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Sony ZV-E10 II review: small but mighty
5:00 pm | July 10, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Cameras Computers Gadgets Mirrorless Cameras | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Sony ZV-E10 II: two-minute review

The ZV-E10 II is a highly recommendable compact vlogging camera. Its diminutive size is deceptive, as it houses a number of key components and features that are shared with Sony’s pricier and more advanced APS-C cameras.

This camera is built around the proven 26MP Exmor R sensor and BIONZ XR imaging engine combo, which is capable of producing crisp 4K video from an oversampled 6K readout. One of the biggest upgrades over its predecessor is that the ZV-E10 II is capable of recording videos in XAVC HS/XAVC S 10-bit 4:2:2 color up to 4K/60p with a data rate of up to 200Mbps. To take advantage of its dynamic range and color upgrade, it also comes with S-Cinetone and Log recording, along with the ability for users to upload a maximum of 16 LUTs via the Creators’ App, which can be baked into footage for quick delivery. It’s a much less elegant approach to deploying custom looks compared to Fujifilm’s famous film simulations or Panasonic’s seamless Real Time LUT and LUMIX Lab solution, but it’s a welcome addition to Sony’s entry-level offering all the same. It can also record proxy files in XAVC HS HD or XAVC S HD with a max data rate of 16Mbps, despite only having a single UHS-II card slot. The ZV-E10 II offers a strong set of features for what is ostensibly a beginner/vlogging camera. 

However, considering that it’s built around the same sensor, processor and power platform as the A6700 and FX30, it’s a shame that Sony wasn’t able to include the 4K/120p video recording that’s available in those cameras, even if it came with a time limitation and the same 1.58x crop. It’s also disappointing to see that the mechanical shutter in the ZV-E10 has been ditched, meaning the ZV-E10 II is electronic shutter only. But with that said, the readout speed is fast, which will significantly negate the impact of rolling shutter in both video and stills. In terms of stabilization, the camera body has no sensor-shift IS, so you’re restricted to Optical Steady Shot (Standard) with compatible lenses or Active SteadyShot, which comes with a hefty crop. Alternatively, you can take advantage of Sony’s free Catalyst Browse desktop software, which uses gyroscopic metadata for the camera to stabilize your footage and reduce rolling shutter effects even further. The software works incredibly well, but it’s an extra step that some may find tedious, especially some people in the target audience for this camera.

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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

As you might expect, the autofocusing capabilities of this camera are second to none in its price range, and much better than those of rival APS-C cameras from competitors; the upgraded 759-point PDAF system finds subjects with ease and tracks them stubbornly. Like the ZV-E10, the newer model has a maximum continuous firing rate of 11fps, but with a more advanced AF system your ‘keeper’ ratio from mode shooting is going to be higher. Product focus mode was one of the standout features in this camera’s predecessor, and it works better than ever with this new model. When activated by pressing the trash icon, the camera will intelligently detect and seamlessly pull focus to a product when it's held up, then return to the person’s face when the product is lowered. It’s a unique feature that makes this an ideal camera for social media content creators who do tutorials, product reviews or promotions.

In terms of design, the ZV-E10 II is almost identical to its predecessor – the button layout is unchanged and the form factor will be familiar to owners of the older model, and while this camera being slightly larger and heavier, you couldn’t describe it as large or heavy relative to the competition. I like that it has a decent-sized grip, despite being super compact, and it feels great to hold and shoot with. Due to its size there’s no EVF, which may turn off some beginners who are more inclined towards photography – they might want to spend a little more and pick up the A6700.

Having only the articulated screen to compose shots on isn’t a problem, but it did become a bit of a struggle on sunny days, as I didn’t find it bright enough, even on its maximum setting. I also found the default Shooting Screen UI cluttered, but you can (and really should) make adjustments to the look and feel of it in the menu. To Sony’s credit, I love the fact that the whole UI rotates when you shoot vertically, making it a little bit easier to see your settings, whatever orientation the camera is in; it’s a small touch, but a nice one. Speaking of touch, the ZV-E10 II also adds direct touch as a means for changing settings and selecting subjects for the AF to track, touch functions not available on the ZV-E10. Again, it’s not a huge feature, but it significantly improves the functionality of the camera over its predecessor.

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Sony ZV-E10 II camera on a stone surface

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II camera on a stone surface

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II camera on a stone surface

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

One of the ZV-E10 II’s USPs is its built-in three-way capsule microphone, which sits along the top of the camera. The unique design helps to isolate audio when the user is speaking to camera without external audio capture, whether holding the camera up vlogger-style or speaking from behind the camera. Sony says the latest version is “intelligent”, and should do an even better job of delivering clear audio. I didn’t have the previous model at the same time that I was testing the ZV-E10 II to compare the two, but I can confirm that the audio quality that’s recorded by the ZV-E10 II’s built-in mic system is good – it will be adequate for most quick shooting scenarios in public, and should certainly suffice for more controlled situations, such as shooting in a studio, although for the best results you’ll want to stay close to the camera, as it's not designed to pick up your voice from a distance. For higher-quality sound recording you have the option of inputting third-party audio sources through the 3.5mm socket. Alternatively, the camera’s digital multi-function hot shoe supports audio data transfer, allowing you to connect a Sony hot shoe mic like the ECM-G1 or a more advanced audio solution such as the Sony ECM-W2BT wireless microphone.

Live online content creators will enjoy the fact that the ZV-E10 II makes it easy to get connected and stream via a wireless network connection or USB-C, at up to 4K/25p with a max bitrate of 38 Mbps. Full HD streaming goes up to 60fps, and it’s also possible to record to the camera while streaming, which is handy for redundancy.

The ZV-E10 II is a camera that covers a lot of bases for content creators who have begun to experience the limitations of a smartphone and need reliability and quality in equal measure, but in a package that keeps things simple. If you can go without a viewfinder and can tolerate overheating limitations when shooting 4K video, the ZV-E10 II is well worth your consideration.

Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

Sony ZV-E10 II: release date and price

  • $1100 / £950 body only
  • Available from July 10 2024
  • Can be bought as a kit with the new Sony E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 II $1200 / £1050

The ZV-E10 II is available to pre-order from July 10th, 2024, with sales starting at the end of July 2024. It can be picked up for an RRP of $1100 / £950 body only or for $1200 / £1050 with the new Sony E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 II as part of a kit. That’s a pretty big price hike from the Sony ZV-E10. 

  • Price score: 3.5/5

Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

You can take off the lens to easily pack the Lumix S9 away in a small bag. (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

Sony ZV-E10 II: design and handling

  • Body is almost identical to previous model
  • Features higher-capacity NP-FZ100 battery
  • Vari-angle touchscreen
  • Digital multi-function hot shoe

The Sony ZV-E10 II is a very compact camera, measuring 4.5 x 2.65 x 2.1 inches / 114.8 x 67.5 x 54.2mm and weighing 13oz / 375g. It’s almost 10mm thicker, a couple of mm wider and 32g heavier than its predecessor.

Sony ZV-E10 II key specs

Sensor: 26MP Exmor R sensor APS-C sensor
AF system: 759-point phase-detect
EVF: None
ISO range: 50 to 102,400 (ISO 100-32,000 video range)
Video: 4K/60p 4:2:2 10-bit internal
LCD: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen
Max burst: 11fps (continuous autofocus), 30fps burst
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth 5.0
Dimensions: 114.8 x 67.5 x 54.2mm
Weight: 375g (Body only with battery and card)

The increase in size is in order to accommodate the NP-FZ100 battery, the same battery used by Sony’s APS-C flagship model, the A6700, as well as most of its recent full-frame E-mount cameras. This also means the memory card slot has been shifted over to the left of the camera body, sandwiched between the microphone and USB-C port at the top and the headphone and micro-HDMI socket at the bottom. The door cover of the UHS-II card slot locks into place and is easy enough to unhinge, even if you’re wearing gloves.

Its 3-inch flip-out articulated screen swings out smoothly and slaps back into place with a reassuring clasp. However, I didn’t like the fact that when the display is flipped all the way out it doesn’t sit flat – it’s at a slight angle. This means the screen doesn’t directly face you when flipped forwards, and it makes composing straight images at extreme perspectives frustratingly inconsistent. Another slight annoyance for me is that I found that some of the buttons and the zoom toggle are too easy to activate by accident, which occasionally led to missed shooting opportunities when trying to capture unanticipated fleeting moments. I do really like the dedicated photo / video / S&Q mode switch at the top of the camera though.

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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

A lot of useful and commonly used settings are buried within the menus, but fortunately Sony makes it relatively easy to curate a custom page under ‘My Menu’. Another positive is the fact that many of the camera’s buttons can also be customized for both photo and video modes, which gives you a lot of flexibility, and some time spent configuring your buttons and creating your own menu should pay dividends in improving your experience of using the ZV-E10 II. A final design touch that I’m a fan of is the inclusion of a red tally lamp on the front of the camera, just above the alpha logo, which turns on automatically when you press record. There’s also a red frame indicator that can be turned on and off to reassure you that you’re recording.

  • Design score: 3.5/5

Sony ZV-E10 II: features and performance

  • Best-in-class phase-detection autofocus
  • Solid battery life
  • No sensor-shift stabilization
  • Overheats when recording 4K/60p
  • Unique 3-capsule microphone array

The Sony ZV-E10 II stands on the shoulders of one of Sony’s most popular Alpha models ever, in the original ZV-E10 – and given that its predecessor doesn’t have a lot of competition, Sony arguably didn’t have to release an update this year. However, while there are a good few meaningful improvements overall, the ZV-E10 II isn’t perfect. Let’s start with the challenges.

As a compact camera with no fan, I wouldn’t expect the ZV-E10 II to deliver unlimited recording at maximum resolution and frame rates, and it turns out that it doesn’t. I found that the camera consistently overheated and shut down while recording 4K/60p video after 24 minutes, even with the screen flipped out which can help to disperse heat. I was able to get it to start recording again by rebooting the camera, and it rolled for another five minutes before stopping for a second time, then it would cut out repeatedly after a minute or two until it was left to cool down. When the overheating issues began the camera became very hot to the touch, and it wouldn’t function normally until it had cooled down; for reference the ambient room temperature was 70F / 21C. I experienced no overheating issues when filming in Full HD resolution.

Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

Now that we’ve got the drawbacks out of the way, let me say that the ZV-E10 II shines when it comes to autofocus, although that’s a given when it comes to Sony cameras. The AF is quick and reliable, which means you can focus on capturing the content you want, whether it’s stills or video, and the camera will take care of the rest. It’s also much easier to shoot remotely and share your content, thanks to improvements Sony has made to the Sony Creators’ App experience. When paired, the ZV-E10 II has the ability to transfer content between the camera and your mobile device via 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi. The process is quick, and far less frustrating than previous iterations of Sony camera/app file transfer that I’ve used.

When shooting Raw+JPEG you can get 30 frames at 11fps with AF-C in continuous burst mode, before buffering begins to kill your joy while you wait for the camera’s single UHS-II card to write – this is a camera that will be suitable for capturing brief bursts of action, but not extended sequences. If you want an easy way to slow down longer action sequences, shifting the camera into its dedicated S & Q (slow and quick) function is as simple as flicking a switch. The S&Q mode allows you to capture and view slow-motion video in camera, without sound. However, I’m disappointed that the ZV-E10 II maxes out 4K at 60fps, while its higher-end stablemates, with the same sensor and processor, offer up to 4K/120p.

I was impressed by the staying power of the ZV-E10 II. I could comfortably get through a day's photo and video capture thanks to the inclusion of the larger FZ-NP100 battery. It’s a cell that’s rated for roughly 550 shots, which is a lot for a camera in this class. The previous ZV-E10 was already a standout performer when it came to battery life, and the new model raises the bar further still.

  • Features and performance score: 4/5

Sony ZV-E10 II: image and video quality

  • Same 26MP sensor as pricier FX30 and A6700 models
  • Much improved video codecs
  • No in-body image stabilization means shakier video footage

The ZV-E10 II’s 26MP sensor delivers beautiful JPEGs in good light, and usable images in low light, while its raw files provide a good amount of dynamic range for pushing shadows and recovering highlights when needed.

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Sony ZV-E10 II sample image buzz lightyear toy in studio at ISO 50

ISO 50 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 50 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 640 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 1600 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 6400 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 16000 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 32000 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 51200 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 102400 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

In terms of its movie mode results, the introduction of 10-bit video, something that most of the competition offers, is a great benefit for people who have the time to grade their footage. Having greater color flexibility, including the addition of the S-Cinetone picture profile and log recording, opens up this camera for more professional uses, and I would happily use it as a B-roll camera, mixing in clips with footage from a higher-end Sony camera. At its best, 10-bit 4:2:2 4K/60p footage out of the ZV-E10 II, oversampled from its 6K readout, is reasonably gradable and looks clean when the ISO is kept below 6400. In video mode the ZV-E10 II has a maximum sensitivity range of ISO100 to 32,000, but beyond ISO6400 color shifting and noise starts to get distracting.

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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of tree in a park

Highlights can be blown in scenes like this, which also force the camera's meter to slightly under expose (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of model wearing bright red clothes

This backlit portrait shows that the ZV-E10 II still focuses on faces well in challenging high contrast situations (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample macro images of an insect on a plant

The ZV-E10 II paired with the 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 II is a great everyday combination for subjects big and small (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of a skyscraper on overcast day

The ZV-E10 II offers a range of picture profiles that will allow you to capture your shots in whatever look you're interested in portraying (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of a skyscraper on a sunny day

The ZV-E10 II shines in good light, delivering punchy colors and vibrant tones (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

The lack of sensor-shift image stabilization is a miss here. However, when the camera is paired with an OSS Sony lens, footage is respectably stable, even if it can’t match the steadiness of a Lumix or Olympus alternative. Sony does have an ace in its hand with its Catalyst Browse desktop software though, and if you have the time and inclination you can achieve footage that’s stable enough to rival video captured with a dedicated gimbal.

  • Image quality score: 4/5

Sony ZV-E10 II: testing scorecard

Should I buy the Sony ZV-E10 II?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Sony ZV-E10 II: also consider

How I tested the Sony ZV-E10 II

  • I attended a pre-brief presentation, followed by one-week review period
  • I paired the camera with the new Sony 16-50mm PZ OSS F3.5-5.6
  • I connected the camera to the Sony Creators’ App

I had a short week with the ZV-E10 II, so my testing opportunities were slightly limited. However, I have experience with its predecessor, as well as the Sony A6700 and FX30, which share the same sensor, processor and battery as the ZV-E10 II, so I’m familiar with the capabilities and limitations of its core components.

The first thing I did when receiving the camera was conduct my endurance tests, which include battery run-downs and heat management. I set the camera up on a tripod in an ambient temperature environment of 70F / 21C, and left it filming continuously while connected to mains power and on battery power alone.

I took the camera out with me on a couple of walks and to a couple of daytime and evening events, using the Creators’ App to transfer and share images on the go. I performed sound-quality tests in a small studio environment, as well as in the street.

First reviewed July 2024

Panasonic Lumix S9 review – small, simple, powerful, flawed
7:06 pm | May 22, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Cameras Computers Gadgets Mirrorless Cameras | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Panasonic Lumix S9: two-minute review

There's much to like about the Panasonic Lumix S9. It inherits superb video features from its pricier sibling, the Lumix S5 II, and squeezes them into a smaller, colorful body. 

It boasts a 24.2MP full-frame sensor, open gate 6K video recording (taken from the full height and width of the 3:2 aspect sensor), the option to automatically set a 180-degree shutter angle, and one of the best performing image stabilization systems for shooting video on the move. 

Beyond its bigger sibling, the Lumix S9 also brings Panasonic's lesser-known Real Time LUTs color profiles to your fingertips. Fujifilm's Film Simulations have been trending, but Real Time LUTs color profiles are next-level, with no restriction on the look you want. 

Once you're connected to the new Lumix Lab app, you can import a number of Real Time LUTs profiles directly on to the Lumix S9, including a variety of excellent looks made by Panasonic's network of professional creators. This is color grading made easy for photo and video. 

