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Mi Box 4K Review: The TV Box You Were Looking For

For the longest time, I’ve held out on buying a smart TV to replace the 43-inch plasma TV I have at home for the last 7 odd years. I just couldn’t justify discarding a perfectly good TV just to get the latest one available, and so I never did it. Plus, there’s the value proposition. However, an Android TV box? That has always sounded like a good idea to me. It adds the smarts you want, but it also brings those smarts in a more modular way. So two years down the line you can simply replace the box for a better one instead of buying a whole new TV.

So, when Xiaomi sent over the Mi Box 4K to me I was more than just excited to use it. At Rs. 3,499, the Mi Box 4K undercuts the most other, most obvious choice for a smart TV stick out there — the Fire TV Stick (Rs. 3,999). So, if you are confused whether the Mi Box 4K is worth the money, read on.

What’s in the Box

First up, let’s take a look at everything inside the box.

  • Mi Box 4K
  • Remote
  • HDMI cable
  • Power cable
  • User Manual

The remote requires two AAA batteries to work. These are not included in the box, so make sure you have them at hand.

Design and Build

Starting off with the design and the build, the Mi Box 4K comes in a matte black plastic body. This ensures that it’s lightweight, and pretty stealthy to keep under your TV. I appreciate both these things about the device. It’s also fairly sleek, which means it doesn’t have much of a profile when you look at it on your TV cabinet.

There’s an indicator LED up front which glows white while the Mi TV Box is on. It’s a very faint glow, and the way the box is designed, it’s barely visible if you’re looking at it from an angle. That’s usually how you’ll be looking at it, by the way, because your TV will likely be at eye level, and the Mi Box, underneath it.

It’s not an issue however. If anything, I actually admired this when watching TV late at night with all the lights turned off. This light doesn’t cause distractions.

On the back you’ll find some ports. There’s the usual power and HDMI out port here, but the Mi Box 4K also brings in an audio out, and a USB Type-A on the rear. This way you can connect the Mi Box 4K directly to your sound system if you want.

I also appreciate the low-key branding on the Mi Box 4K by the way, it’s black on black and very minimal. Xiaomi’s aesthetics here are on point.

Setting Up

Setting up the Mi Box 4K is fairly straightforward. You plug in the HDMI cable, the power cable, and follow the instructions on screen to get it all set up. I prefer setting up the Mi Box 4K using an Android phone, but you have the option to set it up from scratch if you want.

That said, I did encounter an irritating issue while pairing the remote with the Mi Box 4K. I’ve discussed the possible solutions to that in my article on how to set up the Mi Box 4K, and I’d recommend you give that a read.

Android TV UI, Pre-installed Apps

As you might already know, the Mi Box 4K comes with Android TV. However, Xiaomi doesn’t coat it up with its Patchwall UI here. This is pure Android TV based on Android 9 Pie.

Now the Android TV UI is something I don’t like much. It doesn’t feel all that intuitive, and it doesn’t feel like it’s suited for navigation with a remote. Also text entry is a downright pain. However, that’s my very subjective look at Android TV’s UI. Rupesh, who uses an Android based smart TV at home says that he’s totally fine with the UI here. My point is, if you have used an Android TV in the past, the UI here is exactly the same. So bring your own judgement about it if possible.

If you haven’t ever used an Android TV before, here’s what the UI is like. You get rows of content, with each row focusing on a different app. Usually these rows will be populated by the likes of Netflix and YouTube. You can configure this, by the way, so if you don’t want recommended videos from YouTube flooding your screen, that’s easily rectified.

The issue really pops up when you need to go into settings, or view notifications, or god forbid, enter text. In these cases, the remote is a slow way of making your way around the system. Part of this is likely because Android TV just wants to keep animations slow and smooth. That can result in the process seemingly taking forever.

Maybe I’m spoiled by that relatively faster feeling UI, or maybe it’s just because I’m not used to Android TV’s implementation, but I’m not a big fan.

See, I use a PS 4 with my TV at home. It’s pretty much my entire entertainment system — both for games and for Netflix and Prime Video. However, the PS UI is easier to navigate and feels more snappy and responsive. Maybe I’m spoiled by that relatively faster feeling UI, or maybe it’s just because I’m not used to Android TV’s implementation, but I’m not a big fan.

However, it’s important to remember that the UI is not really the Mi Box’s fault. In fact, the Mi Box 4K is really good at performance as I’ll discuss in the next section.

UI aside, there is one thing I really appreciate from Xiaomi here — no bloatware. Yup. The Mi Box 4K comes with the bare necessities of TV. There’s the Play Store (obviously) and there’s Netflix and Prime Video pre-installed. That’s not even bad, that’s just time saving because I’m fairly certain you’re using both of those services anyway.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect Xiaomi to skimp out on bloatware. However, the company pleasantly surprised me with the Mi Box 4K. So good job there, Xiaomi.

Performance

Coming to the performance, there are two real aspects to consider here. One is the usual day-to-day performance of the Mi Box 4K, and the other is for things like gaming. I did not try to run benchmarks on this thing because honestly, that felt stupid.

In normal day to day usage, the Mi Box 4K blows right through everything. Launching apps is fast, navigation around the Android TV UI is as fast as I’ve seen in any Android TV powered smart TV (except the OnePlus TV which is just… wow). The Mi Box 4K doesn’t really feel sluggish even after installing a bunch of apps on it. All good stuff.

If you’re the kind of person who wants to play Asphalt 8 on their TV, you can do that as well. You will need a controller, obviously, but the game runs well enough. There are no major hiccups although I did notice some dropped frames occasionally.

Overall though, the performance here doesn’t really leave you wanting.

Remote

Considering all the things I said about navigating the Android TV UI with a remote, I was expecting to not really enjoy using the remote here anyway. However, Xiaomi’s remote is actually a pretty nice one. It has the most common buttons you will use, and a nice curved design that fits well in the palm.

There are dedicated buttons for Netflix and Prime Video, which I think is awesome because those are the two services that I use most often. That’s likely true for most people out there as well. There’s also a Google Assistant button here, which is good to have, but I personally don’t like the experience Google Assistant offers here. I said as much in my comparison between the Mi Box 4K vs Fire TV Stick and you should go give that a read if you want more detail about this.

There’s also the volume control, and other common buttons you’d find in most smart TV remotes here.

As I said before, the remote uses two AAA batteries for power and you absolutely need the remote to even set up the Mi Box 4K so make sure you buy AAA batteries for it.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Sleek and stealthy
  • Great performance
  • Stock Android TV
  • No bloatware

Cons:

  • No batteries included. Really Xiaomi?
  • Pairing the remote can get annoying
  • Android TV UI isn’t the best out there

Mi Box 4K Review: Should You Buy It?

So, the question here remains whether the Mi Box 4K is something you should buy. Honestly, yes. There’s no question about it. The Mi Box 4K does more than what any other option in the market does at this price point. It has Netflix and Prime Video, it has 4K playback support, USB Type-A port, and stock Android TV. Its only real competition in the price is the Fire TV Stick, which at Rs. 3,999 offers only Full HD playback, and no additional ports.

Moreover, the Mi Box 4K comes with Chromecast as compared to Miracast on the Fire TV Stick/Fire TV Stick 4K (Rs. 5,999). That said, if you use Apple TV+, that app isn’t available on the Mi Box 4K. However, it is available on the Fire TV Stick so that’s something you might want to consider.

All in all, the Mi Box 4K is a value for money proposition for anyone looking to add some smarts to their old TV. It brings a lot of good stuff, and that too at an impressive price point.

Buy the Mi Box 4K (Rs. 3,499)

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Reviews

Redmi Earbuds S Review: Truly Wireless Freedom Under ₹2,000

redmi earbuds s review featured

Yesterday, Xiaomi launched the Redmi Earbuds S in India. The rebranded Redmi AirDots S come in at a highly competitive price point of just ₹1,799. At that price, it’s difficult to ridicule a product like this. However, if you’re wondering whether you should buy these or not, here’s my review of the Redmi Earbuds S after having used them over the last week.

What’s in the Box

First up, let’s take a look at everything you will find inside the Redmi Earbuds S box.

  • Redmi Earbuds S with charging case
  • Small/Large earbuds (medium size is attached on the earbuds)
  • User manual

Design and Build Quality

You know, for a pair of truly wireless earbuds that are priced under ₹2,000, the Redmi Earbuds S have great build and design. There are a couple of neat touches that I like. Ironically, the first one is that you can’t see fingerprint marks on this thing.

That’s great, especially in a country like India where the summers mean you’ll pretty much have to hold your earbuds with sweaty hands. They are also IPX4 rated, so you can safely use them for workouts or out in the rain without worrying about them.

The case here is pretty tiny which is great, even if it does feel just ever so slightly unsatisfactory when opening it up. It doesn’t have that very tactile feeling that some other earbud-cases offer when the lid is popped open. That’s me nitpicking though, it’s not really a deal breaker by any means.

Inside, the earbuds sit flush and pretty. The all black aesthetic here is personally my favourite. It’s matte, it’s deep black, and it looks stealthy.

Speaking of the design, the Redmi Earbuds S come with a microUSB port for charging which is just a little sad. However, considering the price point I won’t hold a grudge about this. What I absolutely refuse to accept however, is the lack of a microUSB cable in the box. That makes no sense, and as my colleague Anmol put so evocatively in our Slack chat, “who has a microUSB charger these days.”

If you are like the majority of people who don’t have a microUSB cable handy, be prepared to buy one for these earphones. I don’t see why Xiaomi didn’t include this in the box, and it makes me furious because I had to disconnect my Google Home Mini in order to use its microUSB cable for charging these. Not cool.

Comfort and Fit

Xiaomi said a lot of good things about how comfortable these earphones are, and how well designed they are for fitting into the average Indian ear, and for the most part that’s true.

The earbuds sit quite comfortably in the ear, and I found myself wearing them for hours at a stretch; sometimes without realising that I had them on. Both of those are great things for earbuds.

It’s also impressive that the earbuds managed to stay in my ear during my signature head-banging test that those of you who follow us on YouTube probably know well. That’s something most TWS earbuds fail at, but the Redmi Earbuds S did not, so kudos for that as well.

Xiaomi ships the Redmi Earbuds S with the medium sized silicone ear tip pre-installed on them, and a pair each of small and large sized buds in the box. So you should be able to find a great fit for your ear easily. Also important to note is that these earbuds come with a standard tip. That means you can use third party ear buds as well in case you prefer something more suited to your ear.

Sound Quality

I’m very confused about this part. On the one hand, there’s the fact that the Redmi Earbuds S don’t have great sound. They simply don’t. The soundstage feels narrow, and the earbuds struggle with instrument separation in the mids. Plus the bass, while thumpy, is also muffled.

On the other hand, they are priced at ₹1,799 and at that price, this sound quality is also understandable. I mean, at this price point your choices are incredibly limited. There’s not a lot to compare these earbuds with.

That’s exactly why I am saying that the sound here is not great. Don’t expect these to compete against earbuds like the Mi True Wireless earbuds, or the Realme Buds Air. But that’s to be expected, considering the price difference.

