iclever Wireless Speaker and fast USB charger with 6 ports review!

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Thanks to HISgadget for providing me with these samples to review.


Lets start with the speaker coming in at £22.99.




  • Speaker - Full range 45mm
  • RMS - 5W
  • Bluetooth Chipset - CSR
  • Bluetooth Version - V4.0
  • Sensitivity - 80db
  • Distortion - 0.3%
  • Frequency Response - 90HZ - 18KHz
  • Battery - Built in 500 mAh Li-polymer battery
  • Size - 64.5 x 64.5 x 70.1mm (L X W X H)
  • Weight - 261g




The speaker arrives in a basic looking box with some foam protection to protect it from bumps/drops. Along with the speaker we also get 3.5mm audio jack cable and a micro USB cable.








The Speaker:


The first thing that you notice when taking the speaker out of the box is the premium feel to the device, it has a nice hefty weight (261g) to it and a very stylish premium polished metallic (zinc alloy) body design, overall it looks and feels great (although it is a bit of a fingerprint magnet), there is no flexing or creaky plastic when applying a bit of force to it. However, whilst it looks great, it has come at the cost of practicality, more on this later....


The speaker is pretty tiny overall, you could easily fit it in your laptop bag, rucksack etc. Here is a photo comparing it to an average sized mug:




On the front of the device, we have the bluetooth disconnect and answer/reject call button;


  • to disconnect bluetooth - press and hold it for 3 seconds
  • to answer a call - short press for 1 second
  • to reject a call - long press for 3 seconds


And just above that button, we have the mic.




On the back of the device we have the AUX-in jack port, micro USB port (for charging the device) and a LED indicator to indicate if the battery is low, it will do this by flashing red.




On the top of the device, we have the speaker grill.




On the bottom of the device we have the controls for music (pause/play, next and previous track buttons and you can increase or decrease the volume by holding down the previous and next track buttons) and the power on/off slider. We also have a rubbery surface to stop the device from sliding around as well as protecting your table from scratches, it also helps with dampening the sound.




The bluetooth wireless range is very good (HISgadget state a range of up to 33 feet!), I had to go to the other end of my house in order for the speaker to break up so you will have no problems in this area.


Audio Quality:


It is extremely easy to connect to this device using bluetooth, you just need to pair the device with your phone/tablet and that is it, you are good to go.


I wasn't expecting much from this speaker at first, however, I was pleasantly surprised, it gets very loud with no distortion and has good sound quality overall, perhaps a little bit muffled, quite a bit of bass (maybe a bit too much for my liking) and decent enough clarity. Overall it is much better than my nexus 5, moto g speaker and even my nexus 7 2013 tablet stereo speaker, however, my nexus 7 2013 has better clarity.


The only downside is that you can hear white noise (regardless of what the volume level is set too or what you are listening to/watching), for some this might be a bit off-putting, personally it bothers me quite a bit as it is one of those things that once you notice, you will always notice it.


In the user manual, it is stated to turn off wifi to improve the sound quality, however, there was no difference to my ears likewise with using wireless VS AUX/3.5mm cable.


There doesn't seem to be any obvious issue with the audio and video sync.


As for the call/speaker quality when it comes to phone calls, voices are clear enough but are bit muffled compared to my nexus 5 and moto g, as for how I sounded using the mic. on the wireless speaker, it was useless, I had to practically speak right into the mic. and even then people said I was still rather quiet, looking at other user reviews, this appears to just be a problem with my sample though as the majority say that the mic. has decent range and people only had issues hearing when the mic/speaker was more than 2 foot away from the person. Thankfully this isn't an issue for myself though since I never use loudspeaker.


Here is a video comparing the nexus 7 2013 speaker and the iclever speaker using the avengers age of ultron trailer on youtube:



Of course in real life, the speaker of both devices will sound much better than in this video.




This is a fantastic little speaker that improves the sound experience a lot, it is hard to use my nexus 5 speaker for music and youtube videos now due to the difference! However, for the likes of the HTC one phones, which have boomsound/front facing stereo speakers, there is no reason to use this or any other wireless speaker.


I feel that HISgadget could have done a lot better with the design of this speaker though, whilst it is nice looking, the placement of the controls etc. don't make any sense, in my opinion, they should have:


- placed the controls on the top of the device, that way, you don't have to lift the device every time you want to pause/play a song or change the track

- placed the battery indicator on the front/top as I have no idea if the speaker needs charging until it dies or constantly check the back or I could just turn it around to have it facing me but then the bluetooth/answer/reject button and mic. are facing away from me....


