Reviews

Google Pixel review (3 months later)

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Three months in, and we’re still using the Google Pixel as our main Android smartphone. With all the Droids we’ve been reviewing lately, that says a lot.

We took our time with this review, as we felt features such as the camera and Google Assistant needed a long evaluation period before we could come to a conclusion — and we were right.

These are all our Pixel findings after a quarter of a year.

The design didn’t grow on us

Sad to say, the bland design didn’t get better with age. As much as I appreciate the symmetry in front, too much space is wasted on the unused bezels — space which could have been used for dual-front-facing speakers like on the Nexus 6P.

I also can’t forgive the upper-back portion. I honestly thought there was a greater purpose for the glossy glass, yet all it did was record my finger smudges, saving it for a day when someone steals my phone and uses the marks to unlock it using my fingerprints, which brings us to our next point:

It greatly benefits from a case

Despite its finely crafted metal body and perfectly sized 5-inch frame for single-handed use, you’re better off buying a case the moment you get a Pixel. The glass area surrounding the fingerprint scanner is prone to tiny scratches no matter how careful you are, and the metal area can get quite slippery.

We were fortunate enough to find a perfect case for the Pixel, Nillkin’s Super Frosted Shield. The red version matches our black Pixel perfectly, while its grippy texture and shock-absorbent material made us less worried about handling such an expensive phone.

Google Assistant has a long way to go

I really wanted this feature to succeed. I really did, but the commands I want it to perform the most aren’t there yet. Getting Google Assistant to open specific files in Drive, search for certain people in my Photos app, or even just help compose simple emails is frustrating at times.

And those aren’t on random apps, either. Assistant should be able to do every function possible on Google’s official Drive, Photos, and Gmail apps. Having it set reminders, check the weather, and play games with you are cool and all, but those can easily be done without the help of artificial intelligence.

Battery life is generally superb

The quality Pixel’s battery life is debatable. I’ve heard a lot of bad things; at the same time, I’ve experienced fine endurance when I needed it most. Getting five hours of screen-on time over the course of one and a half days has become commonplace, and that’s a good thing. Turn off the full-time voice activation and minimize LTE use, and you should manage two days on one charge.

Nothing beats its camera

To this day, nothing trumps the speed and fluidity of the 12.3-megapixel camera and its app. Although Apple and Samsung can state their own cases why their cameras rule, the Pixel camera makes smartphone photography so seamless, and does so without any fancy optical image stabilization or second lens.

Photo after photo, I’m always impressed by the Pixel’s outputs. Its HDR mode is in a category of its own, and I highly suggest keeping it on at all times to boost colors and handle tricky lighting situations. It’s my go-to camera when the sun fully sets, and the 8-megapixel selfie camera is good too despite the lack of promotion.

This phone never slows down

Its Snapdragon 821 processor may be outdated soon, but in no way can the Pixel be considered slow. Unlike most Android handsets, this phone maintains its original speed for months. A lot of credit should be given to the 4GB of memory and lack of microSD card expansion, which would otherwise slow down the interface because of potentially sluggish external storage.

Its Android is a strange “stock” Android

It feels so strange using a Google phone which doesn’t have a truly pure Android operating system. Sure, it’s on the latest 7.1 Nougat version and replaces the user interface built by the Nexus series, but it still feels like I’m using a third-party skin.

Don’t get me wrong: The visuals are spotless and swiping from below to open the app drawer should have been implemented a long time ago; I just get the feeling Google will revise the design all over again in the next Pixel phone, especially if a manufacturer other than HTC takes the lead.

Waterproofing is sorely missed

Having used a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge before taking on the Pixel and playing with Sony’s Xperia XZ from time to time, I feel bad about not possessing some level of water and dust proofing on this phone. It’s not everyday I go on beach trips or deal with splashes, but the peace of mind just isn’t there.

Unlimited full-resolution photo uploads is a superb deal

As someone who constantly moves from one device to another, placing everything on the cloud is vital in ensuring all my files are accessible. While any decent smartphone can back up photos and videos for me, none can do it as well as the Pixel.

Having all my pictures and videos automatically synced to my Google Photos account at full resolution means I never have to worry about instant quality loss or degradation over time. I love how this is a permanent feature that adds so much extra value to the Pixel’s high asking price.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I could just end the review here and tell you there’s no better Android smartphone than the Google Pixel right now, but I have to share a few more thoughts.

For one, finding a unit anywhere in the world hasn’t gotten any easier. Google is experiencing shipment problems through its official channels, so you must deal with a third-party retailer for any chance of purchasing one.

And then there’s the issue concerning its chipset. As fast as it is at the moment, it’ll soon feel slow once smartphones equipped with Qualcomm’s revolutionary Snapdragon 835 processor begin coming out next month.

Finally, let’s talk about the price. Starting at $649 for the 32GB storage variant, the Pixel isn’t cheap, and you’ll have to spend a hundred dollars more for the 5.5-inch Pixel XL, which only adds a better Quad HD resolution and larger battery to its value.

With the soon-to-be-outdated hardware and expensive price tag compared to all the other great phones out there, the Pixel isn’t as attractive as it once was, but for the time being, this will continue being my go-to handset for its camera and updated software alone.

SEE ALSO: A cheaper Google Pixel could be in the works

[irp posts=”9907″ name=”A cheaper Google Pixel could be in the works”]

Accessories

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering

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The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?

 

At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

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Reviews

LG Velvet Review: New breed of flagship killer?

