Nest Learning Thermostat

Before it got into the business of making security cameras like the Nest Cam IQ and Nest Cam Outdoor, the smart home company was first and foremost about one thing: heating. 

The Nest Thermostat was the product that started it all, and it continues to be a very competitive and smartly designed thermostat, even if some of its functionality lags behind the competition in 2017.

While it’s perfectly possible to control it with your phone, the Nest thermostat is clever enough that you’ll soon stop bothering. Not only does it remember the various temperature settings you put it to throughout the day, using its built in motion sensor and GPS functionality of its app it will alter its program based on your schedule. 

The Nest’s whole interface is controlled through the swiveling bezel

In other words, if you decide to head out for the evening rather than stay in, the thermostat is clever enough to not waste energy heating an empty house. 

It’s not the perfect system, the lack of zonal controls means that you’ll often end up heating empty rooms, but our year of use saved us just over 13.5% on our heating bill. There are a couple of caveats to this, though, so check out the ‘Performance’ page for more details. 

In the meantime, read on to learn how the $249/£279 Nest Learning Thermostat works. 

Features

There are two parts to the Nest Learning Thermostat. There’s the thermostat itself, which can be fixed on the wall (in lieu of the existing thermostat for example) or displayed on an optional stand, which is sold separately. In the latter mode, you will need to put the Nest near to a power socket and within reach of your router (you will need Wi-Fi).

The other part is the heat link. This is the component that will control the boiler and communicate wirelessly with the thermostat.

We had the Nest Thermostat installed professionally, which the company recommends due to it needing to connect to some pretty high-voltage wires. Overall the installation took around an hour, and it was a fairly painless process for the installer to disconnect our old thermostat and install a Nest in its place. 

One household can have multiple zones, each with its own Nest thermostat and heat link, but most homes will probably have just the one thermostat. Nest doesn’t currently offer any connected radiator valves to allow you to fine tune the temperature in various rooms. 

The current temperature is shown on the outer wheel, while the target temperature is displayed in the middle

The thermostat’s design is loosely similar to Apple iPod’s click wheel. Not a surprise given that Nest was created by the same guy who designed the iPod more than a decade ago. It is made up of premium material (glass, brushed metal) and has a stylish design that certainly beats your standard thermostat in terms of looks.

The ring itself uses a rotate and press/click paradigm, similar to the iPod, to navigate the circular menu and enter data.

We really like the design of the thermostat. Turning a wheel to select a temperature is intuitive and satisfying, and although this control scheme struggles when you’re doing something more complicated like inputting a Wi-Fi password, day to day operation rarely hits this level of complexity. 

The thermostat’s screen is a 24-bit colour LCD screen with a 480 x 480 pixel resolution, which is more than good enough to see everything you need to. 

The current temperature is displayed on the outer ring while the target temperature is shown in bold characters in the centre of the display. The sensor window contains temperature, humidity, light and activity sensors.

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MSI GE63VR Raider Gaming Laptop Review

We’ve tested quite a few high-end laptops lately, ranging from the luxurious Max-Q Asus ROG Zephyrus up to the $9,000 Acer Predator 21 X. Many of these laptops perform excessively well, but typically also suffer some sort of drawback you wouldn’t expect, like suspect build quality, poor thermal performance, or out-of-sync price. We think most gamers simply want solid performance without all of the gimmicky features.

The GE63VR Raider, one of MSI’s latest, gets an Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU and the Core i7-7700HQ CPU. Thus, it lives at the upper end of what we’d call a mid-range gaming laptop these days. Time to put it through its paces.

Specifications

Packaging

The GE63VR Raider’s packaging features MSI’s signature over-the-top gamer aesthetic. On the front cover, you’ll find a mechanical dragon tearing through an earthy backdrop. The rear cover lists the Raider’s features, including its per-key RGB keyboard, 120Hz display refresh rate, cooling technology, etc. MSI’s dragon shield emblem is present at every angle. The top of the package has a red plastic handle for easy carrying.

The box opens like a clamshell, revealing the Raider, which is wrapped in black cloth. Two slabs of closed-cell foam secure the laptop, and a final cardboard slab secures it from the rear. The rear slab functions as a compartment as well, holding the Raider’s 230W power supply. To the left, you’ll find an additional compartment for the AC power cord.

