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HP Omen Transcend 14 review: a stylish, reasonably-priced OLED gaming laptop
3:38 am | July 14, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Gaming Computers Gaming Laptops | Tags: , | Comments: Off

HP Omen Transcend 14: Two-minute review

The HP Omen Transcend 14 (2024) is almost everything I want out of the best gaming laptops lineup: sleek, stylish, portable, comfortable to type on, and offering more than enough gaming performance for modern games at 1080p, all for a pretty reasonable price tag.

Its 120Hz OLED display in particular is a jaw-dropper and made me realize what I’m missing out on with my usual IPS monitor. The Transcend 14’s classy, portable design made me feel at ease taking it out to work. And it offered enough gaming performance to keep me gaming from the comfort of my bed rather than in my office on my gaming PC.

There are a couple of pain points with the Transcend 14, though. First, its battery life is seriously bad. Second—and admittedly this might only be a problem for those like myself who like to pretend they’re “competitive” gamers—it has a 16:10 aspect ratio display, which means you see less on the horizontal axis while playing first-person shooters. I could find no easy fix for this, as enabling 16:9 resolutions with black-border GPU scaling proved difficult.

Despite this, for casual or non-FPS gaming, this laptop is stylish, comfortable, and performs well enough that it would certainly be in the running for becoming my own personal gaming laptop. Its GPU is a little underpowered (even with a 15W boost in the Omen software) compared to similar laptops, but not enough to detract from the value offered by the Transcend 14’s stellar design, cooling, and display.

So, if you’re fine with these battery life, resolution, and GPU caveats, I can happily recommend the HP Omen Transcend 14, though I’d personally struggle to pick between it and the 2024 version of the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (or maybe a bigger laptop altogether, given 14-inch displays are quite small). 

HP Omen Transcend 14: Price and availability

A design element of the HP Omen Transcend 14

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)
  • How much does it cost? Starting at $1,689 / £1,449 (about AU$2,450)
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US and UK (Australia release unknown)

The Transcend 14 sits smack-bang where I hope many more laptops will sit as time goes on: in the mid-range OLED segment—“mid-range,” of course, always sounds a little tongue-in-cheek when we move past $1,500.

Three things make this laptop stellar value for the money: its mainstream gaming performance, sleek and portable design, and gorgeous OLED display. For $1,819 for the 1TB RTX 4060 version, you’re getting a pretty great deal.

Its main competitor is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2024), which also looks great, is portable, has a lovely 120Hz OLED screen, has similar specs, and costs roughly the same at MSRP. The main difference between the two right now seems to be that the Transcend 14 is frequently selling for much cheaper than its MSRP.

The Razer Blade 14 (2024) is an alternative, too, but costs a fair amount more for a version with similar specs. For that mark-up, you get an even better chassis (which is saying a lot) and better performance thanks to higher GPU power limits. But you don’t get that beautiful OLED screen, which is no little thing. 

  • Value: 4 / 5

HP Omen Transcend 14: Specs

The spec stickers on the HP Omen Transcend 14

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

The Omen Transcend 14 (2024) comes in three main configurations, although you can customize it a little beyond these configs. The main choice to make is between a model with a Core Ultra 7 155H with RTX 4050, a Core Ultra 7 155H with RTX 4060, or a Core Ultra 9 185H with RTX 4070

Beyond this, you can configure a few things. In the US, you can save $90 by opting for a 512GB SSD instead of a 1TB one, taking the base config down to $1,599, or pay an extra $140 for a 2TB SSD. You can also pay an extra $40 for a Wi-Fi 7 card, and you can pay extra for single-zone RGB or a white chassis. 

You can also choose to pay an extra $150 to have a HyperX Cloud III Wireless headset included (which automatically pairs with the laptop). Apart from this, there’s the usual slew of Operating System, warranty, and software customizations to choose from. 

HP Omen Transcend 14: Design

The lid of the HP Omen Transcend 14

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)
  • Gorgeous 120Hz OLED display with vibrant colors and deep blacks
  • Classy, understated, portable MacBook-esque design
  • “Pudding-inspired” keycaps on a springy keyboard that feels great

The Omen Transcend 14 looks and feels more like a modern portable work laptop than a gaming laptop, and that’s a good thing, in my book. HP is clearly going for more of a MacBook-style design than a decked-out gaming aesthetic, and for the price, it sure as hell delivers.

This 14-inch machine is light, weighing 3.59lb, and slim, too, at just 0.7 inches thick. Crucially, it manages to walk the line between portable and sturdy, being super easy to sling in a backpack and take to the café without feeling like you might break it while doing so. There’s a slight flex to the display, but nothing concerning.

