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ZuperDAC Review: A neat little audio enhancer

Not too long ago, we had a look at Zorloo’s Digital Earphones. They utilized a DAC (Digital-to-Analog Convertor) into the cable which, in short, meant that the audio output bypassed the standard processing within the phone and was instead improved through the dedicated chip on the cable. They’ve now produced a similar product called ZuperDAC.

ZuperDAC is a USB stick style audio enhancer. Think of it as your normal memory stick, except with an audio jack on the opposite side and with no storage capability. You can plug it into any USB port that can output audio, which ranges from your standard laptop to a USB On-The-Go supported phone. Plug your headset in, and the audio is again rerouted through the DAC converter, increasing audio quality. How does it size up?


20151126_185043The unit comes sealed in a neat little box. With a bit of grappling, the top part comes off to reveal a snuggly nested converter.
It shortly became obvious that it is made of premium materials once I took it out. The cold Aluminum build is solid and showed no immediate signs of weakness. Attempting to wriggle the USB tip was futile as it is well built into the model.
There is the simple Zorloo logo on top. You’ll see the standard 3.5mm audio jack on the other end of the stick, along with a small hole for the status LED. And that’s about it. The product is small, simple and uncomplicated while not being boring at the same time. It’s a sweet spot which results in something pleasing being made.
The status LED is simply an indicator of what the stick is busy doing. Red means it is initializing (usually present for a few seconds) and green means it is running without a hitch. It is however very set back into the device and can only be seen if you look at it straight on, which is a great thing as it does not disturb you in a dark environment.
Inside the actual product is where the magic happens, though. On the circuitry, you’ll find an ESS Sabre ES9018K2M HiFi AudioDAC. If you’re like me, you probably have no clue what that is and how it stacks up against the competition. So, I read up on various forums and websites, and it became evident that this is a top-of-the-line chip, comparable to the likes of the high-end offerings of Snapdragon and Intel.
But what does this specific chip do? According to ESS’s website, its function is “a high-performance 32-bit, 2-channel audio D/A converter targeted for audiophile-grade portable applications such as mobile phones and digital music players”. It takes the instructions in binary (digital) and converts them to electric signals which drive your speakers. Yes, this happens most of the time, but the exception here is quality. The ZuperDAC, in short, uses a very capable chip to produce some of the best sound possible. On paper, that is.
The other chip that Zorloo mentions is the ESS Sabre ES9601 HiFi Headphone Amplifier. This is also a high-level chip that works with the previous one to smooth out the audio experience, including “powering up and down without any clicks or pops”, “maximizing battery life” and “minimizing circuit board size”. If you don’t understand some of that, that’s perfectly fine. All you need to know is that it’s a good thing for the greater audio experience.
Now’s also the ideal time to mention the size of a normal DAC. You’ll usually have to carry around a large device that looks like something along the lines of this:
Something like this, however, is comparably better in terms of audio, but you may be willing to lower your standards for something more portable.
There’s only one thing I would like to see different. It would be nice to have a little hole dug out the unit somewhere to hang from a lanyard, like you see on a memory stick. Especially as it’s so portable and may be carried around often.
How does ZuperDAC perform in real life?


 I always love receiving audio-related products. Plugging them in and waiting to see how good the product is results in both disappointments and surprises. Fortunately, it was the latter with ZuperDAC. After a quick download of the driver, I let my mixtape rip, the increased quality caught the attention of my ears and, albeit mediocre, I could definitely hear that it was better than normal. One thing that particularly caught my attention was the decreased static noise in the wee background, particularly on low-quality files.

It will route the audio to whichever output is plugged in first

The second time I plugged it in resulted in a slight annoyance. The volume was significantly lower and the volume controls were playing up, as it showed the volume as off on my laptop sceen. Putting it back in again soon rectified these problems and I believe it is an error with the Windows drivers as this did not happen on Ubuntu. I am happy to report that this has not happened again.
Screenshot (51)
Coming back to the audio, the DAC did not have a set audio output in terms of favoring bass or treble. Depending on your headset quality, this effect differs. Using a standard LG QuadBeat 3, a standard quality pair, both sides were equally affected. Using a higher-end Beyerdynamic DTX350P, the fuller potential of the set were realised as the bass was more heavy and affected more than the treble. This being said, any improvements were slight and were not overdone. They were minimal but sufficient to make a substantial difference. It was also particularly effective at bringing out small details that I never before noticed.
Screenshot (50)
There really are no negatives here. It does as advertised and offers a viable alternative to a full-blown DAC set. It would’ve been nice to see smoother drivers and maybe even an equalizer designed for ZuperDAC that can be used on your PC.

Daily Use

Now is a good time to state that you can use it with Android and iOS. Granted you have the adequate adapter cable (I did not in my case), you can connect your headset through the ZuperDAC audio jack which in turns goes into the USB OTG cord into your respective charging port. This is an alternative to Zorloo’s digital Earphones, in case you would like keep your specific headset.

ZuperDAC (right) offers a more portable and convenient HiFi solution as compared to the standard DAC unit

It will set you back a fair $79 ($74 + $5 for shipping) and is available in Gold and Silver. Keep in mind that this is a substitute for that big ‘oil DAC I was talking about earlier, which will save you both space and money.


Zorloo has created a nice product for your average consumer looking for perhaps a little bit more boom in their music without having to go all out. The strong, premium build of ZuperDAC is certainly pleasing. The price tag is complimented by the utilized audio chips and resulting audio quality.
If you are not an audiophile, you may be daunted by the price tag. All I can say is, don’t be. A high-end DAC can cost thousands of dollars, and while you may not be getting the entire package with ZuperDAC, it certainly is something designed for the average person. In this case, that is probably you.


You can purchase a unit here at Zorloo’s website, in either Silver or Gold.

The post ZuperDAC Review: A neat little audio enhancer appeared first on AndroidGuys.


ASUS Chromebit review – the little Chrome OS dongle that could


Current Google CEO Sundar Pichai once said he wanted to see Chrome and Android in every screen available, a goal that is now looking more real than ever. Android is obviously all over the spectrum, but there is a whole other beast Google has been very good at taking over the market with – Chrome OS.

This web-based operating system now exists on laptops, desktop computers and even all-in-one PCs. These are known as Chromebooks, Chromeboxes and Chromebases, but that is not where Google wants to let things end. This light, fast and affordable platform is now making its way into a new form-factor that allows more flexibility.


Today we are focusing on the ASUS Chromebit, a small dongle that can fit into any pocket and convert any HDMI-enabled screen into a full-fledged Chrome OS device. Yes, even your TV, likely the largest screen you own.

But what is the benefit here? That is something we will talk more about later in the review, but let me give you a little teaser here – the ASUS Chromebit is only $84.99. Interested? Keep reading for more details!

Buy the ASUS Chromebit from Amazon
Buy the ASUS Chromebit from Newegg

Design & build quality

Thinking back on how big computers needed to be just a decade ago, this thing does seem like a marvel. We used to own large boxes that took over a huge part of our desks. Now I find myself getting an ASUS Chromebit in the mail, in a box that could easily fit a glass. This thing fits right in the palm of my hand and can easily outperform my first desktop computer. If you want numbers, it measures in at 123 x 31 x 17 mm. That’s just digits, though, so I am better off telling you it is about the size of one of those wide highlighters we used to have back in school.

The ASUS Chromebit certainly doesn’t look bad, but it’s also nothing to write home about. And that’s a good thing! This is not a product you will be showing off to anyone. It will live behind your screen and stay hidden most of the time, something it does a very good job at. It is discrete, both in size and aesthetics.


What you probably will care about is whether it’s well-built or not. After all, this is a portable device of sorts. The idea is that you can use it at your living room, desk, work, presentations and even hotel room. This jack of all trades can do it all, so it needs to be built to withstand such lifestyle.

Hopefully the guys at ASUS never read this bit, but I actually dropped the Chromebit once. It fell out of my pocket and came out of this accident without a single scratch. Literally, the thing still looks new. This is pure testament of its good build quality, but you don’t need to mess up (like me) and put it to the test to know this. You can feel it right off the bat, the first time it lays on your hand.