Beneath the Raider, you’ll find a hidden compartment housing the Quick Start Guide, Recovery booklet, Limited Warranty card, and an invitation to MSI’s rewards program.

The Raider’s package doesn’t stand out much, but it also doesn’t disappoint. You can rest assured that your laptop will remain safe in this handheld box, but that’s about it.

Exterior

The GE63VR Raider’s lid is constructed in typical MSI fashion, with a sleek, black-brushed aluminum surface that retains oils easily, so you’ll have to clean it often. There are two angled accents running from the bottom of the lid to the top. Right next to the accents are two red light bars that illuminate when the system is powered. At the very bottom, right next to the hinge, a subtle “RAIDER” is engraved into the metal surface. Finally, MSI’s company logo and dragon shield adorn the middle of the lid. Like the light bars, the shield glows when the Raider is powered. The lid will flex with a fair amount of pressure, but not so much that the display’s safety is compromised.

Moving inside, you’ll find the same brushed aluminum construction surrounding the input devices. Fingerprints and smudges are exacerbated because this surface will be touched often, so make sure to keep a cloth handy. The surface caves in around the keyboard, with additional accents engraved at the top. More engraving can be found on the left via the Dynaudio and Steelseries logos, a departure from the usual white printed logos on previous MSI laptops. The touchpad contrasts the rest of the black surface with its red border. Finally, there are three buttons to the right of the keyboard. These power the system, launch the SteelSeries engine, and maximize the fan speed.

The Raider’s 15.6” display is surrounded by a relatively thin bezel. The sides are 0.5625” wide. The top bezel is also 0.5625” at the slimmest point and 0.75” at the widest point. The bottom bezel is the longest at 1”. There are two feet on each side bezel, two on the bottom bezel, and four on the top bezel to prevent the display from making contact with the laptop when closed. At the top, you’ll find a 2.0 megapixel camera surrounded by array microphones. Finally, the company logo is engraved on the bottom bezel in dull silver.

The sides of the laptop are split into two layers. The top layer is part of the aluminum construction and wraps its way around to the edges. The other half is made out of hard plastic, which is part of the bottom panel. The front edge angles inward, and is decorated by small indentations on each side. In the middle, you’ll find three status indicators. The side edges host two exhaust vents to expel heat. Moving to the back, you’ll find two larger vents that are designed like supercar exhausts. In between runs a red border for decoration.

Continuing from the edges, the bottom panel eschews the brushed aluminum surface in favor of hard plastic. The bottom panel adopts a much more aggressive aesthetic than the sleek brushed surfaces, instead using hard angles, numerous stabilization feet, and even an engraving of the MSI dragon in the middle. There are four large rubber feet, one small rubber foot in the middle, and eight plastic feet keeping the Raider stable. The bottom cover is also littered with perforations. In the middle, two large vents allow heat to escape from the motherboard, while two smaller vents near the back act as air intakes for the cooling fans. There are two other groups of engravings on both sides, but these don’t have holes. Finally, there are cutouts near the front edge that allow audio to seep through.

Speaking of speakers (pun intended), the Raider’s audio system is facing downward. In the past, we’ve criticized downward-facing speakers because of their muffled audio, but we’re inclined to make an exception for the Raider. The size of the speakers more than make up for the misplacement, and the subwoofers complement them nicely, especially at high volume.

Unlike the outward-facing metal surfaces, the hinge is constructed out of plastic. It feels smoother and softer than the plastic used on the bottom panel, perhaps to complement the sleek metal surfaces. There are two angled accents in the middle of the hinge, a continuation of the accents from the lid. At the corners you’ll find contrasting, red plastic. The hinge offers an impressive 150° of extension, which is more than you’ll get with most gaming laptops.

The GE63VR Raider doesn’t have very many I/O ports. On the right side, you’ll find a card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, and the DC power port. On the left side, you’ll find an RJ-45 LAN port, an HDMI port, another USB 3.0 port, Thunderbolt 3 over Type-C, a headphone jack, and a microphone jack.

Display

The GE63VR Raider features a standard 15.6” Full HD (1920×1080) IPS display, with a 120Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time. Many gaming-oriented laptops include G-Sync, but MSI doesn’t include the variable refresh technology with the Raider.

