Philips SHE1360/97 Review

Philips SHE1360/97 Review

Headphones can get really expensive, depending on which brand you’re buying and what kind of performance you’re looking for. You could end up spending upwards of one lakh rupees on a pair such as the Audeze LCD-3, or if you’re really serious about personal audio, there’s the $55,000 Sennheiser Orpheus. But if your needs are more functional and your budget limited, what do you do?

You buy low-end, of course, and you’re unlikely to find a lot of audio products less expensive than the Philips SHE1360/97. Selling at Rs. 150 (maybe a little less if you look around), it’s one of the most affordable pairs of earphones you can buy from a reputed brand. With the Philips name and a price tag that’s probably lower than what you paid for lunch yesterday, the Philips SHE1360/97 is on our review bench today.

philips_she1360_main1_ndtv.jpgSpecifications, design, and comfort
As far as specifications go, the Philips SHE1360/97 is straight up impressive. The 15mm dynamic drivers are large for a pair of earbuds, and this ensures that the headphones are suitably loud. Frequency response ranges from 16-20,000Hz, while sensitivity and impedance measure in at 100dB and 16Ohms respectively. Connectivity is through a standard 3.5mm pin, and there is no microphone or in-line remote. These are plain vanilla earphones that do as the box says.

Let’s be completely clear here: there is no real design to speak of. These plastic earphones are as basic as can be, and for the price we expect nothing more. There are small bass vents on each earbud which allow for movement of air to make the sound a bit more comfortable, and that is essentially their only functional feature. The cable is an ordinary rubber-coated affair that is 1m long and should comfortably run between your phone and ears. It’s fairly tangle-prone, but is surprisingly free of cable noise.

The Philips SHE1360/97 does not have an in-canal earphone design, instead sitting just outside the canal. This position is not comfortable over long periods, and also allows a lot of ambient noise to get through, thereby offering no passive noise isolation whatsoever. This can be a good thing if you don’t want to be completely cut off from your surroundings, but the discomfort is unfortunate, even for the price.

philips_she1360_jack_ndtv.jpgPerformance
We used an Android smartphone to test the Philips SHE1360/97, running primarily compressed audio formats through the headphones. Focus tracks were Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind, Oliver Cheatham’s Get Down Saturday Night, and Passenger’s Circles (Samuel Remix).

Starting with Empire State of Mind, the first thing we noticed was the lack of thump. Although the lows are present and proper, there is very little bass response to speak of. Apart from this though, the sound was surprisingly clean and comfortable. It’s a warm sonic signature, with gentle treble and clean mids that assure you won’t suffer any listening fatigue.

philips_she1360_main2_ndtv.jpgMoving on to the disco classic Get Down Saturday Night, we felt that the Philips SHE1360/97 headphones had to strive to keep things simple and effective. The sound stage is fairly narrow, and imaging is simple, relying only on stereo separation without even trying to achieve more. We wouldn’t hesitate to call this boring with a more expensive pair of headphones, but we have to remember that for Rs. 150, this is exactly what you should expect to get.

Finally, with Circles, we experienced surprisingly clear and smooth sound for a pair of headphones at this price. The Philips SHE1360/97 was clean and acceptably detailed. It’s as accurate to the track as a pair this price can be, and can go incredibly loud as well, thanks to its large 15mm drivers and low resistance. At the loudest volume, the SHE1360/97 becomes hard to listen to, but that’s way too loud anyway. In conclusion, this is a genuinely good pair of earphones for the price.

philips_she1360_packed_ndtv.jpgVerdict
We’re used to listening to expensive, more capable audio products here at Gadgets 360, and we have to admit that the idea of reviewing headphones that cost Rs. 150 seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

After listening to the SHE1360/97, we’re very impressed with what Philips has managed to achieve at such a low price. While the sound quality, comfort, and design are not a shade near as good as something like the Rs. 1,100 Cowon EK2, which we’d still consider budget-friendly, this is still nothing short of excellent for the price. What you get for very little money is a pair of headphones that do no wrong, and offer you your money’s worth and more. If you simply need functional earphones, look no further.

