• Devices

    by Published on 06-17-2015 05:25 PM
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    Let’s play some word association: Computers, Motherboards, Asus. About 5 to 10 years ago when I was a huge computer nerd I spent way too much money on Asus parts. I even used to have a stack of Asus Motherboard boxes.

    After Microsoft, Intel and Apple, Asus is one of the brands that comes to mind when I think about computers.

    However, when I think about Smartphones, Asus don’t usually come up.

    Still, when I think about Computers and Smartphones, the next word is Tablet.

    When it comes to Tablets, Asus does come to mind - unfortunately, the tablets that I think of are usually the cheap 7 or 8” sub $150 Black Friday specials, you find at Walmart/Staples/TigerDirect.

    They typically come with a processor that’s a few generations behind, a dim screen and a version of Android that will likely never be updated. Yes, Asus makes more fancier models but then they get lost in the discussion with the likes of Samsung and Apple.

    So when it comes to Smartphones, Asus as a brand has a bit of an uphill battle. Until now, the North American market for phones was pretty much controlled by the carriers. You signed a contract and then got a subsidized phone through them.

    Still, lately phones have gotten very capable to the point that you don’t have to spend top dollar to get a decent phone. Since you don't have to spend as much as you used to, the need for a subsidy isn’t as important as it used to be.

    This opens the door to unsubsidized, unlocked phones which loosen carrier’s grip which in turn allows manufacturers to sell phones via other channels. Some interesting phone include Google’s Nexus line, The OnePlus One and now Asus’ Zenfone 2.
    ...
    by Published on 06-17-2015 07:02 AM
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    Dutch company Fairphone will be taking pre-orders for its second-generation device this summer. Two reasons why you might be interested:

    1. It's inching ever-closer to being the world's first "ethical" smartphone;
    2. The new design makes the major components user-replaceable.

    The first-gen Fairphone was a generic device, with the company doing its best to reduce the conflict minerals used to make it. Some 60,000 shipped units later, an all-new in-house design has been revealed—and much like Google's Project Ara, parts can easily be swapped out by the owner for replacement or upgrade. ...
    by Published on 06-16-2015 07:14 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. News
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    There are over a thousand Android enthusiasts out there patiently waiting for their Saygus V˛, and I sincerely hope that you're not one of them. This would-be flagship-killer is shaping up to be a major scam.

    Ongoing manufacturing delays are bad enough, but now Saygus has apparently launched an Indiegogo campaign for a "refreshed" V˛ dubbed the V SQUARED—a campaign that, at launch, was already funded to the tune of almost a million bucks.

    Saygus says it was an error, one that conveniently added the tally from the original pre-orders to their Indiegogo account. Android Police calls the situation "mega-suspicious", and I'm inclined to agree. ...
    by Published on 06-15-2015 05:50 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Over the weekend XDA posted a review of what's shaping up to be this year's midrange champ, the ASUS ZenFone 2.

    With both micro SD and dual SIM support the cheaper $249 CAD / $199 USD 16 GB model handily trounces the Moto G—except for the unfortunate fact that the ASUS doesn't run anything close to stock Android. If ever a device needed a good AOSP ROM, this would be it. ...
    by Published on 06-04-2015 02:27 PM
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    LG’s last flagship, the G3 was one of the first phones to ship with a quad-HD 2560x1440 display and to be honest, it was slightly ahead of its time. While it boasted the highest resolution screen around, the screen itself didn’t really look any better than the competition but worse yet, the rest of it wasn’t quite as cutting edge. The camera while not terrible, wasn’t terribly good either. Don’t forget that the processor was barely up to the task of driving the high res display.

    Since then, Samsung unleashed their GS6, which in many ways is a big step up from the GS5 which was was the G3’s contemporary. Now LG has the G4; is it enough to compete with the GS6?
    ...
    by Published on 06-02-2015 06:15 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Where there's a will, there's a way.

    With its removable storage, dual SIM support and up to 4 GB of RAM, all for the insanely-low starting price of $249 CAD / $199 USD unlocked, it's easy to see why the Atom-powered ASUS ZenFone 2 is such a hit. And now, thanks to some clever XDA-types, there are two ways you can root this device and make it your own.

    The catch? Both are exploits, and Windows-only ones at that. ...
    by Published on 06-01-2015 06:52 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    COMPUTEX, an annual tech show in Taipei, has kicked off with some new gear from hometown heroes ASUS: an updated smartwatch, a selfie phone for narcissists, and a new line of tablets.

