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By Namerah S
ASTRO A20 Wireless Gen 2 Headset review: A lackluster headset you should pass up on
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
With the launch of Sony and Microsoft's next-gen consoles, gaming companies rushed to release compatible accessories for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. ASTRO Gaming, Logitech's specialized gaming brand, launched the second generation of the ASTRO A20 wireless gaming headset in September, ahead of the consoles.
Aside from the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, the A20 Gen 2 headset is also compatible with PC. It comes in two versions, PlayStation and Microsoft, each with a USB transmitter in the box. Both variants can pair with PCs and also the respective last-gen consoles. Today's review will look at the PS4/PS5/PC version.
Weight 318g Battery 1,050 mAh Platforms and connectivity PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows, Mac via USB transmitter Speaker size 40mm neodymium drivers Speaker frequency response 20Hz - 20kHz Mic design Flip-to-mute, uni-directional, 6mm x 2.7mm Ear-cup design Over-ear Ear cushion material Cloth Price $119.99 Design
The ASTRO A20 Gen 2 is made of plastic mostly, which makes it very lightweight - only 318g - lighter than the original A20 headset. I was sent the white, blue, and black colour option but there's also a white, green, and black variant. Not much has changed in terms of design, the shape of the band, cups, and mic all look pretty much the same with minor changes here and there.
On the PlayStation version, there's one wheel for volume, an equalizer button to toggle through three presets, a power button, and a USB Type-C port for charging. The Xbox variant has all this and an additional wheel to balance game and voice audio. Both earcups have cloth cushioning which is soft and comfy but allows a lot of sound to bleed out.
The mic has a flip-to-mute feature that functions well - no more mic issues like the previous model. I was pleased with the visual aspect of the A20 G2 headphones. I think people with larger heads would need a larger, more flexible band. It would also have been nice if the cups could twist but they can't. Overall, my wear experience was very comfortable but it traded sound quality in exchange.
As I mentioned before, the over-ear cups with cloth ear cushions are plush and ergonomic but they do leak a lot of audio. The sound quality of the A20 Gen 2 headset is okay but I felt that it lacked that punchy oomph-ness to it. Bass on the A20 G2 is okay, but not good enough. To me, the audio sounded a bit too sharp and boring at times. Background noises or instrumentals sounded very separate from vocals, both while gaming and listening to other media. This was especially odd while playing a video game.
I felt that the audio lacked richness. While the mids and highs were alright, the bass didn't sound deep or immersive. Bass is really important for gaming because you want to feel the vibrations and depth of explosions or big blasts. The point of buying a gaming headset is to have an immersive play experience and audio plays a key role. Unfortunately, the headset failed to deliver on this front.
Imaging on the ASTRO A20 Gen 2 headphones is average, it works but not as smoothly as some other headsets I've used. There's no true-blue 360-degrees surround sound feature. Sometimes when I moved the camera angle too fast, the sound direction would not transition in a natural way.
There are some other issues that I experienced while testing the ASTRO A20 G2 headphones. The mic mutes when you flip it up, but there's no sound to notify you when the mic is off. That's a risk to a user's privacy. Similarly, when toggling between the equalizer presets, there is no notification to inform you what mode you're on, you just have to go by feel.
Speaking of the equalizer, I have a bone to pick about another factor. The audio is not customizable and the A20 G2 headphones are not compatible with the ASTRO Command Center software. The presets are supposed to optimize audio for different settings, but none of them really help the case with the subpar bass. This was a real let-down.
ASTRO touts a 15-hour battery life for the A20 G2's 1,050mAh battery. I found this to be accurate. When testing the charge time, however, I faced another hurdle. Although there's an LED light to indicate the status of the headset, it does not notify you when the headset is done charging.
To make matters worse, there is no way of knowing the exact battery level of the A20 G2 headset. I don't know about Xbox, but this applies to both PlayStation consoles and PC. You just have to wait around until the battery level drops to 30% and then the headset will alert you.
This also means when you plug it in, you just have to wait around until it feels like it has been anywhere between 3.5 to 5 hours, the rated charge time from ASTRO. According to the setup guide the company provided on YouTube, the light will turn amber when charging. The video completely ignores the elephant in the room: how do you know when it's done charging? You don't, that's the answer.
