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Sony WH-1000XM4 review: As good as it gets

Small improvements add up to a better overall experience

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The Sony-WH1000XM line has been much hyped and it’s for a good reason. Ask anyone who’s ever used or reviewed these headphones and they’ll tell you how it’s one of, if not, the best they’ve ever used. The same is true for its latest version — the Sony WH-1000XM4.

It maintains the simple and sleek design

The red marker to quickly point which is right or left is also still here

The product’s name is visible on either side so you don’t mistake it for the earlier versions

On the left side you’ll find the power button and the custom button that, by default, triggers your preferred Voice Assistant

You have the USB port for charging and 3.5mm jack for when you want to stay wired

There’s a sensor inside the left ear cup so it knows right away when you take it off to pause music and conserve battery

And it still comes with this equally nice and sleek case

It’s also pretty bendy like the WH-1000XM3, but we don’t recommend you twist it like this often

Sony pretty much improved everything it could possibly improve on save for the name. To answer your questions about the device, Rodneil and CJ share their experiences while using the headphones.

Rodneil (L) going back to the next track and CJ (R) summoning the voice assistant

Oh and about the name, for brevity we’re mostly going to refer to the WH-1000XM4 as just the XM4. We’ll also do the same for other devices in the same line, i.e. WH-1000XM3 to XM3.

What new feature on the XM4 were you most excited about? 

Rodneil: I wouldn’t exactly say excited but the ability to pair with two devices simultaneously was a long-time coming feature and I’m glad it finally made it to the XM4. Although, it’s prudent to point out that using the multi-device pairing feature will disable LDAC on phones that support it. That said, it still sounds amazing even with this turned off.

In case you didn’t know, LDAC is Sony’s proprietary audio coding technology which essentially transmits higher quality audio with less data and compression. Most flagship phones support this feature.

I imagine the Speak-to-Chat feature would work great if you’re out and about. However, since I am currently in isolation, the only thing it did was highlight how my voice doesn’t really sound good when I try to sing-along to TWICE’s songs. 😑

CJ: Honestly, I thought Sony did such a great job with the XM3 that I couldn’t think of anything they could have possibly added to the XM4. But using the XM4 over the last week, there’s a few new features that I really value.

As Rodneil mentioned, the ability to pair with two devices simultaneously is probably the most appreciated, even though it disables LDAC.

Funny enough, for me, the new Speak-to-Chat and Ambient Sound Controls turned out to be something I found incredibly useful. It’s like I’m wearing “Smart” headphones.

The XM4 will detect when you’re walking around outside and tune down the noise cancellation to allow you to hear ambient sounds like cars passing by. But most impressive of all, though a little gimmicky at times, it can now detect when you’re speaking and will turn down the noise cancellation and volume.

Pretty handy when you want to stop by that coffee shop to get your morning coffee on your way to work in the morning. Of course, if you find these features too buggy, you can switch them off in the Sony Headphones app.

Where and when would you typically use these headphones? 

Rodneil: Pre-pandemic, I would put it on to zone out of the workplace and zone in on whatever I’m working on. Now that we’re in a new normal and I’m working alone at my place, I mostly use headphones during video calls and as accessories when shooting smartphones haha.

But anything with noise-cancelling, for me, is extremely helpful in maintaining focus. I usually put these on when I’m about to go on a writing marathon. I’ve been pretty scatter-brained the past few months and having headphones with ANC really helps me lock in.

Just looking out the window, pondering my life choices while tuning out the world

I also recently downloaded the DLC for Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PS4 and have used the XM4 while gaming. Immersive might be an understatement to describe the experience. It sounds even better on certain other games that really pay a lot of attention to sound.

CJ: Thankfully Malaysia has gotten back to some sort of normality so we’re all out and about right now.

The XM4 is great for my morning commutes to work and back home, be it via the LRT or a GrabCar with a really chatty driver. I’m really antisocial in the mornings and I can’t handle conversations. With the XM4, wear them, switch them on, and the active noise cancellation blocks everything out. You’re on your own private island in the middle of nowhere, just you and your music — it’s amazing.

