Tuesday, January 31, 2017

OnePlus & Meizu caught Rigging Benchmark Scores on Antutu & Geekbench Apps

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Benchmarking applications like GeekBench and Antutu Benchmark, etc. are some of the most popular benchmarking applications that are used by a majority of people to test out their smartphone performance. While it is suggested that using benchmarking applications like these not always gives you a clear picture of your device performance as the day-to-day performance may vary, most people still go for this method to compare the device’s performance with others. Using benchmarking applications is not always a bad thing to do. However, there have been reports previously which shows that few manufacturers have tried to fool these apps by throttling their CPU’s performance when it is detected.

According to the new reports which we have, it looks like few manufacturers are still following the same old cheating tricks to fool these apps and show better performance in these kinds of benchmarking apps. Folks over at XDA developers have reported that OnePlus is targeting specific applications like AnTuTu and Geekbench to keep the clock speeds of the CPU up, in order to get better benchmark scores. This is indeed quite surprising to see such reports being put on a manufacturer like OnePlus, but there are proofs to back the same.

Qualcomm boosts the CPU clock speed while opening an app in order to get better speeds. However, it has been noticed that certain apps on OnePlus 3T were not falling back down to the original stock speeds after opening the app. After a thorough investigation on the same by XDA & GeekBench, it has been confirmed that OnePlus was indeed cheating by targeting applications to show better performance. You can head over to the source link below for more detailed analysis on the same with charts showcasing the clock speeds, etc. But long story short, the cheating tricks are still being used by the manufacturers which is quite very surprising.

And on top of it, it looks like OnePlus is not the only manufacturer who is doing it, in fact, even Meizu is following the same practice to show better results for Meizu Pro 6 smartphone. When reached out to OnePlus asking about this issue, they reverted with a response stating that it is a feature built into OxygenOS to help games and other performance-heavy apps perform better than other phones. They also stated that the targetted benchmark apps would be removed with the upcoming OxygenOS builds from both OnePlus 3 & OnePlus 3T.

Also, this is not the first time that we are seeing manufacturers trying to produce fake results. Previously, even Samsung and HTC were caught targeting benchmark apps by boosting CPU frequency when certain apps were detected. Let us know what do you think about this act from manufacturers like OnePlus and Meizu and also let us know if you use any benchmark apps to measure the performance of your smartphones. Stay tuned to PhoneRadar for more info on the same.

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Fitbit plans to enter smartwatch category with a stylish fitness centric wearable

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Fitbit is a popular name when it comes to fitness tracking devices. They have already launched some of the best devices like the Fitbit Blaze, Charge 2, etc. While the company has a decent amount of market share in the fitness tracking category, the company is now planning to make it big into the smartwatch category as well. The company has not really launched any smartwatches till now, and the closest thing which looks like one is the Fitbit Blaze. Although the Blaze has really fitness tracking capabilities, you can’t use it as a smartwatch.

If you have been following the news lately, then you already know that Fitbit acquired Pebble as well Vector recently. Both the companies specializes in smartwatch category with Pebble being more functional brand whereas Vector is known for its luxury smartwatch offerings. With both these brands in the back-pocket, Fitbit is amongst the strongest players in this category, and once they come up with a smartwatch, you can bet your money on it. However, the company didn’t really give out any plans for a smartwatch until yesterday when the company’s CEO confirmed that they intend to expand into the smartwatch category.

Talking about the smartwatch category, the market is already quite saturated with a ton of offerings from Apple, Moto, Samsung, Huawei, etc. Hence stepping into the smartwatch category is more like entering a battleground full of warriors waiting to dismiss you. However, Fitbit is also like a trained veteran here with huge support from Pebble & Vector. Fitbit’s fitness expertise along with Pebble functional aspect and Vector design language could give birth to something which can indeed be termed as an ultimate smartwatch.

Fitbit’s CEO James Park is also quite confident about the fact that a stylish and well-designed device, which will offer both general purpose function with a focus on health and fitness just like their fitness wearable does. And not just that, previously we also heard rumors about the company planning to launch a standalone app store this year. Keeping all these things in mind, it certainly does look like we are in for a treat from Fitbit sooner or later. With that said, we hope that we get to see something from them quite soon as the smartwatch market seems like it is dead already.

On the other hand, if you are waiting for a smartwatch running typical Android Wear, then you might want to keep an eye on LG‘s offering which is expected to arrive by MWC this year. It looks the company will be launching two new smartwatches out of which one will have a rugged design and the other will carry an eye-candy design. While we don’t have much info about them, we do have some photos to show how they will look. If you are interested to know more about Fitbit’s upcoming ambitious smartwatch, then be sure to stay tuned to PhoneRadar for more details on the same.

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Asus ROG Strix GL753

It wasn't that long ago a gaming laptop meant significant trade-offs, but with the passage of time, laptops are moving towards striking a good balance. The Asus Strix ROG GL753 is a great example of balance in a gaming laptop. It's a 17-inch machine with decent power, a 7th-gen Intel CPU, aggressive styling, and ample storage at a price that doesn't break the bank.

There are plenty of bigger, badder machines out there, but for just  $1,299 (about £1,090, AU$1,700), it's almost surprising how much the GL753 has going for it.

Pricing and availability

Of course, that's where the balance comes in. Sure, there's a lot to like about the GL753, but where other laptops like the HP Omen 17 go for broke with a GTX 1070 graphics card and a 4K, G-Sync screen, the GL753 plays it more conservative with a GTX 1050 Ti. 

Like the HP Omen, the GL753 chassis is mostly plastic, another way to keep the price down while still delivering a solid product. However, the GL753 doesn't feel "cheap."

It also manages to squeeze in quite a lot of features for the price, making it just $150 more than Dell's similarly-equipped, but smaller, New Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming laptop. That $150 gets you more than just a bigger screen, as the GL753 also includes a backlit RGB keyboard, and a bygone device for reading and writing DVDs.

Design

As far as gaming laptops go, the GL753 design is almost minimalist. It looks the part but isn't quite as audacious as some gaming laptops. The lid is brushed aluminum, with a snarling orange Republic of Gamers logo flanked by two lit strips on either side. 

The two dashes of orange on the sides look like air intakes on a stealth fighter jet. The downward angled grills of aluminum are functional and aesthetically draw your attention without being over the top. That said, then vents on the bottom don't pop to the same level as the HP Omen 17.

The very tip of the lid is plastic, but it matches the brushed aluminum look of both the lid and the plastic interior.

The rest of the laptop is plastic, but for the most part, it feels sturdy. The bottom is all black, save for four orange feet to help facilitate air circulation. There's an engraving on the bottom that doesn't serve any purpose other than look cool.

The front facing speakers are the same orange as the rest of the laptop's highlights, giving them just a little visual pop. Otherwise, they're hard to see at all.

Inside is a hard plastic keyboard deck with a faux brushed-aluminum finish that follows up the sides before cutting sharply across the top of the RGB keyboard. It looks nice, but it's prone to pick up smudges no matter how clean you think your hands are.

The trackpad has a charming orange pinstripe around its interior, matching the rest of the orange highlights found on the GL753. Moving around the trackpad feels nice to the touch, but lacks a satisfying click. It feels mushy and unsatisfying.

That mushiness extends to the keyboard. Hitting any one key flexes the entire keyboard around it, an effect that's especially pronounced in the middle where the whole thing just sort of sags. 

Key travel itself is fine, with a good tactile feel and a satisfying stop, but the lack of stiffness in the keyboard deck detracts from any positive effects the individual key switches offer.

On the plus side, this is Asus' first laptop with a backlit RGB keyboard, which, in proper gaming fashion, is customizable with the included Republic of Gamers software suite.

