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The flashlight reinvented

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Two new LED flashlights from Chinese company Klarus prove that the torch is no longer merely a tube with batteries, writes JOEL DORFAN.

Klarus Lighting Technology based in Shenzhen, China, is one of the newer flashlight innovators and manufactures to take advantage of what LED’s have to offer to the handheld flashlight industry.

The flashlight is no longer just a tube with some batteries, a lamp and a switch. LEDs combined with electronic circuitry have allowed the flashlight to become a really useful tool.

Long runtime and low output, shorter runtime and high output, strobe modes and many more functions are now possible out of a single product.

Boost circuitry now allows the use of a single battery to power lights with enormous output. This means no longer having to leave the light at home or in the car.

Klarus have used the latest generation of Cree LEDs in two new lights: the XP-G2 and XM-L(U2). The RS1A will give you up to 210 lumens (100m beam distance) and the RS11 up to 620 lumens (160m beam distance). The AA battery form factor of the RS1A makes it easy to carry in jean’s pockets, with the larger 2xCR123 form factor RS11 allowing for easy jacket pocket carry.

Klarus have included features in these two lights that would appeal to the everyday user. For one thing, it has a body mounted switch rather than a tail cap switch. By doing this, they have left the real estate at the rear of the light available for the charger connector.

As versatile as these lights have become, this is not really a one-size-fits-all. You would still need to decide what the primary purpose of the light will be, choose the appropriate product whose primary function suits your need and then have the other functions as a bonus.

Law enforcement officers may require a light that always comes on as bright as possible the first time it is turned on without fiddling through modes and a tail cap switch (Klarus XT series).

The home user may want a light that comes on in a lower mode but then be able to ramp up the brightness as required.

Whereas maximum output is important, LEDs with electronic switching are now able to give you really low output as well. This is useful in the middle of the night when you just want a little light without waking up the family or when you need really long runtime in the event of a power outage. The RS1A will give you up to 68 hours and the RS11 up to 215 hours on a single fresh battery.

These two RS series lights from Klarus have an innovative charging setup. Both lights come with a charging cable that has USB plug the one end and magnetic plug the other end. The magnetic plug automatically locates snapping into place at the base of the light. Many products these days will charge using a standard USB port, so why should flashlights be any different?

To charge the battery you plug the cable into any USB power source. This could be a USB port on your computer, cell phone charger or the USB receptacle in your car.

Lwet’s see how it does on the gadget Five Question User Test:

1. Is it ready to use?

Neither light comes with a battery. To make use of the charge function you will require a rechargeable AA battery for the RS1A or a protected 18650 LiIon cell for the RS11.

Both lights will run on primary cells, which for the RS1A are standard alkaline AA batteries and for the RS11 2xCR123s. This is a useful feature should you run out of charge and not be able to recharge the cells.

Both lights come with detachable pocket clips. This is a great idea if you don’t like pocket clips. However,I found them both to be a little flimsy and failed to grip the pocket positively. They are also located quite far from the tail cap, not allowing for deep pocket carry. They do both however come with lanyards and a decent cordura pouch that can be worn on the belt or just used for protection for bag carry.

2. Is it easy to use?

The lights have 4 modes. High, medium, low and strobe. The user interface to change modes can take some getting used to.

The RS1A has a single button on the body. A momentary press and release will cause the light to come on and then go off. Hold the button down for just over half a second and the light will stay on.

Once on, if you then hold down the button the light will move to the next mode. You then need to release the button and then hold it down again to move to the third mode. Double click the switch at any time to access the strobe mode.

The RS11 has two buttons on the body: A larger raised front button that will act exactly the same as the button on the RS1A to access the 3 brightness modes: and a second more recessed button to access the strobe mode.

Both lights have last-used memory feature. This means that whatever level you had the light set on (for longer than 3 seconds) when you switched the light off, will be the level that the light will come on in next time you turn it on.

The manual that comes with both lights is adequate but changes need to be made to explain the operation of the lights more accurately.

