iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G Review

iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The tablet runs on Remix OS, a fork of Android with a Windows-like UI
  • It is powered by an octa-core processor and has 2GB of RAM
  • The tablet shuts down abruptly when the battery level is low

The tablet market has’t found long-term traction, and we now see a lot of manufacturers shying away from this product category. There are still a few major players like Apple and Samsung showcasing products like the iPad Proand the Galaxy Tab S3, but the smaller manufacturers such as iBall, Micromax, and Intex that cater to the lower price segments have slowed down, releasing fewer new models than before. Today we have one such tablet from iBall, which claims to be different. The company says that it is designed for work as well as entertainment, and what’s also interesting is that it runs Remix OS, a fork of Android. Is this enough to make the iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G reinvigorate the tablet market? Let’s find out.

 

iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G look and feel

This iBall tablet looks like it was inspired heavily by the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 and its siblings, so much so that it’s practically a knockoff. An original design might have been a better idea since the Yoga Tab 3 is available at roughly the same price. iBall has used plastic for the construction of this tablet and it does not feel premium. It has a cylindrical bulge on one side which houses a kickstand to keep the tablet upright when used in landscape mode.

When holding the iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G in portrait mode, it feels like you are holding a book with the pages folded back around the spine, which helps grip it better. There area speakers at either end, but this positioning means that audio isn’t directed towards the user. Also, the speakers aren’t very loud to start with which makes it harder to enjoy media.

iBall Slide Brace X1 4G Front NDTV iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G Review

The front of the tablet is dominated by a 10.1-inch display with a 5-megapixel selfie camera above it. On the top edge, you’ll find a DC power input, a 3.5mm audio socket, a Micro-USB port, a mic, the power button, and the volume buttons. With all the connection points at the top, the other sides are blank. Just like the Yoga Tab 3, iBall has positioned the SIM and the microSD slots behind the kickstand which acts like a cover of sorts. We found that the kickstand is made of metal and is a pain to use because you have to pry it open with your fingernails. There’s also an 8-megapixel rear camera with a single LED flash.

iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G specifications

The tablet’s 10.1-inch display sports a resolution of 1280×800 pixels and has decent viewing angles. While we found the big screen adequate for watching content on, the resolution could have been better. We have seen smaller tablets like the Xiaomi Mi Pad (Review) pack in a high-res display, which drastically improves the viewing experience. Powering the Brace-X1 4G  is a MediaTek MT8783 octa-core processor which is clocked at 1.3GHz, with an integrated Mali-T720 GPU. The tablet also gets 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The OS occupies close to 6GB leaving you with only about 10GB of space for all your stuff. Thankfully, storage is expandable and you can use a microSD card of up to 64GB.

The device has a single SIM slot and supports 4G and VoLTE. You can use a cellular data plan to access the Internet on the go, and you can also make voice calls using this tablet. As there is no earpiece you’ll need to use headphones, a Bluetooth accessory, or the main speakers.

iBall Slide Brace X1 4G Stand NDTV iBall Slide Brace X1 4G Review

iBall has provided a DC charger which keeps the Micro-USB port free. There’s also a USB-OTG adapter in the box so you can easily connect peripherals or storage devices. The tablet gets Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support but in terms of sensors, you’ll have to make do with only an accelerometer.

iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G software and performance

The iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G runs Remix OS which is based on Android Marshmallow. For starters, Remix OS feels like a mashup between Windows 10 and Android, as it has a Windows-like desktop rather than the usual homescreen. The traditional Android navigation buttons are found to the left of the taskbar, and there is a Start button which displays all the apps installed on the device. Icons for installed apps are also available on the desktop. The navigation buttons still perform the same functions as they do on any Android device, and long-pressing the Overview button displays a list of open apps.

When apps are launched, each one runs in its own window, which lets you have multiple apps visible simultaneously. Remix OS also adds icons of these apps to the taskbar just like Windows and you can switch between them by tapping on their icons. Closing apps requires you to drag the icon upwards from the taskbar.

iBall Slide Brace X1 Remix NDTV iBall Slide Brace X1 4G Remix Review

Notifications are done differently as well. You don’t have the traditional notifications shade anymore. Instead, like Windows 10, you get notifications tucked away in the rightmost corner of the taskbar. This also means that there are no quick settings, so you’ll have to hop over to the Settings app to do most things. Only brightness, volume and Wi-Fi controls are available in the taskbar, and this took us time to get used to.