Most gaming laptops have backlit keys, so giving gamers the option of customization is going the extra mile. There are 4 different customizable color zones and the choice between static or simple animated displays like breathing.

At 6.6 pounds (2.99kg), the GL753 is just a bit lighter than the HP Omen 17. The power brick is much smaller than the absolute beast powering the Omen, making the GL753 easier to pack into a laptop bag and haul around. Even though it's a 17-inch laptop, it doesn't feel ungainly. 

Performance

When it comes to gaming, the GL753 holds its own. It can't compete with the god-like performance of the HP Omen's GTX 1070, but the 1050 Ti has plenty of muscle to get the job done. 

It has no problem running modern games, and you can go ahead and pump up the settings on some older games, as well. Resident Evil 7 looked more than creepy running on the GL753, well enough that I had more than a few moments of genuine terror.  The one thing the GL753 seemed to have a hard time with in RE7 was rendering hair realistically. 

The GL753 runs hot. Really hot. When it's working hard, it exhausts an incredible amount of heat, and the fan noise can't be ignored. The noise isn't so bad that it overtakes in-game sounds, but it does break the silence in an atmospheric game like Resident Evil 7.

Dark and moody

The 17-inch 1080p screen looks great, with bright and clear colors that really pop. Everything looks crisp running on the GL753, from the Windows desktop to an HD movie stream. The one place where the screen failed to impress was in rendering black levels. 

Resident Evil 7 heavily relies on darkness to set the creepy mood and unfortunately the GL753 failed to deliver. The parts of the screen not lit by our in-game flashlight didn't look as black as they should have.

On a fully blacked-out screen, we also noticed some light bleed from the bottom corners of the screen. It wasn't enough of a distraction to pull us out of the game, but it was noticeable.

The speakers sound really nice. They're placed on the front of the laptop, so the sound comes right at you when you're sitting in front of it. Resident Evil 7 did a fine job with its creepy sounds, and I even listened to a CD in the DVD drive. It doesn't approach the loudness of the HP Omen, but the sound is more than adequate for a laptop.  

Pre-loaded software you actually want 

We usually bemoan any and all pre-installed software, but we have to hand it to Asus’ Mission Control. The GL753 includes Asus' ROG Gaming Center software, accessible at any time through a dedicated key on the keyboard. A full screen control center pops up with a quick keystroke and default view shows CPU temperature, fan RPM, and lists the tons of controllable and adjustable options the GL753 affords. 

The UI is clever and making adjustments and customizations are really simple. Of all the built-in gaming customization software we've seen, ROG Gaming Center is easily our favorite.

We liked

For 1080p gaming, this is almost as good as it gets, especially factoring in the price. The customizable RGB keyboard gives that extra layer of personalization, and the whole laptop looks sharp without being gaudy. 

We disliked

It really heats up when it's working hard, almost to the point of being uncomfortable. Light bleed around the edge of the screen in dark scenes is subtle, but still hard to ignore.
 

Final verdict 

The GL753 is a great full HD gaming laptop. At just $1,299 (about £1,090, AU$1,700), it's a fantastic value. Not only does it have a customizable, RGB keyboard, it has tons of ports, a brand new processor, and a graphic card capable of some serious heavy graphical lifting.

It looks good, too. As far as gaming laptops go, it's practically understated, but it still has enough flourish to let a keen observer know it's designed for gaming. While the chassis is mostly plastic, it doesn't feel cheap or creaky. If you're looking for a powerful 17-inch laptop but don't want to break the bank, the Asus ROG Strix GL753 has just what you need.

Xplore iX125 R1

Tablets are quietly proving to be a decent alternative to laptops, especially in the enterprise world and for niche sectors that require something solid, powerful and mobile.

Oh and forget about consumer tablets or those that come with rugged or hardened cases as they haven’t been designed from the ground up to survive the sort of battering that some of these devices undergo.

The Xplore iX125 R1 (sold in other markets as the XSlate R12) is an example of how far mobile computing has come over the past decade, featuring hardware that competes with and often exceeds what’s available on laptops with a comparable volume.

This is the latest model from a series originally launched by Motion Computing – Xplore acquired the company in 2014 and carried on with the range, which is still popular with businesses looking for rugged alternatives to the big names.

With an MSRP of £2,248 excluding VAT (around $2,820, AU$3,710) for the base unit (from Centerprise or Spirit Data Capture), this is an expensive piece of kit; but there’s more to it than just a big price tag.

And certainly don’t expect this to be your standard tablet. It weighs a massive 1.84kg – although that includes its bundled Bluetooth keyboard – which is around twice the weight of some ultraportable laptops on the market (like the Fujitsu Lifebook U937/P or the LG gram 15).

With a thickness of 18mm and footprint of 210 x 330mm, it is almost as large as some 15-inch laptops on the market, but rather than being overtly bulky, the iX125 R1 feels about the right size for what it provides – mainly thanks to its magnesium alloy frame.

As expected, most of the extra weight comes from the sturdy outer case, the connectivity options and the larger than average battery.

Xplore has adopted the sort of octagonal-like shape common to many rugged smartphones (such as the Homtom HT20), one that we call ‘4+4’ as it entails having four long sides, and four very short diagonal ones on the corners of the device, as it were.

The front of the tablet is adorned with three green lights on the left, and a 12.5-inch Full HD display featuring Corning Gorilla Glass 4 (which felt smooth to the touch thanks to the proprietary View Anywhere technology).

What this design does is reduce the potential level of shock to the corners of the tablet screen (which remains rectangular) thus hopefully avoiding any damage. With a quoted 800 nits brightness, the screen remained viewable even in direct sunlight (or what passes for sunlight in the UK’s winter).

There’s a 2-megapixel webcam located bang in the middle complete with two sensors and what looks like two microphones (there’s another one at the back). 

Flip the slate over to uncover an 8-megapixel camera with a flash, four hidden magnets (to keep the stand and the Bluetooth keyboard in place) plus a host of connectors to accommodate the flurry of accessories that will truly exploit the power of the hardware inside the iX125. Those accessories range from a docking station to a data acquisition module with a barcode scanner.

The back of the tablet is covered with dozens of rubber dots to enhance grip. The keyboard connects to the tablet via Bluetooth, in theory, but we ran into some driver issues when trying to pair the two.

As for the keyboard quality itself, there’s nothing much to say about it except that it is great for short text entry; it feels cheap, has a built-in battery and a tiny touchpad.

A 3,080mAh/45Wh battery powers the tablet and can be removed – we just wish that it was easier to do so. You will need to remove gloves to perform this operation, and the battery does not pop out as easily as one would expect. Once it’s removed, you’ll find a microSD card reader and a SIM slot underneath.

A flap hides a Qualcomm 4G connectivity module (Sierra Wireless Airprime EM7455) as well as an M.2 SSD. Another flap protects the power port, plus there’s a full-size USB 3.0 connector, a headphone socket and an HDMI port. Wired Ethernet and a serial port – via a dongle – are also available behind a sealed rubber door that we couldn’t pry open.

There’s no USB Type-C port here, which doesn’t come as a surprise given how slow enterprises are at adopting new technology, especially when it comes to connectivity.

A power button, an air vent, a combo button (that emulates a Ctrl+Alt+Del combination), a fingerprint scanner, volume buttons and a wired Wacom active digitizer are scattered around the edges of the device.

The slate is IP54-rated which means that it is protected against dust and water spray from all directions with limited ingress permitted. In practice, we wouldn’t recommend risking it as the air vents at the back give direct access to the heatsink fan and the CPU.

