In 2019, the Google Pixel 3a was a massive hit. It was so popular that it was one of the best budget phones on the market at the time and although there were some compromises, people were actually loving it.
Because of the massive success of its predecessor, there is some pressure on Google to create a worthy successor.
Is the new device much better than the 3a? This is the Google Pixel 4a review.
The Google Pixel 4a is a budget phone which means that you can expect the company to cut some corners and make some sacrifices. From a design standpoint, the device is actually pretty good.
It does have a polycarbonate body with a completely black exterior. Sadly, for people that want a more lively color than this one, you are out of luck because the company only intends to sell it in one color.
But, the aesthetics are actually pretty good. It looks clean and simple and I love the fact that the black exterior makes it so much easier on the eyes.
You will find the power button and the volume rockers on the right side of the device but what’s interesting here is that the former is actually situated above the latter and for people who are accustomed to the power button being below the volume controls, it can take some time getting used to.
Still, I do like the fact that the power button is colored differently so that you can easily distinguish it from the rockers.
At the back, you will find a single camera at the top left corner, as well as an LED flash. Google maintains that square block to house the camera which I think is a design decision that was made in order to mimic the aesthetics of its more premium brothers.
For people who want to have a physical fingerprint sensor, there is one situated at the back where it is supposed to be. As expected, it is quite accurate and you shouldn’t have any problems unlocking the device.
Now, this is something refreshing- the Google Pixel 4a comes with a headphone jack. That’s right, it is located at the top of the device so for people that want to use their favorite headphones wired, you can do so with this phone.
At the bottom, you will find the USB Type-C port, as well as a mono speaker. To be honest, the speakers are subpar. Fortunately, you can plug your favorite pair of cans to improve your listening experience.
Google has finally caught on to its competitors. You see, most smartphone companies make devices with bezel-less displays, and even the Google Pixel 4 devices have very noticeable bezels.
But with the Google Pixel 4a, this is the first for the company. It is not as bezel-less as the others but it certainly provides you with even more screen real estate now compared to its predecessor, the Google Pixel 3a.
The phone has a 5.81-inch OLED display with HDR support and a resolution of Full HD+. While the screen provides punchy and vibrant colors, you will notice that the display is much smaller, especially if you’ve used some flagship devices before.
Still, I am happy that Google is finally entering the fray when it comes to bezel-less displays.
People always go for Pixel devices if they want a good camera smartphone and the Google Pixel 4a doesn’t disappoint.
Despite the lack of multiple cameras at the back, you are getting a 12.2-megapixel shooter with an 84-degree angle view. It is actually pretty good and it allows you to record videos up to 4k/30fps.
What’s interesting here is that when you are in a dimly-lit room, the phone will suggest that you turn on its Night Sight feature which will effectively brighten the resulting image just enough not to make it artificial.
True enough, I am blown away by the picture quality and it certainly trumps other mid-range phones that you can find on the market.
That is because of Google’s software and hardware integration where its Camera AI is well-integrated with the camera lenses found in the phone itself.
You can also take advantage of what is known as the astrophotography mode, but you can only enable this if you are in a pitch-black environment. Think of this as a better implementation of night sight.
At the front, you have an 8-megapixel camera with the same degree viewing angle as the rear camera. For all intents and purposes, it is actually pretty good, though you may want to be in an environment with good lighting conditions if you want to make the most out of it.
Specs and Performance
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730
- GPU: Adreno 618
- Display: 5.81-inch OLED, 2340 x 1080 resolution, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, Gorilla Glass 3
- RAM: 6GB
- Storage: 128GB, non-expandable
- Cameras: 12.2-megapixel, f/1.7 w/ electronic image stabilization; 8-megapixel, f/2.0 fixed focus
- Battery: 3,140 mAh, 18W charger included, no wireless charging
- Weight: 143 grams
The performance package of the Google Pixel 4a is, to put it bluntly, mediocre at best. Don’t get me wrong, it should handle daily tasks well, but when you compare it to the likes of the OnePlus Nord, it simply just doesn’t cut it.
Furthermore, while most phones in this price range already have 5G support, this particular device doesn’t. Although, it has to be said that the company is intending to release a 5G version later this year, but by that time, people might be fixated on getting the new Pixel 5 devices.
You can play games with this thing, though you will not be able to max things out even if you want to unless you are willing to experience some frame drops here and there.
I do love the fact that it comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The RAM capacity should be adequate for years to come and its internal storage should be plenty for most users.
The Google Pixel 4a is equipped with Android 10 and the company promises 3 years of software support for this particular device. That means that you will not only be receiving Android 11, but also Android 12, 13, and possibly even Android 14.
