Erato’s Muse 5 wireless in-ear headphones give AirPods a run for their money

Apple’s AirPods are probably the first really mainstream completely wireless headphones, but Erato has been making these for a while now. The company’s latest is the Muse 5, a set of in-ear buds that are cheaper than their debut Apollo 7 option, but still come with a charging case and very respectable battery life.

The Muse 5’s least impressive feature might be their design – it’s a bit like you’re putting bulky buds you found at the local gas station in your ears, with the plastic construction and contrasting color plastic ring on each unit. But they are completely wireless, and effectively so, which is not something you’ll get at the gas station, obviously. Plus, their design is ergonomic – the two-part ear canal soft silicon tips ensure a snug fit, at least in my experience, without requiring tricks like memory foam to ensure a seal.

The overall look and feel of the Muse 5 contrasts considerably with Erato’s Apollo 7, the wireless buds it released last year. But the Muse 5 gets a bit more battery life than its predecessor, with four hours of music playback per full charge instead of just three, and the case packs enough backup charge to get you up to 12 hours of playback without having to connect to a plug-in power source.

Muse 5 is also more unobtrusive than the Apollo 7, which stick some distance out of your ears. They’re also more subtle than Apple’s own AirPods, provided you get the black version, and they’re more likely to sit comfortably and securely in your ears if you happen to have ear shapes that don’t work with Apple’s native wireless buds.

 Sound quality is good on the Muse 5, better than you might expect given the build quality and materials used. They sound as good as wired earbuds in this price range, and have better sound isolation than Apple’s AirPods, and potentially better sound depending on how you like your tunes. The built-in microphone also works well, despite not having any special beam forming magic, although you wont’ want to use it for more than issuing Siri commands and making quick calls.

After trying a number of different sets of completely wireless buds, the Muse 5 strike a good balance in terms of price tag, features, sound quality and design (though they’re lacking the most in this last area). I did experience very occasional dropouts, but that’s par for the course with even teh best among these devices. For $180, the Muse 5 is a good alternative to the AirPods that stand a much better chance of working with your ears, and with sound that won’t leave you wishing you’d waited for something better.

Floating Speakers, Neckbrace Audio, and Charming Caffeine Fixes

Welcome, dear friends, to another incarnation of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that occasionally peels its eyes from Super Mario Run to cast its gaze over the latest gadget announcements.

In the Mushroom Kingdom this time around are a levitating speaker, a speaker to hang around your neck, and an adorable coffee machine.

As ever, these are not reviews. The ratings reflect only how much I’d like to try each item with my own hands, tired as they may be from tearing apart wrapping paper.


Phonically Flying

LG features twice in this edition of the column with two very different but similarly strange speakers. The “Levitating Portable Speaker” (pictured above) has as descriptive and accurate a name as the “Small Transparent Speaker” from last month’s edition of this column. You can call it “PJ9” if you prefer the duller moniker.

Yes, through the magic of electromagnets and a base station, this speaker will levitate and pump out audio in every direction. LG’s Dual Passive Radiator system is designed to provide strong high- and mid-range tones.

The base station houses the subwoofer, and naturally doubles as the charger for the floaty part of the set up. The Levitating Portable Speaker has a reported battery life of 10 hours, which is impressive, and the speaker automatically sinks back down to the base station to recharge when need be. You can play audio while the speaker’s charging, but it’ll lose a little in form if not function during that period.

The PJ9 is IPX7-compliant, which will help it stand up to a sudden downpour if you’re using it at a picnic, and there’s an option to connect two Bluetooth devices simultaneously via multipoint technology.

The feature set of the Levitating Portable Speaker shows it’s far more than just a party trick. As with any speaker, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how much I might want this as part of my everyday life without hearing the audio firsthand. However, I admire the graceful design and would enjoy impressing a guest or two with my latest technology party trick.

Hanging Out to Dry

The other LG speaker we’re taking a look at this time around is the LG Tone Studio. This is even stranger than its stablemate and no doubt has raised some eyebrows at CES. This is no ordinary speaker, friends. This is one you wear around your neck.

