Orgain Protein Powder Vs Vega One: Which Is More Superior?

On the surface, both Vega one weight loss and orgain protein powder shake seem like one and the same. Both of them pride themselves on being vegan-friendly, due to their use of plant-based proteins, however, by taking a closer look, you’ll be able to tell that they do have some differences. And these differences matter to certain kinds of people. Let’s start by looking at their similarities, before moving on to their distinctive features.

Orgain Protein Powder VS Vega One

Orgain Protein Powder VS Vega One Ingredients

Ingredients

Not to sound like captain obvious, but what makes a meal replacement shake vegan is with regards to its source of protein. And in this case, both Orgain and vega one weight loss shakes use plant protein. Now the thing with plant protein is that even though it provides the same amino acidic components as animal protein, it doesn’t have vitamin B12, lack of which is associated with long term fatigue. Vitamin B12 is naturally occurring in animals, vegetarians on orgain and vega shake will need to take B12 supplements.

In terms of the actual ingredients used, Orgain protein powder uses pea, brown rice, chia seed and hemp as its chief protein ingredients. Vega one weight loss shakes rely on saviseed, hemp seed and brown rice for protein. Both use a delicate combination of all these ingredients to get optimal results for their users.

If you’re prone to diary allergies, constipation and such, top meal replacement shakes with protein bases should be your go-to, as they’re less aggressive on the stomach.

Texture & Consistency

One of the reasons people abhor meal replacement shakes has to do with their “chalk-like” taste, and their grainy consistency. The texture, when a powder has been mixed with water, depends on the type of ingredients used. For example, shakes that use BCAAs as their protein bases have grainy textures because BCAA doesn’t dissolve easily.

From orgain protein powder review, you’ll see that some types contain BCAAs, and even the vegan orgain contains a lot of fiber filled ingredients – chia and peas – which means it will have a bit of a grainy texture. Vega one weight loss contains less fiber filled ingredients, so it has a smoother texture when compared to orgain.

With regards to the actual taste, both of them try to exclude artificial ingredients, because they believe it runs counter to a healthy lifestyle. Some varieties include stevia, so you can expect them to taste better.

Available Flavors

Even the tastiest meal replacement shake can get boring if you don’t switch it up a bit. And besides, not everyone likes drinking the same thing, so here are a few of the popular flavors you can find from each of these shakes.

For orgain protein powder shake, you can get it either in vanilla, cookies and cream, chocolate fudge flavors and 7 others. Most orgain protein powder review favor the vanilla flavor more than the chocolate fudge though, so if this is your first time, you may want to try that first. Note that because it uses plant-based protein, and excludes artificial additives, its taste is bit cleaner, and less “milkshake-like”.

For the vega one, you get a lot more options to pick from – from vanilla chai, to french vanilla, to coconut, berry, mocha and natural unsweetened flavor. Everyone’s least favorite is obviously the natural unsweetened flavor, but it’s obviously popular with health needs.

Pricing: Orgain Protein Powder vs Vega One

It’s ok to be conscious about the price tags because some firms don’t necessarily make better quality for higher prices. Orgain protein is considered a more affordable plant protein products on the market. You can get them on Amazon or the official site, but note that some sites may sell them at higher prices, so try to make comparisons before adding to your cart. A plant protein orgain costs anywhere between $22 to $50 (Orgain whey is a lot higher, at $38, but so are other whey products).

Meanwhile, Vega one plant protein prices range from $28 to $100 per pack. It comes in various convenient packages, so if you just want to try a specific flavor, you can get one serving at $3.99.

As a plus for Orgain products, they make sure their ingredients conform to the best farming practices, so their ingredients are from non GMO sources. Considering how affordable they are, this is great news for earth loving folks.

Bottom line

Both of these meal replacement shakes have their pros and cons. For example, if you’re a vegetarian on a budget, and you care about the environment, you’ll want to go with organic orgain. However, if you’re more concerned about the consistency of your shake, Vega one’s your shake. Don’t forget to give the different flavors a whirl, before making your final choice.

1More Single Driver In-Ear Headphones Review

There is no shortage of in-ear headphones in the market, and you will find options that suit every price range. Companies such as Xiaomi and OnePlus are selling their models at around the Rs 2,000 mark, but there are other companies targeting users who are willing to spend more. We now have a pair of single-driver in-ear headphones from 1More, the same company that manufactures the popular Piston headphones for Xiaomi. These are priced at Rs 2,799 and command a premium over the OnePlus Bullets V2. So are these 1More headphones worth the extra money? We put them to the test.

1More Single Driver (1M301) design and features

The 1M301 is a pair of in-ear single-driver headphones, and the company even lists it as “1More Single Driver” on e-commerce sites. 1More uses a similar naming strategy for some of its other headphones as well.

The 1M301’s plastic box is unsurprisingly very similar to the one that the Xiaomi Piston Fit came in. The casings have aluminium alloy bodies that house the drivers, and an angled design that helps them sit flat when in the ears. The cables are rubber till the Y-splitter, with additional nylon braid from there till the 3.5mm plug. The nylon braid helps reduce tangles and should make the cable last longer. However, the rubber cables above the Y-splitter do tangle, which can get annoying.

1More Angled Buds NDTV 1More Single Driver Review

These in-ear headphones have a frequency range of 20 – 20000Hz and have an impedance of 32Ohms. The impedance is higher than that of other headphones such as the OnePlus Bullets V2 which means that you will need a powerful source to get the best out of them. According to 1More, the drivers have a triple-layer diaphragm comprising of aerospace-grade metal between two layers of PET. You get four sets of ear tips in the box which can be swapped based on your preference. 1More also offers a headphone pouch in the box which is a good add-on.

The inline control unit has three buttons – the call button and volume controls. The centre button can also be used to play/ pause music as well as skip tracks. Double-tapping it skips to the next track on your phone, while a triple tap jumps to the previous one. In our experience, skipping to the next track was easy but we couldn’t jump to the previous track on a OnePlus 5.

1More Single Driver (1M301) performance

We put these headphones to the test on a OnePlus 5 (Review) smartphone while listening to MP3 and FLAC files, streaming music with Saavn, and watching YouTube videos. The focus tracks used while testing these headphones were How Long by Charlie Puth, Best Friend by Sofi Tukker, and Whatever it Takes by Imagine Dragons.

The first thing we noticed when wearing these headphones was their wide soundstage. You can easily distinguish between different instruments. The mids were quite strong and we enjoyed listening to music. You get good bass that doesn’t overpower the mids or highs. In fact, highs can be a bit too sharp and can somewhat drown out the mids and bass at higher volumes. We would pushing the volume all the way, for the best balance. The improvement in audio quality is evident when switching from MP3 to FLAC files.

1More offers an app called 1More Assistant which can help burn headphones in for you, which is recommended when you first buy them. The app also has its own inbuilt music player with loudness compensation, and we found that enabling this kept the highs in check, giving a more balanced output even at higher volumes.

1More Eartips NDTV 1More Single Driver Review

We must say that these headphones can get loud, and long listening sessions will cause fatigue. The ear tips provided with the 1More fail to provide a proper seal, causing a lot of sound to leak out. Everyone around you will be able to hear what you’re listening to. We tried using our own Comply foam tips, which helped reduce leakage to some extent.

Apart from music, these 1More headphones can be used for calls as well. The in-line microphone cuts out ambient noise well, and we did not hear any complaints from people we talked to. The call button can be used to accept or reject calls, and long-pressing it invokes the Google Assistant on Android or Siri on iOS.

