Archive for the ‘Android’ Category

Xiaomi Mi Mix, A Rare Jewel

February 25, 2017

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The Xiaomi Mi Mix smartphone took the world by storm as soon as it was released. Just take a look at it and you’ll understand the jewel particle in the title of the article. Yes indeed, the Xiaomi Mi Mix is a piece of high tech which is also beautifully crafted and designed, making for one of the best smartphones released into the wild last year.

Even if Xiaomi is not a well established brand in the Western world, with the Xiaomi Mi Mix they really proved their valor. This smartphone looks like it came from the future, or from a sci-fi movie, boasting its incredible almost bezel-less design and its edge to edge screen, drawing attention like no other smartphone before.

It’s very interesting to mention that this beauty was initially announced as a concept, an exercise in technology of sorts, but it was so well received by the public that Xiaomi decided to mass produce it and the rest is history.

The Xiaomi Mi Mix’s viral popularity surpassed even Apple’s best, the iPhone, at least in terms of positive interest, and that’s mainly due to its exquisite design. How many edgeless smartphones have you seen lately?

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While most of the competition nowadays takes place in the hardware department, Xiaomi focused on design and what a great job they did folk. However, that doesn’t mean the Xiaomi Mi Mix is just looks and nothing under the hood, it’s quite the opposite.

With a breathtaking design comes great responsibility, right? Especially for a company that used its fan-base with some of the fastest smartphones in the world and maybe the best in terms of price vs performance. Be warned though, the Xiaomi Mi Mix is both a technological powerhouse and a thing of beauty, and that comes at a price. A steep price, especially considering the branding. But I am digressing.

The Xiaomi Mi Mix comes in a a black premium looking/foldable box made from cardboard and inside you’ll find the smartphone, obviously, a USB Type C cable, a fast charger, a beautiful leather case for the precious designed exclusively for the Xiaomi Mi Mix, yet no headset.

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The smartphone is rather big and heavy, but it does not feel bulky at all, having virtually the same dimensions as the Huawei Mate 9 weighing 209 grams, yet the Xiaomi Mi Mix has a bigger display than the Huawei!

The 6 inches wide edge to edge screen takes up 85% of the front panel, with a non existing top bezel and beautiful rounded edges making the Xiaomi Mi Mix a joy to look at. The chassis is made using a state of the art ceramic material, which is the apotheosis of premium materials to be found in a flagship smartphone. There’s nothing cheap looking and feeling in the Xiaomi Mi Mix, no plastic strip bands, no nothing.

Everything is perfect and seamless, making this baby arguably the best looking smartphone I’ve ever seen. There’s no earpiece, as the Xiaomi Mi Mix uses a piezolectric ceramic driver which generates the sound through the smartphone’s chassis itself.

The 6.4 inches wide edgeless screen is custom mad by the Japanese at Sharp and boasts a resolution of 1080×2400 pixels for 362 pixels per inch density. The panel is an IPS RGB instead of an AMOLED and it guarantees a wow effect once turned on, being the definition of an attention grabber if it ever was one. Long story short, it’s brilliant.

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The 4400 mAh battery offers 97 hours of endurance rating which is spectacular, while the smartphone runs on the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 system on chip, which means that it comes with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a high end device. The Xiaomi Mi Mix comes loaded with Android Marshmallow and the MIUI 8.0 on top.

Among other cool things, the MIUI 8 allows  you to have two instances of the same app running on your smartphone, i.e. 2 Whatsapp accounts on the same phone, one for each SIM card.

The Xiaomi Mi Mix comes with 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU, delivering flagship grade performance while staying quite cool doing so. The main camera is a 16 MP variety, which offers average performance while the selfie unit is uninspiring and blurry. Definitely, the Xiaomi Mi Mix doesn not excel in the multimedia department, yet it does a decent job.

Bottom line, if you can afford it, go for it.

 

 

 

 

 

Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus Review, Budget Flagship

January 29, 2017

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The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus can be regarded as a significant and long expected upgrade over the vanilla Mi 5 and even the Mi 5s, being a phablet rather than a smartphone, boasting its impressive 5.7 inches display and the full metal jacket chassis. But everybody knows that what’s under the hood turns the heads of geeks anywhere.

