Picking out a decent laptop that’s also slim and light is a difficult task. In fact, very few companies have been able to offer affordable traditional laptops that has the design to make it desirable, especially in the sub-Rs 40,000 price segment.
The Asus VivoBook 15 is a laptop that tries to be an all-rounder. It has an affordable base model at Rs 30,990 , but if you want a full-baked experience then you will need to buy the top-end version at Rs 35,990. I decided to test out this machine, and here is what I found.
Asus VivoBook 15 (X505Z) specifications: 15.6-inch FHD display | AMD Ryzen 5 processor | 8GB RAM | 1TB HDD | Windows 10 | 1.6kg | USB Type C and full ports
Asus VivoBook 15 (X505Z) price in India: Rs 35,990
Asus VivoBook 15 (X505Z) review: Design and construction
The new VivoBook 15 is styled more like a traditional laptop. The VivoBook 15’s case is a blend of premium and budget materials. The lid is made out of aluminium with a brushed finish. Even the keyboard deck is a single piece of brushed aluminum that looks sleek. The rest of the device is plastic. I love most aspects of the VivoBook 15’s design. This notebook weighs just 1.6kg, making it highly portable. It easily fits in my backpack and it never feels heavy to carry around.
The VivoBook 15 has a smaller footprint than most 15-inch notebooks. The 15.6-inch display comes with NanoEdge bezels. Asus claims 81 per cent screen-to-body ratio. While this doesn’t mean that the notebook’s display is “bezel-less”, the display housing has trimmed a few centimeters off the sides.
Despite its thin profile, Asus has made space for essential ports. On the left-hand side, you can find an HDMI port, a USB Type-C port, an RJ45 port, and the power dock. Meanwhile, the right-hand side has two USB 2.0 ports, a 3.5mm headphone/mic jack, two notification LEDs, an SD card reader, and a security lock.
Asus VivoBook 15 (X505Z) review: Display
The 15.6-inch, 60Hz FHD display on our review unit of the VivoBook 15 is bright and colorful, so it’s good for watching movies and for gaming. The screen also boasts good viewing angles. When I watched the trailer for Aquaman, I could see all the detail; colours literally popped out.
Asus VivoBook 15 (X505Z) review: Performance and battery
The VivoBook 15 is powered by an AMD-based Ryzen processor. There are two VivoBook 15 configurations, one with the low-end Ryzen 3 and the Ryzen 5. They also differed in terms of the RAM and storage.
My review unit features the Ryzen 5 2500U processor, 8GB RAM and 1TB storage. That makes for a powerful machine that is equipped to handle most of the tasks we usually do on a laptop. In my case, I used this laptop for basic tasks like editing a story on Google Doc, streaming movies on Netflix, and playing light games. It really depends on what tasks you will need the VivoBook 15 to handle. I believe this will be your primary notebook and you are going to be doing browsing, typing, emailing, watching movies and light gaming.
In my week-long testing, the notebook’s battery lasted around three-and-a-half hours with browsing and streaming YouTube videos over Wi-Fi. I believe a 42Wh 3-cell battery is not enough for a 15.6-inch laptop.
The stereo speakers on the VivoBook 15 aren’t terrible, but they are not great either.
Asus VivoBook 15 (X505Z) review: Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard on Asus’ budget laptops have always been good, and this time too, we aren’t disappointed. The keys are large, and they don’t feel loose. The layout is decent, though we would have preferred a numpad. Also, missing is a backlit keyboard. Overall, the typing experience is good, if not the best. The touchpad, on the other hand, seems responsive enough and fairly accurate.
Asus VivoBook 15 (X505Z) review: Verdict
The new VivoBook 15 is one such laptop that tries hard to appeal to the masses. It can do a lot of things right at a very compelling price. Sure, the battery life could have been better, but otherwise the versatility of this laptop is unmatchable.
Amazon Echo Input Goes on Sale in India, Brings Alexa to Your Dumb Speaker for Rs. 2,999
Back in September 2018, Amazon added a suite of new products to its Echo line of devices and among them was the Echo Input, which was scheduled to launch in early 2019 in India. It seems as if Amazon has kept good on its promise as the Echo Input is finally on sale in India, at a price of Rs. 2,999. The device adds Alexa support to any of your existing speakers at home, either through a wired or Bluetooth connection. This lets you stream music from Amazon Prime Music, Saavn and TuneIn and starting today, Hungama and Gaana music streaming services too, with simple voice commands. Apart from Amazon, the Echo Input will also be available from offline retailers such as Croma, Vijay Sales and others.
