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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)
Image 4 of 6

Moto G34 camera samples

A catbug model photographed in a lightroom on the Moto G34. (Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 6

Moto G34 camera samples

A selfie captured in fairly well-lit conditions on the Moto G34's front camera. (Image credit: Future)
Image 6 of 6

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

Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone technology review: competent, but not flawless
4:24 am | April 23, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Air Fryers Computers Gadgets Home Small Appliances | Tags: | Comments: Off

Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology: One-minute review

Instant has long been a leader in the air fryer space and its latest model, the Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology (also called Vortex Plus VersaZone Air Fyer 8.5L in the UK and Vortex Plus Versazone XXL Air Fryer 8.5L in Australia) aims to make air frying even more versatile, thanks to a large capacity basket that can be divided into two separate sections. 

A large 9-quart / 8.5L basket makes it an obvious choice for families, with plenty of capacity to comfortably feed four, but singles and couples will also appreciate the compartments – which are 4.5q / 4.25L each – to cook mains and sides in one go. Moreover, the intuitive cooking programs ensure everything finishes cooking at the same time. 

I found Instant’s latest air fryer a joy to use and it made me fall in love with cooking again. It does most of the grunt work for you with consistently good results… just as long as you know how to use some of the dedicated programs. I had to go through a bit of trial and error with my first few cooking sessions, but once I learnt them, there was no stopping me.  

The expansive cooking basket does mean it’s a physically imposing air fryer of course, so if you lack kitchen counter space or don’t have much in the way of storage, you may struggle to find a proper home for it. I do think it’s attractive though, as much as an air fryer can be, so I had no issue leaving it on my kitchen counter. If you do need to store it away, I found it to be relatively lightweight, so moving it in and out of cupboards shouldn’t prove too much of an issue. 

Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology: Price & availability

  • List price: $199.95 / £199.99 / AU$399
  • Available directly from Instant Brands and third-party retailers
  • Regular sales and bundles

Considering its size and raft of features, the Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology is competitively priced in my opinion, especially when compared to its closest rival in the Ninja Foodi FlexBasket 11qt / 10.4L dual air fryer. It’s available directly from Instant in the UK and Australia along with a host of third-party retailers. While it is listed on the US website, you’re not able to buy it directly. Instead you can find it from retailers such as Walmart. 

It was launched in July 2023 and, since then, has gotten some discounts – directly from Instant and at third-party retailers. The offers tend to change, but if this air fryer is of interest, I'd recommend waiting to pick it up during a big sale like Black Friday, which makes it even better value than it already is.

Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology: Design

  • One 9qt / 8.5L basket that can be divided into two zones
  • Large enough for a family of four
  • Simple touchscreen and manual controls

Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

The Instant Vortex VersaZone is a large machine, make no mistake, although with its dimensions coming in at 15.9 x 12.5 x 15.1in / 40.3 x 31.7 x 38.4cm, it is smaller than its Ninja competitor. However, the Ninja Foodi FlexBasket does have a larger capacity for the individual compartments to justify its size. The VersaZone is lighter too, tipping the scales at 7kg, meaning most people shouldn’t have too much of a problem manoeuvring it around their kitchen. 

You do of course need to factor in extra space for airflow at the rear, as well as in the front so you can actually open the basket to get your food in for cooking. I was able to find a perfect permanent spot for it in my kitchen, but those with smaller counters and who are limited on space may have to carefully consider if this is the best air fryer for you. 

I feel the Instant Vortex VersaZone to be quite an attractive air fryer – as attractive as air fryers can be anyway – employing just a single physical button in the form of a control dial on its front surface. All other controls are handled via a touch-sensitive panel on the front. When not in use, all you see is the shiny black top section, the basket handles and the silver control dial. This, coupled with the angled design of the top section, make it a slick-looking machine, and certainly helps to disguise its size compared to if it was a large black box. 

Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

Do note that the shiny nature of the top section does mean the Instant Vortex VersaZone is a serious fingerprint magnet. When you’ve been handling food before putting it into the cooking basket and using the touch control panel, you’ll soon find it builds up a large fingerprint collection, so you’ll be spending a lot of time keeping it clean. 

The main basket has a removable tray and a divider, the latter fitting into the former to split the compartment into two equally sized cooking sections. There are some rubber grips on the cooking tray and divider that help them to stay in place during cooking, but they do provide a fair amount of friction, so be prepared to use a little more force than you may have initially assumed to get them into place.

The air frying basket, cooking tray and divider are all dishwasher safe, making clean-up relatively easy. However, if you don’t have a dishwasher, then you’ll need to factor in the sink space required to wash the whole basket. 

Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology: Performance

  • Large basket makes cooking a meal a breeze
  • Good results achievable once you learn the functions
  • Pre-heating times can be annoying

The Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology can air fry (obviously), roast, bake, grill, dehydrate and reheat various foods. Each program has its own default settings, including the minimum and maximum temperatures they reach. The grill program reaches the highest maximum temperature of 450°F / 232°C for a maximum of one hour. Air fry, roast and bake can all reach a high of 401°F / 205°C for an hour also. 

Anytime you wish to use the Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology, it needs to spend a few minutes preheating before it notifies you when to add food. While I can appreciate this is needed, it became increasingly annoying that the air fryer needed to preheat when I went to make a second dish immediately after a cooking program had finished. I found this a bit strange, since the cooking basket would surely have still been hot. I also noticed the preheating time for the second cooking session wasn’t that much quicker than the initial preheat from cold. 

The Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology also has SyncCook and SyncFinish modes to help streamline your cooking and to ensure certain dishes don’t go cold while you wait for something else to cook. SyncCook allows you to use both cooking compartments and have them cook with the same time and temperature settings. SyncFinish is used when you have two separate dishes on either side of the divider that require different cooking times, but you want them to finish at the same time. 

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Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)
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Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)
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Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)
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Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

I used the SyncFinish mode the most, as I would cook a chicken breast or a piece of salmon, for example, on one side and some green beans or asparagus on the other. Setting up SyncFinish is simple: a quick double press of the control dial puts it into dual cooking mode and from here you can adjust the time and temperature individually for both sides. Once you’ve made your adjustments, just press the SyncFinish button, followed by Start, and you’re away. The side with the shortest time will remain on hold while the other preheats and begins cooking. The Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology will then begin preheating the second cooking section so that it’s ready to begin cooking when the time remaining aligns on both sides. 

Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

The aforementioned chicken breast came out juicy and tender, while the salmon was buttery soft and fell apart when I cut into it with a fork. I did have a few teething problems when cooking some hand-cut sweet potato wedges however. I hoped they would come out crispy but, upon my first try, they did seem a little raw still. I put this down to both shortening the cooking time I would normally use for an oven, and the wedges themselves being relatively thick in size. 

Throwing some chicken tenders into the basket also proved successful. What was especially handy (and as I've been noticing more and more with food packets lately) is that they had specific air frying instructions on the pack. I followed these to a tee and the results were sublime. They were hot, the breadcrumbs had a great crisp to them and they were juicy inside. 

It did take me a bit of time to adjust to cooking with an air fryer compared to a conventional oven or frying pan, predominantly with cooking times as opposed to temperatures. I had expected the Instant Vortex VersaZone to cook food slightly quicker than the old-school method but, in reality, it took the same amount of time or occasionally longer. I found this to be a fair compromise as the cooking results were superb. 

I also tried out the bake function to make some chocolate chip cookies. I loved the fact the basket was big enough to cook what most people would call a batch, but what I would call a single serving. I've made these cookies before, using a fan-forced oven to bake. I followed the same recipe, cooking time and temperature using the bake function on the Instant Vortex VersaZone air fryer but found they came out slightly under baked. If I were to bake them again, I would keep the temperature the same but leave them in for a few minutes longer. 