What’s more, it offers all this in a crisp, understated design—understated for a gaming laptop, that is. And while the “shadow black” style of Transcend 14 I received looks gorgeous, the “ceramic white” one looks even better. You can get the latter version for just $15 extra, which is worth it in my opinion.

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The keyboard of the HP Omen Transcend 14

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)
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The ports on the HP Omen Transcend 14

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)
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The HyperX logo on the HP Omen Transcend 14

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)
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The webcam on the HP Omen Transcend 14

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)
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A quarter next to the HP Omen Transcend 14

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

Apart from this, the Transcend 14’s OLED display is probably its main selling point. If you’ve never gamed on an OLED monitor before, it’s hard for me to explain just how stunning the dark blacks and vibrant colors look. Combine this with its 120Hz refresh rate and you have a phenomenal gaming display. It’s just a shame it doesn’t come with full-fledged GSync or FreeSync.

It takes a lot to impress me in the keyboard department, given I’m very used to my own custom mechanical keyboard, but the Transcend 14’s semi-chonky keyboard did impress. I used this laptop as a daily driver for a few days and found it an absolute joy to type on. Its “pudding-inspired” HyperX keycaps look great, and the keys feel nice and springy. The trackpad’s nice and tactile, too, and is centered (thank God), just like it should be.

I’m no fan of RGB, but if that kind of thing’s your jam, you’ll be pleased to hear it comes with four-zone RGB. Or, if you’re happy paying an eye-watering $80 extra, you can get per-key RGB. Colors, effects, and the like can all be customized in the HP Omen software.

One thing that slightly disappointed me about the Transcend 14 is its selection of ports, especially given the rear USB-C port essentially acts as a dedicated charging port. For multiple USB devices, you’ll want to pick up a USB hub. Still, there should be just enough ports here for most use cases, including for connecting an external mouse and keyboard.

  • Design: 5 / 5

HP Omen Transcend 14: Performance

The HP Omen Transcend 14 on a table

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)
  • Reasonable 1080p gaming performance
  • GPU is power-limited, even after enabling 15W boost
  • Great performance for such a slim, cool, quiet, and reasonably-priced laptop

Here is how the HP Omen Transcend 14 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Fire Strike: 17,848; Time Spy: 8,010;
GeekBench 6: 2,362 (single-core); 13,248 (multi-core)
25GB File Copy:
15.52 seconds
Handbrake 1.6 4K to 1080p encode: 5:04 minutes CrossMark Overall: 1,506; Productivity: 1,404; Creativity: 1,810; Responsiveness: 1,069;
Total War: Warhammer III (1080p, Ultra):
60.8 fps
Cyberpunk 2077 (1080p, Ultra): 21.24 fps
Dirt 5 (1920x1200, Ultra): 50 fps
Web Surfing (Battery Informant): 4 hours 9 minutes
PCMark 10 Gaming Battery Life: 58 minutes 

The Omen Transcend 14 keeps up with modern titles at 1080p, but starts to struggle at higher resolutions. However, gaming at 1080p on medium settings looks fantastic on its OLED display, and frankly, you don’t need a higher resolution on a 14-inch monitor anyway. During my time gaming on this laptop, I found that whether I was playing Metro Exodus, Overwatch 2, Doom Eternal, V Rising, Satisfactory, or Vampire Survivors (you know, to really put the laptop through its paces), it was more than up to the task. 

During the starting area of Metro Exodus, the Transcend 14’s RTX 4060 pulled over 100fps on Extreme settings at 1080p with DLSS enabled, and not much less than that with it disabled. Risk of Rain 2 had me at a smooth 80fps even at higher resolutions, and Overwatch 2 averaged well over 120fps.

However, my real bugbear is that while the Transcend 14 display’s native 16:10 aspect ratio makes it more useable for casual gaming and general use, it’s not great for competitive gaming because you lose out on some horizontal real estate in games. 

Using 16:9 compressed everything, making the game look stretched vertically. So, I tried to get it working with black borders. However, because the laptop runs a hybrid GPU setup (switching from its Intel Arc GPU to its RTX 4060 when needed), there was no GPU scaling option in the Nvidia Control Panel. I couldn’t get it working via the Intel Graphics Command Center, either. 

The only way I could run a game at 16:9 with black borders was to change the resolution in Windows Settings and then play it in borderless windowed mode, which feels like more of a hacky workaround than anything else and, at any rate, introduced more input latency than when playing fullscreen (And trying to get 16:9 working in Counter Strike 2 just straight-up crashed the entire system.)

