Google may be working on turning Android phones into a hivemind capable of finding lost devices, similar to Apple’s Find My network, according to analysis done by 9to5Google. A toggle for the feature showed up in a beta of Google Play Services, with code referencing the ability for phones to help locate other devices, potentially signaling that Android phones could soon become easier to find.
According to Google’s support page, the current Find My Device system can only find phones that are powered on, have a data or Wi-Fi signal, and have location services enabled. At this early stage, it’s unclear which, if any, of those limitations the relay network feature — apparently called Spot — would solve, but when you’re looking for a lost phone any advantage is good to have.
Google has other projects that involve using a network of Android phones — notably, its earthquake detection feature. While the implementation is different, the underlying concept is likely very similar: there are more than 3 billion active Android devices, which is a large crowd to source information from, be it accelerometer data, or the location of a misplaced phone.
9to5Google did find a setting that would allow users to turn off the feature, making it so their phone wouldn’t help locate other devices. Given the limited information, it’s unclear whether the Find My Device network will be able to find things other than phones, like Apple’s Find My network or Samsung’s Galaxy Find network are capable of doing. And of course, this being unpacked code from a Beta release, these changes may never see an actual public release.
Google did not immediately respond to request for comment about the prospective feature.
The YouTube app on iOS will be getting picture-in-picture support, allowing all users to watch videos while doing other things on their iPhones and iPads. A YouTube spokesperson told The Verge that the feature is currently rolling out to Premium subscribers, and that a launch for all iOS users (including the free ones) in the US is in the works.
Apple added support for picture-in-picture video for iPads with iOS 9, and brought it to iPhones with iOS 14. Since then, YouTube’s support for the feature on iPhones and iPads has been spotty — it works for iPad if you’re using Safari (though some have reported it doesn’t work for non-Premium subscribers); iPhone users have only been able to access the feature periodically.
That complication seems to be going away, at least for those in the US: iOS users, with or without a YouTube Premium subscription, will soon have access to it using the YouTube app as Android users have for years. YouTube did not provide a timeline for when the feature would arrive for free users, but stated the rollout to Premium subscribes is in progress.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that PiP video came to the iPad with iOS 13. It in fact arrived with iOS 9. We regret the error.
(Pocket-lint) – Sonos is not one for racing new products out for the sake of it. Its Playbar, for example, ruled the roost for seven years, being its only full-fledged soundbar in that time.
The Sonos Beam arrived in the meantime, but was more meant for smaller TVs and rooms, giving you a better alternative than the speakers on your flatscreen rather than cinematic experience. So, a replacement to the Playbar was long overdue.
That’s where the Sonos Arc came in. But it didn’t just replace the Playbar, it brought so many new bells and whistles to the party that it is an altogether different beast. One with Dolby Atmos – a first for the company – to deliver a virtual surround-sound experience from the single ‘bar.
Dimensions: 87 x 1141.7 x 115.7mm / Weight: 6.25kg
Can be wall-mounted or laid on a TV cabinet
Black and white options available
Adjustable status LED
Putting its tech and audio prowess to one side for a minute, the Sonos Arc is a sleek looking soundbar that matches the aesthetic of the company’s One and Move standalones.
Best soundbar: Options to boost your TV audio
It is long – almost the length of a modern 55-inch flatscreen TV – but more subtle than its predecessor, with a plastic alloy build and grille to front and sides. Even the logo fades away when you’re not staring directly at it, whichever finish you choose (there’s black or white, nothing more outlandish than that).
We particularly like that there are no contrasting flourishes in the design, as there’s nothing worse than catching a soundbar out of the corner of your eye while watching an intense moment in a film. Unlike children, speaker systems – and especially soundbars – should be heard and not seen. The subtlety of Sonos’ bar ensures that is the case, whether it’s wall-mounted or laid flat on a TV stand.
There are a few touch buttons on the top for play/pause and volume adjustment, but the Sonos app is so simple to use we couldn’t see ourselves bothering with them. Plus, as it is HDMI eARC-enabled, you can mainly control the soundbar through your TV remote for general use.
What is HDMI eARC? Why is it different to HDMI ARC?
The only other distinguishable icon on the bar itself is a microphone symbol, indicating that it is voice-enabled, with support for both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can tap it to turn on/off the listening mode – signified by a small LED light.
Ethernet (10/100 Mbps) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g, 2.4GHz)
HDMI eARC (with optical digital audio adapter)
IR sensor on the front
Around the rear, hidden in an alcove, there are connections for power, HDMI and Ethernet. That’s it.
Those not wanting to connect the Arc through HDMI will be pleased to know that a digital optical audio adapter is included in the box, but that will effectively disable any Dolby Atmos support, as that requires hooking it up to an HDMI eARC/ARC port on a compatible TV. You’ll still get very effective multichannel surround sound, just not Atmos.
Also missing (if setup using the optical connection) will be the ability for full automation through your TV’s remote control. There is an infrared (IR) sensor, so you can set your remote to also adjust volume, but that’s a less elegant solution than using HDMI CEC (standing for Consumer Electronics Control) between TV and Arc. It also emits automated audio sync between them.
Still, if it’s all you’ve got then that’s fine – you’re still getting a superb sound system and are future-proofed to boot.
Plus, while there are plenty of TVs with at least one ARC-enabled HDMI port, only more recent models support Dolby Atmos decoding or passthrough. Even fewer support the full HDMI eARC standard, so it’s possible you might consider the soundbar with an eye on upgrading your TV somewhere down the line.
As well as 10/100 Mbps Ethernet for wired network connection, single-band (2.4GHz) Wi-Fi is available too.
Dolby Atmos support (through HDMI eARC/ARC)
Built-in Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistants
Runs on new Sonos S2 software
Apple AirPlay 2 support
Sonos multiroom compatible
As well as Dolby Atmos – which we’ll come to in a bit – the Sonos Arc is quite a step up over the Playbar when it comes to features.
Support for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant is wholly welcome, for starters, implementing in similar fashion to Sonos One and Move.
The Arc has a four far-field microphone array built in that detects voice from a fair distance. We walked around a decent sized living room, even stepped outside for a moment, and it could still hear and recognise our voice.
Both services are setup through the Sonos app and, subsequently, their own individual applications on iOS and Android, so once complete act almost exactly as they would on any other supported device.
You can only use one assistant, having to disable the other if you swap, but it’s great to be given the choice. And, depending on Amazon and Google’s compatibility, it means you can play and control music by vocal command, across streaming services, and your own digital library.
You can also technically use your Arc to control your TV, if it too is Alexa and/or Google Assistant-enabled.
Apple AirPlay 2 is also supported by the soundbar, to present the cleanest possible audio sent wirelessly from an iPhone, iPad or Mac. And, Sonos’ Trueplay audio tuning during setup ensures that the output matches your surroundings through very simple instructions.
