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Hands-on: Energizer Hardcase H550S

Energizer has introduced its Hardcase H550S smartphone that packs a serious 4000mAh battery and battery saving software, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Known for its battery technology, Energizer entered the smartphone space earlier this year with a slightly different way of looking at mobile devices: having an amazing battery life at the cost of having a thick phone.

At a retail price of around R7700, Energizer’s first take on smartphones is on the expensive side and won’t appeal to the low-to-mid-range market.

The phone looks like a typical rugged phone, featuring an unapologetically thick body and all sorts of water-sealing flaps. The front of the device features pretty thick bezels by 2019’s bezel-less standards, but still manages to look good with a 5.5″ display and capacitive navigation buttons below it.

On the back, a carbon-fibre-like pattern gives the device its own level of good quality feel that isn’t felt by many other devices in this price range. Closer towards the top, it features a camera, flash, and fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensor is fast and in line with the speed delivered from other mid-to-high-range handsets. Thankfully, the camera is just far away enough from the fingerprint sensor to not smudge the rear lens.

The inclusion of a type-C port is great, although it is standard for Android devices nowadays. What’s becoming rarer is the 3.5mm headphone jack, which is almost always a plus. Both ports are covered with a rubber seal.

The speaker has average sound quality and average loudness.

The 4000mAh non-removable battery is the biggest redeeming factor on this device. It features battery saving software in addition, to the large battery capacity, to deliver multi-day performance. It provides a good 28 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and watching videos for around 5 of those hours) until it reached 10%.

The secret to its battery efficiency is the battery saving software that comes preinstalled, which prevents misbehaving apps from draining the battery in the background, reducing the load on the CPU and GPU where it can.

Surprisingly, there is no bloatware in the device, making it one of the very few Android devices to feature a clean version of the operating system. That said, the version for Android included with the device is over 3 years old. This is not good from a security point of view and the security conscious buyer would most likely steer clear of this device with this knowledge.

Energizer is too new to the market for us to know if updates are going to be released for the device. Nevertheless, Android Nougat is good enough for the average user, provided they don’t install apps outside of the Play Store. It is powered by a powerful Mediatek MT6750, meaning the typical app is fluid and responsive.

The H550S has 32GB of onboard storage, but it can be expanded by up to 32GB with a MicroSD card in the second SIM slot. The LTE connectivity options are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload with good coverage.

As with many modern smartphones, it features a dual SIM configuration, where one is on standby for calls and SMS and the other is active for calls, SMS and a data connection.

The 16MP rear camera is good for quick shots and has decent colour replication. It’s also sharp enough for document scanning, which is a huge plus for productivity. The 8MP front camera snaps satisfactory selfies, and will be good enough for the outdoors user wanting to record their adventures.

Videos were recorded in 1080p and the quality was good in brighter situations. In darker situations, it struggled to record subject matter clearly and video was very noisy.

Overall, the H550S is a phone for the user that’s rarely around a plug point. It’s ideal for those who need to send messages, watch online content and play a lightweight game. For users seeking graphics intensive gaming, this is not the device. For its price point, it aims at a very niche audience that needs a very long battery life and doesn’t mind a bulky device.

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Acer launches two new 4K monitors

Acer has launched two monitors for higher-end consumers who use their home computers for gaming and graphically-intensive work.

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Acer has unveiled two new monitors, CB342CKC and CB282K, which form part of its high specification range of 4K monitors.

The monitors feature In-Plane Switching ZeroFrame technology, which removes the bezel to give seamless visuals. The sharp 4K UHD display is 16:9 up to 3840X2160 high resolution.

Vesa DisplayHDR creates deeper levels of black and white contrast, giving a greater immersion through realistic image recreation. Brighter scenes glimmer with detail, while in darker scenes, details typically hidden in the shadows are enhanced for greater overall luminance.

With Radeon FreeSync, a game’s frame rate is determined by the graphics card, not the fixed refresh rate of the monitor, which eliminates screen tearing and delivers very smooth gaming experiences. The Acer CB342CKC monitor also features 1ms Visual Response Boost (VRB), which results in a much clearer and less noticeable blur in fast-moving images.

