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Archos 35b Titanium: Colorful affordable smartphone from Archos

Posted by wicked October - 24 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

While at first we thought it was cancelled, it now looks like Archos is preparing the 35b Titanium for release towards end of November/beginning December. Does the 35b Titanium offer something interesting? Well, it comes with a dual-core processor and runs Android 4.4 KitKat, has both front and back cameras as well as dual sim support, making it quite an attractive option for people looking for a compact smartphone that do not want to spend much. The 35b Titanium should be available for 59€.

archos-45btitanium-nowrmk

Technical specifications

 

Operating System Android 4.4.2 Kit-Kat
CPU Dual-Core MediaTek MT6572 @ 1.0GHz
GPU: ARM Mali-400
Flash Storage Memory Capacity: 4 GB
System Memory 512 Mb
Interfaces Micro USB 2.0: Mobile Transfer Protocol (MTP)
Micro SD slot (up to 32GB)
Display 3.5″ TFT
480 x 320 resolution
GPS Yes
Bluetooth 4.0
Camera Back: 2.0 MPx + Flash
Front: 0.3 MPx
Archos Apps Yes
Supported Networks GSM/850/900/1800/1900MHz 3G/900/2100 MHz | Dual-Sim
Dimensions 116 x 61 x 12 mm
Weight TBA
Battery 850 mAh
Included Accessoriess -

Big thanks to people sharing the information. :)

 

 

G3 Screen is LG’s first phone powered by in-house Nuclun processor

Posted by wicked October - 24 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Lg g3 screen nuclun (2)

Remember Odin? LG’s long running in-house mobile SoC project is finally coming to fruition in a brand new G3 variant for the Korean market.

LG announced today the release of the G3 Screen, a 5.9-inch variant of the G3 powered by a Nuclun processor, designed by LG in-house and built by chip foundry TSMC. The LG G3 Screen will be exclusive to the Korean market, and the device (previously known under its Liger codename) is notable mainly for its unique processing package.

Here are the main specs of the LG G3 Screen:

  • Chipset: NUCLUN Octa-Core  (1.5GHz Quad-Core +1.2GHz Quad-Core)
  • Display: 5.9-inch Full HD IPS
  • Memory: 32GB  eMMC  / 2GB RAM / MicroSD slot
  • Camera: Rear 13MP OIS+ / Front 2.1MP
  • Battery:  3,000mAh
  • Operating System: Android 4.4 KitKat
  • Size: 157.8x 81.8x 9.5mm
  • Weight: 182g
  • Network: LTE-ACat.6
  • Colors: Black / White

The G3 Screen is designed to take advantage of the LTE-A connectivity available in South Korea, with supported download speeds of up to 225 Mbps. The feature set and software experience is largely the same as in the G3 flagship.

lg g3 screen

Getting back to Nuclun (pronounced NOO-klun), the processor is a big.LITTLE octa-core design featuring four 1.5GHz Cortex-A15 cores for high-performance tasks and four 1.2GHz Cortex-A7 cores for less intensive processing. The processor is able to fire cores individually in order to obtain top performance, battery saving, or a mix, depending on the needs of the device. As a big.LITTLE device with ARM Cortex A7 and A15 cores, Nuclun seems similar to the HiSilicon Kirin 925 processor used by Huawei in the Ascend Mate 7.lg nuclun (1)

“Nuclun opens up a new chapter in LG’s history of innovation in the mobile industry,” said Dr. Jong-seok Park, head of LG Mobile. “With this in-house solution, we will be able to achieve better vertical integration and further diversity our product strategy against stronger competition. NUCLUN will give us greater flexibility in our mobile strategy going forward.”

LG used to have a chip manufacturing business, but it sold it to Hyundai back in 1999. The Korean company has used only Qualcomm chips for its high-end smartphones so far, and the G3 Screen appears to be a field test designed to determine the viability of Nuclun in real world.

The mobile SoC market is clearly dominated by Qualcomm, and even Samsung, one of the world’s top chipmakers (including memory) has been having trouble getting its Exynos chips into devices.

It remains to be seen whether LG will be successful with the Nuclun initiative. The company is enjoying a period of growth, fueled by good sales in its mobile division and especially at the high-end of the market. If the Korean market welcomes Nuclun warmly, it’s possible that at least some of next year’s G devices will feature LG-designed Nuclun processors as well.

Sharp Aquos Crystal Review

Posted by wicked October - 24 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

The Bottom Line

Bezel-less on a budget

PROS
  • Bezels don’t get any thinner
  • Unique design
  • Compact form factor
  • Great price point
CONS
  • Lackluster camera
  • Mediocre performance
  • Poor battery life
7.5

The Sharp Aquos Crystal boasts a unique design with ultra-thin bezels, making it stand out in the already overcrowded mid-range smartphone arena. Not without its issues, but with its low price point, it is a device you should consider.

While OEMs attempt to differentiate their devices with unique design elements, build materials, and features, one aspect all agree with regards to thin bezels. With display sizes getting larger and larger, thin bezels are especially important to keep the overall footou sprint of the device at a more manageable level. Display to front surface ratios have been improving, but we are still a while away from truly bezel-less phones. One unexpected company that has come surprisingly close in this endeavor is Sharp. Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at this unique smartphone in this in-depth look at the Sharp Aquos Crystal!

Design

Sharp Aquos-19

Understandably, Sharp isn’t the first company that comes to mind when you think about smartphones, but the company has certainly managed to turn heads with its latest offering. The front of the device has practically no bezel around the display, save for the large bottom chin, which is the sacrifice they had to make to achieve this mostly bezel-less design. Because there’s nothing at the top, everything that you’d usually find there gets moved to this bottom chin, including the front-facing camera and the notification LED. Because of the different positioning of the front-facing camera, you actually have to turn the phone upside down to take a selfie, to avoid the otherwise awkward angle.