What is Sonos Trueplay and how does it work?
Of course, the Arc’s biggest, most attractive feature is that it is a Sonos speaker.
Sonos has provided an integrated, connected multiroom solution for many years, and has refined the experience over time. Today it is compatible with all the big music streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, Tidal, and more. There is also Sonos Radio, the brand’s own free service with ad-supported stations and curated playlists, so even if you aren’t a member of a third-party platform, you will still have plenty to listen to.
As Sonos products also connect wirelessly to each other, through your home network, you can sync the same songs playing on your Arc to, say, a Sonos Five speaker in another room, for example. You can group multiple speakers together and have them all play the same music. It’s great for house parties, that’s for sure.
Alternatively, you can use the interoperability to hook up a couple of Sonos One speakers to work as rear speakers, using your Arc as the front, centre and height channels. And adding a Sub for extra bass is made as simple as possible.
A decent feature set is all well and good, but the most important aspect of a soundbar is the sound itself. And the Arc does not disappoint when it comes to spatial performance.
It effectively presents a virtual 5.0.2 soundfield with Atmos engaged, 5.0 when not. Dedicated centre, left and right channels provide the front-facing effects. Two other channels angled at either end of the bar provide virtual surround, while a pair of additional drivers point upwards to reflect Dolby Atmos height channels off the ceiling and back to the listening position.
There are eight woofers and three tweeters in all, each with its own Class-D digital amplifier, and when all are working in unison it presents a wall of sound that belies the simple, thin form factor.
We advise pairing the Arc with the Sonos Sub, as that will put extra growl into the bass, but we’re already impressed with the overall effect when it’s playing solo, including low frequencies.
As we’ve mentioned above, you can also add a pair of additional Sonos speakers for true rears/surrounds, but the reason why many invest in a soundbar is for its simplicity. Unless you are a true home cinema buff, you’ll already be impressed with the Arc’s out-of-the-box experience.
We tested the Arc using the latest Sonos software (Sonos S2) and several sources. We also used a Philips OLED754 TV, which has Dolby Atmos processing on board and passthrough – which we activated.
This allowed us to play a few Netflix shows that come with Atmos sound, plus several 4K Blu-rays: The Rise of Skywalker, John Wick 3 and Ready Player One. The second John Wick sequel is an especially good check disk for Dolby Atmos, with rain effects utilising the height channels throughout the first few scenes.
Perhaps the best test came via our Xbox One X. The Dolby Access app for the console (plus the One S) comes with a great collection of game and movie trailers featuring Atmos mixes, plus a few of Dolby’s own demo clips. They each gave the Sonos Arc a great workout, which it passed with flying colours. It provides a wall of sound, with clear precise spacing, even at extreme volumes.
When listening to the Arc you get an impression of audio above the seating position, plus a widening of the soundscape. But you also get a bold, cinematic presentation that seemingly comes straight from the TV screen. Having a dedicated centre also allows for clean vocal tracks.
In music terms, listening to high-res mixes of Price’s Purple Rain and The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want streamed over Tidal perfectly illustrated the bar’s ability with mid and high frequencies. Even bass response is more than acceptable for music playback.
You are still likely to want a separate Sub to get the most from genres utilising sub-bass – d&b and dubset heads, that’s you – but even without that additional cost the Arc’s neutral tones are a great starting point for all genres.
The Sonos Arc is a highly-accomplished bit of kit. There are caveats: it only works with the Sonos S2 software, so cannot be part of the same multi-room setup as older legacy kit; and, without a separate source input on the bar, your TV needs to have Dolby Atmos and HDMI ARC/eARC support to use it at its fullest.
However, those are minor points really as, like the Playbar before it, this is a speaker with the potential to be relevant for the next seven years or more. Your surrounding kit will inevitably catch-up.
In the meantime, the Arc presents an exemplary sound experience even without Dolby Atmos – which accounts for 90 per cent or so of the audio you’ll pump through it anyway. And, with Alexa and Google Assistant built-in, plus AirPlay 2 and Sonos’ own feature-filled music platform, you have yourself a very compelling speaker system to elevate your entertainment no end.
It’s pricey, granted, but you’re getting a tough-to-rival feature set and a very classy act all told.
If you’re not bound to Sonos’ multi-room system idea, yet want a true surround sound system in the one box, Samsung delivers a 7.1.4 with ‘bar, sub, rear speakers and Dolby Atmos support out of the box. All for a very reasonable price considering.
Read our review
Writing by Rik Henderson. Editing by Britta O’Boyle.
Every Friday, The Verge publishes our flagship podcast, The Vergecast, where co-hosts Nilay Patel and Dieter Bohn discuss the week in tech news with the reporters and editors covering the biggest stories.
In this episode, the show is split into three sections. First, Nilay and Dieter talk to Verge senior editor Tom Warren about this week in Microsoft: leaks of the Windows 11 UI, announcements from E3 2021, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella doubling as the company’s chairman.
Windows 11 leak reveals new UI, Start menu, and more
Microsoft Teams’ new front row layout arrives later this year
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella now doubles as the company’s chairman
Microsoft announces Xbox TV app and its own xCloud …
Microsoft is bringing next-gen Xbox games to the Xbox One with xCloud
Even the Xbox app has stories now
The Xbox Series X mini fridge will be available this holiday season
Microsoft Flight Simulator is landing on Xbox Series X / S consoles on July 27th
The best trailers of E3 2021
In section two of the show, Verge politics reporter Makena Kelly returns to explain the continuing push by the US government to enact antitrust legislation on tech monopolies — this week, five new bills were introduced and the Senate confirmed a new commissioner of the FTC.
Tech antitrust pioneer Lina Khan will officially lead the FTC
How Republicans and Democrats are gearing up to fight tech monopolies
House lawmakers introduce five bipartisan bills to unwind tech monopolies
Senate bill would make it easier to cancel a subscription online after a free trial
In part 3, Verge managing editor Alex Cranz joins in to chat about this week in gadgets and Google — the company is adding end-to-end encryption to their Messages app, Sonos officially announced their picture frame speaker, and Telsa’s Model S Plaid made its big debut.
Google’s first retail store opens this week
Google adds E2E RCS encryption to Messages, emoji mashup suggests, and more for Android
Google Workspace and Google Chat are officially available to everybody
Honor confirms Google’s apps will return to its phones with new 50 series
Beats Studio Buds review: big ambition, imperfect execution
Ikea and Sonos announce picture frame speaker, coming July 15th for $199
Watch the debut of Tesla Model S Plaid, the ‘quickest production car ever made’
The Realme GT lays claim to OnePlus’ ‘flagship killer’ mantle
Oppo’s rollable concept phone is pure potential lacking polish
You can listen to the full discussion here or in your preferred podcast player.
