Sony Xperia Z2 – A Few Months Later: Z Life

Sony have been trying really hard to getting their game right in the flagship module. The Xperia Z1 was not really up to the mark, primarily because of the screen, but they had got it right with the build quality and waterproofing. They also struck the right balance with the Z1 compact which is still regarded as the best sub flagship mini in the market right now.

So lets find out if they have got it right with this year’s flagship the Xperia Z2, after a few months of use.

On the face of it, the Xperia Z2 has all the bells and whistles one expects out of a flagship. It packs in the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC with 3GB RAM on board. They have also tweaked the UI.

Xperia Z2 First Boot

Quick Look at the specs

Operating System : Android KitKat 4.4.2 (as of testing)

Dimension : 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2mm. 163g.

Camera : 20.7MP autofocus camera with a 1/2.3″ Exmor RS sensor and F/2.0 Sony G Lens.

2160p video recording @ 30fps, [email protected] 60fps, [email protected] 120fps.

2.2MP front camera with 1080p video recording.

Display : 5.2″ 16M-color 1080p IPS capacitive touchscreen Triluminos display (424ppi pixel density) with X-Reality engine

Processor : Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset (MSM8974AB): quad-core 2.3GHz Krait 400 CPU, 3 GB of RAM, Adreno 330 GPU

Memory & Storage : 3GB RAM + 16GB inbuilt storage. Expandable upto 128GB.

Battery :  3,200mAh battery

Colours : White, Black and Purple.

Design and Handling

The Sony Xperia Z2 has 5.2” Full HD display with a pixel density of 424 ppi. This coupled with the X-Reality Engine results in a gorgeous display. The phone is packaged in a mixture aluminum and scratch resistant glass. The back is completely finished in scratch resistant glass and feels really classy and great to hold. It definitely feels like an expensive phone.

Sony Xperia Z2 Front Home Screen

The phone has no unnecessary undulations or uneven surfaces like camera bumps. The front and the back are completely flat and minimalistic, adding to the classy look. As mentioned, the rear is made of glass (Sony classifies it as scratch proof and shatter resistant). So far, it has not shown signs of wear, although the phone hasn’t really hit the pavement so far.

Sony Xperia Z2 Glass Back

Coming to the controls, there is a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the top along with a secondary microphone for stereo sound video recording. The right holds the Power button, the volume controls, the microSD card slot and the camera button. The bottom has the microphone. the left side holds the SIM tray and the micro USB port. While the flap covering the USB is a little fiddly for day-to-day charging, you do have pogo pins that can be used with a charging dock or snap -on magnetic cables for easy charging. It does not have Qi Wireless Charging though. Even though the flap makes the phone dust and water-proof, opening the flap for charging daily and closing it back later does allow some grime to collect at the edges, as evident from the photo below.

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The Z2 gets stereo speakers for quality output, one located at the top and one at the bottom. It isn’t as loud or rich sounding as the “Boomsound” speakers on the HTC M8, but it is not that far behind.

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There is a 2.2MP camera on the front. The back holds the 20.7 MP autofocus camera with a single LED flash.

Display and User Interface

The Z2 comes with Android KitKat 4.4 out of the box. It was also, the company’s first phone to do so. The UI is pretty similar to the previous versions on Z1 and Z1 compact with a few nips and tucks.

Starting with the lockscreen, like most smartphones these days it supports widgets on every pane. You can also go straight to the camera from the lockscreen, a feature of KitKat. Security wise you get the usual Face, Pattern, PIN or Password Unlock.

Enter the homescreen and you will be greeted with five panes which can be customized. You can add or remove panes, seven being the maximum. Any of these panes can be made default and a press of the home button will take straight to the default pane.

The phone comes inbuilt with a host of static and live wallpapers and as with all Xperia devices, the theme can also be changed using the Theme Chooser. There are a few inbuilt themes and you can also download themes from the Sony Select  app or from the Play Store, where you can find third party themes and customize your phone as per your need.

It’s a similar story with the app drawer. Swipe from the left and you can sort apps in the app drawer manually, alphabetically, most used and most recently installed. You can also define your own order. Searching for an app shouldn’t be difficult as the search option comes in handy. Uninstalling an app can also be done from here.

The Notification draw and the Quick settings have been split now to give space for more information and shortcuts at ease. Swiping down from the top of the screen with one finger reveals the Notification draw and with two fingers reveals the Quick Settings.  The Quick settings toggles can be customized and one can choose from over 20 different toggles.

One new app in the Z2 is the What’s New. As the name indicates the app tell you what’s hot and happening the the app world and as well as keeps you updated with multimedia. It also displays the latest from the Sony Playstation Store as well. Unfortunately, this service is offered as one short-cut when you swipe up from the home button, along with Google Now.

Sony keeps updating it’s stock apps from time to time, adding new functions, though this is handled by the Sony Updater and not via the Play Store like Motorola and HTC have been doing of late.

Battery

The Z2 comes packaged with a massive 3200 mAh battery. We threw everything possible at it, gaming, browsing, extensive camera use and we were still able to manage more than day’s usage on a single charge. The Power Manager lets you toggle between various settings to squeeze the most out your battery.

The STAMINA mode lets you disable mobile data and WiFi when the screen if off, but the clever thing is you can turn on data only for a set of applications which is user defined. It can also restrict device performance to squeeze that extra juice out of your battery. You can set all this to be done ‘Always’ or when your battery goes down a certain percentage.

The phone also has location based WiFi which essentially activates WiFi only when certain saved WiFi signals are in range.

 

Camera

The camera is a 20.7 MP unit which is the same as the ones in the Z1 and the Z1 compact. We have already seen the improvements in imaging in the Z1 compact over the Z1 using the same camera unit. Lets find out how different it is in the Z2.

The camera unit comes with a Exmor RS backside illuminated 1/ 2.3” sensor, which is about 70% bigger than the standard 1/3”. The lens is a 27mm wide angle Sony G Lens with f/2.0 aperture and BIONZ image processor. It captures images with a maximum resolution of 5248 x 3936 in 4:3 aspect ratio.

The Layout is pretty simple and all your basic and commonly used controls are just a click. The Camera module is supported by an array of filters and modes. As with the Z1 you get a Superior Auto mode, manual mode, burst mode, background defocus, creative effect, AR Effect and many more.

The results are a mixed bag, there are some features that we liked and some which are not up to standard. Images are best captured in Superior Auto Mode but unfortunately the resolution of these images maxes out at 8MP. The Manual does  let you shoot in 20.7 MP but the results are not upto a flagship phone mark. There is plenty of detail  but it still doesn’t match up to the S5 in sharpness and color accuracy.

The HDR mode is quite a letdown as all it does is brightens up the image without preserving detail. The images look blown out and the colors look washed out.

The Z2 offers quite a lot when it comes to videos. For starters it offers 4K video capture at 30fps but it is limited to just 5 minutes. There is also an option of recording Full HD videos at either 30fps or 60fps. It is also capable of capturing 720p videos at 120fps. Audio is captured in stereo mode and is pretty impressive. There is no optical image stabilization on board but the digital image stabilization does the part pretty efficiently.

One interesting video feature is the Timeshift video, which captures videos in 720p at 120 fps an then lets you slow down selected moments in the video, unlike the S5 which captures the whole video in 120fps. This feature was first seen in the iPhone 5s but it could slow down only one part of the video. Sony has bettered this feature and you can slow down multiple parts of a video.

Low light performance is pretty good too. We were able to capture some really amazing low light photos without the use of flash. The flash itself isnt very harsh on subjects and lights up the area pretty damn well.

One thing that we have noticed though, is that the camera performance has improved over time with different firmware updates from Sony. So we hope that with future updates, it will get even better.

The front camera is a 2.2MP unit and it performs like any other front camera unit on the market, it is able to capture Full HD video and does its part.

Performance

The Snapdragon 801 processor is a tried and tested processor and we didn’t encounter any lags or glitches in heavy usage. It isn’t the top of the line MSM8974AC, but there’s nothing really lacking in the SOC. The onboard 3GB RAM is a boon and gives the phone that extra edge. We were able to comfortably able to switch between applications while playing games. One problem we encounter though is that the phone does heat up when subjected to heavy usage, especially when using the 4K video capture. This is very uncomfortable and thankfully the phone force shuts the camera app before it can get any worse..

The graphics are pretty impressive, we tried a couple of action games like Asphalt 8: Airborne and Batman:Arkham Asylum and the detail of the game play was on par with its competitors.

