Creative’s Pebble speakers are very popular with budget-focused shoppers. Over on Amazon, it has 4.5 stars with over 500 reviews. It’s not hard to see why that is — for a mere $25, you get a respectable 2.0 audio experience from a well-known brand. No, they aren’t audiophile quality, but at this price, you should know that. They should be better than your laptop’s built in speakers, however. One of the coolest aspects of the Pebble speakers is they are USB-powered — you don’t need an AC adapter when connecting them to your computer. You doneed to simultaneously connect a 3.5mm audio cable, however, as audio is not transmitted over USB — only power.
One of the big drawbacks to Pebble is a lack of bass. This really shouldn’t be surprising, as they are small 2-inch speakers, and they don’t have a subwoofer. Well, Creative heard the user feedback loud and clear and decided to bring a little boom to its budget offering. Called “Pebble Plus,” it is the same stereo speakers, but now with a small subwoofer added. Amazingly, the price is barely higher than the non-plus variant. Seriously, folks, the price will shock you.
“Featuring formidable 2-inch mid-range drivers that are angled perfectly at 45 degrees to ensure that the sound reaches you through a precise and elevated sound stage, the Pebble Plus speakers are designed with the user as the center of attention. Together with the addition of a brand new 4-inch down-firing ported subwoofer, Pebble Plus simply puts the user in the audio limelight,” says Creative.
The Sound Blaster-maker further explains, “Powered entirely by USB connectivity, Pebble Plus provides additional convenience by eliminating the need of a wall power socket. Devices are connected to the speakers through the universal 3.5mm AUX-in cable. The front-facing controls are located at the front of the main speaker for quick and easy access. With a simple switch of a button, Pebble Plus is driven into High Gain mode, increasing its power output to 8W RMS for stronger bass and room-filling audio — at zero loss to audio quality!”
Believe it or not, the USB-powered Pebble Plus will only cost $5 more than the non-plus variant! Yes, for just $29.99, you can score yourself a nice little 2.1 speaker system for an office, bedroom, or other small place. Pebble Plus will go on sale next week, April 19. Keep in mind, while these speakers are designed for a computer, you can use them with any 3.5mm device (iPod, Echo Dot, etc.) — as long as you plug the USB port into an AC adapter — any USB-Type-A charger you have lying around the house should work fine.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is priced in India at Rs. 15,999
It is a part of Google’s Android One programme
Battery life is solid but the cameras are a bit of a mixed bag
2018 will be remembered as the year when screen notches became ubiquitous. The notch is undoubtedly a contentious issue in smartphone design, but it is a necessary evil in order to make today’s narrow-bordered smartphones a reality. HMD Global, the company that brought Nokia back into the smartphone game last year, has now embraced this design trend with the Nokia 6.1 Plus and Nokia 5.1 Plus.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus, which was launched in China back in May as the Nokia X6, is a part of the Android One initiative and runs a stock build of Android 8.1 Oreo. It features a 19:9 display, a dual camera setup at the rear, and a glass and metal design. Priced at Rs. 15,999, it competes head-on with the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro (Review), Xiaomi Mi A2 (Review), and Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (Review). Is Nokia’s latest budget smartphone worth a buy? Let’s find out.
Nokia 6.1 Plus design
The Nokia 6.1 Plus features glass on the front and back, with an aluminium frame for rigidity. There is a notched display up front with sizeable borders, and the Nokia logo on the chin. Thanks to the tall aspect ratio and curved edges, the smartphone is compact and pocketable. However, one-handed use is quite difficult.
When it goes on sale on August 30, the Nokia 6.1 Plus will be available in three colour options – Gloss White, Gloss Midnight Blue, and the one our review unit came in, Gloss Black. The smooth glass back looks attractive and classy but picks up a lot of smudges and fingerprints. It is also incredibly slippery – a case is recommended to give you a decent grip.
The accents around the rear camera module, fingerprint sensor, power button, and volume buttons add some much-needed flair to what is otherwise an understated design. We had some reservations about the build quality of this phone in our first impressions, on account of its low weight. However, the Nokia 6.1 Plus has stood up to ordinary daily usage quite well over the course of our review period.
The left of the Nokia 6.1 Plus is blank save for the SIM tray, which makes you choose between a second Nano-SIM and a microSD card. The right side has the volume rocker and power button which are chunky, tactile, and well within reach.