Price (MRP): Rs. 150

Pros

  • Immense value for money
  • Comfortable sonic signature
  • Good clarity for the price
  • Can get very loud

Cons

  • Uncomfortable to wear
  • No noise isolation whatsoever

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 2
  • Performance: 3
  • Value for money: 5
  • Overall: 3

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Amkette Evo Gamepad Pro 2 Review

Amkette Evo Gamepad Pro 2 Review

Delhi-based Amkette has a number of Android-focussed devices, such as the Evo TV which is an Android set-top box; it’s also launched the Evo TV MC, which is cheaper and puts the focus mostly on media playback. In August, the company also launched the Evo Gamepad Pro, a controller for Android devices that can be used for gaming, or to navigate an Android set top box interface.

Now, just a little over six months later, Amkette has released the Evo Gamepad Pro 2, available online at Rs. 2,599. Gadgets 360 spent nearly a week with the gamepad, playing various games using it, and found that it was a fairly capable gamepad that’s cheaper than similar gamepads from other established brands such as Mad Catz or Steelseries.

Since it’s only been six months between the two gamepads, it’s not surprising that the controller hasn’t changed much. The one big change – pun intended – is to the size of the controller. The first version of the gamepad had a smaller clip to hold your phone in place. The new gamepad has a 6-inch clip, to make room for all the phablets that people are using now. Aside from that, there are a few other tweaks to the design as well, but nothing major.

amkette_evo_gamepad.jpgWhen we reviewed the first Evo Gamepad Pro, we had faced some compatibility issues that left a handful of popular games unplayable. This later proved to be an issue with the firmware of the device that Amkette had given us, and the problem was not replicated on a second controller the company sent to us. Still, we were a little concerned about that aspect of things, and were happy to see that no such issues made an appearance this time around.

In terms of design, not much has changed apart from the slightly larger clip. The base inspiration still remains the Xbox 360 controller, and as templates go, that’s a good one to follow. The grip is comfortable, the triggers responsive, and the analogue sticks well placed and easy to use. The trigger button feels a little plasticky compared to the rest of the design – it feels like a cheap toy, while the rest of the rubberised body feels much more durable.

When you lift up the clip, you can see the LEDs, that tell you the battery level, and whether the controller is in gaming mode or mouse mode – the latter is useful if you’re navigating through an Android TV interface, or if you’re mirroring your phone’s screen and want to navigate easily. There are back and start buttons on the top face, along with home and M (for mouse mode) buttons on both sides of the clip; under the clip, you’ll see a volume down, play/ pause, and volume up button.

evo_pad2_media_buttons.jpgThe build quality is – as mentioned above – pretty good. Apart from the triggers, the rest of the gamepad feels good. The D-pad could have been tweaked a little to separate the arrows – as it stands, much like the Xbox 360, this pad also gets a wobbly. The Amkette Evo Gamepad Pro 2 claims a battery life of 12 hours on a full charge. Actually gaming over the course of a week, including a couple of extended sessions on the weekend showed that this is a pretty fair estimate; we had to charge it again after approximately 10 hours of play.

Setting up the gamepad is simple enough – charge it up and switch it on, and then hold the home button on the gamepad down until the last two LEDs start blinking. Then, you can pair it either using the free companion app, or via the usual Bluetooth settings.

The companion app is free but you have to use a code included in the box that your gamepad shipped in to activate it. The app is useful for finding games that support the controller, and launching these games but you can also install them yourself and launch them normally. Since Android gamepads have become fairly standardised by now, this isn’t really a big deal but the app can be useful for people who aren’t very tech-savvy.

evo_gamepad2_triggers.jpgActually playing using the Amkette Evo Gamepad Pro 2 works pretty well – it feels comfortable to hold, not too heavy and not too small, and the face buttons are fairly solid too – but that’s not very different from the older Evo Gamepad Pro either. There were no unexpected problems or pairing issues, and it worked reliably. On the other hand, the controller is too big to slip into your pockets and even in a bag, it isn’t something you’re always going to keep with you.

Our favourite accessories are the ones that are small enough that they’re always going to be with you, which is why we loved the Phonejoy Gamepad 2, which will fit in your trouser pocket, and the Homido Mini VR. The Evo Gamepad Pro 2 is really nice, but it ended up being something we usually only used at home, since it was rarely with us on the go.