If you’re not picky about 16:9 FPS gaming like me, the Transcend 14 performs well enough for casual gaming today. You can expect about 60fps in most good-looking games at 1080p, and if you enable DLSS, FSR, or XeSS you can really make the most of the OLED display’s 120Hz refresh rate.

There’s also an option to boost max GPU power by 15W (from 65W to 80W) in the Omen Gaming Hub software. I found that enabling this boosted the GPU clock from 1965MHz to 2190MHz, and from 113fps to 131fps, at 1080p during the opening portion of Metro Exodus.

Unfortunately, though, even this 15W boost doesn’t quite put the Transcend 14’s performance in line with some similar-specced 14-inch laptops. Instead, it sacrifices a little gaming performance for a portable design, cooler thermals, quieter fans, and a lower price.

If we’re talking general work use, the laptop performs great—with one caveat. I found, for whatever reason, things got laggy when downloading files while on battery power. Even typing in Notepad was slow. As soon as I plugged in the mains or stopped downloading, it was fine. Just a peculiar heads up.

  • Performance: 3.5 / 5

HP Omen Transcend 14: Battery life

  • Atrocious battery life
  • Even with power-saving settings, expect fewer than 6 hours for light tasks

The Transcend 14 has a 71Wh battery, and in practice I found it to offer worse battery life than many other gaming laptops. In our PCMark 10 Battery Life test, we found it to give less than an hour of game-time on battery power, and this seemed to bear out in my day-to-day testing. For gaming, then, you’ll really want to have this thing plugged in via the rear USB-C port (which offers faster charging than the side port).

I got 5 hours and 45 minutes of seven-tab Chrome office work out of the Transcend 14, so don’t expect to get a full 8 hours of work done without charging it. To be clear, this was with the Omen Hub’s Eco Mode enabled, Windows power efficiency mode turned on, brightness turned low (but still clearly visible), and RGB lighting turned off.

In all, its battery life is disappointing, but it’s enough to crank out a few hours of work on-the-go, or half an hour of unplugged gaming here and there. And thankfully, it charges quickly using the rear port.

  • Battery Life: 2 / 5

Should you buy the HP Omen Transcend 14?

The lid of the HP Omen Transcend 14

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

Buy the HP Omen Transcend 14 if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

How I tested the HP Omen Transcend 14

  • I tested the HP Omen Transcend 14 (2024) for several weeks
  • I tested it using benchmark tests, video game benchmarks, and doing day-to-day gaming and office work
  • I used Nvidia FrameView to capture in-game framerates

For the first week, I got used to the laptop. I treated it as if I’d just bought it for myself, unboxing it, downloading my favorite games, and making use of it day-to-day. I made notes of any positives and negatives that came to mind. Then, I got to testing. 

I ran benchmarks for tons of different use cases, noting the results. Finally, I tested some specific things I was curious about. Namely, the 16:10 vs 16:9 issue, and office work battery life tests. I also took the laptop out with me to work, to test its portability.

The HP Omen Transcend 14 (2024) is a gaming laptop, and is ideal for gaming even in more demanding titles (provided it’s plugged in and not running on battery power), but it can also be used as a work laptop. I used it for my own work and found its portability and design to both look and play the part, and its keyboard was a delight to use. Unfortunately, its battery life wasn’t amazing.

I’ve spent the past few years testing and reviewing all kinds of PC components, peripherals, and devices, including gaming laptops. I know how to test them properly, be objective and make accurate inferences from test results, and, probably more importantly, I know how to treat my devices like an end-user would, cutting the wheat from the chaff and getting to what’s most important to average PC gamers.

We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed July 2024
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Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Comments: Off

Saiyin DS6305: Review

Product Info

In the US, Saiyin sells a similar product, the DS6345, that comes with a subwoofer. Please note that this is not included with the DS6305, available for purchase in the UK and Australia. This review was conducted in the UK and covers the soundbar only, although specs and dimensions for the subwoofer will be included. 

The Saiyin DS6305 is an extremely cheap soundbar that aims to provide a bit more depth for your home viewing experiences. At just £39.99 (about AU$75), you won't find many cheaper alternatives out there, but you will, inevitably, have to make some sacrifices in terms of features and sound quality. 

