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Lifespan TR1200-DT3 review
7:06 pm | June 23, 2022

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

Editor's note

  • Original review date: June 2022
  • Original price $1,199 in the US and £1,099 in the UK
  • Price has held steady

Update: February 2024. The Lifespan TR1200 DT3 remains the best under-desk treadmill we've tried from a construction perspective. It's easy to set up and use, it's robust, the desk-mounted control is simple to use, and it's a great workplace solution. It's quite expensive, and not the best thing for those looking for a walkpad to store at home, as home-use devices have gotten cheaper since we reviewed this treadmill a couple of years ago. However, in terms of hardware, it's hard to beat. 

The rest of the review remains as previously published.

This is TechRadar’s Lifespan TR1200-DT3 review. We’ve taken a good look at the walking treadmill, spending time walking on the treadmill with and without a standing desk to see how it measures up to the rest of the best under-desk treadmills

We’ll save you some time and tell you that yes, this is the best walking treadmill we’ve tested so far. However, it’s not for everyone: someone who just wants a low-cost, easy-store treadmill to help get their steps in while watching TV might be better off with a slimmer, less heavy-duty walking pad such as the Bluefin Fitness Task 2.0

This treadmill is heavier duty: it’s got wheels for easier transportation, but then again, so has Christian Bale’s Batmobile. It’s a larger treadmill than most walking pads, and it’s well suited for those with medium or larger standing desks and most office spaces, whether at home or in your place of work. It’s somewhat too unwieldy for small spaces and convenient home storage in a cupboard or behind the sofa. 

However, it doesn’t change the fact that this is a great treadmill. It’s expensive, but not as pricey as its older cousin, the TR5000. It has a weight capacity of 350lbs. It’s quiet. It’s got smart-step technology. The Bluetooth console is extremely easy to use, especially from a standing desk. If you have a large standing desk available to you, this under-desk treadmill is the perfect accompaniment if you’re a power user or a heavier walker. 

Lifespan TR1200-DT3 under-desk treadmill: Price and availability 

The Lifespan TR1200-DT3 treadmill is priced at $1,199 in the US and £1,099 in the UK, with no Australian price currently available. Amazon is unfortunately out of stock right now, but there are some units available on the Lifespan website globally.  

Lifespan TR1200-DT3

(Image credit: Matt Evans)

Lifespan TR1200-DT3 under-desk treadmill: Design 

Design score: 5/5

The TR1200’s aesthetics are pretty non-descript. Measuring 160cm long, 72cm wide, and 18cm high, it’s a chunky midnight matte machine with two front-mounted wheels. It comes almost ready to go right out of the box, so you can simply wheel it to its designated station and there it lies. Beyond connecting the console to the treadmill, there is no assembly required.  

However, the thickness and heft of the machine mean it's harder to stash in, say, a cupboard or behind a sofa. Unless you have a large storage space, it’s a very permanent addition to your office. 

The belt is wide and long, at 127cm x 51cm, so it’s big enough to walk on very comfortably and marked so you can clearly tell when the treadmill is running, which is essential when you’ve got a particularly quiet treadmill like this one claims to be. There’s no hand or side rail to flip up and turn the treadmill into a “running mode”: this is specifically a walking machine. 

The deck itself is made of phenolic thermoset plastic, while more plastic makes up the casing. Six independent compression shocks offer suspension on the belt, reducing any impact as you walk. The treadmill is built for heavy users, with a maximum weight of up to 350lbs, or 159kgs. In terms of design, the TR1200 has almost everything you’d ever want in a walking-specific treadmill. 

Lifespan TR1200-DT3 under-desk treadmill: Features 

Features score: 3/5

Like other under-desk treadmills, the TR1200 isn’t exactly overstuffed with content. It’s built to do one thing, and one thing well: allow you to walk while you work in comfort. 

There’s no incline, because according to Lifespan, “walking at an incline while working is not recommended by ergonomists as it takes your body out of a neutral position and places strain on your back and joints.” Its top speed is up to four miles an hour, enough for a fast walk or jog, but no real running modes to speak of. 

However, it does have several very cool features we wanted to highlight here, most of which are featured on the controls console. To start with, the console can be plugged into the treadmill, but it's primarily supposed to operate on Bluetooth, allowing you the freedom to place it wherever’s comfortable. However, it’s designed to be supported on a desk or other unit, which emphasizes how this machine is supposed to work. If you just want the treadmill as a free-standing unit to use in your front room, the console isn’t an ergonomic remote. 

The console has an in-built step counter, allowing you to check how far you’ve walked and whether you’ve reached that magic 10,000 today. The usual metrics including time, calories and distance are all tracked, and you’re able to input your height and weight for more accurate calorie and step tracking. 

The console is also where the safety key is contained: clip it to your clothes, and when you jump (or fall) off the treadmill, away from your desk, the key will be pulled and the console sends a Bluetooth signal to the treadmill to stop.

Lifespan TR1200-DT3

(Image credit: Matt Evans)

Lifespan TR1200-DT3 under-desk treadmill: Performance

Performance score: 5/5

The Lifespan is comfortable to walk on. The wide belt gives plenty of tread space and those six shock-absorbers do pull their weight, making every step remarkably comfortable whether you’re in dedicated exercise shoes or flat shoes. 

We tested it with both traditional running shoes and relatively unsupportive Vans sneakers, and it was a pleasant experience in both. I felt as though I had no need to glance at where I was heading on the treadmill when I took my work meeting on it, and I could stare at my screen in comfort. 

The unit does claim the treadmill is whisper-quiet, which is a bit of a misnomer: there’s a clear whirr from the 2.25 HP continuous duty motor, but it’s quiet enough to zone out and focus on your tasks, especially if you wear headphones in the office. However, the shock absorbers do a good job of masking your steps once you get into a rhythm. 

The safety key was nice and responsive when we jumped off the treadmill to test it, stopping the treadmill inside of one second. You can key in a specific time or goal you’d like to walk for via the console, and the numerical readouts will count you down before it begins, giving you time to get ready. You can also pause for breaks without losing your progress.

 Buy it if… 

 Don’t buy it if… 

JLab Go Air Pop review: ridiculously good wireless earbuds for under $25/£25
5:08 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Tags: | Comments: Off

Editor's Note

• Original review date: June 2022
• Launch price: $20 / £20 / AU$49
• Official price now: $25 / £25 / AU$49

Updated: January 2024. As you can see, the JLab Go Air Pop have actually risen in their official price over time, and there are more cheap earbuds than ever – but the these remain a favorite with us because their mix of price, sound, reliability and build quality hasn't been clearly beaten. Their use of an integrated USB Type-A charger (ie, the old style of USB) has become more of an issue in a USB-C world, but JLab will have new earbuds that include USB-C in the future if you can wait. But not everyone will mind this anyway – especially because we've seen these drop by another 25% or more around sales season (over Black Friday, they fell to $9 in the US, £18 in the UK), so you can find them even cheaper. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

JLab Go Air Pop: one-minute review

Let's cut to the chase of what's thrilling about the JLab Go Air Pop: since February of this year it has been possible to buy a pair of known-brand true wireless earbuds for $20 / $20, a fee that even three years ago was unimaginable. And, they're not from someone down a dark back alley, and they're not knock-off AirPods.

The known brand is JLab, and its raison d'etre is providing durable listening gear at rock-bottom prices; staples on our list of the best budget wireless earbuds guide, with the outgoing JLab Go Air as a prime example. They're also our top budget pick in our best wireless earbuds guide.

Regular readers will know that TechRadar penned initial thoughts about the remarkably affordable new JLab Go Air Pop soon after their release, but – even though this is a very wallet-friendly product – we want you to know about them in a fully-fledged review. Isn't your curiosity piqued? Can earbuds this budget-conscious actually do a job?

We've all been burned by buying cheap – buy cheap, buy twice, right? Not here. If you're thinking that one bud would cease to pair after a week, or the case lid would snap off within a day, or a glancing blow from a wet jacket sleeve would kill them, or a speck of dust would put paid to the case registering anything inside it worth charging… well, you're wrong. 

What you need to know is that JLab Go Air Pop (try to see past the name, in the same way we're able to see past Sony's collection of capital letters, dashes and numbers to find a class-leading product) are actually pretty good generally – and emphatically unbeatable for this money, although it's important to note that there's little out there to challenge them at the level. If this is where your budget maxes out for non-essentials such as true wireless earbuds, you will find a reliable product here.

These earbuds belie their lowly price-point. They are not junk. They sound far better than is reasonable. And wouldn’t life be better if more of us could afford portable wireless music, rather than no music at all? 

JLab Go Air Pop in a hand with green background

JLab's earbuds and charging case will absolutely survive your commute unscathed. (Image credit: TechRadar)

JLab Go Air Pop review: Price & release date

  • $20 / £20 / AU$49.95
  • Released: February 2022

At $20, £20 or five cents under $50 in Australia, saying JLab's latest true wireless earbuds are aggressively priced is quite the understatement. Remember, JLab is a known audio brand, founded in 2005 and respected among the audio press. 

Competition and profit margins at JLab’s ultra-affordable end of the market are brutal. The race to shrink reliable connectivity, decent stamina and on-device controls into ever-more amenable price-points, while still somehow turning a profit, never ends. 

The truth is that JLab has fashioned a unique pair of new earbuds that do this for $20 (£20) and I'm still not sure how. Did someone on JLab’s payroll sell their soul to the devil in a Faustian, Robert Johnson-style pact? Hope not. But one can’t be sure…

JLab Go Air Pop underneath of the box revealing charging cable

Go Air Pop's charging cable actually snaps into the underside of the box (Image credit: TechRadar)

JLab Go Air Pop: features

JLab Go Air Pop review: Features

  • Bluetooth 5.1 and wearer-detection
  • Three effective EQ profiles
  • On-ear volume control 

First off, these Bluetooth 5.1 earbuds connected to my phone at the first time of asking, and as basic a statement as it may seem, the fact that a product powers up simply, shows up in the Bluetooth menu of my phone and pairs – without the 15 minutes of head scratching, a third read of the Quick Start Guide and a full factory reset – already puts them streets ahead of certain buds we’ve tested at up to 10 times the price.

The earbuds are also sweat-resistant but even more importantly, you’re getting eight hours from the earbuds and a whopping 32 hours from the entire proposition when you include the case – and having spent a week with them, I can confirm that the claim is genuine.

Upon placing the buds back into your ears following charging, they pair instantly to their last-known device too, calmly announcing “Bluetooth connected, battery full”. These are small and incremental checks in favor of the JLabs, but they do add up. Functioning without issue might seem the bare minimum, but JLab is beating competition much higher up the food chain just by passing these rudimentary tests. 

Oh, and on-device volume control? Big check. I have knocked several premium pairs of earbuds for not offering what is such a natural thing to want from your headphones (AirPods Pro, I'm looking at you), but here, a simple tap of either earpiece sends the volume up (right) or down (left) a notch. It’s almost too easy. Double tap the left one for Siri or Google, double tap the right to play or pause your music. Hold your finger on either earpiece for over a second and it’ll skip forward or back a track. Cake.

