2018 Honda Africa Twin First Ride Review


The Honda Africa Twin completely changed the middleweight adventure bike segment when it was launched in 2017. For India, only one variant was introduced – the one with the automatic dual clutch transmission – and it exceeded expectations in the way it was received by adventure-hungry enthusiasts. With very good off-road capability and a segment-first automatic transmission, the 2017 Honda Africa Twin impressed us with its easy ride-ability and instantly likeable off-road manners. Now, a year later, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) has introduced an updated version of the same CRF 1000 L Africa Twin. And we’re happy to report that the changes make an already capable adventure bike even better.

Also Read: 2017 Honda Africa Twin First Ride Review

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(The 2018 Honda Africa Twin gets throttle-by-wire, a new instrument panel and 7-level traction control)

What’s new?

The 2018 Honda Africa Twin now gets throttle-by-wire (TBW), the electronic throttle system which in turn enables the introduction of four riding modes – Urban, Tour, Gravel and a fully-customisable User mode. Each mode has individual settings for power, engine braking and traction control, which now gets a seven-level system, compared to the three-level traction control system on the outgoing model. And traction control can be switched off completely as well, for riders with advanced skills. ABS can be switched off too, but only for the rear wheel, to allow experienced riders to lock the rear wheel to slide out of tricky situations while riding off-road. The switchgear is all-new as is the instrument panel. It’s still a back-lit LCD unit, but a single panel, said to offer better visibility than the split unit of the outgoing model. A full-colour TFT screen, which seems to be the norm these days, in this price segment, is missed.

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(Throttle-by-wire system offers four riding modes – Urban, Tour, Gravel and a customisable User mode)

Visually though, the 2018 Africa Twin doesn’t look that different from the outgoing model. In fact, at first glance, there are hardly any visual cues to make out if this is the updated model, or the outgoing one. One look though, and the Africa Twin promises to take you beyond the horizon, to places few other bikes are capable of taking you to. The silhouette is typical ADV – with the tall and imposing stance, large spoked wheels (21-inch front and 18-inch rear) and ample ground clearance (251 mm) to glide over all kinds of terrain when the going gets tough. The exhaust has been newly designed and the lithium-ion battery is lighter which makes the new model 2.3 kg lighter, with a kerb weight of 243 kg.

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(2018 Africa Twin gets new switchgear, new exhaust and the same 999 cc makes marginally more torque with a stronger mid-range)

How does it perform?

The engine is the same 999 cc, parallel-twin unit as the outgoing model, and it makes 87 bhp at 7500 rpm, and marginally more peak torque – 93.1 Nm at 6000 rpm. Acceleration is brisk, and out on the open road, the Africa Twin is capable of covering long distances effortlessly and quickly, as long as you’re not really expecting sportbike level performance. It’s more than enough really, and for most kinds of touring duties, the Africa Twin will do it without a fuss, and with riders of different heights and build welcoming its easy riding manners, and easily accessible seat height.

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(The Honda Africa Twin is easy to ride and has a comfortable riding position for long hours in the saddle)

Within city limits, the Africa Twin is docile and easily to handle, despite its biggish proportions. In bumper to bumper traffic even, the bike is easy to manoeuvre, and the automatic transmission is a boon in such conditions. With the riding mode set to Urban, 2,000 revs will keep you in third gear and 30 kmph, with power dialled down low on the throttle, and traction control at most intrusive. Tour mode has more power on the throttle, for effective overtakes and quicker acceleration. The settings for power, engine braking, and traction control are fully customisable in the User mode. And yes, you can also opt for the manual selection to downshift or upshift through the toggle switches on the left handlebar. Our test bike is even kitted with an aftermarket gear shift lever, and it’s a handy addition for riders looking for the traditional toe-shifter, although that will set you back by around ₹ 30,000.

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(The off-road capability of the 2018 Honda Africa Twin is immediately likeable)

And when it’s time to get to sand, slush and gravel, the 2018 Honda Africa Twin comes into its element. Even with traction control dialled down to level 1, it allows you some amount of wheel slip before the traction control intervenes and ensures things don’t go horribly out of hand. With the large, 21-inch front wheel and ample ground clearance, the Africa Twin can go over most surfaces you throw at it, as long as you, the rider, have the inclination. The weight is evenly balanced and on the move it feels like a much lighter dual-sport, rather than a 243 kg full-size adventure tourer. The ABS on the rear wheel can be switched off via a large separate button on the fairing, and there’s a ‘G’ switch which is useful for half-clutch operation, especially when you want to dial up your aggressive riding style, tackling mountain roads and a variety of off-road terrain.

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(The Honda Africa Twin is only available in the automatic dual clutch transmission variant in India)

The final word

The Honda Africa Twin may not have the power, or top end performance to match its competition, like the Triumph Tiger 800 or the Ducati Multistrada 950, but it certainly makes up for it with its easy to ride ability, and superb off-road manners. For experienced riders looking for purely tarmac use, the Africa Twin may lose its thrill as you notch up the kilometres over a few long distance rides, but if you’re the laid back, easy going kind of rider, it can certainly take you places, with relative ease and comfort, which is hard to ignore.

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(Easy road manners and very good off-road capability make the Africa Twin a very likeable adventure touring bike)

And when the tarmac ends, and it’s time to explore new horizons, the level of off-road capability combined with easy road manners will endear you to the Africa Twin’s well-rounded personality. Yes, it’s an automatic, and the manual variant is still not offered on sale in India, if that’s what motorcycles should be to you in the first place. The optional gear shift lever may help add that traditional feel, but getting used to clutchless gearshifts is just a matter of a few minutes on the saddle. Priced at ₹ 13.23 lakh (ex-showroom), the 2018 Honda Africa Twin just got better with the updates it gets, and that’s reason enough to give it the once over if you’re in the market for an adventure tourer.

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(Photography: Pawan Dagia)

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Amazfit Stratos Review | NDTV Gadgets360.com


Xiaomi-backed wearables brand Huami’s Amazfit Stratos is a multi-sport GPS watch with some features of smartwatches. It’s swim-proof, can track outdoor runs, shows you notifications from your smartphone, lets you store music, and promises up to five days of battery life. All this comes at a price tag of Rs. 15,999, which is a pretty good price if it all works well. We used the Amazfit Stratos for a week to find out whether it’s worth considering as a “smart” watch for fitness enthusiasts.

Amazfit Stratos design and comfort

The Amazfit Stratos looks stunning in photos but the actual product isn’t as good-looking. It’s really bulky, with a thick circular dial and large buttons. While we appreciate the large display, it looks a bit like a flat tyre and isn’t a full circle. The Amazfit Stratos is a bit too bulky to be comfortable for everyday use. It uses a silicone strap and we found that it fit securely and didn’t cause any additional discomfort.

The display is perhaps the biggest weakness of the Amazfit Stratos. It’s an always-on display, which is great, but the positives end there. The glass on top is very reflective, and under bright light, it is hard to read what’s on screen. The backlight tended to hurt our eyes in dim rooms because it lights up the entire screen. With the Amazfit Stratos, waking up in the middle of the night to check the time on our wrist was a painful experience every single time. Even though it has some cool watch faces, the display isn’t good enough to show them off.

One big design flaw with the Amazfit Stratos is its charger. The charging cradle snaps on to the bottom of the watch, but it can fit upside down just as easily. If you accidentally get it wrong, you won’t be able to charge the watch because the pins won’t make contact. While the mechanism works just fine, this oversight could be rather annoying in the long run.

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Amazfit Stratos software and ecosystem

The Amazfit Stratos is compatible with iOS and Android, and you’ll need to download the Amazfit Watch app on your smartphone. The app allowed us to choose to sign in with an existing Xiaomi account, and we tried this first because we had created one when reviewing the Xiaomi Mi Band 2. However, it just did not work, so we had to create a new account. The pairing process was smooth and we found the app to be well-designed. It shows data in neat graphs and you can see historical data quite easily too.

Our issue with the app is that it doesn’t do much. It has a setting to change units from Imperial to Metric, but that change didn’t reflect on the watch. We had to do this from the watch’s settings. Similarly, options such as auto-upload data, 12- or 24-hour clocks, do not disturb mode, etc. can only be changed on the watch.

The Amazfit Stratos uses a proprietary operating system, which is quite common in the fitness segment. Companies such as Garmin and TomTom do the same thing. It takes some time to get used to the interface of the Amazfit Stratos, though. It has a touchscreen, and three buttons for you to navigate through the UI. Press the top one to scroll up, and the bottom button to scroll down, and if you want to select an option, you can use the middle button. The app shows a tutorial to take you through other actions, such as long-pressing the top button to go back, etc. but this is not intuitive at all.