Verdict
The 1More Single Driver 1M301 offers clean and detailed output across different music genres. If you are a basshead you will miss the thump that other headphones such as the OnePlus Bullets V2 provide. If you just want to enjoy your music, these headphones are worth the price – just don’t forget to buy good ear tips separately.

Pros

  • Angled earbud design
  • Strong mids
  • Useful inline remote

Cons

  • Overpowering highs at top volume
  • Rubber tips don’t provide a good seal

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design 4
  • Performance 4
  • Value for Money 3.5
  • Overall 4

1More 1M301 Headphones Review

There is no shortage of in-ear headphones in the market, and you will find options that suit every price range. Companies such as Xiaomi and OnePlus are selling their models at around the Rs 2,000 mark, but there are other companies targeting users who are willing to spend more. We now have a pair of single-driver in-ear headphones from 1More, the same company that manufactures the popular Piston headphones for Xiaomi. These are priced at Rs 2,799 and command a premium over the OnePlus Bullets V2. So are these 1More headphones worth the extra money? We put them to the test.

1More Single Driver (1M301) design and features

The 1M301 is a pair of in-ear single-driver headphones, and the company even lists it as “1More Single Driver” on e-commerce sites. 1More uses a similar naming strategy for some of its other headphones as well.

The 1M301’s plastic box is unsurprisingly very similar to the one that the Xiaomi Piston Fit came in. The casings have aluminium alloy bodies that house the drivers, and an angled design that helps them sit flat when in the ears. The cables are rubber till the Y-splitter, with additional nylon braid from there till the 3.5mm plug. The nylon braid helps reduce tangles and should make the cable last longer. However, the rubber cables above the Y-splitter do tangle, which can get annoying.

1More Angled Buds NDTV 1More Single Driver Review

These in-ear headphones have a frequency range of 20 – 20000Hz and have an impedance of 32Ohms. The impedance is higher than that of other headphones such as the OnePlus Bullets V2 which means that you will need a powerful source to get the best out of them. According to 1More, the drivers have a triple-layer diaphragm comprising of aerospace-grade metal between two layers of PET. You get four sets of ear tips in the box which can be swapped based on your preference. 1More also offers a headphone pouch in the box which is a good add-on.

The inline control unit has three buttons – the call button and volume controls. The centre button can also be used to play/ pause music as well as skip tracks. Double-tapping it skips to the next track on your phone, while a triple tap jumps to the previous one. In our experience, skipping to the next track was easy but we couldn’t jump to the previous track on a OnePlus 5.

1More Single Driver (1M301) performance

We put these headphones to the test on a OnePlus 5 (Review) smartphone while listening to MP3 and FLAC files, streaming music with Saavn, and watching YouTube videos. The focus tracks used while testing these headphones were How Long by Charlie Puth, Best Friend by Sofi Tukker, and Whatever it Takes by Imagine Dragons.

The first thing we noticed when wearing these headphones was their wide soundstage. You can easily distinguish between different instruments. The mids were quite strong and we enjoyed listening to music. You get good bass that doesn’t overpower the mids or highs. In fact, highs can be a bit too sharp and can somewhat drown out the mids and bass at higher volumes. We would pushing the volume all the way, for the best balance. The improvement in audio quality is evident when switching from MP3 to FLAC files.

1More offers an app called 1More Assistant which can help burn headphones in for you, which is recommended when you first buy them. The app also has its own inbuilt music player with loudness compensation, and we found that enabling this kept the highs in check, giving a more balanced output even at higher volumes.

1More Eartips NDTV 1More Single Driver Review

We must say that these headphones can get loud, and long listening sessions will cause fatigue. The ear tips provided with the 1More fail to provide a proper seal, causing a lot of sound to leak out. Everyone around you will be able to hear what you’re listening to. We tried using our own Comply foam tips, which helped reduce leakage to some extent.

Apart from music, these 1More headphones can be used for calls as well. The in-line microphone cuts out ambient noise well, and we did not hear any complaints from people we talked to. The call button can be used to accept or reject calls, and long-pressing it invokes the Google Assistant on Android or Siri on iOS.

Verdict
The 1More Single Driver 1M301 offers clean and detailed output across different music genres. If you are a basshead you will miss the thump that other headphones such as the OnePlus Bullets V2 provide. If you just want to enjoy your music, these headphones are worth the price – just don’t forget to buy good ear tips separately.

Pros

  • Angled earbud design
  • Strong mids
  • Useful inline remote

Cons

  • Overpowering highs at top volume
  • Rubber tips don’t provide a good seal

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design 4
  • Performance 4
  • Value for Money 3.5
  • Overall 4

JBL Pulse 3 Review

JBL launched around two dozen new audio products in India about a month ago, many of which we first saw unveiled at this year’s CES. We recently reviewed the Flip 4 which was a compact portable speaker, and today, we have the Pulse 3 which is the third version of JBL’s popular speaker with built-in lighting effects.

With the third iteration of the Pulse, we finally get proper waterproofing and more powerful drivers for better sound. With a price tag of Rs. 15,999, the Pulse 3 competes directly with Sony’s SRS-XB40, which also has a light show feature of its own. Let’s see if you should consider this one instead.

JBL Pulse 3 design and features

The first Pulse speaker had a somewhat crude design and was quite average in terms of sound quality, considering the focus was on the LED light effects. The Pulse 2 refined the design with a finer weave for the wire mesh, which made it look more elegant. Now, the Pulse 3 has done away with wire mesh completely, and instead, only the lower 30 percent of the speaker is fabric-covered, while the rest is an acrylic covering for the built-in lights.

The speaker is about the size of a 750ml water bottle, and it kind of looks like one too. There are two exposed passive radiators at either end of the speaker, which vibrate to produce better bass. However, due to the lack of any protective covering, it’s possible to damage these if you aren’t careful. Since the Pulse 3 is designed to stand upright, the bottom radiator was blocked when placed on any non-flat surface, such as a mattress. You can use the Pulse 3 horizontally but it will roll around, so that isn’t really recommended.

JBL Pulse 3 ports ndtv bbl

The ports and buttons are placed around the back. There’s a power button accompanied by status LEDs which show you the charge level, and also play/ pause and volume buttons. The Bluetooth button lets you start the pairing process, the Connect+ button lets you pair multiple Pulse 3 speakers, and there’s a dedicated button to change the light patterns. The playback control and the Connect+ buttons aren’t backlit but the rest are.

Just like the Flip 4, the battery status LEDs only light up when you press any of the buttons at the back. The Pulse 3 uses its lights to show you the volume level, which is clever. All other customisations, including adjusting the brightness of the lights, has to be done through the JBL Connect app. There’s also a rubber flap to protect the 3.5mm audio input and Micro-USB charging port.

In terms of specifications, the Pulse 3 uses Bluetooth 4.2 but doesn’t support any advanced codecs such as aptX and AAC. There’s no easy connectivity option like NFC either. There are three 40mm full-range drivers, which boast of a total output power of 20W. Frequency response is in the range of 65Hz-20,000Hz and there’s a non-removable 6000mAh battery inside. The speaker is quite heavy at 960g, but that’s still quite a bit lighter than Sony’s XB40.

The JBL Connect app for Android and iOS lets you link multiple speakers (the company says that more than a 100 can be synced) or you could use two of them in a stereo configuration. The app also lets you adjust the brightness of the lights and change the function of the Play button, to either play/ pause music or to summon your phone’s voice assistant (either Siri or Google Assitant). You can also use the Pulse 3 as a speakerphone, as it has a built-in mic.

