Friday, August 31, 2018

LG G7 One

It’s easy to see why phone buyers are attracted to Android One, the purest version of Google’s mobile OS. For years, manufacturers have been adding their own layer on to Android, for better or worse, so it’s always refreshing to see it all laid bare on a phone that’s sporting decent specs. 

And that’s what we have here with the LG G7 One, a phone that’s very similar to the LG G7 ThinQ but with a much leaner OS. 

The phone was revealed at IFA 2018 and is certainly a handset for the UI minimalist crowd.

LG G7 One release date and price

The LG G7 One release date and price was unfortunately not revealed at IFA 2018, but we will update when we get more information. Here's hoping that the price in the US is a good deal cheaper than what the LG G7 ThinQ was - this was one thing that stopped up from really liking that phone.

Design and display

Like the LG G7 ThinQ (we may we writing that phrase a lot), the LG G7 One is an all-glass phone, with a polished metal rim disrupting this aesthetic. It’s slim and certainly premium looking. The back of the phone is frosted glass, which is a nice touch. 

On the front is an 8MP Wide Angle (F1.9) lens, which is cradled by the now-obligatory notch, and this found above the 6.1-inch QHD+ (3120 x 1440) Super Bright Display. The display sports a 19.5:9 FullVision screen ratio and is certainly enough real estate to watch movies (It also supports HDR10). The button of the screen nudges into quite a small bezel. 

Flip it over and there’s a 16MP Standard Angle (F1.6) lens and the Android One logo - it’s Android 8.1 Oreo on board. 

The sides of the LG G7 One are populated by volume controls and a power button, and the bottom of the device has a USB-C slot, 3.5mm jack (something we are still pleased about) and a speaker grille. 

It’s the bottom of the LG G7 One that reveals the phone’s audio goodness. The speaker is LG’s Boombox Speaker setup. The phone has been designed to house a resonance chamber, so when it’s put on a hard surface and a tune is pumping out of it, the sound is bigger and more expansive than of a normal tinny phone speaker. We tried it and even in the lofty confines of a convention centre, it sounded richer than we were expecting. 

Then there’s the 3.5mm jack. This is important as there is also a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC in the device which will work well with any half-decent pair of headphones. Then there’s virtual 3D sound that is said to be able to produce up 7.1 quality audio goodness. 

We didn’t try this out but the key word here is ‘virtual’ so don’t go expecting miracles - though this is a much more audio-friendly handset than many others out there. 

In the hand, the LG G7 One is a solid device, with not too much slip which is a relief given the near all-glass chassis. The screen is big but the phone, thanks to it being nice and slim, never felt overwhelming when gripped. 

The shape of the screen - dimension wise, the phone is 153.2 x 71.9 x 7.9mm - means it’s not too fat either, so good for those who still like to scroll one-handed. It’s pretty light, too, at 156g.

Camera, power and battery

The LG G7 One sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, there’s a microSD slot too so you can whack the storage up to 2TB if you really want to. Eagle eyed reader will note this is less on-board storage than what's on offer with the LG G7 ThinQ and the chipset is not the top-of-the-class 845, that can be found in that phone, too. RAM has pushed down to 4GB, too, which does irk.

It’s got a 3000mAh battery but if you do start to run low, Qualcomm's Quick Charge tech should give you the boost you need.

All of this is powering Android One, which is a great, simple experience. Free from bloatware and bespoke overlays, it’s a really pleasant phone experience. This is LG’s first Android One phone and there seems to be a trend for most manufacturers to offer a version of one of their handsets and we hope this continues. 

As it’s Oreo 8.1, there’s a ton of background optimization done by the OS and a load of safety features - courtesy of Google Play Protect - to make sure what your downloading won’t hard your phone. 

The LG G7 One also has Google Lens on board which is fast finding its way on to more Android devices. The potential for this technology is staggering. But for now, it’s just good fun and allows you to search the world around you. Point Lens at an object and you will get information, it can also read text on signs and the like. 

For security, there is also face recognition and fingerprint scanning on the LG G7 One

Scrolling the LG G7 One and it was slick - there was no judder between screen swipes and heavy apps like YouTube opened up quickly. 

You can access the two cameras fast and the pictures we did take of the device - mainly of frazzled journalists busy working away, coffee fumes their only sustenance - colors were rich and had a nice pop to them. There is a distinct lack of a wide-angle camera on the back, though, which was a real USP of the G7 ThinQ.

Early Verdict

If you already have the LG G7, then you won’t find much here for you - in fact, there have been a few spec downgrades. But the LG G7 One is a solid, decent smartphone that easily holds its own when compared to the Samsung, Sony and Huawei's of the world.

The biggest criticism we had about its bedfellow was the price of the phone (especially in the US). While we don’t know full pricing yet, that will make or break this handset. 

Free from that information, and the LG G7 One is a great-looking solid and stripped-down handset. Less here is certainly better.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.  

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Ryzen Threadripper was the face that launched a dozen chips. On the heels of AMD introducing its Zen-based high-end desktop (HEDT) processors, Intel reacted in kind with the (now defunct) Kaby Lake-X series and shortly after with even more competitive Core X series chips in the form of Skylake-X.

Eventually, these two titans’ HEDT chips would finally meet in the ring with an all-out brawl between the Intel Core i9-7980XE and AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X. Although AMD’s flagship 16-core Ryzen Threadripper processor costed half as much, it couldn’t match up to 18-core Intel Skylake X CPU.

Fast forward to today, and AMD has introduced a new flagship Ryzen Threadripper 2950X that’s not only cheaper but more powerful in every way.

Price and availability

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X was already one of the fairly more affordable high-core-count processors you could buy when it originally launched at $999 (£999, AU$1,439). 

Surprisingly, AMD actually cut the price on the Ryzen Threadripper 2950X to $899 (£849, AU$1,369), making it just a little more accessible to streamers and would-be PC enthusiasts.

Of course, this lower price also further raises the 2950X’s value proposition against the $1,699 (about £1,289, AU$2,289) Intel Core i9-7960X and $1,999 (£1,649, AU$2,729) Core i8-7980XE.

Features and chipset

Although the Ryzen Threadripper 2950X doesn’t get a core-count boost or feature four-core complexes, like the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX and 2970WX, it’s still a beast of a chip. This HEDT chip might still feature 16-cores and 32-threads as it predecessor, but it’s also 0.3-0.5Ghz faster than the 1950X it replaces.

This is largely thanks to AMD’s new Zen+ 12nm architecture that grants 200MHz higher clock speeds as well as reducing the amount of core voltage required at any frequency by 80-120mV. On paper, Ryzen Threadripper 2nd Generation CPUs are said to deliver 16% more performance with 11% lower power consumption – though, the latter doesn’t hold true in our testing – against each of its first-generation counterparts.