Is it impossible to enjoy music on these earbuds? No, it’s not. If anything it’s a fairly decent experience. And under ₹2,000, you will not get a lot of TWS earbuds anyway. The Redmi Earbuds S get quite loud, and the sound doesn’t distort which is great.

If sound quality is something you absolutely can’t compromise on even a little bit, you will either need to increase your budget, or consider ditching TWS, and getting the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z (₹1,999) instead in this same price bracket.

Music Control and Interactions

The Redmi Earbuds S come with a multi-function button on each of the earbuds. This button is used to perform everything from answering and ending calls, controlling music playback, launching the voice assistant and more. Here’s what the controls look like.

  • Answer/end calls: press the button once
  • Reject a call: press and hold the button for 1 second
  • Answer a second call: During an ongoing call, press the button once to answer a second call
  • Switch between calls: Double press the button to switch between calls
  • Switch audio between earbuds and device: During a call, press and hold the button for second to switch audio between the earbuds and the device.
  • Mute/unmute: During an ongoing call, double press the button to mute/unmute
  • Play/pause music: press the button to play/pause music
  • Voice Assistant: Double press the button to activate voice assistant

All of these functions are great. However, I would have preferred also having functions to skip forward or back in my playlists. That’s an important feature for me. However, that doesn’t seem to exist here. While testing these earbuds I tried triple pressing the multi-function button to see if that skips songs, but the earbuds just played a weird tone and then continued playing the song.

Connectivity

Anyway, moving on, these earbuds come with Bluetooth 5, which is really great considering their price. You can use these individually if you want, and they pair easily. You can just take the earphones out of the case, look in your phone’s Bluetooth settings and tap on ‘Redmi Earbuds S’ to pair them with your phone.

The Redmi Earbuds S only support the SBC codec. While that may sound like a big drawback, at ₹1,799 I don’t know if I can really hold that against the company.

Battery

For earbuds this small, the Redmi Earbuds S have a surprisingly good battery life. Xiaomi claims 4 hours of listening time from the earbuds on a single charge, at 80% volume. That claim is more than true by my testing. After two hours of continuous listening at 80% volume, the Redmi Earbuds S had only dropped down to 60% charge. So yeah, they will easily last 4 hours on a charge.

The case charges the earbuds three more times to get 12 hours of total listening time, which is pretty good. It’s even more impressive considering the price. Honestly, I have no complaints from the battery life. The only complaint I have that’s somewhat related to battery is the absence of the microUSB cable in the box.

Pros and Cons

Alright, to sum things up, here’s a quick look at what’s good and bad about these earphones.

Pros:

  • Really well priced
  • Great design and build
  • Fit and comfort is on point

Cons:

  • microUSB cable is not included
  • Sound quality should have been better
  • Only SBC codec

Redmi Earbuds S Review: Best Truly Wireless Earbuds Under ₹2,000?

All things considered, the Redmi Earbuds S (₹1,799) are high on my list of the potential best truly wireless earbuds under ₹2,000 in India. They come in a sleek package with a pretty solid design. They are quite comfortable to wear, and fit easily in the ear, and they are priced as if they were on a sale. The only compromise here is in the sound quality which is a big deal. Still, as an overall package, in this price, the Redmi Earbuds S are a solid deal to go for.

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Reviews

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 Review: Impressive and Well Priced

I’ll be honest, I never imagined truly wireless earphones being as convenient as they are. However, I have been using a wide variety of truly wireless earphones over the last 18 months. I have used the Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds+, the AirPods and AirPods Pro, Redmi Buds, Noise Shots XO, and more. So when Xiaomi sent over the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 (Rs. 4,499) to me, it was something that really excited me.

Look, being stuck at home is no fun, but one of the things that I have started doing a lot lately to pass time, is watching TV shows and movies, listening to podcasts, and just in general video calling my friends. All of these things are enjoyed better with earphones, and truly wireless ones make the experience even better. So yeah, I pulled the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 out of the box almost immediately after they arrived at my house. Since then, I have been using these almost exclusively with my laptop and I thought why not share my thoughts with you guys. So here is my review of the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2.

What’s in the Box

Even though I barely glanced at the box contents when I opened these up, that’s really not something I usually do. So here’s what’s inside the box with these earphones:

  • Mi True Wireless Earphones 2
  • USB-C cable
  • User manual

Design and Build

For most truly wireless earbuds, I have begun to almost expect an AirPods-like design. Not because I especially love what the AirPods look like, but brands have focused on that design far too often. These Mi True Wireless earphones try to be slightly different from the AirPods; but only ever so slightly.

At first glance, they do remind me of the AirPods. They have a similar shape to the earpiece, and the stem is just as long, except it’s thicker which is worse. The only good thing that I can see here is that the stem has a matte finish which I like. Other than that, there’s nothing remarkable about this design.

It’s sturdy though, so you probably don’t need to worry about breaking them if you drop them someday. Surprisingly, the build here feels really good for the price tag, and it’s definitely more confidence inspiring than the Realme Buds Air.

The case is bulky. There’s no getting around that. And unlike the AirPods case, this doesn’t fit inside that tiny pocket on my jeans. That’s not a deal-breaker for me by any means, but it’s something I noticed anyhow. It’s considerably wider, thicker, and taller than the AirPods’ case, but not so much that it’s not easy to carry around.

There’s an LED light up front, which is used for everything from battery indication, to status indication. On the bottom is the USB-C port for charging — I am so happy about this. I hate having microUSB ports on devices. I also really hate the stupid Lightning port on the AirPods by the way, but that’s a rant for another day.

Overall, I’m fairly happy with the design, so I have no real complaints there.

Comfort and Fit

There are a lot of things these earphones get right, or close to it anyway, and comfort and fit is definitely one of those things. The Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 are really comfortable to wear, which is not something I expected just looking at them. I mean, they look fairly bulky, but they are very lightweight. That means I found myself wearing these for hours without any sign of fatigue at all and that’s awesome.

Unlike earphones with silicon earbuds, these have a plastic tip design that you’d also find in the Realme Buds Air and the AirPods. In my experience, that means these earphones will fit some people really well, and others, not at all. Fortunately, they fit my ears really comfortably, but that’s not something you can just take on face value. Some people may trouble wearing earphones like these for long durations because they don’t fit very well. I would recommend you go into a store, check out the AirPods, see if they fit. If they do, the Mi earphones will as well.

Sound Quality

I have had the pleasure of playing around with a lot of truly wireless earphones, and most of the affordable ones have only passable audio quality. The Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 however, are markedly better than most in this aspect.

The earphones use 14.2mm drivers, which is a fairly large size for truly wireless earphones, and the sound quality here is on-par with the AirPods for the most part. That’s pretty incredible because the AirPods are over twice the price of these earphones. However there are some caveats. The Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 have a deeper, more thumping bass when compared to something like the AirPods. However, they seem to mute the highs a bit, especially when the volume is increased. Still, the sound here is pretty damn good, and I don’t really have much to complain about.

I shouldn’t be comparing these with AirPods anyway, but thanks to their design, that’s the comparison that comes to mind first. However, at their Rs. 4,499 price tag, these are actually competing against the likes of the Realme Buds Air, and the Blaupunkt BTW-01. The good thing is that the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 sound better that either of the other two competitors.

The Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 get loud enough as well. They are not as loud as some other earphones out there, but at their highest volume, they are respectably loud, and manage to keep the sound from distorting or hurting your ears. Both of those things are nice, especially when you’re blasting music straight into your ear canal.

Music Control and Interactions

The Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 come with tap controls instead of touch controls. That means it automatically reduces the kinds of interactions you can have. There’s no long-touches here, but you can use different taps for different interactions. Here’s what you can do, and how:

  • Answer/end calls: double tap on either earphone
  • Play/pause music: double tap right earphone
  • Voice assistant: double tap left earphone

There’s a very silly issue here by the way. Xiaomi says you can use these earphones one at a time as well. To do this, you can take out one earphone — that pauses the music automatically. Then, you can double tap on the other earphone to resume playback allowing you to listen with just one earphone.

The problem is that the left earphone only launches the assistant by double tapping. So if you want to listen to music with just the left earphone, you can’t just remove the right earphone and then double tap on the left earphone. You will have to take your phone out, and resume playback there. That’s slightly annoying, and it also feels half-baked to be honest.

Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, all is golden here. The earphones come with Bluetooth 5.0, which is great. You can use them individually if you want, and pairing them is incredibly fast and easy. For non-Xiaomi phones, you just have to long press the button on the side of the case for a few seconds to put it into pairing mode. Then you can just pair with the earphones using your phone’s Bluetooth menu.

For Xiaomi users, the process is even easier. Just open the lid near your Xiaomi phone and you’ll get a pop-up to connect them to your phone. This is quite literally inspired from how the AirPods pair with iPhones. Even the animation is very similar. Not that I’m complaining. AirPods are impressively easy to connect with iOS devices, and it’s nice that Xiaomi is giving that option to people using its smartphones.

The earphones support SBC, AAC, and LHDC codecs. However there’s no support for aptX here which is a bummer.

Battery

One place where the Mi True Wireless Earphones are lagging behind the competition is the battery life. Not by a lot, but they do fall behind when compared to options like the Realme Buds Air, or the many options from Noise. The earphones have a 30mAh battery, while the charging case packs in a 250mAh battery.

Xiaomi claims that the earphones will last up to 4 hours on a charge, and upto 14 hours with the case. That claim is fairly accurate. In my usage, which is mostly around 60-70% volume, the earphones do last around 3.5 hours. However, 14 hours is not really as good as the Realme Buds Air that offer 17 hours of listening with the case.

If you compare this to the recently launched Noise Shots X5 Pro, those earphones last up to 8 hours on a charge, and the case can charge them 18 more times!

Still, I’ve never been a fan of Noise’s design or comfort, and if you’re like me, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 or the Realme Buds Air will likely be your considerations as well. Personally, I don’t think 14 hours is too little, at least for normal usage. On something like a flight, I doubt you’ll be using earphones without noise cancelation anyway. Moreover, Xiaomi’s offering uses USB-C to charge, and charges in around an hour, which means as long as you plug them in for a little while every now and then, they’ll basically never run out of juice on you.

Pros and Cons

I say this in almost every review I write: every thing has its pros and cons. The Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 are no different. Here’s what’s good and bad about them.

Pros:

  • Sound quality is pretty great
  • Comfortable for long hours of use

Cons:

  • Design could have been better
  • Battery life not at par with competition

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2: They Don’t Disappoint

At the end of the day, if I had purchased the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2, I wouldn’t be disappointed with what these are. Xiaomi has managed to more or less do everything well here. The earphones look slightly thick, but they are comfortable. They get loud and the sound quality is great for the price; plus they pair really easily. For Rs. 4,499 these earphones are a no brainer.

That said, if you want something that comes with wireless charging, check out the Realme Buds Air (Rs. 3,999), and if you want battery life so good you’ll probably forget charging them when you should have, check out the Noise Shots X5 Pro (Rs. 4,999).

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Reviews

MSI Modern 14 A10RB Review: A Thin and Light Productivity Powerhouse

I have reviewed a fair number of laptops over the last few years and most of these have been gaming laptops that come with powerful hardware in really big, bulky packages with massive charging bricks and a back-breaking weight. So when MSI sent over the productivity-oriented MSI Modern 14 A10RB (Rs. 74,990) laptop to us, everything about it attracted me. I’ve used this laptop for everything I usually do on my own laptop, and some things I have never done on my laptop, and I think the Modern 14 is a solid, bang-for-buck offering from MSI. Let’s take a deeper look.

