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8/19/2019

Perfect Sound With Great Comfort

For most users, headphones should be able to shut out the rackety world and focus on the songs that move them or prose that inspires them. If you’re dead serious about not missing a single word or note, having noise cancellation is a must. And, today we’ll be looking at Sony’s latest pair of noise-canceling headphones, and why am I compelled to recommend them over the top competitor, Bose QC35 II.

Sony WH-1000XM3, the obvious successor to WH-1000XM2, feels snug and comfortable, has a delightfully balanced sound output, and most importantly excels when it comes to cutting out ambient noise. All of these elements come together to offer a charming listening experience, whether you’re an audiophile, a budding musician, or simply watching movies. In term of sound, the Sony headphones priced at Rs 29,990 are able to reproduce deep bass, but without overshadowing the natural sound.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

An improved array of noise-canceling microphones, a finer finish than the previous model, touch controls, and USB-C for charging are elements on the Sony WH-1000XM3 that appeal for your attention. There’s a little trick to listen to ambient sounds clearly even without having to take the headphones off and I love it.

Once you start using them, these elements are certain to make your affair with music, movies, or commentary of any form even more exciting.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Specifications

Let us first take a look at the specifications of the Sony WH-1000XM3:
Driver    40mm dome type
Frequency Response    20Hz - 20kHz (SBC)
20Hz - 40kHz (LDAC, 96)
4Hz - 40kHz (active operations)
Impedance    47 Ohm
Bluetooth    Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX HD, LDAC support
Battery    38 hours (Bluetooth + ANC off)
30 hours (Bluetooth + ANC on)
200 hours (Stand-by + ANC off)
Wired Connections    3.5mm
Noise Cancellation Technology    Active Noise Cancellation & Ambient Sound Mode
Charging Port    USB Type-C
Weight     255 grams
Price    Rs 29,990 (Amazon India / Flipkart)

The WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling headphones have a wide range of frequency response, far beyond the human hearing capacity. Another striking aspect is the long and endearing battery life, almost making you forget about charging the headset.

So, then, let’s start by taking a peek inside the box contents.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Box Contents

Inside the box, you get the following:

    Sony WH-1000XM3 wireless noise-canceling headphones
    USB-C Cable
    3.5mm Aux cable
    Carrying case
    Plug adaptor for in-flight usage
    Instruction manual and other paperwork

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

While the carrying case is a useful addition, I admire the included Aux cable which comes with a L-shaped connector at one of the ends. This makes it easier to use them with a PC or older gizmos like a classic iPod easier in my opinion.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Design and Build

Sony WH-1000XM3 is not the most visually striking pair of headphones out there unless you prefer minimalism. The all-black or all-beige body is interrupted by copper accents around the grilles shielding the mics and the same colour is seen on the Sony branding on both earcups. The simple design is suited for those who wants nothing but unbeatable sound quality and flawless noise canceling.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

When the comfort of Sony WH-1000XM3 is in question, the cushion used on both the earcups and the headband feels assuring and you can wear it for long durations without discomfort. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve worn the headset throughout the day and even dozed off wearing them at night without feeling distressed or weighed down. But if you plan to wear it all day long, be ready to feel groggy when you finally take them off.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

In terms of bendability, the Sony headphones might not be as stretchable as Bose QC35 II, but that does not lead to unwanted hindrance in wearability. When not in use, I have kept the headphones hanging around my neck without feeling the need to take them off and free my neck – simply because these headphones never hinder neck movements.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

When it comes to the utility, you get power and ANC buttons (which can be repurposed to bring up Google Assistant) on the rim of the left earcup while the right earcup has touch controls instead of buttons. While the swiping gestures take some time getting used to, the controls are fairly reliable. For play/pause, you double tap in the middle of the right cup, swipe right or left for forward or rewind, and swipe up or down for altering the volume of the headset.

When it’s time to charge them or give the headphones some respite, you can fold them – thanks to the swivel design – into a compact form so that they don’t eat much space on your desk or nightstand. Furthermore, there’s a small dot etched on the left earcup so that it is easy for the visually impaired to distinguish between the left and right earcups.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

I’ve used these headphones while out on a run, as well as while working out, and have had no issues with the stability – as long as the headband is resting tightly. However, you will get sweat on the padding and since Sony does not actually speak of any kind of water or sweat resistance, I think you would be better off with limiting these headphones to indoor use.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

Overall, I adore the simple and clean design. And while, the touch controls do take a few days of practice to get used to, using the headphones gets much simpler once you have mastered that. At least, compared to buttons which might be difficult to find just by touching.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Sound Quality

I’ve come face-to-face with what I think is philosophical essence of music while using these Sony headphones. This is because listening to music or any form of commentary on the Sony WH-1000XM3 feels like a spiritual experience. The sound is well-balanced throughout all frequencies, producing a rich and delightful experience in all conditions.

    I wish I had another pair of ears so I could enjoy the sound even better.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

Honestly, no other headphones come close to this kind of acoustic quality at this price that I have come to experience with the Sony WH-1000XM3. The bass is rich and deep and does not get muddled by other frequencies or distorted at high gain. If you’re listening to music with heavy bass, you will be able to differentiate between the varying notes, and that sensation is preserved even when there’s another loop or instrument layered on top of it. When the bass is strong, you’ll feel a strong wave hitting your ears, but gently. This quality is almost akin to standing in front of bass amp at a concert. You simply feel the bass, not just hear it.

Whether you listen to grunge to smooth jazz, mids on the Sony WH-1000XM3 are unimaginably good. You won’t experience any form of crackling or distortion even if you crank the gain up to ten (or eleven if you’re a Marshall fan). Vocals and other instruments which fall in the range are clear and crisp, and don’t bite into the range of other instruments.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

The highs produced by Sony WH-1000XM3 are pretty clear too and do not sound shrill or shrieky in any way. Whether its a trombone or an electric guitar with a chorus effect, the headphones will deliver the right tone without compromising on quality. I’ve embraced many new experimental genres diverging out of rock and heavy metal (my primary appetite for music) for this reason.

There’s good news for cinephiles too as the headphones offer a rich playback experience without letting background scores or dialogues mesh into each other’s territory.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

If I have to summarize the sound quality, I’d say that the Sony WH-1000XM3 eerily replicate almost the same experience as the original studio recording. Even though it’s not meant to be neutral studio headphones. Needless to say, you hear a lot of new elements or instruments that might have never heard before.

However, when it comes to calling, the listener on the other end might hear a lot of noise while you struggle to be heard and so I have found myself not using these headphones while calling.

So, if you’re an indie producer or a resolute audiophile, these headphones should definitely make sense to you. You can also enhance the sound further by using the compatible app called Sony Headphones Connect.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Active Noise Cancellation

Active noise cancellation (ANC) is the spotlight feature on the Sony WH-1000XM3, which is also the reason you’re paying the premium. With this pair of headphones, the intensity of noise cancellation can be adjusted over 20 steps, which is really impressive. These settings can be tuned manually using the app, which we’ll learn about in the next section.

Besides ANC, the button can be used to toggle ambient sound, which means that you will be able to hear the background sounds with clarity and this is especially useful when you’re walking on the road or working out with the headphones. Alternatively, you can place your hand over the right earcup to lower the volume of the headphones and activate ambient sound, which comes in handy when someone approaches to talk to you but the feature might test your patience at times.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

When ANC is turned on, it blocks out background noise majorly, cutting out any distraction and this has especially helped me focus on work despite being surrounded by talkative colleagues. The feature should also be useful for frequent flyers, irrespective of whether you’re flying a jet flight or a small propeller-driven carrier.

Do note that if you’re accustomed to using noise-canceling microphones, you might feel a sensation similar to altitude sickness or nausea initially but your ears should adapt to it over time.
Sony Headphones Connect App

The companion app for the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphone is pretty useful for displaying a variety of information and allowing you to change a long list of settings to ensure the best sound experience and we’ll learn about each setting one-by-one. First of all, the app shows you the amount of battery on the headset as well as the mode of connection.
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Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review
Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

The first setting that you get control over is for Adaptive Sound Control. Based on the sensors from your smartphone, the app can learn if you’re standing, walking, or running and automatically adjust the amount of ambient sound creeping into the earcups, to prevent any accident or mishap due to blockage of sound. You may also choose to turn it off.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

Alternatively, you can choose to toggle ambient noise control on or off and select the degree of noise cancellation ranging from zero (complete noise cutoff) to 20 (lowest).

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

Then, there’s an option to optimize the noise cancellation based on the ambient pressure and presumably, the distance between the drivers and your eardrums. The feature recommends you tune these settings every time you change how you wear headphones. The process takes hardly 20 seconds.
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Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review
Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

Next, you can change the spatial positioning of the sound source. You can also change the surround sound effects if you want to enjoy the same sound experience as that of a concert hall or a club etc. as well as adjust the equalizer if you want a brighter or mellow texture. You also get two custom equalizer presets which you can customize to your liking.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

Then, you get the options to control playback and to choose between optimal sound quality or a stable connection. When you choose the latter, the connection switches to SBC. Additionally, there’s an option to upscale the quality of lossless formats like FLAC or WAV through Sony’s proprietary Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE HX) technology.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

Lastly, there are options to assign the function of the ANC button and to set an auto-shutdown timer when the headphones are not connected.

There’s one feature I miss in this app and that is the ability to connect or disconnect other devices. But that aside, the wide range of settings enhance the overall listening experience. You can get the app on both – Google Play Store (free) and iOS App Store (free).
Sony WH-1000XM3 Connectivity

Sony WH-1000XM3 runs on Bluetooth 4.2 and supports a wide range of protocols like SBC, AAC, and includes support for hi-res audio formats such as aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC. You should have no problem connecting the headphones to any devices – I’ve tried them with Poco F1, OnePlus 6T, iPhone XR, 2017 MacBook Pro, and a bunch of Windows laptops. While, in terms of laptops, I find the audio quality slightly lacking, but using an Aux cable rectifies that and you can continue using the active noise control with the wired connection.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

In terms of the range of connection, the headphones stay connected for up to almost 10 meters (30 feet), even there are thick walls in between. Further, pairing is a cohesive experience, and NFC makes it even easier. When you move out of the connectivity zone and come back, Sony WH-1000XM3 connects very easily.

At the same time, the headphones can stay connected to two devices at once and while the headphones will not play media from two sources at once (obviously), switching between sources is effortless – just pause one and play the other.

For charging, you get a USB-C port which is an unusual sight amidst the sea of micro USB ports on most audio accessories. This, however, does not speed up charging as we will see next.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Battery

Not just sound, the Sony WH-1000XM3 also passes with flying colors when it comes to its battery life. Sony has claimed that the headphones can last for up to 30 hours of continuous playback even when active noise cancellation (ANC) is switched on.

In my test of the WH-1000XM3, I could easily get more than three days of continuous playback during my commute to work, while at work, way back home, and even after that. All of this while continuously using ANC. Even with 20% battery, the headphones easily last for three to four hours of seamless playback and that is commendable – although the low battery warning does come up every now and then.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review

But for the long battery backup, you’ll have to make do with the long charging duration. To charge fully, the headphones take around 200 minutes (or 20 minutes over three hours). However, you need not necessarily charge the headset only when you have three hours at hand and only 15 minutes of charging can offer you a usage of a couple of hours.