With the Saiyin DS6305, you get decent enough audio without any bells and whistles. There’s no Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or anything like that – so don’t expect spatial, ultra-dynamic sound. The overall quality is actually quite good for the price, with the main draw being the relatively powerful bass output. I was impressed by the added depth it offered compared to the plain old TV audio from my Hisense U7K TV, which, for reference, has a built-in subwoofer to bolster low-end frequencies. 

When streaming Dune (2021) via Netflix, the film’s deep, atmospheric score and sound effects were far more impactful with the DS6305 than just my TV. Bass was still not super clean or intricately detailed, but it was delivered with a solid amount of power nonetheless, especially considering the absence of a subwoofer. The movie’s dialogue was sometimes a little lacking in clarity, but totally passable – just don’t expect the kind of quality you’d get from one of the best soundbars

I then tested how the DS6305 fared with sport by tuning into a UEFA Euro 2024 match. The commentary wasn’t crystal clear amidst the booming crowd noise – which was emulated a lot more faithfully than in standalone TV audio – but it wasn’t totally drowned out, resulting in an adequate listening experience. 

To measure the soundbar’s gaming performance, I played Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance on the PlayStation 5. Jumping in an open, echoey area sounded a lot more natural than on my TV audio, especially the depth of the character’s feet against the concrete floor. The game has a very ambient, atmospheric soundtrack, which was complemented by the DS6305, but, again, the bass was a little muddied at times. This really sums up the audio quality on offer here: you’ll get more power, bass, and full-bodied sound than from just your TV, but don’t expect impeccable quality or game-changing expansiveness.

Saiyin DS6305 positioned below Amazon Fire TV

(Image credit: Future)

When watching videos, TV, or films, I made sure to use the Movie EQ mode – one of the three available options alongside Music and News. When listening to some music on Spotify, I switched between Music and Movie mode to gauge the key differences, but surprisingly, I couldn’t make out any discernible change. I also tuned into BBC News to test out the News mode, and apart from a very slight increase in volume, I didn't hear anything strikingly different. As a result, I’d have to say that changing between the 3 EQ ‘modes’ is barely worth your time. 

Looping back to my Spotify listening session, I wasn’t anticipating something that would produce beautiful-sounding audio and I honestly felt that the DS6305 didn’t perform too badly. When tuning in to I Want You by Moloko, I will admit that the opening vocals – intended to have a pure, breathy sound – weren’t particularly clear, perhaps less so than my normal TV audio. Beyond that, though, the overall listening experience was far better with the soundbar, which wasn’t bad at capturing the various instruments entering into a densely layered, exciting mix. Sure, it did tend to lean more heavily on bass and I couldn’t make out every last detail of the track, but this is pretty typical for the price. 

I also wanted to get a sense of how high-frequency sounds came through, so I listened to Rains Again by Solji. This song has markedly high-pitched vocals throughout and I found that these certainly didn’t have the sweetness or delicacy that really make it pop, but the audio wasn’t particularly tinny or grating. If you do want to use this soundbar for any kind of music, it will do the job – just don’t expect great quality.

Front of Saiyin DS6305

(Image credit: Future)

The DS6305 is very cheap, and unsurprisingly, it looks cheap. It’s enclosed in standard black plastic housing and has a relatively feeble foam material protecting the speaker. The soundbar has an LED light strip that fills up depending on volume level and changes color depending on the connectivity option being used – a neat inclusion (though it simply flashes off and back on when you flick between the different EQ presets, which isn’t the clearest way to show you’ve switched to a new mode). The shape is perhaps a little unorthodox – due to its triangular form, I couldn't fit it under my TV stand – so ensure you have enough space to play with if you’re planning on purchasing this soundbar. 

The DS6305 comes with a remote, which requires two AAA batteries (not included). It may seem like a small thing, but I was disappointed by the quality of the controller – particularly because lower-case 'i's on the buttons have backward-leaning accents (for some reason), and the use of capitalization across the different buttons is sporadic, to say the least. Grammar issues aside, the remote is responsive and enables you to adjust volume levels and switch between connectivity options (including digital optical, AUX, and Bluetooth). There are also button controls on the soundbar itself for ARC coaxial, which is a bit odd because it doesn’t come with a cable to support this. 

There’s no option to connect the DS6305 via HDMI, meaning you won’t be able to use your standard TV remote to control the soundbar’s volume levels. The lack of an HDMI port also means that setup isn’t optimal, but it was fairly straightforward to connect the soundbar to my TV via the included digital optical cable instead. 

