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OnePlus 6: the latest flagship killer?

One Plus is a world renowned smartphone manufacturer known originally for having the Flagship Killer nicknamed smartphone, the OnePlus One. However, as the years have gone by, the smartphones made by the company have moved further and further away from flagship killers and become more like flagships themselves. The trend continues with the OnePlus 6, which is scheduled to be released commercially on May 22nd. The phone strives to bring the users something top of the line, but the prices have gotten very close to the more premium products in the market as well.

Specs:

OnePlus is well known for making every one of their smartphones the top of the line for that generation. Just like its predecessors, the new OnePlus 6 is built with top of the line parts. It uses the very powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset. Its octa-core CPU along with its Adreno 630 GPU ensures beautiful visuals for games and other applications that need the graphical power. Even the cheapest OnePlus 6 comes with 64 GB ROM and a whopping 6 GB of RAM. While the storage is not expandable, the phone also has 128 and 256 GB internal storage versions. The phone will run Android Oreo out of the box but will be upgradable for later updates. The phone has fast charging capabilities through Dash Charge, and it’s 3300 mAh battery means the phone should not need to be charged more than once a day. In a refreshing change of pace, the OnePlus 6 also comes with a 3.5 mm headphone jack, which is seemingly becoming a novelty item for a smartphone to provide in the modern day.

Display and Appearance:

The OnePlus 6 is made to look as premium as possible. The phone’s body is entirely built out of Corning Gorilla Glass 5, meaning it features a full glass body like the iPhone X and the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. The whole thing weighs in at about 177 grams, which is heavier than an iPhone X but still quite sleek. The AMOLED display can feature 16 million colors on it and is one of the best in its class. The display on it has the so called notches that have been so controversial for the past year. Thankfully for the ones who don’t like trends like that, the notch can be turned off, unlike the iPhone X. The screen also has a full HD resolution, which is not as impressive as the S9 Plus’s 1440p resolution, but at that size I don’t think many will notice the difference. Speaking of size, the screen of the OnePlus 6 is bigger than all of its predecessors, at 6.28 inches. The screen to body ration of the OnePlus 6 however is only 84%, meaning only 84% of the surface area on the front is covered by its screen. While impressive, this is easily beaten by other phones such as the iPhone X.

Camera:

OnePlus has been careful to not let any reviewer show the exact quality of the photos that the OnePlus 6 can take, but the specs of the cameras on the back and front seem to be up to the mark. The front of the camera features a 16-megapixel lens, whereas the back of it has a 20-megapixel one with dual flash and autofocus. You can take a video with the rear camera on 2160p at 60 frames per second, which is right on par with some of the best phones out there.

Miscellaneous:

The OnePlus 6 is outfitted with a screen protector by the company itself, which seems like a nice touch. The price has gone up, now at 529$ for the cheapest one, which is not so nice. The variant with the 256 GB ROM and 8 GB of RAM is even more expensive, which will be sold for the price of 629$. This makes it the most expensive product on the lineup of the company. There is also a Marvel Avengers edition, as a tie in with the latest Marvel Movie, Avenges: Infinity War. It is being sold exclusively in India and China.

Pre-Release Verdict:

The tagline of the OnePlus 6 is “The Speed You Need.” They live up to those expectations for sure, but it is far from a perfect handset. For starters, the price, which previously was at least manageable, have now skyrocketed, and going towards the direction of other similarly highly priced phones like the iPhone X and the Sony Xperia X22. It’s certainly a top of the line phone but along with 500-600$, many would also have to sacrifice higher resolutions, an official IP waterproofing rating stereo speakers which are found in other flagship phones.

Your handy desktop buying guide for 2018

Whether it’s your first time or a new upgrade, getting your hands on a brand new PC will never lose its charm. The thrill of researching new parts, the shoulder-sagging moments of making compromises with components in regards to budget, the thrill (or dread) of assembling it all yourself and installing everything it needs to start flexing its muscles are things that make up the essential new PC experience.

Now there have been talks among the lesser geeks that with the rise and continual leaps that smartphone technology is making, is the PC still a wise investment? Sure, there is no denying that smartphones have gotten smarter and more capable, but to say that it can replace computers is like taking three classes at a karate dojo and suddenly thinking you could take on Bruce Lee.

With that out of the way, lets discuss about that new PC. There are two ways of going about this. One way is to get a pre-configured PC from one of the many computer stores in the city. This saves you the hassle (or fun depending upon who you ask) of going through individual parts and assembling it yourself. The other, and more preferred method is to go get components individually and piecing it together.