In my honest opinion, the ASTRO A20 G2 gaming headset felt like an incomplete product. It's a shame considering the good reputation of the brand. Priced at $119.99, $20 more than the ASTRO A20, the A20 Gen 2 doesn't justify its existence. Sure, ASTRO fixed the mic problem, but what about the rest of the features? What about software support? What about sound quality?
It really struck me when I realized there was no way to know the exact battery level or the audio settings you're using. That's strange because any other person would expect these to be very basic and essential features of such a device.
The lack of customization was a big bummer. Many of the audio issues could probably be fixed with a lot of fiddling around in the equalizer. Though I highly doubt it would help much in the case of audio escaping the ear-cups, that's more of a design flaw.
Again, I reiterate, all these issues made me feel like the A20 Gen 2 was rushed. It feels like ASTRO just wanted to have a next-gen compatible headset out in the market as early as possible. Because honestly, so many of these problems could have been fixed so easily.
Around this price point, there are so many better gaming headsets in existence. If you were to ask me for advice, I'd rather recommend the Turtle Beach Stealth Gen 2 for next-gen consoles. Sure, it costs $20 more, but that gaming headset is truly worth your money. The ASTRO A20 Gen 2, however, is not.
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Yellow Messenger integrates Microsoft Azure cognitive services on its platform
by Sylvester Addo
India based conversational AI startup, Yellow Messenger, announced a partnership with Microsoft to build a human-like voice automation platform that can understand and respond based on sentiment, dialect, and workflow.
This will see Yellow Messenger using Microsoft’s Azure cognitive services; Azure AI Speech Services and Natural Language processing tools to increase the accuracy of its voice bot solutions. Making organizations that use the voice automation platform better understand the intents of their users.
Azure Cognitive Services is a family of artificial intelligent services that allow systems to see, hear, speak, understand, and interpret human needs using natural methods of communication.
These cognitive services leveraged in the voice bot solution will make engaging with automated services such as support, sales and commerce feel like a human to human interaction. Instead of an automated to human interaction.
Commenting on the collaboration Raghu Ravinutala, CEO and Cofounder, Yellow Messenger said:
Microsoft will team up with Yellow Messenger’s R&D teams to create solutions that help enterprises in various sectors enhance consumer experience automation.
By Rich Woods
Moto G Power review: All the battery life
by Rich Woods
After Motorola announced a refresh of its whole Moto G family a couple of weeks ago, it sent me the whole set to review. When I reviewed the Moto G Stylus, I was a bit disappointed to find that the top-end Moto G no longer set the bar for budget smartphones. Now, it's time to check out the Moto G Power.
Like the name suggests, this one is all about battery life. As I noted in my review of the Moto G Stylus, the lineup is no longer about trying to provide the most value at a certain price point. Now, it's about solving a specific pain point. It's an entirely different strategy, but the pain point being solved here is battery life in a $199 device.
The last one from the series that I reviewed was the Moto G7 Power, which was actually the first one. That started the trend of having the 5,000mAh battery, and frankly, the device hasn't changed that much, still packing an HD screen, 32GB of storage, and 3GB RAM, although the price point did come down by $50.
CPU Snapdragon 662 GPU Adreno 610 Display 6.6 inches, 1600x720, 267ppi, 20:9 Body 165.28x75.9x9.49mm, 206.5g Camera 48MP f/1.7 + 2MP macro + 2MP depth, Front - 8MP f/2.0 Video capture Main sensor: 1080p - 60fps
Macro: 720p - 30fps
Front: 1080p - 30fps RAM 3GB Storage 32GB, expandable by up to 512GB Ports USB 2.0 Type-C, 3.5mm audio
NFC No Material Plastic Color Polar Silver Price $199
It's worth noting that there's also a model with 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage for $249.
The Moto G Power is made out of plastic, as is the entire family. There's no surprise there, since it's been ages since any Moto G was made out of anything else. This one has a matte back, which I personally think feels nice. It's not one of those glossy plastic designs that feels like a cheap version of glass. This feels premium.