The Acer CB342CKC monitor features a USB 3.1 Type-C port that can plug into smartphones, tablets or laptops. This provides the device that’s plugged in with data transfer and device charging capabilities, while it mirrors the display, with a single cable.

With a firm, stainless steel base, monitors can easily tilt, pivot and swivel to make height adjustments without a hassle. A quick-release design means the monitor can be separated from its stand so it can be VESA wall-mounted. Both Acer CB2 monitors also feature Acer Display Widget utility software. The split-screen feature is able to divide the screen into several regions. Users can quickly split the window with a hotkey or via the split-screen setting menu, making the workspace as clean as possible.

The Acer CB342CKC monitor will be available in EMEA in May starting at €549, while the CB282K monitor will be available in April starting at €399.

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Sophos launches AI-enhanced firewall

Cybersecurity provider Sophos has launched a firewall product that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and reduce security risks associated with encrypted traffic.

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Sophos has introduced a new architecture for the Sophos XG Firewall called “Xstream”, which traffic decryption capabilities for encrypted malware connections. XG Firewall now also features AI-enhanced threat analysis from SophosLabs and accelerated application performance.

Sophos says 23% of malware families uses encrypted communication for Command and Control (C2) or for installation of the malware. Three common present Trojans – Trickbot, IcedID, and Dridex – leverage TLS during the course of their attacks. Cybercriminals also use TLS to hide their exploits, payloads and stolen content and to avoid detection. In fact, 44% of prevalent information stealers use encryption to sneak hijacked data, including bank and financial account passwords and other sensitive credentials, out from under organisations’ noses.

“As SophosLabs’ research demonstrates, cybercriminals are boldly embracing encryption in an attempt to bypass security products,” says Dan Schiappa, chief product officer at Sophos. 

“Unfortunately, most firewalls lack scalable TLS crypto capabilities and are unable to inspect encrypted traffic without causing applications to break or degrade network performance. With the new Xstream architecture in XG Firewall, Sophos is providing critical visibility into an enormous blind spot while eliminating frustrating latency and compatibility issues with full support for the latest TLS 1.3 standard. Sophos’ internal benchmark tests have clocked a two-fold performance boost in the new XG TLS inspection engine as compared to previous XG versions. This is a game-changer.”

Latency too often deters IT admins from using decryption, as seen in an independent Sophos survey of 3,100 IT managers in 12 countries. The survey white paper, The Achilles Heel of Next-Gen Firewalls, reports that while 82% of respondents agreed TLS inspection is necessary, only 3.5% of organisations are decrypting their traffic to properly inspect it.
Key new features of XG Firewall include:

  • Inspection of TLS 1.3 to detect cloaked malware: New port-agnostic TLS engine doubles crypto operation performance over previous XG versions
  • Optimised critical application performance: New FastPath policy controls accelerate performance of SD-WAN applications and traffic, including Voice over IP, SaaS, and others, to up to wire speed
  • Adaptive traffic scanning: The newly enhanced Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) engine dynamically risk-assesses traffic streams and matches them to the appropriate threat scanning level, enhancing throughput by up to 33% across most network environments
  • Threat analysis with SophosLabs intelligence: Provides network administrators with the SophosLabs AI-enhanced threat analysis needed to understand and adjust defences to protect against a constantly changing threat landscape
  • Comprehensive cloud management and reporting in Sophos Central: Centralised management and reporting capabilities in Sophos Central provide customers with group firewall management and flexible cloud reporting across an entire estate without additional charge
  • Integration with Sophos Managed Threat Response (MTR) service: Customers of XG Firewall who also subscribe to the Sophos MTR Advanced service will have deeper actionable intelligence to prevent, detect and respond to threats, as a result of the integration

Sophos XG Firewall is available in the cloud-based Sophos Central platform alongside Sophos’ portfolio of cybersecurity solutions. Sophos’ Synchronized Security approach empowers these solutions to work together for real-time information sharing and threat response.

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