First thing you need to do is identify your usage habits and then coming up with a configuration to match that. There is no point in someone only working with Word buying a PC with six or eight cores and 32GB of RAM. With the use case out of the way, set yourself a budget that you will not (more like won’t be able to) cross and use that as the template for component researching. With all that done, you are now set to venture out and get your hands on your new PC. Here’s a good tip; try to get all your components from the same shop. They will offer up some good discounts to knock a few digits off the final receipt.

Points of Consideration

  • When shopping for cases, keep an eye on a couple of things such as its size, motherboard size compatibility, cooler spacing, fan slots, venting, cable management etc. Don’t just go for something that’s pretty but lacks most, if not all of the above mentioned points.
  • GPU pricing, at least in Bangladesh for the time being, is completely haywire at the moment thanks to the cryptocurrency mining. A card that should cost Tk 24,000 is currently retailing for Tk 36,000 at the time of writing this article. The unfortunate thing here is that this has affected markets around the world. While the current predictions have GPU prices plummeting soon, it’s best not to hold out on purchases for too long and instead choose a GPU that have managed to avoid being marked up.
  • Always try to get components from current or near current generations not spanning any more than a year. While there are tempting offers from previous generations, there is a reason they are last generations. The newer generations boast features that just aren’t available or aren’t as refined in the older generations even if they are more powerful.
  • Go through your components’ power ratings carefully before jumping for a power supply. There is no point in getting an 1000watt power supply for a system that can only top out at 400-500, even with overclocking headroom.
  • Getting the right cooling solution is vital to your PC’s performance. While this isn’t a grave concern for PCs with basic hardware doing menial tasks, but it is a point of contention if your PC is comprised of top-notch hardware designed for the sole purpose of frame pushing or heavy load work such as video editing. First off, stop shoving the case full with RGB LED fans. Designate intake and exhaust points and set the fans accordingly to suck in cold air from the intakes and blow out hot air from the exhausts. Second, decide between water or air cooling. Air cooling is mostly preferred for almost all processors as there are extremely efficient aftermarket cooler solutions which will yield great temperature headroom for overclocking. Water cooling, while a mess and hassle to set up, can provide even more headroom for an extreme overclocking solution, but it is an expensive setup and isn’t required on any but the most extreme processors, so keep that in mind.
  • It is a good idea to hook up your computer with a UPS for power outages or fluctuations. While nothing is more exciting than living on the edge, it’s best not to when an investment as expensive as this is on the line.

What’s right for you

  • Office-based usage: If the workload consists of mostly Microsoft Office and some internet browsing and sneaking in a few Facebook logins, Intel’s Kaby Lake Pentium or i3 should be more than enough, coupled with an 8GB RAM and a SSD drive for seamless workflow.
  •  Content creator: If your workload involves video editing for YouTube and such, the processor required needs loads of threads as video editing software loves tons of CPU threads. This is where the top of the line stuff like AMD’s new Ryzen 7 or 5 line or Intel’s new generation Coffee Lake i5 or i7 processors shine. Mate that with a 16 or 32GB of DDR4 3200Mhz RAM, a GPU like Nvidia’s Geforce GTX 1050 or higher, and NVMe storage and you are set.
  • Gamer: When nothing else matters than the next kill or the next position, you need the hardware that you can rely on. In terms of specs, you can be conservative about it, or go all out. In terms of processor, you could opt for Ryzen’s 3 or 5 line or Intel’s i5 or i7 line. Remember too that most games are still not capable of utilizing more than two cores, so spending money on eight won’t get good results. You can instead invest in a good current generation GPU such as an Nvidia Geforce 1060 or AMD Radeon 570, coupled with 16GB of DDR4 3200Mhz RAM and an SSD drive for booting the OS.

Product review – Oppo F7 smartphone

There was a time when Oppo used to make amazing flagships with innovative designs. Through their impressive work with cameras in their phones, Oppo rose through its competition in China and has expanded globally ever since. They marketed what they did best – class-leading cameras. Back in 2014, the Oppo Find 7 and it’s successor, the Oppo N1. Times have changed however, and so their leadership in the market has waned. They’re still one of the biggest smartphone makers in the world, particularly in Asia. Their focus has shifted from offering top-tier performance and functionality to focused marketing on excellent performance both for the front and rear cameras. But since then, Oppo been struggling in putting out a device that satisfies the average Joe-shim looking for a phone. The Oppo F7 is somewhat of a departure from their philosophy, and it’s for the better.

Sure, the phone isn’t the best example of bang-for-buck, but the F7 isn’t quite a terrible phone compared to the products Oppo has put out in the past few years. Its current competitor in the market is the Vivo V9, and it does almost everything better while costing a bit less than the V9.

