Carbon for Twitter Arrives on Android with Its Gorgeously Animated User Interface

After teasing us for months, Dots and Lines has finally introduced Carbon for Twitter in the Play store. Carbon made a name for itself on the WebOS App Catalog and Windows Phone Market as a gorgeous, intuitive, and powerful Twitter client for the masses as well as power users. Making the cut in the crowded Play app store will be tougher, but judging from the initial spate of downloads, there’s still room for a carefully crafted Twitter app for Android.

Carbon-Twitter-Android

Carbon for Twitter makes a positive impression the moment you launch it. After a quick splash screen, you are asked to authenticate yourself, and within seconds your Twitter stream is laid out in front of you in neatly arranged cards. Two-finger downward swipe takes you to the bottom of the list, while a similar gesture in the upward direction will take you to the top. Swiping right will take you to the Mentions and Direct Messages screens. There are subtle animations for practically everything you do, and Carbon for Twitter feels alive in a way very few Android apps do. My favorite is the little card tilt animation that Carbon does while jumping in and out of a conversation. In spite of having a beautiful user interface that is livened up with thoughtful use of animations and clever gestures, Carbon feels fluid and fast. None of the lags and momentary freezes that are oh-so-common in Android are present in Carbon.

Carbon-Twitter-Stream

This is not to say that it’s all rosy with Carbon. The first version is understandably buggy, and crashes every once in a while. I have already had to reinstall it once to fix a crash loop. Carbon is pretty feature complete, and includes support for native retweets as well as classic retweets, lists, searches, hashtags, and trends. The Filters feature deserves a special mention, since it’s something I am only used to seeing on desktop clients. You can cleanup your Twitter stream by filtering out content based on people, hashtag, or keywords. However, power users might spot that a few features they are accustomed to using in other clients are absent in Carbon. Sync frequency can’t be changed (it’s either once every fifteen minutes or not at all), the app doesn’t have a widget, integration with third-party url shorteners and image uploaders as well as services like Twitlonger and Tweetshrink is absent, and video uploads don’t seem to be supported at all. Tablet support is also missing at this point. However, this is only the first version. I am sure that M.Saleh Esmaeili, the developer, wanted to get a working version out as soon as possible, and feature enhancements will come later.

Carbon-Twitter-Profile

Carbon for Android was initially supposed to be a paid app; however, since Play store doesn’t support payments in the developer’s country, he decided to release it for free. As of now, Carbon is a completely free app without any in-built advertisement. It’s the most visually attractive and fun Twitter client I have seen on the Android app store. If none of the missing features I listed above are dealbreakers for you, go ahead and take it for a spin. It’s still early days for Carbon, but it has definitely raised the bar for Android apps as far as aesthetics is concerned.

Carbon-Twitter-Conversations

[ Download Carbon for Android ]

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Review

We have reviewed a number of smartphones, tablets, music players and other gadgets at Techie Buzz. Now, for the first time, we are going to review a digital camera at your favorite blog. Panasonic recently sent us its flagship super-zoom digital camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. After playing with the device for a couple of weeks, it completely changed my perception regarding bridge cameras. The Lumix FZ200 is the successor of the last year’s Lumix FZ150. The Lumix FZ200 is the first super-zoom camera which packs a 12.1 megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor with 24x zoom and maintains a fixed aperture f/2.8 lens starting from 25mm to 600mm.

Apart from that, the FZ200 comes with a 3 inch rotating LCD display, 0.2 inch electronic viewfinder (EVF) with 1.31 million dot equivalent resolution, full HD (1080p) video recording at 60fps, manaual shooting mode, Panorama shot mode, iA (Intelligent Auto) mode, Creative Control mode, 12fps continuous shooting without autofocus and 5.5fps with autofocus, 3D still images, RAW format support and much more. It captures the same amount of light throughout the zoom range and take amazing pictures even in low light and with higher ISO settings.

Specifications:

What’s In The Box?

  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 camera
  • Battery Pack (DMW-BLC12)
  • Battery Charger
  • USB Cable
  • Lens Hood
  • Lens Cap
  • Lens Cap String
  • Shoulder strap
  • CD-ROM
  • Basic Manual

Norton 360 Multi-Device Review

Most of you might be familiar with the Symantec’s popular anti-virus software, the Norton 360. I’ve been using the Norton 360 from the last 3 years and I never had a single virus on my desktop and laptop. Earlier this year, Symantec launched a new product, Norton 360 multi-device. It is nothing but the Norton 360 Premier Edition for PC, Norton Internet Security for Mac and Norton Mobile Security for Android devices packed in a single product. Norton 360 multi-device is also called as Norton 360 Everywhere in some countries. It allows you to protect up to 5 device with a single license.

