Apple’s long-awaited location tracking gadget, AirTags, are now available to preorder for $29

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Apple Event April 2021
Apple AirTags.

  • Apple finally revealed its AirTags tracking accessory during a virtual press event on April 20.
  • AirTags can attach to your stuff, like your keys, enabling you to track them if they get lost.
  • Apple’s AirTags are now available to preorder at $29 and they launch on April 30.

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

AirTags (small)

After years of rumors, Apple’s AirTags are now available to preorder from Apple’s online store. The AirTags start at $29 and are set to launch on April 30.

The tracking accessory, which helps users find whatever the AirTag is attached to, made its debut during the company’s Spring Loaded virtual event on April 20.

The small device is designed to stick to other products and everyday items, like keys or wallets. Once attached, you can use the AirTags and your iPhone to find your item if it gets lost.

The tiny accessory takes the form of a circular tag with the signature Apple logo. The AirTags integrate with Apple’s “Find My” app, and the app uses augmented reality to show visual markers leading you toward your lost item.

Apple Event April 2021
Apple AirTags

In a video demonstrating how it works, a man wanders around his apartment led by his iPhone on the search for his lost keys.

AirTags price and release date

AirTags are functionally similar to Tiles’ lineup of Bluetooth-enabled trackers, and cost a similarly low price: A single AirTag starts at $29, and a four pack costs $99.

You can preorder Apple’s AirTags right now from Apple’s online store. The device is expected to start shipping on April 30. Buyers can choose to engrave their AirTags with emojis, text, or numbers for free.

AirTags (small)

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Apple’s new iPad Pro improves upon last year’s with a faster processor and 5G support – but the upgrade is really for power users

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Apple Event April 2021
iPad Pro

  • The 2021 Apple iPad Pro features improved specs while keeping the 2020 model‘s $799 starting price.
  • You can preorder the new tablet starting April 30, and units are expected to ship in mid-May.
  • The M1 processor and 5G option are nice features, but 2020 iPad owners should wait for a bigger upgrade.

On April 20, Apple announced the fifth-generation of its iPad Pro line. The new tablet has a lot of the same features as the 2020 edition, but adds an upgraded display, 5G connectivity support, Apple’s M1 processor (CPU), and bigger storage capacity.

You can order the 2021 Apple iPad Pro from Apple and other retailers starting April 30, and tablets will be available in mid-May, according to Apple.

Prices for the 11-inch tablet start at $799, and the new 12.9-inch version starts at $1,099. Here’s how the new iPad Pro models stacks up to their predecessors.

The 2021 iPad Pro has the same resolution as the 2020 iPad Pro, but the new 12.9-inch edition uses a mini-LED design versus the standard LED backlight found on the 2020 model. Mini-LED can provide better contrast and higher peak brightness to create a more realistic image with better high dynamic range (HDR) performance.

2021 iPad Pro models also incorporate a faster CPU and better graphics performance thank to the addition of Apple’s M1 chip. We’ve been impressed with the performance improvements this chip makes in other recent Apple products, like the MacBook Air.

Other upgrades include new support for 5G on cellular models, as well as a new option for up to 2TB of storage versus last year’s max of 1TB. The front camera has been upgraded as well, making the jump from 7MP to 12MP.

These improvements make the new iPad Pro a better buy for power users over the previous version, especially the 12.9-inch model thanks to its advanced display. That said, we view this as more of a mid-cycle upgrade rather than a full overhaul.

