2023 Chrysler Pacifica Review

PROS:


  • Huge cargo space

  • Comfortable seating

  • Endless media options

CONS:


  • Expensive

  • Boring colors

  • Dated infotainment

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

Chrysler's minivan is so incredibly practical that even if you don't have kids in your future, this Pacifica might still be the perfect vehicle for you.

With EVs creeping up many sales charts, even dominating in a few segments, it’s easy to look at humble plug-in hybrids as has-beens, a stop-gap solution for a problem that’s already been solved. But, after spending a week with the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, I’m reminded just how practical these flexible solutions can be.

Sure, global charging networks are incredibly prevalent, but they’re not everywhere yet. Likewise, at-home charging for renters is still a big problem in most places. But the biggest factor working in the Pacifica Hybrid’s factor? This thing is a road trip machine and good ol’ gasoline is still the most convenient way to go in that situation.

Design

So Chrysler’s PHEV is a practical choice for sure, but for a minivan it’s a good looking one, too. The Pacifica is getting a bit old now, current generation introduced in 2017, but it still has a sophisticated style. That said, I confess I’m not a big fan of the teal-ish Fathom Blue Pearl (a $495 option) that this one came painted in. Chrysler offers seven colors to choose from and none are terribly exciting. Personally, I’d go with the flat Ceramic Gray and pair it with the $995 S Appearance Package, which blacks out much of the chrome and comes with matching wheels, but that’s just me.

Keep the chrome and, as you can see in the photos here, there’s plenty of the shiny stuff to be found. Brightwork extends from the logo on the grille up front all the way to the silver insert in the rear bumper. The chrome surrounding the windows is a bit much for me, but the jaunty, bright upward stroke running along the lower doors helps to add a bit of personality to what would otherwise be a dour looking vehicle. The subtle, matching crease that connects the door handles and runs back to form the rear similarly helps keep things interesting.

Out back, the sweep of the taillights pairs nicely with the winged Chrysler logo, prominently placed in the center, while the low bumper makes loading and unloading cargo nice and easy, a task made even easier thanks to the third row of seats that disappear into the floor with the tug of a little strap. That creates 87.5 cubic feet of cargo space, 32.3 with the seats folded up, or a whopping 140.5 cubic feet if you remove the second-row.

Inside

The interior is similarly stately if unexciting, Caramel-colored leather interior pairing nicely with the blue/green exterior. Highlights here are the thoughtful storage areas, like a generous open cubby beneath the center console and a pull-out bin for the second-row that will soon be filled by action figures, charging cables, and half-eaten granola bars.

Infotainment duties are handled by a 10.1-inch touchscreen high in the dashboard, which honestly looks a little small for a modern car this big, but works well. Chrysler’s Uconnect 5 system is very menu-heavy, but it’s also snappy. That’s definitely a nice thing, but the voice recognition leaves a lot to be desired. It’s great for changing in-car settings like temperature and the like but proved hilariously bad at trying to figure out addresses.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Better to bring your own, then. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both on tap here. And there are no shortage of places to connect should you prefer a wired approach. You have a whopping six between the front seats alone, evenly split between USB-A and USB-C. You’ll find more in the second row and another pair way back in the third-row too. No shortage of charging options here.

The Pinnacle trim comes standard with Uconnect Theater, which includes an integrated Blu-ray player that’s tucked down in the center stack, powering either or both of the integrated second-row screens. Each of those has its own remote control. Using those, or through the front infotainment system, the driver or passengers can bring up controls for either of the rear screens, including the Pacifica’s integrated FireTV stick, which can stream directly from the car’s integrated LTE connection. You’ll have to pay for the data, but that may be a small price for hours of quiet cruising.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Photo Credit: Chrysler

You can also BYO media through the Pacifica’s many USB ports, which again can be browsed via the infotainment screen or remotes in the back seats. Someone getting a little fussy? You can even power off and lock either screen from the front until the troublesome passenger gets themselves an attitude adjustment.

So disabled, your passengers will still have the giant windows on either side to look through and watch the scenery go by, or indeed the massive, panoramic sunroof above that spans clear back over the second row’s seats and comes standard on all but the base Touring L spec. All that glass makes for a bright, open space and, while those in the way back do without the glass above, there’s still great visibility out of the sides.

That third row is remarkably comfortable, even for adults my size, with a set of cup holders, HVAC vents, and even window shades. Again, this is a true road-trip machine.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Road Tripping

Big, big miles are no problem in the Pacifica. The ride quality is good and the road noise is admirably muted, especially for a van. That’s even when the engine is running. When the car is burning only battery power it’s even more quiet.

That’s a trick the Pacifica Hybrid can do for up to 32 miles on a full charge of its 16-kilowatt-hour battery. In my testing I managed to do just that, though annoyingly it’s not possible to force the car into an EV mode. By default, on a cold day it’ll run the engine to warm up early, then try to go exclusively on battery until running that dry, then will act like a traditional hybrid. That’s how you’d want it most of the time, but it sure would be nice to tell it to save the battery for later. If you’re going to be droning down the highway for an hour or two before getting into a city, you’d be better off saving that charge for the low-speed stuff to come than blowing all your electrons on the highway.

That’s really my only complaint, though. Even without spinning up the 3.6-liter V6 engine the Pacifica Hybrid is responsive and easy to drive. Dip too deep into the throttle and the engine spins up to help, seamlessly and smoothly adding a total of 287 horsepower, smoother and stronger than most hybrids. That initial EV surge followed by the continual torque of internal combustion makes this an engaging, if not quite exciting drive.

Likewise, steering is direct but not particularly quick and overall handling is capable. You can push the Pacifica hard and have some fun for sure, but your passengers would probably rather you didn’t. When it’s time to haul cargo of the non-living variety, the Pacifica is more practical than many trucks. Again, tug on a strap and the third-row seats disappear into the floor like magic. On a regular Pacifica the second-row seats do the same, but here on the Hybrid you’ll have to carry them away. The process is easy, but they are on the heavy and awkward side.

Seats removed there’s plenty of room back here for just about anything short of a shipping cargo container. The low floor makes loading and unloading easy, and also makes for a stellar bench for either strapping in ski or snowboard boots before hitting the slopes, or untying muddy boots after a long hike. Minivans are of course known for their family practicality, but they are vastly under-appreciated for just how well they fit into an average, active lifestyle.

Efficiency and Safety

Nature-lovers will also probably be drawn to this van’s semi-EV capabilities, and the Pacifica Hybrid’s generous 82-mpg equivalent rating is appealing. In my testing, though, I averaged 27.1 mpg. Most of that was highway, on longer runs that depleted the battery early. If you’re doing shorter, more frequent trips and charging up overnight at home, you’ll do much, much better.

As far as safety systems go, the Pacifica Hybrid comes with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path alerts, and lane departure warnings. Interestingly, you can equip the adaptive cruise control system separate from the non-adaptive cruise. That was very handy when snow buildup disabled the active cruise system. On most modern cars, that situation would result in no cruise at all.

That said, the lane-keep here leaves a lot to be desired. It typically results in the car ping-ponging back and forth between lines, often losing sight of them altogether, resulting in the car simply wandering off to the left or the right. As far as lane departure systems go, Chrysler’s is far simpler than that offered by other, comparably priced SUVs.

Pricing and Options

But then this isn’t an SUV and there aren’t many other vehicles in this class worthy of comparison to the Pacifica. Minivans in the US are few and none are as posh as the Pacifica can be made to be. This top-shelf Pinnacle model starts at $60,190 and had just one option, $495 for that paint. The less luxurious Touring L starts at $50,495. If you’re more interested in hauling cargo or pets than people, that may be the better buy, but if you need to keep a fussy family comfortable and entertained, the Pinnacle will deliver.

So, yes, you’ll be paying a premium price but this is doubtlessly a premium product. It’s pleasant to drive, pleasant to be driven in, and so incredibly practical that even if you don’t have kids in your future, this Pacifica might still be the perfect vehicle for you.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The post 2023 Chrysler Pacifica Review first appeared on Yanko Design.

2023 Toyota Sequoia review

PROS:


  • Bold, stately looks

  • Good power

  • Towing capacity

CONS:


  • Cramped third row

  • Compromised storage

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

A big, capable SUV wrapped in a stately look that gives it the presence to match its volume.

Sometimes you look at a car and look at the name of the car and you’re left with the feeling that the designers and engineers and product planners were pretty far down the list before everyone finally decided what to call the thing. That’s not the case with the Toyota Sequoia, which for the 2023 model year gets a much-needed full redesign.

The sequoia is a tree, of course, but not just any tree. Sequoias are the tallest trees in the world. If that weren’t enough, they’re also the heaviest. Apt, then, that Toyota chose that particular stoic woodland fixture for the name of its biggest SUV, a titanic, three-row machine that will stand large and proud in any company.