The laptop includes HDMI 2.0 and Mini DisplayPort 1.2, although we usually see mDP 1.3 at this price range. This shouldn’t be a major issue, because resolutions above UHD are uncommon. Additionally, the Thunderbolt 3 over Type-C port can connect an external GPU dock or yet another display.

Input Devices

The MSI Raider features a full-length keyboard and number pad, courtesy of SteelSeries. As with all MSI laptop keyboards, the keys are evenly spaced and have a crisp, bumpy actuation, creating a comfortable typing experience. The keycaps have a white translucent font that allows the LED backlighting to shine through the keycaps with minimal backlight bleed.

The function row includes the following: F2 opens the Project menu, F3 toggles touchpad functionality, F4 launches a user-determined application, F5 switches the power setting to a power-friendly “ECO” profile, F6 toggles webcam functionality, F7 shifts between power profiles, F10 activates airplane mode, and F12 puts the Raider to sleep. In addition, “Fn + Arrows” and “Fn + Num 0” adjust audio settings. Finally, “Fn + Num -” and “Fn + Num +” adjust the keyboard backlighting brightness. The keyboard has a nifty feature that dims key lighting to just the function compatible keys when the Fn key is activated.

The touchpad offers excellent accuracy and comfortable tracking, although a film will build up over time. If the oil layer gets thick enough, you’ll experience some surface drag, but keeping the touchpad clean will ensure a seamless tracking experience. The touchpad offers no clicking functionality; MSI instead includes two separate left and right click buttons beneath the touchpad. These buttons offer a satisfying tactile feedback. Design-wise, the touchpad’s black surface complements the rest of the build, but it has a contrasting red border to highlight it.

Interior

The bottom panel is attached to the chassis with 10 screws. The panel will take a bit of effort to loosen; use a credit card or an opening tool to separate the panel from the side and from the front. With the panel removed, you can easily locate all of the interchangeable components.

You’ll find the M.2 slots buried beneath a removable PCB on the far right. To access the slots, remove three screws: two securing the small PCB to the bracket and one securing the bracket to the motherboard. Lifting the left speaker (which is on the right when looking at the Raider from the bottom) will grant easy access to the last screw.

Next to the M.2 slots are four DDR4 memory slots; our Raider contains 32GB of DDR4-2400 RAM from Kingston. To the left you’ll find an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265, which handles the Raider’s wireless needs. Right next to it is a 2.5″ SATA slot occupied by a 1TB 7200RPM HDD. Near the front lip of the laptop, you’ll find the hefty sound system, consisting of two speakers and two subwoofers.

The cooling solution sits in the back right next to the 51Wh battery. It consists of two large exhaust fans, each accompanied by two sets of heat fins. There are two primary heat sinks: the one on the right cools the CPU, inductors, and MOSFETs. The left heat sink cools the GPU and its memory. Three heat pipes are dedicated to the GPU alone, while another heat pipe covers the GPU heat sink, inductors, and MOSFETs. One pipe hits the CPU heatsink, while the adjacent pipe passes over the heat sink and over the GPU memory. Finally, one pipe is dedicated solely to GPU memory.

Software

As with all MSI systems, the GE63VR Raider comes with several proprietary applications pre-installed to manage the laptop’s settings. Most notable is Dragon Center, which is MSI’s hub software.

From Dragon center, you’re given a handful of categorized tabs. The first tab is the App Portal, and from here you can create shortcuts to your favorite programs. You can even create and name subcategories for your shortcuts.

System Monitor gives you a glimpse at your system’s resources. You can see resource usage percentages, fan speeds, power plans, clock rates, temperatures, and network connectivity.

The System Tuner gives users comprehensive control over the Raider, and offers several subcategories through which to adjust the laptop’s settings. The subcategories we use most are the Shift, Fan Speed, and True Color tabs.

The Mobile Center tab allows you to connect your mobile phone to the Raider. If you don’t have MSI Dragon Dashboard installed on your phone, Dragon Center offers QR codes that will direct you to their download pages on the iTunes and Android stores. Once your phone is synced with the Raider, you can monitor its resource usage, tune the system to your liking, and even adjust RGB backlight settings.

