Nokia Lumia 530 Review

Let’s take a look at our detailed review for the newly launched smartphone – the Nokia Lumia 530.

Pros: Affordable price, large external storage support (up to 128GB), latest OS from Windows Phone.

Cons: slippery body which makes it difficult when typing, small screen, camera cannot take macro shots due to its fixed focus.

Bottom line: with basic specification, the low price tag of Nokia Luma 530 is the attractive reason to persuade users.

Nokia Lumia 530 is categorized in the budget-end smartphone range, which mostly aims to low-cost oriented buyers – users that care about the most about the price tag of the phone, not the performance. The Nokia Lumia 530 does so, with a very attractive price and basic specification.

The HSPA+ “4G” speeds featured on Lumia 530 is one step higher than the 3G speeds, but it still somehow slow among LTE markets. Besides, the 5 MP camera without flash and with fixed-focus feature shall not allow users to capture close-up shots. The 4-inch screen also makes it more difficult in typing precisely. However, there are still some positive things to be listed here: the quad-core processor and the latest Operating system Windows Phone 8.1 that offers Cortana’s digital assistant.

Users can pick up the Nokia Lumia 530 in the US with different prices: $50 on Cricket, $70 on T-Mobile if purchase via Best Buy or Microsoft shops and $80 from T-Mobile normal purchasing. In UK market, the phone is available at £90 SIM-free and in Australian market, it is available at around AU$150.

So far, Lumia 530 is not my prior choice among budget-end smartphones (instead, things I would recommend are Motorola Moto G or Lumia 635). But the Lumia 530 is still an attractive options for many users who are looking for a dirt-cheap device with very basic features.

Design and build          

The Nokia Lumia 530’s design aims at the comfort when holding on hands: it’s quite short and thick, with curvy back and rounded edges. This 4-inch-screen device has dimension of 4.7 inches x 2.5 inches x 0.5 inch (which is quite small in comparison with other 5-inch and above devices) and 4.6 ounce weight, this definitely feels substantial yet convenient on users’ hands.

Unluckily, the glossy matte back cover of the one I’m keeping is slippery, which makes it keeps sliding from my grab. The durable body is still kept as hallmark of Lumia, and the Lumia 530 is not an exception. The Lumia 530 comes in 5 different colors: black, white, orange, green and cyan. I’m reviewing the white and cyan ones.

Nokia Lumia 530 Review Buy

Nokia Lumia 530 Review Buy

Even the phone has large bezel, this 4-inch-size device still feels somehow tiny as I have been holding big-size smartphones for quite a long time.

Regarding the 4-inch screen display, the resolution is 854×480-pixel with 245 ppi. Such resolution is low but is in class with other budget-end device. Of course, with these numbers, you cannot expect much about the display quality. The colors displayed on screen are dim and lack of vibrancy, images shall be sometimes pixilated and grainy, even to naked eye. Such issues become even clearer when zooming in the screen. Although reading articles is fine on the phone, the text will not be crisp.

As the Lumia 530 is just a low-budget device, the ClearBlack filter – which is applied for higher-end Nokia smartphones – is not available in this phone. Therefore, the display quality can be clearly noticed especially under strong outdoor sunlight (fade-away screen). View angles are more restricted and reflectance is higher than in other mid-end phones.

There are only 2 buttons in the Lumia 530: the power/lock button and the volume rocker, which are located on the right edge. All other navigation and controls take place on the screen. Port for micro-USB is located on the bottom edge while the headset jack (3.5mm) is located on the top edge. Removing the back cover, you can approach slots for SIM-card (for some markets, there will be slots for dual-SIM) and microSD card. It’s quite difficult to remove the back cover for the first time.

Nokia Lumia 530 Review Buy

Nokia Lumia 530 Review Buy

OS and apps

Even though the hardware is not the strong and impressive, the latest Windows Phone 8.1 still brings to the Lumia 530 the best addition of Microsoft platform: Cortana. This digital assistant is quite helpful and works accurately for some tasks such as taking notes or making calls.

Some apps from Microsoft such as Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office and from Nokia such as Nokia Care or MixRadio are also available on the Lumia 530. FM radio and battery saver apps are the built-in apps of the phone. Kid’s Corner for back up content (clips or pictures) can also be turned on by setting.

To cut the cost, NFC is not featured in Lumia 530, though Bluetooth 4.0 is still supported.

Interestingly, Wifi calling is included in the version of T-Mobile, when the carrier network is not stable.

Camera and video

Obviously, a 5 MP cam is not great anyway, but with such price tag, people surely will not expect much about that. The absence of flash is also forgivable, however, the absence of auto focus is actually really hard to except. In other budget-end phones, auto focus cameras are still available such as the $80 LG Realm and the $130 Alcatel OneTouch Fierce 2.

Moreover, zooming in/ out feature is also not available in Lumia 530’s cam as the focus is fixed. This 28mm fixed-focus shall make it hard to take a close up shots with neither Windows Phone cam nor the default Nokia Cam. On the other hand, it just takes minimum time to process shooting modes and photos. Timer is also available. There are some photo specs that users can edit such as white balance, ISO or photo ratio (HDR is unfortunately unavailable). Though Panorama is not already pre-installed, you can addendum this feature by downloading Panorama app.

Such camera does not produce good image, as the quality is suffering from graininess. Color is not really vibrant and lacks of warmth, but it’s still fine for pictures taken in good lighting condition (such as bright sunlight).

Videos are recorded at 864 x 480 pixel resolution with 30 frames per second, which is sufficient. Of course, camera lens cannot adjust focus for various subjects. The camera picks up audio quite well.

Performance: Speeds, processor, battery

People may just expect low speed 3G in a smartphone with low price tag like the Lumia 530. But surprisingly, the Lumia 530 supports HSPA+ (which is, in some market, labeled “4G”, but actually is just a 3G’s faster form). Therefore, such support does not mean you can get a bunch of Mbps for downloading or uploading, but anyway, you will still have faster data transferring speed than typical 3G network. As always, main factor that determines your data speed is the strength of your network carrier, not the phone itself.

For example, theoretically, I will see a download speed at 21.1 Mbps and upload speed at 5.8 Mbps. However, as on T-mobile network in San Francisco, the speeds are just hovering around 1-2 Mbps. Meanwhile, on Cricket network, the speeds are around 3 Mbps on average for downloading and 1 Mbps for uploading. Wifi works well on 2.4GHz network.

As benchmarks being used for Windows Phone OS and Android/ iOS are different, we cannot have the exact comparison for diagnostic tests. However, in accordance with AnTuTu benchmark (test for Windows Phone OS) results, the Lumia 530 gets 11,128 scores.

Internal storage available on the Lumia 530 is limited, just at 4GB, but users can extend storage up to 128 GB with microSD card. RAM is also limited at 512 MB. Battery of the device is powered t 1,430mAh, which is claimed to provide up to 13.4 hours of talk time and up to 22 days of stand-by time. Test for actual battery life has not been carried out yet, but bear in mind that you should charge the phone every day.

Conclusion

Bright spots of the Nokia Lumia 530 can be listed here are: super friendly price tag, 4G connection support and generous external storage support. However, with small screen and slippery material, this phone is not really an ideal device for senior smartphone users.

For me, personally, I would save up for a pricier choice – the Lumia 635 or another Android device like the Motorola Moto G. Although users have to pay as twice as the price of Lumia 530, user experience shall be ensured to be more than twice as enjoyable.

YotaPhone 2 Review

Let’s take a look at our deep review for YotaPhone 2 – the newly launched phone with an e-ink screen located on the rear cover.

In the huge and crowded smartphone world, it’s truly difficult to make a product stand out of the crowd. For some manufacturers, it’s may be to pack laser into the cam or may be to curve the phone’s display edge so that it’ll look like the phone is melting. For YotaPhone, their choice is to put a 2nd display screen on the back cover.

We can say that the launching of The first YotaPhone was not a success. Even the 2nd e-ink display was expectable, the lack of software ruined it all since this issue really mattered the potential customers. However, the Russian manufactured has not given up, they bring back the YotaPhon 2 – the 2nd generation smartphone of theirs with a lot of positive changes: more completed design, better display both front and back, powerful processor and more useful e-ink screen.

Customers from UK and other European countries can order this YotaPhone 2 in advance directly from the company’s website from right now. For the US and Australian customers, the launching is confirmed but official date has not been fixed.

The price is fixed at £550 which is equivalent to AU$1,025 or $860 for an unlocked and SIM-free version. This price tag means YotaPhone 2 places itself into the high-end smartphone lines, same “play ground” with the LG G3, the Sony Xperia Z3, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 6. It’s really difficult to compete with those big guys, even for established brands, and it’s even harder for a rookie Russian name. We agree that the e-ink rear screen is the factor that makes YotaPhone 2 unique among the smartphone world, but whether this factor is enough to determine such a high price as current?

Two screens

The main concept of YotaPhone 2 is surely about its 2nd display screen on the back. This back screen is featured the e-ink technology – which is different from the popular LCD screens, power for the screen shall only be used when the display content is refreshed. This screen technology is extremely efficient and can also be found on Amazon’s Kindles – the devices can last for up to 1 month with just one single charge.