JBL Pulse 3 lying down ndtv JBL Pulse 3

Tapping the speaker icon lets you customise the lighting effects. You can choose from Jet, Fireworks, Equaliser, Rave, Rainbow, Campfire, and Wave. You can set a custom pattern too, but the presets look much better. The colours can also be changed using an RGB pallette, or you can even use your phone’s camera to match the colours around you.

JBL Pulse 3 performance and battery life

The JBL Pulse 3 can have two active connections at a time, so two people can take turns playing music. Playing a track from the second phone immediately stops the currently playing track. The light show changes depending on the beat of the music, and colours keep cycling through your chosen palette. The light show can be switched off by holding down the corresponding button on the speaker. Just like the JBL Flip 4, you can change the function of the Play button to engage your phone’s virtual assistant, but this disables the play/ pause function, which isn’t practical. Also, when you have two phones with virtual assistants connected and try to use the shortcut button, nothing happens, since the speaker isn’t sure which one to engage.

We like the 360-degree sound produced by the Pulse 3. You can place it pretty much anywhere in your room and expect to hear it well enough, as sound reflects off nearby surfaces. Voice calls are also handled decently well although you’ll have to be close to the speaker for the person on the other end to be able to hear you clearly. We didn’t find much of a difference in audio quality when using a wired connection rather than Bluetooth.

JBL Pulse 3 app ndtv JBL Pulse 3

The Pulse 3 can get really loud, which is quite impressive given it’s relatively sleek design. The radiators work furiously when listening to bass-heavy tracks, although the bass begins to get drowned out a bit above the 90 percent volume level. At low volumes, the bass lacks kick but this works out well for certain electronic tracks such as Medicine Man by Zero 7. Vocals are crisp and the sonic signature is warm, but the mid-range is a bit lacking. This is also noticeable in other music genres like pop and rock. In Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man, the Pulse 3 produces punchy bass but instrument separation isn’t very good. Vocal-led tracks such as Wind of Change by the Scorpions do much better, so if this is the kind of you music you’ll be listening to a lot then the Pulse 3 should keep you happy.

The battery is rated to deliver 12 hours of playback time. With the bundled charger, it takes about four and half hours to completely charge the battery, which is a bit longer that we’d like. We played music on the Pulse 3 with the volume set to 50-60 percent most of the time, took a few calls, and had the lights set to their maximum brightness level, and we were able to get about 10.5 hours of playback time. That isn’t bad, considering it has to power the LEDs, but for a speaker this size, we would have liked better battery life.

Verdict

The JBL Pulse 3 costs Rs. 15,999, which is a bit expensive considering its average performance in the mid-range. On the plus side, the speaker does get pretty loud, is IPX7 rated, and has a fun light show feature. Battery life is decent but certainly could have been a lot better. If you’re looking for something with serious audio performance and very good battery life, then there’s the Sony’s SRS-XB40. It weighs more, but it’s rugged and offers better features such as LDAC and NFC, and it can also put on a light show to boot.

Price (MRP): Rs. 15,999

Pros

  • IPX7 waterproofing
  • Light show looks cool
  • Strong bass and vocal performance

Cons

  • Exposed radiators
  • Average battery life
  • Muddy mid-range
  • A bit expensive

Rating

  • Design: 3.5
  • Performance: 3
  • Value for money: 3
  • Overall : 3

Big Bash Cricket Review

After Ashes Cricket, Big Bash Cricket— the second part of Cricket Australia’s two-pronged approach to video games — is here on both Android and iOS. It’s part of Cricket Australia’s long-term plan to use video games as a way of keeping teens involved with the sport. The Australian cricket board has partnered with Big Ant Studios, the makers of Don Bradman Cricket 17, to launch two titles — Ashes Cricket for PS4 and Xbox One, and Big Bash Cricket for mobile.

If Ashes Cricket targets hardcore cricket fans who want an authentic cricket experience, then Big Bash Cricket is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s targeted at casual gamers, some of whom may not even know what cricket is. If you play Big Bash Cricket, you’ll realise this immediately. You can play this game on Android or iOS, and it’s easy to play with one hand, unless you have a gigantic phone.

Big Bash League is Australia’s premier domestic T20 cricket tournament. It features eight teams, each named after a major Australian city – though Sydney and Melbourne have two teams each in this championship. Since this is a game backed by none other than Cricket Australia, the board responsible for professional cricket in the country, all teams and players are authentic. Even if you don’t follow Big Bash League, there’s a good chance that a cricketer you like is in this game. Just like last year, Big Bash Cricket has both the men’s and women’s Big Bash League in the game with the full roster of players available to all teams.

There are three main modes in this game — Quick Match, Tournament, and Challenge. Quick Match lets you start a match immediately between any two teams you like. Tournament mode features the full Big Bash League schedule, so you can play around 15 matches and try to win the tournament. You can choose between 2, 5, 10, 15, or 20 overs per innings, which lets you decide how long each match lasts.Challenge mode is a new addition this year and it has two types of tests to throw at you. One is simple bowl – 25 balls or take 10 wickets on any given day. The second is a scenario mode called Moments, where you’re given specific goals. This mode describes Big Bash League games from previous years and asks you to either relive, or rewrite history. It’s similar to what the Brian Lara (and Shane Warne) series of games did on the Sega Mega Drive and original PlayStation, years ago. So you might be asked to help Sydney Thunder win a game the team had lost or you may even be asked to win it without losing any wickets while one player gets a half century.

big bash cricket challenge mode Big Bash Cricket

We really enjoyed playing Challenge mode in Big Bash Cricket. Even though there’s no real in-game reward for completing these challenges, it gave us a reason to return to the game every day as Moments mode refreshes daily. Having authentic player licenses really helps in this mode, as you get to help your favourite players succeed. We also love the fact that the game includes challenges for both men’s and women’s tournaments. The only thing we didn’t like is that you need to create an account to access the Challenge mode.

Back to the game itself — Big Bash Cricket retains the same core gameplay elements as its predecessor. While batting, you swipe in the direction you want to hit the ball and make sure you time it right. If you get the timing or direction wrong, there’s a good chance of losing a wicket. While bowling, you need to drag the marker on the pitch to select where to land the delivery and swipe to decide the pace and direction of the ball. Fielding and running between the wickets are automatic.

The new things, however, are mechanics called Super Bat and Super Ball. If you hit three sixes in a row, or bowl three balls without conceding a boundary, you unlock Super Bat or Super Ball. Super Bat lets you hit the ball further than normal, so even poorly timed shots can go for a six. Super Ball adds a bit more pace to your deliveries and you can use that to try and land a wicket. When you trigger Super Bat or Super Ball, you’ll see a meter with three bars, which reduce if you fail to hit a six or if you concede a boundary. This is a fun mechanic that motivated us to learn how to master the game.

big bash cricket easy mode Big Bash Cricket

There are three difficulty levels in this game — Normal, Pro, and Legend. Once you get the hang of the game, Normal mode will just seem way too easy. We managed to score almost 700 runs without losing a wicket in 20 overs in that difficulty level. Pro is slightly more challenging, but we highly recommend playing Big Bash Cricket in Legend mode for maximum enjoyment.

This is because in Legend difficulty the AI is really smart. It will vary the pace of its deliveries quite a lot, leading to a lot of wickets. Its slower delivery is very hard to spot and we took a long time to learn how to win on Legend mode. Even after we became quite good at that, we’d still lose the occasional game, which kept us engaged for longer. Even when you are bowling, the AI at Legend difficulty isn’t easy to beat. There are a few wicket-taking deliveries such as a slow inswinging yorker from around the wicket, but there’s no guarantee that these will land a wicket every single time.

