Archive for the ‘Smartphone’ Category

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xiaomi Redmi 3S, Best Droid for the Money

December 7, 2016

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The Xiaomi Redmi 3S is the latest device pertaining to the 3rd gen Redmis and it was already overshadowed by the imminent launching of the Redmi 4,which was announced recently by the Chinese based tech company.

However, even if internet critics described the Xiaomi Redmi 3S as already obsolete, making for an useless addition to the series, I beg to differ, as the Xiaomi Redmi 3S plays and wins the hearts, minds and wallets of users all over the world in the best bang for the buck category.

The Xiaomi Redmi 3S follows on the beaten path by its predecessors, boasting a high end full metal jacket chassis and a lots of goodies under the hood, everything at an unbeatable price. Just like its Pro version, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S comes with a 5 inches wide display, complemented by a cool aluminum chassis, a finger print sensor on the back panel and a 13 megapixels main shooter, with a big 4100 battery on top of everything to keep the lights on. Ladies and gents, in my humble opinion, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is a winner by any metrics, especially considering that it offers Xiaomi’s latest MIUI 8 user interface.

What makes it different from the vanilla Redmi 3 you may ask? Well, consider this: unlike its predecessors which were known for using a type of ersatz octa-core architecture for their SoC, i.e. two CPU clusters by 4 cores, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S runs on a true blue Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 system on chip, which is the real deal, i.e. 8 CPUs, working in tandem with an Adreno 505 GPU, which is able to handle the latest graphic applications and will definitely improve the overall user experience.

The “old” Redmi 2 was universally acclaimed as the best smartphone in the world in its niche, i.e.  devices sold for under $100 and I bet that the Xiaomi Redmi 3S will do just the same next year.

To begin with, in terms of size and weight, standing at 139.3 x 69.6 x 8.5 millimeters and weighing 144 grams, the 3S is virtually identical with its Pro sibling. Considering its entry level pricing, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is as premium as it gets in its class, boasting a beautifully designed aluminum chassis, unibody of course, showing off its curvy edges and an awesome matte finish. The only thing missing compared to the 3 Pro is the diamond pattern on the rear.

Truth be told, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is a rarity these days for a 5 incher, being almost perfectly designed and shaped, offering excellent pocketability without compromising in terms of screen real estate. The metal/matte finish combo works great for boosting the grip, whilst the smartphone feels perfect in hand and in your pocket.

The Xiaomi Redmi 3S comes with a 5 inches wide screen of HD 720p resolution, which translates into 294 pixels per inch density. That’s almost Retina grade, which means it’s more than enough for sharp texts and crisp images, not to mention that a 720p doesn’t stress the GPU as much as a full HD 1080p, which means a boost in performance.

Despite lacking a Gorilla Glass coating and no mention whatsoever of any scratch resistance treatment, the display is above average quality wise, just make sure you don’t drop your smartphone too often. In terms of battery life, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is powered by a beefy 4100 mAh power plant which comes with an outstanding 104 hours of endurance rating, meaning you can use it hard for at least a couple of days on a single charge and up to four days if you’re not pecking at it constantly.

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The good news keep on coming, as the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is LTE compatible, together with 3 band GSM and quad band 3G connectivity. There’s also Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi Direct, GPS with Beidou and Glonass, Bluetooth 4.1, a micro USB 2.0 port and even an FM radio.

As I already told you, this baby runs on a QSD 430 SoC complemented by a more than decent 3 GB of RAM and the new Adreno 505 GPU, which is a significant improvement in all respects over the Redmi 2. The chipset is a great match  for the 720p screen, offering a fluid Android experience and being able to run any type of 720p content with ease.

