Monday, 19 August 2019

A Fitness Tracker Masquerading as a Smartwatch

Lenovo has today launched its digital smartwatch in India, priced at just Rs. 1,999. At that price, getting a smartwatch from a well-known brand such as Lenovo sounds like a pretty sweet deal, doesn’t it? So, is it actually a sweet deal, and should you consider buying the Lenovo EGO for your needs? Well, I’ve been using the Lenovo EGO for almost a week now, and here are my thoughts on the watch, what it can do, what it can’t do, and whether or not it’s worth buying.
Design and Build

At first glance, the Lenovo EGO gives off the distinct impression of being a regular digital watch, and might even trick you into thinking it’s a Casio G-Shock. That’s not a bad thing, per-se, after all, smartwatches that look like regular watches to the point of being deceptive aren’t a bad thing — they can blend right in. However, take a couple of seconds to look at this watch, and you’ll easily be able to tell that it’s meant to be a very-low priced smartwatch.

lenovo ego design build

The design here is bulky, and I’m pretty confident that Lenovo wanted to make it look like a rugged watch at first blush, and it works out fine. There are unnecessary design touches in places but they all come together just fine and I didn’t really find a lot to complain about it. Keep in mind, this is a watch that comes in at Rs. 1,999, and I reviewed it with that in mind.



The build, on the other hand, is clearly where the company cut considerable costs. Don’t get me wrong, the EGO is by no means a fragile watch. I’ve used it carelessly, tossed it in my bag for formal outings when I preferred wearing my regular watch instead, and just treated it like a rugged watch for the most part, and it has held up surprisingly well. However, the quality of the plastic on the casing, and the rubber straps is very obviously not that great. It looks decidedly cheap to the eyes, and it feels thin and weird when you touch it. Even comparing it to the Mi Band’s silicone strap, the EGO’s strap is not at the same level.
Display

The display on the EGO is definitely not what you’d expect from a smartwatch, or even most fitness trackers. This is a typical display you’d find on a digital watch, and that might be a good thing or a bad one depending on what you’re actually looking for in a watch. Personally, I think the OLED display on the Mi Band 3 is a better deal than this one — it can show a lot more information, and that’s something where the Lenovo EGO falls back substantially as we’ll discuss in the features section of this review.

lenovo ego display

The display also has another annoying issue — pressing too hard on the buttons usually screws it up, and in my experience with the watch, sometimes even restarting the smartwatch wouldn’t fix it. However, pressing on the ‘Mode’ button a bunch of times usually did. It’s mostly a hit or miss experience though, and I’d suggest you treat the buttons with care. This watch might look rugged, but when it comes to the buttons, I don’t think rugged is the word I’d use to describe it.

Other than that though, the display does its job just fine. It doesn’t show a lot of information, which might be good for you if you don’t like smartwatches that bombard you with information, but the information it does show, is well organised and is just enough to justify wearing this watch regularly. There’s also a ‘Light’ button here, since the display itself isn’t backlit like what you’d see on the Mi Band 3, and that button is something you’ll not realise the importance of until you find yourself driving at night, and trying to check the time on your watch (or in another, similar situation).
Buttons

Oh, the buttons. I have a lot of mixed feelings about these buttons. These buttons feel tactile enough to not make you wonder whether you pressed them or not, which is a great thing, but Lenovo did this thing where it labelled these buttons with things like ‘Light’, ‘Start’, ‘Mode’, and ‘Reset’ and this naming scheme will throw you off unless you read the manual and figure out what each of these buttons is actually meant to do.

Here’s what I mean. The ‘Mode’ button switches between the date, step-count, distance-measurement, and sleep tracking. That sounds about right, doesn’t it? However, if you’re looking to get to the stopwatch, or if you want a heart-rate measurement from the watch, you won’t find that in one of the modes. Those two features are accessed by pressing the ‘Reset’ button, which is just incredibly unintuitive. But hey, even when you’ve found the stopwatch, starting it is yet another exercise in frustration. You might be tempted to press the button labelled ‘Start’ but that doesn’t do anything. In fact, you’ll have to press and hold the ‘Mode’ button to enter the ‘Pause’ state of the smartwatch, and then press the ‘Mode’ button again to actually start the smartwatch.

