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Agnikul Cosmos Is an Indian Startup That Wants to Make the Space Race Affordable

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Agnikul Cosmos, an Indian space tech startup looking to take advantage of the massive space travel opportunity of the next decade, has been grabbing headlines in the recent times. From signing deals with Alaska Aerospace Corporation in the US, to signing an MoU with ISRO for accessing its infrastructure and technical expertise, Agnikul Cosmos has made giant leaps since its inception in 2017. This IIT Madras incubated startup is currently working on its popular launch vehicle Agnibaan and looks to carry out its first launch in 2022. This Agnibaan launch rocket is being developed to carry up to 100-kg small satellites to low orbit Earth. 

The space company looks to provide a cab-like service to small satellite manufacturers, enabling them to launch from anywhere and anytime from across the globe. Agnikul Cosmos is also looking at ways in which space transportation can be made more affordable and more accessible, for research, technology development, and businesses. In the future, it looks to do at least 20-25 launches every year.  

agnikul cosmos infograph Agnikul Cosmos

Gadgets 360 spoke to Srinath Ravichandran, co-founder and CEO, Agnikul Cosmos to know a bit more about the company’s journey so far and its future plans.  

1. What were you doing before you began Agnikul Cosmos?        

I am an electrical engineer turned Wall Street trader turned aerospace engineer. I have a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from College of Engineering, Guindy, and Masters degree in financial engineering from Columbia University and aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. When I was working in finance, I realised that my heart was really in engineering. So, I took a leap of faith with quitting the finance job and looks like it has been going okay so far. 

2. What motivated you to begin Agnikul Cosmos? How did you meet your fellow co-founder?    

Story goes back to 2015, when I was in Los Angeles, I visited a lot of universities and other companies and saw that every place worth something had a small satellite waiting to be launched. So, I saw a problem for small satellites accessing space through conventional launch vehicles. It felt similar to what we see in rideshare through ground transportation – say in a bus along with other people – there should be space in the bus, the bus should go to the same place that you want to go and it will start only after the bus is full. All these were pain points for the small satellite manufacturers, we wanted to address this with a cab like solution which can be launched from anywhere and anytime in the globe. This led to the core idea behind Agnikul Cosmos.  

Along with my then friend and now cofounder – Moin, who was running his own business, we decided to pursue this idea a bit. We felt, academic institutions are a good way to start. We created a list of IITs which were working on aerospace related technologies. We cold called and mailed about 70-80 professors. One such cold call got us introduced to Professor Satya Chakkaravarthy from IIT Madras. He believed in our idea and told us that he found the concept of a quick cab service to space quite interesting. Agnikul was basically born at that moment. 

3. What was it like in the first year of being in business? What are your key learnings from the early days?         

Early days were all about figuring out stuff. Though Moin had run businesses in the past and I had networked a lot with multiple startups, doing something in aerospace hardware was new to both of us. Figuring this out and getting a road map out of the idea was the key challenge in the first year. Our key learnings included trying to come up with a story that one could give an investor, and how to pitch ourselves to customers. Luckily, we have always had the support of retired ISRO scientists through Professor Chakravarthy. So, the challenges from a hardware front were more about implementation of the product as opposed to the core design or strategy needed.  

4. What are the challenges in building space technology in the country? 

The main challenge used to be policy and regulation. There was no regulatory authority to license our activities earlier. But currently with the creation of IN-SPACe and policy changes, we see space becoming the next big thing in India. We as a country I believe are in the right place at the right time. 

5. What was the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on your plans?    

As a hardware company, it was very difficult for us to manage the situation without doing any actual hardware testing which created an impact in our launch timeline. During the second wave, we stopped all our Liquid oxygen based testing in order to support the country in the oxygen crisis. However, as a team, we planned all activities in a phased manner despite COVID and we successfully qualified our single piece 3D printed engine right through the crisis. We also created extensive vendor databases to help us have multiple backups in case of problems of supply chain and procurement through the crisis. 

6. In which year did Agnikul Cosmos make considerable progress? Could you offer more details on what happened through that year?    

Every year has been huge in its own way. From our start in December 2017, each year we were able to hit some meaningful milestone. Thankfully, if we have to pick, 2021 has been a remarkable year for us so far as we have tested our second stage engine and also raised our series A which is India’s largest space tech funding round. In addition, we also signed an MoU with the Department of Space which has pushed us much closer towards our dream of launching from Indian soil. 