The camera is the same 13 MP variety you can find on the Redmi 3, slightly improved with a new phase detection system for more accurate/faster auto-focus. Bottom line, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is the perfect droid for budget conscious consumers, offering an excellent 5” screen, an impeccable build quality, amazing battery life, solid hardware/performance and a very capable camera for a very low price tag, ~120 euros.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LG V20 Review, El Leader Maximo

December 4, 2016

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If smartphones would have their own super heroes, the LG V20 would be one of them definitely. Actually, after the not so great sales of the G5, which was an outstanding smartphone by any metrics, the Korean tech giant decided to go all in with the LG V20.

And the end result was nothing short of spectacular.The LG V20 has all the characteristics for achieving greatness. Two cameras, 2 screens, 2 apps on the home screen, 4 DACs, the list is as long as my arm.

Actually, the LG V20 can be described as a glimpse into the future, looking and feeling (and doing) like the next year’s flagships should do. This baby is a multi media monster, continuing LG’s experiment with dual cameras, a wide/normal lens combo, the same feature adopted by Apple with their latest iPhone 7.

Also, the LG V20 is the perfect tool to record ultra high definition videos, being a pocket music studio sort to speak, as its high quality microphones are able to record even a rock concert at impeccable quality sound wise. The audio playback is again in a league of its own, considering the fact that the LG V20 can (and will provided you’re into that racket)deal with drive studio quality high-end headphones using its audiophile grade DACs (four of them).

I bet there will be a day sometime in the future when we’ll look back at the LG V20 in awe and recognize it was a true pioneer of its times. And speaking of pioneering, this baby is the first smartphone to be shipped running on Android’s latest and greatest OS, the Nougat variety. Isn’t this something to contemplate?

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The LG V20 is what the German cars of the 80s and 90s used to be: over-engineered to perfection, including the physical durability (the LG V20 comes with a high quality aluminum chassis which is as durable as they get, being built to comply with military standards).

However, the back cover is removable, hence the battery is user replaceable, a rare feature in this day especially when it comes to flagships. Overall, I must tell you that the LG V20 is that kind of a smartphone which has all the characteristics to make LG great again.

The audio features of the LG V20 are nothing short of out of this world, but even the camera is one step ahead its competitors. Check this out: the LG V20 uses Qualcomm’s state of the art image stabilization gimmick which augments its optical system. And don’t forget what I’ve already told you: this droid launched with Android 7 Nougat before Google’s own Pixels were even announced, not to mention available.

The smartphone measures 159.7×78.1×7.6 millimeters and it weighs 174 grams, which means it’s lighter than its V10 brethren and thinner by a millimeter, yet it’s still complying with the MIL-STD-810G rating.

The chassis is built using a material which is very popular in airplanes,  AL-6013 aluminum that is, an alloy which is very light, strong and offers corrosion resistance. The top and bottom are made using another military grade material, which is incredibly resistant to drops/shocks and things of that nature and I am talking here about the siloxane polycarbonate.

As per the display, there are actually two of them. The main one is a 5.7 inches wide IPS LCD variety with QHD resolution and 513 pixels per inch density, while the second display is a single line, 2.1” in diagonal with a resolution of 160×1040 pixels, always on that is.

The main screen is excellent, sharp and bright, with perfect sunlight legibility. Connectivity is stellar, as LG V20 has it all: LTE Cat. 12, it supports even AWS 3, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX, USB Type C, the classic 3.5 mm headphone jack (kudos!), NFC, Miracast with Mirror Link etc.

The battery is a 3200 mAh variety, removable, remember that, and it offers 63 hours of endurance rating, being the only weakness of the V20 in my opionion.

The show is powered by a QSD 820, the weapon of choice for 2016 flagships, paired with 4 gigabytes of RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU. The phone runs smooth and fluid and needless to say, this is a high end droid running on high end software, so everything performs like it was expected.

Bottom line, the LG V20 is the best of LG, boasting a great build quality, an excellent screen, shock-proofing, a removable battery and an out of this universe multimedia department. If you want to give it a spin, be my guest, you’ll never regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, Hail to the Queen

October 24, 2016

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If you’re wondering what’s up with the title, well, I regard the newly released Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 as a queen, not a king, because Xiaomi is a girl’s name. At least in my view. But let’s not talk about Chinese girls names, shall we?

