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The Sudio Nivå is the Swedish company’s first foray into truly wire-free earbuds. I have been quite impressed with other Sudio products I had reviewed in the past, so I was keen to try out the Nivå when the company offered one for this review.

With more people looking to upgrade their music listening experiences, and helped along with more smartphones dropping the 3.5 mm headphone jack, there is much interest in Bluetooth headphones. Truly wire-free headphones are the newest sub-category of these headphones. Like the Apple AirPods, these are earbud style listening devices you stick into your ears, no wires anywhere.

Like Sudio’s other products, the Nivå is well designed. The retail packaging is quite standard fare. Upon opening the box, you’ll find a round charging case with the Nivå earphones within. The rest of the accessories are underneath the case.

The Sudio Nivå’s round case does seem rather large compared with those of other truly wire-free headphones. It’s light, and it’s made entirely out of plastic. While the smooth matt plastic feels good and well-made, I would have preferred more premium materials. A raw leather carrying string attached to the case gives it a nice Scandinavian touch.

I have the black colour Sudio Nivå earphones. It comes with the black case you see in these photos. The other colour option is white, which is paired with a white case. The white does look more exquisite, but the “like new” look may be harder to maintain in the long term.

Both the left and right earpieces look identical, having just one single large button on the outside face and two pogo pin contacts on the inside. You can tell which is left and right by the inward-facing letter markings. Since the earpieces can also go into either slot in the charging case, you would be well-served to always return them to the case in the right order, so that you don’t have to figure out which is left and right when you take them out.

The one single button does limit the functions available on the Sudio Nivå. You can play/pause music with a single press, skip to next track with double-click, and activate your smartphone’s voice assistant with press-and-hold. The last action is a bit tough, because hold too long and you’ll turn the Nivå off. The buttons on either earpieces behave identically, so you can use either one of them.

However, each Nivå is powered on individually, so you have to do that by pressing both buttons. Taking the Nivå out of the case doesn’t turn them on automatically, though returning them to the case will turn them off.

The Sudio Nivå can take calls. The call audio and microphone is only on the right earpiece. It may sound a little strange when you’re listening to music in stereo, then take a call that you can only hear in your right ear. My bigger concern is that call quality isn’t very good.

Did you notice I didn’t talk about volume controls? That’s because the Sudio Nivå  doesn’t have any. You’ll have to do that from your smartphone. You also can’t skip tracks backward. You get the sense here that the controls are quite limited.

I often worry about truly wire-free headphones falling out of my ears. The Sudio Nivå is light enough and fits sufficiently securely that it shouldn’t fall out with any ordinary head movements. You need to find the right sized silicon tips to make sure the earpieces fit properly. A proper fit also ensures you get the best possible music quality.

Sound quality on the Sudio Nivå is good. The full-range dynamic driver delivers particularly impressive bass, with clear well-controlled extension all the way down to the sub-bass level. It’s not particularly strong or punchy, though, so it’s more suited for people who prefer a more neutral presentation of their music.

The mid-range is well-rounded with good vocal reproduction, butI would prefer a bit more forward presence. The treble is pleasant, though not particularly bright. Sound stage is surprisingly expansive, delivering good stereo immersive listening experience.

For casual listeners, the Sudio Nivå delivers very enjoyable, mostly neutral-oriented, music. It’s quite passable even for fussy listeners. For a headphone at this price point, the Nivå performs very well.

In terms of battery life, the Sudio Nivå runs for a little over 3 hours. The charging case packs a built-in 500 mAh battery, which gives you about four full charges of the Nivå.

The Sudio Nivå supports Bluetooth 4.2 with up to 10 metres range, but doesn’t offer Qualcomm aptX, so unfortunately there is no low-latency or HD audio capabilities.

Apart from the charging case, the Sudio Nivå comes with a manual, Micro-USB charging case, and extra silicon sleeves. Altogether, you get three different sizes of silicon sleeves.

There is a one year international warranty offered with the Sudio Nivå.

The Sudio Nivå retails for S$165 directly from Sudio’s Singapore online store. Orders are shipped free worldwide via DHL, usually taking less than 5 days to Singapore. My Sudio Nivå set was shipped out of Hong Kong and arrived in two days.

If you are interested to to get the Sudio Nivå, order from the Singapore store with the discount code zitseng15 to get a 15% discount, for a final total cost of S$140.25 that’s inclusive of DHL shipping to your doorstep. (Note: I do not earn any commission on your orders.)

Conclusion

The Sudio Nivå is a truly wire-free earphones that is light on features, but delivers very enjoyable music at a very reasonable price.

Pros:

  • Well-designed
  • Very good, enjoyable, sound quality
  • Particularly impressive bass

Cons:

  • No Qualcomm aptX
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I often work with multiple computers concurrently at work. For that purpose, a single set of keyboard and mouse that can switch between multiple computers, like the Logitech MK850 Performance, is very convenient and versatile. It is otherwise quite impractical to wrestle with multiple keyboards and mice.

