Panasonic Toughbook CF-XZ6 2-in-1 Hybrid Laptop Launched

Panasonic has just added a new laptop to its Toughbook series of business laptops that are known for their rugged build for use under extreme conditions. The latest entrant with model name Toughbook CF-XZ6 highlights a slimmer, lighter design when compared to models like the Toughbook CF-33, which means that it will be easier to carry around but may not withstand the kind of abuse that the latter can take. The laptop was launched in the UK priced at GBP 1,539 (roughly Rs. 1,26,500) and will be available this month.

The Toughbook CF-XZ6 is a 12-inch 2-in-1 detachable hybrid laptop/ tablet that can sustain “the knocks and drops of business life,” the company says. While this laptop is missing the MIL-STD certification and IP rating, Panasonic says that it passed a 76-centimetre free-fall drop and can endure about 100-kilograms of weight pressure thanks to its magnesium alloy chassis. The company has tried to find a balance between making a rugged laptop while at the same time keeping the weight down to 1.18kg with the keyboard. It also features a round mouse pad that lets you scroll by running your fingers around the edges.

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Panasonic’s latest Toughbook laptop is powered by a 7th generation Intel Core i5-7300U vPro processor coupled with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage and runs on Windows 10 Pro. The 12-inch 10 point IPS touchscreen features a quad-HD (2160×1440 pixels) resolution and also supports Active stylus pen. You also get 4GB and 16GB of RAM options in 128GB or 512GB of SSD storage.

The tablet and keyboard get 4-cell batteries each, rated to deliver around 6.5 hours and 7.5 hours respectively for a total battery life of around 14 hours. Connectivity options for the Toughbook CF-XZ6 include dual-band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1, with 4G LTE support. External ports include USB Type-C and 3.5mm audio on the tablet part, and three USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet (RJ-45) and an SD card slot on the keyboard.

 

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 specs and pricing revealed; launch in September

Being the flagship device, Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has been the subject of many leaks and rumors over the past few months. We come across new information about the upcoming phablet almost every day.

Keeping in line with the company’s past launching patterns, the Galaxy Note 8 is speculated to launch sometime in August. However, popular tipster Evan Blass thinks otherwise. According to his article published on Venture Beat, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 launch has been delayed and we will not get to see the device before September.

Well, to be precise, it will be unveiled in the second half of September. The leakster has also revealed the pricing of the phablet. If his claims turn out to be true then the Galaxy Note 8 would burn a hole in your pocket.

It is said to come with a price tag of €999 in European markets, while in the US, it will be retailed at $900. In addition to this, Blass has shed light on some of the specifications of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. As per his claims, the device will flaunt a 6.3-inch dual edge curved display.

The aspect ratio of the device will be 18.5:9 just like the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. It is said to be powered by either a Snapdragon 835 or an Exynos 8895 processor depending on the market. This contradicts with some recent reports, which suggested that the Galaxy Note 8 will house a Snapdragon 836 SoC under its hood. Moreover, the processor will be backed up by 6GB of RAM. Powering the device will be a 3,300mAh battery unit.

On the optics front, the leakster says that the Galaxy Note 8 will feature a horizontally placed rear dual camera setup consisting of two 12 MP sensors enabled with OIS (Optical Image Stabilizer).

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 specs and pricing revealed; launch in September

He also says that the phablet will come with a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and an advanced S-Pen stylus. The S-Pen is likely to have new features like language translation for full sentence and currency conversion.

It will also let users add handwritten notes on the always-on display. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is said to come in three color options: Black, Blue and Gold. Lastly, Blass believes that instead of Galaxy Note 8, the official name of the device will be Galaxy Note8.

AI Advances Mean Your Next Doctor Could Very Well Be a Bot

Your next doctor could very well be a bot. And bots, or automated programs, are likely to play a key role in finding cures for some of the most difficult-to-treat diseases and conditions.

Artificial intelligence is rapidly moving into health care, led by some of the biggest technology companies and emerging startups using it to diagnose and respond to a raft of conditions.

Consider these examples:

— California researchers detected cardiac arrhythmia with 97 percent accuracy on wearers of an Apple Watch with the AI-based Cariogram application, opening up early treatment options to avert strokes.

— Scientists from Harvard and the University of Vermont developed a machine learning tool – a type of AI that enables computers to learn without being explicitly programmed – to better identify depression by studying Instagram posts, suggesting “new avenues for early screening and detection of mental illness.”

— Researchers from Britain’s University of Nottingham created an algorithm that predicted heart attacks better than doctors using conventional guidelines.