7. What products have you built so far? What are you working on? 

At present, we are working on testing and integration of various subsystems of Agnibaan. We have successfully designed, realised and qualified our engines. We have successfully fabricated all propulsion subsystems such as pumps and motors and we are actively placing orders for many of the large components of the vehicle such as tanks and structural subsystems. We are planning for our first launch by the end of 2022. 

8. Could you help give a sense of how far Agnikul Cosmos has come in these few years? From when it began to where it is now.  

We incorporated in December 2017 as a four-member team, now we have close to 100 members (YoY – 4, 12, 36, 50, 100) from various backgrounds working together with a dream of making space accessible to everyone. We have raised close to $15 million (roughly Rs. 112 crores)  funding raised over three years of funding every year since 2019 ($0.5 million, $3.5 million, $11 million) and signed a MoU with India Space Research Organisation for utilising their infrastructure and technical expertise. We have also signed agreements with supporting agencies like Leafspace for ground stations. In addition, we have onboarded a few customers across the globe to launch with us. We are still a pre revenue company with customer Letters of Intent steadily increasing over the years. 

9.   How did the ISRO partnership come about? Apart from infrastructure access, how else will it help the business?  

Agnikul is the first company to sign agreements with ISRO including an MoU with ISRO (which happened very recently). This MoU will provide us access to infrastructure for testing multiple subsystems such as engines and avionics packages. Working out of ISRO facilities will give us invaluable guidance besides accelerating our time to get the product flight ready. In addition, we see this partnership as a major step in allowing private players in space sectors to work alongside ISRO. Also, this will help us review our designs with ISRO experts. 

10. Could you speak about the unique 3D-printing tech that you use to build your rockets?  

Most of the parts of our launch vehicle are made through 3D printing. We rely on 3D printing to reduce the fabrication and turnaround time. We have recently realised and qualified our fully 3D printed, single piece and semi cryogenic engine – Agnilet. This will be part of the second stage of our vehicle and it’s one of its kind in the world. We have realised the full-scalemodel and showcased it for the first time in IAC, Dubai.  

11. Is India ready for a space-tech revolution? How long before we have companies that do work at a scale like SpaceX in India? 

With the efforts of our Honourable Prime Minister, Indian Space Research Organisation, space is becoming the next booming thing in India. Environment is very favourable for space startups now and with the number of space companies raising investment, the day is not so far. Very soon India will have its own SpaceX up and running. 

12. Have you thought about ways in which you could reduce the cost of space travel? 

We are a space transportation company – everything that we do has an angle of space travel cost reduction. Starting from highly modular vehicle designs, to efficient energy management systems such as new age batteries, to engines that can be easily manufactured, we believe the cost of space travel can be drastically reduced when one is able to iterate hardware at the speed of software.  

13. What are the other plans for the future?   

Future plans exist from scaling to do at least 20-25 launches a year (a launch on-demand every 2 weeks). We also have plans to make the rocket extremely customisable and tailor it specifically for each satellite’s needs – all satellites are special enough to demand a rocket of their own.  

14. How long before space travel becomes as common as air travel?  

I expect this to be taking 15 years or so in India. Globally, it could happen in seven to eight years. Three things have to happen before we get here – A) Cost of travel has to come down meaningfully, B) Awareness on how reachable space is should go up, C) Rocket Science should not be “rocket science” to get here. Companies such as ourselves are working on all of these areas to make space transportation as common as air transportation. 

15. Do you have any management mantra/ advice that you’d like to share with future entrepreneurs?          

You won’t always have luck but all you have to do is try till that point. I have always had this belief and tell my teammates as well. If you take a graph, and try to plot output vs. hard work, sometimes, for the same amount of hard work you will get more output, you never know when this phase will come. All you have to do is continue with steady, consistent brute force effort and, one day things will suddenly be in your favour. 

16. What is the employee strength? Is Agnikul Cosmos hiring currently?  

We are currently a 100-member team and we are scaling rapidly. We are hiring people for various verticals currently, please do check out our careers page for details and drop your resume at humancapital@agnikul.in too. Anyone who is really really good at anything, has a place at Agnikul! 

