WFH essentials: Something for everyone

author_img Tushar Kanwar Published :  15th September 2020 02:42 PM   |   Published :   |  15th September 2020 02:42 PM
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WFH essentials

WFH. The innocuous little acronym that allowed countless employees to transition into a safe, home-bound setup back when the virus was at its infancy. As the weeks went by, the novelty of WFH gave way to Zoom fatigue, quaranteams and more buzzwords about the “unprecedented” “new normal” than I can care to remember. One thing remains constant – the need to equip oneself with tech conveniences that help get the job…and other odds and ends done. Here’s our review of several WFH essentials that we took a look at in the past couple of weeks!

Mi Notebook 14

Xiaomi launched its Mi Notebook lineup at a time when demand for personal computing devices skyrocketed with the reopening of schools and a growing realization that initial stop-gap WFH arrangements may well last till the foreseeable future. The Horizon Edition that I reviewed previously showed promise, but had some flaws that made justifying the higher price point a tad difficult. It’s the regular Mi Notebook 14 which I think could work better for more folks, and here’s why.

Much like its sibling, the Mi Notebook 14 is plain and a bit generic looking, without any design flair to talk of. There’s a similarity in design language, from the sandblasted coating on the rear to the metal unibody construction, but the device is thicker, bigger and heavier than the Horizon Edition. Much of that comes down to the bigger bezels around the bright 14-inch, full-HD, anti-glare display, so while you’re not getting that gorgeous edge-to-edge look about your display, the larger proportions give you more space for a full-sized keyboard, a generously proportioned trackpad and more space for your wrists. The keyboard is similar to the one on the Horizon Edition, somewhat mushy to the touch and sans any backlighting.

Despite the extra space Xiaomi had to work with, you’re still getting only the two USB 3.1 ports, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI port and a barrel-type connector for power – no Type-C port or webcam in this regular variant. The latter was missed in the Horizon Edition and with the larger bezels, one had originally hoped the Regular edition wouldn’t drop the webcam, but it appears this product lineup was designed to be web-cam-less, which was a clear miss. You do still get a webcam in the box, which sits atop the screen and consumes one USB port when in use.

In terms of performance, the Mi Notebook 14 packs the 10th generation Intel Core i5-10210U Comet Lake processor with 8GB of DDR4 memory and SDD storage as standard. All somewhat par for the course, but having SSDs as a standard configuration, even on the lowest spec model, makes a big difference to everyday use. Depending on the variant you pick up, you can get Nvidia MX250 discrete graphics (on the unit I reviewed) or integrated Intel UHD graphics on the lower spec models. Performance for day-to-day tasks – several Chrome tabs, Zoom calls, editing documents and streaming music – is smooth and one can easily recommend this laptop if you have a similar workflow. Video editing and heavy gaming, not really – the laptop runs slightly warm when stressed, so it’s best you don’t go there. Battery life is a pleasant full day (6-7 hours) of use, and the bundled 65W power brick juices it up in a little under 90 minutes.

Coming in at Rs. 49,999 for the model I reviewed, there’s a fair bit of competition in this space from the likes of Acer, Lenovo and Asus, but it’s the base model (Rs. 43,999) that I think represents far better value, if you can manage with 256GB of storage.

Mi Notebook 14

Pros: Good performance for everyday tasks, good battery life and fast charging, good build quality, good anti-glare display

Cons: no built-in webcam, lacks backlit keyboard, tinny speakers, non-upgradeable RAM, runs hot when stressed

Rating: 8/10

Price: Rs 43,999 onwards for 8GB RAM + 256GB SSD, i5 10th Gen + UHD Graphics

Logitech G502 Lightspeed

Whether it’s the hours spent isolating yourself at home or an evolving market whose time has come, the gaming segment, both for gaming laptops/PCs and accessories, is picking up. The G502 Lightspeed wireless gaming mouse couldn’t have come at a better time, at least for pro-gamers. But is it worth all the pretty pennies (Rs 14,995) that Logitech is asking for it?

Folks who will be considering this gaming mouse seriously will instantly see the likeness with the much-loved wired version of the G502 gaming mouse launched earlier, only this time it’s faster, lighter and sans wires, thanks to some serious re-egineering! With what Logitech describes as a “thin wall design and an advanced endoskeleton”, Logitech has managed to fit in a long-lasting battery while still keeping the weight down to a mere 114 grams! Which, by the way, is completely customizable, with the ability to add 2g and 4g weights either in a balanced fashion or towards one side if you so prefer.

As is evident, this is a right-handed gaming mouse with all the accoutrements of a gaming mouse – edgy, matte black design, two RGB light zones (one is the glowing Logitech G logo) plus the rubberized accents for added grip and comfort over longer gaming sessions. With its 11 programmable buttons, the Lightspeed is ready for all your in-game shortcuts, from allowing you to set specific buttons to drop DPI sensitivity for precise aiming in first person shooters or others to load up combo moves in role playing games. You can alter the DPI sensitivity from 100 to 16,000, which combined with the 1000Hz sampling rate makes it great for both FPS and strategy games.

