iPhone 5S Review

Introduction 

Its been a long time since I used an iPhone for personal use. I fell in love with Android some time back and shunned the iPhones seeing them as basic and small so I really expected to dislike the iPhone 5S, in fact I wanted to dislike it. However the opposite has happened, I’ve fallen in love with it.

Look and Feel

Apple have done what Apple do well, built a device that looks and feels amazing. Its superbly lightweight and the screen looks fantastic despite it being relatively small. The iPhone feels premium, beautifully crafted and fantastic to handle.

I’ve been put off the smaller screen of the iPhone for some time now, preferring the mammoth sized displays you find on Androids. However using the iPhone reminded me of what this device is, its a phone. It no longer takes up every bit of space in my pocket and it feels comfortable to hold during lengthy calls. It still does everything else well while at the same time doesn’t over stretch its purpose. With tablets at such reasonable prices why do we also opt for giant displays on our phones?

If you are used to previous generations of Apple devices then you may find yourself in need of new charging or dock accessories as the port in the iPhone 5 and above has changed. There was outcry when this happened but at the end of the day it saved on time and also this device charges up extremely fast.

User Interface

I wasn’t a fan of iOS 7 on the iPad but on the iPhone it works well. Its punchy and sharp and responds extremely fast. Noticeable differences from the previous OS are the complete change of style, new launcher options and revamped multitasking.

We still lack some of the customisation options that you would find in an Android device but iOS 7 is pretty nice. Its fast and intuitive and above all else its extremely simple to use. Like all previous iOS devices Apple have maintained that quality where anyone can pick up a device and find their way around it regardless of experience.

Camera

Here’s where things aren’t quite as good. The camera is an improvement over previous models and the dual LED flash is a welcome addition. I managed to snap some great looking pictures on the go and with the additional camera functions, such as slow motion videos, things got really fun.

However, where the camera falls down is against its competition. Its the best Apple camera on any of its devices but when pitted against competition flagships it falls short. The main devices I have used along side the iPhone 5S are, Galaxy Note 3, Xperia Z1 and the Lumia 1020. What we do need to consider however is that they pack a better camera but they are also huge devices when compared to the iPhone. Its a trade off you need to decide on.

Battery

Battery life was surprisingly good, easily lasting me a full day. Its what I’ve come to expect from this kind of device. It won’t blow you away and you’re still going to need to charge this on a daily basis.

What I liked

Surprisingly I loved the size of the device. It felt almost perfect to use as a phone with all the smart added extras. For me it is nearly perfect as I carry a tablet around everywhere I go and have the option of using my iPhone as a mobile hotspot. For some, the size will be a let down, for others a massive bonus.

What I disliked

The price. Yes Apple have made a beautiful and premium device but I still cannot accept that it is worth the asking price. It has lovely features and is well crafted but its a hefty price tag.

Stand Out Feature

The finger print reader for me was the stand out feature. I expected it to be a gimmick, something that rarely worked. Instead I found it to be fully functional and pretty handy. Literally I pressed my thumb on the home key and voila! No need for patterns, codes or pin numbers.

Conclusion

In conclusion I loved the iPhone 5S and I can’t really fault it. Potential buyers need to decide on what they really need from a phone and take a look at what other devices they carry. If you lug a tablet around with you then the iPhone is a nice companion. If you’re looking for an all in one device for heavy browsing on productivity on the go then this device probably isn’t for you.

Is it worth the price tag? Hard to justify really. However its one of the most surprising devices I’ve used in a long time and for once I’ve been pleasantly excited while using the iPhone.

Check it out here: iPhone 5S

Xperia Z1 Review

Introduction

The Xperia Z1, Sony’s latest flagship, is an amazing bit of kit. The specs are formidable and the build quality is fantastic. So what does this all add up to in real world use? 

ImageLook and Feel  

As I mentioned above the Xperia Z1 is a wonderfully built piece of kit. It feels premium to hold. It’s a combination of glass and metal which really helps the Z1 to stand out against the competition.  

