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Breaking new ground

Asus Zenfone 5Z Price: Rs 29,999 onwards

By Tushar Kanwar
  • Published 22.07.18

Asus Zenfone 5Z
Price: Rs 29,999 onwards

With the 5Z, Asus finally has a challenger in the sub-40K segment. Not only does the phone offer the same flagship internals as the segment leader OnePlus 6, it also does so at a price that significantly undercuts the competition.

Sporting a Snapdragon 845 with 6/8 GB of memory, the 5Z is a scorcher in everyday use and doesn’t break a sweat, even with the most visually intensive games, courtesy the Adreno 630 graphics. ZenUI is an exercise in feature/visual restraint, allowing the phone to run stunningly fast, and the liberal use of AI features — for instance, in charging where it learns your routine and adjusts charging speed to preserve battery life — give the 5Z a differentiated software experience that doesn’t get in the way. The cameras deliver good results in good light, and the wide-angle lens and AI smarts come in handy quite often, but the low-light, selfie 

and portrait shooting leave a bit to be desired. The inclusion of a great pair of stereo speakers, an FM radio and expandable storage using the hybrid dual-SIM slot are all bonuses.

The design is a bit generic, in that it reminds me of many Asus phones from the recent past. It forgoes wireless charging and water/dust resistance, but offers a good grip and a great in-hand-feel for a phone with a tall 6.2-inch display. It may not match up to the richer blacks and brightness of the best AMOLED displays around, but this is an excellent LCD screen in terms of colour reproduction, brightness and sharpness. 

Jays a-Six Wireless
Price: Rs 5,999

If you’re looking for a neckband-style wireless earphone, the a-Six Wireless from Swedish audio brand Jays is a good choice for the price, for those who like to kick back and enjoy their music.

Crafted from premium metals with an aluminum housing, the earphones have stainless steel grille caps on their outer panels with small laser-cut holes, which not only serve as the bass port but also add a nice visual touch. Audio output favours the lows over the crisp, bright highs. Sill, the sound is solid overall and the balanced audio signature will please most ears and there’s no distortion even if you crank up the volume.

The classy design, complete with the flat-noodle wire that is typical of Jays audio products, has one downside — the battery unit which sits on your neck has the tendency to sway a fair bit if you’re active. On the flip side, the a-Six delivers a strong 12-hour battery life and solid wireless connectivity.

Mass Fidelity Core
Price: Rs 33,999

In a market crowded with Blueooth speakers of all shapes and sizes, the Core from Mass Fidelity set out with a goal of delivering uncompromising audio quality from a compact and minimalist package. For the most part, it delivers on that promise. It’s an excellent companion to your phone or TV for music or movies.

Setting up the Core is easy either over Bluetooth or with wires. So you can connect it to your smartphone or your home theatre system (over optical cable). You can sync up to eight Cores for a multi-room setup over its dedicated 5GHz wireless network. A cube six inches square and four inches tall, the Core is small, particularly considering the size of sound (or soundstage) it creates. Using its side speakers and a technique called wave field synthesis, it creates virtual speakers and expands its soundstage a couple of feet all around, with impressive left/right separation. Plus, there’s no sweet spot for this speaker, so it doesn't matter which part of the room you’re in to enjoy the room-filling sound. Coupled with the clarity — you can hear individual instruments, crisp vocals and percussion that has heft — this is about as good as audio quality gets with a speaker this size. Battery life is 10-12 hours. 

There is little to fault around audio quality, except, maybe, that the maximum volume could have been higher. And it is priced for those who are serious about their sound quality. 

Soulfit Sonic Talkband HR
Price: Rs 9,999

The Sonic Talkband HR offers an interesting take on the fitness tracker — the wearable can transform into a Bluetooth headset (with a built-in earpiece) simply by tapping a button on the strap. 

The 2-in-1 design works for the most part, and the 35g smart band is comfortable to wear. It features an in-built blood pressure monitor, a step counter, heart-rate and sleep tracking, plus a bonus camera control for the paired smartphone.

The 0.96-inch OLED panel is easy to navigate across functions, and the Talkband pops out easily enough to take calls. Tracking across health functions is accurate, but the band often takes time to measure blood pressure.

The price puts it into Fitbit territory, which means you have to really want the dual functionality to justify this purchase. Lacks waterproofing.

OnePlus 6 Red Edition
Price: Rs 39,999

The Red variant of the OnePlus 6 builds on the success of the recently launched mid-range flagship, and is easily the best looker of the lot.

The bright and vibrant paint job is the most pleasing red I’ve seen on a phone, even surpassing the red iPhone 8, and the red drips onto the frame, the buttons and the alert slider along with sleek gold accents on the rear. Packing in 8GB RAM and 128GB storage and the Snapdragon 845 chip, the Red variant is a capable performer and looks hot to boot!

Same as the OnePlus 6 — no wireless charging and full water resistance, and a camera that could do with some improvement before it can challenge premium flagships.

Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator. Follow him onTwitter @2shar. Mail your tech queries to