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Posts tagged ‘Asus’

25
Nov

ASUS ZenFone 3 review


ASUS first unveiled the mid-range ZenFone range of smartphones in 2014, and with ZenFone 3, the company wants to break away from the budget segment and is looking to increase its market share in the premium segment where it competes with the likes of the impressive OnePlus 3 and Honor 8 for example.

Available in two variants – one with a 5.2-inch display (3GB RAM/32GB internal storage) and the other with a 5.5-inch display (4GB RAM/64GB internal storage) – the ZenFone 3 packs mid-range innards into an all-new glass chassis and holds no qualms about its higher pricing.

Is it worth the price and does ASUS deliver on its marketing pitch of a ‘premium’ mid-range smartphone? We find out in this, our review of the Asus Zenfone 3.

In this review, we’re focusing on the smaller Zenfone 3 ZE520KL variant, which has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. The other one is ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL), which has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The two variants differ in size and memory departments only while packing in the same processor, camera and overall experience.Show More

Design

The ASUS ZenFone 3 is a refreshing change from the common, and increasingly boring, all-metal design of smartphones in the market.

The ZenFone 3 sports 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla Glass on the front and rear held by a metal frame. It’s stylish, sturdy (and can easily take random knocks on the glass), and quite attractive. The polished metal chamfers on the front and rear and the absence of antenna lines at the back are nice touches, and a testimony of the company’s focus on elegance here.

The compact size and the 7.69mm slim profile combined with the rounded edges makes it a delight to grip in the hand (How I miss smaller smartphones!). At 145 grams, it’s not the lightest smartphone out there, but is comfortable to hold. The all-glass design though means that it is a tad slippery, and I’d avoid holding it carelessly. Also, as one would imagine, it is a fingerprint magnet – the smudges being more prominent in the black variant I reviewed than in other colors I’d assume.

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Yet it’s not all hunky-dory. The capacitive navigation buttons below the display are not backlit. Sometimes you’d end up fumbling to find them in the dark, and although it becomes an impulsive thing after few days of usage, this is a poor design element in a smartphone at this price.

Most people complain about the protruding rear camera too. Yes, it does not sit flush with the back, but I really didn’t mind it much, and it doesn’t hurt the aesthetics of the device. ASUS claims that the sapphire lens on the ZenFone 3 provides protection from any type of scratch, which is a constant worry with a protruding camera bump, and it certainly seems to live up to Asus’ billing.

This time around, ASUS has shunned the utilitarian design of the older ZenFone smartphones and has upped the ante for the ZenFone 3. The glass and metal design looks striking and exudes style in all four color variants – Shimmer Gold, Moonlight White, Aqua Blue, and Sapphire Black. It impresses at first glance, and helps the Zenfone 3 stand out in what is becoming an ever-increasingly homogenous industry.

Display

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The 5.2-inch Full-HD IPS display on the ZenFone 3 is incredibly sharp and offers crisp visuals and good clarity. It’s vibrant, offers rich colors, and it is a treat to watch high-res videos or play games on it. The touch response too is smooth and fluid. The ZenFone 3 features high brightness level of 600nits and therefore sunlight legibility is pretty good. The viewing angles are great too, and the display supports touch recognition through gloves.

You can control the display settings with the built-in Splendid app that allows you to choose between Balance, Bluelight Filter, Vivid, and Customized color modes. The Bluelight Filter mode cuts out the blue light so that the display is easier on the eyes.

Performance

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The ASUS ZenFone 3 is powered by Snapdragon 625, a mid-level processor, and packs in 3GB of RAM in this variant. On the specifications sheet, that makes for a modest entry. Several smartphones in this segment offer flagship processors from Qualcomm bundled with up to 6GB of RAM. Also, some of the budget smartphones pack in similar internals for half the price.

Yet, how a smartphone performs is not always reflective of the internal specs. The ZenFone 3 performs like a breeze with no apparent lags in multitasking or navigating across the UI. Even while playing graphic-intensive games, there was hardly a performance issue or overheating and no dropped frames. Overall, the ZenFone 3 is zippy and smooth when used as a daily driver, and can give other devices with similar specs a run for their money.

The fingerprint sensor on the ZenFone 3 has a quick response and is quite good. In most cases, it recognizes fingerprints even with wet fingers on the first try. You can also tap and hold the fingerprint sensor to answer a call or double tap it to launch the camera (and take a photo with just a tap when the camera app is on).

Interestingly, one of the highlights of the Snapdragon 625 chipset is less power consumption compared to previous generation chipsets. The 2650mAh battery on the ZenFone 3 (3000mAh on the other variant) might just look average on paper, but combined with the SoC and software optimizations, the smartphone offers impressive battery life easily lasting me through the day on heavy usage.

