Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Xiaomi Launches Mi 10 Ultra With 120W Fast Charging & MIUI 12

Xiaomi has been teasing the Mi 10 Ultra from the last few weeks. At its 10th-anniversary launch event, the company has officially launched the premium flagship smartphone — Mi 10 Ultra. It is the company’s fourth smartphone in the Mi 10 lineup. Earlier to this, Xiaomi launched the Mi 10, Mi 10 Pro, and Mi […]

The post Xiaomi Launches Mi 10 Ultra With 120W Fast Charging & MIUI 12 appeared first on PhoneRadar.

Huawei Watch Fit Leaked With AMOLED Display & Heart Rate Sensor

Recently, Huawei has officially confirmed to launch its next flagship smartphone in early September. The company will be launching the Mate 40 series and the Mate X2 foldable smartphone. Based on the rumors, Huawei will also announce a bunch of accessories including the newly leaked Huawei Watch Fit. The Huawei Watch Fit is currently listed […]

The post Huawei Watch Fit Leaked With AMOLED Display & Heart Rate Sensor appeared first on PhoneRadar.

How a Start-up Transformed the Indian Mobile Gaming Industry

The availability of cheap internet data and affordable mobile phones has led to a massive spike in smartphone usage and the gaming industry has benefited greatly from it. According to Sensor Tower’s report, mobile game downloads crossed 4 billion globally in early 2020, with almost 40 percent year-on-year growth. Compared to other major markets, the […]

The post How a Start-up Transformed the Indian Mobile Gaming Industry appeared first on PhoneRadar.

HTC Wildfire E2 Goes Official With Helio P22 SoC & HD+ Display

HTC unveiled the Wildfire R70 smartphone with entry-level specifications in February this year. Today, the company launched a new budget Android smartphone called Wildfire E2 with similar specifications. It is priced at RUB 8,760 (approx. INR 8,900) and comes in Blue and Black color options. Considering its cheaper price tag, we shouldn’t be complaining about […]

The post HTC Wildfire E2 Goes Official With Helio P22 SoC & HD+ Display appeared first on PhoneRadar.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Bitdefender GravityZone Advanced Business Security

Part of BitDefender’s GravityZone line of endpoint security solutions, the GravityZone Advanced Business Security (GZABS) is the company’s recommended platform for mid-sized organisations. It covers both physical and virtual machines running Windows, macOS and Linux as well as Microsoft Exchange servers.

Features

GZABS can be managed via a cloud-based interface or can be hosted on-premise. If you do decide to host it in-house, you can also use it to manage mobile devices, which are otherwise not covered by the standard cloud-based management interface.

In terms of device and network protection features, the platform ticks all the right boxes. GZABS makes good use of Bitdefender’s machine learning models to detect and block malware attacks. 

It operates in a zero-trust mode, wherein it continuously monitors all running processes to seek out suspicious activities or anomalous process behavior. This allows it to catch the usual attack vectors such as attempts to disguise the process type, or to execute code in another process’s space, and more.

Bitdefender GravityZone Advanced Business Security 2

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

GZABS also has a mechanism to stop zero-day attacks carried out through evasive exploits by mitigating memory corruption vulnerabilities in popular productivity apps such as browsers, and document readers, and common files such as media files.

Additionally, the platform also enables you to control access to all sorts of removable devices attached to the endpoints. It also has web filtering to scan web traffic (including https encrypted traffic) to prevent the download of malware and block access to phishing and fraudulent pages.

Once a threat is detected, GZABS can take one of the usual actions including terminating the offending process, and quarantining or removing the infected file. If you are managing GZABS on-premise you can also take advantage of its ransomware mitigation that takes a real-time backup of files modified by malicious processes. Once the threat has been neutralized, these backups can be used to roll back any changes.

Bitdefender GravityZone Advanced Business Security 3

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Interface and use

The primary interface for managing GZABS is the cloud interface dubbed GravityZone Control Center. The dashboard contains a trend line of malware activity and also offers drill-down capabilities for some of the other elements, known as portlets in the parlance of the web interface. 

You can customize each portlet or add new ones from its repository of portlets. Some of the portlets, such as Malware Status, and the Update Status also allow you to perform actions directly on the endpoints from within them.

To grab installer packages for the endpoints you’ll have to cook them first as per your requirements. The web interface enables you to define the installer packages by selecting which components to include along with some installation settings, such as an uninstallation password, a custom installation path and more. 

You can then grab the packages in several formats. In addition to small installers that weigh about 5 MB and will fetch the required packages from the Internet during installation, you can also grab packages as complete kits that weigh in about 700 MB.

Bitdefender GravityZone Advanced Business Security 4

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

Advanced users will also appreciate the Policies page, which allows you to fine tune the behavior of several modules. This is useful considering the fact that some endpoints are more prone to attacks than others. So perhaps you can ease on the anti-malware scans and preserve resources on machines that aren’t connected to the internet, while being more aggressive on network-accessible endpoints. 

However, the interface does a poor job of exposing its features. Its layout is overly complex and the workflow isn’t straightforward. You can however hook it up to Active Directory to deploy agents remotely, but it takes some doing. 

Also, thanks to the size of the agent installation files, the process of hooking up an agent to the web interface takes quite a while. Also, the endpoint agents don’t offer much functionality besides running scans. 

Perhaps our biggest pet peeve is that there is no easy way to customize the modules of a deployed endpoint. You can however modify a deployed machine and change its subscription to a different policy. 

Bitdefender GravityZone Advanced Business Security 5

(Image credit: Bitdefender )

Plans and Pricing

Bitdefender is currently offering a 30% discount on the subscription of GZABS. The smallest package it offers covers up-to 5 endpoints for $202.99 for 1 year, $325.49 for 2 years and $405.99 for 3 years. 

Note however that only 35% of the subscribed endpoints can be servers. That includes all Windows Server installations as well as all Linux workstations. So for instance if you subscribe to its minimum coverage of 5 endpoints, only 2 of these can be Windows Server or Linux installations. If you want to cover 3 servers, you’ll have to subscribe to protect 8 endpoints. 

Irrespective of the number of endpoints you plan to cover, all offer the protection features covered above. You can pay more to subscribe to a few other security features to extend your protection coverage. Two of the most useful ones are patch management and full disk encryption

Bitdefender GravityZone Advanced Business Security 6

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

The Competition

Just like Panda Security Adaptive Defense 360, GZABS offers Linux support. However in GZABS Linux endpoints count as servers, which might force you to subscribe to more endpoints than you actually require. Also unlike AD360, GZABS doesn’t offer protection for mobile devices with its cloud interface.

Also, despite their humongous size, the endpoint clients don’t offer any real functionality besides running scans. You get no additional privacy or security features like you get with Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus.

Finally, compared to some of its competition, we aren’t fans of GZABS complex UI, workflow and deployment process, which are the three most critical areas of any endpoint protection platform. It also offers very little scope for modifying the capabilities of a deployed machine, which is another administration nightmare.

Final Verdict

All things considered, the policies function is perhaps the one unique suit of the platform that separates it from its peers. Besides that one functionality, GZABS doesn’t offer anything that you can’t get with its peers. 

Sure, it’s one of the few platforms that supports Linux, but it does so in a manner that negates some of the positivity. The same is true for its protection of mobile devices.