We also noticed that the touchscreen only works if you “wake” the watch by pressing one of the buttons. If you try to use the touchscreen after it’s been idle for some time, it remains unresponsive. These are minor annoyances that add up to make the overall experience feel clunky.

amazfit stratos apple watch gadgets 360 Amazfit StratosApple Watch (left) and Amazfit Stratos

 

However, the watch does show notifications and lets you read full messages even from third-party apps. You can’t reply to any notifications as this watch is meant to be a fitness wearable with notifications, and not a proper smartwatch. While we found the notifications useful, people who need more control might not.

Amazfit Stratos performance and battery life

We can live with an average UI if the Amazfit Stratos does its job from a fitness standpoint. To test this, we ran it through some standard tests. The first is to test the step counter by walking 1,000 steps and counting them manually. Then we checked if the Amazfit Stratos recorded them accurately. The results were surprisingly good — the Stratos recorded 1,002 steps when we counted 1,000.

Our second test was to check if the GPS of the watch was accurate. We first drove a car through a route near our office in Mumbai to establish a 1-km distance as our test track. This route took us under a flyover as we wanted to see if the watch can trace the route accurately. We ran the test with the Apple Watch Series 2 on our left hand and the Amazfit Stratos on our right. The Stratos took three minutes to lock on to a signal in an open space on the main road, which was frustrating. Our Apple Watch found a GPS signal instantly (as it uses a paired iPhone’s GPS when). Most running watches take around two minutes to find a GPS signal, and three minutes is a bit too long.

Then, the Stratos recorded the 1km distance as 1.64km. The Apple Watch had no such issues and it showed the route to be exactly 1km long. When we looked at the route recorded by the Amazfit Stratos, it had marked a start point far from where we had actually begun recording the walk, but once we took a U-turn under the flyover, the Stratos corrected itself.

We tried this test a second time, just to check whether the same error was repeated. On this attempt, it took one minute to lock on to a GPS signal at the same spot, which was good to note. The Amazfit Stratos had a much better showing, but it still wasn’t entirely accurate. On the second try it recorded 1.11km on the 1km route, and its starting point was slightly off.

Overall, this kind of inconsistency is worrying, because we’d always be second-guessing whether the Stratos’ tracking is accurate.

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We also noticed that the Amazfit Stratos doesn’t have a dedicated tracking mode for strength training or gym sessions, or for other activities such as Pilates and yoga, which are found on several other fitness-oriented wearables. Given that, we used the elliptical training mode to track a 90-minute gym session, and found that the heart rate sensor on the Stratos didn’t do a great job. When we looked at our heart rate during the session, the Stratos always showed a value that was either too low or too high based on how we were feeling at that point. A look at the data later confirmed this.

The Apple Watch showed our maximum heart rate during the session as 191 beats per minute, while the Stratos’ data said this was 175bpm. It was a strenous session during which we felt like we’d fully exerted ourself, and our maximum heart rate definitely should’ve been higher. We could also see the heart rate data peaking at different times on the two watches, and felt that the Apple Watch’s data was more accurate.

Sleep tracking with the Amazfit Stratos was a bit of a mixed bag. We compared its data against what was recorded on the Apple Watch by the excellent Sleep++ app, and found that it was accurate sometimes but not at other times. One day we’d set an alarm for 5.30am and we woke up but went back to sleep. On that day, the Stratos claims that we woke up around 5.30am, whereas the Apple Watch data suggested that we woke up at 7.40am. The latter is closer to reality. When we managed to sleep uninterrupted at night, the data was fairly accurate.

We like the fact that the battery life of the Amazfit Stratos is around five days. Without using GPS, it lasted almost seven days on a single charge. The moment you start tracking workouts using GPS, the battery starts to drain more quickly. It’s worth mentioning that by default, features that could drain power – such as automatically uploading workout data – are disabled.

Finally, we really missed automatic workout tracking feature on the Amazfit Stratos. We did forgot to manually begin a workout on one occasion, and the Stratos didn’t log it for us. With companies such as Fitbit adding this feature to their products, and Apple announcing it with watchOS 5, it would be nice to see this feature come to the Amazfit Stratos as well. We were unable to go for a swim during the testing period, but we did subject it to a shower multiple times and it continued to work just fine.

amazfit stratos apple watch reflective screen hand gadgets 360 Amazfit Stratos

 

Verdict
The Amazfit Stratos looks great on paper but fails to live up to its promise in many ways. We really like the idea of a fitness-focused wearable that shows notifications and looks like a cool everyday watch, but the Stratos’ implementation of many features leaves a lot to be desired. Its bulk makes it uncomfortable to wear every day, and its decidedly masculine styling means that women aren’t likely to find it appealing.

While we think that it could work as a multi-sport watch under ideal conditions, the Amazfit Stratos’ inconsistent performance means that we hesitate to recommend it over products from established brands such as Garmin, TomTom, and even the Apple Watch, which isn’t strictly direct competition for the product. The pricing — Rs. 15,999 — is great for the features offered, but we still think the TomTom Spark would be a better choice for fitness enthusiasts on a budget. Those who can afford an Apple Watch Series 3 would be better served by it.

Pros

  • Battery life
  • Always on display
  • Notifications
  • Accurate step tracking

Cons

  • Poor display quality
  • Inaccurate GPS tracking
  • Inaccurate sleep tracking
  • Awkward touchscreen UI
  • App doesn’t do much

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Design and comfort: 2.5
  • Tracking accuracy: 2.5
  • Software and ecosystem: 3
  • Battery life: 4
  • Overall: 2.5



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Jabra Elite Active 65t Review


Truly wireless headphones are all the rage these days, and manufacturers are releasing products at an ever-increasing rate. This time around, we’re reviewing the Jabra Elite Active 65t, which supports Bluetooth 5.0 and also promises good sound quality, up to 15 hours of battery life, and a secure fit.

We have already reviewed the Jabra Elite 65t, which impressed us with its sound quality, and this is a variant of that pair of earphones, aimed at sports and fitness enthusiasts. The difference between them is that with the Elite Active 65t, Jabra has bumped up the water resistance rating and added some fitness tracking features to the mix. Are these truly wireless earphones worth their Rs. 14,999 price tag? Let’s find out.

Jabra Elite Active 65t design, comfort, and features

The Elite Active 65t looks identical to the standard Elite 65t model. Its earpieces are made out of plastic and are ergonomically shaped, though we found them a tad too bulky. The earpieces won’t stick out too far from your ears, and are quite comfortable for short listening sessions. Wear them for more than an hour, though, and the bulk starts to get a bit bothersome. The build quality of the earpieces is top-notch and they feel solid in the hand.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t has an IP56 rating and comes with a two-year limited warranty against water and dust ingress. This means that the earphones should be unaffected by even the sweatiest workout sessions. They have a very secure fit and do not fall out – even while running or exercising.

The earphones ship with a charging case, which is a bit bulky and is secured by a clasp as opposed to a magnet. The lid is very tightly sealed and it takes a substantial effort to open it. The case is built well and feels quite durable, but isn’t as premium as the one you get with Apple’s AirPods. It has a Micro-USB port at the bottom. It takes about 3 hours to fully charge the case and earpieces.

Jabra Active 65t Inline1 Jabra Elite Active 65t

 

Two buttons on the left earpiece allow you to skip tracks and adjust the volume, and a large button on the right one lets you play/ pause music, answer calls, invoke your paired phone’s voice assistant, and trigger the ‘HearThrough’ mode. This mode filters in a bit of outside sound using the built in microphones. It must be noted that these earphones passively seal out ambient noise and do not have active noise cancellation. This feature works well enough, and we could hear car horns and approaching vehicles while running.

Music automatically pauses when you take either the left or right earpiece out of your ear, and both earpieces turn off when you put the right one back in the charging case. Phone call audio only routes to the right earbud, which can be a bit disorienting at times.

The Elite Active 65t has an accelerometer, which allows for fitness and performance monitoring via the Jabra Sound+ smartphone app. The app is easy to use but is slow to recognise the earphones at times. There is no auto tracking and you have to start an activity manually in the app, after which it records the duration of the activity, maximum and average steps per minute, and the total number of steps.

This feature is great for those who simply want to log their workouts and do not care about features like all-day step tracking, automatic exercise recognition, and sleep tracking, which are offered by dedicated fitness wearables. The information provided is also quite accurate. We compared the step count with our Fitbit Flex and the numbers were more or less the same.

The retail box contains three sets of high-quality silicone tips, which allow for a fair amount of personal configuration. Foam tips, which offer even better isolation and comfort, would have been appreciated at this price.

Jabra Elite Active 65t sound quality and battery life

The sound on offer is crisp and detailed, and there is a solid sense of balance to it. No frequency band outshines the others. The bass is tight and punchy, with good impact. The mids are ever so slightly repressed, but sound natural. The highs are clear and precise.

Where these earphones outclass other truly wireless options is the outstanding detail and clarity on offer. Instrument separation is great and everything sounds distinct and precise. Each instrument shines in complex, densely layered tracks such as Radiohead’s Airbag and Two Door Cinema Club’s Undercover Martyn.