To sum it up, I have no issues spending three hours charging the Sony WH-1000XM3 because it pays off with the insanely prolonged backup.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Pros and Cons

Sony WH-1000XM3, as I mentioned above, brings great quality sound, with tons of optimization options available in the companion app to help you choose the best sound to suit your ears. I also fancy the minimal design and easily graspable touch controls.

While complaining about the headphones will simply be nitpicking, here are the pros and cons of owning the Sony WH-1000XM3 noise-cancellation headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM3 active noise canceling headphones Review
Pros

    Durable build
    Comfortable to wear
    USB-C
    Great battery life
    Versatile and rich recording-quality sound
    20-step noise cancellation

Cons

    Not great for calling
    Can’t disconnect other devices using the app

Sony WH-1000XM3: Studio Quality at Your Disposal

The pair of headphones is clearly one of the best in this price range that you can cozily wear on your ears. Sony WH-1000XM3 feel like the true successor, with much better noise canceling and a crystal clear sound experience.

    Listening to music or any form of commentary on the Sony WH-1000XM3 is a spiritual experience

Besides the striking sound quality, I am in love with the long battery life. Before using these headphones, I faced the predicament of whether you really need to pay Rs 30,000 for the great audio experience and now I can tell you that it is worth each penny.

In this price range, you will find Sennheiser PXC550 (Rs 29,990) if you want a lightweight headset, and the Boss QuietComfort35 II (Rs 26,425).

While I stand by Sony’s stunning clarity, which I can assure is better if you want true and unamplified tones, I’ll also be bringing you a comparison with the Bose QC35 II soon.

Irrespective of that, it would not necessarily take an audiophile to appreciate the sound quality of these Sony headphones. If you’re in the market for headphones priced nearly the same, buying the Sony WH-1000XM3 makes a lot of sense. These are also suitable for gaming, apart from music or other forms of entertainment. As a millennial, the good ol’ idiot box has been an essential part of my growing up, development, exposure to the world around me, as well as primary to my entertainment. For this reason, TVs and not smartphones are my preferred mode of entertainment at home. But over the years, our TVs have become smart as well, letting us do what we needed a smartphone or computer to do a few years ago.

Xiaomi disrupted smart TV market last year and Mi TVs are among the most attractive products the company has made. Now, after smashing competitors with its ultra-affordable HD and full HD smart TVs, Xiaomi has announced a 55-inch 4K UHD LED smart TV with an introductory price of Rs 39,999 and we’ve naturally been eyeing it since launch.

Simply based on the specifications, one can be confident that this TV offers a good value for money. But how well does the Mi LED TV 4X PRO live up to the promise of 4K video, is something we’ll test in this review. Let’s start with a look at the specifications of the massive 4K smart TV by Xiaomi.

mi led tv 4k 55 inch
Mi LED TV 4X PRO Specification
Display Technology    IPS/VA with LED backlight
Screen Size    138.8 cm (55 inches)
Resolution    3840 x 2160 UHD
Refresh Rate    60 Hz
Image Aspect Ratio    16:9
Weight    13 kg (including feet)
Screen Shape    Flat
Audio Wattage    20 Watts
Smart TV    Yes; In-Built Chromecast
Operating System    Android TV (8.1 Oreo)
App Store    Official Google Play Store
CPU    Quad Core Cortex-A53x4 64bit
GPU    Mali-450
RAM    2GB
ROM    8GB
HDR Compatible    Yes; HDR10
Remote    Bluetooth remote with mic
3D Capable    No

The Mi LED TV 4X PRO is decently powered and the quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, and 8GB of storage, seem to satisfy the requirements of a basic smart TV. However, when you bring 4K into perspective, the hardware seems a bit underpowered. Moreover, there’s no dedicated woofer, leaving us with the desire to investigate how well the Mi TV 4X PRO works for reproducing soundtracks or background scores with heavy bass.

But as intended, we shall start by taking a look at the design and the build quality of the display.
Mi LED TV 4X PRO Design and Build

Enormous is the first word that comes to your mind when you visit the Mi LED TV 4X PRO for the first time – we say visit because it will definitely take a lot of room. The 55-inch display is really tempting to look at, and the thin bezels make it look even more compelling. But that impression is washed when you witness the Mi TV from up close.

mi led tv 4k 55 inch

As one encounters the Mi LED TV 4X PRO up front, the illusion about its supreme build quality comes crashing down like hard-hitting truth. You need not switch on the 55-inch Mi TV to understand that its build quality is a glittery sham, mostly comprising thin and seemingly feeble plastic material. The provided base stands seem too frail to hold the weight of the TV, and the upper half of the TV swings dangerously like a bridge in strong wind.
mi led tv 4k 55 inch
mi led tv 4k 55 inch
mi led tv 4k 55 inch

As you move to the back of the display, you can see the same less-than-reliable quality of the construction material. Besides rough edges from the die mold, one can easily feel the bending and flexing throughout the rear panel of the Mi LED TV 4X PRO, which leaves you with nothing but a sense of insecurity about the build quality.

Besides that, there are no button controls on the TV — the only physical button is the power button, which is hidden underneath the infrared receiver under the central Mi branding on the base.

mi led tv 4k 55 inch

The overall impression I got is that the TV will not last me long in this position. Thus, it is only advisable if you’re going to tether it to the wall using a wall mount and not move it very often. Besides that, the TV cannot be called thin but nor does it feel bulky or intrusive despite its size, in my opinion, that is one good thing about it.

Note: you’ll need to buy the wall mount separately for Rs 499

A counter-argument for this seemingly cheap build is that the Mi LED TV 4X PRO is likely to be one of the most affordable 55-inch TVs with a 4K UHD resolution in India. So without any delay, let’s suss out the picture quality.
Mi LED TV 4X PRO Picture Quality

The Mi LED TV 4X PRO has a 55-inch panel with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. The display can play HDR10 content, although there’s no HDR10+ support. Broadly advertised as an LED TV, which depending on the unit you get is an IPS or a VA panel backlit by LEDs. The first thing we could tell about the display is that it is dull and the colors do not seem striking, nor is it super bright as Xiaomi has claimed it to be.

mi led tv 4k 55 inch

Within the UI, there are options to change the brightness, contrast, sharpness, hue, saturation, and white balance. But despite of cranking the brightness to full, the display fails to produce anything close to stunning picture quality. In most scenarios, the display quality is just decent and not as impressive as one would expect a 4K panel to be.
mi led tv 4k 55 inch
Tiny bezels but nothing more

If you’re expecting to be surprised by the HDR playback of the Mi LED TV 4X PRO, you will only be disappointed. I, honestly, couldn’t figure out any noticeable difference between SDR and HDR content and this is possibly due to the insufficient brightness of the panel. Since it is an LED-backlit panel, there is sufficient dimming of the dark areas on the screen, but not as deep or accurate like in an OLED TV, which suggests that the LEDs for backlight are aligned with the edges and not directly under the panel.

Lastly, what irks me more is that the display is really reflective, so if you’re in a well-lit room, the chances of any light source obstructing your view are high.
Mi LED TV 4X PRO Audio

The Mi LED TV 4X PRO features a pair of 10W speakers at the bottom, which relays a sound output of 20W in total. These speakers get sufficiently loud to fill up a big room very easily without any observable crackling. In our office, the sound from the TV could be heard clearly from over 20 feet away. While there’s no Dolby support, the loud output makes up for it, and Xiaomi seems to have done a fair job in terms of the quality.

mi led tv 4k 55 inch

The only two caveats are that the speakers throw the sound downwards and not straight at you, thereby resulting in slightly lower clarity and less immersive feel. Further, since there’s no dedicated sub-woofer in the TV, the bass cannot be heard. If you want a bass-forward sound, the best option will be to pair the TV with an external home theater unit or a soundbar such as the one from Xiaomi, which we recently reviewed.
Mi LED TV 4X PRO User Experience

In the past, Xiaomi has received much flak for not supporting the direct installation of Android apps on its TV despite running an indirect version of Android. With the newer generation of TVs, Xiaomi has opened the gates to Google Play Services right out-of-the-box and the Mi LED TV 4X PRO runs two interfaces or launchers parallelly – one is the classic Android TV interface which separates apps in an organized and structured layout, alongside Xiaomi’s own Patchwall which curates content from different supported apps like Hungama Music, Sony LIV, Zee5 etc. and shows you a catalog that you can play directly without entering each app separately.
mi led tv 4k 55 inch
Xiaomi’s Patchwall
App Support

I personally prefer using the Android TV interface more, simply because it’s cleaner and uses a font that does not make me cringe. Further, with the support for Google Play Store, you can install a variety of Android TV apps like Hotstar, Facebook Watch, Vimeo, ESPN, Kodi, VLC Player etc. and even enjoy some games including Hungry Shark and Asphalt 8 on the massive screen – although you might need a keyboard or a gamepad to enjoy these. Furthermore, if the apps are not available directly, you can sideload them using a third-party store called Aptoide TV and this enables you to install apps in tablet mode if their Android TV variant is either not available or not supported.
mi led tv 4k 55 inch
Android TV interface

I used Aptoide to install Prime Video, which is not available via Play Store, and the tablet version of Netflix – since the Mi LED TV 4X PRO does not support the Android TV app for Netflix. It lacks Netflix support probably because Xiaomi appears to have opted out of paying the premium for certification, in order to keep the TV’s price low.
mi led tv 4k 55 inch
Using Netflix with mouse

So for all your binges on Netflix, get ready to use Android tablet version of the app, and you would need a mouse since the app is not optimized to be used with a TV remote. Besides that, despite setting the quality to high, we could not enjoy 4K or HDR content on Netflix.
Google Assistant

mi led tv 4k 55 inch google assistant

Thanks to the dedicated Google Assistant button, you can activate the virtual assistant and use the inbuilt mic in the remote controller to speak commands. However, as of now, the Assistant’s usability is limited to launching apps or performing basic searches on YouTube.
Truly 4K?

