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IEMs

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Audio – Wired IEMs

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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The last year in audio has been more about going wireless than anything else. We have a brand new ‘True Wireless’ category in this year’s Zero1 for those looking to ditch wires in all forms when it comes to IEMs. However, there’s a certain allure with wired earphones that is hard to ignore. In a direct comparison, it is hard to deny the edge that wired IEMs hold over their wireless counterparts.

Established brand names and newer players, have all been focussed on tweaking their technology to help you find the just right signature for your preference. Some are bringing more than a couple of drivers in a compact form factor at an affordable price, whereas others try to bring technologies usually reserved for over-ear headphones. Let’s jump straight into the best wired IEMs of 2018.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Campfire Audio Atlas

Campfire Audio is not a new name to the world of quality, boutique audio devices. So when the Atlas made its way into our test labs for this year’s Zero1 awards, we were excited. Sporting signature CA technology like the ADLC diaphragm, the Atlas hosts a pair of 10mm dynamic drivers. These drivers are packed inside a stainless steel enclosure that looks like something right out of a cyberpunk movie. With Beryllium / Copper MMCX connections on the Silver Litz cable, Campfire Audio quite evidently avoids all shortcuts to success with the Atlas.

The sound of the Campfire Audio Atlas is beyond anything we’ve experienced so far with wired IEMs. There’s a certain fullness to the overall sound that makes every type of music come alive. The driving force of the Atlas is its bass, with just the right amount of punch that eases you into the lows without sounding harsh. The mids on it are a thing of beauty, driving tracks like Adele’s Hello with a powerful finesse that just puts it a league ahead of its competition.

If we were to forcefully pry apart some minor chinks in the Atlas’ stainless steel armour of audio, it would be in the highs where there’s a tad bit too much brightness, but it still handles tracks with significant high-end density better than most other wired IEMs we’ve heard. The detailing and soundstaging on the Atlas is also par excellence, with tried and tested tracks like Hotel California revealing new musical information at its behest, and Bjork’s vocals on Hunter flowing smoothly through a precise cornucopia of instruments. The Atlas bags this year’s victory.

Runner-Up: Audeze LCDi4

With the entrance of Audeze in the portable IEM market, we expected the iSine 10 and 20 lineups to continue. However, Audeze decided to release a flagship IEM, the LCDi4, that features some technology that goes into the full-sized LCD4. This does give the i4 a higher level of performance than last year’s iSine, but it falls short of the Atlas on a couple of counts.

First, it is quite a chore to wear these units. Featuring a wider than usual trunk, which causes discomfort after a short period of usage. Additionally, due to the elongated trunk, the driver units stick out at a distance from your ear, with nearly no isolation. In the audio department, the LCDi4 is quite close to what we would call a neutral signature.

However, the sound was a little too laid back, lacking the oomph necessary on several tracks. A lot of people might actually prefer this over the Atlas if they’re sticklers for a flat sound and being able to configure their own signature, with the help of external DSPs and EQs. However, for us, that requirement acts against the i4’s case.

Best Buy: FiiO FH5

Coming in behind the Winner and the Runner-up, the FiiO FH5 definitely takes the cake in terms of pricing. Sporting a quad driver configuration with a 10mm dynamic driver for the lows, a single larger mid-range BA for the mids and a dual driver for the lower and upper treble, the FH5’s proficiency in audio shows through in its capable performance across the spectrum.

At its price point, the build quality, options in tips and the connectors available are at par with some of the uber expensive IEMs that have made it into our hands. Definitely a good choice for entering the world of high-end audio with IEMs.

Gaming Desktop

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – Gaming

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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COMPUTEX 2018 saw many component manufacturers come up with their own desktop gaming machines. Most of the components inside were from their own brand which is a worrying trend. Component manufacturers are seeing a drop in sales so selling assembled machines increase their bottom line. Therefore, the company will see a boost in revenue due to bundled sales.

MSI enter the assembled market in a huge way but little of that made its way to India. Even GIGABYTE began selling almost every component in India. Other OEMs will soon start coming up with their own offerings. Those who already had assembled machines, they just went crazy with the configurations.