The screen quality is superb, full HD 1080 with Bravia technology which really makes the screen stand out. The colors look natural and the picture quality is extremely sharp. I really can’t fault the display on the Xperia. 

Where the Xperia falls short is the size of the thing. It’s a big phone, and that’s coming from someone who used the Galaxy Note 2 for almost a year. Due to the device being water and dust proof Sony have compromised on size. The Xperia Z1 is far larger than its rivals and at times can be pretty uncomfortable to hold, its sharp corners digging into your palms and making one handed usage almost impossible. 

User Interface  

The Xperia Z1 runs on Android and is extremely snappy, responding to almost everything I could throw at it without any lag. I found that Sony hadn’t loaded the device with too much bloat ware and their custom launcher was nice to use which is a pleasant surprise. 

Camera   

The Z1 packs a whopping 20.7 mega pixel camera which works fantastically well in low light conditions due to the size if its lens. Adding to this is the return of the hardware camera key on the side of the Z1 which helps to snap those perfect shots. 

I absolutely loved and hated the camera on the Z1. It’s an odd beast, either taking some of the best shots I’ve ever managed or alternatively snapping nothing but a blurry mess. 

I found that a lot of the issues cropped up when I used Sony’s ‘Superior Auto’ shooting mode which automatically switches settings in order to capture the best shot. I’ll warn you now, more often than not it gets things wrong. 

Switching the phone into manual shooting mode gives a much higher chance of snapping a fantastic shot, but still my experience was plagued with awful blurry pics. I don’t know why the Z1 is inconsistent but unfortunately it is. In comparison to other smartphones it may be capable of taking the better pictures but more often than not it will let you down.  

Battery  

For a phone like this the battery life is pretty good, which is handy considering it is built in. Consistently I’ll get a full days worth of battery which includes just over 4 hours of screen on time. For the power users amongst you I would suggest carrying a portable battery if you are going to be away from a charger for a lengthy period of time. 

What I liked   

I absolutely love the build quality and waterproof feature on this phone. The Z1, despite its size, is a joy to handle. Throw in the added bonus that I don’t have to worry about using it in the rain and I can capture novelty underwater photos and you’re onto a winner. 

What I disliked   

Potentially the best and the worst feature on the Z1, its camera. I loved how amazing some of the photos captured on the device look but I hate how inconsistent it is. Even in the exact same scene, with the exact same settings photo quality will differ drastically.  

Ultimately it ruins the camera for me as it just can’t be trusted to capture those fantastic shots it is capable of. Fingers crossed it is just a software fault and not hardware. 

Conclusion 

The Xperia Z1 is a beautiful phone with the specs to match. For those camera enthusiasts amongst you it is worth giving a shot, that is if you can tolerate the inconsistent quality issues.  

Be warned, for those who have smaller hands this may not be the device for you. It’s closer in size to the Galaxy Note 2 than it is to its 5 inch screen competitors. 

For a full run down of specs check out the Sony Xperia Z1.

Nexus 7 2013

So I recently acquired a Nexus 7 2013 and so far my impressions are mixed. Its a lovely little device, small, compact and powerful. Despite this however there’s something I’m just not getting on with.

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look and feel

As I mentioned above the Nexus 7 is a small and compact device, perfect for portability. It has a lovely matte finish and the screen quality is superb. I’ve found that due to its light weight the Nexus is easy to hold in one hand for a relatively long time making it perfect for all you eBook readers out there.

What I do dislike about the Nexus is the huge bezels above and below the screen. They’ve got such slim bezels on the side that this makes the Nexus ridiculously long and partially uncomfortable for portrait typing due to the corners being so far from the screen. To me it just feels like wasted space,Im sure its not and that there is a perfectly good internal reason but nonetheless it really puts me off the design.

User Experience

Pure Android is always a good thing. There are far too may manufactures out there who destroy perfectly good hardware with their poor launchers and awful bloatware. With a Nexus device theres no need to worry about this.