I had already been using the Logitech K375s keyboard and M720 mouse. I wasn’t too happy with the K375s, primarily because it was just a tad inconvenient to switch between host computers. The device switching keys were shared with function keys. One or the other will require a modifier key to activate, and while I could choose which one would need the modifier, either one would still be inconvenient.

The M720 mouse, on the other hand, worked much better. I still have a small, really small, little complaint about the device selection key, but the mouse on the whole was very nice.

With the M720 in mind, I was quite pleased to chance upon the Logitech MK850 Performance keyboard and mouse. You see, the MK850 is essentially the M720 mice paired with a keyboard that, as far as I can find, unique to the MK850 combo, and isn’t sold separately.

I won’t write about the MK850 mouse all over again from, since it’s essentially the same as the M720 I wrote previously. However, just to recap a little bit, this is a wireless mouse that supports both Bluetooth and Logitech’s unifying receiver. The mouse has a clickable and tilt-able fast-scrolling wheel, forward and backward buttons, and a thumb-squeeze side.

The MK850 keyboard worked very well, and I especially liked that it has dedicated device switching keys. I don’t have to choose between bad and worse like the shared device switching keys on the K375s.

Like the M720, the MK850 keyboard switches between three host devices, using either Bluetooth or Logitech’s unifying receiver, one of which is included with the MK850. It supports Mac, Windows, Android and iOS host devices. The Windows/Alt keys and Alt/Cmd keys are laid out correctly for Windows and Mac, something that some other keyboards force you to compromise with a wrong layout for one or the other OS.

The MK850 keyboard is spacious and comfortable. I did find the keys a bit squishy initially. I wasn’t impressed at that time, and didn’t really want to write this review then. However, after some “wear in”, I started to like the feel of the keys quite a lot. This doesn’t have the goodness of a mechanical keyboard, but it’s definitely better than decently average. The slightly concave keys have enough sufficient travel, the pressure is right, and the tactile feedback is good.

It’s not very noticeable, but the MK850 keyboard has a contoured profile that promotes a more ergonomic keyboarding experience. I find the small bump makes only a small difference in comfort. On the other hand, people who don’t like large bumps may find this subtle contour more satisfying.

The soft fabric wrist pad is comfortable, though I worry about keeping it clean after extended use.

The Logitech Options software, available for both Mac and Windows, offers a couple of interesting features with the MK850. First, the Logitech Flow is a pretty nifty feature that lets you move your mouse pointer from the display of one computer to another, with the keyboard following to that computer, as if the multiple displays were simply the extended desktops of each other. This even works across Mac and Windows computers. All computers need to be on the same network for the feature to work.

The other nice feature is Logitech DuoLink. Using the function key on the keyboard, you can modify the behaviour of the mouse movements and gestures.

Apart from the keyboard and mouse itself, and the aforementioned unifying receiver, the MK850 also comes with a USB extension cable so that you can extend the unifying receiver to a more suitable location on your desk.

The Logitech MK850 Performance keyboard and mouse combo is available at around S$125 (where I got from Lazada).

If you’re one who has to use multiple computers concurrently, you’ll understand that multiple keyboards and mice are not only just inconvenient, but also uncomfortable since you can’t position all  of them “just right” on your desk. The Logitech MK850 Performance is an excellent solution in such scenarios.

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Our recent holiday getaway to Phuket was a bit different from our usual. It was planned to be largely a stay-in at a resort that’s designed for kids/family. We stayed at two resorts, so that we can have different experiences. The first stay was at the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort.

Staying at two different resorts allowed us to go to two different beaches, first at Surin beach where it’s quiet, and then later at the bustling Patong beach where we could shop and dine around the area. At Patong beach, we stayed at the very nice Holiday Inn Resort Phuket which I just posted about. The kids were thrilled with their own bunk beds and Xbox 360 console in the room.

Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort was also a really nice place. There were no Xbox consoles inside the room, but the Kids World (i.e. Kids Club) was a really fun place for them.

We booked into the Family Suite. The large 56 square metre suite has a living area and a separate bedroom for the adults. Kids sleep in the living area on two single beds (one roll-away). They have some soft toys (looks clean!) and a play tent.

There’s a balcony that looks out into swimming pool, which is the centre of the resort. All the accommodation blocks surround the pool, and all rooms at the resort look into the pool area.

The living area has has space for a small work desk. There aren’t many chairs, but the beds can serve the purpose if everyone wants to lounge around in the living area.

The bedroom is spacious. The windows have the same view as from the balcony, though the window view is rather restricted. Perhaps larger windows might have been nicer.

There’s a king-sized bed, separate TV, and generously long desk/shelf .