Finally, the Tool & Help tab offers support options for new users. Here you can find the user manual, backup or recover your system, reach MSI’s help desk, register the Raider, calibrate your battery, or navigate through the Raider’s features.

In addition, MSI’s partnership with SteelSeries lets you use Steelseries Engine to adjust the keyboard’s settings. From here, you can adjust the per-key backlighting with a variety of effects, such as color shifting and multi-colored breathing. If you have SteelSeries peripherals with RGB functionality, you can sync the Raider’s keyboard and your peripherals using PrismSync.

MORE: Best Gaming Laptops

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LG V30 v Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Those looking for large, powerhouse Android devices will no doubt have both the LG V30 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 on their radars. These two behemoths come with top-end hardware, performance, and prices.

But on which one should you spend your hard-earned money? We compare the giants of the Android world.

The LG V30 continues the company’s ‘V’ line of large phones, which lean heavily in the direction of photography and video capture.

Samsung on the other hand has bravely launched a new Note model after the disasterous Note 7, which had to be withdrawn from sale after a number of units caught fire or exploded.

It does show a deep commitment to the Note range from Samsung, and one that looks like it could be well rewarded. But LG has been making great strides in its hardware in recent years, so these titans are worthy adversaries.

LG V30 vs Note 8: Price and Availability

Premium smartphones are never going to be cheap, but the Note 8 does take things into new territory with its whopping £869 price tag.

Now, to be fair, you’re getting a whole lot of technology for your money, and the Note range is practically a PC these days, especially thanks to the improved DeX feature that can dock the unit to a display, keyboard, and mouse setup.

lgv30 v samsung note 8

lgv30 v samsung note 8

That being said, a DeX dock will set you back an additional £99, which brings the cost nearer £1000.

LG’s V30 seems reasonable in comparison, but it still weighs in at a shade under £700, so these handsets are not for the faint of wallet.

The Galaxy Note 8 is available for pre-order from Samsung now, with a release date of 15 September. There’s no official date for the LG V30, but you can register your interest with Carphone Warehouse, and we expect the unit to appear in shops in the next month or so.

LG V30 vs Note 8: Features and Design

Displays

Obviously one of the most standout features of these devices is their displays. The LG V30 boasts a 6in OLED panel, which has rich, bright colours, and a 1440 x 2880 resolution for crisp text and images.

LGV30 v Samsung Note 8

LGV30 v Samsung Note 8

The modern design reduces the bezels to almost non-existent, which LG claims gives the front of the unit a makeup of 83 percent screen and 17 percent body.  

Samsung is no slouch in this area either, with the taller Note 8 besting its rival by employing a 6.3in Quad HD Super AMOLED display. Again, the bezels are kept to a bare minimum, while the screen delivers gorgeous visuals.

LG V30 v Samsung Note 8

LG V30 v Samsung Note 8

As both of these are phablets, it’s not surprising that they’re on the large size. The slim bodies make them comfortable to hold, but using them really is a two-handed affair.

The V30’s dimensions of 151.7 x 75.4 x 7.4 mm make it slimmer and shorter that the Note 8’s 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm, with the latter having an excuse due to the S-Pen stored within its frame.

S-Pen

Samsung has led the way with smartphone stylus for some time now, and the current S-Pen that accompanies the Note 8 is as precise and easy to use as it’s ever been. It marks the Note range out from its competitors, adding a new layer of productivity to the premium device.

lg v30 v samsung note 8

lg v30 v samsung note 8

Hi-Fi DAC

LG has a trick of its own under the hood of the V30 though, with the inclusion of a Hi-Fi Quad DAC, that’s sure to appeal to audiophiles who want top quality sounds from their mobile device. 

Water resistance

IP68 ratings for both devices mean that can survive a dip in water with no ill effects. Very good to know when you’re spending this kind of money on a device.

lg v30 v samsung note 8

lg v30 v samsung note 8

Processor, memory, storage, and OS

Performance-wise the V30 and Note 8 have comparable specs, with the former utilising the latest Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM, while Samsung has installed its own Exynos 8895 chip that also appears in the Galaxy S8 and S8+. 6GB of RAM gives it a slight edge over the V30, but we expect the two to be neck and neck in the speed stakes.