Even if built mostly of plastic, the Chromebit definitely feels solid. It has a certain weight that let’s you know it’s definitely not a hollow product, a factor that gives off a level of security I never had with a Chromecast.

Hardware & specs

Let’s go through the externals first, shall we? Everything is pretty straight forward here. Uncover one end of the ASUS Chromebit and you will be presented with a full-sized HDMI connector. The box also includes an extension for those TVs that make it hard to connect this device directly to. On the other end we can find a USB 2.0 port for connecting all your peripherals and storage devices. There’s also a small power jack on the side, which is used to keep your mini PC alive.

Let me touch a bit on that energy system, though. It’s already bad enough that it uses a non-USB power port, but there are a couple other inconveniences I found here. For starters, you can’t plug this into the TV’s USB port and grab energy from there. This is justified, though, as it is a Chrome OS computer and needs more energy.


What really gets to me is that the included Power cable is uncomfortably short. I would say this cable is about 1.25 meters, which makes it a pain to plug in if your TV (or whatever screen you are using) is a tiny bit too far from an outlet.

How about them specs? Let’s go over them real quick.

  • Chrome OS
  • Rockchip quad-core RK3288C CPU
  • ARM Mali-T624 GPU
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of internal storage
  • 100 GB of Gogole Drive storage for 2 years
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0


Performance and OS

Now, the moment of truth. How good is the ASUS Chromebit as a computer? Let’s begin with the OS, which will really be what most of you will care about. That is because, like most other Chrome OS devices, the Chromebit is very good at some things, but very bad at others.

Keep in mind this pretty much runs a glorified version of the Chrome browser. Google has added plenty of offline features and apps to Chrome OS, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it heavily relies on an internet connection. Regardless, most people use computers for the internet alone, which is the whole idea behind the very existence of this operating system.

lg-g4-vs-samsung-galaxy-s6-edge-quick-look-aa-2-of-14See also: Best Android phones364

The only thing to keep in mind is that you will have to sacrifice popular programs that any user would otherwise have at their disposal when working with Windows, Mac OS X or Linux. Say goodbye to Photoshop, Lightroom, Microsoft Office, most games and any other program you would usually run natively from a PC. Everything is web-based (or limited).

That’s not to say the OS is bad, as there are plenty of benefits to be had with it. Keep in mind that because it is a web-based OS, it is also very light. Super light. This thing will boot up faster than any other computer. In fact, the Chromebit was usually on by the time my TV decided to boot up. And because it doesn’t need much resources, it can run very well without crazy specs.

This takes us to the next point – how well does the ASUS Chromebit perform? Those who have used a lower-end Chromebook will find a very similar experience going on here. The computer runs perfectly if you are a basic user. I was streaming Full HD videos with no issue, and I never saw any hiccups with casual usage. Nor did I find any bugs or problems.

My only gripe with the Chromebit is that those 2 GB of RAM are definitely not enough for any multi-tasker out there. I found that even having 4 tabs open started slowing down the machine, something that is simply unacceptable in my line of work.

ASUS-Chromebit-5But if you never really open 4 tabs or more, this may not be an issue at all. I mean, this is an $84 computer, after all. If multi-tasking is the only thing I can complain about, in terms of performance, I say ASUS is doing a really good job.

Should you buy the ASUS Chromebit?

With that, we come back to the question you asked yourself at the beginning of this review – should you buy an ASUS Chromebit? As it goes with most devices, the answer is not as simple as a “yes” or “no”. I will tell you this device is not for everyone, though. Who is it for?

It’s portability and affordable price point make it a great secondary computer for those who move around frequently, are always on-the-go, or need a good presentation machine. It will take care of all your browsing needs, as long as you don’t go nuts with multi-tasking. Now, things may be a bit more complicated if you want to make this your primary computer, but it’s definitely doable depending on your needs.

A casual user who simply wants to browse the web, visit social networks and stream movies/music will be satisfied. I can also see it being a great tool for public places (schools, hotels, libraries, etc.), as it is affordable and very easy to manage for IT departments. If you only need to use the web, don’t multi-task much and won’t need your traditional programs, this little dongle is great.

And the Chromebit definitely has its market, which is something I happen to be fond of… it has its purpose and place in the wide ecosystem of devices we own. I personally wouldn’t say the same about Chromeboxes, which sacrifice portability, screen and keyboard, yet cost about the same as a Chromebook. I just don’t see the point in that. But for $84.99, I can definitely get behind something like the ASUS Chromebit.

If you fit the category described above, it’s certainly a great buy. And at this price you would be hard-pressed to find anything better.

Buy the ASUS Chromebit from Amazon
Buy the ASUS Chromebit from Newegg


Battle of the minis: OnePlus X vs Xperia Z5 Compact vs Moto G

There has been an on-off trend by smartphone makers to release “mini” versions of their flagship handsets, in years gone by Samsung always had a “mini” version of its latest “S” device. However Samsung isn’t the only one playing the “mini” game. After the success of the OnePlus One, OnePlus decided to repackage the One’s internals into the OnePlus X, a smaller 5 inch device, down from 5.5 inches. This makes it the “mini” version of the OnePlus One and the Two. Sony likewise has mini (compact), normal and large (premium) versions of the Xperia Z5, and Motorola offers the Moto G (and to some extent the Moto E) as “mini” versions of its “X” range. But which is the best? To help you choose, here is my comparison of the OnePlus X versus the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact versus the Motorola Moto G.

But before we dive into the comparison, I just want to bring up the whole “5 inches is now a mini” thing. Over the last few years there has clearly been a trend towards larger screen phones. From the days of the 3.2 inch HTC Dream we have all become used to devices with screen sizes from 5.0 to 6 inches. With many of the flagship phones offering displays greater than 5 inches, it seems that now 5 inches is consider “mini.” So although I would have preferred to review phones smaller than 5 inches, it seems that the market has decided otherwise!


Before going on to look at these phones I think it is right to first look at the prices. Although these are all “mini” devices there is quite a big difference in how much they cost. At the top end is the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact. It is available in the UK from a variety of places and costs around £429 without a contract. In Europe you can buy it off contract directly from Sony for €599. For those of you in the USA, there is no news about when or if the Z5 series will be officially available there, however you can find it starting at about $520, but some listings go as high as $700.

Next comes the OnePlus X at $250 with 16GB of internal storage, half the price of the Z5 Compact. Finally is the Moto G which in the US can be bought for $179.99 with 8GB of internal storage, while the 16GB model costs $219.99.


Z5C-vs-X-vs-G-photos-30As well as a big difference in price, these three devices also differ significantly in terms of design. The design of the Z5 Compact should be instantly familiar to anyone who is acquainted with Sony’s other Z devices, particularly the Z3 Compact. It looks like the Z5 and Z5 Premium but in a much smaller body. It includes the signature button layout including the dedicated camera shutter button and a new large power button, which also houses a fingerprint reader. Overall the the Z5 Compact feels nice in the hand and is easy to handle, mainly due to its size and symmetrical design.

Z5-Compact-05See also: Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review64

The OnePlus X has dual glass panels and a metal frame which gives the device a premium feel, way above its price point. The metal frame utilizes micro-cuts that contribute a lot to the handling experience without scraping the skin or feeling uncomfortable to the touch. While the Z5 Compact has a dedicated camera button, the OnePlus X has a dedicated Alert Slider which allows you to switch between “Do not disturb” mode, that silences the device completely; priority only interruptions; or normal “All notifications” mode.

oneplusxSee also: OnePlus X review36

The Moto G is certainly the bulkiest of these three devices, mainly due to its curved back. But with the curved back (and the plastic mid-plate the comes down from the camera lens to the Motorola dimple) you also get access to Moto Maker, which means, along with swappable back plates, users can now bring customization to the next level. Through Motorola’s website, you’ll be able to choose your front, back and accent colors, as well as add personal engravings on the phone’s back. As well as this high level of customization the Moto G also has front facing speakers (as does the Z5 Compact) and IPX7 water resistance, which means that it can withstand immersion in water up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes.

moto-gSee also: Motorola Moto G 2015 review43

So which has the best design? That depends on what you want. The ability to customize the Moto G with Moto Maker is very attractive for those who want to personally define their phone’s look and feel. Having said that, the Moto G is certainly bulkier than the Z5 Compact and the OnePlus X. Unfortunately Sony has managed to put the volume rocker in the worst possible place on the Z5 Compact, which I personally see as a major design flaw. What that means is this, if you want subtle, slim and elegant then the OnePlus X has the better design, if you want customization and bright colors then go with the Moto G.


