ZTE ZMax Review

Let’s take a look at our review for the ZTE ZMax – a newly launched “phablet” with an attractive price.

Pros: Affordable prepaid price, nice display, decent battery.

Cons: Hefty weight, large size which is uncomfortable on hands, dimming screen and NFC is not supported.

Bottom line: this phablet is worth to consider with an attractive price even though there are still some flaws about the outlook.

Generally, we cannot say ZTE Zmax is the best smartphone with big screen in the mid-end smartphone range. With the big screen size – which is at 5.7 inches, the phone is so heavy and thus, not comfortable to hold by one hand. The camera is just at decent level, not great at all. And even though the screen display is at 720p – the standard resolution for budget-friendly phablets, the display of the screen is quite dimmer than the others with similar size and similar price.

However, the ZTE ZMax is pretty cheap, on T-Mobile, you just have to pay $10.5 monthly in 24 months off-contract (which is totally $252). This price tag is so attractive especially when you compare to the high-end phablets with average cost to be $750 and the mid-end phablets with average cost to be $400.

Another good thing is the performance of the ZMax is decent, which is better than we expect with gadget at this price. Of course, with such price, the specification of the device cannot be on the top impressive, the processor cannot be the strongest and the operating system is not the most updated Android version. But after all, the phone handles well with your demand of basic daily tasks such as: web browsing, call making without issues. Therefore, in conclusion, among the budget-end phablets, the ZMax is a reliable choice.

Design

The dimension of the ZMax is at 6.4 x 3.3 x 0.35 inch (length x width x thickness) and 6.7 ounces in weight with thick top and bottom bezels, which brings a hefty feeling for the users. In comparison with AT&T’s LG G Vista, which also has the same 5.7 inches screen display, the LG phone is 0.77 ounces lighter and 0.41 inch shorter than the ZMax. With such a massive size and also the flat back, it will be quite difficult for user to manage the phablet with only 1 hand unless they also have a massive palm size. Surely, don’t expect it to be fit with your pockets

The volume rocker and the slot for microSD card are located on the left side of the device while the power/ lock button and SIM card are located on the opposite side. On the top is the headphone jack and the bottom houses the port for charging. In order to approach the SIMcard and microSD card, a small pin key included shall be needed for popping out the tray. Like every other smart devices, the main camera of ZTE Zmax sits on the back cover with the flash and audio speaker’s slit.  Be aware that the battery is non-removable as the back cover is totally embedded.

Another thing I do not like is the fingerprint collective back plate as the material used for the back plate is slick plastic. Thus, the device looks oily almost all the time and I even feel like I will drop this phablet very easily, especially when I hold it with 1 hand.

The arrangement on the front is as follow: the front cams sits above the screen display and on the display bottom sit the 3 softkeys (setting, home, back). You can long-press setting key to get straight to recent apps. The screen display of Zmax has resolution at 1280 x 720 pixel and it uses Corning Gorilla Glass 3. As mentioned before, 720 p resolution is standard for such kind of phablet, but the 1080 p surely looks much better with such screen size.

For me, I really not impressed with the Zmax’s screen. Even thought the screen is responsive with sharp text and icons, the color display is washed out with grayish white and lacks of vibrancy. When putting the LG G Vista and the ZMax side by side, even with the same resolution, difference is noticeable as the G Vista of LG has more superior display with bright and vivid colors.

Zte Zmax Review Buy

Zte Zmax Review Buy

Software features

The operating system being shipped with the ZMax is the Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which is lightly skinned OS. With this OS, you will have the assist of Google’s package such as: Google Chrome, Google Now, Gmail, Google Drive, Hang outs, Maps, Search and Youtube. Via Google Play, you can also access to many kinds of Google’s service such as Newsstand, Books, Movies, Music or Game.

There are also many pre-installed apps from T-mobile such as My T-Mobile Account (which let you know our data plan), T-Mobile TV (which streams ESPN, Fox News… channel) and from other 3rd Party like Amazon’s app and Lookout – the security service app.

Apps for basic tasks such as: calendar, clock, alarm, calculator, email, notepad, sound recorder, video and music player, file manager and task manager are also available and can be easily approached like in other devices. There are also an useful tools called App Source, which lets users categorize and tidily organize their apps.

Other features to mention here is the 2GB RAM, the 16GB of internal storage space (with up to 32 GB expandable by microSD card) and the support of Bluetooth 4.0. However, it’s pretty weird when NFC is not supported in the ZTE Zmax as this technology  is commonly found in many mid-range smart devices even though is not widely used.

Camera and video

The quality of photo taken by rear cam of the ZTE is up to 8 mega pixels. This number is just decent, not impressive at all for devices at this range. Overall, pictures taken are clear and in-focus. However, for objects located outside of center focus area, they appear blurry. The color display also lacks of vibrancy as colors appear muted. Even in the environment with plentiful lighting condition, artifacts and digital noise are very noticeable. When flash is on, the taken picture shall be in bluish hue, especially in white background.

The above situations happen similarly with video capturing. Good thing is both still and moving objects are clear and in-focus although the camera takes few seconds to adjust for new focus points and new lighting conditions. The camera also picks up the audio well. There are also not much lag between the viewfinder and the camera movement.

Features available for cameras are: timer, geo-tagging, digital zoom at 4x, grid lines, time-lapse mode for video capturing and screen shot while video recording. There are also many (up to 18) shooting modes for users to choose to suit with their capturing purposes such as: HDR, panorama, Instagramesque filters, sunset and macro… Picture sizes are also various to choose from (9 sizes) and video resolutions are similar (5 resolutions). The front-cam has 2 picture sizes and 3 video qualities to choose from.

Editing options are also very versatile as you can rotate, crop, decorate your photos by tinkering it in the gallery app.

Performance

As my test in San Francisco, the call quality is quite good. No call was dropped with continuous and consistent connection. However, audio should be clearer as I still can hear my partner’s voice fine by actually her voice is a bit low and slightly thin.

Talking about the data speed test, the result is not really positive. On Ookla test, the average download rate is shown at 4.93 Mbps while the upload rate is shown at 7.53 Mbps on T-Mobile 4G LTE network. It’s quite lagging since as my experience with the same network on LG G3, the speed is very impressive.

To load the New York Times, it takes 6 seconds and 9 seconds for desktop Site and mobile Site respectively. While with the CNET’s site, the results are 14 and 9 secs for desktop and mobile version respectively. Finally, the Temple Run 2, which weighs 45.8 MB, was completely downloaded and installed after 2 mins and 16 secs.

The engine of the ZTE Zmax is featured with 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor (which is similar to other mid-range handsets). With this processor, simple and basic tasks can be easily handled without problems. Even intensive graphics game like the Riptide GP2 can be also played smoothly without sluttering.

The device’s battery is powered at 3,400mAh and can last for up to 14 hours of talking time.

Conclusion

Although there are still many flaws to mention with the ZTE ZMax, with this attractive price tag, this phablet is still a worth-considering option for you. Especially for users who just demand simple and basic daily tasks.

BlackBerry Classic Review

While other manufacturers often highlight the screen or camera of their smartphones, the most noticeable feature that Black Berry wants to focus on the Classic line is its keyboard. That’s why in one third of the specification list is to introduce the Qwerty keyboard, other than its pretty small screen.