Regarding the battery life, it is estimated that you should get 8-12 hours of playtime and so far with my usage that is looking to be true (I keep the volume set to just below half way)


As for the price, I feel that it is pretty fair, there are other similar speakers out there for a bit cheaper, however, their specs. aren't quite as good as this + the design, build and feel doesn't look anywhere as good as this iclever speaker!



Now onto the fast 6 USB port charger, which comes in at £19.99!




The charger arrives in a very minimal box, inside we have just the charger and the power lead.




The charger:


Overall it fairly basic looking, most of the body has a matte plastic finish with a glossy plastic finish on the front and back. On the front at the top, we have a tiny green LED indicator.




At the front we have the 6 USB ports, inserting and removing USB cables is a little stiff, however, they should loosen up in time.




The charger is rather small, here is a photo of it next to an average sized mug:




The dimensions are: 100 x 69 x 27mm (L X W X H) and the weight is 180g.


I don't have 6 devices to make use of this charger but it is great to be able to free up 3 wall sockets so I can only imagine how handy this would be for people with 6 devices!


As for the charging speed, I started charging my nexus 5 when it had 20% left:


  • Using the default nexus 5 charger/adapter - it took 2 hours and 17 minutes to fully charge
  • Using this 6 port usb fast charger - it took 1 hour and 32 minutes to fully charge


So as you can see, quite the improvement!


One fairly annoying issue though... coil whine, for some reason, there is coil whine when only charging one device, however, if you charge 2+ devices at the same time, then the coil whine disappears, I tried different ports, different cables, devices etc. but it was always the same result.




Overall this is a fantastic little device, it is sleek looking, very portable, charges devices quicker than the default chargers, frees up wall sockets and doesn't cost too much. Apart from the coil whine when charging one device, which is quite common with most charger devices anyway, there isn't really much to dislike about it except the glossy plastic finish.... 

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      A key feature of the Surface Pro X is 4G LTE cellular connectivity, which means that you're always connected. Well, as long as you're near a cellular network. Personally, this is a must-have feature for me on a PC. In 2020, everything should connect to the internet instantly.

      The nice thing about cellular connectivity is that you don't have to worry about connecting to Wi-Fi. Sure, I'm on Wi-Fi when at home, since I don't want to use up my data plan. But when I'm out, it's just so much easier to use cellular. You don't have to worry about ending up on the Starbucks mailing list, the insecurity of public Wi-Fi, dealing with slow hotel Wi-Fi or hunting down a password in an airport lounge. It just makes life easier.

      The thing that really surprised me is that there's no 5G on the Surface Pro X, and frankly, that needed to be said. One of the key features of the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 is that it will require a 5G modem, just like Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 in phones. With Microsoft's custom version of it, there's no 5G modem. It's also not that hard to build support for sub6 5G. Presumably, the team is waiting until it's more mature.

      But as that statement implies, 5G is not mature, and right now, you won't see any noticeable speed improvement from 4G LTE to sub6 5G.

      Performance, battery life, and Windows on ARM
      This is sort of the meat of the review, because it's where you decide if this device is right for you. The SQ2 processor isn't a meaningful improvement over the SQ1, and Microsoft isn't trying to pretend that it is. In fact, those higher-end models that come with an SQ2 are priced exactly the same as their SQ1 counterparts.

      Let's start with some benchmarks. I used Geekbench because it's the only benchmarking application that I know of that runs natively on ARM64 (we'll get to native apps in a moment).

      Surface Pro X
      Microsoft SQ2 Surface Pro X
      Microsoft SQ1 Samsung Galaxy Book S
      Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Huawei MateBook E
      Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 Lenovo Miix 630
      Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Single-core 794 766 726 494 378 Multi-core 3,036 2,946 2,909 2,045 1,553
      As you can see, the Snapdragon 8cx is when we start seeing some major improvements. After all, it was the first ARM64 chipset designed from the ground up for PCs. The Microsoft SQ1 was pretty much an overclocked version of it, and then the SQ2 is a minor improvement on that.

      Now, let's talk about real-world performance. It's great, as long as you're using a native ARM64 application. If you compare a Snapdragon 8cx Windows on ARM PC to Intel's Y-series - which is for fanless devices - the Snapdragon PC easily wins in a speed test, assuming that both are running native apps.

      But not all apps are native. Windows on ARM supports native ARM and ARM64 apps, as well as emulated x86 (32-bit) apps. So you can still run most of what you want, like Chrome, Slack, and so on. Like I said, they run in emulation, so there's a performance impact. The biggest performance impact is in web browsers as they produce code in real-time, which can't be cached.

      Both Microsoft's Chromium-based Edge browser and Firefox run native to ARM64. Edge being built from Chromium is key, as Google has had Chrome ready to ship for over a year and just hasn't done it due to politics. I'd say stick to Edge wherever possible, and you can install PWAs as apps.