Connectivity and Browser

The default browser was satisfactory in all aspects. We threw whatever possible at it and it renders content smooth and fast. Zooming into content renders smooth and crisp fonts and images, thanks to the 1080p screen. Videos too ran smooth and we didn’t encounter any sorts of lag during browsing.

Coming to the connectivity side, unfortunately, the Z2 does not support Band 40 (2300 MHz TDD LTE) for LTE service in India, which is a bit of a letdown. It does support Dual-Band WiFi along with 802.11 ac, which is a good thing, assuming you have a capable router (and network connection). Having said that, we had no real issues (aside from the lack of LTE) and if you’re in an area which is not covered by LTE (which basically means most of India right now), you won’t miss the LTE support (or lack thereof).

Conclusion

The Xperia Z2 is quite the step up from its older siblings, the phone has got a very sophisticated, neat and classy look to it. The gorgeous screen is complimented by the powerful Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM onboard. There were very few moments where the phone let us down. Sure the still Camera module is still not up to the mark, but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker as its Video capabilities make up for it. In the past, Sony really did not bother with firmware updates, but things have changed and they are among the first of the non Nexus/Motorola devices to get updates to the newer versions of android. The Z2 definitely has what it takes to be a high quality flagship and also a big thumbs up from our side. The only thing to note is that Sony is on a 6 month release cycle (as of this article, the Xperia Z3 is already available in some markets). The flipside is that you can now get the Z2 for cheaper when the Z3 rolls out at their top end phone.

Lenovo Vibe Z review : What’s your Vibe?

Lenovo Vibe Z K910

Lenovo entered the Smartphone market very recently and have launched few if not many interesting phones. The K800 and the K900 were one the first few phones to be running on Intel’s Atom processor. In January 2014 the company bought Motorola from Google. The company was also recently listed as the world’s fourth largest Smartphone manufacturer. The future for world’s largest PC maker in the Smartphone market is, I must say, looking very bright.

VT's 1020_20140525_18_51_53_Raw

The company’s flagship model the Lenovo Vibe Z was announced last year and comes with all bells and whistles to battle the likes of the Samsung S4 and the HTC One. So let’s find if this flagship will match up to the segment leaders.

Quick look at the specs

  • Operating System – Android 4.3
  • Dimension – 149.1 x 77 x 7.9 mm, 145.2 g.
  • Camera – Sony IMX13513 MP f1/1.8, 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, 1080p video at 30fps. 5 MP front facing camera.
  • Display – IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors. 1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.5 inches with 401 ppi pixel density.
  • Processor – QualcommSnapdragon 800.
  • Memory & Storage – 2 GB RAM + 16GB storage. Non-expandable.
  • Battery – 3000 mAh Li-Po, i.e Lithium Polymer, battery rated for 33 hours of talk time on 3G and up to  26 days stand by on 3G.
  • Colours – Silver and Titanium.

Design and Handling

VT's 1020_20140525_18_52_30_Raw

The Lenovo Vibe Z has a massive 5.5” 1080×1920 display and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The phone is pretty large and is not comfortable for one handed use. The bezels on the sides and the bottom could have been a little thinner for better handling. But this is not really a deal breaker. The phone is really light for its size at just 145.2 g, other 5.5” phones like the Galaxy Note 3 weighs 168g and the LG G Pro weighs in at 172g. Some of its weight can be credited to its battery, Li-Po batteries are believed to be thinner and lighter when compared to standard Li ion batteries.

Lenovo have put in a lot of effort to make the phone look good and we really appreciate the effort. The back panel is finished either in Titanium or Black and I should say that both feel really good and premium.

Lenovo VibeZ Back With Camera

The power button is placed on the top right hand corner and the volume rocker is on the left hand side. The phone uses a micro SIM and the tray for the same has been placed on the right hand side. The microphone is at the bottom of the screen, just below the glass area. The 3.5 mm headset jack is placed on the top left corner and the micro USB charging port is placed at the bottom. All in all, the phone feels really good to hold and gives you a premium and expensive feeling. A micro SD port will be sorely missed.

There are three capacitive keys placed at the bottom for navigation. The home button is placed at the center, the back button to the right and the options menu to the left.

Display and User Interface

The 5.5” display has a resolution of 1080×1920 with a pixel density of 401 ppi . While, this may not be on par with the 441 ppi of the Galaxy S4, the difference is minimal. The fonts in the browser look very crisp and so do the pictures.

The phone comes bundled with a heavily modified Android 4.3 and the layout is clean and simple. The colors of the icons and the system wide features are pleasing to the eyes. There are a lot of customizable options to make your phone distinguishable. The phone comes inbuilt with a Theme Center, where one can choose from an array of themes. Each theme comes with its own set of icons and widget designs, to suit everyone’s taste.

Theme Center

Once you switch on the phone, it’s not difficult to notice that the App Drawer is missing. This means that every app installed will be added on to the desktop and as apps increase in number it becomes a must to sort out your apps into folders.

Multi-Tasking-Lenovo-VibeZ

The Multi Window feature enables one to make full use of the 5.5” screen and toggle between two apps on the home screen. This lets you read a book and browse the internet in parallel without having to switch between the apps. Lenovo have included a lot nice features to play around with, Smart Answer automatically answers an incoming call when placed near your ear. Smart Call, makes a call to the person whose contact or message you are viewing without having to hit the dial button. Smart Dial is a feature which alters the size of the dialer keys based on the angle of the phone to favor one handed use, a useful feature considering the size of the phone.

Wide Touch is a one-shortcut access to all your favorite apps and system toggles. It basically provides you with an ease of access shortcut window where you can organize all your favorite and frequently used apps. As mentioned it also provides you with a shortcut to all the system toggles like wifi, Bluetooth etc. It is similar to Apple’s own AssistiveTouch feature.

The phone comes inbuilt with a lot of Lenovo proprietary apps, Lenovo calls it the DOit series of apps. The SHAREit enables you the share photos, videos, apps and other data to a paired devices or a group of devices. The CLONEit feature in this app lets you import all your files to a selected device. This is a nice addition provided the receiver device also has SHAREit installed which is available in the Google Play Store. We tried SHAREit with a Lenovo – Non Lenovo pairing we found data transfer to be considerably faster than normal bluetooth transfer.

SECUREit protects your phone from viruses, spam and malware. SYNCit helps you backup or restore your contacts, messages and call logs. SNAPit is your Camera and SEEit is your Gallery. Although on our device, SNAPit and SEEit came preinstalled as Camera and Gallery.

Lenovo have tied up with Gameloft to provide some very popular paid games at a discounted price. The Amazing Spiderman 2 for instance regularly available at Rs 390 is available for Rs 20 in the Gameloft store.

The phone has an inbuilt FM radio with a recording option. We did record a song over the radio and the quality of the recording was far from impressive.

Driving Apps

Drive mode gives users only those essential apps that one might need while driving, without the use of hands ofcourse. The user interface is pretty simple and and gives you access only to Navigation, Messages, Music and Telephone. Voice recognition is not upto the mark, but we were able to get what we needed after certain trials.

Battery

The 3000 mAh battery that powers the Lenovo Vibe Z is pretty powerful. We threw everything possible at it, gaming, browsing, extensive camera use and we were still able to manage more than day’s usage on a single charge. The Power Manager lets you toggle between various settings to squeeze the most out your battery.

Battery

Running really low on charge? Don’t fret, the Ultimate Saving Mode, will turn off all data connections making available only messaging, dialer, contacts and clock to access the screen also turns mostly black with white and blue to conserve power.

Camera

The Camera unit is a Sony IMX13513 MP f1/1.8, as you can see it is a pretty fast lens. The camera is pretty quick to take photos. Though it is a 13 MP unit, you will be able to capture a maximum of 12 MP at 4160×3120 pixels at a 4:3 ratio. For a 16:9 ratio one will have to settle for a maximum of 9 MP at 4160×2340 pixels. The volume keys can be used for digital zoom.

The camera offers a lot in terms of feature, if you are not an auto camera mode kind of person there are options to alter ISO, White Balance, Metering and the likes. Here is a list of other features available.

  • HDR for photos
  • Dual shot mode with the front and the rear camera.
  • Macro mode.
  • Smile shot.
  • Super night mode, for nice night shots.
  • Burst mode.
  • Self-timer.

There are also other useful features like

  • Eraser – This erases unwanted objects in your picture.
  • Group
  • Normal Gif
  • Magic GIF – Capture a GIF and make edits with some coloured markers.

Apart from these there is huge list of filters available at your fingertip. Oh and by the way they give you a live preview too.