There’s wardrobe, and the in-room safe inside it. It was nice to find chocolate coins in gold foil put into a treasure box inside the safe!

The suite has a largish (though not full-sized) refrigerator, and tea and coffee-making facilities.

The bathroom is pretty standard. The shower area has no door, but it is large enough that you wouldn’t get too much water splashing outside and wetting the whole bathroom. There’s no bathtub, in case you or your kids are longing for one.

Apart from the larger space and kiddy beds, there isn’t really much inside the room for kids to play. Kids activities are outside the room!

There’s a small meandering pool for adults. Kids will find something more exciting for them. Their pool has got two slides that start from the rooftop of the Kids World building in the centre of the resort!

The slides are quite shallow, so younger kids (and parents) should not need to worry. There’s a pool side bar in this kids pool, with sunken seats in the water on on side.

The kids can order food at this bar too! I’ll come back to food and drinks later, because there’s something far more important to the kids: Kids World!

Kids World is a building in the centre of the resort. It’s not a large building, but it has adequate facilities for the kids The slide sort of wraps around the side of this building.

There are two floors in Kids World, and there are a few areas. One room has a TV and some gaming consoles (Xbox 360 and PS4). Upstairs, there is a ball pit and play area for younger children.

There’s also a common area with a couple of computer setup with a variety of games. My kids spent a lot of time here.

There are other things in the Kids World, but I just want to show one more, the activity area where the staff conduct various programmes. There are different activities on different days, so you’ll have to look up the schedule.

Some activities are conducted outside the Kids World, like pizza decoration is done int he hotel’s restaurant, where they also have a kids seating area.

The restaurant is large. It’s the low season while we where staying at the resort, so there were never many diners around. In fact, we don’t see many people around the resort. It’s nice not to have to compete with others for anything (e.g. seats at pool bar).

I bought a Kids Club voucher at 299 baht per kid per day, which includes all food and drinks from the kid’s menu at any F&B outlet in the resort (but excludes room service), for the whole day. It’s quite a good deal considering an a la carte kids meal could already cost nearly 200 baht.

The Kids Club voucher also covers paid activities at the Kids World. The pizza decorating activity, for example, would ordinarily cost 100 baht, which is itself reasonably priced considering you get a personal-sized pizza at the end of the session.

The restaurant serves a variety of cuisines, including specifically a Japanese section. Food is pretty good, like this item from their special Fire & Ice promotion menu.

I had that at the Sports Bar. The kids can get their food served anywhere, including in the Sports Bar. The ambience in the resort is very relaxed and informal, so you pretty much can just walk anywhere and have your food or drinks from anywhere served any place.

The board games in the Sports Bar can also be brought out to play somewhere else. Sadly the games weren’t well maintained, as we found many items/pieces missing.

Surin beach is just across the road from the hotel. It being the low season now, there weren’t many people around. There are no water activities either, though you can still swim in a marked out section.

The Surin beach area is quiet, quite different from many years ago, from what I understand, when it was much more crowded. There are a couple of restaurants along the road leading to the Novotel  resort, and a small shopping mall about 15 to 20 minutes walk away (maybe 30 minutes if you need to lug kids along). There’s not much else to do. This is the sort of place where you probably just stay in the resort itself, with the option to enjoy the beach as well.

It’s a good thing that Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort is quite self-sufficient, having all the entertainment the kids will likely need. There’s also a movie screening room for kids, with three sessions every day, each time a different movie. I think they could have packed more sessions though.

Service at the resort was excellent, with staff remembering us as we went about the Kids World and the restaurants. I suppose it helped a lot that the resort was quiet with not many other guests around.

Our stay at the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort was very nice, and really fun for the kids. It’s a nice resort for a family getaway if you have just want a quiet place to relax, and has enough activities to keep the kids occupied and happy.

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We went to Phuket for a recent holiday getaway. Unlike most of our trips, this was one where the hotel itself would be an attraction to the kids. Not Disneyland-type hotel, but still good enough they would be thrilled to just stay in the hotel. This is the Holiday Inn Resort Phuket in Patong Beach.

The highlight of our stay is the Kids’ Suite. It’s a comfortable room that, at 33 square metres, isn’t much bigger than standard hotel rooms. However, it is what’s inside the room that’s special. The kids have their own kids’ themed bunk beds in a partitioned-off area. The area is nicely decorated, and they have their own soft toys too.

The bunk bed isn’t even the main feature. The star attraction is about what else is in that area. The kids have their own Xbox 360 console! They have their own TV and DVD player! They also have a toy box! My kids were tired and somewhat lethargic on the way to Patong, but their energy levels were instantly restored the moment they saw this room.

The Xbox 360 is not conneted to the Internet, but they have local storage attached to the console offering a selection of over 100 game titles. The kids will definitely find several games that tickle their fancy. You will find something interesting for yourself too, if you can wrestle the controllers out of their hands!