      Right now, there's no x64 emulation though. A year ago, we exclusively reported that x64 emulation is coming to Windows on ARM, and Microsoft made it official in September. The bad news is that it's coming to Insiders this month, meaning that unless you want to sign up for beta testing and put your PC in a potentially unstable state, you won't see the feature until probably next fall.

      Honestly, I don't miss x64 apps though. Sure, Adobe's apps like Premiere Pro and new versions of Photoshop require x64, although native Photoshop is coming. But seriously, this isn't really your video editing machine. I compared it to Intel Y-series earlier, and this is how I think of this type of PC. On an Intel Y-series PC, Premiere Pro would run so poorly that it might as well not be able to run.

      Finally, battery life is decent, although you're not getting the 15 hours promised in Microsoft's specs. Standby battery life easily beats Intel, and the promise of better battery life overall is actually true. But a thinner and lighter device almost always means a smaller battery. Combine a smaller battery with better battery life and you get, well, pretty much the same battery life you'd get on an Intel-powered product.

      I love the Surface Pro X, and it's still the only truly premium Windows on ARM PC out there. Lenovo put out the Flex 5G this summer for $1,499, but for such a price, it only came with 8GB RAM and an FHD display. To my knowledge, I do believe that Microsoft is the only one offering a Windows on ARM PC with 16GB RAM.

      Another thing that I love about this particular iteration is that it really doesn't have a good reason to exist. It's a very minor upgrade, and Microsoft didn't have to do it. The Surface team is known for being conservative with such things too. But rather than just wait for when it can produce a major upgrade, Microsoft saw a way that it could provide a better experience for users, and it went for it.

      All of my complaints are really minor. The biggest one is that there's no headphone jack, and that's really the only thing worth knocking a point off of the verdict for. There's also no charging indicator, and no 5G. Like I said about the latter, you really won't miss 5G anyway. If it was a phone, I'd tell you to future-proof and wait for 5G, but assuming that you're not using cellular as much on a PC, it's fine. And of course, I want more pen colors.

      But this device is a delight. Other than loving that Microsoft even bothered with an upgraded chipset, I love the new colors. The Platinum chassis blew me away in a way that I didn't think it would, and the new Surface Keyboard colors make the Surface Pro X official to me, as colorful accessories have been a staple to the Surface lineup in day one.

      If you're looking for a buy or don't buy, obviously don't buy if you've got a Surface Pro X with an SQ1. But if you're looking for a slim, ultra-portable tablet that's stylish and is frankly a lot of fun, definitely have a look at the Surface Pro X.

    • By Rich Woods
      iPhone 12 Pro Max review: Do not buy this phone
      by Rich Woods

      Last year when I reviewed the iPhone 11 Pro, I titled it "an actual, meaningful upgrade". I called it that for two reasons. The first is that coming out of the gate, it was severely underestimated, using the same design for the third year in a row, and it's tough to get over the hump of the idea that it's not new if it doesn't look new. The other reason was that it actually was a significant upgrade. Apple produced a smartphone camera that was competitive for the first time in years, and battery life was phenomenal.

      This year's iPhone 12 Pro series is what you'd expect in a follow-up. The design has been overhauled using flat edges in a throwback to the iPhone 4, the OLED screen looks even better, and the camera is improved, especially on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It's a lovely device.

      But you shouldn't buy it. Apple and Google both went all-in on facial recognition last year, ditching fingerprint sensors. Obviously, they couldn't predict a pandemic that was on the way that would render facial recognition useless when wearing a mask. Google adapted, adding a fingerprint sensor to this year's Pixel 5. Apple did not, opting to release the entire iPhone 12 series with Face ID only.

      For that reason, I simply won't be able to recommend the iPhone 12 Pro Max, or any iPhone 12 for that matter. As long as we're wearing masks in public, you're better off using something with a fingerprint sensor, and if you're more comfortable in the Apple ecosystem, all sign point to just waiting until next year.

      CPU A14 Bionic, dual 3.1GHz, quad 1.8GHz, Apple GPU (quad-core), next-gen Neural Engine Display 6.7 inches, 2778x1284, 458ppi, OLED, 19.5:9 Body 160.8x78.1x7.4mm (6.33x3.07x0.29in), 228g (8.03oz) Memory 6GB RAM, 128GB / 256GB / 512GB storage Camera 12MP f/1.6 + 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide + 12MP f/2.2 2.5x telephoto, Front - 12MP f/2.2 Video capture 4K - 60fps Battery 3,687mAh, 20W fast charging Colors Graphite, Gold, Silver, Pacific Blue Price $1,099 / $1,199 / $1,399
      Day one
      Notably, there's no power adapter in the box, just a USB Type-C to Lightning cable. If any other manufacturer did this, I wouldn't care. After all, we do all have power adapters, and a lot of the stuff that comes with modern devices is wasteful. The only problem is that most people still have 5W Apple power adapters, which is what Apple has been shipping forever, even when fast charging was supported.