On YotaPhone – the predecessor, the purpose of LCD is for Web-browsing, gaming, watching videos and texting task and the purpose of e-ink screen is for reading long texts like e-books. So, theoretically, users’ eyes can feel more comfortable since they do not have to contact with LCD screen for the whole time, and also the e-ink screen do not use backlights.

In YotaPhone 2, the e-ink screen display is upgraded with better quality and more tasks. From the 640 x 360 resolution on the YotaPhone, now on the YotaPhone 2, it becomes 960 x 540. This means the text display shall be sharper and more readable. However, problems still exist. And the biggest one is “ghosting”. This ghosting problem happens when the display content refreshes, there will leave behind a faint trace from the previous display. YotaPhone  say this issue is just a software bug and it will be repaired very soon, but people all realize that this issue also available in the 1st model. Then, we should not expect much about the big improvement.

There are 3 main modes for the e-ink rear screen of the YotaPhone 2: YotaCoover – lock screen and display gallery images, the 4-homescreen-Android-like set – display weather widgets, contacts and application icons, and finally the simple mode that shows the same display on the LCD screen on the front.

Users can change settings of the back screen via Yota Manager application, however this app is quite tricky to use since a lot of tapping is required. As my real experience, even I have set up my Twitter, there’s still no display of the recent tweets that I would like to remain visible.

User can enable touching function for the e-ink screen to swipe around Android. Although this rear screen is much less responsive and less sharp than the LCD (which is not really good for quick text and email), it still has more function than the predecessor. One more plus for the YotaPhone 2 is that users can access wider selection of book sources via applications such as Google Books, Kobo or Kindle. In the YotaPhone 1st generation, users just can access e-book service provided by Yota.

Taking screenshot is also very easy on the device by pressing and holding the front home button (on LCD screen), this screenshot shall be displayed on the back e-ink screen and stays there until the next refresh – even when the phone is totally out of power. This feature is very useful in some specific case. For example when being about to go to one place with very small battery power left, users can take screenshot of the Google Maps, save the directions and they still can keep seeing this on the whole way even when the battery dies.

One more improvement from the predecessor of YotaPhone 2 is the ability to use Android on the e-ink back screen, which make it more useful. However, there are still many issues of the e-ink screen that can be improved more such as ghosting, widgets customizing, Android mode’s look…

For me, the biggest obstacle when using YotaPhone 2 is to figure out which activities can be done on the e-ink back screen, which just can be done on the LCD display  to optimize the batter capacity. And generally, please be noted that unless you are the one who usually read e-books on handphone rather than on a dedicated e-book reader, you will not see any advantage instantly of the e-ink display screen.

YotaPhone 2 Review Buy

YotaPhone 2 Review Buy

Main display

The regular front LCD screen display is 5-inch-sized with full HD resolution (1,920×1,080) with 440 ppi pixel density. This resolution is enough for bringing an excellently crispy display. Text, icons, images are displayed clearly with great clarity.

The brightness of the screen is very good and it brings vibrant colors to the display. Blackness range is deep and nice, which means a great contrast. Overall, the LCD screen is impressive and glossy.

 

Design

Comparing to the predecessor, the YotaPhone 2 has great innovation in the design. The design is more refined, both by looking and feeling. There’s no boxy phone anymore, now comes the oval shape – which is obviously more appealing. The gently curved back cover now makes it comfortable to hold on hands.

The design is simple with no more fancy details (such as metal-like grilles or chrome edges), but this simplicity works well on YotaPhone 2 since it makes the device look functional.  On the front, the glass panel is very hard to break, except the speaker. This glass panel is completely flat and I really favor this kind of design. The dimension is also very reasonable with 145mm x 69 mm in length and width and 5.1 ounces in weight.

Back to the panels, on the front screen is reinforced Corning Gorilla Glass 3 while on the back screen – the e-ink display is the fiber-reinforced plastic. It sounds quite sturdy, but actual toughness of the screens after a long time of constant use still remains in consideration since these screens have to daily contact with many objects like keys, coins, table.. which can makes them get scuffs or scratches easily.

There’s no slot for microSD card, which means users cannot expand the storage, while the internal storage being provide is fairly decent: 32GB. Also, USB flash drives connection using micro-USB port is not supported.

Processor and battery performance

The processor being equipped for YotaPhone 2 is quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 and its RAM is 2GB. This power engine is not impressive, it’s just decent in comparison with other high-end mobiles such as Sony Xperia Z3 and LG G3 when they are now using later generation Qualcomm chips and more powerful RAM of 3GB.

However, for me, I still find the YotaPhone 2 is perfectly capable. Navigation activities of Android interface on the LCD screen are very smooth without any stuttering. Others activities are also lag-free: quick apps opening, easy images editing via Snapseed, trouble-free gaming (for instance, the Asphalt 8) and smoothly-streaming HD video.

The system being shipped with the YotaPhone 2 is the Android 4.4.3 KitKat, this is not the most updated OS version since the latest one is the 5.0 Lollipop. It is said that there’ll come soon a system update, however there’s no specific time for this promise. The Android version being run on this device is totally plain, which means there will be no customized skin for the interface. Theoretically, this plain Android version shall make it easier and quicker to update. However, the delay in updating is due to the fact that Yota has to make sure the newly updated Android version shall smoothly run on the back e-ink screen.

The battery is quite capacious: 2500mAh. As I’ve tested after 2 hours of non-stop video streaming, the battery of YotaPhone 2 dropped to 70% remaining (from 100%), this result is average and acceptable. Obviously, there are still many factors and usage to consider for a thorough evaluation  of the battery, including how much users can optimize the usage of e-ink display.

Camera

The rear front camera is an 8-megapixel one. On the first impression, people may under estimate such lower mega-pixel in comparison with the 13-megapixel-cam of the LG G3, the 20.7-megapixel-cam of the Sony Xperia Z3 or the 16-megapixel-cam of the Galaxy S5. However, in reality, more pixels do not mean higher quality photos.

In in-door lighting, the camera is struggling taking a crisp shot without blurs. The white balance of the taken photos is not good either. Generally, the YotaPhone 2’s camera is not bad at all, it’s just around the average level. But average shall not good enough for a high price tag of the phone. If you are keen on taking photos on mobile and your priority is the high quality of the camera, it would be better for you to consider other devices such as iPhone 6, Galaxy S5 or Xperia Z3.

Conclusion

When talking about the 1st generation YotaPhone, we’ll immediately think about an interesting yet poorly – executed concept. But with the YotaPhone 2, thinks get much better: more attractive design, better quality e-ink screen display, greatly improved specifications. Generally, this 2nd generation is more refined.

This YotaPhone 2 is quite a good phone to consider, especially when you once figure out which task can be done on the e-ink screen to optimize the battery life. However, the high price tag is a pretty big concern for users. Since with just a less amount of money, they can purchase an excellent LG G3 or a Galaxy S5 (which have superior camera, better display, more powerful specs, water-resistant and more useful features), and with the remaining saved amount, users can even purchase a Kindle – a dedicated e-book readers.

Xiaomi Mi Note Pro Review

Let’s take a look at the detailed review of the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro of the Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi.

Previously, Xiaomi was just nearly an unknown name in the international smart devices market, but nowadays, Xiaomi is becoming more and more popular in the handset makers community. After a busy year 2014, Xiaomi has planned for their prosperous year 2015 with the launching of Mi Note Pro .

With the name similar to its rival Samsung’s Galaxy Note, the Mi Note Pro provides a bigger display than its other rival – the iPhone 6 Plus while having thinner design and powerful hardware. Therefore, the Mi Note Pro  is surely launched to aim at premium high-end range. Moreover, with the price of 2,299RMB – which is roughly around $260, AU$450 or £245 (for 16GB version), Mi Note Pro ’s price is obviously more affordable price than other competitors.

After being sold in China on Jan 27th, the Mi Note Pro  is now more widely distributed in 2015’s 2nd quarter. This device is now available in 7 countries: India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan. For Australia, UK or US markets, customer can purchase it online. However, users have to pay a privilege amount, which means a higher price, along with the lack of LTE support in the US, the Mi Note Pro loses some attractiveness.

Design

In the past, Xiaomi was widely criticized for liberally copying the Apple’ design (for example, the outlook of Xiaomi Mi 4i reminds customer of the iPhone 4S). But at the moment, it seems like Xiaomi is on the way to stop the copying, the Mi Note Pro has its own distinct coat.

Even though the Mi Note Pro  was compared to the iPhone 6 Plus by its CEO Lei Jun, this comparison is way more about the hardware since these 2 devices look totally different when being put next to each other. Talking about thickness, the Mi Note Pro is just a little bit slimmer at 6.95mm while the iPhone 6 Plus is at 7.1mm. Thus, it is easy to understand that there is also no appearance of the carriage for rear camera in Mi Note Pro , just like the iPhone 6 Plus.

When looking at the curved glass on Mi Note Pro , users will associate with both the design of Samsung’s Note Edge and Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus. While the front glass reminds you of the iPhone 6 Plus, the back glass will remind you of the Note Edge – this glass is called the 3D glass by Xiaomi.