It’s definitely an impressive keyboard. Not only those who has got used to using BlackBerry but new users can also find it pretty easy to use and very useful. Obviously, this is considered the heritage of BlackBerry.

This keyboard with chamfered ridge on each key easily outperforms the keyboard of BlackBerry Passport – which is pretty hard, fat and large. People easily find it more satisfying.

BlackBerry Classic Review Buy

BlackBerry Classic Review Buy

In addition to the new design style, the location of the navigating keys are kept pretty the same. You will find the keys for calls, menu, back button, trackback and “end call” located between the screen and the keyboard. These keys are also called ‘the tookit’.

As commonly, we have got used to using virtual keys in the display of smartphones, so it’s likely that we feel uncomfortable to hold down physical keyboards. However, once mastering the usage of a keyboard, you find it pretty convenient for ending a call. But personally, I don’t see that the trackpad is really useful. I still prefer to use the capacitive capacitive frets of the BlackBerry Passport.

But, keep in mind that the actual buttons account for more space while the display of the Blackberry is pretty small, limited to 3.5 inches only. This screen is good enough for checking emails but a bit inconvenient for other tasks, for example, browsing a website.

 

Both the two cameras in the front and back are nice enough, but not that impressive. (Actually, I don’t find the common users of this product to be those who love taking selfie photos). The battery has the 2515 mAh capacity, which enables you to use the phone throughout the day and even more. This may be due to the fact that I used less apps through this phone than with other smartphones. Its screen is too small and I just find it best for scanning emails.

The BlackBerry Classic is a well-built device. Its frame is surrounded by the stainless steel band and the phone also uses the Gorilla Glass. All of these give it the sturdy feel. The flat rear cover – except the slightly raised logo – is a non-slip structure, which contributes to the comfort in holding the phone in hands. The BlackBerry Classic weighs 178 grams, which is not so heavy.

The software

The BlackBerry Classic runs the BlackBerry 10 system together with the Qualcomm MSM 8960 processor, clocked at 1.5GHz. There are some interesting details with the phone, one of which is the nice transition effects for scrolling over the default applications. Although the performance is not as smooth as that of the BlackBerry Passport, it’s good enough.

One of the very strong points of the Classic is its mail box capability, which is especially effective for those who often receive and send emails. In addition, the Docs to Go and BlackBerry Blend are also available. But not many apps from a third party are found in this smartphone. The main reason for this limit is that the market share of BlackBerry is not big enough for motivating many software manufactures to produce the compatible apps.

The small square display is also a drawback. Especially in the case that a user wants to play games, this is pretty inconvenient. However, this drawback may not be too concerning as the BlackBerry Classic is not a typical smartphone for those who like to play games or download so many apps.

The Bottom Line

Obviously, the BlackBerry Classic is not something for first users but for those who have fallen in love with this brand name (especially users who once used the previous BlackBerry Bold 9900). This product is mainly aimed at those who work on business or government organization – that’s the strategy of BlackBerry.

For a loyal fan, this smartphone is not simply a phablet, but a more elegant one for a more civilized user.

For those who don’t find it essential to use other function besides the call making and email handling, the BlackBerry Classic is obviously a great choice. Meanwhile, other types of users may find it as a lack. For a smartphone, this seems to be a significant lack, but I have found that the targeted users almost don’t need further features. It’s clear that BlackBerry wants to build an image of solid and business-like smartphone.

 

Oppo R5 Review

The bottom line: 6/10

At the moment, no smartphone is as thin as the R5 from Oppo. With the thickness of 4.85mm, there is no doubt that this has become the thinnest smartphone in the world.

In comparison with the Apple iPhone 6, this R5 is even 30% thinner. But obviously, to have this super thin size, the phone has to sacrifice some other aspects of the design.

There is no built-in headphone jack and at the price of $549, £400-ish, the battery life of the R5 is similar to that of some other Android smartphones.  All of these make people curious about this model.

Key Features:

– The processor is Snapdragon 615 CPU;

– Its RAM’s storage capability is up to 2GB;

– The phone runs ColorOS 2.0 & Android 4.4

– Manufactured by OPPO Digital

Oppo R5 Review Buy

Oppo R5 Review Buy

 

Oppo R5 – Design

Although it’s super thin, the Oppo R5 still brings you the well-built feel. When looking at it from a distance, it seems to be weak or bendy, but the fact shows the opposite thing.

While aluminium is pretty soft, so it can be bended, like you can see the entire iPhone 6 ‘bendgate’ fiasco, the metal frame of the R5 is very strong and hard. This frame borders the edges of the phone.

The aluminium material is used for the phone back. This is also good. But it’s easier for bending the phone in half. For the purpose of testing phone, we may have to do this to ensure about the phone strength.

Anyway, the phone is very well-built. We don’t see any clear compromises in this case.

If not anyone told you that the R5 was the world thinnest smartphone, could you know this? Of course, you can easily feel its thinness, but when you hold it in hands, you may not find it as comfortable as expected for more gently contoured smartphone.

The front of the camera is covered by hard Gorilla Glass and the back is made of aluminium. Between these two parts, there is a slightly raised steel frame beyond. But one thing you should notice is that the phone has to sacrifice some other things for this super thin size. The phone is comfortable enough in hands but if you try comparing it with the Galaxy S5 from Samsung, but it does not really feel expensive.

In addition, there are more concerning lacks. Instead of including the headphone jack in the Oppo R5 anymore, now an adapter will be used in which one end is slotted into a Micro Use port and the other end is connected with a headphone jack.

This may cause some significant inconveniences in usage: it’s impossible to listen to music while the phone is being charged and the adapter must be always taken along. This reason makes some retailers consider giving certain discount for the R5.

Moreover, the phone lacks a memory card slot as well. It will be ok for installing some games and apps with the 16GB internal storage capability, but in general, it’s pretty inconvenient when the memory is not expandable and the phone doesn’t have a standard headphone jack. This phone is not really good for playing the media.

Thanks to the thin design, the phone looks impressive with it super slim and pure steel frame. But just after using it in about 5 minutes, you will easily like to back to the classic design.

Not the entire body of the Oppo R5 has the same thickness. The camera is slightly raised from the body – it just does not fit into the whole frame thickness. Because of this design, the camera may get damaged more easily, but Oppo has designed a metal ring surrounding its glass, which helps protect the camera from certain scratches.

Oppo R5 – Connectivity

Obviously. Oppo has to scarify some features for the thin design, so it won’t perfectly meet the demands of every market.

In the specification, the phone has included the 4G support, but not on band 20. Consequently, you can get the phone connected to the 4G in some networks such as Vodafone, O2 or other less popular ones such as Tesco, LycaMobile or GiffGaff. It still can work, but just on the 3G mobile internet only.

Even for famous brand names like Galaxy S5 or LG G3, there are still some lacks, and no exception for the Oppo R5. In this smartphone, an IR transmitter is not supported, so you cannot use the phone as a common remote. The Wi-Fi ac is not found with the R5 as well.

 

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 Review

The bottom line of Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3 Smartphone

Pros:

  • Imposing plastic design
  • Sharp Full HD screen
  • Splendid sounding speakers
  • Unique Android tweaks

Cons:

  • Lagged when multitasking
  • Unfulfilling 13 megapixel shooting

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 – What is this?

