RBI Governor Cited ‘High Uncertainty’ On Inflation For June 7 Policy Review

Mumbai: Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel cited “high uncertainty” on inflation while holding the key interest rate for a fourth successive policy review, according to minutes of the June 7 meeting of Monetary Policy Committee released on Wednesday. It was the first time that a Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member had voted against the majority decision. At its second bi-monthly monetary policy review of the fiscal year on June 7, the RBI maintained status quo on its repo rate, or short-term rate for lending to commercial banks, at 6.25 per cent. In doing so, the policy statement said the six-member MPC was guided by the risks to inflation.

“As the year progresses, underlying inflation pressures, especially input costs, wages and imported inflation, will have to be closely and continuously monitored,” Mr Patel said, as per minutes of the the MPC meeting.

“The risk of fiscal slippages, which, by and large, can entail inflationary spillovers, has risen with the announcements of large farm loan waivers,” he said.
“At the current juncture, global political and financial risks materialising into imported inflation and the disbursement of allowances under the 7th central pay commission’s award are upside risks,” he added.

RBI Governor Urjit Patel argued for avoiding premature policy action

The RBI governor argued for avoiding premature policy action.

“Considering the high uncertainty clouding the near-term inflation outlook, there is a need to avoid premature policy action at this stage. I, therefore, vote for holding the policy repo rate at the current level of 6.25 per cent and maintaining the neutral stance of monetary policy,” Mr Patel said.

“Premature action at this stage risks disruptive policy reversals later and the loss of credibility.”

“The current state of the economy underscores the need to revive private investment, restore banking sector health and remove infrastructural bottlenecks. Monetary policy can play a more effective role only when these factors are in place,” he added.

Instead, the sole dissenting external member and IIM-Ahmedabad faculty Ravindra Dholakia voted for a minimum a 50 basis point cut in the repo rate.

According to the minutes, Mr Dholakia said there were several noteworthy recent developments on the prices and output fronts that warrant a decisive policy action by the MPC.

“In my opinion, this is the most opportune time for the MPC to effect a major cut of 50 basis points in the policy rate to bring it down from 6.25 per cent to 5.75 per cent,” he said.

“All in all, the prevailing inflation and output conditions and prospects are such that there is enough space for a substantial rate cut of 50 basis points if not more,” he added.

Meanwhile, India’s annual retail inflation eased to a record low of 2.18 per cent in May on lower food prices. The wholesale price index (WPI), with the revised base year of 2011-12, also decelerated further in May 2017 to 2.17 per cent from 3.85 per cent in April as food prices eased.

 

Jeep Compass Diesel SUV Review

If there was ever an auto manufacturer that promotes its heritage, both by subtle cues or screaming through literal rooftops, it is Jeep, much before we heard about the Compass being made in India.  With the likes of the Wrangler and Cherokee immediately bringing up images of tough vehicles that can go through obstacles like a hot knife through butter, Jeep has always made cars, that can take on anything, and go literally anywhere. And so we come to the new entry level offering from Jeep – the Compass. Now, a compass is an instrument that helped early explorers find worlds they did not think existed, and that’s exactly the message Jeep is trying to deliver with their smallest and most affordable offering in India which is made for both on and off the road. The difference is, this Compass is made for India and ‘made in India’. The model will not only be sold in domestic markets but also exported to all right hand drive markets globally. So, Jeep has a lot riding up on the Compass as it aims to make a mark in one of the fastest growing markets globally. Read on to know if the iconic American automaker has got the balance right.

jeep compass review

A baby Cherokee, the Jeep Compass is imposing but pleases the eye

Let’s start with the most obvious. The way it looks. At first glance you could easily mistake the Compass with the bigger SUV in the Jeep range – the Grand Cherokee. The typical seven slat is as ‘in-your-face’ as it can get and is finished in a shade of gloss black that makes it look premium with the slats getting a chrome surround. The grille is flanked on both sides by the headlamps that have a simple projector setup. A set of slightly more complex looking LED headlamps would have really looked much nicer though. Move on to the bumper and you have a slim vent right above the number plate bracket and two fog lamp surrounds that also house the daytime running lights. The lower half of the front bumper stays unpainted and a chrome accent piece accentuates the typically American SUV styling on the Compass. Overall, when viewed from the front then, the Compass does look quite wide and muscular, especially with the well-placed cuts and subtle bulges on the bonnet.

jeep compass review

A set of slightly complex LED headlamps would’ve looked nicer on the Compass

The butch SUV styling continues when the Jeep Compass is viewed in profile. The squared off and muscular arches are a typically Jeep and give the Compass the look Indian customers lust over – that typical old school SUV charm. There aren’t any glaring design lines on the side but what you do get is a very distinct shoulder line. There is the plastic cladding that runs around the bottom of the doors and across the wheel arches continuing all the way from the front bumper to the rear bumper. There is, however, that one cool thing about the Compass that makes it stand out – the floating roof.

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The floating roof looks nice on the Compass, complemented by the distinct shoulderline

The floating roof and the chrome accent piece that separates it from the rest of the car also moves around the back right below the rear windscreen giving the back-end a nice premium touch. Although we personally prefer the fact that Jeep has stayed away from any unnecessary chrome pieces on the boot, Indian customers are guaranteed to find ‘jugaad’ solutions to that too. The tail lights look great, finished in a semi-gloss black and have depth to them with the red LED parts looking well layered. The rear bumper, just like with the side skirts get an unpainted plastic cladding on the bottom which is very typical in most SUVs but skips out on the silver skid plate like the front bumper.

jeep compass review

The LED tail lights look well layered on the Compass

The Jeep Compass gets a set of 17-inch alloy wheels as standard. The design is rugged and complements the overall stance of the car really well, but does seem a little plain as compared to some of the other cars in this body size that come with a more modern diamond cut style. That said, considering the fact that Jeep’s performance brand Mopar will soon launch in India and offer quite a few optional accessories for the Jeep range, buyers can always opt for a different, more aggressive, set of wheels. For the time being though, the ones on the Compass, as we mentioned earlier, do look quite nice.

jeep compass review

The cabin has a sense of usability on the Compass

And so we move on to the cabin. Considering the fact that the interior is where most of us will spend most of our time, it was crucial that Jeep got the quality of the materials and the layout perfectly right. Let’s start with the design and the layout first. The Compass is a little boring when it comes to the actual design of the dashboard but at the same time, it is quite utilitarian. The dials and knobs might look from an older generation, but they offer a sense of usability that a lot of cars miss out on today, and that is something we do appreciate.

jeep compass review

The leather seats and soft touch materials across the cabin impress with good quality

Other areas of big improvement are most definitely the infotainment system. The touchscreen is a tad unresponsive even when compared to ones now available in much cheaper cars and the way the Apple Car Play is laid out in the already small screen using a sort of sub screen is just, well, strange. It almost defeats the whole purpose of having a sub system like Apple Car Play in the first place by adding clutter to the screen.

jeep compass review

The almost white shade though looks nice, but will be a slight when it comes to maintenance

Quality of everything otherwise on the interior is great – including the soft touch materials on the dashboard and the leather on the seats. The seats are wrapped in a light beige – almost white shade which makes the cabin look very bling and very premium. That said, considering the level of dust we deal with on a daily basis and the pollution in our metros, we aren’t sure it is a great idea. However, there are a wide variety of protection and cleaning products available in the market to remove the muck and mud from your Compass after you take it off-road, so, in hindsight, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.