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Cookie dough before and after being baked in the Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)
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Cookie dough before and after being baked in the Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

My batch of cookies needed a bit longer to bake compared to a fan-forced oven (Image credit: Future)

The only niggle I found with the SyncFinish and SyncCook functions were that they won't allow you to change temperatures and cooking times midway through the program. During an instance when I was cooking a chicken breast on one side and broccoli in the other, I wanted to adjust the temperature of the meat, but with the SyncFinish function activated, this wasn’t possible. You first have to cancel the program, make your adjustments and then start it again – this also causes the air fryer to preheat again. 

My advice here would be to make sure you know the exact temperature and time you want before pressing the all-important start button.

Should I buy the Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

How I tested the Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology

  • Used air fry, roast and bake presets
  • Cooked salmon, chicken, fries and vegetables
  • I used both the dual zone and the large single basket 

I used the Instant Vortex VersaZone air fryer to cook a variety of food. I would most often cook some meat or fish in one side of the basket and some accompanying vegetables or potatoes in the other. I also attempted to bake some cookies. This allowed me to test the various synchronised cooking functions of the air fryer, as well as determining how well it actually cooked food. 

I also used it for more basic cooking tasks, such as air frying hash browns or fries for a quick hot snack. 

JBL Quantum 910X review: great gaming audio, but some rough edges
6:00 pm | April 20, 2024

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

One-minute review

A high-end wireless gaming headset designed for Xbox, the JBL Quantum 910X falls just short of earning a place among the best Xbox Series X headsets. That’s not to say that it isn't still a formidable option, however, as it offers an excellent level of comfort that’s backed up by rich audio; it’s absolutely perfect for many of the best Xbox Series X games. In addition to Xbox, it’s also fully compatible with PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and PC, making it a strong multi-platform choice.

Unfortunately, the flagship feature of the JBL Quantum 910X, its head-tracking 360 degree spatial audio, is a mixed bag. The head-tracking itself is exceptional, simulating your head motion perfectly, but the audio quality takes a substantial hit whenever the feature is enabled. The bass becomes almost non-existent, completely ruining the punchy action of first-person shooter (FPS) titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, while the high end frequencies sound sharp and unpleasant. If your number one concern is high-quality spatial sound, no shortage of cheaper headsets like the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7X, offer far superior spatial audio.

The microphone is the only other major area where the JBL Quantum 910X falls behind the competition. It lacks adjustability and leaves your voice sounding grainy and quiet. It’s by no means unusable, but this is nowhere near the level of performance that you would reasonably expect for this price. Whether this is the headset for you is therefore going to depend on whether these two shortcomings are a total deal breaker but, if they’re not, there’s still an awful lot to like here.

The JBL Quantum 910X resting on a wooden table.

(Image credit: Dashiell Wood / Future)

Price and availability

  • $299.95 / £219.99 
  • Available in the US and UK
  • Better value in the UK 

The JBL Quantum 910X costs $299.95 / £219.99 and is available in the US and UK directly from JBL or at retailers like Amazon. In the US, this comes in slightly cheaper than other high-end gaming headsets, such as the $329.99 / £279.99 Turtle Beach Stealth Pro, but is still firmly in premium territory. All things considered, it’s quite a reasonable price when you factor in the presence of high-end features such as active noise cancellation, not to mention customizable RGB lighting and the robust build quality.

Even so, UK price represents the best value of the two regions. At £219.99, the headset is a massive £60 less expensive than the Turtle Beach Stealth Pro, widening the gap between the two headsets and making the JBL Quantum 910X a much more tempting proposition.

Unfortunately, the JBL Quantum 910X is not currently available in Australia.

Specs

The left ear cup of the  JBL Quantum 910X.

(Image credit: Dashiell Wood / Future)

Design and features

The exterior of the JBL Quantum 910X is primarily constructed from a smooth black plastic. Its ear cups are covered in bright RGB lighting, illuminating in a ring around each ear in addition to an area with a small grill-like pattern and a prominent embossed JBL logo. The lighting is set to green by default which is perfect if you intend to use the headset with an Xbox out of the box. This lighting can be fully customized through the compatible JBL Quantum Engine software on a PC.

Each ear cup is connected to the headband with a clear plastic strip and a short braided cable, which is black with subtle green stripes. The clear plastic portion can be extended or retracted in order to customize the fit, engraved with numbers that indicate different sizing settings. The ear cups themselves then use soft black pleather cushions, which are a generous size and pleasantly soft.

The same cushioning is also found on the underside of the headband itself, which is topped with black plastic covered in a tactile grooved design. Although the JBL Quantum 910X is  notably heavier than many other gaming headsets, weighing a hefty 14.8oz / 420g, the comfortable cushions makes it surprisingly easy to wear for extended periods without discomfort.

Both ear cups of the JBL Quantum 910X wireless gaming headset.

(Image credit: Dashiell Wood / Future)

The microphone is attached to the left ear cup and can be raised or lowered. It’s muted by default in its raised position, indicated by a small red LED light near its tip. There’s also a separate dedicated microphone mute button on the back of the ear cup, which is handy if you want to quickly mute the microphone without having to raise it. This is positioned below a volume dial, a volume mixer dial (which changes the balance between in-game audio and audio from a connected mobile phone), and a switch which enables or disables the headset’s active noise cancellation. On the bottom of the left ear cup you will also find the USB Type-C port, which can be used for both charging and wired play. It’s next to a 3.5mm headphone jack and superb braided cables for both are included in the box.

Controls on the right ear cup are simpler, with a power slider that doubles as a switch to enable Bluetooth connectivity and a simple button that alternates between standard audio, spatial sound, and full head-tracking. Although it can be used out of the box, spatial sound can be further calibrated for enhanced precision in the JBL Quantum Engine software.

This is a simple process with clear on screen instructions, but does require an included detachable microphone to sit in your ear. Factor in the wireless dongle, which comes alongside a compact USB Type-A to USB Type-C converter and that’s a lot of separate accessories to keep track of. Luckily, the headset comes with an absolutely lovely plush gray bag which is perfect for keeping everything in one place.

The JBL Quantum 910X resting on top of its carrying bag.

(Image credit: Dashiell Wood / Future)

Performance

In its standard mode, the JBL Quantum 910X performs excellently on the whole. It offers punchy, rich bass, clear mids, and detailed high-end frequencies. While its overall audio profile might be a little too bass-heavy for audiophile music listening, it’s absolutely perfect for gaming and the range of titles I tested sounded superb. Shots in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 packed some serious punch on Xbox Series S, while the streets of Sotenbori in the PC version of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name felt impressively life-like.

The emphasis on bass is also an excellent fit for rhythm games and I enjoyed quite a bit of success challenging myself with “JITTERBUG” on Extreme difficulty in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone on PS5. The JBL Quantum Engine software offers a range of useful equalizer modes and is, on the whole, some of the best companion software that I’ve ever tested. It offers an impressive number of functions, features an intuitive and attractive UI, and is lightning fast while taking up just 255MB of space. A mobile app or a native application for Xbox would enable those without access to a PC to benefit from its features, but otherwise there is nothing to complain about here.

The software of the  JBL Quantum 910X.

(Image credit: JBL)

Returning to the headset, the on-board controls are well-spaced and responsive, while the active noise cancellation is a treat. It’s very effective and managed to block out almost everything that I could throw at it, ranging all the way from nearby conversations to loud passing vehicles. I also consistently managed to squeeze an impressive 32 hours of battery life out of the headset, which was more than enough for a full week of gaming sessions.

