Category Archives: Hardware

Oppo AX7 smartphone review

For as budget priced, mid-range phone, Oppo really has pulled out all the stops when it comes to the AX7.

It really doesn’t look – or feel – like a budget smart phone.

Clad in a colour that Oppo describes as glaze blue, the AX7 feels comfortable in the hand, with a nice weight to it, and the attention to detail in the small – but noticeable – details like the camera lens surround means Oppo’s latest phone will get noticed.

Powered by a Snapdragon 450 octa-core CPU, the AX7 comes with a 6.2-inch HD+ display, 4Gb of RAM and is running Oppo’s ColorOS 5.2 (based on Android 8.2) but weirdly, just 64Gb of internal storage space, which in this day and age of digital consumption doesn’t really cut the mustard these days. Thankfully, the storage can be expanded via microSD card (upto 256Gb). A nice touch is the SIM card tray has space for two SIMs, meaning you can use the phone as your work mobile and private number.

The AX7 comes with all the latest bells and whistles you’d expect, including a fingerprint scanner. If I had one gripe about the scanner it would be that I thought it was perhaps positioned a little too high and could be a tad deeper, so that it’s easy to find first time. That said, it’s fast enough when it comes to unlocking the handset.

I was pleasantly surprised with the phone’s battery life, with the 4230mAh battery lasting a good couple of days with moderate use (phone calls, texting, browsing, the odd YouTube video). I’m still not sold on Oppo’s ColorOS operating system, which can be a little slow at times.

Perhaps the star of the AX7, though, is the camera, which sports 13MP and 2MP sensors at the back and a 16MP sensor at the front. It’s a selfie star, according to Oppo, although I’m not big on selfies, to be honest. Sure the customisation options for the camera are limited when compared to more expensive phones but it’s a good, honest shooter that will do what it says on the tin.

Photos taken with the AX7 were clear and sharp, with bright colours and details, although I thought sometimes the images were a little over saturated at times.

Perhaps the best thing about the AX7, though, is the price. Oppo has set the RRP at $399, which means it’s within reach for average consumers. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Not everyone needs a $1000-plus smart phone (realistically, does anyone, really?) and like Huawei with its budget-priced Nova 3i, Oppo have created a nice-looking, well-performing smart phone that does everything you need without requiring you to mortgage the house, give up a kidney or sell your first-born.

Look, the AX7 isn’t going to compete in terms of lightning fast performance of higher end smartphones and with Oppo’s own rather great R17 Pro, but then, it’s not designed to. It offers great value for money with a battery that will go the distance (I’m still not 100% sold on ColorOS, though).

What’s not to like?

A big thanks to Oppo NZ for providing the AX7 for review.

Edifier S2000 Pro active monitor speakers review: Music to my ears

Chinese audio manufacturer Edifier continues to impress with its audio equipment – and it’s done it again with its S2000 Pro active monitor speakers. They’re bloody brilliant.

I was only able to test out the speakers for a week but I was blown away by not only the styling and build quality (that wood finish is just gorgeous but it does make them heavy!) but the speakers blew me away with the sound quality, too.

Edifier says the S2000 Pro speakers are designed for home recording and mixing but you know what: They’re bloody good to play music on if that’s what you want to get them for. Edifier says the speakers are tri-amped at 124watts, and feature 5 1⁄2-inch aluminium diaphragm drivers and a set of planar tweeters which provide “great acoustic range”. Here’s a .pdf about the speakers: s2000proi and here’s a video (without commentary) of the speakers set up at home and me playing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

I thought a nice attention to detail was that each speaker has four brass feet which means the speakers aren’t resting on a surface (ie table), which in terms means there’s no unnecessary vibrations impacting on the sound quality. Edifier provides a 5m connection cable which means you can place the speakers where they best fit in your entertainment/game console set-up – or wherever you want to place them.

The speakers come with a pretty large, pretty uncomplicated remote which means you can sit back on the couch as you listen to your favourite tunes. You can also change the source using a knob on the left speaker but why bother when you’ve got a fully functional remote? The remote also has four EQ modes: Vocal, Monitor, Classic and Dynamic, which is ideal for gaming and movies (if I’d had the time or thought about it, I would have hooked the speakers up to one of my game consoles and really stirred things up!)

The S2000 Pro speakers can be connected to a sound source either by optical cable, RCA cable or Bluetooth, which is how I tested the speakers out, given the short time I had them. Connecting to the speakers was super easy and I tested the speakers on a variety of songs and soundtracks from my Spotify playlist, which included Paul Leonard-Morgan’s driving soundtrack to the movie Dredd,  a variety of 1979s and ’80s classics,  and one of my standard music testing songs, Queen’s legendary Bohemian Rhapsody. A classic if ever there was one.

