YouTube Go for Android Review: Delivers on Its Promise

HIGHLIGHTS

  • YouTube Go is a stripped down version of the YouTube app
  • It shows you how much data will be consumed by any video
  • You can download videos and share them with friends

We first heard about YouTube Go last year, when Google announced the offline-first YouTube app, and then a few months later YouTube Go entered Beta. It’s designed to work in areas with low connectivity or no network – there is a lot of focus on downloading videos instead of streaming, and it even shows you the size of video files before you even play something, so you know just how much data you’re going to use at any point.

At Google I/O 2017 last week, with the focus on the new Android Go project, the company talked about YouTube Go again, and Sameer Samat, VP of Product management for Android and Google Play, highlighted to Gadgets 360 the smaller APK size, and data optimisation features in YouTube Go.

YouTube Go for Android Review: Delivers on Its Promise

We tried out YouTube Go for a while to see what the experience was like, and it looks and feels exactly like what it is – a stripped down version of YouTube. There are only two tabs – Home and Downloads – there’s none of the extras such as Subscriptions, Uploads, Purchases, or Playlists.

YouTube Go has just a single scrolling list of videos, thumbs one after another based on what’s popular, and nothing more. Tap on any video, and you’ll see a series of thumbnails, showing you a sort of preview of the video, along with details on how much storage is available on your phone at that moment. You have the option of selecting either basic quality or standard quality, and in both cases, you can see the amount of space that the file will occupy on your device, which is also how much of your data will be confused when downloading.

Once you’ve selected the size, you have two options – play, or download. It doesn’t default to either option – you have to manually choose each time. If you choose to play a file, it starts streaming right away at the chosen quality, and you can see more videos below.

In the regular YouTube app, you have the option of minimising a video while it’s playing, and browsing for the next one. In the case of YouTube Go, you have no such luxury. You do one thing at a time, or not at all.

That’s almost all there is to YouTube Go, save for one last feature. As we already mentioned, you can choose to download a video instead of playing it. If you do this, you can play it again any time you want, obviously, but you also have the option to share that with another YouTube Go user. The devices seem to perform the initial connection process using Bluetooth, and it’s easy to get started.

youtube go sharing youtube go

When you open the downloads tab inside YouTube Go, you can tap on either send or receive. To transfer a file, the person with the file has to tap Send. This makes it start looking for the receiver. Then, the person who wants the file taps Receive. Once that’s done, the actual file transfer seems to happen over a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection between the two devices, which means it’s fast, and doesn’t use your Internet data.

The file has to be verified on the Internet before it can be watched on the phone that received it – after the verification, downloaded files can be watched anytime you like, as long as you connect to the Internet at least once a month.

In YouTube Go, everything is very simple, and it works supremely quickly. There are no wasted animations or complicated UI elements to slow things down. The message is clear – this app trims all the fat that it can find, and then some more, to provide the smoothest experience possible.

This shows in the file sizes of downloaded videos as well. A four minute video takes up 2MB at the basic quality setting. A 21 minute clip took up just 12.1MB.

At standard quality on the other hand, a 1 minute clip took up 4.8MB. The same clip is 558Kb on basic quality. The difference in file sizes is tremendous, but the difference in quality is also pretty palpable. YouTube doesn’t reveal the resolution that it’s using for basic and standard quality videos, but standard quality looked pretty good on the 5-inch screen of a Redmi 3S Prime.

Rewatching the same clip on the full YouTube app, our best guess is that standard quality is 360p, while basic quality is 144p, though this is just a guess made by looking at the video under the various different settings and trying to guess what looks most like a match.

youtube go download youtube go

Depending on how must storage you have on your phone, and how much data you want to use for the download, you’ll be able to choose what size you prefer; and as mentioned above, since the YouTube Go app does not default to any preference, you get to make an informed choice for every single video.

That might sound a little tedious, but there’s a distinct difference in the quality. Depending on what video you’re downloading, that’s something you’ll want to consider, particularly if you’re toting an entry-level device, as most of those have improved on most fronts, but storage remains pretty limited.

All in all, the YouTube Go app is a pretty good option for people who want to use less data, and don’t want the app to take up as much of a footprint on their devices. That being said, we do wish that you could see your subscriptions. Instead of playlists, the user of such an app might prefer to download the videos instead, but subscriptions would make it easier to find content you like.

With the YouTube Go app, discovery remains an issue – you can either browse through the videos which may (or more likely may not) match your interests, or rely on search entirely. Subscriptions on the YouTube app right now help you to find the content you like, and that would definitely be appreciated with YouTube Go as well.

Windows 10 S review: faster, simpler … and incredibly painful to use

Windows 10 S is the latest version of Microsoft’s new and improved operating system, which is about to launch with the new Surface Laptop and a series of machines from third-party manufactures.

It joins Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro as the three versions of Windows aimed at consumers. However, confusingly it is not an upgrade to either, but a class of Windows in and of itself.

No tradition Windows apps means the desktop isn’t littered with program icons unless you actively choose to put files and shortcuts there. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Strictly speaking Windows 10 S is Windows 10 Pro but with some limitations that are designed to, in Microsoft’s words, “be streamlined for simplicity, security and speed”. In other words Windows 10 S is meant to be more secure, faster and have longer battery life, like-for-like on the same computer.

The biggest limitation is that it is restricted to using only apps downloaded from the Windows Store, of which there are about 700,000 available. The quantity is not the issue, but the quality is: the Windows Store is full of dross, from outdated and abandoned apps, to clones and useless junk – but the situation is improving almost monthly.

How do I get it?

You can’t buy Windows 10 S without a machine: it will only come on new computers – primarily those aimed at the lower-end or the education market, aside from the Surface Laptop.

If I don’t like it can I change it?

Users can upgrade from 10 S to Windows 10 Pro with a few button presses, as Windows 10 S is built on Windows 10 Pro. For many the upgrade will be free for a limited amount of time. Surface Laptop users can upgrade to 10 Pro for free until the end of 2017 – or face a fee of around £50 after.

What’s it like to use?

The Windows Store is full of the dregs of the app world. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Windows 10 S is the fastest version of Windows I have ever used – from switching and loading apps to booting up, it’s noticeably quicker than either Windows 10 Home or 10 Pro running on similar hardware.

If you only use the built-in Windows apps, such as Mail and Calendar, People, Skype, Edge and Office, Windows 10 S won’t seem any different – expect the speed. It behaves just like any other version of Windows 10. It has the normal Start menu and of course the same mix of new-looking Windows 10 interface hiding the ancient Windows XP-era Control Panel, if you dig deep enough.

It’s not restricted in any noticeable day-to-day way (you can even mess with drivers, disks and group policy, just not the registry), apart from where you can install apps.

