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'Hear' To Stay: Bose AE2w Headphones

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You could argue Bose is a little late in the wireless headphone game with the AE2w, its first Bluetooth wireless headset. But as with most things Bose, one expects something special to be pulled out of the hat, be in terms of simplicity or ease of use. The question is — does the AE2w justifiably command the premium even over its wired AE2i brethren just for cutting the cord?

 In a nutshell, the Bose AE2w is essentially a pair of their famous AE2 line of around-the-ear cans kitted out with a removable Bluetooth module plugged in near the bottom of the left ear cup, and it's this attachment that handles all the Bluetooth and control functions, including music playback, call answering, and volume control. Once you pair the headset with your Bluetooth device (up to 2 devices are supported simultaneously) and slip it on, you'll notice immediately just how light and comfortable the headphones are, and I've seen them through a full movie and a couple of phone calls without the usual fidgeting and adjusting one associates with extended use of a pair of 'phones. The headphone controls themselves are intuitive to use, and Bose has done a good job with the design of the control module and the button placement, which makes the "remote" features of the headphone easy to operate by feel. So, you can tell the volume buttons apart from the large call/answer/end button — and the latter can also be used to skip forward and back tracks when you're listening to music.

Put one of these on, and very quickly you get used to the comfort of not having to take the cans off to take a phone call say while watching a movie. Not to mention that the lack of a wire is rather liberating - no more worrying that getting up to open the door will lead to a missed dialogue or worse still, an iPad heading straight for the floor!

 Does this freedom mean a dip in sound quality? Not noticeably enough, despite using Bluetooth to connect to the audio source, which often compresses the audio and leads to audio compromises. I found the mid- and high-frequency to be balanced and the low-end bass was clean and deep, if a little muddy at the lowest end. Nothing you'd really notice in everyday use. And since it uses the Bluetooth Advanced Audio Distribution Profile or A2DP protocol, any device that supports A2DP is supported by the AE2w, though the set are optimised for use with an iPad.

 If you want to go old-school, or simply run out of battery, you also get a wire to plug the AE2w directly into your audio device. Battery lasts the better part of a day, well over 7 hours in my experience, but it's worth remembering to keep the Bluetooth module charged — this module delivers the benefits of active equalisation to the sound input, which makes a discernable difference, although I did find the bass is slightly better in the wired mode. Another matter that frequent travellers will want to consider is that while the ear-cups offer a good amount of sound deadening (isolation), they're not active noise cancellation headphones like the Bose QC series. So, you've really got to want the wireless option enough to warrant the extra cash over the wired AE2i set. All in all, a well-designed, easy-to-use headset.

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 19,013

The DaZzling Effect
Call me jaded, but it's rather rare to pick up a tablet these days and go "Wow", what with a steady-stream of me-too tablets launching every other month. But you have to hand it to Sony's latest Xperia Tablet Z — it is one sweet piece of kit. Packing a 10-inch full-HD 1090p screen, Qualcomm's quad-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM, the Tablet Z does so without the portly profile that you're used to seeing - this baby is only 6.9 mm thin and weighs just a shade under 500 grams… an absolute stunner! And it feels good to hold and use too — it's easy to use propped up when you're lying down, or even use one-handed on your metro ride to work. Try doing that with an iPad! Of course, it's still a 10-inch device, so you will need to account for a bag that can accommodate this size.

Oh, and did I mention it's waterproof and can handle immersion in water 3 feet deep for half an hour? This is not false advertising by any measure, I've actually washed the device with water. (For those who wonder why I did, it was just for the sake of it!) Movie time and bathtubs, finally the twain shall meet. Of course, this amount of liquid and dust protection does mean that all ports and connectors are covered with plastic panels, and you often are left fumbling with the hard-to-pry-open slot if you're trying to do something even as basic as charge the device.

 In daily use, the hardware works as snappily as other leading Android tablets, and runs Sony's custom skin on top of Android 4.1 which has some nice UI elements that make using the tablet that much easier. No Android 4.2 yet unfortunately, but Sony's touches add quite a bit of useful functionality to the platform. You get a quick launch bar which gives you access to four apps or folders from any screen without going back to the home screen. Some of the Sony apps are handy if you use more Sony products and services, but pointless if you don't. Clearly, one of the best additions is the universal remote control functionality, which lets you use your tablet to control your TV, set top box or any device that uses infrared for control — this makes perfect sense, as I'm often using my tablet while watching TV and don't need to reach out for the remote to change channels. Not to mention it is much tougher to lose a 10-inch tablet in the sofa cushions…!

There's a lot to like about the Tablet Z, most critical of which is the ability to use this device practically anywhere, in a host of environments and circumstances. Personally, I like the Tablet Z's gimmicks a shade better than the ones found on the competing Android tablets. Yet, there is the matter of price. With an MRP of Rs 46,990, it is one of the most expensive tablets launched in India and warrants a buy only if you're at the beach or pool a lot and need a tablet at hand without worrying your head off about the occasional splash and dip!

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 46,990

A Pricey Debut
Panasonic has a formidable presence in the white goods space but its smart phones have stayed out of the Indian market — until now. The P51, Panasonic's entry into the crowded mid-range segment, puts on offer a device with clean lines and edge-to-edge glass on its 5-inch touch screen. Under the hood, there's a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, which is almost de rigueur for this ultracompetitive segment. The onboard storage is on the lower side (4GB) but there is an easily accessible MicroSD card slot for expansion, and the camera turns out just about average results.

The upside? A capacious 2500 mAh battery, a nifty stylus and a magnetic flip cover included in the retail package, not to forget a Android 4.2.1 which means you get all of the Jellybean goodness without a heavy manufacturer skin. The challenge is that while it ticks off a number of check boxes, your money can go much further at the same asking price and the P51 needs a price cut to remain competitive.

Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 22,390

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