Volume Play

How big is it? Well, it’s just 7 cm shorter than Chevrolet’s titanic Tahoe, three cm shorter, and a mere three cm narrower. So, yeah, pretty big, but it fills those proportions well. It looks stately and sophisticated, especially in the Wind Chill Pearl white that my test car you see here was painted.

The Sequoia has always taken styling cues from the Tundra upon which it is based, and thankfully the edgier front-end on Toyota’s redesigned full-sized truck works great here on this full-sized SUV. Big creases in the fenders lead to the headlights up front and the taillights out back, while more creases down low on the doors ensure the thing doesn’t look too slab-sided.

Those creases are highlighted with a bit of brightwork on this, the top-shelf Capstone trim, which pairs nicely with the massive chrome grille out front. (Lesser trims get rather more subtle black grilles, either with horizontal bars or the same honeycomb mesh you see here.) The wheels, too, are polished, measuring a massive 22-inches at all four corners, while the chromed mirror caps ensure there’s plenty of shine throughout.

Interior

The interior, too, has a light and bright look and feel to match the exterior. That’s helped by the cream-colored leather, which the designers thoughtfully included only on the upper portions of the seats. This is a smart move, avoiding the gloomy doldrums found in so many automotive interiors yet also keeping the high-wear areas of the upholstery dark, so you won’t have to worry about stains from blue jeans or brown dogs or anything else that’s liable to come in contact.

That’s typical Toyota family friendliness, which is readily found on even this big, luxurious rig. There are enough cup holders scattered about here for even the thirstiest of little ones and USB charging for every seat, even in the way-back. There’s no in-cabin, middle-seat entertainment offered, but since everybody brings their own media for road trips these days that seems like a smart move.

Starting at the back, the third row is actually reasonably easy to get into thanks to second-row seats that fold forward. But, once those seats are clipped back into position there’s not a lot of room left for luxuries like feet or knees. This is, then, a spot best reserved for little ones. Again, a pair of USB-C ports back here will keep their devices charged up, while manual window shades keep them out of the sun.

Or, if you’re rolling with fewer folks, these seats fold down at the touch of a button. They don’t, however, fold flush with the floor, which makes loading longer cargo a bit awkward. Toyota designers attempted to address this with a moveable rear shelf that can be lifted and then expanded to fill the gap. It’s functional and durable, but it’s also heavy and cumbersome to slot into place.

Second row seats are plenty comfortable, with enough head and leg room to suit adults. Middle passengers have their own USB-A and C ports, along with discrete HVAC controls and even a little plastic storage cubby between the seats.

Up front, though, is of course the most comfortable place to be. The heated and ventilated seats are plush enough for longer trips and wide enough for squirming around when those trips get to be a little too long. Those heaters are also extremely effective; you’ll never suffer from a chilly posterior here. Visibility is great and, with the massive panoramic sunroof, there’s never any shortage of light. That said, the view out the back is limited, whether you use the traditional rear-view mirror or the digital one. The digital mirror has the advantage of not forcing you to look past a truckload of passengers, but the flat colors and lack of contrast just make everything look awfully muted.

Tech

The other displays in the cabin fare better, particularly the 14-inch center display. It sits up high in the middle of the dashboard, up above a comprehensive set of HVAC controls — and a USB-A plug that looks a little bit randomly tacked on there. Toyota’s new (and cunningly named) Toyota Multimedia System is stripped down basic to the extreme, with few controls and menus, but despite that it works well. Everything is easy to find and everything is extremely snappy. Even the voice recognition is near-instantaneous. Overall, it’s a huge upgrade over previous generations of Entune.

But, of course, you can supplant all that with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, wirelessly here, with a Qi wireless charger capable of keeping your phone charged while it drives the in-dash experience.

Another display lives behind the steering wheel, a 12.3-inch virtual gauge cluster that displays all the information you need, with configurable displays showing everything from boost pressure to pitch and roll. If that’s not enough, a 10-inch heads-up display beams intel onto the windscreen, too.

Performance

So you won’t be lacking information, nor power. Every Sequoia trim gets Toyota’s i-Force Max V6, with 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque thanks not only to a pair of turbos but also a hybrid system. Make no mistake: Toyota’s not really making this out to be an economical choice. In fact, the default gauge configuration shows the power from the hybrid system right next to the turbo boost pressure. This, then, is purely a power move, and the EPA figures show it: 20 mpg is the combined rating on 4WD Sequoia, 19 in the city and 22 on the highway. I didn’t come anywhere near those figures, scoring 16.5 in my testing.

So yes, it’s a hybrid, but not the sort that you can expect to cover any miles in emissions-free. In fact, I struggled to speed to more than a crawl before the 3.445-liter engine spun to life. Even pretending there was a fresh egg between my foot and the gas pedal didn’t help. When it does fire, you’ll hear it. Even in Eco mode that V6 is quite loud. It sounds good to my ear, but it can tend to drone after longer stretches on the road.

Acceleration is strong and towing healthy, the Sequoia, with its Class IV hitch, is rated to tow 8,980 pounds in Capstone trim, 9,520 if you step down to the SR5. Handling, meanwhile, is tolerably good but with some unmistakeable, truck-like vibes that harken back to its Tundra underpinnings. It’s calm and smooth on the highway and deals with minor road imperfections without too much complaint, but bigger bumps definitely upset things.

For anyone coming from a truck, like the aforementioned Tundra, this will all feel very familiar and the Sequoia is quite comfortable for the most part. But, if you’re stepping up from a smaller, crossover SUV, the driving dynamics will feel harsh. Par for the course for something that can tow this much or, indeed, hold its own after the asphalt ends. I sadly didn’t have a chance to properly test the Sequoia’s off-road chops, but with its two-speed transfer case and limited-slip differential at the rear, it should handle itself just fine in the rough stuff.

Options and Pricing

If you are more interested in challenging ruts and rocks, the TRD Pro trim might be more your style, with its locking rear differential and 2.5-inch Fox coilovers. What you see here is the Capstone trim, with a more luxurious intent. It is priced to match. Toyota lists a current base price for the Sequoia SR5 at $56,365. This 4X4 Capstone trim, with about $1,000 in options and a $1,595 destination charge, came in at a rather more dear $80,906. For that you get all the extra flare on the outside, plush posh, multicolor ambient lighting inside, nicer materials, and auto-leveling air suspension.

Capstone doesn’t really get you much beyond the Platinum trim, which starts about $5,000 cheaper. That seems like the right place to start.

So it’s big, capable, has plenty of room inside and out, and wraps it all up in a stately look that gives it the presence to match its volume. It is, in other words, a great choice for those who want to haul lots of folks, tow lots of things, and go to lots of places that aren’t necessarily paved. Toyota’s refreshed big boy delivers.

The post 2023 Toyota Sequoia review first appeared on Yanko Design.

Toyota Corolla Cross Review

PROS:


  • Comfortable, calm ride

  • Affordable

  • Boomin' sound system

CONS:


  • Underpowered

  • Too few USB ports

  • Somewhat anonymous

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

Toyota's little SUV doesn't exactly reach out and grab you to make a first impression. But, spend some time with one and you'll find a comfortable, capable partner available at a compelling price.

With the rush of every manufacturer on the planet to meet the unyielding need for more and more crossover SUVs, every consumer everywhere seemingly yearning for the things, there’s enough volume there for manufacturers to come up with their own interesting, unique take on the segment. Something quirky, something different, something perhaps a bit weird.

The 2023 Corolla Cross is none of those things. From the conservative exterior to the monotone interior, Toyota’s little SUV doesn’t exactly reach out and grab you to make a first impression. But, spend some time with one and you’ll find a comfortable, capable partner available at a compelling price.

Growing up

It almost feels a bit derivative for Toyota to call its littlest SUV the Corolla Cross, milking nearly 60 years worth of name recognition for small, value-oriented motoring. But the Corolla Cross is very much a bigger, taller version of the stoic Corolla, and for that reason you have to respect the no-nonsense nomenclature here.

That said, for a crossover SUV that shares so much with the sedan, on the outside there’s very little visually to connect the two. It starts up front with a tall, dark grille that itself sits on top of more dark material, some black plastic cladding that runs all the way around the car, forming the lower extents of the fenders, rocker panels, and rear bumper. This gives the car a slightly chunky, vaguely rugged look that’s necessary for this segment.

The blocky fender flares help in that regard, too, highlighting the rear tail-lights, which stand out from the receding flanks of the car. A tiny spoiler mounted on the top of the hatch gives only the tiniest of sporting pretensions, mounted just aft of the only real bit of visual flare: a tiny chrome badge that says “Corolla Cross.”

All that cladding on the front, back, and sides pairs well with the Blue Crush Metallic paint, a color that, like the rest of the car, is pretty straightforward.