That’s even further enhanced by Threadripper 2nd Generation features, like Extended Frequency Range 2 (XFR2) now enabling 16% additional processor performance across any number of cores and threads. What’s more, AMD has added a new Precision Boost Overdrive tool into the Ryzen Master application, allowing users to maximize their CPU’s power draw and frequency so long as it doesn’t melt (and they first sign away the processor’s warranty).

Performance

Thankfully, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X is as impressive in benchmarks as it does look on paper. One of the most immediate improvements you can notice from our testing is single performance is much better this go around, and that’s largely thanks to this chip being able to reach a 400MHz higher boost clock. This in turn leads to slightly better multi-core benchmark runs, but the improvement isn’t as significant.

Compared to its Intel 16-core counterpart, the Core i9-7960X, and even the 18-core Core i9-7980XE, the Threadripper 2950X is pretty much just as fast, winning some contests in Cinebench and Handbrake while losing the match in Geekbench.

On the gaming front, the Ryzen Threadripper 2950X performs pretty much exactly the same as its two Intel rivals. However, we’ll say it once again: if you’re looking to maximize your in-game frame rates, the Intel Core i7-8700K and AMD Ryzen 7 2700X do a much better job at a fraction of the price for a HEDT chip.

No one should be buying the Ryzen Threadripper 2950X looking for the ultimate gaming processor. Rather, this is a CPU that delivers more than serviceable gaming performance while still having plenty of processing power leftover to drive a livestream, gameplay capture, video encoding or any of your other daily tasks at the same time.

Final verdict

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X marks a noticeable improvement from its predecessor in every way. From a value perspective, this is basically the best deal you can get on a high-end desktop chip currently. The Intel Core i9-7960X and Core i9-7980XE, and even the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX, are just too expensive for their own good.

Comparatively, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X either beats or is as good as the next HEDT at a much more approachable $899 (£849, AU$1,369) price. That is still far more money any regular PC user should plop down on a processor, but for YouTubers as well as other streamers and other creative types, this is the processor of your dreams.

D-Link DWR-953 4G LTE Router

How dependent you are on your broadband connection becomes glaringly obvious should you ever have it stop working for an extended period. This is especially true in a business context, where the flow of information in and out of the company is critical, and without that link, even remote diagnostics become impossible.

Any decent disaster recovery plan should have an entire section allocated to the loss of internet connection, and it should probably include mention of a device like the new D-Link DWR-953.

To confuse matters a little, D-Link already makes another router designated the DWR-953 that was a tabletop design with three antennas and only AC750 Wi-Fi performance.

This ‘B’ version of the router has just two antennas and a much better AC1200 spec Wi-Fi.

Is this an LTE router that you could learn to love?

Front back and sides

Design and features 

If you are looking for the very best Wi-Fi connectivity, handling numerous simultaneously connected users with MESH functionality, then the D-Link DWR-953 isn’t for you.

With just an AC1200 specification Wireless facility this is a modest Wi-Fi router that provides a dual-band single antenna connection with up to 866 Mbps for 802.11ac clients and another 300 Mbps for those still using 802.11n. It also supports 802.11g on 2.4GHz, should you prefer 54 Mbps or less speed.

Without a spiders-from-mars antenna collection or USB ports, D-Link engineers have been able to make the DWR-953 a very compact box that measures just 19 cm wide and 17cm high.

It sits on a small plastic foot that isn’t removable, and the unit has no wall mounting options.

Inside the box is a short Ethernet cable for connecting the router to a cable modem via the WAN socket, a small external power supply with a couple of interchangeable power pins and two threaded BNC connectable antennas.

The notes imply that these antennas are for the LTE technology and not Wi-Fi, but it might be that they do both frequencies ranges in reality. Or, the Wi-Fi ones are internal.

Ports

Along with the WAN port are four standard gigabit Ethernet ports for wired networking, a number that has become the de facto standard for small routers.

On the front face at the bottom is one of the longest collections of LED indicators we’ve ever seen. They cover power, internet, 5GHz service, 2.4GHz service, 4G, 2G/3G, LAN and WAN operation. And, there is also a stacked bar indicator to show exactly what signal strength you are getting on mobile communications, and even one to say if you have an SMS message.

Front lights

To see any lights on the mobile indicators, you need a full-sized mobile phone SIM inserted in a slot on the right-hand side. And, we realised that it only becomes active after the router is power cycled once the SIM has been inserted.

The only other features of note are a WPS button and alongside it another to disable wireless functionality and a small hole to initiate a reset.

Except for the SIM card slot, this is a by-the-numbers Wi-Fi cable router, with relatively few bells or whistles to its repertoire.

Speed test

Performance

If you’re buying this router for wireless speed, you need to do more research. Because even with AC1200 spec the connectivity is basic when compared with many other options. 

While it could support a handful of users to link them to cable broadband, the true purpose is to provide a simple means to get to the internet should the wired connection fail.

And, it does that job rather elegantly.

It’s also remarkably easy to get it operational as an LTE access point, as with a valid SIM and default settings you can be surfing via it in just a few minutes with zero configuration.

On this LTE link with four bars, we managed 7.28Mbits down and 7.74Mbits up, which isn’t too shabby for a mobile service.

In theory, if the LTE mast is just outside and few people are using it a 150Mbps downlink is possible. We experienced somewhere between 5 and 12Mbits from inside a building, within half a mile of the local LTE base stations.

As this router has detachable antennas, mounting external antennas and cabling them to it would probably boost performance for those that use it as their single means to access the internet.

In some locations near the base stations, this solution might exceed the local ADSL speeds available over copper lines, ironically. 

Interface

In use

We’ve noticed that D-Link like to keep their firmware interfaces paired down to the minimum, presumably to avoid people selecting options they don’t understand and then demanding support to help them. The DWR-953 follows that trend, unfortunately. 

The security options, in particular, aren’t as extensive as business users might want. The router only supports WEP or WPA/WPA2 and no Enterprise option for example.

The pages relating to the mobile chip control are also underwhelming, as they mostly relate to LTE in the advent of using a login controlled service.

That it supports SMS messaging is interesting if a little pointless, as is D-Links decision to include USSD messaging also. These might be more useful if they automatically relayed them to an email or chat service, but it doesn’t.

In our experimenting we discovered that it is possible to mess up the LTE fail-over mode by tinkering with the LAN/WAN options, so be careful with that.

Ideally, the DWR-953 needs to be directly connected to the Cable modem, and have DHCP active. Getting to work in a wireless Access Mode and fail-over is more challenging, given the very limited documentation that D-Link provides.

The quick installation guide is very sparse, providing very little more than admin login details, and almost nothing else of value.

Undoubtedly the strength of this device is the LTE modem, which supports 2100/1900/1800/850/2600/900/800 MHz in FDD mode and 2600/2300 MHz in TDD.

