• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 12-17-2013 07:40 AM
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    2. Reviews and Hands-on,
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    Last Saturday I had to do the unthinkable — join the mad throngs of holiday shoppers in downtown Toronto. On that particular afternoon it just so happened that (1) there was a snowstorm, and (2) half of the downtown subway line was shut down.

    As I waited for a connection at St. George Station I suddenly remembered that there was free WiFi there. I immediately whipped out my phone, connected, and performed the mandatory speed test:



    Not bad.

    Some friends who are regular commuters have complained to me about how much of a pain it is to connect, but it seemed to me that the entire process took less than sixty seconds. When I again found myself at St. George Station last night, I decided to document the procedure.

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    by Published on 12-15-2013 02:24 PM
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    2. Reviews and Hands-on
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    The Huawei Ascend Y300 is a super-low-end phone that is presently sold in Canada by Bell Mobility as an entry-level prepaid phone. They usually sell it for $100 outright, but at the time of this writing (leading up to Christmas no doubt) you can buy one for just $80. It might even be possible to get it even cheaper elsewhere.

    So what does $80 buy you? And how does it stand up to the Motorola Moto G, which sells for around $180 (on sale for $150 from Koodo at the time of this writing)? Let’s find out…
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    by Published on 12-14-2013 02:26 PM
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    2. Reviews and Hands-on
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    The G2 is the newest high-end offering from LG. It is essentially the sister phone of the Google Nexus 5, and as such quite a few of my observations on the G2 match the Nexus 5. Except for one glaring flaw in the phone I tested, I found the G2 to a worthy contender in the crown for best high-end smartphone.

    I will primarily compare the G2 to my Galaxy 4 as it is available for side-by-side testing, but if applicable I will compare the G2 to the Nexus 5, going on what I wrote in the review, and what I remember from my testing.
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    by Published on 12-13-2013 01:08 PM
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    2. Reviews and Hands-on
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    The Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini has been around for approximately a year, but it was only released in Canada on October 4th of 2013. It sells for around $250 off-contract, and it therefore competes with the newly-minted Motorola Moto G, which has set a new standard for what to expect in a low-end phone.

    The newest version of the firmware for this device does bring to bare a number of features that were originally released on the Galaxy S4, and so when it comes to software features, the phone is no slouch. Its technical underpinnings however are nothing like the S4 however.
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    by Published on 12-09-2013 07:51 PM
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    2. Reviews and Hands-on
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    The Moto G is new phone from Google-owned Motorola aimed at the budget shopper. It easily blows away every other low-price smartphone on the market and could single-handedly bring a lot more Android buyers who simply couldn’t justify the price of anything else.

    The Moto G isn't a high-end smartphone, nor does it even try to compete with the likes of the Galaxy S4, the HTC One, the LG G2, or the Nexus 5. It doesn't have the specs to do that. However, what it does have is excellent build quality and one of the lowest upfront prices of any smartphone on the market, mated to hardware that is way above what one might expect for the price. It feels like a premium high-end phone from 2 years ago.

    So how inexpensive are we talking? Well $180 regularly, but on sale at the time of this writing for just $150 on Koodo. Big deal you’re thinking, I can buy a high-end phone for that kind of money. However, we’re talking about OFF-CONTRACT here, the PURCHASE-OUTRIGHT price. You can buy the Moto G for this insanely low amount without signing a contract, or opening a “tab”, or without even signing up for service at all if don’t want to. If you loose one, this is all it will cost you to replace it.

    As far as which phone I compare the Moto G to in this review, that will have to be my Galaxy S4, simply because it’s my day-to-day phone and the one I have available for comparison. Before you call me out for being unfair, note that I don’t generally include much in my reviews about features and add-ons, I concentrate on the core functionality. While the Moto G isn't the greatest at any one thing, you’ll see that when it comes to core competency, the Moto G doesn't need to make any apologies.
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    by Published on 12-09-2013 08:07 AM
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    This past weekend I did something I've not done since the late 1900s: strap on a watch. Not just any wristwatch, mind you, but a smartwatch — Samsung's Galaxy Gear, to be exact... paired with a Galaxy Note 3.

    Back in 1999 I got my first PCS phone from clearNET, and the network-adjusted time on that "digital" phone made wearing a watch redundant — at least for me. I have at least one friend who has carried on wearing wristwatches to this very day; for me, the convenience of glancing at my wrist is made moot by the phone I usually have in my other hand.