I found Windows Store restriction to be more bothersome than I expected. About half the apps I use on Windows come from the Store, which is great and makes setting up machines easier and faster. But the other half I find it very difficult to live without. For instance, I haven’t found a good simple text editor in the Windows Store – although there are many – and as I do not use Adobe I struggle to find an image-editing program that will do what I need.

Photoshop Elements 14 is available via the Windows Store, so if you were to stick with Windows 10 S that would be your best bet – but it’s no full Photoshop. Photoshop isn’t available on the Windows Store, and neither are excellent image editors such as Affinity Photo and the free Gimp.

I’m also a Spotify user, and as the desktop app isn’t available in the Windows Store, I was confined to the Flash-based Spotify Web player in Edge, which was a terrible experience (I quit after it failed to play more than two songs sequentially before falling over). I also missed the WhatsApp Windows 10 app, the Signal Chrome extension and Steam and all the games I have.

While I can get by with alternatives most of the time, one of the biggest issues I had with Windows 10 S was the limited browser selection – you’ve got Edge and that’s pretty much it unless you want to deal with Internet Explorer 11. You can’t install Chrome, Firefox, Opera or any other browser; they’re not available in the Windows Store and are highly unlikely to be – though given that Apple’s iTunes is coming to the Windows Store, never say never.

Edge

Windows 10 S review
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Microsoft’s Edge browser is the worst thing about Windows 10 S. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Microsoft’s Edge is an interesting problem. Some will like it – a more stripped-down experience of the web that you can draw all over. It has some nice features, but I found that it just wasn’t up to scratch as the only browser you have access to.

It’s faster than Chrome, Safari and all the rest – according to Microsoft – but I didn’t find it to be. It choked on some of the more mundane sites, requiring a couple of reloads to get it to render them correctly, and it wasn’t anything to do with plugins or Flash.

It failed to load Microsoft’s Office install subscription page, meaning I had to switch to another computer using Chrome to deactivate an older install of Office to activate it on another one. Not even being able to render your own site fully is a bit embarrassing.

Edge will struggle with anything built with Chrome or Firefox in mind. Trying to use the Guardian’s editorial tools was a nightmare of jumping text cursors, copy and paste garbage and straight-up broken features, all of which work perfectly fine in Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

The Wire browser messaging app didn’t work properly, missing certain characters from pasted text. Not even tech site Engadget’s galleries worked as they’re meant to.

Should all these sites and web apps work in Edge? Probably, but unless Windows 10 S becomes a storming success and grabs Edge a greater slice of the worldwide browser market share (it’s currently claiming just 1.73% compared to Chrome’s 54.14% according to data from StatCounter) then it’s unlikely everything will become compliant.

Observations

  • If you’re setting it up in anywhere quiet, plug in headphones before you start it up the first time as Cortana shouts at you
  • Most peripherals work fine, but if you need a particular utility to run your printer or scanner or any other peripheral, you can forget it
  • It comes with BitLocker to encrypt your hard drive
  • If you upgrade to Windows 10 Pro there’s no going back
  • I couldn’t find a way to paste plain text or to keep formatting in Edge
  • Edge was incredibly vexing

Verdict

Windows 10 S review
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Windows 10 S running on a Microsoft Surface Laptop. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Windows 10 S is a nice attempt by Microsoft to create an easier to manage, faster Windows 10 experience. It feels like it is intended to become Microsoft’s default operating system – a step below Windows 10 Home – and that might be what happens unless consumers rebel.

It lives up to most of Microsoft’s promises. It is faster. It is more secure in that at least it won’t run anything that’s not downloaded from the Windows Store, and it is simpler. The underlying Windows 10 experience is great, so if all the normal applications people install were available through the Windows Store, it would be brilliant.

But they aren’t, and Edge simply isn’t ready to be your only browser – it is holding the whole of Windows 10 S back. The app situation may change, particularly if Windows 10 S becomes popular enough to be a draw for developers to get their programs into the Windows Store.

For now by all means try Windows 10 S, but be prepared to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro almost immediately.

PES 2017 Mobile Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • PES 2017 is now available on Android and iOS
  • The game is free-to-play, with optional in-app purchases
  • It uses the same game engine as the console series

More than eight months after the release of Pro Evolution Soccer 2017, Konami has brought the game to mobile devices worldwide. Unlike the iterative and standalone strategy devised by EA for FIFA Mobile, which chopped and changed football’s format, PES 2017 Mobile retains the full console experience, right down to the soundtrack and commentary. If you’re wondering (much like us) why we are only getting this now, given we’re barely four months away from the release of PES 2018, that’s thanks to a protracted development and release schedule. The game has been available in various beta phases since December, but is only now getting a full-scale launch, available free on both Android and iOS, with optional in-app purchases.

PES 2017 Mobile Review

From the get-go, you can tell that Konami wanted to hew as close to its console cousin in how the game looks and plays. Of course, mobiles still can’t compete with consoles in terms of power, but PES 2017 Mobile can definitely pass for an older PES console entry at first glance. More importantly, it works smoothly always, without taxing your phone to the point where it starts to heat up. And since the aim is to provide the full PES 2017 experience, the mobile version comes in at a hefty 1.5GB download. Match commentary isn’t included in that, which is a good thing since it’s available in half a dozen different languages. Instead, it waits for you to select your preference, and then downloads the (around 250MB) pack in-game.

As with any mobile title, PES 2017 Mobile starts you off with a tutorial, teaching you the basic controls for dribble, pass, shoot, and pressure. There are other advanced tutorials as well, for lob pass, through ball, slide tackle, and more, but in the interest of getting you into the action quicker, they aren’t shown at the start. Konami has come up with a new control scheme to suit the mobile play-style, which involves swiping on the screen in different ways. You can switch to the classic on-screen buttons if you prefer, but we found ourselves warming to the new controls quickly.

pes 2017 mobile barca dortmund PES 2017 Mobile

Once you get the hang of the basic controls, the game lets you pick your favourite team, with the same number of licenses as the console version. You’re thrown into an exhibition match right after, against the likes of FC Barcelona, and Borussia Dortmund. We won the game very easily (8-0, to be precise), and figured there would be a difficulty option to choose from later. But to our dismay, PES 2017 Mobile doesn’t have one.

Instead, difficulty ramps up as you progress through the game’s Campaign mode. Think of it as FIFA’s Seasons, except you play against computer-controlled teams instead of other users. Each campaign season is 10 games long, and you need a certain amount of points to qualify for the next one. There’s a simulation version of Campaign, where all 22 players are AI-controlled, and you only handle the management.

It could be beneficial for rookies, as they could learn something from the way the AI plays. You can also take part in local and online games, where you match up with others in real-time. We didn’t face any troubles with matchmaking (on Wi-Fi and cellular data), though it’s possible games will drop if your connection in unstable.

