Category Archives: Hardware Reviews

Soundcore Life P2 – Review


To aid this review, Soundcore Life P2 Headphones were provided free of charge by ANKER


The Soundcore Life P2 is a new release from ANKER‘s subsidiary Soundcore. Despite achieving success as a manufacturer of quality chargers and portable power-banks, ANKER has little experience in the headphone field. Do the Soundcore Life P2s manage to avoid some of the teething problems emblematic of a manufacturer’s first foray into the headphone world and deliver an excellent experience at a budget price?

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What’s in the box?

The Soundcore Life P2‘s relatively compact packaging, approximately 18cm x 10cm x 3.5cm, comes packed with a surprising number of goodies. As expected, the each earbud and their charging case is present, neatly secured in a plastic tray with the charging cable (USB-C). There is also a feedback card, a simple quick start guide and a little booklet of legal documentation in only occasionally dubious English.

The inclusion of ten differently sized rubber eartips is a nice touch. With sizes XS/S/M/L/XL included, pleasingly arranged on little plastic pegs in the packaging, every user is sure to find that perfect fit. It would be great if some manufacturers would learn from ANKER and begin including a larger variety of eartips in their budget, and even sometimes premium, headphones.

Set up:

As the quick start guide would suggest, the set-up process is quick and painless. First, You simply charge up the case with the headphones inside, the LED indicators in both the case and the headphones helpfully tell you their battery life and when they will be ready to pair.

Paring is as simple as removing from the case once they are suitably charged, which prompts the headphones to automatically enter pairing mode, and selecting “Soundcore Life P2” on your phone’s Bluetooth dashboard.

It is worth noting that the instruction manual suggests some phones will have more trouble pairing than others. Due to the “Qualcomm True Wireless Primary-Secondary pairing names”. This means your phone may mistakenly suggest that only one earbud is connected. Luckily, the instruction manual assures us, “it will not influence the using”.

Design and build quality:

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The design of the Soundcore Life P2 is functional, if not a little unoriginal. In the shape of traditional wired earbuds, just without the wires, these headphones will have no trouble staying in your ears. This particular shape is certainly tried and tested and, thanks especially to the plethora of included eartips, will have no trouble staying in your ears.

Despite not be sold as such, the Soundcore Life P2 is an excellent sports headphone. The secure fit makes it hard for them to fly out of your ears, even while performing the most rigorous exercise, and the waterproofing (rated IPX 7) means you won’t have to worry about sweat or other moisture damaging your headphones.

The inclusion of physical buttons, to pause and skip your music, instead of touch sensors also improves this proficiency for sports. Although they can sometimes cause your earbuds to painfully dig into your ears over a long period of use, you won’t have to worry about sweaty hands rendering your headphones unusable

The construction is very light, even including the charging case, which makes carrying them around in a pocket on the go pleasingly unobtrusive. The light earbuds also contribute to the great level of immersion one can have listening to these headphones. It’s quite easy to forget you’re even wearing them, a testament not only to their light weight but also their great in-ear comfort. Just make sure you don’t make a fool of yourself frantically searching your pockets for your headphones when they’re in your ears!

A side effect of this light weight is the plastic construction of the case, which is prone to scratches and scuffs and the fact that the magnetic lid feels somewhat flimsy. Although it’s definitely not overtly fragile, I’m sceptical whether the lid would survive being left open in a bag or a pocket for too long. 

Sound Quality and microphones:

Although sound quality is, to an extent, a matter of personal taste, I found the sound quality to be good overall. It won’t blow you away, but for a budget pair of wireless earbuds it is perfectly pleasant, although the bass does sometimes lack some punch it is made up for in crispness and overall clarity.

The volume goes suitably high and adjusts at good increments, although at the extreme lower end of the volume scale the audio quality does noticeably drop. Luckily, you likely won’t have the headphones on too quiet a setting as the passive noise cancellation leaves a lot to be desired. Despite doing an okay job of drowning out audio, they don’t fair to well  in a particularly loud train car or busy room.

On the other hand, the audio for phone calls is second to none. Featured most predominantly on the front of the box, ANKER is clearly proud of th P2′s “crystal-clear calls” – and for good reason. Our tests, which you can hear below, simulated speech in first a silent and then high-noise environment over a phone call and recorded the results via a second phone. 