The final nail in the coffin is its unintuitive interface, which is a buzzkill and the lack of documentation doesn’t help matters either. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds

The Samsung Galaxy Buds are just one of the many models that sought to topple the Apple AirPods' monopoly on the true wireless earbuds market. Alongside their successors, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, they make up a wider portfolio of Samsung true wireless earbuds, including two generations of the Gear IconX.

What separates the Samsung Galaxy Buds from the IconX, however, is that the latter does away with that Gear branding and makes these earbuds part of the Galaxy phone family, which offer up a neat trick with the Buds, but more on that later.

That said, if you've held out this long to buy a pair you should probably consider the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus – a more premium model that doesn't cost much more and uses a dual-driver design to offer better sound quality as well as a larger built-in battery that increases the total listening time to 11 hours per charge.

It's even rumored that a new version of the Galaxy Buds is on the way. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live – the company's next AirPods-rivaling true wireless earbuds – are apparently launching in July according to a report by SamMobile.

Recently leaked images of the rumored Samsung Galaxy Buds Live show off a pretty bold design, with a bean-like shape and built-in microphones that hint at noise-cancelling tech within.

Rumors of the new Samsung Galaxy Buds have been ramping up in the lead up to the brand’s next Unpacked event, which is expected to take place in August. According to SamMobile, this is when the new Galaxy Buds Live will go on sale, alongside the Galaxy Watch 3 and the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Fold 2.

That means you may be able to find a good discount on the original Samsung Galaxy Buds, as the company gears up to release a new model – read on for our thoughts on whether you should buy the wireless earbuds.

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Buds were released on March 8, 2019 for $149 / £139 / AU$249, making them slightly cheaper than Apple’s AirPods. 

If you had pre-ordered a Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus, or Galaxy S10e, you might have also gotten a free pair of Galaxy Buds thrown in, but unfortunately this offer ended at launch.

Samsung Galaxy Buds

Image Credit: TechRadar

Design

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Buds look very attractive, with a slick all-white design comprising two earbuds and a charging case.  

The earbuds themselves look sleek and compact, with subtle rubber wingtips for a secure fit. You get small, medium, and large wingtips and eartips in the box, so you should be able to find a combination that fits your ear snugly.

While the buds feel rather dainty when you first put them in, and at risk of falling out, they're surprisingly stable and comfortable to use.

The lack of wires pulling them down means they stay in the ear through a surprising amount of head turning or bobbing, and we found they survived gym sessions and runs as well as a healthy amount of rocking out.

Samsung Galaxy Buds

 Image Credit: TechRadar 

One cool design feature is the use of a pearlescent material on the outer housing of the buds, which reflects the light beautifully and has an almost holographic effect. 

Aside from looking good, the housings act as touch controls, which can be used to play/pause your music, skip tracks, answer and end calls, and launch Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby on compatible devices. 

You can customize the long-press action for the Galaxy Buds via the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app (Android only), choose from volume (up on the right, down on the left) or launching Bixby (long press on either bud).

Since our initial review, a Samsung Galaxy Buds update includes hands-free Bixby voice control, plus improved touch controls, and the ability to keep the ambient sound feature on at all times. 

The touch controls are convenient, but you have to be supremely precise with your taps, applying enough pressure on the flat part of the buds for them to register your action. On multiple occasions we missed the mark, or didn’t apply enough pressure, which lead us to having to try again (sometimes multiple times).

While this is a mere inconvenience when you're sitting at a desk it becomes more of an issue when you’re on the move and your hand is less steady - like, say, when you're at the gym or out on a run. The good news is that you'll become better attuned to the system over time through use and will eventually get better – although we still don’t have a 100% success rate.

Samsung Galaxy Buds

 Image Credit: TechRadar 

Samsung Galaxy Buds charging case

Now onto the charging case; it’s extremely compact, and can easily slide into your pocket when you’re listening on the go. 

If you’ve used the Samsung Gear IconX, you’ll notice that the whole package here is much smaller than the last-gen earphones. In fact, it’s 30% smaller and that’s sure to make a difference when you’re keeping these in your pocket.

The case generally feels quite sturdy, with a snap shut lid, and magnets that hold the earbuds in place when they’re not in use. 

On the outside of the case you’ll find a small LED that indicates how much battery the case has, whereas an LED inside the case tells you how much charge your earbuds have left.

On the back of the case, there’s a USB-C charger port – the Galaxy Buds come with a USB cable so you can charge the case. The buds themselves have six hours battery life, while the charging case provides an additional seven – pretty good for true wireless buds. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds case

 Image Credit: TechRadar 

The Samsung Galaxy Wearable app tells you how much battery the buds have left when you pull them out of the case, but it doesn’t tell you how much charge the case has, unlike the Apple AirPods – instead you have  to rely on the LED on the outside of the case to tell you how much battery you have left.

One of the most interesting features here is the fact that you can wirelessly charge these headphones in their case. That means if you have a Qi compatible wireless charging pad – if you’ve got one for your phone, it’s probably exactly that – you can just place these on and they’ll charge up.

It’s especially useful considering the new Galaxy S10 range comes with two-way wireless charging.

That means you can set up the feature on your Galaxy S10 phone and place your headphones on the rear of the device to get them charged up as well. It’s smart, and we found it to work seamlessly in our brief testing time.

Features and performance

If you have a Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus or Galaxy S10e, pairing the buds is a seamless experience, similar to how the Apple AirPods connect instantly to iPhones. 

Connectivity seems to vary between different users; multiple writers on the TechRadar team tested the buds, and while some experienced no connection dropouts, others experienced them regularly. 

Most of the issues with connectivity seems to have been addressed by software updates sent out by Samsung, but as with most true wireless buds, you may experience connection dropouts if you are using them nearby other Bluetooth devices. 

Since the most recent update, we haven't experienced any significant Bluetooth dropouts.

Samsung Galaxy Buds

 Image Credit: TechRadar 

Where Samsung’s previous true wireless buds, the Gear IconX, underwhelmed, the Galaxy Buds seem to shine; with warm, deep bass, and good separation, music sounds great when played through these little buds. 

That doesn’t come as a surprise, considering they have been tuned by audio experts AKG.

We started off by listening to Radiohead’s ‘Daydreaming’ and we were impressed by the detail and clarity of the vocal parts, which were complemented by soft cascading piano arpeggios and smooth detuned synths.

Grainy chopped and screwed vocals layered with digital interference pan from left to right coherently, while violin and cellos sweep above and below the mix.

However, the Galaxy Buds really shine when it comes to bass frequencies, which becomes even more apparent when you listen to bassy tracks like Billie Eilish’s ‘Bury A Friend’. On tracks like this, the use of air-displacing dynamic drivers means that you can almost feel the sub bass thumping in your chest – unusual for true wireless earbuds.

Samsung Galaxy Buds review

 Image Credit: TechRadar 

We also tested the true wireless buds on the soundtrack of indie puzzle-platformer game Fez, by composer Disasterpeace. When listening to ‘Puzzle’, we were impressed by the Galaxy Buds’ lively treatment of the sound, with distorted sine waves ebbing and flowing while shrieking synths pierced through the mix with clarity. Decaying organ-like arpeggios and bubbling chimes also felt vibrant within the generally warm soundstage. 