The result is something lightning fast, responding without lag almost every time. There’s the odd stutter but its rare. Users also have the ability to customise from the ground up, either selecting the pre loaded apps and widgets or choose from a huge range and selection from the Play Store.

I can’t really fault the Nexus when it comes to using it. My only gripes are that the screen is a little too small for my taste and it also suffers from the occasional ghost press which drives me mad when typing. Apart from these two things the Nexus is a superb device when it comes to experience.

Stand Out Feature

The stand out feature has to be how powerful the Nexus is despite its size. Gaming on the go is superb due to the monstrous specs Asus have managed to squeeze in. Combined with the 7 inch screen this make a the Nexus 7 comfortable to game on unlike larger tablets where your thumbs are stretched.

For those who are a fan of mobile gaming the Nexus is the perfect companion. Comfortable, small and powerful.

Conclusion

I can’t really fault the Nexus 7. Its a gorgeous little device that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. I feel its a little small but that’s personal taste.

For anyone who is looking for a well priced smaller tablet then the Nexus 7 should definitely be on the top of your list.

CES 2014

So CES is just around the corner and I must admit I’m intrigued to see what this years show has to offer.  

I’m sure we will see a whole range of wearable tech being shown off with manufacturers battling to be the first to get this right. So far no one has really brought a product to market that has had a large market appeal so 2014 could prove to be exciting for wearables. 

Tablets have my attention. I’m tired of the increasing specs and what I really want to see is something with a larger screen. Samsung are rumoured to be working on something around the 12 inch mark. With bezels getting smaller there’s so much more room to increase screen size. We’ve seen it happen with mobile phones so fingers crossed that will translate into the tablet market.

My Top 10 Gadgets 2013

Below is a list of my top 10 favourite gadgets that I used throughout 2013. I got to play with a whole load of different toys and enjoyed most of those. Check out my thoughts below and click the links for more details in Amazon.

1: Macbook Pro Retina 13 inch 

 

Recently I took the plunge and upgraded from my 11 inch Macbook Air and I’m very glad I did. The Macbook Pro is a stunning machine. Its fast, responsive and above all the screen is beautiful.  

I’m no Apple fan boy, far from it in fact, but I’ve got a place in my heart reserved for MacBooks. So far my pro has served me well and is a fantastic step up from my Macbook Air. I love the larger screen size and the retina display is to die for. 

The device just feels premium and is everything I could ask for. For what I need, the Macbook Pro Retina is perfect and I would recommend it above everything else. True love has been found in 2013. 

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 was my personal phone for the best part of 2013 and I loved it. I recently changed to the Sony Xperia Z1 and find that I miss the screen size and stylus from my Note. Even it’s cheaper plastic finish isn’t enough to put me off, in fact its a bonus, making the device light weight. The Note 2 is easily my favourite phone that I used in 2013. 

Sony hit a niche market with this product. The camera on my phone is one of the biggest features I use and now with the QX10 lens I don’t really need to worry about the camera quality onboard my chosen phone. The device has god battery, is small and compact and relatively easy to use even for an amateur like myself.  

The zoom is absolutely fantastic and snapping pics in low light conditions is amazing. The lens far exceeds any dedicated camera built into a smart phone that I have used so far and that includes the Nokia Lumia 1020. 

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So I felt it was time to upgrade my graphics card in 2013 and I’m glad I did. This was the first year that I played some big name single player games from start to finish and actually enjoyed them. Games like Bioshock Infinite ran like a dead dog on my previous card but after installing my GTX 680 it ran like a dream. 

Nvidias physx also added a little spice compared to my previous AMD card. Its nothing to really shout about but there were a few noticeable differences in certain games that caught my eye, the biggest being in Planet Side 2 with its oddly beautiful teleporter effects. 

2013 was the year that I returned to dedicated portable gaming hardware thanks to Pokemon’s lure. I had always used a tablet or phone for casual gaming, singing the devices praises and condemning portable gaming hardware, saying how redundant it was. It wasn’t until I returned to true hardware controls that I realised how wrong I had been. 