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

With the Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 lens attached, which by the way is one of the smallest L-mount lenses available in 2024. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Design-wise, the Lumix S9 is primarily a video camera, and at $1,500 / £1,500 (Australian pricing TBC) it offers incredible bang for buck. The reason Panasonic has been able to drop the price from the $1,999 / £1,999 Lumix S5 II is simple – this is a much simpler body, and a colorful one at that, designed to appeal to young creatives. 

This is no photographer's tool, despite the excellent-quality 24MP stills: the Lumix S9 doesn't have a built-in viewfinder, or a hotshoe for mounting optional accessories, such as a flash or EVF. The coldshoe is instead limited to other accessories such as an external mic, or even a top handle.  

I missed having a viewfinder. Much of my testing was conducted in bright sunny weather and the flip-out touchscreen isn't the easiest to see under such conditions. 

In bright conditions you can't be fully sure if the Lumix S9 has locked focus on to your subject, you just have to trust it does. To be fair, for the best part it does – the S9 has Panasonic's best ever autofocus system, with human and animal subject detection and both with options for face and eye detection only, or for bodies, too. 

We're missing a headphone jack to monitor audio, which feels like a misstep for a video-focused shooter. You can activate on-screen audio monitoring which gives some indication of audio levels, but there's no easy way to properly monitor sound.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

The Lumix S9 is a much bigger package with any lens attached, such as the Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 pictured here. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

In essence, this is a full-frame camera for beginner filmmakers who want to point-and-shoot and trust that the camera will capture excellent visuals and audio, and for the whole experience to be as close to using a smartphone as possible.

To an extent, the Lumix S9 is successful in its mission. It's visually appealing, small and simple, brings lovely photo and video color profiles to your fingertips and the app is a nice touch, even if it could do with some refining.

However, considering the target market, I'm not entirely convinced this should be an L-mount interchangeable lens camera, rather a fixed lens compact with a tiny wide-angle fast aperture prime lens – much like the Fujifilm X100VI.

It's really hard to make tiny full-frame lenses, and the new pancake lens announced on the same day as the S9, plus the compact zoom in the pipeline, hardly excite. The smallest fast aperture L-mount prime lenses dwarf the camera and I'm not sure beginners will want to mess around with multiple lenses in the first place.

Design-wise, Sony's ZV-E10 feels like a better bet – with its smaller APS-C sensor and lenses, plus a decent grip. All being said, the Lumix S9 does a lot of things really well, new things, too, and we'll have to wait and see if it hits the mark with young creatives.

Panasonic Lumix S9: release date and price

  • Body-only price is $1,499 / £1,499 / Australia TBC
  • Available from June 2024
  • Launched alongside the Lumix S 26mm F8 pancake lens, which costs $219 / £219

The Panasonic Lumix S9 is available in four colors: Dark Olive (pictured, below), Classical Blue, Crimson Red and Jet Black, and costs $1,499 / £1,499 body-only, or $1,799 /£1,799 with the decent 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, and $2,249 / £2,249 when bought with Panasonic's new travel lens, the 28-200mm f/4-7.1. The camera is available from June 2024, and Australia pricing for all of those options is TBC. 

There's no word yet if the Lumix S9 will be available as a bundle with either of the newly announced lenses, the new 26mm f/8 pancake lens or the 18-40mm F4.5-6.3 compact zoom in development. The pancake lens, which only weighs 2.04oz / 58g, costs $219 / £219 and also ships from June 2024, while the compact zoom is coming later.

At launch, the Lumix S9 is Panasonic's cheapest full-frame camera yet, although the Panasonic Lumix S5 II / S5 II X that shares much of the same tech but in a higher-spec body, is often on sale for a similar cost.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

You can take off the lens to easily pack the Lumix S9 away in a small bag. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Panasonic Lumix S9: design and handling

  • Newly designed body is Panasonic's smallest full-framer yet
  • No viewfinder, hotshoe or headphone jack
  • Vari-angle touchscreen
  • New compact lenses on the way

The Lumix S9 is Panasonic's smallest full-frame camera yet, measuring 126 x 73.9 x 46.7 mm / 4.96 x 2.91 x 1.84 inches. It's not the smallest full-frame camera around – that award goes to the Sigma FP, plus the Sony A7C II is smaller by a whisker.

The body might barely be a handful, but it still needs a lens, and even the smallest full-frame L-mount lenses currently available – excluding the new 26mm F8 pancake – dwarf the Lumix S9. Throw on the excellent 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 and the depth is increased to 133.9mm / 5.28-inches. 

A thumb grip goes some way in providing a secure hold, but with no hand grip you'll probably need to support the camera with both hands, or kit it out with a third-party grip. Relatively chunky lenses are the challenge in handling small full-frame cameras like this – the all round feel is better with a camera like the full-size Lumix S5 II. 

In an ideal world, the Lumix S9 would have a fixed prime lens around the size of Panasonic's new pancake lens, but with a much faster maximum aperture – the Fujifilm X100VI approach. Panasonic could then also install a built-in ND filter, and ultimately create a truly compact video camera that also shoots much better video than your phone.

Still, if you don't mind the size of lenses like the 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 and 50mm F1.8 – both of which I had with the camera for this review – then you can make some excellent quality video.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

The Lumix S9's Dark Olive color variation looks the part.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's the question of which tasteful color variation you will pick: green, red, blue, or an all-black option for those playing it safe. For now, Panasonic's lenses remain all-black; there's no color-matching kit lenses.

Panasonic Lumix S9 key specs

Sensor: 24.2MP full-frame CMOS
AF system: Hybrid with phase-detect
ISO range: 100 to 51,200 (ISO 50-204,800 extended range)
Video: 6K/30p 'open gate' 4:2:0 10-bit internal
LCD: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.84m-dots
Max burst: 8fps (continuous autofocus), 30fps burst
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 5GHz, Bluetooth 5.0
Weight: 403g (body only), 486g incl battery and card

Control layout is super simple and beginner-friendly: on the top there's a shooting mode dial, video record button, exposure compensation, shutter button and control dial. We get a limited number of ports: mic, USB-C and mini-HDMI, but no headphone jack.

As a small, video-focused camera, there's no viewfinder nor the option to add one, while the coldshoe mount can hold an accessory like an external mic, but it won't connect directly to a hotshoe flash.

The 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen is decent, albeit hard to see in bright light. I couldn't find the option to activate a red border to clearly indicate when the camera is recording video, or even a tally lamp – inexplicable omissions for a small, video-focused camera.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

The S9 body is tiny, but it still needs a lens, which adds considerable depth. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

In-camera menus are fairly-well laid out. If you select the video mode on the top dial, then all of the photography settings disappear in the menu, helping you access video options much quicker.

You'll want to customize video options to get started, for example setting the 'Shutter Speed / Gain Operation' to prioritize shutter angle to automatically apply the 180-degree shutter angle for smooth video footage. This handy option is not available on a lot of other pricier video cameras.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

The vari-angle screen can flip around for selfies, although the camera lacks a clear indicator when recording videos, for instance a tally lamp or red border around the screen.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

A new LUT button on the rear gives quick access to the unmatched variety of color profiles, which can be uploaded to the camera via the Lumix Lab app in addition to those already included. I went for 'Platinum Steel' by Sam Holland for a moody vibe with soft skin tones, among others.

Panasonic wants to create a camera and app experience that's easier than ever. From my brief time using the Android version of the Lumix Lab app, the jury is still out. Connection is faster than most, but the app can still be awkward to navigate, and appears to be limited to file transfers and uploading LUTs profiles. There could be more than this, including remote control.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

The Lumix S9's control layout is pared back and beginner-friendly. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Panasonic Lumix S9: features and performance

  • Superb in-body image stablization
  • Panasonic's best phase detection autofocus 
  • Battery life is a respectable 470-shots (depending on lens)
  • Single UHS-S II SD card slot
  • New Lumix Lab app

The Lumix S9 is well supported by Panasonic's best ever autofocus and image stablization performance, both inherited from the Lumix S5 II. 

The S9's bigger sibling was the first Panasonic camera to utilize a hybrid autofocus system, with snappy contrast detection autofocus primarily for stills, and smooth phase-detection autofocus for video, featuring subject detection modes that cover human, animal, car and motorcycles. 

Human and animal detection autofocus can switch between prioritizing face and eye only, or face, eye and body, and in general works really well. 

Image stabilization performance is outstanding. It's possible to shoot sharp photos handheld with shutter speeds in the seconds, while handheld video footage on the go is super smooth – smooth enough for moderate action that you can avoid using a gimbal. 

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

Connection between the Lumix S9 and Lumix Lab app proved quick and reliable using a Google Pixel 6 phone.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's just a single SD card slot with support for the faster UHS-II type, and you can capture up to 120 images in the continuous high burst shooting setting, which maxes out at 8 frames per second with continuous autofocus employed. This is no action photography camera, but it's hardly a slouch. 

Battery life is also decent, especially considering the diminutive size of the camera. According to its CIPA rating, the S9 can squeeze out up to 470 shots from a fully charged battery, or 100 minutes of continuous 4K / 60p video recording. 

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High contrast London street photo taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 and custom Real Time LUTs applied

A 'Platinum Steel' Real Time LUT profile (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

The original standard color profile (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Then there's the Lumix Lab app, which at the time of writing is compatible only with the Lumix S9. In my experience using a Google Pixel 6 and the Android version of the app, pairing the camera is quicker and more reliable than most other rival apps. 

In the app you get quick access to a range of Real Time LUTs color profiles. A number of Panasonic's creators have loaded some of their own publicly available and free to download LUTs in the app's Creator gallery, and I've found a look for just about every scenario. 

I've included a high-contrast street photo taken in London with the Lumix S9's standard color profile, and then applied a free 'Platinum Steel' LUT which suited the scene (see above).

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Screenshot of the Lumix Lab app and LUT color profile options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Screenshot of the Lumix Lab app and LUT color profile options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Screenshot of the Lumix Lab app and LUT color profile options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Screenshot of the Lumix Lab app and LUT color profile options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Screenshot of the Lumix Lab app and LUT color profile options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Sadly, video capture times are severely limited, capped at just 15 minutes, and further reduced to 10 minutes when shooting in 6K. This is presumably to avoid overheating given the Lumix S9 lacks an internal fan, as opposed to any limitations in the camera's performance, including its processor power and card's read and write speeds.

Most people won't shoot individual clips for longer than 15 minutes, but knowing that you can in any situation is one less thing to worry about, whether that's recording speeches at an event or lengthy vlogs.

Panasonic Lumix S9: image and video quality

  • Superb video features including open gate video recording up to 6K / 30p
  • Real Time LUTs color profiles are supremely versatile
  • New MP4 Lite file format
  • Up to 14-stops dynamic range in V-log color profile

With practically the same sensor and video spec as the Lumix S5 II, you can be assured that the Lumix S9 captures superb quality video, plus sharp and punchy 24MP stills. You can read more about the image and video quality to expect in our Lumix S5 II review.

What the Lumix S9 tries to do differently is bring Panasonic's Real Time LUTs to the fore, through quick access via a direct button on the camera's body and the Lumix Lab app, through which you can easily upload any one of a vast array of color profiles for just about any shooting scenario. 

You can create your own color profiles and save them to the camera, or simply take advantage of the profiles already available through the Creator's gallery in the app.

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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's also the matter of a new MP4 Lite video format. It maxes out at 4K, 10-bit 4:2:0, but produces files that are around 40% smaller than regular MP4 files, which are also available in the S9. However, for best quality video, you'll probably want to shoot in .MOV format in 4K 4:2:2 10-bit or 6K 4:2:0 10-bit, even if the file sizes are much bigger. 

Whether it's a light and easy ready-made MP4 Lite video with Real Time LUT applied, or 6K 10-bit video in the V-log color profile with 14-stops of dynamic range that needs to be graded afterwards, there's video quality for every level of ability and shooting scenario. 

How I tested the Panasonic Lumix S9

  • Two brief sessions, including a street photography walk 
  • Paired with the 26mm pancake, 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 and 50mm F/1.8 lenses
  • Paired with the Lumix Lab app

I've had a fairly brief time with the Lumix S9 so far, including a London street photography session and a more leisurely time at home and on launch day. I still have the camera at home and will be continuing to use it ahead of the full review. 

I've been shooting both photos and videos, and tried pairing the S9 with the Lumix Lab app to play around with various Real Time LUTs color profiles and making quick edits to photos, among other things. 

During the London session I was briefly able to use the S9 with the only copy of the pancake lens available in the UK, plus I've had more time using the camera with the 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 and 50mm F1.8 Panasonic Lumix L-mount lenses. 

First reviewed May 2024

Moto G34 review
2:58 pm | April 25, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Phones | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Moto G34 two-minute review

Motorola has decided to continue its long-held siege on our list of the best cheap phones with its new Moto G34 — this was designed to be one of the most affordable 5G phones out there, and it’s a pleasantly surprising success.

One of the first 2024 entries into Motorola’s low-cost line of Moto G handsets, you quickly come to know what to expect from these handsets. They won’t hurt your bank account but generally deliver unimpressive specs, a poor camera performance and lackluster displays. Given that the G34 is being marketed on its low price, you’d expect it to tick all these boxes, but it manages to punch above its weight in a few departments.

A question I asked myself when I begun testing the phone was: “given that budget mobiles have weak specs to keep the price low, is 5G even useful on a handset of this price?” The answer I came up with is “in some use cases yes”.

The camera is a good example, because it’s actually okay for a super-cheap phone like this. Admittedly ‘okay’ isn’t a glowing recommendation, but it’s one of the kindest words I’ve ever used to describe a Moto phone camera. And with 5G, you can easily post snaps on social media, save them to a cloud or download an editing app to tweak them.

The Moto G34's Your Space menu

(Image credit: Future)

One small camera feature does damage the experience though: every time you take a snap, the phone spends ages processing it before it’s added to the camera gallery. This means you can’t see the finished product for while, which can be annoying if you want to know whether you’ve got the shot or need to try again.

The chip is, again, ‘okay’, but that’s great for a budget phone – the G34 wasn’t as sluggish, slow or prone to stuttering as many other handsets you could buy for the same price. You’re not going to be demolishing opponents in Call of Duty: Mobile any time soon but it’ll hold its own. I could download games on my bus ride into work thanks to the connection speeds as long as they were low-intensity gentle ones.

Plus the phone boasts nice, clean Android 14 with all of its personalization features, a chunky battery and up to 1TB of expandable storage, which is all appreciated.

It’s not all amazing, though. The Moto G34 has a relatively low-res display, with its LCD tech leaving colors looking a little washed out. If you’re buying a 5G phone to stream Netflix from out and about, you’d do better to just buy a same-price 4G phone with a better screen, or splash out a little more.

Plus, it’s really slow to charge, which admittedly is impossible to tie into the handset’s 5G features so let’s just list it as a standalone ‘con’ for the phone. 

So you’re getting what you pay for with the Moto G34 and a little bit more – not a lot more, but enough that the price tag is easy to palate.

Moto G34: price and availability

  • Released in January 2024
  • On sale in the UK, possibly AU in future, unlikely in US
  • Costs £149.99 (roughly $190, AU$290)

The Moto G34 camera app

(Image credit: Future)

The Moto G34 was unveiled to the world in December 2023, but it went on sale in the UK a month later in the new year.

The handset costs £149.99 for its sole 4GB RAM and 128GB model, though you can choose between black, green and blue versions. In some regions there are variants of the mobile with more RAM or various amounts of storage, but that’s not the case in the UK. 

No US or Australian availability has been announced for the handset but the cost converts to around $190 or AU$290 – Moto typically sells different mobiles Stateside so the G34 likely won’t go on sale in America, but given precedent, it could reach the Australian shores.

That price puts the Moto G34 almost without equal in the realms of 5G phones, as most cost at least 25% more (well, until sales come). Instead, the handset is bumping elbows with some 4G competitors from Samsung, Xiaomi and even Motorola itself, with brands offering you slightly better features for the same price if you don’t need 5G.

