If you have a product that just works, all you really need to do is to improve upon the older design and add more features that will amplify the user experience.
That is the approach that Sony went with when they’ve created the spiritual successor to its popular wireless headphones.
Today, I am going to be reviewing the Sony WH-1000XM4. Find out why I think it is the best active noise-canceling headphones in 2020 by reading ahead.
When you put the WH-1000XM3 and the new Sony WH-1000XM4, you will find that they are almost indistinguishable. That is because the successor pretty much borrows the same aesthetics as its predecessor. So, if you are shopping for these, make sure that you look at the box so that you will know you’re getting the right one.
Anyway, despite it looking identical to the 1000XM3, the new version actually has some notable changes.
For one, the headphones are a bit slimmer like the padding that will embrace your skull on the headband. The pleather earcups are about 10% larger which means it is more comfortable than the 1000XM3.
Despite its mostly plastic exterior, I love the fact that its comfort is due to the said material used. It is by no means flimsy as it is made of hard plastic, so it can take a little bit of punishment, though you may want to take care of them as these are not cheap.
These headphones also come with a carrying case. Included inside are a USB Type-C cable, an in-flight adapter, and an aux cable. Sadly, it doesn’t come with additional earcups, so you want to make sure that you take care of them.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is nothing short of amazing when it comes to controls. On the left headphone, you will find the power button and on the outer earcup, you can actually do some gestures if you want to play or pause a track, increase the volume, skip forward or backward, and so much more.
The gesture controls are quite intuitive and when you do make them, they register almost immediately which is nice.
On the inner panel, there is a sensor that will help detect if you’ve removed the headphones from your head. If you do so and there is music playing on the cans, it will automatically stop whatever is playing until you put them back on.
When you cover the right earcup, you will activate the Quick Attention feature that will lower the volume to a considerable degree so that you can hear the person talking next to you.
By enabling the speak-to-chat feature in its companion app, the headphones will automatically stop the music that is playing if you start to speak.
The feature is quite effective in that a slight hum would automatically enable this feature. On the downside, you cannot sing with your favorite songs if this thing is turned on. It is that effective.
Since the Sony WH-1000XM4 can also support Alexa and Google Assistant, the pair of cans can easily pick up your voice thanks to its 5 built-in microphones.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 comes with a slew of different features that you will surely love. Remember when I said that the Sony WH-1000XM3 has a class-leading active noise-canceling feature? Well, the Sony WH-1000XM4 just improves upon that.
Thanks to the QN1 noise-canceling processor that is built into this thing, it not only effectively blocks external noise, but it is more refined now in that it can even block the clacking of your keyboard, for example.
In other words, it just improves its predecessor by blocking almost all external noise, which makes this ideal if you are studying in a relatively noisy environment.
Aside from the ANC, the 1000XM4 also has an NC optimizer and Atmospheric Pressure Optimization. Basically, these features will provide the best possible listening experience for you by studying your head size and also studying the all-around pressure based on altitude, respectively.
One of the most requested features that I am happy that Sony implemented is the Multipoint technology.
Essentially, the headphones can be connected to two different devices at a time and it can seamlessly change as the need arises.
For example, if you are using this on your laptop and you also connected it to your phone, when someone calls you on the second device, the audio from your computer will automatically stop so that you can hear the person calling you more clearly. This is a welcome addition and I am happy that the company did so.
Sony went with the ‘if it is not broken, do not fix it’ approach when it comes to sound quality. Its dynamic 40mm driver ensures that you get an overall balanced sound that doesn’t get muddied no matter what type of song you’re trying to listen to.
Its soundstage is pretty impressive and it can support almost all of the frequency ranges that are supported by the human ear without any issues.
The headphones do not support aptX or aptX HD codecs, but it does, however, support LDAC and AAC. LDAC provides up to 990kbps bitrate for improved wireless sound.
Furthermore, if you are playing local MP3 files or songs with highly compressed formats, the new DSEE Extreme feature will use AI technology to enhance the audio fidelity of those compressed files, upping its sound quality to a greater extent.
For non-audiophiles, the feature is barely noticeable, but if you are keen on the audio quality, this is actually a welcome addition.
You can download the Sony Headphones Connect App on your smartphone and it does a lot of things for you.
First of all, upon firing this thing, you will be notified if your headphones are using the latest firmware or not. I suggest that you update to the latest so that you can get all of the improvements that come along with it.
Second, you can tweak the sound by using its EQ settings. There are presets to choose from, though you have the option to create a custom sound profile so that you can tweak the audio to your liking.