The Nvidia Shield has a new look. Well, to be precise, its operating system does. The media streamer – which runs Android TV – has a new Discover tab with recommendations grouped by genre, and a redesigned apps screen.
The revamp draws inspiration from Google TV, the OS that at the time of writing is only available on the Google Chromecast with Google TV. The circular app icons (that looked like blobs) are gone from the left-hand side, and there’s now room for a bigger visual in the top right showing your selected content. Following these changes, there’s actually more room to show more games, apps, and other content on screen simultaneously.
The update is rolling out now but could take up to a week to reach you. Customers in the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, and Australia will get the new UI and Discover tab, but those in Italy and Spain will only get the new UI.
See all our streaming reviews and products
Get the lowdown: HDR TV: What is it? How can you get it?
Slack has announced a new Scheduled Send feature that the company is starting to roll out today, which — as the name implies — will let users schedule messages to send at a later time and date.
The scheduled send feature adds a new drop-down arrow to the green “send message” button in Slack’s desktop app. Clicking it will reveal a new menu that allows for scheduling a message to send to a room, direct message, or group thread later on. Mobile users will be able to access a similar menu by long-pressing on the send button in the Slack app on Android and iOS.
Slack will offer both pre-filled options (like “tomorrow morning at 9:00AM”) as well as the ability to set a custom date and time to send a message. Messages can be scheduled up to to 120 days in advance, and users will be able to reschedule, edit, or delete scheduled messages before they’re sent.
“Today we launched Scheduled Send to empower users to communicate and collaborate in a way that works best for them,” the company announced in a statement, explaining that “teams shouldn’t be obligated to sync their schedules in order to communicate effectively.”
The ability to schedule messages is a critical one given the various time zones and locations that offices — both remote, in-person, and hybrid — stretch across in today’s work world. And while email services like Gmail have offered the ability to schedule emails for later (so that users aren’t pinging teams at odd hours or getting messages lost overnight), the feature has been notably absent from Slack until now.
The BPI-M2 Pro single-board computer Banana Pi announced in March is now available worldwide for $61. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the board is fully ripe, with CNX Software noting that Banana Pi still hasn’t released its firmware.
Banana Pi said the BPI-M2 Pro features an Amlogic S905X3 equipped with a quad-core Cortex-A55 processor clocked at 1.5 GHz and a Mali-G31 MP2 GPU. It also has 2GB of LPDDR4 memory, 16GB of onboard eMMC storage, and a microSD slot.
The BPI-M2 Pro also offers an HDMI 2.1 port that can theoretically support up to an 8K video output. Still, according to the Banana Pi wiki, it will be limited to 4K output with a 60Hz refresh rate. (Which is to be expected from a single-board computer.)
The board also features 40 GPIO pins, numerous USB ports, and built-in networking that offers Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5 support out of the box. More information about the BPI-M2 Pro’s specs are available via the Banana Pi wiki.
The BPI-M2 Pro is supposed to support Android and various Linux distros, but there aren’t any official images available at the time of writing. It’s not clear if that’s because the board supports images made for the Banana Pi BPI-M5, because it wasn’t supposed to debut yet, or because they’ll be ready when the board reaches buyers.
If the lack of official firmware doesn’t deter you, the Banana Pi BPI-M2 Pro is available now from AliExpress. Just be prepared to wait a while for it to arrive: The retailer said it doesn’t expect orders placed on June 16 to be delivered until July 20.
The Honor 50 series will be able to ship with Google’s apps and services, Honor officially announced today as it launched the Honor 50 and Honor 50 Pro in China. In a statement, Honor says its phones will go through Google’s security review and that “Honor devices will therefore have the option to have Google Mobile Services (“GMS”) preinstalled on compatible devices, in accordance with Google’s licensing and governance models.”
“Consumers will be able to experience Honor smartphones and tablets equipped with GMS,” the company said. A spokesperson confirmed that the “Honor devices” referred to in the statement include the newly announced Honor 50. The device will be available for preorder in China on June 25th and will come to international markets such as France, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UK at a later date at a price that’s to be announced.
Honor hasn’t been able to ship Google’s apps and services, including the Google Play Store, on its phones since its former parent company Huawei was placed on the US’s entity list, forcing Google to pull its Android license. What’s changed with the 50 series is that Huawei sold off Honor at the end of last year, allowing the company to work with Google once again. Huawei, meanwhile, is still unable to use Google’s software and is positioning its own HarmonyOS as a replacement.
Reports about the return of Google’s software to Honor’s phones emerged last month, after the company’s German Twitter leaked the news in a now-deleted tweet.
Turning to the devices themselves, the most eye-catching thing about the Honor 50 and Honor 50 Pro are their rear cameras, which are arranged into a pair of circular bumps. The phones have four rear cameras in total, including a 100-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel wide-angle, a 2-megapixel macro, and a 2-megapixel depth camera. On the front, the Honor 50 Pro has a pair of selfie cameras, combining a 32-megapixel camera with a 12-megapixel ultrawide, while the Honor 50 just has a single 32-megapixel camera.
Both phones have a 120Hz display, though the Honor 50 Pro’s is slightly bigger at 6.72 inches compared to 6.57 for the regular Honor 50. Available colors include silver, bronze, green, and black. Internally, they’re powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G processor. The 50 Pro has a 4,000mAh battery that can be fast charged at up to 100W, while the regular 50 has a 4,300mAh battery and supports 66W fast charging.
The return of Google’s software to Honor’s phones is unlikely to make much of a difference in China, where phones typically ship without the Play Store. But their absence has made Honor and Huawei’s phones pretty hard to recommend elsewhere. When the Honor 50 eventually releases in the West, that could all change.
In China, the Honor 50 will start at 2,699 yuan (around $422), while the Honor 50 Pro will start at 3,699 yuan (around $578). Alongside the two flagship phones, Honor is also announcing the cheaper Honor 50 SE, which will start at 2,399 yuan (around $375).
Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand, has announced plans to make its entire lineup either hybrid or all-electric by 2030 as part of its parent company’s new business plan. The brand will reveal its first all-electric vehicle in 2022, and it expects that half of its global sales will be zero-emissions vehicles by around 2025.
In addition, Lincoln vehicles are gaining a hands-free advanced driver assistance feature based on Ford’s BlueCruise system, though the luxury marque will call its version “ActiveGlide.” New Lincoln vehicles coming in 2023 will also feature Google’s native Android Automotive operating system, which is is being added to “millions” of Ford vehicles that same year.