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Alphabet Says It Plans to Reopen Google News in Spain: All the Details

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Alphabet plans to reopen its Google News service in Spain early next year after the government passed new legislation that allows media outlets to negotiate directly with the tech giant, the company said on Wednesday.

The service closed in 2014 after the government passed a rule that forced Alphabet and other news aggregators to pay a collective licensing fee to republish headlines or snippets of news.

“Starting early next year, Google News will provide links to useful and relevant news stories,” Google Spain Country Manager Fuencisla Clemares wrote on a company blog.

“Over the coming months, we will be working with publishers to reach agreements which cover their rights under the new law,” he added.

The Spanish government on Tuesday approved a European Union copyright directive that allows third-party online news platforms to negotiate directly with content providers.

The EU legislation, which must be adopted by all member states, requires platforms such as Google, Facebook and others to share revenue with publishers but it also removes the collective fee and allows them to reach individual or group agreements with publishers.

The debate over Google News had pitched traditional media, who backed the old system, against a new breed of online outlets, who expected more revenues from direct agreements with Alphabet and the other platforms than through their share of the collective fee.

Arsenio Escolar, chairman of the CLABE publishers association, which groups around 1,000 mainly online news outlets including leading digital brands such as El Espanol and Eldiario.es, said he was pleased with the new legislation.

The AMI media association, which represents mainly the old guard of traditional media and was in favour of maintaining the previous system declined to comment on the government’s decision.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL’s Final Update to Roll Out in Q1 2022: Report

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Google is reportedly planning the last update for the Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL. The flagship Google smartphones from 2018 received their last update recently that brought them up to Android 12. As per the report, Google will release another update for the two Pixel smartphones in the first quarter of next year and that update will mark the end of life for Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL. The smartphones were launched with Android 9 Pie out-of-the-box and have received all major OS upgrades since.

Google told 9to5Google that Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL will receive their last ever update in Q1 2022. Google is said to bring bug fixes and improvements for Android 12. The smartphones received an update last month, when the new OS was released alongside Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro.

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones — launched in India in October 2018 — received Material You and Dynamic Color last month but missed out on a few functionalities such as the new Google Assistant. The timeline for the release of the last update for these Pixel smartphones lines up with the scheduled release of Android 12L — that will be rolled out sometime next year.

Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3XL specifications

Both smartphones were released with Android 9 out-of-the-box. Google Pixel 3 sports a 5.5-inch full-HD+ (1,080×2,160 pixels) flexible OLED display with 18:9 aspect ratio and 443ppi pixel density. The Pixel 3 XL has a 6.3-inch quad-HD+ (1,440×2,960 pixels) flexible OLED display. Under the hood, both smartphones are powered by Snapdragon 845 SoC, paired with 4GB of RAM and up to 128GB of onboard storage.

For optics, both smartphones feature 12.2-megapixel dual-pixel cameras with f/1.8 aperture lens. At the front, Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL get dual camera setup with 8-megapixel wide-angle lens with f/2.2 aperture and 8-megapixel sensors with f/1.8 aperture lens. The vanilla Pixel 3 packs a 2,915mAh battery while the Pixel 3XL gets a 3,430mAh battery.


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Amazon Music Now Lets You Read Synced Transcripts With Select Podcasts

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Amazon Music has started rolling out automatically generated, synchronised transcripts for select podcasts. The new experience is initially coming to the US for both Android and iOS users. It is also the first biggest podcast-focussed update after Amazon Music started serving podcasts through its platform last year. By offering auto-generated, synchronised transcripts, Amazon Music will make it easier for people with hearing disabilities to listen to the podcasts offered by the music streaming service. It is also a move to take on the likes of Spotify and Google Podcasts that are offering auto transcription of podcasts on their platforms to some extent.

If you are in the US, you can start reading synchronised transcripts of select podcasts on Amazon Music by going to the podcast tab and pick one of the supported episodes. The transcription will be available for viewing in both full-screen and on top of the album art.

 

Amazon General Manager for Podcasts Kintan Brahmbhatt tweeted to add that the transcription feature has initially been designed for popular podcasts, including Smartless, Crimejunkie, 9/12, Uncommon Ground, and Modern Love. You can, however, expect synchronised transcripts to be available for other titles over time.