If you want to use this as a makeshift gaming headset, you can try Sony’s 360 Reality Audio setup that will provide a more immersive listening experience; kind of like enabling surround sound.
The said feature can also be enabled in services that support it such as Tidal, Amazon Music, and Deezer, to name a few. It only supports a couple of songs but I am pretty sure that the portfolio will increase in the near future.
With Fast Pair, you can easily connect to your mobile device by using its Bluetooth technology. Seriously, it is very easy to use and pairing up with your phone is a breeze.
If there is one Achilles Heel with this product, it would be its microphone quality. Sure, it has plenty of built-in microphones, but the call quality is just not there.
Aside from the fact that the volume is not as loud as one would expect, your voice on the other end of the line is also muffled or muddied. I expect more from Sony, but I believe that this is something that they may have overlooked.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is rated to last 30 hours with active noise-canceling enabled and about 38 hours with it disabled. In my testing, I was able to get 28 hours and 38 minutes with ANC enabled and volume set to 75% which I think is pretty good.
It charges via a USB Type-C cable and it has a fast-charging feature that effectively gives you 5 hours of use just by charging this thing for 10 minutes.
Although I am a bit disappointed that this thing only lasts up to 30 hours with ANC enabled, I’ve quickly realized that it does come with a lot of new features. Even with those things turned on, I was able to eke out 28 hours of battery life which is pretty impressive. Props to Sony for the optimizations.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is actually a pretty good successor to the popular 1000XM3 that was released in 2018.
The new headphones come with a much-improved active noise-canceling feature, its sound is pretty much the same (which is a good thing), it’s more comfortable, its battery life (with all features enabled) is quite good, and I love the fact that there are newly added features that you will surely love.
I’d have to say that I am disappointed with the call quality of these headphones, but if you use this mainly for listening to your favorite content, these things will not disappoint.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 costs $350 which is the same launch price of its predecessor. It is up there but the price is definitely warranted.
Xiaomi Poco X3 Review- An Appealing Budget Smartphone with a 120Hz Display
Because schools and offices are employing study and work from home schemes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, getting a smartphone is quite appealing in this day and age. That is because such portable devices are handy and you can conduct video conferences, as well as communicate with other people from across the world.
That being said, if you have only a limited budget, then I highly recommend that you look at the Xiaomi Poco X3. I am going to be reviewing it today, so sit tight and read through the rest of this content piece.
Before I begin, I just want to say that there are two versions of this phone. You might find that there is one that is called ‘Poco X3 NFC’ and the other version doesn’t have the ‘NFC’ in its moniker. This implies that one doesn’t come with the said technology, so if you are going to buy this device, make sure that you are getting the right version.
That being said, we used to think that budget smartphones do not look classy, but you have to change that mindset because phone manufacturers like Xiaomi make incredible-looking phones for a cheaper price.
The Poco X3 might have a polycarbonate body but it certainly doesn’t look or feel cheap. In fact, once you get a hold of the device, you will instantly find that it can take a beating while still having that elegant look.
At the back, you will find the ‘Poco’ branding situated a little bit near the charging port while at the top, you will find its quad-camera array. Do keep in mind that there is a noticeable camera bump, so using this flat on a desk will mean that the phone will move on every press of the display.
Since this is a budget smartphone, you will find a two sim-card tray, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. You will also find a fingerprint sensor which is added to the power button itself. In my testing, it is somewhat accurate, albeit it is not as fast as flagship devices.
You also get dual speakers that are placed at the top and the bottom of the device and I have to say that they are pretty loud. Its support for aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC codecs make it also an enticing choice if you are going to use Bluetooth speakers.
Lastly, the Poco X3 has an IP53 rating which means that it can handle dust and a couple of splashes. Just do not submerge this device or go out there in the pouring rain.
What’s interesting about the Poco X3 is that it has a 120Hz display. Here, you will get a 6.67-inch IPS display with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 and an aspect ratio of 20:9. You will also love the fact that it can support HDR10 as well, though keep in mind that this is still using an IPS panel, so its contrast is not as good as those phones with OLED displays.
Still, I find the colors to be quite punchy and vibrant, and the brightness caps at 450 nits which is quite impressive for an affordable smartphone.
Xiaomi has done a good job of making sure that the phone’s fast display won’t eat through the battery like butter by enabling a variable refresh rate. This means that if the situation doesn’t call for a fast display, the screens’ refresh rate will dial back down a little bit to save on battery. Of course, you can set it to full 120Hz all of the time, though you have to be carrying its charger with you at all times.