While technology has always played a role in medical care, a wave of investment from Silicon Valley and a flood of data from connected devices appear to be spurring innovation.

“I think a tipping point was when Apple released its ResearchKit,” said Forrester Research analyst Kate McCarthy, referring to a program letting Apple users enable data from their daily activities to be used in medical studies.

McCarthy said advances in artificial intelligence has opened up new possibilities for “personalised medicine” adapted to individual genetics.

“We now have an environment where people can weave through clinical research at a speed you could never do before,” she said.

AI Advances Mean Your Next Doctor Could Very Well Be a Bot

Predictive analytics
AI is better known in the tech field for uses such as autonomous driving, or defeating experts in the board game Go.

But it can also be used to glean new insights from existing data such as electronic health records and lab tests, says Narges Razavian, a professor at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine who led a research project on predictive analytics for more than 100 medical conditions.

“Our work is looking at trends and trying to predict (disease) six months into the future, to be able to act before things get worse,” Razavian said.

— NYU researchers analyzed medical and lab records to accurately predict the onset of dozens of diseases and conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart or kidney failure and stroke. The project developed software now used at NYU which may be deployed at other medical facilities.

— Google’s DeepMind division is using artificial intelligence to help doctors analyse tissue samples to determine the likelihood that breast and other cancers will spread, and develop the best radiotherapy treatments.

— Microsoft, Intel and other tech giants are also working with researchers to sort through data with AI to better understand and treat lung, breast and other types of cancer.

— Google parent Alphabet’s life sciences unit Verily has joined Apple in releasing a smartwatch for studies including one to identify patterns in the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Amazon meanwhile offers medical advice through applications on its voice-activated artificial assistant Alexa.

IBM has been focusing on these issues with its Watson Health unit, which uses “cognitive computing” to help understand cancer and other diseases.

When IBM’s Watson computing system won the TV game show Jeopardy in 2011, “there were a lot of folks in health care who said that is the same process doctors use when they try to understand health care,” said Anil Jain, chief medical officer of Watson Health.

Systems like Watson, he said, “are able to connect all the disparate pieces of information” from medical journals and other sources “in a much more accelerated way.”

“Cognitive computing may not find a cure on day one, but it can help understand people’s behavior and habits” and their impact on disease, Jain said.

It’s not just major tech companies moving into health.

Research firm CB Insights this year identified 106 digital health startups applying machine learning and predictive analytics “to reduce drug discovery times, provide virtual assistance to patients, and diagnose ailments by processing medical images.”

Maryland-based startup Insilico Medicine uses so-called “deep learning” to shorten drug testing and approval times, down from the current 10 to 15 years.

“We can take 10,000 compounds and narrow that down to 10 to find the most promising ones,” said Insilico’s Qingsong Zhu.

Insilico is working on drugs for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cancer and age-related diseases, aiming to develop personalized treatments.

Finding depression
Artificial intelligence is also increasingly seen as a means for detecting depression and other mental illnesses, by spotting patterns that may not be obvious, even to professionals.

A research paper by Florida State University’s Jessica Ribeiro found it can predict with 80 to 90 percent accuracy whether someone will attempt suicide as far off as two years into the future.

Facebook uses AI as part of a test project to prevent suicides by analysing social network posts.

And San Francisco’s Woebot Labs this month debuted on Facebook Messenger what it dubs the first chatbot offering “cognitive behavioral therapy” online – partly as a way to reach people wary of the social stigma of seeking mental health care.

New technologies are also offering hope for rare diseases.

Boston-based startup FDNA uses facial recognition technology matched against a database associated with over 8,000 rare diseases and genetic disorders, sharing data and insights with medical centers in 129 countries via its Face2Gene application.

Cautious optimism
Lynda Chin, vice chancellor and chief innovation officer at the University of Texas System, said she sees “a lot of excitement around these tools” but that technology alone is unlikely to translate into wide-scale health benefits.

One problem, Chin said, is that data from sources as disparate as medical records and Fitbits is difficult to access due to privacy and other regulations.

More important, she said, is integrating data in health care delivery where doctors may be unaware of what’s available or how to use new tools.

“Just having the analytics and data get you to step one,” said Chin. “It’s not just about putting an app on the app store.”

Apple Wants to Rock the Market With HomePod, Faces Challenges

Apple’s new HomePod speaker may be music to the ears of its loyal fans, but how much it can crank up volume in the smart speaker market remains to be heard.

Apple unveiled its long-awaited HomePod at its annual developers conference taking place this week in the heart of Silicon Valley, enticing lovers of its products with a high-end offering in a market dominated by lower-priced devices from Amazon and Google.