Also, when you’re done with the stopwatch, resetting it is not accomplished by the ‘Reset’ button. You’ll have to pause the watch with the ‘Mode’ button, and then press and hold the ‘Mode’ button to actually reset it. It’s just a lot of confusing mess.

What I’m trying to tell you is “Do yourself a favour and read the manual.”

From what I can tell, the button labelled ‘Light’ is probably the only one that actually has a decent label to it. Other than that, all of these buttons are pretty weirdly labelled, and perform wildly different functions than what one would expect.

Once you get used to them, however, this will most likely cease to be a problem for you, but in my experience with technology, you shouldn’t have to “get used” to something… you know, like notches.
Features
Step Tracking

If there is one good thing I can say about the EGO, it’s that it does come with most of the features you are likely to be expecting from it. There’s a step counter, and it’s decently accurate, although it does count around 10-15% less steps than I was taking, based on my own counting of the steps. Still, it’s not that big an issue.

lenovo ego step count

Anyway, as far as step tracking is concerned, the EGO also shows you the distance you’ve walked, and the calories you’ve burnt, which is great, but the watch does sometimes mistake driving in a car as walking so you might get discrepancies in the calories burnt and the steps taken if you drive to and from work often, as I sometimes do.
Heart Rate Measurement

There’s also a heart-rate sensor which, by default, takes a continuous heart rate measurement. Well, I say continuous, but the Lenovo Life app which the watch connects to and syncs with, simply calls it ‘Automatic Measurement’ and says that the watch takes measurements “every once in a while”. The heart rate sensor feels pretty accurate too, and for the most part, readings from the watch and from my Galaxy S10’s built-in step tracker were close enough.

Sleep Tracking

The watch also has sleep tracking capabilities, and while it does track sleep pretty accurately, I didn’t really like the feeling of sleeping with a bulky watch strapped to my wrist every night, and I’m not sure if a lot of people will, either. That said, if you do sleep with the watch on your wrist, the sleep tracking is pretty good, and I don’t really have complaints with it. Also, the watch apparently can track swims as well — that’s something I didn’t test out though.

Remote Camera

Another feature that I thought would be cool, but actually wasn’t, is the remote camera feature. This isn’t an entirely new concept, I could do this with a third party app on my first generation Moto 360 back in the day, but the Lenovo EGO comes with a remote camera feature built in. However, using it can be a pain.

First off, you can’t use your phone’s stock camera app, and you’ll have to go to the Lenovo Life app, tap on Profile, head over to the watch under devices, and then tap on ‘Take Photo’ which will launch an in-app camera. The problem here is two-fold. First, the camera quality of this app is pretty bad; the image gets distorted around the edges and it just looks weird. Two, taking a picture doesn’t come as easily as pressing a button. Instead, you’ll have to shake your watch-wearing hand pretty ruthlessly to actually take a picture. It not only looks weird, but it’s also a pretty annoying gesture to make; plus, it doesn’t work half the time. Or at least I wasn’t able to get it to work properly. If you’re better at shaking your hand than I am, your mileage may vary.
Alarm Clock

The Lenovo EGO doesn’t have a built-in speaker, but that doesn’t hold it back from becoming a pretty solid alarm clock. If you set an alarm using the Lenovo Life app, the watch uses vibrations to wake you up, and yes, it sounded pretty silly to me too, but it’s pretty effective at waking me up. I mean, sure, on the first day I ended up setting my regular alarms on my phone as well, but I decided to risk it on a weekend when oversleeping wouldn’t be an issue, but the watch could easily wake me up, which is great. Setting the alarm isn’t the most easy task to accomplish, since you’ll have to depend on the Lenovo Life app for it, but hey, at least it works and it works well.
Notifications

The EGO wouldn’t qualify as a smartwatch unless it had the capability to notify you of, well, notifications on your phone, and this watch does that, just not as well or as effectively as you’d expect from something like the Mi Band.