The Performance

The Oppo is no slouch in this department. It uses Mediatek’s latest P60 SoC, which performs on par with the Snapdragon 660 and 636. The user interface is snappy and responsive, but Oppo’s ColorOS based on Android 8.1 Oreo tries hard to deliver an iPhone experience with no app drawers. If one feels bothered about this, Nova Launcher or Google Launcher is ready to be installed from the Google Play Store, offering a more familiar experience on the F7. With 4 GB of ram, the phone easily gets day-to-day tasks done, even handling intensive tasks. But if you feel gimped with 4 gigs of ram, there is a 6GB option available as well. Gaming performance is great but not the best when compared to something such as a Xiaomi Mi6 or Mi Note 3 within the range, because the Mali GPU in the phone doesn’t do much good against the Adreno from Snapdragon chipsets.

Design and display

The F7 isn’t the most premium phone on earth, but it’s a phone that feels well built, which is fine as it is a mid-ranger. The weight is perfect, as it isn’t too heavy nor does it feel as flimsy as a plastic phone. One terrible decision Oppo decided to take was to choose plastic with a glossy rear to illuminate its back. It’s a solution to imitate flagship devices with glass backs, but ultimately the phone becomes a fingerprint magnet. Dread from it, run from it, smudges always follow.

The phone still uses the Micro USB port which you always get wrong on the first try while trying to plug in your phone in the dark. The snappy, functional fingerprint scanner is around the back. Take a look at the bottom and, behold, a 2018 smartphone with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The 19:9 display with 1080p is a great experience, as it feels amazing for media consumption and gaming. If you want even more screen real estate, then feel free to hide the software navigation buttons and use gestures for navigation; a desperate attempt by Oppo trying to imitate iPhones again. Old habits die hard.

Software and functionality

ColorOS is quite a bit bulky when compared to stock android. It takes a while to get used to and there aren’t really any difference under the hood when you change the theme from the theme store. Oppo’s way of dealing with convenience doesn’t make sense however. They use a keyboard called “Oppo Secure Keyboard” layered on top of the Gboard and claims to protect keystrokes from being tracked. Let me rephrase that sentence, they use a terribly heavy feature (that nobody asked for in the first place) in place of a function that can easily be used from a lighter alternative. And that sentence describes the software side of the phone entirely.

However, the Helios P60 helps in the software department. Face Unlock is a gimmicky feature to some android users, but it works quite fast. A dedicated AI chip in the SoC helps with delays previously faced from fingerprint scanning and face unlock; along with real time HDR in taking photos.

Endurance

With a respectable 3400mAh battery, the Oppo offers a full day of heavy and moderate usage, with little charge left at the end of the day. The efficient chip-set helps in this regard, putting it a class above competitors from Huawei (P20 Lite) and Vivo (Vivo V9). What the F7 lacks however, is fast charging tech. It takes around two hours to top up the battery from 5%.

Camera

As usual, the camera is the only thing the Oppo excels in. Boasting a 25 megapixel camera with f/2.5 aperture in the front and a 16 megapixel camera with f/1.8 aperture in the back, the device takes great pictures. Oppo’s main point of marketing is the AI Beauty feature. In most cases, the beautification is probably for the better but the beautification doesn’t go away entirely when you turn the mode off. The bokeh feature has been around for a while, and it finally feels that mobile phone manufacturers pulled it off, thanks to AI being at work. There are some AR features that were fun, but the available ones were pretty conventional and uninspiring.

The rear camera is brilliant as well. In an era of dual camera focusing on taking cool macro shots with blurred backgrounds, the Oppo takes a different route. Surely enough, the phone doesn’t offer amazing shots like Samsung Galaxy S9 or iPhone X, but the colors seem natural in well lit conditions. The sensor tends to overexpose a bit under low light conditions however. For macro shots, the camera feels brilliant, detecting edges and objects properly.

The best part about the camera app is the Expert mode. In this, you can adjust shutter speed, ISO, exposure etc. Disappointingly, the phone doesn’t offer 4K recording, a commonplace feature in this price range.

Conclusion and brief comparisons

The F7 isn’t a terrible phone by any means, but there are better options in the price range. Its mainstream competitors however, aren’t doing much good.

The Vivo V9 with a smaller battery and inferior camera is probably the worst in this price range, but the V9’s edge is in offering a lighter user interface experience and fast charge tech. Buying the V9 with 30,000BDT and getting a Snapdragon 626 is a disappointment to say the least.

Huawei recently entered this segment with the Huawei P20 Lite. Sure, the phone looks stunning and arguably prettier than the F7, but the Kirin 659 is dated. The GPU is worse as well. Storage system on the Oppo is UFS 2.1 whereas the P20 lite uses eMMc for storage. However, the build quality is a bit better, and dual cameras are better in some aspects. The P20 Lite also has fast charging tech with a USB C port.

The F7 is a good phone, but do pick it up when the price is a bit more tolerable. It nails almost everything down, and should be a pretty capable driver for any average user.

