• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 11-26-2015 06:55 AM
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    Having missed the boat on the Nexus 6 launch last year I have to think back even further to the 2013 Nexus 5, remembering that it took the big ROM developers of the day a couple of months to produce stable custom firmware for Android KitKat. Cut to late 2015 and there are already two major ROMs available for late-model Nexus phones—and at least one of them is fantastic.

    CM13 is the Marshmallow-powered version of CyanogenMod, and nightly versions for select devices are now ready for download. CM is one of the few (perhaps only) custom ROMs where OTA updates actually work, meaning that you won't have to back up and restore your apps every time you flash a new update.

    Me? I've found a new favourite ROM called Chroma. Save for the fingerprint sensor my 2014 Nexus 6 now feels just as snappy as a 2015 Nexus 6P. ...
    by Published on 11-25-2015 04:26 PM
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    Here I am, almost a full year later when Howard asked me if I wanted to try out the new Motorola 360 2nd Gen. I immediately said yes because I still use my 360 Gen 1 daily.

    So let me get into this with you and come at this from a slightly different angle then the other 2:
    Howard Reviewed the 2nd Gen 360 already. He basically gave it 3.5 out of 5 saying it could look better and was expensive.

    acurrie also had a look and shared his thoughts as well and being a self admittedly non wearable guy didn't really like it.

    Bollocks to them I say! I am a wearables guy when it comes to watches. ...
    by Published on 11-20-2015 07:25 AM
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    I don't particularly like expensive phones. I made no attempt to hide my disappointment last year when Google and Motorola decided to go upmarket with the Nexus 6, and I'm similarly nonplussed that Huawei is continuing that tradition with this year's 6P. Slap a case on that premium metal body and it pretty much becomes irrelevant, and you're left with just another big phone.

    A big phone without wireless charging, without OIS. But with crazy-fast USB charging and the best camera sensor ever seen on a Nexus. A big phone with the latest version of unadulterated Android and an unlockable bootloader. Plus a fingerprint reader that you'll quickly wonder how you ever did without.

    It's certainly not the same bargain as Nexuses past; for that, there's the 5X. A more fair comparison would be with last year's Moto Nexus. And wireless charging aside, the 6P is definitely the better phone. ...
    by Published on 11-19-2015 07:27 AM
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    You could also call this Custom Android without the Custom ROM - Part 3. See Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed those posts a couple of weeks back.

    I was first introduced to the Xposed Module GravityBox with the 2013 Nexus 5, and used it with Android KitKat as a stopgap until 4.4 custom ROMs started appearing on XDA. Now both GravityBox and the Xposed Installer are available for Marshmallow, bringing some much-needed tweaks to Google's latest version of Android OS. ...
    by Published on 11-18-2015 06:50 AM
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    So a big battery can make a big difference... Who knew?

    The 3450 mAh battery is certainly a big selling point for the Nexus 6P—beefier than the 3220 mAh cell on the Moto Nexus 6 and not even in the same league as the 2700 mAh Nexus 5X. For our American readers, I'd say that battery size alone would justify the $70 USD premium over a 32GB 5X; for Canadians that same premium balloons to $140 CAD. It might still be worth it if you consider the 6P's other charms.

    To better illustrate the impact that a bigger battery can have let's use my better half as a use case. ...
    by Published on 11-17-2015 09:16 AM
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    One of last year’s 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 One’s follow-up: the predictably named OnePlus 2.

    Let’s check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 11-17-2015 06:35 AM
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    Time for another graffiti walk through the back alleys of downtown Toronto's Fashion District, this time with the Huawei Nexus 6P.

    You'd be forgiven for confusing this Flickr album with the same gallery from the Nexus 5X; lighting conditions were pretty much the same, and the 5X and 6P share pretty much the same camera and sensor. You can at least compare the 6P's results with those from the OnePlus One and LG G2 (2013 Nexus 5).

    Don't miss the bonus shot at the end of the gallery! ...
    by Published on 11-16-2015 06:48 AM
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    Rooting the new Huawei Nexus 6P turned out to be a bit more challenging then the 5X. Okay, actually a lot. The procedure was almost identical—in fact, it was three words that stymied my efforts while the rest of you were out enjoying your weekend:

    fastboot flashing unlock

    It's seems that the Huawei Nexus uses the latest and greatest version of the fastboot protocol, which seems to be available only through the Android SDK. On Windows. Maybe Mac OS as well, but definitely not for the Linux distro I use on my desktop computers. ...
    by Published on 11-13-2015 06:48 AM
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    My preferred home screen and wallpaper of choice... Oh look, there's Helsinki and Mauritius.