The storage on offer is similar too, with either handset containing 64GB built-in and a MicroSD card slot offering an expansion of up to 256GB.   

LG has announced that the V30 will arrive with Android 7.1.2, while the Note 8 is marginally behind with 7.1.1. Hopefully both will move up to the newly revealed Android 8 not long after release.

Cameras

Another area where the handsets have strong showings is that of cameras. Both come with dual lens units for the main optics.

The LG V30 has a 16MP f/1.6 standard lens paired with a 13MP f/1.9 wide angle variant. These combine to offer 2160p video at 30fps, and plenty of scope for crystal clear still images.

lg v30 v samsung note 8

lg v30 v samsung note 8

Samsung has fitted the Note 8 with two 12MP cameras, one a f/1.7 wide-angle lens, accompanied by a f/2.4 telephoto lens. Dual optical image stabilisation should keep things steady, and the 4K video at 30fps makes it a powerful tool for capturing those important moments.

LG V30 vs Note 8: Specifications

  LG V30 Samsung Note 8
Price £699 (US pricing TBC) £869 (US$930)
Operating System Android Nougat 7.1.2 Android Nougat 7.1.1
Display 6.0in OLED, 1440 x 2880 touchscreen, 537ppi 6.3in, Quad-HD, 18:5:9, 1440 x 2960, 521ppi, Super AMOLED, Always-On display
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, octa-core Exynos 8895, octa-core
GPU Adreno 540 graphics ARM Mali-G71 MP20 
RAM 4GB 6GB LPDDR4
Storage 64GB or 128GB 64GB
Primary Camera Dual 16MP main camera (3-Axis, laser and phase detection autofocus), support for 2160p video at 30fps 12MP dual-lens (f/1.7 wide-angle + f/2.4 telephoto with 2x optical zoom), OIS, records 4K video at 30fps
Selfie Camera 13MP front camera 8MP f/1.7
Wi-Fi   802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual band, Wi-Fi Direct, DNLA, hotspot 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/ 5 GHz), VHT 80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM
Bluetooh 5.0, A2DP, LE, aptx HD 5.0, ANT+
LTE 4G LTE 4G LTE
SIM card Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by) Single SIM (Nano-SIM) Dual SIM (Nano-SIM)
Battery 3300mAh non-removable 3300mAh non-removable
USB USB 3.1, Type-C 1.0 with fast charging (Quick Charge 3.0) USB 3.1, Type -C, fast charging, wireless charging
MicroSD MicroSD support up to 256GB MicroSD support up to 256GB
Water resistance rating IP68 IP68
Dimensions 151.7 x 75.4 x 7.4 mm 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm
Weight 158g 195g

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Michael Kors Access Sofie review: A polished piece of connected jewelry

Wearables aren’t quite the hot commodity they used to be—but at least the Michael Kors Sofie, an Android Wear 2.0 watch from the eponymous fashion house, brings some bling to a flagging tech trend.

A few years ago, Android-based smartwatches were storming the scene. Manufacturers sparred against one another to deliver the most compelling wearable, and the gear was exciting to cover. But these days, the competition has dwindled. Apple’s keeps its user base relatively satiated with the Apple Watch, while Google’s smartwatch platform is getting more love and attention from lifestyle brands than from tech brands like Samsung, LG and Motorola.

Michael Kors was an original purveyor of the Android-as-fashion proposition with its first generation Access line. And now we have the Access Sofie, which possesses quite a bit more pizazz than its predecessor. It’s not a smartwatch made for everyone (if you’re a guy you may prefer the Dylan model), but wearing it will certainly make you feel like someone, if not for the sheer fact that everyone will be looking at your sparkly wrist. 

Quite a bit of bling

mk sofie 09Florence Ion

The Michael Kors Access Sofie is a blinged-out smartwatch with all the power of Android Wear 2.0. 

mk sofie 05Florence Ion

The Sofie’s metal watchband has removable links.

Have you ever worn formal attire to a casual gathering? That’s what it’s like wearing the Michael Kors Access Sofie, particularly if you’re not used to a flashy aesthetic. The pave embellishment around the display is beautiful in person, especially under a soft light. But it’s also kind of fancy, which makes it hard to wear as a day-to-day accessory, if you’re not used to that sort of thing. That said, you could easily wear the Sofie to an after-work function, or to work if your office dress code calls for professional attire. 