Since this is a phone that was made by the company that also developed the operating system, you can expect better integration when using Google apps.
For instance, its Google AI is so much more accurate on this one and you can tell it to do a number of things- from sending a message to someone to set an alarm, and so on.
There is also a transcribing option that you can use to record certain interviews and whatnot. It is relatively accurate and the feature is constantly being improved.
It is also worth mentioning that the Pixel 4a comes with the Recorder app and it is pretty useful, especially if you want to save some conversations from your meetings, for example.
Aside from the all-plastic exterior, Google had to cut some corners somewhere else as well, and sadly, the device’s battery life is not as good as the others in its price range.
You get a 3,140 mAh, non-removable battery, and while it can theoretically last more than a day, if you use your phone heavily on media and games, it certainly doesn’t last that long.
Upon testing, I’ve only eked out a maximum of 5 hours of use. That’s with 2 hours+ of gaming and the rest is streaming content online. That is pretty low if you ask me.
You do get an 18-watt fast charger out of the box so you can still give it enough juice in a short amount of time. People that want to charge wirelessly will be disappointed to know that this phone doesn’t support that.
There is no doubt that the Google Pixel 4a is the best pixel device yet. It has more screen real estate, you can use it with one hand without any problems, and it has a great set of cameras for everyday use.
But, as is customary with budget phones, you have an all-plastic device that could potentially be a problem for people who have the knack of dropping their phones.
The battery could have been better and its performance package, while okay in most cases, could have been improved as well.
People who are looking for a 5G phone will be disappointed that the Pixel 4a doesn’t have 5G connectivity. However, if you are willing to wait until later this year, you can get your hands on one with the said technology.
For $350, I am still impressed with what Google has to offer at this price point. You get a good camera phone with considerable performance and if you are a heavy Google services user, I can recommend this phone to you without a doubt.
But, for everyone else, you have to think about its negatives so that you can assess if the Google Pixel 4a is worth it for you or not.
Google Nest Audio vs Amazon Echo- The Battle of the New ‘Smart’ Speakers
Smart home speakers are not as popular as mobile phones, but in my opinion, it actually should be.
You see, companies are slowly rolling out smart home devices so that your life will be so much easier given the convenience of having them.
That being said, I am going to be talking about the Google Nest Audio and Amazon Echo speakers because they are the ones that are at the forefront when it comes to smart home speakers. Which of these should you choose? Read on to find out!
For those of you who do not know, Google Nest Audio is actually the Google Home speakers that were released just about a year ago. It seems that Google wanted to use a new moniker to denote that this particular thing can ‘nest’ your other smart home devices.
The Amazon Echo, on the other hand, refers to the medium-sized Bluetooth speaker that the largest online retailer sells. The company is set to release a new version of this device soon, so it would be interesting to see how well it performs.
Even though the new version of the Amazon Echo hasn’t arrived at our doorstep yet for an official review, this is not to say that we can somehow speculate what it can offer, especially considering that the company has provided us with some really good information about it.
With all of those out of the way, let’s talk more about the design first. The Google Nest Audio takes on a more cylindrical approach in that the speaker itself has a higher height than the Amazon Echo.
For that reason, you are getting a 75mm woofer and a single 19mm tweeter. Google touts the Google Nest Audio as a better sound solution compared to its original Google Home Speaker because of the changes.
On the other hand, the Amazon Echo, in my opinion, has better sound quality. That is thanks to its two 20mm tweeters and a huge 76.2mm woofer. Its design is more spherical but I am pleased (and surprised) that Amazon was able to include two tweeters on its Bluetooth speaker implementation.
At the base of the Amazon Echo is a blue light ring that changes the way it emits light depending on the current usage.
Both of these Bluetooth speakers are offered in various colors so you have different options to choose from.
If you look at the design of both speakers, you could make a case that the Amazon Echo wins this round when it comes to pure sound quality. Its two tweeters compared to the single tweeter on the Google Nest Audio, provides it with a much better chance of delivering mid-high sound frequencies.
This is not to discount the fact that Google has some tricks up its sleeves because its AI technology is smart enough to adjust the sound quality on the fly when needed.
Both of the speakers have an adaptive sound feature wherein if it detects that the ambient noise is loud enough, it increases the volume of whatever content you are consuming at that moment to compensate. This is using both of the speakers’ microphones. The volume should normalize to the last known level after it detects that the ambient sound has quieted down.
Of course, this is only my opinion after looking at the spec sheet because I will have to get my hands on these things before I can give my honest opinion. But, my initial assessment would be that the Amazon Echo delivers better sound compared to the Google Nest Audio.
To be able to provide you with ‘smart’ features, both the Google Nest Audio and Amazon Echo are equipped with processors that can handle just that.
