Sunday, 17 March 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 review:

Samsung Galaxy S4The Galaxy S4 handset steadily draws from the same design language as the S3, but takes almost every spec to an extreme -- the screen is larger (5 inches), the resolution greater (1080p), the battery capacity higher (2,600mAh), the processor faster (1.9GHz quad-core or 1.6GHz octa-core), and the rear-facing camera stuffed with more megapixels (13, to be exact). But, once you've gone through the features checklist (which also includes lots of internal and external storage space and RAM), it's the software extras that Samsung continues to lean on to keep its phones one step ahead of the competition.
At first glance, the Samsung Galaxy S4 looks like a cookie-cutter copy of the GS3, but larger. It has the same rounded edges and narrow physical home button as its predecessor, but at 7.9mm deep (0.31 inch) and 130g (4.6 ounces), it's also a little lighter and thinner. Part of the slim look and feel is a result of Samsung creating sharper, straighter lines with the phone than the GS3's subtle curves.
Standing at 136.6mm tall by 68.9mm wide (5.4 inches by 2.7 inches), the Galaxy S4 fits right in between the GS3 and the Galaxy Note phones. It's large, to be sure -- very large -- but since I've grown used to holding big handsets, it didn't feel overwhelming in my hands. A more dimpled finish on the white version I held reminded me of the Galaxy S2, in contrast to the GS3's silky brushed feel.

Turns out, that's somewhat true. Smart Pause and Smart Scroll are two features that build off the Galaxy S3's optional Smart Stay feature, which kept the screen from dimming when you looked at it. In the GS4, tilting the screen up or down while looking at it scrolls you up or down, say if you're reading a CNET story, of course. As a daily commuter with one hand on the phone and one on a hand strap, this could be a more convenient way to catch up with news while on the train or bus.
Samsung Galaxy S4Eye-tracking gestures
Conflicting rumors painted a scenario where you'd scroll the screen with your eyes using eye-tracking software within the GS4.
I really like the idea of Smart Pause, which halts a video you're watching when your eyes dart away, then resumes when you start paying attention again.
Both features worked better in theory than they did in practice, though I should mention that the GS4 I was looking at is (obviously) preproduction running prefinal software. Still, response time was a beat slower than I wanted, taking a little time to pause and resume the video, and scroll the screen. A minor delay makes sense. You wouldn't want to start and stop again every time you're distracted for a second. Instead, the software seems to track longer periods when you're away, like if you stop what you're doing to order a cup of coffee, talk to a friend, or climb a set of stairs.
While the Galaxy S4 will look the same everywhere in the world, it won't necessarily have the same motor under the hood. Your future GS4 handset will either thrum from a 1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 series processor, or from a 1.6GHz eight-core chipset,Samsung's Exynos 5 Octa silicon.
Pricing and availability
If this phone sounds like something you want to get your hands on, you won't have to wait too long. Samsung plans to stagger releases worldwide in April and May. In the U.S., Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Cricket Wireless will all get the Galaxy S4 (along with Sprint MVNO Ting). Samsung hasn't yet shared plans for other countries.

Sony Xperia Z review

Sony Xperia Z comes with some of the best specs on the market - and it's one of the most eagerly awaited handsets of recent months. A quad-core 1.5GHz Snaprdragon Krait processor, 13MP camera, 16GB storage (expandable, woohoo!), 2GB RAM, water and dust-resistant, 1080p HD screen with Bravia Engine, LTE, to name a few. One thing the Sony Xperia Z certainly does have in common with every other smartphone out there is the fact that it is a pure magnet for fingerprints. Sony Xperia Z rocks in at 139 x 71 x 7.9mm/5.47 x 2.79 x 0.31 inches, so there's little room for anything else in your hands.                             

The ports are spread out with the headphone jack up top, the SIM slot and volume rocker on the right - either side of a silver standby button - while both the microSD and charging ports are on the left, alongside contacts for accessories. A watertight port covers each. The front of the Sony Xperia Z is minimalist - showing off only a Sony logo and front-facing camera. The rear is a little busier, with various tech info printed on it, plus the Sony Xperia logo, an NFC badge, camera light and the all-important lens. That back is stuck fast - as is becoming the custom, you'll have no luck if you want to remove the battery.

One of the selling points of the Sony Xperia Z is that it is also water resistant. There's something slightly unnerving about taking a £529 (around US$817/AU$789) phone and dropping it in the sink - but that's exactly what we did. And it worked absolutely fine. Clearly, you'll need to make sure the ports are covered using those watertight protectors, that much goes without saying.
And at £529 (around US$817/AU$789) in the UK, this is not a cheap handset by any stretch of the imagination. It's actually the same price as the comparable SIM-free 16GB iPhone 5. Now, that's not to say that Apple product prices should set the benchmark, but considering we've often thrown out there that we think iOS devices are hideously overpriced, this is a very brave move from Sony.