• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 11-15-2013 12:10 PM
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    The other day Steve Punter (site) and I decided to do a camera shoot out. Right now I have almost all the flagship devices sitting on my desk including the new Nexus 5 so we figured why not?

    I remember back in the day when most phones came with VGA or megapixel cameras. The megapixel phones were much better than the VGA ones but either way, they took pretty lousy pictures.

    Back then, a built-in camera was a nice thing to have but if you wanted to capture an important memory, you’d be wise to bring a proper camera along with you be it a point-and-shoot or even something with a large sensor and removable lens.

    In the past couple of years a funny thing has happened. While point-and-shoots have improved during that time, they passed this invisible line where they took pictures that were ‘good enough’ for most people.

    Yeah, a SLR with a fast lens will take better pictures in a variety of conditions but then again, there’s that saying that that the best camera is the one that’s with you. A SLR will run circles around a camera phone in terms of handling, performance, speed, and quality but then again, a camera phone fits in your pocket - It’s always with me. So which one really is best?
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    by Published on 11-14-2013 10:33 AM
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    The Nexus 5 is the newest iteration of the Pure Google Experience smartphones. Like the Nexus 4 before it, this one is manufactured by LG (and it has their logo on it lest you forget). It’s roughly based on the new LG G2, but the two phones differ in a number of ways. The most obvious is that the G2 has a 13-megapixel camera and a 5.2-inch display, while the Nexus 5 has an 8-megapixel shooter and a 5.0-inch display.

    This time around Google has decided to officially support LTE. While there was a working LTE radio in the Nexus 4, it could only be made to work on Band 4 which virtually limited it to use in Canada, plus you had to make a change to the settings each time you booted the phone to get it to work.
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    by Published on 11-07-2013 11:04 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Ray's been playing with the Z30 and just finished up his video review. Check it out:



    The Z30 we're playing with is from TELUS. I've used it a little. While the Z30's screen doesn't have any more resolution than the Z10 the extra size makes a big difference. The keyboard is easier to use and it's more pleasant to look at.

    Performance is snappy but what really stands out are the speakers. They sound almost as good as the HTC One's but what really sets the Z30 apart is that they're much louder than One's. They're the loudest speakers I have ever heard on a phone.

    Battery life also seems pretty strong. Battery life on the Z10 was a weak spot so I'm glad Blackberry fixed this on the Z30.

    The camera is similar to what you get on the Z10/Q10 - it's not terrible but it's not particularly awesome either. Then again, you don't buy a Blackberry because you want an awesome camera. ...
    by Published on 11-07-2013 08:29 AM
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    With its 6.44” display the Sony Xperia Z Ultra is a pretty unique device. On one hand it competes with other large phablets like the 6.3” Samsung Mega and 6.1” Huawei Mega. On the other hand, under the hood the Ultra packs much more of a whallop compared to the Mega and Mate which are mid-range phones. It’s the only high-end phone with a 6”+ display right now.

    As such, it doesn’t really have any competitors. Sure, the Samsung Mega and Huawei Mate have similarly sized screens but they sport more modest specs and are they’re substantially cheaper.

    The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has similar guts but it only has a 5.7” display which sounds big but when you have them side-by-side, the Ultra is substantially larger. They’re not really competitors either.

    So, sorry, I’m not going to compare the Ultra with anything though I will say, if you want an enormous phone then it doesn’t get any bigger than the Ultra.

    If you want the biggest possible screen with the highest specs and water resistance this is your only ticket. ...
    by Published on 11-04-2013 07:55 PM
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    Let’s face it, the real reason I tested this phone was to try out the camera. The lure of a 41-megapixel camera was just too great. Now I can’t speak for most people who might get the Lumia 1020, but I strongly suspect that the camera will be at the top of their list of reasons for buying it. For that reason the bulk of this review will be devoted to the camera, though I do touch on most of the other hallmarks of my phone reviews.
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    by Published on 11-04-2013 08:00 AM
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    Though its name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, MiniSuit's Keyboard Stand Case for the Nexus 7 reminds me so much of a small netbook that when using it I consistently reach for a track pad that isn't there.

    Howard and I were chatting last week about me making a tablet my primary computing device for a few days to see how I could get on. The truth is that I've already done that — the last two times I hopped on a plane I left my ThinkPad at home and ended up doing just fine without it.