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Over the years, LG was once a pioneer in the smartphone industry with their G and V smartphone series. These phones are packed with a lot of punch and boast new and exciting features.

But LG has forgotten one thing, and that is how to fix their unexciting phone designs. From the G7 ThinQ all the way to V50 ThinQ 5G, those phones almost look unchanged. They might have been minor changes with the newer V60 ThinQ 5G, but it’s still not as eye-catching as other contenders.

The LG Velvet isn’t a replacement to their ever-existing flagship series. Instead, LG tries to reimagine things by making sure they produce products that cater the needs of not just tech nerds, but other types of consumers as well.

Here’s our in-depth review of the LG Velvet.

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Accessories

Redmi Earbuds S review: Affordable TWS without compromises

Making TWS earphones more accessible

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Truly wireless (TWS) earphones have been around for a while. Apple kick-started the hype with the launch of the AirPods and numerous brands have released alternatives since. However, they’ve always been very expensive.

With brands keen on ditching the headphone jack, users are often left with no option but to find wireless options. Redmi phones continue to have a headphone jack, but the brand also wants to remain focused on its target — deliver quality products at an affordable price.

The Redmi Earbuds S is the first TWS offering in India under the Redmi brand. While the brand stands strong in the smartphone segment, it has some cut-throat competition from realme. With a price tag of INR 1,799 (US$ 24), does it have enough firepower to take on the competition? If you’re looking for an entry-level TWS solution, can you trust the Earbuds S? Let’s find out!

Not AirPods knock-offs

If you’ve been following the TWS market, the Earbuds S will look familiar. These are sold as the AirDots S in China and many have ordered them previously via international marketplaces. In India, Redmi is calling them the Earbuds S and these could land in more south-east Asian markets soon.

While the trend is to follow Apple’s design language, the Earbuds S is going against the flow. It has its own distinctive design that looks nothing like a cheap knock-off.

The pill-shaped case is compact, feels solid in hand, and has a subtle curve on the bottom. The case size is perfect and it’ll always slide into your pocket smoothly.

Each earbud weighs just 4g and the in-ear design is immensely comfortable. I’ve worn them pretty much all day long and never felt any irritation, pain, or slightest of inconvenience. The snug fit also ensures adequate noise isolation and wearing them while driving for calls is seamless.

There’s not much to talk about with the design since it’s basic and gets the job done. They’re built out of plastic and its clearly evident at first sight.

I won’t count this as a drawback since it helps reduce overall weight and I wouldn’t expect metal or premium construction at this price.

Easy to use, fairly straightforward

The lid is very basic but has a satisfying feel to it when closing. Unlike the popular AirPods, these sit in your ears at a 45-degree angle. Paired along are two earbud tips to suit your ear canal. I didn’t have to use them and the standard size that comes along worked fine.

Using them is a very straightforward process. Open the lid, remove the earbuds, and wear them.

They’ll connect to your phone as soon as they’re disconnected from the case. I’ve never faced any connection issues so far. Each earbud has a button for quick controls such as music playback options and calling up Google Assistant.

On the flip side, you can’t rely on the earbuds to change the volume level or play a previous song. That can only be managed via your phone.

Pressing the button thrice will trigger the low-latency gaming mode. A feature that’ll be very handy while playing online multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile or Mobile Legends.

Each earbud has an indicator light that shows the status. Red means they’re charging while white means successful connection establishment. Lastly, they’re IPX4 certified, meaning sweat resistance. This obviously translates to a perfect workout session.

Punchy bass, relatively good audio

This is where I was surprised the most. Considering the nifty features it already has, I expected some kind of compromise in this department. And, I was wrong.

It has 7.2mm drivers and delivers punchy bass — a must-have for Bollywood music. Mainstream genres like pop sound amazing and if you’re not an audiophile, you won’t have any complaints.

The maximum volume is sufficiently loud and coupled with good isolation, even a busy market street is easily navigable.

However, if you’re looking for top-notch audio, these aren’t meant for you. The low frequency takes over while the mids are flat. You can use an equalizer to change the settings but the inherent tuning is in favor of bass-heavy music.

Furthermore, these connect via the SBC codec and there’s no support for aptX. I wouldn’t call this a drawback because the brand has to cut corners to make them accessible to a wider audience.

Adequate playback duration

Xiaomi claims the earbuds can deliver up to four hours of playback on a single charge and I’ve reached 3 hours 45 minutes in one go. So, their claims aren’t farfetched.

The case can charge the earbuds fully twice, delivering a total of 12 hours of playback in one go. If you’re going to use them for conference calls, music, and other work-related activities, they’ll easily get you through a working day.

The case takes almost two hours to charge fully. For frequent travelers, this can be a major drawback. Furthermore, the case charges via a microUSB port instead of the now-standard USB-C. Don’t forget to carry that extra charging cord along!

Can this be your GadgetMatch?

Yes. It definitely can. While there are a lot of minor additions I’d want to see, the price brings me back to reality.

In a nutshell, they’re designed aptly, deliver ordinarily better audio, and have 12 hours of playback. For US$ 25, there’s no better deal available. Keep in mind, the Redmi Earbuds S are making TWS earphones more accessible to everyone.

If you’re looking for top-notch audio quality, there are premium offerings like the OPPO Enco Free, Galaxy Buds, and 1More Truly Stylish. On the affordable side, realme Buds Air Neo and OPPO Enco W31 can be alternatives but are still priced considerably high.

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