Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Sonos Arc

The Wrap – Big Sound & Budget Phones

There’s a lot happening lately, from big phones without a big price, to big sound coming home. This week on The Wrap, we’ll talk why big phones with lots of cameras are getting cheaper, and the latest big sound you can get at home from Sonos. All in five.

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For the first week of June 2020, you’re listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and we start this show with a look at phones. That’s not so unusual these days, as phones are a massive part of what we use in our lives, but these days, it feels like phones are becoming more economical.

And that’s not a bad thing, either. You’re always going to have some people happy to spend on the latest and greatest, of course, but if you could spend less, we’re fairly sure quite a few people would. And while 2020 has its problems, inexpensive phones doesn’t appear to be one of them.

Mobile World Congress might have been cancelled this year, thank you coronavirus, but phone companies are still churning out and releasing products in a big way, and one of the main areas they’re serving is the budget and mid-range. Or to put it simply, phones prices between $300 and $700. That is effectively the mid range, and anything below it gets to a properly budget category.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen quite a bit come out in these categories.

There have been phones from Samsung, Motorola, LG, Nokia, Oppo, and Realme, and they’ve all typically had one thing in common. Well, more than one thing, but one major thing that becomes obvious when you see them: they all sport more than two cameras.

It’s definitely a trend this year, and after you get past Android phones being Android, and having big screens and big batteries, not to mention budget prices, the other key feature appears to be multiple cameras.

So what does this mean for budgets? Do we instantly get great photos for not much cash?

Well, kind of.

Depending on how much you choose to spend in a 2020 phone, you could see more versatility in your smartphone camera. Take the Moto G8 range launched this year, which get you a 16 megapixel camera alongside ultra-wide and macro cameras. LG, Oppo, and Samsung step it up a bit to four cameras, some of them with bigger sensors and depth cameras for those portrait shots.

And what this means is that slightly more versatility is within reach even if you choose not to spend as much on a big smartphone.

Not everything in the mid-range works this way, though some of the single camera phones are clearly the ones to beat.

The iPhone SE has one camera only, but it’s a very good camera, basically acting like the camera on the iPhone XR, but in a somewhat budget approach.

Google’s Pixel 3a is due to be replaced very shortly, but last year when we reviewed it, we liked what its one camera could do.

The long and short is that if you want more out of a phone camera this year, you may not have to spend big to get it.

Not like in sound, where you typically want to do just that.

The bigger and more expensive the headphones or speakers, typically the bigger and better the sound, though there are other factors.

Take home theatre audio, which has a new style of sound coming to it thanks to a new format. Or new-ish. It’s been in cinemas for several years now, but the technology is fairly new at home.

It’s called Dolby Atmos, but the proper name for it may as well be 3D sound, because that’s what it is. It’s sound that fires up and around you, bouncing off walls and ceilings, and able to deliver audio in the space you sit, doing a little more than regular surround.

This week, it’s coming to another speaker, as Sonos looks set to release the Arc, a big soundbar for big rooms that comes packing Dolby Atmos, and it’s something we’ve been checking out.

At a buck under $1400, it’s not necessarily inexpensive, but it comes packing the sound, thanks to eleven drivers and eleven amps. They fire from the front and side, while two fire up for 3D sound, and the result is an impact that really delivers, practically everywhere but the back.

If we had to cite one place the Sonos Arc doesn’t do well, it’s the rear, but because it’s part of the Sonos system, you can fix that by throwing in a couple of Sonos speakers back there. It can get a little expensive throwing in two rear speakers, but do that, and the surround sound is complete, so much that it’s like having your own theatre sound system at home.

What the Sonos Arc brings to the table is a dimensionality of sound and level of volume that feels more versatile than a traditional surround sound system. To make Dolby Atmos work, Sonos is using upward firing speakers alongside some pretty rich and capable drivers for front and sides, and while they never really hit the back, the sound stage is staggering. There’s more bass to this system than it feels there should be, and there’s even support for Atmos Music, a new format that feel like it sits you in the centre of the sound.

All of this results in one of the best soundbars we’ve experienced yet, which helps that value get delivered. It’s not only Sonos’ best speaker, it’s damn fine soundbar, too, and highly recommended.

And that’s all the time we have for this episode of The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. The Wrap goes online every Friday at Podcast One, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, and we’ll be back next week for more of what we deliver, technology in the space of five minutes. Until then, have a great week. Stay safe, stay sane, and take care.

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