes, it’s basically what we were calling it all year: the “iPhone 7S.” But S phones are often the best values, and the iPhone 8 is no exception. It’s a better iPhone that looks the same.

Editors’ note: In-depth battery testing is still to come, as is durability testing and additional photo comparisons to other phones. Ratings are provisional until we complete those tests.

iPhone 8

Wireless charging: Cool, but BYO and slow (for now)

The iPhone 8 comes with a Lightning cable and plug, but it works with the existing Qi wireless charging standard. That means there are already many affordable third-party chargers on the market, and many public places — like McDonald’s, for instance — already have counters with Qi-compatible chargers built-in.

Apple doesn’t have its own wireless charge base at all, at least not yet: AirPower arrives next year, a mat that charges the new iPhones, the Apple Watch Series 3 and AirPods ($175.76 at Amazon Marketplace) with a new charge case. In the meantime, Apple recommends Belkin and Mophie chargers that will charge the iPhone faster when it’s updated to allow 7.5W wireless charging via an update later this year. A test unit of Mophie’s new charger worked fine for me: It has a circular, rubberized base but has its own specialized charge cord (you can’t use Micro-USB, USB-C or Lightning with it).

For now, wireless charging is slow. Half an hour with Mophie’s charger delivered about a 15 percent uptick in battery. It’s intended for overnight charging, with a Lightning cable still the faster way to charge the iPhone 8. If you want faster still, spring for a separate higher-wattage MacBook charger — and, of course, the USB-C-to-Lightning cable, sold separately. The new iPhones will charge up to 50 percent in half an hour this way, but not with included chargers. (Stay tuned for more testing.)

Still, now that Apple’s on board with an existing standard — Samsung and others have long supported Qi — wireless charging looks to finally become a universal convenience. Starbucks has already pledged to make its existing wireless chargers iPhone compatible, and there are plenty of Qi chargers available on Amazon for as little as $20 in the US.

Apple claims that the iPhone 8’s battery will last about as long as the iPhone 7’s does. In our first days with the device, that has matched up with our anecdotal experience. Keep in mind that the similar-size iPhone X promises up to 2 hours more battery life than the 8 — similar to the battery life you’ll get with the 8 Plus.

iPhone 8

Better camera, but not dual cameras

The iPhone 8 doesn’t get a dual camera like the 8 Plus and the iPhone X, and that’s a shame. But its photos and videos do look improved.

This time around, the front and rear cameras get better mostly via new sensors and a new image signal processor. While low light shots do look nicer, and shutter speed and focus seem a bit faster, I didn’t see enough of a change from the iPhone 7 to astonish me, but the photos I took all looked really, really good. The 8’s camera still lacks the clever Portrait effects of the 7 Plus($785.70 at Amazon Marketplace) and 8 Plus, and telephoto lens (2x optical zoom) found on those phones, too.


This phone also now shoots 60fps, 4K video and 240fps, 1080p slow-mo, and those video changes make a difference for serious video work. But if you’re buying an iPhone as a camera for professional use, you owe it to yourself to get the iPhone 8 Plus. Or, wait to see how the iPhone X performs — its front and rear cameras, on paper, are even better than the 8 Plus.

iPhone 8

Design: Old-school, but fine

When the iPhone 6 ($355.00 at debuted, its screen size and design made big waves. But that was 2014. Much like with the MacBook Air or iPads, Apple has locked in the design one more time here, but with a construction facelift. A return to a glass back, the first since the iPhone 4S back in 2011, enables more than just aesthetics: that’s what allows the aforementioned wireless charging to work. The phone feels good, though, kind of like last year’s Pixel ($679.99 at, with a similar grippiness to the matte black iPhone 7. The glass actually makes it feel less slippery.

Apple says the glass in the new iPhones is 50 percent more durable than last year’s iPhone 7 glass, with impact and scratch improvements and steel frame reinforcements (and more durable aluminum). It’s hard to tell how impact-proof these phones will be in practice because Apple won’t make any specific claims, and we’ve only had these phones for about a week. Stay tuned for drop tests. We’ll find out. In the meantime, my natural inclination is to coddle all-glass phones. The good news is that most iPhone 7 cases will work on the 8, so long as they have a bit of flexibility. (The iPhone 8 is a fraction of a millimeter bigger than the 7 all around.)

Color options have shrunk to space gray, silver and gold. I’m testing the silver model, and it’s mostly white with silver aluminum touches. Gold looks a creamy blush-pink with gold metal highlights — more toward the older rose gold than “true gold” end of the scale. Space gray is very close to what was just “black” on the iPhone 7.


True Tone and better speakers are tiny AV improvements

The iPhone 8 screen isn’t OLED, the display technology used on the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy phones, which is more energy efficient and offers far better contrast and black levels. In fact, the iPhone 8’s LCD screen is the same size and resolution as the 6, 6S and 7: 4.7-inch diagonal, with 1,334×750 pixels. It does get True Tone, however, a color warmth-adjusting ambient effect that the iPad Pro added last year. It makes the display seem less harsh in everyday reading, a bit like a more advanced all-day Night Shift.

Meanwhile, the speakers, which were louder with the 7, now get a bit beefier with some bass. It’s nice when you’re sharing TV, movies or YouTube videos with friends, or even just using the iPhone for music at home. My son said, “It’s a lot louder.”

I mostly use headphones, though. Which reminds me: Like the 2016 models, none of the new iPhones have a standard headphone jack. Go wireless, or use the Lightning-to-3.5mm dongle or Lightning earbud headphones (both included). It’s still annoying.

iPhone 8

New processors make the iPhone 8 a speed demon

Apple calls its new iPhone chips “A11 Bionic.” It’s a six-core processor, versus the four-core last year. Apple’s upgraded the rest of the chips, too: an upgraded Apple-made GPU, a new W2 wireless chip that’s meant to be more Wi-Fi efficient, upgraded motion-tracking chips, a modem chip designed for LTE-Advanced wireless networks and better camera sensors. It’s ready to keep up with the next-wave apps that will come. New sensors and processors help photo and video quality, too.

It’s a seriously fast set of chips based on benchmarks so far: In fact, the Geekbench 4 numbers we’re getting come close to what MacBooks with Core i5 processors can achieve. Multitasking scores double last year’s iPhone 7 tests, and it’s a step up over even the last iPad Pros from the spring: Geekbench 4 results thus far are 4,188 single-core, 10,213 multicore. On paper, they blow away the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip that’s in most competing top-end phones, including those from Samsung, LG and OnePlus.

But, again, those gains are only as good as the software that pushes it. These phones should, however, handle onboard machine learning extremely well. That comes into play with Apple’s iPhoto library scanning, which happens on the phone, not in the cloud, for privacy reasons. Third-party apps could also eventually tap into onboard machine learning in iOS 11 without using the cloud at all.

More storage (for more money)

A word on price and storage. You may have noticed the baseline iPhone creeped up from $649, £599 and AU$1,079 to $699, £699 and AU$1,079. But at that price, you’re getting 64GB this year, versus 32 for last year’s iPhone 7 and just 16GB if you bought the entry-level model in earlier years. That 64GB should be OK for many people, especially since new photo and video compression formats on the iPhone save space, sometimes by as much as 50 percent. And iOS 11 has some space-management tricks that allow more cloud-storage of unused apps and files.

An extra $150, £150 or AU$250 gets you 256GB, which is best used for those who want to record lots of video, 4K or otherwise.

And, of course, if you buy on a monthly installment plan, all those numbers drop to something far more affordable.

iPhone 8 Plus

AR: Apple’s wild new iPhone trick

The most amazing thing you can do with Apple’s new phones is augmented reality. Apple’s ARKit works by fusing cameras and motion sensors to track the real world and layer virtual things on top of it, using your phone. Google tried this first with specialized Tango phones, and is now expanding AR to other Android phones like the Galaxy S8 ($745.11 at Amazon Marketplace) and Pixel. Apple’s AR promises immersive experiences without wearing any headsets or glasses. Based on a few test apps I’ve tried, ARKit can be pretty impressive. In SkyGuide, I aim my phone above the trees of the daytime skyline and a night sky fades in, with superimposed constellations and star names.

I float a transparent man with a glistening, beating heart in Insight Heart by Anime Res. The app is meant to realistically illustrate medical details of heart function. Much like Google Tango phones I’ve used, I can move around it and it stays in place. I can zoom my phone in to check out details.

A Thomas the Tank Engine AR app involves placing track pieces down on the floor and feeling like there’s suddenly a toy track on my office carpet.


ARKit has its limitations: Sometimes the camera and motion-based tracking can’t sense certain surfaces, or there’s a bit of drift. Holding the phone up to see virtual things, as opposed to wearing glasses or goggles, is convenient but can get tiring. It can feel gimmicky, too. Some apps feel like AR is a trick, and maybe an unnecessary one.

But the level of graphic detail in these apps is stunning: It feels richer than VR, even if in a sense it is less immersive.

The possibilities here could extend into a future that involves things well beyond phones. As a first step, this has tons of promise. The new iPhones run these apps, but so can older iPhones going back to the 6S and SE, as long as you’re running iOS 11 (available Sept. 19). That’s a great perk for those who don’t upgrade, but it means that the new iPhones aren’t needed for what feels like Apple’s wildest new feature.

iPhone 8

Who should upgrade?

It’s Big Phone Season, and everything is sprouting up. Samsung’s great Galaxy S8 is already falling in price. The Note 8 sports a stylus. There’s the upcoming Google Pixel 2, which will be revealed on Oct. 4.

The iPhone 8 should be as powerful or more than any of them, but its conservative design and lack of new extra perks (like no dual cameras) could be a factor.

With that in mind, here are some quick-hit recommendations:

iPhone 7 owners won’t see much of a difference here, unless they’ve been waiting anxiously for wireless charging. I’d say they can skip the 8 — but they should check out the 8 Plus and the X (see below).

But iPhone 6S owners will get lots of upside from two years of waiting: water resistance, wireless charging, better cameras, better cameras and a huge leap in performance.

Anyone with an iPhone 6 or older — especially those with comparatively micro 4-inch screens on the iPhone 5S ($269.00 at and earlier — will find the iPhone 8 to be a quantum leap forward.

Potential switchers from Android will likely find the iPhone 8’s 4.7-inch screen to be too small. They’ll be better served by the larger screens of the iPhone 8 Plus.

More budget-minded buyers who want power but don’t care about new looks: The camera and speed improvements here are the key. Are you OK with the smaller screen?

Again, though, it’s actually a good time to wait maybe a month or two to know the full spectrum of offerings to compare against, particularly the Pixel 2 and iPhone X.


Apple iPhone 8 Plus review

The Good: Fantastic dual-lens camera shoots better than ever with improved portrait mode. Adds wireless charging. Lightning-fast speed. Starts at 64GB.

The Bad: Dated design. Most competing Android phones have even larger screens. Upcoming iPhone X could be a more compelling choice.

The Bottom Line: The iPhone 8 Plus is a superlative phone with a spectacular camera, but wait for the upcoming iPhone X before buying: it promises to fold all of the key features of the 8 Plus into a smaller, sexier package.

Apple’s fanciest iPhone isn’t here yet. But the innards of that fancy iPhone X ($999.99 at Apple)already exist — mostly, anyway — inside a phone you can get right now: the iPhone 8 Plus.

The iPhone X will arrive on Nov. 3, complete with the overdue, wild redesign we’ve been waiting on for years. It’s almost all screen, with Apple’s first ever OLED display and largest ever 5.8-inch size, crammed into a body that’s not too much larger than the 4.7-inch iPhones. The X boasts dual rear cameras, both with optical image stabilization, plus wireless charging, and tops it off with a blazing fast six-core A11 Bionic processor. And, controversially, the iPhone X includes a cutting-edge Face ID scanner that replaces the iconic Touch ID home button.

The iPhone X will cost a thousand dollars in the US, and we expect it to be in short supply. Indeed, if Apple could actually make enough of the X, the iPhone 8 Plus might not even exist at all. But the company needs a big-screen iPhone that you can actually buy, more or less at the same price as its predecessor.

2017 iPhone pricing (64GB, 256GB)

US UK Australia
iPhone 8 $699, $849 £699, £849 AU$1,079, AU$1,329
iPhone 8 Plus $799, $949 £799, £949 AU$1,229, AU$1,479
iPhone X $999, $1,149 £999, £1,149 AU$1,579, AU$1,829

iPhone 8 Plus

This big, capable phone includes all of the features of the smaller iPhone 8 ($699.00 at Apple) — including wireless charging, the True Tone screen and that same superfast A11 Bionic processor you’ll find in the X. But, like last year’s iPhone 7 Plus ($785.70 at Amazon Marketplace), you get a larger 5.5-inch screen, longer battery life and — most critically — an excellent dual rear camera with 2x optical zoom, upgraded for 2017 with an all-new image sensor. That camera, already great a year ago, has gotten even more refined and fantastic-looking. I’ve been using it for nearly a week and so has CNET Senior Photographer James Martin. We’re both impressed.

But with the X on the horizon, the Plus is no longer “the best iPhone you can buy,” as it has been since Apple started its “regular and extra large” iPhone releases in 2014. And it’s no longer the only big-screen iPhone. In fact, except for the Touch ID home button, the X literally has everything the 8 Plus offers, and more.

Still, the 8 Plus is here now, and the X is weeks away. And while the upgrades for existing 7 Plus owners are minimal (beyond wireless charging), the 8 Plus is worth the premium over the 8 to get the dual cameras, larger display and longer battery life.

iPhone 8 Plus

Yes, the iPhone 8 Plus is still an excellent phone, and if you love the size and the home button, this is the best Plus-size iPhone to date. But I’d wait to see what the X can do, and how it feels. It may be well worth spending a bit more — just a few bucks a month, if you’re on an installment plan — to get the iPhone X.

Or maybe you’ll think its taller, narrower design is awkward compared to the Plus. Maybe you’ll just prefer the familiarity of Touch ID to the unknowns of Face ID. Nobody knows yet.

But you’ve waited this long. Why not wait a little longer?

Editors’ note: In-depth battery testing is still to come, as is durability testing and additional photo comparisons to other phones. Ratings are provisional until those tests are completed.

iPhone 8 Plus

Design: Once again (mostly) the same

To reiterate: the iPhone 8 Plus has all of the same basic features as the new iPhone 8, except for its larger size, better battery life and better cameras. If you want a deeper dive into those main new details of the 2017 iPhones, check out our iPhone 8 review.

As far as the Plus design goes, it’s deja vu all over again. The iPhone 8 Plus looks identical to the 7 Plus, but it does feel different, thanks to a move to a glossy glass back. Apple’s construction process this time uses stronger aluminum body accents, steel reinforcement inside and metal highlights around the camera lens. There are only three colors this time: white with silver highlights, glossy black and space gray, and a blush pink-like gold that feels rose-goldish.

iPhone 8 Plus

Camera: Stellar shots, even better video

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 ($930.00 at T-Mobile USA) is a great camera. Last year’s Google Pixel is a great camera. Apple used to have an untouchable lead in camera quality, but now many phones take excellent photos. And that’s why Apple has once again raised the bar on its camera.

The 8 Plus includes a new sensor and image signal processor to go with its new A11 Bionic chip, promising richer colors, better low-light shots and faster autofocus. My photos generally turned out great. Low light gains aren’t as dramatic as I expected compared to the already excellent iPhone 7 Plus, but the photos I’ve been taking have generally looked phenomenal.

Portrait Mode, which debuted last year, now supports flash photography and HDR (on the 7 Plus, too, with iOS 11). The 8 Plus and upcoming X add a new photo technique called Portrait Lighting, a beta feature that adds simulated 3D lighting to faces and even strips out backgrounds to create a studio-shot effect. My mileage varied: Sometimes the effect was stunning, but other times it looked very fake and weirdly clipped. I wouldn’t upgrade my phone for it, but it can be fun to toy with. It will undoubtedly get better.

At sunset around my home, comparison shots between the 7 Plus and 8 Plus weren’t that easy to tell apart until it was nearly dark. The new slow-syncing flash that promises richer flash photos didn’t have a huge impact for me so far, but I need to keep trying it out. But see for yourself: the camera takes damn good photos, and colors do seem enhanced. That can also mean more details. HDR was improved when shooting sun-drenched clouds.

As I mentioned, James Martin has been using the Plus too, and as a professional photographer is maybe even more impressed than I am. Instead of new lenses or a really different hardware camera, the software and processing inside are making the photos better. He was impressed by the low noise in low light photos, the color rendering and the texture representation.

As opposed to traditional camera companies — the Nikons, Canons and Fujis of the world — he sees Apple’s advances in applying the iPhone’s powerful CPU to the photo process to be the most stunning concepts at play. “Apple is doing things in computational photography that the traditional companies have neglected,” he says.


Video looks fantastic, and the switch to new photo and video formats enables 4K video recording at 60 frames per second, or slow-motion in 1080p and 240 frames per second. Slow motion looks particularly stunning.

As great as the 8 Plus camera is, here’s the rub: the X, on paper, is better. On the X, both rear cameras will have optical image stabilzation (OIS) — versus just the main one on the Plus — and the X’s telephoto lens will have a better f/2.4 aperture, versus this phone’s f/2.8. The X will get the Portrait Mode features on its front-facing TrueDepth camera, too. It’s yet another reminder that you should wait to see what the X has in store.

iPhone 8 Plus

What can the A11 Bionic chip do? (Hint: AR)

Apple’s new A11 chips (and new motion processors, graphics, camera sensors and image signal processing) are similar across the 8, 8 Plus and X, according to Apple. In our benchmarks, we saw a slight boost in the clock speed of the 8 Plus’ A11, and the 8 Plus has 3GB of RAM versus 2GB on the iPhone 8. We don’t know about the iPhone X’s performance yet, but Apple promises a similar speed.

The six-core processor has two fast cores plus four low-power cores, and multitasking tests show a big leap over last year. The test results in Geekbench 4 crushed all other phones, notably even Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835. It’s a major, major speed upgrade: expect double the multitasking speed of the A10 in the 8 models.

Apple’s plan for the chip is to use it for onboard machine learning like iOS does with photo libraries, and for third-party apps to use. Also, augmented reality: iOS 11 has AR apps now, although you don’t need a new iPhone to use them (they’re supported back to iPhone 6S($650.00 at Amazon Marketplace)). The ARKit tech does some astonishing things, floating virtual objects into the real world like Google’s Tango AR tech also did a year ago.

But I haven’t been able to test ARKit apps on older models of iPhones for comparison yet. How much better are the new iPhones at AR than older iPhones? I can’t tell. And, considering that AR is a novelty to begin with, you might not either. AR alone is not a reason to upgrade from an iPhone 7 ($769.00 at Amazon Marketplace). But the possibilities in a chip this fast are really great. The next iPad’s going to be insane.


iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone 8 vs. iPhone X

The iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X are only available in 64GB and 256GB storage tiers. For an extra $100, £100 or AU$150 per storage tier versus the iPhone 8, the 8 Plus gets you the same proposition as the 7 Plus a year ago: a larger screen, better dual cameras, better battery.

I can’t yet tell you if the iPhone X will be better. But you will get:

  • A higher-resolution 5.8-inch OLED display — larger, albeit taller and narrower than the Plus models
  • Better front-facing camera with depth sensing and animoji support
  • A better rear telephoto camera
  • A smaller chassis
  • Face ID, but no home button
  • Otherwise, the iPhone X offers everything the 8 Plus does

Again, with the 8 Plus, you get most — but not all — of innards of the iPhone X without the new design, screen and external features.


Why you should wait

The 8 Plus is exactly what you’d expect: a better 7 Plus. Basically, the 7S Plus. Despite all the under-the-hood improvements on paper, this is more like driving a familiar car with a new engine. Nothing is stopping you from buying the 8 Plus right now. And if you do that, you’re getting an excellent iPhone. One of the best ever.

But what about the sportier-looking car called the iPhone X?

Is it worth the extra $200? Is the camera demonstrably better? Is Face ID all it’s cracked up to be? Will you miss Touch ID and the home button you’ve known for years?

Honestly, we can’t make that determination yet. I only held the iPhone X for a few minutes at Apple’s Sept. 12 launch event. Its size felt great, but I didn’t get to do much with it. And I didn’t get to test Face ID.

Between the iPhone X, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and the upcoming Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL — being unveiled Oct. 4 — there are plenty of top-end phones to consider. We still have more in-depth tests to run on the new iPhone’s battery life, camera comparisons and durability of that new glass body.

While the 8 Plus is great, I can’t tell you if it’s the best phone — or even the best iPhone — of 2017.

Even if you hate to wait, I suggest that you should wait. In a few more weeks, we’ll have a much more definitive answer.


Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) Review

Key Features

  • Review Price: £169.00/$253.5
  • Hands-free Alexa
  • Android with Fire OS 5
  • 1080p screen

What is the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017)?