Hardware

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The ASUS ZenFone 3 packs a 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor clocked at 2GHz with an integrated Adreno 506 GPU. Since it performs quite well, one would be less inclined to go for the higher spec’d variant (4GB RAM versus 3GB RAM) unless there is a preference for larger display. There’s 32GB of internal storage, with about 23.5GB was available out of the box, and there’s also support for microSD cards of up to 2TB for expansion. ASUS is also offering 100GB of free cloud storage space for two years, in collaboration with Google.

The ZenFone 3 sports a hybrid SIM slot that can take in a Nano SIM along with a Micro SIM or a microSD card. While both SIMs support 3G/4G, only one can connect to 3G/4G networks at a time. If you prefer lot of storage and use two SIMs every day or while travelling, you might want to go for the 64GB variant. For most people though, 32GB is good enough, and of course, if you use only one SIM, you can always expand storage via microSD card.

Camera

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ASUS pitches the camera on the ZenFone 3 as one of the highlights of the smartphone. While the optics are solid on paper, the real magic – or the lack of it – obviously lies in the software processing the data from the camera sensor. That’s the company’s PixelMaster 3.0 at play.

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The 16-megapixel rear camera has an f/2.0 aperture and packs in 6P Largan lens, and focuses on the subject really quick. According to ASUS, the TriTech auto-focus technology on the ZenFone 3 combines laser, phase detection, and continuous autofocus allowing the device to focus in just 0.03 seconds in all conditions. There’s also Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) as well as Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) which are quite handy while shooting videos and still shots in difficult light conditions.

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Outdoors, the rear camera on the ZenFone 3 of course performs great. Consistently. The colors are vibrant, and the photos include a great amount of detail and accuracy. The color reproduction too is excellent whether it’s the landscapes or the close-up shots. However, in low-light conditions while most of the shots are quite decent, often some noise would creep in and there would be a loss of detail. Although, I often managed to get blur-free shots in poor light conditions, validating the ZenFone 3’s camera creds.

In fact, it’s the 8-megapixel front camera on the ZenFone 3 that surprised me with the sharp and detailed selfies that I took, even in low light conditions or when indoors.

The camera app on the ZenFone 3 packs in a lot of options and camera modes to choose from. There’s also a manual mode for tinkering with the DSLR-like camera settings as well as a low light mode that enhances light sensitivity for clearer and brighter low-light shots. With the Super Resolution mode, you can take composite images at up to 4X resolution, and then wonder why would you need it. Not from a review perspective, but I ended up using the GIF animation mode a lot for random fun GIFs converted from a series of captured images. Maybe that’s why there was a delay in publishing the review!

For better or worse, the camera on the ZenFone 3 builds on the precedent set by the earlier generations of ZenFone. It’s not perfect, and serious photographers would find few limitations here and there, but for most regular as well as power users, it works great.

Software

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The ASUS ZenFone 3 runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box with the new version of the company’s proprietary ZenUI 3.0 on top of it.

Right up, that’s a good thing. The older versions of ZenUI were plagued with bloatware and gimmicky UI elements that marred the overall user experience. The latest version is a complete makeover, and offers a clean UI with subtle animations. There are several nifty utilities, but there’s still a plethora of ASUS-branded apps that I’ve hardly seen anyone using really. Unfortunately, only a few of these can be uninstalled and while you can disable most others, they still occupy storage space on your phone.

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ZenUI 3.0 features an app drawer, and there’s a built-in search functionality. You can swipe down the screen and search the Web or your apps and contacts, and view your frequently used apps. There’s an all-new Theme Store from which users can download free as well as paid themes, wallpapers, icons, and ringtones to customize their smartphone.

One of the neat features of the ZenUI is ZenMotion which allows configuring a variety of touch and motion gestures like double tap to wake or flipping the phone when you get an incoming call to enable silent mode. It also allows you to enable the one-handed mode that shrinks the display to one corner of the screen for easy, one-handed usage when you’re on the move.

Of course, the most useful app from the entire ZenUI suite is the Mobile Manager. With slick animations and intuitive UI, the app offers quick ways to free RAM and storage space, and manage apps as well as app permissions. It’s a sort of one-stop destination for managing your phone’s performance.

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For gamers, ZenUI offers Game Genie which pops up automatically when you start playing a game and allows you to record your gameplay and broadcast it live on YouTube or Twitch, search for tips, and boost gaming performance. It’s a neat, little addition that gamers would appreciate.