Alcatel OneTouch has released the newest member of its Idol Smarphone family – the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3. This phone is fairly special as it is globally distributed and can be bought through Alcatel online shopping websites.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 has unique design of two similar dimensions, meaning that you can hear or call in both directions of holding. This device is also outfitted with a 1.2W JBL stereo loudspeaker and Harman Clari-Fi sound technology.

Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3 Review Buy

Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3 Review Buy

This Idol 3 comes with two different sizes: 4.7 inch (£150) and 5.5 inch (£260). Both models have the same design ideology, however, spending a little more will provide you a better spec one.

Design

Not being created with superior aluminum or glass finishes, Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 really does not disappoint users when owning an elegant plastic design.

The eye-catching Idol 3 is made of following elements: silver plastic edging, two-colored trim body material, dim grey back along with a gently brushed finish. The convex corners make the already slim frame sleeker and the plastic nicer to touch. Such points are recapitulated in a statement from Samsung: this is how a striking plastic phone is made.

The front-facing JBL speakers are put above and below the screen while ports are well positioned around the trim and the microSIM is set below the standby button. MicroSD card is also accepted on this device to support expanding storage up to 16GB or 32GB. Unfortunately, as the back cover is not removable, there is no way to alternate the 2,910mAh battery.

Dual-microphone is not something curious, but allowing making or taking calls no matter which way of holding is not what every dual-microphone can do. This feature obviously is a remarkable improvement of the Alcatel.

Screen

Another good point of the 5.5in Idol 3 is that users get a Full HD screen, something clearly better than a 4.7in handset.

Alcatel Idol 3 has a completely laminated LCD screen covering brightness at the maximum of more than 600 nits and a 400ppi pixel density, which are all equivalent to a striking and outstandingly bright screen with terrific viewing angles. One technology product of the Technicolor called “Color Enhance technology” is advertised to refine contrast and color rendering for more brilliant colors, which seems to be based on advantages of the adaptive screen.

At the Idol 3’s sale price, don’t unreasonably compare its display with the AMOLED screen of Samsung, despite the fact the Idol 3 is obviously less impressive.

Software & Performance

The Idol 3 is operated on Android 5.0.2 Lollipop along with the Alcatel’s custom skin on top. Android system is so familiar to users, but additional supplements are included for better performance than others. Just double tap your screen and this device will be awaked, and the extra shortcuts presented in the lock-screen will quickly lead you to some predetermined features such as camera, calculator or contact list.

The most outstanding application on the Alcatel is its native music app, which receives the highest focus. It is a wonderful combination of fundamental music player to browse and queue up tracks with DJ software to record mixes. It is a fun application but if you’re not so obsessive about music, perhaps you will ignore it.

Alcatel Idol 3 is powered by a Qualcomm 64-bit Snapdragon CPU accompanied with an Adreno 405 GPU and a 2GB RAM. It means everything seems to be okay for handling fundamental tasks, but things will change towards adverse direction if the Idol 3 is used under more tension.

This Idol seems to perform well with gaming, specifically some graphically demanding games like Real Racing 3, as it is ran smoothly without any signal of a decrease in frame rates.

However smooth running is not the story of performing multiple apps, as lags can happen. Just opening browser or searching can also be a strain for the phone and makes it slow to respond. Switching between applications is not better. It is glaring that this device is not for users who demand a good performance for multiple actions, but if you don’t intend to overwhelm the Idol 3 at this point, then it is considered a nice choice.

Camera

The introduction of the 13 megapixel rear camera and a sizeable 8 megapixel front-facing camera sounds pretty impressive, but it is just on paper.

Both cameras are not preset to capture images at the maximum resolution, which translates that it is necessary to access the settings to re-address that mode unless you want to shoot in a 4:3 ratio instead of a 16:9 one. It is also an issue to be argued that higher resolution does not always mean more reliable and consistent quality, at least in this case.

Image quality is just at acceptable level without groundbreaking points though the low-light shooting is good. In a good condition of light and distance, the autofocus performs well as details and colors are pretty accurate. But getting closer will create more difficulties to maintain the equal detail and sharpness.

Video capturing owns the similar issue. Everything seems to be just reasonable without various features added to improve video quality or vibrant footage. Sound recording doesn’t provide the highest quality either.

Overall, the Idol 3 is expected to bring more experiences rather than such things above.

Battery Life

One minus of the Idol 3 is its non-detachable battery that users can’t replace it when necessary. But the parameter of 2,910mAh can help you ignore such drawback, as it has the same capacity with more expensive competitors.

For specification, for an average use, this battery can energize through a day and a half or little more if you let it idle for long time. Usage duration will be reduced to one day for lots of activities. You might find the basic power saving mode useful as it provides you with some more minutes to make calls.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 – Should we buy?

Conforming to its name – “Idol”, the Alcatel Idol 3 handset possesses a stunning design which is eye-catching to users, especially the youth. This device has proved that not all attractive phones are made of high-end material, as the inexpensive plastic can also do that. Sharp Full HD screen, splendid sounding speakers with unique Android tweaks all create the value worthy of the price £260.

LG Realm Review

Let’s take a look at our detailed review for the newly launched budget-friendly LG’s phone – the LG Realm.

Pros: helpful exclusive software of LG, nice indicator light, low price.

Cons: low-quality screen display, slow 3G speed, limited internal capacity (4GB).

Bottom line: the LG Realm is actually not a bad device. However, with just $20 more, users can have another better choice – the Motorla Moto G with stronger hardware and more attractive design.

Among the market for budget-end Android smartphone, the LG Realm – which costs $80 – is not a bad choice, but it’s also not the best choice so far due to its limited 4GB built-in storage, the low-resolution display and the lagging 3G data speed.

Talking about good things, there are some extra softwares of LG that stand out such as: the shining LED home button, the double-tap function to turn on/off the screen. However, regarding to the specification of the phone (such as screen display quality or the internal storage), definitely, the Motorola Moto G also for Boost Mobile does much better with just $20 more.

Design and build

Actually, the LG Realm is the CDMA version of the GSM LG Optimus L70. Thus, if you know the predecessor L70 well, for sure you will be easily familiar with the Realm.

The LG Realm mostly looks like a basic black rectangular, its corners are curved and there is a thin silvery border to embellish the plain black look. The back cover is made of plastic and prettified by a black-on-black squares pattern. This pattern adds some more dimensions to the device, and it’s also the shining LED indicator running around the home button.

For users with small hands or prefer using the phone with 1 hand, the dimension of the LG Realm is surely very comfortable. The phone stands at 5 inches x 2.6 inches x 0.38 inch (tall x width x thickness), 136 grams heavy and has 4.5-inch screen size. Thus, it’s very easy to slip the LG Realm into the pocket.

Talking about the LCD display, the resolution of the LG Realm is at 800 x 480 pixel – which is quite suitable for a screen at 4.5 inch size. However, the pixel density at 207 ppi is quite disappointing since it’s cannot display well under strong sunlight. The HD photos shall be pixelated when being viewed on this low-resolution screen display.