If those aren’t available the system will automatically downgrade to Pentaband UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+ and as a last resort Quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE on 850/900/1800/1900 MHz.

That covers almost all geographic locations with mobile data services, should you move to another country and take this device with you.

There are however a couple of caveats that anyone wanting to deploy a device like this needs to consider;

Firstly, as a means to circumvent a broadband issue, you need to consider that not all broadband problems are at the client end. It might be that the system is equally blocked across the LTE/4G service as it is over the broadband connection.

Under those circumstances, this router might not solve the problem, even if it takes a different route across the internet.

The other point that needs making is one about the cost of mobile data connections and how they’re not normally operated in the way that broadband connections are often abused.

Should the broadband connection fail overnight initiating a switch to the mobile connection, and that is when offline backups are running, or Microsoft decides to flush another Windows 10 release down to you, then there could an issue with mobile data allowances.

Without an all-you-can-eat mobile data contract, you could arrive at work with a massive bill for mobile data. And, even if you do, unless you have excellent local LTE service the backup might not have completed, and the new Windows 10 release finished downloading.

As an emergency means to access the internal network remotely or send the odd email out a solution like this might suffice, but unless there are no other options, this isn’t an ideal replacement for a wired internet connection.

Where this product shines is if you have an account with an LTE service, move to a new city and want to distribute Wi-Fi around a new office, home or apartment before cable or ADSL services are connected.

At the time of writing, the new DWR-953 ‘B’ is available in Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Singapore, but it hasn’t yet been added to the LTE models available in the USA.

Final verdict

The DWR-853 is a little too simplified for our liking. The lack of Enterprise encryption, no USB port and the limited Wi-Fi bandwidth all undermine its business potential.

That said, if you want an easy to deploy fail-over option that ticks a few boxes in the disaster recovery plan, this is a highly affordable option.

Windscribe VPN

Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest changes and additions since this review was last updated.  

  • Pricing now has three plans. 1-month $9, 1-year $4.08 per month and 2-years $3.70 per month (also includes free 6 month premium subscription to Dashlane password manager).
  • Android app is now available and working properly. (June 2018)
  • Linux app was added.
  • Locations increased to 100. (June 2018).
  • The service added LAN Proxy gateway which you can use to create a secure HTTP or SOCKS5 proxy server on your network for other devices.
  • The company accepts Bitcoin, Ethereum and most major cryptocurrencies. (June 2018)
  • Windscribe introduced Garry, the helpful bot, which works like a live chat.
  • A new version for Linux (1.2) is out. (July 2018)
  • The service added Croatia as a new location. (July 2018)

Opting for a free VPN plan usually means some major compromises: data transfer limits, maybe restrictions on speeds, and users often can't use the most popular locations. It's tempting to think there's always a big catch somewhere, and all you have to do is find it – right?

WindscribeWindscribeW Windscribe is an interesting VPN which doesn't seem to follow the usual rules. The free VPN plan gives you a chunky 10GB a month data allowance if you register your email address (2GB if not), 20 times what you'll get with some competitors.

The main issues are that you get access to just eight countries (US, UK and other European cities, Hong Kong) and there's support for one connection only. But that's perfectly adequate if, say, you just want to protect your browsing and emails while you're travelling.

Windscribe's free plan goes further with some unexpected extras: ad-blocking via a browser add-on, and even P2P support.

Windscribe offers clients for Windows, Mac and iOS. That's usually a positive sign as it indicates a company with some expertise and resources, and makes the service easier to set up.

The lack of an Android client is an issue, but you can manually configure Android devices to use the service, and a native client is promised to be ‘coming soon’. Also, there are separate Chrome, Firefox and Opera extensions you can install and use anywhere.

(ed: The Windscribe Android client is now available but is listed as being potentially unstable. Use at your own risk for now.)

This isn't bad at all for a free service, but if you need more, spending $9 (£7) gets you a month of unlimited access to 47 locations. Pay for a year upfront and the price drops to an effective $7.50 (£5.80) a month.

Unlike most of the competition, Windscribe’s commercial plan allows unlimited connections, and they're not explicitly for single users only. You're not allowed to resell the service, but this does mean you can let the whole family have access without worrying about hitting some arbitrary connection limit.

Privacy

VPNs might be used to protect some very confidential information, as well as your privacy in general, so it's important to be sure that your provider is trustworthy and up to the task.

Windscribe's privacy policy impressed us from its opening sentence: "Since privacy is the reason for you to be using our service, we realise that we have to walk a thin line in terms of what we can collect." That's absolutely right. And although it sounds obvious, if you’ve read a few privacy policies you'll know it's surprising how many companies don't get that basic point. 

The good news kept coming. The document is relatively short at 600 words, but still nicely structured into small sections. Each paragraph is clearly written in plain English, and somehow manages to include more relevant information than policies four or five times the length.

Windscribe collects minimal data from its website, for instance. Opening a page submits the same information that other sites get (user agent, referring website). Cookies are only set if you're referred from an affiliate. This all stays within Windscribe, because there's no third-party Google Analytics involvement (the company runs its own Piwik web analytics).

The service details are just as encouraging. You can sign up without providing even an email address, although your data transfer allowance falls from 10GB to 2GB. The system records a timestamp of your last visit and your total bandwidth used for the month, but there's no historical session log, no records of incoming or outgoing IP addresses or your individual activities.

VPNs still need to log data for the current session, especially on bandwidth-limited plans, because they need to record that the browsing activity on this server connection relates to the IP address or account of this user. Other VPNs either don't mention this at all, or they hide it in vague clauses about logging "some" data for "operational" reasons. Here's what Windscribe says about the issue:

"For the duration of your connection we store the following data in a temporary location: OpenVPN username, VPN server connected to, time of connection, amount of data transferred during the session. This data expires and is discarded within 3 minutes of session termination."

That's exceptionally clear and detailed.

The policy even covers what happens if you stop using the service, mentioning that Windscribe will "periodically prune inactive accounts", and that you can ask for your details to be deleted if you like.

All of this is based on what Windscribe says it does and will do, of course. There's no way for us to tell exactly what happens in practice. What we can say is the company appears to understand the privacy issue more than others, it's more transparent, and there's no attempt to hide dubious practices in the small print. And whatever Windscribe's internal procedures are like, the option to sign up without providing any personal details is a major privacy plus.

Performance 

Getting started with Windscribe isn't difficult, but that said, it's not as beginner-friendly as some of the competition.

For example, TunnelBear has a single ‘getting started’ button as a first step, and after completing a simple form the client downloads automatically. Meanwhile, Windscribe has separate ‘signup’ and ‘download’ steps, the signup page has more options to consider, and there's a host of download links to check out.

