Friday, 13 December 2013

Advent Vega Tegra Note 7 Review.

Unboxing:


   The Advent Vega version of the Tegra Note 7 comes in a rather unassuming cardboard box. It's not really the most appealing of boxes in any way. There's a picture of the tablet on the front of the box, with a brief list of specs and on the bottom of the box there's some promotional writing saying the most exciting points about the tablet. Suffice it to say that if this box was on the same shelf as any other well decorated box this device would be ignored.



   Thankfully though, we can say that the box itself it utilitarian - it just does the job and as our mothers would say, it's what's on the inside that matters. Sliding open the box you'll be greeted with a quick start guide and then the tablet in a nice, soft feeling plastic sleeve. The inside of the box smells like factory and new-ness, I know there's some weird people out there that like that smell!

   Aside from the device there's a micro USB cable and a three pin wall plug for charging and that is it. Literally nothing to get excited about here, but this is a budget tablet, so all of the essentials are here. Just a heads up though the micro USB cable is painfully short, so you might find yourself reaching for a new one after a few charges!

Design: 


   Once you're past the box, then you'll have your shiny new tablet in your hands. For those of you who like screen protectors, you'll be disappointed to know that there's a piece of plastic on the front of this which is designed to be pulled off, so there's no factory installed screen protector here.



   The device itself is really nicely designed. Given that the tablet is made of plastic in a bit to keep the price low, the variation of materials and the rather unique or, as some have labelled it, 'aggressive' styling makes it stand out from the crowd!

   It's hard to tell that this is meant to be a budget tablet from the outside, until you get to the power key and volume rocker, they're horrible. The plastic is slimy and compared to the power buttons which Samsung use on the side of their devices, it's just not very nice. The power buttons clicks  well, but we're not convinced by the potential longevity of the buttons.

   As for where the buttons and ports are, there are some interesting placements. Holding the tablet in portrait
with the front-facing camera at the top, then you'll find the power button is on the the top right, to the left of that is the 3.5mm headphone port, then there's the micro-HDMI out port and just beside that is the micro-USB port. Everything is on the top edge, aside from the slot of the capacitive stylus, which is on the bottom right of the device in portrait. We're not sure if this is an issue just yet, it's not been in our experiences when we've had headphones plugged in and had the tablet charging, but we can imagine it could be if you were to hook this thing up to your TV, because it'd get mighty crowded on that edge! The volume rocker and MicroSD card slot are both on the right hand side towards the top of the device.

   Other than that, the device is thin, well weighted for one hand use and the speakers are on the front, with a bass port on the bottom of the device! But, we'll come to that later!

  Display and stylus:


   The display is probably the of the weakest parts of the device. The 7" screen carries a resolution of 1280 x 800p, which is perfectly acceptable for 2012 and indeed for a budget tablet, but it's not the best screen on the market.

   The brightness is accetable for indoors and for night time viewing, but if you have a phone like the LG G2, your phone will look a heck of a lot better than this tablet will side-by-side. That's not to say the screen is bad, it's perfectly usable, with solid viewing angles and Nvidia have even thrown in the option for you to choose your preferred colour settings so you can pick between the two 'Colour Correction presets' which are sRGB or Native. Personally we've chosen native because it seems to give more vibrant colours to our eyes, but it's probably a personal preference.



   Naturally we can't talk about the screen without talking about the stylus. It's really nice and it works exactly as advertised. The stylus gives you the added precision which you simply can't get with your fingers and the pressure sensitivity is a really nice feature, if only for showing off and possibly taking some notes, but it might be easier to type it out on the on screen keyboard. Palm rejection also works really well after you've hit the button. We must say, we weren't sure that the stylus would add any value to the experience on this tablet, but until you have it in your hands you simply won't know the benefits of having precision input. It's a really nice addition.

   Performance:


   With a four-plus-one Nvidia Tegra 4 processor under the hood this tablet absolutely flies! Android 4.2.2 runs fantastically well and it's very rare in our day to day usage to notice any slow downs at all. Undoubtedly the slightly lower resolution screen definitely helps here, but that's not to say that the Tegra 4 couldn't handle more if it had to. Even the one gigabyte of RAM doesn't seem to be any hindrance to 'normal' performance - we could have as many apps open as we would normally use without noticing any drop off in performance. Just as a disclaimer, we've had this thing for about a month at the time of writing, so we genuinely have experience using this tablet!

   The every day apps you'll use like Google Chrome, Facebook and Twitter load nice and quickly the only one which gives a little bit of hesitation before opening is the YouTube app, but we have a feeling that that is
just that app, given that it's slow opening on the Snapdragon 800 in the LG G2 too!

   Nvidia have tried to keep the version of Android 4.2.2 on here relatively stock and they've achieved that with the only noticeable change happening when you pull out the stylus, which gives you the lasso option and the reject palm option too!

   In terms of raw performance you really can't go wrong with this tablet and if Nvidia keeps up with their update schedule, that is to provide a 4.3 update by the end of December and a KitKat update in the new year then there will be lots of happy owners of this tablet.  All in all the bang for your buck in terms of performance is absolutely tremendous and it's just a case of deciding if you would rather have the better quality screen of the 2013 Nexus 7 for a higher price point.

  Storage:


   The Tegra Note 7 comes with 16GB of internal memory, which gives you about 12.5GB free for your data after the system has taken its own little chunk. That's not too bad, but remember you can always just add in a micro SD card to the tablet and we've been using a 32GB card without any problems! This will be great news for you movie, music and gaming enthusiasts looking to pick up this tablet!

   Battery:


   Given that this is relatively thick device with a low-resolution screen we were expecting this thing to be amazing with battery life. It's not quite amazing though. Normally we can squeeze about two days of battery from the tablet. That's with watch a couple of hours of YouTube before bed and browsing on the sofa during the evenings.