Saiyin DS6305 remote on wooden surface

(Image credit: Future)

The Saiyin DS6305 soundbar impressed me in some departments but failed to inspire in others. If you want a super cheap solution to add a bit of bass and power to your setup, this could be worth taking a look at. The build quality is, of course, pretty unimpressive and the soundbar’s awkward shape makes it a little less ideal for those working with limited space, not to mention there’s no HDMI connectivity option, which is a shame. 

If you want a soundbar that offers slightly better audio quality at a price that’s easy to stomach, you’ll be better off selecting a product from our guide to the best cheap soundbar deals.

Saiyin DS6305 positioned below Amazon Fire TV

(Image credit: Future)

Saiyin DS6305 review: Price and release date

  • $59.99 for soundbar with subwoofer (US) on Amazon
  • £39.99 (about AU$75) for soundbar only (UK & Australia) on Amazon
  • Launched in March 2023

Saiyin doesn’t have its own online store, but you can purchase the DS6305 from Amazon – prices are, of course, subject to change. In the US, the DS6305 comes with a subwoofer and costs the ultra-low price of $59.99. In the UK and Australia, however, you purchase the soundbar on its own for what is still a very modest price of £39.99 (about AU$75).  

Saiyin DS6305 review: Specs

Reverse side of Saiyin DS6305 exposing 'power' and 'sub out' ports

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Saiyin DS6305?

Buy it if...

You want a super-cheap soundbar
At £39.99 (about AU$75) you won't find many cheaper soundbars out there. The Saiyin DS6305 isn’t a phenomenal product, but if you’re on a tight budget and just want an improvement over standard TV audio, this could be worth it for you. 

You’re not overly fussy on quality
Of course, the DS6305 isn’t going to offer premium sound. In fairness, you’ll have to spend a bit more if you’re someone who values top-quality audio, and there are a lot of strong budget options sitting at around the $100 / £100 / AU$150 mark. However, this soundbar will give you a bit more power, especially in the low-end, so if you want to get a little more enjoyment out of blockbuster movies or gaming experiences, it could be a decent pick.  

Don't buy it if...

You want a sleek, stylish aesthetic
The DS6305 doesn’t look amazing due to a combination of its slightly awkward shape and cheap build quality. That’s not a massive problem for many, but if you’re the sort of person who prioritizes style, then it’s worth looking elsewhere. A budget alternative that has a more diminutive soundbar and even includes a subwoofer is the Ultimea Nova S50 – more on this later. 

You’re on the hunt for spatial audio
The DS6305 is a 2.0-channel soundbar so you won't get all the benefits of surround sound. There’s no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X at play either, so if you’re expecting expansive, three-dimensional audio, you’ll be disappointed. If you want to experience Atmos, then it may be worth selecting a soundbar from our guide to the best Dolby Atmos soundbars and speakers.

Saiyin DS6305: Also consider

Ultimea Nova S50
The Ultimea Nova S50 is another super cheap option for those looking to elevate their TV audio setup. It comes with an ultra-slim soundbar as well as a subwoofer, which means it'll be a bit more pleasing in the bass department than the Saiyin DS6305 and can add a bit more atmosphere to your viewing experiences. It doesn’t offer particularly great sound quality, and although it's labeled as Dolby Atmos compatible, you don’t really get three-dimensional audio. However, if you’re not too picky on quality, the Nova S50 could be a decent choice. Read our full Ultimea Nova S50 review here. 

Hisense HS214
It may be a few years old now, but the Hisense HS214 is still a solid soundbar for those on a tight budget. It’s a bit wider than the Saiyin DS6305 and has a built-in subwoofer. It doesn't have Dolby Atmos, so you won’t experience massively immersive audio, but you do get pretty clear vocals and decent build quality. 

Saiyin DS6305 review: How I tested

  • Tested over the course of a week
  • Connected to my Hisense U7K TV at home
  • Predominantly used the digital optical connectivity option

I put the Saiyin DS6305 to the test for a full week. I used the digital optical connectivity option to connect the soundbar to my Hisense U7K TV at home. 

I tracked performance across three key areas: video media; gaming; and music. When testing, I watched a variety of TV shows, videos, and movies on Netflix and YouTube, among others; played multiple video games on the PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch consoles; and listened to music from the TechRadar testing playlist via the PS5 version of the Spotify app.

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Author: admin | Category: Audio Audio Streaming Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off

YouTube Music: two-minute review

YouTube Music is YouTube’s music streaming service. It works like rivals Spotify and Tidal, with an app that looks similar. However, it’s not as nice to look at or as intuitive to use as the best music streaming services, especially when it comes to creating playlists. 