Now, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is the third Redmi Note I’ve reviewed on our website, and truth be told, this droid has some pretty big shoes to fill. Just to give you an idea, the last generation (Note 3) had become India’s hottest smartphone ever, becoming a best seller and also enjoyed a huge popularity in its home turf, China that is.

So, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 will have to prove worthy of its ancestors. Starting with the beginning, the latest Redmi Note generation is a more premium looking and feeling droid and as a consequence, it has a slightly higher price tag. But it’s also a tad higher when compared to the Redmi series mid-range status.

For example, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 boasts a premium looking and feeling full metal body design, being built from a high-grade aluminum alloy, just like its HTC and Sony competitors are doing with their premium smartphones.

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And secondly, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 runs on a pretty interesting system on chip architecture, the Helio X20 chipset which is somewhere between upper mid range and high end, in a blurry-gray territory.

As an added advantage, the High version of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 boasts 64 GB of native storage capacity which is quite impressive considering the asking price of the respective flavor, which is under 200 Euros. Are you impressed yet? If not, keep on reading, it gets even better.

Since the Note 3, Xiaomi moved up in the ranks in regard to the manufacturing process, resulting in a sturdier, higher quality body which weighs a little more, but that’s ok in my book. The chassis of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is made from a solid aluminum ingot, beautifully polished, and the front glass boasts its 2.5D feature. Overall, the smartphone looks very beautiful and it has a premium look and feel, well above its price bracket.

The display is a 5,5 inches wide IPS LCD variety of full HD 1080p resolution with a 401 pixels per inch density, just like the iPhone 7 Plus.

In the connectivity department, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 offers the regular Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and an IR blaster, but there’s no NFC on board. The battery is a beefy 4100 mAh power plant which comes with an endurance rating of 83 hours, which is quite a lot.

The droid runs on a forked Android 7.0 Nougat Core version with the company’s proprietary MIUI 8 user interface on top, which is great at text rendering and offers a bunch of enhanced video editing tools.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 runs on a MediaTek Helio X20 architecture  which is an impressive chipset, which offers stellar single core performance, which is the most important metric by the way. The graphic processing unit is a Mali T880 MP4 variety, which is also quite competitive and considering the price tag, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is an absolute best-buy performance wise. I mean, considering its ~ $200 price tag, give or take, you’ll be blown away by what this baby has under the hood.

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In the camera department, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 comes with a 13 megapixels main snapper with an f/2.0 aperture, dual LED/Dual Tone Flash, phase detection autofocus and 1080p video recording capability. The selfie camera is a 5 megapixels f/2.0 aperture variety and the interface is a re-skin of the MIUI offering lots of effects and setting.

Truth be told, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is that kind of a smartphone that has the capability of changing one’s buying habits, as it redefines the notion of best bang for the buck. The metal body evokes high end droids, the display is excellent, the hardware platform offers quite a punch and all these great features are at your finger tips in a sub 200 euro smartphone.

The build quality is definitely on par with HTC and Sony’s flagships, there’s a finger print reader available, the SoC offers best in class performance (price wise), the GPU is similar to a QSD 650 and overall, for that kind of money you can’t buy better gear.

 

 

 

 

 

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, Rock On!

October 23, 2016

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Just a couple of days ago I made a review of the iPhone 7 and today we’ll talk about its bigger brother, the iPhone 7 Plus. To describe it in a few words, I’d say Hail to the King baby. The iPhone 7 Plus needs no introduction, really, as the bigger sibling of the regular 7 and the successor of the 6 Plus from last year.

Compared to its 2015 predecessor, the new iPhone 7 Plus is better, faster, more and the whole nine yards. The design was refined, the new A10 SoC is quicker than ever before, there’s a dual camera setup on the back panel to up the ante even more, and, wait for it, the iPhone 7 Plus is now waterproof.