Jabra Active65t Inline3 2 Jabra Elite Active 65t

 

Noise isolation is also excellent. Thanks to their secure fit, these earphones seal most ambient noise out, even at low to medium volume levels. The Jabra Sound+ application has an equaliser that lets you adjust the sound quality to your taste.

Battery life is quite good. The earpieces themselves last close to five hours on a single charge with music playing at 70- 80 percent volume. The included wireless case can fully charge the earphones twice. A combined battery life of 15 hours might not be segment-leading, but is quite impressive.

There are four microphones – two on each earpiece – for ambient noise reduction, making this one of the best pairs of truly wireless earphones for voice calls. We experienced no issues while on calls during our test period. We also used the Jabra Elite Active 65t with a plethora of video sources, from YouTube to Amazon Prime Video, and did not experience any video-audio sync issues.

Verdict
The Jabra Elite Active 65t ranks amongst the best pairs of truly wireless earphones we have tested to date. These earphones deliver stellar sound quality, good battery life, a secure and stable fit, high-quality microphones, and excellent noise isolation. The IP56 rating and fitness and performance monitoring features just add to the appeal. All is not smooth sailing though. The ear tips are somewhat bulky and uncomfortable for prolonged use, and the case is a bit fiddly.

If you are looking to cut all cords and are not willing to sacrifice sound quality in the process, the Jabra Elite Active 65t might be exactly what you are looking for. The IP56 rating, secure fit, and nifty activity-related features also make these earphones a solid option for fitness enthusiasts. Those not interested in the fitness features can take a look at the Jabra Elite 65t, which costs around Rs. 1,000 less and also delivers great sound quality.

Price: Rs. 14,999

Pros

  • Good battery life
  • IP56 dust and water resistance
  • Secure and stable fit
  • High-quality microphones
  • Crisp, balanced sound

Cons

  • Bulky earpieces
  • Fiddly case

Ratings (out of 5):

  • Design/ comfort: 3.5
  • Audio quality: 4.5
  • Battery life: 4
  • Value for money: 3.5
  • Overall: 4



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Honda CR-V First Drive Review: Improved In Every Respect


The very popular Honda CR-V returns in its 5th generation. The car is bigger and better, as our first drive tells you. The India launch is expected in the festive season, and for the first time, Honda will offer a diesel option on the CR-V that drives in with a three-row, 7-seater avatar




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The new generation Honda CR-V will be launched in India by October

Since 1995, the Honda CR-V has been a permanent fixture in the global compact SUV segment. It is a bestseller in the US, accounts for a quarter of Honda’s sales in Europe, and is really the car that kick-started the segment in India. Having launched in the US in late 2016, the 5th generation has been rolling out globally through 2017. Having showcased itself at the Auto Expo in February, the car is now set for its India debut. Depending on the market, the CR-V is being offered with naturally aspirated 2.0 or 2.4 petrol engines, and a turbocharged 1.5, or a 1.6-liter turbodiesel. Honda makes front- and all-wheel drive versions of the CR-V. In India we are looking forward to the brand new 1.6 litre diesel finally giving the CR-V an option to its petrol-only India range so far.

Honda CR-V
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(In India we are looking forward to the brand new 1.6 litre diesel finally giving the CR-V an option to its petrol-only India range so far)

Also Read: New 7-Seater Diesel Honda CR-V India Launch Details Revealed

From the outside, the new CR-V represents a marked improvement over the last generation, with more sculpted lines and horizontal taillights. It doesn’t walk too far away from its predecessor, but it is clearly more modern. And it looks especially good with the top-of-the-line 19-inch wheels. The daytime running lights and muscular bumper make the car look imposing and it will turn heads. The new shape also means more room. The longer wheelbase benefits the front passengers. And the rear bench can been moved forward and backwards by a full 150 millimetres, depending on whether you like more rear legroom or a bigger luggage compartment. The big news is the option of a third-row, although the last row is not really suitable for adults – as in most such cars. In the front, there is generous room, and the seats offer plenty of lateral support. We like the variable trunk, where the load floor can be extended and loaded up with up to 100 kilograms. The power tailgate is a good feature add-on too.

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(From the outside, the new CR-V represents a marked improvement over the last generation, with more sculpted lines and horizontal taillights)

Also Read: New-Gen Honda CR-V To Be Launched This Festive Season

The interior is full of storage and practical solutions; the driver benefits from a well-positioned gear selector, and the electronic instrumentation offers a techy and futuristic look. It is still unclear what level of equipment we will get here in India. But expect the CR-V to be loaded with safety features as standard, and also offer a touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone connectivity. The driver’s seat is also power adjustable and gets lumbar support.

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(The interior is full of storage and practical solutions; the driver benefits from a well-positioned gear selector, and the electronic instrumentation offers a techy and futuristic look)

The brand new 1.6-litre diesel engine is a big deal for Honda, and indeed the CR-V. Not only will it give us a first diesel CR-V for India, but also plenty to get excited about. While many may think that 120 horsepower is not a great number, it’s the delivery of that power – and more importantly the ample torque on this engine that become the key takeaway. The car gets plenty of grunt from that engine – suitable for high demand driving. And it also does well for city traffic, since it gives you a good mid-range and peak torque also kicks in at just 2000 rpm. Getting all that torque to the wheels is a brand new and very quick 9-Speed automatic gearbox.

Also Read: Honda CR-V: All You Need To Know

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(With 522-litre of boot space to the rear seats, the CR-V provides a long, flat, wide space that has made all the more easy to load)

The CR-V coming to India will likely be automatic only, even though some markets do get a 6-Speed manual option. While the diesel will come with that new 9-Speed, the 2.0 petrol is expected to get the CVT. CVTs are controversial, with some drivers disliking the sound of the engine spooling up rapidly while the car only gradually increases in speed. But on the CR-V like on many Hondas, that specific character of the CVT is hardly noticed. Incidentally, the turbodiesel option is not offered in the US and has been dropped in Europe, but we believe it remains the most sensible and efficient choice for the new CR-V. And so are glad it’s being brought to India. Some may think the era of the diesel is over, but its benefits are so clear that it may still have a long future ahead. Honda also hints at an upcoming hybrid CR-V globally, which we don’t rule out for India in the future too. But given the qualities of the currently available engines, our advice is: don’t wait for it!

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(The CR-V coming to India will likely be automatic only, even though some markets do get a 6-Speed manual option)

We like the handling of the CR-V a lot. Steering effort is low, but there is still enough road feedback, and the CR-V can be positioned with precision. The suspension veers towards the comfortable, but don’t forget that this is a Honda and it is kind of meant to do that! When pushed though, the CR-V can handle corners quite well, and better than many other SUVs in this class. On top of the remarkable capabilities of this chassis, a plethora of assistance systems ensure that you stay on the road. Unless you want to deliberately go off the road! In this case, the increased ground clearance will get you farther than before. Optional All Wheel Drive is only expected on the diesel, though we will have to wait to see what spec the CR-V is finally offered in. The model we tested had a built-for-Europe and like markets type of specification.

Also Read: Auto Expo 2018: New-Gen Honda CR-V Unveiled, Launch In FY 2018-19

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(When pushed though, the CR-V can handle corners quite well, and better than many other SUVs in this class)

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The new CR-V has attitude and style – perhaps more so than its established competitors. Improved in every respect, customers should give it a close look. And with three-row seating, as well as diesel now coming in the car will become way more relevant to the buyer. The only thing to remember is that since the car has grown in size, stature and sophistication, it will be positioned much higher with prices expected to hover between ₹ 28 and ₹ 30 lakh. It will take on the similar yet 5-seater rivals like the VW Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson on the one hand, and also the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour and Skoda Kodiaq – all 7-seaters – on the other. We will have an India spec Honda CR-V review for you next month, when we will get our hands on the Indian model.

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Satyameva Jayate Movie Review: John Abraham Goes On The Rampage In Nonsensical Film


John Abraham, Manoj Bajpayee, Aisha Sharma in Satyameva Jayate (Image courtesy: smjfilm)

Cast: John Abraham, Manoj Bajpayee, Aisha Sharma

Director: Milap Zaveri

Rating: 1 Star (Out of 5)

In every bit of every frame of Satyameva Jayate, the truth stares us in the face: it is the sort of vigilante action flick that one thought Bollywood had successfully put behind itself long ago. The makers of this violent anti-corruption drama (written and directed by Milap Milan Zaveri) do not seem to have the slightest clue how dangerous its kill-and-burn messaging is in an era in which mobs need little provocation to resort to extra-judicial methods to spread fear.

In the film’s opening sequence, a homily-spouting pyromaniac, Veer (John Abraham), in the middle of the night, burns a corrupt cop alive on a funeral pyre to the accompaniment of ear-splitting scriptural incantations. He doesn’t stop there. Early next morning, he leaves the victim’s ashes outside the police station neatly stuffed into an urn.