    So maybe I'm not the best person to be reviewing this early iteration of a nascent product category. But hey, if the Gear can win me over then it's gotta be good, right?

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    by Published on 11-29-2013 02:14 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Tips,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
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    While a new LG G2 would be nice, not everyone wants or has the means to sign a contract on an expensive plan. They also don’t want to spend $700 on a new phone. So what can you get if you’re on a prepaid budget?

    Now, since most fancy phones are available on prepaid, I’m putting a $200 limit on the cost of the phone. $200 is still a sizable chunk of change but to be honest, if I set it lower there just aren’t enough phones that I would recommend. Let’s check out the contenders. ...
    by Published on 11-28-2013 07:37 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    I have a confession, I have a cheap side. I’ll carry a bunch of fancy phones in my pocket but will balk at spending $30 on a fancy phone case. So it should be no surprise that I regularly check out the phone accessory section at dollar stores.

    Specifically, Dollarama, a Canadian chain of ‘dollar stores’. Like most, Dollarama sells a lot of merchandise that actually costs more than a buck - most of their phone accessories cost $1.50, 2, 3, etc.

    If you’ve ever been to one, you’ll know some of the stuff there is of dubious quality. So I decided to pick up a couple of items to see if they’re any good.

    Now phone accessories at Dollarama seem to fall into 2 categories, their own private label stuff under the ‘Tech 1’ brand and clear out merchandise they’ve picked up from elsewhere. I tried to focus on the Tech 1 stuff since those items are more likely to be stocked at all Dollaramas. That said, I noticed that what’s in stock varies greatly between different locations. For example, I bought the the lightning cables a couple of months ago but haven’t seen them in stock anywhere since. The multi-layer case is another hard-to-find item.

    Unfortunately, most of the accessories at Dollarama are for iDevices. The rest are generic accessories. They don’t even sell stuff for Samsung’s Galaxy line of devices. ...
    by Published on 11-27-2013 08:25 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    How long should an electronic device last? You're probably thinking why does that matter but I've run into a major problem with my Mac Pro that's now 7 years old. It's a beautiful machine that has been powered up 24/7 for 95% of those years. I've maxed this computer out with 16GB of RAM, 6TB of hard drives and an SSD. I can't ever go back to using just one monitor and I've learned my lesson to back up everything. I think it's hardware failure and I have this theory that Steve Jobs' ghost has entered countdown code to doomsday… right on the eve of the new Mac Pro being released. I'm a huge Apple fan and am fully aware of the company's fallibility. I had my video review ready to post and I found my computer off the next morning unable to get past the screen with the Apple logo on it.

    Here's where I'm going with this: for the premium I pay Apple, I expect their products to outperform and outlast the competition. I do not have this same expectation for Samsung. It's not a bad thing if that's what their business model is designed for (i.e. high volume, low margin).

    One other point is more of a challenge: can you post a review (with photos and video clips) using only a tablet? I had high hopes for the Note 10.1 but it's not quite there yet. Apart from not being able to create an article on this forum, I think we're almost there. Howard? Any takers on that challenge?

    Bottom line for those with a short attention span: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition has outstanding specs on paper but doesn't execute appropriately. In other words, it doesn't get the horsepower to the road. The Apple iPad is still the clear leader in this field. I see the potential in the Note 10.1 but it might be the 2015 Edition that pulls it all together. ...
    by Published on 11-20-2013 09:15 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    Now that 2 year contracts are the norm we’re experiencing an influx of mid-range phones for customers who want a subsidized phone, but don’t want spend 80 bucks a month on service. Among the mid-range phones, two tiers are starting to emerge. Lower-end, mid range phones and higher-end ones.

    Here’s the latest one from HTC, the Desire 601 it sort of slots in-between high and low end. It has LTE, a 960x540 display and stereo speakers like you’ll find on a higher-end unit but the camera sensor is only 5 megapixels which you typically find on something cheaper. If you want something fancier from HTC there’s the One Mini which fits in between the Desire 601 and their flagship the HTC One.

    In terms of competitors, the first two that come to mind are the Samsung Galaxy S III Mini and the recently released Motorola Moto G. After thinking about there’s also the Nokia Lumia 625 and maybe even the Google Nexus 4. Let's take a look at them. ...
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