While there’s a great emphasis on 4K, the TV struggles when running 4K content on services like YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, or Netflix (using the hack). There’s a lot of stuttering and screen tearing while playing UHD content. Unless you have 4K content pre-downloaded, the TV won’t be of much use. Of course, you can always hook up a Fire TV Stick 4K and play 4K content through the supported apps there, but then that makes the Mi TV just a 4K display.

mi led tv 4k 55 inch

Additionally, the elements in the UI are not very well adapted to the 4K resolution and one can see a lot of blurring, which is likely to bog down your experience if you’re particular about nuances like these. I personally did not enjoy playing around the UI as well as the animations, even though there wasn’t that much to complain.
Using Netflix with mouse
Management settings

Overall, while the Android UI is a step ahead of the earlier Patchwall, proper support for apps, especially Netflix, will actually be appreciated. Apart from that, I faced no issues, and the experience was good  – if not specifically great – and you should be able to get used to it, even if you have no experience of using smart TVs.
Mi LED TV 4X PRO Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, the Mi LED TV 4X PRO isn’t very well endowed but features some basic input options including three HDMI ports, two USBs, RCA input, an SPDIF jack, and a TV antenna port. Besides these ports, you get dual-band Wi-Fi which guarantees seamless wireless connectivity, although the Ethernet port ensures that you can enjoy lag-free internet access if you are okay with a wired connection.
mi led tv 4k 55 inch
mi led tv 4k 55 inch

Apart from that, the TV supports Bluetooth 4.2 which is also used to connect with the remote control alongside Bluetooth headphones, speakers, or the official Mi Soundbar. Lastly, there’s inbuilt support for Chromecast so that you can cast from smartphones or Chrome directly onto the TV. Sadly, this doesn’t work while casting Netflix.
Remote Controller

Coming to the remote controller which accompanies the Mi LED TV 4X PRO, it is fairly compact and tactile. As mentioned above, the Mi LED TV remote pairs with the TV over Bluetooth. It has a fairly simple layout, with a power button at the top-most, a dedicated Google Assistant button, direction pad with a selection button in the center, a volume up and down button, a back button, and dedicated keys for the Android home interface as well Xiaomi’s Patchwall UI. Xiaomi’s decision of omitting the numpad can be appreciated, as it results in a light and minimal remote – although I wish it supported the ability to be used as an air mouse.

mi led tv 4k 55 inch

The mic on the top of the remote will also help you in voice searches if you wish to avoid typing one button at a time on the on-screen keyboard. It is not always accurate and does not recognize the commands correctly all the time, but it does the job, more or less.
Mi LED TV 4X PRO: Pros and Cons

The Mi LED TV 4X PRO is surely an intriguing proposition given its large screen and the promise of 4K and while it may feel seem like a useful product, it lacks in certain areas. Here’s a rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of buying the colossal Mi LED TV.
Pros

    Thin bezels
    Great value for 4K
    Android TV interface
    Sufficiently loud and clear speakers
    Basic connectivity options including LAN port
    Google Assistant and voice control built-in

mi led tv 4k 55 inch
Playing Android games like Asphalt 8 on Mi LED TV 4X using gamepad
Cons

    Bad build quality
    Average picture quality
    No direct Netflix or Amazon Prime support
    Speakers lack bass
    Gimmicky HDR support
    UI not optimized for 4K

Mi LED TV 4X PRO: Leaves You Unsatisfied

The Mi LED TV 4X PRO is, by all means, a delightful product, with its ability to accomplish almost everything a basic Android TV can offer. However, both in terms of the hardware and the software, there are some loose edges, owing to the middling build quality and improper app support, especially in the case of Netflix. Besides that, the picture quality is far from impressive considering it is a 4K panel.

mi led tv 4k 55 inch

If good picture quality, surround sound audio and long-lasting build are things on the top of your wishlist for the next smart TV, you should skip this 55-inch unit and grab a smaller TV from another more established brand with proper support for the leading apps. Or, you could check out the 4K Android TV from TCL’s iFFALCON (Rs 38,999) or the Android-certified 4K TV from Vu (Rs 44,999) for better sound and a truer Android experience.

It could fit your needs if you want the massive screen for a large family or for a big room for general TV viewing and already have a soundbar or speaker system. The TV will serve you with basic Android apps and games, and let you enjoy your favorite shows or movies in 4K offline as streaming UHD content can be a painful experience. The Mi LED TV 4X PRO can be a great option for you as it brings good value for money, it’s a shame it won’t satisfy those looking for great picture quality as well.
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The Best Budget Smartphone to Buy Review?

Asus gave us an alternative to Xiaomi’s entry-level Redmi phones with the launch of ZenFone Max M1, as well as the ZenFone Lite L1, just a couple of months ago. And now the company is out to completely take over the budget segment. Asus ZenFone Max M2 is already out now, and brings along plenty of notable changes.

The ZenFone Max M2 (starts at Rs 9,999) might have a familiar feel to it, but it has grown up in terms of the user experience, and is sticking its head out of the entry-level segment. The smartphone is now powered by a Snapdragon 600-series chipset, features dual rear-cameras, a metal back, and also a massive battery, which sees Asus label it as the “most powerful and feature-laden” in its price bracket.

Asus ZenFone Max M2 beautiful

Well, those are some towering claims and I really wanted to put the ZenFone Max M2 to the test. Asus loaned us the black variant of this smartphone and I’ve been using it as a daily driver for the past week, so let’s see if it’s a befitting upgrade or not?
ZenFone Max M2: Specifications

Before we step ahead and share my experience with the ZenFone Max M2, let’s take a quick peek at the specifications table for the device:
Dimensions    158.41 x 76.28 x 7.7 mm
Weight    160 grams
Display    6.26-inch HD+ IPS LCD
Processor    Snapdragon 632
RAM    3/4GB
Internal Storage    32/64GB
Rear Cameras    13MP (f/1.8) + 2MP
Front Camera    8MP (f/2.0)
Operating System    Android 8.1 Oreo
Battery    4,000mAh
Sensors    Rear-mounted fingerprint, Accelerator, E-Compass, Proximity, Ambient light sensor, Gyroscope
Connectivity    WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, 3.5mm audio jack
Colors    Blue and Black
ZenFone Max M2: What’s in the Box

Asus still seems to be figuring out the vibe of its budget smartphone packaging and has grown up from the bland gray and blue aesthetic. The ZenFone Max M2 comes packed inside a slick black cardboard box, which you can slide out to gain access to all the contents listed down below:

    ZenFone Max M2 (Black)
    10W charging adapter
    microUSB charging cable
    SIM ejector tool
    Clear silicone case
    User Manual & leaflets

It’s good to see Asus include a silicone case within the box as there’s no Gorilla Glass 6 protection on board here as is the case with the ZenFone Max Pro M2.
ZenFone Max M2: Design and Build

Right off the bat, when you take the ZenFone Max M2 out of the box, you will see that the smartphone holds an uncanny resemblance to the ZenFone Max Pro M1, in terms of the rear design. The placement of the dual cameras, the fingerprint scanner, and even the location of the Asus branding are identical.
ZenFone Max M2 vs ZenFone Max Pro M1
ZenFone Max Pro M1 (left) vs ZenFone Max M2 (right)

While the ZenFone Max M1 featured the same polycarbonate build with a metallic finish, it did have its own persona, but the ZenFone Max M2 seems like Asus simply took a tried-and-tested design (ahem! Xiaomi, you know what I’m saying, right?) and simply added a new display and internals to it. However, if you put ZenFone Max M2 next to its predecessor then you’ll see that it’s much larger insize.

    The design of ZenFone Max M2 is bland and unexciting but it’s quite good for a budget phone in this price segment.

The ZenFone Max M2 justifies the much-popular “Max” label with a huge 4,000mAh battery but you’ll be surprised at how light the smartphone feels in daily use – just like I am. The device feels extremely light and is just comfortable to hold, thanks to its soft and curved edges. It’s a pleasure to use the ZenFone Max M2 and the metallic finish too feels good against your palm, without attracting many fingerprints.

Zenfone Max M2 build

The smartphone has certainly grown in size over its predecessor, which was super handy and allowed one-handed use, and it makes reachability an issue on the device. While the power button (which is textured and I love that!) and volume buttons may be within reach, I did find it a bit difficult to access the notifications and quick toggles. The fingerprint scanner placed at the center on the rear is okay-ish. It’s not the fastest I’ve seen but it gets the job done.

This is a sub-Rs 10,000 smartphone and even though the build might be nearly all-plastic with the metal back being the exception, the buttons feel good and are quite clicky. Finally, coming to the port selection, you get a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top and a microUSB charging port on the bottom. No, we’ve not moved to USB Type-C ports on budget phones yet and won’t for some time.
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3.5mm audio jack
microUSB port
power and volume buttons
ZenFone Max M2: Display

Another important aspect of the design this year is the inclusion of a notched display on Asus’ budget smartphones. The ZenFone Max M2 comes with a massive 6.26-inch HD+ IPS LCD screen that holds the notch (comes with its own problems), which is slightly larger than the notch we’ve seen on ZenFone Max Pro M2. I, however, would’ve loved to see a waterdrop notch on this upgraded ZenFone Max lineup.
ZenFone Max M2 notch
ZenFone Max M2 chin

The notch on this smartphone includes a deep-seated earpiece at the center, which also hides a notification LED, a selfie camera, and a soft LED flash to help you illuminate the scenes in low-light conditions. There’s also a huge chin at the bottom – as it the case in most budget phones – without any branding, but I don’t mind it and have got used to it.

Delving into the display specs, the 6.26-inch screen here has a 1520×720 pixels resolution, a 19:9 aspect ratio, an 88.8 percent screen-to-body ratio, and a 2.5D curved glass finish to round it all up. Unlike its Pro sibling, the display doesn’t come with the latest Gorilla Glass 6 protection on top and you may want to take better care of the device by using a screen protector and silicone case.

ZenFone Max M2 display

The screen looks pretty competent in most lighting conditions. It doesn’t matter if you’re using the device indoors or in broad daylight, the screen is easily legible and the color reproduction is pretty standard for a budget phone – which you can tweak based on your liking from the settings. I didn’t come across any display issues over the past week and appreciate the Smart Screen, Night Light, and ambient display features.
ZenFone Max M2: User Interface

The software department is also where the ZenFone Max M2 brings a notable upgrade (or downgrade, depending on the user) over its predecessor and I, for one, absolutely am in favor of it. The ZenFone Max M2 comes with stock Android on board, instead of the company’s proprietary ZenUI 5.0 that came loaded in its predecessor.

zenfone max m2 software

The ZenFone Max M2 runs Android 8.1 Oreo out-of-the-box, which definitely is a little disappointing for a smartphone launching months after Android Pie went official and is offering a pure experience. Asus, however, vows to deliver the Pie update by the end of January 2019, which should come as a relief.

Opting for a clean and bloat-free experience on its budget smartphones seemed to have worked for Asus earlier this year and the company is sticking to its guns with its newest lineup. It may, however, be a setback for users who like custom Android skins like MIUI and EMUI for the myriad of add-on features. Asus has not made any tweaks to the clean experience and it’s the way I prefer it. Of course, you are very likely to find third-party apps to add the features you might miss from Zen UI.

ZenFone Max M2 notch problem

I, however, think that the company seems to be having a tough time with optimizing the Oreo stock UI for the notch cutout as the icons – the network bars and call profile icons – usually aren’t visible fully, and a portion of those are hidden under the notch itself. It surely comes as a huge distraction, with added frustration, but it’s nothing a future OTA update cannot fix.

There’s also a positive thing I would like to point out. Asus seems to be listening to the users, taking their feedback into account as a minor change to the camera UI has been introduced to further simplify the experience. The UI is still a bit intimidating, with HDR, Pro and even a night mode toggle buried in the top bar, and that makes changing to those modes a bit sluggish.

zenfone max m2 camera

Overall, the software experience is simplistic and one surely cannot go wrong with a stock Android interface.
ZenFone Max M2: Performance

The Asus ZenFone Max M2 is the second smartphone to be powered by a Snapdragon 632 chipset to arrive in India, and it’s a notable upgrade over the 400-series chipsets that are seen in as most sub-Rs 10,000 phones. It’s coupled with two RAM and internal storage configurations, i.e a 3GB+32GB variant and a higher-end 4GB+64GB variant.