This is an update to the existing Amazon Fire HD 10, a tablet that Amazon pitches as the one for entertainment. It’s more of a face lift than a total makeover, but there have been quite a few updates everywhere, along with a better price/capacity ratio. If you want a tablet and you’re looking to buy into the Amazon ecosystem, it would appear this is the time to do so

Amazon Fire HD 10

Most of the tweaks are on the inside, so don’t expect much new when it comes to cosmetics. That’s fine, since the last design is quite pleasant anyway. What you get is a slim slab with a nice soft-touch plastic at the back, available in Black, Marine Blue and Punch Red.

The bezel space is chunky enough to rest your thumbs on, but that’s no great surprise. Tablets haven’t yet caught up with smartphones when it comes to screen/body ratio.

Amazon Fire HD 10

Screen size is the same: it’s still a 10.1 inch screen, although resolution has improved. It’s gone from 1280×800 to full HD at 1920 x 1080, which gives you 224 pixels per inch where previously you had 149. Basically, the screen is sharper and clearer than ever.

On the inside, we’re still looking at a quad-core processor, but the new one goes up to 1.8GHz, which is 30% faster than before. RAM has been doubled to 2GB. As for internal storage, the Fire HD 10 comes in 32GB and 64GB flavours. There is also an microSD card slot, which lets you expand this by an additional 256GB.

Battery life is is better too, going up from 8 hours to 10.

Amazon Fire HD 10

As for software tweaks, there’s a new ‘For You’ section. which keeps tabs on your most recently used books, apps and games and comes up with recommendations. By far the most interesting addition is a hands-free version of Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant.

She’s been around in Fire tablets for a while now, but this is the first time she’s been hands-free, which means now you can talk to her just as you would with an Amazon Echo.

Amazon Fire HD 10

She does the same things as she would on an Echo. Naturally, you can ask for music, which Alexa pulls from Amazon Music or Spotify. You can also control compatible smart home devices such as Philips Hue lights or Hive thermostats, or check the weather, or make calendar entries. There are also elements of the Alexa found on the Fire TV, which lets you search for video content or pause and fast forward by voice.

Don’t worry if you already have Alexa in your home in the form of Amazon Echo speakers. Alexa has ESP, or Echo Spatial Perception, which means only the device nearest to you will respond to your commands. If you’re holding the tablet in your hands, you won’t hear Alexa responding from the next room.

Eventually, you’ll even be able to see outside your house just by using your voice: an update coming soon will give Alexa compatibility with smart home cameras from Nest, Arlo and Ring.

Early impressions

The new Amazon Fire HD 10 may not be a huge departure from the last one, but it’s been upgraded where it counts. And crucially, the price hasn’t gone up. The addition of a hands-free Alexa is a nice move, which will definitely make the humble tablet a more useful companion.

The new Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet will cost £149. You can preorder from today, and shipping starts on October 11. Carry on reading for our review of the previous HD 10. 

What is the Amazon Fire HD 10?

The Amazon Fire HD 10 is the big daddy of the new low-cost Fire tablet range. Slates this large have fallen out of favour now that every company out there seems to have made a great 8-inch tablet.

Be sure to check out the Fire HD 8 if you’re after something smaller. Amazon says it thinks this larger version will be better for video, though, perhaps for those who don’t want to watch soap X the rest of the family are currently simmering to on TV.

I can’t imagine the Amazon Fire HD 10 fitting into a much techier scene. Its almost absurdly low screen resolution just doesn’t cut it for eyes that have already gazed onto a bunch of tablets, killing the appeal of the extra screen space. At £169 (£179 without ads) it’s not as though it costs pennies either.


Amazon Fire HD 10: Design

The Amazon Fire HD 10 has a large footprint. These days a lot of the tablets I review are a few inches smaller than this, simply because they’ve proved more popular than the ‘classic’ 10.1-inch style seen here.

Use the Amazon Fire HD 10 for a few minutes and it’s not hard to see why. 10-inch tablets are really too big to use on the train or bus without feeling silly.

If you’re after a home tablet or among the lucky few to get a seat on the train every single morning, this tablet is at least very thin and light. It’s just 7.7mm thick and weighs 432g. That’s 5g lighter than the iPad Air 2.


Why am I making these size criticisms when we might not say the same about an iPad Air 2? The Amazon Fire HD 10 is a widescreen tablet, with a 16:10 aspect. Large widescreen tablets always feels a bit awkward in portable terms, their shape and weight balance being that bit harder to manage than a large 4:3 tablet like the iPad Air 2.

In summary: Keep it at home.

The Amazon Fire HD 10 design seems to care at least as much about making the tablet easy to manufacture as trying to impress your fingers. It has some of the classic traits of cheapo no-brand tablets. All the controls and primary sockets are laid along one edge, the top one, for example.


This helps reduce prodution costs, but it’s not hugely practical in use. When held upright it means they’re out of easy reach, and when held landscape it means your hand will always rest over either the power or volume buttons.

That whiff of budget compromise is a common theme here. While there’s a metal frame inside the Amazon Fire HD 10 that helps stop it flexing — and under normal hand pressure it doesn’t flex at all — on the outside it’s covered in ultra-glossy plastic, aside from the textured sides.

As well as looking and feeling a bit cheap, the plastic picks up fingerprints readily and will do the same with scratches unless you’re very careful. The difficult part to swallow here is that the Amazon Fire HD 10 is on the cusp of being a not-that-cheap tablet.


It costs at least £169.99 (16GB), creeping up to £209.99 if you want the 32GB version without ‘special offers’. These are ads for Amazon content that appear when the tablet is in standby, but the screen isn’t off entirely.

The upgrade to 32GB isn’t a must, though, because there’s a microSD slot on the Amazon Fire HD 10’s side.

Amazon Fire HD 10: Screen

It would be easier to forgive the little ergonomic and ‘feel’ issues if the screen hadn’t also been battered with the budget stick too. It’s a 10.1-inch 1,280 x 800 pixel IPS LCD screen.

No prizes for guessing the main complaint: The resolution is extremely low for a tablet of this size and price. With 149ppi density, the blockiness is obvious. You don’t need to be a tablet critic to notice it.

iPads haven’t been this blocky since 2011.


Other aspects of the Amazon Fire HD 10 display are a lot better. The IPS panel provides good viewing angles and the colours aren’t too bad.

It almost seems misleading to talk about the positives too much, though, as the screen is characterised, even defined, but its low resolution.

The Amazon Fire HD 10 also lacks an ambient light sensor, meaning you have to manually adjust the brightness as needed. Most decent tablets have an Auto mode that alters the backlight intensity as needed. This one doesn’t.


Amazon Fire HD 10: Features

Being a home tablet, the Amazon Fire HD 10 doesn’t have many extra connectivity features either. There’s no mobile internet option, and no NFC. I’m not too bothered about missing these.

It would have been nice if Amazon had added an IR transmitter, though. These are used in phones and tablets to let you control your Blu-ray player, TV and so on.

Amazon Fire HD 10: Software and Performance


Like other Fire-series tablets, the Amazon Fire HD 10 is an Android tablet, but looks and feels quite unlike one. That’s because it uses Fire OS on top, one of the most invasive custom Android skins ever devised.

It really only uses the core building blocks of Google’s system, replacing everything else with custom Amazon parts.

The layout is different too. There’s very little customisation available here. What you get is a series of homescreen-style pages, one for all the bits you have preinstalled and one for each of the main tablet content areas: Music, video, book, apps.

Unlike Android, Fire OS gives much more space to apps and content you might download than stuff you’ve already downloaded. It’s out to get you downloading more stuff 24/7.

While Fire OS is often sold as an easy-to-use system for casual users, those who just want to use Netflix, Facebook and Chrome without being pelted with other apps would be much better off with a more conventional Android tablet.

As so much of what fills the Amazon Fire HD 10’s pages needs to be downloaded and updated regularly, it tends to feel more sluggish than a regular tablet too. While lag is not catastrophic, performance regularly slows. And it quite simply often takes longer than normal to get from one part of the interface to another. Even at Fire OS version 5 it has a way to go. There’s often keyboard lag, for example.

Operating systems should be all about getting you between applications quickly and intuitively. Fire OS is much closer to a virtual shop front that just happens to be peppered with apps you own.

That may sound harsh, but it’s what Fire OS frequently feels like.

It’s not all bad, though. Many of Amazon’s services are very worthwhile. The Amazon Fire HD 10 lets you watch Amazon Prime Instant Video, the Netlix-a-like service that comes as part of an Amazon Prime subscription these days. And the latest addition to the Amazon family, Underground, is a worth a look too.

Underground is about getting you apps and games you can use without paying a penny, including in-app payments. It’s a neat idea, but one you can try out without owning any Amazon hardware simply by downloading the Amazon Appstore on any Android device.


That’s one other tricky thing about tablets like the Amazon Fire HD 10. Where you can, for the most part, get all of Amazon’s services on a non-Fire tablet (bar Instant Video streaming), this tablet doesn’t get you things like Google Play, Google Maps, Google Calendar and so on.

If you regularly use Google’s app suite, you’ll probably miss this.

If you’re coming to the Amazon Fire HD 10 without any app preconceptions, there’s quite a lot to like about the Amazon Appstore. Especially for cheapskates (we have a few at Trusted, so we’re allowed to say that).

Despite being a little sluggish-feeling, the Amazon Fire HD 10 also has just enough power to handle relatively taxing games without fun-spoiling frame rate dips. It uses a Mediatek MT8135 CPU.

Mediatek is seen as a bit of a runt next to Qualcomm and its Snapdragon chips, but this chipset isn’t too shabby, if not 100 per cent up-to-date. It’s a 32-bit brain, but one with a slightly more interesting setup than the more popular Snapdragon 410.


Rather than having four low-power cores, it has two high-power 1.5GHz Cortex-A15s and two Cortex-A9s. These are then paired with a PowerVR G6200 GPU.

This is not powerful. But it is powerful enough to run fairly challenging 3D games at the Amazon Fire HD 10’s low 1,280 x 800 resolution. For a little perspective, this is the same resolution as the Fire HD 6, which also shares the same chipset. I liked that tablet because it was so small and so affordable. This one takes the same amount of dough and stretches it out way further, then asks for the best part of £200 for it.

I have some issues with this approach.

In benchmarks, the Fire 10 HD performs at the same level as the other new Fire HD tablets. It scores 1494 in Geekbench 3 and 10235 in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. That’s similar to a device running  Snapdragon 410, but way below a Nexus 9 or Samsung Gear S2 8.0. The Nexus 9 scores more than double the Geekbench 3 points, and, if you look long enough, can be picked up for a somewhat-similar price.

Amazon Fire HD 10: Camera

There are many great phone cameras out there these days, but still relatively few good tablet ones. The Amazon Fire HD 10 isn’t out to change that.

It has a 5-megapixel camera on the back, without a flash, and a 2-megapixel one on the front. There’s no special tech underneath, and predictably photo quality is fairly poor. If you can, stick with your phone camera.


The Amazon Fire HD 10’s camera software is a little smarter than the hardware, though. Not only is there an HDR mode, it’ll also tell you when it thinks using it is necessary. And it’s generally right too, requesting it whenever light conditions get challenging.

However, actually using HDR is very slow, making it seem a bit like you’re taking an ultra-long exposure. Not only is it annoying, the photo won’t look right if you can’t keep your hands still.

These are poor cameras, but as ultra-mainstream tablets I understand why Amazon would feel it necessary to include some form of camera on both the front and back.

Amazon Fire HD 10: Battery Life

The camera’s aren’t much cop, but the battery life is better. Amazon says it should last up to eight hours off a charge, and that’s actually a pretty conservative estimate.

When playing a locally-stored 720p video the Amazon Fire HD 10 lasts for 11.5 hours. This is a very low-stress test, though, so it’s no wonder it outdoes Amazon’s estimate.


An hour’s Netflix streaming over Wi-Fi knocks 12 per cent off the battery level, suggesting you’ll get over eight hours of this sort of video streaming. I set the screen brightness level to around 50 per cent, which is enough to comfortably watch a movie indoors. This is a good result.

The hardest test I tried was 3D gaming. An hour lopped 28 per cent off the battery, suggesting you’ll get just over 3.5 hours off a full charge.

All of these results are a bit better than the Amazon Fire HD 8, even though Amazon quotes the same 8-hour battery estimate for both of these tablets.

Amazon Fire HD 10: Sound Quality

Sound quality is better than some of the budgets-feeling parts of the Amazon Fire HD 10 might suggest too. There are are two speakers, both on the bottom edge of the tablet when its held in landscape orientation.

It’s a good positioning for a tablet that has non-front-facing speakers. While sound quality isn’t amazing, it is rather good for an entry-level tablet. It doesn’t have that reedy-thin quality most cheap, thin tablets have, with a good bit of bulk in the lower frequencies that makes the tone much nicer to listen to.

As with battery life, sound seems a bit better than that of the Fire HD 8, but that’s probably down to having a bit more room for the sound to move around internally rather than using different drivers.


Should I buy the Amazon Fire HD 10?

The Amazon Fire HD 10 doesn’t make any moves that are going to cause people to send the thing back. The sound and battery life are a bit better than you’d expect, the screen is as advertised.

However, it’s just not that good, especially when the price is creeping towards the mid-range zone where every single tablet out there offers a far, far better display. It’s the screen resolution that puts me off the most. It’s very pixellated.

There are other issues too. Performance is worse than that of a ‘normal’ Android tablet, the shape feels ungainly and not that versatile and the build, while strong enough, feels cheap.

It’s a pretty weak combo, one that makes the Amazon Fire HD 10 feels like one of this year’s lesser tablets.


A very low-res tablet without a low-enough price to match.



Toyota C-HR review: High-roller or middle-of-the-roader?

“Cars, they all look the same these days.” It’s almost as if the designers of Toyota’s new C-HR had that phrase in mind, and were determined to shoot it down. Toyotas — aren’t they cars that are reliable, well-built and, well, just a little bit dull? They mostly look pretty bland too, if we’re honest. But that’s hardly an accusation you could level at the new C-HR. It’s a car that represents the first in a new wave of Toyotas.

It’s built on a new platform, which will underpin a range of new and future small/mid-sized cars. And it’s been designed under the values of “Waku-doki”. Roughly (not literally) translated, that means heightened anticipation, fun, and a more visceral experience. It’s the new mantra of the company’s president, Akio Toyoda — who’s set out to make sure the Toyota cars of the future aren’t just reliable and well built, but also creatively styled, eye-catching and above all fun to drive. That’s a seismic shift in thinking.

Outlandish, wild-styled and ground-breaking. Hardly words that you’d associate with a small SUV, or indeed one with a Toyota badge. But the C-HR is all of those things. And it’s worth dissecting just where it sits and what it competes with, because it’s far from immediately obvious.

At 4.3 metres long, the C-HR sits in what was the Ford Focus/VW Golfclass. But people who used to buy cars like that now tend to buy vehicles like the Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca. Small SUVs, or crossovers if you will. They offer all of the qualities of hatchback cars like the Focus and Golf, are a couple of inches longer but have loads more room inside and sit passengers higher up.


The C-HR takes this idea, but knows that besides your need for space and comfort, you don’t want to look like you’ve completely given up on life. A bit more style and a little less family, you might say.

But why the code-like name, C-HR? To go all Sesame Street for a minute, the C is for coupe, while HR means high-rider. Because the roofline isn’t quite full-on SUV high, but you definitely sit higher up from the road than in a normal car. Got it? Coupe feels like a stretch, but while it might not look like a traditional one, the roofline is just about rakish enough to carry the labelling off.

That might sound confusing, but get in and the coupe feeling from the dark rear quarters and massive blind spot that the C-Pillar creates is definitely there, and you’re no doubt elevated above normal road users. It feels much sportier than a regular SUV, with a higher belt-line — so if you like to feel like you’re sat snug in a car, the C-HR might be for you.

Whether you like the way it looks is another matter. Our base spec Icon test car doesn’t show the C-HR in its best light. On bigger wheels and with a contrast roof of the upper-spec Dynamic model, we think it looks great.


The C-HR uses a new approach to surfacing for Toyota, with fractal, dissected elements. The slim upper cabin with rising window line and robust lower body volumes emphasises its tough, SUV-like qualities and that coupe idea. Some of the details go a little awry (the handle for the rear door is a complex mess, for instance) but we think it’s a very interesting piece of design overall.

Even in base spec, however, the interior feels relatively special. It’s dominated by a giant centre screen, which wraps up out of the edge of the dash, incorporating a material split line that runs out of the doors, bisects upper and lower dash and fades out in the gauge cluster.

Look closely and you’ll notice the entire interior uses a thematic diamond shape — it’s in the air vents, on the climate panel buttons and steering wheel. And it’s used as a pattern, in relief, on the doors, parts of the seats and some of the lower cabin hard plastics.


Spec the C-HR more adventurously, or in one of the upper trims, and you can add a splash of colours — an electric blue, or deep brown, plus you’ll gain leather too.

The driving position is comfortable and — avoiding a frequent bugbear of Japanese cars — very adjustable. While at first that stick-up centre screen can feel a little overbearing (some passengers we travelled with felt it was impeding the view out), from the driver’s seat it’s cleverly positioned as to not intrude into the windscreen line as you look out — and its positioning aids usability, because you can clasp a hand around the top edge to steady it as you tap away at the touchscreen.

It’s spacious inside too. However, the rising rear window line means that rear accommodation is no friend for the claustrophobic, but the only issue is headroom, which starts to get tricky for those over six feet tall (which is never an issue up front).

The real issue for those with a family to haul around might be boot space. At 377 litres, the C-HR boot is smaller than a Golf’s and some way short of what the similar-sized Qashqai or Ateca offer. And there’s a bit of a lip to haul things over, too.


In the cabin, space for your stuff should be no issue as there’s a deep central cup holder (shame there aren’t a pair, though), massive door bins and a vast centre cubby.

A key part of the new Waku-doki approach is making the cars enjoyable and fun to drive. Let’s get something straight though: recent Toyotas have all driven pretty well, the GT86 in particular being a complete riot. The C-HR is a different prospect, of course, but by and large it drives well.

What impresses is the consistency — the ride is well resolved, the steering is nicely weighted, not being too light or heavy, and the controls all feel like they were developed as a set, rather than by different departments. It’s polished.


If you push the car it responds well, dynamically speaking, without too much roll. The car was developed on UK roads, and with European driving tastes in mind. It shows, a C-HR is a far nicer thing to throw along a B-road than a Nissan Qashqai.

Is it fun though? Well, it’s here that the engine specification comes into play.

We drove the Hybrid, which comes as standard with a CVT automatic and can run at low speed (and for a mile or two) without its petrol motor. It’s essentially the same setup you’ll find in Toyota’s hybrid Prius. And while the C-HR managed stellar economy (56mpg average during our time with it) and creeps around town effortlessly, it is a bit of a fun sponge.

Whenever you pressure the gearbox it’ll have the engine revving like crazy, to deliver max power/torque as quickly as it can. It’s one of the unwanted side effects of a CVT and does rather curb your enthusiasm, because it creates a din and the powertrain feels like you’re asking it to do something it would rather not.

Keep things calm, however, and it’s fine. But we have a strong suspicion that the C-HR delivers best on the new “fun, enjoyable to drive” brief when specified with the more conventional 1.2 Turbo petrol engine and a manual gearbox. That setup is cheaper, too — a whopping £2,625 if you’re prepared to go with a manual gearbox (£1400 if you want to stay with the auto). We can’t help thinking that’s what we would do, and spend some of the difference on options.


One reason you might want to stick with the hybrid is its class-leading green (and therefore tax-saving credentials) for a car that’s spacious enough for a small family and sits high off the ground. The CO2 figure of 82g/km this model is rated with is as good as it gets without having to buy a car you plug into a socket.

Toyota is a company committed to touchscreen use, so the C-HR’s infotainment system control is no different to other recent Toyota models. With the newish Touch 2 with Go system in this configuration, you get a 8-inch centre touchscreen. On the Icon model, navigation is a £750 option. It’s one reason we’d be tempted to upgrade to the next level Excel spec. It’s £2,900 more over this model, but nets navigation, front/rear park sensors, much better and bigger alloy wheel design, part leather seats and keyless entry/start.

As for the media and infotainment itself, as we’ve mentioned before in other Toyota reviews, the system is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s very feature heavy — you can customise and option to your heart’s content. The screen is middling in terms of its lagginess, but Toyota has improved the menu layout and some of the button sizes compared to Toyota Touch 1. It’s all relatively easy to use (although some of the terminology is a little odd — to enter a postcode you have to hit a button marked “code”) and the navigation setup works well, informs you of traffic delays and is clear in its instructions.


