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.
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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