There's a mic in each earbud for call-handling, and don’t for a second think that no app means no EQ profiles – triple tap either earpiece and you’ll hear the soothing voice say “balanced’, “bass boost” or “JLab signature”. Across the course of my time with these little units, they never misunderstand my index finger’s morse code once, either.

  • Features score: 5/5

JLab Go Air Pop detail of charging cable

The JLab Go Air Pop's charging cable is slightly strange. But since it's attached, you'll never forget it!  (Image credit: TechRadar)

JLab Go Air Pop review: Sound quality

  • Good bass weight and textured vocals
  • Treble crackles at higher volumes

These earbuds are very capable of playing music and really, it is churlish to expect too much more. If you were hoping JLab just nailed sonic brilliance for the princely sum of $20, you will have to think again – you’re getting SBC vanilla Bluetooth delivered at rock-bottom prices, not aptX HD, LDAC or hifalutin higher-res codecs. 

The name hardly screams audio excellence anyway – ‘air’ and ‘pop’ are not words we’d recommend using in the same sentence as 6mm drivers and Bluetooth connectivity – but remember, Sony once released a limited-edition ‘silent white’ colourway for the WH-1000XM4 and silence doesn't suggest great-sounding cans either. Which firm had the bigger budget to perhaps run that name by a focus group? Correct. 

Any meaningful sound comparison between these $20 in-ears and class-leading products from the likes of Sony, Apple or Sennheiser is more than a little unfair – and there are no current class-leaders at $20 because there simply isn't much serious competition at that price. 

What you should know is that JLab’s solution beats anything in its price range for sound, hands down. It can even stand toe to toe with the more expensive Sony WF-C500 – which it actually beats for battery life and design, if not audio quality. 

Okay, the treble needs refinement and dynamically they're a little flat (stream Tinie Tempah's Frisky and the foreboding intro is ever-present, rather than building and brooding), but I maintain that JLab’s Go Air Pop are a pleasant listen overall, especially for this money. Vocals are relatively well handled through the mids, and the bass weight is sensibly handled, although I admit that the timing here lacks a modicum of cohesion. 

Stream Hootie & the Blowfish's Let Her Cry and the different guitars present themselves to each ear in a relatively expansive, open soundstage too. Listen to Prince's Kiss and while you'll get all of the bass funk in the intro, the artist's inimitable vocal comes off a little harsh. Sonically, it is difficult to rave about the sound quality, chiefly because of this treble, which does distort even in relatively easy passages, but that's not really the point here. 

The point is budget-conscious, solid sound. And you get that here – for up to 32 hours. 

  • Sound quality score: 3.5/5

JLab Go Air Pop packaging on black background

It's hard to believe the earbuds, case, charger, extra eartips and quick-start guide are all in here. But they are you know… (Image credit: TechRadar)

JLab Go Air Pop review: Design

  • Available in five glorious colorways
  • Just 3.7g per earbud 
  • Odd tadpole-like charging cable

Refreshingly, JLab Go Air Pop arrive in a plastic-free, 100% recycled paper box roughly the size of a deck of cards. It’s hard to imagine a set of headphones, their charging case, a quick-start guide and extra gel cushion tips can actually fit inside it, honestly, but they're certainly there – and they're worth shouting about. 

Let's start with the teardrop-shaped ergonomic earbuds. The marketing spiel is that they’re 15 per cent smaller than JLabs’ previous offerings. The point is, they weigh just 3.7g per earpiece (which is over a gram lighter than the bijou Sony LinkBuds S, which come in at 4.8g per bud) and will suit practically all human ears. When it comes to true wireless earbuds, small is beautiful and JLab's Go Air Pop truly are beautifully small. 

You get three sets of eartips in the same color as everything else for a sleek aesthetic (our sample is turquoise) and the case is easily as small and light as a box of dental floss, despite the fact that its USB charging plug and short cable snaps out from a recess in the base. 

This diddy case is able to stand on its base (why can’t more brands do this?) so that you can flip open the magnetised lid with one hand to access the headphones. I spent a week slinging this case into my bag, near my keys. There are no metallic embellishments to be scratched off on the design and no discernible weak points in the hinge. This thing wants to survive a commute unscathed. 

Okay, the strange little charging cable is physically attached to the JLab Go Air Pop’s case (can it still be called a wireless charger if there’s always a wire?) and when charging it does look embryonic or juvenile compared to more premium cases, as tadpole is to fully-grown frog perhaps. That said, it does charge the earbuds and means you’ll never have to search in the semi-darkness for your USB-C charger – or get caught short because you forgot to pack one. 

  • Design score: 4.5/5

JLab Go Air Pop earbuds and case in a hand

JLab Go Air Pop's case really is as light as a box of dental floss – so much so, we often had to check our pocket to make sure it was still there. (Image credit: TechRadar)

JLab Go Air Pop review: Value

  • Reliable battery, connectivity and supreme comfort for $20
  • Easily betters anything else at this price for sound and features
  • No app

Did we mention that these earbuds are just $20? All things considered, the JLab Go Air Pop represent exceptionally good value, and, despite the lack of a companion app, you get an impressive set of features all handled by the reliable on-ear controls. 

In terms of build, battery life and feature set, JLab is irrefutably top of the class for value – but remember, it is a very small class. 

These earbuds are not the flaky-breaky kit one might expect for $20, and if it's a question of no music on the commute or JLab's Go Air Pop earbuds, I'll bite your hand off for these every day of the week. 

  • Value score: 5/5

Should I buy the JLab Go Air Pop?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

JLab Go Air Pop review: Also consider

Think the Go Air Pop might not be the true wireless earbuds for you? That's cool, here are three alternatives that could offer just the design, feature-set and sound quality you're looking for. 

Aura review: a new standard for securing your digital security
5:30 pm | June 20, 2022

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

Are you concerned about your online safety and unsure of what to do? Do you desire a single solution that addresses various protection types and levels? The next step is to think about Aura, a holistic solution that combines personal digital security and identity theft protection. Here is more information on Aura and the reasons it could be the ideal digital security system for you and your family.

Aura: Plans and pricing

Aura provides programs for singles, married couples, and families like many of its rivals. For new clients, each plan offers a free 14-day trial, and when you buy a yearly subscription, you have a 60-day money-back guarantee. No matter the plan, Aura's fundamental characteristics remain the same. Security for devices and the internet, protection against identity theft, and defense against financial fraud are important elements. Additionally, each plan includes identity theft insurance for each user worth at least $1 million.

Aura Inc subscription options:

Individual Aura plans cost $15 per month when paid monthly and $12 per month when paid annually. The couple's plan is $22 per month per year or $29 per month taken month to month. The cost of the family plan, which provides coverage for up to five children or adults, is $50 per month when paid monthly, or discounted to $37 per month when paid annually.

Aura offers fairly generous protection under each plan in terms of the number of devices. Aura can be installed on up to 10 devices under the individual plan, up to 20 under the family plan, and up to 50 with the family plan.

Aura is accessible on a variety of platforms, including PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.

Cyber security

(Image credit: Darwin Laganzon from Pixabay )

Aura: Features

The capabilities offered by Aura's online and device security solutions range from anti-virus and VPN protection, a password manager, and a secure browsing tool. The greatest Aura feature, Identity Theft Protection, covers a wide range of services, including online account monitoring, Social Security Number protection, junk mail removal, spam call blocking, persons search site elimination, and identity verification monitoring. Additionally, it offers monitoring for court and criminal records, home title and address, and lost wallet recovery. Additionally, child Social Security monitoring feature is part of the family plan. anti-virus

Credit monitoring across the three major US-based agencies, namely Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, is one of Aura's financial fraud protection solutions, and directly from the Aura app, you may also lock your credit account. Other money-related services include 401(k) and investment account monitoring, bank account monitoring, tracking of financial transactions, a monthly VantageScore credit score report, and annual credit reports from all three bureaus. These features work together to make it far more difficult for identity thieves to steal your identity. It also will alert you if your identity is stolen.

As you can see, Aura has a large list of features. Whether or not you intend to use all of Aura's capabilities will primarily influence whether or not it is the appropriate choice for you and your family. Aura might not be right for you if you like to pick and choose and want a less expensive plan with only certain features. To help users decide, we appreciate the offer off a risk-free 14-day trial to experience Aura directly. 

Aura support options

(Image credit: Aura)

Aura: Support

For direct support, Aura provides 24/7/365 phone support with an easy to find toll free number; you can also send an email. There is no support portal, and our interaction on chat was with a chatbot that even a simple query ended with the toll free number to call for help.

On the self help side, we find now that Aura has a Help Center. It has articles and FAQ’s to help users, but we did not find any video or webinar content. 

identity theft scanning

(Image credit: Tumisu from Pixabay)

Aura: Final verdict

Aura, in our opinion, offers one of the better identity theft protection solutions available currently. Highlights include the upfront cost, the round-the-clock assistance, the user-friendly interface, the VPN, password manager, and antivirus that are all included. The options for credit and financial monitoring are likewise impressive. The company has even improved the support alternatives over the last few years with the Help Center. Overall, for those looking for ID protection solutions, Aura is a solid choice.

We've listed the best free antivirus.

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII review
7:47 pm | June 16, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Portable Media Players | Tags: | Comments: Off

Editor's Note

• Original review date: June 2022
Launch price: $749 / £699 / AU$1,099
• Target price: still $749 / £699 / AU$1,099

Update: February 2024. The Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII is still the revered hi-res audio specialist's most entry-level player – and emphatically still one of the best MP3 players in existence – but it's important to note that in November 2023 it was superseded by A&K's newer (and slightly more expensive) Astell & Kern A&norma SR35. The nitty gritty of it is this: the SR35 is now billed as A&K's entry-level option and under intense review the newer player edges it (just), but you'll need to pay a $50 / £100 / AU$200 surcharge for that newness. Now, one could argue that if you're prepared to shell out $700 for a dedicated hi-res audio player, you may as well throw another $50 or so down, but I'm not so sure. Honestly, if this is where your budget maxes out, A&K's second-generation November 2021-issue SR25 remains an excellent option. Deals owing to its relative age? Unlikely, this is Astell & Kern, not Amazon. That said, it's not unheard of… 
The rest of this review remains as previously published.

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII: two-minute review

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and one man's trash is another's treasure. Anyone invested in portable hi-res audio, for instance, will surely view the Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII as a thing of beauty both sonically and visually; the very sight of an A&K player emerging from its owner's pocket signifies their ascension to a very select group of music lovers. 

To others, the off-kilter screen may seem a hindrance, the name long-winded, the edges a little sharp, the unmarked buttons somewhat unhelpful and the pricing prohibitive – even though for Astell & Kern, this is budget territory. 

Whatever your opinion on the above, the level of features, connectivity, file support and sound quality incorporated here is, as the dynamic '80s cartoon heroin Jem once said, truly truly truly outrageous.