   Interestingly though Nvidia gives you three options which might help you conserve some battery if you need to. There's 'Balance' which lets the processor use all four cores but there's a limit of 60 FPS on apps,
this is the setting which we use, 'Maximum Performance' which lets you use all of the processors punch without capping frame rates and 'Save Battery' which only lets two of the cores run at a capped speed of 1.8GHz and with an app frame rate limit of 30 FPS. Honestly, unless you are gaming you can probably get away with running the 'Save Battery' mode at all times without noticing much of a difference. This is a nice little addition to have though.

   Camera and Speaker.


   The camera on a tablet device isn't always the most important feature. With the Tegra Note though Nvidia has tried to make it serviceable. First and foremost is the camera app and the tablet comes bundled with Camera Awesome, the first time the iOS app has landed on an Android device. The experience is really nice
and it's a definite improvement over the default Android app. The 5MP camera takes acceptable, if not amazing pictures and hopefully things will get even better when Nvidia deliver the update which will give always on HDR, which is meant to be coming in the December update.

   The speakers, on the other hand, leave nothing to be desired. Most importantly they're front-facing, secondly there's a little bass port to make sure things don't sound too tinny and thirdly, they're really good speakers. If you're a movie buff, YouTube obsessed or just someone who likes listening to music while browsing, then you can't go wrong with this little device. We're really impressed by the speakers on offer here. 

   Conclusions.


   We're really, really taken with this little tablet. We know that there are trade offs such as the screen, to hit this lower price point, but when everything's said and done there's not much to complain about at all for prices between £160 and £180. Yes, the Nexus 7 has a nicer screen and faster updates, but it doesn't have those great front facing speakers or a pen input.

   With those things in mind we're happy to say that the Tegra Note seems to have landed in it's own little niche and you should definitely consider one if you're looking for a budget tablet with a lot of bang for your buck!

You can pick one of these little beauties up from PC World here!


Monday, 7 October 2013

Acer Liquid Z3 Duo Review.


Unboxing:


   The Acer Liquid Z3 Duo comes packaged in a simple, cardboard box. It's particularly inoffensive and it reminds us of the box you'd expect to see your shiny new Samsung Galaxy device arrive in in terms of minimalism. It's simple, but strangely elegant. The wrapped around silver label, with four different shades, contributes a lot to your initial impressions. This label tells you the model of the device and then you have to head around to the other side of the box to find out all of the technical details about the phone.

   From the box alone, you wouldn't be able to guess the price of the phone; this box could contain anything and you wouldn't be surprise. Acer hit a home run with the packaging and in this instance you can easily believe that less is more!

Here's what's in the box!

Design: 


   Once you're past the box, then the Liquid Z3 will be sitting up front and centre, wrapped in the factory packaging. When you lay eyes on the device it's inoffensive and initially we had to do a double take on the capacitive button configuration, because of the striking similarities between this and the HTC First, which you can see below!



   Seeing as this is a budget handset there's really not too much spectacular stuff on this phone. The whole the device is deliberately inoffensive; there's not too much bezel, the device is well proportioned and if this is your first smartphone there's very little to dislike here. In fact, the glimmering Acer logo and the 'smile', as I've come to call it, (the curve which acts as the ear piece for phone calls) make the front of the handset surprisingly appealing.

   It's to the sides and at the rear of the device that it becomes a lot more obvious that we're dealing with an inexpensive phone here. The matte battery cover on the back of the phone is a cheap plastic, somewhat reminiscent of Samsung's typical offering, although slightly thicker and a lot less flexible. The white version, which we have, is a potent dirt magnet, which is just something to bear in mind, when choosing your colour, as we assume the black unit, wouldn't show this up quite as readily.

   As for all the hard button controls and ports they're nicely spread around the device. The power button takes pride of place right in the middle of the top edge of the phone and it's accompanied up there by the 3.5mm headphone jack. The volume rocker is then found on the right-hand side of the phone and there's no physical camera button here and no buttons on the left edge. And for those of you who like to text in bed you'll be pleased to here that Acer have opted to put the Micro-USB port on the bottom of the phone!

  Display:


Click to enlarge!
   The display is probably one of the weakest parts of the device. The 3.5" screen carries a resolution of 480 x 320p, which is perfectly acceptable for a budget handset like this, but if you're used to using a device with a 720p display, then the difference will be immediately obvious.

   On the plus side though, the screen goes nice and bright, although in our experience the autumn direct sunlight has given us a few problems making out exactly what the screen says, but for this
sort of money you can't really complain about the brightness or indeed the slight light bleeding which you'll notice all of the way around the screen edges when you look at the phone from funny angles and which becomes more prevalent in the dark. To be honest though, you'll be checking this thing out straight on most of the time, so even the slightly off viewing angles won't really be an issue at all!

   Some people may take issue with the two point multi-touch limit, but it shouldn't pose you too many problems in day to day use, although five point input would give the device better pinch to zoom accuracy, amongst other things.

   Performance:


   With a dual-core Mediatek processor on board, it's easy to understand reservations that you'll have about the phones' ability to push along Android 4.2.2. The reality is that you don't really need to be worried at all. For the most part the phone is kept ticking along nicely in every day usage. There's not too many pixels to push here and yes, you may notice occasional slow downs, but the phone can handle the vast majority of what you'll throw at it without any problems at all.

   The fundamental apps like messaging, the dialler, even Facebook and Twitter load nice and quickly and YouTube playback is good too, although if you have a tablet that might give you a considerably more enjoyable viewing experience, just because the 3.5" screen is quite small by today's standards. There were points where there was some stuttering when moving between the app drawer screens, but this tended to be if we'd forgotten to close apps after using them, but again this didn't detract too much from the overall usage of the phone. The relatively sock build of Android undoubtedly helps with this!

   The benchmark, to this right, gives you an idea of how powerful this device when you measure it
on Quadrant's testing criteria and that's probably an accurate reflection of how well this little guy performs, especially when you factor in that there are considerably less pixels to push on this phone than something like the Galaxy Nexus, which has a 720p screen.