As a result of that warm and bassy soundstage, mid frequencies can sound slightly recessed; it’s not the most natural sound treatment, so if you’re an audiophile, you may find yourself craving a little more attack in the treble frequencies for a more accurate replication of your music. 

Saying that, if you like your music bassy you will probably like the way the Galaxy Buds sound. Of course, they won’t offer the same power or noise isolation as a pair of decent over-ear headphones, but for true wireless buds, the sound quality is very impressive.

Samsung Galaxy Buds

Image Credit: TechRadar

Samsung Galaxy Buds app

A few extra features can be found within the Galaxy Wearable app, including an equalizer, which allows you to switch between different presets, including ‘Bass Boost; we didn’t feel the different presets had a huge effect on the soundstage of these buds, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless. 

Through the app you can also turn on 'ambient sound' feature, which mixes in background noise to the music using built-in microphones on the buds – a handy feature if you use want to the use the Galaxy Buds when running and need to hear some external noise for safety reasons. 

It can also balance out noises like rumbling traffic, while boosting nearby voices, which allows you to stay alert to environmental noises without compromising the quality of your music.

While this is a useful feature, we did encounter problems with ambient sound in windy weather. In these weather conditions, the sound of the wind was amplified, creating an uncomfortably shrill whistling sound.

If you misplace your Galaxy Buds, you can also use the ‘Find My Earbuds’ feature to track them down. When you enable this feature, the Galaxy Buds play a constant tweeting noise so you can find them quickly. 

Final verdict

It feels as though Samsung has finally got it right with the Galaxy Buds, and they represent serious competition for the Apple AirPods in terms of design, sound, and ease of use. We loved the pearlescent effect on the buds outer housing and the sleek design of the case, and we found they felt comfortable and secure. 

The sound quality offered by these true wireless buds is also very good indeed, with deep bass, and a wide open soundstage; although, audiophiles may want to look elsewhere for a more natural sound treatment, as the Galaxy Buds do sound very warm.

The stated battery life of six hours for the buds and seven hours for the case seemed about right to us, and while there were connectivity issues before Samsung’s latest software update, these issues seem to have been largely rectified.

The downside here is that other features that are available on the app like ambient noise and the equalizer presets are useful to have, but didn’t always work as effectively as we hoped. These features are also pretty much out of bounds for iOS users, as you can only download the app on devices running Android 5.0 or later. 

That said, if you have a Samsung phone, the Galaxy Buds are a fantastic pair of true wireless earbuds, with a few quality-of-life features that make them stand up confidently the competition. If not, you may miss out on these additional features but the high sound quality, comfortable fit, and attractive design means that these buds could be a smart purchase, even for the iOS crowd. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus are the update the company's true wireless earbuds (the original Samsung Galaxy Buds) desperately needed: they offer better battery life, improved call audio thanks to a third internal microphone, and a new dual-driver design that uses two powerful drivers for better, clearer sound. On top of that, there's finally support for iOS through the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus app. 

The downside? The new Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus lack high-end audio codecs and higher IPX4 rating that the Apple AirPods Pro have. That's not even mentioning the fact that they don't offer any form of noise reduction / noise cancellation, nor have a built-in voice assistant like other true wireless earbuds out there.

Not long after the Galaxy Buds Plus' launch, Samsung released its first update, after some users reported hearing the strange sound of white noise while using the true wireless earbuds. According to TizenHelp, the firmware version R175XXUOATB5 is designed to fix this issue, as well as other problems including a "delay in pairing" and Bluetooth dropouts.

In spite of initial teething problems, Samsung should be commended for creating a decent pair of true wireless earbuds in an increasingly competitive landscape. They hold up against rival buds in their own price range and while they don't achieve the same heights as, say, the Sony WF-1000XM3 or AirPods Pro, they're significantly cheaper and offer some nice features for Samsung smartphone owners.

[Update: Recently leaked images of the rumored Samsung Galaxy Buds Live show off a pretty bold design, with a bean-like shape and built-in microphones that hint at noise-cancelling tech within.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live – the company's next AirPods-rivaling true wireless earbuds – are apparently launching in July according to a report by SamMobile.

Rumors of the new Samsung Galaxy Buds have been ramping up in the lead up to the brand’s next Unpacked event, which is expected to take place in August. According to SamMobile, this is when the new Galaxy Buds Live will go on sale, alongside the Galaxy Watch 3 and the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Fold 2.]

Price and availability 

Samsung has launched its latest true wireless earbuds, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, at its Unpacked 2020 event in San Francisco, where it announced that they'll be available to buy online from February 14, and in stores from March 6.

At $149.99 / £159 / AU$299, they're about the same price as last year's Samsung Galaxy Buds (depending on your region) and a little cheaper than their biggest competitors, the Apple AirPods. They're also significantly cheaper than the best true wireless earbuds of 2020, the Sony WF-1000XM3, though these buds come with premium features like active noise cancellation. 

You can find cheaper true wireless headphones out there – like the JLab Go Air that are just $29 / £29 (about AU$40), for example – but there are also much more expensive earbuds out there like the yet-to-be-released Klipsch T10 that are slated to cost $649 (about £490 / AU$930).

In comparison to the competition and in their value for the money, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus are smack-dab in the middle. 

(Image credit: Future)

Design

The new Galaxy Buds Plus sport a very similar design to their predecessors, with slick pearlescent housings and adjustable silicone eartips. They come in red, white, blue, and black, and you should be able to find a color that suits your sense of style – something that can’t be said for the strictly-white AirPods.

As of March 10, the Galaxy Buds Plus also come in pink – however, that option is only available in South Korea at the time of writing.

Eschewing the long ear stems of the AirPods and the AirPods Pro, these sleek little buds pop neatly into their charging case and into your ear, being held in place by a small nub that catches a fold in your outer ear.

At 17.5 x 22.5 x 19.2mm, they fill up most of the ear canal (which helps them stay in while working out) and protrude slightly out of the ears. Because of that design choice we had issues wearing these earbuds while laying in bed as the constant pressure on the buds from the pillow made them uncomfortable in the ear.

In terms of customization, inside the box you'll find additional eartips in three different sizes, a larger nub to hold the earbuds in place if they're falling out and a rubber ring if you don't want any nub on the outer edges of the buds.

(Image credit: Future)

On the outside you'll find the touch capacitive button that understands single, double, triple and long presses. Single, double and triple do what you'd expect them to do and the long press can either activate your virtual assistant, lower the volume or turn on ambient sound amplification.

Using the touch capacitive button as the means to control the earbuds can be slightly uncomfortable at first, as pushing the button pushes the earbuds further into the ear canal, but you'll soon learn to exert less pressure when using it. It would've been nice if Samsung decided to implement an always-listening virtual assistant here, but unfortunately decided not to.

The only other glaring issue we've found so far with the Buds Plus is that they're only IPX2 splash-resistant. That means they're mostly fine for workouts, but won't be the kind of thing you'd want to take with you to the pool or beach, where they could easily get damaged. For comparison the Apple AirPods Pro are IPX4 water-resistant, and while that's not as good as being fully waterproof, it should assuage any fear you have of damaging them at the gym or outside in the rain.

As for the case itself, it's fairly light and smooth with rounded edges. It should fit fairly easily in your pocket and provides an additional charge for the earbuds in between uses. As you'd expect, the charging case uses USB-C, like Samsung's flagship phones, which means you don't need to carry a separate cable.