Unfortunately, the performance with the spatial audio mode enabled is a completely different story. The illusion of depth is there, but the bass instantly vanishes leading to an incredibly tinny sound that lacks any impact whatsoever. It’s like listening to a tiny pair of cheap speakers in a massive hall, an impression that is only further reinforced by the oddly echoey sound of any dialogue.

The optional head tracking, which sees the audio source shift as you look around, is incredibly accurate and well worth experimenting with for a few minutes, but the dramatic fall in audio quality means that it’s impossible to recommend using the spatial audio mode for any substantial length of time which is a huge shame.

The microphone performance is also disappointing. The physical microphone itself is unusually rigid and cannot be adjusted to be closer or further away from your mouth very easily. I found that this meant that my voice often sounded rather quiet and a little muddy. I was still easy to understand, once every participant of my calls had adjusted their volume accordingly, but this really shouldn't be necessary with such an expensive peripheral.

The JBL Quantum 910X on a wooden table placed next to a black Xbox controller.

(Image credit: Dashiell Wood / Future)

Should I buy the JBL Quantum 910X?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

If you’re not keen on the JBL Quantum 910X, you should consider these two compelling Xbox-compatible alternatives instead. 

How I tested the JBL Quantum 910X

  • Used daily for over a month
  • Tested with a wide range of platforms
  • Compared to other premium gaming headsets

I tested the JBL Quantum 910X for over a month, using it as my main gaming headset. During that time, I tested the headset with Xbox Series S, PlayStation 5, PC, and Nintendo Switch playing a broad range of titles. In addition to my usual favorites, I tried to focus on some modern games that offer rich sound, including the likes of Counter-Strike 2, Need for Speed Unbound, The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered, and Fortnite. In order to test the microphone, I used the headset for multiple online gaming sessions and recorded a number of audio files with Audacity.

Throughout my time with the headset, I was careful to compare the experience with my hands-on time with other high-end gaming headsets such as the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7X, Astro A50 X, and Turtle Beach Stealth Pro .

Read more about how we test

First reviewed April 2024

Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer review
12:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Small Appliances | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer: two-minute review

The Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer – also known as the Revlon SmoothStay Coconut-Infused hair dryer is lightweight, flexible and budget-friendly, and it dries hair fast and effectively. Revlon is well-known for selling a wide range of hair and beauty products, and the SmoothStay is one of its latest hair dryer designs that’s both reasonably priced and versatile. If you're looking for the best hair dryer but don't have a lot to spend, this is definitely worth your consideration.

The Revlon SmoothStay Coconut-Oil Infused Hair Dryer box

(Image credit: Future)

The model features ceramic tourmaline ionic technology to help reduce static and frizz, and smooths your locks every time you use it; I certainly noticed that the heat flow left my hair feeling nicely dried and tame. The hair dryer also has a triple-coated ceramic coconut-oil infused grill to help enhance shine and achieve a frizz-free finish. It’s hard to know if this is entirely capable of adding that extra bit of shine, but having used the SmoothStay a number of times, I was pleased with how quickly it blow-dried my hair as well as the sleek results. 

At 1875W, the hair dryer is powerful, and if you’re someone who prefers that their hair dryer to be at peak temperature from the moment you press the button, you won’t be disappointed. There are two speed and three heat settings to choose from, depending on how hot you like the blast of air. The cool shot is also quick to chill, which means there’s no hanging around when you want to fix your hair to flick up the ends or set in specific styles.

Revlon SmoothStay Coconut-Oil Infused Hair Dryer with smoothing concentrator

(Image credit: Future)

I think one of the best features of this hair dryer is the unique concentrator nozzle that comes in the box, which is shaped like a comb. It’s designed to help you smooth your hair as you dry it and makes blow-drying easier. I found I had to use quite a bit of force to connect the nozzle to the body of the hair dryer at first, but I soon got the knack of snapping it firmly in place. I used the nozzle together in tandem with a wet brush to smooth out my wavy hair. There’s also a volumizing diffuser in the box that attaches easily and looks like a good size to define curls on both long and short hair. 

Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer review: price & availability

  • List price: $29.99 / £30
  • Available in UK and US

Unlike most powerful hair dryers that feature ionic technology, the Revlon SmoothStay comes in at an excellent price. We’ve found it on Amazon for a reasonable $29.99 / £30 (currently reduced to £20), and you can also pick it up directly from Revlon or at select local retailers such as Argos in the UK. In the box, you’ll find a concentrator comb nozzle and a volumizing diffuser to help enhance your finished results.

  • Value for money score: 4 out of 5

Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer specs

Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer review: design

  • Includes concentrator comb and diffuser
  • Hanging ring included
  • Removable end cap for easy cleaning

The SmoothStay Coconut Oil Infused Hair Dryer is finished in Revlon’s signature black colorway and features red accents. It matches the Revlon One Step Air Straight and the Revlon One Step Volumizer Plus 2.0 Hair Dryer and Hot Air Brush in terms of design.

I found the Revlon SmoothStay comfortable to hold. The even distribution of weight makes the hair dryer feel solid and robust, but it isn’t so heavy that you run the risk of suffering arm ache with extended use.

The SmoothStay features a good mix of controls, which is just what you would expect from a premium hair dryer. There are three heat and two speed settings conveniently placed on the inner side of the handle, plus a separate cool shot that seals hair cuticles when styling. The controls sit in place securely, so there’s no risk of accidentally knocking them while in use.

A hand holding the Revlon SmoothStay Coconut-Oil Infused Hair Dryer with accessories on show

(Image credit: Future)

The hair dryer is made from plastic and offers a good grip; I was able to hold the handle of the hair dryer comfortably. It also comes complete with a grill that’s triple-coated in ceramic infused with coconut oil, to help create a smooth and shiny finish to hair.

A hanging hook can be found at the top of the cable, making the hair dryer easy to store on display. While the 1.8m cable is ample, I’d have liked a little more length. I was previously using a hair dryer with a 3m cable, and a bit more room to maneuver with the Revlon SmoothStay would have been welcome.  

In the box, you’ll also find a concentrator comb nozzle and a volumizing diffuser.  I found the comb nozzle a little stiff – it required quite some force to snap it into place, although I’m sure it will ease over time. The shape of the nozzle is well designed, since you can use it like a comb to help guide the airflow for a smoother finish. The volumizing diffuser is also large enough to gather long hair.

A hand holding the Revlon SmoothStay Coconut-Oil Infused Hair Dryer to show the removable end cap

(Image credit: Future)

The removable end cap of the dryer is a nice touch, since it protects your hair while in use, but can be removed easily for cleaning. The diffuser can also be cleaned in warm, soapy water and rinsed when required. I used argan oil on my hair and managed to get some onto the body of the hair dryer, which resulted in noticeable fingerprint marks. Thankfully, these were easily wiped off with a damp cloth and buffed dry to remove all trace of the oil.

  • Design score: 4 out of 5

Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer review: performance

  • Ceramic tourmaline ionic technology for smooth results
  • Volumizing diffuser included in the box
  • Coconut-oil infused grille to limit frizz and add shine 

Having recently had my wavy, mid-length hair dyed a shade lighter than natural, it was left rather more dry and frazzled than usual and in desperate need of taming. When I first used the Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer, I was surprised by its power and pleased with how smoothly it dried my hair.   

