Regular-article-logo Sunday, 10 December 2023

Gadget watch

Checking out the Apple MacBook Pro 16, and smartphones Poco X2 and Samsung Galaxy A51

Tushar Kanwar Published 15.02.20, 02:34 PM
Apple MacBook Pro 16

Apple MacBook Pro 16 Apple

Apple MacBook Pro 16

Price: Rs 1,99,900 onwards


Apple’s finally listening to its hardcore “pro” audience and nowhere is this more apparent than with the MacBook Pro 16-inch. By opting to fix long-standing complaints that matter more to users rather than go in for a radical redesign that prioritises form over function, Apple has returned the flagship MacBook Pro to its former glory.

It’s a familiar MacBook Pro design, if a little heavier and thicker. And that’s a good thing. The heft signals a bigger 100Wh battery, the biggest size that manufacturers can pack into a laptop that can be taken onto a plane, and a roomier, redesigned thermal architecture that allows for better heat dissipation and avoids any performance throttling. The marginally increased dimensions and slimmer ‘more modern’ bezels allow for a bigger 16-inch display, one which is bright, rich and exceptionally colour accurate. Performance on the ninth-gen Intel Core i9/16GB RAM model I tested was beastly in video and photo editing apps, and more demanding users could equip their MacBook Pro with more RAM if needed, though, bear in mind, only at purchase. Graphics improvements were particularly discernible, with the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M GPU turning the laptop into a powerhouse video editing setup. Battery life is significantly improved as well, lasting a complete workday with juice to spare.

Yet, it is likely the redesigned “magic keyboard” that will be the draw for most — Apple has moved back to the tried-and-tested scissor switches we last saw on iMac keyboards, and the result is a typing experience that not only has more key travel (now up to 1mm) but is also more stable and quieter in everyday use. Also, seemingly minor things that matter significantly to heavy users — a physical Escape key!

But if one were to pick the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s biggest wow moment, it has to be the new six-speaker system which truly ruins it for all other laptop speakers, at least for me. There’s a sense of space, dynamism and richness to the audio that just isn’t there on other laptops. Watching movies or listening to music is a revelation on this baby. What’s also nice is that you get a three-mic array that is capable of beamforming and cancelling background noise to do away with the need for dedicated microphones for spur-of-the-moment recording sessions.

As good as the display is, it isn’t a true HDR or 4K display, even though you can output to two 6K or four 4K displays simultaneously. With all the upgrades around it, the 720p webcam feels a little dated. The Touch Bar OLED touch display still hasn’t found its true calling for most users.

Poco X2

Poco X2 Poco

Poco X2

Price: Rs 15,999 onwards

Poco’s 2018 F1 smartphone caught the world’s attention with its “everything you need, nothing you don’t” approach to delivering a high-performance phone at an astoundingly low price. Poco’s next phone, the X2, isn’t a successor in the truest sense, but it still packs in good performance, battery life and camera and a first-in-class 120Hz display, all at a pretty stellar price point.

Coming from the Poco F1, the X2 is a big leap forward in design, even while the circular ring around the camera might not be to everyone’s liking. Gorilla Glass 5 protection front and rear renders the phone slippery to hold, but the tall 20:9 aspect ratio helps with one-handed use, as does the side-mounted fingerprint scanner/power button. The headlining feature, though is the use of a 6.67-inch LCD display with a high refresh rate of 120Hz, which gives the phone a buttery smoothness in day-to-day use. The quad camera setup is impressive, particularly the 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor — images are packed with detail and show off great colours and dynamic range. Poco’s gone with capable yet frugal Snapdragon 730G, which allows the X2 to last for a whole day even with the screen set to 120Hz, and the included 27W fast charger is a bonus!

The occasional lags in MIUI take the shine off that snappy display but this is something that a software update could fix in the future. Poco has used a good LCD panel on the X2, but there’s a bit of light bleeding out around the edges of the dual-camera hole-punch. Lots of pre-installed bloatware, which, thankfully, can be uninstalled.

Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung Galaxy A51 Samsung

Samsung Galaxy A51

Price: Rs 23,999

Samsung’s mid-range, A-series portfolio now has the A51, a polished smartphone with a quad-camera setup, a modern Infinity-O display and Android 10 out of the box. Goes up against stiff competition and earns an outright recommendation only for the Samsung loyalists.

The design is an iterative yet decidedly premium upgrade to the A50s — a slim and light all-polycarbonate body that encases the full-HD+ Super AMOLED hole-punch display with nary a bezel in sight. The display is typical Samsung —bright, lively colours, great for watching content and playing games. The A50s’ camera setup — a 48MP primary, a 12MP wide-angle, a 5MP depth sensor — is augmented with new 5MP macro camera, which is all very well if you want to take close-ups of flowers and insects. And if you just want to take regular shots, the A51 takes good shots in all kinds of lighting. Android 10 with the feature-rich OneUI is a treat to use.

Performance on the Exynos 9611 chip feels a little underwhelming, particularly at this price point, and you notice it in day-to-day stuff like navigating the phone and unlocking via the in-display fingerprint sensor. Speaking of, the pricing invites comparison to the Redmi K20 series — the Pro, which offers top-shelf hardware (processor, display) and a more premium product for a little more… or the very capable K20 for a little less.

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