Sharp Aquos-20

Also because of this unique design, there is no earpiece at the top, but of course, phone calls are still possible. The Sharp Aquos Crystal uses what is called a digital wave receiver, which makes the entire display vibrate, converting those vibrations into sound. As long as you have your ear anywhere along the display, you’ll be able to hear the other person like you normally would on any other phone, and this technology works surprisingly well.

Sharp Aquos-33

With regards to the rest of the device, the back cover can be removed to access the microSD card slot and the SIM card slot, but the battery is not replaceable. On the back is also a single speaker that isn’t all that impressive, with quite average sound quality. The volume rocker is on the left side, the power button and the headphone jack are up top, with the microUSB port found at the bottom of the device.

Sharp Aquos-4

As expected, this design makes for a great handling experience, making a device with a 5-inch display feel very small and compact. It is very easy to hold and operate with one hand, which isn’t something you can see for a whole lot of smartphones currently available. When holding the Aquos Crystal in your hand and using it, you’ll also notice that there is a slight bevel around the edge of the glass, which makes for a very smooth and seamless experience when you’re swiping across the edges of the display.

Display

Sharp Aquos-26

The Aquos Crystal features a 5-inch display with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi. This is pretty standard fare for any mid-range smartphone currently available, and apart from its unique design language, that is exactly what this device is. I did notice a slight pink tint along the display, which is particularly noticeable over white backgrounds, but other than that, it’s a decent display panel, with a good amount of saturation and contrast, and good viewing angles as well.

Because of those thin bezels, watching videos or playing games on this smartphone creates a much more immersive experience. Even though this is a quite standard 5-inch display, the fact that the content goes from practically edge to edge makes it a lot of fun to consume media on this device.

Performance and Hardware

Sharp Aquos-8

In terms of performance, you get typical mid-range specifications, including the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 305 GPU and 1.5 GB of RAM. You also get 8 GB of internal storage, which can be further enhanced by up to 128 GB via microSD card. This processing package has proved to be more than decent with other mid-range devices, but that is only somewhat the case here.

Sharp Aquos-12

For basic activities like swiping, scrolling, opening and closing applications, texting, and browsing the web, it performs well. But it’s very easy to slow this phone down if you try to do a lot of multi-tasking or gaming, which result in a lot of lag and dropped frames. Touch screen issues have reared their ugly head at times too, especially while typing. So while overall performance isn’t downright terrible, it isn’t the best experience we’ve had with this kind of processing package.

Sharp Aquos-34

Unfortunately, the disappointing experience continues in terms of battery performance as well. The battery capacity is relatively small at 2,040 mAh, and I found myself having a very difficult time making it through a full day of use, unless I was using only Wi-Fi. Even with light usage, only up to 3 hours of screen on time was possible, so the battery performance could certainly use a lot of work.

Camera

Sharp Aquos-7

The Sharp Aquos Crystal comes with an 8 MP rear camera with LED flash, and a 1.2 MP front-facing unit. When you first start the camera, the software appears to be very simple and clean, that is until you tap on on the arrow that opens up the settings menu. There is where you’ll find various options including panorama, HDR, and a bunch of different scene modes and filters catered specifically to taking photos of people, food, or objects. The software does offer a lot to play around with, and you can really tailor the shot to your liking.

Even with these slew of options and shooting modes, the picture quality is unfortunately extremely poor.  Photos are muddy, details are very soft, and they’re filled with a lot of noise, even in good lighting.  Colors look extremely washed out, and HDR actually makes photos look worse.  It does bring out more detail and brightens up the image, but any sort of color and contrast that the image might have had gets lost in the process.  It’s a camera filled with a lot of nice options, but saying that the image quality is lackluster is an understatement.

Software

Sharp Aquos-13

In terms of software, the Aquos Crystal runs a near-stock version of Android 4.4 Kitkat, with only a few software additions from Sharp. Some do add to overall experience, but others may not change the way you generally use your smartphone, are pretty cool features nonetheless.

Sharp Aquos-28

To begin with, the device comes with Harman Kardon’s Clari-Fi audio built-in, which doesn’t work with the external speaker, but is an enhancement while using headphones or bluetooth devices. Another feature is called “Clip Now,” that makes it easier to capture a screenshot by swiping across the top of the display, instead of having to hold down any buttons. The last new feature is called “Frame Effect,” that doesn’t offer a whole lot of utility, but just looks cool. You can make the screen glow or flash when an alarm rings, or if you plug the phone in to charge. You can also make the screen glow around the edges of the glass every time you turn on the phone. As mentioned, it’s really a useful feature, but it does take advantage of the bezel-less design and looks great.

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Sharp Aquos Crystal is a pre-paid smartphone available from Sprint for $149.99, and will be coming soon to Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile. This device can only connect to CDMA networks, and does take advantage of Sprint’s Spark network for high-speed internet.

So there you have it – a closer look at the Sharp Aquos Crystal! At just $150, this is certainly a very solid smartphone, and if you’re on a budget, definitely a device you should consider. It does have its fair share of issues in terms of camera performance and battery life, with overall performance also not the best. But what does the Aquos Crystal does manage is to stand out in the overcrowded mid-range smartphone arena with its unique design language. While many manufacturers have been trying, Sharp has been the first to achieve something that should hopefully become the norm in terms of design in the near future.

Xperia Z3v now on Verizon, Note 4 Developer Edition coming soon

Posted by wicked October - 23 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

sony xperia z3v first look aa (24 of 30)

Good news for clients of America’s largest carrier. Two hot new Android smartphones are coming to Verizon – Xperia Z3v and Galaxy Note 4 Developer Edition.

