Sunday, April 14, 2013
Even Sony Xperia Go was delivered to the market all the way back in the 2012 we will deliver information’s about this device. This is mainly because it can be interesting to users that are looking for an entry level to mid range device.
You’d assume the Xperia Go looks like a phone version of the Michelin Man but it’s actually very reserved. Dare we say it: it’s actually slightly girly. But that’s not a bad thing. Rather than have deep tire-type ridges and a bulky frame like the JCB, which indicates you spend your day digging up roads, you get a mobile phone that is small, elegant and sturdy.
In fact, the only real indication it’s built to take a beating is the odd texture on the back, which seems to divide opinion as easily as marmite. In our preview we said it feels like you could use the Xperia Go for an impromptu wood sanding session because of its textured, slightly grainy feel, and we still feel the same way now.
Odd to the touch, it definitely is, but we soon became accustomed with the texture. Less so the scratches it picks up all too easily.
On the front of the device beneath its 3.5-inch display are three buttons, one for back, home and menu. The volume rocker lives on the right side, making it easily accessible. Sony has opted to put the power/unlock button on the top at the left, which is pretty typical.
Where the Xperia Go starts to push away from the crowd of rugged smartphones is on the inside. A dual core 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM means the Xperia Go is better equipped to run the apps and games that require more juice.
It also means Android Gingerbread actually runs surprisingly fast, probably thanks to some work on Sony’s part. Unless you require the absolute best performance for something like Shadowgun, you shouldn’t be disappointed. This isn’t the sort of device you would buy for sheer performance, though, so it’s a moot point.
Take the back cover off and you find rubbery grommets protect the microSD and SIM-card slots, reminding you this is one tough customer. You also find a nice shade of turquoise, which makes us wonder why the much more attractive colour is hidden on the inside. It’s a bit like buying an Armani suit and wearing dungarees over the top.
Suffice to say, the Xperia Go includes lots of clever design to keep the water out, and the dust too, although we can’t say we’ve ever had to say our farewells to a device left on a particularly dirty shelf.
Overall, Sony has built a very solid Android device and we really think it could survive a drop into a pint, which makes it perfect for the more clumsy among us.
A 3.5-inch display is relatively dinky when most smartphones are striving to double up as runways, but for anyone who is used to a feature phone it’s plenty. In fact, it’s actually adequate enough for web browsing, email checking and sending text, although the latter depends on how small your digits are. The Android keyboard can be a frustrating beast at times, no matter how big it gets.
Powered by Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine, colours are natural and the brightness is pretty good. Not so great is the resolution, which is 480×320 pixels, but it’s just about adequate unless you spend a lot of time looking at photographs or HD video.
Camera and video
Firing up the camera reveals a relatively capable experience. Digital zoom, autofocus and a LED flash provide you with all the basics, and the quality in bright conditions is good. The contrast is strong and colours look reasonably accurate, too, and we liked how it very quickly detected faces when taking portrait photographs.
Video is 720p quality, and we were pleasantly surprised how good it was considering the Xperia Go costs £220 SIM-free. It adjusted quickly to light changes and even with fast movement it kept blur manageable. Minus its inability to light up subjects when the background is very bright, we were happy with how our test videos looked.
Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread is now two steps behind the latest and greatest version, Jelly Bean. This means you are automatically behind the times when you buy the Xperia Go, even if Ice Cream Sandwich comes along soon. And according to Sony, it will.
Android fans may shun the notion but Joe Public probably won’t care. The main point is Android allows you to do all the things you would expect from a smartphone, such as social networking, email, watching YouTube videos and making calls, and that’s great.
Android’s market, now known as Google Play, has more than half a million apps available, many of which are free, so you’ll find virtually everything you need and they won’t necessarily cause damage to your wallet.
Sony’s user interface overlay is fairly unobtrusive so we didn’t feel the need to ditch it in favour of something like Launcher Pro. But on the low-resolution display it did feel a bit dated, and even though you can customise Android to your heart’s content, we maintain the view that it can be a bit of a pain to find certain options.
Because of the Xperia Go’s small frame, it’s easily pocketed but not so light you forget its there, which means less of those panic moments when you think you’ve left it in the pub.
We weren’t too sure whether we liked it at first, but its odd looks started to appeal. Compared with the Sony Xperia S, the Xperia Go is relatively lacklustre but the simplistic lines are anything but ugly. Less really is more in this instance.
The call quality was good and a microSD slot meant we could upgrade the storage, if we so desired. That’s unusual, given the trend of previous Xperias ditching the option, so it’s another brownie point. Still, 8GB with 4GB usable is pretty measly.
Our only real gripe stems from how much dust, dirt and scratches the case picks up. It’s probably a non-issue for the white version but our black review model looked pretty tatty after a few days of use, which somewhat spoils the look.
Valuing our relationship with Sony, we decided to not catapult the Xperia Go into a wall or fire it out of a cannon. But we dropped it a number of times on a variety of surfaces and all was well. It survived a puddle, too, but we get the feeling prolonged periods of time sat in a pint wouldn’t end well. It’s not bulletproof or as strong as the JCB but the trade-off is subtlety.
We managed a good day’s use with the Xperia Go, even with lots of web browsing and gaming. In this department it was capable, but certainly not outstanding, perhaps due to the limited space for a large battery. Don’t think you’ll be taking the battery out, by the way – it’s integrated into the device.
For around £220 you could get the more attractive HTC One V and a more recent version of Android, but the Xperia Go is more about survivability, which it does very well. It’s got Sony’s much-improved build quality all over it, and although the display is quite low resolution, the addition of Bravia technology means it looks very good.
If you need a phone that can take a hit and you don’t mind being a bit behind the times, the Xperia Go is a very capable alternative to the Motorola Defy and the JCB.
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Saturday, April 13, 2013
The ZTE Grand X may not have the bold, pioneering design of Nokia’s premium models or HTC’s more recent offerings, but at the same time the design has been well thought out and it’s not a bad looking smartphone by any means.
It’s on the smaller side with its 4.3-inch display and although it’s pretty chunky at around 10mm thick, the curved corners work well and the proportions of the bezel around the screen are very narrow, making things look quite sharp.
At the bottom there are four capacitive controls for ‘settings’, ‘home’, ‘back’ and ‘search’, while at the top you’ve got the ZTE logo in silver, a light sensor port and a camera port.
The power button is positioned on the right of the top edge, which we found a bit of an awkward place for it compared to where we’re now more used to at the top of either side.
There’s also a 3.5mm audio jack on the left-hand of the top edge and along the left-side of the phone you’ll find the volume rocker at the top and a Micro USB port towards the bottom.