Z5C-vs-X-vs-G-photos-12Two of our three phones have a 720p HD display, while the other features a full HD screen. You might think since the Z5 Compact is the most expensive of the three then that would be the device with the HD display, but you would unfortunately be wrong. The Z5 Compact comes with a 4.6-inch display with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 323 ppi. Although it must be said that the resolution and pixel density work perfectly for such a small display, you are left feeling that for the price you should be getting something more. Having said that, the color reproduction is good, due to the Triluminos display with the X-REALITY Engine enhancements.

The OnePlus X features a 5-inch AMOLED display with a 1920 x 1080 full HD resolution (441 ppi). Overall the display experience is excellent with everything you would expect from an AMOLED screen, including deep blacks and good levels of contrast. OnePlus has also taken advantage of the AMOLED display tech in its software by including an Ambient Display feature. It is triggered by waving your hand over the proximity sensor, which causes the screen to show a minimal version of the lockscreen for a quick glance at your notifications and the clock.

That leaves the Moto G, which features a 720p display. Unfortunately because the device uses a 5 inch display (up from 4.5 inches found in the original Moto G), the pixel density is the lowest in our group at just 294 pixels per inch. However the display is IPS, which gives good viewing angles and the screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3.

Clearly the OnePlus X is the winner here, Full HD and AMOLED, there isn’t much more you can ask for.


Z5C-vs-X-vs-G-photos-13Although the Z5 Compact has a smaller screen, Sony has not compromised on the internals. The Z5 Compact uses an octa-core Snapdragon 810 backed by the Adreno 430 GPU and 2GB of RAM. There is 32GB of internal storage and the option to add more via a microSD card.

The Z5 Compact is IP65 and IP68 waterproof rated, which according to Sony means you don’t need to worry if you get caught in the rain or want to wash off dirt under a tap. As for sound, the Z5 Compact features dual front facing speakers meaning that the sound is always projected directly upwards and outwards. The speakers can get quite loud (for a 4.6 inch phone) however at the highest volumes the sound loses depth and can be a bit “squeaky”.

When it comes to the battery, the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact packs a 2,700 mAh unit, which is more than enough for a smaller phone like this. You should be able to get 5 hours of screen on time over a period of between 36 and 42 hours of standby. It also supports Quick Charge 2.0 and don’t forget the fingerprint reader.

Unlike the Z5 Compact and the Moto G, the OnePlus X uses a 32-bit processor rather than a 64-bit processor. This may seem like a real disadvantage for the OnePlus X, however the good news is that the company picked one of the best 32-bit processors available, the Snapdragon 801. In addition to the performance figures which I give below, you can find out more about how the Snapdragon 801 compares to its 64-bit rivals in my comparison of the Snapdragon 810 vs the Exynos 7420 vs the MediaTek Helio X10 vs the Kirin 935.

The X offers dual SIM support, however the secondary SIM slot also doubles as a microSD card slot, which will certainly be appreciated, since the 16 GB of on-board storage will not be enough for many people. On the battery front, the OnePlus X packs a 2,525 mAh unit, which is pretty standard for a phone of this size. With moderate usage, the device allows for around 3 hours of screen-on time, which is pretty average, however good when you consider the price point. The standby time is also quite impressive, with due credit being given to the AMOLED display and features like Ambient Display and Dark Mode. Unfortunately there is no fast charging functionality.

It is worth mentioning that the OnePlus X doesn’t fully support 4G LTE in the USA because it lacks a couple of key bands. Although the international coverage is much better, those in the US should think twice before getting this phone if 4G is a requirement.

As I mentioned previously, the Moto G packs a 64-bit processor, however it isn’t a high-end 64-bit processor. That doesn’t mean it is lacking in terms of every day usage, however it isn’t going to break any speed records. Accompanying the Snapdragon 410 processor is 1GB of RAM on the 8GB model and 2GB RAM on the 16GB model. If you are buying a Moto G I would really recommend going for the 16GB version for both the extra storage and the extra RAM.

Although Motorola has included a removable back cover, the 2470mAh battery is non-removable. However, that shouldn’t be a problem as the the Moto G delivers impressive battery life. You should be able to get around 5 hours of screen on time over a 16 to 18 hour day. If you do run out of charge, however, the lack of quick charging means it takes over two hours to charge from full, so you’ll want to plan your charging accordingly.

In terms of hardware the Z5 Compact is the clear winner here. You get a flagship processor, 2GB of RAM, NFC, a fingerprint reader, front facing speakers and a good battery. Of course, the Z5 Compact has that premium price, so we should expect flagship internals. When it comes to the other two, the processor is better in the OnePlus X, however consumers in the USA might be better off with the Moto G.


Z5C-vs-X-vs-G-Epic-CitadelIn terms of general performance the Snapdragon 810 in the Z5 Compact provides a snappy user experience. The UI is smooth and there aren’t any lags, you won’t find yourself wishing there was a different CPU in the phone. The gaming experience is also very good, in fact the Z5 Compact manages an impressive 58.5 fps for Epic Citadel in Ultra High Quality mode. As for AnTuTu, the device managed a top score of 62,130, while on Geekbench it managed 1306 (single-core) and 4295 (multi-core). For CPU Prime Benchmark the Z5 Compact scored 20771.

The Snapdragon 801 is still a great processor package, however don’t expect the same performance levels as the Snapdragon 810. For daily tasks, like writing emails, listening to music, watching the occasional video, and general web browsing, the OnePlus X doesn’t skip a beat. However Josh Vergara did notice the occasional little stutters during his review. These may be due to further refinements needed to Oxygen OS (OnePlus’ replacement for Cyanogen after the very public bust up between the two companies), as it isn’t something I experienced when I reviewed the Snapdragon 801 powered ZUK Z1.

In terms of benchmarks the OnePlus X scored 37956 on AnTuTu, 914 (single-core) and 2528 (multi-core) on Geekbench, and 12160 on CPU Prime Benchmark. When running Epic Citadel the X manages 39.1 fps in Ultra High Quality mode, however it does much better in High Quality mode with 52.3 fps.

The Moto G is the slowest of the devices scoring 23252 on AnTuTu, 528 (single-core) and 1574 (multi-core) on Geekbench, and 3217 on CPU Prime Benchmark. For Epic Citadel the Moto G manages 30.6 fps in Ultra High Quality mode and 56.4 fps in High Quality mode.

Device AnTuTu Geekbench CPU Prime Benchmark Epic Citadel
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact 62130 1306 (single-core), 4295 (multi-core) 20771 58.5 fps (Ultra High Quality mode), 58.7 fps (High Quality mode)
OnePlus X 37956 914 (single-core), 2528 (multi-core) 12160 39.1 fps (Ultra High Quality mode), 52.3 fps (High Quality mode)
Motorola Moto G 23252 528 (single-core), 1574 (multi-core) 3217 30.6 fps (Ultra High Quality mode), 56.4 fps (High Quality mode)

Looking at the performance results it is clear that you get what you pay for. The better the performance, the more the device costs. The Z5 Compact is the winner, however in terms of price/performance the OnePlus X has lots to offer.


On paper the camera in the Z5 Compact should be the best in our group. The Z5 Compact uses a 23 MP Sony Exmor RS sensor, a wide angle 24mm G Lens, and offers 4K video recording. Also the built-in app has lots of features way beyond just HDR and Panorama. In reality the results from the Z5 Compact have been disappointing when compared to other flag ship phones. In this lineup the Z5 Compact’s camera performs as well as the others, but not better.