The Verge reports that the auto-transcription feature used by Amazon Music will not transcribe ads. It will just show the text in that case to say, “audio not transcribed.”

For the last few months, Amazon has shown a massive interest in podcasts to broaden the coverage of Amazon Music in the market. It acquired podcast network Wondery last year to start its podcast category that was initially live in the US. Earlier this year, Amazon Prime Music also launched podcasts as a dedicated category in India.

Details about the rollout of auto-generated transcripts for podcasts on Amazon Music in India are yet to be revealed. Nevertheless, the feature is likely to come to the Indian market over time — given the popularity and growth of podcasts in the country.

Similar to Amazon, Spotify in May announced a beta rollout of its synchronised transcripts for Spotify Original podcasts. The company also said that it would be rolled out to all podcasts on its network in the future.

Google Podcasts, on the other hand, doesn’t have transcripts ready for the end users at this moment, though it transcribes each episode people upload on the platform using a native service for an enhanced search functionality.

In contrast, Apple Podcasts has not yet announced an in-house solution to offer auto-generated, synchronised transcripts on its own. It, however, does allow creators to transcribe their shows and have the text included in their show notes that can be visible to listeners.

According to Deloitte, podcasts around the world are predicted to become a $3.3 billion (roughly Rs. 24,570 crores) business by 2025. KPMG, in a separate report, mentioned that alongside global markets, the COVID-19 lockdowns in India boost the growth of podcasts as their listenership in the country increased by as much as 30 percent.

All this has convinced Amazon — among other key players — to start giving newer experiences to both creators and podcast listeners in the market.




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Apple Mixed Reality Headset Likely to Support Wi-Fi 6E: Kuo

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Apple’s rumoured mixed reality headset is reported to come with Wi-Fi 6E support f or higher bandwidth and low latency. TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released his latest investor note to reveal more details about the mixed reality headset, including its launch timeline. The analyst predicts that Apple may bring its first mixed reality headset sometime in the fourth quarter of 2022. Apart from Apple, Kuo also expects Meta and Sony to adopt Wi-Fi 6/6E for their head-mounted displays.

The latest Kuo investor note, accessed by MacRumors, suggests that Apple’s rumoured AR/VR headset may support Wi-Fi 6E connectivity to meet the needs of the high-end and immersive experiences. “The adoption of the latest Wi-Fi specification is a basic requirement for head-mounted displays (HMDs) to improve the wireless experience. New HMDs from Meta, Apple, and Sony will all adopt Wi-Fi 6/6E in 2022,” Kuo reportedly says in his latest investor note.

The analyst added that Apple will be launching its first mixed reality headset in Q4 2022. Competitors Meta and Sony are also reportedly gearing up to launch their new headsets in the second half of 2022 and Q2 2022, respectively. Kuo previously suggested that the mixed reality headset launch was delayed due to the complex design causing production speed bumps. However, those issues seem to have been ironed out with launch timeframe now scheduled for next year.

9to5Mac, who also accessed the investor note, reports that Kuo predicts adoption of 5G mmWave as well for mixed-reality headsets in the future. In the past, Kuo revealed that the Apple mixed reality headset will not be positioned as only as a gaming device, but also as something ready for other applications as well. Kuo says that there is a market expectation for Apple’s headset to be the “best industrial design so far.”

Apple’s mixed reality headset is tipped to use Sony’s Micro-OLED displays along with optical modules. They could be priced for around $1,000 (roughly Rs. 73,000). In addition, the headset may weigh 100 to 200 grams and feature onboard computing and storage capabilities. It is said to deliver a significantly better experience than VR products currently in the market.

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Former Activision Developers Announce NFT-Powered Open-World Multiplayer

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Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are getting more prominent in gaming, and MetalCore Foundation, a video game publishing company formed by developers who have previously worked at Activision, Disney, Lucas Films and Midway among others, has launched a new open-world game that prominently features NFTs. The game, named MetalCore, is a multiplayer combat game that aims to combine traditional gaming mechanics and GameFi-driven blockchain technology. As per reports, MetalCore will host its first NFT presale in January 2022, while a private alpha is expected to launch for limited PC players in early 2022.