I have installed the Norton 360 multi-device on my laptop powered by Windows 8, desktop PC with Windows 7 and smartphone running on the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) OS. Some anti-virus software takes more than 10 minutes to install, but Norton didn’t take more than 2 minutes to complete the installation. The UI will be quite familiar to those who have previously used the Norton 360. As soon as you start the program, you will be greeted with a start screen as shown below.

The Norton 360 start screen has 4 sections – security, identity, backup and tuneup.

Security:

After installing the software, Norton will scan your computer and check for threats. If it does not detect any virus, spyware or other threats, then the security section will marked as ‘protected’. Norton 360 protects your important stuff from viruses, spyware and other threats. It not only detects any possible threats from your computer, but also removes them before they can cause problems for you.

The security section allows you to view details regarding the last time you have scanned your computer. It also checks whether the virus and spyware definitions are up to date. If you have not updated the program from a long time, then there is no need to worry. You can just hit the ‘Run LiveUpdate’ option and the program will automatically check for update and download it within a few seconds.

Norton 360 not only scan your computer for virus and threats, but it also scans your Facebook wall and check whether the shared links are safe from online threats. The ‘Quick Scan’ option allows you to examine only key areas of your computer. On the other hand, ‘Full System Scan’ allows you to examine your entire computer and run a file backup. You can also manage your firewall, create custom internet access for individual programs or block all internet traffic from the security section.

Identity:

The identity section lets you view whether your computer is protected from online threats. It come with the ‘Norton Identity Safe’, which is nothing but a password manager similar to LastPass and 1Password. It stores your passwords in a secure, cloud-based vault that can be accessed only by you. However, if you forget the password, then there is no way to recover it. We recommend you to use a password hint which can easily remind you of the master password.

Norton Identity Safe allows you to save passwords to the vault, autofill addresses, credit cards and save notes. It keeps your passwords synchronized across different computers, browsers, and mobile devices. It works with Google Chorme, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer on the windows platform. It is also available for OS X, iOS and Android devices. Norton Identity Safe warns you of unsafe sites in your search results and blocks them immediately.

These days identity thieves use SPAM, malicious Web sites, email messages and instant messages to trick people into divulging sensitive information, such as bank and credit card accounts. Norton’s Antiphishing component analyzes the security level of the Web sites that you visit and protects you from visiting unsafe Web sites. Norton phishing protection also blocks navigation to the Web sites that are confirmed to be fraudulent.

Backup:

Norton 360 offers 2 GB of cloud storage, however the Norton 360 Multi-Device comes with 25 GB of online storage. The Backup section allows you to backup all your important files and folders to other location such as external drives, DVDs, USB flash drives, etc. You will need to create a set by specifying the files you want to backup and the external location. The backups will help you to restore all your important files and folders in case your computer hard drive crashes or if you delete something by accident. To restore your files, just hit the ‘Restore Files’ option and follow the instructions.

Tuneup:

The Tuneup section packs some important tools such as Disk Optimization, File Cleanup, Startup Manager and Diagnostic report. The Disk Optimization defragments your hard disk and free up space, while the File Cleanup deletes the temporary files that are left behind after Internet browsing as well as deletes the unnecessary files that are left in Windows Temporary folders after a program has been installed or updated.

The Diagnostic report lets you view the details of the Norton 360 product version, details of the operating system, date installed, country code, version of Internet Explorer, Windows update setup, latest Windows Hotfix date, the operating system user language, system restore points and much more. The Startup Manager helps you to manage and control your startup programs. You can additional use the ‘delay start’ option to delay the start of a program when you turn on your computer.

Norton Mobile Security:

Norton Mobile Security is available Android smartphones, tablets, iPhone and iPad. It not only protects your smartphones and tablets from malware and viruses, but also protects all your data if the device is accidentally damaged, lost or stolen. We have installed the Norton Mobile Security on our smartphone running on the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) OS and iPad 3 with iOS 6. You can easily download the lite version of this app from the Google Play Store and upgrade to the full version by using the same product key provided with Norton 360 Multi-Device.

The anti-Malware checks for malware on your device internal storage as well as on the SD card. You can schedule a daily, weekly or monthly scan to detect malware from time to time. The backup feature helps you to backup all your contacts to your Norton account. If your device is lost or the data is deleted due to the OS upgrade, you can easily restore your contact back to your smartphone. Other important feature is call blocking. You can add contact from your call log, sms log, contacts or directly input a phone number to block all the unwanted calls.

The Anti-theft is the most important feature of the Norton Mobile Security. If your smartphone or tablet is lost or stolen, you can easily lock your device to prevent strangers from using it and access your important files, pictures and videos. The Remote wipe feature lets you erase the information on your missing mobile device, including any data on phone memory cards. Sadly, this feature does not work with iPhone and iPad.

