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Reviewing tech products can be an interesting gig — sometimes you get to test out gadgets you might never think of purchasing yourself, like Sony’s $6,500, professional-grade A1. Steve Dent spent some time with the shooter and deemed it the alpha of mirrorless cameras. Other times, you get to review products that convince you of a company’s prowess, like the new ASUS Zephyrus G15, which Devindra Hardawar said offered practically everything he wanted in a gaming laptop. But every once in a while, you get a product that is so far off the mark that you must caution potential buyers — like the OnePlus Watch, which Cherlynn Low found mediocre at best.
Steve Dent calls Sony’s new mirrorless camera, the A1, a $6,500 showcase for the latest sensors, autofocus, and EVFs that should appear in forthcoming models. The 50-megapixel A1 offers extremely fast shooting speeds, 5-axis stabilization and 8K 30p and 4K 10-bit 120fps video. The back-side illuminated stacked CMOS sensor is all new, as is the 240Hz, 9.44 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder. All that is packed into a compact body weighing only 737 grams or 1.6 pounds. Steve says it’s nice to hold and use, and he appreciated that it was even more rugged and water-resistant than previous models.
However, the A1 is clearly aimed at professional photographers given it’s exorbitant price, and it lacks a flip out display which makes it a tougher sell for vloggers or single-person crews. But given that it’s got a more intuitive menu system, amazing controls, a ton of useful ports (including a full-size HDMI), a solid battery life (without EVF use), and remarkable color accuracy, there are still plenty of positives. The A1 also works well in touch tracking and face- and eye-detection modes, and has support for S-Log modes, so users can feel confident knowing they have a model dubbed the “most powerful mirrorless ever built.”
Already a fan of ASUS Zephryus G14, Devindra Hardawar was just as impressed with the larger, 2021 G15 notebook. With an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor, a 1,440p, 165Hz Quad HD display, an NVIDIA RTX 30-series GPU and a light, 4.2 pound build, the G15 provided Devindra with solid gaming performance while playing Destiny 2 and Overwatch. The G15 also boasts an impressive battery life, lasting eight hours and 50 minutes during testing, and it has a springy, responsive keyboard and plenty of ports, making it useful for both classroom or home-office settings.
However, the G15 did struggle some when running Cyberpunk 2077 with maxed out ray-tracing settings and 1,440p graphics. It was playable, but not exactly what Devindra would have expected from a machine at this price point. And while under load, the laptop’s fans were noticeably loud, though not to an annoying degree. The bigger drawback that Devindra pointed out is the lack of a webcam on the G15: it’s something that he didn’t miss much but it’s a strange omission at a time when video calls are so common. He suggests that ASUS include a cheap external webcam in the box. Otherwise, he felt that the Zephyrus G15 offered nearly everything he’d want in a first-rate gaming notebook that doesn’t break the bank.
Terrence O’Brien has no complaints about the design of Positive Grid’s Spark Pearl digital amp: he says the company knocked it out of the park with the white vinyl, distinct grill cloth and fluted knobs that give the amp a classy, vintage vibe that looks great on display in a living room. And it sounds as good as it looks, too. Terrence said the sounds are full, rich and warm, that it’s surprisingly loud at 40 watts and can easily cover a wide range of genres from sludgy doom metal to chugging nu-metal dissonance.
For $299, users get seven amp models (like acoustic, bass and metal) and 40 different effects that cover a wide range of sounds. The Spark Pearl also boasts Bluetooth connectivity for pairing with the companion app, which includes a library of pre-designed tones, backing tracks, voice controls and a feature that analyzes popular songs to identify chords. However, Terrence points out that the app isn’t as polished as the hardware and has some clunky UI design — and the amp loses some of its value if it isn’t used to its full digital potential. Terrence says its best for players who aren’t tech-averse and who are looking for a lot of versatility.
Cherlynn Low shares the same sentiment that other reviewers had about OnePlus’ first smartwatch: it feels unfinished and backward. Cherlynn says that the Watch itself is a clean looking device with an easy to read, 1.39-inch AMOLED screen. She was also impressed by the recharge speed: the company claims a full week’s worth of charge in 20 minutes. In her testing, Cherlynn was able to charge from zero to 43 percent in five to ten minutes. During testing, she was still at 23 percent battery life after four days of heavy use including GPS and workout tracking.
While the Watch was more or less adept at tracking her exercise, Cherlynn ran into issues with the hardware. First, it only comes in one size. The 46mm case was far too large on her wrist, and the loose fit caused issues with accurately tracking her workouts. She also missed having an Always On mode and was annoyed by how quickly the app paused sessions — and by how often she ran into bugs with notifications and sleep tracking. Overall, she felt the app suffered from clunky navigation and lacked features other wearables have had access to for a while. Despite the OnePlus Watch’s decent $159 price and excellent battery life, Cherlynn couldn’t recommend it over competing products from companies like Fitbit who already have proven expertise in the smartwatch space.
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