Apple iPad Pro (2021) versus Apple iPad Pro (2020)

Specifications 2021 iPad Pro 2020 iPad Pro
Starting price $799 for 11-inch, $1,099 for $12.9-inch $799 for 11-inch, $999 for $12.9-inch
Display Up to 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED display Up to 12.9-inch Liquid Retina display
Processor Apple M1 Apple 12Z Bionic
Rear Camera 12-megapixel wide-angle, 10-megapixel ultra-wide-angle 12-megapixel wide-angle, 10-megapixel ultra-wide-angle
Front Camera 12 megapixels 7 megapixels
Ports USB-C, Thunderbolt/USB 4 support USB-C
Battery Life Up to 10 hours Up to 10 hours
Biometrics Face ID Face ID
Storage Options Up to 2TB Up to 1TB
Cellular connectivity 5G, 4G LTE 4G LTE

2021 iPad Pro (small)

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Apple’s long-awaited location tracking gadget, AirTags, start at $29 and launch on April 30

Apple Event April 2021
Apple AirTags.

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

  • Apple finally revealed its AirTags tracking accessory during a virtual press event on April 20.
  • AirTags can attach to your stuff, like your keys, enabling you to track them if they get lost.
  • Apple’s AirTags will be available to preorder this Friday starting at $29 and they launch on April 30.

After years of rumors, Apple’s AirTags were officially announced on Tuesday afternoon.

The tracking accessory, which helps users find whatever the AirTag is attached to, made its debut during the company’s Spring Loaded virtual event on April 20.

The small device is designed to stick to other products and everyday items, like keys or wallets. Once attached, you can use the AirTags and your iPhone to find your item if it gets lost.

The tiny accessory takes the form of a circular tag with the signature Apple logo. The AirTags integrate with Apple’s “Find My” app, and the app uses augmented reality to show visual markers leading you toward your lost item.

Apple Event April 2021
Apple AirTags

In a video demonstrating how it works, a man wanders around his apartment led by his iPhone on the search for his lost keys.

AirTags are functionally similar to Tiles’ lineup of Bluetooth-enabled trackers, and cost a similarly low price: A single AirTag starts at $29, and a four pack costs $99.

Apple AirTags will be available to preorder this Friday, April 23, for $29. The device is expected to start shipping on April 30.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Did OnePlus over-hype its OnePlus 9 Hasselblad cameras? Our photo tests are underwhelming

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OnePlus 9 Pro thumb
  • OnePlus created a big hype campaign around its partnership with famous camera company Hasselblad.
  • The focus was to bring Hasselblad’s “natural color calibration” to the new OnePlus 9 series’ cameras.
  • Unfortunately, the OnePlus 9 Pro takes less appealing photos than our reference phone, the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

9 Pro (small)

The hype surrounding the new OnePlus 9 lineup has been focused on the company’s partnership with famed camera manufacturer Hasselblad. Using Hasselblad’s expertise, the phones’ new camera systems are meant to improve upon previous OnePlus models.

Specifically for the OnePlus 9, Hasselblad’s involvement centers around “natural color calibration.” Otherwise, everything else, including hardware and software, is either OnePlus or from a third-party, like Sony for the camera sensors.

Since there was so much hype surrounding this partnership and the revamped cameras, we’ll be focusing on showing you how photos from the OnePlus 9 Pro look. As a reference tool, we’ve opted to compare it with the iPhone 12 Pro Max – a phone that takes reliably good and “safe” photos that don’t reach into extremes for color, contrast, HDR, and exposure, and that many feel confident with for capturing memories and sharing with friends, family, and social media.

When analyzing the photos taken by the OnePlus 9 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, we’re putting ourselves in the shoes of the most average type of camera user – someone who wants to point, shoot, and share without much editing, if at all.

How do the OnePlus 9 Pro’s photos look?

We found the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s photos to appear pale in color with a heavy lean towards a cooler white balance, at least compared to the iPhone’s photos. One might argue that the paler colors are less processed and more natural, and that the iPhone’s photos have saturated and unnatural colors. While that may be true, we’d argue that the OnePlus 9 Pro’s camera doesn’t produce colors that are as pleasing for the point-and-shoot crowd.

We aren’t saying that the OnePlus 9 Pro, or any phones, should take photos that look exactly like the iPhone’s. But the iPhone’s camera is usually a good point of reference, as it takes photos that are reliably well processed for point-and-shoot users.