The latest version of ZenUI on the ZenFone 3 is fluid and aims to offer stock Android-like experience while adding additional functionalities. And, it succeeds in doing that. But the excess of bloatware is disappointing, and shows that the company has learnt nothing from similar criticism in the past.

Specifications

Operating System Android 6.0 Marshmallow with ASUS ZenUI 3.0
Display 5.2-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) super IPS+ | 2.5D contoured Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Processor 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon Octa-Core 625 2.0GHz | Adreno 506 GPU
RAM 3 GB
Internal Storage 32 GB; expandable up to 2TB with microSD card
Battery 2650mAh
Rear Camera 16 MP PixelMaster 3.0 camera | f/2.0 aperture | Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) | Dual-LED real tone flash
Front Camera 8MP | f/2.0 aperture | 84˚ field of view
Dimesions 146.87 x 73.98 x 7.69 mm
Weight 144 grams

Gallery


Pricing and final thoughts

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At $320 (₹21,999) in India, the ASUS ZenFone 3 is not cheap. The higher spec’d variant is in fact priced at roughly $409 (₹27,999) which is very similar to the OnePlus 3. Yet, there are a lot of things going for the ZenFone 3. One, ASUS serves broader audience by virtue of being available both online and offline and secondly, it looks so damn good.

It’s a reliable daily driver and doesn’t break a sweat while pushing for performance or gaming. The camera is very good, and the battery life is exemplary.

It looks modest on the specifications sheet, but it’s a mistake to judge the ZenFone 3 purely on its specs list

. Once you take it for a spin, it impresses, even if we wish the price could’ve been a little lower. In fact, the lower spec’d variant, because it performs very well, offers more value for money and is the recommended buy, as long as you’re happy with the smaller display.

Asus isn’t officially selling the regular Zenfone 3 in the US but it is already available via a marketplace seller on Amazon if you’d rather have the regular Zenfone 3 over the more illustrious (and higher priced) Zenfone 3 Deluxe. What do you think of the Asus Zenfone 3 and do you plan to buy one? Let us know your views in the comments below!

18
Nov

The best Wi-Fi Range extender


By David Murphy

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After spending 140 total hours researching Wi-Fi extenders and testing more than 20, we recommend the TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE450 for most people who need to boost their Wi-Fi signal to part of a house or apartment. Though the RE450 costs around $100 at this writing, it’s worth that price, as it offers the best combination of range, speed, portability, and physical connections of any extender we tested.

Why you should (or shouldn’t) buy this

Before you invest in a Wi-Fi extender, first you should make sure your router is near the center of your living space and out in the open if possible, not hidden in a closet or behind a desk. If you’ve used the same wireless router for years, consider upgrading to a better one, such as our pick for the best Wi-Fi router. If you still can’t get a signal where you need it, running an Ethernet cable directly from your router to a Wi-Fi access point or a router set up as one will get you much better performance than a Wi-Fi extender. But if you can’t run Ethernet and parts of your home or apartment still don’t get a good Wi-Fi signal, a wireless extender can help.

How we picked and tested

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We tested the final 13 contenders after looking at 39 extenders. Photo: David Murphy

A good extender, like a modern router, should support both the older, more crowded 2.4 GHz band and the newer, faster 5 GHz band. You also need a dual-band extender to avoid the performance hit of connecting to your devices on the same band as the one for connecting to your router. An extender should also support at least two spatial streams (also called data streams) on each band. We looked at any N600 or AC1200-plus extenders from major manufacturers that met these criteria, had good reviews (if any), and weren’t too expensive.

To test the 13 final contenders, we set up one of the fastest routers we’ve tested, Netgear’s R8500, in one corner of a 2,577-square-foot, single-story house, with the extender in the next room, to minimize the effects of the router’s performance on the extender’s benchmarks and to test the range of the extenders’ signals.

We connected each extender to the router’s 5 GHz Wi-Fi signal. For the tests, we connected an Asus ZenBook UX305LA (which uses two-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi) to each extender from two locations—one obstructed and one unobstructed—both 43 feet away from the extender.

We tested the extenders using iPerf3, a network monitoring and measuring tool, to evaluate data transfers between a desktop PC (connected to the router via Gigabit Ethernet) and our test laptop. Each iPerf3 test attempted to transfer as much data as possible from the test laptop to the desktop PC (via a single TCP connection). We let 15 seconds elapse before recording the average transfer speed across 60 one-second intervals, and ran each test for each extender, on each band, at each test location. To learn more about our testing plan, read our full guide.