And here the good news keep on coming, because the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is flagship material by any metrics, running on Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 821 chipset and featuring a very promising state of the art dual camera setup for photography aficionados, which includes a monochrome sensor for low-light performance.

The front snapper is an ultrapixel camera, which is the ideal tool for selfie obsessed teens. The body of the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus got bigger and better, also sturdier, and the hardware is now faster than ever. This baby is a significant improvement over the vanilla Mi 5, but let’s dig deeper into the specs and see what’s what, shall we?

Being a flagship breed, let’s begin with the main disadvantages or shortcomings: first, there’s no micro SD card and that’s hard to understand. Also, there’s no mentioning about any type of adequate screen protection, like Corning or whatever.

The battery is sealed and there’s no optical image stabilization nor bokeh effect.

The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus features an unibody construction and it’s made of aluminum, with a flat and sturdy frame which circles perfectly the flat display. The back panel is built using brushed metal with a glossy finish, which is rather unusual. However, design wise,the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is a real looker, being manufactured with an almost obsessive attention to details and it fits nicely in hand, being also sufficiently grippy.

The display is a 5.7 incher, an IPS LCD variety of full HD resolution  with a 386 pixels per inch density which is more than enough, leaving the QSD 821 enough room to breathe in video intensive applications. I am talking about a high end chipset having to deal with a full HD resolution rather than a QHD (the mainstream for high end smartphones nowadays), which translates into less stress on the CPUs i.e. increased performance.

The display is great quality wise, it’s just prone to scratching easily so I’d suggest you to put a screen shield as soon as possible.

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The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is powered by a beefy 3800 mAh battery, which is quite enough even for a phablet, with the smartphone scoring absolutely great in endurance tests, offering 104 hours of endurance rating. The droid comes with all bells and whistles connectivity wise, including LTE Cat. 8, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and even an USB Type C port.

The software is an Android Marshmallow with the MIUI 8.0 on top, which is one of the best customizations out there, being made especially for the Chinese market where Google services are banned thus Xiaomi had to refocus its ecosystem away from Alphabet’s services.

Considering that the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus runs on the latest hardware available, i.e. the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 with 4 gigs of RAM, the performance level is  top notch, both in day to day tasks and gaming, thanks to the latest gen Adreno 530 GPU.

The smartphone is amazingly fast and it stays cool under heavy loads, delivering flagship grade performance . In the multimedia department, the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus comes with 2 x 13 megapixels cameras on the back panel, with the monochrome sensor using a Bayer filter and Sony’s IMX258 sensor. The photo quality is excellent, with good contrast and rich detail while the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is capable of shooting 4K / ultra hd videos with ease at a rock solid 30 frames per second.

Let’s sum it up: the build quality is flagship grade, the grip is great due to the prominent metal frame, the display is awesome, battery life is best in class, the software is nice and clean, the hardware offers stellar performance, the camera is so so, right in the middle but the selfie snapper is one of the best out there. There aren’t many smartphone to match the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus considering the price asked, making for a strong candidate in the droid arena.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moto G4 Plus Review, Powered Up

January 29, 2017

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The Moto G4 Plus has some pretty big shoes to fill, as the original Moto G was a hit back in the day, earning a well deserved, almost legendary status both for itself and for the company. Truth be told, the Moto G actually put the company on the map in many countries, especially emerging markets like China or India, due to the smartphone’s excellent price/features ratio.

The Moto G4 Plus was built and designed following the same principles: great build quality, lots of features, above average performance and affordability. Basically, in the best bang for the buck category, the Moto G4 Plus is a main contender, except from obscure Chinese brands. And speaking about Chinese brands, it’s worth mentioning that the Moto G4 Plus is not a true blue Motorola smartphone, as Motorola was bought by Lenovo, a Chinese state owned corporation, but that’s not very important now, is it?

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In terms of appearance, the Moto G4 Plus is definitely a Motorola smartphone, you can tell from distance even if you don’t notice at first the iconic M logo on the back. Unlike many other smartphones, the Moto G4 Plus doesn’t feature that cool full metal jacket chassis, nor a glass/metal sandwich built. Truth be told, there’s not an ounce of metal in the Moto G4 Plus, as this droid is entirely made of plastic.

