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OnePlus Nord Review- The King of Mid-Range Phones in 2020

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OnePlus Nord Review

OnePlus is quite an interesting company because it started out as a phone manufacturer that builds flagship killers.

Flagship killers are devices with high-end specs that are sold at a much affordable price, thus ‘killing’ flagship smartphones with amazing value.

Over time, the company has veered away from that path, and instead, it has produced flagship products which are great, by the way, but it was no longer a company that is known for more affordable devices.

Well, the company is set to return to its roots by offering the OnePlus Nord. This is touted to be a great phone that although doesn’t necessarily have flagship-killing specs, does offer quite a bit more than your standard mid-range device.

Read further to find out why I think the OnePlus Nord is the king of mid-range phones in 2020.

Design

As is the case with mid-range devices, there are bound to be some compromises just to get that price down and it is certainly evident with the OnePlus Nord.

Instead of an aluminum build, the phone is made of durable plastic that is still quite sturdy and robust, albeit you can definitely feel the change in material from what was used in the OnePlus 8.

Still, there is a metallic frame that you can feel on the side, but the back portion of the device is entirely made of plastic.

The good thing, though, is that the display is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 which makes the device sturdier than other mid-range devices.

This phone measures 153.8 x 73. 3 x 8.2 mm and it weighs just around 184 grams. It is lightweight for its size and I have to commend OnePlus for that.

On the right side, you will find the power/lock button, as well as the OnePlus alert slider that instantly allows you to turn the phone into its vibrate, silent, and normal modes.

Situated on the left side are the volume controls and at the bottom, you will find the USB Type-C port for charging and data transfers, as well as a mono speaker system and surprisingly, the dual SIM card slot.

Do keep in mind that the card slot only provides you with the option to insert two different SIM cards, which means that it doesn’t allow you to expand the storage of the device (which is a bummer, but a fair compromise).

This phone is available in two different colors. I personally love the Blue Marble as it is colorful and vibrant, but the Gray Onyx is still nice for people that want a more subtle finish.

Display

OnePlus Nord Review 2020

For a mid-range device, the OnePlus Nord is one of the only phones that come with a high refresh rate screen. You can set the refresh rate to 90Hz for a much smoother experience.

For the price of $450, you are getting a phone with a 6.44-inch AMOLED display with an aspect ratio of 20:9 and Full HD+ resolution (and of course, the 90Hz refresh rate).

I like the fact that phones nowadays go toward the more bezel-less approach and it truly shows with the Nord.

Because of the aspect ratio, content consumption on this thing is great. Also, its screen real estate allows you to enjoy your favorite Android games even more.

My only gripe with the display is that it has two punch-hole cameras situated on the upper lefthand corner. Because it is much larger than a single punch-hole camera, the notification area kind of suffers as a result.

Still, you are left with a lot of screen real estate and over time, you will get used to the selfie cameras anyway.

Cameras

The camera quality of the OnePlus Nord is, to put it bluntly, kind of average. The company touts this to be a device with ‘flagship’ cameras but to be honest, most of the additional cameras are superfluous as they do not provide the kind of quality that is present in both Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Pixel devices.

This phone comes with six cameras. That’s right, you get six different snappers- four of which are located at the back and two of which are on the front.

Its headline shooter is the 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor. To my surprise, turning on the camera application for the first time and going to the settings indicate that the snapper is set to 12 megapixels by default.

I think that the company did this as a means of reducing the file size needed to save the files on the phone itself as 48-megapixel images are definitely storage hogs. However, most people do not tinker with the settings so this might be overlooked by many.

Anyway, the main shooter provides impressive shots. It has a f/1.57 aperture which, for the most part, gives you stunning images, provided that you get ample lighting.

Although there is a nightscape mode that can dramatically improve the quality of images that you can take at low-light environments, your hands have to be quite stable in order to take full advantage of the feature.

Along with the main shooter are three different cameras. One is an 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens with a 119-degree field of view, another is the 5-megapixel depth shooter, and lastly, the 2-megapixel macro sensor.

The ultra-wide lens is passable as it can help you get more subjects into the frame, but for the other two? You can safely ditch them as they do not provide high-quality shots at all.

For instance, when enabling the macro mode (which is available by tapping an option at the top corner of the phone), your hands should be so steady so as to not move. If you budge even a little bit, the resulting image is going to be blurry.

How about the depth sensor? Well, to be honest, it feels as if I cannot see it function at all. In other words, it is pretty useless.

Despite the lackluster performance of the other three cameras at the back, I am happy with the selfie cameras.

