Smart Phone Reviews

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Welcome to Smart Phone Reviews Blog! This blog will cover the Phone, gadgets, events and cool toys that have affected me in some way. I will also give recommendations on the products that I have actually used.

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Kindle Fire HDX Performance and Features

The Kindle Fire HDX 7 leapfrogs pretty much every current tablet in performance by housing a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 system-on-chip, with a Krait 400 CPU. That’s the fastest version of the SoC we’ve seen so far. There’s a powerful Adreno 330 GPU, dual-band Wi-Fi, gyroscope, and an accelerometer.

The Fire HDX is the second 7-inch tablet to feature a pixel-dense, 1,920x1,200 resolution screen. The screen is crisp and menu text and icons are sharp and perfectly legible.

The Kindle Fire HD (2012) had a bright vibrant screen, but backlight bleeding or “clouding” was apparent when looking at a black or dark screen. Clouding on the HDX 7 is much less severe and can only be seen in the corners when the screen displays a dark image — like during startup.

Unfortunately, while Amazon claims 100 percent sRGB compliance, there’s a yellowish quality to the white and it doesn’t look as pure as it does on the Nexus 7. Also, the screen isn’t as bright as the Nexus 7’s, but that fact actually works in the HDX’s favor, as it’s a lot less harsh on the eyes when reading in the dark.

Navigation performance is much zippier than last year, even compared with that of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9. Everything feels more immediate and a lot less frustrating, making for an overall much more enjoyable experience.

This newfound pep is in part thanks to the optimizations to the Fire OS, but credit can also be given to the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 system-on-chip. It delivers the necessary push so you’re not waiting around to access menus that should have been up seconds ago.

Speaking of which, polygonal gaming performance was excellent as tablets go, delivering performance about on par with the Nvidia Shield and clearly ahead of the new Nexus 7.

Asphalt 8 runs as smoothly as you’re likely to see currently on an Android tablet at this resolution. It’s not as smooth as on the Nvidia Shield, but Nvidia’s handheld has the advantage of running at a lower 1,280x800-pixel resolution.

Riptide GP 2 ran at a silky-smooth frame rate with all graphical features turned to max and didn’t chug when things got busy onscreen. I haven’t yet had an opportunity to test games like N.O.V.A. 3; the Kindle Fire version of the game was unavailable from the HDX’s interface

3DMark isn’t yet available for the Kindle Fire, so I used GFXBench instead. It’s a similar benchmark that tests the tablet at both 1080p and its native resolution. Here the HDX about matched both the Nvidia’s Tegra 4-toting Shield and Asus’ PadFone, which houses a 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800.

The HDX’s speakers aren’t quite as loud as the HD’s, but sound is a lot cleaner and in comparison, the older speakers sound distorted and tinny.

The front camera delivers relatively clear colorful images for a tablet camera. It’s not necessarily something you’ll want to use to capture special moments — there’s definitely visible grain — but as tablet front cameras go, it’s not bad. Especially if all you’re doing is video chatting.

Google Map and Other Apps on Galaxy S4 Reviews

On any Android phone the mapping experience is superb these days, and the Galaxy S4 is no exception thanks to the awesome power of Google Maps. We’ve been evangelising this service for years, but when you’re getting a powerful sat-nav in your phone, then you can see why we’re such fans.

On top of that, it’s one that keeps getting upgraded, and combined with the Galaxy S4’s large, high-res and expansive screen we had no issues at all using it as our navigation device in car.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

We’re not going to go into the full detail of what Google Maps can do, but there are some highlights worth mentioning. For instance you can cache certain parts of the globe to the phone, so if you’re wondering if you’ll be forced to use loads of data when abroad and lost, you can safeguard your bank balance.

There’s 3D mapping of the big cities, so when in the traditional map view you can see skyscraper models popping up on your screen. This is both cool and makes it very easy to navigate by sight if you can’t see a road name anywhere nearby.

And then you have the StreetView option, which lets you see what the roads look like from a pedestrians point of view. Or indoor maps for major attractions, making it easier to navigate big buildings. It’s an excellent app and one you should spend a lot of time getting to know.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

The Google Maps experience has also been upgraded for Full HD phones, with the UI looking so pin sharp (thanks to vector graphics) that you’ll be able to see things you’re looking for instantly on the Galaxy S4.