LG Tone Studio speakers

This futuristic neckbrace employs four speakers to direct surround sound toward the wearer’s ears. It includes a vibration function, and it aims to provide theater-style sound wherever you might be. That’s all well and good if you watch a lot of movies at home, don’t mind looking silly, and don’t really have the capacity for a complex speaker system or a soundbar — or if you want to hear the movie’s audio just as well while you’re fixing some mid-film snacks or beverages.

However, I dread the day I ever run into someone using one of these on public transport. People playing music through their phone speaker on a bus or a subway deserve the type of punitive measures reserved for the worst war criminals. Boosting their capacity to annoy everyone with a quartet of speakers thumping out surround sound sounds exactly like the kind of future I want no part of.

Thanks, LG, for potentially ruining everything for everyone should certain people actually buy this trifling gizmo.

Captivating Brews

If you’re a manufacturer (or part of a manufacturer’s marketing department) and want to convince me to buy the thing you’re trying to sell, the simplest, easiest way to boost your chances is to plonk a pair of googly eyes on it and tell me it’s cute.

A pair of students went one further when they affixed a pair of arms to a coffee machine and allowed people to control the system using Alexa. One arm grabs and inserts a filter, while the other grabs some grounds to brew delicious java.

If you’re so inclined, you can ask this glorious creation to provide you with weather updates and any other information you might wish Alexa to deliver.

Sadly, the creators haven’t figured out a way to make the machine brew coffee through voice instruction. That still requires manual operation. Still, it’s neat that you can get the coffee ready for brewing (assuming the water tank is filled), so all you have to do is tap a button.

Let’s get real, though. It could be the most useless hunk of junk on the planet, and I’d still want it thanks to those adorable googly eyes. What is it they say about suckers and births every minute, again?

Microsoft Nearly Doubles the Price of Xbox Live Gold in India

One of the bigger plus points to owning an Xbox One in India is Xbox Live Gold. The subscription costs a mere Rs. 2,240 a year and gives four free games a month, in addition to allowing for online multiplayer. However it appears that Xbox Live just became a lot dearer.

Gadgets 360 has discovered that the company plans to hike its prices for an Xbox Live subscription in a big way. We received an email from the company stating that Xbox One gamers will be paying Rs. 3,999 per year — almost double of its current price.

Microsoft Nearly Doubles the Price of Xbox Live Gold in India

The reason for this, seems to be due to currency fluctuations.

“After carefully evaluating the currency changes within India, and with the understanding that our offerings always provide a balance of service and value for our customers, we will be adjusting the price of our Xbox Live Gold subscriptions,” an email from the company read.

“As such the price of your Xbox Live Gold Subscription will be increasing. As of February 28, 2017, the price of your 12-month Xbox Live subscription will increase from INR 2,240 to INR 3,999.”

The email goes onto state that if your subscription is set to auto-renew before February 28, you will get a year’s worth of Xbox Live Gold for Rs. 2,240. Anytime after that, and its Rs. 3,999. The one month subscription will be Rs. 699 instead of the usual Rs. 350. You can check out the entire email below:

Xbox Live India price Xbox_live_gold

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has increased the price of its games or services in India. In the past, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for PC saw a near 100 percent price hike.

ALSO SEEXbox One S Controller Coming to India, No Xbox One S Console This Year: Sources

For what its worth, Sony has had a Rs. 3,999 price for its one year PS Plus subscription while offering a month’s worth for Rs. 576. With this price hike, it makes owning an Xbox One more expensive than it should be. And with no plans to release the Xbox One S and the fate of certain Xbox One games coming on disc uncertain, it’s not a good time to be an Xbox One owner.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft India for comment and will update this the moment we hear from the company.

Update, January 31, 2017: Microsoft has replied to our request for comment, citing ‘changing market conditions.’

“We occasionally update pricing in a given market to address changing market conditions. For example, fluctuations in currency value. We do so always keeping in mind that our goal is to offer our members a premium gaming and entertainment service at a fair price,” a spokesperson for Microsoft confirmed to Gadgets 360. “In this case, there are a small number of markets we will be updating Xbox Live Gold pricing in. We have notified members whose accounts are on auto-renew in those countries so they are aware well in advance.”

