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Acer’s Nitro 5 – The best bang for a gamer’s buck

Acer’s latest Nitro 5 surprised us: a sub-R20k laptop with insane graphics and processing abilities. BRYAN TURNER reviewed it.

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Nitro, otherwise known as the “budget” gaming range from Acer, has added another strong contender to its line-up: the Nitro 5. We put budget in quotation marks because, while it is less expensive than other gaming laptops, it feels and acts like the opposite of budget – the build is sturdy and premium, while the internals are really decently spec’d for gaming.

The Nitro 5 is an all-polycarbonate plastic laptop with sharp edges, making it sturdy enough for taking around. While we didn’t drop it, it looks like it could take a few knocks and still be fine. It comes in at 25mm thick and weighing 2.3kg, so pretty thick at first glance. It features a red grill on the back that’s reminiscent of the Predator series, but remains distinctly its own brand. The red theme follows on to the rest of the laptop, and it features a red-backlit keyboard. While many would scoff at an all-plastic design, it does help in taking the laptop apart for future upgrades, something to consider in an ever-improving gaming market.

The thickness is to account for all the cooling goodness within the laptop. Gaming, video editing and other process-intensive work require a whole lot of cooling, and the Nitro 5 can comfortably sit on one’s lap at max capacity and not overheat.

It houses a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 that can be spec’d with up to 4GB of graphics memory. When I discovered this, I started to ask myself: “Wait, the cooling system plus a GTX 1650? How is it so thin?” On top of this, Acer didn’t cut corners with the built-in display, which is a full HD IPS LED panel. It reads well from many different angles, which was perfect for showing a group of people some content.

We tested Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p, with the GTX 1650, and set the game to its “very high” preset graphics settings. The game’s frame counter was used. It hovered between 65 and 70 frames per second (fps) with 10 minutes of gameplay, which is really good compared to other laptops that are a few thousand Rand more expensive and perform the same.

The processor is a 6-Core 9th Generation Intel Core i7 CPU (i7-9750H), which provides snappy performance. We noted a start-up time from shutdown to desktop of 10 seconds. This was made possible by a combination of the fast processor and solid-state drive in the computer. It also makes opening programmes lightning fast.

The keyboard is one of my favourite aspects of this computer. Acer is known for a deep key travel that feels stable, which is ultimately what every gamer wants from their machine, short of the keyboard being mechanical. The WASD arrow keys have been done proper justice – they are big and let out a bit more backlight than the others. This is a huge ergonomic win for gamers.

Now for the trackpad. The off-centre trackpad placement feels a bit weird, even though it’s in line with the space bar. It lends itself to having one’s left palm lean on it, which makes it feel like it’s in the way. That said, the trackpad’s quality is fine but, obviously, not for gaming.

The laptop’s battery is 58.75 Wh, which may seem like it’s on the low side, but it powered through an 8 hour workday on a single charge. If the brightness is turned all the way up, that changes it to more of a 5 hour workday. We played Doom Eternal for about 2 and a half hours before we needed to charge it.

The computer’s sound was pretty good across various scenarios.

It will be available from under R20 000 in its 512GB SSD + 8GB RAM configuration, putting it way below other gaming brands with similar specs.

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Huawei P40 Pro gets best camera score

Independent camera benchmarking company DxOMark has given the Huawei P40 Pro its highest rating yet. Read about what makes it better than the competition.

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The Huawei P40 Pro is the manufacturer’s latest high-end smartphone. It features the Kirin 990 5G chipset, a 6.58-inch Full-HD+ OLED display with rounded edges, and dual front camera. Huawei tends to use the P-series models to showcase the company’s latest mobile camera technologies, and its P-series flagship device for 2020 is no different. 

DxOMark provided the following summary of the camera’s latest features and what they mean for the device’s performance: 

Main camera 

The primary camera comes with a very large 1/1.28″ 50MP Quad-Bayer sensor that produces 12MP image output. As with other devices with similar sensors, it uses pixel binning to increase dynamic range and low-light capabilities. The lens features an f/1.9 aperture and nominal 23mm-equivalent focal length, however, Huawei crops the field of view to a more conventional 27mm. This decision was presumably made in order to design a thinner camera unit, but it should also help with reducing such artifacts as corner softness and distortion. Optical image stabilization, which can be challenging to implement on such large image sensors, is on board as well. 

Ultra-wide camera 

Like with the Mate 30 Pro, Huawei implements a large and high-resolution image sensor (40MP 1/1.54″) in its ultra-wide camera, which combined with a fast f/1.8 lens, should make for excellent low-light image quality. The downside of such a large sensor in the ultra-wide is lens design. It’s a challenge to design a lens that provides a very wide angle of view and still fits into the thin body of a high-end smartphone. Therefore, Huawei settled on a compromise at 18mm, which is noticeably wider than the main camera, but not as wide as that of some competitors, such as the latest Samsung devices and iPhones, which offer 12mm and 13mm lenses, respectively. 

Tele-camera 

The P40 Pro’s tele-camera comes with similar technology to last year’s P30 Pro. The module is optically stabilized and uses folded optics to achieve a 5x optical zoom factor (125mm equivalent). 

“Field-of-view fusion” zoom 

The P40 Pro doesn’t rely just on hardware alone for zooming, however. Like the P30 Pro, the P40 Pro uses software systems which Huawei calls field-of-view fusion and AI RAW, a combination of optical and algorithm-powered digital zooming that adapts to the chosen magnification factor. Only the primary camera is used for up to 2x magnification; the tele-camera takes over from 5x and longer. For intermediate zoom factors, the P40 Pro uses a fusion algorithm that combines image data from both cameras, merging several RAW frames from the main and tele cameras into one high-resolution frame, which is then cropped for zooming. 