There are quite a few preinstalled social networking apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook, as well as Dailyhunt, BeautyPlus Me and games like Bubble Bash 3, Midnight Pool and Modern Combat 4. While they take up some space you can uninstall all of them. Remix OS also has its own app store called Remix Central which lists app recommendations from Remix. Thankfully, the Google Play store is also available.

Remix OS tries to deliver a PC-esque experience on top of Android, which makes it interesting.

iBall Slide Brace X1 Notification NDTV iBall Slide Brace X1 4G Remix Review

In terms of performance, the Brace-X1 4G is reasonably capable. We did not face lags while using the device and it could run a few apps simultaneously. However, we noticed that the tablet would get warm while playing games. It also shut down without warning a few times when the battery level was low.

We ran benchmarks and got 34,270 in Antutu, and 536 and 1,781 in Geekbench’s single and multi-core tests. The tablet also managed 9 hours, 23 minutes in our HD video loop test. This means that you can binge watch a couple of movies or episodes of your favourite TV series. We found that it lasted for close to a day and a half of manual usage. In real-world terms people don’t usually use tablets continuously like they do with smartphones, meaning it’s possible to stretch this out longer. However, we did also find that the Brace X1-4G’s battery level drops significantly even when it is left in standby. When the battery finally wears down, it does take time to charge it up using the supplied adapter.

iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G cameras

Taking photos with this tablet feels quite awkward because of its size, shape and weight. It sports an 8-megapixel camera with a single LED flash at the back, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera on the front. The stock Android camera app is used, and it doesn’t seem to be optimised for bigger screens. Icons appear huge, and going through the menu while holding the tablet with one hand is inconvenient.

We also saw that the buttons are positioned towards the top of the device when holding it in portrait mode which isn’t comfortable to use. The camera takes quite some time to focus and may need multiple taps on the screen at times, which can be annoying. Photos weren’t sharp, and most of them lacked detail.

Tap to see full-sized iBall Slide Brace X1 4G camera samples

Verdict

While we see the popularity of tablets declining, we must say that this iBall tablet introduces something new in the segment. Remix OS tries to deliver a PC-like experience which some might find good for productivity and there’s definitely more flexibility than stock Android. For example, you can run more than two apps simultaneously and use the common keyboard shortcuts you’re used to. It might take some time to get used to, but it looks like iBall is clearly targeting people who want more than just a tablet for entertainment.

While the software was good we felt let down by the hardware. The display has a low resolution which is a major disappointment, and overall the specifications and quality of the Brace-X1 4G don’t live up to its asking price of Rs 15,999. Also, with the device shutting down abruptly it is quite hard for us to recommend it seriously.

For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G

iBall Slide Brace-X1 4G

Rs.17,890
Buy
  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Camera
  • Value for Money
  • Good
  • Remix OS makes multitasking easy
  • DC charging pin keeps the Micro-USB port free
  • Bad
  • Low display resolution
  • Switches off abruptly when battery is low
  • Camera performance is below average
BUY AT
  • IBall Slide Brace-X1 4G (Bronze Gold, 16GB) – OFFER
    Rs.17,890

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

iPad Pro (10.5-inch) Review

iPad Pro (10.5-inch) Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The iPad Pro (10.5 inch) has a fantastic display
  • Its performance is also top-notch
  • The Smart Keyboard case works very well

Apple launched the original iPad amid much fanfare back in 2010 and it has done very well in its own right, but sales figures haven’t been anywhere close to those of the iPhone. In recent years, Apple’s hardware and software teams have put in a lot of work refining the focus of the iPad. From being a device designed largely for watching videos, reading, or playing games, the focus has slowly been shifting towards professional use. Sure, the company still sells the iPad mini 4 and the iPad (2017) for consuming content, but the bulk of Apple’s recent innovations have been reserved for the iPad Pro models.