While the outside of the Corolla Cross doesn’t share too much with its namesake, it’s a completely different story on the inside. The interior is an almost identical clone of that found in the Corolla hatch and sedan. Mind you, that’s not a bad thing. Surely it helps keep the cost down, a factor I’ll be referencing a lot in this review, but regardless it’s a nicely laid out and well-made space.

The dash is a combination of simple, clean shapes of soft-touch plastics embossed with an unfortunate faux leather pattern, complete with pretend stitching. With so many premium manufacturers like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz going out of their way to offer vegan interiors, I’m inclined to say it’s time for manufacturers to give up on the pretend leather patterns.

Materials overall are good, hard plastics limited to the lower door cards and center console between the seats, though the headliner does feel a little cardboardy. Only the gloss piano black surfaces around the shifter and infotainment system are a real bother. They’re impossible to keep clean at the best of times and, given how your average Corolla gets used, they’re liable to be properly filthy in the wild.

The center stack contains a simple, separate HVAC row with a pair of temperature knobs for driver and passenger, a few physical buttons, and a little LCD for temperature and mode readouts. Up above the vents you’ll find the main infotainment touchscreen, eight inches in the XLE and standing proud out of the dashboard.

This is flanked with another pair of knobs, including one for volume thank goodness, plus eight buttons for going home or skipping straight to various sections of Entune. Entune itself is, well, Entune, dated and tired but perfectly functional. There’s no navigation out of the box, you’ll need to install that separately, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of connecting your smartphone I’d say you might as well just use either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Either of which work just fine here so long as you don’t mind plugging in.

That means the lone front USB port up front will be used to drive the infotainment experience. There’s a wireless Qi charger, too, but if your passenger wants to gain a little juice and use their phone at the same time they’re out of luck. Rear-seat passengers, meanwhile, get one each of USB Type-A and USB Type-C.

The gauge cluster is a large, centrally mounted LCD. A physical tachometer runs up the left side and, on the right, separate dials for fuel level and coolant temperature. That large central LCD doesn’t offer much in the way of customization, its middle section able to cycle through things like trip info and ADAS status — all the usual stuff and nothing too flashy. Much like the rest of the car, then.

There is, though, one thing that’ll make you sit up and take notice: the nine-speaker JBL sound system. This thing kicks. Sure, it lacks a little finesse, and I had to drop the bass in the settings before I could really hear the lyrics clearly in most of the music I listened to, but for a car this affordable it’s a great system. Bass lovers will find little need to upgrade.

Patient driving

While so much of the car is fair to middling, if there’s one area sure to leave you wanting it’s the powertrain department. The Corolla Cross features a 169-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired with a continuously variable transmission. The CVT here does its best to ape a traditional automatic, changing ratios to simulate gear shifts every now and again, but still you’d best get used to the continuous droning complaints of each of the four cylinders whenever you push the accelerator flat to the floor.

And you’re liable to do that a lot. Anytime you want to get up a hill, for example, or accelerate to highway speed. Passing on a two-lane road? You’d best make sure the road is clear for a good, long way before putting on that turn signal. This is the same motor used in the smaller, 175-pound lighter, FWD Corolla. Here, dragging around a heavier, AWD Corolla Cross, it struggles.

It is, at least, frugal. The Corolla Cross in XLE trim is rated at 29 mpg city, 32 highway, and 30 combined. In my mixed testing I came in at 29.2 mpg.

Underwhelming though it may be, lack of performance is not the end of the world. The Corolla Cross is perfectly driveable and, if you’re a little less impatient on your commutes than I, you’ll be just fine. In fact, with the Corolla Cross’s relaxed suspension and comforting ride, there’s no reason to push.

Your back-seat passengers will probably appreciate your taking it easy anyway. There isn’t exactly a massive amount of legroom back there, but it’s enough, plus plenty of headroom. There’s seating for three-across, but unless your guests are small you’re better off keeping it to two and letting them use the flip-down armrest.

When rolling solo, the seats split and fold 60/40, giving easy access to the 25.2 cubic feet of storage space (slightly more, 26.5, if you go with the FWD version). The rear of the car is accessed through a power liftgate (part of the $1,250 Convenience Package), where the floor has handy cubbies on the left and right, perfect for stuffing avocados and other bits of produce from your grocery run that are otherwise liable to roll around on the ride home.

In terms of active safety, the Corolla Cross comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes the usual niceties like adaptive cruise and advanced lane-keep assist. It does a fair job of keeping you centered in the lane, but beeps annoyingly any time you stray near the lines.

If you want blind-spot monitoring, you’ll need to opt for at least the mid-tier LE model, which also gives you rear cross-traffic alert, ensuring you don’t back yourself into trouble. Finally, step up to the top-trim XLE and you also get parking assist sensors along with automatic emergency braking.

Pricing and Options

The base Corola Cross L starts at $22,445. The model you see here, however, is a top-trim XLE AWD, with a starting price of $27,625. $1,465 added on that banging JBL sound system, plus an integrated alarm, while $1,250 brought the power liftgate and sunroof to the party. Self-leveling and auto-dimming headlights add another $615, plus $249 for cargo mats and $299 for the crossbars on the roof rack.

Total price for the car you see here was $32,718, including a $1,215 destination charge. That’s for a fully loaded car, and one that feels like it, but the sweet spot is found on the lower-spec Corolla Cross LE in FWD, which you can get with the brighter, light gray interior and still spec many of the desirable options, walking away with a lot more money in your pocket.

Regardless how you option it out, you’ll wind up with a nice-driving, comfortable, and clean-looking SUV that’ll do a great job of hauling you and all your stuff wherever you need to go — just so long as you’re not in a hurry to get there.

The post Toyota Corolla Cross Review first appeared on Yanko Design.

MUCAR CDE900: One of The OBD2 Tools Used by Apprentice Machinists

Mucar CDE900

Maybe every car owner encounters a flashing check engine light, and this problem has puzzled me for a long time, I’m not sure if the engine injector needs to be cleaned, or the engine combustion is not good. However, if the problem is not solved in time, it will affect the quality of vehicle exhaust […]

The post MUCAR CDE900: One of The OBD2 Tools Used by Apprentice Machinists appeared first on Geeky Gadgets.

vivo iQOO 11 Review: An excellent flagship that will go unnoticed

PROS:


  • High-end specs in a "vanilla" model

  • Large, fast-charging battery

  • Decent cameras especially at night

CONS:


  • No dust or water resistance rating

  • Limited availability

  • Forgettable design (Alpha variant)

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
SUSTAINABILITY / REPAIRABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

The iQOO 11 delivers a remarkable bevy of premium features in an affordable package you won't be able to easily buy in most markets.

The year is almost over, but smartphone manufacturers aren’t exactly done yet. Coming up at the last minute is vivo’s performance sub-brand iQOO, presenting to the world what is actually one of the first entries into the next generation of smartphones that will be arriving next year. This gives the brand the opportunity not only to end the year with a bang but also to start the next one on the right foot. But with so many smartphones already in the market and more yet to come, one has to wonder if every new model has what it takes to even get a bite out of that lucrative yet crowded market pie. That’s the challenge facing the nascent iQOO 11, so we take it for a test drive to see if it can stand out and rise above its peers.

Designer: iQOO

Aesthetics

Designing the appearance of a smartphone can be a delicate and unrelenting balancing act. On the one hand, you need to be noticeable at first glance, even from afar, to attract attention and potential buyers. On the other hand, the market’s high and rapid turnover of designs means that it’s difficult to pick out brands and even models just by looking at them. This tug-of-war between individuality and brand recognition is an ever-present struggle for most smartphone makers aside from Apple, and it seems that iQOO has tried to play it a bit safe this time around.

The iQOO 11’s basic design is pretty much standard among phones, with large rectangular camera islands taking up an obscene amount of space on their backs. To its credit, iQOO has been using this structure on a large number of its phones, varying only the arrangement of the lenses and the placement of the bump’s “chin.” To be fair, the iQOO 11’s appearance isn’t as obnoxious as others, but at the same time, it might also look a tad plain to the eyes, all too common in a sea of smartphones with large rectangular boxes housing their cameras.

Granted, that’s only true for the black “Alpha” variant we’re reviewing. This model gets an AG frosted glass for its back that makes the phone look stylish yet subdued. The other “Legend” variant, however, has more personality, thanks to its BMW M branding. That is expressed in a predominantly white back with the motorsports’ iconic red, black, and blue stripes running down its back. Beyond appearances, however, there is also more variety in materials used here, including vegan leather for the majority of the surface and fiberglass for the stripes. Not everyone will like this more active design, but it’s hard to deny it is more memorable and identifiable as well.