I’ve been using the lower-end variant of the ZenFone Max M2 for the past week and my experience has been quite breezy, with almost no stutters or lag across the board. It could be credited to the stock Android experience and no bloatware on board. The device can handle most task thrown at it comfortably, with multitasking and RAM management never being of any concern.

The 3GB RAM is enough and doesn’t seem to be creating a bottleneck in daily use, but I expect the 4GB RAM to offer an even fluid experience. The ZenFone Max M2 doesn’t get very hot while using or charging, which is surely a plus.

Turning our attention togaming performance on the ZenFone Max M2, which is critical these days, all thanks to the popularity of PUBG Mobile, I found the phone to stand its ground and extend a more than satisfactory experience. I have adopted a slightly different approach than the typical chatter about how different games perform on this smartphone and provide a better insight into FPS and RAM usage.

I started off my gaming analysis with casual, not-so-taxing games including Supercell’s latest release Brawl Stars and my personal favorite Guns of Boom. Both the multiplayer games, as per GameBench, didn’t block a ton of RAM and offered a stable 58fps and 30fps throughout. I tried bumping up Guns of Boom up to 60fps but noticed multiple frame drops during my fights, so I had to turn it back to 30fps for a smoother experience.

I then moved on to the heavier and more taxing games including Asphalt Extreme and PUBG Mobile, of course. I only completed a couple of laps on the former to know that I really am not that good at racing games, and that 30fps and 600MB of RAM usage is needed to smoothly run this title.

PUBG Mobile, on the other hand, is a lot more demanding. Even though it takes the low setting by default, the ZenFone Max M2 was able to handle the title at medium graphics without affecting the fun multiplayer experience. I got a stable 25fps during a match, with about 700MB RAM usage and a battery drain of 14 percent an hour – which sounds decent enough.

One could notice minor jitters and frame drops on both of these games, but it doesn’t hamper the overall experience in any way.
ZenFone Max M2: Benchmarks

While the performance has been pretty great for me over the past week, here’s a quick peek at the benchmark scores for those interested in numbers. I first ran Geekbench 4 benchmarks, with single and multi-core scores standing at 1257 and 4809 respectively.

I then moved on to AnTuTu Benchmark but was unable to download the companion 3D Bench, which was shown as incompatible for the phone. I’m not entirely sure what the issue there was as sideloading the APK allowed me to run the benchmark app without any hiccups. You can check out a screenshot of the scores right here:

zenfone max m2 benchmarks

These scores are higher than those we’ve seen on the Honor 8C, which I’d reviewed last month, even though both the devices are powered by the Snapdragon 632 chipset. The higher scores of the ZenFone Max M2 show that its performance of this smartphone should be more optimized but I didn’t notice any significant difference in daily use.
ZenFone Max M2: Cameras

Asus ZenFone Max M2 comes equipped with a dual rear camera module, which packs a 13MP (f/1.8) primary camera with a 1.12micron pixel size, paired with a secondary 2MP depth sensor. The rear camera module comes with PDAF, as well as EIS support. There’s also an 8MP selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture, and 1.12-micron pixel size on board.

ZenFone Max M2 camera performance

While that does sound exciting, the cameras on the ZenFone Max M2 are pretty average. We expect them to get better with time as Asus will be rolling out support for AI scene and object recognition with upcoming updates. Overall, the pictures captured using this smartphone are a little oversaturated, lack detail, blows out the highlights, and the camera app has issues with focus and completely stops working at times, which can become frustrating really soon.

Well, for an in-depth take on the ZenFone Max M2 cameras, you can check out all the samples and my experience down below:
ZenFone Max M2 Camera Samples: Daylight Photos

The daylight photos captured using the ZenFone Max M2 are pretty decent and that’s all. They have good color reproduction, offers you enough detail to meet the social media needs, and looks quite crisp when viewed on this smartphone’s HD screen. The dynamic range isn’t that great and one shouldn’t expect Redmi-grade captures. All your photos, though, may not come out as expected as the Max M2 has some problems with locking focus.
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ZenFone Max M2 Camera Samples: Low-light Photos

The low-light performance of the ZenFone Max M2 is quite good and I really like how the dual rear-cameras can capture a ton of light, and bring out the colours even in quite dim conditions. The images do look to be a tad bit on the softer side but it can be fixed via an OTA update. Check out the tiger, timepiece and the lamp perspective picture attached below to see what I’m saying:
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ZenFone Max M2 Camera Samples: Selfies

The 8MP selfie camera on board is decent enough for its price. You shouldn’t be expecting much from the ZenFone Max M2 in this department as the selfies look good in daylight, as well as low-light conditions. There’s a decent amount of detail, good color reproduction but the camera suffers from overexposure and soft photos in artificial lighting.
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ZenFone Max M2 Camera Samples: Portrait Mode

ZenFone Max M2 offers portrait mode photography via both the front and rear camera. It offers good edge detection and background separation, while adding a decent amount of blur to the shot, but I noticed a considerable amount of softening on the edges. The photos also seem to lack detail in some cases, while the camera shines in others. The portrait mode is works in low-light conditions as well.
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ZenFone Max M2 Camera Samples: Videos

Like its elder brother, the ZenFone Max M2 is capable of recording videos of up to 4K resolution and it’s awesome to see Asus include the same in this budget smartphone. If you take a look at the 4K sample recording below, you will see that the color reproduction and sharpness are good but there’s stabilization being used here. The EIS kicks in during 1080p video recording.

As for the videos captured in 1080p, well, this is where the EIS on board comes into play and the recording instantly looks a lot smoother. The colors and sharpness are all intact her as well, and Asus has really done a great job to offer you stabilization at this price point. Check out the 1080p video recording here:

ZenFone Max M2: Audio and Telephony

Like most smartphone these days, Asus has also included only a single bottom-firing speaker on the ZenFone Max M2 and the output is really loud and clear. Just like the ZenFone Max Pro M2, the smartphone also comes with a 5-magnet speaker and the NXP SmartAmp technology in tow and it makes a ton of difference.

The speaker output is super loud when compared to other smartphones in its price range and offers a balanced sound, with good treble, vocal clarity, but low bass, which may not be enough to please most users. The smartphone offers 15 volume steps, which is pretty decent, and the music output is pretty loud, in my opinion, even at 50-60 percent.

zenfone max m2 audio

The 3.5mm headphone jack at the top is also said to offer better sound quality and it was evident in my daily usage, but found it to be dependent on the earphones I was using as well, which is a given.

Coming to the telephony part, well, the earpiece on the ZenFone Max M2 also gets quite loud and the audio quality is pretty decent. The call quality has regularly been great and the callers were able to hear me clearly, with low background noise.
ZenFone Max M2: Connectivity

Most phone brands nowadays are starting to understand what the consumer really wants out of their smartphones and Asus knows it well. This is the reason the company has also included a triple-slot tray on the left edge, allowing you to use 2 micro-SIM cards and one microSD card (storage expandable up to 2TB) at the same time.

I have been using both of my SIM cards, Reliance Jio and Airtel, with Asus ZenFone Max M2 for the past week and I believe there wasn’t any time when I faced an issue with the connectivity. The network bars were always standing tall and the VoLTE icons for both of my SIMs reassured me of the dual VoLTE connectivity on board. The reception is also good and you won’t face any issues in this department.

ZenFone Max M2 connectivity

Further, you get the regular set of connectivity options including Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.2, A-GPS, GLONASS, and more. There’s no NFC or other higher-end connectivity options on board.

Just like its elder brother, the ZenFone Max M2 also doesn’t pack in support for 5GHz wireless connectivity and can only connect to 2.4GHz networks. This indicates that you won’t be able to achieve high network speeds and that’s a bit disappointing. Otherwise, I didn’t face any connection issues and got consistent download/upload speeds at home, as well as the Beebom office.
ZenFone Max M2: Battery Life

The battery, usually a big factor in the device’s weight, doesn’t add to the bulk despite the big capacity. Itis obviously one of the main highlights of ZenFone Max M2. The phone includes a massive 4,000mAh battery pack and it easily lasts the entire day on a single charge. I wasn’t able to burn through the battery completely even after a long and tiring day at work.

The ZenFone Max M2 usually delivered five-six hours of screen-on time while I was using the smartphone, which saw me talking on the phone, enjoying videos on YouTube to and from the office, sneaking in a game or PUBG Mobile and more. I usually witnessed the device with 20-30 percent charge left even after the heavy workload, which is impressive, to say the least.

Talking about the charging aspect of the ZenFone Max M2, Asus has bundled a 10W (5V, 2A) charger in the box and it enables fast charging on this smartphone. It’s not as fast as something like Quick Charge 3.0 but it’s decent enough for the price point.

The ZenFone Max M2 goes from being totally dead to 50 percent charge in under an hour, which is okay if you plug the phone in time before going out. It takes the device about 2 hours and 37 minutes to get fully juiced up, I’m really happy with the battery life on the ZenFone Max M2 and it justifies the Max moniker.

ZenFone Max M2 charger
ZenFone Max M2: Pros and Cons

Finally, we have made it to the verdict section of the ZenFone Max M2 review and if you want to know whether it’s a smartphone worth buying, then there’s no thinking twice since my answer is surely a big fat – GO FOR IT!! Asus ZenFone Max M2 not just retains the essence of its predecessor, as well as the Max series, but also brings along a ton of considerable improvements.

The ZenFone Max M2 (starts at Rs 9,999) features a well-known aesthetic, that has now been paired with a massive display with a not-so-massive notch.

The choice to offer a stock Android experience, with almost no bloatware and ads over its proprietary ZenUI is also noteworthy for users looking to buy a reliable budget smartphone in the sub-Rs 10,000 price segment.

Like its elder brother, the ZenFone Max M2 is also out here to kill its closest Redmi rival, the Redmi 5 (starts at Rs 9,990) and Redmi Note 5 (starts at Rs 10,999), which already didn’t sell too well in the market. I’d pick ZenFone Max M2 over those two any day for the larger and better display, huge battery, and stock UI.

    It’s probably the smartphone to buy if you’re on a strict Rs 10,000 budget.

However, if you have a little leeway in your spending budget and won’t mind doling out a couple thousand bucks extra, then there are endless possibilities for the user in the mid-budget segment. You can certainly go for ZenFone Max M2’s elder brother, ZenFone Max Pro M2 (starts at Rs 12,999), which is an awesome device, or you can pick between the Redmi Note 6 Pro (starts at Rs 13,999) and the Realme U1 (starts at Rs 11,999) as well.
PROS:

        Extremely light

    Not a fingerprint magnet
    Good daily performance
    PUBG Mobile runs smoothly
    Stock Android experience
    Pretty loud speaker
    Long-lasting battery

CONS:

    Average cameras
    Unoptimized notch
    Slow charging

SEE ALSO: Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review: The Best Budget Smartphone to Buy?
Asus ZenFone Max M2 Review: The Best Phone Under Rs 10,000?