We’ve been playing Big Bash Cricket for around 10 days and it’s safe to say that the game had us hooked the whole time. This a free-to-play game with none of the annoyances of free mobile games. It has ads but they show up in between two innings only. There’s no in-game currency, no unnecessary waiting to play games, and no horrible video ads that let you play a delivery again if you get out. The game has some fun customisation options that let you change the ball, helmet, and so on. Even these can be unlocked via the daily login bonus or by winning certain in-game trophies — no payment required. We must praise the makers of the game for resisting these monetisation tactics. Instead, they display logos of sponsors when you trigger Super Bat or Super Ball, or when the batsman reaches a milestone such as 50, 100, or 150 runs. This is perhaps the least intrusive way to monetise the game.

big bash cricket harmanpreet kaur Big Bash Cricket

Having said that, there still are some things that Big Bash Cricket can do a lot better. Player likenesses could be improved a lot — at the moment most players look generic and skin tone is the only differentiating factor between most of them. There are also some minor graphical glitches such as the ball flying through the roof of the stadium sometimes when you hit a six. We also noticed a bug during Super Overs — the T20 cricket equivalent of a penalty shootout. The AI would bowl the same delivery six times during a Super Over and hopefully the developers will fix this soon.

If you’re a stickler for realism, you’ll be disappointed to note the completely unrealistic shots that land you six runs. We have no idea how a paddle scoop shot off an incredibly slow delivery can go for a six outside the stadium. In Big Bash Cricket, that’s quite normal.

If you want an all-action, over-the-top cricket game for smartphones, Big Bash Cricket is the best of them right now. Others game are better for a more realistic cricket experience on mobile, but Big Bash Cricket has kept things simple without overly aggressive monetisation and that makes it a great experience.

Pros

  • Gameplay
  • Challenge mode
  • No annoying ads, free-to-play timers
  • Player, team licenses

Cons

  • Poor player likenesses
  • Unrealistic shots
  • Minor glitches

Overall rating (out of 10): 8

Big Bash Cricket is available for free (with ads) on the App Store and Google Play.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Review

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG as it’s known, has taken the gaming world by storm since its launch earlier this year. So much so that it’s getting two mobile games in addition to a release on the Xbox One via Xbox Game Preview, its early access program.

For now though, you can still only play it on PC via Steam where the game is close to final and slated to exit Steam Early Access shortly. It’s changed a lot since it was first available, which is pretty much the point of early access games. But now that we’re almost at the final release, we wanted to take a close look at the game, and see how the finished product actually measures up. Should you jump in to see what the hype is about or is holding off the better option? We tell you.

As far as games go, PUBG is as simple a concept as it gets. In this online multiplayer shooter, up to 100 players are parachuted onto a large map and start off with no gear aside from cosmetic clothing options that don’t impact gameplay. On landing you’ll have to scavenge for guns, grenades, items, and armour, which are distributed at random, killing players as you come across them. You can switch between first-person and third-person perspectives, and we preferred the latter as it allows for a wider field of view, letting us spot enemies faster.

Sounds simple enough? Well, there’s an added complication. The game map shrinks every few minutes, forcing you to relocate to a new area, and damaging you until you do. Failing to enter a new safe zone results in death. If you’re the last player standing, you’re greeted with the phrase ‘winner, winner, chicken dinner’. You get in-game currency at the end of each round that you can use towards purchasing cosmetic gear to kit out your character.

pubg playerunknowns battlegrounds pc steam review pubg_playerunknowns_battlegrounds_pc_steam_review

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Won’t ‘Add Anything that Affects Gameplay’: PUBG CEO

On paper, PUBG sounds fantastic. The execution though, leaves a lot to be desired. For one, the frame rate is erratic. Even at medium settings on an Intel Core i5 with 16GB RAM and a GeForce GTX 1070, we could barely hit 45 frames per second. This would not be a problem if it was a consistent 45fps but frequent dips and stuttering hampered gameplay resulting in clunky traversal and inaccurate aiming. That’s not something you’d want in a game where the mantra is kill or be killed. Hopefully the PUBG Xbox One version, while at 30fps, is at least steady – the dips in framerate ruin the game’s pacing more than anything else.

What’s more, we encountered situations where PUBG would push us back to our desktop screen with no reason whatsoever. Booting it up again would throw us right back into the match we were in. The lack of messaging or information from the game in such a situation is odd. Add this to the aforementioned stuttering that impacts core gameplay mechanics like traversal and gunplay, and you have a game that at this point in time is still a lot further from a full-fledged PC release than we’d like to believe.

pubg playerunknowns battlegrounds pc steam review pubg_playerunknowns_battlegrounds_pc_steam_review

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Xbox One X Frame Rate Lower Than Previously Announced

And this isn’t all. The learning curve is exceptionally steep and PUBG is unwelcoming to newcomers. There’s no tutorial, nor can you play with bots to ease you in, learning the game’s finer points. All you’re greeted by is a screen with a giant button telling you to play PUBG. This immediately starts a new round – there’s no single-player campaign whatsoever. You can however, choose your server to play on such as US, Europe, and Asia, and you can play with your friends as well, through PUBG’s squad feature or be paired with a random individual in Duo mode to compete to be the last ones alive.

It’s as barebones as it gets in terms of game modes sporting the single battle royale option that has made it popular. Future updates may change that what with the developers claiming they have something in the works to ease newbies in. Thankfully more maps such as the desert-themed Miramar are on the way.

Despite some problems, there is some fun to be had with PUBG. The gunplay is satisfying when aiming works as it should, and the ever shrinking map provides an interesting challenge as it results in more frequent, chaotic encounters. But in between landing a headshot and sprinting to the nearest safe zone, are long moments of silence, spent rummaging through houses and buildings in search of equipment — if you haven’t been punched to death by another player in the first few minutes.

As it stands PUBG is an interesting addition to the FPS landscape. There’s an intriguing balance of randomness and skill that could make it a mainstay of the gaming community. But until it sorts out its many technical issues as well as becoming more accessible to newbies, we’d suggest holding off.

Pros:

  • Fantastic concept
  • Satisfying gunplay

Cons:

  • Not enough modes
  • Poor frame rate
  • Technical issues

Rating (out of 10): 5

Gadgets 360 played a digital copy of PUBG on Steam. It’s available at Rs. 999 in India and $30 in the US. PUBG will be hitting the Xbox One on December 12 at the same price.

We spoke about PUBG and what to expect from its Xbox One release on Transition. You can listen to it via Apple Podcasts or RSS or just listen to this episode by hitting the play button below.

Xiaomi Redmi 5A Review

Xiaomi has been crowding the budget smartphone market with multiple models and variants at overlapping price points, all with impressive specifications that the competition has struggled to match. At the lowest end, the Redmi 4A (Review) has been a compelling phone ever since its launch in India eight months ago, and we have recommended it to anyone on a water-tight budget. Now, Xiaomi is replacing its entry-level Redmi 4A with the Redmi 5A and making a really big deal about this launch even though there’s very little difference between the two models.

In a sea of patriotically named phones such as Micromax’s Bharat line and the Karbonn A40 Indian (Review), Xiaomi is positioning the Redmi 5A as a desh ka smartphone. What exactly qualifies it for that title is unclear – it might be its low price, the fact that it’s made in India, or its promise of exceptional battery life. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this launch is Xiaomi’s limited-time Rs. 1,000 discount on the lower-end model, which brings the price down to a very tempting Rs. 4,999.