But the fan and associated vents are in a sealed compartment away from the electronics. The heat is transferred through a heatsink that allows it to dissipate without allowing any moisture or dust into the system.

We had the opportunity to hear the full force of the fan a few times – and it does get noisy. This tablet is also MIL-STD-810G tested which means that it should withstand falls of around 120cm without damage.

In terms of the processor, the Xplore iX125 R1 packs the fastest available mobile model on the market – even if the Core i7-7500U will very soon be superseded by three other models, all of which have two-cores and 4MB cache (plus a 15W TDP) and will likely end up in rival devices.

The 14nm Kaby Lake CPU comes with an Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU clocked at 1.05GHz, supporting 4K at 60Hz (but not via HDMI sadly). It’s worth noting that this processor doesn’t support vPro according to Intel, yet this tablet is vPro compatible.

The device runs Windows 10 Professional but can be downgraded to Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 7 Pro (although that route, oddly, only applies to the Core i5-6200U CPU). The two SKUs available have 8GB of DDR4 system memory and our sample came with a 256GB SanDisk M.2 SSD.

Xplore quotes a battery life of more than nine hours for the cheaper Core i5-6200U model, based on the bundled battery, with a charging time of 2.5 hours when the tablet is switched off completely. We haven’t had the opportunity to test it.

Early verdict

There’s plenty of competition on the market from the likes of Panasonic (with the ToughBook series) or Getac (with the RX10 for example). But the Xplore iX125 R1 is the first to market with Intel’s seventh-generation CPU, and for that it deserves to be highlighted.

This situation won’t last long, though, as competitors are very likely to launch their new flagship products at Mobile World Congress 2017, which will take place a few weeks from now in Barcelona. It might be a good idea to check out what else will be announced there.

Otherwise, if you are looking for the fastest possible rugged tablet on the market and don’t want to wait another quarter, then right now, the Xplore iX125 R1 is pretty much the only player to tick those boxes.

Best New 4G Android Smartphones to Buy Under Rs. 10,000 in India – February 2017

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The Indian smartphone market is already filled with a lot of Chinese brands and the Indian brands are struggling in competing with them. While the high-end smartphone segment is ruled by the major brands like Samsung and Apple, the Chinese players rule the budget category. However, recently few Indian brands like Intex and Lava had launched few affordable smartphones with decent specifications. Below are the few VoLTE supported smartphones that priced under Rs. 10,000 and offers decent specifications.

Xiaomi launched the Redmi Note 4 as the successor to the Redmi Note 3, one of the best selling smartphones in 2016 in India. The base variant of the Redmi Note 4 with 2GB RAM and 32GB of storage is priced at Rs. 9,999. Apart from the Gold and Dark Grey color options, the new Redmi Note 4 also comes in new Black color option. At such a low price, the Redmi Note 4 definitely features the superior build quality. On the front is a 5.5-inch Full HD display with a 2.5D glass laid on top. It is powered by the Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor clocked at 2.0GHz and coupled with Adreno 506 GPU. There is also a 13MP rear camera, a 5MP front camera, and a 4,100mAh battery. The hybrid SIM slot on this device accepts two 4G SIMs or one 4G SIM and a MicroSD card.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 – Buy Now   

Intex launched the Cloud Style 4G smartphone in the Indian market priced at Rs. 5,799. The device comes with a 5-inch display with HD (1280n x 720 pixels) resolution. Under the hood is the 1.3GHz quad-core processor along with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The device runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow and includes several bloatware apps. It comes with an 8MP rear camera with LED flash and a 5MP selfie camera on the front. The 2,500mAh battery makes the Cloud Style last for at least a day of usage. Connectivity options on this device include 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, 3.5mm Audio port, and MicroUSB 2.0 port. It measures 145 x 73 x 8.8 mm and weighs 140 grams. The plastic built device comes in Champagne and Grey color options.

Intex Cloud Style 4G – Buy Now   

The Xolo Era 2X is one of the best budget smartphones from an Indian smartphone manufacturer. The device was launched exclusively on Flipkart in two variants. The 2GB RAM variant is priced at Rs 6,666 and the another variant with 3GB RAM is priced at Rs. 7,499. Both the devices come with a 16GB of internal storage that can be expanded additionally upto 32GB. On the front of the Xolo Era 2X smartphone is a 5-inch IPS display with HD (1280 x 720 pixels) resolution. The device is powered by MediaTek MT6737 quad-core SoC clocked at 1.25GHz. It runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS and comes with dual SIM dual standby support. The device also includes 8MP rear camera, 5MP front camera, and a 2,500mAh battery.

Xolo Era 2X – Buy Now   

The Reliance smartphone brand, LYF launched its latest 4G smartphone called LYF Water 3. The device was online exclusive to Flipkart and is available for Rs. 6,599. As seen with the earlier launched LYF smartphones, the Water 3 also comes with two years of manufacturers warranty. It comes with a 5.5-inch HD display, Snapdragon 615 SoC, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. The device supports dual SIM dual standby and offers 4G VoLTE along with other basic connectivity options. In the camera department, there is a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera. The Water 3 measures just 7.7mm thickness and include a 3,000mAh battery that can give up to 14 hours of talk time and lasts up to 120 hours on standby.

LYF Water 3 – Buy Now   

While the company launched the Galaxy A 2017 smartphones at the CES 2017, in India, the company came up with two new entry-level smartphones called Galax J1 4G and Galaxy J2 Ace. The Galaxy J1 4G is priced at Rs. 6,890 and comes with a VoLTE support and using the Jio 4G SIM. Talking about the other specifications, the device comes with a polycarbonate body with a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED display on the front. It is backed by a Spreadtrum SC7727SE processor along with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of expandable storage. The device still runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop comes with Samsung’s exclusive S Bike Mode, Ultra Data Saving, and S Power Planning features. There is also a 5MP rear camera with LED flash and a 2MP front camera.

Samsung Galaxy J1 4G – Buy Now   

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Best New 4G Android Smartphones to Buy Under Rs. 15,000 in India – February 2017

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In the last few years, we have seen more manufacturers bringing high-end features to a budget mid-range smartphone. Just like any other month, in the January 2017, the companies launched quite a few smartphones, and most of them offer great ‘value to listed are newly launched, few of those devices got a recent price cut making them even sweeter. All the smartphones come with dual SIM functionality and offer 4G VoLTE connectivity for using with the Jio 4G SIM.

The Honor 6X is the latest Honor smartphone to launch here in India. It is the successor to the last year’s Honor 5X and comes with an all metal body. The device is priced at just Rs. 12,999 and is one of the most affordable dual lens camera smartphones. It features a 12MP and 2MP sensor with PDAF for capturing the images in just 0.3 seconds. The device comes with a 2.5D 5.5-inch Full HD Display and is powered by Kirin 655 octa-core SoC. There is 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage that can be further expandable up to 128GB via MicroSD card slot. On the front of the Honor 6X is an 8MP selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture. It is backed by a 3,340mAh battery and supports fast charging with the 5V/2A power adapter. To make the device secure, Honor is also offering a circular fingerprint placed on the rear.

