• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 05-14-2013 03:58 PM
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    Our very own HC - NO "i" just handed my his review for the ZTE F160. No, it doesn't have a 5" 4K display, 16 core processor or 8GB of RAM with dodeca-band LTE support. Instead, it's a feature phone (AKA dumbphone). Here it is:



    It's inevitable. Now that smartphones have out shipped feature phones for the first time. Mundane usage like voice calls and even SMS are declining for many subscribers as these activities are being replaced by social networking (e.g. Facebook, Google+), on-the-top messaging (e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger) and VoIP calls (e.g. Skype, Google Talk).



    Here at HoFo, we mostly focus on smartphones these days. Smartphones like my brand spanking new Samsung Galaxy S 4 which is the very definition of Ďall the bell and whistlesí.



    So when I told my fellow HC that I wanted to check out the F160 candy bar handset from ZTE, he wondered if I was really serious. ...
    by Published on 04-25-2013 12:50 PM
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    Samsung has done so well with their Galaxy S line that a) many people donít know what Android is b) people think other Android phones are copies of the Galaxy S series (the irony).

    So, without a doubt, one of the most important phones of the year is the Samsung Galaxy S4. Itís a 5Ē 1920x1080, quad core monster with a 13 megapixel camera and a giant 2600mAh battery.

    However, there are a number of alternatives like the HTC One and Sony Xperia ZL with similar specs that are cheaper alternatives. So, letís see if the GS4 has what it takes to stay on top. ...
    by Published on 04-22-2013 07:00 PM
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    Three years ago, when thought of a high end Android phone, the first name that would come to most peopleís mouths would have been HTC. HTC has always had a heritage of releasing great hardware. While people were ooh-ing and aww-ing over Blackberry Boldís, HTC was releasing monsters like the HTC TyTN II. In fact, even though HTC hasnít been doing so well in the marketplace lately, theyíve never stopped releasing awesome hardware.

    Hereís their latest, the HTC One. A phone with a 1920x1080 display wrapped in a sexy metal body. HTC has bucked the trend and gone with a Ďless is moreí approach with the Oneís camera. It also has a new version of Sense and louder speakers.
    ...
    by Published on 04-04-2013 10:33 PM
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    2012 was an exciting year for phones. High definition 1280x720 displays became common along with quad core processors. A few years ago, I would have never imagined that phones would sport specs like this. Just when you thought things couldnít get any better, we now have phones with even higher 1920x1080 displays. Thatís right, the same resolution as the TV hanging in your family room. ...
    by Published on 02-27-2013 08:57 AM
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    Recently, I reviewed the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC Windows Phone 8X. So I was pretty excited when I got the Samsung ATIV-S. All represent the best you can currently get on Windows Phone.

    If you were to compare the 3 phones on paper, the ATIVís advantage is that it has the biggest screen, the biggest battery and most notably; a microSD card slot. Still, shopping for anything based on specs alone is the worst thing you can do. After all, things can be more than the sum of their parts. ...
    by Published on 02-08-2013 02:37 PM
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    Itís been a tough 2 years for Blackberry users. Around 3 years ago, Android and iOS were really starting to eat into Blackberryís market share. 2 years ago, Blackberry (then known as RIM) promised to deliver their next generation OS. Since then, the shipping date was postponed multiple times while Blackberry's market share plummeted.

    Heck, things got so bad that there was a point when I figured weíd never see the new version of Blackberry. Either RIM would get carved up and sold, or theyíd go out of business, or maybe theyíd even adapt another operating system.

    So, Iím really pleased to present to you my Blackberry Z10 review. The first phone running the new Blackberry 10 operating system. ...
    Published on 02-05-2013 02:26 PM
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    Now that the Blackberry Z10 is available in Canada have you given it a try yet? Post your thoughts, questions and impressions of the Z10 here!

    Personally, I've been using one for a few days now for most part, Blackberry has done what they needed to do to make a compelling device. It's not perfect but they've differentiated it enough that it's an intriguing alternative to it's competitors.

    They've also done a decent job with their app ecosystem. Yes, it's still starting out but it's not totally dead like the Playbook's was when it first launched.