We first saw this with the launch of the iPad Pro (12.9-inch) (Review), when Apple also unveiled the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil along with software features such as Picture in Picture, SlideOver, and Split View modes. That was Apple’s first serious attempt at multitasking on an iPad, which could make it more likely to replace a laptop for some people. Writers and artists, in particular, found this very useful.

Following that we got the iPad Pro (9.7-inch) but iOS 10 did not bring about the big push that iPad software needed, which meant it was largely the same package as the bigger iPad Pro in a smaller body. Now, Apple has replaced the 9.7-inch model with its new iPad Pro (10.5-inch), which packs some awesome new features. But from a software perspective, iOS 11 looms on the horizon and promises to bring some exciting new features to the iPad.

But before we go any further, let’s take a look at the differences between the iPad (2017) and the iPad Pro, in case you’ve been wondering which one is for you. The iPad Pro has a newer, faster, more battery efficient processor; a much better display; and improved cameras. Just like earlier Pro iPads, it supports the Apple Pencil stylus and the Apple Smart Keyboard cover accessory, both of which don’t work with non-Pro iPads.

The iPad Pro (10.5-inch) has been launched before iOS 11 is due to release, which means that not all of its most useful features will be available to users who buy one right now. With iOS 11, iPad users will get a much more functional dock with more icons, a new file manager app called Files, much better drag-and-drop functionality, and improved multitasking. Since iOS 11 is still in beta, we used iOS 10.3.3 throughout our review period.

 

iPad Pro (10.5-inch) display

The display is one of the standout features of the iPad Pro (10.5-inch). It supports a refresh rate of 120Hz, which results in extremely smooth animations across iOS. You’ll notice this most when swiping between home screens, opening apps, and switching between them. The iPad Pro’s display has a wide P3 colour gamut, which means that reds and greens are more vibrant, something you’ll notice while watching videos and scrolling through photos.

It’s hard to describe how good the display is because it’s the kind of thing you understand only when you see it in person. Just like the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, this iPad also gets a feature called True Tone, which adapts white balance based on lighting conditions to ensure that colours appear consistent. This is very useful for those who edit photos or videos on an iPad and is another reason why the iPad Pro is great for professionals.

After using the iPad Pro regularly for nearly two weeks, we can safely say that its display is much better than that of an iPhone 7 (Review). Animations are much smoother and colours are more vibrant on the iPad. Switching to a MacBook Air was almost painful because it doesn’t even have a Retina display. Initially, we noticed some backlight bleeding on one edge of the display and also saw some black bars appearing when we opened tabs on Safari but those issues disappeared after we factory reset the iPad and did not reappear during the duration of our review.

While the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) has a stunning display, that doesn’t automatically make it the best device to watch videos on. We downloaded a few HD videos via Netflix and streamed a few cricket matches on the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) to see if the display appears just as good. The results were mixed at best. The iPad has a 4:3 display, while most video content on the Internet is 16:9, which means it won’t be optimised for the iPad’s screen. This results in annoying black bars the above and below the video.

apple ipad pro 10.5-inch camera bump gadgets360 iPad Pro 10.5-inch

 

We streamed the movie John Wick on Netflix and that film, in particular, left almost half the screen empty as the video was probably optimised for a much wider screen. Yes, all HD movies and TV shows we watched looked great on the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) but let’s not forget that this isn’t the device that creators are optimising their videos for.

After using the iPad for two or three days, we noticed several smudges on the screen. These were fingerprint marks from our prolonged gaming sessions and even some from the Smart Keyboard accessory that Apple sent for review. We had to keep cleaning it every few days, which got tiring very fast.

A display as good as this also makes low-resolution elements on screen look doubly annoying to look at. We visited several websites where low-res ads looked so bad that we seriously started considering installing an ad-blocker. Several of the games we played on the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) were coded well before this device was released and that left a lot of small low-res elements on screen. Games such as Banner Saga and Table Tennis Touch feature an awfully low-res Game Centre banner that you can’t get rid of. This iPad has a fantastic display but that does not mean that the experience will be fantastic all the time.