However, the smartphone doesn’t look cheap at all, being built like a tank, feeling solid in the hand and also incredibly grippy. Plastic has its obvious advantages over metal, i.e. it doesn’t scratch easily, it will not bend, get bumps and all that nuisances you’d expect in an aluminum made smartphone. Not to mention a glass one, like the S7, which is as fragile as a snowflake.

Keep in mind that the Moto G4 Plus  is a budget droid, hence you’ll not have to break the piggy-bank in order to buy it, hence you should appreciate its qualities despite some shortcuts made by the company in order to keep the price on the down-low.

To begin with, the Moto G4 Plus boasts a 5.5 inches wide full HD 1080 IPS LCD display of above average quality, with great contrast and sunlight legibility.

I could actually say that this droid is among the best in its category screen quality wise, given its 401 pixels per inch density and color calibration out of the box.

The hardware is nothing to write home about, as the Moto G4 Plus runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 SoC, a relatively dated architecture, an octa-core variety relying on A 53 Cortex CPUs and an old Adreno 405 graphics processing unit.

The amount of RAM on-board differs, as you can buy the Moto G4 Plus with 2, 3 or 4 GB, depending on the price. The smartphone runs on a clean cut Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with zero bloatware. It’s worth mentioning the phone’s dual SIM capability and LTE Cat.4 connectivity, together with the dedicated micro SD card slot, up to 256 GB.

The battery is pretty good, offering an autonomy of 70 hours (endurance rating), which is not bad for a 5.5 inches wide smartphone of 1080p resolution. However, don’t expect miracles, as the Moto G4 Plus is pretty good on daily/regular use, but the dated hardware cannot keep up with the latest games. If you’re a heavy gamer, this is not the droid you’re looking for.

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Where the Moto G4 Plus really shines is in the camera department, as the 16 megapixels snapper boasts a relatively high end sensor, the Omni Visio  OV16860 PureCel Plus-S respectively, coupled with a f/2.0 lens and offering an excellent opportunity for photography aficionados to test their skills. The camera is great, both for still pics and videos (full HD), but then again, I am talking about low-mid range devices here, as per its price. Do not expect flagship quality in a ~$250 smartphone (or cheaper).

Basically, if you’re looking for high quality materials and an excellent build quality,a good display an above average battery , a pretty good camera and decent overall performance, the Moto G4 Plus is easy to recommend.

 

Google Pixel Review

January 26, 2017

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The Google Pixel is one of the most sought after Android running smartphones of 2016 and it marks the Alphabet company’s return as a serious contender among the big dogs like Apple and Samsung.

The thing is that Google’s former Nexus line of droids was something very interesting, a melange of decent prices and excellent performance, aimed at offering the best Android experience possible for the money. The best bang for the buck, you know the drill.

Well, with the Google Pixel, things were changed radically. The Google Pixel and the Pixel XL (its bigger kin) are now boasting high end specs and premium looks and feel, and as a logical consequence, the prices skyrocketed. Basically, the Google Pixel costs just as much as an iPhone 7 if not more and that’s a bold move from Alphabet.

However, considering that Google has access to all of our metadata and internet search history, our bank accounts and all that, I bet that they planned this move pretty good, it wasn’t just a “fluke”, and I refer to the fact that despite its steep price, the Pixel line was a hit in terms of sales.

With the Pixel, Google is aiming at giving Apple’s iPhone 7 a run for its money so to speak, being a true flagship smartphone and on top of that, with the affordable Nexus line discontinued, the fans of the Google brand do not have much choice after all.

Starting at $650 (in the US) or if you want the XL model add $120 on top of the $650, the Google Pixel comes with unlimited storage space for videos and photos via cloud storage, i.e.  Google Photos and that’s pretty cool.

The Pixel is built and designed around Google’s ecosystem which is pretty vast and obviously, it will offer a Google-focused experience.

The Google Pixel comes with a sturdy chassis built from metal, featuring a premium unibody design and it boasts its 5 inches wide AMOLED display of full HD 1080p resolution and a 441 pixels per inch density.