    Fandroid blogs seem to be crowing the most about the updated ZenWatch. The first one had massive bezels and the ZenWatch 2 is no different; despite this, it seems to have found favour with a lot of users. I'm guessing that the cheap (for Android Wear) price of $199 USD has something to do with it. ...
    by Published on 05-26-2015 06:55 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors
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    Once upon a time Google's Nexus was the only smartphone this discerning Android modder would even consider buying. That changed in 2014, due in part to the excellent and affordable OnePlus One, and in part due to the rare misstep otherwise known as the Nexus 6. Nonetheless, Nexus remains a big deal—at the very least, whatever Google unveils later this year will almost certainly run a new version of Android.

    A new rumour from Android Police, who have a fairly solid reputation for such things (along with the most plausible explanation for the Nexus 6 that I've yet to hear), would suggest that not one but a pair of Nexus phones are in the pipeline for 2015. And no tablet. ...
    by Published on 05-22-2015 07:51 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    You're looking at what will likely be the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Iron Man Edition, reportedly launching next week. I myself have not really been a Marvel fanboy since I was teenager, but even I have to admit... that crimson and gold colour scheme looks great!

    It's apparently just the beginning of a big partnership between Samsung and Marvel Worldwide, Inc. to promote Avengers: Age of Ultron, already playing on screens across North America. If further rumours and renderings are to be believed, each Avenger will get their own SGS6E edition. For regular Galaxy S6 owners there's already a line of official Avengers-themed cases available in the UK. ...
    by Published on 05-21-2015 03:01 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    While I’m not sure if it’s by choice, these days Microsoft has decided to devote most of its attention to the more affordable end of the market. Here’s Blu’s entry level Windows Phone, the Win Jr LTE which surprise, surprise, has support for LTE at a sub $100 USD price point.

    Entry level phones are more about what compromises you have to make to reach a certain price point and whether they make sense so let’s check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 05-20-2015 07:50 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
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    Oppo has announced two new mid-range smartphones—or affordable flagships, depending on your point of view. The R7 and R7 Plus each feature a full metal chassis, 5 or 6 inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 615 Processor, 3 GB of RAM, a 13 MP camera and the not-terrible-for-an-OEM-ROM Color OS.

    They also support dual SIMs, but do so in a way that's pretty much useless for the end-user.

    Take another look at the photo above. At first glance you might think: "Oh, that second slot in the SIM tray can accommodate either a Nano SIM or micro SD card. How clever!" But there are two BIG problems with this design. ...
    by Published on 05-19-2015 05:41 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    So the Android phone that a lot of you have been waiting for is finally here.

    Starting today, the ASUS ZenFone 2 is available unlocked from multiple online vendors in Canada and the USA, in two configurations: a quad-core 1.8 GHz processor with 16 GB of storage & 2 GB of RAM, and a 2.3 GHz quad-core processor with 64 GB of storage & 4 GB of RAM. Prices start at $249 CAD / $199 USD.

    In addition to the impressive price/performance ratio, the ZenFone 2 has some other standout features. Both models are powered by Intel Atom processors, and both models support 2 SIMs. This should pique the interest of travellers or, for that matter, anyone who wants to split voice and data between two providers. In other words, don't expect your carrier to sell this thing on a subsidy. Ever. ...
    by Published on 05-14-2015 11:33 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    A while back I reviewed the original Parrot Zik’s wireless headphones. They were a good looking pair of cans that sounded much worse than they looked.

    Now, Parrot has released a new version. While they look hasn’t changed much, they promise improved sound quality.

    I hate to be a cynic, but making them sound better is probably not a hard claim to make because there was so much room for improvement. Let’s check them out:
    ...
    by Published on 05-14-2015 11:15 AM
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    Last year, one of my favorite lower cost phones was Blu’s 5.0C HD. It combined ‘good enough’ specs with an interesting, eye-searing neon pink case. It targeted the “I want a decent phone that’s also fun’ segment and came through in spades.

    Of course, the 5.0C runs Android so if you were looking for something of the Windows Phone persuasion there was the Blu Win HD. Now it’s been updated with the added goodness of LTE, let’s check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 05-12-2015 07:22 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    So last Thursday San Francisco-based Fitbit filed for a $100 million IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. Good for them. But in this age of Android Wear and Apple Watch someone's going to have to explain to me why their products continue to be so popular. For me the most vexing of all is the $250 USD Fitbit Surge™ you see above. It supports notifications so it's technically a smartwatch, but it does hardly anything else that you'd expect a smartwatch to do.

    I guess I don't really need an explanation; I know full well that Fitbit has become a generic term associated with fitness tracking, like Kleenex and Q-tips® for the things that they do. I also know that part of Fitbit's appeal is the smartphone app and online account that you get with every device, so that you can track your fitness and compete with your friends.