Product review – Tecno Camon I smartphone

Often we run into predicaments while buying a phone; especially under 15,000 BDT. We have to consider battery life, performance and entertainment value. While most phones, even flagships, may not check all the boxes, Tecno Camon i almost succeeds in that regard – which is why it’s one of the best options within 15,000 BDT.

Hardware

From a hardware standpoint, the Tecno is pretty fantastic considering all smartphones. 3 gigs of RAM isn’t something someone can expect from a brand new phone within this price range, with many Xiaomi phones offering (only) 2 gigabytes. The phone looks beautiful with its chamfered edges and slim and sleek body (7.5mm). As a result, it feels great in the hand thanks to its manageable weight. The body is a metal unibody with polycarbonate antenna lines for design. The fingerprint scanner is located  at the back of the phone, conveniently placed in the middle. The scanner isn’t blisteringly fast, but it’s accurate and reliable.

Tecno offers an excellent service called the 111 promise. Basically users get a 100-day replacement policy in case of major manufacturing defect, 1-time free screen replacement in case of accidental breakage and a month of extra warranty, bringing the total warranty period to 13 months.

Screen

The best part of the phone is the screen, and it’s gorgeous. Thanks to the Full View screen, the side-bezels are small and has on-screen buttons. The screen is bright and offers great contrast in sunlight. The 720p screen is good enough for everyday YouTube consumption.

Camera

One of the main marketing points of the phone is the camera, and it’s great. It has a 13MP f/2.0 rear camera with Phase Detection Auto Focus – high-speed autofocus tech. It also has quad LED flash, which is quite bright. The camera app is quick to start, capture and has fast focus. The camera app is anemic, offering basic exposure, photo, video, panorama and beauty mode. Through the settings, one can change the photo resolution and add a few filters as well. The results bring back photos that hit way above its price range. Get close enough and it’ll create some nice bokeh, something quite surprising for this price range.

Software Experience

The phone runs Android 7.0 Nougat with Tecno’s own HiOS UI. Thanks to its own UI, the phone runs buttery smooth. The synergy with the quad-core processor and 3GB ram is marvelous as no lag is seen anywhere. FM, file manager, voice recorders; all are there, and there are also several themes that give the look of the system a complete overhaul. The 3 GB RAM helps with multitasking and switching between apps, but don’t expect flagship level memory management. Smaller indie games can be easily played with no lag at all, but 3D games such as Asphalt and Need for Speed can be run somewhere near 30fps. Not bad for a phone this cheap.

Battery life is stellar, thanks to the 3,000 mAh battery. The phone ran through a day of heavy internet usage and media consumption and had somewhere around 20-30% of battery after the day ended, so it’s quite reliable. The reason behind this is the amazing power efficiency of the Mediatek 6737.

Let’s confront the elephant in the room – the Xiaomi phones, namely the Redmi Note 4X. Note 4X has been the people’s choice for a few years just because of its specs, but little do most people know that to build a great phone, optimization is key something that Tecno has achieved with their Camon I.

Pros: Amazing battery, buttery smooth performance, great camera, awesome screen, great optimization.

Cons: Doesn’t have stock UI, weak processor, so-so gaming performance.

At a glance

Network : 2G/3G/4G

Release : January 2018

Colors : Champagne Gold, Midnight Black, City Blue

Dimensions : 152.20×71.70×7.75 mm

Weight : 160gm

Sim : Dual sim, Micro/Nano Sim (Dual Standby)

Display :  1440×720 Full View Infinity Display 5.65 inches IPS HD Capacitive Touchscreen, 16M colors

Body-Ratio : 70.5% Screen to Body Ratio

PPI : 296PPI pixel density

Protection : Corning Gorilla Glass 3

RAM : 3GB

Internal Memory : 32GB

Card Slot : Yes, MicroSD upto 128GB

Primary : 13MP, f/2.0, Autofocus, Dual LED-flash

Video : Yes, 1080p @30fps

Secondary : 13MP, F/2.0, Autofocus, Dual LED-flash

Video : Yes, 1080p @30fps

System : Android OS v7.0 Nougat

Chipset : MediaTek MT6737

Processor : 1.3GHz Quad-core Processor

GPU : Mali-400MP2

Wi-Fi : 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Dual-band, Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot

Bluetooth : v4.0, A2DP

GPS : Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS

USB : MicroUSB v3.0

Radio : FM Radio with RDS

Battery : Non-removable Li-ion 3050 mAh, fast battery charging

Talktime : Up to 10H

Standby : Up to 300H

Fiio X1 Gen 2 digital audio player – first impressions

From the iPod to expensive iRiver Digital Audio players, the market has changed a lot. Chi-Fi (Chinese hi-fi – no, we haven’t gone global…yet) has taken over, and we all know that means that the market is saturated now. Back then, for a decent Digital Audio Player (DAP), one had to pay a hefty premium and be stuck with a lot of drawbacks. Portable audio has improved in the past few years but the market is slowly changing, with the 3.5mm jack appearing and disappearing in between. But this headphone jack fiasco has opened up a brand new market for enthusiasts for audio players. For such a market (under $100), there exists a great option – the Fiio X1 Gen 2.