   Perhaps the one thing which would have helped considerably would have been a little bit more RAM. The 512MB allotment is what you would expect to see in a budget device, but it would've been great if this was even bumped up to 768MB, just so multitasking could be easier.

   All in all the bang for your buck in terms of performance is absolutely tremendous and there's nothing else at this price point which comes anywhere near, unless you're prepared to go for one of Nokia's Windows Phones. Oh, and before you ask, Angry Birds and Temple Run work perfectly well on the phone!

Click to enlarge!

  Storage:


   The Liquid Z3 is a little light on storage initially with only a 4GB internal memory card installed and then 1.62GB of that is taken up by the system right from the off, leaving you with just over
2GB of space for apps, unless of course you purchase a MicroSD card to bump up your storage. This is probably a good idea right off the bat, especially if you want to take some music and video with you on the fly.

   Battery:


   Given that this is a dual-sim phone, you might be expecting the battery life to take a hit. So far though, the little phone has been surprisingly good and the 1500 mAh battery has been more than enough to get through a full day with more than three hours screen on time and with numerous email and social network accounts syncing in the background.

   It might have something to do with the relatively low pixel density of the screen, which doesn't push the processor too hard, but either way it should last the majority of people through a day and if not, then you can always pick up a spare battery to carry around in your bag for camping trips or days out!

   Camera and Speaker.


   Unfortunately there's too many positive things to say about the Liquid Z3's camera. If we're trying to remain optimistic, it does at least have a rear-facing camera, but the reality is that you won't want to capture those special moments with this device, which is a bit of a shame really, because this is the only real department which offers an almost unacceptable level of performance.

   The speaker similarly promises more than it delivers. Acer are quite keen to promote the DTS sound improvements on the device, but while the speaker is ok, listening through headphones is a much better experience, just as it is on most phones.

   Dual-Sim Implementation:


Click to enlarge!
   The Liquid Z3 Duo also, as the name suggests, has Dual-Sim functionality. This is implemented well in the Z3. Both of the sim cards are active at the same time, which essentially means that you can receive texts and phone calls on either number because they’re both connected to their networks all of the time.


   In our experience there haven’t been any issues with this system. One slightly strange thing is that the 3G sim card seems to always have three bars of signal and then occasionally it will tell you that you have no signal. We’re not sure if we honestly did always have three bars of signal, but it seems that the 3G signal strength is either slow to update or there’s some sort of software issue there. But, the 3G does work nonetheless.
Click to enlarge!



   It’s also worth remembering that you have to set your preference for sending text messages and making calls with, which if you constantly swap between sim cards, is relatively simple, but Acer have kindly added a little solid bar to show you which sim will be sending you text messages as you type! If you want to change that quickly and easily then you can just pull down the notification bar, whilst in the messaging app, and tap across to the other sim, as you can see in the images to the right.

   Conclusions.


   We're pretty taken with this little thing; yes, it's obvious that corners have been cut to create a smartphone for under £100. But, if you consider that the phone has solid performance, runs Android 4.2.2 and has dual-sim functionality, the reality is that there is very little to complain about. If you're looking for a phone for a younger or older relative and you want something with the option to use a simplified interface then this is perfect, otherwise this is a great phone to take on business trips abroad

   Rating:  9/10! For this money you can not get anything near as good as this little phone!

You can pick one of these little beauties up from Expansys here!


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Motorola Razr I Review!

Unboxing:

   The Motorola Razr I arrives in a simple box, it's merely wrapped in red colouring with some images of the device around the outside, but it's really quite an unspectacular box. The box is pleasant enough, but it doesn't scream premium in the same way that HTC's boxes or even Samsung's faux-wood effect do.

Design: 


   The Razr I isn't very similar to any devices which we've had the pleasure of playing with lately. It doesn't feel cheap in the same way that the Samsung Galaxy S3 does, instead the device is made of metal, Kevlar and you get a reassuring industrial feeling with the exposed screws down the side of the device.  


   The Kevlar is actually a really interesting addition; it's soft, feels slightly rubbery, but you know that it's the same stuff which they make bullet proof vests out of, which just makes you forget how it feels in the hand. Strangely the area where the camera and speaker are housed on the rear is made of glass and it does feel as though Motorola has mixed and matched their materials a fair bit with this phone.

   One of the things which Motorola is keen on peddling with this device is the 'edge-to-edge' display. It's a fair description of the display, but it's not quite as edge-to-edge as the American firm would have you believe. Instead, there are textured bezels on the sides, which are slightly raised from the screen, but they are notably thinner than the bezels we've handled on any other device. That thinness might have been taken off the sides, but it does feel as though Motorola has just stuck them right onto the bottom of the screen instead, with the phone having quite a notable 'chin'. The 'chin' blends well with the on-screen buttons of the phone, so you're never too sure where the screen ends and the bezels begin.

  Motorola have chosen to put all of their buttons on the right hand side of the phone, as you hold it. That means the on/off switch, volume rocker and the physical camera button are all on the same side. The Micro-USB port is stuck on the left-hand side, so it's not too much of an inconvenient placement.

  Display:

   The display is always going to be central to your smartphone and Motorola's choice to equip this device with an Amoled display is a great choice for this device. The screen is qHD, that's 960x540p, which is more than a good enough resolution for the 4.3" screen. Colours are oversaturated, as you would expect on this sort of display, and the only complaint which we would have is that the screen doesn't have the same brightness levels that some of Samsung's amoled displays have and it certainly isn't anywhere near as bright as some of the recent LCD displays.

   Performance:

   With Intel's single-core Z2460 processor clocked at 2Ghz running the show, many people were slightly concerned that the device wouldn't be able to keep up with the quad-core monsters of today. That couldn't really be further from the truth and instead the phone has no problem flicking between apps, web browsing or playing back video. 