The Access Sofie is available in the silver-tone color shown here, and will eventually be available in gold, rose gold, and a sable-tone finish. This is a fancy watch for fancy people, and it may take an extraordinary level of confidence to rock this on a daily basis.

That said, if you do like the look of this smartwatch, then you’ll appreciate that the Access Sofie is a genuine accessory. It’s weighty like a real mechanical watch, the kind you purchase for a lifetime. The 42mm stainless steel frame doesn’t feel overbearing on the wrist, either, and the side button doesn’t stick out so much that it will bump the top of your hand if you’re bending your wrist. I was comfortable wearing the Access Sofie for consecutive days, though I never slept with it. This is a heavy watch and one that requires an appropriate space on the dresser to charge up for the next day.

mk sofie 03Florence Ion

The Michael Kors Access Sofie charges via a simple magnetic charging pad that connects to any USB charger. 

The Access Sofie comes with a simple magnetic charging adapter, which can plug into any USB-connected charger you have lying around. The metal-linked wristband is adjustable, too, though you’ll want to acquire the appropriate watch tools before attempting to remove any links. The Access Sofie is also rated IP67 for water resistance, but considering its nearly $400 price tag, it might be the kind of thing you keep away from the perils of the pool.

Inside, the Access Sofie runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100, the same processor that fuels Android Wear’s poster smartwatches, including the LG Watch Style and Watch Sport. There’s also 512MB of RAM—more than you’d get with the Watch Style—as well as 4GB of storage for things like jogging playlists and the like (not that you’d run much with this watch since it’s hefty, and not so pleasant to wear when sweating). The Access Sofie’s 300 mAh battery will last through to the end of the day as long as you manage to set the brightness on the 1.19-inch AMOLED display rather low, and turn off the always-on display. Otherwise, you can easily burn through 20 percent of battery life just during your commute to work. 

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Creative Muvo 2C

The Creative Muvo 2C is the Bluetooth speaker equivalent of a Swiss army knife. It has more features than some speakers five times the price, but can still fit in your pocket. 

This is also one of the smallest speakers that has a bass radiator, netting you proper bass rather than just a louder version of a tablet or laptop speaker. 

If you’re not interested in extra features like an onboard MP3 player, you might want to consider the Creative Muvo Mini instead. It’s larger but has a second active driver for even better sound projection. But in a pure sound to size equation, the Muvo 2C is hard to beat.

Design and Features

The Creative Muvo 2C is a wireless speaker that can fit in your pocket. Ok, maybe not the pocket of your painted-on skinny jeans, but Creative has clearly put extra effort into making it pocketable. 

Rivals like the Jam Classic 2.0 and Sony SRS-XB10 have a much more bulbous shape, and take up more space. 

The Creative Muvo 2C is the kind of speaker you can take anywhere. It’s fairly tough too. Much of the shell is soft-touch plastic, but the front grille is metal and there’s a rubber flap that covers the ports. 

It provides splash-resistance, to the IP66 standard. This means it can take water jets rather than just a bit of drizzle, but can’t be dropped in a swimming pool or bath. 

The Creative Muvo 2C also has a cut out on one side to let you hang it from something. No lanyard is included, but do you do have a choice of colours. The speaker comes in black, green, blue, purple and red.

Its extra modes set the Creative Muvo 2C apart from the budget competition rather than the little hardware extras, though. This isn’t just a Bluetooth speaker. There are three other ways to connect. 

You can use a 3.5mm cable, a common option, connect to a computer over USB to make the Creative Muvo 2C act like a sound card, or play music off a microSD card. 

Five buttons and two LEDs adorn the top of the speaker

The downside is that the Creative Muvo 2C is far more complicated than just about any other speaker in this class. You have to learn how to use it, although after living with it for a while, we don’t think it’s too taxing. 

On the Creative Muvo 2C’s top plate there are five buttons. Most are familiar: power, volume and Bluetooth. The fifth one flicks between modes, and there’s a multi-colour LED on top to let you know which you’re in. 

