Pebble Time: In hand and First impressions

I was one of the late backers of the Pebble Time smartwatch, and finally received it today. I backed it after the Apple watch event in early March and deciding that the first gen Apple watch was a bit too expensive for me. I also got lucky with the Pebble Kickstarter campaign and managed to switch my initial pledge of $169 to the early bird $159 when people had started backing out towards the end of the campaign.

The shipment was delayed by nearly a month, but that’s not too bad by Kickstarter standards, and as I had opted for the expedited option with prepaid duties and taxes, I received my package within a week of dispatch. I did have to stay in regular touch with the DHL support, first for the KYC documents and then for the description letter to the customs team. There was also the currency goofup on the invoice with labels in EUR though the payments had been in USD. This was something many of the Indian backers who received their packages before me had observed on the campaign portal. Fortunately for me, the DHL team seems to have managed to sort out these issues with the customs to ensure that I received the package just a day later than their estimate.

Anyway, coming to the Pebble Time, it is definitely quite lightweight and pretty comfortable to wear. The silicone strap seems quite comfortable as well and the material feels just like those silicone cupcake moulds and other similar kitchen accessories that one sees in stores. As for the display, it is fairly colourful, but a bit dim even with the backlight as many reviewers and users have observed. It is especially problematic in the current monsoon season with cloudy skies most of the time. That said, I’m sure app and watchface developers will start optimizing their products for the display in the coming months to improve readability. The double bezel is also on the thicker side by modern gadget standards, but haven’t found it to be very distracting so far. As for the coating on the steel frame, I suspect Pebble might be facing the same durability challenges as Apple did with the iPhone 5 black version, given the scratch reports from early users.

I opted to pair the Pebble Time with my iPhone 5s instead of the Mi 4, and loaded a bunch of apps and watchfaces on it including the PebbUp watchfaces that I’d backed on Kickstarter. The notifications have been trickling in since the pairing as well and the vibration is fairly gentle. I’d already done some notification management on my iPhone, so haven’t been getting flooded thus far, and even cricket scores are showing up thanks to the ESPNCricinfo app alerts.

I also did a full charge of the Pebble while installing the apps though it was well over 60% when I got it. It charged up pretty quick even from a laptop USB port. Also, no faulty cable.

Some of the other things I’d like to test in the coming weeks are Android support and voice replies, fitness tracking (already installed some apps), usage at work (currently working from home with a broken arm) and of course the battery life. In the meantime, checkout the unboxing and initial setup photos below.

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HP Omen, Spectre x360 and Pavilion launch hands-on

HP had their launch event in Mumbai for the Omen, Spectre x360 and refreshed Pavilion series earlier this week, and I managed to get some hands-on time with the laptops. The new partnership with Bang & Olufsen for the speakers and sound system was one of the highlights of the launch, now that Beats is owned by Apple.

HP Omen gaming laptop

Possibly HP’s first real foray into gaming laptops, and almost certainly their first gaming laptop launched in India. The specifications are pretty top notch with a 256 GB PCIe based SSD, 8 GB RAM, a 15″ full HD IPS touchscreen display powered by an NVIDIA GeForce 960M & Core i7 quad core processor, customisable backlighting for the keyboard and B&O speakers of course.

The touchpad felt quite spacious and seemed pretty responsive – not MacBook levels but definitely top notch in the Windows world. It also comes with a gaming mouse, which had additional buttons but didn’t seem to have adjustable weights though. The ports are also all positioned at the back of the laptop which is quite rare in laptops these days. The device weighs a little over 2 kgs and has a pretty slim profile as well which is definitely rare for a gaming machine. Of course this could lead to performance throttling especially in Indian conditions which only a full fledged review can verify.

It is the priciest of the laptops launched at almost Rs 1.6L, but gaming laptops seem to be taking off in India given the Alienware and MSI laptops on offer online and in major electronics stores. However there seems to be only one configuration on offer at the moment.

HP Spectre x360 convertible ultrabook

Another premium device but in a very different form factor – a cross between a Lenovo Yoga and a MacBook. The all metal build for this convertible makes for a very attractive looking device that highlights the focus on design that HP has placed on their latest laptops. The specs are definitely high end for the form factor as HP has opted for a dual-core Core i7 CPU over the Core M in the Lenovo Yoga 3 and Asus ZenBook. This coupled with the 256 GB PCIe SSD and 8 GB RAM should ensure a fairly future proof machine. At 1.4 kg, it is a tad heavier than the Yoga 3 and ZenBook, but you get an all metal build in return that should be sturdier, and it is still significantly lighter than your typical ultrabook.

The display is also high resolution and the hinge is quite smooth but firm ensuring that the device stays in the mode you opt for. HP has also not messed around with the keyboard like Lenovo and we get the full row of function keys atop the numbers row. The keys are backlit as well, but not your typical white on black. They’ve opted to go with a black on steel scheme, and it did seem to affect visibility a bit in some lighting situations.

At the moment there seems to be only one configuration on offer for around Rs 1.3L which is well into the premium segment where MacBook Pros play. However, the configuration itself is very competitive and built to last a while with no major compromises. The Pro edition of Windows 8.1 that comes with the laptop also highlights it focus on the prosumer market.

HP Pavilion refresh

The Pavilion is of course HP’s budget range of laptops and while the specs are pretty good for the price – Core i3\i5\i7, 1 TB HDD, 4-8 GB RAM, full HD display and upto an NVIDIA GeForce 940M – they pale in comparison to the two flagships launched with them. HP emphasised on the fact that they upped the display on all models to full HD, albeit non-IPS.

Doing a hands-on with the Core i5 & i7 models after playing around with the Omen and Spectre was probably not the best way to get acquainted with this series as the display paled in comparison with the flagships’ with poor viewing angles. At least the resolution has been increased and this should considerably improve the user experience. The trackpads were also a big letdown as they failed to register clicks reliably during my hands on and highlights the gap with premium devices.

Overall, the devices were definitely quite competitive for their segment, starting around Rs 45K.

The laptops come with Windows 8.1, and with Windows 10 launch around the corner, we can definitely expect these new devices to play an important role in the user adoption of the new OS.

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