Developed by Studio 369, the game follows a proven formula followed by a number of existing blockchain games. MetalCore will allow players to collect rare weapons, cosmetic nets, and skins that can be used in battle and traded as NFTs on the open market. Players will have the opportunity to earn in-game rewards and become virtual landowners too, where they will be able to mine in-game assets and generate tax revenue.

A brief trailer of the game shows robot-like war machines reminiscent of Titanfall, in an alien environment and avatars that control these war machines. The first-look trailer also provides a glimpse of the in-game items that will likely be tradable as NFTs.

GameFi technology is already among the most sought after in the crypto ecospace, and early investors can expect gaming-related collectables to power virtual economies. As the name suggests, GameFi is essentially an intersection of decentralised finance (DeFi), NFTs and the gaming industry and is attracting a lot of attention from the biggest of gaming guilds because of its most common feature being ‘play to earn’.

Two of the biggest titles in the blockchain gaming space currently happen to be Axie Infinity and Decentraland — both ecosystems driven by GameFi.

Speaking of play-to-earn, Ubisoft during an earning call recently spoke about its intention of implementing a play-to-earn blockchain model in the future. Whether Ubisoft plans on rolling NFTs into the rewards structure of its existing open-world franchises or creating entirely new blockchain games is what we’re yet to learn.


Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Mozilla Firefox 94 Brings New Homepage, More Features on iOS, Android

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Mozilla Firefox on iOS and Android is getting a new home screen and tab management features. The updated version of the mobile Web browser, Firefox 94, will allow users to access the last open active tab and search histories organised by topics right from the home screen. With the latest update, users can see recently saved bookmarks on the Firefox homepage as well. Firefox 94 will also reduce the visual clutter of having multiple open tabs, by grouping them as per topics.

The release notes of Firefox version 94 say that the new homepage will bring a completely new experience and has simplified on-the-go mobile experiences into one central location. The new design is said to be built based on user feedback and turns the homepage into a re-entry point to pick up where the user left off the last time they were online. Firefox 94 has started rolling out for both Android and iOS.

As mentioned, the new Firefox homepage works as a re-entry point with access to previously opened tabs with articles the user has yet to finish. With a few taps, the user can jump back into the last open active tab. Firefox version 94 will show sites bookmarked as well. Firefox accounts users can now see their recently saved bookmarks from desktop available on the mobile platform. The new homepage also organises search queries by topic on Firefox for Android. These saved searches will be available for 14 days.

In order to keep the browsing experience clutter-free, Firefox will change a tab into an “inactive state” if the users haven’t visited it within the last 14 days. This feature will be available on Android as of now and will soon come to the iOS version.

Finally, Mozilla’s latest Firefox 94 is bringing customisation options for Pocket feed. Android users will now be able to choose the topics of the stories they want to appear on the feed. iOS users can access the Pocket stories, but customisation of topics is not available at the moment. The topics may include food, entertainment, health, science, technology, and travel.

Additionally, Firefox 94 for Web is bringing 18 new themes based on six colourways with three “experiences” of each colour — soft, balanced, and bold.


This week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, we discuss the Surface Pro 8, Go 3, Duo 2, and Laptop Studio — as Microsoft sets a vision for Windows 11 hardware. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Watch the Money Heist Season 5 ‘Volume 2’ Trailer

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Money Heist fans, Diwali has come early. On Diwali Eve on Wednesday, Netflix unveiled the full-length official trailer for Money Heist season 5 “Volume 2” — that’s the final batch of the final five episodes of the final season of the hit Spanish series (known as La casa de papel to Spanish-speaking viewers). In it, The Professor (Álvaro Morte) is haunted by his actions and their fallout, while his heist team and the special forces prepare for all-out war inside the Royal Mint of Spain. In title cards and description, Netflix is dubbing Money Heist season 5 “Volume 2” as the end to the world’s greatest heist. Netflix has released a bunch of new images from Money Heist season 5 “Volume 2” as well.

The Professor (Morte) arrives in a red Beetle at the start of the Money Heist season 5 “Volume 2” trailer, feeling like he’s surrounded by the ghosts of Christmas past. He’s greeted instead by Spanish soldiers. A crying Rio (Miguel Herrán) reiterates the bombshell development from season 5 “Volume 1” — Tokyo (Úrsula Corberó) is dead — before he’s comforted by Lisbon (Itziar Ituño). Elsewhere, the cop Alicia Sierra (Najwa Nimri) rubs in what The Professor is experiencing: “You see the disappointed faces of the people you failed. It’s as if a javelin was hurled through your chest.”

