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Zero1 Awards 2018 – Cameras – Entry-Level Full-Frame DSLR

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Every few years, the entry-level DSLR sees infusions of new technologies, thanks to the threat posed by smartphones. Given the rate at which smartphones are improving and people preferring convenience over image quality, DSLR makers have their work cut out for them. This year, there haven’t been many launches in the entry-level DSLR segment, with Canon launching a handful of options and Nikon having completely refrained from launching anything in the segment.

This made the fight a little biased towards the Canon camp. Interestingly, the market trend has been consistently indicating the declining sales of the entry-level DSLR segment around the world, and a growing shift towards mirrorless cameras. While Nikon hasn’t launched anything in India since the Nikon D850 which launched in 2017, the company did release their full frame mirrorless Z6 and Z7 in India right after their international announcements. Let’s get into the details of the winner in this category.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Canon EOS 3000D

When we tested the Canon EOS 3000D, we knew we were handling a really great camera for beginners. The 9-point AF system with its 1 cross-type point enabled the camera to take photos in a whole host of shooting conditions reliably. The shutter response was good which when coupled with the AF system, meant that there were negligible missed shots. The autofocus slowed down slightly in low light situations, but the ISO performance was impressive, allowing us to push it all the way to ISO 6400 without a worry, which is impressive for an entry-level DSLR.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the EOS 3000D is the quality of the images, both RAW and JPG. For shooting video, you will need to invest in an image stabilised lens so that you can make the best of what the sensor can produce. FullHD video coming out of the Canon EOS 3000D looks wonderful and if you’re just looking to capture some home videos, this is an ideal camera for it. Good image quality combined with impressive high ISO performance and an adequately fast AF system is why the Canon EOS 3000D wins the Zero1 Award for Entry Level DSLR.

Best Buy: Canon EOS 1500D

The Canon EOS 1500D is in many ways the same camera like the EOS 3000D, but with a few, but important differences. The 24-megapixel sensor offers more resolution than the EOS 3000D, resulting in an adverse impact on the high ISO performance. The autofocus system is still a solid performer. Canon has developed one of the most responsive and intuitive touchscreen systems for DSLRs, but the Canon EOS 1500D does not have one. At the entry level price point, you’re getting basic, raw performance with a small drizzle of features. Of course, if a touchscreen is absolutely necessary for you, you will have to increase your budget.

However, based on the number of queries we receive for a great camera that costs as much as (or lower) than a high-end flagship, the Canon EOS 1500D is a no-brainer. However, we should warn you that anything above ISO 3200 on the EOS 1500D and you will be seeing noise in your photos. Best way to avoid that would be to pair the camera with a nice prime lens with a wide aperture to let in more light. Because of all the positive aspects, we consider the Canon EOS 1500D the best buy for entry-level DSLR.

Camera

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Cameras – High-end Mirrorless

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Just five years ago, no one would have believed that mirrorless cameras would become a tool much loved by professional photographers. This year, we saw Sony release two full-frame mirrorless cameras aimed at different types of professionals, but this is something they’ve been doing for three years now. What really marked the “arrival” of professional mirrorless cameras is Canon and Nikon both jumping into these treacherous but innovative waters.

With this consideration, this year’s Zero1 awards, for the first time, look at a diverse offering when it comes to professional mirrorless cameras. Zero1 Awards is Digit’s platform that recognizes and rewards products that yield the absolute best performance, price no bar. Keeping that in mind, let’s look at the winner of the Best High-end Mirrorless Camera award for 2018 and a few important mentions that we have featured as well.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Sony A7 Mark III

The Sony A7 Mark III might appear to be the third generation, full-frame mirrorless camera by name, but in reality, Sony has refined its technologies over multiple cameras before launching this one. The Sony A7 Mark III borrows heavily from the Sony A9, taking its superior AF (Auto-Focus) system and the same 24-megapixel back-side illuminated sensor, minus the DRAM-layer.