The seats are comfortable too. With their harder bolstering, the back and under thigh support for the driver’s seat is great. Rear seats too are very comfortable and although some older passengers might find it slightly more difficult to step into the Compass as it is a tad bit high, once in, they will be treated with a lot of leg space and headroom. The rear passengers also get two AC vents and a USB charging point – both absolute essentials must haves.

jeep compass review

The 2-litre MultiJet diesel is a hoot to drive

The Jeep Compass is powered by a 2-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine that makes 171 bhp and 350 Nm of torque. As of now, it is only available with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Our verdict on this engine is simple – it is a HOOT to drive! The Multijet family has been known for some of the nicest and most responsive diesel motors in the world (and in India) and the new 2-litre is no different. There might be a slight lag of power till about 1500 rpm but once the turbos spool up, the Compass quickly points in the right direction – forward! Power delivery is very linear and you can really go through the gears shifting quickly while keeping the turbos spooled up to give you a big wallop of torque.

jeep compass review

Gearshifts could’ve been crisper on the Compass

Throttle response is great and so is the clutch feel. It might have just a hint of heaviness but that is expected of a clutch that is designed to handle 350 Nm of peak torque. The gearshift itself could have been much crisper as we did find it just a tad bit too rubbery but the best part is the actual gear knob itself. The aluminium finished knob feels nearly perfect in the palm of your hand and actually makes you want to shift as much as possible just so that you can mentally feel like you are driving a gated gear shifter from a 60’s Le Mans winning Ferrari 250 GTO (ok, maybe that’s taking it a bit too far).

jeep compass review

The aluminium finished knob feels nearly perfect in the palm

We usually expect American cars to be comfortable and soft at the expense of being not so good in the corners. And that is exactly what I thought the Jeep Compass would be all about too. But boy was I in for a shocker! The Compass is very well sprung and comfortable and yes, it will go through a set of potholes like nothing happened and ride quality is great too – but it also handles exceptionally well. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that the Compass has one of the most balanced chassis I have seen in an SUV for a long time.

jeep compass review

The Compass gets great ride quality, balanced with a exceptional handling as well

But my favourite part about the Compass is not the power delivery, or the looks, or the interiors or the great ride quality, My favourite would be the way the steering system is set up. The Compass may have electric power steering but whatever pixie dust Jeep has used to weigh it up is worthy of genuine applause. The turning feedback is precise and the Compass changes directions like one of the German sports SUVs, and that, is high praise indeed. I wonder if Ferrari or Alfa Romeo had anything to do with it considering the fact that they are all a part of the same FCA family!

jeep compass review

A promising SUV, a competitive price tag will seal the fate of the Compass in India

The Jeep Compass is a very very good package – and considering the fact that I have used the term ‘very’ twice, it is genuine praise. It looks great, has a nice interior (although there is definite room for improvement here) and drives well too. The only thing left to see is the way Jeep prices it. We have been promised by Jeep India that we will not be disappointed by the way the Compass is priced and we hope it keeps its promise as the Compass has a ton of potential in India. That said, what FCA India needs to worry about is the sales and service outlets to cater to the hordes who will want to buy one.

Moto Z2 Play Review

Motorola unveiled its approach to modularity with the Z series of smartphones last year. The Moto Z (Review) ticked all the boxes for a flagship device, while the Moto Z Play (Review) was much more affordable. Along with these phones, Motorola launched a series of Moto Mods that helped enhance their potential. Other smartphone makers, most notably LG, have abandoned the modular approach, but Motorola has so far stuck to its promise of supporting Moto Mods for three years. Now, with the Moto Z2 Play, it looks like buyers have new option to choose from.

The Moto Z2 Play is the successor to the Moto Z Play, which earned a good name for itself by being affordable and versatile. The new model has an updated SoC but has to make do with a smaller battery. Can the Z2 Play continue the legacy of the phone it is replacing? Let’s find out.

Moto Z2 Play Review

Moto Z2 Play design
While the Moto Z was praised for its sleek body, the Moto Z Play was more bulky. Thankfully, the Moto Z2 Play is thinner, at just 5.99mm. Moto’s choice of metal for the back instead of glass makes it look quite premium. To ensure support for last year’s Mods, Moto has retained the 16-pin connector at the back. These pins are made with 23-karat gold to prevent corrosion and are scratch-resistant to some extent. The height, width and overall shape of the phone remain unchanged so that existing Mods fit.

The Moto Z2 Play is available in two colour options, Lunar Grey and Fine Gold. The Grey variant has a black front and looks stealthy, while the Gold version has a flashy white front. Motorola has used a unique antenna design that runs around the back of the phone. This looks good and really stood out on our gold review unit. Unfortunately, the camera bump sticks out like a sore thumb. It adds adds roughly 2 mm to the thickness of the phone. The bump contains the camera itself, dual-tone flash, and laser autofocus emitter. A metal ring keeps the camera lens safe from scratches.

With the height and width of this phone unchanged, Moto has stuck with a 5.5-inch Super Amoled display. Below it is the fingerprint sensor and a microphone used primarily for calls. The front camera is positioned on the top along with proximity, ambient light sensor, a recessed earpiece and a dual-tone front facing flash. The frame of the Moto Z2 Play is metal and so are the power and volume buttons. These buttons are small in size and are positioned a little higher than we would have liked, forcing us to stretch our thumbs. Thankfully, the power button has a ribbed pattern to distinguish it from the volume buttons.

At the top is the SIM tray along with a second microphone, while the USB Type-C port and 3.5mm audio socket are the bottom. The Moto Z2 Play also has a third microphone at the back towards the bottom. There’s no speaker grille, but the earpiece doubles up as a loudspeaker. In the box, you will get a 15W Turbo charger, a set of in-ear headphones, and a SIM ejector tool which is a little slimmer than usual.

Moto Mods
Motorola seems to be committed to its promise of a three-year minimum life cycle for its Moto Mods. The upside is that the new Moto Z2 Play is compatible with all Moto Mods launched to date. There are also a few new ones now. The JBL Soundboost mod launched last year has gotten an update in the form of the JBL Soundboost 2, which is thicker and 20g heavier. The new Turbo Power pack is a 3450mAh battery mod and is capable of turbo-charging the Z2 Play. The Turbo Power Mod can also be charged quickly using the Turbo charger supplied with the phone. Finally, you can also choose from new Style Shells, some of which now have wireless charging receivers in them. With a new shell attached to the Moto Z2 Play, you can just drop it onto a Qi or PMA pad to charge it.

Moto Z2 Play specifications and software
Moto managed to strike a great balance between hardware and software with the Moto Z Play, which resulted in phenomenal battery life. With the Z2 Play, Moto has chosen the Snapdragon 626 SoC which is an updated version of the Snapdragon 625 in last year’s model. This processor is clocked at 2.2GHz. The phone also gets 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage which can be increased by using a microSD card of up to 2TB. Internationally, there is a 3GB RAM/ 32GB storage model as well, but Lenovo has chosen not to launch that in India. The Moto Z2 Play is a dual-SIM smartphone with support for 4G and VoLTE. There is Bluetooth 4.2 along with dual band WiFi and NFC.

The 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display on the Moto Z2 Play sports a full-HD resolution. You have the option to set the display to Standard or Vivid output modes depending on your preference. We found that the output in Standard mode was a little too dull for our liking, but Vivid mode was too aggressive. Sadly, there is no way to tweak the output manually and find a happy medium, and you’ll have to select the preset you can live with. There is also a night mode which can be configured to activate based on sunrise and sunset, or to kick in at a specific time. We found the night mode to be helpful when using the phone at night. There is no option to set the intensity, though.

Like other recent Motorola phones, the Z2 Play ships with near-stock Android and the Pixel launcher. Purists will love the experience as the only thing visible customisation on the phone is Moto Actions. This is what Moto calls its gesture control feature. The Z series finally now gets the same fingerprint gestures that Moto launched with the Moto G5 (Review) and Moto G5 Plus (Review). With these enabled, the three-button Android navigation bar at the bottom of the screen disappears, freeing some screen real estate. You then need to swipe left on the fingerprint scanner to go back, and swipe right to bring up the app switcher. One tap on the fingerprint scanner will take you to the homescreen, and you can also lock the phone by long-tapping on the fingerprint scanner till you feel a short vibration. Holding it down even longer is the standard shortcut for Google Assistant. While it does sounds complicated, it took us less than half an hour to get used to this navigation scheme.

Moto Z2 Play performance
Stock Android and the Snapdragon 626 SoC give the Moto Z2 Play a boost in terms of performance. We had no trouble while browsing through the UI and multitasking. Out of the 4GB RAM, we found around 2.3GB free on a fresh boot, and roughly 1.5GB available at most times. The phone would also preserve apps in memory instead of quitting them to save RAM. This helps multi tasking immensely, as you don’t have to wait for an app to load again.

We played games like Clash Royale and Asphalt 8. In the past we have found that running Clash Royale for a log time heats phones up, but the Moto Z2 Play ran relatively cool. The battery still drained rather quickly while playing. Similarly, Asphalt 8 ran smoothly even after we pushed the graphics setting all the way up.