Money Heist season 5 “Volume 2” trailer

As The Professor seemingly drives away in a car, the Money Heist season 5 “Volume 2” trailer cuts to the soldiers whose chief says: “We came in here to complete a mission: put an end to this heist. And that’s what we’re gonna do.” The soldiers prepare to barge in, as Palermo (Rodrigo de la Serna) says elsewhere: “I really doubt we’re gonna get out of here.” In reply, Helsinki (Darko Perić) tells Palermo: “You’ll get me out of here. You promised, and you’ll do it.”

The rest of the Money Heist season 5 “Volume 2” trailer is made up of action sequences, and the climax signals an ominous end for the red-suited thieves. How will it go actually go down? You will have to wait to watch the series on Netflix to find out.

In addition to Morte, Herrán, Corberó, Ituño, Nimri, Serna and Perić, Money Heist season 5 cast also includes Pedro Alonso as Berlin, Jaime Lorente as Denver, Esther Acebo as Stockholm, Hovik Keuchkerian as Bogota, Belén Cuesta as Manila, Enrique Arce as Arturo, Luka Peros as Marseille, Fernando Cayo as Coronel Tamayo, and José Manuel Poga as Gandía. New to season 5 are Patrick Criado as Berlin’s son Rafael, Miguel Ángel Silvestre as Tokyo’s ex-boyfriend René, José Manuel Seda as army chief Sagasta.

Behind the scenes, Pina is the creator and showrunner on Money Heist — and executive producer alongside Jesús Colmenar and Cristina López Ferraz. Javier Gómez Santander is the head writer on Money Heist season 5. The Netflix series is a production of Pina-run Vancouver Media.

Money Heist season 5 “Volume 2” releases December 3 on Netflix in India and around the world.

Money Heist Season 5 Watch on Netflix
  • Release Date 3 September 2021
  • Genre Crime, Action, Drama
  • Duration 4h 18min
  • Cast

    Úrsula Corberó, Álvaro Morte, Itziar Ituño, Pedro Alonso, Paco Tous, Alba Flores, Miguel Herrán, Jaime Lorente, Esther Acebo, Enrique Arce, María Pedraza, Darko Perić, Darko Perić, Kiti Mánver, Hovik Keuchkerian, Luka Peroš, Belén Cuesta, Fernando Cayo, Rodrigo de la Serna, Najwa Nimri

  • Cinematography Migue Amoedo
  • Music Manel Santisteban, Iván Martínez Lacámara
  • Producer Álex Pina, Sonia Martínez, Jesús Colmenar, Esther Martínez Lobato, Nacho Manubens
  • Production Atresmedia, Vancouver Media
  • Episodes 5
  • Users Rating


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Mi Notebook Ultra Review: Good Features, Good Value for Money

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The 2021 Mi Notebook models which are called the Mi Notebook Pro and Mi Notebook Ultra, aren’t direct replacements for last year’s Mi Notebook 14 family of ultraportables. These are both a more premium but also a bit larger, with value-added features that you might find compelling for everyday work as well as entertainment on the go. They are positioned above the new Redmibook series, which was launched this year. More importantly, they fix a lot of the shortcomings of last year’s models, giving Xiaomi a stronger foothold in the Indian laptop market.

We have with us today the new Mi Notebook Ultra, which is a premium 15.6-inch laptop aimed at creative professionals and anyone who wants more power and performance than the entry-level segment can deliver. Priced starting at Rs. 59,999, this is not the most slick or portable laptop around, but it does offer style, features, and performance. Let’s get started with our full review.

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The Mi Notebook Ultra weighs 1.7kg and measures 17.99mm in thickness

Mi Notebook Ultra price in India

The Mi Notebook Ultra is a step above the Mi Notebook Pro which was launched at the same time. The Ultra model is physically larger, with a bigger screen and battery, but specifications are quite similar across both product families. Prices start at Rs. 59,999 for the base variant of the Mi Notebook Ultra, which has an 11th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM.