Xperia Z3v

The Xperia Z3v was announced on October 9 as a Verizon-exclusive variant that oddly mixed the specs of the international Xperia Z3 with the slate-like design of the Xperia Z2. That’s not a bad thing in itself, given how good the Z2 looks – it’s just an interesting choice by Sony and Verizon.

The Z3v offers a bigger battery and wireless charging, but under the hood, it’s identical to international version of the Z3: you get a beautiful 5.2-inch Full HD display, a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage with microSD for expansion, a 20.7MP camera, and Sony’s water proofing tech.

Verizon is now offering the Sony Xperia Z3v in black and white for $199.99 on a two-year contract, $24.99 with 24 monthly installments, or $599 unlocked.

Check out our Xperia Z3v hands-on for more impressions:

Galaxy Note 4 Developer Edition

If you’re the tinkering type, and you have the expendable income required to buy a high-end Android unlocked, the Note 4 Developer Edition may be the device for you.

Coming soon to Big Red’s network, the Developer Edition of Samsung’s popular device will be available for just $662.53. We said “just” because $662 is actually less than the $699 price tag of the regular unlocked Note 4 on Verizon, and much less than the $799 AT&T brazenly asks for the same device.

Note 4 Developer Edition ships with an unlocked bootloader and none of the Verizon pre-loaded apps you get on the regular version. Other than that, it’s the same Note you know and love.

Check out or Note 4 review for more impressions:

Are you interested in these devices, Verizon users?

Ascend Mate 7 hits 1 million sales milestone ahead of full release

Posted by wicked October - 23 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

huawei ascend mate 7 unboxing initial setup aa (12 of 20)

The Ascend Mate 7 was one of the surprise hits of IFA this year, impressing with its build quality, great screen, and accurate fingerprint scanner. Huawei’s 6-inch beast is off to a good start in stores as well, even if it hasn’t launched yet in Europe and North America.

Huawei announced on Twitter that the Mate 7 hit an early milestone, roughly a month after it went on sale in China and other East Asian markets:

One million in a month is little compared to the hauls of Huawei’s bigger rivals, Apple and Samsung, but a notable performance nonetheless for the Chinese company. Huawei is ranking third in world sales, with a 6.8 percent share that is bolstered by China and other fast growing regions. The company is less successful in Western Europe and the US, where it lacks the brand power of its competitors and suffers from its perceived ties with the Beijing regime.

But the world’s perception of Huawei is changing. The company is the first mainland Chinese company to enter Interbrand’s top of the world’s 100 most valuable brands. Even in the difficult US market, Huawei is making progress, helped by its initiative to sell the Ascend Mate 2 for just $299 through its online store.

The Mate 7 is scheduled to go on sale in Europe for about 500 euros by the end of this month, but we don’t know yet when to expect it across the Atlantic, where Huawei will probably sell it unlocked through its online store. Stay tuned for news on this front.

Archos officially announces the Archos 50 Diamond 4G smartphone

Posted by wicked October - 22 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Following the teaser on monday and our revealing of the new smartphone, today Archos officially announced its new 4G-enabled 199.99 smartphone. As expected by Arctablet, a photo from our colleagues from ArchosLounge.net shows that the 50 Diamond is a rebrand of the K-Touch Touch 7. Still, Archos is the first to announce a 4G smartphone with eight cores SoC at a price of 199.99€. The only thing is that the 50 Diamond will only hit the market early 2015 and at that time, we might see simillar solutions from other brands.

archos-50diamond-nowrmk

Anyways, the Archos 50 Diamond has mid to high-end specifications with a five inch FHD IPS screen giving it a density of 440 dpi and the new 64-bit Snapdragon 615 octo-core CPU. Connectivity wise, the smartphone sports the 4G category 4 giving access to download speeds up to 150Mbps.

ARCHOS-50-Diamond

In addition to its attractive main features, the Archos 50 Diamond also features:
- 16 GB of internal storage and 2 GB of RAM
16 MP rear camera with auto focus and flash, front camera of 8 MP
2700 mAh battery and wireless charging
Dual Active SIM and micro SD card slot up to 64 GB
– Archos Multimedia applications including the reknown Video Player

Images of the K-Touch Touch 7 can be seen here and here are the full tech specs for those that are just as excited as we are. :)

Operating System Android 4.4.4 Kit-Kat
CPU Octo-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615:
Quad-Core @1.7 GHz Cortex A53 & Quad-Core @1 Ghz Cortex A53.
32-bit & 64-bit
GPU: Adreno 405
Flash Storage Memory Capacity: 16 GB
System Memory 2048 MB
Interfaces Micro USB 2.0: Mobile Transfer Protocol (MTP)
Micro SD slot (up to 64GB)
Display 5.0″ IPS
1920 x 1080 resolution
440 ppi
GPS Yes + Galileo
Bluetooth 4.0
Camera Back: 16 MPx + LED Flash
Front: 8 MPx
Archos Apps Yes
Dual-Sim 2x Micro Sim Dual Active
4G / LTE 800 / 1800 / 2600 MHz
3G / UMTS / WCDMA 900 / 2100 MHz
GSM / GPRS / EDGE 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
Download speeds 4G / LTE (cat 4) 150 Mbps / 50 Mbps
DC-HSPA + 42 Mbps / 11 Mbps
Wi-Fi Yes + Hotspot functionality + Wi-Fi Direct
Dimensions 146 x 70.4 x 8mm 
Weight 146g
Battery 2700 mAh
Included in the pack 50 Diamond
Battery + Charger
Hands-Free kit, Documentation, Warranty Information