What you need to know is that the music you've been playing from your phone or laptop is going to sound constricted, muddied, compressed and altogether beige after you've heard music on this. And even if the original (and very talented) SR25 is well-known to you, this model sounds that little bit better – and as such, it just became one of the best MP3 players on the market. 

The A&K A&norma SR25 MKII digital audio player takes and celebrates virtually any digital audio file size or type, and it will now happily accept balanced headphones with 4.4 or 2.5mm headphone jacks as well as 'regular' 3.5mm unbalanced models.

Elsewhere, the touch-screen is bright and responsive and the battery life, at 20 hours, walks all over the company's A&ultima SP2000T at only 9 hours. And did we mention how expressive, detailed, regimented and faithfully neutral it sounds? 

The A&norma SR25 MKII is a gifted digital audio player and it will reignite your love of music. And unlike many of the company's more pricey players, this one is small enough to put in a pocket and will keep you streaming, pinging or downloading once-treasured songs to it, just to see what it makes of them. 

If the current financial climate still facilitates your consideration of such a purchase, you won't be disappointed with this talented little player. 

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII on black background

The A&K's rotary volume dial is a thing of beauty (Image credit: TechRadar)

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII review: Price and release date

  • Released in November 2021
  • $749 / £699 / AU$1,099

The Astell & Kern A&norma SR 25 MKII comes with asking price that may have some moving swiftly on given the current cost of living challenges. Others may still pause to hear more though – because unlike the majority of Astell & Kern's ouevre, it doesn't actually cost thousands. 

In the United Kingdom it sells for a pound short of £700. American customers hoping to snag one will need to put seven hundred-dollar bills and one fifty aside, while in Australia you’re looking at over a grand. 

Can such a product make a case for itself outside of the niche audiophile world when good-quality music streaming and downloading capabilities are so readily available on contract smartphones? If you ask us, yes. 

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII detail of headphone ports on black background

A&K has added a 4.4 balanced headphone jack for extra connectivity (Image credit: TechRadar)

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII review: Features

  • Supports both 24-bit Bluetooth wireless codecs LDAC and aptXHD
  • Comprehensive wired hi-res chops to DSD256 and 32-bit/384KHz PCM 
  • Replay Gain automatically adjusts volume playback from sound sources up to 24-bit/192kHz

The features we need to get through here give even the best MP3 players a run for their money, so strap in. 

Astell & Kern states that every aspect its customers admired in the original SR25 is retained here, but that this new model improves on the audio performance even further. How? With its latest audio architecture, that's how, which promises more detail, clearly defined upper and lower ranges, and a deeper, more rounded sound. (More on this later.) 

What is not new is the implementation of two Cirrus Logic CS43198 DACs, because it is the same dual DAC chip setup as the previous SR15, which is a few years old now. Then again, that player was excellent sonically and if it ain't broke, etc…

As well as a new 4.4mm headphone jack, the MKII unit also boasts a new Replay Gain function to uniformly adjust volume playback from sound sources up to 24-bit/192 kHz. You're also getting AK File Drop (first introduced in the pricier A&futura SE180 player) for easier wireless file transfers; BT Sink function for simpler connection of the SR25 MKII to an external Bluetooth device (essentially, music from an external device such as a smartphone can be played back in high-quality on the SR25 MKII using it) and extra internal silver-plated shielding to protect from electromagnetic interference, first seen in the thrice-the-price A&ultima SP2000T.

Although it hasn't been shouted about, upon going through the settings of the SR25 MKII, four new, interesting and quite different-sounding DAC filters also present themselves, which will work if listening in 24-bit/192kHz or less PCM (although they won't work in MQA and DSD formats) and they certainly add value and scope for customization at the level. 

As with the first-generation model, the SR25 MKII easily handles a huge array of high-resolution music formats and sample rates, including support for native playback of DSD256 and 32-bit/384KHz PCM high-resolution audio

And should you want to listen to your favourite hi-res music over a wireless connection (and why shouldn't you, given the excellent wireless headphones available in this day and age?), the SR25 MKII features the high-quality LDAC and aptX HD Bluetooth wireless codecs too, plus wi-fi for access to streaming services including Tidal, which is happily waiting to be discovered in the 'services' tab. 

I tried the SR25 MKII using several true wireless price-compatible earbuds, including the NuraTrue and Cambridge Audio's Melomania 1+ (both of which support aptX) and found the Bluetooth connection rock-solid.

In terms of wired connections, the power output here is standard rather than exceptional, although the SR25 MKII drove my hefty Austrian Audio Hi-X55 over-ears over a (regular 3.5mm) unbalanced connection admirably. 

  • Features score: 5/5

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII review: Design

  • Bright and responsive touch-screen 
  • Angular but nicely pocketable
  • Glorious trademark A&K rotary volume dial

Astell & Kern is known for its trademark brutalist aesthetic and it’s not about to switch tack any time soon. So the A&norma SR 25 MKII is all angles and pointy bits – some of them glassy. Look at it and you know it's made by A&K. 

The slanted screen may be slightly jarring for some (yes, if the display simply fit the measurements, it could've been bigger) but it does allow for the inclusion of a lovely clicking rotary volume dial in the top right corner, for which all Astell & Kern players are now known. This one is bigger than that sported by its predecessor and it looks even more like a blown up Swiss chronograph watch dial – but we mean that in the best possible way.

There are four unmarked pill-shaped buttons along the top left edge of the player as you look at the screen, which handle (from top to bottom) power, track skips backwards, play/pausing and forwarding to the next track. While unmarked, they are intuitive and once you know, you know – again, if you don't like it, A&K does not care. 

In terms of dimensions it's a fair bit deeper than your smartphone but thinner and shorter and, at 178g it actually weighs 26g less than the iPhone 13 Pro (and 62g less than the iPhone 13 Pro Max). 

The touch-screen may be a tad fiddly for those with larger fingers – it may take a few goes to key in your Tidal password, for example – but it's more than worth persisting because the trade off is a nippy, happy and talented little player that you can actually put in your pocket without feeling like you're listing to one side. 

The slightly moodier new 'Mercury Dark Silver' colorway is another improvement on the older model, which is lighter in terms of finish. Our only slight gripe with the build is the glass panel on the back of the unit; even though it's supposed to resist fingerprints, we find it collects ours. 

  • Design score: 4.5/5

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII playback button detail

Unmarked, brutalist buttons. But once you know, you know (Image credit: TechRadar)

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII review: Audio performance

  • Open, spacious soundstage
  • Assured timing and oodles of detail
  • Zealous, fun presentation

Give the A&K your music, sit back and relax. It takes only a cursory listen to Radiohead's OK Computer (in 24-bit FLAC) to understand that this is a gifted little belter of a DAP. Throughout Airbag, the SR25 MKII seems to separate and celebrate each sonic article and inflection, but never to the detriment of the track as a whole. Bass passages other players cannot reach are offered like musical treats on a shelf to be enjoyed in passing, while synths and jingles soar through the upper registers. 

Switching to Tidal, Coheed and Cambria's Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness brims with detail thanks to an incredibly open and three-dimensional soundstage, from the initial strings coming in all around us to the child playing quietly over by our right earlobe as the guitar joins centrally.  

Lower frequencies are deep, snappy and held resolutely in a cohesive and controlled mix. Mids come alive as we listen to Melissa Etheridge's No Souvenirs, realizing as we do so that rarely has her textured, emotive, belted vocal sounded so expressive and present.  

Timing and dynamic build here are both poised and secure; the SR25 MKII takes every recording you give it, relays it faithfully, dutifully and with an extra ounce of detail both rhythmically and across the frequencies but – and this part is where other such players often fall down – it manages to keep the overall sonic experience zealous, energetic and fun rather than analytical to a fault. 

Any negatives? Really, no – although if you scale up to A&K's A&futura line you'll see a step up in terms of power and detail yet again. But for this money, the A&norma SR25 MKII cannot be beaten sonically. 

  • Audio performance score: 5/5

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII with Radiohead playing, on white background

The angled screen may not suit larger fingers (Image credit: TechRadar)

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII: Value

  • A&K's entry-level player – if $749/£699 is 'entry-level' to you
  • Tech from models thrice the price 
  • For a premium player, this is the least you'll pay

This is a tricky one, because you can pick up a portable audio player made by Sony for a tenth of the price of this hi-res player. That said, this is upper echelon territory; Astell & Kern's top-tier Ultima model sells for $2,399 / £1,999 / AU$3,599. 

Astell & Kern actually calls the SR 25 MKII a "true mass premium product", which just about sums it up. To clarify, for this money you're still getting A&K's core (and frankly, 'cor!) values: exceptional audio performance for a diverse range of musical tastes and that trademark brutalist build, plus tech such as AK File Drop, access to streaming platforms, DAC filters and the BT Sink function trickled down from the company's flagship players, but without the four-figure price tag. 

Will most of us still need to pass on "mass premium" players given the cost of living crisis? Perhaps. But that is a shame, since this one really does represent value for money – if you have it, and expressly want to spend it on a dedicated, talented, hi-res digital audio player. 

  • Value: 4.5/5

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII: Should you buy it?

Astell & Kern A&Norma SR25 MKII USB-C port and SD-card slot detail

It's all angles and edges, but with its SD card slot (and supplied cover) you can level up the storage, too (Image credit: TechRadar)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII: Also consider

  • First reviewed June 2022
Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 review
7:15 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Turntables | Comments: Off

Editor's Note

• Original review date: June 2022
• Launch price: $1,999 / £1,699 / AU$3,699
• Target price: As above

Update: February 2024. In the turntable arena, a May 2022-issue product is a babe in arms – this isn't the smartphone space, where fresh iterations are expected (nay, demanded!) annually. News that the Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 is still one of the best turntables around will come as little surprise to anyone who read our Cambridge Audio Alva TT review, upon which it is built. This particular turntable has an ace up its sleeve too: onboard hi-res 24bit/48kHz aptX HD Bluetooth transmission (not to be confused with the swathe of recent decks that have a Bluetooth speaker inbuilt, to receive music from your phone; the Lenco LS-410 is a good budget example) which means whatever's spinning on the platter can be sent to your wireless headphones and Bluetooth speakers around the house. Other decks can do similar (the Victrola Stream Carbon will even work with your Sonos system, if you want that) but very few turntables can do it in hi-res, or this well… and that's before we mention how good it is when listening the old-fashioned way, via its inbuilt switchable phono stage… The rest of this review remains as previously published.


Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 turntable: One-minute review

The Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 is the updated version of a turntable that caused a bit of a stir when it launched – here, at last, was a premium turntable that wanted to offer more convenience than is normal. Specifically, wireless streaming – and hi-res wireless streaming at that. Acclaim was immediate and more-or-less universal.

So Cambridge is back with a new, more expensive and mildly updated Alva TT: the V2. Its integrated phono stage is now switchable. It has a new tonearm and cartridge. The price has risen a little. But V2 retains the original’s bank-vault build quality, aptX HD hi-res wireless streaming smarts, and overall air of profound solidity that made it one of the best turntables around.