      So not only will you not have a fast charger if you use one that you already have, but you won't even be able to use the cable that came in the box. Your adapter uses USB Type-A, and this is USB Type-C. Just the iPhone 11 Pro series came with an 18W USB Type-C adapter.

      Also, there are no more Lightning headphones in the box, which is totally fine by me. I haven't used one of those in quite a long time, and I suspect that Apple has some telemetry on how many people use them.

      Apple's entire iPhone 12 series offers the first full redesign since the iPhone X was introduced three years ago. In fact, as far as the chassis goes, you could probably make the case that Apple has been using the same design since the iPhone 6. Of course, you could also say that this is a recycled iPhone 4 design. Maybe it's best not to overthink it and just say that we have something that looks completely new.

      The iPhone 12 Pro series comes in four colors: Graphite, Silver, Gold, and the new Pacific Blue. Graphite is basically Space Gray rebranded for the new design. When I purchased this phone, I initially picked Pacific Blue. After all, I do usually get the new color, which would make sense to replace my Midnight Green iPhone 11 Pro. But a few hours after pre-orders began, I canceled my order and switched to Gold, because this new Gold color really pops.

      You see, being that the iPhone 12 Pro Max shipped a few weeks after the iPhone 12 Pro, I was able to go to an Apple Store to actually see the colors in person, something that you usually can't do when pre-ordering an iPhone. Personally, I think the Silver and Gold models look the best, Pacific Blue is the one for those that want the new color, and Graphite is for those that just always buy Space Gray.

      The back of the phone is still made out of frosted glass, and on the Gold model, it's still a sort of beige. You'll still get a gray back with Graphite, white with Silver, and so on. It's got gold accents all over though, which is what really makes it stand out. The three rear cameras are surrounded by transparent glass, but each lens has a gold border around them.

      The stainless steel frame is flat, a throwback to the iPhone 4-style design that I mentioned earlier. And the frame is wider than the glass back or front, so if you look at it directly from either side, you can see the accent around the entire border. It's quite nice.

      Unfortunately for some, you'll still find the Lightning port on the bottom of the device. Now that the iPhone 12 series has been announced for over a month, that means that we're well on the way with rumors about the iPhone 13 having USB Type-C, just like every year.

      The rest is the same too. On the left side, there's a volume rocker and above that, a switch to control notifications. Personally, I love that switch and it's one of my favorite features of iPhones. OnePlus is the only Android OEM I know of that does this, and it's just so useful. Also on the left side is the nano-SIM slot, so that's the one thing that's been moved. The power button is still on the right side.

      The iPhone 12 Pro Max is surprisingly comfortable to use, and perhaps I feel that way because I had such low expectations for this device. I've always criticized Apple for having big, flat backs that just aren't as comfortable to hold as curved backs. I will note that if you're moving from something smaller, you'll definitely notice it. I came from the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro.

      One of the new features that caught a lot of attention is MagSafe. MagSafe was a popular MacBook feature which was all about a magnetic charger. The idea was that if you went and tripped over the charging cable, the cable would fall out of your MacBook rather than pulling your MacBook crashing to the floor.

      It's been replaced with USB Type-C on the laptop side of things, but now MagSafe is here for iPhone in the form of wireless charging. Like a good reviewer, I purchased a $39 MagSafe charger alongside my iPhone 12 Pro Max, and no, it does not come with a power adapter. It's just a USB Type-C cable with a magnetic disc on the other end.

      The disc attaches to the back of the iPhone and charges it. Yes, it seems simple, and perhaps that's the beauty of it. Personally, I think that the MagSafe charger is also pointless. After all, it's just a cable with a wireless charger on the end; why not just use a wired charger?

      But of course, MagSafe has other applications. For example, Apple's cases support MagSafe too, and you can add other accessories on the back like a magnetic wallet. Belkin makes a MagSafe car mount, letting you mount your phone on your dashboard without a clip. That Belkin product is the only MagSafe item that actually got me excited, but sadly, it's not out yet.

      MagSafe is a cool idea, and frankly, its potential relies on the ecosystem of products that are released around it.

      Despite not being a high refresh rate display like virtually all of Apple's competitors, this screen is amazing. If you want proof, check out DisplayMate's analysis of the display, which gives it top-notch results. Yes, I will always make notch puns, because why not?

      Ever since the iPhone X, Apple has had its big notch at the top of the display which includes sensors for Face ID and a front-facing camera. But also, the bezels are black, something that wasn't the case previously. Before the iPhone X, you had to get a Space Gray iPhone to get black bezels on the screen. I know; dark times.