If you’ve already bought the original Evo Gamepad Pro, then you shouldn’t buy the new gamepad – there are some changes but it’s not enough to justify buying an entirely new controller. If you’re contemplating getting and Android controller though – and that’s a pretty good idea as more console games make a home on mobile – then you should definitely consider the Evo Gamepad Pro 2.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

sus Chromebit CS10 Review

Asus Chromebit CS10 Review

Chrome OS has been with us for about six years now, and has not really caught on outside of a few niches. With Android rapidly evolving, there’s been a lot of murmuring around the Web that perhaps Chrome OS will be killed off and its features will be integrated into Android, but this rumour was quashed when Hiroshi Lockheimer, SVP of Chrome OS, stated that the platform will live on. Instead, what we can expect is a much tighter synergy between mobile and desktop platforms, similar to what Apple is doing.

(Also read: Why Google Should Merge Chrome OS and Android)

So far, we’ve seen Chrome OS on laptops like the Xolo Chromebook and as a mini-PC like the Asus Chromebox CN60. Today, we’ll be taking a look at a third type of computing platform which has garnered quite a bit of interest ever since Intel announced the Compute Stick last year. This “PC-on-a-stick” concept was also used by Android TV sticks couple of years ago, which were essentially devices a little larger than thumb drives that ran Android and plugged directly into a TV’s HDMI port.

Google announced the Chromebit at the Google for India event last December, and it is similar to Intel’s offering in terms of concept. Made by Asus, the device is meant for someone who wants to smarten their TV or have a second PC without the cost, bulkiness or wire mess.

Asus_Chromebit_CS10_hdmi_ndtv.jpgPriced at Rs. 7,999, it competes head-on with Intel’s Windows solution and creates a bit of a dilemma for the consumer as to which one to pick. Let’s find out.

Look and feel
The design of the Asus Chromebit resembles that of a slightly melted-down chocolate bar. It’s fairly light at 75g and the plastic used for the body feels sturdy enough to take a tumble or two. The top cover sits securely over the HDMI plug but we wish it was connected in some way to the main unit as it’s easy to lose. There’s a DC-in port on the side for power, which is supplied by the bundled 18W adapter.

Asus_Chromebit_CS10_usb_ndtv.jpgAt the opposite end is a USB 2.0 port, which is the only means of physically connecting peripherals to the Chromebit. Beside it, we also have a lanyard eyelet. If you remember, the original design had a swivelling head so you could change the angle of the unit to accommodate other connections behind your TV. That didn’t make it to the final production unit, though Asus ships an HDMI coupler (female to female) so you can use a standard HDMI cable in case you can’t plug the Chromebit into your TV directly.

Asus_Chromebit_CS10_bundle_ndtv.jpgThe device is completely sealed and apart from the cutout for the USB port; there aren’t any vents or openings for cooling. We do wish there was an option to expand the storage with a microSD card, but there isn’t.

Specifications and setup
Keeping in mind that this is the smallest Chrome OS device in the market, Asus has gone with a quad-core SoC from RockChip. The RK3288 SoC packs in four ARM Cortex-A17 CPU cores running at 1.8GHz, and a Mali-T764 GPU for graphics. There’s also 2GB of RAM, 16GB of eMMC flash storage, dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, and Bluetooth 4.0. It’s nice to see Asus throw in the current-gen Wi-Fi standard, which should help if you plan on streaming content to your Chromebit.

There’s very little to do in terms of setting it up. Simply plug it into your TV or monitor, either directly or using the coupler, and you’re good to go. Since there’s no power button or LED indicator on the device, the Chromebit boots up as soon as you plug in the power cord.

Asus_Chromebit_CS10_setup_ndtv.jpgUpon first boot, it will try to find wireless input devices and then move along to setting up the Wi-Fi and your Google account. We recommend using a USB hub with the Chromebit as it just makes life easier when you want to add peripherals like a webcam or a pen drive. The downside to this is your setup will not look as slick as it does in Asus’s marketing pictures.

If you haven’t used Chrome OS before, it will take a bit of getting used to. The desktop is an empty space with just the wallpaper and a bar at the bottom called the shelf. At first, you only have the a few apps pinned to the left side, an empty space in the middle, and then your profile picture and notification icons all the way to the right. You can reposition the shelf and choose to auo-hide it as well. Apps you download can be pinned to the shelf for quick access.

Asus_Chromebit_CS10_switch_ndtv.jpgAs you would expect, your Google account is the hub of all activity here. It lets you access the whole ecosystem of Chrome OS apps. If you already use Google’s products extensively then you’ll be right at home as all your browser preferences and extensions will automatically sync from your other devices. You’ll also find updates for the OS coming in constantly, and we received one almost daily during the course of our review period.