Our pick

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The TP-Link RE450 will eat up most of your wall socket when you plug it in—the price you pay for great Wi-Fi range. Photo: David Murphy

The TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE450 is the best wireless extender for most people because it offers incredible performance at long range and supports the fastest wireless speeds of any device you’re likely to own, even if you have a MacBook Pro. It was the only extender that hit triple-digit speeds on our easier long-range 5 GHz test, and its long-range 2.4 GHz performance was better than that of everything else we tested. This model is simple to set up, and it has a few useful features within its easy-to-navigate user interface.

The biggest issue with the RE450 is its size. It’s huge. If you plug it into a wall outlet, bigger devices (like a power strip) likely won’t have room.

Even so, in each of our tests, the RE450 had not just the best performance of any of the extenders in the group, but also the best price-to-performance ratio (aside from our slower, cheaper budget pick). You spend about as much for the RE450 as you would for our best Wi-Fi router pick, but you get proportionate speed and range—the most of any extender we’ve recently tested.

For home offices and entertainment centers

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Linksys’s RE6500 isn’t as convenient as a wall-plug extender, but it has more Gigabit Ethernet ports and doesn’t take up much space on a coffee table or shelf. Photo: David Murphy

If our pick is sold out or unavailable, or if you have a lot of wired devices that need access to your home network, the Linksys AC1200 Max Wi-Fi Range Extender RE6500 is an excellent alternative. In our tests it gave us around three-fourths the speed of our primary pick; of all the wireless-ac extenders we recently tested, however, it had the second-fastest average speeds and the second-best price-to-performance ratio. In addition, it won’t block an extra wall outlet, it has three more Gigabit Ethernet ports than our pick, and its user interface is more helpful for people with less networking experience. Read more in our full guide.

The low-cost, last-gen alternative

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The Asus RP-N53 is a tiny, wireless-n extender with a signal-strength LED indicator plus another LED on the back that works as a night-light. Photo: David Murphy

If you just need Wi-Fi in a far-flung area, don’t care about 802.11ac, and don’t want to spend a lot of money, get the Asus RP-N53 Dual-Band Wireless-N600 Range Extender. This wall-plug 802.11n extender is notably small, but it offers better performance and features than other extenders in its price range, including an easy-to-use Web configuration screen, music-streaming capabilities, and the ability to function as a night-light. To learn more, see our full guide.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

30
Oct

The bottom line: Our quick verdict on the ASUS ZenBook 3


ASUS’s latest ultraportable the ZenBook 3 is often compared to Apple’s 12-inch MacBook. And can you blame people? The laptop is even thinner and lighter than Apple’s two-pound wonder, but just as fast and with longer battery life. And it comes with a mini dock in the box, adding precisely the sort of ports you’d be missing on the MacBook (and would only have access to if you paid extra for an adapter). On paper, then, it’s precisely the computer Windows-using travelers have been looking for.

Depending on your needs, that may still be the case, but in practice we found the ZenBook 3 isn’t everything we hoped it would be. In particular, we found the keyboard and trackpad uncomfortable to use, and we had some concerns about the build quality too. It’s possible you’ll disagree with us there, but you owe it to yourself to get some hands-on time with the machine at a local store before buying, if at all possible.

6
Oct

ASUS’ Zenfone 3 and its Snapdragon 821 arrive this month


If you want the fastest Android phone in the US, you can pre-order Google’s Pixel phone starting at $649, and get it around October 20th. There is another option, though — ASUS will release its 5.7-inch Deluxe Special Edition ZenFone 3 smartphone with the same Snapdragon 821 processor in the US for $799 by the end of the month. Both have metal unibodies, but the ASUS is the flashier of the two.

For many, the ability to get Android updates first on Google’s Pixel devices or use the Daydream headset will be a deciding factor. But the ZenFone 3 does have a few things going for it — it has 6GB of RAM instead of 4GB, 256GB of (expandable) UFS II storage (instead of 128GB max on the Pixel) and is the first device with Sony’s new Exmore IMX318 23-megapixel front camera sensor. Both have 1080p screens, but the 5.5-inch Pixel XL sports a Quad HD display and significantly higher $869 price tag.

If both of those options are too rich, ASUS has tamer variants of the ZenFone 3, including the Deluxe 5.7-inch 4GB model with a mere Snapdragon 820 for a very decent $499. The 5.5-inch Deluxe sports a mid-range Snapdragon 625 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a $399 price tag.

ASUS also confirmed the final price and availability for the ZenWatch 3. As a reminder, that’s a stainless steel Android Wear watch that can be recharged to 60 percent in just 15 minutes — it’ll run $229 and arrive at the beginning of November. Meanwhile, the ZenPad 3S 10, a middling 10-inch, 2,048 x 1,536 tablet with an Octacore MediaTek CPU and 4GB of RAM also comes in early November for $299. All devices and pre-orders are available at the ASUS store.