   The only times when the phone didn't stay perfectly smooth was when you flick across to Motorola's quick toggle features page and the picture seems to stutter onto the screen, but the phone doesn't come close to grinding to a halt, it just means things aren't perfectly smooth when you swipe to this screen.

   Because this device is running on one of Intel's chips, there will be some concerns that people won't have access to all of their favourite Android apps. When Intel's processors were first optimised for Android, this was the case, but now there are very few apps which won't work with the processors and all of the apps which we tried worked flawlessly on the architecture.

   All in all the combination of a solid processor, Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and the relatively low resolution screen, make for all round good performance from this little phone.

  Storage:

   The Razr I is a little light on storage initial with the 8GB internal memory card only having 5GB of space available once Motorola has taken 3GB to keep the phones software contained. So 5GB will be more than enough for people's apps, but if you're thinking about taking your music collection with you on the fly then you might want to consider picking up an SD card to make the most of the SD slot on the device!

   Battery:

   This is perhaps on of the few points which we can criticise the Razr I in. If you're a heavy user then you won't be able to make it through a full day in the office, but if you use your phone for occasional texting, a few videos and phone calls and a bit of browsing or social networking then you can probably make do with nightly charges out of the 2000mAh battery pack. 

   It's worth bearing in mind that the battery in non-removable so if you're planning on keeping the device for a long period of time then things will only get worse. It's by no means a bad battery pack, but it's not ideal for the heaviest of users!

   Camera.

   The Razr I is blessed with a relatively good pair of cameras for a mid-range device. On the front there's a VGA camera which will meet all of your needs if you need to use Skype on the go, but you probably won't want to be taking selfies with this camera. 

   The rear 8MP camera on the other hand is a great addition. The pictures have enough detail when blown up and the ability to take full HD video at 30 frames per second is a great addition. There aren't any complaints with the sensors on the device given the price of the phone!

   Conclusions.

   We're pretty taken with this little thing, yes the battery isn't quite big enough for our liking, but for the majority of standard users and for most other people it will be more than suitable. As will the cameras, storage and screen and if we're honest you could pick one of these little guys up and be completely content, especially if you're not too taken with the larger devices at the moment!

   Rating:  8/10! There's a solid screen, great industrial design and a recent version of Android, there's not much to dislike here at all!



Thursday, 4 July 2013

T-Mobile Beat review!

Unboxing:

   The T-Mobile Beat arrives in a relatively plain box; there's certainly nothing too fancy here. Instead, you're greeted by T-Mobile's famous hot pink colour and some pleasant pictures of people milling around in the parks, naturally they all have their phones out too!

Design: 

   The Beat and the manufacturer, who is ZTE, have obviously taken a page out of Blackberry's book with this device, as you can see to the right.. The similarities might end with the touchscreen
and physical qwerty keyboard, but some of my family members were offended when they saw what they thought was a Blackberry in a decidedly Android household.

   As you would expect with this sort of budget device there isn't too much beyond the black plastic which curves around the device, except for the occasional glints of chrome-style plastic on the right hand side of the device, which are the unlock button and the volume rocker.

  There is one other thing which we're not big fans of is the location of the microUSB charging port at the top of the device. It just makes everything a bit uncomfortable if you're trying to text while the device is on charge!

  Display.

   Usually with modern devices this is the first thing which we look at when judging a phone, but with this device it's a little different. The screen on offer here is a small 2.4" screen with a resolution of 320 x 240p. If this was a smartphone we would instantly dismiss this as screen because it's also resistive, but in this instance the screen is actually perfectly respectable, especially when you consider the whole thing costs £15, we weren't even expecting a touchscreen, so this one is a bonus!

   There's really not that much to say about the screen other than you get the satisfying click when you've managed to select the thing on screen which you were aiming for, which we almost miss in modern capacitive screens.

   Performance:

   As with all feature phones there aren't too many hold ups here and we would even go as far as saying performance is good when scrolling through contacts and opening up messages. We did however, notice a notable lag when typing on the keys quickly and typically we would have to wait for the text to catch up before we could hit send.

   The software did puzzle us slightly because it is remarkably similar to Android in its implementation and we would not be surprised if ZTE were conducting an experiment and somehow managed to strip Android back to such an extent that no apps were supported any more and the OS flew on the weakest of modern phone hardware. That would be our guess as to what we have here.

   Talking of apps Twitter, Windows Live (unsupported now), Facebook and a browser are all pre-installed on the phone, but we've been unable to locate any Java apps which were compatible with the phone, so we think that's what you'll be stuck with, but again the price is so low, it's hard to expect any more!


   Battery.

   Whilst using feature phones you'll be amazed at the battery life you can get out of them. The thing is though there's a few reasons why they last so long. The first is that they're not checking for email all the time, although the Beat can handle that. The second is that there typically isn't support
for 3G mobile networks, and it's true to say that the Beat only has 2G connectivity and lastly, the lack of apps means that you won't pull your phone out to play Angry Birds on the train.

   That being said if you text a fair bit, you can set the T-Mobile Beat's screen to full brightness and expect to get about three days of battery life if you're a big texter and a fair bit more if you aren't and we can't wait until smartphones can give us similar performance.

   Camera.

   There's only one camera on this little phone and it's a 3.2MP rear-facing shooter. There's no flash, there's just the basic app and the photos will only be taken if you've inserted an SD card into the phone. That might be a pain for some people, but if you need to take a picture of something in a hurry or in an emergency this will do the job, but otherwise we'd suggest using a little point and shoot instead of the camera on here, because you won't want to look over your holiday snaps if you take them all on this phone!

   Conclusions.

   We're not used to reviewing this sort of phone here, but if you need a back up phone, or you want to take something which won't break on a camping trip, you won't find too much which is better value for money.

   We're not sure we'd give this to a young child to play with because it won't stand up to the sort of beating which they would put it through, but even if it does break, there's not too much value there and they might even like that this thing looks like a Blackberry!

   Rating:  7/10! For a feature phone at this price, you can't really go wrong!


Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Samsung announce the Galaxy S4 zoom! A real cameraphone!