The dual-camera setup is placed in a pill-shaped housing, underneath which is a circular fingerprint sensor and a vertically oriented Nokia logo. There’s a single loudspeaker next to the USB Type-C port at the bottom, which delivers loud and clear audio, but is a step down from the stereo speakers of the original Nokia 6 (Review).
Nokia 6.1 Plus specifications and display
HMD Global has equipped the Nokia 6.1 Plus with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, which is also found in the similarly priced Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro, as well as the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1, which is priced starting at Rs. 10,999. Additional specifications include a 3,060mAh battery, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage that can be expanded using a microSD card (up to 400 GB).
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is a part of the Android One initiative and runs a stock build of Android 8.1 Oreo with a guarantee of regular updates. Connectivity options include dual 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5, FM radio, GPS/ A-GPS, GLONASS, USB Type-C (USB 2.0), and a 3.5mm headphone jack. This phone supports dual SIMs (Nano) and both can simultaneously latch onto 4G networks.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus has a 5.8-inch full-HD+ display with an aspect ratio of 19:9 and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection against scratches. There is a notch up front which is thankfully quite small and does not get in the way of games and videos. Despite the notch, the screen is not borderless, and the chin in particular is pretty thick. The display is bright and punchy, and has good viewing angles. Colours are vivid and outdoor legibility is decent.
Nokia 6.1 Plus performance, software, and battery life
The Nokia 6.1 Plus delivered a smooth and consistent user experience, tackling everything we threw at it — from basic day-to-day tasks such as browsing the Web and using social media applications, to intensive workloads — without any issues. App load times were quick and UI animations were butter smooth. Games like Asphalt 9 also ran quite smoothly, with no stutters or dropped frames.
Benchmark scores were in line with those of other Snapdragon 636-powered smartphones. The Nokia 6.1 Plus managed scores of 116,134 in AnTuTu, 34fps in GFXBench T-Rex, 10fps in GFXBench Manhattan 3.1, and 1328 and 4,936 respectively in Geekbench’s single- and multi-core tests. In our experience, calls were clear and 4G connectivity was consistently solid.
HMD Global has so far focused on clean, fluid software, and timely updates. The Finnish company embraced Android One at the beginning of this year, which means an optimised software experience with stock Android 8.1, two years of Android version updates, and three years of monthly security updates, all guaranteed. HMD Global has promised updates to Android Pie as well as Android Q, as and when they are released.
System update screen, app drawer, and gestures
The software is fluid and very responsive. While there is no third-party bloat, there are a few nifty value additions such as the ‘Ambient Display’ feature that shows notifications for missed calls, alarms, and notifications without waking the phone from sleep. You can also perform a few gestures such as turning the phone over to reject a call, or picking it up to mute the ringtone.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus supports face recognition, using its 16-megapixel front camera. The process is quite slow, even when lighting is favourable. Recognition is quite erratic in low light and also under very bright sunlight. Thankfully, the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is snappy. It can also be used to show the notification shade with a downward swipe.
In our HD video loop battery test, the Nokia 6.1 Plus lasted 12 hours and 10 minutes. Real-world performance was quite solid, but not spectacular. The smartphone easily got through a 12-hour day with medium to heavy use, with around 20 percent left in the tank. Our usage involved around an hour or two of navigation using Google Maps, frequent use of social media applications, games such as the recently launched Asphalt 9, and taking a couple of photos and selfies.
The phone supports Quick Charge 4.0, but only a standard 10W charger is included in the box, which means that you’ll need more than two and a half hours for a full recharge.
Nokia 6.1 Plus cameras
On the imaging front, the Nokia 6.1 Plus has a 16-megapixel primary camera with an aperture of f/2.0, alongside a 5-megapixel monochrome secondary camera with an aperture of f/2.4. On the front, the Nokia 6.1 Plus has a 16-megapixel fixed-focus camera with an aperture of f/2.0. There is a dual-LED flash at the back.
There are a number of features in the camera app, such as as a live bokeh mode, AR stickers, dual-sight mode to superimpose shots taken with the front and rear cameras simultaneously, and AI-assisted portrait lighting. Portrait shots were quite impressive with good edge detection and smooth gradients between the subject and the background.
AR stickers are implemented well and can be used with both the front and the rear camera. The AI-assisted portrait lighting feature needs a lot of work at the moment. Edge detection was poor, and most of the options just overexposed the background.