  • Value score: 4 / 5

Moto G34 review: specs

The Moto G34 has specs that match its budget: low-end. Here's the skinny:

Moto G34 review: design

  • Average-sized Android that's not too heavy
  • Camera bump doesn't stick out much
  • USB-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack

The Moto G34 flat in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)

Like many phones from Motorola, the Moto G34 has a pretty utilitarian design: it’s another chocolate-bar phone.

The G34 measure 162.7 x 74.6 x 8mm and weighs 179g so it’s pretty lightweight as far as Android phones go, and not too big either. 

On the bottom edge is a USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack — remember those?! — and the right edge holds an easily-reachable power button and a slightly-less-reachable volume rocker. As this phone is roughly averaged-sized, it should be usable one-handed for all but the smallest hands.

Like many budget phones, the G34 has a flat edge, but unlike many other mobiles that use this feature (including some Moto offenders) it’s not too angular — this wasn’t an uncomfortable phone to hold. While that’s not exactly a compliment, it’s definitely not an insult either.

On the back of the phone is a slight protrusion that houses the two camera lenses. This doesn’t stick out too far, so you can put the handset face-up on a table without turning it into a seesaw.

As mentioned, there are three color options for the phone, and we used the blue one. The green option uses faux leather which presumably gives it a much more premium feel, though I didn’t test this one so I can’t say for sure.

  • Design score: 3.5 / 5

Moto G34 review: display

  • A 6.5-inch display, big but not huge
  • Fairly low-res 720 x 1600 resolution
  • LCD leads to colors looking washed-out

The Moto G34 laying face up on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future)

You probably shouldn’t be picking the Moto G34 as your chosen phone if it’s to stream high-quality movies over the web, because the Moto might struggle to show you that ‘quality’ part.

The phone has a 6.5-inch display, so it’s fairly big and will show you lots of WhatsApp messages, big Instagram posts or lots of your video game. However it only has a HD resolution of 720 x 1600, so videos don’t look as crisp as they do on most other mobiles.

Moto has also opted to put an LCD screen on the phone, despite other low-cost mobiles using OLED which has better contrast, colors and brightness. At least the 120Hz refresh rate makes motion look nice and smooth.

  • Display score: 2 / 5

Moto G34 review: software

  • Stock Android 14, but only one software update
  • Lots of customization options
  • Moto's Quick Actions make navigation easy

The Moto G34 app drawer

(Image credit: Future)

Not only is the Moto G34 one of the cheapest 5G phones, but it’s one of the most affordable ways you can get yourself a handset with stock Google-designed Android.

The Moto comes on Android 14, the newest version of the popular operating system. Moto has only promised one update though, with three years of security updates, which software aficionados might find lacking.

Stock Android is a nice clean operating system, mostly free from bloatware and with an easy-to-access swipe-up app drawer so that your home screen remains nice and clear until you customize it.

Android 14 in particular is great for customization options to help you design your interface, though some usual Moto additions are missing. You can change the font, color scheme, app icon shape and more though, so there’s still a lot you can do.

Moto does bring its stalwart quick actions, which let you bring up certain apps just with gestures: you can do a double karate chop to turn on the torch or a twist to open the camera app, for example. Once you get the knack of these, they become really convenient navigation options.

An addition which is relatively new to Moto phones is the Moto Unplugged app which lets you temporarily pare back your handset when you want to go distraction-free for a while. It was pretty handy for when I wanted to focus on writing this review — until I realized that I needed to use the phone for the review, that is!

  • Software score: 3.5 / 5

Moto G34 review: cameras

  • 50MP main and 2MP macro cameras
  • 16MP selfie camera for self portraits
  • Slow photo processing provides photography pain

The Moto G34's camera bump

(Image credit: Future)

As you can see from the images, the Moto G34 boasts two rear cameras, though only one is worth talking about. They’re a 50MP f/1.8 main and a 2MP f/2.4 macro snapper. They’re joined by a 16MP f/2.4 selfie camera on the front.

If your expectations for the camera prowess of a budget phone like this are very low, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the G34. That’s not to say it’s good, but it’s fine, and at this price that’s all you can ask for.

In decent lighting conditions, snaps have sufficient detail, though they can look a little washed-out in terms of color. In low-lighting conditions – I don’t mean night-time, and the cookie picture below shows that even household lighting doesn’t cut it – snaps lose a lot of detail and often seem a bit muddy. Plus, the phone didn’t handle contrast well, with darker areas during daylight shooting losing loads of detail.

That may sound overwhelmingly negative, but pictures taken on the Moto G34 did retain more quality, light and color that snaps taken on other similarly priced phones I’ve tested in the past, so I wasn’t disappointed by its performance.

Using digital zoom, you can close the distance up to 8x, but images get very grainy past 2x so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Selfies are a small cut above, and I found that the front camera would cope better if my face wasn’t beautifully lit up. Portrait mode was surprisingly good at working out what it shouldn’t and shouldn’t blur too, and even messy bed hair couldn’t fool it.

Macro mode is… well, pretty dreadful, actually – I found it impossible to take a close-up shot with sufficient lighting and detail to exceed the capabilities of the main camera. Most of the time, my macro shots were blurry out-of-focus messes. Avoid!

The usual crowd of extra modes are here: photographers can use portrait mode, Pro mode, spot color (which turns a photo monochrome except for one color), dual capture, night mode and ‘Photo Booth’ which takes four pictures a few seconds apart, like you’re in an old-school photo booth. Videographers can enjoy some of the same including dual capture and spot color as well as a slow-motion mode. 

One annoying aspect of the G34 is that, when you take a photo, the device will spend a while processing it. This sometimes took over a minute and I couldn’t find a way to turn the processing off — this all just meant you can’t see the proper image for a while after taking it. Ironically, the processing barely made a difference to image quality, so this isn’t as big of an issue as it otherwise would be.

Moto G34 camera samples

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Moto G34 camera samples

A creme egg cookie batch photographed on the Moto G34's main camera. (Image credit: Future)
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Moto G34 camera samples

An overcast park scene shot on the Moto G34's main camera. (Image credit: Future)
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Moto G34 camera samples

A latte in a well-lit coffee shop on the Moto G34's main camera. (Image credit: Future)
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Moto G34 camera samples

A catbug model photographed in a lightroom on the Moto G34. (Image credit: Future)
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Moto G34 camera samples

A selfie captured in fairly well-lit conditions on the Moto G34's front camera. (Image credit: Future)
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Moto G34 camera samples

A Portrait Mode selfie captured in fairly well-lit conditions on the Moto G34's front camera. (Image credit: Future)
  • Camera score: 2.5 / 5

Moto G34: performance and audio

  • Snapdragon 695 is fit for purpose
  • 128GB storage can be expanded up to 1TB, plus 4GB RAM
  • 3.5mm headphone jack for wired audio

The Moto G34 has a surprising chipset for its price: the Snapdragon 695 it uses often shows up in pricier (though still low-end) mobiles, and Motorola could have got away with sticking a weaker processor in its mobile.

This is paired with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage, though both are expandable. You can increase your storage by 1TB thanks to the microSD card slot, and use RAM expansion to temporarily turn unused storage space into extra power.

The Moto G34's personalize menu

(Image credit: Future)

Using the Geekbench 6 benchmark test, the Moto returned a multi-core score of 2,035. That’s roughly around the score of 5-year-old flagships like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 (2,092) and Huawei Mate 20 (2,134). For recent handsets, some budget mobiles from the last few years have similar scores including OnePlus’ Nord N20 (1,962) and Nord CE 2 Lite (1,952), both of which also have the Snapdragon 695 chipset.

When it comes to gaming, I was pleasantly surprised by how the Moto could hold its own through intensive games of Call of Duty: Mobile and other titles. There were startlingly few stutters or lags during online play; if it weren’t for the display and speaker quality, I could just have well been playing on a mid-ranged gaming phone.

Audio fans will love to see the Moto G34 boasting a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can use wired headphones, microphones and more using the port. It also has Bluetooth 5.1 for wireless headphones if you prefer.

The G34 also has stereo speakers for audio; they’re nothing to write home about and don’t compare with those on pricier mobiles, but are fine for if you misplaced your headphones. 

  • Performance score: 3 / 5

Moto G34 review: battery life

  • Big 5,000mAh battery
  • Phone easily lasts a day of use, and almost two
  • Slow to charge at 18W

The Moto G34's USB-C port and headphone jack.

(Image credit: Future)

It wouldn’t be a Moto phone if it didn’t have a battery the size of a small baby, would it? The G34 boasts a 5,000mAh battery, just like the vast majority of other mobiles from the company, which is a big power pack for a phone.

A battery like this would keep even a juice-hungry mobile powered for a long time, but between its HD screen and mid-tier chipset, the Moto G34 really makes the most of this battery. It easily lasts a day on a full charge and, in our testing, often came close to hitting two days of stopping power on a single charge.

It’s good that you don’t have to power up the phone frequently, though, because it’s not fast to charge. At 18W powering, it takes a glacial hour or more to power from empty to full, which will certainly have you sitting by the charger and twiddling your fingers.

As with almost any phone at this price, there’s no wireless charging or reverse wireless powering in sight. 

  • Battery score: 4 / 5

Should you buy the Moto G34?

Buy it if...

You want low-cost 5G
If you just need to connect to 5G networks by any means, then the Moto G34 is one of your cheapest options for doing so.

You need lots of storage space
It's not everyday that we see a budget phone that can reach up to 1TB expandable storage, so if you want a portable hard drive that can make calls, it's a good option.

You're a super-low-budget gamer
If you really can't afford a mid-ranged gaming phone, the Moto G34 is actually decent for playing mobile games, at least compared to its same-priced rivals.

Don't buy it if...

You stream movies and TV shows
With its 720p LCD display, the Moto G34 isn't exactly an entertainment fan's powerhouse. If you want to stream on the go, pick a device with a 1080p screen.

You need quick charging
Moto phones' big batteries makes charging less important, but if you're a fan of snappy powering, you really won't enjoy the G34.

You want several years of updates
With only one guaranteed software update, the G34 won't get new Android features for years to come. At least you're getting three years' security updates.

Moto G34 review: Also consider

If you want to make sure you're getting bang for your buck, here are three other smartphones you might want to consider instead of the Moto G34:

Moto G54
Only a small sum more upgrades your G34 to a G53 with a higher-res display, better speakers and more in-built storage. It's the same in most other ways, except is somehow even slower to charge, and comes on Android 13 instead of 14.

Samsung Galaxy A15
Samsung's ultra-low-price 5G Galaxy phone has a fantastic display, as well as decent cameras and pretty fast charging for the price. Just make sure you buy the 5G variant and not the 4G one.

How I tested the Moto G34

The Moto G34's rear, as it's held in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Review test period = 3 week
  • Testing included = Everyday usage, including web browsing, social media, photography, video calling, gaming, streaming video, music playback
  • Tools used = Geekbench 6, Geekbench ML, GFXBench, native Android stats

As you can tell, I tested the blue version of the Moto G34, in its sole 4GB and 128GB variant. I did not use the expandable storage in testing.

To write this review, I used the Moto G34 for roughly three weeks, not including the time I left the phone running prior to testing to normalize its battery. This testing involved lots of photography, a fair amount of gaming and a little bit of streaming movies and music too. 

Please note that the product photography was undertaken prior to the testing period, hence why it looks like the phone has barely been used; it hadn't! 

I've been reviewing smartphones for TechRadar for over five years now, starting with another budget Moto phone back in 2019. I've used countless handsets from the company and all its major competitors, as well as some of the other gadgets Moto has tried out (anyone remember the Moto 360?).

Read more about how we test

First reviewed March 2024

Insta360 X4 review – the best 360-degree camera just got better
4:43 pm | April 16, 2024

Author: admin | Category: 360 Cameras Cameras Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off

Insta360 X4: two-minute review

The best handheld 360-degree camera just got better with the latest iteration, the Insta360 X4. It builds on the X3, most notably bumping up the video resolution from 5.7K to 8K – and when we're talking about such a wide field of view from twin ultra-wide lenses, resolution matters.

Insta360 X4 specs:

Sensor: Dual 72MP 1/2-inch sensors

Video: 8K 360-degree, 5.7K up to 60fps, 4K up to 100fps, single lens up to 4K 60fps

LCD: 2.29-inch touchscreen

Video modes: Active HDR, Timelapse, Timeshift, Bullet time

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C

Memory card: MicroSD UHS-I

Size: 46 x 123.6 x 37.6mm

Weight: 203g

Battery: 2,290mAh

8K video up to 30fps trickles down improved capabilities at lower resolutions, too, with 5.7K video up to 60fps and 4K video up to 100fps. The single-lens mode also gets a bump in frame rate, with 4K up to 60fps.

Video can be shot in a standard mode with choice of standard, vivid and flat color profiles, plus there's a HDR video option for increasing perceivable detail in bright highlights and dark shadows – something the X4's small 1/2-inch and high-resolution sensor otherwise struggles with.

With its improved capabilities, the X4 feels like a more versatile pocket camera. Like the X3 it offers neat video modes you don't get on the best camera phones, like a 360-degree field of view that enables a shoot-first reframe later way of shooting, and creative effects such as ‘bullet time’ and hyperlapse, but it now also feels like a highly capable action camera, vlogging tool, and – particularly for motorcyclists – dash cam.

Insta360 X4 360 degree camera screen outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Video modes are supported by superb image stabilization that smooths out the shakes in your action footage, plus 360-degree horizon lock, which levels your edited footage when the camera rolls with the action.

Insta360's clever ‘invisible’ selfie stick allows you to film everything around you from a third-person view, whether it's mounted to bike handlebars or in the hand, while the extra-long selfie stick can give you a drone-like perspective. This is also a fully waterproof camera up to 33ft / 10m, so most experiences are covered.

We still get the lovely 2.29-inch touchscreen and simple interface, while a beefier battery has been squeezed into a body that’s roughly the same size as before, albeit around 10% heavier, and gives a huge bump in battery life.

The most capable rivals, such as the GoPro Max, Kandao Qoocam 8K, and Ricoh Theta X, are either dated or pricier – or both – and until they’re replaced, the X4 is 2024's unrivaled 360-degree camera, and could be the one extra pocket camera in addition to your smartphone that you choose for getaways, gatherings, and events. It handles superbly, and captures the kind of video footage you simply can't yet shoot with a phone.

Insta360 X4: price and availability

  • Launched worldwide in April 2024
  • Costs $499/ £499 / AU$879

The Insta360 X4 is available worldwide now following its April 16 announcement, and costs $499.99 / £499.99 / AU$879.99 – that's roughly a 10% markup from 2022's X3. Given inflation and the new camera’s improved capabilities, that price increase seems fair, although the X3 has fallen in price since its release, and will likely drop in price further following the X4’s launch, and is a compelling cost-effective alternative.

There are a host of optional accessories in the Insta360 ecosystem, including various selfie sticks (one of which is designed to enable you to capture ‘bullet time’ effects), mounts, and an underwater housing. In the box you get the X4's new detachable lens protectors (replacement protectors are available separately), while you'll need a microSD memory card to store photos and videos. At the time of writing it's unclear if the X4 will be available in different kits – visit the Insta360 store to see all the accessories on offer.

Insta360 X4 360 degree camera mounted to a selfie stick

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Insta360 X4: design

  • Slightly bigger and heavier than the X3
  • Similar X3 design includes large touchscreen and 1/4-inch threaded port for a selfie stick
  • Waterproof up to 10M
  • New screw-on lens guards

The stick-like design of the Insta360 X4 is very similar to the X3, and that's a good thing, because the X3 is one of the most user-friendly 360-degree cameras available. Its grippy exterior is easy to hold, or you can attach one of Insta360's invisible selfie sticks using the threaded mount point on the bottom.

Twin bulbous ultra-wide lenses cover the entire 360-degree field of view – these are the part of the X4 that really needs protecting, and to that end the camera comes with ultra-light clear lens protectors that can be screwed on and off, whereas the X3 uses non-reusable sticky lens guards.

Build quality is superb: the camera is fully waterproof up to 33ft / 10m, with all ports rubber sealed (though I haven’t had the opportunity to test the waterproofing out properly, yet). You’ll know if the seals aren't fully locked, thereby compromising waterproofing, as the orange coloring inside the catch will be visible – a neat bit of design.