All in all, I am quite impressed by the Poco X3’s display. Even if it is just an IPS screen, it looks really nice and its peak brightness ensures that you can use the phone even in direct sunlight.
Normally, I do not take too much time on a budget smartphone’s camera array simply because most companies overlook this aspect anyway and would just put in some cameras and be done with it. But, the Poco X3 is different.
You see, aside from the fact that this device has four cameras at the back, they are quite respectable in terms of performance.
You get a 64-megapixel wide-angle main shooter that produces vibrant shots and perfect dynamic range. Its 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera is okay, though its performance is not on par with other ultra-wide sensors in mid-range phones.
The last two cameras are macro and depth lenses which perform admirably well, especially if you decide to use the device’s specific camera features.
You can record 4K videos at 30 frames per second but when you go for this resolution, you will not have any image stabilization at all and it would be fitting if you use a gimbal for stabilization.
If you are recording videos at HD or Full HD, then you will find that the cameras do a pretty good job in terms of performance and quality.
The 20-megapixel selfie camera is no slouch either. It can take high-quality photos of yourself or a group and its quality shines when you are using video-conferencing apps.
All in all, I am happy with the Poco X3’s cameras. The only thing that I do not like about them is that they create a bit of a bulge which is noticeable if you put the device on a desk.
Specs and Performance
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G
- GPU: Adreno 618
- RAM: 6GB
- Storage: 64/128GB, expandable via MicroSD
- Display: 6.67-inch IPS LCD, 2400 x 1080 resolution, 120Hz Refresh Rate, 240Hz Touch Sampling Rate, HDR10, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
- Camera: 64-megapixel Sony IMX682 main sensor (f/1.89), 13-megapixel ultra-wide (f/2.2, 119-degrees field of view), 2-megapixel macro (f/2.4), 2-megapixel depth (f/2.4); 20-megapixel (f/2.2) selfie camera
- SIM: Dual Sim or 1 SIM + microSD card
- Connectivity: WiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, USB-C, 3.5mm port
- Battery: 5,160 mAh, 33-Watt Charger
- Dimensions: 165.3 x 76.8 x 9.4mm
- Weight: 215 grams
- Colors: Shadow Gray, Cobalt Blue
The Poco X3’s performance is on par with the Google Pixel 4a and other phones that come with the Snapdragon 732G chipset.
For those of you who do not know, the Snapdragon 732G chipset is on the lower end of mid-range chipsets. It is not bad by any means but it certainly doesn’t come close to the 765G (which is found in phones such as the OnePlus Nord).
You can still expect relatively good performance across the board, but you will find that the phone struggles to handle graphically demanding games. For the most part, you shouldn’t worry too much about it.
The Xiaomi Poco X3 is packed with the company’s MIUI 12 operating system which is just a skin of Android 10 with Xiaomi’s spin on the said OS. It is pretty polished, though it will take some time for you to understand its features.
Now, when you are getting a budget product, you can expect some corners to be cut somewhere, right? While that is not evident in the design, it is definitely evident when it comes to the software.
You see, for Xiaomi to get some profits when selling affordable phones, they have to do something to make that a reality and in the Poco X3, it is by way of in-OS ads.
The ads aren’t there in plain sight, but it will be shown to you whenever you install something from the Google Play Store, as well as in some areas of the phone’s settings.
They are not intrusive by any means, but some people might find it annoying that you will see ads on a phone that you’ve paid for.
To be honest, this isn’t a huge deal considering that you are getting a pretty good smartphone at an affordable price. But if you are not okay with this (especially since there are some concerns about privacy), then you might want to find something else.
This device is a survivor as it can last a comfortable two days before needing a charge. The Poco X3 comes with a hefty 5,160 mAh battery with a 33-watt charger in the box.
Even if you play all day or watch content online to your heart’s content, this device can handle them without any issue.
I have to really tax this device for the battery to run out in a single day, which means that if you only use this thing moderately, you could be seeing a 2-3-day battery life.
Charging the Poco X3 is also not a problem at all. Its included 33-watt charger ensures that the device gets its battery from 0-100 in just under 2 hours.
Sadly, there is no support for wireless charging, but that is to be expected given that this is a budget device.
If you are looking for a great budget phone, the Xiaomi Poco X3 is definitely one of them. It has a fast 120Hz display, good brightness levels, great battery life, and overall good build quality.
You might have an issue with the ads that are found in some parts of the operating system, but to me, they are not obtrusive at all.