Even four years ago, people used the Sansa Clip+, a DAP from Sandisk that took the market by storm. Small, agile and efficient, the firmware could be improved through installing another music player interface called Rockbox. And today, nobody cares about it. It might have been cheap and small, but as smartphone batteries grow smaller for the sake of aesthetics, people are moving to DAPs. And the Fiio X1 Gen 2 is a great starting point for getting into the world of audio players. It features lossless playback, Bluetooth 4.0 and a slick touch based scroll wheel.

The build quality is premium with rounded edges and tactile buttons. The UI is a bit slow, but it’s based on Linux and the problems alleviate a bit when the firmware updates. Supporting up to 256 GB of memory thanks to its SD card slot and up to 11 hours of playback thanks to its 1800 mAh battery, the device is indeed a great choice to be in your backpack for day-long commutes in Dhaka traffic.

The sound is a touch warm and flat, seeing a departure from the original Fiio X1, which struggled with details and soundstage. Overall, this is a solid offering under a hundred dollars from Fiio, and it’s on Gears for Ears, Fiio’s official Bangladeshi dealer for 9,799 BDT only. If you’re struggling with listening to music through your iPhone’s dongle, give this beautiful looking DAP a try.

The curious case of the disappearing 3.5mm jack

How far do you remember in terms of using a cell phone? If you are like me, who started using cell phones in early the 2000’s, you  might remember connector variations based on manufacturers. However, they all had one common grievance; none of them sported a 3.5mm headphone jack. Ahh, the dark ages, when we all had to carry our proprietary connector headphones or stupid dongles to allow 3.5mm connections. Then finally, by the grace of god and common sense, slowly, all manufacturers started adding this miracle of a connector as a boasting factor for their products, and suddenly, any device that didn’t sport it was dubbed backdated.

So imagine the irony when Apple shocked the world with rumours that they were planning on axing the gold standard 3.5mm for their own proprietary Lightning connector, and subsequently established the rumour with the iPhone 7 and its plus sized sibling, minus the headphone jack. And as Apple is considered a market shifter in terms of certain trends, many of the OEMS from the Android camp followed suit with their seeming war with the headphone jack.

So, you may ask why the market is suddenly moving back in time instead of forwards. Sure, the society has a habit of getting into a retro vibe where they start bringing back old ideas and brandish it a bit. While that is fine for things like fashion designs, it is certainly not fine when it comes to technology. I can’t imagine someone giving up their 4K ultra something LED panel for those ancient CRT televisions which you have to bang three times to get it to work properly and needed the whole neighbourhood to move it one inch to the left.

Before you end up saying something like “What’s the big deal?”, let me explain that the inconveniences they cause can be annoying to say the least. Put yourself in everyday scenarios and you will see just how annoying it can be to live the jack-less life. Imagine yourself on a road trip where your friends are playing hateful music and you want to change that with the songs on your phone. You reach for the aux when you suddenly remember you don’t have the jack. Or losing your dongle and shelling out not very little money to get another. Or forgetting your headphones at home and not having the ability to use a cheap one for the time being because of, you guessed it, no jack. Before any of you head for the comments to say “Go wireless”, let me remind you that phones with jacks ALSO have wireless options. And that’s the thing with technology. It is supposed to GIVE you options, NOT take them away.

So how are manufacturers getting away with this you may now ask? Simple. By flogging words like “Digital” or “Freedom” or “Courage” or whatever other jargon they can come up with. They also use excuses like using the space saved from the jack to do something which they could have done anyway, but Shhh, you aren’t supposed to know that. So let’s investigate each of their ‘arguments’ and see if it justifies their motive.

Suspect: thickness

Manufacturers argue that by getting rid of the jack, they are able to make phones thin enough for you to slice apples in between long calls. But, in all seriousness though, has their argument for being able to make thinner phones held up with the sacrifice that was made?

The current thinnest smartphone on record is the Vivo X5 Max, measuring in at 4.75mm, and guess what, it can and has packed a 3.5mm headphone jack whereas the 7mm thick iPhone 7 and the 5.2mm thick Moto Z didn’t.

Verdict: Not guilty. Until phones hit sub 3.5mm thickness, the argument regarding thickness is pointless. Besides, if they do hit that thickness, it’s not like USB C or Lightning would do any good either as neither would fit.