Basically, you can enable notification support from the app, and choose the apps you want to receive notifications from. The feature works reliably, and the vibration is strong enough to alert you easily. However, when you receive a notification for something like a message, the watch simply says ‘Message’ on the display, and doesn’t show who the message is from, or what the message says — that’s something the Mi Band 3 can do, and it does it pretty well.

Even for calls, the Lenovo EGO simply mentions ‘Call’ on the display, and there’s no way to reject or answer the call, or even to know who’s calling without checking your phone. To me, this feels like it kind of defeats the purpose of having a watch that can show you notifications. Weirdly enough, the Lenovo Life app does ask for ‘Contacts’ permission as well as the ‘Phone’ permission, which led me to believe that the watch will show at least the name of the person calling, but it doesn’t. I’m not entirely sure why Lenovo wants my contacts if it won’t even show me the name of the person calling, so I have since revoked that permission from the app.
Battery

One of the things that really impressed me about this smartwatch is the battery. Now, Lenovo hasn’t mentioned the battery specifications of the watch, but it does claim a 20-day battery life on it, which is pretty neat on paper.

In real life, the battery life feels somewhat less than claimed. In my entire week of usage, starting from 100%, the watch has dropped down to 40%, which makes it look like it’ll last about 10-15 days on a charge — that’s still pretty impressive, although you’ll have to keep in mind that this display is clearly not a battery hog.

Charging takes place via pogo-connectors on the back of the watch which magnetically align with the charging module that you get in the box, and it takes around an hour to fully charge the EGO, after which it’s good to go for another 10 to 15 days.
Lenovo EGO Review: Should You Buy It?

It’s a pretty difficult thing to recommend or not recommend this watch. After all, Lenovo is offering a very watch-like smartwatch at just Rs. 1,999 and it does a lot of things really well. It’s decently accurate at measuring steps, measuring your heart rate, waking you up in the morning, and telling you the time (duh!). Plus it has a nice battery life. However, it’s also annoying how the buttons are labelled, the notification support isn’t robust enough and is easily beat by the Mi Band 3 (Rs. 1,999), and on a personal note, I don’t find the design to be very attractive.

That said, if you’re looking for a fitness tracker, and you love the design of Casio’s G-Shock line of watches, the Lenovo EGO is definitely worth a look-see. However, if you want more features, a sleeker design, better support for notifications, I’d still recommend the Mi Band 3 over the EGO. Or, if you can extend your budget a little, you can get a color OLED display with the Honor Band 4 (Rs. 2,599)  Asus’ TUF Gaming line of gaming laptops have always been a pretty solid deal with great performance. So when the company sent us the TUF Gaming FX505DT with the new Nvidia GTX1650 GPU, I was definitely excited, and why not? The laptop gets a lot of things right, and Asus claims to offer high-end gaming experiences on this laptop, at a relatively affordable price of Rs.81,990. I have been using the TUF Gaming FX505DT for quite some time now, and this is my detailed review of the laptop, so you can make up your mind about whether or not you should buy this, and if you do, what you can expect from it.
Asus TUF Gaming FX505DT Specifications
Display    15.6-inch FullHD Anti-glare display @120Hz
Processor    Ryzen 7 3750H @2.3GHz
Storage    1TB HDD + 256GB PCIe SSD
RAM    8GB
Graphics    Nvidia GeForce GTX1650 GPU with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM
Connectivity    WiFi 802.11ac; Bluetooth 5.0
I/O    2 x USB 3.0 Gen1
1 x USB 2.0
1x HDMI 2.0
1x RJ-45 Jack
1x 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo jack
1x Kensington lock
Battery    48Whr
Price    starts at Rs. 81,990

For Rs. 81,990, the TUF Gaming FX505DT does offer quite a lot of power. There’s a Ryzen 7 in there, along with the new Nvidia GTX1650 GPU, and an HDD+SSD storage set up.
Design and Build

The FX505DT comes in a very familiar design, which is fine, since the TUF Gaming line up has always had a decent design language that’s neither too out there, nor too shy to show off its beastly side. The outer lid of the laptop has a nice matte finish with an Asus logo in the center which lights up in a soft golden-yellow hue instead of the usual red colors you’d find on other gaming laptops, including the TUF Gaming FX505DY that I reviewed a while back. Personally, I like the combination of black and gold on this laptop.