You get a 32-megapixel main shooter with an aperture of f/2.45 and it is accompanied by an 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens with a 105-degree field of view.

The quality of the selfie cameras is pretty good as subjects within the frame are stunning and provide a lot of detail. Even when using the ultra-wide lens, you are still getting high-quality shots nevertheless.

For the video quality, both the front and back cameras are capable of shooting 4K videos at 30fps. But, keep in mind that if you do set it to the said resolution, you need to have a gimbal to stabilize the device. Otherwise, you are getting shaky video quality and that is something that you do not want.

The main Sony IMX sensor at the back, however, provides you with steady videos, albeit this is only available when you shoot and record videos at 1080p resolution.

Specs and Performance

  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
  • GPU: Adreno 620
  • RAM: 8GB/12GB
  • Display: 6.44-inch Fluid AMOLED, 2400 x 1080 resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, 90Hz screen refresh rate, in-display fingerprint sensor, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB UFS 2.1 (non-expandable)
  • Cameras: 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor, 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens (119-degree view), 5-megapixel depth sensor, 2-megapixel macro; 32-megapixel, f/2.45 selfie camera, 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens (105-degree view)
  • 4Battery: 4,115 mAh, Warp Charge 30T (30 watts) charger included

As for the OnePlus Nord’s performance, is actually pretty good. It is packed with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor which basically has comparable performance to the company’s previous flagship chipset, the Snapdragon 845.

The main difference here is that the new processor that is built into this thing has 5G connectivity, so if you want a competitively priced 5G phone, this is the one that you should be looking at.

Setting the display’s refresh rate to 90Hz provides an overall smooth experience- whether it be browsing your social media or playing games.

Speaking of games, you can play even the most graphically demanding titles at medium to high settings without any issues.

I was able to play Fortnite at a relatively steady 60fps but it kind of dips down to 54fps (which doesn’t really feel sluggish at all).

The same thing goes with Call of Duty Mobile but the thing is that the phone can get warm after a couple of minutes. It is not a cause for alarm though as it is normal when you are playing graphics-intensive games.

The chipset does exhibit some hiccups here and there, especially when you are opening the camera app for the first time from a cold boot. But for the most part, the experience is fluid and seamless.

Battery

OnePlus Nord

OnePlus is always great when it comes to smartphone batteries and it shows in this device. The OnePlus Nord comes with a 4,115 mAh battery with the patented Warp Charge 30T, 30-watt charger in the box.

The charger is so fast that it can top up the device from 0 to 100 in just 54 minutes. That is truly impressive.

I do have to point out that there is a smart charging feature that significantly reduces charging time when the phone reaches 80%. That is to save the battery and give it more life, but you can disable the option if you do not want it.

Verdict

There is a lot to love about the OnePlus Nord. For $450, it provides amazing value across the board with smooth performance, a battery that can last an entire day, a pretty fast charger (though no wireless charging), and a pretty solid build.

However, it does have some downsides, mainly in the camera department. Honestly, OnePlus could have saved a bit more money if it ditched the two camera sensors at the back. I would be happy with a 4-camera setup rather than six mediocre ones.

The main shooter, as well as the main selfie camera, provides stunning images even in low-light conditions, but the other sensors leave much to be desired.

The main camera app also needs improvement as I can see noticeable delays whenever I am enabling a certain feature. This can be rectified with software updates which, according to the company, will provide you with at least 2 years of software support.

OnePlus used a name that signifies ‘true north’ and I think that the company is thinking of going back to its roots.

The OnePlus Nord is certainly a step into that direction, though I do not know if they are going back to developing flagship killers of actual flagship phones.

But in conclusion, this device is truly the king of mid-range smartphones in 2020.

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Google Nest Audio vs Amazon Echo- The Battle of the New ‘Smart’ Speakers

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Google Nest Audio vs Amazon Echo

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!

Design

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.

Sound Quality

Amazon Echo

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.

Smart Features

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.

Availability

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.

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Apple iPad 8th Generation Review- An Iterative Upgrade

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Apple iPad 8th Generation Review

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.

That being said, the 8th generation iPad was just released after the new iOS 14 update was launched. But, if you already have a 6th or 7th generation iPad, should you upgrade to the new one?

Design

Apple iPad 8th Generation Review 2020

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.

Display

Apple iPad 8th Gen

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.

Apple iPad 8th Gen Review

Verdict

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.

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Amazon Echo Studio Review- The Bigger ‘Echo’ Speaker That Competes

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Amazon Echo Studio Review

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?

Design

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.

Audio Performance

Amazon Echo Studio Review 2020

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.

Features

Amazon Echo Studio

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.