Sound-wise, it’s similar to the Spotify experience but doesn’t have high-res streaming or boosted audio quality, in the way that Tidal, Qobuz and and Apple Music do. It also has recommendations in the form of “radio”, which generates a radio station with a selection of music like the track you’re listening to, and personalized playlists. They get to know you well, but don’t suggest the kind of eerily accurate recommendations (or bizarrely-named Daylist titles) that Spotify has become known for. 

Apologies for constantly comparing YouTube Music to Spotify, but it’s long been the best music streaming service for many – and the platform most people are familiar with. And when you do get into the weeds and compare the two side-by-side, you start to ask the question: why would someone use YouTube Music when better, more intuitive alternatives exist?

The thing is, nothing about YouTube Music is bad. You just find most things – audio, recommendations, app experience, connectivity – are better from rivals. However, there are two key things that make YouTube Music the best proposition for its 100 million subscribers (that includes both free and premium versions).

The first is that it comes with YouTube Premium. This is YouTube’s paid-for subscription that strips ads from videos. For people who already pay for that, it’s similar enough to other streaming services, so why pay twice for another service like Spotify too? 

Secondly, it has a dedicated base of users who want to have access to all of the music in its library. You’ll find everything uploaded to YouTube here too, which means user uploaded music (including your own), remixes, amateur music, recordings of live sets, more obscure tracks, emerging artists and much more. 

YouTube Music is also constantly rolling out improvements to its offering. For example, it added podcasts in late 2023 and recently announced a sing to search feature, which lets you literally sing into your phone and it’ll find the track for you. As well as a new prompt-generated AI radio trial. Which, to be fair, Spotify already does in the form of AI DJ and its more recent AI playlist generator which is (in Beta at the time of writing this review, but) really fun to use. 

Yes, Spotify got there first with some of these upgrades, but YouTube Music seems to be taking major steps to catch up. It would be a sensible moment to do so, given the fact some users are growing tired of Spotify’s promises, especially after the PR disaster when it bricked Car Thing earlier this year – and the fact it has yet to deliver on its hi-res Spotify HiFi promises, despite recent price hikes. Does YouTube Music have what it takes to compete? Read on for our full YouTube Music review.

Screenshots of the YouTube Music app on a smartphone.

Your Music Tuner is a feature within YouTube Music that allows you to select your favorite artists so it can quickly get to work preparing recommendations and getting to know your tastes. (Image credit: YouTube)

YouTube Music: what is it?

Before we get into what YouTube Music is, let’s get clear on YouTube’s different offerings. So firstly, there’s YouTube. We’re all familiar with this hugely popular video streaming service. There’s YouTube Premium, a subscription service that gives you more YouTube features, like playing music in the background on mobile devices and stripping away ads. 

Then there’s YouTube Music, a music streaming service that also incorporates regular YouTube’s music videos. It’s best to think of it as a mash-up of the original YouTube app and Google Play Music. Because YouTube is part of the Google ecosystem, it’s tied to your Google account.

There are a couple of ways to pay for YouTube Music. We’ll get into that in more detail below, but you can access it for free with some restrictions and there’s a premium version. One of the big benefits for YouTube Premium subscribers is that they’ll also get access to YouTube Music premium bundled into the deal. 

At the time of writing, YouTube has recently announced that there are now 100 million subscribers to YouTube Music, which includes both free and premium users. 

In terms of what YouTube Music offers, there are more than 100 million tracks. But it’s also home to anything users have uploaded to YouTube that’s classed as music, amateur content, unofficial content, more obscure content, you get the picture. This is one of the unique selling points of YouTube Music. Not only is there a lot here, but music you’ve uploaded can live among everything else you’re streaming. Good news for those who like everything neatly in one place.

Otherwise, YouTube Music looks and feels very similar to other streaming services. You’ve got a grid-like app with suggested music and personalized playlists packed with recommendations, and there’s the ability to save tracks, like them and add them to playlists.

YouTube Music review: pricing and subscription

  • A free version with restrictions
  • YouTube Music premium is $10.99/£10/AU$11.99 per month
  • Premium tier comes free with YouTube Premium

Just like Spotify, there’s a free version of YouTube Music. This has some restrictions. It’ll have ads and you can’t download tracks for offline listening. A YouTube Music Premium subscription is $10.99/£10/AU$11.99 per month and that rids the experience of ads and means you can download tracks, albums and playlists for offline listening. 

As we mentioned above, you can also access YouTube Music by paying for a YouTube Premium subscription. That costs $13.99/£11.99/AU$16.99 per month but you can test it out with a free trial, which at the time of writing is for three months. 

