Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The BlackBerry Q5 is here, and about time too as the Canadian firm launches its first affordable BlackBerry 10 device.
Unveiled at the annual BlackBerry Live conference in Orlando the BlackBerry Q5 had been almost completely leaked under the moniker BlackBerry R10, so its design and specs come as no surprise.
There's no firm word on which countries will be treated to the Q5, but BlackBerry is touting it as an entry-level to mid-tier device aimed at emerging markets.
What we do know is that it will be available in selected markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, with expected availability beginning in July.
It looks like the US is set to miss out on the BlackBerry Q5 and when TechRadar quizzed spokespeople on UK and Australia availability no one could provide a solid answer.
At first glance you can tell the BlackBerry Q5 will be a more keenly priced device than its high-end Q10 brother, with a swath a bezel adorning the front of the noticably plastic handset.
It lacks the premium look and finish of the Q10, but retains the classic BlackBerry QWERTY phone look, with the isolated keys a nod to past BB OS handsets such as the Curve 9320.
In terms of specs the Q5 has a lot in common with the Q10, with both devices sporting a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and a 3.1-inch, 720x720 display - although the Q5 is furnished with a lower quality LCD offering compared to the Super AMOLED screen on the Q10.
While the bezel around the screen may be larger than on its higher-end relation it's not necessarily a bad thing as it provides more room below the display for the upwards swipe gesture required to exit apps.
On the Q10 there isn't any space between screen and keyboard which made the motion a little tricky at times, however on the Q5 we could easily slide our finger around without fear of pressing any keys.
The solid plastic rear is reminiscent of the iPhone 3GS, but there's no metallic rim round the edge to hold things together and the glossy finish doesn't provide a great deal of grip.
Up top there's a headphone jack and centralised power/lock key which we found was pretty difficult to hit as it wasn't raised above the chassis meaning you really need to push down hard for the Q5 to register your action.
Down the right side are the trio of buttons which also feature on the Z10 and Q10 with volume keys sandwiching a third switch which provides a shortcut to voice commands.
On the left there's a microUSB port, but there's no HDMI out option - something you do get on the other two BlackBerry 10 handsets.
Instead on the left we have a plastic flap which covers microSD and microSIM ports, allowing you to build on the 8GB of internal storage inside the BlackBerry Q5.
As you may have already guessed the presence of the slots of the left means you can't whip the back off the BlackBerry Q5 to access the 2100mAh battery.
That shouldn't be too much of an issue though as the battery in the Q5 should easily last you more than a day if the Q10 is anything to go by - which has the same size battery.
Thanks to the decent processor and amount of RAM BlackBerry has managed to stuff inside the Q5 the BlackBerry 10.1 operating system provides a fluid and lag-free experience.
We were easily able to glide through homescreens and apps generally opened up pretty quickly.
Because the BlackBerry Q5 is running the latest version of the BB10 OS you get features such as pin to pin messaging, but the HDR camera mode hasn't made the cut on this cut-price handset.
The camera app itself opens in a second, but the auto-focus is quite laggy and we found the Q5 took two to three seconds to snap a picture, which is a little too long for our liking.
Round the back you get a 5MP camera and single LED flash which does produce some decent snaps, plus the front facing 2MP snapper will help with video calling and vanity checks.
BlackBerry has managed to take its lightening quick web browsing performance from the Z10 and Q10 and stick it into the Q5 and we were able to load the desktop TechRadar site in under five seconds on a strong 4G connection - that's impressive for a handset which is aimed at the lower end of the market.
Web pages, text and images appear crisp and clear on the 3.1-inch 720 x 720 display, but it's not quite as bright and colours don't pop like they do on the Q10's Super AMOLED screen.
Obviously the big attraction for anyone considering the BlackBerry Q5 is its QWERTY keyboard and once again the Canadian firm shows its prowess in this area.
The isolated keys have a decent amount of travel, but we did find it was a little trickier to type on the Q5 compared to the Q10 and the whole keypad did wobble quite a bit under our prods, which just reinforced the budget nature of this device.
For anyone who's grown up using BlackBerry keyboards the Q5 offers more of the same, but if you're considering switching from a fully touchscreen device you probably won't be convinced.
The BlackBerry Q5 is one for the aficionados who can't afford, or refuse to splash cash on the highly priced Q10, with the solid BlackBerry typing experience at the heart of everything it does.