Google has added some new features since the last time we tested a Chrome OS device. The Files app now lets you link to cloud services including Dropbox and OneDrive, and can also work with file systems though the SFTP and WebDav extensions, allowing you to link to a network drive in your home network.

Asus_Chromebit_CS10_filesystem_ndtv.jpgIn terms of storage space, you have the option of storing everything in your Google Drive account, but if you’re looking for a bit of offline flexibility, you’re limited to the 9.8GB of free space on the Chromebit, and USB storage devices. The lack of storage expansion is a bit restrictive but it’s a also a clear sign that Google wants you to make the most of its cloud services. You do get 100GB of Drive space for two years when you sign in when you register the device.

Performance
Even with this moderately powerful SoC, Chrome OS is just as snappy as we experienced it on more mainstream hardware. It takes literally just a few seconds to boot to the sign-in page. Powering it off doesn’t shut it down entirely as it simply goes into a low-power sleep state so you can pick up right where you left off when you wake it up. There are some familiar Windows functions such as snapping apps to two halves of the screen to use them side by side.

The majority of apps you’ll use will run as a tab in Chrome, but there are also games and native apps such as VLC, which is an Android port. You’ll need an Internet connection to use most of them, though you can filter search results in the Chrome Web Store to show only offline-capable apps.

Asus_Chromebit_CS10_size_ndtv.jpgEverything runs smoothly, provided you’re running one task at a time. Any attempts to multi-task and the Chromebit starts to get bogged down. We noticed this if we had multiple tabs open and tried playing a movie or copying a file from a pen drive to the internal storage, which by the way, takes a painfully long time. Everything feels jerky and sluggish when there are many things running, but the Chromebit regains its composure when you close apps. We even had it crash and reboot on us at one point, when it couldn’t handle music playback, Web browsing and file copying at the same time.

We ran a few browser-based benchmarks in which the Chromebit fared decently well. We got score of 809ms from SunSpider, while Octane retuned 7,174 point and Browsermark gave us 2,330 points. This is right up there along with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 in terms of browser tests.

Asus_Chromebit_CS10_TV_ndtv.jpgThe output resolution maxes out at 1080p so if you use it on a higher resolution TV or monitor, you’re at the mercy of the display device to do a good job of scaling. The file system in Chrome OS handles most multimedia formats including MKV videos and FLAC audio files. There’s a lot of stutter with 4K video playback with the default player, however, the SoC has no trouble rendering 4K video streams from YouTube. One thing to note is that when copying files to the Chromebit, you don’t get a warning if something of the same name already exists. Instead, the OS simply creates a copy of the file.

If you were wondering if you can use the Chromebit as a Chromecast, then you’ll be disappointed to know that you can’t since it isn’t set up for that. However, you can sling media across from your phone to the Chromebit using DLNA apps from the Chrome Web Store. It’s also important that the Chromebit be placed in a well-ventilated area as it can get very warm even in an air-conditioned room.

Asus_Chromebit_CS10_angle_ndtv.jpgVerdict
The Asus Chromebit is currently the cheapest and simplest way to experience Chrome OS. Google’s cloud-based desktop OS makes for an excellent low-cost solution for schools, kiosks or simply as a secondary PC at home, the caveat being that you’ll need to be connected to the Internet for most tasks. At Rs. 7,999, it feels a tad expensive given its limited functionality and the fact that you can get a Chromebook for a little more, which would have its own display, keyboard and battery, and also bettter performance.

While the Asus Chromebit can handle a bit of multimedia playback, it isn’t the most ideal tool for the job. If all you wish to do is stream media or watch Netflix on your TV then getting a more specialised tool like a Chromecast or even a Teewe makes more sense and would cost a lot less.

Choosing between this and Intel’s Compute Stick such as the iBall Splendo really depends on how you plan to use the device. If you spend most of your time on Web-based activities, the Chromebit is the obvious choice. The current crop of Compute Sticks aren’t up to the mark for handling Windows, however that might soon change with the second generation coming out later this year, which will be powered by the more efficient Intel Core M chips.

In the end, the Chromebit faces the same challenges as the Compute Stick, which are limited multi-tasking capabilities and the fact that they won’t be the cleanest of setups if you wish to use them to their full potential.