At $10.99/£10/AU$11.99 per month, YouTube Music is around the same price as most rivals, including Tidal, which is also $10.99/£10.99/$11.99. Spotify’s premium tier costs $10.99 / £10.99 / AU$12.99 a month, so YouTube Music is slightly cheaper. 

As we’ll get to later on, there are ways in which both Tidal and Spotify beat YouTube Music, which makes it seem as if it’s not good value. Then again, there are some key things YouTube Music offers users that rivals don’t, so everything starts to balance out – depending on what you’re looking for. 

A screenshot of youtube music app in browser

My Mix 2 is a playlist generated from my listening history, packed with tracks I've not listened to on YouTube Music but certainly aligns with my tastes. (Image credit: YouTube)

YouTube Music review: audio quality

  • No high-res
  • Spotify marginally better
  • Sounds the same as Spotify in testing

When you start using YouTube Music, you’ll automatically be listening to ‘Normal’ audio quality, which is a bitrate of 128kbps. If you want to save on data when streaming from your phone, you can go into the Settings in the app and change to ‘Low’ quality, a bitrate of 48kbps. If you’re on an unlimited monthly plan (you lucky thing you), you can select ‘High’, which is 256kbps. 

Even that highest bitrate is low compared to rivals though – especially rivals that offer hi-res and lossless listening, like Tidal. But even Spotify Premium allows you to stream music at 320kbps. It’s not just about the bitrate either, YouTube Music delivers AAC-compressed audio, which can lack the detail and clarity of the more hi-res audio file types.

However, there’s some speculation online (take a look at Reddit) about why YouTube Music sounds better than Spotify for some listeners. During my testing, I didn’t notice a major difference between the two. Despite Spotify’s minor quality bump, if anything, YouTube Music had a richer and more expansive sound. Then again, this is of course subjective and while I marginally favor YouTube's sonic presentation, it's also dependant upon how you listen; if you're streaming wirelessly via Bluetooth (which incurs compression) or using the DAC inbuilt in your laptop (rather than one of the best portable DACs hooked up to some of the best wired headphones, which would be largely wasted here anyway) you're unlikely to notice much difference. 

What matters most here is to note that like Spotify, you won’t get audiophile-grade sound from YouTube Music, but in a battle strictly between the two, there’s not much in it.

The Sessions tab in youtube music shows music videos and content that's been recorded live.

(Image credit: youtube music)

YouTube Music review: catalog

  • A huge selection of music
  • Live sessions and videos too
  • More obscure and unofficial tracks

Gone are the days of judging streaming services by the number of tracks they have in their library. With only a handful of exceptions, you’ll find more artists and types of music everywhere you look. 

However, if you’ve ever felt like Spotify and the like aren’t catering enough for your tastes, then YouTube Music could be a great choice for you. Most of what you’ll find on rivals like Spotify are official tracks. On YouTube Music, you’ll find all of the music uploaded to YouTube, which means you’ll get mixes, fan uploads, work from amateur artists, more obscure tracks, rare stuff, and so much more. 

It’s worth mentioning here that although this sounds great, it won’t be for everyone. For example, if you search for a track you often don’t get the official track served up first, but endless mashups and remixes. This will be, quite literally, music to the ears of those who have always craved more choice. But others will be overwhelmed and want to be spoon-fed the more mainstream, regular version – I’m not ashamed to say that although I found YouTube Music incredibly fun to use, I definitely fall more into this last camp.

As well as getting access to more music, there are a lot of extras here. You can easily tap to see the music video of anything you’re listening to if one exists – which you’d expect from YouTube. Although other streaming services do offer some video, it works seamlessly here. Great if you’re a fan of music videos, you’ll feel like you’re transported back to your teens watching MTV again.

You’re also able to add any music you already have, whether that’s on your Google Play Music library, iTunes or a hard drive, to your YouTube Music library. This is great if you feel like you’ve got pockets of disparate music and want what you own, and what you stream, to be in one place. FLAC, M4A, MP3, OGG, and WMA files are all supported and the process of uploading them is really straightforward, just go to your profile via the web and click ‘Upload music’.

Late in 2023, YouTube Music added podcasts to its offering, sort of folding in Google Podcasts, which is in the process of being discontinued. We can’t find an official number about how many podcasts are available through YouTube Music, but it seems that some of the big names and popular shows are here, but not everything. If you’re really into podcasts, especially those that don’t rake in the big viewer numbers, you’d be better off looking elsewhere. 