One more thing…

By making use of the occasion, we would like to leak out another Archos smartphone that will be available by the end of 2014 for half the price – the Archos 45b Helium 4G. The Archos 45b Helium 4G is a slightly upgraded version of the original 45 Helium and comes with a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 CPU, support for Dual-Sim and Android 4.4.4 Kit-Kat. Unfortunately, the new model comes with just 512MB of RAM, probably to cut down production costs. Still, for 99, the 45b Helium should be a great deal. Wiko, it’s your turn now. ;)

45bhelium-nowrmk

Operating System Android 4.4.4 Kit-Kat
CPU Quad-Core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 @1.4 Ghz
GPU: Adreno 306
Flash Storage Memory Capacity: 4 GB
System Memory 512 MB
Interfaces Micro USB 2.0: Mobile Transfer Protocol (MTP)
Micro SD slot (up to 64GB)
Display 4.5″ IPS
854 x 480 resolution
217 ppi
GPS Yes
Bluetooth 4.0
Camera Back: 5 MPx + LED Flash
Front: 0.3 MPx
Archos Apps Yes
Dual-Sim Yes, 2x Micro Sim
4G / LTE 800 / 1800 / 2600 MHz
3G / UMTS / WCDMA 900 / 2100 MHz
GSM / GPRS / EDGE 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
Download speeds 4G / LTE (cat 4) 150 Mbps / 50 Mbps
DC-HSPA + 42 Mbps / 11 Mbps
Wi-Fi Yes + Hotspot functionality + Wi-Fi Direct
Dimensions 135 x 67 x 9.75 mm 
Weight 140g
Battery 1850 mAh
Included in the pack 45b Helium 4G
Battery + Charger
Hands-Free kit, Documentation, Warranty Information

Did you know that Arctablet is also active on social networks? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus for exclusive announcements and get the latest news first!

Galaxy Note 4 now available on US carriers

Posted by wicked October - 17 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Note-4-s-pen-5

As promised, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is now on sales in countries from around the world, including the UK (check out the availability there), India, the US, and Canada.

The Note 4 was officially unveiled in early September at IFA, but Samsung only extended its availability in most world markets today, perhaps in an effort to build up inventory ahead of what shapes up to be high demand.

Here’s what you need to know about the Galaxy Note 4’s US availability and price:

Carrier versions

AT&T

  • On AT&T, the Galaxy Note 4 will be available for a pricey $825 unlocked or with a $299 down payment and a 2-year contract.
  • If you want to go the monthly installment route, you have two options: Next 18 – 24 x $34.42 or Next 12 – 12 x $41.30.
  • The AT&T Galaxy Note 4 is available in black or white.
  • Activation fees apply. Trade-in offer available. Free shipping.
  • Get the AT&T Galaxy Note 4

Verizon

  • On Verizon, the Galaxy Note 4 will be available from October 23 for $699 unlocked or with a $299 down payment on a 2-year contract.
  • If you want to go the monthly installment route, you have this option: Verizon Edge – 24 mo. x $29.16.
  • The Verizon Galaxy Note 4 will be available in black or white.
  • Activation fees apply. Trade-in offer available. Free shipping.
  • Pre-order the Verizon Galaxy Note 4
  • Get a guaranteed $200 trade-in from Samsung for any working smartphone, valid until October 22.

T-Mobile

  • On T-Mobile, the Galaxy Note 4 is available today for $ 749 unlocked.
  • If you want to go the monthly installment route, you have this option:24 mo. x $31.24.
  • The T-Mobile Galaxy Note 4 is available in black or white.
  • Activation fees apply. Trade-in offer available. Ships in 4-7 days.
  • Buy the T-Mobile Galaxy Note 4

Sprint

  • On Sprint, the Galaxy Note 4 is available today for $ 720 unlocked or with a $299.99 down payment on a 2-year contract.
  • If you want to go the monthly installment route, you have this option: Easy Pay 24 mo. x $30.
  • The Sprint Galaxy Note 4 is available in black or white.
  • Activation fees apply. Trade-in offer available. Free shiping.
  • Buy the Sprint Galaxy Note 4

US Cellular

  • On US Cellular, the Galaxy Note 4 is available today for $ 16 unlocked or with a $299.99 down payment on a 2-year contract.
  • The US Cellular Galaxy Note 4 is available in black.
  • Activation fees apply. Trade-in offer available. Free shiping.
  • Buy the US Cellular Galaxy Note 4

For more details on the Galaxy Note 4, check out our Note 4 review or watch the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=2Eibt5_0EVo

Are you buying a Note 4 today?

Next: Best Galaxy Note 4 cases

Sony Xperia Z3 review

Posted by wicked October - 16 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

The Bottom Line

The Sony Xperia Z3 might be here too soon, but it still brings the best that Sony has to offer.

PROS
  • Further refined aesthetics
  • Great display experience
  • Great sound experience
  • Sturdy, IP certified design
  • Powerful camera
  • Minimalistic but very useful Xperia UI
CONS
  • Upgrade might not be substantial for veteran users
  • Performance package is a step behind current competition
  • Best camera features are disjointed

8.7

Following the introduction of the Xperia Z, Sony adopted a bi-annual release cycle with their flagship smartphone line. While the differences between releases weren’t revolutionary, each subsequent release further refined and enhanced what was already great about its predecessor. That said, following such a launch cycle brought with it doubts about what kind of upgrades every iteration would feature. Has that concern finally caught up with Sony with regards to its latest flagship? We find that out, and more, in this in-depth review of the Sony Xperia Z3!