The front panel feels like fairly sturdy plastic – there’s no real flex to speak of, while the back panel is similarly robust with a rubber coating and a textured surface which gives very good grip, as well as making things visually interesting. The back panel is also contoured into a ‘lip’ at the bottom to help hold the device with one hand.
Aside from the texture and a small chrome ZTE logo in the centre the back panel is highly minimalist, although there’s also the sizeable camera port with LED flash in the top left corner.
As previously mentioned , the touchscreen measures 4.3-inches. It’s a standard capacitive multitouch LCD with a 960×540 pixel resolution, giving a pixel density of 256 pixels-per-inch (ppi).
Picture quality is quite good with a fairly crisp level of clarity – it’s above average for this price point.
Colour reproduction and contrast are also both positive points, though we did find the screen a little dull for our liking even on the brightest setting and you can forget about using this phone in direct sunlight.
Performance is fairly impressive thanks to an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core processor clocked at 1GHz and paired with a ULP GeForce graphics processing unit (GPU).
It’s only got 512MB of RAM but you might be hard pressed to notice.
Admittedly a good deal of the smooth performance is going to be due to the efficiencies of Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) as much as anything else, but consistently there’s no hint of stuttering whether you’re multitasking, browsing or gaming.
Speaking of gaming, Nvidia’s hardware is ideally suited to it thanks to the company’s extensive experience with graphics kit and the Grand X punches harder than you’d think.
It’s quite capable of running graphically demanding games such as Dead Trigger with no performance lag, although the back panel will heat up something fierce and you can expect the battery to drain quite quickly.
For internal storage there’s not very much to work with as the phone only has 4GB but it does support Micro SD cards up to 32GB, which is always useful.
Connectivity is fairly extensive with a 3.5mm audio jack, Bluetooth, Micro USB, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Hotspot, GPS and DLNA.
As the handset runs a stock build of Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich it’s a fast, good-looking and rewarding experience.
However, the implementation by ZTE doesn’t have the stability we’ve come to expect from the platform.
We had two notable issues which were irritating to deal with.
On one occasion a folder we’d put together for the main dock bar bugged in such a way that it simply activated the ‘top’ shortcut from the stack of apps inside when pressed.
The only solution was to delete the folder and start again. Fortunately we didn’t have a second occurrence of this in our entire time with the phone.
The second problem was much more concerning as it happened multiple times.
Quite simply, the touchscreen froze, meaning we couldn’t really do much and were forced to reboot the handset. Fortunately a reboot consistently worked as a solution to the problem.
The odd crash here and there is to be expected on any computing device but it’s incredibly annoying that this error happened repeatedly, suggesting that anyone who uses this handset will have to deal with hiccups on a regular basis.
Admittedly, this sort of thing could possibly be patched out and we’d be interested to see if a bump up to version 4.0.4 of ICS or even 4.1 Jelly Bean might improve things.
As we mentioned in our earlier hands-on with the Grand X, it uses a third party keyboard: the TouchPal Curve.
Curve allows you to input text quite accurately by swiping your finger continuously from one key to another in a single press, and if you enjoy using this system there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
However, if you want to use conventional typing you’re best turning Curve off as we found it highly disruptive to normal text input – the two do not sit well alongside each other and you’re going to have to choose.
Aside from these issues, ICS on the Grand X is a breeze to use and very much preferable to either earlier versions of Android or the fussy overlays of other manufacturers.
The cameras on the Grand X are nothing particularly special, the phone features a 5-megapixel primary with LED flash. You’ve also got provision for video calling with a VGA front-facing secondary.
There’s really not a great deal to be said here, it’s a budget phone and in this category the camera is usually (quite justifiably) the first thing to suffer.
Pictures and video are on the blurry side as you might expect, but also tend to come out a little dark.
The handset has a removable 1650mAh Lithium-ion battery pack. We found it’ll last about five hours of moderate use and around two hours of intensive video playback.
For normal use you’re looking at a daily charge here, which in fairness is fairly standard these days.
If you think you’re going to need the phone to be alive for some kind of important call or emergency don’t go playing lots of games or watching YouTube on it because you almost certainly will get caught short.
In all this isn’t a bad little phone and we certainly enjoyed our time with it and its Android Ice Cream Sandwich charms. It’s not without it’s problems, however, which are mainly bugs in the operating system.
While we’d be pleased to hear of ZTE rolling out a few bugfixes to combat them there isn’t anything here which would stop us from continuing to use the handset quite happily.
Although the battery life wasn’t low enough to affect our enjoyment of the Grand X we can imagine this being a breaking point for some users.
If you’re looking for something that will keep going for days then this isn’t the phone for you.
If, however, you want an accessible, no-nonsense device running Android Ice Cream Sandwich and for less than £200 then this might be right up your street.
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Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 comes with Windows RT OS and the possibility to be used as a laptop. This certainly is an interesting offer and for users that do not mind Windows RT and are looking for a more compact and smaller device this might be the best solution.
Without a doubt, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 jumps out most for its rarely seen multi-mode convertible aspect, which is a hallmark of the series. Visually, the Yoga 11’s interesting design scheme is further complemented by its sturdy construction, soft touch matte finish, and streamlined body. Compared to other Windows RT slates, the Yoga 11 is both thicker (0.61” / 15.5mm) and heavier (2.8 lbs / 1.27 kg), but we have to bear in mind that it’s packing along a full-sized QWERTY keyboard for added versatility. To top it off, we truly adore the various positions we can prop it in – essentially giving it some yoga-like moves. Ultimately though, it’s the unique flipping and twisting capabilities of the Yoga 11 that makes it a standout hit amongst the Windows RT crop.
Below the display, lying flush to the surface, is the tablet’s square shaped physical Start button – while the tablet’s sole front-facing camera, a measly 1-megapixel one, is perched on the opposite side.
Considering that the Yoga 11 is more laptop-like than tablet, it benefits from having an arsenal of ports. Around its edges, we find 2 full-sized USB 2.0 ports, a combo 3.5mm headphone jack, full-sized HDMI port, proprietary charging port, a full-sized SD card slot, and left/right speaker grills. In addition, there are a few physical buttons too, the power, orientation lock, and volume control, but unfortunately they’re all nearly flush and difficult to feel out.