The color of this unit is Polar Silver, and if you're already imagining the matte plastic back, then you can imagine the silver color. It's actually a pretty nice look, and I feel like the lower you get down the Moto G ladder, the more thought the team put into the design. Honestly, the Moto G Play is the best-looking one, but more on that in next week's review.
Right in the middle is the square camera with rounded corners. A rectangle with rounded corners for a camera is something that we've seen from virtually every smartphone vendor, and it was a trend that was started by Apple. Also, I'm curious about Motorola's decision to put it in the middle instead of in the corner. In fact, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how these designs go.
Motorola announced four phones two weeks ago. Both the Moto G Stylus and Motorola One 5G Ace have the square camera in the corner, while the Moto G Power and Moto G Play have it in the middle. The Moto G Play and Motorola One 5G Ace have the fingerprint sensor on the back, while the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power put it on the side in the power button.
On the bottom of the device, you'll find a USB Type-C port for charging and the speaker grille.
And then on top, there's a 3.5mm audio jack, another inconsistency in design, as the Moto G Stylus and Motorola One 5G Ace have it on the bottom, while the Moto G Play uses this same style. Personally, I think that the 3.5mm audio jack should be on the same side as the charging port, but we can also just celebrate that it has a headphone jack at all.
Ultimately, the Moto G Power feels like a pretty stylish $199 phone. I wish Motorola was a little more consistent across its lineup, of course, but I appreciate the Polar Silver color, the centered camera, and the headphone jack.
The Moto G Power includes a 6.6-inch Max Vision display with a 1600x720 resolution, giving it a 267ppi pixel density. I'm a bit disappointed to see an HD display like it had when I reviewed the Moto G7 Play back in 2019, but also, it's worth noting that last year's Moto G Power had a Full HD display.
The display also doesn't get particularly bright in direct sunlight. But here's the deal with brightness and high resolution: both of those things use up battery life. This display has less than 1.2 million pixels on it, and if it was FHD, it would have twice as many pixels to light up. It would be nice if it was a bit brighter though.
The thing about 720p is that it's noticeable. It's definitely not at that point where your eyes won't see the difference, because they can. You can definitely see some pixellation in this screen, although that's presumably why you're here; there are always sacrifices to get the best battery life, and that's what this phone is for.
The Moto G Power has a hole-punch cut-out for the front-facing camera, something that you'll see across the lineup. It's nice to see the lack of bezels and notches come to lower price points.
The Moto G Power has the same 48MP f/1.7 main sensor that you'll find on the Moto G Stylus and the Motorola One 5G Ace. For this one, there's no ultra-wide sensor, but Motorola does fill in the bare minimum to call this a triple-lens camera. It's got a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor, both of which really only serve the purpose of allowing the OEM to say that there are more camera lenses than the ones that you'll actually use.
As far as new camera features go, there are a couple of good ones. Motorola did boast that it has a night mode in the camera, and you'll see plenty of samples of that below. Another one is spot color video. Spot color is a camera feature that lets you pick one color from the shot, making the rest monochrome. It's rarely practical, but it is fun to use. That's one thing I appreciate about Motorola phones. A lot of the features are just fun.
Gallery: Moto G Power 2021 samples
The tricky thing is that there's no in-between on night mode. For example, on LG phones, you can actually set the brightness of the photo. On others, like a Pixel or an iPhone, it knows the best amount of time to leave the shutter open to take the photo. If you look at a lot of the nighttime shots, some look better with night mode on, and some look better with it off.
Performance and battery life
Motorola used a Snapdragon 662 in the Moto G Power, and I believe it's the first time that the company has used a different processor for all three Moto G tiers, as the Moto G Stylus has a Snapdragon 678. The CPU in this chipset has four 2GHz Kryo 260 Gold cores and four 1.8GHz Kryo 260 Silver cores, and it has an Adreno 610 GPU.
Unsurprisingly, the performance can be sluggish at times, combining the mid-range chipset with just 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. Like I said earlier, there is a 4GB RAM variant, but this phone starts to feel a bit pricey at $249, given the HD display and mediocre camera.