    A possible next step would be a blog post suitable for publication here written entirely on a tablet. Unfortunately I couldn't quite do it -- at least not to the same technical standards that a traditional computer allows. But this is due to various limitations of Android software, not the MiniSuit keyboard itself. So on with the review!

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    by Published on 10-22-2013 08:12 PM
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    In Canada, earlier this year most of us said goodbye to 3 year contracts and hello to 2 year ones. This has had an interesting effect on how we buy phones and how carriers subsidize them. Previously, when 3 year contracts were the norm, carriers were willing to subsidize phones more heavily. This meant most phones sold where either expensive top-of-the-line models or cheap entry level ones.

    However now that we’ve bid adios to 3 year contracts an interesting thing has happened. Carriers now have two tiers of 2 year contracts. In order to get carriers to subsidize phones like they used to you’ll now need to spend ore per month. If you want a more affordable plan you can still get a phone but it won’t have all the bells and whistles unless you’re willing to spend a lot more on the phone.

    So now there’s a demand for more affordable smartphones which are better than what you’d usually get on prepaid. It’s the rise of the mid-range phone.

    For $149 you can get the cappuccino with 4 shots of foam Samsung Galaxy S4, but it will cost you each month. If you don’t want to spend so much per month you’ll have to settle for a cup of Tim Hortons coffee GS4 Mini which also costs $149. So what’s the difference between the 2? ...
    by Published on 10-14-2013 08:10 PM
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    You know that feeling when you get a brand new phone? Now remember that feeling when you accidentally throw your keys in with your shiny new phone, and find a scratch on your screen?

    Yeah I know what you’re about say. “But Gorilla glass is really tough! I’ve watched the demos of them using nails on a piece of it”. You may have seen the demos but I’ve been fortunate enough to review many, many phones different phones with glass screens and let me tell you something; HTC One, One X, Samsung Galaxy S II, III, 4, Note 2, Motorola RAZR, etc. Most of them had scratches on their screen. Now before you point fingers, no it wasn’t me - all these review units came that way.
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    by Published on 10-07-2013 07:45 AM
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    Last week I weighed in with my thoughts on the ZTE Open's rather unremarkable hardware. The real story is, of course, Firefox OS -- the brand-new mobile operating system that runs on it.

    Firefox borrows heavily from both Android and iOS, making it instantly familiar and easy to use. To show you exactly what it looks like I reset my ZTE Open over the weekend and took a brunch of screen grabs from first boot onwards. One thing about grabbing screens: if you're searching the web for how to do it pay no mind to this post -- using adb and terminal commands will certainly work, but simply holding the power and home keys at the same time will save a screen directly to your gallery.

    Anyway, here is Firefox OS!

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    by Published on 10-05-2013 11:56 AM
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    When you look at the Smartphone market, right now it’s dominated by Samsung and Apple. Things are going great for them but if you were to ask them what competitor they fear most I’d bet you their answer would Huawei. Not HTC, LG or Sony.

    I mean eventually Smartphones will reach a point where companies can’t keep charging up to $800 a phone. If that ever happens there will be a big race to the bottom to see who can make the best, cheapest phone. If that happens many people figure Huawei will be in a good position.

    While they don’t compete at the very top of the market, many people don’t realize but Huawei actually makes really good affordable Smartphones. The Y300 I tried a while back isn’t going to win “Phone of the Year” but for what it costs it’s an amazing deal.

    Now we have the Huawei Ascend Mate. It’s a phone with a 6.1” phone that only costs - wait for it - $400 off contract. At $400, it’s not going to have going to have specs like the LG G2/Galaxy Note 3/Sony Z1 but for what it costs you get a get a pretty good deal.

    With a 6.1” the Mate should be awesome at media consumption. If you’re sitting on the train, there aren’t many phones which are better than the Mate for watching and streaming videos - Right? Let’s check it out:

    Huawei has found a pretty good niche for the Note. At $400 off-contract, or $99 on a 2 year with the $40 a month, plan it doesn’t really have any competitors. There aren’t that many phones with huge 6”+ screens on the market and the ones that come close cost significantly more. About the only one that comes to mind is the Samsung Galaxy Mega and maybe a used Note 2.

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