   It turns out that the leaks and everything else were spot on as today Samsung have announced what we hope is the final device in their Galaxy S4 line-up, the Galaxy S4 zoom.

   As you can see from the image above this isn't your conventional smartphone. Instead it's the definition of a camera phone with the front looking just like a normal Galaxy smartphone and then there's that monstrous camera stuck onto the back. So the size would suggest that this is a good
camera and to be honest it's not a bad option with a 16MP sensor which has 10x optical zoom, so this could be a really good camera replacement. The front facing camera is more of what you would expect on a smartphone with a 1.9MP sensor being employed here.

   But, let's not forget that this is also a smartphone and as purely a phone this device would be a mid-range handset. Up front there's a 4.3-inch qHD, that's a 540 x 960p display, which will be driven along by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and 8GB of internal storage, but you will only have 5GB of that free. Mercifully though Samsung have included a MicroSD slot to store those snaps on!

   One thing which does concern us is the 2330mAh battery, which although it is removable, probably won't last too long if you're taking and uploading pictures all day, especially if you're making the most of the 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and NFC sensors too!

   The device will be coming to various places around the world, including the UK, during the summer, but we don't have any more details than that at the moment!


iOS 7 commentary courtesy of hilarious spoof videos!


   During the last few days we've had the chance to have our first look at the new iOS 7 design language which is going to be rolling out to all iOS devices later in the year. As you can see from the picture to the right, things are going to be louder, slightly more cartoon-y and notably different to how they look now.

   Obviously opinion will be split on this redesign, but people never like change to begin with, but in the long-term it's for the best because iOS has to all intents and purposes looked the same since it was first introduced six years ago!

   Usually we're not ones for parodies, but in this instance we're going to make an exception because the video embedded below is simply hilarious and perhaps it's something to do with the way that the video actually manages to reflect a degree of truth! If you're interested in a great overview of all of the changes then check out this post here from TheVerge.

   Check it out and let us know what you think of it in the comments below and remember this is meant to be funny!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Did Samsung really dilute their product line too much?



   In the last week you will have seen the reports which showed that Samsung has 6% of the value wiped from their shares or the equivalent of $7.7 billion dollars because of fears that the Samsung Galaxy S4 won't sell so well because of their recent announcements of the Galaxy S4 Active and the Galaxy S4 Mini.

   The general idea is that these devices will be cheaper than the Galaxy S4 which will mean lower income numbers and obviously lower profit. I think this has been coming for a while and I'm going to play the name as many Samsung Galaxy phones as you can without thinking for more than 5 seconds in between them game... Here I go:

Galaxy S4, Note, Note 2, S2, OG S, Galaxy Pocket, Galaxy Music, S3, Mega 5.8, Mega 6.3, Galaxy Camera (doesn't really count I know), Galaxy Y, Galaxy Young, Galaxy S2 Plus, S4 Active, S4 Mini, S3 Mini, Galaxy Ace 1, 2 and is there a third one? Galaxy Xcover 1 and 2, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S2 Plus and I'm stuck.

   So that right there is Samsung's problem, but it's also part of their success. Samsung's strategy has been to try to cover every part of the market and as such it seems as though there has either been a new phone or tablet from the company each week for as long as I can remember.

   I believe that the reality is that people will still aspire to own the Galaxy S flagship or the Galaxy Note because they're top of the Samsung pile, but obviously Samsung need to cut down the amount of other devices like the S2 Plus and the Mega devices because they just make people confused. Confusion leads to indecision and when other companies get their acts together and offer compelling alternatives then Samsung might have a problem, but for the moment Samsung offer the best phones for the mid and low range market and that's why the alphabet and array of numbers above is working, that might start changing in the future though and Samsung need to be aware of what their competitors are doing.

   The share price shouldn't be too much of a concern because Apple have been having similar issues with their share prices lately, so I don't believe this is too big of a deal and Samsung will carry on as always. Now Samsung where are you hiding that Android 4.2.2 update for the S3?

Thursday, 6 June 2013

How the Galaxy S4 made me realise WIndows RT has a future!


   Earlier today the guys over at Clove posted this lovely little diagram above and it got us thinking: about where phones are at the moment. Something which especially stood out was Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 800 processor. 

   The Snapdragon 800 is set to be one of the most powerful mobile processors available and it will be clocked at 2.2GHz maximum speed. The dual-core Core i5 in my laptop is clocked at 2.7GHz and while it's more powerful at the moment it's only a matter of time before ARM-based processors out do the Intel and AMD chipsets in our laptops. 

   That ladies and gentlemen is why I think Windows RT has a future and will become increasingly influential in the coming years. A big thanks to the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Clove for helping me reach that conclusion!

The Future of TheTechFront: Summer's here and it's time to adapt!



   Hi guys, a couple of weeks have past since I last updated you on the site and my summer is in full swing and as some of you may be aware I'm a university student and I'm coming into my third and final year now and managing and keeping this website going takes between three or four hours a day. This in itself isn't too much bother because I enjoy doing it, but now I've had a couple of weeks to reflect I think that with a dissertation to write as well as a full set of modules to go with it, it's best if this project is put slightly on the back burner.

   That does NOT mean that I won't post anything at all, but it will mean that instead of giving you the daily news this will turn into a more editorial and more one off blog for the foreseeable future. This will let me spend the summer with my girlfriend before she moves to Spain next year and it will basically help me manage my work and play commitments much better as September approaches.

   Talking of work, some people might have noticed the Asus products which have been reviewed on the website a lot more and there's a very good reason for that. I'm one of the eight new Student ambassadors for Asus in the UK. This is a great opportunity for me and it's not something which I could turn down. A big part of that role will be writing for the new 'Study in Style' website which still isn't live as I post this, but it may well be by the time you get to read this and you can find that website here! If anyone reading this wants me to write infrequently for your website then just contact this site's email or my Twitter and I'll definitely think about it, because this is what I love doing!