Design

sony xperia z3 review (1 of 26)

If there’s one thing you can count on with Sony, it’s their commitment to great design language and build quality. With the Xperia Z3, we once again get the familiar black slate design, consisting of two glass panels held together by a metal frame. This time, the metal frame has been given a more polished, rounded feel, allowing for an even sleeker profile than what was found with its predecessors.

sony xperia z3 review (7 of 26)

Signature elements of the design make a return, with the big silver power button found on its side, with the volume rocker and dedicated camera shutter button found below it. Unfortunately, I did feel like the tactile feedback from the buttons weren’t as good as before, likely caused by the rounded design resulting in the buttons being a little more flush with the body.

sony xperia z3 review (9 of 26)

While the design language remains familiar, some changes have been made to the established formula. For starters, the covers that protect the microSD card slot, SIM tray, and microUSB port have also been given a more polished and rounded look, and completely blend into the frame. Of course, the presence of these covers are indicative of another standard feature of high-end Sony devices, and that is its resistance to dust and water. The dual front-facing speaker setup has also been altered to a couple of smaller grills, as opposed to the slit-like design that was found with the Xperia Z2.

sony xperia z3 review (15 of 26)

If you were already a fan of Sony’s design language, you’ll love the design of the Xperia Z3, and certainly appreciate the changes and refinements that have been made from the previous iteration. When it comes to the handling experience however, I did find the device to be quite slippery, due to the glass panels and the light metal frame. You won’t be in constant fear of the phone slipping out of your hand, but it may crop up occasionally. As was the case with its predecessors, the glass on either side is prone to fingerprints and smudges, and it’s quite difficult to get the device back to the pristine state it was in right after the plastic was peeled off.

sony xperia z3 review (11 of 26)

With the Xperia Z3, Sony has further perfected the design of its flagship line, making this smartphone enticing for not only newcomers, but veteran users of Sony devices as well.

Display

sony xperia z3 review (4 of 26)

The Sony Xperia Z3 features a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display, with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 424 ppi. Long gone are the days when we found ourselves feeling underwhelmed with the display capabilities of Sony flagships. Improvements that were clearly shown with the Xperia Z2 carry over, and are further enhanced, with the Xperia Z3, allowing for a great display experience.

sony xperia z3 review (13 of 26)

The same enhancements to this display return in the form of the Triluminos tech and X-Reality Engine, ultimately providing even better color reproduction here than what is found with standard IPS LCD offerings. The result is a display that provides a lot of contrast and the kind of viewing prowess you may have come to expect from Sony televisions.

sony xperia z3 review (24 of 26)

While the display size remains the same as its predecessor, the thinner bezels and sleeker form factor allow for an even better handling experience, and 5.2-inches is plenty of real estate for anyone looking to view media or read text. You’ll have a great time doing anything on this display. Text looks great, as do images and videos, and gaming is very enjoyable. Viewing angles are an issue that has plagued previous iterations, but this is vastly improved here, and the signature brightness of IPS LCD displays shines through as well.

Performance

sony xperia z3 review (14 of 26)

Though the idea behind Sony’s release schedule is to stay ahead of the curve, the Xperia Z3 manages to fall slightly behind in the performance aspect. While the Snapdragon 805 is what is found with flagships released during this time period with devices like the Galaxy Note 4 and Nexus 6, the Xperia Z3 still sports a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, clocked at 2.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 330 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. For those who want to be on the absolute cutting edge, this may be a bit of a deal breaker, but it actually doesn’t make a significant difference in the overall experience.

sony xperia z3 review (16 of 26)

All but the most recent and most processor-intensive games still performed wonderfully, and getting general tasks done is still as smooth and easy as ever, helped along by the simple, minimalistic, and therefore fast, Xperia UI. Jumping between applications using the Recent Apps screen is still a breeze, making multitasking as easy as it can be.

While it certainly would have been nice to see the latest and greatest processing package with the Xperia Z3, it is still a top-tier device in terms of performance.

Hardware

sony xperia z3 review (12 of 26)

Hardware has always been a strong point for Sony, with features that often bolster the media experience. The front-facing speakers make a return here, and as expected, they are the great performers they always have been. Default settings at the maximum volume allow for a great audio experience even in very noisy environments, and various options in the Sound Settings could make things even better. What I thought was missing in the sound department was the inclusion of the noise-cancelling headphones that included with the Xperia Z2. These headphones will be available with the device, but only in certain regions.

sony xperia z3 review (6 of 26)

While the usual array of connectivity options, including NFC, are available, what didn’t make the cut was an IR blaster. Speaking of connectivity, if you are planning to pick up the Xperia Z3, remember to make sure that you pick up the appropriate version of the device to connect to your mobile network. With this particular version, the D6653, I was unable to connect to T-Mobile’s high speed internet, and instead was only able to get the 700 band for AT&T. Data speeds were still pretty fast, but the constant search for signal and reception took a massive blow on battery life, making true battery testing tough to do.

sony xperia z3 review (17 of 26)

When it comes to the battery, a 3,100 mAh unit is bolstered by the usual suite of Sony battery saving options, so under the correct circumstances, longevity should be at a comfortable high. In this case though, the constantly searching radio antenna resulted in the battery draining in around 13 hours. But with the STAMINA mode activated, it managed an impressive day and a half of bettery life, due to the stellar standby time.

sony xperia z3 review (18 of 26)

Of course, everything under the hood is protected from the elements, with the Xperia Z3 featuring IP68 certification, indicating a complete resistance to dust, and the ability to be submerged in up to 1 meter of water, for as long as 30 minutes, without a negative impact on performance.

Camera

sony xperia z3 review (10 of 26)

It’s clear that Sony has a lot of faith in their camera optics, because this is the same package that is has been a part of the Xperia flagship line since the Xperia Z1. The 20.7 MP rear shooter is capable of some enormous pictures, and also brings a lot of modes for fun and creativity.