One step ahead of its Windows RT brethren, the IdeaPad Yoga 11 doesn’t require an optional keyboard to broaden its depth. Rather, it’s already there, ready and waiting! For those of us used to typing on a larger sized laptop, there’s some adjustment needed to get a good feel for the Yoga 11’s keyboard layout. However, after a bit of practice, we find ourselves moving relatively quickly. As for the keys, they’re slightly raised and bunched close to one another, but there’s a decent amount of travel with them. In addition to using the touchscreen, the trackpad also works well for a variety of navigational controls. Most importantly, it’s nice to find that the keyboard is deactivated when the Yoga 11 is propped up in its tablet and tent modes – though, it does feel a bit awkward feeling the buttons as we grasp the tablet with both hands.
Somewhat expected to say the least, we’re not terribly wowed by the 11.6-inch 5-point capacitive HD Glare Multitouch display, as details lack that sense of sharpness with its 1366 x 768 resolution. However, for most trivial things, such as surfing the web, it’s more than adequate for the job. Despite that, we have to admit that our eyes really take notice of its punchy color tones, which receive more vibrancy thanks to its 350 nit brightness. Viewing angles are good, but outdoor usage still requires some proper shielding from the sun.
Interface and Functionality:
After spending a great deal of time with the full blown Windows 8 experience, it’s surely something trying to get back into the swing of things with Windows RT. Actually, we almost forgot this is the Windows RT, mainly because on the surface, there’s nothing too ornate that differentiates the two. In fact, the Start screen is a familiar one with its dynamic live tiles – plus, the Windows Store is home to a growing list of apps. However, upon going into the desktop mode, we realize that there’s no support for legacy software, which is the single drawback of Windows RT. Regardless of that, it’s nice to see that Lenovo doesn’t add any bloatware out of the box, thus, keeping it as stock as possible. Oh yeah, it’s absolutely stellar to find Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT preloaded!
Going through the Yoga11’s core set of organizer apps, it’s the same usual suspects we’re adjusted to finding nowadays – so there’s nothing terribly new with any of them. From the calendar to mail apps, they all function as we’d expect.
Certainly, the best option for typing is to use the Yoga 11’s physical keyboard, but as an alternative with its touchscreen, we can also rely on the on-screen options as well – especially when we’re using it in tent or tablet modes. Spacious with its layout and responsive, it works as good as the physical one, so it’s a matter of choice on which one to stick with.
Processor and Memory:
Being a Windows RT device, the Yoga 11 relies on NVIDIA’s 1.4GHz quad-core Tegra 3 chipset coupled with 2GB of RAM and the NVIDIA ULP GeForce GPU for its processing might. For what it’s worth, it’s effective enough to handle most tasks, but it easily begins to show some strain with more processor intensive things. For example, it’s buttery smooth navigating across the Start Screen, but when we’re executing some heavy multi-tasking, such as using two apps in split view, its performance tends to stutter a tiny bit. Luckily, it’s never to the point frustrating.
Sure, it’s lugging around a 64GB SSD inside of its body, but when it’s all said and done out of the box, it translates over to roughly a little over 40GB of free storage. Nevertheless, the full-sized SD card slot and USB ports are there to supplement its capacity.
Internet and Connectivity:
By now, we might sound like a broken record, but the web browsing experience with Internet Explorer on the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 is wonderful, which is what we kind of expect from most Windows RT slates at this point. Quickly loading complex web sites, its top-notch performance is also evident in other navigational controls – such as instant page rendering, responsive pinch zooming, and fluid kinetic scrolling.
Strictly an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi convertible, there’s no word if we’ll see variants outfitted with cellular data connectivity. Despite that, it’s sporting the typical set of connectivity features – like aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and HDMI-out functionality.
Limited to snapping self-portraits and the occasional video-chatting session, there’s nothing great to say about the quality of its 1-megapixel camera. Obviously, it serves its purpose in those aforementioned tasks, but it also has the ability to shoot 720p videos as well – though, its quality isn’t something worth bragging about.
Consistency is what makes Microsoft’s platform unique, so there are few differences with the core experience. So much so that the music player on the Yoga 11 is the same identical one used by all the other Windows RT tablets out there. Armed with left and right speakers, its output is on the weak side, but at least there’s no crackling or distortion at the loudest volume setting.
For some reason, it seems as though these NVIDIA Tegra 3 Windows RT devices handles 1080p video playback a lot better than some Intel Atom-based Windows 8 tablets. Not only does the Yoga 11 support the major video codecs, but it handsomely plays 1080p videos with minimal slowdown.
After using the Lenovo IdeaPad extensively, we forget that we’re dealing with a Windows RT device here. Hiding away a 4-cell battery in its skinny chassis, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 is able to effectively give us more than a solid day of normal usage with a fully charged battery. To tell you the truth, even power users will be impressed by its longevity!
On the average right now, you can pick up the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 for approximately $600, which quite frankly, seems to be grossly expensive for a Windows RT device. However, when we add in the fact that it’s boasting an extremely usable keyboard, combined with its cool convertible aspect, the Yoga 11 is a great netbook replacement. Sure, you won’t be able to install legacy software, but if you’re looking for the basics, this will suffice for most things. Honestly people, with so much versatility packed into this netbook-like replacement, it’s certain to stand out among the existing crop of Windows RT devices that have been out on the market, due to its different form factor.
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Tablet devices are delivered to replace laptops and to be more mobile. Currently on the market we have a decent number of those devices and one of the latest that we were able to see is the Fujitsu Stylistic M532. This tablet is available on the market and here it is what it brings.
If there’s one thing that can be said about the Fujistu Stylistic M532 it’s that it’s a smart and stylish looking piece of kit.
There’s not much room for individuality with the overall shape – it’s your usual rectangle with slightly rounded corners, but the proportions are neat and the shiny black bezel is nicely sized around the screen.
We also found the bezel was just the right size to appear thin enough to look hi-tech and modern, yet large enough to provide a very comfortable grip and you won’t find yourself accidentally activating the touch screen while maneuvering the tablet around.
Fujitsu has been a bit adventurous with the colour, a relatively thin outer edge of bodywork between the front and back panels is coloured in a striking metallic red.
The back panel itself is black and coated with rubber, although it doesn’t have a texture to enhance grip and can be a bit slippy. The camera port at the top of the back panel also has a red accent to tie the two-tone look together.
Visually the Stylistic tablet certainly pops and the build quality is also sound – there’s no creaking or wiggling here, just a snug, solid fit.
It’s also worth mentioning that the device is MIL-STD-810G certified – that’s a US military-grade standard of durability for withstanding a variety of environmental abuse.
We’re not sure how far this goes as we weren’t exactly prepared to start slinging the review unit around with abandon. Nor did we feel inclined to book a holiday to the rainforest to test its water, humidity, dirt and fungus tolerances (yes, that last one is real), but needless to say it should be tougher than your average slate.
