• howard

    by Published on 01-29-2016 04:19 PM
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    Samsungís not the kind of company that believes less is more. Their strategy is to saturate the market at pretty much all price points often times with multiple overlapping models.

    The Samsung Galaxy A5 was released in Canada recently. Looking at the spec sheet, highlights include a 5Ē 1280x720 display, 13 megapixel camera, a Snapdragon 410 processor and 2GB of RAM. The biggest feature however is the metal frame which makes it very solid. Please note that even though it was released in Canada in late 2015, this is the 2014 version of the A5, the SM-A500W. ...
    by Published on 01-14-2016 02:09 PM
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    Hereís my review of Microsoftís Lumia 950. Iíll be honest, I normally carry an iPhone (6s Plus) and some sort of Android device (lately a LG G4 or Nexus 6P) around with me. I only play with Windows Phones when I have a unit that Iím reviewing. This will help you understand the type of shades Iím wearing when I look at a Windows Phone - you'll understand where Iím coming from.
    ...
    by Published on 01-08-2016 01:48 PM
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    Iíve been trying out Microsoftís Lumia 950 Windows Phone all week. The fact that it runs me Microsoft's Windows made me get a bit nostalgic. Iím a bit of an old-school gadget nerd. Iíve been working on HowardForums for over 15 years now and while Iím a huge phone nerd who always regrets not keeping every single phone Iíve ever owned, my original love will always be desktop computers.

    My memory is a bit hazy but around the time I started the site I had an Intel Pentium 133MMX laptop running Windows ME which was soon to be replaced with an Athlon 600 which I built myself. Hereís a bit of trivia, the first computer HowardForums had all to itself was a Celeron 300 (or was it a 600) which was overclocked. It ran Linux and had a 40GB hard drive. It was cobbled together from new and existing parts I had lying around.

    Over the years I would replace my computer as often as I could afford. Fortunately I had a girlfriend (now wife) who was okay with this. However, a few years back something happen; My interest in computers started to wane. Instead of replacing my computer every year Iíd start replacing it every 2 years. Then I went through an almost 4 or 5 year stint where I didnít change it and really didnít think twice about this.

    Last year I built myself an 8 core Intel computer and unless it breaks I really donít see myself getting rid of it unless it breaks.

    I guess the reason why I stopped caring about computers is that newer versions didnít really do anything my old computer could already do. Mind you with desktops you can always upgrade it incrementally. Want more space? Buy a new hard drive. What better speakers? Swap those out.

    It makes me wonder, are we at that point with phones? ...
    by Published on 01-07-2016 03:47 PM
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    Iím dusting off my crystal bowl to make a prediction; 2016 is going to be a much more expensive year to be a phone nerd in Canada.

    Hereís some background; most manufacturers who sell phones in Canada are a usually run by an office in the States. Sure they have a presence here in Canada but the next step up the ladder usually leads down south.

    As such, their performance is ultimately judged in US dollars.

    A few years ago, the Looney was actually worth more than the Greenback and those were probably good times for them. Theyíd just pretend the 2 currencies were at par and theyíd actually earn a tiny bit more revenue on phones sold here. Mind you, the Canadian market is probably 1/10 what it is down south so thereís more scale down south too but thatís for another article.

    However, the Greenback has been gaining steam the last few years and itís gone from par to now where itís worth 40% more than the Looney. ...
    by Published on 01-06-2016 12:24 PM
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    Iíve been reviewing smartwatches on and off for the past few years. If you look closely youíll notice that Iím not generally a big fan of them. I don't like how they take 2 hands to operate; you need one wrist to hold it up and your other hand to operate it. By the time Iíve done that Iím better off taking a phone out of my pocket and using it with one hand.

    So check it out, I got so dissatisfied with Smartwatches in general that I started wearing regular or Ďdumbí watches again even though I stopped wearing them all together a few years ago.

    I guess I missed the feeling of having something on my wrist. As I tried more and more smart watches I got even more annoyed and purchased my first mechanical watch or should I say watches.



    What is a mechanical watch? Smartwatches store power in a lithium ion battery. Mechanical watches store energy inside a spring which powers the watch as it unwinds.

    So why am I talking about mechanical watches on HowardForums? Well, you know that feeling of disappointment when you get a new watch and scratch it? Thatís something to common to both smart and dumb watches.
    ...
    by Published on 01-05-2016 10:23 AM
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    I recently received a Nok- I mean Microsoft Lumia 950. Iím currently working on a full review but since Andrew is on vacation I figured Iíd share some first impressions. Full disclosure, these are MY FIRST impressions and purely anecdotal - chances are theyíll be completely different from my review which Iíll publish in a few days.



    The first thing I noticed is that the box is way bigger than I was expecting. It made me kind of nostalgic. Back in the day, you could tell how fancy a phone is by the size of the box so seeing the 950ís made me feel kind of nostalgic. You get points if you remember the Nokia n97. It reminded me of the n97ís box. You could fit 3 or 4 iPhone 6sí or Galaxy S6ís in the 950ís box. Ergo, it must be better right? ...
    by Published on 01-04-2016 12:53 PM
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    Recently, I started cooking with my cast iron cookware. Unlike 'regular' Teflon coated pans, cast iron can handle temperatures of 600+ degrees. While cooking at 600 makes for some tasty, juicy food, the heat blows more smoke than a politician.