This allows the A7 Mark III to shoot at speeds up to 10 frames per second in RAW, with AF Tracking enabled. The dual SD Card slots help in ensuring the integrity of recorded images and the battery life gave us closer to 985 shots using the viewfinder and monitor interchangeably which is pretty impressive. The images from the Sony A7 Mark III retained details and colour accuracy all the way up to ISO 125000, requiring little to no noise reduction. There’s very little about the Sony A7 Mark III to criticize, with top-notch performance. Based on its all-round performance, the Sony A7 Mark III wins our Zero1 award.

Runner-Up: Nikon Z7

We tested the Nikon Z7 with the expectations that it would match the performance of the Nikon D850, which set the benchmark for high-resolution full-frame sensors. With a 45 megapixel sensor, the Z7 delivers RAW files with a latitude for exposure correction of a little over 3-stops, allowing the dynamic range to be extended greatly in post.

The burst mode delivers on its promise and the AF system manages to keep up with most fast-moving subjects. The low light performance yields clean RAW files up to ISO 6400 but requires employing noise reduction for anything higher than that. While the Nikon Z7 does have incredible sensor performance, it loses out to the Sony A7 Mark III in terms of AF and burst speed, including its AF tracking capabilities.

Best Buy: Canon EOS R

Canon’s maiden full frame, mirrorless camera comes with a 30-megapixel full-frame sensor that not only delivers impressive performance for photos and videos but also plays home to 5665 autofocus points that make this camera an absolute beast when it comes to focussing performance.

It is, however, held back by its slow burst mode of 5fps when AF Tracking is enabled, otherwise, the camera can hit 8fps with AF locked. This results in a reduced overall performance score, but considering the price, the Canon gets our best value recommendation, since it is pretty much a steal.

Smart Speaker

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Audio – Smart Speakers

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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The smart speakers market, though still small, is a promising one. Last year we only had Amazon selling its first-gen Echo devices. This year, Google joined the bandwagon with its dated 2016 models. It’s still a start nonetheless. More importantly, other mainstream audio experts like Harman and Bose have started to incorporate virtual assistants in their speaker designs. We tested Smart speakers for their overall performance, which included audio quality, microphone sensitivity, and software efficiency.

Because of logistical issues we were unable to include several smart speakers in our list this year, including Harman Kardon’s Allure, and Bose’s Home Speaker series, both of which included Amazon Alexa. Unfettered by the non-availability of these models, we carried on. We decided to choose between the current flagship models sold by Google and Amazon in India—Google Home and Amazon Echo Plus. Had Amazon decided to commence sales of its other global Echo models like the Echo Sub, we’d have included them in our evaluation. Nonetheless, the winner of this year’s Digit Zero1 award for the title of Best Smart Speaker is…

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Amazon Echo Plus

smart speakers

The second-generation Amazon Echo Plus was launched this year along with ten other Echo devices, of which only this and the Echo Dot made it to India. Inside its cylindrical fabric-finished body it has a 0.8-inch tweeter and a 3-inch neodymium woofer. It has a seven-microphone array to listen actively for wake calls. To report ambient temperature the Echo Plus employs a dedicated temperature sensor, apart from relying on popular weather feeds. The Echo Plus has a single 3.5mm audio jack on the back that works as not just line-out (like in the first-gen model) but as line-in as well.

The sound is clear with low and high-frequencies sounding sharp, even if mids are a little weak. Alexa wakes up to wake calls easily from most parts of a large bedroom even when music is playing. Like last year’s model, it can connect to smartphones like any other portable speaker via Bluetooth for audio streaming. The Echo Plus can turn connected lights and air purifiers on and off because it doubles up as a Hub device with support for ZigBee-enabled equipment.

With its more-than-agreeable sound output, multiple connectivity options, and Alexa’s skillfulness, the 2018 Amazon Echo Plus wins the Digit Zero1 award for the title of Best Smart Speaker.

