Wednesday, 16 August 2017

HTC U11 ★★★★☆

HTC has launched the U11, its flagship for 2017 just 4 months after launching a very similar looking U Ultra famed for its Edge/Dual Screen. The U Ultra now already looks outdated and feels more like a “hey, don’t forget us!” device from HTC. The U11 changes everything with it’s “best camera on a phone ever” statement. Let’s find out if HTC manages to get back in the game…

Right out of the box, the HTC U11 looks very similar to the ultra glossy, highly reflective U Ultra but with a more ergonomic design.The back is basically bonded glass in a twisted form to look metallic and throw different colors in different viewing angles. So you really don’t know what colour your phone is! HTC calls the 2 variants Brilliant Black and Amazing Silver, though and both of them are fingerprint magnets. Thankfully, on the front it’s a lot more “normal” with a 2.5D curved edge glass on the 5.5” SUPER LCD 5 with a great 1440 x 2560 resolution. The capacitive home button cum fingerprint scanner is at the bottom flanked by the Back and Overview buttons which light up on touch.

Nothing on the left edge, while power and volume buttons on the right. No 3.5mm jack here, so your old earphones are of no use since HTC wants to move forward to Type C charging and earphones. The Noise cancelling Usound earphones thankfully come bundled with the U11.The earpiece doubles up as a woofer in addition to the speaker grill at the bottom. It’s got IP67 certification i.e. water and dust resistant. The U11 supports Hybrid Dual SIM, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and VoLTE.

Under the hood , you’ll find the latests Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB/6GB RAM and 64GB/128GB memory respectively. It’s the latest hardware available on all flagships now and you don’t need to worry for at least a couple of years. 

HTC Sense runs atop the Android 7.1 OS and similar to the U Ultra. They did announce the Sense Companion UI but it’s nowhere near the Google Assistant or Siri yet, not even close to what Bixby can do at this moment. Overall the UI is smooth and lag free with a few customisations but HTC can do better. The Edge Sense is the most innovative feature to come out of HTC’s stable yet that allows you to trigger apps or shortcuts by squeezing the sides of the phone .You can launch the camera or voice recorder or text to speech etc and even click photos once in the camera app. The advanced mode allows for multiple triggers based on pressure sensitivities. I’m not sure though, if you will ever be able to use a hard case/cover on the U11 ;).

Coming to the most talked about camera ever on a phone, the U11 scores a 90 in the DXO Mark camera test, which was being ruled by Google Pixel with a score of 89 until now .Samsung S8 & iPhone 7 Plus are just below 89. And true to the numbers, the U11 does not disappoint.It’s a cracker of a camera at just 12MP F/1.7, showing people that neither an additional camera nor the MegaPixel count matters, what really does are the pixels, ability to capture light and sensors on it .I’d definitely rate it slightly over the Pixel and the best shooter in low light / night mode. Even the front 16MP camera takes realistic and crisp selfies.Video can be recorded with up-to 4K resolution. The only thing missing is Optical Zoom on an otherwise impressive setup.

Performance and multimedia wise, there won’t be any troubles if you have multiple apps and games open simultaneously or running in the background. There was no lag on Asphalt 8 & Fifa 17 when abruptly switching between them and 2K videos look great on YouTube. Sound from the speakers is loud and clear while listening to music or gaming . With the battery at 3000 mAh you feel hard done by, considering the potential heavy usage you’d have regularly. I got just over 10 hours on a single charge but on moderate usage you can stretch it up to 15 hours which isn’t bad. If price isn’t a concern and you don’t want the Samsung S8, go for this one . Otherwise you have the Pixel XL at a lower price now and the One Plus 5 or even LG G6 to consider. 


Pritesh Khilnani
HTC U11 at CeX

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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Walking Dead: Season 7 ★★★★☆

Another year, another season of everyone’s favourite horror soap opera. In recent years, the show has decreased in quality as filler episodes have become the norm and stretched out, meandering plotlines are the modus operandi. Is Season 7 a return to the show’s early form, or does it merely continue this trend? Of course, it goes without saying that spoilers lurk in the review below. If you’re not up to date on the show, I’d suggest you steer clear.

The Good

Firstly, and perhaps controversially in the eyes of many of the show’s watchers if social media comments are anything to go by, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is the finest thing to happen to The Walking Dead in years. Charmingly terrifying and darkly hilarious, Negan is like a breath of fresh air for the show – not since David Morrissey’s Governor have we had such an intensely watchable villain, posing a genuine threat to our heroes and giving the series high stakes again. The zombies are just background noise now. The Walking Dead has always been at its best when a strong human villain was in charge. Other new characters – such as Khary Payton’s King Ezekiel – also bring some new life to the show but it is the baseball bat wielding leather-clad psycho who makes this season his own. And incidentally, the payoff from Season 6’s cliffhanger is handled remarkably well, with the deaths of our beloved Abraham and the long-foretold violent end of Glenn. I was one of the very few people who thought that cliffhanger in question was incredible, too…Fight me.

And the main bulk of our heroes are on good form, too. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) spends most of the season in rather submissive and cowardly role, but when his balls grow back, we cheer for our bearded leader. Daryl is a little broken for the first chunk of the season too, held prisoner by Negan – but his escape and reunion with the gang is both intense and emotional. This season itself could be considered one long trailer for the next one, with all of the pieces getting put in place for the All Out War plotline. And yet, the majority of it (with some exceptions) does not feel like filler. This is a slow-burner, but the payoff next season could just be the best of The Walking Dead yet.

In summary, all of the positives of The Walking Dead’s 7th season are really down to Negan. When the plot is moving slowly, the presence of Negan – even when he’s off screen – is felt and feared, making the show far more intense than it’s been recently. We fear for the safety of our survivors once again, and this “new world order” makes the world of The Walking Dead a dangerous place to be. But that being said, if all of the survivors were to meet their grisly end at the end of Negan’s beloved Lucille, I wouldn’t be too bothered. Negan could lead this show, easily.

The Bad 

But, of course, this is The Walking Dead. Even with Negan’s presence, the plot does often come to a complete standstill –  for multiple episodes at a time. Some subplots are utterly tedious, with an entire episode dedicated to Tara’s brief time at an all-female camp by the ocean, a particular low-point. But, this comes with the territory of The Walking Dead. It always has. We know to expect this filler, and we know it’s worth enduring because the good episodes can be incredible. We all know that bold statements by our characters like “we’re going to war” often mean “we’re going to war in 20 episodes’ time”, but that’s okay. The fans who’ve stuck around know that the show can dip wildly in quality even during a season, but when it grows back up to the heights it’s capable of, it is incredible television.

The Verdict

It’s difficult to summarise a 10 hour-plus season in so few words, but as I look back on this season of The Walking Dead, I honestly can’t remember much other than Negan. While some might think that could be considered a criticism, it isn’t. It’s not to say this season was forgettable – it’s rather to say that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was so utterly incredible in every single scene, he has single-handedly made Season 7 of The Walking Dead one of the finest seasons yet. I, for one, cannot wait to see what he gets up to in the upcoming episodes of the show, and I’m filled with excitement and joy for the future of the series – something I couldn’t have said a couple of years ago. 

Welcome back, The Walking Dead. You were always there, yes – but the lights were on, with nobody home. Now, the lights are on, and you’re having a god-damn house party. Long may it continue.
The Walking Dead is back to near-perfect status. Next season could be a 5-star belter.


Sam Love

The Walking Dead: Season 7 at CeX

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