(Image credit: Future)

Battery life and connectivity

The Galaxy Buds Plus boast a far longer battery life than the original Galaxy Buds. The earbuds themselves contain 11 hours of charge, while the charging case provides an additional 11 hours, bringing the total battery life to 22 hours. 

That 11-hour battery life is pretty long for earbuds – but for the charging case, it’s not a huge amount of battery. For comparison, the Apple AirPods contain 5 hours in the buds themselves, with an additional 20 provided by the charging case, for 25 hours in total. It's nice to see the Buds Plus with a larger internal battery, but a shame the charging case didn't get something more substantial.

Throughout our week of testing we've only had to charge the earbuds and their case once, and that's with pretty heavy listening (four-plus hours each day) at medium volume. If you need to listen to your music at a higher volume to drown out outside noise, then expect to charge these every few nights.

In terms of wireless connectivity, Bluetooth 5.0 provides a stable wireless connection that never once dropped on us, even in a crowded area. For comparison, the AirPods still only support 4.2, which is pretty old now, but do have the benefit of the H1 Chip that optimizes battery life and sound quality on the earbuds.  

Unfortunately, however, neither the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus nor Apple AirPods Pro support higher-end audio codecs like aptX, aptX Low Latency or, even better, LDAC. For now your only options are SBC and AAC... unless you also use a Samsung smartphone that runs Android 7.0 or later, then you'll also have the option of Samsung's proprietary Scalable Audio codec which offers higher bitrate support and better stability, a handy perk if you've had earbuds drop out on you in the past.

Setting up the earbuds can either be done by pairing via Bluetooth for basic playback or by downloading the Galaxy Wearable or Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus app from the Google Play and Apple App Store. With those you'll be able to customize the headphones and set up ambient noise reduction so it's well worth downloading. We found both of the apps to be fairly intuitive to use, and they offer a few sound tweaking options and ambient noise amplification that we'll get into in a minute.

Finally, the last feature worth pointing out is that if you have multiple devices, the Galaxy Buds Plus support multi-pairing, allowing them to connect to several devices without needing to re-pair them every time you go to use them.

samsung galaxy buds plus

(Image credit: Samsung / @evleaks)

Sound quality

The headline news in the audio department is the new dual-driver system that the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus use. There's now a woofer and a tweeter to expand the range of the earbuds and lead to an increase in overall clarity.

After spending a lot of time with them we feel like that's definitely the case, and can appreciate the sound Samsung has crafted here that's rich, warm and easy to listen to for an extended period of time. 

To achieve that, Samsung's DSP definitely dials back bass and ups the mids and highs - making these great headphones to use when watching YouTube or Netflix around the house and even makes some genres of music sound pretty good. Listening to Green Day's atrocious new album Father of All... was slightly more bearable thanks to the Bud Plus' mid-range musicality, and a tour through Red Hot Chili Peppers' old catalog with these earbuds allowed us to appreciate the interplay between Flea's bass and Frusciante's guitar like never before.

That said, songs that should have phenomenal bass response, like Brass Monkey by Beastie Boys, sound a bit subdued to other earbuds, especially a pair like the Powerbeats Pro that emphasize the low-end.

Using the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus and/or Samsung Wear app you can customize the sound of the earbuds (there's options for Soft, Dynamic, Clear, Treble and Bass Boost) but there's not a significant difference between them.

(Pictured: The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus app on iOS.) 

(Pictured: The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus app on iOS.)  (Image credit: Apple)

While the increased clarity is the highlight of the new design, Samsung says it's also increased the amount of internal microphones by one and that lead to better call quality. That claim held true in our testing as anyone we called with the earbuds reported that they sounded as good as talking directly into the phone's mic. 

Having the extra mic also means that ambient noise amplification is better this time around, too. Obviously ambient noise amplification – which pipes in outside noise rather than cancel it out isn't as good as noise reduction or noise cancellation, but it can be helpful at airplane terminals or bus stations when you're waiting for a crucial piece of information over the loud speaker or while riding a bike. 

The biggest criticism that we can levy against the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is that they don't offer active noise cancellation nor do they provide much in the way of passive noise reduction. That means, if you plan on wearing these out and about, expect to hear a lot of the outside world while listening to your music. That's fine if you're at the gym and don't mind hearing a bit of the background noise or if you're at the office and still want to be able to hear what coworkers are saying nearby, but those looking for total aural isolation will have to look elsewhere.

The good news? If you lose them, you can find them again pretty easily by going into the app and selecting 'Find My Earbuds'. As long as they're still charged, this will get the earbuds to play a chirping sound at increasing volume - which is pretty handy if you're the kind of person who takes out your earbuds and leaves them laying around the house.

Final verdict

So where do the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus stand in the wide and deep echelon of true wireless earbuds? Well, somewhere in the middle. Thanks to its better battery life of around 11 hours (give or take) per charge, it's a decent pick for people who hate charging their headphones at night. That said, it doesn't feature a built-in virtual assistant nor does it have real water-resistance, it's just IPX2. 

Most egregious, however, is its lack of noise cancellation or even noise reduction, a feature that's available on the similarly priced Amazon Echo Buds. Now sure, those may not sound as good as the Galaxy Buds Plus nor do they last as long, but both those features lose their luster when you're struggling to hear your music on a crowded subway train. 

At the end of the day, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus present a good value for folks who just want true wireless earbuds they don't need to charge everyday. They aren't the best-sounding, but the dual-driver design is a big step up for Samsung, and is good enough for watching videos and listening to bass-lite music. 

Ultimately, you'd be better served by saving up for a pair of Apple AirPods Pro if you're an iOS user or a pair of Sony  WF-1000XM3 if you use Android, both of which sound better and offer noise cancellation. They don't last as long as the Galaxy Buds Plus do and cost twice as much, but they're a better all-around pick in our opinion.

MindManager mind mapping software

MindManager is a mind mapping software for Windows and Mac. With it, you can create flowcharts, organizational charts, and even manage your workforce. In this review, we’ll discuss MindManager’s main features and the pros and cons associated with the platform. You’ll quickly see why we consider this one of the most advanced and user-friendly mind-mapping tools on the market today.

Features

MindManager is a popular brainstorming and organizational tool and is well-recognized for its feature density. This software particularly stands out for its mind mapping toolkit and selection of add-on options. One of the great things about MindManager is the extent to which you can visually customize any charts you use it to create.

As mapping is MindManager’s foremost feature, its capabilities in this area are impressive. Maps can be connected to each other and exported to Word or similar software. You can create Gantt charts, add indexes, schedules, and even display your charts and maps in a presentation mode.

For project management planning and business start-up, MindManager has development, risk management, and training templates. You can also sync your MindManager business data with other productivity platforms such as Outlook and Slack. The big benefit here is that MindManager will track your team’s progress in real-time, and notify you if things are off-track or if any information is missing.

MindManager

(Image credit: Mindjet)

Another cool MindManager feature is something called “Smart Rules”. Essentially, this is a kind of advanced conditional formatting that allows you to create intelligent charts that adapt to the data they’re displaying. With MindManager, you can create specific triggers and add them to a library so you don’t have to spend ages setting everything up again when you start a new project. 

MindManager is available online and in a tablet-format as well as on desktop computers. When using MindManager as a team, individuals can drop links to detailed notes, references, and URLs in the same project. The MindManager system also features app-integration with Zapier, Microsoft Sharepoint, and most Office suite products, so you can always get access to your vital MindManager data.