But that being said, pre-pandemic, the main reason I’d get these headphones would have been for traveling. Long flights, or even a long bus ride, are so much easier to deal with when you have a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. With the crazy long battery life, the great noise cancellation, and the solid audio quality, the XM4 is more than equipped to handle it.

Have you used this during calls, zoom meetings? Did the person on the other line think you sounded okay?

Rodneil: I’m mostly just listening in the handful of calls and meetings I attended while I had these. But on a couple of calls that I had to speak, the other person on the line said I sounded… okay.

I called the same person using a much cheaper pair of TWS earphones but that one had the stem design which had mics. Those mics picked up my voice better than the ones on the WH-1000XM4 and they’re a fraction of the XM4’s price.

However, they can’t hold a candle to the XM4’s sound quality. Just know that these were made primarily for listening and noise-cancelling. The mics on the XM4 are decent but the quality for calls leaves room for improvement.

CJ: Same here actually. They’re just… okay for voice calls. But then, with these headphones they’re all about the audio quality, for listening to music.

I don’t think microphone quality should be high up on your radar of expectations with any of these sorts of high-end ANC headphones.

If you have the XM3, should you upgrade to this?

Rodneil: It’s been over a year since I used the XM3 and I would say that for the most part, you’re getting pretty much a comparable quality performance. Despite the long gap between the devices, the XM4 feels like a refinement of the XM3 instead of a full-on upgrade.

If your only concern is getting top-notch noise-cancellation along with the cleanest, fullest sound you can experience from headphones then the XM3 is still a fine choice. It’s now cheaper wherever you can get Sony headphones and you’re only missing a few bells and whistles like Speak-to-Chat and marginal improvements in overall quality.

CJ: Likewise, I think if you have the XM3, there’s no reason to upgrade to the XM4.

In fact, thanks to the XM4 launching, prices for the XM3 have actually dropped quite a bit, making them even better value for money right now since they are still one of the best ANC headphones out there.

Like Rodneil said, the XM4 is more like a refinement of the XM3. If you’re not on a budget, the XM4 is by far the best ANC headphones right now, and really easy to recommend.

How can Sony top this?

Rodneil: For what it’s trying to be, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is probably as good as it gets. The noise cancellation is best-in-class and the sound quality is the type that will make you want to dance like an idiot.

I guess you can say Sony can tweak the design or add more colors. However, from the get-go it seems that’s not how these are being positioned. And Sony has an entirely different line if you want spunkier looking headphones.

Personally, I think it’s a great chance to reboot and rename (please, Sony, please) this line of headphones should the next one try something radically different while also maintaining everything we love about it.

CJ: Remember when I said I didn’t know how Sony could improve on the XM3? Well, I don’t know how Sony could possibly improve on the XM4 either. It has everything you or I could even want in a pair of noise cancelling headphones, and there’s really no flaw to speak of.

I know a lot of people have voiced their opinions on how Sony needs to innovate on their headphone design though, which would be the only way they could really improve on these.

Maybe they could explore a different, cooler design on an alternate model, kind of like how Bose dropped the new Bose 700NC headphones after the last Bose QC35 II headphones.

Questions from Matchketeers

Michael Lascano — Would like to know if noise cancellation is better for virtual meetings vs bose (700 NC)? 

Dornak del Rosario – Microphone comparison of xm3 and xm4 when doing calls.

CJ: IMHO between the Bose 700 and the Sony XM4, I really think the XM4 is the better all around package. Better audio quality, better noise cancellation, better “smart” features. They’re almost the same price but the Sony’s are way better value for money.

For virtual meetings though, I’d wager they sound pretty much identical. It’s only when it comes down to the music listening that you’d hear the difference in soundstage.

Michael Joshua Ano-os —  Does it sound better when playing music on YouTube? 