Suspect: digital Audio

This is probably the loudest drum being played by OEMS right now to justify killing the headphone jack. They argue that while the 3.5mm only gave analogue signals, the new USB-C/ Lightning connectors give you true digital sound. Some manufacturers  even supply Active Noise Cancellation through their USB-C headphones, saying it would not have been possible with 3.5mm jacks, in the hopes of quelling some of the hate. So is this digital audio claim another fluke? Well lets clear that one out quite simply. Analogue means physical movement is required to generate sound, whereas digital means ones and zeros. I have yet to encounter a human who has a native USB connection to their brain , having the ability to decode ones and zeros because the only way to experience digital audio is to connect the phone’s USB cable directly to your brain and decoding the ones and zeros.

What manufacturers have done instead is ship the responsibility of decoding the sound to your headphones by placing the DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) to your headphones instead. There, this DAC converts the digital signal to analogue movements for the driver inside the headphone , creating this ethreal “digital” audio. In the not too distant past, this DAC lived inside the phone and all you had to do was connect your 3.5mm headphone jack and you were good to go. This also meant that manufacturers who made flagships paid extra attention to this in-built DAC to give you a good sound, like the LG V series. Now, they have relegated this duty to USB headphones instead, so technically, you get less for your money now. As for the active noise cancellation, Sony showed us with the Xperia Z2 back in 2014 that you could have active noise cancelling with the 3.5mm jack.

Verdict: Not guilty. Lowering manufacturing costs by not having to focus on a good DAC for their phones and yet, bumping up smartphones prices per year is hurting no one but the consumer.

Suspect: design and spacing

OEMS have even resorted to rubbish like claiming to use the space saved to put a larger battery or some other feature which could not be fitted had the jack lived. Some have even started to blame the new trend of bezel-less screens for the demise of the jack, but how much of this is true? I am afraid it’s more snake oil from the OEMS. Most of us have seen a smartphone teardown,  witnessing the now-extinct headphone jack component. Getting rid of it won’t yield any battery gains.

Take examples such as Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 and Mi Max 2, Asus Zenfone Max, and Lenovo P2. What do they all have in common? For starters they are all phones with battery capacities exceeding 4000 and 5000mAh AND with 3.5mm headphone jacks. As for the bezel-less argument, let’s have a look at the shiny and pretty Samsung S8, Note8, and LG V30 shall we. Boasting industry leading bezel-less displays and yet, they manage to carry a 3.5mm jacks, and bloody good ones too.

Verdict: Not guilty. The jacks hardly occupy any meaningful space that the manufacturers have used for anything useful.

Suspect: wireless audio

Yet another, albeit slightly more reasonable argument regarding the demise of the jack. There is no denying the existence ofquality Bluetooth headsets out there,and they serve the general populous with satisfaction. However, wireless still has some ways to go before they have the ability to match the  standards of wired connections. When was the last time you saw a DJ or a music producer using wireless headphones at work?

Wireless is not a solution for the audiophiles who pay for the top flagships for their sonic performance, so cutting down the jack really doesn’t serve any purpose other aggravation. And lest we forget, wireless solutions and wired solutions can, and HAVE been coexisting together for a while now.

Verdict: Not guilty. Wireless audio hasn’t matured to a point where they are justified to replace their wired counterparts. Besides, there is nothing wrong with keeping both and giving the consumer the the freedom of choice.

Suspect: creating a universal standard connection

This one is almost so close to absurd that it requires but a simple question. What was wrong with the universal and mature connection that is the 3.5mm jack in the first place?

It has been around for a 100 years now, and the market is rich with cheap to expensive options that work with just about anything with a 3.5mm jack On top of that, the whole argument seems ironic when Apple has their own Lightning connector whereas Android has USB-C,  which in turn is  incompatible with several  Android OEMS.

Verdict: Not guilty. This is a moronic argument on which almost the entirety of the elimination of headphone jacks rely on.

So who is really to blame here? For Apple, its mostly profit as they own the right to the Lightning jack and  the OEM has to pay Apple royalty for it. Also, let’s not forget that before the unveiling of the iPhone 7, Apple  acquired one of the biggest wireless headphone brands; Beats. As for the OEMs from the Android camp,  it seems meaningless on what they are doing, as USB-C is not under any of their own creations. With the way things are going, the headphone jack is on its way out.  But if history serves as a reminder, then hopefully in the future, we will see manufacturers regain their senses and bring back the headphone jack. Until then, all I can end with is a simple “stop it”.

MIB Spirit Spring Meet Up @ Clay Station

After many successful get-togethers, the MIB Spirit Spring Meet-up once again brought together independent business owners from all across Dhaka, giving them the platform they need in order to interact with customers first hand, and to get the kind of exposure young and creative entrepreneurs are looking for.