      The bezels are a bit smaller this year, as the display is a bit bigger at 6.7 inches. Given the new design, it looks amazing. The true blacks on the OLED display blend right into the black bezels, and it really makes you feel like you're just holding a big screen. It has a 2778x1284 resolution for a 458ppi pixel density, and Apple is calling it Super Retina XDR.

      But as I said from the beginning, the down side is that it doesn't have a high refresh rate. Apple is sticking with a 60Hz screen for now, while companies like Huawei and Motorola are making 90Hz screens, and companies like Samsung and OnePlus are releasing phones with 120Hz screens. The higher refresh rates make for smoother motions.

      Still, this screen just looks so good. And of course, refresh rate rumors for the iPhone 13 should be right up there with the USB Type-C rumors.

      The camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is awesome. Let me explain something about my use case as a reviewer. I always get excited for the annual iPhone release because it's annual. I'll use this device for about six months, and I'll inevitably move back to Android in the spring since most OEMs have spring and fall releases. What I'm getting at is that I've been using a variety of Android phones for about six months.

      And it feels good to be using the iPhone 12 Pro Max. There are definitely some great cameras on Android phones, such as those from Google and Huawei, but Apple provides a more complete experience. Google's Pixel 5 is great, but it's certainly not premium in the way that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is. Huawei's P40 Pro+ is awesome too, but you really can't buy it in the U.S. And in this reviewer's opinion, you should never buy a Samsung phone if you care about what your pictures will look like.

      So let's talk about the new camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It's a larger sensor for better low-light performance, and all three cameras are still 12MP. However, this year, the Pro Max doesn't have the same camera as the Pro as it has in years past. The iPhone 12 Pro Max actually has a better telephoto lens that gets you 2.5x zoom instead of 2x zoom.

      The bad news is that lossless zoom is something that Apple still isn't taking seriously. You have companies like Huawei that are putting both a 3x and a 10x zoom lens on a phone to do some crazy stuff with hybrid zoom, and Apple is boasting 2.5x. Well, actually, it's boasting 5x zoom because it counts it from the ultra-wide sensor.

      Video recording is improved as well. You can now record HDR video with Dolby Vision, and it looks beautiful. Indeed, Apple has long been the king of video capture, so just hearing that it's getting even better is great news. Unfortunately, you do have to switch to "high efficiency" video to get Dolby Vision HDR, just like if you want to record in 4K 60fps.

      Gallery: iPhone 12 Pro Max samples
      There are a few things to note here. If you're using the main sensor, it seems like you actually have to try to take a bad picture, like by shutting off night mode. And yes, night mode kicks on automatically. That's one of the nice things about Apple's camera features. While night mode has been a thing for a long time (Huawei was the first), Apple takes the thought out of it.

      Night mode works with all three lenses, but you'll still notice that both ultra-wide and 2.5x zoom images struggle at night. In fact, when you switch to another lens, you'll almost always see the night mode indicator change the amount of time for exposure in an effort to compensate.

      But here's the best part, or at least my favorite part. I really didn't have to throw out any images for this review. With almost every other phone, I throw out a ton of low-light images that are out of focus, blurry from movement, and so on. So many phones take too long to focus, especially in low light. And they can also take forever to take a picture, and if you're not paying attention, you might move the phone before it actually takes the shot, leaving you with a blurry mess.

      I didn't have those issues with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and frankly, it was kind of refreshing. This is a big issue that I've seen with devices from LG and OnePlus particularly.

      Apple's camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is among the best around. The one area where it doesn't keep up is lossless zoom. While the ultra-wide and telephoto lenses can struggle in low-light, this isn't uncommon due to the nature of these types of sensors, and I do think that Apple does a better job than most of its competitors. But things like image processing, video capture, general low-light performance, ease-of-use, and more are really the best around.

      Performance and battery life
      The iPhone 12 Pro Max is probably the most powerful smartphone in the world. Apple's custom processors regularly beat out what Qualcomm has to offer, and if Qualcomm does come out on top, it's the following spring. You see, Apple releases new iPhones with brand new processors in the fall, and Qualcomm releases its new Snapdragon chipsets in the spring, so sometimes we see a back and forth.

      Apple's A14 Bionic chipset is impressive, to say the least. It's the first 5nm SoC to be used in a smartphone, and we're also seeing it in the new iPad Air. With Dolby Vision video recording, Apple billed this as the first device that can record, edit, and compile Dolby Vision video, so it's got some power.

      Battery life is fantastic as well. In many (if not most cases), the iPhone 12 Pro Max still had 50% battery life left when I went to sleep. Obviously, the battery is much bigger than the one that I had in my iPhone 11 Pro, although it is smaller than the battery in the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which had a 3,969mAh battery.