Analysts are yet to be convinced that HomePod will rock the smart speaker market the way iPhones came to rule the smartphone world and iPods dominated MP3 players.

“If we are comparing this to Apple’s past successes, it doesn’t fit that model,” said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group.

“This product is much more of a me-too offering.”

There was no overwhelming differentiation in HomePod, according to the analyst. But he saw a big negative – it is more expensive.

HomePod, infused with machine smarts by Siri digital assistant, will be priced at $349 when it begins shipping in December in the United States, Australia and Britain.

HomePod will take on Amazon Echo and Google Home, which have momentum in the arena of voice-controlled speakers capable of controlling smart appliances, fetching content from the internet and more.

Amazon sells Echo devices for $179 (roughly Rs. 11,590), and smaller “Dot” versions for $50 (roughly Rs. 3,230). Google sells Home for $130 (roughly Rs. 8,370), promoting the smart speakers with discounts.

Apple Wants to Rock the Market With HomePod, Faces Challenges

HomePod’s tune
Apple played up the rich speaker quality of HomePod, and synched it with the company’s music service that boasts 27 million subscribers.

Apple vice president Phil Schiller said the company’s Siri team tuned the virtual assistant as a “musicologist” that learns the tastes of listeners and gets songs from the internet cloud.

The speaker has the “power to rock the house,” according to Schiller, and the aim is to make HomePod a voice-commanded assistant for news, messages, weather, traffic, home controls and more.

“Apple’s base should like it, because they are committed to the ecosystem,” Enderle said of HomePod.

“If you are paying the extra money because Apple is requiring you to do so to access your stuff, that is the Apple tax and it is the kind of thing that people don’t like.”

HomePod combined elements of Echo and Sonos smart speakers, known for rich sound quality, according to Reticle Research principal analyst Ross Rubin.

Apple lovers already tend to be “premium product buyers,” and may not flinch at paying more for what they believe is a superior quality product, said Gartner analyst Brian Blau.

Just a glimpse
Blau suspected Apple only gave a glimpse at its vision for HomePod, noting its potential to be a command center for smart houses and to mesh with iPhones, iPads, online services and more.

“We have to imagine there is going to be more there,” Blau said.

“Is it going to be an Echo killer? A Google Home killer? We are going to have to wait and see.

Apple be saving some insights into HomePod for later this year when it is expected to unveil a tenth-anniversary edition of the iPhone.

Since HomePod will not hit the market until December, it is unlikely to catch much of the year-end holiday shopping wave and post big sales this year, according to Blau.

“I think, over time, they are going to do just fine in this category but it is going to take a while,” the analyst said.

“I don’t think it will be the next iPhone,” Blau said of HomePod, “but, Apple could gain share and be a leader.”

In a blog post Technalysis Research founder Bob O’Donnell depicted Apple’s latest product news as an affirmation that the company has not fallen behind competitors and is working to take advantage of potentially exciting new technologies.

But O’Donnell also expressed skepticism on Apple’s ability to dominate this new segment.

“Yes, some songs may sound pleasing, but for true audiophiles who actually want to hear what the artist and producer intended, Apple’s positioning of the HomePod as super high-quality speaker is going to be a very tough sell,” O’Donnell said in a blog post.

 

Sony MDR-XB950B1 Extra Bass Wireless Bluetooth Headphones Review

At CES 2017, Sony announced four new pairs of headphones in its Extra Bass line – including the wireless MDR-XB950B1. This NFC-enabled Bluetooth headset promises a bass-led sound, with aptX for clearer wireless audio, and a companion app that lets you choose between different EQ settings to personalise the sound.

At the time, Sony also released the MDR-XB950N1, which is pretty much the same thing, but with one additional feature: active noise cancellation. Unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance to get our hands on those cans yet, but we did get to try out the XB950B1, and used it for just under a week. According to the packaging, this headset is designed to be used with smartphones, and that’s how we used it the most, paired wirelessly.

The headset is bulky, but fairly comfortable, and the first impression it made was that the bass was overpowering everything else – which is something that more than a few cans in the XB family are guilty – or proud, depending on your perspective – of. We used it for a couple of days, finding the sweet spot, and after some time, we’ve formed a detailed impression of it. Read on to know more about whether or not the Sony MDR-XB950B1 is worth your time and money.

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Sony MDR-XB950B1 design and features
As we stated above, this headset is pretty big and bulky. The MDR-XB line has some models that can be folded into a fairly small size, while others can only be laid flat. This one falls into the latter category. The earcups are huge and heavily padded, with a rubbery finish that looks like it could get really sweaty. However, the headset is actually fairly comfortable to wear when in use.