The event kicked off on the 6th of April at 11:00 AM at Clay Station, Banani. The place was full of young creative minds beaming with excitement as they chatted with customers who they usually interact with via social media. There were stalls with traditional and contemporary clothing and jewelry, home decor items, hand-crafted leather shoes, beautifully designed notebooks, bookmarks and of course, delicious cupcakes and brownies. The one thing they all had in common though, was that they were all independent, Bangladeshi business owners, who make their products here.

Like Ornate by Ona, who, even though she has a full time job at a digital marketing agency, has always had a passion for designing clothes. She told us how her full time job inspired her to make affordable yet trendy clothes for students or young working women who wanted to look on point when they are going to work or class.

Another designer, Mehnaz Ahmed Adiba, is a full time architect by profession, but is also a designer of ethnic and traditional jewelry, but with a modern twist. She has rings with rickshaw art on them and also headpieces inspired by jewelry worn by her grandmother; bringing together the past and the present in perfect ornamental harmony.

Muchi, an adoring reminder of the true shoe experts of our country, is an initiative taken upon by four friends who love shoes, and who took time out of their everyday office jobs to invest in making hand-crafted leather shoes for men. Shafaqat Alam, the Managing partner of Muchi, told us how important it was for them to maintain quality and to use local artisans only and raw materials from Old Dhaka.

There were stalls like Brownie Hut as well, for those who wanted a bite to eat. Brownie Hut is an independent dessert endeavor run by two sisters, Mehruk and Madiha. We spoke to Mehruk who told us how she always loved baking and that she decided to use it as a project for her entrepreneurship course while studying BBA. It’s been three years since she opened a Facebook page for her business and by now, she has already worked with 10 other restaurants, and currently holds a pop-up shop inside Oregano, in Dhanmondi.

Other pop-ups included Eat Better, another delicious dessert venture which brought its signature dessert – Perfé. Apart from eateries there were many other businesses present at the event such as TigerBow, a company which makes bow ties using local materials and Home Junction, a home decor company, as well as many other artisans from Bangladesh.

The perfect platform for up and coming creatives, the MIB Spirit Meet-up, upholds the spirit, the vibrancy and the authentic beauty of Dhaka city, through art, entrepreneurship and everything in between. The event is on till the 7th of April, so go check it out!

Sheroes of Tomorrow: a celebration of women in business

How would you define a hero?

To many, a hero is a cape-wearing, eye-lasering or lasso-of-truth-wielding super-human. But when you live in a society where half the population is struggling for equal pay or an opportunity to break through the glass ceiling or struggling to fulfil their ambitions of building something of their own, it’s hard not to celebrate those who overcome these struggles as nothing short of heroes.

Sheroes of Today organized the perfect tribute to these women of valour, who have taken it upon themselves to create their own business, to propel themselves towards achieving their goals. Co-hosted by Cookups and Jete Chao, the event took place on March 23, 2018 in Cityscape Tower on a lovely spring afternoon.

The floor was teeming with people of all ages who had come to experience the passion and creativity of various artists and entrepreneurs. There were numerous stalls filled with artwork, stationery and varied merchandise, but just we entered, we were drawn to the delicious smelling arrangement of various home cooked food.

Many home cooks who started their business through the online platform Cookups came to showcase their offerings and serve their customers in person. The range of items were overwhelming; brilliant smelling pot-pies, kebabs, pretzels, cookies, jell-Os, tarts pizza and drinks. One of these home cooks was Sharmin, who started working through Cookups to sell her food and is now quite happy after having quit her job to become a home-maker and mother. “My brother urged me to sell my home-cooked food and I am so grateful to him that he did. It’s been six months since I started and I am quite happy with where my business stands now.” said a gleeful Sharmin.

Serving next to her was Sharmeen, who had quit her job at an IT firm as a computer engineer to raise her three children. She looked just as happy to talk about her business as much as she was to serve her customers who were waiting in a line to try her smoked shish-kebabs.

Looking beside her we found a middle-aged lady busily serving desserts. She is a Filipino, ex medical laboratory scientific officer, MLSO, who left work 7 years ago to raise her children who are all grown up now and with Cookups she is now able to retreat back to a life where she can work for herself again.

Speaking to the women doing business via cookups, it was evident that the platform was providing a gateway to housewives for becoming a self-earning individual through their culinary talents. And it really isn’t a surprise knowing the amazing home-cooks we have in every household of this country.

We took our little snacks in our hands and walked across the hall to the various stalls by artists sharing their work on a canvas or in print and on stationery and t-shits. Everyone had their own significant style that spoke more about the artists and sometimes about what the art represented. There was a t-shirt that had an orna drawn over it and the tag said, “orna koi?”, something I found to be particularly delightful. We spoke with Humairah Shams, an artist and co-founder of Made with Love, who told us the purpose of the business – “We want to add little bit of our love into our products and share it with all the people who purchase them. We have difficult days and we want to put something beautiful in the everyday things we use.”