The Moto Z2 Play returned a score of 69,520 in Antutu, which is a bit higher than the what the Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro (Review), its closest competitor, managed. In our HD video loop test, the Moto Z2 Play managed to run for 14h hours and 1 minute which is good, but is also three hours less than the Moto Z Play. Charging the phone does not take long with the bundled 15W charger, but we also found the phone getting warm while charging.

Moto Z2 Play camera performance
The Moto Z2 Play sports a 12-megapixel rear camera with dual-pixel autofocus, phase detection autofocus, laser autofocus and a dual-tone LED flash. The camera also boasts of an f/1.7 aperture which in theory should help it take good photos in low light. You can use a double-twist gesture to launch the camera app, which is pretty simple and easy to use. The advantage of multiple focusing methods is evident. We could quickly take shots of moving objects, but there were times when we had to tap multiple times to manually get the camera to focus where we wanted.

The output from the camera is good, but photos taken outdoors tend to be overexposed. The AMOLED display, when set to Vivid, makes photos look more vibrant than they actually are. HDR mode is useful and you have the option to set it to auto. We noticed slight ghosting in a few photos caused by our hands shaking.

The Moto Z2 Play has an auto night mode which is triggered in low light. We were expecting great shots, but this wasn’t the case all the time. The camera software would usually bump the ISO up in order to maintain a low shutter speed, which reduced blur but at the expense of a lot of noise in photos. Some of our sample shots came out brilliantly, but the app’s behaviour wasn’t very consistent. Thankfully you can take complete control over the camera’s parameters using the Professional mode. For video recording you can choose between full-HD at 30fps or 60fps, and 4K at 30fps.

At the front, the Z2 Play sports a 5-megapixel selfie camera along with a dual-tone LED flash. The flash is quite helpful when taking selfies in low light. There is a beautification mode which can be used to improve skin tones. It’s relatively subtle, not over the top like we’ve seen with some phones. The front camera also supports HDR which is a good touch. Photos taken with the front camera are quite good and can be shared without edits.

Verdict
With the Moto Z2 Play, Motorola is still on the path it started last year. The new model is slimmer, but at the cost of battery capacity. Dropping the battery size for aesthetics might not have been the best idea because Motorola has weakened one of the Z Play’s best attributes. You can of course spend some money and snap on one of the Moto Mods to increase the battery capacity (and thickness/ weight). The updated Snapdragon 626 SoC and 4GB of RAM keep games running smoothly and make multitasking easy.

If you want a sleek modular smartphone running stock Android then the Moto Z2 Play is pretty much your only option. You also have to factor in the cost of the Mods, as opposed to standalone accessories. However, if you aren’t interested in the Moto Mods, Samsung offers the Galaxy C7 Pro (Review) for a little less, or you can spend a little extra and get the OnePlus 3T (Review).

 

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Review

sony xperia XZ premium screen ndtv sony xperia XZ premium

While the Sony Xperia XZs (Review) was a treat to review thanks to its wonderful camera, it was still tough to recommend to anyone, because of how much it overheated all the time. Now, Sony has launched an even higher-end offering in India called the Xperia XZ Premium, which costs roughly Rs. 10,000 more than the Xperia XZs.

For this premium (pardon the pun), you get the brand new Snapdragon 835 SoC, making this the first phone in India to feature Qualcomm’s latest and greatest, as well as a 4K HDR display, which is the first of its kind in the world. The Xperia XZ Premium is the successor to the Xperia Z5 Premium, which was the first phone to ship with a 4K display. That was two years ago, and now Sony has added HDR into the mix to keep up with the times.

The pricing of Sony’s new offering is true to its name, and at nearly Rs. 60,000, it competes directly with the Samsung Galaxy S8+ (Review). It’s time to see if Sony’s new offering can stand up to Samsung’s flagship, but more importantly, has Sony managed to fix the overheating issue that’s plagued Xperia flagships for the past few generations? Let’s begin.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium design and build quality
Aesthetics is a very subjective matter, and preferences vary wildly from person to person, but the ‘Luminous Chrome’ finish of our Xperia XZ Premium review unit is by far one of the most outlandish choices we’ve comes across. It’s highly reflective, and is a pain to keep clean. The back of the phone literally doubles up as a mirror. The chrome dressing also means it’s incredibly slippery when used with one hand. This Sony Xperia XZ Premium is also a lot heavier than the XZs at nearly 190g, and feels quite chunky. Sony seems to be stuck in a design rut which it simply cannot (or refuses to) break out of. The thick borders around the screen don’t exactly scream 2017.

Build quality on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is still excellent thanks though to a metal frame and Gorilla Glass 5 on the front as well as the back. The phone is also IP65/68 rated for water and dust resistance. What we didn’t like are the plastic sides that dilute the premium feel of this phone, especially since you end up in constant contact with them when holding this phone. Button placement is fine, with the power button falling comfortably in line with your thumb (or middle finger if you’re left handed).

There’s a flap on the left for the SIM cards. You have to use a fingernail to dig out the tray for the primary SIM, but the outer flap is connected to the second hybrid-SIM tray. While this is inconvenient, it shouldn’t be a major issue unless you swap SIMs often. What’s worse is that the phone needs a reboot each time you open up the flap, which is annoying if you swap out microSD cards a lot.

The physical ports on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium are the same as the on the Xperia XZs, so you have a USB 3.0 Type-C port at the bottom and a 3.5mm headphones socket on the top, plus a dedicated shutter release button on the right. The Xperia XZ Premium also has stereo speakers that face forwards.

The reflective back just bears an Xperia logo and the NFC icon. There’s a metal ring around the camera module that juts out slightly but not enough to create an ugly bulge. In the box, apart from the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, you get a Quick Charge 3.0 compatible charger, a data cable, a stereo headset (which wasn’t included with our review unit), and a start-up guide.

The 5.5-inch display on the Xperia XZ Premium has a whopping 2160×3840 resolution, pushing the density to 801ppi. To put this into perspective, the Samsung Galaxy S8 has a density of around 567ppi. While this looks very attractive on the spec sheet, in reality, you will spend most of your time looking at full-HD output (which is about 403ppi) rather than the native 4K. Sony tells us that the UI and all apps run at full-HD resolution, and it’s only when you play a 4K video that you take full advantage of the native resolution.

This explains why benchmarks detect the screen’s resolution as 1080p – the phone seems to prevent them from seeing and adapting to the actual resolution of the display. Rendering everything at 4K all the time would take a heavy toll on battery life, which wouldn’t have been good for anyone. Having said that, this is still a very good smartphone display even at 1080p, with razor-sharp text and vivid colours. This being a Sony, you get to choose between colour profiles (TRILUMINOS, sRGB, or Super-vivid), adjust the white balance, and choose whether or not to enable video image enhancement.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium specifications and features
The Xperia XZ Premium has up-to-date specifications, starting with the very capable Snapdragon 835 SoC, which succeeds the Snapdragon 821 still used in many of this year’s flagships. The new chip has eight cores versus four on its predecessor, but more importantly, if should be a lot more efficient in terms of battery usage thanks to the smaller fabrication process that it’s built on. It also supports the newer UFS 2.1 storage system, a Gigabit LTE modem, Bluetooth 5.0, and Quick Charge 4.0. While the SoC might support these features, it’s ultimately up to each OEM to implement them, and you do get dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, USB-OTG, and 4G with VoLTE. However, there’s no FM radio or wireless charging.

The phone also has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, which should be enough for a lot of people. You can expand storage using a microSD card of up to 256GB in the second SIM slot.

 

Benchmark results for the Sony Xperia XZ Premium were excellent, as expected, but do note that they all ran at 1080p and not the native 4K resolution. In AnTuTu, we got a score of 174,482 points, while GFXBench’s T-rex run maxed out at 60fps. Even after a long gaming session, the phone surprisingly didn’t overheat, which could be down to the efficient SoC.