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Some of these modes that provide the tools to get a myriad of shots include AR effect, Background Defocus, and Timeshift, with numerous more available for download, should you need dedicated cameras for services like Evernote and Vine. 4k video recording is available, but huge file sizes might make you opt for the already good quality 1080p shots. The manual mode is where you can really cater the shot, but needing to go here in order to force HDR mode on is cumbersome.

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Unfortunately, the issues that were prevalent with previous iterations also come back here. The 20.7 MP resolution is only accessible when in the full manual mode, after which you can get a 16:9 aspect ratio by jumping down to 15.5 MP, or even lower with the Superior Auto default of 8 MP. While the Superior Auto does a pretty good job of catering the settings to the shot, it’s disappointing that these features are not available in the 20.7 MP size.

That being said, the picture quality is still very satisfactory.The 20.7 MP shots obviously capture a lot more detail, but the 8 MP shots in Superior Auto, with its various modes and features, will likely be more pleasing. Though there is a propensity here to overexpose photos, this actually works in its favor when considering low light shots. In poor lighting conditions, the Xperia Z3 still yielded more usable shots than a lot of the competition.Further, using the dedicated camera button to easily activate the app and then shoot makes the Xperia camera one of the best tactile experiences currently available.

Software

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Though minor upgrades across the board have been noticeable and proven to be welcome, the software aspect doesn’t quite fall under that category, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Xperia UI returns with essentially the same look and feel as before, with its decidedly stock-like elements and few additions piled on top.

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If there is one thing that we are happy about with the UI it is that the simplicity keeps things really fast, and the interface seldom slows down due to being overworked. You get the general homescreens, the app drawer, the notification dropdown with the quick settings shade, and the Small Apps that are found in the Recent Apps screen, if you are looking to get some small overlay tasks done.

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The main additions include the Sony specific applications like the Walkman, Album, and the Unlimited media buying experience. Connectivity to a PlayStation 4 is possible, allowing for streaming from the console to the phone on the same network. It’s definitely a feature that I’m very excited to use as soon as I get my hands on a PS4.

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The main addition here is the LifeLog, which is a robust but somewhat disconcerting data logger that tries to record your entire life. Everything from internet usage, camera usage, Facebook usage, to even your steps and distance traveled, are recorded and illustrated by an avatar on the screen. Lifelog lets you literally look back and see what you have done in the past day or beyond. It’s definitely understandable if you’re wary about just how much specific data is being monitored, but anyone out there that likes to journal or just have logs of everything from fitness to data usage, it is an interesting tool, made even better since it will be able to connect with Sony wearables for data recording.

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Ultimately there is a lot to like about the Xperia UI, if only because there isn’t too much to wade through. Sony continues to puts its faith in this iteration of Android, and it has to be said that we are definitely still fans of what we see.

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Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Sony Xperia Z3 is currently available for the full unlocked price of around $650, putting it squarely in the realm of flagship smartphone, in both value and price. Boasting similar performance packages and price points, the main competitors of this device are the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8).

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And so, there you have it – a closer look at the Sony Xperia Z3! For a number of people out there, the updates might not fully justify what is definitely a costly upgrade. But, veteran Xperia fans will find that the Xperia Z3 does provide just enough to keep things fresh, doing so very successfully, especially in the design department. For anyone unfamiliar the high-end Xperia line, this device is another great example of OEMs continuously perfecting what was already a good experience, and is for now, the best point of entry into this family. We can’t fault Sony for having faith in a product that already showed us what they were made of two versions ago, and we certainly can’t blame them for continuing to make that experience even better.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha review: a glimpse of something new

Posted by wicked October - 15 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

The Bottom Line

A glimpse of something new from Samsung

PROS
  • Metal design
  • Solid camera
  • Snappy performance
CONS
  • Small battery
  • Weak speaker
  • Expensive price

8.0

When it comes to the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, it’s not about what the phone offers, but rather what it represents – a glimpe of something new from Samsung.

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has generated a lot of buzz ever since rumors about it first began to surface. What makes the Galaxy Alpha special is Samsung’s experiment in using a metal body, a departure from its old all-plastic approach. In a lot of ways, this device is as a precursor to the Galaxy Note 4, which also boasts a metal frame, though the Galaxy Alpha is no slouch either.

Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at Samsung’s first smartphone with metallic design elements, in this Samsung Galaxy Alpha review!

Design

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Obviously, the aluminum frame is what makes the Galaxy Alpha stand out from the slew of mid-rangers that Samsung already offers. In fact, if it weren’t for the shiny metal band, the Alpha probably wouldn’t have got much attention at all. Granted, it’s not a full metal body design, but the frame’s beautiful chamfered edges and solid build make a world of difference to the look and feel of the device.

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The premium look translates to the way the device handles as well, with the Alpha feeling very solid in the hand. Its flat sides, thin bezels, and compact form factor also contribute to the great handling experience. This phone is very easy to hold and use with one hand, which is certainly a refreshing change from the hand gymnastics that’s often required with the current crop of high-end Android smartphones.

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The plastic back cover of the Galaxy Alpha is actually quite thin, but that’s not something that is noticeable until you take it off. The dimpled design on the back is similar to that of the Galaxy S5, but is far more subtle. The soft touch material gives the phone more grip, so you won’t have to worry about it slipping from your hand like it happens with many metallic phones. Surprisingly, even though the back cover is removable, housing the replaceable battery, the Galaxy Alpha doesn’t offer microSD expansion, which can be disappointing for some.

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Apart from the metal frame, the rest of the design language is actually quite similar to other Samsung smartphones. The power button is on the right side, with the volume rocker found on the left. The signature tactile home button is up front, flanked by the back and recent apps capacitive keys. The physical home button also comes with the integrated fingerprint scanner, a hardware addition that was first introduced with the Galaxy S5. Up top is the headset jack, and the bottom is where you’ll find the microUSB port and a single speaker.