Many people may worry about the breaking of the glass. But users should not be worried since in my real on-hand experience, the glass does not feel fragile at all. Moreover, the resistance of the Mi Note Pro  was also shown when it dropped in the Xiaomi’s official introduction video. In this video, even when falling from 5-foot-height, the Mi Note Pro still managed to survive in perfect conditions.

The aluminum frame is also a good plus for Mi Note Pro since it brings a premium feelling.

Xiaomi-Mi-Note-Pro-Review-Buy

Xiaomi Mi Note Pro Review Buy

Generally, the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro ’s design is gorgeous with top-notch build quality. Mi Note Pro has stepped into another class of design, from the glossy plastic rear of the previous devices to the premium 3D glass. For me, the black version looks nicer than the white one. However, flaws shall be more visible on the black version, especially on the back glass while the white one still stays clean.

Hardware

When talking about Xiaomi, people will immediately think about the very competitive specifications that they offer. And the flagship smartphone of Xiaomi – the Mi Note Pro obviously shall come with lots of best current hardware. Firstly, processor being shipped in the device is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5GHz –which is similar in many rivals in the same range. The Mi Note Pro is also promised to use the Snapdragon 810 – the one that is promised to be equipped in best Android phones of 2015. Secondly, the 3GB Ram and 16GB/ 64GB internal storage are also noticeable (though microSD expansion is not available). The Mi Note Pro is supported by 4G network, dual SIM slots. Networks being suitable for Mi Note Pro in foreign markets are: Three and EE in the UK or Optus in the Australia, for the US markets, 4G LTE network is unlikely to be supported.

The display and power of Mi Note Pro also has good specs: full HD 5.7-inch-screen-size and 3,000mAh battery. The device is also featured with the 13-megapixel optical image stabilization back cam and 4-megapixel front cam which has similar sensor with the HTC One M8’s rear cam, this means users will get better selfies or good photo quality in low-light conditions.

Software

The operating system being shipped with the Mi Note Pro is Android 4.4 KitKat with MIU skin. Like all other Android-based operating systems, the UI lacks of app drawer and is flat. For some people, the MIUI is the mix of Android and iOS since many iOS users find it familiar and very easy to switch into this Android-based OS.

Moreover, the one-handed mode is also an useful feature available in this big screen device, this mode can be activated by swiping to left or right from the home button.

Last but not least, when users feel bored with the flat design of the MIUI, the built-in theme is quite handy to change the look of the Mi Note Pro. However, please be noted that if this device is imported from China, Google services shall not be available on the phone. Good news is that this issue can be easily solved by installing Google services via 1 app available in MI store. The Mi Note Pro  global version also has some differences in the UI with the disappearance of some Chinese services.

Camera

Xiaomi has emphasized a lot about the ability of Mi Note Pro’s camera. And as I’ve experienced, they do not disappoint me. It’s not only the optical image stabilization feature that helps greatly in taking night shots but also the flush lens that hardly sticks out.

Therefore, the photo quality is obviously good. For me, the most impressive thing is the HDR photos: properly lit dark areas and not over-exposed bright sky.

Performance

The Xiaomi Mi Note Pro gets 23,970 in performance and 15,920 in balance in Quadrant benchmark test and it gets 875.018 MFLOP in balance in Linpack test. It is no surprise since these scores are similar with other similar chipset.

Battery life

In the video test of CNET Labs, the device can last for 11 hours and 34 mins. This result is quite good and it’s similar to the results found in other competitive rivals such as Nexus 6 and Galaxy Note Edge (11 hours 56 minutes and 11 hours 16 minutes respectively). Generally, the Mi Not can easily last for a full-day usage.

Call quality and audio

Speaker are loud, it’s annoying sometimes since users have to turn down the volume when a lot of notifications come. Call quality is also good with crisp and clear voice from both 2 sides without any interruption. The audio chip being featured in Mi Note Pro is ESS ES9018K2M, this chip is paired with Mi Headphones . For me, the playback of Xiaomi seems good enough to me.

Conclusion

The Xiaomi Mi Note Pro is a worth-considering smart device in high-end range for me. With attractive design, powerful performance and useful features plus the competitive price tag (relatively half the price of other phablets in the same range), the Samsung and Apple should feel worried about this device if it presents in more markets. For now, I will only recommend this Mi Note Pro  for users who live in countries that Xiaomi operates or who live in area that LTE unavailability is not an issue.

In conclusion, Mi Note Pro is one of the proofs for the speedy ongoing growth of Xiaomi in the last 4 years. And when Xiaomi expands its market to more countries in the upcoming time (Brazil and Mexico), there will be no surprise that a big slice of smartphone pie shall be shared for this company.

Sonim XP7 Review

Let’s see how an all-weather workhorse can show off through our detailed review of the Sonim XP7.

Pros: A good companion for a field tracker: super long battery life, useful connectivity, and versatile display.

Cons: Pricey, boxy & unattractive design.

Bottom line: Though this device has good performance and great durability, the premium price is a big                     concern for users.

Rugged devices – the tool designed and built for survival purpose – always have a number of customers in a specific niche market. Those rugged devices are normally an “ordinary” phone tacking on some additional durability for weather and other outside impacts. Some examples can be listed here are the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active and the Sonim XP7.

At this moment, the XP7 is now available at CND$750 in Canada for the unlocked version (equivalent to $665). For version with 2-year-contract, users shall have to pay the amount starting from CND$100. There’ll be more news about the launching of this phone in the US sooner this year. Such amount is considered premium price, however, such pricey tag does not guarantee the best operating conditions for the phone (in reality, we can say it’s operating in the worst conditions).

As I’ve tested the XP7 during my last excursion – several nights with unfavorable weather, a lot of mud, rock scaling – neither the device nor me came back unharmed. But the XP7 did leave some impress for me after the test.

Design and specifications

Generally, the Sonim XP7 is practical and useful. No concessions or curves or grippy bits can be found here. Holding this phone on hands shall bring you the feeling of wrapping a handy tool – or more appropriately – a 0.8 thickness rubber brick with the weight of 290 g. Surely this dimension cannot be considered light and compact, but it’s still quite compact in comparison with other survivals device that can through to a windshield.

Nigh-indestructible

The Sonim XP7 looks like it is indestructible: IP68 certification which certify the protection up to 6.5-foot-depth water (in 30 mins) and against microparticles and IP69 certification which certify the resistance against high-temperature pressure.

The high-temperature pressure washing has not been tried yet. But the rest of the claimed protections have been tried out since I had many opportunities when the storm hit the camp I set up.

The display accepts gloves input, even the muddy and soaked devices. However, we cannot expect much about the precision when using gloves. The phone also had to suffered from repeated wind-blowing, patches of mud… And one more positive point to notice for the 4800mAh battery is that: there’s still plenty of battery life left after 3 nights in the middle of Mojave Desert spending on photo shooting, Web browsing, updating status.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Sonim XP7 just “seems to be” indestructible, but in reality, it’s obviously not. I still tested such boldness to the limit. As in the early morning of the last camping day, I decided to get some “hero” shot for the XP7 review. As I dropped a fall into the hard rock floor, I was way more concerned about the camera. But later on, the noticed concern is about the slight cracks on the right corner on the top of the Gorilla Glass screen of the XP7. I’ve looking for some greater damages by running the finger along the display, but the device is unfazed. The Sonim manufacturer provides a 3-year-warranty, including accidental damage.

Sonim XP7 Review Buy

Sonim XP7 Review Buy

Not for the faint of heart

For me – user with the main job as a reviewer staying inside the office – Sonim XP7 is not my choice for everyday use since the device is hefty and does not well fit in the pants pocket. Moreover, the charging cable is a little bit annoying as it’s a proprietary magnetic cable. Most of the day I spend is behind my desk, therefore, for me the durability features are nearly unuseful.

The camera shutter and the push-to-talk buttons are located on the left of the device, while on the right are the emergency support and volume control buttons. Those buttons are all raised so that they can be easily touched with gloves, which are evenly distributed.

The headphone jack is located at the top of the phone and is covered by a flap. On the right corner locates the antenna and the speaker (which is really loud). The notification light is also on the right corner of the top, this light is so bright that it’s even visible when the device is deep in my bag. NFC connectivity is also supported in the Sonim XP7.

Software and other features

Android 4.4 KitKat is the operating system run in the Sonim XP7, and there are various free applications and extraneous features on this OS, and that’s the reason why I like it. One particularly useful feature that we should mention here is the shortcut to LED flashlight located on the lock screen’s right corner. This function is especially for the blackout case.

Pre-installed applications available on the phone are File Manager, Software Updates Manager and Push-to-talk.  Exclusive protect system of Sonim shall only available in 2015, and there will be an emergency line being offered to support and monitor stranded workers.

Performance

LTE networks are supported in the quad-band Sonim XP7 phone, network carrier is Canada’s Bell and Telus. The phone in my hands is the model with AT&T SIM, and during my test, its performance was pretty well. Sonim XP7’s specifications are not really impressive in comparison with the similar price range phones: 1GB RAM and 1.4GHz quad-core processor. However, they are enough for a good performance. Particularly, popular games such as Angry Birds: Transformers or Dead Trigger 2 can be run smoothly.