We still figured out what we needed to do in less than a minute, so you're unlikely to be too stressed. We chose a username and password, logged in, downloaded and installed the Windows software.

Windscribe's client is small and easy-to-use, at least in a basic way. By default it displays the best location (the closest and fastest server) and you're able to connect and disconnect with a click. Alternatively, other locations are displayed in a list. You can choose just a country, or in some cases select a server (US East offers a choice of Chicago, Miami and New York). Windscribe connects immediately and defaults to your choice of server next time.

Performance was mixed in our testing*. The supposed best choice – the nearest server in the UK – returned disappointing download speeds of around 8 to 14Mbps. UK to New York connections ramped up performance to a very acceptable 20Mbps, and European servers were in a similar 10-20Mbps range. Nothing too surprising, then, but that's enough for regular browsing and lightweight streaming, and for a free service Windscribe performs reasonably well.

If you do have problems, the Preferences dialog gives you some low-level control over the service. You can choose TCP, UDP or Stealth protocols, set a port, configure a proxy and more. If you know what you're doing then a Log View feature is particularly welcome, giving you a detailed look at exactly what's happening under the VPN hood.

Final verdict

The native clients, 10GB data allowance and P2P support are major pluses, and although Windscribe's speeds are relatively average, this is still one of the best free VPNs around.

*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.

TunnelBear VPN

Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest changes and additions since this review was last updated.  

  • Apart from the 12-month plan, a 1-month plan for $9.99 is also available.
  • In addition to Chrome VPN extension, a blocker add-on (which blocks various tracking) is also available for Chrome.
  • The service introduced a password manager called RememBear.
  • Improvements to VigilantBear feature (basically a kill switch), mostly for Mac.
  • Improvements to Privacy Policy - first names aren't stored anymore and were deleted from the database. Total lifetime connections (how many times you used the service) were removed.
  • The provider announced the new minimum required OS versions for their clients. Android - 4.1, iOS - 9.3.5, macOS - 10.10.5, Windows - 7 SP1. (July 2018) 

US-based security firm McAfee purchased Tunnelbear in March 2018 and confirmed that "TunnelBear will operate as a separate team within McAfee, continuing to develop the bear-filled products".

VPNs can seem a complicated technology, packed with low-level geeky details that hardly anyone understands, but check the TunnelBear site and you'll quickly realise this service does things differently.

The Canadian-based company doesn't drown you in jargon. There's no talk of protocols, no mention of encryption types, barely any technical terms at all. Instead the site focuses on the fundamentals, such as clearly explaining why you might want to use a VPN in the first place.

This approach won't work for everyone. We ran some searches and found the word ‘DNS’ appeared 10 times on Tunnelbear.com, for instance, compared to 1,130 on Expressvpn.com – if you're an experienced user and would like to know more about the underlying service, you're likely to be disappointed.

Still, the basic service specs are appealing. TunnelBear now offers servers in 20 countries spread all around the world: Europe, US, Canada, Hong Kong, Mexico, Japan, Singapore, India, Brazil, and (for paid plans) Australia.

Setup is easy, thanks to custom clients for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows, as well as a browser extension. TunnelBear supports up to five simultaneous connections, too, so you can mix and match these as required.

While the standard free account restricts you to a horribly limited 500MB of traffic a month, TunnelBear’s special TechRadar plan offers a far more generous 5GB. That gives you many more browsing options, and for instance could allow you to watch 20 minutes of streaming 480p video every day, and still have some browsing time left over. 

If you need more, upgrading to a paid plan gets you unlimited data starting at a reasonable $5 (£4) a month, paid yearly.

Privacy

TunnelBear's website proudly displays what looks like a very clear no-logging policy: "TunnelBear does NOT log any activity of customers connected to our service. Period. Your privacy is paramount." Just about every other VPN service says the same, though – can we really trust what the company says?

No outsider can ever be completely sure how a VPN operates, but what we can say is TunnelBear's privacy policy is far more transparent than just about anything else we've seen. While others talk vaguely about capturing ‘some’ data for operational reasons, TunnelBear lists every item, explains what it is and why it's needed. 

There are no nasty surprises, or even anything mildly unpleasant. The company stores your email address, first (not last) name, plus the total amount of data used this month. It also stores the OS version of your device, which you might not expect. But we can see why it might be helpful to know that, and a provider knowing that you’re running an iOS 10.3 device really isn't a privacy risk.

What's more interesting is the list of data the company doesn't collect. Not only does it not record any information about the websites and services you access when online, it doesn't even record the session data often logged elsewhere (your incoming IP address when you initiate a connection, and the IP address you're assigned).

Some companies try to bury sneaky clauses in the terms of service pages, but again TunnelBear is very different. Not only is the document relatively short (1,500 words), but each section has a brief and plain English summary to help you understand it.

If you don't want to read a 200 word block of text which kicks off with: "TunnelBear is providing this service on an ‘as is, as available’ basis without representation or warranty of any kind", for instance, just glance to the right for the summary line. This simply states: "Sometimes things break. We do our best."

We drilled down into the details, anyway, but didn't spot any significant issues. The closest we came was a clause forbidding you from taking "any action that results in an unreasonable load on TunnelBear’s infrastructure", which is so vague as to be almost useless. But even there, most VPNs have a similar ‘acceptable use’ clause somewhere, and you’re most unlikely to run into any issues with a bandwidth-limited free account.

Performance

TunnelBear’s setup process is carefully designed to be as quick and hassle-free as possible. We clicked the ‘Get started’ button at the top of the site, then a simple form asked us to enter a username and password, and the site automatically downloaded the right client for our system. Easy.

You need another client? Log in using your credentials on any other device and you'll find links to Windows, Mac, iOS and Android clients, as well as browser extensions for Chrome and Opera.

Using our Windows client was just as simple. After a standard install, we were able to log in by choosing a server location on a map. We clicked Germany, were allocated a new IP address within seconds and could browse in privacy. Tapping another button turned the protection off again.

TunnelBear isn't quite as basic as it looks. Our client blocked DNS leaks automatically. It enables using TCP connections for greater reliability. There's an extra-stealthy GhostBear option to make your activities seem more like regular internet traffic, and the client can automatically kick in if you connect to anything other than a trusted network. Even some supposedly ‘advanced’ clients can't always do that.

We completed our tests by running various performance benchmarks*. Local downloads were speedy at 30Mbps or more, while UK-US connections were a reasonable 10 to 20Mbps, depending on the server.

Switching to a far-distant location such as Singapore saw download speeds fall to 2Mbps, but that's not unusual, and it's still just about usable for basic browsing. Overall, TunnelBear's free plan delivered very acceptable performance – we've seen paid products that are significantly worse.

Final verdict

Exceptionally easy-to-use, TunnelBear is a great free VPN for networking newbies.

Try out TunnelBear VPN for free here.