The Sneak Peek feature remotely takes a photo to help identify who has your missing device. However, you will need a device with front-facing camera to access this feature. Other useful feature is the Scream alarm, which activates a scream alarm, so you can quickly find your missing mobile device. Last but not the least is the Remote locate, which locates your lost or stolen Android and iOS device on a map to help you find it easily.

Conclusion:

I have been using Norton 360 from the last 3 years and I always recommend my friends to get this product as it have never failed to protect my PC. The Norton 360 Multi-Device takes the basic Norton 360 to the next level. I own a Windows laptop, desktop, Android smartphones and iPad. Previously, I had to purchase a seprate license for multiple devices on multiple platforms. However, Norton 360 multi-device solved this problem and allowed me to use a single product key for 5 different devices on multiple platforms.

Norton 360 comes with 2 GB of online storage, however the Norton 360 multi-device offers 25 GB of storage which is extemely useful if you accidentally lose important data from your computer. The only thing I didn’t liked about the Norton Mobile Security for ipad is that the Anti-theft feature is not available for Wi-Fi iPads. You are stuck with just contact backup feature. If you are someone like me who owns multiple devices, then I would definitely recommend you to get the Norton 360 Multi-Device.

Norton 360 Multi-Device for up to 3 device is available for Rs.2999.99, while you can purchase the license for up to 5 device at Rs.4189.99. To order the Norton 360 Multi-Device, head over to this page.

Rating: 4/5

HTC One X Case Review – Case-Mate vs Official HTC Case

The HTC One X sports a polycarbonate unibody construction and Corning Gorilla glass display. In theory, both of them should make HTC’s precious flagship more durable. In reality though, as the amply shattered glass of my friend’s One X suggests, there is still plenty of room for improvement. In fact, HTC’s sleek construction with a protruding display might have made the One X more vulnerable. It’s never a bad idea to get some extra protection for your beloved smartphone. I asked Mobilefun, a leading retailer of phone accessories, to send across a couple of cases for review, and they obliged.

The first case I wanted to check out was ‘Case-Mate Barely There for HTC One X’. As the name suggests, this case is extremely slim (just over a millimeter), and adds very little bulk to the phone. It’s made from flexible plastic and seems to be pretty durable. The case features neatly cut out orifices to provide you access to all the functionality, including camera and charging. Although the Case-Mate case is precisely crafted, portions of it overflow onto the screen, which is a good thing, since it offers protection for the screen on the sides.

HTC-One-X-Case-Mate-Barely-There

The One X is a pretty good looking phone. If not for its frog-eyed lens, it would have been a real stunner. The Barely There case does justice to the One X’s appearance and retains most of its beauty. Unfortunately, after a few days of usage, my unit developed ugly white patches that you can see in the image above. Mobilefun indicates that this is the first complaint it has received about the case, so it might be one of those one-off manufacturing defects.

HTC-One-X-Case-Mate-Barely-There-Sideview

The second case I reviewed is the official HTC Hard Case for the One X. The hard case is one of the most distinctive looking cases you are likely to see. Its perforated back renders it a unique appearance, while also improving grip. The case itself seems to be a lot more rugged than the Barely There case, and didn’t pick up any scratches or other deformities during my usage. HTC also claims that the mesh at the back improves ventilation and helps keep the phone cool during heavy usage. However, the perforations have one significant disadvantage – they also allow dust to accumulate. You will have to clean up your phone once in a while, if you don’t want to end up with ugly dirt spots (second image below).

HTC-One-X-Official-Hard-Case

HTC-One-X-Hard-Case-2

Both the HTC One X phone covers received from Mobilefun were excellent. The Case-Mate Barely There for HTC One X costs £15.95 in the UK and Rs. 1121.99 in India, while the HTC One X Official Hard Case costs £17.99 in the UK and Rs. 1266.00 in India. Given the nominal price difference between the two, I will prefer the official Hard Case. It appears to be more rugged, and also provides a better grip, while lending your phone a distinctive look.

HTC One X Official Hard Case: 4/5 (Excellent)
Case-Mate Barely There For HTC One X: 3/5 (Good)

[ Disclaimer: Cases reviewed were supplied by MobileFun ]

Pokki Takes on Microsoft, Tries to Fix Windows 8

Microsoft expects Windows 8 to herald a new era in computing with a touch-first user interface that is suitable for both post-PC devices like tablets, and traditional computing devices like desktops and laptops. One of the most iconic changes in Windows 8 is the lack of a start button as well as a start menu. While the new Start Page is a lot more informative and interactive, it will undoubtedly confuse a lot of users. This has prompted some manufacturers like Samsung to bring back the Start Menu through software patches. Pokki is amongst those that are trying to fix Windows 8.

Pokki isn’t, however, a simple Windows 8 Start Menu app. It’s an entire ecosystem. Pokki believes that Microsoft is onto something when it comes to using the web technology stack for native desktop apps. However, it doesn’t believe that a touch-first interface with reduced emphasis on multi-tasking is the way forward.