Display

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The Samsung Galaxy Alpha comes with a 4.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1280 x 720, resulting in a pixel density of 312 ppi. Everything we love about Super AMOLED displays is also found here, with vibrant, vivid colors with a lot of contrast, and great viewing angles and brightness. Samsung has always been at the forefront of display tech, and the Galaxy Alpha is no exception, so you’ll have a great time doing anything on this display.

Performance and Hardware

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There are two variants of the Galaxy Alpha available, depending on on your location. This particular review unit, that is available from AT&T, packs a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, clocked at 2.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 330 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. The other variant features a Samsung Exynos 5 Octa processor, along with the Mali-T628 GPU and the same amount of RAM. With high-end specifications like this, the performance is as smooth and snappy as you’d expect. Everything from opening and closing applications, multitasking, and gaming, was handled smoothly. Not to so say that there weren’t instances of stutter and lag, but they were rare and far between.

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As mentioned, there is no expandable storage available, but you get 32 GB of in-built storage, which should be enough for most users. The device comes with the usual array of connectivity options, including 4G LTE support, and additional hardware includes the fingerprint scanner that is integrated into the home button, adding an extra layer of security, and the heart rate monitor, that is found right next to the rear camera. The speaker that is placed at the bottom does perform admirably, and gets quite loud. The placement is somewhat unfortunate though, making it quite easy to cover up, especially if you’re playing games in the landscape orientation.

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Unfortunately, battery life is one aspect that leaves to be desired. With a relatively small 1,860 mAh, power users will likely have a difficult time getting through a full day with this device. With more moderate use, that includes texting, checking social networks, browsing the web, and limited gaming, you might be able to squeeze enough juice out of the battery, but the overall battery life is quite disappointing.

Camera

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The Galaxy Alpha features a 12 MP rear shooter with a LED flash. It may not be the high-end sensor that Samsung uses with its flagship devices, but it’s still respectable in terms of performance. The camera app, as always, is packed with a ton of features, starting from the typical, like exposure settings and white balance, to features like dual shot, beauty face, and various other shooting modes. The camera is also capable of 4K video recording with 1080p at 60 fps, as well as slow motion video capture at 720p.

The picture quality is actually very good, with images looking colorful, vibrant, and sharp. It does a great job with handling exposure, and while dynamic range isn’t the greatest, HDR certainly helps in bringing out a lot more detail. As expected, photos lose a lot of quality in low light situations, looking very grainy and noisy, and lacking detail. For the most part though, this is still a very solid smartphone camera.

Software

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When it comes to the software, the Galaxy Alpha runs Android 4.4.4 Kitkat with the TouchWiz UI on top, and in terms of features, pretty much everything you’ll find on the Galaxy S5 make its way here. Smart Stay, Smart Pause, Multiwindow for some true multitasking, and Tool Box, that creates a floating bubble for quick access to your favorite apps, are all available here. My Magazine is still one swipe away from the main home screen, but the experience hasn’t changed over previous iterations.

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The Settings menu and Quick Settings dropdown both feature an updated design with a circular motif, but remain convoluted and difficult to navigate. The S Health app also makes a return, and takes advantage of the heart rate monitor to keep track of your activities. Basically, in terms of features and software experience, the Alpha is identical to what you’d get with the Samsung Galaxy S5. This being an AT&T model, some carrier-related bloatware is to be found, and can unfortunately not be uninstalled, but only disabled.

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Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is available now on AT&T for $199 on a contract, with an unlocked version priced at around $700. This price point, whether on contract or not, is usually reserved for flagship devices, and it does make sense somewhat in this case, considering the Alpha’s high-end processing package and premium design elements.

And there you have it – a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy Alpha! At the end of the day, the Galaxy Alpha might just be another phone in Samsung’s vast product portfolio. But in this case, it’s not really about the phone itself, but about what it represents. The Galaxy Alpha might very well be the start of something new from Samsung. We’ve already seen the Galaxy Note 4 continue this upward trend in build quality and design, and things will only get better. This is something that many people have wanted to see from Samsung for a long time now, and it’s finally here.

HTC Butterfly 2 Review

Posted by wicked October - 15 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Solid build quality
  • Flagship specifications
  • Resistance to dust and water
  • Smooth software experience
CONS
  • Display not the brightest
  • Lackluster camera performance
  • High price point

7.5

In a lot of ways, the HTC Butterfly 2 is basically the One (M8) in a plastic body. Additional features like dust and water resistance are a big plus, but whether that’s enough to let go of the premium build quality of its flagship counterpart is up to you.

HTC used to be a pioneer in the Android world, but lost its way a few years ago after it failed to compete with rival OEMs due to a poor pricing policy and device release cycle. In a bid to get its act together, HTC now features a leaner smartphone portfolio centered around the One series and Desire series. That said, the HTC Butterfly series is still intact and going strong.

In a lot of ways, the Butterfly series offers the best of both worlds, boasting the high-end specifications of the One series, while featuring the design and build quality elements of the Desire lineup. So what does the latest addition to this series have to offer? We find out, in this comprehensive review of the HTC Butterfly 2!

Design

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In terms of design, the Butterfly 2 looks a lot like a plastic version of the HTC One (M8), with the BoomSound speakers up front, and the Duo Camera setup at the back of the device. It is every so slightly smaller and lighter than the HTC flagship, but is a tad thicker. At 151 grams, the Butterfly 2 is somewhat heavy given its all-plastic build, but its heft actually contributes positively to the overall handling experience.

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The tapered edges of the device make it feel thinner than it is, and allow for a very comfortable feel in the hand. That said, the tapered edges does prevent the phone from sitting flush on a flat surface, so if you’re someone who is used to typing while the phone is kept on a table, you will find the phone rocking back and forth slightly.

