Amazon is facing a lot of flak on social media after its voice assistant Alexa suggested a potentially life-threatening “challenge” to a 10-year-old girl. The girl had asked Alexa to suggest a challenge to her to do and the smart speaker asked her to touch the live prongs of a half-inserted plug. Alexa instructed the young girl to plug in a phone charger halfway into a power outlet and then place a coin on the exposed prongs. The incident has triggered distress and alarm on social media after the girl’s mother, Kristin Livdahl, shared what happened on Twitter.
The dangerous activity Alexa via an Echo smart speaker suggested to the girl is known as the “penny challenge” or the “outlet challenge” and it began circulating on social media platforms, including TikTok, about a year ago. Coins are made up of metals that are good conductors of electricity. Inserting them into a live socket can cause electric shocks, fires, and damage to people and property. Amazon said it has fixed the “error” after the company came to know about the incident.
OMFG My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said. pic.twitter.com/HgGgrLbdS8
— Kristin Livdahl (@klivdahl) December 26, 2021
Many users expressed their shock and anger at how the smart speaker set the girl up to a dangerous activity, with some questioning the evolution of technology behind it.
I suspected Alexa was evil. Just didn’t suspect Alexa was this evil.
— Leslie What (@leslie_what) December 26, 2021
Another pointed out that Alexa ironically left out the part in the article it referenced to for the “challenge” that warned parents about this viral activity.
The horrible irony of this is that the article referenced is a warning about this “challenge” and how dangerous it can be. Alexa left that part out, of course.https://t.co/OwWal7K9iC
— ???????????????????????? ???????????????? (@dcsohl) December 27, 2021
Another user questioned the necessity of such a “surveillance tool” in the house.
Perhaps it’s a good time to rethink Why you let this surveillance Tool in your house in the first place ????. No blame shifting, Amazon is responsible above all. But i really dont get Why people want to put these Devices in their homes.
— Dav Dav (@zwitscherDav) December 28, 2021
Livdahl, the mother, said her daughter wanted to try some physical challenges that they previously learned on YouTube but the weather was bad outside and the girl wanted another one to do inside their home. Alexa then suggested the challenge it had “found on the Web’, the mother added.
Following the episode, Amazon told BBC in a statement that it had updated Alexa to stop the voice assistant from recommending such activity in the future, saying “customer trust is at the centre of everything we do”. “As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it,” Amazon said in the statement.
The girl’s mother, too, tweeted yesterday saying that the challenge was no longer working.
It isn’t working for us now, either. Maybe they fixed it.
— Kristin Livdahl (@klivdahl) December 27, 2021
In another tweet, Livdahl said that this incident made her “go through Internet safety and not trusting things you read without research and verification again”.
It was a good moment to go through internet safety and not trusting things you read without research and verification again. We thought the cesspool of YouTube was what we needed to worry about at this age—with limited internet and social media access—but not the only thing.
— Kristin Livdahl (@klivdahl) December 27, 2021
As far as this incident is concerned, the girl’s mother was there to intervene right away. But we can only imagine the damage that would have been caused if a parent or guardian wasn’t present.
Apple is no stranger to wiping the slate clean; ditching its own standards and designs even at the height of their popularity because it thinks something better is around the corner. From the original iMac which had no floppy drive and the iPhone 7 ditching the headphone jack, to the 2012 MacBooks with only USB Type-C, Apple’s quest for minimalism has often upset its customers. However, there have been rare occasions when the behemoth has had to accept that it went wrong – the buttonless third-gen iPod shuffle was replaced with its own predecessor, the shallow “butterfly” MacBook keyboard has been consigned to history, and more recently Safari’s drastic beta redesign has been shelved. The company will even soon begin allowing users to repair some of their own hardware problems at home.
Even so, the new 2021 MacBook Pro comes as a surprisingly comprehensive reversal; almost an apology to users of the past few generations. Nearly everything major that changed with the 2016 redesign and annoyed people has been reversed – but there are still a few caveats and one big new compromise that has already caused fresh controversy. Apple has listened to its users but is also still doing many things its own way. Can you live with this new balance, or has Apple just found a different way to alienate actual professionals? Read on to find everything you’ll need to decide that for yourself.
MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021) price in India and specifications
Don’t expect the new MacBook Pro to come cheap. The previous-gen 13-inch model with an M1 processor is still available for those who want more than a MacBook Air but have budget constraints. The new 14-inch 2021 MacBook Pro price in India starts at Rs. 1,94,900, with an M1 Pro CPU that has eight active CPU cores and 14 GPU cores. For this price you get only a 512GB NVMe SSD, and this variant is the only one that ships with a slower 67W charger.
What you’ll probably want is the M1 Pro configuration with 10 CPU cores and 16 GPU cores active, which is priced at Rs. 2,39,900 in India. This option also has a 1TB SSD and you get the faster 96W charger. There’s a custom configurable option with 10 CPU cores but only 14 GPU cores for Rs. 5,000 less, which seems like an unnecessary variation.
Beyond this, there are options with the M1 Max processor – the same 10 CPU cores, but either 24 or 32 GPU cores, priced Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 40,000 over and above the top-specced M1 Pro. Going from 16GB of RAM to 32GB or 64GB (only possible with the M1 Max) will cost another Rs. 20,000 or Rs. 40,000 respectively. Going from 1TB to 2TB, 4TB or 8TB of SSD capacity will cost Rs. 40,000, Rs. 1,00,000, or Rs. 2,20,000 respectively. Your new 14-inch MacBook Pro could cost as much as Rs. 5,79,900 with all the bells and whistles (not including an extended warranty).
Interestingly the 16-inch model ranges in price from Rs. 2,39,900 to Rs. 5,89,90 so if you’re splashing out on upgrades, there’s very little reason not to go for the bigger screen and better thermal performance that the larger model affords.
Other than these variables, both the 14-inch and 16-inch models have brand new 120Hz mini-LED displays, Touch ID fingerprint sensors, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5. Battery capacity is 70Wh and 100Wh for the 14-inch and 16-inch models, and Apple promises up to 11 hours and 14 hours of casual use respectively.
There’s now a 1080p webcam with computational enhancement through the M1 series SoCs. Audio also gets a big upgrade with a new six-speaker system and spatial audio. You don’t get S/PDIF output through the 3.5mm jack anymore but the new MacBook Pros are said to support high-impedance headphones. There are three built-in mics with beamforming.
MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021) design and features
The biggest news is that there’s now a 14-inch MacBook Pro – it isn’t physically much larger than the previous 13-inch model, thanks to a taller screen with narrower borders. It’s available in Silver and Space Grey – no festive colours for Pro models, it seems. The brushed metal texture of previous models remains, and the Apple logo on the lid is mirrored but not illuminated. In profile, the new MacBook Pro actually looks a bit retro, with raised feet, flat sides, and almost no curve to the edges of the lid.
The lid can be raised easily and the hinge feels very firm, but one ergonomic issue is the sharp corners of the little lip provided for your thumb. Build quality overall is very good, and there’s no flex at all to the lid.
What many people will appreciate is the return of various ports, most notably MagSafe for charging. This is a new, thinner connector that Apple calls MagSafe 3, and neither chargers nor MacBooks themselves are physically compatible with older models. You can still use Type-C ports to charge the new MacBook Pro, but MagSafe will be quicker (depending on the wattage of your power adapter).
The “thunk” sound as the connector snaps into place is familiar and satisfying – as convenient as universal Type-C charging is, having MagSafe in addition is the best of both worlds. It also fulfils its original purpose of disengaging quickly when the cord is yanked, preventing your expensive laptop from crashing to the floor. Interestingly, Apple’s new MagSafe chargers don’t have tethered cables; instead there’s a USB Type-C connector on the charger, making it more versatile than before. The cable is also now braided, but not colour-coordinated like with the 2021 iMacs. I got a 96W charger with my review unit (not 67W, as listed on the spec sheet for this variant) and it was quite bulky and heavy.
You’ll now also find three Thunderbolt 4 ports (one fewer than before) that support charging, DisplayPort video, and USB4; an HDMI 2.0 video output; an SDXC card slot; and a 3.5mm audio jack. It’s almost surprising that Apple retained the 3.5mm jack, having ditched it even on iPads now. Although it’s great to have more ports for flexibility, HDMI 2.1 and SD Express would have been better choices for future-proofing. You’ll also still need dongles or a hub for Ethernet and USB Type-A.
Apple has transplanted its new external Magic Keyboard onto the MacBook Pro, so you get exactly the same layout. This makes sense for consistency. The entire keybed is now black, which makes for a striking look. The touch bar across the top is entirely gone now – sorry, Jonny Ive. Apple never did manage to make this catch on, especially since it was limited only to MacBook Pros and could never have been implemented on Apple’s battery-powered desktop keyboards. It wasn’t a bad idea, but having it in place of physical Fn keys rather than above them was a mistake, and now power users can have their familiar tactile controls back.
The butterfly keyboard disaster is behind us now, and the new 2021 MacBook Pro is quite pleasant to type on. The key action is a bit crisp, but comfortable. The Fn row shortcuts have been rearranged – there’s no backlight level adjustment shortcut anymore which is annoying, and it’s too easy to unintentionally pull up the new emoji picker by tapping the Fn key. The arrow keys are a bit cramped as well. Overall though, typing is comfortable and even pleasant.
Apple has also shipped solid-state trackpads for several years now – there’s no physical clicking mechanism but pushing down generates a force-feedback haptic vibration that feels remarkably lifelike. You can even vary pressure to “force click”, which shows contextual information or triggers actions, such as being able to rename a file in the Finder. It works well, but feels fatiguing after a while since it’s the pad of your finger that absorbs the pressure, not any mechanism. Tap-to-click is disabled by default and so is hold-to-drag (which is now in the accessibility settings) for some reason. MacOS recognises lots of multi-finger gestures which work fluidly and soon become second nature.
MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021) display and notch
The most controversial feature of the new 2021 MacBook Pro is its display notch. Many laptop manufacturers have tried relocating or dispensing with webcams altogether to make screen borders as narrow as possible, and none of these solutions has really worked. Apple is the first to try a notch that cuts into the top of the panel itself, and maybe this is the best compromise. The question is, though, do we really need the borders around our laptop screens to be this slim?
Nearly every smartphone manufacturer copied Apple’s iPhone X notch when it first came out, and now there isn’t a single one left shipping phones like this – they’ve all moved on to camera holes or much smaller incursions, while even the latest iPhones with their relatively chunky Face ID camera and IR projector array now look a bit dated. It’s surprising that Apple has chosen to bring this look to its laptops even though they don’t support Face ID (iPad Pros with Face ID have so far escaped, but thick borders are necessary on a handheld device).
Even Apple seems to understand that notches are distracting and unattractive – the default macOS wallpaper is strategically dark at the top to help mask the notch. The company has also thought about how to mitigate this. Here’s how it works: First of all, the screen is taller than before. The resolution is now 3024×1964 (or 3456×2234 on the 16-inch model) which is exactly 74 pixels taller than a true 16:10 aspect ratio. That means the screen has actually been extended upwards to fill the space around the webcam; the notch doesn’t encroach on any space there was before.
Apple has moved the macOS menu bar into this space, now splitting it into left and right sections. The screen effectively continues “behind” the notch, and your trackpad cursor will pass through it rather than acting as though there’s an edge, even if you’re dragging something. The screen is large enough that most programs will show their menus on the left, leaving the system status icons on the right. Some heavy programs with very dense menus might spill over, and if you’re a power user with a lot of apps that have their own icons or readouts, you might find that there just isn’t enough lateral room for everything. This is where Apple has not quite gotten everything right – I noticed some odd cursor behaviour in Premiere Pro, jumping from one side of the notch to the other. Videos online show how users have encountered odd bugs with items rendered invisibly behind the notch or failing to wrap around it sensibly. Hopefully these issues will be addressed in future macOS updates.
If the menu bar could be set to opaque black, you might not even notice the notch is there in normal operation – third-party apps can do this but a native option would be useful (reducing transparency in the Accessibility settings doesn’t quite achieve the desired effect, even in Dark mode). On the plus side, app windows can now fill the remaining 16:10 screen area (if you also hide the macOS dock). In full-screen mode, this is exactly how they fit – the areas to the sides of the notch remain black, leaving a rectangle. If you move the cursor up into that space, menu items appear there, and don’t overlap your app window as before.