Design and Build

Starting off with the design, like I said, everything about this laptop is stunning. The silver-white colour, the aluminium body, the sleek design. All of it is perfect and extremely eye-catching. I’ll be honest with you, I usually prefer laptops in darker colors, but MSI has done a flawless job designing the Modern 14, to the point where I’m trying to find issues with the design just so I have something to talk about.

On the outside, there’s really nothing to dislike. The lid looks gorgeous, the laptop is thin and very light at just 1.2kgs. There are all the ports you would want; heck, it even opens up with a single hand.

msi modern 14 design

However, the one and only issue I have with this design is something I spotted when I first opened the lid. You probably guessed it — the webcam. It’s placed on the bottom bezel, reminiscent of laptops like the XPS 13 from Dell, and with all of the same problems as that one including the fact that people are often looking into your nostrils while you video conference with them. This is also a pretty big deal for me right now since I have been working from home a lot due to the coronavirus scare, which means I find myself video conferencing a few times in the day and it’s just embarrassing. I had no idea my nostrils looked like that from below. Ugh.

msi modern 14 webcam

Apart from that single issue however, this laptop looks and feels awesome. The build is sturdy and strong, and it does look like the laptop can take a hit. Full disclosure, I did not, in fact, test whether the laptop can take a hit, but it does look strong enough.

Display

Speaking of things that I saw when I opened the lid, let’s take a look at this display. The Modern 14 packs in a 14-inch FullHD IPS display and it’s pretty nice. It’s not the brightest panel I’ve seen on a laptop, but it’s definitely more than bright enough, and sunlight visibility shouldn’t be a problem thanks to the matte finish on the screen that reduces glare considerably.

msi modern 14 display

I also really appreciate companies reducing bezels around the display, and the Modern 14 does more of the same. As a result, the display looks more immersive, and the laptop can fit a 14-inch screen within a footprint that’s impressively small.

What I don’t really like about this laptop is the 16:9 aspect ratio of the screen. It just feels too wide for no reason, and is weird for me personally, since I consume a lot of written content on the web, and a taller screen is more helpful to my workflow than a wider one. Although, if you’re a content creator, a wider screen may or may not be more useful to you.

msi modern 14 bezel

Other than that, this display gets all the things you’d expect from it. It’s nice and sharp, the colors look good, even if they don’t feel contrasty enough, and it also has good viewing angles — all of which is awesome. Plus, the screen doesn’t flex too much like some other laptops in this price range, and that’s something I really appreciate.

Performance

Alright, let’s talk about the performance. The MSI Modern 14 is no slouch on paper. The laptop packs in a 10th-gen Core i7-10510U processor paired with 8GB RAM, and a 500GB SSD. There’s also MX250 graphics here from Nvidia to help along with any GPU-heavy tasks. These are solid specs for a mid-range ultrabook-like laptop, and that shows in the kind of real world performance this laptop can push.

As I mentioned at the very beginning, I’ve been using this laptop to do everything I do on my daily driver and some things I don’t do on my daily driver, and I’m happy to report that the MSI Modern 14 takes it all and breezes through it.

Obviously, the usual Chrome with around 15 tabs open, playing YouTube Music in the background kind of work is handled pretty easily by the laptop, but even with slightly more demanding tasks such as handling large photoshop files, the Modern 14 performs really well.

MSI also mentioned to us that the laptop is great for software such as AutoCAD, so I downloaded a trial for AutoCAD and since I have absolutely zero idea about how to use the software, handed the laptop to my girlfriend who is an architect to check it out. She went ahead and designed a bunch of detailed architectural plans on the laptop and was very impressed with how the laptop performed even with a huge number of plans open at the same time. There was no lag, or any kind of delay in executing commands that I can’t really remember the names of, but that’s a whole other story.

I also put the laptop through 3DMark and PCMark benchmarks to see how it performed, especially because the Modern 14 comes with the latest 10th-gen Core i7. As you can see from the screenshots below, the laptop’s scores in both of these benchmarks are pretty decent and on par with what you’d expect from an ultrabook with these specs.

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I didn’t test out games on the laptop, partly because this isn’t a gaming laptop, and partly because the kind of games you’d play on a laptop like this include CS:GO and PUBG Lite, and both those games will definitely run flawlessly on this hardware.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Of the many things I absolutely adore about this laptop, the keyboard has to be somewhere right on the top of the list. MSI has slapped on a Steelseries keyboard on the Modern 14 and it is great.

Look, I spend most of my time typing on a laptop, that’s just what I do for a living, and a bad keyboard can really ruin my life. The Modern 14, however, has an amazing keyboard. The keys are big, so there’s a less chance of pressing the wrong ones, and there’s ample key-travel as well, which is not something I’m used to any more courtesy of Apple’s butterfly switches on the MacBook Pro, but I still appreciate it.

The keyboard is also backlit, which is another thing I feel is an absolute must on laptops, especially those aimed at creative professionals, because believe it or not, we do tend to spend late nights working, and a backlit keyboard is a godsend.

That said, the trackpad on this laptop evokes mixed feelings in me. It is a Windows Precision trackpad, so technically all the gestures and the ease of use are there, but it’s tiny and that makes it quite difficult to actually use this trackpad consistently throughout the OS. If you’re used to trackpad-based gesture navigation on your laptop, as I am on my MacBook, you’ll be hard pressed to actually get much use out of this one here. What I’m trying to say, is you need a mouse with the Modern 14 to actually enjoy using it, and that’s not something I like saying about a laptop.

Also annoying is the fact that the trackpad kicks the OCD in me, big time. The shape here is awful. It has curved corners on the top, and sharp ones at the bottom, which is just a jarring look.

Overall though, even though I’m not a fan of the trackpad on this laptop, the Steelseries keyboard here more than makes up for it, so that’s good.

Ports and I/O

The Modern 14 A10RB also comes with a wide selection of ports and I/O options so you will probably not run out of connectivity choices for your peripherals. The laptop has an HDMI port with support for [email protected] video out, 2x USB Type C ports, and 2x USB Type A ports. Plus, there’s an SD card reader here, because a lot of content creators, especially videographers and photographers do need that port to actually transfer data between their cameras and their laptop.

Personally, I mostly only found myself using the USB-A ports, and, on occasion, the SD card reader, but it’s great to know the other options are available if you need them.

Audio

For Audio, even though the MSI Modern 14 might look like it has speakers right up top, that’s a big fat lie. The speakers are actually on the bottom here which isn’t great.

The laptop doesn’t have the best speakers I’ve heard in the price range. The volume is low, even at the highest levels, and there’s absolutely no bass in the sound so if you’re used to watching movies or listening to songs directly from your laptop’s speakers, the Modern 14 isn’t going to cut it for you.

The speakers can still do an okay job in a video call if you’re in a pinch for speakers or good earphones, but I would recommend investing in a pair of good Bluetooth speakers for this laptop.

Battery

Lastly, there’s the battery, and this is another thing where the MSI Modern 14 excels. The laptop comes with a 50Whr battery, which isn’t the biggest in the segment, but it does last long.

MSI says the laptop can last up to 10 hours on a charge, which, for someone like me, is great because I tend to move around a lot at work when I’m writing an article and carrying the charger around isn’t the best option most of the time.

msi modern 14 battery

In my usage, which involves using Microsoft Edge with around 12 tabs open at all times, a session of Photoshop running alongside, and sometimes YouTube Music or Amazon Prime Music playing in the background, the laptop does last around 8ish hours, which is great. I’m sure with slightly more casual usage, the 10 hour claim will hold true, but for the most part, expect somewhere in the ballpark of 7 to 9 hours on a charge.

The charger that MSI ships along with this laptop is a 65W brick which charges the laptop from 0 to 100% in around 2 hours. So yeah, the battery performance on the laptop are pretty decent.

Pros and Cons

As it is with almost everything, the Modern 14 also comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Great battery life
  • Really impressive performance

Cons:

  • Speakers are disappointing
  • Trackpad can be finicky

MSI Modern 14 A10RB: An Amazing Laptop with Minor Issues

Everything said and done, the MSI Modern 14 A10RB is a solid laptop for its asking price of Rs. 74,990. The laptop comes with an impressive design and build, and is very lightweight which makes portability easy. It also packs in pretty solid specs, including the latest 10th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, so it’s fairly future proof.

That said, there are other options you can consider as well. If you’re looking for something that will let you play the latest games in this price bracket, consider going with the MSI Alpha 15, which, at Rs. 74,990 brings the Ryzen 7 processor, 16GB RAM, 1TB HDD + 256GB SSD, and an AMD Radeon RX 5500 M GPU. You can also check out the Asus Vivobook F571GT which brings a 9th-gen Core i7, but ramps up the RAM to 16GB, along with an Nvidia GTX1650 GPU for Rs. 72,990. Or you can just go with the 10th-gen Core i5 packing variant of the MSI Modern 14 that’s priced at ₹52,990.

So yeah, there are a lot of choices out there, even in this price bracket. However, the MSI Modern 14 seems to bring the best amalgamation of price, performance, and portability that I have seen so far. If you’re looking for a laptop that won’t break the bank or your back, and will still let you do all your creative tasks with ease, the MSI Modern 14 should be on your watchlist.

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Reviews

SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go Makes Moving Data Between Your Phone and Laptop a Breeze

Even as external hard disks and external SSDs become faster, better, and more affordable, there’s little to dispute the practicality and handiness of a pen-drive. That’s especially true when it comes to moving data between a phone and a laptop, or between multiple smartphones with USB-OTG.

Back in December last year, SanDisk announced a brand new pen-drive with just that use-case in mind. The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go USB Type-C may not have a name that’s easy to remember, but it does bring ease in every other aspect of its design and usage.

Great Design and Build, Plus It’s Almost a Fidget Toy

For one, the SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go is small. It’s smaller than you would expect, and that’s both a good thing and a slight annoyance. It’s good because the small size makes it extremely handy and portable which is something you would expect from a flash drive. It’s a slight annoyance because if you, like me, drop it in your bag at the end of a day, you, like me, will be hard-pressed to find it again.

The pen-drive comes with two ports, a USB Type-A connector for plugging it into laptops and computers, and a USB Type-C connector for smartphones. It uses a swivel design to expose one port while covering up the other, and has a satisfying click when the swivel moves around — which is why I can be found sitting on my desk idly playing with the pen-drive. It’s great as a fidgeting device as well.

There’s also a small keyring hole on the back so you can just slide it into your keychain.

Performance: Read Speeds, Good. Write Speeds, well…

By far, one of the most important things about any storage device is the performance it offers, and the USB standard it supports makes a big difference to the kind of speeds you can get with it.

The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go USB Type-C works on USB 3.1 Gen 1. That’s basically USB 3.0, so obviously you can’t expect speeds that you would get with external storage devices support USB 3.1 Gen 2. The USB 3.1 Gen 1 (or USB 3.0) standard offers a maximum transfer rate of 5Gbps.