As mentioned, there are three heat and two speed settings to choose from, with a cool shot close to hand, too. Unlike some hair dryers I’ve tried that take a while to get to temperature, the Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer reaches the desired temperature, whether hot or cold, instantly. It's good to know that while the hair dryer can get very hot, it does include a safety feature that will cut the power if the temperature exceeds the optimum drying level. 

The benefit of it getting hot quickly is that it produces fast results. When using the dryer on my own hair, I used the hottest level; but found this temperature a tad too hot when drying my 10-year-old’s hair, so I selected a more comfortable and steady level 1. Using the Decibel Meter App, I measured noise levels at 81.3dB on the hottest setting, which is around average.

Revlon SmoothStay Coconut-Oil Infused Hair Dryer with diffuser attachment

(Image credit: Future)

The hair dryer features ceramic tourmaline ionic technology, which is designed to reduce static and frizz, and enhance shine. My hair felt smooth after use and had a nice weight to it – possibly the result of the coconut-oil infused grille, which also helps to achieve sleek results. While I still had to resort to using my hair straightener after drying to further tame my wavy hair, the Revlon SmoothStay definitely made my hair feel more manageable.   

My favorite feature of this hair dryer has to be the concentrator comb nozzle. It helped to evenly guide the airflow to smooth and straighten my hair. Used alongside a wet brush, it offered greater control over the final result. 

  • Performance score: 4 out of 5

Should you buy the Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Revlon SmoothStay hair dryer review: alternatives to consider

How I tested the Revlon SmoothStay hairdryer

I have tested a wide range of hair dryers over the past few years, as well as speaking to a number of hair stylists to find out what matters to them when choosing a hair dryer to use in their salons. With this in mind, I feel that I have gathered good insight into what makes for a decent hair dryer.

I have medium-length, wavy hair that’s prone to getting very frizzy when it dries naturally. I was keen to see whether the Revlon Smoothstay could calm my hair as it dried and leave it feeling salon fresh. I used it over the course of a month with the concentrator nozzle and a wet brush to blow-dry my hair. I also used it on my kids' hair – I was keen to see how well it could tackle the very straight flyaway hair of my young daughter and whether she found the noise levels comfortable.

Nike Ultrafly review: The carbon-plated off-road cruiser
2:05 pm | April 18, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Health & Fitness | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

One minute review

If you’re the kind of runner who prefers to head out to the trails for hours as opposed to tackling the same stretch of pavement, the Nike Ultrafly is made for you.

The Ultrafly is designed to handle up to ultra distances including racing, grabbing elements from Nike’s best running shoes like its ZoomX foam and a carbon plate, which on paper makes it sound like a Vaporfly for the trails.

I’ve used a bunch of Nike’s trail shoes including the long distance, off-road focused Nike Wildhorse 8 and the ZoomX-packing Nike Zegama Trail. While I’ve enjoyed my time in the new Ultrafly, it’s not quite the shoe I thought it would be: it's not zippy and quick like the Vaporfly is on roads, but it is a workhorse. 

Nike Ultrafly: Specifications

Nike Ultrafly: Price and availability

  • Priced at $250 in the US
  • £229.95 in the UK
  • AU$330 in Australia

The Nike Ultrafly launched in July 2023 in limited quantities before going on wider release in August, priced at £229.95 / $250 / AU$ 330. 

That put it around the same price as Nike’s Vaporfly road running shoe and also makes it pricier than standout trail shoes like the Hoka Speedgoat 5 and the Nike Wildhorse 8, another Nike trail shoe designed for long distance running.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Nike Ultrafly: Design

Nike Ultrafly

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)
  • Vaporweave upper
  • Vibram Megagrip outsole
  • Nike ZoomX foam

While the Ultrafly is built for the trails, it definitely has the look of one of Nike’s road shoes. There’s just the two colourway options, both with a mostly white upper that thankfully hasn’t become caked in mud as the trails I’ve tested them on have been mostly the dry and hard kind.

Dealing with the key specs, it’s got a 8.5mm drop: that’s 38.5mm at the heel and 30mm at the forefoot, so it’s a chunky shoe. For comparison, the ultra-focused Nike Wildhorse 8 has an 8mm drop coming in at 35.5mm at the heel and 27.5mm at the forefoot.

Nike uses an upper made from Vaporweave, which is built from a mixture of plastics and is similar to the upper material used on its road running shoes like the Zoom Fly and the first generation Vaporfly. While the upper looks pretty low volume, there’s a nice bit of stretch to it and it’s nice and roomy up front, making it ideal for going long where feet can swell and you need that extra space.

While the Ultrafly opens up at the toes, it narrows at the midfoot and at the heel to offer a good lockdown with not overly generous padding at the heel collar to offer some comfort further back. The laces are the standard kind that sit on top of a skinny tongue that offers some padding on top to make sure you don’t feel those laces if they’re tightly tied.

For the midsole, Nike is using the ZoomX foam it uses on its successful Vaporfly, Alphafly and Invincible road shoes. That midsole is wrapped in fabric to protect the foam and is designed to make it feel more stable than Nike’s road shoes. Nike also places a Carbon Flyplate between that ZoomX and fabric-wrapped midsole to help deliver smoother transitions.

In an interesting move from Nike, it included a Vibram Megagrip outsole to deliver off-road grip. Nike typically uses its own outsole technology, which I’ve had mixed experiences with. The decision to go with Vibram on the Ultrafly seems like a wise move as it’s the same outsole technology featured on other standout trail shoes including the Hoka Speedgoat 5.

Weight-wise, the Ultrafly weighed in at 282g in my UK size 8, which is lighter than something like the Nike Wildhorse 8, which weighed in at almost 320g in a UK size 8. While not super-light, it definitely didn’t feel heavy during runs and was comfortable enough to walk around in as well.

  •  Design score: 4/5

Nike Ultrafly: Performance

Nike Ultrafly

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)
  • Smooth, stable and consistent ride
  • ZoomX isn’t bouncy like Nike road shoes
  • Outsole works well on moderate trails and roads

If you’re hoping that the Ultrafly is going to give you that feeling of running in one of Nike’s carbon racing shoes, then that’s simply not the case here. This isn’t an aggressive, speed shoe that delivers an extremely bouncy feeling. It’s different, but in a good way.

I haven’t run an ultra in it, instead focusing on getting as much time on my feet as my current state of running fitness permits, maxing out a couple of hours on a mixture of trail surfaces. I’ve also been mixing in some road time and taking in some lighter, more challenging trail terrain. The first thing you notice about the Ultrafly is that it doesn’t feel built like Nike’s other trail shoes. That’s largely down to the roominess of that toe box.

The ZoomX foam typically delivers a very bouncy ride, just like it does in the Vaporfly and Invincible, but things are slightly more tempered here. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t deliver the same lively ride. What it does instead is provide comfort and that’s really what you need over longer distances. 

As a package, it’s smooth and stable. It’s certainly not one that feels equipped for all-out speed and is better suited to cruising and moving at slightly more up-tempo speeds. It’s not super light or nimble, but it’s not overly heavy either to make it a taxing shoe to have on your feet as you roll through the miles.

It’s great to see that Nike has opted to plant on a Vibram outsole, which features on some of the best trail shoes in the business and feels like a step up in general on Nike’s trail shoe outsoles. The 3.5mm lugs aren’t exceptionally deep, which makes handling some road time in them absolutely fine, and in general, the grip was good across a mixture of terrain including mud, rockier surfaces, and tackling some hills. I do feel like on more technical trails and likely muddier ones, you’re going to want something a little more aggressive in the outsole department though.