*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds. 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.

CyberGhost VPN

Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest changes and additions since this review was last updated.

  • The service now boasts over 2300 servers in 60 countries. (June 2018)
  • There is no free plan anymore. (June 2018)
  • A 7-day free trial is available for iOS and Android. (June 2018)
  • Changes to pricing. There are four plans available: 1 Month- $11.99, 1 Year - $4.99 per month, 2 Years - $3.79 per month and 3 Years - $2.75 per month. (June 2018)
  •  All plans now support up to 7 devices at the same time. (June 2018)
  •  L2TP/IPsec and PPTP protocols are now also available. (June 2018)
  • Additional changes to pricing. Three plans are available: 1-month $11.99, 6-months $4.99 per month, 18-months $2.75 per month. (July 2018)
  • Additional servers were added, over 2600 servers. (July 2018)
  • A new improved version for iOS is now available. (July 2018)
  • New pricing - 1-month $11.99, 1-year $4.99 per month, 2-years $3.79 per month, 3-years $2.75 per month. (August 2018)
  • Additional servers were added, over 2800 servers. (August 2018)
  • Apart from Chrome plugin, CyberGhost now also has a Firefox plugin. (August 2018)

CyberGhost is a Romanian and German-based privacy giant which provides comprehensive VPN services for more than 10 million users.

This provider boasts more than 1,000 servers across 30 countries, and offers an impressive range of features including custom clients for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, with torrents allowed on most servers. There's a stripped-back free plan, a 30-day money-back guarantee for everything else, and live support to help you through any tricky bits.

The free plan includes ads, supports connecting only one device at a time, and the company says that it might run at only 20% of the speed of the commercial service (our experience is that it's usually much better than that). Oh, and there might also be a delay of a minute or so before you can connect, you're not able to access all the servers, and it'll disconnect after three hours.

But on the plus side, there's no data transfer limit (other free services might restrict you to under 1GB a month). Also, you don't have to provide your email address to use it, a major privacy plus. But if you do decide to sign up, the product installs as a trial of the full-speed commercial product for its first three days.

CyberGhost Premium can be up to five times faster than the free service, as mentioned. It drops the ads and gives you full access to any of the company's 1,000 servers. The plan supports up to five devices, and the standard price is very competitive at €4.99 ($5.90, £4.40) a month billed annually, or €10.99 ($12.90, £9.80) when billed monthly.

All of this is presented in detail on the CyberGhost website, along with some welcome extra touches. While other companies might just list the countries they cover, for instance, CyberGhost shows you every single server, its location, status, current load, and whether it's available with the free or premium plans.

Privacy

Most VPNs love to advertise their no logging policy in big letters on the front page, but that's mostly for marketing. To really understand what's going on, it's wise to spend some time browsing the company's small print.

CyberGhost's privacy policy is better presented than most. It's long enough to provide useful information, but not so lengthy that no-one will bother to read it. There are only a small number of sections, each clearly described so you can find what you need.

The key logging clauses say the company doesn't log "communication contents or data regarding the accessed websites or the IP addresses", or "data on who had used which server and when", or generate any "statistical data, which can be linked to a user account". This might leave some scope for minor session logging – a record of when you logged in to the service, say – but there's nothing that could compromise your privacy.

There's more good news in the detailed explanation of how CyberGhost manages its accounts. It doesn't store any personal data, keeps payment data separate by using resellers, and even stored email addresses aren't linked to user IDs. This isn't just the company saying ‘we don't do bad things’, either – it's explaining how the system works to ensure that kind of logging isn't necessary.

CyberGhost is moving in the right direction in other areas, too, recently dropping Google Analytics monitoring of its website in favor of its own Piwik installation (a leading open source analytics platform).

Performance

Installing CyberGhost's Windows client couldn't be much easier. There's no registration required with the free build, not even an email address, we just clicked Download to grab the setup tool, launched it, and our copy of CyberGhost was ready to go in a few seconds.

A tap on CyberGhost's system tray icon displays a simple interface with a list of countries and a connect button, so even the greenest of VPN novices will instantly figure out what they have to do.

But then we noticed that the client window couldn't be moved – it disappeared if you clicked somewhere else – and bizarrely, the country list isn't even in full alphabetical order (reading down the list includes sequences like: Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland). Sure, you'll learn where everything is, but it would be much easier if CyberGhost got this extremely basic detail right in the first place.

On a more positive note, the client also displays the last few server connections you've made. If you only ever log on to the UK, US and Germany, for instance, they'll all be listed, and you can choose those destinations again with a click.

A separate 'Maximize' button doesn't actually maximize anything, but instead launches the main CyberGhost app. This uses six colorful Windows 10-like tiles to help you choose whatever VPN task you'd like to perform.

'Choose My Server' provides a host of ways to help you find and connect to the best server. You can simply choose a country from a list (properly sorted, this time); manually choose a server within that country; filter servers to find the fastest; choose the best server for specific jobs, including torrents; or add servers to a Favorites list for easy selection later.

'Surf Anonymously' is simpler, with just a list of countries (back in the odd not-quite-sorted order) and various useful settings. You can tell CyberGhost to block ads and malicious sites, limit online tracking, compress data to improve performance, redirect HTTP links to HTTPS, and select only Premium servers for extra speed. Once these are set up, you're able to connect with one click, and CyberGhost can even open your default browser in incognito mode for improved security.

The 'Unblock Streaming' and 'Unblock Basic Websites' sections work as basic bookmark managers which set up the VPN to access the site you need. If you want to access Amazon Prime in the US, for instance, click Unblock Streaming > Amazon Prime, then CyberGhost automatically connects to an appropriate server and opens your default browser at the site.

'Torrent Anonymously' is a similar shortcut for P2P users, automatically connecting to the fastest torrent-enabled server and optionally launching your torrent client at the same time.

The 'Protect Wi-Fi' feature is particularly useful, as it allows you to define exactly how you want to treat specific networks. You could choose to always connect via CyberGhost on some networks, never on others, and there's an 'Ask' option if you're unsure.

The Settings dialog covers the basics, including starting the client with Windows or using OpenVPN with TCP or UDP connections (there are no other protocol choices).

More interesting options include the ability to create 'exceptions', hosts or IP addresses which won't be accessed via the tunnel. CyberGhost automatically detected our email servers and added them to the list, for instance, ensuring our email client still worked correctly when the VPN was active.

The App Connection feature is another highlight. Point CyberGhost at some executable files and whenever they're launched in future, the VPN will automatically connect first. The service also acts as a kill switch, automatically closing the protected app if the connection drops to prevent any potential leakage of your identity.

We noticed that CyberGhost seemed very sensitive to the presence of other VPN software, to the point that it stopped working on several occasions. The client had an easy fix which worked every time – click Settings > Connection > Repair Virtual Network Card – but if you're using multiple VPNs or other low-level network software, this could become a hassle.