You get a USB-C port for connecting and charging the camera, plus a hefty 2,290mAh battery that can record for up to 135 minutes – that's a huge increase from the 81 minutes provided by the X3's 1,800mAh battery.

The X4 records onto microSD memory cards, and naturally, because of the waterproof design, the card slot is inside the camera's battery compartment rather than directly accessible outside, as is the case on the less-robust and action-averse DJI Osmo Pocket 3.

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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera on a selfie stick outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera side view outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera side view outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera in the hand outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's a slight increase in size from the X3, though it’s barely noticeable, plus a 10% increase in weight – the X4 weighs in at 7.16oz / 203g, and feels reassuringly solid for its diminutive size.

There are four direct physical controls around the camera: robust power and quick menu buttons on the side, plus shooting mode and record buttons under the generous 2.29-inch touchscreen. Most of the action happens through the responsive touchscreen.

By default the customizable options displayed on screen for quick access include the shooting mode and resolution settings, the lens, plus the lens perspective. At a push you can switch between viewing 360-degree footage from the front or rear lens (in the single-lens mode, this option selects the lens you're recording with).

The user interface is simple and quick to navigate, though a little keen to go idle – I've needed to reopen the menu many times to confirm video mode selections.

Physical controls are hard to access when the camera is out of reach on a selfie stick, and that's where voice and gesture controls come in. You can command the X4 to start and stop video recording – which proved super-handy when I had it mounted three meters above my head on the extra-large selfie stick, while a peace sign gesture will trigger the timer for taking photos. The mixture of audible and visual commands covers you in most scenarios, including underwater.

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Side view of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Side view of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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USB-C port of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Side view of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera with lens protectors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Side view of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera with lens protectors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Lens protector mounted on the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera without lens protector

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera emerging from the supplied soft case

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's more to dig into by swiping the touchscreen. Flicking from right to left reveals exposure settings including color profile, while swiping left to right opens up your photo and video gallery for playback, and during playback you can swipe the screen to move around the 360-degree perspective.

Swiping down from the top of the screen opens up the main menu, through which you can activate and deactivate a number of controls such as gesture and voice commands, and connect to compatible Bluetooth-equipped devices such as headphones and remotes. You can also adjust the screen brightness here.

Explanatory on-screen text appears for most of the operational controls and shooting modes, which is super-handy when you’re getting started, especially for getting the most out of the shooting modes.

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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera in the hand alongside selfie stick

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera mounted to a selfie stick

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera on a selfie stick seen from way below

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background, recording video

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera on a selfie stick recording video

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 X4 360 degree camera on a selfie stick recording video

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

The X4 is designed to be used in vertical orientation, and as such your handling and viewing experience is largely in the 9:16 ratio. You can record in horizontal format using the single-lens mode, and there’s also a multi-aspect FreeMe mode where you can choose the aspect ratio, but overall the user experience is geared to content creators and mobile users familiar with the vertical format.

During recording, the X4 can get warm quickly, especially in the power-hungry high-resolution video modes. If you're using the X4 for shooting action, your movement will go some way to cooling the camera down, but if you're recording while largely stationary or in particularly warm environments, things can get moderately warm.

Overall, the X4 handles superbly for users of all experience levels and abilities.

Insta360 X4: features and performance

  • Huge 135-minutes of recording time 
  • Especially capable image stabilization
  • Intuitive mobile editor
  • Decent range of shooting modes

We're currently updating our Insta360 X4 review.

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Battery of Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Battery of the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

MicroSD card in the Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Insta360 X4 360 degree camera outdoors with vibrant grassy background on a selfie stick

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Insta360 X4: image and video quality

We're currently updating our Insta360 X4 review

Should I buy the Insta360 X4?

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Insta360 X4: Also consider

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

If our Insta360 X4 review has inspired you to think about other options, here are two more cameras to consider…

How we tested the Insta360 X4

  • Sporadic use over a few weeks
  • Bike rides and vlogging in various lighting conditions
  • Bullet time, hyperlapse, and regular video recording using a variety of color profiles and resolutions

We had our hands on the Insta360 X4 for several weeks before its official launch. Sadly we've not used it for the kind of adrenaline-filled extreme sports that you see in the launch videos, although it's still had extensive real-world testing. 

We've run it in 8K capture for long periods to test its power and stamina, used it for vlogging on the move, and for moderate sports such as road biking. We've tried out the various video resolutions, color profiles and HDR video capture to see how the small 8K sensor copes in bright and low light. 

The various video modes have been played with too, including bullet time and hyperlapse, plus we've taken still photos in the various options. 

First reviewed April 2024

Leica SL3 review – the modern Leica workhorse
5:00 pm | March 7, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Cameras Computers Gadgets Mirrorless Cameras | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Leica might be best-known for its legendary M-series rangefinders, but for the past decade it's also been building a modern full-frame mirrorless system called the SL series – and the new SL3 is its most fully-evolved model so far.

Unlike the Leica M11 and Leica Q3, which are built around a compact, tactile shooting experience, the SL3 is a modern brute that wants to be your professional workhorse. It still has classic Leica hallmarks, like minimalist menus and a design that harks back to the Leica R3 SLR, but it combines all of that with modern all-rounder specs.

The main upgrades from 2019's Leica SL2 include a 60MP full-frame CMOS BSI sensor, a Maestro IV processor, phase-detect autofocus, a tilting touchscreen, 8K video, a CFexpress Type B card slot (alongside an SD UHS II one) and a slightly smaller, lighter body.

Leica says that its 60MP sensor is the same as the one in the Leica M11 and Q3, but is engineered slightly differently – which means it has a base ISO of 50 (going up to 100,000), rather than 64. In other words, the SL3 is like the Q3's bigger brother, with its studio-friendly body giving you access to the dozens of lenses available for its L-mount.

The Leica SL3 sat on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)

But since the original Leica SL arrived in 2015, the full-frame mirrorless camera space has become fiercely competitive. So with incredible cameras like the Nikon Z8, Sony A7R V and Canon EOS R3 all vying for your attention, is the gravitational pull of that red dot still as strong for pro shooters in 2024?

I spent a couple of days with a Leica SL3 in Wetzlar, Germany to find out – as always, the answer depends very much on your priorities (and your bank balance)... 

Leica SL3 release date and price

  • The Leica SL3's body-only price is $6,995 / £5,920 (around AU$11,435)
  • The SL2's launch price was $5,995 / £5,300 / AU$9,900
  • It's available to buy right now at Leica stores and its online store

As always with Leica, the SL3's cost-of-entry is high. And like most cameras, it's quite a bit higher than in 2019, when the SL2 first landed.

The SL3's body-only price is $6,995 / £5,920 (around AU$11,435), which is somewhere between 12%-16% pricier than the SL2's original price, depending on where you live.

Hands holding the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

The SL3 is by no means the most expensive Leica camera around – the Leica M11 Monochrom, for example, costs $9,195 / £8,300 / AU$14,990 (body only) and only shoots in black and white. But this does mean that the SL3 is now much pricier than the Leica Q3 ($5,995 / £5,300 / AU$9,790). 

That's a completely different kind of camera, but the SL3 is also battling for your attention alongside full-frame Nikon Z8 ($3,999 / £3,999 / AU$6,999 body-only), which looks like a comparative bargain.

Leica SL3: design and handling

  • New 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, but no fully-articulating display
  • Leica SL3 design tweaks make it 69g lighter than SL2
  • Still has magnesium alloy body with IP54-rated weather sealing

Leica's SL series have always felt reassuringly expensive in the hand and the SL3 is no different – it feels like could survive a run-in with a Cybertruck. 

It's a bit of a functional brute compared to stablemates like the Leica Q3, but if you need a hybrid workhorse for stills and video, the SL3 is now one of the best camera bodies around.

Leica SL3 key specs

Sensor: 60MP full-frame CMOS sensor
Image processor: Maestro IV
AF system: Hybrid with phase-detect
EVF: 5.76-million dot OLED
ISO range: 50 to 100,000
Video: 8K at 30p, C4K & UHD at 60/50/30/25/24p
LCD: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2.3m dots
Max burst: Up to 15fps
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Weight: 769g (body only)

Leica has made a few tweaks to the SL series' design in this third-generation, mostly for the better. For a start, it's shaved off some weight – the SL3 is 69g lighter than its predecessor. At 769g, it's still a pretty weighty mirrorless camera, but that puts it somewhere in between a Sony A7 IV and Nikon Z8.

The biggest departure from the SL2 is the arrival of a tilting 3.2-inch touchscreen. Leica hasn't gone as far as adding a fully-articulating display, which it said could have compromised the SL3's bomb-proof build quality.

The top of the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

While videographers might be disappointed about that, the tilting screen is a welcome addition for photographers, giving you the option of shooting from the hip and low angles. It's just a shame it only tilts in landscape orientation, and not when you flip the camera round for portraits.

In the hand, the SL3 is still a satisfyingly solid hunk of metal. Mirrorless cameras don't come built any better than this – the magnesium and aluminum chassis balances nicely with some of Leica's weighty glass (like the Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 I tried it with), and the tweaked grip and its rubberized indent still feel great in the hand.

The SL3 still has IP54-rated weather sealing too, which means it can handle being sprayed or splashed with water. I haven't yet taken one to Antarctica, but there really aren't any weather conditions where you'll have to worry about the SL3.

Two hands holding the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Beyond its new screen and lighter weight, the only other design changes are more minor future-proofing tweaks. There's now a new CFexpress Type B slot (alongside a standard UHS-II SD slot) to support 8K video, plus an HDMI 2.1 Type A port for video shooters. 

Inside, there's also now a larger capacity battery (2,200mAh, compared to 1,860mAh one inside the SL2), but this doesn't translate to more shooting time. In fact, with a CIPA standard rating of 260 shots (compared to 370 shots on the SL2), battery life is one of the SL3's main weaknesses.

In more positive news, the SL3 retains the 5.76-million dot OLED EVF (with 0.78x magnification) from its predecessor, and that certainly hasn't dated. It's still an impressive part of the shooting experience, helping you stay connected to the scene with its clarity, color reproduction and 120fps refresh rate.

The Leica SL3 camera sat on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)

On the top of the SL3, there's a new dial on the left and a very handy 1.28-inch monochrome display for quickly previewing your shooting settings. Round the front of the camera there's arguably the most important design feature of all – the L-mount bayonet. This gives you access to a huge range of lenses from Leica, but also the likes of Panasonic, Sigma and Samyang – in total, there are now 84 lenses to choose from.

One other nice design touch is the new illuminated power button on the back, which replaces the traditional switch. This doesn't serve any great functional purpose other than making the SL3 feel more modern, but it's the kind of attention to detail you don't often get from other manufacturers.

Similarly, the SL3's refined menu system (complete with new icons) is an example for others to follow. It's clean and simple, with nice touches like the separate photo and video modes, and is a stark contrast to Sony's 'kitchen sink' approach to software menus.

Leica SL3: features and performance

  • 60MP CMOS BSI full-frame sensor, like the Leica Q3 and M11
  • New phase-detect AF system, alongside contrast/object detect AF
  • Can now shoot 8K video and ProRes (in 1080p)

Given the Leica SL2 was launched back in 2019, you'd hope that its successor would get a sizable imaging upgrade – and that's certainly the case. 

The SL3 has a 60MP CMOS BSI full-frame sensor, which is a tweaked version of the one inside the Leica Q3 and M11. While that resolution is handy for cropping later, you also get 36MP and 18MP modes to help boost the buffer during continuous shooting and save on memory space.

Leica says this sensor gives you an extra stop of dynamic range compared to the SL2 (15 stops, compared to 14), but a more obvious upgrade is the Maestro IV processor and its improved autofocus system.

The Leica SL3 camera sat on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)

The SL series has never had class-leading autofocus, partly due to Leica's close relationship with Panasonic (which, until last year's Panasonic Lumix S5 II, had refused to embrace phase-detect autofocus). But the SL3 finally offers a hybrid AF system, combining phase-detect AF (good for video and moving subjects) with contrast-detection and object detection. 

In my brief time with the SL3, its subject-detection worked well and reliably locked onto human eyes, producing a good hit-rate. But animal detection was still marked as being in 'beta' on my sample, so this will need more testing – and overall, it's fair to say that Leica is still playing catchup with the likes of Sony for autofocus, rather than surpassing it.

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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

The other benefit of that Maestro IV processor is that it supports the camera's CFexpress Type B card and, consequently, some video upgrades. The SL2 was already Leica's best ever video camera and the SL3 steps things up with 8K video capture. 

This will be a pretty niche mode, though, as it tops out at 30fps with 4:2:0 10-bit color sampling. More useful will be the SL3's 4K/60p and 4K/120p video modes, which you can shoot with 4:2:2 10-bit color sampling for editing flexibility. Combine that with the camera's full-size HDMI port for external monitors and timecode interface, and you have a powerful, professional video camera – which hasn't been very common in Leica world, until now.

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A sample photo of a car taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a car taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Another bonus for shooting handheld video (and stills) is the Leica SL3's five-axis image stabilization system, which gives you five stops of compensation. That's far from the best we've seen – the Sony A7R V's system is good for a claimed eight stops – but it is still an important difference from the original SL, which had no stabilization. It's also ideal if you want to use an SL3 with Leica M glass using the M-L adapter.

In my tests, I was able to shoot handheld down to 1/4s and get usable results, so it's definitely a useful feature, particularly for shooting in low light. Another quality-of-life upgrade are the SL3's speedier wireless transfer speeds, which use a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi MIMO tech to fire full-size DNGs to your phone in only two or three seconds.

That's quite a big jump up from the SL2, which took around 20 seconds to transfer a DNG file, and it worked well in my tests (as you can see above). The Leica Fotos app itself is a suitably premium experience that's a cut above the efforts from most camera manufacturers, and these transfer speeds make it a breeze to get a raw file onto your phone for a quick edit.

The SL3 isn't a sports camera – and despite having a larger buffer capacity than the SL2, its top speeds for continuous shooting have taken a slight dip compared to its predecessor. 

Its top speed is 15fps, which can manage for a few seconds before the buffer fills up, but it can naturally go for longer if you drop down to 9fps or 7fps. You can also get better results by choosing the 36MP or 18MP resolution modes, so there are options – just don't expect it to match a Canon EOS R3.

Hands holding the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

My biggest disappointment with the SL3 was its battery life. I'll need to do some more controlled tests, but during my brief time with the camera I was barely getting above 200 shots (plus some video) per charge. Its official CIPA rating is 260 shots per charge and Leica is rolling out new firmware (version 1.1) soon, so hopefully that might improve things. But prepare to carry around a USB-C charger or spare batteries.

One other strange anomaly is that the SL3 doesn't support Content Credentials, a new industry standard for protecting the authenticity of digital images. That's a little odd considering the older Leica M11-P debuted the feature last year, but Leica told us that "the reason is that the development of the SL3 was already advanced when this technology became mature".

Because Content Credentials requires a dedicated chipset, this also can't be added to the Leica SL3 via a firmware update. But Leica did add that for "future cameras it's our aim to integrate" the AI-combatting tech.

Leica SL3: image and video quality

I took the Leica SL3 for a spin with the Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 lens, which is a sharp, fun partner for the camera. The option of using Leica glass is clearly one of the main draws of the SL3, but whatever you pair it with, you'll get some hallmark Leica character in your images.

Like the Leica Q3, the SL3 captures tons of detail in its 60MP DNGs. I'll need to spend some more time with them to see how far they can be pushed in editing, but the early signs suggest you can recover an impressive amount of shadow detail from the SL3's raw files.

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A sample photo of the Leica HQ building taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of the Leica HQ building taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of the Leica HQ building taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a saxophone player taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a dog taken on the Leica SL3 camera

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A sample photo of the Leica HQ building taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a shed taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a car taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Those files also have bold, vibrant colors, more so than the JPEGs, although they're also a touch noisier than some full-frame rivals. In my early test shots, noise starts to appear from ISO 1600 and is particularly noticeable at ISO 6400. Still, this isn't necessarily a problem – in fact, the grain is frequently attractive (depending on your tastes) and gives the SL3's photos a filmic look.