Price (MRP): Rs. 7,999

Pros

  • Compact and well-built
  • Silent operation
  • Fast boot times

Cons

  • Weak at multitasking
  • Limited connectivity and offline usability
  • Near-constant Internet needed

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 4
  • Performance: 3.5
  • Value for Money: 3
  • Overall: 3.5

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review

 Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review

The first thing that you’ll note when you see Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 is that it is, beyond a doubt, cool to look at. Microsoft launched the tablet-hybrid in India in January, just a few months after the launch in the US. Microsoft loaned us a Surface Pro 4 (Core i5/ 4GB RAM/ 128GB SSD) (priced at Rs. 89,990), along with the Surface Type Cover Keyboard (priced at Rs. 12,490), and the Surface Pen (which is bundled with the tablet), and we’ve been using this hardware quite heavily for the last couple of weeks. It is a stunning achievement, and hugely useful in many regards, yet it involves some major compromises which can’t be ignored either.

The first question we need to answer is whether this device is a tablet or a laptop. Microsoft’s own messaging is clear; it sees the Surface Pro 4 as “the tablet that can replace your laptop,” but from the perspective of a tablet, this device has a number of problems.

One of the biggest issues occurred within the first few hours of testing the device, (and repeated twice more during the course of our review process) was particularly worrying – the Surface switched off in the middle of use. The first time this happened was right after we’d just started using the Surface, and were just setting up the different tools we’d need to use for work. The second time this occurred, we were watching a movie and turned the screen off for a moment to take a call. The third time happened while writing this review, and removed around 500 words of unsaved work – which incidentally is as good a reminder as any to never write using a tool that doesn’t autosave work!

The Surface Pro 4 simply went dark and refused to respond to anything. A quick search on Google Showed that this is not an uncommon issue for the Surface family of devices. It’s also an unfortunate reminder of the black box nature of tablets and tablet-like devices. There was no indicator to tell us what was wrong, no lights or beeps to guide us to errors. Instead you only have an opaque slab, and no indication if anything you’re trying is making a difference. The actual problem was easy enough to solve after a few minutes of looking around on Google, but the fact that you have to do this at all, several months after the Surface was launched, definitely meant that we started this review feeling pessimistic.

Secondly, its battery life is a far cry from what we’ve come to expect from our mobile devices, and perhaps worse still, the Surface Pro 4 simply doesn’t feel well optimised for use as a finger-friendly device. There is a tablet mode in the settings that you can quickly switch to, and this is probably the best thing to do when you simply want to watch some Netflix or listen to some music, but this means that you can’t easily switch to desktop-mode tasks.

surface_pro_tablet_mode_ndtv.jpgSimply put, seen as a tablet that can do the work of a laptop, the Surface Pro 4 falls short. On the other hand, how does it fare if you look at it as a laptop that’s small and light enough to be as portable as a tablet? Suddenly, it becomes a far more interesting device. It’s not a powerhouse, certainly, and it wouldn’t be the first choice for people with specific hardware needs – but if you’re looking for a highly portable machine that is great for the typical “work” use case, then the Surface Pro 4 is great to use. Over time the Surface Pro 4 has come a long way towards winning us over. Read on to know how.

Look and feel
The Surface Pro 4 is a sleek looking tablet with sharply angled edges and when you consider the design from a purely aesthetic perspective, it’s fantastic. The 12.9-inch display obviously dominates the design, but beyond that, the angled body, the way the ports have been laid out, and of course, the iconic Surface kickstand at the back, make this a great looking product. The tablet is just 29.2cm X 20.1cm X 0.8cm in size, and weighs 786g; the keyboard adds another 292g, taking it up to just over 1kg. It’s roughly the same weight as the smaller 11-inch MacBook Air; the 13-inch Air is closer in screen size, which at 1.35kg is significantly heavier. And when you take into account the fact that you can easily disconnect the keyboard from the Surface Pro 4 when you’re doing something like reading a book using the Kindle app, or watching a movie, then the lightweight device really shines.

surface_pro_4_body_ndtv.jpgPropping it up to use with the keyboard is really simple and takes no time or effort. This means that although the Surface Pro 4 is best used with its keyboard attached, for scenarios where you want to drop the extra weight, doing so is easy enough. Assuming that the side that rests on the table when the kickstand is extended is the bottom, the right side of the tablet holds a full sized USB 3.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort, a microSD port under the kickstand, and the charging port. The charger is designed to allow you to connect it with either side on top – unlike a USB port or a Micro-USB charger on your phone, this charger, much like the Lightning cable, can be inserted in either orientation, which makes it a lot easier to use.

surface_pro_4_ports_ndtv.jpgThe port is also magnetised, so it’s easy to find even in the dark, and the cable has an LED on the side near the connecter that lights up when the charger is inserted and the adapter connected to the power. This makes it easy to see if the tablet is getting charged or not, and it unclips easily as well. It’s one of the small bits of design flair that make this tablet good to use. The AC adaptor is a small enough brick, which is good because you will need to have the charger handy if you want to get through a full work day. The Surface Pro 4 comes with a single USB port – useful if you want to charge your phone or some other USB powered device, without tying up the single USB port on the Surface Pro 4.