iPad Pro (10.5-inch) design

The iPad Pro (10.5-inch) is quite similar to the iPad Pro 9.7″ in terms of build quality. While the display is larger, the iPad’s body isn’t that much bigger because the bezel is much thinner. There’s still enough room on either side to grip the iPad Pro without touching the screen accidentally. The front camera is above the display and the home button with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor is below. The iPad Pro (10.5-inch) has volume buttons but no mute switch on the right, a button Apple’s tablets ditched a few generations ago. There’s a 12-megapixel camera with a bit of a bump at the back.

apple ipad pro 10.5-inch home screen gadgets360 iPad Pro 10.5-inch

There’s a Lightning connector for charging or plugging in headphones on the base of the iPad, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top along with the power button. So far, Apple hasn’t removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from any device except the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (Review). If the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) is any indicator, Apple doesn’t plan to remove it jack from non-iPhone devices and that’s good to see because several users still need it. You can’t expect a DJ to change his entire audio setup simply because one device doesn’t have an industry-standard jack.

The weight of the iPad Pro is still under 500 grams, which is impressive. We used it to read comics and watch movies during our commute to work, apart from using it to play games at home. It’s comfortable to hold and we think it is just the right size to be a great portable gadget for reading and watching videos.

iPad Pro (10.5-inch) performance

The iPad Pro (10.5-inch) is powered by Apple’s own A10X Fusion SoC which is a variant of the A10 chip which powers the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. This is a pretty powerful SoC and we faced no performance issues during our time using the iPad. We treated this iPad as a replacement for our MacBook Air for the duration of the review.

The first question to answer is whether the iOS platform has enough “pro” apps to justify buying this device rather than a laptop. Apps such as Ulysses, Affinity Photo, and Tayasui Sketches (Free, Pro) are just a few of the good “pro” apps that allow you to do things you’d normally only do on a laptop. We’ve bought quite a few iOS games and heavy apps over the years, and now the ecosystem is robust enough for us to consider a switch.

apple ipad pro 10.5-inch pencil sketch 171217 181230 1890 iPad Pro 10.5-inch

To describe our typical workflow: we’d have at least 10 tabs open in Safari at any point, plus Apple Music playing in the background, and the writing app Ulysses for our daily work. During breaks we fired up games such as Table Tennis Touch, Banner Saga, and Transistor. We also used Netflix to watch HD movies. We’d keep switching between these tasks and also check in on our messaging apps, email, and Tweetbot. In all of this we never noticed any performance issues. Switching between apps and tasks was smooth, and we didn’t even have to reload Safari tabs, a problem we faced a lot with older iOS devices that ran out of RAM frequently, but the iPad Pro lineup has typically been generous in terms of the amount of RAM it ships with.

We were quite impressed with the battery life of the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) as well. It lasted for 10 hours with the screen on, which included watching videos with the nice stereo speakers (which are known to consume more battery power compared to plugging in a pair of headphones). We also noted that we could get around 30-40 hours in standby depending on how frequently we used the device. Most people will have to charge the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) once every two or three days, which is excellent compared to a laptop doing the same work.

The iPad Pro (10.5-inch) has a pretty good 12-megapixel camera too but this review was honestly the only reason we even used it to take photos with. It might be a good camera but we don’t see ourselves using an iPad as our primary camera simply because it’s too unwieldy.

Smart Keyboard

Apple also sent us the Smart Keyboard case for the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) and we are glad that it did. The Smart Keyboard is a sturdy case, apart from being a reliable typing tool. We also have a Logitech K480Bluetooth keyboard that we use every day and we can safely say that the Smart Keyboard is a better accessory for the iPad Pro (10.5-inch).

apple ipad pro 10.5-inch keyboard gadgets360 iPad Pro 10.5-inch

We typed quite a few long articles (including this one) with the Apple Smart Keyboard case and had no trouble. Typing is crucial to our jobs as writers and we were able to type around 700 words in 30 minutes on the Smart Keyboard. We got used to the keys very easily and found that we didn’t make any more errors than usual.

The Smart Keyboard doesn’t require charging or pairing since it transfers power and data through the Smart Connector on the side of the iPad. This is a big deal because charging and pairing are the two most annoying aspects of almost all Bluetooth accessories. The iPad can recognise several common Mac keyboard shortcuts such as CMD+Tab, so you can minimise the need to reach out to the touchscreen on the iPad. Many shortcuts you already use on the Mac also work on iOS when any keyboard accessory is attached. Pressing and holding the CMD key on your keyboard shows you the list of shortcuts available in any app.