In terms of protection on the trails, there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount going on here and plays into the idea that this is one best suited to lighter and more moderate routes as opposed to the more technical kind. Yes, the upper looks great and uses material that’s designed to prevent rips, but Nike does go pretty light on the protective features here.

Overall though, it’s a shoe that I’ve enjoyed spending time in. It does feel like a bit of a cruiser of a shoe that’s comfortable enough to wear outside of runs, and prioritizes offering a consistent feel from a not-too-heavy design that makes it ideal for long distance runs. It feels like a good start for the Ultrafly line with room to tweak things and for it to evolve to be a truly standout trail shoe to justify picking it up over other trail shoes that cost less.

  • Performance score: 4/5 

Nike Ultrafly: Scorecard

Nike Ultrafly: Should I buy?

Nike Ultrafly

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

GameSir Nova Lite controller review: a cheap controller we can actually recommend
7:09 pm | April 17, 2024

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

One-minute review

The GameSir Nova Lite is a much better controller than its ultra-low price suggests. Yes, it’s a little on the basic side, lacking fancier premium features like RGB lighting and additional remappable buttons; but it makes up for this by simply being a very solid, long-lasting controller that's available at a fantastic price.

Despite the GameSir Nova Lite’s low price, the build quality is very solid, and the textured grips on the rear are a welcome addition. What’s more, the inclusion of Hall-effect thumbsticks help to give the controller a much longer lifespan by effectively eliminating the risk of stick drift, and while this is to be expected for the brand’s products, as we see with the GameSir T4 Kaleid and GameSir X2s Type-C, it’s very welcome at this price. 

It’s not the most feature-rich controller, nor does it have the highest-quality modules. It is, though, excellent value for money, which makes the GameSir Nova Lite well worth considering if you’re looking to purchase a new (or spare) PC, Nintendo Switch, or Android controller without breaking the bank.

GameSir Nova Lite

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

  • $24.99 / £29.99 (around AU$40)
  • One of the cheapest controllers we’d actually recommend
  • US and UK availability

The GameSir Nova Lite is available now for $24.99 / £29.99 (around AU$40) either from the brand’s official website or its Amazon store page. While US and UK availability is plentiful, folks in Australia may need to look at importing one, as it’s not officially available there at the time of writing.

It's easy to be suspicious of a controller with such a low price tag. However, in our testing across multiple products, we’ve found GameSir to be an highly reputable brand that consistently puts out some of the best Nintendo Switch controllers and best PC controllers.

So, while the Nova Lite sheds some advanced features in service to keeping its price point low, you can still expect to find a quality product here. That said, if you’d prefer a step up in quality and more robust features, we can also recommend the excellent GameSir T4 Kaleid ($41.99 / £41.99), though this is a wired-only option.

Specs

GameSir Nova Lite

(Image credit: Future)

Design and features

There’s admittedly not much to discuss in terms of features for the GameSir Nova Lite; it’s a bare bones product by design. But at this price point, that’s to be expected. And the Nova Lite still impresses with its overall design and, albeit limited, feature set.

Build quality, while certainly not as sturdy as the Nacon Revolution 5 Pro or the 8BitDo Ultimate, is nonetheless impressive given the bargain price. Here, you’re getting a solid build that doesn’t feel overly hollow, and it rests nicely in the hands thanks to effective textured grips on the rear of the gamepad.

Buttons and modules are pretty serviceable across the board, with some rather nice-feeling membrane face buttons and triggers. However, the bumpers and d-pad leave something to be desired, feeling slightly chunky and not particularly satisfying to press. As a result, it’s not recommended for games that make liberal use of the d-pad, such as the best fighting games or menu-heavy RPGs.

As we’ve come to expect from GameSir products, though, the Nova Lite’s thumbsticks greatly impress. These are Hall-sensing thumbsticks, which you’ll now find in many third-party gamepads as the design helps to greatly reduce the risk of stick drift. This greatly extends the lifespan of the controller, and they’re a welcome addition here, especially considering the Nova Lite’s low price tag.

GameSir Nova Lite

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

While straightforward in terms of design, GameSir has still provided the Nova Lite with a few nifty tricks up its sleeve. Chief among these is the robust function button, which again is surprisingly versatile for its budget price tag. The button, situated between the d-pad and right analog stick, can accomplish several things through various button macros.

For instance, holding the function button while pressing up or down on the d-pad lets you adjust the controller’s vibration intensity. You can also adjust each thumbstick’s dead zone by holding the button, moving a stick, then releasing. Lastly, you can switch the Nova Lite between XInput, Nintendo Switch or Android compatibility by holding the function button and pressing the Start and Select buttons simultaneously – though do note that the controller needs to be connected via USB-C in order for this last one to work.

Otherwise you’re getting unremarkable yet solid performance from the GameSir Nova Lite. I found it to be an excellent fit on PC, playing a range of games in my Steam library including Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania, Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection and Dark Souls 3 during testing. It’s perfectly responsive via Bluetooth, too, and the controller felt at home with many of the best Nintendo Switch games, including Princess Peach: Showtime! and Super Mario Odyssey.

The only major drawback to note with the GameSir Nova Lite is its battery life. Via 2.4GHz, I managed just 10-11 hours of playtime from full charge, which lines up with GameSir’s own estimates. However, if you’d rather opt for Bluetooth connectivity via Nintendo Switch or mobile devices, you may be able to squeeze in up to 15 hours, which is slightly more palatable.

GameSir Nova Lite

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the GameSir Nova Lite?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

Want to learn about a broader range of top PC controllers? Consider the following options, which are some of our favorite alternative picks.

How I tested the GameSir Nova Lite

  • Tested for 15 hours 
  • Tested with PC and Nintendo Switch games
  • Compared with other recommended and affordable PC controllers

I tested the GameSir Nova Lite for roughly 15 hours, mixing wired and wireless play across Nintendo Switch and PC. I made sure to test the controller with a range of game genres, from fast-paced fighting games to slower, more deliberate platformers, puzzle games and RPGs.

I also compared the Nova Lite up to some of its budget-friendly peers, including the GameSir T4 Kaleid, Nintendo Switch Pro Controller and 8BitDo Ultimate. While the Nova Lite didn’t quite stack up to any of these options in either features or battery life, it still provided adequate performance given its ultra-low price tag.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed April 2024

Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker review
5:00 pm | April 14, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Multi Cookers Small Appliances | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker: two-minute review

If you’re looking for a top multi-cooker, then there are plenty of best Instant Pot options to choose from. The Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker stands out as a great buy, not just for its 10 settings, but also because of its smart functionality. So, not only can you control the appliance from the touchscreen display on the front of the cooker, but you can start, adjust and stop it remotely via an app on your smartphone as well. This makes it a much more convenient option than your standard Instant Pot.

I really enjoyed browsing the Instant Connect app, which features lots of cooking inspiration. Offering access to over 1,400 recipes, you can search for a recipe to cook using keywords such as “chicken”, “fish”, or any other random ingredient you have to hand. Once you’ve decided what to cook, following the instructions in the app is super simple, and it will nudge you to choose the right cooking mode for the recipe chosen. This is a game-changer, making cooking really quick and speedy, with no need to refer to the instruction manual. It’s also handy when you’re stuck about what to cook and need some inspiration.

A hand holding a phone displaying the app for the Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker

(Image credit: Instant Pot)

Provided the device is plugged in, you can turn the appliance on and off remotely, too – which is helpful if you want to keep an eye on the cooking cycle from the comfort of the sofa. This also means that provided you’ve prepped your ingredients correctly, you can turn on the cooker while you’re out – so that the slow-cooked lamb you planned first thing will be ready to eat when you walk through your front door.