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Around the perimeter of the device on the front is a chrome ring, that adds a subtle flair to the phone. This chrome color element is found on the volume rocker, placed on the right side, as well as the HTC logo that blends into the back of the device. On the right side is also where the microSIM card slot is, with the microSD card slot found on the left.

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The size of the device allows for a relatively easy handling experience, and while it’s taller than it should be, it’s not that difficult to reach across the display while using the phone with one hand. The plastic build material is smooth, the tapered edges allow for the device to sit comfortably, and its weight makes it feel solid in the hand. Overall, this is one of the best handling experiences and feel I’ve had with an all-plastic phone, with the build material not taking away from HTC’s penchant for premium quality and design.

Display

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The HTC Butterfly 2 features a display that is similar to the One (M8), with a 5-inch LCD3 display coming with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, resulting in a pixel density of 441 ppi. While the viewing experience on both is almost identical, one issue that did seem to crop up with the Butterfly 2 screen is with regards to brightness. The display seemed a lot dimmer than the one of the One (M8), that could cause its fair share of issues while using the phone outdoors.

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Beyond that, it still a very sharp display with good saturation, contrast, and white balance, and color reproduction is spot on. You’ll have a great time doing anything on this display, be it reading text, watching videos, or playing games, at least while you’re indoors.

Performance and Hardware

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Under the hood is a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at 2.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 330 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. With the exception of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 that will be available soon, this processing package is what you get with all current Android flagship smartphones, and as expected, this translates in terms of performance as well. Opening, switching between, and closing applications is smooth and easy, multitasking is a breeze, and there were rarely, if any, instances of stutter or lag while playing any processor-intensive games. While the outside packaging may not be considered flagship, the performance is certainly at that level.

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In other hardware, you get the now staple HTC feature of dual front-facing BoomSound speakers, that offer an audio quality very comparable to what is available with the One (M8). A microSD card slot allows for expandable storage by up to 128 GB, on top of the 16 GB or 32 GB of on-board memory. All connectivity options are also available, including an IR blaster to take advantage of the HTC TV Remote application. When it comes to the battery, you get a 2,700 mAh non-removable unit, which is slightly larger than the one found with the One (M8). As such, the battery life is equally, if not more, impressive with the Butterfly 2, and most users shouldn’t have any trouble comfortably getting a full day of use out of this device.

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We’ve been comparing the HTC Butterfly 2 a lot to its flagship counterpart, the One (M8), throughout this post, but there is actually something that the former offers that makes it stand out. The Butterfly 2 is capable of braving the elements which is certainly very helpful, featuring an IP57 rating for protection against dust and water. What is more impressive is the fact that HTC managed to do so without any extra covering for ports.

Camera

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Unfortunately, HTC isn’t the first name that comes to mind when talking about great smartphone photography, and while the company is attempting to change its image with the HTC Desire Eye and the Eye Experience software package, that prowess doesn’t make its way to the Butterfly 2.

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First, it has to be mentioned that Butterfly 2 features a 13 MP rear unit, as opposed to the 4 MP Ultrapixel camera of the One (M8). The Duo Camera setup does return here though, with the addition of a depth sensor located at the top of that feeds depth data to the main camera for every shot you take. The Butterfly 2 also comes with the 5 MP front-facing camera with a wide angle lens, that will be great for all you selfie lovers out there.

When it comes to image quality, you actually get some pretty good shots when the lighting conditions are right. But even with the higher megapixel count, issues with image quality that have plagued previous HTC smartphones rear their ugly head here. Zooming into an image shows a lack of color, jagged edges, and loss of detail. As expected, as lighting conditions deteriorate, so does the quality of the image, with exposure levels being off, color lacking even further, and lot of noise and loss of detail. In fact, even with the 13 MP camera, the image quality isn’t that much different or better than what you get with the One (M8). This continues with video as well, with the lack of image stabilization, and poor color reproduction leading to disappointing video quality.

Software

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When it comes to the software, the HTC Butterfly 2 runs Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, with the latest Sense 6 UI on top. This is the best and lightest iteration of the Sense UI yet, allowing for a smooth and lag-free overall experience. Anyone familiar with the Sense UI from previous iterations will still feel right at home here though, with features such as the vertical scrolling in both BlinkFeed and the application drawer making a return.

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BlinkFeed also makes a return with a slightly new look, and a larger pool of resources. Content is mostly curated by HTC, but there’s an increased number of sources to choose from now, including social media outlets. Ultimately, it’s a great way to check all your feeds at a glance, but it’s easy to focus on just one source if that’s what you prefer. Another big feature is Motion Launch, which uses the sensors to determine when you pick up the phone and lets you perform a few swipes or taps to wake the device and jump to certain sections of the UI.

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What is another great aspect when it comes it to the HTC Sense software is the fact that applications like BlinkFeed and more can now be updated directly from the Google Play Store. Not having to wait for a firmware update to get the latest features with these apps is a huge plus, and a great way to ensure that the software experience is always up to date, even if the device itself may not be running the latest version of Android.

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Pricing and Final Thoughts

The HTC Butterfly is 2 is available in the US directly from HTC or Expansys for $619.99. Unfortunately, the option for subsidized rates from network carriers isn’t available.

So there you have it – a closer look at the HTC Butterfly 2! The Butterfly 2 is basically the One (M8) in a plastic body, offering the same user experience that you’d get with the flagship device. Additions such as the resistance against dust and water are useful, but even with the upgraded camera unit, image quality is still found lacking. While the HTC Butterfly 2 could have served as a way to fix some of the issues with its flagship counterpart, it ultimately ends up offering not much more or less.

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