Wearing it around your neck while on the move is hugely uncomfortable though – either put it on, or slip it into your bag, if you know what’s good for you.

The rest of the design is very typical of Sony’s XB family, with the power and bass effect buttons on the left cup (along with the Micro-USB charging port and 3.5mm input), while volume and playback controls are on the right cup. There’s also a mic on the left cup for hands-free calls, if you want.

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The Sony MDR-XB950B1 promises 18 hours of runtime after a 4-hour charge. There’s also an included audio cable that you can use if the battery runs out. Each driver is 40mm in size, and the frequency range is rated at 3Hz to 28,000Hz. Weighing in at 281g, this isn’t the lightest pair of headphones, but as we stated above, it feels comfortable enough. How it sounds is, well, a little more complicated.

Sony MDR-XB950B1 performance
Our first impression was that there’s way too much bass, and the sound isn’t very clear either. If you’re listening to pop tracks that have some amount of bass – think something by Arctic Monkeys, for example – then you’re definitely going to agree. Vocal-led tracks, such as songs by the Beatles, suffered greatly as well. But when we switched to hip-hop, things started to get better. We listened to a few Ludacris songs, and enjoyed the percussion, though other low notes were not very satisfying. Kanye West’s Black Skinhead on the other hand sounded great, which was unexpected.

The MDR-XB950B1 has a very specific sound. After listening to more Kanye and then some electronic music, we started to find a groove that works. We tend to overuse the phrase “it’s not for everyone,” but this is one place where it really applies. You get a ridiculous amount of bass, especially after you press the Bass Effect button, but although that’s important, you really do need to use your smartphone to drive these headphones, as we soon discovered.

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You see, the secret is the companion app, with its equaliser, which gives you a chance to actually make the MDR-XB950B1 sound good. You can set the amount of bass boost, and it’s a control you’ll be playing around with a lot to find the sweet spot for the songs you’re listening to. Surround sound settings can be tweaked as well. If there had been at least a few presets that you could change directly from the headphones it would have made this product a lot more versatile, but this is better than nothing, we guess.

With a little tweaking, the rest of the frequency sounds… fine. It’s not a sound that will blow you away, but the MDR-XB950B1 will not be a big letdown either. You definitely won’t see it used anywhere as a pair of reference headphones, but if you want a really specific sound for specific kinds of music, then it could be fun to own.

Surround sound is something this headset is pretty good at, by the way. Perhaps thanks to all that extra bass, spatial awareness is really good. The barbershop 3D sound demo was excellent. Isolation is also pretty decent, as expected thanks to the large earcups.

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Overall, we feel that the MDR XB-800 offers a much better tuned sound out of the box, but if you’re willing to play around with the app, the MDR-XB950B1 doesn’t disappoint either.

As for calls, that side of things actually worked really well. We had some doubts about the microphone’s positioning, but it picked up audio clearly. With respect to the Bluetooth range, the headphones worked reliably even at distances of up to 10 feet – the distance you’d get while walking around in your bedroom or living room, for instance. However, there’s one catch – the mic only works in Bluetooth mode, so if your battery is down, you can’t use this as a hands-free headset.

Verdict
The XB family has been around for a while, and the MDR-XB950B1 looks a little dated. It’s also somewhat expensive for what you’re getting – but it’s definitely fun to listen to the right music with. It’s hard to say that this is a great pair of headphones. The audio isn’t perfect, the signature is definitely weird, and you’ll have to spend time tweaking the EQ. However, if you love trying out new headphones and want something that really stands out aurally, then this is certainly an interesting option.

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On the other hand, if you’re investing in your first pair of earphones outside the entry level, then this isn’t the all-rounder you need to buy right now.

Price (MRP): Rs. 13,990

Pros

Comfortable and sturdy
Stands out, aurally
EQ is actually useful
Cons

Requires the EQ a lot
Expensive
Bulky, doesn’t fold
Ratings (Out of 5)

Design: 3
Performance: 3
Value for Money: 2.5
Overall: 3

Sound One SP-6 Review

Sound One, a Hong Kong-based company, recently launched a pair of budget wireless earphones called the SP-6. Although, it isn’t a household name in India YET, the company has been selling budget headphones and speakers for a while now through online channels.

The SP-6 is designed for active use, which would typically include gyming, running, or any sort of sports activity. At Rs. 1,999, they are quite affordable too as far as Bluetooth earphones go but are they really worth it? Let’s find out.

