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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

Zero1 Awards Mainstream Laptop Dec2018_Asus ZenBook Pro 15

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.

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

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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.

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.

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

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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.