Fitbit to Reportedly Layoff Up to 10 Percent of Its Workforce After Weak Q4

Fitbit’s recent revenue reports have been hammering the company and this is reportedly forcing the fitness wearables giant to make some tough choices. After its quarterly report on Monday, the company is expected to layoff up to 10 percent of its workforce. Fitbit currently employs 1,600 people and is expected to layoff somewhere between 80 to 160 workers.

Fitbit to Reportedly Layoff Up to 10 Percent of Its Workforce After Weak Q4

According to a report by The Information, Fitbit is set to announce a poor fourth quarter result. The reason behind this being a slowdown in the wearables sector, according to unnamed people familiar with the matter cited by the publication. The expected report comes after a dismal third quarter in November where shares of the company plummeted more than 30 percent during the October-December quarter.

The report further states that the layoffs are expected to save the company approximately $200 million. Fitbit declined to comment on the report but a source reportedly indicated that the company could be interested in developing an app store and opening its wearables to third-party developers.

While Fitbit’s lineup does include smartwatches like Fitbit Blaze, the watch, however, does not work with thrid-party apps due to which the company is unable to take on the likes of Apple and Samsung.

Fitbit’s shift to apps makes sense following its recent acquisition of Pebble and its software in a deal valued at under $40 million (roughly Rs. 270 crores).

In order for Fitbit to recover, the company, with Pebble’s technology, is now perhaps looking to move towards smartwatches and away from fitness trackers which have so far generated poorer-than-expected revenue.

As of now, it isn’t clear whether the layoffs include Pebble employees as well. Fitbit is expected to announce more in the days to come after it releases its quarterly figures.

AirPods Will Be Shipped in ‘Next Few Weeks’, Alleged Email From Tim Cook Reads

AirPods Will Be Shipped in 'Next Few Weeks', Alleged Email From Tim Cook ReadsApple had promised to begin shipping the wireless AirPods in October, however, the company has since delayed shipments with no clear timeline as to when customers can expect them. Now, in an allegedl customer response email, CEO Tim Cook himself has said that the shipment should roll out in the next few weeks.

MacRumors got hold of this email response; however it refrains from vouching for its credibility. Cook’s response to the grievance mail clearly mentions that Apple will begin shipping the AirPods in the coming weeks. The grief email from the customer and Cook’s response can be read below:

Customer’s comment: “Give us a release date. I really bought in to the wireless vision you painted. Now I’m stuck waiting with my EarPods but can’t charge my 7 at the same time which I need to do at work. Let us know if it’s a month or 6 months, because then I’ll just buy some other wireless headphones.”

Tim Cook’s response: “Thanks for your note. Sorry for the delay—we are finalizing them and I anticipate we will begin to ship over the next few weeks.”

At its iPhone event in September, Apple got rid of the headphone jack on its iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plushandsets, and compensated for it by bundling Lightning-powered EarPods and launching the new wireless AirPods. The AirPods, whenever they arrive, can be bought for $159 (Rs. 15,400 in India).

They are powered by the company’s new W1 wireless chip, the company’s first wireless chip, which enables quick pairing and connectivity with the iPhone. The earphones feature dual optical sensors and accelerometers in each ear bud which work with the W1 chip to detect when the headphones are in your ears and only play when you’re ready to listen. Double-tapping the AirPods enables Siri, and the microphone is designed to focus on voice and filter out external sound.

The AirPods were expected to be announced in October, but Apple announced a delay reasoning that ‘it wasn’t ready to ship’. It was then tipped that the AirPods would be shipped starting November 30 but that didn’t happen either. There’s another rumour that the AirPods won’t be shipped before January 2017.