The OnePlus X comes with a 13 MP rear camera that uses phase detection autofocus and leverages HDR. The camera application is the same as the one found in the OnePlus 2, which uses swipes on the viewfinder in order to switch between various modes, including slow motion video, time lapse, and panorama. There isn’t much manual control available, aside from basically just being able to trigger HDR.

The OnePlus X is guilty of some classic pitfalls. It’s great in good lighting conditions, but quality deteriorates drastically as conditions worsen, and taking a shot will always require a very steady hand. This actually becomes more of an issue with video capture, which gets a bit choppy more often than not. For a daily shooter, the OnePlus X requires a little more diligence to get good shots, but for its price point, we don’t fault the camera too much for that, unless your focus is video recording.

The Moto G features a 13 megapixel rear with an f/2.0 aperture and dual LED flash. The sensor is the same one that Motorola used in the Nexus 6 and it features a HDR mode plus it is capable of shooting 1080p video. In daylight, the camera produces colors that are vibrant and captures an impressive amount of detail. In particular, HDR mode makes a big difference to images and does a good job in lighting up shadows. Daylight performance is definitely impressive, but sadly, as the sun drops so does the camera performance.

Here are some comparison shots so you can see for yourself:

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Motorola Moto G

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The Z5 Compact comes with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop by default and it will receive an upgrade to Android 6.0 Marshmallow at some point in the future. Sony has added a light skin on top of stock Android and also included extra features and Sony related apps. As well as the software for managing the fingerprint reader there is a myriad of device connection options including the ability to wirelessly play content from your Xperia to other devices (i.e. Sony TVs), screen mirroring, connecting to Playstation controllers, and MirrorLink. There is also a theme library. Under Power management there are several different power saving modes available including STAMINA mode, Ultra STAMINA mode, and Low-battery mode.

sony marshmallow android 6.0 logoSee also: This is Sony’s Concept for Marshmallow, and it’s very promising81

The OnePlus X comes with OnePlus’ Oxygen OS, which brings a mostly stock-looking Android edition to the OnePlus X. Much of it is really familiar, since it is based on Android 5.1.1, and the Lollipop inspired interface includes a paginated app drawer and a Quick Settings menu. OnePlus have added a new feature called Shelf, where frequent apps, favorite contacts, and user-defined widgets can be stored. More input options are available, with users given the choice between capacitive keys or on screen navigation keys, and gestures like double tap to wake are to be found as well.

The Moto G features a near-pure Android experience (Android 5.1.1), meaning you’ll have access to the Google Now launcher, with just a couple Motorola-specific apps thrown into the mix. The first of those is Moto Display, which shows you waiting notifications or the time automatically when you pick the handset up or pull it out of your pocket. Moto Display is very useful when you consider how many people don’t carry a watch and check the time on their phone and it definitely helps improve the battery if you are one of them. There is also Quick Gestures, which let you accomplish simple things easily. A double flick of the wrist turns the flashlight on or off, while a double twist of the wrist launches the camera. However, this latter feature can be a little too responsive meaning you might activate the camera just by picking up the phone from a table.

If you want a stock Android experience then you will get that from the Moto G, if you are looking for a more customized version of Android then the Z5 Compact or the OnePlus X could give you what you are looking for. Overall, the three devices offer a good software experience and you won’t be disappointed with any of them.


  Sony Xperia Z5 Compact OnePlus X Motorola Moto G
Display 4.6-inch IPS LCD display, 720p resolution, 323ppi 5-inch display, 1920 x 1080 resolution, Gorilla Glass 3 5.0-inch IPS LCD display, 720 x 1280 resolution, Gorilla Glass 3
Processor 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 Qualcomm 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 1.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
GPU Adreno 430 Adreno 330 Adreno 306
RAM 2GB 3GB 1 or 2GB
Storage 32GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 200GB 16GB, microSD expansion up to 128GB 8 or 16GB, microSD expansion up to 32GB
Software Android 5.1 Lollipop, Sony’s customized UI Oxygen OS (based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop) Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
SIM card Nano SIM Nano SIM, dual compatible (but uses microSD slot) Micro SIM
Dual SIM No Yes No
Water resistance IP65 / IP68 certification, capless USB None IPX7
Quick Charge 2.0 Yes No No
Cameras Sony Exmor RS 23MP rear-facing camera, Sony Exmor R 5MP front-facing camera 13MP ISOCELL 3M2 CMOS with f/2.2 rear-facing camera. 8MP front camera 13MP rear-facing camera, 5MP front-facing camera
Battery Non-removable 2,700mAh battery Non-removable 2,525 mAh LiPo battery Non-removable 2470mAh
Dimensions 127 x 65 x 8.9mm, 138g 140 x 69 x 6.9 mm, 138g 142.1 x 72.4 x 11.6mm, 155g


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Final thoughts

When many OEMs produce a “mini” smartphone it is often a cut down version of an existing (and popular) model. Not so with Sony, the Z5 Compact is a true flag ship device but with a smaller screen. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its drawbacks, the price being one, however if you want the same performance as you would get from the Z5 or the Z5 Premium, but in a smaller form factor, then the Z5 Compact is a good choice.

However the price tag on the Z5 Compact isn’t for everyone’s pockets, and to some extent I am not sure that the extra money buys you all that much. You can actually buy a OnePlus X and a Moto G together for the same price as a Z5 Compact! The Moto G still stands out as the best budget smartphone around, however don’t expect break neck performance from the device. As for the OnePlus X, it has set a new standard for entry-level phones, it is a shame that it isn’t fully compatible with 4G LTE networks in the USA.

Read next:

If I had $550 to spend on a small phone, which one would I buy? Honestly I would probably get two OnePlus X handsets (since I live in Europe), or maybe a OnePlus X, a 16GB Moto G and use the change to treat my family to a nice day out.


Quickly charge your devices on the go with iClever Dual USB Car Charger (review)

As a pest control technician, I have to drive everywhere, so car chargers are very important for me. With The iClever Dual USB Car Charger, I can now quickly charge my devices as I drive from A to B.


The dual charger has a slick design that allows you to charge up to two devices at the same time. It has a relatively small profile, making it fit easily into any power outlet your vehicle has, without poking out too much, while giving you peace of mind that you will have enough power for your devices. The charger easily slides in and out of the power socket, but not too easily. Once in, it will stay put until you are ready to unplug it.

Just like iClever’s desktop chargers, this car charger also features their Smart I.D. technology. This means that whatever device you plug in will charge at its max rate. Now, if you are using your phone to listen to music, as I do, or have multiple processes running, this may potentially slow down your charge speed, but not by much.


The design is pretty small, for a dual port charger. Once plugged in, it sticks out less than half an inch. IMG_5247The width is about and inch, so it shouldn’t interfere with anything else in your vehicle. It also has a blue indicator light, telling you if you have power or not. This light is only visible through the USB ports, so if you have something plugged in, it is not visible at that point.

With other car chargers, I have had issues where they either slide out too easily or it feels like I will yank the entire dashboard out with it. With iClever, they have designed it the charger to slide in and out with ease while staying in place until you are ready to remove it.


I have gotten the best use out of this charger while I work. I typically drive anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour to get to a customer, and usually about an hour and a half to get back home. Ever since getting this charger, I haven’t had to worry about what my screen brightness is, or whether my GPS is on. At least, not while I’m at work.

For regular use, this is still a great charger. Small trips can help to maintain your current charge levels, such as to the gas station or grocery store. This is definitely a must have if you are planning a road trip.



I absolutely love this car charger, not only because of the quality but also the price. The iClever Dual USB Car Charger is currently on sale at Amazon for $9.99.