The Kids’ Club in the hotel has a couple of PS4 consoles available, in case you prefer that to the Xbox, though there will be other kids around competing to use them. I did spy many more PS4 consoles still in their boxes, unopened; it looks like the hotel may be planning to upgrade the Xbox 360 consoles in the Kids’ Suite to the PS4.

There are just a small handful of DVD titles available in the room, but you can borrow more from the Kids’ Club. The Business Centre also has DVD for loan, which you can watch on a separate DVD player on another TV in the room. Yup. The adults get their own DVD player and TV too. No need to fight with the kids.

The rest of the Kids’ Suite is quite a standard hotel room. There’s a large, comfortable, King-sized bed. Beside it, you get a standard radio alarm clock, a little dated considering the kind of i-device connector it offers. No Bluetooth audio in the room, in case you’re wondering.

There is an in-room safe, mini fridge, coffee (and tea) making facilities, and a generous offering of cups. Including the Hello Kitty themed cups and the glasses in the bathroom, there are a total of 12 cups/glasses/mugs!

The view out of the Kids’ Suite isn’t fantastic. You can walk out to a small balcony, where you’ll just see the hotel’s car park. There are only 5 such Kids’ Suite in the resort, and they are all located together on the same floor, all with the same view.

There are more kids features in the Holiday Inn Resort Phuket than just inside the Kids’ Suite. I mentioned the Kids’ Club earlier. Most of the toys inside the Kids’ Club are more suited for younger children, perhaps those below seven, apart from the aforementioned PS4 consoles.

The Kids’ Club staff have several organised activities for the kids. There are, in fact, several each day. You can refer to the schedule below to get an idea of what activities are available. There are two sets of activities which are rotated on a weekly basis (i.e. one week they will run set 1, and the next week they will run set 2). You should, of course, check with the hotel for their latest activity schedule.

There are also other paid and free activities suitable for everyone, not just kids.

If you want to go about your other activities without your kids, you can leave them at the Kids’ Club. A spa or massage perhaps? The Kids’ Club staff can take care of kids five years and older, and they can also take them to lunch (at extra cost).

Speaking of food, kids eat free at this Holiday Inn Resort. With each adult main course ordered, two kids’ meal (from the kids’ menu) are free, up to a max of four free kids’ meal per table.

Apart from the adults feature pool, there’s also a kids’ swimming pool and another wading pool for younger children.

The Holiday Inn Resort Phuket has everything that will keep kids happy and occupied. Even in the bar, there are some games to play. They serve kids’ menu items in there too.

However, with the Xbox 360 inside the Kids’ Suite, the kids don’t even want to leave the room. If you’re looking to have a quiet getaway for a young family in Phuket, yet not be too far away from bustling shopping and the beach, the Holiday Inn Resort Phuket is a good choice.

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The Singapore government purportedly spent some S$20M toward hosting the Trump-Kim Summit which happened yesterday. It went quite well or maybe absolutely very well, depending on who you’re asking. Let’s take a step back and see if it was really worthwhile for Singapore to have played host to Trump and Kim?

This S$20M may not be a lot to pay to put Singapore in history books as the place where the world saw North Korea started a new chapter of their relationship with the United States, as well as the rest of the world. It’s also an opportunity to showcase Singapore to the world, to bolster recognition of our tiny nation state.

At least that’s what we hope. You know, that they know better about who we are, where we are, and what we’re like.

The good news is that we’re no longer associated with China. The U.S. Secretary of State thinks we’re a part of Malaysia. Perhaps they didn’t get the memo that we separated from Malaysia in 1965. Fortunately Air Force One did arrive at the right place.

That gaffe was reported by Yahoo News, among several other cute ones. The White House, for example, tried to teach the right way to pronounce the name of our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Please listen up, his name is pronounced as “lee haz-ee-en lahng”. That’s according to American English. I don’t even know how to pronounce that.

Then, we have BBC putting Capella, The St Regis, and Shangri-La Hotel on the same  island, the island of Sentosa. I get it, they got the wrong Shangri-La. But how did St Regis end up in Sentosa? Did the BBC think the smallish 4.71 km² was the entire Singapore? Yes, our nation city state is really small. But not that small.

I’m sure we’re still greatly misunderstood in many other ways. Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders depiction of Singapore is a sobering reminder.

As a tech person that has IT security under my portfolio, the one thing that caught my attention is how our dear Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) provided international media that descended here to cover the summit with a gift bag that included a USB gadget. MCI thought the fan was thoughtful in Singapore’s hot weather. But a USB gadget is a big no-no because of cyber-security threats associated with not just potential malware, but also physical incapacitation of your computer.