I used the Blackmagic Disk Speed test app on my Mac to check the read/write speeds offered on the Dual Drive Go, and they are consistent with what SanDisk claims in its product listing. The company claims read speeds of up to 150MB/s, and in my tests, read speeds were slightly higher than that at 154MB/s. Write speeds, on the other hand were slow, coming in at approximately 40MB/s in multiple tests.

sandisk ultra dual drive go speed tests

Clearly, the write speeds can be a bottleneck, especially if you’re trying to copy large files to the pen-drive, which is, in fact one of the use-cases for the SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go.

In fact, when SanDisk launched this drive, the company said that it’s aimed at “premium consumers to create, manage and preserve their digital content” — a statement that made me assume it would offer write speeds higher than 40MB/s on an average. Still, write speeds do vary by storage capacities, which means it might be slightly higher on the top-end 256GB variant of the Dual Drive Go. The company sent over the 64GB variant to us, so that’s the one we have tested.

SanDisk Memory Zone App

One of the USPs of the Dual Drive Go is the SanDisk “Memory Zone” app that comes with the pen-drive. There’s an APK file inside the drive that you can install on your Android smartphone in order to manage your phone’s storage, move files between devices, and more. It’s pretty feature-rich, but there are some features here that really stand out.

Phone Backups

Look, I have always advocated for backing up your devices regularly. It’s good tech-hygiene, and it just makes sense anyway since devices can fail out of the blue and losing your data can be potentially catastrophic.

With the Memory Zone app, you can create backups of your phone on the pen-drive, and the app gives you options to manually backup when you want, or schedule automatic backups of your phone.

sandisk memory zone app backup options

The app can back-up your photos, music, videos, documents, and even your contacts, so you can rest assured your data can be recovered in case your smartphone dies on you, or if it gets lost.

sandisk memory zone app backup items

The only issue I have is that on a 64GB drive, creating phone backups doesn’t sound like an especially useful idea, at least for the long-run. Maybe if you buy a larger 128GB or 256GB Dual Drive Go, creating backups would make sense.

Social Media Backups

There’s also an option to create social media backups, including backups of Facebook, Instagram, and Google Photos. I didn’t try doing this, but the app says that it only backs up photos and videos. I’m not entirely sure why you’d backup photos saved into Google Photos since they are usually synced to the cloud anyway, but the option is there if you want it.

sandisk memory zone social media backups

Delete Junk Files

You can also use the Memory Zone app to delete junk files off of your phone. Basically, SanDisk made an “app-cleaner and booster apps” like utility built right inside the app. It’s good for ensuring your phone storage is clean, but personally, I don’t think I will be using it.

sandisk memory zone junk file clear

At the end of the day though, the Memory Zone app is pretty feature-packed, although it’s not required to use the pen-drive unless you want to use the backups feature; you can just as easily connect the pen-drive to your smartphone and move data between your phone storage and your smartphone using a regular file manager.

SanDisk Is Competing Against Itself

All things considered, the SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go, priced at ₹1,095, is a decent USB OTG pen-drive for your smartphone and laptop. The design is great and the read speeds are fine as well. That said, with the Dual Drive Go, SanDisk seems to be competing against itself since the company has other drives like this SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive that also comes with USB Type-C and Type-A ports, and uses USB 3.1 Gen 1 with the same claimed read speeds of 150MB/s. It’s also priced at ₹899 for the 64GB version, which is considerably lower than the Dual Drive Go’s ₹1,095 price tag for the 64GB version. I mean, even the names are basically the same, except for the “Go” part.

There’s no real reason to buy the SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go over the SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive, in my opinion. You can save around ₹200 bucks and get all the same things. However, if you want to get this one because of the design, and you don’t see a problem with the 40MB/s write speeds, this is a perfectly good pen-drive to go with.

Buy the 64GB SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go from Amazon (₹1,095)

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Reviews

Blaupunkt BTW-01 True Wireless Earbuds Review: Good, but Difficult to Recommend

I’ve used and reviewed quite a lot of earphones and headphones, and mostly because I really like checking out new earphones almost all the time, it’s kind of an obsession. So, when Blaupunkt sent over the true wireless BTW-01 Bluetooth earphones, I just had to check them out. Well, I’ve been using these earphones for the last week or so as my daily drivers, so this is my review of the Blaupunkt BTW-01 truly wireless Bluetooth earphones, and whether they are worth their Rs. 4,999 price tag.

Blaupunkt BTW-01 Specifications

Bluetooth Version Bluetooth 5.0
Profiles HFP, HSP, A2DP, AVRCP
Battery Life up to 6.5 hours (when using single earbud)
up to 5 hours (when using both earbuds)
Charging Time 1.5 hours (for earbuds)
1.5 hours (for case)
Weight Earbuds: 5.5g each
Case: 29g
Price Rs. 4,999

Design and Build

If there is one place where I have most of my concerns and complaints, its the design and the build of these earphones. So, the BTW-01 come in a decent looking case that also charges them when they’re inside it, but while the case looks decent enough, just a quick touch on the case gives away the feeling that it’s a cheaply made case. The plastic is cheap and flimsy, and opening the case is neither tactile, nor does it feel sturdy enough to handle being opened and closed multiple times, sometimes with excessive force when the user might be in a hurry.

I’m not sure why Blaupunkt would go for a case that gives off a distinctly less-than-premium feeling to these earphones, especially when the case is the first point of contact that a user will have with these earphones.

The fact that the case is cheaply made and leaves a bad first impression, is even more troubling because the earbuds themselves are actually built pretty well. They don’t feel flimsy or cheap, even though they’re made of plastic, and the design elements chosen by Blaupunkt are great, especially the ring surrounding the touchpad on each of the earbuds, which just lends them a subtle amount of bling, without being overdone.

I also really like the fact that the strength of the magnet inside the case is nice and the earbuds drop into place with a satisfying click — that’s something my Galaxy Buds don’t do, and it kinda sucks.

Speaking of things that suck, there’s still a microUSB charging port on the case here, which is sad because I feel like we should have USB-C on everything now, especially on accessories and smartphones. Right now, I use the same USB-C cable to charge my MacBook Pro, my Galaxy S10, and my Galaxy Buds. It’s easy, it’s elegant. However, while using these Blaupunkt earphones, I’ve had to carry a microUSB cable, and an additional adapter for it just to charge these things which is just something I find really annoying.

Overall, I think the design and the build on these earphones is only decent. There are some good things, like the strong magnet in the case, and the nice looking earbuds, but there are issues like the flimsy case, the microUSB port, and just the fact that the first impression you’re likely to get from opening the box of these earphones will be that of exasperation. Hopefully, that’ll fade away when you actually open the box and start using the earbuds themselves.

Comfort and Fit

Speaking of using the earbuds themselves, I found the Blaupunkt BTW-01 to be a fairly comfortable pair of truly wireless earbuds to use, even though it took me a while to be confident that they won’t just fall out of my ears while I bobbed my head along to music.

The thing is, the shape that these earbuds are, isn’t one of the best that I’ve seen. The bulk of the earbuds is towards the back, and they solely depend on the silicone earbuds to stay in your ear; there’s no earhook, or any other support for the earbuds when they’re in your ears.

If you’re like me and you’re used to wireless earbuds that come with earhooks, or are just shaped to get more support from your ear, putting the BTW-01 in your ears will make you constantly worry about them falling off. That said, they didn’t actually fall off in usual usage, but I’m confident I will not be using these at the gym, or while jogging in the park.

Once you get past the fear that these earphones will fall out of your ear, they are actually fairly comfortable to use as long as you put a properly sized earbud tip on (Blaupunkt gives different sizes in the box). I used these earphones a lot at work, and I didn’t feel any sort of fatigue in the ear, or anything uncomfortable, other than the occasional feeling that they might fall out of my ears.

I wouldn’t rate these earphones as being great as far as comfort and fit are concerned, but they are definitely good in comfort, and above average for the fit.

Audio Quality

Even with all the comfort and fit in the world, earphones will pretty much be useless to you unless they sound good, or at least acceptable, and at Rs. 4,999, the bar for ‘acceptable’ is pretty high. Fortunately, the Blaupunkt BTW-01 are well above that bar.

The earphones get pretty loud, and even then, I didn’t notice any distortion in the highs, which is great, because a lot of earphones start making the highs too loud at higher volumes and it just hurts the ears.

1 of 2

The BTW-01 have ample bass, even though it’s not as deep as something like the Noise Shots X3 Bass, but it’s definitely nice and heavy without being too overpowering. The same can be said about the highs and the mids, the Blaupunkt BTW-01 have decently well defined highs and mids — they’re not the best, but they’re good and for Rs. 4,999 they’re one of the better ones.

Personally, I didn’t find any problems with the Blaupunkt BTW-01 as far as the audio quality is concerned, and I think if you buy these, you’ll not be disappointed by them either.

Interaction and Features

The Blaupunkt BTW-01 also come with touchpads on both the earbuds that come with support for multiple kinds of taps, and it works pretty well. Here’s what you can do with these earbuds:

  • Answer calls: single tap on the left or right earbud
  • Ending calls: single tap on either earbud
  • Rejecting calls: long press on either earbud
  • Voice assistant: triple tap on the touchpad on either earbud
  • Play/Pause: double tap on either earbud
  • Previous song: long press left earbud
  • Next song: long press right earbud

While these features are pretty self-explanatory, it’s important to note that the BTW-01 can be used individually as well, so if you’re only using the left earbud, you won’t get access to the ‘Next song’ function, and if you’re only using the right earbud, you won’t get access to the ‘Previous song’ function on the earbuds. All of the other features work via either of the touchpads so they’ll work regardless of whether you’re using both the earbuds, or only one of them.

Connectivity

Anyway, let’s move on to connectivity. So the Blaupunkt BTW-01 come with Bluetooth 5.0, which is amazing, and they also let you use them individually. So you can choose to use just one of the earbuds and keep the other one in the case if you want.

However, if there’s one issue I have with the connectivity here, it’s the fact that connecting these earbuds to your phone is more time consuming than it should be. Here’s a basic outline of how you’d connect the Blaupunkt BTW-01 to your phone:

  • Long press (about 5 seconds) on the left earbud to enter pairing mode, and pair the earbud to your phone.
  • Turn on the right earbud (long press about 2 seconds), and it should automatically connect to the left earbud.
  • You can now listen to music, take calls, etc using both the earbuds.

However, in case the earbuds don’t connect to each other, the procedure to actually clear the pairing list from both the earbuds and then letting them connect to each other is a complicated little issue that I don’t want to get into. All I’m saying is that I’d have really appreciated if I could just pop open the case, connect to the earphones, and use them without having to follow all these steps.

Anyway, at least the earbuds have decent range, and they are able to maintain sound quality over a distance, which is definitely nice, even though I tend to keep my phone in my pocket when I’m not sitting at my desk. There’s no aptX support here though, which is definitely something of a deal breaker to most people, but if it’s not a deal breaker to you, by all means, consider these earphones.

Battery

Then there’s the battery. While Blaupunkt doesn’t really give away the battery specs for these earphones, the manual does mention the expected battery life and charging time, and from my personal usage, the manual is pretty close to real world usage.