Video quality looks similarly pin-sharp at lower ISOs, although the SL3's autofocus seemed to struggle a little more with moving subjects in this mode. I'll need to test this more on final firmware, alongside the 8K mode, before making any conclusions. But my early impressions are that the SL3's image and video quality will be comparable to the Leica Q3's, which is certainly no bad thing.

Leica SL3 early verdict

The Leica SL3 camera sat on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)

The full-frame mirrorless camera world has changed a lot since the original Leica SL landed in 2015 – and while the competition is now red-hot between Sony, Canon and Nikon, the Leica SL3 still manages to carve out a unique spot for itself.

While it can't match a Nikon Z8 for outright performance or value, the SL3 is a refined, professional workhorse with incredible build quality. Its simple, clean user interface puts most other cameras to shame and it's now a very competitive – if not class-leading – modern hybrid camera for shooting photos and video.

The special sauce of Leica's distinctive image rendering and lenses are added bonuses, although I hope its disappointing battery life is improved in later firmware updates. Right now, you'll need at least two batteries to last you a full day of intense shooting.

If that isn't a deal-breaker for you, then the SL3 could be the combination of modern mirrorless power and classic Leica minimalism you've been waiting for (even if your bank manager feels very differently). We'll bring you our full review very soon.

Leica SL3: how I tested

  • A day-and-a-half of shooting at Leica Park in Wetzlar, Germany
  • A mix of studio, low light and environmental shooting

I used the Leica SL3 for just over a day continuously during a visit to Leica's HQ in Wetzlar, Germany. I've taken sample photos in raw and DNG formats, although I'll need to spend a bit more time with the latter (on the SL3's final firmware) for our full review. 

I took a variety of handheld shots are different shutter speeds to test the effectiveness of its in-body image stabilization, and also took its new phase-detect autofocus and buffer for a spin during a fashion photo shoot.

My only lens during testing was the Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 lens, which was a great companion if not ideal for all shooting scenarios. I also ran the battery down to empty to test its stamina shooting a mix of photos and videos. 

RedMagic DAO 150W GaN charger launched with LCD, RGB lights, and transparent design
11:21 pm | February 22, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Mobile phones news | Tags: , | Comments: Off

nubia's RedMagic unveiled the DAO 150W GaN charger today with an interesting metal transparent design. It measures 110x71x35mm, weighs 870g, and features four ports - 1x USB-A, 2x USB-C, and 1x DC. As evident from its name, the RedMagic DAO 150W GaN charger has a maximum output of 150W, which is provided by the DC port at 20V/7.5A, while the two USB-C ports together can go up to 140W, and the single USB-A can go up to 30W. This allows the power brick to simultaneously charge multiple devices, including gaming laptops, smartphones, and tablets. The RedMagic DAO 150W GaN charger...

Sony X95L review: A mini-LED TV marvel with boosted brightness and contrast
4:00 pm | February 18, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Televisions | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Sony X95L: Two-minute review

The Sony X95L is on a mission to fix the niggles of its mini-LED predecessor with an improved panel design, pepped up processing and a 10% higher local dimming zone count.

It sets out a pretty premium stall right away with its design, which combines a classic slice of Sony minimalism with an unusual amount of flexibility in the shape of thee different foot mount options. 

Smart features are provided by the latest version of Google TV, while the TV’s brains come courtesy of Sony’s latest and most powerful Cognitive XR Processor. 

The new backlight system is a revelation. Practically all the light ‘blooms’ seen around bright objects with Sony’s previous mini-LED models, the X95Ks, have gone, leaving a much more consistent and immersive picture that still enjoys outstandingly deep, rich black tones.

Sony has had to modify its previous ‘brightness at all costs’ LCD philosophy a little to achieve this new bloom-free look, mildly toning down very bright image highlights if they appear against a black backdrop. But the pros of this new approach far outweigh the cons, especially as the increased backlight consistency is joined by some of the most refined colours, most polished motion handling and most natural-feeling 4K sharpness we’ve seen.

As if all the picture heroics weren’t enough, the 65X95L also boasts a strikingly clear, detailed and involving sound system. 

There’s some seriously tough competition in the mini-LED space this year that might make determining the best TVs of 2024 a very difficult task but the X95L is talented and unique enough to stand tall in any company. 

Sony X95L Review: Price and release date

The Sony X95L on a table

(Image credit: Future)
  • Release date: September 2023
  • Price starting from £1,899 / AU$4,495 and up to $4,499.99

Following a summer 2023 launch, Sony’s current premium 65-inch X95L LCD TV is now available for £1,899 in the UK and AU$4,495 in Australia. In the US, only one X95L screen size is available: 85-inches, which is priced at $4,499.99. In the UK, the 85-inch model costs £3,499 and the 75-inch is priced at £2,699. 

For smaller screen sizes, US consumers have to step down to the X93L range (a range that isn’t available in the UK). The X93Ls differ from the UK X95Ls by having fewer dimming zones, reduced contrast, no frame tweeters and no XR Clear Image processing. We’ll cover all these features the X95Ls have that the US X93Ls don’t in the next section if you’re not sure what they all mean.

Sony X95L Review: Features

A close up of the side of the Sony X95L

(Image credit: Future)
  • 4K mini-LED TV with local dimming
  • Cognitive XR processor 
  • HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision HDR

As we’ve now come to expect of flagship LCD TVs from ‘serious’ AV brands like Sony, the 65X95L benefits from a mini LED lighting system backed up by local dimming. Sony claims that this dimming engine has been much improved from its predecessor – improvements that begin by upping the dimming zone count to 480 versus 432 on the previous 65X95K model. 

Combined with other improvements to the 65X95L’s processing and panel set up, this local dimming enhancement claims to generate 30% more peak brightness than its predecessor managed. If you’d like to put some actual measured numbers on this, the 65X95L produces a hefty 1560 nits on a 10% white HDR window, 1225 nits on a 2% window and 611 nits on a full-screen HDR window. Note that contrary to what you’d expect to see with OLED screens, the 65X95L’s brightness with the smallest 2% window is lower than the 10% window because of the way local dimming works.

OLED screens can’t currently get quite as bright on a 10% window or nearly as bright on a 100% test window as the 65X95L does. Though on the other side of the coin, of course, even 480 dimming zones can’t deliver the same sort of pixel-level light control you get with self-emissive OLED screens. That said, Sony has previously shown an uncanny talent for getting almost eerily good light control from much lower dimming zone counts than the 65X95L carries.

The improved processing, I mentioned earlier, is the latest version of Sony’s Cognitive Processor XR engine. A processing system predominantly motivated (depending on the presets you choose) by two aims: Making images look more like real life and getting sources to resemble as closely as possible the way they looked when they were created in a professional mastering suite. 

In terms of specific new processing enhancements for the 65X95L, the local dimming algorithms have apparently been enhanced, while a new XR Clear Image system claims to deliver even better upscaling of HD and SD sources to the TV’s native 4K resolution than Sony’s already brilliant previous upscaling systems have.

At first glance, the 65X95L’s connections roster of four HDMIs, two USBs, a hybrid composite/S-Centre speaker input, an optical digital audio input, an Ethernet port and inevitable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support looks pretty up to speed for a premium TV. Closer inspection, though, reveals that only two of the HDMIs support the sort of high bandwidths demanded by cutting edge gamers, and even those require you to swallow a compromise or two. We’ll discuss this more in the Gaming section of the review. 

As with Sony’s premium sets for a couple of generations now, the 65X95L goes a bundle on third party partnerships and endorsements. There’s a full house of Dolby action, for starters, with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound decoding both on the menu. The TV has also been certified by IMAX as capable of getting the best from the IMAX Enhanced home video format. Meanwhile, Netflix has granted it a Netflix Calibrated mode that sets the TV to closely match Netflix’s in-house mastering conditions.

The only notable absentee from the 65X95L’s format support list, really, is HDR10+. LG, too, refuses to adopt this rival for Dolby Vision (while Samsung refuses to adopt Dolby Vision). But there are TVs out there from Philips, Panasonic and TCL that support both formats – and both formats are fairly widely available in the content world now. 

The 65X95L’s premium features aren’t limited to its picture quality. A so-called Acoustic Multi-Audio+ sound system uses speakers placed all around the TV’s body, including frame-vibrating tweeters in its sides, to deliver what Sony claims will be a larger and more precisely detailed soundstage.

If you have or are thinking of adding a Sony soundbar to the TV, the S-Centre port I mentioned in passing earlier can enable the TV to do centre channel duties while the soundbar handles the rest.

Features score: 4.5 / 5

Sony X95L review: Picture quality

The Sony X95L on a table

(Image credit: Future)
  • Excellent backlight control
  • Bright HDR pictures
  • Excellent image processing

While Sony’s mini LED debut, 2022’s X95K range, was good, it didn’t quite rise to the level of some of its premium TV rivals. It felt almost as if the twin challenges of handling vast amounts of extra LEDs and a much higher dimming zone count than Sony was used to working with was a step too far for its usually stellar backlight control systems. Happily, the extra year or so Sony’s engineers have had to work on the 65X95L have reaped fantastic dividends.

In particular, where dark scenes on the X95Ks could look rather inconsistent, especially when it came to ‘blooms’ of backlight appearing around stand-out bright objects, on the 65X95L they look brilliantly consistent and, as a result, much more immersive. Blooming around bright objects is hugely reduced in terms of the regularity with which you can see it, the extent of its ‘spread’ and, best of all, the intensity of its greyness on those very rare occasions when it does become faintly visible. 

One of the tools Sony has introduced to reduce blooming is to slightly dim down very bright objects if they appear against a very dark backdrop. This is something mini-LED rival Samsung has been doing for years, but Sony has previously avoided. The dimming is very mild, though, compared with the extent that it can happen with Samsung TVs, and so it’s much less likely to be distractingly noticeable. Which means it feels like a pretty reasonable compromise in return for the 65X95L’s greatly improved black level uniformity.

Dark scenes don’t just impress for the much improved evenness of their black colours, either. The sheer inky depths of the 65X95L’s black colours is also remarkable. So much so that it’s often hard to believe that you’re watching an LCD TV rather than an OLED TV. Except, that is, that the 65X95L is routinely capable of hitting levels of brightness OLED TVs can’t compete with. Especially when it comes to bright HDR shots that flood the whole screen area with brightness. 

Again I need to qualify this a little by saying that the 65X95L doesn’t get as bright as Samsung’s flagship mini LED TVs do. But as well as Sony’s mini-LED 4K flagship being significantly cheaper than Samsung’s, the way it handles its light is so effective that the brightness on offer feels ample for giving you a spectacular but also consistently believable and natural HDR experience.

The 65X95L’s improved brightness and contrast over the 65X95K feed into an improved colour performance, too. Saturations look more wide-ranging and vivid, and as usual Sony’s slightly mysterious Triluminos colour system does a spell-binding job of using the light available to render tones with outstanding subtlety. Achieving such a rich combination of vibrancy but also finesse is one of those things that really separates the best TVs out from the rest.

The subtlety of the colour handling and light control contributes to an outstanding sense of sharpness, detail and, especially, depth in the 65X95L’s pictures. Objects look genuinely three-dimensional without the need for any 3D goggles, and the image looks extremely ‘4K’ at all times. Even, actually, with HD sources, thanks to the X95L’s remarkably astute and effective new 4K upscaling engine the X95L boasts.

It’s worth adding here that despite the outstandingly deep black colours the 65X95L is capable of delivering, its light control, even at ‘near black’ levels, is good enough to ensure that you never feel as if you’re missing out any subtle shadow details even in the darkest picture corners. 

There’s no loss of clarity during motion-filled action scenes, either. Even with no motion processing in play the 65X95L handles judder with 24p film sources with impressive neutrality, but if you do happen to find yourself distracted by judder with a particular (likely very bright) 24p source, then some of the motion processing options Sony provides do an excellent, arguably class leading job of reducing the impact of the judder without leaving the image full of unpleasant processing side effects. So long, anyway, as you only ever use the motion processing options on their lowest power settings. 

It’s interesting to note, too, how the outstanding Cognitive Processor XR works, depending on your selected picture preset, on either subtly emphasising key objects in images as your eyes would when perceiving the real world, or recreating the emphasis preferences of original source masters. Both approaches deliver delicious results while catering for slightly different image preferences.

While the 65X95L’s pictures represent a big leap from those of its predecessor and are really never less than a joy to watch, there are a trio of small niggles to report. One I’ve already touched on: That while brighter than OLED, there one or two even brighter mini LED TVs out there. Though the brightness the 65X95L feels optimised to spectacular effect.

The 65X95L’s Vivid picture preset oddly jettisons the sensitivity and subtlety the TV so proudly displays with really all of its other picture modes, with colours in particular becoming blown out and unrealistic. Some presets can cause noticeable clipping (lost shading and detailing) in the brightest bits of HDR pictures too, and while the backlight controls are usually excellent, just occasionally a very aggressively mastered HDR scene containing a particularly dynamic mixture of bright and dark content, such as the party/orgy that dominates the opening section of Babylon on 4K Blu-ray, can feel a touch flat as the TV struggles to reconcile such complex and extreme brightness and contrast variations.

Most of the niggles are avoidable simply by being careful what presets you use, though, and those that aren’t so easily fixed typically only crop up very rarely. Meaning that overall the 65X95L’s pictures can be considered things of surprisingly consistent beauty.

Picture quality score: 5 / 5

Sony XR-65X95L Review: Sound quality

The back of the Sony X95L

(Image credit: Future)
  • Acoustic Multi-Audio speaker system works well
  • Punchy, undistorted bass
  • Wide and well-developed sound stage

Despite not appearing at first glance as if it has the physical room to house any speakers worthy of the name, the 65X95L actually sound excellent by built-in TV audio standards.

Using a wide array of speakers, including ‘frame vibrators’ built into the screen’s sides, helps to both disperse the sound much more widely than a simple stereo or down-firing speaker system would. The frame tweeters also do an at times quite uncanny job of making sound effects appear to be coming from just the right spot on or just off the screen – even tracking the sound of moving objects with startling accuracy.

Dialogue is excellent too, enjoying an artful balance of clarity and context, and again typically sounding like it’s coming from part of the screen where a talker’s head is, rather than from some separate speaker array below or to the side of the onscreen action.

There’s good balance between the various frequency ranges and elements of a busy movie soundtrack too, with nothing tending to sound overly bright or unduly dominant.

Bass is a bit limited in the depths of frequency response it can hit and the weight it can add to an action movie mix. What bass there is, though, does at least avoid buzzing, drop outs and other common TV audio distortions, while the mid-range is wide enough to stop the sound ever appearing thin or brittle. There’s enough power, too, to enable the sound stage to open up nicely as an action or horror scene gathers momentum.

Sound quality score: 4.5 / 5 

Sony X95L review: Design

A close up of the Sony logo on the X95L

(Image credit: Future)
  • Three different feet position options 
  • Can be raised to accommodate a soundbar 
  • Impressive build quality 

The 65X95L’s design offers an appealing combination of minimalist elegance and practicality. 

Its black, silver-trimmed frame is slender enough to represent barely any distraction from the pictures you’re watching yet feels very robustly built, while the feet supplied with the TV are so narrow when you’re viewing the TV head on that you barely see them. 

You can position the feet in no less than three different configurations too. The most elegant option sees them tucked right under the screen’s bottom corners, so that they almost feel like a horizontal extension of the screen frame. But you can also position them so that they lift the screen up far enough to place a soundbar underneath it, or else you can position them closer together so that the TV can be placed on a narrow piece of furniture. All very thoughtful.

The 65X95L’s rear sticks out a fair bit further than those of most of today’s ultra-slim TVs - but unless you’re wall hanging it you probably won’t notice. This is because the chunkiness is cleverly delivered in two distinct tiers, with the fattest bit sitting towards the centre of the back panel so that you can’t see it unless you’re looking at the TV from an extreme angle. 