Check out USB Kill. Oh yes, it was once an idea, and then a proof-of-concept demonstrated at a hacker conference. Then it became a commercial product you can simply buy off-the-shelf.

This summit is between two countries very well-known for their extensive and sophisticated cyber espionage. Of all things, MCI didn’t consider that a USB gadget could be a bad idea, if not in very bad taste?

Smart nation we want to be, but not very cyber-security smart.

S$20M isn’t very much out of our government’s total operating budget. But I think we could have done better to present ourselves to the world. The choice of meeting venue, at Capella hotel, even though we know to be quite atas, probably gives the impression that our city isn’t as modern as it actually is. The media had to work out from the F1 Pit Building, which is neither close by to the meeting hotel nor the hotels Trump and Kim stayed at. The media, by the way, ate food from an airline caterer. I hope SATS dished out something decent.

Maybe we didn’t have enough time to plan better. Trump’s fickleness didn’t help. Hopefully we now have an operation template to use for future such opportunities.

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This may be the year of notches, 19:9 display aspect ratio, and AI cameras. But Vivo has something one-up over the competition. Their new X21 is not just all-screen, but it also has an in-display fingerprint reader, the technology that has thus far eluded both Apple and Samsung.

A prototype of the Vivo X21 with the world’s first in-display fingerprint reader was first shown at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February this year. It took many people by surprise, and I couldn’t wait to try it out when the smartphone finally arrives in its final retail form.

The X21 is the Chinese company’s latest flagship, and Singapore is the first country in Southeast Asia to retail the X21. If you can overlook its slightly not-so-top-end choice of processor, the Vivo X21 is an otherwise very premium smartphone.

With the in-display fingerprint sensor, the Vivo X21 can keep fingerprint unlocking to where it’s most convenient, yet offer an almost all-screen front, save for the mostly unavoidable notch, minimal screen bezels, and high screen-to-body ratio. You can’t see any sign of the fingerprint sensor, at least not until you pick up of wake up the X21 will a stylised icon get displayed over the sensor area to tell you where it is.

The in-display fingerprint sensor works, though it’s not as quick as traditional fingerprint sensors. Setting up seems to take longer, and apparently requires firmer pressure, apparently so that more surface area of the finger or thumb can get scanned. But once setup, it was really cool to be able to simply touch the screen to unlock the Vivo X21.

Despite having a very generous 6.28-inch screen, the Vivo X21 doesn’t feel like that big of a smartphone. It measures 154.5 x 74.8 x 7.4 mm, and weighs just 156.2 grams. The tapered sides make the Vivo X21 feel almost too thin. The X21 is all glass, including a nice curved glass on the back.

That Super AMOLED display on the front has a 19:9 aspect ratio. With a resolution of 1080 x 2280 pixels, the 6.28-inch display gets you a nice 402 ppi pixel density. The display is crisp and colours are vibrant. The notch at the top incorporates a speaker and front camera. The latter has 12 MP resolution and a f/2.0 lens.

The curved sides of the Vivo X21 are nice. The power button and volume rocker are on the right side of the device. These plasticky buttons don’t feel great, but they’re functional.

The SIM tray that is often on the opposite side of the power buttons in most smartphones is on the bottom of the Vivo X21. The tray holds two nano-SIM cards, and you have the option of putting a microSD card in place of the second nano-SIM if you need more storage.

There’s Micro-USB port in the centre for charging, and the speaker grill on the other side of it. I wished Vivo had gone with USB Type-C. The X21 does support fast-charging at 2 A, though in 2018 some might not consider this fast enough. Despite a glass back, the Vivo didn’t take the opportunity to incorporate wireless charging into the X21.

The Vivo X21 offers a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the top of the smartphone. This is nowadays a noteworthy feature to mention, especially for anyone who still prefers to use wired headphones.

Around on the glass back of the Vivo X21, you’ll find a dual camera setup. The X21 features a 12 MP dual pixel sensor and f/2.8 lens paired with a 5 MP sensor and f/2.4 lens. It uses phase-detection auto-focus, and has a LED flash.

AI-powered photography is a big thing this year, and with Vivo’s marketing taglines like “AI Short, Perfect Shot”, you can expect the X21 to shoot pretty good photos. The X21’s camera app has all the obligatory features, including portrait mode, panorama, face beauty, HDR, etc. You also have the option of a full manual mode. Vivo uses AI algorithms to detect 140 different scenarios such as portraits, food, and plats, in order to actively adjust photography settings to achieve the best photos.

Speaking of cameras, the Vivo X21 also supports face unlock. You’ll have to wake the screen first before the X21 will start scanning for a face to recognise. The facial recognition works very well in my tests, with the X21 successfully declining to unlock when my eyes were closed, or when I presented an image of my face.