The HDR mode works pretty well for those pictures where the light hits the lens directly. In the attached pic you can see that the detail captured around Jerry is pretty commendable, the colors look natural too. We also captured an outdoor picture in HDR, in the picture 2 you can clearly see that we get more blues in the sky but the reds and the greens don’t look natural.

The Camera is capable to capturing full HD videos at 30 fps. Sadly, there is nothing more to write about the video capture, unlike the Galaxy S4 you don’t get an option to shoot at 60 fps, neither there are any slow motion options. There is no HDR mode for the video either. So all you get is a straight forward 1080p video at 30fps.

The 5MP front facing camera can be described as selfie oriented and why not? We were really impressed by the detail and the quality of the photos taken by the front camera. The lens fills in enough light and is quick to capture photos. The front snapper is also capable to capturing full HD videos. We have to say that it is one of the best front facing cameras we have ever used.

Performance

The Snapdragon 800 processor is a tried and tested processor and we didn’t encounter any lags or glitches in heavy usage. The onboard 2GB RAM does help smooth and speedy performance. We were able to comfortably able to switch between applications while playing games. One problem we encounter though is that the phone does heat up when subjected to heavy usage. This is not that uncomfortable, but it is definitely noticeable.

The graphics are pretty impressive, we threw a couple of action games like Frontline Commander and Real Steel and the detail of the imaging were on par with its competitors.

Connectivity and Browser

The default browser was satisfactory in all aspects. We threw whatever possible at it and it renders content smooth and fast. Zooming into content renders smooth and crisp fonts and images, thanks to the 1080p screen. Videos too ran smooth and we didn’t encounter any sorts of lag during browsing.

Telephony , Gallery and Music player

The phone comes with Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic and does a really good job of cutting out noise. We didn’t encounter any voice related problems or disturbance on either side of a call.

The Gallery is given a really nice touch. You can view photos and videos either through albums or all at once. The photos are nicely spaced out and thumbnails appear as squares or rectangles. These thumbnails also act as live tiles, which is really nice touch.

Jigsaw is an inbuilt gallery extension where you can choose photos and arrange them in predefined collage templates.

There is a very clever option to view only portraits or landscape photos. The gallery automatically filters out only portraits or landscapes based on option chosen.

The phone doesn’t come with any proprietary Lenovo music player. We tested its music capabilities with the Play music app. We were really blown away with the performance of the bundled earphones, the sound is crisp and clear. The bass boost is accurate and not overdone. We also like the build quality of the earphones, they are definitely built to last. The loudspeaker is placed at the back at the bottom, the surface of the phone is slightly curved here making sure the speaker is not blocked when placed on its back. This also helps in reflecting sound and the final result is pretty good.

Conclusion

The Lenovo Vibe Z definitely has the vibe of a flagship smartphone, there’s not really much to not like about the phone. The build quality is excellent, though the camera has its downsides it still performs well for everyday use. It’s also priced pretty well at around Rs 30,000, the Exynos Galaxy S4 is priced about the same, but it’s not a Snapdragon. There is a lot to like about the phone, we really loved the 5 MP front facing camera, the sound clarity is crisp. All in all, the Lenovo Vibe Z gets a big Thumbs Up from My Portable World.

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Notion Ink’s 10.1 Inch Adam II Tablet Reviewed

Last week, I received a review unit of the Adam II from Notion Ink just before the device went on sale. I’ve been playing around with the device since then and I’ve been impressed with some of the features that the Adam II has to offer.

Learning from the mistakes of the ill-fated original Adam tablet, Notion Ink has redesigned the Adam II from ground up to impress us.

While the original Adam came with a Pixel Qi display, which promised a lower power display tech, the Adam II doesn’t feature this technology. When asked about why they decided to forgo Pixel Qi, Notion Ink replied that the Pixel Qi displays had a limited viewing angle, they were looking for a 180 degrees viewing angle along with a display thickness of less than 2.5mm which Pixel Qi couldn’t provide.

Quick Specs

Where’s a review without a quick peek at the device specifications? Of course we all know that only the specs don’t tell the full story, but here goes:

  • The Adam II is powered by a 1.5Ghz Dual Core ARM (Cortex A9) processor.
  • Display: The 10.1 inch IPS LCD display has resolution of 1280×800 pixels with a 16:10 aspect ratio. The outer display is protected by a pane of Asahi scratch resistant glass.
  • Memory & Storage: 1GB RAM and 8GB Internal Storage expandable up to 32GB via microSD card
  • Camera: The front and rear cameras are BSI OmniVision Camera 3.2 Megapixel shooters capable of video capture at 720p
  • Battery: 6000 mAh battery
  • Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 BLE, HDMI 1.4b, 3.5mm headphone connectors, Micro USB 2.0 with USB-OTG
  • Weighs 584g (lighter than the 4th Generation iPad)
  • Powered by Android 4.2.2
  • The Adam II comes in white only.

Build and Design

The Adam II comes in white and features an industrial design which is mostly rectangular in all aspects, with slightly rounded corners. According to Notion Ink, their design is inspired by the art form of a book. In fact, where the book’s spine comes, the Adam II has an extra bezel area which houses the speakers and front-camera.

Speakers and Front Camera

I like this since my (relatively large) hands can easily grip the device from the left, without touching the screen. This prevents unwanted touch events from triggering while just holding the tablet.

The materials used on the Adam II are of great quality, aluminium matte finish back. A very premium finish if I may add.  The top of the device features a Power button recessed near the corner with the 3.5mm headphone socket next to it. The connectivity options are at the bottom where you have the volume control, SIM, MicroSD card, HDMI and USB connectivity options.

Controls and Connectors Adam II

The spine of the device features something Notion Ink calls the STM Secondary Display which is Black and White LCD display without a backlight like those you see on digital watches or calculators. This shows up notifications if any or the time of the day and a custom Message.

Notion Ink Adam II STN Secondary Display

Adam II Review

Notion Ink decided to forgo heavy UI customizations on the device and have gone with (an almost) stock Android experience, which is a good in my opinion. This should let them come out with future updates faster.

Screenshot_2013-12-24-17-05-19

The only additions I did notice were buried in the setting screen, where there were options to configure the HDMI display options and time outs, the Secondary Settings options and Screenshot settings.  The Screenshot settings allow you to add a screenshot icon to the status bar for you to quickly take a screenshot.

Screenshot_2011-01-01-22-57-11

The Adam II, even though runs on a dated processor, runs well pretty much most of the time lag free. Of course if you run apps which run a lot of background tasks, you may start to notice a lag here and there. For my reading and casual gaming experience on the Adam II, the device performed flawlessly.

The display on the Adam II is a 720p screen with a resolution of 1280×800 is a slight negative on this device, since the 10 inch display with that resolution does show slight pixellation on the screen if you look real close. This doesn’t affect the day-to-day usage on the device though . I’m sure all of us are getting spoilt by the Retina and beyond resolution of the iPad and it’s competitors. Remember that the Adam II is way below these in the price band.

Notion Ink claims that the Adam II’s display comes with ICC Color profiles, with one of the best color reproductions available in the market.  They also uses Diamond Glass from Asahi for the display which is quite scratch resistant.

Notion Ink Adam II

The stereo speakers on the device are good. Since they are front facing, the sound pretty loud and since the two speakers are spaced out on the side, we can clearly make out the stereo effect with these speakers. Being smaller speakers, the bass reproduction is not too great, but then you can always plug-in your favourite pair of headsets for more serious music listening.

One thing to note is that the in 3G version of the tablet, the SIM is used only for data, so you can’t make Voice calls or receive SMS on the Adam II. This is pretty much like the way the iPad works on 3G. I don’t mind that since I won’t really be making calls or messaging from a 10 inch tablet. A tablet this side is mostly for media consumption and entertainment.

The Secondary Display or the STN is still a novel feature in the device, and could do with more useful features going forward. It’s kind of useful right now if you want to see if you have any notifications without switching on the display. You can set the custom message from the Settings menu. When reached out, the folks at Notion Ink said that they are working on additional features like battery percentage and cycling though the notifications using the volume key in the near future.

I didn’t get a chance to try out the HDMI output from the device since I didn’t have the right cables handy.

Pricing and Availability

In terms of pricing, Notion Ink is selling the WiFi only version of the device for Rs. 16,499 and the 3G device is Rs. 18,999. They are currently shipping the Adam II only within India via their website. They do plan to have it available on other online retailers like Flipkart soon.

[alert style=”2″]For the holiday season, Notion Ink has a Christmas offer running –  the WiFi is available at Rs. 13,499 and the  3G version at 15,499.[/alert]

Warranty and Support

The Adam II comes with a 1 year replacement warranty. Which means if you do have any issues with the device, they’ll replace the device. If you do have any problem with the device, you can contact the folks at Notion Ink via [email protected] and they’ll arrange for a pickup of the device from your home.