Just like the Xperia XZs, the Xperia XZ Premium ships with the current version of Android Nougat (7.1.1) with Sony’s own custom treatment. Sony has preinstalled its own apps for music, video and photos, along with SonyLIV, Lounge, PlayStation, News, What’s New, and Video & TV SideView. Lifelog lets you keep track of your activity including steps taken, calories burnt, etc. Some UI elements like the notifications shade and app switcher are all stock Android. The Settings app gets additional features for pairing the phone with a DualShock 4 controller, changing the theme, etc. We’ve talked about the UI features in our Xperia XZs review.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium performance, cameras, and battery life
General UI and app performance is excellent, and we didn’t face any stutter or slow-downs even after filling the phone with apps and media files. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium doesn’t have the most ergonomic design so using it on the go can be quite cumbersome, and the chrome finish doesn’t help much with the grip either. 4G works well and we didn’t have any issues with call quality. We also managed to run through games like Asphalt 8 and Implosion with smooth framerates. The most annoying thing about this phone is that the phone reboots every time you open the side flap, and even when you switch cellular data between SIMs via the Settings app. Sony tells us that this was intentionally put in place as a ‘security measure’, although we’re not sure we buy this.

The HDR display does have a noticeably better colour gamut than comparable non-HDR displays. We tested this with some sample clips from YouTube, and we found performance on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium to be a bit better compared to the display on the Galaxy S8+, delivering slightly better details in the highlights.

Audio performance on the Xperia XZ Premium is equally good through headphones, with a set of useful enhancements like ClearAudio+ and Surround sound (VPT) to take advantage of. You can fine tune the frequencies with EQ presets or set it manually. You don’t have to worry about blocking the speakers with your palms since they face forward, however, the volume doesn’t get very loud.

The cameras on the Xperia XZ Premium are pretty much the same as they are on the Xperia XZs. On the back, you get a 19-megapixel Motion Eye camera with a stacked sensor, which allows you to capture video at 960fps for a super-slow-motion effect. The camera captures about one second’s worth of footage and then stretches it to about five seconds, which is fun to play with. You also get 5-axis stabilisation for the front and rear cameras, 4K video recording, and the ability to launch the camera app and capture an image by simply holding the shutter button down.

Details and colour reproduction are very good in landscapes and macros taken in daylight. You can see a bit of JPEG compression artifacting when you zoom in all the way, but normally, it’s not something you’ll notice. Focusing is quick, and this works very well in video recording when shifting between different subjects. The sensor captures a wide gamut of colours pretty accurately, which is evident when capturing scenes like the evening sky. Low-light shots are handled well too with little noise, although details take a bit of a hit.

The front camera on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a 13-megapixel sensor with a relatively wide f/2.0 aperture, which produces decent results even indoors. Unlike the Xperia XZs, the XZ Premium doesn’t overheat when recording 4K videos. We managed to go beyond 10 minutes of continuous recording outdoors without getting any temperature warning messages, which is big achievement for Sony. You also have the option to switch to the more efficient H.265 codec, also known as HEVC, for recording video.

The 3230mAh battery on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium offers a full day’s worth of regular usage but if you watch a lot of videos then your mileage will be less. In our HD video loop test, we got 9 hours and 4 minutes of playtime, which is a little less than what we got with the XZs and significantly less than what other flagships including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ deliver. The phone also supports Quick Charge 3.0 and Qnovo Adaptive charging standard.

Verdict
With the heating issues that plagued its predecessors out of the way, Sony’s newest flagship is a legitimate competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is just as powerful, has an excellent display, is waterproof, has decent battery life, and offers a very good set of cameras. Its main weaknesses are its aesthetics and ergonomics, and the new Samsungs smoke the Xperia in this regard. We really hope to see a more modern design language in Sony’s next generation. The chrome finish might tempt some buyers but isn’t practical for real-world usage, so we highly recommend you look at the other colour options if you’re considering buying this phone.

At the time of writing this review, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is priced at Rs. 59,990, which seems a bit on the higher side considering that there’s only a relatively small spec bump compared to the Xperia XZs. If Sony hopes to push good number of units off the shelf, then it needs to get more aggressive with pricing, as the Galaxy S8 would undoubtedly look more attractive to buyers.

 

Dirt 4 Review

For almost two decades now, Codemasters’ Dirt – formerly Colin McRae Rally – has delivered some of the best racing games, and been the final word in rally racing. What started out as a true-to-life portrayal with the help of the late champion has morphed over time into an incredibly exciting and fun-loving franchise, one that extended its off-road wings to appeal to a more broader audience. The critical zenith of that phase was its last numbered Dirt entry – Dirt 3 – which means that expectations from the next game in the series were high.

Dirt 4 released earlier this month, and we took it for a spin to find out if it could live up to our hopes. Given its shared naming heritage, you’d expect it to retain most of what made previous versions click. After all, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Codemasters however seem to have done the near opposite of that. The latest Dirt instalment – available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC – is an amalgamation of Dirt 3 and Dirt Rally, the latter being a simulation-oriented return to rallying roots which scored well with the series’ core user base. Dirt 4 borrows a larger chunk of its DNA from Dirt Rally, and eschews fan-favourite features such as the rewind ability, which has found a place in Forza Horizon as well.

Dirt 4 Review

On the surface, it’s meant to serve both sides of the armchair racing community: Dirt 4 allows for two handling options, “gamer” and simulation. The first is designed for people who just want to have fun (à la Dirt 3), and the other for people who wish to be challenged (à la Dirt Rally). Beyond that, you’ve got difficulty options featuring driving assists as befit most racing titles. This includes things like traction control, and ABS braking, as well as AI expertise and the number of restarts available to you.

If you’re not sure of your driving skills, that’s fine. The game starts with a practice rally stage, and depending on your performance, it suggests one of four customised difficulty levels. Dirt 4 nudges you to climb the ladder as you play, pushing you to get rid of assists and adopt a more simulation approach even if you opt for “gamer” controls, as the sponsors rewards tend to come from increasing difficulty at times.

 

The driving mechanics are still solid, more so with simulation than “gamer”. Dirt 4 is after all a Codemasters title, and Dirt Rally showed it hadn’t lost sight of its roots after years of Dirt and Grid titles becoming more mainstream with their heavier arcade approach. While the new Dirt title brings a realistic handling feel and a sense of on-the-edge control that gives rally racing its excitement, it does modify its mechanics a tad to make it slightly more accessible.

But unfortunately, it’s lost all the pizzazz of its numbered predecessors. Where Dirt 2 and Dirt 3 were praised for their presentation and style – some of it earned by bringing in the likes of Ken Block and Travis Pastrana, and embracing the wild side of off-road racing, from gymkhana to the X Games – Dirt 4 is a downright serious racer. The sense of flair and cool-factor is missing from the race designs: gone are modes like Domination and the Free Roam donuts and jumps; and the voice overs and the menus. Sure, some of that is only on the surface, but all of it contributes towards the overall experience. And in its quest for realism, Dirt 4 has brought in unnecessary additions, such as the requirement to drive your car to a marshal after crossing the finish line.

The remaining game modes in Dirt 4 are Rally, Rallycross, and Landrush. While rally is the crux of the experience, Dirt 4 doesn’t have any licenses unlike Dirt Rally. Instead, Codemasters have built a procedural rally stage generator called ‘Your Stage’, which claims to have a billion possibilities from its five variables: length, complexity, location, time, and weather. Some of it might seem moot on the surface – driving a stage in a cloudy late afternoon vs rain at night doesn’t change the underlying route – but that’s only until you experience it yourself. It makes you appreciate the importance of your co-driver’s pace notes – especially on dense fog days – and changes how most are used to playing racing games.

 

For what it’s worth, it’s the official game of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, so it does get five tracks from there: Lydden Hill, England; Höljes, Sweden; Hell, Norway; Montalegre, Portugal; and Lohéac Bretagne, France. Owing to the licensing, rallycross now has the proper structure of its race type. You must pass a ‘Joker’ lap – a slight detour for the route – at least once during the race, with a spotter helping you when to take it.

 

Landrush is optional to career mode, which is probably a blessing in disguise. Codemasters said that they weren’t going to make Landrush the arcade side of Dirt 4, and retain a simulation feel. That shows in the worst possible way, unfortunately. It’s almost impossible to steer without spinning out, with the cars exhibiting wheel-lock and massive over-steer by default. Landrush in Dirt 4 can be a highly frustrating mode to play through, so it’s nice that it’s not integral to career progress.