Although the Stylistic tablet weighs less than 600g we noticed that the weight distribution is somewhat poorly balanced. It feels like a heavier device than it is and holding it in one hand is very difficult indeed.
We might not have noticed this so much, but for the fact we happened to have an Asus Transformer Infinity in the office at the same time.
According to its stats the Transformer actually weighs more than the Fujitsu, but if you held both devices simultanesously you’d probably find this difficult to believe as the balance of the Asus gives it a much lighter feel.
One other bone of contention we mentioned in our first-look is still as annoying as ever, the proprietary charging port. The device has a MicroUSB port but it’s only good for data transfer.
Other ports include a 3.5mm audio jack, a MicroSD card slot and a SIM card slot. Yes, the Stylistic is designed to take SIM cards so you can utilise 3G mobile data plans but, as we said before, we couldn’t get the damned thing to work.
The 10.1-inch 1280×800 pixel LCD display is disappointing to say the least. Although colours are suitably vivid the brightness and contrast aren’t the best, but the most jarring issue is simply the picture clarity.
Android comes with some visually interesting wallpapers but they don’t look good on this display with some obvious blockiness.
The Stylistic’s display doesn’t seem to do smooth curving shapes and things end up looking very jagged and pixelated.
The text of any shortcuts, menu elements or ebooks you might wish to look at is also particularly bad and the smaller it gets the more blurry it becomes.
The processor hardware is one of the better elements of the device, like many of its contemporaries the Fujitsu Stylistic uses Nvidia’s ARM Cortex-A9 based Tegra 3 quad core chipset.
It’s clocked at 1.4GHz and has 1GB of single-channel RAM along with a ULP GeForce graphics processing unit (GPU).
Performance is as good as we’ve come to expect from this setup – it’ll gleefully devour any multitasking or other intensive activities you throw at it. Gaming is a particular strongpoint thanks to Nvidia’s background in graphics hardware.
As usual, we tried pushing the tablet’s performance to see if it buckled under the pressure. We did notice a slight stutter when running a video window app over the top of a graphically demanding game.
But, on the whole it coped remarkably well and you can expect consistently good performance from the tablet running it in a more normal capacity.
Internal storage is quite generous too, with 32GB of space for you to fill with media and apps before you even get to the MicroSD expansion.
Put simply, it’s more than adequate for the needs of most users.
We already mentioned the MicroUSB port, but other connectivity support includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.
The Fujitsu M532 runs a stock build of Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), which of course has all the perks we’ve come to appreciate from this more recent build.
It’s fast, smooth, reliable and features a neatly re-organised menu layout, plus a handy multitasking app switcher control.
Fujitsu has aimed the device at least partly at the business and enterprise market as there are a few extra additions.
You get full versions of ThinkFree Office, ES File Explorer, Adobe Reader and Norton Security. There’s also provision for Virtual Private Networks via Citrix, virtual desktop support and on-device encryption.
For non-business stuff there’s the TegraZone Gaming Hub and PowerDVD Mobile.
On the rear is an 8-megapixel camera with an LED flash, autofocus, continuous autofocus, white balance, digital zoom, face detection and 1080p HD video capture and a video light.
It’s also got a weird set of modes for video capture under the heading of ‘silly faces’, some of which are genuinely terrifying to behold, particularly as they only kick in once the camera sensor’s face recognition activates turning a normal-looking video into a horrific freakshow in seconds.
The picture quality isn’t great on the primary camera and images tend to be a bit washed out and fuzzy. However, the HD video isn’t bad and the secondary 2-megapixel camera is also very good considering its primary purpose is video calls.
The battery pack is a 3170 mAh unit which is pegged to last for around 8.5 hours of video playback.
For general use it should be quite adequate and last at least a couple of days without any problems. We didn’t have any issues with it running out of juice unexpectedly.
As usual, intensive use of games and demanding multimedia such as films will drain it faster but it’s not at any particular advantage or disadvantage compared to the rest of the current Android crop.
On balance we find it hard to recommend the Fujitsu Stylistic M532, but at the same time there isn’t anything about it that is particularly damning. It’ll perform as well as the rest of the Tegra 3 powered crowd, but at around £400-£500 it seems like a lot of money for something quite average in many other respects.
The display is particularly bothersome at this price point when you consider the cost of a 16GB iPad 3 with a Retina display.
£400-£500ish also seems pricey against an Asus Transformer with the addition of a keyboard dock and, most glaringly of all, the £199 16GB Nexus 7, which has a much nicer touchscreen to boot.
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We do know that hybrids with Windows 8 are pretty rare and new but it seams that a decent number of companies have these devices in their portfolio. Acer Iconia W511 is one of those tablet devices that can be very useful and could replace your laptop.
Being a tablet made of cheap matte plastic, the Acer Iconia W511 won’t make anyone go “wow” with its appearance. But the use of lightweight materials has helped with keeping its weight down to a satisfactory level. When it’s by itself, the device ranks among the lightest 10-inch tablets with a weight of 580 grams, which makes the tablet comfortable to hold and use.
All of the tablet’s physical keys are located in the upper right-hand corner – the volume rocker, the on/off button, and the key that locks the screen’s orientation in place. All of them are well exposed so finding them with a finger is no trouble at all. Underneath the screen we have a capacitive Windows button used for accessing the system’s Start screen. We’re left with mixed feelings about this solution – it works fine, but the key is prone to accidental presses if the device is being held single-handedly from underneath.
In addition to the mandatory 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, the Iconia W511 offers a Micro HDMI connector, a microSD card slot, and a SIM card slot for cellular data connectivity. However, Acer skipped the full-size USB port, presumably to keep the tablet’s thickness down. Instead, there’s a microUSB port that you plug a special adapter cable (included in the set) into, and then you can hook up USB devices to the Iconia 511. That’s not really a dealbreaker, especially since there’s a proper USB port present on the keyboard dock, but carrying the said cable around all the time isn’t convenient.
By the way, the two USB ports can be used simultaneously. You can connect all kinds of peripherals to them, such as thumb drives, a mouse, or a USB hub. You can even charge a smartphone in case you have its USB cable handy, which is neat.
For an extra $100 or so one can buy an Acer Iconia W511 with a keyboard dock thrown in the set. That not only adds the convenience of having a physical keyboard for text input, but also increases the tablet’s longevity dramatically as the accessory has an internal battery cell. In fact, the Iconia W511 will last through at least a whole day of heavy usage when docked.
