While the GoPro is one of the most popular brands for action camera, if you’re looking for an affordable action camera, the SJ4000 is a pretty good alternative. At a sub-$100 price point, the SJ4000 Sports HD DV camera offers top of the line features and a box full of accessories.
A few months back, the name Xiaomi would have drawn blank stares from most Indian consumers. However, the ‘Apple of China’ has become the darling of India thanks to its superbly priced devices. The Redmi 1S was launched in India less than a month back, and has been selling out in a matter of seconds every week. On paper, the Redmi 1S appears to be a stunning bargain. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 powered smartphone with HD display and 8 mega-pixel camera at just ₹ 6000 is a steal. However, specs can often be deceptive. What matters in the end is its real life performance. Read on to find out if the Redmi 1S is as good as it seems.
Appearance, Display, and Battery
I normally don’t pay a lot of attention to the packaging, but Redmi deserves a special mention due to two things – both good and bad. On a positive note, the box is compact and well designed, is eco-friendly, and feels premium. However, unlike most other smartphones, the Redmi 1S doesn’t ship with an earphone. I don’t consider this to be a big deal, as most bundled earphones sound worse than something you can buy separately for less than ₹ 500. But, the omission of such a standard accessory can unpleasantly surprise some buyers.
At this price point, functional design is what you should expect, and the Redmi 1S delivers on that front. It doesn’t have the sleek curves of the premium droids, but it is not ugly by any means. The plastic rear cover has a nice lustrous appearance, but is a smudge magnet. Smudge is a problem with the front too, which sports a 4.7’’ HD (720p) display with capacitive buttons accented in red. The LED indicator is placed just beneath the Home button. The Redmi has pretty wide bezels, which adds to its dimensions. At 137 x 69 x 9.9 mm it’s only slightly smaller than the Mi3 or the Mi4. It’s also fairly heavy, weighing in at 158 g. However, the overall build quality is pretty solid, and it avoids looking like a brick. In fact, the Redmi 1S looks quite better than a lot of the other phones in this price range.
The 4.7-inch IPS display has a pixel density of 312 ppi, which is excellent for a low-end phone. Colour reproduction is on the saturated side, but contrast and brightness are good. However, the glass panel is highly reflective, and hampers outdoor visibility. Even at maximum brightness it can be challenging to read text under the sun.
The Redmi’s back panel covers an eye-popping red coloured 2000 mAh battery, which is user replaceable. MiUi has a reputation of being a battery eater, but the Redmi still manages to last through the day with moderate usage.
The hardware of a budget phone is always a delicate balancing act. The manufacturer has to make the right compromises to make sure that the end product still performs satisfactorily. The Redmi 1S is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 MSM8228 chipset, which houses a Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A7 CPU and Adreno 305 GPU. This almost the same unit as in the more expensive Moto G (actually Redmi is clocked slightly higher). However, synthetic benchmarks suggest that the Redmi is actually slightly slower than the Moto G. This might be due to the older version of Android, as well as the custom MiUi skin. The Redmi 1S has 1 GB of RAM, which sounds decent enough, but MiUi is a memory hog, which eats up a major chunk of the available memory. In fact, the Redmi failed to execute the Vellamo multicore test due to insufficient memory.
There are also reports on MiUi forums that the Redmi can get uncomfortably hot. While the Redmi did become warm after ten to fifteen minutes of usage, it was not astoundingly hot. The plastic at the back doesn’t seem to be a very good insulator, which does amplify the issue a bit, but the front didn’t get any hotter than I’ve experienced an LG G3 or an Xperia Z2 get. Perhaps Xiaomi could have done a better job with the heat dissipation due to the larger housing available to it.
A budget smartphone is not expected to be a brilliant gaming device. However, it’s always nice if it can handle some casual gaming. I played Angry Bird Stella for extended periods of time, and the Redmi had no problems. However, things were a bit different with Gameloft’s Spiderman Unlimited. The Redmi started off smoothly, but after about fifteen to twenty minutes of gaming, began to stutter randomly, leading to a really frustrating experience. Once the Redmi gets hot, it throttles the CPU, and performance can suffer noticeably. This is something I didn’t experience with the Moto G. In spite of having slightly better specs than the Moto G, the Redmi 1S doesn’t perform as well in the real world. However, to be honest, if you ignore gaming, the overall experience is pretty smooth. You will experience an occasional lag, but it’s not frequent enough to become annoying. The device has 8 GB of internal memory, out of which only four and a half gigs is available to the user. That space can fill up pretty soon if you install a lot of apps, and that’s definitely going to have an impact on the performance. There is also no easy way to move apps to the SD card on MiUi.
There is no 4G or NFC, but the Redmi 1S supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0 (including low energy mode), and USB on the go. One surprising issue that I faced with the Redmi is with the GPS sensor. On several occasions, it had trouble accurately pin pointing my location.
Software is undoubtedly the most unique aspect of Xiaomi phones. Redmi ships with MiUi 5, which is based on Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean). MiUi 6 (KitKat) has been announced, but Redmi users might not get it before next year (beta testing is slated to begin towards the end of this year). I’m not a big fan of the MiUi launcher, which gets rid of the app drawer, and instead puts all your apps on the home screen. But, I love most of the other stuff about the UI. In fact, even the home screen that I tend to quickly replace also has its redeeming aspects. Moving apps between screens is remarkably easy thanks to the ‘Move Apps’ feature which allows you to select multiple apps and then swipe to the screen you wish to place them in. You can even shake your phone to automatically organize your icons.
MiUi is vibrant and colourful, with nice subtle transitions and effects. There are tons of themes, which change everything from wallpaper and ringtones to lockscreen and notification bar. However, MiUI’s enhancements are not just skin deep. There are numerous additional features and apps that you’ll begin to appreciate as you spend time with the device. In fact, there are so many small enhancements littered across the user interface that it is impossible to over them all in this review. However, I’ll be quickly going through some of my favourite aspects.