There is also a connector along the bottom for the keyboard to connect to. The ports are all on the tablet body – the keyboard connects to the tablet via the port on the bottom and draws power from it as well; but it does not bring any additional ports such as an extra USB. Near the top, the left edge has the 3.5mm port for audio out, while the volume and power buttons are laid along the top, and there’s a camera positioned along the back, near the top. There’s a camera on the opposite side facing you, that’s used to log into the system, along with the microphone. The sides are magnetised so you can easily attached the Surface Pen to the body of the tablet without needing a dock or port for it, and this also helps the keyboard cover to angle upwards slightly. We’ll go into more details about both the Pen and the Keyboard soon, but from a design perspective, these little details make the Surface Pro 4 a real treat to use.

surface_pro_4_camera_ndtv.jpgThis extends to the rest of the tablet as well. Take the famous kickstand at the back, for example. There’s a slightly raised hinge along the sides, and it’s easy to pull out with just two fingers. The stand looks thin, but feels very sturdy, and won’t move even if you hammer away at the keys when typing, and use the touchscreen regularly. Everything is put together nicely, feels incredibly durable, and looks premium. There’s a huge range of movement available to the kickstand as well – it allows you to set the tablet almost flat against the table – it might not always be a useful way to set up the screen, but there could be some times when it makes sense. At the other end, it can lean forward to nearly perpendicular. This means that you can adjust the angle fairly easily to use the Surface Pro 4 in a way that’s comfortable for you. In this way, it feels a lot more like a laptop than the iPad Pro.

surface_pro_4_kickstand_flat_ndtv.jpgThe same can be said about the Surface Pen as well – it works really effectively (although there were a few issues with palm rejection, which we’ll address in the Performance section) and feels remarkably well built. It’s accurate to use, and displays a small pointer on the screen when you’re hovering close to contact – this allows you to be extremely precise with the Surface Pen. At the same time, it’s relatively thick compared to many other styluses we have used, and this is a plus point, in our opinion. The extra size allows for a comfortable grip and the added heft allows for greater precision. We’re not artists, but for simple sketching, the Surface Pen was excellent to use, and it also works extremely well for note-taking.

Windows has long allowed for handwriting recognition input, and this works fast and fairly accurately with the Surface Pen as well. You can’t write as accurately or as quickly with the Surface Pen as you would be able to type, but using something like One Note, you can easily sketch down notes when you’re talking to someone. It’s a pretty reliable way to make handwritten notes that can be backed up to the cloud instead of being lost in notebooks. And our favourite thing about the Surface Pen is that you don’t need to keep charging it up – Microsoft claims that the battery will last for 18 months, using coin cell batteries.

surface_pen_4.jpgThe Surface Pro 4 Type Cover Keyboard was the only area where we had a few problems with the hardware we were using. Considering how slim the keyboard is, Microsoft has accomplished something truly impressive in getting the keys to have this much travel, and the design includes a backlight as well. It’s an impressive feat. However, the keyboard is really light, and doesn’t really counterbalance the weight of the tablet. This means that the whole thing does shake a little when you’re typing. It’s not enough to make you unsteady but it feels uncomfortable. Also, the slight angle at which they keyboard is raised can’t be adjusted so you really have only two choices there – completely flat, or fully raised. We actually preferred the former, as it gave the tablet more stability.

Because of how light the cover is, it doesn’t really provide any stability if you’re trying to use this laptop on your lap either; you can rest it there and type, but the whole thing does feel hugely unsteady. In our experience, it was best to tilt the kickstand a little extra, and then brace that against a raised knee, instead of trying to keep the stand level with the keyboard. This is workable, and also the setup in which around a third of this review was written, but it’s actually not the most comfortable way to use the Surface Pro 4 for extended durations.

surface_touch_keyboard_cover_ndtv.jpgThere is one thing we really loved about the keyboard though – that is the trackpad on it. This is fairly small, but hugely responsive, and extremely accurate. It has a really smooth feel and one that we enjoyed using consistently over the entire period of the review. In comparison, the ones we’ve used on most other laptops have a lot more friction, and just don’t feel as smooth and comfortable to use; which is a big reason why a mouse is usually plugged into our work laptop.

