The Telegraph
| Sunday, September 15, 2013 |


Compact winner

Sony's new RX100 II is quite simply the best camera in its league even though it has a stiff price tag, says Tushar Kanwar

Last year's Sony RX100 was an instant hit and released to great acclaim, and rightfully so — the compact, well-built camera heralded the trend of large sensors in impossibly small form factors. Does the second generation RX100, the RX100 II, do enough to step out of the shadow of the original and earn its own place in the sun? Read on...

The design language employed by Sony for the first gen RX100 is largely maintained — clean lines, matte black finish and a decidedly modern look. The body is noticeably thicker, largely due to the addition of a tilting LCD, which allows for a variety of creative shooting positions. Much like other advanced compacts, the focal range is limited to a 3.6x optical zoom (28-100mm), and so this isn't going to appeal to the zoom-trigger-happy crowd.

I did feel that the lens could have benefited from starting a tad wider as well — many compacts have a useful 24mm wide-angle which gets that little extra to fit into landscape shots. Where it lacks it range though, it more than makes up with an impressive maximum aperture of f/1.8, which not only lets you get those pleasing part-blurred out shots but also take excellent low light shots. Now, when you combine this lens with a large 1-in 20.2-megapixel Exmor R BSI (backside-illuminated) sensor, you get more detail plus good control on noise levels at high ISO sensitivity levels.

But beyond the impressive specs, what really should matter to you is how the images from the RX100 II turn out. And it's here that the RX100 II really delivers the goods, turning out detailed, sharp images with spectacular low light performance. The RX100 II then is quite simply the best compact around, and even the princely price can't stop me from recommending this beauty. If you're looking to avoid DSLR bulk but want no-compromise images, this is exactly what you should pick up.

Rating: 9/10
Price: Rs 42,990

Buzz free

Seasoned travellers looking for noise-cancellation capabilities often had to settle for bigger, over-ear headphones which added some amount of bulk to your carry-on luggage. The folks at Bose have shrunk that common wisdom into a shirt pocket friendly companion — the QuietComfort 20 (or the QC20i model with dedicated controls for iPhones/iPads) is the first model from Bose in the rare-to-find in-ear noise-cancellation earphone category.

Straight out of the box, the QC20 looks much like a lot of other Bose earphones and pack in Bose's proprietary acoustic magic. What's different from other phones is that you get two microphones that constantly monitor external noise and counter the effect of that noise with a mirror sound wave, in effect cancelling out the noise.

Powering the noise cancellation circuitry is a lightweight lithium ion battery back at the end of the audio cord, which charges over USB and offers anywhere between a 14-16 hour battery life depending on use. Unlike Bose's previous offerings, the QC20s will continue to produce sound without noise cancellation, of course, if the battery dies completely. There's even an Aware mode which ramps down the noise cancellation a bit to be able to hear some of the outside world — to hear flight announcements while the music's still playing, for example.

While the audio quality of the QC20 was comparable to other premium headsets, with balanced output across the range of music I used, the noise cancellation capabilities are really the 'wow' feature — it's that good. You will have to deal with the slightest frequency hiss when there's no music playing on the QC20s, but that's really only me nitpicking. You really should go see how good the noise cancellation feature is, Bose really has hit one out of the park for this one. Of course, it goes without saying — you could spend much less and pick up a non-noise-cancelling pair from them or the competition.

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 22,388

Behind enemy lines

Is Splinter Cell: Blacklist stealth-based or out-and-out action-packed? That's the question you often have to grapple with in different phases of the game. There's really no right answer — you can choose the quiet approach or the big-bang approach — any way is fine as long as you don't have the enemy spotting you too early, in which case you're dead meat. That element of choice adds a lot to the gameplay, and while this game is good fun solo, it's also packing a pair of multiplayer modes that could stand proudly on their own. Good stuff this.

Price: Rs 2,999