Under the hood, you’ll find Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 821 system on chip, which makes for a quad core architecture with its Kryo CPUs clocked in pairs at 2.15 GHz and 1.6 GHz respectively.

For gaming and heavy stuff, there’s a new sheriff in town, the Adreno 530 graphics processing unit together with plenty of RAM, to the tune of 4 GB.

The main camera has 12.3 megapixels and it comes with all the bells and whistles you would expect from a 2016 flagship, the likes of laser assisted auto-focus, f/2.0 phase detection, dual LED flash, 4K video recording and all that jazz. The secondary snapper is an 8 megapixels variety while the Pixel will is available in 2 flavors, 32 GB or 128 GB of native storage capacity.

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Another interesting factoid is that the Pixel is the first smartphone to be shipped running on Android 7.1 Nougat on board, which means it’s fully optimized for the respective OS and everything will work buttery smooth, as was the case with all Nexuses in the past.

In the connectivity department, the Google Pixel has it all and then some, including LTE Cat. 12, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 2×2 MIMO and even NFC support for Android Beam and Android Play.

There’s also a bio-metric device on board obviously, Google’s Pixel Imprint authentication system, meaning that Google will have now your fingerprints too in their humongous database and I am not kidding either.

The non removable battery has a capacity of 2770 mAh and that’s quite enough for a 5 incher with AMOLED yet nothing to write home about in terms of endurance (64 hours).

The main drawbacks of the Google Pixel are its price first and foremost, and a distant second-third etc being an arguably boring design, the lack of wireless charging and/or an IR blaster, there’s no FM radio and no full water resistance.

If you want unlimited space for your pictures and videos and maybe the best camera on the market in low-lighting conditions, plus 2 years of Google updates and 3 and a half of security patches (guaranteed), well, the Pixel is an interesting option.

 

 

Huawei Mate 9 Review, Big is Beautiful

January 24, 2017

 

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The Huawei Mate 9 follows into the steps of the P9 but with a twist. Yes, it’s flagship stuff inside out, but while the Huawei P9 was, how should I put it, more pocketable, the Huawei Mate 9 is the definition of a phablet, being aimed at users who spend most of their time pecking at their smartphones, i.e. watching movies, videos, live streams and what not.

And for that kind of heavy usage, there is no replacement for displacement. Err, screen real estate, but I think you know what I am talking about.

Arriving seven months after the P9, the Huawei Mate 9 was released actually in two flavors,the regular or “vanilla” if you like and the Porsche Design, which is a rare gem due to its prohibitive price.

The  Huawei Mate 9 Porsche Design costs twice as much as the proper version, yet it features a very interesting dual curved design. However, for all intents and purposes, we will focus on the Huawei Mate 9 today, because after all is said and done, I can’t think of a good enough reason to spend one grand (or more) on a smartphone branded Huawei. Nor a Vertu for that matter or even a gold plated iPhone, but hey, that’s just me, I don’t consider smartphones to fall into the bling/social status category. That’s what diamonds and Bugatti’s are for, gadgets are for everybody, or at least that’s my opinion and it’s the best in the world.

Kidding aside, true to its traditions, the Huawei Mate 9 boasts a 5.9 inches wide display and a huge 4000 mAh battery, everything packed tight into a full metal jacket aluminum unibody.

It’s already sounding pretty cool, doesn’t it? But wait, it gets better: this flagship phablet made in China runs on Huawei’s best/in-house made Kirin 960 system on chip, which marks a debut for ARM’s latest and greatest Cortex A73 CPUs, which are thirty percent faster than the previous generation. That’s quite a boost in terms of sheer power by any metrics, right?

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And speaking of world-premieres, the Huawei Mate 9 is powered by a Mali G71 graphics processing unit, i.e. this GPU is first seen here, featuring Vulkan support and being aimed at Virtual Reality applications.

Oh, and then let’s take a look at the camera. As we’re already accustomed with, Huawei works with Leica for providing them with high end optics for their flagships and of course, this is the case with the Huawei Mate 9.

This smartphone boasts a 20 megapixels/10 megapixels dual camera setup , with both monochrome/color sensors respectively but this time there’s optical image stabilization and 4 in 1 auto-focus, unlike the P9. Basically, the technology matured and more than that,it evolved into something beautiful.