Rodneil: It’s certainly better than any other headphones or earphones I’ve used in the past. That’s true whether I’m playing music from YouTube, Spotify, or any other app.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is priced as follows: 

  • Philippines — PhP 19,999
  • Malaysia — MYR 1,599
  • Singapore — SG$ 549 
  • US — US$ 349.99 

That’s pretty much the launch price of every other headphone in the same line. For some people, that’s a big ask for a pair of headphones. The thing is, you’re not getting just any other pair of headphones.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is easily the best choice as the premium, everyday headphones. It’s the perfect travel companion — that is, for when we can all actually travel again — and is just a stellar package of sleek and subtle design, astonishing sound quality, and unmatched noise cancellation. You can’t go wrong with these.


In Singapore, Sony is running a trade-in promotion for the WH-1000Xm4. Customers can have SG$ 80 off by trading selected noise cancelling models. Click here to find out the models that qualify and for more details.

Accessories

realme launches Watch 2 Pro, TechLife Robot Vacuum

While teasing more devices

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realme

This hardly comes as a surprise anymore as every brand is coming out with their slew of smart devices. realme is, likewise, venturing outside the smartphone arena as they launch the realme Watch 2 Pro and realme TechLife Robot Vacuum.

realme AIoT

The company is transitioning from their 1+4+N strategy to the 1+5+T strategy. Still tells the normal everyday person nothing at first glance but realme explains it as:

1 — smartphone, as realme’s smartphones are at the center of its AIoT ecosystem
5 — key categories for realme’s AIoT products. These include the True Wireless Stereo (TWS), Wearables, TV, laptops, and tablets.
T — stands for TechLife. This is realme’s open partner platform. It aims to support innovative and dynamic AIoT startups through the sharing of realme’s own sales channels.

TechLife focuses on three product categories: Smart Entertainment (TV boxes, projectors, speakers and game accessories), Smart Care (vacuum robots, air purifiers and body fat scales), Smart Connect (smart sockets, smart light bulbs and cameras)

After announcing the realme GT to take care of “1”, realme is covering “5” with the realme Watch 2 Pro, and the “T” with the Techlife Robot Vacuum.

realme Watch 2 Pro

If you follow tech news a lot, you know how this goes. The realme Watch 2 Pro is supposed to be your partner for an active and healthy lifestyle.

It comes with a variety of monitoring features. These are an accurate GPS system, an Sp02 monitor for blood oxygen tracking, and a heart rate monitor. For an active lifestyle, it comes with 90 sports modes.

It’s also larger than its predecessor. It has a 1.75-inch (4.4cm) display with 600 nits of peak brightness. It’s also again promising up to 14 days of power with its 390mAh battery. You’re also offered over 100 different watch faces so it’ll never feel old.

realme TechLife Robot Vacuum

This device is kicking off realme’s whole TechLife line. It has the LiDAR Smart Mapping and Navigation System, the same state-of-the-art technology used in the navigation systems of modern electric vehicles and aircraft. Sounds overkill for a vacuum but if you want your space spic and span you wanna make sure the vacuum can get to all areas that it should.

The realme TechLife Robot Vacuum has a super-high suction and mopping power of 3000Pa. This means it’s capable of cleaning large amounts of high-density garbage while keeping noise levels as low as 55dB on quiet mode.

It also features a 5200mAh battery, a 600ml dust bin and a 300ml smart electronic water tank, ensuring that users do not have to constantly charge and empty the vacuum during cleaning.

It’s designed to fit into any home with a maximum height of just above 10cm. It has a sleek and classy design with the top cover of the device made from an impact resistant tempered glass.

More TechLife products coming

realme also teased a media-focused realme Pad tablet and their first laptop — the realme Book.

Price and availability

The realme watch 2 Pro will be available starting June 16 for EUR 74.99. The basic realme watch 2 retails for EUR 54.99.

The realme TechLife Robot Vacuum price and availability details to follow.

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Nanoleaf launches new Elements Line

A wood look for smart light panels

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Nanoleaf announces new Elements Wood Look Hexagons, inspired by nature. The wood-like panels have backlit technology and can add an aesthetic to your room. Coming from a successful line of color-changing smart panels, Nanoleaf combines nature and modern technology.