In terms of design, the Instant Pot Pro Plus won’t catch the eye. Nevertheless, its timeless black and silver finish will work well in both modern and classic kitchen schemes. Offering 10 useful cooking modes, including those for steaming and making rice and a delay start and keep warm function; if there’s one option I was disappointed not to see, it’s an air fry function.

Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker review: price & availability

  • List price: $199.99 / £199.99
  • Reasonably priced for capabilities
  • Available in US and UK

The Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker is above average in price for an Instant Pot multi-cooker, setting you back $199.99 / £199.99. At the time of writing, this 6-quart / 5.7-litre design is on sale for $149.95, however.

You’ll be paying that bit more than the average due to its smart capability. For a  6-quart model minus smart features you can pick up the Instant Pot Rio for around $99.99. Or in the UK, you can buy the Instant Pot Duo Plus With WhisperQuiet Multi-Cooker for £99.99, which is currently on offer, down from £129.99.

  • Value for money score: 4 out of 5

Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker specs

Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker review: design

  • 6-portion capacity
  • 10 functions accessible via touchscreen
  • Dishwasher-safe removable pot

In terms of looks, the Instant Pot Pro Plus is rather average; with a sleek black finish and touchscreen display, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. However, what makes it stand out from the crowd is its high-tech smart capability, which allows you to control the multi-cooker not just through the touchscreen panel, but via a smart app on your phone.

Size-wise, it isn’t too intrusive on the countertop, and at 7.05kg it isn’t too heavy either. Its body is curvaceous and sleek, offering a generous 6-quart / 5.7-liter dishwasher-safe stainless steel inner cooking pot with aluminium core that can hold up to six portions. In the box you’ll also find a steam rack and extra sealing ring for when the original wears out.

The various parts of the Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker

(Image credit: Instant Pot)

While you won’t need too much room to store this appliance on the countertop or in a large kitchen cupboard, you will need to ensure there’s adequate space around it for good ventilation while cooking. Venting is easy: there are three touchscreen options for natural venting, pulse venting or a quick vent. The display also denotes how much cooking time remains, and highlights the cancel and start buttons for quick access while running.

I found the digital display clear and easy to read, allowing you to choose from the 10 settings available. These include pressure cooking, slow cooking, rice cooking, steaming, sautéing, yoghurt making, canning, sous vide, delay starting and keeping your food warm.

I found the device feels solid and secure on the worktop, with ample cord length to easily plug it in at the socket. The multi-cooker has a lid that’s easy to remove and lock into place when needed. Note that the sides of the machine do get a little hot to touch when it’s on, but nothing out of the ordinary – and the only time the multi-cooker makes much noise is when the steam is being vented. Helpfully, the inner pot comes with handles, which makes it super easy to take out.

  • Design score: 4.5 out of 5

Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker review: performance

  • Cooks up to 70% faster when pressure cooking
  • 10 cooking functions via touchscreen or app
  • NutriBoost to lock in vitamins, improve texture

To test out the Instant Pot Pro Plus, I used it over the course of a month to cook a variety of dishes. I downloaded the Instant Connect app and followed recipes such as pressure-cooked Easy Holiday Butternut Squash Coconut Soup, which was made in under 20 minutes. I was keen to see how well this multi-cooker could pressure cook, sauté, steam and cook rice, as well as produce a slow-cooked lamb curry.

I found the digital control panel simple to use, and found that the “easy seal locking lid” clicked into place effortlessly. Pairing the appliance with the smartphone Instant Connect app proved faultless, too. After pressing the Wi-Fi button on the pot, and following the instructions to connect, I was able to use the app to control my recipes.

Screenshots of the Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker app

(Image credit: Instant Pot)

The app itself is actually one of the easiest and most comprehensive I’ve used. I welcome the way you can search for a recipe, and the app delivers step-by-step instructions – from gathering your ingredients to choosing the right settings, adding ingredients and venting the steam – all in real time.

Offering 20% more power than previous models, for faster pre-heating time and 15psi suitable for canning, the Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker claims to be the most powerful Instant Pot to date. This design does, in fact, claim to cook up to 70% faster than other cooking methods when pressure cooking, and can therefore help you save on energy bills as a result. I certainly found pressure cooking to be super quick: I was able to cook very tough butternut squash in just five minutes.

Butternut squash pressure cooked in 5 minutes in the Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker

(Image credit: Future)

Following the recipe for pressure-cooked Easy Holiday Butternut Squash Coconut Soup, the app automatically guided me through the natural venting setting at the end, which I found reassuring and easy to follow. The appliance does get quite loud when venting steam, and you’ll need to ensure there’s sufficient space above to avoid covering the kitchen units with condensation. While making the soup, I also clicked on the NutriBoost setting on the control panel, which is designed to make meals healthier by breaking down the food, locking in vitamins and enhancing the flavour. It’s hard to tell if this made any difference to the final results of the soup, but it’s a reassuring addition to the offering.

I found the appliance very quiet in use – particularly when used for making a slow-cooked lamb curry. It was very easy to sauté ingredients such as the lamb, onions and seasoning directly in the pot at the start of the recipe, which saved time and having to wash up a separate pan. I then simply added the rest of the ingredients and switched to the slow cook setting for four hours on high. I like the fact that the sauté setting can be used at the end of the slow cook to reduce liquids directly in the pot if needed, too. The appliance gently beeps to let you know when the food is ready.

Saute-ing lamb for slow cooked lamb curry in the Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker

(Image credit: Future)

Cleaning was pretty simple; the pot is dishwasher-safe and the base and lid can be cleaned with warm soapy water and wiped down with a damp cloth. For more advice, learn how to clean an Instant Pot.

  • Performance score: 4.5 out of 5

Should you buy the Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker?

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

How I tested the Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker

  • Tested for a month
  • Used for a variety of dishes

I tested the Instant Pot Pro Plus Smart Multi-Cooker over the course of a month, using it to cook a variety of dishes and to gauge the effectiveness of its different cooking modes, including pressure cooking, sautéing, steaming and slow cooking. I also rated it on ease of use both with its touchscreen and app, as well as factoring in how easy it was to clean.

Apple has to face $1 billion lawsuit in court in the UK
7:59 am | April 13, 2024

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

Apple has tried and failed to have a lawsuit in the UK dismissed, one that's valued at nearly $1 billion, brought against the company by 1,500 UK-based developers. A UK court ruled earlier today that the suit can be brought, and will thus proceed to trial - although this step will most likely only take place next year. The suit alleges that Apple charged the developers in question unfair commission fees of up to 30% on purchases of apps and other content. The plaintiffs say Apple is abusing its dominant position in the market for the distribution of apps on iPhones and other Apple devices...

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro review: Good GPS tracking on the cheap
7:54 pm | April 10, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Fitness Trackers Gadgets Health & Fitness | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Xiaomi Smart Band 8: One-minute review

It’s not often you get a device like the Xiaomi Smart Band 8. It’s a very affordable fitness tracker at just $90 / £60 / AU$95, but it’s also remarkably competent thanks to great battery life and an array of sensors that some much more expensive alternatives are missing.

Not only is it one of the most complete budget fitness trackers we’ve tested, but it even defeats the Huawei Band 7 (a tracker I loved) by offering built-in GPS location tracking, too. That could make it a big worry for the likes of even the best Fitbit, and competition can only be a good thing.

I wore it on one wrist with my Apple Watch Ultra on the other (a considerably more expensive option) and was very impressed by just how accurate the Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro is. Xiaomi says it uses “next-generation data algorithms” for things like heart rate and oxygen saturation accuracy, and from my usage its findings were in lockstep with Apple’s own.