The post Quickly charge your devices on the go with iClever Dual USB Car Charger (review) appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Pebble Time Round review

Buy now from Amazon

Something we all want from our smartwatches is to have them look as close to an actual watch as possible. Of course, some of the latest Android Wear releases can certainly be considered fashionable, and more importantly, indistinguishable from regular timepieces. However, the biggest hurdle faced by these devices is their size, something that can easily be seen, and always felt, with most current generation smartwatches being thick enough to pale in comparison to the sleek analog watches that are available.

Pebble hopes to address this issue with the latest addition to the popular Time series, along with this device also being their first foray into the circular watch face game. How does this new smartwatch fare amidst increasing competition? We find out, in this in-depth review of the Pebble Time Round!

thumb pebble time editors (1 of 1)Don’t miss: Pebble Time review33


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The big story with the Pebble Time Round is its circular display, which is a first for the wearable maker. As technology has improved over the past few years, circular smartwatches have been growing in popularity, and Pebble is now trying to bring their Time series into the growing group of round smartwatches released this year. With that said, there is a lot more to the design aspect of this device than its circular watch face.

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The metal-constructed round body is made splash resistant rather than completely water resistant, and is something that will take some getting used to. It does make sense, though, given Pebble’s larger focus on this being more of a traditional timepiece and less of a tech wearable. To that end, lugs on the top and bottom are also available to accommodate either 20mm or thinner 14mm watch bands.

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Another aspect you will notice right off the bat is just how thin the Pebble Time Round is, and when compared to just about any other smartwatch out there, the Round comes out looking much sleeker. This also makes it far more accessible for anyone with smaller wrists. Of course, the body is thick enough to make room for the up, down, select, and back navigation buttons, as that still remains the primary mode of input, given the lack of a touchscreen display. The buttons do make for a somewhat weird back, where the charging port is also found towards the top. That isn’t something anyone will see when the device is on your wrist, though. The buttons feel solid and offer good tactile feedback, which is great, since these buttons will be used a lot.

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The Pebble Time Round is the lightest smartwatch we’ve used to date

Pebble’s commitment to making an incredibly fashionable smartwatch continues with their choice of bands, which include leather and metal options – both of which nicely complement the silver, black, and rose gold bodies. The leather band seen in this review feels really nice on the wrist, and doesn’t take away from what is quite literally the lightest smartwatch we’ve used to date. You actually won’t realize that you are wearing the Pebble Time Round most of the time, up until you have to take it off to charge.

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The Pebble Time Round is simply one of the best looking smartwatches available now, not because of what it packs in, but rather because it prioritizes minimalism. Granted, there are a few features that had to go by the wayside in order to make this thin body work. But if you’re looking for a smartwatch that is as easy on the eyes as it is easy to wear, the Pebble Time Round is definitely worthy of your attention.


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The switch to a round display means a new way of fitting information on the color-capable e-paper display, but Pebble has managed to handle the round design beautifully. Speaking of the display itself, e-paper means that the watch is easy to view in bright conditions, with a back light available when in poorly-lit situations. In broad daylight, however, the Round has the same issue as the original Pebble Time, and it can get tough to really see the elements on the display. The back light can also be a bit strong in low-light conditions, but the intensity can be lowered in the Settings menu.

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The only real issue we had with the display is triggering the back light

The only real issue we had with the display is triggering the back light easily, which sometimes required the wrist movement to be overly aggressive to make it happen. The 2.5D Gorilla Glass panel also gives the display a nice sheen, but a bit of a peeve we have is with the bezel. The issue isn’t just with how thick the bezel is, but also with regards to how it is used.

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The silver version of the watch, as seen in this review, comes with minute markings all around the bezel, and as such, some may prefer the black edition, that comes with either hour designations or nothing at all. This meant that I was torn between getting a digital watch face, or using an analog one to properly utilize those minute markings. Luckily, the Pebble Store does have plenty of good looking options to choose from. Of course, the bezel can also be covered with a skin of some sort if it is a big deal for you, but even if it isn’t, it is definitely something that you will notice.


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Similar to what we got with the Pebble Time, performance on the Time Round is snappy and smooth. We hardly experienced any issues with apps. Apps and watch faces are installed from the accompanying smartphone application, and doing so is a pretty easy experience. After that, the apps are either standalone on the watch, or require a companion application on the phone.

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In either instance, we’ve had a good time using apps like the Pomodoro Timer, or even a sleep tracking app, without any issues. In an upgrade from the first-generation Pebble devices, the various Time editions can also save what the current app is doing, even if it gets covered up with an incoming notification. The Time operating system is able to perform most tasks without any issues, and provides a smooth overall experience.


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Hardware on the Pebble Time Round is actually rather simplistic, and with this essentially being a smartwatch that requires pairing to a smartphone, Wi-Fi and mobile network connectivity aren’t a focus. For that matter, there are no extras like a heart rate monitor either, but there will supposedly be smart straps available in the future that will add this function.

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Voice input is quite good on the Pebble Time Round

What you do get is the standard Bluetooth connection, with a microphone underneath the buttons on the right side for voice input. Voice input is quite good on the Pebble Time Round, and only in the loudest of environments is it difficult to perform proper dictation. For most purposes, such as replying to messages, we didn’t have much trouble with it. When the watch needs to alert the user about anything, it uses the vibration. While effective, the smaller body does mean that the vibration is a little weaker than we’d ultimately like it to be.

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Battery life on the Pebble Time Round is a big deal, and unfortunately not in a good way, with it being the first smartwatch by the company to not boast exceptionally long battery life. While the Time and the original Pebbles last for a week, or even more, the Time Round is only able to squeeze out around 2 days. This does make sense though, given how thin the device is, and is a compromise that just had to be made for the sake of aesthetics. Of course, two days isn’t terrible given its competition, and you can get more with lower usage if you only focus on notifications. Still, battery life is disappointing given what was possible with its predecessors. Charging the Pebble Time Round is incredibly fast however, with only about 20 to 30 minutes required to get back a full charge from 0 percent.


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On the software side of things, we have the round version of the Pebble Time OS, and the transition to this new shape has been smooth, for the most part. What we do love about the Time OS is its nice transitions and sometimes cute animations, that make for a fun experience that is still very functional.

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Going through the app list requires hitting the up and down buttons a lot, and this is the same input method within any and all applications as well. Even the animations that are just for the Time Round are nice eye candy, like an iris animation when going backward in the interface. The Timeline is the main addition here, where you can go up or down from the watch face to see future events, reminders, and other useful information. If you aren’t much of a calendar user already, this might not strike you as a must-have function, but after installing one of the few apps in the store than can convert voice input into reminders, the Timeline can prove to be a good tool.

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Notable developers still haven’t brought their apps to the Round

To that end, applications are the crux of the Pebble experience, providing a layer on top of what is primarily a good notification center. That said, with the transition to a round body, applications had to be changed in order to utilize the space better, and that conversion is not yet complete. For example, Yelp and Evernote have yet to make their applications available for the Round, which is a little disappointing, but will hopefully be rectified soon. Certain apps do make the Round their home however, like Solanum, a Pomodoro style app, and Note to Self, which takes voice input and uses key phrases to insert what is said into the Timeline.

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It is easy to find uses for the Pebble Time software, even past the main the function as a method to see notifications from your phone. If you have never used a smartwatch as a way to keep your phone in your pocket, you should definitely try it. Customization is still alive and well in the Pebble ecosystem, and with an even better looking body to surround it all, a little due diligence can certainly make the Time Round a worthy companion to have on your wrist.


Pricing and final thoughts

thumb editors pebble time round aa (1 of 1)

You can buy a Pebble Time Round with a leather strap directly from Pebble’s website for $249, with the metal band versions going for $50 more. The smartwatch can be found much cheaper on Amazon right now, however.

editors choice awardSo there you have it, for this in-depth look at the Pebble Time Round! For its design and the well-performing functions this smartwatch offers, users will look to the Time Round as the watch they want when simplistic elegance is the order of the day, and that is exactly what this device is able to achieve. For most users, being able to see notifications, and in most cases, respond to them is the core of a smartwatch, and Pebble has certainly delivered that.