The iQOO 11’s back curves at the edges to meet the premium aluminum frame, a bit of a holdover from the days when curved was fashionable. In contrast, the phone’s display is completely flat, which is the current trend on most devices, with some exceptions. The large 6.78-inch screen is surrounded by very thin bezels, leaving plenty of room for content. As they say, content is king, and the bright and vibrant display definitely enthrones it in the best way possible.

Ergonomics

Considering how we use our smartphones for long periods of time every day, it is paramount that they are comfortable to hold in our hands. Given how expensive they have become, it’s also important that they allow a firm grip on the device to prevent it from slipping or falling off our hands. Unfortunately, the design of some phones and the materials they use don’t always work towards that goal.

The iQOO 11’s 208g weight isn’t much, especially for a phone with this big a screen. It gets a bit less wieldy, however, when you consider the size of the device, the material on its back, and how you’re forced to hold it for some operations. The black Alpha’s frosted glass is nice to look at and feels good in the hand, but it’s also slippery and almost precarious. Fortunately, iQOO does ship its phones with a clear silicone case as a protective measure. Unsurprisingly, the Legend doesn’t have this problem thanks to its more textured leather back.

One small but important consideration is the placement of the fingerprint scanner on the screen used to unlock the device or authenticate logins and transactions. On the iQOO 11, it’s a little too low for comfort, forcing you to place your hand lower, which could make it slip from your hand, or use a finger from your other hand. It’s definitely doable but not exactly comfortable.

Other than those considerations, though, the iQOO 11 is definitely a joy to hold in your hand or hands. The curved edges of the back cover don’t cut into your hand, though the ergonomic benefits of such a design are now being contested by flatter designs. Given the power that the phone offers and the experiences it unlocks, you might easily forget about such considerations, at least until you feel the soreness in your hand or, worse, accidentally drop the phone onto the pavement.

Performance

Manufacturers often reserve the best specs for “Pro” models, leaving vanilla or base models to be flagships only in name and appearance. That’s what makes the iQOO 11 an unexpected but much-welcomed surprise because it bears most, though not all, of the features you’d expect from a high-end and expensive premium phone. That starts with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which needs no introduction. Together with fast UFS 4.0 storage, the phone exhibits chart-topping performance, whether you’re just browsing the Web, playing games, or even creating content such as videos and images.

The 1440p 144Hz AMOLED display is also a big surprise, literally and figuratively. It is simply one of the best panels around, reaching high brightness levels and displaying accurate colors that you can tweak to your preference. That high refresh rate, though, feels more like a marketing stunt than an essential feature since very few apps other than benchmarks seems to be able to use it. For the most part, the phone intelligently switches between 60Hz and 120Hz depending on the content, ensuring that videos and games will be buttery smooth while prolonging battery life for other tasks.

To support all this power, the iQOO 11 has a pretty large 5,000 mAh battery that is responsible for most of the heft you’ll feel in your hand. With moderate “regular” use, you’ll find yourself left with just a little under 50% at the end of the day, and even an intense day of watching and gaming will still see you through until you need to recharge at night. And when it does come to recharge, you only need around 24 minutes to go from flat to 100%, thanks to the included 120W charger. Suffice it to say, you won’t be wanting for anything when it comes to all-day power and performance.

iQOO did seem to cut back a bit on the cameras, though not in any way that ruins the iQOO 11’s winning streak. On paper, the trio of sensors that live on its back sound middling or mediocre, but in practice, only one of those fits that description. The 50MP main camera produces very good images, whether under bright light or on overcast days. The 13MP 2x telephoto camera is hardly perfect, but it is able to manage on its own quite well. It’s the 8MP ultra-wide sensor that’s the black sheep of the family, resulting in images that are “good enough” but never notable. Overall, the phone does remarkably well in this area, considering the hardware it has to work with. Part of its success likes in vivo’s V2 imaging chip, which can be credited for the camera’s excellent nighttime performance that makes a dedicated Night Mode almost superfluous.

Sustainability

If the iQOO 11’s design looks common, its sustainability is just as similar as other phones in the market. That is to say, there isn’t much to talk about it, especially in a positive light. It has the usual blend of non-sustainable materials, both inside and outside, though the use of vegan leather on the Legend edition might be a point in its favor. There’s also little to no word on the company’s commitment to sustainable practices, even in packaging. The fact that it ships with a charger might even seem detrimental, though you’d be hard-pressed to find a compatible 120W charger anyway.

What makes the phone’s situation a little worse is that it has no advertised IP rating for dust and water resistance. While phones are always manufactured to a certain standard of durability, there is no assurance that they all have the same survival chances against small particles and liquid. Granted, an official IP rating is quite expensive and sometimes unnecessary in light of a manufacturer’s assurances. Sadly, iQOO doesn’t even make claims to assure buyers of the device’s long-term survivability.

Value

The iQOO 11 definitely checks all the right boxes when it comes to smartphone features, at least for those parts that interest users. It might not look impressive unless you grab the BMW M-branded variant, but many won’t mind that if they can get a high-performance device without overspending. Again, the iQOO 11 aims to please with a price tag that amounts to around $540, significantly lower than most premium flagships.

The problem, however, is whether you can get your hands on one in the first place. Unlike its parent company, iQOO has an even shorter list of markets that it serves, mostly in China and Southeast Asia. That means that despite all the power and performance that it can deliver, you won’t be able to experience a single one of those. You could try your luck importing it from other retailers, but network compatibility concerns make it a rather expensive gamble. You’ll be better off buying something that’s actually available in your area, even if it doesn’t have the same features.

Verdict

The vivo iQOO 11 is the epitome of how looks can be deceiving. Although it is by no means unattractive, its rather common design might get it easily overlooked by potential buyers looking for something more noteworthy, even without a case or skin. The BMW M Legend edition does have more character, but not everyone will fall in love with the sports car branding. If you manage to look past appearances, though, you will find a very capable device that will get you through a day with aplomb. Whether it’s for serious business, distracting games, or even content creation, the iQOO 11 has enough muscle to support your every need and whim.

That said, they also say that the devil is in the details, and small nitpicks here and there could make it look less attractive, not to mention completely unfeasible. The cameras are good but not excellent, and the lack of IP rating could nag people’s subconscious minds. There’s definitely plenty of room for improvement and plenty of opportunities for an iQOO 11 Pro to steal the spotlight. Unfortunately, neither phone will be available on a wider global scale, making all of these nice things ultimately moot for many people.

The post vivo iQOO 11 Review: An excellent flagship that will go unnoticed first appeared on Yanko Design.

Movavi Screen Recorder Review: Is It Really That Good?

Movavi Screen Recorder

Movavi Screen Recorder is a popular screen recording tool that has been on the market for several years. Is it really that good? In this review, we’ll take a look at the features and performance of the software to see if it’s worth your time and money. Spoiler alert: it definitely is! General Overview, Pricing, […]

The post Movavi Screen Recorder Review: Is It Really That Good? appeared first on Geeky Gadgets.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

OPPO Find N2 Foldable Phone Review: A Design Marvel You Can Fit in Your Hand

PROS:


  • Lighter, thinner, more ergonomic design

  • Improved Flexion hinge experience

  • Impressive camera output

  • Protective case included in the box

CONS:


  • A few software issues

  • Not available globally

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
SUSTAINABILITY / REPAIRABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

Elegant and delightful, the OPPO Find N2 represents a refinement of the foldable phone design that deserves to reach global markets.

Given their marketing strength, you’d think that Samsung and maybe Huawei are the only ones doing foldable phones, with a bit of Motorola on the side. Of course, there are now a few more players in that arena, especially when you turn your attention toward the East. It’s a relatively nascent market compared to the larger smartphone industry, which means there’s plenty of room for improvement but also plenty of temptations to just go with the flow. There are still plenty of unanswered questions regarding foldable phones’ design, from the reliability of its hinge to the very purpose of their existence, but those doubts never stopped companies from attempting to innovate and search for answers. OPPO, for one, seems to have done quite a lot of work for its second-gen “horizontal” foldable, so we take the OPPO Find N2 in our hands to check how much has improved and how much has remained unchanged.

Designer: OPPO

Aesthetics

It’s almost too easy to think that once you have seen one foldable phone, you’ve already seen them all. After all, there are only so many ways you can fold a device, given the limitations of today’s technologies. Right from the start, however, the OPPO Find N bucked the trend to show that there is a slightly different way to design a large, horizontal foldable phone, and the Find N2 iterates over that design almost to perfection.

Unlike all the rest from Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Honor, and Vivo, the OPPO Find N2 maintains the more familiar aspect ratios and shapes of phones and tablets. When folded closed, the “phone” isn’t an awkwardly tall and narrow piece of screen real estate that makes it difficult to even peck a few words on it. When opened up, the “tablet” is closer to a landscape or horizontal aspect ratio that’s more typical of these slates. That means you won’t have to constantly rotate the phone after opening it to watch videos properly or take advantage of split-screen functionality.