Although Redmi was in the news last month due to allegations of data theft, MiUi actually offers excellent security features out of the box. Permission Manager lets you know when an App tries to request a potentially dangerous permission. Spam filter, antivirus, and firewall is also built in. There’s also a Blacklist to block people you want to avoid, a bandwidth monitor to keep track of your data usage, and a disk cleaner to reclaim free space.
The music app has several tricks up its sleeve, including automatically downloading and applying album arts, fetching synchronized lyrics, and playing songs from the Billboard Top 100. You can also tap on circle in the lockscreen icons to control the music (Play, Previous, Next) without unlocking the phone. While you are on the lockscreen, you can also long press the Home button to turn on the flashlight.
There are tons of customization options, and you can change tons of stuff like LED notifications and what long pressing each of the capacitive buttons does, without needing to root your phone.
Xiaomi also provides a full-fledged backup option powered by Mi Cloud, which can sync everything including Contacts, SMS, pictures, Call Log, Notes, and Wi-Fi Settings.
The Redmi’s battery life is pretty decent, but you can give it a further boost with the Power Management app. This app features three pre-set modes – Default, Marathon, and Sleep. The Marathon mode disables data, which sleep mode disables pretty much everything other than the alarm clock. If that sounds too extreme, you can create your own configuration, and program it to be automatically applied when the battery falls below a certain threshold.
If you prefer to keep things simple, then there’s also a Lite mode, which gets rid of all the customizations and settings. Instead, you will get a page with big icons giving you access to the most important apps and contacts.
The Redmi 1S sports an 8 mega-pixel rear camera, and a 1.6 mega-pixel front camera. Under proper lighting, the Redmi 1S performs commendably when it comes to imaging. The auto-focus works well, and the images have good detail and colour balance. However, things go downhill under low light. Very little detail is preserved, and the amount of noise is simply too high. Even HDR doesn’t seem to be of much help. The LED flash almost always ends up overexposing the picture. Video is captured at 1080p, and once again, under proper conditions, the Redmi performs really well. I didn’t witness any frame rate drops, and the amount of detail rendered is impressive.
The camera app itself might seem simple at first. However, if you want to have more manual control, you can simply enable Advanced mode to get access to the various settings.
On the whole, the Redmi’s camera performs quite well and is better than what you would expect from a budget phone.
The Xiaomi Redmi 1S doesn’t quite live up to its specifications. It tends to get heated quickly, which hurts the performance. MiUi also has its own disadvantages, including high memory usage, and an older Android version. However, the OS itself is updated every week, and brings with it tons of cool features. The camera is great for the budget segment, and the display is also better than what you would get in a lot of other similarly priced phones. Don’t expect too much from your Redmi, and you will be a happy buyer. The phone offers a pretty compelling package at just ₹ 6,000. As always, there are compromises. But, the compromises don’t get in the way of having an enjoyable experience with the device.
LG has come a long way since its initial clunky Optimus handsets. The first two flagships in the G series did a lot to improve consumer perception about LG smartphones. It didn’t hurt that Google also placed faith in LG and assigned it the responsibility of developing the Nexus devices. The Korean electronics giant is going all out with the new G3. Launched and promoted by Amitabh Bachchan, it certainly has the specs to turn heads. But, how does it perform in real life? Did LG bite off more than it can chew? Keep reading to find out.
Appearance, Display and Battery
The headline grabbing feature of the G3 is undoubtedly the quad-HD display. The 5.5’’ IPS display boasts of a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels, which equates to an insane 534 ppi pixel density. LG obviously doesn’t believe in Apple’s claim that it’s impossible for our eye to discern improvements in pixel density beyond 300 ppi. After, using the G3, I am inclined to agree with LG. Some of the preloaded content looks absolutely breath-taking. Even the YouTube videos at a 2K resolution looks splendid. Unfortunately, most of the content that you are going to come across will not be able to take advantage of the G3’s superior display. We expect apps and videos to catch up at 2K becomes more prevalent, but by then the G3 might already be old. Compared to the G2, both contrast and saturation seems to have suffered. LG has shifted from natural looking displays to dialling up the saturation to make the colours pop. Another area where LG has compromised with the display is outdoor visibility. It’s not as good as before, and is made worse by the fact that in order to prevent overheating, the phone automatically restricts the maximum brightness to 90% after a few minutes of usage.
The size of the display puts it firmly in the phablet category. In fact, the LG G3’s display is a couple of inches bigger than the first Samsung Note. However, the G3 is still appreciably smaller than the Note N700 in almost every way. The G2 has impressively thin bezels, but the G3 cuts down even further. The almost edge-to-edge display lends the G3 a majestic appearance that none of the other flagships manage to pull off. In spite of the heft, the G3 is the easiest to handle among similarly sized devices. This is largely due to the fact that the G3 is not as wide as many of the phablets, and has a curved back that is easy to grip. This is only a relative thing though. Like all current generation flagships, the G3 is simply too big to be comfortably used with one hand. The G3’s rear is plastic, but polished to give a metallic appearance. The plastic feels cheap, but also has the advantage of making the phone lighter.
The back cover is removable and the battery is user replaceable. The 3000 mAh battery offers enough juice to last through the day. I didn’t conduct any benchmarks, but the battery life seemed to be on par with other flagships. LG has done a few under the hood tinkering to make sure that the massive display doesn’t hurt the battery life, and the tweaks seem to have worked.
The G3 is powered by a Snapdragon 801 chipset that includes a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330. As you can expect from such mighty hardware, the performance is great. The G3 maxed out the 3D Mark – Ice Storm Extreme benchmark, and is certainly among the best performers you can buy right now. Heating can be a concern, as I mentioned earlier, but at least the G3 doesn’t completely disable critical functions (Camera) like the Z2 does when its gets heated.
The G3 comes with 16 or 32 gigs of internal storage. The latter has 3GB RAM while the former has only 2 GB. External memory cards up to 128 GB are also supported.
The G3 unit in India is 4G-enabled, and supports all common connectivity options including Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/f/n/ac, and NFC. Wireless charging (Qi) is also supported.