Where other smartwatches fail is in their feature sets – not because these features aren’t good, but because the design has to suffer to make room for them. The Time Round is the anti-thesis of this trend in smartwatches, and by prioritizing simplicity, it is probably the first device that can be recommended to anybody. If you really do need a heart rate monitor, the ability to make calls from your wrist, or even use the device for mobile connectivity, then this isn’t the device for you. What you do get here is simplicity, elegance, and one of the best looking smartwatches we’ve seen all year.

Buy now from Amazon

The fierce competition

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Quickly charge all your devices with the iClever 4-port USB Rapid Desktop Charger (review)

As our demand for wireless technology increases, so does our need to charge our new devices. With the iClever 4 port USB desktop charger, you can easily charge all your devices.


The iClever desktop charger plugs right into your wall, making it super easy to charge any four devices at once. It also features Smart I.D. technology, enabling it to instantly recognize the type of device and then charge it as fast as your device will allow. Now, this isn’t anything like the fast charge feature of the Samsung Galaxy S6, nor will all your devices charge at the exact same rate. Each port has a max output of about 5 volts. I had my personal phone, work phone, and wireless earphones plugged in, all of which were fully charged within 1-3 hours.




The charger has a very slim, black design, making it very portable and allowing it to easily fit wherever you need it, such as a nightstand, counter/desktop, or the floor. Unfortunately, this also makes it hard to stay upright once you plug in your devices. If you have room, laying it on its side won’t be a problem. If you need it upright, readjusting your USB cables should keep it upright. If iClever made it with a slightly wider base or a separate base mount, that would correct this issue.

The sides are made of a matted rubber type texture around the exterior, which looks great, but makes it very prone to smudge marks, so be careful. The front and back sides have a glossy plastic, which are easier to clean, so I would recommend holding the charger by these ends when plugging in your cables.


The best use for this charger will be wherever you are. If you are at home, you can have all your devices plugged in through one outlet, eliminating the need to have a bulky power strip. With a bit of cable management, it can also make it easy to keep your work or personal space more organized as well.

With the slim design, you can also take it on the go, making it easy to charge up if you get to a location that has limited power outlets, such as a hotel, restaurant, cyber cafe or coffee shop. For sure, this is a must have device when you are traveling.



I really like this charger. The size is great and well worth the price. It is on sale at Amazon for $14.99

The post Quickly charge all your devices with the iClever 4-port USB Rapid Desktop Charger (review) appeared first on AndroidGuys.


V-Moda Zn in-ear headphones review: Zinc metal shows its beauty inside and out

If you’re an on-the-go music lover and haven’t heard of V-MODA, you really should. It is a relatively new company (compared to the likes of renowned brands like Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, or Shure), but has climbed up the ranks very quickly as a result of stellar headphone sound and design. The team at V-MODA knows how to tune the audio presentation to really connect with listeners and get our hearts pumping. The engineers also put a large focus on quality, building the hardware like a tank and ready for your abuse.

On top of that, V-MODA’s leader, Val Kolton, consistently puts a large influence on a compelling design. He thinks headphones make a statement, like a fashion accessory, and they better look good on your head.

Up until now, most of V-MODA’s success has been attributed to on-the-head products. It’s been several years since we’ve seen attention given to fans of in-ear headphones. Well, now that has changed. Allow me to introduce the V-MODA Zn.


This isn’t just another earbud. V-MODA has taken its development experience over the years and shrunk it down to something that can stand with the rest of its lineup. These little guys were given special attention, down to the unique use of liquid Zinc metal in their construction. Let’s check out if the Zn lives up to the anticipation.


The experience with each V-MODA product begins at the unboxing. There’s always a red strip on the on the box that you have to cut (Val Kolton describes this as a ribbon cutting ceremony). Pushing up from a slit on the bottom reveals the product presentation.


Remember how I said that the company sees headphones as fashion accessories? It feels like you’re opening the box to a piece of jewelry. The layout shows the earpieces on top, the 3-button remote, the metal y-splitter, and the other sizes of eartips.

Being a V-MODA product, there’s a lot of interesting things to talk about in the Zn’s design. The cool and striking look that the company typically devotes to its headphones wasn’t abandoned just because this is a small product.


At the same time, the Zn gets its own design signature. You won’t necessarily be able to tell at first glance that it’s made by V-MODA, but it won’t surprise you to find that out either.

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Just as impressive as the edgy design is the clever use of material. The Zn’s construction is mostly plastic. And it’s not an expensive-feeling plastic either. But the design draws your attention two ways: with the use of depth and a unconventional metal – Zinc (hence the product’s name, “Zn” is the element’s abbreviation).

V-MODA advertises the exotic housing as “liquid Zinc metal”. It’s so unique in fact that the product is labeled “Limited Edition” because the alloy isn’t so easy to come by.

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And it isn’t just for looks. The Zinc metal mold is the acoustic chamber for the driver. Therefore, the sound you get out of these is like no other.

Although the plastic surround isn’t at all interesting itself, V-MODA uses it cleverly for a striking presentation. The contrast of the plastic against the shiny metal alloy portrays an elegant roughness. The metal is a gem that must live encapsulated in a guardian’s clasp. Yet, despite that fate, the beauty is still able to mightily shine through and let the world know that something special lies within. Why I call it clever is because V-MODA does this to tell a story while countering the cost of the unique material.

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The attention to detail continues down through the cord. There’s a reinforcing fabric weave (Kevlar) that wraps around the length of the cable. Dubbed DiamondBack, the cable is claimed to be 20x stronger than the industry standard and can withstand frequent bending like a champ.

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If you’ve known V-MODA, you know durability is a big priority in its design. The Zn is no exception, the build carries a military-level MIL-STD-105 robustness standard.

And not forgetting that this is in-ear model (which moves in and out of your pocket), V-MODA also thought about the cord’s shrink-wrapping material. It has a particular substance/finish that inhibits tangles. If I haven’t been clear about it yet, V-MODA engineers the heck out of its devices.

The Zn’s sound is produced by a 8mm dynamic driver, which follows conventional speaker driver technology. A lot of high-end in-ears have moved on to balanced armature (BA) drivers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re superior. There are pros and cons to both methods. Sennheiser was another manufacturer not convinced with BA drivers for superior acoustics and stuck with a dynamic driver in its flagship in-ear, the IE 800.

Regardless, V-MODA has made sure that the sound performance is up to its high standards. Therefore, the meticulous tuning is supplemented with “limited” (made in Italy) custom-made filters between the driver and housing. V-MODA refers to the special filters as the “gatekeepers of golden acoustics”.

Generously, the Zn’s packaging also includes a leather carrying case. The flap secures via a magnetic connection.


Inside the case, you’ll find another set of eartips (clear) and ear hooks.

The eartips are easy to remove and replace. On the stem of the earpiece, there’s a notch that secures the tip in place and a metal mesh that protects the sound tube from earwax.



So V-MODA greatly thinks about design, how about functionality and comfort?

In-ear headphones are largely dependent on eartips. Not just in regard to fit, but also sound quality. If they don’t create a seal within your ear canal, you’ll miss out on detail. Eartip material also effects sound quality. Silicone tips generally promote bass more than foam, but foam tips isolate much better.

V-MODA believes it found a good compromise, with a custom silicone eartip. Dubbed BLISS (Bass Level Isolating Soft Silicone) 3.0 Fittings, it claims the best from both worlds – isolation and strong bass.


Sound-wise, I’m totally on board with this eartip. In the accessory kit, V-MODA includes a different set of eartips (clear) with thinner silicone and less impactful response. Use the black tips, they do wonders. The passive isolation isn’t as good as foam, but once you get music going, everything else is drowned out.

The small size of the earpieces means the entire housings will go into your ears. My only complaint is that to remove them, it’s easiest to pull from the cord. This isn’t ideal; cord attachments are generally a vulnerability (the Zn’s earpieces are not removable from the cable). But I’m confident in V-MODA’s construction.