While that basic form has remained the same, OPPO’s second foldable phone does change things in subtle yet meaningful ways. You might not even notice how thinner it is compared to its predecessor, but it adds up to make the device more manageable in your hand. You will appreciate how light it is, though, which isn’t exactly surprising given how smaller it is compared to most foldables of its kind. OPPO also made important improvements in both the look and feel of the device, starting with the anodized metal frame that tastefully matches and accents the phone’s color. The back material has also been changed from glossy glass to a matte texture that helps a lot with grippy-ness. There’s even a vegan leather model that makes the phone look classy while giving something your fingers will enjoy as well.

The OPPO Find N2 is undoubtedly a beauty to behold from any side or angle, especially thanks to how it folds completely flat and how the crease at the fold is nearly invisible. One design aspect that might be a bit divisive is the camera bump, something that it inherits from the first Find N. A bit like the gorgeous OPPO Find X5 Pro, that bump slopes gently upward. Unlike that award-winning design, however, there is a clear demarcation around the camera island, creating an abrupt stop in eye movement. Admittedly, it’s a minor detail that others might actually find tasteful, especially compared to more obnoxious camera bumps on other phones, foldable or otherwise.

Ergonomics

The driving force behind OPPO’s decision to stay off the beaten foldable design path is the ease of use rather than mere technological demonstration. Its smaller size and more familiar aspect ratios make it easier to hold and use even with a single hand, something that’s rare with regular phones these days. Although it might seem like you’re sacrificing screen size, what you’re really getting is a more practical and ergonomic device that looks great and feels just as great in your hands.

OPPO’s “waterdrop” hinge design has always made it possible to close the phone completely flat, which means it takes up less space and is effectively thinner when folded. The OPPO Find N2 further optimizes this design by making the device thinner and, more importantly, lighter, mostly by improving materials and reducing the number of parts needed in its Flexion Hinge. All of these result in a device that’s comfortable to use and puts less strain on your hands and arms. Given how you’re likely to enjoy using it for hours on end, that’s a rather significant quality of life improvement.

At the same time, OPPO has taken pains to also make sure you’re able to hold on better to the phone to prevent accidents. That switch to matte glass for the back adds a bit of texture that helps your finger grip the device better. But if you still fear your clumsiness, OPPO generously includes a two-piece protective case in the box that matches the phone’s color for added peace of mind. It’s the typical silicone case, though, so it does take away some of the phone’s stylish beauty.

One of the biggest improvements in the OPPO Find N2 is something that you can’t see. The company’s second-generation Flexion Hinge features improved durability thanks to the use of new materials like carbon fiber and high-strength alloy. It also has 38 fewer parts than the previous-gen hinge while delivering improved robustness and reliability. For example, it can now stay open at any angle between 45 to 125 degrees. This is part of the reason why the Find N2 is lighter and more usable, without compromising its functionality.

Performance

The Find N2 is no slouch when it comes to internal components either, though it is a tad late to bear the latest mobile processor. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, however, is very much cable of handling anything you can throw at it, especially when you consider the 12 or 16GB of memory you can utilize. In terms of raw power, there really isn’t much to complain about, and the phone will serve you well whether you’re binging the latest streaming shows, playing your favorite mobile games, or even being productive with work tasks.

Both displays on the OPPO Find N2 are top-notch, and not just because of their aspect ratios. The external 5.54-inch 2120×1080 AMOLED display is bright and vibrant, and its 120Hz refresh rate is decent even for games. The main star is, of course, the internal 7.1-inch 1920×1792 AMOLED LTPO screen that can dial its refresh rate down to 1Hz to preserve the battery. This flexible screen is just as delightful and colorful as any other, but, more importantly, the crease that splits it into two areas is barely visible at any angle. Your finger won’t be able to tell it’s there, either, which is a far cry from the dip that even the Galaxy Z Fold 4 still has at this point.

One problem with most foldable phones is that there isn’t much space to cram large cameras inside them. It’s no surprise, then, that the OPPO Find N2’s set is no match for some of the latest flagships in the market. That being said, it’s actually not bad at all, despite what the specs sheet might suggest. It definitely helps that the famed Hasselblad had a hand in fine-tuning the photography experience, especially through the software and filters. OPPO’s dedicated imaging NPU, the MariSilicon X, also deserves credit for the cameras’ performance, particularly when 4K content is involved.

The 50MP camera on its own produces excellent photos even in low-light situations. The ultra-wide camera gets a decent 48MP sensor, so you’re not actually sacrificing quality by switching to a more panoramic shot, though there are telltale signs of lens distortion at the edges. Just as impressive is the 32MP sensor on the telephoto camera, something that you won’t expect for close-up shots. The 32MP front-facing cameras, both inside and outside, are also good and won’t leave you wanting when it comes to selfies and video calls either.

The Find N2 runs OPPO’s ColorOS 13 version of Android 13, which offers a beautiful and fluid interface as well as plenty of options to customize your experience. What makes this version different are the gestures designed to make it easy to take advantage of the form factor, specifically in “splitting” the screen between two apps. That said, OPPO could only do so much to nudge Android apps to behave well in this context. You’ll find some apps still don’t play nice with foldable phones, but that is a flaw of the platform more than the hardware.

Sustainability

While OPPO is blazing a trail when it comes to innovating on foldable phones, it isn’t making inroads in changing the narrative around sustainability. There are always small steps forward, like the use of recycled paper or the reduction of packaging size, but the phones themselves mostly remain beautiful yet harmful products of human ingenuity and creativity. OPPO has also yet to jump on the slowly growing trend of making its phones more easily repairable by third parties and even owners themselves, but the complexity of a foldable phone makes that a non-starter anyway.

The OPPO Find N2 does at least improve the phone’s reliability a bit so that it won’t find itself in repair shops too soon. The reduction of the number of parts that make up the new hinge also translates to a reduction of the things that could potentially break. Improving the phone’s overall durability might not be a big sustainability gain, but it at least helps prolong the lifetime of a product and delay its arrival in landfills.

One of the three available colors for the Find N2 also uses vegan leather to offer a luxurious aesthetic that doesn’t harm the environment, particularly animals. Vegan leather, however, is also a bit controversial in how it has become somewhat of a marketing buzzword. When implemented properly, however, it’s still a more viable alternative to other non-sustainable materials that make a phone look dashing.

Value

The first foldable OPPO phone challenged the status quo of this niche market with a design that proves there’s still another way to do things. The OPPO Find N2, then, is a refinement of that design that smooths out the rough edges to deliver a product that is almost perfect, at least for what its intended goals are. Stylish and handy, the Find N2 offers a foldable device that feels like a finished product rather than an expensive prototype. Its design is clearly informed by the need to have something comfortable, usable, and aesthetic rather than simply flaunting technical and engineering innovations.

For all its strengths, the OPPO Find N2 has one critical flaw that makes all of the above almost moot and academic. It won’t be available anywhere other than China, at least not in the immediate future. And while you might be able to purchase it through third-party retailers, the software experience might be so different that it detracts from the enjoyment of the device. Fortunately, OPPO hasn’t closed the door on the possibility of a global launch, but it’s taking a wait-and-see approach in order to measure market interest.

Verdict

Many people still doubt that foldable phones, both the larger ones and the clamshell designs, are the future of mobile phones, but it’s hard to deny that they will play a large part in their development. As components become more accessible, more companies will be putting out such devices to the point that they will become commonplace. For now, however, there are only a few that dare dip their toes in that market, and even fewer who dare to be different.

The OPPO Find N2 is clearly a rare breed, not only because of how much smaller it is but also because of its focus. While all phone brands will naturally claim that they are designing for usability, OPPO takes that mission to heart. The result is a foldable device that is elegant, delightful, and practical, able to fit seamlessly into everyday life just like their non-foldable brethren.

The post OPPO Find N2 Foldable Phone Review: A Design Marvel You Can Fit in Your Hand first appeared on Yanko Design.

First Drive New Honda Civic Type R

PROS:


  • New more mature-looking design

  • Brilliant handling 

  • Quicker and more responsive acceleration

CONS:


  • Exhaust note could be sportier

  • Cabin is very red

  • The LogR data-logger only works at certain tracks

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

This Type R feels seriously quick, light, chuckable and genre-beating. It just gets on with the business of driving as fast as the pilot wants, but making that driver feel like a production car series hero in the process.

It might only be the second Civic Type R model to come to the U.S. but it’s by far the best looking and most epic handling R we’ve ever seen. And Honda tells us that they will take their new road-going scud missile to Germany’s famed Nurburgring circuit ‘soon’ to recapture the “world’s fastest front-drive car” record—the one they lost to Renault’s Megane R.S. Trophy-R back in 2019.