Honor 6X – Buy Now   

The base variant of the Redmi Note 4 with 2GB of RAM is priced at just Rs. 9,999. However, the company also launched two more variants with 3GB and 4GB of RAM priced at Rs. 10,999 and Rs. 12,999 respectively. The Redmi Note 4 with 4GB of RAM can be good for multi-tasking and 64GB of internal storage can store all your data. Apart from the doubled RAM and storage, rest of the specifications remains same as the on the base variant. The device comes with 5.5-inch Full HD display and Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor. In the camera department, there is a 13MP rear camera with LED flash and a 5MP front camera. The 4,100mAh battery keeps the device powered on for at least a day of normal usage.The device runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow based MIUI 8 and will soon receive the Nougat update.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 – Buy Now   

At its price cut, the base variant of the Lenovo Z2 Plus is now available for just Rs. 14,999. At this price, the device comes with the last year’s flagship Snapdragon 820 processor and 3GB of RAM. It sports a 5-inch display with Full HD resolution and runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow OS. On the front is a U Touch home button that supports several gestures and comes integrated with a fingerprint sensor. There is a 13MP rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and PDAF that can record video at 4K resolution. For selfies, the Z2 Plus packs an 8MP front camera with f/2.0 aperture. It comes with a dual SIM slot and supports 4G VoLTE along with other basic connectivity features. The Z2 Plus is also equipped several health-related sensors for providing accurate data in the U-Health app.

Lenovo Z2 Plus – Buy Now   

It’s been a year since the LeEco Le 2 was launched in the India market and it is still one of the best mid-range smartphones. Recently, the company the launched the 64GB storage variant at Rs. 13,999 which is slightly higher than the price of 32GB storage variant. One thing to note is that the device lacks the expandable storage option. It is powered by Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor and includes 3GB of RAM. It comes with a 16MP rear camera, an 8MP front camera, and a 3,000mAh battery. The device runs on Android Marshmallow based EUI 5.8. The Le 2 lacks the 3.5mm audio port for using the regular headsets. The USB Type-C port is the only way for connecting earphones and the Type-C cable for charging the device. The device measures 151.1 x 74.2 x 7.5 mm and weighs around 153 grams.

LeEco Le 2 – Buy Now   

The Nubia N1 was launched alongside the flagship Nubia Z11 in India. Both the devices are aggressively priced, and the Nubia N1 with decent mid-range specifications is currently available for Rs. 11,999. The device comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD display and includes a 64-bit Helio P10 octa-core processor. It also packs 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. On the rear of this metal built device are the 13MP rear camera and a circular fingerprint sensor. Even the front camera sensor is also of 13MP resolution which captures better selfies than the other devices at this price. However, the USP of the device is the 5,000mAh battery that can easily give more than a day-long battery life. While the split-screen multi-tasking is introduced with the latest Android 7.0 Nougat, the in-house Nubia UI 4.0 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow is offering the same feature from last year.

Nubia N1 – Buy Now   

The LYF Water F1S from Reliance is one of the best mid-range launched in the recent times. It is priced is currently retailing at Rs. 10,099 and offers some powerful specifications compared to earlier launched LYF smartphones. The device sports a 5.2-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display and is powered by Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor. It includes 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage along with expandable storage option. On the camera front, there is a 16MP primary camera with PDAF and a 5MP secondary camera. Both the front and rear cameras are now assisted by LED flash. The device comes with dual SIM dual standby and offers 4G VoLTE for faster data speeds and HD voice calls. It is backed by a 3,000mAh battery and supports fast charging with the USB Type-C port. As seen with the other LYF smartphones, the Water F1S comes with two years of manufacturers warranty.

LYF Water F1S – Buy Now   

The Cool 1 is the first smartphone from Coolpad to run on the LeEco’s customized EUI based Android OS. Though the device was launched in August 2016 in China, it was made available in the Indian market only a few weeks back. It is priced at just Rs. 13,999 and packs decent hardware including the dual lens rear camera. While the Amazon exclusive variant comes with 4GB of RAM, the offline variant packs just 3GB of RAM. It sports a 5.5-inch IPS display on the front with Full HD resolution. The Cool 1 is powered by Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor and includes 32GB of internal storage. It features a 13MP + 13MP dual cameras on the rear with f/2.0 aperture and 6P lens. For selfies, there is an 8MP camera on the front. The 4,100mAh battery on the Cool 1 is said to give 12 hours of talk time and lasts upto 450 hours on standby mode.Top 4G Smartphones of January 2017 to Buy at Rs 15000 in India.

Coolpad Cool 1 – Buy Now   

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Best New 4G Android Smartphones to Buy Above Rs. 20,000 in India – February 2017

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In the first month of this new year, we have seen a few high-end smartphone launches in the Indian market. Though these are recently brought to India, all these smartphones are already available in other markets like the U.S and China. While a couple of these devices are already on sale, few devices will go on sale in the month of February. All the devices mentioned below supports 4G VoLTE and can be used with Jio 4G SIM.

As announced earlier, Vivo launched its latest high-end smartphone V5 Plus in India. The device is priced at Rs. 27,980 and is available across India via online stores. It is the same device that was launched in China as Vivo X9. The device sports a 5.5-inch display with Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) resolution and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor clocked at 2.0GHz is the only let down; this is the same processor that was also used in the Redmi Note 4 priced at Rs. 9,999. The Vivo V5 Plus also packs 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage that cannot be expanded. On the rear of the device is a 16MP rear camera with LED flash. The USP of this premium device is its 20MP + 8MP dual front cameras with f/2.0 aperture and 5P lens. There is a 3,160mAh non-removable battery, and the physical home button on the front comes embedded with a fingerprint sensor.

Vivo V5 Plus – Buy Now   

Lenovo is one smartphone manufacturer that has been launching quite a few smartphones. Apart from the Moto & ZUK smartphones, the company recently launched the affordable K-series smartphones. A couple of weeks, the latest Tango phone, Phab Pro 2 Pro was silently listed on Flipkart with a price tag of Rs. 29,990. The features a bunch of sensors that makes the Phab 2 Pro perfect for testing Augmented Reality (AR). It comes with a huge 6.4-inch Quad HD IPS display and is powered by the Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor. It also includes 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, and a 4,050mAh battery. On the rear, we can find a 16MP RGB camera, depth-sensing infrared camera, and also a motion tracking camera. For selfies, there is an 8MP front camera. It also has the Dolby Audio 5.1 Capture technology for recording 3D sound and Dolby Atmos technology for audio output.

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro – Buy Now   

A few months after launching the Galaxy C9 Pro in China, Samsung launched its first 6GB RAM smartphone in the Indian market for Rs. 36,900. The device was currently available to pre-order and will be on sale starting from February 17th. It runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow based TouchWiz UI, and there is information about the Nougat update for this device. Under the hood is the newly announced Snapdragon 653 octa-core processor along with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. On the front of the device is a 6-inch AMOLED display with Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) resolution. In the camera department, there is a 16MP camera on front and back of the device, where only the rear camera is accompanied with dual tone LED flash. The 4,000mAh battery keeps the device powered on and it also adaptive fast charging. Connectivity options include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC,  3.5mm Audio port, and a USB Type-C port.

Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro – Buy Now   

Nubia launched few decent smartphones like Nubia Z11 Mini and Nubia N1 in India with very aggressive pricing. The Nubia Z11 is one more smartphone from the company brought to India exclusively through Amazon India.  It is priced at Rs. 29,999 and packs top-notch specifications. It comes in the Black Gold color which looks beautiful with matte finish metal body with gold colored antenna bands and frame. Talking bout the specifications, there is a 5.5-inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 820 SoC, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. There is a 16MP rear camera with OIS and an 8MP selfie camera with wide angle lens. The 3,000mAh battery on this device is mentioned to give 8 hours of talk time. With the Frame Interactive Technology (FiT), the user can access the device with the gestures on the frame. The Nubia Z11 runs on Nubia UI 4.o based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Nubia Z11 – Buy Now   

After the Galaxy Note 7 failure, Samsung offered new Blue, and Pink colored variants of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphones. But the recently launched Black Pearl color looks much better than the earlier launched Black Onyx color with its glossy finish. The Black Pearl Galaxy S7 Edge also comes with 128GB of internal storage, and it costs Rs. 56,900. While the device runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, recently the company also released the Android 7.0 Nougat update. The device features a 5.5-inch Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels) resolution. As it sports a glass body, the device comes with a Gorilla Glass 4 protection on front and back of the device. The 12MP rear camera with f/1.7 aperture and dual pixel technology makes it one of the best device for smartphone photography. Even the 5MP front camera with the same f/1.7 aperture and screen flash feature to capture better selfies in the low light conditions.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Black Pearl – Buy Now   

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Best New 3G & 4G Android Smartphones to Buy Under Rs. 5,000 in India – February 2017

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With the technological innovations in the last few years, the entry-level smartphones are becoming cheaper in price while the specifications are becoming more powerful. The sub Rs. 5,000 priced smartphones will be good for the first smartphone users. Though the devices can’t compete with the high-end devices, normal usage will not be an issue and can even handle the games without any lags, though not the graphic intensive games. While all the below mentioned smartphones offers 3G HSPA connectivity, a couple of devices also support 4G LTE for using the Jio SIM.