ASUS and Acer packed flagship hardware into their machines and ZOTAC have revitalised their desktop lineup. We didn’t see a lot of these machines in India, but the coming years should be exciting.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Acer Orion 9000

Acer is one of the first companies who started bringing their mainstream launches to India about the same time as they do globally. With the Orion 9000, Acer is going the boutique PC way so, you can get your own customised configuration. The standardised unit config sold in India comes with an Intel Core i9-7900X, 16 GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti, 32 GB of Optane memory and a custom Cooler Master AIO.

The motherboard and graphics cars are Acer’s own. Also, the SMPS is by FSP which is a good option for high-end configuration. This SKU scored 6792 in 3D Mark Fire Strike Ultra and in 4K games, the FPS would be about 65-70 in most AAA titles running at max setting. Acer seems to have gone all out with this configuration and there was no other brand with a configuration to match. So you can see why the Acer Orion ended up getting this year’s Zero1 Award.

Runner-up: GIGABYTE BRIX VR GB-BNi7HG6-1060

The BRIX was a surprise runner-up this time given that it uses a combination of a mobile Intel CPU with a GTX 1060. Other contenders came with desktop grade CPUs and GPUs but lost out to the BRIX.

It’s because the BRIX has a Core i7-7700HQ which is a quad-core processor with multi-threading while the other contenders were either using Intel Core i5 desktop processors or low-power mobile processors. There’s also the simple fact that it’s really compact, taking us just 2.6L of space. Want more? Well, it’s priced at `76,500 which makes it our Best Buy in this category as well.

Runner-up: ZOTAC GAMING MEK1

ZOTAC has had their ZBOX machines for a really long time. Earlier this year, we started to see the MEK1 gaming PCs make an appearance. ZOTAC simply gave the ZBOX a brand new avatar and bundled peripherals with the package. Their MEK1 machines are not only designed to appeal to a modern aesthetic but they’re also more focused on the gaming aspect.

The only downside that we see is that all the SKUs that are sold in India feature the older 7th Gen CPUs. For folks wanting to build a gaming PC, the 8th Gen CPUs offer a marked increase in performance so there’s little reason to settle with the older gen CPUs.

However, that doesn’t make much of a difference with real-world performance and the MEK1 ends up being our other runner-up. The only reason it lags behind the BRIX is because the MEK1 uses a Core i5-7400 which lacks Hyperthreading.

IEMs

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Audio – Wireless IEMs

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Cutting the cord has been the way to go in audio this year. This needs a special mention for wireless IEMs this year which face stiff competition from wired IEMs. They offer better quality while true wireless IEMs on another taking portability to the next level. Wireless IEMs, with cords tying the two buds together or with a neckband design, have the responsibility of making both worlds meet and do so in a way that is impressive yet budget-friendly.

Things look promising on the higher end too. With better codecs coming into play on smartphones packing better hardware, IEMs have caught up with the trend and have packed in support for quite a few advanced codecs. As a result, wireless IEMs this year sound better than ever and form an interesting category for Zero1 awards. Let’s have a look at this year’s winner.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Beoplay E6

Bang and Olufsen need no introduction. The Beoplay E6 follows their signature design style and definitely looks and feels premium. The Beoplay E6 defies its size and makes quite a few tracks sound grander than you would expect from a wireless IEM by featuring sound that is big and full. The bass response is quite perfect, without any unnecessary overpowering.

While it doesn’t compare to the best that wired IEMs had to offer this year, it offers a great option to people who need to go wireless and don’t want to cut corners when it comes to build quality and audio performance. Coming back to the audio, the E6 also handles the mids exceptionally well. with powerful vocals in the high mids like those of Adele soaring amid the detailed instruments around it. The lower mids are also handled well.

Tracks like Choti Si Asha let the E6 showcase its ability to handle detail, with each individual instrument being reproduced accurately, with just the right amount of balance between warmth and brightness. The highs are also well rendered throughout the listening experience. The E6 allows you to fine-tune the sound but we went with its default performance which was enough to get it the top position.

Runner-Up: Sennheiser Momentum Free

Sennheiser’s Momentum series has a reputation to maintain and the Momentum Free it did not fail to impress. The Momentum Free held its own in our tests with most tracks that we could throw at it but it lagged a bit behind the E6 in terms of detail and soundstaging. On the lows, it packed an adequate punch but lost out on timbre, which was handled well by the E6.