Pokki-Windows-8-Start-Menu-Replacement

Pokki has a fairly decent selection of apps. It’s not even remotely as comprehensive as the Play Store or the iTunes App Store; however, it’s better stocked than I was expecting it to be. You can find games like Angry Birds and Cut the Ropes, and apps like Facebook Lite and Tweeki.

Pokki-Windows-8-Store-Replacement

The Pokki Start Menu stocks your Pokki apps in a handy favourites section, but also provides access to traditional Windows apps, and frequently accessed system folders like Control Panel and Documents. Pokki will also begin supporting Modern-style Windows apps in its Start menu in the coming weeks.

The Start Menu also has a nifty search bar that searches for installed apps, documents on your system, as well as resources on the web. However, the search function doesn’t work perfectly, and is the biggest annoyance with Pokki. For example, I searched for ‘IrfanView’, and the search functionality only returned ‘IrfanView – Thumbnails’, which is a different app. The other big draw of Pokki is a smart notifications system that displays real time notifications from your installed apps in the Start Menu.

Techie Buzz Verdict

After taking Pokki for a brief whirl, I can confidently say that it’s worth a try. However, it is facing an uphill challenge. Not only is Pokki betting on the desktop app ecosystem, but it is also going head-to-head against the Windows Store that will be built into Windows 8. As browser developers like Mozilla and Opera can attest, that is never an easy proposition. In order for Pokki to survive and develop a viable business model, it will need to be adapted by a sizeable chunk of Windows 8 users. No matter how impressive the functionality offered by Pokki is, without an advertising budget, the little startup has slim chance of taking on Microsoft and surviving. I am rooting for Pokki, but I will be surprised if it actually succeeds.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

[ Download Pokki ]

LG Optimus 4X HD P880 Review

The LG Optimus 4X HD has a lot riding on its shoulders. Until the Optimus G arrives, the 4X will have to bear the responsibility of keeping LG’s head high in front of giants like the Galaxy SIII, the One X, and the iPhone 5. Thankfully, at least on paper, the Optimus 4X HD looks well equipped to go head to head against the latest and greatest smartphones from its competitors. Let us find out if the actual product lives up to its specifications.

Appearance

LG-Optimus-4X-Front

The LG Optimus 4X uses a lot of plastic, but doesn’t feel cheap and flimsy in the way the Galaxy SIII does. LG has eschewed the conventional smooth curves in favor of a design with sharp corners that exude boldness. Its prism-edged design with intricately patterned back cover and a double rimmed frame lends it a more premium feel, besides making the phone easier to grip. The One X is still the winner in terms of comfort factor, and also would have won hands down in the looks department, if not for the frog-eyed lens. However, as things stand now, I find the Optimus 4X HD to be more appealing than both the One X and the Galaxy SIII.

LG-Optimus-4X-No-Buffer

Unfortunately, the Optimus 4X has one major design issue. There is absolutely no buffer space between the display and the capacitive buttons – in other words, the buttons begin as soon as the screen ends. This can lead to some extremely frustrating experiences. If even the tiniest portion of your finger touches the Home button while you are trying to tap the space bar, you will be instantly taken out of whichever application you were using and to your launcher’s home screen. After using the 4X HD for a couple of weeks, I sort of trained myself to steer clear of the capacitive buttons while typing, but I am sure that LG has accelerated my balding process.

Display

The LG Optimus 4X has a 4.7-inch True HD-IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels (312 ppi). Any display with a pixel density greater than 300 should be stunning, and the Optimus 4X doesn’t disappoint. It uses RGB display matrix, which should (at least in theory) lend it an advantage over the Galaxy SIII, which has a pentile matrix. However, I couldn’t distinguish individual pixels in either of the displays. The Optimus 4X HD display is bright – I mean really bright. It has excellent outdoor visibility, and the viewing angles are quite good. However, the extra bright IPS display has its own disadvantage. LG’s display lacks contrast as a result of which images appear slightly washed out. The blacks of AMOLED displays are worth dying for, and LCDs still can’t get anywhere near.

Hardware

LG-Optimus-4X-Back

The Optimus 4X features an Nvidia Tegra 3 chip, which boasts of a Quad-core (plus an additional power saving fifth core) 1.5 GHz Cortex-A9 CPU and a ULP GeForce GPU. This is precisely what the international version of HTC One X also uses; hence, theoretically both of them should be able to deliver similar performance. I benchmarked the Optimus 4X against Galaxy SIII and One X. Samsung’s flagship was the clear winner, while LG managed to beat HTC in AnTuTu, but trailed in Quadrant.

Galaxy-S3-One-X-Optimus-4X-HD-Benchmark

To be fair to LG, the difference between the Optimus 4X and other Android flagships isn’t particularly huge. The 4X HD feels zippy and smooth whether I am flinging through my pictures in the Gallery or playing an HD video. However, I did notice occasional frame rate drops while playing games like Temple Run, which was somewhat surprising.