Typing on the physical keyboard reminds us of the days when netbooks were all the rage. At first, its keys feel tiny and cramped together, but our fingers got used to their arrangement eventually. All keys are springy and have decent travel. Of course, you can’t compare the experience to using a proper, desktop-sized keyboard, but in case we had a 25-page report to write for work or school, we’d much rather use what the dock keyboard has to offer instead of relying on any on-screen solution.
But while we’re content with the physical keyboard and its usability, the touchpad that’s also on the dock leaves a lot to be desired. At first it works just fine, yet after being used for 20 seconds or so, it goes bonkers, causing the cursor to move chaotically. Our quick online investigation shows that others have experienced the same issue with their units, so apparently we aren’t dealing with an isolated case of a misbehaving touchpad.
Another thing we’re bothered by is the docking mechanism that connects the Acer Iconia W511 and the keyboard dock. Connecting or disconnecting the two is easy-peasy, but the lock isn’t tight enough, causing the tablet to wobble back and forth when moved or when the touchscreen is used, which is worrying, to say the least.
Acer has designed the Iconia W511 dock in a way that allows its sturdy hinge to rotate at a nearly 300-degree angle. That’s referred to as “Presentation Mode” – the dock acts as a stand, with the keyboard facing downwards, which allows the touchscreen to be used comfortably while the device is placed on a flat surface. The dock is designed in a way that prevents accidental key presses when the tablet is used in such manner, in case you’re wondering. If you’ll be using the touchscreen interface to show off your sketches and designs to someone, taking advantage of this feature is recommended.
Although it is nothing out of the ordinary, the 10.1-inch IPS LCD display on the Acer Iconia W511 gets the job done. It has a relatively low resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels, which is typical for low-end Windows-based tablets, so small test can be a challenge to make out. On the other hand, its viewing angles and color accuracy are decent – likely superior to what you’d get out of a basic notebook/netbook, for that matter. Using the tablet outdoors is possible as its screen has a decent brightness output, but you’ll have to cover it with your hand when the sun is shining right at it.
The versatile Windows 8 Pro comes loaded on the Acer Iconia W511 – an operating system that’s built to run not only on tablets, but on laptops and desktop computers as well. The OS is compatible with a vast array of legacy Windows applications, which is a huge benefit.
When the Acer Iconia W511 is turned on for the first time, about 10 minutes are needed for it to get set up for use. It is nice to see that a tutorial is played after the OS’ first boot, explaining all the new touchscreen gestures implemented in Windows 8 – new users are advised to pay attention to it.
Once past that step, the user is introduced to the new Start screen and its Live Tile interface. This is where things get tricky for anyone who is not familiar with Windows 8 and its peculiarities. Closing apps, switching between windows, accessing the list of installed applications and the system settings – there are gestures assigned to each of these actions, so better get used to them. Even a tech-savvy user will need to spend an evening or two with their new device in order to get comfortable with its interface.
But the Start screen and its Live Tiles aren’t the only way of interacting with the Acer Iconia W511. Alternatively, the classic Windows desktop can be used as it is available at the touch of a button. That isn’t of much use, however, unless you’re also using the keyboard dock, or a mouse. The classic desktop is anything but comfortable to use on a touchscreen with its tiny icons and menus.
The on-screen keyboard is usable indeed, save for the annoying fact that it doesn’t always pop-up automatically when it’s needed. With its multiple key arrangements, it can be used as a typical virtual QWERTY, occupying the bottom half of the screen, or in split mode, which is comfortable for typing whilst holding the tablet with both hands. In addition, typos get corrected automatically.
Software and functionality:
There’s a long list of new features that are being introduced with Windows 8, and on it are the new hubs and apps accessible from the Start screen. The People hub, for example, is where you store information about your contacts. All of that data is synced with your Microsoft account, which is convenient since you’ll have it backed up indefinitely. Also, by adding your Facebook and Twitter credentials, you can connect with your social network buddies as well. Too bad that the experience is a far cry from what a dedicated social networking client would deliver as the hub’s functionality is limited only to some basic actions.
The stock Weather application is great as it provides detailed forecast information, not to mention that its interface is very pleasing to the eye. As one might expect, you can set it to pull weather data for multiple locations and its live tile updates automatically.
Keeping you up to date with the latest news from around the world is the Bing News app. There’s also Bing Sports bringing you news about, well, sports, and the dedicated Bing search app that tells you what search terms are currently trending.
We must also note that Acer has added its very practical “Always On” technology to the Iconia W511 feature set. In a nutshell, that allows the device to pull updates from the internet even when it’s on stand-by. That’s why all your new emails and messages are synced and waiting as soon as you press that “On” button.
Processor and memory:
What runs under the hood of the Acer Iconia W511 is a dual-core Intel Atom chip – the Z2760 with a maximum clock of 1.8GHz when Burst mode is enabled. That happens automatically, whenever an app requires additional processing power, but only if the processor is running within its thermal specifications. 2GB of DDR2 RAM are also on board – just as much as we’d expect seeing on a machine of this caliber.
Performance-wise, the tablet runs well, as long as it isn’t burdened with any heavy apps. Chances are that you’ll rarely encounter any major hiccups if you stick to the Start screen and its apps, while many legacy applications will be feeling right at home in Desktop mode. Just don’t expect any resource-hungry software like graphics or video editors to run smoothly. For that you’ll need something powered by a Core processor.
The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator is powerful enough to run some basic games. We tested several popular titles from the Windows Marketplace, including a 3D strategy game, and it ran at high frame rates. Graphic-intensive games, however, are a no-go.
The Acer Iconia W511 comes with 64GB of on-board storage, but since half of that is occupied by the operating system and its recovery files, there’s “only” about 32GB at the user’s disposal. For some people, that will do just fine, but storing music, movies, or other large files on the device might be a problem. Thankfully, there’s always the option to expand the tablet’s storage using a microSD card of up to 64GB. In addition, a free SkyDrive account will get you several gigabytes of cloud storage that can be used for storing photos, documents, and other files you don’t require having access to on a daily basis.
Web Browser and connectivity:
With the desktop-grade Internet Explorer 10 web browser, one can experience all that the web has to offer, including Adobe Flash content and Java applications. What’s more is that the application is touch-optimized, meaning that navigation gestures like pinch to zoom and the likes are supported and work well. Performance issues are rare, occurring only when browsing heavy web pages. Sadly, although alternatives can be installed in case you aren’t happy with the native solution, browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Opera don’t support touchscreen gestures, which makes them harder to use without a pointing device.