The earbuds lasted me around 4 to 4.5 hours of use, at maximum volume, and keeping the volume to around 60-70%, they lasted around 5.5 hours. I didn’t test the battery life while using just one earbud because that’s just not how I can ever listen to music, and I refuse to put myself through that. Still, judging by the fact that the battery life is close to what Blaupunk claims, I’m sure if you’re using these in single-earbud-mode, it should last you around 6 hours.

Charging the earbuds is taken care of by the case, so all you need to worry about is charging the case itself, which takes around 90 minutes to fully charge. As far as the charging is concerned, the Blaupunkt BTW-01 are pretty much what every other truly wireless earbuds are like — charge the case, and let the case charge the earbuds — and I don’t have a problem with that (other than the microUSB port here).

Pros and Cons

If you find the entire review too big to read, here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of the Blaupunkt BTW-01:

Pros:

  • Good sound quality
  • The earbuds look nice
  • Touchpad controls work easily and intuitively
  • Decent battery life

Cons:

  • Charging case is poorly built
  • microUSB port
  • Connecting the earbuds isn’t the easiest thing

Blaupunkt BTW-01 Review: Worth the Price?

So overall, the Blaupunkt BTW-01 are pretty solid earbuds that are only slightly let down by the poor build of the charging case, and the fact that connecting them isn’t as straightforward as you’d like it to be, but other than that, these are good earphones. That said, unless the Blaupunkt brand name is something you find irresistible, I think the Noise Shots X5 (Rs. 4,699) and the Noise Shots X3 Bass (Rs. 3,749) are worth checking out, although connecting them is equally unintuitive.

Buy the Blaupunkt BTW-01 (Rs. 4,999)

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Reviews

Jabra Elite 85h Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones Review: Almost the Best

Active Noise Cancelling headphones can be pretty amazing, or pretty terrible, depending on how well they actually cancel noise in real-world situations, so when Jabra sent over their Elite 85h Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth headphones (Rs. 28,999) over to us, I tested them the way I would test any pair of ANC Bluetooth headphones — while travelling. I’ve used these headphones for a considerable amount of time over the last two weeks, and I’m pretty impressed with them, so why did I put “Almost the Best” in the title? Well, read on to get a detailed look into the Jabra Elite 85h Headphones — their ups and downs, pros and cons, and more.

Jabra Elite 85h: Specifications

One of the best things about Jabra’s website is the fact that they give proper specifications for their headphones, as compared to a lot of other brands that simply mention “battery life” and “Bluetooth version”.

Dimensions 195 x 82 x 225 mm
Weight 296 grams
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0
Ports and I/O USB-C; 3.5mm AUX
Battery Life Up to 41 hours (without ANC)
Up to 36 hours (with ANC)
Number of Microphones 8 (4 used for ANC)
Price Rs. 28,999

Clearly, the Jabra Elite 85h bring a lot of impressive numbers on paper, but let’s take a look at how these translate into the real world.

Design and Build

If you buy these headphones, Jabra knows enough to send them packed with a carrying case, because with headphones this size (and at this price) you’ll want to keep them in a case when you’re not actively using them. Not that these headphones are flimsy or weak; if anything, the Elite 85h are pretty well built, and feel sturdy and premium to the touch — as they should.

The design is pretty straightforward, and Jabra has clearly not taken too much of a risk here, which is perfectly fine by me. These headphones look impressive and attractive, without looking overdone and flashy. The back of the earcups are covered with a mesh-fabric material, while the earcups themselves are made out of a leatherette material that’s soft to the touch, and really comfortable to use. There’s a blend of high quality plastic, ABS, PC and other materials that keep the weight low, while giving off a premium look and feel.

The Elite 85h also come with an interesting UX choice — folding the earcups to disconnect and opening them back up to connect. That’s very similar to what you’ll see in some magnetic Bluetooth earphones, such as the OnePlus Bullets Wireless earphones, and it’s really neat seeing this on a pair of headphones. To be honest, I wasn’t completely sold on this implementation, but I used it on my weekend trip to Nainital, all through the train and the cab journey, and I found myself loving the ease of use this brings. It’s incredibly quick to respond and very reliable in its functionality to make me want this functionality on all headphones.

Thanks to this functionality, along with an automatic power-off in 72-hours feature, Jabra did away with the power button on the Elite 85h — it’s simply not required. There are still a bunch of buttons here though, and we’ll talk about these in detail later, but one thing I really like on these headphones is the USB-C port for charging. I love USB-C, and thanks to this port, I just carried one charger on my trip for my laptop, my phone, my power bank, and my Bluetooth headphones. That’s incredible ease of use, and I love it.

Comfort and Fit

The Elite 85h are also amazing when it comes to the actual comfort while wearing them. True, at 296g they’re heavier than headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3, but even so, Jabra’s offering doesn’t feel heavy on extended usage — and I should know, I used them continuously for over 7 hours on my train + cab journey to Nainital.

The earcups have a firm grip that puts just enough pressure to hold the headphones in place, without making it feel like the headband is pressing into the top of your head — something I’ve noticed happening with a lot of headphones. Along with that, the fact that the headband also has the same leatherette material used on the earcups helps with the headphones being comfortable when being used for a long period of time.

Audio Quality and Noise Cancellation

The Jabra Elite 85h come with impressive audio quality all around and while these are one of the best headphones I’ve used, they’re definitely not the best. Let me explain: the Elite 85h have impressive sound. They get quite loud if you push them, the sound doesn’t distort, and the bass is heavy enough to be thumpy, but not heavy enough to get overwhelming. Along with that, the treble is really well tuned — the elite 85h just offer a really nice blend of highs, lows, and mids.

the Jabra Elite 85h are the second best sounding pair of headphones I’ve tried in this price range.

However, if you’re listening to bass heavy songs on these headphones and you turn the volume to max, the bass sometimes does distort. I could clearly hear the bass distorting in some EDM songs that pump the bass exceedingly hard. For some reason this was even more pronounced when ANC was turned on the headphones. Turning ANC off, or reducing the volume to around 80% almost completely gets rid of this problem.

Apart from that one thing that bugs me though, the Jabra Elite 85h are the second best sounding pair of headphones I’ve tried in this price range. The first are obviously Sony’s WH-1000XM3 ANC headphones that are just so blissfully good at everything it’s almost wrong of Sony to not give others a chance.

Noise Cancellation

Anyway, coming back to the Jabra Elite 85h — these headphones are a very close second to Sony’s offering, and the sound quality on the Elite 85h is really impressive. Speaking of impressive, let’s talk about the Noise Cancellation.

The Jabra Elite 85h come with Active Noise Cancellation, and there are different modes:

  • Active Noise Cancellation On
  • Active Noise Cancellation Off
  • Hear-through

The effect of turning ANC on or off is pretty obvious, but Hear-through is a cool feature that I use at work a lot. With hear-through, the Jabra Elite 85h essentially mix your music with the ambient sound they take in from the microphones, so you can hear your surroundings while you listen to your music. This is most likely aimed at people listening to music while running or jogging, but it’s incredibly useful at work, because I can keep listening to music and still discuss things with my colleagues. One thing to notice here is that if you’re listening to music at anything higher than 60-70%, hear-through is basically useless since you won’t be able to hear anything.

Anyway, with Active Noise Cancellation On, the Jabra Elite 85h perform admirably, and if I compare them to the Sony WH-1000XM3, they’re very close. With ANC on, you can completely immerse yourself in the music, movie, or podcast you’re listening to — and I did this with all three of those while I was in the train. It’s pretty great, especially in trains and flights with little kids that keep creating a ruckus — I speak from experience.

That said, I did notice one odd thing with ANC on these headphones — if you’re travelling in a car with the windows rolled down, the ANC tries to compensate for the noise the wind creates, and sometimes the headphones just end up making a very loud and annoying static sound as a result. I found this out by accident, but it’s incredibly annoying and there’s no way to fix this unless you turn off ANC, or roll the window up. It’s an issue that’s very specific to a particular situation, but it’s annoying as hell. I’m not sure if the Sony WH-1000XM3 would also have this problem, but logic suggests that they might, considering how ANC works.

Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, the Jabra Elite 85h bring all the good stuff — there’s Bluetooth 5.0, which is something you wouldn’t get with Sony’s WH-1000XM3 headphones (those come with Bluetooth 4.2). However, the Elite 85h don’t come with aptX or aptX HD support, which is weird at this price range. In fact, Jabra isn’t even mentioned on the aptX website. Still, if you’re willing to ignore the absence of aptX on these headphones, the connectivity here is on point in every other way.

The headphones stay connected easily over 7-8 metres in a regular home-space which is pretty great, and there’s no signal drop or distortions. Also, you can connect two devices to the headphones at the same time, which can come in handy if you want to pair your phone and your laptop to your headphones at the same time to listen to music from your laptop and still be able to take calls from your phone straight on your headphones.

Connectivity wise, the Jabra Elite 85h are actually pretty great, and the only drawback I could find here is the missing aptX support, which, honestly, is something you would expect in high-end headphones like these.

Buttons and Ports

Moving on to the I/O on these headphones, the Jabra Elite 85h come with quite a lot of that. There are only two ports here — a USB-C port for charging, and an AUX-in port. The USB-C port is a personal favorite of mine, and I honestly can’t wait for even affordable headphones to come with USB-C — it’s faster, and just more convenient.

The AUX-in port, well, that’s a life saver if you ever run out of battery and want to listen to music. Simply connect the headphones in wired mode and keep listening. True, ANC won’t work, and neither will hear-through, but at least you can listen to music on these even if you manage to completely drain the battery (which is a task, believe me, but more on that in the battery section).

There are also a bunch of buttons here — there are the usual play/pause, and volume control buttons on the right earcup under the mesh-fabric material, that also serve the dual purpose of putting the headphones in pairing mode, and skipping tracks with long presses.

There’s also the Assistant button on here which you can use to activate the smart assistant on your phone, so you can send messages and stuff without having to take the headphones off.

Lastly, there’s this button without any markings on it — it basically switches between the various noise canceling settings:

  • ANC on
  • ANC off
  • Hear-through

There are helpful voice prompts when you switch between these modes as well, just in case you’re unable to figure out what mode you’re in. These modes can also be switched between from the companion smartphone app: Jabra Sound+ that’s available for free on the Play Store and the App Store.

Jabra Sound+ App

The Jabra Sound+ app is your one stop solution for managing and customising the Elite 85h. This app is where you’ll find settings like choosing Moments for your headphones. Moments can be thought of as customisable sound profiles. There are four:

  • Commute
  • In Public
  • In Private
  • My Moment

with each of these Moments you can choose between ANC on/off or HearThrough mode, you can adjust the Music equalizer, and you can choose a Music preset.

For example, I’ve set Commute to have ANC on, In Public to HearThrough, and In Private to ANC off. This way, I don’t have to listen to random kids on my commute, but I can still listen to my coworkers when I’m at work, and when I’m alone, I can save battery by turning ANC off.

You can switch quickly between these Moments from the notification the app puts into your Notification Center, but to actually utilise these to their full extent, there’s a feature called ‘SmartSound.’

With SmartSound enabled, your headphones analyse the sound in your surroundings and automatically choose Moments based on that. So they will switch automatically from Commute to In Public when you reach work, and from In Public to In Private when I’m back home. It’s pretty impressive, even though it does take some time to analyse ambient sounds and change Moments.