Four of Lincoln’s electric vehicles will be built on the new flexible EV platform that Ford announced in May when it laid out its new $30 billion “Ford Plus” business plan. That platform can power vehicles with all- or rear-wheel drive setups, and it “allows [Lincoln] to reimagine the interior space, and deliver the power of sanctuary in a new way for our clients,” John Jraiche, the company’s global director for luxury vehicles, said in a briefing.
In April, Lincoln announced a concept car in China called Zephyr that the company said offers a good picture of what its future vehicles might look like, inside and out. It featured a dashboard-spanning screen and new user interface that Lincoln refers to as “Constellation.” Lincoln released a short video on Wednesday of what that new UI might look like. The company said its “designers and engineers are also experimenting with digital scenting techniques, exploring how warm, pleasant scents positively affect the mood and overall well-being of the passengers.”
Lincoln was previously working on co-developing its first all-electric vehicle with EV startup Rivian, of which Ford owns at least a 10 percent stake. But the luxury automaker announced last year at the beginning of the pandemic that the project was canceled. While it seemed at the time that Lincoln had said it was still working with Rivian on another EV, the company said this week that this was a miscommunication. Rivian is still working with Ford on a future product, but its involvement with the Lincoln brand ended last year.
In more near-term news, Lincoln announced that the 2021 Nautilus will receive its first over-the-air software updates starting this summer. Those will upgrade the onboard navigation system and improve the Apple CarPlay experience. Later this year, an update will add hands-free capability for the built-in Amazon Alexa digital assistant.
Google has announced six new features for Android that it says will help improve accessibility and make Assistant Shortcuts more useful, among other things. The new features announced today are:
Google says its phone-based earthquake detection and alert system will be coming to Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The system, which uses Android phones to create an earthquake detection network that will warn people if they’re in a potentially affected area, originally launched in California, but it was made available in Greece and New Zealand in April.
Google says it hopes to bring the feature to more regions over the next year, but that it’s focusing on first making it available to countries that have a high risk of earthquakes.
If you get sent a text with important info and want to be able to quickly find it, you’ll be able to “star” it, which will place it in the starred category so you won’t have to scroll back through a conversation to find it. Google says the feature will be rolling out to the Messages app “over the coming weeks.”
Starting this summer, Gboard will contextually suggest stickers created in Emoji Kitchen, Google’s tool that lets users create mashups of two different emoji. The suggestions will show up in the Emoji menu for those writing a message in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.
Google’s Assistant Shortcuts let users jump to a specific part of an app, but developers will now be able to show users information in widget form right in Assistant.
Google’s Voice Access app, which allows people to navigate their phones using their voice, is getting gaze detection so it can tell whether someone is talking to their phone or talking to other people. The feature, which is in beta, will stop taking commands if it detects that you’re not looking at your phone.
Voice Access is also getting improvements when it comes to entering passwords: users will be able to say words like “dollar sign,” and they’ll be translated into the symbol, instead of being written out literally.
Android Auto users will be able to use their phone to personalize the app launcher and manually manage dark mode. Google’s also adding the ability to quickly scroll to the top of a list, and the scroll bar is getting an A to Z button.
Google also says the messaging experience for apps like Messages and WhatsApp has been improved, making it easier to send and read messages.
(Pocket-lint) – It’s probably no surprise that the Realme GT’s international reveal happened just one day after the OnePlus Nord CE hit the headlines. Because, while the GT isn’t a direct competitor – it’s actually more powerful than OnePlus’ more budget offering – it’s certainly a handset that wants to lead the young brand’s charge on OnePlus’ ongoing dominance in the alt-flagship space.
It’s even pulled the same old-hat promotional tagline – “flagship killer” – which is rather cheeky. But that gives Realme a platform upon which to stand. It is a bit cheeky. It has previously released phones with eye-slapping phrases plastered on them – we lambasted the Realme 8 Pro for its ‘Dare To Leap’ slogan. It’s that bit different, that bit of fun.
With the Realme GT the company is looking to enter the fast lane – the ‘Grand Tourer’ name reference name says it all really – for this alt-flagship has top-tier Qualcomm processing power, a more grown-up looking vegan leather finish than earlier Realme devices, and arrives at a price point that could make you pay attention to this brand over better-established products such as, say, a Moto G100 or Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite.
Design & Display
6.43-inch AMOLED panel, 1080 x 2400 resolution, 120Hz refresh rate
Colours: Racing Yellow, Dashing Silver, Dashing Blue
Dimensions: 156 x 73 x 9.1mm / Weight: 186g
Finishes: Vegan leather or glass back
In-display fingerprint scanner
With phones often gigantic slabs these days, it’s rather refreshing to hold onto the Realme GT – because it’s sensibly proportioned, not too thick even in its vegan leather finish, and is on the right side the 200g weight barrier (a limit that we’ve pretty much decided to impose having handled the all too heavy Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra).
Motorola’s new Moto G9 Plus is a stunner of a phone – find out why, right here
By Pocket-lint Promotion
That the volume control buttons are on the opposite side to the Realme GT’s power button – a rarity in most Android phones – is something you might not immediately love, but we stuck with it and it’s actually a sensible layout. Taking one-handed screengrabs is easier, as one beneficial example.
But it’s not the layout that’ll first catch your attention. It is, but of course, that bright yellow rear – which Realme calls ‘Racing Yellow’, keeping in theme with that GT name. It’s a bold, bright finish, almost like an exemplary Pantone shade card for what a true yellow should represent.
That it’s vegan leather is another standout point, but less for its apparent environmental kudos – although there’s an argument that processes for this material aren’t actually Thunberg pleasing – and more for its tactile quality. It’s nice and grippy. It doesn’t become smeared in heaps of fingerprints. It looks consistent – and the black stripe down from the integrated cameras panel helps to soften the look.
Why, then, Realme has decided to (literally) stick its logo onto the rear is a big question. This silvered stick-on will inevitably fall off over time – not that we’ve actively been picking at it. Maybe that’d be for the better though – we’re not fans of any brand sticking big logos onto its phones. Motorola used to, before realising it looks much better to be subtle. Still, Realme ought to deboss or emboss for added chic.
Flip the phone over to its front and the Realme GT houses a 6.43-inch AMOLED panel, delivering a screen that’s capable of deep blacks and strong colours. Sadly, however, its auto-brightness adjustment is so shy that you’ll often end up squinting at the dulled screen trying to find the manual brightness slider. At maximum brightness it can remain visible in outdoor sunlight though. At lowest brightness there’s some ‘black crush’ to visuals, which is fairly common – an issue other Oppo phones present (Realme is effectively under the same umbrella as that brand).