The last remaining, and most prominently displayed, game mode is called Events, which are challenges available for a limited time, some for a week, and others daily. Konami will also have challenges set around real-world happenings, such as the upcoming UEFA Champions League final. The more events you play, the tougher challenges you can unlock. Konami allows you to repeat these challenges, with the first attempt netting you some myClub Coins and GP, with future plays only providing more GP. More on those two later.

pes 2017 mobile myclub PES 2017 Mobile

Stripped down
Although it’s called “PES 2017”, for all intents and purposes, the game’s mobile version essentially retains one of the (money-making) aspects: myClub, which is Konami’s answer to FIFA Ultimate Team. After you’ve had the luxury of playing with a top team in the opening exhibition, you’re given a poor lot of players (usually in mid-60s, rating-wise) whom you must improve and win games with to better your squad. As you continue to play, you’ll build up two values that matter: GP, and myClub Coins. Both can be used to sign new players, buy agents, renew contracts, and so forth.

While GP is earned only via playing, myClub Coins can be earned through achievements upon completing a specific task, or bought with actual money (i.e. in-app purchases) from an in-game shop, starting from Rs. 80, and going up to Rs. 7,900. Since it’s a free-to-play title, it’s obviously much quicker to collect more coins by paying. If you’re willing to pay up, you can even buy a “Special Agent” with myClub Coins, which will help you sign “special players”, and get on the road to glory easier than everyone else.

Plus, signing a new player is restricted to a lucky draw of sorts, where a carousel of white, silver, golden, and black balls scroll across the screen at a high speed, with a selection circle in the middle. Depending on when you touch the screen, it’ll slow down and come to rest at one of the colours, and get you that level of player. White is the lowest, with black being the highest. You can get new players from agents or scouts – the former costs 10,000GP after the first time, and the latter are earned through playing.

pes 2017 mobile player PES 2017 Mobile

There’s even a limit on how many matches you can fit in back-to-back, which comes by way of an Energy Bar (100 when full) that depletes by 20 with every game you play. It takes 15 minutes for it to recharge by one – excruciatingly slow, intentionally – which is supposed to incentivise spending on energy recharges (read: myClub Coins) in the shop section.

The bigger disappointment, in the light of the focus on myClub in PES 2017 Mobile, is that it takes away the option to play exhibition matches using real-world clubs by yourself or with your friends. The charm of mobile gaming, after all, is that you can play any time, and enjoy it without needing a specialised machine. We wish that Konami had allowed for impromptu Champions League games between the biggest European clubs, though it’s understandable why it would hesitate to, given the free-to-play nature of the game.

Verdict
Even though PES 2017 Mobile will be too easy (and in turn, boring) for players with any sort of experience, it’s still commendable that Konami could provide the same game engine – albeit an optimised one – used in the original console version, which provides for fast, attack-heavy arcade play, something PES has come to fully embrace, while EA Sports’ FIFA has gone the opposite route. Compared to FIFA Mobile, it’s in a league of its own, albeit with some constraints and frustrations inherent of free-to-play titles.

If you’re looking for football action on the go, you could do a lot worse.

Pros:

  • Runs great
  • New control scheme is well-thought
  • Commentary and soundtrack

Cons:

  • No way to change difficulty
  • Can’t play with real teams or clubs
  • Signing good players is down to luck
  • Energy Bar takes a day to fully recharge

Rating (out of 10): 7

We played PES 2017 Mobile on an iPhone 6 Plus. The game is free-to-play with in-app purchases on Android, and iOS.

Tokyo 42 Review: Bringing Together the Best of Grand Theft Auto, Monument Valley, and Hotline Miami?

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Tokyo 42 has you in the role of an assassin
  • The gameplay is similar to earlier GTAs and Hotline Miami
  • It’s the debut title from developer SMAC

Tokyo 42 is a game that wears its inspirations on its sleeve. The art direction is reminiscent of Monument Valley, while its open-world and interactions are derived from earlier Grand Theft Auto games, and its combat has a lot in common with Hotline Miami. However the end result is greater than the sum of its parts.

In Tokyo 42, you’re wanted for a murder you didn’t commit. To clear your name, you become an assassin and murder a huge number of people. Video game logic at its finest.

Tokyo 42 Review: Bringing Together the Best of Grand Theft Auto, Monument Valley, and Hotline Miami?

Nonetheless, the irony does little to take away from the gameplay. Tokyo 42’s core loop has you traipsing across a densely layered isometric cityscape replete with neon hues, and civilians going about their routine. You’ll pick out targets assigned to you, kill them, and then proceed to a specified location on the map to complete a mission.

Tokyo42 t DayMultiplayer tokyo_42

Regardless of your play style, you’re treated to responsive controls and a reactive world that strikes back as hard as you hit it. With weapons ranging from silent kill katanas, to noisy rocket launchers, how you deal with a mission is entirely up to you.

Fire fights evolve into intricate ballets of bullet hell madness akin to R-Type, or Ikaruga, and death is usually instant, with a single hit being enough to have you starting a mission again. Thanks to a wealth of checkpoints disguised as coffee vending machines, you’re never too far from where you left off.

While trying to complete an objective with outright violence rewards agile reflexes, playing Tokyo 42 stealthily demands patience. You’ll learn enemy patterns, how to avoid them, and tip-toe behind your target to land a killing blow. Get spotted by a foe? Just change your skin with the tap of a button, and move to another location.

Tokyo42 Stealth1 tokyo_42

It sounds simple enough, particularly when you consider that other titles such as Hitman and Dishonored have a similar premise. In fact, it should be downright boring – but it’s not.

The art style may be akin to Monument Valley, but the sheer burst of colours give this interpretation of Tokyo a look of its own. Taking down targets is similar to Hotline Miami, and it never feels frustrating thanks to the game giving you ample opportunities to complete a mission in stealth or guns blazing, while its music has a calming impact on the proceedings. So much so that despite dying multiple times, we never felt anything close to rage. Quite the opposite really, wherein starting where we left off was refreshing, rather than the mental toll other isometric action titles with a high difficulty tend to be.

Throw in pun-laden dialogue and references to the likes of Die Hard, and Blade Runner, and Tokyo 42 is an entertaining romp. The single-player campaign clocks in at five hours, and there’s multiplayer to look forward to as well. This ends up being an elaborate game of cat and mouse, having players build up their arsenal before being spotted by others – throw in the Trackacat – a recon robot trained to sniff out assassins – and you have just the right amount of depth to it across five different maps ranging from crowded marketplaces to open-air surroundings.

Tokyo42 Action1 tokyo_42

It’s hard to believe that Tokyo 42 is the debut title from developer SMAC as its an extremely polished and enjoyable. At $20 on Steam and Xbox Live (approximately Rs. 1,290), it’s well worth a purchase.

Pros:

  • Responsive controls
  • Tokyo’s open-world is gorgeous
  • Gameplay stays fresh

Cons:

  • Throwaway story

Rating (out of 10): 9

We played a review copy of Tokyo 42 on PC. The game is available on the PC and Xbox One for $20 (around Rs. 1,290). It will be available on the PS4 in July.