However, the Smart Keyboard doesn’t have an Esc button, which we sorely missed. Every time we had to just cancel some action, we had to hit the touchscreen, and that isn’t something you want to do a lot when you’re trying to be productive. While the Smart Keyboard is among the lightest keyboard accessories you can find, if all you need is a case, it’s on the heavier side. The added weight makes the iPad Pro a little uncomfortable to use when you’re watching a video or playing a game, for example.

The Smart Keyboard case is quite expensive at Rs. 13,900. We have no hesitation in recommending it but if you don’t mind carrying a separate Bluetooth keyboard around then you can easily get the job done for much less. An Apple Smart Cover for iPad Pro (just the case minus the keyboard) costs Rs. 4,500 and a branded Bluetooth keyboard will set you back by another Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 2,000.

Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil is a stylus that’s targeted at artists, which means that we aren’t really the core audience for it. We did use it with drawing apps such as Paper by FiftyThree and Tayasui Sketches just to see how it works. We found it to be pretty good for doodling in both apps, and the iPad’s palm rejection was exceptional. When we used the Pencil, the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) didn’t register our hands touching the screen at all. We used the Pencil to take notes while recording podcasts and it was a splendid pen-and-paper replacement for that purpose. The Apple Pencil costs Rs. 8,600, which isn’t too expensive if you need it for professional use.

Our biggest worry was that we’d misplace the Apple Pencil because the iPad doesn’t have a dock or silo for it. However, Apple’s Leather Sleeve for the iPad Pro has a neat little case for the Pencil as well. The quality of the leather is excellent, and the iPad fits in it snugly even with the Smart Keyboard attached. The price of the sleeve is Rs. 11,500 and if you just want a separate Pencil Case then the price is Rs. 2,500. The sleeve is really nice but we find its price hard to justify. We weren’t able to use it for long enough to comment on its durability, but we hope that it won’t wear easily.

apple ipad pro 10.5-inch cover gadgets360 iPad Pro 10.5-inch

Verdict
As we all know, iOS 11 is coming soon with a lot of iPad-specific improvements. Once it is out, the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) will be good enough to replace the MacBook for a lot of people. If you use your laptop just to browse the Web, watch videos, write, listen to music, and perform other basic tasks, then the iPad Pro is an excellent gadget for you. It can do most of these things without breaking a sweat – but so could the less expensive iPad (2017).

During our review, we tried our best to avoid using our MacBook Air but we couldn’t manage it completely. Our podcast recording setup requires USB ports, which the iPad doesn’t have. Our Web publishing backend doesn’t work well on Safari or Chrome on iOS, so we used the MacBook Air to upload articles too. Other than those things we spent entire days working on the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) without ever feeling the need to return to the laptop.

The iPad Pro is not a MacBook replacement just yet but it is slowly getting there. Apple has built a premium tablet with an excellent display that delivers great performance in a market where there is virtually no competition. There’s absolutely no doubt that the iPad Pro lineup is a big part of Apple’s overall strategy. When iOS 11 releases, it will show how serious Apple is about its intention to pitch the iPad Pro models as productivity-oriented computers for professionals, not just entertainment devices.

As we noted in our Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 (review) recently, the Android tablet experience is nowhere near as polished as we’ve gotten used to with Apple’s iPad lineup. That means the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) has a pretty big lead against all other tablets currently on the market. Its nearest competitor would be the iPad (2017). It doesn’t have as good a display or processor and it also lacks the Smart Connector required for Apple’s neat Smart Keyboard case, but it’s a lot less expensive. If the Pro’s extra features don’t matter to you and you want a tablet for casual use, the iPad (2017) is a good choice.

Pricing for the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) starts at Rs. 50,800 for the 64GB Wi-Fi variant and goes all the way up to Rs. 84,500 for the 512GB Wi-Fi + LTE variant. Add the cost of a Smart Keyboard and an Apple Pencil and your total investment is going to be quite a lot. However, if you want the best hardware in the most portable form factor, you will have to pay a premium and for many people, the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) will be worth it.