We’re curious to see what exactly has changed, and what buyers stand to gain. Here’s our full review.

Xiaomi Redmi 5A design

There isn’t much to say about the Redmi 5A’s looks if you’ve used any entry-level Android smartphone over the past year or two. It’s all plastic, though the rear has a slightly metallic finish. Xiaomi says it will be sold in Dark Grey, Gold, and Rose Gold, though only the first two are listed as options for the first sale. Our Gold unit had a white front face, and we feel that the Dark Grey option with a black front would be more to our tastes.

The Redmi 5A has a 5-inch screen and there’s quite a lot of plastic above and below it. Still, it’s well suited to one-handed use. Grip is pretty good despite the 8.35mm thickness, and weight is quite manageable at 137g. When compared to the Redmi 4A, the differences are purely cosmetic. The two models vary by less than 1mm in terms of height and width.

There are capacitive navigation buttons below the screen which aren’t backlit, but that’s only to be expected at this price level. In a familiar Xiaomi touch, there’s a status indicator right below the Home button which is completely invisible until it lights up when you’re charging the phone.

The power and volume buttons are on the right, and there are two trays on the left – one for a single Nano-SIM, and another for a microSD card as well as another SIM. The camera at the back has a single-LED flash next to it, and the phone’s speaker grille runs along the entire lower back. There’s a Micro-USB port on the bottom and a 3.5mm audio socket on the top. One interesting touch is the presence of an IR emitter on the top, which you can use to control household appliances.

You get a charger and a Micro-USB cable in the box, but as usual, no headset. Interestingly, the company seems to be moving towards using Redmi as more than just a name for one product line – the box screams “Redmi 5A” on the front, sides and back, while the Xiaomi name and logo are much smaller and are almost tucked away out of sight.

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Xiaomi Redmi 5A specifications and software

It’s a bit surprising that the Redmi 5A’s specifications are pretty much identical to those of the Redmi 4A, which it replaces. You get the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, with four cores clocked at 1.4GHz. The screen measures 5 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 720×1280. There’s a 13-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, FM radio, and GPS are supported. You can choose between a base variant with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and a more expensive one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

The changes, if you can even spot them, are extremely subtle. The Redmi 5A actually has a slightly smaller battery, at 3000mAh down from 3120mAh. It also has a dedicated microSD card slot rather than the Redmi 4A’s hybrid dual-SIM arrangement. It uses Nano-SIMs rather than Micro-SIMS, and the maximum supported microSD capacity has gone up from 128GB to 256GB. That’s pretty much it – one feature that’s slightly worse, and one that’s a bit better.

Unsurprisingly, with the exception of the IR emitter, the Redmi 5A has no extras compared to its predecessor. Rather than spotlighting one particular feature such as a fingerprint reader, a front flash, a huge battery, secondary rear camera or an 18:9 screen, Xiaomi has chosen to stick with pushing out a workhorse all-rounder at this price level.

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At least things are a bit fresher on the software side. Xiaomi ships the Redmi 5A with Android 7.1.2, and version 9 of its custom MIUI skin running on top. This is single-layered UI with no way to enable an app drawer, which might not be a bad thing for first-time Android users. We noticed a few unnecessary animations on the home screen icons and when scrolling through long lists. There are a few themes you can choose from and hundreds more that you can download through the Themes app. You can also download individual wallpapers, fonts, and ringtones. These all appear to be free for now, but Xiaomi could start making money off downloads like this in the future.

If you dig through the Settings app, you’ll find options for splitting the quick toggles out into a separate panel within the notifications shade; configuring a “Second Space” user profile for privacy; setting up gesture shortcuts; and assigning extra functions to the Android navigation keys. There’s also Dual Apps functionality which lets you run a second instance of any app for use with a second account; and App Lock which lets you restrict app access – since there’s no fingerprint reader, you have to use an unlock pattern to use this feature.

Xiaomi preloads a few Microsoft Office apps, Skype Lite, Amazon Shopping, WPS Office, and UC news. There’s a spammy ticker of “Promoted apps” within an ordinary-looking home screen folder to encourage you to download them. Other Xiaomi features include the Mi Apps app store, Mi Store for Xiaomi products, Mi Community forum app, Mi Drop (an Apple AirDrop clone), and assorted custom apps that replace the default Android ones.

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Xiaomi Redmi 5A performance, cameras, and battery life

As far as entry-level phones go, Xiaomi has done well in balancing cost and performance. The Redmi 5A is capable of handling everyday tasks such as Web browsing, social apps, and messaging. We were even able to play a few heavy games, though performance wasn’t perfectly smooth. There was usually less than 500MB of free RAM out of our review unit’s 2GB. We found the phone stuttering slightly when switching apps sometimes, but only really struggling when we ran heavy tests or games. Things also definitely took a turn for the worse with the Second Space feature enabled.

Benchmark scores were decent enough. We got 36,421 in AnTuTu; 683 and 1,887 in Geekbench 4’s single-core and multi-core tests respectively; 3,719 in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme; and 14fps in GFXBench. Our test phone was the variant with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage – it stands to reason that the more expensive variant’s additional RAM will make performance smoother.

The screen is pretty sharp, and even fine text looks good. Viewing angles are great, and brightness is high enough for outdoor use. However, colours don’t really pop and we found that videos and games looked a bit dull. Although the speaker grille runs across the back of the phone, there’s only one spot that sound actually comes out of, and the Redmi 5A is muffled easily when lying face-up on a soft surface such as a bed. Sound is pretty weak and distorts badly at high volumes.

If you swipe to the right from the Redmi 5A’s lock screen, you’ll see a menu with shortcuts to the Mi Remote app and something called Mi Home. The remote app is basic and unfortunately the process of figuring out how to control your TVs and other appliances requires some trial and error. There are IR profiles for Indian TV, set-top box, and AC brands including private-label store brands. Unlike with some other low-end phones, third-party apps can use the IR emitter.

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The Redmi 5A’s cameras are quite mediocre, but once again we have to balance our expectations against this phone’s low price. Photos don’t have a lot of detail – objects often have fuzzy borders, and textures aren’t reproduced very well. We found that colours were pretty dull, and not just when checking photos on the phone’s own screen. We were able to take some decent close-ups but anything at a distance suffered. At night, there was a serious drop in quality, and it was hard to capture anything that didn’t have artificial light falling directly on it. On the plus side, autofocus was usually quick to lock during the daytime. Video recording goes up to 1080p, but we found that clips looked quite artificial and weren’t very smooth.

Tap to see full-sized Xiaomi Redmi 5A camera samples

The front camera applies pretty aggressive beautification by default, making faces look extremely artificial. There’s a Pro beauty mode and a Smart beauty mode, the difference being that Pro mode gives you individual “Slim” and “Skin” sliders while Smart tries to guess your age and gender. When disabled, it’s clear that the front camera is pretty weak.

The camera app isn’t very well laid out, for example it takes two taps to get to the options menu from the default mode, but in some modes you can’t get to it at all.

Xiaomi has boasted about the Redmi 5A’s battery life as part of its “desh ka smartphone” pitch, and we were pleased to note that we could in fact get through a full day of casual use with up to 20 percent left over. Our HD video loop test went on for 11 hours, 9 minutes which is quite impressive.