Most video these days is widescreen and will play letterboxed anyway when fullscreen, so you don’t have the notch covering anything. Vertical and even 4:3 video plays within the 16:10 space, so you’re effectively letterboxed on three sides, with no visible notch.
For most use cases, this implementation is actually very workable. While it often feels as though space has been wasted, you just have to think of the two “wings” above the bounds of the 16:10 space as bonus areas. Apple could have done a better job of pointing this out, to avoid the perception that this is wasted space. Once I got used to this and understood what was going on, I felt less annoyed. However, the notch is still a constant visual distraction. You can always see the edges when working. Wallpaper with a dark top can help, but an opacity control would have been much better.
It’s also annoying that Apple couldn’t fit its Face ID hardware in, which would have been far better justification for a notch. As of now it’s just a brand differentiator – the rumoured upcoming MacBook refresh might have a light-coloured notch which could be far less easy to live with, going by this experience.
Aside from this, the panel that Apple has used is excellent. The 14-inch MacBook Pro has about the same pixel count as the previous 16-inch model, for an even denser and crisper effect. The panel uses mini-LED backlighting brightness can go up to 1000 nits in everyday use or a massive 1600 nits with HDR content. The full DCI-P3 colour gamut can be reproduced, and there’s a 120Hz maximum refresh rate – though not all software can take advantage of this yet.
Colours are vibrant without being oversaturated, motion is exceptionally smooth, and even tiny text is rendered crisply. Apple’s True Tone feature adjusts white balance automatically to compensate for the ambient light temperature. Videos look great, especially 4K HDR content. Overall, the larger screen is welcome in this segment, and is a pleasure to work on.
MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021) usage and performance
This is our first experience with Apple’s M1 Pro SoC, which promises even more power than the M1 from last year’s 13-inch MacBook Pro refresh. Apple is drawing new lines between its Pro laptops and the MacBook Air (or just MacBook, as it might be called). The M1 Pro leverages the same architecture as the M1 and is built on the same 5nm process. Instead of four high-performance and four efficiency cores, there are now six (or eight) of the former and only two of the latter. The GPU core count is also up from seven or eight to 14 or 16. Memory continues to be integrated but you have up to 32GB with the M1 Pro, and it has a faster interconnect. Of course the M1 Max CPU option pushes these figures up even further.
All three incarnations of the M1 family share a 16-core “neural engine” for AI and machine learning acceleration. The M1 Pro and M1 Max also introduce a new “media engine” which is a hardware encode/decode block designed to handle HEVC, H.264, and Apple’s own ProRAW and ProRES formats which could come in handy for video production and content creation professionals. In addition, devices powered by the M1 Pro and M1 Max can drive up to two and three external 6K displays, respectively.
In short, Apple’s new hardware tiers are not like what we’re used to seeing from traditional CPU manufacturers and PC brands – there are several capabilities to take into consideration to choose the right variant for your needs. Again, nothing is upgradeable, so you need to make a big decision at the time of purchase.
In everyday use, the new 2021 MacBook Pro is certainly impressive. Everything from launching apps to multitasking is extremely snappy. The laptop wakes quickly from sleep when its lid is raised, but I had trouble with the fingerprint sensor – it wasn’t as quick as what I’m used to with smartphones, and sometimes I needed to reposition my finger to get it right. Face recognition is now common on premium Windows laptops, and this might have been a good time for Apple to bring Face ID to Macs.
This laptop is overpowered if all you need it for is entertainment, basic productivity, or Web surfing. In everyday use it runs completely silent. Premiere Pro ran flawlessly with a fairly heavy video project loaded up, and I was able to apply effects and render video quickly. The only test that really seemed to challenge the M1 Pro processor was Blender. I noticed the middle of the keyboard getting quite toasty and parts of the metal frame becoming hot after about 15 minutes of continuous rendering with the automated Blender Benchmark Launcher. Still, the fan remained whisper-quiet.
Blender completed the BMW render test scene in 4 minutes, 27 seconds and the Classroom scene in 13 minutes, 47 seconds. Interestingly, the same tests took 4 minutes, 26 seconds and 12 minutes, 38 seconds on battery power – that shows there isn’t much throttling, if any, to conserve power. However, the battery level did drop by 16 percentage points which is quite a lot.
Geekbench 5 managed to score 1,765 in its single-core run and 10,026 in the multi-core run. The OpenCL Compute test result was 34,653 points. Cinebench R23 posted scores of 1,531 and 9,550 in its single-core and multi-core test runs. Compared to the M1 SoC in the 2020 Mac mini and 2021 iMac, we see that single-core scores aren’t all that different but multi-threaded test results are significantly higher. This scales evenly with the increase in CPU cores so you can tell what the higher-end configurations of the M1 Pro and M1 Max will be able to achieve.
The browser-based WebXprt, Basemark Web 3.0 and Jetstream 2 benchmarks put up scores of 337, 1545.46 and 202.162 respectively. Encoding a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265 took 46 seconds.
The M1 Pro SoC also has significantly more powerful integrated graphics capabilities than the M1, so I tried running Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a relatively demanding game. At 1920×1200, using the High quality preset, the built-in benchmark averaged a surprisingly playable average of 48fps. Once again, this figure stayed constant even on battery power.
Unigine’s Valley benchmark is not Apple Silicon native and ran through the Rosetta compatibility layer. It was unable to run at at 1920×1080, and instead defaulted to 1512×982 (a quarter of the native 3024×1964 due to Retina upscaling). It still produced an impressive average of 72.1 fps, with 4xAA enabled.
The speakers on the new MacBook Pro are impressive. Music sounded rich and full with reasonably good bass, and voices in video were crisp. The maximum volume could have been a bit better, but this is still great for a laptop. The 1080p webcam is quite good as well, but needs adequate light to work.
Coming to battery life, the new 14-inch MacBook Pro was able to get through a full workday without being plugged in, and still had over 20 percent left at the end. Usage was mainly browser-based, with a lot of work on documents and a bit of music and video streaming as well. Heavy tests did drain the battery quickly but there’s no sign of throttling, which will be great for some people. Idle power usage was minimal – closing the lid at night and checking in the next morning, there was virtually no drop in the battery level at all.