Interestingly this panel has some top-end features, such as a 120Hz refresh rate, to keep visuals extra smooth and easy on the eyes. You needn’t have the 120 refreshes per second active for the sake of battery life, though, as a 60Hz option is found within the menus – which is on by default anyway. In terms of resolution the Full HD+ span of pixels over the 20:9 aspect ratio panel delivers ample detail – these days you don’t really want or need much more, as it rarely enhances apps and mostly just squeezes the battery life.
Performance & Battery
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 platform, 8GB/12GB RAM
Realme UI (v2.0) software over Google Android 11 OS
4,500mAh battery capacity, 65W fast-charging
Stainless steel cooling system
That the Realme GT can cope with a 120Hz refresh rate is no surprise given its top-end hardware under the hood. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, paired with 8GB or 12GB RAM (there are two variants, we have the lower spec 8GB model in for review).
It’s this “my processing power’s bigger than yours” angle that will garner the GT a lot of attention – especially for its asking price. And so it should, for this Realme performs really well whether you’re casually navigating between pages and apps, or digging deep into a gaming session.
Other than when recharging it doesn’t overheat either, which is impressive in the context of a faux leather-backed device with such a strong performance engine running things. The stainless steel cooling system designed within must be part of the reason for the apparent well-managed heat dissipation.
With mixed use we’ve found the GT’s battery life to be perfectly acceptable. Long days will see you finish close to the 20 per cent mark, after around 18 hours, but that includes some gaming so we think that’s pretty good innings. Besides, with a 65W fast-charging capability – no wireless to be found here – topping it up is speedy. It can even learn your typical charging pattern as to not refill the battery too quickly, which will help with long-term battery health.
We suspect the GT could last longer if various settings were activated to throttle the experience. But we’re glad that’s not the case. So often we hit a wall with, say, a Xiaomi phone because its software default controls the way in which apps respond – often causing notification issues or delays. Realme doesn’t have that issue; its Realme UI (version 2.0 here) is effectively a rework of Oppo’s ColorOS, which we’ve found in recent iterations to be generally pleasing.
Triple rear camera system:
Main (26mm): 64-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, Sony IMX682 sensor, 0.8µm pixel size
Given the phone’s price point its camera setup is the one area to expect some compromise. Realme has gone down the “triple camera” route – but, really, it’s a main camera paired with ultra-wide that show their worth, while the low-resolution close-up macro camera isn’t even worth including in our view. It’s a trap so many makers have fallen into – to oversell their cameras.
Anyway, that’s not to say expect bad things all across the board. As a straightforward point-and-shoot camera the main 64-megapixel sensor – which uses six-in-one processing to deliver 12-megapixel results by default – is capable enough. For sharing snaps on socials and so forth it’ll deliver the goods.
That said, however, it’s not the most refined in terms of processing. Where detail lacks – subject edges such as buildings, or busier areas such as trees and shrubs – there’s oversharpening, often to the detriment of realism. Colour also can look as though it’s been washed over with a blue filter, while contrast is a bit punchier than needed.
: Main cameraMain camera
Then there’s the wide-angle camera. Results from this aren’t consistent with the main lens – the colour looks different, for example – while detail lacks, and optically speaking it’s not particularly great. The benefit of having the wide camera is, of course, that it’s wide; that you can fit more into a shot, even if the edges are blurred and the contrast pushes image noise into greater visibility. You can compare the main camera and the wide camera – including 100 per cent zoom-in for each shot – in the gallery above.
The Realme GT might have wide-angle covered, but it doesn’t really cater for zoom. Well, it depends how you look at it. The camera app does offer 2x and 5x as part of the controls, but we’d strongly suggest avoiding using these as it’s nothing more than digital zoom. Given that the main sensor is 64-megapixels, however, the 2x ought to be better than it is. The 5x really pushes beyond what’s acceptable, with soft and unimpressive results. You can see the zoom stages from wide to main to 2x to 5x in the gallery below:
: Ultra-wide (16mm)Ultra-wide (16mm)
So while the zoom is one to avoid and the wide-angle isn’t great, the GT’s main camera is passable. It recognises backlighting to boost high dynamic range (HDR). It’s managed pretty well in low-light conditions, too, so if you’re shooting indoors at night then it can still focus and present enough detail – as we found out in a basement distillery at Edinburgh Gin.
That’s the long and the short of it: there’s not really much that’s “GT” about this Realme’s cameras. A “Pro” version might be able to rectify that – but it’d also come at cost, given the list price of camera components. And, really, that’s not the point of this phone. The GT is all about flagship performance for the day to day, not top-tier cameras – if you want that then you’ll have to pay out a lot more cash elsewhere.
From its striking yellow-colour vegan leather finish, to its impressive performance thanks to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 platform, the Realme GT is an impressive alt-flagship – but one that will depend on its eye-catching asking price to lure in a fan base.
As we said up top, this Realme has arrived at a time when OnePlus is no longer, well, “being OnePlus” – i.e. delivering flagship devices for considerably less cash. In that sense, then, the GT slots into the space that OnePlus once occupied in its earlier days, a tactic that’s as measured as it is a bit cheeky.
No, the GT doesn’t offer the greatest of cameras, its auto-brightness is shy to activate, and as a brand name it might not yet resonate with the masses.
But it’s hard to not see the GT’s specification for what it is: more powerful than a Motorola equivalent, such as the G100; and more software consistent than a Xiaomi device, such as the Mi 11 Lite.
In that sense, then, the Realme GT sure does enter the alt-flagship fast lane, overtaking some of the big competition that are also jostling for pole position.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G
We love the Xiaomi’s colour finish and slender build – it’s a great alternative to the current glut of massive flagship phones. That said, it’s less powerful and the software brings its share of irks.
Read our review
It’s about the same price, but with a slightly lower-spec processor, equally so-so cameras, but a more established brand name and near flawless software.
Following a number of leaks, the Beats Studio Buds have been officially announced. Apple’s first Beats-branded true wireless earbuds feature active noise-cancellation and “Hey Siri” voice control for £130 (around $190, AU$250).
As predicted, the Beats Studio Buds boast an elliptical-shaped earpiece that is unlike any of Apple’s AirPods buds. They also offer one-touch pairing to both iOS and Android devices (not something you’re likely to see on Apple’s upcoming AirPods 3 buds, that’s for sure).
Digging into the spec sheet, it looks like Apple has pitched the Beats Studio Buds at a sporty audience. The IPX4 rating should provide decent level of protection against sweat and rain, while the choice of three soft silicone ear tips and lightweight design (5g per earbud) could boost comfort during workouts.
The promised “booming” sound might not be everyone’s cup of coffee but, if you’re attempting to smash your personal best, or simply fancy a good dollop of beefy bass, the Beats Studio Buds could be worth considering.
Much like Apple’s pricier AirPods Pro, the Beats Studio Buds feature tiny vents to relieve pressure on your eardrum when listening for longer period. If you’re an Apple Music subscriber, the Studio Buds will automatically play Apple Spatial Audio Dolby Atmos tracks when available.