Zotac VR GO Backpack Launched in India: Price, Release Date, Specifications, and More

Zotac VR GO Backpack Launched in India: Price, Release Date, Specifications, and MoreZotac has announced the India price and availability of its VR GO backpack computer, which made waves across the world when it was unveiled in early November. The VR GO will be available online in India via Prime ABGB by the end of December, priced at Rs. 1,74,999. The mini computer went on sale in other regions priced at a hefty $1,999.99 (roughly Rs. 1,36,700), and the company has finally revealed complete specifications.

To recall, the Zotac VR GO is actually a mini PC that comes with detachable straps. This, alongside a removable battery pack, enables it to be carried like a backpack, and also enjoy virtual reality (VR) content on the go. The specifications of the system include the beefy Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card with 8GB of GDDR5 video RAM, making it more than capable of handling the demanding graphics required for the output of VR content.

zotac vr go box contents zotac
Apart from a well-endowed graphics card, the Zotac VR GO mini PC is powered by a 2.8GHz (up to 3.6GHz) quad-core Intel Core i7-6700T processor. The company is also using a “proprietary low-profile air cooling system” to keep the entire machine cool. The two 6600mAh batteries in the battery pack provide up to 2 hours of play time, the company says, and points out that they can be hot-swapped when it runs out. It weighs 4.95 kilograms, and comes with Windows 10 Home pre-installed.
zotac vr go ports zotac

Other specifications include 16GB of DDR4 2133MHz RAM (up to 32GB) and a 240GB M.2 PCIe SSD (with another 2.5-inch SATA 3.0 slot for upgrades). In terms of I/O options, the VR GO packs three HDMI 2.0 ports, two DisplayPort 1.3 ports, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports separate from four other USB 3.0 Type-A ports, two GbE ports, an SD card reader, and two 3.5mm headphone jacks. As for wireless connectivity, it offers Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2. The display ports together can power up to four displays, excluding the VR headset.

Zotac VR GO Backpack PC Straps Sports a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU

Zotac VR GO Backpack PC Straps Sports a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPUIn one of the most unique products to have ever come out from the company, Zotac has announced a mini PC named VR GO, which comes with detachable straps that enables users to carry it around as a backpack. However, don’t let the looks of the mini PC deceive you as it comes with hardware specifications capable enough to power even virtual reality content.

Zotac VR GO, as the name suggests, has been primarily designed keeping two things in mind, that is, portability and support for virtual reality content. As the company has provided detachable straps for the former, it has also equipped the machine with hardware specifications to support the latter.

The portable mini PC comes with a powerful GTX 1070 graphics card and an Intel Core i7 processor. In order to cool down the GPU and CPU, Zotac VR GO comes with a “proprietary low-profile air cooling system,” reports Anandtech.
In order to make the connectivity easy and simplified, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI output, and the power connector have all been put on the same side of the device. In addition to this, Zotac VR Go comes with a removable battery that actually makes it portable – however, Zotac has yet to provide battery life figures. If you want to expand the storage, the mini PC comes with a 2.5-inch bay for an SSD or an HDD.
Due to the above stated specifications, users can even turn the portable mini PC into a desktop PC by simply removing the straps. The price or the availability of Zotac VR GO has still not been announced by the company, beyond a Q4 2016 timeline for release

Logitech G213 Prodigy RGB Gaming Keyboard, G231 Prodigy Gaming Headset Launched in India

Logitech G213 Prodigy RGB Gaming Keyboard, G231 Prodigy Gaming Headset Launched in IndiaLogitech’s G Prodigy series of peripherals and accessories is meant to offer gamer-focused gear at an affordable price tag. The company introduced the new line back in September, and has since launched several products in it, from keyboards and mice to gaming headsets. On Tuesday, the company launched the G213 Prodigy RGB Gaming Keyboard and G231 Prodigy Gaming Headset in India, priced at Rs. 4,995 and Rs. 6,495 respectively. The products will become available in India from Thursday.

The highlights of the Logitech G213 Prodigy RGB Gaming Keyboard are its spill-resistant design, Mech-Dome keys, and of course, the five individual lighting zones for the backlit keys with up to 16.8 million colours. It also comes with a palm rest and adjustable feet, apart from media controls. While there are no dedicated programmable keys, users can utilise the Logitech Gaming Software to add macros and more.