Hurtling at 100 mph into Corner 3 on the Autopolis Circuit in southern Japan, the new Type R was tempting me to push harder. This 2023 Type R has higher cornering speeds than its predecessor and it’s so much easier to drive at the limits of adhesion.

Its weight balance is so well-sorted that you don’t have to provoke it into oversteer to get around a corner quickly. Steering response is pinpoint accurate and superbly weighted and the 4 piston Brembo brakes wipe off speed prodigiously and with little fade.

The 6th-generation is by far the best-looking

But before we dive into the juicy bits, let’s first revisit some of the brand’s history. This is the sixth generation of the Civic Type R, a high performance marque that normally appears at least a year after the base Civic launches. And this time it’s no different. Honda introduced its eleventh generation Civic in 2021, and followed that up with the hybrid version and Type R in 2022 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Civic. This year also just happens to be the 30th anniversary of the very first “Type R” road car—the NSX Type R which went on sale in 1992.

The first ‘EK9’ Civic Type R of 1997 was a tame-looking 3-door hatchback based on the 6th generation Civic. It was very basic with some nice wheels, a rear spoiler and a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter pumping out 182-hp and 118 lb-ft of torque. It was the same story for the ‘EP3’ 2nd generation Type R that came along in 2001. It had new sports wheels, chunkier side skirts, a rear spoiler and a 212-hp 2.0-liter VTEC engine, but it still looked like a bread delivery van. The next ‘FN2’ Type R followed the same formula, even though it looked a little more futuristic.

Fortunately things started to heat up when Honda revealed the more extreme ‘FK2’ model appeared in 2015. That car looked more race car-inspired boasting splitters, wings, vents and a high performance 2.0-liter turbocharged engine packing 306-hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.

Seemingly inspired by the outgoing version, Honda’s stylists threw caution to the wind with the totally over-the-top 5th-generation ‘FK8’ Type R that arrived in 2017. That car had more edges and sharp lines than a Zaha Hadid designed museum, with bigger splitters, wings, vents and hood scoops than any 2.0-liter before it.

Can Honda regain its Nurburgring lap record?

But it was the 5th generation model that put the Type R name on the map when it posted a lap time of 7 minutes 43 seconds around the Nurburgring circuit in 2017, making it the fastest ‘front-wheel-drive car on the planet.’ That record, however was snatched away in 2019 when the Megane RS Trophy-R bettered Honda’s time with a blistering 7 minutes 40 seconds.

To rub salt in the wound, Renault brought their Megane to Honda’s home race track of Suzuka Circuit in central Japan in late 2019, and proceeded to rewrite the Civic Type R’s lap record by three seconds with time of 2 minutes 25 seconds. So it’s a given that straight after Honda recaptures the Nurburgring lap record, it will return to Suzuka to retake its spiritual home record. That should be something to see.

So what about the all-new car? When we say “it’s the best-looking so far,” we don’t really have much to compare with, given that the predecessor employed such busy styling that it looked strangely like something from Transformers. Of course, if you back to the earlier models, the ones that did not make it to the U.S., then we can see the evolution of the series. Even if we compare the new model to the previous five generations, with original version first surfacing in 1997, then we would still say that the latest version is the best-looking.

One look at the all-new model and you can see that it is altogether more mature and less flashy. Gone is that edgy, boy-racer styled, Fast and Furious-inspired design, replaced by more subtle edges and a less angry face. One colleague even suggested that it looked a lot like an Accord, and I had to nod in agreement. One reason—there’s no more 3D protruding hood scoop, a definite sign that Honda is trying to dial down its boy-racer image.

New Type R is more mature but still has plenty of attitude

Mind you, the Type R still has attitude, a lot of attitude. From its improved aero-body and triple exhaust pipes, to its brake-cooling front air intakes to its huge rear wing and rear diffuser, the Type R screams high performance. That’s right, all of the vents are real and functional this time, which adds to the car’s performance and helps to slice precious seconds off of lap times. The rear spoiler is still bigger than anything you would find on an Audi S3 or Mercedes-AMG A35, but this time, the R’s wing sits on shorter, more aerodynamic vertical struts rather than huge vertical metal plates like on its predecessor.

To keep the high performance nuance at max however, Honda retained the cool Ferrari-inspired triple aluminum exhaust design feature and carried over the rear diffuser from the old model. Also, the fake rear vents on the outgoing version have been replaced by a much smoother and more mature-looking rear bumper. The new model also gets a set of black side skirts, like the predecessor, but the stuck-on wheel arch extensions have thankfully gone. Instead, you now get flared wheel arches that have been neatly smoothed to sit flush with the bodywork. In addition, the cool-looking vent behind the front wheel is functional in that it cleans up the airflow coming out of the wheel arch to reduce drag down the side of the car.

All of these upgrades combine to make the new car not only more aerodynamic and planted, but make it look far more mature. It still stands out of course, but you won’t be embarrassed to show it off to your car buddies.

Inside, the Type R hints strongly at what it was made for. With its bright red seats and carpets, red stitching on a black Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel (to help soak up sweat!!) and its aluminum accented dash, the R lifts the adrenalin level even before you fire up its engine. But perhaps, stylists may have used a little too much red. It’s everywhere. The compact aluminum gear knob, that fits perfectly in the palm of your hand, is vintage Honda and puts a smile on your face every time you flick through the gears. I’d argue that it’s mechanical precision and nice short throws are nearly as good as the 6-speed stick shift on the NSX, or at least as good as that on the now-out-of-production S2000.

In the hot seat

Speaking of that engine, there is some good news about that too. The new Civic doesn’t just benefit from weight saving and beefier rigidity, it also employs the most powerful Type R powerplant ever courtesy of its uprated 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This unit gets revised turbo geometry, improved cooling and more exhaust back pressure to sharpen up its responsiveness. It’s married to that brilliant 6-speed manual gearbox and pumps out 315-hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, increases of 9 hp and 15 lb-ft over the old Type R.

Exercise your right boot generously and the tacho and digital rev bar climb quickly towards its 7000rpm redline, complete with blinking F1-style red gearshift lights. Power arrives in a constant, linear ascent, and almost feels naturally aspirated in the way it climbs. Keep the turbo spinning between 3000 and 7000 and you’ll have prodigious amounts of power ready for the taking. But because of revisions to the chassis and suspension, you’re able to get that power down onto the tarmac better than ever before, a development that realizes quicker lap times.

The Type R continues to use Honda’s automatic rev-matching tech, which is now 10% faster according to Honda. Of course, you can switch it off if you prefer to heel-and-toe for real, but it works superbly when left on. Also, the rev-matching helps to make day-to-day driving smoother and is a helpful feature for those new to manuals.

The Autopolis track was the ideal place to put this R through its paces. As I punched the brake pedal quickly and grabbed 3rd on entry to a 70mph right-hander, the R hunkered down with massive grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires and then launched out of the exit with an almost overconfident “is that all you got?”

This car feels seriously quick, light, chuckable and genre-beating. It just gets on with the business of driving as fast as the pilot wants, but making that driver feel like a production car series hero in the process.
It is very clearly in its element on a race track. But it does feel stiff. We took it for a one-hour on public roads too and while the car can cope with bumps and tram-lines and potholes, the Type R is definitely on the firm side.

When you drive at full throttle on a circuit like this, it occurs to you that the “Fastest front-wheel-drive car in the world” (as Honda says it will be!) was made possible thanks to the development team’s efforts in fine-tuning their Type R entry in Japan’s Super Endurance Series. The difference in acceleration and handling between the previous generation and the new model was eye-opening and grin-generating.
The front suspension has been modified to provide improved traction and turn-in at the limits, while the rears squat nicely thanks to their reinforced rear rigidity, providing better around grip and quicker exits from corners.

To elevate the thrill level on track, Honda has fitted a data logger, aptly named “LogR.” This device will time your laps, but more importantly, determine how good your driving technique is and then give you a score. During my test drive session, former Japan Touring Car and F3000 champion racer Akihiko Nakaya scored 96 points, the best score of the day. My score was a little lower as I was not as familiar with the track as he was, or at least that’s my excuse.

The only downside is that the Type R still doesn’t sound as sporty as it should, even with the new model’s improved exhaust flow and active valve design. If only the designers, or should we say engineers, had added as much aggression in the sound department as they have in the aerodynamics and interior styling departments. It doesn’t bark, pop or crackle like a Toyota GR Corolla, Ford Focus RS or Hyundai Elantra N, and the synthetic exhaust note pumped inside through the speakers needs a tweak.

Expectations are high for the new model, as the previous generation became a hit, selling 47,200 units worldwide. I am half saddened by the thought that this will be the last gasoline version of the Type R that I will be able to test drive on the race track. I am half enthused though to see what the Type R electric version might look like.