Tekken 7 PC Performance Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Tekken 7 on PC is cheaper than it is on PS4 or Xbox One
  • Its graphical settings are barebones
  • Tekken 7 PC specifications are lenient

Tekken 7 is the first mainline entry in the long-running fighting game franchise to see a release on Windows PCs. With its debut on the PS1 in 1995, developer Bandai Namco has kept the PC gaming community waiting almost 22 years. Has the wait been worth it for PC gamers? We tell you everything you need to know about Tekken 7 on Windows.

Tekken 7 PC price

Unlike most new releases on Steam that have been priced similar to their console counterparts, Bandai Namco seems to have taken a more generous approach. Tekken 7 PC price for Indian gamers is Rs. 989, while the Tekken 7 PC Deluxe Edition costs Rs. 1,608. The latter comes with the base game, a new character called Eliza, and access to the game’s Season Pass that brings a host of cosmetic items. In the US, the game costs $50 for the standard edition and $75 for the deluxe edition. This makes Tekken 7 cheaper in India, especially when compared to Bandai Namco’s previous releases such as Dark Souls 3 and Tales of Berseria that were priced at Rs. 4,299 and Rs. 3,284 respectively.

Tekken 7 PC Performance Review

Tekken 7 PC minimum system requirements

•CPU: Intel Core Intel Core i3-4160 @ 3.60GHz or equivalent
•GPU: GeForce GTX 660 or 750 Ti, or equivalent
•RAM: 6GB
•OS: Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (64-bit versions)
•HDD: 60GB free space
•DirectX: Version 11

Tekken 7 PC recommended requirements

•CPU: Intel Core i5-4690 3.5 GHz or equivalent
•GPU: GeForce GTX 1060, or equivalent, or higher
•RAM: 8GB •OS: Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (64-bit versions)
•HDD: 60GB free space
•DirectX: Version 11

tekken 7 settings pc tekken_7_pc_review

Tekken 7 PC graphics options

It’ll be clear from the above-mentioned specifications that you don’t need the latest and greatest to run Tekken 7 on PC. Nonetheless, the level of customisation on offer isn’t that huge as recent releases such as the excellent Prey. As you can see from our screenshot of Tekken 7’s in-game settings, it seems to have the bare minimum you’d expect from a game on Steam. There’s nothing out of the ordinary and in some cases with just three options of anti-aliasing (off, low, and high); while the lack of support for the 21:9 aspect ratio being down right anaemic.

Tekken 7 PC frame rate and image quality

On our test PC consisting of an Intel core i5 3470 at 3.2GHz, 16GB RAM, 500GB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB, obtaining a fluid 60 frames per second at 1920×1080 (1080p) was easily achieved at Ultra settings. Ramping it up to 3840×2160 (4K) we saw a consistent 45 to 47fps with minor dips to the high 30s when special moves were being executed. Be it fur on characters like Panda, or the coat on the game’s central character Jin Kazuma, Tekken 7 looks good enough with very little out of place. Even the stages, ranging from the icy almost desolate Arctic Snowfall to Arena – a vibrant octagonal ring complete with a vociferous audience are graphically superb. However, the level of detail and difference between Tekken 7 PC at 4K and 1080p wasn’t tremendous and we found ourselves reverting to 1080p for a consistent 60fps experience.

One crucial option that’s nestled in the display options and not the graphical settings is motion blur. Switching it off nets you additional frames. Useful if your gaming PC is on the lower side of Tekken 7’s PC requirements.

Tekken 7 PC controller support

We tried Tekken 7 with three different controllers and came back with mixed results. As you’d expect, the Xbox One controller worked fine, as it does with most PC games. Our PS4 controller, however, was not fully recognised. While button presses register, navigating with the use of the directional pad or analogue stick did not work. Surprisingly plugging in a Nacon Revolution Pro PS4 controller worked just fine. But much like most PC games, controls are displayed only for the Xbox One controller. This means you won’t see the familiar set of cross, triangle, circle, and square icons, only A, B, X, and Y. You’d think that with Steam supporting the Dual Shock 4 natively, more game creators would as well, but evidently this is not the case.

tekken 7 rage mode tekken_7_pc_review

Is Tekken 7 worth buying on PC?

Given how cheap the game is in India (starting at around $15), it would seem like a no-brainer purchase if you live in a country where Tekken 7 is more affordable than what it costs in the US (starting from $50). Having said that, there are some strings attached if you decide to get it on PC.

For one, if you’re the sort looking to play it competitively, most of the fighting game community is on the PS4. Granted there’s the Tekken World Tour Mode that has events for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC but given how Street Fighter V and Killer Instinct have fared – it appears that the console version of fighting games tend to outlast their PC equivalent.

If you’re not a pro player, there are some other disadvantages. VR mode is exclusive to the PS4 and Xbox One owners get Tekken 6 free with purchasing Tekken 7. There’s no sort of uniqueness tied to the PC version of the game in terms of content. It doesn’t help matters that Tekken 7 on day one does not have Survival or Battle Modes, two well-received inclusions from previous games.

With threadbare customisation options, a lack of content, and questionable controller support, Tekken 7 PC’s price and performance are the only things it has going for it, making it feel like the best and worst version of the game at the same time. The lower price alone could be enough for many. If you’re a little more discerning though, you might want to give Tekken 7 on PC a miss.

Kingston A400 SSD Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The A400 is currently one of the lowest priced SSD lines in India
  • It is available in 120Gb, 240GB, and 480GB capacities
  • Kingston also offers higher performing models at the same price level

If you aren’t using an SSD in your laptop or desktop PC in 2017, you’re definitely missing out. There’s very little reason not to insist on one, even if your budget is absolutely rock bottom. At the lower end of the market, 120 or 240GB of storage space is enough for casual users, and the speed benefits of an SSD outweigh the capacity advantage of a spinning hard drive. Your PC will boot and go to sleep quickly, programs launch without making you wait, and better responsiveness makes you more productive overall.

Kingston is one of several companies that offer reasonably capacious SSDs at the lowest possible prices. It competes with WD, Adata, Samsung, Zotac and Transcend in the Indian market, but interestingly, has a two-pronged strategy. There’s the A400 series and the UV400 series, both of which have very similar specifications and cost pretty much the same, but do have some differences that we will get to later.

Kingston A400 SSD Review

Today, we’re going to test the Kingston A400 240GB model to see if it delivers on its promise, and what you can realistically expect from it.

kingston a400 front ndtv kingstona400

Kingston A400 specifications and features

The Kingston A400 is a standard 2.5-inch SATA SSD, but you can tell it’s aimed at the commodity market just by looking at it. For starters, it comes in the simplest packaging we’ve ever seen; a thin cardboard-and-plastic bubble pack. There’s no padding, though to be fair SSDs are not very susceptible to damage while shipping. You don’t get anything else with it – no SATA cable, no screws, and no adhesive shim. This is a little surprising because drives like this are usually aimed at the upgrade market, and a shim helps 7mm thick SSDs fit into spaces designed for 9.5mm thick hard drives, such as older laptops.