Another aspect Dirt 4 borrows from Dirt Rally is the focus it places on building a rally team. In the beginning, you start off as a driver for any team that will hire you. After racking up a few wins, you will have enough credits to start your own crew. You don’t have to just buy cars, but take care of the whole shebang. That means deciding branding and maintaining sponsors, who are crucial to financial success in the long run. If that’s not enough of a distraction from the on-road experience, you also have to build up facilities for your team, from accommodation, catering, logistics, R&D, recycling, to workshop. Unfortunately, it’s as sleep-inducing as it sounds on paper, and makes you wonder why Codemasters is so interested in pursuing office-cubicle-level realism with a series that once placed emphasis on making big jumps and spinning in circles. It’s not as if the team building needs a lot of thought, à la Football Manager, but it seems designed as a credits-sink, to keep you thinking about how to earn more out of events.

 

If you’re looking for some Dirt 3-style fun, the only place you’ll find a version of that is Dirt 4’s Joyride section, which does have a fair bit to offer. It retains the smash attacks from Dirt 3, and brings a timed attack challenge on top, where you’ve got to complete a specified number of laps while picking up time boosts and avoiding time delays. Both those game modes are offered with Dirt 4’s full range of cars, from Ford Fiesta and Mini Cooper, to Audi Sport Quattro and Subaru Impreza. However, the variety is nowhere close to the levels of previous Dirt titles, where you were asked to pull off a multitude of stunts.

You’ll also miss Dirt 3’s charm in Dirt 4’s diluted career mode. Gone are the elements that made it so exhilarating – gymkhana, trailblazers, X Games and Winter X Games, and a better Landrush – and it’s disappointing that Codemasters has chosen to focus a lot more on its simulation fans. Ultimately, it makes for a new Dirt chapter that doesn’t share the ethos of its numbered predecessors, and it doesn’t feel right for the game to be called Dirt 4. That’s not to say the game isn’t good; fans of Dirt Rally, Project Cars, and other simulation titles will find enough to enjoy here. But if you’re getting into Dirt 4 to relive the joys of the earlier hits, this is the wrong game.

A word about graphics performance
On top of all that, the game looks nothing like its 2017 peers, so much so that Dirt 3 on the PC (a six-year-old game) looks better than Dirt 4 on the PS4. The PC version is better by comparison, but it still can’t stand toe to toe with Dirt 3. It’s perplexing how Codemasters have managed to go backwards, and hopefully it can be improved with an update going forward.

Pros:

Realistic rally mechanics
Option to switch handling
Endless rally stage variety
Cons:

Missing many race types
Bland presentation
Team maintenance is a drag
No rewind ability
Looks dated on the PS4
Rating (out of 10): 7

We played a review copy of Dirt 4 on the PlayStation 4 and a retail code of the game on Windows PC. The game costs Rs. 1,179 on Steam, Rs. 2,700 on Xbox One, and Rs. 3,999 on PS4, while the PS4 disc version is priced at Rs.3,499. It costs $59.99 across all platforms in the US.

 

 

 

 

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan SUV Review

The Volkswagen Tiguan is like Jackie Chan. At first glance, it’s not intimidating; so not aggressive. Rather, it has a smile on its face and walks about, doing its things. It doesn’t even have a brawny look; so though there is a bit of muscle, it’s doesn’t really show. But, when you call it out for a fight, it doesn’t hesitate; and, yes, it gives its best shot. It’s versatile, to say the least, and Volkswagen India has made every bit of an effort to make sure that it stays that way. Volkswagen recently launched the Tiguan, in India, and at a price point that makes it lock horns with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLA and even the BMW X1. You cannot discount the Hyundai Tucson either; but the folks at Volkswagen insist that the Tucson isn’t its main rival; and that’s when you get to understand how desperately the company wants this one to be a midsize SUV.

volkswagen tiguan review
The Volkswagen Tiguan gets a fair share of firsts. It marks VW India’s entry into the compact luxury SUV segment. It’s the company’s first car, in India, which is based on the MQB platform and it’s also the first car, in the compact luxury SUV segment, to get an all-wheel drive, as part of standard fitment. All that said, it’s not the first SUV, from VW, to come to India; does Touareg ring a bell? And, it’s also not made, in India, it’s assembled here. Having cleared out all the facts, let’s get on to the details.

I’ve already talked about how the Volkswagen Tiguan doesn’t really look aggressive. It borrows its face from the new-gen Passat and Golf and there’s enough chrome, on the grill and around the car, to make it look a bit more premium. The bonnet sports characteristic lines, which join the grille, in a V shape. The sleek looking LED headlights complete the sophisticated look of the car. Strap a tie on that car; and, it’s ready for a board meeting.
volkswagen tiguan review
Well, it looks better than before and we’re glad that we get the second generation of the car, in India, which looks rather attractive. Compared to the previous-gen model, the new-gen VW Tiguan is 60mm longer, 30mm wider and the wheelbase too is up by 77mm; so yes, it has grown. Though bigger, the Tiguan manages to retain its compact dimensions, with the large wheel arches with short overhangs. The Highline variant, that we were driving, comes fitted with 18-inch multi-spoke alloys, which look good (the Comfortline gets 17-inch wheels). Adding to the rugged look are the brushed aluminium-finished roof rails and the matte cladding, on the lower half of the body. The lines, on the side, merge well into the rear and that’s where you see the LED tail lamps, which are simple and only available in the Highline trim. (Yes, the Comfortline does not get LED tail lamps and we think that’s a big miss).
volkswagen tiguan review
What VW has got spot on though is the cabin; and while the seating position inside is commanding, the layout of the cabin is that of a sedan. The flat-bottomed steering wheel adds to the sportiness quotient and then there’s the twin-pod instrument cluster and finally the all-black interior, which is something that we’ve seen, on other Volkswagen cars.
volkswagen tiguan review
Then, there’s the 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which comes equipped with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. It gets a Bluetooth, cruise control, an SD card slot and a CD player; but sadly, no navigation system and that would have probably been a value addition. However, the navigation can be accessed via the VW App Connect. There’s also a 3-zone climate control, on the Volkswagen Tiguan; but the panoramic sunroof is the highlight of the cabin; but, then again, that’s only available in the Highline variant. The Comfortline also misses out on keyless entry and a push button start system. The spacious cabin has room enough for 5 people and the rear seats can be adjusted, for reach and recline. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable and has a memory function, while the navigator seat can be manually adjusted, for height and reach. There’s good enough kneeroom, shoulder room and head room and the seat cushions help in making you comfortable; even during long journeys. Ergonomically too, everything is within your reach and there are a whole bunch of cubby holes that are spread, all across the car. The Tiguan’s boot has a 615-litre capacity, which expands to 1,655 litres, with the rear seat folded down.

volkswagen tiguan review
But, enough about space! Let’s talk about the engine and well, there’s just one – a diesel. While, in global markets, the Tiguan is available, with a range of powertrains, India just gets the 2.0-litre diesel option. It’s a refined unit, I must admit; but, as the revs build up, there’s a bit of engine noise that seeps into the cabin; nevertheless, it’s not too harsh. Developing 141 bhp, the Tiguan has enough power and certainly you don’t need more than that. Pulling power is available, from 1,900 rpm, and while driving, in city conditions, you do notice that there’s a bit of lag, till it hits the sweet spot. On highways though, the VW Tiguan feels more at home, as the 7-speed DSG unit channels all that power to the wheels; and you reach the three digit mark, on the speedo, effortlessly. Use the rotary control and you can select between different drive modes – Normal, Off-road, Off-road Individual and Snow. In the individual mode, you can change the preference of the steering feel, powertrain behaviour (all of which get modes – Normal Sport or Eco) and even the air conditioning. In the Off-road Individual mode, you can also alter the drivetrain and hill hold/descent settings, as well; so, there are a bunch of options, to choose from.
volkswagen tiguan review
You cannot change the suspension setting on this one and that’s probably good, because this one has a bit more travel. It’s on the softer side and that’s why, it soaks in all the potholes, on the road and even the odd bumps that come your way. The cabin is well insulated, from the ‘thuds’ that you might encounter, thanks to these disturbances, on the road surface; and, we have to commend VW on the NVH levels of the car. The Tiguan builds up speed, on the highway, and there’s very little body roll that you encounter; and that is maybe because it sits lower. The ground clearance is a mere 149 mm, which, for an SUV, is less. The brakes have a nice bite to them and there’s no drama; if you want to stop, in a hurry. It’s not a hard core off roader though; so while it has AWD, it can’t be considered as one. It will do well on rough surface; but don’t expect it to do what a Fortuner or an Endeavour is capable of.
volkswagen tiguan review
As far as safety is concerned, the Volkswagen Tiguan 2017 model has already received a 5 star rating, from Euro NCAP; and yes, the Indian edition too comes packed, with a whole bunch of safety features. It has six airbags, as standard, Isofix child-seat mounts, seat-belts with pre-tensioners, parking sensors, ABS, stability control and a tyre pressure monitoring system. The Highline variant, of the Tiguan also gets reverse parking camera and even self-sealing tyres (basically tyres which won’t puncture, unless you really try hard to get them to). As part of pedestrian safety, the VW Tiguan also gets a sensor, on the front bumper that raises the rear end of the hood, to minimise the injuries caused to a pedestrian, something which comes in handy.
volkswagen tiguan review
This feature packed car is priced at ₹ 27.98 lakh, for the Comfortline, and more than ₹ 31 lakh, for the Highline, making it more expensive than the Hyundai Tucson and even the Ford Endeavour; thus pushing it into a niche segment, with contenders like the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the BMW X1.