      The entire iPhone 12 series supports 20W fast charging, even if you do have to buy the adapter separately. And of course, it supports 15W wireless charging, along with the new MagSafe technology.

      For benchmarks, I used Geekbench 5, AnTuTu, and GFXBench. First up is Geekbench 5, which tests the CPU.

      For one thing, you'll notice that the A14 has the best single-core score of any A-series chip yet, but it's still beaten in multi-core by both the A12Z and A12X that's found in Apple's iPad Pro. But you can also see that it beats the A13 in both categories by quite a bit.

      We can compare this to Samsung's Galaxy S20+, which uses Qualcomm's latest processor, the Snapdragon 865, and got 909 on single-core and 3,160 on multi-core. Lenovo's Legion Phone Duel, which has a Snapdragon 865+, got 979 and 3,409, respectively. Next up is AnTuTu, which tests everything.

      In this case, the Legion Phone Duel scores 612,768. The OnePlus 8 Pro scored 576,696, but somehow they both beat the iPhone in the CPU category. Perhaps AnTuTu changed how it does scoring at some point. Finally, GFXBench tests the GPU.

      MagSafe got its own section in this review because it was something that people got excited about during the event. 5G gets its own section because, well, Apple got excited about it. Yes, Apple spent a great deal of time talking up 5G, and for some reason, Verizon's 5G specifically.

      So let's break down 5G, including why you need it in a smartphone, and why you really have nothing to be excited about. First of all, here's why you need it: you're spending a thousand dollars on a pocket computer and you should be future-proofed. Seriously, I wouldn't recommend a 4G phone to anyone right now unless you're spending under $400. But you're not spending under $400; you're buying an iPhone.

      The bad news is that you will probably never notice any meaningful change over 4G LTE. Perhaps the experience will evolve over time, but there's nothing right now. I know what you're thinking, didn't Apple and Verizon talk about crazy gigabit speeds? Yes, and that's what every company is doing to talk up 5G right now, but it's also meaningless.

      5G is a combination of sub6 bands and mmWave bands. Millimeter wave (mmWave) bands are high frequency waves that offer super-fast, multi-gigabit speeds. The only problem is that they can't penetrate, well, anything. For mmWave to work, you need to be in line-of-sight with an antenna. Even a window will block it. Companies will hype up the ability to download a whole season of a show while waiting in line to board a plane. Just be careful not to put your phone in your pocket while it's downloading, or the speeds will drop drastically.

      Here's something that you can actually try with a mmWave smartphone. Go find a mmWave antenna. You'll have to go to a major city for this. Run a speed test and watch the super-fast data flow in. In the middle of the test, just put your hand in-between your phone and the 5G base station, and watch how quickly the speed drops.

      In other words, mmWave is pretty useless. That's where sub6 comes in. Sub6 covers frequencies below 6GHz, and they consist of low-band and mid-band frequencies. T-Mobile is doing the best here because it actually has its own 600MHz spectrum, and the 2.5GHz band that it picked up from Sprint.

      The idea is the lower the frequency, the better it is at penetrating buildings. Also, it's easier for your phone to send a signal back to the base station. Remember, the base station is much more powerful for sending a signal to your phone than your phone is at sending the signal back.

      I use T-Mobile, and I was happy to finally see the 5G signal light up on an iPhone. I did run into some connectivity issues, but I later found out that that was due to a single app using 45GB of cellular data over the course of just 48 hours, so now I'm throttled for a while. That app was The Weather Channel by the way, and if anyone has a weather app that they really love, feel free to let me know.

      The iPhone 12 Pro Max is an absolutely delightful device, and I love it. After using Android for about six months, it felt good to use this phone, and it got me thinking about what a comparable Android smartphone would be.

      I couldn't think of one. I'm a fan of OnePlus devices like the 8 Pro, which has a beautiful QHD 120Hz OLED display and it's blazing-fast, but the camera doesn't even come close to what Apple is offering. Google's Pixels are always among my favorites, and while the camera is fantastic, it just doesn't feel premium. Like OnePlus, Samsung makes great hardware, but its image processing is so bad that I'd never carry it anywhere if I'm planning to capture an actual memory with a smartphone camera. Huawei phones are great, but they aren't sold in the U.S. and don't have Google services.

      The iPhone 12 Pro Max is perfect in almost every way. It's got the fastest internals, a stunning design, a nearly perfect display, and one of the best cameras around. It would be the complete package, if there wasn't a pandemic going on.