The Momentum Free sounded much better on tracks that are quieter overall as compared to densely packed music. The overall sound can be described as warm, but with a sweetness that the Momentum lineup is known for.

Best Buy: Jays a-Six Wireless

Not winning material but the Jays a-Six is definitely going to strike a chord with fans of popular music. Its sound signature is considerably on the warm side. However, it also does justice to the rest of the spectrum, to the best of its abilities. The a-Six wireless is the Swedish audio house’s first wireless piece. The inexperience does show through when pitted against more capable counterparts.

However, there’s a significant price difference between them and the a-Six Wireless, which makes it an excellent choice in case you’re looking to get a good sounding pair of wireless headphones on a budget.

Wireless Router

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Networking – Wireless Mesh Routers

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Call it what you may – Mesh Routers, Whole Home Wi-Fi System or Distributed Wireless System – Wi-Fi hardware has undergone quite the colossal shift. Most brands have come out with their own specialised mesh routers while some simply upgraded the firmware on older routers to support meshing. With more folks going in for more than one Wi-Fi router, it was natural for the mesh routers to enter the consumer market.

Mesh networking has been a common phenomenon since the time IEEE 802.11-1999 standard came into being. Routers, back then, had it as an option called Wireless Distribution System (WDS) and the standard wasn’t all-encompassing or complete in any way. This led to incompatibility between devices from multiple manufacturers.

All of that is now in the past and Mesh Routers are here to stay simply because they solve a major problem that many face with the increase in Wi-Fi devices and subsequently, the interference caused by high-density of the same. We saw some interesting Mesh Routers this year. Almost all of them take great effort is not looking like routers. That’s a story for another day, let’s see the best that this year has for us in this particular category.

2018 Zero1 award Winner: Netgear Orbi

The Netgear Orbi isn’t a small device at any means. Compared to some of the other mesh routers we saw this year, the Orbi takes up a lot of real estate and stands tall as well. This gives it a very commanding presence in your living room, something that most customers don’t seem to prefer. Also, the Orbi had a rough start with not-so-great performance over short distances but as we kept increasing the separation, the Orbi showed its prowess in maintaining a strong link.

It’s also one of the few systems to be available in a multitude of variations. Most manufacturers have one or two SKUs but Netgear has multiple combinations to suit a myriad of use cases. Since performance over distance is why this particular category even exists, the Netgear Orbi shone through as the best that we’ve seen this year. It definitely deserves the Zero1 award for the best Mesh Router in 2018.

Runner-up: Linksys Velop

While the Orbi works its magic over longer distances, the Linksys Velop remains consistent across distances but is exceedingly good over short distances. Since we prioritised the performance at larger distances over shorter distances, the Velop lost out to the Orbi. Nevertheless, the Velop also offers multiple SKUs for consumers and is more versatile.

By that, we mean that each node can act as the router connected to the backhaul. You don’t have to get a specific SKU just for the primary node or as secondaries. Any node can play any role. The Linksys Velop comes in as a runner-up in this category.

Best Buy: D-Link Covr

The D-Link Covr take up little real estate and do pack quite the punch. They’re dual-band devices so they are at a disadvantage from that perspective. However, two bands are more than enough for most households. Only extremely congested areas would require the additional band. The per-hub-cost for the D-Link Covr was the lowest among all the units we received. Thus, making it the Best Buy for this year’s Zero1 Awards.

IEMs

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Audio – Truly Wireless IEMs

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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The world of wireless audio has a seen a lot of action in 2018. Major headphone and earphone brands have gone wireless. However, there’s the true wireless category that has emerged from a progress in wireless technology to the point where absolutely no wires are needed for you to enjoy your music. It wouldn’t be too incorrect to give the Airpods credit where it’s due, but we’ve had entrants who’ve set up shop before them.

As with other wireless categories, there’s also a significant focus on True Wireless IEMs to include extraneous features. However, in our tests, only pure audio performance has been taken into account. So, let us kick off this brand new category in the Zero1 Awards!