Another first for the Mate lineup  is that the Huawei Mate 9 is capable of recording ultra High Definition videos, or 4k in the parlance of geeks.

So, we have a phablet with a premium aluminum unibody design, a 5.9 inches LCD IPS display of full HD resolution, 2.5 D glass, 96% NTSC and 373 pixels per inch density, a high end/in house made Kirin 960 SoC i.e. an octa-core CPU architecture, an octa-core GPU, an i6 co-processor and 4 GB of RAM, a Leica branded/co-engineered snapper, 64 GB of internal storage, expandable via micro SD, a finger print scanner, LTE Cat 12, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and even an infrared blaster and finally a fast charging 4000 mAh monster of a battery.

The main shortcomings are the full HD display, which is not quite flagship grade, yet it improves the performance of the smartphone dramatically, the lack of dust and water proofing which would have been nice to have, but not a deal breaker and the lack of any mention about the display’s glass protection, like it was the case with the P9. That one’s really weird.

But bottom line, if you’re seeking for a cool top shelf phablet with a great display (even if it’s not AMOLED), looking and feeling as premium as they come, with a dependable battery and an epic camera, offering class leading performance at all levels, the Huawei Mate 9 is very easy to recommend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

011Now Android app has been updated

January 12, 2017

We have updated 011Now smartphone app for Android phones to the version 3.2. The international calling app works faster now. As usual first calls are on us – try it for free.

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Get it at Google Play http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.a011Now.a011Now

Nubia Z11, Play Hard, Go Pro!

December 28, 2016

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The Nubia Z11 marks the company’s decisive departure from its ZTE roots, i.e. Nubia split from ZTE and started on its own about a year ago, but in this short period of time, this tiny Chinese company managed to achieve a sort of greatness of its own.

And the  Nubia Z11 is the finest example of what I’ve been telling you in the preamble. While ZTE is a relatively obscure company for the Westerners, and obviously the same can be asserted with regard to Nubia, which is definitely obscured by the clouds of Samsung, Apple, Nokia, Motorola and the like, the former is usually fighting a war on the middle Earth.

Of course, if you’ve been watching the Lord of the Rings, or God forbid, you’ve read the book, by middle Earth I mean the mid-range front. What I am trying to tell you is that ZTE is concentrating on building cheap and capable mid-range droids, while the  Nubia Z11 is the definition of a flagship by any metrics.

Boasting solid high-end specs and design, a stylish and sexy exterior and many other refinements, the  Nubia Z11 has all the features for becoming a best seller. However, the sad part of the story is that despite its obvious qualities, the  Nubia Z11 will fail to make the company great. Why?

Well, because that’s how the world works, marketing is 90% of success and branding is everything. But let’s not anticipate.

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To begin with, the  Nubia Z11 comes in a cleverly designed (on two levels) box , in the company’s signature red and black colors. What’s worth mentioning about its content is the premium pair of headphones the  Nubia Z11 comes with and the USB Type C cable, which features a cool mini USB to Type C adapter.

The smartphone is cleverly designed, with the curvy front panel boasting smart optics which simulate an edge to edge screen while the back panel is made from metal. The screen is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 whilst the ARC 2.0 design, besides looking cool it provides some level of shatter protection, featuring a buffering-layer between the chassis metal frame and the screen’s glass.

The overall design of the  Nubia Z11 is minimalist and I mean that in a good way, as this baby reminds me of old school Nokia Lumias or Sony Xperias, which I totally love, though the front looks like an iPhone ripoff.

The chassis is built using Series 6000 aluminum, which is light and sturdy, feels premium and provides excellent grip for your hand.

The display is essentially bezel-less and it looks quite impressive, measuring 5.5 inches and boasting full HD 1080p resolution, with a 403 pixels per inch density.

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Overall, the display quality is above average, wit impressive color accuracy, good contrast and excellent sunlight legibility, considering that what we’re dealing with here is not an AMOLED.

Connectivity wise, the  Nubia Z11 has it all, ranging from 4G LTE on both SIM (yes, it’s a hybrid-dual SIM), VoLTE support, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 3.5 mm headphone jack (the sound quality is impressive due to the audiophile-grade DAC inside the smartphone), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, USB Type C and the whole nine yards.