Apple iPad Pro (10.5-inch) in pictures

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Apple iPad Pro (10.5-inch) Wi-Fi + Cellular

Apple iPad Pro (10.5-inch) Wi-Fi + Cellular

Rs.50,678
Buy
  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Camera
  • Value for Money
  • Good
  • Excellent display
  • Top-notch performance
  • Great battery life
  • Nice stereo speakers
  • Robust app ecosystem
  • Bad
  • Expensive accessories
  • Display is a fingerprint magnet
BUY AT
  • Apple iPad Pro (10.5-inch) Wi-Fi + Cellular (Gold, 64GB) –
    Rs.50,678
  • Apple iPad Pro (10.5-inch) Wi-Fi + Cellular (Space Grey, 64GB) – OFFER
    Rs.58,990

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Kindle Oasis (2017) Review

Kindle Oasis (2017) Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Kindle Oasis WiFi costs Rs. 21,999
  • The Kindle Oasis 3G costs Rs. 28,999
  • The ebook reader is now waterproof and has a larger screen

The Kindle Oasis was Amazon’s top-of-the-line ebook reader when it debuted in 2016. We really enjoyed reading books on the 2016 Kindle Oasis and in our review, we stated that price aside, it’s about as good a reading experience as you can get. Amazon has now refreshed the Kindle Oasis by adding a larger screen and making it waterproof. Does that make it a better device? We used it for two weeks to find out.

First up, the bad news — the Kindle Oasis no longer ships with a charging cover. This was one of our favourite features of the 2016 Kindle Oasis, but Amazon has decided to do away with it. The 2016 Oasis was really compact and the charging cover gave it lots of extra battery power. The new Oasis is bigger and bulkier, and that allows room for a longer lasting battery. You’ll now have to buy a cover separately.

Ergonomically, we prefer the 2016 Oasis over the new one. The large screen on the new Oasis is obviously a plus, but it comes at the cost of comfort — we didn’t find it as easy to read on for hours at a stretch. The new Kindle Oasis is now waterproof, but it has a slippery back and we nearly dropped it quite a few times because of that. There’s a ridge at the back so its thickness is uneven.

The 2016 Oasis masks this neatly with the charging case, but this year the lack of a case highlights it. Amazon wants you to use the ridge as a grip to hold the Kindle with, but because it is so slippery, it’s not an effective design choice. The new Kindle Oasis is also heavier and we found ourselves moving it from one hand to the other once every 20 minutes or so.

kindle oasis 2017 oasis paperwhite gadgets 360 Kindle OasisKindle Oasis (2016) on the left and Kindle Oasis (2017) on the right. A Kindle Paperwhite is hanging out towards the top.

 

The Kindle Oasis (2017) has a large 7-inch display, which is one of the best screens you’ll find on an ebook reader today. Text is crisp and you won’t have any complaints when reading in the daytime. There’s an adaptive frontlight which illuminates the display when you’re reading in the dark. It works fine and didn’t strain our eyes much even after three hours of nonstop reading late at night. However, the auto-brightness feature is a bit too aggressive and we found that the intensity of the frontlight was constantly increasing and decreasing. This began to distract us from our books and we just disabled the auto-brightness feature entirely, and stuck to manually changing it as and when needed.

The new Kindle Oasis retains the two page-turn buttons of its predecessor, and they work just as well. When you rotate the Kindle Oasis to hold it in a different hand, the book rotates automatically. This means that you can flip pages using the two buttons no matter which hand you’re holding the Kindle with. These buttons are housed near the edge of a generous bezel; a neat way to ensure that you’ll never accidentally hit the screen when you want to turn the page.