While you’ll probably connect to the internet over Wi-Fi most of the time, there’s a 3G module built into the Acer Iconia W511. Just pop in a SIM card in there (with a data plan, of course) and you’re good to browse the web wherever there’s network coverage. Just keep in mind that you’ll be limited to 3G speeds – those fancy 4G LTE networks are not supported. Another connectivity feature that’s missing is GPS. NFC and Bluetooth, on the other hand, are present. As a side note, the device’s cheaper, non-3G variant is known as the Acer Iconia W510.
Here’s why we often say that when it comes to digital cameras, megapixels aren’t all that matters. Although the Acer Iconia W511 comes with an 8MP auto-focus main shooter, the photos that it takes are of average quality at best, with little fine detail and rather low dynamics range. Digital noise may also be an issue, especially if shooting indoors. On top of it all, the camera is noticeably laggy unless you’re shooting at a low resolution setting. But since tablets in general aren’t known for their photographic skills, we don’t see the 8MP camera’s mediocre performance as too big of a deal. All in all, the tablet’s photos are good enough for sharing on social networks, and the quality of its 1080p videos is also acceptable.
While the camera interface is simple and easy to use, it offers little settings to tweak and no special shooting modes. You only get sliders for brightness, contrast, and exposure adjustments, as well as a timer and a resolution setting. Nevertheless, that’s okay with us since when it comes to photography, the tablet probably won’t be used as anything more than a last-resort camera.
Xbox Music is your default destination for playing your tunes, but it’s less of a media player and much more of an audio store built-in. It allows one to browse for and purchase new music. Naturally, the software merges whatever audio files you have stored in the Music folder with your audio library. A neat feature is the integrated radio that streams music straight to your device, free of charge. Overall, the music player works, but we’re not too happy with it as it lacks in features. Also, we wish there was a simpler way of enjoying our tunes without being reminded that we should buy more of them.
The Xbox Video hub is designed in a similar manner and allows you to browse through its huge catalog of movies and TV shows. Top titles are priced at about $17, but some of them can be rented for about $5. And yes, you are free to add your video files to its database.
Whatever kind of video you throw at a Windows 8 device, chances are that it will play it, and even if a specific codec isn’t installed, the user is free to download it manually. That’s why we’re not surprised to see that all our video samples are playable on the Acer Iconia W511. The Video player that’s set by the Start screen, however, is unable to play back 1080p videos smoothly. For that you’ll need to use Windows Media Player, which also comes installed, or a third media player of your choice.
Users who value battery life should be satisfied with the Acer Iconia W511 and its 3540 mAh battery. It will last for about 9 hours on a single charge – almost as much as an iPad or a high-end Android slate. Sure, other Windows-based tablets can do even better, yet a figure like that is still more than acceptable. When docked, the W511's battery life doubles to 18 hours, so no matter how hard you’re pushing it, rest assured that the device will last you through at least a whole day of heavy usage.
The Acer Iconia W511 is clearly aimed at tablet buyers on a tight budget, or simply people who aren’t willing to spend too much on a Windows 8 hybrid device. It may look a bit uninspiring, but it’s light, affordable and offers an adequate set of features combined with a decent battery life. Moreover, with it you get the complete Windows 8 experience with legacy app support and all that good stuff, while the Atom processor delivers performance, which users that aren’t too picky will be fine with.
But while it is an okay Windows 8 tablet, we can’t really recommend it as a notebook/netbook replacement. Something in the back of our heads is telling us that its build quality isn’t as good as it should be, while the touchpad is downright pathetic. In case what you’re really looking for is a productivity device, you might want to look elsewhere, or better yet, get yourself a proper notebook.
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Nokia is one of those manufacturers with a penchant for visual design.
Regardless of the overall strengths or weaknesses of a handset the company produces, design is consistently on the positive side of the checklist and even the worst of its portfolio looks rather dapper compared to much of the rest of the market.
The Asha 311 may be a budget device but that doesn’t mean Nokia has scrimped on the aesthetics. The shape is a neat rectangle with gently curving sides and corners which work well with the proportions.
Nokia’s also gone for its usual range of luminescent colour options and the 311 features a contrasting panel on the lower portion of the phone, separated by a narrow chrome band which also houses the solid control keys.
Overall we think it looks very smart.
That said, it is a little on the small side and those with larger hands may find it a bit fiddly to get to grips with.
Another minor grievance is the inconsistency of materials used. The build quality actually feels surprisingly solid for a budget device but Nokia has clearly saved production costs by using a fairly low-quality feel plastic for the main back panel.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this but the lower contrasting panel feels like a much nicer material and we can’t help but think the experience of the device in the hand would’ve been substantially improved if the whole thing was made from this superior plastic.
We also find it a bit irksome that Nokia insists on fitting a proprietary charging port rather than allowing the already present Micro USB to fulfil charging duties.
The budget constraints and diminutive size of the Asha 311 means it’s only sporting a basic 3-inch TFT touch display with 56k colours, low resolution (400×240 pixels) and low pixel density of only 155 pixels-per-inch (ppi).
But at the very least it’s capacitive rather than resistive and is reasonably responsive when navigating the homescreens.
Being a Nokia screen the blacks are quite good, but apart from that everything’s a bit fuzzy and the colours don’t really pop.
The Asha 311 is reasonably well provisioned in the processor department thanks to a 1GHz single core CPU which ensures the operating system runs quite smoothly and the device is capable of running games such as Angry Birds reasonably well (although this is a version built and optimised specially for S40 handsets).
However, in other areas it’s less impressive with 128MB of RAM and 140MB of onboard storage.
It does at least have MicroSD support for cards up to 32GB and connectivity is quite well catered for with Bluetooth, MicroUSB and Wi-Fi – the latter being rather unusual for feature phones and thus a welcome addition.
The S40 operating system is a major bone of contention here. Generally we found it extremely obtuse and frustrating to use compared to other contemporary touch-based platforms such as Android, Windows Phone and iOS.
Many of the most typically used settings and functions are buried deep inside a maze-like burrow of layered menus and sub-menus. Needless to say, it doesn’t offer the most intuitive experience.
Another issue is that despite the touchscreen’s decent responsiveness, the way the platform reacts to this isn’t great. The transition animations between screens feel too quick and effectively twang across the display awkwardly.
Although the app icons are bright and colourful they’re also fairly flat and bland. The homescreen interface is divided into three panels you flick between. One is an app drawer for all installed apps, the other is a fullscreen dialpad and the third is a favourites page which you can populate with your most regularly used app shortcuts and contacts.
Facebook and Twitter are preloaded onto the phone, together with Angry Birds and a digital gift card which allows you to download up to 40 EA games, but you have to do this within 60 days of activating the gift card.
You’ve also got apps onboard for a range of phone functionality including a weather app, file browser, email, maps, contacts, music and a calendar.