The 96W MagSafe charger was able to take my review unit from an empty battery to 52 percent in 30 mins, and to 86 percent in an hour. It took slightly over an hour and a half to charge fully. USB Type-C fast charging is supported as well (only on the 14-inch model). Keep in mind that the base variant of the 14-inch model does not come with the fast MagSafe charger, but the additional Rs. 1,600 to get it is quite reasonable.
Apple has embraced change with the new MacBook Pro lineup, even at the cost of admitting it was wrong. It’s just sad that it took so long – many buyers including long-time Mac users were vocal and united in criticising the lack of ports and slots on the previous few generations, plus the fact that the Touch Bar made the keyboard worse. What the company has now remembered is that a premium laptop is not the same as a laptop for pro users.
I was expecting the notch to be a big problem but I found it easy enough to live with, after a while. It’s still distracting and you’ll have to choose wallpapers strategically to mask it, but it isn’t a dealbreaker. If you work with apps full-screen most of the time, it’s a non-issue. Hopefully Apple will bring back an opaque menu bar in macOS
The M1 Pro and M1 Max processors deserve a lot of attention but they aren’t the biggest reasons that people will want to buy or upgrade to either the 14-inch or 16-inch models. The screen is fantastic overall, the speakers are great, the keyboard and trackpad are easy to work with, and the return of useful ports will make people happy. Personally, I don’t miss the Touch Bar one bit.
Things aren’t quite perfect though – you’ll still need some dongles and not all software plays well with the notch yet. The biggest problem remains cost – not only is the entry-level variant priced quite high, but the costs of adding RAM and storage (which you can’t upgrade later) are just completely ludicrous. There is no basis in reality for charging Rs. 60,000 to go from 512GB to 2TB when today’s top-performing 2TB SSDs cost around Rs. 35,000 in retail. It’s also silly that the fast MagSafe charger isn’t just included with the base variant.
Apple’s upcoming replacement for the current MacBook Air should make much more sense for most people who don’t have heavy workloads. It could even replace the holdover 13-inch MacBook Pro for entry-level content creators, considering how good Apple’s next-gen silicone is likely to be. If you’ve been holding on to a pre-2016 model for a while, it’s a good time to upgrade.
If you don’t have any budget constraints and just want the best Mac laptop there is right now, look no further. However, creative pros do have sleek and powerful options on the Windows side of the fence these days, with plenty of compelling features such as touchscreens and stylus support. Microsoft’s Surface lineup is the obvious equivalent, but the Asus ProArt and Acer ConceptD series are contenders, as are many top-end models from Dell, Lenovo, and HP for less artistic power users.
LG Display has announced its next-generation OLED technology — dubbed OLED EX — which, according to the company, will increase brightness by up to 30 percent, boost picture accuracy and allow for smaller bezels in finished products.
As per an announcement from the company, these improvements are due to two key changes. The first is the use of an element known as deuterium in the chemical make-up of LG’s OLED panels, and the second is the incorporation of algorithmic image processing.
LG said that the latter will predict the usage of each individual light-emitting diode in TV based on personal viewing habits to “precisely (control) the display’s energy input to more accurately express the details and colours of the video content being played.”
LG claims that reduced bezel sizes with OLED EX are a little more concrete. The company says that based on calculations involving a 65-inch OLED display, it will be able to reduce bezel thickness from 6mm to 4mm. It’s not a huge change on paper, but given how optimised this technology already is, every little improvement has to be fought for.
LG plans to start incorporating OLED EX technology into all its OLED panels starting in the second quarter of 2022, though it’s not clear how much longer it might then take for this technology to reach consumers.
As well as improving its OLED tech, LG has also been playing with some wilder concepts at this year’s CES conference, showing off new transparent displays as well as reclining, curved OLED thrones.
Infinix has launched its Note 11 series in India comprised of two smartphones, the Note 11 and Note 11S. These two models cater to the sub-Rs. 15,000 segment and boast of capable hardware. In this review I’ll be focusing on the Infinix Note 11, which is the more affordable model of the two. The Infinix Note 11 sports a 6.7-inch AMOLED display, a MediaTek Helio G88 SoC, and a 5,000mAh battery, but does it offer the best value for those on a budget? I put this phone to the test to find out.
Infinix Note 11 price in India
The Infinix Note 11 is priced at Rs. 11,999 in India and is only available with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. It is available in three colour options: Celestial Snow, Glacier Green, and Graphite Black.
Infinix Note 11 design
It looks like the Infinix Note 11 was designed using just a ruler, judging by its straight lines. However, this does help it stand out compared to other chunky smartphones in the budget segment. The corners are curved, so they don’t dig into your palm when holding the Note 11. The front is dominated by the big display, which has a dewdrop notch for the selfie camera. It has thin borders at the top and the sides while the chin is thicker.
The plastic frame is flat on all sides. The power and volume buttons are on the right, while the left only has the SIM tray. The top of the frame is blank while the bottom has the 3.5mm headphone jack, USB Type-C port, primary microphone, and speaker.
Just like the frame, the back panel is also made out of plastic. It has a matte finish which resists picking up fingerprints. The camera module houses three sensors, with the primary camera designed to look much bigger than the others. I had a Glacier Green unit for this review.
The Infinix Note 11 measures 7.90mm in thickness and weighs 184.5g. It was comfortable to hold and use. Infinix includes a clear case in the box, along with a 33W fast charger.
Infinix Note 11 specifications
The Infinix Note 11 sports a 6.7-inch AMOLED display with full-HD+ resolution and 20:9 aspect ratio, so it is tall and narrow. There is Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. The Infinix Note 11 is powered by the Mediatek Helio G88 processor, paired with 4GB of RAM. The phone sports 64GB of eMCP storage which is expandable thanks to the dedicated microSD card slot.
The Infinix Note 11 has support for Bluetooth 5, dual-band Wi-Fi, and GPS. It also has stereo speakers. It runs Android 11 with XOS 10 on top. There are customisations to the UI and you get a number of apps preinstalled on the device. I found a few of the stock apps to be spammy, pushing notifications throughout the day. I would recommend uninstalling apps that you won’t use to free up some space on this smartphone, and turning off notifications for the spammy ones. Swiping right from the home screen takes you to Infinix’s Zero Screen which shows recently used apps and a feed of the latest news.