3. Does it deliver on its promise?

With the exception of the slightly fiddly user interface mentioned above, both lights are excellent. Machining and anodizing are perfect. They will both handle some fairly harsh use and continue to function flawlessly. Both lights are rated IPX8 waterproof to 2m.

Beam pattern and throw are outstanding for any light let alone for lights of this size. Both lights tail stand perfectly, allowing the light to be bounced off the ceiling for more flood-like application. The stainless steel bezels on both lights are easily removed allowing for a slightly more slim lined and less aggressive look.

4. Is it innovative?

There are many up and coming flashlight manufacturers, but Klarus are the first to have the magnetic charging feature. No external DC sockets means nowhere for dust or water to get in. USB chargers have become so common that providing you have the proprietary charging cable, you should always be able to find somewhere to plug it in.

Many rechargeable products use a proprietary battery. These two lights will even run on standard primary cells easily available from your nearest battery store.

In all of their higher end lights, Klarus have gone to a lot of trouble to include an easily accessible strobe mode but, at the same time, have found ways to prevent accidental activation.

5. Is it value for money?

At a suggested retail of $74.95 for the RS1A and $116.95 for the RS11, these lights are not cheap. However if you look at all of the features on offer, you are getting a lot of light for you money, especially if you factor in the fact that they are both rechargeable.

* Klarus Lighting Technology have appointed Klarus Lights USA as their distributor in the USA. They carry stock and provide excellent levels of service both pre and post sales. Their contact details can be found at http://www.klaruslightusa.com. To find a dealer in your country contact Klarus Lighting Technology at http://www.klaruslight.com/

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Samsung A51: Saviour of the mid-range

For a few years, Samsung has delivered some less than favourable mid-range devices compared to the competition. The Galaxy A51 is here to change all that, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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It’s not often one can look at a mid-range phone and mistake it for a flagship. That’s what you can expect to experience when taking the Galaxy A51 out into the open.

Samsung went back to the drawing board with its new range of devices, and it shows. The latest Galaxy A range features some of the highest quality, budget-friendly devices we’ve seen so far. The Samsung Galaxy A51 is one of the best phones we’ve seen in a while, not just aesthetically, but in what it packs into a sub-R7000 price tag.

Looking at the device briefly, it’s very easy to mistake it for a flagship. It features a four-camera array on the back, and an Infinity-O punch-hole display – both of which are features of the high-end Samsung devices. In fact, it features a similar camera array as the Galaxy Note10 Lite but features an additional lens in the array. The cameras line up in an L-shape, clearly avoiding looking like a stovetop.

Apart from the camera array, the back of the handset features a striking pattern called Prism Crush, a pattern of pastel shades that come in black, white, blue, and pink. For the review, we used the Prism Crush Blue colour and it looks really great. The feel is clearly plastic, which isn’t too surprising for a mid-range device, but the design is definitely something that will make users opt for a clear case. It’s also great to see a design pattern that deviates from the standard single iridescent colours many manufacturers have copied from Huawei’s design.

Along the sides, it features a metal-like frame, but again, it’s plastic. On the left side, we find a SIM and microSD card tray while the right side houses the power button and volume rocker. The bottom of the phone features a very welcome USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which isn’t too uncommon for mid-range phones.

On the front, the device is pretty much all screen, at an 87.4% screen-to-body ratio, thanks to a tiny chin at the bottom and the small punch hole for the camera. The earpiece has also been hidden inside the frame in attempts to maximise this screen-to-body ratio. When powered on, the 6.5-inch display looks vivid and sharp. That’s because Samsung opted to put a Super AMOLED display into this midrange unit, giving it a resolution of 1080 x 2400 (at 405 ppi) in a 20:9 format. This makes the display FullHD+, and perfect for consuming video content like Netflix and YouTube in HD.