Tap to see full-sized Nokia 6.1 Plus camera samples
During the day, the rear camera performed quite well. Images had a good amount of detail and the the sensor’s dynamic range was above average. Even shots taken in favourable lighting indoors were crisp and detailed. Colours however appeared slightly washed out regardless of lighting conditions.
Low-light performance was a bit of a mixed bag. The level of detail was adequate and is a step up from the Nokia 6.1, but the camera struggled with autofocus at times.
The front camera produces decent shots in favourable lighting but has trouble with exposure metering. In low light, it struggles to pull in enough light. The front camera can also shoot bokeh shots via software algorithms, which came out looking decent. There’s no proper front LED flash, but just a screen flash that lights up the entire display.
Dual-sight, a feature first seen in the Nokia 8 (Review), is present in the Nokia 6.1 Plus as well. You can take photos/ videos with the front and rear cameras at the same time. While this feature is pretty nifty, the quality of both the front and rear cameras takes a dive in this mode.
Video recording maxes out at 1080p for the front camera, while the rear module is capable of 4K video recording. You can livestream video to YouTube and Facebook directly from the camera app, and this feature also works in dual-sight mode. The quality of videos is decent at best.
Nokia 6.1 Plus in pictures
The Nokia 6.1 Plus offers great performance, clean and fluid software, a punchy and vibrant display, and the promise of timely updates. With a sleek glass-backed design, compact dimensions, and a 19:9 display, the Nokia 6.1 Plus addresses most of the shortcomings of the Nokia 6.1, which was launched earlier on in the year. It is also priced much more aggressively.
All is not smooth sailing though. The rear camera setup, while much improved from the Nokia 6.1, still cannot match up to the competition. It performs admirably in favourable light but struggles in low light. The front camera is also underwhelming. That said, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is a capable, well-rounded smartphone that will appeal to fans of stock Android.
Potential buyers should also take a look at the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro (Review) and Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (Review), which cost less and offer better cameras, but miss out on the benefits offered by Android One. The Xiaomi Mi A2 (Review) does have a better rear camera as compared to the Nokia 6.1 Plus but has average battery life and lacks a headphone jack and a microSD card slot.
Are Nokia 6.1 Plus and Nokia 5.1 Plus the best Android phones from HMD Global? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.
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Battery life is stellar but the cameras are sub-standard
Soon after launching the Moto G6 (Review) and Moto G6 Play (Review) in India, Lenovo’s Motorola is back with the Moto E5 Plus, which has a hefty 5,000mAh battery, an expansive 6-inch display with an 18:9 aspect ratio, and a near stock build of Android at an attractive price.
Competition in the sub Rs. 15,000 segment is heating up and smartphones such as the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1(Review) have set new benchmarks in terms of what to expect from a smartphone in this category. Manufacturers can no longer get by with pushing outdated processors and stale designs. Can the fifth generation of Motorola’s popular E series bring the fight to the ZenFone Max Pro M1 as well as the popular Redmi Note 5 (Review)? Let’s find out.
Moto E5 Plus design
The Moto E5 Plus is pretty much a thicker and chunkier version of the Moto G6 Play. Weighing in at 197g with dimensions of 160.9 x 75.3 x 9.35mm, the Moto E5 Plus is quite a bulky phone. Much of the heft can be attributed to the large 5,000mAh battery inside. While the Moto G6 Play is compact and easy to hold, the Moto E5 Plus is rather unwieldy. It is too wide and tall to be used comfortably with one hand.
This phone looks more premium than it feels. The plastic back has a high-gloss finish in a bid to imitate glass, and it works to an extent. From a distance, it is hard to distinguish between the Moto G6, which has an actual glass back, and the Moto E5 Plus. However, the plastic back of the latter gets scratched very easily and is a huge fingerprint magnet. It is also very slippery – we found ourselves dropping the phone on more than one occasion. On the plus side, plastic is less likely to shatter than glass.
Just like the Moto G6 Play, the fingerprint sensor on the Moto E5 Plus is embedded within the Motorola batwing logo at the back. The setup process is quite slow but the sensor is quick, accurate, and ergonomically placed. The back panel also houses what might at first appear to be a dual-camera setup, but in actuality is just a laser autofocus sensor alongside a single 12-megapixel camera.
The left edge of the smartphone is blank except for the SIM tray which has separate slots for two Nano-SIMs and a microSD card. The right edge houses the volume rocker and the power button, which are small but tactile. The earpiece doubles up as a speaker, and the sound it produces is loud, but shrill and tinny.