Pricing and Options

Rivals from Toyota, Hyundai and Renault, for example will be the Type R’s strongest competitors, especially since they significantly undercut the Honda’s $43,990 base price. As far as options go, the Type R pretty much comes like this straight out of the box. You can choose from one of two Michelin brand tires, including the more road-going friendly Michelin Pilot Sport 4S we used in Japan.

Put up against its rivals, the Type R may be a little more expensive, but then again, if Honda can recapture the R’s ‘fastest front-drive car’ title at the Nurburgring, then the extra status could be a deal-maker.

The post First Drive New Honda Civic Type R first appeared on Yanko Design.

Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 Review: Simple Does It

PROS:


  • Dedicated buttons for page turning

  • Very usable for left-handed readers

  • Runs Android 11 with Google Play Store support

  • Affordable price tag

CONS:


  • No stylus support

  • No dust and water resistance rating

  • Not ideal for newspapers and magazines

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
SUSTAINABILITY / REPAIRABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

The Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 offers a powerful, no-nonsense eReading experience wrapped in an elegant and ergonomic package with an accessible price tag.

Our smartphones are veritable gateways to wonderful new worlds, and tablets are their larger cousins that can expand your view, literally. The powerful features they provide and the colorful screens they offer rich experiences that fit perfectly with modern lifestyles. They come with a steep price, however, both literally and figuratively, especially when it comes to comfort and eye health. When you’re reading a lot of things, like books or even websites, a smartphone or even a tablet might actually be the worst device for you. Fortunately, eBook readers have been around for quite a while now, offering a much-needed reprieve and a better experience that now come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 is one of the latest to join that growing army, and we give it a thorough test to see if going back to basics spells its victory or its doom.

Designer: Onyx

Aesthetics

Ever since the first generations of eReaders came about via Amazon’s Kindle brand, expectations of these devices in terms of aesthetics have been pretty low. They’re generally small slabs of black plastic that are handy, portable, and utterly uninspiring, designed to let you enjoy content without distractions or getting in the way. While the objective might have been good, it makes the presumption that book lovers don’t actually pay attention to the appearances of their reading materials, which is quite the opposite when you consider how much attention they pay to book covers.

Fortunately, the Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 has learned from the lessons of the past and arrives as quite a fine-looking piece of hardware. Yes, it’s still made of plastic, which has both advantages and disadvantages, and it’s a smudgy piece of plastic at that. You might find yourself obsessively wiping its back very often just to maintain its pristine appearance. It doesn’t have anything in the way of decorative elements, and the only parts that literally stick out are the power button and page turn buttons. It clearly embraces minimalism’s best aspects.

It also applies a design language that’s now common to phones and tablets, meaning it is largely flat on all sides, save for round corners. The edges are plain and clean, broken only by holes for the speakers, the microphones, the microSD card slot, and the USB-C port. The back is also completely flat, unlike the tendency of most eReaders to bulge a bit. Fortunately, it doesn’t affect comfort and usability at all.

The BOOX Leaf 2 comes in two colors that differ in minor yet significant ways. The black review unit that we have has the E INK screen completely flush with the frame, protected by a layer of glass. This makes it trivial to wipe off dirt or anything else that accidentally drops on the display. The white variant, on the other hand, has the E INK panel completely exposed but sunken into the body of the device. Its advantage is that there is no glare or reflection from a glass layer that could get in the way of your reading.

Ergonomics

Despite their basic and almost crude looks, eReaders have always been designed to be easy to carry and hold in one hand to make reading for hours on end a comfortable experience. That has remained true save for larger devices, and the BOOX Leaf 2 is gladly no different. With only a 15g difference in weight (the black model is heavier because of the glass), both variants are light and small enough to carry in a large pocket. Given how some of Onyx’s devices have been growing in size lately, it’s definitely a nice break and a return to roots.

What makes the BOOX Leaf 2 even more ergonomic is that one of the edges extends a bit, forming an area that your hand can conveniently hold without accidentally touching the screen. Even better, there is a rocker button that you can press to turn pages, saving you from having to lift your other hand to touch or swipe at the screen. Admittedly, the lack of demarcation between the two halves of that button could be a bit disorienting but it is definitely not a deal-breaker.

Even better, the device has a G-sensor that can detect the orientation of the device and adjust its contents accordingly. What this means is that you can comfortably use the BOOX Leaf 2 whether you’re right-handed or left-handed since you can rotate the device to where you’re most comfortable rather than letting its form dictate the way you use it. This is one of the major flaws of eReaders with “spines” like this, so it’s great that Onyx has finally resolved it.

Like all E INK displays, the BOOX Leaf 2’s screen doesn’t emit light on its own, but it does include front lighting to let you read in the dark. These lights don’t shine in your direction, saving your eyes from strain. There are two lights, cold and warm, that you can adjust independently to mix to your tastes. Contrast can also be adjusted on a per-app basis, so you can have different settings for different reading apps, depending on what you’re comfortable with. All in all, the BOOX Leaf 2 lets you decide how you want to use it rather than dictating its terms.

Performance

Today’s eReaders are a far cry from yesteryears models when it comes to hardware and power. Although not in the realm of phones and tablets, the BOOX Leaf 2’s quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of expandable memory are plenty for something that is designed for just reading. Then again, the device is definitely more than your average reading device.

It runs Android 11, which means you can install a wide variety of apps on it, even those that might not make sense on an eBook reader. It also supports running Google Play Store, and although it needs some extra steps to enable, you won’t have to go out of your way to get it up and running. These two facts alone open a whole world of content and uses for the device, including watching videos or playing mobile games. For reading, it also means you’re not locked into a single content provider and still have access to Amazon, Kobo, and other libraries of your choosing.

The BOOX Leaf 2 bears a 7-inch E INK Carta 1200 display with a resolution of 1680×1264, giving it a rather high pixel density of 300PPI. That means that content will always be crisp and clear, at least as far as grayscale content goes. It is definitely a pleasure to read eBooks and manga on the device, though the size makes it less ideal for certain types of content. You will find yourself pinching to zoom a lot on newspapers and magazines, which could be inconvenient but definitely not unusable.

Like almost all of Onyx’s devices, the BOOX Leaf 2 offers four display modes that speed up the refresh rate at the expense of resolution and quality. For the majority of reading content, you’ll want to be on Normal mode for the best quality with a bit of ghosting. But if you ever feel the need to watch black-and-white videos or play games, the fastest “X” speed will make do. The device does have two speakers and two mics for multimedia, but these are more for recording voice notes or playing podcasts than for a multimedia experience.

What the device doesn’t have is a Wacom digitizer layer, which means it doesn’t support the use of a stylus for taking handwritten notes or sketching. That feature has always been an extra for eReaders, though it has now become more common that even Amazon added it in the Kindle Scribe. It doesn’t take away anything from the BOOX Leaf 2, though, and its simplicity might actually appeal to more readers, especially those with more limited budgets.

Sustainability

Because of its plastic construction, the Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 suffers from the same sins as almost all eBook readers when it comes to environmental impact. There are some eReaders, including a few from Onyx, that do use metal, but these do come at the cost of adding some heft to the device. Given its objective to be a basic eReader, Onyx had to prioritize portability and price above other aspects, and we can’t really fault it for that.

What makes the overall longevity of the device a bit more worrisome, however, is its lack of any sort of dust or water resistance guarantee. Given how delightful it is to use, owners might be tempted to bring it anywhere and everywhere, forgetting that it might not be able to withstand accidents. That, in turn, would mean having to either repair or replace damaged parts, which adds to the BOOX Leaf 2’s negative impact on the environment in the long run.

Value

Onyx is one of the most prolific eReader manufacturers these days, aiming at almost every market segment and price tier. Its most recent slate of devices has focused a lot on powers and features, even going as far as introducing a true Android tablet with an E INK display and user experience. Given that trend, some of the brand’s fans may have feared that Onyx has forgotten its roots and snubbed those with simpler needs. The BOOX Leaf 2 is clear evidence that it isn’t so.

At $199.99, the BOOX Leaf 2 is clearly targeted at entry-level users, those who just need a no-frills eBook reader with none of the extra bells and whistles. At the same time, however, the device isn’t really lacking in any feature, especially when it comes to support for apps and almost all kinds of digital content imaginable. As far as a comfortable and pleasant reading experience is concerned, the BOOX Leaf 2 comes close to perfect, and that price tag easily pays for itself over time if you’re any type of bookworm.

Verdict

It might come as a surprise, but people do plenty of reading on their phones compared to watching videos or playing games. That includes reading from the Web or social media, activities that would eventually tire eyes out, if not damage them in the long run. E INK displays are designed exactly to make reading comfortable and enjoyable, and the Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 delivers that kind of experience in an ergonomic and flexible package. Sure, we wished the device had a more sustainable form and that the company would take bolder steps in that direction, but other than that, there are very few flaws to note on this device. Plain yet elegant, simple yet powerful, the BOOX Leaf 2 offers a well-rounded eReading device with a price tag that many will be able to reach.