Our big wish is for Toyota to drag the graphics and on-screen layout up to modern standards. The clunky fonts, pervading blue and pastel colours and random scatter of on-screen buttons to allow you to activate said features looks really old-fashioned and haphazard compared to many competitors, and just makes it less easy to use.

Still, the technology equipment spec doesn’t stop there — because Toyota’s Safety Sense system is standard across the range. That means you get adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning (and the car can steer you back on course), a pre-collision system which can auto-brake the car and recognises pedestrians as well as obstacles, plus traffic sign recognition and auto high beam. Such systems would all cost extra on most of the C-HR’s competition and nearly all premium brands’ models from the categories above.

You can also spec the Hybrid Tech Pack’ fitted to our car for £895, which gives you a blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert, folding mirrors and keyless entry/start. One oddity this creates on lower spec cars like ours is that some options you might expect to find standard (or bundled with features like a rear camera) — like parking sensors — are options you have to pay for.


Notably, Toyota has also developed a JBL 9-speaker sound system for the C-HR, using new technology called “horn tweeters”, which are designed to improve the clarity and realism of live music. While our test car didn’t come with this system, having had a demo at a motor show last year, it’s an option box we’d tick.


Every time a car maker does something that claims to be new — inventing a new type of vehicle or a new vehicle segment — it’s important to put your sceptical hat on. Cut through the marketing waffle and what are you left with?

In the case of the C-HR, however, the Waku-doki waffle is justified. The car doesn’t reinvent anything, but it’s an interestingly styled and good-to-drive small-scale SUV that will fit the needs of a great many buyers.

Combining the traditional Toyota hallmarks of solidity and (we’ll assume) reliability, and a great after-sales/warranty back-up, getting something truly new out of the C-HR was going to be a tall order. But we like the design, couldn’t complain about the fuel efficiency and, all things considered, genuinely think it’s good to drive — better still, we suspect, if you go for the 1.2 turbo engine.

Spec it carefully and you’ll have one of the most interesting — and most rewarding — small crossovers on the market. On this evidence, we look forward to more of Toyota’s Waku-doki-inspired cars.


2018 BMW X3 pricing and specs : New-gen SUV to kick off from $68,900 from November

The new-generation 2018 BMW X3 has been detailed for the Australian market this week, ahead of a November lauch.

2018 BMW X3 pricing and specs

Kicking off at $68,900 plus on-road costs for the entry-level xDrive20d, the new X3 starts nearly $5000 more than the outgoing model – which starts at $63,800.

Standard kit on the base model includes the ‘xLine’ exterior package with matte-aluminium design elements, 19-inch alloy wheels, electric folding exterior mirrors, roof rails, a leather steering wheel, cloth/leather seat trim with electrically-adjustable front pews, LED headlights, and full-colour head-up display (HUD).

Other highlights include parking assistant with front and rear sensors, rear-view camera, Driving Assistant with lane departure warning, wireless phone charging, along with the 6.5-inch Navigation System Business with real-time traffic updates and speed limit recognition.

Power in the entry-level variant comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, churning out a respectable 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque. BMW claims the base car can sprint from 0-100km/h in 8.0 seconds, while using 5.7L/100km on the combined cycle. Drive is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Next in the range is the xDrive30i, which starts at $75,900 plus on-road costs. Additional specification over the xDrive20d includes 20-inch alloy wheels, ‘Vernasca’ leather upholstery, adaptive LED headlights with highbeam assist, comfort access, paddle-shifters for the eight-speed automatic transmission, Driving Assistant Plus, Parking Assistance Plus with a 360-degree camera system, a 12.0-inch digital instrument display, along with Navigation Professional – incorporating a 10.0-inch touchscreen.

Additionally, the xDrive30i picks up a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol rather than the oiler, which develops 185kW and 350Nm. The claimed 0-100km/h time is an impressive 6.3 seconds, while fuel use is rated at 7.6L/100km combined.

Sitting atop the line-up, for now at least, is the xDrive30d ($83,900 plus ORCs). Specification mirrors that of the xDrive30i, though under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel which pumps out a meaty 195kW of power and 620Nm of torque.

BMW claims the flagship diesel can sprint from 0-100/h in a spritely 5.8 seconds while using 6.0L/100km.

The three launch variants will be joined by “additional models” next year – one of which likely to be the 265kW/500Nm M40i performance variant (above), which can slingshot to triple figures from a standstill in just 4.8 seconds.

Globally, there’s also sDrive20i and xDrive20i versions, the former foregoing all-wheel drive, which could eventually serve as a sub-$60k price leader for the Bavarian crossover.

Several option packages are also available for the launch range, including the popular M Sport Package, Innovations Package, Exclusive Package and Rear Comfort Package.

The M Sport Package ($4550 on xDrive 20d, $3800 on xDrive30i and 30d) adds various sporty enhancements like high-gloss black ‘Shadow Line’ exterior highlights, dynamic damper control, LED foglights, an M body kit, M leather steering wheel, M sports suspension, M sports brakes, and either 19-inch (xDrive20d) or 20-inch (xDrive30i and 30d) M light alloy wheels.

Next is the Innovations Package ($2500), which is offered exclusively on the xDrive20d. Extras include comfort access, Parking Assistant Plus, the 12.0-inch multifunction instrument display and adaptive LED headlights – largely bringing the base model inline with its more expensive siblings.

Third is the Exclusive Package ($3800), available on all variants. Specification enhancements include ambient interior lighting, a ‘Sensatec’ leather-look dashboard trim, woodgrain interior inserts, lumbar support for the front seats, heated front seats, along with an upgraded ‘HiFi’ sound system.

Finally, the Rear Comfort Package ($1820), is available on all versions of the X3, and adds a roller blind for the rear side windows, front and rear seat heating, along with rear seat backrest adjustment.

Buyers looking to personalise their X3 further can choose from a plethora of additional single option items, including exterior paint finishes, alloy wheel designs and interior trim highlights.

The new BMW X3 range is available to order now, before hitting showrooms in November 2017.

2018 BMW X3 pricing and specifications

xDrive20d – $68,900
xDrive30i – $75,900
xDrive30d – $83,900

Equipment highlights


  • xLine exterior trim with matt aluminium design elements
  • 19-inch light alloy wheels
  • Eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Electric folding exterior mirrors
  • Roof rails
  • Sport leather steering wheel
  • Electric sports front seats trimmed in combination cloth and leather upholstery
  • LED headlights with extended contents
  • Full colour head-up display
  • Parking Assistant with front and rear park distance control and rear view camera
  • Driving Assistant with Lane Departure Warning
  • Wireless phone charging
  • Navigation system Business with Real-Time Traffic Information and Speed Limit Info

xDrive30i and 30d add:

  • 20-inch light alloy wheels
  • ‘Vernasca’ leather upholstery
  • Adaptive LED headlights with highbeam assist
  • Comfort Access System
  • Eight-speed sports automatic transmission with shift paddles
  • Driving Assistant Plus with galvanic embellishers
  • Parking Assistant Plus with Surround View
  • Multi-function instrument display with 12.0-inch display
  • Navigation system Professional with 10.0-inch touchscreen


M Sport Package ($4,550 on xDrive20d, $3,800 on xDrive30i and 30d)

  • ‘Vernasca’ cloth/leather upholstery with black or blue contrast stitching (xDrive20d)
  • BMW Individual anthracite headliner
  • BMW Individual high-gloss Shadow Line
  • BMW Individual roof rails in high-gloss Shadow Line
  • Dynamic Damper Control
  • Interior trim in Aluminium Rhombicle pattern with Pearl Chrome highlights
  • LED fog-lights
  • M Aerodynamics Package
  • M leather steering wheel
  • M Sport Suspension
  • 19-inch M light-alloy wheels (xDrive20d)
  • Eight-speed Steptronic transmission with gearshift paddles (xDrive20d)
  • 20-inch M light-alloy wheels (xDrive30i and 30d)
  • M Sport Brake

Innovations Package ($2,500 for X3 xDrive20d)

  • Comfort Access
  • Parking Assistant Plus
  • 12.0-inch multi-function instrument display
  • Adaptive LED headlights

Exclusive Package ($3,800, all variants)

  • Ambient interior light
  • Sensatec instrument panel
  • Woodgrain interior trims
  • Front seat Lumbar Support
  • Front seat heating
  • HiFi Sound System

Rear Comfort Package ($1,820, all variants)

  • Roller blind for rear side windows
  • Seat heating, front and rear
  • Rear seat backrest adjustment


Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung’s app

Tips and tricks for your Samsung fitness tracking app

Samsung S Health is dead. Long live Samsung Health. The company rebranded its fitness platform this past April as it introduced its new Galaxy S8 phones. The app is a little more straightforward than its predecessor, with some small improvements, but it’s generally as familiar as ever.

It’s also a lot better, rolling together a bunch of great features to help you get fit. Last year the platform expanded on Android, and there’s growing integration with third-party activity tracking apps from the likes of Nokia, Strava, Under Armour and more.

Samsung S Health: The ultimate guide

Health is compatible with all Samsung devices, from the well-known likes of the Gear S3 to the new Gear Sport, and where all your data will live. Android Wear users can still sync some data from their wearables, but only through a select few third-party services, which we’ll touch on later.

The Samsung Health app also offers a decent selection of features for planning, tracking and reviewing your workouts. If you’re a beginner runner prepping for a marathon, weight lifter or yoga enthusiast, chances are Samsung Health has a tool for you along with helpful tips to stay active.

Here’s how to use Samsung Health to its full potential.

Measure your vitals

You usually have to stick in your gender, age, weight, height and exercise levels when starting most fitness apps, and Samsung Health is no different.

Just as we recommend with Fitbit and Garmin Connect, customising your info will help get you the most accurate training data – and make more of the experience.

Samsung Health isn’t as comprehensive as the other two platforms but it does let you enter heart rate from your wearable or mobile device (if you’re using a Samsung phone with a heart rate sensor it will let you use the one on the back). There’s also an oxygen saturation monitor which measures heart rate to determine the concentration of oxygen in your blood.

Stress, blood pressure and blood glucose are other data points you can manually enter or use heart rate tracking to glean information. Plus, if you have a third-party device that can obtain that information, you can plug it into Samsung Health as well.

Create training plans

To create a training plan, head to ‘Manage Items’ right down under the dashboard. You’ll find a selection of training programs for running, which is in a much easier place to find than before, where it was buried in a menu. You can pick from ‘Baby Steps to 5K’, ‘Run 5K’, ‘First attempt at 10K’ and ‘Run10K’.

All pretty self-explanatory, and by tapping on one you’ll be told how many weeks you’ll need to reach the end, and the total number of workouts that will be involved. This is where you can choose the start date for the program and which days of the week you want to work out on.

Tip: Tap ‘View Workout Schedule’ before adding your program to see exactly what the breakdown will look like. You’ll be able to see which days you’ll be running on, how far you’ll be running on each, and generally get an idea of how your routine will progress over the allocated time.

Once added, you’ll then have your workout program visible on your dashboard, showing you the day’s plan (which may just be a rest day) and what upcoming days you have workouts scheduled on.

It would be nice to have more plans to choose from here, especially for cycling and other activities, but if you’re aiming for a 10K run in a few months time, the Samsung Health app can be handy for keeping you on schedule.

Set goals for basic workouts

Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung's app

Even if you’re not working towards a big marathon, you can set yourself goals for activity, eating and sleep.

You may be prompted to do this when you first set up the app, but if not, just click one of the three goals circles in the dashboard. The green running man is for being active, the blue fork and knife are for eating healthier and the purple crescent moon is to feel more rested. Click on them and you’ll be taken to a more specific goal screen. In the corner, hit “more” and you’ll be able to edit your goal – adults are recommended to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, and 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity.

For your eating goal, it’s a case of choosing your target daily calorie goal, and we’d recommend also setting up a water intake goal too, which can be done as a separate tile on the dashboard either with Samsung’s own hydration tracker or a third-party one.

Thirdly, the sleep goal lets you select a target bed time and wake-up time, which, like the other three, will then be displayed on your dashboard each day.

Set your pace

When it comes to doing workouts, be it running, cycling or walking, you have the option to choose what type of target you want to work towards. This might be distance, duration, a specific route, or a number of calories to burn.

When running, you can also choose to work to a pace, and if you do, you’ll see there’s a selection of different paces, from ‘Light walking coach’ to ‘Speed endurance coach’, and for each a description of how intense they are.

However, you should also know that you can set a custom pace – just tap click the left arrow in the center until the ‘Add pace-setter’ option arrives. From there you can customise your workout with distance, duration, and even whether you’re looking for a cardio workout or to burn fat specifically. You can then give it a name and then add it to your list of pace setters.

When it comes to cycling, also know that you can select a ‘Route target’ from the menu of workouts and import GPX files that will then show in the app.

Monitor food

Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung's app

Like most other fitness apps, Health will let you manually input food. The app will also let you know what a good target is, based on your personal stats and how much you exercise, or you can set your own.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner options are available, as well as a range of snacks. After you specify what kind of food and the portion you had, Health automatically adds these calories to your day’s consumption. If you forgot to add something, edit at any time by changing the date and time to when you had the meal – or add on the meal itself. Also, once you add a meal, it will remain listed so you can easily hit the + icon when you want to add another portion, saving you searching for it again.

All of this will help ensure you don’t overdo it, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight, or on a diet plan for marathon training and trying to reach a caloric intake goal. As you add food, you’ll see your total calorie intake for the day displayed on your dashboard, so long as you’ve enabled the food tile.

Social motivation

It’s great motivation and more fun knowing you’re not alone in trying to stay active, so it’s no surprise Samsung has added a little friendly competition to its app. Fitbit and others have seen great success with the addition of communities and communal challenges, and Samsung Health lets you set targets with friends, check their statuses and compete.

You’ll see ‘Together’ along the top of the dashboard. Head into there and you’ll immediately see a leaderboard graph showing how your average step count compares to people in your age group. Tap on ‘My age group’ and it will switch to show how you compare with your connected friends, and again to see how your fare against all other users.

That’s neat, but better is what’s below: Challenges. Here you can set up individual step challenges against friends, choosing the target goal and who you want to take on. We wish you could compete on more things than just steps, but at least it’s one way to encourage yourself to keep fit.

Ask an Expert

Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung's app

This is the one big new feature in Samsung Health, nestled away in the ‘Experts’ tab. Basically, you get a video call with a doctor where you can ask questions and such things. It’s covered by “many top health plans” in the US, China and Korea and can even refill your prescriptions at local pharmacies.

Now, Samsung isn’t exactly creating some kind of virtual hospital here. Instead, they’re partnering with American Well to provide this service. You’ll have to register with them first, and then choose your doctor, and then just call them up. The service is apparently available 24/7, and you won’t have to make a reservation or appointment either.

While it’s cool to automatically connect to your doctor remotely, it’s a little difficult seeing many people actually using this. Doctors are, of course, very personal choices based on comfortability and cost, and it might be difficult to switch services just so you can use Samsung Health to connect to them. Either way, it’s a neat service that’s there if you’re interested.

Connect apps…

Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung's app

It’s already been mentioned that Samsung Health can connect to third-party apps, and that number has grown considerably since the app arrived. You can access ‘Partner apps’ by tapping the ‘More’ button at the top right of the dashboard. That opens a menu where you can browse through the partner apps, and hitting the download button will take you to the Play Store.

Afterwards, you can add the various apps to your dashboard (Health even gives you a little prompt). Not all partner apps can be added, but some, such as Hydro Coach, can be allocated a tile. Obviously you’ll need to have an account and be logged into the apps for any data to show on the dashboard.

From here, you can download many more apps to make your Health dashboard into a unified hub.

…and services…

While you may notice that Fitbit, Strava and some other apps aren’t available to add to the dashboard, you can still integrate them to share some information. For example, you can connect Fitbit to share sleep data, while Strava can share some of your exercise data. Misfit does both.

Now, this is important if you’re an Android Wear user who wants to have that precious tracked information sent from their wearable to Samsung Health, but bear in mind you’re limited here by whichever app you use.

You’re limited to Fitbit, Jawbone, Microsoft Health, Misfit, Runkeeper and Strava. To add these services, you’ll have to click the ‘More’ option up in the right corner, then click ‘Settings’ then scroll to ‘Connected Services’. Here, you’ll be able to add these services into Samsung Health. It’s worth noting a lot of the data won’t move freely between platforms. For example, there’s some granular Strava data and Fitbit sleep data that won’t show up. Either way, it’s a good idea to keep ’em connected for continuity sake.

…and accessories, too

Samsung Health doesn’t just rely on your Samsung products to keep track of your health. You can also tap into Bluetooth and ANT+ accessories to expand your understanding of your health. To do so, just click the ‘More’ tab in the corner and click ‘Accessories’.

You’ll be greeted to what seems like a never-ending list of things you can connect to. They’re broken into categories. Activity trackers (only Samsung ones) are at the top, with bike sensors, blood glucose meters, blood pressure monitors, heart rate monitors, smartwatches (Samsung only, again), and scales following.

This is where you’ll be able to connect to services. It also doubles as a place that lets you know which devices you can use if you’re interested in one of those metrics. You’ll get a sparse information page about each accessory, general tips about how to use it and a link to the product website if you’re in the mood for a purchase.


Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Review


  •  Attractive retro design
  •  Compact body
  •  Excellent JPEG image quality with lovely colour rendition
  •  Superb in-body image stabilisation works with every lens
  •  Fast, accurate autofocus with static subjects


  •  Over-simplified in-camera raw conversion
  •  Less reliable autofocus with moving subjects
  •  Sensor dated compared to APS-C competitors

Key Features

  • Review Price: £699.99/$1019.99 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 and 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, with casual photographers now overwhelmingly using smartphones rather than compact cameras to share their photos instantly online. However, some will find that their artistic ambitions outstrip the limited capabilities of phone cameras, and will therefore be looking to upgrade to a ‘proper’ camera. The challenge facing the traditional camera manufacturers is how best to appeal to those 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 minor update to the two-year-old OM-D E-M10 Mark II, with essentially the same body design and feature set. It gains an updated 121-point autofocus system and 4K video recording, thanks to Olympus’ 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 be available in black and silver

More interestingly, Olympus has radically overhauled the camera’s interface and firmware in a bid to appeal to smartphone upgraders. The idea is to make both simple and advanced features more accessible to novices and experienced users alike. On the whole, I think the firm has done a pretty good job.

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is available in black 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 can be bought 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, similar to those used in the previous two E-M10 generations. Its sensitivity range runs from ISO 200 to 25,600, with an extended low setting equivalent to ISO 100 that’s more likely to clip highlight detail.

It offers a continuous shooting rate of 8.6fps, dropping to 4.8fps when you need focus and exposure to be adjusted between shots. Using a high-speed UHS-II card, the camera will keep shooting JPEGs until you run out of battery or card space, or record 22 raw files before it slows down. Even with a standard UHS-1 Class 10 SD card I found that it can shoot a burst of 10 raw frames at full speed, or more than 30 JPEGs.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

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

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

As expected, the camera has built-in Wi-Fi for connecting to a smartphone, using Olympus Image Share for Android and iOS. This well-designed app makes it easy to copy your favourite shots to your phone for sharing on social media: simply start up Wi-Fi by tapping a small touch button top-left on the screen and fire up the app. It also enables full remote control of your camera from your phone, complete with a Live View display. The app can even use your phone’s GPS to record a track of your location, then use this data to geotag your photos based on the date and time they were taken.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

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

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. There’s no option to attach an external microphone, however.

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

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

Olympus has essentially re-used the existing body design of the E-M10 Mark II, with identical buttons and dials located in the same positions. 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

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

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 more expensive than it really is.

It might be missing the weather-sealed magnesium alloy construction of its more expensive sibling, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II, but the camera still feels 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 DSLRs, it’s 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, and are perfectly placed for operation by your forefinger and thumb. The exposure mode dial alongside is raised to make it easy to operate, and provides a full array of modes – from full-auto for novices to PASM modes for enthusiasts. Its SCN position provides access to an extensive range of subject-based scene modes, but these are now organised into six categories using a new touchscreen-based interface.

Olympus’ signature Art filters are also onboard, offering highly stylised image processing, including a new Bleach Bypass filter that gives interesting, washed-out colours. A new AP mode provides access to some of the camera’s most interesting features – more on this later.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

The E-M10 Mark III’s new AP mode accesses a range of useful features

Many of the camera’s buttons have changed functions – and 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 with your eye to the viewfinder. Quite a few cameras have adopted this approach recently, but on most 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 – and it works really well in practice. Combined with the EVF’s relatively generous clearance from the screen, this makes the E-M10 Mark III the first camera on which I’ve really been happy to use the touchscreen for focus area selection.