In our tests*, performance proved to be solid and reliable. UK to UK connections averaged an impressive 30 to 35Mbps downloads, nearby European connections ranged from 22 to 35Mbps, and US connections were a very usable 20 to 25Mbps. Speeds fell to below 5Mbps for very long distance trips (Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong), but that's not unusual, and they were still just about usable for basic browsing.

We completed our checks by running multiple leak tests, and CyberGhost passed them all with ease – servers were in the promised locations, there were no DNS or WebRTC leaks, and our identity was properly protected at all times.

Final verdict

CyberGhost's Windows client has some interface irritations, but the speedy performance and lengthy feature list won us over. Take the free version for a spin and see for yourself.

*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.

Bang & Olufsen Beosound Edge

When it comes to Bang & Olufsen, you never get what could be called a traditional speaker design. From the dish-like Beoplay A9 to the wall-mounted Beosound Shape, it always pushes the boundaries in its aesthetic approach. 

At IFA 2018, the tradition continues with the Beosound Edge, a striking speaker that draws inspiration from the humble British Pound coin.

Priced at £2900 (around $3,765 or AU$5,225), it hits stores in November 2018. Here’s what we thought of it from a brief demonstration at the Berlin showcase.

Design

The Beosound Edge looks quite unlike any speaker you will have seen before. Circular in design and disc-like in shape, it has drivers pumping sound out of either side of the speaker, with an aluminium ring wrapping around its outer edge.

It’s designed to be positioned in two ways. Either like a standing coin, resting on its edge (hence the name), or hanging from a wall like a railway clock or bar sign. Measuring 50.2cm across in diameter and 13cm wide it’s quite an imposing size, and would suit minimalist decors.

The unusual design extends and informs the speaker’s control system. Rather than relying on your usual hardware volume controls to raise and lower the sound, rocking the speaker controls the output level. The more intense the rock (as measured by an onboard accelerometer), the more sharp the increase or decrease in sound, kept from toppling over by a stopper at its base.

A touch sensitive panel is also used, with taps to pause, play and skip tracks. A proximally sensor lets the touch sensitive area light up automatically as you approach, leaving you with no question as to where to touch it.

Sound performance

The Beosound Edge, from a brief listen, appears to have sonic performance to match its good looks.

It’s equipped with a patented active bass design, with a mechanically widening aperture that pushes the deepness of its bass level to match increase in volume. As a result, you end up with room rocking sound, with two 3-quarter inch tweeters, two 4-inch midrange drivers and 10-inch woofer, supported by six Class D amplifiers.

Those discrete amplifiers also give also have the option of making the audio directional, from either the right or left side of the speaker rather than being from both sides. Bang & Olufsen’s design team see this speaker as being well suited to open plan living spaces, where it may be more convenient for the intensity of the volume to be directed towards just one space at different times.

Taking tracks from either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth sources (there’s also an Ethernet port if required), the speaker supports the AirPlay 2 and Chromecast standards, letting you beam your tracks from across the room.

Early verdict

There’s no denying the Beosound Edge is a showstopper in terms of looks, and its good to see its sound live up to its design – and price tag. But will those controls prove convenient once the novelly wears off? And how practical is it to have a speaker that requires a living area where both of its sides ideally should face an open space? We’ll be excited to find out as we hope to spend more in-depth time with the speaker in the coming weeks and months.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.

RHA CL2 Planar

RHA CL2 Planar are the first wireless earbuds to pack in the kind of cutting-edge planar magnetic drivers usually found in open-backed studio-quality headphones that most of us can only dream of affording. 

While the CL2 Planar earbuds cost hundreds rather than thousands, the £800/$900 (about AU$1,250) price tag is a big ask for such small tech – but if you're the 'perfection-seeking' audience RHA is looking for, the promise of customization and compact quality may be just what you ordered. Here's our first impressions from RHA's planar earphones.

Design

RHA CL2 Planar

It's immediately hard to critique the design of the RHA CL2 Planar, for the mere fact that there are so many possible combinations of eartips, cables, and wired/wireless hardware.

To start, there's a foldable hard case for tying up all your cables and wires, with an additional soft zip pouch depending on your preference.

But the CL2 earbuds ask you pretty quickly to know your preference for everything else. Alongside casing options are nine separate pairs of eartips, including double-tipped covers and some made from a comfy memory foam. 

If you then don't want the fuss of connecting the earbuds to the neck cable and streaming music wirelessly, you can still use one of the included 3.5mm cables to jack straight into your phone, laptop or other device.

You can also choose between a braided copper cable and a silver-coated alternative (which claims to offer a slight enhancement to the audio detail), though the cables themselves need to be moulded to fit around your ear and require a bit of experimentation. Alternatively, you can swap out the included MMCX-standard cables with some of your own.

There's a huge amount of variety for creating your perfect setup, though you may need to spend a few days testing out the different permutations.

Performance

RHA CL2 Planar

The earbuds themselves are made of a 'near-indestructible' ceramic compound, with plenty of air inside the earbuds to minimise interference with the sound.

The planar magnet inside the driver is the main reason behind the high price point, and purports to emit a purer, more lifelike sound that standard audio drivers. 

Its hard to describe the sound quality, other than calling it tunefu. The resonance of the magnet manages to give a sharpness across a range of frequencies, so they never feel like they're competing for prominence, and there's a pleasing depth and detail to the audio.

So we can't fault the audio, though the RHA CL2 Planar's strength in this area may be at the expense of ease of use.

Our early verdict

A spokesperson for RHA referred to the driver's "harmonic depth", which is a phrase that rings true for the CL2s. It's an impressive piece of kit with an attractive premium sound, but there's a lot to navigate and piece together before listening gets underway. If that doesn't put you off, and price is no object, these may be the perfectionist earphones you've been looking for.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced. 

Emporio Armani Connected 2018

Emporio Armani's debut in the smartwatch space came late in 2017, and the company has now seen fit to upgrade its watches with brand new tech.

It comes after Fossil - the brand that makes Emporio Armani smartwatches - has developed new internal tech (something it calls Generation 4) and it's all being rolled out to all its major brands.

The design is along similar lines here to the original Connected, but if you want more smart in your watch this looks to be a much better alternative to the original.

Emporio Armani Connected 2018 price and release date

You can pre-order the Emporio Armani Connected in the US now with prices starting at $295 (about £230, AU$400) and heading up to $395 (about £300, AU$550). Exactly when you'll get it is unclear, and we've yet to learn when it'll be available in the UK or Australia.

Design and display

The Emporio Armani Connected 2018 comes in a variety of colors including silver, blue, black and rose gold. Each looks similar to the other, but there's a range of straps that use metal links, mesh or even just silicone bands as well.