For optimal detail, the 5x tele-cam records image data at the centre of the frame; it uses AI-refined image data from the primary camera to fill in the “missing” image areas around the edges. A deep learning algorithm improves detail on fine patterns and textures—quite an impressive feat, considering that autofocus, white balance, and other image parameters of both cameras all have to be in perfect sync for good results. 

At the long end, the camera is capable of achieving a 50x zoom factor using a combination of optical zoom and super-resolution processing that stacks multiple RAW frames from the tele-cam. 

Improved bokeh mode with AI RAW and super-resolution 

While the P30 Pro used AI RAW only for zooming, the P40 Pro now applies the technology to most camera modes, including bokeh. This means that as with zoom shots, bokeh images from the new model offer a wider dynamic range. The camera uses the 50MP high-resolution sensor and an AI RAW-powered super-resolution algorithm to generate an image with a 54mm-equivalent focal length and very good detail rendering. Data captured by a time-of-flight (ToF) laser measures the distance to objects in the scene, and is then used to confirm and fine-tune the initial depth-map that the primary and super-wide cameras generate. 

Improved white balance and colour rendering with multispectral sensor 

The P40 Pro also comes with a new white balance system that uses a semantics-based neural network and data-driven methods for more accurate white balance. The system also gets help from a multispectral sensor that can measure specific colours more accurately than the image sensor. 

Autofocus with dual phase detection on all sub-pixels 

The new autofocus system comes with dual phase detection on all sub-pixels and can use all pixels for autofocusing. In low light, the system also makes use of subject distance information that the ToF laser sensor captures. 

Key camera specifications: 

  • Quad camera setup, including ToF sensor 
  • Primary: 50MP 1/1.28″ sensor (12MP output), 23mm-equivalent (1x defined as 27mm) f/1.9-aperture lens, full-pixel Octa-PD, OIS 
  • Ultra-wide: 40MP 1/1.54″ sensor, 18mm-equivalent f/1.8-aperture lens, PDAF 
  • Tele: 12MP 1/3.56″ sensor, 125mm-equivalent f/3.4-aperture lens, PDAF, OIS 
  • ToF 3D depth-sensing camera (78-degree FOV) 
  • LED flash 
  • 4K video, 2160p/60fps (2160p/30fps tested); default is wide-angle camera 1080P/30fps 
  • Multispectral colour temperature sensor 

Please note: The Huawei P40 Pro was tested with European firmware which by default has AI set to off. In other regions the feature is activated by default. The camera firmware used for the DxOMark tests is not yet currently available to consumers. Huawei will make it available as an update in the near future.  

To read the full camera test, visit DxOMark’s website

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Huawei unveils Watch GT 2e

Huawei has unveiled a new addition to the Watch GT 2 lineup, called the Watch GT 2e. It features 100 workout modes, ranging from traditional sports to new forms of exercise.

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The Huawei Watch GT 2e forms part of the Watch GT 2 line, which has already delivered an impressive wearable with a 2-week battery life. Huawei has introduced a blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) monitoring feature. This goes along with precise heart rate monitoring, abnormal heart rate notifications, and sleep monitoring features, which allow users to understand their health status. 

The smartwatch comes in two new colour variants: Mint Green and Lava Red. It is equipped with a 1.39-inch AMOLED high precision touch display, supporting a Retina-grade resolution. With this vibrant display, users can view information even if they are outside in bright sunlight. 

“Like the previous Huawei Watch GT products, the Huawei Watch GT 2e will continue to bring reliable fitness and health management experiences to consumers,” says Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business.  

“Huawei places huge importance on fitness and health functions. Since we are upgrading the All-scenario Seamless AI Life strategy in 2020, fitness and health will become an essential user scenario. As technology products are more interconnected with consumers’ lives, Huawei will continue to drive technology advancement, improve software and hardware ecosystems, and innovate in wearables to bring smarter fitness and health management experiences driven by technology.” 

The watch comes in four colours of Graphite Black, Lava Red, Mint Green and Icy White, with the strap made of a soft and comfortable fluororubber. The dual-colour, breathable TPU material completes a unibody design.    

It supports 15 professional workout modes including eight outdoor activities (running, walking, mountain climbing, hiking, trail running, cycling, open water swimming, triathlon) and seven indoor activities (walking, running, cycling, pool swimming, free training, elliptical machine, rower).  

In professional workout modes, it provides comprehensive monitoring that can track 190 types of data – to help the users to get the most out of their workout. The smartwatch can also automatically detect 6 professional workout modes, offering a smarter sporting experience.  

The GT 2e also supports 85 customised workout modes that cover six categories of sports: extreme, leisure, fitness, aquatics, ball games and winter sports. The activities range from street dance to parkour, rock climbing to yoga, and ballet to boxing.  

It has a large internal storage that can store around 500 mp3 songs. With Huawei Music and Bluetooth headphones, users can enjoy their custom exercise playlist during their training.  

Beginning from April, Huawei Watch GT 2e will be available in Huawei Vmall and Huawei Authorised Retailers, for a recommended price of R3864 and Huawei Watch GT 2 42mm will be available for a recommended price of R4424 (Frosty White) and R4810 (Chestnut Red). 

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