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Air Purifier

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Health – Air Purifiers

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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With the steep rise of air pollution in these past few months, the sales of air purifiers spiked. So did the number of new devices launched in the Indian market. Samsung, Sharp, Philips and many other companies brought their latest tech to India. However, only a handful of these were able to stand their ground when a toxic haze engulfed Delhi after the festive season. We think that it’s high time to include air purifiers as a category in the Zero1 awards. Since the Zero1 awards are based on pure performance, rest assured that the winner in any of the Zero1 categories is the best in class.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Sharp J60M

We tested a slew of air purifiers this year for the Zero1 Awards, out of those, the Sharp J60M-W is definitely the winner. The J60M leaves no room for doubt when it comes to performance as it’s capable of improving the average air quality in a 200 sqft room with a 12 ft ceiling height to excellent levels in under 30 minutes.
It exhibits ideal performance in the harshest of conditions.

To help achieve this top-level performance, it comes equipped with a high-grade H-14 HEPA filter that has a total particulate retention of 99.99 percent. There is an activated carbon filter that removes harmful gases and TVOCs, and it employs a high-density plasma cluster ion generator that generates both positive and negative ions from water vapour to considerably lower the amount of fine pollutants in the air. The air purifier proved capable of almost completely removing cigarette odour from one of our test rooms in under 20 minutes.

Runner-Up: Ladakh Mini

Smart Air tried a different approach with its Ladakh Mini air purifier as it equipped large filters on a big fan. It is designed to filter large amounts of air at once and it works quite decently. It lost to the Sharp J60M air purifier by a hair as the Sharp J60M was able to bring the PM2.5 particle count down to single digits and keep the count down in the same room that has an area of 200 sq ft and a ceiling height of 12 ft.

The Ladakh Mini also comes equipped with a carbon filter that is definitely above average when it comes to cleaning odour from the air. While the carbon filter should be included, it is optional. Overall, the Ladakh mini is a good performer that is suitable for areas with high air pollution levels.

Best Buy: Xiaomi Mi Air Purifier 2S

The Xiaomi Mi Air Purifier 2S is a good performer, even though it has relatively smaller filters and fan. Proving itself to be a value for money device, the air purifier has the ability to lower the PM2.5 particle count from thrice the threshold limit to permissible levels in under 45 minutes. It comes equipped with a rather simple filter assembly that combines a pre-filter, a HEPA filter and a Carbon filter.

Its squarish design features air inlets from three sides to suck polluted air in, filter it and expel it out the top. Even though it comes equipped with an H-11 HEPA filter, the particle retention rate of the air purifier is much better than one would expect. The inner activated Carbon filter takes care of VOCs and other harmful gases that one would find inside their homes. After testing, we found that the Mi Air Purifier 2S works best in areas of up to 300 sq ft.

Wearables

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Health – Fitness Trackers

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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2018 was an interesting year for fitness trackers, especially in the affordable section. Tech, such as optical heart rate sensors and colour displays became more prevalent, while others features such as blood pressure tracking became available in devices under Rs 5,000. Newcomers like Huami offered built-in GPS tracking at under Rs 10,000. Yes sir, 2018 was one very interesting year and we cannot for 2019. Before that, let’s see which devices set the benchmark in 2018.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Garmin Fenix 5X Plus Sapphire

Fitness trackers Zero1 Awards 2018

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus Sapphire is not the cheapest fitness tracker in the market but it’s a top performer. The device is aimed at athletes or active individuals in general. So, you don’t get creature comforts like a touchscreen. It also offers pretty accurate metrics such as heart rate, altitude, fat burn zones, route tracking and more. It tracks everything from Yoga to skiing.

Of all the fitness trackers we tested, the Fenix 5X gave us the most accurate metric. For example, it was able to track our step count accurate to a single step. You also get plenty of apps and watch faces to play around with. To top that, we’re pretty sure that the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is tough enough to be used as a cudgel. It’s the closest you will get to 100 percent accurate in terms of fitness tracking and metrics, making it the winner of our Zero1 Award.

Runner-Up: Fitbit Ionic

The Fitbit Ionic lost out to the Garmin at the last minute, but there’s no shame in that. It offers everything that the everyday fitness freak would want in a smartwatch. Accurate route tracking, multiple activity tracking, water resistance and more. It can track runs, bike riding as well as workouts. You also get a relatively large touch screen for easy navigation. The Fitbit app is pretty handy as well. The app features the Fitbit Coach, that guides users through a set of exercises.