Verdict

I love the premium finish of the device, coupled with the connectivity options the Adam II provides. I love the way they’ve designed the tablet so that it can be held like a book in the portrait mode, and the light weight also ensures that the tablet doesn’t weigh you down.

The pros pretty much outweigh the cons, so if you are in the market for a 10 inch Android tablet in the Rs. 10,000 – 20,000 range, your search stops with the Adam II tablet.

Links

Notion Ink Website

A Quick look at the Gionee Elife E3

Gionee Mobile phones, though new to the Market, are making their presence known by introducing smartphones with the latest features at a price that is value for money. The Gionee Elife E3 mobile phone falls in the Rs 15000 segment of the smart phones and has a lot to offer.  Apart from the attractive price range, the phone is very appealing to the eye thanks to  its sleek looks  and curvy edges with various vibrant colors (Blue, Red, Pink, Black, White and Yellow).

Gionee Elife E3

What’s in the Box:

What's in the Box Gionee E3

The following are contained in the box of the Gionee Elife E3
1) The phone and its cover
2) One protective transparent plastic case which covers the rear part of the phone. This gives the phone a glossy finish but the quality of the plastic is very low. It is flimsy and is susceptible to cracking very quickly.
3) Phone battery.
4) Phone Charger with USB data cable.
5) One hands-free Headphones with mic.
6) Two complementary screen guards.
7) User Guide, Warranty card and contact list of service centers across the country.

Software and Hardware:

The Gionee Elife E3 is built with a Quad Core 1.2GHz Cortex A7 CPU. It has 1GB RAM and 16GB of storage space. You can add more storage with a micro SD card up to a maximum of 32GB.  The phone ships with Android v4.2 Jelly Bean. It also comes with a 4.7″ 720p touch screen display which is capable of HD playback.

The UI has been changed quite a bit compared to ‘stock’ or ‘vanilla’ android, and in no way resembles the UI on other phones at this price range. You get different icons and lock screen, which you can change by changing the theme. Unfortunately, there seems to be a limited set of themes available. Hopefully, in a future update, Gionee will add the ability to download more themes. It is fairly snappy with the occasional stutter.

The phone has three capacitive buttons up front: Menu, Home and Back. Long pressing the home button brings up the multitasking option. Switching between apps is fairly quick. There are stutters in terms of the animations once in a while, during the multitasking process. These are bugs that will hopefully be fixed with a firmware update.

Camera:

The primary camera on the Gionee Elife E3 is an 8.0 megapixel HD shooter, with a secondary 2.0 megapixel front facing camera. The primary camera can record HD video at 1080p.

Camera settings contain the following options:

  1. HDR
  2. Face detections
  3. Scene mode(Night, Party, Portrait, Landscape etc.)
  4. Continuous Shot upto 20 Pics
  5. Exposure
  6. Self Timer; Saturation, brightness, contrast, ISO and anti flicker settings.

There are various preset frames that one can use to add an artistic touch to the final picture.

  • Colour effects: Mono, Sepia, Negative, Aqua, Blackboard & whiteboard.
  • White Balance; Capture Actions (Ex. Touch Shot, Gesture Shot, Smile Shot)
  • Capture mode; (Panorama, MAV, Eraser, Best face, EV bracket shot etc.)

The camera interface isn’t the same set up that one sees with other OEMs like Xolo or Micromax. It looks quite nice and is very simple to use. You have easy access to settings and the toggles to the various modes.

 

 

The image quality isn’t the best out there, but it is very much usable for the average buyer who would probably just share them on Facebook. Just don’t expect print quality images. A word of advice: if you use the cover provided by Gionee, if the flash fires, it more or less ruins any night time photos, as the flash seems to reflect off the sides of the cover. Either cut a larger groove on the cover around the camera or get another cover.

Camera Samples:

Battery: 

The phone has an 1800 mAh battery, which is replacable. With usage involving GPS, Data, various apps and Music playback, the phone got me through the day (16 to 20 Hrs) when fully charged. For a phone of this caliber this is pretty decent. When using only the phone with no data, the phone obviously lasts longer. Of course, your mileage may vary, as battery usage will vary from person to person and each individuals usage. Unless you’re a heavy user or play a lot of games, the phone will get you through the day. 

Other Specs:

[table]

,,,
General, 2G Network, 850/900/1800/1900 MHz

,3G Network, 900/2100 MHz
,SIM, Dual SIM

Phone Dimensions,Size, 137.4 x 68.4 x 7.9 mm
Data, “GPRS,EDGE, HSPA,WLAN, Bluetooth”,
Features, “Radio, Multi-media MP3, DTS Sound, GPS, Digital Compass, G-Sensor, Light-Sensor “,

[/table]

Conclusion:

In conclusion I find that the Gionee Elife E3 is a phone that offers you true value for money. There is an occasional lag that I find when I using the phone, but the overall experience is satisfactory. The gaming experience and quality of the HD screen watching movies is excellent. However the phone does need a better headset and the quality of sound when listening to music isn’t something that is a standout feature of this phone.

Note: This is a quick write up by an actual end user of the device, who now happens to have bought two more of the same device for other members of his family!

About the Guest Author:

IMG_20131029_195234My name is Ananth Karthik and I’m a sailor who sails the 7 seas. I’m not much of Gadget Aficionado but I do like to move with the times and do my best to keep up with fast moving technology.

Nokia Monster Purity on-ear Headset Reviewed

I’ve been longing to try out this pair of headsets ever since I saw them during the Nokia World 2011 event last year. I did get to play around with demo units while I was there. I couldn’t spend too much time with these at that time because of the number of people waiting to try it out.

These headsets were also not on sale in India until recently. Now that Nokia India has finally started marketing these and quite a few more of their accessories in India, we can finally get our hands on this unit. Nokia India had sent across the Monster Purity On-Ear headsets to review and I was overjoyed when I got them.

What’s in the Box?

In the box along with the headsets you also get the following:

˚A hard carrying case, in which you can fold your headsets into
˚A cable with 3.5″ connectors and mic
˚Another cable with the mic and control buttons

Not a lot in terms of accessories, but the basics to get you started. The cables allow you to use the headsets with a wide variety of devices, including your phones, laptops, music players and more.

2 Weeks of Bliss

Working from home does have it benefits, but also it’s drawbacks. It’s hard to concentrate on work when you have two young kids running and shouting around the house. My regular pair of headsets didn’t isolate their noise unless I had the volume cranked up real high, but then that’s not helping getting work done as well.

For the two weeks I had this pair of headsets, I really got to enjoy working from home. The ear pads were great in greatly reducing the cacophony of noises around. Now I didn’t have to crank up the volume to pound away at that tricky code for work.

The headsets I got were in my favorite color – Blue. Unfortunately, the trial period came to and end and I had to woefully ship these back to Nokia India. I’ll have to save up for to get me a pair of these in the near future. Till then I’m back to the noisy environs at home.

Build Quality

The headsets themselves have a premium finish with a lot of high quality glossy plastic finish. The joints where the headsets fold in are also nicely done, and the joints don’t seem flimsy at all. The ear-pads themselves are soft, allowing for a prolonged usage without much discomfort. The ear-pads could be a little uncomfortable if you plan to use this in a warm environment. In terms of the headset fit, it was a snug fit after adjusting it properly. It was always snug and secure and didn’t feel like it was going to fall off at all.

Tangle Free

Apart from the headsets themselves being blue, the supplied cables also came in a matching blue. The cables are tangle free, and what a blessing that is. No more cables running in knots and having to struggle around with them to get them straight.

The pack came with two types of cables:  a cable with the mic only and another cable with a mic and control buttons. The one with the control buttons (like the one in the image) works only with Windows Phones so it goes well with Nokia’s Lumia phones. I tried getting the controls to work on other phones as well, but without much success. The Macbook Pro actually responded to the control button by starting and stopping music, but the volume controls didn’t seem to respond.

Sound Quality

I loved the sound quality of these headsets. I’m not expert audiophile to tell you how good the soundstage of this head is, or if it’s base or midrange were good and the highs were crisp. All I can tell you is that I was able to enjoy listening to music on these headsets, and they did a better job than all the headphones I had lying around at home. These are Monster headsets, and their sound quality is top-notch.

Retail Price

This is what I mentioned about some time back about saving for this pair of headsets. This pair of  Nokia Monster Purity headsets is currently retailing for around Rs. 11,420 on the Nokia India Online Store. A tad bit pricy but for me it’s worth the quality of this device. Time to start saving up.