   With all of that in mind, I hope to see some of you on here regularly for more reviews, especially app reviews, as well as a lot more of my opinion! Ohhh and as a passing note if you want news I'd recommend The Verge, Engadget, TheNextWeb and especially Slashgear, who are my personal favourites! All those sites are great all round tech news cover-ers (?). 

   Anyways, thanks for reading this and more importantly thank you for continuing to read the blog!

   All the best,
James.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

In Other News:05/06/2013.

  • Digitimes believe that OLED screens are going to be in high demand this year and you will probably so they expect the supply to demand ratio to be '1%'. We're not sure exactly what that means, but we assume it means that there will only be 1% more produced when everything is working at capacity than there is demand!
    Via PhoneArena.
  • Yahoo have redesigned their search page to make everything more a bit more modern and lovely looking. The aim is to put your results 'front and centre' or center depending on your preference.
    Via TheVerge.
  • Samsung and Jay Z are said to be working on a new multi-million dollar streaming deal. We're not sure what exactly it would be, but it could be some sort of tie in with Samsung's Music Hub feature!
    Via Slashgear.
  • AT&T are continuing their US 4G LTE roll out and amongst the latest batch, all of which can be found here, are Colorado Springs, Fort Wayne and Columbus!
    Via Phandroid
  • Jetpack Joyride has fuinally landed on Windows Phone 8 today!
    Via WPCentral.
  • Windows RT 8.1 is set to get it's own version of Outlook!
    Via Slashgear.
And finally, the video below shows off some of these new features on the update to Windows 8.1! Check it out! We like the photos on the unlock screen!
Via Slashgear.

Could this be the HTC One Mini?



   HTC might on the face of it be pursuing a flagship only policy this year, but the reality is that without a bit more in their range the company simply won't sell enough devices to turn their fortunes around. That's why a lot of people believe a device like the one pictured above will come into its own. So is this a HTC One Mini which has been spotted a bit before it's time?

   The device was spotted over on the Estonian site forte.delfi.ee and if they're correct then there's a 4.3-inch screen with a nice 720p resolution, a dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera.

   Obviously this is all speculation on our part because we're not sure how accurate the 'leak' is, but it looks as though it could be legitimate and Forte believe the device will be available in August for around the €400 mark! That price will probably be a fair bit more than Samsung's upcoming S4 Mini will cost, but we'll have to wait and see!
Forte Via Engadget.


Samsung officially announce the Galaxy S4 Active!



   We've heard a lot about it and we already assumed it was part of the family from the mass of leaked images, but here it is in it's full glory, the officially announced Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. As we expected this is a ruggedised version of Galaxy S4, but there's some interesting trade offs in this variant of the phone.

   For example, much remains the same there's still a 1.9GHz quad-core processor, which we assume is the same Snapdragon 600 as in the original Galaxy S4, but there's also a few changes. The screen for example isn't the same 1080p amoled display, instead the Active is rocking a 1080p TFT LCD display, which could possibly be down to supply issues of the amoled variant. 

   One other thing which has been switched out is the 13MP camera from the S4, replaced in this case by an 8MP sensor which you can use to take pictures under water too! Samsung have chosen to offer an 'Aqua Mode' for the camera, which allows you to 'increase visual quality and clarity for enhanced underwater images and video' and it also lets you use the volume down key as a shutter button for the camera too!

   Because this is a rugged smartphone it has had to receive certification for the durability and this device has returned with an IP67 rating. This means that it's both dust and water resistant and it can tolerate being in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes!

   The device will be rocking Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean on launch and there will be 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and a 2600 mAh battery crammed into those rather good looking frames!

   All in all this is a nice device and if you want one then in the future they will pop up in 'urban grey', 'dive blue' and 'orange flare', the latter of which are to the right and the former is above. The S4 Active will go on sale in the US and Sweden initially and it will probably branch out after that. Keep your eyes on Samsung's June 20th event for some hands on action!

   The full press release is available here and check out the full spec sheet in the image below!

Click to enlarge.



Tuesday, 4 June 2013

In Other News: 04/06/2013.

  • HTC's Russian branch has seemingly confirmed that the Android 4.2.2 update for the HTC One will arrive in the middle of this month!
    Twitter Via PocketNow.
  • Intel have shown off their new and homemade LTE modem chip! The company has said that the new modem will be paired with 22nm quad-core Atom SoCs for tablets initially. These will have global roaming capabilities and will land on shelves "towards the end of the back to school season."
    Via Engadget.
  • Intel has teased fanless tablets running Intel's Core line of processors at this year's Computex, which means that tablets of tomorrow will be a lot more powerful. The trick here though is that the processors are Intel's new Haswell chips!
    Via Engadget.
  • Sky have updated their Sky+ app for Android with added support for proper advanced search functionality and Google-esque instant search results as you type.
    Via PocketLint.
  • It seems that Zynga is shuttering the OMGPOP studio who were behind their cult game 'Draw Something'!
    Via TheVerge.
And finally, Three UK have been having data issues all day, but according to their Twitter team everything is back up and working how it should now!

Toshiba announce a trio of Android tablets!


   Toshiba have today confirmed the arrival of three new tablets all of which are running the latest version of Android, version 4.2, but they all have slightly different people in mind.

   At the bottom of the pile in terms of price and specs will be the Toshiba Excite Pure, which is a budget 10.1" tablet with a solid set of specs. The screen will have a respectable 1280 x 800p resolution and 10 point input support, this will easily be pushed along by the quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of RAM. Storage will be good too with 16GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot for expansion. There's a pair of cameras too with a 3-megapixel option on the rear and a 1.2-megapixel sensor on the front, and there will be WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 3G option and this tablet will start from £249 when it lands in the UK

   After the Excite Pure come the higher-priced specialised devices which have certain features in common. Both the Excite Pro and Excite Write share 10.2-inch 2560 x 1600 PixelPure displays and now there's 10-finger touch support and the Excite Write features Corning's Gorilla Glass 2.