The S2000 Pro’s ticked all the boxes when it came to sound quality and cranking them up, especially while playing, Bohemian Rhapsody (to the point of annoying family members who are watching TV in the next room), they fill a room with sound that didn’t distort the louder it got.

To be honest, I’d be happy tossing out our portable speakers and replace them with Edifier’s S2000 units. Sure, they’re not portable so you won’t be able to take them on the boat or on a picnic with your loved one, but around the home, these things punch well above their weight, especially for the price.

Talking of which, the S2000 Pro speakers will set you back around $600-$700, depending on the retailer, which for a set of speakers of this quality and ones that could easily feel at home in your main entertainment set-up, they’re a steal.

Look, if I had one complaint about the S2000 Pro speakers, it would be the plastic covers over the drivers. They just feels cheap, especially at the top. It would be nice to see a more substantial plastic used.

Once again, Edifier has impressed the pants off me with its audio equipment.

 

Edifer V4 gaming headset review: Two thumbs up

The LEDs surrounding the V4 ear cups give Edifer’s gaming headset a nice look.

I reviewed Edifer’s G4 over-ear gaming headset last year so was keen to look at the company’s V4 gaming headset when I was offered the chance but just how do the two headsets differ?

To be honest, I’m not sure, as they both seem pretty similar in terms of specifications and design.

Like the G4s, the V4s are comfortable to wear, with the faux leather padded ear cups cushioning your ears. I wore them for extended gaming periods and didn’t experience any discomfort or soreness and they didn’t feel heavy on my head. The V4s also did a good job of blocking out exterior noise – perhaps not as good as my Sol Republic headset – but enough to quieten down exterior TV noise or conversations.

The V4s have a faux leather material that means the ear cups are comfortable.

The V4s are PC, PS4 and Mac compatible and each ear cup has a 40mm driver unit (as well as in-built LED lighting in the mesh metal interior), offering a frequency response of 20Hz – 20KHz (I have no idea what that means) and an impedence of 20ohm (again, I have no idea what that means).

The headset connects via USB and the 2.5m-long cable is enough to let you plug it into a games console in a TV entertainment unit and let you sit on a couch. The cable has an in-line remote built in which turns the headset on and off and mutes the retractable boom microphone (which sits in the left ear cup). I tested the headset on my PC, playing Respawn’s excellent Titanfall2 and on PS4, playing Rockstar’s also excellent Red Dead Redemption 2. Audio was clear and crisp, with nice bass tones in both games.

The V4s also have positional 7.1 surround sound built in, which means you can hear everything that’s happening, and vibration, activated with a toggle on the inline remote control. The vibration isn’t over-the-top and just a slight enhancement of the game audio. It’s nice that you can toggle it on and off, meaning if you don’t want the vibration, you can switch it off.

The retractable boom mic & inline remote control.

The headset band is quite flexible, seeming pretty robust (although, I wouldn’t get too carried away twisting it) and it’s well priced, clocking in at just under $NZ100.

Overall, Edifer’s V4 gaming headset offers a great gaming headset that’s comfortable, provides good in-game audio, and, importantly, won’t break the bank if your looking for a good entry level gaming headset.

I’m still  not sure what the difference between the G4 and V4 headset is but with a great price and great performance, Edifer’s V4 gaming headset seems like it’s two-thumbs up worthy.

Thanks to PR company King Creative Media for the review unit.

Halo Fireteam Raven launches in NZ tomorrow night

There’s a new Halo game launching in New Zealand tomorrow night – but you can’t buy it at your local retailer or play it on your Xbox One (or One X console).

Halo: Fireteam Raven is the first arcade edition of Microsoft’s much-loved FPS game Halo to come to New Zealand – and it’s getting its first outing at Timezone Xtreme Entertainment Wairau in Auckland tomorrow night (August 28)

The arcade game lets  four players either play cooperatively, or compete against each other in the Halo universe, and boasts a 130-inch, 4K  widescreen and 5.1 surround sound. Halo: Fireteam Raven lets fans of the Halo franchise play alongside Master Chief in the battle to ward off the enemy forces of the Covenant and the Flood infestation.

Here’s the official trailer for the game:

As luck would have it, I’m actually in Auckland tomorrow night for work so I’ll be popping along to Timezone Wairau to check out the Fireteam Raven and the festivities I’ll  post images to my twitter feed (@GamejunkieNZ) during the night, too,  if you want to see what the arcade machine looks like.