The Tiguan, then, proves to be a feature packed, practical offering, which returns a fuel economy figure of more than 17 kmpl (ARAI tested) and still has the finesse of a luxury car. Assembled in India, the Tiguan might take some time to show a spike, on VW’s sales chart; what it will do, however, is set a precedent for other manufacturers, to not shy away from entering a niche segment.

Tango Wellness Motivator Review

The Tango Wellness Motivator is a fitness wearable made by a Finland-based company called Health Care Success Ltd. It’s an activity and sleep tracker that you can wear on your wrist. Priced at Rs. 4,490 and available via Amazon India, the Tango Wellness Motivator faces some serious competition in the country. Both Xiaomi and Fitbit sell fitness wearables for less than Rs. 5,000, which automatically puts pressure on any new brand that tries to enter the market. Is the Tango Wellness Motivator good enough to hold its own against established competitors? We used the wearable for two weeks to find out.

Tango Wellness Motivator Review

Tango Wellness Motivator design
The Tango Wellness Motivator is sleek, light, and comfortable to wear. These are great attributes for any fitness wearable to have, and we were surprised to find that a wearable made by a relatively new brand managed this so well. We wore the device on multiple hot summer days and didn’t find it uncomfortable at any point.

The only problem with the band’s design is its locking mechanism. It just isn’t secure enough for all-day use. On one occasion, the Tango Wellness Motivator fell off our wrist when we were just reaching for a backpack. Whenever we were wearing it in a train on a bus, we were worried about accidental tugs pulling it off our wrist.

The screen and the band are integrated in this wearable, which means that you don’t have to pop out a capsule to charge it. The downside, however, is a clunky clip-on charger. We found it hard to attach the charger to the Tango Wellness Motivator, but thankfully, the device didn’t dislodge itself once we managed to start charging it.

tango wellness motivator box gadgets 360 Tango Wellness Motivator

The display is one of the best we’ve seen on fitness wearables at this price. The Tango Wellness Motivator uses a large, bold, and easily legible font. The text is white on a black background, making it very easy to see what’s on screen. We just wish there was a way to display text vertically instead of the default horizontal orientation. When you wear the tracker, it becomes hard to position your wrist in a way that lets you read what’s being shown. There’s just the one button on this tracker and while it’s a little hard to press, it lets you cycle through your activity and sleep stats.

Tango Wellness Motivator performance and battery life
From an activity tracking standpoint, the Tango Wellness Motivator is satisfactory. We noticed a deviation of around five to seven percent against the step tracker on an iPhone, given an average of 4,000 steps per day. Even with sleep tracking, we found the device’s measurements to be fairly accurate. Do note that sleep tracking is manual so it will only work if you remember to activate sleep mode before going to bed and turn it off when you wake up.

The manual that ships with the Tango Wellness Motivator asks people to download an app called ACT2FIT to sync data. Interestingly, when we tried searching for “Tango Fitness” in the App Store, we found an app called Tango Go that syncs data with the tracker. It turns out that the tracker syncs with both ACT2FIT and Tango Go apps.

We just wish that we could say anything positive about them. Both are equally badly designed and show all of your previous activity data in plain numbers, without any graphs or charts. There’s no way to check sleep data for previous days in the app, so all you get to see is how well your most recent nap was. We also found a bug which prevented the app from showing our activity history if we didn’t sync it with the band for two or three days. Another sync fixed this bug, but it’s quite inconvenient to perform a sync every time you want to have a look at your activity history.

tango wellness motivator strap  gadgets 360 Tango Wellness Motivator

The battery life of the Tango Wellness Motivator is quite good – we only had to charge it once in two weeks. That’s a relief, because the charger is not the most user friendly.

Verdict
The Tango Wellness Motivator is great as a basic activity tracker as long as you can live with a sub-par companion app and manual sleep tracking. However when you look at the competition, it’s evident that this product doesn’t offer great value for money. The Xiaomi Mi Band 2 can track sleep automatically and also has a passive heart rate sensor. Considering that it sells for just Rs. 2,000, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay more than twice as much for the Tango Wellness Motivator.

Pros

Crisp display
Good battery life
Accurate tracking

Cons

Lacks automatic sleep tracking
Poor companion app
Too expensive

Ratings (out of 5)

Design: 3
Tracking: 3.5
Other features: 1.5
Overall: 2.5

 

Xiaomi Mi Router 3C Review

Xiaomi has earned its reputation by offering good products at bargain prices. The company has really made a mark on the Indian smartphone market, but in China, Xiaomi is known for a much wider variety of electronic products. Slowly, more and more of these are making their way to India.

The company launched its first router in India, the Mi Router 3C, a couple of weeks ago. It boasts of four antennas for better range, ample RAM for handling plenty of devices, and a sleek monolithic design. At just Rs. 1,199, is it the best entry-level Wi-Fi router? Let’s find out.

Xiaomi Mi Router 3C design and features
Built from ABS plastic, the Mi Router 3C is fairly light at just 241 grams and looks quite nice. For a device that will mostly lie forgotten in some corner of your house, we have to hand it to Xiaomi for going the extra mile with the design. The Xiaomi Mi Router 3C doesn’t need a lot of space so it’s easy to squeeze it in anywhere. It’s only available in white so it probably won’t blend in with most of your other home electronics.

Xiaomi Mi Router 3C front ndtv 243817 173800 4702 xiaomi

There are four antennas at the back of the router that can be adjusted according to how you place the unit. The Mi Router 3C is one of the only routers in this price range to have four antennas, and we hope that this helps boost the range and overall stability of the connection. Like with most low-cost routers, these antennas are non-removable.

Around the back, we have a recessed reset button, two 10/100 Ethernet ports, one WAN port for your Internet connection, and a power inlet. In the front, there’s a single LED that changes colour depending on the network status. The base is vented in order to keep it running cool.

Xiaomi Mi Router 3C ports ndtv 243817 173801 6714 xiaomi

The Xiaomi Mi Router 3C is a single-band 802.11 b/g/n router operating at 2.4GHz. It supports a maximum Wi-Fi speed of up to 300Mbps and has 16MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM, which is quite a lot for a router in this segment. In the box, you only get the router, a power adapter, and a user manual – there’s no Ethernet cable. The Mi Router 3C runs on MiWiFi OS which is based on the open-source OpenWRT platform.

Xiaomi Mi Router 3C interface and performance
Setting up the router is a very simple process. Once you plug your Internet line into the WAN port (either directly or through a cable or ADSL modem), the Mi Router 3C will automatically set up the rest. To log in and change settings, you can either direct your PC browser to miwifi.com or download the Mi Wi-Fi app for Android or iOS devices. You’ll be taken through a quick setup process where you’ll set a password for the Wi-Fi (you can change the router admin password later), and you’re all set.

If you want to use the mobile app, you’ll need to sign in with a Xiaomi account so that your router can be accessed remotely. This might be a bit of a security risk, but it allows you to control and monitor your router from anywhere in the world. The Mi Router 3C has one of the best looking UI we’ve seen in similar products. It’s clean and well organised.