The battery is a sealed-in 3000 mAh variety which comes with an endurance rating of 76 hours, and that’s quite enough in my view, offering at least 2 days of autonomy on a single charge even if you’re an enthusiastic smartphone aficionado.

The  Nubia Z11 runs on a custom version of Android, the Nubia UI 4.0, which is clean and subtle, works/runs well and all that jazz.

Considering that under the hood you’ll find a cool Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset and an Adreno 530 GPU with 4 GB of RAM, which all they have to take care of is a full HD display instead of a QHD, it’s needless to say that the  Nubia Z11 is a true powerhouse in terms of performance.

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The only thing that keeps it from achieving true greatness is the Nubia 4.o UI, which needs more optimization. The camera is a fairly common 16 MP variety featuring the IMX298 Exmor RS sensor, with OIS and all the bells and whistles expected from a flagship, offering a more than satisfying multimedia experience and 4 K videos, nota bene.

Bottom line, if you don’t care about the branding on your droid, the Nubia Z11 is an excellent choice, i.e. you’ll get high-end quality and features for a low-mid-range price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xiaomi Mi 5S Review, Raising the Bar

December 27, 2016

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The Xiaomi Mi 5S was released back in April, the (still) current year and truth be told, the smartphone market has changed dramatically since then. While the Xiaomi Mi 5S is the proud successor of the hugely successful 5 series, not to mention the incredibly popular Redmi-mid range lineup, there are some things to consider.

First, the competition in the high end market with regard to smartphones is unprecedented. Second, one should consider the demise of the former king, the Galaxy Note 7, together with the release of the iPhone 7, Google Pixel and the LG V20.

Basically, the flagship realm is a pretty crowded place nowadays and with the Xiaomi Mi 5S, this relatively small company, the underdog of sorts is trying to pick a fight with the big dogs.

What the Xiaomi Mi 5S is doing is to take after where the Xiaomi Mi 5 left off, and yes indeed, these guys did a wonderful job. The 5s really managed to improve the smartphone’s flagship status, in small incremental steps. Well, sort of. For example, the new Xiaomi Mi 5S runs on the high end Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 system on chip, which is the latest and greatest around. The internal storage capacity was upped, while the glass panels, which look cool but they’re very frail were nixed in favor of a full metal jacket-unibody design.

Everything sounds pretty awesome, don’t you think? Let’s take a closer look, right after the break.

The smartphone measures 145.6 x 70.3 x 8.3 millimeters, which is almost identical compared with the Mi 5, but it gained a little bit of weight, standing at 145 grams, i.e. 16 grams more than the previous gen.

Design wise, the Mi  5s looks similar to the 5, having curved sides all around the back panel, a glass front panel, but for the rest of the deal, the company switched to metal, which is great news. I mean, metal instead of glass.

The Mi 5 was really fragile, hence the aluminum unibody of the 5s is awesome for the brand’s aficionados.

The display on the Xiaomi Mi 5s is an IPS variety, a 5.15 inches wide screen with full HD resolution, featuring a 428 pixels per inch density. This is more than respectable, even if there’s no AMOLED around, nor the latest QHD which is all the rage nowadays though it doesn’t make any difference in real life on such a small display. However, full HD vs QHD translates into great news performance wise, so I don’t really mind the lack of quad HD nor the AMOLED screen (or the lack thereof).

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The only problem with this display is that Xiaomi failed (again) to mention if they used any type of glass protection. For example, the Mi 5 was famous for how easy its display got scratched, so I’d suggest you to buy a screen protector ASAP for your Mi 5/5s. Other than that, the display is great, with excellent viewing angles and almost perfect color reproduction, being among the best out there from all points of view (contrast, dynamics, color saturation etc).

The Xiaomi Mi 5s comes with a solid 3200 mAh battery which offers an endurance rating of 84 hours, which sounds great. In the connectivity department, this droid has it all, including LTE Cat.9, USB Type C, Wi-Fi/Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS etc.