Other than that, the Sound+ app brings the Discover tab which is where you will find tips, tricks, news, and even firmware updates for your headphones.

Battery

The Jabra Elite 85h come with a battery that’s rated to last up to 41 hours with Active Noise Cancellation off, and up to 36 hours with ANC on, and that claim is pretty accurate. From a full 100% charge, these headphones have been used for almost 16-17 hours so far with ANC turned on all the time, and they’re at 60%. Clearly, they’ll last around 34-35 hours. That’s pretty damn impressive.

Plus, thanks to USB-C charging, I don’t have to worry about carrying a separate cable for the headphones either because my phone, my laptop, and now these headphones, all can be charged from the same USB-C cable. Charging the battery also doesn’t take too long; the headphones charge in around 2 to 3 hours, and, while I didn’t test this particular thing out, Jabra claims that a 15 minute charge can get them up to 5 hours of listening time, which is also pretty impressive.

Pros and Cons

So, the Jabra Elite 85h are a pair of really impressive headphones, but they too have some drawbacks and flaws. So here’s a handy list of the good, and the bad about the Elite 85h:

Pros:

  • Good sound quality
  • Excellent battery life
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Premium and sturdy build
  • USB-C

Cons:

  • No aptX support
  • Bass sometimes distorts at high volumes
  • ANC is not at par with competitors like Sony’s WH-1000XM3

Jabra Elite 85h: Should You Buy These?

So the question at the end of all this is should you buy these headphones or not. After all, at Rs. 28,999 these are a big investment. Look, the Jabra Elite 85h bring great sound quality, an amazing battery life, good ANC, and a lot more to the table, but even though these are a great sounding pair of headphones that offer a high level of comfort, they don’t quite parallel the offering from Sony in the WH-1000XM3 (Rs. 28,999) which are quite simply the best headphones I’ve used in this price. They offer better sound quality, a more balanced bass and treble output, and better noise cancellation as well. If I were you, I would go with the Sony headphones over these.

Buy the Jabra Elite 85h (Rs. 28,999)

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Reviews

Canon Pixma G3010 Review: An Affordable, Feature Rich Ink Tank Printer

As far as printers are concerned, my colleagues have all suggested that Ink Tanks are better than Ink Jets, and while I’ve not used a lot of Ink Tank printers, when Canon sent over the new Pixma G3010 to us for testing and reviewing, I was slightly more excited to check it out than I usually get about printers. So, if you’re in the market for a printer, and the Pixma G3010 (Rs. 12,623) has caught your attention, here’s my full review of the Canon Pixma G3010 all-in-one printer:

Pixma G3010 Specifications

Dimensions 445 x 330 x 163mm
Weight 6.3kg
Functions Print, Scan, Copy
Printing Resolution 4800 x 1200
Connectivity USB, WiFi, Canon Print app
Scan Speed ~19 seconds
Print Speed Color: ~17 seconds
B/W: ~11 seconds
Display 1.2-inch LCD

Design and Build

The Canon Pixma G3010 isn’t the most compact all-in-one you’ll find. However, it is definitely one of the better looking ones out there. The printer comes in a nice matte-black finish that just looks classy, and just overall this feels like a better built unit than most other printers in its price range.

The buttons are all arranged on the right side of the printer, which is also where you’ll find the LCD display. Not a lot can be said about these buttons, other than the fact that they get the job done. Personally, I didn’t find myself using the buttons all that much, since almost everything on this printer can be done using a smartphone (more on that later), but the times when I did use the buttons (mostly to turn the printer on or off), the buttons felt tactile, and definitely well built.

That’s not surprising, Canon’s products are well built (just take a look at their cameras), and the Pixma G3010 is no exception.

Other than that, the printer comes with the usual things — the extendable paper tray, and the (also extendable) paper output tray. The input tray is great, since it easily folds on top of the printer itself, so it can protect the internals of the Pixma G3010 from dust — that makes it easier to store the printer when it’s not being used.

The Pixma G3010 is also well designed in the way that Canon has arranged the ports on this thing. There’s the main power-input on the left hand side of the printer (which is also a reversible connector, and I love that. Brownie points to Canon), and there’s a USB port on the right hand side that you can use to create a wired connection between the printer and your system.

Setting Things Up

Setting up the Pixma G3010 might seem like a mammoth task if you take a look at the included manual with its really confusing drawings. However, it’s actually not that difficult to set things up. The most important things while setting up the printer is actually installing the cartridges in the print-head, and filling up the colors — Canon provides single bottles of all the colors you’ll need to fill the printer up inside the box itself, so you can get started with printing right away.

Once you’ve filled the ink, and set the cartridges, you can move on to connecting the printer to your PC and/or your smartphone — using a wired connection or a wireless one if you’d like. For the wired thing, you’ll have to use the USB-port on the right hand side with the included USB cable.

Connection and Compatibility

Even though the Pixma G3010 only offers a single USB port for wired connectivity, it does offer a plethora of ways to connect to a PC or a smartphone. There’s obviously the wired method that you can use, by connecting the printer to your PC with the included USB cable and installing the drivers, either from the Canon website, or from the included CD.

However, you can also use the Canon PRINT app (Android, iOS) to connect your phone to the printer and print photos, documents, scan items directly to your phone’s memory, copy, and even click pictures from your smartphone camera and directly print them out with the Pixma G3010.

You can obviously also make the Pixma G3010 available over your internet so all your local devices can access it wirelessly and send printing jobs to it. That makes it very easy to share the printer, especially if you’re in an office space with a bunch of systems, all of which might need access to the printer sometime or the other.

You will need the drivers for the printer in order to set things up, like I said, but there’s one interesting thing I noticed. So Canon says that macOS isn’t supported by the printer yet, and yes, if you try visiting the web-page mentioned in the manual for downloading drivers, you’ll not find a download button. However, I was able to get the printer working with my MacBook Pro running macOS Mojave by simply downloading the Pixma G3010 series drivers from this website.

I’m not certain if Canon would approve of that, but hey, I use a MacBook Pro and I wanted to also test this printer out with my laptop, so I did what I had to. The good news is that it works perfectly fine, so if you’re using a Mac, this is something you can do to get the printer working with your laptop as well.

Printing, Scanning, and Copying Performance

To test out the printing performance of the Pixma G3010 printer, I printed out an absolute ton of documents and images, both coloured and black-and-white, to see what things look like, and how good the printing quality on this printer actually is. I printed out documents, Photoshop files, even the Amazon listing for this very printer. I also scanned documents, took a picture from my phone and used the Canon PRINT app to print it out, and a lot more.

By doing all of that, the conclusion I’ve arrived at is that the Pixma G3010 will not let you down no matter what you’re asking it to print. It can print text files, images (both monochrome and coloured), pictures clicked from your smartphone, and even screenshots you may have taken, all with a decent speed, and good quality that’s at par with what other printers offer in this price bracket.

Unlike a lot of other printers, the ink doesn’t smudge if you touch (or even rub) the paper too hard immediately after it’s done printing, and there’s also no colour bleeding on the paper. I did notice once that there were some wet spots on a sheet, but that only happened that one time, and never happened again, even though I printed almost everything I read today, so I’m willing to write that off as a one-off error that will almost certainly never happen again.

For pictures, I didn’t have glossy photo quality papers on hand to actually test this out properly, but even on regular quality A4 sheets, the photos printed from the Canon Pixma G3010 look good. The printer doesn’t seem to mess up colours at all, and the photos turned out really nice, especially considering that I used regular A4 sheets to print them out. I’m fairly confident the print quality of pictures on actual photo-quality sheets will be a lot better.

Also worth mentioning is that while the printing speed here is decent, the printer does take a couple of seconds to start printing when you send a document or an image to print — this happens regardless of whether you’re printing over a wired USB connection, over WiFi, or sending a print job from your smartphone using the Canon PRINT app. It’s not too long a wait, but if you find yourself printing hundreds of documents every day, the wait might get annoying for you. However, this is something we’ve seen happen with a number of ink tanks in this price range.

Other than that, the Pixma G3010 can also scan documents and copy documents and both these functions work as you’d expect them to. You can either start a copy function by pressing the ‘Black’ or ‘Colour’ button on the printer, or you can start a copy job through the Canon PRINT app. Scanning also works really well, in fact, if you start a scan from the Canon PRINT app, you can even save the scanned copy to your smartphone directly, which is just really cool.

Pros and Cons

While I personally came to a positive conclusion about the Pixma G3010 printer, here are some of the most important pros and cons about the printer so you can get a quick overview of everything this printer does well, and things it could improve upon.

Pros:

  • Good build
  • Printing quality is nice
  • Scanning and copying work really well
  • Excellent mobile app available for both Android and iOS

Cons:

  • The buttons can be confusing
  • No official macOS support

Canon Pixma G3010 Review: Worth the Money?

So, the Canon Pixma G3010 is a pretty amazing all-in-one printer that brings quite a lot of features, including wireless support, for a pretty competitive price of Rs. 12,623 on Amazon, and personally, I think this is a solid printer to consider if you’re looking for in the Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 15,000 price range. It offers all the features you’ll need, WiFi printing, easy set up, good print quality, an amazing mobile app, and more. That said, there are other printers you can consider as well — there’s the HP Ink Tank 419 that my colleague reviewed, which offers a lot of these very features, for Rs. 13,150, but doesn’t look nearly as good. There are also options from Epson that you can check out, but at the end of the day, Canon is a name that’s pretty well known in the printing space, and keeping that in mind, I’d say the Pixma G3010 is definitely a printer worth considering.

Buy the Pixma G3010 from Amazon (Rs. 12,623)

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Reviews

Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU Review: For the Perfect Mix of Gaming, Portability, and Style

Gaming laptops have a reputation for being large, unwieldy machines that simply can’t be lugged to and from work or school everyday; or at least they shouldn’t. However, I really admire Asus for their ROG Zephyrus series of gaming laptops that bring high end gaming in machines that don’t look out of place in a non-gaming setting. So when Asus sent over the Zephyrus M GU502GU (Rs. 1,49,990) to us, I was excited to see what Asus had accomplished with this Zephyrus laptop. I’ve been using this laptop for well over a week now, and this is my in-depth review of the Zephyrus M GU502GU gaming laptop.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU Specifications

First off, let’s get the on-paper specs out of the way. Here’s what you’ll find under the hood of the Zephyrus M GU502GU:

Processor Intel Core i7-9750H
GPU Nvidia GTX 1660Ti with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM
RAM 16GB 2666MHz
Storage Up to 1TB SSD
Display 15.6-inch Full HD IPS level panel;
144Hz Refresh Rate;
3ms Response Time;
100% sRGB Pantone Validated
Keyboard Backlit chiclet keyboard;
N-key rollover;
RGB lighting;
Aura Sync;
Hotkeys (Volume down, volume up, mute, Armoury Crate)
Audio 2 speakers with Smart AMP technology
Array Microphone
I/O Ports 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type C DisplayPort™ 1.4 and Power Delivery
1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type A
2 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type A
1 x HDMI 2.0b
1 x 3.5mm Audio Jack
1 x Audio Jack Mic-in
1 x RJ45
1 x Kensington Lock
Connectivity Intel® 802.11ac (2×2) Gigabit Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.0
Weight 1.9kg

Now that the specs are out of the way, let’s take a deeper look at the Zephyrus M GU502GU.