The Iconic also offers about four to five days of battery life, which is pretty impressive. It only loses out to the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus Sapphire because of the better accuracy of the Fenix 5X fitness tracker overall. The Fitbit Ionic fitness tracker was not too far behind the Garmin though, and it costs only a fraction of the Fenix.

Best Buy: Xiaomi Mi Band 3

Xiaomi’s Mi Band series tend to offer very good value for money, and this year was no different. However, it got strong competition from the Lenovo HX03F Spectra, but narrowly won thanks to its impressive battery life and a slightly better activity tracking. The device looks a lot like its predecessor but also includes a touch screen that users can swipe across to access the various functions of the device. It can not only track exercises and runs, but also offers weather updates for up to three days.

It offers a lightweight design as well as an optical heart rate monitor for less than Rs.2,000. Further, the wearable can work together with the company’s Mi Body Composition weighing scale. The smart scale pairs with the same Mi Fit app and the information from the two are offered together. As a result, you can see how well your new workout regimen is helping you out with your weight. The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 is a stepping stone for anyone to try out a fitness tracker to see if it helps them get fit, and that is not a bad thing in any way.

Laptop

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Laptops – Gaming

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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A major boost for the gaming laptop industry early this year was the introduction of Intel’s most powerful hexa-core mobile CPUs. Practically everything under the sun is using NVIDIA GPUs, so there’s no apparent competition in that arena for the last 15 months. We haven’t noticed any Kabylake-G based machines either. The only ones that are available are the Intel NUCs and they aren’t exactly what you would call laptops.

A few AMD Ryzen based SKUs are available but they do not boast of any significant market share. We’re yet to see laptops based on NVIDIA’s RTX GPUs, but given that benchmarks have started leaking, we suspect that laptops based on the 2000 series should be unveiled at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2019. So, all we’ve seen for most of this year were gaming laptops featuring the same hardware but shrinking considerably in size.

Slim gaming machines have become a possibility and practically all manufacturers have a slim SKU. We’re just excited to see what the next year will bring. Another thing of note would be the lack of laptops with SLI (Scalable Link Interface). It appears that we might not see another Acer Predator 21X or ASUS GX800 in the coming year. That being said, let’s take a look at the winners.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Alienware 17 R5

Alienware had the best of both worlds, owing to it coming out with the hexa-core Intel Core i9-8950HK and the NVIDIA GTX 1080. The perfect combination for getting the most from any gaming machine bar SLI. The unit is a bit heavy but it spreads all the bulk along a larger surface area quite efficiently. For gaming machines, we couldn’t care much about the bulk, so a 17-inch QHD panel on the Alienware is very much a welcome feature.

On the other hand, the Alienware is also really well built on the inside which is a huge plus point in this segment. Just throwing in the top hardware isn’t enough, ensuring durability is also extremely important. However, this being the Zero1 Awards, we didn’t score the build quality and the Alienware 17 R5 won purely on merit i.e. by beating every other contender by a clear, well-defined margin.

Runner-up: MSI GT75 TITAN 8RG

We had a crack at the MSI GT75 TITAN 8RG early this year when the unit had just been launched. The only reason it came in second place was because of the CPU, which happens to be the Intel Core i7-8750H. It’s still a hexa-core CPU but the Core i9-8950HK is a good 8-9% ahead in most CPU bound benchmarks. As for the laptop itself, it’s a bit bulkier than the Alienware 17 R5 but the GT series is known for the mechanical keyboard and the additional software suite. Everything about these units is geared towards catering to the teensiest whims of the gamer that doesn’t like to compromise.

Best Buy: ASUS TUF FX504

The ASUS TUF Gaming FX504 is a great gaming laptop given that you’ve got the additional 2 CPU cores for no added money over the older quad-core variant. That with the NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti and the 120 Hz panel make for a much better combination. As for gaming experience, it isn’t completely out of this world as one would probably expect because of the improved CPU. The display panel is average but we’re not complaining because you get a 120 Hz panel at the end of the day and that’s much better than the usual combination.

Laptop

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Laptops – Mainstream

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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It’s the Digit Zero1 awards season again, and we choose a winner based purely on their performance. Price does not matter. That’s a great idea for the category of mainstream laptops. We’ll explain why…

Mainstream laptops are generally designed for performance. They may, in addition, feature a longer battery life or a screen with touch capability, but they’re primarily meant to crunch numbers in the shortest time possible. That’s exactly what we’re looking for at Digit too. Mainstream laptops are getting more powerful, slimmer and lighter these days. Laptop makers are chopping off bezels in order to house a larger screen in a compact body.

