REVIEWS

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Asus K555LJ review. Has Asus truly found the incredible?



 If you are in the market for an incredible laptop with the 40-50K INR range , Asus claiming that they  'in search of the incredible' have something compelling to offer. Priced at 45K INR , Asus K555L (K555LJ Metal series XX131D to be precise). The main attraction of this laptop is its impressive build-metal finish. Under the hood its powered by a 5th gen ( Broadwell-U Core ) Core i5 processor and 8GB of memory coupled with GT920M GPU. This  is something rare to find( at the time of writing this blog). I will talk about the specs in depth later in this blog.

BUILD AND HARDWARE : The K555LJ flams a metal design with a two tone finish which makes the laptop very attractive. The keyboard layout and finish seems to be inspired from a fruitish company. Weighing in at around 2 kilos, the laptop feels light because of its brilliant weight distribution. Another feature that I presumed to be a gimmick and which works quite well is 'IceCool' technology. This ensures that your palm rest stays cool even after prolonged usages. Though this doesn't keep the laptop 'IceCool', you'll never feel any heating under normal or light usage. Under loads and heavy gaming, the cooling is impressive. This is because the vents unlike regular laptops are not placed on the sides, but behind the hinges. The exhaust is towards the out, away from the user. 

 

Cooling vents are provided at the hinge




On the right, you have the optical disk drive, card reader , 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB 2.0 port. On the left -power, LAN , 2USB 3.0 , VGA , HDMI and lock ports. 

right side ports
left side ports





The keyboard layout is quite good to type and is not backlit. Well spaced keys provide ample movement. The trackpad comes with 'Asus Smart Gesture' , which offers some useful gesture controls like three finger swipe from the bottom to open running apps etc.




Which 'frutish' company comes to your mind?





 The only major negative about this machine is its display .The display though not 1080p, is decent at best. The display panel used is glossy 15.6 inch LED back-lit panel with a resolution of  1366x768. The color reproduction is not great and is saturated. But the text is crisp with sufficient brightness. The lack of Caps lock ON indicator LED is very frustrating.

No caps ON indicator
UNDER THE HOOD: Powered by an Intel Core i5 5200U CPU @2.2GHz(with boost frequency up-to 2.7Ghz) coupled with 8 giggs of DDR3 memory clocked at 1600MHz. With an Intel HD5500 for low power needs and an Nvidia GT 920M (2GB) for graphically demanding needs, the laptop offers a lot of potential on paper and does live up to it. The HDD capacity is 1TB which is something expected in the price range. Connectivity options include everything from WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and USB except NFC.


PERFORMANCE: Out of the box the machine comes preloaded with Free DOS. With 2 cores and 4 threads, i5-5200U is more than capable of handling demanding applications. Combining this with the latest GT920M, performance is something that is expected on paper and the laptop does live up to it. I faced a few driver hiccups while trying to run windows 7. But the experience was a pleasure when I installed Windows 8.1 pro 64bit. There is no bloatware and the OEM softwares are useful. Intel's Broadwell-U Core i5-5200U delivers about a 6 percent increase in graphics power and about a 17 percent increase in physics calculation process compared to the previous Core i5-4200U. Though the Nvidia GT920M is underclocked, it does pretty well.The NVIDIA GeForce 920M  is a entry level DirectX 11 graphics card based on the 28 nm Kepler architecture and uses the same GK208 chip as the GeForce GT 730M, 825M and 740M but with reduced core speed. This coupled with the Braodwell CPU should give you a great gaming machine(considering the price) . Is it true? Well, to begin with, I tried running GTA5. The results were pretty good with a min of 35fps and a max of 60fps on max resolution and other settings turned down to their minimum values.On raising the texture and other settings to high level, the fps dropped to about to 35 avg. TombRaider on Ultra gave about 12fps and about 35fps on medium. This means that you will be able to play most of the games. Its up-to you to judge the performance of the machine. The battery is of non removable type. Asus claims a 3X extended battery life span but I was able to get about 3hrs of usage on an average.


Conclusion: At the end of the day, what you get is a very good designed machine which packs a punch. The battery life is good and the build specifically is great. The IceCool technology deserves a worthy mention. But if you want a stunning, vibrant display and caps lock indicator LED, you are putting your money in the wrong basket.   


Friday, 29 May 2015

What Android ‘M’ means for the Android One devices.




During the 2014 Google I/O , Google announced their vision to reach the next 5 Billion people. And thus the Android One initiative was born. Quality hardware at an affordable price. Android One was introduced last year in India with three OEM partners, and that number has since grown to seven countries with more than ten OEM partners. Though many might argue that these devices were a failure, I choose to see the vision and what Google underpromised and is overdelivering. One of those promises is ‘Always on the latest version of Android’. Though the Lollipop update was delivered later than expected, leaving many users annoyed, the transition to 4.4.4 to 5.1.0 ( 5.1.1 expected soon) was a treat. The UI never felt this snappier and faster. A true ‘update’.