   Both of these tablets will be be driven by Nvidia's latest Tegra 4 processor and 2GB of RAM which should give great performance and there's your choice of 16GB and 32GB models both of which feature microSD card slots for storage expansion. Connectivity options are also great on these devices with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and 3G/4G LTE for mobile data available too. Both of the tablets feature 8-megapixel cameras with LED flash in on the rear and 1.2-megapixel cameras up front, the Write has the additional "Digitizer Pen" which basically makes it into a Note device!

   Both of these devices will have a price to reflect their spec sheet with the Excite Pro starting at £349 and the Excite Write starting at £499 and these devices will e exclusive to Currys and PC World in the UK!
Via PocketLint.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor to power Windows RT 8.1 devices as the Snapdragon 400 gets updated with LTE!


   With rumours running that Microsoft is looking to cut the licensing costs of Windows RT its' interesting that development doesn't seem to be slowing down behind the scenes with Qualcomm announcing plans to work with Microsoft to offer Snapdragon 800 processors for Windows RT 8.1!

   Just in case you haven't heard of Qualcomm's most powerful processor at the moment then the Snapdragon 800 is a beast of a processor which has integrated 3G and 4G support as well as speeds of up to 2.2GHz. This processor will be available later in the year along with the update to Windows RT!

   That's what Qualcomm are doing with the high-end devices, but in the mid-range Qualcomm's Snapdragon 400 has been refreshed with four ARM Cortex A7 processors and built-in 4G LTE. The additions of 4G LTE and it being a quad-core processor makes this a much more marketable processor and is something which they needed to do given the plans of Mediatek to launch a 4G SoC for the mid-range later in the year!
Via HotHardware and AndroidBeat.

HTC lose their COO as May sales help the company back onto the right track!


   HTC's flagship the HTC One is finally starting to take off, but it seems that hasn't been enough to stem the departures from the company! The latest loss for HTC has come in the form of the Chief Operating Officer, Matthew Costello.

   Costello will be stepping back to work in a new quality assurance team, this news was discovered by Bloomberg who managed to get their hands on an insiders email. This  email revealed that Costello's position will be fulfilled by Fred Liu, who now has a considerable role at HTC!

   As part of the new quality assurance team Georges Boulloy will step forward to work on things around quality assurance and there will be more people who will be charged with “product lifecycle matters”, which we assume refers to Android updates.

   It's not all bad for HTC because they've announced that they raked in NT$29 billion (US$ 970 million) in revenue for the month of May this year! That's not quite up to last year's levels, but it is only 3% less than the same time last year, which isn't too shabby at all and it's a 50% increase on revenues from April! The growth is expected into June as sales of the HTC continue!
Bloomberg Via Slashgear and TNW.

Sony announce the Xperia M: Mid-range handset coming Q3.



   Sony are back with yet another mobile phone today and this time the Xperia M is the latest in their range of alphabet titled devices. This is definitely not one of the expensive handsets in Sony's range, but if it's well priced it will prove to be another solid device for the company.

   Internally the Xperia M features a 1GHz dual-core processor from the guys at Qualcomm, 1GB of RAM, along with 4GB of internal storage which thankfully is microSD expandable. Up front you'll be able to enjoy Android 4.1 Jelly Bean through the 4 inch FWVGA, that's 480 x 854p, TFT display. The
camera arrangement is nothing spectacular, but the 5MP Exmor RS sensor on the rear is paired with an unspecified front facing option too and there's the added bonus of a dedicated camera button on the device too!

   The device will arrive in Q3 this year and it will be available in your choice of black, white, purple or a lovely yellow colour and because this is a budget handset there's both single-SIM and dual-SIM functionality here.
Via XperiaBlog.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Firefox OS tablet pops up at Computex made by Foxconn: More on the way?


   We heard the rumours the other day and it turns out they were true and Foxconn have announced their partnership with Mozilla on Firefox OS tablets. Indeed, one such device popped up at Computex today, but noone was allowed to touch and we're not entirely sure it's a working device and it's certainly not ready, but it's something for the future.

   Talking of which Foxconn's Young Liu said:
"Currently, Foxconn is executing on a vision of 'eight screens, one network, and one cloud' with all our strength. Besides the native advantages of hardware manufacturing, Foxconn is also developing a brand new integrated approach to providing hardware, software, content, and services."
So if that's anything to go by there could be a fair few more devices on the way from the guys!
Via Engadget.