Regarding the battery life, as mentioned previously, the Sonim XP7’s battery shall be equivalent to its durability. Thus, 4800mAh battery power – around up to 40-hour-talk time, is not a surprise. As my own testing experience, after 4 days of hard usage (including Web browsing, photo shooting, call making…) in the middle of the desert, the phone still remained 22% of battery.

Call quality is also a plus: loud and clear voice from both sides without shuttering thanks to the micro-phone (which is equipped with noise-cancelling function). However, audio sound is not really good due to the weak bass of the speaker. Thus, users may prefer sticking with the headphones for music.

The back camera on the Sonim XP7 is the 8-megapixel one. Frankly speaking, I did not expect much about the quality of this camera. And that’s real! Image quality is not standing-out with muddled details. But we should note that the images I’ve taken is in far-from-ideal conditions: cloudy, rainy and windy. One positive point is the autofocus function, which is not sluggish as in many phones. Time to ready for the shoot is also short, just around 1 second after tapping on the camera icon, or you can hold down the shutter button for quick a quick shot.

Conclusion

Obviously, due to the particular durability, this Sonim XP7 is not the phone for everyone. For average users, there will be better choice for them such as the Kyocera Brigadie, ($50 for a contracted version/ $400 for the unlocked version) whose battery can last for around 10 hours and being equipped with water-resistant shell.

However, please be noted that the Sonim XP7 is in a niche category that aims at users demanding for strong durability of the phone in worst conditions without worry. As Sonim’s claim: “Don’t worry”, users do not need to be worry since the Sonim XP7 is considered a “tool” and you can treat this as an indestructible one. And lastly, the 3-year warranty covering accidental damage can also keep users worry-free when using this device.

Motorola Droid Turbo Review

Here’s a detailed review for the Motorola Droid Turbo – Verizon Wireless version.

Pros: enduring battery, hands-free controls, high-quality display, quick camera.

Cons: boxy & unattractive design, the phone gets hot quickly.

Bottom line

Even though having a hefty design, Motorola Droid Turbo is still an attractive option for Verizon customers due to its long-lasting battery life, powerful engine and crisp display.

We may hear a lot about the complementary for the battery life of Motorola Droid Turbo – which is also the phone’s featuring point, but it’s not all about this device. The Motorola Droid Turbo has more to discover: high-end specifications and useful software.

Similar to the elite-phones nowadays, the Motorola Droid Turbo is equipped with a great quality 1440p HD screen display and some other impressive specs. The excellently useful software of Motorola is claimed to be always listen to every command of the users, and the 3900mAh battery being featured with fast-charging technology is also an outstanding point. However, we should note here some negative points of the Droid Turbo: heaviness, quick overheating issue and the not-really-user-friendly 21-megapixel camera.

In comparison with other high-end device of Verizon, the Motorola Droid Turbo – the exclusive handset to Verizon – gets high scores. But we still cannot feel satisfied with its design. For users looking for a compact phone with an enduring battery, Droid Turbo is the choice. But for buyers who is looking for a more elegant but still durable device, the Moto X maybe a better option.

The Motorola Droid Turbo is quoted at $200 with contract on, or with Verizon Edge the amount to pay is $25/ month. For users who do not want to stick with the contract, they can get this device at $600.

Design

Three general words to briefly describe the Motorola Droid Turbo are: Hot, heavy and cheap. At first, I did expect an ergonomic design from this phone of Motorola, but the Droid Turbo brings a little bit of disappointment to me.

In the black model, a new material is introduced: ballistic nylon available– which I’ve never seen before. New thing is good though, but the craft of new material on this Turbo could be better executed.  This tightly woven cloth on the back cover of the phone is the point that brings the “cheap” feeling. Moreover, we also worry about the fingerprints left on the back cover and wonder how the black Droid Turbo can be cleaned.

Motorola Droid Turbo Back Review Buy

Motorola Droid Turbo Back Review Buy

In contrast, the cherry red version is way looking better. It has smooth Kevlar back with glossy stitch pattern. The material on sides and chin of the cherry red version is plastic (while on the black version is rubberized material).

Talking about the chin, it shapes a sharp peak on the bottom of the screen (there’s just a small flat area as a port for Micro-USB charging), which is really uncomfortable when holding by 1 hand, as we often do.

Volume button and power/lock button are located in the right spine while the headphone jack is on the top. The 20.7-megapixel cam is located on the back cover, just between the 2 LED flashes and just above the Motorola insignia.

One more thing should be mentioned here is the quick heating issue of the Motorola Droid Turbo, you can feel the heat even through the cloth material. When putting the phone in the back pocket, this hot feeling is not comfortable at all.

Motorola Droid Turbo Review Buy

Motorola Droid Turbo Review Buy

Display:

When talking about numbers, the Motorola Droid Turbo offers highest number in specification to the most it can bring. The phone’s display screen is 5.2-inch-size with AMOLED display, 2560×1440 resolutions with 565ppi pixel density.

With such high definition, the display of everything in real life is as great and vibrant as we expect. But one thing we still wonder is the superb ppi over other device: in such small screen, such densely populated pixels shall blur together. And therefore, it’s really difficult for viewer to notice a difference in superfine details in an ultra-HD image.

Navigation buttons (back, home, Google Now or recent apps…), which is touch-sensitive, is located below the screen. When using 2 fingers to pull down navigation shade, users can quickly access some setting such as Airplane and Wi-fi mode.

OS and apps

The operating system run on the Motorola Droid Turbo is the Android 4.4.4, which brings along the updated Google services’ standard suite such as Google Now or Google Search. In this device, the main focus is the hand-free tool, which is developed instead of other add-ons such as gestures or note-taking tools.

For me, my most favorite feature is the voice-control, which shall let users command the phone by saying any orders. This function works even when screen is off and users are around 3 feet far from the device. The longer and clearer the phase you say, the better it works. Below are some sample phases you can use for the command:

  • Take a selfe
  • Talk to me
  • Find my phone

Users can also control the phone without touching it such as: by waving hand over locked screen, the device shall display missed notification and missed calls, ringing phone can also be dismissed by waving hand and camera will be ready with a twist of the wrist.

One more useful application to note is the Motorola Connect Chrome. Via this extension, users can view and send message by desktop or laptop along with the phone, notifications can also appears on these bigger display.

We cannot skip the Droid Zap, this is a kind of localized social network designed for Zap users. This application let their users share video/ images with friends nearby wirelessly and almost automatically. The Zap-using contacts are found via Google accounts, and if you prefer, you can share with all nearby Zap-users your on-going activities within just 2 minutes.

The Motorola hallmark also become more useful since clock widget is now combined on the home screen’s top. Thus, all information about time, battery life, weather can be easily seen in a glance.

Camera and video: Sharp and quick

Similar to other Motorola phone such as Moto X and Google Nexus 6, the Motorola Droid Turbo’s interface is thinly skinned, this means they keep it to the minimum with the camera control. For users who are familiar with Android stock, UI is friendly to them. But for users who are new to the Android, they will have to spend some time to get familiar with it.

The camera tools are not displayed directly on the screen, users have to call this up by swiping from the right side. Calling up flash options also require 1 more same step. What I do not like about the camera is the lacking of photo editing features. If you want to make some more editing for your photos (such as filtering, rotating, adjusting exposure…), going to the Gallery is the only way.

Some features, which are ready on the camera tools, that you can find are: digital zoom, HDR, focus, geotagging. The resolution of the back camera is quite impressive: 15.5 megapixel when taking wide-screen ratio shoot (16:9) and 21 megapixel when taking standard ratio shoot (4:3). There’re several options for video capturing such as: Ultra HD 4K, 1080p HD and 720p slow-motion.

Regarding the performance of the camera, I can say that it’s good. The camera starts really speedy and it takes high quality, vibrant and in-focus photos. Objects in the picture have well-defined edges and the colors being displayed are very vibrant and true-to-life. In poor lighting conditions, the taken pictures are a little bit unclear. However, when turning off flash, the camera of Droid Turbo can make the scenes in the photos sharper and brighter than in other phones, such as the Galaxy S5.

The video quality being taken by the Droid Turbo is also impressive. As our testing scene is a busy roadway, including moving and still objects (passengers, cars…), all are recorded sharp and in-focus. The camera’s focus speed is great, it can adjust to get adapt with different lighting conditions and different focusing distances very quickly and smoothly. Colors in videos are also lively and audio is also picked up nicely and clearly without distortion.

The front-cam is just 2 megapixel, but it can also takes photos at both ratios: widescreen 16:9 and standard 4:3. This front cam can also capture video at 1080p quality.

Call Quality

As tested in the San Francisco area, call quality is quite high: no call dropped, continuous audio, loud and clear voice from both sides and no distortion or buzzing detected. However, the volume of in-ear call is quite small and it should be louder for users’ convenience. For the speaker, volume levels are satisfactory.