The 3DS is a lovely size and very comfortable to hold. Its got a great sized screen and has a pretty good catalogue of games. I’m glad I made the move back to a portable console and couldn’t be more impressed with this device. 

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I have a love hate relationship with Sony. I want to love their products but I’ve always been unlucky in the past with all my Sony branded products going faulty. So with great reluctance I gave up my note 2 and got myself an Xperia Z1. 

Am I glad I did? Kind of. The camera is hit and miss, half of the time it takes better quality photos than I’ve ever taken before, the other half it captures horrid blurs. It feels so solid and premium unlike most Android devices which is a welcome change and the waterproof feature actually works! Its beyond fast, responding like lightning and very rarely lagging. 

The downside is its huge and my device is already faulty which is a real shame. I’ve had it exchanged and the second unit was faulty so it appears my bad luck with Sony has continued. 

The Nexus 7 is my tablet of choice at the moment. Its a relatively low cost, yet powerful device. Sporting pure Android with no manufacturer interference leaves the Nexus running blazingly fast. 

Its light weight and feels great in the hand, its rubberised back and sides stopping it from sliding all over the place and making it easier to grip. The screen size is both a positive and a negative, small enough for light browsing, gaming and work but too small for anything more. 

Overall I’m impressed with the Nexus and have so far enjoyed using it on the train to work.  

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Ah the iPad mini. This would easily be my device of the year if it wasnt for a certain software update. The iPad mini feels and looks fantastic. The screen size is perfect for on the go work and gaming. Its not too big and not too small, the best tablet size I have used. The battery life was good and it ran smoothly, never skipping a beat. 

So what changed? iOS 7 landed, turning my iPad mini into a horribly slow device. My iPad was so slow it had become unbearable to use. I understand that older Apple hardware begins to run terribly slow as new software updates land but the iPad Mini was still a current device at the time of iOS 7. In my opinion this was a terrible move by Apple. 

I miss my iPad mini as it was easily the best tablet I have ever used. After the way Apple destroyed my device I don’t think I’ll be taking the plunge and updating to the latest model. 

My first Windows 8 tablet. There is huge potential from these hybrid devices but I still don’t feel like any manufacture has gotten dit right so far. I really enjoyed my time with the Ativ Smart PC Pro but it ultimately felt like a jack of all trades. As a tablet it was average and as a laptop it was average. 

The keyboard dock was plagued with disconnection issues and as tablet the device was just too big and bulky. The thing that really killed my experience was Windows 8 which offered a very jarring experience. Modern UI and desktop mode just don’t fit together at all killing any seamless experience you would expect from a device such as this. 

The concept is sound and the potential is massive but I can’t help but feel that these hybrid devices are just lacking. 

So I mentioned already that I have a love hate relationship with Sony and the same applies with the Xperia Tablet Z. I loved the feel of it. Its so slim, with a beautiful screen and gorgeous matte finish. Its probably the nicest looking Android tablet out there. 

However its incredibly slow. Almost everything I did on the device was laggy unless I installed a custom launcher. Web browsing was poor and just navigating menus was slow. I’m not entirely sure what Sony did to this device to make it respond so poorly! Needless to say my time was short lived with this device.

 

 

Wearable Tech

So wearable tech seems to be all the rage right now. We have Google Glass just around the corner and wrist watches that pair up with our smartphones. Despite the torrent of new devices flooding the market I’m yet to be blown away by any.

There’s a few nice little devices I’ve played with. I’m intrigued by Samsung’s Galaxy Gear but it’s lack of compatibility is pretty disappointing. It’s got a whole range of features but I really don’t fancy changing my phone just to use a smart watch. I’ve had a good play with the Gear and it’s a very responsive device. The camera is pretty good quality but I can’t understand why it doesn’t just have a front facing camera instead? I’m sure Samsung will address the devices short comings with the Galaxy Gear 2 and hopefully throw in some compatibility with other devices.