It’s also worth mentioning that most people don’t have several high-end phones available for direct side-by-side comparisons. With that in mind, the photos taken by the OnePlus 9 Pro would likely look totally fine on their own. However, the OnePlus 9 Pro underwhelms when its photos are compared to the iPhone’s.

At the end of the day, what really matters is whether you like the photos that the phone’s camera produces – whether you’re happy with the way your memories are captured, and whether you’d feel confident with sharing those photos.

With that in mind, have a look at some of the photos we took with the OnePlus 9 Pro compared with the iPhone 12 Pro Max:

OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus has partnered with Hasselblad for the cameras in the new OnePlus 9 phones. Here’s a photo taken with the new OnePlus 9 Pro.

Here’s an example that exemplifies the paler look on photos taken with the OnePlus 9 Pro compared to our reference phone, the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The paleness is especially noticeable on the sunlit barn and grass. The photo also has a cooler tone.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro Max photo 024

The photo from the iPhone 12 Pro Max features colors that are more saturated, which many will find is a more pleasing look for basic point-and-shoot photo taking, and to keep and share without editing.

OnePlus 9 Pro ultrawide

OnePlus 9 Pro photo 035

The OnePlus 9 Pro‘s ultrawide lens takes photos with a warmer tone than the regular lens, which results in beautifully natural colors, presumably as OnePlus intended with Hasselblad’s natural color calibration. It would be great if OnePlus could apply the ultrawide lens’ calibration to the regular lens.

Additionally, the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s photo is clearer than the iPhone’s. However, that’s only noticeable if you zoom into the photo, or view it in “full size.”

With that said, the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s HDR struggled with revealing the dark side of the barn while keeping the brightness (exposure) down on the sunlit side. The result is overexposure on the sunlit side of the barn, which leads to parts that appear white and void of detail compared to the iPhone’s photo.

iPhone 12 Pro Max ultrawide

iPhone 12 Pro Max photo 025

The iPhone‘s photo is very similar to the OnePlus 9’s overall, except colors are slightly more saturated. The iPhone also handled exposure better than the OnePlus 9 Pro by keeping the dark side of the barn dark, and maintaining brightness and detail on the sunlit side. As a result, the iPhone’s photo can be more desirable, but it’s a nitpick.

OnePlus 9 Pro zoom

OnePlus 9 Pro photo 036

The OnePlus 9 Pro‘s zoom lens carries over the pale colors and blue overtones form the regular lens. The dark side of the barn, especially, is positively blue due to poor white balance compared to the warm wooden black color on the comparative iPhone photo. The sunlit side of the barn and the stone foundation are also robbed of color and are overexposed.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro Max photo 026

The iPhone‘s zoom lens took a photo with more saturated color and a more appropriate, warmer white balance.

OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro photo 013

Even if you’re not comparing phone cameras, the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s photo of these fruits would appear somewhat pale. The fruits don’t look particularly appetizing here, which wasn’t a thought I had when I was looking at them at the time of taking the photo.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro Max photo 003

The iPhone makes these fruits look a lot healthier and appealing, even if the colors are somewhat oversaturated.

OnePlus 9 Pro detail

op9p super zoomed in

The OnePlus 9 Pro gives you the option to take 48-megapixel photos, which doesn’t make much of a difference when viewing a photo normally. However, it’s a huge advantage if you ever want to zoom into a photo and maintain clarity and detail. 

The photo here is significantly zoomed in from the original and it’s much sharper than the iPhone’s photo below.

iPhone 12 Pro Max detail

iphone 12 pro max super zoomed in

There’s no competition here. The iPhone 12 Pro Max‘s 12-megapixel camera simply can’t capture as much detail as the OnePlus 9 Pro’s 48-megapixel camera.