One of my pet peeves with LG has been its silly, childish icons. I’m glad to report that they are finally gone. In fact, LG has embraced the flat design concept, and tastefully reskinned its entire interface. Bright, primary colors have been replaced with more subdued tones. But, LG has ensured that the UI doesn’t become boring with the help of quick animations peppered through the interface. However, all is not rosy. The notifications pane still has way too many things going on. I like the scrollable, quick toggles section, but the audio control is pointless since that can easily be done through hardware keys. Also, in its attempt to simplify the Settings pane, LG has removed a lot of the neat options it had before. Important settings like switching between Network modes (2G/3G/LTE) seem to have disappeared. However, the G3 is still one of the most customizable Android devices out of the box. You can change your phone’s appearance by changing home screen themes, tweaking fonts, and switch animation effects. There are tons of free themes available for download in LG’s app store (SmartWorld).
There are also heaps of software enhancements. My favourite among them is Knock Code. One of the potential issues with having the power button at the rear of the phone is that it becomes impossible to unlock the phone without picking it up from your desk. To get around this problem, the G2 introduced Knock On, which allowed you to wake up the phone by simply tapping on the screen twice. Knock Code is a further enhancement of that. It allows you to define a custom pattern of taps (combination of Up, Down, Left, and Right). You can directly wake up and unlock your device by tapping your Knock Code. This is actually a faster and easier than pattern unlock. It’s also a lot harder for bystanders to figure out.
Another new inclusion is LG Health, which tracks your steps without requiring any additional hardware or using too much battery. However, like most such apps it’s likely to be more gimmicky than useful. The data it reported varied wildly with the data reported by Sony’s Smart Band, which itself doesn’t agree with the Fitbit.
LG also made a lot of fuss about its keyboard. I like that fact that you can adjust the height and there is a dedicated numpad. However, like all other OEM keyboards, it is no where near as good as Swype or Swiftkey.
Perhaps my least favourite new feature is Smart Notice, which is more annoying than useful. The only reasonable advice I received from it is to carry an umbrella based on the weather forecast. When you already have something as good as Google Now, it’s stupid to a similar but vastly inferior app.
LG’s note taking app QuickMemo is still there, but doesnt have a dedicated button like in some of the older models. Other typical LG features are also there including Smartseek (displays YouTube like thumbnail preview in the video player when you seek), QSlide (opens app in a floating mini-window with adjustable transparency), Guest Mode (restricts access to apps and data), and Cliptray (clip board manager providing access to data you have previously copied).
The G3 ships with a 13 mega-pixel camera with Optical Image Stabilization and Laser Autofocus. The latter is another LG innovation. As soon as you hit the capture button, the G3 emits a laser beam, which acts like a SONAR and helps it determine the distance of objects in the frame. LG claims that it allows the G3 to focus faster and more accurately in varied conditions. Although, the benefits weren’t as dramatic as advertised by LG, the G3 did manage to focus quickly and reliably even under poor lighting conditions.
The camera itself is excellent. Although, it looks inferior to the Sony Xperia Z2 on paper, in reality I struggled to find a difference. In fact, in some cases, the G3 returned better results. LG has dramatically simplified the camera interface. Manual mode as well as multiple scenes are now a thing of the past. There are three basic modes – Auto, Magic Focus, Panorama, and Dual. The Magic Focus mode snaps multiple pics at different focal lengths and allows you to change the focus of the picture later. The Dual mode fires both the front and rear cams together to make sure that you aren’t missing from all your photo. Photosphere (or VR Camera as LG used to call it) has been axed, presumably because it’s too complex to be used in most situations. The amount of detail in the images was good with low noise and vibrant colours. LG’ flagship is way ahead of HTC, and on-par with everyone else.
The 2.1 mega pixel front-camera is capable of shooting full HD videos. There’s also a selfie mode, which allows you to trigger a 3-second countdown timer by clasping your palm. This is neat as having to tap the camera button while posing for and taking a selfie can be a bit tricky. There’s also an option to use the light from the display as a secondary light source. The overall quality of pics captured from the front cam, however, is nothing particularly impressive.
The G3 supports 4K video recording, but as in other devices it’s more of a gimmick. It’s usable for short periods of time, but generates way too much heat and takes way too much space to be usable for longer videos. However, the quality of recorded video is great for a smartphone, and the microphone does a good job at removing background noise.
LG has also worked on the loudspeaker, which is often ignored in smartphones. The speaker is rated at 1 Watt (1.5W with Boost Amp), and is quite loud. Of course, if you keep the phone on a flat surface, the sound is going to get muffled. LG still can’t match up to the quality of the sound produced by HTC’s front-facing stereo speakers, but its loud speakers are no pushovers. In all likelihood, LG was forced to put the speaker in the rear as front-facing speakers would have added to the dimensions of the G3.
The G3 is a phenomenal device. It’s not perfect. It’s too big to be comfortable. The faux-metal back cover looks good, but doesn’t feel as great. And, the ultra-high resolution display comes with its own set of compromises. However, these are small grievances. LG gets most of the things right. It packs in a bigger display than others, while keeping the phone size in the same ballpark. The resolution is, of course, a generation ahead of everyone else. The camera is as good as others, if not better. And, some of its innovations like the Rear Key and Knock Code are simply brilliant. There’s little to separate the flagships from Samsung, HTC, Sony, and LG. The G3 is also priced competitively. It’s cheaper than the Z2, in the same range as the One M8, and a bit more expensive than the Galaxy S5. A lot depends on your personal preference. However, LG G3 is my favourite device of the season. This is a phone that’s really hard to not like.