The screen is bright and clear, and like its predecessor, the GPS and GLONASS combination gives one of the most accurate location experiences we’ve ever seen. In case you’re wondering, GLONASS is the Russian equivalent of the GPS system, with loads of satellites up there beaming down signals.

If you want to sell a smartphone in Russia then you have to offer this compatibility, so it means that any phone that has GPS and GLONASS ability has so many more satellites to choose from - ergo, a much more accurate location experience.

We even found it to be accurate when a metre or so away from the window when inside the house - and we love the fact you can get a lock in under a second, even in built up areas.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is one of the best navigation devices on the market, so if you’ve never experienced the ‘thrill’ of using your phone to get to B from A, then this will blow your mind.

Apps

There are a number of apps available on the Samsung Galaxy S4, and for the most part we’re glad to see that pre-installed bloatware is at a lower level than usual. The usual suspects are there: Calculator, S Memo, S Planner and the gang, and these are all really great tools that we urge you to try out.

They do perhaps err on the side of complexity, which is a theme prevalent throughout the Galaxy S4 when diving into the apps themselves. This will attract a lot of people that consider themselves to be more of a power user, but put off others looking for an alternative to the simplicity of the iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

For instance the S Planner app is visually very busy, but comes with rich functionality. You can set a location with a new meeting appointment, or pinch to zoom through the time view, be it day, week, month or year.

But we like that Samsung favours power over simplicity, and it does a really great job of making that power usable.

There are a number of other new apps on the Galaxy S4, so take a look below to see how they stack up:

Optical Reader

This application apes the likes of Google Goggles by enabling you to translate words on the screen in front of you (using augmented reality), nab details from business cards and get information from QR codes when asked. It’s a simple interface that really only asks to be pointed at the object you’re looking at, and works well.

In reality we can only see it being any good for getting business card details or understanding what the odd words means in a foreign language. The business card element is hit and miss, so if you’re trying to get everything from the name of the person to their job title to their phone number handily stored in the phone, the accuracy is generally around 70%.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

That’s still 70% less effort than manually putting all the info in yourself, so we consider that to be a real time saver.

S Translate

Building on the ability to take one word and put it in another language, the S Translate app is a powerful tool that will let you speak or type words into the phone and have them translated into another language - or vice versa.

It’s a simple system to actually use - we found very little that went wrong with it. More intriguingly, the app could even understand what were were saying more often than not when trying to speak in a foreign tongue.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

We’ve tried this on a number of apps, and this is the first time it’s worked so well, so big thumbs up to Samsung for that.

The only issue we can see is that it relies on a connection to the internet to work properly - if you’re out and about in a land where you don’t understand the language chances are you won’t have data, thus rendering the app moot.

It’s only a slight quibble though, and as such shouldn’t put you off buying the Galaxy S4 if you’re someone looking for a really handy travel companion.

Story Album

In response to HTC’s Zoe functionality, and BlackBerry bringing the same sort of functionality on the BB10software, Samsung has added in the ability to make photo albums of your memories and even enabling you to send the pics across to a real life printers to have a glossy book made.

But in practice it’s a really low-power app that seems to be just ticking boxes rather than bringing innovation. We were initially impressed as the phone could work out when we had been taking photos of an event and then asked us to create an album based on the snaps.

When we went to do such a thing though, we were really disappointed. Despite tagging our friends in pictures, the wrong faces were in focus, the themes poor and the speed of rendering for a device that has such a strong core is saddening.

Story album could be so much better if Samsung put some effort here, but it feels really cobbled together - and pales massively when compared to the memory-making HTC One Zoe functionality.

Gaming

Gaming on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is handled by the Adreno 320 GPU, which obviously can not only handle a much larger number of pixels, but can also work its magic when it comes to giving smooth, real to life gaming on the go.

We tried the phone on a number of games, from Super Hexagon to Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and as expected the Galaxy S4 handled them all with aplomb, with not even a hint of judder or slow down when in heavy use.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

More impressively was the lack of battery juice-down when using the handset, as it managed to only consume a few percent of the power even when getting a little warmer in the hand.