The 2017 Kindle Oasis’s screen truly highlights why this device is the top ebook reader in Amazon’s lineup. The screen is flush with the device’s front, unlike the Kindle Paperwhite, where the display is slightly lower than its thick bezels. On the Oasis, the bezel is thick on the side with the ridge that you’ll use to hold the unit, and slim everywhere else. During the initial years, one of the limitations of e-ink displays used to be that they were a bit slow when it comes to refreshing pages. The minor lag that you used to see when going from one page to the next is now almost completely gone across the Kindle lineup.

kindle oasis 2017 power button gadgets 360 Kindle Oasis

 

The Kindle Oasis’ screen responds almost instantly when you turn pages, and this makes a big difference to the reading experience. There are a few new fonts called Amazon Ember and Amazon Ember Bold, in case you weren’t happy with the Kindle’s limited font choice, but for us the clarity of the display and the improved page refresh makes a much bigger difference than font choices. During our testing, the 1,243-page epic Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson was one of the books we read. When you’re going through a book that long, the quick page turns make a massive difference and using the dedicated page turn buttons is a lot smoother than tapping the touchscreen. Another advantage of the larger screen is the ability to appreciate graphics, such as the maps that you sometimes need to refer to in fantasy novels.

When we started using the Kindle Oasis, its battery life was around the 75 percent mark. After two weeks of regular reading — often with the frontlight enabled – the battery was almost completely drained. We think this is pretty good battery life. The Kindle Oasis charges through the same Micro-USB port that all other Kindle devices sold so far have been using. One would imagine that a switch to USB Type-C is due at some point, but at the moment we don’t see this as a big deal.

One big new feature of the 2017 Kindle Oasis is that it’s waterproof. The Kindle Oasis is IPX8 rated, which means that it’s supposed to be waterproof when submerged up to 2m deep in water for up to one hour. You can head to this page to check what you need to do to dry the Kindle if it gets wet, and what conditions are unsafe to use it in (such as steam rooms).

kindle oasis 2017 page turn buttons gadgets 360 Kindle Oasis

 

We tested our Kindle Oasis under a shower and by immersing it in a bucket of water. Under the shower, water droplets kept triggering the touchscreen and somehow changing the font size. We didn’t actually try reading when the Kindle Oasis was in a bucket of water, but it survived the experience. If someone splashes water on the Oasis, or if you accidentally drop it in water, it shouldn’t die. We never really read while sitting by a pool or and we can’t imagine needing to use a Kindle when walking outside in the rain, but if you wish to do these things, you no longer need to worry. Waterproofing is a really useful feature to have overall, and we hope that it will eventually make it to more affordable Kindle devices too.

The Kindle Oasis supports audiobooks, and the more expensive 3G variant has 32GB of built-in storage, as opposed to 8GB on the Wi-Fi variant (the one we reviewed). Audible, Amazon’s audiobook service, isn’t officially available in India yet so we didn’t get a chance to test it. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need a pair of Bluetooth headphones or speakers to listen to audiobooks since there’s no 3.5mm audio jack or built-in speaker.

Overall, we’re quite pleased with the new Kindle Oasis but, personally, we didn’t like it as much as the original. We feel that it could have been designed better in terms of the grip and the rear texture, and the lack of a case feels like a downgrade. If the large screen and a waterproofing appeal to you, the new Kindle Oasis is a good buy. It costs Rs. 21,999 for the 8GB Wi-Fi version and Rs. 28,999 for the 32GB 3G one. If you’re buying an ebook reader at this price, then clearly budget is no bar and you’re getting the best of what Amazon has to offer. For those on a more modest budget, we still think the Kindle Paperwhite is a fantastic ebook reader. It will be more than enough for most people, and now the differences between the Paperwhite and Oasis are even more pronounced.

Pros

  • Large, clear screen
  • Waterproof
  • Dedicated page-turn buttons
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Doesn’t ship with a case
  • Expensive
  • No wired audio option for audiobooks

Overall rating (out of 10): 8

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[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Facebook Lite for Android Review: Made for India

Facebook Lite for Android Review: Made for India

While phone makers are now launching 4G handsets and companies like Airtel and Reliance working towards bringing the networks in India, you might think that there’s no need for apps that minimise data use. The fact of the matter though is that even in a metro like Delhi, 3G access depends greatly on which part of the city you’re in at the time.

That’s where Facebook Lite for Android comes into the picture. The app was launched in Asia earlier this month, and on Monday, Facebook Lite became available in India.

Facebook Lite is available on Google Play and it is just 435KB in size, runs on Android 2.2 and above, so even if you’re using an older phone, you can probably take advantage of the application. According to Shankar, Facebook Lite was designed to solve two challenges – 2G Internet and low-end smartphones – and based on our experience with the app, it seems to have accomplished those goals.