HGST, a Western Digital company, recently launched a new line of Touro S external hard drives. The colorful, stylish hard drives delivers two levels of data protection – local backup and cloud storage. Continue reading HGST Touro S is a Stylish and High-performance USB 3.0 Hard Drive
During the FIFA World Cup few weeks back, I tried the latest Epson home projector – Epson EH-TW5200 – adding a fun highlight to my football parties. Epson claims it to be world’s most affordable full HD, 3D home theatre projector that delivers the brightest and sharpest 3D images. Continue reading Review: Epson EH-TW5200 Projector
Announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, the Sony Xperia Z2 has recently arrived in India. Sony’s flagship smartphones have always pushed the envelope further in terms of design and features, but a few mishits here and there have let them down.
If you have seen the Xperia Z1, you have seen the Xperia Z2. In terms of design, there are not many differences you will be able to notice at a glance. But that’s a good thing. Sony’s OmniBalance design with a combination of glass and metal looks very premium, and stands out from the crowd. It picks up fingerprints like crazy though. There are three color options like with the Z1 – white, black, and purple.
The latest iteration is tougher and the company claims that the glass panel on the back is scratch-resistant now. The design’s top notch, and the Z2 is dust-proof as well as water-proof. Sony’s distinctive round power button is in its now-familiar spot in the middle of the right edge and flaps lined with rubber protect the microSD card slot, the microUSB charging port, and the SIM card slot.
The Xperia Z1 suffered from a poor display with bad viewing angles. That changes now, and the Xperia Z2 boasts of IPS LCD which makes the 5.2-inch 1080p display pretty crisp with great viewing angles. It’s not perfect, and is quite reflective especially in direct sunlight.
The Xperia Z2 checks all the boxes on the specifications sheet for a flagship smartphone. Powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 clocked at 2.3GHz, the Z2 packs in a mammoth 3GB of RAM. There’s 16GB of internal storage, expandable by up to 128GB.
There’s not much you need to talk about the performance. The UI and navigation is as smooth as it gets, while multitasking and app startups are a breeze. There’s no lag in the overall user experience, and no stuttering while playing graphic-intensive games. I noticed it getting hot sometimes when pushed harder though.
One of the understated highlights of the phone is its battery backup. The 3,200mAh battery lasts for the entire day with several calls, and continuous 3G or Wi-Fi use with GPS turned on. That’s pretty impressive, and arguably the best performance in the current crop of flagship Android smartphones.
The Sony Xperia Z2 prides itself on its 20.7-megapixel camera. You’d only get that resolution in the manual mode though as the auto-mode defaults to 8MP. The photos in good light conditions are brilliant and vivid, with good color reproduction. In low light though, there’s considerable noise. There’s not optical image stabilization, which is a bummer.
Again, the camera is not perfect, but it’s no downer as well. If you know your way around manual settings, you’d be able to click pretty good photos. There’s also the ability to shoot 4K videos, pretty much a nice novelty on the list.
Among several effects that Sony packs in, background defocus is an interesting one allowing photos with a subject in focus and background blurred. Although, it’s pretty much a trick. The camera doesn’t sense the depth, but takes two photographs and then blurs everything except the subject. While you can select the intensity and pattern of the blur, it’s not a smooth process and the option has to be selected before clicking the photo, and not added after it has been clicked.
Powered by Android 4.4 KitKat, the user experience it pretty much stock Android with some UI customizations. In most cases, that’s not a bad thing, but you’d miss the more functional implementations in notifications or settings like in Samsung or LG flagships.
There’s of course too many Sony apps, some of which like Jive for unlimited music downloads are good to have but are too, for the lack of a better phrase, in the face. There’s also Sony Liv that offers a number shows from Sony’s television channels. The ‘What’s New’ widget throws up updates about Sony content and services, and pretty much annoys and eats up data. It’s the first one you should get rid of.
Sony Xperia Z2 is a significant improvement over the Z1, and the water-proof feature is a terrific addition to the feature list. Sony has also almost got the display right this time, and offers a terrific battery life.
While Sony covers all bases for a flagship smartphone, there’s no standout, marketing pitch like the fitness features of the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the dual-camera system of the HTC One (M8). If that doesn’t bother you, and in most cases, it shouldn’t, Xperia Z2 is a good buy if you are looking for a top-end Android smartphone. Launched at ₹49,990, the price has dipped a little since then.
Last week, Flipkart stepped into the electronics market with the launch of its own tablet – the Digiflip Pro XT712. Much like the Amazon Kindle Fire, the Digiflip will serve as a vehicle to increase customer engagement with various Flipkart products. However, unlike the Kindle, Digiflip doesn’t quite put Flipkart left, right, and center. Instead, it offers an almost pure stock Android experience with a couple of bundled Flipkart apps. But, before getting into the details of the software, let’s take a closer look the hardware.
Unboxing the Digiflip
The packaging is neat and functional. Lifting the thermocol seat that comfortably houses the Digiflip, reveals the accessories compartment. Included in the package are a power adaptor (along with an USB cable), an in-ear earphone, an earphone converter, a manual, and a soft wipe. I also ordered the book case, which was available at 50% discount.
Appearance and Display
The Digiflip is sturdily built, and feels solid and reassuring. There’s no metal here, but the polycarbonate body manages to avoid the cheap plasticky feeling. The power button and volume controls are on the top left, but there is no physical camera button. The 3.5 mm earphone jack is on the top, while the micro-USB port is at the bottom. The speaker grill is just beneath the front camera.
The Digiflip Pro sports a 7’’ IPS display with a resolution of resolution of 1280 X 800, which amounts to a 216 ppi pixel-density. If you look closely, you can spot the pixels, and outdoor visibility is just about decent. However, considering the price range, the display is actually quite decent, with good contrast and viewing angles.
Perhaps the weakest point of the Digiflip Pro is the hardware powering the tablet. It uses the low-end MediaTek MT8382 chipset, which houses a 1.3 GHZ Quad Core CPU. GeekBench3 benchmark suggests that the CPU is on par with flagships from a couple of years back. The GPU is Mali 400 MP2 clocked at 500 MHz This is even weaker than the CPU, and is comparable to GPUs that Android flagships like the Galaxy SII were using as far back as 2011. Quite obviously, with such an outdated hardware, the Digiflip Pro doesn’t fare very well in synthetic benchmarks.