In fact, my only real gripe is that of the setup process. Your mileage may end up varying, but it felt like it got me off on the wrong foot with the Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro, although thankfully the excellent features and design fixed that nice and quickly.

There are some other omissions, too, like payments, music downloads, and third-party apps, but given the price, those are all things you’d perhaps expect.

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 worn on the wrist

(Image credit: Future)

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro: Specifications

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro: Price and release date

  • Available now 
  • Priced at $99.99 in the US
  • £60 in the UK
  • AU$95 in Australia

The Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro originally debuted in China last August, but it’s taken some time to go international. 

Thankfully, it’s available from most retailers now, and at a discounted price of $99 in the US, £60 in the UK, and AU$95 via outlets such as Amazon. 

We’ve seen it as low as £50 or $80 in recent weeks, and it’s a steal for that price, which makes it considerably cheaper than its nearest competitors like the Fitbit Inspire 3.

  • Value score: 5/5

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro: Design

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 strap

(Image credit: Future)
  • Available in black or white with swappable straps 
  • 1.74-inch AMOLED display 
  • Lightweight and slim

I find it difficult to get excited about fitness trackers these days because, for the most part, they all look mostly the same. That’s not to damn the Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro with faint praise, but more acknowledge that just by looking at it, there’s no way you’d expect it to cost as little as it does.

It has a slick, rectangular chassis, and our white unit has a shining chrome shell. It does collect some fingerprints but not as many as you may expect, and houses a 1.74-inch AMOLED display that’s small enough to sit comfortably on your wrist while also being large enough to convey plenty of information at a glance.

It’s a good balance, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s packing a 336 x 480 px resolution that’s easy to read, and it weighs just 22.5g without the strap (still heavier than the Huawei Band 7, admittedly).

There are no buttons, physical or otherwise, on the sides, so you’ll be doing everything with the touchscreen, while the straps detach easily through a subtle mechanism and click into place in a satisfying way. Our review unit comes with an off-white option, but there’s no second strap in the box; it’s a one-size-fits-all kind of deal, and as someone who usually uses larger straps, I can say it works nicely.

On the back you’ll find a charging port, and while there’s no power brick included in the box, it’s worth noting that the USB-A cable that is here isn’t the longest. Some users will prefer USB-C, as USB-A is starting to look a little dated. Still, for under $100, it's just a charging cable. You get what you get. 

  • Design score: 4.5/5

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 laying on a flat surface

(Image credit: Future)

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro: Performance

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 worn on the wrist

(Image credit: Future)
  • Strictly a fitness tracker 
  • Plenty of functions 
  • Smart use of widgets 

The folks at Xiaomi have built much of the user interface here with the larger display in mind, which means you can swipe between screens that pack multiple widgets into each, making use of every available pixel. It took a little bit of habit-busting to get into the swing of swiping ‘backward’ rather than Apple's ‘up’ to return to a prior menu, but once I did, I was enjoying its functionality with ease.

You can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access a sort of “All Apps” list, but that’s about the only time the UI feels a little tricky as you try to prod the right option.

As always (because many still conflate the two), it’s worth remembering this is a fitness tracker and not a smartwatch. The Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro won’t pay for your shopping, download music for offline playback, or download third-party apps. It's essentially a single-purpose device, and for that purpose – fitness tracking – it’s great.

I used it to head out for a brisk walk, indoors for a treadmill run, and at the gym. As mentioned in the intro, in all these scenarios, all of its metrics tied up nicely with that of my Apple Watch,  which costs around nine times the price of the Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro in the US.

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 music playback screen

(Image credit: Future)

Step counting is accurate, and heart rate data was consistent while awake and asleep. While some have reported inaccuracies with VO2 data, mine synced up with the Apple Watch Ultra nicely. 

My favorite thing, though, is the GNSS support for GPS. It’s only a single-frequency connection, so it may struggle in big cities or when surrounded by large buildings, but it works really nicely for a casual run. If you’re a hardcore runner you’ll likely want something with more accuracy or a stronger connection, but then again, if you’re a hardcore runner you probably already own a much more expensive running watch.

When it comes to sleep tracking, things are mainly centered around the stages of sleep you’ll get. That’s fine at a basic level, but outside of that, you’re not going to get as much information as you’d perhaps get with a more fully-featured smartwatch such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, or a sleep tracker like the Oura Ring Generation 3.

Battery life is great, though, with Xiaomi suggesting you can hit 14 days on a single charge. That is, admittedly, with some functionality toned down (like always-on display and some health notifications), but it’s still impressive in a device at this price point.

Without those concessions, you can still reasonably expect around four-and-a-half days, which is still pretty great – and can easily go past five with light use, a.k.a. fewer workouts.

  • Performance score: 4/5

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro: Features

  • iOS and Android compatible 
  • Don’t expect a lot of analysis on companion app

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 companion app devices page

(Image credit: Future)

I’ll be honest, I feel like the Xiaomi Mi Fitness app and I got off on the wrong foot. Pairing the device with my iPhone was pretty painful; it wouldn’t scan the QR code on the screen, so I had to add it manually via the Bluetooth settings, then that didn’t work on two separate attempts, and then just as I prepared to give up, it sprung to life.

Not a great first impression, sure, and to add to that many of the basic functions of the Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro were switched off – including things like sleep tracking.

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 companion app sleep settings

(Image credit: Future)

Once I switched those on, though, everything was pretty smooth. The Health tab is essentially a dashboard with all of your data for calories, steps, and exercise, as well as sleep and heart rate data, while the Workout tab actually incorporates Apple Maps so you can feasibly use it without needing to switch to Strava to log your routes. 

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 companion app running map

(Image credit: Future)

There’s also a nice marketplace of watch faces you can download with ease and set on your device.

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 companion app band displays

(Image credit: Future)

In fact, the only thing missing is anything close to a deeper analysis of the data collected, which you may expect would be missing at this price. 

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 companion app vitality score settings

(Image credit: Future)

The closest thing is the Vitality Score, which is a little like Fitbit’s Daily Readiness Score. This takes into account the activity you’ve done in the last seven days and calculates a score for how ready you are for exercise. It’s a nice idea, but as far as I can tell it’s not pulling extra data like sleep history. 

  • Features score: 4/5

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro: Scorecard

Xiaomi Smart Band 8 Pro: Should I buy?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL BBQ Grill and Smoker review
3:00 pm | April 6, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Multi Cookers Small Appliances | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL: two-minute review

Ninja’s near-relentless mission to become king of all appliances continues with the launch of the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL, its first smart Woodfire offering huge capacity and the same delicious flavors. 

We loved the Ninja Woodfire, scoring it a perfect five stars in our review. Nevertheless, on a personal level, I’d remained largely unconvinced by Ninja’s outdoor cookers – until now. Adding smart features such as the app-connected thermostat and a higher capacity for catering to larger groups, the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL stands to make a grill master out of me yet. 

Delivering delicious smoky flavors, convenient smart cooking features, and fantastic ease of use, there’s very little to complain about with the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL BBQ Grill and Smoker. If I’m nitpicking, I’d say the hefty ‎40.2lb /18.3kg weight warrants the inclusion of the Ninja Woodfire stand, especially if you have a wooden table as I do and are concerned about it buckling; but that might have driven up the price enough to discourage prospective grillmasters, so I understand the logic. 