Image Gallery

The Blackberry Playbook a year later with a Blackberry fan

Playbook, at it’s debut, opened to widespread negative reviews. The overwhelming perception was that Research in Motion (RIM) was a sinking ship, with a battered stock and the wizards from Canada had taken a first shot at scaling up a brand new Operating System (OS). It didn’t conform to the crowd and leading lights of tech web sites who have dubious standards when it concerns “conflict of interests”.

Despite the hoopla, RIM has probably managed to garner about 3% of worldwide tablet market share. It could be better or worse, if someone decides to contest this claim, but there is a huge difference between what is “shipped” and actual sales. Something that Apple and Samsung are adept in “make believe” and cost accounting practises to charm the press about “millions” of sold inventory.

The electronics industry strongly believes in refreshing their brands; most of the users are probably unaware that the present day hardware is good enough to run the “latest” software. Most of them are also unaware that high prices being paid for the product are way beyond the actual costs of production and moving in to market after taxes. Invariably, early adopters are only paying for the advertising costs. That’s why the “price cuts” once the brand recall becomes easier.

With this humbling back ground, I got a brand new 64 GB Playbook, once it’s prices were slashed. I have owned a Blackberry for over two years now; a curve 3G followed by Bold 9790 which is arguably the best phone I have ever used. I was naturally tempted to look at the offering from RIM with it’s promise of Blackberry Bridge (more on that later) and looked forward to see how best it could be integrated in my daily work flow.

The new Blackberry (BB) operating system (OS) is based on QNX, which is highly resilient and secure embeddable system with it’s own custom user interface (UI). It is here that it wins the contest hands down. Traditional marketing of Playbook has not focused on the cores of processor, the build quality or it’s display. To me, it doesn’t matter. Because the present day quad cores would not caress your hands (or ears) while using the instrument; it’s more of a marketing gimmick and it’s bound to be resource hungry when at the most you’d be using your phone to either make calls, text or play occassional Angry Birds. Quad core for Angry Birds? Seriously?

It’s the 7 inch screen and the form factor that’s the icing on the cake. It’s big enough to be held in hands, a bright screen display that can be easily read in direct sunlight and slides in my jeans back pocket. For those coming from Android or Apple world, it would be a little confusing to see a physical volume and power button. Rest of the tablet is entirely gesture based. It’s here where RIM holds it’s trump card. It’s deceptively simple without making it overtly complex.

The OS boots up in about a minute and a half during the time it displays wonderful fractals. If you have password locked the device (which is a good security practise), once you boot in the main screen, you are good to go. I have the basic Wifi model (the 4G LTE isn’t launched in India as yet) which has been discussed here.

The fun starts with Blackberry Bridge which is connection to your existing Blackberry Mobile through encrypted Bluetooth. With a huge OS update recently, it’s easy to access the text messages (in addition to emails, contacts, memo pad, Blackberry Messenger and Calendar). At times, when I need to access the Internet, I don’t have to tether it but rather use the “Bridge Browser” (the browser on the phone) through Playboook with the added advantage of bigger screen. This avoids the extra charges of Internet tethering. Further, bridge allows me to access files on Blackberry and Blackberry Messenger. The predictive text input is so far the best I have seen on the touch screens (though personally I prefer the physical keyboard on my Bold 9790).

The front and rear camera shoots in high definition beauty; stills as well as video. However, the human eye is sufficiently adept in distinguishing the “fine lines” of high definition. If you are serious about photography, buy a camera instead! The sound output comes from its reasonably good speakers; the standard mic output (3.5 mm jack) when routed through my headphones (I recommend Denon), sounds fabalous. The inbuilt player plays most of the video and music formats with a loud sound output that can be enjoyed with a group of people huddled around it. Needless to say, Flash is in-built for web (how fast we move towards HTML 5 and flash agnostic world is anyone’s guess) and there is a dedicated You Tube app that plays HD videos flawlessly (depends on your connection speed). Oh yes, you can copy and paste too!

Despite the intense multi tasking (I open up multiple apps/screens/browser instances), I haven’t seen my tablet lag or go belly up. The only time I had to forcibly reboot is when I had sideloaded Android applications in developmental mode, when it “mis-behaved”.

There is a standard micro-HDMI slot, a charging port (that uses micro-USB plug) interchangeable through the Blackberry handsets and a connector dock for the keyboard. I haven’t been able to get this accessory, so I wouldn’t be able to comment on it.

Why do the platforms crow about “thousands”/million apps? Some of the apps are mere “launchers” for the browser to interact while some are clones of each other. How many Twitter apps would you need to do the same thing on your tablet? That’s why I am amused at the sheer number. While Apple restricts you on it’s ecosystem (and so does Bllackberry, in a way), RIM has decided to run encrypted apps in future update. I would be happy for the developer who ought to get suitably rewarded for the efforts made. More so, with newer developments in the way apps can be coded for RIM, it has become easier to translate your idea into a product (as testified by numerous “jam sessions” held by RIM across the world). Android has a lot of piracy, the market is full of malware and is inherently insecure. Although the updates promise to rectify this, it is a huge fragmented market. Apple (and to that effect RIM) ensures uniformity for updates and product lines but app for app, it’s far more profitable to develop for Blackberry.

I primarily use my tablet as a reading device (I use Instafetch) since there is no native application like Instapaper for Playbook. It gets my work done with fairly simple settings. I have an epub reader (which also reads chm files) which does the good job of reading e-books.

Native pdf support comes from Adobe Acrobat which is insipid. I prefer to use Quopa’s PDF Reader with some degree of pdf manipulation like highlighting across text which is preserved across platforms. I paid after using it for trial and it’s worth it. I read a lot of journal articles in pdf which translates in true value for money.

Apart from these two, I haven’t found anything else to increase the utility of my tablet. Lack of Skype support is a problem but I find my laptop reliable to be used for it. There is Video Chat built in, but you would need another Playbook to interact with it. I am told that the next Blackberry Messenger update would come with Video Chat support as well. It’s not that I am carrying an elephant or iPad magically makes me look good on the cam in any manner whatsoever. I have sideloaded Flipboard (which sets up a pretty interface for RSS feeds) but it’s just an interface. That adds nothing to my daily workflow and I have found it’s support pathetic. (The queries sent to their developers for native Playbook app remains unanswered even after 1 week). I access my feeds through browser on Newsblur which is what a RSS reader ought to be.

Apps or hardware specifications is a pissing contest; more like a rat race where the principal protagonists are just rats. Death of personal computing is highly exaggarated by journalists looking to stir a hornet’s nest, garner more eyeballs on their pithy web sites while acquiring a cult status promoting the new tablet as the next best thing to sliced bread. A tablet cannot be a replacement for a PC, as yet. It is as best, a supplement.

That’s where Playbook cuts through the flotsam and the fluff. It is what it takes a real tablet with adequate form factor and hardware specifications to shine through. Highly recommended.

 


Author Bio:

Dr. Berry, the pseudonym of a real life doc by profession, but a technophile in heart. He spends his free time dwelving in the world of technology. Loves BBM, but hates that some of his friends have to be reached through Whatsapp instead.

Impact of Mobile Apps on PC Software

Smartphones and mobile applications are creating lots of buzz now-a-days. With the tremendous growth in development and utilization of mobile applications, the corresponding impact is also felt on development of new software for personal computers. The four year old Apple’s App Store is a great success. This success has led to the Mac Application Store (meant for desktops) in the year 2011 and Windows Store in 2012.

Let us check how mobile applications and app stores have influenced the development of desktop software.

Mobile application vs. Desktop applications

  • Mobile applications give you flexibility and convenience. As the Smartphone is always switched on in addition to the usage of the gadget for various communications, you can easily access information and services through various applications.
  • Mobiles can also provide context sensitive information which the desktop counterpart may not be able to provide. Location based apps is a good example of this case. Location based apps range from maps, exercise tracking, traffic reports and more.
  • However, mobile applications have their own limitations. These applications should be designed by taking into consideration of the availability of the processing power, memory capacity and battery backup.
  • Some of the widely used mobile applications are games and aids to information such as city traffic, climate and various live updates. You can install the application of your choice directly from the app store. About 50% of the total applications that are available for download inthe app store are free.
  • Even though there was craze for the promotion of web applications, developers are again switching gears to develop applications that can be installed by users on their desktops and laptops to improve performance. As a matter of fact, web applications eliminate the process of installation of the software on the client side.
  • Web applications were promoted by convincing users that it was a clever way to avoid viruses and malware that may enter your system while downloading the software. By registering for a service through online, you will gain access to the web service.
  • Desktop applications are again getting their prominence. This segment has enough scope for growth. Unlike mobile application users, desktop application users will not hesitate to purchase premium applications. All they want is the availability of powerful features.
  • There are no restrictions for developers as well in terms of processing capabilities, memory utilization and power consumption available with desktops and laptops. This will let users experience technology at its peak levels. Developers will be able to release challenging applications and users will be thrilled to utilize these cutting edge technologies.