OnePlus 9 Pro skin tone, shade

OnePlus 9 Pro photo 041

Here’s where the OnePlus 9 Pro also excels. I asked a professional photographer who shoots fashion models for a living what he thought of these photos, and he immediately pointed to the OnePlus 9 Pro. It’s important to note that this is the point of view of a professional who often edits his photos. However, I’d still agree with him, as the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s photo is the one I’d pick to keep and share. 

With that said, the t-shirt has some odd artifacts that don’t look natural and result in a grainy look. Notice that details on my head are also very sharp, which is a subjective thing. Personally, I’d rather it didn’t reveal absolutely everything on my face.

iPhone 12 Pro Max skin tone, shade

iphone 12 pro max 041

The iPhone’s photo gave me a sunburned look. While I have been soaking in the early spring sun, I wouldn’t say I spent that long outside. The iPhone’s photo is also less sharp overall, and it smooths out some of the finer details on my face, which I prefer. My t-shirt also looks more natural than it does in the OnePlus 9 Pro’s photo.

OnePlus 9 Pro skin tone, full sun

OnePlus 9 Pro photo 040

My photographer friend said he would also pick this photo over the iPhone’s for its less processed look. With that said, there’s some inconsistent detail between parts of my nose and my cheek. While the color is more natural, I’d still rather share the iPhone’s photo, if I had to. Plus, the OnePlus 9 Pro made my t-shirt look weird.

iPhone 12 Pro Max skin tone, full sun

iphone 12 pro max 040

While my skin tone might be overly processed by the iPhone here, I’d still prefer this one to keep or share, as I look healthier and less pale from the winter’s hibernation. Plus, my t-shirt looks far more natural.

OnePlus 9 Pro low light

OnePlus 9 Pro photo 010

The OnePlus 9 Pro took a nice photo of this coastal scenery, and it’s pretty similar to the iPhone’s shot below. Still, there are some odd, very slight artifacts around the plane vapor trails towards the top center right of the photo that aren’t present on the iPhone’s photo. It’s a nitpick, but it does raise some eyebrows regarding the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s camera quality.

iPhone 12 Pro Max low light

iPhone 12 Pro Max photo

The sky’s color is a little richer on the iPhone’s photo, and you don’t get the strange artifacting on those plane vapor trails towards the top right. Still, the iPhone caught a bit of lens glare, which is a subjective preference.

The bottom line

OnePlus 9 Pro thumb

Based on this direct comparison between the OnePlus 9 Pro and our reference phone, we don’t recommend the OnePlus 9 Pro for simple point-and-shoot photos. If you just want to take photos without worrying about editing them afterwards, there are other phones that take more appealing pictures.  

We’re not saying you should get the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro, either. Rather, we’re simply saying that the OnePlus 9 Pro doesn’t offer pleasing photos compared to the competition. We’ve taken several comparative photos with Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra and Pixel 5, and our findings are the same — the OnePlus 9 Pro’s photos simply don’t look as good.

We haven’t fully tested the OnePlus 9 yet, so we’re refraining from making any judgement on that model here. However, we would expect similar issues, like excessively pale colors and cooler white balance.

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The best deals from Amazon’s week-long Samsung sale include discounts on the Galaxy S21, 4K TVs, and more

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Samsung Q90T 4K TV

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Whether you’re looking to upgrade your entertainment center or mobile device, there are several compelling Samsung deals available on Amazon. 

That’s because Samsung has launched a special week-long sales event on Amazon called  “Samsung Week” that runs from February 22 – 28 and includes discounts on a wide variety of Samsung gadgets.  

The promotion heavily discounts TVs as well as mobile devices, tablets, earbuds, soundbars, and other devices. In addition to the ongoing deals, Samsung will add new “Deal of the Day” listings throughout the week. You can find a full list of all the Samsung deals on Amazon here

Although there are several worthwhile TV deals below, it’s worth noting that these discounts apply to Samsung’s 2020 TV models. The company’s 2021 TV lineup will be launching in the coming weeks, so those who don’t mind spending more to get the latest tech might want to wait. 