      But there is a pandemic going on, and most of us have to wear masks when we go out. If I'm at the supermarket and I open OneNote for my shopping list, I have to type a PIN, like a barbarian. Seriously, for a company that champions itself as one that cares about the issues, releasing a smartphone without a fingerprint sensor was incredibly tone-deaf, and for that reason, I simply can't recommend buying one.

      If this pandemic ends and we go back to a world where being limited to facial recognition makes sense, then by all means, I recommend the iPhone 12 Pro Max. But until that happens, this device has to stay on the do not buy list. And the longer it takes, the better off you are just waiting for the iPhone 13.

    • By indospot
      Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. review: A great homage to Nintendo's classics
      by João Carrasqueira

      On September 3, Nintendo announced its celebrations of the 35th anniversary of the launch of Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The Mario franchise is arguably one of, if not the most recognizable name in the industry, so naturally, Nintendo likes to flaunt it.

      As part of the celebrations, we got Super Mario All-Stars added to the Nintendo Switch Online's library of SNES games; Super Mario 3D All-Stars released as a collection of the three first 3D Mario games; Super Mario Bros. 35, a battle royale-style adaptation of the original game; and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, a real-life Mario Kart game that lets users create their own courses at home and play on them alone or with friends who also have the game.

      The most recent launch as part of the anniversary is the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros., and this one celebrates more than the 35th anniversary of Mario. It also celebrates Nintendo's first success in gaming, the Game & Watch. Each of these products stands on its own as a piece of Nintendo history, and you can see that with how the packaging is designed to showcase Super Mario Bros. at first, but also the original Game & Watch: Ball game once you slide the box out of the plastic wrap.

      Game & Watch origins
      It may not hold as much of a place in many people's memories, but the Game & Watch was how Nintendo started seeing success in the gaming industry, all the way back in 1980 - meaning this is the device's 40th anniversary, too. The original Game & Watch devices were designed with calculator-type screens, and they were simple endurance games, having the player perform certain actions for as long as possible before messing up their streak. The content on the screen couldn't change beyond what fits in a single frame, so this was the only kind of game that could be crafted, and it also meant that each Game & Watch device had a single game, with many iterations being released over the years.

      Game & Watch: Ball (2009 re-issue) | Image credit: masatsu (Flickr) The device was conceptualized and designed by Gunpei Yokoi, who was riding a train when he noticed a man fiddling with a calculator to kill some time on the ride. The name Game & Watch is about as self-explanatory as it gets. It was a game, but when you paused it, it constantly displayed the time, so it could be used as a pocket watch. You couldn't turn the console off entirely, so the watch was always there, and an alarm was also added in later models.

      The Game & Watch was also the birthplace of some features that would eventually become staples of Nintendo products. The cross-shaped D-pad was first used in the Game & Watch adaptation of Donkey Kong in 1982, before it was used in the Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES) controller in 1983. Donkey Kong was also part of the Multi Screen series of the Game & Watch, with the clamshell design and dual screens being an obvious inspiration for the Nintendo DS in 2004. Even the idea of detachable controllers we see with the Nintendo Switch bears some resemblance to the Micro Vs. series of the Game & Watch.

      All in all, the Game & Watch products sold 43.4 million units worldwide, and they became Nintendo's first big success in the gaming industry. Sadly, I don't personally own one, or I didn't until the Super Mario Bros. edition.

      Design and display
      A lot of the identity of the original Game & Watch lineup lives on in this new Super Mario Bros. version. The look seems to mostly derive from the Gold and Wide Screen series of the Game & Watch, but it can also be interpreted as a reference to the Famicom controller, which was itself red and gold. The gold-colored plate on the front is metal, which makes the device feel much more premium.

      Having never owned a Game & Watch before, I was surprised at how compact this thing is. It's quite small, and also very thin, which I think adds to the premium feel. It also makes it super easy to carry around if you just want something to help you kill some time throughout the day. However, it can be a bit uncomfortable to play for longer periods, especially if you have big hands.

      There are, however, some things here that weren't in the original Game & Watch devices. For one thing, there's a power button, so you can actually turn the device off, or put it in sleep mode, at least. The battery is also rechargeable here, and it charges via USB Type-C. It's great to see that Nintendo didn't cheap out and use micro-USB or something. It's a retro device but modern enough to not be annoying. A USB Type-A to Type-C cable is included, but you need to provide a power adapter yourself. In terms of omissions, the original Game & Watch devices had a kickstand, which you don't get here.

      Of course, another big change from the classic Game & Watch models is the display. This version plays a couple of games from the NES, so a color backlit display is used instead of the calculator-style LCDs of the past. I was shocked at how good the display really is. It gets very bright and as far as displaying NES games goes, it looks phenomenal. The pixels are also so small here that it helps these games feel less dated than they actually are, and they feel right at home on this tiny device.