    There's enough that it usually sets off my smoke detector. This is a problem when you have young kids in the house as the beeping from the detector will wake them up/scare the hell out of them. Still, I put up with this until one night at 5AM one started to beep because the battery needed to be replaced. That was the last straw - I decided I needed a smarter smoke detector that would politely alert my phone when there was a problem rather than me having to figure out what's going on. Oh and in case you're wondering, I have a fancy range hood fan.

    We don't make the greatest decisions when we're woken up in the middle of the night so in my sleepy haze I decided to pick up a Nest Protect, or rather 3 Nest Protects for my house. My house has 3 floors so I replaced the old detector(s) on each floor. ...
    by Published on 12-15-2015 03:01 PM
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    Last year, OnePlus made a big splash with their first model; the One which they dubbed the ďflagship killerĒ.

    However, the Ďalmost flagshipí market has matured considerably in 2015 and now, there is quite a gap between the the Oneís follow up; the 2 and an entry level handset.

    With that in mind, hereís the OnePlus X which is designed and priced to fit neatly in this gap.

    It basically has the guts of a late 2014/early 2015 flagship with an upper-midrange price tag.
    ...
    by Published on 12-12-2015 01:16 PM
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    When we talk about Android flagships, each year HTC is usually one of the first names to pop up. However, 2015ís flagship, the One M9, has been maligned a bit in the media because itís not that much better than itís predecessor, the M8. While it ships with a more powerful SoC, due to heat issues, it rarely gets a chance to stretch its legs; the camera, while higher resolution doesnít take very good pictures. That sort of thing.

    Fortunately, HTC usually releases something interesting in Q3/Q4. Previous Q3/Q4 releases include the HTC Butterfly (one of the first 1080P phones), HTC One Max (their first phablet) and the Nexus 9 (their first tablet in a while).

    Since the M9 is the most maligned HTC flagship in a while, theyíve decided to market their Q3 curiosity as their new flagship.

    Indeed, the A9ís slick metal body is certainly a good start. What about the rest of it? ...
    by Published on 11-17-2015 10:16 AM
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    One of last yearís most interesting phones was the OnePlus One. It was tailor made for enthusiasts; it packed flagship level specs with the popular Cyanogenmod operating system all for a very palatable price.

    To top it off, you needed an invite from OnePlus before you could buy one.

    Of course, one requirement to being an enthusiast is having a short attention span so now we have the Oneís follow-up: the predictably named OnePlus 2.

    Letís check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 11-10-2015 09:37 AM
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    The last few ZTE phones that have come across my desk were all outstanding phones for the money. The problem with this is that the people that typically buy those kind of phones have no idea who made it.

    If ZTE wants to move upmarket, theyíll need to replicate their formula of offering more phone for less dough.

    ZTEís budget line is called ďGrandĒ so hereís their range-topper, the Axon. You can find at Fido for a very un-ZTE $400. I canít think of any other $400 phones that come with a Snapdragon 801 SoC, 32GB of storage and a metal body. Theyíre definitely off to a good start; letís check out the rest of the package. ...
    by Published on 11-04-2015 02:47 PM
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    I donít use tablets very often. There are 2 main reasons why; First off, thereís no nice way to put it but when it comes to tablets, Iím a cheapskate. While Iím fine spending top dollar on a flagship phone, Iím hesitant to open my purse strings - sorry manís bag - when it comes to a tablet.

    Secondly, if I do get a tablet it must have LTE. Iím too lazy to tether off my phone, it has too much of an impact on my battery plus I use way too much data to leave it on anyways. Donít even get me started as to how many days it takes me to realize I forgot to turn it off. However, LTE usually commands quite a price premium - something my wallet is allergic to.

    My parsimonious purse strings purse strings simply wonít allow me drop a stack on a tablet with LTE, Iíd rather having no tablet than have an expensive one with LTE.

    Fortunately, ZTEís Grand X View might be just the answer for me. It's only a cheque book friendly $240 straight up on Bell. I can dig that price.
    ...
    by Published on 11-04-2015 02:26 PM
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    The LG Nexus 5x signifies two changes in Googleís Nexus strategy. First off, itís the first Nexus thatís actually smaller than its predecessor while at the same time, the line itself bifurcates into regular and phablet sizes.

    To me, the smaller size tells me that that for now, the market has decided that they're happy with how large phones are in general. The 6p is also smaller than the 6 but itís still one of the larger phones on the market, which should satisfy people like me who donít mind something a little bigger.

    The 5x is for people who donít want to sacrifice portability and reach-ability for the largest size possible. ...
    by Published on 10-30-2015 01:12 PM
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    Last yearís Nexus 6 gained a lot of flack from me and Andrew for its high $749 price tag. Up until then, the previous couple of Nexii phones offered tremendous bang for relatively speaking little bucks. Expensive phones are fine if theyíre best-in-class products but while the Nexus 6 is a nice phone, there were better choices available.