Runner-up: Google Home

Google launched the Home smart speaker in 2016 globally but decided to bring it to India only this year. Inside its plastic body, it houses a 2-inch driver for vocals and dual 2-inch passive radiators for low-frequency thumps.

The sound is not particularly great, but it’s not shabby either. The setup works fine for vocals and string instruments but fails to deliver thump when the beat drops. The microphone setup works well enough in closed office spaces but misses the mark amongst background sounds in larger spaces. It misses out on necessary connectivity options like line-in and line-out, which confines audio playback to its inbuilt speakers. Though it’s got the popular Google Assistant behind the wheel, it comes second because of its modest hardware and sound output.

RAM

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – RAM

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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RAM being a commodity, you wouldn’t exactly expect much to happen in this domain. Alas, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The year started off with Samsung, Hynix and Micron getting slapped with a class action lawsuit over allegations of price fixing. This was primarily because of the spike in revenues of these companies between Q1 2016 and Q3 2017.

We all know of the massive price spikes in this period. Though prices have dropped a lot in first world markets since then, we here in India, are yet to see the price normalisation. Then we have technological improvements. There’s the looming axe of SCM (Server Class Memory) over SSDs and DRAM but this wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

There are way too many SCM standards being worked upon by different technology companies. So, we aren’t going to see any large-scale adoption in the next couple of years. However, one thing is for certain – we’re teetering at the edge of one of the largest revolutions in the memory segment.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-4000 C19

High-end RAM kits are ridiculously expensive and offer diminishing returns but that changed with the introduction of Ryzen CPUs. AMD’s Zen core architecture with the underlying Infinity Fabric is very much memory dependent. That has made these high-end RAM kits a lot more appealing to the consumers. Corsair’s DDR4-4000 C19 kit is one of the few high-end kits that you can get without breaking the bank.

The only other manufacturer we could find in the market was G.Skill and their kit couldn’t make it within the deadline. This particular kit not only has a high speed but also has tighter timings than the other contenders. In the AIDA64 Memory Benchmark, these puppies scored 49K MB/s with read speeds. What’s even better? These units sport Samsung B-Die ICs so playing around with the timings becomes easy as well. So you can see why the Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-4000 C19 ends up being the Zero1 Award winner in this segment.

Runner-up: ADATA XPG SPECTRIX D80 DDR4-3600 CL17

With no other 4000 MHz kit, the runner-up slot was contended by two kits, one being the ADATA Spectrix and the other being the homegrown ZION Blaze RGB kit. Both kits are quite similar on some fronts and run at 3600 MHz. However, the ADATA XPG Spectrix D80 won because it had tighter timings than the ZION RGB Blaze kit.

To put it into context, the ADATA kit was configured in order to run at 17-18-18-38 whereas the ZION BLAZE RGB was configured for 17-19-19-39. Both kits use Samsung B-Die, however, the one with the tighter timings gets second place in this category.

Best Buy: HyperX Predator RGB DDR4-2993 CL15

Kingston is the latest to jump onto the RGB bandwagon with their HyperX Predator RGB series. The kit that we received at our test labs is clocked at 2993 MHz with the timings set to 15-17-17-36. Alongside, it has read speeds of about 44.5K MB/s, which is pretty decent given that it costs 10K for the 16GB kit. Which makes this kit better than the rest of the contenders from a value-for-money perspective. Thus, it nets the Best Buy badge in this category.

Bluetooth Speakers

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Audio – Bluetooth Speakers

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Even though both are meant for consuming music, Bluetooth speakers have a different utility as compared to headphones or earphones. While the latter focuses on an individual and have the advantage of proximity to ears, Bluetooth speakers have the responsibility of filling a room with sound efficiently.