    But you know these things aren't accurate, right? ...
    by Published on 05-04-2015 10:39 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    When Howard asked me if I wanted to review the Acer Chromebook I jumped at the opportunity. While I’ve always been tempted by Chromebooks, I had some reservations; Can they do enough? Are they fast enough? Can they stream HD video smoothly? How is the battery life? Is there enough value?

    Chromebooks are very much purpose built laptops, specifically designed to do one thing. It’s not designed to replace a PC or Mac as they simply cannot do all of the same things. These are cloud enabled laptops which are targetted at Google users; Gmail, Play Music, Books, Docs, Maps, etc. With that in mind lets see how the Acer stacks up: ...
    by Published on 05-04-2015 07:42 AM
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    ... But a refund is on the way. Thanks, Amazon!

    You'll recall that I experienced a sudden and unexpected case of BlackBerry envy a few weeks ago when my mother was having some tests done at the hospital. If you missed it, my brother was texting me with his physical qwerty keypad faster than I could reply with my virtual Android equivalent.

    As dear old mum has a follow-up visit with her doctor planned for this week, I thought it might be instructive to repeat my experience with a BlackBerry, for comparison's sake.

    Now I'm not made of money so a Passport or Classic was entirely out of the question; I did, however, manage to find myself a cheap and cheerful Q5 on Amazon—in my favourite colour, I might add. I always preferred the island-style keys on the old Curve models, anyway, finding them easier to type on than the keys on the Bolds.

    A few days and $200 CAD later I had a new BlackBerry in my hands. The first order of business (after entering my credentials) was upgrading the OS to the latest and greatest version. Only problem was, there wasn't enough space on the device to take the OTA. ...
    by Published on 04-30-2015 08:04 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Now that the Jesus Watch is making its way onto the wrists of users, those same users are sharing their feedback about it on the web and social media.

    If you believe the hype, the Apple Watch changes everything—never mind that Android Wear has been on the market for almost a year, and Pebble even longer than that. If you're in the market for a wearable and are considering Apple's new product category, you deserve to know what you're getting into.

    Here's what the sheeple aren't telling you. ...
    by Published on 04-29-2015 07:10 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Yesterday in New York City LG revealed their flagship device for 2015, the G4.

    It's as notable for the features LG didn't upgrade from last year as it is for the ones they did. Unlike Samsung, who took a very different direction with their Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, LG's G4 keeps the removable battery and support for micro SD. If only you could unlock that bootloader without an exploit, amirite?

    Anyway, the G4 has a lot more going for it than just holdover features from the G3. Here are the notable specs, via HoFo user rogue17:

    Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
    Operating system: Android 5.1 Lollipop
    Display: 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum Display (2560 x 1440, 538ppi)
    Storage: 32GB eMMC ROM, microSD card up to 2TB
    RAM: 3GB LPDDR3 RAM
    Size: 148.9 x 76.1 x 6.3-9.8 mm
    Weight: 155 grams
    Rear camera: 16MP with f/1.8 aperture / OIS 2.0
    Front-facing camera: 8MP with f/2.0 aperture
    Battery: 3,000 mAh removable
    Network: 4G / LTE / HSPA+ 21 Mbps (3G)
    Connectivity: WiFi 802.11ac / Bluetooth 4.1LE / NFC / USB 2.0
    Colours: (Ceramic) Metallic Gray / (Genuine Leather) Black ...
    by Published on 04-27-2015 10:07 AM
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    If you’re familiar with Alcatel OneTouch, recently their portfolio has had 2 parallel families of devices. The Idol X line had beefier specs like full HD displays but no LTE, plus they utilized MediaTek SoC’s. The Idol S line used Qualcomm SoC and some include LTE but they’re less attractive on paper.

    Now we have the Idol 3, which appears to consolidate the 2 lines. It has a full HD display and is the first device I’ve tried with Qualcomm’s 64bit octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor.

    Looking down the spec sheet, you’ll find many features from last year’s flagships like the 5.5” FHD display I mentioned, along with a 13 megapixel camera, 2GB of RAM, stereo speakers and a large battery that approaches 3000mAh.

    However, one thing that’s decidedly un-flagship about the Idol 3 is the price.

    You can pick it up for only $249.99 USD unlocked direct from Alcatel OneTouch. it occupies a part of the market that is currently not very crowded. While there are bunch of less capable phones that cost less than $200 and many flagships that cost $500 and up, $250 is a pretty lonely place.

    When I was trying to think of competitors, flagship alternatives like the OnePlus One and Nexus 5 cost a bit more than the Idol 3 while budget stalwarts like the Moto G 2nd Gen and ZTE Grand X Plus are a bit cheaper. I guess right now, the Idol 3 is competing with the the used and refurbished market. ...
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