Stepping up to the variant with 16GB of RAM will cost Rs. 64,999 – this is slightly higher than the Rs. 63,999 price that Xiaomi advertised at launch time, but still makes a lot of sense because the RAM is not upgradeable. The top-end variant, which we’re reviewing today, has a Core i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM, and costs Rs. 76,999.

Mi Notebook Ultra design and features

The body of the Mi Notebook Ultra is made of Series 6 aluminium. This laptop weighs 1.7kg which is well outside of ultraportable territory, but it’s still easy enough to carry around every day if you need to commute. It’s also quite slim at 17.9mm. In terms of construction quality, I have no complaints. The hinge feels solid, and the lid doesn’t flex too much. You can open this laptop with one finger. There’s a large grille for air intake on the bottom, and hot air is expelled through vents on the rear that are masked by the hinge barrel.

The metallic body has a sandblasted texture and looks quite nice, though the big black Xiaomi logo is a departure from last year’s completely blank look. Other than that, the body is quite minimalist and doesn’t call much attention to itself. The Mi logo below the screen on last year’s models has been updated in keeping with the company’s recent rebranding effort, though the product name is still Mi Notebook Ultra.

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The keyboard isn’t cramped, and the power button has an integrated fingerprint sensor

The most notable feature of the Mi Notebook Ultra is its 15.6-inch, 16:10 aspect ratio screen. The borders are quite slim, but there’s still space at the top for a 720p webcam – dropping the webcam was a big miss for Xiaomi with the previous Mi Notebook lineup, especially since remote work and video calls have become far more important and commonplace over the past year or so.

There’s enough room for a large, comfortable keyboard on the lower half of this laptop. I was happy to see a column of paging keys on the right, and thankfully, the arrow keys aren’t cramped at all. You even get one macro key in the top right corner, which lets you launch any one program quickly. Adjustable backlighting addresses another of the big shortcomings with last year’s models, but there are only two brightness levels (Xiaomi says three, but it counts “off” as one of them).

The power button has an integrated fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello authentication. It caches your fingerprint when you turn on the laptop so you don’t have to touch it again to sign in after Windows boots up – but you have to get used to touching the button with the pad of your finger. The trackpad is large and comfortable. Windows multi-touch gestures are supported and work well. On the downside, the physical click mechanism is a little stiff.

On the left, you’ll see one USB 3.2 Gen1 (5Gbps) Type-C port, an HDMI video output, one USB 3.2 Gen1 (5Gbps) Type-A port, and one Thunderbolt 4 Type-C port. DisplayPort video output is supported only through the latter, but the Mi Notebook Ultra can be charged using either of these ports. On the right is another USB Type-A port but disappointingly, this one only works at USB 2.0 speed. Finally, there’s a 3.5mm audio socket. Unfortunately this laptop doesn’t have an SD card slot or physical Ethernet port.

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All the ports on the left and right of the Mi Notebook Ultra

Mi Notebook Ultra specifications

On the inside, Xiaomi has gone with Intel’s 11th Gen H35-series CPUs, which are actually slightly more powerful versions of the U-series chips used for ultraportable laptops, and not part of the more powerful H-series used for gaming and high-end models. H35 refers to the 35W TDP rating, which is a measure of how much power a CPU can draw in order to run faster for longer stretches of time. Xiaomi is sticking with the integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, and there are no discrete GPU options.

You can choose between 8GB or 16GB of RAM if you go with the Core i5-11300H CPU, but the Core i7-11370 is only paired with 16GB. The RAM is soldered and is not upgradeable. All three variants have a 512GB NVMe SSD which can be swapped, if you choose to upgrade in the future.

The 15.6-inch screen stands out in this segment for a number of reasons. It has a resolution of 3200×2000 pixels, which works out to a very comfortably 16:10 aspect ratio. It also has a 90Hz refresh rate which is uncommon for laptops in general, and Xiaomi says it covers 100 percent of the sRGB colour gamut. Brightness is however only rated at 300nits. This panel really is great for getting work done and multitasking. It’s fairly crisp and bright. Colours aren’t the most vibrant when watching video, but the anti-reflective finish is good for productivity.

