Philips GoGear Aria 4 GB
The smaller brother to the Opus, the Aria is compact. It’s built well and except for the rather garish looking chrome centre button the player looks nice. Piano-finished black is a failsafe option though we’re getting tired of seeing this combination on HDTVs, DVD players, speakers and so on. Its screen is small and too devoid of contrast and colour to be any good at movies. Moreover a single SMV video format is supported that few will want to use.
The music performance was strictly mediocre, as expected – in fact its bass sounded woolly and unfocussed lacking bottom-end grunt that makes certain segments of some tracks memorable. The mid-range is recessed and vocals seem somehow suppressed – not as loud as the other sonic components – this makes any sort of vocal-based music like Blues, Jazz and Pop an incomplete experience. The guitar echoes – as if it were being strummed in an empty room with poor acoustics. There is a clipping that occurs in the 3.6 – 4 KHz range of the sonic spectrum that coincides with higher piano notes – although not very noticeable – once you realise the clipping, it’s a killjoy to the rest of the music that you are hearing.
The highs are lacking in finer detail but for the most there is no issue with tonal accuracy or sibilance. At Rs. 4,999 the Aria doesn’t inflame my senses enough for me to recommend it at even half the price – if you’re looking for a budget PMP, you can do much better for a lot less.
Tiny screen, with poor colours
Poor music quality
Philips GoGear Opus 8 GB
The Opus consists of a brushed metal rear and glossy black front. The sides have a silver trim and this adds some much need contrast to all that black, all in all an attractive looking player. The controls look clunky and the buttons are a little hard to press but other than that they’re well laid out and for the most work decently. The screen is not very bright and the contrast ratio is horrible, for lack of a better word. When using the arrow keys between menus or tracks there is a slight lag between a button press and the desired action – a bit annoying. A useful little bookmark feature does the job of the point A to B repeat within a soundtrack.
This player definitely isn’t for the movie buff regardless of what Philips says – the Cowon S9, iPod Touch, iPod Classic, Samsung P3 and D2+ all have much better screens. With music, the player needs more juice and this was the only player where the amp volume was nearly 12 o’clock before we got the same volume level out of the Grados. The slight background hiss audible in ~Trampled Rose~ was less prominent – this is something I didn’t notice with the Apple players – kudos to Philips here; though to be honest some are of the opinion that the album recording has a barely noticeable (but audible with high-end equipment) hiss. Rock music sounds decent but with blues and such it isn’t as emotive, perhaps this could be perceived as being more neutral but we found a couple of instances where some of the finer details during vocal pieces were missing so we as disinclined to say this. Treble is pretty detailed with good nuances as well as good extension, sans sibilance. The price would be the decider and at Rs. 7,999 the GoGear Opus is a little pricey for the features and performance. Moreover, it’s not exactly compact.
Mediocre music quality
Poor screen quality
The P3 has an amazing interface – a very rich multimedia look, icons and background animations all in a device that is zippy. The rear is brushed aluminium although the look on the front is too plain to be termed as attractive. The styling is understated. The widget based home screen has lots going on, and can get crowded at times. Most people are going to go “WOW! – Widgets”, but I’m not a fan; matter of personal choice since it detracts from the actual purpose of a device, IMO. The touch-based controls work well, in fact, exceedingly well and the P3 comes closer to the interface of the iPod Touch than any other player we’ve tested to date. However, we feel Apple does it better as the menus and the touch system just somehow work well. Movies are a convenient drag-and-drop away and the screen is a joy to watch videos on, although it still trails the iPod Touch in terms of sheer quality.
Layla sounds very emotive and the guitar notes have textural warmth to them giving the entire track a very musical feel. There is also a noticeable mid-bass note that follows just after every drum beat, barely discernable but present and quite pleasing; though purists will yell ‘bass bloat’ while others (read bassheads) will rejoice. The same excess bass ruins No More Tears where even the opening guitar sounds overdone. The drum bass is tight but also overdone and one gets the feeling this player is aimed at the unashamed basshead. Some of the bass is enjoyable, some is not, but people liking neutrality this is not your PMP. The extra bass hits the spot with the track Where The Streets Have No Name, simply because the sibilance with Bono’s higher notes is less evident than with other PMPs – a classic example of different sound signatures suiting different genres of music. At Rs14,900 for the 16 GB version and the 8 GB version costing Rs. 11,900 the P3 is not as expensive as the iPod Touch, but then it’s not as good either.