There is a clear distinction between mobile and desktop applications. Desktop applications will serve the needs of serious technical brains, who would like to explore the technical capabilities of new applications which will improve the productivity. Even though there will be games and other applications of entertainment value, utilities and productivity applications are the most sought after desktop applications.

The Future

User engagement through applications is steadily growing. The world of applications is growing and it is affecting desktops and laptops as well. This was recognized by Apple and Mac Store, which were launched in 2011. It was a great success which has already attracted more than 100 million downloads. As mobile applications are made available for download on the App Store, similarly desktop applications will be made available on application store. Users can go for updates as and when the new version is released. It can be summed up that mobile applications have influenced the lifestyles of millions of people across the globe and in the same way desktop applications are going to change the desktop scenario as well.

Pic Credit – Quole Tech via Flickr

The Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone Review

Thanks to the good folks at Nokia & Nokia Connects, we got our hands on the Nokia Lumia 900 to take it out for a spin quite a while back. We have to apologize for not getting this review out to you sooner, but we just got held up with a lot of other things which have been keeping us busy. Here’s our much delayed review of the phone.

The White Lumia 900 is quite a looker, and feels quite sleek. Having used the Nokia Lumia 800  which also has a polycarbonate body, but the White Lumia 900’s body feels much more slicker that the 800’s.

The Lumia 900 is the third phone in the Lumia series after the 710 and the 800. All 3 phones come with the Windows Phone 7.5 Mango operating system. We have had the opportunity to use all 3 phones extensively. The Lumia 900 is Nokia’s flagship device and will be launched in India in Q3 2012. Let’s get a quick look at the specs before heading out in to the review.

Nokia Lumia 900 Specifications

  • 4.3″ AMOLED Clear Black Gorilla Glass Display
  • Display resolution – 800 x 480 px
  • 8 Megapixel rear camera, with Carl Zeiss Optics and a 1 Megapixel front facing camera
  • Video Capture at 720p
  • Dual LED Flash
  • 3G / WiFi / DLNA / Bluetooth Wireless Connectivity
  • 3.5 mm Audio connection & MicroUSB wired connection
  • FM Radio
  • Windows Phone 7.5, upgradable to 7.8

Hardware

The Nokia Lumia 900The Lumia 900 stays true to the Nokia’s of old and has excellent build quality and a solid polycarbonate shell. There were absolutely no creaks or deflections during our time with it. We put it through some rough use and there wasn’t a single mark of our abuse at the end. It is one of the most solidly built devices I’ve ever used. All this solidity has a downside which is weight. It weighs in at 160 grams which is by today’s standards, quite a bit. Just for the sake of comparison, both the new Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X weigh 130 grams. Its 11.5mm thick compared to S III and the One X’s 8.6mm and 8.9mm respectively.

It has a Qualcomm APQ8055 Snapdragon chipset with a 1.4 GHz Scorpion CPU which is the same clock speed as the Lumia 800 and the Samsung Omnia W. The 710 has 16 Gb of internal storage with 512 Mb of ram and an Adreno 205 GPU. I

t comes with the usual array of sensors and A-GPS with GLONASS. Being a windows phone based device has the usual 3 buttons at the bottom which are the back button on the extreme left, the home key in the centre and the search key on the right. There is no micro SD slot (like other WP phones) which could be a problem for some. The display is a 4.3” capacitive Nokia ClearBlack unit protected by Corning Gorilla glass.

The Lumia has around ~217 ppi. The 3.5mm headphone jack, noise cancellation mic, micro USB slot for charging/data sync, and the micro sim slot are at the top of the phone. The right hand side has the volume up/down buttons, a, power button and dedicated camera shutter button. The back has an 8 megapixel autofocus camera with Carl Zeiss lens and dual LED flash. There are no buttons on the left hand side of the phone. The bottom has the speaker grille that’s beautifully drilled through the polycarbonate.

Interface

The Lumia 900 uses the Windows Phone Mango operating system which pretty much says it all but we’ll elaborate as much as possible on the interface and its advantages and disadvantages.

After slotting in the micro SIM card and the device is switched ON for the first time, you need to enter or create a Live ID. Without a live id, you cant download apps through the marketplace. After that’s done, you can go ahead and setup as many Email IDs as you like from the usual options like Gmail, Yahoo mail, MS Exchange and so on. Facebook and Twitter are fully integrated into WP and also can be added during the initial setup. Contacts can also be synced through your online accounts or from your PC using the  Zune software which is freely downloadable.

Windows Phone has a user interface called Metro. There is never a want for more processing power or memory. The response is extremely fluid and I was never left waiting for anything. It basically replaces the icons found in android and IOS with live square tiles. Just like you would add a shortcut icon in android phones, you can add tiles of your most commonly used apps, contacts etc. Live tiles are really easy to use and visually pleasing especially if you’re used to the boring icons in other operating systems. You can create live tiles for apps or for particular contacts. That live tile will then display that contact’s profile picture and any Facebook and twitter updates. You could have individual live tiles for each of your email ID’s or you could link all of them to create one linked inbox. The email in all WP phones is really good and I didn’t see the grouping errors seen previously on the other WP phones.

All windows phones have universal volume and you cannot change volume for specific apps or events. For example, you cannot change media volume without also affecting the ringer volume. I really liked this change because it meant I could reduce volume before music or videos started.

Windows phone has the PEOPLE live tile which can be use to access your People hub which has Phone contacts, your contacts’ Facebook and twitter updates on one page and live tiles of your frequently used contacts. There is also a ME live tile which can be used to update your Facebook and twitter status, view any notifications and updates.

Messaging on WP phones is integrated with Facebook messaging. Provided you are logged into Facebook, you will receive all your Facebook messages and phone messages in the same inbox which is a nice touch. Windows marketplace is quite good and is growing everyday. There are thousands of apps that can be downloaded. The marketplace is still not as evolved as IOS and Android but it’ll get there eventually. The quality of apps is still not up there. There are some inherent flaws in the WP operating system. For example, new mails and missed calls show up on the lock screen but any other notification from any application will not show up on the lock screen. This will only show up on a live tile. So, if you don’t have a live tile for that application, seconds after it goes bleep bleep, there is no further notification. This is a problem with apps like Whatsapp, Meedoh (twitter app) and so on. The other problem is the only way you can receive mails instantly is through MS Exchange. If you set up the email account as well standard account, you’ll have to set it to poll for email at predefined intervals. All in all, i do not think these are major problems, but they are problems none the less.

Screen

As stated earlier, the Lumia 900’s display is a 4.3” capacitive Nokia ClearBlack unit protected by Corning Gorilla glass with ~217 ppi. This is quite low because all 3 Lumia series phones have the same 480 x 800 resolution and the same number of pixels have been stretched to fit this screen. If you compare this to the S3 and the One X which have 720 x 1280 pixels side by side, you can definitely make out the lower resolution. The iPhone 4S which was released last October has a resolution of 640 x 960 (on a smaller screen) just as a comparison. But, although the ppi count is low, the pixels are not that easily visible, so it’s not that much a problem during everyday use. It has decent sunlight viewing ability and extremely good touch response.

Telephony

All aspects with respect to the telephony on the phone were subpar. Most voices were muddled and it was difficult to comprehend many sentences. I also found it quite uncomfortable to hold at my ear and during a long call and i ended up with really warm ears after some reasonably long calls. The in-call volume is also quite low. The signal also suddenly dropped to zero from 3-4 bars many times and it gets back the signal in 5-10 seconds. The volume on speaker is also compartively lower.

Camera

Lumia 900 on the left and the Samsung Galaxy S3 on the right

In our camera tests, we did notice a pink or purplish hue on some of the day-time snaps which we took on the Lumia 900. As you can see above, the snap on the left is from the Lumia 900 and the right from a Galaxy S3. Notice the difference?

Apart from the stock camera app on the phone, you can also now use Camera Extras app from the Windows Marketplace, which extends your phone’s camera to take Panorama photos and the Smart Group shot feature. In the Smart Group shot feature, you can take up to 5 photos of your group and choose the best poses of your friends across these photos and create a single “Perfect” shot!