A microphone and a Micro-USB port can be found at the bottom. The use of a Micro-USB port is a bit disappointing at a time when the industry has started transitioning to the new USB Type-C standard.
Moto E5 Plus specifications and display
The Moto E5 Plus is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor clocked at 1.4 GHz. In contrast, the competing Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1, which also has a 5000mAh battery, is powered by the much more powerful Snapdragon 636.
Priced at Rs. 11,999, the sole configuration on offer has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which can be expanded using a microSD card (of up to 128GB). The biggest USP of the Moto E5 Plus is its 5,000mAh battery, which Motorola claims is good for 18 hours of non-stop video playback. Connectivity options on the handset include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, GPS/ A-GPS, FM radio, a 3.5mm jack, and a Micro-USB port. NFC is not supported, and neither is the 5GHz Wi-Fi band. It supports dual SIMs (Nano) but only one can run at 4G speeds at a time, with the other limited to 3G speeds.
The Moto E5 Plus has a 6-inch HD+ (720×1440 pixels) IPS LCD screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The screen is not exactly borderless, and the chin is pretty significant. On the Moto G6, this space houses the fingerprint sensor, but here it feels like a waste.
Viewing angles are decent and colours are vibrant enough for the price, but the panel is dim and and very reflective. Additionally, text and images are not very sharp, as a result of the lacklustre HD+ resolution, and pixelation is visible to the naked eye when reading text. On a positive note, the Moto E5 Plus has a stellar always-on display feature that allows for quick replies to messages right from the lock screen, and a blue light filter that can be triggered at set times.
Moto E5 Plus performance and software
The Moto E5 Plus is fairly capable of handling basic day-to-day tasks such as watching YouTube videos, taking the occasional picture, light Web browsing, and using social media applications. That said, we did experience some keyboard lags, and occasional stutters and slowdowns throughout our review period. With multiple apps open in the background or more than a dozen tabs open in Chrome, we could feel the effects of the relatively under-powered processor. At least this smartphone does not heat up when pushed.
As expected, benchmark scores were quite average. The Moto E5 Plus managed 56,264 points in AnTuTu, 623 and 2098 respectively in Geekbench’s single-core and multi-core tests, 3,747 in PC Mark’s Work 2.0 benchmark, 10fps in GFXBench Manhattan 3.1, and 26fps in GFXBench T-Rex. Games like Subway Surfers and Asphalt 8 exhibit occasional frame-rate drops and stutters, but are playable on the whole.
Moto Actions, the four pre-installed applications and notification shortcuts
One thing that helps the Moto E5 Plus run somewhat smoothly is Motorola’s well-optimised software package. The smartphone runs a near-stock version of Android 8.0 with the March 2018 security patch installed. Motorola has added a few features such as an always-on display, three-finger screenshot shortcut, swipe gesture to toggle one-handed mode, and Attentive Display, which keeps the screen on while you are looking at it. Oddly enough, the most iconic and useful Moto Actions, the chop gesture to turn on the flashlight and double-twist to launch the camera app, are missing. Their presence in the international version of the Moto E5 Plus makes the omission even more disappointing.
Four applications – The Weather Channel, Instagram, Outlook, and LinkedIn – come pre-loaded. This amount of bloat is minimal but is still unfortunate. Outlook and LinkedIn cannot be uninstalled but thankfully The Weather Channel and Instagram can.
Face recognition, a feature that is now common on most smartphones even in this price segment, is missing. Thankfully, the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is quick and accurate.
Moto E5 Plus cameras and battery life
There’s no secondary sensor or AI wizardry for the camera on the back – just a single 12-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.0 accompanied by an LED flash. On the front, there’s a 5-megapixel selfie camera with its own dedicated flash. Motorola has tried its best to make it look like there’s a dual-camera setup though. The laser autofocus sensor is housed right next to the primary camera, which quite successfully gives the impression of a second lens, at least from a distance.
The rear camera comes with its share of problems – the dynamic range is poor and it has a tendency to overexpose shots. Photos taken at night look muddy and over-sharpened, and the camera bumps up the ISO which makes images look unnaturally bright. This is something we noticed with the Moto G6 Play as well. Shots taken in favourable light fare better. The level of detail is lacking but colours are accurate.
