• Reviews and Hands-on

    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, 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 11-10-2015 06:25 AM
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    Time to see what the 12.3 megapixel shooter on the back of the Nexus 5X can doóand 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 holeóexiting 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 reviewsóinstead, 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 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 01:26 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 12:12 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 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 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.
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    by Published on 10-14-2015 08:41 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.
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    by Published on 10-13-2015 08:45 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 11:14 AM
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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.
    ...
    by Published on 10-08-2015 07:48 AM
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    It's been a long time since Howard has trusted me enough to review anything other than a watch or tablet but since I'm one of the few devoted Apple fans here, I think this is my chance to make things right. This is a key question to consider when sifting through all of the reviews out there on the web: do you trust their opinion? Unless you follow that reviewer religiously to build a character profile, there's no way for you to assess if they have been coerced or influenced to help sell more units. Maybe it'll help to know that I'm not getting any kickbacks for this review... just some food for thought before biting into this apple.


    Here is the quick question that I have been tasked to answer: Do you upgrade to the iPhone 6S or not? ...
    by Published on 09-07-2015 02:02 PM
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    Consumers have been spend less money on computers and more on their mobile phones. This has given companies like Acer, which is a big name in computers, a challenging time. While theyíve had some mobile phone offerings, they havenít gained much traction in the market. As such, itís been awhile since Iíve tried one.

    Hereís their latest offering; the Acer Liquid Jade Z. At $269.99 CAN unlocked, itís a high-entry/low-midrange phone. Spec-wise you get a 5Ē HD display, quad-core 64 bit processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, 13 megapixel camera with LTE so on that front, it's promising. Letís check it out: ...
    by Published on 09-01-2015 12:30 PM
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    When Samsung released the GS6, it was a big departure from its predecessor. Samsung ditched the removable storage and battery that they had become known for and went in a new direction with a sealed glass and metal body.

    Now Samsung has given the same treatment to the Note 5. It eschews the Note 4ís MicroSD and removable battery for even more metal and glass.

    Is this a worthy trade-off?
    ...
    by Published on 08-24-2015 03:29 PM
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    Among flagships, Motorolaís X line has always been a bit hard to understand. The first one costs slightly less than competing flagships but it gave up some specs compared to them. Ditto for the second gen X.

    Now, weíre on the 3rd generation and Motorola has mixed things up. The X lineup now bifurcates into the Moto X Pure and the Moto X Play. The Pure is a true flagship with the request flagship specs and price tag. However, the Play is the more interesting model. It trades some big specs for a more a palatable price tag.

    Weíre now in the ďGood enoughĒ era of smartphones where flagship ownership is no longer mandatory to have a good experience.

    It mixes some flagship-ish features which some midrange ones to bring the price tag down to $400. Throw a large 3630mAh battery into the pot and we have something very unique. Letís check it out. ...
    by Published on 08-24-2015 01:19 PM
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    With school just around the corner, many of you are thinking of picking up a decent phone on a budget. No doubt the original Moto G will probably come up quite frequently. The problem is that the original Moto G came out 2 years ago and its successor, the 2014 didnít get people quite as excited partly because it lacked LTE, partly because it was priced too high and partly because it didnít gain much traction with carriers (probably because of the LTE issue).

    Anyways, theyíre back with their newest G, the 2015 Moto G. The addition of LTE is a no brainer but now theyíve changed the game with the addition of water resistance for under $200. HmmmÖ.
    ...
    by Published on 07-30-2015 10:05 PM
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    Without a doubt, one of 2013ís most significant phones was the original Moto G. It combined decent specs with an affordable price tag or to put it more bluntly. It was one of the first phones that didnít suck that was also easy on the wallet.

    However, itís follow-up the 2014, wasnít quite the cult classic that its predecessor was. While the specs were greatly improved, Motorola also tried to move the price up-market. That plus the fact that fact that the, ďdecent yet affordableĒ segment of the market was starting to become crowded made life difficult for it.

    While people still talk about the original Moto G, the 2014 got lost in the mix pretty quickly so Motorola has its work cut out for the 2015 Moto G.
    ...
    by Published on 07-15-2015 12:56 PM
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    While I love my Smartphones, there are times when I need a real computer. At the same time, I donít like lugging a computer around with me so my favorite computer to take out is a Surface Pro 3. Itís the lightest computer thatís big enough to actually use. I carry it in a small backpack along with a Bluetooth mouse (donít always need it) and a pair of wired headphones.

    Since the Surface Pro 3 is really light, attaching a pair of wired headphones to it is generally a bad idea since itís easy to forget youíre wearing them when walk off which results in my computer ending up on the floor..

    Anyways, my wired headphones recently died on me so I figured Iíd replaced them with a pair of Bluetooth ones. Since my goal is to be as portable as possible I didnít want to carry a pair of large on or over the ear headphones like the very good Parrot Zik 2.0ís or my Beats Studio Wireless.

    Since these headphones would be replacing my earplug style Sony headphones (I think theyíre MDR-EX71) I figured Iíd buy something similar but with the addition of Bluetooth.

    I decided to try the Plantronics BackBeat Go 2ís. Letís check them out:
    ...
    by Published on 07-09-2015 03:05 PM
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    The Asus Zenfone 2 comes in 2 flavours; the regular is $199 USD/249 CDN while full fat version is $299 USD/379 CDN.

    I already reviewed the the base model and was thoroughly impressed. It also got me wondering, is the fancier model worth the 50% or so price premium?

    Letís check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 06-30-2015 01:16 PM
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    I borrowed a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge from Howard Chui. I've been a longtime fan of Samsung high-end smartphones, but of late I've become rather disappointed in the slow pace of real improvement in the subsequent models. This isn't strictly a Samsung issue however, as this has been the case with every manufacturer out there. The smartphone, like the PC before it, has begun to reach maturity and the level of improvement from one generation to the next has slowed down considerably. The new models are indeed more powerful and have more features, but only INCREMENTALLY SO. It's becoming increasingly difficult to justify the purchase of a new device every year. ...
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