A few sequences later, Veer is back in action, viciously pumping gasoline into the mouth of another policeman gone astray and lighting a matchstick to send the man up in flames. “Tu iss aag mein jalega dard agle janam tak chalega (You will burn in this fire, the pain will last until your next birth),” the vigilante thunders, revealing his fascist fangs in all their ugliness.

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John Abraham in Satyameva Jayate (Image courtesy: YouTube)

Before the final strike, he quips to his cornered quarry that the next morning’s newspaper headlines will read: “Petrol ke daam aur Damle dono upar gaye (The price of petrol and Damle have both gone up).” The audience is supposed to marvel at this point at the skills of the dialogue writer.

Just a tad earlier, before dispatching another errant cop to a fiery death, Veer had uttered: “Note badle par neeyat nahin, Patil ho ya Qadri sabki ek biraadari (Currency notes have changed but not the intentions, be it Patil or Qadri they are of the same fraternity).” All this might sound defiantly political, but do not be misled by the ballast. One angry man in the street, supporting the cop killings, stands before a TV camera and expresses the hope that similar treatment is meted out to avaricious government officers as well. Not a word on the politicians. In the worldview propounded by Satyameva Jayate, the cops are to blame for all our ills.

The marauder’s intention is to instill fear in the hearts of corrupt policemen. He isn’t afraid of the law and that is his biggest strength, says the Mumbai police commissioner (Manish Chaudhary), summoning his best officer, deputy commissioner of police Shivansh Rathod (Manoj Bajpayee) from an outing and tasking him with the job of capturing the dangerous vigilante on the loose.

Rathod is out fishing with his daughter when he receives the chief’s SOS. He turns to his daughter and says: “Chhoti machli bahut pakad li, ab magarmachh pakadne ka waqt aa gaya hai (I’ve caught enough small fish, it is time to go for an alligator now).” So, this isn’t any old cat-and-mouse game, it is an all-out clash of shrill dialogue-baazi.

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Manoj Bajpayee in Satyameva Jayate (Image courtesy: thejohnabraham)

 

Bajpayee is a wonderfully gifted actor who allows himself here to be trapped in a hopelessly wayward, disjointed script. So when in the climax he breaks down and bawls, one can understand exactly what is going on in his mind. Satyameva Jayate, in the form that it is on the screen, surely couldn’t be what Bajpayee would have bargained for when he signed up for the project.

But this is John Abraham’s comfort zone. Going on the rampage is all in a day’s work, be it springing to the aid of a young man wrongly confined in a police station and tortured or a girl assaulted by a policemen. Veer might be a ruthless killer for a cause but he is a good guy with a good enough reason for his marauding ways.

The back story, which pans out in the second half of Satyameva Jayate, is as clichéd as they come. It is centred on two sons of a wronged policeman, who is honest to a fault, a gallantry medal defiled and a suicide by fire. Veer decides to defend his dad’s honour and, while making a living as a painter, eliminate all those who don’t deserve to wear a policeman’s khakis. He hollers and hectors – that is Abraham’s stock and trade – as he goes about wreaking havoc.

Amid the trail of destruction that he leaves behind, he has the time to romance a pretty veterinary doctor (Aisha Sharma), who, when we first meet her, harangues a politician for flying the national flag upside down. It’s no big deal, says the politician. It is, the girl insists, for the soldiers defending our borders and for filmgoers who stand up when the national anthem is played ahead of a movie show – a ridiculous equalization all right, but no worse than all the other putrid ideas that form the crux of the film.

The upright, fearless DCP Shivansh Rathod, on his part, takes upon himself the mission of restoring the rule of law. But the film isn’t interested in peaceful means of settling scores: it revels in relentless bloodshed. “Har mujrim apne aap ko masiha samajhta hai (Every criminal considers himself a Messiah),” Shivansh says to Veer. “Har vardiwala apne aap ko khuda manta hai (Every man in uniform regards himself as God,” the latter sneers in response.

In the ‘morality’ tussle between a putative saviour and an unflappable defender of justice, it is cinema that takes a major beating. Satyameva Jayate, truth be told, is a film that has no apparent reason to exist. Not a shred of it is original. At best, it makes a silly spectacle of beating a dead, decomposed horse. At worst, it is a product of a tendentious mind. Satyameva Jayate is nonsensical, with nary a nod to logic.





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Gold Movie Review: Akshay Kumar Is Biggest Weakness


Cast: Akshay Kumar, Mouni Roy, Vineet Kumar Singh, Amit Sadh, Kunal Kapoor

Director: Reema Kagti

Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)

In the game with a solitary actor with proven star power, Gold, written and directed by Reema Kagti, glitters only intermittently. Hinging overly on the inner and external struggles of a fictitious character essayed by Akshay Kumar, the sports drama does not adequately mine the individual stories of the plucky players who got the better of Great Britain on the latter’s home turf to win independent India’s first Olympic field hockey gold in 1948.

With the spotlight squarely on Tapan Das, a team manager grappling with his own set of issues in a battle to stay relevant in free India’s hockey plans, neither the turmoil of the times nor the dynamics of assembling a winning combination in the face of severe odds are depicted in their entirety or with the requisite force. Gold leaves an entire goldmine untapped.

This film is primarily about avenging “do sau saal ki ghulami (200 years of slavery)”, so the principal enemy is England, not Pakistan. This is one aspect of Gold that sets it apart from other Bollywood sports films. When the Indians takes on Great Britain in the London Olympic final, Pakistani players in the stands cheer them on. And before Pakistan plays the Netherlands in the semis, the Indian manager goes to the former team’s change room and greets the captain, a former protege.

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Akshay Kumar in Gold (Image courtesy: akshaykumar)

 

But, then, the protagonist is a Bengali and stereotyping is inevitable. Even when that man seems to be speaking grammatically perfect Hindi, he has to have a thick regional accent. He and his wife have to frequently break into Bangla to prove which part of the country they belong to. Which self-respecting Bengali in a Bollywood film can get by without uttering “Urri baba“, “gondogol” or “aami jaani” a few times? Tapan Das follows the script. His wife, played by Mouni Roy, adds her bit to the macher jhol syndrome: she pronounces fish as ‘feesh’. It stinks.

 

The lead actor of Gold should have been the film’s strength. He instead turns out to be its biggest weakness – he overshadows, or in many cases completely blanks out, the little real-life stories that might have made the film a more complete and complex portrait of a hockey team that made history.

 

The mercurial Tapan Das all too frequently lapses into facetiousness, especially in his banter with his wife Monobina, who can barely keep him off the bottle and his self-destructive ways. But, of course, he is the hero of the story but none of his transgressions push him off the rails.

The same cannot be said for the film’s many gratuitous digressions. In one sequence, a scion of a United Provinces royal family, Raghubir Pratap Singh (Amit Sadh), a talented but super-egoistic centre-forward, stops his speeding car when he spots an unwashed, impoverished man sitting under a tree by the dirt track. The princeling alights from the vehicle, takes off all his clothes and gives them to the beggar.

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Akshay Kumar and Mouni Roy in Gold (Image courtesy: imouniroy)

 

Tapan Das, strapped for cash and coming off several career-threatening setbacks, makes his way to a Buddhist monastery in the woods and seeks access to its grounds for India’s Olympic preparations. The hockey-loving head monk first nods his head to indicate refusal and then breaks his five-year-old maun vrat (vow of silence) and acquiesces when he hears the name of his favourite player, Samrat (Kunal Kapoor), the star of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where India laid Germany low before a home crowd that included a furious Fuhrer.

The manager is always high on cheap whisky but rather low on scruples when it comes to money. He understandably has detractors in the hockey federation, one of whom eggs him on to get drunk at a party thrown to announce free India’s first Olympic field hockey team. Sloshed, he breaks into boisterous song and dance and misbehaves with the British ladies at the do. By way of punishment, he is barred from accompanying the team to the 1948 London Olympics. The players take off for the Games without him. That is drama for you.

In a far more effective interlude, the fissures in the team on regional lines are snuffed out by Samrat. He orders the players to repeatedly move a pile of bricks from one end of the field to the other. They keep doing the coach’s bidding until they are out of breath. Having done a lot of huffing and puffing, the boys realise that there is a less exacting way available to them: teamwork.

Gold is littered with such off-the-field sequences that stem from flights of fancy that have no basis in fact. Of course, the film does not claim to be an accurate reenactment of independent India’s 1948 Olympic hockey campaign only a year after earning freedom from British rule and grappling with the depletion of its ranks in the wake of the horrific Partition riots. It projects itself as a work of pure fiction. And that is a pity.

It is difficult to say how much brighter Gold would have been had it deigned to tell the true story of Balbir Singh Sr, a Partition survivor who scored two of India’s four goals in the final of the London Olympics or of the character who goes by the name of Imtiaz Ali Shah (Vineet Kumar Singh) – named the captain of the Indian team, he opts to migrate to Pakistan fearing for his life, like many of the real Muslim hockey stars of the day. It is, however, certain that it would have been a more gripping and convincing sage.