Here’s a video of the Camera Extras available for the Lumia phones:

Wifi HotSpot

The Nokia Lumia 900 was the first of the Lumia range of phones to get the Wifi Hotspot feature. You can turn you phone’s 3G connection into a Wifi access point, and allow other devices to  use your phone’s Internet connection. This is a useful feature for people travelling around with a lot of Wifi gadgets, but just one 3G connection on their phone.

Nokia Music & Nokia Mix Radio

Mix Radio on the Lumia 900Nokia Music and Mix Radio allow people using the Lumia 900 to get access to ‘free’ legal music from Nokia. Nokia Music subscription service in India is free for the first few months, with DRM music downloads, which is yours to keep even after the subscription period ends.

If you don’t feel like searching for new music to listen to, Mix Radio is just what you need. Select a music genre on Mix Radio, and you get streaming music based on that genre of music. You can also take the your Mix music on the move, by downloading them for offline use. Of course, tracks on Mix Radio cannot be copied off the device. For that, there’s Nokia Music.

Nokia specific Apps

As with other Lumia phones, the Lumia 900 comes with your favorite Nokia apps as well like Nokia Drive, Maps and Contact transfers among others. The list is becoming bigger as time progresses.

What do we think?

The phone is generally good. We did face some issues with call and signal drops, but the device being a review piece this could be attributed to the pre-release quirks of the device. The camera’s pink splotches need a firmware fix to fix that. Apart from these quirks, we just loved the large screen on this phone. Nokia should make more devices with larger screens like this. It makes using the phone and apps so much more enjoyable. The build quality has the usual Nokia goodness, and is quite the looker!

Number one on the list is the late introduction of the Lumia 900 in India. Q3 is way too late in the game to release a phone like this in the Indian market, especially in the light of Microsoft’s latest announcement that the current Lumia range wouldn’t get a bump up to Windows Phone 8, but rather an intermediate 7.8 only. This should have been out in the market months back!

For more information about the Nokia Lumia 900, head out to Nokia’s Lumia 900 product page.

 

Vinu Thomas contributed to this review.

The Lumia 900 Photo Gallery

HTC One X: One Month Later

The HTC One X is HTC’s Flagship device for this year, and (along with the One S and the One V), is a device that HTC is betting quite a bit on. HTC hasn’t been the premier Android OEM for a while now; Samsung currently holds that spot, and with that, hasn’t had a very good couple of years, financially that is.

We’ve been using the Device for a little over 3 weeks now and here are our impressions of the device.
Before we move on, here’s a roundup of the Specs:
Processor: 1.5 GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 (International Version)
Display: 4.7″ 720p (1280×720) SLCD2
Storage: 32GB (~26GB available), No Expansion Slots, 1GB RAM
Connectivity: WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC,  Quadband GSM, Quadband HSPA, DLNA, WiFi Direct
Software: Android 4.0 with Sense 4
Imaging: 8MP Camera, 1080p Video Recording
Battery: 1800 mAh, Non Removable.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains the basics; A USB wall wart, data cable and a pair of ear buds. The cable of the ear buds seem to be durable and they’re flat, but the buds themselves aren’t the in-ear type! It’s such a shame HTC didn’t bother bundling proper in-ear headphones (and no, Beats Headphones do not count).

First Impressions

The device is made out of machined polycarbonate, just like the Lumia 800 & 900. What does that mean? The build is absolutely solid. The screen, which is slightly curved outwards in all directions, is crisp, with good colour reproduction and is really sharp all around. The device itself doesn’t feel big, and I’ve had a couple of people ask me if this was the same display size as the Samsung Galaxy SII. The one area of concern was the Camera, with protrudes from the rear, with the lens flush against the metallic ring.

Hardware

The build of the One X is top-notch. The front is dominated by the curved Gorilla Glass that protects the huge display and the three capacitive buttons. Unlike the previous generation devices, these buttons map to the Ice Cream Sandwich softkeys: Back, Home and the Multitasking Key. On the Galaxy Nexus, these are on-screen keys, which has both advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages faced by HTC’s decision is about software, which we’ll discuss in the next area. The front also has a 1.3MP camera, which was okay for Skype and Hangouts (or Tango).

The top houses the Power Button, the 3.5mm Headphone jack, a secondary noise cancellation microphone and the tray for the Micro-Sim. The bottom has the primary microphone. The left side just has one slot for the Micro-USB port, which thankfully support MHL (which means you can use an MHL adapter for HDMI output). The right side has the volume rocker, which is just slightly raised from the body itself, and that’s a bit of an issue because it’s hard to distinguish the buttons. The phone feels like a HTC device, just better.

Software

The device runs Android 4.0 with HTC’s Sense 4 on top (and deep inside). It isn’t a “Vanilla” Android Ice Cream Sandwich device, which led a lot of people to scream “Blasphemy”. Honestly though, which Ice Cream Sandwich has done a lot towards “beautifying” the stock Android Experience, this time, Sense does make sense. I have not been a fan of HTC Sense; Sense 2 added a lot of features that were sort of missing from Android at that time, but Sense 3 and 3.5 just got bloated, with over the top animations and effects that didn’t add anything to the experience. Sense 4 is slimmed down, and honestly, this is the first time I haven’t used a launcher to remove the stock feel (like I have done with TouchWiz before). There are no “3D Carousel” effects, which honestly was headache inducing.

Even the app drawer has an almost stock ICS feel (without the transition effects); you have access to the Play Store on the top right corner, the drawer is horizontal and not vertical like in earlier HTC devices, and the tabs at the bottom which provide shortcuts to the whole tray, favourites and downloaded apps can be edited and removed. A few things that Sense does add include Skydrive, Dropbox and Flickr integration, which is a nice touch. You also get 25GB of Dropbox Storage for 2 Years, which is a really nice touch.

Among all the bundled apps, the ones I found most useful were the Tasks & Notes apps; the Tasks app works perfectly with Google Tasks, and the Notes apps syncs with Evernote. The new HTC keyboard has pretty decent autocorrect, which helps, because I managed to type this segment using the keyboard on the Notes app. You can also use the voice dictation service directly from the keyboard; just tap the mic icon.

The accuracy of text input via voice is going to vary from person to person of course; it worked about 50% of the time when I tried using it. Sense 4 also has a different approach to the multitasking list; instead of a vertical overlay, where you can dismiss apps with a swipe to the side on stock ICS, you get a different screen with a Horizontal list, and you need to flick apps upwards to get rid of them. It isn’t that much of a difference in general use though.

The overall experience is only marred by the three small dots that pop up for apps that aren’t optimized for ICS; this is the legacy menu button for old apps, which, in stock ICS on the Galaxy Nexus, would pop up along with the on-screen soft-control keys. HTC has had to tack this on (and it does feel like it was tacked on), and it does detract from the overall experience in apps that haven’t been updated.

We tested the device on Software versions 1.26 and 1.28. There should be an update rolling out now to version 1.29, which should make your general experience snappier.

Battery Life 

The phone has an 1800 mAh battery, which is non removable. Couple this with the fact that it has a quad-core processor and a huge, high-resolution LCD display, and you’d expect pretty pathetic battery life. With normal (Moderately Heavy) use though, we were pleasantly surprised as it almost managed to make it through a day. Check out the screen shots below. This was with Sync on for 2 Gmail Accounts, an Exchange account, Twitter, and many more services running in the background. With really heavy use, it managed to get to half this time before it died out, which is not bad at all.

Comparing the One X against the HTC Sensation, their previous flagship device, here are a few of the differences.