Design score: 4.5 / 5

SonyX95L review: Smart TV and menus

The Sony X95L remote

(Image credit: Future)
  • Google TV support
  • Voice control support
  • Menus can feel a little overwhelming

Sony has long been aboard first the Android and then the Google TV train for its TV smart systems – so it’s not surprise to find Google TV in place on the 65X95L too. 

Google TV is a substantial improvement over its Android predecessor, with more attractive and intuitive menus. For me, though, it still feels a bit overwhelming for a TV rather than smart device interface, and doesn’t offer as many customisation options as some rival systems. Or, at least, it doesn’t make its customisation options as obvious. 

It doesn’t carry by default all the UK’s key terrestrial broadcaster catch up apps, either – though Sony has been able to get these onboard via its own agreements with the various channels involved.

There’s one exclusive to Sony streaming service that’s well worth a mention, too: Bravia Core. The big story behind this is that its large collection of movies (including some recent releases as well as a horde of catalogue stuff) can all be streamed at much higher bandwidths than most video streaming services provide, resulting in better 4K HDR picture quality. You need a broadband speed of at least 80Mbps to get the maximum benefit from Bravia Core – but you’ll be pleased to know that just by buying a 65X95L you’ve gained access to 10 free films to add to your library before you need to start paying for any others.

Voice control is supported via Google Assistant, and there’s one final more unusual smart feature to report in the shape of an optional (£199) Bravia Cam accessory. This can connect to the top edge of your TV and open up such features as auto sound and picture adjustment based on analysis of your seating position, video calling and even a degree of gesture control. Personally I’m not convinced the Bravia Cam is really worth the extra cash, but it picked up a CES 2022 Innovation Award, so what do I know…

Smart TV and menus score: 4 / 5

Sony X95L review: Gaming

The back of the Sony X95L

(Image credit: Future)
  • 4K / 120Hz VRR support on two HDMIs 
  • No Dolby Vision support for gaming 
  • Perfect for PS5 features

Surprisingly for a brand with such a huge video game presence, Sony has been a little lethargic compared with some of its rivals when it comes to whole-heartedly embracing the latest game graphics features in its TVs. This continues to some extent with the 65X95L.

For starters, only two of its four HDMIs support 4K/120Hz game inputs and variable refresh rates. And one of those two game-friendly HDMIs is also the one you’re supposed to use if you want to take advantage of HDMI’s audio return channel capability.

Also, frustratingly, the TV requires you to choose between either variable refresh rates or Dolby Vision HDR gaming; you can’t have both at the same time. Given that there’s no fast-responding Dolby Vision Game mode either, though, you probably won’t want to game in Dolby Vision on the 65X95L anyway.

There is support for auto low latency mode switching, however, where the TV switches in to its fastest responding Game picture preset when a game rather than video source is detected. Plus, of course, there are the other limited Perfect For PlayStation features Sony rolled out a couple of years ago in a bid to make it look like its TV and console divisions really do talk to each other. This includes the ability to have the PS5 auto-optimise its HDR output to suit whatever Sony TV model it detects that it’s connected to.

Sony now provides a dedicated game onscreen menu too, providing key information on the incoming game feeds and access to a few gaming aids. It’s not quite as advanced as some rival Game menu systems, including the one on Sony’s own A95L flagship OLED model. But it’s much better than having no such menu at all. 

The 65X95L manages to get input lag down to a decent if not world-leading 18.8ms when running in its Game picture preset, and actually produces consistently gorgeous gaming imagery, powered in particular by the set’s brightness, bold but also subtle colour management and high degree of sharpness and detail.

Gaming score: 4 / 5

Sony X95L review: Value

The Sony X95L on a table

(Image credit: Future)
  • Much more expensive than TCL’s 65C845K
  • Cheaper than premium OLEDs and some rival LCD flagships
  • Fair value overall for what’s on offer

The 65X95L’s UK price of £1,899 is the result of recent discounting, and so represents good value for a TV boasting such a strong feature count and premium level of picture and sound performance. The Australian price of AU$4,495 doesn’t look like quite such good value, working out at around £500 more than the UK price based on a simple currency conversion.

Samsung’s flagship 65-inch 4K mini LED model, the 65QN95C, is currently listed at £2,199 – though that is itself a big discount from the set’s original £3,699 launch price. The 65X95L is much cheaper, though, than Sony’s 65-inch flagship OLED TV, the 65A95L, which is currently available for a hefty £3,499. 

It’s impossible to do a review of a mini LED TV with lots of dimming zones right now without also mentioning the TCL 65C845K. This delivers more than 2000 nits of brightness and 576 local dimming zones for just £1,049. But it doesn’t share the same quality of video processing or general picture precision and accuracy that the 65X95L achieves.

Value score: 4 / 5

Should you buy the Sony X95L?

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

Sony X95L review: Also consider

How I tested the Sony X95L

  • Tested over two weeks
  • Tested with 4K Blu-rays, multiple streaming platforms and resolutions, Freeview HD broadcasts, and HD Blu-rays 
  • Reviewed in both dark and light dedicated test room conditions, and a regular (corner position) living room set up

While a substantial amount of time was spent testing the Sony 65X95L in a blacked out test room environment to make it as easy as possible to spot potential flaws with its new LCD backlighting system, we also tested it at a series of different light levels using a remote controlled lamp, as well as testing it for a number of days in a completely regular living room set up, complete with changing day and night conditions. 

The ‘controlled environment’ testing typically focused on a selection of 4K Blu-rays and streaming sequences that we know from long experience tend to test different aspects of a TV’s picture and sound quality to the limit. Particularly useful for the 65X95L were the 4K Blu-ray of Babylon, the early stages of which present a tough challenge for LCD backlighting and colour controls; It Chapter One on 4K Blu-ray with its often intensely dark black levels and expansive Dolby Atmos soundtrack; and the HD Blu-ray of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, the many dark and grainy scenes of which pose a tough test for upscaling systems.

A Sky Q box was used to provide both HD and 4K 60Hz content, and we also spun up favourite episodes from shows across all the main streaming services using their built in apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and Disney Plus. 

Narwal Freo review: the vacuuming and mopping robot vacuum you want to love
7:00 pm | December 21, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Robot Vacuums Smart Home | Tags: | Comments: Off

Narwal Freo: One-minute review

The Narwal Freo offers everything you’d expect from one of the best robot vacuums. Beyond vacuuming, it has mopping, an intuitive app, long battery life, and a base station with auto mop-cleaning and an LCD touchscreen for extra control. But the question is, do these features deliver? Almost all of them do, except probably the most important one: vacuuming.  

When it came to vacuuming, the Narwal Freo sucked, and not in a way that vacuums are supposed to. It failed to pick up debris during everyday cleaning tasks on carpeted and hard floors, leaving a larger-than-expected amount of hair, crumbs, and other dirt behind as it traversed my space, with its performance worsening over time. Edge brushes and other “special” technology did little to expel dirt from edges and corners, meaning you’ll want to grab one of the best vacuum cleaners to finish the job this device failed to complete. 

Mopping on the Narwal Freo was a different story. The two oscillating mop heads did an excellent job cleaning up lighter dirt, spots, and grime. The robot vacuum also as a whole did a decent job navigating my space and freeing itself when getting stuck. It's not the best I’ve seen but on par with many robot vacuums I’ve tested. After mopping, my floors sparkled while the auto-mop cleaning on the base station made the entire process virtually hands-off.  

Speaking of that base station, it’s bulky, but the unique LCD touchscreen on its lid is especially useful when you don’t want to use the app. However, the omission of an auto-emptying dustbin was shocking given the retail price. For more control over settings and cleanings, the app was great, and you can even save multiple maps, making it ideal for multi-level spaces. 

The Narwal Freo is best for homes with lighter cleaning needs given the poor vacuum pick-up. However, it’s almost entirely hands-free and will leave your floors looking better than before with little effort on your part, removing a few chores from the list. 

Narwal Freo: price and availability

  • How much does it cost? $1,399.99 / AU$1,999 (about £1,100)
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where is it available? Available in the US and Australia

The Narwal Freo costs $1,399.99 / AU$1,999 (about £1,100). You can get it directly from the Narwal website or various retailers, including Amazon and Walmart. In Australia, it’s available on their website

Given the price, this robot vacuum sits at the higher end of the market. Luckily, it offers many features to help justify that cost, including self-cleaning oscillating mops and an LCD touchscreen. Still, the lack of an auto-emptying dust bin is shocking. If you can grab it on sale, it will make the device a much better value. One small but much-appreciated detail is the inclusion of a floor cleaning solution, but it costs a pretty penny when that needs replacing. 

Something like the Eufy Clean X9 Pro offers similar functionality to the Narwal Freo, including self-cleaning and oscillating mops, and it retails for $500 less, making it a better deal. But if you’re looking for almost everything a robot vacuum can offer in one convenient package, the Roborock S8 Pro Ultra might suit you better. With it comes self-cleaning mops and the auto-emptying dust bin that the Narwal Freo lacks – although this impressive vacuum will set you back $1,599 / AU$2,699 (about £1,265).

  • Value: 3.5 / 5

Narwal Freo: specifications

Narwal Freo during testing

(Image credit: Future / Danielle Abraham)

Narwal Freo: Design and features

  • LCD touchscreen control panel on base station
  • Auto mop cleaning base, no auto emptying
  • Two oscillating mop heads

The Narwal Freo came in a massive, heavy box that was difficult to maneuver on my own. Upon opening, I was greeted with a large instruction sheet and began setting up the vacuum. The process took about 10 minutes, including downloading the Narwal app and connecting to Wi-Fi via a 2.4GHz band. It was fairly simple and similar to most robot vacuums. 

The base station is a sleek white with rounded edges, but it’s quite bulky, measuring 14.6 x 16.3 x 17.1 in (370 x 415 x 435 mm). So, those living in smaller spaces may want to stay away from this device unless you’ve got a great spot to tuck it away. It’s also hefty, especially when the clean water tank is full and the auto-feeding floor solution is installed, meaning you won’t want to move the setup often. 

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Narwal Freo during testing

(Image credit: Future / Danielle Abraham)
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Narwal Freo during testing

(Image credit: Future / Danielle Abraham)

One glaring omission from the base station’s design is an auto-emptying dustbin, something I’ve seen on almost every robot vacuum in its price range. Instead, you get that floor solution that tucks neatly inside along with clean and dirty water tanks for the self-cleaning mops. That means you’ll need to empty the 480ml dust box on the robot vacuum itself, which can be annoying. However, the tray where the mops are cleaned is removable, so you can rinse it down if it looks or smells a bit grimy.

Narwal Freo during testing

(Image credit: Future / Danielle Abraham)

I might miss the auto-emptying dustbin, but this base added an excellent feature that I haven’t seen on a robot vacuum before: a control panel. It’s a round, color LCD touchscreen on top of the base station that lets you send the vacuum out to perform different tasks, displays alerts when something is wrong, and more. You don’t get as much control as on the app, but it’s great for those in your household who don’t have the app downloaded. 

Narwal Freo during testing

(Image credit: Future / Danielle Abraham)

The robot vacuum is similar to others, with a large main roller brush featuring actual bristles, edge brushes, and various sensors throughout. It’s the same white as the base, so scuff marks began to show immediately after the initial use. There’s only one button on the device, giving you limited control unless you’re using the LCD touch screen or the app. The dust box is easy to remove, though I found that some contents would fall out in the process, which is annoying given the fact that there’s no auto-emptying dust bin. 

Narwal Freo during testing

(Image credit: Future / Danielle Abraham)

My favorite part of the actual robot vacuum is the oscillating mops. You get two large, plush mop heads that rotate and adjust pressure based on the floor type. I’ve found that this type of mopping does a better job of cleaning floors than the vibrating mopping pads seen on most. After mopping, the base station cleans the mops and even dries them to prevent smelly bacteria growth. 

I’ve mentioned controlling the vacuum via the app or the LCD touchscreen on the base, but you can also send the vacuum out to clean using smart home integration. It currently supports Siri voice control, and the Narwal app makes it insanely simple to set up – something I can’t say for other vacuums I’ve tested. 

  • Design: 4 / 5

Narwal Freo during testing

(Image credit: Future / Danielle Abraham)

Narwal Freo: Performance

  • Easy-to-use app
  • Excellent mopping
  • Mediocre vacuuming

For its first task, I sent the Narwal Freo out using Narwal’s unique Freo Mode that detects the dirt in an area and cleans accordingly using “DirtSense Technology.” The vacuum and mops are both used in this mode. The device navigated my downstairs with relative ease, though it would occasionally get tripped up on rugs, eventually freeing itself without my help. After finishing cleaning a room, or sometimes more often, the vacuum would go back to the base and clean the mops. This process takes about two minutes. Then, it would go right back out, picking up where it left off cleaning. 

Freo Mode left the floors cleaner than before, but the performance wasn’t perfect. Most of the spots from food spills and muddy boots got mopped up, though the mops that are supposed to lift on rugs and carpet wouldn’t always do so, soaking the edges of rugs. There was still debris left in the corners and edges of rooms, especially near the kitchen cabinets. Given this vacuum advertises a “Smart Swing” technology to combat this issue, I was disappointed the feature wasn’t better. The rugs also had some debris and dog hair left on them. It’s important to note that I have a fluffy dog constantly traipsing leaves and muck throughout the house, so this vacuum had its work cut out for it.

Narwal Freo during testing

(Image credit: Future / Danielle Abraham)

I did more intensive testing of the Narwal Freo’s vacuuming to see how it fared when cleaning up different sizes of debris. Using a large concentration of oats, sugar, and sprinkles, I tested its pick up on a hard laminate floor at the vacuum’s various speeds: quiet, normal, strong, and super powerful. I noticed that each suction level performed similarly. 

Some of the oats and sprinkles got flung around in the first pass-through, but sending the vacuum out a second time saw most of the mess suctioned up. Some sprinkles got crushed in the process, and they were left behind. The sugar appeared to get vacuumed. However, upon closer inspection, there was some grittiness on the floor, and it took several passes to remove it. 

I sent the vacuum back to the base after these tests—the robot vacuum successfully found the base and docked every time it finished a cleaning task. But on its way, it had to pass over several transitions, losing some of the contents of the dust box, and leaving a mess of sprinkles, and oats behind. Luckily, the robot vacuum increases suction when docking at the base, helping to prevent the dust box contents from falling out. 

Narwal Freo during testing

(Image credit: Future / Danielle Abraham)

I performed these same tests on medium-pile carpeting, and unfortunately, the Narwal Freo’s performance was pretty pathetic. No matter the suction level and even with a second pass-through, most of the oats, sprinkles, and flour were left behind. I had to grab a cordless vacuum I was testing to pick up the mess the Freo left behind. So, if your home consists mostly of carpeting, I’d seek another robot vacuum option. 

Its mops were also put through more intensive testing, as I spread yogurt, honey, and some of my morning coffee on the floor. I used all the mop water levels: slightly dry, normal, and wet mopping. Slightly dry tended to spread the mess around, but normal and wet mopping performed better. After the first pass, the coffee was gone, though the yogurt was smeared around while only some of the honey was removed. A second pass-through cleaned up the majority of the mess. 

I love how great the mops perform. They’re perfect for cleaning up lighter spills and messes. When emptying the dirty water tank, I could see just how great they were working, as that water was nasty. Plus, even after several weeks of use, the mops look almost as good as new. They are white, so there are a few darker spots on them, but there’s no odor, which is a testament to the handy auto-cleaning and drying feature on the base station. 

Beyond the more intensive testing, I observed how the Narwal Freo performed everyday tasks, whether it was in Freo Mode, Vacuum, Mop, or both. 

Its navigation was on par with other vacuums I’ve tested. For the most part, it covered the entire area I had requested the robot vacuum to clean. The device would avoid objects like dog bowls and toys. But when it came to furniture and larger obstacles, it would skirt nicely around some or just fully ram others with no rhyme or reason. Sometimes, the Freo would get tripped up by an obstacle for several minutes, continuously running into it or spinning around it. I’ve found this to be a common issue with many robot vacuums. Wires would also get caught in the main brush from time to time–not a big surprise. 

Speaking of the main brush, it has bristles, something many robot vacuums have done away with. That means it’s a hair magnet, and I had to clean it on multiple occasions. I also found the brush difficult to get back in place correctly after cleaning, a minor annoyance. 