Gold opens with the Berlin Olympics hockey final, at the end of which the Indian team receives the gold medal as the Union Jack flutters. Tapan Das half-flashes an Indian tricolour with the charkha in the middle and ehorts the players to salute the flag. The film ends with the London Olympics, by which time India isn’t British India anymore. Both these passages are pretty well handled. The action on the field lend excitement to the proceedings while the crowd scenes add colour to the frames.

But what unfolds in the long, overly dramatized interregnum is patchy both in overall tonality and in terms of specific plot points. As with much else, liberties are taken with the India-England final. In reality, India won 4-0. In the fictional reimagining, India is down 3-1 before ‘trump card’ Himmat Singh (Sunny Kaushal, who is the film’s brightest spot) – his being held back leads to conflict within the team, a pub brawl to be precise – comes in as a late replacement and inspires a glorious fightback.

Akshay Kumar inevitably hogs the footage, but it is Sunny Kaushal, Amit Sadh and Vineet Kumar Singh who do all the fancy dribbling on the acting front. Unfortunately, they just aren’t allowed enough of the action.

 

Hockey, at its best, is an incredibly fast-paced game and any film about the sport has got to capture that inherent momentum for it to work. Gold fails to do that, dragged down by a storyline that puts too much store by the anticipated crowd-pulling power of a Bollywood A-lister. The script, and the real events that inspired it, take a backseat in the process. As a result, what could have been a blinder of a movie barely manages to hobble its way to a climax that holds no surprises because it is a part of Indian sporting folklore.

 





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AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX and Asus ROG Zenith X399 Extreme Review


According to AMD, the entire Threadripper project started out as an experiment. A handful of engineers just decided to use their spare time to explore just how far they could push the Zen architecture, which was then still in the early stages of its development. These high-performance CPUs weren’t even on the company’s roadmaps until the team made a proposal to AMD’s top management and got their idea greenlit.

By all accounts coming out of AMD, Threadripper was and continues to be a passion project. AMD designed a scalable architecture for the Ryzen lineup, with four cores and grouped into functional units called Core Complexes (CCX). Two of those, with their associated caches and resources, are used in every Ryzen CPU (except the ones with integrated Vega graphics). The Threadripper team found that they could squash multiples of those dies together within the package design created for the Epyc server CPU platform, and also double the number of memory channels and PCIe lanes supported. Two dies and four CCXs were used to create the original 16-core Threadripper 1950X last year, but as it turns out, the team never intended to stop there.

The plan, even before the first Threadripper models were announced, was to go even further. Complexity prevented this from happening last year, but the products and the strategy are now in place. The second generation lineup has just been launched, capped by the behemoth Threadripper 2990WX with a staggering 32 cores. AMD is not shy about reminding us that just under two years ago, quad-core CPUs were the norm and Intel’s Core i7-6950X with 10 cores was the absolute best you could do, if you were willing to spend nearly Rs. 2,00,000.

Who can really make use of 32 CPU cores? Is there any point in scaling up this far? What are the tradeoffs, and what will it cost you? We have the answers to all these questions in our full review of the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX.

DSC 0030 threadripper

 

The second-gen AMD Ryzen Threadripper lineup

There are two series in the second-gen Threadripper lineup, each with two models. The X-series (totally not a dig at Intel’s confused Core X-series, we’re sure) consists of the Threadripper 2920X and 2950X, which are direct replacements for last year’s 12-core and 16-core models respectively. These are aimed at enthusisasts and gamers who want to multi-task without any slowdowns, edit 4K video, stream while gaming, or compile software without spending too much money. X-series models have 180W TDP ratings and 32MB of L3 cache in total across dies. Last year’s 8-core model appears to have been dropped, eliminating an overlap with the Ryzen 7 line.

The new WX-series consists of the 24-core Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX and the flagship 32-core 2990WX which we have with us today. The target audience in this case is users with workloads such as rendering cinema-quality video and effects, 3D content creation, ray tracing, and massive-scale virtualisation. These are all highly parallel workloads that can actually scale up to utilise all available CPU resources – or at least allow users to get other work done alongside. These CPUs can put out up to 250W of heat and you get 64MB of L3 cache in total. According to AMD, each Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX is made up of approximately 19.2 billion transistors.

All four models use AMD’s revised Zen+ architecture, which we first saw with the Ryzen 2000 series earlier this year, and are manufactured using a 12nm process. The improvements are subtle, and are mainly concerned with optimising latency – all cache levels and system RAM benefit by between 2 and 15 percent. There are also tweaks to the XFR and Precision Boost features that allow each chip to push its clock speed higher for as long as heat and power conditions allow, and to smoothly adjust speeds on the fly as fewer or more cores are used. Zen+ cores can also run faster while drawing less power. All in all, there’s no major architectural change, but AMD says that the performance gains from these refinements are still significant. As with every other Ryzen CPU, the Threadripper models are fully unlocked for easy overclocking.

All second-gen Threadripper CPUs will work with existing motherboards using AMD’s X399 chipset, which is a pleasant surprise considering how much beefier the new WX-series models are. All you need is a quick BIOS update if you’re using a motherboard purchased prior to the second-gen Threadripper launch. Gigabyte and MSI have still launched new models, which they say have more robust power components, and Asus has released a fan kit to help cool the voltage regulators on its existing motherboards. According to AMD, while these might help with overclocking and pushing the limits of XFR, all existing motherboards will let the new CPUs run perfectly well within spec.

The same holds true for all existing Socket TR4 coolers; both air and liquid. However, AMD has still teamed up with Cooler Master to license its popular Wraith brand to a new model, the Cooler Master Wraithripper. This massive block of aluminium and copper has seven heatpipes and a huge number of fins sandwiching a 120mm fan. It’s designed not to interfere with tall RAM modules, and of course it has RGB LEDs all over. It also weighs a surprising 1.6kg. AMD won’t include one in the box with each Threadripper because users are likely to want to choose a liquid cooling solution. It will be sold independently by Cooler Master for an expected price of US$120 (approximately Rs. 8,340 plus taxes) and will go on sale here in September. 

DSC 0061 threadripper

 

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX architecture and features

The 32 cores of the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX are not all equal. There are four dies of eight cores each, all with direct connections to each other using AMD’s Infinity Fabric in a mesh configuration. However, only two of the four dies are connected directly to external PCIe and DRAM resources. These two are referred to as “IO dies”, while the other two become “compute dies”. In essence, AMD has transposed the design of what would have been a dual-CPU system into a single socket. There are implications for latency when it comes to memory access, but AMD says that its own intelligence combined with the Windows task scheduler can help make sure that the IO dies are given priority.

One further consideration that users should know about is the Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) architecture being used, as opposed to the common Unified Memory Access (UMA) that all desktop processors use. So far, even enthusiasts have never had to know about what any of this is or how it works, but with 32 cores, things are a little more complicated. NUMA essentially allows processing tasks to be localised to one of two “nodes”, consisting of one IO die and one compute die each. This improves memory latency by minimising operations that make data “hop” from one pair of memory channels to the other across the Infinity Fabric link. On the downside, this does slightly affect the total memory bandwidth available.

The WX-series Threadrippers are locked into NUMA mode, which AMD says was unavoidable in achieving backward compatibility with the X399 platform. Users with X-series Threadrippers will be in UMA mode by default but can choose to switch to NUMA, which might give them an advantage in lightly threaded applications such as gaming.

Most consumer software is not NUMA-aware and will not know how to detect or take advantage of it, but that might change soon thanks to the Threadripper line. For that reason, and for general compatibility issues that might crop up, AMD lets users temporarily enable a Legacy Compatibility Mode. With the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX, you can choose Half-core, which only lets the operating system see two dies with 16 cores and four RAM channels, or Quarter-core, which restricts processes to one die with eight cores and dual-channel RAM. AMD says that some apps, especially games, can benefit from this. Incidentally, you can have up to 2TB of RAM using all four channels, but a Windows 10 Pro license will limit users to 512GB. StoreMI, an AMD software feature that lets you combine faster and slower storage media, is also fully supported.

Ryzen Threadripper CPUs offer users a massive 64 lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity. Desktop consumer CPUs are far more limited, and even Intel only goes up to 44 lanes on its highest-end Core i9 models. Thanks to this, users can plug in up to six graphics cards for GPU-bound computing, or an array of PCIe storage devices for phenomenal storage bandwidth. This is one of the key appeals of the platform for uses in professional content creation.

AMD’s Ryzen Master software is a relatively easy way for even casual users to play with overclocking. The big new feature is Precision Boost Overdrive which lets you overclock with XFR and Precision Boost enabled, but without protective limits on voltage. You could unlock more headroom without as much effort as manual overclocking, but it will void your warranty.