A blue LED means Bluetooth, yellow means MP3 player, purple USB and green aux input. The Creative Muvo 2C automatically uses Bluetooth when first switched on, so if you’re using the standard mode you don’t have to think about this Mode button too much. 

There’s also control through a phone app called Sound Blaster Connect. In theory this lets you switch between the modes and change the EQ profile of the sound. In practice, it simply doesn’t work. The app is extremely unreliable, forever saying the Creative Muvo 2C isn’t connected when it is. 

A speaker small enough to fit in your pocket

You may have better luck, but this flakiness is disappointing given the app and speaker have been out for a while at the time of review. Multiple user reviews at Google Play cite the same kind of issue. 

The MP3 player part is limited too. You can switch tracks and folders with button press combos and even FLAC is supported, but there are no voice prompt to indicate what’s on and no shuffle mode. The Muvo 2C supports microSD cards up to 128GB, but this part works best if you keep it to 5-10 favourite albums. 

Bluetooth performance is, however, a completely different story. Range is good and connection stability is excellent, even through a wall. You can also change tracks using the buttons up top, using a combo of the Mode and Volume buttons. The broken app is a disappointment, not a tragedy.

The Creative Muvo 2C also supports voice calling, using a pinhole mic by the top buttons, and even stereo pairing for a more room-filing experience. Again, this can be done without the phone app. You’ll get six hours’ use out of a charge, which is only just enough for comfort, but fairly good when you look at how small this speaker is versus how large it sounds. 

Sound Quality

You could argue the Creative Muvo 2C tries to do a little too much for its own good. Sure enough, this isn’t the best choice for someone who struggles to get the basics of their phone working. However, for those with a bit of tech confidence this is one of the best tiny, low-cost speakers around. 

The Creative Muvo 2C’s sound steamrolls that of popular entry-level units like the Jam Classic 2.0, largely because of the panel across its back. This is a passive radiator, which is a second speaker driver powered by the air movement created by the treble/mid active driver on the front. 

You can see this little guy moving back and forward like mad as soon as there’s even a hint of bass in your music. It helps give the Creative Muvo 2C remarkably full and powerful sound for a “palm size” speaker, as Creative calls the 2C.

As such it’s closer to a baby alternative to something like the Bose SoundLink Mini II or UE Wonderboom rather than just an upscaled laptop/tablet speaker. We’re also fairly impressed by how little the Creative Muvo 2C distorts at maximum volume. 

Unlike most small speakers with a single drive unit, it doesn’t become “shouty” or more harsh, and the passive radiator only distorts in extreme situations. Single passive radiators are prone to a sort of farting noise as they strain against their limit if not engineered properly. The Creative Muvo 2C doesn’t do this, no matter how hard the radiator is worked.

Part of this is careful control over volume. The Muvo 2C is loud enough to reach an anti-social level in an office, loud enough to let you hear tunes in the shower over the sound of the jets and loud enough for a picnic at the park. It’s also a near-perfect holiday speaker, particularly as you can load it up with a microSD filled with songs. That said, it is not really powerful enough to compete with the conversational hubbub of a party, or wide open spaces. 

This is one of the smallest speakers that can make listening to music enjoyable. Bass drums have actual bass, and dynamic range is leagues above many speakers of this size. 

There are naturally compromises, though. The first stirrings of the Creative Muvo 2C’s bass start at about 65Hz, but significant output begins much closer to 100Hz. It can’t reproduce sub-bass, struggles with low bass, and larger units like the Jam Heavy Metal produce far better, deeper bass for around £30/$30 more. 

Compared to these next-level speakers, the Muvo 2C also sounds a little coarse and unrefined. Creative has done a great job of avoiding this ever tipping over into pure harshness, though. That speakers twice the price sound better should come as no surprise.  

Verdict

The Creative Muvo 2C is one of the smallest speakers that sounds good. Its hard-working passive radiator gets you the classic effect of the best portable speakers: “wow, this thing sounds bigger than it looks”.

It’s also almost ridiculously feature-packed, able to double as a laptop sound card and a standalone portable jukebox.

We wish Creative would fix its effectively broken companion app, and if you can stomach the extra size and cost of the Jam Heavy Metal, the upgrade is worthwhile. However, this is a fantastic speaker if you want something that can actually fit in your pocket. 

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