    Anyway, my unprecedented quality time with the Nexus 5X is coming to an end. I'm not going to lie; it's taken a fair amount of willpower to ignore the more expensive 6P also in my possession. But I feel very strongly that having a firmer grasp on this cheaper Nexus will help better ascertain its value, and whether or not the 6P is worth the extra cash.

    First, though, here are my recommendations for anyone interested in the 5X. ...
    by Published on 11-12-2015 07:10 AM
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    Today we discuss what I think is the 5X's biggest shortcoming. It's not the 1080p LCD display, which could perhaps do better in bright sunlight but is otherwise fine. It's not the speaker—even a single front-firing speaker sounds better to me than any of the bottom-firing speakers I've put up with prior to my Nexus 6.

    No, for me the 5X's Achilles heel is its battery. It's not bad, but it's certainly not great. ...
    by Published on 11-10-2015 08:37 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, they’ll need to replicate their formula of offering more phone for less dough.

    ZTE’s budget line is called “Grand” so here’s their range-topper, the Axon. You can find at Fido for a very un-ZTE $400. I can’t think of any other $400 phones that come with a Snapdragon 801 SoC, 32GB of storage and a metal body. They’re definitely off to a good start; let’s check out the rest of the package. ...
    by Published on 11-10-2015 06:25 AM
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    Time to see what the 12.3 megapixel shooter on the back of the Nexus 5X can do—and for that we head to Graffiti Alley, in the Fashion District of Toronto.

    The 5X is a pleasure to shoot with. Google's camera app fired up quickly and captured shots without pause. The very handy shortcut of double-pressing the power button gets you to the camera even faster, without the security hole—exiting the camera app without unlocking the phone brings you right back to the lockscreen, every time.

    Lighting conditions for this session saw a fair amount of shadow as the early morning sun began its ascent towards noon. Note too that the images here link to Flickr, so you can pore of the details at full resolution if you so desire. ...
    by Published on 11-09-2015 07:50 AM
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    For the next two weeks (I think) I have both the LG Nexus 5X and the Huawei Nexus 6P in my possession. As the means exist to root and theme Android's latest iteration, I'll be making each Nexus my full time device in turn, and reporting my findings here. Remember, I don't do phone reviews—instead, consider this an ongoing journal of observations from a hard-core Nexus user.

    I'm starting with the 5X. I've already indicated a fairly strong bias towards this year's non-phablet Nexus, and want to see if that opinion holds after 5 days of use. I spent about two hours setting it up yesterday; here are my findings thus far. ...
    by Published on 11-04-2015 01:47 PM
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    I don’t use tablets very often. There are 2 main reasons why; First off, there’s no nice way to put it but when it comes to tablets, I’m a cheapskate. While I’m fine spending top dollar on a flagship phone, I’m hesitant to open my purse strings - sorry man’s bag - when it comes to a tablet.

    Secondly, if I do get a tablet it must have LTE. I’m 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. Don’t 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 won’t allow me drop a stack on a tablet with LTE, I’d rather having no tablet than have an expensive one with LTE.

    Fortunately, ZTE’s 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 01:26 PM
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    The LG Nexus 5x signifies two changes in Google’s Nexus strategy. First off, it’s the first Nexus that’s 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 it’s still one of the larger phones on the market, which should satisfy people like me who don’t mind something a little bigger.

    The 5x is for people who don’t want to sacrifice portability and reach-ability for the largest size possible. ...
    by Published on 10-30-2015 12:12 PM
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    Last year’s 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 they’re best-in-class products but while the Nexus 6 is a nice phone, there were better choices available.

    Here’s 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? Let’s check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-21-2015 09:17 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 11:17 AM
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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 you’ll know that they typically announce their “hero” phone in the first quarter of each year.

    Time to put on my conspiracy hat; I reviewed HTC’s 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, Qualcomm’s first 64bit top of the line, Snapdragon 810 SoC, 5” 400+ PPI display, 3GB of RAM, 32GB storage, 20 megapixel camera, etc. But while they got the ingredients right, the recipe wasn’t follow properly and we were left with a phone that didn’t really distinguish itself from it’s 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 don’t typically do “+” 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, they’re saying that it’s 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 that’s not the case.

    Let’s check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-14-2015 08:41 PM
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    I’ve 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. Let’s check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-13-2015 08:45 AM
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    One of my favorite phones of 2015 is the LG G4. It’s 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 G4’s price is reasonable, it still sports a flagship price tag. Fortunately, if you don’t want to fork out too much dough, there are now more choices than ever when it comes to mid-range phones.

    Here’s the LG G4 Vigor, which possesses some of the G4’s qualities but comes with a much more palatable $350 CAN price tag. ...
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