    Hardware wise, the Z10 doesn't disappoint but at the same time, it's not absolutely cutting edge either. They've done enough, in the hardware department that most people aren't going to complain about it unless they spend all their time looking at spec sheets and reading reviews rather than using it.

    Menu keys anchor of the experience of Android and iOS, so the lack of menu soft keys (and on-screen softkeys) can be a bit confusing at first.

    I really like how they've taken Blackberry's signature (the messaging) and made it one of the cornerstones of the experience without making it feel like they're forcing it down your throat. Actually, the messaging (email, text, Facebook (including groupchat), Twitter, LinkedIn, BBM) is bundled in with your calendar, and phonebook into a feature called 'Hub'. To access the Hub you swipe up and then without letting go, swipe to the right. It's an interesting idea that's intuitive to use.

    Even better is that the hub has hooks for programmers. I was looking around the App store and noticed that there's a GTalk app from Blackberry which presumably hooks up with hub.

    The other Blackberry signature is the keyboard. These days, everyone has a good keyboard. If I was to rate them, I'd say Android 4.2's is the worst (say it's 8/10), Windows Phone is a 8.5 while the iPhone gets a 8.6. With that in mind, the Blackberry's is 9+ easy.

    Whether you use the 'brute force' method like me where you type as fast as you can and let the auto-correct sort it out or if you type slowly the Blackberry keyboard works really well.

    I've always found that Blackberry's came with inferior cameras. The camera isn't class leading but it's not terrible either.

    One feature I like is the Z10's share feature. Yes, the same one you find on Android. Blackberry even took the share icon! Anyways, it allows you share files and media with other devices - even via NFC!

    Battery life is phenomenal Part of the reason why is because Blackberry doesn't allow the screen to get insanely bright (like on the iPhone 5), the other is because the screen has auto-brightness which you can't turn off. Even some heavy users will be able to use it an entire day.

    Another feature I like is the file share feature. It's not the same as the share feature I mentioned earlier. This one lets you access your Z10 via SAMBA (Windows file sharing). You can copy files to the Z10 wirelessly.

    I copied some 720p mkv and 480p DIVX avi's to the Z10 and noticed that it has decent codec support! No need to use handbrake first like on Windows Phone or iOS! There is (what I assume is) a bug where the video player's maximum volume is very low. Hopefully they'll fix that soon.

    Due to health reasons I've been bed-ridden the entire time I had the Z10 so I wasn't able to use it outdoors and test RF. Sound quality is average, maximum earpiece volume and speaker phone volume are both good - similar to the iPhone 5.

    I'll have a full review in a few days. It's hard to review a phone from bed.

    Any questions? What did you think about the Z10? Honestly, Blackberry has done all they could do - it's better than I was expecting.

    -Howard ...
    by Published on 01-04-2013 09:44 PM
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    Hereís the Samsung Galaxy Camera (Iím going to call it the ďCameraĒ with an uppercase ďCĒ). Itís basically the result of a wild night between a camera and a smartphone. Itís a digital camera with a 16 megapixel sensor and 21x zoom lens with a Samsung Galaxy S III complete with HSPA modem and 4.8Ē screen grafted onto the back.

    Itís safe to say that these days, most pictures end up on the web and will never be printed out. So, digital cameras have it rough these days. You see, theyíre just too inconvenient.

    What would you rather do? Snap a picture, wait till you get home, download it to your PC before you upload it to the web and then tag it with the location? Or would you rather snap a picture with your Smartphone and then choose to upload it to the web complete with location information.

    Why would anyone bother using a dedicated camera if itís so much less convenient to use? There are 2 reasons; dedicated cameras usually have higher quality plus they usually offer you more flexibility/capabilities. ...
    by Published on 12-11-2012 06:12 PM
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    Hot on the heels of the sexiest phone on the market; the HTC Windows Phone 8X is itís smaller sibling, the 8S.

    Like the 8X, the 8S is quite a looker. Itís easily one of the best looking phones on the market. Iím sure HTC will sell a lot of these just based on how it looks. Itís minimalist, expensive looking and original. All at the same time.