Synthetic benchmarks aside, the Digiflip performs quite well for regular day to day tasks. Web browsing experience is smooth, as is watching videos on YouTube. It handles casual games like EA Golf and Score! With ease, but if you’re planning on playing more heavy duty games, this is not the tablet for you.
The Digiflip features a 5 megapixel rear camera with flash and autofocus that’s capable of recording videos at 1080p. The front camera is takes snaps at 2 megapixels. On paper all of these specs sound decent enough, but specs can be deceiving. There’s no way to sugar coat this. The Digiflip camera is bad. Both the front and the back camera fail to take a decent picture in any lighting. Using the flash over exposes the picture to the point of hiding any detail in the image. Here are a few sample images captured with the rear camera.
Flipkart uses MxPlayer, which is a great decision, given that it’s one of the most versatile players available in the market. MxPlayer managed to play back any video I threw at it, and had no issues in with playing back 720p HD videos, even with software renderer. 1080p videos, however, proved to be too much to handle for the software renderer (none of the formats I had worked with hardware renderer).
The stereo speaker won’t impress anyone with its loudness or quality, but it gets the job done. And, thankfully, it’s front-facing, which means most of the time (but not always) it’s loud enough to be audible. As I mentioned earlier, the Digiflip accessories bundle also includes an earphone adaptor. The reason behind this is that the Digiflip uses OMTP standard, which pretty much everyone else has abandoned. If you want to use your Apple devices compatible existing earphone on the Digiflip or the Digiflip earphone on other new electronic devices, you’ll need to use the bundled CTIA-OMTP converter. As far as the earphone itself is concerned, it’s not very good. But, even using a different pair will only help improve sound quality marginally, as Digiflip’s audio processor itself seems to produce a lot of noise.
Connectivity options include dual-SIM 3G HSPA+, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and USB OTG. There’s no NFC. The battery is not removable and is rated at 3000 mAh battery with a talk time of around 8 hours. Digiflip ships with 16 gigs of internal storage (out of which about 12 gigs is available to the user), and supports micro SD cards up to 32 GB.
The Digiflip runs an almost stock Android 4.2.2 (Jellybean). While I’m glad that Flipkart chose to provide a near stock experience, it’s disappointing that the version of Android that Digiflip is shipping with is over sixteen months old. Given that there are no custom modifications to handle, I don’t understand why the Digiflip couldn’t ship with KitKat. What’s worrying is that Flipkart hasn’t even committed to shipping KitKat or newer builds.
While Flipkart hasn’t modified the core Android experience, the Digiflip comes bundled with Flipkart shopping and eBook apps, which aren’t removable. The eBook app comes bundled with a dozen eBooks work Rs. 2, 300, while the shopping app includes various coupons with a cumulative discount of Rs. 5000. Each coupon can only be used once, and is valid until the end of the year.
The Digiflip is a rather well rounded tablet, whose main draw is obviously the low price point (Rs. 9,999). The added goodies thrown in by Flipkart (including a Platronics Bluetooth headset) sweeten the deal further. The weakest link of the Digiflip is its low-end chipset, which makes it unsuitable for heavy duty tasks. The camera output is also disappointing. However, the near stock Android helps the tablet to remain snappy and it’s well suited as a media consumption device. The Digiflip is all about making the right compromises. It doesn’t have any killer features to set it apart from the crowd. However, there’ also no Achilles’ heels. For a budget tablet, that can often prove to be enough.
Nokia Lumia 630 is the first Windows Phone 8.1 device to be available in the market, and incidentally also the first device launched by Microsoft Mobile, the new Microsoft company formed after the acquisition of the devices business of Nokia.
The Lumia 630 is also the first Dual SIM Windows Phone device, a feature that Windows Phone enthusiasts and potential customers, especially in markets like India, had been clamouring for since long.
The Lumia 630 carries on the same polycarbonate design we’ve seen in the Asha and several Lumia devices. It’s sleek and at 9.2mm thickness, feels pretty good in hand. The 630, weighing just 134 grams, is almost the perfect and most popular size for a smartphone.
The colorful back shells – available in white, green, orange, and yellow – sport a matte finish, and are interchangeable. Under the hood, there are two micro SIM slots and a microSD card slot for additional memory card. The build quality is brilliant and random drops or bumps wouldn’t hurt.
The missing camera shutter hardware button is an odd omission since it’s been a taken-for-granted feature in the Windows Phone devices I’ve used.
Nokia Lumia 630 sports a 4.5-inch IPS LCD display. The ClearBlack display has a 480×854 resolution and comes with Gorilla Glass 3 which should take care of minor scratches. Lumia 630’s display is not brilliant, but good enough at this price point. The sunlight readability is also pretty decent.
Powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, the 630 packs in only 512 MB RAM. The Windows Phone operating system is optimized for low configuration, and almost all apps work fine on a 512MB device. Some games, of course, have a minimum 1 GB requirement for installation, so if you are a heavy, indulgent gamer, this might be a deal breaker for you.
To position the Lumia 630 as a budget phone, Nokia has cut corners at several places. While the phone introduces SensorCore, a hardware-dependent software solution that allows apps to use the sensors with minimum power requirement, it does not pack in the usual ambient light and proximity sensors. SensorCore allows the phone to track user’s activity like steps taken and location data.
The proximity sensor enables a phone’s display to turn off during a call to avoid unwanted taps, but the 630 features a workaround that turns off he display when the face or the ear touches it. It sounds awkward, but the execution is perfect. In over a week of use, I never had inadvertent taps while taking a call. The automatic brightness control of Windows Phone is obviously missing due to the absence of ambient light sensor. Although, again, keeping the brightness setting to medium level worked for me through the day in different light conditions.
The Lumia 630 comes in two variants – Single SIM and Dual SIM. In the Dual SIM variant, you get separate Messaging and Phone Tiles with individual call records and messaging threads. However, you can merge the two for an integrated interface. The phone allows you to switch between the two SIMs while making a call or sending a text, or viewing a contact. This is not just convenient, but very seamless. Also, the Smart Dual SIM feature allows you to automatically forward calls from one SIM to the other when the first one is not reachable.
