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The iPad Pro: a big design and performance leap

Get evolved with Apple iPad Pro, Samsung Galaxy A9, Galaxy Watch and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Tushar Kanwar Published 08.12.18, 06:53 PM
Apple iPad Pro (2018)

Apple iPad Pro (2018) Source: Apple

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Samsung Galaxy A9

Samsung Galaxy A9 Source: Samsung

Apple iPad Pro (2018)

Price: Rs 71,900 onwards


The iPad Pro range makes its biggest design and performance leap since the launch of Apple’s popular tablet, bringing it closer to the ‘computer of tomorrow’, while at the same time remaining a device that, for many, will be hobbled by the software constraints of the iOS of today.

The new 5.9mm flat-edged iPad Pros can make last year’s sleek 10.5-inch iPad Pro look dated in comparison, such is the design overhaul Apple’s given the new Pros. Narrow bezels take the screen nearly to the edge and the obvious casualty — the fingerprint scanner — is replaced by Face ID authentication which works in both portrait and landscape orientations. Apple’s 120Hz refresh rate ProMotion display keeps action on the screen insanely smooth, and the vibrant, pixel-rich immersive display is a joy to use, especially on the larger 12.9-inch variant. As in the current crop of iPhones, performance of the A12X Bionic chip in the new iPad Pro is expectedly stellar and no app or game — not even editing/exporting 4K video — taxes the device. And even with all this performance on tap, the battery life is still between eight and 10 hours. New Pencil (Rs 10,900) and Smart Keyboard Folio (Rs 15,900 or Rs 17,900) accessories are handy extras, with the former finally magnetically snapping to one side of the iPad and charging wirelessly.

The move to the USB-C port is a welcome move, but iOS only recognises images/movies on external SD cards and doesn’t allow file management on connected thumb drives. The four-speaker setup is excellent but it’s missing a headphone jack that many pros rely on for their audio gear. Old iPad Pencil isn’t compatible with the new iPads and vice-versa. Pricey for an almost-there-but-not-quite laptop replacement.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Price: Rs 24,990/Rs 29,990

For Android users, the world’s most popular smartwatch — the Apple Watch — isn’t an option, and Google’s Wear OS has disappointed repeatedly. So, Samsung’s latest Galaxy Watch does have a market for the taking. What it does, it does well, while still looking and feeling like a regular watch. Worth taking a long hard look at for smartwatch newbies, especially those with Samsung devices.

The Galaxy Watch, available in 42mm diameter and a bulkier male-targeted 46mm, retains the circular design and rotating bezel navigation that Samsung has perfected over the last several generations of Tizen-based smartwatches. Two benefits — the Galaxy Watch feels less like a gadget and more like a watch, and the bezel-based UI is far more intuitive to use than tapping a touchscreen all the time. The 1.3-inch AMOLED display on the 46mm is arguably the best display one would find on a current generation smartwatch — it’s vibrant, is visible in varied lighting and the always-on display helps with that regular watch feel. But the always-on display cuts the stellar four-day battery life down to two days. GPS route tracking and auto workout detection are impressive, and IP68 and 5ATM water resistance is a plus.

The Tizen-based OS is compatible with Android and iOS smartphones, and while the built-in apps are good enough for heart rate/fitness/sleep tracking and the watch face options are aplenty, third-party app support for many popular services is limited. The Bixby voice assistant needs work, and pricing is a tad on the higher side.

Samsung Galaxy A9

Price: Rs 36,990 onwards

Close on the heels of the A7’s three-camera setup comes the A9 and its quad-camera setup, which offers a bunch of additional shooting perspectives to what is a competent phone. Pity about the pricing, which pits this Snapdragon 660 phone against the far more powerful 845 brigade.

Four cameras on a phone, now that’s a first! Let’s break it down — a main 24MP f/1.7 camera with a 5MP f/2.2 depth camera for focusing and portraits, and then there are the 8MP f/2.4 ultra-wide (120°) plus the 10MP f/2.4 telephoto (2x zoom) shooters — options you get in different phones have all now been rolled into one device. Camera performance, particularly of the main camera and in adequate light, is good with sufficient detail and rich colours. The wide angle adds a new perspective to cityscapes, albeit with some barrel distortion. Low-light performance is less impressive with soft and grainy photos both from the zoom and the wide-angle lenses.

The rest of the phone is well put together — the rear gradient design and glass-and-metal-sandwich give the A9 a premium and comfortable feel, and the lively colour options are a bonus. The screen, a 6.3-inch Super AMOLED 2,280x1,080 display, offers good brightness and colours and Samsung’s expertise in displays really shines in this one. Battery life’s good — it lasts a full day and supports fast charging, but no wireless charging.

Powering the A9 is the mid-range Snapdragon 660, which is often found in phones less than half the price. Granted, it’s not a bad choice one bit, and the phone is fast and snappy (with 6GB/128GB of memory/storage) but at this price, the alternatives pack in far more firepower. Shipping with Android 8.1 Oreo at the end of 2018 is disappointing.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Price: Rs 5,999

With 4K TV prices coming down to saner levels this year, the launch of the Amazon Fire TV Stick, arguably one of the cheapest ways to board the 4K bandwagon, couldn’t have come at a better time. This must-have upgrade elevates your 4K TV experience to a whole new level.

The 4K variant takes the Fire TV Stick experience and amps it up, not only making for smoother interface navigation, but also adding support for 4K content on Prime Video and Netflix, as well as support for HDR 10-, Dolby Vision- and Dolby Atmos-enabled content! There’s a new Bluetooth remote with infrared control (available for Rs 1,999 separately for older Fire TV Stick users) which lets you control the TV volume/power as well. Voice search and playback control works via the remote or hands-free via an Echo smart speaker if you have one around. Bonus: you can now access Alexa skills (check the weather, book a cab or switch on compatible lights) via the Fire TV Stick voice remote as well!

Drops Android screen mirroring. No native YouTube app, so you’re forced to use a browser to view YouTube content.

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