Android smartphones are a dime a dozen nowadays. If a manufacturer wants to stand out among the sea of rectangular Google-powered devices, it has to bring it. But, what exactly is "it"? Is it specs? Is it the experience? What exactly do consumers want? I'm not sure that is crystal clear anymore. When buying a smartphone, consumers are forced to choose between an iPhone or Android (sorry, Windows Phone). If you want an iPhone, there isn't much choice, it is an easy decision. If you want Android, well, you'd better do your homework. Do you want pure Android or a tweaked UI? What screen size do you want? How much do you want to pay?
Cost is a huge factor now, as devices like the Motorola G push the boundaries of what a low-cost smartphone can be. For a consumer to spend a huge amount out of pocket or sign their life away with a long contract, the phone needs to be exceptional. There must be real reasons as to why they should buy it over a low-cost no-contract variant. When the LG G3 was announced, I was immediately impressed with how the company focused beyond the incredible specs to the overall user experience. But, would the G3 prove to be wonderful in practice? Luckily, I've been using the phone and I can now answer that question.
HTC has stolen a lot of limelight recently with its flagship handset the One M8 and its smaller One mini 2, and you could be forgiven for thinking that these two are just about all the phone maker has in its range. But in fact the Desire range continues to go strong, and a couple of handsets announced earlier this year have recently popped up for review. I’ll be covering the Desire 610 soon, but today’s review handset is the Desire 816, a large format phone on sale for around £300 which ticks quite a lot of boxes.
The Desire 816 doesn’t have the startlingly good build quality that its top-end cousin the One M8 boasts. The body is unashamedly plastic, and my white review sample had a shiny white plastic back which, while not removable, is quite clearly a separate section. You can see the join where it meets the matte sides of the phone so clearly that it’s almost embarrassing for HTC.
Lenovo seems to be hedging its bets in the exciting new world of tablet-Ultrabook hybrids. The company offers models where the screen is removable, like the ThinkPad Helix, and also where it rotates, like the ThinkPad Yoga. The Yoga 2 Pro is the latest non-corporate version of the latter. The basic concept is the same as the ThinkPad Yoga, but it moves the genre forward considerably in one key area.
The primary step forward is the screen, which has a whopping resolution of 3,200 x 1,800. This is even greater than the considerable 2,560 x 1,440 offered by Dell's XPS 11 2-in-1 Ultrabook, although the Yoga 2 Pro has a larger 13.3-inch display, like Toshiba's KIRA 101. It's an IPS screen, too, so doesn't suffer from the viewing angle issues of the cheaper TN variety, with the display clear from every position. Detail is superb, although colour is a little more muted than we would have expected.
Listening to music on a computer can be a very rewarding experience nowadays. However, we aren't far removed from the days where laptops and desktops shipped with horrible speakers. This shouldn't be surprising though; while mp3 and streaming audio is commonplace now, listening to music was not always expected on a computer. Tinny-sounding, rattling speakers were OK for midi files, but now we expect much more.
While Bluetooth speakers are very convenient, their sound quality usually does not match a hard-wired set. My favorites for many years are the Logitech Z-2300 -- a 2.1 setup, which are THX certified and pack a 120 watt subwoofer. I still own these speakers, but they are extremely bass-heavy, even with the bass knob turned down to the lowest setting. They can be overly disruptive to the other people in my home, as the walls shake. For a party, they are great, but for everyday use I need something more tame. Today, I am looking at the Cambridge Audio Minx M5 in hopes that I have found that.
Acer is probably not the first company you will think of when you start pondering tablets -- but in fact it has quite a pedigree. It has forayed into Windows-based tablets, with recent examples being the Iconia W4 and the Iconia W700 -- an attempt at an all-in-one/tablet combo. And its Android-based tablets are plentiful with A and B series lines alongside the more recently announced Tab 7 and One 7. ITProPortal actually reviewed the predecessor to this new model, the Iconia A1-810, last summer.
As tablets go the 16GB Acer Iconia A1-830 is a bit of a baby. It has a 7.9-inch screen, just a bit larger than the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX and Nexus 7, and the same as the iPad mini. Its price marks it out as a budget buy at £140. For reference, the Nexus 7 16GB and 16GB Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch are both £199. The 16GB iPad mini is over £300.
Having been born in the 80s, I've seen a lot changes in technology. Believe it or not, our first VCR was a hand-me-down with a wired remote -- yes, wired. We also did not have a cordless phone for quite a while. Instead, we had a phone with a 50-foot cord. My first Walkman, a non-Sony portable cassette player (they were all called "Walkman" back then), had crappy corded headphones. Are you seeing a trend yet? Cords, cables and wires were a necessary evil.
Luckily, nowadays we have wireless everything. The coolest technology for me is Bluetooth headphones. The fact that I do not need to strategically run a cable down my shirt or jacket is a godsend. Unfortunately, the quality of Bluetooth devices vary wildly. It is easy to buy a wireless set of cans that sound terrible. So, are the VOXOA HD Wireless Stereo Headphones terrible or great?
Android phones have become rather predictable. Year after year, we see specs increase and little else. In other words, the Android market has become stagnant. Even low-end phones are very good -- case in point, the Moto G. However, many consumers still want to have top of the line devices, so manufacturers keep pumping out flagships.
Today, I had the opportunity to attend the LG G3 event in New York City. Since I had already seen many of the leaked images, I was not expecting to be surprised. However, the company did surprise me by focusing on software and UI improvements in addition to the improved hardware. When I finally got my hands on the beautiful hardware, I surprised myself -- rather than focus on what the G3 hardware is, I focused on what it does.