64threads threadripper

 

Asus ROG Zenith X399 Extreme

A processor this high-end requires a solid foundation, and you won’t find X399-based motherboards going cheap. The lowest amount you can expect to pay is Rs. 25,000, but today we’re using the top-of-the-line Asus ROG Zenith X399 Extreme, which costs Rs. 41,850. This model was launched along with the first-gen Threadripper CPUs, and rather than release a new one, Asus has developed a clip-on fan kit that will help you cool the VRMs. This should only really be necessary for overclocking, not for ordinary use.

This is a fairly large E-ATX board and you’ll want to make sure you have enough room in your cabinet of choice. Asus has decked it out with nearly every conceivable feature. A little OLED screen on the rear IO shield shows more detailed information than the usual seven-segment LEDs, and there’s a backplate that mainly exists to house an RGB LED strip that runs the entire length of the board. You get loads of connectivity including eight USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) ports, Type-A and Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) ports, integrated 802.11ac/ad Wi-Fi, onboard Gigabit Ethernet plus a 10-Gb Ethernet expansion card, and SupremeFX S1220 audio. The only thing missing is Thunderbolt 3, which is more of an overall AMD platform and licensing limitation.

There are six SATA ports, three M.2 slots, and even a server-grade U.2 port for PCIe storage. Two of the M.2 slots are implemented on a riser card that fits into its own holder adjacent to the RAM slots. Asus calls this “DIMM.2”, and it even lets you mount a tiny cooling fan for your SSDs. The four PCIe x16 slots are metal-plated and there’s an extra Molex power connector to supplement the PCIe bus power for stable operation.

We ran into a slight issue when building our Threadripper test system. The extremely large Wraithripper air cooler completely blocked the first PCIe slot – though we were pleased to see that the RAM slots weren’t affected at all, which is often the case. Asus seems to have presumed that most people will use a much smaller waterblock with an external radiator.

Other than that, it was all smooth sailing with the ROG Zenith X399 Extreme. The BIOS is well laid out and easy to get around. Asus also lets you download its own software for overclocking, but we think that users will be better served by AMD’s Ryzen Master utility and should not try to use both.

DSC 0108 threadripper

 

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX installation and performance

Threadripper CPUs are physically enormous. Each one has four physical Ryzen dies, all linked and able to communicate with each other using AMD’s Infinity Fabric interconnect. The X-series models have two real and two dummy dies to even out heat distribution, but all four are active in the WX-series models. The CPU socket is called TR4 and it has a staggering 4,094 contact pads. Interestingly, this is AMD’s only consumer CPU to use an Intel-style Land Grid Array (LGA) rather than physical pins.

Each Threadripper CPU comes already fitted with a bright orange plastic caddy that isn’t meant to be removed. The installation process is delicate, and not like you might be used to with ordinary CPUs. You’ll need the special Torx screwdriver that’s included in the box to unfasten a load plate, and then slide the orange caddy into an inner rail before clamping and screwing it all back down. Thankfully, installing a cooler is as simple as tightening four screws. A bracket for liquid coolers is also included with each CPU.

We built our test system using the Asus ROG Zenith X399 Extreme and Cooler Master Wraithripper, as well as 32GB of G.Skill FlareX DDR43200 RAM (4x8GB), all supplied by AMD. We should note that the company makes no secret of validating review samples before sending them out, and these products were not factory-sealed. We chose this air cooler first of all because it’s new, but also because AMD is officially touting that it’s more than enough to get the full performance of a 250W flagship Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX, without overclocking.

We added a Samsung SSD 950 Pro boot drive, a Samsung SSD 860 Evo for storage, an XFX Radeon R9 380X graphics card, and a Corsair RM650 power supply of our own. We tested with the Asus PB287Q 4K monitor. AMD strongly recommends the latest version of Windows 10 for best performance, and we downloaded all the latest updates and drivers for our components.

We have AMD’s own Ryzen 7 2700X for comparison, just to illustrate how great the performance difference can be with 32 cores rather than eight. We also have the test results of Intel’s 10-core Core i9-7900X, which was the beefiest processor we’ve ever tested up until this point. It isn’t a fair comparison by any means, either in terms of specifications or price, but Intel’s 18-core Core i9-7980XE is much more expensive and isn’t easily available in India.

  AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX AMD Ryzen 7 2700X Intel Core i9-7900X
Cinebench R15 CPU single-threaded 168 174 191
Cinebench R15 CPU multi-threaded 5,182 1,817 2,190
POVRay* 23 seconds 1 minute, 8 seconds 55 seconds
PCMark 10 5,429 6,059 NA
3DMark Fire Strike Ultra (Physics) 18,320 21,158 21,890
SiSoft SANDRA CPU arithmetic 740.81GOPS 255GOPS 335.89GOPS
SiSoft SANDRA CPU multimedia 1.64GPix/s 505.54MPix/s 1.44GPix/s
SiSoft SANDRA CPU encryption 35.22GBps 17.53GBps 20.56GBps
SiSoft SANDRA cache bandwidth 832.48GBps 267.14GBps 517.66GBps
SiSoft SANDRA memory bandwidth 59.47GBps 38.62GBps 54.35GBps
7Zip file compression* 2 minutes, 25 seconds 3 minutes, 19 seconds 1 minute, 31 seconds
Handbrake video encoding* 52 seconds 49 seconds 41 seconds
Blender BMW benchmark* 1 minute, 34 secods 4 minutes, 22 seconds NA
Blender Open Data Benchmark (beta)* 6 minutes, 13 seconds NA NA
V-RAY (CPU) Benchmark* 27 seconds NA NA
Corona Benchmark* 53 seconds NA NA
Final Fantasy XV Benchmark, 1920×1080, High 2,967 NA NA
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, DX12, 1920×1080, High 51.1fps 51.1fps 46.3fps
Metro: Last Light Redux, 1920×1080, Very High 67.06fps 36fps 55.67fps
*lower is better      

 

Jumping right into test scores, we have to note that performance scaling isn’t directly proportional to core count. A lot of software cannot take advantage of so much parallelism, for example 7-Zip rarely managed to keep more than four threads saturated. It’s also very likely that Windows 10’s task and process scheduling capabilities will improve with future updates.

As you can see from the table, most scores in content creation tests are significantly better than anything we’ve seen before. AMD has absolutely produced a monster of a CPU here, and anyone who works with such software for a living will instantly benefit from having this kind of power right at their fingertips. Some tests ran so quickly that it wasn’t even possible to tell whether all cores had ramped up, or whether the CPU had even hit its limits. The overall cost of a Threadripper PC could be justified in terms of time saved for a lot of working professionals.

With that said, a CPU as beefy as the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX isn’t the best choice for everyone. If you’re just an enthusiast or gamer, you absolutely do not need to spend this kind of money. It’s nice that you can get good performance in games, but even AMD tells us not to expect it to be better enough than a 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 2950X to be worth it.

Overclocking is fully supported, with unlocked voltage controls and frequency as well as memory speed multipliers. While we did not overclock manually, your mileage will vary depending on your power and cooling hardware.

We also have to talk about how silent the Wraithripper is. Desipte the 120mm fan being sandwiched between such dense stacks of fins, it barely produced a dull hum even under massive load. While we do love how imposing this cooler looks, a lot of all-in-one liquid coolers will actually be less expensive, so it will have rather limited appeal.

DSC 0117 threadripper

 

Verdict
Who really needs 32 cores? The answer is fairly limited, but the perspective that AMD offers is that the new Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX is quite a bit less expensive than Intel’s current (though dated) flagship, the 18-core Core i9-7980XE, and handily outperforms it in specific but useful tasks. AMD’s official listing price is Rs. 1,25,990 plus taxes, which comes to roughly Rs. 1,49,000, and then you have to factor in the cost of a suitable motherboard, quad-channel RAM, power supply, and graphics and storage hardware of your choice. If you’re investing in a PC for heavy work, this hardware can drastically reduce the amount of time that work takes, so it does have tangible benefits for businesses.

At the same time, this CPU is well past the point of diminishing returns for gamers and most enthusiasts – AMD has even built in ways to make Windows think this is a lower-performing CPU just to deal with potential compatibility issues. If you already have a current-gen or recent Core i7 or Ryzen 7 processor, it would make little sense to upgrade now.

