Gadget Review: Standout Devices

Apple iPad mini
It’s the iPad that time (and Apple) forgot to update, but it’s back after four years, almost like it returned from graduate school abroad — it looks pretty much the same, but its skills and abilities have seriously levelled up! Look at it — the thick bezels are reminiscent of iPads of another era altogether, yet it packs in the same future-proof A12 Bionic chip found in the current iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. So, while the mini will look dated when placed next to the new all-screen iPad Pros, the differences while using it will not be as apparent. The laminated high resolution 7.9-inch Retina display is stunning, with wider color support and True Tone ambient light adjustments that make images pop yet make the content more pleasing to the eye under varying light conditions. The TouchID-based fingerprint sensor is snappy as ever, and it’s still compatible with all previously available accessories such as cases, wireless keyboard so mini lovers can heave a sigh of relief. Notably new is Apple Pencil support, which not only allows for drawing and note taking, but also allows for greater precision control and accuracy in video and photo editing apps. There are compromises — the 7.9-inch digital canvas isn’t a lot to work with, and the first-generation Pencil is still charged by plugging into the mini’s Lightning port.

Yet, it is under the hood – with the A12 Bionic chip and its bumped-up processing and graphics power – that will keep this diminutive tablet relevant long after you buy it. Gaming benefits, as do augmented reality apps, and the form factor allows you to take it and use the pocket rocket everywhere. It feels personal in a way most tablets no longer do, and that’s the reinvented mini’s biggest appeal.

Alienware m15

Think gaming laptops and images of over-designed, bulky machines come to mind, those that play fast and loose with the definition of laptop portability. The Alienware m15 is not cut from the same cloth — at 2.16kgs and 0.83 inches at its thickest, the m15 is the sleekest and lightest Alienware laptop around…a thing of beauty in this category. There are the distinctive styling elements we have come to expect from an Alienware laptop: the glowing alien head, customisable lighting on the keyboard and the cooling vents.

Yet, the slimming down has in no way impacted performance, with all models of the m15 shipping with the 8th generation Core i7-8750 chip — the top-end model I tested came with 16GB of memory, a 1TB SSD and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics! No compromise on ports either — you get 4 USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, HDMI, Thunderbolt 3 and even an expansion port for the Alienware Graphics Amplifier. Insane for something you can handily carry around on a daily basis…that is, if you can stomach the not-insignificant price.

What this translates into is an abundance of power on tap – games like Apex Legends and Metro Exodus, both of which bring modern gaming rigs to their knees, ran smoothly on the highest settings. If anything, it’s worth noting that you’re not getting a 4K display at this price — instead it’s a bright, vivid 1920×1080 pixel display with a 144Hz refresh rate that works well for competitive gaming, as long as you dial down the settings. The RTX 2070 graphics just isn’t powerful enough to take advantage of the highest frame rates on current titles at the highest graphics settings. Battery life is an average 5 hours, about par for the course.

Amazon Kindle 2019

The humble ebook reader, most notably Amazon’s Kindle, has survived the onslaught of tablets, phablets and the like primarily by doing one thing alone – making book reading easy – and doing it well. One tended to recommend the pricier Paperwhite though, since the entry-level Kindle was hobbled by the absence of lighting. That’s changed with the tenth generation Kindle, which inherits the front light enabling all day use. No more bedside lamps or clip-on lights to read in the dark – the four LED setup allows the Kindle 24 levels of brightness, though a warmer tone would have been welcome for extended night reading sessions.

In the hand, the Kindle is instantly familiar to anyone who’s handle one of these previously, and the weight feels evenly distributed. There’s still the one sleep/wake button alongside the micro-USB port and page turns are via screen taps. One hopes that Amazon makes the move to the more prevalent USB-C port sometime soon. The rest is familiar territory – a 6-inch, anti-glare e ink display, between 2-4 weeks of battery live (depending on how you use it daily), Bluetooth connectivity to have your books read out loud…and Amazon’s vast e-book library. There’s only one storage option (4GB) which is good enough for all but the most serious of readers. In all, the entry-level Kindle makes its most compelling case yet, though avid readers looking for waterproofing, more storage and a sharper display would do well to consider the pricier Paperwhite..

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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