On the performance front, more and more models feature a PCIe solid-state drive for faster boot times. Many of them house a hard drive as well so storage capacity is not compromised. Intel Optane memory is gradually making its way into laptops, giving these models a speed advantage over the ones with only hard drive storage. We present this year’s Digit Zero1 award winner…

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Asus ZenBook Pro 15

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A glance at this machine’s specs should tell you enough about its speed. The Asus ZenBook Pro is the first laptop in the world to integrate a display in its touchpad, making it a second display. You could, for example, use it for playing a video on YouTube or have dedicated controls for a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. Under the hood, the ZenBook Pro packs an 8th-gen Intel Core i9, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB PCIe solid-state drive.

Graphics is handled by an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 RAM. The ZenBook Pro tore through its competitors in our scoring sheet by a large margin. Battery life too was nearly on par with the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S. Without a sliver of doubt then, the Asus ZenBook Pro 15 is our Digit Zero1 award winner this year.

Runner-up: Dell Inspiron 7572

The Dell Inspiron 7572 looks as subtle but packs interesting specs. Additionally, its web camera sits below the display. Inside its unpretentious exteriors resides an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU and 8GB of RAM. An additional 8GB of RAM can be slapped on for an extra cost at a Dell store. For storage, it offers dual drives: a 128GB solid-state drive and a 1TB hard drive spinning at 5,400 rpm.

For graphics, an NVIDIA GeForce MX 150 with 4GB of GDDR5 video RAM. That should be sufficient for lightweight video games. During our evaluation, the Inspiron 7572 was one-third of the distance away from the ZenBook Pro in terms of overall performance. All other numbers considered, it comes in at as the runner-up for this year.

Best Buy: Acer Aspire 5

The Acer Aspire 5 may look as boring but can move swiftly. The Acer Aspire 5 consists of an 8th-gen Intel Core i5 CPU and a 1TB hard drive. The Aspire 5 is equipped with 8GB of RAM and 16GB of Intel Optane memory, which gives the hard drive an added performance boost. To handle graphics, it’s got an NVIDIA GeForce MX 130 GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 video RAM.

That should be good for a few light video games like Portal 2 and Tomb Raider (2013). All put together, the Aspire 5 scores rather well on our scoring sheet. Considering its somewhat approachable price tag, we believe the Acer Aspire 5 should be this year’s Zero1 Best Buy.

Laptop

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Laptops – Convertible

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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It’s time to pick the best Convertible Laptop for the Zero1 award that sports great performance. Before we see who the winner is, let’s explore the concept of convertible laptops. Convertible laptops are an ideal choice for users looking for portability and comfort. They typically feature a display setup that converts the laptop into a tablet by either folding back all the way back to meet the base or by detaching from the base altogether.

Pivoting displays were a thing back in the days of the ThinkPad X-series Tablet but it’s been replaced by displays that do ‘Yoga’. Convertible laptops can now be used comfortably in landscape or portrait mode. Like Thin and Light laptops, Convertible laptops employ light materials and a solid-state drive for better portability. They generally weigh less than 1.6 kgs and the screen size is less than 14 inches, also typically sporting a stylus.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Lenovo YOGA 920

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2018’s Lenovo YOGA may only be a mild refresh from last year’s model but it sure packs punchy performance. The sharp-edged convertible laptop features an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Graphics are taken care of by an integrated Intel GPU. The YOGA 920 features a super-fast Samsung 512GB PCIe solid-state drive making it the fastest in the storage department among our contenders. The YOGA’s battery outlasted the HP Spectre x360’s by ten minutes, giving it a slight edge there as well. Therefore, the Lenovo YOGA 920 is this year’s winner of the Zero1 award for this category.

Runner-up: HP Spectre x360

The Spectre sub-brand represents the sharpest and slimmest laptops from HP since 2016. The Spectre x360 is a Convertible aimed at portability and premium looks. But it seems that’s not all HP had in mind while designing it. Our review unit impressed us greatly with its rock-solid performance. The Spectre x360’s battery outlasted the Acer Switch 7’s by nearly 80 minutes. It comes with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Storage is taken care of by a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive. Graphics are handled by an integrated Intel GPU.

It has support for digital styli like the HP Active Pen that comes bundled with the device. Apart from facial recognition using Windows Hello, it has a fingerprint scanner on the right side of its body so the device can be powered on and accessed directly in tablet mode. The 2018 HP Spectre x360 is this year’s Digit Zero1 runner-up.