6
Oct

ASUS ZenBook 3 review: A powerful MacBook competitor with issues


Apple’s tiny MacBook was a revelation when it debuted last year. It was thinner and lighter than most ultraportables on the market, and its refined design brought over some cues from Apple’s mobile hardware. So it was only a matter of time before a PC maker took a swing at a similar design. Enter the ASUS ZenBook 3, a minuscule machine that promises to be just as portable as the MacBook while packing in much faster hardware. But while ASUS has proved it can sell powerful machines for far less than the competition, it’s less experienced when it comes to delivering truly premium hardware. The ZenBook 3, while attractive on the surface, is a reminder that ASUS still has a lot to learn.

Hardware

ASUS ZenBook 3 Review

At first glance, the Zenbook 3 screams luxury. Its aluminum alloy case is smooth and sleek, and it measures an impressive 11.9mm at its thickest point. I particularly liked the deep shade of blue and the gold accents, which are classy in a subtle way. ASUS’s ZenBook line is unquestionably “Apple-inspired,” with an emphasis on thin profiles and all-metal cases. But the ZenBook 3’s design in particular looks like a mixture of the MacBook and the 11-inch MacBook Air, right down to the small notch below the trackpad and the look of the speakers above the keyboard. That’s one way to evoke a premium feel, I guess. But it would have been nice to see some actual innovation, as with HP’s sexy new Spectre.

With a 12.5-inch display, ASUS managed to outdo the MacBook by half an inch. But Apple’s laptop boasts a higher-resolution 2,304 x 1,440 display, as compared with 1080p on the ZenBook. At least it’s a good-looking display, though; it’s bright enough for outdoor use, while colors appear vibrant and mostly accurate. Though it’s not a touchscreen display (that’s to be expected with such a thin laptop), ASUS covered it in Gorilla Glass 4 for extra protection. After testing out plenty of touchscreen Windows laptops over the past few years, though, I’m surprised by how much I missed that feature here.

While the two-pound ZenBook 3 feels light and sturdy at first, it wasn’t long before I started noticing flaws. Applying a bit of pressure around the laptop’s keyboard leads to some seriously disturbing creaking noises, as if the seams around the bottom of the case are rubbing against each other. It’s not something you might ever do to your laptop, but this also doesn’t bode well for long-term durability. If a bit of force from my hands can disturb the case’s integrity, how can I ever trust it in a book bag with other heavy items?

Then there’s the keyboard and trackpad, which present a different set of issues. The ZenBook 3’s buttons have more travel than those on the relatively flat MacBook, but the feedback you get when pressing them is mushy and insubstantial. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a heavy typer, but I was never able to get into a decent typing flow. While I eventually got used to the wonky feedback, I still get more typos with this machine compared with every other laptop keyboard I’ve tested recently. Honestly, even though the MacBook’s keyboard isn’t ideal either, I still prefer it to the ZenBook 3’s.

The trackpad, while large and relatively smooth, is a chore to use. It requires a lot of pressure to register clicks, which isn’t great when you’re trying to balance an ultralight notebook on your lap. It would often get confused with left and right clicks, and on several occasions I had to press down multiple times for it to register anything. Tapping the trackpad to select things isn’t great either, as it often moves the pointer off your target. And for some reason, ASUS thought it was a good idea to put its fingerprint sensor right on the trackpad. That effectively renders the top-right portion of the trackpad a dead zone most of the time.

At least the fingerprint sensor works well; it usually gets me to the desktop in less than a second. On several occasions, I received warnings about Windows Hello being disabled because of too many fingerprint login attempts, even after I was just waking it up from sleep mode. I’m not sure why those errors occurred, but it makes me think that Windows Hello is somehow trying to identify fingerprints even when the ZenBook’s lid is shut. (And that could be tied to the flexing issue as well.)

You might have noticed one other nod to the MacBook: The ZenBook 3’s only ports are a single USB-C socket and a 3.5mm headphone jack. At least ASUS was kind enough to bundle in a USB-C mini-dock, which includes an HDMI port, a traditional USB connection and another USB-C socket. Unfortunately, you can use the dock’s USB-C port only for charging, which will make life difficult if you want to connect a USB-C device and an external monitor at the same time.