We spoke to the owner of Her Stories who had taken upon the task of creating an amazing book full of stories of female heroes of our country painted by talented female artists from Bangladesh. The books in the stall were accompanied by tote bags and posters of a lady with 8 hands doing various types of work at once that said, “Amar ma kaaj kore”.

While mentioning homemade products again, we must speak of Soaperstar, a homemade toiletries venture. The lovely little white cart was filled with items ranging from aromatic blocks of soap, shampoos and even beard-oils.  All the products are handmade by the owner, Shehna, who told us how her products contained no harmful chemicals or preservatives and were all vegan and healthy to use.

Other stalls included Numinous, a pop-culture themed merchandise business, who had their first meet and greet with customers through this event; Art for the Soul, Hulo Kraft, 6 Yard Story and many other fresh women entrepreneurs, looking to make a name for themselves.

We left the event with the impression that the passion of these artists, entrepreneurs and dreamers resonated through the products they sold. We also marveled at the warmth in the atmosphere, where women of all ages came together under one roof to celebrate themselves.

Product review: Fiio F5 in-ear monitors

Disclaimer: The Fiio F5 was loaned to us free of charge in exchange for our review by our good friends at Gears for Ears.

The domination of chi fi has been at an alarming rate for the past few years, and Fiio, renown chi-fi audio brand has been in the front lines for providing premium audio at an affordable price. Initially, Fiio was known for it’s dirt-cheap headphone amplifiers and digital-to-analog converter units such as Fiio Q1, Fiio E10k etc. It hasn’t been long since Fiio has started it’s journey in In Ear Monitors (IEMs), with brilliant products such as Fiio EX1, EX1 2nd Gen etc.

The F5 is the successor to Fiio’s EX1 series, albeit with a different sound signature, drawing from the criticism of it’s previous iterations. Previously catering to an acquired taste, Fiio F5 has since evolved into a more consumer friendly sound signature with plenty of detail hidden within these IEMs.

Accessories and price

The unboxing experience of the headphones is exceptional as it comes with a lot of accessories to play around with. Build quality and accessories are something that Fiio never skimps on, no matter how cheap their products may be. The Fiio F5 is available from Gears for Ears for only 5,300 BDT, and offers a plethora of customization. Thanks to it’s detachable mmcx connector, one can use both the 2.5mm balanced detachable cable alongside the 3.5mm detachable cable.  They also come with six pairs of eartips, in small-medium-large sizes. The headphones also come with a beautiful sturdy black box for storage, lest you are concerned with blemishes on the IEMs with future use.

Comfort and build quality

The Fiio F5 IEMs sit outside of one’s ears with ease and it can be worn over ear as well; though one needs to switch channels. The nozzles however are relatively big, but it shouldn’t be a problem for people comfortable with headphones such as the Xiaomi Piston 3 and Dunu Titan headphones. Since the IEMs are plastic, weight-wise it helps with comfort a lot. However, this took a hit in build quality as the IEM units dont feel as premium.

The IEMs use detachable mmcx which I personally consider as an essential for headphones, as the cables are the first thing to break in a pair of headphones for me. Production blemishes and cost-cutting also sometimes takes a hit on this integral part of a pair of headphones. Thankfully, using a detachable connector fixes this problem, as the cable can be easily replaced with an aftermarket cable.The cables are sturdily built, with tidbits of aluminum in both the cables, and the 3.5mm cable compatible with both Android and iPhones.

Sound

The F5 was the former flagship IEM of Fiio, as a result they paid attention while tuning this pair of headphones. The sound is tuned warmly that is quite easy to listen to. The bass isn’t overpowering, and the focus of the sound is on vocals and mids. Extension is quite good, but the emphasis isn’t on treble. The bass is mildly punchy. I’ve found myself listening to songs with these for hours, thanks to the comfortable weight and tuning. Another noticeable trait of the sound is the exceptional sound-stage. It’s one of those weird headphones that doesn’t have to cater to boosting the treble in order to emphasize the sound-stage. The directional accuracy isn’t dead-accurate, but the instrument placement feels like it’s out of place, creating a sort of holographic stage.

Good thing about these headphones are, you don’t really need much power nor a great smartphone or music player for these to shine. They are quite efficient and can bring out a lot of details from the mid-range if called upon.

However, things improve when ran through a balanced output. Bass gains speed, impact and body, vocals sound more vivid and the treble opens up a but more.

Verdict

Fiio F5 is a great starter for people who want to test the myth of balanced output. With plentiful accessories and nicely tuned sound, The F5 is the definition of bang-for-buck within this range, especially for the treble-sensitive looking to discover more from their music.