Software

The Optimus 4X HD ships with Android 4.0, which is better known as Ice Cream Sandwich. This was perfectly fine when the 4X HD was announced. However, it has already been three months since Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) was unveiled by Google. Samsung has already started updating Galaxy SIII handsets to Jelly Bean, while HTC has committed to delivering Jelly Bean to One X owners in October. LG on the other hand is yet to even commit to rolling out Jelly Bean to its existing line of products. LG has a pretty poor track record when it comes to delivering updates, and it is clear that they haven’t learned anything from their past mistakes. It’s unforgivable that LG has failed to clarify their position on Jelly Bean update for their premium smartphone a full quarter after its release.

As far as ICS is concerned, LG has put in substantial amount of effort to distinguish its baby from the other smartphones in the market. As expected, the 4X runs the Optimus UI 3.0 on top of ICS. Skinning ICS is not the easiest task, simply because Google did an excellent job at creating a refined and aesthetically pleasing interface. Most smartphone manufacturers – Samsung and HTC included, simply fall into the trap of ignoring all ICS design conventions and slapping on a bright, colorful interface in the name of differentiation. LG is no different, but because it retains a sizable chunk of default ICS design elements, it comes off looking better than Samsung. Sony is among the few manufacturers who have managed to get the balancing act largely right by making tasteful design modification to the ICS user interface.

The strong point of the Optimus UI is its customizability. You can change everything from home screen transition effects to application icons. Even the lock screen is pretty customizable. You get to choose everything from how the clock looks to which apps appear in the lock screen dock. And, oh yeah, LG’s lock screen unlock animation is definitely the coolest that I have seen on Android. In spite of heavy customizability, LG’s Optimus UI feels slightly less intuitive than TouchWiz and Sense. Sense is packed to the brim with eye-candy, while TouchWiz uses a lot of clever gestures to enhance productivity.

As I mentioned earlier, LG has gone the extra mile to make the 4X HD stand out from the crowd. Many of the enhancements concern multimedia aspects of the 4X and will be touched upon later in this article. There are a couple of non-multimedia enhancements that I will briefly discuss right now. For a more in-depth look at the features unique to LG’s flagship, check out my earlier write-up on the USPs (unique selling points) of the 4X.

The first major enhancement is QuickMemo. It is essentially an enhanced note taking app that permeates through the Optimus UI. Just tap the QuickMemo button present in the notification bar, and whatever was happening on-screen will be frozen. You can annotate the screen capture and save it for later reference or share it with your friends. You can annotate presentations, documents, webpages, and just about anything.

The other major software enhancement concerns the mail client. The Optimus 4x ships with its own mail client called Smart Mail that offers a desktop-client like two pane view in landscape mode, and enhances discoverability of previous conversations through its smart email-sorting feature.

Multimedia

The Optimus 4X features an 8-megapixel rear cam and an 1.3 megapixel front cam. LG’s camera UI is simplistic, but still offers lots of configurability through the settings menu. Still photography provides four basic modes – normal, panorama, HDR, and continuous shot – all of which are standard features in current generation smartphones. However, the 4X does have one unique trick up its sleeve that gives it an edge over its competition. It is called “Time Catch Shot”. When you enable this feature, the 4X captures five shots in a quick succession, including shots from moments before you clicked on the shoot button, from which you can select and keep the best shot. With Time Catch, even if you are too late or too early with the shoot button, you can still capture the moment you wanted.

LG-Optimus-4X-HD-Camera-Sample-1
Shot taken at dusk
LG-Optimus-4X-HD-Camera-Sample-2
Shot taken at dusk in HDR mode

In terms of picture quality, the Optimus 4X really shines outdoors. It takes detailed, vibrant yet natural images with minimal noise. The HDR mode also works particularly well and is a great way to capture images of stationary objects under low light. However, one area where the 4X fumbles is normal low light photography. Both the One X and the S3 shoots better pictures under poor artificial lighting.

The 4X shoots 1080p videos at 30 fps. Once again, the poor low-light performance holds it back, but under proper conditions, LG’s flagship is a competent performer. The videos recorded have good color reproduction and low noise, but goes overboard with the sharpness that adds some artifacts. The continuous auto-focus works quite well, and unless you are trying to capture really close objects, the focus readjustment happens quite quickly and smartly. You also get the option to capture images while shooting videos.

As I mentioned earlier, LG has done a lot to enhance the multimedia experience. Most of its efforts show up in the video player. Optimus 4X HD’s video player has four nifty tricks up its sleeve that gives it a clear advantage over its competition. They are –

  • Fingertip seek, which shows a YouTube like preview of the frame you are about to jump to while seeking.
  • Speed controller, which allows you to slow down or speed up the video on the fly.
  • Split-Screen view, which allows you to quickly browse through your library.
  • Pinch-to-zoom, which allows you to zoom into any video you are watching. While this is not something that you will use regularly, it is a nice to have enhancement.