The front camera and the speaker grille are located above the phone screen while the home button and capacitive buttons are located blow the screen. (the Capacitive buttons also can calls up Google Now and Google Search). The port for Micro-USB (also for charging) is located on the bottom edge while the 3.5mm headset jack is on the top edge. On the left edge lies the volume control buttons and on the right edge lies the power/lock button. Of course, the rear cam of the phone is located on the back cover, along with the LED flash below. You can see the slot for microSD card when removing the back cover.

LG Realm Review Buy

LG Realm Review Buy

OS and apps

The operating system being shipped with the LG Realm is the Android 4.4 – which is the best benefit for this device so far. This operating system is up to date, thus, the phone is  benefit with good stability and latest features of Android device (such as Google Now).

Moreover, the LG Realm is also racked up with some addendum-ons and especially, the custom Android skin. There are several widgets that you may also like such as: the QSlide – which is used for quick-launching the app, the Quick Memo – which can be quickly accessed by sliding up from screen bottom.

When carefully looking up at the settings, there will be some interesting extras that users can find such as you can set up the screen so that brightness shall turn off from 12am to 6am every night. However, for me, I still prefer the automatic screen brightness and prefer to be able to read the screen in odd hours in case of my regular insomnia.

When the battery just remains around 30%, battery saver shall jump on to suggest users to optimize the remaining juice. With this suggestion, you can choose to turn off wireless connection like Wifi or Bluetooth, or to turn off auto-sync and vibration, or to shorten screen timeout, reduce brightness. LG’s Guest Mode is also interesting for me.

Though Bluetooth 4.0 is supported in the LG Realm, NFC protocol is not.

Regarding applications on the phone, LG and Boost Mobile already put many apps into the device such as LG backup, Mobile ID profile or Boost Music. There are also an app update center from 3rd-party and many other apps. All of these you can hide or ignore if you feel they are not necessary.

Cameras and video

The rear cam of the LG Realm is the 5 MP one, which is shipped with LED flash and autofocus and various settings options to modify specs of the photos such as color effects, white balance, ISO… Unfortunately, the HDR mode is not available even though Panorama mode, burst shooting and sports mode are all available here.

However, as the phone is not really fast, obviously it shall take a little bit longer to process everything on the LG Realm such as: auto-focusing or moving to next shot. The quality of photos taken is up to standard, though colors still lack of vibrancy and focus is not really crispy.

The LG Realm can capture video with 800 x 480 pixel WVGA standard. Such thing is good enough for taking daily moments or posting short clips to social network. For those who demands higher standard, these grainy clips surely cannot satisfy them. Users can also take quick movie for MMS by selecting MMS video, they can also choose for longer format but whenever the storage capacity runs out, your video capturing shall be restricted.

The front camera of the LG Realm is a VGA cam with 0.3 MP resolution. With such kind of spec, pictures taken shall be gray out (especially for skin tones) and extremely soft-focus.

Performance: Data, speeds, battery life.

Talking about data network of the LG Realm, the phone supports 3G network that runs on Sprint. As my test in San Francisco by Speedtest.net diagnostic app, the speed is terribly slow. In real life, the speed is somehow more livable. Web-browsing is quite ok as the web-sites are now being optimized for mobile device. Youtube videos can stream quite smoothly though the initial buffering shall takes an amount of time. Considering all of the above, the LG Realm is the one you shall prefer to use with Wifi as it supports 2.4GHZ network.

As the LG Realm is basically a version of its predecessor phone, the 1.2GHz Qualcomm quad-core– the faster chipset that we currently see in entry-level device of this year – is not shipped with this phone. Instead of this quad-core chipset, the processor here is still dual-core – the 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 which shall slows performance down.

Obviously, with just a dual-core processor, the performance of the LG Realm shall be uneven and sluggish. Thus, users shall have to wait a little while to complete a normal task. Although play games (particularly with games being optimized for weak-performing gadgets) is quite ok, surely you will cannot have rich experience with intensive graphic or more processor-demanding games as you will have with a higher-end devices.

The internal storage available in the LG Realm is 4GB, but unfortunately, only 1.3GB is user-accessible. That means there will be a high possibility that you will need a microSD card to expand the phone’s storage capacity (which can be up to 32GB expandable). The RAM being equipped for LG Realm is the 1.2GB RAM.

For battery life, the Realm’s batter is powered at 2,100mAh, which can last for a work day. As our talking time test, this phone can last for up to 17 hours. Video streaming test shall be run later. The result of FRR measurements shows that the digital SAR of the LG Realm is at 1.2 watts/ kg.

Call quality

As my test in San Francisco on Boost Mobile network, the call quality is absolutely okay as HD Voice technology of Sprint is applied for the phone. At medium-high setting, volume from both ends call line is sufficiently loud with naturally sounded voice. However, when my calling partner is silent, there was some white noise or fizzling out.

Conclusion

If you are a loyal customer of Boost Mobile and a under $100 smartphone is what you are looking for, the LG Realm is a good choice for you. With the decent rear cam and other useful widgets, this phone can handle well with your demand in normal daily tasks. However, be aware of the low 3G speed.

Finally speaking, the LG Realm is not the best choice at low-end smartphone currently as with just $20 more, the Motorola Moto G is definitely a much better choice with fast data network, high performance processor, nicer looking screen, more capable storage and better quality camera.

 

Microsoft Lumia 640 LTE Single Sim Review

The bottom line

Perhaps in the budget phone market dominated by Android, anyone who prefers a possibility to Android phones would find the Microsoft Lumia 640 so brilliant. Great 5-inch display, good 8MP rear camera and supportive 4G LTE connectivity are considerations making this Lumia a well worth buying handset, of course to the extent that you don’t concern yourself with the apps much.

Microsoft Lumia 640 Lte Single Sim Review Buy

Microsoft Lumia 640 Lte Single Sim Review Buy

The Lumia 640 is also a low-price smartphone, but it diverges a little from lots of economical Android phones with similar black or grey design style or same outdated software. It is created basing on the fundamental of Windows Phone system, making a refreshing change to those who have already been satiated with Android.

The plus

As mentioned above, both the Lumia 640’s screen and camera could draw your attraction at this price. You will easily find the Windows Phone software easy to use, especially when alternating the back covers for pleasantly new colors to your liking.

  • Design

The prefix “Nokia” has already been replaced by “Microsoft” for a long while, but its characteristcially unmistakable design has still remained. It owns the same back panel appearing on almost any recent Lumia, which is deformed to be round to meet the front screen. Unlike the rounded Lumia 735, this 640 generation has more angular edges, which does not affect the sensation of holding comfortably however.

Bright colors, plastic body and interchangeable covers are important contributions to an amusing and enjoyable appearance, which makes it outstanding from some monotonous colorless mid-range Android phones.

Measured in 5.5 x 2.75 x 0.34 inches, the Lumia 640 proves big, but still practical to type text messages with just one hand. The Micro-SIM and microSD card slots are located beneath the back panel, while the 3.5mm headphone and the Micro-USB port are sited on the top and bottom edges respectively.

  • Display

The 5-inch display comes with a 1,280 x 720 pixel resolution, leading to a 294 ppi density. It obviously stands no comparison with the full HD screen of flagship phones, but is still utterly decent for a smartphone at this price range, as it is able to give even small text on Websites a perfectly readable look.