Interface and In Use

Upon opening the software, you’ll see that MindManager looks a lot like a Microsoft product. This is not by accident. MindManager’s interface was designed to make those who are already comfortable with the Office Suite feel at home. In addition to some very familiar tabs like, “Insert” or “View”, you’ll see buttons that change depending on what you’re working on such as the “Task” project management tab.

MindManager

(Image credit: Mindjet)

Support

In the MindManager program, you can click on the question mark in the upper left-hand corner to be directed to FAQs, quick tips, and keyboard shortcuts. If you’re in need of more hands-on help, you can fill out a ticket, send an online chat message, or contact one of MindManager’s many international offices by phone or email.

Plans and Pricing

MindManager comes in two packages, one for Mac and another for Windows. Both of these streams receive frequent updates so users always get access to the latest features. However, when a significant enough upgrade is released, anyone with an older version of MindManager has to pay to get access to it.

If you want to download MindManager to see if its right for you without splashing out, you can start a 30-day free trial instead. All you need to do is head over to the MindManager website, select your desired product and click “Download Trial”. You will be asked for your information and then sent a download link via email.

The Windows version of MindManager is released on a perpetual license and comes with all the core features MindManager is known for like interactive concept maps, Gantt charts, and Venn diagrams, all in 8 different languages. The latest update now allows you to sync with hundreds of business applications and includes more sharing capabilities. MindManager for Windows costs $422.29, but MindManager 2018 and 2019 users can upgrade for $216.59.

The Mac MindManager software is similar to the Windows product but lacks some Microsoft suite syncing capabilities, which is why it is a bit less expensive. It can be used in English, German and French. The newest version of Mac MindManager has added extra templates, visual editing capabilities, and a few tools. To buy it outright costs $240.79, and the latest upgrade costs $119.79.

MindManager 2

(Image credit: Mindjet)

The Competition

The most direct competitor to MindManager is MindView. Both have very similar user-interfaces, capabilities, and price-points. MindManager’s organizational charts are slightly more advanced and it has several more diagrams and map templates that you won’t find on MindView. 

Though the feature sets are similar, MindManager is cheaper for a single user on a Mac (at $240.79 rather than $347) and is slightly more expensive on Windows at $422.29 compared to $379. MindManager is the obvious choice if you need Outlook syncing or superb project management tools.

Final Verdict

Whether you’re a business manager looking to organize a team or an academic needing to visualize your ideas, MindManager is a fantastic program without bloatware and with all the features you could ask for from a diagram and mind-mapping tool. For businesses, contacting MindManager to discuss adding its Enterprise version to your tech stack could be one of the best things you do for your company.

MindView mind map software

Owned by MatchWare, MindView is a charting and graphics tool that helps you create project plans, mind maps, flow charts, and various other customizable charts. Unlike similar tools, it comes as both a browser extension as well as downloadable standalone software for Windows and Mac. In this MindView review, we’ll discuss its features and show you how it compares to alternative programs.

Features

MindView is known as a helpful business and educational tool. It’s well-recognized for its accessibility features and focuses on usability for disabled persons. MatchWare has also built in a lot of tools to promote collaboration through the platform and to help you represent your ideas more clearly.

MindView’s mapping features are extensive. Every offered map type is super customizable and can be connected and integrated with other existing maps. You can specify relationships using special connectors and produce maps that are top-down or bottom-up. You can also make Gantt charts, timelines, or enter a Prezi-style presentation mode.

When it comes to project management, Mindivew offers detailed and eye-catching templates ready-made for you to edit, as well as a range of other organizational capabilities. For example, you can create tasks with priorities, constraints, and dependencies on other events. These can all be integrated into a unified calendar.

The MindView software works with DragonSpeak speech to text software and allows you to add voice recorded notes which is a huge benefit for educators. No tablet version of MindView is available, but you can export and import data with the Windows version. The cloud-based variant of the platform allows you to connect with other subscribers, which is particularly useful for team projects.

MindView

(Image credit: Mindmatch)

Interface and In Use

On the MatchWare website, you can either purchase the MindView product or start with a free 30-day trial. Once you download the program, you’ll be directed to a screen with a very recognizable toolbar, designed to look a lot like other Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel, and Access. If you are familiar with the Microsoft suite, you will feel very at-home.

Under “File → New”, you can browse a selection of templates and get started exploring the software. Right off the bat, you’ll see for yourself how extensive a feature set MindView offers, and may even feel a bit overwhelmed. Luckily, you can sign up for a seminar, read MatchWare’s published whitepapers, or watch tutorials embedded in the program to get a deeper understanding of what everything does.

When you start exploring the templates, you’ll see that you can generate different map-types with the same information. This means you can find which is the best visual representation of your information. After you’ve finished creating, you can add citations or links, and then export to other software like Excel by navigating to the “File” menu again.

MindView

(Image credit: Matchware)

Support

If you need help using MindView or are searching for a particular tool, the best thing you can do is go to the toolbar, locate the lightbulb icon and type in what you need help with. Most likely, the tool you want will pop up as well as a “Get Help” prompt. From there, you can look through MatchWare’s relevant advice.

If you need technical support (even after checking out the MindView FAQ), you can submit a ticket. MatchWare has six worldwide offices spread across the US, UK, Germany, France, Sweden, and Denmark, each of which is available by phone and email.

Plans and Pricing

There are three different variants of the MindView platform. You should think carefully before deciding which one to use as the differences between the editions go beyond how you access the MindView software, each is priced individually too.

The online version of MindView is cloud-based and features mapping software, bibliography creation, and automatic citation. It also supports Word and Google Docs syncing and collaboration through a shared workspace.

MindView Online lacks some features that advanced users may want but can only be found in the offline versions of the software such as analytical and statistical capabilities, Gantt charting, timelines, and the ability to sync with Excel. The online variant of MindView costs $15 per month when billed as a one-year subscription, $13.50 per month for two years, and $12 per month with three-year billing.

The Windows MindView software is the most advanced edition. It includes charting features the online version doesn’t like Gantt charts and outlining, as well as the ability to sync with Excel and Outlook. If you are doing advanced work (like using graph mathematics) you will be glad to hear that this version of MindView supports statistical calculations.

The extra features come at a price though. A single-user license costs $379, for a five-user license you will pay $1,799, and for ten users you save about 10% per user at $3,409. For large batch orders or for educators, you should contact MatchWare directly.

For Mac users, similar downloadable software is available. While you’ll find most of the same capabilities that you get with the Windows version, some, such as syncing with Windows products like Excel are obviously not available. This may be why MindView Mac is slightly cheaper. A single-user license is $349, a five-user license is $1,658, and a ten-user license is $3,141.

MindView

(Image credit: Mindmatch)

The Competition

MindView is in direct competition with programs like MindManager. For timelines, Gantt charts, and outlines, MindView has a few more features and is slightly more user-friendly than its closest competitors. It has a comparable feature-set to MindManager but integrates slightly better with other programs.

The price point for the two programs is extremely similar, but MindView is a bit cheaper for a single user on a PC at $379 compared to $422.29. The situation is flipped for Mac though, with MindView costing $347 compared to $240.79.