Without knowing the price it's difficult to say how it will stand up against other handsets, but anyone who isn't a BlackBerry fan and is in the market for a reasonably priced smartphone probably won't be taken with the Q5.
That said if BlackBerry manage to price the Q5 low enough it would make it a seriously attractive proposition with its decent power under the hood, HD display and rapid internet browser. We're just going to have to wait and see.
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Thursday, May 16, 2013
Huawei is the epitome of the challenger brand. With a brand name that no one ever pronounces correctly (even a receptionist at the Mate's launch event reffered to the company as 'highway'), the Ascend Mate isn't going to be on the tips of the tongues of many in the market for a new phone.
To counter this, Huawei is resorting to headline-grabbing specs and features. There's the 6.1-inch screen, for starters, plus a custom quad-core processor which Huawei is claiming to be fastest in the world. Has we got your attention yet?
With a screen this size, the Ascend Mate truly is a 'phablet', however much you may hate that word. It is more than a centimetre taller than the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and half of a a centimetre wider.
It is also a touch heavier, at 198-grams, though for better perspective, compare this to the 130-gram weight of the Galaxy S4. In short: this feels like a big phone to hold and carry around.
Happily, the quality of the 6.1-inch screen makes it feel like the size and weight are a worthwhile trade-off. Huawei opts for a bright IPS LCD display which shows excellent colours and blacks, and has a fantastic viewing angle. Even with the phone titled at acute angles away from your eyes, the images on screen as still clear and colourful.
Huawei positions the power and volume buttons halfway down the side of the handset, and while this might seem unusual at a glance, it is actually the best place for them for when you are holding the phone one handed and hoping to find the buttons easily.
There are no hard or soft navigation keys on the handset itself. Instead, Huawei make use of the soft-keys included in the design of the Android Jelly Bean, with Back, Home and Multitasking buttons along the button of the visible screen space.
There is a 3.5mm headphone socket on the top of the handset, across from a micro-SIM slot. There's also a microSD card slot on the side to expand the handset's 8GB internal storage.
The back of the phone is covered in a soft-touch black plastic, which feels nice to hold, even though it shows fingerprints over time.
In what may be considered an unpopular move, the Ascend Mate is a sealed handset, meaning you won't have access to the battery.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Pantech Perception is the latest addition to the lineup of this cell phone maker. Smartphones from this company are well known with their mid range hardware and the quite budget friendly price tag at which they are delivered to the market.
Perception has been updated with a larger 4.8” Super AMOLED display, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, and an 8MP camera, while maintaining a 2-year contract price of $99.99. While this is a good price-point for consumers, other higher-end phones that came out last year can now be purchased for around the same price, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III ($99.99) and the Motorola DROID RAZR HD ($49.99), which makes the price of the Pantech Perception appear not as attractive.
Included in the retail package is the Pantech Perception smartphone, 2020mAh battery, wall charger with microUSB cable, and user guides.
Even though the Pantech Perception is slightly larger overall than the Samsung Galaxy S III, its corners and edges are more square and not as rounded, making it feel less comfortable in the hand when held for long periods of time. However, the overall appearance of the materials used on the Perception gives the device an attractive look, and we appreciate that the rear battery cover is matte and slightly textured, instead of being glossy and slippery.
Above the display is a standard 2MP camera, while on the left side is the volume rocker, and on the right is the power/lock key, which are easy to find since they are raised and slightly rounded from the surrounding edges. Up on top is a 3.5mm headset jack and an out-of-place microUSB port, as we believe having it near the bottom of the device would make more sense. Around on the back is the 8MP autofocus camera with LED flash, and removing the battery cover will allow access to the microSD memory card slot and 4G SIM slot.
We are glad to see that the Perception comes with a nice sized 4.8” Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 720×1280. As to be expected with Super AMOLD screens, colors are fully saturated with black-levels being pure. Text is also sharp and clear. But when used in direct sunlight, we found the screen is quite hard and hard to view.
One thing to be mindful of is that since the Perception lacks capacitive control buttons under the display, it uses on-screen soft keys, similar to the Motorola DROID RAZR HD, which does take away some of the display’s real estate (about 0.30”). Some people prefer the on-screen keys, while others like dedicated capacitive buttons – as it comes down to personal preference.
Our main disappointment with the Pantech Perception is that it comes running Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. That would have been fine a year or two ago, but in 2013 there really is no excuse for it not to have Android Jelly Bean, as even the LG Lucid 2 comes with Jelly Bean. Hopefully we will see this on a future software update.