The Google Nest Audio comes with the company’s TeraOPS A53 processor which is a quad-core chip that boasts of better performance compared to the company’s previous Bluetooth speakers.
On the other hand, Amazon’s own speaker is equipped with the AZ1 Neural Edge processor that, according to the company, should be more responsive to voice commands compared to previous versions.
It is hard to say who wins this round. You see, Amazon has Zigbee hub integration which means that your connected smart home devices have better compatibility with the said speaker because of this.
However, we all know that Google’s AI technology is so advanced (and even more accurate) than Alexa, so it could potentially provide you with better features overall compared to Amazon’s Bluetooth speaker.
Of course, I cannot truly say which one wins this round until I get to review these wireless audio solutions. In that case, stay tuned for more.
The Google Nest Audio will be available on October 5, while the Amazon Echo will not be released until later this month (October 22). That being said, both of these speakers will retail for $99.99, so stay tuned for our official product reviews to help you know which one you should ultimately choose for yourself.
Apple iPad 8th Generation Review- An Iterative Upgrade
When it comes to ease of use and convenience, people like getting Apple’s products because of its more streamlined approach to everything. Sure, there is a lot to tinker on Android but that is also precisely the reason why the user experience, at least for the layman, is not as great.
There is this saying that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, although I would have liked to say that here, I just don’t think that that approach applies here.
You see, the design of the 8th generation iPad is identical to its predecessor. As in everything about its aesthetics are similar which means that if you want to imagine what the new iPad looks like, all you have to do is look at the 7th gen variant.
Like all things, it can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is a good thing because that familiar design should feel right at home, especially for people that already own an iPad. It is bad because, in this day and age, more and more mobile devices have slimmer bezels and the new iPad still has those atrociously huge ones.
Don’t get me wrong, there are practical uses to having large bezels as it allows you to hold the tablet better when using it in landscape mode, but if you are watching online content, you can’t help but be bothered by the huge sides.
There are two versions of the 8th generation iPad and that is one with WiFi only and the other one having LTE. Its dimensions are 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29. The only difference between the WiFi and the LTE versions is that the latter is a bit heavier at 495 grams compared to the 490 grams of the former.
Thankfully, Apple didn’t remove the headphone jack but if you are going to utilize its built-in speakers, you are better off using a good Bluetooth speaker instead.
The 8th generation iPad has a 10.2-inch Retina Display with a resolution of 2160 x 1620 and 264 pixels per inch or PPI. It has a good peak brightness at 500 nits, though you can still experience some problems when you are outside and the sun is shining brightly.
You can utilize the Apple Pencil on this device and it is also quite accurate as well (just keep in mind that it is sold separately).
What I love about iPads, in general, is that their displays provide you with crisp and clear details. Whether you are working on your documents or perhaps watching your favorite movies and TV shows, they do not disappoint.
Specs and Performance
- CPU: A12 Bionic
- GPU: Apple GPU (4-core graphics)
- RAM: 3GB
- Storage: 32GB/128GB
- Display: 10.2-inch Retina IPS LCD Display, 2160 x 1620, 4:3 aspect ratio, 500 nits brightness, 264 PPI
- OS: iPadOS 14
- Cameras: 8-megapixel (back), 1.2-megapixel (front)
- Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 AC, Bluetooth 4.2
- Battery: 32.4 Wh
So, if the 8th generation iPad has an identical design to its predecessor, what has changed here? Well, I am glad you asked. The only notable difference here is that the new model comes with the A12 Bionic chip and that’s pretty much it.
While you could be unhappy with the change, the new CPU actually beats its predecessor by a lot. By using Geekbench 5, single-core scores are about 60% higher than the 7th gen iPad and about 100% better in multi-core tasks than the previous model.
Granted that the said benchmark is relatively old, you couldn’t argue that the new processor is indeed way better than its predecessor.
Even when you are just using the tablet the way it should be used, you can really tell the difference. This is more evident if you are going to play some games.
Now, do not worry about the 3GB of RAM because the iOS ecosystem is quite streamlined and efficient that you normally wouldn’t need more than that.
It should also go without saying that the included cameras are just there for show and they do not really do anything special, so I don’t think that covering them is warranted here.
Sure, the new 8th generation iPad doesn’t bring a lot to the table, but its new processor is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. Does that justify buying the new one? Probably not, especially if you already own the 7th generation model.
However, if you own an older iPad and you want better performance across the board, then you could probably spend your money to get one.
My gripe here is that there are only two storage options to choose from. You can get the 32GB variant for only $329 but in this day and age, 32GB is not a lot of storage space.