Under the hood, the Vivo X21 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. Vivo’s choice to put the Snapdragon 660 on the X21 may place this smartphone in the mid-tier range, at least in the eyes of some users. In day-to-day casual use, I don’t find the X21 sluggish, and the Snapdragon 660 does perform well enough in this regard. Benchmark tests from Geekbench 4 put the Vivo X21 somewhat on par with the OPPO R15, which uses the MediaTek Helio P60 processor.

Battery capacity in the Vivo X21 is rated 3200 mAh. It scored 4170 on the Geekbench 4 battery test, which even outperforms the OPPO R15’s pretty good score. With casual use, the X21 should have no trouble getting you through a whole day with some to spare.

For connectivity, the Vivo X21 supports 4G LTE cellular, dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi with 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0, and GPS for positioning (GLONASS supported too). There is no NFC, unfortunately.

The Vivo X21 runs the company’s own Funtouch OS, which is based on Android 8.1.0. This has an iOS-like kind of experience, something which I’m not particularly fond of, but could perhaps get used to over time. In the case of Funtouch OS on the X21, however, Vivo has made some strange changes. For example, in most flavours of Android, the quick settings are part of the notification drawer which you access with a swipe down from the top, but the X21 needs you to swipe up from the bottom of the screen. I had to Google search to find out how to get to the quick settings.

My overall impression of Funtouch OS is that it still needs a bit more work. There are odd quirks with the user experience. It’s workable, of course, but workable is not enough these days.

The main features I miss with the Vivo X21 is some form of water ingress protection (i.e. water-resistance). It’s nice to not have to worry about water damage when using my smartphone around water. Also with contactless smartphone payments getting more prevalent, I do wish the X21 had NFC support too.

If the in-display fingerprint sensor is something you must have, and I admit it is certainly a cool feature, the Vivo X21 is the only smartphone with that feature right now. Despite some misses, and it also won’t hurt to have a more capable Snapdragon chip in there, the X21 is otherwise a very well-built, capable, smartphone.

The Vivo X21 retails at S$799, and it’s available from M1, StarHub, and authorised dealers including Challenger and Newstead Technologies.

Conclusion

The Vivo X21 checks all the boxes for a 2018 flagship smartphone, and adds on an impressive in-display fingerprint sensor that is the first of its kind.

Pros:

  • Beautiful design, thin and light
  • All-screen, vibrant display
  • In-display fingerprint sensor
  • Face unlock

Cons:

  • No USB Type-C
  • No NFC
  • Not water-resistant
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If you stay in the east, you may have followed the excitement around the re-opening of Century Square mall. The cinema at the mall is back in operation, but this time under another operator, Filmgarde, who has brought some improvements to the cinema experience.

Filmgarde’s big announcement with regard to their Century Square cinema halls is the debut of the next generation of immersive sound technology AuroMax. The AuroMax technology is installed in all the cinema halls at Century Square, the only ones of any cinemas in Singapore.

AuroMax is confidently positioned as the ultimate immersive sound system on the market, creating a natural 3D listening experience, allowing Singapore’s audience to feel as though they are right within the picture.

Unlike other sound systems, AuroMax uses additional layers of speakers in the cinema hall. A significant benefit for movie-goers is that the sweet-spot in the hall is greatly expanded. Instead of just one seat in the centre of the hall that hears sound perfectly, AuroMax technology divides the hall into multiple zones so that more people can hear the sound just right.

Movies screened at Filmgarde’s Century Square cinema halls do not cost more. This means you can enjoy AuroMax technology at the same price as the usual tickets at standard cinema halls.

This is a great opportunity for you to experience the AuroMax technology, especially with the current screening of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Make a date to checkout Filmgarde Century Square.

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I recently decided to run my own PC and mobile benchmarks, and after that, I thought, why not take it one step further with my own weight and length measurements? I don’t need very highly precise measurement tools, but having them will give me independent verification of some specifications.

The thought came to mind because sometimes the official specifications don’t completely make sense. For example, some notebooks claim a thickness that’s thinner than something else I have on hand, but from a casual visual inspection, it’s not so. This happens from time to time when I review items on this blog.

Manufacturers sometimes take advantage of curves and sloping edges to turn in specifications to their advantage. This may be clever marketing, but at times it can be unfair to consumers.

So here are the two things I use. For length (or thickness or depth) measurement, I have a vernier calipers. Given its price, I don’t think this is a very highly accurate and precise tool. However the provided specifications claim an accuracy of 0.03 mm and resolution of 0.01 mm. While I got this from Lazada, where there are numerous other similar vernier calipers (both in specs and price), you can also find the same items on Amazon and other online shopping platforms.

This vernier calipers can measure inside, outside, depth and step. It seems to be quite well made with steel, and has a maximum range of 150 mm.