The average 5MP rear camera isn’t a highlight of the Lumia 630. Although, not many phones in this price segment impress much with the camera anyway. The photos captured in day light are good enough with decent color reproduction, but since there’s no flash, most photos in low light or dark conditions would disappoint.
The front camera is excluded in the Lumia 630. Although, apart from the latest trend of selfies, that’s a justifiable compromise for a budget phone.
Nokia Lumia 630 is the first device that ships with Windows Phone 8.1. The update not only irons out issues based on user and developer feedback on Windows Phone 8, but also adds several important features to make the operating system at par with the competition.
The much requested Action Center comes to Windows Phone. Similar to the unified notifications center in Android and iOS, the Action Center displays customizable toggles, notifications, alert messages, network indicators, date, and battery level.
Another two major enhancements are the ability to customize the Start screen with background wallpapers instead of the erstwhile blocks of Live Tiles and the new World Flow keyboard. The Start screen now also allows you to add an extra column of tiles in case you want access to more apps and information in a glance. The Word Flow keyboard is similar to the Swype experience in Android, and makes the typing experience on Windows Phone the best in business.
In another first, the Lumia 630 is the first Windows Phone device that comes with virtual soft keys for navigation. You can enable haptic feedback for these keys and choose to keep them always dark, match the background color of the app in focus, or match the accent color.
The phone packs in a three months subscription of Nokia MixRadio with unlimited free music downloads.
The Windows Phone experience on the Lumia 630 is very smooth overall despite what the specifications sheet says and launching apps, browsing the Web, and playing music and videos is a breeze. The apps take a little longer to resume, but that shouldn’t bother most users. While playing casual games like Temple Run is all good, even graphics-intensive game like Asphalt 8 performed well, and better than most Android devices in this price segment.
The battery life is pretty good, and the 1,830mAh removable battery will last for an entire day with brightness set to maximum and 3G usage all through.
The Lumia 630 is available for ₹10,500 (Single SIM) and ₹11,500 (Dual SIM), and at that price, the 630 offers great build quality and first-rate user experience. There are a few clear compromises like the camera, but a good buy otherwise.
After flirting with Windows Mobile for their maiden foray into smartphones and then pinning hopes on webOS before it got killed two years ago. HP is taking another stab at the smartphone market with Android this time.
HP VoiceTab series – Slate 6 and Slate 7 – hit the crowded phablet market in India intended for consumers who prefer to have one device for calls as well as web browsing, media consumption, and games. Also, Slate 6 is a dual SIM device, and that appeals to a lot of users in India.
The HP VoiceTab Slate 6 is a surprisingly nicely designed phablet. It’s just 9mm thick, making it one of the slimmest device in the category. Also, at 160gm, it is surprisingly light for its size.
The slim chassis of the 6-inch device makes it easy to hold and grip despite the large size. Of course, phablets of this size aren’t made for one-handed operation despite what the marketing folks claim, but the Slate 6 is not unwieldy and is quite easy to carry.
The removable back cover has a grey checkered design pattern with matte finish that gives the device a premium feel despite being all plastic. The gold finish on the sides and the metal buttons also adds to the appeal.
While the build quality of the phone is pretty good overall, the plastic materials used are very average. When you hold it firmly and attempt to twist, you’d feel as you’d break it. The back panel too is pretty flimsy.
Powered by a not-so-popular 1.2 GHz Marvell PXA1088 quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM and Android 4.2.2, the Slate 6 looks good on paper for a mid-range device. The 16 GB internal storage with microSD expansion is at par as well.
However, the overall responsiveness of the device is a let-down. HP stays away from heavy customizations and skinning, and runs stock Android, but the optimizations seem to be missing. The UI has a noticeable lag and apps take a few extra, I won’t say seconds, but maybe milliseconds. It wouldn’t have been annoying for most users, but the performance is inconsistent and apps like the default browser would sometimes hang and require a force quit. Casual games work all well on the Slate 6, but graphic-intensive games like Asphalt 8 obviously struggle at high graphic settings.
The HP Slate 6 features a 6-inch IPS 720p display. While the display is good enough and colors are accurately bright, the viewing angles are below average.
The 5MP rear camera of the Slate 6 is a decent camera in good light. The contrast isn’t right there and you wouldn’t have a lot of details in the photo, but they are pretty okay and sharp. In low light and outdoors in evening though, the camera app takes quite a while to focus, and there’s too much noise in the photos. The camera optics and the software disappoint overall. The 2MP front camera though works well for video calls and those selfies.
The HP VoiceTab Slate 6 works, but does not impress much. The design is surprisingly sophisticated, but the user experience is listless and the camera offers sub-par experience. The 3000mAh battery last through the day, which is pretty good for a phablet.
At INR 22,990, the Slate 6 is not a bad device, but the performance issues make it hard to be recommended, especially in a crowded market. A software update could take care of most issues, but that’s shooting in the dark. The HP VoiceTab Slate 6 is well-intentioned, but an average comeback from HP.
After playing catch-up for several years, LG Mobiles is finally in a position to take charge. Samsung is still the market leader by a huge margin, but the Nexus 4 succeeded in instilling the belief among consumers that LG can also make good smartphones. Last week, LG Electronics India (LGEI) launched its latest flagship Android smartphone – the LG G2. The G2 has a lot riding in it. LGEI expects to pick up 10% of the Indian market share by the end of the year, and it’s targeting Rs. 200 crore in revenue from the G2. On paper the G2 is a monster; however, how does it stack in real life? Read on to find out.