On the other hand we have Sony’s Smart Watch which is compatible with most Android devices but it lacks features. It’s really a fancy second screen for your smartphone with no real ability to interact with whats happening on your device. You get a notification and in order to interact you have to pull out your smartphone. Pointless really.

I’ve just backed the Neptune Pine on Kickstarter. It’s a nice looking device with loads of potential. It can do pretty much everything my smartphone can but it is a little large. It can be used as a phone thats strapped to your wrist or you can download a companion app onto your smartphone and use the Neptune Pine as a feature packed smart watch. It’s a powerful little beast and packs a front facing camera so video calls on the go could get interesting. I’ll get my device sometime in January so I’ll write a review on it when it arrives.

2013 hasn’t been a fantastic year for wearable tech but I believe 2014 will see a massive range of devices storming into the market and hopefully they will be far better than what we have on offer right now.

Samsung Ativ PC Pro Day by Day

Well my Samsung Ativ PC Pro has just arrived and I’ll be writing my thoughts on the device one day at a time. So far I’m very impressed by it and I look forward to using it more and seeing how it really performs in real world usage. So what will I look at when reviewing this beast?

Samsung

Right now I use a MacBook Air which I absolutely love. Its a great piece of kit and does most things that I need but its getting old and lacks power now. I also love the form factor of something like the Ativ PC Pro and I’m intrigued to see how well it performs as a tablet and also ultrabook. Obviously I do a lot of writing and the Mac has proved to be a great companion for all of my notes and work. I’ll take the Ativ PC Pro for a real spin and see how productive it really can be!

I’ve ordered myself a larger 256GB SSD (http://amzn.to/Z43Ec9) which I will fit into the tablet. This will hopefully be arriving this week and I’ll let you know how well the installation goes!

Day One

I’ve been using the Ativ PC Pro for just over 24 hours now and I must say I’m pleasantly surprised. I felt that I was going to be underwhelmed by this tablet due to the negativity that Windows 8 has received but I’ve got to admit that the OS actually performs very well. The tablet feels premium and performs well handling pretty much everything I’ve thrown at it. I’ve spent most of my time installing my applications and customizing the device but so far I’m impressed.

My first impressions of the OS is that it offers the best of both worlds. On the one hand I have the traditional desktop mode which I’ve spent most time using with my tablet docked in the keyboard. This performs exactly how you would expect from a Windows device. I’ve not had a chance to spend much time with Modern UI but from my brief play it handles well and gives a touch friendly environment. The thing that I love about this device when compared to other tablets is that it offers me everything. There’s no need to worry about where I will download my media content for example, I’ve got the choice to use iTunes or Google Music and I don’t need to worry about converting files. This is a full Windows experience and I love it so far.

So the device itself, what’s it like? Nice, very nice. It’s obviously bigger than your traditional tablet but that suits me just fine. It feels premium and when docked in it’s keyboard it feels and handles like an ultrabook. It’s on the heavy side so one handed use will get uncomfortable after a while and it’s also very long so using this device in portrait seems odd. It has all the ports I require and doesn’t really compromise on anything.

One of the biggest advantages is also the biggest let downs. I went for the Samsung Ativ PC Pro over the Microsoft Surface Pro due to it’s keyboard dock. The keyboard is great to use and the trackpad works well although it is a little on the small side. However the keyboard disconnects that are so widely reported are exceptionally annoying causing the keyboard to disconnect at even the slightest movement. The dock also feels extremely cheap and light which is odd considering how well made the tablet itself feels. It’s a shame that Samsung didn’t really go to the same effort in building the keyboard dock as they did the tablet. What I would have loved to see is something that employs the same materials as the tablet and perhaps uses bluetooth to connect with the tablet to avoid disconnection issues.

I’ve installed a couple of games onto the tablet just to test out how well it handles them. So far I’ve tried out Torchlight 2 and Guild Wars 2 and both games have handled well. As I mentioned I’ve not had a great deal of time yet to really test out the tablet but I’ll get some benchmarks etc in my day 2 experience.