In fairness there are plenty of apps available on Nokia’s S40 app store, but as we mentioned with the Angry Birds example earlier, many of them are specially made and optimised builds for S40 devices and this does have an impact on the end user experience.
It’s also fair to say that although you get some very well known and well established apps on S40 (EA Games titles, What’s App, Facebook et al) you also don’t get anywhere near the broad range of 600,000 + apps found on Google Play or Apple’s App Store, instead there’s just over 100,000.
As you might expect on a budget handset, the camera is not particularly impressive. It’s a 3.15-megapixel shooter with a 2048×1536 pixel resolution and VGA video.
Visuals are typically washed out and grainy with very poor contrast, white balance and exposure, although colours are not too bad.
The result is that every shot or video looks like a dream sequence from a film.
Battery life isn’t too bad but then we’d expect as much from a feature phone. It’ll easily last a day or two with moderate use but it also charges quite rapidly compared to most smartphones.
The Asha 311 typically retails for around £100 (RRP is closer to £70 but we haven’t found it anywhere at that price) and for that amount of money, compared to what else you can get, it’s not an appealing device.
It’s too obscure and fussy in terms of how you interact with it and it simply doesn’t offer enough compared to something similarly priced like the Huawei Ascend G300 which gives you way more bang for your buck via Android.
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Sony Xperia tipo comes to the budget friendly market and even it represents pretty cheap device it offers nice features. This device is ideal for people that are not chasing high end performances and flagship devices.
Aesthetics and design
The tipo (yep, that’s a lower case ‘t’ in there), is a tiny phone, designed for small hands. If you’re a bit of a monster-digit then you might want to steer clear. The small handset will fit nicely in the pocket though, being 103 x 57 x 13 mm in size and its weight of 99.4g won’t weigh you down.
For all its low cost Sony has thought a bit about the look and feel, and the tapering of the edges inwards is a neat touch and makes a change from blockier designs. The inward curve arguably makes the phone a bit more comfy to hold than straight-sided phones too.
There’s also a little lip of bright shiny plastic beneath the three touch-sensitive shortcut buttons under the screen that takes the phone away from being a rectangular monolith.
Build quality isn’t bad. Yes the phone flexes slightly if forced, but it feels quite solid for all that. And Sony has mounted the headset slot where it should be on the top edge to keep music lovers happy. So far, then, so good.
A small phone inevitably means a small screen, and this is a bit of a problem especially when it is low resolution too. The screen here measures 3.2 inches and it has 320 x 480 pixels. Reading web pages isn’t the most rewarding experience as you have to do a lot of scrolling. Watching video is less enjoyable than it could be too. Tapping at the keyboard is tricky if you’ve larger hands.
That’s not our only gripe with the screen either. It seemed to be a bit reluctant to respond to taps sometimes. This wasn’t so bad as to really irritate, but every now and again a tapped icon failed to react, and we felt irked.
A phone that costs £126 isn’t going to have earth shatteringly good hardware, but the mix needs to be serviceable. What you get here is an 800MHz Qualcomm processor which is supported by 512MB of RAM. It does OK, but isn’t blistering – which is what you’d expect really.
We did find that sometimes apps were a bit slow to load, and some YouTube clips took their time to render and play too. But it is nothing beyond what’s to be expected for a handset at this price.
What did irritate us was a memory expansion issue. With just 2.5GB of built in storage you’ll need a microSD card and the slot is under the battery. If you like adding data such as music by swapping cards in and out, then the need to power down first will become a pain.
And you just might want to swap microSD cards in this way, because probably one of the key strengths of the Xperia tipo is its music playback.
This handset sports Sony’s xLOUD audio technology. That, says Sony, is designed to deliver crisp and loud sound. It’s certainly loud. Louder than we’re used to from any mobile phone. Music quality is good too, with tinny tones coming in at the top volume levels but overall impressive quality being delivered.
Camera and video
There’s a crunch when it comes to the camera though. A 3.2 megapixel flashless shooter with video limited to VGA quality isn’t exactly going to light up the world. Snap quality is so-so and while there are a couple of scene modes (beach and snow, night, sports), the controls are generally lacklustre.
In general we’d say the camera is OK for shots and video you want to keep on the handset for fun, but if you have any intention of using the media you capture elsewhere, get a proper camera.
Operating system and software
Android 4.0 is not to be sniffed at and it is great that Sony has managed to cram it into this small, low cost phone. There’s no word on an upgrade to 4.1 Jelly Bean though, so purchasers might not be at the top of the OS tree for long.
Sony’s skin is fairly harmless. There’s none of the corner-icon business that made the teeny Xperia X10 mini so alluring and things feel intuitive and easy to get at.
There are a couple of useful apps in the form of a battery life extender called Power Save and a neat utility called LiveWare. The latter lets you configure specific apps to start when you plug in headphones, charger or a headset. How convenient, for example, would it be to plug in a headset and have the dialler fire up automatically?
Power Save lets you set the phone up to shut off certain functions, say Wi-Fi or vibrate, to help eek that little bit more battery life out of the handset. It can be set to kick in when the battery gets down to a pre-set level, or at certain times of the day, or even just when you manually choose it.
The Sony Xperia tipo might seem like a very attractively priced handset and indeed the lure of Android 4.0 for £126 is great. But be sure the other good things about this phone are what you want. Music? Check. Web browsing? Not so good.
next sony flagship phone în 2013 2014
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We’ll get the specs out of the way first. The Engage is running the same 1.2GHz Cortex A8 processor that is single core rather than dual core, and is backed by 1GB of DDR3 RAM. The GPU is a Mali-400, which offers an acceptable – if workmanlike – level of performance.
In terms of everyday usage, the Engage offers very much the same experience as its bigger brother. Particularly strenuous tasks will result in a spot of slowdown, but on the whole the tablet is adequate for casual users. Of course, when placed side-by-side with the quad core Nexus 7, the difference in speed and smoothness is like night and day. The Engage is totally and utterly outclassed.
As you would expect from such a cheap product, there are caveats all over the place. The LCD screen has pretty average viewing angles and isn’t very bright, even when on the full setting. It also possesses a bluish tint.
However, while Engage has a smaller screen than the Extreme, it has the same resolution of 1024×768 pixels – the same as the Apple iPad 2, no less.
The same issue regarding the Google Play market that impacted the Extreme exists here, too. At first glance, it looks as if the Engage doesn’t have the Google Play app installed. However, by dropping the Google Play widget onto your home screen, you can forcibly gain access.
It’s an odd situation that is apparently a consequence of Google’s often obtuse licensing arrangements with manufacturers, but at least it’s easily resolvable as things stand.
