‘The Avengers’ Review

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got to watch this movie today. I’ve never read a Marvel comic in my life but I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since the first trailer came out. Needless to say, I’ve been expecting great things from it but somewhere along the lines things changed. 

After the movie came out, it generally got positive reviews but there were also a few negative ones. My problem is that I’m greatly influenced by others’ opinions and sometimes it is hard for me to keep them from overriding my own. So I sat down for this movie with mixed expectations. 

In the first 2/3 of this movie, the negative reviews kept haunting me. The movie takes a while to take off and there is a gradual build up towards the final battle. But what a battle it is. The last 1/3 of the movie more than makes up for the slow beginning and makes everyone who thought the movie was bad just sound downright silly. The final battle is ridiculously epic and leaves you thoroughly impressed and satisfied. 

Everyone in the movie acted well but Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo in particular stand out for their excellent portrayal of Tony Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner, respectively. As I mentioned, I haven’t read the comics but I have a feeling that these actors did great justice to their characters. Scarlett Johansson looked utterly gorgeous as Natasha Romanoff, as one would expect, but also had a pretty robust role in the movie and wasn’t just someone who stood around and looked pretty. Others had their moments but never truly stood out as these three did. 

Another thing I really liked about the movie was the humor, which was absolutely top notch. Since Tony Stark was in the movie, I expected a few quips here and there but there were a lot more than I expected and they were always well timed and extremely well executed. In other words, the exact opposite of the humor in the Transformer movies, which still makes me cringe. The humor was also the part that kept the first 2/3 interesting for me. 

Overall, I’d say if you haven’t watched the movie yet, watch it. It does not matter if you are not a comic book fan. It does not even matter if you haven’t seen the previous movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (although it would greatly help if you do). This movie needs to be watched for great acting, superb humor and an explosive climax that stays with you long after you’ve left the cinema hall. 


Audio Technica AD700 Review

I’ve had these for a while now and I’ve been holding out on writing this because first of all I wanted to put some hours on them, wearing the drivers out a bit, a process commonly called burning in. Secondly, I was waiting to get a headphone amplifier, which would let me get the best out of these headphones. Now that both things have happened, let’s get on with the review. 

I’ll start off with the sound because that’s what most people care about. Despite their audiophile credentials, the AD700 has a fairly colored sound, but it’s the exact opposite of what you usually find in mainstream headphones. Usually you find bass heavy sound with recessed mids and highs but the AD700 is nothing like that. 

Let me just put this out there right now, the bass on the AD700 is disappointing. No, I wasn’t expecting gut wrenching, ear canal cleansing bass from them anyway; I’m well aware of how audiophile headphones present bass. The emphasis is more on letting you hear the instruments that produce the bass rather than just create a meaningless thump, to create accurate, articulate low-frequency sounds, nothing more, nothing less. 

But the bass on the AD700 is not accurate. It’s quite simply, less. And this is my problem with it. I understand and prefer an accurate bass response but I don’t like this less-bass business. It just means I’m hearing less than what is actually there in the recording, which I find more offensive than pumped up bass. 

To describe it, I would say it is very tight. You feel the diaphragm of the drums in the music are suddenly being stretched tighter than usual, restricting their movement. Like hitting a table with the thin edge of a wooden ruler, the bass produced by the AD700 lacks sufficient body. It comes and goes quickly, without letting you revel in its presence. 

Moving on to other frequencies, the mid-range is colored. The upper mid-range is nuanced, which gives the sound an airier feel, especially when put together with the exaggerated high end. Yes, the treble is hot, with a bit too much sparkle. On some recordings it sounds fantastic, on other, sibilant. 

And that’s my other problem with the AD700; it’s too genre dependent. Stuff like trance, hip-hop, techno, any kind of electronic music and even pop lack the soul, which comes from their inherent bass response. But play some classical music or even rock and the AD700 really shines. Listening to a high-quality recording of a violin, for example, will give you goose bumps. Listen to Skrillex and you will feel your ears are being raped. But that just might be his music and not the headphones. 

The widely acclaimed soundstage is always there in full force, engulfing you with its three dimensionality. It’s why these headphones are so popular with gamers. That’s one of the reasons I bought them too because I love a big, wide sound. And it doesn’t get bigger or wider than the AD700. Not at this price point. But the games also have big bass, which the AD700 cannot produce. 

The design is another good thing about the AD700. To me they look great, even with that color combination. The unique floating wing design means they adapt to the size of your head automatically without manually having to set the headband length. I do however find them not clamping tight enough, even on my fairly large noggin. They are comfortable though, but you won’t quite forget they are there. 

Sound isolation is practically zero. You can hear everything around you and everyone hears what you listen to. That’s just how open-back design works. 

I think that’s about it. They cost Rs. 5,999 on Pristine Note ($120), so they’re not quite cheap. Unless you like the kind of sound I described above, don’t go for these. Go for something a bit more versatile, like the Sennheiser HD 518. 


Sony PlayStation Vita first impressions

Got a chance to use a friend’s PSVita, which he had gotten for review. After spending about five minutes with it, here are my first impressions. 

  • It’s pretty massive. I make fun of large phones all the time but the Vita makes even the Galaxy Note look like Danny DeVito in comparison. It won’t fit into any pocket I own (even after all the space that will be created after I spend on it). You will need to carry around a bag for it. Having said that, for something this big, it’s pretty light. 
  • The display is gorgeous. Makes everything look great. 
  • Extremely fluid UI that looks like it was designed by a six-year old. 
  • Games look great but like its bigger console counterpart there are plenty of jagged edges due to a lack of anti-aliasing. I hate that shit on mobile phones but on the Vita’s larger display it becomes even more apparent. 
  • The joysticks are really good, despite their short travel. The rest of the buttons are pretty good too. 
  • The device operation isn’t very straightforward and self-explanatory. E.g., when I took the device in hand it was already running a game so it took me a while to figure out which button to press to go to the home screen. 
  • Didn’t get a chance to use the touchpad at the back or the cameras. In fact I completely forgot they existed when I was using the device. 
  • Videos look pretty awesome on the display but the format support is abysmal. 