Android doesn’t have a lot of stand out games at the moment, but in our tests of the largest (Grand Theft Auto, Need for Speed, NOVA 3 plus myriad benchmarking apps) we found there was nothing the Galaxy S4 couldn’t handle. Good-o.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Reviews

The Samsung Galaxy S4 release date, price and specs has officially been unveiled - the phone will hit shelves by the end of April in the UK.

It’s official and it’s now here, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has been revealed in New York. Although many of the features had been leaked in the weeks leading up to the event, the launch was still a time for Samsung to show-off its latest handset, while no doubt making sure that Apple’s got its work cut-out with the iPhone 5S.

Here we’ll take a look at the phone’s new features and outline its key specifications, as well as rounding up the current UK prices. For a more in-depth look, check out our Samsung Galaxy Specs article.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 DESIGN

With the Galaxy S3 proving to be such a success, Samsung hasn’t strayed too far from that design with the Galaxy S4. The rounded edges and lozenge-shaped home button at the bottom of the phone are all instantly recognisable.

Samsung Galaxy S4
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is thinner and lighter than the Samsung Galaxy S3

While the S3 looked and felt, well, quite plasticy, the Samsung S4 looks that much nicer and more like the high-end phone that it should be. It has a polycarbonate case, but it’s now slimmer (7.9mm) and lighter (130g) than its predecessor.

Two versions of the phone will be available: Black Mist and White Frost. It’s hard to pass judgement on the phone until we’ve seen it in the flesh, but in the shots we’ve seen it certainly looks like a step up from the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Samsung Galaxy S4
Available in black or white, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is instantly recognisable

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 SCREEN

As expected, the Galaxy S4 has a 5in Full HD (1,920x1,080) Super AMOLED screen. That’s a stunning 441ppi, making this one of the highest-density phones that we’ve seen. The HTC One manages slightly more at 468ppi, thanks to its slightly-smaller 4.7in Full HD screen. On balance, though, you’re going to find it hard to tell the difference or spot individual pixels on either screen.

There was no mention of the Green PHOLED technology, which was rumoured to be making its first appearance here. However, we’ve been impressed with Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology before and it’s always been power efficient, helping to save battery life.

As expected, the screen can be operated just by hovering your finger over it, giving rise to two new features. Air View lets you hover over content, such as an email or photo, to preview it without having to open it. Air Gesture, lets you change tracks, scroll through a web page or answer a call with the wave of your hand. We haven’t had chance to try the system out yet, but this should make fine-control of the touchscreen operating system that little bit easier.

Samsung Galaxy S4
Air View and Air Gesture let you operate the touchscreen without touching it

Gorilla Glass 3 helps make the phone durable, although we’d still recommend a screen protector or case if you’re going to keep your phone in a pocket with sharp items, such as keys.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 CAMERAS

Cameras are an important part of any smartphone, with many people preferring them to compact cameras. From the specifications, Samsung hasn’t let us down with the Galaxy S4 camera, with a 13-megapixel rear camera, complete with Flash and a high-speed shutter mode. At the front is a 2-megapixel camera.

Samsung Galaxy S4
The 13-megapixel rear camera certainly has impressive specifications, but the front camera can be used to control the phone

Now, two cameras on a smartphone is hardly something new, but with Dual Camera you can operate both of them at the same time. It feels a little gimmicky to us, but the idea is that you can film yourself with the front camera and then superimpose yourself on the footage from the rear camera. The examples we’ve seen look a little twee and we’re not sure that most people want their faces to appear surrounded by a postage stamp border over the footage they’re recording.

Samsung Galaxy S4
You can superimpose yourself as a floating stamp in videos, if you like that kind of thing

The front camera also serves a purpose in controlling the phone with Smart Pause. This technology knows when you’re looking at the screen so it can, for example, pause a video when you turn your head and look away. As soon as you look back, the video continues. It’s a neat way of using the cameras for more than just still images and video.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 PROCESSOR

We were expecting the Octa-Core Samsung Exynos 5 processor in the phone and that’s an option, with a 1.6GHz model. However, a 1.9GHz Quad-Core version of the phone will also be sold, depending on where you live in the world. Samsung hasn’t specified yet which version we’ll get in the UK, although we would expect to get the Octa-Core model.