Data speeds, processing speed, batter life

The speed of 4G LTE on Verizon network is fast, but sometimes inconsistent. Average download and upload speed shown on the Droid Turbo are about 16.26 and 10.88Mbps according to Ookla speed test. However, as I’ve mentioned before, due to the inconsistence, sometimes the rates drop to just 2 to 4 Mbps. For example, it took me up to 2 mins to install the Temple Run 2 – trial version but just only 41 seconds for the official version (both are 43.7 mb). Obviously, it’s hard to compare since there are many factors affect data speeds such as time, location…

Talking about the phone’s engine, the Droid Turbo is equipped with Qualcomm’s 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805 processor. This processor is claimed to be super fast and powerful, which helps the device operate without any lag. The graphics render and frame rates are smooth and high due to the powerful Adreno 420 GPU, thus, strong games such as Riptide GP2 or Kill Shot look really great without stuttering or stalling.

Battery life of the Droid Turbo is also very strong: 3900mAh. It’s not a big surprise since Motorola has already well-known for their durable phones. The Droid Turbo also can be able to power up very fast, in just 15 mins to 30 mins.

The results of our battery drain test show that the Turbo could last for up to 14 hours and 43 mins of continuous video streaming. Regarding talking time, this phone can last for up to 34 hours and 8 mins, although this is not as long as the 48 hours that the manufacture claims, this result is still pretty remarkable. The device takes quite a short time to charge a totally drained battery: just 2 hours.

Conclusion

If you are really interested in the software being offered in the Motorola Droid Turbo, but still hesitate due to its $200 – $250 price tag, you can look for another good option: the Moto X, which is also customizable, reliable with relatively high specs.

However, you are keen on the high-end smartphones market, the Droid Turbo is among the highlighting choice for Verizon users. Obviously, the design is not considered an attractive point of the Droid Turbo since there are other devices in the same range such as the Galaxy S5 and the Sony Xperia Z3v have better look and they are also water-resistant. But for users who do not put design as the 1st priority and care most about the capacity of the phone, the Motorola Droid Turbo is surely a worthy option for them to consider since it possesses both impressive specs  and durability.

HTC Desire 510 Review

4G LTE smartphone has never been cheaper like this with HTC Desire 510.

Here is a brief summary about the HTC Desire 510:

  • Advantages: 4G LTE supported, simple use, good processor and battery, reasonable price.
  • Disadvantages: decent camera, chunky design.
  • Bottom line: Even though the HTC Desire 510 do not have impressive specs, the 4GLTE supported feature, the good handle of basic function and the reasonable price are good enough for considering.

Detailed review:

Previously, we only can see super fast 4G LTE in high-end smartphones with high price tag. However, 4G LTE is becoming more and more affordable and accessible, which nowadays can be found in the low-budget smartphones range as well and it’s no longer a luxury feature. HTC Desire 510 is a representative for this example.

The HTC Desire 510 is a basic phone with decent specs. It runs Android KitKat, has 4.7-inch-display screen with resolution of 854×480-pixel and has 1.3GHz quad-core processor which do not impress much the tech elite. However, in the UK, with just £90 – the same amount you have to pay for the O2, this is surely a truly affordable price for your first entrance into the super fast 4G LTE world. In the US, users can get this device from BestBuy (Sprint network) with $1 contract up-front and monthly $9 payment. In Australia market, the HTC Desire 510 can be picked up at AU$179 prepay from Telstra network.

Design

People may really hope for an appealing design of the HTC Desire 510, since they have seen the sleek metal curves from the HTC One M8 and then expect the HTC Desire 510 to be a cheaper version with similar design. However, users should be somehow disappointed, the Desire 510 comes up with a chunky design with 10mm thickness and 158g hefty weight.

The speaker grille on the front is located above the screen display, which reminds us with the “BoomSound” speakers available on most of the pricier phones of HTC. But for me, this design is not inspiring at all. The cover of the back panel is matte plastic, which is also nothing interesting, especially in black color scheme. The white model looks a bit fancier.

However, after all, with such cheap price tag, it’s hard to demand too many things from the HTC Desire 510. On the other hand, the chunky size and boxy design make it feel steady on hands and they also bring the safe feeling since it’s like it’s really hard to break when suffering from strong impacts.

Comparing to the HTC One M8, HTC Desire 510’s speakers are not as loud and powerful as the One M8’s. But it still louder than the speakers on many phones. Moreover, the sound shall not be muffled when the phone is lying flat due to the forward-firing position of the speaker, this is a good point.

The power button is placed on the top edge, for me this is an awkward position as we often the home button on the side. On the left edge is the volume buttons. When removing the back cover, you can access the slots for SIM-card and microSD card and the battery. The back cover and the battery are removable. With just 8GB internal storage, users shall possibly want a microSD card for more storage since 8GB shall not last long especially when more applications and games are installed.

HTC Desire 510 Review Buy

HTC Desire 510 Review Buy

Display

The screen display of the HTC Desire 510 is 4.7 inch size, with resolution at 840 x 480 and 208 ppi pixel density (less than HD). Such specs are far below what’s on its siblings such as the One M8, the Desire Eye or the One Mini 2, and also these specs are the minimum to be expected on any smartphone, even in the low-budget range.

Obviously, those abovementioned siblings of the Desire510 cost more than this device, we cannot expect a display quality as good as it is in those phones. However, the EE Kestrel (in the UK only), which just costs £10 more, has a higher resolution: 960 x 540.

The screen quality of the Desire 510 is decent for the basic, which means the text is sharp enough for averagely-easy reading. But fuzziness is definitely an obvious issue that cannot be seen in higher definition display. Brightness level is OK, colors are lack of warm tone. For users who just need a phone for Twitting, Facebooking, texting or some light games, such screen display is enough for them.

Software

The operating system being shipped with the Desire 510 is the Android 4.4.2 KitKat. This OS is not the most updated version of Android currently, but it is acceptable for a low-budget line like the Desire 510. Sense software of HTC is also applied in the device, thus, the interface’s look is the same as the one on the high-end HTC One M8.

Android multiple homescreens is standard on the Desire 510, just a little difference is added – Blinkfeed on the left. Blinkfeed is a news aggregator service of HTC, this feature shall gather the latest news from many article sources, which users can both choose from and update from their social networks. Blinkfeed is basically identical to the Flipboard application, if you once like the Flipboard, you will definitely welcome Blinkfeed on the homescreen. If you do not like this kind of service, you can dispose this Blinkfeed.

For me, Sense interface is my favorite since navigation here is easy plus there do not come with a bunch of pre-installed apps – which is sometimes very confusing and cluttering (as often seen on Sony or Samsung smartphones). The settings is simple, thus, it’s very easy for Android beginners to approach and use the phone.

Processor and battery performance

The heart of the phone is the processor, and it is a 1.2 Ghz quad-core Qualcomm snapdragon 410. RAM is 1GB. Such engine is not impressive at all, but once again, this is acceptable for such low price tag. The performance scores that the HTC Desire 510 achieves are 1,357 and 11,921 on Geekbench test and on Quadrant respectively, while the LG G3 S get 8,273 on Quadrant and 1,299 Geekbench. Considering the just above £100 price tag, the achieved results of the HTC Dersire 510 is really satisfying.

Back to the Sense interface, navigation activities are really smooth without trouble, menus and applications are opened really quick and video streaming is also buffering-free. It also can well handle some light gaming such as the addictive game TwoDots – which is easily and smoothly played on the device. For demanding game like the Asphalt 8, the game run with not really high frame rates, but it’s still acceptable and playable. Surely, the Desire 510’s engine is not the best among all, but it’s strong enough to operate the daily basic works and some other add-on features.

The battery is powered at 2100mAh, which is decent for the low demand in power of the processor and display. As we have tested the battery drain, the phone runs out of power after 12 hours of streaming video (brightness was set at 50%). This result is not bad generally.

In conclusion, with normal operating of daily basic tasks, it’s easy for the device to last for 1 day. But as we always repeat, how long the battery last is totally depends on the user’s usage. To optimize the battery life, things to note are: setting the low brightness – which is always the most power-consuming factor, avoiding demanding tasks (for example: video streaming) and lastly turning off GPS/ Wifi when not in use.

Camera

The rear camera being equipped for the Desire 510 is a 5-megapixel cam. This resolution is relatively low, but again, with such low cost, this cut in phone’s spec is reasonable. This also means this device is not for photography junkie, and the image quality is just good enough to share among family members, we can say.

If taken in bright daylight, the photos are good enough to share on Twitter or Facebook. However, at the end of the day, the Desire 510 is actually suitable for users who do not care much about the phone camera.

Conclusion

Unlike the flagship sibling – the HTC One M8, the HTC Desire 510 does not have a fancy outlook, nor the top-quality camera. But the engine and display quality of the phone is perfectly enough in handling daily basic tasks. Best of all, the support of super speedy 4G LTE and the excellently affordable price are the factors that make the device stand out of the crowd. If you are the one that looking for an affordable 4G phone, the HTC Desire 510 is surely a worth-considering option.

If you can pay a bit more, the Motorola Moto G – 4G version can be considered the best alternative for you: with around £140 ~ $180, you will have larger, better resolution display screen and higher quality camera. Another good alternative is the Kestrel of EE network in the UK – similar specs but a little bit higher definition display – which is now available at £100.