Hidden underneath the display is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is very surprising to find in a mid-range device. While it is extremely accurate, it takes some getting used to because the sensor is so large that one needs to put one’s entire finger over the right part of the display to unlock it. Most other types of non-in-screen fingerprint sensors don’t mind a partial fingerprint. The display itself feels nothing like the back and that’s because it’s not plastic, but rather Gorilla Glass 3, to prevent the screen from shattering easily.

What’s interesting about this device is finding accessories which aren’t quite available in phone stores yet. When browsing online for screen protectors, one has to be on the lookout for screen protectors that are compatible with the in-screen fingerprint sensor. Make sure to check out the reviews of users before purchasing them.

In terms of software, Samsung has made a great deal of effort to make the experience slick. Gone are the days of TouchWiz (thank goodness) and now we have OneUI in its second version. OneUI makes the phone easier to use by putting most of the interaction on the bottom half of the screen and most of the view on the top part of the screen, where one’s thumbs don’t usually reach.

Out of the box, the device came with Android 10. This is a huge step forward in terms of commitment to running the latest software for major feature updates as well as for Android security patches to keep the device secure.

It also has most of the cool features from the flagship devices, like Samsung Pay, Bixby, and Link to Windows. Samsung Pay is an absolute pleasure to use, even if it still confuses the person taking your payments. From linking my cards, I have stopped taking my wallet out with me because all merchants that accept tap-to-pay will accept Samsung Pay on the A51.

Bixby is useful if you’re in the Samsung app ecosystem, especially for owners of SmartThings devices like Samsung TVs and SmartThings-enabled smart home devices. Otherwise, Google Assistant is still accessible for those who still want to use the standard Google experience.

Link to Windows is an interesting feature that started with the Galaxy Note10 and has since trickled down into the mid-range. It allows users to send SMS messages, view recently taken photos, and receive notifications from the phone, all on a Windows 10 PC. This can be enabled by going to the Your Phone app found in the start menu.

The rear camera is phenomenal for a mid-range device and features a 48MP wide sensor. The photos come out as 12MP images, which is a common trick of many manufacturers to achieve high-quality photography. It does this by combining 4 pixels into a single superpixel to get the best colours out of the picture, while still remaining sharp. It also performs surprisingly well in low light, which is not something we were expecting from a mid-range device.

The 12MP ultra-wide angle lens spans 123-degrees, which is very wide and also useful for getting shots in where one can’t move back further. It’s not as great as the main lens but does the trick for getting everyone in for a group photo in a galley kitchen.

The 5MP depth-sensing lens supplements the portrait mode, which adds a blur effect to the background of the photo – the same lens as its predecessor, the Galaxy A50. It features a 32MP wide-angle selfie camera, which is perfect for fitting everyone into a large group selfie.

The processor is an Exynos 9611, which is an Octa-core processor. It performs well in most situations, and there is software built in to give games a boost, so it performs well with graphically intensive games too. In terms of RAM, there are 4GB, 6GB, and 8GB variants, so keep an eye out for which one you are trying. For the review, we had the 4GB, and it performs well with multitasking and day-to-day tasks.

For storage, it comes in a 128GB model on Samsung’s website, which seems to be the standard size. This is extremely welcome in the mid-range segment and is the largest we’ve seen for internal storage capacity as a starting point.

At a recommended selling price of R6,999, the Samsung Galaxy A51 marks the beginning of a great era for Samsung, because it provides a feature-rich handset at an affordable price.

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Nokia 7.2: The sweet-spot for mid-range smartphones

Nokia has hit one of the best quality-to-price ratios with the Nokia 7.2. BRYAN TURNER tested the device.

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Cameras are often the main factor in selecting a smartphone today. Nokia is no stranger to the high-end camera smartphone market, and its legacy shows with the latest Nokia 7.2.

In many aspects, the device looks and feels like an expensive flagship, yet it carries a mid-range R6000 price tag. From its vivid PureDisplay technology to an ultra-wide camera lens, it’s quite something to experience this device – especially knowing the price.