Day Two

Well another day down and I’m still impressed by the Ativ. One thing that has struck me is how well the battery performs. I expected a couple of hours at best but I’ve squeezed over to 5 hours of screen on time and a couple of these were spent playing Guild Wars 2. Considering the power needed to keep this going it doesn’t overheat even when gaming and just keeps on performing.

So when it comes to gaming how well does it actually do it? It’s acceptable but won’t blow your socks off. If you’re looking for something that’s going to act as your gaming machine then look elsewhere, perhaps the Razer Edge? Yes the Ativ can game but it doesn’t deliver stellar performance. My session in Guild Wars was relatively smooth but bear in mind I had to drop all settings to low and lower the resolution to 720. The other problem I faced when gaming with this tablet was the keyboard dock. For whatever reason you cannot use the trackpad simultaneously with the keyboard which makes controlling your character difficult. I just hooked up a bluetooth mouse and problem solved but still it’s just another flaw with the dock.

I also decided to spend a few hours using the Ativ as a tablet because lets face it Windows 8 has been marketed at the touchscreen crowd. Desktop performed reasonably well with only a few icons being too small to hit
but at the end of the day it’s what you would expect. What I really wanted to find out is how well Modern UI performed. It was all lovely, pleasant boring. It just felt like a really dumbed down windows and left me constantly longing for my keyboard and mouse. It’s ok for those occasions when space is limited but in comparison to the likes of Android left me feeling underwhelmed. The other issue with using the Ativ as a tablet only is its weight! After a few minutes of using this I had to rest it somewhere because it is big. It’s also long which makes using it in portrait feel a little bit odd.

So to sum up if you plan on using it as a tablet only it maybe worth looking at other options unless you need the sheer power of this machine. However if like me you want a good mix and a hybrid machine then don’t let my experience of using it as a tablet put you off.

Day Three

I think I’ve got a good grasp of how well this tablet performs now. I went into this wondering if I would be getting rid of my MacBook and using only one device. My expectations were low, Windows 8 hasn’t exactly had a great ride since it’s launch. So what’s the outcome?

I love it! Sure there are things that aren’t up to scratch within the OS but for the most part it does what it needs to and its got a lot of polish and even better it offers a full desktop OS unlike any others offer right now. I can load up all my old applications and also play full PC games on my tablet. No other OS gives me this power right now and that’s where Windows 8 beats Android and iOS hands down.

When it comes to hardware I love pretty much everything about the tablet. It gets a little hot when under heavy load but its not uncomfortable. The biggest let down is the keyboard dock which has an appalling trackpad and is missing so many features. It’s just too light so tips over on non flat surfaces, could have been solved with an additional battery and the disconnection issues… the less said about that the better. If Samsung can manufacture a better dock then this device will be absolutely fantastic.

The tablet market is about to get flooded with Windows 8 devices but in my opinion the Samsung Ativ PC Pro is head and shoulders above the rest. I just really hope that manufactures don’t start pulling out of the Windows 8 space. I thought I was going to hate it but this has been a refreshing experience. It’s a no compromise device and I all I can say is that if you’re in the market for something portable but with power then this is your device.

For a full spec list and current prices check out Amazon for details:

http://amzn.to/Yb7ih6

For a full list of accessories available check out Amazon for details:

http://amzn.to/11Ul2kL

Ordered My Samsung Ativ Pc Pro

Just got around to ordering my Samsung Ativ Pc Pro so I can see how well it performs in replacing my MacBook Air for productivity and writing! I was holding out for the Microsoft Surface Pro but it seems like they have no interest in letting us in the UK know pricing or availability so I gave up.

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Another Smartphone OS

I find myself reading through the tech blogs and websites on a regular basis. It’s how I keep up to date with my job and I love it. However one thing coming or of MWC this year that I find relatively shocking is we are one again being treated to hands on demos of a new smartphone os from Mozilla.
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