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Asus ROG Phone II review: Beating premium smartphones on their own turf

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If you wonder what is so special about a gaming smartphone that a regular one does not have, you need to experience the Asus ROG Phone II. Besides flagship specifications, this smartphone offers several gaming-centric value-added features, including software-based customisation and hardware integration, which make mobile gaming convenient and fun. A successor to the ROG Phone, the first gaming smartphone in India, the ROG Phone II brings a number of cosmetic and hardware updates that make it the most comprehensive smartphone in the premium midrange segment.

The ROG Phone II appears to have all the right ingredients to make it an all-round gaming performer. But how does it fare on smartphone parameters? Let’s find out:


Design

The ROG Phone II is big, heavy and bulky. Its tall stature makes carrying it in pocket rather inconvenient. Also, the phone has an uneven weight distribution – its bottom feels slightly heavier than the rest of the body when you handle the phone for extended hours. The ROG Phone II’s design builds up on the ROG Phone’s. So, it looks identical to its predecessor. It has a premium glass-metal sandwich design with a uniquely shaped back profile that looks stunning and different from other smartphones.

Asus ROG Phone 2

Given that the phone has several openings – a 3.5mm audio port, USB type-C charging and data transfer ports, microphone openings and air vents – and that it lacks an ingress protection rating for water and dust resistance, the phone’s internals are prone to easy damage.

Display

The ROG Phone II’s AMOLED screen is the most technology-rich panel that you will find in a smartphone. It boasts several industry-first features, including a 120Hz refresh rate and 10-bit HDR. These might sound technical, but they improve the experience and make the ROG Phone II’s display one of the best in smartphones.

Asus ROG Phone II

Being a gaming device, the smartphone’s display is tuned to deliver optimal experience while playing supported games. The output is equally dazzling when it renders supported digital content from over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Amazon Prime Videos, Netflix, etc. The phone also has Widevine L1 certification, allowing it to stream digital OTT content in high definition. Except its brightness, which is dim and affects sunlight legibility, the phone’s display is found to be wanting on no other parameter.

Multimedia

Besides an immersive display, the ROG Phone II also has front-facing dual stereo speakers, with Dolby Ultra support. These make the phone a multimedia powerhouse. The speakers are loud and clear, and have a balanced stereo crosstalk. The ROG Phone II appears to have one of the best speaker set-ups for gaming and multimedia.

Camera

The ROG Phone II has capable camera modules on the back and front. The dual-camera set-up on the back utilises the same sensors that the company uses in its midrange flagship smartphone Asus 6z. When compared with its predecessor, the ROG Phone II’s camera is a huge improvement.

However, it is not the best in its segment.

Asus ROG Phone II camera sample: Low-light in auto mode

Asus ROG Phone II camera sample: Low-light in auto mode

Asus ROG Phone II camera sample: Low-light in night mode

Asus ROG Phone II camera sample: Low-light in night mode

The phone’s dual-camera set-up on the back delivers consistent results in daylight conditions. The primary camera fixes focus quickly and takes detailed shots with negligible colour variation and decent dynamic range. The ultra-wide secondary sensor works well for landscape shots. It captures 125-degree wide frame and makes barrel effect smooth without unnecessarily softening the edges.

In lowlight conditions, however, the cameras seem to struggle. Even with a dedicated night mode, the cameras is not able to capture details at night. The phone also requires steady hands to shoot stable frames.

Asus ROG Phone II camera sample: Night mode

Asus ROG Phone II camera sample: Night mode

The front camera for taking selfies and making video calls is decent. It takes satisfactory shots, but anything exceptional should not be expected here.

Performance

Though a midrange phone, the ROG Phone II has flagship specifications, some that you do not find even in premium smartphones. It is the first smartphone in India to be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ system-on-chip (SoC).

Like its predecessor, the Asus ROG Phone II has a pressure-sensitive chassis with active sensors on the lower left and right sides. The phone also has ultrasonic sensors (Air Triggers) located at the top and bottom on the right side of the chassis. The placement of Air Triggers has been improved in the ROG Phone II; using these now feels much more natural. Similarly, the pressure sensors now recognise palm force with ease and allow instant transition from normal to X-mode for game-related settings enhancements.

Asus ROG Phone II

The phone also has a new ROG UI, based on the Android Pie operating system. The UI looks close to stock Android and comes with some value-added features for general improvement. It looks neat and feels swift. The phone handles tasks without any hiccups and its everyday performance is glitch-free.

Battery

The ROG Phone-II is powered by a 6,000 mAh battery, which keeps it going for two days straight on single charge (when the phone is used for mixed utilities, such as calling, messaging, internet browsing, casual gaming, etc). Playing graphic-intensive games and streaming videos consume the battery more rapidly, but the phone still manages to sail through one day. The phone supports fast charging, which takes around three hours to juice up a completely drained battery.

Verdict

With regard to gaming, multimedia and battery, the Asus ROG Phone II sets new benchmarks for both midrange and premium phones. At Rs 37,999 for the base model (8GB RAM + 256GB storage), the phone is a steal: It can outperform even the premium smartphones. Pick this one for its all-round performance, games-related software and hardware enhancements, immersive multimedia capabilities and a long-lasting battery. Except for its mediocre camera performance, there is nothing that you might not like in the ROG Phone II.




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Now, ask Alexa to pay utility bills as Amazon adds voice-based feature

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In yet another step towards making online buying and other services completely voiced-based and hinged on its virtual assistant Alexa, Amazon on Wednesday announced that users in India can now pay their utility bills with Amazon Pay just by voice commands.