The drive itself is just a plastic box with Kingston’s logo etched onto the surface itself. A small sticker on the back has the mandatory regulatory information. Of course looks don’t matter for an internal SSD, but we’re left with the impression that Kingston has cut every possible corner in order to force the price down.

You can buy an A400 in 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB capacities. In terms of performance, all three are rated at 500MBps for sequential reads, but have different write speeds: 320MBps, 350MBps and 450MBps respectively. As expected, it uses planar TLC flash. The formatted capacity of our 250GB unit was 223.44GB.

TBW (Terabytes written) gives buyers an idea of the useful life they can expect from their purchase, and the figures are 40TB, 80TB, and 120TB respectively for the three capacities. Kingston also specifies 1 million hours as the MTBF (mean time between failures), which is way more than adequate for a consumer drive. You’ll get a three year warranty with each drive.

One of the things that contributes to the A400’s low price is that Kingston does not specify the exact controller it uses, and this is something that might change with future revisions. All that the spec sheet says is that a “2ch controller” is being used. This is the key difference between the A400 and UV400 – Kingston does specify that the latter uses a four-channel Marvell 88SS1074 controller here. The UV400 is also available in a 960GB capacity, with all capacities rated for slightly higher speed and TBW ratings than their A400 equivalents.

kingston a400 side ndtv kingstona400

Kingston A400 performance

As usual, we used CrystalDiskMark to test the performance of this SSD. Sequential read and write speeds came in at 555.9Mbps and 507.2Mbps respectively when using a queue depth of 32, which saturates the SSD’s controller to get the most efficiency out of it. These scores are higher than Kingston’s published ratings, but are more indicative of best-case scenario performance. Random read and write speeds came in at 321.9Mbps and 310.2Mbps respectively.

Without the advantage of the queue depth, sequential read and write speeds were 502.1Mbps and 490.6Mbps, whereas random speeds were 25.38Mbps and 86.67Mbps respectively. These are still great scores, and performance is way snappier than it would be with a spinning hard drive. SiSoft SANDRA’s physical disk and file system tests gave us comparable results.

Overall, the scores are a bit lower than those we saw with the 250GB WD Blue SSD we tested a short while ago.

kingston a400 box ndtv kingstona400

Verdict
We haven’t tested Kingston’s UV400 against the A400, but clearly there’s meant to be a hierarchy here, even if the differences between the two are extremely minor. The interesting thing though is that street prices and the forces of supply and demand fluctuate so much that we can see UV400 drives selling for slightly less than their A400 counterparts at several online stores. If you’re out shopping, it certainly pays to do a little homework.

Beyond Kingston’s own lineup, there are some excellent choices from Samsung and WD to consider as well. The WD Blue 250GB performed better in standard benchmarks and gives you a higher formatted capacity, plus a neat software tool that shows drive health and lets you perform diagnostic checks. There’s no equivalent to that with the Kingston drives.

In terms of pricing, the 240GB Kingston A400 has an MRP of Rs. 9,000 but sells for around Rs. 6,000. It’s excellent value if you’re trying to spend as little as possible, but if your budget can stretch just a few hundred rupees, do consider the 250GB WD Blue.

Price (MRP): Rs. 9,000 (240GB)

Pros

  • Solid performance
  • Very low street price

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive drives offer better performance
  • No accessories

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Performance: 3.5
  • Value for Money: 4.5
  • Overall: 3.5

Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Radeon RX 580 is AMD’s latest GPU for mid-range gamers
  • Asus has overclocked it and used an enormous cooler with RGB LEDs
  • The Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC Review is priced at Rs. 25,500

When we see a new generation in a company’s numbering scheme, we expect that there’s at least some justification behind it, but that isn’t always the case. There are many reasons for companies to just slap a new label on an old product and ship it out – the publicity that surrounds a new launch, the illusion that buyers are getting something bigger or better, and the chance to steal a competitor’s thunder at an opportune time.

It hasn’t even been a full year since we reviewed the Radeon RX 480 GPU, as well as the RX 470 and RX 460 which followed it, but they have now been replaced by the Radeon RX 500 series. It shouldn’t surprise us then that the new Radeon RX 500 series is just a mild refresh of the RX 400 series. It seems that AMD felt it was time to move up a generation – in terms of marketing, if not the actual underlying technology.

Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC Review

Radeon RX 480 GPU, as well as the RX 470 and RX 460 which followed it, but they have now been replaced by the Radeon RX 500 series. It shouldn’t surprise us then that the new Radeon RX 500 series is just a mild refresh of the RX 400 series. It seems that AMD felt it was time to move up a generation – in terms of marketing, if not the actual underlying technology.

The Radeon RX 400 series was important for AMD because it was the first to debut a significantly new architecture, called Polaris, which was long overdue after a string of minor refreshes of old products. In the face of multiple successful Nvidia GPUs, AMD had only been able to release the lukewarm Radeon RX 300 models that were just rebadged 200s, many of which themselves weren’t much different from the previous Radeon HD 7xxx series. Now, it seems that the company has gone back to old habits.

We have with us Asus’ ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC, which sells for Rs. 25,500. We’re eager to see how the Radeon RX 580 GPU stacks up against last year’s Radeon RX 480, and what exactly Asus’s implementation adds to the mix.

asus radeon 580 logo ndtv asus radeon RX 580

The Radeon RX 580 GPU
We’ve established that there isn’t anything different about the GPU’s underlying architecture, but there have been some improvements to the manufacturing process over time that allow AMD to extract slightly more performance per chip than when the RX 480 first went into production. The company simply calls this its “latest generation” 14nm process.

There are still 2,304 programmable cores that AMD calls “stream processors” organised into 36 clusters for a total of 5.7 billion transistors. AMD has set a base frequency of 1257MHz and a boost ceiling of 1340MHz, up from 1120MHz and 1266MHz respectively on the RX 480. Of course, board partners such as Asus are free to tweak those speeds if they can compensate with adequate cooling.

The memory bus is also still 256 bits wide but the memory speed has gone up to 8Gbps for an effective bandwidth of 256GBps. Radeon RX 580 cards will be available with either 4GB or 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. What is very interesting is that the GPU’s power draw has increased from 150W to 185W – a considerable amount, which doesn’t really mesh with AMD’s claim that improved power efficiency is the reason for the higher clock speeds.

asus radeon 580 topbottom ndtv asus radeon RX 580

Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC
There is no RX 580 reference design like there was for the RX 480. AMD’s partners are only selling cards with their own custom-designed coolers. Asus of course has a variety of models out, and the most elaborate of them is the ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC. As its name suggests, this card has 8GB of RAM and higher clock speeds – a base of 1360MHz, with a miniscule bump up to 1380MHz in “OC mode”.