We’ve looked through all of the deals and rounded up the best ones here:

TVs

Samsung Q70T 4K TV

85-inch QLED Q80T 4K Smart TV (medium)55-inch QLED Q80T 4K Smart TV (medium)75-inch Q800T QLED 8K Smart TV (medium)65-inch QLED Q800T 8K TV (medium)
Smartphones, tablets, and wearables

galaxy s20 ultra

Galaxy S21 (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Galaxy S21 Plus (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Galaxy S21 Ultra (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Galaxy Tab A7 (medium)
Earbuds and soundbars

Samsung Galaxy Buds+

Galaxy Buds Live (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Q900T Soundbar (medium)Q70T Soundbar (medium, Preferred: Amazon)

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Socket Mobile spikes 980% after announcing barcode scanner for all iPhone 12s

iPhone 12
  • Socket Mobile stock jumped as much as 980% after it uveiled its new DuraSled barcode scanner for the iPhone 12.  
  • DuraSled is the company’s first enterprise-grade barcode scanner for iPhone 12s.  
  • Socket Mobile will sell three models of the DuraSled scanner. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Socket Mobile stock was up by nearly 1,000% on Tuesday, propelled by the company’s launch of its DuraSled barcode scanner for Apple’s iPhone 12.

The company said DuraSled is its first enterprise-grade barcode scanner for the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini. The DuraSled will give users of iPhone 12 models access to “professional-grade” scans. Such work includes delivery services, stock counting and ticketing.

Socket Mobile shares leapt to an intraday high of $35, a 980% bounce from their closing price of $3.24 on Friday, the last full day of trading before Monday’s Presidents’ Day holiday.

Socket said the DuraSled scanner will allow employers to support workers with iPhone 12 phones along with supporting older iPhone series ranging from the iPhone 6 to iPhone 11. The DuraSled itself comes in three models. 

Shares of Socket were on course Tuesday to rise by about 1,480% over the past 12 months.

 

 

 

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Astell & Kern’s $999 music player sounds better than a smartphone, but its benefits won’t justify the price tag for most people

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ak sa700 music player

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Your smartphone plays audio, has access to streaming services, supports headphones, and is almost always close by. In many ways, it’s an excellent musical partner. However, a genuine standalone music player is a tempting alternative for those who really take music-on-the-move seriously.

Astell & Kern make some of the most well-respected music players you can buy. They cost similar to what you’d pay for a good smartphone, and the latest models, like the SA700, have the ability to run streaming apps like Spotify. Unlike a smartphone, however, the big advantage is that the SA700 is a dedicated player, meaning it should deliver superior sound quality because that’s the device’s only job. 

The Astell & Kern SA700 carries a full retail price of $1,299, though it’s on sale now for $999. That’s about the same price as an Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. Obviously, a player like this is not a straight alternative to buying a phone, but if you’re serious about music, is it worth considering as a luxury indulgence? Or should you just stick to a multi-purpose playback device like a smartphone? I spent some time with the SA700 to find out.

Astell & Kern SA700 specifications

ak sa700 connections

  • Weight: 10.69 oz/303 grams
  • Screen: 4.1-inch, 1280 x 720 pixels
  • Sample rate: PCM 8kHz – 384kHz, DSD Native DSD64 1bit 2.8MHz, Stereo DSD128 1bit 5.6MHz.
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Outputs: 3.5mm unbalanced jack, 2.5mm balanced jack
    Inputs: USB Type-C USB 3.0
  • Battery: 3,150mAh
  • Storage: MicroSD card slot, 128GB internal storage

Design

ak sa700 screen menu

If you’re used to the shape of your phone in your hand, the Astell & Kern SA700 feels very different. It’s smaller, thicker, sharper, and has more heft to it. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s nothing but a solid block of stainless steel, but on the front is a glass covered touchscreen, and inside is plenty of hi-res audio technology. 