    Physically, it looks and feels just like a smaller version 8x. The only difference is the 8s has the bottom snaps off to reveal the MicroSD and MicroSIM slots, just like on the HTC Titan and Titan II. Also, the Ďedgesí of the 8s are a little more rounded than the 8x. It makes the 8s shape more organic and comfortable to hold.
    ...
    by Published on 12-08-2012 08:41 PM
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    One of the great things about Android is the breadth of choice you get when it comes to hardware. Whether itís a small phone with 2.6Ē display or something huge with a 5.5Ē display there should be something for you. Do you want a huge 3000mAh+ battery or maybe something with a physical keyboard. 1 core? 2? 4? 2GB of RAM? Variety is the spice of life.

    Android even has water-proof, ruggedized phones. In Canada we have the Sony Xperia Go, Motorola DEFY PRO and now the Samsung Rugby LTE. While the Go and DEFY are lower-end devices the Rugby has the same processor as the Galaxy S III so itís got considerably more horsepower under the hood. ...
    by Published on 12-06-2012 01:44 PM
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    When I tried the Huawei P1 a few months back, I thought it was good enough that companies like Samsung better take notice. Now hereís their follow up; the Huawei D Quad XL. Certainly, theyíre giving Samsung a run at worst sounding name. D Quad XL is up there with Galaxy S II HD LTE.

    Seriously though, whatís special about the XL is that it has a quad-core processor. While still quite rare, quad-cores have now been around for almost a year. Looking at Windís lineup, they have the Note II for $299, the LG Optimus 4X is at $199 while the XL is $99. For 99 bucks, theyíve also got the HTC One S and Motorola RAZR V.

    So the Wind and Huawei have found a good place in their lineup for the XL. Itís cheaper than the more brand name-y Note II and the 4X while you get more hardware for your money than the One S and RAZR V.

    So what do you get for $99? A quad-core processor from Huawei. Thatís right, itís not a Tegra 3, Exynos or a Snapdragon. The chip appears to have Cortex A9 cores (like the Tegra 3 and Exynos) but unlike them, the GPU is from Hisilicon. Weíll check out the GPU performance later in the review. ...
    by Published on 11-29-2012 04:17 PM
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    Hereís the recipe for an Android phone. Take a phone, add Android and then customize it. This formula has worked really well for Google. The bodies of WebOS, S60, Blackberry, Windows Mobile now litter the landscape since since Android and iOS joined the mobile phone war.

    However, Googleís Nexus devices are slightly different beast. First off, while theyíre from Google, theyíre not made by Google. Instead theyíre based off of existing devices and contain no customizations or extras from their respective manufacturers.

    I think one of the reasons why Nexus devices are so popular is because many people have been using Windows PCís for years. Itís very common for PCís to come with all sorts of useless extras like trial subscriptions to 5 different ISPs, Anti-virus software that is constantly asking you to update your subscription, multiple toolbars, useless utilities and just a bunch of crap that no one wants. Weíve been conditioned to not trust manufacturers when it comes to what software they put on our devices.

    Hereís the Nexus 4, the sister phone to the LG Optimus G. It shares many of the Gís specs plus it has a similar glass covered body. Unlike the G itís running Android 4.2 and is a pure Google device.

    The fact that it doesnít contain anything extra is the appeal of Nexus devices. That plus the fact that the Nexus 4 with 8GB starts at $309CAN/299USD unlocked while the 16GB is $359CAN/349USD ...
    by Published on 11-26-2012 02:59 PM
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    While Tablets are now the norm, itís hard to believe that the original iPad only came out about 2 and a half years ago. Tablets have been around for years but it wasnít till the iPad came out, that they really took off.

    Now 2 and half years later, iPads have sort of matured to the point that you donít have to buy the fanciest one, to buy one thatís usable.

    Itís the perfect time for Apple to release an entry level iPad because it doesnít have to suck. Hereís the iPad Mini. Itís an iPad with a 7.9Ē display.
    ...
    by Published on 11-23-2012 08:00 AM
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    One of the best phones for 2012 was the HTC One X. It was almost the total package. It was fast and had an amazing display. The camera was a blast to use. The only problem with it was that it only came with 16GB of storage. Itís like a sports car that can only seat one person. Itís a blast to use but itís not very practical.