Huawei Ascend Y550 Review

Here is the hands-on review of the Huawei Ascend Y550.

If you are looking for a 4G supported device with affordable budget, the Ascend Y550 is a worth-considerable option for you.

PROS: low cost, simple option of UI, 4G is supported.

CONS: unappealing design, decent screen, not really good default UI.

The Huawei Ascend Y550 is the latest warrior released by a Chinese manufacture that recently joins the low-cost smartphones market. At this debut, the device impresses users with the availability of 4G at remarkably low price tag.

The Huawei Ascend Y550 can be considered a similar version of the EE Kestrel – which was exclusively built for UK carrier. While the EE Kestrel is just for 1 carrier in UK market, the Ascend Y550 is now launched to open up the approaching opportunity to low-cost 4G for more network carriers and markets.

For me, I had the luck of getting this device on hands before its big launching at IFA 2014. Even though the device I get hadn’t run the final software, I still had some initial experience for it. The official release of the Y550 is fixed on October 2014, and this device is expected to attract more attention from the Western markets than the alongside-launched Ascend G620S.

Price:

Currently, the official price of the Ascend Y550 has not been fixed yet, but users can expect its price tag to be similar to the EE Kestrel in UK market, which is relatively reasonable: £99 or around $175AU and $155.

Such price range and the offering of 4G also mean that the Ascend Y550 is aim at the competition with the recently launched HTC Desire 510, which also support 4G at low cost.

Specs:

Regarding specification, there’s not many difference between the EE Kestrel and the Ascend Y550. The change just comes in the design and the improvement in front-camera (which has been bumped to 2 mega-pixel). Other specs can be listed here are: the 5 Mega-pixel camera, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, the 1GB RAM, 4GB built-in storage and the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system.

For me, the 4G built-in storage is quite a disappointment, however, users can expand the external storage up to 32GB by microSD card. The slot for microSD card is located secretly under the back cover, right next to the microSIM’s slot and the removable battery (this battery is 2000mAh).

The display of the Huawei Ascend Y550 is 4.5-inch-size screen with 854 x 480 resolution. Such data is not impressive at all for me, and it’s nearly the same as the HTC Desire 510. In the HTC , the screen is a little bit bigger at 4.7-inch-size. Therefore, with the same resolution, the pixel density shall be better on the Huawei Ascend Y550. But there’s still one device outside offering better resolution than those 2: the Motorola Moto G 4G, which has 4.5-inch-size screen at 720p HD resolution.

With such abovementioned resolution, the icons display shall be somehow pixellated, and we cannot expect a great quality of movie streaming in this device. Of course you still can watch the movie on the phone since it’s totally capable of doing that, but be aware that it’ll not comfortable for your eyes.

Design

The Ascend Y550 has plastic finish, which is similar to other budget-friendly Huawei predecessor. The shape looks like a candy bar. The rear camera slightly sticks out of the back cover’s surface. The volume buttons and the power/lock button are located on the right hand side of the phone, which are very easy to touch and control due to the compact size of the Ascend Y550. The headphone jack is located on top, and the port for microUSB.

For me, the design looks cheap, however, that does not really matter since this one is in the budget-end market and at least, the design is functional.

Hawei Ascend Y550 Review Buy

Hawei Ascend Y550 Review Buy

Performance

The operating system being shipped with the Huawei Ascend Y550 is the Android 4.4 KitKat, but in this device, this OS is overlay with the Emotion UI interface. Particularly, the Emotion UI version 2.3 is applied on the phone which is slightly upgraded from what we’ve seen at MWC earlier. But 2.3 is not the latest UI version, since the version 3.0 has already been applied on the Ascend Mate 7 and the Ascend G7.

Many users may wonder about the Emotion UI’s feature besides it’s somehow weird color scheme and icon design. Opinions may be differs depends on users’ experience. In the UI, all applications are kept on homescreen. This issue is convenient for beginner users as they’ll be confused when seeing 1 application in 2 locations, but for Android experienced users, the experience of Emotion UI shall be a little bit annoying.

The Ascend Y550 is heavily aiming at the beginner smartphone users, by this device, the newbie can approach a easily-use handset which is capable of 4G. Of course, if they want to save money, they still can just register for 3G contract, it’s totally OK.

The Simpler UI theme, with larger button and more locked-down design, is also very useful and makes thing easier for beginner users. In this mode, only key applications are available. This function is not new at all since Simple UI has been included in some previous handsets of Huawei. But this is truly a feature that encourages the so-called “older generation” to choose a smartphone gadget.

The performance of the Ascend Y550 is quite good. At the budget-end market, the 1.2GHz quad-core processor is the standard currently. This chip is actually the 64-bit Snapdragon.

The 4G function is also interesting to talk about since users are allowed to approach the up to 150 Mbps data speed by CAT 4 LTE available in the Ascend Y550. (Obviously, if your network carrier allows this function).

The back camera, which is 5MP, works decently and acceptable among the other devices in the same range. The 2MP front-cam is also acceptable for entry-level smartphone, and it’s totally good for selfie-obsessers. So, do not expect some greatly stunning shots being taken on the Y550, but a quick shot to share on Facebook or Twitter is totally fine.

White, grey, blue and red are 4 colors that currently available for the Huawei Ascend Y550. 2 more colors shall be released later on.

Conclusion

Generally the Huawei Ascend Y550 is a well-built device at low price tag. This Android device satisfies all basic needs for beginner users. Thus, this one can be considered a good choice for school children or anyone who enters the smartphones world for the first time.

 

Sony Xperia Z3v Review

Let’s take a look at our deep review for Sony’s latest stylish smartphone – the Xperia Z3v for Verizon users.

The Sony Xperia Z3 is the newly launched device from Sony in the US market via T-mobile. However, if you are a Verizon user, there’s a similar option for you – the Xperia Z3v in which “v” is for “Verizon” or “variant”.

Everything in these 2 phones are almost the same, there’s just a minor difference in the camera. The main differences between the Z3 and Z3v are the battery life and the design. As many people rate, the Z3v of Verizon cannot compare to the attractiveness of the standard Z3. Actually, the Z3v looks way more similar to the predecessor Xperia Z2.

Generally judging, the Xperia Z3v is a good phone. In a massive growing smartphone market, the Xperia Z3v still can stand out among many new competitors to be a worthy choice of the fall for you.

Design

While the Xperia Z3’s design is sleek, black and massive with metal edges, large black glass that brings a skinny sheer feeling. This feeling is hard to find in any other phone’s design.

However, the Xperia Z3v is not the same as the Z3. The design is just close: sleek, clean looking with black glass (both sides). The Z3v is also available in white version, which also looks good. But the Z3v’s body is a little bit difference: somehow boxier and thicker (like the Z2’s).

The sheer glass’ looking is gorgeous, however, the big problem here is the fingerprint. This glass shall require frequent clearing to ensure a polished looking. The edges are made of bumper-type plastic in back, which makes the Z3v look cheaper than the metal curved edges of Z3.

It’s okey when holding the Z3v on hands. But for some sensitive hands, it’ll be a little bit sharp since the shape is squared off and lacks of curves. Therefore, in conclusion, the Z3v does not bring hand-friendly feel for its user. Some users may associate this Z3v with a thicker and wider version of the iPhone 6.

The power button is located in the right side, in the middle. Next to it are the camera shutter button and the volume rocker. Ports for microSD, for microUSB and SIM cards are located along the edges, but they are hidden and gotta be shut so as to be waterproof. The Z3v is heavily water-resistant, it is claimed to resist up to 1.5 m of submersion in 30 mins.

As my test, I put the phone in a water glass and I still can take pictures using this phone during the time it’s dunked under the water. That’s the reason for the existence of the separate camera shutter button. However, please note that those things cannot be applied in ocean conditions, since the manufacturer did insist that the phone is only freshwater-dunkable. But all in all, the Z3v is still a durable phone, which can survive in various and tough weather conditions.

Xperia Z3v Review Buy
Xperia Z3v Review Buy

Display and audio             

The screen display being equipped for the Z3v is 5.2 inch size with full HD standard at 1920×1080 resolution. Some people says it’s like you are bringing a pocket 1080p TV along. Display quality of brightness and color is great, although it’s still a little bit behind the Samsung’s elite phones, which are equipped with ultra-bright OLED displays. Generally, in most people’s eyes, the display of Z3v is superb and it’s one of the best display I’ve ever met.

Obviously, there are now coming the Quad HD display, which offer far higher resolutions with absurd pixel density. However, the superb resolution also comes with the massive drain in battery life as a trade-off.

Sound quality of movies and games is good since the narrow speaker grilles are located on both screen sides. But when the volume comes to the maximum, the quality cannot remain great as you expect and headphones should be plugged instead.

Camera

The cameras available on Xperia Z3v are similar to the Xperia Z3. The back cam is 20.7 MP with 27mm wide-angle lens and capabilities of 4K quality capturing. Theoretically, those numbers are amazing, but it’s not that good in reality. Still, it’s among the best camera of smartphone in the market.