Performance and battery life

ASUS ZenBook 3 (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,448 3,911 E2,791 / P1,560 3,013 1.67 GB/s / 1.44 GB/s
HP Spectre 13 (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,046 3,747 E2,790 / P1,630 / X375 3,810 1.61 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Huawei MateBook (1.1 GHz Core M3, Intel HD 515) 3,592 2,867 E1,490 / P887 2,454 538 MB/s / 268 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet (1.2 GHz Core M7-6Y75, Intel HD 515) 4,951 3,433 E1,866 / P1,112 2,462 545 MB/s / 298 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (2.3GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel Graphics 520) 4,954 3,499 E2,610 / P1,531 3,335 1.6GB/s / 307 MB/s
Razer Blade Stealth (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,131 3,445 E2,788 / P1,599 / X426 3,442 1.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,403 3,602

E2,697/ P1,556/ X422

3,614 1.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 900 (2.5GHz Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,368 3,448

E2,707 / P1,581

3,161 556 MB/s / 511 MB/s

What’s truly impressive about the ZenBook 3 is that ASUS has managed to fit in seventh-generation Intel Core processors and gobs of memory in such a tiny case. Our review unit came with a Core i7-7500U, which offers speeds between 2.7GHz and 2.9GHz, and 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM clocked at 2,133MHz. ASUS says it worked with Intel to achieve that memory speed, which is faster than any other ultraportable on the market. It even exceeds the maximum 1,866MHz RAM speeds Intel officially supports for its latest chips.

The MacBook, on the other hand, is still stuck with slow Core m3 and m5 CPUs and a maximum of 8GB of RAM. Apple might refresh it soon, now that the seventh-gen Intel CPUs are available, but for the time being, ASUS wins the spec battle.

The ZenBook 3 felt just as zippy as other high-end ultraportables. It didn’t skip a beat during my typical workflow, which involves having several browsers open with dozens of tabs each, plus Slack, Spotify and Photoshop. And thanks to the video-decoding capabilities in Intel’s new processors, the CPU usage managed to stay below 20 percent when I streamed 4K video from YouTube. Basically, you’re not sacrificing any performance here.

Battery life

ASUS ZenBook 3
9:45
Surface Book (Core i5, integrated graphics)
13:54 / 3:20 (tablet only)
HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2015)
11:34
Surface Book (Core i7, discrete graphics)
11:31 / 3:02 (tablet only)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015)
11:23
iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2015)
10:47
HP Spectre x360 15t
10:17
Chromebook Pixel (2015)
10:01
Lenovo Yoga 900
9:36
Apple MacBook (2016)
8:45
Samsung Notebook 9
8:16
Dell XPS 13 (2015)
7:36
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
7:15
HP Spectre 13
7:07
Huawei MateBook
6:35
Razer Blade Stealth
5:48
Dell XPS 15 (2016)
5:25 (7:40 with the mobile charger)

When it comes to real-world battery life, the ZenBook 3 also outshines some recent ultraportables I’ve seen, like the Huawei MateBook and the Lenovo X1 Yoga with OLED. It typically lasted an entire workday, and sometimes it even had juice left over by the time I got home. In our typical battery test, which involves looping an HD video until the power dies, it lasted around nine hours and 45 minutes. Given that Intel is stressing video decoding with its new chips, though, that figure might not be directly comparable to other ultraportables. I’ll be testing the ZenBook 3 with other battery benchmarks soon and will report back with the results.

Configuration options and the competition

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You have two choices with the ZenBook: the $1,099 model with a Core i5-7200U processor, 8GB of RAM and 25GB of storage; or the more powerful $1,599 version with a Core i5-7500U chip, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. The latter model was the one I tested, so keep that in mind if you’re hoping to achieve the kind of performance reflected in our benchmarks.

Apple’s MacBook, which is really the only direct competitor, starts at $1,299, with a significantly slower Core M3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Bumping up to $1,599 gets you a Core M5 and more storage, but you’ll still be stuck with 8GB of RAM.

If you can live with something slightly heavier, then you’ve got a wealth of ultraportable options to choose from, including HP’s revamped Spectre 13 (2.45 pounds), the fantastic Dell XPS 13 (2.6 pounds), and even Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4. All of those machines will likely get upgraded soon with Intel’s seventh-gen CPUs, so it might be worth waiting a bit (or snap up one of last year’s models if they’re on sale).

Wrap-up

Ultimately, with the ZenBook 3, ASUS did what it does best: pack in plenty of powerful hardware for a cheaper price than the competition. But the company’s inexperience at crafting truly high-end machines shows, with some truly worrying durability and usability issues. I give ASUS credit for building such a thin and powerful device, but what does that matter if the keyboard and trackpad are a pain to use?