If you are interested in getting the Xiaomi Poco X3, you can get the NFC version for just $250 for the 6GB/128GB version.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus Review- The First 120Hz Tablet in the Market
Samsung is a well-known smartphone manufacturer but the company is also known to develop tablets even though they are not as popular as they were before.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus was recently released and if you want to know how it performs, do read through the rest of the article to find out.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is a premium tablet and as such, you can expect premium looks and better overall build quality compared to other tablets in the market.
True enough, this tablet has an aluminum chassis that still maintains a relatively lightweight form factor at just 575 grams.
You can find the sides are made of high-quality metal and it is also a pleasure to look at as well. The Mystic Black variant of the tablet looks really nice, though you also have two other color options if you’re not a fan of the aesthetic.
The charging port is located at the bottom and as expected with modern mobile devices, there will be no headphone jacks on this one. You could use the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus if you want as this thing supports Bluetooth 5.1 for impressive connectivity.
At the back, you will find its camera and a magnetic strip that allows you to place the included S-pen on it. This also serves as the charging port, though you have to orientate the pen to point towards the camera to initiate the charging procedure.
While I am not a fan of the magnetic strip on the back, you could stick the S-Pen on the side if you want and I like it more than the former.
Do not worry because if you are not comfortable with the S-Pen’s original placement, you can buy a folio keyboard cover that houses the included accessory nicely so you won’t lose it.
Speaking of accessories, the Folio keyboard cover is pretty nice and you have a choice of colors to choose from.
The keyboard itself is responsive, though it is not as responsive as the keyboard attachment in Microsoft Surface devices.
Before I say anything about the display, do keep in mind that there are two versions of this tablet. You have the base model Galaxy Tab S7 and the one I am talking about in this article is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus which is the bigger one.
It is important to make the distinction early on because the base model actually has a different display panel than the plus version.
The bigger variant comes with a 12.4-inch Super AMOLED display while the base version only comes with an 11-inch LCD panel. If you ask me, the AMOLED panel looks really crisp and stunning.
For the resolution, this thing supports 2800 x 1752 and what’s interesting is that Samsung has finally cracked the code when it comes to high refresh rate display as well.
You see, the rich and vibrant panel can also operate smoothly because it can also support the 120Hz refresh rate as well. And the best part? You can utilize its native resolution while also having the smoother refresh rate enabled as well and that’s really impressive!
You do not have to worry too much about battery life, though, because the screen has a variable refresh rate which means that the panel downclocks itself if there is no need for that boost in refresh rate. I am just happy that Samsung has finally cracked the code!
Using the S-Pen on the tablet itself is pretty smooth and accurate, though I am just a bit disappointed by the fact that it doesn’t have good palm detection compared to the iPad Pro. Artists and creatives should definitely be wary about the placement of their hands when they are drawing something on the screen.
It is important that we tackle the software of this device. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus comes with Android 10 with the company’s own One UI overlay on top.
While I am okay with the user interface, most app developers usually only focus on how their apps look on smartphones as tablets have become less popular every year.
That being said, there are some applications that might not utilize the entire screen real estate (especially considering that this device has an aspect ratio of 16:10).
There is a workaround and that is the company’s DeX. Samsung DeX, to put it simply, turns your tablet into a desktop computer wherein the interface is akin to a Windows-based machine.
Once enabled, you can resize the apps’ windows so that you can do true multitasking (something that is still not possible with the iPad Pro).
You can use a wireless mouse and have it connected via Bluetooth to truly simulate the experience of using a desktop computer.
There is just one catch- the apps should not be used in full screen because, as I’ve said, the app’s UI does not fully utilize the entire screen.
I hope that app developers will provide more support for bigger devices or tablets in general in the near future.
Specs and Performance
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus
- RAM: 6GB or 8GB
- Storage: 128GB or 256GB, microSD card support up to 1TB
- Display: 12.4-inch Super AMOLED, 2800 x 1752 resolution, 120Hz Screen Refresh Rate, 16:10 aspect ratio
- Operating System: Android 10, One UI
- Cameras: 13-megapixel wide-angle lens, 5-megapixel ultra-wide; 8-megapixel selfie
- Battery: 10,090 mAh
- Weight: 575 grams
For you to truly multitask on a mobile device, it should be equipped with a processor that can handle multiple workloads. I am just happy that Samsung finally went with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset on all of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus devices, which means that our folks in Europe and Asia will finally be able to get a hold of a Snapdragon-enabled device.
Although its performance is a bit slower than the Ipad Pro, it certainly has enough horsepower to handle any applications you can throw at it.