Before moving along with the review, let me tell you what’s not so cool. For example, Apple dropped the 3.5 mm audio jack, but the iPhone 7 Plus ships with a Lightning to 3.5 mm adapter in its retail box.

Another thing worth mentioning is the lack of a micro SD card slot, so you’ll have to live with the native storage capacity, there’s no way around that for another year. The NFC functionality is basically limited to Apple Pay, there’s no FM radio, no infra-red port and no fast nor wireless charging.

The battery is sealed and that about sums up the “not so cool” things about the iPhone 7 Plus, except maybe for the Jet Black version which is very scratch-sensitive to put it mildly.

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Ok, now that we covered the main disadvantages of the iPhone 7 Plus, let’s see what’s new, shall we?

Starting with the retail box, the Phone 7 Plus ships with the regular accessories, such as a Lightning cable, a wall charger, Earpods and the Lightning connector plus the aforementioned 3.5 mm adapter.

If you want to try the new wireless AirPods, tough luck, you’ll have to spend $150, as they’re sold separately. On the outside, the iPhone 7 Plus is almost identical to the previous gen, having a similar footprint but being a tad lighter, standing at 188 grams vs 192 grams of the 6 Plus. What’s different is the design of the antenna bands, which now look better, but the rest is quasi-identical with the 6th gen.

However, the iPhone 7 Plus’s “refurbished” design doesn’t mean that this baby isn’t the “highest end” smartphone on the market today. Everything is at superlative in the iPhone 7 Plus, starting with the premium materials used and ending up with the stellar workmanship.

The unibody chassis is made from airplane grade aluminum, the display is a 2.5 D ion strengthened glass, obviously scratch resistant and covered by an oleophobic coating. The huge Home key under the display and the fat bezels of the iPhone 7 Plus make it relatively big for a 5.5” smartphone, but you’ll have to live with that if you want the best,right?

The 5.5 inches wide display has the same resolution and specs  as last year’s 6 Plus, i.e. an IPS LCD Retina display variety of full HD 1080p resolution/401 pixels per inch density, 3 D touch enabled obviously and 25% brighter than last year.

The display is perfectly calibrated color-wise and you can use it professionally if you’re working in a color-critical environment. Specs aside, iPhone 7 Plus’s display is arguably the best on the market today.

The non removable battery has a capacity of 2900 mAh, 5% more than in the 6 Plus and given the energy eficient A10 Fusion SoC and the optimized software, well, the iPhone 7 Plus has an endurance rating of 75 hours, which translates into 18 hours of talk time, 13 and a half hours of web browsing or almost 8 hours of video playback. Connectivity wise, the iPhone 7 Plus comes with all the features imaginable, including LTE Cat.9, VoLTE, WI-Fi, Bluetooth etc.

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The new iOS 10 is now more refined and thanks to the latest generation A10 Fusion chipset, which marks a premiere for the company as the first quad-core CPU, everything runs buttery smooth, perfect and the whole nine yards. Both the GPU and the CPU are approximately 50% faster than last year’s, making the new iPhone 7 Plus the most powerful smartphone on the market today by a long shot.

The latest iPhone 7 Plus hopped on the dual-camera train and comes with a dual camera setup on the back panel. Long story short, everything is better  than last year’s 6 Plus, including a 60% faster 12 MP sensor and 30% more efficient, the f/1.8 aperture is brighter and helps a lot with low-light pictures, there’s 4 K video-recording and the whole nine yards. Quality wise, the stills and the videos are among the best I’ve ever seen.

Bottom line, if you can afford the price tag, the iPhone 7 Plus is almost impossible to beat in any respect. As usual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sony Xperia XZ,Going High-End

October 21, 2016

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The Sony Xperia XZ is the Japanese’s tech giant latest flagship and it comes with a refined design compared to the previous gen, some updated hardware specs and a better camera. When Sony revealed their X series of droids, it was widely thought that the X Performance will be the king, the Samurai that will fight the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 or the HTC 10 or whatever.