You'll have the option for these when you buy your watch, but we've tried both the versions pictured in this review.

The watch face itself is 1.19-inch, and while that may sound small we found it easy to interact with Wear OS on the display. The stainless steel case itself is relatively small at 43 x 49mm.

The Emporio Armani logo isn't emblazoned on the front of the watch, but you'll see it appear all over the display when you're moving through the menus and it's featured in most of the watch faces too.

If you like the look of Emporio Armani products it's likely you'll like the design of the Connected 2018.

Specs and features

The Emporio Armani Connected 2018 can do everything the last-gen watch could including step tracking and notifications, but this one comes running Wear OS straight out of the box and has lots of new features.

There's Google Pay compatibility here as it has NFC onboard, plus there's a heart rate monitor on the rear of the watch with GPS tracking tech inside as well.

We're unsure how the design of this watch will feel when you're working out and getting sweaty considering it's meant to be a more premium device but we'll be sure to test that in our full review.

Fossil - the producers of the Emporio Armani Connected 2018 - say the watch should last between one and two days, and with heavy usage we'd expect it to lean toward the former amount of time.

There's fast-charging tech here though that should mean it charges up faster than some other smartwatches you can buy.

Early verdict

If you're a fan of the Emporio Armani brand, it's likely you'll be a fan of the design of this watch as a lot of the design aesthetics are present here.

The extra tech packed in make this a much more capable smartwatch than the last generation too, so fingers crossed everything will work out to make this a must-have Wear OS watch when it's out.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced. 

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless

Sennheiser makes great-sounding headphones. Though conventional wisdom has long put a cap on what can be achieved with headphones' more compact, in-ear counterparts – or over a wireless Bluetooth connection – the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless look to continue the company's audio heritage within those physical constraints.

At £259/$299 (about AU$400) for the pair, they're far from cheap, but our first impression of the earbuds at this year's IFA 2018 may just justify the asking price.

Design

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless in case

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are the company's smallest offering yet, doing away with the neck-cable on the Momentum Free and packing in a brand new 7mm driver to boot.

They carry the classic silver detailing of other Momentum earphones, with a pleasing pattern of magnetic gold points that connect each earbud into the accompanying carry case, securing them in place with a satisfying click. One of the main concerns with 'true wireless' earphones is how easy they can be to misplace – which is especially worrying for ones at such a firmly three-figure sum – but the smart design of the hard case does a lot to put us at ease.

The earbuds are lightweight and simple to place in your ear, with a smart box-shaped design that fits comfortably without feeling obtrusive (though we haven't yet had the chance to see how they fare in longer listening sessions).

The touch controls feel hugely intuitive, using a simple tap on the left earbud to pause/play, or a double tap to skip a track. Holding a finger on the right or left earbud turns the volume up and down respectively. It works wonderfully well, circumvent ing the fiddly nature of  cable-line controls or having to constantly get out your phone.

At launch you should also be able to use the right earbud's two built-in mics to chat to your phone's smart assistant – Siri, Alexa, and the like – and navigate your music library completely hands-free.

Performance

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless in ear

We've tested out a limited number of tracks, but the range of the True Wireless' drivers could prove a match for plenty of the over-ear competition.

The usual high-standard sound profile of Sennheiser's Momentum range is here, with the boost from its new 7mm driver resulting in a controlled, capable. 

Each earbud should have a four-hour battery life, though the carry case comes with its own backup battery with twice that capacity, sporting a USB-C ports on the side for linking up to laptop or plug socket. The case simply charges the buds when they're connected, meaning you should be able to get a respectable 12-hour charge when you're on the go.

Our early verdict

Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless seem to deliver what they promise: high-end audio that goes above and beyond the expectation of wireless earbuds. There are far cheaper options out there, but for sheer audio performance and the thoughtful design choices we've seen, we could see these earbuds making quite a splash in an increasingly cordless market.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced. 

Huawei Mate 20 Lite

 

We haven’t even seen the Mate 20 or the Mate 20 Pro yet, but breaking from tradition, Huawei has decided to skip ahead to the Mate 20 lite, a high mid-range smartphone announced at IFA 2018. 

It isn’t the first time we’ve seen this phone - Vodafone announced it would be ranging it a week ago, but this is the first time we’ve had a hands-on opportunity to see if this glass backed Mate with dual front cameras is a promising introduction to the Mate 20 series.

huawei mate 20 lite

Price and availability

You can pick up the Mate 20 Lite in September in the UK for £379 (around $500 / AU$665). It will be available at Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse first, with EE ranging it shortly after, although we don't know about other territories just now.

With the Honor Play having just launched for £100 less SIM-free, it’s a tough sell given this phone has an inferior processor, but when you consider the Mate 20 Lite’s better in-hand feel and richer, more mature aesthetic, its positioning starts to make sense, especially on contract.

Design

huawei mate 20 lite

Offering a premium in-hand feel, the Mate 20 Lite pairs a glass front and back with a rounded metal frame and a large 6.3-inch screen.

Available in a range of colours, we got our hands on the black and gold versions, with the latter looking significantly richer.

The dual-camera set-up around the back is surrounded by a striated decoration while the front dual cameras are housed in the notch at the top of the screen, making the focus on selfie-photography clear with just a glance at this phone.

The Mate 20 Lite is big, though it doesn’t feel unwieldy thanks to its relatively slender body and comfortable weighting. Fans of smaller phones should look to the Honor 10 or other similarly sized devices.

So while the spec sheet doesn’t scream flagship, the look and feel definitely isn’t far off and the inclusion of a headphone jack will please many.

Screen

The IPS Full HD+ display measures in at 6.3-inches and comes complete with a notch up top. Not the sharpest screen around, in the flesh, content showcased doesn’t look pixelated either. 

huawei mate 20 lite

The bezels are also nice and slight with the fascia sporting a respectable 81% screen-to-body ratio.

Viewing angles seemed good and brightness was fair, though we didn’t get to try it out in sunny conditions and really put it through its paces.

Android inside

Running Android 8, it’s a shame we’re not seeing the latest flavour of Google’s mobile OS on this phone. Huawei has said that an update will be rolling out, but hasn’t give a timeframe.

Over the top of Android sits Huawei’s custom interface, EMUI 8.2. This loads up Huawei specific features like knuckle gestures and more advanced camera modes - but the key message being pushed on the Mate 20 Lite is AI.

Huawei’s AI Game Suite for example is able to orient power so gaming can be enjoyed interruption free. The AI Gallery can auto-sort photos and the smart AI scene detection introduced on the Mate 10 series is present. 

Marketing jargon? Absolutely. Some of the features, however, are handy to have. 

In our short time with the phone, the interface seemed snappy and multi-window multitasking performed well, though we didn’t try out gaming, which also offers GPU Turbo for a better PUBG, Mobile Legends and Asphalt 9 experience.