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 call up an on-screen menu with options tailored to each mode. For example, in the Art position it lets you scroll through the available filters, with a live preview of how your shot could turn out; in movie mode it selects between recording resolutions; and in the PASM modes it calls up the on-screen Super Control Panel that gives quick access to an array of 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 this way. Meanwhile, the Fn2 button beside the shutter release engages the 2x digital teleconverter. This may look like an odd choice to enthusiast photographers, but smartphone users are very familiar with the idea, and the 4-megapixel resolution is more than adequate for social-media use. Personally, I’d set it to operate something more useful, such as focus peaking or magnification. Another useful option is to use it to toggle the touchscreen on and off.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

A small flash is built into the ‘pentaprism’ housing

In a very welcome move, Olympus has also finally stripped down its notoriously over-complicated menus. Rather than packing in all the same detailed operational tweaks as its top-end models, the E-M10 Mark III has a much-reduced set of options.

The firm has done an excellent job of trimming things down to the essentials here: I was able to tweak the camera’s setup to my taste, without finding that any key options had gone missing. Some of the more advanced features have inevitably been removed as part of the simplification process: for example, the built-in flash can no longer wirelessly control off-camera units, and you can’t save ‘MySet’ custom setups. However, you still get broadly the same feature set and customisation as you’d find on mid-range DSLRs.

However, the one area where I think Olympus has over-simplified is with 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 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 liable to leave you with the camera incorrectly setup for the next time you start shooting. Frankly, it makes little sense and feels like unnecessary dumbing-down.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III – Advanced Photography mode

Perhaps the E-M10 III’s best new idea is the AP (Advanced Photography) mode on the top-plate dial. This takes a bunch of existing, hidden-way features and groups them onto a dedicated position on the mode dial. Pressing the camera’s shortcut button brings up a nicely designed touch menu to select between them, with a brief description and illustration of what each does.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

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

Here you’ll find some common functions such as double-exposure, HDR shooting, silent mode and autoexposure bracketing. But some 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 E-M10 III keystone correction

AP mode gives easy access to features such as perspective compensation. 9-18mm lens at 9mm, 1/400sec at f/10, ISO100

None of these functions are new, but they can be genuinely useful: in the image above I applied a combination of vertical and horizontal perspective correction to reduce the distortion caused by shooting with a wide-angle lens.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III – Viewfinder and screen

Both the viewfinder and screen are similar to those previously used on the E-M10 Mark II. Based around a 2.36m-dot panel, the viewfinder offers a decent 0.62x equivalent magnification with 100% coverage of the lens’ view. This means it’s both larger and more accurate than the optical viewfinders in similarly priced DSLRs such as the Nikon D5600. It also accurately reflects the image you’ll get in terms of colour and brightness, which makes it easier to adjust your settings to get your pictures looking the way you want. Likewise, it can display useful additional information including a choice of gridlines, electronic levels, exposure warnings and so on.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

The touchscreen LCD on the back tilts up and down

On the camera’s rear you’ll find a touchscreen that tilts 90 degrees up and 45 degree down, and offering many of the same operational advantages as the EVF. A sensor beside the viewfinder allows the camera to switch automatically between the two, but is disabled when the screen is tilted and so won’t interfere with waist-level shooting. Crucially, the camera works the same regardless of which viewing method you’re using; again, this is an advantage over most DSLRs that usually focus noticeably slower when you’re using the screen. However, this fully electronic viewing does come at the expense of shorter battery life (but it’s easy enough to buy a spare or two).

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III – Autofocus

While the 121-point autofocus system is adapted from that on the pro-level OM-D E-M1 Mark II, it relies on contrast detection only, which means it doesn’t have the same remarkable high-speed focus tracking. The focus area covers practically the entire frame, and you can either select an individual point or use a group of nine. Face detection is also available, with the option to focus specifically on your subject’s eyes.

Olympus E-M10 III flower image sample

The E-M10 III makes it easy to focus on off-centre subjects using the touchscreen. 14-42mm EZ lens at 28mm, 1/100 sec at f/4.9, ISO200

With subjects that aren’t moving much, the E-M10 III’s autofocus is superb. It’s fast and accurate, regardless of where in the frame your subject is placed, and it will provide a near-100% hit-rate provided you make sure you place the focus point over an area with sufficient detail. When you’re photographing people, the camera’s ability to identify and focus specifically on their nearer eye is a huge advantage to capturing attractive portraits, too.

However, once you try to shoot subjects moving towards or away from you, the camera begins to struggle. Olympus’ reliance on contrast detection places the E-M10 Mark III at a disadvantage here, since the AF system and lens drive have to work harder to maintain focus. You can actually see this in the viewfinder during continuous shooting: the lens wobbles the focus group madly in an attempt to keep the subject sharp. Inevitably, this doesn’t work as well as the phase detection systems favoured by most of its competitors.

Olympus E-M10 III bird sample

The AF was snappy enough to catch this goose in perfect focus. Olympus 40-150mm f/4-5.6 at 150mm, 1/4000 sec at f/6.3, ISO 200, cropped

Olympus doesn’t do itself any favours here by allowing users to combine continuous AF with high-speed shooting, which looks completely sensible for this kind of scenario but simply doesn’t work. However, if you set the camera to low-speed continuous shooting, using a group of nine AF points or C-AF tracking, it focuses pretty well, especially with Olympus’s top-end Pro zooms.

With the less expensive, smaller-aperture zooms that the camera is more likely to be used with, I found it gave me a lower percentage of keepers, and gave up focusing sooner than I’d expect if I were using a DSLR instead. If you’re planning on shooting sports or wildlife frequently, the E-M10 III won’t be your best option.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III – Performance

With Olympus’ latest TruePic VIII processor onboard, the E-M10 Mark III is a very snappy performer. It starts up quickly, although the 14-42mm EZ zoom takes a moment to extend, and responds instantly to control inputs. The touchscreen is just as responsive as the buttons and dials, and file-write speeds are snappy too, especially with UHS-II cards.

Olympus E-M10 III riverside scene

The E-M10 III metered perfectly here, retaining subtle highlight detail in the clouds. 14-42mm EZ lens at 16mm, 1/500 sec at f/10, ISO200, Keystone Compensation

On the whole, metering is pretty good, and the full-time electronic viewing makes it trivial to override the camera’s judgement if you want an image to turn out darker or lighter. So while spot metering is available, including highlight and shadow modes designed to prevent detail being lost in crucial areas of the scene, I never really found a need to use it.

Olympus E-M10 II flowers sample

The E-M10 II gives lovely colours, especially in its default Natural colour mode. 14-42mm EZ lens at 27mm, 1/1000sec at f/6.3, ISO200

In terms of imaging characteristics, the E-M10 III is stereotypically Olympus. It gives consistently excellent JPEG output, with well-judged auto white balance that’s on the warm side, and colours that are saturated and attractive without being overblown. High-ISO noise reduction seems to be slightly improved compared to its predecessor, presumably thanks to the TruePic VIII processor. It still emphasises noise reduction over fine detail, but you’ll only notice this if you examine your shots closely onscreen. If it bothers you, the solution is to turn down the Noise Filter setting in the menu.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III – Video

With a combination of detailed 4K recording, in-body stabilisation and Olympus’ lovely colour rendition, it’s no stretch to suggest that the E-M10 III is capable of producing the best-looking footage of any camera at its price point. Its closest competitor is probably the Panasonic Lumix GX80, which is also 4K-capable and has excellent in-body stabilisation, but doesn’t give such consistently nice colour.

Olympus E-M10 III 4K still

It’s possible to extract 8-megapixel stills from 4K video footage

The E-M10 III provides full manual control over exposure, with on-screen touch controls that allow you to adjust focus and exposure without camera operation sounds ruining your soundtrack. You can also use the touchscreen to pull focus from one subject to another during recording: the adjustment is slow and measured, but impressively assured. However, other cameras can refocus more quickly and decisively during recording. The lack of microphone or headphone sockets also means that you’re stuck with the built-in stereo mics for sound recording.

Olympus has provided the ability to trim the ends off the video in-camera, which is surprisingly useful for making your clips more watchable. You can also extract individual frames as 8-megapixel stills, but you don’t get anywhere near the capabilities afforded by Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode in this respect.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III – Image quality

The 16-megapixel Four Thirds sensor in the E-M10 III has changed little over the five years since it first appeared in the original OM-D E-M5. Technically, it’s now clearly surpassed by the 24-megapixel APS-C sensors found in most competing models. Nevertheless, it still has enough resolution to make a detailed A3 print, and delivers attractive results at sensitivities up to ISO 3200 at least.

It also provides useful scope for digging extra detail out of the shadows at low ISOs, if not quite as much as you’d get from its APS-C-sensored rivals. So while it may not offer the best raw image quality you can get for this price, it still creates excellent image files in most situations.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III dusk cityscape

Good results are still obtained at ISO 6400, with bold colours. Tamron 14-150mm at 35mm, 1/40sec at f/4.7, ISO6400

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III – Resolution

With no resolution-sapping optical low-pass filter, the E-M10 Mark III pulls just about as much resolution from its 16-megapixel sensor as it theoretically could. Its in-camera JPEG processing also does an excellent job of suppressing any potential imaging artefacts, so there’s none of the false-colour moiré or maze-like aliasing visible in our test chart shots that you might expect. At ISO 100, we see around 3200 l/ph before the lines blur smoothly together, with this value falling progressively as sensitivity is increased. But even at ISO 6400 the camera still resolves 2700 l/ph, before dropping more precipitously to about 2200 l/ph at ISO 25,600.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO100

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO 100

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO200

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO 200

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO400

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO 400

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO800

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO 800

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO1600

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO 1600

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO3200

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO 3200

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO6400

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO 6400

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO12800

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO 12,800

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO25600

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Resolution, JPEG ISO 25,600

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III – ISO and noise

At low ISO settings, the E-M10 Mark III displays good image quality with attractive colours, minimal noise and plenty of detail. Its JPEG processing does have a tendency to blur away the lowest-contrast detail, but you’ll only see this if you look closely at your files onscreen.

Image quality holds together well up to ISO 1600; there’s visibly more noise and noise-reduction in the JPEGs, but its main impact is in the shadow regions of the image. It’s only at ISO 3200 that noise starts to seriously degrade the image – but while detail is visibly lost, colours remain strong. Beyond this, though, image quality deteriorates noticeably. ISO 6400 is still perfectly usable for social media or small prints, as is ISO 12,800 at a pinch, but I’d avoid using ISO 25,600.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO100

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO 100

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO200

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO 200

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO400

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO 400

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO800

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO 800

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO1600

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO 1600

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO3200

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO 3200

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO6400

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO 6400

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO12800

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO 12,800

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO25600

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III: Noise, JPEG ISO 25,600

Should I buy the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III?

With the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, Olympus has made a fine  camera that’s more interesting than it might at first appear. It may not look radically changed compared to its predecessor, but the 121-point AF system offers finer control over exactly where in the scene you want to focus, while 4K video recording provides more detailed footage than Full HD – even if you’re only viewing on a HD display. Most importantly, the overhaul of its interface makes the camera far more approachable and easy to use, not just for novices but for experienced photographers too.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

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

At this price point the E-M10 III’s main competitors are entry-level DSLRs such as the Nikon D5600 and Canon EOS 200D, or mirrorless models such as the Panasonic Lumix GX80 or the ageing, but still very capable Sony Alpha 6000. If you choose to rate these cameras based on their raw image quality, then its larger-sensored rivals undeniably have the edge in terms of resolution and high-ISO noise. The Nikon D5600 and Sony Alpha 6000 in particular will also do a better job of keeping track of focus on moving subjects. So if these factors sound important to you, the E-M10 III won’t be your best bet.

Olympus E-M10 III

This was shot with the small and inexpensive Olympus 40-150mm f/4-5.6 lens. 1/500sec at f/8, ISO 200

However, to judge the camera primarily on these factors would be a huge mistake. It has considerable charms all of its own: a compact and easy-to-use design, superb viewfinder, and class-leading image stabilisation that goes a long way towards making up for the sensor’s technical disadvantages in real-world use. Crucially, it produces lovely JPEG images straight out of the camera that are consistently more attractive than those from its main competitors. If you’re planning on building up a system, Olympus also makes a wide 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

The upshot is that the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III looks like a great choice for smartphone photography enthusiasts who want to upgrade to their first ‘proper’ camera. But it should also be a capable second body for owners of higher-end OM-D models – although for seasoned Olympus users, it may not offer that much advantage over the Mark II.

It may not be the best camera technically at this price point, but it looks great, takes lovely pictures and is a joy to use – and that’s not a bad combination at all.


The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is simple to use for first-time camera buyers while being capable enough for enthusiasts – and features lots of clever features that you won’t find anywhere else. This makes it one of the best cameras on the market at its price point.



Video: The pros and cons of natural light vs off-camera flash

Photographer Manny Ortiz took to the woods with his wife and model Diana during golden hour to film a comparison video that many amateur photographers on up will find useful: natural light vs off-camera flash. What are the pros of each setup, why would you choose one over the other, and how can off-camera flash make natural light photos look even better? Manny dives into all of this while performing a live shooting demo.

The video starts with a quick demo where Manny alternates between shooting natural light and off-camera flash to illustrate how each style changes his settings and the final product. Then, once he’s finished, he breaks down the pros and cons of each style.

Here are a couple of before and after pictures Manny shared with us from his demonstration, so you can see the difference between his natural light only portraits and the ones augmented by off-camera flash:

Natural Light

Off-Camera Flash

Natural Light

Off-Camera Flash

Natural Light

Off-Camera Flash

After the demo Manny discusses the reasons he shoots both natural light and off-camera flash, and when he chooses to shoot which style.

Traditionally a flash photographer, shooting natural light only is ‘liberating’ for Manny. He also appreciates the ability to stay mostly incognito when shooting on-location in a popular area—nobody wants to draw a crowd or unwanted attention during a portrait shoot.

On the other hand, flash photography gives Manny the option to create his own light when mother nature doesn’t cooperate or the time of day isn’t ideal. And since so many portrait photographers start out shooting natural light, properly using off-camera flash can help you to stand out from the crowd.

To hear more of Manny’s thoughts or see him in action, check out the full video above. And if you want to see more of his work, don’t forget to follow him on Instagram where he’s most active.


Thunderbolt 3 Docks Ranked From Best to Worst

As more laptops come with Thunderbolt 3 ports built in, there’s a new generation of docks that promise to charge your system, exchange data with peripherals and output to dual 4K monitors (or one 5K screen) over a single cable. With prices ranging from $249 to $349, Thunderbolt 3 docking stations don’t come cheap, but they offer the opportunity to connect with high-speed peripherals and newfangled Thunderbolt displays, without installing any software.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station for Laptops

To help you pick the Thunderbolt 3 dock that’s right for you, we tested seven leading products by attaching them to both a Dell XPS 15 with Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics. We found that, despite having very similar sets of ports, not all of the docks worked as advertised, with many failing to charge the Dell laptop, even though all charged a MacBook Pro we attached.

In addition to the Thunderbolt 3 docks we rated below, we also have a list of best docking stations overall, which contains many USB docks. Though they require you to install extra software, USB docks are cheaper, are compatible with more computers and aren’t limited to the maximum resolution that your video card supports like Thunderbolt 3.

Plugable Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station (TBT3-UDV)

Plugable’s Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is our favorite Thunderbolt 3 dock, because it fulfills all of its promises at a solid price. While it doesn’t include a forward-facing USB Type-C port like some of its competitors, it includes an extra two USB 3.0 ports on the back (a total of four), which I think are ultimately more valuable. The 7.5 x 4 x 1.5-inch device can be laid down on your desk horizontally like most of its competitors, but it also comes with an optional, sturdy stand if you prefer to save some real estate on your desk. Don’t have a DisplayPort monitor? While there’s no HDMI port on the back of the dock, Plugable throws in a complimentary DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter, which is a nice touch. However, unless you have a Thunderbolt 3 monitor, you’ll need a Thunderbolt-to-DisplayPort or Thunderbolt-to-HDMI cable to attach a second monitor. Best of all, Plugable’s dock was one of the few docks that charged our test Dell laptop while also outputting to both monitors in 4K.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, USB Type-C
Rear Ports: Ethernet, USB 3.0, Line Out, Line In, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station for Laptops

With its lengthy but accurate name, the StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station for Laptops also fulfilled its promises, powering two 4K monitors while also charging our XPS 15. However, it’s slightly pricier than the Plugable, and it’s less customizable. The StarTech dock is 8.7 inches long and lies horizontally, so it takes up a nice chunk of desk space. It includes a free cable: a USB Type-C to DisplayPort for outputting video from its second Thunderbolt 3 port. If you have lots of peripherals, the USB Type-C port on the front may be helpful, though that means you’ll need to plug your headphones into the back of the dock.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, USB Type-C
Rear Ports: Ethernet, USB 3.0, Line In, Line Out, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

OWC 13-Port Thunderbolt 3 Dock

OWC’s 13-Port Thunderbolt 3 dock is made for Macs, but worked fine with our Dell XPS 15, providing enough power to charge it. The OWC has more ports than any other dock we tested, offering four USB 3.0 connections, an SD card reader and — for old-timers — a FireWire 800 port. It comes in space gray or silver, just like MacBooks.

Front Ports: SD card slot, headphone jack, USB 3.0
Rear Ports: 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1, S/PDIF Out, FireWire 800, Ethernet, 2x Thunderbolt 3, Mini DisplayPort

Kensington SD5000T

If you value security over all else, there’s an expensive dock out there for you. The Kensington SD5000T is a whopping $350 and includes a lock slot, so that your dock will never be stolen from your desk. (You’ll still need a separate lock for your laptop.) Unfortunately, while the dock ran two 4K monitors off our test laptop, it didn’t charge the machine. If you’re a stickler for looks, though, you’ll appreciate Kensington’s restraint; an attractive metal casing surrounds the dock’s black plastic body.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, USB Type-C
Rear Ports: Ethernet, USB 3.0, Line In, Line Out, Kensington Lock Slot, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

IOGear Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station

At best, the IOGear Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station is inoffensive. It powered two 4K monitors, but didn’t charge our XPS 15 test laptop. The silver-and-white color scheme is bland, but at least the company put a USB Type-C port on the dock. (Again, I would prefer to see this switch places with the headphone jack, which is on the back.) With a price of $300, this dock is expensive, especially since it includes no other adapters or special features.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, USB Type-C
Rear Ports: Ethernet, USB 3.0, Line In, Line Out, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD

Belkin’s Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD has the same charging issues as IOGear’s offering, except that, at $349.99, it’s even more expensive. It feels like it’s built solidly, but the 8.2-inch casing takes up a fair bit of space, and its curved edges don’t offer a clean look.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, Headphone/mic
Rear Ports: Ethernet, Headphone jack, USB 3.0, Line In, Line Out, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort

Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Dock

When I took it out of the box, I didn’t expect the Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Dock to be this low on the list. It has a modern design reminiscent of both Apple and Alienware, so it made a good first impression. Like Plugable’s dock, Elgato’s offering doesn’t have a regular USB Type-C port, but it also doesn’t add any other ports to make up for it. But on our XPS 15 laptop, it powered two 4K monitors, but didn’t charge the computer. In the box, though, were instructions to download Mac software — something you don’t need in order to use the dock, but the software does give you the ability to safely detach external drives.

Front Ports: USB 3.0, Line In, Line Out
Rear Ports: Ethernet, 2x USB 3.0, 2x Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort


AUDIOENGINE HDP6 Review : Give it the wood

The bookshelf speaker market is hugely competitive, with hundreds of companies putting out everything from tiny wireless wonders to huge monoliths that shade the line between bookshelf and tower speakers. Not every company is successful at this – but Audioengine are one of the few who have remained totally consistent, putting out models that remain relevant years after they drop. Case in point: the HDP6, a passive pair of bookshelf speakers that have become firm favorites among audiophiles. We spent a couple of months with a pair, and here’s what we think.

Review: Audioengine HDP6


Audioengine have always put out good-looking gear – we said as much when we reviewed their HD3 wireless speakers. The HDP6 speakers are no exception: they look absolutely terrific.

You can get them in three colors – brown, black or red. Ours were the latter, and many appreciative noises were made when we pulled these out the box. Although the housing doesn’t do anything revolutionary, doesn’t deviate from the basic shape of most bookshelf speakers, its construction is an immediate plus point. The smooth, crimson hardwood looks stunning, with a grain and finish that felt like it should come from something much more expensive. There’s a craftsmanship here, a quality which sets these apart from other speakers. The internal construction is rock-solid, braced, 20mm MDF, which helps minimise vibrations.

The very definition of bookshelf speakers... | The Master Switch

The rest of the design matches the initial impressions. On the front end, there’s a thin metal band at the bottom of each speaker with Audioengine’s logo, and above it, a grille held in place with magnetic snaps. Removing and reattaching the grilles on each speaker is the work of moments, and although we mostly left them off (we like the naked look), the functionality and design work hand in hand.