Conclusion

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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OnePlus Nord Review- The King of Mid-Range Phones in 2020

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OnePlus Nord Review

OnePlus is quite an interesting company because it started out as a phone manufacturer that builds flagship killers.

Flagship killers are devices with high-end specs that are sold at a much affordable price, thus ‘killing’ flagship smartphones with amazing value.

Over time, the company has veered away from that path, and instead, it has produced flagship products which are great, by the way, but it was no longer a company that is known for more affordable devices.

Well, the company is set to return to its roots by offering the OnePlus Nord. This is touted to be a great phone that although doesn’t necessarily have flagship-killing specs, does offer quite a bit more than your standard mid-range device.

Read further to find out why I think the OnePlus Nord is the king of mid-range phones in 2020.

Design

As is the case with mid-range devices, there are bound to be some compromises just to get that price down and it is certainly evident with the OnePlus Nord.

Instead of an aluminum build, the phone is made of durable plastic that is still quite sturdy and robust, albeit you can definitely feel the change in material from what was used in the OnePlus 8.

Still, there is a metallic frame that you can feel on the side, but the back portion of the device is entirely made of plastic.

The good thing, though, is that the display is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 which makes the device sturdier than other mid-range devices.

This phone measures 153.8 x 73. 3 x 8.2 mm and it weighs just around 184 grams. It is lightweight for its size and I have to commend OnePlus for that.

On the right side, you will find the power/lock button, as well as the OnePlus alert slider that instantly allows you to turn the phone into its vibrate, silent, and normal modes.

Situated on the left side are the volume controls and at the bottom, you will find the USB Type-C port for charging and data transfers, as well as a mono speaker system and surprisingly, the dual SIM card slot.

Do keep in mind that the card slot only provides you with the option to insert two different SIM cards, which means that it doesn’t allow you to expand the storage of the device (which is a bummer, but a fair compromise).

This phone is available in two different colors. I personally love the Blue Marble as it is colorful and vibrant, but the Gray Onyx is still nice for people that want a more subtle finish.

Display

OnePlus Nord Review 2020

For a mid-range device, the OnePlus Nord is one of the only phones that come with a high refresh rate screen. You can set the refresh rate to 90Hz for a much smoother experience.

For the price of $450, you are getting a phone with a 6.44-inch AMOLED display with an aspect ratio of 20:9 and Full HD+ resolution (and of course, the 90Hz refresh rate).

I like the fact that phones nowadays go toward the more bezel-less approach and it truly shows with the Nord.

Because of the aspect ratio, content consumption on this thing is great. Also, its screen real estate allows you to enjoy your favorite Android games even more.

My only gripe with the display is that it has two punch-hole cameras situated on the upper lefthand corner. Because it is much larger than a single punch-hole camera, the notification area kind of suffers as a result.

Still, you are left with a lot of screen real estate and over time, you will get used to the selfie cameras anyway.

Cameras

The camera quality of the OnePlus Nord is, to put it bluntly, kind of average. The company touts this to be a device with ‘flagship’ cameras but to be honest, most of the additional cameras are superfluous as they do not provide the kind of quality that is present in both Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Pixel devices.

This phone comes with six cameras. That’s right, you get six different snappers- four of which are located at the back and two of which are on the front.

Its headline shooter is the 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor. To my surprise, turning on the camera application for the first time and going to the settings indicate that the snapper is set to 12 megapixels by default.

I think that the company did this as a means of reducing the file size needed to save the files on the phone itself as 48-megapixel images are definitely storage hogs. However, most people do not tinker with the settings so this might be overlooked by many.

Anyway, the main shooter provides impressive shots. It has a f/1.57 aperture which, for the most part, gives you stunning images, provided that you get ample lighting.

Although there is a nightscape mode that can dramatically improve the quality of images that you can take at low-light environments, your hands have to be quite stable in order to take full advantage of the feature.

Along with the main shooter are three different cameras. One is an 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens with a 119-degree field of view, another is the 5-megapixel depth shooter, and lastly, the 2-megapixel macro sensor.

The ultra-wide lens is passable as it can help you get more subjects into the frame, but for the other two? You can safely ditch them as they do not provide high-quality shots at all.

For instance, when enabling the macro mode (which is available by tapping an option at the top corner of the phone), your hands should be so steady so as to not move. If you budge even a little bit, the resulting image is going to be blurry.

How about the depth sensor? Well, to be honest, it feels as if I cannot see it function at all. In other words, it is pretty useless.

Despite the lackluster performance of the other three cameras at the back, I am happy with the selfie cameras.