Sound One SP-6 design and features
The packaging of the SP-6 is very interesting as it resembles a hip-flask, it’s just a bit taller and without a nozzle on the top. The compartment that houses the earphone slides out from the top, which also has several different ear tips and a Micro-USB cable for charging.

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You get four sets of ear tips of which three sets are single flange in different sizes while the fourth is a bi-flange ear tip. The earphones are built entirely of plastic and have a sporty look, which seems appealing. However, upon closer inspection we felt that the build quality as well as the fit and finish could’ve been better. The rubberised cable connecting both the earbuds feels durable, however after using it for a few weeks, the cable that connects to the left earphone got a bit loose on our unit.

The earbuds are designed to slip into your ear canal when you wear them and to help it secure it in place; you get an oversized wing tip which slides outwards so you can adjust it according to the shape of your ear. The right earbud has three buttons for controlling your music, along with a Micro-USB port, a microphone, and a multi-coloured LED to assist when pairing the phone.

In terms of specifications, the Sound One SP-6 supports Bluetooth 4.1, a theoretical range of 10 meters and promises up to 6 hours of battery life. According to Sound One, the earbuds are sweat resistant too and are IPX4 rated. However, earphones that can supposedly withstand splashes of water and rain, the rubber cover for the Micro-USB port is extremely flimsy and doesn’t like it would last too long. The company also hasn’t mentioned any details about the size of the drivers or the supported frequency range.

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Sound One SP-6 performance and battery life
At first, It can be tricky to get a comfortable fit with the Sound One SP-6, but once you have the wing tip adjusted to the right level, the fit is pretty snug. They don’t move about even when you run, which is good. We didn’t like the texture of the rubber cable as it tends to stick to the skin on your neck, which in return tugs on the earbuds when you turn your head. The effect is worse when you’re sweating, and it can be very annoying.

To avoid this, Sound One has provided a rubber loop attached to the chord which lets you secure it closer to the back of your head, so it doesn’t dangle on your neck. The media control buttons feel a bit fiddly but the tactile response is decent and it’s easy to reach with your fingers when you’re on the move. The buttons that let you skip or go to the previous track can also be used to adjust the volume if you long press them.

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We tested the SP-6 primarily with a HTC 10, among other devices. The pairing process is pretty straight forward as you hold down the power button till the LED flashes red and blue. The earphones also have a voice prompt that tells you when they are powered on or off, when it’s connected to a device, or when the battery is running low. When streaming audio, we noticed the right side was always a bit louder than the left which made music sound a bit off-balance. At first we figured it was due to an improper seal from the ear tips but after trying all of them, we couldn’t seem to fix it.

Audio quality from the drivers is strictly average with the bass getting boomy even at moderate volumes. This is very noticeable in Zero 7’s Red Blue and Green, where the bass envelopes the finer nuances in the song. In vocal tracks like Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, instrument separation isn’t very distinct and the overall sound stage is closed off. Mid-range frequencies feel flat and treble is often swallowed up by the other notes. Upbeat tracks like Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra sound a bit better but the frequencies still lack good definition, which makes for a very dull sonic signature.

SoundOne SP 6   ndtv (6) sound one sp-6

We also tested the SP-6 with videos streamed from Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. Audio quality is decent but the lower frequencies often overpower the rest and due to the lack of good instrument separation. Action sequences in movies can sound a bit jarring. We also had a poor experience with phone calls through the headset. The voice of the caller would keep cutting in and out and the person on the other end wasn’t able to hear us clearly all the time. Battery life is decent as we managed to get around 5-6 hours of continuous use.

Verdict
The Sound One SP-6 might be inexpensive but this comes at the cost of audio quality and the build. The funky design looks good and they fit snugly in your ears, but the fit and finish of the plastics is quite average. We also didn’t like the volume imbalance between the two earbuds, which gets really annoying. Audio quality is below average too with the bass often overpowering the other frequencies and overall dull sonic signature.

We feel it’s ok to give this one a miss and put in a bit more money for something like the Brainwavs Blu-200.

Price (MRP): Rs. 1,999

Pros

Sporty design
Decent battery life

Cons

Questionable fit and finish
Dull sonic signature with boomy bass
Audio level imbalance across earbuds
Flimsy protective cover for USB port

Ratings (Out of 5)

Design: 3
Performance: 2.5
Value for money: 2.5
Overall: 2.5

 

Fiio EX1 (2nd Gen) Review

Fiio, best known for its high-resolution media players and portable headphone amplifiers, recently launched the second generation of its premium EX1 earphones. The successor to the EX1 promises improved audio quality and better craftsmanship.