The Indian smartphone brand had launched quite a few smartphones with very aggressive pricing. The Swipe Konnect Grand is one of the smartphones launched in January 2017. The device is priced at just Rs. 2,799 and runs on the Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box. The device lacks 4G LTE connectivity but packs some decent hardware at this price. It comes with a 5-inch FWVGA display and is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor. The device also includes 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage that can be further expanded upto 32GB. Talking about the other specifications, it features a 5MP rear camera, a 2MP front camera, and a removable 2,500mAh battery. The device offers 3G HSPA along with other basic connectivity options.

Swipe Konnect Grand – Buy Now   

In case, if you are looking for a 4G VoLTE handset at the same price of Swipe Konnect Grand, then the Swipe Konnect Neo 4G is one of the best alternatives. The VoLTE support comes from the compromises of the other specifications, it sports a smaller 4-inch display and packs just 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. On the camera front, there is a 5MP rear camera with LED flash and a 1.3MP front camera. The 2,000mAh battery on this device is rated to deliver 7 hours talk time and lasts upto 200 hours on standby. It runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow and comes pre-installed several bloatware apps. With the 4G VoLTE connectivity, the users can use the Konnect 4G with the Jio 4G SIM. It is exclusively sold through Shopclues and is available only in Black color.

Swipe Konnect Neo 4G – Buy Now   

Another Indian smartphone brand, Lava launched a couple of entry-level smartphones in this new year. The Lava A55 is one of the devices from the list and lacks the 4G LTE connectivity. It is priced at Rs. 3,599 and comes in Black and Silver color options. The Lava A55 sports a 4-inch WVGA (800 x 480 pixels) display and packs a 1.2GHz quad-core processor. There is also 1GB of RAM and 8GB of expandable storage. On the camera front, there is a 5MP rear camera with LED flash and a VGA front camera. The 1,550mAh battery on this device is rated to deliver 9 hours of talk time, as it includes very basic specifications. It includes dual SIM slots and offers connectivity options like 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, 3.5mm Audio port, and a MicroUSB 2.0 port.

Lava A55 – Buy Now   

Panasonic P66 Mega isn’t a newly launched device, but the recent price cut brings the price as low as Rs. 4,999. The device comes with a 5-inch HD display, 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. There is also a dedicated MicroSD card slot for further expansion of storage. The device runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop and supports 21Indian regional languages. It is backed a 3,200mAh battery that makes the device last at least for a complete day of usage. Talking about the cameras, there is an 8MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera. Panasonic is also offering a protective case and a screen guard for free with every purchase. The user can choose between the Russet Brown and Silver Grey color options.

Panasonic P66 Mega – Buy Now   

The Intex Cloud Q11 priced at Rs. 3,999 is another 3G smartphone in this list. The company also promotes the Intex Cloud Q11 as a VR-enabled device which brings the virtual reality to the entry-level users. Apart from that, the device also comes with a 5.5-inch HD display and features a glass protection on top. It is powered by 32-bit MediaTek MT6580 SoC and includes 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. In the camera department, there is an 8MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera. Both the front and rear cameras are assisted by a LED flash. The device runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow and supports Indian regional languages using the Matrabhasha app. With the all these specifications, the device is kept powered on by a 2,800mAh battery.

Intex Cloud Q11 – Buy Now   

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Blu Life Max

Blu is one of the smaller phone brands that’s impressing around the world with phones that mix high end specs and a lower price.

The new Blu Life Max is a handset with fairly impressive specs on paper - including a fingerprint scanner and a large battery - especially when you consider its price point.

We've loved the Lenovo P2 and Moto G4 Plus in the budget space, but this phone is around a third cheaper and offers a lot of the same features, so is it a better buy?

Blu Life Max price and release date 

You can buy the Blu Life Max in the US right now for $109.99 – that’s an impressive price considering what you’re getting for your money here.

In the UK, it’s not out until February 20, but you can pre-order it now for the special price of £89.99. If you buy after it launches, you’ll have to grab it at the higher price of £109.99, which is a little disappointing considering it's higher than the price in the US once you factor in exchange rates.

As for Australia, there’s no word on the phone seeing a release there at the moment.

Blu Life Max design

The design of the Blu Life Max may be familiar to you if you remember the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 - there’s a faux leather back on this phone, which you’ll either love or you’ll hate.

It’s a nice feeling on the palm of your hand when you’re holding it, and the phone is comfortable to hold as it’s not too large.

But if you don't like the look of faux leather you won't be able to escape hating the back of the Life Max. It does feel more premium than the ordinary plastic you’d find on other phones at this price point though.

The faux leather back cover can be peeled off to get access to the removable battery and to insert your SIM card or a microSD card. That's all inside a plastic frame that goes around the phone.

There’s only one color version of this phone available and it's blue, which shouldn’t come as a major surprise. It’s a dark shade, is inoffensive and is a good step considering the Blu Vivo 6 is only available in rose gold. That's not a color everyone wants.

On the top edge of the phone there's a 3.5mm headphone jack, making it easy to use a wired headset for listening to music when the phone is in your pocket, plus there’s also a micro USB port for charging and data transfer.

In the middle of the rear of the phone there's a fingerprint sensor, which is a great addition for a phone at this price point. If you're after a more efficient way to secure your phone, the fingerprint sensor should be a big highlight of the Life Max and with our first round of testing we found it to work very quickly.

The display on the phone is a 5.5-inch 720p IPS panel – it’s not as sharp as the 1080p Moto G4, and nor is it the most vibrant screen, but if you turn the brightness up you’re sure to get a good experience compared to other phones at this price point.

Under the hood there's a 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek system-on-a-chip, that we haven’t managed to fully test yet. It's also backed up with 2GB of RAM, a disappointing 16GB of internal storage and microSD support of up to 64GB.

The phone is running Android 6 Marshmallow software at the moment with a light Blu skin running over the top. TechRadar has been assured Android 7 will come to the phone eventually though.

One of the key highlights of the Life Max is the large battery inside - it's 3,700mAh and Blu claims it will last you at least two days of intensive usage. That sounds a little too good to be true, but we’ve got our fingers crossed it will be and we’ll be sure to push it hard in our full review to find out for sure.

The Life Max also has an 8MP rear camera that can take OK photos and has a solid autofocus, but this won’t be as good as phones that are a little more expensive and have double the megapixels, such as the Moto G4 Plus.

There’s also an 5MP selfie shooter complete with an LED flash, for video calling and taking selfie shots for your social media profiles – again, it seems OK based on initial tests, but nothing fantastic.

Early verdict

Right now the Blu Life Max looks to offer some great specs at an unbelievably low price.