The post Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 Review: Simple Does It first appeared on Yanko Design.

Anker 767 Portable Power Station Review: Heavy Hitter That’s Ready for Anything

PROS:


  • More ergonomic suitcase design

  • First power station using GaN tech

  • Super-fast charging

  • Smartphone control via Bluetooth

CONS:


  • Expensive

  • Can't combine AC and DC input

  • Still no wireless charging

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
SUSTAINABILITY / REPAIRABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

With a more ergonomic design and a large, fast-charging battery, the Anker 767 PowerHouse can deliver all the power you need in any situation if you're willing to make the rather hefty investment.

We have practically become servants to our electronic devices, as proven by the panic that sets in when we are deprived of the electricity needed to power our phones, laptops, and appliances. That’s why the market for power banks and power stations continues to grow at a rapid pace, churning out large batteries that come in every size and address every need. There’s no one size that fits all, just as different people have different power needs. Choosing a portable power station also involves making a choice between power and, of course, portability. There might be a certain sweet spot where you don’t have to make too much of a compromise between these two. That’s the promise that Anker’s latest 767 PowerHouse is making, and we give it a good push and pull to see if it can actually deliver.

Designer: Anker

Aesthetics

If there’s one thing that most portable power stations have in common, it’s that they are pretty much variations of an ice cooler design, the larger ones most especially. These often come as huge rectangular boxes with handles that jut out from the sides that are supposed to make them easier to carry. Given their weight, that’s almost never the case, and it seems that Anker finally got the message.

The new Anker 767 PowerHouse Portable Power Station deviates from the norm in one very important way. There are now two wheels on one edge that already make it significantly easier to move it around. To that, however, Anker added a telescopic handle that you can pull out to help you pull the power station behind you. In other words, the Anker 767 is designed more like a suitcase, albeit one that lies on its back. It’s a marked step away from the relatively young Anker 757 PowerHouse that we reviewed recently, but considering how much it now weighs, that’s a much-welcomed improvement.

It’s not just the shape that has changed, though. The Anker 767 also drops the dual color scheme of its predecessor, another hallmark of that cooler design. It still has bits of silver, but now mostly as accents against a predominantly black box, with a touch of light blue here and there. The overall design also looks a bit more refined now, like how the LED bar light’s button is now embedded in the strip and looks almost invisible. The LCD screen now also displays colors, which thankfully only takes sips of power out of the battery. If you’re not a fan, you can always turn it off via the button on the front of the power station.

In most other cases, the design of the Anker 767 remains similar and familiar, and that’s actually a plus. All the output ports are still on the front for easy access, with the charging ports hidden behind a cover on the back. There are grilles on both sides for ventilation, and they now come in a snazzier diagonal design. All these elements work together to give the power station a more mature look, which will hopefully inspire more confidence in Anker’s product line.

Ergonomics

Anker calls the 767 PowerHouse its most powerful yet, and it’s also its heaviest. While it’s not the largest in the market, its 67lb heft is no joking matter. Fortunately, it doesn’t expect you to carry it with muscle power alone, though you can still definitely do that with the two handles at the sides. This time, however, Anker is employing one of man’s greatest inventions to lighten that load.

Two wheels on one side and an extensible handle on the other finally give your back a much-needed break before you actually break it from lifting such a heavy object. You’ll still have to lift one side, though, to actually get rolling, but it’s a far more ergonomic design than simple handles. It would have probably been better if you could pull or push the power station without even lifting it, but that would require four wheels and a drastic redesign of the product.

The same features that made the Anker 757 easy to use are thankfully unchanged here. All the most frequently used ports and buttons are on the front, and there are no rubber flaps other than on the two car sockets (yes, there are two of them!). That gives you easy and unrestricted access to the ports that you need the most instead of wasting time fiddling with covers and forgetting to put them back on again.

Performance

The Anker 767 PowerHouse’s claim to fame is, of course, its large battery, the largest that the brand has to offer so far. That’s a whopping 2,048Wh battery with a power output of 2,400W. That’s enough power to get you through any situation for days, whether it’s a power outage or a weekend camping trip. It has enough power to run even a portable fridge for about three days, let alone charge phones and laptops multiple times over. With the proper neutral-ground plug, Anker says you can even charge an electric car using this power station!

That battery is, of course, made using the now-standard LiFePO4 material, the same that’s used in electric vehicles for their reliability and long life. What’s new to the Anker 767, however, is GaNPrime, Anker’s brand of Gallium Nitride technology. Without going into the technical nitty gritty, this means that the PowerHouse is able to charge not only faster but also more efficiently while also reducing energy loss while in use. The Anker 767 charges from zero to full in about two hours when plugged into an AC outlet. Using five 200W solar panels for a total 1,000W input, the battery can be fully charged in two and a half hours. Unfortunately, Anker hasn’t figured out yet how to combine AC and solar charging for even faster charging speeds.

When it comes to output, Anker really outdid itself this time. There are admittedly fewer AC ports, now just four instead of six like on the Anker 757 PowerHouse, and the USB-A ports have been halved to just two. This is more in response to the changing times when there are more devices that can be charged or powered through USB-C, and the Anker 767 has three of these, each putting out 100W independently. There are also two car ports, oddly enough, one of which can probably be converted to a USB port with the right accessory. There’s still no wireless charging, which is unfortunate, given how clean and flat the power station’s top is.

The Anker 767 finally adopts a feature that has become a staple among other portable power stations these days. It finally has a mobile app that lets you monitor the power station’s stats and flick a few switches from afar. What’s a bit different in Anker’s implementation is that the connection between the 767 PowerHouse and your phone is Bluetooth only. This is a huge advantage when using the portable battery outdoors since you won’t have to mess with ad-hoc Wi-Fi settings and such. Anker is a bit late to the party in this regard, but, as they say, better late than never.

Sustainability

Despite the design change, the Anker 767 PowerHouse still suffers the same weaknesses as its predecessors when it comes to sustainability. The power station itself is built using traditional materials, which include plenty of plastics. Whatever environmental gains it has mostly come indirectly through its features rather than its very nature.

Anker still makes the same proposition of using green energy to deliver your power needs, presuming you go with solar charging. Of course, using batteries instead of fuel is already a huge sustainability win, but hopefully, the company won’t stop there. Unfortunately, it will probably take some time before Anker and its competitors start going down this road of using more sustainable materials and processes since that might not be their priority this early in the game.

It does, however, paint power efficiency and power saving as wins for the environment. GaNPrime, for example, can help save energy over time, reducing the total carbon footprint. The Anker 767 also automatically turns off AC output when nothing is connected after 15 minutes or turns off any output port once a connected device is fully charged. These definitely help conserve power in the long run, but it still mostly depends on how people use the device rather than something inherent to it.

Value

Given the larger battery inside and its new design and features, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the Anker 767 PowerHouse costs quite a bit, but that price tag may still shock you regardless. With an SRP of $2,199, it’s definitely one of the more expensive options with this battery capacity. And since it doesn’t exist in a bubble, it will be hard not to compare it with its closest competitors.

The EcoFlow Delta MAX 2000, for example, has the same 2,048Wh/2,400W LiFePO4 battery, and while it doesn’t make use of GaN technology, it does boast dual charging by using both AC and solar at the same time. It’s only slightly cheaper at $2,099 but is currently discounted down to $1,599. The Bluetti AC200MAX has a lower 2,200W output and fewer output ports but does also have dual charging and a significantly lower $1,899 starting price. Neither EcoFlow’s nor Bluetti’s contenders, however, have wheels to make them easier to move around.

There’s no denying that the Anker 767 PowerHouse lives up to its name, but that price tag could be an instant deal-breaker for many people. Fortunately, Anker holds plenty of sale events with large discounts, so it might just be a matter of bidding your time for that moment to strike.

Verdict

When it comes to emergency power, the ideal solution is a rechargeable that checks all the right P’s of power, portability, and price. Given current technologies and the economy, however, that’s not an easy balance to strike. The Anker 767 PowerHouse easily checks the power box with its 2,048Wh battery and GaNPrime technology, offering efficiency and fast-charging speeds all in one go. Thankfully, its new design also meets the portability requirement by adding wheels to the package. Price, on the other hand, is a touchy subject, at least for the full standard price tag. It is definitely quite the investment, but one that will easily pay for itself if you find yourself spending a lot more time outdoors or always stressing over blackouts. In those situations, the Anker 767 PowerHouse Portable Power Station is indeed ready for anything to help you live a more convenient life in any given situation.

The post Anker 767 Portable Power Station Review: Heavy Hitter That’s Ready for Anything first appeared on Yanko Design.