You also get features such as XClone, which lets you run two instances of supported apps, and a game mode. Infinix has developed multiple features for social media apps, which it calls Social Turbo. The ‘WhatsApp mode’ only lets the messaging app access data while others are blocked. A voice changer feature to change your voice while on a video or audio call is also available. If you want to see messages that others have deleted after sending, or read messages without sending a read receipt, there is a Peek mode that lets you do just that. The UI also has a Smart Panel which lets you quickly launch your favourite apps and perform certain actions.
Infinix Note 11 performance
The Infinix Note 11’s crisp AMOLED display makes watching videos engaging. It has good viewing angles and it gets bright enough outdoors as well. I couldn’t find a way to tweak the output of the display, but there is an Eye Care toggle which puts the display into Reading mode. The Infinix Note 11 has an Always On display feature but it is disabled by default. The stereo speaker setup is loud enough for a small room.
The Infinix Note 11 was quick to unlock with the side-mounted fingerprint scanner as well as face recognition. I did not notice any slowdowns while using the phone. It could also multitask easily between multiple apps. As for synthetic benchmarks, the Note 11 managed to score 182,757 in AnTuTu. It also scored 371 and 1,336 points respectively in Geekbench 5’s single-core and multi-core tests. In graphics benchmark GFXBench’s Car Chase and T-Rex scenes, the Infinix Note 11 managed 8.2fps and 40fps respectively.
Battleground Mobile India (BGMI) defaulted to the HD graphics and High frame rate settings, . The game was playable at these settings without any issues. After playing for about 20 minutes, I noticed that the top half of the phone had become slightly warm. The Note 11 registered a 5 percent drop in battery level. I also noticed similar battery consumption after playing Clash Royale for 25 minutes.
Battery life is good, and the Infinix Note 11 will easily go on for over a day without needing to be plugged in. The phone also managed to keep idle battery drain low during the review period. Our HD video loop test went on for 14 hours and 28 minutes. Infinix has bundled a 33W fast charger, which got the battery level to 46 percent in 30 minutes and 86 percent in an hour. Charging speed tapers off after this point, and the phone took another 20 minutes or so to charge completely.
Infinix Note 11 cameras
We’ve seen manufacturers dropping camera sensors from smartphones in this segment to keep prices under control, and the Note 11 is no exception. You get a triple camera setup on the Note 11, with a 50-megapixel primary camera, a depth sensor, and an “AI sensor”. The primary camera shoots 12.5-megapixel photos by default, but you can shoot photos at the full 50-megapixel resolution after tapping a quick toggle. For selfies, this phone has a 16-megapixel camera in the dewdrop notch, with an LED flash neatly hidden in the top bezel. The camera app is straightforward and easy to use, you can easily switch between different shooting modes.
Daylight shots taken with the Infinix Note 11 appeared flat and lacked detail. Colours appeared washed-out and objects at a distance weren’t easily recognisable. Photos shot at the full 50-megapixel resolution were 13MB in size but suffered from the same issues as those shot at the pixel-binned resolution, so the lack of detail makes them unsuitable for cropping.
For closeups, the AI was quick to detect what the phone was pointed at. However, the phone occasionally needed more time to lock focus, resulting in blurred shots when I wasn’t patient. It managed decent edge detection and added depth to the background but did not capture the best detail on the subject. Portraits were slightly better, and the phone did let me set the level of blur before taking a shot. It managed to separate the subject and the background well. It could have done with slightly better sharpness, though.
Low-light camera performance was strictly average. Photos shot at night appeared hazy with murky details. The Night Mode does help with a brighter image but the longer shutter blurs moving objects.
Selfies shot with the Infinix Note 11 were decent in daylight and the phone also managed to capture good portraits. Low-light selfies were average, but the front flash did help in darker environments.
Video recording tops out at 2K for the primary and the selfie cameras. Footage isn’t stabilised and the Ultra Steady mode only works at up to 1080p. This results in shaky results when shooting in the default mode. There is an Ultra Steady option but this caused a shimmer effect in video clips.
Making a budget smartphone isn’t easy, and manufacturers often have to cut corners to get to a competitive price. The Infinix Note 11’s camera performance isn’t as good as what you can expect from some of the competition, and you might need more than one attempt at times to get a shot right.
However, if you are willing to overlook the sub-par camera performance, the Infinix Note 11 does offer good value. The crisp AMOLED display and dual speakers make it engaging to watch videos and play games on. Infinix has also added some useful software features, but the phone also has a few spammy stock apps. Those still looking for alternatives, can take a look at the Moto G31 (Review), which runs stock Android.
Samsung Electronics and Micron Technology, two of the world’s largest memory chip makers, warned that a COVID-19 lockdown in the Chinese city of Xian could affect their chip manufacturing bases in the area.
Micron said on Wednesday the lockdown could lead to delays in the supply of its DRAM memory chips, which are widely used in data centres.
It said the stringent restrictions, which went into effect earlier this month, may be increasingly difficult to mitigate and had resulted in thinner staffing levels at its manufacturing site.
Samsung Electronics also said on Wednesday that it will temporarily adjust operations at its Xian manufacturing facilities for NAND flash memory chips, used for data storage in data centres, smartphones and other tech gadgets.
Chinese officials have imposed tough curbs on travel within and leaving Xian from December 23, in line with Beijing’s drive to immediately contain outbreaks as they appear.
“We are tapping our global supply chain, including our subcontractor partners, to help service our customers for these DRAM products,” Micron said in a blog post.
“We project that these efforts will allow us to meet most of our customer demand, however there may be some near-term delays as we activate our network,” the company said.
Micron added that it was working to minimize the risk of virus transmission and had employed measures including physical distancing and on-site testing and was encouraging vaccination.
Samsung has two production lines in Xian making advanced NAND Flash products, which account for 42.5 percent of its total NAND flash memory production capacity and 15.3 percent of the overall global output capacity, according to analysis provider TrendForce.
Seoul-based analysts said chips made in Samsung’s Xian NAND plant would mainly go to the China market with limited shipments to overseas destinations, and some of the biggest demand for the kind of chips made in the plant would come from Chinese server companies.
Samsung said in a late October earnings call that it had entered the July-September quarter with low inventory of NAND chips, and intended to normalise inventory level during that quarter. It is expected to announce October-December earnings results in January.