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Beoplay E8

B&O surprisingly managed to fit luxury into a pair of tiny truly wireless earbuds, in their new offering, the E8. Sporting a sleek and inconspicuous design, the E8 speaks of B&O’s years of experience in designing quality audio products. Each of the buds packs a 5.7mm dynamic driver that produces warm, lively and energetic sound. While the Beoplay E8 allows a number of configurations, we stuck to the default sound signature and weren’t disappointed.

The bass response depends on the fit you get but even with the defaults buds, our experience with the lows was exceptional. The mids are clear and forward, with Adele’s Hello sounding full. The highs are also handled quite well, avoiding shrillness in the upper ranges. The controls on the Beoplay E8 are quite handy, with the right-left earbuds being master-slave respectively. There is a certain amount of tapping required, but it doesn’t take too long to get the hang of it. Overall, the Beoplay E8 stands for the best truly wireless earbuds that (a lot of) money can buy.

Runner-Up: Bragi The Dash Pro

With the Headphone and the Dash, Bragi made a lot of noise (pun intended) in the world of truly wireless audio. The Dash Pro was released to make up for the drawbacks of the Dash and it almost fulfills that goal. Packing a ton of features, this was also the most satisfying of the lot in terms of connectivity and usability. The touch interface is a dream to use with most controls on the right earbud and a couple on the left.

We experienced no issues whatsoever in our usage period. When it comes to the audio, the Dash Pro does a fairly good job of staying true and clear across genres but falls short of the clarity offered by the E8. There’s a slight bias towards the lows and they come across as muddled. Overall, the sound lacks a bit of power and impact.

Best Buy: Jabra Elite Active 65t

The Elite Active 65t sport a number of upgrades and changes when compared to its predecessor. For starters, the finish is slightly more rugged and the build comes with an IP56 rating. The sound that these buds can generate is clearly superior at its price point. There’s a certain amount of treble boost which works in its favour, and the deep and punchy bass response with the appropriate seal is also handled with just the right amount of power.

The Elite Active 65t has ditched the heart rate sensor of the Elite 65t resulting in a sleeker design that is more focused on being usable and sounding great. Where this headphone is surprisingly impressive is detail reproduction. Music across genres sounds crisp and well detailed. Overall, the Jabra Elite Active 65t is a solid pick that works on the few drawbacks of the Elite 65t and augments itself with a wide range of features.

SSDs

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – NVMe Solid State Drives

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Over the duration of the last one year, NVMe SSDs haven’t managed to become as economical as expected. In fact, the prices of the SSDs have more or less remained stagnant on a cost/GB basis. What has changed, however, is that more and more NVMe SSD manufacturers have started improving upon the controllers.

The average NVMe speed has gone up on the consumer SSD front as well as on the OEM front, so most of the SSDs that we see bundled in laptops are also consistently improving. As for the NAND technology, it definitely seems to be on the upswing as well. Chinese silicon manufacturer, YMTC has promised to ship 64-layer 3D NAND in 2019 with support for Xtacing technology. This might give us NAND flash with I/O speeds that would rival that of flash memory.

So we could see ultra-fast NAND tech. However, it would seem that the only bottleneck from that point onwards will be the interface bandwidth. So 2018 has been not so memorable but 2019 might be an entirely exciting year. Let’s take a look at our winner of the Zero1 award in this category of the Best NVMe SSD.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: WD Black 1TB 2018

The new WD Black NVMe SSD is definitely a really good SSD. It has successfully managed to best some of the enthusiast favourites in quite a lot of the benchmarks. The Intel 760p and the Samsung 960 Pro did end up being a bit competitive, however, in the end, the WD Black NVMe turned out to be the better drive. The controller on the new WD Black NVMe SSD was designed internally and most of the specs are still held in complete mystery.

Considering that M.2 PCIe x4 slots have a theoretical speed limit of about 3940 MB/s, the transfer speeds which averaged at about 3400 MB/s appear to be quite a massive improvement over the older Black SSD. For the price of Rs 32,999, the cost per GB comes down to Rs 33 which is quite economical as well. Let’s just say that WD’s efforts with the new controller and NAND have finally worked their magic which has granted them the winner’s spot in the category of the Best NVMe SSDs.

