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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

Samsung Galaxy Alpha-10

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.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha-41

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.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha-39

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.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha-17

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

Samsung Galaxy Alpha-43

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

Samsung Galaxy Alpha-33

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.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha-4

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.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Battery Screenshot-1

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

Samsung Galaxy Alpha-6

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

Samsung Galaxy Alpha-45

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.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha-44

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

IMG_7606

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.

aa-htc-butterfly-2-boomsound-1

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.

IMG_7637

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.

This is the Nexus 6, according to @evleaks

Posted by wicked October - 14 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

google nexus 6 render evleaks wide

Generally known under his @evleaks alias, Evan Blass may have put his professional leaking days behind him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do what he does best every once and a while.

According to the former pro leaker, the device below is the Nexus 6. We have no way of knowing it for sure, but judging from the image, as well as Blass’ track record, this may truly be our first look at Nexus 6 press render.

google nexus 6 render evleaks

The image shows a device that’s very similar to the new Moto X, only in a larger form factor. The Nexus 6 has been rumored to feature a 5.9-inch Quad HD display.

Looking at the user interface, we can see new icons for the Play Store and all apps, as well as what seems to be a messaging app (not Hangouts). Another new element is the way Docs and other productivity apps, as well as Play Music, Play Movies and other apps, are grouped in their own folders, Create and Play, separate from the Google folder we typically see on default Android installations.

This image matches closely the mockup made by the folks at Android Police based on information from their sources, though with some differences. The wallpaper is different, and, if this image is authentic is may be the first time in a while Google uses a photography, rather than an abstract design for the default wallpaper.

With the Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Android L rumored to launch later this week, we’ll find out soon how truthful @evleaks’ latest report is.

What do you think of this image?


Source: Evleaks;

The powerful Droid Turbo is coming on October 28

Posted by wicked October - 14 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

droid turbo countdown

The countdown to the launch of the Droid Turbo is on – literally.

There isn’t much mystery left around the Droid Turbo, thanks to a series of leaks that includes an image of the device revealed by Verizon itself. We now have one of the remaining pieces of the puzzle, the launch date, thanks to the landing page that Big Red just put up for the Turbo.

The landing page, redirected from the old DroidDoes.com, includes a countdown that will end two weeks from now, on October 28, at 12PM EST. The teaser image seems to depict the same device that Verizon slipped last week, so we’re almost 100 percent sure it’s the Droid Turbo that’s coming.

motorola droid turbo

Droid Turbo image accidentally tweeted by Verizon

Made by Motorola, the Droid Turbo is expected to feature a 5.2-inch Quad HD display, a Snapdragon 805 processor, a 21MP camera, and – if this report is accurate – an ultra high capacity 3,900 mAh battery that would put the Turbo in very select company when it comes to battery life. We also know that the device will feature Motorola’s turbo charging feature, as well as Qi wireless charging support.

While the eyes of the world are on Mountain View for the release of the Nexus 9 and the Moto-made Nexus 6, this Droid Turbo is still one of the most exciting devices out there, especially if that huge battery turns out to be real. We’ll certainly keep an eye on Verizon’s countdown – will you?


Source: Verizon;

Xperia Z3 Compact on sale in the US for $529.99 ($477 with student discount!)

Posted by wicked October - 13 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

sony xperia z3 compact unboxing first impressions aa (14 of 21)

The great Xperia Z3 Compact is on sale on Sony’s US online store for $529. That’s a great price for a device that comfortably leads its size category.

Launched at IFA in September, the Xperia Z3 Compact features many of specifications of its larger sibling, the Xperia Z3, assembled in a smaller form factor that people who dislike large devices will certainly appreciate.

While there are other Mini devices out there, Sony’s Compact is almost unrivaled, offering a top processor, good screen, and great camera in an elegant 129 grams package. Samsung’s metallic Galaxy Alpha is probably the only real competitor for the Z3 Compact, though Sony’s device leads it in battery capacity and camera.

You can order the Xperia Z3 Compact from Sony here for $529.99. That’s quite a lot cheaper than the $649.99 the Galaxy Alpha commands. Currently listed as backordered, the Z3 Compact is available in all four color options – white, black, green, and orange.

If you’re a student or faculty member, the Z3 Compact can be yours for an even more appealing $477. You will need to sign up for Sony’s Student Store program, but you don’t need a .edu email address in order to do so!

Our Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review is coming soon, but meanwhile you can get a good idea about the Xperia Z3 Compact from our hands-on impressions video from IFA.