    Hereís the follow up, the Nexus 6p from Huawei.

    Compared to the 6, the 6p receives a minor price cut; the 32GB model starts $699. It gains a rear-mounted fingerprint reader but loses the optical image stabilization.

    Is the 6p a worthy contender? Letís check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-21-2015 10:17 PM
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    Great Smartphone! It's Oct 21st and the Nexus 5x and 6p that I sent for back in 1985 are finally here!

    I was going to write a whole spiel about the 5x and the 6p but I ran out of time so I took the easy way out and just snapped a bunch of pictures.
    ...
    by Published on 10-20-2015 12:17 PM
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    I had a chance to try the new HTC One a9 the other day. HTC is calling it their new flagship but if you follow HTC closely youíll know that they typically announce their ďheroĒ phone in the first quarter of each year.

    Time to put on my conspiracy hat; I reviewed HTCís 2015 hero phone, the One M9 a few months back and found it left me wanting. On paper, it had the right mix of ingredients for a flagship, Qualcommís first 64bit top of the line, Snapdragon 810 SoC, 5Ē 400+ PPI display, 3GB of RAM, 32GB storage, 20 megapixel camera, etc. But while they got the ingredients right, the recipe wasnít follow properly and we were left with a phone that didnít really distinguish itself from itís predecessor, the M8.

    It could be argued that the M9 was a mistake - that said, in the past HTC also usually releases something interesting later in the year. Last year it was the Nexus 9 (a tablet), while previous Q3/Q4 oddities include the HTC One Max (a Phablet), HTC One X+ (they donít typically do ď+Ē versions) and the Butterfly (one of the first 1080P phones).

    The Q3/Q4 surprises are typically not aimed at the market as a whole like the Q1 heros. The One Max and Butterfly only saw limited distribution across carriers.

    Anyways, since the M9 has had a difficult life and they already have the a9 waiting in the wings, theyíre saying that itís going to be their new flagship for the entire market to help them through the the holiday season.

    I wondered if the a9 represented the end of the M line but was assured that thatís not the case.

    Letís check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-19-2015 08:51 PM
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    I donít use tablets very often. There are 2 main reasons why; First off, thereís no nice way to put it but when it comes to tablets, Iím a cheapskate. While Iím fine spending top dollar on a flagship phone, Iím hesitant to open my purse strings - sorry manís bag - when it comes to a tablet.

    Secondly, if I do get a tablet it must have LTE. Iím too lazy to tether off my phone, it has too much of an impact on my battery plus I use way too much data to leave it on anyways. Donít even get me started as to how many days it takes me to realize I forgot to turn it off. However, LTE usually commands quite a price premium - something my wallet is allergic to.

    My parsimonious purse strings purse strings simply wonít allow me drop a stack on a tablet with LTE, Iíd rather having no tablet than have an expensive one with LTE.

    Fortunately, ZTEís Grand X View might be just the answer for me. It's only a cheque book friendly $240 straight up on Bell. I can dig that price. ...
    by Published on 10-14-2015 09:41 PM
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    Iíve been reviewing a lot of $250-$400 phones lately and for good reason; With phones like the Moto X Play, Asus ZenFone 2 and Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3, this segment of the market is just red hot with competition.

    Not to be left out, Sony has their $300 locked on Bell and Virgin, Xperia M4 Aqua which brings a very uncommon but very practical feature - water resistance. Letís check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-13-2015 09:45 AM
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    One of my favorite phones of 2015 is the LG G4. Itís a fantastic all-around package with no significant weaknesses. More importantly, the fact that Samsung removed some key features from the GS6 and then hiked the price makes the G4 a no-brainer.

    Still, while the G4ís price is reasonable, it still sports a flagship price tag. Fortunately, if you donít want to fork out too much dough, there are now more choices than ever when it comes to mid-range phones.

    Hereís the LG G4 Vigor, which possesses some of the G4ís qualities but comes with a much more palatable $350 CAN price tag. ...
    by Published on 10-09-2015 12:14 PM
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    When the iPhone 6 Plus was released last year is was the biggest change to Appleís iPhone since the original model. Up until then, for whatever reason, Apple had resisted market trends and stuck with small screens for their iPhones.

    With the 6 Plus they jumped at least 2 sizes so suddenly, you didn't need to look elsewhere if you wanted a phone with large screen. The thing with the 6 Plus though is that it wasnít much of an improvement over the 5s in the processing power department.

    The problem with this is that since its SoC was only marginally faster than its predecessor. So it didnít really feel any faster. More importantly, just like its predecessors the 5s and 5, the 6 Plus only comes with 1GB of RAM while its competition comes with 2 to 4GB of RAM which makes a big difference when youíre switching programs.

    While the iPhone has usually enjoyed a performance advantage over its competition, the fact that the 6 Plus wasnít much faster than the 5s meant that they had a chance to catch up and in some cases, surpass it. So a jump in performance is sorely needed.
    ...
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