Battery life sounds pretty average. You get 5 hours’ listening time from the buds with ANC on, plus another 10 hours (two charges) from the supplied charging case. If you’re prepared to switch ANC off, the buds will last 8 hours. Throw in another two charges from the case and you’re looking at up to 24 hours playback.
On the subject of noise cancelling, there are two listening modes. ‘Active’ aims to block out all unwanted external noise, whether it’s a rumbling train or a howling wind. ‘Transparency’ lets you have a conversation without removing the buds by pressing the ‘b’ button on the stem of the buds. And, as expected, iOS users can activate Siri hands-free with the familiar “Hey Siri” command.
There’s no mention of Apple’s H1 chip, as found in the Beats Powerbeats Pro wireless earbuds, only ‘Class 1 Bluetooth’. Perhaps because the Beats Studio Buds are the first Beats headphones to offer one-touch pairing for both iOS and Android users.
Last but not least, the Beats Studio Buds are the first Beats to support both FindMy in iOS and Find My Device on Android. The buds can emit a high-pitched sound to make them easier to locate when dropped in the street or lost down the back of a sofa.
If you’re in the market for the best Beats headphones with ANC, the Beats Studio Buds will be available in the UK this summer, priced at £130. They come in eco-friendly “plant-based” packaging, too.
Read all our Beats reviews
See all our Apple reviews
Want the AirPods 3 intel? See AirPods 3: release date, price, design, leaks and news
Beats today announced its second pair of true wireless earbuds, the new Beats Studio Buds. Priced at $149.99 and available in red, black, or white, the Studio Buds have a much different, more compact design than the previous Powerbeats Pro. There are no ear hooks on these, nor any stems, and that results in a very lightweight, comfortable fit. Preorders start today in the US and Canada from Apple and other retailers like Amazon and Best Buy, and the earbuds will be available in stores on June 24th.
The Studio Buds include active noise cancellation, IPX4 water and sweat resistance, and can last for up to five hours on a charge. (If you leave noise cancellation off, they can eke out eight hours of continuous playback. They also use USB-C for charging — there’s no wireless charging, unfortunately — and either earbud can be used independently.
Interestingly, Beats is supporting both iOS and Android features with the Studio Buds. On iPhone, you get the familiar, easy AirPods-like setup and Control Center integration. They can also do hands-free “Hey Siri” commands. On Android, Beats now works with Fast Pair and Google’s Find My Device features.
Beats came up with an all-new acoustic architecture design for the Studio Buds, which have 8.2-millimeter drivers, and the company claims you can expect “outstanding stereo separation and low harmonic distortion across the frequency curve so you hear every note.”
If you’re wondering how the Studio Buds might stack up to the AirPods Pro or other competitors, I’ve been spending some time testing the just-announced earbuds, and you can read my full review of the Beats Studio Buds here.
(Pocket-lint) – OnePlus has be on something of an exploratory journey over the past 12 months or so. Rather than delivering one or two phones at a time and launching them both globally, it took a more regional approach.
That meant while some markets got the original Nord, others – like the US – didn’t, then OnePlus followed up with various models to suit different territories. It even continued this approach with the OnePlus 9 series, offering a 9R in India, but nowhere else.
This is pretty standard practice for most manufacturers, but wasn’t for OnePlus. At least, not until now. But obviously this transition to being a ‘proper’ smartphone manufacturer is working, because it’s back again with another Nord: the Nord CE 5G.
Dimensions: 159.2 x 73.5 x 7.9mm / Weight: 170g
No official waterproofing
3.5mm headphone port
Blue Void, Charcoal Ink and Silver Ray colours
For a while there’s been this sense that when building a good smartphone, you have to start with the right materials. It had to be aluminium or steel and glass. Using plastic was as good as writing ‘cheap trash’ over the back of the phone in capital letters. But things have changed, thanks in part to the efforts of Samsung.
With its Galaxy Note 20, S20 FE and this years S21, it showed you can use plastic materials in a way that doesn’t detract from the look and feel of the phone. OnePlus has taken the same approach with the Nord CE. Our unit in Blue Void has a lovely frosted/matte finish to it that’s very reminiscent of the Samsung approach, and we like it a lot.
It has an eye-catching blue finish with just the slightest splash of purple up the edges. There are two other safer colours in Charcoal Ink (Black-ish grey) and Silver Ray.
Being a frosted/matte finished plastic does have its advantages too. Firstly, it’s not at all slippery. So it’s not hard to keep a hold of one-handed, and it’s not likely to just randomly slide off the arm of your sofa. Secondly, it not as likely to crack or turn into tiny shards when it’s dropped or banged against something. It’s a very practical choice.
Also, it just feels, well, nice.
That’s not the only practical choice made by OnePlus with the Nord CE. It’s both slimmer and lighter than the first Nord, so it doesn’t feel like a huge phone in your hand. It’s not exactly compact, but it’s easy to hold and comfortable enough to use. And it has a 3.5mm socket for wired headphones and headsets.
One choice that might not go down so well with long-time OnePlus fans is the removal of the alert switch. For years this simple slider button on the side has set the company’s phones apart from rivals, offering an easy tactile way to switch your phone to silent or vibrate. Apparently, that’s not considered ‘Core’ enough to make it on to a ‘Core Edition’ OnePlus phone.
In case you were wondering: yes, that’s what CE stands for.
Other core design choices include: not having a physical fingerprint sensor. Instead, there’s an in-display one so there’s nothing on the back, breaking up that glorious matte blue surface. The camera housing is a pretty basic pull-shaped protrusion and the display has just the one hole punched through it for a single camera.
Sadly, one last feature not deemed essential to a Core Edition phone is a subtle haptic motor for feedback. That means, with it enabled, keyboard taps are accompanied by a nasty feeling buzz, rather than a subtle tap. We quickly switched it off.
Display and software
6.43-inch AMOLED 90Hz display
1080 x 2400 resolution
Screen resolutions haven’t changed much in recent years with most smartphones opting for some version of full HD. This particular flavour is 1080 x 2400, which is the same as on most other OnePlus phones. That means it’s plenty sharp enough for day-to-day tasks with individual pixels imperceptible.
It’s AMOLED too, which means it’s a pretty punchy panel with vibrant colours and deep blacks. In its default ‘vivid’ mode the screen often over eggs the colours a bit, but with this being a OnePlus phone running OxygenOS, you get to customise its balance quite lot. Switching to ‘sRGB’ mode balances things out a lot more, but does make it a bit less exciting.