Other than that, the entire outer chassis of the laptop is devoid of any lighting whatsoever, which might be something RGB lovers won’t like, but makes the laptop suitable not only as a gaming laptop, but also as a work laptop that you can take into meetings without looking silly.

Once you open the lid up, you’re treated to the big, bright, 15.6-inch Full HD display on the laptop, which, as is the case with most gaming laptops these days, has minimal bezels on the top and the sides, and a huge bezel on the bottom with the Asus logo there as well.

asus fx505dt display image

Opening the lid will also throw a huge glow of RGB lighting on your face, thanks to the RGB backlit keyboard, along with the power button on the top right corner, and the trackpad on the bottom. It’s a pretty nice keyboard, even though it doesn’t feel any different from any other TUF Gaming laptop, and it has transparent WASD keys to make them easily discernible from the rest of the keys.

On the sides you’ll find the variety of ports, and the cooling vents with Asus’ anti-dust cooling system.

Build wise, the TUF Gaming series is meant to be, well, tough. It’s right there in the name, and the TUF Gaming FX505DT conforms to US military grade tests, and can apparently handle drops, high temperatures, humidity, and solar radiation. I obviously didn’t test any of these things out, but in my usage of the laptop, I didn’t find myself being too careful with how I handled it and it still looks flawless and works perfectly, so I’m sure you don’t have anything to worry about.

All things considered, the FX505DT is a sturdily built laptop that looks good, and won’t be out of place in a gaming room as well as a meeting, which makes it a pretty solid option for people looking for a gaming laptop that can double up as their daily driver.
Display

The TUF Gaming FX505DT comes with a 15.6-inch FullHD IPS display with a refresh rate of 120Hz, and it looks great. Since this is a 120Hz panel, everything on the laptop feels more natural and fluid. Animations look nice and smooth, and playing games like Far Cry 5 is a treat on this laptop.

What’s more, the display on this laptop can get pretty bright, and really dim if you want it to, so not only can you use it outdoors or in the presence of lights falling directly on the display (thanks to the anti-glare coating), you can also use it late at night without stressing your eyes out too much.

asus fx505dt display image 2

Media consumption on this laptop is great, thanks to the bright panel, and the awesome color reproduction. Viewing angles are decently good enough as well, but I don’t think you’ll find yourself in a situation where you have to look at your laptop from a side very often anyway.

Overall, the display on the FX505DT is a really great one. It’s not the best at separating shades of black, as I found out while testing the display in the black test, but it’s good at gradients, and as far as gaming and everyday use is concerned, the display will not let you down. If anything, games look amazing on this panel.
Performance

With a Ryzen 7, 8GB RAM, and the GTX1650 GPU, the FX505DT brings in pretty solid performance, especially at this price. Having never used a GTX1650 powered gaming laptop before, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this one in terms of gaming, but it’s safe to say that the FX505DT doesn’t disappoint in terms of performance at all.

I tried all the usual things on this laptop, from running synthetic benchmarks like Geekbench, Cinemabench R20, and 3DMark, to playing games like PUBG and Far Cry 5, and the laptop handles everything really well.
Synthetic Benchmarks

In synthetic benchmarks, the laptop scores decently well. Geekbench got a score of 3878 in the single core, and 10550 in the multi-core test, which is good, but I find it slightly weird that thee FX505DY with the Ryzen 5 scored better in thee multi-core test on Geekbench when I reviewed it… not by a lot, but better for sure.