To round everything up, one could obviously see that Asus ZenFone Max M2 is not only a worthy upgrade over its predecessor, but can be yet another ZenFone smartphone to pose a tough fight to the Redmi phones.

The ZenFone Max M2 is no longer a compact and teensy smartphone but sports a well-known aesthetic, a modern notched display, a pure and stock Android experience, and massive battery. These are all the features that should be enough to convince you that ZenFone Max M2 is a powerhouse but the cameras are yet again a compromise here, something which Xiaomi never seems to have. Asus recently launched the ZenFone Max Pro M2 and it looks like the perfect candidate for the crown of the best budget smartphone. Compared to its predecessor, the ZenFone Max Pro M1, which was a very popular smartphone, the Max Pro M2 (starts at Rs. 12,999) not only seems to fix its flaws, it also seems to bring upgrades that make it a great budget smartphone. Having said that, the question here is, is the ZenFone Max Pro M2 as good as it seems? Well, this is our ZenFone Max Pro M2 review, so let’s find out.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review
ZenFone Max Pro M2 Specifications
Dimensions    157.9 x 75.5 x 8.5 mm
Weight    170 grams
Display    6.26-inch Full-HD+ IPS LCD
Gorilla Glass 6
Processor    Snapdragon 660
RAM    up to 6GB
Storage    64GB, expandable up to 2TB
Rear Cameras    12MP + 5MP
EIS, 4K
Front Camera    13MP (f/2.0) with flash
Operating System    Android 8.1 Oreo
Battery    5,000mAh
5V 2A Charger
Connectivity    rear-mounted fingerprint, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, 3.5mm audio jack
What’s In the Box

Here’s what you get the ZenFone Max Pro M2 box:

    ZenFone Max Pro M2 (duh!)
    USB-A to microUSB cable
    5V 2A charging adapter
    SIM ejector tool
    Clear silicon case
    Leaflets and documentation

Design and Build Quality

First off, the dull, bland design from the ZenFone Max Pro M1 is gone. The Max Pro M2 features a premium glass-like finish on the back and it certainly looks great. It is plastic but the finish here gives the phone a very premium look and feel.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review 1

So, it’s nice but there’s one problem. Even though the back here is not glass, it behaves like glass. What I mean is, the back here is very prone to scratches. Look at the scratches on our unit here. It’s insane… even the glass backed phones we have don’t have as many scratches as the Max Pro M2 does. I think this is the reason Asus bundles a case with the phone. Anyway, the back here has the dual camera setup and the fingerprint scanner, which in my usage, has been fast and accurate, so no problems there.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

The scratch-prone back apart, I love this new design. Plus, I like how lightweight this phone is, especially when you factor in the massive 5,000 mAh battery. Let’s compare the Max Pro M2’s weight with other phones. The Motorola One Power too has a 5,000 mAh battery, but that weighs in at 205 grams, while the M2 weighs in at 170 grams. It’s impressive that the M2 is lighter than a lot of phones that have smaller batteries.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Moving on to the front, there are changes here as well. The ZenFone Max Pro M2 comes with the notch and I know a lot of you guys don’t like this. I mean, as I’ve said previously, I think a teardrop notch is the best implementation of the notch, but at least the notch on the Max Pro M2 is not as huge as the one on the Redmi Note 6 Pro.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Apart from that, there are the usual buttons, the microUSB port (ya, no USB-C!), and the headphone jack.

    So, overall, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 looks good and features all the basics you need. I know, the back is very scratch prone but it’s not a big deal, at least that’s what I think.

Display

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 features a 6.26” IPS LCD display and it’s not just larger, the display here is better than the display on the ZenFone Max Pro M1. The color accuracy, the brightness and basically, everything else looks better on the M2 display.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Take a look at the whites on the Max Pro M1 display and the Max Pro M2.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

So, the display here is good and on par with the good displays in the competition, like the Redmi Note 6 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro. Yes, the Realme 2 Pro’s display is brighter, but apart from that, the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s display is on par and pretty good.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Apart from the great display, the Max Pro M2 is also the only phone so far to feature a Gorilla Glass 6 in this price range. Now, Gorilla Glass 6 is supposed to bring better drop protection, right? And that’s what the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s ads suggest, so I tested it out. I dropped the phone 3 times to see if the Gorilla Glass 6 holds up. Well, the good news is, the display of the Max Pro M2 is fine and there aren’t even any major scratches. So yes, Gorilla Glass 6 on the ZenFone Max Pro M2 should be fine against usual drops and kudos to Asus really for bringing Gorilla Glass 6 in a segment filled with Gorilla Glass 3 phones.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Also, if you are wondering, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 features the Widevine L1 license, which means you will be able to watch HD videos on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review
Cameras

One of the complaints I had with the ZenFone Max Pro M1 was its average cameras. Well, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 fixes that. Let’s talk about the rear cameras in the ZenFone Max Pro M2 first.

    Rear Cameras

The phone comes with a 12MP plus 5MP dual camera setup on the back but don’t be fooled by these numbers. I know it seems like a downgrade from the 6GB variant of the Max Pro M1 which had a 16MP camera, but trust me, the cameras on the Max Pro M2 are a lot better. Just take a look at these photos.

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The ZenFone Max Pro M2 takes photos that are sharp and high on detail, especially when there is good light. Some photos turn out a bit oversaturated, but I don’t think this is an issue. Even the portrait mode photos in good light have nice details and decent edge detection. Yes, the colors can be a little off at times, but it’s not a huge problem. When it comes to low light, the Max Pro M2 takes decent photos, but sometimes the photos aren’t as sharp as I’d like and sometimes noise creeps in.

Compared to the Redmi Note 6 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro cameras, it’s a tough call in good light. Look at these photos. All the phones are good here, but I just find the details in the ZenFone Max Pro M2 photo slightly better than the competition, although I like the colors more in the Note 6 Pro photos. So ya, it’s really close. When it comes to low light photos, the Max Pro M2 and Realme 2 Pro do well enough, but the Redmi Note 6 Pro photos are just sharper and they have less noise.
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
ZenFone Max Pro M2
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
ZenFone Max Pro M2
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
ZenFone Max Pro M2
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
ZenFone Max Pro M2
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
ZenFone Max Pro M2

    Videos

When it comes to videos, the Max Pro M2 comes with 4K support, which is something a lot of budget phones miss out on, so that’s good. Here’s a 4K video shot from the phone. As you can see, the video quality here is pretty nice, with the colors looking good and things looking sharp. Yes, the stability is not very good, and that’s because EIS here kicks in at 1080p.

Well, I also recorded a 1080p video, and it’s definitely more stable than the 4K video. However, when I compared the 1080p video from the ZenFone Max Pro M2, the Note 6 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro, I found that the Note 6 Pro and Realme 2 Pro capture videos that are way more stable. It’s surprising really, because all these phones have EIS. I hope Asus makes the 1080p videos more stable in future updates.

    Front Camera

Coming to the front cameras, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 takes some decent selfies, when there’s good light. As you can see in the selfies below, the photos in good lighting have good detail and colors. However, things aren’t as good in low light. The selfies in low light generally turn out to be soft.
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When compared to the Redmi Note 6 Pro and Realme 2 Pro, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 compares well in good lighting but not so much in low light. And if you are wondering, yes, there’s no portrait mode on the front yet, but Asus is bringing that in an update soon.

    Overall, the cameras on the ZenFone Max Pro M2, especially the rear cameras are improved and way better, and while they might not be the best when compared to the competition, they get close and that’s good enough for a budget smartphone.

Performance

The ZenFone Max Pro brings a great upgrade from the ZenFone Max Pro M1 when it comes to the processor. The Max Pro M2 comes with a Snapdragon 660, which is the most powerful processor in this price range. In benchmarks, the Max Pro M2 obviously beats the Snapdragon 636 phones out there like the Note 6 Pro, the Nokia 7.1, and the Moto One Power.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

When compared to phones with the Snapdragon 660, like the Realme 2 Pro and the Mi A2, the scores of the M2 are more similar to the Realme 2 Pro, and that’s because just like the Realme Phone, the high-performance cores on the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s Snapdragon 660 are clocked at 1.95GHz instead of the regular 2.2GHz.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Well, to be honest, the lower clock speed isn’t something I really care about because in my usage, the phone has been performing really well. Things have been smooth, be it during day to day tasks or during multitasking. We have the 4GB variant of the phone here, so things should be even better in the 6GB variant.

When it comes to gaming performance, the phone handles games like PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9 really well. The phone sets PUBG’s graphics settings at Medium by default and on that setting, the gameplay is smooth and almost flawless. I tried playing the game at high graphics, and while things were mostly fine, there was some stutter and lag at times, so ya, I’d recommend you to stick to medium.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

    Overall, the performance on the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is top notch, no pun intended. It’s just the best performance a phone can offer at this price.

Software

The ZenFone Max Pro M2, like the ZenFone Max Pro M1, comes with stock Android on-board and that’s great because stock Android was one of the highlights of the ZenFone Max Pro M1. For those who are confused, while the phone does come with stock Android, it’s not an Android One phone. Well, there’s Android 8.1 Oreo here, and while I was disappointed about it, Asus announced that they will roll out the Android Pie update next month, so that’s promising.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Anyway, the stock Android experience here has a few changes. There are a few Asus apps here, along with the Facebook app and the Asus camera app. Anyway, it’s not a lot and people actually use some of these apps (like voice recorder, FM Radio etc.), so I wouldn’t call it bloatware. There are also additional features like a few gestures (not navigation gestures, gestures like double tap to unlock) and face unlock, which works pretty fast most of the time.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

While everything’s fine, the stock Android Oreo experience does not seem well optimized for the notch. We all know that Google brought notch support with Android Pie, so it’s not surprising but this is something Asus must have fixed. So, what happens is, in different apps, the notch just marginally overlaps in the top area of the interface. I am not explaining it good enough, so take a look:
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ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

I know, it’s not a major issue but I just find this a little annoying, especially while playing games. Plus there’s no way to force apps to use the full screen, or hide the notch, so ya, there are a few issues in the ZenFone Max Pro M2. Well, let’s hope Asus fixes this soon.

    Overall, stock Android is something that matters to me. I just prefer stock Android here. If you ask me to choose between the really bad ColorOS on the Realme phones, the ad-ridden MIUI on the Xiaomi phones , and stock Android on the Max Pro M2. I will always prefer the stock Android experience on the ZenFone Max Pro M2.

Battery

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 comes with the same massive 5,000 mAh battery from the Max Pro M1 and while the screen is a bit larger than the M1, the battery performs pretty much the same as the M1.