Each of the panels has a wood grain-like texture and is something worth considering if you’re into these types of modern design. Even when powered off, Elements still stands on its own as a design. The panel is also ultra-slim so it may be a hassle-free experience installing the panels.

The Nanoleaf Elements also have a unique glowing effect as each apex of the panel lights up independently. Nanoleaf said that the panels can imitate embers on a fireplace or a moving cloud. Additionally, the panels also glow from the back adding a double-lit effect.

The Nanoleaf Elements also create more comfort and balance as the panels have a wide range of cool to warm white options. The range is about 1,500-4,000K, also with 11 preset lighting Scenes. The Scenes include “Organic” motion, from a fireplace to waterfalls, you can also create a personalized experience with the provided app. You can also select the 1,000 RGB Scenes in the Discover tab.

The panels also include Rhythm Music Sync, Schedules, Touch capabilities, and Circadian lighting. You can also schedule the time for the panels to turn on or off depending on your liking. Circadian Lighting adjusts the light’s color depending on the temperature throughout the day. You can the Rhythm Music Sync at night or any time of the day, play some relaxing jazz music or a coffeehouse playlist as the lights move with the melodies.

Price and Availability

Nanoleaf Elements come in Smarter Kits (7 light panels) and Expansion Pack add-ons (3 light panels).

The panels are Wifi-controlled with the Nanoleaf App, voice commands, or manually with the physical Controller. They are also compatible with Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT integrations.

Nanoleaf Elements will be available on June 3rd at the Nanoleaf Shop. Elements will launch globally in Apple stores online later this year. SmarterKits will retail for US$ 299.99 (Smarter Kit) and US$ 99.99 (Expansion Pack).

 

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Sony unveils the WF-1000XM4 with smaller design, better ANC

There’s also a significant improvement in battery life

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WF-1000XM4

Sony has unveiled the WF-1000XM4, the latest product in the company’s long lineup of truly wireless earbuds. The successors to the wildly successful Sony WF-1000XM3, the earbuds come with a range of upgrades that push the ceiling further.

It comes equipped with a more capable Sony V1 chip and a redesigned body outside for maximum comfort, isolation, and fit. The processor, coupled with a pair of microphones on the sides of both earbuds, delivers best-in-class noise cancellation. Sony says the mics aid beamforming technology, making the earbuds bone conduction capable.

to reduce noise cancellation while talking or focusing on your surroundings, the ambient sound mode can be toggled. Lastly, there’s automatic wind noise suppression to prevent any leak. It’s keeping an eye on your voice, disabling ANC automatically when needed. Sony boasts it’s the first in the world to support Hi-Res audio over the LDAC codec.

It gets improved 24-bit amps, redesigned driver units with 20% larger magnets, and an improved diaphragm. There’s also EQ adjustment available with tonnes of presets and has space for customs ones too. It’ll automatically optimize those music streaming apps that offer 360 Reality Audio or Dolby Atmos.

Voice Assistant friendly

The WF-1000XM4 can be connected to your phone via the Sony Headphones Connect app. It’ll let you set up location-based profiles for Adaptive Sound Control. Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Siri can all be summoned by earbuds. Touch controls allow you to adjust your music playback, activate your preferred voice assistant, and toggle between active noise cancellation modes.

While it’s packed with more features, the overall size of the earbuds has come down by 10 percent. It can deliver up to 8 hours of playback with noise cancellation enabled, and 12 hours without it. The case can recharge the earbuds twice, providing total support of 24 hours with ANC switched on. Thanks to quick charging technology, a five-minute plug-in can deliver up to 60 minutes of playback.

Other features include low latency listening, Fast Pair, speak to chat, and Bluetooth 5.2. The Sony WF-1000XM4 is IPX4 rated.

Price and availability

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are available in Black and Silver and are priced at US$ 279 in the US and available for purchase now via Amazon, BestBuy, Sony’s website, and other retail partners. In Singapore, they retail for SG$ 379 and are available in all Sony Stores, Sony Store Online and Sony Authorized dealers.

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