Overall, I’d say it was pretty good but it wasn’t something that I felt I must have when I used it for the first time. I think I’ll stick to the PC/console for serious gaming and the smartphone for casual gaming. The PSVita, like the PSP before it, reminds me of the Galaxy Note, wherein it tries to bring the best of both worlds into one device without being particularly successful at either. The games are obviously not as good as on the PC or console, even though they cost as much and it is not as portable as a smartphone. The 3-5 hour battery life isn’t particularly great either. 

I’d like to spend more time with it but unless the prices of the console and the games drop I don’t see myself purchasing it or even recommending it to anyone else. 

Opinion · Reviews

Why Chrome Beta for Android is a fucking piece of crap

Yesterday, Google launched the Chrome Beta for Android. When I say ‘Android’, I only mean Ice Cream Sandwich devices, that too in a handful of regions. As usual all the fandroids creamed their panties because this was somehow a big deal.

After managing to scour the internet for the installation file I finally sat down to find out what all the fuss was about. The hype (and the initial reviews) suggested it was better than the stock Browser. I expected it to be on par. It turned out to be worse.

The following are the reasons why I think that Chrome Beta for Android is a fucking piece of crap.

  1. It automatically zooms in the text in an article to fit the display width by default. This behavior is similar to mobile Internet Explorer in Windows Phone and messes with the page layout, not to mention makes it look goofy. There is no way to disable this. The stock browser can fit text to display width too but it doesn’t increase the font size and more importantly, it is optional.

  2. Lots if blank spots on the page while scrolling. The stock browser almost always has the content ready and if it doesn’t it shows a blurred image of the page instead of blank space.

  3. The browser cannot keep the data for more than a couple of tabs in memory. If you switch tabs they reload every time. This happens on the Galaxy Nexus as well so its not because of the low RAM on my Nexus S.

  4. Swiping from the side switches between tabs. This also gets triggered when you are simply trying to scrolling horizontally through the page and your thumb was near the edge of the display. Again, no way to disable this “feature”.

I’m sure there would have been more annoyances had I used it further but I couldn’t stand it any longer so I uninstalled it. The browser has no advantage over the stock browser. People say it is faster but I didn’t note any difference. As for syncing bookmarks, the stock browser can do that as well.

I know the browser is still in beta and it could get better but I haven’t seen the future so I’m not going to talk about that. As it stands now, it sucks. Unfortunately, this shit is going to replace the stock browser. If it still sucks the day it does that then I’m going to dump Android. I take my mobile browsers seriously and one of the best things I like about Android is its browser. If Google is going to fuck that up then I ain’t sticking around.

(Wrote this post entirely on the Nexus S using the Tumblr app.)


Android Video Player Comparison

One of the good things I like about Android phones is the choice of video players available on the Market. That, along with the fact that it’s extremely easy to transfer any video file on to the phone and that a lot of them have large screens make them especially good for video playback. 

But choice is a double-edged sword. Too much of it can be just as bad as no choice at all and that’s exactly what is happening with these video players: there are too many of them, with more coming out every few days. 

Screenshot by public demand (and by public I mean @preshit)

Personally, I have been using Dice Player on my Nexus S, a paid app, rare for Android Market and more so for video players, which are usually always free (and ad supported). I chose to pay for it because back then it offered the best in terms of video playback. It was the only player that not only supported a wide range of audio and video formats but also successfully played 720p videos on my phone. The Nexus S hardware is capable of encoding and decoding 720p videos but it needs a good software to enable it to do that. 

Now, with even more video players available than what they were six months ago, I decided to do another little comparison. Partly because everyone keeps asking me which one is the best and also because I’m getting tired of Dice Player. It still does a good job of playing videos but has become terribly buggy lately and although it is updated often it seems the developer isn’t particularly bright. 

So I downloaded a handful of players, which ranged from the old faithfuls like RockPlayer and MoboPlayer to MX Video Player, Mobo Video Player Pro (yes, there is another player named ‘Mobo’) and BSPlayer (it’s hard to expect much from it after reading the name). 

I lined up a bunch of 720p videos that included MKVs, MP4s, AVIs, MOVs, WMVs and even a Flash video. 

Before I started, I tried them all in Dice Player. It played almost all of them well except for the WMV and Flash video, which stuttered profusely. The WMV in question was a particularly high quality file that will make slower computers struggle and I wasn’t really expecting either of these players to play it on the Nexus S. The Flash video was a bit of a surprise because I’ve seen Dice Player play other Flash videos and it usually plays them well. 

Then I tried the other players one by one. For those who use these, I’m afraid to say they all suck, especially on less than stellar hardware like the Nexus S. Not only did they all have problems with the files that Dice Player didn’t work with, they also struggled with other files that played perfectly fine on DP. In some cases there was no audio whereas in others the video stuttered. 

I’m sure if you’re using a more powerful device like, say, the Galaxy S II, then all of these should work fine. Then again, that phone has a pretty capable player of its own so you shouldn’t need a third party alternative. You are likely to use these players on older phones or those with slower processors and that is where Dice Player shines. 

In the end I’m glad that I spent that money on Dice Player all that time ago. I hear it is not available for purchase any more on the Android Market for some reason (remember that comment about the developer not being bright?) In that case I guess you’d want to know the second best and that would be MoboPlayer, followed closely by MX Video Player in third place. Honestly though, you won’t be able to play half of the videos that you can on these that you can on Dice Player.