Gone are the days when Bluetooth speakers were just an alternative to wired desktop speakers. Nowadays, premium Bluetooth speakers from established audio brands like Bang and Olufsen, Bose, JBL and Sony are the norm. There has also been an increased focus on durability in Bluetooth speakers. Most of our entrants had waterproofing, with higher-end models sporting at least IPX7. How well do they handle audio? Let’s find out.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: JBL Boombox

bluetooth speakers

Right out of the box, the JBL Boombox looks like something that would have ditched audio quality for sheer power. You couldn’t be further from the truth on this one. The JBL Boombox does pack a punch, which is expected from a speaker that weighs upwards of 5kgs. However, it doesn’t do that at the cost of clarity. There is a deep and rich acoustic feel to the sound of the Boombox, but it’s not too overpowering. There’s no perceptible distortion at higher volumes.

JBL has sculpted the sound on the Boombox with balanced mids and highs without being overpowered by the impactful bass. Another interesting thing is that for a speaker that is playing in a mono configuration, at times the Boombox managed to create the feel of stereo separation. This is no audiophile grade speaker, but something about the way the Boombox balances out the power between its lows, mids and highs are what makes it this year’s winner.

Runner-Up: Beoplay P6

The exact balance between portability and audio quality is quite difficult to strike with Bluetooth speakers. However, the Beoplay P6 manages to strike that exact balance and does so in style. Apart from looking like a work of art, which is expected from a B&O product, the P6 delivers way more power than you would expect from a speaker of its size. Even with the subdued lows, our test tracks sounded clear and well spaced.

The mids and the highs have a life of their own, with tracks like Hello from Adele soaring in their powerful vocals, and Hotel California from The Eagles making you want to forget your critical analysis and just get immersed in the music. If not for the Boombox’s sheer power, the P6 would have stood a strong chance for the top position.

Best Buy: UE Wonderboom Freestyle

“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”- this is the principle that UE has adopted while designing the Wonderboom Freestyle. The Wonderboom was already a good speaker and with the Freestyle upgrade, you get a lot of options for different skins. In the sound department, it carries the reliability of the original Wonderboom. You get a small package that can handle its highs really well, does a fair job with the mids, and loses out on the lows but none of it happens at the cost of clarity unless the volume is at max.

It is also important to note that this tiny speaker can get really loud. The Wonderboom Freestyle can fill a mid-sized room with music, which would have been more impactful if the bass wasn’t underwhelming. However, for the price, the Wonderboom Freestyle is quite a good choice.

Graphics cards

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – Graphics Cards

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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The graphics cards segment has been one-sided this year. Aside from a few refreshes in the low-end, the only graphics card of note that Radeon Technologies Group came out with this year was the Radeon RX 590. That too is essentially the RX 580 built on the 12nm process node. The RX 590 is a good card in terms of performance. However, the 12nm process from GloFo is a variation of the Samsung 14nm process. So not a lot has changed actually.

NVIDIA, on the other hand, is having a gala time. Its RTX series requires no introduction. The sheer amount of leaks and press attention that the 2000 family of GPUs received far exceeds that of any other component. By making real-time ray-tracing accessible, they have now hit the ball into the developers’ court. But the RTX series have seen a slow start. A third competitor, Intel seems to be readying their graphics cards too. Here is your Zero1 winner.

2018 Zero1 award Winner: ASUS ROG STRIX RTX 2080 Ti O11G

There was no option for the winner, it had to be an RTX 2080 Ti. This particular card that beat the rest was the ASUS ROG STRIX RTX 2080 Ti O11G. It’s a slightly souped-up variant of the RTX 2080 Ti with a boost clock of 1665 MHz and a base clock of 1350 MHz. There’s also an intermediary profile, i.e. the gaming profile which has a boost clock of 1650 MHz.

All our RTX 2080 Ti graphics cards had the same boost clock of 1665 MHz. So, it was quite the pain to establish the best. Even the cooling assemblies on all the cards had three fans, ran most games on 4K at 60 FPS and had beefy heatsinks. So it came down to the overclocking benchmarks this time. All cards had their power target increased to 125% and the memory to about 1000 MHz greater than stock.