Others

A particularly thorny issue with modern smartphones is battery life. While we have briskly moved onto massive screens and quad-cores with frequencies in gigahertzs, the battery technology has been struggling to keep up. The 4X ships with the most firepower. It has a 2150 mAh battery, while the S3 and the One X have 2100 mAH and 1800 mAh batteries respectively. Unfortunately, in real world, 4X doesn’t perform so well. I didn’t benchmark LG’s battery performance; however, Samsung’s Galaxy S3 undoubtedly lasts quite a few hours more than the Optimus 4X HD. The 4X has a good standby time; however, surfing or watching videos kills the battery really quickly.

While purchasing a new smartphone the thing that often has the least impact on the buyer’s decision is the device’s capabilities as a phone. However, a smartphone that can seamlessly stream HD videos, but can’t be used for making calls in crowded places due to poor noise isolation is hardly a smart buy. Thankfully, the Optimus 4X suffers from no such flaws. Call quality is crisp and the speaker is loud enough to allow conversations even in noisy environments.

Connectivity options in the Optimus 4X HD include DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC. LG is also taking a page out of Sony’s book and introducing NFC smart tags. They are calling this LG Tag+. The NFC tags can be used for changing profiles, launching apps, altering phone settings and more with a tap. The Optimus 4X will ship with two tags.

Conclusion

The Optimus 4X is a great phone, there is no doubt about it. It looks and feels like a flagship device, and for the most part, performs like a premium device. The mixed benchmark scores and shorter battery life indicates that the software is not perhaps as optimized as it could have been. However, in real life, you are unlikely to notice the performance difference. The Optimus 4X is fast and fluid, and is capable of running games like Nova 3 smoothly. The user interface is highly customizable and there are numerous unique features to boot. LG’s latest flagship might not manage to beat the Galaxy or the One X on the whole, but it is extremely competent and can stand proudly next to the best of the best devices. The best part is that the Optimus 4X is a fair bit cheaper than most of its competition. Both the One X and the Galaxy S3 are currently available for around Rs. 35,000, while the Optimus 4X HD is retailing for around Rs. 32,000. Regardless, of which of the three you pick, you will end up with a great smartphone. The Galaxy S3 remains the best device that money can buy. However, if those three thousand bucks really matter to you, go for the 4X HD. It has its own share of strengths to justify its billing as a flagship. If LG can manage to get the cost down a bit more, then the 4X might even eat into the sales of previous generation super powers like the Galaxy SII.

RealPlayer For Android Review

I’m sure most of you might have already heard or even installed the popular RealPlayer app on your Android smartphones. This app was in beta for a very long time. However, RealNetworks recently released the final version of this amazing app. I’ve been using the beta version of this app for more than a year, but it was never the default music player on my Android smartphone. I personally liked the user interface of this app from the moment I installed it on my Android device.

Earlier this month, RealNetworks removed the beta tag from this amazing media player app. The final version comes with a refreshed UI along with a graphic equalizer, metadata editing and much more. RealPlayer is currently available for free in the Google Play Store. However, you will need to shell out $4.99 for purchasing the premium package. The size of the app is 12 MB and and the current version is numbered 0.0.1.1. Most of the media player app does support devices running on Android 2.1 (Eclair) OS. Thankfully, you can install the RealPlayer app on devices with Android 2.1 or higher version of OS.

RealPlayer for Android is an “All-In-One” media player app, which not only plays your favorite music, but also plays videos and displays the photos stored on your smartphone. As soon as you open the app, you will be greeted with an amazing homescreen as shown above. It will take a couple of minutes for the app to search your Android device for media contents. You can find the option to select Playlists, Albums, Genres, Songs, Artists along with Videos and Photos on the app’s homescreen.

RealPlayer plays the music and videos smoothly, however it does not scan the internal memory by default for videos. On the other hand, there is no option in the settings to enable this feature. I found this a bit problematic, since all of the music videos and movies were stored in the internal memory of my smartphone.

An icon will be displayed in the notification bar, while you are playing a track. You can also find the album art and track info on the notification area. However, there is no option to play, pause or change the track from notifications. RealPlayer displays the song you are playing along with the album artwork and basic controls even when your phone is locked. This is one of the feature that I like the most. It allows you to play, pause or jump to the next/previous track even with out unlocking the phone. The photo browser is quite ordinary. It does not allow you to pinch and zoom or sort photos according to the album.

This app is currently available in nine languages and it comes with an optimized graphics for high-res devices. It allows you to set your favorite song as a ringtone and control the media from the homescreen widget. Sadly, you cannot play .RAM and .RM files in the free version. The homescreen widget is pretty decent. It shows the song you are currently playing along with its album art and basic controls.