It also retains a lot of the original’s sonic emphases. The Alva TT V2 is a deft, smooth and insightful listen, a little short of dynamic headroom but very long indeed on detail retrieval, tonal balance and generously engaging sound. 

Yes, this sort of money can buy a more rigorous sonic attitude and more dynamic headroom at the same time. What it won’t buy is better build quality, greater midrange fidelity, anything like as much convenience, or the ability to listen directly on the best wireless headphones. So, even more so than is usual on these pages, you need to make a value judgement.

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 turntable: Price and release date

  • $1,999 / £1,699 / AU$3,699
  • Release in May 2022

The Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 turntable was released in spring 2022, and it's officially priced at $1,999 / £1,699 / AU$3,699. Don't expect to find it with much of a discount, either.

That’s serious money for a record player – and it’s the sort of money that brings quite a few high-profile alternatives into view. Everyone from Clearaudio and Rega in Europe, Technics in Japan and VPI in the United States will happily sell you a turntable for this sort of money with high-end audio credentials – although they won’t be quite so extensively specified, admittedly. In fact, let's take a look at the features now.

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 on wooden surface

Naturally, you can use the Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 with dust cover or without. (Image credit: Future)

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 turntable: Design and features

  • 24bit/48kHz aptX HD wireless streaming
  • Integrated, switchable phono stage
  • Direct-drive operation

As far as true ‘design’ is concerned, nothing about the Cambridge Audio Alva TT v2 is going to surprise or startle you. This turntable is designed to look like a turntable, albeit a nicely constructed and finished one, and as such is never going to be an interior decorator’s favourite item.

That’s not to say it doesn’t look good, or a lot like the outgoing Alva TT, though. A hefty, smoothly finished chassis is topped by a tactile aluminium plinth with the ‘Cambridge’ logo punched into one corner and three buttons (‘power on/off’, ‘33.3’ and ‘45’) nicely recessed into another. The whole thing is covered by a hinged, smoked-plastic dust-cover.

On top of the plinth there’s an extremely hefty polyoxymethylene platter, and off to one side an entirely fresh design of tonearm. For this V2 model, the tonearm now features anti-skate as well as counter-weight adjustment and has a detachable headshell for ease of cartridge-replacement. It’s pre-fitted with a cartridge, of course – a high-output Cambridge Audio moving coil option with a replacement cost (according to the brand’s website) of £499.

On the inside, the Alva TT v2 uses a direct-drive mechanism to turn that chunky platter – but this is no DJ-centric turntable for hooking into a mixer. Cambridge Audio asserts the best way to guarantee rotational stability is to specify a medium-torque direct-drive motor in conjunction with a high-density platter. That’s what this turntable has, and while it takes a turn or two longer than you might be expecting to come up to speed, once it’s there it’s unshakeable.

On the rear of the chassis are a number of items of interest. There’s power input and a pair of stereo RCA analogue outputs for connection to an amplifier, which are both pretty much par for the course. 

There’s also a switch for the integrated phono stage – this circuitry is based closely on the well-received Alva Duo stand-alone phono stage Cambridge Audio introduced a while back and, unlike the original Alva TT, it’s optional. Turn it on and the V2 outputs at a line-level any amplifier can handle; turn it off and the signal will need to be boosted by pre-amp circuitry on board an amplifier or by an external phono stage. 

So if the owner’s system already includes sufficient amplification, it’s possible to compare the V2’s onboard amplification with that of the system into which it’s playing and make a decision based on perceived sound quality. This is an improvement on the original Alva TT, the ‘always on’ phono stage of which seemed a little unhelpful.

There’s also a switch to turn Bluetooth connectivity on or off, plus a button to initiate Bluetooth pairing. Unlike the majority of Bluetooth-equipped turntables, which are generally entry-level devices that prioritise convenience over all else, the Alva TT V2 is deadly serious about wireless streaming. So it’s specified to support the aptX HD Bluetooth codec, and can stream at an authentically high-resolution 24bit/48kHz. 

Which means that if you want a turntable that can sit where you want it to, rather than where it insists on being, and deliver the audio goods wirelessly, well… Cambridge Audio continues to be the only game in town.

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 tonearm

You get a very high-quality (and pricey) cartridge included in the box with the Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2. (Image credit: Future)

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 turntable: Audio performance

  • Articulate and impressive wireless performance
  • Very capable integrated phono stage
  • Lacks a little dynamism and positivity  

Unlike the majority of turntables, there are three ways of listening to the Alva TT V2: Hard-wired to an amplifier with phono amplification turned on; the same but with the phono stage turned off; and wirelessly via Bluetooth. 

And while there are pretty obvious differences in the way the Cambridge presents your vinyl, its fundamental attitude doesn’t alter no matter the way you decide to listen to it. In all circumstances, it’s a poised, perceptive and engaging listen – and as long as you (and your music) aren’t permanently in ‘party on!’ mode, it’s a satisfying listen.

That it sounds better when hard-wired than when streaming wirelessly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. What is quite startling, though, is just how accomplished the Alva TT V2 sounds when streaming via Bluetooth. 

With a heavy reissue of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue spinning and the turntable streaming to a Naim Uniti Star streamer/amplifier while physically connected only to power, the Cambridge sounds full, detailed and quite eloquent. There is more than enough detail retained to make the nuances of the musicians’ techniques apparent, and sufficient control of the entire frequency range to make the recording sound authentically like a performance. Bass is deep and agile, the top end is acceptably crisp, and the midrange communicates in unambiguous fashion.

The soundstage is reasonably well organised and quite expansive, and there’s never any possibility of one element of the recording intruding into the space of another. Low-level dynamic insight is good too – a recording like this is alive with minor harmonic variations, and the Alva TT V2 is pretty alert to them. 

It’s not quite as successful where the broader dynamic peaks and troughs of a recording are concerned, though – it’s not as if the Cambridge sounds flat or operates at a single level, but the dynamic ebb and flow of a recording isn’t expressed as fully as it might be.

Our Naim doesn’t have any phono amplification, so the Cambridge is first hard-wired with its internal amplification switched on, and then via a Chord Huei stand-alone phono stage with the Alva TT V2’s amplification switched off. The differences in performance, it has to be said, are quite predictable.

Using its own on-board amplification, the Cambridge gains a degree of positivity compared to its wireless sound. It’s still a smooth and detailed listen, but low frequencies gain a little alacrity where attack and decay are concerned while the top end is a little more assertive too. It’s just a more businesslike way to listen, even though the overall TT V2 sonic signature is much the same. When hard-wired, it’s just slightly snappier.

The internal amplification is indeed comparable to the Alva Duo phono stage on which it’s closely based, which is unequivocally a good thing. Unsurprisingly, though, it’s no match for the pricier Chord Huei phono stage – and while the Chord is disproportionately expensive in the context of the rest of this system, it does allow the Cambridge to fully demonstrate both what it’s capable of and what its limitations are.

The shaping of low frequencies steps up again when listening this way. Rhythmic expression becomes more certain, transient detail retrieval improves and the unity, the togetherness of the individual elements of a recording seems more natural and instinctive than before. Even an over-specified phono stage can’t help the Alva TT V2’s slight lack of dynamic potency, though, nor coax greater directness from its overall performance.

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 connections

The Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2's connection labelling is upside down, for when you're leaning over the top, see? (Image credit: Future)

Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2 turntable: Should you buy it?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

Also consider

First reviewed: June 2022

Sendible review
12:14 pm | June 15, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro Software & Services | Comments: Off

If you're in business and looking for the best social media management tools to boost your fortunes then Sendible is an ideal candidate to consider. This is a complete package that delivers all of the tools for managing social media campaigns, via an easy to use platform. 

It’s got a variety of practical tools for getting the job done, with the ability to schedule and queue your posts, along with managing calendars in order to create controlled campaigns. The overall design and usability is intuitive, there’s a strong emphasis on reporting capabilities and Sendible also comes keenly priced.

You can also choose from a selection of different packages, all of which have been created to help users exploit the power of social media marketing. These range from very basic freelance options, with a more basic range of tools on offer, through to a full-on edition that is aimed at businesses that are expanding their focus on social media.

Plans and Pricing

Sendible has created a range of options on the plans and pricing front, which means that it is well suited to different sizes of business user. Currently, pricing seems to be $US or UK-centric, though there are Sendible website portals for the UK, US and European markets too. Presumably this means they can tailor a product or package to suit your location.

You can choose to pay monthly or yearly, with a 15% saving offered to those who pay for the full twelve months in one go. To illustrate typical package prices we’ll use monthly costs here, which start off with the Creator package. There’s a free trial available and it is subsequently billed at $29 per month. It’s aimed primarily at freelance workers and offers 1 user and 6 social profiles to be exploited.

Next up, there is the Traction package, which also comes with a free trial and is billed monthly at $89. Sendible suggests it is targeted at start-up agencies and brands. Traction allows 4 users and has 24 social profile options. Sendible’s Scale edition is its most popular, with the option for 7 users and 49 social profiles to be activated. It comes with a monthly $199 cost and is aimed at expanding agencies and brands.

Sendible

(Image credit: Sendible)

Finally, Sendible offers the Expansion edition, which is just that and offers a fully expandable package aimed at large teams and agencies. This costs $399 per month, but there’s a free trial option too and it offers a 15 user and 105 social profile flexibility that is clearly going to be useful for businesses that are on the up.

Basic features

There are several core areas of Sendible, all of which should appeal to a business owner looking to get a strong hold on social media campaigning. The main areas of interest include Publishing, Collaboration and Analytics, with the ability to closely monitor how campaigns are going, via a neat dashboard-style design arrangement.

 Usefully, each of the plans outlined above adds in features and functions that are suited to the particular target market. In theory, this means you’ll only be paying for what you use, rather than have lots of tools that never get called up. The freelancer edition features unlimited scheduling, planning and publishing, monitoring and replying plus reporting and content suggestions. 

Professional features

Move up to the Traction package and you get all those options plus team collaboration, post assignment and approval, user management and a personalised demo to get the ball rolling. Similarly, the Scale edition includes everything in Traction along with automated client reporting, a content and hashtag library, custom approval flows as well as personalised onboarding.

Meanwhile, Expansion features include everything in the Scale plan along with white labelling, the ability to manage client permissions, merge tags and you also get the benefit of a dedicated account manager. This alone can be highly useful in a charged and rapidly expanding social media management department.

 

Sendible

(Image credit: Sendible)

Sendible

(Image credit: Sendible)

Interface and in Use

Sendible can be used to tackle all of your social media management challenges and is therefore compatible with all of the usual suspects. It can integrate with the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and basically everyone else. To do that effectively Sendible has created a great little user interface, which is both easy to use and powerful too.

Sendible

(Image credit: Sendible)

Central to the effective nature of Sendible is its dashboard area. This is home to all of the core tools you use during daily activities. It is also crucial for setting up and managing campaigns, with menu options for scheduling and queuing posts. You can also dip into published items, check how the activity levels are going and, subsequently, monitor the outcome. It’s all very straightforward, even in the beefier package editions.