Verdict
Xiaomi continues to impress us with its low prices, and even though the Redmi 5A doesn’t give us anything new or different compared to the Redmi 4A, it still delivers excellent value. If you can grab the 2GB/16GB version at the introductory offer price of Rs. 4,999, you’ll be very happy. Even at its regular retail price of Rs. 5,999, there aren’t many phones that could compete with it. If you’re a first-time smartphone user, or are only concerned with basic communications, the Redmi 5A would be quite a good choice. Camera quality is really the only major downside, and if that’s important to you, you’ll have to spend a bit more.

For the same reasons, the 3GB/32GB version of the Redmi 5A is less compelling. There are other options to consider that let you trade the additional RAM and storage for features such as a larger screen and fingerprint reader, most notably Xiaomi’s own Redmi 4 (Review) and Redmi Y1 Lite. We’re also not too far from the launch of the Redmi 5 with its fashionable 18:9 display, though that model is likely to cost a little more.

Black Mirror Is Bigger, More Violent in Season 4

All the best episodes of Black Mirror – the anthology sci-fi series from Charlie Brooker that focuses on the unanticipated pitfalls of near-future technologies – introduce a new concept and the likely social, ethical, and physical ramifications of it, before driving up the horror in an insidious fashion which either culminates in a smart late twist that magnifies it, or effectively call backs to an earlier moment.

That’s true of the Jon Hamm-starrer “White Christmas” episode, or last year’s biting social media commentary in “Nosedive”. (The Emmy-winning “San Junipero”, which focused on an inter-racial couple living in a digital afterlife, remains a lone exception to this rule.) But there are times when this approach fails to deliver, because the build-up is too slow and unconvincing, the late twist defies belief, or the episode fails to properly identify its themes.

Black Mirror’s season four – which is out Friday, December 29 – is a mixture of both, with some episodes coming up short, while others execute their nightmarish visions in bloody, spine-chilling ways. Unfortunately, there are no happy stories in this new crop of six episodes, though there are some laughs scattered across, including a scene where someone grabs a teddy bear by the neck and threatens it.

The official trailer for Black Mirror season 4 episode “USS Callister”

The most awaited of the lot has been the Star Trek-inspired “USS Callister” – the only episode in season four to have been co-written by Brooker with William Bridges, with every other episode having Brooker as the sole credit – which stars Jesse Plemons (Fargo season 2), Cristin Milioti (The Wolf of Wall Street), Jimmi Simpson (Westworld), and Michaela Coel (Chewing Gum) among others. Owing to Netflix’s stringent spoiler guidelines, we can’t say anything about the plot except that much of it is set in space.

Because of that, “USS Callister” is easily the most expensive episode this year, with the level of production and costume design required for authenticity, along with the cost of CGI for delivering spaceship scenes, Trek-style beam technology, and alien creatures. The episode also directly references the presence of the original Trek series – the opening sequence is even shot in 4:3 aspect ratio, and edited to match the 60s film stock – but skips any legal hassles by calling the show and its crew ‘Spacefleet’ instead of Starfleet.

It’s not a direct space story per se; this is Black Mirror after all, and the episode uses its setting to talk about topics such as power fantasy, social exclusion, virtual consciousness, and privacy. Though Plemons is the captain of the Callister, he’s the kind of overbearing authority that Hollywood has slowly begun kicking out of its stable in the wake of widespread sexual harassment allegations. Brooker’s work has never been decidedly political, and “USS Callister” is only tangentially about female empowerment, with its focus being how technology enables creeps.

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Rosemarie Dewitt as Marie, and Aniya Hodge as Sara in a still from Black Mirror season 4 episode “Arkangel”
Photo Credit: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

The disappearance of privacy is also central to the Jodie Foster-directed “Arkangel”, which takes the concept of helicopter parenting to its logical extreme. After her daughter Sara goes missing at a local park, as in shown in the trailer, the physiotherapist mother Marie (Rosemarie DeWitt) opts to have an implant installed in the child’s head, which allows her to keep a track on her always. It’s like the iPhone’s ‘Find My Friends’ app, except there’s no turning off and it never runs out of battery.

“Arkangel” takes place over several years, following the daughter as she grows up with having a tracker inside her head, and the consequences of Marie’s impulse decision to protect her child. Her father, the daughter’s grandfather, even voices his protestations and says that children grew up fine without any kind of monitoring. As Sara becomes older, Marie consents to not use the tracking abilities, but Sara’s teenage rebellion phase results in a series of escalating situations that lead her mother to snoop on Sara’s actions.

Even as the episode tackles important privacy vs security topics, it falters on multiple levels, be it the few leaps of logic required to make its central technology work, the restrictive nature of tracking and lack of any parental controls, and a big moment towards the end that feels entirely unconvincing, and feels shoed in to drive the plot. Plus, the events in “Arkangel” could easily have been told in a short film, making the almost hour-length unnecessary.

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Georgina Campbell, and Joe Cole in a still from Black Mirror season 4 episode “Hang the DJ”
Photo Credit: Jonathan Prime/Netflix

That’s also the case with season four’s take on near-future dating apps in “Hang the DJ”, which focuses on two primary characters played by Georgina Campbell (Broadchurch), and Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders). The two are matched by an advanced dating system that collates and studies every interaction you’ve and then uses that to find the perfect match for you after a series of relationships. It also decides how long you’ll have with every person, before being forced apart.

When Campbell and Cole’s unnamed characters first meet, they realise they only have 12 hours together. Despite their initial awkwardness, the two end up enjoying each other’s company, but are compelled to move on to the next relationship the new day. Though they see each other at social events (it’s a very small remote town), they don’t see much of each other until years later.

Directed by Tim Van Patten (The Sopranos, Game of Thrones), “Hang the DJ” resides on a singular big twist to amaze you that has to do with machine learning, but when it does arrive 50 minutes in, it feels as if the episode could easily have been shortened. It’s still enjoyable in parts – it has the most laughs and sex of any Black Mirror season 4 instalment, and hence the most light-hearted of the six – but there just isn’t enough here to carry you across.

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Kiran Sonia Sawar as Shazia Akhand in a still from Black Mirror season 4 episode “Crocodile”
Photo Credit: Arnaldur Halidorsson/Netflix

Thankfully, the remaining episodes are much better, though they may not suitable to everyone’s taste given the level of violence, blood, and gore in all three. The season opener “Crocodile” – shot in Iceland, though there’s no mention of its people or their language – follows a successful woman called Mia (Birdman’s Andrea Riseborough). After a terrible secret comes back to haunt her many years later, she unravels in the most unexpected way.

The technology at the centre of “Crocodile” is a device that allows authorities to access your memories, or rather the impression of how you remember things. It sounds a bit like the device in “The Entire History of You”, though here it’s merely a recollection and not a recording, which means the police can’t rely on it as evidence, given memories can be totally subjective. The technology has been put into law in Black Mirror’s near-future, which brings up many thorny concerns.

Kiran Sonia Sawar (Murdered by My Father) plays Shazia, an insurance agent who uses it to build her case by talking to witnesses and corroborating a version that makes sense, and in turn help process claims in the case of an incident. An accident involving a driverless pizza carrier and a pedestrian eventually leads Shazia to Mia’s doorstep, with the episode unfolding in parallel subplots.

“Crocodile” is an exact fit for Black Mirror’s oft-used setup we talked about at the beginning, and the episode smartly delivers an ending that relies on a throwaway moment. Directed by John Hillcoat (Triple Nine, Lawless), it also benefits from Riseborough’s taut acting, which requires her to deliver a stern character who’s slowly spiralling out of control on the inside, leading to one crazed action after another.