Best Buy: Acer Switch 7 Black Edition

The Acer Switch 7 may not be a very popular or well-known model in India but that’s only because of Acer’s weak marketing strategy. The Switch 7 is a Convertible that can be detached from its keyboard to be a standalone tablet. Unlike the other two Convertible laptops vying for the coveted Digit Zero1 award, the Acer Switch 7 features a dedicated graphics card, which makes it ideal for creators who deal with heavier graphics and want to indulge in a bit of light gaming. The Switch 7 comes with an Intel Core i7 CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SATA-based solid-state drive.

To handle graphics it’s got an NVIDIA GeForce MX 150 GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 video RAM. That’s enough to justify a Photoshop install or the purchase of some light video games like Dirt Rally and Bioshock Infinite. It’s also enough to justify its rather bulky build. We believe the Acer Switch 7 Black Edition is this year’s Zero1 Best Buy.

Laptop

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Laptops – Thin and Light

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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It’s finally time to pick this year’s best devices. As before, the Digit Zero1 award is presented to the devices with the best performance; other aspects like features, and most of all, price don’t matter in our testing process for these awards. Our definition of a Thin and Light is a laptop that measures no more than 1.5 centimetres in thickness and weighs no more than 1.5 kilogrammes.

It’s a definition whose meaning we expect to make stricter and stricter by the year. As brands bring out newer and more interesting models packing the latest hardware in sleeker packages, our selection process becomes even more difficult. Then again, we wouldn’t be able to tell you about the deserving winner by taking the easy way out, will we? So, which model takes home the prestigious Digit Zero1 award? The winner is…

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Dell XPS 13

Dell’s popular Thin and Light, the XPS 13, was first unveiled at CES in 2012. Since then it has only been getting thinner and lighter year after year, warming the cockles of its patrons’ hearts in the process with the promise of top-notch performance. The Dell XPS 13 comes with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive.

Its 13.3-inch display is a solid 4K unit with content rendered by an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU. Its web camera may be set down low but its performance goals sure are up there! The 2018 Dell XPS 13 bags this year’s Digit Zero1 award for the title of Best Thin and Light Laptop due to the sheer performance metrics that it can achieve in this form factor.

Runner-up: Lenovo IdeaPad 530S

The Lenovo IdeaPad 530S is, in theory, a mainstream laptop in a Thin and Light laptop’s clothes. What that means is that it comes with specs that could easily belong to a mainstream laptop but measures only as much as any other Thin and Light out there. We were confident the new and improved IdeaPad would bag the award, but alas! It lost points on our grading sheet in the battery department by scoring only half as much as the Dell XPS.

For a segment where the main criteria is portability, that’s a major drawback for any candidate looking to bag the top position. It’s still a very capable machine though. The IdeaPad 530S features an 8th-gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive. Graphics is taken care of by an NVIDIA GeForce MX 150 GPU with 2GB of video RAM. Due to the few shortcomings, it has as compared to the Dell XPS 13, the 2018 Lenovo IdeaPad 530S is the Zero1 runner-up for this year.

Editor’s Pick: HP Spectre x360

A steady sub-brand of HP now, the Spectre brand was created only a couple of years ago. It now stands for the slimmest and sharpest laptops from the house of HP. The Spectre x360 offers great performance and a long battery life for the price it demands. It’s powered by an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU and 16GB of DDR4 RAM.

Storage is handled by a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive. Graphics is taken care of by an integrated Intel GPU. It weighs 1.26 kilogrammes and has support for styluses like the HP Pen, which means it’s a convertible laptop at heart. This particular ability sets it apart from the other entrants in the category. We believe the HP Spectre x360 is this year’s Zero1 Editor’s Pick.

Smartphone

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Smartphones – High-end

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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As flagship phones became exorbitantly expensive, the high-end smartphones rose to fill the vacuum. The high-end phones of 2018 have borrowed enough to offer almost the same level of raw performance as premium smartphones of this year, if not more. We also stood dumb witness to the polarising display notch becoming mainstream in phones across price-ranges.

OnePlus remained the most popular choice in that segment but other incumbents posed a strong challenge. It made choosing a winner quite difficult for us. As the cutting edge shifted to an adaptive, personalised device, raw performance was all for grabs for the modestly priced high-end smartphones this year.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is not just the most powerful phone among the ‘mid-range’ flagships, it’s among the fastest Android phones launched this year. Despite having the same hardware as the OnePlus 6, the OnePlus 6T is three percent more powerful than its predecessor. Also, to put things in perspective, the OnePlus 6T is a whopping 25 percent faster than the OnePlus 5T. The 5T was last year’s Zero1 winner for this category. The phone feels blazing fast with slick animations. It also houses a polished UI that is both minimalist and functional at the same time.