On the homepage, you can monitor how many devices are connected and see details such as their MAC and IP addresses and for how long they’ve been connected. You can immediately disable a device’s connection, and the router remembers to block that device if it tries to connect again later. The main page also shows you how much bandwidth each device is consuming in real time, with an easy-to-grasp colour-coded pie chart.

Xiaomi Mi Router 3C web new ndtv Xiaomi

You can monitor the total upstream and downstream bandwidth, CPU usage, and storage. There’s a handy speed test option that shows you the download and upload speed of your connection. The settings page lets you change the name of your Wi-Fi network; hide it if needed; select the operating channel; and limit the signal strength (which is set to the highest by default). You can also enable a guest login and set a bandwidth limit for this through the Advanced Settings page.

In the Security settings, you can blacklist specific devices or create a whitelist so that only ones you specifically authorise will be allowed to connect. If you’re the extremely security conscious, you have the option to add devices based on their MAC addresses. The Mi Router 3C will periodically check for firmware updates, or you can flash it manually too. Our test unit was a Chinese unit so we had to do a bit of flashing to get everything to show up in English.

On the Advanced Settings page, you can manage QoS (Quality of Service) based on what activity takes priority for you. Here, you can leave it at Auto or set the priority to Game, Webpage or Video Streaming. You also have the ability to assign fixed IP addresses to specific devices in your home like a NAS server, and you can set up port forwarding and VPN access.

Xiaomi Mi Router 3C app ndtv xiaomi

The app grants you access to these functions, along with some additional controls. The first tab shows you the status of each device live. You can see the status updating as they connect and disconnect, along with the bandwidth each one is consuming. You can even limit download and upload speeds for each device here, or block websites for specific devices (although there’s no way to do a blanket ban of a website), which also works for HTTPS websites. Conversely, you can limit a device so that it can only access a set of whitelisted URLs while blocking everything else, which is a nice form of parental control.

There’s a plug-ins tab which lets you set the QoS, update the firmware, schedule a reboot, and schedule hours when the Wi-Fi is disabled. You can also let other people monitor the router’s traffic and firewall status, if you give the app permission to access your phone’s contacts. One of the app-only features is Wi-Fi Boost, which analyses your signal strength, bandwidth, and Wi-Fi quality, and will automatically switch you to another channel if needed. You can also get a notification alert every time a new device connects to the router.

We didn’t face any major issues with the firmware during our review period. It does need a bit of polish, as some of the English isn’t always translated well, and there are minor glitches that crop up, like the pie chart in the status menu not always updating to show the current distribution of bandwidth between connected devices.

Xiaomi Mi Router 3C hold ndtv 243817 173800 4078 xiaomi

The Mi Router 3C performed well with most of the devices we used with it, which included a variety of laptops and smartphones. For our speed test, we had the router wired to a host laptop while we copied data to a different Wi-Fi connected laptop at different distances from the router. We used a single 1.39GB file as well as a folder of photos of roughly the same size, to test sustained and random speeds respectively. We got a sustained file transfer speed of 5.6MBps and random file transfer speed of 5.3MBps when we were in the same room with the router. At a distance of about 15m, with a couple of glass and wooden partitions between the target laptop and router, our sustained transfer speed dropped to 2.7MBps while the random file transfer speed dipped to 2.06MBps.

As far as video streaming is concerned, the Mi Router 3C offers decent enough range so that buffering time is minimal at resolutions under 720p. When using a laptop in a room about 10 meters away from the router, with a wall and some glass partitions in between the two, we still managed to stream a 1080p YouTube file. However, skipping ahead in the video introduced some buffering time. We had a similar experience with Amazon Prime Video too.

Verdict
It’s really hard to beat the Xiaomi Mi Router 3C at this price, as it delivers very good features, a useful accompanying app, and good performance. We could have used some more LAN ports as most routers available today have at least three or four. This shouldn’t be a problem for those who will primarily connect to the router wirelessly, but could be a limitation otherwise. We also wish that Xiaomi had included a USB port as it would have made it so much easier to connect a printer or shared storage to the network. The firmware needs some minor tweaks, which we hope will be rolled out in future updates.

Overall, if you’re looking for a basic router that doesn’t skimp on features then the Xiaomi Mi Router 3C is a very good option at Rs. 1,199.

Price: Rs. 1,199

Pros

Very affordable
Well designed firmware and app
Good range
Cons

Only two Ethernet ports
Remote management app requires a Xiaomi account

Rating (Out of 5)

Build quality:4
Features: 4
Performance: 4
Value for money: 5
Overall: 4

 

Mercedes-Benz E220d Review

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has always been the epitome of luxury and comfort in its segment. Launched earlier this year, we did drive the petrol E200 and the diesel E350d and were very impressed by its long list of features and yes, that cavernous boot! The E200, the petrol model is priced at ₹ 56.7 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) and the E 350d is priced at ₹ 70.15 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), which does make it a tad too expensive for those looking for all the luxury that the diesel has to offer and yet want the frugality of the diesel engine. After all, a 12 lakh rupees difference will always be massive. Therefore, Mercedes-Benz India has played it smart and introduced the more affordable E220d in India, which gets a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine (the E 350d has a 3.0-litre V6) at ₹ 57.7 lakh

mercedes benz e 220d review(The E 220d gets a long wheelbase body)

So in essence, with the E 220d, Mercedes-Benz is looking to target a bigger audience for luxury cars. Coming to the car itself, the E 220d is available only in the long wheelbase (LWB) body. So the space for rear passengers is absolutely phenomenal. There is enough room for the rear passengers to have a tea party. The one little grouse that we have is that the car does not offer a fold-out table for the rear passengers, otherwise a proper sit-down dinner could have been organised too.

mercedes benz e 220d review(The E 220d has a similar look to that of its other E-Class siblings)

As far as looks and design are concerned, there are minimal changes. The 5-spoke alloy wheel has a different design than the E350d and the badging of course, is different. Apart from that, the E 220d looks like its other E-Class siblings and that is not a bad thing at all.

mercedes benz e 220d review(The E 220d is a more affordable diesel E-Class variant)

If we were to speak about the features that the E 220 does not have in comparison to the E 350d, the list would include the oh-so-awesome Burmester sound system, 360-degree parking camera, memory function for the seats upfront and the absolutely magnificent air suspension that simply glided over bumps and potholes as if they hardly existed and a few more, which could be easily done without.

mercedes benz e 220d review(The dashboard on the E 220d is similar to the E 350d)

The E 220d is has enough features to keep you entertained and ensconced in luxury while on the move. The cabin retains its elegant look and feel and everything that you touch feels premium. The dashboard gets the same 12.3-inch COMAND Online infotainment display, which is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. In case you would like some fresh air and sunlight, there is a panoramic sunroof as well. Other comfort features include rear seats with reclining and memory function, 64 choices of ambient lighting, reverse camera, PARKTRONIC parking assist, 3-zone auto climate control and the works.

mercedes benz e 220d review(The Mercedes-Benz E 220d gets four driving modes; The instrumentation is comprehensive)

If it is safety that you are looking for, the E220d gets 7 airbags, electronic stability program, acceleration skid control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and a tyre pressure loss warning system as well.

mercedes benz e 220d review(The Mercedes-Benz E 22d gets a brand-new 2.0-litre diesel engine)

The reason why Mercedes-Benz went on to launch a more affordable model of the E-Class diesel is because of the brand new 1950 cc 4-cylinder engine, which is fully made of aluminium and weighs 31 kgs lighter than the previous diesel engine. This also marks the first time that the Stuttgart-based manufacturer has introduced a sub 2.0-litre diesel engine in India. And in the light of the ban on diesel engine cars with a displacement of more than 2000 cc, it’s a rather smart move.

mercedes benz e 220d review(Despite its length, the E 220d handles well)

The engine itself makes 191 horses at 3800 rpm and doles out 400 Nm of peak torque between 1600-2800 rpm. What this means is that there is enough low-end grunt to make those quick overtakes and it builds up speed as smoothly as possible. The refinement of the engine is top-draw and there is hardly any noise seeping into the cabin. Also, the way the engine responds and sounds on mashing the throttle fells more like a petrol engine rather than a diesel one. The 9G-Tronic gearbox, with its beautifully spread ratios always keeps the torque coming which means one hardly feels the turbo lag. There are 4 driving modes to choose from – Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. On highways, we recommend you to choose either the Sport or the Sport Plus but if it’s the city, Comfort should do just fine as well.