Runner-up: Corsair Force MP510

An upgrade to last year’s MP500 is the new Corsair Force MP510, which comes with the Toshiba BiCS3 64-layer 3D TLC NAND with a Phison PS5012-E12 for the controller. This gives the MP510 consistent and high read speeds but not so great write speeds, unfortunately.

Moreover, if we take a look at the IOPS figures for the Corsair MP510 then we notice that there’s a significant improvement across the board. The MP510 loses out to the WD Black primarily because of the write speeds but it’s a great drive nevertheless, therefore placing it at the runner-up spot in this category.

Best Buy: Kingston A1000

The Kingston A1000 came out early this year and has had a significant price reduction over the year. It offers both, a mix of good performance as well as lost cost/GB. Like the MP510, the A1000 has the same 64-layer Toshiba BiCS3 NAND but the controller is the Phison PS5008-E8 which is a slightly scaled down version of the one in the MP510.

As a result, we see read speeds of about 1,500 MB/s but write speeds hover in the 800 MB/s range. Compared to the other drives we saw this year, the A1000 has a cost/GB of Rs 20.6 which makes it an ideal buy for folks wanting to jump onto the NVMe bandwagon. This is why the Kingston A1000 is our Best Buy for 2018.

Desktop processors

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – CPUs

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Desktop processors have come a ridiculously long way over 2018. Both AMD and Intel have pushed the envelope this year. CPUs had been Intel’s home ground for years before the two companies began competing with each other. The battle’s been raging for more than four decades and it seems that AMD has gained a significant foothold of, what used to be Intel’s territory. Don’t get the wrong idea, Intel still dominates the market in terms of pure sales figures.

In the Indian market, Intel has a 90% market share with AMD at 10%. However, AMD gained numbers primarily because the Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs that offer a lot more cores for the same amount. Over the past few months, Intel CPUs have been in short supply and are taking longer to appear in the Indian market leading to AMD getting an ever bigger piece of the pie. This should give you a clear idea about who the winners for this years Zero1 Awards in the Desktop Processor category will be.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: AMD Ryzen™ 2nd Gen Threadripper™ 2990WX

Officially, the world’s first 32-core HEDT CPU, the Ryzen™ 2nd Gen Threadripper™ 2990WX is an absolute monster of a CPU. It’s unlocked as all AMD CPUs are, has a massive 64 MB L3 cache and starts off with a base clock of 3 GHz. The sheer ridiculousness that one experience while benchmarking this CPU is indescribable. You have to experience it personally.

The 2990WX scores more than 5200 in Cinebench R15, that’s 800 points over last year’s Intel Core i9-7980XE. Should you overclock the 2990WX, you can push the Cinebench R15 scores to 6200! All of this comes at a price of `1,29,990. AMD’s pricing seems to be more consumer friendly since the 7980XE with 18-cores launched at a higher price. Intel’s best HEDT CPU would be the Core i9-9980XE is yet to reach India but that wasn’t going to make a difference. The Ryzen™ 2nd Gen Threadripper™ 2990WX wins this year’s Zero1 Award entirely on its own merit.

Runner-up: Ryzen™ 2nd Gen Threadripper™ 2970WX

Sporting six fewer cores, the Ryzen™ 2nd Gen Threadripper™ 2970WX comes in at second place. However, it’s not close a close second. The difference in performance metrics between the two SKUs can go as high as 16% in multithreaded applications and even more in certain benchmarks.

In single-core performance, the two are equally matched. With a 30K price difference between the two CPUs, the 2970WX seems to be more favourable for folks who wouldn’t mind a minor reduction in real-world performance in day-to-day applications. For those who are more into getting all the cores into action, the 2990WX is still the better option.

Editor’s Pick: Intel Core i9-9900K

We picked the Intel Core i9-9900K as the Editor’s pick for two simple reasons. It is the best processor for gaming and maintains a lead over its counterparts from AMD. Moreover, its single-core performance is also the highest we have ever seen.

The 9th Gen flagship is supposed to be priced at approximately `34,000, however, owing to a scarcity of CPUs the world over, the Intel Core i9-9900K can be seen retailing for nearly twice as much. It’s a great CPU but not worth the current price at all.