Also, if you attending the event and see me, come say hi!

 

 

 

 

Huawei P20 review

Huawei’s P20 is the (slightly) cheaper sibling of the Chinese company’s flagship P20 Pro.

And like the Pro model, it’s clear Huawei has put a lot of effort into the camera on the P20, as it has two Leica Summilux lenses on the back and a neural processing unit in the handset that Huawei says will help you become a better photographer (the P20 Pro has three lenses).

Now, I can’t vouch for whether the P20 will help me become a better photographer but I was impressed that the camera’s software instantly recognised my dog (the tag dog appeared on the phone’s screen) when I pointed the phone at my dog.

Here’s a photo of my dog, Drew, taken with the P20. There’s one of the view out the window when I flew to Queenstown for work the other day and another one I took at night using the night mode. (The camera’s AI wasn’t infallible, though: I pointed at my wife and it briefly flashed up the tag cat – before quickly changing to portrait!)

Woof woof!

Nice view!

Less than starry night.

The P20 is a smart-looking phone, too, with a glass back that screams quality (but is also a finger print magnet) and a great screen.  The power and volume up/down buttons are on the right hand side and the P20 sports a USB-C connection on its base.

Huawei’s unit has gone the way of the latest iPhones and forsaken the 3.5mm headphone jack (so bluetooth earbuds/earphones only) and unfortunately, doesn’t have a slot for a microSD expansion card. Just like the iPhone X, the P20 has a “notch” at the top of the screen but it wasn’t too distracting, to be honest. The battery life seemed pretty good in normal day-to-day usage.

The P20 is fast and responsive, thanks to its 2.4Ghz Kirin 970 chip, and comes with 4Gb of memory and 128Gb of storage, which is handy. All in all, it’s a competent phone that ticks all the right boxes but here’s the thing:  I think Huawei has shot itself in the foot a little as I don’t think  that priced as it is (ranging in price in NZ from $900 to $1129), the P20 can compete with Huawei’s own P20 Pro, which offers more features for only a few hundred dollars more.

I mean, if you’ve got the money, it’s a no brainer to go with the more powerful unit, right? I know I would.

Thanks to Huawei for the review unit

D-Link Covr C1203: Enveloping your home in Wi-fi goodness

D-Link Covr C1203 seamless Wi-fi system ($599,99)

D-Link’s Covr C1203 system is the solution for when you have shit Wi-fi around your home.

I have shit Wi-fi in my house and chances are, if your house is anything like mine, the further you get away from the router  (mine’s located behind my TV in the main lounge at the front of the house), the shittier the wi-fi connection gets. Heck, before I installed the Covr C1203 system I was struggling to pick up a decent wi-fi signal from the kitchen, which is maybe 8m to 10m away from the router in the lounge.

After countless calls to the ISP’s helpdesk and tweaking of settings, things didn’t improve much: Sometimes we’d be watching Netflix using Apple TV over wi-fi and the picture quality would suddenly degrade to SD for a few minutes before cranking back up to HD. It was less than ideal.

D-Link’s Powerline solution.

Now, being the techie that I am, I’m not happy with sub-par wi-fi so before the Covr C1203 system, I bought a D-Link’s Wi-fi boosting Powerline solution, which you plug into a power socket and it boosts the internet signal using the electrical wiring in your house.

While adequate, speeds were pretty flakey at times and it wasn’t all that reliable, with the signal dropping out from time to time, I was still able to surf the web and watch Netflix easy enough using Wi-fi but couldn’t watch a streaming service like SkyTV’s Neon, which just refused to load.

D-Link’s Covr C1203 claims it’ll give up to 1200Mbps Wi-fi and each unit has three receiving antennas, which means it’ll detect the Wi-fi signal easier and provide a consistent signal. Set-up was easy enough using D-Link’s Android app. You can either use the default network name or create your own and you connect the base station to you router then dot the secondary stations around your house (the kit came with two secondary stations).

Once powered on, a  flashing white Covr logo on top of the base station means a weak wi-fi signal and a solid white logo means a solid Wi-fi signal. I had to move the around the house until I was happy with the signal.

D-Link’s Covr C1203 solution in its natural environment.

The Covr C1203 is what is called a mesh system, meaning it envelopes your house in a wi-fi, um, net, meaning there are no dead spots and you’ve got consistent coverage between the base stations. I was now getting Wi-fi all around the house: No more flakey speeds, no more buffering streams.