This card is absolutely massive. It’s much taller, wider and thicker than it needs to be, and the main reason for that seems to be that some people just like hardware that they can show off. Flagship-class graphics cards are almost always 10.5 inches long and occupy two motherboard slots, but this card is nearly 12 inches long and thick enough to block three. You’ll need to make sure that your PC case can handle such a beast.

Asus justifies the card’s size and premium pricing by saying that there’s 40 percent more heatsink surface area than usual, resulting in better cooling. It has also used premium components all around, including the power regulators and a super-smooth precision-machined contact point that apparently helps pull heat away from the GPU.

Asus has gone with a grey colour for the fan shroud, with lots of sharply angled surfaces and claw-like cutouts for RGB LEDs. We’ve seen this design before, and it does look rather imposing. The LEDs light up in red by default though you can change this using Asus’s Aura software, and sync patterns with an Asus Aura motherboard and peripherals. There’s an illuminated “Republic of Gamers” label on the top of the shroud as well as an ROG logo on the backplate just in case another reminder was needed.

Three fans is probably overkill, but clearly Asus wasn’t going for subtlety here. According to the company, the patented fan blade design delivers lower noise, better airflow, and increased lifespan. The fans don’t spin unless they need to. Asus also provides headers so that you can have additional case fans triggered when the GPU temperature rises.

On the rear of the card, you’ll find one DVI-D port, two DisplayPorts, and two HDMI 2.0 outputs. This arrangement was chosen specifically so that you can use a VR headset and an HDMI monitor at the same time without adapters or having to swap plugs. Despite this card’s heavy-duty appearance, only one 8-pin PCIe power connector is required.

asus radeon 580 ports ndtv asus radeon RX 580

Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC setup and performance
Installing the card in our open-air test bench was no trouble, but you might struggle if you have a normal-sized ATX PC cabinet. There’s a plastic sheet over the backplate that needs to be removed before installation, but no obvious warning label or instructions. Asus provides plastic dust blockers for all ports, which we always appreciate. There are no display or power adapters in the box, but you aren’t likely to need any. Asus does throw in two Velcro cable ties, which could come in handy.

It became clear fairly quickly that Asus’s claims that this card runs nearly silent aren’t exactly accurate. You might not have to deal with the thrum of fans or blasts of air being pushed out through a narrow vent, but the card pretty much constantly made an audible high-pitched electronic whine. Whenever activity picked up and the fans started spinning, it started making buzzing, grating noises and the occasional loud chirp. Of course, this might have been a quirk of our review unit, and future firmware updates might help, but our early impressions of the card weren’t that great.

If this issue has to do with the components used or the overall design of the Strix cooler rather than a one-off defect with our one unit, your level of annoyance will depend on the type and positioning of your PC cabinet. On the bright side, our card didn’t get too hot at any point, and even ran for quite a long time before the fans needed to spin up.

 

The Aura lighting app worked just as expected, allowing us to choose a static colour or breathing, strobing and colour cycling effects. You don’t get multiple zones, but you can set the lights to pulse to your music or change with the card’s temperature.

Component
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 1800X
Motherboard MSI X370 Xpower Gaming Titanium
RAM 2×8 GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3000
SSD Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB
CPU cooler Noctua NH-U12S SE -AM4
PSU Corsair RM650
Monitor Asus PB287Q
OS Windows 10
We started testing the ROG Strix Radeon RX580’s performance with 3DMark, and got scores of 11,823, 5,884 and 3,132 in the Fire Strike Standard, Extreme, and Unlimited tests. For the sake of comparison, we redid the same tests with an older XFX Radeon R9 380X DD BLK OC 4GB card on the same rig, and got scores of 8,438, 4,176, and 2,221 respectively. The newer 3DMark Time Spy test returned 4,492 and 3,092 points respectively. You can check out test results for the Radeon RX 480 as well as Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 GPUs here, though they were tested with a different set of components.

Unigine Valley gave us 53.9fps running at 1920×1080 using the Ultra preset, while Star Swarm gave us 40.22fps with the Radeon RX 580 versus 35.7fps and 53.9fps respectively with the Radeon R9 380X. We ran Metro: Last Light Redux’s built-in benchmark at 2560×1440 with the High quality preset and got 76.38fps with the Radeon RX 580 and 54.31fps with the Radeon R9 380X.

Ashes of the Singularity uses the newer DirectX 12 API. We tested it at 2560×1440 using the Standard, High, and Extreme quality presets. Scores for the Radeon RX 580 were 61.9fps, 57.4fps, and 44.2fps respectively. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided gave us 28.9fps running at 2560×1440 using its High preset. Then, we moved on to real-world gameplay in a variety of games.

DOOM ran beautifully, as expected. Using the Ultra quality preset and Vulkan renderer, we played through the Foundry level and saw around 90-110fps on average at 2560×1440. We tried pushing the resolution up to 4K and saw that the average framerate dropped to 45-60. That isn’t too bad, but the experience is smoother at the lower resolution which means that this GPU really shouldn’t be pushed too hard in the latest games.

We ran through a bit of Rise of the Tomb Raider at 2560×1440 using the High preset. Frame rates stayed very consistent, with an average of 54fps and frame times averaging 18.6ms. We weren’t bothered by any tearing or skipping. This is a pretty comfortable combination of resolution and quality for the RX 580 to stay at. 4K is not really possible without compromising the frame times, which is about right considering AMD’s positioning.

Asus Radeon 580 rottr ndtv asus radeon 580

Next up, we ran through some forests and got into a few scuffles in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The resolution was set to 2560×1440, and both graphics and postprocessing were using their High presets. We did see a few glitches, but they were very slight. The 47fps average framerate doesn’t show smoothness, but a look at the frame time graph illustrates that there were quite a few erratic frames. Quality stayed above 30fps for the most part, but there were few noticeable tears. Most people should be fine with this level of performance considering how demanding this game is.

Asus Radeon 580 witcher3 ndtv asus radeon 580

Far Cry 4 also ran fairly well at 2560×1440 using its Very High preset. We got a fairly high average of 75fps, and the frame time graph shows that quite a lot of the action held steady at over 60fps. However, the game did stutter in places. We were tempted to push the resolution up to 4K, but found that 1440p was better overall in terms of smoothness.

Asus Radeon 580 fc4 ndtv asus radeon 580

Verdict
To cut a long story short, there is absolutely no reason for you to buy a new graphics card based on a Radeon RX 580 GPU if you’re already using a top-end model bought within the past two years, but it should be a worthy upgrade if you’re using an RX 200 series card or something from lower down the product stack. It’s more than enough for high-quality 1080p gaming, and does reasonably well at 1440p too. If you are determined to buy a high-end Radeon right now, make sure you’re getting an RX 580 and not the RX 480, since street prices are hovering at around the same level.