      Sound is also as fine as it needs to be for NES games. The single tiny speaker on the left side gets surprisingly loud, and the quality is more than good enough for the sounds you'll hear from these games.

      Games and controls
      As you'd probably expect, the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. allows you to play Super Mario Bros. from the NES, but it also includes Super Mario bros.: The Lost Levels, here referred to by its original Japanese name, Super Mario Bros. 2. The Western Super Mario Bros. 2 was actually a completely different game based on another title, Doki Doki Panic, but the one included here is very similar to the first Super Mario Bros., albeit with some cranked up difficulty. There's also a recreation of the original Game & Watch game Ball, now starring Mario as the main character instead of Mr. Game & Watch.

      The games are recreated nearly perfectly on this device, including the copious amounts of sprite flickering you'd get in NES games and some bugs from the original versions. There are, however, some bonuses and changes here and there. For example, you can press the B button on the title screen for both Super Mario Bros. games to start from a specific world, as long as you've made your way to that world before. You can also hold A when starting a game to start with infinite lives. Additionally, after beating the original Super Mario Bros., you unlock Hard mode on the title screen, whereas the original game only allowed you to play it if you kept the system on after beating the base game. For Ball, in addition to playing as Mario, you can also play as Luigi by holding the A button on the title screen for five seconds. Sadly, there's no option to play as Mr. Game & Watch.

      All the games control really well here, with no input delays, and the controls somehow feel tighter than I remember them being for these games. I've never had a situation where I blamed the controls for a death or something like that.

      The buttons themselves feel good too. The D-pad is made of hard plastic, and it has a nice tactility to it without feeling too harsh when it actuates. The A and B buttons are made of a rubber-like material, and that may sound terrible, but it actually works well. While the buttons are very soft, they still have nice actuation, and again, I've never been able to blame the controls for losing in a game. They end up feeling comfortable, and the rubber gives them more grip than hard plastic would.

      Extra features
      Of course, it wouldn't be a Game & Watch without a watch, and Nintendo also designed one themed around Mario. The clock screen features an animated screen with Mario running through the bottom, and various characters from Mario games appearing from time to time. The time of day on the screen changes throughout the day, and there are 35 easter eggs that happen at different times of the day, such as the blocks that display the time changing to coins at 5:55 (AM and PM). You can also just see a simple clock by pausing any of the games.

      From the watch screen, you can press the A button for five seconds to listen to the Mario Drawing Song, which was originally available in 2010 as a promotion for a Mario-themed contest in the Nintendo DSi application Flipnote Studio. The song is only available in English, but you can choose subtitles for different languages. Nintendo issued a warning prior to the release, though, as many non-English languages are mixed up and selecting one language will display the lyrics in another.

      This issue can't be fixed, and that's because there's no way to update or change the software on this system. The USB Type-C port has no data throughput, meaning there's no way to push anything onto it. That also means that, if you were hoping to turn this device into some sort of tiny emulation machine, you won't be able to, at least not without physically opening up the device and some very advanced tinkering.

      Another neat little bonus for Nintendo fans is the artwork that's displayed after the device has been idle for some time. After three minutes of inactivity, the Game & Watch goes to sleep, but before it does, you get to see some art of Mario and other characters, which varies depending on the time of day and what you were doing before the device was idle. The artwork depicts Mario and Luigi's outfits in the same colors as in the games featured in this package instead of their official colors, which gives them an interesting touch. These colors weren't even used for official artwork when the games released, so it's definitely an interesting decision by Nintendo.

      The Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is probably one of the coolest collectible items Nintendo has made. It's a wonderful blend of products that defined the early days of Nintendo's history in the gaming market, combining the premium-feeling design of the Game & Watch with the most iconic game of the 1980s. The color display is beautiful and a perfect fit for these titles, and the controls feel really good overall.

      I also love all the little extra bonuses thrown onto the package, like the clock, the special artwork, and the Game & Watch: Ball game. Plus, some of the options added to the games make it much easier to actually finish them, ditching the old-school approach of having to beat games in one go.

      The small and thin design can get a little uncomfortable for long play sessions, but it stays true to Game & Watch brand, and this is more of a collector's item than an ideal way to play these games in my view. I still think it's a great way to play them, and if you're a parent trying to introduce kids to the early days of Nintendo, then this will likely be a perfect fit for their small hands.

      It can be hard to justify or evaluate the price of a collectible. Like I said, it's not the absolute best way to play these games, and the fact that it only has these three games means it's definitely not meant to be compared with actual consoles. But the way it brings together elements of Nintendo's history, plus the bonuses thrown in here, do make this a fantastic device for die-hard Nintendo fans like myself. If you happen to be one, too, then I think the $50 price tag is definitely justified.