5
Oct

Full-body 3D scanning is about to get faster and cheaper


3D scanners come in all shapes and sizes these days, and obviously the bigger you go, the more you have to pay. In the case of full-body scanning, many existing solutions require you to stand still for 12 to 14 seconds which isn’t ideal for both the customer and the vendor, plus they tend to take up a large amount of space. Luckily, that won’t be the case with a new machine from Japanese startup VRC. Unveiled at CEATEC, the Shun’X — “shun” meaning “instantaneous” and “x” implying limitless possibilities — can scan a person in merely four seconds, and its footprint takes up just six square meters of space as opposed to the typical nine to eleven square meters.

On the inside, the Shun’X model at CEATEC is powered by eight Nikon DSLRs plus an ASUS Xtion Pro Live depth camera accompanying each of them, and these are split into two pillars — with another four filled with high-performance LEDs — that spin around a person. CEO Yingdi Xie, who has spent over ten years doing research in Japan prior to forming VRC, pointed out that it’s this combination of DSLRs and depth cameras that makes his system more precise than the others. Once the scan is done, VRC’s custom PC software will locally output a render in about two minutes, which is again faster than what the competitors offer and somewhat more convenient than their mandatory cloud services (which are usually for subsidizing the cost of the hardware alone).

A video posted by Engadget (@engadget) on Oct 4, 2016 at 12:00am PDT

While Xie wouldn’t directly reveal a price for his solution, he did drop a big hint: A similar DSLR-only system may cost about $150,000 if you buy it outright, whereas the Shun’X is aiming to slash that price by half; and it can even go lower, depending on the configuration. Better yet, because of the much higher throughput, Xie reckons an existing vendor can afford to charge as low as $10 per 3D render using the Shun’X. Just to compare, Artec’s “Optimal” business package charges each Shapify Booth vendor $20 per 3D model file (it’s $39,000 for the machine plus pre-payment for 3,000 files), so consumers would have to pay more after a markup; either that or the vendor buys the hardware for $180,000 to avoid that charge.

It’s still too early to tell whether the Shun’X will become the next big thing in the 3D scanning market, as VRC has only just started taking orders, but one thing’s for sure: Digital content creators in the likes of fashion and gaming businesses will greatly benefit from this rapid, high-precision scanner. 3D printing studios may also want in on this, though they are probably more desperate for faster printers.

Source: VRC

25
Sep

Chromebooks now have an easy time running Android apps


You no longer have to be an early adopter to run Android apps on a Chromebook. Google has released a stable version of Chrome OS that includes Google Play Store access in beta, giving you the opportunity to run mobile apps on top of your usual web access. You’ll have to own an Acer Chromebook R11 or an ASUS Chromebook Flip to give this update a shot, but it beats having to run a Chrome OS beta just to see what all the fuss is about.

It’s not certain which systems are coming next, although we’d expect the late Chromebook Pixel 2 to be next in line given that it’s the only one listed as supporting Android apps in beta Chrome OS releases. Almost all other compatible devices (including machines from HP, Lenovo and Samsung) are still waiting for their turn. But hey, it’s a step in the right direction — you’re that much closer to running your favorite phone apps from the comfort of your PC.

Via: Android Police

Source: Chrome Releases, The Chromium Projects

5
Sep

IFA 2016 showed us how far wearables have come


The wearables world has come a long way in a very short time, and plenty of companies have had to learn their lessons out in public. The first devices they launched were often far, far too ugly to find mainstream acceptance, but now the fashion and wearables worlds are perfectly aligned. That’s why we’re taking a look at the devices that arrived at this year’s IFA, and comparing it with their more embarrassing predecessors. Think of it like #throwbackthursday, except nobody’s got one of those face-worn retainers you only see in ’80s movies.

ASUS’ Zenwatch

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Like many other early Android Wear pioneers, ASUS thought that it was hip to be square. It made sense, since smartphones have square displays too, not to mention the (then) scarcity of truly-round displays. ASUS trimmed the price to make the Zenwatch cheaper than its rivals, and curved the glass over the face to offer an illusion of greater ergonomics. The end result is a watch that made square faces look reasonably stylish, even if it would only ever cater to a niche.

Two years down the road and ASUS has firmly grasped a copy of the fashion watch design playbook and is holding it firmly with both hands. The Zenwatch 3 is packing a rose-gold inlay, a chunky crown and double pushers, making it look less like an Android Wear device and more like a Longines. It’s the sort of watch that goes down well with business types who want to be seen wearing their money on their wrists.