Appearance, Display and Battery
Unlike in the Nexus 4 or the Optimus G, the G2 is made entirely out of plastic. There’s no metal or glass to be found anywhere in the construction. Personally, I don’t mind the absence of glass. There’s no denying that the aluminium bodied Xperia Z1 exudes a more premium feel, but avoiding metal often helps in bringing down the cost and reducing weight, and glass is way too fragile to be practical in a device that you’re going to use day in and day out. However, what I’m disappointed about is the return to the cheap glossy exterior that LG had done so well to avoid in its 2012 line-up. The rear cover has a reflective pattern that’s mildly interesting, but the glossy finishing means that it’s a smudge magnet. The battery in the Indian version of the G2 isn’t user replaceable, but that has allowed LG to fit in a giant 3000 mAh battery in the relatively compact dimensions (138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9 mm) of the G2. However, even with a plastic body, the G2 is fairly heavy, weighing about 143g.
The most distinctive feature of the G2 is its button placement. All the buttons in the G2 are placed at the back, just underneath the camera. This seems counter-intuitive and definitely takes some getting used to. In fact, this is probably the single most debated aspect of G2. When I began using the G2, I wasn’t entirely convinced about the idea. In theory, the button placement made sense. Single handed operation isn’t exactly a joy in most recent top-of-the-line droids, and the reason for that is that reaching buttons placed on the top or on the sides is difficult for anyone with normal sized palms. The G2’s rear buttons should be a lot more convenient to use since they are placed just where your index finger should reside while normally gripping the phone. In practice, things didn’t start so well. For the first couple of days, I had to repeatedly turn my phone to see where the buttons were. However, things improved quickly as muscle memory kicked in. After just a week of regular usage, I instinctively knew exactly where the home and the volume buttons were . In fact, the rear-buttons are now among my favourite things about the G2. LG deserves to be applauded for coming up with the concept and being brave enough to use it in their flagship.
The gorgeous edge-to-edge full-HD display that we saw in the G Pro has gotten even better in the G2. The G2 features a 5.2’’ full-HD (1920×1080) IPS display with a 424 ppi pixel density. This is a good two inches more than the Sony Z1 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. However, the G2 is actually smaller than the Z1 and about the same size as the S4, thanks to its extremely slim bezels, which almost vanishes when the display is off. As far as quality is concerned, there isn’t a single thing that I could find to criticize. The colour reproduction is brilliant, viewing angles are great, and outdoor visibility is never an issue.
As I mentioned earlier, the battery in the Indian version of G2 is non-user replaceable. However, this has allowed LG to use a special step design to pack in more power. I didn’t run any benchmarks, but the G2’s battery backup is among the best I’ve seen in high-end smartphones. It’ll easily last through a day and a half of normal usage on 3G, and will probably keep on ticking for well over two days on 2G. LG claims a talktime of 21 hours on 3G and 31 hours on 2G.
The LG G2 is powered by the mighty Snapdragon 800 chipset, which includes a quad-core Krait 400 processor clocked at 2.26 GHz, and an Adreno 330 GPU. In terms of performance, the G2 is in the same league as the Note 3, Xperia Z1, and Xperia Z Ultra, and ahead of pretty much everything else. No matter what you do, performance is never an issue with this phone. It maxed out the normal 3D Mark benchmark, maxed out a few of the tests in the 3D Mark Extreme benchmark, and was in the top 3 in the 3D Mark Ultra benchmark. The G2 has crazy amounts of processing power, which allows it to do stuff like zoom into full-HD videos and play them in windowed mode with adjustable transparency.
Quadrant Benchmark Score
3D Mark Ultra Benchmark Results
My review unit has 16 GB internal storage; however, a 32 GB model is also available. I’d recommend going for the latter since it’s only a couple of thousand rupees more expensive and the absence of any expandable memory support makes the extra storage crucial. The LG G2 has all sorts of connectivity options that you can imagine. Some of them are Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi direct, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 with Low Energy mode support, and USB on-the-go. The chipset that LG is using is LTE enabled; however, the units being sold in India are 3G only. I suspect that LG might have disabled the LTE chip to conserve power. LG didn’t elaborate if it’s possible to later enable the LTE functionality through an update.
I’m not an Android puritan, and don’t by default hate all software customizations. With that being said, it’s worth nothing that my main complaints with the G2 are all software related. There are a bunch of unique features in the G2. The first one that you’re going to encounter is the Knock-on feature. One of the disadvantages of having the power button at the back is that you’ve to lift up to phone to unlock it. Knock-on attempts to alleviate this issue by allowing you to unlock the G2 by simply tapping on the screen twice. The concept is deceptively simple and brilliant. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. It works most of the time, but it also fails enough times to make me prefer the physical button over Knock-on.
The G2’s built-in launcher is among the better ones, and is capable enough to not make me miss any of the third-party launchers. It has all the essential features including folders and dock, and even throws in a few fancy features like multiple transition effects.
The G2 runs on Android 4.2.2, which is recent enough, but is still a version older than what Samsung Note 3 ships with. This isn’t as big a deal as it used to be, since Google has decoupled a lot of functionality from Android updates. Sure, I’d love to have Android 4.3 on-board, but I don’t feel like missing out on anything significant even with Android 4.2.
Somewhat disappointingly, LG hasn’t opted to leverage the Quick Settings feature introduced in Android 4.2. Instead, it has retained its old Notification pane with scrollable power buttons, Q-slide apps, brightness control, and volume control. With the exception of the volume control, all of these are handy additions that you’d find yourself using every now and then. However, packing all of them into a single screen is a bad idea, as it makes the notification pane look horribly cluttered. In the G2 only about half of the notification pane is actually available for displaying notifications.
Some of the other unique features in the G2 are:
– Guest Mode: You can protect your privacy by setting up a limited environment for your friends or kids while lending the phone. In guest mode only pre-configured apps are accessible.
– Clip Tray: Just like the Microsoft Office Clipboard, the Clip Tray provides you access to stuff you have copied in the past. The Clip Tray in G2 can store as many as 20 texts or images.
– Text Link: This is another really neat productivity enhancer. The G2 is capable of understanding certain phrases and sentences in your message. If it detects an address in an SMS, it’ll offer to open up maps. If it detects an appointment, then it’ll offer to add the event to your calendar or to your Memo.