My only other concern was that the largest included eartip was just barely enough for me to get an appropriate seal. But this is a “your milage may vary” thing. My ear canal’s aren’t the smallest. However, I know that other manufacturers include a wider variety of sizes, so I would recommend V-MODA to follow suit.

In addition to my previous praise about the Zn’s cord, I also want to gladly mention that the length is considerable. Skimped length is often a complaint with headphones, but that isn’t a problem whatsoever here. The total length from earpiece to plug is 46″ (13″ from earpiece to y-splitter, and then 33″ to plug).

Zinc metal on the y-splitter is a very nice touch (subtly flashy). Having had a pair of Sennheiser CX985 before, I was initially worried. The weight of the metal on the CX985 gave my earpieces an annoying downward pull. Fortunately, the metal V-MODA chose is really light, feels like it’s not even there.

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From the split, on the right cord, there’s a 3-button remote with a microphone on the back. The Zn is offered in two different models, solely because of the separation between Android and Apple. Unfortunately, Apple wins out here. Full functionality of the 3-button remote only works for Apple devices. Rather than prepare a separate 3-button remote for Android, V-MODA only removed the buttons that didn’t work (volume up and down) and made a one-button variant of the Zn. You can still use the 3-button model on an Android phone (that is the review unit I was given in fact), but the volume buttons won’t work. In other words, V-MODA only made a separate one-button remote variant purely for aesthetics. Being a writer for an Android site, I predictably recommend V-MODA to give Android devices equal attention in the future :)

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Pressing the center button play/pauses music, while holding it activates the open mic feature of the device it’s connected to (i.e. Siri or Google Now). You can of course also use it to pick up incoming calls.

Val Kolton is a big proponent of using headphones when you exercise. Therefore, an included accessory is an attachable earhook for cord stability when moving around a lot. This also helps a ton with cable microphonics if that’s a common concern in your lifestyle.



*For my sound trials, I used the LG V10 (HiFi SABRE 9018 DAC setting) and Tidal HiFi music samples.

DSC04850 (2)

Let’s get to the real testimony of this review – the sound. I’m going to start at the best aspect and then descend downward.

I cannot praise the low-end reproduction of these earphones enough. The bass detail and depth is simply amazing. It is a staggering feat for earphones to reproduce such a weighty bass response. It actually bests many full headphones I’ve heard. The moment you don the Zn and turn the tunes on, the impact of the entire low-end range strikes you. It’s emotional, expansive, and game-changingThe awe leaves me searching for an explanation to its magicThe acoustic walls of the Zinc housing are probably part of the answer, but I think the eartips are also complicit to the audio genius.

But the superb bass is not the only feat. The soundstage presentation is right behind it. Here, I look to the custom tuning filters for the explanation, which are said to control the airflow mechanics. The ambient reach of the acoustics feels physics-defying. I hear the placement and distance of instruments like no other earphone has allowed before. It is incredible.

The treble to me is an interesting animal. Detail is certainly captured, and the Zn can definitely reach far to surface the little nuances. But it’s not the cleanest reproduction I’ve heard, and sometimes I get little peaks of sibilance in higher-pitched instruments. Also, the transition between mid and high frequencies isn’t seamless – which leads to the next part of the discussion.

V-MODA’s front-runner headphone has long been the Crossfade M-100 over-ears, which follows a V-shaped sound signature. “V-shaped” means that the midrange frequencies are recessed to an extent in favor for a prominence of bass and treble. The Zn follows suit but I find the dynamic difference a bit more disruptive than with the M-100.

It may have to do with a compromise to get the favored frequencies shining, but the presence of the mids is average to me. Vocals sound like they’re at the dead center of your head and don’t exhibit the airy-ness that is adored from other sounds. The laid-back nature also makes vocals less intimate. Also, any melodies in that region (i.e. guitar riffs) are not as impactful and full as I feel they should be.

That doesn’t mean that the mids are bad whatsoever. They are detailed, clear, and accurate. It’s a relative comparison. V-MODA set the bar very high with other elements of the sound, I’m just saying that the mids don’t reach that voluminous level.

Part of that criticism stems from having owned V-MODA’s XS on-ears (which proceeded the M-100). The XS have a neutral sound signature and more lush mids. I would’ve liked to see this progression continue.

Final Thoughts


Through everything that’s been said, I ultimately hope you’ve captured my excitement. The attention to detail in every regard to an in-ear headphone is impeccable with the Zn. After going years without a strong in-ear offering, I am not only glad that V-MODA finally delivered, but love that it is one of the best earphones that money can now buy.

Even in spite of owning considerably higher costing earphones, the Zn’s bass reproduction blows me away. The impact is tremendous. If you’re any kind of bass-head but also value detail and other nuances in your music, you will fall in love these earphones.

Are they perfect? No. Would I recommend them to an analytical, reference-sound seeker? No. But that is not V-MODA’s goal. The goal is to extract details out of the sound that induce heart-pumping emotion.

The fact of the matter is that when I sit to listen to music, I keep wanting to reach for the Zn out of my set of earphones, and I don’t want to take them off. That enjoyment exemplifies what personal music listening is all about. I sincerely hope that the Zn can resonate loudly enough into the awareness of general audio lovers. You need to hear this.

V-MODA Zn product page

The post V-Moda Zn in-ear headphones review: Zinc metal shows its beauty inside and out appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Become a master of sketching with Sketch Master (app review)

Ever since touch screens were invented, people have wanted to create art on those devices, and many people have. It seems like companies continue to make that easier with new technologies. Samsung with their S pen, and Apple with their Pencil. Developer Barilab has tried to make it easier on the software front with their Sketch Master app. Read on to see if they have succeeded.

Sketch Master overview

To put it simply, Sketch Master is a drawing app. That’s where the simplicity ends. Barilab brings features to the table that enable the average guy like me to sketch together a decent looking picture. Here are some of the features the app brings to the table.

  • Two finger pan & zoom navigation with 3000% zoom
  • Maximum size is determined by screen resolution
  • Available unlimited layers (consumed disk space)
  • Duplicate, Merge and Reorder Layers
  • Toggle visibility and adjust Layer Opacity
  • 7 brushes, including flood fill
  • Text on the path
  • Smooth brush stroking using hands corrections.
  • Import images from Photo Library
  • Import from Camera
  • Save or share images
  • Color select with HSB color space
  • Color Swatches
  • Color Picker

Sketch Master usage

The app is fairly simple. There is no tutorial, but just by clicking around on buttons, Sketch Master exampleone will figure things out pretty quickly.  One thing that I figured out pretty quickly is that if you do not have a Galaxy Note device with a fine tipped stylus, it can by a little hard to draw with just you finger. You can zoom in quite a bit to gain better control, but then it becomes difficult to see the whole picture. If you’re drawing with your finger then I recommend using a tablet with a larger screen.

Speaking of tablets, one thing that I would like to see in the app is a landscape mode when using a tablet. As of right now, the app only supports drawing in portrait mode. This isn’t a deal killer for me, but I’d like it better none the less.

One of my favorite features are the layers. By using the layers, you can add elements after the fact or easily remove elements that don’t look good. In my sketch, I placed an image as the background layer and traced the outlines of the image and used the color picker to match the colors in the image.


The other items are all customizable. You can change the brush type, color of the digital paint, and brush size. This will allow you to more accurately draw what you have in mind to draw and you can even add text and virtual stickers to your images.

Sketch Master body

What we liked

  • Layers
  • Image imports
  • Color picker

What could be better

  • Tablet support
  • Better sticker selection
  • Updated UI

4 out of 5 stars

This is a great app for killing some time, creating sketches, or even just taking down handwritten notes. The developer offers the app for free on Google Play and monetizes the app with adds. The ads are not very intrusive. If you’re looking for an app like this, I suggest that you give Sketch Master a whirl. You won’t regret it.

The post Become a master of sketching with Sketch Master (app review) appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Bring your music with you with the LuguLake Blade Bluetooth speaker (Review)

LuguLake is a name brand that you probably haven’t heard of. I certainly had not until I got the change to offer the LuguLake Swan and Blade Bluetooth wireless speakers. I definitely had no expectations going into both reviews, but I learned that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to get high quality sound.