There are several modes available in Sony’s camera application such as: “Superior auto” – which is fully automatic, the Manual Mode which provides users lots of setting options (color, exposure…) and other funky modes that allow you to add weird (but fun) objects into your photos. There’s also option for 4K video capturing since the cam will record video at 1080p standard in normal mode.

In general, the photo taken on the Xperia Z3v is great-looking. A minor plus shall go for a little bit slower shutter response than the iPhone6’s. Instant autofocus does not exist on the Z3v’s cam, but the focus function works speedily if dedicated shutter button is used. The sensor equipped for the camera is a larger 1/2.3, which shall bring better image quality.

According to the review on CNET, photos taken in standard Auto look quite cold, however, when taken using manual mode, some warmth is added back and the shots became vibrant and colorful.

For many people, 4K video capturing is not a necessary feature. And obviously it’s practical since 4K video shall be no meaning when you do not have a 4K TV. But regular recording quality is great enough for everyone’s needs as Sony camera technology is currently the best in town.

Weirdly, the maximum ISO on Z3v’s cam is lower than what’s offered in the Z3: just 6400. But for everyday use, this factor is not really noticeable. For camera-lovers who really care about taking photos in super-low light conditions, wait for higher ISO offered in the T-Mobile’s Xperia Z3.

In short, the Z3v’s camera really stands out and it’s among the best smartphone camera available in the current market.

PlayStation 4 Remote Play: It plays PS4 games

The Xperia Z3v, along with its brother the Xperia Z3, is the first smartphones to act as remote-play device for PlayStation 4. Users are able to connect to a local PS4 console wirelessly and stream games, just the same as what they can with a PlayStation Vita. Obviously, you still need a controller along with the phone. A Game Control Mount is also available for purchasing option, when users have demand for mobile gaming.  I have tried play the Little Big Planet 3 to test, and the result is satisfactory: everything flows seamlessly between phone’s display and the big-screen TV. If you got a PS4 at home, this function is really useful as an in-home 2nd screen for gaming gadget.

Software

The operating system being shipped with the Z3v is Android 4.4.4, this is not the latest Android OS since the Android Lollipop 5.0 is now available. Sony claims to upgrade this phone into the latest Android 5.0 soon, but the official time has not been fixed yet. The Android UI version of Sony is quite clean but there are quite many pre-installed applications such as: Video Unlimited player, Walkman, Playstation, Lifelog of Sony, Verizon’s launcher and software and even some from Amazon. By normal method, you cannot uninstall those apps and that’s annoying for users who want a clean phone.

We cannot deny that the pre-installed applications from Sony are nicely made and they are among the best pre-installed apps in Android market. However, spammy apps still appear such as Xperia Lounge which contains a bunch of ads.

Battery life and charging

The batter in Z3v is a little bit stronger than the one on Z3: 3200mAh vs 3100mAh. According to Verizon and Sony the rated battery life is claimed to last for “over a day”.

Through our test, the phone lasted for up to 11 hours and 31 mins of continuously video streaming. The result for Z3 is 11 hours and 55 mins, thus, we can concluded that batter life of these 2 phones are basically similar.

One better thing in the Xperia Z3v is the availability of Qi inductive charging. This means if you got a charge mat (which is available for purchase in Sony’s accessories store), all you need to do for charging is just laying the phone down. Charging through normal cable requires quite a long time, you’ll need 2 hours to get the phone up to 61% from 0%.

Conclusion

The Xperia Z3v for Verizon is somewhere between the Z3 and Z2. With a standard price tag of $199.99 on 2-year-contract, this phone is a solid deal for Verizon’s users.

Some months ago, this phone was a top-notch device. But currently, this device is already some steps behind the latest models. However, for users who need a waterproof phone with strong camera and favor in PlayStation, the Sony Xperia Z3v is still a worth-considering option.

LG Tribute Review

Let’s take a look at our review for the premium style device with an affordable price – the LG Tribute.

Pros: affordable price – just $80 prepaid plan, expensive design.

Cons: small screen, which seems to be cramped when browsing Web, the device is somehow messy due to some unnecessary features from the Virgin Mobile.

Bottom line

with appealing looking and a reasonable price tag, the LG Tribute can be considered one of the best choices for budget phone users on Virgin Mobile.

You cannot find many budget-friendly phones with expensive style, and among these few devices, LG Tribute is a candidate that worth paying attention for. With just $80 price tag, what you are provided is not only the stylish design, but also pretty good specs.

However, nothing is perfect and the imperfection you can see in the LG Tribute is the small size – just 4.5 inch-sized screen which is not popular in current market. But for me, there’s no complain about this small display with such a good price.

Design

In comparison with big size smartphones today, the LG Tribute is relatively petite. With a compact dimension: 5.2 inches x 2.67 inches x 0.42 inches (127.5mm x 67.8mm x 10.6mm), the device is small enough to easily put into a jeans pocket and also feel comfortable holding by 1 hand (even with small hands like mine). The 4.9 ounces weight seems pretty heavy with such compact size. However, such weight makes the phone sturdier, thus, feel more expensive than it actually is.

The out-look of the LG Tribute is simple with rounded rectangle shape, which looks pretty alike the LG Nexus 5. The front bezel of the LG Tribute is all black and the back cover is in matte white. These 2 colors meet up and create a beautiful effect on the edge of the device. There are not many things being located on the device’s front: just a front cam and an earpiece. The power/ lock button is located on the right side and the volume rocker is located on the left side.

Virgin Mobile releases the LG Tribute with its new Unlimited Prepaid package. This package shall offer users unlimited data, talk and text with just $35 to $55 payment each month depending on the data level users choose to pick. If data limit is reached, data speed shall be slow down, the service carrier shall not charge for extra data.

LG Tribute Review Buy

LG Tribute Review Buy

Located on the back cover are the rear-cam, flash and the speaker’s grill.  The battery door covers the phone’s sides and sit comfortably against the device, which I like. However, such arrangement makes it difficult when approaching the battery, SD card’s slot and SIMcard slot since you have to cram your nail under to pop the cover off. Fortunately, it is helpful that the slot for SD card is located separately from the place of the battery, thus, cards can be installed without shutting off the phone.

The screen display of the LG tribute has 800 x 480 resolution at WVGA standard. This screen is neither sharp nor fuzzy, its display quality is just decent. Theoretically, such spec is far more comparing to the specs on higher-end device. But in reality, the screen works quite well with clear display, vibrant and true-to-life colors. It’s also very easy to view under direct sunlight.

The biggest disadvantage of the screen is its small size. In such small screen, the websites shall look cramped and some applications do not fit well in the screen.

Software features

The operating system being shipped with the LG Tribute is the Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat with custom UI of LG. This custom UI can also be found on higher-end phone such as the LG G3. Such custom UI is simple but elegant and sophisticated, which contribute more for the expensive look of the device.

Homescreen layout can also be customized by pressing and holding the screen to make a handy grid appear. Things you can modify are: animated transition, apps removing uninstalling from homescreen. Some fun animations when removing or uninstalling apps make it more interesting using the phone than other ordinary similar devices outhere.

Similar to the LG G3, users can set Knock Code instead of PIN or password to unlock the device, which means the device shall be unlocked once a unique pattern is tapped on the screen. Gesture control is also an interesting feature available on the LG Tribute. This feature allo you to silence incoming calls, pause a video or snooze the alarm just by flipping the phone.  LG makes me feel more fall in love with them as they apply some similar features into budget-friendly phones which are also applied in higher-end devices.

There are several apps being loaded up in the LG Tribute by the carrier Virgin Mobile such as Lookout’s Gadget Guardian – a security apps, Lumen Toolbar – browser addendum-on, My Account. Unluckily, there are many shortcuts to Google Play’s apps being pre-loaded on the device, which make the screen cluttering and surely you will need to remove those unnecessary things.

Camera and video

The back cam –main camera of the phone is the 5 MP one while the front-cam for taking selfies or video calling is just the VGA one.

What annoys me is the minimal default setup of the camera apps as there are very few default on-screen controls. Even the shutter button is also not available on default setting, thus, in order to take a photo, you have to tap the screen. If you want more controls on shooting pictures, you have to tap on the 3 dots so that more options (such as settings and shutter buttons) shall pop up.

Besides filters and popular scene settings, there are many extra functions to choose for your photos. Some can be listed here are Cheese Shutter (taking photo by voice command) or panorama mode. In order to take a selfie, hand gesture can be used by holding up the hand and make a fist when being ready.

As real test results show, the photos produced by the LG’s Tribute camera have good quality, but they are not stellar. Fine details on photos are hard to find and sometimes, shadows are overly dark. But generally, the performance of the camera is acceptably good.

Video can be captured at 1080p quality with this cam. Interestingly, things be taken in video modes looks somehow better than photos as the video shot is sharp with finer details. However, lighting issues still remain. Still shots can also be captured while capturing video by a handy feature – Live Shot.

Call quality

As testing the phone in San Francisco, the call quality is impressively good. Voices are clear and natural from both sides with minor distortion. Sometimes, voice from other side is muffled but it can be heard fine. Background noise is also well minimized on the LG Tribute even when we stand on a crowded street.

