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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.

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.

Wireless Router

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Networking – Wireless Mesh Routers

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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

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

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

2018 Zero1 award Winner: Netgear Orbi

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

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

Runner-up: Linksys Velop

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

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

Best Buy: D-Link Covr

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

IEMs

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Audio – Truly Wireless IEMs

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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

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

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Beoplay E8

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

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

Runner-Up: Bragi The Dash Pro

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

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

Best Buy: Jabra Elite Active 65t

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

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

SSDs

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – NVMe Solid State Drives

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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

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

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

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: WD Black 1TB 2018

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

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

Runner-up: Corsair Force MP510

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

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

Best Buy: Kingston A1000

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

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

Desktop processors

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – CPUs

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editor’s Pick: Intel Core i9-9900K

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

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

Hard Disk Drives

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – Hard Disk Drives

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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

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

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

2018 Zero1 award Winner: WD Black 6TB

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

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

Runner-up: Seagate Skyhawk 14TB

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

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

Best Buy: WD Blue 4TB / SkyHawk 4TB

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

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.