The asymmetric shape is produced by the large volume knob on the right, flanked by swooping, textured guards that blend into the angular body. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition with the otherwise blocky design, which gives the SA700 real character. Turn the player on, and the volume knob is lit by a bright LED behind it which turns red when you reach high volumes. 

When it comes to connections, there’s a 2.5mm balanced jack on top of the player, next to a standard 3.5mm jack. There’s Bluetooth with aptx HD support for wireless listening as well.

Personally, I think the design is fantastic, and the build quality and materials match the cool looks. 

Sound 

ak_sa700 playing music

To test the SA700, I pulled songs in various formats from a MicroSD card, and listened through Astell & Kern’s own AK T9iE in-ear headphones

Using the AK T9iEs, it’s immediately obvious how much power the SA700 has, as there’s more than enough volume here. Outside of its ample power, the device’s stereo separation is the next element that really stands out. 

GuGu-LuLu’s “Caution!!” is always a fun listen with vocals and instruments spread all over the soundstage, and the track sounds fantastic here. Of course, the AK T9iEs should sound particularly good when paired with this player, since they’re rather expensive headphones priced at $1,299. With that in mind, I sampled playback wth a few other models as well.

When listening through a pair of Audeze Sine on-ear headphones, Pax Puella’s” It’s a Wonderful Day” sparkles, with the group’s vocals sounding so natural and detailed, it’s like they were right there with you. 

Swapping to Bluetooth headphones, I used Audio Technica’s wonderful DSR5BT, and listened to hi-res files from Qubuz. A 96KHz version of Micheal Jackson’s “Billie Jean” reveals a sound that’s detailed but slightly clinical and perhaps a little cold. The technical aspect of the song is astonishing, with perfect stereo separation and wonderful detail, but the track just doesn’t carry as much emotion as it should.

Meanwhile, a 48KHz version of Linkin Park’s “Somewhere I Belong” really should be bombastic and almost harsh, but the SA700 doesn’t quite deliver the rawness I anticipated.  Thankfully, a 96KHz version of “Mars, the Bringer of War” from Holst’s The Planets does provide the depth and feeling I’d been missing, as long as I push the volume near maximum as the movement reaches its crescendo. It’s quite something.

A Hi-Res 88.2KHz version of Wolfgang Heffner’s “Piano Man” also plays more to the SA700’s strengths, with a delicate touch that emphasizes the piano keys, the strum of the bass guitar, and the steady beat of the drum. Thanks to its involving playback, it’s easy to lose yourself in jazz on the SA700. 

Although I wasn’t always as deeply engaged as I’d like when listening to my personal choice of music, there’s no denying how accurate and controlled the sound from the SA700 is. The sound has been tuned almost to perfection, but the by-product is a slightly disconnected feeling, and it’s missing emotion. As a result, I tend to use the SA700 with a pair of Master & Dynamic’s MW60 0.95 Bluetooth headphones the most. The headphones’ strong musical character makes up for what I feel is missing from the player.

Battery

ak sa700 back

The SA700’s 3,150mAh battery capacity is below what you find in most modern smartphones, and Astell & Kern estimates it’ll last about eight and a half hours before it needs recharging. 

Whether it ends up lasting that long, however, will depend on how you use the player. During my time with the device, an hour playing music from a MicroSD card drained 10% of the battery using Bluetooth headphones, while streaming from the Qobuz app for about the same amount of time drained 25%. 

Assuming you primarily use the SA700 during commutes with music stored on the device, it should just about make it through the week. You need to turn it off when it’s not being used though, as ambient power draw reduces the battery life when it’s on standby. It also takes nearly five hours to recharge, and that’s very problematic. 