Final Verdict

If you have the budget, MindView is a fantastic option to improve your personal, educational, and business organization. Compared to free online tools, MindView’s downloadable software is clearly at a much higher standard than what you can get online for free. It is extremely easy to use, lacks bloatware, and can export and import all the timelines, Gantt charts or mind maps you could possibly need.

1&1 Ionos HiDrive review

1&1 Ionos HiDrive is a bit of a mouthful of a name (it's actually the result of the merger of two companies), but once you get into the service itself you'll find that this is one of the better cloud storage offerings out there – at least in terms of covering the core features.

As with a lot of cloud storage services, you need to make yourself aware of the specific strengths and the weaknesses of 1&1 Ionos HiDrive before deciding if its the right product for you. The good news is, we've outlined all the pros and cons for you in this review.

1&1 Ionos HiDrive features

1&1 Ionos HiDrive is one of the few cloud storage packages that offers both file synchronization and ad hoc data storage, rather than focusing on one or the other. You've got client apps for Windows, Android and iOS to make use of, for viewing your files and getting them up to the cloud – the mobile apps can do document scanning and auto-uploading for your photos and videos. If you're on macOS, you need to mount your HiDrive as a server or just stick to the web interface.

You highlight the folders you need to keep safe, and the software then dispatches them to HiDrive cloud storage. Devices that support WebDAV, FTP, rSync, SCP and Git (such as NAS boxes) are supported too, as are external disk drives, and you get full control over the data tree hierarchy and which folders are included. What you don't get are complete bare metal backups of your entire system, OS, settings apps and all.

There's also no file versioning, a feature commonly found on other cloud services like this, so you can't roll back to earlier versions of your files. File and folder sharing is covered, however, and you have the option of adding passwords and expiry dates to your shares as well if you need that little bit of extra security. This works well and is easy to configure no matter what your sharing needs are.

You can't do a huge amount with your data in terms of streaming video or music from the web or anything like that, but you can view images and documents that are saved as PDF without having to download them to disk first. Getting your data back is straightforward too, especially if you're using the syncing client on Windows.

1&1 Ionos HiDrive

(Image credit: Future)

1&1 Ionos HiDrive interface

The 1&1 Ionos HiDrive interface isn't the most modern-looking or dynamic we've ever come across, but it covers the essentials of file syncing and file management well enough. Files can be uploaded through the web interface, through the mobile apps, or from the desktop, and in our testing we were happy with the transfer speeds we were seeing (more or less as good as could be expected given our home broadband speed).

Syncing files is straightforward, whether you're dragging them into the designated folder on Windows or macOS, or uploading them through the web interface. You don't have to sync all of your files to all of your computers if you don't want to, and there's also the option to limit the transfer speeds on Windows so that HiDrive isn't using up all of your precious bandwidth.

As with Dropbox and other similar apps, you get little icons next to your files on Windows showing their sync state, which is useful (you can turn them off if you don't like them). Syncing is just about instant too, so you know that as you make changes to your files, HiDrive will be backing them up to the cloud for sake-keeping. If the worst happens to your computers, you've always got a backup.

We like the look of the collaboration and user management features here too. You don't get anything like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Apple Pages or Dropbox Paper unfortunately, but you do get some effective tools for controlling who has access to what in the HiDrive cloud locker. You can, for example, set files you share to be read-only, and limit the number of times that files can be downloaded. Users get both private and public folders to make use of.

1&1 Ionos HiDrive

(Image credit: Future)

1&1 Ionos HiDrive security

1&1 Ionos HiDrive makes security a priority: like most other cloud storage services, you get SSL-protected transfers and AES encryption (128-bit AES encryption in this case). Two-factor authentication is available, giving you an extra layer of security when it comes to logging in with your username and password. It's not on by default though – you need to go into your account settings to get it configured.

End-to-end encryption is available for your data, which means not even the engineers at HiDrive can get at it (and that also means they won't be able to recover it if you forget your password). This is only an option if you're on the most expensive Pro plan, however, so that's something to bear in mind if you're weighing up how much you want to spend on a subscription to HiDrive.

1&1 Ionos HiDrive pricing

There's no free tier with 1&1 Ionos HiDrive, and no free trial either – though there is a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is almost the same thing. All the prices we're mentioning here are based on annual payments, and while you can pay month by month instead, it's going to cost you slightly more. Look out for special offers running on the 1&1 Ionos HiDrive website too, which will save you some money.

The cheapest $1/£1.20-a-month Basic package gets you 100GB of storage for one user, the $3/£3.60-a-month Essential package gives you 250GB of space for up to three users, the $10/£12-a-month Business package includes 1TB of space and support for five users, and the top $20/£24-a-month Pro tier gives you 2TB of room and supports up to 10 users. As we mentioned above, the Pro package is the only one with end-to-end encryption.

1&1 Ionos HiDrive

(Image credit: Future)

1&1 Ionos HiDrive verdict

What you get for your money with 1&1 Ionos HiDrive is a fast and reliable cloud storage platform that's also reasonably easy to install and configure. The pricing options could be more competitive, and we'd like to see some extra features and a few integrations (with the likes of Office 365 and Google Docs, for example), but this is a solid option for businesses looking for something that can be rapidly deployed without much in the way of user training.

If you need tight security and some advanced sharing options for your files, then 1&1 Ionos HiDrive is worth a look, especially if you're running Windows rather than macOS machines in your organization (or just as an individual). For the service to really be top tier, we'd like to see a few extra features added and a more modern-looking interface (not to mention a Mac client), but HiDrive still stands up well in its current form.

Whoer VPN

In this day and age, having a good VPN service is necessary to retain your privacy on the World Wide Web and experience the total freedom of information and entertainment, in spite of the ever-increasing restrictions on the kind of content that you can access in various regions.

One of the platforms that makes all this possible is Whoer - a Cyprus-based VPN provider that has some strong privacy features, supports torrenting, and is capable of unlocking the well-known geo-blocked streaming channels and services. 

If you’d like to know which are today’s top services, we’ve prepared a detailed best VPN buying guide for you to check out.

(Image credit: MockUPhone/Facebook - Design Resources)

Price

Whoer’s services come in three packages, depending on the length of the subscription. The shortest is the 1-month option, at $9.90/month. It is followed by the 6-month subscription which entails a 35% discount and is paid $39.00 in a single payment ($6.50/month). The 1-year access will cost you even less in the long-term - $46.90 ($3.90/month), which is a 60% discount compared to the monthly subscription.

If you’d rather try out the service first, there’s a free trial available, but it will only get you access to one server, and a very slow one - in the Netherlands. Specifically, the speed of the trial server is officially limited to up to 1Mbps, as the provider states this on its free trial page (and confirmed in our testing).

This is far from ideal if your biggest concern is speed and you want to check how the provider performs in this area. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee, but the small print says there has to be an actual problem with the service for the company to grant you a refund. This is a lot different from the no-questions-asked policy by some other providers, but it’s better than nothing.

To sign up for a free trial, you’ll only need to give the company your email address and you’ll receive the access code shortly. Should you decide to pay for the full service under any of the three pricing packages, you’ll find the process similar and exceptionally simple. 

Just pick out the plan on the website, type in your email address, a promo code if you have it, choose your preferred payment method - credit card, cryptocurrency, electronic currency, or PayPal, and finalise the payment. The next step is to enter the passcode you’ll receive from the provider, and you’re all set.