So, in my usage, the Max Pro M2 easily lasted me for a couple of days on medium usage. Generally, starting the day at 100%, I would end the day at around 50-60% even on a little extensive usage and that is just really good. The battery performance is something that really impressed me in the M1 and it impresses me yet again in the M2.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

When it comes to charging, Asus bundled the 5V 2A charger in the box and in our first impressions video, a lot of you were confused if this is a fast charger or not. Well, the phone does show “rapidly charging” with the in-box 10W charger plugged in, which I think is a QuickCharge 1.0 charger, so it is fast charging the phone, but it’s just not as fast as Quick Charge 4.0, or even 3.0.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Anyway, so the in-box charger takes 2 hours and 50 minutes to charge the Max Pro M2 from 10 to 100%, which is fine. I mean, the Note 6 Pro and Realme 2 Pro take around 2 hours to go from 10 to 100%, but they also have smaller batteries. So, this is the price you’ll have to pay for the larger battery.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

I also tried out an 18W fast charger with the Max Pro M2 and it took the same amount of time, that is 2 hours 50 minutes, so I guess this the maximum charging speed you can get.
Audio

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 brings improvements from the ZenFone Max Pro M1 on the audio front as well. First off, the speaker here is better. The Max Pro M2 comes with 5-magnet speaker for louder, deeper and less distorted sound quality and NXP SmartAmp technology. Now, all of that is tech mumbo jumbo, but the speakers here are definitely louder than the Max Pro M1 and the likes of the Redmi Note 6 Pro. While the quality here isn’t the best or as great as the Note 6 Pro, it’s decent enough for a budget phone.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 also brings better sound quality through the headphone jack. A lot of people have complained about the ZenFone Max Pro M1’s average sound quality with the headphone jack, so I am glad Asus has fixed it with the ZenFone Max Pro M2. I tried my Sony MDR-XB55 in-ear headphones with both the M2 and the M1, and it was clear that the sound quality from the Max Pro M2 is just way better. The sound is louder, clearer and the quality is a lot better. So, it’s definitely better than the Max Pro M1.
Connectivity

On the connectivity front, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 features most of the basics but there are a few things missing, which might disappoint a few users. First of all, there’s WLAN 802.11 b/g/n, which means the phone only supports 2.4GHz WiFi networks. Yes, like Max Pro M1, there’s no support for 5GHz WiFi networks and while this is a little disappointing., if you are wondering if it’s a huge issue, you can check out our article on the same.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Other than that, there’s Bluetooth 5.0, expandable storage up to 2TB, dual SIM with dual 4G VoLTE support, and there are the usual sensors like accelerator, e-compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor and gyroscope.
ZenFone Max Pro M2: Should you Buy It?
Pros:

    Premium looking design
    Vibrant display
    Great performance
    Amazing battery life
    Decent cameras
    Stock Android
    Good speakers
    Gorilla Glass 6

Cons:

    No portrait mode in front camera
    Average video stability in 1080p
    Scratch prone back
    Software issues with the notch
    No 5GHz WiFi support

Okay, that was pretty much it when it comes to our ZenFone Max Pro M2 review/ Now, coming to the verdict. Is the ZenFone Max Pro M2 the best budget phone smartphone to buy? Well, yes! The ZenFone Max Pro M2, which starts at Rs. 12,999 is a phone I will be recommending to a lot of people and that’s because this is just the best all around budget phone out there.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

The changes on the design front make the Max Pro M2 a great looking smartphone. The cameras, while not the best, are good enough for the price and the Snapdragon 660 makes up for a really fast and smooth experience. Plus, like the ZenFone Max Pro M1, the stock Android experience is great and the battery is just impressive. It’s not perfect. The back is very scratch prone, there are software issues with the notch and there’s still no 5GHz support. But are these deal breakers? Definitely not!

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

When it comes to the competition, there’s the Redmi Note 6 Pro (starts at Rs. 13,999) with slightly better cameras, but it has a slower processor, an inferior design, and a smaller battery. There’s also the Realme 2 Pro (starts at Rs. 13,990) and Realme U1 (starts at Rs. 11,999), and they both have the trendy teardrop notch designs and great performance, but I cannot live with ColorOS. There are a lot of other phones here like the Nokia 6.1 plus (Rs. 15,990), the Motorola One Power (Rs. 15,999), the Honor 8X (starting at Rs. 14,999) and more, but they all fail to match the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s all around capabilities.
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A Great Laptop for Everyday Use

While Apple has been making strides in the smartwatch business over the years, Google’s Wear OS platform has gone through some fits and starts. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – I’ve always found myself skeptical about recommending a Wear OS smartwatch mainly due to the fact that they’re slow when it comes to software updates, and they all look and feel pretty much the same.

But for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been wearing the Skagen Falster 2 (Rs. 21,995) every day with an open mind. I was desperate to find out if Wear OS has gotten any better over the years. My first impressions of the watch were fairly positive, so I continued using it to, you know, glance my notifications and track my steps.
Skagen Falster 2 Review
Skagen Falster 2

With a price tag of Rs 21,995, the Skagen Falster 2 is not particularly a smartwatch that would fit in everyone’s budget. So, is it worth buying? Well, let’s find out…
Skagen Falster 2 Specifications

The Skagen Falster 2 comes with all the bells and whistles that we’ve come to expect from modern-day smartwatches. It’s available in 40mm size, which in my opinion, is not overly big, and it’ll fit both men and women. Anyways, here’s a quick look at the specs that you need to know about –
Display    1.190-inch (390x390) OLED
Water-resistance    3 ATM
Connectivity    Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi, NFC
Sensors    Accelerometer, Altimeter, Gyroscope, Ambient Light Sensor
Processor    Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
Dimension    Case Size: 40 x 11mm
Price    Rs. 21,995
Compatibility    Android 4.4+, iOS 9+

Now that’s what’s crammed inside the watch. Now, before we talk about the watch itself, let’s take a quick look at everything that comes inside the box.
Skagen Falster 2 Unboxing

Skagen, as we all know, is a brand that’s known for minimalism, so I wasn’t surprised to see a small box with bare minimum contents. Here, take a look for yourself –

    Skagen Falster 2
    A wireless charger
    Some paperwork

Skagen Falster 2 review

Yes, that’s everything you get inside the box when you buy yourself this smartwatch. I was a little surprised to see that there’s no charging brick. Look, I do understand that the person buying a smartwatch definitely owns a smartphone, so he/ she already has a power brick. However, I found it very annoying during the times when I wanted to charge both my smartphone and the watch at the same time.

I am all for minimalism, but I wish the watch manufacturers would take this into consideration. Anyway, I’ll talk a bit more about the Falster 2’s battery performance a bit later in the review so stay tuned to see whether it is an issue. Now, let’s talk about my favorite aspect of the watch: its design!
Skagen Falster 2 Design and Build Quality

Fossil’s launch event, where the company announced as many as seven new smartwatches, was my first time looking at the Falster 2. I had seen the watch in pictures, but I had never seen the Skagen Falster 2 in person before that. Needless to say, the Skagen Falster 2’s clean and minimal design grabbed my eyeballs almost instantly. They had a couple of different variants of the watch on display, but I was particularly enthralled to see the model with metallic accents and a magnetic mesh band.

As you can see, that’s also the variant which we have with us here for review. At first blush, the watch may look a little less masculine compared to other options that are out there. In fact, a lot of my colleagues at Beebom were quick to judge its appearance. However, I for one think that it looks absolutely phenomenal. I mean, just look at this thing –
Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 is a looker

As I mentioned earlier, the Falster 2’s minimal and light design has grown on me since the time I started using it. It has a lightweight design, it’s extremely comfortable to wear, has no unsightly protrusion on the back, and so on. I have so many good things to say about the watch, that I can keep dropping words about it.

If you’ve seen the previous iteration of the watch, then you’ll notice that the new Falster 2 now has three buttons instead of one. The buttons, as you can see, don’t sit flush on the watch’s body. Yes, they’re nice and clicky buttons with great tactile feedback, but I hate the fact that they protrude from the body. If I could change just one thing about the watch’s design, this would be it.
Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 has three buttons

The center button also doubles as a rotating crown, making it easier to scroll through different options in the interface. The crown is not as nice as the digital crown found on the Apple Watch though. Don’t get me wrong, it is probably the best rotating button/ crown that I’ve used on any Wear OS smartwatch, but the lack of haptic feedback puts it in a weird spot.

    The Skagen Falster 2’s minimal, yet elegant design made me want to put it on my wrist every single day.

The center button, as I mentioned earlier, is flanked by two more customizable buttons. You can program the buttons to open any app of your choice. I’ve personally set the top button to show me the weather info, whereas the button on the bottom pulls up Google Fit for me. The watch also has 3 ATM water resistance, so it can handle a bit of water without any issues.
Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 has a stainless steel casing

The magnetic mesh loop, though it gives a premium look to the watch, has a weird issue. You can say that I am nitpicking but the black rubber ring around the magnetic clasp starts wearing out fairly quickly. It’ll start leaving a black residue on the strap over time, ruining the overall looks of the watch. I use a similar third-party mesh loop with my Fitbit Charge 2, and it’s plagued by the same issue. Skagen, however, has a decent selection of straps for the watch. You can also swap in any 20mm band of your choice, which is just awesome.
Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 Strap

That being said, I truly believe that the Skagen Falster 2 deserves all the plaudits for its design. Despite its shortcomings, which we’ll talk about later in this review, the minimal design made me want to put it on my wrist every single day.
Skagen Falster 2 Display

The Skagen Falster 2 has a 1.19-inch display which is a pleasure to look at. It’s an OLED panel with a resolution of 390 x 390 pixels, so the display is crisp and you can see deep blacks and bright whites. The bezels are thinner than the one found on its predecessor, but they’re still too big for my liking. Luckily, the watch faces bundled with the watch are black by default, and they do a great job of masking those ugly bezels around the display.

    Skagen Falster 2’s display is definitely one of my favorite features

Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 display

It is a vibrant display that also gets bright enough to be used in direct sunlight. Wear OS offers five different levels of brightness, but the ambient light sensor does an amazing job and has saved me the work of having to fiddle with the brightness setting time and again. Much like most of the smartwatches out there, the Falster 2 has an ‘Always-on’ mode that lets you see the time. This takes a toll on the battery life, but I’ll suggest you keep this option turned on because I found the raise-to-wake feature to be hit-or-miss.

Overall, I really like the display of Skagen Falster 2. Besides the sizable bezels around the display, there’s hardly anything to complain about here. It truly is one of my favorite features of the watch.
Skagen Falster 2 Performance and Software

Before I give my two cents on the performance, I’d like to point out a glaring omission. The Skagen Falster 2 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, which, in case you don’t know, was released in February 2016. So yes, it is pretty out of date. New smartwatches powered by the latest Snapdragon Wear 3100 have started showing up on the market, which again makes me a little skeptical about recommending this watch.

That being said, the Falster 2 is running on Google’s new Wear OS software. It’s not the latest version of the software that’s out right now, but it’s far better than what I experienced with Android Wear back in the days of the Moto 360. App loading times are significantly faster than they were before. Scrolling through the app drawer and interacting with the Google Assistant is a lot smoother now.

    Skagen Falster 2’s age-old chipset is a bottleneck

Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 Wear OS app

During my usage, I used the watch mostly to glance at my notifications and time, of course. Its fitness-centric features are limited, but I did use the heart rate monitor to keep tabs on my heart rate every now and then. I also loaded some of my favorite apps of choice like Uber, to see if I could use the watch to get things done without pulling out my smartphone. Well, I must say that the resource intensive apps like Uber, in this case, were a bit laggy. The app took a couple of seconds to fully load up, before letting me do anything. I am sure the age-old chipset is the bottleneck here.