    Thankfully, we now have the One X+. Itís similar to the One X but ups the storage to a much more useful 64GB of storage. You also get a quad-core processor, a slightly bigger battery, and Android 4.1. ...
    by Published on 11-21-2012 08:45 PM
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    One thing I admire about HTC is that their phones always have a very original design esthetic. Just like Nokia and Apple, you can spot a HTC phone immediately. While I admire their originality, I havenít connected with many of their recent phones. Last yearís Amaze reminded me of a bathtub while the One X had to profile of a banana... That is, till I laid eyes on the HTC 8X.

    To say that the 8X is beautiful would be giant understatement. Windows Phone is known for itís distinctive design and the 8X is a wonderful interpretation of it. Itís like one of the Windows Phone live tiles grew up and became a phone. ...
    by Published on 11-14-2012 10:22 PM
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    These days, movies cost a lot of money so itís not uncommon for them to have some promotional product tie-ins. While this can make a movie seem like a commercial, thereís usually a line between whatís acceptable and what isnít. For example, it would be a sham if Gandalf used a AT&T phone to call Frodo in the Lord of the Rings movie.

    Then we have the Sony Xperia T. The phone of choice for James Bond in the new Skyfall flick. If I were to guess what kind of phone James Bond actually uses my guess is that it would be something waterproof, but then again, the Tís a slick device - I could see him using one.
    ...
    by Published on 11-12-2012 03:05 PM
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    While itís been awhile since Iíve reviewed a pair of Bluetooth headphones but I jumped at a chance to try a pair of Parrot Zikís.




    Theyíre designed by Phillip Starck and are packed with goodies that make the phone nerd inside me drool! Besides Bluetooth, they also have NFC, a removable battery, touch sensitive controls, sensors that can tell when youíre not wearing them and upgradable firmware. Those features are all great but the Zikís PiŤce de rťsistance is that the Zik comes with its own app. Iíll talk more about the app later.

    I havenít even mentioned the design yet. Unlike all the colourful headphones you see these days, the Zik has a slick modern design. The plastic surfaces are all soft to the touch while the metallic pieces are actually metal. They look really cool and donít shout ďMy mom bought me these headphonesĒ like a pair of Beats headphones. ...
    by Published on 11-07-2012 02:45 PM
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    Hereís the Xperia Go. An entry level Smartphone thatís waterproof.

    Iím impressed that it comes with a dual-core NovaThor U8500 processor and a microSD slot (the Xperia U didnít) plus you get Android 4.0 (this is a Sony phone). Iím not surprised that it comes with 512MB of RAM has a 5MP camera and 8GB of storage (probably 4GB available). Iím a bit annoyed that it has a 3.6Ē 430x320 display and a 1305mAh battery. ...
    by Published on 11-07-2012 02:21 PM
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    I got a chance to play with the Sony Xperia T. The T is known as the James Bond Phone because he uses one in the new Bond Flick thatís launching soon.

    Spec-wise the T is similar to the Galaxy S III and HTC One X (the LTE versions). Dual-core 1.5Ghz Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB built-in storage plus a Micro SD slot, 1850mAh battery, 4.6Ē LCD display and 12.8/1.3MP cameras. It also supports Mira-cast (video out via WiFi). It ships with Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich).




    Itís launching on Rogers, TELUS, Bell, Mobilicity, Videotron, MTS plus they mentioned Wind too (though Iím not sure if they got confused). Kudos to Sony for getting it on most carriers!
    ...
    by Published on 11-02-2012 05:01 PM
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    So the UPS driver dropped of my iPad mini today. I actually order both a white and black iPad mini. My black one showed up while my white one is back-ordered for 2 weeks.



    When I first opened the Mini I couldn't help noticing that the finish feels fantastic. The edges of the bezel are like the iPhone 5 while the back is metal that feels kind of satin-y.



    Before I even turned it on I thought that the Mini feels substantially larger than my Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 has a 7" 16:9 screen while the Mini's is 7.9" with 4:3 aspect ratio. In my hand the Mini is a lot wider and not comfortable at all to hold unlike my Nexus 7. ...
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