When it came to detecting debris, it was a hit or miss. Sometimes, the Narwal Freo would spot larger messes and pick them up immediately. Other times, it seemingly avoided the mess, never going back to clean up, proving the vacuum to be unreliable. 

As the Narwal Freo vacuumed, it attempted to kick out debris from hard-to-reach places, corners, and baseboards using the edge brushes. Oftentimes, it didn’t successfully move the debris, and if it did move the debris, that debris never actually got suctioned up. This was a major disappointment, especially given the price. 

In fact, I was truly shocked at just how mediocre the vacuuming performance of the Narwal Freo was. I’ll admit that my floors were full of crumbs, pet hair, leaves, and other debris, making them messier than the average household. But I was lucky if the Freo picked up a third of what was on the floor. Sure, larger crumbs and dirt were left, and that’s acceptable and often expected from these devices. However, small leaves, tiny needles from an artificial Christmas tree, and minuscule crumbs were left behind even after I sent the vacuum out multiple times. 

I also believe the vacuum’s performance declined from when I first began using it. I tried to remedy the problem, doing everything from emptying the dust box after each use to cleaning the brushes and filter. Still, it failed to have a better pick-up. That poor vacuuming performance could be due to the 3,000Pa max suction level, which is pretty low considering the cost. Therefore, if your household has pets, kids, or just tends to get a bit grimier, I’d steer clear of the Narwal Freo.   

  • Performance: 2.5 / 5

Narwal Freo during testing

(Image credit: Future / Danielle Abraham)

Narwal Freo: App

  • Easy to use app
  • Mapping uncomplicated 

It was simple to start using the Narwal Freo. Before its first run, the robot vacuum leaves the base and creates a map of your space. The process was quick, and I had a relatively accurate map of the downstairs of my home, which is about 700 square feet with multiple rooms, in about 15 minutes. You can then edit the map, block off certain areas, and name rooms using the Narwal app. The map isn’t as intelligent as some I’ve used, but it should suffice for most.

A great feature of the Narwal App is its ability to save up to four maps. So, beyond the main downstairs map, I created two others. One map of my sunken family room and another of the upstairs. Mapping was uncomplicated, as you just needed to move the robot vacuum to the space and let it do its thing. However, you can’t select specific rooms to clean on the additional maps, as the app only allows you to highlight areas to be cleaned, which can be tedious.

However, the app as a whole is easy to use and took me only a couple of minutes to master. It lets you adjust vacuum settings, check when components need replacing, schedule cleanings, and more. When you don’t go through the app, you can always use the LCD touchscreen on the base, though you’ll have less control over the specifics of your cleaning.

  • App: 4.5 / 5

Narwal Freo: Battery life

  • Battery lasts over three hours
  • Takes less than 4 hours to recharge

The Narwal Freo is equipped with a 5,200mAh battery that lasts an impressive amount of time. Using Freo Mode, which includes vacuuming and mopping, the battery lasted over three hours. That was enough juice to clean almost 700 square feet of space three times. It’s the best battery performance I’ve seen in my robot vacuum testing. 

When only using the vacuuming function, I found that the battery did deplete quicker. Still, it lasted long enough for multiple whole home cleanings. Of course, increasing the suction level did cause the levels to drop even faster.

After the battery dropped below 20%, it returned to the base for charging. There’s an option to send it back out to complete a task after it has reached a certain level of charge. And the battery gets back to 100% percent surprisingly fast, taking less than 4 hours.

  • Battery: 5 / 5

Should I buy the Narwal Freo?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Narwal Freo: Also consider

Not sold on the prowess of the Narwal Freo? Below are a couple of alternatives that you can consider.

How I tested the Narwal Freo

  • Tested over the course of several weeks
  • Used almost every mop and vacuum setting
  • Tested on various floor types, including carpet and laminate

I tested the Narwal Freo in my two-story home with floor types that include hardwood, medium pile carpet, tile, and laminate. There are also low-pile rugs throughout. I’d send the vacuum out multiple times per week using the different modes: Freo Mode, Vacuuming and Mopping, Vacuuming, and Mopping. The robot vacuum would do its thing, and I would only intervene if needed, observing how it handled obstacles, edges, and more. 

Beyond the basics, I did more intensive testing of the device on both hard floor and carpeting to see how it handled larger messes of varying debris sizes. Using oats, flour, and sprinkles, I tested all the suction levels of the vacuum to see how well each setting vacuumed.  I also spread yogurt, honey, and coffee on the floor to observe the mops' performance at varying water levels. 

Although this is the first time I’ve tested a Narwal robot vacuum, I have reviewed plenty of others from top brands like Shark, Roborock, Ecovacs, Eufy, and more, so I feel confident in my experience using these devices.  

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.

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First reviewed December 2023

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review
7:25 pm | November 9, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Phones | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite two-minute review

OnePlus has been using its budget Nord line to shake things up compared to its top-end numbered line. And its latest phone finds another way to be different; while the likes of the OnePlus 11 have nice and simple names, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite opts to instead have a ridiculously bloated title.

‘Nord’ is the budget arm of OnePlus, ‘CE’ is the budget arm of Nord and ‘Lite’ tells you that this is an even budget-ier phone than its budget brothers. Confusing etymology out the way, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is a pretty standard Android phone, with its only noteworthy feature being its obnoxious name.

This handset is partly an affordable alternative to the OnePlus Nord CE 3, with a similar design and software but weaker specs in a limited few areas. But it’s just as easy to call it a successor to the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite from 2022, with a few upgrades and several curious features carried over. It’s also seen a relatively major price jump from that previous handset.

Admittedly the Nord CE 3 didn't launch in many regions, making the Lite a bigger opportunity for OnePlus to get people to give its CE line a fighting chance.

The price increase here is an issue because costing £299 (around $350 / AU$520), the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is bumping heads with some (relatively) super-spec’d similar-price rivals, and it’s not a favorable comparison given the competitive nature of phones at this price point.

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

One of the selling points of the phone is its 108MP main camera, making the Nord CE 3 Lite the first CE handset to use a high-res main camera like this. Functionally this doesn’t change much, but it does give you the option to eat through your storage space at an even faster rate.

A new feature that’s actually useful is the 67W fast charging; Nord phones generally come with luxuriously big batteries, but with the slow charging taking ages to power them to full. Now, however, you’re getting a day’s worth of power from just half an hour of charging.

Most of the best parts of this phone are carried over from the Nord CE 3 too like the aforementioned big battery, as well as the large display and microSDXC card slot. However, some of the downgrades are where the phone is weakest: its chip is weak for gaming, it misses out on an ultra-wide camera and the screen uses LCD tech instead of OLED.

Curiously, these were all some of the weakest points of the Nord CE 2 Lite – clearly, OnePlus missed a memo somewhere.

So the handset is a mixed bag with some useful features but a few too many weak areas to make the device recommendable over similar-priced rivals.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: price and availability

  • Released in April 2023
  • Costs £299 (around $350 / AU$520)
  • Unavailable in US or Australia

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite went on sale in April 2023, in Europe at least because OnePlus doesn’t sell its CE models in the US.

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite costs £299 (around $350 / AU$520), and for that price you’ll get 8GB RAM and 128GB storage – in the UK, this is the only variant available, though you can pick between Pastel Lime and Chromatic Gray.

At that price, the phone straddles the line between ‘budget’ and ‘mid-range’ mobile, Some other phones at this price point include Xiaomi’s impressive Redmi Note 12 Pro or the Poco X5 Pro, two handsets explored in the comparisons section later.

  • Value score: 2.5 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: specs

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is your typical budget smartphone in most regards when it comes to specifications:

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: design

  • Standard chocolate-bar phone
  • Mostly-reliable fingerprint scanner
  • 3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C port

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus has opted to use the same rough design for the Nord CE 3 Lite that it uses for basically all of its budget mobiles. That means it’s your standard ‘chocolate-bar’ style smartphone.

The back of the handset has circular camera bumps, which don’t protrude too much, so the phone won’t wobble a lot when put down on a flat surface. The fingerprint scanner is mounted on the right edge of the OnePlus, built into the power button – it was fairly reliable to use, but there were occasions when it didn’t pick up a print. Then on the opposite edge is the volume rocker, with both a USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom frame of the device.

This Nord CE 3 Lite is big, as smartphones go, with dimensions of 165.5 x 76 x 8.3mm, though weighing 195g it’s not especially heavy. Still, don't opt for this mobile if you want a nice compact phone, as it could be hard to use – in fact, even fairly average-sized hands and will see you stretching to reach the fingerprint scanner.

Both the frame and the back panel of the CE 3 Lite are made of plastic, a common material for budget mobiles. While it doesn’t lead to a premium feel in the hand it does make the handset a little more durable. An official IP rating would add to that durability but unfortunately there isn’t one – don’t get this device wet!

Sadly, OnePlus has followed the mainstream phone trend of using a flat frame, which means that when you’re holding the phone – especially if you’re stretching your hand to do so, it can dig into your hand a little bit and get uncomfortable.

There are two colors to the phone: green and gray. TechRadar's test unit was the former, a vibrant lime hue that’s a little more exciting than the options you see in many other Nord devices.

  • Design score: 3.5 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: display

  • Giant 6.72-inch screen
  • FHD+ resolution fit for games or movies
  • LCD screen means colors aren't bold

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite’s display is nice and big, with its 6.72-inch screen giving you plenty of viewing room for social media or your streaming service of choice. Plus, its resolution is 1080 x 2400 or FHD+, so unlike some low-budget mobiles you won’t have to drop any pixels.

The display also has a 120Hz refresh rate, so the image updates 120 times per second, making motion look nice and smooth on the display.

The downside to the display is that it’s LCD, which means colors aren’t quite as bold and bright as they would be on another phone – LCD used to be reserved for budget phones but nowadays many use OLED too. If you care about screen quality this may be a reason to spend a little more on the AMOLED-touting Nord CE 3.

  • Display score: 3 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: software

  • Phone runs newest Android software, Android 13
  • OnePlus' OxygenOS laid over the top
  • OxygenOS brings useful extra tools like Zen

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

As with all OnePlus phones, the Nord CE 3 Lite uses Android with OnePlus’ own user interface laid over the top. In this case, it’s Android 13 on the base with OxygenOS 13.

OxygenOS is a popular user interface for Android fans, even though in recent years it’s lost its unique identity due to it blurring together with Oppo’s ColorOS (a merger several years ago made OnePlus just one part of Oppo). 

Some of the unique features of the software include a Zen Space app that lets you limit the phone to focus when you’re working, and a Smart Launcher that dynamically adjusts your home page widgets and apps to help your workflow.

Coupled with the 120Hz refresh rate display, the software made navigating the phone feel smooth and easy, which is certainly something you can’t say often for handsets at this price point. That’s despite OxygenOS 13 feeling a little more cluttered than earlier versions of the software.

In TechRadar's OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite review, the reviewer criticized its app bloatware, a complaint critics have been leveling against cheap phones since the dawn of time, but usually to little avail – until now. The CE 3 Lite has barely any pre-installed apps that aren’t the default system ones, adding to OxygenOS’ clean feel.

  • Software score: 3.5 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: cameras

  • High-res but mid-performance 108MP main sensor
  • Two 2MP auxiliary cameras add nothing
  • Decent 16MP selfie camera

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus has upgraded its Nord CE main sensor to 108MP in the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite. But that numerical upgrade certainly doesn’t transform this device into a budget camera powerhouse.

Photos taken on this main camera were detailed and often fairly bright, so they’ll be fit for purpose for social media use, although the automatic AI optimization sometimes made questionable decisions in tweaking white balance, so we’d recommend keeping that off. There’s an example of this in the camera samples section below.

You’re not getting as vibrant colors or adept night shooting as on a more premium sensor, but that’s a sacrifice you make by buying a budget smartphone. Snaps are pixel-binned into 12MP shots, to save you from burning through the storage space, but you can get 108MP shots if you want.

Joining the main camera is a 2MP macro camera and another 2MP depth sensor, and these add nothing to the photography experience, as has almost always been the case with budget mobiles that have this duo tacked on.

With no telephoto camera you’re left to rely on digital zoom which loses quality quickly. There’s also no ultra-wide camera, which is a surprise given that the vast majority of budget mobiles come with these.

On the front of the phone is a 16MP f/2.4 selfie camera. Snaps taken on this appear a little naturalistic compared to equivalents on the top-end phones of the day, largely because of the AI processing’s light touch, but depending on your taste you might prefer this look over super-processed selfies.

Video recording on both the front and rear cameras is available at 720p or 1080p, so there’s no 4K recording here. Other modes on offer cover the basics: slow-mo, time-lapse, Pro and macro, as well as the full-resolution main camera mode previously mentioned.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera samples

Image 1 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A church captured on the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite's main camera. (Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A tennis racquet and balls captured on the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite (Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A wider landscape OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite (Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A building with a distant skyline captured on the main camera of the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite (Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A 3x zoom picture of a building, with AI off, to compare to the next image. (Image credit: Future)
Image 6 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A 3x zoom picture of a building, with AI on, to compare to the next image. (Image credit: Future)
  • Camera score: 2.5 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: performance and audio

  • Snapdragon 695 chip is rather sluggy
  • Phone doesn't manage gaming well at all
  • Lots of space for storage

Powering the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 695 chipset, which can be seen in quite a few budget phones over the last few years. It’s quite an old component and quite a weak chip, not suitable for intensive purposes or power users.

The phone was tested on common games like Call of Duty: Mobile and New State, and found that the chip just couldn’t manage average-intensity titles like these. When playing online, the games would stutter and grind to a halt frequently, which isn’t ideal for competitive online games.

Basic games functioned fine, and if the extent of your gaming passion is the likes of Mini Metro or Candy Crush, you’ll be fine. But don’t expect to use that spacious 6.7-inch screen for shooter action.

There’s at least lots of space on the phone. While the version of the mobile readily accessible online has 128GB storage, there’s a microSDXC card slot to expand that space, perfect for if you save lots of files or like to load your mobile with apps.

There’s a single down-firing speaker on the OnePlus. But music fans will be happy to hear that there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can plug in wired headphones to listen to tunes. There is of course Bluetooth connectivity, with Bluetooth 5.1 on board.

  • Performance score: 2.5 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: battery life

  • Big 5,000mAh battery
  • Phone lasts over a day per charge
  • 67W charging gets you to 80% in 30 minutes

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

If there’s one thing that a budget phone reliably does better than a premium one, it’s its lasting power; cheap phone manufacturers strip out loads of features to cut the handset’s price, but compensate by shoving in a huge battery, leading to a phone that’ll last for ages on a single charge.

That’s certainly the case with the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite – as with most of the other CE models, there’s a chunky 5,000mAh battery here, and it means the device will breeze through a day without needing to be charged.

In fact, even with some heavy use – photo shoots, Netflix binges, the aforementioned failed attempts at gaming – the handset was at no risk of running out of power after a day of use. You’d need to use the phone very sparingly to get it to two, but either way, it’s a reliable device.

The charging speed is 67W, and OnePlus claims that the phone will get from empty to 80% in half an hour. That’s a speed that makes your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy look sluggish.

  • Battery score: 4.5 / 5

Should you buy the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite?

Buy it if...

You want a long-lasting mobile
With a 5,000mAh battery, this mobile will last you for easily a day before you need to charge it, and possibly two days if you're using it sparingly.

You love the headphone jack
OnePlus has opted to keep the 3.5mm headphone jack here, and is generally good at retaining the audio port on its Nord devices.

You want a side-mounted fingerprint scanner
Side-mounted fingerprint scanners are getting rarer on mobiles, even budget ones, despite how easy they are to use. If it's your preferred way of unlocking your phone, the CE 3 Lite is here for you.

Don't buy it if...

You have small hands
With its large display and size, you'll find the Nord CE 3 Lite tough to use if you have small hands, with the screen extremities and fingerprint scanner in particular hard to reach.

You're a mobile gamer
With its Snapdragon 600-series chipset, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite just isn't a good device for playing action-packed games.