The 90Hz refresh rate ensure that when you touch the screen, or swipe at something in the interface, the response is immediate and smooth. It doesn’t reach the heights of the OnePlus 9 Pro’s 120Hz, and doesn’t feature the advanced adaptive refresh rate tech that adapts it to the content, but it’s impressively fluid and smooth for a mid-ranger.
That’s not the only element where you just about get the hint this isn’t a top tier panel.
For instance, despite being AMOLED, when the screen’s off (or black) it’s not quite as dark as the black frame around the panel, so you don’t get that blending effect, you can see where the bezel stops and the screen starts. There’s also a slight colour shift when you look at a white screen from different angles.
Just for a little perspective though, the fact we’re picking up on such non-issues as a slight negative shows two things: how competitive the mid-range market has become recently and how good this phone is for the money OnePlus is asking for it.
Part of the joy of OnePlus phones over the years is the customisation on offer from the OxygenOS software. We’ve already mentioned the ability to calibrate the screen to your exact liking, but there are also modes like Reading Mode which turns the screen monochrome for when you load up your favourite e-book app.
There’s not much new to report from a software side with the Nord CE. It’s the same as the software found in the OnePlus 9 series and OnePlus 8T that came before it. It’s OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11, which represented a major redesign when it first launched.
While OnePlus was often seen as a manufacturer offering a stock-like Android experience with lots of customisation choices, it no longer feels that way. Oppo’s ColourOS offers far more customisation of elements like the fingerprint scanner animation, always-on display, icon styles and shapes. OxygenOS by comparison feels quite stripped back and bare.
This does help it retain that feeling of ‘essentialism’ though. It has everything you need, presented in a clean and clutter free way. There aren’t any unecessary apps pre-loaded, and even core parts of the experience like phone, messages and software updates are now powered by Google’s own apps, rather than OnePlus’ own design.
Power and performance
Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor (8nm)
6GB, 8GB or 12GB RAM – 128GB or 256GB storage
30W fast charging
Where the Core Edition OnePlus Nord gets it right is the feeling of speed and fluidity under your fingertips. A big part of that, as mentioned, is down to the high refresh rate of the screen and the software. OnePlus has always done a great job of optimising its software animations to feel speedy.
That performance transitions well into games and apps too. Using it daily as a main phone, it never left us in any real need of more, despite ‘only’ having Snapdragon 750G. It’s not a top-tier platform, but just like the Snapdragon 765G that appeared in the first Nord, this one gets the job done without any trouble.
Playing Mario Kart Tour was a hassle-free and smooth experience, as was browsing the web, scrolling through Twitter and any other app we came across in our day-to-day phone usage.
Similarly, the 4500mAh battery inside is more than strong enough to cope with the most demanding of days. For the most part, with light usage, we’d finish the day with something like 40 per cent of the battery left over. That’s with the usual hour or so of web browsing and social media, plus a chunk of gaming.
Once empty it fills up quickly, as is typical OnePlus style. It uses a 30W wired charger, which OnePlus has clunkily named ‘Warp Charge 30T Plus’. In actual fact, it’s almost the same as Warp Charge 30T, in that it can fill 70 per cent of the battery in abut half an hour. It’s been a mainstay feature for OnePlus phones for many years and something of a lifesaver when you’ve forgotten to charge your phone or when it drains unexpectedly.
Triple rear camera system:
64MP primary camera
8MP ultra-wide (119-degree)
2MP monochrome sensor
4K recording at 30fps
Ah, OnePlus and cameras. It seems to be an age-old complaint of OnePlus phones having a not-quite-good-enough camera system. They’ve definitely improved the quality over the past couple of years, there’s no denying that, and for the most part the primary snapper on the Nord CE is decent.
You’ll get sharp photos with good colours and depth of field from the 64-megapixel sensor. It pixel bins down to 16-megapixel images automatically, so isn’t using all 64 million of those pixels individually. Not unless you enable it.
It has all the camera features you’d expect too. It’ll take portrait shots with excessive background blur, night mode shots, panoramas, timelapses, slow motion video and even has a ‘pro’ mode for adjusting ISO, white balance and shutter speed manually yourself.
There is one major weakness we’ve encoutered on the Nord CE’s primary lens however, and that’s focus distance. It really, really doesn’t like focusing on anything closer than about 13 or 14cm, which means close up shots of flowers, bugs, berries and the like are near-on impossible. You can see examples that would normally be simple shots, impossible because it refused to focus.
The only solution is either taking the photo from further away and cropping the photo in edit, or using the 2x zoom function to zoom in digitally when taking the photo.
We don’t expect super macro skills from an affordable mid-range necessarily, but we do expect it to at least handle close up focusing a bit better than this.
Without being too cricital though, having the 2x zoom and the seperate ultra-wide lens means you get enough versatility in shooting to make it useful in most situations. There’s a variety in focal lengths, but we do question the decision to put such a visually distinct different between them.
What we mean by that is there’s a noticeable drop in quality when switching from the main to the ultra-wide. Images lose some crispness, and appear visually more contrast heavy and darker, losing a lot of vibrancy in the colours while adding more noise, even in daylight. At times it also adds a hyper-real element to the colours where they just seem unnaturally saturated. It’s not the most consistent of cameras.
As for the third camera, that’s just a low resolution black and white sensor to act as a backup to the other two, bringing in some more light data.
Motorola’s new Moto G9 Plus is a stunner of a phone – find out why, right here
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On the front, the selfie camera is decent enough with OnePlus’ HDR capability shining when it comes to balancing out heavy backlighting behind you when snapping pictures of yourself. So even if the sky and clouds look too bright to get a decent shot of your face, the system does well to make sure that it’s not over-exposed and washed out.
OnePlus Nord ‘Core Edition’ is something of an unusual phone in its position. The first OnePlus Nord in itself was supposed to represent the core essentials of OnePlus phones. Stripped down, but without real compromise. So in essence, the OnePlus Nord CE is a Core Edition of a Core Edition phone. But that’s perhaps overthinking it a bit.
What really matters is that for the money you’re getting a phone without any significant flaws. It’s fast and responsive, is well-designed, has a good camera and a good screen. It’s comfortably one of the best phones in its price bracket.
We question the removal of the alert slider though. It was one of the few remaining fixtures that helped OnePlus phones stand out from its competition. Without it, it feels like OnePlus is doing more blending in with the environment. It’s transitioned away from standout phone maker, to just another phone maker and the CE is the culmination of that effort.
Alternatives to consider
The original Nord is still here, and still packs a punch. It’s fast, fluid, smooth and has a more premium glass back, slightly more powerful processor and is now discounted because it’s a bit older.
Read the review
Redmi Note 10 Pro
The Redmi Note 10 Pro is one of 2021’s best value smartphones. It boasts similar specs and capabilities to the Nord CE, but is cheaper. Crucially, it has a bigger battery, bigger display and is water resistant.