Samsung Gear

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When you look at the first Galaxy Gear you have to ask what Samsung was thinking, even back then. It may have been a refinement of the company’s S9110 telephone watch, but it wasn’t pretty, no sir. Admittedly, it’s a striking piece of gear, with a brutalist design, exposed screws and a humped, 1.9-megapixel camera that juts out of the band rather than the hardware. But when you look at Samsung’s earlier smartwatches, like the SPH-WP10, the Galaxy Gear looks like pure elegance.

Just three years stand between the OG Gear and the Gear S3, but they couldn’t be further apart in the looks department. The Gear S3 looks like a regular watch, the sort of ultra-masculine timepiece that you’d see advertised in an in-flight magazine. Like its immediate predecessor, the bezel acts as a control dial, but now it’s been geared so that it doesn’t even look like a watch from the future. In fact, the Gear S3 could convincingly pass for a Rolex diving watch made half a century ago.

Sony Headphones

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Sony’s been there (or thereabouts) for plenty of milestones in personal audio, even if it might not want everyone to remember some of its own missteps. From 1968’s DR-4A, the company’s first noise-isolating stereo headphones, to the Xperia Ear, which will arrive in stores this November. Back in the day, a 5.5mm audio lead with a nice woven coating was what connected your headphones to the sound source of your choice. These days, of course, it’s all about Bluetooth, but the Ear lets you send commands to your phone as well as receive sounds back. Even if you wouldn’t necessarily call it a headphone, per-se.

A side effect of the design of these small earpieces, of course, is that wearing them are significantly less conspicuous. In an era where people wear enormous Beats-branded cans as a matter of course, in-ear earpieces are, by comparison, invisible. While the first-generation Xperia Ear stands out, other devices of its kind — like Bragi’s Dash — aren’t meant to be visible. Although, we’re getting to the point where it’s not necessarily right to call these gadgets wearables, since they’re not really worn so much as inserted. Then again, nobody wants to walk into an electronics store and ask for the insertables section.

Withings

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Withings has built its ecosystem of health products piece by piece, but its first device with heart rate monitoring wasn’t one for the record books. The Withings Pulse was a square rubber brick that was intended to be worn on a belt clip like a pedometer. After your workout, you could pull out the device, press it against your finger and be told how well your heart was doing at that particular moment. But aside from its blocky design, it had some great features, including automatic activity detection and a long-life battery. Unfortunately, the act of removing it from the clip wore the rubber out pretty quickly, and it was easy to forget when you changed pants.

Now, the company has seen the error of its ways and baked in the optical heart rate monitor into its Swiss-inspired watch. The Steel HR masks its more technological components between an analog dial and sub-dial — the latter of which tells you how much activity you’ve undertaken that day. The only gadgety component of the watch is the digital sub-dial which offers your heart rate, as well as smartphone notifications for calls, emails and texts. By burying the nuts and bolts behind a well-designed and subtle timepiece, Withings is pushing us towards a world where we’re not even aware of the tech we’re wearing.

E-Ink Watches

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Sony’s first E Ink watch, FES, arrived in 2014, and cleverly added the technology to both the face and wristband. That’s led to some interesting options for customization and promised to radically alter the way watches were worn. But it was by no means the first E Ink timepiece on the market, and an early proponent was Phosphor, which launched the Ana-Digi timepiece back in 2012. The display itself was static, and users could use a side-mounted pusher to toggle between time and date views on the face.

But adding E Ink to a watch clearly hasn’t provided the necessary surge in sales that Sony was hoping for. For the second-generation of its groundbreaking timepiece, it’s added more traditionally-watch like design cues. That includes a prominent bezel and sapphire glass across the crystal, making it slightly less exciting. Then again, it perhaps shows that the tried-and-tested formula for watches hasn’t changed much in the last century, and these companies have learned that if you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

2
Sep

IFA 2016 warm-up: Pet treats, smartwatches and more


The IFA 2016 show floor doesn’t officially open until tomorrow, but companies didn’t wait to show off their new products in Berlin. Yesterday, ASUS, Acer, Lenovo and Samsung announced a myriad of devices, including phones, smartwatches and hybrid laptops. There will be a lot more to see in the coming days, we’re sure of that. For now, here are some highlights from the event’s kick-off keynotes — and yes, of course we talked about the “Pawbo” pet accessories. Because why wouldn’t we?

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

1
Sep

We’re live from IFA 2016 in Berlin!


Like every year, we are back in Berlin for Europe’s biggest tech trade show, IFA. This year, as we previewed recently, expect to see many new devices from some of the usual suspects: Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, Sony and more. We’ve already checked out a number of fresh laptops, smartphones and wearables at the event, but that’s only the beginning since the show floor doesn’t open until Friday. Stay tuned, because there will be plenty of announcements to digest over the next few days. And you never know what kind of weird gadget we might find.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

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