There are still a few uncertainties under the hood, but this is stuff you’d expect at this price point that you can’t be too disappointed with. The battery looks like it may be a highlight, but there's no gurantee it will last as long as Blu claims.

That said, on paper everything looks like it adds up to a great phone for your budget needs, especially if you're upgrading from a phone that's a couple of years old.

D-Link DIR-879 EXO

Routers such as the D-Link DIR-879 have it tough. When things are going well and they are diligently doing their job, you shouldn’t even know that they are there. Your internet should just simply work, your network (home or office), should be visible with all your networked devices happily talking to each other. However, as soon as something goes wrong, one of the first things we blame is the router.

While there are a number of routers that like to be flashy and make you aware of what they do, we still have a soft spot for no-nonsense routers that get on with the job without fuss – something the D-Link DIR-879 EXO router promises to do.

Don’t think we’re selling the D-Link DIR-879 EXO router short – it’s just we admire its restraint after the big and brash (and very expensive) Asus RT-AC5300 Tri-band Gigabit Router.

While many routers (such as the aforementioned Asus) boast AC5300 or AC2400 speed standards, the D-Link DIR-879 EXO sticks with AC1900, which is capable of speeds up to 1300 Mbps. While this may seem disappointing, it’s actually more realistic, as many laptops and tablets are still capped at 1,300Mbps speeds – so anything over that is overkill. Will this have a noticeable impact on performance? Read on to find out.

The D-Link DIR-879 EXO is available for £133 ($140, around AU$190), which is pretty decent for a router, and about a third of the price of the Asus RT-AC5300 Tri-band Gigabit Router.

Features

Routers no longer need to be beige and boring boxes that you have to hide out of sight. The D-Link DIR-879 EXO has a bright (but not garish) orange design with a triangular design and four antennae that can’t be removed, but can be folded down onto the body of the router.

It comes with four Gigabit LAN ports and one WAN port, which should be enough for many home users, though for offices (and houses full of wired smart devices) you may need to invest in a network switch to increase the number of ports.

Disappointingly, there’s no USB port, so you can’t share USB sticks, external hard drives or printers by simply plugging it in to the router. Most routers now come with at least one USB port, so the lack of one in the D-Link DIR-879 EXO is a real shame.

This is a dual-band router, offering both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, allowing older devices to connect to the 2.4GHz band, and newer devices to the 5GHz band, reducing congestion on wireless networks in homes or offices with lots of devices trying to connect. The Wi-Fi itself is 802.11ac, currently the most recent and fastest version of Wi-Fi.

It features intelligent QoS, allowing it to detect the type of traffic on the network (such as media streaming or file transfers) and decides which application to give highest priority to. This means transfer speeds from your PC to your NAS device for large files won’t suddenly drop if someone else in the house starts streaming Netflix, and the TV show they’re binging on won’t grind to a halt if someone else starts playing an online game.

It also comes with parental controls, guest Wi-Fi network creation and WPA and WPA2 encryption for the Wi-Fi networks. Overall, the D-Link DIR-879 EXO comes with pretty much all the features you’d expect from a modern router at this price range, though the lack of USB is disappointing.

Performance

But how does the D-Link DIR-879 EXO perform? D-Link promises an easy to install ‘zero configuration’ process, helped by the Quick Router Setup (QRS) app, designed to make adding this router to your home network as painless as possible.

We started by using the QRS app to set up the D-Link DIR-879 EXO. With the router plugged in, we downloaded the app, then connected the phone to the D-Link DIR-879 EXO’s Wi-Fi (and entered in the supplied password). Upon loading the app, the D-Link DIR-879 EXO was discovered and we tried to begin the process. Unfortunately, the app didn’t play ball, with it becoming unresponsive.

So, we loaded up a web browser, typed in http://192.168.0.1 and the D-Link DIR-879 EXO’s welcome screen appeared. As we usually set up our routers this way it wasn’t too much of an issue, but it’s a shame the app didn’t work, as we’d have liked to have seen how easy it was to configure the router that way.

The process through the web interface was straightforward, with each step clearly explained, so even if this is your first router, you’ll have a good idea of what you need to do. It detected our internet connection without a problem, then asked us if we wanted to change the name of the network and password. We were also asked to provide a new admin password for logging into the router and changing our internet settings.

And that was it – the D-Link DIR-879 EXO was set up and working in three steps, quite possibly the easiest and most pain-free router setup procedure we’ve had, despite the annoyances with the mobile app.

The web interface has been overhauled by D-Link and it is simple and attractive, allowing almost anyone to find the features they need without any trouble. The more advanced features are easily accessible as well, for the most part. 

However, we wanted to make sure we were on the 5GHz band during testing, and unlike many other routers, there were not two separate Wi-Fi networks being broadcast for each band – instead just a single wireless network. To make sure both bands were enabled we searched the settings menu for a while with no luck – then we noticed that the ‘Smart connect’ feature was turned on. 

Switching this off brought up a new menu where we could view both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Both bands had the same name (SSID) and password, with the Smart Connect feature essentially determining which devices connected to which band. 

With this feature switched off, we could change the name of the 5GHz band and give it a new password, so we could be sure which band we were connected to. This is a little niggle, but we’d have preferred if this option wasn’t hidden away, or if Smart Connect had been explained a little clearer. 

However for most people you can leave these be and just use the D-Link DIR-879 EXO straight away – D-Link’s promise of ‘zero configuration’ seems to have been realised.

As for range – the D-Link DIR-879 EXO showed a download speed of 138.1Mb/s download and 12MS ping with our 5GHz device right next to it. With the PC plugged directly in to the router, our download speeds were only slightly higher. Interestingly, when we tested the speeds from across the office (around 30 feet away) the speeds actually increased to 156.4MB/s and the ping dropped to 6ms. We put this down to the design of the router and the antennae, which lean outwards from the router’s body, so devices slightly further away will get better coverage.

Through one wall the speeds dropped to 68.68Mb/s and ping rose to 21ms, and through three walls it dropped further still to 6.41Mb/s and 164ms ping. If you have a large house or office, you may need to consider range extenders (which the D-Link DIR-879 EXO can double as) to help get decent speeds. 

We also tested the connection on the floor above (but not directly above the router) and got 108.88Mb/s and 6ms ping, and one floor below (this time directly below the router) with 131.94Mb/s and 11ms ping. 

These are very good results and show that floors prove less of a hurdle than walls. If you have a long or wide house, then the placement of the D-Link DIR-879 EXO (or the use of extenders) may need serious consideration.

At the beginning of this review we expressed the hope that the D-Link DIR-879 EXO would be a router that does its job competently and with the minimum of fuss, and we’re delighted to see that it’s pretty much the case. 

Setup couldn’t be easier (despite a wonky mobile app), and speeds and range all worked well without any need to configure confusing settings.

We liked

The price, features list and the ease of setup are all big pluses for this router. The speeds and range were also very good considering the price of this device.

We didn’t like

We’d have liked slightly more flexibility with the antennae placement, and the mobile app needs a bit of work to make sure it’s as easy to use as promised. 

Some more advanced features are a bit hidden away, but that won’t be of too much concern for most users, though the lack of a USB port, which is pretty much a standard feature for routers these days, is a shame.

Final verdict

For its price, the D-Link DIR-879 EXO provides most of the common features you’d expect from a modern router, including dual bands, parental controls and QoS tools for ensuring the network is enjoyable to use no matter how it’s being used. Range and speed of the Wi-Fi is good, especially between floors, though it won’t quite reach the furthest corners of large houses and offices.

It’s incredibly easy to set up, and even non-techies can have this up and running in a matter of minutes, and many will never even need to log in as an admin to change any settings – though if you do you’ll be greeted with an easy to understand and navigate interface.