The official trailer for Black Mirror season 4 episode “Black Museum”

The season finale, “Black Museum”, is a different kind of thriller, though it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. It takes place at a crime museum located in the middle-of-nowhere USA, where the proprietor Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge) gives a tour and regales a young British woman played by Letitia Wright (Ready Player One), who’s waiting for her electric car to be charged outside. Partly based on a story called Pain Addict by Penn Jillette, the magician, comedian and author part of Penn & Teller, “Black Museum” operates in a similar fashion to “White Christmas” in that it has three stories in one.

All three stories connect back to Haynes, a former researcher who pioneered the use of beta technologies, such as a device that allows a doctor to feel a patient’s pain and help diagnose them faster, the ability to transfer someone’s consciousness if they were dying, and creating a living hologram of someone that could be made to do anything. Each of these technologies have their own gigantic problems, and “Black Museum” does well to explore addiction, social control, agency, digital rights, and even white supremacy.

That leaves “Metalhead”, the first-ever Black Mirror episode fully in black and white, which follows a woman (Maxine Peake) being chased by a killer robot dog. Imagine a more compact, evil version of Boston Dynamics’ four-legged bot. Directed by David Slade (Hannibal, American Gods), it takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of the Scottish Highlands, though the nature of humanity’s collapse and the birth of these menacing dogs is never explained properly.

“Metalhead” is unlike the rest of season four in both visuals and treatment, as Peake is the only major character throughout the episode. Everyone else who appears on screen is already dead, dies in two minutes, or isn’t human. Given the robot has no face, the episode lives and dies with Peake’s performance as the protagonist, as well as smart direction from Slade. And unlike “Hang the DJ”, “Metalhead” is edited to be 40 minutes, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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Maxine Peake in a still from Black Mirror season 4 episode “Metalhead”
Photo Credit: Jonathan Prime/Netflix

Despite the show’s rise in popularity since its arrival on Netflix last year, there’s a lack of star power in Black Mirror’s latest season. Part of the reason for the overwhelming reception and success of “San Junipero” were the performance chops of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis, just as Bryce Dallas-Howard was important for “Nosedive”, and Kelly Macdonald was stellar in “Hated in the Nation”. Season 4 is much lighter in that regard, with the biggest acting name – Jodie Foster – behind the camera.

Brooker also continues to push the notion that all his episodes exist in the same universe, with mentions, acknowledging nods, and visual gags for other season 4 episodes and even past seasons itself. These don’t affect the plot in any way, which is good since anyone who hasn’t seen previous seasons or wishes to watch the new season in their own randomised order won’t be affected, but they do add fun bits for Black Mirror devotees.

The fourth season of Brooker’s show – which adds six more stories to the existing canon of thirteen – revisits some familiar themes in a new approach, while expanding the topics it tackles in frightening new ways. Though some hour-long episodes feel longer than necessary, others that even cross the 60-minute mark have enough material for their runtime. And when everything clicks in place, Black Mirror is still one of the smartest shows around, giving us a prescient look at our inevitable future if we act before we think.

All six episodes of Black Mirror season 4 will release December 29 on Netflix worldwide.

RHA MA650 Wireless Review

RHA is a little-known audio brand in India right now, but one you should definitely be aware of. With a primary focus on in-ear headphones, this tiny Scottish company is slowly expanding its demographic from audiophiles to a broader audience with its new wireless products. The MA series currently consists of two models, the MA650 and MA750, both of which were officially been launched in India a couple of months ago.

We have the MA650 in for review today. It’s priced at Rs. 7,999, and the main difference between this and the MA750 is its drivers, which are all custom made by RHA. Let’s see if this good-looking pair of headphones can deliver comfort and quality.

RHA MA650 design and features

The MA650 is a premium pair of wireless headphones, and it shows right from the packaging. In the box, you get a USB Type-C charging cable, a mesh carry pouch, and a selection of eight single-flanged and double-flanged pairs of ear tips and a single pair of Comply foam tips. The quality of the silicone ear tips is very good, and their slightly rigid texture offers a good seal from ambient noise.

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The MA650 is a neckband-style wireless headset, which means it rests around your neck when you wear it. The entire band is covered with silicone, which feels comfortable against your skin even for long durations. It’s light too, at just 33g, and the body can be bent and contoured easily for when you need to store it in the pouch. It’s sweat- and splash-resistant thanks to the IPX4 certification, so it can be used for workouts.

The neckband terminates into cylindrical bulges on each side. The left side has the NFC chip, while on the right, we have a USB Type-C charging port, power button, status LED, and a built-in vibration motor for alerts. We love RHA’s attention to detail here, like the aluminium inserts on the edges of the neckband that complement the earbuds and in-line remote nicely. The remote sports a microphone and three buttons for play/ pause and adjusting the volume. Double- or triple-pressing the play/ pause button lets you skip a track or go to the previous one. A long-press activates whichever virtual assistant you have on your phone. The earbuds themselves are made of 6000 series aluminium, which makes them very sturdy, and they look good too. The backs of the earbuds are magnetic and attach to one another so they don’t dangle about when you’re not wearing them.

The headphones use RHA’s custom model 380.1 drivers, with a frequency response of 16Hz-22,000Hz. The RHA MA650 supports codecs like AAC, aptX, and the standard SBC. According to a frequency response graph published by RHA, the MA650 is tuned for better upper-mid-range performance and bass, whereas the highs are toned down a bit. This is another way it differs from its more expensive sibling, the MA750, which is tuned to deliver equal performance across the entire frequency range.

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RHA MA650 performance and battery life

We used the MA650 for a few weeks as our primary pair of headphones and absolutely loved how portable it is. We miss the convenience of retractable earbuds like the ones on LG’s Tone Active+ but the magnetic design served the purpose of keeping them from getting in the way. It would have been nice if the music paused automatically when the earbuds attached to each other, like with the Jabra Rox.

We found that the silicone ear tips worked very well in drowning out ambient noise, so much so that we didn’t feel the need to use the bundled foam tips. The earbuds have a snug fit and don’t stick out from your ears too much, making them quite inconspicuous. However, there is a bit of audio leakage, which is noticeable in quiet places. If you’re planning on wearing them while at work in an office, you might want to switch to the foam tips. We didn’t like the silly label with all the regulatory and trademark information that’s attached to left earbud’s cord, as it looks out of place. This could have been printed somewhere on the neckband instead.

The MA650 is mighty durable as even after a couple of weeks of rough usage, it still felt as good as new. The cords for the earbuds are secured firmly and didn’t feel like they would get loose, and the rubber lining managed to cope with our humid climate as well.

Setting up the RHA MA650 is also very easy as you have voice prompts to guide you. The in-line remote works well, but the buttons aren’t raised very much and we often found ourselves struggling to distinguish them by touch, because of the design of the rubber lining. The microphone does a very good job with voice calls, and none of the people we spoke with had any trouble hearing us.

Audio reproduction is balanced and crisp, with very good mid-range performance. Thanks to the way in which the MA650 is tuned, we never found the highs too piercing. This works well for pop tracks such as Maroon 5’s What Lovers Do, which was well balanced with just the right helping of bass and plenty of detail in the mid-range frequencies. Even at high volume levels, Adam Levine’s Falsetto never felt shrill. Another track in which the mid-range really shone, with good instrument separation, was Born to Touch Your Feelings by The Scorpions. Vocals were distinct and the overall sonic signature was warm and pleasing.