But like I said, that HD display pairs nicely with the 5,000mAh battery. Motorola promises three days of battery life here, and it more or less delivers. It makes sacrifices to get there, but if you don't want to have to worry about bringing a charger with you, this is the phone to get.
The device supports 15W charging, as Motorola phones have for a while now, but the company now ships a 10W charger in the box. This is a cost-cutting measure, but Motorola pointed out to me that once battery life gets to be so good, fast charging isn't so essential, simply because you don't need to charge as much.
For benchmarks, I used Geekbench 5, AnTuTu, and GFXBench. First up is Geekbench 5, which tests the CPU.
Interestingly, the Moto G Stylus got a much higher score here at 539 for single-core and 1,588 for multi-core. Next up is AnTuTu, which tests everything.
For this test, the Stylus got 208,991, so there's a big difference. Finally, GFXBench tests the GPU.
One other thing that I want to note is that this device ships with Android 10. Motorola only really ever offers one feature update to its Moto G series, and that means that it's probably only ever going to get Android 11. Considering that Android 11 has been out for a while now, that's not a great move, and shouldn't count as a feature update.
If you're looking for a phone that costs $199 and gets great battery life, you've come to the right place. Otherwise, I'd say look elsewhere. Like I said before, the Moto G series really isn't about providing more value than the next guy that's selling a phone at the same price anymore. It's about specific pain points, and if the pain point that the device solves isn't yours, Motorola probably has another one to fill that gap.
Indeed, the company has taken its success with the Moto G in the mid-range and expanded it into this convoluted mess of niche devices. As Steve Jobs would have asked, which one do I tell my friends to buy?
But back to if this is for you, it's a nice little phone, and it's nice for under $200. The display, while just 720p, is pretty, and it doesn't have big bezels or a notch, a rarity in a $199 phone. It's also got a decent 48MP camera with quad pixel technology.
If you want to check it out, you can find it on Amazon here.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft backpedals on Xbox Live Gold pricing, free-to-play games won't require subscription
by Usama Jawad
A few hours ago, Microsoft received massive backlash for increasing the price of its Xbox Live Gold program for new customers. It announced that the price of a one-month subscription is increasing by $1 to $10.99, and price of a three-month membership is increasing by $5 to $29.99, and a six-month membership is now $59.99 - which was previously the cost of its annual membership.
Following feedback from users of the service, Microsoft has now backpedaled on the decision.
In a statement on the original blog post, the firm has announced that it will not be implementing the new price model, and that the price of Xbox Live Gold membership will remain the same. It stated that:
A notable change coming to the program is that you will not require a subscription to play free-to-play games like Fortnite or Call of Duty: Warzone. This will make the service more in line with Sony's competing PlayStation Plus program. However, this modification to the program is not immediately available and Microsoft will be working to deliver it "in the coming months".
When Microsoft announced the new pricing model a few hours ago, many believed that it was designed to push gamers to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which is arguably a better value proposition, but at $14.99/month. However, the price hike was considered to be in bad optics considering that the company is not adding any new features to the service, and free-to-play games still require a premium membership unlike Sony's PlayStation Plus. With the subscription model now reverted to the original and now packing a major improvement, it remains to be seen how the firm will entice users to join the Game Pass Ultimate program.
Microsoft Teams to be integrated into SAP solutions
by Paul Hill
Microsoft has announced that its collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams, will be integrated into SAP’s suite of solutions. Complementing this move, Microsoft and SAP have agreed to accelerate the adoption of SAP S/4HANA on Microsoft Azure.
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing places of work to close, more people have been forced to work from home. By integrating Microsoft Teams with products like SAP S/4HANA, SAP SuccessFactors, and SAP Customer Experience, the two firms hope that they can boost user productivity and engagement which could help support growth in economies after being hit hard by the virus.
Commenting on the agreement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said:
SAP customers using any of the aforementioned solutions should be able to use the Microsoft Teams integration sometime in the middle of the year, according to Microsoft. With regards to the two companies’ plan to accelerate the integration of SAP S/4HANA on Azure, a SAP document says that customers broadly favour Azure as their choice to move on-premise SAP S/4HANA to the cloud.