Support

Not everyone is ready or able to hit the ground running when they embark on a social media marketing journey. In that respect, we like the way Sendible has packed in plenty to help both the newbie or seasoned pro, as well as lone freelancers, while also delivering plenty of support for those higher up the ladder. Indeed, there are multiple information options to be found on the Sendible support site.

We also like the ease with which it’s possible to dip in and see how fellow users have been faring with their Sendible experience. This is often a great way of pinpointing potential problem areas. That’s especially so if you’re working within a collaborative environment, or have new staff who might not be familiar with the way things tick.

As you’d expect, Sendible support staff can also be contacted directly, with the support center delivering plenty of options on that front.

Sendible

(Image credit: Sendible)

The Competition

Sendible covers an awful lot of bases on the social media management front. There is also something to suit any kind of budget too. However, it's worth remembering to check out other alternatives in the social media arena. Have a look at the likes of Hootsuite, SocialPilot, Buffer, eClincher, Statusbrew, Loomly and Zoho Social, all of which are perfectly decent competitors worthy of investigation.

Final Verdict

Sendible offers a good selection of different package options for those with ambitions to raise their social media profile. For campaign purposes, it’s got all of the tools, especially if you’re an agency or a business with big social aspirations. It’s easy to see why the Sendible Scale package is most popular, as it contains a host of great tools that will appeal to many.

Crucially, there is rock-solid reporting capability, which too many will be key in finding just how much of a return they’ll be getting on their monthly, or annual investment.

Ricoh GR IIIx review
7:33 pm | June 14, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Cameras Compact Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Editor's Note

• Original review date: June 2022
• Adds a 40mm f/2.8 lens to the existing Ricoh GR III
• Launch price: $999 / £899 / AU$1,779
• Official price now: around $1,050 / £999 / AU$1,599

Update: May 2024. Two years after we first reviewed it, we still think the Ricoh GR IIIx is one of the best compact cameras you can buy. Its combination of a large sensor, sharp lens and tidy dimensions continues to impress in 2024. This remains a fantastic shooting tool to keep in your pocket, especially if you’re a street photography fan. Its unique feature set has made the Ricoh GR IIIx a very popular camera, which is why you’ll find most online stores listing it as “out of stock” or “awaiting stock”. That’s also why seasonal discounts on the model are uncommon, with the GR IIIx generally marketed at its full RRP. Both of those factors mean your easiest route to acquiring one at a decent price is to look for second-hand or refurbished options in good condition, which can be found if you look around online.

Two-minute review

The new Ricoh GR IIIx is the latest in a long line of discrete compact cameras that are small enough to slip into your pocket, but somehow boast a large APS-C sensor and a sharp, fixed focal length lens.

The Ricoh GR series has carved out a niche market, being particularly popular with street photographers and everyday snappers who love the camera's quick response, intuitive handling and, more recently, Snap Focus system to capture decisive moments. As a result, they've long been mainstays in our guides to the best compact cameras and the best travel cameras.  

Yet one thing that many GR lovers have pined for is a more telephoto focal length than the 28mm f/2.8 lens found in the most recent iteration, the GR III. Well, now their wish has come true in the GR IIIx, a camera that is virtually identical to the GR III in every way, except it has a 40mm f/2.8 equivalent lens.

A hand holding the Ricoh GR IIIx camera

(Image credit: Future)

A 28mm lens is essentially the same focal length as a smartphone's standard camera, making it the most universally familiar focal length, while 40mm is closer to a phone's portrait lens. Another way to appreciate the difference between the two focal lengths is that 28mm represents what you can see, while 40mm is what you focus on.

We'll get more into the practical differences between those two focal lengths in these cameras in our in-depth review. Suffice to say, there are scenarios more suited to the 28mm lens, and others best suited for 40mm. In either case, limiting yourself to a particular focal length can be a useful creative discipline for photographers, though if we could be greedy, we'd like a GR III in one pocket and the GR III X in the other.

Perhaps Ricoh will keep going in the Sigma Quattro approach by adding further models like a 75mm f/2.8, though the GR IIIx does have a useable crop mode taken from the 24.2MP sensor, going up to 71mm. There is also an optional 75mm GT-2 Tele Conversion lens, but adding accessories and bulk to a GR III camera somehow seems sacrilegious – yes, even a flashgun via the hotshoe.

Other than the new lens, it's as you were, for good and for bad. If you're looking to get the most for your money based on a spec sheet, then the GR IIIx is not for you. At $999 / £899 / AU$1,799, it's more than the GR III on release and for that money you could get an APS-C interchangeable lens camera with a lens or two, or a fantastic smartphone.

The Ricoh GR IIIx camera on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

The GR IIIx's battery life is poor. There's also no built-in flash, viewfinder or even an optional EVF via the hotshoe, the rear touchscreen is fixed, video recording is limited to full HD with no mic input, plus AF is jittery. That's a few downsides, so why is the GR IIIx so expensive? Well, there really is no other pocket camera like it today, especially with this new lens – trust us, we've searched hard.

Perhaps its closest rival is the Fujfilm XF10, or various discontinued cameras like the Fujifilm X70 and Nikon Coolpix A, all of which have a 28mm lens. The GR IIIx has more street guile than all of these options, though we'd love a tilt-screen. Other large-sensor compacts like the Fujifilm X100 series or the smallest interchangeable lens cameras with 40mm pancake lens attached are no comparison, being much bigger.

More importantly than features, the GR IIIx is a joy to use. It's a camera that you want to have in your pocket. It seems so intuitive to general quick response photography, and is easy to customize with tools that experienced photographers will love. The in-camera raw editing and seamless wireless connection to a smartphone (in our experience with a Google Pixel) means you can share edited pictures easily on the fly, too.

Throughout our review, we were particularly interested to know how the new 40mm lens affects the handling of this pocket shooter, and if the lens quality is just as good. Read on to find out in our in-depth Ricoh GR IIIx review, and for additional info check out our Ricoh GR III review

Ricoh GR IIIx release date and price

The Ricoh GR IIIx is available to buy now for $999 / £899 / AU$1,779. A new 'Urban Edition' was more recently launched for a premium price of $1,099 / £999 (although it's strangely cheaper in Australia at $AU1,549). It's limited to 2,000 units worldwide and has a metallic grey body, blue ring cap and comes supplied with leather strap.

The Ricoh GR IIIx camera on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

Additional GR IIIx accessories include the GT-2 Tele Conversion lens for a 75mm focal length, although the GR IIIx is not compatible with the GW-4 Wide conversion lens for the GR III. There is a GV-3 external mini optical viewfinder, while users can modify the look of the GR IIIx with different color ring caps (GN-2).

Perhaps the wisest additions to the GR IIIx are additional DB-110 batteries, while we in particular have enjoyed the camera's handling with an optional third party thumb grip.

Ricoh GR IIIx: design

  • A true pocket camera
  • Fixed 3in touch screen
  • New 40mm f/2.8 lens

On the surface, the GR IIIx is a simple, sturdy camera. It's stubbier and narrower than a smartphone, though it is deeper at 35mm according to our tape measure. That's as narrow as APS-C cameras come and the GR IIIx easily slips into a trouser pocket. It's also super light, at 262g with battery and card.

It's possible to hold and touch focus on the GR IIIx the same way as you would when shooting with a phone, so in public you can relax and blend in. If you don't need touch focus, single-handed operation in any format works a treat, especially with an optional thumb grip.

Despite its simplicity and point-and-shoot nature, there's more to the rugged GR IIIx than meets the eye. Twin dials make changes to exposure, including exposure compensation. Without a thumb grip in place, the rear dial can easily be knocked, though push it in and a quick access menu for regularly changed settings is revealed; Picture Style, Focus mode, Metering, File Format and screen brightness.

A hand holding the Ricoh GR IIIx camera

(Image credit: Future)

Watch out for the shooting mode dial, too – the lock isn't the strongest and we had a few times where the mode had switched between goes with the camera. On that dial is the usual PASM exposure modes, plus three user defined shooting modes (U1 to U3).

Custom shooting modes are super useful for those that take the time to create unique camera settings for specific scenarios, assigning a comprehensive range of settings, including Auto ISO with control over minimum acceptable shutter speed, and the Focus mode that includes the clever Snap Focus.

The fixed 3in LCD touchscreen is a little hard to view in bright daylight. Pump the 1.03-million-dot screen up to its brightest setting and things get a little clearer. There are a number of concessions made in order to keep the GR IIIx so small. If we were to able to make a single change it would be to have a flip-up screen which would be so handy for multi-angle shooting.

A hand holding the Ricoh GR IIIx camera

(Image credit: Future)

There's no denying that the 200-shot battery life is modest. Honestly, we didn't mind it and sometimes working within limitations – like a 36-roll of film – can be good practice. Also, the camera can be charged on-the-go via USB-C and additional DB-110 batteries can be picked up on the cheap.

For the lens ring cap, Ricoh has opted for style over substance. Rather than offer controls like manual focus or aperture (which we haven't necessarily pined for), the GR IIIx lens ring cap is functionless and can be swapped out with different color ring caps to personalize the camera.

After much time with the camera in and out the pocket, we started to feel that the protective lens cap could be a wise purchase to protect the front of the lens. The camera does, however, come with a basic wrist strap and a nice touch is that the GR IIIx has an internal memory of 2GB, which offers plenty of storage for pictures and Full HD videos. Beyond 2GB, you'll need a UHS-I SD memory card.

Ricoh GR IIIx: features and performance

  • Quick start-up time
  • Moderate continuous shooting
  • Sensor-shift shake reduction

Ricoh has refined the GR III series to please experienced photographers who want a simple, customizable camera with a rapid response. Start-up time is lightning, the GR IIIx rattles off pictures from being powered off in less than a second, and with an immediate shutter response.

In continuous drive mode there's a moderate shooting rate of around 4fps by our estimate. For the raw DNG format, you'll get around ten shots before the camera slows right up, while in JPEG-only it's more like 150 shots. The GR IIIx is not an action camera, though it does respond quickly to capture decisive moments. 

Focus modes include Snap Focus for a predetermined focus distance in half meter increments starting at one meter, or infinity. Handily, it is possible to temporarily override Snap Focus if it's set to the wrong distance via touch focus. Additional AF modes are available in the quick access menu.

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A hand holding the Ricoh GR IIIx camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A hand holding the Ricoh GR IIIx camera

(Image credit: Future)
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The Ricoh GR IIIx camera on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

Snap Focus is a different game with the new 40mm lens than it is with the GR III's 28mm lens, because depth of field is narrower and therefore less forgiving at any given aperture and working distance. You might not see on the small screen, but it is entirely possible to miss your focus point when shooting close up at f/2.8. Thankfully there is an on-screen depth of field indicator, through which you can check depth of field parameters.

For portraits close to camera and shallow depth of field work, it can be wiser to use pin-point touch autofocus rather than Snap Focus. The performance of other AF modes are only okay and, overall, less reliable – including a laggy and unreliable tracking AF plus average auto area AF.