Anyone who regularly reads my handset reviews will know how important the Motorola Moto G has been. Since last November it has overshadowed every phone aiming at the £150 price range, and quite a lot priced a fair bit higher. Now Motorola wants the Moto E to achieve the same kind of dominance -- this time at the entry-level end of the phone market. The Moto E can be yours for £89 SIM-free.
By modern standards this is a small handset -- its screen is only 4.3-inches. It is amazing how much the landscape has changed over the last few years, so that a 4.3-inch phone seems small and 5-inch feels like the optimum size.
So far HP’s approach to tablets has been pretty clear cut, choosing Android for its low-cost 7-inch to 10.1-inch tablets, and Windows for its more premium-priced 11.6-inch and 13-inch convertibles. With the Omni 10, however, the company is really shaking things up. First, it’s a 10.1-inch tablet at the kind of price point where you used to find Android models only. Second, it’s running full-fat Windows 8.1, not Windows RT, with a quad-core Bay Trail processor and a full HD screen.
It’s as if HP has realized what other Windows 8 tablet manufacturers have struggled to come to terms with: That it’s not enough to produce a tablet with low-end specs and high-end pricing, and expect that people will buy it just for the chance to run Windows and use Office. You need to produce something that competes with its Android rivals on every level, including the screen, the performance and the price.
Chromebook represents a philosophical change -- a quiet revolution -- in personal computing, where relevance moves from hardware and software to electrical service-like cloud utility. In this brave new world, Chromebook is an appliance meeting most desktop needs, and pricing is closer to microwave ovens than to traditional PCs.
Nowhere is there more receptiveness to adaptation, or willingness to lead technological revolution, than the education market. There is historical precedent and fortunate timing: Chromebook fits neatly. Cost is low, utility is high, and familiarity is great. What is more natural to Millennial students than the web browser? They are accustomed to breathing the cloud's rarefied air and enjoying the benefits of anytime, anywhere computing -- freedom to float. Dell Chromebook 11 is primed for educational use while, unlike Lenovo's model, being easily purchased by anyone. This review addresses the computer's suitability for students, teachers, or you.
If Goldilocks visited the bears' home and tried tablets instead of porridge and beds, Google Nexus 7 would be too small. Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.1 would be too big. But Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 would be just right. This tweener tab is optimal size, packs bright breathtaking display, and is easily used for many hours with minimal eye, hand, or arm strain. While screen size and design concepts are little changed from the previous model, the HDX is thinner, lighter, higher-resolution, and well-matched to a bizarre-looking but beneficial case cover.
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is a nearly perfect Android tablet -- that is for anyone buying into the Amazon lifestyle. If I were asked to recommend any tab, the HDX would be one, and iPad Air the other. Both share similar usability benefits and tightly-integrated content and commerce stores, supporting services, and appealing apps. In late November, I put both tablets on my list of favorite products for 2013.
I struggle to aptly describe my feelings about Acer's affordable touchscreen Chromebook. The C720P is the lover you keep in the dark, for the benefits, but which you wouldn't be seen with in the daylight. Performance and battery life are wow-worthy. But the plastic exterior looks and feels cheap, and the touchscreen is too dim -- well, for my tastes.
More than two months now using the C720P, I like the computer least of all the Chromebooks to pass my way. I really want to love the laptop, and maybe you will. Perhaps experience using other Chromebooks soils my perception, and I am too quick to compare. That's why I sought, and got, reaction from C720P owners, many of which are more forgiving about appearances for performance benefits. Their responses are essential to this review.
Many new smartphone shoppers will compare the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5, which are about the same size, offer similar high-end features, run Android (with customized user interfaces), and arrived in U.S. retail stores within days of one another. But since I move from iPhone 5s to what henceforth will be referred to as The One, the two devices are uniquely attractive, and both pack bleeding-edge cameras, my comparison is more Apple to oranges. If iPhone 5s is high up your shopping list don't buy without first considering The One. It's my choice, although granted it might not be best for you.
I moved from the original One, the M7, to the 5s a few months ago. You might laugh at the reason. I find that my daughter, who shuns Androids for Apples, is more likely to text message when we both use iPhones. She is away at college. But the 5s, like iPhone 5, immediately disappointed for phone calling. Reception tends to breakup in my neighborhood on both devices, using AT&T or T-Mobile. Calling is superior and adequate on either One, and even better on the Moto X. The One illuminates the Apple's inadequacies, which simply are unacceptable coming from the company that popularized touchscreen smartphones.
Smartphones are very personal -- one device cannot fit all. Some people love the phablet craze, declaring enormous devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as the best. However, others will say it is too big. Even more will decry the fact that it runs Android and not their favorite mobile OS of choice, iOS or Windows Phone.
So, in reality, if a reviewer says something is the best, or perfect, it is the best or perfect for them. For you, maybe it would be a poor choice. But, if you do prefer Android, the nice thing is, those devices come in many shapes and sizes, so you can make your own choice. With all of that said, for me, the HTC One (M8) is the best Android phone available and it is damn-near perfect, save for a few minor gripes.
For many, small tablets are synonymous with low cost. This is thanks to Android tablets like the Nexus 7, which is great. While there is nothing wrong with being inexpensive, many of those Android tablets are also of poor quality -- the market is flooded with no-name variants. This has given small tablets a bad name. Small Windows tablets have been hit or miss. There have been duds such as the Acer Iconia W3 and good ones such as the Lenovo Miix 2 8. What has eluded the market thus far, is a great one.
The ThinkPad name is synonymous with business-class quality and durability. The laptops under this branding are known to be rugged, but elegant too. Leonovo only designates this moniker to computers that meet a certain high standard. So when given the opportunity to review an 8.3 inch ThinkPad tablet, I was excited for a quality product. Is it the great tablet we have been waiting for?