The Mi Notebook 14 has a stereo speaker system and built-in mic. Xiaomi doesn’t specify a battery capacity rating but says the battery life is good enough for 12 hours of local video playback. You get a 65W Type-C charger in the box, and should be able to charge up to 50 percent in 45 minutes. This laptop also supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

You get Windows 10, which is upgradeable to Windows 11. Xiaomi also includes a full license for Microsoft Office Home & Student 2019, and a utility called MIUI+ which is said to allow easy sharing of files with smartphones running MIUI, in much the same way that Apple’s AirDrop feature works.

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The 16:10 display aspect ratio is great for work, and the 90Hz refresh rate is uncommon

Mi Notebook Ultra performance

I didn’t have any trouble with the Mi Notebook Ultra in everyday use. I was able to get work done, which involved multitasking with 20 or more Web apps across browser tabs. The top-end variant that I’m reviewing has more than enough power for everyday productivity and even a bit of light content creation work. Typing was comfortable thanks to good key travel, though I would have liked a slightly springier action.

The large, high-res screen is a pleasure to work on if you’re used to more compact laptops. It’s also decent for watching TV shows and movies on. However, music doesn’t sound great at all, since the bottom-firing speakers are only just about okay in terms of volume and fullness.

Benchmarks show how well a device performs in situations that simulate intense real-world usage. Starting with PCMark 10, the Mi Notebook Ultra managed 4,680 and 4,195 points in the standard and Extended runs respectively. These figures are only marginally higher than what last year’s Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition, with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU managed. SSD performance was measured at 2378.7MBps and 1508.2MBps for sequential reads and writes, while random reads and writes came in at 1171.2MBps and 458.5MBps respectively, which are pretty good speeds.

Cinebench R20 managed 548 and 2,014 in its single-threaded and multi-threaded tests. POVRay’s render benchmark took 2 minutes, 45 seconds to complete. Compressing a 3.24GB folder of assorted files using 7zip took 2 minutes, 29 seconds and transcoding a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265 in Handbrake took 1 minute. These are both big improvements over last year’s model.

The Unigine Superposition graphics benchmark averaged 15.96fps at its 1080p Medium preset. 3DMark’s Time Spy and Time Spy Extreme tests returned scores of 1,363 and 576 respectively, while the Night Raid scene managed 14,209 and the Fire Strike Extreme test score was 1,555. Interestingly, last year’s model performed better in some cases, likely thanks to its entry-level discrete Nvidia GeForce MX350 GPU.

You should be able to play casual games just fine, but 3D titles struggled to run smoothly. Many games recognise 16:10 screens, so scaling down means you won’t have to deal with stretching or letterboxing. At 1280×800 and using the Medium quality setting, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s built-in benchmark only managed to average 23fps. Far Cry 5 was able to average 30fps. Neither game looked very good at these settings, so you’ll have to settle for older or simpler titles if you want to game on the Mi Notebook Ultra.

As for battery life, you should be able to get through a workday on one full charge, if your usage consists mainly of Web browsing and productivity. The heavy Battery Eater Pro 3D test ran for 2 hours, 8 minutes, which is quite good. With heavier tasks such as games and benchmarks running, the entire left side of the body including the wrist rest got quite warm. The cooling fan isn’t audible at all, except when this laptop is heavily stressed.

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The Mi Notebook Ultra has an understated look, and construction quality is good

Verdict

The Mi Notebook Ultra has a lot going for it in terms of features and performance. You get great value for money, even compared to the entry-level Redmibook series which was also launched quite recently. The display and keyboard are the highlights of this device. Battery life is good enough for a work machine too, and the hardware should be more than enough to last for a few years. On the downside, things like the speakers, trackpad, and port selection could still be better.

Xiaomi has struck a good balance between cost, features, and performance. This isn’t the most portable laptop and it definitely isn’t aimed at gamers either, but you should still be able to carry it around every day and get a lot of work done comfortably. It could be a good option for students, self-employed or remote workers, and home users. The Core i7 variant tested here is well worth checking out if you have a budget that can stretch up to Rs. 80,000.

The mid-tier variant with its less powerful CPU should also be good enough for most people. This could be even better value since you still get the same high-res 90Hz 16:10 screen, comfortable keyboard, and Thunderbolt port at a significantly lower price, and the CPU specs aren’t all that different. However, I wouldn’t suggest considering the base variant, since it has only 8GB of RAM which isn’t upgradeable. The price difference won’t amount to much savings over the life of a laptop.


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