The Ricoh GR III X compact camera in front of a smartphone

(Image credit: Future)

There's also a macro focus that reduces the minimum focus distance from 0.2m down to 0.12m. With the more telephoto 40mm lens, the macro mode feels more useable in the GR IIIx than it does the GR III – with a little cropping we've come away with some genuine-looking macro images.

The GR IIIx features a sensor-based shake reduction – a feature not found on aforementioned rivals. This opens up the GR III X to a wider range of handheld shooting scenarios and is perhaps even more useful than in the GR III with its more forgiving wider field of view lens.

With shake reduction active and a steady hand, we've been able get sharp shots every time at 1/10 sec and moderate success at 1/4 sec – that's two to three stops of reliable stabilization by our reckoning.  

Ricoh GR IIIx: image quality

  • 24.2MP raw DNGs
  • 40mm f/2.8-16 lens
  • In-camera raw editing

The GR IIIx has the same 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor as the GR III, recording in JPEG and raw DNG format. DNG is universally accepted on software old and new. There's a massive ISO 100-102,400 sensitivity range and it's entirely possible to shoot up to ISO 6,400 before noise rears its ugly head, even ISO 25,600 is acceptable. For properly clean images you'll prefer to stick between ISO 100 and 1,600.

The new 40mm f/2.8 lens has one more lens element than the 28mm f/2.8 (adding a mere 5g to the total weight of the camera), containing seven elements in five groups including two aspherical elements. Scanning from center to edges, image detail can be consistently sharp across the entire frame – impressive for such a compact lens – though you will lose critical sharpness at f/2.8 and f/16.

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Bluebells in a field

The macro focus distance ranges from 0.12 to 0.24m. Combined with the 40mm lens and especially the 71mm crop mode, it is possible to create dreamy macro scenes with lovely bokeh at f/2.8. (Image credit: Future)
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A classic white car parked next to a curb

A tilt screen would make shooting at awkward angles like this with the GR IIIx a whole lot easier. (Image credit: Future)
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A horse looking over a fence

40mm is a good all-purpose focal length be it landscapes, portraits, every day scenes, and even macro. (Image credit: Future)
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A man sitting next to a window in half sun

Low-key is a popular shooting style with the GR IIIx and highlight weighted metering does the trick for this look. (Image credit: Future)
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Bluebells in a field

(Image credit: Future)
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A lake next to a frosty field

A sharp edge-to-edge lens and 24MP gives a high level of detail. (Image credit: Future)
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A sunrise over a misty landscape

A reasonable amount of detail can be pulled from shadow areas in underexposed images. (Image credit: Future)

For subjects within a few meters of the camera (a working distance around 1.5m is a sweet spot), it is completely possible to get a pleasing shallow depth of field when shooting wide open at f/2.8, making the GR III X an excellent option for portraits that feature surroundings. Bokeh is pleasant enough, too, and particularly silky in the macro mode. Set to macro and using the crop mode, the GR IIIx has surprised us with its macro prowess. 

Where lens corrections have not been applied to raw DNGs, vignetting is quite pronounced at f/2.8 and never really goes away at any aperture, though the improvement is pretty obvious by stopping down to f/3.5. The GR IIIx offers in-camera peripheral illumination correction that removes vignetting at the image capture stage or via raw development afterwards.

Image 1 of 2

A sunrise over a misty landscape

Vignetting is obvious at f/2.8, though this distortion can be dealt with at the pre or post-capture stage in-camera. This is after vignetting was removed, compared to... (Image credit: Future)
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A beach with clouds overhead

...before the vignetting was removed. (Image credit: Future)

Evaluative metering does a solid job of getting a good all-round exposure, though in daylight we often opted to use highlight-weighted metering to protect highlights and, where the results are too dark, boost the exposure via exposure compensation. 

There's also shadow correction and exposure compensation ±1EV in raw development for further tweaks. Somehow the GR IIIx encourages a low-key feel as a starting point to daylight images.

Ricoh offers the 'Image Sync' app for remote capture and transferring images onto a smartphone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. In our experience with a Google Pixel, everything worked fine and encouraged a practice of regularly sharing edited pictures on the fly.

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A narrow alleyway lit up by artificial purple lights

Shake reduction gives about 2-3 stops of effective stabilization, handy for this low-light streetscape where a shutter speed of 1/13 sec produced a sharp handheld image. No tripod needed. (Image credit: Future)
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A man walking away from crates stacked outside a restaurant

The GR IIIx is so small and discreet that you can relax, blend in and make observational images in public. (Image credit: Future)
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The inside of a barn looking out over a field

(Image credit: Future)
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A sunrise over a misty landscape

The crop mode extends the focal length to 71mm, giving you extra teach (Image credit: Future)
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A sunrise over a misty landscape

(Image credit: Future)
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Black and white shot of trees in sunlight

Versatile in-camera raw development means the heavy lifting can be done before image transfer and helps you develop a personal look, too, like this Hard Mono style. (Image credit: Future)
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A sunrise over a misty landscape

(Image credit: Future)

We kept the picture style in the user mode to standard because of how easy it is to apply those kinds of changes via in-camera raw development. All picture styles can be customized, and we particularly like the Hard Monotone profile.

The GR IIIx focuses on photographers over those who do video. Resolution is limited to Full HD and there's no mic input for recording sound externally directly to the camera. However, frame rates do go up to 60p, meaning you can get slo-mo half-speed videos on the go, plus you get an organic shallow depth of field at f/2.8 that make videos stand out over using a phone.

Should I buy the Ricoh GR IIIx?

The Ricoh GR IIIx camera on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Acer Aspire 5 (2022) review
4:31 pm |

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

Editor's Note

• Original review date: June 2022
• Newer Aspire 5 with 13th-gen Intel CPUs available now
• Launch price: $600 / £450 / AU$1,399
• Official starting price now: $549 / £599 / AU$1,199

Updated: January 2024. It's been a year and a half since we reviewed this version of the Acer Aspire 5, and you can now snap up a few different configurations (which vary between regions) equipped with newer 13th-gen Intel processors. You can still snap this exact model up from retailers like Amazon - where it's now a fair bit cheaper than the latest version - and we still think the Aspire 5 is one of the best cheap laptops out there, regardless of version. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

Acer Aspire 5: Two-minute review

When looking at Acer’s website, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Acer Aspire 5 is an expensive, high-end laptop that includes a 12th generation i7 processor and powerful GeForce graphics card. But, as we’ve found with Acer in the past, the company’s website tends to just focus on its top-of-the-range models, and leaves you to find out about other options that might be available.

In this instance, it turns out that the Aspire 5 is available with a wide range of different models and specifications - in fact, there are more than 60 different configurations listed on Acer’s US website, including 17.3-inch and 15.6-inch displays, with both Intel and AMD processors. And, if you search long enough, you may even find the entry-level 14-inch version of the Aspire 5 that we review here, which is based on an older 11th generation i5 processor.

That’s clearly not the powerful laptop “for accelerated photo and video editing performance” that Acer promises, but if you judge the Aspire 5 on its own merits then it undeniably is one of the best cheap laptops for routine web browsing and productivity tasks.

Spec Sheet

Here is the Acer Aspire 5 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7 @ 2.4GHz
Graphics: Integrated Iris Xe
RAM: 8GB DDR4
Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD
Screen: 14-inch, 1920x1080 resolution
Ports: 1x USB-C, 3x USB-A (3.2), 1x audio, 1x HDMI, 1x Gigabit Ethernet
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
Camera: 720p
Size: 0.71 x 12.9 x 8.8 inches (18 x 327.7 x 223.5mm)
Weight: 3.75lb (1.7kg)

Acer Aspire 5 laptop on a desk, lid closed

(Image credit: Future)

Acer Aspire 5: Price and availability

  • Around $600 in the US, and £450 in the UK 
  • Available now in the US and UK, with limited availability down under
  • Wide range of models, some from Acer, some from online retailers 

Acer’s pricing and sales information can also be a bit confusing. Some of the models listed on its web site can be bought direct from Acer, while others are sold through online retailers and high street stores - such as Currys in the UK - so you may need to search around online if there’s a specific model that you require.

As mentioned, we tested an Aspire 5 model with 14-inch screen, which also includes Windows 10 Home, a quad-core i5-1135G7 processor running at 2.4GHz (up to 4.2GHz with Turboboost), along with 8GB memory and 512GB solid-state drive. Acer’s US web site actually lists two different prices for that specification - $669.99 or $599.99, depending on which web page you look at.

You can’t buy that model direct from Acer in the UK, although it is available from a number of online retailers for around £450.00. Australia, oddly, just gets a single Aspire 5 model with a larger 15.6-inch display and i7 processor for AU$1399.00.

  • Value: 4/5

Acer Aspire 5 laptop keyboard viewed top-down

(Image credit: Future)

Acer Aspire 5: Design

  • Bright 1080p display
  • Wi-Fi 6 and Gigabit Ethernet
  • Just one USB-C

You’re not going to get cutting-edge design at this price level, and the Aspire 5 has a fairly conventional clamshell design, with chunky borders around the edge of the screen that look a little dated. Acer’s website - unclear as ever - indicates that it’s available in a variety of colors, but the models sold on its website all seem to just be either black or silver. 

It gets the basics right, though, with a sturdy chassis that should be able to cope with a few bumps in a backpack or bag when you’re traveling. And while it’s no ultrabook, the Aspire 5 only weighs 1.7kg and measures 18mm thick, so it’s perfectly portable when it needs to be. The keyboard feels firm and comfortable for typing, and there’s a fingerprint sensor on the trackpad for security. The only real weakness here is the thin L-shaped power connector, which sticks out from the side of the laptop and looks a little vulnerable.

The 14-inch screen only provides 1920x1080 resolution, but it’s bright and clear, with good viewing angles. We’re also pleased to see that it has a matte finish that helps to reduce glare and reflection. The 720p webcam is a bit basic, but the image quality was better than we’d expected - it gets a bit grainy if the light is low, but some decent daylight produces an image that’s sharp enough for video calls.

The built-in speakers are a bit feeble, though. The sound is fine for just watching some videos on YouTube, but if you want to listen to some decent music then you’ll need to plug some headphones or speakers into the audio socket on the right-hand edge of the laptop. However, connectivity is a bit of a mixed bag, with just a single USB-C port, and three USB-A (3.2) for connecting peripherals and other devices. Thankfully, the Aspire 5 does include Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless connectivity, with Gigabit Ethernet also available for wired networks, and HDMI for an external display. 

  • Design: 3.5/5

Side-on shot of Acer Aspire 5 laptop showing ports

(Image credit: Future)

Acer Aspire 5: Performance

  • Respectable performance for office software
  • Casual gaming only
Benchmarks

3DMark: Night Raid: 12,300; Fire Strike: 3,015; Time Spy: 1,280
Cinebench R23: Multi-core - 4,800
GeekBench 5: 1,417 (single-core); 4,440 (multi-core)
PCMark 10: 4820 points
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 6 hours, 35 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 6 hours, 37 minutes

Rather than the i7 processor and GeForce graphics that Acer boasts about on its website, this entry-level model is equipped with a more modest i5 processor, with integrated Iris Xe graphics. Even so, it still provides respectable performance for a laptop in this price range, with a score of 1,417 for single-core performance and 4,440 for multi-core. For real-world applications, the PCMark 10 test suite gives the Aspire 5 a score of 1280, which qualifies as a perfectly respectable ‘office laptop’. Admittedly, that score leaves it just below the halfway mark in the PCMark 10 results tables, but that’s not bad going for an i5 laptop in this price range, and the Aspire 5 will be fine for web browsing and running productivity software such as Microsoft Office.