Anyway, in 3DMark, the FX505DT scores 3363 in the Time Spy test, which is ridiculously higher than the score I got on the FX505DY with the AMD RX560X GPU. The laptop also scored 1640cb in Cinebench R20 which is a pretty solid score for a laptop in this price range.
1 of 2

So yeah, as far as synthetic benchmarks are concerned, the FX505DT looks like a pretty solid laptop, but what about real world performance?
Real World Performance

In regular day to day tasks, the FX505DT didn’t even break a sweat, and that’s not really a big deal since my usual workflow includes some Chrome tabs with wordpress and news sources, a Photoshop session, and maybe a couple of tabs with YouTube and Spotify open in them, and that’s about it. Clearly, that’s not nearly heavy enough of a workload to make any difference to this laptop.

However, in gaming too, the FX505DT runs really well. In PUBG, the game defaulted to basically High settings, with just Shadows set to Medium and I was consistently getting frame rates over 70FPS which is awesome.

With everything set to High, PUBG ran smoothly over 70FPS at all times, and when there wasn’t a lot happening around me, the frame rate jumped as high as 90. Sure, you could set the graphics to Medium or Low and get slightly better frame rates, but 70+ FPS is perfect, and I didn’t find the need to set a lower graphics quality in the game.

Far Cry 5 did a weird thing where it chose the integrated AMD GPU by default and ran at, like 12FPS in low settings, but change that to the Nvidia GPU inside this laptop, and it can run Far Cry 5 decently as well. Far Cry 5 is a very heavy game, though, and at Ultra settings, I got an average frame rate of 44FPS. That’s not too shabby, but the frame rates dropped as low as 23FPS sometimes, and that can be really annoying.

In High settings on Far Cry 5, I got an average frame rate of 47FPS, with the frame rates dropping as low as 35FPS and going as high as 59FPS.

That’s decent enough, but personally, I think playing the game on Normal will be the best bet for this laptop. At those settings, I got an average frame rate of 50FPS, with a high of 62FPS and a low of 38FPS.

So yeah, performance wise, the FX505DT is a solid laptop, but it does struggle a bit with heavy games like Far Cry 5. Don’t get me wrong, Far Cry 5 is completely playable on this laptop, especially if you’re good with choosing ‘Normal’ graphics settings in the game, but if you’re thinking of a laptop that can run Far Cry 5 buttery smooth on High or Ultra, this is not it.
I/O and Ports

In terms of ports and I/O, the FX505DT brings all the ports you may need, and nothing extra. There are 2x USB 3 ports, 1x USB 2 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, an RJ-45 ethernet port, and a 3.5mm headphone and mic combo. That’s a pretty decent selection of ports, and I honestly don’t think a lot more than this is truly needed on a laptop, but the lack of a USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 port does make this laptop slightly less future proof than something more expensive that you could buy.

In terms of connectivity though, the FX505DT is on-par with current standards. There’s support for WiFi b/g/n/ac (which means you can connect to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks on this) and the laptop also comes with Bluetooth 5.0, so you get better Bluetooth connectivity, including lower latency, and a higher range when using Bluetooth accessories with the laptop.
Keyboard

The Asus TUF Gaming FX505DT comes with what Asus calls the ‘HyperStrike Gaming Keyboard.’ Now, I’m not too certain about the HyperStrike thing here, but I have absolutely no complaints with the keyboard on this laptop. The keys have ample travel, and still actuate at a nice distance to make typing or even long gaming sessions comfortable on the laptop, the slight curve on the keycaps makes it easier to discern between keys while typing or playing games without having to actually look at the keyboard.

Another thing I really appreciate on this keyboard is the full sized arrow-key layout, which is such a treat to use instead of the cramped layout a lot of laptop makers are now going with.

Typing on this laptop is a great experience, and even while typing for hours on end, I didn’t feel fatigued thanks to the nice responsive keys here, and the fact that I didn’t need to press them too hard to get them to actuate.