At 16.1 x 22.4 x 20.1in / ‎41 x 57 x 51cm, it’s a little larger than the 13.4 x 18.1in x 18.1in / 34 x 46 x 46cm  (h x w x d) standard Woodfire model, and enough so to offer 30% greater capacity according to Ninja. In practice, it offers some (much-needed) headroom, plus space for another portion or two of food – which, in my opinion, is more than enough to justify the meager $ / £50 / AU$ price difference. In addition, there’s the included smart thermostat, which can connect with the Ninja app to ensure perfect results every time. 

With that logic in mind, I’d go as far as to say the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL BBQ Grill and Smoker is far more than a capacity upgrade to the original model. It might not quite qualify as a next-generation device, but it iterates enough upon the success of the original to stand on its own four feet. 

Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL on a table with the lid open

(Image credit: Future)

Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL review: price & availability

  • List price: $449 / £499 
  • Available in the US and UK, no confirmation on AU release 

Available for $449 / £499 directly from Ninja US and Ninja UK, as well as third-party retailers such as Amazon, the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL is a fairly pricey purchase, coming in at around double the cost of a standard, basic BBQ – but you get a whole lot more for that price. 

It arrives with a sample pack of robust blend pellets, plus a pack of all-around blend wood pellets, which you can purchase separately for $32 / £30 for two 2lbs / 900g bags. Also included is the Ninja smart thermostat, which you can buy separately for $19.95 / £19.99, as well as a pellet scoop, a crisper basket, the grill plate, and the grease tray. 

There are a few further accessories you might need, however. The Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL is water resistant to IPX4, but to keep it in good condition if storing outdoors, you’ll want the waterproof cover that costs an additional $25 / £25. 

While the outdoor cooker’s underside is heat-safe and won’t damage surfaces, it’s a fairly heavy piece of kit, so you might prefer to shell out for Ninja’s collapsible grill stand, too, which will set you back a further $150 / £130.

If you want the full assortment of accessories, there are a variety of bundles available through both Ninja and Amazon. 

Considering the original Woodfire sold for $370 / £350 at launch in 2023 and now is available for $399 / £399, the relatively slim price difference between the original and the new XL version makes for a compelling argument to spend a little more for a whole lot more.

  • Value score: 4.5 out of 5

Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL on a table with the lid open

(Image credit: Future)

Specifications

Design

  • Bigger capacity than the original 
  • Handy smart thermostat storage tray 
  • IPX4 water-resistant for rainy days 

It’s pretty hard to make a BBQ, grill and smoker multicooker look sexy, but Ninja has certainly tried – and to great effect. Available in an attractive blue colorway, it’s a fairly robust device, weighing 40.2lbs/ 18.3kg and measuring 16.1 x 22.4 x 20.1in / ‎41 x 57 x 51cm.

One of the biggest design departures from the original Woodfire is the layout of the control panel, which has been entirely revamped. From left to right, you’ll find the seven cooking functions (Grill, Smoker, Roast, Bake, Dehydrate, Air Crisp, and Broil), which can be easily navigated using the Mode button, as well as the Woodfire Flavor button to the left, the LCD panel and temperature/time controls in the center, and the control dial, start/stop and thermometer buttons to the right. This offers a significant improvement over the original model, which we found difficult to navigate for our original review. 

Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL

(Image credit: Future)

Above the control panel is the lid handle, which stays cool even after longer cooking periods. A surprising omission, given the increased weight of the Pro Connect XL, is the handles – meaning it’s a little more difficult to maneuver than the original Woodfire. Thankfully, however, there are still small grips on either side to help you lift and maneuver the Woodfire Pro Connect XL. On the right-hand side of the device, you’ll find the wood pellet tray, and underneath the control panel is a slot that houses the smart thermostat when it isn’t in use.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the entire Woodfire product line is that none of the accessories are dishwasher-safe. This isn’t too much of an issue when it comes to the grill and grease tray, which are relatively easy to clean by hand; but the crisper basket is quite a chore to clean off after use. At least all of the accessories are non-stick, but due to the increased size of the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL, they’re just a little too large to soak in the sink.

Plate with Wood smoked ribs, chicken, asparagus and beans

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

  • Delicious, smoky flavors 
  • Very easy to use 
  • Smart thermometer app pairing and features work well 

As someone who isn’t really a fan of a BBQ, I was pleasantly surprised by how consistently and deliciously well the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL performed on-test. In terms of its cooking capabilities, it’s as successful as the original Woodfire; both smoked and unsmoked dishes were bursting with flavor and cooked to perfection. 

It’s easier than ever to smoke your meals with the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL. Simply throw in one level scoop of pellets, preheat the grill, and you’re set to throw on whatever you’re cooking. For my test, I tried chicken, ribs and asparagus with the robust blend wood pellets, using the smart thermostat to primarily test the internal temperature of the chicken. Following Ninja’s instructions, I set the Pro Connect XL to cook for one hour at 275°F / 135°C. 

Both the ribs and chicken cooked faster than the app had suggested, but it’s worth noting both were pretty lean to begin with. Regardless, the speed with which Ninja’s Woodfire cookers can work while still creating delicious food is incredibly impressive.

The results overall were spectacular. Enriched with smooth yet smoky flavors, the wood pellets had clearly done a fantastic job of imparting flavor to the meat. I loved that I barely had to interact with the cooker, freeing me up to speak with guests, tidy up the kitchen, or even file my taxes. 

I turned my food halfway through for this test, given it was a whole (albeit small) chicken we were cooking. For the next meal, I made chicken wings, where I didn’t see as much benefit from the flavor when left unturned – which is pretty similar to my experience with the original model. 

Image 1 of 4

Cooking results from Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL - chicken on a plagte

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 4

Cooking results from Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL - chicken on a ribs

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 4

Plate with Woodfire smoked salmon

(Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 4

Plate with Woodfire smoked halloumi and vegetables

(Image credit: Future)

Even the non-smoke-enhanced cook settings work fantastically, netting me some deliciously grilled burgers, immaculately air-fried potato wedges, and crispy asparagus full of flavor – and moisture. We tried and enjoyed baking brownies in the previous model, and while I wouldn’t normally bake in my garden, having the ability to do so is useful if only for the Pro Connect’s app controls.  

If you opt to use the Woodfire technology for non-smoking settings, you really don’t need to use the recommended level scoop of wood pellets; better to be conservative with these fairly pricey pellets and opt for a half-scoop instead.

While the Woodfire Pro Connect XL is undoubtedly larger than the original, it’s nowhere near big enough to cater for larger groups. In terms of branding, Ninja would have been more accurate with “large”, since there’s nothing extra about this smart cooker when you’re feeding more than six people. 

All in all, the Woodfire Pro Connect XL is a spectacular addition to any patio, porch or plot, offering impressive (albeit sometimes unnecessary) versatility, fantastic flavor, and blistering cooking speeds.

Should I buy?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

How I tested the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL BBQ Grill and smoker

  • I used the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL BBQ Grill and Smoker to cook a variety of meals over several weeks 
  • I tested all of its different cooking functions on vegetables, meat and fish 
  • I used the smart thermostat and app to test the functionality 

I put the Ninja Woodfire Pro Connect XL BBQ Grill and smoker through its paces by cooking a variety of different meals over the course of my three-week testing period – including chicken, ribs, salmon, pepper, asparagus and beans. 

I tried all of the different settings, including the Woodfire mode where appropriate, and used both of the sample flavor packs that came with the device. I compared the results to my previous experience with standard BBQs as well as the original Ninja Woodfire, evaluating how well it delivered on flavor and ease of use.

While I’m no grill master, I’ve been cooking on BBQs during the rare bouts of summer sun in the UK for years, and I’ve also tried a host of electric cookers, both indoors and outdoors during that time. 

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