You know,because the “performance” moniker. However, it has been proved that this is not going to be the case. Enter Sony Xperia XZ, the top dog in the company’s lineup, with the Z revealing its noble ancestry.

The Sony Xperia XZ has a lot in common with the former Z5. For example, the screen real estate, which is identical, including the resolution, and that’s not necessarily something to throw rocks at. What’s more aggravating is the exact same 3 GB of RAM on board, which if compared to today’s flagships is rather on the low-key note.

The rest though is top notch, including the top-shelve Snapdragon 820 system on chip, the powerful 23 megapixels snapper featuring Sony’s best technologies, including 4 K recording obviously, or the state of the art 13 MP camera on the front panel, the USB Type C port, the finger print scanner, the stereo speakers or the IP 68 rating.

None of the cool features seem to be missing, yet the real issue with this baby is definitely the pricing.

To begin with the basics, the Xperia  XZ measures 146 x 72 x 8.1 millimeters, which is identical to the Z5, just 0.8 millimeters thicker. Standing at 161 grams, the Xperia XZ plays in the same ballpark with HTC 10, only the S7 is lighter at 151 grams. The design are is minimalist, refined and it marks an obvious evolution compared to the previous generations, provided you’re into Sony’s design school of thought, i.e. rectangles and sharp corners.

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The choice of materials used into the Xperia XZ’s built is also interesting, as there are 3 different textures you’ll be touching: Gorilla Glass on the front panel, a frame made from polycarbonate and an ALKALEIDO state of the art metal-like rear panel. This weird sounding material is a trademark name actually and it belongs to Kobe Steel, a Japanese steel manufacturer. In reality, it’s some sort of an aluminum alloy, which complements the smartphone’s premium design, offering its users a feeling of depth and an extra shine.

While the Xperia XZ comes with IP68 certification, Sony specifically states that you should never submerge your droid in water and also to avoid salt water/seawater or chlorinated water (pool water basically). Waterproofing a smartphone is actually quite difficult and it’s basically a gray area. The idea is that  you should take the IP 68 certification with a grain of salt, don’t push it, alright folks?

The display is a full HD 1080p 5.2” IPS LCD variety of 424 pixels per inch density, which is sharp enough and very high quality, though competitors already moved to QHD.

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Connectivity wise, the Xperia XZ comes in 2 flavors, single and dual SIM, both offering LTE Cat 9, Wi-Fi with 2x MIMO antennas, Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX NFC, GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, an USB Type C port and the whole nine yards.

The battery is rather good, standing at only 2900 mAh and offering 72 hours of endurance rating, which compared to the iPhone 7’s 60 hours is not bad. Only the S7 beats it, with 98 hours. Also, the battery features Sony’s proprietary Qnovo and Battery Care, an adaptive charging technology which minimizes cell damage and prolongates battery life. There’s also a quick-charging feature.

Hardware wise, the smartphone runs on a QSD 820 chipset, like all this year’s Android flagships, an octa core SoC featuring 4 custom made Kryo cores and an Adreno 530 graphic processing unit, along with a puny 3 GB of RAM.

The 23 megapixels main camera comes with a Sony IMX300 sensor, which is one of the best out there, being used only in Xperia smartphones and not supplied to other manufacturers.However, Xperia XZ’s camera is pretty far from being the best, offering decent quality but it fails spectacularly in low light conditions compared to its competitors. Video recording offers 4K, but then again, nothing spectacular.

Bottom line, the Sony Xperia XZ is a better droid than the Z5 in every respect. If you’re into Sony’s no-nonsense design and you’re on the prowl for a smartphone with a solid  battery, an excellent display, great audio quality and a minimalist approach with regard to Android skins/interface, this baby has your name on it.