For weight, I picked something simple from Challenger. It has a resolution of up to 0.1 grams, and maximum weight up to 2 kg. I do find the latter a bit limiting, but I suppose for the purpose of measuring smartphones and tablets, 2 kg is more than sufficient. Ultralight notebooks will still do okay, but this scale likely won’t handle clunker performance packed gaming notebooks.

The vernier calipers cost S$15.20 from Lazada, while the digital weighing scale from Challenger costs S$15.

These are now in my arsenal of tools for gadget reviews. I probably will till use official specifications provided by manufacturers, but will certainly mention my own independent measurements if for some reason there are great differences.

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Along with the PROLiNK PIC3002WN fixed IP camera I reviewed recently, PROLiNK has another new IP camera. This is the PIC3001WP Full HD 1080P Smart Wi-Fi Pan/Tilt IP Camera, a more capable IP camera that pans and tilts, but otherwise mostly similar in features to the PIC3002WN.

At first glance, the PROLiNK PIC3001WP looks kind of cute. It resembles a helmet head. Some security cameras are designed to blend in and go unnoticed, while some others have a design too jarring to go unnoticed. The PIC3001WP is in-between. It’s pleasant to look at if you happen to notice it.

As far as specifications go, the PIC3001WP is equipped with Full HD 1080p video capabilities and a wide-angle lens. It can pan and tilt, so if there’re more areas you want to watch than the wide-angle lens can accommodate, you can always point the camera any direction you need in real-time.

For monitoring and recording in darkness, the PIC3001WP has 10 infrared LEDs to provide illumination good for several metres.

The PIC3001WP has both a built-in speaker and microphone, and thus supports two-way audio communications. Additionally, this has low enough that the camera can function adequately as an intercom.

I’m pleased to see the PIC3001WP is powered though a MicroUSB port. It’s more convenient to use a more universal power supply option, but USB power is not so often seen in pan-tilt cameras.

There’s also a RJ45 Ethernet port on the back, so you have the choice to use a wired connection to the PIC3001WP. If you prefer to go with Wi-Fi, then note that the PIC3001WP supports only 802.11b/g/n 2.4 GHz band.

The PIC3001WP has a microSD slot on the back, so you can record videos locally.

Setting up the PIC3001WP is relatively easy, although like with the PIC3002WN I had trouble with certain Wi-Fi routers. Of course, having worked with the PIC3002WN, I was quite prepared to handle the PIC3001WP, so I had little trouble setting it up this time.

You’ll need the PROLiNK mCam mobile app, available on both Android and iOS. Just follow the on-screen instructions to setup the PIC3001WP.

Through the mCam mobile app, you can see that the PIC3001WP supports motion detection. The motion detection feature is rather basic. You can select the detection sensitivity, but you cannot define a detection area. You can receive motion detection alerts through the mCam mobile app.

Video recording on the PIC3001WP can be configured to be triggered by motion, time schedule, or always-on recording. In addition to the local microSD card recording storage, you can also send recordings to a NAS, or upload to Dropbox. When monitoring the camera through the mCam mobile app, you can also save videos or screenshots locally on your mobile device.

Included with the PIC3001WP, you’ll find a wall mount with wall plugs for the camera, USB cable, USB charger, and Ethernet cable. You can also just sit the PIC3001WP on a flat surface if you don’t want to mount it on the wall.

The PROLiNK PIC3001WP retails for S$108, available from the PROLiNK official store on Lazada, among other retail outlets.

This is one of the most affordable pan-tilt IP camera that supports Full HD video. It has all the essential features you’ll need for home security surveillance purposes. The PIC3001WP is affordable enough you can get more than one without hurting your wallet too much, and it’s a great recommendation to keep an eye on things happening at/outside home.

Conclusion

The PROLiNK PIC3001WP is a basic pan-tilt IP camera that has all the essential features for home security surveillance purposes.

Pros:

  • Pan and tilt functions
  • Full HD video
  • Two-way intercom with built-in speaker and microphone
  • Built-in infrared LED

Cons:

  • Setup may not always work smoothly
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Flagship smartphones are usually pricey, what with Apple boldly leading past the US$1K mark, but occasionally we might just catch a really cool break. Huawei’s Honor brand recently announced their new Honor 10 flagship. It has great specifications, but even greater is its surprisingly affordable price.

I’ll get into the price later, but I should mention now that the Honor 10’s price in Singapore is especially attractive. There were many gasps of surprise during the Honor 10’s media launch when its price was revealed. We, in Singapore, are getting quite a good deal.

Numerous smartphones launched this year have so far shared a couple of common features: notched display, 19:9 display aspect ratio, and play heavily on AI, particularly on improving camera capabilities. The Honor 10, likewise, has all these.

In a bid to make their smartphones standout better from the crowd, a number of manufacturers are placing a fair bit of emphasis on beautiful design. The Honor 10, similarly, is a beauty. Honor is particularly proud of the gorgeous, striking finish they’ve achieved with the Honor 10.