If the Lollipop release was all about  a new design, then ‘M’ is all about improving it with under the hood changes. Many of the cool features can’t be expected when the ‘M’ update hits Android One devices because of the modest hardware. But many changes will surely have a positive impact on the performance. Let's look at the features those were announced yesterday.










 App permissions:


This was an overhaul that everyone was waiting for. From now on, users will be able to choose what permissions are granted to an app. Permissions will now be requested the first time you try to use a feature, not at the point of installation. "You don't have to agree to permissions that don't make sense to you," Burke said, and used WhatsApp to give an example of how this works. If you want to record a voice message on WhatsApp, you  will be  prompted  with a one-time request for permission to use your mic: if you still wish to give it access and record the message, you can, but you don't have to. 

 


Connectivity and data:


Searching for a way to improve the web experience on mobile devices, Google engineering came up with ‘Chrome Custom tabs’. "Chrome Custom Tabs is a new feature that gives developers a way to harness all of Chrome's capabilities, while still keeping control of the look and feel of the experience," said Burke. Chrome Custom Tabs will enable automatic sign-in, saved passwords, autofill, and multi-process security to assist the integration of the app and web experience. Its like running chrome within an app itself. Additionally, Google is making it easier for Android One users to overcome connectivity and data challenges. The problem is that the developing markets may have access to Android One devices, but the data and connectivity issues have not been overcome yet. Loading even a simple web page is painfully slow. To combat these problems, Google is looking to focus on speed, size and connectivity to deliver the best experience to users, no matter where they live. Google is rolling out a “light” search results page for users on slow connections. This optimization will load web pages 4x faster, use 80% fewer bytes, and reduce memory usage by up to 80MB. Google is also rolling out a 'Network Quality Indicator' for Chrome users in India, which evaluates the quality of the data connection you’re on, and will respond to lower bandwidths to adjust the quality of the webpage.

 

Battery life : 


The lollipop update did not bring any record shattering improvements to battery life as proclaimed, thankfully it didn’t make it worse either. With a new feature called ‘Doze’, device standby time is expected to improve. By using motion detectors, Android will recognize when devices haven’t been interacted with for a while, such as when a person is asleep or a device has been left on a table, to reduce background processes and thus reduce battery usage.

Burke said that Google tested two Nexus 9 devices : one running Lollipop and one running the Android M preview, and learned that M will provide up to two-times longer standby time. All this without your phone forgetting about your alarms and notifications.


Google now:


The focus of Google Now was to bring the relevant information to the users at the right time in an easy to read card interface. This feature has improved and become so good overtime that even Apple is expected to make its clone in the near future .Now the focus is on the key areas  namely ‘being aware of different contexts’ and  ‘providing answers and helping you take action’. Google Now's context awareness understands over 100 million different places, so when you ask ''How far is it to there?'' Google Now knows exactly which ''there'' you're referring to. This awareness is compounded by Google's Knowledge Graph, which understands one billion different entities, from sports teams to gas stations, TV shows to recipes. For now, Now is smarter and it knows more about you .



Google Photos:


This should have been at the top of the list on this blog. Should I say why? From the beginning , Photos has been a mess. This problem being escalated by the fact that it was not a stand alone app and was a part  of G+. First let’s just say Google won the cloud wars with this announcement. Google Photos is now standalone photo and video storage and sharing service that with unlimited (YES! Unlimited) free storage for upto 16 MP photos and 1080p video which is damn impressive. This feature will be useless in the emerging markets until someone finds a solution to connectivity issues. Popular features like Auto-Awesome and Stories have been improved , accessible through a new Assistant feature, which will automatically suggest creative uses of your images and footage. Through simple pinch gestures you can see tiled images for particular days, weeks, months or even years and then zoom right back in at any point you like. Google Photos is also powerful for search, as you'd expect. You can search by People, Places, Things and Types, which are all automatically created, and you can drill down in each of those categories to see, for example, every picture you have of a particular person, all without ever tagging them.

 Features that are a welcome include ability to customize the quick settings and the option to switch between dark and light themes.

Features like fingerprint support and mobile payments are a welcome , but hey, we were expecting it from the last I/O.

 

 

 

 

 

Many may argue that there are better devices in this price bracket with better hardware, but their impressive hardware is bogged down by the ‘not so polished ’ yet ‘updated’ software. What Android One devices offer is true Nexus or Stock Android experience that is simple and fast which set become faster and snappier with the ‘M’ update.


Did you enjoy reading the blog? Are you impressed by  Google’s vision of Android for the future? What would you have liked to have seen?