The G502 Lightspeed is compatible with Logitech’s G Hub software, where you can reprogram the buttons, customize the RGB lighting and play around with DPI sensitivity, and there are a ton of granular personalization options on offer. You can even create different profiles for game genres and for your productivity app. Performance, both on everyday apps and within games, is impressive, and there is absolutely no lag whatsoever. Battery life is a comfortable 35-40 hours with gaming and general usage.

Is it worth the asking price? Clearly not, for the average consumer. For the very serious gamer, it’s hard to find much to dislike with the G502 Lightspeed…if you can stomach the price. Ergonomic design, good battery life, excellent performance all in a wireless form factor. While I cant guarantee how much of an edge it will give you in your gaming, for the niche it caters to, it’s worth the splurge.

Logitech G502 Lightspeed

Pros: Classic, tried and tested design, lightweight, good performance and wide DPI support, weight adjustments a nice touch

Cons: Expensive

Rating: 8/10

Price: Rs 14,995

 

Stuffcool Napoleon PD65W GaN charger

Accessories brand Stuffcool is usually known for bags, phone cases and screen protectors, but they’re responsible for launching India’s first GaN charger, the appropriately-named Napoleon PD65W. What’s GaN, you ask? Gallium Nitride is a modern alternative to silicon-based chargers, requiring far less components and with the ability to conduct far higher voltages over time. Crucially, they are more efficient at current transfer, which means they charge your devices optimally, lose less energy to heat and can fit into a far smaller footprint than their silicon equivalents. With the refresher on current-generation electronics out the way, how well does the Napoleon PD65W fare?

Well, it’s significantly smaller, almost surprisingly so when compared to regular 65W chargers, but it has the nice heft I typically associate with Apple charging bricks. On offer are two ports, the first a Type-C port that delivers 65W over the Power Delivery 3.0 standard (or 45W over Programmable Power Supply (PPS)), and the second a regular Type-A port that goes till 18W with devices that support Quick Charge 3.0. Translated, you can fast charge iPhones, Samsung flagships, ultraportables like the Dell XPS or the MacBook Air/MacBook Pro, all from a single charger. Two ports make it super convenient to charge a laptop and a phone at the same time, but bear in mind that used simultaneously, you get a maximum output of 45W and 18W on the Type-C and Type-A port respectively. Plus, you need cables, like the one from AMX below, that can handle the load – the AMX one supports a maximum of 100W charging. Speaking of, the AMX XP60 I reviewed recently is a cheaper alternative is you need more Type-A ports and are content with a single 45W Type-C port.

Stuffcool Napoleon PD65W GaN charger

Pros: Consistent 65W fast charging, dual charging ports, small size

Cons: None

Rating: 9/10

Price: Rs 3,599

Mi Beard Trimmer 1C

With zero motivation to step out of the house, personal grooming could take a hit in these times, and a trimmer like the Mi Beard Trimmer 1C is a handy tool to keep yourself presentable for those daily Zoom calls! Straight out of the box, you get a compact and lightweight design that’s lighter than the previous model and affords smaller hands better grip and control. Build quality is still solid and the matte finish lends a nice touch, more so for something in this price range.

In use, you get 20 length settings from 0.5mm to 10mm, with a trimming precision of 0.5mm – for reference, the original Mi Beard Trimmer (Rs. 1,399) offered 40 length settings, but I found these plenty for daily use. Control is via a clicky control wheel, and the power button even has a travel/child lock feature to disable accidental use. Interestingly, the trimmer came in rather handy for mid-pandemic haircuts, a fact many of my circle cottoned on to when visits to the salon were simply not a possibility.

Charging is via microUSB, and the built-in 600mAh battery takes about two hours to charge and gives you about an hour of run time. Unlike the original, the Mi Beard Trimmer 1C isn’t completely waterproof, so you’ll have to be careful while washing only the head section. Overall, the Beard Trimmer 1C is a decent buy – it offers a similar trimming experience to its peers while delivering strongly on design and battery life.

Mi Beard Trimmer 1C

Pros: Stylish, compact design, good battery life, easy to use

Cons: Lacks the waterproofing of the original Mi Beard Trimmer

Rating: 8/10

Price: Rs 999


 

AMX Infiniti X USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 cable

A cable is a cable, right? Except when it’s a braided Type-C to C cable that supports the USB 3.1 Gen 2 10GBps transfer rate and fast charging up to 100W – for reference, that’s what the latest MacBook Pros support. AMX’s Infiniti X cable does it all in one USB Type-C cable, so there’s literally one cable you need to carry to charge your laptop, iPad Pro and Android phones. The reassuring bit is that the cable packs in an E-Marker chip built into the circuitry itself to communicate its ability to fast charge to connected devices, which ensures 100W charging while keeping your devices safe. Connected to compatible hardware, the cable lets you transmit 4K content to a Type-C monitor. Worth the price, for sure.

AMX Infiniti X USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 cable

Pros: Quality design, fast data transfer rate and support for 100W charging

Cons: None

Rating: 9/10

Price: Rs 899

Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator, and tweets @2shar​

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