You get a 32-megapixel main shooter with an aperture of f/2.45 and it is accompanied by an 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens with a 105-degree field of view.

The quality of the selfie cameras is pretty good as subjects within the frame are stunning and provide a lot of detail. Even when using the ultra-wide lens, you are still getting high-quality shots nevertheless.

For the video quality, both the front and back cameras are capable of shooting 4K videos at 30fps. But, keep in mind that if you do set it to the said resolution, you need to have a gimbal to stabilize the device. Otherwise, you are getting shaky video quality and that is something that you do not want.

The main Sony IMX sensor at the back, however, provides you with steady videos, albeit this is only available when you shoot and record videos at 1080p resolution.

Specs and Performance

  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
  • GPU: Adreno 620
  • RAM: 8GB/12GB
  • Display: 6.44-inch Fluid AMOLED, 2400 x 1080 resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, 90Hz screen refresh rate, in-display fingerprint sensor, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB UFS 2.1 (non-expandable)
  • Cameras: 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor, 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens (119-degree view), 5-megapixel depth sensor, 2-megapixel macro; 32-megapixel, f/2.45 selfie camera, 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens (105-degree view)
  • 4Battery: 4,115 mAh, Warp Charge 30T (30 watts) charger included

As for the OnePlus Nord’s performance, is actually pretty good. It is packed with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor which basically has comparable performance to the company’s previous flagship chipset, the Snapdragon 845.

The main difference here is that the new processor that is built into this thing has 5G connectivity, so if you want a competitively priced 5G phone, this is the one that you should be looking at.

Setting the display’s refresh rate to 90Hz provides an overall smooth experience- whether it be browsing your social media or playing games.

Speaking of games, you can play even the most graphically demanding titles at medium to high settings without any issues.

I was able to play Fortnite at a relatively steady 60fps but it kind of dips down to 54fps (which doesn’t really feel sluggish at all).

The same thing goes with Call of Duty Mobile but the thing is that the phone can get warm after a couple of minutes. It is not a cause for alarm though as it is normal when you are playing graphics-intensive games.

The chipset does exhibit some hiccups here and there, especially when you are opening the camera app for the first time from a cold boot. But for the most part, the experience is fluid and seamless.

Battery

OnePlus Nord

OnePlus is always great when it comes to smartphone batteries and it shows in this device. The OnePlus Nord comes with a 4,115 mAh battery with the patented Warp Charge 30T, 30-watt charger in the box.

The charger is so fast that it can top up the device from 0 to 100 in just 54 minutes. That is truly impressive.

I do have to point out that there is a smart charging feature that significantly reduces charging time when the phone reaches 80%. That is to save the battery and give it more life, but you can disable the option if you do not want it.

Verdict

There is a lot to love about the OnePlus Nord. For $450, it provides amazing value across the board with smooth performance, a battery that can last an entire day, a pretty fast charger (though no wireless charging), and a pretty solid build.

However, it does have some downsides, mainly in the camera department. Honestly, OnePlus could have saved a bit more money if it ditched the two camera sensors at the back. I would be happy with a 4-camera setup rather than six mediocre ones.

The main shooter, as well as the main selfie camera, provides stunning images even in low-light conditions, but the other sensors leave much to be desired.

The main camera app also needs improvement as I can see noticeable delays whenever I am enabling a certain feature. This can be rectified with software updates which, according to the company, will provide you with at least 2 years of software support.

OnePlus used a name that signifies ‘true north’ and I think that the company is thinking of going back to its roots.

The OnePlus Nord is certainly a step into that direction, though I do not know if they are going back to developing flagship killers of actual flagship phones.

But in conclusion, this device is truly the king of mid-range smartphones in 2020.

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Google Nest Audio vs Amazon Echo- The Battle of the New ‘Smart’ Speakers

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Google Nest Audio vs Amazon Echo

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!

Design

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.

Sound Quality

Amazon Echo

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.

Smart Features

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.

Availability

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.

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Apple iPad 8th Generation Review- An Iterative Upgrade

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Apple iPad 8th Generation Review

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.

That being said, the 8th generation iPad was just released after the new iOS 14 update was launched. But, if you already have a 6th or 7th generation iPad, should you upgrade to the new one?

Design

Apple iPad 8th Generation Review 2020

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.

Display

Apple iPad 8th Gen

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.

Apple iPad 8th Gen Review

Verdict

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.

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Amazon Echo Studio Review- The Bigger ‘Echo’ Speaker That Competes

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Amazon Echo Studio Review

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?

Design

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.

Audio Performance

Amazon Echo Studio Review 2020

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.

Features

Amazon Echo Studio

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.

Conclusion

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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