  • Screen Size/Display – As you can see in the image below, the One X, while having a bigger display, is just a tad taller than the Sensation.  There’s pretty much no comparison here; the 720p SLCD2 display on the One X is miles ahead of the qHD SLCD display on the Sensation.
  • Processor/Memory – The Sensation had an 1.2 GHz dual core Snapdragon and 768 MB of RAM, which was a snappy setup that was completely destroyed by the heavy Sense 3 Framework (Skin). The one upside though, was the expandable Micro SD slot. The One X’s Tegra 3 processor, along with the relatively light Sense 4, makes a huge difference, although I would attribute it more to the software than the hardware on the One X.
HTC have come a long way from the Previous Generation devices, with much better build, and more importantly, improved software.
Now, a fair comparison in terms of screen size would be against the Samsung Galaxy Note (Read our review here).
  • Screen Size/Display: The 5.3″ 1280×800 Super Amoled Display is quite brilliant, with really vibrant colours. The 4.7″ 720p display on the One X on the other hand, has much better colour reproduction (and higher pixel density).
  • Phone Overall: After using the Note for an extended period, pretty much every other device feels small. The Note does have the S-Pen which does provide a pretty decent On screen writing/drawing experience, thanks to the Wacom Digitizer, and this still is a standout feature, apart from the overall size that is.
  • Battery: Here’s another place where the Note managed to do really well, the battery life is quite good AND you can replace the battery, which is a HUGE plus.
  • Processor/Memory: The 1.4 GHz Exynos processor (pretty much the same one used in the Galaxy S2) along with the software optimizations done made for a really smooth experience while using the Note. The One X though, is on a different level in terms of smoothness though. It’s much better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imaging 

HTC has been pushing the Imaging capabilities of the One X (and the One Series in general), and there’s a lot of talk about their Image Sense. There are a few add ons to the camera that are quite good, including the ability to take HDR shots, and having access to effects while shooting. The biggest add-ons though, are the Burst Mode; just hold down the shot key, and you’ll capture full frame images at upto 4 fps, and it’ll keep capturing up to 99 photos at a stretch, and the ability to take photos while taking videos; all you have to do is tap the photo capture key while shooting a video. There’s no mode shifting, etc; you have access to everything on the main screen. Here are a few screenshots of the camera interface.
HTC has also added some editing capabilities from the gallery, including adding filters, and tweaking the colours, sharpness, contrast and more. Here are a couple of examples:
Normal Shot

 

With Filters and Additonal Tweaks
HDR Shot
HDR Shot with Filter and Additional Tweaks

Final Impressions

Is the One X the “One” for you? Well, that depends on your budget.For the price, you get brilliant build quality, a really good screen, a good (if not exactly great) camera, and decent battery life. This is, by far, the Best Android device I’ve used so far! There is the looming specter of the Samsung Galaxy S3 of course.

Android Launchers & Home Replacement Apps – Part I

Android’s greatest defining feature and strength is the ability to customize. What, you ask? Well, almost everything. Being Open Source, almost every part of the OS can be customized by developers and their apps. Back in 2010, I did a post on Android launchers & home replacement apps when the functionality of Android’s stock home screen and launcher was highly lacking. Fast forward 2 years later and little has improved. It’s the same old launcher with a few additional UI/UX changes like on-screen buttons.There’s no surprise, then, that replacement android launchers exist for almost every part of Android’s stock functionality. In turn, to complete the circle of life, newer versions of Android incorporate the functionality of replacement apps. It’s the ecosystem of replacement apps, in fact, that helps drive Android’s amazingly(or disgustingly) fast iteration.

Once again, we review the need for Android Launchers & Home replacement apps. We’re going to be looking at the following launchers in no particular order – ADWLauncher EXGO Launcher EXRegina 3D, Nemus, MXHome, Balancer, Claystone, QQ, 360, Zeam and Launcher Pro.

Since there are quite a few replacements, we’ll be splitting this post into 2 parts. Let us now dive head first into the world of Android Launchers & Home replacement apps and I strongly suggest you have your android smartphone ready with you to install and try out these launchers as we review them.

1. Launcher Pro 

[Market Link]

I’ll  begin once again with my  personal favourite Launcher Pro by Federico Carnales. With over 25K downloads, this is probably one of the most  widely downloaded and used android launchers! I’ll stand by my 2 year old assessment that this app is very slick and smooth with absolutely no lags or delays. Apart from the previously listed features there have been quite the improvements.

Features

  • Home screen looping with your choice of transition effects and support for upto 7 screens with the option of setting your choice of home screen.
  • Up to 3 docks(that’s a total of 15 apps being available on three separate screens) available  at the bottom of the home screen with loop scrolling if you so choose.The dock supports missed call, unread SMS and unread Gmail notifications.
  • You can set the app to auto-rotate or not and bind your home key to a specific function or action.
  • The app drawer gives you the ability to hide apps you don’t need to see and has an experimental but beautiful 3D drawer!
  • A few updates back, support for icon packs was enabled by Federico.
  • There are some advanced settings related to memory and scrolling, but these features are best left to the geeky developer folks!

There is a paid version of Launcher Pro called Launcher Pro Plus that has beautiful widgets that make the app worth the money.  The app has a very nice transparent look and excellent functionality. The plus version has a Gmail, Facebook and twitter widget on-screen allowing for easy access.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. GO Launcher EX 

[Market Link]

Kudos to the GO Dev Team, developers of the GO Launcher EX app among many others. GO Launcher EX is the team’s launcher, and can be downloaded and installed from Google Play for free! The launcher is also the core app for many of the GO Dev Team’s other software offerings, which come in the form of GO Launcher-specific widgets and plug-ins. For example, GO Locker adds a custom lock screen system to your phone while  GO Notification adds an iOS-like badge notification to the icons of supported apps.

GO Launcher EX has tons of themes and awesome widgets to play around. GO Widgets are widgets that work only in GO Launcher, and they’re generally speaking more capable than standalone widgets, either technically or just qualitatively. It combines simplicity with flamboyance rather well. Information access is one use of widgets, not having to launch apps to do something is another. The only problem with this app is with all widgets running, this can be quite a drain, both battery and memory wise.

Widgets are nice, but the true beauty of GO Launcher EX is all the settings you can tweak. Listing everything that GO Launcher EX lets you tweak would take forever, but you can basically tweak anything you can imagine. From the number of icons to how the dock looks, icon labels, gesture control, screen transition effects, icon sizes, and so on. The app drawer can also be customized, including adding folders to it to organize it as much as the home screen. The GO Store widget lets you easily browse through available themes and widgets made exclusively for GO Launcher EX.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, this has almost as many if not more downloads than Launcher Pro. This is definitely an app for those who seek beauty and deep functionality!

 

3.  MXHome Launcher 

[Market Link]

When I first got my hands on the MXHome Launcher, i was all like wowthis quite possibly has the potential to redefine conventional Android home screens with it’s nifty 3D graphics and the best app drawers I’ve seen to date. Developed by NeoMTelthis new launcher has an original layout, a slick interface, more than a few unique features and more than enough potential to give some of the  highest rated launchers a run for their money. MXHome is meant for devices operating Android 2.1 or above and is supported for screens with WVGA and FWVGA resolutions.

When you first begin using this launcher, you get this screen with a clock and a few options all of which can be user defined. The clock here reacts to the inbuilt G-Sensor as it gracefully ticks away the time and you can access your dialer, texts, and even toggle certain most used settings right from this screen. The little MX button on the dock at the bottom of this screen, brings down this screen and opens up a regular home-screen view.

The launcher’s app drawer is one of its highlights. It sports two types of views; the List view and the Icon view. Simply tap the button on the bottom-right corner to toggle the views. you can sort you applications by category, alphabetically and date wise. If you tap the headers of the various categories, that category will fold up to allow you a neat and minimalistic look at your app drawer by ridding it of the items which you don’t wish to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Regina 3D Launcher 

[Market Link]

When we first used Regina 3D Launcher it was like visusal gastronomy! This launcher  shows unbelievable potential with its opulent 3D interface and an assortment of new, handy features that takes home screen customization to a new level. Available for free on Google play, Regina 3D Launcher, along with all its component apps, is absolutely free.

Though it goes unnoticed at first glance, the overall render quality in Regina Launcher has been kept low, probably on purpose, for better performance. A closer look at the text and icons reveals jagged edges and dithered gradients.

Despite this, the interface looks quite amazing and is, in itself, quite a lot of fun to play with. Swipe across the screen to switch between multiple home-screens and the slower you swipe, the more “3D” the inter-screen transitions become. Swiping across the screen slow enough, and the launcher will rearrange all your home-screens in a 3D home screen browser.

Each home-screen or “workspace” can have a different wallpaper and a title. Swipe the work space to edit its properties and hold down anywhere on the screen to bring up the Add/Edit menu. You’ll find the mentioned options in the Edit tab.

The launcher comes loaded with support for five Regina widgets, some of which need to be installed separately from the Market. Hold down anywhere on the screen to add widgets, shortcuts or folders. You can directly navigate to Settings > Regina Settings > Version x.x.xx (Check For Update) for all available Regina widgets and updates.

 A feature that we found particularly interesting was the Secret Workspace, a tap-sequence password for which can be set from the launcher’s settings menu. Secret Workspace is basically a second, hidden layer of multiple home screens that can be employed to house shortcuts or widgets for, ummm, personal stuff! The password is a sequence of taps, each at one of the four corners of the screen.

A very promising Launcher with more goodness to come with new updates. Keep an eye on this one folks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for Part II of the review on Android Launchers and Home Replacement apps!