While the Xperia Z3 will go on sale through Verizon and T-Mobile in the US, there’s no news yet on the carrier availability of the Xperia Z3 Compact, leaving Sony’ online store as the cheapest option for now.

Are you interested in buying the Xperia Z3 Compact? Why? Why not?

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini review

Posted by wicked October - 13 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Great camera experience
  • Good screen
  • Flagship hardware features
CONS
  • Some build quality issues
  • Occasional instances of stutter or lag

8.5

If you loved everything about the Samsung Galaxy S5, but thought that it was too big, the Galaxy S5 Mini is the device for you.

Samsung started the trend of releasing variants of flagship smartphones, in order to profit from the brand recognition of its most popular products. This is something that many OEMs do now, so the market is flooded with mini, compact, max, and ultra versions of phones from LG, HTC, Sony, and more. With these devices, you get the design of the flagship, in a different form factor, and in most cases, with lowered specifications and price tags.

In the case of Samsung and its flagship Galaxy S5, we’ve already taken a look at the Galaxy S5 Sport and the Galaxy S5 Active, and today, we’ll be giving the full review treatment to the compact version of the device, the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini!

Design

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -15

When it comes to design, the Galaxy S5 Mini is truly a mini version of its flagship sibling, in every sense of the word. If you thought that the Galaxy S5 was too big, but otherwise loved everything about it, you’ll definitely not have any complaints about the Galaxy S5 Mini, which retains the design language and some of the hardware features of its namesake.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -31

The Galaxy S5 Mini is shorter and lighter than the Galaxy S5, but a tad thicker. The great news is that the Mini version boasts the same IP67 rating for protection against dust and water, which means that the phone is almost completely protected from dust, and can be submerged in up to one meter of water for as long as 30 minutes. What’s interesting is that, despite boasting the same protection rating, the flap covering the microUSB port on the Galaxy S5 is nowhere to be seen here.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -10

Of course, you get the signature physical home button up front, with an integrated fingerprint scanner, which is flanked by capacitive back and recent apps keys. The familiar chrome ring around the perimeter also returns, but in this case, it does pick up dents and scratches easily, and in fact, chips away. The power button is on the right side of the device, ideally placed for easy access when you grip the phone, and the volume rocker can be found to the left.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -8

You get the same dimpled soft touch plastic back cover, and a heart rate monitor can be found just below the camera unit. The back cover is removable, giving you access to the replaceable battery, microSD card slot, and — because this is the international version of the device — you also get dual SIM slots.

Display

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -3

Keeping with its mini nature, the Galaxy S5 Mini sports a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED display, with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 326 ppi. This is not what’s considered flagship standard these days, but a higher than 720p resolution at this size would probably be overkill.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -24

Samsung’s display prowess shines through with the Galaxy S5 Mini as well. Everything we love about Super AMOLED displays, including vivid colors, deep blacks, fantastic brightness, and good viewing angles, are all features of this display. Overall, you’ll have a great time doing anything on the S5 Mini, be it reading text, browsing through images, or watching videos.

Performance and Hardware

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -27

When it comes to hardware, the Galaxy S5 Mini sports a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, clocked at 1.4 GHz, the Adreno 305 GPU, and 1.5 GB of RAM. This processing package has become the standard in the mid-range smartphone game, but nevertheless, performance is quite good given the product category.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -26

As with all Samsung devices, TouchWiz UI tends to stump even the fastest of processing packages. But with the latest version of Samsung’s user interface, instances of lag are rarer than they used to be on previous iterations. There is a very slight delay when launching an app, but overall performance is as smooth as you’d expect. The device also handles gaming well for the most part. Occasional lag or stutter does show up in the more processor-intensive games though, which isn’t particularly unexpected, and more than anything, serves as a reminder that this device is a mid-range smartphone after all.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -23

Just like its flagship sibling, there is no shortage of hardware features on the Galaxy S5 Mini. Everything from expandable storage and an IR blaster, to a heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner are available here, so you certainly aren’t missing out on some of the key features of the Galaxy S5. You get 16GB of onboard storage, and a potential 64GB more thanks to the microSD card slot. Call quality is good, with conversations sounding loud and clear at both ends. The external speaker located on the back left corner performs better than average.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -11

The Galaxy S5 Mini packs a 2,100 mAh battery, but considering the components it has to power, battery life isn’t an issue at all. I was able to get up to 2 days of battery life with around 3 hours of screen-on time, which is on par with most high-end devices with larger batteries. Even with above moderate use, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a full day out of this battery.