Samsung also promises 3-year software support on the Tab S7 Plus which means that you not only get Android 11 sometime soon, but the device will also support versions 12 and 13 as well.
I don’t feel the need to talk about the cameras of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus because they are mediocre at best and they are nothing out of the ordinary, so I’ve skipped that part altogether.
A huge device with powerful specs definitely needs to have a beefy battery and the 10,090 mAh battery on this thing certainly delivers.
With moderate use, you can have this device powered up for more than two days and that is truly impressive given that most other devices cannot last this long.
There is also a 45-watt charger included in the box which should top up this device in less than 2 hours from 0%.
It is just a bit sad that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus doesn’t support wireless charging, though it is not really a huge deal for some users.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, I should say, is the best Android tablet on the market in 2020. It has a huge and vibrant screen, has a beefy battery, has powerful components, and its build quality is truly premium.
Its S-Pen is relatively accurate and it would have been nice if the magnetic charging strip at the back has more powerful magnets, but it is still good nevertheless.
Although this tablet has two cameras at the back and a selfie camera, there is really nothing special about them at all. They are there if you need them, though it would be best if you use something like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra instead.
There is a 5G variant that is going to be released in a month’s time and it will cost you more.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus costs $849 for the 6GB/128GB version and $999 for the 8GB/256GB version. There is still no word about the 5G variant’s pricing at the time of writing this article.
Asus RT-AX86U Review- A Really Good Mainstream WiFi 6 Router
The new WiFi standard has just been officially available to the public and router companies have made it a point to produce as many of these new routers as possible.
That being said, the Asus RT-AX86U is a new router that uses the 802.11ax technology and I have to say that it is really pretty good.
Read my review of this thing below to find out why it is a really good mainstream WiFi 6 router.
The Asus RT-AX86U has a pretty odd design because you will know if it is a regular router or a gaming one depending on the angle that you are looking at.
When you look at it from the front, you will find that this is a pretty standard affair with three antennas sticking out at the top, but once you get to the back, you will find that it has that gamer appeal with a lot of vents to keep this thing cool during its operation.
I like that the base pretty much covers enough ground to make the router stable when placed on the desk. This is great since you are not going to be moving the router much anyway.
At the back, you will see four gigabit ethernet LAN ports with the first port being called a ‘gaming port’ (more on this later).
Directly to the left of the LAN ports are the WAN port where you plug your internet cable and a 2.4GHz ethernet port if you have a really fast internet connection.
You also get two USB 3.2 ports for storage and printers and directly left of these ports are the reset button (factory defaults), power button, and the DC port for the power adapter.
In the box, you will get three antennas that you will have to screw in manually at the top of the router. Then there’s the power adapter which is similar to the charging bricks that come with premium smartphones.
I have to say that the design is actually okay and because it doesn’t have a really striking design, you can safely bring this with you in the office for improved networking.
Because the Asus RT-AX86U uses the new standard, it has all of the goodies that WiFi 6 offers. The one that you should be looking out for is the OFDMA or the orthogonal frequency division multiple access.
What that technology basically means is that it can readily provide data to multiple devices all at the same time.
To illustrate this, let’s say that you are playing a game on your laptop and someone happens to stream Netflix on your Android TV.
Even if two different devices are vying for the internet connection, both of the said devices will receive equal amounts of data depending on the need and circumstances.
I really love the performance of the Asus RT-AX86U, especially when it comes to its range. I tested this in an office with some thick walls and I am happy that it can penetrate it without any issues. You can expect a slight drop in speed, but not so much that it is almost negligible.
Setting this up is also easy because you can do it in both ways. You can either have it connected to your computer via ethernet cable, go to router.asus.com and the setup wizard will guide you through the process.
Alternatively, you can download its companion app from your respective mobile device’s app stores and do the entire setup process from there.
Using the application allows you to control certain parameters of the router without having to access it via a web interface which is pretty nice.
Now, I also tested its dedicated gaming port and although it did improve latency in some battle royale games, its difference is not too big though it is still welcome that it can do that. Perhaps you can get better results in other games.
I am truly impressed with the signal strength and the performance of the Asus RT-AX86U. Despite using it in a building with thick walls, the router had no problems supplying some much-needed data all throughout.
Its dedicated gaming port didn’t yield any significant results, but your mileage may vary depending on the games that you want to play.
The setup process is a breeze and it is outlined in the quick-start guide that is supplied in the box.
The only thing that you have to consider here is the price. The Asus RT-AX86U costs $249.99 which might be too steep for some, but I have to say that if you are going to buy this, it is definitely worth the money.
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