The smartphone runs on Android Marshmallow out of the box, with the company’s proprietary UI (MIUI 8) on top, due to the fact that Google services are not accessible (as in banned by the Chinese communist government) in mainland China, so Xiaomi had to refocus its ecosystem away from Google. Don’t worry, international versions of the Mi 5s are shipped with a standard ROM, i.e. Google et al are all working as they are supposed to.

Performance wise, the QsD 821 working together with 3 GB/4 GB of RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU, meaning that everything runs smooth and hassle free, including the latest games or the power-hungry apps. From the hardware point of view, the Xiaomi Mi 5s is a beast, there’s no way around it.

The camera on-board is a 12 MP variety flaunting the latest Sony IMX 378 sensor, with all the bells and whistles possible sans the OIS, unfortunately. In daylight, the camera performs exemplary, both when it comes to stills and videos, but in low lighting conditions, there are better ones out there.

Finally, the Xiaomi Mi 5s has all the characteristics of a flagship and it’s an easy smartphone to recommend, due to its features vs price ratio, where it’s basically unbeatable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ZTE Axon 7 Review, Cheerful&Cheap Flagship

December 26, 2016

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The ZTE Axon 7 is the definition of the best bang for the buck if it ever was one with regards to smartphones. But don’t get me wrong: this baby is by no means cheap looking nor cheap feeling.

Truth is, if you disregard the branding on the shell, the ZTE Axon 7 can easily run along withe the big boys on the market. Basically, this cheap and beautiful droid has all the ingredients of a flagship, sans the hefty price tag.

Are you starting to get the picture just yet?

If not, keep reading, you’re in for the real deal.

The ZTE Axon 7 is built following the philosophy that you should afford a high end smartphone which looks and feels gorgeous without having to put a second mortgage on your house. And who doesn’t agree with that premise?

The end result is nothing short of amazing, as the ZTE Axon 7 is great both externally, as per design/build quality and internally, i.e. the hardware platform/specs/performance.

Another truth to be told is that building a cheap yet highly advanced smartphone is not an easy task. Compromises are unavoidable, yet the ZTE Axon 7 has so few of them, it’s truly remarkable. The only disadvantages are the lack of a removable battery and no back-lighting on the front facing buttons. But that’s about it.

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So, let’s start the show with the hardware overview. The smartphone ships in an elegant box, which is also modest, i.e. it doesn’t look cheap, nor tries to impress. It’s exactly spot-on. The box contains a quick charge 3.0 power adapter, a premium set of headphones, an USB Type C cable, a SIM card ejector tool, an adapter (Type-C to micro USB) and even a silicon case.

Nothing short of amazing, isn’t it?  The Axon measures 151.7 x 75 x 7.9 millimeters and weighs 175 grams, boasting a design which is like a breath of fresh air, as the company managed to pull out a smartphone with a character of its own, both stylish and outlandish.

The Axon 7 looks and feels premium from any angle so to speak, featuring a cool aluminum-made unibody design, with subtle lines which emphasize the company’s attention to detail.

The droid flaunts an excellent 5.5 inches wide AMOLED display of quad HD resolution, which translates into an impressive 538 pixels per inch density. There’s also the hugely popular 2.5 D glass design, making for a gorgeous display if it ever was one.

The ZTE Axon 7 ships with a 3250 mAh lithium-polymer battery which comes with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology, boasting a 70 hours of endurance rating, which is nothing short of respectable.

Connectivity wise, it’s worth mentioning the USB Type-C port, the LTE Cat.7, the hybrid nano-SIM slot, the full set of Wi-Fi standards and even the almost extinct 3.5 mm headphone jack. The smartphone comes loaded with an Android fork, i.e. the company’s proprietary MiFavor 4.0 user interface on top of the standard Android OS.

The hardware department is taken care of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 system on chip, which is pretty much the nec plus ultra of today’s high end smartphones, but considering the price range of the ZTE Axon 7, the choice for the QSD 820 is rather amazing.

The GPU is an Adreno 530 powerhouse and truth be told, the performance level offered by the Axon 7 is truly spectacular. In this writer’s opinion, this baby could have fought toe to toe with any other smartphone in the world if it would have ran on pure Android, i.e. sans the relatively poor software optimization (the proprietary UI), the smartphone would have been better.