The premium feature pack is available for $4.99 through an in-app purchase and it brings graphic equalizer with ability to save custom settings, metadata discovery using the Gracenote database, manual metadata editing, cross fading, RealAudio and RealVideo (rmvb) support and no advertisements. The basic version offers almost all of the necessary features. However, if you want to get rid of the advertisements or play Real audio and video files on your Android smartphone, then you can go ahead and purchase the premium package.

Price: Free (Basic, Ad-supported) / $4.99 for premium features
Rating: 4/5

[ Download RealPlayer from Google Play ]

Review: Scramble With Friends

Recently, I was introduced to a really fun game called Scramble With Friends. I needed another time waster like I needed a hole in the head, but I digress. Scramble With Friends is a lot of fun I have to admit and, as a word of warning, can be very addictive!

Scramble With Friends

The game was developed by Zynga, which is probably the most well-known maker of games for social networks. Scramble with Friends allows you to search your social networks and play against your friends. The idea behind the game is that you get a board, like the one pictured below. The board contains 4 columns by 5 rows of letters.  You try to pick out as many words as you can in the allotted amount of time. There are 3 rounds per game. This gives you a chance to redeem yourself if you royally blow it the first time.

Scramble Board

Notice the red circled area in the picture below. Every day you are given a certain amount of tokens to play with. On the left side of the tokens is a timer that lets you know when you will be given your next free token. To the right of the tokens is a button that says “Get Tokens”. This will allow you to purchase additional tokens if you just can’t stand to wait another 15 minutes to play again.

tokens

The game also features “Power-Ups” which give you certain advantages. For instance, there is a “Freeze Time” power-up, which is the blue icon pictured below, that will stop the clock and allow you to get words while the clock is frozen. You only have a certain allotted amount of power-ups, but never fear, Zynga is happy to sell you more.

power-ups

Below, is a YouTube video that will give you a better idea how the game works.

[Video Link]

The Good – Scramble With Friends is a lot of fun. If you like word games then this is a great game to play. It isn’t hard to play and it is one of the best social games I have seen. It even has a little message window where you can trash talk your friends. Unfortunately, I am so bad they usually trash talk me.

The Bad – It’s a resource hog. On my little Android Optimus T, it nearly took my phone down to a crawl. However, it runs like a charm on my iPad 2. There are a lot of ads and I am not real fond of having to wait for tokens to play. The voice that they use to cheer you on in the game could not be more creepy sounding either.

I give Scramble With Friends 4 stars because it is a great game. I would recommend it for people of all ages. It is just good clean fun. If you would like to download it, follow the links below:

Apple Download

Android Download

Review: NABI 2 Tablet for Kids (Parents Too)

Let’s face it, tablets are in! Everybody seems interested in getting one. I can’t tell you how many times a week that I get pinged about what is the best tablet to buy. Lately, I have received a lot of questions about what parents should get their kids. Tablets can be a great educational tool, but as a parent myself, I know that unfettered access can be a huge nightmare. One accidental tap and your kids are watching something that would make a sailor blush. It’s also hard for me to recommend a $500 10 inch tablet for use by a kid, especially when my own 18 year old has broken the screen on his iPhone twice. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Recently, my wife and I acquired the NABI 2 Tablet. This ruggedized tablet is designed with kids in mind. The dirty little secret? It’s great for parents too and best of all, it won’t break the bank! Today, I will lay out my review of this tablet and give you all the info you need to make an informed decision.

Kid Friendly Tablet

Below, you can see a video that gives you about a 3 minute tour of the NABI 2. You can see that they put a lot of work into making the outer shell rugged and with a good grip.

[Video Link]

The makers of NABI have 3 main concepts that they built the tablet features around:

  1. Learn – NABI is designed to work with Fooz Kids University. The University offers state standard curriculum designed by grade level. Kids can take classes on the NABI and you as a parent can monitor their progress with reporting tools. This is a pay service, however and there are different levels you can get.
  2. Play – The NABI has NVIDIA TEGRA HD games available that the kids will love playing. Adults would probably like this feature too. It also has features for kids music and streaming videos.
  3. Grow – Parents can assign chore lists to the kids and assign “NABI coins” that the kids can redeem in an app called “Treasure Chest”. The kids can exchange their earned coins for new games and apps that the parent approves.
The really cool part about all of this is that you the parent get to decide what apps are available to your children and when they are available. You can also create multiple IDs for your kids so they can have their own personalized experience.

A Truly Legit Tablet

One of the great features about this tablet is that it is a real tablet. I don’t mean just for kids either. This is a fully functional Android tablet. It features a “Mommy” mode, which requires a password so the kids can’t get the full features. In “Mommy” mode you’ve got all the power of an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich tablet. You can read your Kindle books, watch Netflix, browse and purchase apps. So while they market this as a kids tablet, it really is every bit as good as other Android tablets out there on the market today. Plus, it only costs $199. So for the price of a Kindle Fire, you not only get a regular tablet, but you also get all the safety features for your kids.