Software and reliability

ak sa700 menu keyboard

The player’s software is built using Google Android, just like you find on Samsung Galaxy and many other smartphones. It’s the open source version of Android, however, so it doesn’t have the Google Play Store, but it can run Android apps if you install them yourself. This is a selling point of an A&K player, as you can use Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz and other streaming apps when the player’s connected to Wi-Fi.

However, in my experience this isn’t an easy exercise. Apps are installed using APK files, which must be sourced either from the company, like in Spotify’s case, or through a website like APKPure.com. Unfortunately, it’s a massive pain. 

Spotify’s APK file refused to install on my player, and while I eventually got a version from APKPure.com to install, the player’s keyboard did not have one of the special characters I required to enter my password. Expect to jump through hoops installing apps. Qobuz installed easily, but the app performance is slow and frustrating. 

If you’re used to a modern smartphone, using the SA700 is a world apart. It’s just about fast enough, but the menu system is very basic, and the user interface isn’t always well designed. For example, the Back button is often in different positions on different menus. The screen itself is also quite small which makes the keyboard cramped and awkward. The display is bright and colorful, though, so album art always looks good.

I also have problems with the Wi-Fi connectivity. While it connected to my home network without issue at first, it began to drop the signal and then refuse to reconnect. I had better luck connecting to a Hotspot from my iPhone 11 Pro, but it still doesn’t always work. I also experienced volume consistency problems with Bluetooth headphones. My Audio Technica ATH-M50x are incredibly quiet even at maximum volume, but my Master & Dynamic MW60 0.95 headphones are fine.

Should you buy it?

If you’re a big audiophile who prioritizes accurate sound over everything else, then the Astell & Kern SA700 audio player is designed for you. 

It’s expensive, however, and it lacks the convenience, usability, and easy connectivity of a typical smartphone. With that in mind, most buyers will be better off sticking with a phone for music playback.   

What are your alternatives? 

Your smartphone is the most obvious and most convenient alternative. Regardless of which model you own, and how old it is, it will be able to replicate the base functionality of the SA700. But, how competently it does so will depend on the phone. The iPhone 12 series and the iPhone 11 series both offer great sound quality, but they lack a 3.5mm headphone jack, which will put audiophiles off. 

Meanwhile, Sony makes a compelling range of music players. The $1,199 ZX2 Walkman directly competes with the SA700, but it’s also worth looking at the cheaper ZX507 player, which supports Android apps, has a balanced output, and a more compact design.

If you’re set on owning an Astell & Kern, the A&norma SR25 is $699 and although there are several differences in components – including the DAC – the cheaper price makes it more attractive to those wanting to experiment.

The bottom line

ak sa700 with headphones

The Astell & Kern SA700 has one major problem: the existence of smartphones. My smartphone is easier to use, is more consistently reliable, stays connected to Wi-Fi, has a competent keyboard, and runs every streaming music service app without a problem. Plus, it’s always with me, and the battery lasts longer. 

To compensate, the SA700 really needs to impress with its sound quality if it’s going to convince anyone to spend $999 on a dedicated music device. At the end of the day, the player’s audio performance is nearly there, it’s not quite at the level I’d like.

It’s missing a little emotional involvement, but the sharp detail, soundstage, and superb control means it’s still a deeply enjoyable listen. The player is quite headphone sensitive, however, with some models sounding far better than others. It’s at its best with A&K’s own AK T9ie headphones, and that makes it a $2,300 package – which is a serious investment

But, perhaps most crucially, while I never feel the need to swap to a phone when listening to the SA700, the reverse is also true: I don’t always reach for the SA700 instead of my smartphone. This is mostly a decision driven by convenience, but that’s a problem if you’re going to spend this much money on a device that’s supposed to offer a superior solution.  

True bottom line? The Astell & Kern SA700 is a uniquely designed, astonishingly accurate music player strictly for audiophiles with deep pockets. All other buyers will be better off sticking to a smartphone for their music listening needs.

Pros: Accurate sound, cool design, beautifully made

Cons: Expensive, your phone is more user-friendly, short battery life

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