AMD should unveil its next-generation Vega architecture soon, but GPUs based on it will target much higher performance, and graphics cards will consequently be much more expensive. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 is also still a very strong competitor, and while it won’t beat an RX 580 comprehensively like it beat the RX 480 last year, lower street prices give the green team an advantage.

As for the Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC in particular, it’s clear that this card isn’t the most sensible option for mainstream users. It costs more than most other RX 580 8GB cards, and isn’t likely to deliver that much of a marginal performance improvement over a more conventional dual-fan cooler. We’re also wary of the electrical whine. If you need a graphics card to show off and aren’t willing to spend on a flagship-class GPU, the Strix Radeon RX 580 will satisfy you. If it’s going to stay hidden away in a windowless cabinet, save a bit of money and go with a less flashy model.

Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB OC
Price: Rs. 25,500

Pros
Looks like a more expensive graphics card
Good performance at 1080p and 1440p
RGB LED lighting effects

Cons
Oversized
Constant whine

Ratings (Out of 5)
Performance: 4
Value for Money: 3.5
Overall: 4

Google Assistant for iPhone Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Google Assistant works on iOS 9.1 or later
  • It’s only available for now via App Store in the US
  • Siri has a few homegrown advantages

Google Assistant now lives on the iPhone. Its purpose lies in its name: to help you with your day-to-day life, be it set reminders, play music, fire off emails, give you directions, and tell you random facts, among other things. If you’re thinking that’s what Siri is for, you’re right. Except Google’s offering can actually hold a conversation.

Ask Siri and the Assistant the capital of Uruguay, and they’ll both give you the same response. (It’s Montevideo, if you were curious.) But when you ask a follow-up question, say “What’s the weather like?”, Siri gives you the weather at your current location. It has already forgotten the query that came before. Google Assistant, on the other hand, can handle context, which allows it to give you the weather for Montevideo, and not where you are. You can then move the conversation forward, querying the best time to visit, or the places you should see.

Google Assistant for iPhone Review

That’s one of the things that makes the Assistant slightly unique. The other is the way you communicate; you can chat with Google’s digital assistant by either talking or typing, the latter of which Siri doesn’t do. It’s probably worth a mention that you could do the same inside Google’s chat app, Allo, earlier but Assistant now available without that convolution, as a standalone app. The ability to type and interact means you can use the Assistant on the train, or in a meeting, without feeling like a dork.

At launch, the Assistant is capable of a lot. Apart from the functionality listed above, it can initiate calls, provide answers or translations, play games, fetch sports scores, set timers, look up stock prices, places nearby, or the definition of any word; get flight status, your next meeting, food nutrition, or the news; and remember little nuggets of information (such as your bike lock). A lot of that is made possible by Google’s Knowledge Graph or linking into other Google apps: Calendar, Gmail, News, and so forth. It doesn’t support all of Google’s apps though, as you can’t use Inbox for emails, or Play Music for listening to music on iOS.

google assistant siri iphone Google Assistant Siri iPhone

You can even set up shortcuts in the app settings, which helps you cut down on repeating long phrases over and over to achieve the same thing. As an example, if you love watching videos of Corgi dogs on YouTube as a pick-me-up, you can set up a shortcut phrase, say, “Cheer me up”, which will then trigger the Assistant follow the much longer and complex command – “Show me Corgi videos on YouTube”.

But at the same time, owing to Apple’s baked-in restrictions, there’s a lot it can also not do. For one, it can’t talk to other apps like Siri can. That means it can’t call an Uber, or send a message through WhatsApp. It’s also not allowed to talk directly to any system apps and services, so you won’t be able to make handsfree calls, or toggle the Bluetooth setting.

The Google Assistant also steps into puddles of its own making on iOS. Every now and then, it tends to suggest features it can’t actually do – like “Start watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix on the TV” or “Play workout music on Google Play Music” – probably because of its roots in the Google ecosystem, but this is something that needs to be fixed, as it’s needlessly confusing for inexperienced users.

The first time we asked the Assistant to play music, it suggested “Listen to Imagine on Spotify” in the line below. But upon selecting it, it ruefully reminded us that it couldn’t do that. Another time, after singing a short song (yep, it can sing), one of the suggestions read “Tell me a poem”. Again, the function completely failed, and it instead looked up “Song Poem” on Apple Music. And though you can play anything on YouTube, much like on Android, Assistant for iOS still hasn’t been integrated with Google’s Chromecast hardware, so you can’t ask it to play stuff on your TV, like you can with Google Home.

IMG 2143 Google Assistant iPhone

Of course it’s not as simple to bring up Google Assistant as holding down the home button for Siri. Google’s way around that has to been craft a widget that you can quickly get to in iOS 10’s new widget panel. If you’ve place it at the top, you can get it by swiping right from the lock screen, from the left of home screen, or by pulling down the notification drawer and swiping right. But it’s still nowhere as convenient as the single press of a button. Even more so if you have security (passcode/ Touch ID) turned on, as pressing the widget’s button on the lock screen prompts you to unlock the phone.

What’s worse, for now, Google Assistant is only available via the US App Store (and in turn, only in US English), so its availability is limited at best. And thanks to the single language support – the Google Assistant is available in English (India) on Android – the iOS counterpart isn’t obviously as good with picking up Indian names.

But there are ways the Assistant is also better on iPhone than Android, surprisingly. You can listen to the news on iOS, and even customise your preferred news sources in the settings. If you ask the Assistant to “listen to the news” on Android, it starts searching for music called “the news” on Play Music, funnily enough.

For what it’s worth, it’s a kink waiting to be resolved, and the Assistant will always be more helpful on Android, thanks to the deeper integration. And for as long as Siri gets priority override on the iPhone, Google Assistant can hang around on Apple’s turf, but this will never be its true home.

Google Trusted Contacts Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Trusted Contacts lets you share location
  • It lets people you trust track your location
  • It’s useful when, say, you are returning home late

Safety isn’t something anyone should take for granted, no matter where they live. Whether you’re returning home after a late night with friends, or simply returning late from work during rush hour, there’s a good chance you might have received calls from loved ones asking where you are. Annoying as these calls or texts might be, they only show that someone cares about you.

There’s no shortage of ways to let people know where you are. You can share your location via practically any messaging app, or just let your loved ones know where you are via calls or texts. If you are in a crowded bus or train and can’t use your phone, you can simply use an app such as Google’s Trusted Contacts to do this for you.

 

Google Trusted Contacts Review

Trusted Contacts lets you create a list of, well, trusted contacts, who can access your location anytime, anywhere. Instead of calling or texting you, they simply click a button and find out where you are. This is a very useful feature from a safety standpoint. You’ll be asked if you want to share your location, so you know who is looking for you, but if you don’t respond, the details will be shared to the trusted contact anyway, as a safety feature.

