Google Nest Audio – REVIEW

The Google Nest Audio was revealed back in October and we have been testing it recently. It is larger than the original Google Home and feels more sturdy.

When revealed, the Nest team stated that the speaker is 75 percent louder and 50 percent more bass and I can confirm that it is definitely louder and the bass is certainly stronger. It is quite a subtle speaker, blending into the background on a side table. The speaker is fitted with a 19mm tweeter, 75mm woofer and Quad Core A53 1.8 GHz processor allowing for a smarter assistant that makes the whole hands-free experience an experience like no other.

There are no physical buttons on the front of the device, there is the microphone mute switch at the back. The speaker has three capacitive buttons on the top for volume and play/pause. In testing, these buttons were only used once or twice as speaking to the device had the same effect and could be done from across the room. As with other Google audio products, the Nest Audio works perfectly as part of a pair or if you have multiple products (Home mini etc) you can have a smart home with music in multiple rooms.

When listening to Rosa Parks by Outkast and Exogenesis Symphony Part III by Muse, the tracks are clear but nothing that truly shouts above the rest of equally sized speakers. You won’t be disappointed by the sound if you use it as a background speaker, filling the room with sound when doing other things like cooking or relaxing, but if you want bassy, party levels, you might want to look elsewhere.

If you are a smart speaker fan, wanting to have a speaker that has crisp sound but also has the benefit of having Google Assistant embedded this is a must have, especially for the price. However, if pure sound is what you are after, there are some better options out there. Think JBL, Sonos or Bose.

Oppo Watch – An Apple Watch for Android?

Oppo, Chinese electronic manufacturers has been making waves in the smartphone market, bring flagship technology to cheaper phones. That along with the other brands under the BBK Electronics umbrella (Realme, OnePlus and Vivo) have been leaving their mark in the space. But the smartwatch world has been Apple territory for a very long time. Now if you are an Android user there wasn’t anything that could truly compete. Until now.

Oppo has released a smartwatch using WearOS by Google. Offered in two sizes – 41mm with a 1.6-inch screen and a larger 46mm square case with a 1.91-inch screen, with either Wi-Fi or LTE connectivity. Both sizes offer a curved AMOLED screen and an always-on heart rate monitor.

Fitted with WearOS by Google means the watch is offered with the full suite of Google2 apps and services at a glance – including Google Pay and Google Maps. And if you are one who likes to keep the watch on day and night for sleep monitoring, Oppo has included its VOOC Flash Charging meaning 15 mins on charge will give 16 hours of use. The battery has a 30 hour life and can be extended to 21 days in power saver mode.

The 41mm Wi-Fi model is offered in black, silver and rose gold whilst the 46mm is offered as either Wi-Fi or LTE in black or gold, priced at £229 for the 41mm and £369 for the 46mm due out later this year. So if you have been hankering for an Apple Watch but wasn’t sure how well it would work with your Android device, now you needn’t worry.

Google Pixel 5 is here

Some of you may know this already, but, Google had its Launch Night In a few days ago and we have already discussed the Nest Audio Speaker but I wanted to turn your attention to the Pixel 5.

The Google Pixel series has had a tough time in its previous generations – it lacked key components that users were asking for. Take a decent sized battery, a screen to body to ratio that resembled other flagship phones etc, etc.

Well with the Google Pixel 5, the team realised that battling for the top spot with the likes of Samsung and Apple wasn’t always going to cut it and it would affect sales in the long run. The software and the camera is what sold Google phones and at that price point, the hardware didn’t warrant the price tag.

So now, that the price has dropped to £599 it makes a lot easier to justify. The same is said with the chipset – previous generations ran the best that Qualcomm could offer but it also put it in the crosshairs of those other top tier phones. The Pixel 5 has got a Snapdragon 765G chip which is 5G enabled and probably won’t be noticeable when using it everyday. It is fitted with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

The phone itself has 6-inch OLED display at 90Hz with a punch-hole cutout for the selfie camera replacing the massive forehead that was on the Pixel 4. Project Soli is no more but this gives the phone a cleaner look. It is aluminium bodied and capable of reverse wireless charging, fingerprint scanner is still round the back. The camera module has been changed slightly, with the standard 12.2 MP camera and now a 16MP ultrawide lens.

The battery has swelled to a reasonable 4080mAh which is a godsend from the 2800mAh battery seen on the Pixel 4. It now comes in two colours, Just Black and Sorta Sage and is available to pre-order for £599 or £24.96 per month on 0% APR for 24 months with deliveries starting October 5th.

Nest Audio, Google’s new home speaker

At Google’s Launch Night In, the team revealed a number of new products including the new Pixel 5 smartphone and Google TV. However, one of the more intriguing products of the night was and is the Nest Audio speaker.

Building on Google Home, and Nest Mini (aka Google Home mini), the new Nest Audio 75 percent louder and has 50 percent stronger bass than the original Google Home. It is larger than the original, but has a slim profile so it won’t be obtrusive wherever it is placed.

Fitted with a 19mm tweeter for consistent high frequency coverage and clear vocals and a 75mm mid-woofer that really brings the bass, this smart speaker is a music lover’s dream, as evidenced by Mark Ronson in the launch event enjoying Amy Winehouse’s Valerie.

One thing that was an issue with previous Google speakers is that the assistant would come in at the same volume that you were last listening to music, which can be quite upsetting when asking what the weather is going to be like early in the morning. Google has come up with a solution to that – Media EQ, enabling Nest Audio to automatically tune itself to whatever you’re listening to: music, podcasts, audiobooks or even a response from Google Assistant. And Ambient IQ adjusts the volume of Assistant, news, podcasts and audiobooks based on the background noise in your home, so you can hear the weather forecast over a noisy dishwasher. 