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The camera is a 20 MP snapper and it uses the hugely popular Samsung Isocell sensor, with the frontal lens made using sapphire crystal in order to prevent scratching. There’s optical image stabilization on board, as well as on sensor phase detection auto-focus and the whole nine yards of a respectable flagship in the photo department. Photo quality is great, minus the Panorama mode, whilst the smartphone is capable of recording 4K video/UHD@30 fps.

Bottom line, ZTE is spot on with its latest Axon 7, which is a meticulously built high end smartphone, with sleek looks and top notch design and hardware. The price is very reasonable to say the least and that concludes today’s review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google Pixel XL, A New Sheriff in Town!

December 23, 2016

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Google is widely known as world’s best search engine and recently, the tech giant decided to go all in and provide its fan-base with a smartphone too. You know that Android is yet another Google product, so Google now has a search engine, world’s best, a mobile OS, world’s best and…a new couple of smartphones.

Thing is, Google released two Pixels, but today we’ll talk about the bigger one, the XL version. The vanilla one is called simply Pixel and I’ll write about it in a future article.

Google’s Pixel is the answer to Samsung’s Galaxy line, but the Pixel line is more like Apple’s iPhone so to speak, i.e. both smartphones are high-end devices. Unlike the already nixed Nexus line, which offered an awesome Android experience whilst playing in the best bang for the buck category, the Pixels are hefty pieces of gear, just like iPhones.

Another truth is that the Pixel moniker was first used in a Chromebook and later on an Android running tablet, but now…well, that’s the way of the world. In this writer’s opinion, Nexus was the best moniker for an Android running device, coming directly from a legendary SF novel, Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, or Blade Runner.

Pixel doesn’t inspire much thought, but that’s none of my business. Getting back to our review, what’s up with the Google Pixel XL after all?

Well, to begin with, this droid comes at a hefty price tag and it’s as premium as it gets, both in terms of hardware and craftsmanship.

Software (read Android) is Google’s play-ground, but hardware…well, that’s a novelty for the company. Will they be capable to flex their muscles considering the competition from Apple and Samsung?

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That will be for the market to decide, but I must tell you that the Pixel XL is the most expensive Google smartphone to date. The chassis is built from aerospace grade aluminum alloy, which is all the rage nowadays. Also, there’s a weird glass window on the rear panel, whilst the smartphone offers IP53 certification, which means dust/splash resistance (not proof).

The display is a 5.5 inches wide AMOLED variety of QHD resolution, with an impressive 534 pixels per inch density, featuring 2.5 D/Gorilla Glass 4 protection and 100% NTSC.

The whole show is powered by a Quad Core Kryo system on chip, helped along by an Adreno 530 GPU and 4 GB of RAM. The SoC is Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 821, meaning that the Pixel XL will be able to run all the games and apps smoothly and without effort.

Obviously, the Pixel XL comes preloaded with the last Android, the 7.1 Nougat respectively and it offers 2 years of OS upgrades from its original launching date, along with 3 years of security updates. The main camera is a 12.3 megapixels variety, with an f/2.0 aperture lens. 1.5 µm pixels, dual LED, laser/phase auto-focus, 2160p/1080p video recording capabilities at up to 120 frames per second.

The native storage is 32 GB or 128 GB, non-expandable unfortunately, whilst the secondary selfie camera has a resolution of 8 MP.

The XL is fingerprint ready, it boasts Android Pay, LTE Cat 9/11, NFC, GLONASS, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, USB Type C and a fast charging 3450 mAh battery.

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Now, the question is, why would you buy it after all, considering that it costs $800? Well, to begin with, the smartphone is built actually by HTC. The camera is among the best on the market, you’ll get 2 years of guaranteed updates directly from Google, it’s the best droid currently on the market without a doubt, the build quality is awesome though the aesthetics are a mixed bag, the display is very good but not the best AMOLED out there, the battery life is decent but it could have been better, the Photos app is stellar, it has the best digital assistant on the market, the QSD 821 is very fast but on par with older flagships running on the 820, the selfie snapper is amazing, the main camera features HDR+ which makes it the best out there, the video quality is superb. Oh, and there’s no dual-camera setup, which kind of sucks.

Now, it’s up to you to decide.