This smartphone has a 15-layer process 3D glass on the back that takes as much time to manufacture as it does the rest of the device. The glass produces a dazzling range of colours as you turn the smartphone through various angles. The Honor 10 definitely stands out. This especially so for the Phantom Blue colour, the flagship colour in Singapore. The other colour option is Midnight Black, which is what I have for my review set. The Midnight Black is somewhat more subtle.

The front 5.84-inch display covers almost all of the glass surface. This makes the Honor 10 a relatively compact smartphone, measuring 149.6 x 71.2 x 7.7 mm and weighing just 153 grams. People with smaller hands will likely still find the Honor 10 easy to use one-handed.

There’s the notch at the top, with a front camera featuring 24 MP resolution and f/2.0 lens. The chin at the bottom hides an ultrasonic under-glass fingerprint sensor that works even with wet fingers. In my tests, however, I didn’t find this sensor very quick even with dry hands, as compared with other flagship smartphones. However, that it works with wet fingers could be a bonus for some people.

The front display, at 5.84-inch diagonally, has 1080 x 2280 pixels, giving you about 432 PPI pixel density. It’s an IPS LCD display, and it looks great. However, perhaps with it being IPS LCD, the Honor 10 doesn’t offer an always-on display.

The SIM card tray is on the left side. The Honor 10 supports dual nano-SIM. There is no room for microSD though.

There’s an infrared port at the top of the Honor 10, and the usual volume rocker, and power button below, on the right side of the device.

At the bottom, you’ll find a USB Type-C port for charging, supporting Honor SuperCharge ( 5 Volt at 4.5 A), which gets you from 0% to 50% battery in 24 minutes.

Just the way I like it, there’s also the 3.5 mm headphone jack at the bottom.

The back, as mentioned earlier, is really beautiful, especially if you get the Phantom Blue colour. Here, the Midnight Black version looks intriguing, though perhaps not altogether stunning. The main gadgetry on the back is the dual-camera setup. The Honor 10 gives you a 16 MP colour sensor  a 24 MP monochrome sensor, both with f/1.8 lenses. The camera supports phase detection autofocus and  LED flash.

Under the hood, the Honor 10 is powered by Huawei’s octa-core Hisilicon Kirin 970, the same as on the Huawei P20. There’s 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of flash storage.

For connectivity, the Honor 10 gives you dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 with Qualcomm aptX HD audio, and LTE cellular radios. Positioning is supported with A-GPS, GLONASS, and BDS. There is NFC included too.

The Honor 10 has a 3400 mAh battery. It’s quite adequate, scoring 2870 on Geekbench 4 Battery tests. This smartphone should last the whole day with casual use.

For software, the Honor 10 runs the latest EMUI 8.1 OS, based on Android 8.1.

In the camera department, the Honor 10’s AI-powered photo-taking capabilities seem to be quite impressive. The Kirin 970 processor has an embedded Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that recognises over 500 scenarios in 22 categories. It can handle multiple subjects, and segment images in multiple layers. It also has a capable AI portrait mode.

I personally find in many smartphones the “AI” gets a little carried away with image processing, producing a result that looks, perhaps, unreal. However, it seems many people are happy with such results. The Honor 10 definitely has a capable camera, but whether you like what it does may be a different matter. I’ll write more about the camera capabilities in a later post.

In the box, the Honor 10 comes with a fast USB charger, USB Type-C cable, SIM eject tool, a jelly case, and screen protector (already installed).

The Honor 10 is remarkably similar to the Huawei P20. They have the same processor, same amount of RAM and flash storage (based on models available in Singapore), the same notched display design, same lack of MicroSD expansion. and pretty much the same size. The Honor 10 is in fact slightly better in a few areas, such as increased resolution of both dual camera sensors on the back, higher resolution display due to the 19:9 aspect ratio, and slightly lighter. In fact, you get a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the Honor 10 too, a feature nowadays missing in many premium phones, including the Huawei P20.

Based on specifications, the Honor 10 is at least as good, if not better, than the Huawei P20. The latter is a pricey smartphone. How about the Honor 10?

The Honor 10 retails at S$579, and it’s available at the Honor official store on Lazada.

I seldom like to talk about price a lot, except when it is something particularly noteworthy. The Honor 10’s retail price is such. It has the Huawei P20’s specifications, but costs a whole lot less. If you’ve been wanting to get the Huawei P20, but find it burns too big a hole in your wallet, then check out the excellent Honor 10.

Conclusion

The Huawei Honor 10 is very beautiful, has the Huawei P20’s specifications, and a very capable AI-powered camera, but costs a whole lot less.

Pros:

  • Very beautiful design
  • Very well-built
  • Premium smartphone specifications
  • Very capable camera

Cons:

  • Not IP-rated (not water-resistant)
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