Before powering it on, one notices the sleek design. The front features a large, 6.3” screen, with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. Like many phones nowadays, it features a notch, but it is smaller than the usual earpiece-and-camera notch. Instead, it features a small notch for the front camera only. It hides the front earpiece away in a slim cutout, just under the outer frame. While it’s not the highest screen-to-body (STB) ratio, it has a pretty slim bezel with an 83.34% STB ratio. It loses some of this to an elegant chin on the bottom that shows the Nokia logo. This is all protected by a Gorilla glass certification, which makes it a little more difficult to shatter on an impact.

It’s encased by a Polycarbonate composite outer frame, which seems metal-like but will withstand more knocks than an aluminium frame. On the right side, it features a volume rocker and a power button and, on the left side, a Google Assistant button, which starts listening for commands when pressed. Above the button is the SIM and SD card tray. On the top, it houses a very welcome 3.5mm headphone jack. On the bottom, it has a speaker grille and a USB Type-C port. Overall, the positioning of the buttons takes some getting used to because the Assistant button and power button are similarly sized, and many smartphones place the lock button on the opposite side of the volume rocker.

The back features a frosted Gorilla glass panel, like the front. The frosted design is quite understated and yet another elegant design feature of the device. A fingerprint sensor sits in the middle and, towards the top, the device has a circular camera bump, not too different from the Huawei Mate 30 series. The bump features two lenses, a depth sensor, and a flash. The camera system has been made in partnership with Zeiss optics to produce high-quality photography.

The back of the Nokia 7.2, showing off the 3 camera array

When powering on the device, one is greeted with the Android One logo, which is Nokia’s promise that its users will always be among the first to get the latest Android security and feature updates. This is one of the defining purchase points for users looking to get this device, as it features the purest, unedited version of Android available.

This, in turn, allows the device to run the latest software by Google that enables the device to get better over time. This is done by using Google’s Artificial Intelligence engine, which learns how one uses the device and optimises apps and services accordingly. That translates to the phone’s battery life actually extending over time, instead of deteriorating like other smartphones that are weighed down by battery hungry apps. The concept was pioneered by Huawei in the Mate 9.

The rear camera is excellent for snapping pictures and features a 48MP Sony sensor for accurate colour reproduction. This puts the device in the league of the Google Pixel and Apple iPhone devices, which also use Sony sensors. By default, the device is set to take pictures at 12MP, which is what makes the photos look great, as it blends 4 pixels into one for a high level of sharpness and colour accuracy, but users can bump up the resolution to the full 48MP if they want to zoom in a bit more.

The 8MP wide-angle lens spans 118-degrees, and proves extremely useful for getting everyone in the shot. It also features some great colour accuracy. The 5MP depth-sensing lens is purely for the portrait mode, which adds a blur effect to the background of the photo. It features a 20MP selfie camera, which also provides excellent sharpness and a portrait mode.

Picture taken with the Nokia 7.2 in Pro mode

The most impressive part of this system is the Pro camera setting, which can help take photos from excellent to extraordinary. We managed to get some excellent low light photography by adjusting the shutter speed, ISO, and exposure. The setting is pretty easy to use and it’s worth it for users to learn how it works.

The PureDisplay also helps make photos and video look great. The 7.2’s PureDisplay has a 2160 x 1080 resolution, at 401 pixels per inch (ppi). It also makes use of HDR10 and covers 96% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, which makes the colours very vibrant. Some of these display features are not even found in some high-end phones on the market, so it’s very surprising that this tech is in a mid-range device.

At this price, there is one drawback: the processor. It houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, which is neither bad nor good. It performs well in many situations, but begins to stutter on heavier graphical applications like Fortnite and PUBG Mobile. That said, all other applications of the device work perfectly, and multi-tasking is very fluid between regular apps.

At a recommended selling price of R6,000, the Nokia 7.2 is one of the most feature rich and aesthetically pleasing devices available in this price range.

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