Each speaker has a 5.5” woofer and a 1” silk dome tweeter, handsome black circles that complement the overall design. Around the back, there’s a thin port near the top end to help with bass definition, and a standard set of gold binding posts. The posts themselves are screw-type, and spin up easily, meaning wiring them is no problem at all. Nothing we didn’t expect to see, and nothing that isn’t done with care and quality. It’s all good.

The design is virtually identical to the wireless version of these speakers, the more expensive HD6s – although of course, those come with their own controls and amp, whereas you’ll need a separate amplifier to power these. The size is unremarkable, neither too big or too small – at around twelve inches high and ten deep, you shouldn’t have any trouble slotting these into a bookshelf setup, or positioning them on either side of a monitor. You can also, if you so desire, mount them on the walls, although you’ll need accessories from another company (like OmniMount) to do so.

If there’s one criticism we could level at the design, it’s that it’s not going to shatter any preconceptions. It’s a bookshelf speaker. It has the same basic construction and layout as so many other speakers – just compare it to models like the Dali Zensor 1 and the Wharfedale Diamond 220. But really, it’s hard to put too much weight behind this. After all, what are we faulting here? That these speakers use a proven design that its creators know will work? No, we can’t mark it down for that, especially when there’s so much care evident in the construction and finish.

Audioengine offer a limited three year warranty, although we can’t see you having any issues. This is a company known for its reliability.

The 5.5" woofers on the HDP6 | The Master Switch

The 5.5″ woofers on the HDP6 | The Master Switch


In terms of audio quality, the HDP6s sound solid, if unspectacular.

In the time we had them, we tested them with three amps: the PS Audio Sprout (which we stole from someone briefly), our old Yamaha YHT-1810 receiver, which functioned as a good baseline testing rig, and the Peachtree Audio nova300 (full review here). We couldn’t crank it on that last one – with a continuous power of 300 watts, the nova300 could vastly overpower the HDP6s, which have a max rating of 150 watts – but we could still get good sound of them. And after a couple of months, we came to the conclusion that while there’s nothing wrong with the sound of the HDP6s, they didn’t blow our minds. They are a good, competent set of speakers, but they don’t do quite enough to force their way out of a crowded sub-$1000 speaker market. To put it another way: the design writes cheques the sound can’t quite cash.

That’s not to say it’s bad. Far from it. On the contrary, there were aspects of the HDP6’s sound that we quite liked. For one thing, we really enjoyed the midrange, which showed off a good deal of definition and clarity. Elements like vocals felt rich and warm, and we really felt the speakers were complimenting the music in this particular area. With tracks that put emphasis on the vocals, like jazz or soul, the textures just leapt out at us.

We also really appreciated the soundstage. There may only be two drivers on each speaker, arranged in a fairly conventional way – nothing like the KEF EGG speakers (full review here), which have a tweeter-in-the-midrange-driver arrangement that gives them a huge sweet spot – but decent enough. There was plenty of spacing between the instruments, and while the speakers definitely have a particular sweet spot, we didn’t feel we lost a tremendous amount when moving away from it – an advantage, given that our listening space can be a little cramped and messy!

We also enjoyed the dynamics and the realism, both of which sounded clear and professional. These are speakers that don’t do a huge amount to color the sound, which is something we like quite a lot.

There’s some solid technology at play here, too. The voice coils rest on an aluminum foundation, and the tweeters are cooled by ferrofluid, a liquid that becomes magnetized easily. The aforementioned bass ports help transition the low end energy outwards into the room. It’s all done with care and concern, which is why it’s a little disappointing that the audio quality doesn’t really bump the needle beyond ‘good’.

There was nothing that really jumped out at us. It was all…fine. Just fine. Workmanlike and unspectacular. Bass was clear, with no muddiness, but didn’t feel like it gave any more definition or clarity than we might reasonably expect from a pair of bookshelf speakers. It did the job, without raising our eyebrows.

Ditto for the highs. If there was one element we’d really like to see improved in the HDP7 (or whatever the next version is called) it’s these. They were, again, perfectly satisfactory, but we often felt there was a little bit of detail lacking – a certain loss of crispness that we missed more than we should have.

Again: these aren’t huge offences. They don’t torpedo the experience. It’s just that they didn’t blow us. Put it this way: the HD6 (the wireless version) really impressed us, enough for us to put it in the top five bookshelf speakers currently available. While it’s probably unfair to compare the HDP6s to its more expensive cousin – which, after all, has a dedicated amp section – it doesn’t blow our minds when compared to other speakers in the same price range. Compared to models like the Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73, it fights the good fight, but doesn’t strike a decisive blow.

We definitely think the sound was improved when matched with a comparable amp. Very obviously, the nova300 offered the finest performance (and at $2,500, we’d be stunned if it didn’t – it sounded terrific) but a model like the Sprout also made a real difference.

Again: the sound isn’t bad. We don’t mean this to be too brutal an assessment, which these speakers don’t deserve. There’s just a lack of sparkle which means it isn’t going to crack the best-of list. Were we judging these entirely on design, they’d score huge – but the sound just isn’t quite good enough to give these anything more than, as Deadpool might say, a crisp high five.

Magnetic grilles come as standard | The Master Switch

Magnetic grilles come as standard | The Master Switch


Outside of the detachable grilles, the main accessory here is the felt carry case for each speaker.

It’s a small thing, but we really like it. It might just be there to protect the speaker during transit, but we liked it enough to keep it around. Obviously, we aren’t going to be moving the speakers from place to place on the regular, but it’s nice to know that if we do, we can wrap them up in soft felt, pulling the drawstring shut.

Packaging here is nothing to get excited over: simple cardboard with foam inners protects things nicely. It gets the job done.

Standard binding posts - easy to use | The Master Switch

Standard binding posts – easy to use | The Master Switch


Perhaps we’re being a little too harsh on these speakers.

When it comes down to it, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The design is good enough that we’d recommend these for just about any room, or any situation – good enough that even those who didn’t know speakers would comment on them when they spotted them in our testing room. The wood finish is remarkable, even luxurious, and it’s a big plus point.

And audio-wise, while the sound quality isn’t spectacular, while it doesn’t make us want to invent a new religion and wander around barefoot extolling the virtues of ferrofluid-cooled tweeters, there’s nothing bad about it. There are areas where it excels, like the sound stage and those wonderful mids, and where it doesn’t, it turns in a solid if unremarkable performance. Should its slightly underpowered bass and middling highs count as major negatives? Maybe…but we’d have to be pretty harsh to push the point, and we don’t feel inclined to with these, a set of speakers that obviously wants you to enjoy using them. There’s no evidence that things were half-assed or phoned in here, and that is very much a positive.

We think they’re pretty fairly-priced, too. At $499 for the pair on Amazon (the satin black version, bizarrely, can be had for $498.98 – we don’t know why), the price doesn’t raise eyebrows. It feels fair – although we want to go on record and say that if Audioengine ever decide to drop the price by a hundred bucks or so, these will become a real bargain.

So bottom line? 8/10. A solid B+. These are perfectly good speakers that sit right in the middle of the road, doing a good if unspectacular job, and which should satisfy anybody looking for speakers that provide good day-to-day use. While it would be good to see Audioengine pushing the envelope in the same way that they do with their superlative wireless speakers, these are just fine.

  • Lovely design and finish.
  • Easy to use.
  • Good accessories.
  • Solid mids and stereo spread.
  • Fairly priced.
  • Don’t do anything mindblowing in terms of sound.
  • Underwhelming highs.

The HDP6 design is just splendid | The Master Switch

The HDP6 design is just splendid | The Master Switch


Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73
Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73

At a similar price, these are a good alternative to the HDP6s. While they don’t really match up in terms of design – then again, few would – they offer very comparable sound.

The Coherent Source Transducer tech in the drivers results in pinpoint-accurate sound, and if you are so inclined, you can swap these into a Dolby Atmos-enabled 5.1 or 7.1 setup, thanks to the driver on top of the speaker (which can be covered when not in use). That makes them a little more versatile than the HDP6s.

ELAC Uni-fi UB5

The price is virtually identical, and if there’s any other company that could go toe to toe with Audioengine here, it’s ELAC. This model is a firm favorite among speaker heads – a Facebook user recently lambasted us for including the B6 Debut in its place on our list of the best bookshelf speakers – and although we think it’s a touch overpriced, it offers solid performance.

Great highs, warm mids and good (albeit not mindblowing bass) are on offer here, as well as an assured design. In a way, they suffer from the same problem as the HDP6s – they don’t do anything special – but they are still a viable alternative

Wharfedale Diamond 220
Wharfedale Diamond 220

With slightly clunkier design and build, these aren’t a directly comparable option – but they are an alternative, and a cheaper one at that, which offer reasonable sound and functionality.

Their cheap price (we’ve seen them at $349 for the pair on Amazon) makes them terrific value for money, especially considering their superb dynamic and clarity. Go for these if you don’t want to hit the near-$500 a pair of HDP6s cost.

Specs Table:

Audioengine HDP6 $499 12.5lbs 1 x 5.5″, 1 x 1″ 88dB 10-150W
Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73 $493 15.7lbs 1 x 5.25″, 1 x 4″, 1 x 1″ 85dB 230W+
ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 $500 16.5lbs 1 x 5.25″, 1 x 4″, 1 x 1″ 85dB 40-140W
Wharfedale Diamond 220 $349 11.7lbs 1 x 5.15″, 1 x 1″ 86dB 25W-100W

* Suggested Amplifier Power

Video Review:


Lenovo Tab 4 8 Review

The Pros

Good battery life; Decent performance; Bright and colorful display; Great value

The Cons

Front camera could be better


The Lenovo Tab 4 8 is a great value, offering a long battery life, decent performance and a bright display, all for just $128.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho lenovo tab 4 8

Good for media consumption and light productivity, Lenovo’s 8-inch Tab 4 8 provides long battery life and smooth performance at an affordable price. And unlike the competing Amazon Fire HD 8, the $128 Tab 4 8 comes with the real Android operating system and a full suite of Google apps.

Design: Plain

Measuring 8.3 x 0.3 x 4.9 inches and weighing 0.7 pounds, the Lenovo Tab 4 8 has a no-frills design. Its back is covered with a smooth charcoal material that gives the Tab 4 8 an almost velvet feel, while gunmetal-gray plastic sides provide a sturdy grip. The bezels are of moderate size, with the top one featuring a 2-MP front camera. The rear houses a 5-MP shooter.

The Tab 4 8 has dual speakers nestled at the top and bottom edges. The slate also has room for a micro USB charging port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and an unassuming microSD slot hidden under a Lenovo port cover on the left-hand side. On the Tab 4 8’s right side lie the volume and power button.

Display: Great for the price

The Lenovo Tab 4 8’s 1280 x 800 display is more than capable of facilitating comfortable web surfing, gaming and light video viewing. Colors aren’t the most vibrant compared to those on premium tablets, but they appear much better than its competitors in this price range. When I watched the Love Yourself: Her Serendipity trailer from BTS, the Tab 4’s resolution made Jimin’s features less sharp than they appear on other screens. Despite this, the panel was still able to show fine details, like the specks in Jimin’s contact lenses during an extreme close-up and individual strands of his blond hair.

According to our colorimeter, the Tab 4 8’s screen reproduced 89.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That number is higher than scores from the Lenovo Tab 4 10 (87 percent) and Amazon Fire HD 8 (79 percent). Though the Tab 4 8’s display is not as colorful as the category average (97.39 percent), I found it to be more than adequate for my YouTube streaming.

Compared to its similarly priced competitors, the Tab 4 8 is on the brighter side, at 429 nits. This score surprisingly beat out showings from the Lenovo Tab 4 10 (307 nits) and Amazon Fire HD 8 (380 nits), as well as the category average (392 nits). The Apple iPad (470 nits) is brightest, but it’s impressive that Lenovo’s $128 tablet fell only 41 nits below that mark.

Audio: Atmos enabled

With dual Dolby Atmos stereo speakers at the top and bottom edge of the tablet, the Tab 4 8 produced loud audio. When I listened to Jessi’s “Spirit Animal,” I could clearly hear the bass and vocals, with hardly any distortion. Reproduction also had enough boom to fill a small conference room. The Tab 4 8 comes with a Dolby app installed so you can adjust its audio to your liking, a feature I really appreciated because it’s so robust.

There’s a built-in microphone hidden at the very bottom of the Lenovo Tab 4 8. If you’re filming video or recording an event, make sure the Tab 4 8’s microphone is pointed in the right direction, which may require you to flip the tablet upside down to capture the best sound. I recorded a few short voice notes to see how the microphone picks up sound, and the playback sounded accurate.

Performance: Decent

With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor and 2GB of RAM, the Lenovo Tab 4 8 provides reliable speed for most of your media needs. I could surf the web and use social media apps with ease in between playing a few rounds of Candy Crush. Netflix ran smoothly even when I had 10 tabs open in Google Chrome.

The Lenovo Tab 4 8 scored 1,847 on the Geekbench 4 app, a benchmark that measures overall performance. This result isn’t as as strong as the Lenovo Tab 4 10’s showing (1,891) or the category average (3,162), but it’s much better than the Amazon Fire HD 8’s result (1,785).

Lenovo’s 8-inch tablet also turned in an underwhelming 6,029 on the Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, which measures graphics performance. That score is better than the Amazon Fire HD 8’s result (6,015), but only by a slight margin. The Lenovo Tab 4 10 (6,112) fared slightly better, though the category average (13,842) blows out both Lenovo tablets’ scores. But take note — this is a sub-$200 tablet we’re talking about.

Battery Life: Pretty good

The Lenovo Tab 4 8 may not be the longest-lasting tablet, but it offers good endurance. The tablet lasted 10 hours and 7 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous web surfing at 150 nits), beating out the category average of 9 hours and 56 minutes.

However, Lenovo’s Tab 4 10 lasted significantly longer, clocking in at 11 hours and 17 minutes, while the Amazon Fire HD 8 lasted 10 hours and 58 minutes.

Interface and Software

Lenovo’s Tab 4 10 runs on Android 7.1 Nougat and comes preloaded with Google Apps and Google’s Gboard virtual keyboard. One feature that turned out to be really handy was Nougat’s split-screen view, which made it possible to check my email while I surfed the web.

The interface is very simple, featuring the standard navigation buttons found on Android devices at the bottom of the screen: back, home and overview. Right above the home button is an app manager that lets you see all of the Tab 4 8’s installed apps. At the top of the screen lies a search button that works with Google Chrome or OK Google.

The Lenovo Tab 4 8 comes preloaded with useful apps like Microsoft Office and Lenovo SHAREit. That app transfers files easily to other devices over Wi-Fi, proving that this tablet can be helpful in work settings. There’s also the SYNCit app that aggregates your contacts, SMS messages and photos.

Cameras: OK

The cameras on the Lenovo Tab 4 8 aren’t the best, but they’re much better than those found on other tablets on the market. The rear-facing camera is 5-MP and shoots relatively clear shots, while the 2-MP, front-facing camera is significantly blurry in comparison. Combined, these specs resulted in grainy and shaky video.

Colors were also undersaturated, giving my tan skin a gray tinge that looked sickly. Though this tablet wouldn’t be a photographer’s top choice, it can handle a Skype call in a pinch.


The Tab 4 8’s 16GB model comes with 2GB of RAM, and is available for $128. There’s also a 32GB configuration available, along with a “Plus” version that comes with a built-in fingerprint scanner. The Tab 4 8 Plus also comes in 16GB and 64GB configurations, which also feature more RAM (3GB and 6GB) and higher-resolution cameras (5-MP front, 8-MP back), all for an additional cost.

Or for $180 you can opt for the Lenovo Tab 4 10, which packs in many of the same specs as the Tab 4 8, but with a larger screen. There’s also a Plus version for the Tab 4 10, which sells for $340. All of the Tab 4 configurations feature microSD slots that let you expand your storage to up to 256GB, so you can take that into consideration before shelling out more cash for a larger storage size.


Lenovo provides several accessories to keep your Tab 4 8 in pristine condition. These include a $25 folio case, a $30 case rugged enough kids and an $80 keyboard case. The Tab 4 8 will also work with an Alexa-enabled speaker, so you can use a Home Assistant for hands-free tasks.

Bottom Line

The $128 Lenovo Tab 4 8 is a great tablet for the price because it delivers on everything it promises to be. It’s an affordable Android tablet that provides a bright display, good audio and reliable performance.

Shoppers who prefer a slate with a slightly larger screen and better performance for a modest price should look toward Lenovo’s $180 Tab 4 10. If you’d rather get your hands on a decent tablet at bargain prices, Amazon’s $80 Fire HD 8 is more than enough. However, if you want a true Android tablet, complete with Google apps, that sells at an affordable price, the Tab 4 8 is a great choice.


Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR review : Finally, a Suunto Spartan watch worth shouting about

We’ve been waiting for something from Suunto to shout about and it looks like we finally have it. From the improved design, heart rate monitoring and a bucketload of sports tracking features, there’s a whole lot to love here. What we like most here though is the price. You’ll be hard stretched to find something that offers what Suunto does with the Trainer Wrist HR for the same money. That’s going to make it attractive for anyone that doesn’t want to spend big on a feature-packed GPS sports watch from Garmin and Polar.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR

  • Slimmer design
  • Great value for money
  • Solid heart rate monitoring
  • Strong battery life
  • Web app better than phone app
  • Underwhelming fitness features
  • Limited smartwatch features
  • Touchscreen is gone

Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR

Suunto’s Spartan GPS sports watches haven’t exactly blown us away but the Spartan Trainer Wrist HR is the Finnish company’s latest attempt to prove it can rival the best of what rivals Garmin and Polar have to offer.

The Trainer Wrist HR is essentially the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR with a smaller, slimmer body. You can expect the same sports tracking modes, onboard optical heart rate sensor, a waterproof design and big battery life. It’s a sub-$300 watch that’s going to appeal to runners, cyclists, triathletes, swimmers and outdoor lovers and that price is key here. There’s very few watches that can offer these features for this price.

Inevitably it’s going to draw comparisons to the Garmin Fenix 5S, which offers the Fenix 5 in a slimmer body, but there’s a big price difference between Garmin and Suunto’s slimmer watches.

So the price is right, but does it deliver where it matters? We’ve been living with the Trainer Wrist HR for a month now taking it running, swimming, cycling and more to find out.


Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR review

Before we get onto looks, we have to talk about size first because that’s the big talking point here with the Trainer Wrist HR. One of our main design gripes with the Spartan Sport Wrist HR was its hulking size and as you’ll see from the side-by-side picture below, things have been scaled down pretty significantly. It’s 15.7mm thick and weighs 56g (or 66g for metal bezel models) making it lighter than the Sport and it shows when you’re wearing it. Its smaller stature makes it all that more appealing.

It is still undeniably a sports watch looks-wise, but some of the design language has evolved from the bigger Spartan watch in an attempt to make it a more attractive option. There’s the visible screws around the circular watch display, two additional physical buttons to aid navigation and a softer feeling replaceable strap with watch-style buckle.

There’s five models to choose from, the ocean, blue and black models ($279) are the cheapest of the bunch and feature plastic bezels. If you want something more luxurious, the gold and steel options, which feature metal bezels push the price up to $329. The ocean (turquoise) model we had might be an acquired taste for some, but we appreciated the bright splash of colour that makes a change from the usual drab colours we usually have to pick from with sports watches.

Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR review

Trainer Wrist HR (left) and Spartan Sport Wrist HR (right)

Shrinking down in size does come with some compromises but none that will really have that great of an impact on day-to-day use for the majority of people. Waterproofing is down from 100m to 50 metres and there’s now a smaller non-touchscreen display that sees the resolution drop as well. It’s a situation once again where vibrancy and sharpness is sacrificed for extending battery life and offering good screen visibility in all conditions and that’s exactly what you do get here.

Around the back is where you’ll find an optical heart rate sensor, which relies on the same Valencell technology used in the Sport Wrist HR. You’ll also find charging points for the charger that magnetically clips into the back.

Sports tracking

Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR review

While there’s some changes in the design department, there’s nothing really missing on the sports tracking front. You still get 80 sports modes that come pre-installed comprehensively covering indoor and outdoor activities with the core activities of running, swimming and cycling all covered.

You still get GPS tracking (though no GLONASS support), a built-in altimeter for outdoor tracking, navigation modes, route planning options and the ability to pair additional sensors like Stryd’s running power meter, cycling cadence sensors and external heart rate monitors for additional metrics. Ultimately, you are getting a very similar tracking experience to the Sport Wrist HR and that’s definitely a good thing.

Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR review

GPS tracking accuracy: Suunto (left) and Polar Beat (centre and right)

Our running experience through training runs and our race test at the Great North Run with the Trainer Wrist HR was virtually identical with the Sport Wrist HR. You get the same metrics displayed on the watch while GPS signal pick-up is speedy as well. You can still adjust GPS quality (best, good and okay) to extend GPS battery life and in optimal mode it delivered the goods in our numerous tests. There were some small discrepancies with distance tracked, but data like average pace was generally spot on.

Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR review

For swimming (indoor and open water) and cycling, the Trainer Wrist HR impresses well. GPS tracking was solid and it’s these modes where a touchscreen is not really missed as the watch can be trickier to navigate in the water and cycling on a bike.

Post workout, there’s some nice insights into recovery and training loads, some of which can be viewed on the watch but most of the additional data requires you to head to the Suunto Movescount web app. Whether you’re a triathlete in training or just like to track more than one sport, then this watch has well and truly got you covered.

Heart rate accuracy

suunto spartan trainer wrist hr review

Wrist based heart rate monitors are a mixed bag when it comes to accurately measuring your bpms. Yes, they might be more convenient and comfortable than chest monitors, but there’s multiple ways that reliability and accuracy can be affected from fit to skin colour.

The heart rate monitor on the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR is up there with some of the best we’ve tested, so we were hoping for a similarly solid performance from the Trainer Wrist HR and that’s pretty much what you get.

Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR review

HR accuracy compared: Suunto (left) and Polar Beat (centre and right)

It didn’t deliver identical results to the Polar H10 chest strap on every occasion, but it’s one of the most reliable we’ve tried. We put it through high intensity training, checked in on resting heart rate throughout the day and put it through the running test and above is a sample of the kind of results that were produced. Average heart rate results were generally two or three out from the chest strap while graphs do show similar dips and peaks. Those maximum heart rate readings can appear higher, but on the whole results appeared pretty reliable.

Suunto certainly makes a better argument than Garmin and Polar that you can ditch that chest strap and measure heart rate from the wrist, but we still think there’s some room to make the accuracy even better.

Fitness tracking and smart notifications

Suunto’s sports watch does double as a fitness tracker but it still feels a very secondary feature to the sports tracking where Suunto really excels. From the watch you can check on daily and weekly step counts and continuous heart rate data. You can now also monitor sleep as long as you activate it from the settings. Activity data can be viewed from the app, but these features simply don’t feel as robust or as insightful as they are on Garmin Connect or Polar Flow.

It’s a similar story when it comes to adding smartwatch-style features. It’ll serve up notifications from first and third party applications, but you can’t respond to them. There are some apps available from the Movescount web app to try out but you’ll have to do without features like music playback control.

If you want a sports watch that doubles as a fitness tracker and smartwatch, there’s better options out there to go for instead.

The app

Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR review

When you need to sync and review data, you still have your choice of the Suunto Movescount smartphone or web apps. While the mobile version is showing signs of improvement, it’s still very threadbare and streamlined, so you might find yourself spending more time in the web version if you really want to get the most of the data that the Trainer Wrist HR churns out.

With the mobile app, you can see a feed of all your Moves (workouts), which is also broken down by individual sports and you tap to dig deeper for additional metrics, share the workout or watch your Suunto movie of your route. That’s really your lot though. There’s definitely room for improvement here and while we appreciate that the experience is clogged with unnecessary information, there’s so much more it could be providing.

Over in the web app you’ll find more streams of data metrics, the ability to compare data, see heatmaps and access community features. It’s here where you can set up support for third party apps like Strava. Hopefully some of these features will start finding their way into the mobile version in the not too distant future.

Battery life performance

Thankfully, a smaller body doesn’t necessarily mean a vastly reduced battery performance from the Trainer Wrist HR. Suunto claims you should get up to 10 hours in GPS tracking with the best accuracy, up to 30 hours using the power saving modes and 14 days in watch mode. To put that into perspective, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR manages 8 hours in best GPS mode and 12 hours in power saving mode.

Now we should mention that initially we did encounter some battery-related issues with the Trainer Wrist HR where it struggled to make it through a day, even without sports tracking. With the latest firmware update on board, it’s been an entirely different story and we’d agree with Suunto on those strong battery claims. If you don’t regularly use the GPS, it’s good for a couple of weeks. With more rigorous GPS use, you will comfortably get a week’s worth of training out of it. It’s a really good showing all round here.


What Google’s Pixel 2 needs to compete with iPhone X

Apple’s stepped up their game with the iPhone X, creating a device that not only has a built-in cult following, but delivers on new features to boot. Google’s task now with Pixel is to create not only a solid Android phone, but a device that’s at least as high quality as the phone’s first generation. Today we’re having a peek at some of the key features on the iPhone X to see what Google’s Pixel 2 will need to directly compete.

What Google’s Pixel 2 needs to compete with iPhone X

Which is a better starter phone?

Neither the iPhone X or either of Google’s Pixel phones are meant for your everyday average Joe. No user new to smartphones will purchase a Pixel 2 or an iPhone X – not for the amount of money each of these smartphone lines cost. The everyday average citizen doesn’t go out and purchase a brand new car when they’re just learning to drive.

Both the Google Pixel and Apple’s iPhone X would be perfect starter phones if they were available for free. But they cost many hundreds of dollars – far more than is reasonable for someone who’s just getting started in the smartphone universe. Do not buy one of these devices as a first phone for your teenager – unless of course you’re made of money.

Establishing a Baseline

While we’ve yet to see the price of the Pixel 2, there’s little reason to assume pricing will change from last year’s models. That means $649 for the standard Pixel and $769 for the Pixel XL. The iPhone X starts at $999. For those prices, we’re talking top-tier buyers, early adopters, and those that are just plain addicted to having the biggest and the best. So we’ll judge mostly without price in mind.

Which display is better?

The Google Pixel (2016) has a display that is OK. It’s not the most mind-blowing piece of equipment in a smartphone, nor is it very good in direct sunlight. Barring Google pulling out a totally surprise-reveal of a Samsung-made Super AMOLED display on the Pixel 2, this may be Apple’s game.

It’s with the display that the iPhone X will win most of its customers. The display on this smartphone is easily the best on an iPhone and amongst the best on the market this year. It’s only with Samsung that the iPhone X contends for display supremacy. With the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, Samsung’s displays spill over the edges, while with iPhone X, the display has a notch but for the entire frontside of the phone.

It’s only once we get the iPhone X next to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 that we’ll know which display is truly supreme. Google’s Pixel (at least the 2016 model), isn’t really in the same league. There’s nothing inherently wrong with what Google’s got in the Pixel (and probably the Pixel 2), but the company hasn’t yet presented anything extraordinary.

Which has a better camera?

The battle for best camera is going to be a TIGHT one this year, especially considering the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus’ standings in the ranks VS the list-topping Pixel (2016) right now. It’s really difficult to decide which smartphone has the “best” camera here in 2017 even judging the phones that are already out on the market, much less adding a new phone to the mix.

The iPhone X has a collection of camera abilities that may place it ahead of the Pixel 2, assuming the Pixel 2 comes with a single-camera setup again in 2017. The Pixel line currently tops the charts for all the most basic camera quality tests. But the iPhone X has everything the iPhone 8 Plus has plus the addition of optical image stabilization on both of its lenses. That MAY put the iPhone X out ahead of the Pixel 2 in more ways than one – we shall see.

Which has better battery life?

Everyone that’s ever owned a smartphone will tell you stories of fast-draining batteries and lost charger cords. Unfortunate for the Google Pixel, there won’t likely be any wireless charging (if last year’s model is any indication), so you’ll need the cord. Fortunate for the Google Pixel, the Pixel line has thus far proven itself as a battery-efficient set of phones. With the Pixel XL (2016), the battery almost always lasts a full day at a time, without issue – and it has Fast Charging from Qualcomm.

Cross your fingers for the battery life on the iPhone X. For now it would seem that Apple’s rating the iPhone X fairly well on battery time. As you’ll see in the chart provided by Apple, Apple suggests the iPhone X will last “up to 2 hours longer than the iPhone 7”. At the same time, the quoted hours seem to be nearly identical to those on the iPhone 8 Plus. The iPhone 8 Plus in turn is said to last “about the same as the iPhone 7 Plus”.

The good news for the iPhone X is that Apple’s added Qi standard wireless charging. They’ve also added Quick Charging so the device can charge up to 50% in 30 minutes. Google’s implementation of Quick Charge is said to allow “Fast charging: up to 7 hours of use from only 15 minutes of charging”.

Which has better software?

Google’s Android hasn’t changed dramatically from the last big build. If you’ve used Android in the last couple of years, you won’t feel like anything’s caught you off-guard with what Pixel 2 will be delivered with. That’s Android Oreo – software that’s already on the Pixel and Pixel XL.

Apple’s iPhone X will come with iOS 11, software that’ll really only reveal itself fully when this and the iPhone 8 line are released. The iPhone X hardware will have a big effect on how the user uses their phone. If we’re judging purely on which device will feel like the biggest change from one generation to the next, the iPhone X wins by a mile. If we’re judging based on ease of transition from one generation to the next, it’s Google who’ll take the cake.

OK, but which is really best?

There really isn’t a contest between these devices because of the different consumers they attract – not to mention the completely different operating systems they run. An iPhone user will be more likely to choose the iPhone X, while an Android fan will be more likely to choose a Pixel – that’s largely been my experience in chats with people aiming for either in the near future.

This year may end up being a game-changer based on the emphasis Apple’s placed on the importance of the iPhone X. But we won’t know how well any device will sell until it’s been put on the market – or at least until we see how much either company is willing to spend on advertising.

When this article is set to be published, the iPhone X is not yet out in stores – you literally cannot purchase the device yet. The same is true of the Google Pixel 2, which is set to be revealed on October 5th – more than likely. Right now it seems like the iPhone X could have an edge over the Pixel 2 unless Google has some new tricks up its sleeve – we shall see!

Stay tuned for our full review of the iPhone X and event reveal of both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in early October. We’ll also have a review of the Pixel 2 for you soon after that!


2018 Polaris RZR Dynamix First Drive Review : Off-road witchcraft

For those unacquainted with the experience of offroading in a Polaris RZR, allow me a few brief words to familiarize you with the sensations. Dusty. Bouncy. Jarring. Thrilling. Windy. Scary. Rattling. And after you’re done, Aching. For most weekend-warrior RZR drivers, the raw joy of conquering the backroads and trails of the western deserts of the USA have to be balanced by the raw muscles you’ll have the day after. But that “offroader’s hangover” might be a thing of the past, thanks to Polaris’ new Dynamix suspension.

2018 Polaris RZR Dynamix First Drive: Off-road witchcraft

Don’t get me wrong, the suspensions of RZRs past were modern wonders in their own right. Slickrock climbs, “gravel” roads where the rocks are the size of softballs, and desert trails of powdery sand were all one and the same, thanks to high clearances, long travels and stabilizer bars. But, as with most things in these wired days, the only thing missing was just the right algorithm.

It’s not missing anymore. What Polaris’ engineers found was a computer controlled safety and comfort system that completely changes the offroad experience. To prove that point to me, they let me take a pair of their top-flight vehicles, one with Dynamix and one without, to the desert for a back-to-back comparison.

Having driven a RZR a couple of times in the past, I thought I knew what I was in for when I strapped into the 2018 RZR XP Turbo EPS Dynamix. But even “strapping in” was different. Instead of the usual four- or five-point restraint harness, I buckled up a standard shoulder belt. Then I looked around the cockpit. Gear lever on the floor? Check. Tiny fixed steering wheel? Check. Cupholders and dust resistant box for cell phone charging? Well, OK, check. Oversized center-mounted speedometer – wait a second…

Instead of big round dial, my eyes beheld a tablet touchscreen, the heart of the Ride Command system, which fired up with a turn of the ignition key. Big rubber buttons beneath the screen led to the main functions: instruments, radio, GPS, Bluetooth connectivity and the system menu, including the Dynamix suspension system. I could spend an entire article on the GoPro camera integration or the GPS features that let you track your group around a trail run, but that’s not what I came to the desert to do. I came to drive.

Helmet on, radio checked, ignition started, we set off. A rocker switch to the left of the screen let me choose between “comfort,” “sport,” and “firm.” As the first leg of the trip was over some pretty tame sand trails, I chose “firm.” This was close to the ride I remembered from previous drives. The RZR tells you what you just ran over in pretty clear terms, but you never feel like the obstacles really bothered it. They bothered you, however, as the bumps and shakes threw you around against your restraints. As the trail got rougher, I switched over to “comfort” and immediately felt the difference a little computer power makes.

Suddenly, the RZR stopped punishing me for driving over rocks. It stopped chastising me for taking that dip just a bit too fast. Decide to take the right fork at the last minute, instead of the left? No worries, friend, you’re not going to eat the exterior safety net or fear rolling over. It’s all taken care of. Fascinated by the change, I quickly upgraded to “comfort” and I almost forgot I was on an unimproved – hell, barely marked – trail.

And therein lies the danger of this amazing safety system. It does not punish you for overconfidence. It does not inflict pain for wandering concentration. More than once, I looked at the bottom of a wash or gully coming too fast and thought, “oh, this is gonna suck.” And it simply didn’t. The RZR took it in stride and kept going straight. One time, distracted by some gorgeous Nevada scenery, I nearly missed the turn taken by the rest of our group. I mashed the brake (bad idea) and threw the wheel to the left (also not the greatest) and expected a fight to keep the vehicle upright and mostly off the Federally-protected desert tortoise habitat. Neither thing happened. A little skid, a little sway, and off to the left we went.

Weighing only 1,400 pounds, and powered by a 168-hp ProStar 4-Stroke DOHC Twin Cylinder Turbocharged engine, the Dynamix model gives you ample power to climb over or speed past just about anything the trail sets in front of you. Make no mistake, with all that power and so little weight, it will try to do both at the same time if you let it. Which is why Polaris specifically designed the Dynamix system to automatically raise the stiffness of the suspension to maximum when you do, inevitably, catch a little air. Rather than the bone-rattling shatter of bottoming out, RZR simply “tsk-tsks” you and carries on.

As impressed as I was with the machine when we stopped, I was looking forward to the switch to Polaris’ old-school RZR XP 1000. No turbo, no computer, just me and 110 horses versus the same trail I had driven in the Dynamix model. Man and machine versus the wild, the way God intended. It hurt a lot more.

As I mentioned above, my first inkling that there was something different about the Dynamix model was the restraint system. Without it, you simply must have a 4- or 5-point restraint system to keep you in your seat. Fortunately, the XP 1000 has that. Next, top speeds on straights and entry speeds on turns are – by necessity – far slower without that active suspension assistance. I still had the basic confidence that the machine would do what I wanted it to do. The RZR wouldn’t let you down, but it would happily share the pain of getting it done. Let me put it this way: a fellow rider got credit for 9,000 steps on her Fitbit… sitting in the passenger seat. It was the type of RZR ride I remembered, but as it turns out, the new suspension cured me of my nostalgia.

The computerized active suspension lets you relax and enjoy the experience so much more. I would not recommend learning to drive an off-road vehicle on a Dynamix-equipped RZR (see my comments on overconfidence and distraction above). I might think twice about it on a “technical” track where feedback from the suspension is arguably more important. But for a quick pleasure jaunt – or even a day-to-day drive to check the cattle and mend fences – the improved handling and speed of the Dynamix is hard to argue against.

Having said all of that, this extra functionality will cost you. The base price for a RZR XP 1000 is a “mere” $17,999. The RZR XP Turbo EPS Dynamix rings up at $25,999. What that extra eight grand will buy is a console full of toys (which I barely touched on), markedly improved handling, and the ability let the machine do some of the offroading for you – just enough to let you get away with some mistakes. If you want a pure offroad experience, save your cash. But if you want to get more enjoyment out of going offroad – and don’t want your back muscles to remind you about it the next day – consider dishing out the extra.


Sony RX10 IV vs RX10 III vs RX10 II Review

Sony love a surprise product announcement – they did it last March 2016 with the RX10 III, so it was little surprise when we were scrambling around our desks at 3pm on the 12th September to watch the live launch for the new Sony RX10 IV!

In this comparison we’re comparing the Sony RX10 II with the RX10 III and the very latest RX10 IV and will be looking at:

  1. First Impressions
  2. Image Quality Comparison
  3. Video Quality
  4. Focusing Systems
  5. Difference in Focal Range
  6. LCD Screens
  7. Connectivity & Other Changes
  8. Conclusion


Sony RX10 II vs Sony RX10 III vs Sony RX10 IV Comparison Review


Go straight to our specifications comparison table.


When the Sony RX10 III launched in March 2016 it was more of an alternative to the RX10 II as opposed to a direct replacement product, meaning that when comparing the two, the differences weren’t as obvious as with an entirely new model.

The same could be said when comparing the Sony RX10 IV with its predecessors, the RX10 III and RX10 II, however there are certainly some obvious differences between the three cameras that make them distinct from each other.

As with their Alpha a7 series, RX100 series and almost any other camera range, really, Sony are in the habit of keeping the preceding camera in the lineup in production rather than immediately killing it off when the new version comes out, as other camera manufacturers tend to do.

Front view of the Sony RX10 IV showing the camera body with the grip and the 24-600mm telephoto lens

This means that, right now, you can buy all four iterations of the RX10, from the original to the latest RX10 Mark IV.

At first glance, the RX10 IV is identical in outward appearance to the RX10 III, which will be reassuring to anyone upgrading from a previous model. There was a much more noticeable difference between the RX10 II to the RX10 III – most obviously in the much longer lens, but also a redesigned grip and new shape to the body.

However, it’s on the inside where all the changes have been made between the RX10 II to the III to the IV.


On the face of it, image quality hasn’t changed much between the RX10 Mark II to the latest RX10 IV, with all three cameras sharing the same megapixel count (20.1 effective), and using the same 1.0-type EXMOR RS CMOS sensor, with all three being powered by the famed Bionz X image processing engine.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Sony RX10 IiKết quả hình ảnh cho Sony RX10 Ii

Sony RX10 II  – Sample photo

Some may look at this and wonder why Sony haven’t added more pixels with each follow-up model, but there’s a good reason for this, and it’s the same reason why the Sony a7S II only has 12 megapixels.

The answer is that they simply don’t need more. Camera manufacturers worked out a couple of years ago that adding more megapixels doesn’t always equal better quality images, especially with smaller sensors like the 1.0-type. So in the case of the RX10 series, 20.1 megapixels is plenty; any more and image quality like noise would be sacrificed for the sake of resolution.

However, with improvements made to the Bionz X image processing engine from previous models, the processor in the RX10 IV offers faster continuous shooting of up to 24 frames per second, whereas the RX10 III and RX10 II were only capable of 14fps.

Hình ảnh có liên quan

Sony RX10 III  – Sample photo


When the RX10 II came out in July 2015 it introduced 4K video recording into the RX10 series, and at the time this was a huge deal.

As time goes on, we photographers expect more and more, so it’s no surprise that the RX10 III and newest RX10 IV also record ultra high definition 4K video.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Sony RX10 Iii

Sony RX10 III 

There haven’t been any major advancements here since the RX10 II was released, but as with megapixel count, there doesn’t necessarily need to be. The ability to shoot Full HD 1080p video at 120 frames per second to shoot slow-motion video, and ultra-high definition 4K video at 30p or 25p is exceptional for a compact bridge camera like the RX10 IV, and there’s not really any advancement to be made here, so Sony have kept the tried and tested tech.


So while still image quality and video image quality have remained the same between the RX10 Mark II, Mark III, and Mark IV, the autofocus system is where Sony have introduced new tech and significant improvements.

While the RX10 II and RX10 III share the same 25 point Contrast Detection autofocus system, Sony have introduced a Hybrid AF system into the RX10 Mark IV consisting of a 315 point Phase Detection system and 25 point Contrast Detection system.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Sony RX10 Iii

Sony RX10 III 

Focusing speed is just as important as focusing accuracy, so whereas the RX10 II and RX10 III were able to lock on focus in just 0.09 seconds, the RX10 IV has smashed this record and brought the focusing speed down to just 0.03 seconds, less than the blink of an eye.

This puts the RX10 IV in a class above its predecessors, the RX10 III and RX10 II, with faster and more accurate autofocus than anything that came before it. The 315 point Phase Detection autofocus system in the Mark IV covers approximately 65% of the entire image area of the image sensor, offering widespread and dense coverage of AF points.


The original RX10 and RX10 II shared the same Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* telephoto zoom lens with a focal range of 24mm to 200mm with a constant aperture of f/2.8 across the zoom range.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Sony RX10 IV vs RX10 III vs RX10 II

RX10 II vs RX10 III

From the RX10 III, Sony have brought a vast improvement to the focal reach of this camera, with the RX10 III and the latest RX10 IV offering a focal range of 24-600mm with an f/2.4-4 aperture.