LuguLake Blade Design

I love brilliance in simplicity. The LuguLake Blade is a portable speaker that is about the size of a five inch smartphone, just twice as thick and similar in weight. It is a rectangular device, covered in a soft rubbery plastic with dual front facing speakers with a red mesh grill. The Blade is unassuming and looks fantastic.


On the side is a power switch, three LED light indicator for power, and a covered port for a micro-SD card, 3.5mm input and charging slot. On the top side of the speaker is where you’ll find the controls: play/pause, Bluetooth connect, rewind, fast forward, volume up/down and answer/hang up for a call.



Included in the box is a 3.5mm male to male cable and a micro-USB charging cable.

LuguLake Blade Usage

For a device this small I definitely not expecting much when it came to sound. But I was pleasantly surprised to hear how much sound and loudness could come from such a small package. The old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” definitely came into play here as the Blade pumped out sound as loud as speakers three times its size.

The only downside when it came to sound, keep in mind this isn’t a speaker for an audiophile, was that it lacked depth in the bass category. To produce decent bass a speaker needs size and room to move air, which being so small, is something that is technically very difficult to do for a speaker of this size. So if you’re a huge fan of bass, don’t expect the Blade to knock your shoes off. In terms of mids and highs, the Blade delivered very clear sound reproduction.

Because of its smaller size and portability, I found myself taking it with me to the dog park and playing music for a few of my friends who I meet on a regular basis. They were just as surprised to hear how loud the Blade got, and had asked me where they could buy one once I told them the price was less than $50.


One of my favorite features is the ability to connect to the speaker via a tap using NFC. My Nexus 6P connected within a matter of seconds once I tapped my phone to the backside of the speaker.

I also brought this speaker with me on a recent overnight business trip, because I listen to music every night before bed. And I hate listening to music on my smartphone speakers because it never sounds good. It’s really nice to be able to pack a speaker so light and small that it doesn’t take up much space in my carry-on bag. In fact I thought I forgot it at home because it was hidden at the bottom of the front pocket of my carry-on bag.

On the overnight trip, I took two work calls from the speaker and if you sit within arm’s length, it performs very well. Once I strayed from that distance the person on the other end of the call had a hard time hearing me. This isn’t uncommon with most Bluetooth speakers.

At 75% volume I was frequently achieving four to five hours of use before I had to recharge it.

The LuguLake Blade is definitely one of the more practical wireless speakers you can get today with its affordable price, portability and sound quality.

Product Description

Bluetooth 4.0
Low energy consumption, stable signal, high transmission speed.

Pocket Size

The Mini Boombox
These pocket sized speakers are perfect companions to stream music on the go. These ultra thin speakers are known for their 1.5 inch full range neodymium driver.

Perfect for Bluetooth Device
A great way to listen to your mobile phone, MP3, iPhone, iPod etc. A perfect product to amplify the sound of your smart phones and enhance your multimedia experience.

Small but Loud
The wireless Bluetooth stereo with 5W output power has Cambridge Silicon Radio chip-set with 5 hrs battery backup.

Easy connectivity
These portable speakers enhances your music experience while traveling since they connect easily with any multimedia device with the help of 3.5 mm Aux input and can also easily access the micro SD card.

NFC, Play Your Tunes Wirelessly
Touch your NFC-enabled phone or tablet to the LuguLake Slim speaker to instantly establish a Bluetooth wireless connection, play the music from now on.


For less than $50, the LuguLake Blade wireless speaker is a pleasant surprise with excellent sound quality and loudness in a package you can fit in a pant pocket. The brilliance of the Blade is measured in its simplicity and beautiful design. It is the perfect companion for traveling, outdoor activities or even for home use.

If you would like to check out the LuguLake blade, head on over to From now through Cyber Monday you can save $10 with the discount code listed below.

LuguLake Slim Extremely Portable Pocket Size Wireless Bluetooth Speaker – LINK

Save $10 using code XEJHZQTL at checkout


Lugu Lake

Lugu Lake

The post Bring your music with you with the LuguLake Blade Bluetooth speaker (Review) appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Unlock your door with your phone: The Quicklock Doorlock review

We live in the mobile age. Our phones are now like swiss army knives. They can do just about anything. You can watch TV, monitor your home, change your thermostat, call people, etc… So why not lock and unlock your doors? The Quicklock Doorlock allows you to do just that.

The Quicklock Doorlock overview

The Quicklock Doorlock is a replacement door handle and lock. It forgoes the traditional key and keyhole approach and brings the lock setup into the modern age. It uses RFID and Bluetooth technologies to unlock your door from the outside.

In order to use The Quicklock Doorlock with Bluetooth, you’ll need an Android or iOS device that has Bluetooth 4.0. Simply push the open the app and press the button on the front and your in. It uses a security code that allows you to connect via Bluetooth. You’ll need to input the security code the first time you connect.

Once connected you can change the security code and look at the access log of all the times the device has been accessed and by who. The downside is that anyone who has the code can change the settings of the device. So anyone could potentially lock others out of Bluetooth access. I’d love to see a guest mode that would allow for a guest code to be created.

The RFID is much simpler. Press the button on the front and wave the RFID tag in front of the reader and the door will unlock. The downside here is that any RFID tag can be programmed to the lock using the correct procedure. Of course, you need an RFID tag that’s already been programmed in order to make it work. The key here is to make sure that only people you trust implicitly have access to the RFID tag.

What I’d love to see here is to initiate the programming via Bluetooth. I think this will solve the problem.

Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock

The Quicklock Doorlock setup

The Quicklock Doorlock is fairly easy to set up. According to their website you can do it in less than 10 minutes. I would say that is pretty close to accurate. It may take a little longer for someone who is not used to installing door knobs.

I found that it was fairly easy. If you can use a screwdriver and you can follow instructions, then you can install the Quicklock Doorlock. Once you have inserted the batteries and installed the door lock you can connect your device via Bluetooth and change the security code to something more secure than 12345678.

The included RFID fobs and cards will work automatically without the need to program it.

Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock
Quicklock Doorlock

The Quicklock Doorlock usage

One area where the Quicklock absolutely shines is the build quality. Once fitted together everything feels very solid. Opening the door has a satisfying feel to it and the lock and unlocking functions have a satisfying sound.

Using the RDID tags is the easiest way to use the device. Opening the device via Bluetooth is easy as well, but it takes the extra steps of unlocking your phone and launching the app. One nice feature of the app is that you can have the door automatically unlock when you open the app.

One unique feature that takes a little getting used to is the unique design of the door handle. Instead of the traditional knob and lever designs, Quicklock uses two loops that are shaped somewhat like a deadbolt turner. The loops also have to be turned a little more to the right or left to open the door than a traditional door handle would need to be turned. In my case, this was advantageous as I have 2 small children. My 4-year-old figured it out after showing him how to use it, but it is still a little much for my 2-year-old.

The lock runs on 4 double A batteries. According to Quicklock, the batteries will last for about one year. I’m sure that is dependant on how often you use the lock, but still a year is quite a long time. The lock will start to warn you when the batteries get to 30% so you should have ample time to change out the batteries. You can also view the battery levels through the app’s interface.

The app itself is the one area where I would like to see some improvements made. With a few improvements and tweaks, they could make the whole experience much better. I mentioned a few already in the overview section. I’d like to see a home screen widget for locking and unlocking the door.

What we liked

  • Bluetooth capability
  • RDID reading
  • Access logs
  • Build quality

What could be better

  • Guest access mode
  • More features in the app

4.13 out of 5 stars

Overall the Quicklock Doorlock is an interesting piece of technology. I think with a few small software changes and improvements would make this product flawless. I was very impressed with the build quality and feel of the Doorlock. It just makes sense. You can purchase the Quicklock Doorlock on Amazon for $149 with free shipping.

The post Unlock your door with your phone: The Quicklock Doorlock review appeared first on AndroidGuys.


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