The rich color provision, fantastic level of contrast and the sheer size of display make the movies on Netflix amazingly luscious and immersive to watch. It is sufficiently bright to resist the overhead lights in almost all of the office buildings, but too little to bright summer sunshine.

  • Software and performance

The Lumia 640 runs the Windows Phone operating system version 8.1.2 named “Denim”. Windows Phone interface is fairly simple by the combination of Live Tiles squares, for which you can currently choose 1 of the 3 sizes: 1×1, 2×2 or 2×4. Those squares can be arranged freely to your liking, or put in a general folder on the home screen.

Among the list of apps which were pre-installed and stored alphabetically, you will realize that there are many applications specialized in functions related to images, such as Lumia Camera, Lumia Selfie, Lumia Cinemagraph, etc., which echoes the competitive strategy focusing on camera of Microsoft.

The Windows Phone 8.1 version is added many quite useful features like the notification bar or fast installation for a number of features and connectivity as well. The Windows Phone is generally accessible and familiar, easy to use with simple interface for beginners as well as for those who want to switch from a cheap Android. By default, the applications necessary like calling, messaging and contact are lined on the home screen.

This handset operates stably and quickly despite the low-range configuration of 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 1 GB RAM and 8 GB internal memory. Whether using Adobe Photoshop to edit images or racing in Express Asphalt 8, there is nothing able to make trouble for the Lumia 640.

  • Rear Camera

Nothing but the word “perfect” can be used to describe the Lumia 640’s 8MP rear camera, as it is really amazing in such low price range. Still a Lumia camera with manual adjustment features for numerous parameters, it provides us an ability to control shots in a powerful way.

Photos taken have depth, details and good color balance. Even shooting indoors, this device still expresses its outstandingly remarkable ability compared to products in the same price range or even more expensive handsets.

The minus

Unfortunately, the same plus of the rear camera cannot be applied for its front-facing one, which appears with a totally discouraging outmoded 0.9 MP resolution. It is unreasonable to demanding dazzling selfies, but it is expected to at least provide quality video calls over Skype, and apparently this front camera does not perform well that basic task.

Besides the very poor resolution front camera, the short life of battery and under-stocked app store will not satisfy anyone who prefers the latest applications and games.

  • Apps

The weak point of Windows Mobile up to this time is still the unimpressive deficient app store. Though there are more and more apps offered, it is in evidence to say that Windows Phone platform almost always get new applications finally, after Android and iOS. Applications such as Facebook and Facebook Messenger are still not in a unity, for example when clicking on a link from Facebook while chatting, Internet Explorer will automatically open the mobile site of Facebook.

If there is high demand for applications, Windows Phones in general and the Lumia 640 in particular would not be a good choice.

  • Battery

Powering this Lumia 640 is a 2,500mAh battery, which seems to be a decent sized cell.

At the state of being fully charged, the battery will remain about 80% for 3 hours of chatting, surfing Facebook sometimes and usually opening the home screen, or about 56% if you watch online videos.

Generally, with a relative frequency of use, each hour will consume 10% of battery. The way you use this phone will vary this 640’s battery life. Specifically, turning down the brightness to just an acceptable level, avoiding power-demanding tasks such as playing videos and turning off Wi-Fi and GPS will help you much to get a full day use.

Is the Microsoft Lumia 640 a worth buying phone?

Whether you are a new smartphone users or prefer leaving low-end Android units, the Lumia 640 is certainly a good choice. The only thing is that you should reconsider this handset and other Windows Phone in general, in case you are bothered much with the latest and earliest applications or finding a more impressive front-facing camera.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Active Review

The bottom line

Galaxy S6 Active has recently been the latest super-durable smartphone released by an only too familiar phone manufacturer – Samsung. It can be said that the Galaxy S6 Active is just the top phone Galaxy S6 but being alternatively equipped with a higher-capacity battery and stronger armor which is waterproof and protects your device from collisions or dirt from surrounding areas. This is the highlight in the design of this powerful smartphone compared to the Galaxy S6 with metallic trim or the Galaxy S6 Edge with round chamfers.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Active Review Buy

Samsung Galaxy S6 Active Review Buy

However, unlike the Galaxy S6, this super durable smartphone Galaxy S6 Active is unfortunately distributed in the US only through the AT&T.

Technical Specification of Galaxy S6 Active:

  • Display: Super AMOLED 5.1 inch Quad HD (577 ppi pixel density)
  • Hardware: Exynos 7420 8-core chip, 3GB RAM
  • Internal memory: 32GB
  • Rear camera: 16MP with LED flash
  • Front-facing camera: 5MP
  • Measuring sensors: Heart rate, UV
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 4.x, GPS, NFC
  • Battery: 3.500 mAh
  • Wireless charge: multi-standard, Qi supporting
  • Operating system: Android 5.0.2
  • Shockproof Standard: USA Mil-STD-810G
  • Waterproof Standard: IP68

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Active – The Difference in Appearance, Battery and Durability

Appearance

It is difficult to image the relation between Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Active if based solely on their looks, as apart from the screen and location of USB ports, all other aspects of exterior design is totally different. Compared with familiar physical keys on the Galaxy S6, the Active version has shifted the power button higher, and button “Active” (to run Activity Zone app including information display of compass, weather forecast, pressure as well as sports training data retrieved from S Health) located at the top.

However, just as the “predecessor” Active Galaxy S5, Galaxy S6 Active also omits the fingerprint sensor technology on the Home button because of using three hard keys to navigate. The headphone jack is moved to the top of this device while speakers are located on the back instead.

The entire body of the Galaxy S6 Active is covered by plastic and rubber materials (nothing more than wearing an extra rough cover), but is shockproof with superior shock resistance conforming to the US Mil-STD-810G standard. Hard plastic wrapped around the circumference of the phone with rubber inserted on both sides similar to the style of holding badminton racket and position of integrated hard keys are all military-characterized. Thanks to this style of design, the cluster of rear camera no longer protrudes much like on the Galaxy S6. Of course, the Active’s weight, height, width and thickness are also better than that of the Galaxy S6.

Though the appearance of the Galaxy S6 Active is less eye-catching, in return you will have a top smartphone with the ability of resistance to shock, dust and water (IP68) unmatched by other competitors, which the Galaxy S6 does not have its wishes fulfilled.

Durability

Let’s find out the parameters of durability that the Galaxy S6 Active actually gets through the IP68 and MIL-STD 810G certificates.

IP is a system of evaluation indicators for the degree of protection against dirt or liquids of covers or protective outer shells of electronic devices by Europe and the International Electro-technical Commission (IEC). IP68 is an indicator echoing the totally dustproof ability accompanied by excellent water resistance to help the device remain unaffected after 30 minutes of drowning in the water at a depth of 1.5 m. Based on that, the Galaxy S6 Active has currently got rated as one of those products with the highest resistance to water.

What about the MIL-STD 810 certificate? MIL-STD 810 is the system of indices regulating mandatory technical standards for mobile devices used by the military (US). Equipment has to ensure normal operation in harsh environments with vibration, dust and moisture. Accordingly, Samsung Galaxy S6 Active receives the MIL-STD 810G certificate, which translates that it can counteract the effects of high temperature, dampness and shocks in the best way.