Hard Disk Drives

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – Hard Disk Drives

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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There are just three major manufacturers left in the hard drive sector – WD, Seagate and Toshiba. Between these three manufacturers are numerous sub-brands that make up the entire consumer hard drive portfolio. In a way, it appears that hard drive manufacturers have stopped trying to outdo each other. Practically every high-end drive in the hard drives consumer market right now has the same specifications – 7200 RPM and 256 MB cache.

There’s hardly any reason to innovate in terms of performance given that SSDs have become quite inexpensive and almost everyone building a PC is getting one. The focus has been on increasing capacity with newer technologies. Seagate has HAMR (Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording) and WD has MAMR (Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording) to increase storage density.

Both brands are focused on catering to the data centres primarily while the consumer market appears to have taken the backseat. We ended up getting a multitude of drives this year from the manufacturers themselves as well as from NAS vendors, so we’ve got a pretty decent set to work with.

2018 Zero1 award Winner: WD Black 6TB

Gone are the days when the WD Black used to dominate all other drives because of its 10K RPM and massive cache. The current WD Black is a 7200 RPM drive with 256 MB of cache and it still manages to provide decent performance compared to its own sibling, the WD Blue. However, the WD Black is still one of the best consumer drives you can get in the market.

The recent addition to the WD Black lineup saw the cache getting bumped to 256 MB from 128 MB. This has helped with improving the host-to-drive speeds over other models. Moreover, this drive also has pretty decent IOPS characteristics for both 4K and 8K file sizes. For being an all-around performer, the WD Black wins the Zero1 Award this year.

Runner-up: Seagate Skyhawk 14TB

Seagate sent us the latest in their lineup of surveillance drives and we had some of their FireCuda SSHDs with us as well. The FireCuda not being a proper HDD was not considered but that didn’t matter since the Skyhawk more than made up for its sibling. With the ability to handle high IOPS better than most other drives in the market, the Skyhawk seems to have a natural advantage in dealing with multiple streams.

Making it ideal for use cases that are the norm in the surveillance world. We should mention that the Skyhawk doesn’t seem to show that much of a difference in sheer throughput. In fact, if you really wish to see this drive work wonders, then you need to benchmark it for 4K and 8K latency. That’s where you find the Skyhawk widen the performance gap against the competing WD Purple. But when it came to pure throughput, the Skyhawk does lag behind the WD Black.

Best Buy: WD Blue 4TB / SkyHawk 4TB

The WD Blue and the Seagate Skyhawk continue to offer massive storage space for practically the same amount. Performance isn’t key when it comes to bulk space most folks get an SSD for the boot drive. With that said, we have two contenders from both the major manufacturers sharing the Best Buy mention this year because they both cost the exact same.

Television

Zero1 Awards 2018 – TV – 4K HDR Flagships

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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It’s been a good year for those getting onto the 4K TV bandwagon. The premium 4K TVs in this section have seen some interesting advancements. We have seen the transition from the scene based HDR rendering to the better, object-based rendering. OLED 4K TVs have helmed the flagship market in India with companies like Sony, Panasonic showcasing their offerings.

The AI approach is popular and allows AI-enabled TVs to control your home appliances, have perfect voice recognition and fluid UIs. Some also sport Alexa or Google Home connectivity. We have seen some 4K TV makers bundle a soundbar with the TV whereas Sony has improved upon its acoustic surface technology. Surprisingly, these 4K TVs can make even 720p content look good. Flagship TVs have embraced Dolby Vision ensuring the best picture.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Sony A9F

The A9F, Sony’s OLED offering for 2018 retains the same look and design as last year’s A1 with improvements under the hood. The TV sports the picture frame tabletop design. It is powered by Sony’s new X1 Ultimate processor which is capable of some impressive object-based rendering. Additionally, the TV also boasts a Netflix Mode to ensure you watch content in the brightness, contrast and colour temperature that the content creators actually intended.

Sony’s Acoustic surface has improved with the TV as well, offering 3 actuators instead of 2 and 2 subwoofers instead of 1 to add a good sound experience from the TV. Another feature is that the TV can be used as a centre channel speaker in your home theatre. Running on Android TV 8 out of the box, the new UI is smoother and simpler to navigate with the ability to control your smart home appliances just like you would with a Google Home speaker.