Asus has rated this keyboard for 20 million keypresses, which, well, I’m not counting my keystrokes on this laptop, but that’s definitely a lot, and this keyboard somehow instills me with a confidence that it won’t just break on me — that’s something Asus’ TUF Gaming laptops probably have in common, since my experience with the FX505DY was similar as far as the keyboard was concerned; including things like the extended spacebar that makes it easier to press in the middle of an intense game, and the fact that this is a full sized keyboard, complete with a numpad that I never used, but FIFA players will definitely appreciate.

asus fx505dt keyboard wasd keys

It’s a great keyboard, and I don’t see any reason to not like this, whether it’s for typing, or for playing games — the FX505DT’s keyboard is amazing.
Trackpad

The FX505DT features a trackpad design that will be remarkably familiar to anyone who has used or seen a TUF Gaming laptop before. In fact, it’s basically the same trackpad — not that that’s a bad thing.

The trackpad here is not too big, but it’s not small either, but if you’re used to using laptops with bigger trackpads, like I am with my MacBook Pro, this might feel slightly cramped. In all fairness though, this is one of the bigger trackpads you’d find on Windows laptops, especially in this price range, so I’m not really going to dock points by claiming that the trackpad here is small. It’s actually pretty nice.

I did have to get used to the trackpad, but it works really well, and while clicking on this trackpad isn’t as nice a feeling as it is on something like the HP Spectre, it’s not bad either. If anything, it’s better than most laptops in the price bracket.

All that said, as gamers, I’m fairly confident you’ll be connecting a mouse to this laptop anyway, but for usual day to day usage, this trackpad will definitely suffice.
Audio

I know what you’re thinking: you’ll be wearing headphones most of the time when you’re gaming, but that’s not all you’d do on your laptop, is it? If you’re watching a movie, or bingeing on a TV show, chances are you’ll rely on the built-in speakers on your laptop.

asus fx505dt speakers

Fortunately, you can rely on the speakers on the FX505DT. They can get decently loud, and they don’t distort at maximum volumes, and while the bass isn’t all that great (were you really expecting that?), the overall sound quality of the speakers here is solid, and I didn’t find myself looking for a Bluetooth speaker every time I wanted to watch something on the laptop, which is awesome.
Battery

The FX505DT comes with the same 3-cell 48Whr as the FX505DY I reviewed earlier, and it performs pretty much the same way. The laptop lasts around 4.5 to 5 hours on regular usage, which is actually pretty great for a gaming laptop, and is also very similar to the battery life you’d find on other TUF Gaming laptops. Still, if you’re planning on using this laptop as a regular work machine as well, you’ll need to carry your charger along everyday.

asus fx505dt battery

For gaming, however, I don’t think the battery life needs to be a consideration, since you’ll not be playing games without the charger plugged in anyway, so this part shouldn’t be that big a deal for you.
Pros and Cons

At Rs. 81,990, the FX505DT seems like a pretty solid laptop, but as it is with everything, there are two sides to this proverbial coin as well. So let’s summarise those.

Pros:

    Solid build and design
    120Hz display
    Good performance
    Great keyboard

Cons:

    No Thunderbolt 3, or USB-C ports
    8GB RAM might not be enough

Asus TUF Gaming FX505DT: A Gaming Laptop Worth Checking Out

All things considered, the FX505DT is a gaming laptop that worth checking out. It brings a lot to the table. There’s a good processor in the Ryzen 7, a solid GPU in the GTX1650, a great keyboard, design that’s subtle but not too much so, and a solid build. Sure the selection of ports might feel slightly constricting to some, but it’s not a deal breaker for sure. However, if you’re looking for other options, there are laptops you can check out. Personally, I’d suggest you take a look at the MSI GF63 (Rs. 82,990), which also brings the same GTX1650 GPU, but comes with a Core i7 processor, a 512GB SSD, and even a USB-C port for just Rs. 1,000 extra.

However, if you’re looking for a gaming laptop that’s built to be tough and can run games well, the TUF Gaming FX505DT is definitely worth checking out once it launches in the next week or so.

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