(Image credit: MagicMockups)

Alternatives

Whoer has servers in only 17 locations. We’re never told how many servers there are exactly, but since it’s hiding this information, it’s safe to assume there aren’t a lot. 

This is why some of the more demanding users may like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or Surfshark better, considering they have thousands of servers in hundreds of locations all over the world and are very transparent about them. They’ve even opened their doors to outside auditors to confirm they have nothing to hide and are devoted to their users’ privacy. CyberGhost is another great choice to consider, as it has recently upped its server count to a staggering 6,240+.

Streaming

Unblocking top streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer in areas where they aren’t available is a sought-after feature in the VPN industry, and Whoer excels in this matter. Not only will it allow you to watch your favourite content on Netflix and BBC iPlayer, but you’ll also be able to do that on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and TalkTalk TV Store.

About the company

Whoer is operated by WHOIX Ltd., a company registered in Lefkosia, Cyprus. It has an undisclosed number of servers scattered across 17 countries such as Russia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Turkey, Ukraine, and Poland.

(Image credit: MockUPhone / Facebook - Design Resources)

Privacy and encryption

The Windows and Mac clients include app startup settings, updates control, a kill switch, an option to choose whether you want the app to use UDP instead of TCP (as UDP is faster), and one interesting tool - VPN connection hiding, which masks your VPN connection as a regular home or mobile connection, helpful in restrictive countries that block VPNs. The iOS and Android apps have fewer settings, including startup settings, traffic compression, and a handy speed test. You will even be able to share large files via P2P, although not on all of the servers.

The privacy of your sensitive information and identity is secured with the use of regular and double VPN protection that uses two different encryption points to increase your level of anonymity and make it more difficult for third parties to spy on you. It also deploys the UDP and TCP protocols.

Whoer uses protection against DNS and IP leaks to guarantee anonymity and security. For even more protection, you can enable a kill switch in the desktop apps. This mechanism will step in whenever the VPN connection is interrupted, effectively blocking your entire Internet access and preventing any of your information from leaking into wrong hands.

According to the provider’s privacy policy, it doesn’t collect, store, or log your IP address, DNS requests, which apps or online services you use or the websites you visit. It only collects your personal data when you access the websites or services related to Whoer VPN or contact the provider regarding its services. Additionally, it will collect service data from its VPN clients, including OS version and Whoer VPN version, but this can’t be used to uncover what you’re using the VPN service for.

This all sounds great, but we have no way to confirm this policy as there hasn’t been an outside audit yet. Some competitors have started to bring in independent auditors to examine their clients and give reports on adherence to the privacy and no-logs policies, and it would be beneficial for Whoer VPN to do the same.

(Image credit: MockUPhone / Facebook - Design Resources)

Support

Whoer offers apps for all the major platforms and browsers. So you’ll be able to install it on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Mozilla, Chrome, and Opera, as well as use it on five devices simultaneously with just one account. Additionally, you can manually install the platform on a supported router, with some help from Whoer. This will allow you to expand the coverage beyond the five-device limit and protect each and every device connected to the network.

All the apps can be downloaded from the website or the appropriate app stores which the website directs you to. Each has its own page where you’ll find detailed, step-by-step setup instructions, all accompanied by pictures for better understanding.

That said, you probably won’t even need to look at the instructions as the installation process is as simple and intuitive as they come. Same goes for the interface which is small, sleek, and only has basic options. 

If you need assistance with anything related to the VPN service, online support is available in the form of live chat on the website and email. Additional information can be found on the provider’s blog and social media channels.

Whoer’s Android app has been downloaded 5,000+ times and has received a rather poor score of only 3.3, as rated by 27 users. It was last updated on April 8, 2020. The rating is even worse on the iOS App Store - 1.0, although rated by only one user who complained that the app “keeps crashing”.

Speed and experience

We tested the provider’s Netherlands server and ended up disappointed - the speeds barely reached 1Mbps on our 50Mbps test connection. This, however, is because the Netherlands server is used as the trial server location and the provider throttles its use, whereas its other servers may perform better. While this makes sense, it doesn’t allow you to fully test the service, especially since the refunds are issued only if there is an unsolvable problem with the service.

(Image credit: MockupBro)

Verdict

Whoer is a decent VPN provider that allows you to torrent, stream popular services, and do some good old-fashioned browsing, all under its robust privacy protection. 

Aside from the handy Double VPN and VPN hiding on its desktop clients, it doesn’t have lots of features and extras. This might bother some of the more experienced users, but beginners and more modest users might find this quite suitable. 

Those who cannot disregard the lack of features and servers, should instead try out ExpressVPN, the best VPN on the market which excels in every part of its service and satisfies even the most demanding of users.

Satmetrix CEM software

NICE Satmetrix is a powerful customer experience management (CEM) software provider offering custom solutions suited to a wide range of businesses. It’s designed to help you collect and analyze customer feedback and combine it with business data in order to improve the consumer experience.

Overall, Satmetrix is a powerful platform which has been purpose-built to help you automate time-consuming processes. When used correctly, it can help guide profitable decisions to target change and grow your business.

Plans and Pricing

Satmetrix offers custom, quote-based solutions, which means it’s impossible to put an exact figure on its cost. Every business has different requirements, and the cost of these custom solutions will vary immensely from one to another.

However, it’s fair to say that Satmetrix is expensive. A demo can be requested by filling out an online form and speaking with the Satmetrix team.

Satmetrix 2

(Image credit: Satmetrix )

Although we couldn’t put an exact price on the Satmetrix CEM software, we had a close look at its products to help you decide if they are worth considering for your business.

Satmetrix CEM Software

For starters, Satmetrix offers a range of CEM software solutions to help you grow your business. It doesn’t actually provide a lot of information about what this software includes, but we’ve dug deeply to come up with the following.

In short, Satmetrix comes with a range of smart analytics and self-service tools to help you transform the customer experience. You will receive expert guidance from the Satmetrix team, allowing you to focus on the things you do well.

Additionally, Satmetrix is designed to incorporate both direct and indirect feedback to help you gain a complete picture of the current customer experience. It also uses powerful AI and machine learning algorithms to provide deeper insights.

Satmetrix 3

(Image credit: Satmetrix )

Other Satmetrix Products

Along with its main software package, Satmetrix offers one other noteworthy product, a Satmetrix Academy and Research subscription. It costs $3000 per year and comes with two main benefits. 

First, it gives you access to a range of B2C and B2B net promoter score (NPS) benchmarks. It also comes with two in-depth NPS courses designed to give you the skills to optimize the consumer experience.

Features

Once again, the fact that Satmetrix offers custom, quote-based solutions means that it’s hard to get a handle on the exact tools and features it comes with. However, we’ve outlined a few of the most noteworthy below.

Configurable Dashboards and Reporting Templates

For starters, Satmetrix heavily promotes its templates for configurable dashboards and reports. These allow you to present complex data in an easy-to-understand format, integrate with everyday tools, and bring the right information to the right employees.

Customer Journey Insights

Additionally, Satmetrix provides a range of insights into the factors driving customer loyalty and engagement. It puts these into context by presenting an overview of the customer lifecycle, combining feedback and performance data to show you just what customers think of you and your brand.