Specifications
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 we reviewed was the entry level model, priced at Rs. 89,990. This model comes with a 6th generation Intel Core i5 processor clocked at 2.40GHz, along with 4GB of DDR-3 RAM, and 128GB of storage. The tablet comes with a number of ports, as discussed earlier, and also includes built in speakers with Dolby sound. As you’d expect, you can’t upgrade the parts in this tablet, so whichever model you buy, the specs are final and can’t be changed down the line.

The 12.9-inch display runs at a resolution of 2736x1824pixels (4K), at a density of 267ppi. At the typical viewing distance for a tablet or laptop, this is quite spectacular. Everything looks sharp on the screen, and reading text at a small font size is quite easy. The screen is great for watching movies on, or playing video games. The viewing angles are similarly comfortable. You can look at the screen from the sides, and recline it to the angle that’s most comfortable for you without losing out on the visual fidelity. It’s a huge step forward from the typical Windows laptop screens you get, and that makes this a really comfortable computer to work on.

surface_pro_4_display_ndtv.jpgObviously, the display is also a touchscreen, which means that you can use it as a tablet without any accessories. It’s quite responsive – there was never any instance where it didn’t pick up a tap or swipe – although there are a few issues related to the on-screen elements which we’ll discuss in more detail in the next section.

As already mentioned, the device is not overburdened with connectivity options. There is a single USB 3.0 port that you could of course plug a hub into if you feel the need. The Mini DisplayPort can be used to connect to a monitor, and otherwise there is the 3.5mm jack for your headphones. This will be a bit of a problem if you’re used to working with a number of different accessories – the lack of an Ethernet port was particularly annoying for us because the wired access in office is much more effective than our internal Wi-Fi. Having a single USB port also means that we had to disconnect our mouse every time we had to use the port for a thumb drive, or to transfer pictures from our phone. You can argue that with the smooth trackpad and the responsive touchscreen, you don’t really need to use a mouse, but if you’re used to working in a certain way, then this setup could be a little inconvenient.

surface_pro_4_microSD_ndtv.jpgAs is to be expected from Microsoft’s flagship device, the Surface Pro 4 comes with Windows 10 pre-installed, and no bloatware to speak of. Windows 10 runs very smoothly on the Surface Pro 4, but there are some inconsistencies that are quite annoying and hard to fix. For example, there are small issues in setting up things like Cortana and the Surface Pen. We had to go through the setup multiple times before we could use either of the two correctly, which feels less than ideal. When you’re actually using the Pen, palm rejection works well most of the time, but not always, and the problem is that it’s not very predictable about it either. That means that you can’t really be confident if you’re “holding it right”.

The biggest problem though, is that Windows is not really designed to be finger friendly. Yes, you can swipe in from the right and enter tablet mode. This is great if all you’re trying to do is use the Surface Pro 4 as a tablet – but when you’re trying to use it as a laptop but with a touchscreen, things start to fall apart. The default size of text and apps when you start the Surface Pro 4 is set to 200 percent. The first thing you’re going to want to do is go to display settings and change this to 250 percent – if you’re primarily using the device as a laptop. That’s because although the text is fully readable at lesser magnification as well (thanks to the sharpness and clarity of the screen) it’s a lot more comfortable at 250 percent. Unfortunately, a lot of the UI elements are still not easy to use with your fingers at this point. At 300 percent, this is less of a challenge, but then the amount of usable space you have on your screen gets quite limited.

surface_with_netflix_ndtv.jpgSimilarly, when you’re trying to copy and paste text, or move files on your computer, you’re really better off just plugging the keyboard in and using that or the trackpad – the touchscreen is just too limited. Of course, you can argue that this is why you have the keyboard in the first place. But it means that you can’t really seamlessly move between the comfort of using a tablet, and the productivity of using a laptop, and the issue isn’t the superb hardware, but Windows in its current form.