A physical addition to this whopping lens between the RX10 II and RX10 III is a triple lens ring, enabling you to adjust zoom, aperture and focus with the twist of the dial – a nice improvement on the single focusing ring found on the other RX10 models. Another new button is the focus hold button, ensuring that focus distance is kept when pressed – alternatively you can choose to use this as a custom function button and assign it to do something else.

Image showing the Sony RX10 IV bridge camera with a fully extended 600mm zoom lens from above also showing top control panel and selector dial

The 24-600mm f/2.4-4 aperture lens in the RX10 IV and III is also a high quality Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* but is now constructed of 18 elements in 13 groups with 6 aspheric elements including an AA lens, whereas the RX10 II 24-200mm lens was constructed of 14 elements in 11 groups with 7 aspheric elements including an AA lens.

This lens also differs in the sense that it has a variable maximum aperture range of f/2.4-f/4 rather than the constant f/2.8 adopted in last year’s addition to the market. This is understandable given the effective 400mm extra focal length and is still an impressive maximum aperture at the far scale of the focal range.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Sony RX10 IV

This means that while the RX10 II only offered an optical zoom of 8.3x, the RX10 III and RX10 IV offer an optical zoom of 25x.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Sony RX10 Iii


Camera manufacturers like Sony worked out a few years ago that a 3.0 inch screen was the Goldilocks size for modern compact digital cameras, so the screen on the RX10 series hasn’t changed between the RX10 II and RX10 IV in terms of its size.

While the size of the screen on the RX10 IV is the same as the RX10 III and is also tiltable up to 109 degree upward and 41 degrees downward, it is also a Touchscreen – the first for an RX10 series camera, and introduces Touch Focus and Touch Pad functionality.

Sony RX10 II vs RX10 III vs RX10 IV Rear Screen Comparison

The Touchscreen on the RX10 IV is also higher resolution than its predecessors, at 1,440,000 dots compared to 1,228,800 dots in the RX10 III and RX10 II.

The XGA OLED 0.39-type 2,359,296 dot electronic viewfinder has stayed the same between the RX10 II, to the RX10 III and into the latest RX10 IV.


From a usability point of view, the addition of NFC and Wi-Fi to digital cameras has been one of the biggest and most noticeable leaps forward in recent years.

So while the RX10 II and RX10 III shared the same Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, the RX10 IV has introduced Bluetooth (4.1 – 2.4GHz band) into the camera for added functionality and increased usability including the ability to add location information from your phone into your photos and easy and quick sharing on-the-go.

Despite the extra demands from the RX10 II to the RX10 III battery life increased to 420 shots from expected 400 shots in the RX10 II; however, with the extra features and added functionality in the RX10 IV, battery life has taken a bit of a hit with an expected life of a single charge back down to 400 shots.

The RX10 IV is the same weight as the RX10 III at 1095 grams, but both are heavier (thanks mostly to the larger lens) than the RX10 II which is only 813 grams.


The are some big physical changes between the RX10 II and the RX10 III, with minor changes to the internal workings and image quality, which makes the primary difference between the two cameras the added reach from the significantly longer focal length lens.

However, while the RX10 III and RX10 IV share broadly the same physical appearance (other than the addition of a tiltable touchscreen on the rear), the main changes are to the inside, with vast improvements made to the speed and accuracy of the autofocus system, increased continuous shooting of up to 24 frames per second, and added connectivity with Bluetooth.

Whichever camera you opt for, whether its an RX10 II, RX10 III or the very latest RX10 IV, you’ll have a camera that shoots stunning 20.1 megapixel still images, ultra high definition 4K video at 30p, and steady and shake free shots with a phenomenal zoom range.


Sony RX10 II
Sony RX10 III
Sony RX10 IV
Image Quality 20.1MP 1.0-type EXMOR RS CMOS Sensor 20.1MP 1.0-type EXMOR RS CMOS Sensor 20.1MP 1.0-type EXMOR RS CMOS Sensor
Video Quality 4K Video at 30p, Full HD at 120p 4K Video at 30p, Full HD at 120p 4K Video at 30p, Full HD at 120p
Processor BIONZ X Image Processor BIONZ X Image Processor BIONZ X Image Processor
Focusing 0.09sec, 25 Point Contrast Detection 0.09sec, Fast Intelligent AF – 25 Point Contrast Detection 0.03sec, 315 Phase Detection + 25 Point Contrast Detection
Hybrid Autofocus
Focal Range 8.3x Optical Zoom Zeiss 24-200mm f/2.8 Zoom Lens 25x Optical Zoom Zeiss 24-600mm f/2.4-4 Zoom Lens 25x Optical Zoom Zeiss 24-600mm f/2.4-4 Zoom Lens
LCD Screen Fixed 3.0 inch 1,228,800-dot TFT LCD Fixed 3.0 inch 1,228,800-dot TFT LCD Tiltable 3.0 inch 1,440,000-dot TFT LCD Touchscreen
with Touch Focus
Continuous Shooting 14fps Continuous Shooting 14fps Continuous Shooting 24fps Continuous Shooting
Connectivity USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, NFC USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, NFC USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth
Battery Life 400 Images 420 Images 400 Images
Weight 813g 1095g 1095g


10 Best Features of the Apple iPhone X

Apple has recently unveiled their latest and most powerful smartphone to date, the iPhone X. As the company’s 10th anniversary iPhone, it packs new features and more powerful specs. So for those planning to upgrade to this device, here are its best features that you can look forward to.

1. 5.8-inch Super Retina display

High-resolution displays are now common in Androids, but for long-time iPhone users who want to join in on the fun may now take solace in the iPhone X’s 5.7-inch Super Retina HDR True Tone display. It’s an OLED panel that boasts accurate colors, true blacks, 1,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio, 458ppi pixel density, and supports Dolby Vision and HDR10. In addition, it’s also the first iPhone to feature an All-Screen design that stretches all the way to the top and bottom of the device. So if you’re not a fan of the previous iPhones thick top and bottom bezels, this is it.

2. Glass front and back, with stainless steel frame

With a USD999 starting price, you could at least expect a premium device made from high-quality material. In the case of the iPhone X, you’re treated an all-glass front and back, and a highly polished, surgical-grade stainless steel band. So far it’s limited to Space Grey and Silver, but Apple says it went through a “seven-layer color process allows for precise color hues and opacity on the glass finish, and a reflective optical layer enhances the rich colors.

3. Water and dust resistance

Water and dust resistance are also present on the iPhone X with an IP67 rating under IEC standard 60529, meaning it is protected from dust and capable of withstanding water immersion up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. That said, you don’t have to worry about small particles getting inside and accidental splashes.

4. Face ID

Apple once again removed another feature in one of their latest devices, this time it’s the fingerprint-based Touch ID, which has been replaced with a new technology called Face ID. As the name suggests, it uses your face as a security feature. Using the TrueDepth camera system consisting of a dot projector (up to 30,000 invisible IR dots), infrared camera and flood illuminator, it can create a mathematical model of your face and uses it to unlock your device. In addition, machine learning lets Face ID adapt to physical changes in your appearance over time so it can keep recognizing your face.

5. 7MP TrueDepth front camera

The TrueDepth camera system is not just for Face ID as it also helps the 7MP front-facing camera capture better selfies using auto image stabilization and depth-of-field effect. In addition, it lets you take advantage of the new features like Portrait Lighting and Animoji.

6. Dual 12MP rear cameras

Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X uses a dual camera setup consisting of two 12MP sensors with dual optical image stabilization. The wide-angle shooter features a ƒ/1.8 aperture while the telephoto has a ƒ/2.4 aperture. In addition, it can record up to 4K video at 60fps, slow-mo at 1080p at up to 240fps, and sports a Quad-LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync for uniformly lit backgrounds and foregrounds.

7. A11 Bionic chipset

Succeeding the Apple A10 Fusion chip from last year is the Apple A11 Bionic with M11 motion coprocessor that is now powering the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and of course, the iPhone X. Apple says it’s 70% faster than the A10 Fusion and boasts a 64-bit architecture with Neural engine. That kind of processing power allows the iPhone X to handle its new technologies like the TrueDepth camera system and AR applications.

8. Up to 256GB storage

The iPhone 7/7 Plus maxes out at 128GB, in the case of the iPhone X, as well as the new iPhone 8/8Plus, you can enjoy double the maximum storage at 256GB which is good if you’re going to take a lot of photos and 4K vids which you probably will. If that is too much, you can opt for the 64GB variant. Sadly, there are no 32GB and 128GB capacities.

9. Wireless charging

Apple’s iPhones have become more powerful but I don’t think we can say the same thing about their Lightning cables. Good thing the new iPhones support wireless charging with devices like the AirPower mat and other Qi wireless chargers. And yes, you’ll need to buy it separately.

10. iOS 11

Last, but not the least, is iOS 11. While the new operating system will also be available in other supported iOS devices, the experience will be a bit different on the iPhone X due to its different screen and the lack of the physical home button. Therefore you’ll do more tapping, swiping, and scrolling, and less clicking.

And that’s about it. What about you? Which feature of the iPhone X do you like the best?


Toshiba Tecra X40-D Review

The Pros

Elegant design; Speedy performance; Comfy pointing stick

The Cons

Short battery life; Dim display; Convoluted ordering process; Uncomfortable keyboard


With weak battery life and several usability issues, the Tecra X40-D just can’t compete with other premium business notebooks.

The Tecra X40-D is an ultrathin 14.1-inch premium business notebook that’s great on paper but troublesome during use. While it looks slick and packs fast storage and processors, its keyboard is a pain to use, and its battery life is significantly lacking. When you use it a little more, you realize that its screen is too dim for a machine so expensive (tested at $2,049; starting at $1,129). Making matters even worse, the ordering process for a custom model is too much work  — the last straw for this laptop, which we can’t recommend.


The Tecra X40-D looks black from far away, but up close, you realize that its sleek brushed-metal, magnesium-alloy chassis is a dark onyx blue. The notebook also feels durable, barely flexing when gripped tightly.

Measuring 0.7 inches thick and weighing 2.7 pounds, the Tecra X40-D is lighter than the HP EliteBook x360 G2 (0.6 inches, 2.8 pounds) and the Dell Latitude 7280 (0.7 inches, 2.8 pounds) but heavier than the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (0.6 inches, 2.5 pounds).

Dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI-out and a microSD reader sit on the Tecra’s right side, while a USB 3.0 port, security lock slot and headphone jack are on the left.

The Tecra’s array of webcams sits on the top bezel and includes its IR sensor, used for Windows Hello logins. The notebook’s fingerprint sensor is found in the top-left corner of its touchpad, and while it’s small, I dislike this design choice, as touchpad real estate shouldn’t be usurped by other features.


We tested the Tecra X40-D with a 1920 x 1080-pixel panel (a $150 option when customizing), which offers OK color that’s besieged by a lack of luminance. When watching an episode of Rick and Morty on the Tecra X40-D, I noted the accurate blue-gray of Rick’s pointy hair and the crisp whites of his lab coat, as well as the rich, dark tones of soil dug up by Summer.

Our colorimeter disagreed with my assessment, ranking the Tecra’s output as 81 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That’s less than the 103-percent 14-inch-notebook average, the 104 percent from the ThinkPad X1 and the 109 percent from the EliteBook x360. The Latitude 7280 (73 percent) earned an even lower score.

Emitting up to 247 nits of brightness, the Tecra X40-D is rather dim. That’s below the 255-nit ultraportable average, the 275-nit ThinkPad X1 and the 289-nit Latitude 7280. The EliteBook x360 (239 nits) is even worse.

While the Tecra X40-D’s panel doesn’t bend back, it still offers touch input, for those who believe that all panels should be interactive. This touch screen offered accurate tracking as I navigated the desktop, and also recognized Windows 10’s edge-swipe gestures.

Security and Durability

All Tecra X40-D models feature industry standards for security but don’t meet the MIL-SPEC durability standards that all of its competitors live up to. . By default, the Tecra includes a TPM 2.0 chip for storing sensitive passwords and other information securely, Intel’s vPro remote management technology and a fingerprint reader, found in the top-left corner of its touchpad. Its smart-card reader costs an extra $10.

Most business laptops we test — including Lenovo ThinkPads, Dell Latitudes and HP EliteBooks — have gone through some form of MIL-SPEC durability testing to show that they can survive extreme shocks, vibrations, temperatures and other dangers. Toshiba makes no such lofty claims about the Tecra X40-D, saying only that it is built around its Tough Body chassis. The company notes that the Tecra features a reinforcement using a honeycomb design and shock absorbers.

Keyboard and Touchpad

When a keyboard is especially uncomfortable, I pass it around our office to show off how badly the machine failed. While two of my colleagues especially disliked the Tecra X40-D’s spacebar, which is both short and stiff, a third pushed it back to me shortly after trying to use it, saying, simply, “I don’t like it.” The keys’ measurements (1.4 millimeters of travel, 69 grams of required force) aren’t the issue, as they’re relatively similar to the 1.5 mm and 60 grams we look for.

The issue instead seems to be that the key mechanisms feel stiff, and this problem is particularly acute on the spacebar. . Testing the keyboard on the typing test, I hit a rate of 75 words per minute, which is acceptably near my 80-wpm average, but the process irritated my digits so much that I immediately moved back to the mechanical keyboard connected to my laptop.

“I don’t like it.”

The Tecra X40-D’s clickable touchpad sits below left- and right-click buttons, which barely move down at all, and feel as stiff as its spacebar. However, the 3.8 x 2.2-inch touchpad’s surface tracked my input accurately and offered smooth scrolling.

The Tecra X40-D’s pointing stick might be Toshiba’s best yet. It’s soft and cushy, and the micro-nubs on its top don’t grate like those on Dell and HPlaptops (Lenovo’s TrackPoint is still the gold standard.).


Only after disabling one setting will music lovers appreciate the Tecra X40-D’s Harman-Kardon-branded speakers. When I listened to a variety of songs, including the Queens of Stone Age song “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” on the notebook, I noticed an odd inconsistency in its sound, as if it were wavering in strength, and the vocals and guitars came out fuzzier than they should have.

Fortunately, I stopped this audible menace by opening the preloaded Dolby DTS sound utility and turning it off, which is odd because the app typically is an improvement, not a detriment. The laptop then filled a medium-size conference room with crisp, accurate sound.


Our review configuration of the Toshiba Tecra X40-D (running on an Intel Core i7-6600U CPU with 16GB of RAM) provides plenty of speed for effortless multitasking. I saw no stutter after splitting its screen between a dozen Chrome tabs (including GIPHY, Slack and Gmail) and a 1080p YouTube video.

The Tecra utilized this brawn to notch a 9,219 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test. That’s higher than the 9,103 thin-and-light-notebook average; the 8,571 from the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Intel Core i7-7600U, 16GB of RAM); the 8,088 from the Latitude 7280 (Intel Core i7-7600U, 8GB of RAM); and the 8,873 from the EliteBook x360 G2 (Intel Core i7-7600U, 16GB of RAM).

The Tecra’s 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD duplicated a DVD’s worth of multimedia files in 17 seconds, for a speed of 299.4MBps, tying the  EliteBook x360 G2 (512GB SSD) and outpacing the 232.9-MBps category average, the 242-MBps speed from the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (512GB PCIe SSD) and the 96 MBps from the Latitude 7280 (256GB M.2 SATA Class 20 SSD).

Productivity-app users should feel confident with the Tecra, which finished our OpenOffice macro test, matching 20,000 names to addresses, in 3 minutes and 12 seconds — a minute under the 4:12 category average. That time places it in a tie with the Latitude 7280 (3:12) and narrowly ahead of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (3:22) and the EliteBook x360 G2 (3:16).

The integrated Intel HD 620 graphics chip enabled the Tecra to achieve a decent score of 77,829 on the Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark. That’s just above the 77,686 category average, and higher than  the 68,082 from the ThinkPad X1 Carbon; the 54,800 from the EliteBook x360 G2; and the 56,318 from the Latitude 7280, all of which also use the Intel HD 620 chip.

The Tecra’s solid performance doesn’t extend to gaming, though, as it ran the Dirt 3 racer (set to medium graphics at 1920 x 1080) at only 20 frames per second. That’s below our 30-fps playability threshold as well as the 28 fps from the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the 46 fps from the Latitude 7280 and the 43-fps category average. The EliteBook x360 G2 earned a similar 21 fps.

Battery Life

The Tecra X40-D’s low battery life will leave you searching for a power outlet on a frequent basis. In only 6 hours and 3 minutes, the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing over Wi-Fi) drained the Toshiba laptop of a full charge.

That’s a lot less time than the 8:40 category average and the times from the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (12:21), the EliteBook x360 G2 (9:17) and the Latitude 7280 (12:29).


The 0.9-megapixel webcam in the $2,000 Tecra is just as mediocre as the ones in budget $500 laptops.

While it captured a correct blue from the T-shirt I was wearing, my hair looked like a fuzzy black shock, and my skin came out blurry. I wish I could say that another laptop maker does webcams right, but this is endemic in the industry today.


The Tecra’s magnesium-alloy body stays cool during use. After we streamed HD video on its screen for 15 minutes, our heat gun picked up temperatures below our 95-degree comfort threshold on its touchpad (81 degrees), G and H keys (86 degrees) and underside (89 degrees).


The Tecra X40-D includes a few useful Toshiba utilities. The Service Station utility allows users to manage software updates, check system temperature and perform diagnostic tests to check motherboard stability and hard-drive health. Its Eco app gives users a way to check and reduce power consumption, as well as enable an Eco Charge mode, which keeps the battery running in tip-top shape for more years while reducing day-to-day endurance.

Configuration options

Our customized Tecra X40-D costs $2,040 and includes a Core i7-7600U CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB PCIe SSD. Annoyingly, if you want this model, or any other custom-built Tecra, you need to deal with a Toshiba sales rep.

Once you’ve customized a model, you fill out a contact-info page to submit these specs to Toshiba, which will come back to you to discuss final pricing. This is likely made for business shoppers, who buy in bulk and try to get discounts, but it’s more effort than we’d like.

The sole stock model, available without negotiation, costs $1,129 and includes a i5-7300U processor, 8GB of RAM, the 256GB PCIe SSD in our test model and a 1920 x 1080-pixel display.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re paying its starting price of $1,129 or the $2,040 that our test unit costs, you should expect a better business laptop than this. The Tecra X40-D suffers from short battery life, an uncomfortable keyboard and  a dim display. It has some good performance and a small dose of style, but those strengths aren’t enough to overcome its massive shortcomings.

For a starting price of $1,403 or $1,862 as configured, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has more than double the X40-D’s battery life while providing a lighter, more stylish chassis and one of the best keyboards you can get. With alternatives like that, there’s no reason to consider the Toshiba X40-D.


Hands on: Parrot Mambo FPV review


The Parrot Mambo is an adorable little critter that we imagine is going to be finding itself on many a Christmas list this year. It’s similar in a lot of ways to its predecessor, but the addition of a camera and Parrot’s FPV headset turns this fun toy-that-isn’t-a-toy into an entry-level racing drone.


  • Intuitive controls
  • Great fun to fly
  • Interchangeable parts


  • Short battery life
  • Image quality could be better
  • Video lag

The Parrot Mambo FPV is a lot like the Parrot Mambos that have come before it. It’s a small plastic drone that’s intuitive to fly and lots of fun. It can be flown using your smartphone, it’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and it supports modular accessories – and it’s those accessories that set this latest Mambo apart from similar drones.

The previous iteration came with a pellet gun and a grabbing arm, which, while amusing, felt a little gimmicky. This new model’s bolt-on attachment, however, is a HD camera that can shoot 720p resolution video, and stream the footage to Parrot’s first person view (FPV) headset, so you see what the drone sees as it flies.

This minor addition is a major shift for the little drone, as it effectively turns the Mambo into an entry-level racing drone.

At £159 ($179.99 – we’re waiting on pricing for Australia) it isn’t the cheapest entry-level racing drone on the market, but the world of racing drones can be intimidating and overly technical, especially if you’re a parent whose youngster is demanding one for Christmas.


And Parrot is one of the big names in drones, so you can rest assured that you’re getting a quality product – and that when the blades break because the Mambo’s been flown at full speed into a wall (which will happen), you’ll know you can easily replace the parts.

That said, Parrot isn’t marketing the Mambo as a children’s toy. Yes, it looks like a toy, with its cute little green LED eyes that sit on the front of its ‘face’, and the games console-like controller, and plastic Transformer-y design; however Parrot recommends that users should be aged 14 or above.


The Parrot Mambo is tiny. Seriously tiny. It sits lightly in the hand and will remind those old enough to remember of the cute little robots from the 1987 masterpiece Batteries Not Included.

Two little green LED ‘eyes’ poke out at you from under the white plastic chassis, which is shaped at the front to almost look like eyebrows. This white plastic panel continues down the body, with four plastic limbs branching out, to which the rotor blades are attached.