– Audio Zoom: This feature was first introduced in the G Pro, but is featured more prominently in the G2. While recording in landscape mode you can tap on a particular subject and the G2 will attempt to amplify the sound from only that subject in the recording.
– Slide Aside: A three-finger swipe from right to left dismisses the currently open app and saves it in a container. A three-finger swipe from left to right restores it. You can save up to three apps using Slide Aside and quickly switch between them. LG claims that it radically improves multi-tasking, but it seemed more like a gimmick to me. The default Android Task Switcher can be used to do the same thing with a lot more ease.
– Shot and Clear: This is similar to the context aware fill feature in Photoshop. In theory this allows you to fix photo bombs, and get rid of other artefacts in an image. However, this feature obviously has limitations, and doesn’t always work.
– Life Square: Life Square is an automated journal that logs pretty much everything you do. This includes events in your calendar, updates you post on Facebook, links you share on Twitter, pictures you take on the camera, and people you text and talk with on the phone.
– QuickRemote: Like most of its competitors, the G2 features an IR blaster, which allows it to act like a customizable universal remote.
– QuickMemo: The trusty old QuickMemo feature is retained in the G2. Quick Memo is the quickest way to capture, annotate, and share a screenshot.
– QSlide: QSlide is like the Pop out feature in Samsung, which allows apps to run in a part of the screen, while freeing up the rest of the space for other tasks. So, you can run the YouTube app in a corner of the screen, while working away on your email. LG has also thrown in the ability to adjust the transparency of apps in QSlide mode. There are a bunch of QSlide enabled apps including the Video player, SMS app, and Calendar.
– Capture Plus: Capture Plus option in the Browser takes full page screenshots of websites.
– Answer Me: To receive a call, simply hold up the phone next to your ear.
– Voice Mate: Voice Mate is LG’s own attempt at creating a voice assistant. The app has pretty decent speech detection, but can’t really do much. Google Now is miles ahead of Voice Mate, and I don’t understand why Samsung and LG are even trying to compete with Google in this arena.
– Smart Screen and Smart Video: These are two more gimmicky features, which were undoubtedly inspired by the Samsung Galaxy S4. Smart Screen allows the G2’s display to stay on when the phone detects your face, and Smart Video automatically pauses the video when the phone cannot detect your face. LG obviously realizes that both of these features are far too inaccurate to be of significant use, and hence has disabled them by default.
There are a bunch of other features including a Translator, and a Task Manager. Traditionally, one of the strong points of the LG Optimus UI has been its customizability, and G2 continues that tradition. There are a massive number of things you can change without ever having to install custom ROMs. This includes customizing the touch navigation buttons, changing the lock-screen swipe effect, changing font type and size, and tweaking notification LED behaviour.
Cameras are back in the spotlight, and the Nokia’s Lumia series has really set the cat among the pigeons. Everyone including Apple and Sony are trying to beef up their camera. LG has fitted the G2 with a 13-megapixel camera that’s at least mighty on paper thanks to its optical image stabilization and muti-focus capability. The good news is that the camera is truly among the best we have seen in a smartphone, and delivers on its promises. The Xperia Z1 will probably outdo the G2’s shooting capability, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The G2 features manual focus, which allows it to take some stunning macro pics. In fact, the automatic Macro focusing mode is also among the best I’ve seen in a phone camera. The G2 supports ISO levels up to 800, and beats the S4 as well as the HTC One hands down, as far as low-light photography is concerned. The optical stabilization mode also makes its effect felt while recording from a bus or an auto. The G2 captures full-HD (1080p) videos at 60 fps with stereo sound. HDR mode has also been thrown in for good measure. However, when it came to audio zooming, that feature just didn’t work for me. For now, I’m chalking it up as a gimmick rather a real enhancement.
Low light shot with Manual Focus
Outdoor photo in Night mode
Outdoor photo in Normal mode with high ISO
I’ve always been a fan of LG’s Video player, and it has retained its strengths in the G2. You can pinch to zoom into any part of the video, or zoom and track a particular subject. With YouTube like seek preview, you can preview exactly where you’re about to jump to in the video. And with Q-slide you can continue to playback the video while doing your work.
Like the Note 3, the LG G2 can output 24 bit 192 KHz Hi-Fidelity audio. LG has paired its flagship with the new Quadbeat 2 earphones, which are surprisingly good. They’re not as bass heavy as Sony’s stunning MH 1c, but the soundstage is equally wide, and the IEMs sound really balanced. In fact, if you are looking for a budget IEM, the Quadbeat 2 is something you should definitely look at. Although, LG has done a great job with the bundled earphones, the phone’s speaker is bit of a disappointment. The speaker isn’t bad by any means, but it sticks out as a sore point because pretty much every other aspect of the G2 is superb.
LG has gotten a lot of things right with the G2, including the display, the SoC, the physical button placement, and the camera. As a result, the G2 is an absolute joy to use. The downers are the lack of expandable storage, the average speaker quality, the slightly old Android version, and some poor design choices in the Optimus UI. The 16 GB model of G2 is selling for about Rs. 40,000. The 32 GB model costs a couple of thousand bucks more. This makes it about ten percent cheaper than the Note 3, which is also significantly bigger than the G2. In my opinion, the biggest competition to the G2 is the Xperia Z1, which has the advantage of a better build quality, dust and water resistance, superior camera, and slightly better benchmark scores. Where the G2 outshines the Z1 is display quality and ergonomics. The G2 is a better phone than the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. However, the Galaxy S4 is now available for about Rs. 36,000. I suspect that within a couple of months the G2’s price will also come down to similar levels. However, until then the price difference also makes the Galaxy SIV an alternative worth considering.
LG’s biggest achievement is that it has gone from competing solely on price to competing on performance and quality. Until a year or two back, you brought LG phones because they offered good value for money, not because they were the best phones in the market. With the G2, LG has succeeded in raising the bar and changing the game.