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -12

When it comes to the camera, you get an 8MP rear shooter and 2.1 MP front-facing camera. The aspect ratio of images is 4:3, which is great when uploading images to social media, but if you change the aspect ratio, picture quality does take a hit. As is the case with any Samsung smartphone, the camera app is packed with features. Almost any shooting mode you may want is built in the software, including panorama and a sports mode. You also have the ability to easily adjust any settings you want, which lets you set the shot to your liking. But, with so many settings and features at your disposal, you will likely find yourself using the auto mode more often than not.

The sharp and colorful images produced by the Galaxy S5 Mini look great. This 8MP shooter captures a lot of details when taking a picture in good lighting. But the true star of the show is the depth of field. You can get a really nice blurry background and sharp foreground, and when done right, the results are awesome. In mid- to low-light, you’ll lose some of that quality, but considering the price range, it’s still one of the better cameras out there.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini - Camera-4

Software

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -21

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini runs Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, with the TouchWiz UI on top. As always, TouchWiz offers one of the most feature-packed software experiences you can get. Since this is the international version of the device, the UI is a little less cluttered than what you’d get from a US carrier version, thanks to the absence of added carrier bloatware.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -22

The software package is largely the same across the current crop of Samsung smartphones, with the user interface featuring some minor aesthetic changes across, including the circular motif of the quick settings menu. In terms of additional software features, some of the most interesting and useful are S Health, Smart Remote, and Kids Mode.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini -25

Kids Mode, available from the Samsung App store, lets you control access to apps and features, allowing you to lock down anything you think it’s inappropriate for children. The S Health app is Samsung’s attempt at providing a one-stop solution for all your health needs. When set up, it serves as a pedometer, lets you track your workouts, and also takes advantage of the heart rate monitor. There are still some kinks to work out, and it’s not quite enough for fitness freaks out there, but it’s definitely a good start to a feature that should get a lot better over time.

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

So there you have it – a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini! Available for around $450 unlocked, the Galaxy S5 Mini gives you LTE connectivity, decent performance, a great camera experience, and hardware features that include a heart rate monitor and a fingerprint scanner. Everything is packed into a body that is more compact, but otherwise very similar to the Galaxy S5.

If you’re in the market for a solid mid-ranger with all the hardware features of Samsung’s flagship devices, the Galaxy S5 Mini is the one for you.

Galaxy Note 4 gets battery life-extending update

Posted by wicked October - 13 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

samsung galaxy note 4 first impressions (13 of 20)

Ahead of its release in the US and the UK this week, the Galaxy Note 4 is receiving a small, but potentially important firmware update.

As reported by the folks over at SamMobile, the 36MB firmware update to version XXU1ANJ4 appears to be primarily a stability patch that covers last minute holes discovered by Samsung following the Note 4’s limited release. It’s not unusual to see such stability updates ahead of full product launches or even in the first days of availability.

But the update also seems to improve battery life, and by a “significant” margin, according to SamMobile. We didn’t receive it yet on our international Snapdragon 805-powered review unit, but there’s a good chance the update will be waiting when you pop open your Note 4 box later this week.

The Note 4 features a 3,220 mAh battery, which is about the same size as the one on the Note 3. Due to the Quad HD screen, some believed the Note 4 wouldn’t last as long as its predecessor, but, as Josh pointed out in the Note 4 review, battery life is just as good as on the Note 3. Now, thanks to the update, the Note 4 may edge ahead the previous generation.


Source: SamMobile;

Droid Landing just tweeted a Droid Turbo image by mistake

Posted by wicked October - 10 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

droid landing

Someone on Verizon’s social media team is having a bad Friday.

Droid Landing, the account that Verizon only uses to promote incoming launches of new Droid devices, tweeted a few minutes ago a beautiful, hi-res image of the red version of the Droid Turbo.

motorola droid turbo

We first thought the image was part of a tease campaign, but the tweet has since been deleted, suggesting that someone simply clicked the wrong button.

The image shows a rather good looking device wrapped in red Kevlar. The design is distinctly Motorola, but it doesn’t share a resemblance with the new Moto X or with the rumored Nexus 6.

Thanks to another mistake, this time of Motorola’s, we know all the important details about the new Droid Turbo. A user manual for the device is available online, confirming the rumored high-res 5.2-inch display and 21MP camera.

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