Powerful Analytics Tools

Satmetrix also offers a range of powerful analytics tools designed to drive informed business management decisions. Using these tools—which include a range of AI and machine learning algorithms, large-scale visualizations, and collaborative reports—you will be able to drive innovative ways to improve the customer experience.

Customer Feedback Templates

Finally, Satmetrix comes with a range of customer feedback templates which you can use to gather information and understand the overall feeling among your audience. These are fully customizable, allowing you to make changes as you go. And, they are backed by the support of Satmetrix’s expert team.

Interface and In Use

The Satmetrix user interface varies considerably according to your package and the platform you’re using it with. It supports a range of systems, including Windows, Linux, and Mac computers, Android and iPhone smartphones, and various web browsers.

After analyzing as many different Satmetrix interfaces as we could, we decided that it excels in terms of data visualization and presentation. Its highly-customizable dashboards are designed to help you view complex data in a simple manner, which we loved.

Support

The ongoing theme of Satmetrix playing its cards close to its chest continues with its support services. Unless you’re a paying customer, the only way you can get in contact is by filling out an online quote form or calling its sales team.

However, Satmetrix does provide comprehensive support to paying customers—as expected considering the price of its software. This includes 24/5 standard support, 24/7/365 emergency support, and access to an impressive knowledge base.

Satmetrix 4

(Image credit: Satmetrix )

The Competition

Satmetrix is a powerful software provider designed for large businesses. But, there are plenty of alternatives out there if you’re looking for something slightly more affordable, or just something different altogether.

For starters, Medallia offers very similar services with a focus on AI data analysis. We’d recommend researching both platforms before deciding which is best for your business.

Meanwhile, Unblu is a similar—if less powerful—CEM platform that costs significantly less than Satmetrix. 

Final Verdict

Overall, Satmetrix is a powerful customer experience management platform used by enterprise-level businesses across the world. It offers powerful custom solutions for all users, but it is certainly on the expensive side.

However, the tools Satmetrix brings to the table are up there with the best we’ve seen, and the fact that you will be guided by its expert team at all times really does appeal to us. It’s certainly worth considering if you’ve got the budget for it.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has a lot riding on it. Ubisoft didn’t release a new Assassin’s Creed last year in order to work on Valhalla, which is due out later this year.

And so far, after playing it for a few hours, the work seems to be paying off. 

WHAT IS A HANDS-ON REVIEW?

Hands-on game reviews are a journalist's first impressions of a game based on spending some time with it ahead of our full review. In this case, we played three hours of Assassin's Creed Valhalla. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves, and we can give you some sense of what it's like, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee

What Ubisoft’s 14(!) development studios have produced so far is a Viking epic that takes you from the shores of East Anglia - what we know today as Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire - to the innards of the English isle with plenty to explore in between. 

And yet, despite the new setting, Valhalla has all the trappings of a traditional Assassin’s Creed game: there’s vantage points to climb, conflicted protagonists dealing with issues of their day, power level-based areas, a loose historical narrative to follow... and a lot of small technical issues. That last part is worrying, obviously, but Odin willing, Ubisoft can fix them all before release.

 Key information 

  • What is it? The next entry in the Assassin's Creed franchise
  • Release Date? November 17, 2020
  • What can I play it on? PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia and PC
  • Price? Standard edition is roughly $59.99 / £49.99 / AU$69

The tale of two Eivors 

Set in 873 CE, Valhalla follows Eivor of Clan Raven, who can either be played as a male or female character just like in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Each has their own corresponding voice actor and we were able to switch between them on the fly.

When we dropped into our demo - just a little ways into the game - we were told that East Anglia was nearly unified under the rule of King Oswald, a good-hearted Saxon… until Oswald was taken by Rued, a rival Viking who hasn’t taken kindly to Saxon rulers.

To find Rued you’ll have to amass a small army and go on one of the game’s first Raid missions that can best be described as a small-scale amphibious invasion. 

Thankfully, you don’t have to look far for that army. As a member of Clan Raven, you have allies and clansmen already who’ll be there when you summon them on your longship. Load it up, and you're off to war.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Eivor

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Fjords and swords 

The assault on Rued’s camp is really the first big test of your mettle in Valhalla. It’s a multi-stage fight that has you breaking down doors with a battering ram while protecting your troops from arrows and enemy soldiers.

The combat, like the previous two games, is still number-based and brutal-but-fair.

The combat, like the previous two games, is still number-based and brutal-but-fair. 

During the demo we tried two different weapon styles, the single-handed axe and steel chain whip, and they provided some nice variety to the combat. 

Besides the different weapons, you’ll also be able to assign skill points in one of three skill trees: Wolf powers, Raven powers and Bear powers, that roughly correspond to agility, stealth and strength. Each skill on the tree is either a buff, like extra health, or a new special move to use in combat.

How difficult a fight is comes down to how well-geared you are, how many abilities and buffs you currently have and how well you can dodge and deflect attacks. Being good at the latter can get you pretty far in the game, but at some point you’ll need to invest in upgrades to turn down the difficulty on some of the boss fights.

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Making memories in East Anglia 

Combat and exploration will take up most of your time in Valhalla, but you’ll also be sent on a fair number of surprisingly memorable side missions that are scattered throughout the world.

One of the more memorable ones we got the chance to see during our demo came during a marriage of a Dane and Saxon where we got to participate in making toasts, carrying drunk friends off of roofs and drinking until Eivor couldn’t stand anymore. 

The whole wedding served as a nice palette cleanser from the brutal assault we just played 15 minutes earlier in our demo, and helped us feel closer to everyone in Valhalla’s world. It was fun, well-executed and memorable.

Another excellent side mission came when we had to rap battle a snobby Dane and yet another came when we had to help a farmer collect blood mead (read: menstrual blood) from a seeress. 

The side quests have so far added some ridiculous fun to the combat but they are a bit sparse and, while we appreciate what’s there, it could be tough for Ubisoft to make all the side quests interesting from start to finish.

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Bad voices and worse glitches 

We encountered an immersion-breaking bug - and worse, almost had our demo completely derailed by a spinning camera.

When things weren’t so fun was when we encountered an immersion-breaking bug - or worse, almost had our demo completely derailed by a spinning camera. 

In just three hours spent in the game we encountered dozens of issues, from simple things like characters’ possessions disappearing from their hands in cutscenes to being told that our horse is unavailable and being forced to walk from destination to destination. It seemed like every minute, some new error popped up.

And while they weren’t technically glitches, the voice acting can be just as immersion-breaking as the bugs: you’ll hear a number of different accents throughout the adventure ranging from guttural to pompous but barely any of them mesh together in a way that seems to make sense. Somehow every character has a different accent - none of which feel period-appropriate. 

Now, look, we’re not voice acting experts by any stroke of the imagination but considering that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s biggest weakness was its voice acting, it’s a shame Ubisoft didn’t double down on getting the voices perfect this time around.

Early verdict 

With fun combat and even better side quests, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is shaping up to be quite the Viking saga. The region of East Anglia that we saw during our demo is brimming with potential… even if a lot of the space isn’t quite used to its maximum potential quite yet. 

But a lot of the game’s success will depend on Ubisoft squashing the dozens of game-breaking or immersion-breaking bugs we found while playing the game - it’s just too hard to have a good time when horns of ale and enemy shields float in the air and cameras rotate on their own. 

Odin willing, it will all get sorted before November.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla releases on PS5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia and PC on November 17, 2020.

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