The company tweeted a rendering of the new chip, which is also rumoured to power the new Galaxy Note 3 phone/tablet, from its @SamsungExynos Twitter account, so whetting the appetites of Samsung fans everywhere.

The new chip’s eight-core design is based on ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture. This means that there are four powerful Cortex-A15 cores for the phone’s most power-hungry functions, and four lower-power Cortex-A7 models to take care of simpler tasks. When the phone isn’t needed to do anything fancy, the more powerful cores shut down, extending battery life.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 BATTERY

Speaking of battery life, the new handset will use a 2,600mAh battery. That’s 500mAh bigger than the one in the S3 and should be big enough to cope with the slightly-enlarged screen, and the greater demands of 4G, while still running all day.

The battery is also removable, so you can carry a charged spare if you’re going to be out for a long time. It also means that a failing battery can easily be replaced.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 4G AND WIRELESS

You can’t make a modern phone and not support the latest wireless standards, so the Samsung Galaxy S4 has full support for 4G LTE networks. Global 4G support has been promised, supporting download speeds of 100Mbit/s and uploads of 50Mbit/s. Full 3G and 2.5G support is, of course, also present.

For use at home there’s also better Wi-Fi support, with the new 802.11ac standard supported. We’ve seen this networking standard deliver speeds well over 200Mbit/s, so using super-fast broadband speeds on your phone at home is going to easy.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 NFC

NFC makes an appearance, so the phone will be compatible with Google Wallet, so you can pay for goods in compatible shops using just your phone. It will also support Visa’s payWave, widening the choice and range of places that you can shop in.

In addition, Samsung showed some other ways that NFC can be used. One of the most different was Group Play. By tapping your Samsung Galaxy S4 to another one, you can share music and pictures. Samsung has also promised that the technology will support multi-player gaming and it’s opening up the SDK to encourage other companies to develop for it.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 STORAGE

No great surprises on the storage front, with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models announced. However, it’s good to see that there’s still a microSD card slot, so you can add up to 64GB of storage. Depending on the prices, it may even work out cheaper to buy a lower-capacity model and then upgrade it when you need to with a memory card.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 S HEALTH

With fitness accessories apps being big business, Samsung clearly doesn’t want to miss out and has launched S Health with the Galaxy S4. Using your phone a variety of accessories, you’ll be able to measure your weight and health.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 OTHER FEATURES

If all of that wasn’t enough, the Galaxy S4 also has an IR transmitter, which you can use to control your home entertainment kit via the WatchOn app. There’s also S Voice Drive, which puts up a simpler interface for when you’re driving and recognises voice prompts. Finally, when you’re abroad the translation services let you type in a message and have the phone read it out in a different language; the spoken reply is then converted back into your language on the screen.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 RELEASE DATE

Samsung has promised to have the phone out by the end of April. Exact launch dates will depend on the country, but we expect the UK to be one of the first on the list. We’ll bring you updated information as and when it becomes available.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 PRICE AND UK NETWORKS

The good news is that you won’t be short of choice when it comes to buying the Samsung Galaxy S4. Two of the major UK networks have confirmed that they will be carrying the new phone - no great surprise, when you consider the huge success of the Galaxy S3 and the amount of hype that has been building up to the launch of the S4.

As you’d hope considering the Galaxy S4’s LTE capability, it will be available on the UK’s only 4G network - EE - and Three has also thrown its hat into the ring.

Vodafone and O2 have yet to say either way, but we find it hard to believe that they will pass up the chance to stock this year’s potential biggest seller.

Pricing hasn’t yet been announced, but we can take a fair stab at expected prices. We’d imagine that launch prices will be the same as for the S3 when it launched back in May - a wallet-busting £499. Once again though the tough competition from Google’s own Nexus 4 device may force Samsung to lower its price in order to compete - unless of course the hardware specification is a big step forward.

On contract you’re likely to be looking at £30-40 a month minimum, and considerably more with a 4G service such as EE. This will be an expensive handset, though probably still a little less than the iPhone 5 costs

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