We then started bumping the GPU clock to see which card could produce stable runs at the highest clocks. The ASUS card turned out to have the most highest stable OC. We managed to get it to run at 175 MHz over stock frequency while the others would freeze. It was a tough competition but the ASUS ROG STRIX RTX 2080 Ti O11G ended up as this year’s Zero1 Award winner.

Runner-up: GIGABYTE RTX 2080 Ti Gaming OC

Coming in a close second, the GIGABYTE RTX 2080 Ti Gaming OC took the runner-up spot. It’s got the same clocks as the ASUS card with a gaming mode that nets you 1650 MHz and an OC mode that goes all the way to 1665 MHz. Moreover, the cooler is open-ended on all sides with three massive fans. However, in our OC tests, we couldn’t get any of the 175 MHz runs to complete successfully.

The card performed really well at 170 MHz OC and the benchmark metrics were barely discernible from the ASUS card. This being the Zero1 Awards, we can only pick one winner so the GIGABYTE RTX 2080 Ti Gaming OC comes in at a close second place.

Best Buy: Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+

The best buy is decided simply on the basis of which product provides the best bang for your buck. The Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ at its Rs 28,500 price point offers the best bang for your buck among all graphics cards that were released this year.

It’s capable of churning out around 55-60 FPS on 1080p in most video games running at their absolute max settings. This is a pretty decent achievement on its own. It certainly doesn’t help NVIDIA’s case that their graphics cards are all ridiculously priced, making it an easy win for the Radeon RX 590.

Cabinets

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – Mid-Tower PC Cases

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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We have seen discernible steps toward innovation in PC cases. While the previous year was more about RGB-fying the case, this year we saw improvements which were actually functional. It’s great that manufacturers are now creating dedicated routes or channels for the cables which translate to minimal effort while connecting components. Some manufacturers of PC cases are adding cable routes and some are using covers to hide the cables.

The other interesting improvements are fan and lighting connectors or hubs being pre-installed in many cases. Sometimes builders run out of fan headers on their motherboard and they are unable to add more fans or lighting strips. This takes care of expandability in the future. Some PC cases come with vertical graphics card mounts, however, they don’t offer better cooling, only aesthetics.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Corsair Obsidian 500D SE RGB

One of the best-looking cases this year was the Corsair Obsidian 500D. It sports tempered glass on three sides with RGB intake fans at the front. Two tempered glass side panels have been installed using a hinged mechanism which is convenient. Build quality is also impressive and feels premium. There’s enough space to accommodate amazing open-looped liquid cooled builds.

The 500D won by a small margin with the Fractal Design Define R6 coming close. In its default configuration, the cooling was brilliant. However, to check the full cooling capacity, we also add additional fans while maintaining a balanced pressure. This is where the Obsidian 500D shone and overtook its competitors in PC cases.

Runner-up: Fractal Design Define R6

Fractal Design’s flagship, the Define R6 is built like a tank majorly made of thick steel with no compromise in build quality. It performs way above average PC cases owing to the pre-installed fans. Thermal performance on the Define R6 was really close to the Obsidian 500D in the default configuration but it lost in the full-fan capacity configuration.

Although the case misses out on the award, it still offers the best kind of features you could ask for in a case that makes assembling simpler. The modularity inside is impressive. Most of the compartments and trays can be removed based on what kind of a build you need. You get all of this at quite a competitive price compared to the other premium PC cases.

Best Buy: Cooler Master MasterBox MB530P

Cooler Master has been aggressively releasing PC cases over the last two years, targetting various price segments and aesthetics to appeal to everyone. This has resulted into a vast lineup of cases out of which they nominated the MasterBox MB530P for the Zero1 Awards. Without comparison, the case delivers better than average thermal performance but it wasn’t enough to take away the award.