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The MA650 isn’t for bass-heads though. Although the bass is tight, it lacks serious thump, which is evident in tracks like I Feel It Coming by The Weeknd. This isn’t a complaint since that’s just the way the headphones are tuned, and personally, we’d take a bit more mid-range detail over bass enhancement any day. This is highly subjective and might not suit everyone’s taste. We tested the headphones primarily with Apple Music on an iPhone 6s Plus (Review), but also tried it with a mix of FLAC files played on a Google Pixel 2 (Review), using aptX. With the latter, we felt the soundstage to be a bit wider.

The MA650 is rated to deliver 12 hours of battery life, and during our review, we actually managed to surpass this. With a mix of calls and music, we were able to achieve 13 hours and 43 minutes of runtime. You can check the battery level at any time by pressing the power button (even during music playback). To save power, the MA650 automatically shuts itself off after 20 minutes of inactivity. When the battery level drops below 20 percent, you’ll hear warning voice prompts every few minutes. The white LED also changes to red. Charging the headphones fully from zero percent took us just under two hours, through the USB port of a MacBook Air.

Verdict

It’s hard to find any fault with the RHA MA650. It strikes a very good balance between premium features, performance, and price. Our only criticism would have to be that the buttons on the in-line remote aren’t the easiest to use by touch. Other than that, this might just be the only neckband headset you should even consider in this price range. The MA650 a little expensive but considering it’s retailing for slightly less in India than in the UK, it’s not a bad deal. You can find it online through Headphonezone, and at select Croma and Apple resellers offline.

We recommend the RHA MA650 for anyone looking for a feature-rich pair of wireless headphones that delivers a good balance of audio performance and battery life at less than Rs. 10,000.

Price (MRP): Rs. 7,999

Pros

  • Very good battery life
  • Detailed mid-range
  • Premium build quality
  • Feature-rich, good bundle

Cons

  • In-line buttons can be tricky to use

Rating

  • Design: 4.5
  • Performance: 4.5
  • Value for money: 4
  • Overall : 4.5

Honor 7X Review

The Honor 7X is the newest smartphone to sport an 18:9 aspect ratio screen. It is the successor to the Honor 6X (Review) and comes shortly after the launch of the Honor 9i (Review), which was the brand’s first phone with a FullView display. The Honor 7X brings this feature to the more affordable X series, making it accessible to a lot more people. One look at the spec sheet nand it is evident that Honor has loaded this phone up with loads of features, but is that enough to give it an edge in this competitive price segment? We’ll answer that question and more.

Honor 7X design

We like smartphones with big displays, and the Honor 7X ticks this box. The front is dominated by a 5.93-inch screen with thin borders on the sides but comparatively thicker ones at the top and bottom. The metal earpiece sits above the screen, with an 8-megapixel front camera alongside. Just like the Honor 9i, the fingerprint scanner on the 7X is at the back. We found it easy to reach and it was quick to unlock the phone in our experience. Honor has used a metal unibody for this smartphone which gives it that premium look and feel. It has antenna bands running along the top and the bottom which remind us of the Honor 8 Pro (Review).

The metal body curves on the sides and along the edges, giving this phone a good in-hand feel. The power and volume buttons are positioned on the right and we found that we had to stretch to hit the volume buttons. The loudspeaker, 3.5mm headphones socket, primary microphone, and Micro-USB port are all on the bottom. The dual camera setup at the back is accompanied by a single-LED flash. Honor has gone with two distinct rings instead of a single unit like we’ve seen on most phones recently. The camera arrangement protrudes a little.

Honor 7X Camera NDTV Honor 7X Review

The Honor 7X weighs 165 grams which feels about right in the hand. It measures 7.6mm in thickness while packing in a 3340mAh battery. Honor supplies a 10W charger in the box that is capable of charging the phone completely in two and a half hours.

Honor 7X specifications, software and features

Many Honor phones are powered by Huawei-made processors, and the 7X packs in a HiSilicon Kirin 659 SoC, the same processor powering the Honor 9i. It is an octa-core chip with four cores clocked at 2.36GHz and the other four clocked at 1.7GHz. With the Honor 7X, you get to choose between 32GB and 64GB of internal storage, but both variants have 4GB of RAM. Both also let you expand storage up to 256GB using a microSD card in the Hybrid dual-SIM slot. If you aren’t using that capability, the 7X can accommodate two Nano-SIMs. There is support for 4G and VoLTE on both SIMs, but only one can access the 4G network at a time.

The Honor 7X’s screen boasts a full-HD+ resolution with 2.5D curved glass, but there is no mention of any type of protection. Viewing angles are good and Honor lets you tweak the colour temperature to suit your preferences. Brightness is good indoors but we had to bump it up all the way or shade the screen with one hand when using this phone outdoors.

Honor 7X SIM NDTV Honor 7X Review

Like all other Honor devices, the 7X runs on Huawei’s custom EMUI skin, specifically EMUI 5.1 on top of Android Nougat. You get the option to choose between layouts with and without an app drawer. The UI also includes theme support for a degree of customisation. Honor has been thoughtful enough to include a single-handed mode which makes the phone easier to use despite its big screen. You can also force apps to run at the 18:9 aspect ratio if they aren’t scaling automatically.

Along with the essentials, you also get a fair share of bloatware. The Honor 7X comes with Honor’s support app called HiCare, and HiGame, a gaming app store. There are also Web shortcuts called Hi Honor and Honor Community. You get demo versions of Spider-Man: Ultimate Power, Asphalt Nitro, Bubble Bash 3, Modern Combat 4 Zero Hour, and Danger Dash preinstalled, but you can get rid of them to free up space.

Honor 7X performance, battery life, and cameras

The Honor 7X sports the same combination of procesor and RAM as the Honor 9i and scores similarly in benchmarks. In Antutu, it managed to score 62,504, and we got 906 and 3569 points in Geekbench’s single-core and multi-core tests respectively. GFXBench returned 18fps which is just about average. We tried playing Shadow Fight 3 which is a graphics-intensive game, and while it ran without any lags, it did take while to load.

Honor 7X Back NDTV Honor 7X Review

Movies and games are immersive thanks to the big display. However, we did notice that the phone would get warm after a long gaming session, and there would be significantly higher battery drain. With light to medium use, the phone lasted us one working day, but playing games and watching videos had a big impact on battery life. The phone lasted only a little over 8 hours in our HD video loop test, which is under-par for a battery of this size. Honor has baked in a few battery saving software tweaks which could come in handy, but we shouldn’t have to use them all the time.

The camera app is fairly easy to use and apart from the default auto mode, you can select between wide aperture, moving picture and portrait modes. You get a lot of other modes to choose from as well, including a Pro Photo mode that lets you fine-tune camera parameters before taking a shot. You also have the option to download additional features if required.

Photos taken with the Honor 7X look good at first glance. However, zoom into landscape shots and you can see that the 7X misses out on details and delivers slightly grainy shots. Macros are good and there is decent separation between subjects and backgrounds. The wide aperture mode gives you better depth of field by digitally adding blur based on the aperture value you select.

Tap to see full-sized Honor 7X camera samples

Shooting at night needs a steady hand. In auto mode, the phone takes shots but then pauses to sharpen the output. The result is less noise but at the cost of overall detail. Selfies are grainy as well, but are good enough to be shared on social media. The primary camera is capable of 1080p video recording while the selfie camera maxes out at 720p.

Verdict
With the Honor 7X, the X series has been brought up to date with the latest trends. You get a big display with the 18:9 aspect ratio and powerful hardware which should keep you happy. We found that camera performance isn’t really impressive, and battery life could have been a little better. If you want a modern-looking phone, then the Honor 7X is a good choice, but if you want an all-rounder the Xiaomi Mi A1 (Review) would be a better pick.