A good, productivity-focused monitor will go a long way in improving your efficiency while working, but it isn’t often that we find a monitor that is equally geared for life after work hours. Among the world’s leading names when it comes to monitors is Taiwan-based BenQ, and one of the company’s newest models in India is the EW3880R WQHD+ IPS curved ultra-wide monitor. Apart from the 21:9 aspect ratio that makes it useful for multi-tasking and multi-device connectivity, it also has a built-in front-firing 2.1-channel speaker system.
Priced at Rs. 97,500 in India, the BenQ EW3880R is undoubtedly expensive and meant for a very niche audience. However, it promises a lot for the price, including modern connectivity options, a high-resolution 37.5-inch IPS LED screen, good sound, and more. Is this the best premium monitor you can buy right now in India? Find out in this review.
BenQ EW3880R Monitor design
While I never expected the BenQ EW3880R monitor to be small and easy to handle, its actual size and proportions came as a surprise to me when setting it up. It’s big, heavy, and quite imposing in its design, with a curved 37.5-inch WQHD+ (3840×1600-pixel) 60Hz IPS LED panel and an aspect ratio of 21:9. Although this ultra-wide aspect ratio seems a bit awkward at first, it suits all kinds of functions, including productivity and entertainment.
While the big screen naturally dominates the front view of the monitor, it’s hard to miss the speaker grille right below. This houses the 2.1-channel speaker system, with two 3W mid- and high-range drivers plus an 8W woofer. There’s also a small button in the bottom-right corner which activates the built-in high dynamic range mode.
The BenQ EW3880R monitor is quite thick, and at its size, the 2300R curvature is prominent and conspicuous. The screen mounts onto an imposing and heavy centre-balanced stand, which allows for plenty of adjustment, including up to 120mm height near the top, up to 15 degrees of tilt, and up to 15 degrees of swivel in either direction.
All of this balances safely on a V-shaped pedestal that takes up a fair amount of space on whatever table you intend to place the monitor on. The size of the stand and the space it takes up also mean that you’ll need plenty of room between the monitor and the wall behind, as well as between yourself and the screen, to be able to properly and safely use it. I had the monitor placed around three feet away, and while the curved screen did help a bit with edge visibility, it felt a bit too large for my workspace.
Included in the box of the BenQ EW3880R monitor are a USB Type-C cable, an HDMI cable, the power cable for the monitor, and a remote. There are also detachable plastic plates that can be fixed onto the back of the monitor to cover the stand-mount attachment and ports, but these need not be used if you want quick and easy access or if the monitor is placed against a wall.
BenQ EW3880R Monitor specifications and features
The 2.1-channel speaker system and large curved screen aside, the BenQ EW3880R monitor has a lot going for it by way of features and specifications. The monitor supports the HDR10 format, and has a peak brightness of 300 nits when using HDR, or 250 nits without it. Additionally, you can run two separate source devices on the monitor simultaneously in split-screen mode.
Video input options on the BenQ EW3880R monitor are impressive, with two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4, and one USB Type-C port. Usefully, there is also a 3.5mm headphone jack for external audio connectivity. The most impressive is USB Type-C connectivity, since this allows for a laptop to send a DisplayPort signal to the monitor and receive up to 60W of power for charging simultaneously. This also feeds the monitor’s two downstream USB 3.0 Type-A ports, so you can connect your PC to additional peripherals and set up a docking station with just a single cable.
The high dynamic range mode works a bit differently from how it would on most televisions. While TVs automatically detect HDR content and switch to HDR picture modes, the BenQ monitor has to have HDR manually activated. This is as simple as pressing the ‘HDRi’ button on the front of the monitor or on the remote, and then cycling through the three presets – Cinema HDR, Game HDR, and standard HDR – all of which are said to be optimised for their specific use cases. There is also a ‘Night Mode’ which is said to adjust the sound to make voices more clear even at low volumes.
The BenQ EW3880R monitor has its own remote, which can be used to control power, select the source, control the ‘Night’ and HDR modes, adjust the brightness and volume levels, and control a few other basic settings such as the audio mode. The remote works on a CR2032 battery; while the company claims that this is pre-installed in the remote, my unit didn’t have one and I had to open the remote to install one after purchasing it separately.
The remote is small, and made it much more convenient to control basic things such as power and volume after the initial setup. You could also control the monitor without it using physical buttons, but you’ll have to reach around the back to find these.
BenQ EW3880R Monitor performance
Although the BenQ EW3880R monitor is pitched as entertainment-friendly, it’s quite different from other monitors with similar credentials such as the Samsung Smart Monitor M7 which has a 16:9 aspect ratio and its own operating system. The BenQ monitor is considerably larger, has a curved screen, and has a 21:9 aspect ratio, offering a rather different viewing experience.
All of the above points do, however, make the BenQ EW3880R monitor particularly well suited as a large screen to use your laptop or PC with, with the wide aspect ratio making multi-tasking particularly convenient. The most obvious way to do this was to run two apps or programs side-by-side on the same laptop. I was able to comfortably keep an Internet browser and a Word document open simultaneously. It’s just like having two monitors side by side, but without any borders in between.
I was able to run Windows at the full resolution available and at 60Hz when I connected the Realme Book Slim using the USB Type-C cable included with the monitor. The resolution was properly adjusted for the screen, and Windows also recommended a suitable scaling level to ensure legibility of text and proper app visibility.
I particularly liked the split-screen option, which allowed me to select two inputs and have them share screen space. This worked well when using the Realme Book Slim and a MacBook Air connected using the HDMI port. Both laptops adjusted their output resolutions to the best fit with the available screen space. Split-screen options include a 1:1 split, 2:1 split, or a picture-in-picture box for the secondary input, allowing for plenty of flexibility with how you want two source devices displayed.
Apart from occasional multi-tasking, for which I had both laptops connected in split-screen mode, I often tended to use the BenQ EW3880R monitor as a reference screen for reading and video content, with multiple apps or windows open side-by-side. Colour accuracy and sharpness were impressive, making this a good monitor for my occasional photo editing tasks.
Furthermore, the sharpness of the screen made reading text a pleasure even from a considerable viewing distance and with the text natively magnified by Windows. It was also reasonably bright even without HDR turned on, and the curvature of the IPS panel helped to reduce light reflections, making for a clean and consistent viewing experience regardless of ambient light.