Foxconn Adopts Firefox OS
New integrated offerings will expand the ecosystem based on open Web technologies
The Foxconn Technology Group today announced at a press event in Taipei a wide-ranging partnership with Mozilla to collaborate on the use of the Firefox OS open platform, based on HTML5 and open Web technologies, on Foxconn devices. Foxconn is extending past its origins in original design manufacturing to a combination of integrated software and hardware offerings, which extends its domain to the open operating platform and positively carries out its integration plan of hardware, software, content, and services.
"Currently, Foxconn is executing on a vision of 'eight screens, one network, and one cloud' with all our strength. Besides the native advantages of hardware manufacturing, Foxconn is also developing a brand new integrated approach to providing hardware, software, content, and services." Young Liu, the general manager of Foxconn innovation Digital System Business Group (iDSBG), said: "Because of our shared vision, we are excited to work with Mozilla. Firefox OS from Mozilla is based on HTML5 and open web technologies. The whole idea perfectly matches to the strategies promoted by Foxconn. We believe that the integration of software and hardware development will offer greater benefits to our customers and consumers."
"We are very excited about the cooperation with Foxconn and we are glad to see more partners supporting the Firefox OS and the open Web." Dr. Li Gong, SVP of Mobile Devices, President of Asia Operations, and CEO of Mozilla Taiwan, also said: "At Mozilla we see the open Web as the biggest and the best platform for the mobile world. The Firefox OS initiative helps solidify open Web standards for mobile computing; it also encourages and enables more openness in system integration and device interoperation. This cooperation demonstrates the full potential of Firefox OS, the open Web mobile operating system, to enable not only the smartphone but also a wide range of mobile devices.
About Firefox OS
Firefox OS is based on HTML5 and other Web technologies and is constructed by Mozilla as an open Web mobile operating system. Firefox OS and the apps are entirely built with HTML5, JavaScript, and new Web Application APIs including emerging Device, Web App, and System API standards pioneered by Mozilla. Firefox OS will set the mobile users, developers, and manufacturers free from the limitation of current proprietary mobile operating systems. Firefox OS has globally gained support from numerous manufacturers and telecom service providers and the first Firefox OS devices will be released this summer. Firefox OS is an extension of the Firefox open Web experience that is secure, private, customizable and puts people in control.
About Foxconn
As the partner of choice for all aspects of contract manufacturing services in Computing, Communication and Consumer electronics ("3C") industries, Foxconn grew to be a US$73 billion revenue group in 2008. Arms with its proprietary eCMMS business model and world leading IP portfolio, Foxconn Technology Group has revolutionized the CEM/EMS/ODM industries since turn of the century. Through its renowned offering of best speed, quality, engineering services, efficiency and value-added, Foxconn Technology Group determines to make the comfort from electronic products usage an attainable luxury for all mankind.
Focusing on fields of interconnection, nanotechnology, heat transfer, wireless connectivity, material sciences, and green manufacturing process, Foxconn's approx. 60,000 filed and over 26,500 granted patent portfolio worldwide, of which contains over 1,000 nanotechnology related patents, made it a recognized leader of innovation. Looking forward, Chairman Gou is expanding the group's scope from traditional 3C industry to including auto parts, content, channel, medical equipment and alternative energy.
A firm believer of social environmental responsibility, Foxconn is not only a proud member of EICC, but also actively promoting wider adoption of better environmental standard in electronic supply chain. This Fortune Global 500 company has actively using its role as the largest exporter and largest non-government affiliated manufacturer in Greater China to make its vision of making the comfort of electronic product usage an attainable luxury to all mankind closer to reality each day goes by.
About Mozilla
Mozilla has been a pioneer and advocate for the Web for more than a decade. We create and promote open standards that enable innovation and advance the Web as a platform for all. Today, hundreds of millions of people worldwide use Mozilla Firefox to discover, experience and connect to the Web on computers, tablets and mobile phones. For more information please visit mozilla.org.

In Other News: 03/06/2013.


  • ARM have announced new A12 architecture for their mid-range processors in the coming years. This will allow single-core processors to playback 1080p video at 60fps, and 4K video with a multicore processor at up to 120fps!
    Via PhoneArena.
  • Windows 8.1 will include native Miracast support, broadband tethering and WiFi direct printing amongst other things!
    Via TheVerge.
  • Turkey's Prime Minister has condemned social media as "the worst menace to society" after anti-government demonstrations over the weekend in his country! He especially dislikes the "scourge" of Twitter, which was used to share images of government crack downs and other protests.
    Via Engadget.
  • Asus announced a new WiFi router with transfer speeds of 1900 Mbps! You can check out full details here!
  • Sky have added Sky Sports highlights to their SkyGo offering!
    Via PocketLint.
  • Three UK have announced that they will carry the Huawei Ascend P2! The device will be £300 on pay as you go or will be free from £23 a month from the company!
    Via AndroidCentral.
  • Microsoft are offering free touch covers to people who choose to pick up one of their own Surface RT tablets!
    Via PocketLint.
  • Verizon have confirmed that they will carry the HTC One 'later this summer'!
    Via AndroidCentral.
And finally, Vodafone in the UK use this really sweet person tracking software to save money and the planet by only turning on temperature management facilities at their offices when their system detects someone's phone signal in a certain office! It's pretty sweet so check out full details here!
Via CSP.

Microsoft looking to cut Windows RT license prices as Acer call the platform 'very immature'?


   A report from Bloomberg today is claiming that Microsoft are looking at reducing the price of Windows RT licenses to boost the appeal of the platform to OEMs. The cuts are supposedly aimed at getting companies like HP to pick up the platform instead of opting for Google's free Android offering on tablets.

   Obviously this is an issue for Microsoft at the moment because they want their RT platform to be successful, but there's very few apps and it's not a particularly compelling platform at the moment because you can't utilise Microsoft's legacy Windows 8 apps!

   Indeed, Acer's J T Wang called Windows RT platform 'very immature' and as such said that:
"We have some R&D projects, but we will be very, very cautious in deciding whether we will do the launch and mass production."
It's probably fair to say that this is how the majority of OEMs are feeling when it comes to Windows RT! We'll have to wait and see whether there is a future for the platform., we think there is, but they'll need to do something about the apps, because this is seemingly a huge factor when people choose which operating system to go with!
Via TheVerge.

Asus' Transformer Pad Infinity gets a really nice refresh!


   Wow, the announcements just won't stop coming today and as our fingers start to get fatigued, it's almost fitting that we cover a nice refresh from Asus. Today the Taiwanese company have announced that they are going to be updating the Transformer Infinity!

   The refresh is quite a notable jump from last year's device which was no slouch itself. This time there's a 10.1-inch 2560 x 1600 IPS display, a powerful new Tegra 4 processor and 2GB of RAM, all of which should keep this thing ticking over without any hiccups at all. There's also 32GB of internal storage and an SD card slot, the latter of which is only available through the keyboard dock, which also offers extra battery and a USB 3.0 port.

   Interestingly the cameras on this device have been downgraded since last year, because there's a 5 MP rear-camera and there's a 1.2MP camera up front. Asus will apparently make up for this camera downgrade with the ability to push 4K video out through the HDMI-out port on the device!

   At the moment we don't know anything else about the device, but as and when we hear more we will update this post! We do however, know that the price will be roughly $400 without a dock and $500 with the dock attachment.
Via TheVerge.

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