This new Alexa feature supports payment of bills across categories such as electricity, water, post-paid mobile, cooking gas, broadband and DTH among other utility payments. “Users of Amazon Echo, Fire TV Stick and other devices with Alexa built-in can just say commands such as ‘Alexa, pay my mobile bill’ or ‘Alexa, pay my electricity bill’ to get started,” the company said.



For existing Amazon Pay users, Alexa will retrieve the amount due for bills from their registered Amazon account and ask for customer confirmation before processing the payment. Customers can enable a voice pin on the Alexa app to make transactions more secure. Once approved, Alexa will complete the transaction using Amazon Pay, and send a notification to the customer’s registered mobile phone number, confirming the transaction. For new Amazon Pay customers, Alexa will send a link to register their bill details on the Amazon shopping app before proceeding with bill payment.


In addition to making payments, customers can ask Alexa the balance in the wallet and also command it to top it up from a bank account linked to Amazon Pay. This new feature on Alexa will further help in reducing payment friction as customers will be able to complete their payment transactions with just their voice command.


“This new integration of Amazon Pay with Alexa will help reduce both time and effort for customers who use Amazon Pay for bill payments and repeat similar transactions every month. We are also excited to share that this is an India-first feature which Alexa customers in India can enjoy before any other international customers,” Puneesh Kumar, Country Manager for Alexa Experiences and Devices, Amazon India said.


The company last month announced that Alexa can now speak in Hindi. Going forward it is planning to launch its voice assistant in a host of other Indian languages. Taking the competition to Google Assistant, Amazon is ramping up the usage of Alexa in India by tying up with speaker manufacturers, mobile phone companies to make Alexa the primary voice assistant on devices.


At the moment Alexa knows 500 skills in Hindi. In English Alexa can perform over 30,000 tasks. “Amazon Pay’s integration with Alexa will enable customers to use digital payments for their daily use cases making it hassle-free and swift. Paying of bills such as electricity, water, post-paid mobile, cooking gas, DTH and more will become seamless with just one voice command,” Mahendra Nerurkar, Director, Amazon Pay said.




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Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro India launch today at 12 PM: Expected specs, & more

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Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi is set to launch the Redmi Note 8 Pro in India on October 16. Successor to the Redmi Note 7 Pro, the phone would bring several new upgrades, including a 64-megapixel sensor-based quad rear camera set-up, MediaTek Helio G90T mobile processor and fast charging support. Apart from the phone, Xiaomi is also expected to announce its next iteration of Android operating system-based user interface, the MIUI 11.


Redmi Note 8 Pro specifications



The Redmi Note 8 Pro boasts a glass build with Gorilla Glass 5 protection on the front and back. On the front, the phone has a 6.53-inch dot-shaped notch screen of fullHD+ (2340 x 1080p) resolution. The HDR-ready screen has anti-oil and anti-fingerprint coating for protection against smudges. Powering the phone is MediaTek Helio G90T system-on-chip, which is a midrange mobile processor aimed at gaming-centric smartphones. Though the phone’s Chinese version is powered by Android 9 Pie operating system-based MIUI 10 user interface, there are chances that the Redmi Note 8 Pro Indian version would boot the MIUI 11.


Imaging is covered by a quad camera set-up on the back, featuring a 64-megapixel primary sensor with an f/1.89 aperture, an 8MP ultra-wide angle sensor of an f/2.2 aperture and 120-degree field of view (FoV), a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. On the front, the phone has a 20MP sensor of an f/2.0 aperture.


Powering the phone is a 4,500 mAh battery, which supports 18W fast charging through supplied charger. The phone has USB type-C port for charging and data transfers, and a 3.5mm port for audio out. The phone’s Chinese variant comes with 6GB RAM and up to 128GB internal storage. However, the Indian variant is likely to get different RAM and storage configurations.





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Realme Buds 2 review: Budget earphones with impressive design, audio output

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Earlier this year, Realme decided to bet on an otherwise fading world of wired earbuds and introduced the Realme Buds. Expanding the portfolio, the company has now launched the second iteration of its wired earphones, the Realme Buds 2, which offers additional features, better build quality and improved audio output while keeping the price in the same ballpark. Let’s take a look at what this new pair of earphones offers:


Design and build quality



Realme Buds 2 has a great build quality, especially considering the price tag of Rs 599. The earphones use a 3.55 mm jack and have your regular three-button remote with a microphone that allows you to answer calls and change songs on your smartphone. But where it gets even better is the Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU)-braided cable below the Y-splitter which should give it additional durability. There is also a yellow rubber clip to help you keep the cables in an organised manner. The earbuds have a magnetic casing that allows you to hang it around your neck when idle. The earbuds feel comfortable and fit nicely. And even if it doesn’t, you have some additional silicon earbuds in the box. Take your pick. Look-wise, the earbuds’ yellow-and-black colour scheme is classic. And it’s not just the earbuds. Realme has taken great care of the product’s packaging, and it shows during the unpacking.


Performance


The earbuds have two 11.2 mm drivers, each with 32ohm impedance rating and 108dB sensitivity rating. True to its tagline ‘feel the real bass’, the earphones has an elevated bass response, sometimes to the point of being overpowering. I doubt you’ll ever need to crank it up to the top volume. Despite that, the overall sound output is quite crisp and clean at all levels with sharp vocals. The passive noise cancellation facility isn’t just a buzzword and you can actually rely on the earbuds to help you through a crowded commute. However, there’s a fair bit of cable noise. Another issue that my voice wasn’t always clear enough to the person on the other end when I used the mic for calls.


Verdict


Despite a few issues, Realme Buds 2 does most of the things rights. Its TPU-braided cable, magnetic feature, and even the overall sound quality are definitely of the breed of those found in earbuds priced at the higher end of the price range. At Rs 599, the Realme Buds 2 are a steal and make a great buy.




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