Good sound quality
Looks too plain
A very well built player and one that exudes sex appeal in spades. We applaud Samsung’s decision to stick to white – this player has a beautiful satin finish and the touch controls below the display have neat blue and light red backlighting that are just unobtrusive enough to be termed tasteful. The design is full of contours and tapered edges – no sharp corners. The footprint is really compact and the Q2 will sit unobtrusively in your pocket. Menu navigation is good. The screen is pretty clear and crisp with good colours.
The Q2 isn’t very powerful and the Grado SR 225 wasn’t driven beyond a medium volume and there was noticeable sibilance. Once amped, the headphones were more civil. There is a noticeable hollow ring to the bass in No More Tears and this was disappointing to be sure. We found this deep sounding, but hollow bass to be present in nearly every track, and quite honestly, the guitar also sounds disappointing, especially when listening to the Samsung P3 – there’s a world of difference between the siblings in terms of their sound quality. As expected there’s a world of difference in their pricing as well, at Rs. 5,800 the YP-Q2 is much cheaper than its touch-based sibling, understandably so. It’s a lovely looking player and one that we wished was better at music – it’s definitely a good deal, but purists will keep their distance.
Screen quality should be better
Audio quality not as good as the P3
Issue with hollow, ringing bass
Even though we expected flash-based players to dominate we were surprised at seeing just one hard drive based offering. Apacer’s AU824 was the sole entry-level PMP in the comparison and for the price, we had to admit this is a decent option – it even plays videos. It won our Best Buy award after slugging it out with some heavy hitters like the Cowon iAudio 7 and as an interesting comparison offers the best value for money from amongst all the players. In the second category i.e. players more than 3,000 and up to Rs. 5000 the Cowon iAudio 7 is a sure-shot winner. It’s very suitable for someone looking at good sound on a shoestring budget.
When one talks of video PMPs the iPod Touch cannot trail far behind – a superb device, highly converged and a great performer but it’s costly – our joint Best Performer, along with the equally nice Samsung YP-P3, which isn’t as good for audiophiles who will prefer Apple’s superior sonic characteristics. The iPod Classic also wins our Best Performer award for being the best sounding PMP in-test. If your ears deserve the best, you must acquire one; just throw out the earbuds...
Samsung’s new netbook N140
The six-cell battery of Samsung’s new ultra-portable netbook, the N140 (Rs24,990), boasts of up to 11 hours of continuous computing. This is possible because the 10-inch, non-gloss screen (1024x600 pixels) is LED backlit. A 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 processor powers the whole system. The N140 boasts dual 1.5-watt stereo speakers and the SRS 3D Sound Effect algorithms. For connectivity, it has Ethernet LAN, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, three USB ports, 3-in-1 memory card reader, VGA port and a microphone port. Its 1.3MP camera also enables easy video conferencing, especially because the device comes with a built-in mike.
Low-cost phones by Intex
Intex Technologies has launched four new low-cost phones, both GSM and CDMA.
• Intex IN 20 (Rs1,600): Along with the FM radio support, you get a 1.5-inch screen, mobile tracker and phonebook with 500 contacts. This CDMA phone has a 3.2-hour talktime.
• Intex IN 4410 (Rs3,400): This dual-SIM (GSM+GSM) model has a 2-inch TFT display, VGA camera, FM radio, multimedia player, inbuilt memory of 63MB, Bluetooth and a torchlight.
• Intex IN 4495 (Rs4,200): With a 2.4-inch QVGA touch-screen TFT, this dual-SIM (GSM+GSM) phone has dual speakers, microSD support of up to 8GB, camera, FM radio and Bluetooth.
• Intex IN 80 (Rs5,000): This CDMA phone comes with a large 2.4-inch QVGA screen, 2MP camera, FM radio, Bluetooth, 3.5mm audio jack and a motion sensor. It has a talktime of 7 hours.
New design for Apple’s ‘plastic’ MacBook
Apple has renovated its lowest-end “plastic” MacBook with a new unibody design that includes the built-in battery offering up to 7 hours of battery life—all for $999 (around Rs46,500). The durable polycarbonate material uses the same techniques as the higher-end aluminium MacBook Pros. Along with a glass multi-touch trackpad, it features a 13-inch LED-backlit display, 2.2GHz Intel Core2Duo processor, 2GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce 9400GM onboard graphics, 250GB hard drive and 8x SuperDrive.
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