Evaluation: with the two parameters above, Samsung Galaxy S6 Active proves suitable with those preferring backpacking tourism or working in damp and hot environment.

Battery

While the Galaxy S6 has to resign itself to a 2550 mAh battery, the S6 Active is favored with a 3500 mAh. The latter is capable of achieving more than a full day of heavy use, while the normal S6 lasts only a day.

From a fully charged condition, the S6 Active’s battery is drained just about 7% for a remaining of 93% after playing an HD video in 90 minutes. That never happens on other smartphones, except for the LG G Flex with the equal Li-Po 3,500mAh battery capacity.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Active – The Similarity in Hardware configuration and Features

If the significant differences all lie in the exterior design, the interiors of these two models are quite similar. Both use the 8-core Exynos 7420 processor, 16MP main camera with optical image stabilizer OIS, 3GB RAM and 32GB ROM. The only difference is the extra option of 64GB or 128GB for internal memory, which does not appear in the Galaxy S6 Active.

In addition, both handsets are outfitted with multi-standard wireless charging as well as Qi and Powermat supporting capability. In case of wired charging: letting your device be charged in just 10 minutes will create a 4-hour use. If you want to save battery power, Super Battery Saving mode is always available.

It is also noteworthy that the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active is equipped with a default function button to activate the Activity Zone mode which helps users quickly open LED flash function, countdown time, use compass or measure barometric pressure.

Display

The S6 Active uses a 5.1 inch Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels and a pixel density of 577 ppi. High resolution helps the display be very sharp and evident when viewing the contents of text or images. However, the difference in screen resolution of the S6 Active compared to the Full HD screen of Galaxy S5 or HTC One M9 is not so obvious.

Like other previous phones using AMOLED technology, the screen of S6 Active can reach higher brightness when set in automatic mode (up to 600 nits, while the maximum brightness in normal manual mode is only 360 nits). In whatever mode, the screen still displays clearly in the sun without dazzling. Viewing angles of the screen are also wide, though in some certain angles colors can be changed (from white to pink for example).

The S6 Active uses a new way of arranging pixels, in which green sub-pixels are no longer taking up too much space. As a result the device screen has reduced significantly the phenomenon of more brilliant colors than in reality, especially in the basic display mode. If you prefer a bold and bright screen, you can select the AMOLED Film or Optimum Display mode.

Camera

The resolution of the S6’s camera is retained from the Galaxy S5 (16 MP), but Samsung has included several upgrades in both hardware and software. The S6 Active uses Sony’s sensor, instead of ISOCELL in the S5: shooting angles are wider (focal length is equal to 28 mm, while in S5 is 31 mm) and aperture is also extended slightly (f/1.9 versus f/2.2 in S5).

In terms of software, the capture interface in the S6 Active is changed just a little, towards compact and open direction. Photography apps are prioritized to be kept in RAM, so that in every action or when shutting down the screen, just pressing the Home button twice and application will open immediately. This manipulation is somewhat more comfortable than keeping the shutter button on the Z3 or Lumias, thereby the opening and capturing speed in the S6 Active is surprisingly fast.

Photographs captured from the S6 Active in good lighting conditions are highly detailed, even surpassing that from 20MP camera smartphones such as the HTC One M9 or Xperia Z3. Focus and shutter speed of this device is very fast, providing products much close to actual colors.

The ability to capture in the dark is a plus of the S6 Active over the Note 4 (with a slow shutter speed making images not sharp and easy to be blurry). Though there is no night scene mode, photographs from the S6 Active still have high brightness, higher than reality sometimes. Shots in low light conditions are well demonstrated with fast shutter speed and optical anti-shake feature helping minimize shake and blur.

The front-facing camera has a 5MP resolution, quite high but not providing sharp and detailed pictures like some Nokia phones. There is only one common slider to adjust the “beauty” without many modes as on other top brands. You can also capture HDR images or QHD videos with this front camera.

For filming function, the maximum resolution of videos is 4K (3840 x 2160), but is limited within just 5 minutes or will be longer if shooting in Full HD resolution. This handset also supports fast capturing or slow motion modes, but slow motion videos only achieve the speed of 120 fps, which is not impressive as 240 fps films on the iPhone 6 Plus.

Performance

The S6 Active is equipped with powerful configuration: eight-core Exynos processor, Mali T760 graphics and 3GB RAM. The performance of this handset evaluated by software AnTuTu is scored over 60,000 points, almost highest at present, exceeding even the Galaxy Note 4 and other top Android devices.

During normal use, the Galaxy S6 Active also satisfies all demands, whether playing video games or processing and editing photos. With a top handset, there is almost no further action on Android can make life difficult for it. The metal shell may heat up significantly but not uncomfortably when implementing tasks such as browsing web via 3G.

Evaluation: Fast, durable and powerful are what we could talk about the configuration of this Galaxy S6 Active.

Software and Features

The S6 Active operates on Android 5.0.2 platform with TouchWiz customizable software. TouchWiz interface has been changed to better fit with Material Design – the design language of Android 5: flatter icons and smoother transitions. Original applications such as messaging, calling or calendar also have a new better look.

In this Active, Samsung has added features to change the theme and offered a whole series of genuine topics, including even the Age of Ultron (based on the Avengers – a recently launched cult film), whereby users can easily personalize their phone.

Instead of individual applications, Samsung equips a management solution of battery, storage, RAM and security in an app called Smart Manager. Many China phone companies have installed security software, and Samsung is the following brand applying this formula. The security part in Smart Manager is powered by McAfee, a prestigious security vendor offers security features including automatic protection (active protection) and anti-malware.

Previous Samsung phones often have multiple unnecessary “smart” features, but this has been improved in the S6 Active. Gesture features such as laying the screen downwards for silence or taking phone to an ear to make a call are retained, but those like always opening screen while users are looking at or scrolling by rolling eyes have been removed.

Samsung has also not set up many self-developed apps, users can download what they prefer from app stores. Two Microsoft’s products: Skype and OneDrive are preinstalled in the S6 Active with a preference in which OneDrive members will receive an additional 100GB of storage for 2 years when activating image backup feature. Samsung also offer traditional incentives (bonus account period or ancillary packages with fee) for applications like Pocket or Evernote.

One feature significantly been improved on the Galaxy S6 is fingerprint sensor, which is dropped on the Active version. With the S6, you just simply put your finger on the home button without sliding perpendicularly as on Note 4 and S5, in order to recognize the fingerprint. This is considered an inferior point of the S6 Active to the S6.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 Review

Let’s take a look at our detailed review for the Huawei Ascend Mate 7.

Pros: super long-lasting battery life, bright and bold screen display, decent camera, smoothly operate fingersprint sensor, pretty large internal storage: 16GB.

Cons: old Android OS version, many unnecessary pre-installed apps.

Bottom line: although the software is a little bit weird, the long-lasting battery life along with huge & bright screen display shall be the attractive point for users who loves gaming and movies.

The launching of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus – which has 5.5-inch screen – is surely a proof that era of big phones is coming very close. Such kind of “huge thing” is not strange to Huawei, as this brand did introduce several devices with palm-stretching size before.