Four cameras and lots of pixels

The Mate 20 Pro’s dual front and rear cameras feature the same resolution, with the primary cameras packing 24MP sensors and the secondary cameras clocking in at 2MP.

huawei mate 20 lite

The secondary camera is exclusively for depth effects, meaning the front camera can take bokeh mode selfies that should rival the quality of photos taken on the rear camera. 

Huawei’s extensive list of camera modes are here, from AI scene detection through to full manual and light painting. This is good, though the AI Stabilisation as introduced on the Huawei P20 Pro isn’t here, so long exposure and low light shots will need a steady hand or a tripod. 

A new playful selfie AR camera mode is onboard - Qmoji - a direct response to Apple’s AR Emoji with much the same functionality though less polish. There’s also a 3D lighting effect for after the shot advanced selfie editing.

On first impression, the camera is competent in terms of shooting modes and performs just fine in good light, despite occasionally aggressive saturation in AI mode. 

Lower light paired with its high pixel count and lack of OIS produced grain we’d have sooner expected to see from a sub-£300 smartphone though. 

This being an early sample, we’re holding off on the final judgement until our full review is complete - but it’s clear the camera isn’t the key selling point of this phone.

Less power, more affordable

What really sets the Mate 20 Lite apart from other premium Huawei phones is the power under the hood. 

Featuring a Kirin 710 octa-core processor paired with 4GB RAM, it doesn’t quite stack up to the Kirin 970 found in the P20 and Mate 10, or even the cheaper Honor Play.

For casual users, this shouldn’t raise any eyebrows, especially given the fact there’s an ample 64GB storage onboard and the Mate 20 Lite takes microSD cards up to 256GB for all your movies and photos.

huawei mate 20 lite

With a 3,750 mAh battery, there’s a lot of juice here. In the same breath - there’s also a lot of screen, so while we’re expecting it to get you through a day, with Huawei quoting 17 hours of video playback, and 23 hours of voice calling, how it stacks up to the competition remains to be seen.

Early verdict

huawei mate 20 lite

For £379, you get a phone that looks and feels like a big-screened flagship, but doesn’t quite deliver flagship experiences when it comes to the camera and brute force.

Huawei is clearly targeting the selfie takers and a younger demographic than older Mate devices did in one respect, but also a design-oriented, casual user in another. 

As a result, while the Mate 20 Lite’s SIM free price may be a little steep - this is the kind of phone you’d see in a store and be impressed by on first impression. The pixel-count also reads well and the screen looks great.

Could you get better value for money? Absolutely. Would it look this good? Probably not. 

That’s our first impression - check back in the coming weeks for the definitive verdict when we test the Huawei Mate 20 Lite out in our full review.

Huawei AI Cube

It’s IFA 2018 and one year after Huawei teased a smart speaker alongside its Kirin 970 chipset announcement, the company has finally announced the physical product for us to ogle - the AI Cube.

But is it a cube? To our eye, it looks like a cylinder… it’s definitely a cylinder.

Announced along with the Kirin 980 chipset, the Mate 20 Lite and the Huawei Locator, the AI Cube is a Google Home look-a-like smart speaker with 4G, WiFi router capabilities and Amazon Alexa built in.

Huawei AI Cube price and release date

Expected to launch towards the end of this year, the Huawei AI Cube will make its debut in Europe. Huawei clearly hopes that its smart speaker will be able to take on the competition in time for the gift-giving season, but with pricing yet to be confirmed, how competitive it will be remains to be seen.

Design

Think, Google Home with a bit less air freshener styling, a bigger chassis and some HomePod elements at the top.

There are less angles and less playfulness, plus it's bigger than Google’s speaker, everything from the matte white plastic to the fabric base portion feels lifted from somewhere else, at least from a design point of view.

That said, it’s a very different beast to either Google or Apple’s offerings when it comes to functionality, with the side-mounted buttons reflecting this.

First-off, there’s what looks like a WPS button to connect the device when it’s in router mode, and above that is a power button. 

Things get much more smart speaker when you look at the top of the AI Cube. Touch sensitive volume buttons, an Alexa button and a physical mute button are all present, providing Echo functionality and completing what is clearly a device inspired by the current holy trinity of smart speakers.

With an ethernet port at the base, alongside its power port, while this might look like a very familiar smart speaker, as a router, it’s absolutely one of a kind.

4G + Router

Huawei is going for serious multi-functional product with its AI Cube, taking full advantage of its position as a key player in telecoms components.

The smart speaker doubles up as a WiFi router, sharing the 4G internet its SIM card slot enables. With Cat. 6 LTE, the Cube offers up speeds of up to 300Mbps down and 50Mbps up. 

If you want to just use its router functionality, it has an ethernet port at the base, supporting WiFi speeds capping out at 1,200Mbps, which will more than suffice for most users.

The additional advantage of a SIM card option is that Alexa voice command features will work independently of WiFi, so if you travel and don’t want to constantly relink it to a new WiFi, with the AI Cylinder Cube, it’s all good.

Alexa = AI 

Huawei has been riding the AI wave since its Mate 10 Pro was announced, and it's at it again, thwacking the buzz-word in the title of this product. In this case, the extent of the AI at play is Alexa - the same Alexa powering all the Amazon Echo products  and a plethora of other smart speakers on the market, so despite its name, it won’t be smarter than your average smart speaker.

On the plus side, with far-field voice recognition, it seemed to respond quickly to being woken with the word 'Alexa' and it was able to make out commands even in a room with a fair bit of hustle and bustle.

Huawei’s reasoning for opting for Alexa over Google Assistant is two-fold. On the one hand, with Alexa controlling over 20,000 smart home devices and playing nice with 3,500 brands, it’s an established, open player. In addition, Huawei already has a relationship with Amazon, having put Alexa on the Mate 9 in the past. 

Sound 

A 400ml sound cavity paired with an aluminium diaphragm and passive radiators combine to deliver what Huawei calls '"big sound". Adopting its proprietary Histen sound tuning technology seen in Huawei and Honor smartphones, the claim is that the AI Cube sound is 360-degree and immersive.

In the flesh, it is loud, making plenty of noise in a busy room. While loud is good, there was depth and roundness to the sound too, though without testing the audio quality alongside its key competitors or in a controlled environment, and with no pricing information, we couldn’t give a definitive verdict based on our early impressions. 

Initial verdict 

And so, we have to praise Huawei for being able to house so much tech in one device. This is an excellent looking router, a decent albeit familiar looking smart speaker, and a very versatile bit of kit.

If there aren’t any major flaws when it comes to sound quality or wireless performance, it could be a great addition to an Alexa connected household, not to mention a foot in the door for Huawei in the smart home space.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.  

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