This leaves AMD with a winning product on its hands, but it will be up to the company to promote it well and explain its benefits to potential buyers. AMD’s global market share is still tiny compared to Intel’s, and in India, brand value counts for a lot. With no branded PCs available (and none confirmed to be coming up either), AMD is counting on retail sales and system integrators right now. While enthusiasts might happily go for the X-series Threadripper CPUs to build PCs with themselves, corporates and working professionals need a more formal distribution and support structure.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX 
Price: Rs. 1,25,990

Pros

  • Excellent performance with content creation workloads
  • Backwards compatible with X399 motherboards
  • Relatively reasonable price

Cons

  • Not all consumer software can take advantage of it

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Performance: 5
  • Value for Money: 4
  • Overall: 4.5

 

Asus ROG Zenith X399 Extreme
Price: Rs. 41,850

Pros

  • Loads of connectivity including Wi-Fi
  • Well built
  • Useful diagnostic OLED screen
  • Free VRM fan kit for new buyers

Cons

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Features: 5
  • Performance: 4.5
  • Value for Money: 4
  • Overall: 4.5



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Lenovo HX03F Spectra Fitness Band Review


Chinese giant Lenovo has been focusing on the wearables segment of late, and has announced a series of affordable products. In April this year, the company launched the new HX03 Cardio and HX03F Spectra in the Indian market. Priced at Rs. 2,999, the HX03F Spectra is the more expensive of the two, and boasts of features such as heart rate sensing, sleep tracking, and an IP68 water resistance rating. We put this fitness tracker to the test to find out whether it can give its competitors such as the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 a run for their money.

Lenovo HX03F Spectra design

The Lenovo HX03F Spectra has a detachable strap that can be pulled off to reveal a USB plug for charging on the tracker unit itself. We have previously reviewed three other fitness trackers in this price range with similar designs – the Ambrane Flexi Fit, Fastrack Reflex, and Amzer Fitzer. This means that the tracker can be charged by plugging it directly into any USB charger or USB port on a computer. Once fitted back into its band, there is little or no chance of it falling out. The fitness tracker is light at 20g, and its silicone strap was extremely comfortable throughout our test period. The strap is black, so this band could pass off as a compact watch, but there are no colour options.

The buckle is fairly simple and there are holes to suit a wide range of wrist sizes. One of the highlights of this fitness band is the IP68 rating, which means is water and dust resistant. As per international standards, IP68 guarantees protection from water even when submerged up to 3m deep, and complete protection against dust ingress. In our testing, the fitness band was unaffected by splashes of water, and even worked fine after we submerged it in water for about five minutes at a stretch.

The 0.96-inch OLED screen on the Lenovo HX03F Spectra is quite dull. Marketing images of the device show a rather vibrant and colourful display, however the resolution is only 80×160 pixels, and its overall quality doesn’t look as good. That said, this band is currently available at a best buy price of Rs. 2,299, and we wouldn’t expect stellar display quality at this price point.

lenovo spectra review inline2 Lenovo HX03F Spectra

 

The Lenovo HX03F Spectra does not have a touchscreen. The interface is controlled by a button below the display. You can cycle between cards – more on them later – with a single touch, or long-press for three seconds on a card to access its menu. This makes for a frustrating experience, especially in the middle of a run or training session.

Turn the band around and you’ll see the heart rate sensor at the back. When Auto Measure is turned on, the sensor emits a sharp blinking light. This doesn’t get disabled automatically when you take the band off, and can be annoying. You have to turn it off yourself through the Lenovo Healthy app.

Lenovo HX03F Spectra features and performance

The UI of the Lenovo HX03F Spectra consists of six feature cards that you cycle through – Clock/ Home, Sport mode, Step counter, Heart rate monitor, Find my phone, and Info. The first card shows the clock widget, a countdown for your daily step goal, the date, day, and battery level. You can customise the appearance of the clock, but the basic digital option seemed to be the only one that was clearly visible. The other analogue options are just not suited for the small, pixelated display.

Sport mode is for users looking to track their vitals, steps, and the duration of an activity session. In our experience, contrary to the regular mode, heart rate tracking turned out to be slightly inaccurate with the band showing higher-than-usual heart beats even during rest periods in the middle of a run. This is in comparison with a Mio Fuse fitness band, which also boasts of heart rate sensing as a primary feature.

The HX03F Spectra automatically tracks your steps and estimates the calories burnt, with stats visible on the third card. Step tracking accuracy was hit-or-miss, and offered inconsistent results in comparison with an Apple Watch as well as the Health app of an iPhone which remained on our person throughout our walks and runs. We recorded roughly 5,000 steps per day on average. On some days, the step counts on both devices varied by about 150, while on other days the difference was as great as 800-900 steps.

Heart rate is shown on the fourth card. You can tap Measure heart rate in the Lenovo Healthy app to show you the most recent heart rate record, but it’s also automatically set to log this every 15 minutes. Progress records are limited on the Lenovo Healthy app because it only stores data for the past couple of hours.

A nifty feature of the Lenovo HX03F Spectra fitness tracker is the Find my phone on the fifth card, which sends a notification to your linked smartphone, although this is of limited use if the phone is in silent mode. It’s also a bit annoying, – our linked iPhone showed individual notifications once every second after we triggered this feature. Lastly, the sixth card lets you access things like the alarm, device information, and power off button. An alarm can only be set through the Lenovo Healthy app, and the band vibrates discreetly, which is enough to wake you up.

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Sleep tracking on the Lenovo HX03F Spectra was fairly accurate, and it managed to detect deep as well as light sleep separately. An analysis graph with separate deep and light sleep columns was a nice addition. You can track statistics for up to the past eight days extensively, and there’s also a monthly average for the past five months. That said, there was one night when the band completely failed to track accurate sleep timings.

The Lenovo Healthy app is available on both Android and iOS, and syncs with the HX03F Spectra. It offers a simple but functional UI with sections for the step counter, heart rate, sleep, battery level, and app syncing. The analysis helps in getting an overall picture of your progress. Heart rate tracking does not sync with Google Fit or the iOS Health app, but there is a graph that shows your average heart rate for the entire day and resets at midnight. Heart rate data is stored within the app for up to a year in order to show your monthly averages. The app also offers a reference range that lets you know whether your heart rate is light, medium, or heavy. In our experience with the fitness band, heart rate monitoring was fairly accurate and offered analysis on par with a Mi Band 2 and a Mio Fuse fitness tracker.

Lenovo claims to offer a battery life of 10 days on a single full charge. In terms of real-world usage however, the HX03F Spectra managed to last around 7.5 days with regular step tracking, automatic heart rate monitoring switched on, 3-4 days of sleep tracking, and the occasional Sport mode. This is closer to how a regular user might use it, and battery drain will be a bigger issue if you use Sport mode frequently, considering that it involves continuous heart rate sensing.

Verdict
The Lenovo HX03F Spectra has a minimalist design, a dull display, and an occasionally frustrating user interface. However, the Lenovo Healthy app is neat and clean, with the ability to easily track statistics synced from the fitness band. Step tracking is irregular, sleep tracking is accurate, battery life is decent, and heart rate is measured decently well when in auto measure mode.

At an MOP of Rs. 2,299, the Lenovo HX03F Spectra is a decent offering for a budget wearable, and there’s high demand for this segment in the Indian market. While its battery offers a slight edge over the recently launched iVoomi FitMe, you might be better off with the tried and trusted Mi Band 2 from Xiaomi.

Pros

  • Good battery life
  • Great mobile app
  • Loads of features

Cons

  • Step tracking is hit-or-miss
  • Dull display
  • Inaccurate heart rate tracking in Sport mode

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Design and comfort – 3.5
  • Tracking accuracy – 2.5
  • Software and ecosystem – 3
  • Battery life – 3.5
  • Overall rating – 3.5



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Noise Aqua Mini Review | NDTV Gadgets360.com


It’s easy find a Bluetooth speaker that fits pretty much any budget these days, but finding a good one at a low cost that’s also waterproof is still a bit tricky. Indian accessory and wearables maker Noise might have just the solution for all those who are looking for such a thing.

The Noise Aqua Mini is a compact Bluetooth speaker that’s IPX7 rated, which means you can dunk it in a little bit of water without worrying about killing it. It’s also very well priced at just Rs. 1,999, making it good budget contender. It’s time to see if it sounds good too.

Noise Aqua Mini design and features

The Aqua Mini is the company’s debut waterproof speaker, and for a first attempt, it’s not too bad. The speaker is designed to be rugged, which is why it has an industrial look with exposed bolts. It’s not the prettiest, but it gets the job done. The exterior is built out of hard plastic and rubber, with metal mesh inserts at the front and back.

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The Aqua Mini has a row of buttons on the top for power and music playback control. Despite the stiff rubber coating, the buttons themselves don’t need much effort to press. On the side, we have a thick flap that conceals a Micro-USB port, reset pin-hole, and auxiliary-in port. The right corner of the speaker has a soft rubber handle, to which you can attached a carabiner that comes in the box. With this, you can clip the speaker onto things when you’re travelling.

The speaker doesn’t feel too heavy at 220g and it’s quite sturdy too. It easily survived a couple of drops. The finish of the plastics could have been a little better, and we would have liked at least a few colour options, instead of just black. In the box, you get a 3.5mm stereo cable, a Micro-USB charging cable, and a manual.

The Aqua Mini uses Bluetooth 4.2 with the Low Energy profile, which should help in prolonging battery life. There’s a 50mm full-range driver with an impedance of 9 Ohms and a rated power output of 5W, but there’s no mention of the frequency range. There doesn’t seem to be any passive radiator either, to help with the low-end frequencies. The speaker doesn’t have a microSD card slot or USB port so you can’t use it as a standalone music player, but there is a built-in FM receiver.