With that in mind, the Pantech Perception uses a layered skin over Android, similar to what we saw last year on the Pantech Marauder. There is both a standard mode and a starter mode, depending on how comfortable you are using the device, as the starter mode has larger icons and text and quick tips to walk you through different features. The app drawer can also be changed to view your apps by different groups, alphabetically, or by downloads. There is also a nice selection of widgets, such shortcuts, calendars, clocks, photo albums, and weather.
Missing are any type of themes, which we usually see on LG and HTC devices, but you can select 3 different colors (white, green, or black) for use with the phone’s dialpad.
Naturally, the Pantech Perception does well with the included Android core apps, such as E-Mail and Gmail, contacts, and calendar. A few other apps included are Color for Facebook, Document Viewer, IMDb, NFL mobile, Real Racing 2, Shark Dash, Slacker, Verizon Tones, VZ Navigator, and Zappos.
Processor and Memory:
Running things on the Pantech Perception is a Qualcomm 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor with 1GB of RAM. This allows the device to be plenty quick when opening apps, and there is no noticeable lag when moving between the home screens.
As you can see from the benchmark tests, the Perception does well compared to other dual-core phones, such as the LG Lucid 2, Motorola DROID RAZR M, and Samsung Galaxy S III.
We are glad to see that the Perception comes with 16GB of internal memory, though only 9.6GB is left available for use out of the box. But if you happen to need more room, you can always install a microSD memory card up to 32GB.
Internet and Connectivity:
The Perception comes equipped with a standard web browser, though you can install Chrome or Dolphin if you desire. It renders pages just fine, with kinetic scrolling and pinch-to-zoom working without a hitch.
Since the device makes use of Verizon’s 4G LTE data network, we used the Speedtest.net app and were able to get 15 Mbps downloads and 5 Mbps uploads, with a signal reception of -102dBm. Naturally, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 is supported. We were also glad to see that the Perception comes with Global Roaming capabilities, for use with GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz and UMTS/HSPA 900/2100 MHz while overseas.
As most of you know, more megapixels don’t always translate to a better quality picture, and this is the case with the Pantech Perception. Even though it comes equipped with an 8MP autofocus camera, every image that we took regardless of light level looked soft, grainy, and almost blurry at times. We made sure the lens was clean, and that the tap-to-focus was working. But as you can see, the results aren’t anything great, and even color reproduction is dull and lifeless.
For video recording, the Perception is capable of Full HD 1920×1080 at 30 frames per second. But again, the video looks hazy instead of sharp and crisp, and colors are lacking. Needless to say, we are quite disappointed when it comes to the camera on the device.
The music player is easy to use with tabs across the top for accessing songs, albums, artists, genres, folders, playlists, ratings, and most played. The sound produced through the rear speaker is loud enough, and the different equalizer and bass boost options do help some, though using wired earbuds are the way to go.
Playing videos on the 4.8” Super AMOLED screen look great, with eye catching color and plenty of contrast. We were able to play MP4, H.264/263, DivX and Xvid files up to 1080p resolution without any issue.
The voice quality while using the Pantech Perception is a mixed bag. Even though voices on our end were plenty loud, they sounded “sharp and digital” instead of sounding natural. People that we called also said that we sounded more digital on their end, and they could easily tell we were using a cell phone. The 1X signal was a bit below average with only -98dBm of signal reception showing.
Battery:Even though the 2020mAh battery on the Pantech Perception is larger in capacity than the one that came with the Pantech Breakout and Marauder, it is still a bit less than we would like to see. The specs says it can provide up to 11 hours of usage time or 11 days of standby time, but during our testing we were only able to get 8.5 hours of continuous talk time, or about 1 day of mixed usage on a full charge – meaning you’ll have to charge the device nightly.
If we were back in January, the Pantech Perception would be a halfway decent mid-level smartphone for the price. But as we mentioned earlier, with higher end devices from last year being discounted down to under $100 on-contract, it is really a tough sell for the Perception. Even though we like its 4.8” 720p Super AMOLED display, overall styling, and ease of use, the poor camera quality and digital-sounding call quality is holding it back – not to mention it comes running Android Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean. At this point, the Samsung Galaxy S III or Motorola DROID RAZR HD can be purchased for the same or less than the Perception, yet offer a higher quality device and experience.
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