• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 08-19-2013 12:33 PM
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    In past 2 years, the Android tablet market has really changed. Initially, we only had 10Ē and 7Ē tablets. Now we have many sizes with the 7Ē tablets becoming the entry level models. Itís the sort of tablet you buy for your toddler - not yourself. You might get one to use while youíre watching TV, that sort of thing. Itís going to be a companion device that doesnít really replace anything.

    Hereís Samsung entry level tablet - their 7Ē Galaxy Tab 3 which is priced at around $200.

    A year-and-a-half-ago, a $200 tablet would have been quite a deal. These days, you can get 7Ē tablet from first and second tablet manufacturers like HP, ASUS, Acer that are cheaper and pack more hardware.

    If youíre looking at the 7Ē Tab 3 you might also consider both the 2012 and 2013 Google Nexus 7ís, the Kobo Vox and the Amazon Kindle Fire. ...
    by Published on 08-15-2013 06:03 PM
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    I have a bit of a confession, as the father of a newborn and a toddler Iím a bit obsessed with IP cameras. I actually have 7 of them deployed around the house. All of them have WiFi, night vision, microphones, some support 2-way audio, a couple can pan and tilt plus a few have megapixel sensors.

    When I want to take a break from working, I love being able to tune in and watch my kids - theyíre young enough that this isnít creepy (yet).

    Which brings us to the Belkinís NetCam HD. Itís an IP camera with a megapixel sensor, night vision and a built-in microphone. ...
    by Published on 08-13-2013 06:07 PM
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    If youíre in the market for an 8Ē tablet there are 3 main choices. The Apple iPad Mini which I reviewed a while back, the Note 8.0 that Ray looked at and The Galaxy Tab 3 8Ē which Iím looking at today.

    Aside from the iPad Mini and Note 8.0 you might also consider the rest of the Samsung Tab 3 lineup and the 2013 Google Nexus 7.

    Letís see how they size up.
    ...
    by Published on 08-12-2013 01:55 PM
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    Hereís the Belkin WeMo power switch. Itís a $50 power switch which you can control using your Android or iOS Smartphone.

    You just connect it to a power outlet and then plug something into it.

    Setup is straight forward:

    1. Plug the WeMo into an outlet
    2. Download the WeMo app
    3. Open up your phoneís WiFi settings menu and connect to the WeMo
    4. Open up the WeMo app, enter your WiFi networkís password
    5. Configure Switch and setup rules


    The app lets you view whether the outlet is on or off plus you can create rules about when it should turn on or off.
    ...
    by Published on 08-06-2013 06:30 PM
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    Hereís the 10.1" Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. On paper, aside from a new Intel powered processor, it doesnít seem all that different from its predecessor the Tab 2. Still, shopping based solely on specs is one of the worst things you can do. So is the Tab 3 an improvement?

    The way I see it, the 10.1" Tab 3 has 3 main competitors; the Apple iPad 2, Google Nexus 10 and Microsoft Surface RT. Letís see how the Tab 3 stacks up with them.
    ...
    by Published on 08-02-2013 02:07 PM
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    The Google Neuxs 7 was just released a few days ago, so you're probably wondering if it's as good as the Nexus 7 which was released last year. I'm still working on a full review as well as a give-away but for now here's a quick comparison between the two.

    When it was released last year, I was in awe at the amount of stuff Google managed to cram into it given it's $279 price point. This time around Google doesn't disappoint giving you even more for now $20 less.

    Pretty much every spec has been improved. While the screen still measures 7" you now get a full HD 1920x1080 display, RAM is doubled to 2GB and the quad-core processor is now much more powerful. ...
    by Published on 08-01-2013 02:43 PM
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    For those with a short attention span, the verdict is that the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 LTE is a better iPad Mini.

    My reputation as an avid Apple fan has been challenged by reviewing other phones and tablets - and this is a critical exercise for everybody. Most iPad users I know of quickly (and ignorantly) dismiss the competition because of brain-washing marketing. But ironically, taking the time to seriously consider this Galaxy Note 8.0 had me thinking more about what I want in a tablet. Yet at the same time, I've increased my appreciation for the iOS ecosystem and user-experience.
    ...
    by Published on 08-01-2013 02:36 PM
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    Like so many of us here, I grabbed the Samsung Galaxy S4 for many reasons:

    1. I was bored of my Nexus 4
    2. I liked my S3 back when I had it but wanted a bit more battery power
    3. refer to #1
    4. it was the new, must-have phone (that and the HTC One)


    I was truly hoping that the S4 would package in a 3000mah battery back when it was announced. On baited breath, I waited and waited and waited. Finally, as the S4 got closer to launch, rumors started flying around like seagulls being chased by my kid brother at the beach. Was it going to have a huge battery? Would it last me an entire day or even, gasp, MORE?

    Now we all know that the battery packaged with the S4 is 2600mah. That itself, is a fairly large battery, but I was convinced that it was already doomed to last me 1/2 a day at most. Pushing a 1080p screen, 13mp camera and a Quad-Core 1.9Ghz processor, as well as all the other Samsung accouterments they tend to package in. I wasn't so confident it would last me.