Software optimisations also go a long way in ensuring the phone hardly ever slowed down even after months of use. It’s also the best smartphone to play games on right now with PubG Mobile maxing out at a constant 40 frames per second. There are no major discernible flaws in the OnePlus 6T save for the features it skips. These include water resistance and expandable storage that’s there in other phones competing in that price range. Yet, the value for money the OnePlus 6T offers over other premium flagship without compromising on the performance in any way makes this our Zero1 winner for 2018.

Runner-up: Asus Zenfone 5z

It’s impossible to ignore the value for money proposition of the Asus Zenfone 5z. While it looks like a carbon copy of the iPhone X, it also scored nearly the same as the OnePlus 6 in our performance tests. The Zenfone 5z incorporates the same hardware as flagship phones. It makes use of the Snapdragon 845’s AI Engine to the fullest. Every aspect of the phone is now governed by machine learning-based actions.

It’s the underdog no one expected and differentiates itself by offering an ultra-wide angle camera on the back and as such. Its only major drawback in comparison to the OnePlus 6T is the heavily customised UI. The UI not only takes some time to get used to but also slows down the performance by just a hair.

Best Buy: Poco F1

The Poco F1 is a flagship phone under the hood, but a mid-range offering from the outside. Xiaomi’s new sub-brand created quite a stir by being the most affordable phone with flagship hardware. This included the Snapdragon 845, 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. It also houses a liquid-cooled copper pipe inside the chassis for better heat dissipation. Performance benchmark scores peg the Poco F1 right up there with other premium flagships. However, certain trade-offs like a polycarbonate body, thick bezels, and buggy software indicate that corners were cut to keep the price low. Nevertheless, at Rs. 20,999, it’s easy to mark the Poco F1 as the Best Buy.

CameraDSLR

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.

Smartphone

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Smartphones – Android

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Android smartphones of 2018 stood apart from each other for the software optimisations more than the hardware underneath. Words like artificial intelligence were thrown around quite casually. Bezels were shaved off, and textured glass designs with gradient colours and under-display fingerprint sensors became the design choices of the year.

When it came to raw performance though, a handful of Android phones were there to choose from, helping us sort the wheat from the chaff. Consistently good camera performance was ensured, but the battery life, except for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, left us asking for more.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Our winner for the best Android phone is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Samsung’s most feature-packed phone outperformed all other Android smartphones from this year and is 24 percent faster than the Google Pixel 2 XL which was our winner in 2017. The giant leap in performance helps in Dex mode, or with the S-Pen, or even in gaming. The Note 9 is a phone meant for almost all use-cases.

The giant 6.4-inch Super AMOLED 2K display is the brightest and the most well-calibrated among Android phones. The variable-aperture camera can take sharp photos even when the light isn’t so good. The 4,000mAh battery on the Galaxy Note 9 was the longest running among all other flagships.

Runner-up: Huawei Mate 20 Pro

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro arrived just in the nick of time to be considered for this year’s Zero1 Awards. Packed to the brim with features like reverse wireless charging, under-display fingerprint sensor and more, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is an over-engineered piece of marvel. Its performance is neck-to-neck with the Galaxy Note 9 thanks to the 7nm Kirin 980 chipset. It even managed to beat the Exynos 9810 in multi-thread operations, although it couldn’t match up to the winner in graphics processing.

The Mate 20 Pro also has three Leica-branded rear cameras that took better photos than the Galaxy Note 9. Even with Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, the phone loses out to the Galaxy Note 9 for the display. Not because it’s bad, but the Note 9’s panel is slightly superior.

Editor’s Pick: Google Pixel 3 XL

The Google Pixel 3 XL improves upon everything that its predecessor stood for. It has a considerably better display, a refined dual-tone glass design and an effortlessly good camera. Google relied on software optimisation to make the experience of using the phone much better. The Pixel camera this year makes bold claims and manages to live up to it. The NightSight feature especially goes on to improve low-light photography without relying on additional hardware. Google’s Super-Res zoom that can recover details from objects far ahead, leaving us impressed.

Android 9 Pie’s features tied with Pixel 3 XL’s own AI-based improvements make the Pixel 3 XL adapt to your needs. Its claims to fame continues to be the camera. But this time around, its performance is right up there with the best Android phone. The Pixel 3 XL is a no-nonsense performer that excels in every aspect. Therefore, this ended up being the Editor’s Pick.