The blades are also plastic, and we experienced first hand that if you crash the Mambo into a metal pillar and the blade gets bent, you can bend them back into shape by hand and get your flying friend into the air once again.

Spare blades are also included in the box, and if you’re expecting to have a few crashes you can purchase additional blade protectors to protect the most fragile piece of the drone from impact.

And the Mambo does feel fragile, and it is made of plastic, which adds to the toy-like impression and may cause you to look twice at the price tag. However, it’s the technology that you’re really paying for, and the inclusion of the controller and FPV headset helps to allay any sense that the Mambo is overpriced.


The controller looks and feels like a simplified Xbox controller, with two multi-direction sticks that control rotation, elevation and motion. There are a couple of buttons that activate special acrobatic moves (which you may want to avoid performing with the headset on, unless you have a barf bag to hand) and a button for take-off and landing.

The Parrot Cockpit 2 headset, meanwhile, is like a rudimentary Gear VR headset. You strap your smartphone to the front of it, and the lenses within convert the footage on your phone’s screen into an immersive image.

The headset is collapsible, making it easily transportable; the team demonstrating it said you could toss it in your backpack, although given that the lenses are exposed, we would worry about them getting scratched or dirty.

It’s comfortable to wear, can sit over prescription glasses, and even has sliders that allow you to change the lens position for pupillary distance, making for a more comfortable viewing experience.


The drone is a pleasure to use, and you can go from complete novice to some really satisfying flying in a matter of minutes. This is all thanks to the software under the hood.

As an industry leader in drone technology, Parrot has spent many years working on both hardware and software for higher-end models that have clearly worked their way down to the cheaper models.

There are three different flying modes. In Easy mode, the drone is stabilized horizontally and vertically, and all moves are assisted by machine learning to prevent you from losing control. In Drift mode horizontal stabilization is disabled, giving you greater control over the Mambo FPV, while in Racing mode the autopilot is completely off, putting you in complete control.

During our time with the Mambo we only used the new controller, not the smartphone controls, and we found the controls well laid out and responsive.


As we’ve mentioned, though, the real selling point of the Mambo is flying with FPV. As you’d imagine with a camera small enough to fit on this tiny drone, the image quality isn’t going to win any Oscars; if you’re looking for a drone to take stunning HD photos and video, this isn’t it.

There’s also about a second’s lag between the drone moving and the image getting to the headset. If you get to the stage where you’re wanting to do speed trials through a homemade obstacle course, this lag could become an issue.

The battery life is 10 minutes without the camera attached and eight with, so you’re definitely going to be playing in short sharp bursts – although to be honest, after eight minutes in a VR headset living life as a drone you’ll probably need a rest.

Early verdict

With its FPV functionality, the Parrot Mambo has gained a feature that takes it from ‘novelty drone’ to worthwhile addition to the drone world. At the price it does feel like an expensive toy, although when you look at the price of some of the other electronic gizmos that are going to be available this Christmas, it’s actually pretty reasonable.

While it may look quite cheap, as soon as you start flying the Parrot Mambo you can see where your money has been spent. We reckon this is a great way to test the waters of drone racing without buying a dedicated device that isn’t good for much else; if you get the Mambo home and decide that drone racing isn’t for you, you can take the camera off and you’ve still got a fun drone.


Live With This: 2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 Review

Yes, we just included the new 2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 in a little three-bike comparison test last week, where it finished less than one percentage point away from the win. Since then, I’ve had the chance to spend more time on the bike in my native habitat, and I can now reconfirm how right I was in the first place! As usual. Mostly.

The 937cc Testastretta 11-degree V-Twin is a tremendously sweet “little” motor to use, and if we could travel back in time and run it against a Raymond Roche Ducati 888 (which at the time was “big”), I think the two would be right on par with each other – right at 100 smooth and progressive horses at the rear wheel. The gearbox in the new bike is less positive than the old one, but the light-pull slip/assist clutch means you don’t mind if you have to shift twice now and then. At 2700 miles, the gearbox should be getting better but really isn’t. It’s tough to find neutral from first or second. It shifts best when you’re wearing heavy boots.

It looks like an ADV bike, I guess, but it’s really a sporty standard with a 19-inch front wheel that goes pretty well down dirt roads too.

The sit-up ergonomics are what made adventure bikes so popular, and in that regard the new Multi is head and shoulders above the old 888 quite literally. This Ducati is supremely comfortable for a range of riders, with a nice calm cockpit behind the one-hand adjustable windscreen that makes loping along at 80 mph an exercise in serenity. It’s also an exercise in heat management; the Multi’s not as good at it as some others. It’s not the worst offender, but it does heat up the rider’s feet and fronts of the lower legs more than most.

Other less-than-optimal details, but only because you’ve ridden the 1200 Multistradas, include what now looks like an old video game of an LCD display instrument panel. It’s nice to have four different ride modes on display up there in the right upper corner, but the font is too small even for people with good eyesight. Sport, Enduro and Urban would be enough for the 937; each one automatically adjusts the three levels of ABS and eight levels of Ducati Traction Control to suit. You toggle between them using the turn-signal switch, which means the display is flashing all the time if you’re in the subconscious habit of cancelling your turn signals. You can also cancel your front signals, literally, by banging the handguards they’re mounted upon into a limb or dropping the bike. Why do they put them there?

Ryan Burns complained about the shifting right off the bat. We both looked down to inspect his footgear at the same time. A half-hour later, he was loving the Multi.

Those about round out the complaints section. In the Things We Like category, we can start with my complaint in last week’s comparo about the fork being too soft in its first inch of travel: Five minutes with a 14mm socket dialing in two more lines of preload atop each 48mm fork tube, problem solved. There’s a knob right there under the seat to dial up the rear when you’re carrying stuff or a passenger. Electronic suspension is nice, but there’s still a lot to be said for simplicity. Once I stiffened the fork a bit, I am agreeing with Sean A.: This is a Ducati! A sporty sportbike even if it’s an ADV one, even if it does have a 19-inch Pirelli Scorpion Trail II front tire.

Speaking of carrying stuff, the optional hard bags are super-easy to attach and unattach from the bike – maybe too easy to unattach if you sideswipe something; the lugs that hold them on are pretty thin plastic – but the left one will swallow my Large Shoei Neotec. Passengers below about 140 pounds won’t complain much about their part of the seat, which is flat and surrounded by a cargo rack with good luggage attachment points. Under the back seat there’s a USB and a place for your phone, along with a 12V outlet, and another 12V socket under the instrument panel. The alternator puts out 500 watts.

That little long black box at upper right tells you what mode you’re in. Can you read SPORT?

In the end, if the 950 isn’t the stately pleasure dome that the 1200 Multistrada is, it’s pretty damn close enough given the disparities in price tags. And the reduction in mass and complexity, some cheapskates would argue, makes the 950 a purer Ducati experience. And it’s the pure experience you need if this is your gateway Ducati, which is of course just what they’re hoping for in Bologna.

Cool Accessory Packs are available for a few lire more, including the Enduro Pack (above) and the Urban Pack below.

Despite its balky gearbox, despite its moderate engine heat, the more the mini-Multi hangs around, the more I enjoy hopping on it. Though the scales say it’s ten pounds heavier than the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 that won our comparo, the Ducati feels smaller, a tad nimbler, and heck, it’s a Ducati. People dig it.

Oh. The biggest thing I got wrong in last week’s comparo was the price. The Multi’s not $4 less than the V-Strom, it’s $996 more – $13,995. That’s still a tremendous chunk off the $20,295 Ducati wants for a Multi 1200 S (we’re checking now to see if you can get a base model 1200). For 69% of the price of the big Multi, I think you’re getting about 83% of the Ducati goodness. At MO, most of us would go with the Suzuki V-Strom, but if you just want a Ducati we definitely know the feeling, and would not try to talk you down.

2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
+ Highs

  • Great desmo sounds and 18k valve-check intervals
  • Plush cruise, quiet cockpit
  • Italian design, Ducati handling
– Sighs

  • More engine heat than some
  • Abrupt clutch, not-great gearbox
  • LCD instrument panel not so easy to read


Pro-Ject The Classic review

If you’re going to take hi-fi design inspiration from any other era, we can think of few better from which to do so than the 1960s and 70s. This is simply how many think a turntable should look.

With its brushed metal top-plate submerged in a wooden plinth, and a thick-cut platter upon which to rest its purpose-built tonearm, Pro-Ject’s The Classic is, frankly, gorgeous.

However, there is more to its design than to simply make ogling hi-fi enthusiasts salivate.

Build and features

Pro-Ject claims the turntable’s two-layer design helps isolate the sub-chassis and reduce interference between different parts of the deck.

Effectively, this decouples potential resonances from the already low-noise AC motor and main plinth from the turntable’s main bearing and tonearm.

Isolation is provided by a series of six TPE (Thermo Plastic Elastomers) damping balls, a family of materials that can be tuned to damp resonances at specific frequencies.

Pro-Ject says any TPE it uses is specifically designed for the material and frequency range it should dampen.

And the suspension afforded to the upper plinth isn’t the only place you’ll find TPE. That cast aluminium main platter also benefits from such damping.

There’s some adorning the counterweight, too, which itself clings to a newly designed tonearm.

The tube is made from a sandwich of carbon and aluminium. As unappetising as that sounds, Pro-Ject says the former aids stiffness and speed, the latter damping.

The arm’s bearing assembly aims to move with ultra-low friction, and great care is taken to ensure the tonearm lead doesn’t restrict the arm’s freedom of movement.

We would, of course, always urge you to invest in adequate support for your turntable – especially if, once having added a suitable phono stage to The Classic, you’re spending upwards of a grand.

Pro-Ject has tried its best to help those willing to compromise in this respect by including a trio of damped, height-adjustable feet. If there are to be any criticisms of Pro-Ject’s design, it won’t concern be a lack of diligence when it comes to suspension or damping.

It does mean an extra step or two when it comes to set-up. As well as fitting the belt and platter, you need to remove a few bolts from the upper plinth, apply and then set those feet to your preferred height. Though who, in reality, could protest at being asked to handle so handsome a deck?

And finally, you may opt to fit your own choice of cartridge. The Classic comes fitted with an Ortofon 2M Silver moving magnet cartridge – a version of the 2M with silver coils, designed exclusively for Pro-Ject.

It is also available cartridge-free and, as a consequence, the company offers counterweights upon request for cartridges up to 25g – so there’s some leeway should you decide to upgrade or fancy something different.

Our review sample, however, has the 2M Silver ready-fitted, so there’s no fiddly installation required before we can flick the switch and begin playing Radiohead’s In Rainbows.

The deck itself is devid of branding bar a modest logo on the dust cover, but any possible ambiguity concerning its designer will surely be dispelled as soon as anyone hears those opening processed rhythms of 15 Step, delivered with Pro-Ject’s by now familiar signature sound.


You’ll struggle to find a turntable at this price with a fuller body, or one as eager as The Classic to throw a significant punch.

It seemingly requires no warm-up to deliver these beats with pomp, but this enthusiasm and body doesn’t come at the expense of subtlety or spoil the Pro-Ject’s ability to organise even the most testing arrangement.

By the time textures have grown to full five-piece band and we’re properly into the album, we are enjoying the performance rather than just being fleetingly excited by it.

That body and typical Pro-Ject warmth provide stability and an amiable glow to Thom Yorke’s vocal. It can sound thin on some of the more anaemic-sounding products we’ve tested, but it’s in no danger of doing so here.

There is certainly a favourable amount of low end in the mix, and elements such as the keyed bass motif to All I Need are enough to form ripples in your teacup. But The Classic still manages to keep an even balance.

It is a softer sound, overall, than that of the almost digital-sounding Clearaudio Concept – as ever, the one to beat in this sector – but it doesn’t overplay the balance in any frequency’s favour.

Where ground is lost on the class leader, though, is in terms of fine detail – the kind of space and insight that, as well as the entertainment factor The Classic undeniably aces, allows for much deeper listening.

We wouldn’t want Pro-Ject to dispense with its own sonic character in favour of cold analysis – you could say the character of a piece is more important than the intricate detail – but, especially when there’s a rival in the Concept that can so adeptly deliver both, we crave just a little more for the money.


In reality, there’s no such thing as a hi-fi component without compromise – some simply force the listener into fewer than others. It’s which, and how many, of those compromises you are willing to make.

For many, the modest shortcoming in terms of detail and out-and-out precision will mean extremely little once set against The Classic’s gloriously full and warm sound.

It’s perhaps not quite a modern classic. But we certainly wouldn’t tire of seeing it in our listening room.




reMarkable Tablet Review

The Pros

Natural writing and drawing; Lightweight design; Textures shift with utensil; Cloud-sync and LiveView; Drawing editing tools for power users

The Cons

Pricey; A little slow; Limited purposes


The reMarkable tablet lives up to its name, with the best pen experience we’ve had, but it’s expensive and doesn’t serve as a regular tablet.

No matter how many tablets and styli I’ve used, I always go back to the irreplaceable experience of writing on paper with a pen and pencil. The reMarkable ($599), a new E Ink-based tablet looks to retire my notebooks once and for all by re-creating traditional writing experiences down to the actual feel of putting pen to paper. With its unique, 10.3-inch Canvas display and felt-tipped stylus, this tablet somehow mirrors the physical sensation of analog writing. It even backs up your creations to the cloud and allows you to access them from apps.

Aside from its hefty price, the biggest thing holding the reMarkable back is the somewhat sluggish nature of its E Ink display, which pauses ever so slightly between pages and actions.

It can’t do as much as other tablets, either, as it’s made for writing, drawing and reading (epubs and PDFs). But when it comes to writing, the reMarkable is the best tablet on the market, and I want one for myself.


A simple-looking device, the reMarkable (the first product of a company by the same name) features a white plastic frame and bezel, an aluminum back panel and its 10.3-inch Canvas display, which consists of five proprietary technologies. The tablet’s modest-looking Marker stylus, with eight replaceable tips, is included.

The reMarkable weighs 12.5 ounces and measures 10.1 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches, so it’s large enough to give you a whole page to write on and light enough that you can hold it for a while. It’s lighter and larger than the 10.5-inch Apple iPad Pro (17.3 ounces, 9.4 x 6.8 x 0.2 inches) and heavier and larger than the 6-inch E Ink Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (7.2 ounces, 6.7 x 4.6 x 0.4 inches).

The reMarkable keeps things simple for its buttons and ports. It’s got a power and wake button on the top with the Back, Home and Forward/New Page buttons on the bottom bezel. You’ll use the micro USB port on the tablet’s bottom edge to charge the reMarkable, but the company plans to add data-transfer capabilities in a future version.

Textured “Canvas” Display

The reMarkable’s major weapon is its 10.3-inch Canvas display, a monochromatic digital-paper surface that incorporates the E Ink Carta technology. The first thing you’ll notice about the display is its slightly granular texture, which makes it feel like cold paper. Don’t expect to view photos clearly on this display, as they look like you used a carbon-copy sheet (ask your elders). While this panel’s on-screen buttons are touch-sensitive, you’ll need to use the slate’s Marker stylus to do everything else.

Just like with actual paper, the reMarkable’s viewing angles are nearly perfect, as I could see text clearly no matter how I looked at it, even when I placed the tablet at nearly 90-degree angles.

Writing and Drawing with the Marker

One of my favorite things about the reMarkable is letting other people use it. I got looks of shock and elation nearly every time someone wrote on the slate. That reaction is warranted because of how good the act of writing feels. The extremely natural sensation you feel while drawing comes from moving the pen’s felt tip against the Canvas display. This is a much more comfortable feeling than writing with the Apple Pencil on an iPad’s glass screen. Not only is the Marker’s input sensitive to pressure and tilt, but the Pencil tool also features its own tilt mode, so you can write as if you’re at an angle while not adjusting your input.

The reMarkable’s most impressive trick is that it switches the feeling you get when writing for each of the different writing tools (Pen, Pencil and Brush). With each digital utensil, you get a different amount of friction. Pencil offers the most friction, while the pen gives a medium amount of resistance and the brush delivers the smoothest experience.

Because I’m more of a writer than an artist, I let our deputy photo director, Jef Castro, take the tablet for a spin to draw the beautiful images you see throughout this review. When he was finished, he told me the reMarkable was fun to draw with, specifically calling out the pencil’s tilt mode and the pen’s marker mode as feeling authentic. Castro said he appreciated having the option to create new layers, something that creative professionals expect thanks to Adobe’s Photoshop and similar apps.

The one place where this stylus doesn’t stand up to the iPad Pro’s Pencil (or to Microsoft’s Surface Pen) is latency. The Marker got a 55 millisecond delay, which is more than twice as long as the times from the Apple Pencil (20ms) and Surface Pen (21ms). And while I noticed this lag during testing, I didn’t find it to be a deal breaker, especially considering how much better it felt to write on the reMarkable.

Interface and Software

Rather than running a variant of another operating system, the reMarkable uses Codex, its own OS. This is a custom version of Linux that’s optimized for low-latency e-paper. This means you get a brand-new user interface to learn, one that mostly revolves around unfamiliar icons.

Before you get down to business, you should familiarize yourself with the icon indexes for navigation and for writing and drawing tools. While I love the select, move and copy options, the interface could give better visual cues of its progress. Instead of seeing a completion icon, you have to presume things are working as you move along.

The reMarkable includes 56 templates, such as lined, gridded and sheet music. My favorite is Perspective 2, which looks like the schematics that the rebels used to blow up the first Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope. But, there’s more to the reMarkable than just writing, as it supports PDF documents and DRM-free ePub books. Those files aren’t static in the tablet, as its highlighter and writing tools can be used to mark up pages and take notes.

Apps and Sync

reMarkable’s proprietary cloud sync means your documents stay backed up to the cloud, as each reMarkable comes with 8GB of cloud storage (mirroring the tablet’s local storage). The desktop and mobile applications let you access your files from anywhere, with or without the slate. Third-party storage isn’t available yet, but it’s a planned feature for the end of 2017.

The reMarkable apps for Windows and macOS allow you to export notebooks and documents as PDF and PNG files, and the company plans to roll out vector objects as an export option in the future. Its mobile apps (currently in beta for Android and iOS) allow you to view your documents remotely.

The tablet also comes with a tool built for those who enjoy creating for a live audience. LiveView mirrors your current document to the macOS and Windows apps, so others can follow along without looking over your shoulder.


The reMarkable runs as fast as most E Ink devices (such as Amazon’s Kindles), but it’s certainly less snappy than an iPad. The reMarkable runs on an ARM A9 CPU with 512MB of RAM, which shows when pages pause between loading, and buttons take a second to respond to touch. I got used to it quickly, but I wish there were less lag.

Battery Life

Make sure you charge the reMarkable while you charge your own batteries at night. Though it’s specced for five days of normal usage, we saw it lose 15 percent of its life after a couple of hours of usage. That means a long day could drain the whole thing. In comparison, the iPad lasted 13 hours and 55 minutes, and the Kindle Paperwhite is rated to last 21 hours.

A reMarkable representative told LaptopMag that the manufacturer is not satisfied with how long a single charge lasts. The company is currently working on firmware optimizations so the tablet will meet its full potential.

Pricing, Accessories and Warranty

The reMarkable costs $599 and includes the marker, extra tips and a wool-felt folio case that has a pocket for the Marker. An extra set of eight Marker tips costs $12. reMarkable says each tip should last at least three weeks, and that less pressure and usage could extend their life to six weeks.

We should note that buying a reMarkable, a brand-new product from a startup, is a placing bet that the company will be around for the long term. Without third-party sync or USB transfer, consumers are reliant on the company maintaining its cloud servers and producing Marker tips.

The reMarkable comes with a limited, one-year warranty in the U.S., but this period may be longer in other countries.

Future Features

reMarkable made its product roadmap public, so we know that the models shipping to fulfill preorders will be getting more features over time.

So while the company is looking to make third-party cloud storage a feature for beta users by the end of 2017, it intends to bring handwriting recognition with transcription to the tablet by early 2018. Later that year, the reMarkable also plans to launch better sharing features, such as a web app for cloud access to files and live-sharing for notes via web links.

Bottom Line

The reMarkable’s amazing writing experience is a one-of-a-kind feature that when combined with its cloud-sync capabilities and Photoshop-esque editing, makes it a great tool for note takers and artists alike. Writing on the slate is one of the most realistic, comfortable experiences I’ve had on a tablet, rivaled only by using an actual pen and paper.

Of course, $599 may be a tough price to swallow for some, especially when the device is made just for writing, drawing and reading. For a more feature-rich tablet, consider the $649 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which supports Apple’s $99 Pencil stylus. It’s $149 more expensive, though, and writing on its glass doesn’t feel as natural. However, the iPad has Apple’s huge library of apps and games, while reMarkable has a much more limited offering. Still, the reMarkable has to be used to be truly believed, as writers and artists looking for the best marriage of digital and analogue won’t find a better option.