Overall, this is a great little router that provides very good performance for a decent price.

Linksys WRT 3200 ACM router

In many ways the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM is a refreshing router. While some device makers – including router manufacturers – go for sleek, stylish and minimalist designs that are supposed to appeal to customers besotted with the Apple design ethos, there are drawbacks. The main one, perhaps half inched from Apple themselves, is that the more simple and minimalist the design, the less features, customisation and flexibility the end product has.

The Linksys WRT 3200 ACM admirably shuns those pretensions. This is a router that’s not ashamed about what it is. It looks like a router that’s more at home in a small to medium sized office than a San Francisco stylish apartment, but it’s big, brash design allows Linksys to pack in some pretty meaty specifications. The antennae jutting out the body might make Jony Ive break out in a cold sweat, but they help the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM to broadcast its Wi-Fi networks across houses and offices, with the positional antennae allowing you to hone in the network to your devices for the best possible of speeds.

A number of people will also be impressed with how readily the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM embraces custom open-source firmware (such as OpenWRT). This allows you to install software other than the default interface the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM ships with, giving you almost complete control over the features and functions of this router. WRT support is relatively niche, but it’s great to see it included, and sets out the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM’s stall as a powerful and robust router for people who want complete control over their network. At £199.99 ($249.99, around AU$330), this is a mid-priced router that brings some advanced features without breaking the bank.


Features

Alongside the support for open source firmware, the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM boasts MU-MIMO technology that allows for simultaneous streaming, file sharing and gaming on multiple devices on the Wireless AC band. 

It also includes Tri-Stream 160 technology, which doubles the bandwidth from 80MHz on network streams – the idea behind these two features is that no matter how busy your Wi-Fi network is, the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM will provide incredibly fast Wi-Fi AC network speeds. 

It also comes with a 1.8GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB RAM and 256MB flash memory. Ethernet ports are of the gigabit variety, and there are four of them, with a separate fifth port for connecting to your modem. A USB 3.0 is included for sharing files and printers with your network, and the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM also comes with an ESATA port for file transfers that has a convenient design, allowing it to also be used as a USB 2.0 port.

The LinkSys Smart W-Fi app allows you to configure and manage the router from your smartphone or tablet, but it’s really the open source firmware support that’s the star here. By installing either OpenWRT or DD-WRT you can add advanced features such as secure VPN, TOR network browsing for anonymous browsing, and view advanced network traffic and network intrusion reports. 

That’s just the beginning – there’s a huge range of features that are included with the firmware, and you’re not waiting for Linksys to add and test features, instead you’ve got a committed community of network professionals and enthusiasts making and sharing cutting edge features. 

Of course, custom firmware comes with its own considerations and concerns, but if you’re an advanced user who wants amazing and innovative features, WRT support has probably already made your mind up on whether or not you want to buy this router.

Performance

So with all these impressive features, how does the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM perform? Despite its looks and features that suggest this is a router for network professionals only, the setup procedure was quite simple. With it plugged in and connected to our modem and PC via Ethernet, we browsed to http://ift.tt/1fA224y and followed the instructions.

By default you’re taken through the setup process step-by-step, but for the more confident you can also select ‘Manual configuration’. If you trust the  Linksys WRT 3200 ACM to do its stuff, you’ll see a ‘Please wait…’ message appear while it configures itself. 

This takes a couple of minutes, and you’re helpfully kept informed with what the router is doing at the top of the screen, so you don’t panic and think the device (or your web browser) has crashed. Once done, you’re asked if you want to install updates for your router automatically, then what your Wi-Fi networks and password should be. 

You can choose to make the networks (one for the 2.4GHz band, one for 5GHz) have the same name (and appear as one network), if you want the leave the router to handle what device connects to what band.

Next, you need to create an admin password and reminder for accessing your router’s settings and you’re done. It was a pleasantly pain-free and easy to follow process that manages to strike the right balance between automatically configuring the complicated bits behind the scenes, and giving you control over some of the settings.

You’re also asked if you want to create a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account. This isn’t mandatory, but it gives you remote access to your router when you’re away. We weren’t able to test this out as at the time of the review the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi service was down for maintenance.

Once set up you can view the interface, which is clearly laid out and gives you a good overview of your network and any network attached storage. From here you can prioritise media devices, enable or disable the guest network (it’s enabled by default), set up parental controls, configure wireless and use the OpenVPN server.

On our Ethernet-connected PC we got download speeds of 114Mb/s and a ping of 8ms. With our wireless AC device conncted to the 5GHz network, next to the router we recorded speeds of 133Mb/s speeds and 13ms ping. When we tested the speeds from the other side of the office (about 30 feet away) we got even better results with 159.73Mb/s and 13ms speeds. 

However, once we started putting walls between us and the router, performance dropped off, with the device sometimes struggling to keep a connection with the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM’s Wi-Fi. With one wall speeds dropped to 67.29Mb/s with a ping of 8ms. With two walls between us, speeds dropped even more dramatically to 3.97Mb/s.

Floors were less of an issue though. One floor directly above the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM, we got 135.12Mb/s and 12ms ping, and one floor directly below, we recorded 139.96Mb/s and 6ms ping.

So generally performance was very good, though with walls in play the connection dropped markedly – which is a surprise considering we had high hopes for this router. If you have a large house or office and rely on consistent and fast Wi-Fi, you’re going to need to look at Wi-Fi extenders, or carefully consider the position and antenna arrangement of the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM.

The Linksys WRT 3200 ACM is an excellent router for busy environments, be they an office or a home full of gamers and media streaming devices. 

It comes with a host of advanced features which many of its competitors lack, yet it also boasts a user-friendly interface and simple set up procedure, which means you don’t have to be a network admin to make use of this robust device.

We liked

WRT support for open source firmware is a huge plus here, giving the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM a flexibility and range of additional features that other routers could only dream of. 

Even if you stick with the default software you still get a host of features for both enterprise and home use, an easy-to-use interface and decent speeds and coverage.

We didn’t like

The fact that coverage is only decent is a bit of a disappointment – we really wanted to get blown away by this router’s coverage, but walls in particular saw drop offs in speed and reliability. 

We quite admire the utilitarian look of the router, but people after a more stylish device may not be too keen.

Final verdict

If you’re looking for a flexible, powerful and feature-rich router that gives you further options by allowing you to install open source firmware, then we would happily recommend the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM. 

This is an excellent router that’s packed full of features and comes with a decent price tag. Sadly coverage isn’t as impressive as we had hoped, but other than that this is an excellent router that would be a boon to almost any network it was added to.

Xiaomi Redmi Pro 2 Smartphone leaks with 6GB RAM & 4500mAh Battery

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Another device from Xiaomi has rendered a leak, dubbed as Redmi Pro 2, an image has been leaked online with few specifications. Recently we have seen the company launching the Redmi Note 4 in India for Rs. 9,999 for the basic version. Prior to this, the company has launched many other devices like Xiaomi Mi Mix Evo, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5, Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X, Xiaomi Mi S and few other devices. Although Xiaomi has not mentioned about this device, we can expect the handset to be unveiled very soon in the coming days.

According to the leaks, the Redmi Pro 2 can come powered with Snapdragon 660 processor coupled with 6GB of RAM with 128GB of internal storage. On the camera front, it is expected to come with a 12MP sensor on the rear with Sony IMX362 sensor. We can also expect an 8MP front-facing camera for video calling and selfies. On the rear, there is a 4500mAh battery to power the device which can last an entire day with single charge with normal usage. It is also expected to come in 4GB / 64GB storage options. These will be priced at 1599 Yuan and 1799 Yuan accordingly, but the leaks should be taken with a pinch of salt for now.