In a silent room the quality is incredible and sounds far better than some full-size microphones we’ve tried. The second test, which featured deafening background noise on the speaker’s end demonstrated the excellent noise cancellation. Although there is distortion, it should be considered that the speech was being played amidst painfully load background audio.

If your main concern is how you will sound over the phone, stop reading and buy these headphones immediately – you simply can’t get better than this at this price.

Battery Life:

The battery life amounts to an approximately seven-hour play time, with an additional thirty hours carried in the battery of the charging case. This is more than enough, and means that, with moderate use, you will only have to charge these headphones about once every two weeks.

Charging is done through the included USB-C cable, although any old USB-C cable will of course work. Don’t worry though, if you forget to charge you headphones and need them in a pinch the Soundcore Life P2‘s boast an hour of playback in only ten minutes of charge.

Gaming performance:

Unfortunately, the separate headphone drivers, which have the left and right earbuds appear as separate Bluetooth devices, makes pairing the Soundcore Life P2 with a desktop PC a hassle. Don’t expect to be able to benefit from the pair’s excellent microphones on your desktop without a bit of fiddling.

However, the mobile gaming performance is superb. There is little latency between the headphones and on-screen action. Playing the excellent mobile rhythm game Cytus II, which is highly dependent on timing, was a blast and the bud’s great microphones let you step up your sound quality in games with in-game voice chat, such as PUBG Mobile.

Verdict:

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Although it certainly won’t win any design awards, the Soundcore Life P2 certainly manages to make up for this in the technical department. The microphone quality is incredible and, for budget earbuds, the sound quality is a good all-rounder. The inclusion of some modern high-end features, including USB-C charging and separate earbud drivers, means that you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck.

The Steam link – Review

Valve was always seen primarily as a game developer. After the launch wildly successful Steam gaming platform however, they began to branch off into new areas of the gaming market. Their first home console system, the Steam Machine, back in 2015 (a sort of Linux-based TV confined hybrid of PC and Console) was met with a reception that can be described as “lukewarm” at best. However, many people seemed to forget a device which was launched alongside the Steam Machine – the Steam Link.

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A Steam Link

The Steam Link is a portable streaming box, allowing you to seamlessly stream games from a PC in another room or upstairs to your TV; theoretically creating the perfect home console – a something with the power of PC, projected onto the TV at a low cost.

Initially starting with a price at around £35, the Steam Link failed to really attract any attention until late 2018, where this price would plummet to about £2 (when bought on the steam store in conjunction with a game). This colossal price drop was likely due to the device’s very poor initial sales and Vavle’s desperate desire just to be rid of the hassle of storing thousands of unsold products.

Physically, the Steam Link is a really lovely piece of hardware, it feels heavy in the hand and robust to the touch; clearly being constructed out of premium materials. The minimalist design is also very aesthetically pleasing. Along the side of the box runs all the different ports and inputs you’d expect from your traditional game console; USB for controllers, HDMI for video output and Ethernet for a fast connection – it’s all here. Even the box it came in is well constructed out of good quality nicely coloured cardboard.

You may now be wondering why exactly the Steam Link failed – it certainly wasn’t, after all, due to any physical defects or obvious design oversights. No, the Steam Link‘s biggest downfall is its performance.

Even on the fastest of internet connections, the Steam Link can’t perform without at least some lag. Input lag, audio lag and general stuttering is near constant and basically unavoidable and whilst I’m sure with a NASA like internet connection the Steam Link would run like a dream; but unfortunately that speed of connection just isn’t available to the consumer.

The best way to run the Steam Link is wired, with one big long annoying Ethernet cable, but I think that really destroys the essence of what the system was trying to achieve. If you’re going to bother setting up numerous cables running all around your house, you may as well just save yourself some energy and move your PC to plug it directly into the TV.

There is also the issue of Steam’s Big Picture Mode, which is required for the set up of the Steam Link. Big Picture Mode is in its early days, and is still extremely slow and clunky. It takes what would have been an already slightly jittery experience (purely due to the nature of streaming over WiFi) and multiplies it by a factor of 10.

That’s really all there is to say about the Steam Link, it’s an excellent idea and a very well built product which is unfortunately held back by the constraints of the speed of currently available internet. Who knows? Maybe in a couple years PC to TV streaming services will be an excellent experience and the norm for TV based gaming – but we’re not there yet. We’re not far off, but certainly not yet there. At its original price, the Steam Link is a complete rip-off – if you were however able to nab it at £2 like I was, well it certainly makes a very well-built high quality paperweight.