mercedes benz e 220d review(The new 2.0-litre diesel engine on the E 220d is quite refined)

The good thing is that the steering firms up when you toggle between the driving modes. Put the car in Sport Plus and the steering immediately weighs up and adds that extra feedback which might have been missing in other driving modes. And given that the car measures over 5 metres in length, it is no slouch when it comes to quick direction changes.

mercedes benz e 220d review(Space and comfort for rear passengers is unparalleled in the E 220d)

The hallmark of a luxury car is the ride that it offers to its passengers. And despite the fact that the E220d misses out on the air suspension, the regular coil springs does a beautiful job of giving a comfortable ride to the occupants in the city and on the highway as well.

mercedes benz e 220d review(The ride quality on the Mercedes-Benz E 220d is supple)

With similar prices for the E200 petrol and the E220d, one could be spoilt for choices in this segment. The E350d no doubt, is a rather lovely luxury sedan, but then, if you have never been in one, you wouldn’t miss the extra features that it gets. The E220d offers a more affordable choice to diesel luxury car buyers, who are many, in numbers. Plus in addition to being affordable, the E220d obviously will be a greener car to run in comparison to the diesel V6 model. And then, if there were ever a ban to be put on cars with a diesel engine and displacing more than 2000 cc, you would still be able to buy the E220d.

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan SUV Review

The Volkswagen Tiguan is like Jackie Chan. At first glance, it’s not intimidating; so not aggressive. Rather, it has a smile on its face and walks about, doing its things. It doesn’t even have a brawny look; so though there is a bit of muscle, it’s doesn’t really show. But, when you call it out for a fight, it doesn’t hesitate; and, yes, it gives its best shot. It’s versatile, to say the least, and Volkswagen India has made every bit of an effort to make sure that it stays that way. Volkswagen recently launched the Tiguan, in India, and at a price point that makes it lock horns with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLA and even the BMW X1. You cannot discount the Hyundai Tucson either; but the folks at Volkswagen insist that the Tucson isn’t its main rival; and that’s when you get to understand how desperately the company wants this one to be a midsize SUV.

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The Volkswagen Tiguan gets a fair share of firsts. It marks VW India’s entry into the compact luxury SUV segment. It’s the company’s first car, in India, which is based on the MQB platform and it’s also the first car, in the compact luxury SUV segment, to get an all-wheel drive, as part of standard fitment. All that said, it’s not the first SUV, from VW, to come to India; does Touareg ring a bell? And, it’s also not made, in India, it’s assembled here. Having cleared out all the facts, let’s get on to the details.

volkswagen tiguan review

I’ve already talked about how the Volkswagen Tiguan doesn’t really look aggressive. It borrows its face from the new-gen Passat and Golf and there’s enough chrome, on the grill and around the car, to make it look a bit more premium. The bonnet sports characteristic lines, which join the grille, in a V shape. The sleek looking LED headlights complete the sophisticated look of the car. Strap a tie on that car; and, it’s ready for a board meeting.

volkswagen tiguan review
Well, it looks better than before and we’re glad that we get the second generation of the car, in India, which looks rather attractive. Compared to the previous-gen model, the new-gen VW Tiguan is 60mm longer, 30mm wider and the wheelbase too is up by 77mm; so yes, it has grown. Though bigger, the Tiguan manages to retain its compact dimensions, with the large wheel arches with short overhangs. The Highline variant, that we were driving, comes fitted with 18-inch multi-spoke alloys, which look good (the Comfortline gets 17-inch wheels). Adding to the rugged look are the brushed aluminium-finished roof rails and the matte cladding, on the lower half of the body. The lines, on the side, merge well into the rear and that’s where you see the LED tail lamps, which are simple and only available in the Highline trim. (Yes, the Comfortline does not get LED tail lamps and we think that’s a big miss).

volkswagen tiguan review
What VW has got spot on though is the cabin; and while the seating position inside is commanding, the layout of the cabin is that of a sedan. The flat-bottomed steering wheel adds to the sportiness quotient and then there’s the twin-pod instrument cluster and finally the all-black interior, which is something that we’ve seen, on other Volkswagen cars.

volkswagen tiguan review
Then, there’s the 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which comes equipped with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. It gets a Bluetooth, cruise control, an SD card slot and a CD player; but sadly, no navigation system and that would have probably been a value addition. However, the navigation can be accessed via the VW App Connect. There’s also a 3-zone climate control, on the Volkswagen Tiguan; but the panoramic sunroof is the highlight of the cabin; but, then again, that’s only available in the Highline variant. The Comfortline also misses out on keyless entry and a push button start system. The spacious cabin has room enough for 5 people and the rear seats can be adjusted, for reach and recline. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable and has a memory function, while the navigator seat can be manually adjusted, for height and reach. There’s good enough kneeroom, shoulder room and head room and the seat cushions help in making you comfortable; even during long journeys. Ergonomically too, everything is within your reach and there are a whole bunch of cubby holes that are spread, all across the car. The Tiguan’s boot has a 615-litre capacity, which expands to 1,655 litres, with the rear seat folded down.

volkswagen tiguan review
But, enough about space! Let’s talk about the engine and well, there’s just one – a diesel. While, in global markets, the Tiguan is available, with a range of powertrains, India just gets the 2.0-litre diesel option. It’s a refined unit, I must admit; but, as the revs build up, there’s a bit of engine noise that seeps into the cabin; nevertheless, it’s not too harsh. Developing 141 bhp, the Tiguan has enough power and certainly you don’t need more than that. Pulling power is available, from 1,900 rpm, and while driving, in city conditions, you do notice that there’s a bit of lag, till it hits the sweet spot. On highways though, the VW Tiguan feels more at home, as the 7-speed DSG unit channels all that power to the wheels; and you reach the three digit mark, on the speedo, effortlessly. Use the rotary control and you can select between different drive modes – Normal, Off-road, Off-road Individual and Snow. In the individual mode, you can change the preference of the steering feel, powertrain behaviour (all of which get modes – Normal Sport or Eco) and even the air conditioning. In the Off-road Individual mode, you can also alter the drivetrain and hill hold/descent settings, as well; so, there are a bunch of options, to choose from.

volkswagen tiguan review
You cannot change the suspension setting on this one and that’s probably good, because this one has a bit more travel. It’s on the softer side and that’s why, it soaks in all the potholes, on the road and even the odd bumps that come your way. The cabin is well insulated, from the ‘thuds’ that you might encounter, thanks to these disturbances, on the road surface; and, we have to commend VW on the NVH levels of the car. The Tiguan builds up speed, on the highway, and there’s very little body roll that you encounter; and that is maybe because it sits lower. The ground clearance is a mere 149 mm, which, for an SUV, is less. The brakes have a nice bite to them and there’s no drama; if you want to stop, in a hurry. It’s not a hard core off roader though; so while it has AWD, it can’t be considered as one. It will do well on rough surface; but don’t expect it to do what a Fortuner or an Endeavour is capable of.

volkswagen tiguan review
As far as safety is concerned, the Volkswagen Tiguan 2017 model has already received a 5 star rating, from Euro NCAP; and yes, the Indian edition too comes packed, with a whole bunch of safety features. It has six airbags, as standard, Isofix child-seat mounts, seat-belts with pre-tensioners, parking sensors, ABS, stability control and a tyre pressure monitoring system. The Highline variant, of the Tiguan also gets reverse parking camera and even self-sealing tyres (basically tyres which won’t puncture, unless you really try hard to get them to). As part of pedestrian safety, the VW Tiguan also gets a sensor, on the front bumper that raises the rear end of the hood, to minimise the injuries caused to a pedestrian, something which comes in handy.

volkswagen tiguan review
This feature packed car is priced at ₹ 27.98 lakh, for the Comfortline, and more than ₹ 31 lakh, for the Highline, making it more expensive than the Hyundai Tucson and even the Ford Endeavour; thus pushing it into a niche segment, with contenders like the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the BMW X1.

The Tiguan, then, proves to be a feature packed, practical offering, which returns a fuel economy figure of more than 17 kmpl (ARAI tested) and still has the finesse of a luxury car. Assembled in India, the Tiguan might take some time to show a spike, on VW’s sales chart; what it will do, however, is set a precedent for other manufacturers, to not shy away from entering a niche segment.