The latest member in Huawei’s “big-size family” is the Ascend Mate 7. I’m still wondering about the number 7 since it does not stand for 7th generation or the 7-inch-size screen display at all. This phone supports 4G LTE, has full HD 6-inch-screen, 13 MP cam, fingerprint scanner and octa-core processor.

The Ascend Mate 7 shall be available for purchase in late October and its price has not been fixed yet. According to Huawei, price shall be very competitive.

Design and display

Frankly speaking, the Ascend Mate 7 is quite a giant with a 6-inch screen. The device’s dimension is at 157 mm x 81 mm (length x width). With such huge size, it’s obviously impossible to use this with one hand, unless you have a giant palm size. It is claimed that with very narrow bezel, the screen accounts for 83% of the phone’s front face. Thus, there’s almost no wasted space on the face.

There will be 3 colors available on for the Huawei Ascend Mate 7: silver, light gold and dark grey – exactly the same as iPhone 5S‘ color range. Color’s hue is all in matte metal, which is much nicer than the other plasticky low-cost phones of Huawei. The device’s back cover is curved with lines crossing both at bottom and top, fingerprint scanner is located right under the rear-cam.

The device is comfortable to hold on hands and it also looks quite fancy like elite devices thanks to its narrow metal bezel. Slot for microSD card can be seen on side, which requires removal tool to approach.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 Review Buy

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 Review Buy

Fingerprint sensor

As mentioned before, the fingerprint sensor sits right under the rear-cam – the exact location that users’ index finger shall naturally rest when picking up the device. Obviously it’s very convenient, although you will need to pick up the phone to unlock instead of stabbing on the screen of the lying phone.

The fingerprint scanner works accurately and it can recognize user’s finger in every direction. The failure possibility is very small, even the Galaxy S5‘s scanner fails more often as my real experience.

You can wake the phone up by touching finger over the scanner, this feature can also be used for authenticating payments (by PayPal) and for taking pictures (especially helpful and convenient for selfie pics).

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 Back Front Review Buy

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 Back Front Review Buy

Display

Previously, it was gossiped that the Ascend Mate 7’s screen shall have 2,560 x 1,600 pixel display resolution, which is even higher than full HD (same as the LG G3‘s screen). Since then, when holding the device on hand, the Mate 7’s screen I’m seeing now has a lower resolution: just at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.

That’s a pity since such big size screen of Mate 7 deserves more pixels to maximize its capacity. At least, at 367 ppi, the pixel density of the Mate 7’s display is higher than the iPhone 6. As real experience, the display is super crisp with defined-edges icons, clear looking text and high-resolution photos.

The colors are also bright, vivid and vibrant, which are very true-to-life. The screen display also has excellent viewing angles. These factors all make the Mate 7 an attractive choice for Netflix addicts.

Android software and Huawei additions

The operating system being shipped with the Mate 7 is the Android 4.4.2 KitKat. This is quite a disappointment since it’s sort of an outdated version (current latest OS version of Android is 4.4.4). For budget mobile, older OS version maybe forgivable, but for higher-end device like the Ascend Mate 7, it’s inexcusable.

There are many changes for Android interface being made by Huawei. This is the reason why users cannot immediately realize that they are on an old operating system. Visually, the interface on Mate 7 is totally different from the regular Android as app tray is not available. Instead of using app trays, applications and widgets shall be arranges across multiple homescreens.

For me personally, such kind of arrangement is very messy since it’s too hard to always keep everything tidy and in order without app tray, especially when you are using many widgets and applications. Users have to swipe many times through homescreens to find the application they need to use. This is similar in Apple’s iOS thus, if your previous device is an iPhone, you’ll find it not difficult or inconvenient at all.

Various themes can be applied to customize and modify the phone’s interface by changing color scheme, app icons and background photos. It’s so good that you can put your stamp on your things. However, choices are quite limited: there are only 6 themes to choose from and I like none of them. It’s also hard to find further themes to download as official Huawei store is not currently available. After several searching, I did find some themes which are downloadable from some forums, but it’s quite risky and dangerous for the device when installing things from unknown sources and I will not suggest doing this.

There are also some good changes such as: customizing navigation buttons’ orders (those buttons are located on the device’s bottom) or adding shortcut button to pull down noti bar (as pulling down notification bar is tricky when using this massive device by 1 hand). Moreover, Phone Manager can help you clear out unnecessary files and stop background processes in just a blink of an eye. With this tool, you can even set up “Harassment Filter” to block calls/ text from unknown numbers or from specifically assigned numbers. I really like this feature.

There are many unnecessary pre-installed softwares, which let down the device quite much such as: games like Real Football 2015, Dragon Mania, Bubble Bash Mania or apps like Bitcasa and Todoist. It is annoying when seeing too many stuff the first time turning on the phone, not mentioning about the messy and cluttering interface.

Processor and battery performance

The processor being equipped for the Ascend Mate 7 is an octa-core one, which is made up of 2 quad-core processors. One quad-core unit, which is a little bit less powerful than the other, shall be used for basic functions. The other more powerful one shall be used for more demanding tasks like taking photos or gaming. Such processor is very powerful as it achieves 4,468 scores on Geekbench test and 11,401 scores on Quadrant test.

As my real using experiences, the device’s performance is decent. It handles gaming well: intensive games like Asphalt 8, N.O.V.A 3 or Dead Trigger 2 can be all smoothly played. HD videos can also be streamed effortlessly without buffering, user interface is really responsive with quick apps and camera opening.

Thanks to the huge body of the device, the battery is powered at 4,000mAh and this is totally not just impressive on paper. According to my test, the Mate 7 can last for up to 17 hours of video streaming, which is the best results I’ve seen so far. (On the same test, the Galaxy S5 lasted for 15 hours and the iPhone 6 last for just around 10 hours).

Of course, batter life can be differed depending on each user’s usage, but this phone can easily last for several days with normal using with basic tasks.

Camera

The rear-cam of the Mate 7 is the 13 MP one, which can deliver great captures.

My first shot with this camera looks great with vibrant and true to life colors, even exposure and fine details. However, for landscape shots, color display is not really excellent. Instead, the exposure is even.

HDR mode is also included for the camera.

Conclusion

There are many noticeable things to talk about with the Huawei Ascend Mate 7: the massive screen, the great quality displays with sharp, vibrant color, the powerful octa-core processor and the most interesting and valuable thing is the super strong battery.

However, the phone’s huge size may not attract everybody and the device’s software is quite confusing and messy with many unnecessary stuffs. But after all, with such features, the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is absolutely a worth looking choice, especially with an attached affordable price.

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.

Xiaomi Mi Note Review

The Bottom Line

PROS

  • It’s a well-built smartphone
  • The phone is thin
  • The camera is nice
  • The battery life is great
  • The screen is vivid
  • Software is intuitive

CONS

  • Not available in US yet

The hardware of the Xiaomi Mi Note is very well-built and its fast performance would satisfy those who love phablets but unfortunately, it has not been available in the US market.

Xiaomi has once introduced an accessory shop for the US market in a press event, in which every attendee could have a chance to hold the phone in hands. What is the reason that the Xiaomi Note has not been released into the US market? Let’s find more detailed information in this review article on this recently released model.