We installed the app on an Android phone (the iOS version is still in the works) and added a couple of trusted contacts. But before you can add any contacts, the app reminds you that you need to enable location history and location sharing. Now most people already have this turned on if they use any kind of location-based apps on Android, but if you are worried about sharing your location with Google, with might be a problem.

Once you decide to give Google to access your location at all times, you can add trusted contacts. Trusted contacts can see your location via the app, but they don’t need to install it just to see your whereabouts. You can instead invite them to check your location via email. They can simply click a link and access your location via the Web.

Make sure that you don’t share this address with anyone else as it’s a publicly visible URL, which is a privacy concern. You can stop sharing your location at any point, after which no one will be able to see it. But at the time you are sharing it, the URL should still ideally be viewable only by people you’ve invited.

Sharing your location is easy enough. You just need to tap a button, and it starts happening until you stop sharing it the same way. That’s different from apps such as Find My Friends, available on Apple’s iOS, which share your location whenever your trusted friend seeks this information. When sharing is on, the app also lets people see where you are while you’re commuting, which is a nice addition. They can also request your location via the app or Web, and you get a notification for it. If you don’t respond within five minutes, your location gets shared automatically.

We tested this app in Delhi and it worked as expected. You could just as easily share your location via WhatsApp if you don’t mind having to manually send your location – and of course, you would lose out on live tracking too. Overall, we can recommend this app but be aware that sharing your location will decrease your smartphone’s battery life. If the privacy concerns don’t bother you and you are on Android, Trusted Contacts is a good app you to share your location with your loved ones.

 

Sennheiser HD 2.10 Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Sennheiser HD 2.10 is priced at Rs. 3,990
  • The ear cups fold inwards for better portability
  • Headphones need good amplification to be driven properly

Having recently reviewed the HD 4.30G, it’s now time to take a closer look at a more portable option called the HD 2.10. Unlike the HD 4.30G, these headphones aren’t designed specifically to be used with smartphones as they lack an in-line controls but they do fold, just like the other HD 2 and HD 4 series headphones that the company launched this year.

In India, the HD 2.10 is still on the expensive side retailing at Rs. 3,990, compared to other countries where it’s a lot less. Let’s see what you get after paying this premium.

Sennheiser HD 2.10 design and features
The headphones are packaged well and only ship with an instruction leaflet. There’s no carry pouch included in the box. It’s built entirely of plastic which makes them very light and just like the HD 4.30G, the headphones fold inwards so they’re easy to carry about. The oval shaped ear cups have foam padding without any recesses so they sit on your ear. There’s leatherette covering for the ear cups along with a circular cut out for a cloth insert to let the sound through. They can also swivel and pivot to a small degree so you can adjust the fit for your head.

Sennheiser HD 2.10 fold ndtv Sennheiser HD 2.10

However, it took us a while to figure out which one is left and right as the ‘L’ and ‘R’ markings are placed at the tip of the headband, inwards, which seems like a poor design choice. A quicker way to know the right way of wearing them is to look at angle of the ear cups, as they should be at a slant, with the top portion tipping towards the back. The height of the headband can be adjusted by sliding the ear cups upwards or downwards. The headband itself has good flex with a rubber lining underneath for your head, although it lacks proper cushioning.

The HD 2.10 has dual-sided 1.4m symmetrical cable that terminates into a standard, L-shaped 3.5mm headphone jack. The flattened cables feel durable and they don’t tangle easily. In terms of specifications, Sennheiser doesn’t talk about the size of the drivers but we do know it has an Impedance of 26 Ohms and frequency response of 18Hz to 18,000Hz. The Impedance rating is a bit on the higher side (compared to 18 Ohms on the HD 4.30G), which might prove to be challenging for portable devices to drive these headphones properly.

Sennheiser HD 2.10 performance
The HD 2.10s cling snugly to your ear and don’t move about too much even when you’re on the run. We also didn’t encounter any major fatigue while wearing them for hours on end. They manage to cut out some ambient noise but not so much which is both a good and bad thing. The good part is that you don’t have to take your headphones off to know what’s happening around you which is useful when commuting, but on the flip side, the volume needs to be boosted quite a bit in order to drown out the outside noise. Thankfully, the Sennheiser HD 2.10 doesn’t leak too much sound.

Sennheiser HD 2.10 ear cup ndtv Sennheiser HD 2.10

We tested the headphones on the HTC 10 and the Asus Xonar U7 DAC connected to a PC. We also used the headphones with other devices like an iPad and the iPhone 7. Focus tracks included Fast Car (feat. Dakota) by Jonas Blue, In the Blood by John Mayer, and Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd.

When using a smartphone, the HD 2.10s sound very flat with emphasis on mostly the treble, with weak mid-range and mostly non-existent bass. The volume also had to be raised quite a bit for the audio to be clearly audible over ambient noise, which just makes them sound even brighter. With HTC’s BoomSound turned on, volume levels were a lot better with a warmer tone to the sound. Bass improves a bit not by much however, the mid-range and higher frequencies tend to normalise thereby diluting the otherwise flat sonic signature of the headphones. We had a similar experience on an iPhone 7 too. Essentially, if you’re smartphone doesn’t have a good headphone DAC then the HD 2.10s won’t sound very good.

When used with a DAC, the headphones perform a lot better with nicely detailed highs and a smooth mid-range, however it still struggles with lower frequencies without an equaliser to help out. Vocal heavy tracks like John Mayer’s In the Blood really shine. We like that headphones don’t colour the sound too much so low bi-rate audio files sound quite bad, despite the amplification while properly amplified FLAC files sound very good. The HD 2.10s aren’t really designed to deliver deep bass as despite our efforts, we weren’t able to get them to perform to our tastes.

Sennheiser HD 2.10 band ndtv Sennheiser HD 2.10

Verdict
The Sennheiser HD 2.10 costs Rs. 3,990, which is a lot of money considering you can fetch the much better Denon AH-D510R or even the Audio Technica ATH-M30X at a similar price. The trouble with the HD 2.10 is that they need good amplification in order to sound balanced, else be prepared for a very flat sonic signature. They also fail to produce rich bass no matter the source material or amplification, which could be down to the drivers more than anything else. Also, we would have liked to see a carry pouch in the bundle considering the headphones’ theme. The Sennheiser HD 2.10 comes with two years of warranty.

Overall, given the headphones build and performance, it would have made sense if it was priced closer to Rs. 2,000, but at its current price, it’s a bit too expensive to consider.

Price (MRP): Rs. 3,990

Pros

  • Foldable design
  • Comfortable for extended use
  • Sound isn’t too coloured


Cons

  • Requires good amplification to sound good
  • No carry pouch bundled
  • Cannot deliver deep bass
  • Expensive

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 3.5
  • Performance: 3.5
  • Value for Money: 2.5
  • Overall: 3

[“Source-ndtv”]