    Regardless, I bought the S4 anyway and put it through its paces. It did get me through my average day, but nowadays I have very low usage. I check bookface once in a while, Message on bookface messenger and use Google Reader, now Feedly, to check up on my news. Nothing too crazy compared to my usage a few years ago but I use data. I'm always using data. LTE juicy goodness.

    By the time I was ready to go home, I'd have 20-40% battery left on my average day, and that simply wasn't enough to get me through the evening. Tired of always trying to top it up during the Day, I turned my sights to the MugenPower Extended battery + door for the S4

    I knew full well it was going to take the S4's thin lines and bloat them up, but I didn't care. I wanted functionality over form. All these phones today are 8-10mm thick which is great, but I'd rather have a phone that is 12-14mm and stuff extra battery in there. Maybe that's just me, but I prefer phones that can just go and go and go.
    ...
    by Published on 07-10-2013 09:42 AM
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    I recently raved about the Nokia Lumia 520. It was the first $150 prepaid phone that Iíve tried that didnít suck. Of course now that you can buy the 520 for $150, many entry-level Android phones are going to have to drop in price to stay competitive.

    So now we have a pair of $78 Android phone: the Huawei Ascend Y210 for TELUS which is available exclusively at Walmart and the Huawei Ascend Y201 on Virgin Mobile. Weíll be looking at the Y210 today.

    Before I start we need to have a reality check. The Y210 is a $78 phone. That pretty much makes it the cheapest Android phone you can buy. With a fancy phone, a review is usually about its fancy features and what you get. With the Y210 itís more about what compromises have to be made to hit the $78 price point and whether theyíre acceptable.

    Itís also worth exploring whether the Y210 and itís ultra-low price point are a worthwhile alternative to a feature phone. ...
    by Published on 07-03-2013 12:23 PM
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    Recently my home internet connection went down and was unreliable for about 2 weeks. I suspect it was due to a fiber cut though I have no proof.

    During that time I had to figure out a way to keep the 20 or so devices I have at home connected to the internet. When something like this happens the first thing that Iíll do is grab some phones and tether off of them. While good in a pinch, itís not a long term-solution. Data costs aside, many of my devices are wired plus the wireless ones arenít configured to attach to my phoneís hotspots anyways.

    Ironically, a day after my problems were fixed, a box with the Hauwei B890 showed up. Itís a router with both a WAN port and a LTE modem. Would it have helped during my outage? ...
    by Published on 06-19-2013 02:17 PM
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    Looking around at the mobile phone market, Android and iOS dominate the top end of the market. Interestly though, Iíve found some of their lower-end offerings leave much to be desired. You just donít get much phone for $150.

    However, if you add another $150 then you can get yourself a Nexus 4.

    The Nokia Lumia 620 I reviewed a while back is a great phone for 250 dollars. Of course the problem is that for another 50 bucks, you can get a 8GB Nexus 4. While the Nexus 4 lacks the Lumia 620ís memory card slot, it gives you more of everything plus it runs Android. So, if have to buy your phone off contract then the 620 is a harder sell.

    To address this shortcoming, Nokia now has the Lumia 520. Itís available for $149 from Rogers and Koodo and $129 at TELUS. At this price point, I have no idea why more carriers didnít pick this up.

    On paper, itís quite similar to the 620. You actually get a bigger screen and battery, same resolution camera minus the flash, same processor, RAM, storage, etc. On paper, it looks like an awesome deal.

    Does anything else even come close? ...
    by Published on 06-10-2013 11:46 PM
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    Apple just announced iOS 7 today. It's for iPhone 4, iPad 2, iPod Touch 4 and iPad Mini or newer. Sorry 3Gs and iPad 1 users. Here are my first impressions of iOS 7 on my iPhone 5:

    The new look is a big pretty change but overall they've done a good job with it. So far with regards to the user interface it all feels pretty polished.

    Apple has replaced the signal bars with dots (or are they nipples). Anyways, I don't like it but I guess I've already gotten used to it. Maybe it's time to update the HoFo logo with those idiotic dots:

    "AT&T: More dots in more places"

    "I have full dots of reception" ...
    by Published on 05-28-2013 02:39 PM
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    12 months ago was a tumultuous time for Blackberry. Back then, many people had written off Blackberry (then RIM). Most of us expected that RIM would be split into two or three companies and sold off. Many figured weíd never actually see BB10. You get the idea.

    Anyways, recently I get the feeling that things are starting to turn around. Back in January, Blackberry finally announced the first device powered by their new operating system BB10.

    Oddly enough, their first BB10 device, the Z10 is a touch-screen only device. Itís weird because Blackberry once ruled the Smartphone market with their QWERTY phones.

    Still itís very surprising that in the 18 months or so since Blackberry released their last QWERTY flagship the Bold 9900 none of their competitors have really released a serious competitor. Sure there were a couple of QWERTY Android phones but they were mostly low specíd entry level devices. Thereís a bit of a vacuum in the market for this class of device.



    So in the ultra-competitive Smartphone market Blackberry managed to catch quite a break. Their first BB10 QWERTY phone, the Q10 comes to market with virtually no competitors.

    The Q10 I'm reviewing here is running on the TELUS LTE network. ...
    by Published on 05-14-2013 04:58 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 01:50 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 08:00 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 11:33 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 09:57 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 03:37 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 03:26 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 ...
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