Where the BenQ EW3880R truly performed well was with video and streaming content. The odd aspect ratio and WQHD+ resolution of the screen meant that streaming content from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video was capped at full-HD whether using the native apps for Windows or through a Web browser.
Native 21:9 content, including Red Notice on Netflix, scaled perfectly to the screen and used all its real estate for a proper cinematic viewing experience, and this more than made up for the resolution cap. Sharpness was decent and colours were accurate, making the monitor well suited for occasional post-work entertainment, and even late-night movie watching. HDR improved the picture slightly by way of better brightness and slightly more impactful colours when watching video content, but I preferred to keep it off for everyday work.
Sound quality was decent on the BenQ EW3880R monitor’s front-firing 2.1-channel speaker system. Although it wasn’t very loud, the sound was clear, detailed, and well tuned for short distances. I had to use it at the highest volume level almost all the time to be able to hear clearly, and the ‘Night Mode’ only made a small difference in improving voice clarity at slightly lower volumes. Although nowhere near as good as a proper speaker system or even good headphones, audio performance is good enough for a monitor and has been optimised for the both everyday productivity use and entertainment.
With the EW3880R curved ultra-wide monitor, BenQ has a rather interesting product on its hands. This monitor is large, imposing, and well suited for the computer-bound professional, whether working from home or at an office. Visuals on screen are sharp, colours and motion are rendered well, and there are enough modern connectivity options to cater to most source devices and connection scenarios.
The split-screen mode, which lets you use two devices simultaneously, is an excellent way to put the wide aspect ratio to good use. The built-in 2.1-channel speaker system is useful and gives the BenQ EW3880R its entertainment-friendly credentials. This device could be particularly well suited to anyone who might need a single display for both work and post-work use, especially in space-constrained homes.
However, priced at Rs. 97,500 in India, this monitor is perhaps a bit too expensive, even for a curved ultra-wide model. This is a specialist product and is priced at a considerable premium, but is worth the investment if your usage fits in with the connectivity, features, and design on offer.
iPhone 13 series was launched in September with a list of updates over the existing models. But one major feature that could be useful in some situations is missing on the new iPhone family since its launch. It’s the dedicated noise cancellation option that iPhone 13 users have been waiting for and demanding months. Apple has, however, not yet addressed the consumer demand. The latest iOS version didn’t bring the noise cancellation option on the iPhone 13 series. It is there on the older models, though.
As brought into notice by 9to5Mac, a user on Reddit raised a complaint about the lack of the noise cancellation option on the iPhone 13 a few days back. Several other users agreed to the complaint and wondered why the new iPhone series doesn’t have that support. Some users also mentioned that the lack isn’t due to a hardware constraint as the iPhone 13 series does have a sufficient number of microphones to support noise cancellation.
In October, a user posted about the lack of the noise cancellation option on the iPhone 13 Pro Max on Apple Community forums. An Apple Community Specialist responded to the user issue with a link to an article on how to adjust the audio settings on the iPhone.
The given link does mention the existence of Phone Noise Cancellation that users on the older iPhone models can enable by going to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/ Visual. The particular option is not available in the iPhone 13, though.
Another user responded to the Apple Community forum post and said that Apple is aware of the issue.
Gadgets 360 was able to confirm the lack of the noise cancellation option on the regular iPhone 13. User reports suggest that the issue also exists on the iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, and the iPhone 13 mini.
The iPhone maker has notably brought a few iOS updates since the lack of the noise cancellation option was reported on the Apple Community forums, but the issue hasn’t yet been addressed.
Earlier this month, Apple brought iOS 15.2 as the latest iOS update, which has not included the noise cancellation option to the iPhone 13 models. The feature has also not been available in iOS 15.3 beta.
Due to the absence of the noise cancellation option, iPhone 13 users do not have the ability to manually control whether ambient noise during phone calls can be reduced when they are holding the phone to their ear. Users can, however, activate the Voice Isolation feature from the Control Centre that works similar to noise cancellation and helps you block ambient noises using machine learning.
Gadgets 360 has reached out to Apple for clarity on the lack of the noise cancellation option and will update this space when the company responds.
HP refreshed its Envy line of premium Windows Ultrabooks back in August and the Envy 14, which we have with us today, is one of the fully loaded variants. Available in both 14-inch and 15-inch screen sizes, the new Envy series promises powerful performance in premium and highly portable bodies. The 2021 refresh gets Intel’s 11th gen Core CPUs and a tweaked design, making it a good contender against rivals such as Dell’s XPS series. The pricing of the HP Envy 14 also puts it in Apple’s MacBook Pro (M1) territory.
It’s time to find out if this ultrabook should be on your radar this shopping season.
HP Envy 14 (EB0021TX) design
The industrial design of the HP Envy 14 has grown on me in the time I’ve been testing it. This laptop is only available in a single silver finish, which covers most parts of the body, except for the bezel around the display. The sharp angles throughout the laptop, including on the rubber feet underneath, lend it a distinctive look. The aluminium chassis is sturdy which makes the lid and base feel rugged.
For a 14-inch laptop, the HP Envy 14 offers a decent selection of physical ports. You get two USB 3 (Gen1) Type-A ports with ‘HP Sleep and Charge’ functionality on both, HDMI 2.0, a Thunderbolt 4 ( Type-C) port, a microSD card slot, a DC charging port, and a headphone jack. You can power and charge the laptop via the Type-C port too, if you don’t have the supplied charger with you. The single hinge for the display offers good torsion and the lid can be pushed back comfortably. Opening the lid when closed can be a little tricky though since the provided groove isn’t deep enough to easily grip it with your thumb or finger.
The chiclet keyboard keys are well spaced and comfortable to type on. You get three levels of white backlighting, which illuminates the keys pretty evenly. There’s a fingerprint sensor in place of the right Ctrl key. The palmrest area is spacious and you even get a generously sized glass trackpad in the middle.
The display is a bright 14-inch IPS panel with a full-HD+ resolution and a 16:10 aspect ratio. The design looks modern too, thanks to slim borders on three of its four sides. The perforated vent above the keyboard is for airflow, and the stereo speakers are placed on the bottom of the laptop, one on each side. There’s a much larger vent there too.