A screenshot of how the youtube music streaming service looks on the web when opened in the google chrome browser

Here's what the home page of YouTube Music looks like when you open it within a browser. (Image credit: youtube music)

YouTube Music review: platforms and apps

  • Main iOS and Android apps are good
  • Some clunky UI points
  • Rivals do it a little better

There’s an iOS and an Android YouTube Music app. It also works as a web player from your browser, on Sonos, some Fitbit and Garmin devices, Apple HomePod and on anything related to Google, like Wear OS smartwatches, Google Home and Nest speakers and Chromecast. Rivals like Spotify and Tidal have more connectivity options, but these are likely to be enough for most people. 

We tested YouTube Music using the iOS app. It’s functionally similar to rivals and, as it’s been updated over the past year, it looks like them too (especially Tidal). Expect black and grey styling and bright artwork for albums and recommendations. Content is presented in a scrolling, grid-like layout. It’s a design we’re familiar with but that’s fine because it works well and feels clean, simple and easy-to-use.

Wherever you use YouTube Music you’ll find slightly different variations of the same layout, just tweaked for different screen sizes. You’ll find Home, Explore and Library tabs. Home is where new tracks, recommendations and playlists, both generic and curated live. Explore contains more searchable content, recommendations and ways to find new tracks based on moods and genres. And Library is where everything you’ve saved and curated lives. 

Something about the experience doesn’t feel quite as slick or smartly designed as Spotify or Apple Music at times. But it’s still nice to use and we’re maybe nit-picking here. What we’re saying is, if you haven’t tried the others you would probably be content. If you have, there’s a sort of clunkiness that takes a few days to get used to. 

Screenshots of the youtube music app for ios

The home page shows you recommended tracks and albums YTM thinks you might like. There are also different moods across the top, I loved Feel Good for its top suggestions. (Image credit: Youtube Music)

YouTube Music review: playlists and recommendations

  • Solid recommendations
  • Plans to make them better
  • Spotify is still king here

Like all music streaming services, the more you use YouTube Music, the more it learns about your tastes and preferences. You can get recommendations in a bunch of ways. You can play the ‘Radio’ option from any track or album, which generates a radio station filled with similar tracks and artists. There are also a bunch of playlists that update regularly and are personalized to you, including Discover Mix, Replay Mix and New Release Mix. Over time, you’ll get even more to sit different moods, like Workout Supermix, Romantic Supermix and Focus Supermix.

There’s also the ability to create your own radio station. Through a feature called Your Music Tuner, which is located in the Home tab of the app, you can fine-tune a custom radio station experience. You select artists, artist variety and tweak other filters. When you’re done, the YouTube Music algorithm will build a custom station that you can continue to tune. 

After trialling YouTube Music for several weeks, I can confidently say it’s got to know me and my preferences. Many of the suggested tracks and artists are the kind of music I like listening to. I also love that mixes are created for certain moods and situations. But it doesn’t quite feel as good as Spotify. 

Now, I’m willing to admit this could be subjective and I’ve been using Spotify longer. But Spotify’s recommendations feel fresher to me. I have that eerie sense that new tracks and artists (and even new genres) are unearthed that I like but have never heard before. Whereas youTube Music serves up some of the same artists and tracks again and again. This is nice and still has a personalized touch, but doesn’t feel quite so effective for new music discovery.

Then again, I’m well aware we’re comparing YouTube Music to the best of the best. Although not everyone loves them, Spotify’s recommendations and generated playlists are one of the main draws of the music streaming service. 

As mentioned above in the intro, YouTube Music is making changes and adding AI to create better playlists. As far as I can tell (these features haven’t rolled out yet), they’re largely the same as Spotify’s offering, but it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out in future.

Another way YouTube Music wants you to find new music is with Samples. YouTube Music is going all in on this as it has a whole tab of its own in the mobile app. Think of Samples as TikTok for music. Click on the tab and you’ll be served a continuous feed of short form video clips to get you interested in new artist and tracks. This is a nice touch for integrating video and will take you back to the days of finding out about new artists from the likes of MTV and Kerrang. 

Want to create your own playlists? That’s easy too, with the same kind of look and feel as Spotify and Tidal. Simply add a track to a playlist then you can choose a name for it and select an artwork theme. YouTube Music will serve up suggestions for new tracks you can add, which I’m often doing instinctively now. The functionality doesn’t feel quite as natural as rivals, for example, you can’t search within a playlist. 

YouTube Music review: should you subscribe?

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  • First reviewed: July 2024
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