It did perform close to the winner and the runner-up in its idle state but the case generated more heat under load. This was the case for both the CPU and graphics card stress testing runs. However, the asking price is surprisingly good. Especially, when you factor in the performance of the case along with the build quality and features.

Gaming Monitors

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – Gaming Monitors

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Gaming monitors or panels didn’t evolve much this year. We mostly saw more panels adopting higher refresh rates but in terms of innovation, there wasn’t much of note this year. The highest refresh rate for gaming monitors is still 240 Hz and going higher isn’t going to add much to one’s experience. Essentially, we’re saying that higher refresh rate gaming monitors have become more affordable.

Then there’s the ongoing adaptive-sync battle between FreeSync and G-Sync that seems to be favouring the former. We’ve also seen more sales of curved monitors but it continues to remain a measly fraction of the overall sales figures for this category. More games on the PC and console are increasingly incorporating HDR and to cater to this demand, we’ve seen more manufacturers offer monitors with HDR support but these continue to be on the expensive side of the spectrum.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Acer Predator XB271HK

The Acer Predator XB271HK is an extremely popular gaming monitor at the moment. It’s not a high refresh rate monitor but the AHVA panel on the XB271HK is very good and it has support for G-sync. Given that the market is dominated by NVIDIA cards at the moment, this gaming monitor makes for a great accompaniment.

After all, the whole point of getting a high refresh rate monitor is to enjoy fluid visuals and having an adaptive sync monitor does just that. There’s also the fact that the AU Optronics panel used in the XB271HK supports true 10-bit colour depth.

If you were to put all of these aside, then the primary factor why the XB271HK won this year’s Zero1 Award for the best gaming monitor is its low input lag of approximately 4 milliseconds. It also has one of the lowest average ΔE values from all the gaming monitors we’ve tested so far, so the victory is well deserved.

Runner-up: BenQ EL2870U

BenQ’s EL2870U is being marketed by BenQ as an entertainment monitor. So that doesn’t make it a true gaming monitor but we took a look at the hardware to judge it ourselves. It’s not a true 10-bit panel but an 8-bit panel with FRC. This makes it closer to an 8-bit panel than to a 10-bit panel.

That being said, it has a response time of 1 ms owing to the TN panel used. Not only that, even the input lag is very low but not enough to beat the Acer Predator XB271HK.

Headphones

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Audio – Wired Headphones

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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In the headphone vs earphone battle, there are way too many serious, sensible points on either side of the camp for us to take a side. Instead, just like every year, we’ve chosen to bring to you the best of both worlds. This one’s about the wired headphones that encompass your ear in their sound.

There hasn’t been as much of a change in the basic technology that goes into these devices as there has been a focus on better material and build quality. We’ve seen an overall improvement in the type of connectors available, a growing preference for balanced outputs from DAC and DSPs and much more. In the end, however, what gets one the Zero1 award is how they sound when you place them on your head.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Audeze LCD MX4

It’s great when a manufacturer with a great reputation in audio decides to make a great pair of headphones. But do you know what’s even better? When that manufacturer decides to take two of its best headphones ever and combine their best parts into a new product. The LCD MX4 is, according to Audeze, the ‘lovechild of the LCD4 and the LCDX’ and it is pretty evident that this thing is a labour of love.

The sonic experience with the LCD MX4 is bright, revealing and energetic. Instead of focussing on sheer power, the MX4 decides to immerse you into a well-rounded listening experience that shines right from the lower midrange up to the highest treble. Power by planar magnetic drivers that work with trademarked Audeze technology, the MX4 is also considerably more comfortable compared to its predecessors. That being said, it is a tad bit tiring to wear it for extended durations. But that’s the price you have to pay for sheer audio quality!

Runner-Up: Ultrasone Edition eleven

While it did come in second, the Ultrasone Edition eleven lost out on the top spot by a fairly small margin. A limited edition piece, only 1,111 of these headphones will ever be manufactured. The unit features a circumaural open back design and uses walnut wood as the material of choice for the enclosure. The 40mm driver does a fabulous job of using the design to its advantage and pushes a sound signature that is airy and bright.