At Rs. 4,299, this pair is a bit on the expensive side for earphones with dynamic drivers. However, let’s see if the new EX1 manages to win us over.

Fiio EX1 (2nd Gen) design and features
The EX1 (2nd Gen) ships with fairly good packaging. You get six pairs of silicone ear tips (we only had one pair with our review unit), a clip, a carry case, a quick start guide, and a warranty card. The carry case is a bit too shallow, which means you need to take extra care when putting the headphones in and taking them out.

The enclosures are made from both stainless steel and aluminium alloy which makes them light, but they should still be able to withstand the wear and tear of daily use better than most plastic enclosures. The glossy finish makes the Fiio EX1 (2nd Gen) look really good and there are blue and pink rings around the left and right earbuds respectively, which makes it easy to identify which is which. There are also clear markers for the left and right earbuds printed on the inside.

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The Fiio EX1 (2nd Gen) features a tilted in-ear design, which makes it a lot easier to wear these earphones. You get a 1.2m polyurethane cable, which is durable and doesn’t tangle too easily. However, it’s sometimes tough to get it to uncurl after being rolled up for a long time. The cable terminates into a gold-plated L-type 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s a cable tie attached to the bottom of the cable, which is handy for wrapping it up when you don’t have the case with you.

The cable has an in-line control pod with the microphone and media controls. The pod itself is built well but the buttons are fiddly and feel cheap. There aren’t any proper markings on the buttons to help you identify them.

One of the reasons for the high price of the Fiio EX1 (2nd Gen), we think, is the material used for the driver’s diaphragm, which is titanium. This material is light and can vibrate efficiently, which should result in overall better audio performance.

In terms of specifications, the Fiio EX1 (2nd Gen) has a frequency range of 20Hz – 40kHz, and impedance of 13Ohms. The drivers are 13mm each, and the whole unit weighs 18 grams.

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Fiio EX1 (2nd Gen) performance
The tilted design of the earphones makes them incredibly comfortable to wear with nearly no fatigue after an hour of continuous listening. They’re also incredibly light so you’ll barely feel them in your ears. The cable is long enough for most use cases and we didn’t face any issues with durability during our two weeks of testing. We also found the microphone to be very good for phone calls.

The media buttons don’t have a very reassuring feel to them and volume control isn’t supported for iOS devices. Other than that, they functioned well across Android devices.

Straight out of the box, the earphones sound great with a nice wide soundstage and balanced tone. Our unit wasn’t sealed and may have passed through other hands, so your out-of-the-box experience might vary. The EX1 (2nd Gen) is also ‘Hi-Res Audio’ certified and it shows, as it reproduces FLAC files very well. We tested it on an HTC 10, a OnePlus 3T, and an iPad and it performed equally well in all the devices. The earphones do leak sound a bit but not too much.

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The EX1 (2nd Gen) excels with upper- and mid-range frequencies. Vocals sound detailed and crisp which is evident in tracks like Anywhere by Passenger. The high notes can sound a bit shrill at times but we didn’t find this to be the case across all tracks. The low impedance also allowed us to easily drive these earphones with our test smartphones without having to raise the volume very high. These earphones do well with bass-heavy songs too, without getting boomy. In tracks like Believer by Imagine Dragons, the tight bass is handled surprisingly well without any distortion even at high volumes. Acoustic separation is also very good.

Verdict
The Fiio EX1 (2nd Gen) is a very good pair of earphones, and even though it costs a slight premium at Rs. 4,299, you won’t be disappointed. A similar amount could also fetch you a pair of balanced armature earphones like the Brainwavz B100, which sound a bit cleaner due to the low emphasis on bass response. If you want that extra oomph in the low end, the EX1 (2nd Gen) fills that role nicely. These earphones have excellent build quality (barring the buttons on the remote), look great, and have a nice balanced sonic signature.

Price (MRP): Rs. 4,299

Pros

Excellent build quality and design
Detailed mid-range, punchy bass
Very comfortable to wear
Good bundle
Cons

Volume controls don’t work in iOS
Flimsy buttons on the in-line remote
Ratings (Out of 5)

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

Saregama Carvaan Review: Retro Music in a Modern Package

The Carvaan is a new Bluetooth speaker released by the famous Indian music label Saregama. As you would expect from such as source, the Carvaan isn’t just a simple speaker. It’s got a number of interesting features built-in, most notable of which is that it comes with 5,000 classic Hindi songs, which you can listen to anytime you want to, without any Internet connection. The other thing that really stands out is the design of the speaker, which looks like a classic portable radio. While B&O’s A2 is a modern and refined take on the concept, Saregama went with a chunky and boxy design for the Carvaan, which is decidedly retro.