With picture-perfect display performance and good sound from the TV mixed with a new UI, smooth functionality and a host of features to exploit, the Sony A9F is the Zero1 winner for best-performing TV of 2018.

Runner-up: LG C8

The LG C8 is by no means a slouch of a TV. In fact, placed side by side with the A9F and only a trained eye will be able to tell the difference. The TV is powered by LGs new 9 Intelligent Processor. If you are looking to pick up this TV, you aren’t making a bad decision at all. It can playback 4K content in HDR and Dolby Vision extremely well. The only place where it loses out to the A9F is with its sound performance.

To truly enjoy this TV, you will need to invest in a sound bar or a home theatre. It runs on LG’s new ThinkQ AI-powered webOS and the UI is butter smooth to navigate. The picture presets automatically change to suit the content on display ensuring you never need to adjust the settings to get the best picture on screen. Even 720p content looks great on this TV.

Best Buy: LG C8

During the process of testing the TVs for the Zero1 Awards, the 55-inch Sony A9F is priced at Rs 4,29,900. Whereas the 55-inch LG C8 has an MRP of Rs 2,24,990 and a street price of about Rs 1,61,800. The price difference between the two is quite high. If a fantastic display is what you want, then yes, you can consider the LG C8. It has a slim design making it aesthetically pleasing. It boasts smooth performance and a remote control that literally works like a magic wand.

Keyboard

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Peripherals – Gaming Mechanical Keyboards

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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The gaming keyboard market was aggressive in 2018. Manufacturers tried to cater to all kinds of gamers. Mechanical keyboards have become the norm nowadays and membrane keyboards are negligible. To beat the monotony of the variety of mechanical switches, switch manufacturers have been introducing innovative design changes which led to a rise of mechanical keyboards.

Although mechanical switches already offer incredible durability, optical mechanical switches are slowly being adopted by several keyboard manufacturers to improve lifespan more. Wireless gaming keyboards and splash-proof keyboards have also been introduced by a few brands. Let’s read more about the winner.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Thermaltake X1 RGB

The Thermaltake X1 RGB caught our eye with the software and app features they introduced in this premium keyboard. The X1 RGB uses genuine Cherry MX mechanical switches and we didn’t come across any input issues in our testing. While it doesn’t sport full key rollover, it’s beyond the minimum requirement for gaming and implemented anti-ghosting as well.

Thermaltake’s revamped software utility tool surprised us. The older versions were functional but navigation was an issue. On the X1 RGB’s software utility, it was easy to play around with the lighting effects and even recording macros was a breeze.

Thermaltake even implemented control of the keyboard with their mobile app. The app includes lighting effect control, a virtual game controller, virtual keyboard and customisable virtual macro buttons. The best part is that all these features work fine while delivering the expected performance.

Runner-up: Gigabyte AORUS K9 Optical

Gigabyte released the K9 Optical in its AORUS gaming brand that housed Flaretech optical switches. They provide a durability of 100 million keystrokes, which is the highest. Your keyboard chassis and keycaps might wear out in a few years but your optical switches will continue functioning for over a decade or two.

The K9 Optical has all the features you’d expect on a premium gaming keyboard including software support. In Zero1 Awards, price isn’t a factor. However, the K9 Optical has been competitively priced, even lower than some of the premium gaming keyboards with mechanical switches.

Best buy: VPRO V510

For the past few years, the prices of mechanical gaming keyboards have dropped drastically. More keyboards have started appearing in the market with Cherry MX-compatible or knock-off mechanical switches. This has also allowed keyboard manufacturers to strike deals with switch manufacturers to develop switches based on their preferences and rebrand them with their own logo. The VPRO V510 has done the same with mechanical switches having the Rapoo logo.

Although there’s no software support, the V510 is built well. It offers all the basic requirements including full key rollover, anti-ghosting and support for multimedia and volume control with the help of modifier keys. The keyboard is spill-proof so it offers protection from accidental spills. The keyboard won’t get damaged if you drop water or any liquid on it. However, this doesn’t mean that the keyboard can survive submersion. The V510 can serve as a great choice for entry-level gaming and for gamers who want to experience a mechanical keyboard on.