Design and Build

Like I mentioned earlier, I really admire the Zephyrus line up of laptops from Asus for bringing great gaming power in a sleek design, and the Zephyrus M GU502 is no different. It comes in a stunning looking chassis with a metal cover on the lid, a soft-touch material surrounding the keyboard and covering the palm-rest, and a great selection of ports rounding off the look of the laptop.

There’s the ROG logo on the lid which lights up in red and looks kinda nice on the brushed metal finish. Inside, the display is surrounded by thin bezels, giving the laptop a modern look, with the exception of the giant bottom bezel which holds the subtly done “ROG Zephyrus” branding, and a large sticker showing off the credentials and specifications of the display, which I hate. I dislike stickers on laptops as a general rule, and this one looks ugly too; but I guess you could remove it if you wanted to.

One issue here is that the Zephyrus M GU502 doesn’t come with a webcam, and while that’s not a deal breaker to me, since I never use the webcam, it might be a deal breaker to some of you out there.

Then there’s the keyboard and the finishing around it. This area gives a very nice rubberized feeling that’s just the perfect amount of grippy and satisfactorily soft to the touch to ensure I was comfortable using this laptop for hours and hours on end. Plus, I suppose this would also make it easier to keep my palms on the laptop during winters when my MacBook Pro gets so cold to the touch it’s uncomfortable to type on.

Overall though, the ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU is a well designed and well built laptop, and I have no real complaints with it so far. In fact, I really like the design and build of this laptop.

Display

The ROG Zephyrus M GU502 comes with a 15.6-inch FullHD IPS level panel with a 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time – both important numbers for gamers. Thanks to the high refresh rate, things look really smooth on the Zephyrus M. Even outside of games, the general animations, scrolling, everything just looks really smooth on this display and I’ve grown really fond of that. The 3ms response time might not matter to regular users as much, but for gamers this is a decently good response time to get.

Other than those two things, the display is wonderful in almost every other aspect too. It’s big and has a lot of screen real-estate to multi-task with ease. It’s Pantone validated, which results in great color reproduction all across the board, so watching movies and TV shows, and playing games on this display is a wonderful experience.

The one place where I do have a complaint with the display is brightness. The brightness levels for this display are very low, and to top it off it comes with a matte finish which, even though it helps avoid glare, makes the display look even less bright than it probably would with a glossy display. It’s decent for indoor use, but outdoor use, especially in bright sunlight is definitely a problem.

Other than that one (and kind of major) issue with the display, the laptop does everything else wonderfully, including, performance.

Performance

The Zephyrus M GU502GU comes with impressive specs – there’s a 9th-gen Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, and Nvidia GTX1660 Ti GPU. All of that results in amazing performance.

Regular tasks are obviously nothing to this laptop. You can multi-task all you want, open a load of tabs on Chrome (I had almost 20-30 open all the time), and even run an instance of Photoshop at the same time, and this laptop won’t break a sweat. It’s really great.

However, that’s expected from a laptop that costs as much as this one does, but this is a gaming laptop, so the more important metric for judging its performance is how well it handles gaming.

Well, I played a bunch of games on the Zephyrus M GU502GU including Unreal Tournament, Far Cry 5, and obviously, PUBG, and the laptop handles all of these games really well.

In PUBG, at High settings, the Zephyrus M got a frame rate of 85 to 100FPS easily, that would go higher if you played around with the graphics settings a bit, but a frame rate of 85FPS+ is good enough for me, and I didn’t feel the need to push it further, especially at the cost of graphical quality.

Even Far Cry 5 performed very well on this laptop. In Ultra graphics settings, the laptop pushed an average frame rate of 66FPS, going as high as 79 and as low as 53FPS.

Switching graphics to High resulted in a very slight improvement in performance, with the average frame rate settling at 69FPS, and getting a maximum of 80FPS.

I even tried switching the graphics to Normal just for the heck of it, and that got an average frame rate of 73FPS, going as high as 85FPS and as low as 57FPS.

Clearly, the laptop can handle Far Cry 5 on Ultra settings with ease. I even played Far Cry 5 for a bit on Ultra settings and it ran wonderfully, which is great.

Unreal Tournament, well, I installed the alpha version of Unreal Tournament from the Epic Store because I wanted to try it out, and the Zephyrus M was pushing around 75 to 80FPS on the game at all times which is great. Also, the game itself is great too.

If the gaming performance of this laptop wasn’t enough for you, or if you’re just looking for results from a standardized test, well, you’ll be glad to know I ran benchmarks too.

In 3DMark TimeSpy, the laptop scored 5,426 points which is pretty impressive, and in PCMark 10, the Zephyrus M GU502GU got a score of 4,772 points.

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3DMark Time Spy
PCMark 10

Overall, Zephyrus M’s performance is top notch and it won’t let you down whether you’re gaming, or taking it to work and doing regular office work. It’s just an all around wonderful performer and I’m very impressed by it.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Speaking of things I’m impressed by, let’s talk about the keyboard and trackpad here. The Zephyrus M comes with a keyboard that I can only describe as “very Asus” and I mean that in a good way. Most Asus laptops have good keyboards, and this one is no different. It’s not a mechanical keyboard, but it has ample travel without being too bouncy, the keycaps are flat instead of curved, but they’re still easy to hit accurately and they’re made of high quality plastic instead of the cheap feeling ones that a lot of other brands use.

The layout is also really good, and I especially love the full arrow-key layout instead of the compact layout that makes it very difficult to use the arrow keys without actually looking at them in the middle of a game. Plus, there are also four dedicated keys above the keyboard for increasing and decreasing the volume, turning the mic off, and for launching Asus ROG Armoury Crate software at the press of a button.

One additional thing I really liked about the keyboard is you can lock the Windows key to not open the start menu. This is really handy because I hit the Windows key a lot by accident while gaming and on most laptops it opens up the Start menu and I end up dying in my game, and that’s very annoying. On this (and probably other Asus laptops) I can simply press Fn + Windows to disable that functionality and I’m really happy that this feature exists.

Anyway, moving on, there’s the trackpad, and this is amazing as well. The Zephyrus M comes with a decently sized trackpad which is not too big, but it’s not small either. Plus, it supports Microsoft Precision drivers which just makes using it a lot better and brings support for intuitive gestures which is also pretty cool.

I/O and Ports

The ROG Zephyrus M also comes with a decent selection of ports and I/O that should suffice for all your needs. The laptop comes with 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type C DisplayPort™ 1.4 and Power Delivery, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type A, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type A, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, 1 x 3.5mm Audio Jack, 1 x Audio Jack Mic-in, and an RJ-45 ethernet port.

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In my usage of this laptop I didn’t feel short on ports or connectivity options and I don’t think you will either. Plus, the USB-C port is definitely awesome to have, and with Power Delivery, it can fast charge USB-PD compatible devices, which is also cool.

Audio

If there’s one thing about this laptop that I found underwhelming, it’s the audio. The laptop comes with bottom firing speakers, which is probably why the sound is underwhelming, muffled, and honestly, not loud enough at all. I tried watching movies on this laptop, and it just doesn’t cut it.

As a gamer, I’m sure you’ll most probably be using headphones while you game, so you probably won’t have to deal with this too often, but if you think you can watch movies on this laptop without a Bluetooth speaker, or a wired external speaker, you’re in for a shock.

At the very least, I would’ve expected Asus to put the speakers slightly towards the sides, like they did with the TUF Gaming FX505DT, but alas, the Zephyrus M GU502GU is absolutely let down by its speakers.

Battery

Lastly, there’s the battery. The Zephyrus M GU502GU comes with a 76Wh battery that Asus claims lasts up to 6 hours on a charge, but the only time I noticed that happening was when I put a bunch of games on download and left the laptop to do its work while I played games on my PS4. Other than that, the laptop doesn’t last anywhere close to 6 hours on a charge. I was consistently getting around 3 hours of battery life from this laptop.

However, if you’re a gamer, you’ll most likely keep the laptop plugged in while gaming so the battery life shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you’re like me and you’re planning on using the laptop at work or in college, you’ll need to keep the charger handy.

Pros and Cons

So the Zephyrus M GU502GU is a pretty decent laptop, but it doesn’t get it all right. Let’s take a quick look at the good and the bad about this laptop.

Pros:

  • Excellent design
  • Amazing performance
  • Good keyboard and trackpad

Cons:

  • Battery life is sub-par at best
  • Speaker quality is not good

Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU: Should You Buy It?

The ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU is a a pretty good laptop. It brings great performance packed inside a stylish chassis, a good keyboard and trackpad, along with a decently wide selection of ports and I/O options. However, at Rs. 1,49,990, the Zephyrus M is competing against the MSI GL63 9SEK gaming laptop (Rs. 1,47,500) which brings the same 9th-gen Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, a 1TB HDD + 256GB SSD, and 6GB RTX2060 graphics. The only place where the MSI GL63 9SEK lags behind is the weight – it’s 300 grams heavier.

The thing is, if you’re looking for a gaming laptop for playing high-end games on, the MSI GL63 9SEK is a much better deal. However, if you’re looking for a laptop that can handle gaming and fit in at your office, maybe go with the Zephyrus M GU502GU.

Check out the Zephyrus M GU502GU (Rs. 1,49,990)

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Reviews

Asus ROG Strix Scar III G531GV Review: A Solid Gaming Laptop

 

With all the gaming laptops that I have reviewed, a couple of themes have always stood out to me, and anyone who has read any of the other gaming laptop reviews that I’ve written would know, that I admire Asus for building gaming laptops that don’t look like giant, unwieldy behemoths that I can’t keep on my desk without attracting too much attention. However, when the Asus ROG Strix Scar III G531GV arrived at our offices, I found myself at a loss for how to really describe this laptop. It’s not as spaceship-like as gaming laptops like the Alienware Area 51m, and it’s not as understated as, say, the Zephyrus M that I reviewed a while back. Anyway, I’ve been using this laptop as my daily driver for almost a week now, and if you’re wondering whether the ROG Strix Scar III is worth the Rs. 1,54,990 price tag, here’s my review of the laptop.

Asus ROG Strix Scar III G531GV: Specs

Before we jump into the review, let’s do what we always do and take a look at the hardware this laptop brings to the table:

Display 15.6-inch FullHD;
144Hz;
3ms
Processor Intel Core i7-9750H;
2.6GHz, up to 4.5GHz;
6 Cores/12 Threads
RAM 16GB DDR4 2666MHz
GPU Nvidia RTX 2060;
6GB GDDR6 VRAM
Storage 1TB NVMe SSD
I/O and Ports 1 x Type C USB 3.2 (GEN2) support DP function;
3 x Type A USB 3.2 (GEN1);
1 x HDMI 2.0b;
1 x 3.5mm Audio Jack/ 1 x Audio Jack Mic-in (Combo Jack);
1 x RJ45 LAN Jack
Connectivity Intel® 802.11ac (2×2) Gigabit Wi-Fi;
Bluetooth 5.0

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the ROG Strix Scar III.