The Aspire’s integrated Iris Xe graphics won’t win any awards either, with 3DMark scores that generally leave it in the ‘less than 20fps’ category. But, to be fair, 3DMark does use very high graphics settings, so if you don’t mind turning the graphics quality down a little you might even be able to get a bit of casual gaming done every now and then. 

  • Performance: 3.5/5

Acer Aspire 5: Battery Life

  • 6.5 hours for movies
  • 6.5 hours for productivity software

Acer’s website goes typically overboard, boasting up to 10 hours of battery life for the Aspire 5. In fact, our tests recorded very similar scores of just over 6.5 hours for both playing movies and the applications-based PCMark test suite. 

Even so, that’s not too bad for a low-cost laptop such as this, and if you’re not using wi-fi then the Aspire 5 should give you a full day’s work when you’re on the move.

  • Battery life: 4/5

Should you buy the Acer Aspire 5 (2022)?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

First reviewed June 2022

How We Test

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

Read more about how we test

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 projector review
1:00 pm | June 7, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Theater Projectors Televisions | Tags: | Comments: Off

Editor's note

• Original review date: June 2022
• Current flagship Epson 4K projector
• Launch price: $4,999 / £4,499 / AU$8,999
• Target price now: $4,999 / £4,499 / AU$8,999

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 has remained the company’s flagship long throw 4K projector since we first reviewed it back in 2022. A 3LCD model with a laser light engine, the LS12000 delivers stunning picture quality for movies and gaming and still sits at the top of our best 4K projectors guide as the best overall option. The LS12000 doesn’t get discounted on a regular basis, although we did see it drop to £3,999 in the UK during Black Friday, so expect to pay full price outside of major sales events. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000: One-minute review

If you’re looking to find one of the best 4K projectors out there, you don’t have to look further than the Epson Pro Cinema LS12000. This machine is delivering powerful technology that shines an almost unbeatable image. It comes at a predictable high price, though, and Epson has gone all-in on the picture-side of the equation, leaving you to fend for yourself when it comes to video sources and audio.

The LS12000 is a beefy (we’re talking 50 pounds) laser projector with a 3LCD system inside. This combination provides a bright light source for both color and white output, powerful contrast, and no artifacts we could detect. It’s an immaculate picture that doesn’t struggle to overcome bright lighting conditions in a room and then can step up to simply blow us away when we turn out all the ambient light. 

The sharp and colorful visuals are also easy to get just how we want them. With zoom, lens shift, focus, and keystone controls, all we have to do is set the projector where we want it and then move and adjust the image to our ideal size and position. There’s a lot of flexibility for big rooms and even bigger rooms, though we wouldn’t recommend going all out like this for a small space — this is a serious home theater projector.

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 won’t make sense for a lot of people. But those who want the best and will set out to complement it with a capable AV receiver and robust sound system will likely be pleased as a peach with the LS12000. 

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 review: Price and availability

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 is available for $4,999 (£4,399, about AU$7,090), while the company’s lower-spec LS11000 (2500 lumen brightness and 1,200,000:1 contrast ratio) is available for $3,999 (£4,099, about AU$5,670).

Epson LS12000 remote control

(Image credit: Future / Mark Knapp)

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 review: Design and features

  • 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 ports (1x eARC) with 4K/120Hz support
  • No Smart TV platform or speakers
  • Hardware zoom and lens shift

 The LS12000 is a bit of a beast. This isn’t your little shelf-top projector you set at the back of the room for a casual home theater. This is a purpose-built machine for a next-level home cinema. It comes in a substantial housing that feels well-built, looks elegant, and is actually not overwhelmingly heavy despite its size.

The LS12000 is ready for a variety of setups and flexes to meet its positioning. We set our unit up on a mantel at the back of a living room, roughly 14 feet from the opposite wall. Thanks to the projector’s optical zoom, we can easily squeeze down the image to fit in the available space on our wall without sacrificing detail (as with digital zoom). From there, the wide vertical and horizontal lens shift range lets us further center the picture all without having to move the projector. Essentially, it’s easy to find a convenient place to set the projector and then use its powerful adjustment tools to project the image where it fits best. The projector doesn’t do this automatically, nor does it auto focus, but it makes the process fairly accessible without having to dive too deep into menus. 

The package is pretty bare-bones for anyone expecting an all-in-one entertainment device. It’s a centerpiece, for sure, but you’ll have to build around it. The kit includes just the projector itself, a beefy remote control, a port cover that can snap onto the back, and a ceiling mounting kit. There’s no Smart TV operating system running onboard, and there aren’t even speakers. This is just your display, and you’ll very likely want to run it to an AV receiver because it only has two HDMI ports. Thankfully, they’re both high-bandwidth, 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 ports capable of 4K/120Hz (which the projector actually supports) as well as eARC on one of them.

The projector naturally has extensive support for the kind of high-quality cinema features you'd want from a device like this. It handles HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG with 10-bit HDR color processing. It has preset color modes as well as options to dial them in just how you prefer. It can send through a variety of Dolby and DTS audio signals over eARC. It will even let you turn motion interpolation on or off as you like.

The cherry on top is the powered lens cover that slides open when the projector turns on and shuts back up when it’s turned off, helping keep the optics clean and protected.

Epson LS12000 rear-panel

The LS12000's rear-panel is equipped with dual 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 ports. (Image credit: Future / Mark Knapp)

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 review: Picture Quality

  • 3LCD system with laser light source
  • Huge, bright 4K pictures with vivid color
  • Rich detail across the spectrum

 We’re inclined to say there’d be almost no reason to go out to a movie theater anymore when you can have a picture like this at home. The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 provides a staggeringly brilliant image that hardly cares whether we’re watching in the daytime but will reward us greatly for watching at night with the lights off. Epson isn’t playing games with its brightness claims. It has the projector rated for 2,700 lumens whether it’s showing all white or showing color. You’d think that brightness might mean a machine that runs hot and has loud fans as a result, but we don’t hear a peep of fan noise while running the LS12000. 

Brightness is an important metric for a projector, but oftentimes they can manage an acceptable brightness while struggling to present compelling shadow details, making for an image that lacks in contrast. The LS120000 doesn’t. This thing is virtuoso for challenging imagery. In The Batman, even in a dark scene, the details on Batman’s and Catwoman’s black outfits are discernible. The fact the projector can provide such rich detail in shadows while blasting out vivid color is simply astounding. Given how bright the projector can get, it even impresses during daytime without doing much to subdue ambient light. If the sun is blasting through our windows, we’ll draw the blinds, but otherwise the picture is still stunningly acceptable even without ideal conditions. Mind you, this is all without a projection screen, which will dial up the visuals even further. 

We recently tested the Hisense L9G, a premium ultra-short throw projector that performs stunningly. It’s a remarkable product that we can readily recommend, but even it looks feeble next to the sheer might of the picture coming from the LS12000. Where the L9G had to balance its $5,500 budget on the projection, audio, smart TV platform, and included projection screen, the LS12000 has all of its cost going toward the picture.

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 specs

Screen sizes supported: 50 to 130 inches | 8K: No | HDR: Yes | Optical technology: Laser 3LCD | Smart TV: No| Dimensions: 20.5(w) x 7.6(h) x 17.6(d)inches | Weight: 28 pounds | 3D: No | Inputs: 2xHDMI 2.1 (1 with eARC), 1 x powered USB, optical digital audio output, Ethernet, RS232-C, 12-volt trigger output

Given how bright the projector is and the fact it can support a wide variety of image sizes, it naturally has to be sharp. While the projector is using three LCDs with a native 1080p resolution, Epson’s dual-axis pixel shifting creates a proper 4K UHD image with no artifacts that we can pick up such as the dithering we’ve seen on some cheaper DMD-based projectors.

Now, the LS12000 provides a lot, but it comes at a steep price. Assuming a $15 ticket, you could go to the movie theater about 333 times before the LS12000 made more financial sense. But, the LS12000 could still be more practical than it seems at first. If you’d go every weekend for six years, you’ve evened out, and the 20,000-hour light source lifespan ought to last well beyond that. If you’ve got kids or a spouse coming along to the theater, you reach that return-on-investment even sooner. If you have to pay for parking at the theater, don’t forget to factor that in. And the fact is you’re getting more than just movies from your home movie theater. You can’t go to the theater to watch Law & Order SVU. You can’t go to the theater to stream every season of The Office. You can’t go to the theater to play 500 hours of Elden Ring’s New Game+.

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 is definitely an investment, and one you’ll have to build around with a decent sound system and potentially a setup that makes it easier to switch sources given the meager two HDMI ports. But for those looking to have the ultimate home theater, this machine will handily deliver the picture.

Should I buy the Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 4K laser projector?

Epson LS12000 from above

The Epson LS12000's large size makes it best-suited for a permanent installation (cat shown for scale). (Image credit: Future / Mark Knapp)

Buy it if...

 You want the ultimate home theater visuals

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 might not stream or output audio, but its picture is undeniably brilliant. Rich shadows, vibrant color, and dazzling highlights all come through wonderfully. 

You don’t want to fuss with placement

If you’ve already got the perfect spot for setting a big projector, the LS12000 can likely adapt to that space. It has a wide zoom and lens shift range, letting you frame the image just where you want it. 

You want it all

The Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 brings the 4K picture, blasts the HDR visuals, explodes with brightness, sinks into darkness, goes smooth at up to 120Hz, tightens down to 50 inches or scales up to 300 inches. It’ll likely be some time before you’ll feel like this projector is missing something you’ve got to have.

Don’y buy it if… 

 You only have $5,000 to spend on a home theater

The LS12000 is amazing, but it is just a display. You don’t get sound and you don’t get a streaming or broadcast platform out of it. If you’re just starting an entertainment setup, you’ll need those as well. 

You want more flexibility

The LS12000 can flex to a variety of setups, but it’s really the kind of projector you want to leave in one place. It’s big and hefty, so not likely one you’ll want to move frequently or tote along with you on a trip.

You’re not a die-hard cinephile

The LS12000 is a splurge when compared to the many projectors out there that you can get a large 4K picture from. Many do a great job for a night of entertainment and casual viewing if you remember to draw the blinds and dim the lights. Epson even has a $1,000 cheaper option in the LS11000 that sacrifices only a little.

Xreal Air and Xreal Beam review: impressive AR tech but still not perfect
12:00 pm | June 5, 2022

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

Xreal Air AR Glasses: Two-minute review

The Xreal Air AR glasses aren't the first smart specs to hit the market, but thanks to their simple plug-and-play design and their great image quality they could be one of the first to achieve mainstream appeal.