A powerful, striking and truly one-of-a-kind wireless speaker, but not the most entertaining one at this level
Big, broad, room-filling sound
Lacks transparency and subtlety
App isn’t a UPnP controller
In-app multi-room flakiness
Despite having welcomed many Devialet Phantom wireless speakers into our test rooms over the past few years, we still find ourselves struck by the beauty and bass reproduction of the latest iteration.
This new flagship Phantom I brings with it a simplification and expansion of the iconic, brand-defining line: the compact Phantom Reactor is now ‘Phantom II’ (in 95dB, 98dB and special-edition Opéra de Paris models), above which sits the ‘Phantom I’ (in 103dB, 108dB and Opéra de Paris variants).
Devialet has now introduced a £349 ($350) Arch configurable connectivity hub for Phantom too, giving owners the option to add sources (including a turntable) either via its built-in phono stage and RCA line-level inputs, or alternatively two coaxial digital inputs.
Without that accessory, the Phantom I is reliant upon a network, with support for AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, UPnP and Roon (both up to 24-bit/96KHz) over ethernet or wi-fi, although there is Bluetooth onboard, as well as an optical input (up to 24-bit/96KHz) at the rear.
Devialet Phantom I 108dB tech specs
Power output 1100W
Airplay 2 Yes
Spotify Connect Yes
Roon Ready Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 25.5 x 25.2 x 34.2cm
The decibel ratings attached to the names represent their maximum sound pressure level at one metre – something that sets Devialet Phantoms apart not only from one another but most of their competition, considering they can go between the approximate relative loudness of a lawnmower and a chainsaw.
The sample on test here is the Phantom I 108 dB, which is available in dark chrome or white/gold finishes and covers a claimed frequency range of 14Hz to 27kHz. The Phantom I 103 dB, meanwhile, comes in light chrome or matte black and encompasses a slightly narrower bandwidth (16Hz to 25kHz).
Many of Devialet’s patented technologies are present in the new Phantom I, including its ADH (Analog Digital Hybrid) amplification, designed to combine the benefits of Class A analogue (high performance) and Class D (high efficiency and power) designs.
At the risk of using too many acronyms, HBI (Heart Bass Implosion) represents Devialet’s efforts to produce deep, impactful bass from the compact enclosure; its ACE (Active Cospherical Engine) design takes care of outputting sound evenly in various directions from the spherical chassis; and Speaker Active Matching (SAM) processing works to optimise the signal and performance in real-time.
Such patented technologies have been part of the Phantom line-up from the start, but the new Phantom I aims to take performance further with a next-generation system-on-chip and improved thermal dissipation (it’s four times more energy-efficient than the previous model).
The Phantom’s iconic, visually striking spherical design, which we’ve likened to an ‘Alien bug’ and ‘Storm Trooper’s lunchbox’ lives on, but not totally unchanged. It’s now like a miniature jet engine, with a matte finish, new signature side panels and LED status lights at the rear – it’s eye-catching in the best way possible.
The Phantom I comes with a new puck-like remote that’s as other-worldly and premium as the speaker aesthetic and price deserves, too. We like how you rotate the whole outer ring to change volume (you can also play/pause and skip tracks with the central touchpad), although ergonomically it doesn’t feel all that natural in the hand to do so.
The alternative is Devialet’s dedicated app, which provides similar playback functions, as well as settings such as ‘AV sync’ for reducing latency if you’re using the Phantom I with your TV via its optical input, and ‘Night mode’ for sucking some of the bass out of the performance (which it does effectively, too).
Somewhat disappointingly, the app doesn’t also serve as a UPnP streaming controller, so those wanting to access local or networked files or music services will need to use the paid-for Roon platform (the Phantom I is Roon Ready), or download another third-party UPnP app such as BubbleUPnP (Android) and mconnect Player (Android, iOS), both of which are perfectly usable free apps.
We’re also a little let down by the app’s imperfect multi-room and stereo pairing experience, which in our testing proves occasionally flaky by not displaying the connection, or doing so but not initiating through the speakers. If you’ve spent several thousands on a multi-room wireless speaker set-up, you are perhaps entitled to expect seamlessness.
You also expect a ‘wow’ performance, which in some areas the Phantom I delivers. This is one of the clearest, most bassy and broadest-sounding single-chassis wireless speakers we’ve come across since the previous full-sized Phantom we tested.
For a wireless speaker of its size, Devialet’s latest can, like the iterations before it, excavate a bass line. The jaunty electro-funk lows underpinning Childish Gambino’s 19:10 are deep and impactful – and visually represented by the enthusiastically pumping side-firing drivers. Play something denser such as 65daysofstatic’s Retreat! Retreat!, and it’s not afraid to get down and dirty with the cacophony of drums and electrics while ensuring they don’t bog down the whole presentation.
The Phantom I produces a broad, open soundstage that far belies its compactness. If you’re looking for the biggest sonic footprint from a small physical one, a single Phantom I can output more than is necessary to fill most living rooms. But, while one of the Devialet’s unique selling points is its spectacular power output, the presentation ultimately becomes harsh and, consequently, less listenable when really pushed.
Such is the Devialet’s midrange clarity that upon hearing it for the first time, you’ll want to queue up songs by your favourite vocalists. We find ourselves doing just this; Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, ANOHNI, and The Tallest Man on Earth’s Kristian Matsson come through with purity and polish. But it isn’t long before we realise that such tangibility isn’t complemented by the levels of transparency we’d expect at this price – and especially from a Phantom.
While the Phantom I can distinguish between a soprano and a piano, it’s only able to draw the silhouette of a vocal or instrument rather than reveal any of its colour or shading. It doesn’t rise and fall with Simone’s dynamic delivery, nor does it get under Matsson’s subtle inflections.
We play Ludovico Einaudi’s piano-led Oltremare, and while the notes float across a soundstage that, if you closed your eyes, could pass for one from stereo speakers placed close together, there isn’t the dynamic insight or finesse necessary for you to thoroughly appreciate the variation in his masterstrokes.
We find ourselves creeping the volume up in an effort to feel more involved in the piece – a sign of a performance that falls short of captivating. For the Devialet’s not insignificant asking price, we expect more in the way of sonic sophistication.
Devialet’s original Phantom arrived at a time where wireless speakers were slowly but surely maturing into the high-end market. Today, that premium space is more competitive, and with it, the level of performance has improved too.
You’ll struggle to find another that can fill a room or dig up a bass line quite like the Phantom I, but your search for a wireless solution – single-box or otherwise – capable of more insight for the money will be easier. The Phantom I remains a one-of-a-kind option with undisputed talents, but overall its performance leaves us a little cold.
Read our guide to the best wireless speakers
Read our Devialet Gold Phantom review
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