When testing the phone call with speakerphone, result is also good with natural and clear sound. However, the speaker does not perform a good job when playing videos or music since the sound is distorted and harsh at high volumes.

Performance

The engine of the Tribute is featured with 1 GB RAM and a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, these 2 things keep the device responsive and snappy. Sometimes, opening apps makes some lags but overall, my experience with the phone’s performance is satisfied.

Moreover, games can be handled with the LG Tribute very well without dropped frames or lag. Unfortunately, Quadrand test cannot be run on the device since the Tribute phone requests to turn off network connection to operate the benchmark app while calculating the results of this test requires Internet connection.

Internal storage available in the LG Tribute is at 4GB and can be expand up to 32 GB by external SD card. Thus, if you want to capture a lot of pics or install many applications, an SD card is surely necessary as the internal memory can quickly be filled up.

The battery of the LG Tribute is powered at 2,100 mAh, which is claimed to offer 15 hours talking time. As my real experience, the device can easily last for 1 full day of normal daily usage (mail checing, games playing, phone calling…) without charging. According to the result of battery test from CNET, the phone drained after 9 hours of playing video at 50% brightness, which is impressive.

4G LTE is also supported on the LG Tribute. As testing results of 4G network, the speed of downloading apps and Internet browsing is fast. HD video can also be streamed smoothly without buffering.

Conclusion

I was immediately impressed with the LG Tribute when unboxing the device. With such a good price, chic & polished design together with solid specification and 4G LTE support, this device is definitely a good choice for many users on Virgin Mobile network.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LG G3 S Review

Let’s take a look at our detailed review about a smaller flagship smartphone of LG –the LG G3 S.

Pros: appealing design – similar to its high-end sibling. Good quality camera with laser-assisted autofocus.

Cons:  poor performance processor, not really impressive screen resolution, old version operating system, low storage.

Bottom line

LG G3 S has similar name with its older brother – the high-end LG G3 amd LG G3 Vigor. However, similarities just stop at the physical design. The specification in LG G3 S has been dropped down in many aspects. Therefore, it can generally says that the LG G3 is a device with high-end body, mid-end price and low-end tech.

If you love the design of LG G3 but you do not favor its high-end price, let’s take a look at the LG G3 S – aka the LG G3 Mini or LG G3 Beat.

We have seen many “mini version” phones such as the HTC One Mini 2 or the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini – whose names were taken from the flagship older brother but other things are shrunken down to a more affordable package. And LG G3 S is not the exception.

As the word “shrink” mentioned before, the G3 S’ size is 5-inch, which is smaller than the 5.5-inch size of the LG G3. With this size, we cannot say the G3 S is a mini phone. And the most important thing is the content of the device, which is, disappointedly, far more compared to the flagship big brother LG G3.

At least, the LG G3 S looks quite orderly with the same appealing interface from Android, and the laser-assisted autofocus feature is still kept from the G3.

Official price for this LG G3 S has not been announced by LG yet, but £226 is what you have to pay for and early pre-order in UK shops (which is equivalent to ~ $360 and AU$410). This price is not bad at all. Still, please keep an eye on regional availability and the official price.

LG G3 S vs LG G3 Review Buy

LG G3 S vs LG G3 Review Buy

Design

Do not think that S stands for “small” in the name of LG G3 S since this device is not qualified as mini phone with its 5-inch size. The dimension of the G3 S is 138 mm x 70 mm (length x width), which is just slightly smaller than the Galaxy S5. Holding the G3 S in one hand feels ok, is more comfortable than the G3. However, if you want really comfortable phone for 1 hand using, you can look for other choices such as the Samsung Galaxy Alpha or the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact.

Regarding the physical design of the device, the G3 S looks nearly identical with the LG G3. The front is buttonless and the curved back cover is made of plastic with same brushed effect. This is quite good-looking phone, although when looking closer, the plastic material of the back panel just brings the plain plastic feeling – no premium metal feel. The curvy back makes it comfortable when wrapping the hands around. Similar to the predecessor G2 and G3, the power and volume buttons are not located on the edges, their positions are on the back panel. LG says that such change in position is more convenient for your finger control as the index finger naturally places at the phone’s back. For me personally, I’m not really keen on that, however, it takes just a short time getting familiar with these positions.

The removable plastic back cover gives you the access to the house of SIM card, microSD card and the battery. With the 8GB internal storage, external microSD card shall be surely necessary for storage expansion. It is so pitiful as such low amount of built-in storage should be expected in a lower-end device, not in a mid-range device like the LG G3S. That 8 GB internal storage shall be quickly filled up with the installation of games and applications, not including the storing of video or music. Some apps can be installed and put in the SD card, but not all of them.

LG G3 S Review Buy

LG G3 S Review Buy

Display

The screen display of the LG G3 S is in 5-inch size with 1280 x 720 resolution at 294 ppi pixel density. Those numbers are not really impressive especially when comparing it to those in the G3: 2560 x 1440 resolution at 538 ppi pixel density. Pixel density index is lower than those of the Galaxy Alpha (312 ppi), the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (319 ppi) and the iPhone 6 (326 ppi).

Theoretically, these numbers may somehow disappoint you. But in reality, such difference in index is not noticeable. Text and icons are displayed sufficiently sharp. In comparison with the Galaxy Alpha, the quality display is pretty much the same. But when side by side with the big brother G3, the display’s resolution of the G3 S is far more to the 2K display of the G3.

HD video and images are well displayed and absolutely watchable, but when viewing on higher definition screen, surely they do not have same clarity level. Colors on the display are rich, vibrant and true to life, the screen is bright and can be easily viewed under direct lights.

Android software

Operating system being shipped in the G3 S is the Android 4.4.2KitKat, which is not the latest Android version so far since it is now the 4.4.4 KitKat. But it’s totally forgivable with such affordable price tag.

As mentioned before, the interface of the LG G3 S is totally the same with LG G3. It has same underlying structure with other Android devices: multiple homescreens in case you do not want to store your apps in app tray. LG has made a lot of changes for the interface of Android: font types, color schemes and application icons.

Users can customize their homescreen transition, the layout of buttons and some other animation on the phone. Setting menus are also split into 4 tabs, thus, it will be much easier when finding tools.

Although the interface of the G3 S is nearly the same as the software of G3, there are some features in G3 that cannot be found in the G3 S such as: Smart Tips or LG Health. However, you still cand see the remote control app using infra-red sensor to control TVs or other home appliances.

Processor and battery performance

The engine of G3 S is powered with 1 GB Ram and 1.2GHz quad-core processor. I would expect such things in much lower-end devices, which has much lower price than the G3 S. (For instant: the Motorola Moto G, which just costs about £144, has the same engine).

And the benchmark results prove it all: the G3 S achieved 1,299 scores and 8,273 scores on Geekbench test and Quadrant test respectively, which are far below the G3’s achievement (3,651 and 23,103 on Geekbench and Quadrant respectively).

Theoretically, those numbers somehow make users disappointed; however, things get better in reality as the power of G3 S is decent in everyday use. Opening apps is quick and swiping around the phone homescreen is quite smooth, just minor stuttering is rarely noticed. The G3 S can also handle well with social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Netflix and several light games. But when it comes to image display, the performance is sluggish since it may take up to few secs to render a high resolution image to clearly display on the screen.

Battery being shipped with the LG G3S is a 2,450mAh one, which is claimed to last up to 15 hours talking time with 3G on. As my test result has shown, such claim is quite ambitious. The phone’s battery dropped from 100% to just 45% after only 3 hours streaming videos, which is below average result. In comparison with the Galaxy S5 Mini, after 2 hours of video looping, this phone dropped from full to 80% battery power.

So generally, if you are an ordinary user, who does not demand much about the phone: just spend the day for email checking, quick calling or quick texting and sometimes social networking, surely you will not struggle to have a full day of use with the G3 S. However, if you are a demanding user, who spends much time viewing videos, listening to music or playing games, likely you will have to re-charge the device in the afternoon.

Camera

The 8 MP rear camera of the LG G3 S is considered a deep down step from the 13 MP one in the G3 phone. Though, the laser-assisted feature is still remained for autofocus and this works in the G3 S as well as it does on the G3. This feature helps the phone quickly lock on to an object with right focus.

Even 8 mega-pixels cannot compare to 13 mega-pixels in G3 or 20 mega-pixels in Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, the G3 S’ cam still and capture many good pictures. Colors are quite vibrant and true, details are fine enough for full-screen display on computer. There are also many scene modes for you to choose such as panorama mode (this works really well, but please be noted that it will take a very long time to stitches shots for a complete panorama pic).

Conclusion

If you are the one who looking for a smaller size device with the same performance as the LG G3, don’t be fooled by the LG G3 S as the similarity just comes in the design. Other things of the G3 S are significant steps down from the LG G3: not impressive battery life, low-end display resolution and low internal storage with old Android OS version.

However, if you just look for a device with nice design with decent performance and an affordable device, the LG G3 S is a pretty good choice. But you can also find another choice: the 4G Motorola Moto G – same specs and lower price.