Let’s Talk About Specs Baby

Pictured below, you can see NABI pictured in “kid mode”. The tablet has a nice weight and feels good in your hands. Video on the screen looks great. The front facing camera is decent enough for the kids to use to play games and video conference. Take a moment to check out the quick specs I have listed below the first picture.

NABI Specs
NABI 2 Tablet
  • Display – 7-inch, Capacitive, Multi-Touch Display, 1024 x 600 Resolution
  • Processor – NVIDIA® Tegra® 3, Super 4-PLUS-1™ Quad Core
  • Storage – 8 GB, Expandable via MicroSD (Up to 32 GB); It also comes with 2GB of Cloud storage for your apps and pictures.
  • Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Camera – 2MP front facing camera; 720p video
  • OS – Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Network – Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth 3.0
  • Battery – 3,850 mAh Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery
  • Physical Parameters
    • Width: 8.69 Inches (220.8 mm)
    • Height: 6.05 Inches (153.7 mm)
    • Depth: 1.14 Inches (29.08 mm)
    • Weight: 1.31 Pounds (596 g)

As you can see, this tablet has some hefty specs. It also has some pretty impressive inputs and outputs. This is something I find very encouraging. A lot of tablet manufacturers try to force you to their cloud by not offering storage options. This isn’t the case with the NABI. You can use MicroSD cards to store your stuff if you so choose. If you look at the image below, you can see that it also offers a lot of connectivity options such as MicroUSB and Mini HDMI.

Inputs and Outputs
NABI 2 Tablet Inputs and Outputs

The Good: There are a lot of positives with this tablet. It’s a fast Android tablet with all the features you love, but with the added safety for your kids. NABI has a great community and very responsive support. It is also very inexpensive.

The Bad: There’s not a lot of bad to this tablet. It doesn’t feature a rear facing camera, but seriously, why use a tablet for taking pictures? It’s just awkward. The only negative we have found with ours is that the screen kind of froze up on the kids when we first got it. We believe that these issues have been resolved with the latest update.

There’s just too many positives with the NABI for me to not give it 5 stars. So 5 stars it is! For more information about the NABI, and to find out where you can buy one, visit http://www.nabitablet.com/where-to-buy/.

Review: Pictarine For Android

These days, almost everyone uses multiple social networking sites to stay connected with their friends and families by sharing text or photo updates. Facebook and Twitter allow you to share the latest pics with your friends and followers, while Instagram bring the functionality of adding amazing filters before sharing it with the world. Sadly, we have to keep a track on various apps to find out the latest pics shared on these social networks. To solve this problem, you’ll just need to head over to the Google Play and download the Pictarine app.

Pictarine for Android is an amazing app which brings all the pics shared by your friends on various social networking sites under one roof. This app not only allows you to connect popular social networks and services such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google (Picasa), Flickr and Photobucket, but you can also connect to less popular photo sharing services like the Shutterfly, Windows Live, Dropbox, 500px and Tumblr. The size of the app is just 1.8 MB and and the current version is numbered 1.0.6. You can easily install the Pictarine app on devices with Android 2.2 or higher version of OS.

To get started with the app, you will need to sign up with your existing Facebook or Google account. The sign up process will not take more than 30 seconds. After signing up, you can connect various social networking services mentioned earlier. As you can see in the above screenshot, I have connected my Twitter, Google, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Currently, this app does not allows you to upload the photos from your device. However, you can easily like or comment on the photos shared by your friends.

On the left side, you will find 4 options – Photo Feed, Surprise Me, My Photos and Playlists. All of the photos shared by your friends on these services will be displayed under the “Photo Feed” section. As the name suggest, “Surprise Me” section will throw 12 random images from the connected services on your screen. You can easily refresh these images just by sliding the screen in the upward or downward directions.

My Photos” section allows you to view the images currently stored on your device as well as on the connected accounts. You can even select individual photos and create your own playlist. This feature helps you to organize your favorite photos and view them at a later date or share it with your friends. The playlist can be a mixture of your own photos as well as the ones shared by your friends. You can find all of your playlists in the dedicated “Playlists” section.

The user interface of the app is quite simple and it works as advertised. Instead of wasting your valuable time on visiting multiple social networks and apps, Pictarine will help you to easily discover, like, comment and share pics across various apps and devices. Sometimes you might feel a bit of lag while the images are loading. However, there is a lot of room for improvement. Overall, I personally liked this app and would definitively recommend it to our readers. You can also access Pictarine web app from their official website.

Price: Free
Rating: 4/5

[ Download Pictarine from Google Play ]