Following a lot of criticism for omitting useful features, Skagen decided to turn things around and pack the Falster 2 with all the essentials like GPS, a heart-rate sensor, and NFC. I wasn’t really able to get much use out of the NFC, but you can use it to take advantage of Google Pay to make purchases.
Skagen Flaster 2 Software Experience

The Falster 2 comes loaded with Google’s Wear OS. Right off the bat, I was really impressed with the updated interface. It’s not flawless by any means, but there’s a lot to like here. There are plenty of watch faces that are all themed on simplicity. If you are someone who’s always on the lookout for clean and clutter-free watch faces, then I am sure you’ll really enjoy the stock watch faces that are bundled with the Falster 2. I think this would be a good time to acknowledge the fact the Falster 2 has a custom charging animation, which is a joy to look at. Here, check it out –

I paired the Falster 2 with my iPhone XR mainly to see how Wear OS worked with an iOS device. Unlike some other wearables with which you’ll be prompted to download a bunch of other apps, all I had to do was download Google’s Wear OS app (Play Store).

The app itself is fairly simple to use. It shows things like your Google Fit data based on the metrics collected by the watch, and lets you tweak some other settings like watch faces, notifications, and more. There’s not a lot that you can do with the app, but I feel like it is more than enough for an average user.

    There’s a lot to like about the Wear OS experience on the Skagen Falster 2

Skagen Falster 2 Activity Tracking

I wasn’t interested in using the Falster 2 to monitor my fitness activities mainly because it’s not really a full-fledged fitness-centric watch. I am sure there are other watches out there that can help you do that more efficiently. However, I do have a few observations that I’d like to share.
Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 Heart rate monitor

If you are buying the Falster 2 (or any other Wear OS-powered smartwatch), then pairing it with an iPhone is probably not the right move, especially if you are interested in keeping tabs on your fitness activities. I say this because you don’t have the Google Fit app to sync your workouts with. You’ll be restricted to the Wear OS app for now, which only offers a basic glance at your daily activity. Of course, you can download third-party apps like Runtastic or Endomondo, but the native Google Fit app support itself is missing, which is indeed a little disappointing.
Wear OS iPhone
Wear OS app for iOS

But if I have to judge Falster 2’s tracking ability based on the limited data that I have with me, then I’ll say it’s decent. I am not the most active person, as you can clearly see, but it accurately showed me my activity level. The heart rate monitor works well, and it managed to give me a proper reading every time I tried it. Of course, it is not 100% accurate and I’d suggest you rely on dedicated heart rate monitors for medical purposes.
Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 Wear OS app
Skagen Falster 2 Battery Life and Connectivity

The battery life is also a major disappointment of the Falster 2. Skagen says it can last “up to 2 days” based on the usage, but I truly think it’s an exaggeration. During my usage, I struggled to get more than a day out of the Falster 2, which is not worth appreciating. Of course, you can get more out of the battery if/ when you switch to the battery saver mode. However, you’ll then have to sacrifice on features like the ‘Always-On’ display, continuous heart-rate tracking, and more.
Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 charging

    The battery life is a major disappointment of the Falster 2

The Skagen Falster 2, much like most other smartwatches, is capable of connecting to your smartphone over Bluetooth. It also comes with an inbuilt GPS for outdoor tracking. Falster 2 is using the same sensor found on some other Fossil smartwatches like the Fossil Q Explorist HR. I found it to be pretty efficient and generally quite fast while locating my position.

When it comes to the connection, I found the watch to be a little finicky and extremely unreliable. I even tried pairing the watch with an Android smartphone but that didn’t help either. I am not sure if the issue was limited to my unit, but let me tell you that it was not an enjoyable experience at all. I even ended up missing some of my important notifications because of this.
Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 Design

Also unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Watch, you can’t use the Skagen Falster 2 as a hands-free device for taking calls. You’ll have to reach for your phone in order to answer an incoming call. Same is the case with messages. Though the watch shows you notifications from most apps, there’s no option to respond to, say, a message. No, I am not asking for a full-fledged native keyboard to write long messages. I am talking about the ability to dictate short messages or quick reply options. However, none of that is available here, and you’ll have to reach for your phone if you want to take an action any notification. This is particularly disappointing considering the fact that I was able to do this with the Moto 360 back in the days of Android Wear.
Skagen Falster 2: Pros and Cons

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the Skagen Falster 2 is a beautiful piece of gadget that comes with some annoyances that stop it from being perfect. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of the watch –
Pros

    Beautiful and minimal design
    Lightweight and comfortable to wear
    Gorgeous OLED display
    Wear OS is an improvement
    GPS, a heart rate monitor, and NFC is a welcoming addition

Cons

    Powered by the dated Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset
    Mediocre battery life
    Poor notification reply support
    The magnetic mesh loop wears out easily

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy Watch Review: Perfect Fitness Companion For A Samsung Phone
Skagen Falster 2: Should You Buy It?

The Skagen Falster 2, if you ask me, is undoubtedly one of the best-looking smartwatches that you can buy today. That, in fact, is one of the main reasons why you should be spending Rs. 21,995 on this watch, if you are planning to spend that much at all. Trust me, it is one of those watches that’s guaranteed to bring you joy every time you look at it. Other premium watches that look as good as the Falster 2 carry a more hefty price tag, making it almost impossible for me to recommend.

Skagen Falster 2

But the Falster 2 has its share of problems too. It’s plagued by mediocre battery life, connectivity issues (at least in my case), and more. But a lot of these issues are not just limited to the Falster 2. From what I understand, a majority of other Wear OS watches suffers from similar issues, which puts the entire platform in a weird spot.

That being said, if you are looking for some alternatives, then you must check out Fossil’s Gen 4 Explorist (Rs. 19,995). In fact, Fossil has a lot of other interesting Wear OS smartwatches, and you can find all of them here. If you are an iPhone user, then I’ll suggest you buy an Apple Watch to get the complete experience. The new Apple Watch Series 4 (Rs. 43,900) packs a ton of awesome features and is proven to work flawlessly with an iPhone, complete with almost all the wellness features.

All that aside, I really had a great time using the Skagen Falster 2. I’ve enjoyed it to a point where someone has to pry it off my wrist and force me to put it back in the box. Like me, if you are not specs-inclined and don’t mind charging the watch every night, then you can buy the Skagen Falster 2. You’ll have a great time using it. The market for thin and light laptops only grew more confusing for buyers in 2018. With the arrival of featherweight notebooks to business-savvy Ultrabooks as well as affordable gaming laptops, there are more notebooks on the thin-and-light aisle now than ever before. Many of these don’t come cheap, so if you don’t have deep pockets, then you are faced with even more questions, thanks to loads of affordable options from the likes of Dell, ASUS, HP, Acer and more.

On the same lines, today we’ll be taking a look at the Asus VivoBook S14 S430UN, which is packed with the latest tech, features a sleek design and comes in quirky colors. With a price tag of Rs. 64,990, the VivoBook S14 S430UN doesn’t burn a serious hole in your pocket as well. However, here’s an important question – is it worth your money?
VivoBook S14
ASUS VivoBook S14

Well, I’ve been using the VivoBook S14 as my primary laptop for the past couple of weeks, and I think I can answer that question for you. So read on, as we take an in-depth look at the ASUS VivoBook S14.

Note: We had the S430UA-EB152T variant of the laptop with us for review, which has a Core i5 8250U processor. It’s priced at Rs. 64,990. However, you can get it in a variety of different configurations, starting at Rs 54,990. The performance of the higher-end variants powered by the Core i7 processor will definitely be an improvement.
ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN Specs

Before we jump into the review, I’d like to talk about the specifications and get that out of the way. The ASUS VivoBook S14 packs in the 8th-gen Core i5 processor, coupled with 8GB DDR4 RAM. It also packs 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD storage. While this particular variant of the laptop only has Intel HD620 graphics, the higher-end variants also pack in an MX150 GPU for improved graphics performance. Here’s a quick look at the hardware that’s powering the ASUS VivoBook S14 –
Dimensions    32.34 x 22.55 x 1.8 cm
Weight    1.4 kgs
Display    14-inch LED-backlit Full HD matte display, with 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor    Up to Intel Core i7-8550U, clocked at 1.8GHz
Graphics Memory    Up to Nvidia GeForce MX150 (2GB)
RAM     Up to 16GB 2400MHz DDR4
Internal Storage    256GB SATA SSD + 1TB HDD
Connectivity    Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2
I/O Ports    1 x USB Type-C, 1 x USB Type-A 3.1, 2 x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, Combo audio jack, MicroSD card reader
Operating System    Windows 10 Home
Battery    42Wh 3-cell lithium-prismatic, 45W charger
Colors    Icicle Gold, Gun Metal, Silver Blue, Star Grey, Firmament Green
ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Design and Build

If you are familiar with ASUS’ VivoBook lineup, or if you’ve ever used one before, then you might already be aware of the superb build quality that these laptops bring to the table. I mean, even some of the more affordable VivoBooks like the budget VivoBook X505, which we really liked has an appealing design.
VivoBook S14
VivoBook S14

I am happy to report that the VivoBook S14 S430UN, which I have here with me is no exception. It’s a well-built laptop that’ll immediately catch your attention. The metal lid on the top has a brushed aluminum finish, giving it a premium look. The laptop weighs under 1.5 kg, which also means that it’s very portable. It’s also hard not to appreciate the VivoBook S14’s sleek design as it only measures 18mm in thickness. It’ll conveniently slip into your backpack, and you won’t even notice its presence. I am coming from a hefty gaming laptop, so I was relieved to give my shoulders some rest from all the heavy lifting.
VivoBook S14
VivoBook S14 has ErgoLift Hinge

I hate to admit this, but I accidentally dropped the VivoBook S14 notebook once from my bed, and I was surprised to see that the laptop made it out without a single scratch or a dent. My personal gaming laptop, which also took a fall from the same height is now suffering from serious hinge issues. So believe me when I say that the VivoBook S14 is a well-built machine.

Another interesting design aspect about the VivoBook S14 is its ErgoLift hinge. If you’re not familiar with the ErgoLift hinge, it basically lifts the laptop by 3.5° when it’s in the open position. The advantages? Well, it helps the laptop cool more efficiently and makes it more comfortable to type. I am a huge fan of this implementation, and I wish more laptops would ship with this kind of hinge. C’mon ASUS make it happen, please.

The VivoBook S14 is available in a variety of different color options. As you can see, I’ve been using the Star Grey version that has red accents along the flanks. ‘Icicle Gold’ and ‘Gun Metal’ are also some of the best looking colors in my opinion, but I think you can’t go wrong with any of them. Just pick the one that suits your personality best.

    The ASUS VivoBook S14 has an amazing build quality and the ErgoLift hinge makes it stand out from the sea of other thin and light laptops.

ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Display

The VivoBook S14’s display deserves a special mention too. It’s a 14-inch FullHD LED panel, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s got a matte finish that eliminates glare and reflections, and makes it easier on your eyes. The bezels around the panel, as you can see, are very minimal, and it’s a joy to look at it. According to ASUS, it’s a three-sided NanoEdge display with an 84-percent screen-to-body ratio. Despite the slim bezels, I am glad that the webcam is placed exactly where it belongs.
Vivobook s14 display
The VivoBook S14 has a beautiful display

You are looking at an LED panel, so the colors are nice and vibrant. You’ll have a great time editing images on Photoshop and Lightroom or casually chopping up some videos. The colors are full of life, and the experience is truly immersive. Be it watching videos and TV shows or simply browsing the web, I had a blast using this display. I’d also like to point out that the display has really good viewing angles. This is definitely one of those laptops which you can use to consume content with your friends or flat-mates.
VivoBook S14
The VivoBook S14 has 84% screen-to-body ratio
ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Ports and Connectivity

The ASUS VivoBook S14 has a good port selection. It’s got three USB Type A ports (2 USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0), one Type C 3.1 port, an HDMI port, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. Unlike some older VivoBook models, the ports on the VivoBook S14 S430UN are evenly distributed on both sides, so I have no complaints there.
VivoBook S14
Ports array on the left side of the VivoBook S14

If I have to nitpick, then I’ll say that it would have been nice to have a full-sized SD card slot instead of the microSD option here. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but it’s definitely worth making a note of, if you plan to use the laptop for editing photos from your DSLR.
VivoBook S14
Ports array on the right side of the VivoBook S14

In terms of wireless connectivity, the VivoBook S14 sports Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi with advanced Wi-Fi Master technology and Bluetooth V4.2 support. I personally had no connectivity issues whatsoever while using both the Wi-Fi or a Bluetooth peripheral.

    The ASUS VivoBook S14 comes packed with a good selection of ports. I am happy to report that there’s no need to embrace the dongle-life with this laptop.

ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Keyboard

The VivoBook S14 is fitted with an awesome keyboard. I am not too sure if it’s because of the ErgoLift design, but it’s undoubtedly one of my favorite keyboards to type on. As a professional writer, I’ve used a lot of keyboards throughout my career, and the one on the VivoBook S14 is certainly one of the best I’ve used.
VivoBook S14
VivoBook S14 has an amazing keyboard

The keys have 1.4mm of key travel, which is pretty good for my liking. They also have a matte finish, and there’s little to no flex on the deck. I also love that there’s enough space between the keys. Getting used to different keyboards is one of the major gripes that I have while reviewing laptops, but my writing speed wasn’t affected even a little bit while testing out the VivoBook S14. That’s how good the keyboard really is.

One of the major complaints that my colleague Anmol had with VivoBook X505 was the fact that there was no LED notification light on the Caps Lock key. Well, that truly is an absurd decision, and I am glad that I didn’t have to put with that, as the VivoBook S14 has one. However, I’d like to point out that you won’t be getting a full-sized keyboard, so you’ll still be reaching out for the number keys on the top.

Anyway, did I tell you that the keys are backlit and they have red accents? Yes, they look really pretty at night. Here, check it out –
VivoBook S14
VivoBook S14 Keyboard

    Overall, typing on the VivoBook S14’s keyboard is a breeze, and Ergolift hinge makes it that much better. It’s easily one of the best keyboards that I’ve ever used!

ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Touchpad

A touchpad, in my opinion, can make or break your experience with a laptop. That’s one thing that you’ll find yourself using the most to interact with the laptop after all. Fortunately, the ASUS VivoBook S14 has a really good touchpad. It makes use of the Precision drivers on Windows 10, which is always a positive sign.
VivoBook S14
VivoBook S14 Touchpad

The touchpad is spacious enough to let me use all the gestures, which, by the way, are really responsive. I wish it had two separate clickable buttons, but I guess those are not cool anymore. In terms of the look, the smooth touchpad is pretty basic. There’s also a fingerprint scanner on the right-top corner, that makes use of the Windows Hello feature. It’s definitely not as fast as a smartphone fingerprint scanner, but it works really well and I find myself using it all the time.

    Overall, the touchpad on the VivoBook S14 is really good. The added fingerprint scanner is also a nice touch.

ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Audio

I am not an audiophile by any means, but I believe that you don’t need to be one to figure out that the audio playback is one of the major let-downs of this particular laptop. I for one was really excited about the ‘SonicMaster’ branding on the deck. But after listening to a couple of songs on my playlist, I had heard enough to realize that it’s not up to the mark.

First off, I’d like to talk about the placement of the speakers. They’re positioned literally at the bottom of the laptop, which makes absolutely no sense. Yes, the ErgoLift hinge does help a little, but I can’t stress enough about how easy it is to muffle the sound. Look, the speakers are meant to be either on the top facing upwards or on the front, facing the user. Any other placements are a big no for me.
VivoBook S14
The VivoBook S14 speaker

By now, I wasn’t expecting the speakers to be exceptional, but sadly, they’re not even enough for casual listening. This one time, I remember watching an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast (an awesome YouTube channel BTW), and I wasn’t even able to hear what the people in the video are saying. I had to go looking for my headphones in just a couple of minutes. The audio output is very low, it’s not well-balanced, and lacks bass as well. Yes, the output is slightly better when you’re placing the laptop on a table or some other flat surface, but I find myself using my laptop on my lap (duh!), so it is indeed a deal-breaker for me.

The VivoBook S14 is not the only VivoBook to be plagued by the poor audio quality. Some other VivoBooks that my colleagues have reviewed here at Beebom also had similar experiences.
ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Camera

I am yet to use a decent webcam on any laptop, and the one on the VivoBook S14 is no exception. ASUS says that it has bundled the laptop with an HD webcam, but it really is just a normal webcam that still has a sub-par picture quality. Here, check out the quality yourself –

Vivobook s14 webcam sample

But as I had mentioned earlier in this review, I am glad that ASUS decided to place it in the right spot despite having smaller bezels. I personally don’t use the webcam on a laptop for anything, really. I handle all my video calls on the phone. But if you are someone who is looking for a good quality webcam then you’ll have to look somewhere else.
VivoBook S14
VivoBook S14 webcam placement
ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Performance

For the price tag of Rs. 64,990, you’ll be buying yourself into a laptop that’s powered by an 8th generation Intel Core i5 8250U processor clocked at 1.6Ghz. It comes with Intel’s UHD Graphics 620, and also 8GB RAM. You’re also getting a dual-storage machine that comprises of a 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD. Of course, there’s always an option to spend more and get a variant with better internals.

vivobook s14
ASUS VivoBook S14: Benchmarks

Before I talk about my day-to-day experience, let’s take a look at some numbers, shall we? Much like any other laptop that I’ve reviewed, I did run a few benchmarks on the VivoBook S14. Well, here’s how it performed –

I started off with the 3DMark’s Fire Strike test, in which the laptop managed to score 940 with a graphics score of 1,011, and a Physics score of 8,049. In the GeekBench test, the 8th Gen Core i5 processor managed to get 4,011 on the single-core score, and 13,977 on the multi-core score.

The VivoBook S14 also managed to post decent results, getting 52.7 fps in Cinebench R15’s OpenGL test. The laptop was also able to render an image from the Blender video archive in under 15 minutes, which is better than the VivoBook X505 that’s powered by the Ryzen 5 2550U chipset.

ASUS VivoBook S14: Day-to-Day Performance

But does the benchmark results translate to real-world performance? Well, I’d say yes. This super-portable laptop was able to power through most of my day-to-day tasks without breaking a sweat. Thanks to the SSD, the laptop was very quick at booting Windows every single time. Needless to say, it also allows for a super-fast performance when it comes to system related tasks.
ASUS VivoBook S14
VivoBook S14 is a solid performer

During my review period, I used the laptop to draft articles, web browsing, image editing in Photoshop, etc., and I had no complaints whatsoever. And as you probably already know, the Intel UHD 620 Graphics is not ideal for gaming. Yes, it can handle some light games, but there’s absolutely no point trying to run a AAA title, pushing the laptop to its limits.

However, I did play some popular titles like Fortnite and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and I was only getting mediocre frame rates even while running the said titles in low-settings. I also tried playing PUBG Mobile on the VivoBook S14 using an emulator, and I was able to get playable frame rates with everything set to low.

    Overall, I’d say that the VivoBook S14 is a solid performer when it comes to day-to-day usage. However, you might want to the buy the Core i7 variant of the laptop with MX150 GPU to satisfy your gaming needs.

ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Thermals

When it comes to thermals, the VivoBook S14 managed to keep things cool throughout my usage. I faced no throttling issues whatsoever, which is always a good sign. The laptop was constantly running at around 40 degrees Celsius, which is pretty normal.
VivoBook S14
VivoBook S14

As you can see, the VivoBook S14 has vents on top of the keyboard deck where the hot air is thrown out of the laptop. The fan only kicks-in when doing resource-intensive tasks such as gaming or running benchmarks. However, it doesn’t really get loud, so no complaints there as well.
VivoBook S14
VivoBook S14 back
ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Battery Life

    The VivoBook S14 has a decent battery life, and you won’t find yourself hugging a power socket all the time!

The VivoBook S14 has a 42Whr 3-cell lithium-prismatic battery. According to ASUS, the laptop should last you for about 7 hours of usage. However during my usage, I only managed to get around four and a half hours of on time while using the laptop in performance mode, and around six hours while using it in the power-saving mode. Given the VivoBook’s portable form-factor, I’d say that’s sweet, but other laptops such as the Asus Zenbook 13, which starts at the same price as our unit, offer you longer battery life.
VivoBook S14
The VivoBook S14 has a 42Whr battery

It is also worth pointing out that the VivoBook S14 supports fast-charging, so you’ll be able to fully charge the battery in about an hour. Now that’s a relief considering the fact that you won’t be hugging a power socket all the time.
ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Pros and Cons

Now that we’ve discussed almost everything about the VivoBook S14, let me give you a quick overview by pointing out the pros and cons –
Pros

    Beautiful design and amazing build quality
    Super-portable form factor
    The keyboard is a joy to use
    Really good display

Cons

    Speakers are disappointing
    No Ethernet port
    The battery is decent at best

SEE ALSO: Asus VivoBook X505 Review: Ryzen-Powered Versatile Machine
ASUS VivoBook S14 S430UN: Should You Buy it?

The ASUS VivoBook S14 is a really good laptop that offers a display, has an amazing design and build quality, and an excellent keyboard. It can also handle your day-to-day tasks with ease. The highlight of the laptop, however, is its portable form factor.

vivobook s14

With a price tag of Rs. 64,990, it’s safe to say that the VivoBook S14 is locking horns with the likes of the Lenovo 330S (starts at Rs. 55,990), HP Pavilion X360 (starts at Rs. 51,290) and more. However, all these laptops are unique in their own way. Some offer better performance, while others have good looks. The Asus ZenBook 13 (starts at Rs. 64,490) is a really good option, and so is the Dell Inspiron 13 (starts at Rs. 68,990). They both have a very portable form factor and are powered by Intel’s 8th gen processors as well.

The ASUS VivoBook S14 is a really good laptop for its price. Yes, you can’t play games, but it’s a great machine that’s capable enough to compete with other laptops in this price range. Add the ErgoLift hinge and quirky color options to that, and you’ve got yourself a laptop that looks just as pretty as other expensive Ultrabooks in the market.
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