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This week we tested new flagship smartphones, powerful laptops and much improved headphones. Devindra Hardawar has reviewed the latest 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros and reports that they offer almost everything one would expect from a powerful laptop. Billy Steele spent time listening to the third generation AirPods and concluded that they sounded much better than the previous version. And Cherlynn Low used Google’s Pixel 6 and 6 Pro and found that heavy cameras have a lot more to offer, including a great starting price.
Devindra Hardawar says the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros are just what media professionals have been waiting for: fast M1 Pro and Max processors, a comfortable keyboard, plenty of battery life, and great speakers. They also have most of the crucial ports that MacBooks have been missing for years, including (finally!) An SD card reader, though laptops are thicker and heavier as a result. And of course, it all comes with a steep starting price of $ 1,999.
Devindra was particularly impressed with the Liquid Retina XDR displays, which come close to 4K resolutions and feature mini-LED backlighting to produce up to 1600 nits of brightness. He was also thrilled to find support for 120Hz refresh rates and benchmark tests in which the two MacBook Pros blew away competing Windows PCs. However, while laptops were able to quickly convert a 4K video clip to 1080p, Devindra doesn’t think they would make the best gaming machines – trying to load. Borders 3 produces an unplayable mess. Overall, however, he says these computers have pretty much everything one, especially a creative pro, would want in a powerful laptop – as long as you can afford the price.
The latest Apple AirPods have been almost completely redesigned compared to the previous version; the heads themselves have a new look, thanks to the streamlined shape that reduces weight and features a tapered silhouette and angle to increase comfort. Billy Steele says the company’s efforts to build better AirPods have paid off: The new headphones are more comfortable and have much better audio quality, with bigger, more immersive sound that stays open and airy. That’s thanks to a custom driver paired with a high dynamic range amplifier, along with the new H1 chip and inward-facing mic. Billy says these changes made AirPods something he actively wanted to listen to music with.
The new AirPods also have an IPX4 rating, so they will survive sweaty workouts or a little splash. They can also detect skin which, combined with the built-in accelerometer, allows for a more precise break and extends battery life. The new chip means you can listen to Dolby Atmos tracks on Apple Music, and spatial audio is available with dynamic head tracking to change the position of the audio as you turn your head. However, the latest AirPods still lack Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode, as those features are still reserved for the more expensive AirPods Pro. While Billy recognizes that these headphones aren’t for everyone, he says they continue to provide Apple users with features that are well integrated with the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Cherlynn Low claims that the latest Google phones, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, are the most intriguing phones the company has made in years. Featuring Google’s first mobile processor, Tensor, both handsets also feature improved camera hardware, beautiful OLED displays, fast refresh rates (120Hz for the 6 Pro, 90Hz for the 6) and built-in decent speakers. Cherlynn says the best feature is the surprisingly low starting price – just $ 599 – which makes some of the downsides more forgivable.
One of the issues she encountered with phones was the under-screen fingerprint sensor, which requires the screen to be on before unlocking – a process that she says didn’t need to have two stages. She was most impressed with the new voice keyboard, which did a great job of speech transcription, and the additional camera features. The sensors are sharper and bigger with bigger pixels, producing bright, crisp photos – and special camera features, like Magic Eraser and Face Unblur, give users a lot of control over their photos. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro also excelled in our battery tests, lasting 20.5 hours and 17 hours respectively. Overall, Cherlynn calls the handsets a superb comeback, showing Google’s strengths in the software and photography departments.