Camera and video
We were also disappointed to discover the camera is the same as the one used on the Extreme. It takes fuzzy and washed-out images, meaning you won’t find yourself taking many family snaps with this slab of tech. Its positioning is also a little bizarre – when holding the Engage in portrait mode, your hand entirely covers the camera lens.
A front-facing snapper offers similarly low-grade results, but this is less of an issue as it’s used primarily for video calling, where image quality isn’t as much of an issue.
There are areas where Storage Options’ device actually beats the Nexus 7. Firstly, it has expandable memory, so you can add in additional space using microSD cards – something that Google’s tablet can’t do, much to the chagrin of those who purchased the cheaper 8GB version.
Secondly, the Engage can also be connected to your TV using a HDMI lead – another feature that its high profile rival can’t boast.
Storage Options have even been kind enough to include an adapter in the box which permits the use of USB peripherals such as joypads and flash drives – the latter of which offers yet another way of increasing the amount of storage available.
While the Scroll range may feel increased pressure from the arrival of the Nexus 7 to the low-cost Android tablet party, the Engage still offers a competitive solution. The 4:3 ratio screen will find favour with those coveting the iPad experience, and the ability to add in more storage is a massive, massive plus – 8GB Nexus 7 owners are already finding that their shiny new tablet just doesn’t offer enough on-board memory.
It’s also worth remembering that the Engage is £40 cheaper than the cheapest version of the Nexus 7.
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Surprisingly the projector doesn’t add a huge amount of size or weight to this phone. In fact, lay it down on the table and look at it face on and you’d never know that the top edge houses the projector. On the other hand, it is clearly visible head on, and it makes the top edge of the rim, at its thickest part, about 15mm thick. Elsewhere it is about 12mm.
The projector does add some weight to the Galaxy Beam, but again it’s not a huge amount. This handset weighs 148g, which when set aside around 110g – 120g for similar sized rivals isn’t a huge gain.
Overall then, we have to say that the inclusion of the projector does have some effects on the handset’s look and feel, but nothing to get excited about really, and if anything the large top mounted projector lens looks rather cool.
Samsung has even added a banana yellow trim round the edge of this phone to give it that little something extra.
Projector aside, the Samsung Galaxy Beam runs on a fairly standard upper mid range set of specifications. So we’ve got a dual core 1GHz processor and 8GB of internal storage at the heart of things. Neither of these key specifications are going to blow you away, but on the other hand we found them perfectly adequate for our needs, and of course the storage is easily bumped up with a microSD card.
Because it needs its hardware to be in the centre back of the handset the projector displaces the key slots. The SIM slot is on the left edge of the chassis, microSD on the right. Both are under hinged covers and accessing them is not a problem. You might prefer you SIM to be a little more tucked away, but it’s not a big deal in our view.
More annoying is that the headset connector can’t go on the top edge. Instead it is on the upper part of the left edge, where we found it snagged a bit in the pocket.
The screen is large enough at 4-inches and its resolution is 800×480 pixels. Now, we’re starting to see higher resolutions at the top end, and they really do blow 800×480 handsets out of the water, but the Beam does a good job nonetheless.
There’s just one word of caution. It is a TFT PLS panel and when we stepped outside it became a little washed out. In bright sunshine it might be hard to read.
Camera and video
Considering the Samsung Galaxy Beam has a projector on board Samsung hasn’t paid a huge amount of attention to its cameras. The main snapper shoots at 5 megapixels, and has an LED flash, and the front camera has a 1.3 megapixel lens. Video shoots up to 1280×720 (720p).
There isn’t anything much to write home about in terms of services on offer or quality of output, and there’s no camera shortcut button on the side of the chassis. Samsung has saved the button for turning the projector on and off.
The projector on the other hand is fun, though it does have its limitations. It projects onto any surface at a resolution of 640×360 in full colour. Samsung provides some apps such as Ambience Mode which sends animations or videos to the projector along with musical accompaniment and Visual Presenter which takes what the main camera shows and projects that – effectively allowing you to use the handset as an overhead projector.
There’s also Quick Pad. Draw onto the screen or use a cursor and your work is projected. There’s also the facility to use the projector as a torch. And of course you can project anything that is displayed on the Beam’s screen – streamed video, web pages, whatever.
In theory this is all quite exciting. But there are limitations. You can only move about two metres away from the projecting surface before the image focus controls run out of scope and that means projections can’t be that large.
And you need to be in a pretty dark environment for it to work at all. Showing family and friends your latest snaps is only going to work if you turn the lights out and draw the curtains. HDMI, which isn’t on this phone, might be a better bet for that kind of task.
The long and the short of it is that when the projector works well it is very, very good, but it just isn’t capable enough to be more than a bit of a gimmick. Which is a real shame.
The single most irritating thing about the Samsung Galaxy Beam is that it runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). That now feels decidedly old hat, and with Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) established and 4.1 (Jelly Bean) already in the wild this definitely has a negative effect.
Still, Samsung has skinned it with TouchWiz 3 and added lots of widgets including a fair few social ones for you to fiddle with, and to be fair Android 2.3 has plenty of distance left in it if you don’t need to be up there with the leaders.
In everyday use the Samsung Galaxy Beam performed quite well. It is a good handset for web browsing and video viewing thanks to its fairly large screen, and our only real annoyance on everyday terms was the awkward location of the headset slot.
The yellow banding round the edges is attractive, and general attention to detail in the build makes this a comfy handset to hold. The stippling on the matte backplate means it’s not a fingerprint magnet, either.
We actually forgot about the projector much of the time, though as that is the unique selling point of this phone we aren’t sure Samsung would be pleased to learn that.
Samsung has done two clever things regarding battery life. That projector is a power eater, so clever thing one is to equip the handset with a 2000mAh battery. That’s larger than most, and it can keep the projector going for up to three hours and in our experience gives the handset a good chance of seeing out a full day away from mains power.
Clever thing two is to provide two batteries, so that you can carry a charged spare if you think you are going to need it.
The Samsung Galaxy Beam is a competent smartphone though the version of Android is a bit of a let down. Its two batteries give it superb longevity and its physical design is attractive. The projector is a bit of a gimmick though it works well within its limitations of projection size and darkness requirements.
Of course you pay for that projector and the Beam is a bit more expensive than other handsets with similar general specs. Clove, who provided our review sample, currently lists it at £412 inc VAT. That’s in the same price bracket as the HTC One X, Moto Razr MAXX and even the quirky but popular Samsung Galaxy Note.
upcoming samsung smartphones 2014
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