Performance
On a day to day basis, the Surface Pro 4 proved to be up to just about any tasks that a journalist has – which is admittedly not a very draining experience, though we did manage to run Photoshop just fine. Opening dozens of Chrome tabs, editing PDF files, and simultaneously working on a Word and Excel documents while listening to music the whole time was perfectly smooth. That’s simply not possible if you’re using an Android or iOS based device. We were doing this while also transferring photos from a USB drive we’d plugged in, and there was absolutely no slowdown, and no awkward issues of hopping around from app to app – everything was just going on all the time in front of us, and we could pick and choose what we needed to do, when we needed to do it.

Also, it’s worth noting that while the Surface Pro 4 does heat up when you’re using it, this never gets unbearable even when you’re doing something like gaming. The one area where the performance is disappointing is battery life. We’ve seen some people claiming 7 to 9 hours of use on a full charge, but that’s not been the case in our own experience. With the suggested settings for the battery management and brightness, we typically got up to 6 hours of use on the battery. The Battery Eater Pro test (which shows the minimum battery life under heavy use conditions – your actual usage will last for longer than this) lasted for 1 hour and 32 minutes. And running the standard video loop test we use for mobiles, the Surface Pro 4 lasted only 5 hours and 35 minutes.

When you’re gaming or going something else that’s battery intensive, you simply have to plug in the Surface Pro 4. It’s a far cry from other tablets which give you a lot more backup.

surface_4_povray_results.jpgIn terms of performance though, this machine is quite capable even if it isn’t a powerhouse. The top end model can definitely be used for gaming; the 4GB RAM in this entry level model is a little more limiting, however benchmarking tests showed that it’s not too bad either. The POVRay benchmark took just over 7 minutes, while the CineBench R15 CPU Multi score was 206. PC Mark scores for Home, Creative, and Work (all accelerated) were 2,782, 3,608, and 3,677, respectively.

These are reasonably good numbers and since the computer is powerful enough for most office work, we tested the performance of a number of different games. We quickly learned that running current game at high settings is a bad idea as they’re pretty unplayable. However, with a few tweaks, there are a lot of games that you can play on the Surface Pro 4.

For example, playing Skyrim at 1440×900, with textures at high and other settings at low, we got a typical frame rate of over 20fps; typically it hovered at over 25. That might not sound high considering most gamers talk about 60fps, but this is actually good enough for a smooth playthrough. Battlefield 4 also ran at 1440×900 pixels, at around 25-30fps, but only when all the visual settings were turned down to the minimum. That’s still pretty good although if you’re interested in playing competitive multiplayer games, you’re probably better off sticking to something like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, which ran at the same resolution reliably over 50fps. The Witcher 3 was completely unplayable at 1024×768 and all settings turned down; GTA V ran with the other settings on low, at 1280×960 pixels. It ran at around 25fps, which again, is quite playable. The same was true for Shadow of Modor, though it stuttered when there were a lot of enemies on the screen. Still, this should give you a pretty good idea about the overall capability of this computer.

surface_pro_4_usage_ndtv.jpgVerdict
At the end of the day, the Surface Pro 4 is a very impressive Windows tablet. Unfortunately, that’s still a very small category. It’s certainly not the best tablet we’ve used. It’s held back by certain issues – scaling of visual elements, for one, and oppressively limited battery life for another. The power and the portability of this laptop are impressive, but it perhaps falls short of delivering that something extra to justify its price tag.

With that said, having Windows to use in such a portable form factor was a delight. The Surface Pro 4 boots up near instantly giving tablets a run for their money, and it was able to handle a wide range of tasks with ease. And since it’s running Windows 10, we were able to go from launching the Netflix app and watching movies to running all the tools that we use for work on our regular laptop without any compromise or searching for alternatives. The amount of software that’s available to Windows users means that you can get a lot done without wasting time searching for tools, and the appeal of this is hard to overstate.

surface_pro_4_profile_ndtv.jpgAnd while this might not be a powerful gaming machine, the Surface Pro 4 can be used to play recent games if you turn the settings down a little. Considering how small and convenient this laptop is, it’s kind of amazing to realise that you’re carrying a device that will let you spend a couple of hours inside Skyrim when you’re stuck on a long flight.

Those are not going to be reasons for everyone to spend around a lakh on this laptop – but for some people at least it’s going to be a very appealing device indeed.

Price: Rs. 89,990

Pros

  • Great design
  • Sturdy construction
  • Plenty of power

Cons

  • High cost
  • Short battery life
  • Not fully finger friendly

[“Source-Gadgets”]