Xiaomi Mi Note Review Buy

Xiaomi Mi Note Review Buy

 

As you can see in its name, the Xiaomi Note is obviously one of the phablets, both in terms of the design as well as the construction quality. This is a very nice-looking smartphone. The front is made of 2.5D glass, together with sophisticated curves alongside the phone sides. The back is supported by 3D glass with much more noticeable curves surround its edges. And the outmost frame is a metal one, which helps the phone fit your hands well.

Although it’s pretty large, it still feels comfortable when holding in hands, thanks to the slim bezels along the edges of the screen as well as the impressive thickness which is kept at 7mm only. Through some hand testing, the fact proves that the phone is pretty easy to be managed for most of the parts.

As the back’s built by glass, it will be easy for it to get smudgy and the fingerprints become more seeable on it. But if you select the white option, these things become less noticeable, except the case that you look into it carefully. However, it’s a bit different for the back option, so it’s something that should be put into consideration before deciding on one.

The right side is where the power as well as volume button is located at. This location enables users to use these buttons very easily, both in terms of touching and pressing the buttons. On the top, you will see the headphone jack while the single speaker and microUSB port is located at the bottom. The SIM card slot is on the right inside the phone. The capacitive menu, home app or back keys all are on the front interface of the phone. Together with them, there is a multi-colored LED notification light, earpiece and front camera are located at their common place above the screen.

The IPS LCD screen of the Mi Note measures 5.7 inches, which is pretty large. It has a 1080p resolution and 386 ppi pixel density. The colors are accurate, the brightness is good and the viewing angles are nice. And, it’s easy to view the screen outdoors. Especially, this phone brings out the great user experience for such commonly-used task as: browsing the webs, watching movies, and playing games.

You can make adjustments on the color of the screen in the configurations so that its contrast or the warmth can be changed to a proper level. Actually, the default configurations are nice enough, and for most of the time, it seems to be that you don’t need to change anything. If you want to have a higher touchscreen sensitivity, you can make use of the “glove mode” while the reading mode will be nice for making the display more visible. It’s similar to the way that the flux application is used for windows and mac, and you can even select an application to activate this feature.

The Mi Note is operated by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processing unit. It storage capability is up to 3GB and it uses a Adreno 330 graphics processing unit. Expect the storage space, the above feature seems to a little out of date compared to the improvements from last year, but the phone still can deal with processor-intensive task well.

You’ll find the performance very nice when you swipe, scroll, open, close, switch between applications and interface navigation. It is good even for playing games. Although after a moment of gaming, you may find it uncomfortable when the phone becomes warm, this does not affect the performance at all.

And keep in mind that the reviewed model is just a pre-production version. Consequently, it was not strange that some instances might be caused by the beta version of software. However, the phone still performed pretty smoothly and certainly, the final version will be thorough examined before launching into the market.

The image sensor is nice. The Mi Note support 4G LTE connecting option but what a pity that it does not support US LTE bands. There are two available storage capabilities, including: 64 GB and 16 GB and you can’t expand the storage space through microSD card. Among these two options, people seem to prefer the 64 GB version.

The volume of the speaker is pretty loud and the sound is nice. Because this speaker is located at the bottom, when you use the phone in the horizontal alignment, you will find the audio firing in the side. In this situation, you may find your palm spread over the speaker and affect the sound.

The Xiao Mi Note includes a 3,000 mAh battery. In comparison with the batteries of other smartphones of the similar sizes, this battery is just at the average level. But it has proven to be very solid in my test. The battery life could be up to one day and a half when you use the phone to send messages, browse webs, enter social networks, as well as play light games or view Youtube videos, with the screen-on duration of slightly more than five hours. For other processor-intensive such as capturing images or playing a lot of games, this duration was reduced to four hours, but the phone still can be used for the whole day.

One more thing that contributes to the impressiveness of this battery is the ability to save the power through saving profile when one or two percent of the battery is left. When the battery reach this point, the above profiles can help phone disconnect all networks to prolong the battery. The good point here is that you can set these automatic profiles whenever the phone’s gonna out of the battery.

The camera in the back has the resolution of 13 megapixels. It supports optical IS as well as a dual tone LED flash, both of which are not commonly found in smartphone these days. It’s pretty easy to use the camera user interface. The shutter button’s in the white color and there are a lot of modes and features, which are not difficult to use.

You can reach some various modes such as: manual, refocus, or panorama and some other ones when you swipe upward or to the right while there are live filters when you swipe downwards or to the left. These filters brings some fun to your image capturing. There is a digital ring on the screen, which can be manually turned on for setting the exposure. This ring is nice and very intuitive. The refocus feature is a nice feature. Although it is not a very impressive feature, it performs well, as long as you focus on a clear subject and background.

The images shot with the Mi Note are of good sharpness and nice colors for both indoor and outdoor lighting conditions. The shutter speed is quick. You can try shooting photos in the HDR mode to make your photos more interesting. This mode brings back some details while it also add more warmth and colors into the photos. The noise problems do occur when you shoot photos under inadequate lighting conditions, but it’s the optical IS and ISO kept at 3200 only which help produce better results. The sharpness and detail of those images have been significantly lowered, but in general, this camera still performs very well.

The camera in the front has the resolution of 4 megapixels. If you like taking sefie photos, this camera is very nice, which can help make you more beautify by defining your age and gender. It performs greatly and the image quality is nice, but sometimes, it cannot guess the age accurately.

The Xiao Mi Note is operated by the Android 4.4 Kitkat system, with Mi User Interface on top. As it’s common for many original equipment manufacturer and their custom running systems, this interface is not included with the app drawer. Consequently, you have no choice but use folders as the only way to get organized.

The icons are square and colorful, and so are the pre-loaded wallpapers, that actually look great on this display, without being gaudy or overbearing. In this review unit, there were a lot of Chinese applications pre-installed, and the Google Play Store isn’t available by default, but it was very quick and easy to install it and then download all the applications that I needed.

The appearance of the icons, pre-loaded wallpaper is all nice-looking on the screen. In this tested model, the manufacturer mainly pre-installed Chinese apps, and the Google Play Store is not set to be the default, but it does not take time to have it installed at all. Then, it’s also easy for downloading the needed apps through this store.

With the MIUI interface, you can find a variety of great features on setting the audio or themes. The audio quality can be enhanced through setting the Hi-Fi audio. In addition, there is a wide range of interesting themes that you can apply, in which you can change the wallpapers, icons, lock screen or some default apps. The phone also enables you to use one-handed mode. To have this mode activated, you just need to swipe from the home button outward in the left or right direction, then shrink down the display from anywhere in the range of 4.5-inches to 3.5-inches. Overall, this interface is very nice, but actually, it also take you some certain time to get used to it.

The price of the Xiaomi Mi Note in China is about $370. This smartphone has not been available in the US, but you can buy it through eBay, which increase the total cost for buying this phone up to about $500.

The above review has answered the question that’s spoken out in the beginning of this article. The Xiao Mi Note has been a strong model that can compete with many smartphones in the US market, but unfortunately, it has not been released in this market. Overall, this is a great smartphone, both in regard of the hardware and software, and especially, it brings enjoyable using experiences pretty often. The device is worth our Editor’s Choice Award.