I took a few days to find the right placement for the secondary nodes. I originally had one in the kitchen and one in the laundry but the signal wasn’t the strongest so every day or so I moved one or two to another location: laundry, bathroom, my bedroom. I finally settled on one secondary node in bedroom 1 and the second in bedroom 2. If you measured a line from the base station in the lounge to the node in bedroom 2, you’d pretty much have a straight line from point A to point B. Each node has two ethernet ports as well.

My house is, I suspect, a pretty typical one of its time period: Build in the late 1990s, it has timber framing with a brick exterior. It’s around 225sqm in size but has a few walls between where the router is and the bedroom end of the house. I tested the wi-fi signal from three points around the house before I installed the Cover C1203.

Pre Covr testing: Lounge: 256Mbps down, 350Mbps up; bedroom 1: 69.1Mbps down, 19.5Mbps up; My bedroom: Failed the test (no signal)

Post-Covr installation: Lounge: 334Mbps down, 248Mbps up; bedroom 1: 81.2Mbps down, 102Mbps up; My bedroom:52.9Mbps down, 63.8Mbps up.

I’m impressed with the Covr C1203. Now, I can watch Neon on my iPad in HD in my bedroom and not skip a beat: It’s seamless and buffer free. We get strong wi-fi speeds right around the house now, which is something we didn’t get when both my children were at home – and they constantly complained about it.

Thanks to D-Link’s Covr system, I’m now getting decent Wi-fi speeds all over the house, which I’m really stoked about, especially during those cold winter nights when I can stay in bed and watch movies or early-morning E3 press conferences.

One thing that would have been nice to be able to do with the smartphone app is turn off or turn down the brightness of the illumination on the base station’s cover: It can easily light up an entire room when it’s pitch black. Apparently you can do that in the system’s web-based menu system but try as I might, I just wasn’t able to access it either through the covr.local website or the router4’s IP address.

Thanks to D-Link and its Covr solution, I’m a happy chappy.

Thanks for D-Link ANZ for the review unit.

Something On My Mind: Has Xbox lost its way?

Something On My Mind is an occasional thought piece about,  well, something that has been on my mind for a while. 

Last console generation, I could confidently say that the most played console in my household was the Xbox 360.

Microsoft couldn’t do anything wrong with that console and just seemed to have nailed it with the Xbox 360. I played games on it much more than my PlayStation 3.

This generation, however, it’s a complete reversal: My Xbox One console sits gathering dust underneath my TV, with my Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 getting all my gaming attention. I know it’s been a while since I used my Xbox One when every time I turn it on there’s a hefty update for it.

The reason? I think it’s because, for me, the Xbox One doesn’t have any compelling single-player experiences like the PlayStation does, and I’m a strong single-player campaign gamer. Give me single-player any day of the week.

The last time I turned on the Xbox One was to download Mad Max using the Xbox Game Pass (which I think is a good scheme) and Sea of Thieves (which I quickly stopped playing through lack of content) and State of Decay 2, two games that are strongly multi-player or co-operatively focused titles.

Sure, Backward Compatibility on the Xbox One is a nice feature,  but to be honest, I don’t have a current generation console so that I can re-play games that I’ve already played on my Xbox 360, even if they’re in a higher resolution and run at faster frame rates (look, my eyes are getting so bad these days I’m not sure I can pick up frame rate drops anymore). I have my Xbox 360 if I want to play games from the last generation.

For me, I want engaging, compelling narrative-driven games and I get that with the PlayStation: God of War, Detroit Become Human, Horizon Zero Dawn, the Yakuza series. While Sony was investing in development studios and putting faith in single player games, Xbox was focusing on Kinect and its  vision of the Xbox One being an all-singing, all-dancing entertainment centre – and I think that’s hurt Xbox.

I may be wrong here, but these days, Xbox’s target market seems to be more and more the multiplayer crowd, given its investment in games like Sea of Thieves, Player Unknown’s Underground (PUBG) and State of Decay 2.

Microsoft’s Xbox One X might be the world’s most powerful console – and I’ve no doubt it is – but for me, what’s the point of having an amazingly powerful piece of hardware without must-have, compelling single-player games for it?

I’m not a fan boy of any gaming platform: Sure, I play most of my games on a console, but I still buy and play games on my PC (I have a huge backlog of Steam games I’ve bought but haven’t played yet). As far as I’m concerned, if you play games, no matter what platform, you’re a gamer.

I’m hoping that at E3 in a couple of weeks, Xbox announces a line-up of games that will restore my faith in the hardware maker and make the most of its console’s power. All I want is some really strong single-player games that make me want to play my Xbox One just as much as my PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

Is that too much to ask?

 

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