Noise Aqua Mini performance and battery life

When we first took it out of the box, the speaker sounded quite flat, but it sounded better after burning it in for a few hours. Due to the relatively large driver, the Aqua Mini gets very loud when you’re listening to it indoors. Outdoors, you’ll still need to max out the volume. We didn’t hear our music distorting at high volumes, which is good.

The bass is not punchy, as expected, but the driver moves a good amount of air within the chamber so that low-end frequencies aren’t completely flat. Genres like EDM, heavy metal and hip-hop don’t fare too well as the speaker simply cannot push out good bass. Other genres like jazz, pop and even country are easier for the Aqua Mini to handle.

Noise Aqua Mini ports ndtv noise

 

Instrument separation isn’t the best in the mid-range, and the sonic signature isn’t as warm as we’d like, but it doesn’t sound tinny either. Vocals are handled quite well and are put front and center, which is noticeable in tracks such as Dreams by Fleetwood Mac. Higher frequency notes sound good too. The vibration of the driver causes the body of the speaker to vibrate too, but the rubber feet help it stay planted on most surfaces.

The controls work well, but we wished that the volume could have been controlled with a single press of the respective buttons, instead of long presses. A single LED light hidden within the front mesh changes from blue to green when you switch to FM mode. There’s also an audio cue, which is the same as the notification alert tone on iPhones.

FM radio works well only if you plug in a 3.5mm stereo cable, which acts as an antenna. The internal microphone worked well for handling phone calls. Noise doesn’t specify for how long the Aqua Mini can survive underwater but going by the definition of the IPX7 rating, it should be able to withstand depths of up to one metre. We dunked it a few times in water and even used it in the rain and it continued to work just fine.

Noise Aqua Mini hang ndtv noise

 

The internal battery is rated to last for up to 10 hours, which seems slightly conservative, as we managed to get close to 11 hours of music playback, with the volume set to 70 percent most of the time and a mix of Bluetooth streaming and FM radio playback. Charging is slow and even with a high-wattage charger, it takes close to three hours to fully charge this speaker. Sadly, there’s no way to check the battery level. If it’s very low, you hear a little sound and the LED starts flashing red.

Verdict
The Aqua Mini is a good first attempt from Noise, and at its current retail price of Rs. 1,999, it’s one of the few decent sounding IPX7-rated speakers in the market in this segment. It has powerful sound for its size, built-in FM radio, and good battery life, and is rugged to boot.

Price: Rs. 1,999

Pros

  • IPX7 rated
  • Rugged body
  • FM receiver
  • Good battery life
  • Clear vocals and highs

Cons 

  • Slow charging
  • Weak bass, suppressed mids
  • Not the prettiest design
  • Can’t check battery level

Ratings (out of 5) 

  • Design: 3.5
  • Audio quality: 3
  • Battery life: 4
  • Value for money: 4
  • Overall: 3.5



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Mercedes-Maybach S-Class Review – NDTV CarAndBike





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The Mercedes-Maybach S 650 is meant to take on the likes of the Bentley Mulsanne and Rolls-Royce Ghost

The epitome of engineering, design, and luxury in the Daimler universe. This is a car that is meant for the chosen few. The very very few. And while it made its world debut last year and India debut in February this year, it has finally been made available to us to test. And yes, we have it for you first. And exclusive. This is the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class. And I am driving the range topper S 650 – not your average car and not even your average chauffeur driven one. But yes, most owners will spend exponentially more time in the back than in the front. The cabin is the true lap of luxury. After all this car is meant to take on the likes of the Bentley Mulsanne and Rolls-Royce Ghost. The finest, softest leather, the best gadgets money can buy, and yes that includes a Burmester 3DF sound system with not 10, not 12, not even 16, but 26 speakers! You can customise everything, thanks to ‘designo’ individualisation. So, there are 4 options for the wood or lacquer trim, 6 for the leather – and you can get the Nappa leather if you want – and there are 12 paint shades to choose from for the exterior.

Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
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The Mercedes-Maybach S 650 takes on the likes of the Bentley Mulsanne and Rolls-Royce Ghost

Traffic in the NCR region can be quite the pain. And even more so with this car since it is a whopping 5462 mm or almost 5 and half metres long. It is longer than the long wheelbase S-Class by 207 mm. In fact, just the wheelbase is 3365 mm, long enough then, to fit an entire Maruti Suzuki Alto in and still have some space to spare. Yes, it really is that large and that makes it a bit of a yacht, especially while navigating through traffic. But since I started my ride by sitting in the rear, I was feeling very relaxed just the same. Magic Body control – a carryover from the S-Class, is the adaptive air suspension which works to give you the best ride quality possible. Now with the extended length of this car, it becomes a little bit more crucial and I have to say, it’s executed really well. It’s the attention to detail that really sets this car apart even when compared to every other luxury sedan.

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Mercedes-Maybach S 650 is 207 mm longer than the long wheelbase S-Class

And then there is Magic Sky Control – another Maybach staple. This is the panoramic roof with glass that can be tinted or made transparent at the flick of a button. Double glazed glass windows, electric sun shades on the windows, and even more. Multiple airbags all around the cabin, include side impact and curtain airbags at the back. But you also get seat belt bags as well for outer rear passengers. This Maybach takes your safety so seriously that it even has a retractable seatbelt buckle that comes up to greet you when you open the door on that side. It has a small red LED light, so you just can’t miss it even at night.

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The chauffeur package on the Mercedes-Maybach S 650 provides an additional 77mm of legroom

The chauffeur package gives me an additional 77mm of legroom, with the front left seat folding forwards, and a footrest deploying below it. Like I needed that – given how big this car already is. But it means you can really stretch out. A nice soft headrest, a little padding on the leg rest as well means you can relax and even nap comfortably. Now you know about the massage functions, the S-Class always had it too. But on the new Maybach you get little extra. It’s called ‘Energising Comfort’. It actually gives you a theme-based massage settings – refresh, vitality, joy, and well-being. What it does is not just the appropriate massage function to go with that theme, but also a fragrance that’s dissipating into the cabin, and to further match that theme, ambient lighting and screen display. If that wasn’t enough there’s also music that plays in keeping it with that. This cocoon of comfort and safety is perfect to insulate you from the world outside and is perfect to bring you to your high flying, big number crunching, power lunch work meetings.

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The cabin of the Mercedes-Maybach S 650 is a cocoon of comfort and safety which insulates you from the world outside

I could go on and on about how luxurious the car, and all those nice features in the cabin. And while the Maybach S 650 is all about that for sure, it is also about its 6-litre V12 engine. It puts out 617 bhp and a ridiculous 1000 Nm of peak torque. The S560 that gives you 460 horses by the way – and that is a V8. But really if you do plan to drive yourself at all, the S650 is the one to get. And so, I too switched to the driver’s seat next. The power delivery is smooth and absolutely seamless. And of course, there’s that sublime chassis to keep everything very calm and composed. The 7-Speed gearbox though does feel a tad dated and slow.

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The Mercedes-Maybach S 650 comes with a 6-litre V12 engine

You get blind spot warning, semi-autonomous features like the lane keep assist and also autonomous emergency braking. I already told you about the Magic Body Control that gives you great ride comfort. But you can also use it to lift the car in case of a huge speed bump or any other rough road condition. The multiple drive mode settings include the predictable Comfort, Sport and Individual. And then there is Curve. This helps keep sway and body roll low, to guarantee a more comfortable ride and handling experience to rear passengers in particular. Needless to say, I was happy to leave it in Sport.

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The Maybach S 650 comes with semi-autonomous lane keep assist and autonomous emergency braking

The car looks imposing and not just because it is huge. That massive front grille, and the spectacular optional wheels really make you stop and stare. You have 9 wheel patterns to choose from by the way! And it helps of course to have a custom designo matte paintjob that our test car has, isn’t it? It would be cool to get the Maybach logo hood ornament though – and yes you can get one optionally. The logo is present on the C-pillar and the car name is spelt out on the boot lid. Of course, that lovely V12 badge on the fenders adds that promise of power. The car is very much like the S-Class otherwise, though in a more obviously sophisticated way.

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The Mercedes-Maybach S 650 is ₹ 86 lakh rupees pricier than the range-topping S-Class sedan

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The virtual cluster gives you different displays, but you can also mess around a lot with the interior lighting. Besides the 64 colours on the ambient lighting, you also get the ‘Multicolour’ option. This lets you animate the colours to offer different shades on the top and bottom half of the cabin. Pretty funky. The Mercedes-Maybach S 650 is priced at ₹ 2.73 crore, and the S 560 will set you back ₹ 1.93 crore. That’s still ₹ 86 lakh rupees higher than the range-topping S-Class sedan for the Maybach S 560. But like I said at the very beginning – this car is not for everyone. And yes – not even two of me could afford it!

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