The story is pretty much the same with the front sensor. It struggles in low light, producing noisy images that lack detail, but performs just about decently in the day. The front flash does help quite a bit at night.
Tap to see full-sized Moto E5 Plus camera samples
The camera app has a fully featured Pro Mode that allows you to adjust the white balance, ISO, exposure, and shutter speed. Video capture maxes out at 1080p (30fps) for the both the front and rear cameras. Videos shot with the front camera are jittery and lack detail. We were quite impressed with the electronic image stabilisation for the rear sensor, but the lack of detail in videos let us down a little.
In our HD video loop battery test, the phone managed to chug along for 11 hours and 30 minutes, which is a reasonable, if not a particularly great score; with a 5,000mAh battery under the hood, we expected more. Thankfully, real-world performance is stellar. The phone breezed through a day of moderate to intensive use, and still had about 50 percent left at the end. Our usage involved an hour or two of navigation using Google Maps, a generous dose of social media applications, games such as Asphalt 8, and taking a dozen or so selfies and pictures.
With moderate use, you can extract two full days of battery life out of this phone. Thanks to the HD+ display, there are less pixels to push and Motorola’s software package is as optimised as ever. The 10W rapid charger that Motorola ships in the box took the smartphone from an empty tank to 36 percent in 60 minutes. The lack of Motorola’s trademark TurboCharger is disappointing, especially for a phone with such a large battery.
Moto E5 Plus in pictures
The Moto E5 Plus delivers on the promise of exceptional battery life and has a design that imitates its higher-priced siblings. The software is well optimised and is quite close to stock Android. However, it does little to stand out in a segment dominated by heavyweights such as the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1(Review), Redmi Note 5 (Review), and Realme 1 (Review). The cameras are sub-standard, performance is just about okay, and the display is nothing to write home about. The lack of iconic Moto actions such as the double-twist, which have become well associated with Motorola phones, further reduces the smartphone’s appeal.
Road warriors should should definitely consider the Moto E5 Plus. Others would be better served by the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1, which is less expensive but features a more powerful processor and a higher-resolution display. Availability issues continue to plague Asus’s smartphone though, and it is hard to find it in stock. Oppo’s Realme 1 is another option has a powerful powerful processor and is relatively easier to buy, making it also worth considering.
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The poster for the launch event was teased on Weibo
Nokia X5 is expected to be dubbed the Nokia 5.1 Plus in global markets
It will sport a display notch, dual rear camera setup
Earlier this week, we saw reports suggesting July 11 to be the launch date of the upcoming Nokia X5 aka the Nokia 5.1 Plus. As part of the latest developments, HMD Global licensed brand Nokia has now officially teased the smartphone’s launch that is set for 8pm China time (5:30pm IST) on July 11. The teaser reveals that a new handset in the Nokia X series will be unveiled at the product event, which tips the launch of the rumoured Nokia X5 in China. A live stream will be available for the event. This smartphone will reportedly be called the Nokia 5.1 Plus in international markets.
As per a post on Nokia’s official Weibo account on Monday, a new Nokia X-Series phone is all set to become a reality in China come July 11. Last week, a poster had been spotted on Chinese search engine Baidu that showed off alleged posters of the Nokia X5 in China; the smartphone is expected to get a price tag of CNY 799 (roughly Rs. 8,300) for the 32GB variant and CNY 999 (roughly Rs. 10,400) for the 64GB model. As for design elements, much like the recently launched Nokia X6, even the Nokia X5 will sport a display notch and a bezel-less display. The phone will also get a dual camera setup and a fingerprint sensor at the back.
As for specifications, previous leaks suggest the Nokia X5 will sport a 5.86-inch HD+ (720×1520 pixels) TFT display with a 19:9 aspect ratio. It might be powered by an octa-core SoC, possibly from the MediaTek P series or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 series. This will be coupled with 3GB/ 4GB/ 6GB of RAM and 32GB/ 64GB of inbuilt storage.
In terms of optics, we can expect the Nokia X5 to sport a vertical dual rear camera setup with a 13-megapixel primary sensor. A 8-megapixel selfie sensor might adorn the front of the smartphone. Connectivity might include 4G LTE, Bluetooth, USB, while battery capacity is set at 3000mAh.
An official post by Nokia had also suggested the company’s two smartphones are in the works for launch later this year, one powered by a Snapdragon 710 SoC and the other by the flagship Snapdragon 845.