A new LED TV for sheer sound pleasure7 min read . Updated: 09 May 2015, 11:35 AM IST
Sony flexes its audio muscles with its new TV; Plus: Wireless portable drives and the new Nikon DSLR upgrade
Work and leisure: These three devices have both covered.
Given that smartphones and tablets are being used increasingly for productivity tasks, a wireless hard drive makes it easy to share content on phones and PCs. In the age of Instagram, a high-performance camera is more in demand than ever before, and Nikon’s new DSLR is just that machine. And Sony’s new TV makes lazy days at home all the more special.
Sony X9000B 4K LED TV
₹ 3,14,900 (55 inches)
₹ 4,14,900 (65 inches)
₹ 7,04,900 (79 inches)
While most televisions hide the speakers behind the panel or on the underside of the bezel to maintain a slim and minimalist look, the X9000B proudly shows off its six-speaker system. On each side of the screen sits a 0.7-inch tweeter, a 3.14-inch magnetic fluid speaker and a 3.14-inch subwoofer. Each tweeter and speaker pair outputs 12.5 watts worth of sound, whereas each subwoofer is rated at 20 watts. The speakers look straight towards the listener. The lower part of the TV is thicker than the top to accommodate the speakers and subwoofer.
This is, without doubt, more powerful than usual flat-panel televisions, and even trumps some sound bars. Be it movies, news, talk shows or sports, these speakers reproduce excellent detailing and bass.
The magnetic-fluid speaker technology is unique to the X9000B. In a typical audio speaker, a damper is used to hold the diaphragm and spring in place during the vibrations caused by music. But this also causes friction and disturbance in sound waves. In the X9000B, the damper is replaced by a magnetic fluid called Ferrofluid.
This was originally developed by the US space agency Nasa in the 1960s for use in spacecraft. The fluid responds to the permanent magnetic field created inside the speakers by holding the diaphragm and coil in place, thus preventing friction. The advantage of this fluid is that the sound output is louder and clearer, and the speakers consume lesser power.
The X9000B has 4K Ultra HD resolution (3,840x2,160) with 8-bit colour, local dimming for the LED backlights, an updated smart TV interface and a touch-pad remote.
Sony has managed to make an LED television that can reproduce stunningly deep blacks, rich colours and the sort of fine detailing that one usually associates with a plasma TV. No matter what the content, the upscaling engine is top-notch—perfectly illustrated by the fact that even standard-definition channels look better on this 4K panel than they do on a full high-definition TV.
But X9000B is not without its faults. First, with HD and 4K content, the sharpness needs to be at least 70%, otherwise the content looks a bit dull. There are a gamut of noise-cancellation settings working behind the scenes, and they tend to overcompensate. Second, the Live Colour setting, when turned on, makes the reds too rich.
A lot of engineering expertise has gone into making the X9000B. Never has a TV sounded so good. Its plasma-like picture quality has been made possible because Sony’s engineers have largely eliminated the uneven lighting issues that edge LED panels suffer from. For early adopters, the X9000B will not fail to delight.
WD My Passport Wireless
₹ 11,000 (500 GB)
₹ 13,000 (1 TB)
Portable hard drives are made for a specific purpose—to carry the weight of your documents, downloaded movies and music albums. My Passport Wireless, as the name suggests, doesn’t necessarily need a USB cable for data transfers.
While it looks similar to other portable drives, it is thicker—21.8mm for 500 GB and 24.4mm for 1 TB. That is because a wireless module and a battery are built in. In comparison, a standard My Passport Ultra drive, which does not have wireless connectivity or a built-in battery, is 15.4mm thick. My Passport Wireless also has an SD card slot on the drive that is extremely useful.
When connected to a computer, this USB 3.0 drive works just like any other regular portable hard drive—plug it in and transfer files to the drive. Unplug it, and it switches to battery mode (unless it is powered off completely) and becomes a wireless mobile media server. You can access content and stream on tablets or smartphones.
Usually, it’s quite difficult to get content to and from a phone or tablet, and requires either swapping memory cards, Bluetooth transfers or sluggish uploads to cloud storage. This drive allows simultaneous wireless connections with up to eight devices.
The data read and write speeds in wireless mode are not very fast though—transfer speeds stay between 10 MB/s and 12 MB/s. When connected to a PC via USB, the speed jumps to around 36MB/s.
The WD My Cloud app for Android and iOS supports quite a number of document files without needing a third-party app, which is convenient for office use. It can also play back certain video and music files, as well as open photographs. It does, however, need a third-party app for HD video files, such as those in the MKV format.
A fully charged My Passport Wireless, while streaming media, discharges in about 160 minutes. In power-saver mode, this goes up to 190 minutes. If you are just using it to access documents on a tablet or phone, battery life is good for 250 minutes.
You pay a premium for all the additional functionality. But with so many people using tablets and phones for productivity tasks such as document creation, it makes a lot of sense.
(with 18-55mm kit lens)
DSLR users usually don’t switch to another brand when upgrading to a more powerful variant. So it is always important to compare a new DSLR with its immediate predecessor. In the case of Nikon’s D5500, that is the D5300.
The D5500 is slightly smaller (124x97x70mm, against the D5300’s 125x98x76mm), and considerably lighter (470g versus the D5300’s 530g).
The D5500 features a completely new construction with a single shell comprising carbon fibre reinforced plastic, and the built-in GPS module has been removed. The outgoing model featured a polycarbonate exoskeleton and metal chassis. Despite the size and weight reductions, the D5500 has a larger handgrip, which makes it more comfortable to shoot photographs with different-size lenses.
The display size—3.2 inches—remains the same, but touch-screen capabilities have been added. Without doubt, this makes it much easier to make tweaks to settings before you take a picture, or even tap on the screen to set focus and click a photograph. The touch screen is quite responsive, and more convenient for new users to get used to the settings and interface. However, seasoned DSLR users will probably toggle the screen for the ISO and exposure settings, and use the penta-mirror viewfinder instead for composing shots.
The 24.2 MP CMOS sensor remains unchanged, which means the ISO remains in the 100-25,600 range. The auto-focus set-up consists of 39 AF points, and the D5500 is quite quick to focus on the subject, irrespective of the lighting or the ambience.
In outdoor shots on bright sunshine days as well as murky, overcast conditions, the image quality with the 18-55mm lens is extremely good. The colours are rich, and the different shades of a colour are quite distinct. None pop out unnaturally though. Exposure, for the most part, is quick and even. The D5500 only struggles when there is an uneven light source somewhere in the environment. When the lighting isn’t perfect, contrast tends to go awry, and the colours aren’t very accurate.
Nikon has redone the image-processing algorithms slightly, and further improved the amount of detailing that this camera can capture. Coupled with the rather robust zooming capabilities, you can easily capture a subject far away. We took a wide shot from an apartment tower high up, and then zoomed in to clearly see a roadside stall on the other side of a four-lane road—we could make out the colour and style of the clothes displayed there for sale.
Users can shoot photographs in RAW and JPEG formats (the latter is useful because you will be able to directly see the images on your PC, phone, etc.). RAW has the maximum detailing, owing to the bigger file size and the fact that data doesn’t need to be compressed as much. JPEG images are boosted by the image-processing algorithm to increase sharpness slightly.
There is a lot to like about the D5500. It is good that Nikon has taken the competent D5300 and improved on it—design tweaks make this a lot more usable. The image quality is what you would expect from a camera of its size and capability—high-quality images with good noise and disturbance control as well as evenly reproduced colours.
A possible drawback: the removal of GPS to add location data to images—a feature the D5300 did have.