What is Facebook Lite?
As the name suggests, Facebook Lite is a light version of Facebook. It looks like an old version of the Facebook app, with blocky looks and limited features. The full-fledged Facebook app has large cards with neat gutters, expands all pictures and fills up your screen, supports gestures to move between the different Facebook functions.

Facebook Lite on the other hand shows all these previews at a much smaller size, and when we were using it on a 2G network, images took forever to show up. The difference between how posts are displayed between the two versions of Facebook is dramatic, and it’s definitely much more appealing to use Facebook on the full application.

facebook_lite_example.jpg

One other thing we noticed as soon as we started the application is that the Facebook logo is absolutely tiny, and this continued as we used the app too – images attached to posts are tiny thumbnails, filling the width of the screen, and they load after you tap on them. On the full Facebook application, images are much bigger, and they’re likely being preloaded, because they popped up in full size as soon as we tapped on the thumbs. The catch is that you’re pre-loading a lot of images you might not want to click on, using a lot of your mobile data along the way.

facebook_example.jpg

Shankar also points out that in the Facebook Lite settings, you can also choose the image quality, between low, medium and high. Facebook uses proprietary compression algorithms to deliver the images at the desired size, without losing too much visible quality.

Overall, the experience of using Facebook Lite is a lot less refined than the full version, but you’re able to see posts and links more quickly while on the road, and you’re using less mobile data to do so as well. All the features you’d expect – the news feed, friend requests, messages, notifications, and search, all show up. You can easily post status updates, or photos, just like you can on the full application. Messenger is built right into Facebook Lite, so you don’t need to have Facebook Messenger installed to chat anymore.

How well did it perform on 2G?
While it’s less refined, Facebook Lite loaded up posts much more quickly than the full version of the app when we switched to Edge connectivity. Usually, when we’re on the road in remote areas, we give up on Facebook because it’s almost certainly not going to load more posts.

The experience with Facebook Lite was a lot closer to using that other social network – Twitter. There are still problems, and posts still take some time to load. Images don’t pop up right away, and take even more time to load. But it does show you new posts and you can at least read what people are saying while you wait for a picture to load, which is a step forward.

Doing all this required some sacrifices. For one thing, the app does not support videos yet, though that is on the roadmap, according to Shankar. It also doesn’t support advanced location features – basically anything that requires the GPS. And while you can post comments on updates and pictures, you can’t reply to comments for now. And while the main Facebook app allows you to work offline, and make post updates when it connects to a network, Facebook Lite does not have this feature.

facebook_lite_settings.jpg

Who should use this?
If you’re using an older Android phone, or if you bought a budget Android device, then the amount of storage available will can often be quite limited.

In such a case, the small size of Facebook Lite might actually be a big plus point, and you might be willing to sacrifice a little bit of the polish of Facebook, but an app that actually works smoothly and loads quickly on your phone which also frees up a lot of space. While Facebook Lite takes less than 1MB, Facebook can be a lot bigger – a few random checks all turned up usage of over 150MB. Smaller footprint also means that app updates take less data.

But the most important thing was that Facebook Lite uses less data. Facebook says that the app gives a reliable experience, even when bandwidth is at a minimum.

That means that if you’ve already started using an LTE connection on your flagship Android phone with a quad-HD screen, then you should will probably find this app boring and pointless. If you spend most of your time at home or in office, with a steady Wi-Fi connection, then you can probably give this app a miss.

On the other hand, if you’re on the move a lot and travel in areas where getting a 3G signal is still a rare thing, or if you’re trying to reduce the data usage you see for Facebook, then this app will be appealing.

On a smaller, lower resolution screen, the difference between the two versions of Facebook wasn’t so pronounced, so you might prefer it if you have an older device, or if you bought a budget phone. And as we mentioned, it will probably be a good idea if you’re using a phone with limited storage space as well.

The app isn’t for everybody, but frankly, the number of people with good connectivity and high-end devices is definitely smaller than people with spotty Internet access and entry-level devices. Based on that, launching Facebook Lite seems like a great move, and will likely find plenty of takers in India.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]