The MX4 could snatch the crown away firmly due to the Edition eleven’s slight obsession with sounding flat and the MX4’s better detail handling capability. However, if you’re don’t really mind weaker lows in your music then Edition eleven could be a great choice for you. That is, if you can snag one of these limited edition masterpieces.

Best Buy: 1More Triple Driver Over Ear

The 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear headphone was a pleasant surprise in this year’s Zero1 awards. Featuring an impressive build at its price point, the audio performance of the Triple Driver stands out due to its clarity despite leaning a bit towards bass response. The portable build makes it easy to carry around in your bag, and the impressive design will make you want to show them off.

Multiple things make these the ideal entry-level audiophile gear. The low power requirements make a dedicated amp unnecessary. A well-defined soundstage on the 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear doesn’t adhere to the usually restricted closed back response. What makes this one lose out is the sheer difference in detailing and balancing that is evident between itself and the more expensive competitors that it’s faced. Even if it did lose out, it did so gloriously.

Professional Monitors

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – Professional Monitors

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Professional monitors are diametrically opposite to gaming panels. They offer way better colour reproduction and use panels that exhibit the least colour distortion with regards to the viewing angles. Professional monitors also feature a host of features catered towards making life easy for those in the media business.

Additionally, they come certified to work with industry standard software right out of the box. These are by no means meant for beginners but for those who are professionally engaged. Most professional monitors usually sport a hefty price tag but this year was a bit surprising compared to the rest. Read on to find out.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Acer ET322QK

Sporting a 31.5-inch 10-bit VA panel, the Acer ET322QK is an absolutely massive monitor, to begin with. It’s got a high contrast ratio of 3000:1 but wasn’t the brightest of the lot that we received this year. However, being a VA panel, it did have a better response time of 4ms against the other contenders which had 5ms IPS panels. And like every good professional monitor, it comes with an Anti-glare matte finish.

Aside from all this, the key point here is the colour reproduction and the Acer ET322QK surely excels in that arena. We measured an average fjE of 0.62 across all colour patches with the lowest 90% averaging fjE 0.48 and the highest 10% averaging fjE 1.91. These numbers were approximately 20-30% lower than the second best candidate. Naturally, the Acer ET322QK had an easy win in the Zero1 Awards in the category of Professional Monitors.

Runner-up: BenQ SW271

The BenQ SW271 is the other 10-bit panel that we received this year. It is a bit brighter than the Acer ET322QK but unfortunately, sports a lower contrast ratio. Also, the panel is IPS so it has uniform viewing angles but the downside is that the response time is slightly greater (5ms). In our benchmarks, the BenQ SW271 exhibited an average fjE of 0.98 for all colour patches and in 90% of all the most accurately reproduced patches, the fjE was 0.64.

In the top 10% with the highest deviation, the fjE was 4.05. This makes the BenQ SW271 a pretty good panel with excellent colour reproduction. For the human eye, this difference is minuscule but for the Zero1 Awards, even such low numbers matter, therefore granting it the position of the runner-up in this category.

Runner-up: ASUS PA27AC

ASUS sent us an 8-bit panel for the professional segment. It was the brightest of the lot with a reported value of 400 cd/m2 but the contrast ratio was the same as the BenQ SW271. The panel is IPS as well and it has a response time of 5ms but the 8-bit panel is where the ASUS PA27AC loses the advantage. In our profiling, the average fjE valued measured was 2.14 which is way higher than all the other contenders.

On a granular level, the lowest 90% of the colour patches averaged at a fjE value of 1.18 whereas the highest 10% averaged at 10.69. This is a bit higher than what we’d expected and subsequently led to the PA27AC dropping down to third place in the category of Professional Monitors in the 2018 Zero1 awards.