To recall, the Amazon Echo Input was first introduced in September last year, and at around the same time, US-based e-commerce giant had announced it would be made available in India early next year – that time has come. Amazon had not detailed the Amazon Echo Input price in India back in September, and this is the first we’ve learned of it.
Amazon Echo Input launch offers
Amazon has tied up with some speaker manufacturers to bundle the Echo Input with certain products. The JBL Go 2 speaker bundle gets you a flat Rs. 1,499 discount where as you can get the Echo Input for free if you buy the newly launched Ultimate Ears Boom 3 or the Bose SoundLink Revolve. You can check out the offers on right side of the page, just below the ‘Buy Now’ button.
Amazon Echo Input specifications
The Echo Input measures just 12.5mm in thickness and looks a bit like a hockey puck. There are two buttons on the top for switching the microphone off and triggering Alexa, respectively. You also get a four-microphone array on the Input which is said to recognise your voice across a room, even with music playing. There’s a single LED light on the top and a 3.5mm headphone socket and a Micro-USB port on the side for connectivity and power.
It also features dual-band 802.11 Wi-Fiac for connecting the device to you home Wi-Fi. Setting up the Echo Input requires the Alexa app, which is available on both Android and iOS. The Echo Input ships with a 5W power adapter, Micro-USB cable, auxiliary cable and a quick start guide.
Novel technology cleans water using bacteria
Researchers, led by one of Indian-origin, have developed a new technology that can clean water twice as fast as commercially available ultrafiltration membranes, an advance that brings hope for countries like India where clean drinking water is a big issue.
According to a team from the Washington University in St. Louis, more than one in 10 people in the world lack basic drinking water access, and by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.
The team led by Srikanth Singamaneni, Professor at the varsity, developed an ultrafiltration membrane using graphene oxide and bacterial nanocellulose that they found to be highly efficient, long-lasting and environment-friendly.
The membrane technology purifies water while preventing biofouling, or build up of bacteria and other harmful micro-organisms that reduce the flow of water.
For the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, they used bacteria to build such filtering membranes.
The Gluconacetobacter hansenii bacteria is a sugary substance that forms cellulose nanofibres when in water.
The team then incorporated graphene oxide (GO) flakes into the bacterial nanocellulose while it was growing, essentially trapping GO in the membrane to make it stable and durable.
They exposed the membrane to E. coli bacteria, then shone light on the membrane’s surface.
After being irradiated with light for just three minutes, the E. coli bacteria died. The team determined that the membrane quickly heated to above the 70 degrees Celsius required to deteriorate the cell walls of E. coli bacteria.
While the bacteria are killed, the researchers had a pristine membrane with a high quality of nanocellulose fibres that was able to filter water twice as fast as commercially available ultrafiltration membranes under a high operating pressure.
When they did the same experiment on a membrane made from bacterial nanocellulose without the reduced GO, the E. coli bacteria stayed alive.
While the researchers acknowledge that implementing this process in conventional reverse osmosis systems is taxing, they propose a spiral-wound module system, similar to a roll of towels.
It could be equipped with LEDs or a type of nanogenerator that harnesses mechanical energy from the fluid flow to produce light and heat, which would reduce the overall cost.
If the technique were to be scaled up to a large size, it could benefit many developing countries where clean water is scarce, the researchers noted.
Google loon balloon web service taps board to lift business
Loon, the balloon-borne rural internet service from Google parent Alphabet Inc, has recruited three wireless-industry leaders to help the company’s yearslong effort to get the business off the ground. Wireless pioneer and Nextel Partners Inc co-founder Craig McCaw, former Verizon Communications Inc executive Marni Walden, and Ian Small, a former Telefonica SA executive, will serve as Loon’s new three-member advisory board. They’ll help the fledgeling company sign on partners and expand to new areas.
Loon started as a project inside Google’s X research arm to deliver internet access to rural areas. As of last year, it planned to offer service in Kenya. Using antennas held aloft by large balloons 12 miles (20 kilometres) above Earth, well beyond the paths of aeroplanes, Loon can beam coverage over a wide area and relay the signals to ground stations operated by wireless carriers.
When first conceived, Loon was considered a potential threat to wireless carriers, but in recent years the company has wooed established providers as partners. Other companies including Facebook Inc have been working on ways to get more people connected to the internet. Instead of balloons, Facebook has tested solar-powered drones and satellites.
“We quickly realized that as a business with the mission of connecting people everywhere, our path to success is to partner with those who have significant experience connecting people every day,” Loon Chief Executive Officer Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post.