Engadget’s product reviews this week run the gamut from earbuds to e-readers. Billy Steele checked out the Beats Fit Pro and liked them for their improved fit and deeper sound. Next, a few items of note for photography enthusiasts: Steve Dent reviewed the Panasonic GH5 II to see the difference an all-new processor can make, while Mat Smith used the Sony Xperia 1 III and reported that the oblong smartphone has a slew of intriguing camera features to offer. Finally, Nathan Ingraham reviewed the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition, which left him suitably impressed.
Billy Steele likes the more traditional fit of the new Beat Fits Pro earbuds. These are the newest true wireless buds in the company’s lineup and they have a slight design update with flexible wingtips, which bend to fit more ear shapes. Billy says this element helped keep the buds in place and he hardly noticed them in his ears. In addition to the hardware refresh, the earbuds also feature active noise-cancellation (ANC), adaptive EQ and spatial audio, plus other features integrated with iOS that make them an attractive option for iPhone users.
The $200 Beat Fits Pro also have an IPX4 rating, and their wingtips make them more secure during workouts. The upgrades the company made to the sound profile were immediately noticeable according to Billy, who reported a punchier bass with more depth, more room for vocals and other elements and more low-end tone. The buds have the same H1 chip found in the AirPods Pro, allowing them to access features like one-touch pairing and hands-free Siri. But the Beats Fit Pro weren’t without issue: Billy experienced a lot of accidental button presses and they don’t support wireless charging. But they still offer a good blend of features, sound and performance, making them a solid alternative to the AirPods Pro.
The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is better than ever
Nathan Ingraham knows that an e-reader isn’t a gadget that most people upgrade often. However, a larger 6.8-inch screen, smaller bezels, 17 LED backlights, USB-C charging and 32GB of storage make for quite an update, and because of all that, Nathan calls the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition the best e-reader he’s ever used. Those extra LEDs emit an adjustable warm light that should reduce eye strain at night, and Nathan says this was his favorite new feature on the device. He also said the hardware changes to the bezels and screen helped to make this feel like a more premium device.
The latest Kindle can also automatically adjust the backlight to reduce nighttime eye strain, plus it has wireless charging and won’t display ads on the lock screen. Like previous versions, the Signature Edition is waterproof, can play audiobooks using Bluetooth and has a battery life that lasts weeks. But it comes in at $190, which is $50 more than the standard Kindle Paperwhite. Nathan says that for most people, the extra storage isn’t worth the extra money — unless you plan on downloading a lot of Audible titles on your e-reader.
Steve Dent found a lot to like about the Panasonic GH5 II. The refreshed design still has the same 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, as well as the same 3.68 million dot resolution and .76x magnification. The body hardware is nearly identical with an excellent grip, logical control positions and a smaller but brighter rear display. However, the new version of the camera has a faster processor and double the refresh rate at 120Hz. The chip helps improve the AI autofocus, which can now double the face- and eye-tracking speeds as well as pick up focus on a face tilted away from the camera.
Steve also liked the menus better on the GH5 II, which are color coded and tabbed to help you find what you’re looking for. Panasonic also kept the info panel, which shows important settings at a glance. Another upgrade comes in the image stabilization system, which now delivers up to 6.5 EV of shake protection. Thanks to this, Steve said the GH5 II does a better job than competitors at smoothing out walking or running. But there’s still no external RAW video, and low-light shooting remains a weak point.
Sony’s Xperia 1 III closely resembles last year’s smartphone with an unusual 21:9 screen ratio and an elongated design. Mat Smith says the addition of a matte finish helps to make it feel like a premium handset. The updated 4K 120Hz screen also helps make everything look quite crisp, and it runs smoothly thanks to a Snapdragon 888 chipset, 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Though Mat says the phone’s 6.5-inch OLED screen is gorgeous, the Xperia can’t dynamically change refresh rates to maximize battery life — and that results in barely a full day of use, even with a 4,500mAh battery, if you keep the panel at 120Hz. He was pleased with the sound from the front-facing stereo speakers, which continues support for audio formats like 360 Reality Audio, Hi-Resolution audio and Dolby Atmos. And — shocker — the Xperia 1 III still includes a 3.5mm audio jack.
But the phone’s camera shines, courtesy of the three 12-megapixel shooters with varying focal lengths. The Xperia 1 III can track moving subjects and catch crisp shots in busy scenes because it’s capable of capturing 20 frames per second and has dual-phase-detection-autofocus pixels. Mat says it’s a more technical approach and it has a learning curve, but it makes the smartphone an intriguing prospect for photography enthusiasts.