The unique look and concept behind the speaker really caught our eye, and we’ve spent the best part of last seven days using a Carvaan to see how it measures up beyond the striking design. Read on to know whether this speaker is worth your money.

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Saregama Carvaan design and features
As mentioned earlier, the highlight of this speaker is definitely its design. In terms of specifications, it’s a fairly straightforward. The 1.5kg stereo speaker has an audio wattage of 6W – that’s 3W to each individual driver, though they’re pretty close to each other because of the design, so don’t expect wide stereo separation.

The Carvaan supports USB playback, Bluetooth, FM Radio, and there’s a Saregama mode which lets you play the stored collection. Saregama is one of the most famous music labels in India, and on its website states that it is the custodian of over half the music recorded in India, with a history that stretches back to 1901. The Radio Geetmala commentary by Ameen Sayani included in the device goes back to 1952.

The look of the Carvaan, as described above, is modelled after a classic portable radio. The plastic finish looks like something that was made in the 70s or 80s in India – there’s a couple of large metal buttons on the front fact that let you switch between the stored content modes; and there’s a huge and shiny tuning knob like a real radio would have. A black band runs just under this knob, where a real radio would have the frequency details. In the case of the Carvaan, this space is used for a simple LCD display. There’s a metal and plastic handle that can be turned out of sight, and on the left, you have four buttons, for the different sources – Saregama, USB, FM, and Bluetooth.

carvaan front carvaan

On the right, you have a plastic vertical volume dial, and below that a 3.5mm port you can connect your headphones, if you want. On top there’s a big power button, and a small battery indicator light. The lower half of the front face has a simple grille, covering the two speakers, and the back is mostly plain, apart from a USB port (for playing music), Micro-USB (for charging), and a tiny Reset button to reset the device.

Using the Carvaan
Switch on the Carvaan the first time, and it starts off in Saregama mode, on Geetmala. You can use the tuning knob to move forward across the years, from 1952 to 1979. The forward and back buttons under the tuning knob let you move forward between the different tracks on the record.

You can also press the Moods button to switch between different genres using the tuning knob, and the Artistes button lets you do that for different singers. It’s worth noting that the organisation of tracks is a little confusing – for instance, turning the knob moves you from Asha Bhosle to Mohammed Rafi, and if you keep turning the dial you get get Jagjit Singh and then SD Burman. The songs themselves are also not seemingly organised, but it’s a minor quibble.

You’ll use the same knob to move across tracks on a USB drive, and to tune the FM radio. Using the FM radio is actually a lot of fun. You simply turn the knob to tune through the various frequencies – it’s not an analog knob like a real old radio would have, but you still get to experience some of the same feeling, of physically tuning the radio. Many people reading this might never have experienced that, but it was a fun bit of nostalgia for us when testing the Carvaan.

carvaan knob close carvaan

Bluetooth mode goes into pairing right away and is pretty easy to set up and use for anyone who has ever used such a portable speaker. In Bluetooth mode, you can only use the volume dial.

Performance and battery life
There are a couple of different ways to measure the performance of the Saregama Carvaan. First, there’s the question of how good a Bluetooth speaker it is. On that front, it’s definitely bulky and heavy, and the battery life – for something this size – leaves a lot to be desired.

The audio quality itself is fairly decent. It works best with the stored music, delivering the classic tones of the old tracks and the radio commentary cleanly and loudly. The speaker is loud enough to carry to the park for a picnic, for instance, and it’s very mid-centric, making it good for tracks led by vocals.

Audio playback quality is good overall, but it’s more in line with a speaker of around half the price, such as the Xiaomi Mi Bluetooth speaker, although the Carvaan is louder than the Mi speaker. Overall though, you’re not buying this simply if you want a Bluetooth speaker – there are cheaper options that sound as good. Of course, those options don’t include a built-in display, or 5,000 tracks and an FM player, so it works out to be quite reasonable.

FM works easily as well, and with the simple tuning knob, even people who aren’t comfortable with technology, will be able to go from listening to retro music to listening to the latest hits with ease.

One issue is that there’s no Aux-in, so if you want to listen to music from your phone on the big speaker, then you have to use Bluetooth.

carvaan top view carvaan

The Carvaan, which charges via a standard Micro-USB charger (included in the box), lasts over 4 hours of playback at full volume, while it lasts for around 6 hours at a more comfortable level.