You're a photography fan
You're going to be hard-pressed to take award-winning pictures on a single 108MP rear camera, especially with the phone's questionable AI processing choices.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: Also consider

As we've mentioned in this review, the low-price Android phone market is a competitive one. Here are some other mobiles you might want to consider:

Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro
With a more powerful chipset, improved main and additional cameras and better-looking screen, Xiaomi has made a fantastic budget mobile here that rivals the OnePlus in terms of price.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite
The CE 3 Lite's predecessor isn't much weaker than the older model, but it's now a little older and therefore cheaper, so it's definitely a good budget alternative. Just be aware you might struggle to find it on sale. 

How I tested the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite

  • Review test period = 2 week
  • Testing included = Everyday usage, including web browsing, social media, photography, video calling, gaming, streaming video, music playback
  • Tools used = Geekbench 5, Geekbench 6, Geekbench ML, GFXBench, native Android stats

I tested the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite in its lovely green model, as you can see from the pictures. And the test unit featured 8GB RAM and 128GB storage space.

Due to receiving the review unit two weeks prior to the testing period, I activated it then to let the battery use settle. This period isn't included in the two-week test period cited above.

Much of the review period saw me using the phone as you would, using it for social media, photography and streaming, and I tried many times to use it for gaming too, though that was never a fun experience.

I used to work full-time for TechRadar both as a writer and editor in the phones team, and so have several years of experience covering phones, tablets and wearables. I've reviewed previous OnePlus phones as well as the plentiful rival budget Chinese phones on the market, so know what's best to compare the Nord to.

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First reviewed July 2023

Casabrews 5700Pro review: an espresso one-stop-shop
8:10 pm | August 3, 2023

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

One-minute review

The Casabrews 5700Pro is an espresso machine that features an automatic, built-in grinder and steam wand, so you can use your favorite beans to make coffeehouse-style drinks at home. It’s relatively easy to use – and even those new to espresso machines will be able to learn quickly – although making a shot is a bit more involved than it would be with a pod machine or a basic coffee maker. But the rich, flavorful results are worth the effort. Just be prepared for some trial and error with the settings to achieve your perfect shot of espresso. 

Casabrews was founded in 2020 and deals exclusively in coffee machines, making sleek yet functional options for a variety of budgets. The brand has gained some notoriety on TikTok, and having used the 5700Pro for the past few weeks, I can see why it’s received some social media love – especially when you consider its low price. You’ll also find other budget-friendly alternatives in the Casabrews range, which drop features such as the built-in grinder or the LCD panel, for example, to come in at a more competitive price. 

If you’re looking for a commercial espresso machine experience, but without having to part with a fortune, the Casabrews 5700Pro is a sleek, compact alternative. The grinder offers 15 different grind sizes, and you can select the time for which the grinder distributes grinds into the portafilter for a more hands-off experience. Admittedly, the LCD and control panel are slightly confusing to use at first, but most should become familiar following a few uses. A weighty distributor and tamper are included, too, making the ground coffee ready to brew. 

When brewing an espresso, the machine heats up quickly and is ready to pull shots in about one minute. It takes some strength to slot the portafilter into the brew head, but once done, it’s ready to brew. The LCD panel displays the brew time and pressure, and if you fail to pull perfect results with your first shot, making adjustments is simple. Note, however, that the whole brewing process can be noisy, and I’ve experienced issues with vibrations moving my espresso cup – so be prepared. 

A steam wand is on hand to heat and foam milk in under 30 seconds, while the same wand can deliver hot water – with a little too much water pressure, in my opinion – for americanos or teas. 

Overall, if you love espresso or espresso-based drinks, the Casabrews 5700Pro is one of the best espresso machines available, especially when you consider the price and features. Experts and novices alike will appreciate its capabilities. 

Casabrews 5700Pro with its accessories on the floor

(Image credit: Future)

Casabrews 5700Pro review: price and availability

  •  List price:  $899.99
  • Only available in the US

You can purchase the Casabrews 5700Pro direct from the Casabrews website; it’s currently on sale for $459.99. You can also pick it up from third-party retailers such as Amazon and Home Depot, but the best deals are on the Casabrews website.

There’s no doubt that with a list price of $899.99, the 5700Pro espresso machine is expensive. With features such as a built-in grinder and steam wand, it has plenty going for it; but models such as Breville’s Barista Express Impress offer the same features for less. That said, I’ve yet to see the Casabrews 5700Pro selling at its list price, so if you manage to pick it up for $500 or less, it’s a great deal.

The 5700Pro is the top-of-the-line model in Casabrews’ range, so if you’re looking to spend less then there are several alternatives available. The 3700 Gense costs around $150 and comes with a steam wand and pressure gauge, but no built-in grinder, while the 5700 Gense retails for slightly less than the 5700Pro, yet comes with almost all the same features; there’s no LCD screen, though.

  • Value score: 4/5

Casabrews 5700Pro: specifications

Casabrews 5700Pro LCD controls screen

(Image credit: Future)

Casabrews 5700Pro review: design and features

  • Sleek, durable build with stainless steel finishes
  • Straight-forward, relatively simple setup
  • LCD and controls are difficult to navigate

The Casabrews 5700Pro arrives in a large, pretty bulky box. Inside, you’ll find a number of accessories, which could prove overwhelming for those who haven’t used an espresso machine before and remain unaware of the purpose of these different components. Luckily, an instruction manual and a shorter-length operation guide are on hand to enlighten you.  

Setting up the Casabrews 5700Pro is more straightforward than it might first appear. Most of the machine is already put together, including the grinder – a spare is provided, in case you damage the original.  The only parts you need to attach are the 0.4-gallon bean hopper, the 91oz water reservoir, and the filter holder bracket – which proved the trickiest. Nevertheless, it took about 10 minutes to get the machine set up for first use, which included washing and drying many of the parts before assembly.

Before the first use, you’re supposed to run through a brew cycle, to flush out the machine. Likewise, with the steam wand. I flushed the machine many more times than the one time recommended, however, since the water had a strange fishy smell. After several run-throughs, the smell dissipated. 

The machine itself is quite heavy, weighing a whisker over 20 lbs, so it’s not something you’ll want to be moving around a lot. Size-wise, it’s on par with other espresso machines offering similar functionality, at 12.8 x 11.2 x 16.5 inches with the bean hopper on top. It takes up a good deal of space on my counter, and only just fits under my cabinets, making it better for those with more spacious kitchens. 

The Casabrews 5700Pro’s finish is almost exclusively stainless steel, with its sleek, polished look matching many of the other appliances in my kitchen. Given its price, I expect its build to stand up to a good deal of use, and so far, I have no complaints in this regard. It’s easy to clean, too. The drip tray and plate that slot into the bottom of the machine offer a similarly sturdy feel, and the tray features a tab that will pop up when it needs to be emptied; it holds a good deal of water, requiring me to empty it only once during a week of use. It’s simple to take out and put back in. 

The plastic water reservoir slots into the back of the machine, which makes it slightly challenging to get to when it needs to be filled; Casabrews recommends filling it with “fresh, cold tap water before each use.” I’m lazy, adding water only when the level went below the minimum fill line on most days. I didn’t notice any difference between “fresh” versus “days old” water, but it could play into the longevity of the machine. There doesn’t appear to be any type of filter at the bottom of the tank, which is disappointing. It means that calcium buildup as a result of hard water could lead to issues down the road. 

Casabrews 5700Pro having its portafilter inserted

(Image credit: Future)

As mentioned, this machine comes with a grinder preinstalled. You can select a grind size of between 1-15, simply by turning the notch. Be sure to never get the grinder wet; Casabrews puts a stunning amount of warnings about this. For cleaning, the grinder can be removed and replaced easily, with the machine's LCD panel indicating if it isn’t properly in place. 

Speaking of the LCD panel, the Casabrews 5700Pro’s generously sized screen displays such information as grind time for filling the portafilter, time of extraction, pressure, and more. Admittedly, I found this screen difficult to master. There are several well-labeled controls sitting below the panel, such as a dose dial and menu button, plus a Single and Double espresso button. And while it is possible to adjust the temperature of the espresso shot and the volume, the process for doing so is a bit convoluted and super confusing. I kept most of the settings as is, other than adjusting the grind time for filling the portafilter. 

The final attachments include the steam wand and a knob. The knob is more straightforward to use; you simply turn to choose the available settings – steam ready, steam, off, or hot water. The wand moves fairly easily while still feeling securely attached to the main body of the machine. However, I do wish that there was a separate water dispenser rather than having to rely on the wand, which delivers water with a bit too much pressure. 

As for the other accessories you’re likely to use daily, there’s a portafilter offering two filter sizes – single and double – that are easy to pop in and out. There’s also a distributor, which helps spread the coffee grounds evenly,  and a tamper to apply pressure, while a small rubber mat is included to support the portafilter as you perform these tasks. I just wish there was somewhere to store these accessories on the machine so they don’t get lost. 

Also included are a milk jug for steaming, a coffee spoon, cleaning utensils, and a decorating pen – all of which I’ve rarely used, if at all. 

  • Design score: 4.5/5

Casabrews 5700Pro-made espresso with golden crema

(Image credit: Future)

Casabrews 5700Pro: performance

  • Produces flavorful espresso with a thick, golden crema
  • Noisy, strong vibrations in use
  • Steam wand heats milk fast with long-lasting foam

The Casabrews 5700Pro is fairly easy to use. However, do keep in mind that if you haven’t used an espresso machine before, there’s a bit of a learning curve. An instruction sticker on the machine itself, as well as a more in-depth guide of how to make espresso, can be found in the manual that accompanies the machine.  In reality, though, achieving your perfect shot of espresso involves a lot of trial and error, especially when it comes to finding the best grind size for your brews. 

Adjusting the grind size is easy enough, with Casabrews recommending you start at setting 8, turning the grinder up or down to make it coarser or finer, depending on the bar pressure and brew results. This is a 20-bar pressure machine, although you’ll never want your espresso to hit that level. The ideal number is around 9. My first few espressos were above that, and while they still tasted rich and bold, the crema was lacking.

With my beans of choice, I settled on a sweet spot of a grind size of 6.5 and an 11-second timer for the grinder using the single shot filter.  It’s possible to engage the grinder and stop it automatically by setting the time on the LCD using the Dose dial. Otherwise, if you find the filter is getting too full, you can push the portafilter back in to stop grinding. It’s possible to set different timers for the single or double filters, which is extra handy.  

The espresso brewed with these settings resulted in a shot with a nice, bold flavor, a tiny hint of acidity and some sweetness – something that I welcome. There was beautiful, thick golden crema on top that reformed when cut with a spoon. I added a teaspoon of sugar to the top of the crema to see how it held up; it rested on top for a few seconds before dropping to the bottom – all signs of good espresso. 

The time to get these results wasn’t very long. It took about 1 minute for the machine to preheat, time I used to ground the beans. Next, it’s recommended that you use the distributor, to spread the grounds evenly in the portafilter. This isn’t a tool I’ve seen included with other espresso machines I’ve used, but it works surprisingly well. Once you’ve applied a bit of pressure to the beans using the solid, metal tamper, you’re good to slot the portafilter into the brew head. Note that this does take a bit of muscle. It took one hand to hold onto the machine while the other locked the filter into position. Then it was simply a matter of placing a cup under the machine and pressing the “single” shot button. 

Be aware that this machine gets quite noisy, hitting 65dB in use. There’s also a good deal of vibration; I found the espresso cup I was using started to move around a fair bit, leaving splashes all around the outer rim of the cup. The LCD times the espresso as it brews and lets you know the pressure bars. After 22 seconds, hitting the perfect nine bars, I had about 30ml of espresso at a temperature of 135°F.  While it isn’t possible to brew another shot immediately after, the machine will be good to go again inside a minute or so. 

Getting the portafilter out of the machine was as difficult as getting it in, and neither does the Casabrew machine come with a tool to easily remove the used grinds. I used a spoon, or hit the portafilter hard against my garbage can to get the puck out. While I never had an issue with the filter falling out as I did this, the process did sometimes get a little messy. I wish there was a better solution. Nevertheless, at least the actual espresso results were successful and tasty. 

If you’re looking to double the amount of espresso you brew, simply swap out the single filter for the double. As I mentioned, you can save the grind time of the double dose as well, so about 18 seconds procured the ideal amount of grounds for the brew. Having followed the same steps and selecting the “double” shot button, it took the machine 27 seconds to pour an espresso with similar attributes to the first.  Only this time, I had 60ml of espresso to sip on or use in specialty drinks. Note that the 5700Pro will also evenly distribute the espresso into two separate vessels, if you want to make separate drinks. 

Casabrews 5700Pro steam wand in action

(Image credit: Future)

The Casabrews 5700Pro comes with both a steam wand that was a joy to use and an easy-to-turn dial on the side of the machine. To get frothing, simply move the dial to the steam-ready notch until the indicator light is steady, which takes about 20 seconds. Then you steam the milk using a metal steam jug and steam wand. I heated 2% milk until it was too hot to touch the jug, about 52 seconds. This process is loud, hitting 75-80dB with the pump thumping every couple of seconds. However, this isn’t unusual with espresso machines in this price category. 

The resulting steamed milk had a temperature of 145°F  and a good layer of thick, foamy bubbles on top. Five minutes later, the foam was still intact and held its shape following a dusting of cinnamon powder on top, making it perfect for cappuccinos and lattes. I tested Oatly oat milk as well with similar results, though it was slightly less foamy than the 2% milk. It’s important to note that you can’t brew espresso at the same time, and there’s a slight delay before you can brew a fresh shot of espresso after steaming. I never found this to be an inconvenience, though. 

When adding the espresso, steamed milk, and foam in a ⅓ ratio, I made cappuccino on par with a good deal of coffee shops I frequent. The coffee taste still cut through the milk, making a tasty, warm beverage to enjoy. My latte tasted similar, although I preferred the extra foamy cappuccino I created. 

The Casabrews also delivers hot water for making an americano or tea through the steam wand. The water runs out with a good deal of pressure, annihilating any of the crema on the espresso – which I found disappointing, since an americano is my go-to everyday drink. A separate spout that didn’t push water out so fast, such as that included in the Breville Barista Express Impress would have been better.  

You get a cup full of hot water each time you turn the knob, or turn it back to “off” to stop the water flow. It takes about 45 seconds to get a cup full of water around 160°F – while not an ideal temperature for tea, it will work when you’re in a pinch.  

There are a few other settings you can play around with on the Casabrews, although I didn’t find them particularly helpful. For example, you can make the espresso shot with warmer or colder water, but not set an actual temperature. Scrolling to the setting took a while, and in testing, it only made the temperature different by 10°F – not enough to make a noticeable difference, in my opinion. According to the instruction manual, you’re also able to set the volume of the espresso shots, with the single shot being 20-60ml and double from 60-120ml. I’ve yet to figure out how to do this, however. 

As far as maintenance goes, The Casabrews 5700Pro is on a par with similar espresso machines. There are two cleaning modes: flush and descale. You can access both using the same process as changing the water temperature. It’s recommended you flush the machine through every week, which simply involves a water clean that takes one minute and minimal effort on your part. Descaling is a similar process, but you add a descaling agent to the water – vinegar is my favorite affordable option. 

The only other component that may occasionally need maintenance is the grinder, and the Casabrews 5700Pro will alert you when it’s time to do so via the LCD. There is a cleaning brush to help with the process, and the manual provides very clear instructions for all the cleaning processes. 

  • Performance score: 4.5/5

Casabrews 5700Pro counting down as it grinds beans

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Casabrews 5700Pro?

Buy it if...

Don’t buy it if...

Also consider...

If you’re not sure about the Casabrews 5700 Pro, here are a couple of other options to consider...

How I tested the Casabrews 5700Pro

  • Tested for three weeks
  • Used all settings on the machine

I tested the machine for three weeks, with several different varieties of coffee beans to compare performance. I used both the single and double filters on the portafilter, and I made several cappuccinos and lattes, testing the abilities of the steam wand. 

The Casabrews 5700Pro took the place of my usual Breville Barista Express. It proved to be a worthy replacement for that machine. 

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