If you own multiple Google speakers around the house, the music can be moved into each room that is being occupied or if you like sound emanating through the entire house, you can group the products to create a house filling sound system.

Nest Audio comes in five colors: Chalk, Charcoal, Sand, Sky and the all-new Sage coming in at £89.99, however, only chalk and Charcoal can be pre-ordered now.

Google Pixel 4a Fabric case

A couple of days ago, Google announced its mid-range phone, the Pixel 4a. With every new phone comes a host of new accessories and cases and this phone is no different.

Google has been known for creating quirky fabric cases for its models but the case for the 4a is a little more eco-conscious. Made from over 70 percent recycled plastic, it comes in three colours – Basically Black, Static Gray and Blue Confetti. As always each of these cases have their quirky colour accents on the power button and G logo.

The material used in these fabric cases are part of Google’s wider sustainability commitments whereby two recycled plastic bottles will give enough fabric to create five phone cases and each case will cost £35.

Google Pixel 4a – MUST HAVE

Google has undercut both OnePlus and Apple in the mid-range smartphone game with its latest offering in the Pixel 4a. Priced at £349, it undercuts both phones by about £50 and when you have the cleanest form of Android and possibly the best camera software on the market, it is hard not to recommend.

Much like the Pixel 3a that came before it, the team have worked to create a budget phone that can be put in the hands of millions. The camera system is only a single lens, but the software is one of, if not the best camera software on any phone. It takes fantastic photos, portrait shot, night time photography and Google has also added in the Astrophotography to get those amazing shots of the stars.

The body of the phone is made of plastic, but that is to be expected in a phone of this price and Google have somewhat owned the fact that it’s plastic, in its matte black finish. Up front, the bezels have been reduced massively and there is now a punch hole camera in the top left corner. The 5.8-inch OLED display runs at 60hz which helps the 3140 mAh battery last all day. This year it comes with 6gb of RAM and 128gb of storage powered by a slightly older Snapdragon 730 chipset, but don’t forget, the hallowed 3.5mm headphone jack.

If you know about the Pixel range, you know that you get some great Google features, like live caption, call screening, three years of updates, the cleanest Android software on any phone and the new Google Assistant.

The question remains which camp are you in? Android with Google or OnePlus or Apple with the iPhone SE?

Driverless cars – Who will be to blame?

The Luddites were an interesting bunch. Rioting and protesting in fear of machines taking their jobs in the textile industry which in the end, required the army to suppress. But what the Luddites dreaded eventually came true and technology today is replacing workers around the globe. Now, the automotive network is in a similar situation. On the back of reading a thread on PistonHeads, I’d like to discuss more when, than, if autonomous cars are going to form part of the driving network.

On enthusiast motoring sites, focus is on the driver’s car, occasionally snubbing lower-end models for those where engineers are allowed to show off their prowess. But, even these cars are susceptible to smidgens of new technology, take the Porsche 911 (991) GT3 RS as an example. The first of its kind to ditch the manual gearbox in favour of a 7-speed PDK. In turn, everyday cars are fitted with more and more sensors slowly removing the driver from driving situations, helping to keep the car in lane and keeping a safe distance between it and the lead car in motorway traffic.  I’ll be honest, I am all for these updates as it helps drop insurance premiums due to less incidents.

audi_rs7_autonomous_05Tech showcase
Tesla, Google and Audi have showcased driverless technology over the past few years with the latter proving its autonomous capabilities by letting the RS7 tackle the Hockenheimring and chauffeuring celebrities to the red carpet. Tesla’s autopilot system combines laser cruise control, lane assist and a combination of sensors, radars and cameras to steer you safely to a parking space.

A parade lap on an empty race track is a little different to the school run where children may dart out at any instant. Who is to blame if and when there is an accident? Google’s own test car has had minor incidents at low speeds blaming other drivers over a six-year period racking up over a million miles. There has been one incident involving a bus where the Google car was to blame.

google_car_001Programmed to kill
Before getting behind the wheel, a driver must study endless scenarios and rules. Drivers learn that larger vehicles (buses and lorries) are a lot less likely to give way and drivers in certain makes refrain from using indicators. It all comes with experience. An experienced driver will also manoeuvre a car to avoid hurting a passenger during a crash. But how can you teach that to a driverless car?

Are manufacturers programming cars to minimise the loss of life even it it means sacrificing the driver and passengers? Humans have an innate need to survive so a car that can potentially sacrifice the driver is one that may sway the buying decision. An MIT report states, “people are in favour of cars that sacrifice the occupant to save other lives — as long they don’t have to drive one themselves.”

google_car_002Volvo has joined Google by accepting full liability for accidents of their driverless cars in turn pushing the US government to set up consistent rules across states. In the US, it is illegal to jaywalk making it easier to test autonomous vehicles but here in the UK we aren’t as patient – we bolt across the street expecting the wrath of the angry driver if we leave it a little too late.

Currently, the UK allows for autonomous testing,  ‘providing a test driver is present and takes responsibility for the safe operation of the vehicle; and that the vehicle can be used compatibly with road traffic law.’

Summer 2017 will see the Government reviewing and amending domestic regulations to accommodate driverless tech but driverless lorries are being trialled on the M6 later this year.

When the autonomous car takes over from the driver’s car could it mean the road and highway code as we know it could disappear? And will the ethical thinking of the car play a major part in the buying process? These are questions I can’t answer but I am very intrigued to find out.

 

Sources: Gov UKTED TalksGoogleAutocarNextweb, Tech CrunchMIT Technology review, BBC News, Spectator