Verdict
If you’re interested in the Carvaan, it’s not because of how good a Bluetooth speaker it is, though it’s better than we expected it to perform. No, what you’re actually looking at is a nostalgia filled gadget that looks beautiful if you grew up in the 80s, or even earlier. The tuning knob is an example of that – there are so many simpler ways of handling navigation that could have been implemented, but the fact is that this is a machine that’s designed to evoke the past instead, and it works wonderfully in that regard. The first thought we had on seeing this was that it’s so pretty, and it’s the sort of thing where you’ll be putting in an order for one for your parents, after you’ve started using it.

One quibble, as we mentioned earlier, is that browsing for content using the Carvaan is a flawed experience. Another issue is the battery life – five hours is pretty good for a Bluetooth speaker, but given the size of the Carvaan, we’re a little surprised that the battery capacity is so limited. It’s still possible to toss this in the car, take it with you for a picnic in the park, and keep it running the whole time, but you’ll want to make sure you charged it up before heading out.

The Carvaan really isn’t for power users who want to tweak all aspects of their gadgets; it’s a fairly simple device that’s best used for listening to Radio Geetmala or tuning that radio knob.

Price (MRP): Rs. 5,990

Pros

Great looking
Easy to use
Fairly loud
Huge collection of built-in tracks
Cons

Average speaker, best suited for vocal-led tracks
Finding specific tracks is very hard
Battery life could be better
Ratings (Out of 5)

Design: 4
Performance: 3
Value for Money: 4
Overall: 4

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless Headphones Launched in India at Rs. 14,990

Popular audio manufacturer Sennheiser has launched a wireless version of its premium Momentum in-ear headphones with NFC and a 10-hour battery life. The headphones are priced at Rs. 14,990 and will be available in black and ivory trims.

Sennheiser’s Momentum series is known for the premium materials used and this one is no exception. The neckband of the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless use soft sheepskin nappa leather for better comfort and the earbuds are built from milled stainless steel for durability. The drivers have a frequency range of 15Hz-22,000Hz and feature an omni-directional microphone for calls.

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless Headphones Launched in India at Rs. 14,990

The Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless feature a rechargeable 170mAh battery with a charging time of around 1.5 hours. It also supports audio profiles like A2DP, AVRCP, HSP and HFP and Qualcomm apt-X. For connectivity, you get Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC. Media controls are placed at the edge of the headband for controlling music playback. The headset also features voice prompts to notify you of the pairing status and if the battery is low. You can also connect it to up to two devices at the same time; get vibration alerts for an incoming call and use it as a wired headset over USB.

Commenting on the launch of Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless, Kapil Gulati, Sennheiser India said, “With wireless being the norm for the discerning audiophile consumers, we are very thrilled to have launched the new Momentum headphones which represent our uncompromised vision and passion to go further and push for something even better. They are for people that demand the best and refuse to compromise on sound quality with progressive technology and high-quality materials in a product that is built to last.”

 

Nativ Vita Music Player Is a $1,599 Tablet for Audiophiles

Nativ, a tech startup which was came into prominence via a crowd-funded campaign early last year, has launched its Vita music player with a large touchscreen display and starting price of whopping $1,599 (roughly Rs. 1.03 lakhs). The Nativ Vita music player, which can also be termed a tablet thanks to its 11.6-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display, comes with built-in support for several music streaming services including Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora, and Tidal.

Nativ Vita comes with built-in multi-directional microphone, which allows users to use voice-commands to direct it to play music, adjust volume, or skip to next track. The music player can also be controlled via Android or iOS devices, as well as smartwatches through its dedicated app for the respective platforms. Interestingly, Vita music player comes along with an IR remote controller as well.

The Vita packs a Cortex A9 processor and features 4GB of RAM. The connectivity options on the music player include USB, Bluetooth, SPDIF, HDMI, and AES/EBU ports. The Nativ Vita also offers connectivity via Gigabit Ethernet, and Dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi as well. Users can connect Nativ Vita to their TVs with Google Cast or HDMI.

Nativ Vita Music Player Is a $1,599 Tablet for Audiophiles

The audio formats supported by the device include Apple’s ALAC, FLAC, WAV, MP3, OGG, and AIFF.

Users can choose to play music through their PC or their smartphone but the Nativ Vita is also being offered with built-in storage options. The storage options go up to an impressive, but rather ridiculous, 4TB of SSD storage. HDD storage options are also available with the music player as well. Notably, the base model ships without any built-in storage.

If you choose to buy the model will 4TB of built-in storage and Walnut desk-stand, the Nativ Vita will set you back by $3,099 (roughly Rs. 2 lakhs). As you might have understood by now, this music player is not for everyone.