If you want more storage, you will need to spend an additional $100 premium just to get the 128GB model. In fact, I would go on to say that you should be buying this particular model compared to the 32GB variant. I just don’t like that the company is gouging you another $100 ($429 in total) just to get one.
The 8th generation iPad is disappointing in a lot of ways and its only redeeming quality is its new processor. It would have been nice if there is a redesign or that the lightning cable is changed to USB-C, but there is just not a lot of things to talk about here.
Therefore, I should say that the 8th generation iPad is just an iterative upgrade. Whether you want to buy it or not is entirely up to you.
Amazon Echo Studio Review- The Bigger ‘Echo’ Speaker That Competes
Amazon, the biggest online retailer in the world, has created its own AI implementation in the form of the Amazon Alexa.
It is actually quite polished and it can go against Apple’s Siri and Google’s own AI. That being said, the company has released some ‘Echo’ speakers that not only act as Bluetooth audio devices but as smart devices as well.
Today, I am going to be reviewing the Amazon Echo Studio. Does this thing really have what it takes to compete with the others?
One of the biggest criticisms of Amazon’s Echo speakers of the past is that although its smart features are okay, their sound output leaves much to be desired. As a way of addressing the issue, Amazon has built the Echo Studio.
The Amazon Echo Studio is pretty big. It is 8 inches in height and 7 inches wide so this is indeed a pretty hefty audio solution. In fact, I would go on to say that this is one of the biggest Bluetooth speakers on the market.
Its design is pretty much akin to the Amazon Echo speakers of old. You get a fabric mesh design that encapsulates the speaker itself with all of its button controls situated at the top of the device.
You also get a blue ring light that will pretty much add to the aesthetic appeal of the unit. The microphone is also placed at the top and it is always on ‘listening mode’ so that whenever you want to interact with Alexa, it can do so at a moment’s notice.
Although you cannot see it, the Amazon Echo Studio is actually powered by a subwoofer, a tweeter, and four mid-range speakers that are mounted at the top and the sides. This thing is a beast as it can output 330 watts of power when needed, which is ample enough even for home cinema setups.
The Amazon Echo Studio is quite a powerful Bluetooth speaker. No matter what genre of content you’d like to consume, this thing can output the necessary sound to make your viewing experience more immersive.
I am usually keen on an audio solution’s performance when it comes to playing music and I am happy with the Echo Studio’s prowess.
Although it favors the lower frequencies more than the mids and the highs, it does so without drowning the latter two, which is something that you normally do not see on large Bluetooth speakers.
An interesting feature that the Amazon Echo Studio has is its support for 3D Audio. You will need to sign in to your Amazon Music HD account before you can get a hold of this feature and it is the only platform that supports the Echo Studio’s 3D Audio. Amazon did mention that it will hand out support for other streaming platforms at a later date though.
So, how is the speaker’s performance on that front? Well, I am not really sure what to think about it as I have mixed feelings about the said feature.
3D audio is meant to provide a more immersive listening experience but I can hardly tell the difference between traditional Hi-Res audio and this one.
I guess you could say that for tracks that have a more melodic tone that you can discern a 3D audio-enabled track from a regular track, but other than that, non-audiophiles can hardly tell the difference.
To be fair, the said feature is still not polished yet, so expect it to improve in the years to come.
The Amazon Echo Studio also has seamless integration with the Amazon Fire TV Stick, though it does support all other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu as well.
You are also given the option to link up another Amazon Echo Studio speaker so that you can have them work in tandem to provide you with even better sound. I do not have a second unit though, so I cannot really tell anything about this. But, the feature is there if you want to get another unit.
Aside from 3D audio, the Echo Studio also acts as a control hub for your smart devices. You can use Alexa to turn off your lights at a specific time of the night or you can have it play your favorite track if you want. The possibilities are endless.
Do keep in mind that while it should support most of the smart home devices that you can buy on the market, there are some products that do not play ball.
For instance, some smart locks can only be supported using Apple’s Siri, so you cannot control that using this device.
You can also link up a second Echo Studio speaker if you have one and you can use both of them to provide you with an even more powerful and more immersive listening experience.
You can control the speaker’s features by manually tapping on the buttons at the top of the device or by downloading its companion app.
Amazon has finally solved the issue of the Amazon Echo speakers of the past by giving you a relatively large speaker that can do a lot of things.
The Amazon Echo Studio has support for 3D audio, but you will need to have an Amazon Music HD account to get a hold of the said feature.
You can also use the speaker to control your smart home devices which is pretty nice. The microphone is always on listening mode so that you can call Alexa’s attention at a moment’s notice.
Normally, I would expect a product like this to cost more than $300, but the Amazon Echo Studio actually costs just $199. I guess getting another one is not too far out of the equation, eh?
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