Design and Build

Like I said earlier, the moment I looked at this laptop, I was confused about how to describe it. The Asus ROG Strix Scar III lands somewhere in the middle of understated designs and extremely spaceship-like designs. However, as I continued using the laptop, I realized that that’s not a bad thing at all. If anything, it makes the laptop stand out a bit, without standing out so much that it looks out of place; not just in an office space, but at home, in a coffee shop, or wherever else you might find yourself using the laptop.

Design wise, Asus has done what it does so well, and nailed the design on the Strix Scar III. I don’t really have any complaints here. The lid features the typical Asus brushed-metal finish, along with the big, glowing ROG logo, which, by the way, isn’t just red here, it’s actually RGB.

Inside, the laptop comes with the gorgeous FullHD display with minimal bezels on all sides, except for the bottom bezel. However, while I’ve stopped calling out laptop makers for big bottom bezels on gaming laptops, I want to give a shoutout to Asus for making this bottom bezel look cool. It’s not just your regular-looking bezel. Instead, Asus has cut it out at the right two-thirds and that little design choice gives the front of the laptop a lot more character and I dig it.

The keyboard also features RGB lighting, and a bunch of keys on the top for quick and easy access to important functions, which is something I’ve started appreciating as I use this laptop more every day. The sides of the keyboard have a nice, carbon-fiber-like design pattern which looks cool, sure, but also prevents oily or sweaty palms from leaving prints all over the palm-rest.

On the sides you’ll find the ports, with a very weird port on the right, and a bunch of ports, including the charging input, and the USB-C port on the back.

Of course, since this is a gaming laptop, there’s RGB in places. The keyboard, like I said, has RGB lighting. So does the ROG logo on the lid. However, with the Strix Scar III G531GV, Asus has added RGB lighting strips on the base of the laptop, and while these aren’t really visible when you’re actually using the laptop, the light glows out from the edges of the laptop and looks incredible at night, or in darker areas.

The laptop also feels really sturdy to the touch (and to the flex), and I always gives off a feeling of being a premium device, as it should.

Display

The ROG Strix Scar III G531GV comes with a big, gorgeous looking 15.6-inch Full HD display. That in itself is pretty good, with sharp text rendering, pretty solid brightness, and great color accuracy. However, Asus didn’t stop there. Since this is a gaming laptop, the display also offers gaming-oriented features.

This here is a 144Hz display, which means that you get reduced motion blur, and just an overall smoother experience with Windows animations, scrolling, and everything else. The response time is also a pretty solid 3ms, which isn’t something a regular user would care much about, but as a gamer, that obviously matters to you.

However, even though this is a gaming laptop, it’s great for regular workloads as well, and the display reflects the same. It’s a really good display, with good colors, great brightness, and nice viewing angles. Everyday tasks on this display are a treat, whether it’s writing articles or reading them, or watching movies and TV shows on Netflix (which, by the way, is more affordable now, so yay!)

So yeah, the display on this laptop is great, and I really don’t have anything to complain about here. Unlike the Zephyrus M GU502GU that I reviewed earlier, this display gets pretty bright so sunlight visibility shouldn’t be a problem.

Performance

Now let’s talk about one of the most important aspects of a gaming laptop – performance. The Strix Scar III doesn’t shy away on performance at all. The laptop comes packing an Intel Core i7-9750H processor clocked at a base frequency of 2.6GHz, and a max frequency of 4.50GHz which is great. There’s 16GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM on board, along with a 1TB NVMe SSD for fast storage, and the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM.

That’s plenty of power, and it shows in both real world usage and benchmarks. I started off my testing with some benchmarks on the laptop, and things look fine here. In 3DMark Time Spy, the Strix Scar III scores 5,160 points, while in PCMark 10, the laptop scores 4,191 points. I also ran Cinebench R20’s CPU test on the laptop and got a score of 2377 points there, which is good enough.

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Cinebench R20

 

3DMark Time Spy

 

PCMark 10

In real world usage too, the laptop doesn’t disappoint. I did quite a lot of office-related work on this laptop, with over 15-20 tabs in Chrome open at all times with an instance of Photoshop in the background for editing images, and the laptop handled it all perfectly. However, with specs like that, I wasn’t really expecting the laptop to have trouble with some Chrome tabs and Photoshop. I was really excited to check the gaming performance on this thing, and it didn’t disappoint.

In Far Cry 5, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite games to test gaming laptops with thanks to its built in benchmark, I tested the laptop in both High and Ultra graphics settings. With graphics set to High (which is the default that Far Cry picked out), I got an average frame rate of 88FPS, going as high as 102FPS. Switching the graphics settings to Ultra got an average frame rate of 83FPS, going as high as 99FPS and as low as 70FPS.

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That’s pretty impressive for Far Cry 5, and personally, I played the game in Ultra instead of High, because I think an average frame rate of 83FPS is pretty solid for a game like Far Cry 5 in Ultra settings.

I also tried playing Apex Legends and PUBG, and both those games also work great on this laptop, not that I was surprised. In Apex Legends, the laptop easily pushed anywhere from 75-90FPS in-game, with the lower FPS values coming in during intense gunfights, and explosions. I honestly suck at the game, but it’s not the laptop’s fault. In PUBG, the laptop easily got around 130FPS in High settings. Changing that to Ultra resulted in a major drop in frame rates, but I was still getting well over 90FPS, which is just awesome.

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PUBG High

 

PUBG Ultra

Overall, the performance here is amazing, and pretty solid for a laptop in this price bracket. I honestly don’t think the ROG Strix Scar III leaves a lot to be desired in terms of performance; but then again, that’s true for almost everything this laptop does, and it does quite a bit.

Keystone

Normally I would follow the performance section with the keyboard and trackpad, but the ROG Strix Scar III G531GV comes with what Asus calls a “Keystone.” This is pretty impressive. This amber colored NFC key basically unlocks the Shadow Drive inside the laptop. Sounds interesting? It really is.

When you first plug in the Keystone in the laptop, it automatically launches the Armory Crate application, where you can pair the Keystone to your PC, and set it to unlock the Shadow Drive. This is an extra 800GB of storage built in to your system that you can keep locked and hidden until you plug in your Keystone.

One of the best use cases that I could come up with for this would be to use this laptop as a work/play device, with the Shadow Drive holding all my games, so while I’m at work, there’s nothing to distract me from working, but when I’m at home I can just plug in the Keystone and transform the ROG Strix Scar III into a machine loaded with my favorite games.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Anyway, coming back to the regular flow of a laptop review, let’s talk about the keyboard and trackpad. There’s not really a lot to talk about here, but there are a few things I want to point out.

First, the keyboard feels ridiculously great to type on. I have used a bunch of Asus laptops in the past, and while those keyboards were great, this one just feels extremely responsive, easy to type on, and doesn’t cause fatigue – all of which are positives that I would want on every laptop ever. The keycaps are very slightly curved which adds to the comfort and ease of typing on the ROG Strix Scar III.

It’s also great for gaming, thanks to the properly spaced arrow keys here, instead of the stupid compact arrow key layout you’ll find on a lot of laptops these days. Asus clearly doesn’t care about making the keyboard fit into a perfect rectangle on its gaming laptops, and that’s fine by me. I’d rather have a keyboard I enjoy using than something that looks symmetrical but is absolutely poor in terms of usability.

I’ve spent a lot of hours typing on this keyboard; heck I’m typing this review on the ROG Strix Scar III and not only is it not tiring to type on this, it’s downright fun. I love using this keyboard.

The trackpad too is pretty great. In typical Asus fashion, it’s not among the biggest trackpads I’ve used on Windows laptops, but it’s not small either. It’s pretty well-sized, and it’s a precision touchpad so you get access to gestures and better tracking, which is awesome.

I do have one concern here – the palm rejection on this trackpad is average at best. It mistakes my palm for actual touchpad input very often, which can quickly get annoying when gaming because it keeps screwing up the crosshair, but is also annoying while typing because the cursor sometimes moves away to a random position.

Oh also, if you looked at the picture above and wondered what the “Num LK” key is all about, well, simply long press on it, and watch what happens.

Yeah, there’s a numpad built into the trackpad, similar to what we saw with the ROG Zephyrus S GX531GW, except the trackpad is placed in its proper position here.

So yeah, the ROG Strix Scar III G531GV is amazing when it comes to the keyboard and trackpad as well.

I/O and Ports

So far, the Asus ROG Strix Scar III G531GV has nailed almost everything, and there’s really not a lot left to check. Coming to the ports and I/O options you get with the laptop, there’s a decent amount here as well.

You get three USB 3.0 Type A ports, you get a USB-C port, an RJ-45 ethernet port, a headphone and mic combo jack, an HDMI port, and, of course, a charging port. Plus there’s also the Keystone port.

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That’s definitely not a lot of ports as far as gaming laptops are concerned, but it’s also definitely not a scarcity of options.

Audio

When I used the Zephyrus M earlier this month, I was pretty unimpressed by the audio quality on the laptop. However, the ROG Strix Scar III didn’t let me down in terms of audio – the laptop’s side-firing stereo speakers get loud enough and don’t crackle or distort.

I have watched a considerable amount of movies and TV shows on this laptop, and I never felt the need to connect an external speaker here, the audio was loud, clear, and balanced. That’s pretty wonderful.

It’s obviously nowhere near the quality you’d get with headphones, and it goes without saying that you’ll need headphones for gaming, unless it’s a really casual gaming session. However, for regular usage like watching movies and TV shows, or listening to the occasional song, these speakers are definitely more than enough.

Battery

As far as battery life is concerned, the ROG Strix Scar III G531GV doesn’t really do anything great here. In my usage of the laptop, which is mostly Google Chrome and Photoshop, with the occasional YouTube video, or a TV show on Netflix or Prime Video, the laptop lasted around 2.5 to 3 hours on a charge – now that’s fine, but it’s not the best and it can quickly get annoying, having to charge the laptop every few hours especially if you’re at work.

For gamers though, that’s not too much of an issue, since you’ll most likely have it plugged in while gaming for the best performance. However, if you’re planning on using this laptop as your gaming beast at home, and workhorse at college or office, don’t forget to bring the charger along.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Great performance
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Good design
  • Display is bright and sharp
  • Shadow Drive and Keystone are insanely cool

Cons:

  • Battery life is average at best
  • Palm rejection on touchpad is not good

Asus ROG Strix Scar III G531GV Review: Should You Buy It?

So, now that we’ve seen everything there is to see about this laptop, let’s answer the most important question – should you buy the ROG Strix Scar III G531GV at its Rs. 1,54,990 price tag. To put it simply, yeah, by all means. This laptop offers a lot of amazing features in the price. Pair that with the great design, excellent performance, good audio quality, and a 144Hz/3ms Full HD display, and this is definitely a great laptop to go for.

However, if you want to save some cash, you can also check out the MSI GL63 9SEK which comes with a 9th-gen Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 1TB HDD and 256GB SSD, and RTX 2060 graphics for Rs. 1,47,389. However, you’ll have to compromise on the storage, since the MSI laptop comes with a 1TB HDD, while the Asus ROG Strix Scar III comes with a 1TB SSD.

Buy the Asus ROG Strix Scar III G531GV from Amazon (Rs. 1,54,990)

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