The handset will be the successor of Redmi Pro that was launched earlier and also came with Dual rear camera combo. The Redmi Note 4 that was launched few days before came with specifications like 5.5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) IPS display with a 2.5D glass on top and offers a pixel density of 403 ppi. The smartphone came in three variant of 2/3/4GB RAM along with 32/64GB internal storage options. There is a 13MP rear module is supported by PDAF (Phase Detection Auto Focus) Technology and the dual-tone color temperature flash accompanied with 5MP selfie camera.

Stay tuned to PhonerRadar for more similar news and comment in the section below if you have more queries on the same.

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PrivateVPN

Most VPNs have no clients of their own, and some manage one or two, but PrivateVPN stands out from the crowd with four: Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. This isn't always a good thing – some third-party clients are garbage – but they tend to simplify the setup process, and also show that a company has some substance and depth.

The core service looks capable, too. There are 40 locations in 21 countries, including Russia, Australia and Singapore. You get OpenVPN, L2TP, L2TP/IPsec, IPsec, PPTP, IVEv2 support, and this is a torrent-friendly service which allows for six simultaneous connections, port forwarding, and there are no sneaky limits on bandwidth or anything else.

Even better, if you can't get the system working on Windows, Linux or Mac, PrivateVPN offers a free TeamViewer-based remote setup service to get you started.

Despite all this functionality, pricing is a typical $8.95 (£7.10, AU$11.85) for a single month, $5.95 equivalent (£4.70, AU$7.85) if you opt for a full year. Although the firm doesn’t really advertise it, you can get a free 24-hour trial if you email and ask (see the FAQ on the website), and there's a ‘risk-free 7-day guarantee’ for extra protection.

Privacy

Does PrivateVPN keep any logs? The FAQ is emphatic: "No, we NEVER produce logs of any data traffic. The only things we store are your email address."

That doesn't rule out logging session traffic, of course: connection times, bandwidth, maybe IPs. As PrivateVPN imposes a six-device limit it presumably maintains a list of user sessions, but we could find nothing about that on the site. That's a pity, but it's not unusual, and as PrivateVPN is based in privacy-conscious Sweden we suspect any details will be relatively safe.

The rest of the privacy-related small-print is much like most other VPNs. PrivateVPN only holds your email address, it uses cookies on the website and might use third-party analytics, but there's no sign of data sharing or other dubious activities.

PrivateVPN's terms of service is a plus, being clearly written and far more readable than efforts we've seen elsewhere. There's no lengthy list of things you can't do, for instance – just the requirement not to cause harm to others or break the law. Works for us.

Performance

We emailed PrivateVPN, asked for a trial code and had a reply in under 10 minutes. You may not see that kind of speed if you ask a tricky technical question, but it's good to know someone is listening.

This made for a very straightforward signup as there was no need to enter payment details. We just handed over our email address, entered the trial code we'd just been given, and were directed to the support website. By default this displayed setup details related to us (Windows client download, manual setup guides), but there were also sections for macOS, iOS, Android, routers and Linux.

We took a look at the Windows client. This opened simply, with the usual ‘choose a server and click Connect’ setup. There's also an Advanced mode which allows selecting a protocol (we previously mentioned the options, which are various), and defining any apps you'd like to be forcibly closed if the VPN drops. We'd like more configuration options, and ping times to be included in the server list, but otherwise the package is marginally above average. (And if you need more power, there's always the regular OpenVPN software.)

In our tests*, real-life performance was a little above average overall. Short-hop UK-UK download speeds peaked at 30Mbps, and the closest European servers – France, Netherlands, Spain – managed similar rates. UK-US downloads were an acceptable 20-25Mbps in New York, and maybe averaging 20Mbps in Los Angeles, though with a lot of variation.

Our testing ended on a positive note as we ran the usual privacy checks, and found our PrivateVPN connection passed them all: no DNS leaks, no WebRTC issues, every visible IP always correctly tied to our chosen location.

Final verdict

PrivateVPN doesn't make any major mistakes, but it doesn't excel in any of the core areas, either – it's not quite fast enough, or powerful enough, or cheap enough to win us over. If you must have a service with native clients and six connection support, it might be interesting; otherwise, look elsewhere.

*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we've reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.

Monday, January 30, 2017

iBall Slide Brisk 4G2 Tablet Launched with 7” Display & 3GB RAM for Rs. 8999

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iBall has added a new device to its Slide series for Rs. 8,999. Dubbed as iBall Slide Brisk 4G2, the new launched Tablet comes with 4G VoLTE support and the device will be available in Cobalt Blue color variant. The Indian Smartphone maker has launched many devices in the recent past and headquartered at Mumbai, the company has launched the devices like iBall Andi Uddaan that was specially made for women security with SOS button on the back. Last year, the company also launched Windows 10 Laptop called as CompBook for Rs. 9,999 making it the most affordable laptop in the country.

Coming to the specification of this latest tablet, it will come with dual SIM support which will also support 4G VoLTE connectivity for faster browsing speeds. Under the hood, there is a 64-bit quad-core processor coupled with 3GB of RAM and Mali T720 GPU. Out of the box, the device will be coming with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and might be getting the further updates also. There is a 7” 1280 x 720 pixels capacitive multi-touch IPS display. There are other sensors like Proximity, Compass, Light sensor and few other that are required for automation of the device.

On the camera end, the device features a 5MP camera on the rear with autofocus and LED flash, and it will be accompanied with a 2MP selfie camera for video calling. There are connectivity options like Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, USB OTG, A-GPS and few others. On the rear, there is a 3500 mAh battery to power the handset. Considering the price of the device, these are decent specifications for a Tablet. Earlier it has launched the tablets like iBall Slide Nimble 4GF, iBall Slide Brace X1 4G, iBall Slide Wondro 10 Tablet and few other.

Are you interested in getting this tablet from iBall? Do let us know by commenting in the section below and stay tuned to PhoneRadar for more similar news and updates.

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WatchOS 3.2 arrives with SiriKit support and Theater Mode for developers

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After the last watchOS update which bricked few of the Apple Watches, Apple has now made the watchOS 3.2 beta available for developers. This time around, however, few new features are making a debut with this update. The previously announced SiriKit and Theatre mode functionalities for Apple watches are now available with this so that they can be tested out. So if you are a developer, you should be seeing this update now and you can download and check it out as these are pretty great additions.

The SiriKit will allow developers with apps for audio/video calling, payments, messaging, booking rides, reserving tables, workouts, etc. to integrate with Siri. This will open up so many opportunities for users to use Siri effectively in many use case scenarios. For instance, if you need to reserve a table at a restaurant, then you can simply talk to Siri to get it done. The Theatre Mode, on the other hand, will make your watch theater friendly, meaning it will dim/ turn off the display and put it will mute the sound as well so that the person sitting next to you in the theater is not being bothered by your constant notifications and screen flashing on his/ her face.

The Theatre mode is also expected to debut in iPhones with iOS 10.3. Also, if you have used Android wear before, then you already know that this has been there in Android Wear since forever and it is indeed a must have feature. Do make a note that if you receive any notifications, then you still will be able to feel them through the haptic engine. You can then decide to act on the notification by tapping the display or pressing the digital crown. Alternatively, you also spin the digital crown to bring up the brightness of the display from its darkest setting.

Before installing the watchOS 3.2 beta, make sure your Apple watch is charged upto 50-percent and is stay connected to the charger until the update is finished. Also be sure to stay within the range of your iPhone. If you are a developer then you should be seeing the notification by now. Stay tuned for more info on this.

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