Plug them into a compatible device – which includes a selection of the best Android smartphones, the Steam Deck, and now the best iPhones (via an adapter) – and you’ll be transported to your own virtual movie theater. Your gadget’s screen will be virtually projected in front of you by the glasses, allowing you to enjoy Netflix or Xbox Game Pass as if you were using a 130-inch HD TV.

Plus, thanks to the surprisingly decent internal speakers hidden in the glasses’ stems you can enjoy whatever you’re watching with immersive audio too. That said, I’d strongly recommend you couple the Xreal Air glasses with a good pair of wireless headphones – not only will you get much better audio performance, but the experience will be more private.

Considering that the Xreal Air AR specs look like a pretty normal pair of glasses – with a sleek yet comfy and fairly lightweight design – the performance they deliver is pretty impressive. Even though the glasses boast micro-OLED panels, the image is much more akin to what you’d expect from a projector in terms of contrast and colors (don’t expect Xreal’s specs to be an LG C2 OLED TV you can wear).

One noticeable feature the glasses lack is a camera. On the positive end, this means you don’t have to fret about your steps being tracked – or creeping out the people around you while you’re wearing the glasses. But this also means that the AR functionality of the Xreal Air glasses is extremely limited. They’re great for creating a cinema-like extension of your smartphone, but that’s about it.

Additionally, there are many devices out there that don't support the Xreal Air glasses because of hardware incompatibility. Xreal has launched the Beam adapter to combat this, but the $119 add-on isn't the perfect solution I hoped it would be (and is a hard sell considering the glasses themselves aren't cheap).

Because of this limited functionality, the price for a pair of the Xreal Air AR glasses can be a tough pill to swallow – they cost $379. While I had a blast trying this gadget out I feel like they don’t offer the most bang for your buck; those of you looking to improve your home entertainment setup would get more out of a solid 4K TV at this price, and commuters amongst you looking to liven up your travel would be better off with a great pair of headphones.

Xreal Air AR glasses: price and availability

The Xreal Air AR glasses are currently available to buy in the US for $379. They were previously available through EE in the UK for £400 (when they were known as Nreal Air), however, this partnership seems to have ended.

Our reviewer trying out the Xreal Air AR Glasses while sat on a bench in front of an old-looking stone building

Our reviewer trying out the Xreal Air AR Glasses while out on the go (Image credit: Future)

This price puts the Xreal Air glasses on par with other AR smart glasses, if not slightly cheaper than the competition. That said, while the AR smart glasses are impressive for a portable cinema the price will be tough for some people to justify. For the same money, you could a budget 4K TV, or buy a pair of the best wireless headphones (an upgrade that you may feel is a better investment if you want these glasses to keep you entertained on your daily commute).

The Xreal Beam adapter is also available in the US, and comes in at $119.

  • Price score: 3/5

Xreal Air AR glasses: design

  • No in-built cameras
  • Lightweight
  • Require a wired connection to a smartphone

Unlike some previous iterations of AR glasses, the Xreal Air look a lot more like a standard pair of specs. An eagle-eyed onlooker might spot a few key differences, but there aren’t any cameras so the AR aspect is not that obvious.

The decision to go camera-less instantly solves many of the privacy concerns that plagued previous devices, such as Ray-Ban Stories and Google Glass. You don’t have to worry about your vision being tracked, and those around you can rest easy knowing they aren’t being recorded without their consent.

Still, there are some signs that these aren’t regular glasses. In order for the Xreal Air to function, they need to be plugged into your phone. Using the USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, you can easily hook up your devices through a port hidden at the end of one of the glasses’ arms.

While not as free as a completely wireless device – like a pair of Bluetooth earbuds – I never had any issues moving my head around while plugged in. It caused so few issues while I was wearing the glasses that I actually completely forgot about the cable – until I went to take them off and it would snag on my ear.

The reliance on your phone's power means these glasses are pretty light, just 90g (0.2lbs) – they don't have an internal battery. But in exchange, they will drain your phone's battery fairly quickly, particularly if you're using them for an extended period of time.

The other dead giveaway that the Xreal Air aren't a normal pair of glasses is the inner lenses. These are what give the glasses their AR capabilities, reflecting an image of your phone’s screen in such a way that it appears to be floating in front of you.

Xreal Air AR Glasses' inner lenses are facing the camera, the stems are in view too

The Xreal Air AR Glasses' inner lenses (Image credit: Future)

There are also two small speakers on either arm of the glasses, as well as brightness controls and an on/off button on the right arm. We never had much reason to dim the screen, so we definitely would have preferred the brightness controls on the arm be replaced by managed audio; to change the sound levels, you have to rely on your phone’s – or headphones’ – controls.

In addition to its power cable, every pair of Xreal Air glasses comes with a carry case that can be used to store it; additional nose pieces that you can use to help the glasses fit better; and an optional attachment that can be fitted with prescription lenses. You’ll also get a plastic lens cover. This cover will give your glasses some added protection as well as privacy and clarity, serving as a backdrop for what you’re watching to help make the image clearer.

I'd have preferred a reflective cover more like the one that comes with the TCL Nxtwear S glasses because while both options work just as well TCL's version looks more normal.

  • Design score: 4/5

Xreal Air AR glasses: performance

  • Solid HD image
  • Mimics a 130-inch display that's 4m from the user's face
  • For better sound try using headphones

The Xreal Air AR glasses are more like a portable personal projector than a TV that fits in your pocket.

By this, I mean that the image through the glasses is best when you’re looking at an opaque, plain background in a room that isn’t filled with bright light. If you’re outside or facing a light source, you’ll need to attach the optional visor to have any chance of seeing what’s being displayed.

The Xreal Air AR Glasses with the black opaque visor clipped on

The Xreal Air AR Glasses with the visor clipped on (Image credit: Future)

That being said, the glasses’ HD image is pretty impressive. The colors aren’t as vibrant as we’d like and the lack of 4K resolution is a little disappointing but the device’s relative screen size more than makes up for it. It’s roughly the same size as having a 130-inch TV 4m away from you – while not completely vision-filling, it is certainly more immersive than staring at your phone screen.

The audio performance is, in a word, fine. It’s certainly less dynamic than a great pair of headphones but is more than passable if you don’t mind those around you overhearing what you’re listening to. Thankfully, if you decide to use headphones, the AR glasses’ speakers will automatically mute themselves, just like your phone does.

  • Performance score: 4/5

Xreal Air AR glasses: Compatibility

  • Not all devices are compatible
  • Beam can help, but it isn't perfect

It’s not just the glasses’ specs you need to think about though, as the Xreal Air are only compatible with certain smartphones. This includes the Sony Xperia 5 III, the Samsung Galaxy S22, and Oppo Find X5, in addition to several others you can find on the full official list. You can also hook it up to a few other handhelds like the Steam Deck and even Apple's M1 and M2-powered MacBooks.

And thanks to an Xreal Adapter you can connect them to one of the best iPhones out there and a Nintendo Switch now too, but it'll cost you $59. You'll also need to buy the $49 official Apple Lightning Digital AV adapter, effectively making the total cost of the glasses $487 for Apple fans.

The Xreal Beam in our reviwer's hand, it's smaller than a phone but has a similar shape, has two USB-C ports on the bottom, control buttons on type and volume buttons on one side.

(Image credit: Future)

Alternatively, you can pick up the Xreal Beam, a new adapter for the Air glasses with a few extra benefits. For a start, the Beam makes it much simpler to connect non-compatible devices. For the Nintendo Switch, I just needed a USB-C to USB-C cable and then I could lie back in bed and enjoy playing Tears of the Kingdom on a massive virtual screen projected above me. This experience couldn’t have been better frankly. If you don't want a tangle of wires you can also connect your phone (including iPhones) to the Beam wirelessly. 

The Beam not only expands the range of compatible products but helps to alleviate some of the battery drain problems – as the Air glasses will drain the Beam's power instead of your smartphone's.

Unfortunately, the Beam isn't quite perfect. Some devices – like the Google Pixel 7 and my Google Pixel 6 – aren't compatible. That's because the Pixel phones not only lack DisplayPort support but also use Google's proprietary Chromecast tech for casting (so they don't support third-party options like the Beam). As such, we'd recommend checking your phone is compatible before picking up the Air glasses or the Beam.

  • Compatibility score: 3.5/5

Xreal Air AR glasses: features

  • Limited feature set
  • Clunky controls

The glasses aren’t just portable projectors though; they also open up access to exclusive AR features through the Nebula app.

The first is a virtual multi-monitor setup, allowing you to project multiple screens in front of you at once. While watching a YouTube live-streamed event on one screen, you can have an expert liveblog on another, a group chat with your friends on a third, and a store page opened up on a fourth so you can order everything you’re watching, reading, or chatting about on those other screens.

On the glasses’ massive-sized display, you’re able to have all this going on without having to shrink any windows down – everything is easy to see even when you have several open at once. Unfortunately, this feature is severely limited by the lack of cameras in the Xreal Air glasses.

To move these windows around and open them up in the first place, you have to use your phone. Unfortunately, the controls are a bit too clunky to make this an enjoyable experience and make me wish the glasses had cameras. Rather than blindly swiping on your phone screen, you could pinch your fingers together and type on a floating keyboard, giving you a true Tony Stark-like experience.

A person watching a show on their Xreal Air glasses, we can see the screen projected in front of them as they relax on their couch

(Image credit: Xreal)

Then there’s the cycling app. Borrowing from services like Peloton, this feature transports you from your gym to a cycle path by playing a video of a fellow cyclist out there making the journey themselves. It’s fine, but nothing to write home about. If you’re after an immersive workout, you’d be better off grabbing a VR headset and trying out some of the best VR fitness games.

Once again, the glasses could offer much better experiences by being able to capture the world around you with cameras. They could digitally map realistic virtual objects into the world that you could interact with, but instead, these glasses go no further than pasting images at a set distance in front of your face.

  • Features score: 2/5

Xreal Air AR glasses: battery life

  • No internal battery
  • Can really drain your phone's charge with prolonged use

Because the Xreal Air AR glasses plug straight into your smartphone without the ability to operate wirelessly, they don’t have or need an internal battery. But without their own battery, these glasses will significantly drain the battery life of the device to which you connect them.

The Oppo Find X5 face up on a chair

We tested these glasses out using an Oppo Find X5 (Image credit: Future)

Using the Xreal glasses with a pair of Bose 700 Bluetooth headphones to stream Netflix over 5G on an Oppo Find X5 was enough to drain the phone’s charge by about 50% over my hour-long commute. 

If you find this to be an issue we'd recommend picking up the Beam adapter as this can spare your phone, though we wish we didn't need a $119 to solve this issue. In the next iteration, I'd love to see the glasses or their cable offer a second USB-C port so that I can connect my glasses, phone, and power source together simultaneously.

  • Battery life score: 3/5

Should I buy the Xreal Air AR glasses?

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Xreal Air AR Glasses scorecard

How we test

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

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First reviewed June 2022 

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