Getting a little more specific about the G213 Prodigy RGB Gaming Keyboard, Logitech says its Mech-Dome keys combine the best of both membrane and mechanical keyboards. They provide a 4mm travel distance, and a 50g actuation force (45g tactile bump force, 55g maximum force – the same as the G810). Alongside side an anti-ghosting matrix, the G213 is said to have a report rate that is 4 times faster than the 8ms rate of standard keyboards. As for the spill-resistance, Logitech says it is rated for 60ml liquid spillage. It sports a 1.8-metre long wire.
Coming to the Logitech G231 Prodigy Gaming Headset, the headset features 40mm neodymium drivers, and is compatible with Windows PCs, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, though Logitech says some Xbox One controllers may require a separate headset adapter. The headset bears ‘high-performance’ sports mesh cloth on the earcups, meant to provide “a comfortable, soft touch even after hours of use”. The earcup covering can be washed as well.
Logitech says the G231 Prodigy Gaming Headset sports a lightweight, well-balanced design, and lay-flat earpieces that can swivel up to 90-degrees for comfort and portability. Finally, the headset also bears a folding, unidirectional mic apart from on-cable controls for muting audio and controlling volume. It bears a 2-metre cable, with two 3.5mm jacks for headphone and microphone.

The Logitech G231 Prodigy Gaming Headset has a frequency response of 20Hz-20KHz, an impedance of 32 Ohms, and a weight of 255 grams without cables.

HTC to Open Hundreds of Virtual Reality Arcades to Promote Vive VR Headset

HTC to Open Hundreds of Virtual Reality Arcades to Promote Vive VR Headset
Taiwanese tech giant HTC will open hundreds of virtual reality gaming arcades in Taiwan, China, Europe and the US by end 2017 under its “Viveport Arcade” programme.

The company is developing virtual reality games for its VR devices and hopes the gaming arcades will serve to promote its virtual reality Vive headset, the Taipei Times reported Saturday.

The programme will begin in Taiwan and China and then be extended to the US and Europe at an unspecified date.

HTC is hoping to expand its Viveport programme to internet cafes, movie theatres and virtual reality centres by offering a wide range of games and experiences at affordable prices.
Last week, HTC opened a virtual reality centre called Viveland in Taipei, where the public can try its products without having to buy them first for a fee ranging from $5 to $13.

This year, HTC also teamed up with internet cafes in China to promote the use of virtual reality in the country.

The Taiwanese company, which has so far focused on developing and producing mobile phones, will compete with other manufacturers of virtual reality headsets in a still limited market.

OnePlus Bullets V2 In-Ear Headphones Launched in India at Rs. 1,199

OnePlus Bullets V2 In-Ear Headphones Launched in India at Rs. 1,199OnePlus in late August announced the OnePlus Bullets (V2) in-ear headphones, which are the successor to the Silver Bullet earphones launched back in 2014.

The newest earphones have now reached the Indian market and are priced at Rs. 1,199. The earphones are available in Black and White colour options via Amazon and OnePlus Store.

OnePlus says the Bullets V2 have been designed to aesthetically compliment the OnePlus 3 with a sleek, minimal design, and premium materials. Having partnered with German audio experts LOFO, the Bullets come fitted with an ARYPHAN polyarylate diaphragm, which is “known for its light weight and high vibration frequency”.

The Bullets V2 have a frequency range of 20-20000Hz, sound pressure level of 107dB, 9mm dynamic drivers, rated power of 3mW and Total Harmonic Distortion of less than 1 percent (at 1000Hz, 1mW). According to the official page for the Bullets V2, the earphones’ aluminium coil is wrapped in high-end black copper that promises consistent listening.

OnePlus has “optimised the tri-band tuning process that produced last generation’s captivating sound, improving the range to deliver richer bass, more delicate treble, and a smoother midrange.”

The Bullets V2 come with a 3.5mm headphone jack with an impedance of 24 Ohms. The earphones weigh around 14 grams and comes with a cable length of 1.25 metres along with an in-line remote as well.

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