HP Envy 14 (EB0021TX) specifications and software
The HP Envy 14 is built around Intel’s Evo platform which is a set of guidelines for features, performance and efficiency. The variant that I’m testing features an Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU with integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of soldered DDR4 RAM, a 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD, and a discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU with Max-Q optimisation. It’s a fully-loaded machine with powerful components across the board. The stereo speakers in the Envy 14 are from Bang & Olufsen. There’s a 720p webcam with a software-based camera disable feature for privacy, which can be toggled with one press of a dedicated button on the keyboard. Wireless connectivity includes Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.
HP is still shipping the Envy 14 with Windows 10 out of the box, but you can upgrade to Windows 11 during the initial setup process (though you might want to read the rest of this review before choosing to do so). You get the usual trial programs preinstalled, along with a full license for Microsoft Office Home & Student 2019. There are plenty of apps from HP too for tweaking the sound, display, battery profiles and system tuning. There’s a neat little utility called HP Enhanced Lighting which creates a virtual ring light on the screen to help brighten your face during video calls.
HP Envy 14 (EB0021TX) performance and battery life
As a daily workhorse, the HP Envy 14 chugged along very well in the few weeks I used it. I noticed a software bug on the review unit that HP sent me, which caused it to boot loop when trying to update to the latest firmware. This cropped up on a replacement unit that HP sent as well. Heading into Windows recovery and uninstalling the last feature update fixed this temporarily, and it seems to be linked to a conflict between the HP Support Assistant app and Windows 11. If you have bought an Envy 14 or are planning to buy one, I’d suggest updating the firmware before you switch to Windows 11, to hopefully bypass this bug.
With casual use, which was mostly Web pages and apps in Chrome in my case, the HP Envy 14 ran cool and quiet. I did occasionally hear fan noise when things were running in the background, like an update in Steam, but overall, this device was comfortable to use on my lap. Despite its compactness, it feels a bit heavy at a little over 1.5kg. However, the comfortable keyboard and bright and sharp display made work and play very enjoyable. The stereo speakers sound rich and detailed too. The built-in webcam is decent if you have good light around, but footage gets very grainy in low light.
The HP Envy 14 performed very well in benchmarks too. It managed strong scores of 5,548 in PCMark 10 and 7,790 in 3DMark Fire Strike. The laptop’s SSD performance in particular was quite impressive too. Sequential read speeds averaged around 2.65GBps, while random write speeds were still a solid 1.75GBps.
The Envy 14 isn’t designed to be a gaming laptop but the dedicated Nvidia GPU will allow you to play games like Fortnite at high settings with smooth framerates. Heavier titles were still playable, such as Remedy’s Control which ran at the ‘High’ quality preset at 1080p, but the frame rate in this game was not the smoothest, with an average of around 26fps. Dropping the quality settings did improve this. I’m happy to note that while charging this laptop or doing anything intensive, it’s only the bottom that gets hot, and the heat isn’t felt much on the keyboard or the palmrest.
The HP Envy 14 packs in a 4-cell, 63.3WHr battery which HP claims can last for up to 17.5 hours of video playback. I didn’t watch anything for that long a stretch, but with mixed usage which included working on Google Docs in Chrome, Slack, streaming videos, and a few breaks in between, I was generally able to get about 8-9 hours of runtime on a single charge, which I think is very good for a Windows laptop of this size. What I also liked was that I didn’t have to resort to using the battery efficiency profile in Windows 11 in order to achieve this. The Battery Eater Pro score was surprisingly nothing to shout about, as the laptop lasted for just 1 hour, 22 minutes in this resource-heavy test.
The HP Envy 14 variant (EB0021TX) that I tested was priced at Rs. 1,24,999 at the time of this review. It’s expensive, sure, but compared to its rivals, the Envy 14 does offer slightly better value. The Dell XPS 13 for instance is also priced the same, but with half the SSD capacity and no discrete GPU. Then there’s the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon, another Ultrabook based on Intel’s Evo platform, which costs less than the Envy 14 and has nearly the same specs plus a QHD display, but again, no GPU.
I think the HP Envy 14 strikes a good balance of portability, performance, and battery life, making it a very good Ultrabook to consider. It’s not possible to directly compare it to the MacBook Pro 13 (M1) since both of them run on different software platforms and CPU architectures, but if you’re looking for a Windows-based alternative, the Envy 14 is a strong contender. A few things to keep in mind are that it is a bit heavy and it takes some effort to open the lid. The quality of the webcam is also a bit disappointing.
Overall, the HP Envy 14 should be near the top of your list if you’re looking for a premium Ultrabook that can juggle work and (some) play, while still lasting a full work day on a single charge.
Amazon Winter Shopping Store sale has been announced. Winter-ready appliances such as geysers, room heaters, and electric kettles will be available with up to 60 percent discount. The sale, which will run till January 11, will allow customers to purchase blankets, quilts, recliners, comforters, beds, cookware, and dinnerware at discounted prices. Amazon is also offering a 10 percent instant discount on OneCard credit card (issued by FPL Technologies Private Limited and its Partner Banks) transactions. Here are a few offers on water heaters, smart plugs as well as appliances like casserole and flasks.
Amazon Winter Shopping Store sale offers water heaters from various brands with alluring discounts, including Bajaj and Crompton. Customers can purchase Bajaj New Shakti Neo 15L water heater at a price of Rs. 5,899 (original price: Rs. 10,450). Crompton Amica 15L water heater is priced at Rs. 6,599 (original price: Rs. 11,500) during the sale. There are deals on room heaters as well. Morphy Richards OFR 09 2000-Watt Oil Filled Radiator is available at a price of Rs. 7,330 after a discount of Rs. 4,469. You can also purchase heaters from Bajaj, Orpat, and Havells.
During the sale, Amazon is also offering discounts on devices such as smart plugs. Wipro 16A Wi-Fi Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring can be purchased at a price Rs. 999 during the Amazon Winter Shopping Store sale.
Furthermore, Amazon Winter Shopping Store also has items like Careview Anti-Pollution N95 Reusable face masks, Solimo microfibre reversible comforter, Milton Thermosteel flip lid flask, and a string of items to add in your home gym. You can also purchase fog lights for your cars, air purifiers, and microfiber cloths to clean your vehicles.